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June 18, 2011

Our comprehensively insane sex-offender laws
Posted by Patrick at 01:42 PM *

Jacob Sullum writes a powerful piece on the subject. We all know vaguely about the modern rash of laws creating mandatory public “sex offender” registries, and most of us think of them as directed at creepy adults who diddle minor children. Many of us know about “Megan’s Law,” the 1996 federal statute that forces the states to create such registries as a condition of receiving federal law-enforcement funds. But did you know that in at least thirteen states, the list of convictions that require lifelong registration as a “sex offender” include things like urinating in public? And 28 states require registration by those who, in their teens, were caught having sex with persons two years older or younger than them. Although the scope differs from state to state, being on one of these public registries generally entails lifelong restrictions on where one can live and work.

Making Light’s readers are probably familiar with the fact that in about nine out of ten sexual assaults against a child, the perpetrators are relatives or acquaintances, not strangers. And the overwhelming bulk of people arrested for sex offenses have no prior convictions for these kinds of crimes. Furthermore, the common claim that sexual crimes against children have a “90 percent likelihood of recidivism” turns out, on examination, to be nonsense; in fact, the rate is about 14% over four to six years, lower than the recidivism rates for burglary or non-sexual assault. But facts appear to make no difference. It’s hard to summarize how completely bonkers the whole business has become.

According to The Dallas Morning News, the sex offender registry in Texas, where Washington lives, includes about 4,000 people who were minors when they committed their crimes, a quarter of whom were under 14. Human Rights Watch interviewed the father of a 10-year-old boy accused of touching his 5-year-old cousin’s genitals. “My son doesn’t really understand what sex is,” he told the group, “so it’s hard to help him understand why he has to register as a sex offender.” This policy of tarring minors as sex offenders undermines a central aim of the juvenile justice system by burdening people with the mistakes of their youth for the rest of their lives.
Even more notable is the growth of state laws that authorize involuntary, unlimited civil commitment of sex offenders after they’ve served their sentences. Kansas’s version of this was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1997, and because there isn’t already enough absurdity in this story, the majority opinion was written by Clarence Thomas. The offender in question was originally convicted on the grounds that he could have controlled his behavior and failed to do so; on completion of his ten-year sentence, he was committed because the state declared that he was unable to control himself. For most people committed to establishing a regime of arbitrary and lawless power, enshrining such a contradiction would be enough of an accomplishment. But our modern Supreme Court wasn’t finished; they further ruled that indefinite commitment isn’t a life sentence under another name because the “patient” is “permitted immediate release upon a showing that the individual is no longer dangerous or mentally impaired,” and also—it’s the detail work, you know, that separates the pros from the part-timers and dilletantes—that the state isn’t required to provide treatment that might help eliminate the danger. Perfect, really.

Of course, someone is making a tidy fortune off of all this. In Washington state, it was found that taxpayers pay about $26,000 a year to house an offender in prison, but $97,000 annually once they’re committed after serving their term. Sullum concludes:

When you strip away the quasi-medical language, what states are really saying when they indefinitely commit odious individuals like Leroy Hendricks to mental hospitals is this: “Whoops. We should have given this guy a longer sentence.” But it is no mere formalistic quibble to point out that a defendant’s sentence should be imposed at the time of his conviction as determined by a judge within the parameters set by statute. These are basic requirements of due process and the rule of law, and we make exceptions to them at our peril. Clarence Thomas may be confident that preventive detention won’t be extended to “other dangerous persons,” but I am not. It seems to me that all it would take is a new law attached to a new scientific-sounding label invented by legislators or grabbed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. How many convicted criminals could qualify for a diagnosis of, say, anti-social personality disorder?

In a 2004 Criminal Law Bulletin article, William Mitchell College of Law professor Eric Janus argued that “sexual predator laws provide a model for undercutting…constitutional protections.” The process, Janus said, starts with a universally despised group of people who, like suspected terrorists, attract no public sympathy. He warned that “we are at risk of becoming a ‘preventive state,’ in which the paradigm of governmental social control has shifted from solving and punishing crimes that have been committed to identifying ‘dangerous’ people and depriving them of their liberty before they can do harm.” To most Americans, I fear, this prospect is not nearly as scary as the possibility that a sex offender lives down the street.

I’m not as convinced that “most Americans” are as foolish as all that. Like most of what appears in Reason, the flagship magazine of American libertarianism, Sullum’s article (subtitled “Sex offender laws represent the triumph of outrage over reason”) fits tidily into a narrative of cool rationality under siege by hotheaded, mob-driven democracy. In fact what this issue could use is a little more outrage, right alongside the logic and reason. It could also use more insight into the way moral panics form (a subject on which libertarians are often very good) and a lot more examination of exactly who benefits from this kind of racket. We might even start to notice that pathologies like this, like the unwinnable-yet-unendable War on Drugs, or the modern British obsession with shaming and blaming working peoples’ behavior, act to hollow out, disrupt, and disempower entire parts of society, and to make it easier for other parts of society to reinforce and perpetuate their privileges. But then we’d have to come up with some terms for these “parts of society,” and start looking at the mechanisms by which powerful people, not being fools, regularly exploit opportunities to better themselves and those they regard as their kind, often by reducing the competitive potential of other cohorts. We might have to begin referring to these contending cohorts with crazy terms like, I dunno, “class” or something. But wait, that’s foolish conspiracy-theorizing. Powerful people working together to maintain their prestige and position! That never happens. Nah, the reason Americans get buffaloed into supporting the highest incarceration rate in the world is that People Are Stoopid.
Comments on Our comprehensively insane sex-offender laws:
#1 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2011, 03:32 PM:

If I may, I'd like to say something right at the start of this discussion, not to derail it, but simply for clarity.

As many Making Light readers know, I was molested as a child. I don't exactly include it on my LinkedIn profile, but I've mentioned it a time or two in comments here.

So understand where I am coming from when I say that I agree very strongly with what Patrick's posted here.

#2 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2011, 03:54 PM:

Abi... Same here and, in spite of my own experience, I feel uncomfortable about punishment that never ends.

#3 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2011, 04:22 PM:

"Furthermore, the common claim that sexual crimes against children have a “90 percent likelihood of recidivism” turns out, on examination, to be nonsense; in fact, the rate is about 14% over four to six years, lower than the recidivism rates for burglary or non-sexual assault."

I am highlighting this because I am memorizing this statistic for future use. I had thought that there was a high rate of recidivism, and that that was the only possible defense for sex offender registration. Now I am pretty convinced there is no defense at all.

#4 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2011, 04:40 PM:

"Public urination" is, of course, more of a problem for homeless people than one might hope -- it's not always easy to find a bathroom. Another aspect of why this is a class issue.

#5 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2011, 04:48 PM:

I am also a survivor of molestation, and I too agree with Patrick. The more so in that I fell in love at age 15 with a boy just a bit more than 2 years older than myself...I had no idea at the time that, had we been a bit more, um, active, it would have condemned him to life as a registered sex offender. (Yes, I grew up in the same state as Genarlow Wilson, though there have been some improvements in the law since my day and his.)

#6 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2011, 05:42 PM:

re Tom Whitmore's #4:

Actually, Tom, "public urination" is more of a problem for drunk people. As in, they don't have a problem with whipping it out and taking a whizz in public.

Yes, this is me bitching -- again -- about the over-serving bars, and their over-privileged customers, at the shopping/office development where I work.

(I saw the construction blueprints for one of the bars, incidentally, and just that one bar has nine friggin' stalls and urinals in the restrooms.)

Answers when I've asked some of the public pissers why they feel it's okay to piss in public have included: "It's my birthday!", "I'm a Marine!", and "I'm from Poland!"

This sort of thing is making me start to feel that Prohibition was a good idea, just poorly implemented.

But this is a distraction from the main subject of Patrick's post. Should public urination be considered a sex offense? No. (But I'd sure like to be able to call the pisser's Moms and tell them their kid needs a refresher course in that toilet training thing.)

(Don't even ask why I've taken to calling the post-bar-closing patrol of the parking garage's rooftop "the Turd Patrol".)

End venting.

#7 ::: Richard Hershberger ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2011, 06:54 PM:

"Like most of what appears in Reason, the flagship magazine of American libertarianism, Sullum’s article (subtitled “Sex offender laws represent the triumph of outrage over reason”) fits tidily into a narrative of cool rationality under siege by hotheaded, mob-driven democracy."

This nicely sums up what is so annoying about modern American libertarianism. The distinct tone that modern American libertarianism is the inevitable conclusion of a rational mind, with the obvious implication about anyone who might disagree. This would be simplistic and annoying even were modern American libertarianism so frequently indistinguishable from straight party line corporatism.

#8 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2011, 07:12 PM:

Richard Hershberger @7: This nicely sums up what is so annoying about modern American libertarianism.

It sums up what's so annoying about pretty much every other branch of political belief as well.

#9 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2011, 07:19 PM:

Many sex-offender registries do not have an error process. That is, they don't have a codified path to remove a name put on to the list in error. Many sex-offender registries do not have a codified removal process at all. Many do not have good guidelines (i.e. public urination being filed under "flashing.") And some are all of these things.

I look at a lot of our law creation as bad process management. When the law is put through, nobody does the kind of 'code checking' that would be needed for a computer program.

And whoa, I just wondered what a law compiler would be like. That would be... interesting.

#10 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2011, 07:23 PM:

B Durbin @9:
Many sex-offender registries do not have an error process. That is, they don't have a codified path to remove a name put on to the list in error. Many sex-offender registries do not have a codified removal process at all. Many do not have good guidelines (i.e. public urination being filed under "flashing.")

In this, they are not unlike the no-fly lists.

#11 ::: lightning ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2011, 07:33 PM:

"Get tough on crime" has been one of the chief mantras of politicians for as long as I can remember, and probably forever. Always more cops, looser rules of evidence, longer sentences, nastier prisons. A politician can't go against this without being called "soft on crime", and logic and science be damned.

The ratchet only goes one way. It's gotten ridiculous -- compare the sentences for, say, nonviolent drug offenses vs. armed robbery vs. "white collar" crimes.

#12 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2011, 07:46 PM:

B. Durbin @ 9 ...
I look at a lot of our law creation as bad process management. When the law is put through, nobody does the kind of 'code checking' that would be needed for a computer program.

Another mailing list has a number of folk on it that have been affected by the Wallow fire. When somebody on the list suggested that people could ask for rain (which seems like an utterly reasonable thing to do), the immediate response from the folks affected was "No! Hell no!!!".

Apparently rain down that way comes in two forms -- excessive and none... and after a fire, the plants that'd normally constrain the ground from sliding and washing away... aren't there.

It's in many ways a perfect example of the same sort of problem/well-intentioned solution leading to even bigger problems longer term.

#13 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2011, 07:51 PM:

Avram @ 8: Really? Religious populism is a narrative of "cool rationality under siege by hotheaded, mob-driven democracy"?

#14 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2011, 09:17 PM:

xeger @ 12... excessive and none

Kind of like America's response to 9/11, if I may echo Abi's comment about no-fly lists.

#15 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2011, 09:24 PM:

Note that as with the drug war, there's been a steady erosion of distinctions and priorities -- notably between statutory rape and forcible rape, but also in severity of charges: flashing <==> fondling <==> misc asaults <==> rape, according to what the prosecutor thinks he can get away with.

#16 ::: MacAllister ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2011, 09:30 PM:

The increasingly insane sex-offender laws seem akin, to me, to the growing weight given to the so-called psychopath test in parole hearings, as well.

#17 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2011, 09:44 PM:

Prisons are a for-profit industry. The purpose is to keep the prisons full.

#18 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2011, 10:27 PM:

Bruce Arthurs @6 -- yeah, but most of the people you refer to aren't going to get arrested for it. At most, they'll get a warning. It's more likely to be an arrest if the police "want to get the perp off the streets", right?

James D. Macdonald @17 -- that's one valid interpretation, but that's a hard sell to most people. "Making them safer" by locking up "those people" is much easier to sell.

#19 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2011, 11:20 PM:

Heresiarch @13, certainly. The rational man perceives the eternal truths inherent in [insert name of religion here], rather than giving way to passing intellectual fads like secularism. If I felt like doing the work, I could probably dig up a quote along those lines from GK Chesterton or CS Lewis.

#20 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2011, 12:36 AM:

Avram @ 19: I'm certain you could, but a number of problems present themselves in using a quote from either as exemplar of American religious populism.

It seems to me that describing, say, the spiritual warfare advocated by the New Apostolic Reformation as "cool rationality" is patently absurd. Coolness? No--passion. Rationality? Not at all--faith. There is more than one way to be an annoying modern American political movement.

#21 ::: Doug Burbidge ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2011, 12:44 AM:

B. Durbin @9: I look at a lot of our law creation as bad process management. When the law is put through, nobody does the kind of 'code checking' that would be needed for a computer program.

It's interesting that software development is so bad (projects, particularly large projects, often come in massively over-budget, don't work properly for several years after release, and sometimes just fail outright), and yet is fairly clearly superior to the processes we use to create law.

You're not alone in thinking that applying software development practices to law might improve things -- change control (a la SubVersion) is something that I think might help, partly to spot off-topic porkbarrel revisions being added to proposed legislation.

#22 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2011, 12:54 AM:

At the very least, you'd have to have a good QA department, something that is underutilized in the software development arena. (According to my QA friends, FWIW.)

#23 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2011, 01:20 AM:

B. Durbin @ 22 ...
At the very least, you'd have to have a good QA department, something that is underutilized in the software development arena. (According to my QA friends, FWIW.)

IMNSHO, QA departments, like Project Managers are worth their weight in unobtanium when they're good -- but when they're bad, they're an area of effect weapon with an astounding multiplier.

#24 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2011, 02:08 AM:

There is also the problem of fads in "sex crimes", from the prosecution end. Look at McMartin. It wasn't just Manhattan Beach which had prosecutions. Bakersfield/Kern County put several people in prison on charges of Satanic Ritual Molestation.

They are still in prison.

#25 ::: thomas ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2011, 02:12 AM:

Patrick,

Can you give us a source for the recidivism proportion? Like heresiarch@3, I'd like to quote it, but professional ethics forbid me to quote statistics without being able to refer people to a primary source.


In many places there are even exceptions to the "close enough in age" exemption for statutory rape. Lila mentioned Genarlow Wilson, but it's quite possible for both of a same-sex couple to be technically guilty of rape of a minor.

I'm not sure that the sex-offender laws are any worse from a public policy view than the War On Some Users of Some Drugs, or the anti-terrorism laws, but they are at least competitive on the scale of general public misunderstanding.

#26 ::: Melanie S. ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2011, 02:19 AM:

thomas @23: The sources are in the article Patrick linked--search the page for Timothy Fortney, that should take you to the correct paragraph.

#27 ::: thomas ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2011, 02:51 AM:

Melanie S.

Thanks.

#28 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2011, 03:40 AM:

There's an interesting Joe Bageant (RIP) article about exploitation of sex offenders (so-called) here.

#29 ::: Gray Woodland ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2011, 05:59 AM:

Patrick: Excellent post, on a topic that regularly outrages me half-way up the walls, and as a libertarian I'll carry your latter point yet further. Libertarianism is a crazy philosophy if we assume that most people are stupid, callous, cowardly, and rageful. If such were really the case, then for everybody's sake I ought to subscribe to the Benign Liberal Elitists' Club tomorrow, and slog my guts out in its cause. If, on the other hand, we allow that we are not unusually cool and special snowflakes - why now, that's a very different story, and one of mine.

And there the uncomfortable questions bite, but hard.

There are philosophies which can survive the assumption that kindly or rational conduct is the domain of a superior few. I don't see how the ones based on individual liberty or public equality can stand among them.

#30 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2011, 07:37 AM:

I'm inclined to think that moral panics happen at least as much because people like cruelty and like it more when they're frightened (and possibly scare themselves as an excuse to be cruel), than because they're stupid.

There's probably something worth working out about the way stupidity and intelligence are conceived in fannish and related communities. I think it's something like "intelligent people quickly see and use practical methods of achieving worthwhile goals", and therefore (since intelligence is the highest value) bad behavior driven by passion is described as stupid.

My tentative theory for why libertarians get so little traction even when they're right is that libertarianism is a political theory which attracts people who don't like practical politics.

Admittedly, the wide anti-government streak in libertarianism is a problem (and may well be a very bad idea at the extreme), but I can't see that it's any worse than the wide anti-business streak on the (progressive?) left, but it seems to attract more hatred.

It may just look that way because of where I hang out. Possibly as a result of having done something peculiar in a past life, I seem to be a liberal-flavored libertarian who generally prefers the company of progressives and gets along reasonably well with them.

Anyway, you may be right that what these problems need is more class analysis and outrage. It seems to me that (judging by comments seen on line), a great deal of the public likes things the way they are, and would be delighted to see them get nastier.

Does your take on things require that the people in charge are completely cynical about the moral panics they're taking advantage of?

Any good references on moral panics, and especially what makes moral panics end?

#31 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2011, 08:16 AM:

Thank you, Patrick, for that last paragraph in particular.

#32 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2011, 09:56 AM:

David Harmon @ #15, see also possession of child porn carrying a GREATER penalty than actually molesting a child. BWUH??

Gray Woodland: There are philosophies which can survive the assumption that kindly or rational conduct is the domain of a superior few. I don't see how the ones based on individual liberty or public equality can stand among them.

QFT. All by yourself, in a single comment, you've measurably affected my respect for libertarianism.

#33 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2011, 10:00 AM:

Lila #32: Ah yes, the homeopathic theory of evil.

#34 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2011, 12:03 PM:

Gray, #29: From where I sit, it appears that the founding principle of Libertarianism is that, left to their own devices, the vast majority of people will act according to the principles of enlightened self-interest even when it is to their short-term or medium-term disadvantage to do so. Unfortunately, this only works when you have an author standing over the story to make sure it comes out right. See also "It is very difficult to make a person understand something when their livelihood depends on them not understanding it." As in, the privatized prison system, among other things.

#35 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2011, 12:08 PM:

Lila #5: I'm glad to see you mentioned Genarlow Wilson, as I live not all that far from where he got railroaded (and he turned up in my office not that long ago).

Chiming in to add my voice to yours and Abi's as another survivor of childhood sexual assault who agrees with Patrick.

#36 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2011, 12:33 PM:

Prisons are a for-profit industry. The purpose is to keep the prisons full.

This.

Same can be said for most of the laws that support the "War on Drugs."

#37 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2011, 01:11 PM:

Here in NC, you can end up on our sex offender registration list by:

-Urinating in public

-Having sex with a minor (even if you're a minor yourself)

-Having sex with someone 2 years younger than you (i.e., an 18 year old and a 16 year old)

-If you're a minor, sending nude photos of yourself to someone else via cellphone or computer, or possessing such photos of someone else.

All of those cases have happened in the last few years; the last one took place in a high school between a teenaged girl sending risque' photos of herself to a boy, who then sent them to his friends. The 18 with a 16 year old instance was pushed by the girl's parents, who insisted that the boy be brought up on sex offender charges.

As was previously said, once on the sex offender registry, it's almost impossible to get your name removed.

#38 ::: Gray Woodland ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2011, 02:43 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz @ 30: I'm inclined to think that moral panics happen at least as much because people like cruelty and like it more when they're frightened (and possibly scare themselves as an excuse to be cruel), than because they're stupid.

I think people do generally like kindness more than they like cruelty, but that they associate kindness with low status and vulnerability, and cruelty with high status and power. Since kindness requires consent and cruelty excludes it, they aren't wholly wrong. And being scared makes people shut down their vulnerability modes, and look for either dominance or the protection of somebody who exhibits it.

This is partly based on experience, and rather more strongly on introspection focused on my own less amiable instincts. I can't honestly make claims about how far it generalizes. But I will make life-related bets on it.

Thinking of a countermeasure is harder, or else the world would be jollier. :-/ Dominance hierarchies really are a tried and tested technology for coercion, including the defensive kinds.

To me, it seems the answer has to involve looking for both ethics and techniques that tend to divorce hierarchical status from security - or, equivalently, to undermine the strategic advantage of the dominance hierarchy itself. Without that, we're putting power into people's hands in a way apt to correlate to their cruelty, manipulativeness, competitive consumption, and other dominance-oriented evils. Not good.

So I think that whatever undermines sovereign power, kyriarchy, corporate concentration, or other hierarchical relationships in favour of their peer-to-peer rivals, is in that respect at least doing something to undermine cruelty, not to mention stupidity and waste and all the rest. Failing that, the more liberal and less controlling such a relationship can be stably made, the less cruelty I expect it to foster. In no case is this guaranteed to be a net win - but other things being roughly equal, that's the way I'll bet.

But - scared people are not stupid to fall back into defensive mode. And the present default defensive mode is, as you suggest, not a very nice one. Nor is scaring vulnerable people in a dangerous world ever a difficult endeavour.

And this the hierarchs know!

#39 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2011, 03:31 PM:

What is the recidivism rate over longer periods? And is that rate also drawn from the same wide ranging category of 'sexual offenses' that can get one placed on these lists, or is it more narrow and hence rational?

#40 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2011, 03:47 PM:

Gray @38: I think I broke a tooth on that wikipedia article on kyriarchy. Do you have any slightly more digestible references?

(In other news: +1 for the default ML reader attitude to draconian permanent punitive labeling for offenders.)

#41 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2011, 04:33 PM:

It's interesting to look at this in terms of labeling, Charlie Stross @ 40, particularly when using some of the models of the Chicago School of sociology (especially the work of Howard S. Becker on labeling theory, though Anselm Strauss and Laud Humphries have interesting things to say). A quote from the linked website:

Becker (1963) details the process of how these deviant outsiders become involved in secondary deviance. Primary deviance is the first "step", and this primary act may be either intentional or unintentional (Becker 1963). Becker (1963) believes that most people think or fantasize in a deviant manner, and the study of why certain people conform while other give in to deviant impulses is crucial. The process of being caught and labeled deviant by a person in position of authority is the most crucial step on the road to secondary deviance.

The second "step" on the way to secondary deviance and a career in crime involves the acceptance of the deviant label (Becker 1963). Becker (1963) describes how certain rule-breakers come to accept the label of "deviant" as their master status. The master status is the role to which one most relates the view of oneself (Becker 1963). The rule breaker that identifies with the deviant label as their master status becomes an outsider and is denied the means of carrying on with their everyday lives (Becker 1963). Becker (1963) makes it clear that not every rule breaker progresses in this manner and that certain people have alternative paths to take. An outsider, denied the means to carry out daily routines, turns to illegitimate means to make a living (Becker 1963).
Becker's 1963 book mentioned there is Outsiders: Studies in the Sociology of Deviance, and is well worth reading.
#42 ::: Devin ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2011, 04:35 PM:

Charlie-

You know how men have more power than women? Rich people more power than poor people? White people more power than people of color? Educated people more than uneducated? Speakers of certain dialects more than others?

All that together, that's kyriarchy. It's partly an umbrella term, but it also speaks to the way one person can be positioned differently in different columns, there, (like a rich straight black man, or a poor educated lesbian) and those different positions can manifest differently at different times. For instance, if there's a dispute at work about how we're going to do something, my education, dialect, and verbal ability will tell heavily. The fact that I got no money and no family connections won't. On the other hand, if I wanted to be appointed to office, if I wanted to become powerful in the civil service... Well, I'd have a fighting chance but I might wish for a little less smarts and a little more networking.

#43 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2011, 04:57 PM:

OK: multivariate politics of privilege I can deal with. (I am a pale-skinned middle class male; but the package of privilege that comes with that doesn't help me get traction if I accidentally crash my time machine in late-1930s Germany, because I'm also jewish, which in that social context is an onerous status that overrides the others. And so on.)

I was somewhat bamboozled by the linguistic roots (wondering if someone had come up with an umbrella term for rule by the Bilderberg Group or something).

#44 ::: Gray Woodland ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2011, 05:04 PM:

Charlie @ 40: Is this any more helpful? I think that's the first place I found it. I was looking it up in a spirit of considerable scepticism, from an argument elsewhere in whose jargon I felt I was drowning, and then discovered that it defined a concept for which I was used to fumbling in the dark.

When I use it, I'm thinking in terms of intersecting, context-sensitive dimensions of dominance and privilege - a fluid dominance matrix, if you like: that set of relations, not themselves necessarily rankable, through which people default by group and context into lord-to-peasant interactions, rather than peer-to-peer ones. Familiar real-world examples given in the link.

The more people can put this into simpler words and plainer, the happier I'll be too. The concept to me seems as simple as the day; but unpacked, it comes out all so tangled.

#45 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2011, 05:14 PM:

Gray: I've been half-jokingly referring to our system as global governance by an emergent conspiracy of the P7 -- the Pale Patriarchal Protestant Plutocratic Penis People of Power -- but kyriarchy is a term of art that covers all hierarchies of privilege, so yes, it's useful.

#46 ::: Magenta Griffith ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2011, 05:50 PM:

Charlie Stross @45, and others. Kyriarchy is better because it covers more instances. Your 7P doesn't include age discrimination, nor discrimination for disability. Or you could keep adding letters...

#47 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2011, 06:01 PM:

Puerile and Peripatetic?

#48 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2011, 06:16 PM:

Also Phobic and Paranoid.

#49 ::: Rob Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2011, 06:29 PM:

I'd never heard of Kyriarchy before this, but I have been using the idea of 'default privelege' for a while now. By which I mean the privelege that accrues by conforming as closely as possible to the default our society is set up to best serve. That default is of course straight, white, able-bodied, male, and Christian. Where you feel the rub is where one or more of these don't apply to you. And unless it's pointed out to them most people don't even notice the privelege that comes from those categories that do apply to them.

#50 ::: Chris Lawson ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2011, 09:14 PM:

MacAllister@16: The Psychopath Test is brilliant -- it is, apparently, the best predictor of time spent in prison. Presumably because a bad result keeps one in prison.

Gray@38: That's a brilliant word, and so nice to have a formalised concept of overlapping/exclusionary privileges to combat the "X has no right to complain because Y has it worse" arguments.

#51 ::: Chris Lawson ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2011, 09:19 PM:

Rob@50: As you say, it is quite possible to be white, male, Christian, and heterosexual and *still* be on the receiving end if you are in the wrong moment in history. (Galileo and the Cathars come to mind.)

#52 ::: Chris Lawson ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2011, 09:19 PM:

^ Whoops. Rob@49.

#53 ::: MinaW ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2011, 10:29 PM:

An illustration of unintended consequences of the sex-offender registration & domicile restriction laws (not near schools):

a nearby gated community has the highest (# or %? I need to look it up - public info) concentration of registered sex-offenders in the state.

When one thinks of a gated community as a collection of the paranoid types who believe in these laws, it sounds only fair.

Unfortunately, there are people living there because it was the only place they could afford when they moved here, so the moral doesn't hold.

#54 ::: Matthew Brown ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 12:31 AM:

There are some very good criticisms and reporting of criminal justice issues from the libertarian front these days, especially Radley Balko (http://www.theagitator.com/), who used to write for Reason and now is a paid writer for the Huffington Post. I don't agree with everything in his politics, but his criminal justice reporting is top-notch.

It strikes me that libertarians, with their distrust of state power, are perfectly suited to that beat and chronicling the abuses of power of the criminal justice system.

#55 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 12:57 AM:

I find the idea of the psychopath test terrifying, because I always have trouble with tests like that. They assume that the first thing you know is the "obvious" default meaning of the questions. I don't. What I know first are all the different things the questions might mean. I pare down from there. If there's no mechanism for paring down down meaning, or specifying what I mean by an odd-sounding answer, I can come out with anomalous scores.

Sex offender laws have a bigger version of the same problem. A tiny number of sex offenders are genuinely warped predators. For others, the behavior was situational -- too much stress, not enough consciousness, not enough education. Some got caught doing something dumb as a kid, and didn't have the sophistication or legal clout to minimize the long-term consequences. Some did stuff that shouldn't be classed as a sexual offense at all, like urinating in public, or playing doctor with another kid when they were both too young to know what the equipment is for.

That last one infuriates me. The point of reporting little kids who appear to be engaging in sexual behavior is so authorities can check and see whether they're enacting behavior that has already been enacted upon them. If it turns out they're just being curious, there's no offense. Using that diagnostic and protective measure to permanently assign a small child to the same category as adults with a history of violent sexual assault is insane.

Safety is a set of practices and habits, a thing you do every day, not a wall you build once and forever leave in place.

Terry Karney @24, I'm still waiting for solid evidence of Satanic Ritual Molestation. Since I haven't seen any, one of two things has to be true. Either it never existed, or satanic covens are the only organizations in history with no disaffected ex-members, no members who've been busted on some other charge and need something really juicy to use in plea bargaining, and no fast-moving building fires that drive cultists out of their satanic temple sites before they can clear away the evidence. Also, if it existed as described, it's an ongoing deal. Where are all the new cases?

Gray Woodland, good comments.

#56 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 01:20 AM:

The prosecutors at the McMartin Preschool case used Michelle Remembers as their sourcebook on what Satanists do and what Satanic Ritual is all about. Michelle Remembers is demonstrably nonsense made up out of whole cloth.

#57 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 02:04 AM:

What we need is a War Against Incarceration. Anyone who advocates policies that put innocent people behind bars is an obvious threat to society. And threats to society must be dealt with firmly.

#58 ::: Marc Mielke ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 03:05 AM:

#6: Re: Public urination; I'd say homeless folks gotta worry more than drunks because it's practically the Platonic ideal of a selectively enforced law. Cops aren't going to jam up some tipsy banker out on the town, or the high school/college football star and his girlfriend celebrating the big win.

I see the psychopath test as an RL version of the Voight-Kampff. It's way more dependent on the tester than its designer advertises. Used on people you already know are criminals seems to invite confirmation bias.

From the book, the designer of the test makes a shit-ton of money off it, which makes me sort of dismiss anything he has to say as bullshit.

#59 ::: Gray Woodland ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 04:31 AM:

Lila @ 32: Thanks: glad to be of service. I'm temperamentally susceptible to Slan Fallacies, and had the good fortune to be raised in a household where pretensions of superiority were considered amusingly self-refuting. The combo leaves me somewhat sensitive to the fallacy's odour, especially in arguments to which I'm otherwise sympathetic.

'QFT' is a new one on me, in both its senses. Should I ever in some transport of irritation appear to have forgotten the quoted sentiment, anybody who notices is heartily encouraged to remind me!

Also, permit me to second that BWUH?? there. I find myself doing a fair old bit of bwuhing, this millennium.

#60 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 04:42 AM:

One more thing to throw into the kyriarchical mix: physical height. Tall people have it all over (sorry) short people, or people who are artificially short (wheelchairs).

I'm hard pressed to think of a Presidential matchup since FDR where the taller guy lost.

#61 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 05:59 AM:

Off on a tangent, but the local police are running a rape awareness campaign, and it's directed at women. Simplifying brutally, if you get drunk, you're going to get raped.

I reckon that's pretty insulting to men, in the same sort of way which some expressions of Islam are. It's assuming that men, given the slightest opportunity, turn into ravening uncontrollable beasts.

In my current state of health, and at my age, that's a little unlikely anyway, but when I look back, I wonder whether I would ever have been tempted in that way? I wasn't averse to looking—I can't recall the girl's name, but I definitely remember the outfit of metallised fabric with the short skirt—but anything more?

No, getting that drunk is stupid, man or woman. But, when I see reports of trouble in the centre of town, when the bars close, I wonder why they're picking on women. Then again, I've heard a few things: I wouldn't want to hang out with that sort of woman, they can't even recognise a sonnet.

#62 ::: Mike McHugh ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 06:42 AM:

On the Psychopath Test: here's an extract from Jon Ronson's book of the same name.

#63 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 08:09 AM:

Dave Bell #61: Indeed -- in the situations I'm familiar with, the danger isn't that the woman's drunk, it's that they're in the same room/building as a whole bunch of guys who are almost as drunk (remember body-mass issues), and primed for "fun".

#64 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 08:25 AM:

Mike McHugh #62: The thing is, psychopaths do exist, and may well be incurable by anything we'd now consider "therapy". Even that "20-point" test doesn't look too bad in trained hands, remembering that most of those "points" are psychiatric terms of art!

The big problem is when you have such tests being given by folks who may not have that training, but do have an incentive to incarcerate the test subject. That's when, say, being on welfare gets counted as a "parasitic lifestyle", or resisting a frameup gets marked as "lack of remorse or guilt".

#65 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 09:07 AM:

Dave Bell @61--

This is because women are foolish and feeble creatures and need to have their behavior managed and directed because they haven't the wits to do so for themselves*. The best comeuppance I have ever seen for this attitude is the (possibly apocryphal, although one hopes not) response Golda Meir made to a cabinet minister who wanted to place a curfew on women because of a series of rapes: "So, are the women committing the rapes?" "No, Prime Minister." "Then why put the curfew on women? We should put it on the men, because if they are supposed to stay in, we can assume any that are out in violation of curfew are up to no good and arrest them as soon as they're spotted."


*Because there is no way we're ever going to get a public admission from anyone resembling an Authoritative Person that for many men, "taking advantage" of a woman who is not able to do anything about the assault is seen as very nearly a right. I realize there are pleny of men who don't feel that way and are appalled when they encoounter that sentiment, and that many of those who regularly hang out at ML are among the latter group, rather than the former, but it's a well-established position with a few thousand years behind it.
Official efforts (and nearly all advice to women) aimed at preventing rape are virtually always aimed at women, not at men.

#66 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 10:50 AM:

Teresa/Jim:

The thing that creeped me out about the ritual satanic abuse cases was how similar they were to older kinds of witch trials. And they played on a particular bug in human minds--one which mixes together probability of guilt given evidence, and horribleness of alleged crime. If you say "he stole $10,000 from the bank vault" and give scanty evidence, the accused will probably get off, because people can think clearly about stealing cash from a bank vault. If you say "he sacrificed children[1] to Satan in rituals in an underground hideout[2], and molested other children as part of his unspeakable rites", the horror of the crime is so great, it probably swamps the jurors' and judges' ability to think dispassionately about the probability of guilt[3]. Something very similar happens in con games--if I offer you a chance to win a small amount, you can think more clearly about the probability I'm a crook than if I offer you the chance to win a large amount.

[1] Who can't ever be tracked to any missing children, and whose remains are never found.

[2] So well hidden that even in-depth investigations by the whole police department can't find it.

[3] Almost nobody thinks in terms of probabilities or odds ratios for these things, unfortunately. But that's what we ultimately care about when we're thinking about "guilt proved beyond a reasonable doubt." What's the probability he did it, given all the evidence you've seen. Widespread innumeracy screws up our justice system, just as it does all sorts of other systems we have.

#67 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 10:54 AM:

http://front.moveon.org/the-most-effective-sexual-assault-prevention-plan-ever/

#68 ::: Mark Kernes ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 12:21 PM:

What many may not realize is that not only is crap like public urination (where someone might be exposing his/her genitals) a "sex crime," but so is selling an obscene DVD -- a "crime" that doesn't even involve two people touching each other!

#69 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 12:29 PM:

Dave B., #61: Indeed. May I suggest Golda Meir's remedy -- since it's the men who are doing the raping, impose stricter penalties for drunken men!

More seriously, one might suggest a campaign reminding men that having sex with a woman who's drunk or drugged to the point where she can't consent is rape.

fidelio, #65: I've been rather encouraged by the degree to which, just in the last few years, the idea that we should be talking to MEN about rape prevention has started to take hold. It's not by any means widespread yet, but as recently as 5 years ago it was nonexistent. Witness this picture*, which was going viral around Facebook a week or two ago.


* It's a little hard to read at that size, but I see that Melissa has provided a link to a larger version @67.

#70 ::: Leigh Kimmel ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 12:38 PM:

albatross @ 66: Actually, it's even worse -- when you have an accusation of a crime that's across a certain line of perceived heinousness, it becomes dangerous to even question the validity of the evidence, lest you be accused of being mixed up in it, or at least majorly lacking in respect for the victims. So the rush to judgment created by the sense of urgency ("If we don't stop these criminals Right Now, there's going to be dozens more victims") is compounded by a misapplication of the rule of "to fail to condemn is to condone" so that nobody can give the evidence the sort of review that's necessary to ensure that due process has been done.

And there doesn't even need to be a supernatural element in the accusations, if the sense of heinousness is severe enough. Think for instance of someone trying to question the flimsy evidence for some of the accusations of Communist involvement during the McCarthy Era, or of someone trying to question the evidence against someone accused of being a "spy, saboteur and wrecker" during the Great Terror. Both completely secular accusations, but once the moral panic got to a certain pitch, the very act of questioning the validity of the evidence against the accused put the questioner in grave danger of being accused in turn.

#71 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 12:40 PM:

Suppose one man in a hundred is a rapist. Who is he going to rape? The most vulnerable person present. No amount of education of that person will help. If you tell him, "Having sex with a drunk person is rape," he'll reply, "Yes, that's why I did it."

In general, for any crime, the victim will be the most vulnerable person present. If one man in a hundred is a mugger, who is he going to mug? The most vulnerable person present. If one man in a hundred is an armed robber, who is he going to rob? The most vulnerable person present. If one man in a hundred is a psychopathic killer, who is he going to kill? The most vulnerable person present.

Who is the most vulnerable person present? The one who's alone. The one who's drunk. The one who's lost. The one who's weak. The one who's a stranger. The one who's sick. The one who's young. The one who's old.

You can't do a lot about most of those risk factors, but of the ones you can, that's why I advise everyone, young and old, male and female, to always bring a friend and stay sober.

#72 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 12:56 PM:

There can be very different definitions of vulnerable, Jim -- remember Willie Sutton on bank robbery. He didn't hit them because banks were particularly easy targets -- he hit them because that's where the money is. In that class, he probably went for more vulnerable examples indeed; but it's still not the bank's fault that he was robbing them.

There are lots of people with less money than the bank who are easier targets. Cost-benefit analysis kept him from attacking them.

#73 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 01:19 PM:

Jim, #71: The point of items like that picture is not "educating rapists not to rape", it's "changing the way society places blame in rape cases". A drunk woman and a man who rapes her because she's drunk don't exist in a vacuum; very likely there were any number of other men around, seeing her in that place, wearing those clothes, being drunk, yet who chose not to rape her. Why, then is the WOMAN seen as the villain in the case? This doesn't happen with any other crime.

Side note: recent research indicates that your hypothetical estimate of the percentage of men who rape is very low, and that the real number is more like 1 in 20. And furthermore, that about 10% of that number do it habitually, mostly to women they know socially and rarely by use of force or violence; alcohol and drugs are their methods of choice. They do this because they know that it greatly improves their chances of getting away with it over and over again.

#74 ::: cgeye ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 01:27 PM:

#28: one point not mentioned, but by Bageant:
"But throw in the term sex offender and get on the registered sex offender list (which seems to be mostly filled with Johns who solicited prostitutes, though you'd never know it by the way they name the offense) and it all gets really strange."

So they can't stop the sex trafficking, but mark the johns as sex offenders? Do sex traffickers get that mark, or do they turn state's evidence? This is like jailing the pot user, and letting the kingpin go free....

#75 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 01:35 PM:

I read Willie Sutton's autobiography. He went for the easiest banks. As banks instituted security measures to counter his methods, he'd change tactics to counter the security. But he still went for the most vulnerable.

He wasn't doing it for the challenge, he was doing it for the money.

Banks that didn't keep up on their countermeasures were more likely to be hit.

#76 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 01:36 PM:

James D. Macdonald:

So instead, the next time the person who might rape actually puts something in someone's drink when they're not looking, so that no matter how careful and sober they are, they're now the weakest in the room. And that only takes one moment of inattentiveness while one's buddy is in the bathroom.

Or they won't even think of it as rape, because their girlfriend willingly came inside with them for a few minutes, let him take off her bra, so obviously, when she says to stop there, she's just playing hard to get, not meaning it.

If someone is that determined to get some, and society gives a message that it's okay for guys to push the boundaries, especially if she's sexually desirable, they'll find a way to skew the odds.

I think if society changes the message, then it might in fact help a hell of a lot. Teach guys both

You seem to be suggesting that these men will rape anyhow, no matter what message they get from society at large, and the only thing stopping them would be a lack of available victims.

The problem is the doubled message:

1) It's okay to push if she starts saying no. She might not really mean it. It's okay to push if she's not wholly in her right mind for drink. Because she's not saying no.

2) The people who commit sexual assault are creeps and jerks, inhuman things nothing like you or your friends (Which also leads to the sex offender registry and the original topic, funny). So obviously, if you're a normal guy, you can't have done it. (This one is especially dangerous because the friends of both perpetrator and victim can buy into it and doubt what happened on the basis of wholly unrelated-to-the-crime aspects of the perpetrator's personality. Like, say, that's he's a great musician and a snappy dresser, and always verbally polite.)

We need to send the message that yes, You (generic you, obviously), who are not an obvious deviant or weirdo, are capable of ignoring the wishes of another human being long enough to cause them intense and terrible trauma. So don't.

This seems immensely possible. I've never had a boyfriend who didn't stop when asked. And at least one was genuinely messed up in enough other ways to be possibly dangerous. So obviously, this lesson can be taught even to guys who aren't the epitome of nice.

Please note, I don't disagree that taking precautions is sensible for the potential victim. I just think it's foolish to think that the perpetrators are either given a pass because, hey, guys have poor impulse control when they're horny, or because, hey, look, he's not a drooling creep who jumps out at women from the bushes, so he can't really have done anything wrong.

#77 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 01:39 PM:

#73: Lee

Why, then is the WOMAN seen as the villain in the case? This doesn't happen with any other crime.

See how much sympathy you get if you get rolled in a waterfront bar after flashing a big wad of cash.

#78 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 01:57 PM:

Jim, the problem with that analogy is that we have a lot of choice over whether to carry a wad of cash into a waterfront bar. Whereas young & attractive women don't have anywhere near as much choice about, you know, having a body.

You are a guy who likes and respects women, who habitually hangs out with strong women, and who has raised awesome daughters. So I don't think you're any kind of sexist villain. Indeed, what you're trying to say is simply an extension of the "here's how to take care of yourself in a dangerous world" narrative you put forth in many excellent Making Light posts.

The problem is that women have since time immemorial been systematically made to feel like rape is somehow their fault for dressing the wrong way, or being in the wrong place, or otherwise failing to account for their Sorcerous Power Over The Brains Of Men (an alleged superpower which, mysteriously, seems entirely unable to get women paid the same as men are for the same kind of work). And modern women are in no mood to put up with one second more of this crap.

Nobody here really needs to be told "don't put yourself in the power of obviously creepy & violent people." But they do need to establish that, you know something, even if someone did walk into a waterfront bar with a roll of cash, and got mugged? THEY'D STILL DESERVE OUR SYMPATHY, BECAUSE MUGGING PEOPLE IS WRONG. As you know perfectly well.

Honestly, when I see you saying something like that, what I see is someone who constantly expends sympathy on people who are the authors of their own misfortunes far more than any rape victim. Idiot college students who come to grief on snowmobiles in the New Hampshire woods. Loggers who operated lethal power tools while drunk. Bubble-headed tourists who didn't keep their eye on the road. You patch them up enough to get them onto the emergency helicopter, and you're so drained that you have to pretend to be this unsympathetic jerk with the silly waterfront-bar analogy, just to protect yourself. Don't do it. It isn't you.

#79 ::: LMM ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 02:12 PM:

Thank you, Patrick. I was trying to compose a reply, but just couldn't.

#80 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 02:15 PM:

I don't think Jim turns himself into an "unsympathetic jerk" as a result of his EMT work (which is indeed stressful). I think he feels an urgent desire to keep people from coming to grief. On Making Light, he can get to them before the bad things happen. So he does his best.

Lenora Rose:

You seem to be suggesting that these men will rape anyhow, no matter what message they get from society at large, and the only thing stopping them would be a lack of available victims.
I can guarantee you that he doesn't think that and isn't suggesting it. Jim is by nature the guy in the white hat, but in the course of his life he's come into contact with some serious bad guys. He knows everyone isn't like that, but he also knows the bad guys are out there, so he Worries.

Jim worries about all of you.

Therefore, can we please understand that there are different issues being discussed? He knows it's not the women's fault that they get attacked. He's speaking from his hands-on way-too-detailed awareness that if you get into a bad situation, the rights and wrongs that should matter may not be any protection at all.

#81 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 02:23 PM:

Jim:

See how much sympathy you get if you get rolled in a waterfront bar after flashing a big wad of cash.
Most of the other people here aren't aware that you'd say the same thing to a man who did that. You might mention that, the next time it comes up.

#82 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 02:28 PM:

I am now late leaving for my appointment with my pain specialist. Everyone behave.

#83 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 02:48 PM:

There's a big difference between these two positions, the former of which I believe Mr. Macdonald holds (but I'm open to being corrected):

A. Situational awareness IS A GOOD THING and everyone could stand to get some training in it. Particularly the more vulnerable segments of the population. Learning 'how not to walk like a victim' doesn't make victims culpable in their victimization, but it does do about the same thing as using a Club on the steering wheel of your car: makes you somewhat less likely to be the least vulnerable person in the room that particular night.

B. Rape is the fault of the raped for not being proactively, Lara-Croftianly prepared and kickass.

Assaulters are at fault in all assaults (not their victims). However, knowing how to carry oneself in potentially-sketchy situations or neighborhoods is a useful life skill, training in which should be offered widely and well to everyone before they get to 'college age', IMHO.

You can still be raped or mugged, even if you're situationally-aware, sober, and with friends. It just improves your odds slightly. But it can stave off all kinds of other things, as a side-effect of hacking your brain's basic perceptual filters, in my experience.

#84 ::: Cath ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 02:48 PM:

Hi all,

Long time lurker here. I've been following the conversation at ML for years, and had the pleasure of meeting a couple of you briefly at Anticipation.

I'd like to offer one example of how sexual assult prevention messaging is changing for the better: Don't be That guy

Back on topic - isn't Jack in Halting State a person whose life is warped by the designation?

#85 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 02:57 PM:

fidelio @ 65: "Official efforts (and nearly all advice to women) aimed at preventing rape are virtually always aimed at women, not at men."

Earlier this year in Toronto, a police officer told women "women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized”. In response, Slutwalk was born. It's spread to other cities all over the world; there are plans for one in New Delhi.

#86 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 03:53 PM:

James D. MacDonald @ 71: "Suppose one man in a hundred is a rapist. Who is he going to rape? The most vulnerable person present. No amount of education of that person will help."

I see two major problems with this kind of static model of rape. The first Lenora Rose @ 76 already covered quite nicely: "[The message is that] people who commit sexual assault are creeps and jerks, inhuman things nothing like you or your friends. So obviously, if you're a normal guy, you can't have done it." This narrative is incorrect--Lee @ 73 quotes statistics that only 1 in 10 rapists are habitual offenders, committed to rape as a lifestyle. The rest of them did it because it seemed like a good idea at the time, and therefore might have been persuaded that no, it wasn't. The education is for the long-tail, whose behavior can be influenced.

The second is that, just as you say, there is always a most vulnerable person present. While it's wise for individuals to attempt to avoid being that person, if being the most vulnerable means getting raped, then someone will always be getting raped. Individual caution cannot alter the nature or magnitude of the societal problem, only its allocation. Society must act as a whole in order to change the prevalence of rape--(potential) victims and (potential) abusers alike.

#87 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 04:24 PM:

Is there a link to some good statistics on who rapes? The specific breakdown matters a great deal for whether education is likely to affect it at all, beyond the broad social level of trying to teach children to do good rather than evil.

In particular, if date rape is more like mugging (the rapist heads out the door tonight planning or at least hoping for the opportunity), then I doubt he can be convinced to change his plans short of being convinced he's likely to spend a long time in prison if he acts on them. (And that's very hard for date rapes, because of the lack of evidence.)

#88 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 05:02 PM:

albatross @ 87: "Is there a link to some good statistics on who rapes?"

BJS has enough data to drown a horse. That's also its downside. RAINN is less overwhelming, but has very little depth.

I think it's a classic long-tail distribution: the majority of rapists are only one-time offenders, but the majority of rapes are committed by a small number of repeat offenders.

"if date rape is more like mugging (the rapist heads out the door tonight planning or at least hoping for the opportunity), then I doubt he can be convinced to change his plans"

I really don't think rape, especially acquaintance rape, is like mugging. How weird would it be for someone to go out and get drunk, have a friend take them home and steal their stuff? The sociality of rape is very different: only a quarter of rapes are by strangers, but half of robberies are. Source (pdf): table 33-34. Rape really stands out on that table--it has lowest rate of stranger-perpetrated offenses by a good ten percent.

#89 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 05:05 PM:

#86: heresiarch

The rest of them did it because it seemed like a good idea at the time, and therefore might have been persuaded that no, it wasn't.

Thus, everyone should use the buddy system, and avoid getting drunk. Because "everyone" includes the potential rapists too.

Which is what I've been saying all along.

--------------

Back to that waterfront bar for a moment. Here's a scenario that I've seen more times that I can count. The ship pulls in. The sailors head out on liberty. One young lad goes off by himself, into a bar, has a couple of drinks. A beautiful young lady comes up, starts up a conversation. Has a couple more drinks with him. She's pretty! She speaks English! She's friendly! Way friendly. She suggests that they get out of there, and leads him around to the alley in back. Woo! Things are going swell! She knees down in front of him, lowers his pants around his ankles and ... two big guys come up and punch him in the head. When he wakes up the young lady, his wallet, and his watch are all missing.

Sympathy? From the local police? No, he's going to be fined $500 for public lewdness, or for failing to have identity documents, or something. Fine payable on the spot. Pay up or it's thirty days in jail, your choice.

Sympathy from his buddies? No, they're going to laugh at him for being stupid. Sympathy from his captain? No, the captain is going to fine him half-pay for a month and confine him to the ship for being drunk in public, or out of uniform, or failure to obey a lawful order or regulation.

And you know something? One of that guy's buddies is going to do the very same thing the very next night, maybe in the very same bar. With the very same results. How much sympathy do you have right now for that buddy?

So, stick with friends, and don't drink to excess. Same in a waterfront bar as hiking the Appalachian Trail.

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More on alcohol and attitudes and rape.

Allow me to invite your attention to an on-line game, Dating Ariane. It's a choose-your-own-adventure browser game.

This is a simulation of your first date with a young lady. You can have lots of fun: Go out for a burger and fries, visit the art museum, ride a roller-coaster at the fair, shoot some hoops. But if you want to get laid, here's the secret: Have Ariane down three-plus drinks.

That is, in order to win the game, you must be a date rapist.

#90 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 05:08 PM:

Elliott, #83: Situational awareness IS A GOOD THING and everyone could stand to get some training in it. Particularly the more vulnerable segments of the population. Learning 'how not to walk like a victim' doesn't make victims culpable in their victimization, but it does do about the same thing as using a Club on the steering wheel of your car: makes you somewhat less likely to be the least vulnerable person in the room that particular night.

This is indubitably true, but fails to recognize two additional aspects of the problem:

1) When a woman is sexually assaulted, there is always some angle which can be seized on to say, "Well, if she'd only done or hadn't done X, this wouldn't have happened." The boundary between your A and B statements is sufficiently permeable as to make it very difficult to say A (WRT a real-life situation) without invoking at least some shadings of B.

2) Even your A statement only addresses one half of the problem. Rape requires an actor as well as a victim. But whenever anyone starts talking about addressing the potential actors, other people pipe up about how hopeless that is, that there will always be rapists and therefore the ONLY way to improve the situation is to teach women how not to be victims!

Does anyone else see a parallel here to the way we've always handled school bullying? The same weak arguments come up over and over again -- there will always be bullies, the only thing we can do is teach kids how not to provoke them and/or how to defend themselves. Never a single word about teaching children not to be bullies!

heresiarch, #86: The research I mentioned above shows 3 relevant points:

1) Some men are indeed hardcore rapists who will never be stopped short of life imprisonment or death. If we could identify these men and get them off the street, we'd eliminate well over half of all sexual assaults... and more than that, we'd eliminate a LOT of acquaintance rape, because that's what these guys do.

2) Some men just don't rape at all. Why? What makes them different from those who do? Is there anything we can do to influence the ones who aren't yet hardcore predators away from that path?

3) A significant number of men are "rapists of opportunity" -- they don't go out with the plan or expectation of getting a woman into a situation where she's too drunk or drugged to resist, but if presented with one, they don't see anything wrong about making use of her. And a LARGE part of the mindset of these men is that they don't think of what they do as being rape. "Rape" is stranger-rape, using force and violence. The researchers asked about specific behaviors, never using the words "rape" or "sexual assault" -- and there are plenty of men who will self-report the behaviors, as long as they don't see those words.

Posters like the one Melissa and I linked to are one way of addressing the "but that wasn't RAPE" issue, by teaching the men who are still reachable that yes, it IS rape when you fuck a woman who's passed-out drunk.

Another angle of approach is to reach out to the other guys, the ones who are also there but choose not to "take advantage", and convince them that they can and should do more than just stay out of it. They can get the drunk woman into a taxi and send her home. If she's someone they know, they can call her friends to come get her. And if they hear the other guys at the party talking about the passed-out chick in the back room, they can call the police.

And yet... whenever people start talking about pro-active approaches that address the man's part in the rape, someone always pops up to say it's all about teaching women how not to be victims, and how that's the only approach that makes any sense.

#91 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 05:25 PM:

#74 - Sex traffickers would be classified as kidnappers, I imagine - a pretty serious crime, but putting them on the sex offender register would take quite a leap of imagination. I suspect a lot of them are citizens of the countries the women come from in any case.

#92 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 05:34 PM:

#90 ::: Lee And yet... whenever people start talking about pro-active approaches that address the man's part in the rape, someone always pops up to say it's all about teaching women how not to be victims, and how that's the only approach that makes any sense.

Fortunately, that isn't within a mile of anything I've ever said.

When a woman is sexually assaulted, there is always some angle which can be seized on to say, "Well, if she'd only done or hadn't done X, this wouldn't have happened."

Y'know something? When a snowmobiler runs into a tree there's always some angle that can be seized on to say, "Well, if he'd only done or hadn't done X, this wouldn't have happened."

The last one that I recall was a guy who chewed tobacco, who took off his helmet and turned his head to spit without stopping his sled. You can't think of a single thing to say in that case where maybe, just maybe, if he'd done one thing differently there'd have been a different outcome?

Saying "Don't be an idiot" isn't the same thing as blaming the victim.

Saying "It's a good thing to have a designated driver" isn't the same thing as saying "I approve of drunkenness."

#93 ::: individualfrog ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 06:00 PM:

This post says what I'd like to say on this topic, so I thought I'd mention it:

"When somebody says, “I don’t think women should be raped for wearing short skirts, but what do they expect when they do go out like that?” what you are actually saying is that if a woman in a short skirt is raped, you will be less likely to hold her rapist culpable. Which makes a woman in a short skirt really appealing to a rapist. That’s something that you did. That’s not something the woman in the short skirt did, or something the rapist did. You made that woman a more comfortable target by making it clear that if she got raped, you would be less upset about it, less willing to see the rapist go to jail, less willing to support the woman. A woman is not increasing her risk of being raped by wearing a short skirt. You are increasing her risk of being raped by saying that women who get raped in short skirts should have expected that. Rapists hear you say that."

#94 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 06:00 PM:

James D. Macdonald @ 89: "Because "everyone" includes the potential rapists too."

I'm deeply uncomfortable with the idea that the only way to be totally sure you won't "accidentally" rape someone is to stay sober and keep a friend nearby. I estimate the moral capacity of human beings, even men, a littler higher than that. I think men are quite capable of learning not to rape people under any level of intoxication. Women do it all the time, you see.

"That is, in order to win the game, you must be a date rapist."

So does the game seem to you to be representative of reality? It seems to me like a sexist trifle, representative of the attitudes that a woman's sobriety and self-control are obstacles to her sexuality, that getting with a lady is a) a prize and b) a matter of skillful manipulation, and that date-rapey behavior is necessary for men to succeed sexually. Okay, yes, our culture is sexist. I'm really baffled--what's the message you're trying to communicate?

#95 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 06:04 PM:

Lee@90: I think a lot of folks - maybe mostly but not exclusively men - feel it's...not exactly hopeless but a *really* big job, changing men's (and women's) culture in unprecedentedly far-reaching ways. Radfems would say get rid of gender roles, but the groundswell of popular opinion to carry that through ain't visible from where I'm sitting.

It would be great if sexism could become unfashionable the way racism seems to have, but how?

#96 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 06:14 PM:

re 93: I wish people would quit making that kind of "what you are really saying" statement. It would make a lot more sense to start from the position that they aren't saying that (since, after all, they didn't really say it) and try to resolve the apparent contradiction.

#97 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 06:22 PM:

I can read "really saying" as "implying" there without too much indigestion.

#98 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 06:26 PM:

Jim, can we acknowledge that there are times when no amount of situational awareness will help?

Also, when you say that someone who's been very imprudent gets no sympathy, do you mean they don't get it from you either, or are you warning us that naive imprudence doesn't get an appropriate degree of sympathy from other people who aren't you? You're sounding like they get no sympathy from you, but I know there've been many real-life situations where everyone concerned was to some extent negligent or culpable -- and yet, you found reasons to feel sympathy for all of them.

#99 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 06:31 PM:

#94: I'm deeply uncomfortable with the idea that the only way to be totally sure you won't "accidentally" rape someone is to stay sober and keep a friend nearby.

Then what's the point of those posters that are being pointed to with such approval up above? (#84/#67)

My position is that everything is more fun if you stay in control and have friends around.

I also recommend that people notice where the fire exits are, and mentally rehearse going out all of them. I don't see people popping up to say that I therefore condone arson, or that I blame fire victims for their own deaths.

The last head-on collision I went to (a week ago Saturday), the guy who died wasn't wearing his seat belt. He had been in his own lane, paying attention to the road, driving under the speed limit. I'm not blaming him for his own death, and maybe it wouldn't have helped, but I sure do wish he'd been wearing his seat belt.

#100 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 06:37 PM:

Heresiarch @94, I've known Jim for a long time. He doesn't think that.

#101 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 06:49 PM:

Glenn Hauman @60, John Kerry (6'4") is taller than GW Bush (5'11½"). So's Gore (6'1"), but he won the popular vote. Ford (6'0") is taller than Carter (5'9½"). McGovern (6'1") was taller than Nixon (5'11½"). Source: Wikipedia.

#102 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 06:55 PM:

TNH $98: Jim, can we acknowledge that there are times when no amount of situational awareness will help?

Absolutely. There are non-survivable situations.

There are situations where no matter what you do the world has just turned to shit in front of your eyes, and some of it will splash on you.

There are situations where people find themselves compelled to do things that guarantee their own deaths. You know this, and you know that I know this, because I've written about some of them right here.

Back when I was in college I was the guy who young ladies asked to accompany them to the Student Union when they went out drinking after a break-up to make sure they got back to their rooms okay.

My sympathy is boundless, particularly for those who have made bad decisions, because I know how bad many of my decisions have been.

I also promise you, that after you've put a poster in ever men's room in the country, that after you've taught every man and boy in the lower forty-eight that No means No, Yes means Yes Wherever we Go However we Dress, that Ted Bundy and Jerome Brudos and Randall Woodfield and Gary Ridgway and thousands of others wouldn't pause for one second.

I also suggest that if you see something weird happening, you call your friends at 9-1-1.

#104 ::: Shawn Crowley ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 07:05 PM:

The war on drugs resulted in tortured reasoning from courts and lies by the police to obtain convictions. Sex offender civil commitment statutes have produced a host of bogus "actuarial" tools for predicting recidivism. Examples: VRAG, SORAG, Mn-SOST. Psychologists willing to use these predictive measures can earn six or even seven figure incomes testifying as state witnesses even when they lack any experience in evaluating or treating sex offenders.

As an attorney representing clients facing civil commitment I have had PhD level statisticians evaluate these tools. Every one found the tools to lack validity. None of them have been subjected to peer review even after more than a decade of use. This has not stopped courts from approving their use.

#105 ::: Chris Lawson ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 07:07 PM:

frog@93: Not at all. Saying "behaviour X reduces your risk of Y" is not the same as "not doing X makes you morally culpable when Y happens to you", nor does it mean "Y is less upsetting when it happens to people who do X".

#106 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 07:16 PM:

Shawn, how do these tests get adopted? How do these psychologists become certified expert witnesses? Is it just a matter of getting a conviction?

#107 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 07:26 PM:

Shawn, are those statistical analyses available online?

#108 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 07:30 PM:

When it's time to talk to my daughter about rape, I'm going to tell her much what Jim has said. I think it's darned good advice, person to person. If I had a son, I'd be telling him what's on that poster, again, person to person.

What I think should go out as a social message, to people generally, is indeed what's on the poster.

Conversating with my daughter, I think--I hope!--I can deliver the "be careful" message without the "or it's your fault" stinger. I don't believe that sort of nuanced messaging is feasible as a public campaign.

The "Don't Rape" campaign doesn't have to be subtle or nuanced. It's not going to end all rape. However, I think it's got a good chance, if applied consistently over time, of significantly reducing some forms of rape.

It won't stop psychopathy. I don't know what will. No one does.

#109 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 07:31 PM:

Chris Lawson, what we have is a situation where what's truthful for someone to say in one situation resembles an untruthful trope habitually used by other people in a different situation.

Further complications: First, the untruthful version of the trope is commonly used on women under very upsetting circumstances. Second, for equally PTSD-ish reasons I will not go into, the odds of Jim Macdonald acceding to an argument that takes the form, "What you're really trying to say is," hover right around zero.

#110 ::: Emily H. ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 07:33 PM:

If someone tells me, "You shouldn't go outside because of the toxic death cloud that's hanging over the city," there are not a lot of options. You can stay inside (what about your job? What about getting food? What about picking your kids up at school?); you can go outside and get sick from the toxic death cloud and get called an idiot.

You can also yell to anyone who'll listen that this toxic death cloud is a BIG FREAKING PROBLEM and we need to fix it because people need to be able to go outside.

I've spent time walking around some of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Brooklyn because of my job. That's important to me. It's also important to me to be able to walk around the city by myself in the evening, and it's important to me to be able to have the occasional drink at a bar. I'm not somebody who has fun getting really drunk, but for the people who do, I recognize that's important to them. So, you know, if there's a toxic death cloud around it's safer to stay indoors, and if you live in a society that doesn't take rape seriously it's safer not to be by yourself and not to get drunk. But really, we need to be yelling to anyone who'll listen that we've got to fix the toxic death cloud.

#111 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 07:47 PM:

Jim #71: Suppose one man in a hundred is a rapist. Who is he going to rape? The most vulnerable person present. No amount of education of that person will help. If you tell him, "Having sex with a drunk person is rape," he'll reply, "Yes, that's why I did it."

Sorry dude, but this is way off base. Yes, there are folks who are premeditated and purposeful rapists, but those really are your basic criminal (or sociopathic) types, and AFAICT they're very much the minority of men who actually commit rape.

The real problem is all the boys and men who aren't hardcore criminals, but have been socialized to think that "taking advantage" is OK, or that "no means yes", or any of the other pernicious memes tied into the date rape problem. And locking the guys up, then stigmatizing them for life, isn't necessarily the best solution.

#112 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 07:52 PM:

Emily, I don't think anyone would argue with that.

I live in Brooklyn. I practice situational awareness. I know it's not my fault if malfeasant fellow-New Yorkers mistreat me anyway. And yet, it's mistreatment.

Can I or anyone else say that without causing some hearers to think we're ignoring the root problem? How many times do we have to say we neither intended nor said that?

The real offenders aren't even in this conversation. They're the ones who've blamed women for getting raped, schoolkids for getting bullied, gays for getting gay-bashed. I fully expect they tell persons of color to refrain from uppity or flamboyant or aggressive behavior in public. Then they go on their merry way while we grieve and wring our hands and chew on each other.

We can't do much about those offenders right now, but we can stop chewing on each other.

#113 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 07:55 PM:

David, Jim wasn't saying the thoughtless situational rapists or the psychopathic rapists are the problem. He was saying that no matter what you do, the psychopaths are still out there. They may be statistically less significant in the great scheme of things, but they're 100% significant to you if you get cornered by them in a lonely place.

#114 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 08:10 PM:

James D. Macdonald @ 99: "Then what's the point of those posters that are being pointed to with such approval up above?"

The poster @ 67 is a satire. The posters @ 84 are based on the premise that men can choose to not rape drunk women, which is what I've been saying, isn't it?

@ 102: "I also promise you, that after you've put a poster in ever men's room in the country, that after you've taught every man and boy in the lower forty-eight that No means No, Yes means Yes Wherever we Go However we Dress, that Ted Bundy and Jerome Brudos and Randall Woodfield and Gary Ridgway and thousands of others wouldn't pause for one second."

On the day rape is as common as serial murder, we can leap and clap and play and throw a party because rape as we know it has ended, we are a new society, a Golden Age has begun. Serial rapists will be prosecuted rather than enabled, because women will press charges and society will support them, because it will be obvious to everyone that rape is rape even with short skirts and alcohol involved. You can come to the party and ride my pony.

#115 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 08:16 PM:

I feel like the greek chorus here, repeating the obvious.

If we can improve either half of the rape problem (the dedicated rapists who commit nearly half the rape, or the one-time rapists who commit nearly half the rape) I'm for it.

I'd also argue in minor details the phrase If you tell him, "Having sex with a drunk person is rape," he'll reply, "Yes, that's why I did it."

Actually he'll say some variation on "some other dude did it, someone borrowed my DNA, not my fault, all the kids do it, I blame society." He may THINK "Yes, that's why I did it", he may even realize he's thinking "yes, that's why I did it" but it's not going to come out of his mouth.

#116 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 08:27 PM:

C. Wingate, #96: Try replacing "what you are really saying" with "what guys who like to rape hear you saying", because that's how it works.

Jim, #99: Then what's the point of those posters that are being pointed to with such approval up above?

I think your sarcasm/satire detector is out of tune.

#117 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 08:29 PM:

You can keep your sarcasm, heresiarch. I don't want it or need it.

#118 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 08:49 PM:

Jim, you know Heresiarch to be thoughtful, truthful, intelligent, and sincere.

#119 ::: Shawn Crowley ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 08:50 PM:

The tests have been issued in Canadian government correctional publications (for a variety of reasons beyond the scope here, Canada does far more in this area than the USA) and as releases from their authors. They have been adopted by individual evaluators rather than by psychologists in general. The American Psychiatric Association has formally rejected civil commitment and, I think, the use of actuarial tools as they currently exist. Individual courts have both accepted or rejected these methods.

The Washington Supreme Court took the approach that since the courts have long accepted forensic testimony based on "clinical judgment" (now widely recognized as near worthless) why should we exclude statistical prediction no matter how flawed? This is a big problem because an individual psychologist's opinion can be shown by cross-examination to be just that expert's opinion. But when a jury hears that your client is in a bin with offenders with a re-offense rate of 73%, it's viewed as hard science. And just try to teach 12 lay-people a year's worth of statistics during a trial.

The underlying problem is that clinical/forensic psychology has no definable standards of care or agreed upon body of empirical evidence. There is ATSA (Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers) but this is an ad hoc group with an agenda to support civil detention and the use of these tools. Washington State, where I am, still uses the Frye test for admission of scientific evidence. It is outmoded and ill suited to these tools. Frye says stuff can come in as evidence is it is accepted within the relevant scientific community. It can become circular when the relevant scientific community is defined as those using the tools already.

If you google Mn-SOST you will hit a lot of material. I would recommend anything by Richard Wollert for those wanting an explanation of some of the shortcomings of these methods. A good statistical background is helpful (Bayes theorem in particular).

#120 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 08:50 PM:

In fact, Heresiarch's one of the only people I know who can get treed on a point of logic the same way I do.

#121 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 08:54 PM:

Shawn, that is profoundly frightening. As a species, we're wired for bad statistical judgment. Some people can see around that corner. More people can't. And you say we're convicting people on that basis?

#122 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 08:55 PM:

Tom, did I ever return your copy of Heuristics and Biases?

#123 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 09:04 PM:

Thank you, Teresa. Speaking of which:

me @ 88: "I think it's a classic long-tail distribution: the majority of rapists are only one-time offenders, but the majority of rapes are committed by a small number of repeat offenders."

This is a summary of several studies on self-reported rapists. According to the two studies, 6% and 13% of men surveyed self-reported sexually assaulting someone. Of those rapists, 63% and 71% reported doing it more than once, with the repeat offenders averaging 5.8 and 6.3 rapes each.

Based on this data, while it's accurate to say that the (vast) majority of rapes are committed by a small number of repeat offenders, it is not true that the majority of rapists are one-time offenders unless you assume an underreporting of one-time rapists. I could see that--either because they did not see it as rape or because they are ashamed--but the claim is purely speculative.

#124 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 09:09 PM:

TNH@122 -- not that I recall. But then, I was less conscious than I'd like for several years in there.

I'm less than comfortable with using alcohol as an excuse for bad judgment on anybody's part -- in part because (as Jim points out) drinking is a choice. I know I've made bad choices about who to sleep with when drinking -- that doesn't mean that either of us was guilty of rape. There's a real difference between having sex with someone who's literally passed out and someone who's a bit inebriated (and three drinks -- not so much for a great many people, so claiming that the game mentioned above equates drinking and sex with date rape is a bit problematic). Rohypnol -- most likely, date rape. Alcohol -- maybe not.

I keep seeing nuances being lost in this discussion. I wonder if the nuance fairy has been here?

#125 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 10:25 PM:

Talk of "the most vulnerable person in the room" sounds to me like "I don't have to outrun the bear, I just have to outrun you."

I'd prefer to cut down on the number of bears, if feasible.

Which is more or less what heresiarch said @ #86.

#126 ::: Serge sees a lot of SPAM ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 11:03 PM:

I've written to Abi. Someone might want to contact the rest of the gang.

#127 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 11:44 PM:

When two people go out together, one of them is the most vulnerable person in the room. You may think it's you. But the other person may have depths of vulnerability you don't know. Better to go ahead as if you have to be the responsible one. Took me a while to learn that.

#128 ::: individualfrog ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 11:55 PM:

C. Wingate @96, Chris Lawson @105, Teresa @109, I took the quote @93 to mean not, "what you're really trying to say is," but rather "what you're inadvertantly communicating to potential rapists is". It's possible I've misread her, but that's what I wanted to say, anyway. I don't want to put words into people's mouths, I just wanted to point out the possible unfortunate interpretation of the words they've already used.

#129 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 12:15 AM:

Lila @ 125: Yes, but you put it much better than I did.

#130 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 12:21 AM:

Of course, if vulnerable people were more careful, less bad stuff would happen. That is sound practical advice that does not require us to have a better world. But I'd still like to have a better world.

#131 ::: shadowsong ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 12:26 AM:

Jim's approach is just as valid here as it is in other situations where a person becomes a victim or a casualty. The reason many of us are uncomfortable with it here is because there is a tradition of blaming the rape victim in our culture that doesn't exist for other kinds of crimes or accidents.

I think it's important to be aware that there are two different things going on: Jim is talking about what women CAN do, in the same terms that we often hear used to talk about what women SHOULD HAVE done.

I think, in light of that, it is more important to focus on convincing people to not rape, rather than telling potential victims to defend themselves. I don't know about the other women here, but I was made aware of my potential victimhood before I hit puberty. I think we've got that part covered. What we need more of is a way to let potential rapists know that what they're doing isn't "convincing her", it's "raping her".

#132 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 12:37 AM:

heresiarch #123:

That link was fascinating. In particular, what I've read about child sexual abuse[1] suggests a pattern very similar to what the cited research says about rapists. And that also follows your earlier BJS link about rape being a crime that is usually done to acquaintances rather than to strangers. The other crimes that follow that pattern are murder and child sexual abuse. I assume murder follows that pattern because most of the day-to-day motives for murder involve a personal interaction. But the whole notion of figuring out who the vulnerable person in the room is, singling them out, isolating them, grooming them--that all fits what I've read and heard about child sexual abuse. I'm wondering now how well it fits with other kinds of abuse, like that subset of predators who finds messed up, vulnerable girls or women and turns them into prostitutes, or the kind of person who gets into a trusted position with some old person and robs them blind.

It would be fascinating to know what made the men who admitted to raping or trying to rape someone once, stop. Was it fear of legal or extralegal punishment? Was it remorse? Maybe just not finding themselves in the right kind of situation to do it very often?

I have a kind of very general theory, based on a lot of observation in many different places, that people often keep on doing dumb or evil things, because they've worked out well for them for awhile. Thus, the embezzler takes $20 bills out of the register once every couple weeks, and keeps on going for weeks or months before he's caught. And probably a lot of people do it once and then stop, either from remorse or from fear of consequences. Similarly, the kind of sex scandals that often come up in politics have that same flavor--someone does something absolutely, incredibly dumb, and it works out for him the first few times he does it. And so he keeps on, till it catches up with him and wrecks him. And I wonder how often crime is like that--some guy does something nasty, evil, horrible--once. And either it repulses him or backfires or terrifies him, and he stops, or it feels good and works out for him, and he does it again, and again, till it becomes a habit, a normal part of how he gets along in the world.

[1] I'm not entirely confident in the quality of that information, however, given the society-wide witch hunt/fear binge surrounding child sexual abuse. My information mainly comes from a required training offered by the Catholic Church, which is an irony in itself, as we have considerably more expertise on these matters than we ever could have wanted.

#133 ::: Gray Woodland ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 01:31 AM:

individualfrog @ 128: Yes, this is difficult, but I see problems with letting ourselves be governed by possible inadvertent interpretations of our words by potential rapists. Because rapists are, by definition, not good-faith listeners to begin with.

These are people who will read 'no' as 'yes' when it is convenient to them, or silence as consent; and yet should they happen to get hammered on their own account, and some malicious person apply the same logic to their objections to any kind of unilateral 'fun' they Do Not Want, I will bet a sack of dollars to a sack of dung that they will revert most vehemently to the conventional understanding.

There is IMO no reliable way to guard against the sort of bad-faith interpretation that will hear 'yes' as 'no', 'up' as 'down', and 'a real man ought to be a real mensch' as 'a real man ought not to listen to my PC nonsense'. They are doing their monkey trick again, and it is still their fault and responsibility, and the rest of us still ought to be very careful about letting them rule our actions with it.

I'm more strongly restrained by the fact that victims can't help absorbing some of the rapist's doublethink from the ambient culture - by awareness of its presence and lurking menace, even if they don't buy into it themselves - which makes it very hard to discuss the issue at all without evoking pain, blame, and alarm-bells at every turn. That's bad in itself, exacerbating the harm. But so is enabling rape by over-much tiptoeing around candidate truths that might be misused as lies or weapons.

This is a double-bind from which I know no easy or reliable way out. 'Tact and clarity' sums up my solution in intent, but there's a hell of a lot of fallibility wrapped up in that.

#134 ::: Devin ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 06:18 AM:

One big difference between flashing a wad of cash at a waterfront bar and walking home in high heels: Maybe they're both stupid, but no one ever suggests that your mugging was consensual because if you didn't want to give him that money you wouldn't have brought it to the bar. That shit comes out all the time in discussion of rape. "She was wearing tight pants, she must have helped undress herself." "She was wearing a short skirt, she must have wanted to get laid."

Your captain might be unsympathetic, your buddies might laugh at you, but if you were walking with them the next evening and you saw the guys who cold-cocked you, I bet they'd all pile on.*

When it comes to rape, Jim's advice gets turned around. I'm pretty sure he means to say "You should do this stuff so you'll be safer, because there are bad people who deserve bad things," but sadly many of the suggestions he's making have often been used by others to say instead "You didn't take this smart precaution, so your rapist isn't really guilty."

Let's please remember that this isn't Jim's fault. He didn't ask anyone to abuse good advice by turning it into a defense of rapists. He doesn't deserve to be lumped in with those apologists just because they've parroted what is, actually, good advice in the service of evil.

*Also, just to be clear: Jim's analogy is part bullshit, IMO. But it's also more nuanced than I took it for, at first. All those people failing to sympathize with our beleaguered sailor? They're all being dicks. The cops aren't protecting or serving. The friends aren't friendly. The captain's maybe giving some tough love, and confining him to the ship is maybe saving him from fucking up again, but fining a guy who just got robbed? Dick move again. I'm putting words in Jim's mouth here, but I don't think we're meant to behave like any of the people in that story. Some of them are villains and some of them are assholes and one of them is foolish, but only the last is likely to get smarter. He's probably the one the author means us to identify with.

#135 ::: Gray Woodland ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 07:15 AM:

On a more positive note than #133: I think there's a good deal of hope for moving the social norm towards 'enthusiastic consent', because it is so difficult to argue against or lawyer at without sounding like a sad nasty bastard in a dirty mac, and because it gets rid of most of the dodgier edge cases.

As for instance with Tom @ 124's point: one needs a lot less help from the nuance fairy with this norm, since it is usually fairly easy to tell whether somebody is capable of saying, "HELL, yeah!" and acting on it, or not.

Datapoint: several of the long-standing couples I know got seriously inspirited beforehand on the nights they first got together, precisely because it was a big deal to them.

#136 ::: chris ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 09:50 AM:

I think there's a good deal of hope for moving the social norm towards 'enthusiastic consent'

From which direction? Didn't this thread start with a discussion of cases when enthusiastic consent won't keep you off the sex offender registry if the enthusiastically consenting co-participant is on the wrong side of an arbitrary societal line?

How did this get sidetracked into a rape thread anyway? I hope we all agree that if sex offender registries have any legitimacy at all, rapists are the ones who *do* deserve to be on them.

Of course, if vulnerable people were more careful, less bad stuff would happen.

Would it? Those specific people would no longer be the most vulnerable person in the room, but that doesn't mean the room wouldn't have a most vulnerable person in it. That's the reason for the resemblance Lila pointed out to the joke about not having to outrun the bear. Substituting a different victim is an improvement from the stance of the person who avoids being victimized, but no improvement from the stance of society at large.

#137 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 10:10 AM:

I never said a word about high heels, or tight pants, or short skirts.

And if you can make all the villains in the world go away, hey, hand me that magic wand.

In the meantime, even if there are no villains, you probably want to have a friend along anyway so when you twist your ankle wearing those high heels someone can help you get home.

If you aren't the most vulnerable person present, that puts a duty on you to protect the most vulnerable person present.

Until the day all the villains vanish, decreasing the number of targets decreases the predators' options. This is s good thing all in itself.

And yeah, that young sailor found himself surrounded by a world of dicks. That happens. That's the basis of all the World's Stupidest Criminals shows and the Darwin Award books. We're all invited to be dicks and enough of us are to support the product.

#138 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 10:30 AM:

Learning the rules of Society and recognizing its threats didn't come easy to all of us. Growing up, I probably came close to being a winner of the Darwin Awards.

#139 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 12:16 PM:

Dumb moves, especially as a college student?

Guilty as charged -- the only thing I had going for me is that I *did* have situational awareness.

I had a bad habit of crossing campus alone very late at night.* I heard my potential attackers as they approached, and started singing a nonsense song, just loud enough that they could hear it. They decided I was crazy, and turned away at the next street crossing. At that point, I was in sight of the door to my dorm, and I ran to it.

*I did this frequently, and must have had good guardian spirits, because I only had two encounters, and the second time, I scared them.

#140 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 12:41 PM:

I assume everyone's already heard about "No means yes, yes means anal"?

Speaking of situational awareness...if I'd been enrolled at Yale, I would have started looking for a different school.

Also, the high school that expects a cheerleader to yell "Come on, Rakheem, put it in!" every time the guy who raped her steps up to the free-throw line? There are no words vile enough for them.

#141 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 12:54 PM:

I slept on this to be sure I could say this as nicely as I could manage:

Hey, anybody remember that discussion up-thread of the social dynamics involved in witch hunts? Where simply speaking in support of someone accused of some heinous misdeed (or indeed, even wrongful thinking) is a sign of ones own moral depravity?

I think this thread could benefit if a handful or two of people could please take a deep breath, think about that dynamic, and put on their re-reading glasses to try to take a fresh look at what others are actually saying.

#143 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 01:53 PM:

Devin #134:

Maybe they're both stupid, but no one ever suggests that your mugging was consensual because if you didn't want to give him that money you wouldn't have brought it to the bar. That shit comes out all the time in discussion of rape. "She was wearing tight pants, she must have helped undress herself." "She was wearing a short skirt, she must have wanted to get laid."

It seems quite plausible to me that this sort of statement often comes up in some discussions of rape, but the only times I've seen it brought up in this discussion has been to point at something that is obviously wrong. And this is consistent--whenever this topic comes up on ML, there are a great many people overtly pointing out that this idea is dead wrong, and nobody supporting it.

I have the sense, watching this discussion unfold, that we're often not talking to each other. Instead, we're answering the arguments, or comments, or apparent beliefs of people who aren't even present in this discussion. There has not been, as best I can tell, a single person here who has suggested in any way that being a rape victim is more the fault of the victim than being a mugging victim.

Further, I think that every form of the "what you're really saying is X" construction is a screaming red flag, signaling that we're in a situation where Alice isn't responding to Bob, who is present, but rather to Carol, whose nonsense she had to listen to for years, but who is far away now.

#144 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 02:08 PM:

Avram @ #101: Hm. I thought it was a constant, but it's certainly a predilection in the television age. (And I'll argue 2004 too: http://rangevoting.org/OhioConvictns.html)

I also seem to recall George W. Bush constantly fibbing about his height to say he was 6' instead of 5'11 1/2. Shocking, I know.

#145 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 02:54 PM:

Teresa @ # 80: I can guarantee you that he doesn't think that and isn't suggesting it. Jim is by nature the guy in the white hat

You don't have to tell me that. The words "Seem to be" were intentionally chosen. I was calling Jim on it precisely because the appearance and the reality were not a match.

I'd have called it in a much ruder way if I thought there was the slightest possibility Jim MEANT his advice as "If you don't do this, you're culpable". But there wasn't. Not at all. Not the person I met.

I agree with what Devin @ 134 said best: He didn't ask anyone to abuse good advice by turning it into a defense of rapists. He doesn't deserve to be lumped in with those apologists just because they've parroted what is, actually, good advice in the service of evil.

But I also saw that it was going to be so lumped. I was attempting, at least in part, to warn that his words were on the brink of being so lumped.

However, I'm also STILL not sure whether or not Jim feels that teaching people that a crime is a crime is at all a useful measure IN ADDITION to protecting onself against the people for whom no amount of such teaching will work.

I stand by my other points, that A) I absolutely DO think that it's also worthwhile to try teaching the sort of people who, while they swear they'd never *Rape* (By the definition of rape that means psychopath in the bushes), would think it perfectly okay to take advantage of a girfrind who said yes to some heavy petting, or a girl who's too tipsy to speak, because "that isn't really rape" that YES IT IS, and B) that one of the dangers is stigmatizing guys who rape as all belonging to the "evil and other" categories, because that has led otherwise reasonable people to believe, and sometimes to say to a victim's face, that their normal-seeming buddy who commited the act must not have done it (And since my comment, I've seen several people who've effectively implied that rapists are ALL "other", not like us.)

Behaviour such as Lila cites in # 140 falls into both of these (As in fact does the message in Datian Ariane). These are normal guys who could likely be taught not to do any of this -- but because they're normal, behaviour that points straight to them having a likelihood of committing rape and/or defending friends who do is given a "They're just being guys" pass.

We're asking for society as a whole to recognize and declare that this is Not Appropriate, and for the day when things like this are reported in the news (not in places like this, which are disproportionate in representation of societal attitudes as a whole, and likely to react with nigh-universal agreement that it's not appropriate) and few, or even NO apologists pop up to say, "What's the big deal?" or "You can't take a joke" or "These are good kids. Don't ruin their chances by making trouble".
_______________

Alcohol is tricky. Three drinks would easily be enough to impair my judgement to the point of being unable to consent, if consumed at the rate I've seen some friends consume drinks (And of course, for them and their more accustomed systems, some of those friends are still reasonably able to make safe sane judgements). OTOH, three drinks at the rate I drink them, over hours and alternating with water, isn't.

But when people are talking about "Don't sleep with a woman who's been drinking", they don't mean "You had one at the bar, or two to loosen up." They don't mean the woman who could walk in a straight line under her own power, who might not be good to drive but can think clearly enough to say, "I shouldn't drive."

________________

#146 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 03:09 PM:

chris (136): I was just in a verhy heated discussion about this, "arbitary societal line", so I'm perhaps a bit sensitised to it.

But the issues, while related, aren't parallel. The question isn't the purpose of consent laws, but the lack of flexibility in responding to violations of them.

If you want to see the (all over the map) discussion about age of consent (warning... the comments are inhabited by a significant number of Men's Rights Activists, arguing for some really creepy stuff, as well as some harsh [and supportive] treatment of one poster... it's a complicated thing, and there is lots of background; to lots of the conversation), the thread is here Age of Consent is Misandry (no, this is not an MRA blog).

#147 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 03:21 PM:

re drink: When I started having a sex life I decided that any impairment inducing substance meant that, no matter how interested either of us felt, that wasn't the night to start a sexual relationship.

As I've gotten older/more experienced, I've made it less of a blanket prohibition, on the theory I know better what my actual impairments are, and that I can; to some degree, figure out what the other person's sense of impairment is.

I try to err on the side of caution, when the potential partner is the one imbibing, because what looks like informed consent may be a bit less then completely so.

I know this wasn't the norm, (it's still not the social norm). I think some of it was that date rape was just coming to real prominence in the middle-eighties, and to some degree I'd been inculcated with the, "Don't rape" lessons being discussed.

I do think we get hung up by the fact that good advice on situational awareness is also given as a sort of apologia for rapists.

The, apparent metric, "If you just don't, 'x', you will be all right" is so thoroughly attached to the discussion that saying, "These things reduce your risk' gets seen as, "If you don't do these things you're asking for it".

And I don't think that is what anyone here has said.

What I don't know, is how to talk about risk mitigation, without seeming to be saying the duty is on the woman, when the active party is the man.

#148 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 03:24 PM:

I just had this argument in microcosm via email with a trusted, respected friend. She was taking the position that it's a woman's responsibility to, among other things, not dress provocatively because rapists, whose fault she believes it ALWAYS IS let her REASSURE me!, are out there. Also that she believed feminists take it a step too far when they say that "maybe," along with everything else that isn't "yes," means "no".

The first email got me shaking and sick to my stomach. "Scratch one more person of the list of people it's safe to confide in should I be the target of sexual assault," I said to myself.

The rest of the email exchange went very, very badly. I am now not only guilty of failing my responsibilities as a woman (by insisting that I have every right a man does of dressing however I want, and that how I dress doesn't have a magical power to turn men into rapists so dressing conservatively isn't like locking my door against thieves), but I am also guilty of hurting my friend by suggesting that things she is saying play into and support rape culture given that juries have acquitted rapists and police have condoned rape because of what the victim was wearing, and of demeaning her by suggesting that an article called "Rape Culture 101" might be of relevance to our discussion when I should know she's far beyond 101 by now because she's thought about these things very carefully for a long time. Also I'm guilty of simplistic thinking as compared to her more complex point of view. And I'm guilty of hurting her by being myself hurt.

Suddenly, within a week of this painful conversation that has left me shaken and uncomfortable and uncertain of who I can trust, this conversation is popping up EVERYWHERE.

I guess it was always there, and I'm now just sensitive to it, but I'm finding it on Making Light, and on Mark Reads The Golden Compass, and I'm getting linked to things written and posted just this month as incidental asides to other conversations entirely, and as it turns out even Ta-Nehisi Coates is apparently now defending the telling of rape jokes.

what is this i don't even

*cries*

The overlap between "here are things you can do to try to protect yourself from inevitably present predators" and "if you don't do X, Y, or Z, then you are partially complicit in the assault you suffered" is very strong in the cultural narrative, making the former a very tricky thing to say without accidentally adding strength to the latter. And this matters, because the latter idea has a lot of currency among rapists, rape victims, rape apologists (intentional or accidental), police departments, judges, and juries. And when the people holding forth about women's responsibility to their safety to not dress wrongly or go to bars alone turn out to be people known for being very reasonable and progressive and liberal and supportive of women's rights, that just makes it worse. "See, even Jane Doe Famous Feminist thinks you shouldn't have worn that dress. What did you expect?"

And the phrase "It's a woman's responsibility to..." includes "It's *your* responsibility" when said to a woman.

But these are hard things to point out in ways others will find convincing when I'm already hurting because I find myself once more in the position of having to defend my basic humanity and agency and freedoms in light of my social status as woman.

It's been a hard damn couple of weeks.

#149 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 03:30 PM:

If anyone want's a clearer view of the poster at 16... here it is at a much better resolution.

#150 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 03:30 PM:

Lenora:

When I think of education of men as a way to prevent rape, I tend to think of some kind of mandatory one-hour talk as you enter the university, or posters and PSAs and propaganda, or some component to high school sex education, or some similar thing. And that seems to me to be pretty unlikely to have much effect, though I'm certainly open to finding out I'm wrong.

If we're talking about trying to move the broad society-wide messages toward recognizing that rape isn't okay, even if she's drunk, scantily-clad, low-status, and reputed to have slept with everyone else on the football team, I agree, that's worth doing. How effective that will be, though, depends a lot on how effective we are in general, as parents and as a larger society, trying to raise kids not to be criminals. I mean, pretty much every parent tries to raise their kids not to be criminals, and yet some kids do end up robbing liquor stores or turning tricks or stealing cars.

So predicting how effective that kind of social change will be is kind-of hard. The studies referenced in heresiarch's link, above, suggest that a large fraction of rapes were done by a smallish number of guys, for whom it was a habit. ISTM that it's going to be very hard to convince the kind of person who makes a habit of targeting and date-raping women to refrain on moral grounds. Indeed, it seems kind of like trying to convince people not to become muggers--worth trying, but we probably will still have muggers, so long as people carry stuff worth taking and muggers don't get caught and harshly punished too often.

#151 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 03:34 PM:

Thank you, Lee. Thank you, Lenora. Thank you, Patrick. And Teresa. Thank you, heresiarch. Thank you, Lila. Thank you, individualfrog (I'm bookmarking the Fugitivus link). Thank you, thank you, thank you.

(Not an exhaustive list.)

#152 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 03:37 PM:

Nicole: My sympathy and condolence. Hugs if you want them.

#153 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 03:43 PM:

Largely off topic.

Devin @ 134

no one ever suggests that your mugging was consensual because if you didn't want to give him that money you wouldn't have brought it to the bar.

I can say with a high degree of certainty that the police response to "I went out drinking, passed out, and when I woke up my wallet was gone" will be slightly more dismissive than their response to "my cat disappeared last week"; in the second case, they may try to sound mildly sympathetic while pointing out that it's not a problem they care about.

#154 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 03:45 PM:

re rape culture.

All I can say is Drunk Driving. The actor who was in Jackass, who died in a car crash, Roger Ebert made an insensitive tweet, (meant, I think, as a public service sort of comment, but not; perhaps, in the best of times) about it.

Why? Because it looked as if the driver might have been drinking before he took his Porsche out and tried to drive above 100 mph on a dark road.

Forty years ago it wouldn't have been something anyone noticed that an hour or two before the wreck a photo was taken of him drinking.

The same sort of thing is true of racism. No one really wants to be overt about it, and even big names (think Limbaugh) get raked over the coals if they are (Limbaugh chose his audience poorly when he was on Monday Night Football).

So it can change. We are changing it.

But change is hard, and often painful.

#155 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 03:45 PM:

OK, I replied to Devin without reading to the end of the thread, and my 153 is exceeding likely to be unhelpful; if it could disappear or be disemvoweled I would be appreciative.

#156 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 04:29 PM:

Lila 140: I wish I'd been there for that chant. I would have been tempted to wait for the pause between repetitions and yell "want to bottom for me?" (Not that I would touch them, of course; just to make the point that if THEY were the person saying no (or even yes), they wouldn't like that interpretation used.)

Terry 147: When I started having a sex life I decided that any impairment inducing substance meant that, no matter how interested either of us felt, that wasn't the night to start a sexual relationship.

I've had guys hit on me when drunk who would barely talk to me when sober. I've generally laughed it off. Sometimes I wish I had video of it to show them later, mostly as an argument against getting seriously drunk.

Alcohol really is a tricky issue, as Lenora Rose pointed out in 145. If you're both equally drunk, what does that do to the consent issue? (Obviously if you're both passed out sex isn't going to take place.) I personally don't like having my judgement impaired even slightly; it makes me nervous. But I think there are cases where what happened would be sex if both people were drunk, and rape if only one was; which is emphatically NOT to excuse a man's rape behavior with "he was drunk"—I'm talking about the kind of case where both people are enthusiastically and passionately saying "yes." I think if one of those people is dead drunk and the other one is stone sober, that's still rape.

See, what they "really secretly want" (even if you're absolutely right about what that is) is irrelevant. What matters is the choices made under sober judgement. Veritas may very well be in vino, especially for closeted gay men, but I'm not going to do someone who's drunk if he won't say he wants it when he's sober. (This is all increasingly theoretical for me, since I can't remember the last time I was hit on by anyone, drunk or sober. Not to mention the fact that I find drunk people kind of icky.)

#157 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 04:32 PM:

Heh. And thanks, Terry, too.

Things were worse last week than they are now. I just wish the world had thrown me all these serendiptuously good supporting arguments while the conversation was still going on; now that my correspondent has informed me that she will not be speaking with me about this further, all I see everywhere I look are ways in which I could have conducted myself better in the conversation. (As though it were a given that the outcome I wanted from that conversation were actually possible...)

I guess the only other constructive contribution I can make here, is in response to albatross at 143:

While I recognize that, for the most part, no one *here* is making the arguments that many people here are arguing passionately against, they are yet arguments which infuse the world at large. The media yields constant reminders that if you're a woman and Gods forfend you are raped, every detail of your behavior will be examined for signs of implied consent; and that as a woman you shouldn't expect to have freedom of movement or freedom to dress how you want or freedom to walk across the street at midnight for a goddamned hamburger in that neighborhood bar -- these are things you should willingly refrain from in order to minimize your rapability. So when someone brings up these suggested ways in which we should voluntarily contstrain our lives as just common sense situational awareness and makes offhand remarks about how rape victims shouldn't expect sympathy if they didn't so constrain themselves... well, it doesn't happen in a vaccuum. I, as a woman hearing these messages and fighting damn hard not to internalize them, cannot just leave the simmering resentment and constant low-level hurt at the door when I show up here. It's my world. It's my life. I can't not hear things posted here in the context of my daily experience.

It's good advice to remember that generally everyone at ML is on each other's side. But it's been very hard to read certain posts in this thread, because they feel like someone else brought, approvingly, bits of the world into this space that is one of a very few spaces where I thought I didn't have to deal with those bits of the world.

And that they brought it here suggests they say it elsewhere, where those who aren't on my side are listening and taking it as support for how they treat people like me. So it behooves me to point out how what they say plays into the at-large narrative, even though no one here is supporting the at-large narrative.

As others upthread already have pointed this out, I am grateful for it.

#158 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 04:33 PM:

Lenora Rose @ 145: "However, I'm also STILL not sure whether or not Jim feels that teaching people that a crime is a crime is at all a useful measure IN ADDITION to protecting oneself against the people for whom no amount of such teaching will work."

Yes.

"These are normal guys who could likely be taught not to do any of this -- but because they're normal, behaviour that points straight to them having a likelihood of committing rape and/or defending friends who do is given a "They're just being guys" pass." [emphasis mine]

Based on the research I linked to above, I think this is the main purpose of anti-rape education: to eliminate the social bushes and cultural dark alleys which are where rapists truly lurk. To quote:

I really think the major difference between the incarcerated and the non-incarcerated rapists are that the former cannot or do not confine themselves to tactics that are low-risk to them. The undetected rapists overwhelmingly use minimal or no force, rely mostly on alcohol and rape their acquaintances. They create situations where the culture will protect them by making excuses for them and questioning or denying their victims. Incarcerated rapists, I think, are just the ones who use the tactics that society is more willing to recognize as rape and less willing to make excuses for.
It is the modus operandi that keeps the undetected rapist undetected: they correctly identify a methodology that will put them under the protection of the rape culture. They are unlikely to be convicted because the story doesn’t fit the script. In fact, they are unlikely to be arrested because the story doesn’t lead to easy convictions. In fact, they are unlikely to be reported because rape survivors know that the tactics these men use leave them with little real recourse. In fact, these rapists may put the victim in a position where she is so intoxicated or terrified or just isolated and defeated that she never even says “no,” and because the culture overwhelmingly refuses to call these tactics what they are, even the victims themselves may be unable to call it rape for a very long time afterward, if ever.

Maybe anti-rape education in itself won't so much as slow a single rapist. But when no one around them is willing to say, "but she was [risky_behavior]ing! Clearly that's a kind of consent!" then they will be left exposed. Their friends won't come to their defense--their victims will no longer make excuses for what happened. The ambiguity around what consent that is their camouflage will be gone, leaving them with no shadows to hide in. Whether or not they give damn about consent, that cultural shift will have a tremendous impact on their ability to rape and get away with it.

albatross @ 150: "ISTM that it's going to be very hard to convince the kind of person who makes a habit of targeting and date-raping women to refrain on moral grounds."

See above. The space date/acquaintance rapists occupy is the space between what society considers consent and what actually constitutes consent; the narrower a space that is, the fewer rapists will be able to take advantage of it. Let it be zero and every rapist will face the brunt of the law.

#159 ::: LMM ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 04:39 PM:

The studies referenced in heresiarch's link, above, suggest that a large fraction of rapes were done by a smallish number of guys, for whom it was a habit.

Wait a minute: to bring this full circle, doesn't that explicitly contradict one of the major arguments made in opposition to the sex offender registry? (*) Either a large fraction of rapes are committed by repeat offenders, in which case increased punishment and/or surveillance will reduce the problem, or they're committed by single-time offenders, in which case cultural changes should reduce the problem. (Or quite possibly *both*: harsher punishments for *repeat* offenders plus cultural messages targeted at men.)

(*) I know, there are other reasons, but that was the reason explicitly cited by people as the one that convinced them to change their position.

#160 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 04:39 PM:

One of the things the Pick-Up Artists/Men's Rights Activists are very fond of saying is that rape isn't what it used to be. That only violent stranger rape really counts.

The things they say about Slutwalks are appalling, but the the more subtle things they say about non-violent rape is even worse.

So it's not that there aren't people out there who are defending rape, it's that there aren't enough who condemning it, across the board.

#161 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 05:44 PM:

#159: The major complaint about sex offender registries which kicked this off is the number of false positives (public urination =/= rapist) combined with lack of recourse to correct false positives.

#162 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 05:58 PM:

Nicole: I'm sorry that this discussion made this space feel less safe. I'm sorry you're hurting.

The reason I'm a bit itchy on this subject is thankfully not enarly so personal: in my home town, usually a fairly liberal place on average, a judge recently gave a CONVICTED rapist a suspended sentence because the woman "was giving mixed signals".

In other words, we were just told that not only was actually daring to go to the police not enough. They can be put on trial and found guilty and STILL excused for their behaviour.

Heresiarch @ 158: Two things:

1) Rereading, yes, Jim Macdonald does say at things that make his position explicitly clear, and I'm a moron and missed them on a quick skim.

2) On that long quote: Yes. That sounds like it exactly, the thing I was flailing about. Educating and changing societal attitudes removes the approval, tacit or otherwise.

The thing is, I do think there ARE also people (Possibly a tiny proportion of rapists vs. those who do it habitually), who might find themselves in a situation where they're horny, she's drunk, and ... then he thinks about what it means.

I've also had a Female friend describe three "She called rape and it wasn't" scenarios friends told her, one of which had her seriously furious because "A nice guy got tarred" -- and of the three, ONE might be ambiguous (Not, alas, the same one). Once again, something I think couldn't happen with better udnerstanding of rape culture.

#163 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 06:14 PM:

Lenora Rose @ 145: "However, I'm also STILL not sure whether or not Jim feels that teaching people that a crime is a crime is at all a useful measure IN ADDITION to protecting oneself against the people for whom no amount of such teaching will work."


Then let me make it absolutely crystal clear to you, okay? I feel that teaching people that a crime is a crime no matter where no matter when is absolutely a right and proper and necessary thing to do. How in the world could anyone think to slow down crime of any sort without informing everyone of exactly what's forbidden?

Any questions? Any at all? Any hidden meanings that you want to tease out of that about how I'm secretly on the side of the rapists, that I'm encouraging them, that maybe I'm a rapist myself?

Is it as clear as can be? No, you're right, it's still ambiguous. The subtext is all wrong.

Okay. Let me go a bit further. It is never right to throw anyone to the wolves, not for personal convenience, not for safety, not even for survival. The time may come when someone needs to throw themselves to the wolves in order to save others, but that's the decision of the person going to the wolves, not anyone else.

Oh, and by the way, it's never right to have sex with anyone unless that person is fully awake, aware, alert, oriented, knows what's being asked and what it implies, has sufficient time to think about it, completely consents, and indicates that consent in an unambiguous manner. And everyone should be taught that, and have it drilled into them, and be tested on it, and live by it.

Still unclear. You're right. I'm defending the rape culture again.

I admit it. Because I preach immunization I'm secretly on the side of disease. I admit everything. You win.

#164 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 06:20 PM:

Xopher @ 156: my comment on the story about that incident in my local paper was, "There's a time and a place for everything. The place for that sentiment is on a t-shirt, under 'ASK ME!' in big letters, and the time is just before the gentlemen in question, wearing the t-shirts, go bar-hopping in a strange town." But angry people are not always wise.

#165 ::: Jörg Raddatz ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 06:23 PM:

I dimly remember reading a conversation online many years ago. Someone had claimed that sexual arousal in itself was so mind-muddling that meaningful consent could not be given by aroused people - "after all, people do silly things when horny", to paraphrase the explanation.

To a certain degree, this sounds not too illogical, in spite of the obvious implications. But I really cannot remember now if this was an extremist, but honest opinion or some kind of over-the-top satire. There even might have been a claim that this was some legal decision, but I guess that at least if it had been an US judge's decision, it would be much more prominent in any discussion about consent.

Does anyone remember to have heard about this before?

#166 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 06:24 PM:

Time to retire this thread?

#167 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 06:26 PM:

@140:

Hey, can I see that grenade for a minute? No, it's ok, you can hold onto the pin, I won't be needing it very long. I got the spoon- it's OK.

Lemma 1. If you take a group that's 5% bad and label the whole group scary, there's going to be about 5% of the good ones who go for scary. Because it's easy and you're going to scare a lot of people ANYWAY even if you try really hard not to be scary. So fuck it. Someone once referred to fear as the "microwaveable version of respect- not as good but a whole lot easier." So you call yourself a punk rocker, gangsta, dittohead, goon, whatever. You jam a safety pin through your face, put a "Liberal hunting license" bumper sticker on the back of your truck. Microwaveable respect.

Lemma 2. Repetition doesn't help. When I graduated high school, and I may have told this story before, my father got my mother a car. He traded in her station wagon for a white MR2 with a giant red bow on top. Held two people and an overnight bag. Parked it in the driveway before she got up. The first time someone said "So, you got a sports car for graduation?" I laughed and told the story. By the sixth time someone said it I just went "No." I may have had a slightly negative tone in my voice.

Thesis: Some guys in frats don't like to be told they're Schrödinger's Rapist and repetition didn't help. So they went for the microwaveable version of respect. "We're 18-25 year old males," [I can't find the statistic... they commit something north of 80% of crimes. I knew the number when I was 18-25.]"we're overprivileged fraternity members and YOU ARE SO FUCKED."

I know, what sort of person would DO that? What sort of person would name a band [rot13]Nany Phag ?

#168 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 07:11 PM:

We're 18-25 year old males," [I can't find the statistic... they commit something north of 80% of crimes. I knew the number when I was 18-25.]"we're overprivileged fraternity members and YOU ARE SO FUCKED."

They *might* not have been thinking of it in terms of deliberate intimidation/exertion of dominance - one aspect of privilege is not realizing that what seems like a jolly jape to you (chanting a parody of a feminist slogan where there are plenty of feminists to hear it) could be interpreted as a threat under those circumstances.

#169 ::: jamiehall ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 07:23 PM:

James@163

Thnk y fr th plgy. t s smwht srcstc fr my tsts, bt m gld y fnlly sd t. Th rsn ppl wr jmpng n y s bdly, nd why vn yr frnds wr rshng t hstly plgz fr y, s tht yr psts, whl tchnclly crrct, sndd vry smlr t wht rp plgsts sy.

gt th flng y r nfmlr wth th cntnt f wht rp plgsts typclly sy. Try rdng bsc psts bt rp n ny f th mjr fmnst blgs nd y wll fnd crpy rp plgsts n th cmmnts wh pst thngs vry mch n tn nd cntnt lk wht y pstd hr. Thy vn dfnd thr sttmnts sng sm f th dfnss y jst sd. Th nly dffrncs r tht thy dn't plgz fr thr sttmnts n mttr hw rtnlly nd clmly thy r cnfrntd, thy slly g t lst bt frthr, nd sm f th nncs f wht thy sy r dffrnt.

T pt t n cntxt tht s mr wdly-knwn, mgn tht y wr syng thngs tht sndd rthr smlr t wht rcsts sy, nd yr frnds wr mbrssngly jmpng t yr rsc, syng tht y ddn't rlly mn t tht wy, nd bnch f thr ppl wr gttng n qt hff vr t s y trd t dfnd nd jstfy. f tht srt f thng hppnd, vn f wht y sd ws tchnclly crrct nd y wr bsltly sr t wsn't rcst, bcs f scty's vst dctn bt rcsm, y mght strt wndrng f myb wht y'd sd ws wrng t sy. Y'd prbbly thnk tht f y'd hrt nd frghtnd ppl by yr wrds, tht myb t ws ndvrtnt rcsm nd n ny cs, tchnclly crrct r nt, y shld plgz mmdtly nd try nt t mk sttmnts lk tht n th ftr.

Bcs scty n gnrl s nwr nd wflly msnfrmd bt typcl rp plgst sttmnts, t s sr t prsst n dfndng thm r nythng tht snds smlr t thm fr lngr tm bfr plgzng.

Mst ppl knw t mmdtly rtrct nd plgz fr ny sttmnt tht bnch f ppl prcv s rcsm.

Fw ppl knw t mmdtly rtrct nd plgz fr ny sttmnt tht bnch f ppl prcv s fllng wthn th rp plgst spctrm.

Thnk y fr dng s.

#170 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 07:34 PM:

jamiehall @ 169: I don't believe that's an apology (nor do I believe one was required).

#171 ::: jamiehall ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 07:38 PM:

And now, my attempt to get the thread back on topic:

I do not like the direction that sex offender laws are going in.

In particular, underage kids "playing doctor" consensually for reasons of curiosity, teenagers sexting, public urination, and owning underage nude photos of yourself are not things that people need to be on sex offender lists for.

In particular, I'm thinking that cases where viruses are involved are already becoming the next big category of sex offender injustices.

There's the case of Julie Amero, which was due to a school computer infected with pornographic pop-up ads.

There are also a number of articles about the growing tendency of pedophiles to hide their collections of child porn offsite by using viruses to stealthily store child porn on other people's computers.

And then, there's Australia, which has gone completely irrational with laws against small-breasted women in pornography and laws that classify written-only underage sex scenes in fiction as child pornography, so that you could get in trouble for reading (no pictures) a sex scene that had a seventeen-year-old fictional character in it.

#172 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 07:53 PM:

I will cooperate in the effort to get the thread back on track.

A former co-worker of mine had his computer come to the attention of the police. When they asked if they could take it and image the drive, he did what all innocents do. He said yes, and off it went.

When they examined it, they found thousands of downloaded naked lady pictures, of which seven were alleged to be of sixteen- and seventeen-year-old girls. He's just now finishing his first year in state prison for child pornography.

I don't think it's misandry that drives this sort of prosecution. I think it's moral panic mixed with sex phobia.

#173 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 08:53 PM:

Just to check, do people who've been convicted of rape get put on sex offender lists?

#172 ::: John A Arkansawyer

I think there's an element of misandry in sex phobia. Our culture has a complex mixture of (at least): sex (including lust) is sinful, sex (acts only) is a proof of health if the people involved are good-looking enough, sex is something women have and men get, and some degree of kindness and sanity which has been gradually getting more public.

#174 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 08:56 PM:

Just to check, do people who've been convicted of rape get put on sex offender lists?

#172 ::: John A Arkansawyer

I think there's an element of misandry in sex phobia. Our culture has a complex mixture of (at least): sex (including lust) is sinful, sex (acts only) is a proof of health if the people involved are good-looking enough, sex is something women have and men get, and some degree of kindness and sanity which has been gradually getting more public.

#175 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 09:20 PM:

#169 ::: jamiehall

I see I was still unclear.

I have not, and will not, apologize for anything I have said here.

Not to you, not to anyone.

I have said nothing to apologize for.

Is that clear?

Look at that Schrödinger’s Rapist article linked to above. Do you see in it where, in full question-begging mode, the author asks, "Even then, I prefer to have a friend or two, or my dogs, with me. Do you follow rules like these?"

Yes. Yes, I do. And I recommend them to everyone, everywhere, male and female, young and old.

So.

I am not apologizing. Nor will I.

Nor do I want or need my friends to apologize for me. There is no need for it, no matter what you imagine, no matter what you pretend to find in the subtext, no matter what your self-image requires.

It won't happen.

Is that perfectly clear?

#176 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 10:20 PM:

heresiarch #158:

Okay, that's a really good point. Though even with perfect society-wide agreement on what constituted consent (probably unattainable, and there will inevitably be gray areas from the perspective of a jury or judge or prosecutor after the fact), hard-to-prosecute rape would still happen, because date rape tends not to leave a whole lot of evidence. In fact, I suspect the main way around that is for many of the rapists' other victims to hear of the prosecution and come forward, so that instead of his word against hers, it's his word against theirs. And that becomes a lot more likely to happen when being a victim of rape loses as much of the stigma it now has as is possible.

LMM #159:

I haven't looked at this in detail, but I believe we're talking about two really different populations. In one case, we're talking about all sex offenders, which I think means everyone who gets added to the lists, which have a lot of noise in them. (That is, the serial child molester is quite different from the flasher, even though both end up on the sex offender list.) In the other case, we're getting self-report data from self-identified rapists.

This is a remarkable tool on the BJS website[1]. For a limited set of crimes and other conditions, using data from several states, it tries to predict the probability of future arrest and trial and conviction and imprisonment. However, I believe this covers all crimes, not just the crime the person was originally charged with. (The tool is clearly intended for parole boards and such.) Just to take it for a spin, though, I looked at white men of any age released from prison after any length of time in prison (that is, it might have been a long or short sentence served) who'd been convicted of "other sexual assault"--the category that includes statutory rape and raping someone who was too drunk or high to give consent. I selected no previous prison time and no more than one previous arrest. This is as close as I can come to the notion of a date-rapist who gets girls drunk rather than using force or threats, and who isn't otherwise doing anything illegal.

Of that set, 23% get arrested for something (not necessarily sex related at all) within the next three years, and 10% are reconvicted within three years.

This report followed sex offenders released in 1994. It says that within 3 years of release, about 5% of all sex offenders were rearrested for another sex crime. Within 3 years of release, about 3% of convicted child molesters were arrested for another sex crime involving a child. (Note how massively different this is from the media and popular culture picture of reality that "everyone knows.")

I'm not sure how to square this with the data heresiarch linked because, as I said, it's a really different kind of data--those guys were overwhelmingly getting away with it, whereas these guys didn't.

[1] If I haven't made my plug for doing this yet this week, let me urge everyone to look for the data, filtered by as few people as possible. Polling companies, government agencies, universities (via academic papers and researchers' websites), and many media organizations (which have transcripts and recordings of speeches, interviews, and conversations) are all great places to get at the raw data with a minimum of filtering. It's shocking how often the picture you get from media, your friends, your community, and conventional wisdom is massively contradicted by the data. As RAH said, get the facts.

#177 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 10:26 PM:

jamiehall:

Just as an aside, back in 2005 when I was arguing that we should get the hell out of Iraq, I could *swear* I heard that exact same line, except instead of being told I was too close to (or giving comfort to) rapists, it was terrorists I was allegedly too close to/giving comfort to.

#178 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 10:50 PM:

Gray Woodland @133:

individualfrog @ 128: Yes, this is difficult, but I see problems with letting ourselves be governed by possible inadvertent interpretations of our words by potential rapists. Because rapists are, by definition, not good-faith listeners to begin with.

These are people who will read 'no' as 'yes' when it is convenient to them, or silence as consent; and yet should they happen to get hammered on their own account, and some malicious person apply the same logic to their objections to any kind of unilateral 'fun' they Do Not Want, I will bet a sack of dollars to a sack of dung that they will revert most vehemently to the conventional understanding.

There is IMO no reliable way to guard against the sort of bad-faith interpretation that will hear 'yes' as 'no', 'up' as 'down', and 'a real man ought to be a real mensch' as 'a real man ought not to listen to my PC nonsense'.

They are doing their monkey trick again, and it is still their fault and responsibility, and the rest of us still ought to be very careful about letting them rule our actions with it.
Thank you. That's very much what I thought when I saw Individualfrog's post. The real problem is not what we're saying; it's that there are people out there who already want to misbehave in certain ways, and will twist any available language into permission or an excuse for doing it. They incorporate it into a rape-excusing narrative, and tell it over and over again to establish the lie. Then women get blamed for inviting rape under the terms of that narrative when of course they intended no such thing, and Jim gets blamed for his safety-oriented comments as though they were part of that exculpatory narrative, rather than advice on how to avoid the people who use it.

Albatross @132:

But the whole notion of figuring out who the vulnerable person in the room is, singling them out, isolating them, grooming them--that all fits what I've read and heard about child sexual abuse.
I'm a bit dubious about any theory of child abuse that uses a single model of how it happens.
I'm wondering now how well it fits with other kinds of abuse, like that subset of predators who finds messed up, vulnerable girls or women and turns them into prostitutes, or the kind of person who gets into a trusted position with some old person and robs them blind.
The similarity is that there's a stable goal or outcome but they learn new behaviors or ways to achieve that outcome, test to see what works, and progress from lesser to greater scope and risk as they gain expertise. You can fit that to a lot of processes, including becoming a graffiti artist, joining a forum, learning to perform music in public, and making friends at a new school.

Picking out the most vulnerable person isn't a single unitary maneuver. Everyone who has a stable purpose and an accustomed pattern of behavior they use to accomplish it will come into an interactive group situation and look around to see who's best suited to their purpose. Then they'll cultivate that person's acquaintance in a purpose-appropriate fashion. A predator will look to see who's vulnerable -- but so might a shy, uncertain kid who's looking for a friend. Someone who wants to network sorts for commonality. Marriage-minded young adults sort for attractive singles with the right interests and background. Sales reps sort for purchasing authority.

There's nothing magic about rape or abuse. They don't involve unique behaviors that are unrelated to anything else people do. The biggest difference is between complex behaviors they can observe or be taught, and ones they have to invent from scratch.

It would be fascinating to know what made the men who admitted to raping or trying to rape someone once, stop. Was it fear of legal or extralegal punishment? Was it remorse? Maybe just not finding themselves in the right kind of situation to do it very often?
None of the above. You've lost track of one of the most salient features of that study: it never mentioned rape. It just asked about specific behaviors. The respondents didn't admit to attempted or completed rape. They said they'd engaged in the specified behaviors. If the study had asked about rape by name, most of those respondents would say no, they didn't do that. Furthermore, my guess is that many of those who would have answered differently if it were called rape would have thought they were telling the truth. Remember that exculpatory social narrative? They've grown up with it.

As for the ones who tried it once but not again, if I had to bet on the single commonest reason, I'd bet that they simply didn't like it. Maybe they'd fantasized about nonconsensual sex -- not a rare thing in either gender -- but found the real thing disturbing and unrewarding.

But what I'd guess happened in some cases is that on some level, they realized the true name of what they'd done. They'll probably never fully admit it to themselves, but they're sufficiently aware of it that they won't do it again. Srsly. I've heard some strange stories from women I trust about men realizing what they were doing in the midst thereof.

How is that even possible? They told the stories they told, and I have no cause to doubt them.

What I can say from my own experience is that I've been working with the ad hoc anti-scam writer community for years now, and I've seen more than one scammer who was genuinely upset and surprised when called on it. You wouldn't think an "agent" who hasn't made a sale in ten years, charges clients $600-$1000 a year, and seldom bothers to even submit their books, could be unclear on that point; yet they are. Somehow, the fact that they started out wanting to be a legit agent, and never consciously decided to be an ersatz one, means they aren't really ripping off their clients.

It's not for want of opportunity. If they spotted and exploited the opportunity once, they'd be better at doing it the second time. And I doubt fear of punishment or reprisal stopped them. As I said earlier, most of them aren't thinking of it as rape; so why should they expect to be punished for it?

I have a kind of very general theory, based on a lot of observation in many different places, that people often keep on doing dumb or evil things, because they've worked out well for them for a while.
Yes. That's also why they keep doing good things and morally neutral things that work out well.
Thus, the embezzler takes $20 bills out of the register once every couple weeks, and keeps on going for weeks or months before he's caught. And probably a lot of people do it once and then stop, either from remorse or from fear of consequences.
If they like what they're doing and they lose track of their fear of consequences, they'll keep doing it.
Similarly, the kind of sex scandals that often come up in politics have that same flavor--someone does something absolutely, incredibly dumb, and it works out for him the first few times he does it. And so he keeps on, till it catches up with him and wrecks him. And I wonder how often crime is like that--some guy does something nasty, evil, horrible--once. And either it repulses him or backfires or terrifies him, and he stops, or it feels good and works out for him, and he does it again, and again, till it becomes a habit, a normal part of how he gets along in the world.
Oftener than not. The proverbial version is "Be careful of what you get good at -- you'll wind up doing it the rest of your life."

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