When I read Alicorn's post on problems vs tasks, I immediately realized that the proposed terminology helped express one of my pet peeves: the resistance in society to applying rationality to socializing and dating.

In a thread long, long ago, SilasBarta described his experience with dating advice:

I notice all advice on finding a girlfriend glosses over the actual nuts-and-bolts of it.

In Alicorn's terms, he would be saying that the advice he has encountered treats problems as if they were tasks. Alicorn defines these terms a particular way:

It is a critical faculty to distinguish tasks from problems.  A task is something you do because you predict it will get you from one state of affairs to another state of affairs that you prefer.  A problem is an unacceptable/displeasing state of affairs, now or in the likely future.  So a task is something you do, or can do, while a problem is something that is, or may be.

Yet as she observes in her post, treating genuine problems as if they were defined tasks is a mistake:

Because treating problems like tasks will slow you down in solving them.  You can't just become immortal any more than you can just make a peanut butter sandwich without any bread.

Similarly, many straight guys or queer women can't just find a girlfriend, and many straight women or queer men can't just find a boyfriend,  any more than they can "just become immortal."

People having trouble in those areas may ask for advice, perhaps out of a latent effort to turn the problem into more of a task. Yet a lot of conventional advice doesn't really turn the problem into the task (at least, not for everyone), but rather poses new problems, due to difficulties that Alicorn mentioned, such as lack of resources, lack of propositional knowledge, or lack of procedural knowledge.

Take, for example, "just be yourself," or "just meet potential partners through friends." For many people, these pieces of advice just open up new problems: being oneself is a problem of personal identity. It's not a task that you can execute as part of a step in solving the problem of dating. Having a social network, let alone one that will introduce you to potential partners, is also a problem for many people. Consequently, these pieces of advice sound like "let them eat cake."

Society in general resists the notion that socializing (dating and mating in particular) is a problem. Rather, society treats it as a solved task, yet the procedures it advocates are incomplete, dependent on unacknowledged contextual factors, big hairy problems of their own, or just plain wrong. (Or it gives advice that consists of true observations that are useless for taskification, like "everyone is looking for something different" in a mate. Imagine telling a budding chef: "everyone has different tastes" in food. It's true, but it isn't actually useful in taskifying a problem like "how do I cook a meal?")

Even worse, society resists better attempts to taskify social interaction (especially dating and mating). People who attempt to taskify socializing and dating are often seen as inauthentic, manipulative, inhuman, mechanical, objectifying of others, or going to unnecessary lengths.

While some particular attempts of taskifying those problems may indeed suffer from those flaws, some people seem like they object to any form of taskifying in those areas. There may be good reasons to be skeptical of the taskifiability of socializing and mating. Yet while socializing and dating may not be completely taskifiable due to the improvisational and heavily context-dependent nature of those problems, they are actually taskifiable to a reasonably large degree.

Many people seem to hold an idealistic view of socializing and dating, particularly dating, that places them on another plane of reality where things are just supposed to happen "magically" and "naturally," free of planning or any other sort of deliberation. Ironically, this Romantic view can actually be counterproductive to romance. Taskifaction doesn't destroy romance any more than it destroys music or dance. Personally, I think musicians who can actually play their instruments are capable of creating more "magical" music than musicians who can't. The Romantic view only applies to those who are naturally adept; in other words, those for who mating is not a problem. For those who do experience romance as a problem, the Romantic view is garbage [Edit: while turning this into a top-level post, I've realized that I need more clarification of what I am calling the "Romantic" view].

The main problem with this Romantic view is that is that it conflates a requirement for a solution with the requirements for the task-process that leads to the solution. Just because many people want mating and dating to feel magical and spontaneous, it doesn't mean that every step in finding and attracting mates must be magical and spontaneous, lacking any sort of planning, causal thinking, or other elements of taskification. Any artist, whether in visual media, music, drama, or dance knows that the "magic" of their art is produced by mundane and usually heavily taskified processes. You can't "just" create a sublime work of art any more than you can "just" have a sublime romantic experience (well, some very talented and lucky people can, but it's a lot harder for everyone else). Actually, it is taskification itself which allows skill to flourish, creating a foundation for expression that can feel spontaneous and magical. It is the mundane that guides the magical, not the other way around.

Sucking at stuff is not sublime. It's not sublime in art, it's not sublime in music, and it's not sublime in dance. In dating, there is nothing wrong with a little innocence and awkwardness, but the lack of procedural and propositional knowledge can get to the point where it intrudes ruins the "magic." There is nothing "magical" about the experience of someone who is bumbling socially and romantically, and practically forcing other people to reject him or her, either for that person of for those around. Yet to preserve the perception of "magic" and "spontaneity" (an experience that is only accessible for those with natural attractiveness and popularity, or luck), society is actually denying that type of experience to those who experience dating as a problem. Of course, they might "get lucky" and eventually get together with someone who is a decent without totally screwing things up with that person... but why is society mandating that romance be a given for some people, but a matter of "getting lucky" for others?

The sooner society figures out the following, the better:

1. For many people, socializing and dating are problems, not yet tasks.

2. Socializing and dating can be taskified to the extend that other problems with similar solutions requirements (e.g. improvisation, fast response to emotional impulses of oneself and others, high attention to context, connection to one's own instincts) can be taskified. Which is a lot of the way, but definitely not all the way.

3. Taskification when applied to interpersonal behavior is not inherently immoral or dehumanizing to anyone, nor does it inherently steal the "magic" from romance any more than dance training steals the magic from dance.

Until then, we will continue to have a social caste system of those for whom socializing and dating is a task (e.g. due to intuitive social skills), over those for whom those things are still problems (due to society's accepted taskifications not working for them, and being prevented from making better taskifications due to societal pressure and censure).


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I think there may be a tendency for the here-present audience to overanalyze and underpractice.

I think the following information is important for understanding this problem matter:

(1) Anyone attracted to this site will likely be a highly intelligent individual.

(2) IQ is more closely bundled around 100 for girls than it is for guys.

Implication: This here audience is mostly male.

(3) People with IQ differences of more than 2 standard deviations don't get along that great (aren't peers).

(4) Socialization with peers at a young age is crucial to social development.

(5) Primary schools bundle together people of all IQs indiscriminately.

Implication: Most of us in this here audience have been stunted in our social development by lacking peers early on, when it's important.

Implication: Because extreme IQs are much rarer in girls than in guys, we have to either compete for a few highly intelligent, intellectually stimulating females who may share our lack in social skills, OR settle for merely above average IQ females who may lack some intellectual sparkle, but may be easier to find and better socially developed.

(6) You don't learn to dance by watching videos of people dancing, and you don't d... (read more)

"Implication: Because extreme IQs are much rarer in girls than in guys, we have to either compete for a few highly intelligent, intellectually stimulating females who may share our lack in social skills, OR settle for merely above average IQ females who may lack some intellectual sparkle, but may be easier to find and better socially developed." Oh come now, I doubt the problem is that there are not enough 'smart girls,' and more that smart girls go for successful men and not isolated introverts. Actually, some of my more intelligent friends complain that they can't find a man (that they would consider dating) that isn't threatened by their intelligence. I've also heard the lament that successful men want housewives, but I don't have much evidence for it. And also, how important is IQ in your mate preference really? It seems from my observations that 'nerdy' guys want quirky girls more than intelligent ones- the natalie protmans and junos (gag me with a spoon) of the world.

just to correct a bit here, Natalie Portman apparently has a rather high IQ, her being a multilingual Harvard graduate and all... Poor example is all I'm saying, not questioning your point (yet)

Now is this a social narrative, a post hoc justification of a failed relationship fueled by the self serving bias, or something else entirely? Dating is one area of interest where anecdotage should be taken with a mountain of salt.
One way of testing the hypothesis that (many) men are put off by intelligent women would be to look at all the couples in a social circle. Is it true that none of the intelligent women are in heterosexual relationships?
While that idea is, in my eyes, a good blend of effective and practical, it doesn't rule out all confounding explanations. If this pattern was found, it would not necessarily prove that their potential mates were intimidated by their intelligence. Perhaps a way of testing it would be going to a dating service and telling random men that the woman they were dating was very intelligent (regardless of her actual intelligence)?
Reactions to profiles on dating services would be a good general test, though it might be harder to pull out data on particular social groups. Do you believe that, in general people are bad at telling why they have trouble attracting partners, or do you think that the idea that men are put off by intelligent women is an especially unlikely hypothesis?
The former due to the rose tinted glasses of the self serving bias and the fundimental attribution error. On a personal note I'm very attracted to intelligent women but I wouldn't be surprised at all if men in general did find intellectual women intimidating.
Thank you for your input, Laura, but you have not quoted a study that would persuade me that what I know from other study reports is false. As far as I know, extreme IQ's simply are more common among men than they are among women. Since this is compatible with my own anecdotal experience, it is hard for me to be persuaded by your anecdotal experience, unless you can point to evidence stronger than that. I would prefer this to be evidence that doesn't attempt to disqualify the whole concept of IQ because of discomfort with the findings of IQ studies. Now, as for the other issues you raise, those are fun to discuss, so I'll engage, lack of scientific quality regardless... :) "Smart girls go for successful men and not isolated introverts" is another way of saying "females are attracted to confidence and dominance", as well as "high IQ does not necessarily mean confidence and dominance". I would agree with that. "Some of my more intelligent friends complain that they can't find a man that isn't threatened by their intelligence" probably means that those friends of yours aren't that hot. Their intelligence compels them to find a guy that's successful and at least as smart, but guys like that can get hot women, and guys prefer hot women to intelligent, but not that hot women. I would personally not mind an extremely smart partner at all, but frankly, when one person is able to earn enough for the whole family, I do think it's more convenient for the other person to be someone who is along for the ride, rather than someone whose career will try to pull the partnership, and the family, in conflicting directions. A successful career woman would possibly do better with a stay-at-home husband, which do exist, although it's not quite the most traditional role.
Spot on, and seemingly obvious. Why a high IQ crowd like this can be oblivious to truths that a truck driver has pointed out to me is an open question.
You know, next time, maybe type "people who end up on LW are probably nerdy". Faster, conveys the same information, and probably better representative of your thought process too. And, of course, less reliant on implausible and/or low-status hypotheses chained together, and thus less likely to be nitpicked mercilessly by a rationalist audience even though the actual point only depends on easily-observed demographic trends, and thus is probably right.
I disagree with your blunt formulation of intelligence as 'IQ'. An example: Lewis Terman (yes the father of Frederick Terman who has a building named after him at Stanford) followed a bunch of kids with high IQs - average of 151. As described in the article, William Shockley (have you heard of him?) didn't have a high enough to be one of the 'Termite's. But, as every electrical engineer will tell you, Shockley went onto invent the bipolar junction transistor at Bell Labs. (What's ironic is that Shockley himself adopted a static (unchangeable) view of human ability, became a racist proponent of eugenics and was shunned in the academia in his late career.) In fact, Barry Schwartz claims that the success rate of the Termites was as good as a random sample of individuals but I can't quite find links for this claim. (It's in the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell however.) A discussion of IQ would take us far afield but I suggest you also check out Flynn effect for instance.
AnlamK, I agree that IQ is the measure of a mere shadow of actual ability. When describing a single individual, their IQ does provide a partial indicator as to their competence, but does not even begin to describe a human being. In more macroscopic terms, however: (1) People with an average IQ lower than X will not be able to perform task Z which requires IQ much greater than X. (2) Having a higher IQ than needed for task Z does not make you much better at it, but may qualify you for another job, Q, which is more demanding. (3) Contrary to what many people think, average IQs can be compared somewhat across cultures; they can be compared somewhat to a common point of reference; and the resulting average IQ measures can differ greatly across countries. Countries that have lower average IQs do not perform nearly as well, which I attribute mainly to argument (1), above. There are a variety of reasons I can think of that would cause people with extreme IQ's (150+) to perform randomly on average. In general, my interpretation is that the higher IQ hurts them more than it helps them. With an extreme IQ, it is hard to find an environment in which to develop social skills, and it is harder to enjoy random company. Meanwhile, there are few occupations that require such a high IQ. Instead, the most high-end occupations can be performed by people whose IQs are less extreme, but are more socially developed, and would thus be preferred for those occupations over the maladjusted extreme ones. I would be very surprised to learn, however, that a study of subjects with merely above average IQs - rather than extremely high ones - didn't show them to have markedly improved outcomes over subjects whose IQs are below average. A mostly static view of human potential is probably correct. If you'll agree that other animals don't have the same potential as humans because of their genetic differences, then it is far fetched to assume that there are no differences in potential among hum
A point to consider - isn't IQ grounded to intelligence via improved life outcomes (wealth, education etc.); so if high intelligence levels start to lose correlation with improved outcomes, wouldn't that make the extreme end of IQ results less and less correlated with actual intelligence?
The notion that abilities de-correlate at high range is known as Spearman's law of diminishing returns . A simple analogy from sports: ability to run marathon positively correlates with the ability to sprint, in the general public, but among the world class athletes, you run into genetic variations which trade sprinting performance for marathon performance and vice versa. Another point is that IQ tests have to be neutral with regards to the background skills or knowledge, which has a very unfortunate side effect of not measuring performance of the mechanisms involved in forming or applying skills and knowledge. By the way, on a Gaussian prior, poor correlation implies very substantial regression towards the mean. edit: cut-n-paste error in URL.
It seems much more plausible that at extreme intelligence, the correlation to life outcomes starts to break down. Once you earn enough money to live comfortably, it probably leads to more life satisfaction to spend your time on leisure, rather than earning more, and in particular, the cleverer someone is the more we might expect them to realize that's the tradeoff.
Which is what I said, yes.
I meant that the correlation between life outcomes and intelligence breaks down, but the correlation between intelligence and IQ likely remains strong; it sounded to me like you were questioning the IQ-intelligence link because IQ-life outcome broke down at high IQ levels.
As I said, it was my understanding that the correlation between IQ and life outcomes was well-established, and that IQ tests are designed and adjusted to ensure the correlation remains strong. This is a thing, right? Thus, the hypothesis that the correlation between intelligence and life outcomes breaks down at high intelligence levels suggests that such adjustment would cease to produce IQ-to-life-outcomes correlation. (Alternately, this whole system may break down somewhat at high levels anyway - I don't know how much difficulty the relative rarity of really high IQ ratings has introduced.)

Of course, in any domain, whether, music, dance, attracting mates, or practicing medicine or law, those who have valuable skills may wish to prevent others from acquiring or using such skills in order to preserve a monopoly and one convenient way to do so is to declare the process of acquiring such skills to be immoral or illegal.

I was talking about this very process tonight when discussing this xkcd with my partner. My theory was that many people would rather make fun of someone for not knowing than show them, because it creates a scarcity of knowledge and turns experience into a zero-sum game. Mocking people who are bad at socializing instead of teaching them how to socialize seems, at least in part, to be the same problem writ large.

I've always found "Just be yourself" to be particularly unhelpful advice.

"Just be Brad Pitt" is better advice, but still not helpful.

Yes, it's along the lines of that "unless you can be a dragon, then always be a dragon" quote... it's not the kind of advice that can empower you to do something more effective.

I also have a practical advise to those who try to improve their social skills especially in the dating space.

Learn some real partner dance!

By "partner dance" I mean something that requires real partnering skills like salsa, swing or tango, (rather than hip-hop or techno, etc. that have no real partner dancing scene and culture).

Although I don't do it for pick-up or dating reasons (I am married with children), I have been dancing salsa for a few years and I recognized a lot of positive effects:

  • Great workout (much more fun than anything else I tried)
  • Learned to behave much more relaxed and self-confident in the company of women.
  • Improved body-awareness, posture, gracefulness, etc.
  • Taught me how to make bodily contact in a gentle and enjoyable way and without being intrusive or offensive and feel completely natural about it.
  • Made me more aware of dressing and hygiene.
  • A form of social meditation: living in the presence, enjoying the moment by concentrating not on oneself but on someone else and the music.

But first of all: It is an awful lot of fun. Imagine that you to go to work or to a conference in a city you've never been before and at the end of the day you can be ... (read more)

Socialization is a social/cultural problem in a larger sense. The fact that nowadays most people learn their social skills in High School is bound to be problematic. Since we no longer have much of a ritualized, entrenched system for socializing our youth, they largely learn their social skills from other teenagers - the blind, gullible, hormonally confused and deeply irrational leading the blind etc. They go on to carry the resulting status games, irrational behaviour -- and scars -- into the rest of their lives and the whole of society. This explains much of our (barely) post adolescent culture and politics.

This is amongst the reasons I won't send my kids to school, and try to discourage anyone else from doing so.
Have you found ways for them to nevertheless socialize with their peers?

Socializing with their peers isn't nearly as important as socializing with ordinary folks in society. Schools artificially stick a bunch of kids of the same age group together with one 'authority figure'; naturally, they learn to socialize from other kids and form 'kid culture' and act like a bunch of monkeys.

Rather than go to school and learn how to be kids, it's much better to let kids meet the neighbors and learn how to be people. Your neighbors may vary.

I will have a similar policy if and when I happen to breed. As Jowibou alludes to, this means I will have to take the initiative in seeking high quality social interactions for my children myself. It may be a better option for my children but it certainly will not be easier! (Care to share your thoughts on the subject?)
I know several people who were unschooled. Their parents didn't particularly 'take the initiative' in the sense of organizing 'play-dates' or other such things; but the parents did make the children a part of their lives, so the children interacted with ordinary people practically every day.
In your judgement how well did that work for them?
Well as far as I can tell, they're all some of the most brilliant people I've met, and not socially stunted or anything. And seeing the lack of scars from schooling on these folks really makes them obvious on everyone else.
Could you expand on the "scars from schooling"?
Keep in mind selection bias. The pool of people who would unschool their children is systematically different from the general population. Aspects of child-rearing unrelated to schooling (at least conventional schooling) and/or genetics probably played a role in determining the adult personality of their children.
Indeed. The eldest of them hypothesizes that it wasn't so much unschooling that caused the good effects, but more likely other factors, most relevantly "the parents having bothered to make any decision regarding their children's schooling", which has been shown to matter in other contexts.
The problem may be as much a matter of age segregation in school as it is a lack of a ritualized, formal system for socializing young people.
Children of widely different ages playing together are a wonderful but increasingly rare sight. I strongly agree that age segregation within schools is a big part of the problem. But in a sense it's a subset of what I'm talking about on the scale of the whole culture. I'm not advocating a return rigid to social ritual or an overly formal system - say, the Masai cattle raid or even the Scouts. But something must be found to fill the gap. Groups and subgroups of teenagers are left to make do in a system that merely tries to keep them together, under control -- and obediently consuming junk. And the rest of us end up with a social system that mirrors High School instead of schools that reflect society as a whole.

That sums things up for me. To paraphrase Katie Lucas, every piece of interpersonal skills advice I've come across has, at its kernel, a very small section labelled "do magic here" -- or at least it often seems like magic to those who need that kind of advice in the first place.

As a member of that lower caste, I'm always interested in the possibility of systematizing social/dating skills. I'm currently looking into books, videos, etc. intended for autistic and Asperger people. I am neither (as far as I know), but it seems like they're the most likely to receive clear, algorithmic (so to speak) advice, because there's a recognized medical need for it. Probably it's easier for society to sympathize with them than with your run-of-the-mill geek with poor social skills, even if there are similar solutions to both of their problems. (I don't mean to belittle the problems faced by actual autistics, who absolutely do deserve that sympathy, but I also think that there should be no shame in applying the same solutions (if they work) to similar types of problems when they are faced by non-autistics.)

I'm trying a few such books right now. I might be back with some recommendations if any of them help.

I'm with you on this. One small step I've taken is to compile all the rules I've aggregated from various sources about when and where it's okay to touch a woman (in the sense of "it would not be considered out-of-line to do this, though you may be politely asked to stop") into a chart. When I posted it on another forum, it became simultaneously the funniest and truest artwork I have ever produced.

ETA: Okay, because of the interest, I'll post it. Some disclaimers:

1) This is intended to give socially inept guys assurance against false accusations of being a "perv" or "too aggressive". Adhering to the chart will only mean that you will not be so labeled, and that women that complain to their friends or the venue's manager will receive little sympathy. It does not mean it is the optimal time to touch or that you won't be turned down (you should thereafter stop), just that you are within acceptable behavior boundaries and should stand your ground if you get flak.

2) To make the image less offensive, a man's body is color-coded. It refers to a woman, of course.

3) You can zoom in, at least if you permit javascript from enough domains.

With that said, here's the diagram. You'll probably laugh, or deem it true, or both.

Cute!!! I would note that most men are too conservative with touch in general. What you're touching is not always as important as that your touching, which immediately establishes an intimacy not achievable by mere conversation. The woman will let you know in one way or another if she wants you to stop, but she will almost never say she wants you to start, or even know it herself. Learning how to give a backrub is probably a good idea.

I second the backrubs. Backrubs are excellent. Nonthreatening (well, assuming you don't say anything creepy while near the neck, or stray south), casual, they feel awesome, and they're easy to segue into from the other party stretching or just saying "my back is killing me". I do recommend asking rather than just starting on one, though. Certain back problems don't react well to them, and there might be hair or a necklace or something to get out of the way, and they can be delivered in a startling way if begun without warning.

Compare George W. Bush and Angela Merkel.
Now that you said that, how the hell am I ever going to resist the temptation next time :(
That's a great diagram! I'd personally move the back of the neck to the purple zone - it can be considered intimate touch. I'd also add feet to the diagram (they're currently in white) and I'd personally colour them purple. Note that offering a foot-massage, is often a good "move" to test the waters (or even just be nice to a friend who's had a hard day). But I fully applaud this kind of clear instruction - I like it.
Thirded - but don't take my interest as evidence one way or the other as to whether most women would find such a thing offensive.
It also depends on where the woman is from.
Now you have to show it.
Link to female-touch guide posted. (Karma currently at 666.)
No data on boko-maru? :)
Meaning "feet" in Japanese? No, not yet :-P I'm surprised no one else has remarked on that. In the other forum I got a lot of "ROFL@No data".
Actually, I was only advertising "Cat's Cradle", my favorite Kurt Vonnegut novel.
Nice one! True(ish). A bit on the conservative side, but that's probably what you were aiming at!
That diagram seems... about right, actually.

IMO, the views that rational analysis and manipulation in social context (esp. with regard to mating) is immoral or dehumanizing is based on observations that a lot of people who consciously employ such techniques often have the wrong objective function.

Consider this analogue situation: If you raise children, you definitely do a lot of rational thinking about their needs, long term interests and try help them to develop, be safe, etc. This requires a lot of objective considerations, prioritizing, even conscious manipulations on several different levels. Nobody would say that this is wrong, dehumanizing or out of place. The reason that this is intuitively accepted is that you probably do this for the right reason: in the long term interest of your children. If you have the right objective function, it is not just fine, it is required.

I think that other social interactions should not be different in this respect. You should consciously employ techniques, objectively analyze and manipulate situations, but your objective function should include the interests of your peers as well. They will sense if you genuinely care about them: Even if you manipulate them, they will be still thankful later if it happened in their long term interests.

You don't become a "manipulative bastard" just because you are manipulative, but if you are also a bastard.

Yes, I agree 100%. One of the most accurate signals that shows when I trust and respect a person highly is that I not only allow but encourage them to manipulate me, because I believe that it will be to my benefit to do so. I'm pretty sure I'm unusually explicit about the fact that I do that, but I don't think I'm especially unusual in doing so.
I completely agree with what you are getting at, but I think we should use a more neutral word like "influence" rather than "manipulation," because manipulation holds negative connotations for many people, or is considered unethical by definition. While the relationship between people in socializing and dating is different from the relationship between parent and child, I think your general point stands that people can ethically engage in influence when they consider the interests of the people they are influencing with. A common rejoinder is something like the following: "So you think you know what is good for other people, huh? Huh??" At least, I think we can say that considering the interests of others to the best of your ability is at least necessary to engage in ethical forms of influence, if not sufficient. Even though people may be wrong in their estimates of the interests of others, that doesn't mean that reasonable consideration of the interests of others can't be made that assess the expected value (for the other person) of influencing them to be positive. Is there another ethical standard that is more restrictive, that doesn't completely paralyze us poor folks who actually care about ethics, leaving us to stay at home or in the corner of the party leaving the people we want to date at the mercy of those without such qualms?
I used the word "manipulation" as a provocation to get across my point. Exactly those negative connotations made that provocation possible. So my use of the term "manipulation" was already a manipulation of the reader. Although "influencing" is a broader notion, it is often too general. Let us consider the following situation: I tell my 2 years old daughter: "Do you want me to read you a story, or you rather watch some video before going to sleep?" This is a very common technique: focusing her attention on something pleasant in order to make her do something else I want. More sophisticated variants of the same trick work even with adults, for example this is the base of all "bait and switch" scams. I think most people would agree: I manipulated my daughter. ("Influencing" is also true, but it sounds like a strange euphemism in this context.) Still, I did nothing wrong. "Manipulating" just means that I consciously employed some technique to modify her behavior in a way she did not perceive consciously. One could argue that manipulation is not necessary with adults, because it is always more efficient to argue rationally, so manipulation necessarily means scam. I don't buy that, since it could even make sense to employ mind hacks on your own future self: for example enter a situation you know you won't like just to force yourself to achieve some more important goals. I think the term "I scammed myself" does not make much sense in such a situation. Women are great manipulators. They employ all kinds of tricks to make men, each other and children to do stuff they deem desirable while avoiding conflicts. On average, they outperform the average man in this respect by great lengths, which makes a lot of sense from an evolutionary point of view. Funnily enough, women also are attracted to manipulative men, which again, makes just as much sense from an evolutionary point of view. :) So, when women say, they like "charming men", they really mean: "shameless manipulato
See, I was agreeing with you, and then this non-sequitur. Now I'm just confused (and noticing that I'm confused.) Could you maybe ... try explaining what you meant there?

Taskifaction doesn't destroy romance any more than it destroys music or dance.

This one sentence alone is worth my upvote for its sheer truth. (Although

Sucking at stuff is not sublime.

is a close second.)

I don't agree. I think that it does ruin some of the magic but, if you suck at it, slightly ruined magic is better than no magic. That's speaking from the perspective of someone who's spent a decent amount of time developing/thinking about these things - after sucking at them. There's plenty of practical advice out there. It doesn't really seem appropriate for a less wrong forum but i'd be happy to point people in the direction of some resources if they message me. In fact, I'd be pretty interested in talking to anyone who's interested in the combination of rationality/game in general.

What is meant here by "magic?" To me, it seems that it is synonymous with effortlessness; anyone skilled in a craft makes it look easy. In order to create this magic, a person toils in private. Since no one saw the preparation, the result looks like it came from nowhere--i.e., magic.

Arthur C Clarke said it - Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

From the shallow signaling angle, discussing problems as tokens of ability probably takes precedence over discussing tasks. In that case, one doesn't explain how to solve a problem, but is simply (implicitly) telling that one doesn't have the problem (or is able to solve it).

Online dating sites appear to offer a counterexample to the assertion that "society resists better attempts to taskify social interaction (especially dating and mating)".

Given the dynamics on those dating sites, I'd have to disagree. The potential efficiency gains from more straightforward behavior and interactions made possible by the forum seems to be completely lost. People behave just like they would in live interactions, seemingly doing their best to keep the dynamics untaskified. I admit the mere existence of those sites does count as a bit of taskification, though.
Sure, I was being polemical. Society indeed approves of taskifying dating in particular ways, yet even so, there is a deep-seated ambivalence over taskification. Take your example of online dating. People who engage in online dating can be seen as losers, or accused of looking at prospective online partners like items on a menu. Online dating is only a very small part of the taskification of dating. Even though a website provides an avenue where people can contact each other, what do you do then? And if you do end up meeting someone, what do you do? The closer we get to the nitty-gritty of what people actually do when they are in front of each other, the more ambivalent society becomes about taskifying.
Hugh, your complaint as I understand it is that society not only doesn't provide rituals which turn "dating and mating" into a well defined process with agreed upon rules, but in fact actively resists the demands of people who would use such rituals. Yet when one researches the question "what are the formalized rituals of dating and mating", well, there's plenty of information out there. May I suggest that it would be wortwhile to yourself and to your readers to do the research, and report back on what you found, and then possibly point out any remaining large gaps? Disclosure: I may not have much to say about dating and mating in general, as I have been out of the dating market for twenty years. I do have a little experience in deliberately transforming myself (from 2000 onwards) from an introverted geek with no friends into an avid business networker with an excellent reputation. I found excellent procedural information for doing so in a book called "Why Should Extroverts Make All The Money". Back around that time I formulated an informal theory that made the parallel between "finding a job through the want ads" and "finding a partner through classifieds". The gist of the theory was that in both cases there were too many incentives to lie and one would get burned quite easily. The strategy that relied on building up a social network looked a lot more appealing to me, at least in the professional domain. This seems to some extent taskified, Google "speed dating". My point isn't that encounters on online dating sites systematically lead to speed dating, but that "society" has come up with at least one taskified version of the supposed "problem" of the first meeting with a prospective date. Speed dating wouldn't exist if "society" were as reluctant as you say it is to taskify in matters of intimacy. That rather depends on the specifics of your problem statement. The "problem" of sexual encounters is at least partly taskified (think "oldest profession in the wor
Dating already involves enough rules and rituals. I'm not advocating adding any more. What I want to see is more specification of how to perform under the existing rules and constraints (e.g. the constraint of the typical desires of the people you are trying to date). Although it's often difficult to define in advance how to behave in a particular situation, it can sometimes be possible to codify the types of things to avoid, or to know what result your behavior needs to achieve, even if you must improvise how you get to that result. Furthermore, on a more global level, it's possible to taskify the problem of learning how to date. For instance, learning how to increase your attractiveness in general, or learning how to dynamically improvise in situations of uncertainty. I'm arguing that society is blocking problem-solving on both local problems ("what do I see when I approach the attractive stranger at this party?" or "what do I need to accomplish with the first few things I say to this person?") and global problems ("what do I need to do to develop into the kind of person who knows what to say to attractive strangers at party without even needing introspection?"). What makes you think I haven't? Yes, I haven't really got specific about what exactly I think is lacking in conventional dating advice, though I might in the future if I consider it on topic for LessWrong. For now, my main topic has been an attitude about breaking down dating—and the process of learning how to date—into tasks to the extent that this is possible. One's social network is important in both business and dating. Social network is a big plus, but it isn't a prerequisite for dating. Most people do not have a problem statement that can be solved by the oldest profession.
I've considered the problem "how to get bulk practice in sexual techniques without completely exhausting my partners?" It may not satisfy the craving for affection but it may well satisfy perfectionistic tendencies.
You''re right, I have no reason to assume you haven't done the research. (And I regret bringing up prostitution - not a helpful example.) I suppose what I want to say really boils down to: I am unconvinced by your assertion that "society" has this attitude you're describing, and giving more concrete details would help.
Here we go: more concreteness with some examples of conventional advice vs. the perspective I am advocating.
Point taken, and I'll try to get more concrete in the future.
Seconded. To put it rather crudely, you can pay for a hole to ejaculate into, but it's a lot harder to buy genuine sexual desire or a meaningful romantic relationship.
Not as charitable as it could be. Contrary to Morendil, I think he did have a weak reason to assume you hadn't, and even if he didn't, you could still simply say "I have."
In this context, society's enforcement mechanism is social pressure/shame. Your examples - speed dating, online dating, prostitution - are all considered more or less shameful (I know because I've seen the shamed body language of people admitting to them). This shows that society's enforcement measures are working.
I don't know what's your reference group, but I don't know anyone computer-literate who considers online dating shameful at all. It's a mainstream activity, and is almost becoming the default way to find people to date.
It's been a couple of years since I heard censure of online dating too, and I agree that it's almost completely accepted among all the relevant people. I definitely meant it on the "less shameful" end of the spectrum. But it's been a while since I've heard anyone condemn gays, or atheists, or blacks. I try to ward myself against availability bias by reminding myself that my social group is likely to be a weird little bubble relative to the whole world. If I encountered people thinking online dating is shameful a few years ago, then I can be sure that many people still think so. I'm confident I could find them if I try. Ok, I just tried, with a google search, and found this, from March 2009. It looks like online dating is still shameful for some people.
When I was recently considering signing up for OkCupid, I asked a few friends (actually on a forum, but a small intimate one) about their thoughts on this: (...which is what I was worried about. Of course, "a witty saying proves nothing", but it makes sense -- if there weren't a stigma, there would be less need to defend it against claims that there's still a stigma, and fewer people trying to.) (...which is a pretty good point too. So I took the plunge and joined.)
If that were the case, I'd expect to find a lot more people than I do on the main dating sites. Perhaps you meant to limit your statement to a certain demographic.
Where have you been looking, and what demographics are you after? * http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/plentyoffish.com - huge, free, mostly 20s * http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/match.com - huge, paid, mostly 30s * http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/eharmony.com - huge, paid, marriage-oriented, mostly 40s * http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/okcupid.com - not as huge, free, mostly 20s, smartest demographics of the major sites as far as I can tell
Yes, this matches my impression of the subject.
The algorithm for what to do when you meet someone is simple. You talk about yourself and listen to them talk about themselves and ask them questions about themselves. The goal is to get to know them and help them get to know you so that you both decide whether you are interested in spending more time together. If you are compatible and open the conversation will flow naturally, and you will both have a good time. This algorithm won't work well for you if your communications skills are poor or if you are genuinely unlikeable/unattractive. I had to work on both of those issues to become successful at dating. My communication skills are still pretty terrible, but I focused enough effort on becoming attractive that eventually it worked out.

The algorithm for what to do when you meet someone is simple.

As you admit, the simplicity of this algorithm is dependent on one's communication skills.

You talk about yourself and listen to them talk about themselves and ask them questions about themselves.

Interestingly, a lot of conventional dating advice insists that people shouldn't talk about themselves too much.

This is an example of advice that is trivially correct, but encourages the wrong focus. Yes, there is a danger of talking about oneself too much, but there is also a danger in talking about oneself too little.

In my experience, the best way to get someone to talk about themselves and open up is not to just start asking them questions. Instead, talk about yourself for a bit, and then ask them questions or simply shut up and they will often start talking about themselves. People tend to feel more comfortable opening up after you have shared something about yourself.

Another very common piece of dating advice is "ask open-ended question rather than close-ended or yes/no questions. Open-ended questions are great, but you can't just jump into them with someone you don't know very well, or when the conversation i... (read more)

I would recommend auditing a counseling class. My fiancee is studying to become a professional counselor, and has had at least one class on how to talk to people who might be reluctant to talk. She can transcend smalltalk with my relatives in just a few steps and have actual conversations with them, something I'd love to be able to do.

Great skill to have. If we can find a way to teach it to LW, that would be awesome. I've seen more women than men who could do it, but it's definitely not gender-exclusive and not inborn.
I guess I would say that the algorithm is simple regardless of communication skills, but the effectiveness and pleasantness changes. i have a lot of social anxiety so I would find talking about myself on a first date (something I'll hopefully never have to do again) to be very unpleasant. And yet, I know exactly how to do it in the sense that I know how to express thoughts verbally and I know what thoughts are "about myself." I would be awkward and the woman would typically form an accurate opinion of me, and especially my lack of social skills, and conclude that she didn't want a second date. This is the correct outcome. I think that you are somewhat unfairly criticizing conventional dating advice because the goal of that advice is not your goal. The goal of my advice was not to create a high percentage of first dates that are "successful" and that lead to second dates or whatever. The goal of my advice was to allow both people to effectively determine how interested they are in the other person so that they accurately know if they want to have a second date. I tend to think that the kind of advice you are looking for would make the filtering function of dating more difficult. A person who tends to make a conversation flow very well regardless of who it is with will always seem attractive and compatible on a first date. The other party will then have to spend more time and effort determining actual compatibility than they otherwise would. I am much more worried about a "false positive" on a date that leads to subsequent time and energy wasting dates than I am about "false negatives" in which compatible people can't get past their communication shortcomings to see that they are actually made for each other. I just think that there are too many good options for most people (especially since the advent of online dating) to worry too much about false negatives. Everyone can find someone as long as they put some effort into searching and are honest about their status
Funny, I think there are very few options and thus I'm willing to tolerate a lot of initial bumpiness in communications to see whether we're ultimately compatible. To each his own. (I had a lot of communication problems early in life, and still do to a lesser extent, and that may be part of it too.)
If I take this as a statement meant to be strictly true, it rings false. It seems very unlikely that people would happen to occur in the proper proportions so that everyone would find someone. At least it seems there would be something like a 50% chance of there being an 'odd man out' even if everything else worked out perfectly.

For most skills, some people attain a level of art which surpasses describable taskification. If you asked a professional athlete how he throws the ball, or how he runs, he might mention a few tricks, but he's not going to be able to communicate it to you; in his mind, he just does it. I coach a top university speech and debate-type team (Mock Trial); I find it easy to describe how to do basic things, but nearly impossible to describe how to do sophisticated things; it has to be demonstrated and the students have to understand it themselves, and many of th... (read more)

just getting out of the house.

...Damn! That's exactly the kind of vague advice that HughRistik decries. Imagine teaching an extraterrestrial alien to smoke cigarettes.

You: Open the pack.

Alien: (looks at pack in a puzzled way)

You: Just tear it open, man

Alien: (tears pack in half, cigarette bits fly everywhere)


You: Put the cigarette in your mouth.

Alien: (stuffs entire cigarette into mouth)

And so on, and so forth. "Get out of the house" is a totally useless piece of advice for the kind of person that needs it. Okay, I'm out of my house right now, what next? You remind me of Alicorn who wouldn't stop insisting that finding potential dates in your social circle is "easy" if you "just do it".

(Related: I've entertained the idea of suggesting to Alicorn that she apply her superior understanding of women to teach pickup to male students. I imagine her entering the classroom, glancing at the audience composed of actual average guys and going "...oh, you meant that kind of average? I had no idea such people even existed. Obviously, teaching them to approach women would be disgusting and a gross betrayal of my sex. I'm outta here.")

I think your description of the alien with the cigarette pack highlights the fact the problem with advice often lies in the fact that it's too chunky. By that I mean the steps are described at too high a level. This can happen when there's a great difference in the levels of experience of the advisor and the advised, and the advisor has become so familiar with the processes they have been conceptually black boxed. In fact the black boxing is a necessary part of the process - you ride a bike well when you no longer think about how to ride a bike, and you socialise well when you're no longer aware of what you're doing to make your socialising successful. If the advisor doesn't realise that the advised has no idea how these black boxes work, the advice isn't worth much to him.
Which is exactly why I said elsewhere in this thread that the only good advice comes when the adviser has seen the advisee (or many other advisees) make mistakes, which has the effect of breaking up the adviser's black box.
It's not at all clear to me why I'd enter the classroom in the first place, unless I had a corresponding roomful of women and was going to play Yentl for my own amusement. I don't really consider myself someone with expertise in the matter! Apart from a few vague hints like my remarks about meeting people through other people, I've confined myself to ethical claims, not practical advice. My ethical claims have been peppered with reassuring remarks that they don't spell practical disaster (excessively demanding ethical philosophies tend not to be very popular), but they are still just ethical claims. I don't have that stellar of a dating history to draw on for practical help: mostly, I collect admirers through the Internet and they turn out to live far away. In terms of actually going to a physical location alone with a romantic interest on an explicitly-purposed date, I've been on two.
Nevertheless, can you provide a reality check for cousin_it's imagination? Supposing you did seriously take up an invitation to teach pickup, and considered you had something to teach, would your first reaction to entering the classroom be to turn on your heel and walk out in contempt?

I wasn't trying to rail against Alicorn in particular. The general point is still worthwhile. The most evocative analogy I know is that males are entrepreneurs and females are customers: anyone who's ever been approached by slimy salespeople can empathize with most women by analogy, and anyone who's ever tried to sell a product to an uncaring world can empathize with most men. But by default neither side ever really understands how the other feels unless they take extreme pains to empathize, and most advice going over the fence ends up being useless or worse. Ethical advice given to men by women especially falls in this category, because you don't preach ethics to a starving entrepreneur who (unlike you) gets kicked in the face every goddamn day. It's... y'know... unethical.

It's the mental leap from "aw, I feel bad that you are having trouble selling your product" to "aw, someone should take pity on you to the point of buying your product" that presents the problem. I do feel bad for people who have trouble selling, but I categorically refuse to translate that into an obligation on the part of the target market! That kind of thinking scares the crap out of me, because that is the kind of thinking that leads to various evil behaviors up to and including rape.

Yes, but just the same, if you knew about someone having trouble selling a good product, and you took pity on them, one way you would probably not react is by approaching a group of such people and lecturing them in detail about all the unethical practices they shouldn't do, most of which only apply long after a sale, and many of which are commonly used by successful salespeople in a way that satisfies their customers.

And when you think about it, that's pretty much what you do here, if you apply the transformation:

make a sale --> get a date

unethical post-sale practices --> unethical relationship practices, abuse

annoying-but successful sales practices --> PUA techniques, feminist-disapproved language

See the problem?

In Analogy City there are a large number of people who have no education or work experience because they grew up on welfare and never had the opportunity for much of an education. A group of the nations best salespeople decides to do some community service and teach some of these people how to sell things on the street. Among what they teach:

  1. Don't wait to be turned down. Wash that car's windows and then demand to be paid, don't ask first. Take their picture, demand money. Hand them a homemade craft, then demand to be paid, etc.

  2. Be aggressive. The customer's money is your money, it just isn't in your pocket yet.

  3. Look extra poor so that rich people feel sorry for you and give you more. Employing young children is ideal.

  4. Go to neighborhoods Xington, Yville, and Zburg because thats where the unsuspecting rich liberals targets live and they won't be jaded enough to turn you away.

Nothing that is taught is illegal, quite. But some of the people in the city feel that teaching these methods is, nonetheless, irresponsible and dangerous. Do these people have a valid complaint? If they decided to replace the old salesperson teachings with something else would you be surprised if these ... (read more)

I seem to hold the uncommon view that both feminism and the teachings of most PUA types are compatible and good things

I agree that there is compatibility between pickup and feminism that is under-explored.

Both PUAs and feminists are heavily focused on the same thing: the needs and preferences of women, and how men can fulfill them. The amount of time and effort PUAs spend trying to figure out and cater to women's sexual desires is crazy. Furthermore, they often consciously make a choice to develop aspects of their personalities and identities that they know will be attractive to women.

Yet PUAs differ from feminists in their views of what women's preferences actually are. PUAs assess female criteria from what women respond to, which may not be the same as stated female criteria. Also, even though PUAs attempt to fulfill a subset of women's desires, they are not always trying to fulfill all of women's desires all the time.

Both PUAs and feminists make some errors in assessing female preferences, but feminists are more wrong: I would give PUAs a B+ and feminists an F (see this and this for some research on female preferences). (On average, feminist women differ from typical strai... (read more)

These discussions are always difficult because they involve comparing movements and schools of thought rather than propositions. PUA culture definitely includes lots of people without especially misogynist ideas. But it also is going to include people who really do have anti-women sentiments. Feminism is almost certainly more diverse. You seem more involved in those conversations than I am at this point so I'm sure you know this. So why do you think the feminist view on female match preferences is so contrary to the studies you list? I guess there are probably radical feminists who hold views about power dynamics in relationships which would contradict those studies- but surely liberal feminists (where I include myself) don't give a shit about the mating preferences of anyone. Obviously there are views in both camps that can't be reconciled, but I think the best of both can be. Great blog btw. Is there a post or a series of posts that will summarize your criticisms of feminism? You list of agreements on the site is almost enough for me to want to count you as a feminist.
Thanks... I plan on getting back to this post soon, either here or on my blog, and if I don't feel free to bug me.
Just curious, did you ever followup on this?
I'm actually writing up some stuff for my blog that addresses these issues. I'll link when it's up.
Ok, here we go... Here is an older post on my blog criticizing feminists who reduce women's preferences down to a desire for "respect" from men, and who deny that there are salient sex differences in women's preferences. The same tropes came up in recent debate between feminists and PUAs, where the feminists denied that anything PUAs do is actually attractive to women. (Generalizing from their own preferences, with no references to any sort of empirical evidence.) See my responses here, here, and here. There are a few more in the thread, too.
The 'off base' part is the 'insofar as'. Objections, even valid objections can be off base if they are red herrings, objections to positions that really aren't held or being expressed in the context. Of those analogies, it is ironic that '1)' and '3)' are actually among the first misconceptions that an analogous PUA instructor would drill out of a student. Covert contracts and supplication are terrible strategies and far more prevalent in conventional wisdom than in PUA subcultures.
All this might be the case. Like I said I don't think the PUA stuff is necessarily anti-feminist. But a lot of the commenters here do a pretty good job of being targets for these objections. Put it this way, it isn't a surprise we're seeing this reaction given some of the things that have been said. Edit: Adding that this entire discussion just looks like people seeing political signaling and then jumping on their respective bandwagons.
I'd like to read more on this, but I couldn't figure out from your comment whether it refers to a real-world event or it's just pure fiction -- all Google searches I tried lead to this comment. If what you wrote above is based on a real event, could you post a link to it? (To clarify -- I'm interested in salesmanship proper, not in getting laid.)
Analogy City is hypothetical.
Yes, I understand that -- I was wondering about the "Among what they teach" part.
Yes, as far as I know I made the whole thing up. There are programs at shelters which teach the homeless and recently homeless job interview skills and sometimes a trade. But I don't know of anything involving salesmen.
The 'Among what they teach' part was constructed more by translating objections through the analogy than by any significant reference to the reality of salesmanship. I do not think you can glean too much information about salesmanship from the comment in question.
I would be disappointed if you refrained from making this kind of contribution independently of the author out of deference to social bullying.
All these posts referring to people selling themselves as products and so on reflect an extremely commodified view of sex, which can be very harmful. I wouldn't continue with this analogy.
Well, understanding the relationship between men approaching with romantic interest, and salespeople approaching is very important, because men have a good understanding of -- and sympathy about -- the latter. I think the insight the analogy yields outweighs the negative connotations.
I'm a man, and I have little understanding and no special sympathy for salespeople, nor did I ever think of my romantic aspirations in terms of selling myself. I only ever had success when I stopped pursuing.
I meant sympathy for people being approached by salespeople. It's an especially important dynamic at play because women (supposedly) like being approached by some kinds of men, while (supposedly) view the others as similar to salespeople. So what makes a kind of advance wanted or unwanted? Therein lies the problem.
Oh, I see. I got the analogy backwards. (Should have reviewed the thread, obviously.) Receiving an irritating hard sell isn't anywhere near as threatening as receiving unwanted persistent sexual attention. The latter is an implicit threat of bodily harm. Even momentary unwanted sexual attention isn't like an unwanted sales pitch, because the fear is that it will turn into a longer interaction.
Yes, but unlike unwanted sales, unwanted sexual attention is counterbalanced by instances of wanted sexual attention, including when the "wantedness" gradually develops; while many people on principle refused to buy products pushed on them personally (e.g. through telemarketing), no matter how good the product might be.
Good point. That's why expected value is important. The problem is that with typical straight women, bland approaches and pursuit often doesn't work very well. As a result, the practice of men making non-bland approaches may be good for women on average in the big picture. How can that be? Let's assume that typical women require a behavior of type X to be attracted to a guy (or X, if not completely required, is very effective relative to other behaviors in attracting women). Yet women are creeped out when they are approached by men who display behavior X if those men also exhibit unattractive quality Y, or lack overall attractiveness from non-X sources. If so, we might have a very strange looking situation where most of the time, a man displaying X towards a woman will creep her out, yet simultaneously, a surprisingly high percentage of women are actually dating guys with behavior X! For someone to find a relationship, they need a reasonable pool of potential partners to select from. If the practice of men approaching and pursuing women in non-bland ways helps women get this pool of potential boyfriends, then that could be a good thing for women, even if results in creeping women out a lot of the time. What are the ethics of guys displaying behavior X when P( creepy | guy displays X ) = 90% but also P( guy displays X | guy is a boyfriend ) = 90%? I think it can be ethical, but it depends. If there is a similar behavior Z such that P( creepy | guy displays Z ) = 70% but also P( guy displays Z | guy is a boyfriend ) = 90%, then I think X becomes unethical because there is now a viable less-creepy alternative. And this is only talking women's interests, not men's. There is an optimal level of creepiness-risk in male approaches that gives women the pool of potential suitors they need to find boyfriends. Yet depending on how the numbers work out, that level of creepiness risk might be enough that women, especially of increasing attractiveness, are going to get cree
Also, many people do buy from telemarketers, and many people would never want unsolicited sexual attention. I'm not convinced you're talking about the ordinary cases here.
Most of those purchases from telemarketers are species of akrasia: they don't want to buy, but they feel impolite saying no. They would prefer the calls not happen in the first place, unlike women, who do prefer males to initiate some relationships with them. And I'm not sure you're using the term "sexual attention" correctly. It doesn't mean "offer/request for sex"; in this context, it just means any approach with romantic intentions that could ultimately lead to sex. To not want sexual attention means to not want any romantic partner, at least where you are not the initiator. So I don't think that's a relevant observation to my point. Speaking of your unusual perceptions of the ordinary case, were you really serious when claiming that you see a 50/50 female split in playing Magic and at rpg conventions? You must be the only one in the world who sees this!
Well I don't think I'm that bad of an observer, but I'd believe it's possible that people in the gaming groups / conventions I go to are the only ones that see this.
And the photographers at the same conventions all simultaneously taking unrepresentative samples, and the people who blog about these same conventions being poor observers, and you counting booth babes as attendees with whom a characteristic rpg lover has a realistic chance of a meaningful relationship...
2Eliezer Yudkowsky14y
Empirical test: Look for (SFW) photographs of reasonably randomly distributed groups (e.g. audiences, hallways) at a convention, post the first three samples found.
Eliezer asks so I deliver (MtG conventions): http://www.collectorsquest.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/magic_nationals_2008_player.jpg http://www.wizards.com/mtg/images/daily/events/pthon09/Players.jpg http://www.wizards.com/mtg/images/daily/events/usnat09/SF_AndersonGindey2.jpg This is cherry-picked slightly - I ignored some pics with relatively low numbers of people, and some pics that looked like they weren't in the U.S. (but these had few females in attendance too).
Thomblake only made claims about MtG players and RPG conventions; he specifically excluded MtG competitions. In the future, please don't make me have to defend Thom ;-)
Again I have failed. Actually I'm not sure I know what an RPG convention is... OK, some results of a Google image search for "RPG convention crowd": * http://farm1.static.flickr.com/88/228173741_969d7a39dd.jpg (Penny Arcade Expo, does this count as RPG?) * http://www.palladiumbooks.com/press/GCIndy2k4/crowd4.jpg (Gen Con Indy 2004) * http://s207.photobucket.com/albums/bb61/Ghastrian/Gen%20Con%202009/?action=view&current=2009-08-14142434.jpg (Gen Con 2009, not the greatest shot)
3Eliezer Yudkowsky14y
It would appear, based on this preliminary evidence, that reality is backing SilasBarta on this one.
I figured I'd do the same, but for conventions I actually go to. But it appears there are no pictures for Omnicon or Anonycon (the latter of which apparently means something different in the Internet at large). Group photos from Connecticon are easier to come by, but they have their own issues: (first three group images searching for "Connecticon photos" (no quotes)) http://media.photobucket.com/image/connecticon%20photos/systermatic_erorr/Connecticon%202009/Hetalia%20Cosplay/GroupShot.jpg http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3232/2737005806_b8caaa5548.jpg http://media.photobucket.com/image/connecticon%20photos/animegeer/connecticon%2008/connecticon08104.jpg I have no idea, looking at these photos, what the gender ratio is.
To add a single point of anecdotal evidence - as a geeky girl with a history of going to conventions (though I haven't gone to one in a while - I joined the SCA instead) - it really depends on the convention. I've seen quite a few that have much more balanced gender ratios than in the past (though not quite 50/50). Again, this is from purely anecdotal evidence - but it is my impression that those that involve cosplay or SF media/books are often more female-involved (and the photos thomblake has provided seem to imply that Connecticon may be one of these). Since I moved to the SCA the gender balance has improved markedly - the SCA is pretty much 50/50 because it has a really wide range of geeky/history/cosplay/martial-arts/crafts activities. Variety helps... I've found in my own experience that conventions that have a wide variety often have a higher gender balance. eg Swancon in Perth (Western Australia) has a good gender balance (on average) as does Supanova - both of which have a huge range and variety of activities...
Yep, none of the conventions I go to have booth babes, that I've seen. Though I realized I was counting "Anime conventions" and "multigenre conventions" in my mental picture of "rpg conventions" so that might unduly influence my estimate.
Could you explain more explicitly what this problem is? There are two meanings I could extract. One of which I would object to (but suspect you did not intend.)
Well, let me restate the problem: the best way for men to understand what women go through regarding unwanted sexual attention, is (supposedly) to think of how we regard salespeople. However, this analogy has a critical flaw in that women do not universally hate suitors who make advances, but only some of them, while people in general do hate salespeople, telemarketers, spammers, etc., irrespective of the merit of the product they're selling. The problem is to find a unified theory for what makes these different kinds of advances garner so much hated -- or not.
I don't think that's the problem. If advancing induces hatred in the woman, she was not likely to want you if you approached her in a different way (though if someone's on the fence, having some finess can help). I think the decision of whether or not a woman wants the advance at all is made relatively quickly. The real problem is to find a unified theory of how women want men to be, a much harder sell for men in the self-help section.
I can understand that much, but that still leaves a question unresolved. Let me put it this way: Would you say women dislike being approached by salespeople and telemarketers in a different (and stronger) way than they dislike being approached by men they're not interested in? Or are they in the same category? What if you compared pushy salespeople to pushy suitors that women have decided they're not interested in (at least not at the moment)? What if you compared salespeople to suitors that the woman not only isn't interested in, but considers out of her league entirely (i.e. below her)?
I think it's pretty important here to distinguish between pushy/persistant suitors (say, Steve Urkel) vs. people who get the hint. I'm not sure you're keeping that distinction in mind.
Considering that I broke the question down and considered those cases separately, I'm pretty sure I did keep that distinction in mind. It's an important issue with a non-obvious answer because of all the glowing stories you hear from women about how "Oh, when [husband] and I first met, he kept asking me out again and again and I kept telling him no, but then I realized what a great guy he is and now we're married!"
I don't recall hearing a story like this. The ones I hear usually go, "He kept asking me out again and again and I kept telling him no, and eventually I took to avoiding places where I might encounter him / documented his harrassment and went to HR / got a restraining order."
Well, I don't know who you hang out with, but I've heard that tale quite a bit. But you're absolutely right about one thing: many times it does in fact lead to the situations you describe, which creates a serious problem: if many women "encourage" and enjoy this persistant behavior, while others hate it ... well, a huge chunk of men will have expected positive utility from persistence, and most men will be in a difficult position: "Is this a real rejection, or an indication that I need to more seriously signal interest?" And of course, the "persistent" types cross over to those that don't like persistent men, making women worse off too. But at the same time, women arguably might not even want there to be a universal, reliable, required rejection signal [1], because men will know exactly how much interest they have to show! (ETA: which is bad because the signal given by a man's persistance is no longer a reliable indicator of his liking of/commitment to you, because all men will just shift to the minimum level of persistence, which thereby becomes uninformative.) [1] The signal I described means that if women actually like the guy, they must not give the signal, while if they don't like him, they must give the signal, no exceptions: no desires for persistent men that continue after receiving the signal. Note that violent resistance would not qualify as such a signal, because women do not, and would not commit to, using violence against every man they're not interested in.
In fact, at the higher end of the status game some of the early process seems to be in using the rejection signals used to deter lower status guys as tests to see if the guy has both the confidence and social experience to convey that those moves apply to those other guys, not him. At that level the difference between an engaged challenge and outright disinterest is usually clear and stalking is not a particular problem.
Amen! If the guy isn't confident enough to get over a little 'hard to get', then he's probably inexperienced and not worth bothering with. Many women do this both consciously and unconsciously. However, "Leave me the fuck alone," may be the unambiguous rejection signal you're looking for.
So, unless I hear "Leave me the fuck alone" (or similar variants), I can safely assume it's just a game of "hard to get"? I'll follow that advice, but only if you have to endure the consequences.
Well, I mean that it's a universal signal as opposed to varying in each person. There are many other signals that mean the same thing, but they are not universally applicable in all circumstances.

Okay then. For now, I suggest you consider the incentive structure that results from women who have held both of these positions at some time or another.

"Geez! Why can't this guy take a hint and buzz off?"

"Pff, only a complete wuss would go away just because I asked him to. If he were worth my time he would have kept it up."

This is an oversimplification of something very complex involving many subtle nuances. It's sorta like saying Newton was wrong because a bowling ball falls faster than a feather... What is meant by asked for example. "Leave me alone" vs "I'm just going to have to walk across that room mister," are not equivalent.

This is an oversimplification of something very complex involving many subtle nuances.

I'm sure it is, but just for the record, your explanation isn't going to deconfuse any poor male who isn't deconfused to begin with. (Perhaps you already know that.)

Well, pardon my frustration, but point of these questions is to make sense of and reveal these nuances, which is why the earlier answers you gave weren't what I was looking for. Obviously, if a woman says something sarcastic and teasing, that's ... flirting, not a rejection. The problem cases are more common and more ambiguous. If a request for a date is flatly turned down, how do you know if it's a test, or if further pursuit constitutes harassment? If I'm ignored, is that a test, or am I beting told to go away? It may seem clever to use this as a filter, but, as I think I've demonstrated, there are disastrous consequences to it. You can't simultaneously promote "No means No, morons!" and "I like when guys aren't deterred by rejection." The stakes are even higher when it comes to date rape, but I'm sure as hell not going to spell out the mapping on that one.
I think it's safe to say that the majority of women who flatly reject an offer for a date or continually ignore an advance, do NOT want to be pursued further. There are exceptions, and some people do change their minds, but if that's what you meant by 'rejection,' then No means No. Hard to get is a more complicated dance than "Will you go out with me," "Uhhh.... you're not my type. No."
But it's not nearly as simple as you just portrayed it. I mean, we all like to feel superior as we shake our heads in contempt at the poor guy who just won't give up. She's obviously not into you, man! She told you "no". Just let it go! Er ... until we look over there and see the women talking glowingly about how charming and romantic it was for her husband/fiance/current boyfriend to keep pursuing her even when she flatly told him no, and is now glad that he didn't take her seriously then. Given those cases, it's quite a bit more understandable why a man would refuse to give up on such an "obvious" case.
I'm not familiar with any such cases. Are they really as common as you think they are? Perhaps you're hearing these stories because they're exceptional?
Let's assume for a moment that these cases are exceptional. (I would in any case agree that they're not the norm, but not rare either.) Does that exceptionality not suffice to explain the commonality of overpersistent (and overcautious) men? Of the people heading to Hollywood with big dreams, the ones that become movie stars are the exception. Yet the potential rewards suffice to explain the hordes of people who try anyway. Of the people working up the corporate ladder, millionaire executives/VPs are the exception. Yet the potential rewards suffice to explain the hordes of people who try anyway. Of the people trying to become professional athletes, those that can make a living at it are the exception. Yet the potential rewards suffice to explain the hordes of people who try anyway. So the "woman who rejects firmly and later changes her mind" is the exception? So what. It's still understandable why such cases would have a disproportionate motive force. But I supsect that if there's any bias in counting up these cases, it would understate their availability in our recollection. Remember, once the suitor has become "the good guy", the halo effect kicks in. See now, my guy never acted in contravention of the "No means No" rule. See, I didn't give a real no. My guy isn't one of those freaks who would disobey the rules we promote... That's assuming she continues to remember her impression of him at the time of rejection in the first place. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- By the way: of the people voting on my comments in this discussion, your downvotes are the exception ;-)
Actually, they largely don't. There is such a thing as overconfidence bias, you know. Most people would be better off ex-ante if they did not try to become top executives, movie stars, or pro athletes. Similarly, contraventing flat, "just say no" refusals is not a rationally optimal choice.
I know -- I didn't mean they're justified by a standard rational utility maximization analysis. The point was just that it's consistent with general overconfidence/miscalibration we observe in people in many other areas, even under the unfavorable assumptions thomblake gave. ETA: Note that I said the incentives explain the numerous people who compete, not that the incentives justify such action. Also, I said it was "disproportionate motive force". And no, I didn't edit the original post just so it would have all that. :-P
More to the point, how do we trust these second- and third-hand stories to be reported accurately? My guess is that the "just say no" refusals were anything but, and that the stories are extremized. At the very least, the participants would have had plenty of side information which we'd know nothing about.
I know of no such cases.
I'll see your anecdotal absence of evidence and raise you another anecdote. (Two friends of mine, who recently got married, tell just such a story.)
Me neither. But I do often hear about such cases second-hand. So even if these cases aren't common, they may have a big impact on those who witness them.
Someone who says "I'm just going to have to walk across that room mister" or similar, is not necessarily being sarcastic/flirtatious. More generally, there's genuine uncertainty about "hard to get" plays: the best that can be said about them is that they are not solid evidence either way, although they do "up the ante", so they're not without effect from a "strategic" point of view. Luckily, a reasonably knowledgeable guy generally has collected enough bits of evidence to make a proper decision. Nevertheless, even the most confident pick-up artist would take a statement such as "leave me alone" at face value unless there was very solid evidence to the contrary. Most guys have the opposite problem: they are overconfident (or more rarely, underconfident) about their counterparty's interest in them, and find it hard to properly update their estimate in the face of available information. The only way around this problem is for such people to train in LessWrong-style debiasing and improve their "dating/seduction/etc." skills, as detailed in the OP. Focusing on the "nuance" of verbal statements is a mistake.
Yes. What leads to this impression? My impression is that the majority of males are underconfident. But it may vary depending on subculture and peer group.
Tangent, but there are two different kinds of "overconfidence": 1. Having beliefs that are more strongly peaked than is justified 2. Believing more positive things about yourself and your abilities than is justified If you're 95% sure that you will not be President of the USA, then you're underconfident in the first sense but overconfident in the second sense. The two sometimes go together in that if you believe you're better at finding out the truth than you are, you'll have more strongly peaked probability distributions than you should.
Some thread necromancy... Not yes. I remember listening to one PUA (don't remember the name, has a strong foreign accent) say that if they tell you to go away, you should tease them about it, and not go away. And for him, it apparently works. Great job there, women. I just love when I can't tell if you're serious that I should go away.
If you really can't reliably tell when people are being serious or not, err on the side of respecting their articulated preferences.
Good thinking! There are too many respectful men in the gene pool, let's try and thin them out a little.
If a man can become accustomed to ignoring women's requests for him to leave, making the judgment that his desires are more important than her sense of security, then does he still count as a "respectful man"? If not, then his breeding successfully doesn't increase the number of "respectful" genes in the gene pool either.
The same men that are currently respecting women's requests to go away, are generally respectful in numerous other ways, such as not beating them. If the same men simply invert their rules of engagement with respect to women who initially [1] tell them to go away, they are still going to be respectful in all of these other ways; it's just that they won't be at a reproductive disadvantage. (Even if you posit some effect whereby these respectful men infect the rest of their personality by doing this, they're still more respectful than the kind of man who doesn't currently obey requests to leave.) Of course, it would be even better if women only told suitors to go away when they really meant it, and strongly avoided all men that refuse to (even if they change their mind about him), but why should they change? I mean, this practice really only hurts non-humans such as high-functioning autistics. [1] Obviously, there's some point where even disrespectful men and this PUA go away.
Was this intended to be derogatory? I'm reading it that way, but as a non-human I'm not particularly good at judging questions of tone.
Nope (at least not to autistics...); I'm non-human too. Edit: By the way, when you casually wonder why people aren't as polygamous as you, I think that hurts your case for being autistic, but whatever.
I'm curious as to why you think that; so far as I'm aware, the general stereotype of autistics is that they're "logical" and have no natural skill for understanding social interactions (which is, of course, both imprecise and incomplete, though in my case they're probably pretty fair descriptions). According to that stereotype, at least, I would think polyamory would be proportionally quite popular among autistics (and judging by the way in which it clusters with other subcultures with disproportionate rates of autism-spectrum personalities like computer programmers and science fiction fans, this does seem to be true to at least some extent). For what it's worth, my diagnosis was AS and there seems to still be quite a bit of uncertainty about its relation to autism; the competing viewpoints I've heard are that AS is on the "autism spectrum", that there's no meaningful distinction between AS and high-functioning autism, and that AS and autism don't have much to do with each other at all. I lend the most credence to the first view, but not by much; the case for it is almost as unsupported as the other two. In any case, I'm not emotionally attached to either label.
It wasn't the intellectual agreement with polygamy on your part that I was asking about, but how you're able to convince so many to go along with it.
Ahh, now I see what you were getting at. Much as I hate to say it, I think you're giving me too much credit. While I've had a thoroughly delightful amount of success at polyamorous dating, I've only ever dated one person who I'd successfully seduced away from monogamy; she's also the most serious and long-term S.O. I've had. The other polyamorous relationships I've had (of which there have been 4-7, I think, depending on where you draw the line) have all been with people who already considered themselves to be poly. And while I have had a hand in convincing a couple other friends and acquaintances to give polyamory a shot, I don't think I deserve most of the credit there, as the social circles I'm involved with have plenty of other poly people, many more persuasive (to most people; I'm not sure whether rationalists are a special case) than I.
That just pushes my confusion back a level. If you're AS, how are you able to have such enormous social circles and ease of making strong enough personal connections?
Again, I wouldn't say enormous. When I say my social circles have lots of poly people in them, I'm really talking in terms of proportions. Of the 10-15 people I have strong personal connections with ("friends"), about half are poly. Among folks with whom I have less strong connections ("acquaintances"), that fraction is a bit lower, but still above that of an equivalently-sized random sample of liberal, geeky, college-educated people between the ages of 18 and 25. But yes, relative to other AS people, I am very socially successful, by dint of effort, analysis, and at least a decade of concentrated trial and error. I wasn't born with a fully-functional socialization module, but I've gotten pretty good at emulating one; combined with my many other enthralling character traits (like arrogance, which was also a learned behavior), I tend to do pretty well in many social situations. I also try to avoid (the many) social situations I don't yet understand well, which leads to my general social competence appearing to be greater than it is. These comments may provide further context and/or explanation.
Point taken. But is the gene pool really at much risk? It seems clear that the modern mating environment already penalizes abusive/disrespectful men more than almost all environments since the agricultural revolution. By the way, do you really care that much about the gene pool, or was that just a stray comment you threw out to vent your frustration? I agree that it would be better if women behaved the way you described. But currently, women who behave that way are also penalized; they can lose status through being labelled as a "bitch" or "dyke." This would change if direct aggressiveness in women (instead of passive aggressiveness) was more socially acceptable. But as it is, a woman who genuinely wants a man to leave will often eventually give in to his persistence just to avoid coming off as cold or unreceptive, even if she doesn't really come to like him much more. Would the kind of relationship that ensues from such an encounter be the type you want?
I care that being nice is a self-limiting policy. It would be one thing if the effects were limited to that interaction. But a policy of turning over all the opportunities to disrespectful men, because they're disrespectful, is only delaying and amplifying the problem, not working toward a solution.
Are you actually worried about the gene pool, or do you just think that "Nice guys" deserve more sex than they currently get?
In other words, do you get to ignore to ignore legitimate criticisms of destructive policies because the person who makes them isn't flawless? Yes, I think you do.
I don't understand what you mean here, could you rephrase it?
You replied to a criticism I made of a destructive policy by insinuating that I have embarassing qualities. Is that really appropriate?
I didn't mean any personal insult (I didn't even mean to call you a Nice Guy, which isn't itself an insult). The insinuation that you meant anything other than what you said was inappropriate, and I apologise. The argument ad genome is still silly though, the rate of technological advance is now so fast compared to the time-scale that natural selection operates on that we no longer have to worry about natural selection as a factor in our evolution. I do agree that destructive policies should be countered on a social level.
We don't need to worry much about population genetic changes due to selective pressures now... because they already happened. There is already dimorphism between the sexes: on average, men have greater upper body strength and slightly higher aggressiveness. Basically, on average men are bigger physically, and they have the potential to be bigger jerks. According to David Geary's Male, Female, the dominant hypothesis for greater male strength is sexual selection. Since women were more selective, men had to compete more fiercely, and strength was an adaptation for their competition. If a selection pressure was strong enough to create physical sexual dimorphism, then it was also strong enough to create mental sexual dimorphism, which could be the source of greater male aggressiveness (and greater male systemizing). So we don't need to worry that sex differences in preferences will lead males to evolve into being bigger jerks, because it probably already happened before we were even homo sapiens. We are having this conversation over 200,000 years too late.
See the second part of my reply to Wrongbot: "gene pool" is probably the wrong term to use here, but there are clearly societal effects that result from respectful men "erring on the side of not being a dick" -- that practice becomes more common, taught to later cohorts, and the dating pool gets saturated with disrespectful men. And again, though one could say that "erring on the side of being a dick" means being disrespecful, it would be wrong because the man would still be respectful in all other ways.
Yes, I find your "cultural evolution" argument plausible. Even within a cohort of men, there will be a learning effect, where successful behaviors are learned by operant conditioning and observational learning.
This sounds wrong to me, but maybe my intuition is failing. I had thought that the obvious reason for greater male strength is that men don't need to devote resources to having babies, and that physical strength is generally an adaptive use of resources. So it's not that men are stronger, it's that women are weaker: calories that they could spend building muscle have been diverted to baby-making, and to preparing for it.
Some of Male, Female is online, so you can see Geary's reasoning (emphases mine): -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- These differences in skeletal structure and the associated throwing competencies, combined with the large male advantage in arm and upper body strength, indicate strong selection pressures for these physical competencies in men. In fact, these sex differences are consistent with the view that the evolution of male-male competition in humans was influenced by the use of projectile (e.g., spears) and blunt force (e.g., clubs) weapons (Keeley, 1996; see also the Physical modules section of Chapter 8); during agonistic encounters, male chimpanzees often use projectile weapons (e.g., stones) and sticks as clubs and do so much more frequently than female chimpanzees (Goodall, 1986). The finding that men have a higher threshold and greater tolerance for physical pain than do women, on average, is also in keeping with the view that male-male competition is related to human physical dimorphisms, given that success at such competition is almost certainly facilitated by the ability to endure physical pain (Berkley, 1997; Velle, 1987); of course, women can endure considerable pain under some circumstances, such as childbirth. Nonetheless, it might be argued that these physical sex differences have emerged from a sex difference in the division of labor, such as hunting, rather than direct male-male competition (e.g., Frost, in press; Kolakowski & Malina, 1974). Although the sexual division of labor contributes to the differential mortality of men and women in preindustrial societies and might influence the reproductive variance of men, comparative studies of the relation between physical dimorphisms and male-male competition suggest that the sexual division of labor is not likely to be the primary cause of these physical dimorphisms (see also The evolution of sex differences and the sexual division of labor section
Thanks for tracking that down. I'm more sympathetic to this point of view than I was, but I think that one of its premises is unfounded. From your selection: That citation may answer my doubt, but this argument seems to be undermined by the extensive use of weapons early homo sapiens made while hunting, a point where they diverged pretty sharply from other primates. Weapon-use was also involved in male-male aggression, yes, but it doesn't seem overwhelmingly clear that sexual selection was the primary factor.
Other primates used weapons, too. Here is a famous one. Was the target of the first man-thrown projectile an animal while hunting, or another man? Who knows, but once one use was discovered, the second probably followed soon after. Sexual selection has two components: intersexual selection (mate choice based on preferences of the opposite sex) and intrasexual competition/selection (competition within members of your own sex. If weapon-use was related to male-male aggression, then it was related to the intrasexual competition component of sexual selection. Clearly, weapon-use would be beneficial both for hunting and warfare. But I wonder if these selection pressures were stronger in warfare? Animals don't throw spears back at you. Furthermore, even if male weapon-use is adapted for hunting, that doesn't necessary mean we are only seeing pressures from natural selection, not sexual selection also. As far as I remember from one of my anthropology classes, most of hunter-gatherer calories in certain societies don't come from hunting. The hypothesis is that male hunting skills aren't emphasized because of their importance for feeding people, which could be acted on by natural selection; rather, hunting had become yet another domain where males competed with each other to gain status and attract females. I can try to find a source on this.
Right. I don't disagree that male-male aggression played some role. I am just uncertain about whether it exerted a stronger selection pressure than the natural selection effect of hunting ability on survival. The sudden adoption of weapons which required upper body strength doesn't provide much evidence to distinguish between the two. And don't feel obligated to go out of your way to track down sources for me; I'd prefer to know more about this issue, ceteris paribus, but I don't think it's terribly important in the grand scheme of things.
Is there evidence that humans (or our pre-human ancestors) were less sexually dimorphic?
See the second part of my reply to WrongBot: though genetic selection, you are correct, isn't going to quickly produce a higher fraction of jerks, there is still a memetic effect, and one from dating pool saturation, and they suffice to show that "unilateral disarmament" just makes the problem worse.
"Nice Guy[TM]" is a particular term of abuse in feminist circles, where it means, roughly, "someone who is only being nice to you because he wants to get in your pants (and will probably react badly if you make it clear that he won't be able to)."
That's a harsher definition of "Nice Guy" than the one I absorbed from the portion of the feminist interweb that I've read so far, I understood it to mean (and used it to mean) a guy who is unattractive but thinks that he ought to be attractive since he is polite and considerate.
Unfortunately, the two are often assumed to be the same thing.
Hey cowards -- you can vote me down all you want, if that makes you feel better. It still won't change the f'ed up incentive structure that results from women favoring men who trivialize of their rejections. That is the real problem, not the fact that I'm talking about it.

Oh boy, I guess I'm one of the cowards.

I didn't downvote you for articulating an admittedly fucked up incentive structure. I downvoted you for bitterly criticizing all women because you find the behavior of some women to be inconvenient.

(Tangent: why dance around "fuck"? We all know what you meant, and I'm pretty sure this community has figured out that particular words aren't intrinsically evil.)

If you want to know what to do about the fucked up incentive structure that so irks you, it's really quite simple: don't be a dick. If you have to run the risk of ruining someone's evening or making them feel unsafe, that's really not worth a minor bump to your odds of getting laid on a particular night out.

1) It is appropriate to target women in general with this critcism. Even if they don't engage in this kafkaesque practice, they fail to criticize women for promoting it, even as they complain about the (predictable) results of this policy. When I dislike a practice common among "my own", I criticize my own, even and especially if I'm pure as snow on that issue. That goes double for when I criticize the countermeasures that only exist because of this practice. Why should I expect any less from women? 2) It's not about what I want, or about inconviences. If the good men unilaterally disarm by following your policy, their numbers get thinned out over time, as typically happens under unilateral disarmament. Why do you consider that to be a pro-woman policy?
You're going to have to present some evidence that "good" men are systematically disadvantaged in getting relationships if you want this to be a universally accepted premise in this discussion. But if we're only speaking anecdotally, then in my experience jerks find it easier to get laid, but good men find it easier to obtain long term relationships involving children. Anyhow, if you want to bring up the betterment of the gene pool as a serious argument, then you have to prove that abusive men are at more of a reproductive advantage than they were historically. And how do you get "unilateral disarmament" from "going away when a woman tells me to go away" anyway? What about the relationships that ensue from encounters that both partners enjoy and want to continue? Hint: the majority of healthy relationships. Women can't change the way they behave until they're assured that behaving with assurance and aggressiveness won't penalize them socially or put them at risk of violence (since women can't back up their assertiveness with physical force). You're severely oversimplifying the issue if you think it's just a matter of women "choosing" to behave differently than they do.
I did -- the PUA I mentioned. I can cite more if you want. That seems like an unnecessarily high threshold to meet. If a policy is destructive on its face, I needn't wait for the damage to suggest it not be done. That's game-theoretic terminology. "Uniltareral disarmament" refers to abandoning a selfish strategy (analogous to giving up your weapons in an international conflict), irrespective of whether the other players abandon it as well. I contend that giving up the strategy of "persisting after being told to go away" is a case of UD. Well, that's what we all wish were true and want to believe anyway. Recalling the earlier part of the thread I resurrected, there is a non-trivial number of cases of healthy relationships that originated from excessive persistence (edit: sorry, sentence wasn't complete first time around). What? Only telling a suitor to go away when you really mean it is aggressiveness? The entire problem I'm citing is that women tell suitors to go away in more cases than they really mean (at least retrospectively). That would imply that any problem would be in the opposite direction! I didn't say that it was. Remember, the problem I cite is not that women reject when they don't really mean it, but that they do so and also complain about men who ignore their rejections. You really can't have it both ways.
Please do cite more. Understand that your claims are difficult for me to just accept, because in my experience when women offer men a flat refusal, in the vast majority of cases they mean no. Yes, there are exceptions to this rule, but you seem to be implying that when women offer a flat refusal, there's a significant, even close to 50% chance that they actually mean yes. You need more evidence than the word of a PUA or an anecdote about a woman you know to support that claim for people who haven't had the same experiences as you.
People generally treat criticisms of one's own group differently from criticisms of other groups, though which is considered to be more acceptable varies. Compare "America: love it or leave it" and the reclamation of racial slurs, for example. I generally lean more towards the latter camp because, ceteris paribus, criticisms that come from within a group are less likely to have untoward motivations. I'm sorry, but the genetic argument is ridiculous. Even 500 years would be a preposterously short amount of time for a selection pressure this weak to have a significant effect, and I find it trivially unlikely that humans will both exist and not have mastered genetic engineering (assuming genetics are even still relevant) after we've seen another five centuries of progress.
Your argument would just as well prove that no one can criticize anyone outside their group. Surely you don't mean that? And how would it invalidate the argument? At the least, it would be a valid point to say, "I cooperate by monitoring behavior in my group. Why do you defect?" Right? Phrasing my point in terms of a gene pool might be imprecise, but there are relevant effects at all the relevant levels. For one thing, the genetic effects are augmented by memetic effects. That is, it's not that there's just a "disrepect women" gene that is being selected for. It's that children will learn from their parents, even if they don't say, "Hey, you've got to ignore women who tell you to go away." Second, there's the dating pool. If dating capability feeds on itself, then prematurely complying with a request to leave will cause the dating pool to be dominated by disrespectful men, and women increasingly believe that their only option is a disrepectful man. So there are enough natural selection-related effects that even if you ignore the purely genetic effects -- which as you point out, are going to be minimal -- that we do have to worry about the propagation of disrespectful men as a result of respectful men not using all the effective strategies that the former use.

Second, there's the dating pool. If dating capability feeds on itself, then prematurely complying with a request to leave will cause the dating pool to be dominated by disrespectful men, and women increasingly believe that their only option is a disrepectful man.

I've realized the same issue myself. At least, the "dating pool dominated by disrespectful men" part. It may not currently be the case that women believe that their only option is a disrespectful man. But I have noticed that some women seem to conflate high levels of care for their comfort and consent with wimpiness or a lack of masculinity.

If scrupulous men restrain themselves out of deontological moral principles, even if it's the "right" thing to do, what is the effect on the larger system? The effect is that our good little deontologists may select themselves out of the dating pool, leaving only men who are less scrupulous. That's good for women, how, exactly?

Silas is right that the incentive structure is broken. There are incentives for men to engage in advances that take risks with women's comfort levels (high-risk, high-reward), to fulfill common female preferences for excitement or being "... (read more)

I like the careful way you've picked this apart and have upvoted your comment. However, I'm wary that the logic has no bottom. If everyone gets worse to compete (there is no reason to suppose that only men who are scrupulous, or even only men who suppose themselves scrupulous, will do this), where is the floor? You have to hard-code in some deontic principle to prevent everyone from trending less and less careful. Depending on how fast things change, female choice on the whole could become irrelevant (if you ignore her when she says "no" once, and then ignore her twice to compete, and then four times because everyone got the last memo and you don't stand out anymore, and then...). If that happens, there's no way for the entire female gender to go "oh, crap! We don't like this at all and will start preferring sweet guys to incentive the behavior we want!" Female preference no longer needs to enter into the equation if ignoring it is the way to "succeed". Yes, this is a horror story; but I'm not actually sure it doesn't resemble things that happen on a smaller scale in some places. While we're talking about reconstituting the dating pool with incentives, why not just obey the stated preferences of all women whether you believe them or not, and thereby reduce the success of the ones who say "no" and don't mean it? That seems to make as much sense.

It's fun to watch you discover the visceral horror of natural selection, especially sexual selection. Yea that's right, there is no ground floor, you fall forever. If females exhibit even a mild preference for bigger tails, or bigger brains, or higher persistence, or whatever else, then in relatively few generations the tails or brains or persistence will grow preposterously huge.

About your last paragraph: everywhere in nature runaway sexual selection involves females selecting males for a disproportionate value of some characteristic, never the other way around. A population's changes depend on the mating criteria of females, not the mating criteria of males.

It's almost that absolute, but not quite. Regarding role reversal in sexual selection, Alison Jolly writes in Lucy's Legacy: Sex and Intelligence in Human Evolution, page 88-89:
No, because if you successfully convince most men to do this, then you will actually increase the selection pressure towards aggressive courting behavior. That's the bit that some men get so bitter about -- from their perspective, proposals like yours look just like deliberate attempts to weed the "nice guys" out of the gene pool, or at least the dating pool. Thus, the conspiracy theories about how women, the media, and "society" at large are collaborating to give men bad dating advice that increases selection pressures towards "bad boys" - i.e., those who don't comply with the advice. (Personally, I think it's silly to ascribe to malice in this situation what is adequately explained by failure to think in such a systemic and evolutionary fashion... which is too high a bar for the average person, regardless of gender.)
So, I take HughRistik's point to be that this would be a good thing for society to do, or maybe even a community, but that it is ineffective to the point of futility for an individual to do, and thus doesn't "make sense." I, personally, can't have more then a trivial effect on "the success of the ones who say 'no' and don't mean it," but I can have a large effect on my own dating success, simply because there are millions of the former and only one of the latter. A lonely boycott of lying women wouldn't be a good way to change women; it would just leave me with a smaller dating pool. As it happens, I do try very hard not to date or re-approach women who firmly say "no" (as opposed to "not now" or "maybe") and don't mean it, simply because I find that sort of thing annoying, and, as a geek, I can usually find enough geeky women to date that I don't absolutely need to hit on the less self-aware ones. I also find self-awareness pretty attractive, so the boycott carries a private incentive for me in that it helps me find people I actually want to date. Still, that doesn't mean that the boycott makes any political sense at all -- the average man who tried to participate in the boycott would simply go on less dates and be less happy.
Yup. And I'm not (yet) speaking about what is the most moral solution. Maybe it's the only "moral" solution for men to boycott women who incentivize male behavior that puts their comfort levels (and those of other women) at risk. Still, I think we can only decide the moral solution once we understand the practical problem. Yup. And not just boycotting for "lying" (or misstating preferences), but for incentivizing any behavior that takes risks with women's comfort levels. If someone wants to ask men to unilaterally disarm themselves of this behavior, that's fine, but they need to know the consequences of what they are asking, and that it will doom men who listen to spend long periods in saintly celibacy while women compete over less scrupulous men and form seemingly normal and happy relationships with them. "Follow our moral prescriptions that society doesn't believe are necessary, and martyr your dating life while changing nothing about society! Sign up here!" Exactly. The ability of individual men like you and me to circumvent this problem, and find women who don't have problematic preferences sets, doesn't make the problem go away on a societal level. There are only so many women without those problematic preference sets to go round.
Hmmm... If someone offered me paperclips, and I turned down the offer, I would want the being to keep offering. I don't know how this applies to apes, but it's something to think about.

Yes, this applies to apes as well. If an attractive woman offered me sex and I refused (most likely due to being busy with something or someone else), I'd want her to offer it again later. But in refusing I don't lie about my preferences: if I really mean to answer "never" I say "never", and if I mean "not now" I will say "not now". This is a frequent complaint leveled at human females: they often say words to the effect of "never" but later behave as if they'd said "not now", and vice versa.

I can see why that would be troubling as well. While User:Alicorn has provided clear reasoning why a human could reasonably turn down apey things -- just as I might turn down paperclips in the right circumstances -- it still does not make sense to claim you desire no paperclips, when you simply want to take possession of the paperclips later.
Apes often use words to achieve their goals, not just to make true information known. Claiming a falsehood may be beneficial. The ape may not even understand that it's making a false claim. For example, if persistence is genetically determined and good for reproductive chances, female apes will start filtering male apes for persistence by telling them "no" without meaning it (and maybe without understanding that they don't mean it). But even though such behavior is advantageous for individual female apes, ape society as a whole could benefit from denouncing it.
The antecedent doesn't seem likely to be true to me: wouldn't a high value male have lots of opportunities for mating, and thus not bother wasting time persisting in the face of someone who doesn't seem interested?
Grossly simplified, it works like this. If you're a low-value woman, you won't be testing a high-value man for persistence. If you're a high-value woman, a high-value man will still need persistence to get you. So being persistent doesn't hurt the man in either case.
Yes, but you would never turn down the offer in the first place, so it's moot.
Clippy might turn down an offer of paperclips if it was in the middle of manufacturing a larger batch via a process that could not safely be interrupted, but want the opportunity to recur when it was finished; Clippy might turn down an offer of paperclips if it believed that the offerer would, contingent on its acceptance, destroy a larger number of paperclips, but want the opportunity to recur when the destroyable paperclips were in the safe zone; Clippy might turn down an offer of paperclips if it believed that, by acting unpredictably/as though it has high standards for numbers of paperclips an offer must include to be accepted, it would be offered more paperclips. All of these scenarios have analogues to primate acceptance of offers to mate. ("I'm taken"; "he looks like he'd cause negative utility to me"; "I can't just take every offer that comes by or people will think I'm a slut and nobody decent will want me".) The most relevant scenario, however, is not one that would cause Clippy to reject paperclips under analogous circumstances. Clippy values paperclips qua paperclips and is less picky about them than the typical human is about romantic/sexual relationships. I can't think of a reason Clippy would reject an offer of paperclips when accepting wouldn't result in other paperclips being destroyed or not made and when the transfer of paperclips could be kept a secret. However, primates are often acting in accordance with their values in turning down clandestine, low-risk sexual relationships while single.
Thank you for this explanation. It makes more sense now. You're a good human. c=@
Please regard this as responsive to the substance of Alicorn's sibling post: "The reason that men (who care about women) can't 'just' obey stated preferences is because that effectively cedes the dating pool to men who aren't as respectful to women ... as I've said about six times now. "The reductio about an indefinite persistence threshold (if men ignore the first rejection, must they ignore the second, etc.) fails in that it is only necessary for respectful men to be as persistent as disrespectful men, and no more. This suffices to prevent disrespectful men from saturating the dating pool. Women, for their part, can 'opt out' of any negative effects of such a policy by simply being consistent with rejections, while men cannot (for the above reasons)." (I would have just replied directly, but that would make me a terrorist.)
Silas, if you can't address Alicorn directly, then it's probably not best to address her indirectly by asking me to pass an argument along to her. (Update: Thanks for changing your language to make your post more clearly directed towards me.) However, I'm planning my own reply to Alicorn, and if you think there is a point that I am leaving out, or something that needs to be emphasized, I invite you to reply to me personally either in the thread (if your reply is framed as a communication to me rather than to Alicorn) or by PM. If I agree with an argument that you pose to me, or convince me that a certain point needs more emphasis, then such an argument might naturally find it's way into my discourse not just with Alicorn, but in general. Agreed. Well, there are ways to be successful while acting consistently with the stated preferences of some women, but it still requires a bunch of work-arounds and a greater level of attraction. Well, in the short term, yes. But if more men start pursuing in an aggressive way, then there is more competition, which could create incentive to pursue more aggressively than other men. On the other hand, there could be a ceiling on how much aggressiveness in advances can be successful. This sounds like an empirical question. There are some cultures where men pursue women very aggressively in ways easily cause street harassment, and it's plausible that these norms occurred through a run-away process where men had to one-up each other in terms of aggressiveness. Theoretically, yes. But there are some additional practical considerations given that women have preferences for masculine, culturally successful men. It could be that in a certain culture, what is considered "masculine" mating behavior also risks making women uncomfortable a large proportion of the time. Unattractive men who exhibit that behavior are considered an annoyance. Attractive men who exhibit that behavior are accepted as mates. Men who do not exhibit that behavior i
Please just reply directly, instead of making these kinds of comments. No one (except Eliezer) has the authority to tell you not to reply to someone's comment on an open comment section.
I appreciate you having the courage to voice that opinion openly. (This was a very contentious issue, if you can believe it...)
You're right, I don't mean that. I would say, rather, that the burden of conscientiousness is greater when one is criticizing a group to which one does not belong; dangerous thoughts and all that. My problem was not with what you were saying, necessarily, but that the manner in which you said it ignored this burden of conscientiousness. If you had said, "I cooperate by monitoring behavior in my group. Why do you defect?" I doubt I would have had any problem with the comment. Why do you make the bolded assumption? In cultures where long-term monogamous relationships are the norm, dating capability annihilates itself by taking those who possess it off the market. And for that matter, why are you worried about women increasingly believing that disrespectful men are their only option? If disrespectfulness is a self-reinforcing phenomenon as you suggest, we should expect to see respectful men as almost entirely marginalized. And yet the past fifty years have displayed the opposite trend: there is much more belief now that women should expect/demand a certain level of respect from their romantic partners. Whether or not this is acted upon proportionately (and while I suspect that it is, I have neither scientific nor personal evidence that this is so), I'm not sure how your model explains what evidence I do have.
Okay, but that's exactly my complaint. Now what? I'm referring to confidence effects: i.e. the more success you have earlier, the more you have later. We do -- hence the widespread phenomenon, noticed even among women, of women being attracted to "bad boy" types, which was attenuated in more conservative eras. Plus, the increasing frequency of divorce and domestic violence.
[citation needed]
Divorce has been on a steady upward trend. If fraction that are due to domestic violence is constant, that's all that's necessary for my point. If not, you're right, I don't have e.g. battered women's shelter stats handy, but even if you ignore that part, the divorce rate alone is strong enough evidence.
The divorce rate increasing is not good evidence that domestic violence is increasing. It can be explained by divorce becoming easier legally (no fault divorce), less stigmatized socially and less financially crippling for women (they have more opportunity to generate their own income and arguably divorce has become more favourable to women when it comes to dividing up assets). Increased social awareness and decreasing tolerance of domestic violence could also lead to increased divorce rates without the domestic violence rate increasing. Women are less likely to feel trapped in abusive relationships by social and economic pressures than they were in the past.
Also, changes in social attitudes would also have increased the reporting of domestic violence.
I had the same reaction. I'd be surprised if this is true since violent crime generally has been on a downward trend. I did some googling and couldn't turn up much data, though a couple of hits seemed to support my suspicion that this is a difficult question to answer due to historical widespread under-reporting of domestic violence and a suspected increase in frequency of reporting more recently.
I'm not sure why this is evidence that women increasingly believe that disrespectful men are their only option or that respectful men are almost entirely marginalized. Is the argument that the increased number of divorces largely affect respectful men, in that when divorces were more difficult to obtain, women could only obtain divorces when their spouses were demonstrably problematic (and therefore, more likely to be disrespectful), and that easier divorce procedures allow women to divorce respectful men more easily? I'm not an expert on either current or historic divorce law, but it's my understanding that under earlier regimes, in many instances, women could not obtain divorces easily even with abusive husbands, because of proof difficulties. Perhaps more easily obtainable divorces just allowed more women to divorce disrespectful men.
To everyone making this same brilliant point: the divorce rate continued to increase after the relaxation of these restrictions on it, which would mean we're not just seeing the conversion of "would have divorced" cases. And if the causes after that relaxation remain constant in relative proportion, that means more domestic violence.
But assuming there is more domestic violence, and that women are initially marrying more abusive and/or disrespectful men, if there's also more divorce, this could mean that women are less tolerant of these abusive disrespectful men. So does it provide evidence for women increasingly believing that disrespectful men are their only option or respectful men being almost entirely marginalized?
Alright, point taken. Because I can't reliably document a trend of men becoming more disrespectful, obviously there's nothing to worry about with an incentive structure that penalizes men for being respectful, and women should keep using "doesn't listen to me" as a standard for which men they like, and also complain that men don't respect them enough.
I'm sure we all appreciate the basic math lesson but you haven't provided any evidence that the proportions have remained constant and given all the cultural and legal changes affecting the divorce rate there is very little reason to expect that they would.
Just because that PUA gets women after they've told him to go away, doesn't mean that when they told him to go away they didn't mean it. It just means that he eventually changes their minds (at least temporarily). There's a Master vs. Slave thing going on.
But if they don't stick to their original rejection, then they are incentivizing (there, I finally started using that word!) the very behavior they claim to oppose. Yes, I had earlier drawn the analogy to akrasic purchases from telemarketers. But why aren't there women who, on principle never go out with a man they rejected once, just as there are people who, on principle, never purchase a product through telemarketing / spam? Edit: And why isn't there social pressure against going out with a man you had recently rejected, just as there's social pressure against buying from telemarketers / spam. ("You idiot! That just encourages them!")
I think Silas is actually pushing in a correct direction. I'm just not sure there needs to be a solution. The thing is, if you're a (straight) man, it's no credit to you if you're with a woman who's a pushover. And if you're a (straight) woman, it's also no credit to you if you're with a man who's a pushover. Having a date who can stand up to you is a sign that you're a quality person -- persuasive, attractive, admirable, etc. And as long as men are proposers and women are accepters, this means that women want men who are relentless in pursuing them, and men want women who relentlessly evade them. (Something like the Cary Grant/Katherine Hepburn dynamic.) I don't see this as a problem ... in most cases. Obviously we don't want men to threaten or attack women. And we don't want too much of a stigma against women who say "yes" right away. But, appropriately moderated, it's not a terrible dynamic. And I think we do moderate it; increasingly, people consider rape unacceptable, and consider female sexual eagerness acceptable, if a little ill-advised.
Okay, but how would men get reliable advice on which kinds of "standing up" are okay, and which kinds convert them into an evil terrorist creepy stalker guy that all women should stay away from? Or to distinguish between "stop for real" and "try harder"? And how would the existence of this advice not destroy its usefulness to women, as I warned about before? Edit: And if there doesn't need to be a solution, that suggests I shouldn't care about date rape, stalking, abuse, etc. because this is all just the predictable result of women filtering for non-pushovers. But that's ridiculous -- surely, something needs solving.
Is it not obvious that physical force, or the credible threat of physical force, pushes things into a new category? Maybe it's just that I'm used to a traditional, hard-and-fast understanding of the word "coercion." Are you, personally, Silas, ever unsure if you're being a stalker?
I, CronoDAS, personally, have frequently been unsure if I'm being a stalker.
Physical force includes a sexual advance that isn't welcome. If women react the same way whether or not the advance is welcome ... do you want to finish that sentence? I've been kicked out of a group and given a very kafkaesque explanation after I tried to contact a female who had been friendly toward me, but then suddenly did a 180 and became (somehow!) ultra-scared of me before I had a chance to understand what was going on. I've heard several females complain about a guy who followed them to or from home and yet suffered no consequences. Sadly, the answer is yes. And even more sadly, these women know exactly what they need to do differently, but don't do that.
But women usually don't react the same way to welcome and unwelcome advances. At the very least, women are far more likely to react positively to a welcome advance than to an unwelcome one. Therefore, a negative response should cause you to update your estimate of her receptiveness down. Maybe not to zero, but definitely below 50%, and don't you want to err on the side of not causing her significant fear or distress? I'm not sure what your second to last paragraph even means--elaborate? As for women knowing exactly what they need to do differently, you still haven't addressed my point on the social penalties for women who behave assertively (by sticking to their guns instead of yielding to pressure and giving in despite an initial refusal). At any rate, why are you putting the onus on women? I might as well say that if men just changed so that they always respected women's stated preferences, then women would soon adapt to become more honest and direct. But don't you see how this is just wishful thinking? Instead of bemoaning the fact that people don't behave the way you'd like them to, try to think of ways that the current social structure can be changed. Perhaps by persuading parents to teach their sons to be more respectful and their daughters more assertive, portraying respectful men and assertive women more positively in entertainment, and so on.
Of course, but the point is this only counts as weak evidence. No, not to zero (that's impossible), and probably not even to 50% (given the tendency of women to change their minds on account of persistence, as some women here have already testified to). And like I've explained several times already, I don't want to err in the direction if it means ceding the romantic world to men who are even less respectful of women (see the end of this comment, or heck, any post I've made today on this topic for why unilateral disarmament is dangerous in this case). I'm not sure what I could say that would make it clearer than it already is. Women have told me that men have done things much closer to stalking than I have ever conceived of, yet received nothing in the way of punishment. Yes, I did, because you claimed that they face an incentive structure that causes them too be insufficiently assertive, yet the very problem under discussion is that they act too assertively, in that they reject more often than they really mean (assertiveness is not in general bad, of course). Since you've cited a factor that would have the opposite effect from what you need it to in order to make your point, I'm not sure why you think it's relevant. There's a fundamental difference that breaks the symmetry you assert: for men to always respect is an "unstable equilibrium", while for women to always be truthful is not. In other words, the more men we convert to respectful, the stronger the incentives are for the remaining men to ignore rejections from women because they have less competition for these women. Any universal practice of respect by men would be instantly shattered by the tremendous incentives for any man to defect. In contrast, for women to be truthful does not increase the incentives for other women to use fake rejections. That is why addressing it on the male side is much more of an uphill battle, and one which rewards exactly the wrong men. As for what to do, am I not doing ex

And like I've explained several times already, I don't want to err in the direction if it means ceding the romantic world to men who are even less respectful of women


It seems to me that you'd be better off preferring women who are more direct and open about their preferences (since I assume you prefer this within a relationship as well as at its start), and taking explicit rejection at face level would help select for this.

You would indeed be filtering your dating pool, but in a fashion that accords with your preferences.

But what if I don't like either of those women?! (Edit: Because this might seem a bit subtle, I was implying that there are only two women who are direct and open about their preferences, not that I dislike both direct and indirect types of women.) (Edit2: Incidentally, this has kind of already happened once in that I asked a woman out the day I met her in a group I went to the first time, and she said no, but then two days later out of the blue tracked me down and reversed her decision. But, since every group persistently treats me as an outsider, I can't yet make such occurrences regular.) (Edit3: As usual, such non-advice advice assumes that there's a massive pool of women I can easily rotate through for compatibility, or that I can trivially conjure one up; and for which I already know the unspoken rules of engagement for such situations [despite having lived a life for which I got actively harmful training sets]. But why would I need advice if I could even get that far?)
I got your joke the first time ;) Even to the extent that women (or anyone) are capable of correctly articulating their preference set, there simply isn't any norm encouraging women to do so in interactions with men. Men are supposed to figure it out. This may not be a bug; it may be a feature of common female decision processes around men, consistent with greater female selectivity and testing of men. The problem is that different, and mutually exclusive female preference sets exists. What's a man to do in that case? When men must choose their behavior under conditions of uncertainty about female preferences, the incentive is for men to cater to the most common preference sets in the female population until they have more information. Mutually-exclusive female preferences wouldn't be such a problem if men could just explicitly ask women what their preferences are. Yet there is a disincentive for men to do so! Imagine a man on a date asking a woman "sooo, are you one of those women who like to be asked for a kiss goodnight, or are you one of those women who just wants me to go for it?" would solve so many sorts of problems that men deal with. Yet it would generally be seen as weird or unattractive for a man to ask such a question on a date. And a woman who finds it unattractive when men ask for kisses probably also finds it unattractive when men ask about her preferences for kissing. The problem is recursive: it will also be unattractive to ask if someone doesn't mind being asked about their preferences. Unfortunately, it seems that according to some of the common female preference sets, explicitly asking about their preferences signals undesirable qualities, such as lack confidence, hesitancy, lack of ability to read her, and accordance of higher status to her preferences than his. It seems that the preference of some women for men to basically read their minds is so strong, that they are willing to risk men making them uncomfortable by making guesses about th

lack of ability to read her

When I read this, it made me wonder how much of my staunch insistence on obedience to stated preferences has to do with my identification of myself as unreadable. (People trying to guess what I want by looking at me do not do appreciably better than I would expect them to if they were presented with a written summary of the immediate context. Some people do worse than that.) But if I am unusually hard to read - and I may well be - then I should be cautious in generalizing my preferences to others with different relevant traits.

It seems that you are capable and interested in explicit discussions of your preferences, and that you think analytically about them. What do you think is the link between your emphasis on stated preferences and identification as unreadable? Do you think, "hey, I know I'm unreadable, so I'll give you the information you need to know explicitly instead of expecting you to make guesses? Or do you think it is part of a general social orientation towards explicit communication, and away from implicit communication? I agree that you are probably atypical in this regard. As far as I can tell, the preferences of mainstream heterosexual women (MHW) have the following features: 1. MHW are consciously unaware of the majority of their preferences. 2. MHW have difficulty articulated their preferences in ways that match up with their choices and responses, according to observers. 3. The portion of their preferences that MHW articulate and are aware of is like the tip of the iceberg of their actual preferences. 4. One of the preferences of MHW is that men guess their other preferences. 5. MHW select men on their ability to satisfy preferences that they don't/can't articulate or that they aren't even aware of. If someone doesn't like explicit analysis and discussion of their preferences, then this is actually quite a reasonable strategy. It just has negative externalities on men, and on women like you who don't share those preferences, by training men to behave in ways that are counter to what you would prefer.
I'd actually say that all of the ones you listed apply to most, if not all, human beings (replacing "MHW select men... " with "People value people"... ). I'd also say that this is human nature and extremely difficult, if not impossible, to modify.
They definitely apply to people, but they seem to apply more to mainstream heterosexual women. See this article on my blog for some research. Women's preferences for male behavior (e.g. masculinity) has more potential collisions with ethical behaviors (e.g. asking someone preferences) than men's preferences in women do, since men just don't care so much about behavior. Men are under more behavioral constraints.
I didn't know you had a blog. It looks nifty. Reading the archives now.
Hope you find it interesting. It's a group blog, so not all of it is written by me, and it's written in a slightly more polemical style than I use for LW. Here are some of the posts which have some of my best arguments (though they are most a couple years old, and I could probably articulate some things better nowadays): * http://www.feministcritics.org/blog/2007/01/04/are-men-oppressed-part-1-double-standards/ * http://www.feministcritics.org/blog/2007/01/08/are-men-oppressed-part-2-systematic-mistreatment/ * http://www.feministcritics.org/blog/2010/01/04/do-nice-guys-finish-last-noh/ * http://www.feministcritics.org/blog/2010/02/24/pickup-and-seduction-techniques-for-feminists-noh/ * http://www.feministcritics.org/blog/2007/11/09/sifting-through-the-feminist-sand-castle/
Your coauthors seem cool too. It's all so... so sane. I realize I sometimes come off as LW's resident screamy feminist/ethicist/footstomping engine of disapproval, but I have my own issues with anti-discrimination type movements in general and can extrapolate to how men poking at gender issues might feel. Your blog (I just read all the posts you linked and am on page three of the general archive) is thoughtful and seems to handily avoid kneejerk reactions in any direction, so yay for it. :) P.S. I love the quote by Mystery about "comfort". I still have the impression that pickup material in general is some nice things in a big box of nastiness, but I am pleased that you have gone to trouble of sifting out some nice things so I can be aware of them and enjoy their niceness.
Thanks, I'm glad you got something out of it. I really enjoyed your blog post on "Abstracted Persona of the Anti-Ism Community At Large" (TAPAICAL). I think that wherever one's sympathies and experiences lie, it will be obvious to a rationalist that TAPAICAL has some very bad epistemic hygiene. You captured some of the biggest problems here: I'm willing to concede to TAPAICAL that Oppressed People have valid moral claims. I'm not willing to concede that just because Oppressed People deal with shitty, unfair things, that their conceptual analysis about those shitty, unfair things must be correct. I'm willing to concede to TAPAICAL that, on average, Oppressed People have some special insight into society and the fairness about how they are treated. I'm not willing to concede that such insight is so absolute that allies to Oppressed People should just turn off their brains and follow TAPAICAL blindly. TAPAICAL doesn't just seem motivated to be right, TAPAICAL is also motivated by power. As you observe, even though TAPAICAL is willing to admit in principle that it is fallible, it responds negatively to any challenges to its core ideas from outsiders. Even insiders need to be careful challenging TAPAICAL's doctrines, lest they be accused of "internalized oppression" or "collaboration." As a result, conceptual trash builds up in TAPAICAL, and nobody, either inside or outside, can clear it out. It's especially frustrating dealing with TAPAICAL when you agree with many of its moral claims, but you just have a problem with some of the exclusionary concepts it is using. If TAPAICAL would just fix the obvious problem, or respond satisfactorily to your criticism, then you could hope right on board. But since TAPAICAL is motivated by political power, it won't. Instead, TAPAICAL treats an attempt at criticism as an act of war that must be retaliated against, rather than responding to criticism the way a rationalist would. If you aren't with TAPAICAL, you are against it. Yo
I think the link goes like your first guess. Also, I find that one of the things I am most interested in learning about the people around me is whether they are disposed to respect my preferences. If I rely in their ability to read me - which I expect, for good reasons, to approach nil - then what they do isn't informative about that disposition. They might be trying to do exactly what they think I prefer, and be annoying me because they have bad information, not because they choose to act at cross purposes. If I tell them what I want (and that I'm unreadable, etc. etc.), then their behavior becomes informative about their disposition to respect my preferences. Then, if they demonstrate that they have this disposition, I can choose to be around them more, and if they demonstrate that they don't, I can avoid them and try to limit their influence on my life. I agree with all of your numbered remarks and the summary at the end, except for a small caveat about (2). While it is true that MHW will articulate preferences that may not resemble the ones they reveal through behavior, and true that their articulated preferences are suspect, I think their revealed preferences are suspect too. The most obvious case of this is the known tendency of abuse victims to re-create the patterns that have been characteristic of their prior relationships. This looks like a revealed preference to be an abuse victim. I consider this little to no evidence in favor of the conclusion that the people exhibiting this behavior prefer to be abuse victims. This leaves a bit of a muddle the question of where reliable information about common MHW preferences might be obtained. It looks sort of grim. You could try to extrapolate from people more likely to have accurate articulated preferences (like me), but the very factors that make me more likely to have accurate articulations probably also affect what it is that I prefer. (For instance, I prefer that people take my articulations at face value, wh
You can ask this in an attractive and confident way, and it'll go over fine. It's the insecurity that would be seen as unattractive. "So tell me what you like. You like it when a guy does X?"
Maybe in some cases, sure. What evidence leads you to this claim? Basically, with sufficient attractiveness, confidence, and charisma, you can get lots of things to work. That doesn't make such behaviors optimal, even for men who have those qualities. Furthermore, confidence and charisma take time and experience to build, so it's problematic to require them for what should be very basic dating tasks. It creates significant barriers of entry for men... but maybe that's not a bug, but a feature. The Old Spice "experience" commercial put it very well:
I'd be surprised if you disagree, based on your other posts. If you're asking for actual studies, I can cite studies that show the dominance of non-verbal over verbal communication though some famous ones have been criticized on the grounds that they don't accurately reflect normal social interactions. (Also see this applied to cryonics.) Yes, exactly! Optimal, in this situation, is probably just kissing without hesitation. My point was that if you really want to ask someone's preference about something in general, you can do it in a confident way, and you probably won't lose points for it. Yes, but the only way to build them is to practice doing things (like asking how someone wants to be kissed) with confidence. Also, you don't have to be George W. Bush, you just have to be able to ask a question confidently.
I would hypothesize a nontrivial subset of women who would be turned off by such a question even when asked charismatically. Maybe I just view this is a more unattractive question than you do, though it do acknowledge that it will work just fine with nontrivial subsets of women also. I think this depends on the wiring of who you are dealing with. With some people, the best you will be able to do is partially mitigate the loss of points. We seem to agree that it's possible to surmount this barrier to entry with practice (and often lots of failure). I'm just pointing out the problematic nature of barriers to entry for men in the dating market that women are not subject to. The primary way for non-intuitively attractive men to efficiently learn to navigate the dating world is to go through a period of practice when they make lots of women uncomfortable, and forge their own emotions in a crucible of rejection until they can satisfy women's greater selectivity for behavioral traits and play the role of initiator. The fact that some individual men (including myself) can triumph over this system does not make it not broken. What didn't kill me made me stronger, but I wouldn't be surprised if 10 years down the line I run into emotional damage that I'm incapable of recognizing now because I buried it so deeply out of practical considerations.
Have you tried online matchmaking sites? A priori, these seem like the natural solution to this kind of problem, and I've furthermore heard some anecdotal evidence that they work. Of course, I'm not an expert on this, don't have much data, and haven't even tried it myself. But it sounds like it might be worth trying, if you're seriously interested in finding a mate.
That's pretty much what I was thinking about saying, with the addendum that, SilasBarta, I think your desire for straightforward communication is a good bit stronger than a preference.
How so? To the extent that I make a big deal about this, it's because of concerns for others: a) the general effect on the pool of men that women typically encounter, and b) the fact that putting me between a rock and a hard place inevitably leads to me making decisions that others dislike. Certainly, I do prefer directness, but that's not why I start these discussions and introduce game theoretical concerns; and, if I had assimilated the unspoken rules of engagement about e.g. what pursuit actions increase attraction after a rejection, what rejections are real, etc., it wouldn't bother me so much and wouldn't rank so highly as a preference.
As you have experienced, being given advice without recognition of the difficulties and costs of following it is not necessarily useful. I will tentatively suggest two reasons (in addition to the possibility that many women just like being dominated)-- one is that a lot of women are unsure of their own desires in regards to men, and afraid to act on them if they know what they are. The other is being afraid that telling a persistent man to go away and meaning it is actually dangerous. To the extent that either motive is in play, it would take a great deal of work for women to change what they're doing.
Point taken, though I'd note that it's equally unuseful for women to complain about aggressive behavior from men without recognizing the position they put men in with inconsistent treatment of persistence. This would just as well be a reason to offer greater understanding to men who are too persistent, as they have no way of knowing if that persistence is wanted. lmnop was making a similar point, and I don't understand it. If women reject men in more cases than they really want (and this is apparent from those like SarahC and LauraABJ who merrily encourage men to keep trying, and ridicule men who don't), then it means their incentives to turn men down is too high. It can't explain why women are too reluctant to reject.
What about consistency bias? A person might end up remembering an encounter as more romantic/intimate if she were involved in physically intimate acts and hadn't screamed "rape;" so if a guy takes any less than the maximum of liberties he could without provoking objection, he's left some potential attraction on the table.
That's an additional possibility, but I'm not feeling particularly sympathetic to that hypothetical man. What I'm apt to see is accounts by women who have to work to figure out whether some sexual situation that they didn't like (or worse) was bad enough for them to feel justified in not liking it.
But if you, personally, are less respectful of women's requests, this won't make men who are less respectful than you any more inclined to be respectful. It may lead them to be even less respectful (ie engaging in coercion or assault) because they're now under more competition. Besides, by continuing to be respectful of women's requests, you wouldn't be "ceding the dating world," you'd only be ceding the portion of the dating world that's comprised of women who consistently give false rejections, which in my experience is a clear minority. Whereas by adopting a policy of ignoring women's rejections, you're likely to hurt the majority, who rejected you honestly. This seems unethical. Regarding your claim that stalking, sexual assault and other "ills" would decrease if women were only more honest--serial rapists are great at deluding themselves into thinking the women they raped "wanted it." Even if more women were completely honest in their rejections, how do you know that some men wouldn't simply delude themselves into thinking otherwise, thus internally justifying their behavior? Thank you for clarifying that paragraph. I wasn't sure whether you were indicating whether the women or the stalker men didn't receive punishment. It seems that you mean the men. You would be correct. Perhaps good men should band together to punish the men who behave threateningly to women, for instance by socially ostracizing those men and making it clear that such behavior is low status?
Good point. I find your reasoning plausible in this particular case. I don't consider there being a great incentive on men to ignore explicit female rejections on an approach, because I don't see such behavior as actually granting a significantly higher probability of success most of the time. I do think there are other situations where common female preferences create a tradeoff between what is most likely to work, and what women are most likely to be comfortable with. For example, a man approaching a woman in public at all risks making her feel uncomfortable, yet there are incentives for men to do so. Similarly, kissing someone at the end of a date without asking has a higher risk of causing discomfort than kissing after asking, but also has practical issues because a certain percentage of women prefers to not be asked (sorry, only anecdotal evidence from female friends on that one). There are always going to be deluded people, sure. But wouldn't it be a good thing if there was less delusion-fuel floating around?
When you say "prefer not to be asked", are you just referring to not wanting a verbal question, or does it include not wanting something like a move toward kissing which includes a pause to check for (at least) receptiveness?
I was thinking of preferring to not get a verbal question. It may be the case that some women also find it sexy when men (they are attracted to and have had an interaction with) move in for a kiss without pausing. I don't know the percentages on either of those questions, and I think the second set of preferences is less common and may not need to be worried about so much. Does anyone know of any studies that ask people how they like to receive sexual advances? This would be interesting to study, but difficult because of social desirability bias.
OKCupid has a lot of data on that; several of their questions that cover it. But they haven't published their data on the OKC blog, just their results, and they haven't published that particular result yet--possibly because of PR concerns. Unfortunately, I doubt that even anonymized self-reporting would accurately reflect the real-world results on something like that.
Certainly it would be nice if there were less delusion-fuel, as you call it, floating around. But I'm guessing that most men who make a habit of ignoring women's preferences won't actually change their behavior if the minority of women who lie becomes a smaller minority. They will just find another rationalization. If we really want to reduce stalking, assault and other such behaviors by men, then I don't think targetting women and demanding that they be more honest will be a very efficient use of our time. Abusive men are far more likely to be dissuaded by scorn and social ostracization directed at them by other men, and that's something concerned men can implement directly.
Sure, there will always be some diehard jerks. I'm more concerned with well-meaning guys who engage in behaviors that take risks with women's comfort levels (which is a broader category than "ignoring women's preferences"). Maybe not, but I do think that if there was less incentive for men to take risks with women's comfort levels when making advances, we would see less of certain classes of unwanted advances. Furthermore, if there were less messages (both from women's behavior and from the culture) that women like certain personality traits and behaviors (see the Draco In Leather Pants phenomenon; apologies for linking to TVTropes), then I think we would see less men exhibiting those traits and behaviors.
It is also an unstable equilibrium for women to always be truthful, if an individual woman gets some informational advantage by seeing how a man reacts to playing hard-to-get.
Okay, this is getting tricky, so bear with me: if you start from a "universal consistent female rejection equilibrium", then women do not gain from defecting to do a "rejection probe" because the male's reaction would just be to give up, and thus be uninformative. Right? Of course, that still wouldn't refute the difficulty of moving to that equilibrium from the current one...
Do you mean, if you start from the state where women always reject someone they're not interested in clearly, never change their mind about who they're interested in, and where men always stop pursuing after a women's clear rejection? In that case, yes, women don't gain from defecting. (Some of the effects you're talking about can be explained by women changing their mind, which isn't exactly dishonesty.)
Yes, that's what I mean, and doesn't it establish the asymmmetry I claimed? As for nondishonest changing minds, this goes back to the telemarketing/spam problem: even if you like a product thereby offered, it's still (widely regarded as) wrong to purchase it, as that encourages a harmful, unethical practice. I submit it's wrong for the same reasons to reverse a rejection, even if it's honest, as that encourages (harmful) persistence. Perhaps a big part of the problem is how there's no way to credibly signal different levels of rejection -- heck, even a simple "no, I'm busy" can't be taken literally!
But in that situation, men don't gain from defecting either, because we're assuming women always reject someone they're not interested in, and never change their mind.
But spam/telemarketing works, for a certain value of working. Even after being repeatedly told about the dangers of spam/etc there are still people who will end up falling for it 'just this once'. I suspect the problem is that a lot of people are vulnerable to persistence-based hacks, and that this is even more true in dating since the potential gain from giving in is much higher. (And the potential loss is low if you only consider local consequences - just a single evening of putting up with an annoying guy)
Sometimes you can't even take a "Yes, here's my phone number, yes, you can call me" literally. I found that out the hard way. :(
I find this surprising, and request details to assist my updating.

On several occasions, girls have given me their phone number after a friendly conversation, and when I called or texted, I got back an angry message from the girl, or her boyfriend, saying that she had a boyfriend and not to talk to her again (even when I was dating someone and was just looking for friendship). I can only assume that the boyfriend had issues and changed her mind.

It's more common to have a good conversation with a girl, have her give you her number and tell you to call her, and then have her screen your calls and never return them.

Same has happened to me at least once that I remember. If you're a female and want to know how common this is, poll your male friends to see how many other instances come out of the woodwork. And if you are surprised, please recognize your atypicality.
At a restaurant I go to frequently, I had several pleasant conversations with one of the waitresses. I asked her for her phone number, so we could talk more. (I tried to indicate that I was interested in friendship rather than romance.) She wrote it on a napkin for me. I asked if I could call her on a specific evening, and she said that I could. When I called her, I received no answer, and from then on, she avoided me when I went to the restaurant. (I strongly suspect that the phone number was fake.) A different waitress was kind enough to turn me down directly.
But women usually don't react the same way whether or not the advance is welcome. At the very least, women are far more likely to react positively to a welcomed advance. Seriously, if you're going to make that claim, where's your evidence? Because you're slipping into "no doesn't equal no" territory here. And why are you putting the onus on the women anyway? If men consistently listened to women's requests for them to leave, then women would soon adapt so that they only told men to leave when they really wanted to, no?
Nah. From my experience, this matters way less to men than to women. Whether a woman "stands up to me" doesn't factor into my judgment of her as a partner. Moreover, if a woman "evades" me, this is a turn-off for me.
For some evidence about people being into pushovers, check out the results of this study by Botwin and Buss These results would be more probable if women cared more than men about avoiding "pushovers."
I have definitely seen guys go for elusive women. Sometimes -- just as it is with women -- you don't go with what they say, but with the pattern of behavior. And sometimes the pattern is that they chase the unattainable and unavailable. Or women who seem "classy," hard to win and hard to impress. But it may not be as common as a male pattern.
Nah. Imagine that some women are exceptionally attractive to men for some arbitrary reason, but you cannot see this reason because you're not a man. Then these women will start behaving more "elusively" out of necessity, thus prompting you to see the nonexistent causal pattern of men chasing elusive women. From my experience, women don't accurately assess the attractiveness of other women (they fixate too much on clothing, accessories, "style" etc. instead of qualities that matter to men), so my theory should make you a little paranoid from now on :-)
Then wouldn't elusive behavior become a status signal of sorts? "Oh, person X is being elusive; there must be something there I'm not seeing!" Yes, definitely.
I doubt it would work on men. We can assess female attractiveness directly in like 2 seconds, no need for signals and definitely not enough time to notice elusive behavior.
Status is a factor in male partner preferences, it's just massively dwarfed by other factors. Being elusive isn't a big factor on direct desirability, but non-clinginess and a level of independence can be important for relationship preferences.
And this, my friend, is the "part of 'No!'" that men "don't understand". Again, it may seem clever to use explicit rejections and then expect men to "just know" that it's fake by your "behavior" ... but that creates a really rotten incentive structure.
I think you've hit upon the root of the problem; like the other phenomena you mention, the strength of the trend seems to be diminishing.
What is your evidence that there are no such women?
Because I'm familiar with standard advice given to women, and I never see a taboo against "giving in" to continued unwanted advanced "just because you decide you like the guy now".
That's evidence that such a social taboo is not very common, but there could easily be women doing it on their own accord and just not talking about it much. "Don't reward guys for keeping to bother you" seems obvious and unremarkable enough to follow without explicitly mentioning it all the time.
Without wanting to cite fictional evidence I think it's worth noting that guys being rewarded for continuing to bother an initially uninterested woman is a very common and long-lived trope in fiction.
Yes, and that's in fiction that is most popular with women. To borrow the form of a Penny Arcade strip, it's like this: Jane: Geez, we go through all this effort to raise awareness about respect for women, and men never seem to get the message! Why is that? Lisa: (with a guilty look) It's a goddamn ... it's a goddamn mystery! Earlier, at a focus group session Lisa is participating in... Focus group director: So, what kinds of behaviors do you women like to see in the male characters in the novels you read? Lisa and the rest of the group: Ignoring the woman's rejections!!!
I suspect that women are very underrepresented among people who: a) frame dating someone a "reward" for them, and b) carefully monitor the game-theoretic implications of their actions Are you female? Do you think you have sufficient understanding of what empathic inferences you can make from your mind to theirs?
That wasn't supposed to be an argument for such behavior being common (I'd guess it's not particulary), just for the possibility of such behavior existing without being much talked about.
Yes, there can always be invisible evidence.
Yes you can. And that cuts back to the core of the OP.
Oh, the "the fuck" part is essential? Good to know.
Salespeople are wanted if you have explicitly gone into a store expecting to buy a certain kind of product. Then they are helpful sources of localised information. You want what they have and went looking for it. Salepeople are not wanted if they are intruding and trying to push a product on you when you were not looking for it. If the methods or product are particularly offensive - that just adds insult to an already unwanted situation.
If you prefer, you could frame it as an audition to join a band...
Better. Not ideal, but better.
I've never really grasped the 'objectification' concept, but does this count?
Surely this is objectifying the sex, not the participants? Eh, whatever. It's kind of a silly analogy anyway, because commercial transactions involve persuading people to do things they don't like doing (paying money, giving away goods) in exchange for other things.
Could you point out where someone made that mental leap in this convo? I didn't notice it.
It's not made explicitly here. I don't accuse anyone present of making this leap, but it seemed worth warning against.
I agree that such a mental leap would be a big problem, but I don't think such a leap is implied by cousin_it's post, so I'm not entirely sure why you are bringing it up. Part of the problem of sales is that the target market is not obligated to buy. Yet I do think your post raises a good point: sales and seduction have different ethical constraints. I believe that truly ethical seduction requires not merely consent, but enthusiastic consent, and minimization of reasonably predictable "buyer's remorse" after the fact. Sales is not always held up to the standard of enthusiasm and minimization of remorse on the part of the buyer (but perhaps it should be).
We have (at least in my country) consumer protection laws. One of them says you can return a product within 14 days of purchase and receive your money back. With this, I think ethical sales standards are fine as they are. Since it's not applicable to the seduction "market", it should be held to the highest ethical standard.
I don't approve of rape and I also despise seeing it used fallaciously to support a political agenda.
I didn't see her doing that.
Can you explain how you think I am fallaciously using rape to support a political agenda, if you think I'm doing that?

Silas explained one of the reasons this particular analogy doesn't hold. (You also argue against a straw man.)

As for political agenda: This is not the first time you have made statements of the kind should be considered . I greatly prefer your insights into rationality over your comments on anything to do with males. The quality of reasoning is almost incomparable.

I will now attempt to clarify:

Males developing social skills is great. Social skills are wonderful, rewarding things to have, and I think anybody who would like to learn to interact with other people politely and pleasantly should.

"Social skills as possessed by men (who are attracted to women)" is a much broader category than "the ability to get into sexual or romantic relationships with women (who are attracted to men)". You can use social skills to interact with family members, platonic friends, co-workers, neighbors, classmates, teachers, strangers, students, clients, employees, bosses, fellow members of any club or other social or hobby organization, and any other class of person you will ever interact with. Potential mates are only one of these categories, although of course there is overlap.

Social skills as used by men to get into sexual or romantic relationships with women do not consist entirely of things I would describe with "negative feminist language". Many of these skills are, at least potentially, honest, respectful, and non-threatening.

The attitude that the "target market" of the "product" of the man attempting to... (read more)

I seriously doubt there is anyone here who has committed rape or felt entitled to sex, for that reason. Here, what you find is a lot of men trying to overcome the lack of knowledge about how to get into a relationship. Men in that position are not the ones out committing rape, abusing girlfriends, abandoning their children, etc. Such victimizers already know how to get to the relationship step as second nature!

Now, with that said, there is a distantly-related (though not dangerous) feeling of entitlement that arises in discussions like these that needs to be addressed. Let me explain.

Let's say I'm told all throughout growing up, what is and is not appropriate behavior around women, and over time I internalize these rules, automatically identifying instances I see (of inappropriate behavior) as bad. This advice matches that given in popular, respected books about dating. And yet despite lots of interactions with women where I have romantic intent, I am utterly unable to generate interest in any of them.

First, let's get a few misunderstandings out of the way: Of course women are thinking, volitional beings who are not obligated to perform for anyone's sake and should not be vie... (read more)

This feels nice (people who are like me aren't the raping kind!), and for that reason I suspect it. What evidence is there that such men, once they do get girlfriends/women, are less abusive than the general population? Other than that I fully agree with your comment.
I don't see where Alicorn postulated a reason for men to feel entitled to sex – did you get the clauses reversed? Plausibly nobody here has explicitly believed themselves to be entitled to sex, but I doubt none have implicitly held something like this attitude at some point.
I think the implicitly-held-similar belief is what I spelled out in the post: they believe they've "done their part to adhere to the standard they were taught", but have been rendered ineffective because they were lied to, and in the absence of that lie, they would ... have had more success. So, it follows, those others deprived them of that success.
Yes, but they may also resent women for not cooperating/rewarding them for following explicit social norms, for willfully being confusing, for cynically advocating (individually or, at least implicitly, as a unitary Matriarchy) these norms with no intent of rewarding them, and probably other similar things.
Okay, I agree with you on that, but that's already quite far from the "feeling entitled to sex" that you suggested before.
I think this is an irrational fear, if I may say so. While I'm not an expert on violent crime, I am fairly sure that most of it is committed by people acting on impulse, not people who have intellectually convinced themselves they are owed something. I may for instance believe and argue I am owed more money by society, but that doesn't mean I'm about to rob a bank. People should likewise be free to express the opinion that they are owed more sex, without that being interpreted as a threat of violence.
My understanding is that both parts are needed... to use your money example, if you feel that you're entitled to money, and you find a wallet sitting on the sidewalk, you may impulsively decide to take the money out of it rather than return it intact, but if you don't have that feeling of entitlement, you're much less likely to feel the impulse in the first place to take the money out of it.
Alternately, people get an impulse to rape because their instincts drive them to reproduce. For all that it doesn't work too well in this environment, for some reason the instincts have decided that force is the best route to reproductive success given their host's circumstances. The rest is just noise.
But does it work well in any environment? Someone, I forget where, once argued that rape in the environment of evolutionary adaptedness - where everyone knows everyone - would just get the rapist's skull bludgeoned in by the victim's friends or relatives. (Though to be fair, a number of possible circumstances where this wouldn't be true could be imagined, I suppose...)
Off the top of my head: 1) When the rapist has sufficient status or allies to prevent negative consequences. 2) If the victim is of a rival group to that of the rapist. Different tribe. Different 'caste'. Different party within the same tribe. 3) The social rules don't enforce a rape taboo strongly. In many cultures rape is defended by family vengeance and not particularly by 'justice'. 4) The consequences to women don't make 'reporting and punishment' the expected outcome. 5) When 'rape' is defined differently to how it is defined by us. (eg. Wives, dates, underage, those under authority.) 6) If reproductive prospects look bleak the expected payoff doesn't need to be particularly high.
Sorry, didn't see your comment before I posted mine! You pretty much summed it up.
There are a great many circumstances where rape has low probability of retaliation. More than enough to justify it as a conditional strategy. In fact, listing out a few examples, it feels as if it's far more often true than not! (And remember that the EEA includes the last five or ten thousand years, during which humans lived in much larger communities and genes and especially memes changed significantly.) First, a man may rape women from another tribe - and this is ubiquitous when opportunity is present, e.g. in war. This might also contribute to behavior with total strangers in today's society. Second, many (older) cultures see women not as persons to be avenged but as valuable property to be guarded. If a woman is raped (and tells her relatives), and the rapist isn't completely without connections himself, then a common outcome may be marrying the two. If a woman's bridal value is much lowered once she is not a virgin, this is her only marriage option that brings the virginal-value. OTOH, retaliation's only benefit is in deterrence, which isn't immediately valuable; usually, for vengeance to take place, you need a social custom requiring vengeance - such as in 'honor' cultures. Third, if the rapist is powerful enough (via relatives, money, social position), such as nobility, he can rape any lower-status woman with impunity and settle the matter with perhaps some money, or just ignore it. Some social systems explicitly allow this in law (e.g., European nobility vs. commoners). Fourth, if there are no witnesses, many cultures' law would not take a woman's word over a man's. In which case, most cultures would prevent private, illegal vengeance. Fifth, if a man rapes his wife (or girlfriend), traditional society sees no wrong, and there is often noone to avenge her. (Most modern rapes are commited by husbands/boyfriends/dates.) I could go on and on...
This is pretty much what I was thinking - if the societal environment is such that there's an instinctual impression that rape is efficient, the societal environment needs to change. I could write more about that kind of thing, but I actually have a link to an excellent blog post on the topic, so go read what Harriet has to say about it.
Are we sure of that? Is there an analysis of the contribution of rape towards inclusive genetic fitness in modern Western society?
Let us agree that neither the person interested in sex, nor any third party, may in any way compel anyone to provide sex to them. And no-one has promised to have sex and then reneged on the non-enforceable promise. Then what is the meaning of "being owed more sex"?
People aren't obliged to speak sense, either!
I'm afraid I don't see the relevance of this... Sorry if I missed a joke or something. If there's any doubt, my question was genuine, not rhetorical. I could speculate on what it might mean to be owed sex but instead I'd like to hear from others. Since people defend the freedom to express the opinion that sex is owed sometimes, I thought someone here felt that this is a meaningful opinion?
"I am owed more sex" might express an attitude of entitlement, resentment, etc., not a proposition that the speaker would draw long chains of inference from, or be able to explain how to cash out. I think this is something like wedrifid's point.
Oh! Of course, that looks the correct reading. I've been silly for not understanding :-/
I disagree for most values of "obliged".
And for certain values of "sense".
A couple of points: Although most crimes of battery, murder, etc. can be classified as crimes of passion, a ton of rape is "date rape". It can take place in ambiguous circumstances, without nearly as much violence as might be anticipated. I'm therefore uncertain how well you can apply statements about violent crimes to rape in general. Bank robbery has a higher clearance rate than rape. Many rapists are never reported, much less caught and convicted. Bank robberies are generally pretty high-profile events; it's hard for one to go by without anyone knowing it has occurred. The following looks like a plausible line of reasoning to me: 1. I am owed more sex from people who I'm interested in, such as Woman X. 2. Woman X will not have sex with me, and in so refraining, denies me something I am owed. 3. In general, it is appropriate to arrange to take things from people who will not give them when they are owed. For instance, if Woman X owed me five hundred dollars, I would be justified in bringing in authorities to oblige her to give me five hundred dollars. 4. The law will not compel Woman X to have sex with me. 5. When the law will not address injustices, such as failing to discharge an obligation, it is permissible for private citizens to address the injustice. 6. Compelling Woman X to have sex with me would be taking from her something that she owes me. 7. I can compel Woman X to have sex with me. Sure, you could stop at any point in this chain of reasoning, reject some inference and avoid #7. But the subset of people who won't, may do serious harm to poor Woman X - who never owed anyone anything.

Sure, you could stop at any point in this chain of reasoning, reject some inference and avoid #7. But the subset of people who won't, may do serious harm to poor Woman X - who never owed anyone anything.

It is your opinion that Woman X never owed anyone anything -- but the fact that you (and probably most people) feel that way is not sufficient justification for making the contrary opinion (premise #1) a thought crime.

Keep in mind that among the things we are in the business of doing here are (1) critically examining ethical intuitions, and (2) proposing and exploring potential means of (ultimately) improving the world that may not necessarily strike us immediately as "tasteful".

My feeling is that someone ought to be permitted on LW to argue, for example, that the law should compel Woman X to have sex in some circumstances. Suppose for instance that some commenter were to float the idea of sex as a form of judicially enforced community service for those convicted of certain crimes (perhaps as an alternative to incarceration). Would you consider this idea so dangerous that it ought to be censored, for fear of encouraging rape or sexual assault? I'm guessing (hoping) you wouldn't , even though it's clearly an example of discussing sex as an obligation, in a way quite foreign (even opposed) to the norms of our current society.

I would consider that okay (though quite distasteful) so long as it stayed very clearly hypothetical. (I suspect that such a discussion would result in a better clarification of why we consider rape unacceptable, which I'd find useful.) The original point about it being acceptable for men to consider themselves entitled to sex was clearly not hypothetical and not obviously intended to spark such a discussion.
Personally, I think prostitution should be legal and regulated, like it is in Germany. Then the utilons would be money, not punishment. Seems strange to imagine forcing criminal women to trade sex for utilons when there already are normal women who do without coercion. I also wonder what a bored woman would do that a fleshlight don't. We don't need compelled sex. We need more sex toys for men!
I'd also like to point out that in one of EY's stories, he mentioned that rape was legalized. I have a feeling that if he had chosen to expand on that and provide more of a description or a rationalization, and even if they weren't very good or complete, no one would have been asking to censor the whole post.
Yes. Anyone should be permitted to argue anything, so long as there is a (new and reasonable) argument towards a desirable goal (and not, e.g., "that way I'd get more sex" [at the expense of women]). Lacking any such argument though, any idea such as your example should be modded down to the nether hells and torn apart in replies (and I believe would be). I believe that such treatment, showing rape is very much against the social code, would improve the meme pool more than censoring/prohibiting mention of it - which tends to give rise to theories of secret unvoiced support for politically incorrect opinions. Of course, if such baseless suggestions were posted more than once or twice, we might ban further pointless discussions because they'd be, well, pointless (as well as rather offtopic).
Wow. That is an out there 'guess'. I would definitely expect attempts even here to censor that kind of thinking. I personally would not consider the suggestion dangerous. But while I wouldn't desire censorship this may be an instance where I refrained from reacting to censorship demands and from refuting any emotive less-than rational objections. In fact, I would actually argue that scenario is rape.
I think one of us is mis-parsing what K said... as I understand it he was guessing that Alicorn would not demand that the proposed conversation be censored, not that she'd consider the proposed scenario an acceptable one, or something other than rape.
Not at all. I'm talking about my reactions and also saying I would have a different guess as to whether someone (be that Alicorn or not) would make moves in the direction of censorship. I would have been clearer if I quoted the particular statement which prompted my reply.
I wish to point out that there is an important difference between censorship and saying that something ought not to be said. Censorship is taking steps to prevent the saying of a thing, or prevent it from being readily heard by interested audience members. Saying that a thing ought to be said does not call for censorship, nor imply that censorship is called for. For instance, I do not think that people ought to tell strangers on the street to smile, and I encourage people to refrain from doing that. I do not advocate preventing anyone who wishes to ignore this encouragement from telling others to smile, nor do I want to somehow protect all possible recipients of the smiling instruction from exposure thereto.
There is a difference there and I'd like to clarify that I have been referring to the broader concept here. When I refer to 'censorship' I am referring to attempts to control what people are free to be speaking through political manoeuvring. I include suggestions that people should be shamed for making statements on particular topics along with suggestions that said statements should be removed from view. If there was a word that emphasised the former category rather than the latter then I would use it instead. That sort of censorship is most relevant on lesswrong and far more insidious.
At the same time, we need to be able to have this kind of discussion without censoring (by your definition) people in Alicorn's position, either. To the best of my memory (and I've had a lot going on for the last few days, so I could easily have lost track of a relevant part of the conversation), Alicorn never called for anyone to be socially censured for voicing an opinion, just for us to, as we're discussing certain topics, keep in mind that our discussions have real effects in the world. We wouldn't discuss the nuts and bolts of building AI here, because we consider that risky. Alicorn considers this kind of discussion to be similarly risky in some ways. She may be wrong, but until it's actually been established that she is, I suggest the possibility be taken into consideration.
I don't think the difference is important in this context. If you advocate that something not be said by someone who thinks it, you are advocating that the flow of accurate information be restricted, and thus --effectively -- that honesty be traded off in favor of some other value. The tradeoff may or may not be worth it, but it hardly matters whether it is initiated by a commenter or by a webmaster.
I disagree. I think self-regulation is very different in character from restriction imposed from without. I also think that honesty can better be interpreted to mean "saying only true things" than "saying all true things that pop into a speaker's head". Saying that I think people ought not to say Q doesn't mean that I think people ought to assert ~Q.
Perhaps I shouldn't have used a loaded word like "honesty". Let's just stick with "restriction of the flow of information". If someone believes that people should be more indulgent in granting sexual favors, or that society should address the problem (if it is a problem) of inequality in access to sex, exactly why should they refrain from saying so on this forum?
Phrased like that, no reason. Those are pretty general, safe statements. Phrased in a more one-gendered way (e.g. "women in particular should be..." "women as a group should address..."), or refined into narrower, scarier views, they shouldn't be said for the same sorts of reasons we shouldn't threaten to torch each other's homes or choose this venue to express supernatural beliefs: because those ideas are frightening, disruptive, and/or sufficiently widely discredited not to be worth our time.
Interesting. So your problem seems to be with generalizing into large categories ("women"), and then perhaps putting the matter in in-group vs. out-group terms, as in "we men are owed more sex from you women". Am I right? As for "scary"/"frightening", I guess I just think that the quality of this site is high enough that people ought to be given the benefit of the doubt. Certain views may be "scary" when expressed "out there", because they signal an intention to do something bad. Here, I think we ought to be able to take more things at face value, without disclaimers.
That's the entrance to a death spiral. A major part of the problem in discussing these things anywhere is people saying, "But we're smart! We're rational! We can't mean the nasty things you read us as saying!" But that cuts both ways. How about, "We're rational! Therefore you should reexamine your own words!" When everyone imagines they're rational, rationality has left the building.
Oh come now. I didn't say anything about our alleged superior rationality. My claim is simply that participants in this forum are statistically unlikely to be dangerous people. This is mainly a consequence of (what I perceive to be) the small size of the community . (I could be wrong about this of course.) But the discussion has become far too abstract by now, given that what I think this comes down to is that Alicorn and I have different mental images (caricatures) of "the person who says women owe more sex to men". I wonder if maybe Alicorn pictures some type of shady misogynist character willing to blurt the statement out loud in public (perhaps while drunk), whereas I picture a shy misunderstood "nerd" who would never dream of saying such a thing except anonymously in an unusually open-minded online community. What I was trying to say was that I thought my image was more accurate, for this tiny corner of cyberspace.
I don't know what else "the quality of this site" could refer to. And now you're saying it's the size, though I don't see how that changes the per-individual probability of being dangerous. Collectively, my impression is that larger communities are safer, because there's room to avoid the few nasty individuals. Well now. Both of these imaginary characters believe that women owe them sex. The first is being blatant about it, so at least women know in advance to avoid him. The second, that you think "more accurate, for this tiny corner of cyberspace" is the dangerous one. And you think of him as "misunderstood". I think of him as "wrong". As in, believing false things, things that are the opposite of true. And dangerously wrong. If that type is indeed "more accurate, for this tiny corner of cyberspace", no wonder there are so few women in it.
Please note that nobody on this site has actually stated that men are owed sex from women as a group. As with any such dispute as to who is ethically owed what, this would clearly be a cause of conflict; and we're trying to avoid having such "mind-killer" discussions on Less Wrong. It was Alicorn who made the leap (see this post), which is evidence that this meme is floating around in mainstream culture. What people were saying is that men with romantic aspirations should be empathized with, given the difficulties they may face. Is this a "dangerously wrong" notion? Why aren't you objecting to mainstream culture, where the kinds of implied obligations and entitlements Alicorn refers to seem to be widespread?
Well, that wouldn't be a meaningful statement. Under the usual meanings of owing, someone has got to pay up. But women as a class can't pay up, even if coerced, only individual women can. So this is the wrong way to describe the situation in any case. This whole discussion started, I believe, with Robin Hanson's recent posts on Overcoming Bias. He presented a problem (some men want, even need more sex than they can get; and society is generally unsympathetic with them) but not a solution. However, the notions of "owing" and suggestions of influencing or coercing women were very much present in the posts Robin linked to and in various comments there. That's not to say Robin agreed with them, of course. Of course we're also objecting to that part of mainstream culture. When it's discussed here, we mention those objections here. After all the original topic was how to change mainstream culture for the better, not just our corner of it here.
No comments here have stated that men are owed sex from women as a group. The introduction of the concept was a straw man rebuttal to quoted claims and nobody has deigned to play advocate for the position, once included in the discussion. I cannot speak for the contents of posts on OvercomingBias.com.
For the record, I don't think this is accurate. In my opinion, the concerns raised by Alicorn and others were genuine and partially justified. Sex and gender relations are contentious topics in mainstream culture; we should keep this in mind and approach them cautiously.
A somewhat greater ability (and tendency) to make statements for purposes other than signalling. I for example, often point out fallacies in comments even when they argue for positions that I support. In many cases these rebuttals could be labelled 'frightening/scary'. If participants on LessWrong are closer in nature to myself than those in the general population are then I am less likely to take epistemic claims to be evidence of threat. I support Kompos suggestion that significant benefit of the doubt should be given to posters when it comes to inferring danger from speaking on 'scary/frightening' topics. I do not believe I am owed more sex from anyone. The chain of inference 'Wedrifid supports people being allowed to say scary things -> Wedrifid believes scary things -> Wedrifid is likely to do scary things -> Wedrifid is dangerous' would not be a reasonable one to make in this circumstance.
Thus signaling your rationality, which confers value in this community :-) I do agree with this. This being a rationality discussion site, we should absolutely be allowed to argue in support of any positions we actually hold, which may turn out to be scary or not. Only when the argument has taken place can the taboo option be (in theory) considered.
The status consequences are certainly lower here than elsewhere. However, my observations suggest that this the payoff is still negative, particularly when topics of any moral significance are being discussed in the context. We aren't that much Less Wrong.
I think a major reason why the LW community works and can derive useful insights, is that once we make rationality and objective truth our goals and deliberately associate them with higher status (via karma for instance), status seeking works in our favor.
It is certainly makes a noticeable difference compared to other communities I have been involved in with similar emphasis on intellectual pursuits (MENSA and university faculties).
The opposite of true would imply that the position makes enough sense for falsehood to neatly imply. The position is far more scrambled than that (not even wrong).
What's your prior probability that someone reading this thread (during, say, October 2009) has committed or will commit rape or sexual assault within ten years? I think you are being extremely judgmental. I described my hypothetical character as "misunderstood", and indeed, here you are misunderstanding him. He's not dangerous; you can add that to the description: "shy, misunderstood, non-dangerous..." The fact that he "would never dream of saying such a thing except anonymously in an unusually open-minded online community" was intended to illustrate his kindness and sensitivity as a human being in contrast to the boorish brute I placed him in opposition to.
And if it's different from the probability for a randomly selected person, then why? (We should restrict selection to adult males, in both cases, for a fair comparison.) komponisto, you've said you think the fact someone is an LW participant reduces the probability he has or will rape. Why? Are there statistics negatively correlating rapes with IQ or something else relevant? (Not that I know, but I haven't checked thoroughly.) As for your misunderstood character. What does he mean when he says women owe more sex to men? What does owing mean for a class, unless there are individuals who can be said to owe?
There are negative correlations between violent crime and IQ, and also positive ones between IQ and self-control, as well as any number of other relevant factors (being well-off, for example). I'd look up some citations for you, but really, those correlations are what you would expect and are easy to find. (To play the devil's advocate, we could postulate that perhaps only bright male maladjusted losers post here, and the latter 2 attributes outweigh the former 2.)
I know the correlations with violent crime in general exist. We should still check the correlation for sexual assault in particular, because I don't know how different it may be from crime in general. Playing devil's advocate, we assume here that some sexual assault is driven by feelings of entitlement, and rich, powerful, intelligent males tend to feel more entitled than average (and society supports those feelings in them). The powerful boss sexually assaulting his female secretary is practically a stereotype.
I haven't the slightest idea. I also have no reason to think that it is higher, lower, or the same as the number for the members of a similarly sized SF convention, trainspotters club, or firm of chartered accountants. You bet I am. ...invisible, inaudible, and intangible. He thinks women owe him sex, but is "kind and sensitive" enough not to say so. I seem to feel another judgement coming on. This imaginary geek: let us suppose he is twenty. One day he will be thirty. Fifty. Eighty, which by then may not be forty, and perhaps he can expect another half century more. Imagine for me this geek in the prime of life at eighty. What has he done in the last sixty years? Is he still whining about not getting any?
I consider your attitude dangerous. Judgement is not without consequence and a readiness to do so based on very weak evidence is a trait I consider undesirable.
Why? How is this supposed to work? So you're saying that the only relevant difference, and the reason men in this community are less likely to actually rape women, is that they're more shy? And maybe don't get drunk in public? I'm aware that's probably not what you meant, but it's the literal meaning of your words. You need a better argument in favor of what seems to be your actual position - "people interested and/or adept in rationality are less likely to rape out of a sense of entitlement".
I agree with Richard - and you have yet to present an actual argument for your position. Not just that you feel the people here are "high quality".
My position? Let's remember what Alicorn said: My position, if position I have, is that Alicorn is wrong to be frightened by that line of thinking. In general (that is, not necessarily with regard to sex), it's a perfectly reasonable leap to make, whether or not we ourselves would make it. Compare: -Person to beggar: "Aw, I feel bad that you have trouble obtaining money." => "Aw, someone should give you money"/"Aw, people should give more to charity". In a case like that, we don't usually consider the drawing of that implication to be dangerous or frightening. We may consider it incorrect, for example if we think that giving money to beggars has a net negative impact on society; but even so we usually consider the person making the leap a (misguided) bleeding-heart liberal, not a promoter of "evil behaviors, up to and including armed robbery". Now, what I would want to fight against, so to speak, is the imposition of a taboo on making analogous arguments in the realm of sex (presumably because of a special human anxiety about that subject). Let those arguments be right or wrong, let the analogy hold or fail to hold, let sex be different or the same; but the thoughts should not be discouraged from being spoken. Do I really need to defend myself beyond this?
That's a tangent. You said it was more wrong to be frightened here on LW, than in general; that the people here were more trustworthy. That's the claim you need to substantiate. I'm not expressing any opinion on the taboo discussion, it's been talked about enough in other comment sub-threads. I hear that in the US there are some people who view government-mandated redistribution of money from the rich to the poor (i.e. social support) very much like evil, armed robbery...
No, that was the tangent, actually. I didn't expect that remark to be picked up and seized upon as a controversial claim. I expected the contrary arguments to run "Yes, of course no one here is a rapist, but even so we still shouldn't have people saying X because..." If you don't share my intuition that proportionally fewer rapes occur in the context of academic conferences and philosophy club meetings than sporting events and bars, then we'll just have to refer to statistical data to find out who is right. But in either case, I consider the taboo discussion to be more interesting/important, belabored though it may be.
That's the controversial claim, all right. I don't share your intuition, but it wouldn't matter if I did. We LW should be frightened of having intuitions for which we can't, on reflection, give any supporting evidence! And automatically considering your in-group to be of higher virtue or above suspicion is a very well known and widespread human bias. That's why we picked on your claim.
I'm more likely to be merely surprised. I can think of supporting evidence for just about any intuition.
You do not. The demand for proof was not consistent with the flow of the discussion. Your reasoning was clear in your initial post and sufficient for purposes of conversation. Furthermore, accepting the burden of proof to be on your point would be innapropriate.
For the original discussion about taboos, I agree completely. My requests for proof were about komponisto's comment that That was in the other subthread so perhaps this is my fault for replying to the wrong comment. The two threads have been referencing each other quite a lot though.
Thanks for that clarification. It seems the more Kompo refines these claims the less I agree with them. I would argue that people on this forum are significantly more likely to be dangerous. For my part I consider myself to be far more resourceful than the average person and would take offence at a claim that I am not dangerous. Furthermore, I suggest the people here are much more likely to form their morals for reasons other than whatever works best in their social environment. That more or less means "off the rails".
Maybe you're right. But, as I indicated elsewhere, I don't think that that was the most important issue. I'm more interested in the censorship/taboo discussion.
Really? How are government tax collectors any different than armed robbers, on the relevant dimensions? After all, governments love to trot out "giving money to the poor" as a rationale for taking your money, don't they? (And no, the fact that the requirement to pay taxes is imposed by statute, or that the IRS labels your compliance with their policies as "voluntary" are not relevant dimensions)
I have problems with generalizing over groups smaller than "people in general" and with othering, yes.
0Eliezer Yudkowsky14y
Don't you just hate those groupgeneralizers?
I would like it if I could stop people having (or at least expressing) an attitude of entitlement. Unfortunately it is easier to condemn such thoughts in low status people than high. It's the high status people with entitlement that are the real danger. They'll, say, take over the country. That sort of thing.
I do not believe that most rapists stop, before the act, to justify it by an elaborate rational chain. Even if they come up with it afterwards, when accused, I don't think it can be called the cause of the rape. At most you could say it's an enabler, but I'm not even convinced of that. The real problem that I see is that people saying things like this may effectively support publicly accused rapists, in the courts and in public debates. (Which does not mean that's what these people mean or want!) And this effect on "public" opinion causes an increases in rapes. (Or prevents a decrease, rather.) As far as I can see (and in line with Hansonian explanation styles :-), a better and simpler explanation of rapes is that rapists don't expect to be condemned or punished by others. And not that they can prove to themselves it's a permissible act under some ethical system.
Further, false accusations of rape give cover to actual rapists. Because it's credible that Kobe Bryant was falsely accused, he can buy off his accuser for (to him) a small amount of money. You don't see too many false accusations of bank robbery :)
This isn't a clean dichotomy. Verbal argument might help to maintain and strengthen someone's feelings of entitlement, resentment, and rage, until these feelings reach the point of motivating a rape (or any kind of violent act) that wouldn't otherwise have occurred.
Unless I missed it, this is a claim no one has made. There is a very clear distinction between spreading memes that increase the likelihood of violence and making a threat. Obviously claims of desert don't necessarily entail a threatening violence to take the deserts- but that doesn't mean popularizing some memes doesn't have bad consequences. This is fairly basic memetics and how we account for a great deal of behavior. There might also be some positive consequence to spreading such memes but so far no one has argued that claiming loveless men are owed more sex will actually lead to any kind of beneficial change.
This is a very good clarification. Something can be dangerous without actually being a threat, and in fact the response here has been what I'd expect for an indirect danger - I don't know about anyone else, but I don't usually stick around to try to educate someone who's actually threatening me, or causing me to be in immediate danger. Think of it as the difference between teaching people to hotwire cars, and actually stealing them - the former might not actually harm the car owners in question, but they're unlikely to think kindly of someone who does it.
Let me again quote from Alicorn's comment: The comment clearly expresses the fear that someone who says or thinks they are owed more sex from women -- and, keep in mind, that could be something along the lines of "I don't think that women are doing their part in alleviating the suffering I feel as a result of not having access to sex" -- may be led to "evil behaviors, up to and including rape". I think that -- at least in the context of this site -- that fear is unfounded, perhaps even slightly on the paranoid side. (Of course I hesitate to say a thing like that, as an anxiety sufferer, throwing stones from my glass house!) In any case I feel reasonably confident in asserting that neither Alicorn nor anyone else stands more than an infinitesimally small chance of being raped by a lonely Less Wrong participant holding the above misguided opinion. Indeed (and to answer some other commenters), I suspect that the proportion of potential rapists among the people who hold that opinion is probably so small that even if all rapes were attributable to the holding of that opinion by the perpetrator, that still wouldn't justify censoring the opinion itself (and thereby failing to even consider the question of whether lack of access to sex is a legitimate ethical problem worth solving). This is also a larger debate (about whether and how to stop the spread of memes which may have harmful effects) which transcends the specific issues here. It applies even to memes that are definitely good in some contexts, e.g. atheism. Robin Hanson implies this -- or at least raises the question -- quite regularly. See here for the most recent example.
Do you mean social skills which are used (almost) exclusively for these purposes? Most social skills are general, and in fact are more important to have than narrowly applicable ones. More to the point, this thought is wrong. (I agree that it feels unpleasant, but I don't know how much it actually leads to such behavior vs. being used to explain it afterwards.)
Good point, to be extent that the insights I've gained from resources intended for developing dating skills have been far more useful for life in general than specifically with women.
I like what you say here and agree that people believing they are 'owed' something in social interactions and particularly those related to mating is absurd. I don't know how much such ungranted feelings of entitlement encourage rape. Honestly, I've a great faith in the ability of humans to rationalise whatever they do and suspect other claims would flow just as easily. But I do know that belief that you are owed something by the universe is a recipe for failure in general. More so from women who quite reasonably feel this as 'creepy' and guys as 'pathetic'.
I think it is justifiable in some interactions (not in mating). I feel that people owe it to me to behave with a minimum of politeness towards me. Certain social interactions impose a much higher standard, e.g. salesmen who walk up to me uninvited owe it to me to be very polite indeed and never to argue with me ("customer is always right").
I agree with what you're saying. The way I like to frame it is that I have expectations that people behave with a minimum of politeness towards me. I don't so much bother with considering other parts of the universe to 'owe me something' since that is futile. Instead I consider my social boundaries to be part of myself and something I am responsible for enforcing for no other reason than because I want to.
I'm not expressing an opinion on the actual issue, but this is somewhat a strawman. The more defensible version of the argument is that some land is owned by particular, sometimes identifiable Palestinians.
Yeah, I know. As I typed the example, I was thinking "this is a lousy example but I have no superior ones at the moment". Any suggestions for a replacement?
A wealthy person being told he owes money to the government, or to the poor? It could even be someone who won the lottery (the way attractive people won the genetic lottery). But then is taxing lottery winners analogous to forcing women into sex? There's another implication here as well, in that if taxation isn't theft then forced promiscuity doesn't seem to be rape. In retrospect, a most unpleasant analogy that thankfully breaks down under a more nuanced view of property (wish I had more time to refine this comment).
Well, if Alicorn was an Israeli settler in the Gaza Strip, then people around her might well feel entitled to the land beneath her house. And she might definitely have some reason to worry about it. That's kind of a "tribal" attitude really, but it's what the issue is all about.
People who argue that a wife owes obedience to her husband. And incidentally sex.
Using a sex example would kind of ruin the point of having an analogy at all.
You're right. How about: people who claim I owe three years' servitude at risk of life and limb, in the service of "my country". (Actually, that should be "owed", because they did get what they wanted. But that distracts from the analogy.)
That might be analogous, but I have never lived in any location that drafts women and I have an unusually strong negative reaction to the idea of military service in general, and so I can't know for sure.
Israel does, although it's possible for women to get out of it if they really try. Then the analogy serves it's purpose, doesn't it?
Not precisely. I don't have an intense negative reaction to the idea of sex in general, after all.
Military service is generally understood to be coercive, so you're right to have a negative reaction to it (and so do I). Volunteer-only armies are extremely rare exceptions - far more rare than rape is compared to sex.
Really? I suspect a lot of young Americans would view the idea of coerced military service as another one of those bizarre practices from the distant past.
Israelis have a different perspective.
I realize that. In fact I was specifically calling attention to the difference in perspectives.
Well, then, the analogy should describe more explicitly the idea of coercive military service. That should serve to scare people as intended :-) Incidentally, we have on-and-off political and media wrangles about abolishing the draft here in Israel. Service in actual combat units is already volunteer only anyway, everyone else goes to "battlefield support" and desk jobs. The biggest argument, sometimes the only argument, brought out in favor of keeping the draft is that it's good for us (the young soldiers) to suffer for a few years. Creates strong character, and so on. Or as the (old male) politicians sometimes put it, "we did it, why shouldn't they?" This reminds me a lot of all those people who try their best to find an explanation of why universal death is in fact a good thing and necessary for us to remain "truly human" and it would be evil to try and become immortal. They, too, currently rule the media and perhaps the popular consensuses on the subject. Of course the real explanation is simpler. We'll have the draft for as long as the parliament and government is made up in large part of retired generals; and the army's high command is made up almost entirely of elite (volunteer) combat unit veterans; and people actually being drafted cannot influence the decision, not even by voting in the general elections. (Right to vote is granted at age 18. The draft is also at age 18, or when you finish highschool. General elections are every four years, so almost everyone votes for the first time during or after their army service.)
You know, I once saw someone argue that the single greatest tool the Mormons have for their legendary retention rates is their policy of having everyone go overseas or somewhere to do missionary work for a couple years; the idea being that spending years dealing with hostile or apathetic infidels will, by sheer cognitive dissonance, turn the missionary into a fanatic. Somewhat like those psychology experiments where the more you argue for a position & hear arguments against it, the more you brainwash yourself into believing it. This would seem to be a useful tool for anyone wishing to preserve the military state of Israel.
Mormon missions do not always take place overseas, and they aren't required of everyone. (It's a social expectation of men, but still optional even for them, and very much a voluntary thing for women.)
Point taken; should I have said 'policy of having many or most Mormon men and some women go far away'? I could be wrong, but I don't think that materially weakens the 'Stockholm syndrome effect', as it were, the possible utility of making everyone serve in the military. (And it may be a social expectation but I wonder how important the distinction between expectation and policy/law is; when I was a Catholic, we were told clearly that confirmation was optional - yet not one of us felt that we had the genuine option to not be confirmed, and so all of us were.)
Confirmation in Catholicism is administered to children, who are less free to reject social expectations than most adults. Mormon missionaries have all reached the age of majority, and while there may be social consequences, they're a bit farther removed than "disappointment of parents on whom one is unavoidably materially dependent". I personally know multiple adult Mormon men who never went on a mission.
It was the "Really?" that threw me off. To me it seemed to invite a "Yes, really," reply.
Which only goes to show that they don't read their own history books about drafts, or newspapers about stop-loss policies and the National Guard deployments.
Some may not read history, but it doesn't follow from what I said. They may know very well that the draft existed in the past. (I've noticed that a lot of people old enough to remember e.g. Vietnam have trouble accepting that we're in a different historical era now; they often speak in a way that suggests they think the draft could easily be brought back, when in fact the political reality is such that that's extremely unlikely.) National Guard service is voluntary, and stop-loss concerns people already signed up.
The draft still exists. As for how difficult it would be to put it back into operation, that's hard to say; consider how many people thought a black man would not be president this side of 2100. The right question is how difficult it would be to get into a war or other national emergency which could make use of the draft; in such situations, the preferences of young people are irrelevant. As for National Guard and stop-loss: you have a very strange idea of coercion if you think stop-loss isn't it. There may be a clause in their contracts saying something about contracts being extended indefinitely, but that strikes me as like signing a contract to sell yourself into slavery.
Stop-loss itself is coercion, but it's coercion applied to those already in the military. Citing the (current, contingent) existence of stop-loss policies doesn't support the idea that military service is inherently coerced. You may as well cite the fact that military personnel have to follow orders (also obviously coercion).
You're right, military enrollment is not inherently and always coercive; many countries have volunteer-only armies. For purposes of scaring people with an analogy for "entitlement" rape, we can use the following scenario: your worst enemy, who looks a little like you when he wears a wig, has signed an 8 year irrevocable combat unit contract in your name. It "only looks like" your signature? Tell that to the military police kicking down your door...
Here's a contract I'd like you to sign; you work for me for 8 years, but at any time I can change any provision in any way, and if you don't conform to my changes exactly, I can execute you. If this is not coercion, then apparently a contract legitimizes anything whatsoever. I'm not prepared to dive that far down the libertarian rabbit-hole, but maybe you are.
There seems to be a misunderstanding here. I specifically said that stop-loss is coercion. Are you trying to get me to defend stop-loss? I am not prepared to dive down any political rabbit-hole, because this isn't a political discussion. Whether stop-loss is an ethical policy or not is completely irrelevant; the point was that it doesn't make the U.S. like Israel, or France (until a few years ago), or indeed the U.S. circa 1970. In those countries, people are/were forced to enter the military, not just to stay in once they're already in.
Once we've clearly established that stop-loss is coercion, I'm done. You want to show that the US is not like Israel? Consider this: * the US today freely trafficks in coercion whenever it feels it is needed, with minimal public outcry, and what outcry there is is due solely to the affected parties * the infrastructure for the draft is still in place, and dissolving it has been specifically resisted by even Democratic administrations like Clinton * after 9/11, there were several public statements in support of the draft, such as this op-ed by Senator Rangels ("Bring Back the Draft", who submitted legislation to that effect, as did Senator Hollings * the sole justification offered by mainstream draft opponents is that it's not needed, which is obviously not a repudiation of the draft at all (see http://www.nytimes.com/2004/07/03/us/military-draft-official-denials-leave-skeptics.html ): And once stop-loss is permissible & precedent, draft is just more of the same, a point so obvious the reporter includes it: So, the US is culturally accepting, has the means, has the experience - but it just doesn't have the need (like Israel does). To make an inflammatory analogy, if an American were to claim to not be like Israel or France in this respect, I would put as little credence in that as I would the claim of a child molester that he's not a rapist because he just flies to Thailand and hires a child prostitute. (As for your claim this isn't about politics: stop-loss and the draft are politics. What a government should do to/with its citizens is the very heart of politics; I can't imagine what else politics could be.)
This seems to be a political hobby-horse of yours; clearly you don't like stop-loss and think it may lead to a draft in the future. But making political points like that is not what this thread is for. I simply pointed out to DanArmak that the U.S. doesn't currently practice conscription -- which is true -- and thus it is a hasty claim that military service is "generally understood to be coercive". DanArmak later acknowledged that a number of countries (not just the U.S., so you can pick another example if you like) have volunteer forces. Again, stop-loss may be unethical or otherwise bad policy, it may even facilitate some future draft, but not all bad things are the same. Not even if one leads to another. There is no need to obscure the manifest difference between the militaries of Israel and the U.S. by rhetorical posturing about how stop-loss is in the same moral category as outright conscription. It's an off-topic distraction. I don't intend to continue this political discussion further, but since I did happen to say that there was little political will in the U.S. for a draft, and since your latest comment could be read as an attempted refutation of that claim, I will make the following points before withdrawing: * There is no "Senator Rangels". The op-ed you linked to was written by Representative (not Senator) Charles Rangel, incidentally the same man currently under investigation for tax violations. His call for a draft was widely seen at the time as pure political grandstanding against the war in Iraq (specifically an attempt to make a point about public support of the war -- presumably the public would not support it to the point of tolerating a draft). * Members of Congress regularly make all kinds of public statements in support of this or that. You can no doubt find members of the Congressional Black Caucus who have made public statements in favor of reparations for slavery. That doesn't mean the idea has any actual poli
My mistake; I confused him with the Republican senator. (And I'd point out that if the tax violation thing is an attempt to discredit Rangel, that he can still be in office only points to his influence, even if you are unfamiliar with his chairmanship of the House Ways and Means committee.) Which is why I specifically mentioned the 2 different pieces of submitted legislation. I'm not sure what your point is here. They used the draft because that was how they got the troops they wanted: Vietnam peaked at something like 500,000 US troops deployed, while as far as I can tell, Iraq has never hosted even a third of that, peaking at 160,000. And the latter with a more populous America too (180 million in the '60s to 300 million now). Then why has it never been repudiated? Why are the laws still effective & the registry maintained? For such a politically suicidal idea, as you seem to think it, it's surprisingly present. The Democrats have plenty of time to pander to even tiny constituencies like paying veterans benefits to allied Filipinos from WWII, but they can't get rid of something that is supposed to be universally despised? Face it: what the American people opposes is the use of the draft for specific conflicts like bombing Serbia or Afghanistan or Iraq. The general idea is fine by them. And the quotes you think make your case, make mine: not one of them opposes the draft in general - just using it right now. Mere historical contingency. Not principles.
The problem is that, after Vietnam, America will oppose the draft for pretty much any war that isn't directly defensive, i.e. a retaliation to an attack or overt declaration of war. With the development of modern media, wars have become much, much harder to wage. The only way you'd see a draft in the US is if we waged a massive defensive ground war. This isn't going to happen, because technology has progressed too much. The only thing you're really going to need a lot of ground troops for is an occupation, and occupations are not defensive. It's not impossible, but it's extraordinarily unlikely that someone would pick a fight with the US that would require troops in numbers needed to justify a draft. Particularly when you consider that any such attack would hugely boost volunteering and thus reduce the need for a draft; look at what 9/11 did. So compulsive military service is quite possible in the case of a rather clear national emergency. Compulsive military service in a muddier, vaguely-preventative war seems extremely unlikely, even if it could theoretically be enacted. Damn near anything could theoretically be enacted, though, so this is hardly a useful point. [I admit I can't quite find how this thread originated, so I may be slightly off topic; for some reason it does not show in the comments in the original post.]
Vietnam didn't start with a draft either, IIRC. They used to be. But institutions adapted. Do you remember the run-up to the Iraq war? You could drive a truck through the arguments for invading (I remember being particularly unimpressed by the aluminum tubes & audio recordings), yet the media was so supine that even arch-liberal papers like the New York Times drank the kool-aid so deeply they would apologize later. And then there are things like embedded reporters, or those Pentagon pundits (forgotten about them? I wouldn't be surprised.). No, in this Gotterdammerung for newspapers, we cannot look to them to stop wars & drafts. So you agree with me, then, that the American people philosophically accepts coercion like the draft, it's just that we don't observe any recent drafts because the specific circumstances that would make it useful are, due to historical & technological contingency, rare? :) We're nested too far down to appear on the main page; you'd have to click 'more comments'.
Prediction: no military draft in the United States before 2020 (>= 95% confidence).
Not to mention that signatures on a contract are easy to fake, and the (military) witnesses of signing are often not interested in a recruit walking free.
Wikipedia has more. But, yeah, it's deceptive at best. Back during World War 1, the Supreme Court ruled that the Thirteenth Amendment doesn't apply to the military. In the context of ruling about the constitutionality of the draft, they devoted one paragraph to the Thirteenth Amendment issue: In other words, they said that they don't want it to apply, so it doesn't.
I've heard that lifetime incidence of being raped for women is about 3% worldwide. I expect it's considerably less in orderly societies. I definitely consider that high enough that were I a woman, rape would come to mind when thinking of frustrated males. That said, there are a lot of steps between approaching women out of sexual interest, and rape. I imagine anyone capable of being reached by anti-rape arguments is not a psychopath; I also imagine that only psychopaths actually rape. I'm also reminded of the recent woman-killer who brought a gun to his gym. Apparently he really did feel that (young?) women as a class owed him some level of sexual validation. It's true that this is rubbish thinking. Except for some form of therapy+prostitution that doesn't exist except in science fiction, I don't see any help for men who go berserk to the extent of raping+killing in response to general rejection except certainty of punishment, which is any case useless against those who've already decided to off themselves. Perhaps a more convenient and self-only way of killing themselves could be made available.

I imagine anyone capable of being reached by anti-rape arguments is not a psychopath; I also imagine that only psychopaths actually rape.

I really doubt this; surely acculturation against (or for) rape has an effect.

Agreed; implicit context was a society where rape is punished.
That's much lower than the estimates I usually see. E.g., the Wikipedia article Estimates of sexual violence quotes a self-reported rate of 14.8% lifetime incidence among U.S. women, not counting failed rape attempts. This refers to this study[1], which quotes two previous studies with similar results, and also estimates a 22% lifetime incidence rate under a broader definition of sexual assault. There are whole countries out there where the rape incidence in any single year is far above 3%. Even putting "unstable" countries and temporary situations (those lasting one generation or less) aside, there are many societies where the structure of marriage is such that we ought to estimate a daily incidence of rape, perhaps far above 50%. [1] Tjaden P, Thoennes N. Full report of the prevalence, incidence and consequences of violence against women: findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey. Washington, DC, National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, United States Department of Justice and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2000 (NCJ 183781).
I wonder where I read 3% (it was very recent) - unfortunately all I can see now are order-of-magnitude higher estimates for what i presume is the broader category of "sexual assault". You're right.
I found my "source" - it was a blog comment I've seen 4-10% elsewhere.
That comment uses the figure quoted by the previous comment. But look at the pdf linked there for the UN report - that's not a number of rapes, that's a number of "crimes recorded in criminal police statistics!" No wonder it's much lower than the real figure. (I don't even know if it includes all reports/accusations or just counts found guilty by a court.) Incidentally that document is missing some of the more interesting statistics for the US, while it has them for other countries. "Rape average prison sentence served" is one.
I've heard considerably higher quoted statistics for "sexual assault" (one in four women, it is said, will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime). I don't know what percentage of sexual assault cases are "actual" rape, though all things that fall under the sexual assault umbrella are frightening. Don't think that, unless in so thinking, you also think that "a psychopath" can be a functional, indistinguishable member of society who you'd never once know even through extended association unless he happened to tell you about that one time at that frat party (or whenever).
This. I know or have known three people who survived rapes and were comfortable enough with me to tell me details of the situations. One was in a mental institution, and was raped by the staff - I don't know much about the details in that situation, but the person or people involved were indistinguishable enough to be employed in that situation. Another friend was assaulted by her twin brother when they were teenagers; other than that, to hear her talk about him he doesn't sound psychopathic at all. The situation I know the most about involves a friend who, as a teenager, passed out from hunger in the presence of a male acquaintance - almost a 1:1 correspondence with the 'lost wallet' scenario. We've talked at some length about him, since he tried to get back in touch with her recently, and while he has quite the sense or entitlement and is in denial about the situation, he's pretty definitely not a psychopath. (Unless I'm very much misremembering my research on psychopathy, psychopaths don't do denial in the same way he was doing it, if at all.)
Completely correct. I speak not just from reading about it, but also from knowing one woman (that I know of) who was assaulted and the case quite clearly did not involve psychopaths. It involved a gang of ordinary teenage boys egging each other on when she was in their power. Rape is (statistically) normal human male behavior, and is not correlated with any diagnosable psychological or physiological condition that I know of.
I do indeed think psychopaths aren't readily detected.
Yeah, exactly. So these efforts are wasted on me, since after all, I'm not a psychopath. Why, if I could push a button that would KILL all the psychopaths, I'd do it! Wait...
I finally read the linked scenario. It's fun, but I'm not sure what to take from it. It's scary to imagine people really believing in overarching arbitrary rules that a sane person would only consider in hypothetical philosophy play. I guess some religions encourage it, but thankfully they usually come with enough hypocrisy or compartmentalization to avoid the fearful consequence.
Heh, I was just trying to be funny, not even really trying to relate to your post. Personally, I just think the very idea of the psychopath button scenario is funny: "Yes, I'd love to be responsible for the death of all mass-murderers ... no, wait, that makes me a ..."
There is certainly a degree of irony. But pushing that button out of moral concerns proves that you are not a psychopath, irrespective of whether it is an immoral act.
Sadly, this is not true.
That seems entirely off-base to me.
Well... you're absolutely right! I'm on my second project right now, and would never dream of guilt-tripping a client into a sale :-) But still, a lot of successful projects get started without much regard for ethics. This especially applies to online communities: LessWrong's launch is actually an outlier. Creating hundreds of sockpuppet accounts to simulate active life on the site is pretty much standard industry practice, Myspace got its startup push from a huge spam emailing (insider info I saw somewhere), etc. Because the choice is either this or 5 visitors/day, month after month, who look at your comatose website and leave. For an especially clear-cut example, SEO is certainly unethical from the customer's point of view, but I absolutely have to do it, and will. Sounds a bit like PUA practices, no?
SEO is not unethical when it focuses on findability. Making your site reachable by the people who are looking for it is not manipulative - it's just good customer service. If you are doing something unethical, you should reconsider whether you "have to" do it. Hurting your customers is not good business, and you're making yourself an enemy of the people you purport to help.
I have been unable to find folks who'll verify this for me. I'm pretty well-read on Internet startups, and I've never found a serious source suggesting it. This InformationWeek article cites Sanford Wallace as the source of this rumor, and I was unable to find anyone else claming this happened. Given his reputation, I seriously doubt this is true.
I think it's quite possible in principle to be successful at pickup and seduction, even for beginners, while maintaining regard to ethics. I run a quick expected value calculation on just about anything I do. The reason it is difficult in practice is because some of the ethical standards applied to men learning conscious seduction are bogus and would not hold up if applied to female mating behavior, or to naturally skilled men who do exactly the same thing unconsciously. Such standards would ban large swathes of human social behavior if applied consistently. Applying a reasonable moral framework is not much of an impediment to learning and practicing seduction, yet there are certain bloated, anachronistic, non-reality-based, moral frameworks that are. In the extreme, we can see radical feminists John Stoltenberg and Robert Jensen who have come to believe that participating in heterosexual sex is currently unethical because it is so oppressive to women, and turned towards celibacy (Jensen's essay is titled "Patriarchal Sex," but I don't see it available online for free anywhere).

I can recognize the attitude from my youth and I think it is really counterproductive. It leads to the kind of bitterness expressed in this line:

a starving entrepreneur who (unlike you) gets kicked in the face every goddamn day.

a man who sees himself that way isn't going to be attractive to women. If you restrict yourself to thinking about meaningless sex, then yes it is true that the relationship between men and women is pretty asymmetrical. An average woman can probably consume as much meaningless sex as she wants without too much effort, whereas for most men there is a lot of effort involved in obtaining meaningless sex. However, if you consider quality monogamous relationships the situation is much more symmetrical. There is a significant search effort for both sexes in finding a quality compatible partner that reciprocates their feelings.

For most people long-term committed relationships are the goal, so for most people the world is fairly symmetrical. It may not feel that way in your early 20s though.

For most people the goal is medium term relationships, interspersed with meaningless or nearly meaningless sex, and eventually a long term relationship with perhaps children. Women (who want this) tend to get it. Men who want this, in many cases, get nothing for the first 10 years and then jump straight to the long-term relationship stage. Saying "it doesn't feel that way in your early 20s" seems to imply your teens and 20s don't really matter if it turns out all right in the end?
I was thinking about it across people rather than across an individual lifetime. If you asked all the adults in the US what kind of romantic relationship they are most interested in, most of them will say long-term monogamous. After all, most of them are in long-term monogamous relationships. This is consistent with what you are saying, just a different way of looking at it. I will say though that while this kind of path is very common its not the only desirable or good one. Tons of people get married as virgins and lots of other peoples have lots of other different romantic paths. I also don't think that the involuntarily celibate path (at least up to a certain age) is the worst one available. Who would you rather be, a 24 year old nerd who has never had a date, or a 24 year old playa appearing on Maury for the 8th time to be told "you are the father!"? Now that I am happily married the utility difference to me of one more or less relationship in my past is really small. So, in that sense my lack of romantic success between say 16 and 20 really doesn't matter. It matters about as much as the fact that I got a C in 9th grade geometry given that I went on to kick ass at math later on in high school and in college. That being said, 9th grade math was really frustrating for me, as was trying to date in high school and college. One way I could have dealt with that frustration was to learn PUA techniques to increase my success. I doubt that would have worked well for me. I think it would have helped me if I had known then that it was only temporary. Once I got a good paying job, spent some time at the gym, and gained a little maturity, suddenly girls started wanting to go on a second date, even though I still wasn't a great conversationalist. In that case I still wouldn't have gotten laid much, but I would have stressed about it less.
But for the person whose present became your past, the utility difference was enormous. And that's what really matters. Even if you're sure you'll be happy later, you can't ignore being unhappy right now. It's perfectly reasonable that you needed more skills or attributes for this success. But age should not, of itself, be one of these attributes, as long as you're dating people your own age.
I guess. I certainly felt back then that my lack of success with women was likely permanent. I think that if I had known then what my future was going to be like it would have increased my happiness, but I don't know for sure. It seems like you are making the assumption that women and men of the same age have the same average attractiveness. I think that assumption is a cause of a lot of frustration among young men and leads to erroneous theories about how women date up and men date down and stuff like that. In my model of attractiveness, the average 21 year old woman is much more attractive than the average 21 year old man. Consequently, if you are a 21 year old man, and you want to date a relatively pretty girl your own age, she is probably way out of your league. Unless you have something exceptional going for you, or you get really lucky, its likely not going to happen. Happily, attractiveness in men tends to rise in the 20s (and even into the 30s and beyond depending on career trajectory & fitness regimen) while it declines pretty rapidly for women in that time period. Even by 25 things will have converged a great deal. But especially for men who are still students, a girl who is the same age as them and in the same percentile of attractiveness as them for that age will be much more attractive than them when judged against the population as a whole. If a man wants to date at 21 then yes, he either needs lots of charm, or he needs to go for women that are more his overall level of attractiveness. For instance, very overweight/ugly 21 year old women, high school girls, 32 year old trailer trash with 3 kids and a drinking problem, etc.
This sounds very much like an armchair investigation. Most modern marriages, i.e. today, not 15 years ago, are between couples of very similar ages and similar incomes. You've got an assumption that women strongly prefer older men - your conclusion that a young man will have difficulty dating at his own age requires this. This may have been true back in the day, before women could pay their own bills. It's certainly true of some subset of women. But if marriage numbers mean anything, and I would rather think they do, women in general aren't after meaningfully older men, which suggests that younger men are not at as strong a disadvantage as you have assumed.
I'm not sure what kind of attractiveness you mean to be talking about, but I'll chip in that maturity tends to be greater in young women than in young men. This equalizes as much as it ever does by the mid to late 20's.
An effect such as you describe certainly exists to some extent. I don't know from personal experience if it's as large as you say. (I suspect it varies a lot across different cultures.) The question remains: when 21 year old women see that only men who are at least e.g. 25 years old are attractive enough for them, do they consciously rank attractiveness by age, or does age translate into other objective attributes like e.g. experience?
Is this actually true? Seriously appealing for evidence either way. (I have a pet theory that we overestimate how attractive the "average woman" is for Reasons.)

Is a pet theory a formerly stray theory that you decided to start feeding, because it was cute, and that you stroke in your super villain moments?

I used to have a pet theory but it died when I stopped feeding it evidence.
Your theory doesn't seem to stand up to the data, here and here. It seems it's women that underestimate male attractiveness. Men's judgments are almost symmetrical. Data is from Okcupid surveys. (obvious confounds: people that use okcupid may not be representative of the population generally, both for the raters and ratees.)
In order to make the data from OKCupid correspond to an underestimation, you have to equate the arbitrary 1-5 rating with some absolute measure like "quintile of attractiveness." This does not necessarily hold.
There is some grounding in the OKCupid data, but it comes from the functional meaning of the point scores: when two people mutually rate each other four or five stars, they're both notified. A score of four or five is therefore a weak way of saying "I find this person attractive enough that I'd like to meet them". (We aren't necessarily talking strictly physical attraction, though; "everyone knows" that the scores are based on photos more than profile text, but I have no idea how true this actually is.) Scores in the 0..3 range have no direct effects, but they may be anchored in some way by the fraction of people rated 4 or 5. This is all to the best of my knowledge; I haven't been active on OKCupid for a couple of years and they might have tweaked the interface since then. On the other hand, I do remember seeing those analytics pages when I was active.
Good point. That thought never influenced me when I was on OKCupid, but maybe that's just a guy thing :P
I'm not sure "underestimate" is the right description here; my opinion (as an androphile) is that the male attractiveness distribution is heavily skewed, basically in the way that women think it is, if the 1-5 scale measures the underlying strength of attraction rather than quintiles. (3s, 4s, and 5s all fall in the top quintile of male attractiveness, but it seems that there are much larger gradations there than there are in the top quintile of female attractiveness.) And for the underlying question of access to sex, the message distribution is more important, but isn't scaled correctly for comparisons between the two.
I'm not an androphile myself, but that's my impression too, for various reasons (see e.g. the paragraph starting with “Similarly” in this post).
BTW, here's the post the graphs were taken from.
Huh. Those are some very interesting numbers, I'll have to look over those. I was talking about people (possibly) overestimating how attractive the median woman is*, though, not people failing to identify how attractive specific women are - which I think is what those graphs relate to? How well estimated attractiveness actually predicts people being attracted? *(leading to suggesting strategies for most women that actually only work for a high-attractiveness minority, perhaps.)
okCupid lets users rate other users on a 0-5 scale from pictures; for each user, you can average together all of the ratings to determine their mean attractiveness. (They're also stored such that you can only look at women's rating of men, and men's rating of women, rather than also looking at men's rating of men.) When you ask men to rate women on a 0-5 scale, they do it basically uniformly- about 5% of women have an average rating close to 5, and about 5% of women have an average rating close to 0, and 20% of women have an average rating of about 2.5. When you ask women to rate men on a 0-5 scale, they skew heavily towards giving men 1s. Now, for your question what actually matters is the "would bang" line, which has to come from some other source. I would be amazed if there were not sufficient men on the margin willing to bang a 2.5. According to women, the median man is about a 1- it does not seem surprising that there are insufficient women on the margin willing to bang a 1.
It doesn't show that woman underestimate male attractiveness. It shows that in online dating woman are in generally able to focus on the more attractive candidates.
What would that even mean? Remember that attractiveness is a two-place word. Women are underestimating how attractive men are to whom? Would a more natural description of the OKC data that men are in average less attractive to women than vice versa? (I think you misunderstood what MugaSofer meant, which he better explained in his reply. IIUC what he hypothesized is that if you picked an actually median women and you asked people what fraction of the female population are less attractive than her, you'd get an answer much less than 50% -- e.g. because below-median women are underrepresented in mass media compared to above-median ones, or something.) Well, for starters, it's mainly used by single people, so very desirable people are filtered out unless they are also very picky.
Both correct, my bad.
Agreed. (Exercise for the reader: next time you are in a bus/classroom/mall/somewhere, look at all the women around you, mentally sort them by attractiveness, and look at the median one.)
Yes, If one assumes that homosexual males and females have the same attitudes toward sex on average as their heterosexual counterparts. For example, there is no lesbian version of gay bathhouse, as far as I know.
Survey data on sexual behavior: http://www.iub.edu/~kinsey/resources/FAQ.html It doesn't tell us about voluntary vs. involuntary abstinence, but it does have information about frequency, etc. Men are more likely to have had sex in the last year then women, but young women are slightly more likely to have had sex in the last year then young men.
I believe almost all of the effort involved deals with enforcing quality standards, and so as stated it seems true.
Indeed it does - it seems more probable under the standard assumptions than my pet theory, hence my interest in whether this prediction/folk wisdom has been empirically confirmed.
This: doesn't prove this: which is false. Alpha men have are just as disproportionally desired as relationship partners, as they're as sex partners. Gotta ask where'd you get your conclusion anyway? What are your citations?
Actually, I think joe might be right. Think of it this way: Women are dramatically more selective than men about sexual partners. Yet are they dramatically more selective about relationship partners than men? I doubt it, and I would anecdotally suggest that: P( man is interested in a relationship with a woman | he is interested in sex with her ) < P(woman is interested in a relationship with a man | she is interested in sex with him ) So the selectiveness would then be more symmetrical for relationships than for casual sex. This is compounded by the fact that since women are hypergamous and tend to try to "date up," the men at the top of the ladder have lots of options and can afford to be very picky about relationship partners. Anecdotally again, at the highest ranks of desirability, men seem to be at least as picky about relationship partners as women are. But these aren't the men that women are most likely to want relationships with. Men at high levels of desirability don't need to enter relationships to find sex. Getting those dudes into a relationship is much harder for a woman, and takes skill. (This is where I think many female dating complaints come from. My suspicion is that females are typically trying to "date up" in terms of percentile attractiveness, while males struggle to date at their same level (or lower) of percentile attractiveness, because their female counterparts are busy chasing men of higher percentile attractiveness who just aren't that into those women. If I'm right about the math and the empiricals, then we have an inevitable situation where both sexes experience a challenge: what you want, you can't get... and what you can get, you don't really want. Women (on average) are struggling to date up, which means that men are struggling to date people of similar percentile attractiveness. So who wins in this situation? That's a complex question, and all I'll say for now is that the variance in the advantages of this system are probably gr
What would "dating down" look like, for a man? The standard advice is that if your standards for being in a relationship are too low, to the point where it seems as though practically everyone meets them, this is called being "desperate" and will make people want to avoid you.
As with most sound dating advice there are exceptions and in most cases doing the 'wrong' thing with confidence and intent ameliorates or even reverses the effect. If a man chooses to date below the maximum attractiveness that he could get with effort for reasons other than desperation he can be expected to have more success (in the short term) than if he pushed his limits. The challenge he faces to maintain social dominance is reduced. Laziness (or pragmatism) is not the same as neediness.
I'd guess that your formula is correct and relationship selectiveness is indeed more symmetrical than sex selectiveness on average, but most of the equalization is due to the higher selectiveness of high-status males. At the lower rungs the asymmetry should stay mostly intact. But this is only a guess, I have no citations in support.
It's kindof late in the discussion to ask people to get out of their armchairs. A good deal of the disagreement here has been people disagreeing about the bare facts.
Really? I haven't seen too much disagreement about bare facts. I have seen more disagreement regarding the way things should be, the applicability of certain analogies, the validity of lines of reasoning and the relevance of refutations. Bare facts about the external world barely played a part in the disagreement.
Are they? ISTM the men most likely to have been in a stable, happy relationship with an awesome woman for years don't much resemble the men most likely to have one-night stands.
No, I don't think I would. I'd keep that in reserve if any of the students harassed me, which if they're that impressively awful they might, but I'd probably still give it a try. I mean, I attempt to teach philosophy to non-major freshmen once a week, and I don't give up on the ones who are abominable at it.
There are really two problems here. The first is that single men and women can have a hard time meeting each other. The second is a mismatch between the expectations of each and the reality. We all have an idea of what we're looking for in a mate. That idea owes a lot to the media, and it isn't all that realistic. She is looking for a man with smouldering good looks and a deep sensitive streak (full disclosure: I'm a man, and most of the time I don't even care about my own feelings). He is looking for a woman who is paying for her math degree by stripping. Only very rarely are these expectations fulfilled.
I wasn't trying to communicate a thoroughly systematic method for acquiring social skills, so I confess that this phrase may have been a bit vague. That said, it's English, not a formal language. "Just get out of the house" does not mean, "position yourself in some location X such that X is not a member of the subset of locations within your house." The expression means that one should get out of the house and go to places that are conducive to some form of social interaction. Appropriate places vary tremendously from person to person, which is why the phrase is so non-specific. But if you pick some social event or scene where there are likely to be people vaguely similar to you, and you keep going to these events, there's a pretty good chance you'll meet interesting people and get better at socializing generally, if you need work at that. Hell, as long as you pick some social event where you don't actually have contempt for everyone there, and you keep going out even after things go poorly, you're probably going to do OK. You can't expect to be a great skier the first time you hit the slopes, and if you give up because you're falling too much, you'll never even be a competent skier. You can't expect to have decent social skills if you don't make a sincere effort to socialize. I understand that, in some cases, people sincerely try, deal with falling down a lot, keep trying, and still fail. I admit I have no easy solution for that. But I think that's a pretty small minority of cases. If I'm wrong about that, please correct me.

"But if you pick some social event or scene where there are likely to be people vaguely similar to you"

I suspect that for most of us, such scenes consist almost exclusively of dudes.

I have trouble meeting women, and it's due to three major constraints:

1) I'm not religious, so church is out.

2) Bars bore me.

3) I haven't identified any other venues where a 30-something guy can approach women in a sociable context.

These constraints may be typical of the Less Wrong readership.

An additional concern is not being able to find women with compatible intellectual interests (I don't mean having or not having specific interests but being interested and capable of thinking/talking about intellectual topics). Fortunately, there are dating sites. OkCupid seems to trend smart, but there are lots of others too. If you live near a good university, you can also attend evening special lectures and events of that sort that are heavily attended by graduate students. They often have a socializing aspect to them after the event.
I don't live near a university (the local Christian college does not, IMHO, count). I've tried dating sites, but never had any luck with them. I tried a meeting of my local professional society, but I was one of three people under 50.
Science fiction fandom. In my (UK-based) experience, it contains substantial numbers of both sexes and all ages. And all body types, for that matter.
Can you give an example? More and more I get the impression I live in an entirely different world than some of the people here. I met my wife in the college radio station. A couple I know met in the local philosophy club. Several couples I know met in gaming groups. Generally when I go to anime or RPG conventions, the gender ratio seems to be close to an even mix.
Magic: the Gathering tournaments are at least 90% male.
Indeed, the only sources I've found (not good ones) for M:tG tournament demographics refer to females as "not measurable". Which is odd to me because I'm pretty sure about half of the M:tG players I know are female. Though I don't know anyone who doesn't play with old cards, so it's likely a very different demographic than tournament-goers.
The reason bars bore you, is probably that you lack the social skills. Practice happens to be a way to develop skills. It boils down to the fact that you aren't willing to pay the price of experiencing some boredom to develop social skills. It simply a silly constraint. As Christian Szegedy wrote above, bars where there's partner dancing such as Salsa, Swing or Tango are probably the best way. You even have a lot of precedural stuff to keep your mind occupied (not feel boredom) when you concentrate on dancing stuff. In some sense a lot of people feel that they need the procedural stuff to be able to train social skills without getting bored. Freakonomics had a section where they came to the conclusion that good parenting isn't about what actions a parent completes but about what kind of a person the parent happens to be. Exposure to social interactions changes yourself. If you happen to lack social skills it means that you have to go out of your comfort zone. It your choice whether you are willing to pay the price.

The reason bars bore you, is probably that you lack the social skills.

That seems like an odd hypothesis. "Bored" is not how I describe my emotional state when I'm engaging in some activity for which I lack skill.

For my part, I find bars boring because there's nothing entertaining to do there. I don't even see how people have interesting social interactions in them; most bars I've been to have been very loud, and the people have been drinking excessively, such that one cannot even have an interesting conversation. But then, my hearing is terrible in loud places, so YMMV.

If you lack good social skills the amount you talk while you are in bars is lower than it would be if you have good skills. If you talk less there's more time to be bored. If you dance more you are also less likely to be bored.
I doubt many people here find talking inherently interesting. The topic has to be engaging too, and the overwhelming majority of people in bars don't allow for that.
Well ... huh. That's a catch-22 for you, isn't it? (Yeah, you're probably right. Although I guess the grandparent is the only one who can confirm this.)
It's been a while since I wrote the post. But the main point was that if you want to improve skills it's usually helpful to engage in activities that bore you or are in some other way uncomfortable.
Oh, indeed. I was just agreeing with that small section.
Not the grandparent commenter, but bars bore me because I don't find socializing with strangers in a bar setting to be particularly interesting. For me, it'd be like riding a unicycle - something I don't know how to do, but I can tell I wouldn't enjoy that much anyway
What about going there with people you already know?
If I want to spend time with them, a bar is far from the optimal place to do it.
The post you quote doesn't advocate going there for the purpose of enjoyment but to achieve secondary objectives. If you have a goal, and path A to the goal is boring, that doesn't mean that going down path A is automatically out of question. You might find a better path than A, but if A is the only thing you are left with, go down A even if it's boring if it brings you towards your goal.
I've had some success at meeting people and having conversations with them. On the other hand, anime conventions are bad for meeting someone you hope to see a second time, because, chances are, the person you're talking to lives in another state or something.
Look for small, local conventions - they're often hosted by universities. There might be one in your area. Of course, those have a tendency to foom if they're any good (like Connecticon), so it's a moving target.
I'm not sure this is good advice. Cons (and especially anime cons, which tend to skew a lot younger) depend on leading a lot of socially awkward people to talk to each other, and as such basically live or die by the skills of their organizers. If you're restricting yourself to small local cons, and you're not very lucky, you naturally get organizers who are either inexperienced or incompetent. That's tolerable if you already know a good chunk of the attendees. But if not, it's hard to overestimate how bad this can go. When I last attended a similar con, for example, I met several people I immediately disliked, attracted one (1) stalker, and enjoyed the spectacle of an attendee being dragged out by the police after getting too handsy with his partner at a cosplay event. I did not meet anyone new that I'd have cared to meet again.
Indeed. Get out of the house and go where? Just for fun: "There Is Life Outside Your Apartment"
Dude that shit had me rollllling! Props. And it fits right into the framework. Having a smoke is a task for a human, but a problem for the alien.
It's really not that bad as far as advice goes. If you get out of the house you'll get bored. Then, inevitably, you'll find something to do. Usually it will involve either other people, exercise or something that expands your cultural experience. All good steps. In fact, 'get out of the house' is rather important advice even to those who have thoroughly absorbed all the relevant mating advice. Sometimes it is easier to learn how stuff works than actually do it. All too true.
Average guys or average single guys? The latter is lower than the former for obvious reasons.
You should actually suggest that. Alicorn doesn't seem stupid, it might produce insight.
4 years ago, Alicorn responded here.
Ooh! Thanks.
Except that the level of art I (and I think Hugh) am talking about guidance for, is more analogous to learning the rules of the game than doing some part of it very well. And teaching someone the rules of a game is generally not regarded as difficult.
Rules of the game, yes. But also the technique by which the athlete throws a ball. He cannot describe how he throws a ball now, but he or his coaches can describe the process he went through and the drills he practiced to get to that level of unconscious competence.
Good point. I accept that correction.
Quite right, and it reminds me of this description of the value of consciousness: it's a way of learning. Once you've learned to do something unconsciously, you'll do it far better than anyone still at the stage of acing it out self-consciously. Therefore the main evolutionary benefit of consciousness may have been the general ability to learn new skills and concepts. I don't remember where this is from - can someone attribute? (I'm not saying that's the entire value of consciousness, but it sounds like reasonable.)

You know, I like this article, but I just have to say: "taskification" is an ugly, ugly word.

"Analysis" is a common word for dividing a problem into smaller subproblems, and would seem to apply.
For what it's worth, it looks like "solution" in the mathematician's sense is synonymous.
I'd say "algorithm" comes closer - mathematicians mean several things by "solution" in different contexts.
But what would be the verb?
'reify'? Roughly means to turn an abstraction (such as a goal) into something concrete (specific, implementable behaviors).

Personally, I think musicians who can actually play their instruments are capable of creating more "magical" music than musicians who can't. ... Sucking at stuff is not sublime. It's not sublime in art, it's not sublime in music, and it's not sublime in dance.

Nicely said.

The desire to have things "just happen" can help level the playing field. The more desirable a person is, the more likely "wait for the miracle" will work for them sometimes, the more likely they are to buy into it, and thus be available and/or desperate e... (read more)

Yup, you are seeing what I'm getting at. Yes, but even though such women may get many offers, such "potential mates" are not potential mates that satisfy their criteria. These women may need to spend effort to meet (and compete with each other) over the miniscule subset of exceptionally attractive and high status men they have their sights on.

The problem you're describing is big. Really big. Ignoring the issue of whether the advice being given is wrong, saying "be yourself" or "meet potential partners through friends" is breaking up one big problem into subproblems, which is helpful if you can get past that extra just they tack on. The real work still lies ahead, but that's still progress.

Given that it's such an important problem in people's lives, I am somewhat perplexed as to why it isn't covered in school. Given the effect choosing a mate can have, it should be a substantial part of the curriculum.

The truth about it is not politically correct enough for school, there's no way this is happening.
But that doesn't explain why there isn't bad advice in school. I suspect that spriteless is correct, about diversity of parents.
I got a video on "don't hate you're friend's new girlfriend because she's taking his time from you" video in sixth grade. But I expect the lack of videos is to avoid offending parents who have their own ideas?

Society won't help you with it, if Robin and Thursday's arguments are right.

You can help yourself. In recent years there's been an explosion of information on how to get better at dating and social interaction, some of it even works.

Yup, most of it inspired by the seduction community, which is the main influence of my thinking. However, the community is still relatively underground and controversial. I direct my criticism towards mainstream dating advice.

I think the biggest reason that most dating advice sucks is that good advice is only possible if you actually view the realtime performance of the person and thus get an idea of what kind of mistakes they're making. Once you see what mistakes they're making, giving good advice becomes orders of magnitude easier. Then it would be called "teaching" instead of "advice-giving".

Is there anything on which the mainstream advice isn't horrible? If you look at what is said about jobs/money/education/time management/happiness/depression/weight management/virtually any personal subject imaginable, the advice is invariably counterproductive nonsense. Disregard the mainstream society, and just enjoy your dating advantage over competition.

Can you say what you want without appealing to this "society"? "Society" is only people dealing with each other. What do you want some individual person to do, or not do, to fix the problems you see? Because I do not recognise the picture of "society" that you are drawing. I have never encountered the "Romantic" view outside of advice columns in women's magazines. The real people that I know generally do think deliberately about -- taskify, if you must -- how they deal with people. Just read a random collection of Li... (read more)

You're not the first to notice the problem, though Alicorn's terminology does make it a bit easier to describe. You should read the last chapter of David Friedman's "Hidden Order", "The Economics of Love and Marriage". He doesn't give any answers, but he approaches the same problem from a somewhat different angle.

What an excellent book that was. Simon Bowmaker, et al did something similar in their textbookish Economics Uncut. Recommended reading.

I need more clarification of what I am calling the "Romantic" view

Indeed. I'm beginning to think you're not talking about Byron at all!

So, in summary, most dating advice isn't helpful because it's written by and for people who are already good at that. :o)

I can break this into some tasks I have solutions to.

Task 1: I am a severe agoraphobe. Solution: therapy helps, alcohol seems to help but makes it much worse on the hangover.

Task 2: I lack conversation skills. I want to not lack conversation skills.

2.1: Being myself involves giving non-sequitur after non-sequitur about my model collection. This upsets people! Solution: Join a model collectin' club and learn to tell model collecting sto... (read more)


A clever appeal to people's fear of systematized socialization.

Any artist, whether in visual media, music, drama, or dance knows that the "magic" of their art is produced by mundane and usually heavily taskified processes. You can't "just" create a sublime work of art

Not even the very lucky and talented? Not a completely rhetorical question, this is all completely outside of my domain competence.

Even the lucky and talented have to be taught the skills of their craft and continue to practice regularly. They just get to see a payoff earlier than everyone else. Jascha Heifetz: "If I don't practice one day, I know it; two days, the critics know it; three days, the public knows it."
—Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

I think there may be a tendency for the here-present audience to overanalyze and underpractice.

I think the following information is important for understanding this problem matter:

(1) Anyone attracted to this site will likely be a highly intelligent individual.

(2) IQ is more closely bundled around 100 for girls than it is for guys.

Implication: This here audience is mostly male.

(3) People with IQ differences of more than 2 standard deviations don't get along that great (aren't peers).

(4) Socialization with peers at a young age is crucial to social developme... (read more)

I was just lamenting this morning how my todo list, a set of tasks for the next few days, was depressing me. When I wrote it, it was a great joy to get all these things out of my head, but now that all I had to do was follow them, it felt mechanical and boring. I could rewrite the list and gain some excitement about a few of the tasks that way, but instead I've been trying to figure out the why of this feeling, and your post gets me right back into it.

I think there's an ideal working state -- perhaps the state of Flow is describing it, or perhaps that's si... (read more)

Hmm. My intuition is that Flow is no more or less than intimate familiarity with a repertoire of tasks/procedures/heuristics used to reliably solve scoped problems. Do you think Flow could be applied to, e.g., piano performance? What about debugging programs? "Flow" as used in wider culture could certainly be applied that way. The difficulty of communicating/teaching many procedures and heuristics is the problem with trying to taskify dating advice, IMO.
I agree - "flow" happens to masters who have taskified the process and practiced it so many times that it becomes procedural rather than declarative knowledge.
Yes. This can definitely be done with sex/romance, but it seems that many people want everything to work perfectly the first time... Sorry folks.
I've experienced the state called "flow" when playing the piano, so consider this a big. fat, YES. You are talking about the same thing I'm talking about, right?
Thanks for reminding me about flow. Flow lets you dynamically generate algorithms and solutions, and there is no real substitute for it for solving certain problems. Yet flow depends on your activity being neither too easy nor too hard. Taskification is still applicable to problems that require flow, just not in the same way. You cannot consciously taskify your entire procedure, but you can do the following: 1. You can taskify some of the component tasks involved, such that you can flow. For example, you cannot taskify the entire problem of salsa dance, but you can taskify the process of learning the component steps such that you are able to flow. Without having technique at a certain level, flow is impossible. Taskification can get you the necessary technique. Sometimes doing a task in a conscious, clunky, non-spontaneous way will build the skills necessary to do that task from flow on the fly. That's how musicians and dancers typically learn. 2. Taskify the process of getting into flow, at which point you let the flow take over.
Yeah, I think you're attempting to take over a separate concept (fluency?) with your idea of taskification. You generate tasks when you want to complete something piece-wise, and it may be valuable to break complex things into tasks for explanatory purposes, but fluency isn't based primarily on understanding the tasks as tasks, it's based on experience and, well, fluency.

Personally, I think musicians who can actually play their instruments are capable of creating more "magical" music than musicians who can't.

this statement requires a clarification for several terms: can "instruments" refer to a digital sequencer? turntable(s)? microphone, loop pedal, effects pedal, etc? a rewired speak and spell? a laptop running generative algorithms?

"Magical" might need a touch more clarification as well.

if it does include those, then the statement ends up a tautology; musicians who can play music well can play music better than those who can't play music well...?

That's the idea, yes.