Part of the Sequence: The Science of Winning at Life. Co-authored with Minda Myers and Hugh Ristik. Also see: Polyhacking.

When things fell apart between me (Luke) and my first girlfriend, I decided that kind of relationship wasn't ideal for me.

I didn't like the jealous feelings that had arisen within me. I didn't like the desperate, codependent 'madness' that popular love songs celebrate. I had moral objections to the idea of owning somebody else's sexuality, and to the idea of somebody else owning mine. Some of my culture's scripts for what a man-woman relationship should look like didn't fit my own goals very well.

I needed to design romantic relationships that made sense (decision-theoretically) for me, rather than simply falling into whatever relationship model my culture happened to offer. (The ladies of Sex and the City weren't too good with decision theory, but they certainly invested time figuring out which relationship styles worked for them.) For a while, this new approach led me into a series of short-lived flings. After that, I chose 4 months of contented celibacy. After that, polyamory. After that...

Anyway, the results have been wonderful. Rationality and decision theory work for relationships, too!

We humans compartmentalize by default. Brains don't automatically enforce belief propagation, and aren't configured to do so. Cached thoughts and cached selves can remain even after one has applied the lessons of the core sequences to particular parts of one's life. That's why it helps to explicitly examine what happens when you apply rationality to new areas of your life  from disease to goodness to morality. Today, we apply rationality to relationships.


Relationships Styles

When Minda had her first relationship with a woman, she found that the cultural scripts for heterosexual relationships didn't work for a homosexual relationship style. For example, in heterosexual dating (in the USA) the man is expected to ask for the date, plan the date, and escalate sexual interaction. A woman expects that she will be pursued and not have to approach men, that on a date she should be passive and follow the man's lead, and that she shouldn't initiate sex herself.

In the queer community, Minda quickly found that if she passively waited for a woman to hit on her, she'd be waiting all night! When she met her first girlfriend, Minda had to ask for the date. Minda writes:

On dates, I didn't know if I should pay for the date or hold the door or what I was supposed to do! Each interaction required thought and negotiation that hadn't been necessary before. And this was really kind of neat. We had the opportunity to create a relationship that worked for us and represented us as unique and individual human beings. And when it came to sexual interactions, I found it easy to ask for and engage in exactly what I wanted. And I have since brought these practices into my relationships with men. 

But you don't need to have an 'alternative' relationship in order to decide you want to set aside some cultural scripts and design a relationship style that works for you. You can choose relationship styles that work for you now.

With regard to which type(s) of romantic partner(s) you want, there are many possibilities.

No partners:

  • Asexuality. Asexuals don't experience sexual attraction. They comprise perhaps 1% of the population,1 and include notables like Paul Erdos, Morrissey, and Janeane Garofalo. There is a network (AVEN) for asexuality awareness and acceptance.
  • Celibacy. Celibates feel sexual attraction, but abstain from sex. Some choose to abstain for medical, financial, psychological, or philosophical reasons. Others choose celibacy so they have more time to achieve other goals, as I (Luke) did for a time. Others are involuntarily celibate; perhaps they can't find or attract suitable mates. This problem can often be solved by learning and practicing social skills.

One partner:

  • Monogamy. Having one sexual partner at a time is a standard cultural script, and may be over-used due to the status quo bias. Long-term monogamy should not be done on the pretense that attraction and arousal for one's partner won't fade. It will.2 Still, there may be many people for whom monogamy is optimal. 

Many partners:

  • Singlehood. Singlehood can be a good way to get to know yourself and experience a variety of short-term partners. About 78% of college students have had at least one 'one-night stand', and most such encounters were preceded by alcohol or drug use.3 Indeed, many young people today no longer go on 'dates' to get to know a potential partner. Instead, they meet each other at a social event, 'hook up', and then go on dates (if the hookup went well).4
  • Friendship 'with benefits'. Friends are often people you already enjoy and respect, and thus may also make excellent sexual partners. According to one study, 60% of undergraduates have been a 'friend with benefits' for someone at one time.5
  • Polyamory.6 In a polyamorous relationship, partners are clear about their freedom to pursue multiple partners. Couples communicate their boundaries and make agreements about what is and isn't allowed. Polyamory often requires partners to de-program jealousy. In my experience, polyamory is much more common in the rationality community than in the general population.

Hugh points out that your limbic system may not agree (at least initially) with your cognitive choice of a relationship style. Some women say they want a long-term relationship but date 'bad boys' who are unlikely to become long-term mates. Someone may think they want polyamorous relationships but find it impossible to leave jealousy behind.7


The Science of Attraction

A key skillset required for having the relationships you want is that of building and maintaining attraction in potential mates.

Guys seeking girls may wonder: Why do girls say they want "nice guys" but date only "jerks"? Girls seeking rationalist guys are at an advantage because the gender ratio lies in their favor, but they still might wonder: What can I do to attract the best mates? Those seeking same-sex partners may wonder how attraction can differ from heterosexual norms.

How do you build and maintain attraction in others? A lot can be learned by trying different things and seeing what works. This is often better than polling people, because people's verbal reports about what attracts them don't always match their actual behavior.8

To get you started, the virtues of scholarship and empiricism will serve you well. Social psychology has a wealth of knowledge to offer on successful relationships.9 For example, here are some things that, according to the latest research, will tend to make people more attracted to you:

  • Proximity and familiarity. Study after study shows that we tend to like those who live near us, partly due to availability,10 and partly because repeated exposure to almost anything increases liking.11 A Taiwanese man once demonstrated the power of proximity and repeated exposure when he wrote over 700 letters to his girlfriend, urging her to marry him. She married the mail carrier.12
  • Similarity. We tend to like people who are similar to us.13 We like people with faces similar to our own.14 We are even more likely to marry someone with a similar-sounding name.15 Similarity makes attraction endure longer.16 Also, similar people are more likely to react to events the same way, thus reducing the odds of conflict.17
  • Physical attractiveness. Both men and women prefer good-looking mates.18 Partly, this is because the halo effect: we automatically assume that more attractive people are also healthier, happier, more sensitive, more successful, and more socially skilled (but not necessarily more honest or compassionate).19 Some of these assumptions are correct: Attractive and well-dressed people are more likely to impress employers and succeed occupationally.20 But isn't beauty relative? Some standards of beauty vary from culture to culture, but many are universal.21 Men generally prefer women who exhibit signs of youth and fertility.22 Women generally prefer men who (1) display possession of abundant resources,23 (2) display high social status,24 (3) exhibit a 'manly' face (large jaw, thick eyebrows, visible beard stubble)25 and physique,26 and (4) are tall.27 Both genders generally prefer (1) agreeableness, conscientiousness, and extraversion,28 (2) 'average' and symmetrical faces with features that are neither unusually small or large,29 (2) large smiles,30 (3) pupil dilation,31 and some other things (more on this later).
  • Liking others. Liking someone makes them more attracted to you.32
  • Arousing others. Whether aroused by fright, exercise, stand-up comedy, or erotica, we are more likely to be attracted to an attractive person when we are generally aroused than when we are not generally aroused.33 As David Myers writes, "Adrenaline makes the heart grow fonder."34 This may explain why rollercoasters and horror movies are such a popular date night choice.

But this barely scratches the surface of attraction science. In a later post, we'll examine how attraction works in more detail, and draw up a science-supported game plan for building attraction in others.


Attractiveness: Mean and Variance

Remember that increasing your average attractiveness (by appealing to more people) may not be an optimal strategy.

Marketers know that it's often better to sacrifice broad appeal in order for a product to have very strong appeal to a niche market. The Appunto doesn't appeal to most men, but it appeals strongly enough to some men that they are willing to pay the outrageous $200 price for it.

Similarly, you may have the best success in dating if you appeal very strongly to some people, even if this makes you less appealing to most people  that is, if you adopt a niche marketing strategy in the dating world.35

As long as you can find those few people who find you very attractive, it won't matter (for dating) that most people aren't attracted to you. And because one can switch between niche appeal and broad appeal using fashion and behavior, you can simply use clothing and behavior with mainstream appeal during the day (to have general appeal in professional environments) and use alternative clothing and behavior when you're socializing (to have strong appeal to a small subset of people whom you've sought out).

To visualize this point, consider two attraction strategies. Both strategies employ phenomena that are (almost) universally attractive, but the blue strategy aims to maximize the frequency of somewhat positive responses while the red strategy aims to maximize the frequency of highly positive responses. The red strategy (e.g. using mainstream fashion) increases one's mean attractiveness, while the blue strategy (e.g. using alternative fashion) increases one's attractiveness variance. Hugh Ristik offers the following chart:

This goth guy and I (Luke) can illustrate this phenomenon. I aim for mainstream appeal; he wears goth clothing when socializing. My mainstream look turns off almost no one, and is attractive to most women, but doesn't get that many strong reactions right away unless I employ other high-variance strategies.36 In contrast, I would bet the goth guy's alternative look turns off many people and is less attractive to most women than my look is, but has a higher frequency of extremely positive reactions in women.

In one's professional life, it may be better to have broad appeal. But in dating, the goal is to find people who find you extremely attractive. The goth guy sacrifices his mean attractiveness to increase his attractiveness variance (and thus the frequency of very positive responses), and this works well for him in the dating scene.

High-variance strategies like this are a good way to filter for people who are strongly attracted to you, and thus avoid wasting your time with potential mates who only feel lukewarm toward you.


Up next

In future posts we'll develop an action plan for using the science of attraction to create successful romantic relationships. We'll also explain how rationality helps with relationship maintenance37 and relationship satisfaction.


Previous post: The Power of Reinforcement




1 Bogaert (2004).

2 About half of romantic relationships of all types end within a few years (Sprecher 1994; Kirkpatrick & Davis 1994; Hill et al 1976), and even relationships that last exhibit diminishing attraction and arousal (Aron et al. 2006; Kurdek 2005; Miller et al. 2007). Note that even if attraction and arousal fades, romantic love can exist in long-term closed monogamy and it is associated with relationship satisfaction (Acevedo & Aron, 2009).

3 Paul et al. (2000); Grello et al. (2006).

4 Bogle (2008).

5 Bisson & Levine (2009).

6 Two introductory books on the theory and practice of polyamory are: Easton & Hardy (2009) and Taormino (2008).

7 See work on 'conditional mating strategies' aka 'strategic pluralism' (Gangestad & Simpson, 2000).

8 Sprecher & Felmlee (2008); Eastwick & Finkel (2008). Likewise, there is a difference between what people publicly report as being the cause of a breakup, what they actually think caused a breakup, and what actually caused a breakup (Powell & Fine, 2009). Also see Inferring Our Desires.

9 For overviews of this research, see: Bradbury & Karney (2010); Miller & Perlman (2008); Vangelisti & Perlman (2006); Sprecher et al. (2008); Weiten et al. (2011), chs. 8-12. For a history of personal relationships research, see Perlman & Duck (2006).

10 Goodfriend (2009).

11 This is called the mere exposure effect. See Le (2009); Moreland & Zajonc (1982); Nuttin (1987); Zajonc (1968, 2001); Moreland & Beach (1992). The limits of this effect are explored in Bornstein (1989, 1999); Swap (1977).

12 Steinberg (1993).

13 Zajonc (1998); Devine (1995); Rosenbaum (1986); Surra et al. (2006); Morry (2007, 2009); Peplau & Fingerhut (2007); Ledbetter et al. (2007); Montoya et al. (2008); Simpson & Harris (1994).

14 DeBruine (2002, 2004); Bailenson et al. (2005).

15 Jones et al. (2004).

16 Byrne (1971); Ireland et al. (2011).

17 Gonzaga (2009). For an overview of the research on self-disclosure, see Greene et al. (2006).

18 Langlois et al. (2000); Walster et al. (1966); Feingold (1990); Woll (1986); Belot & Francesconi (2006); Finkel & Eastwick (2008); Neff (2009); Peretti & Abplanalp (2004); Buss et al. (2001); Fehr (2009); Lee et al. (2008); Reis et al. (1980). This is also true for homosexuals: Peplau & Spalding (2000). Even infants prefer attractive faces: Langlois et al. (1987); Langlois et al. (1990); Slater et al. (1998). Note that women report that the physical attractiveness is less important to their mate preferences than it actually is: Sprecher (1989).

19 Eagly et al. (1991); Feingold (1992a); Hatfield & Sprecher (1986); Smith et al. (1999); Dion et al. (1972).

20 Cash & Janda (1984); Langlois et al. (2000); Solomon (1987).

21 Cunningham et al. (1995); Cross & Cross (1971); Jackson (1992); Jones (1996); Thakerar & Iwawaki (1979).

22 Men certainly prefer youth (Buss 1989a; Kenrick & Keefe 1992; Kenrick et al. 1996; Ben Hamida et al. 1998). Signs of fertility that men prefer include clear and smooth skin (Sugiyama 2005; Singh & Bronstad 1997; Fink & Neave 2005; Fink et al. 2008; Ford & Beach 1951; Symons 1995), facial femininity (Cunningham 2009; Gangestad & Scheyd 2005; Schaefer et al. 2006; Rhodes 2006), long legs (Fielding et al. 2008; Sorokowski & Pawlowski 2008; Bertamini & Bennett 2009; Swami et al. 2006), and a low waist-to-hip ratio (Singh 1993, 2000; Singh & Young 1995; Jasienska et al. 2004; Singh & Randall 2007; Connolly et al 2000; Furnham et al 1997; Franzoi & Herzog 1987; Grabe & Samson 2010). Even men blind from birth prefer a low waist-to-hip ratio (Karremans et al. 2010).

23 Buss et al. (1990); Buss & Schmitt (1993); Khallad (2005); Gottschall et al. (2003); Gottschall et al. (2004); Kenrick et al. (1990); Gustavsson & Johnsson (2008); Wiederman (1993); Badahdah & Tiemann (2005); Marlowe (2004); Fisman et al. (2006); Asendorpf et al. (2010); Bokek-Cohen et al. (2007); Pettay et al. (2007); Goode (1996).

24 Feingold (1990, 1992b).

25 Cunningham (2009); Cunningham et al. (1990).

26 Singh (1995); Martins et al. (2007).

27 Lynn & Shurgot (1984); Ellis (1992); Gregor (1985); Kurzban & Weeden (2005); Swami & Furnham (2008). In contrast, men prefer women who are about 4.5 inches shorter than themselves: Gillis & Avis (1980).

28 Figueredo et al. (2006).

29 Langlois & Roggman (1990); Rhodes et al. (1999); Singh (1995); Thornhill & Gangestad (1994, 1999). We may have evolved to be attracted to symmetrical faces because they predict physical and mental health (Thornhill & Moller, 1997).

30 Cunningham (2009).

31 Cunningham (2009).

32 This is called reciprocal liking. See Curtis & Miller (1986); Aron et al (2006); Berscheid & Walster (1978); Smith & Caprariello (2009); Backman & Secord (1959).

33 Carducci et al. (1978); Dermer & Pszczynski (1978); White & Knight (1984); Dutton & Aron (1974).

34 Myers (2010), p. 710.

35 One example of a high-variance strategy for heterosexual men in the dating context is a bold opening line like "You look familiar. Have we had sex?" Most women will be turned off by such a line, but those who react positively are (by selection and/or by the confidence of the opening line) usually very attracted. 

36 In business, this is often said as "not everyone is your customer": 1, 2, 3.

37 For discussions of relationship maintenance in general, see: Ballard-Reisch & Wiegel (1999); Dinda & Baxter (1987); Haas & Stafford (1998).



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How on Earth do you come up with this stuff?

First you misrepresent the statements of this woman, whose name I don't even want to mention in such an ugly context in a public discussion. Rather than claiming that the problematic beliefs are a matter of consensus, she expressed a mere lack of certainty that the opposite is the case, and this takes only a few seconds to check by googling. Making incorrect attributions to people in public on such a sensitive topic and under their real names is, at best, callously irresponsible.

Then you go on and say that I have "said the same things openly," thus dragging me into this controversy, about which I have said nothing at all in this thread -- and about which I have never written anything here, to the best of my recollection, that would make this characterization correct under any reasonable interpretation. That this nonsense has been upvoted has lowered my opinion of LW more than probably anything else I ever saw here before.

And then people wonder why I may be reluctant to speak openly on controversial matters.

Asexuals don't experience sexual or romantic attraction.

What?! Most asexuals experience romantic attraction. Some asexuals are aromantic, but that's not the same thing.

Oops fixed thanks.

I should just have my own shortcut for that. OFT or something. :)

I think the causation may be going the other way: it's that men who are willing to rape are more likely to enjoy rape jokes, not that men who read rape jokes thereby become more willing to rape.

Another theory I've heard (although not one relevant to this particular study, except maybe in an ecological sense) is that rape jokes signal to predators that non-predatory men aren't going to socially punish them.

Very plausible, similar things could be said of racist jokes. I can't think of a negative interpretation of blonde jokes though.

Do you mean negative interpretations in general, or that particular sort of negative interpretation?

I would think ill of someone who told blonde jokes, especially if they told a bunch of them. To my mind, anyone who gives a lot of time to blonde jokes is probably making themselves less able to see intelligence in blonde women. I haven't tested this belief, I'm just going on plausibility.

Why do girls say they want "nice guys" but date only "jerks"?

I find that claim bewildering because the partnered men I know aren't jerks. It could be that I'm filtering for non-jerkness, but my tentative alternate theory is that the maybe the most conspicuously attractive women prefer jerks, and the men who resent the pattern aren't noticing most women. Or possibly a preference for jerks really is common in "girls"-- not children, but women below some level of maturity (age 25? 30? whatever it takes to get tired of being mistreated?), and some men are imprinted on what they saw in high school.

For those of you who believe that women prefer jerks, what sort of behavior do you actually mean? What proportion of women are you talking about? Is there academic research to back this up? What have you seen in your social circle?

This is a terrible debate and you should all feel bad for having it. Now let me join in.

The research on this topic is split into "completely useless" and "mostly useless". In the former category we have studies that, with a straight face, purport to show that women like nice guys by asking women to self-report on their preferences. To illuminate just how silly this is, consider the mirror case of asking men "So, do you like witty charming girls with good personalities, or supermodels with big breasts?" When this was actually done, men rated "physical attractiveness" only their 22nd most important criterion for a mate - number one was "sincerity", and number nineteen was "good manners". And yet there are no websites where you can spend $9.95 per month to stream videos of well-mannered girls asking men to please pass the salad fork, and there are no spinster apartments full of broken-hearted supermodels who just didn't have enough sincerity. So self-reports are right out.

Other-reports may be slightly less silly. Herold and Milhausen, 1999, found that 56% of university women believed that women in general were more likely to ... (read more)

After talking to a couple of people about this, I should qualify/partially-retract the original comment.

Some people have suggested to me that the best metaphor a man can use to understand how women think about "nice guys" isn't an ugly duckling woman who gets turned down by the men she likes, but a grossly obese woman who never showers or shaves her legs, and who goes around complaining loudly to everyone she knows that men are all vapid pigs who are only interested in looks.

I would find this person annoying, and although I hope I would be kind enough not to lash out against her in quite the terms I mentioned above, I would understand the motivations of someone who did, instead of having to classify him as having some sort of weird Martian brain design that makes him a moral monster.

The obesity metaphor is especially relevant. Since there are people out there who think becoming skinny is as easy as "just eat less food", I can imagine people who think becoming socially assertive really is as easy as "just talk to people and be more confident".

For people who honestly believe those things, and there seem to be a lot of them, the obese woman and the socially awkward man would reduce to the case of the woman who never showered but constantly complained about how superficial men were to reject her over her smell - annoying and without any redeeming value.

Some people have suggested to me that the best metaphor a man can use to understand how women think about "nice guys" isn't an ugly duckling woman who gets turned down by the men she likes, but a grossly obese woman who never showers or shaves her legs, and who goes around complaining loudly to everyone she knows that men are all vapid pigs who are only interested in looks.

That would seem to apply better if at least some (but not all) of the significant elements of gross obesity and bad hygiene were rewarded with approval and reinforced with verbal exhortations for a significant proportion of the woman's lives. So basically the metaphor is a crock. Mind you the insult would quite possibly do the recipient good to hear anyway unless they happen to be the kind of person who will reject advice that is clearly wrong without first reconstructing what the advice should have been, minus the part that is obviously nonsense.

This is taking the unfortunate/entitled/nice/beta/shibboleth-of-your-choice males' complaint too far at face value - i.e., that they are sexually unsuccessful on account of being kind and prosocial.

People are really bad at measuring their own levels of altruism, which is hardly surprising. Those in this cluster of peoplespace are worse than average at reading social cues and others' assessments of them, and are apt to interpret "nice" and its congnates as "particularly kind and proscial," instead of what it usually means, which is "boring, but not actively offensive enough to merit an explicitly negative description." (Consider what it usually means when you describe your mother's watercolors or the like as "nice," sans any emphatic phrasing.) Likewise, we halo bad predicates onto those whom we resent - "jerk" is the male equivalent of "slut," in this sense.

What's creepy about this group is precisely the entitled attitude on display - that they deserve to enjoy sexual relations with those on whom they crush merely for being around them and not actively offending, or indeed in some cases for doing what in other contexts wou... (read more)

This is taking the unfortunate/entitled/nice/beta/shibboleth-of-your-choice males' complaint too far at face value - i.e., that they are sexually unsuccessful on account of being kind and prosocial.

I used to believe this, but after doing some research, and further experience, I changed my mind.

First, the available research doesn't show a disadvantage of altruism, agreeableness, and prosocial tendencies for men.

I used to experience agreeableness and altruism as disadvantages. Now I experience agreeableness as sometimes a big advantage, and sometimes a moderate disadvantage. Altruism is neutral, as long as I can suppress it to normal population levels (I have excessive altruistic tendencies).

Hypotheses that reconcile this data and anecdata:

  • Prosocial tendencies are orthogonal to attractiveness
  • Prosocial tendencies have a non-linear relationships to attractiveness (e.g. it's good to be average, or maybe even a bit above average, but any higher or lower is a disadvantage
  • The relationship between prosocial tendencies and attractiveness is moderated by another variable. For instance, perhaps prosocial tendencies are an advantage for extraverted men, but a disadvantage for introverts
... (read more)
I suspect that while dark triad traits are desirable to women, they aren't the only desirable traits. As you said, research shows that agreeableness and altruism also tend to be attractive, and conscientious and agreeable men tend to be better dancers, and thus more attractive. (quick google search) I suspect that there are multiple types of attractive men, or you can still possess all these traits. Then again, it is important to know how the dark triad is measured to begin with. I am not sure if this is the actual test, but it looks legitimate. While saying disagree to all or most of the questions that measured lying and callousness, I still managed to score high on Machiavellianism and above average in Narcissism. (low on psychopathy) This also calls into question how "dark" some of these traits are, since outside of psychopathy, the other questions were related to self-esteem and a desire for influence, which isn't inherently evil, and can still coincide with agreeable and prosocial personalities.
I said, which was given some implicit endorsement (I think):
It is doing no such thing. Make no mistake - I don't conflate altruism with approval seeking niceness and I recommend "quit being a pussy" as a far more practical bite of self talk for people in the category you describe to use than the "women only like jerks" message; I'm clearly not rejecting the analogy because I'm supporting a sob story. No, what I am doing is rejecting one soldier that happens to be on the opposite extreme to the one above. Because it is a false analogy. I don't give any approval for this either, but I don't do it out of judgement or blame. I don't give approval or sympathy because that would be counterproductive to their own goals.

For what it's worth, my reflex before reading a bunch of stuff here was closer to hearing "socially awkward man who can't manage to attract women" was closer to thinking of various annoying men who have hung around me, who I find unattractive (sometimes at the skin-crawling level [1]), but who never cross a line to the point where I feel justified in telling them to go away. This can go on for years. It is no fun.

After reading these discussions, I conclude that my preconception was a case of availability bias (possibly amplified by a desire to not know how painful things are), and so I use a more abstract category.

[1] To repeat something from a previous discussion, this isn't about being physically afraid. If I were, I'd be handling things differently. It also turned out to my surprise, that at least some men have never had the experience of that sort of revulsion. It seems to me that it's not quite the same as not wanting to be around someone who just about everyone would think was overtly ugly, though women frequently agree (independently, I think) about some men being uncomfortable to be around.

It wouldn't surprise me if there are specific elements of body language or facial expression which cause that sort of revulsion, but I don't know what they are.

To repeat something from a previous discussion, this isn't about being physically afraid.

My understanding is that it is an instinct intended to protect you from threats to your reproductive success, not threats to your survival. ie. I expect it to tend to encourage behaviors that will prevent pregnancy to losers more so than behaviors that prevent losers from killing you.

I don't think people are highly optimized. Evolution aims for good enough, rather than best hypothetically possible, and when I say hypothetically possible, I mean hypotheses generated by people from a time when no one knows the limits of what's evolutionarily possible. I've had the skin crawl effect from men of varying status, though I admit the average status is on the low side.

I don't think people are highly optimized.

Having a 'repulsion/creepiness' response to supplement an 'attraction' response seems like something to expect as an early, basic optimization. Something that would begin to be optimized before even bothering with things like human level intelligence.

Has anything like the repulsion response been seen in animals? Something I don't think I've seen discussed is that the men who set off the repulsion response seem to be pretty rare. I haven't heard of the response being studied scientifically. If PUA helps, it might not distinguish between men who have been ignored and men who have been actively avoided.

If PUA helps, it might not distinguish between men who have been ignored and men who have been actively avoided.

From what I understand of the philosophy a personal development program based on PUA would be expected and intended to reduce the amount that the guy is placed in the 'ignored' category while actually increasing the 'actively avoided' category. Because being ignored is useless (and 'no fun') while being actively avoided actually just saves time. Bell curves and blue and red charts apply.

There tends to be some lessons on how to reduce 'creepiness' in general because obviously being creepy in general is going to be a hindrance to the intended goals.

I haven't heard of the response being studied scientifically.

My brief searching for 'creepiness research' didn't turn up much either. But to be honest I don't really know where to look. :)

Thanks a lot! Your comment made something click for me.

but who never cross a line to the point where I feel justified in telling them to go away. This can go on for years. It is no fun.

The obvious conclusion from these premises: If you had the belief that "This could go on for years and is no fun" is a valid justification for telling someone to go away then your life would contain less 'no fun'.

And it is that easy. Just like becoming an engineer is as easy as "getting a degree and being better at math".
There's a community of men how are in fact to find effective ways to be socially assertive in a way that's attractive to women, it's called PUA.
Becoming skinny is as easy as "just eat less food" -- as someone once pointed out, were there many plump fellows among the Auschwitz inmates liberated by the Allies? The problem is that for some people just eating less food is itself not terribly easy.
Right, but more specifically, the annoying parts are their denial of the problem and reluctance to improve. We'd all be a lot more sympathetic otherwise.
I suspect a large number of upvotes were purely for this line. I approve.

Unfortunately I can't provide sources at the moment (Luke probably can), but I have seen research both sociological and anthropological showing that women and female higher primates in general have a tendency to try to mate with multiple dominate highly masculine males, sometimes secretly, while they tend to have long term pairings with less dominate, less masculine males. The theory is that the genes of the more masculine men lead to more fecund offspring, while the parenting of the less masculine men leads to higher offspring survival. In society this works out to women dating more masculine men (and testosterone is of course linked to the aggressiveness and risk taking we associate with "bad boys") prior to marriage, and then marrying less masculine men (nice guys). And if they cheat, they tend to cheat with "bad boys" and have their "nice guys" raise those kids.

EDIT: For pure anecdote, I am a nice guy (I think) who always complained about the "bad boy" thing, and now I am raising a step-daughter from my wife's youthful short term relationship with a guy everyone would still call a "bad boy." My wife is winning at natural selection! As is that jerk :(


If it makes you feel better all sorts of unpleasant people are currently winning at natural selection (no offence intended to any LWer with many children or your wife).

If it makes you feel better all sorts of unpleasant people are currently winning at natural selection

I have a hard time understanding how this would make anyone feel better.

I have a hard time understanding how this would make anyone feel better.

Suffering is often ameliorated somewhat by knowing you are not alone in your situation.

It can also be made worse by knowing that the suffering is a direct and inevitable result of forces they cannot plausibly alter.
That reminds me of that game that girls sometimes play "Given three choices of guys, which would you sleep with, date, or marry?"
Guys play it too.
The criteria are a little different, though.
I've played it in mixed groups, its generally about perceived personality features rather than subjective attractiveness.
I wouldn't expect this to be a recipe for honesty.
I would expect this sort of game to have difficult honesty issues even when it is a single gender. For example, if some individual has a fetish that is in some way connected to one of the individuals (say for example a celebrity that frequently wears some sort of clothing, or only one of the three falls into a racial group they have a fetish for) how likely is it that someone is going to be honest about that motivation. That said, I agree that mixed groups will likely have more severe honesty issues.
I've never treated the game as a data collection exercise. IT is more suited to social bonding and conversation stimulation. For more statistically useful data okcupid has done studies, as have hotornot and its various imitators.
Why would you do that? Have you thought about killing the step-daughter or something of that nature? (People, please don't reflexively downvote that suggestion.)
Wait... you mean it as a suggestion, not a query?
That made me laugh hysterically for no good reason. Oh, LW and wedrifid, how I missed ye. No, I'm not literally suggesting murder. But it's what most animals would do.
Reading this anecdote made me wonder if it would be possible for a group of rational "nice guys" to cooperate with each other, refusing relationships with and shunning women who had previously been involved with and fathered children by "bad boys" even though each one of them would have to sacrifice the benefit they would individually get from entering into such a relationship. The idea being to make having a later father care for a baby sired by a jerk not a viable strategy for women, thus incentivizing them away from that behavior. (I also thought about what would happen if nice guys switched to a jerk strategy until they were ready to settle down and then switched back, since that mixed strategy appeared to dominate either pure strategy, but then I realized that that would reduce the number of childless women for guys to marry, thus leading to a tragedy of the commons.)

Reading this anecdote made me wonder if it would be possible for a group of rational "nice guys" to cooperate with each other, refusing relationships with and shunning women who had previously been involved with and fathered children by "bad boys" even though each one of them would have to sacrifice the benefit they would individually get from entering into such a relationship. The idea being to make having a later father care for a baby sired by a jerk not a viable strategy for women, thus incentivizing them away from that behavior.

Roughly speaking you seem to be describing the norm for a lot of historical civilisations that I'm familiar with. The consequences for siring bastard children by bad boys is far lower now than it often has been.

the men who resent the pattern aren't noticing most women

Seems most plausible to me.

I have had several friends who went to bars to meet women, and then were disappointed that the only women they met were the ones who enjoyed going to bars.

People think/do strange things.

For those of you who believe that women prefer jerks, what sort of behavior do you actually mean?

An accurate analysis of this issue would require unpacking the cluster of traits implied by the word "jerk," and then dividing them into several categories:

  • Traits that are indeed actively attractive to women, or some subset thereof.

  • Traits that are neutral per se, but have a positive correlation with others that are attractive, or negative correlation with others that are unattractive.

  • Traits that are unattractive, but easily overshadowed by other less obvious (or less mentionable) traits, which produces striking but misleading examples where it looks like the "jerk" traits are in fact the attractive ones.

This is further complicated by the fact that behaviors and attitudes seemingly identical to a side-observer (especially a male one) can in fact be perceived radically differently depending on subtle details, or even just on the context. This makes it easy to answer accurate observations with jeering and purported reductio ad absurdum in a rhetorically effective way.

What proportion of women are you talking about?

This question further complicates th... (read more)

and then dividing them into several categories:

Traits that are indeed actively attractive to women, or some subset thereof.

Traits that are neutral per se, but have a positive correlation with others that are attractive, or negative correlation with others that are unattractive.

Traits that are unattractive, but easily overshadowed by other less obvious (or less mentionable) traits, which produces striking but misleading examples where it looks like the "jerk" traits are in fact the attractive ones.

Here's a couple more:

  • Traits that are neutral or unattractive, but help people in their mating interaction during one-on-one interaction with a potential partner (e.g. initiation or receptiveness).

  • Traits that are neutral or unattractive, but help people compete with others of their same gender

In sexual selection, there is a difference between intersexual choice, and intrasexual competition. "Women go for jerks" or "nice guys finish last" might not be a primarily a claim about the traits that women are attracted to; rather, it could be a claim about the traits necessary to initiate with women and compete with other men. All this stuff partially overlap... (read more)

IOW the reason jerks are more successful might be that they cockblock other guys. It makes perfect sense to me and, in retrospect, I'm surprised that it took so long for someone to hypothesise this.

I wish you'd just spit out whatever unPC stuff you thinks going on, even if it was rot13'd or only PM'd to people who volunteered to read it out of curiosity.

A few bullet-points on what I see as the likely contributing factors to the "women prefer jerks" meme:

  • Romantic relationships often expose you to the worst of what people are capable of, and often end in unpleasant circumstances. If you ask someone about their most recent ex, they'll probably have more nasty stories than nice ones to tell about them.

  • If the competition for the object of my affections is charming and confident, I'm going to say he's manipulative and arrogant.

  • Making poor decisions about people you're attracted to, and systematically overlooking your partner's negative qualities, are well-established behaviour patterns in both sexes.

  • Romantic underdogs feel like they bend over backwards to be noticed by women, whereas romantically successful men seem by comparison to put in relatively little work to achieve the same goal. This perceived effort is conflated with caring or worthiness.

It strikes me that the nice-guy/jerk idiom has an analogue in the Madonna/Whore dichotomy. I was going to comment on how I'd never seen mention of this in any of the numerous feminist treatments of "nice guy syndrome" I've seen, but a cursory Google suggests it's not a new idea.

(age 25? 30? whatever it takes to get tired of being mistreated?),

Whatever age it takes to get past peak attractiveness and fertility.

Seems relevant.

I remember as an high school kid PUA seemed sensible. (I had a nerdy straight male friend into it, and no personal interest since if I wanted to get laid I could use boobies.) I mostly took home "People, especially women, dig confidence, and will chase rather than be chased. 'Bitches ain't shit' is therefore a desirable mindset.".

And then just today I looked into it again, starting with the Dating market value test for women. I had trouble believing it was serious. Not because I'm supposed to want sex with hot women and nothing else, but because their idea of "hot women" isn't hot at all. Why would I ever want that?

I get that liking androgyny and brains and being neutral to fat and small breasts are rather idiosyncratic traits. But what kind of guy wants a girl just old enough to legally consent who never swears, dresses sexy and fashionable without actually caring about it, same for sports, and has the exact three kinds of sex they show in cookie-cutter porn? That's not a person. That's what you get if you ask RealDoll's research department for a toy that reconciles your horror of sluts with your hatred of prudes.

...also, the hot photo is supposed to be the one on the left, right?

And then just today I looked into it again, starting with the Dating market value test for women. I had trouble believing it was serious.

That's because it's a "blue line" test. At the beginning, it explicitly points out it's orienting on averages, and defining market value in terms of breadth of appeal. It doesn't mean lots of people will like a high scorer, it means lots of people won't rule out the high scorer.

In other words, the person who scores perfectly on this test will probably not be hideously offensive to anyone -- which means they don't get ruled out early in the selection process. But a low score just means they're more likely to need a "red line" strategy, aiming at strong appeal to a narrower audience, at the cost of turning more people off. (i.e., emphasizing one's supposed "defects" would attract people who like those qualities, while turning away more of those who don't)

(Ugh. I can't believe I'm defending that misogynist a*hole, but I don't see anything wrong with the test itself, just the conclusions/connotations being drawn from it.)

An exaggeration of a real , very common type. The better the description fits the less common the type. Practically no one who reads this site would fall in that category (I think/hope) if only because boring people are boring.

I will respect properly written articles on almost any subject. Not these.

One thing I demand from authors claiming to be supported by "science" is that they won't make me stop thinking in mid read. The articles behind these links do not respect the reader's opinion. Instead of making you think, they seek to shock, trump and convince. I've seen this style and these patterns before in articles about climate denial, xenophobia and religious fundamentalists. (Seriously, a lifestyle article is not a valid citation.)

I'm not saying the author has not done his fair share of reading. I'm saying he should stop waving the "this is science"-sign with one hand and be clubbing down his readers with the other.

While it's definitely interesting to point out the correlation between egg-bank and attractiveness, I have to say that my god but that site is chauvanistic! Apparently, after "hitting the wall" a woman is "sexually worthless" o_O I do not agree.
Hmmm - my comment has been quite severely downvoted. Quite interesting. I'd like to know why. perhaps I should point out the obvious mind projection fallacy inherent in the "sexually worthless" comment, instead of leaving it as an exercise to the reader... ? After all, he didn't say "Due to my own personal predilections, i find that a woman over the age of 40 is no longer at all sexually attractive for me", but instead made his value judgment and considers it to be some kind of inherent value of the woman (ie value == 0) completely oblivious to the fact that other men (and possibly women) may have a different value-judgment of that woman. I disagree with his assessment because her worth is not 0... just his own personal map-value for that woman.

I don't take Roissy all that seriously but have read quite a bit of his stuff. I've never understood him as comparing women's value as people, but rather their sexual value or dating value from the perspective of the (sort of) median man.

The sexual value is something determined by "the sexual marketplace". Sure some people like the less likeable, but they are pretty rare and thus on average the person with these traits will need to be less picky, since she/he runs into those interested in them less often.

but rather their sexual value or dating value from the perspective of the (sort of) median man.

Yep, I can understand that. though his phraseology is very clearly as though it is an inherent value of her worth as a (sexual) person... which is what I found so unappetising.

I also disagree with his valuation. I know from... well knowing 40 YO women (and older), that they do indeed suffer from diminished sexual appeal - but certainly nowhere near zero. 40YOlds get it on all the time... therefore his valuation is wrong. It is limited by his own personal perspective - and that of the average young-ish man who is himself high up on the "sexual appeal" rating.

I can definitely understand that for a man who can "get anybody" - that they would try almost exclusively for younger women, and that therefore an older woman would hold no sex appeal for them... but for anybody not an alpha male... (especially 40-50YO average men), a 40YO woman would still hold some interest.

Her "value" on the marketplace is not zero.

While mean sexual value is an important concept, as lukeprog points out with my graph, sometimes it is not relevant. The relevant metric of success in attracting people is something like "being over a cutoff of attractiveness for a subset of the population that you desire and that you can find, and where you don't face a punishing gender ratio in that niche." For instance, regardless of your average attractiveness, you could be doing great even if 0.1% of the population is attracted to you, as long as (a) you know how to find them, (b) they fit your criteria, and (c) there isn't an oversaturation of people like you that you're competing with.
It's not the content of what you said (though, given the topic we're on, people are getting offended, this being one of the things LessWrong can't really discuss without exploding and drawing battle lines) but the way in which you said it; your online habitus automatically marks you as an outsider. Lurk a bit more and you'll get an idea of how to phrase things.
Thank you for responding. :) Firstly - can you define "online habitus" in this context? the dictionary gives me "physical characteristics", but I'm not sure exactly how that relates here, but I've taken a stab at it: ie that it was the emotive content of my comment that was objected to. I', surprised that the reaction against my personal expression of shock was disliked so much so that I was downvoted. Surely rational people are allowed to be offended too? :) Am I allowed to personally respond to a site that objectifies women and rates their value as objects (and values them at literally zero) in a way that shows that I do not agree? How should I have expressed my reaction in a way that would not have offended?

that site is chauvanistic

I upvoted your original comment but I disfavored this statement because it sounded like arguing against something by saying something other than "it isn't true".

If someone tells me "Japanese-Americans have average IQs 70 points higher than Korean-Americans," I don't have to try and refute that by saying "that's racist," because I have available the refutation "that's false". When I want to disfavor or shun a true idea that's unpopular, and can't say "that's false," I will have to say something else, such as "that's racist". Observers should notice when I do that, and estimate depending on the context how likely I was to respond with a negation like that had it been available.

Factual incorrectness is not the only objection a person could have to something. In many cases, people present what they believe to be the facts and then give their response to those facts. For example, someone says that Amy is 80 years old. They could then decide: 1.) Amy should be treated with unquestioning respect--they want to live in a society that respects their elders. 2.) Suggest that Amy should treat her children with unquestioning respect since they will have to take care of her. 3.) Say that Amy should be accorded respect, but not unquestioning respect because their preference is to treat others in an egalitarian way. 4.) Any number of other things. You could then have objections to either the fact they stated (if it is not true), or to preferences they stated (if yours differ), or to both. Preferences can reference facts, especially if they are contingent on facts to achieve other, more central, preferences. And so sometimes you can use facts to show that someone's preferences are not in accordance with their core preferences. But a person's core preferences only convey a fact about the person holding them, not a fact about the world. The world has no preference about what happens to us. Only we do.
First of all, let me say I didn't downvote you. Or upvote you either. Secondly, there's some confusion of terminology here. a) There's "agreement" in the sense of shared beliefs about the state of the world. (Epistemological agreement - ("is" statements) b) There's "agreement" in the sense of shared beliefs about how the world should be. (Moral agreement - "ought" statements) c) There's "agreement" in the sense of shared preferences. (Agreement in taste - "like" statements) (a)s have objective truth value. (c)s are subjective. (b)s have people always debate about their objectivity/subjectivity thereof. Now the three types aren't always clearly distinct. If someone makes a statement about "attractiveness" it's both a (c) statement about preferences, but it may also be a statement about what real-life people like on average -- in which case it can be an (a) statement about the distribution of preferences in a population, which has a truth value. So, if someone calls someone else "sexually worthless", and you say you don't agree -- do you mean that you simply have different preferences -- are you making a (c) statement? That you believe his statement factually false -- you're making an (a) statement about the distribution of attraction feelings towards such women in the real world? Or do you mean that you consider it MORALLY WRONG for him to speak and behave in such a rude way? If the last of these, then "I morally object to such an attitude" is obviously a clearer way of talking about your objection rather than "I do not agree" which is vague and imprecise.
This dosen't deserve down votes. Roissy's style (aesthetically pleasing but quite outrageous) and persona are hard to stomach (at first?).

at first.

Um, for many people (e.g. me) , it is hard to stomach at all, and I'm a het male, the sort of entity he is nominally writing for. The reason for this is simple: at a certain point style does reflect substance, and moreover, Sapir-Worf issues come into play.

Sometimes the persona comes across as fake and bizarre. Take this article on frame control. It's completely reasonable, and meshes well with what you'd read here or in books on social skills. Then he lazily throws in

Remember, girls don’t operate in a logical universe; they abide their emotions first and foremost.

and continues talking about framing, having reminded his readership that bitches be crazy. Maybe the equivalents reminders on LW ("Remember, humans don't operate in a logical universe; we abide by our biased emotions first and foremost") and social skills books ("Remember, humans don't operate in a logical universe; we abide by our emotions first and foremost, and that makes us wonderful beings because rationality means Spock") sound as artificial when you're not used to them?

Forever.. Ok, probability one minus epsilon. I see the "just jealous" claim as equivalent to A attempting to lower B's status, and when B says they don't like it, A says "you just don't like having your status lowered, so your point should be ignored".
Why did you link to Roissy rather than laying out his argument in more neutral terms?
The comment was clearly something user CharlieSheen picked up from Roissy.

Now, admittedly I haven't seen a whole lot of evidence in this area, but I've seen some, and I couldn't name a single woman I know personally who has ever, in my presence or by report that I've heard, gone for a jerk.

Perhaps this behavior is less common among women who would rather have a 15% chance of $1,000,000 than a certainty of $500 (because most random women I've tested choose the certain $500, but every single woman in our community that I've asked, regardless of math level or wealth level or economic literacy or their performance on the Cognitive Reflection Test, takes the 15% chance of $1M.)

Or maybe "jerk" is being used in some sense other than what I associate it with, i.e., wearing motorcycle jackets, rather than not caring about who else you hurt.

Now, admittedly I haven't seen a whole lot of evidence in this area, but I've seen some, and I couldn't name a single woman I know personally who has ever, in my presence or by report that I've heard, gone for a jerk.

I could name a fair number (in the "doesn't care about hurting others" sense, not the "wears motorcycle jackets" sense,) but none of them have been girls or women I would want to date me instead.

I suspect that the perceived trend owes a lot to a horns effect that guys build up around other guys who're dating girls they want to be dating.

7lionhearted (Sebastian Marshall)12y
Whoa. A majority of people choose $500 in EV instead of $150,000? That's scary. Have you written about this before? If not, care to give us rough numbers of how many people you've talked to about it? That blows my mind that a majority of people wouldn't get it when it's so far apart.

Keep in mind that utility isn't linear in money.

No, but I doubt it's so non-linear for most people that it remotely justifies such a choice.

If someone e.g. urgently needs a life-saving surgery that requires 500$, then they may be justified to choose a certainty of $500 over a 15% probability of a million dollars. But outside such made-up scenarios, I very seriously doubt it.

Consider item g in the first chart on page 10 of "Cognitive Reflection and Decision Making" by Shane Fredrick. In this study, 31% of subjects with low scores on a "cognitive reflection test" took the 15% chance of the million dollars, whereas 60% of high-scoring subjects did. The p-value was less than 0.0001.
I would suggest that it is very easy to concentrate on the 85% chance of getting nothing, and so ignore the difference in EV.
4lionhearted (Sebastian Marshall)12y
Indeed yeah. But we're not talking $500 vs. $900, we're talking orders of magnitude...

(Caveats: Small N, college-age subjects, and WEIRD) Believe it or not, someone actually tried to test the jerk theory empirically and found support for it

Hat tip: Eric Barker.

Another caveat is surrogate behavior-- what's tested is which photographs women chose, not which men.

It's occurring to me that part of what annoys me about the "women prefer jerks" meme is the implication that women are distinctively irrational. There are men who chose women who mistreat them, sometimes one such woman after another, but I've never heard anyone say "men prefer bitches".

Just on the notion level, but I've wondered whether some women (especially young women) choose bad news men for the same reason that some men (especially young men) ride motorcycles-- risk and excitement. From what I've heard, one of the reasons women chose difficult men is the hope of being able to change them.

Another possibility is availability bias-- the stereotype is the woman who spends years complaining about the awful men in her life to a patient male friend who's wondering why she never chooses him. Women who are happy with their relationships aren't going to do as nearly as much complaining about them, and probably aren't going to be talking in comparable detail about how good the relationship is.

There are men who chose women who mistreat them, sometimes one such woman after another, but I've never heard anyone say "men prefer bitches".

There, now you have. According to the Amazon Best Sellers Rank, it is currently ranked #560 overall in the Books category, #1 in Dating , #2 in Mate Seeking, and #4 in Love & Romance. Surely the idea isn't unheard of.

I've never heard anyone say "men prefer bitches"

Partially this is because men are less often the one whose preference is at the center of the relationship (the standard cultural trope is a man pursues a woman, attempting to make her prefer him) and so there is less scrutiny of men's preference by both parties, and much more scrutiny of women's preference by men (in order to understand better how to make a woman prefer him).

Partially this is also because male attraction is determined less strongly by personality, and the "bitch/jerk" adjective is about personality.

Isn't there a stereotype whereby men prefer women who play by The Rules, which apparently consist of guidelines for emotional manipulation? That counts as bitchy in my book.

Also, can someone explain the "patient male friend" part of stereotype? I think it's one of these cases:

  • Nice Guy never expresses interest; Woman assumes he's happy with friendship, including his role as confidant. He wonders why she never chooses him... because he assumes telepathy on her part?
  • Nice Guy hits on Woman repeatedly despite constant rejections on her part. She keeps having him as a friend and telling him about her relationships... because she can't get a male friend who's genuinely happy with that?
  • Nice Guy expresses interest, gets rejected. He genuinely wants the friendship but doesn't ask "please don't tell me about your relationships while I'm carrying a torch for you"... because he doesn't know how to do that without sinking the friendship as well?
  • Nice Guy expresses interest, gets rejected. He won't be satisfied with the friendship but doesn't walk away... because he hopes Woman will magically change her mind?
It occurs to me that a common factor might be that the two of them are both highly pessimistic about relationships-- neither of them is looking for someone they can be happy with.
Really? That belief isn't all that uncommon, and for reasons somewhat similar to the 'jerk' idea. Mind you the (overwhelmingly justified) belief that men are less picky than women when it comes to their mate selection makes such beliefs less emphasised.
I think the hypothesis would be that women choose men who are "jerks" partly because they are jerks, while men choose women who are "jerks" because they just don't care so much about personality traits, and/or despite those women being jerks. Examining this hypothesis would require an operationalization of "jerk."
Does Chapter “You Just Ask Them” in Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman count as academic research? :-)
From what I understand Dark triad traits have been shown to be sexually attractive. Edit: Damn you gwern! :)
To quote another user, Scott H Young, "superficial would be the right word to describe most aphorisms, as being merely pointers to a more nuanced set of beliefs". So I'm sure it just has to do with the fact that of the bundle of qualities aggregately known as "jerks", some of those qualities are attractive. Check out the blog Hooking Up Smart for more nuanced stuff on the idea of nice men vs jerks.
Why does this debate always assume that the causal arrow points from being a jerk to sexual success? We know that power over others tends to make you a jerk. Sexual attractiveness is power. Thus, attractive jerks.

On a tangential note, if a man said to a woman that he wanted to slap her as a reaction to some offensive statement she made, would you consider it acceptable?

Mind you, I have no problem in principle with social norms that set different boundaries for the behavior of men and women. (In particular, if someone wants men's threats of violence to women, even humorous and hyperbolic ones, to be judged more harshly than vice versa, I certainly find it a defensible position.) I just find it funny to see egalitarians who profess principled opposition to such norms caught in inconsistencies, like for example here, where very few (if any) of them would react to your statement with the same visceral horror and outrage as if the sexes were reversed.

I don't know who you're talking about, but it isn't me. My husband sometimes jokes about beating me. I laugh.

I'm glad to hear that the two of you share a sense of humor, but the relevant comparison would be how you'd feel if a strange man mentioned slapping you in response to something you said, whether in the context of a public debate such as here or elsewhere. I would be surprised if you would be willing to take that nonchalantly. And even if you are an exception in this regard, there is no denying that the usual standards of discourse are highly asymmetric here, since there is no way that a similar statement by a man to a woman would not have caused firestorms of outrage.

Now, as I explained, I have no problem with this standard in principle. I am not expressing any condemnation of your words or attitudes. I am just using this opportunity to highlight the apparent contradiction with the general principle held by the contemporary respectable opinion that sex-asymmetric social norms are morally dubious, or worse -- and not because I wish to score a petty rhetorical point, but because I believe that if adequately considered, it would open some very important and general questions.

I don't consider this to be established, for one thing. For another, what I said hasn't exactly passed without comment, so I'm not very sympathetic right now to the idea that women get a free pass. But though I think your example is weak, I'm perfectly willing to acknowledge that double standards in both directions continue to flourish. I'm not sure why that's relevant here, or why people think they have to be so shady about saying this kind of thing on LW. It all seems sort of melodramatic to me; I live in the southern US, and there's probably no disreputable idea you'd dare hint at that I don't hear proudly trumpeted by many of my neighbors, and nobody seems to beat them up or fire them for it. (On the other hand, if you gesture towards disreputable ideas, but don't state your position clearly or provide evidence, I'm liable to pattern-match you to rednecks. I won't do it on purpose, but I'm human, and it'll probably happen. Consider this!)

(On the other hand, if you gesture towards disreputable ideas, but don't state your position clearly or provide evidence, I'm liable to pattern-match you to rednecks. I won't do it on purpose, but I'm human, and it'll probably happen. Consider this!)

I think VM is quite open about the fact that his secret beliefs are low status. I've been wondering for a while, but I haven't been able to think of examples of ideas so reviled that they warrant secrecy besides "redneck ideas." I think it's interesting that you similarly lack examples. Maybe this is the only source of reviled beliefs, or maybe it's a US blind-spot.

Well, beliefs don't even need to be in the "reviled" category for one to conclude that it might be prudent not to express them openly. One might simply conclude that they're apt to break down the discourse, as has indeed happened on LW many times with statements that might be controversial, but fall short of "reviled" in the broader society.

Also, I think you're applying some popular but grossly inaccurate heuristics here. I can easily think of several beliefs that: (1) are squarely in the "reviled" category in today's respectable discourse in Western societies, (2) have been held by a large number of people historically, or are still held by a large number of people worldwide, and (3) are practically nonexistent, or exceptionally rare, among the segment of the U.S. population that can be labeled "rednecks" by any reasonable definition. (For beliefs that make sense only given some cultural background, I mean "exceptionally" relative to other local cultures that provide this background.)

In any case, think about the following. For any human society in history about which you have some reasonably accurate picture, except the present ... (read more)

Let's link to it again: Paul Grahm's What You Can't Say.
Cannibalism. Incest. Human sacrifice. Bestiality. Any open supporter of any of the above would probably do well to hide it (at least if they're using their real-life name), but I wouldn't call any of the above "redneck ideas" (by which I understand you to mean racism/sexism/homophobia/etc)

Cannibalism. Incest. Human sacrifice. Bestiality.

Any open supporter of any of the above would probably do well to hide it (at least if they're using their real-life name), but I wouldn't call any of the above "redneck ideas" (by which I understand you to mean racism/sexism/homophobia/etc)

I don't have any objection to bestiality. Having sex with animals seems like a less harmful thing to do to an animal than killing it and eating it. I also don't object to other people who are consenting adults ignoring taboos regarding incest so long as they ensure that negative reproductive outcomes are avoided. For that matter cannibalism is fine by me as long as murder isn't involved (although I suggest avoiding the brain). Human sacrifice is a big no no though!

Also: pedophilia; the Idea that the Chinese government system (technocratic dictatorship) is better (in terms of outcomes) than the US Government system.

Also: pedophilia

"Sex between adults and young teenagers, as long as there is no obvious coercion involved, is not nearly as harmful as generally supposed" is definitely something that you can't say - and the fact that you can't say it has been demonstrated experimentally.

To clarify terminology here, pedophilia is sexual attraction to prepubescent children. There is a different word, which is escaping me at the moment, for a sexual preference for adolescents.
5Atelos12y or depending on which stage of adolescence you're talking about.
I've no disagreement with your comment Atelos, but - why do those words exist? Is there a cluster of human minds in thingspace that have "sexual preference of adults for mid-to-late adolescents, generally ages 15 to 19"? Do they share any other properties in common? Eliezer on the subject of words that should not exist: Eliezer also suggests a reason why someone might coin such a word: in order to sneak in connotations. Also note that 15-25 and 18-21 are typically given as the prime age ranges of female physical attractiveness by Roissy and his commenters (although since these are arbitrary cut-offs, there's no need to give them a name). The 15-19 age range of "ephebophilia" cuts across this age range seemingly at random. The same goes for hebephilia, attraction to 11-14 year-olds. There is no discontinuity in the characteristics of a typical human between 14 and 15 years of age, and I don't see why hebephiles should form a compact cluster in thingspace either. On the other hand paedophilia does seem a valid word, because attraction to pre-pubescents seems qualititatively different from attraction to fertile human beings (there are evolutionary considerations at play, and there are great physical changes in a short space of time during puberty). Properties shared in common by paedophiles are presumably qualitative differences in "brain wiring" in comparison to humans of typical sexuality. Interestingly, Robin Hanson misuses the word pedophile in this post. The regular conflation of attraction to young fertile humans and attraction to prepubescent children in this way is another strange definitional phenomenon that calls for explanation.
There are people with a sexual preference for people from the age of their birth right up to and even past the age of their death. Since there are many such people it is easier to have words that give a ballpark to their sexual preference than to say "someone with a specific sexual preference for humans between the ages of X and Y" every single time. The sexual preference for people of a given age is more than enough to make the word relevant. That detail is predictive of all sorts of things. Most crudely it is a prediction of which people the chronophile in question will try to have sex with. The terms are defined in terms of physical development rather than age and are as good a division as you can expect for a process of transition which is gradual yet clearly does represent a change. There really is a place for a word (ephebophilia) that means "not particularly sexually attracted to adults but definitely sexually attracted to people that have only recently reached the stage where they are obviously reproductively viable". (With the caveat that it is stupid to use the same word for the preference for males and females at this stage. Both groups are more similar to adults of their sex than they are to each other!) Or, in this case, the opposite. In most cases injecting the word ephebophile into a context will expunge connotations rather than introducing them. In the case of a sexually active ephobophile using the word ensures that all "people who have sex with those who are under the age at which it is legally permissible to have sex with them" aren't lumped in together. Because they aren't @#@%ing pedophiles and because while both practices are illegal they have entirely different moral connotations. For that matter the active practice of the various illegal chronophilias also have different practical implications. Counter-intuitively (unless you think about it) in the case of rape I seem to recall that a rape of a girl that is sexually mature does greater psy
Confining the discussion to females (which seems sensible given that the terms ephebophilia, paedophilia etc. seem to be most often used in the context of male attraction to females) the age range 15-19 is rather close to the widely agreed-upon (by men) 5-year age range of females in their physical prime of roughly 18-22. 15-year olds have been reproductively viable for about 4 years on average. 19-year-old women are about as attractive as they’ll ever be! I struggle to imagine when someone would really want to use this word ephebophilia. “He’s an ephebophile; I bet he wants to have sex with that cute 19-year-old” – absurd. There’s just too much overlap between ephebophilia and normal male sexuality for it to be a useful predictor. Even if the girl in quesiton is 15, it seems that the extent to which an older man might target her as a mate in today’s society depends more on how up-tight, how scrupulous or how socialised he is – whether he prefers slightly younger (by 3 years) women than the average man would generally be difficult to tell from outside, and being “normal” in this regard doesn’t preclude attraction to a 15-year-old any more than it does attraction to a 25-year-old in any case. There are words like “creeper” and “pervert” that might be used to describe the type of person who appears to pay undue attention to younger teenage girls. This seems to exhaust the social utility of having a word for someone who prefers slightly younger women than does the average man. Note that this concept is also highly contingent; plenty of human societies would consider overt sexual attraction to young teenage girls, insofar as sexual attraction is acceptable in general, to be unremarkable (as Hanson’s piece points out). Ephebophilia therefore appears to be useful, if at all, as a scientific term only. And in that case, where is the evidence that ephebophiles form a meaningful category? Why not have special words for adults who are attracted to 22-25 year-olds in parti
Have you read the wikipedia article behind the link? Apart from giving examples of where the word is actually useful it also makes clear that your example would be a misunderstanding. Being attracted to cute 19 year old girls - or even cute 15 year old girls - isn't the point. It is being attracted to young adolescent girls to the exclusion of or with strong dominance over any attraction to adults. So a prediction that would be somewhat more reasonable to make would be that the ephebophiliac would be less attracted to a 23 year old supermodel than to a fairly average 15 year old girl. fat. veryfat. obese. Reference class tennis. I reject the argument by analogy. If you actually did wonder that back through the analogy you would probably look at the third sentence of the wikipedia article and follow the link. If a matter of sexual preference is significant enough that it ensures that someone will never be able to legally satisfy his (or her) preferences anywhere within our entire culture then it is @#%@ well worth a word too.
The point is about arbitrary "scientific" gradings pulled out of thin air. Short, very short, diminutive - they are vague context-dependent categorisations that are suitable given the continuous nature and contingent relevance of the variation in question. This is not comparable to rigid, highly specific classifications like my putative "veryshortman", which is how I would characterise words like ephebophilia. There should be a good reason for the existence of such a term, and that reason is not apparent. The other problem with the specificity of “ephebophilia” is also that it overlaps with the typical 5-year window in which an average male would find a female most physically attractive. Therefore it can’t even be justified on the grounds that the psychologists are binning males into continuous but arbitrarily demarcated categories of “normal”, “ephebophile” and “hebephile”. You said: "Most crudely it is a prediction of which people the chronophile in question will try to have sex with". I pointed out that this alleged use to which the word might be put is redundant, since 15-19 year-old women are among the most attractive to men in any case. Generally the large majority of heterosexual men would want to have sex, if the conditions were right, with an attractive girl of this age, particularly a 19-year-old! I went on to point out that if we look at the other extreme (15-year-olds) scrupulousness and other character traits probably play a bigger role than ephebophilia in assessing the likelihood of a man attempting to mate with a girl of that age, in this society. That sounds about as reasonable, given the definition of ephebophile, as suggesting that an average man would be more attracted to a plain 18-year-old than to a 27-year-old supermodel. I.e. unreasonable, unless I missed the part where it is defined as exlusive attraction to 15-19 year-olds (in which case I would ask for some evidence that such people even exist). I did so already, and noticed that tele
Fascinating. Following those links I just discovered I'm a teleiophile. Also a gynephile but I probably could have guessed that one myself. I'm somewhat nonplussed with having the word ephebophilia refer to a preference for either females of approximately 14-16 or for males of an equivalent level of development (so slightly older). Unless for some reason people with one preference have a particularly high chance of also having the other preference. Because by this age it is an entirely different kind of preference so if you are going to go to all the trouble of making up names for various categories you may as well have "likes young men" different to "likes young women". Having just one word for pedophilia and perhaps hebophilia makes somewhat more sense given the much smaller difference between sexes at the younger ages.

It's very bad to have a single word that many people will interpret as "being attracted to people you can't have sex with, and having to live with a lot of fear and shame and stigma", and many other people interpret as "raping particularly vulnerable people".

No disagreement on that, though I suspect that even if everybody understood the first meaning, it would still be reviled.

(I know a (non-practicing) pedophile who attempted to "reclaim the word" by outing himself and distancing himself from child molesters. It - unsurprisingly - still didn't go well for him).

This guy is a hero. Okay, not a very effective hero, but still.

Unsurprisingly indeed. Still, somebody has to be first, and I admire his willingness to do so.
This opinion is widely held by many active participants in mainstream US culture. "Reviled" should be replaced with "reviled by ___" in order for this conversation to be precise.
I briefly read that as a colon...
It sounds to me like you picked ideas that were maximally superficially offensive under the constraint that at least one person might defend them, rather than ideas that were maximally defensible under the constraint that they were offensive. Focusing on the ideas that are held by people stupid enough to blurt them out leaves you vulnerable to a selection effect. If there were classes of political ideas such that anyone rational enough to believe them was also rational enough not to tell, how would you know?
Was the latter what was desired? Then I could mention ideas like eugenics, weighting voting power by IQ, banning theism in general or monotheism in particular, panopticon cities (or other means for global surveillance). I don't support the last two, but I bet I could make some good arguments about them. The first two I'd probably actually approve of, depending on the specific implementation. But are these ideas really so offensive that it'd be dangerous for people to reveal them? I don't think so. Right now the maximally defensible political idea that I'd not feel very safe to discuss in Greece is that my country should recognize the Republic of Macedonia under that name. I don't think that idea is offensive to anyone here, even though it's synonymous with treason in Greece. Science fiction is useful in allowing people to describe political ideas but maintain plausible deniability. Building Weirdtopia may be a relevant thread, though it'd be wrong for people to think that I actually support the weird ideas I mentioned there.
I'll come out and say I have no problem with cannibalism if the individual being cannibalized consented to it before they died. (Otherwise one is using property from their estate without permission and that's theft.) An argument can be made that in societies without abundant food, a cannibalism taboo is more useful, but that obviously doesn't apply today. Incest I have more mixed views on, but assuming one is talking about adult siblings who are consenting and not going to have children, I don't see an issue, even though I personally find it disgusting. Parent-offspring incest even when they are both adults isn't ok because it is extremely difficult to remove the power-imbalance issues. In practice, difficult to tell when an animal is consenting. But if we could confirm consent then I'd be ok with it. But, my view here isn't really fully consistent in that by this logic I should be worried about ducks not consenting to each other (a very large fraction of duck sex is rape). Regardless, whether or not I find it disgusting, consenting individuals should be allowed to do it. Willing victim, sure why not? If we think it is ok for a Jehovah Witness to refuse blood transfusions or an Orthodox Jew to refuse a heart transplant, why not allow active sacrifice? In this case it might even have positive results. As Ellie Arroway observed, celibate clergy could help reduce inherited predispositions to fanaticism, and this might have a similar selective effect.
Cannibalism comes with some very nasty disease-transmission issues. It's possible to be consistent about considering duck-on-duck rape bad and still assigning a relatively low priority to preventing it, compared to other societal problems, or more personal objectives.
I wouldn't call any of the above "ideas" at all. You are listing outlawed practices, not tabooed beliefs. True, "support for incest" is an idea, but if there is a covert ideology behind it it is not nearly as extensive and widespread as the ideology behind e.g. sexism.
Aw, no mention of Necrophilia? It's even a victimless crime!
Haha, I think you're displaying some serious prejudice (in multiple directions) by thinking that I'm supposed to mind this so badly.
"Prejudice" may not be the mot juste. If I filled one pickup truck with rednecks, and another with members of my own family, I'm not sure you'd be able to tell the difference. Hell, a few people would probably have to go in both trucks. It wasn't so much that I expected you to be viscerally horrified by the association with low-SES rural Southern whites, as that being pattern-matched to rednecks has what I thought were obvious drawbacks. Just for one: this being Less Wrong, I'm pretty confident you don't think zygotes have souls. No doubt there are many other, less obviously incongruent beliefs in the redneck belief cluster you wouldn't remotely endorse.
Not being American or part of the Anglosphere or Western European derived culture I read this as:
Noticed you assumed I'm a Yankee, considered challenging you to a duel, decided with this crowd it probably wouldn't go over.
Ah sorry, then it was just classism! :)
There's a certain subset of mostly Western, white men, largely middle-class rather than extremely wealthy or poor, who see the existence of civil rights activism on behalf of various minorities and the fact that it has succeeded in making it somewhat more costly to signal prejudice socially in polite company, and quite a bit moreso to do so openly in an institutional capacity, and conclude that this therefore means that it is now beyond the pale to do anything other than adhere to rigid standards of political correctness for the sake of controlling thought. These are people, by and large, who in coming of age and seeking to support themselves, didn't break through all their barriers to self-actualization or realize their wildest dreams of success, but managed to get some kind of payoff for their effort in terms of making ends meet (even if it's difficult and provides no insulation from suffering or strife in their lives), and certainly don't feel like they directly benefitted from any unethical practices or prejudices (even passively-conferred ones common in society). Since humans tend to model the emotions of others from their own baseline, they find it difficult to believe that anyone could genuinely have it that much worse, and conclude that activist groups of women and minorities are out to demonize them and censor them. They find it difficult to conceive that anybody else's life, at least in their own cultural sphere, could really be that bad, unless the person had just failed on merits, and wanted to blame someone else or hijack the fruits of their own effort out of laziness. Then, in an environment dominated numerically by similar people, they find it similarly plausible to think that if they voice a belief that is uncharitable towards, or does not reflect well upon, some social minority or other, they will be...well, it's not clear what. Censored? Hunted down and sued? I'm not sure what they're really afraid of, but they're angry about the idea that it mig

There's a certain subset of mostly Western, white men, largely middle-class rather than extremely wealthy or poor, who see the existence of civil rights activism on behalf of various minorities and the fact that it has succeeded in making it somewhat more costly to signal prejudice socially in polite company, and quite a bit moreso to do so openly in an institutional capacity, and conclude that this therefore means that it is now beyond the pale to do anything other than adhere to rigid standards of political correctness for the sake of controlling thought.

The rhetorical sleight of hand here is that "prejudice" is used with an ambivalent meaning. On the one hand, this word is used for any application of certain kinds of conditional probabilities about people, which are deemed to be immoral according to a certain ideological view. On the other hand, it is supposed to refer to the use of conditional probabilities about people that are inaccurate due to biases caused by ignorance or malice. Now, it is logically possible that the latter category just happens to subsume the former -- but the real world, of course, is never so convenient.

And if the latter category does not ... (read more)

I apologize for the confusion -- you seem to think that my using the noun constitutes an attempt to bill some unspecified set of statements and ideas as examples of the first thing you listed. What I'm actually doing, just so you can read my post accurately, is saying that prejudice is a thing (as per your second definition which you apparently thought I was being sneaky about), that it exists (I presume this at least is uncontentious to you?), and that in general it's a true statement it's now more costly to signal certain forms of that openly, according to prevailing social mores. In other words, if you have no objection to the assertion: "An employer in the US these days cannot generally refuse a job applicant by openly referring to the applicant's race as a disqualifying factor, without expecting some form of social reprisal", then you now understand what I meant when I used the word prejudice in that sentence. So, just to be sure I'm absolutely clear, since this is apparently confusing: When I say I mean that it is now more difficult to signal certain forms of prejudice (not specific as to what particular things constitute prejudice; pick an example you find unobjectionable) casually or irrespective of one's audience, without garnering some social risk.

What I'm actually doing, just so you can read my post accurately, is saying that prejudice is a thing (as per your second definition which you apparently thought I was being sneaky about), that it exists (I presume this at least is uncontentious to you?), and that in general it's a true statement it's now more costly to signal certain forms of that openly, according to prevailing social mores.

You are still obscuring the issue. Yes, of course that people frequently hold prejudiced beliefs that are biased due to ignorance or malice, and that some categories of such beliefs (though by no means all) have become more costly to signal in recent history. The question, however, is whether there are also some true beliefs, or uncertain beliefs that may turn out to be true given the present state of knowledge, that are also costly to express (or even just to signal indirectly) nowadays. Would you really assert that the answer to that question is no?

And if your answer to that question is yes, then what basis do you have for asserting that "a broader social pattern into which [you] see [my] behavior falling" consists of people who are unhappy because they find it costly to express prejudiced beliefs that are biased due to ignorance or malice?

I would not. I am doubting your claim that your beliefs are really so beyond the pale to the social mores of your peers here, that you'd be unfairly suppressed and/or censored, or otherwise hurt "the cause" of LW any moreso than you might be saying what you already do freely. I could be wrong about that, but I also have different estimates of the real, net social cost to signalling something unpopular, especially for someone who consistently signal-boosts in your observed patterns in this environment. I would be unsurprised to learn you believe that IQ represents general intelligence and that it is primarily genetic, and that all personality traits are ultimately genetic or inconsequential in the scheme of things, and that they are linked to race, and that this could get people upset at you if you just said it at random at a party. I would be very surprised if it got you successfully sued, persecuted in a tangible way, or indeed anything worse than flamed on the internet for voicing this openly. Or arrested, or fired from your job, or targeted by a group like Anonymous for ongoing harassment... However, based on what you've said about your reasons for not revealing some subset of your beliefs here, you appear to fear consequences considerably more significant than just someone being mad at something you said on the internet, and this seems...disproportionate, incorrect, biased -- a skewed misunderstanding of the reality of your likely risks and costs.

I would be very surprised if it got you successfully sued, persecuted in a tangible way, or indeed anything worse than flamed on the internet for voicing this openly.

What do you think happened to Stephanie Grace - don't you think a private email sent to a few friends has affected her career prospects ? James Watson and Lawrence Summers also got lynched for their opinions.

I don't think anybody risks getting sued or arrested, but they can have their careers harmed.

Having certain topics discussed too openly on Lesswrong could result in several unfortunate things happening.

  1. It could make certain potential rationalists be deterred from participating in the community.

  2. It could attract the attention of certain contrarians who are less-than-rational and, for various reasons, should not necessarily be considered potential rationalists.

  3. Most importantly, from the standpoint of the Singularity Institute (or, at least, what I think is its standpoint), it could increase the probability of human extinction by harming the SI's reputation.

Mm, those reasons do make some sense. I think as far as 1 goes, it seems to me like that's already happening -- I know a few people not on this site (who discovered it independently of myself, none of whom know each other), and many more I've encountered about online, who explicitly view LW as essentially compromised by 2, hence they have no interest in being here. YMMV how much those people are reachable or desireable, of course, but it's difficult for me to disagree with their basic perception that this place is already full of contrarian-cluster types who're intellectuals but still quite biased. I also wonder about signalling now, re: "less-than-rational" -- given what I understand of rationality as it's described and the reasons humans don't tend to display that trait most of the time, it seems like it's only asymptotically-reachable -- you can reduce the frequency of incorrect decisions and amend certain biases in short or long-term ways, but you probably can't get rid of it altogether. Who here is truly "rational?" Even Eliezer Yudkowsky still has his own biases -- the most you can hope for is, well, "less wrong", and that is work to achieve. So assuming (big assumption here!) that I understand the about rationality and how LW views it, and why it's desireable and how much realistically a human being can self-optimize for that trait, it seems like "less than rational" should probably be avoided. Aren't we all? Aren't we all going to be until such time as we come up with some kind of game-breaking thing that allows a person to really just run rationality full-time if that's what they want?
Trent Lott's Senate career was destroyed because he praised Strom Thurmond. I'm not saying that sort of thing happens often, but it's not nothing. I wish more people would extrapolate from their own vulnerability to insults to the idea that people in general are vulnerable to insults, but this doesn't seem likely to happen any time soon.
You forgot cis-hetero.
Obligatory XKCD explaining how hypothetical situations work.

Further comments by you may be deleted without warning or notice. Please leave Less Wrong.

Please go away. You've earned yourself -262 Karma points in the last 30 days; you should take the hint.

(Relevant post.)

This comment might not be popular on a quick knee-jerk level, but it's worth getting out there for accuracy.

Under "Many partners" you've got Singlehood, Friendship 'with benefits', Polyamory.

You're missing one of the most common historical kinds of relationships - monogamous commitment from woman to man, man taking care of multiple households in a committed way.

The first Tokugawa Shogun, for instance -

16 children with 11 wives and concubines.

King Ts'ao Ts'ao of Wei -

Muhammad -

It's not a Western tradition. The West has a strong romantic/platonic love ideal, that moves into monogamy under Christianity, and some non-monogamy later built on some mix of liberalism, enlightenment values, and humanism.

But still, it's been a very common family/dating/relationship through history. It still persists, though it doesn't get much media coverage.

Current Sheik of Dubai -

Current Prime Minister of Italy - (read more)

Honest question: has this ever been common? All the cases you list are "king" of their time and place. I thought you were going to point out that adultery was the classical way of having multiple partners...

Indeed, Siberia today is suffering such an acute “man shortage” (due in part to massive rates of alcoholism) that both men and women have lobbied the Russian parliament to legalize polygamy. In 2009, The Guardian cited Russian politicians’ claims that polygamy would provide husbands for “10 million lonely women.” In endorsing polygamy, these women, particularly those in remote rural areas without running water, may be less concerned with loneliness than with something more pragmatic: help with the chores. Caroline Humphrey, a Cambridge University anthropologist who has studied the region, said women supporters believed the legalization of polygamy would be a “godsend,” giving them “rights to a man’s financial and physical support, legitimacy for their children, and rights to state benefits.”

Well, there is woman shortage in China, so...
I am told this relationship style (polygynous with multiple households) is common in Latin America, and I do know several males there who have engaged in it. These males are middle-class - doctors and the like. Polygyny also occurs in other Western cultures, although more covertly, in the form of the prestigious man and his "bit on the side" (who is usually non-reproductive, monogamous and hoping to oust the current alpha female - in the absence of contraception this would probably end up with multiple households). So I'm inclined to think it happens whenever there are massive power inequalities both between males (such that a woman is better off with a fraction of the resources of a wealthy man than with all the resources of a poor man) - and between males and females (such that wealthy men are better off "collecting" multiple poor women than marrying one wealthy one).
It's probably hard to answer that accurately. I've read arguments about how commonplace polygamy and harems were and they usually go like this: a) Old sources rarely take interest in the lives of common men, but we know that society tolerated multiple wifes and households in extraordinary people. b) Household requires wealth. More households require more wealth. c) Common men could support one household at most, if any. d) Monogamy was de-facto standard (for economic reasons). Hope this helps.
I've heard that absolute rulers liked to keep everyone else down, to cement their own position. This often involved limiting the number of wives other men could have, and limiting how closely they could marry (oftentimes the emperor would ban cousin marriage for everyone else, but then marry his own cousins and sisters, to prevent having to lose anything by way of dowry).
I don't think "taking care" is always the best description, especially in the case of Berlusconi, for example.

I quite liked the post, I only have one niggle:

"For example, in heterosexual dating the man is expected to ask for the date, plan the date, and escalate sexual interaction. A woman expects that she will be pursued and not have to approach men, that on a date she should be passive and follow the man's lead, and that she shouldn't initiate sex herself."

this is an extremely US-centric view of dating culture.

In Aus, women do not expect men to pay for dates, and while the bias is still weighted towards the men being more likely to ask woman out or to initiate sexual advancement... it's not the expectation.

It's only one data point, but most of my BFs I pursued, rather than the other way around - and most of my girl-friends have similar stories.

Fixed, thanks.
Just wanted to say - I'm impressed by your dedication to improving your writing style - both in the amount of reference-reading you're doing to fuel your topics, and in how much you're willing to take on board the feedback from the community.

The plans for the Death Ray are already out there. The two possible discussions are, first, whether it's ethical to kill someone with a Death Ray.

The second discussion asks whether the effectiveness of the Death Ray (compared to just punching someone) can be attributed to the placebo effect. Or maybe the Death Ray only works on the sort of people that evil villains want to kill, but when it comes time to protagonists, our opponents are mostly invulnerable to Death Rays. It's also possible that the Death Ray doesn't really work better than chance, but it gives villains the confidence to step up and shoot someone who's about to have a heart attack, anyway. Then again, maybe a lot of people prefer to be shot with Death Rays and it's hypocritical to say that the tried-and-true method of punching someone to death is better just because it doesn't involve any mechanical devices...

This doesn't mark it as a natural explanation. By the same pattern, I don't have a tail because I'm not a kangaroo.

But in fact, you don't have a tail because you're not a kangaroo. And if we were all fairly familiar with kangaroos and thought they were fairly analogous to Vladimir_Nesovs, then we would make note of the distinction.

I would like to propose that any post immediately become locked once its number of comments reaches 1337.

Having read every single one of the 1337 comments, I have concluded that there is nothing to be gained from any further comments that might be added, and that the above solution should be applied immediately so as not to waste anyone else's time or karma.

On December 7th, your prediction was falsified.
The greater the value of your comment, the greater benefit there has been from allowing more than 1337 comments on posts. But seriously, I don't think the risk of this discussion being continued in an unrelated, peaceful post is worth it.

Risky: If we're going to discuss "how to stick your dick in people", which is an important subtopic of PUA, and completely ignore ethics, we're going to discuss rape.

If the subject was "How to stick your dick in people" then rape would come into it. But it isn't. If you are going to rape people then you don't need PUA. It'd be kind of redundant. That this kind of disingenuous argument is tolerated in this context (parent was +1 when I encountered it, not -10) is why I am not against tabooing all related subject matter unilaterally. If people can get away with this something is wrong.

Potentially risky: A core part of PUA is creating and signalling high status. This is often done by lowering one's opinion of women. While LWers are unlikely to start endorsing the verbal belief that women who have sex on the first date are worthless

What on earth are you talking about? That's approximately the opposite of the kind of belief that is useful for a PUA. Which illustrates the problem with having the majority of any discussion dominated by 'ethics'. It is roughly speaking an excuse for people who are completely ill informed to throw opinions around that are based on an almost entirely fictional reality.

This is a false dichotomy, and the child post asking for clarification should not have been voted down. PUA, if it worked, would be an excellent way for a date-rapist to get women alone in circumstances such that there might be reasonable doubt in a subsequent court case as to whether or not the victim consented to sex. Hence the idea that if you are going to rape people then PUA is of no use to you is trivially false. Also it should go without saying that an agent whose goal is to maximise the amount of sex they get disregarding all ethical concerns is an agent that will date-rape under some circumstances, specifically those circumstances where they get a woman alone, are not successful in obtaining consensual sex at that time and are not otherwise unable to commit rape safely. I think what this actually illustrates is the mind-killing power of the PUA topic. Obviously fallacious arguments are getting voted up heavily because they defend PUA and attack ethics, which is extremely concerning. I am moving towards the opinion that this is not a fixable problem and that it's indeed the utility-maximising move from the larger LW perspective to sweep the PUA community and their views back under a rug and taboo them from emerging.
Yes, PUA skills are generalizable to a certain extent. Rather than use them to seduce people you could use them to rape people, kidnap them and harvest their organs to sell on the black market or to try to convince them to buy some steak knives. But again, as you quoted: If the subject was "How to stick your dick in people" then rape would come into it. But it isn't. Yes, and conventional rape without the pesky hassle of pick up too - and I'm honestly not sure which kind of rape comes with the greatest risk of getting caught. But nobody has ever suggested that we discuss how to maximise sex. That is the whole point being made here - that equivocation in the great-grandparent just isn't acceptable. I have a similar concern - at least in as much as it troubles me that sloppy thinking tends to be accepted based on the fact that it is talking about a moral/ethical/social-political position. I have made rather different observations about how the trend seems to flow. It is one thing to suggest tabooing a subject - and with the caveat that it must be relationship and dating advice that is tabooed (so as not to allow a distorted reality to remain) a lot of people agree. But it is an entirely different thing to try to declare just the opposing view (or your stereotype thereof) to be unacceptable. Now I'm curious. The account PhilosophyTutor is a new account which has more or less contributed only via PUA-ethical debate. Yet I'm getting the impression here that you are coming from, well, a "larger LW perspective". Is PhilosophyTutor a dummy account for more generally active member so that you can get involved in the subject without it looking bad for your primary identity or are you actually a new user who thus far has mostly been interested in dating-ethics?
Disagreeing with your specific moral prescriptions for everyone is not attacking ethics in general.
What I'm talking about is techniques that get people to let you stick your dick in them. Many of these techniques grow more effective as they are intensified, but also less ethical after a certain point. "Get them drunk" is an example, but not PUA. Better examples would be persevering (necessary to pass simple shit-tests, but nagging too much will make people so desperate to be left alone they may well agree to sex), and intermittent reinforcement (ranging from not being a spineless, clingy sycophant, to emotional abuse). Consider the difference between the slut and the quality girl. Also the phrase "pumped and dumped". This belief is useful because if a woman agrees to sex early, you can think that you're worth more than her, and display related behaviors (making her chase you and fear competition); moreover, if you get sex by promising to call the next day but don't, you don't have to feel guilty because she's just a slut anyway.

(..., but nagging too much will make people so desperate to be left alone they may well agree to sex)

I have a very hard time imagining this working. Women and men of high social status have very effective ways of getting rid of people that fall short of sex. Also constant "nagging" signals horrible things about you in pure fitness terms, it much reduces one's attractiveness, I can't see why this would be rewarded with sex.

Sex with a woman might happen in spite of nagging, not because of it.

Seriously, stop feeding the troll. I am downvoting replies to sam0345's comments, and encourage others to do so as well.

(I was following this strategy was a while too.)

So basically this series will try to do this but systematically avoid any PUA references and trying to find ways to find some relevance to a few extra groups of people (besides heterosexual males) in order to avoid mind killing?

Your comment sounds like a complaint. Is it?

Partially yes. Some PUA concepts are really neatly formulated, a fraction of LWers are familiar with them and at the end of the day the original synthesis was done by the PUA community, having a bottom line partially written by X, then searching for academic papers to help write up stuff to fill the void once X is cut out is an easy way to stumble rationality-wise once or twice along the way, and thus is bad practice, but mostly I was just curious.

Generally I think avoiding mindkillers is a good thing for the community in my mind, and the comment section of this discussion is better than I expected, so perhaps the comment is coming of harsher than intended.

It was mean more in a "oh I see what you did there, am I right?" way.

Generally I think avoiding mindkillers is a good thing for the community in my mind, and the comment section of this discussion is better than I expected, so perhaps the comment is coming of harsher than intended.

I think your comment was quite appropriate. Even under the best imaginable scenario, these articles and their follow-up discussions will suffer from at least two problems.

First, there is the conspicuous omission of any references to the PUA elephant in the room. The body of insight developed by this particular sort of people, whatever its faults, is of supreme practical importance for anyone who wants to formulate practical advice in this area. Without referencing it explicitly, one can either ignore it altogether and thus inevitably talk nonsense, or pretend to speak based solely on official academic literature, which is disingenuous and unfair in its failure to attribute credit (and also misleading for those who would like to pursue their own research in the matter). It's as if someone wanted to talk about electronics but insisted that the only legitimate references should be from pure academic quantum theory, and the nuts-and-bolts work of tech entrepreneurs and ind... (read more)


Yet since in our culture the discussion (let alone practical use) of certain kinds of conditional probabilities about people is considered immoral, discussing these things while remaining within the contemporary inoffensive bounds is as if one wanted to discuss sexual techniques while respecting the prudery norms of 17th century puritanism.

And this was the reason why, I didn't expect a direct response to the original question, from any of the authors. But as well as your opinions stated here resonate with my own, I feel I do need to play the devil's (who is a thoroughly socialized chap) advocate:

People still realized when sex was talked about. And some information was distributed in this way.

While obviously this is not necessarily a stable situation, besides the euphemism treadmill people do eventually shorten the useful inference gaps. Indeed I would argue that cycles form around these sorts of things, perhaps 19th century Victorian society with its anomalous attitude to discussing sexuality is an example of such a spiral and I think in the 20th century there are also to be found potential examples of such spirals in some places.

This premise however is flawed, and those who

... (read more)

Generally some information is better than no information and I would say that for all intents and purposes mainstream advice on dating and relations between the sexes is more or less no information.

Actually, I'd say there's a whole lot of strongly misleading information, and the situation is much worse than in most other areas of life. For example, in the conventional wisdom about job hunting there is certainly a lot of trite and suboptimal information, and truly great advice is always a matter of insider information to which few people are privy -- but there is nothing like, say, the respectable opinion telling you that it's best to show up for the job interview drunk and puke on the interviewer's desk. Whereas in dating and inter-sex relations in general, a lot of the respectable opinion, if taken at face value, advises equivalently bad acts of self-sabotage.

Now, a body of advice whose quality is a mixed bag may be on the net either good or bad. If you're given ten tips about driving, nine of which will make you a somewhat better driver but one of which will vastly increase your probability of getting killed in an accident, we'd probably agree that the "some information... (read more)

In the past people have obviously retrospectively looked for academic sources to support PUA ideas. It's instrumentally fine, just a bad habit. Also, it is easy to hint at what is unsaid by saying it would be offensive, and hinting at exactly how offensive it would or wouldn't be. Imagine a map of the world where every feature north of 35 degrees latitude was only described (Canada? Way north, I can't put that on the map, it's not even close! Korea? Look, that's just not the sort of thing that can be boldly painted on the map. I'll sketch a rough outline in pencil, OK?) Such a map would not be misleading.

certain things can not be said due to "decency".

The reason that convention is difficult to use here is that the taking of offense all goes one way. If one says "Because it is mind-killing, I will not speak of the temporal order, quantity, and relative amount of coercion involved in all property dispossessions in the Middle East since 1800," one does not thereby share much about one's opinion.

If one says "Because it is mind killing, I will not discuss the relationship between sexual attractiveness and time for men and women," it may be that one believes that they are the same, or that there isn't a steep fall for anyone, or whatever, and merely doesn't want to provoke people into speaking of a counterargument. But usually not.

Only one side takes offense regarding this issue, so to say that one's opinions are offensive, and especially the degree to which they are, is to reveal them. People are neither motivated to, nor good at, using the same language for "I will not share my opinion because people will take offense," and "I will not share my opinion because the way some people discuss the topic is offensive." In both cases, people take the opportunity to signal and communicate rather than maintain an ambiguous neutral convention to end conversations.

"Mindkilling" refers to the idea that it is particularly hard (although not impossible) for humans to discuss politically or ideologically controversial subjects without succumbing to bias. The implicit prohibition on "mindkilling" political discussion seems to have worked well here in creating a very civilised discussion forum. On the other hand, you would redefine mindkilling as dissent from the ideological mainstream. This is unwise, because this merely priviliges a certain view of things at the expense of truth-seeking - it enshrines bias, since the ideological mainstream (American?) view of all things cannot be considered true or rational by definition. To merely acknowledge that "indecency" (dissent) is forbidden, so caveat lector does little to counteract the inherent bias of the arrangement, since people are still going to read articles on a rationality forum expecting them to be essentially accurate, which they will not be to the extent that the dissenting view of things is the only fully accurate view. In other words this acknowledgement is hardly going to cancel out the persuasive force of a biased article unless the caveat is written in massive bold letters at the top of every such article "This Is Not True", which is clearly unsatisfactory. In other words the choices are: 1) Allow no discussion of ideologically controversial matters (to minimise mindkilling, but limit the scope of the forum) 2) Your solution, i.e. permit only the mainstream view (also minimising the possibility of mindkilling arguments, but legitimising bias) 3) Anything goes (possibly degrading the civility and in the long term the rationality of the forum) Since the prohibitions are in fact only implicit, luckily there is no need to actually make a choice and some kind of uneasy equilibrium between 2 and 3 can exist (in which dissent is allowed, but is only encouraged in small and perhaps euphemistic doses). But I think this clarifies the point Vladimir_M is making.

I, for one, find obscurantist posts hinting that there are unspoken-because-unpalatable-to-the-mainstream truths to be far more irritating than posts explicitly saying things that I personally find distasteful. The former leaves the dissident view just amorphous enough to be impossible to subject to scrutiny. Given that, even in cases where the mainstream view is wrong, the implied dissident view may also be wrong in some important regard, the obscurantism is highly suboptimal.

I haven't been downvoting for this phenomenon so far, but I'm going to start doing so if it keeps happening.

To whoever is upvoting this, it seems like you must be taking one of the following positions:

  1. It is safe to post any view on LessWrong. Doing so will not get you in trouble, or cause blowups.
  2. It is unsafe to post certain views on LessWrong, but if you hold such a view, you are morally obliged to argue for it and suffer the punishment (possibly at the hands of me or my allies).
  3. It is unsafe to post certain views on LessWrong, and you are allowed not to argue for them, but you are not allowed to suggest that this unsafety has any sort of distorting effect on the resulting discussion.

Could you guys clarify?

I upvoted Prismatic, and I'm taking this position: 4. It may or may not be safe to post certain views on Less Wrong, but whatever they are, I precommit that I will not be part of a blowup over them. If your views are justified, I will update on them, and if they are not, I will calmly state my objections, but I will not punish you for dissent. If other people punish you unfairly for dissent, I will punish them. I would rather you post your dissenting views than hide them, and I will support you for doing so.

If enough of Less Wrong takes this position, eventually position 1. will be correct. I hope to bring about this state of affairs.

I always appreciate when someone else comes along and explains my position better than I did, so thanks.

Isn't is possible that Prismattic's comment could be receiving so many upvotes because other people also find comments of the sort described irritating and are embracing the opportunity to signal that irritation? Like Prismattic, I don't generally downvote comments on this basis alone. But I'm definitely tired of seeing the types of comments described, especially in those instances when, at least to my eyes, the commenters seem to be affecting a certain world-weary sorrow and wisdom while hinting at the profound truths that could be freely discussed but for -alas!- the terrible tyranny of modern social norms. But because the commenters are hiding the exact substance of their own views, there's no basis on which to judge whether these views are, as Prismattic suggests, actually more correct than the mainstream view, or perhaps equally or even more wrong in some different direction.

If what's suggested is "You guys would punish me for stating my arguments, therefore I win the debate", I agree that's unreasonable. If what's suggested is "You guys would punish me for stating my arguments, therefore no real debate has taken place", I think that's far more reasonable.
8Wei Dai12y
Why not publish the "unsafe" arguments under a pseudonym (or an alternate pseudonym if your main identity is already a pseudonym)?
To do so consistently and stay safe, you'd need to take the unusual or otherwise identifiable parts of your set of concepts, favorite examples, verbal quirks, patterns of reasoning, and so on, and split everything into two: one part for use under your true identity, and one part for pseudonymous use. Even then, each of your novel ideas could taint each of your other novel ideas. There would also still be the harm to LessWrong's reputation as a whole. And what would it accomplish? It's notoriously hard to get people to change their minds on these topics, even here, and if you do there's no clear causal path from that to better long-term future outcomes. I'd rather just collectively give up.
7Wei Dai12y
I do wonder why Luke puts so much effort into writing about romantic relationships, given all the other things on his to do list. Perhaps he wants to demonstrate that rationality has big concrete, immediate benefits, as a way to help expand our community? I think that's unlikely, unless someone who wants to see it happen makes a big push for it (e.g., get Eliezer to declare it a rule, or write a really convincing top-level post arguing for it and build the necessary consensus). My suggestion was made under the assumption of the current status quo.
I second this question.
Trying to put words to my own intuitions on the matter, I would stipulate a modified 3: It may be unsafe (in terms of image/status/etc - I would certainly expect and hope not physically) to express certain views, particularly those sufficiently far from both societal mainstream and LW mainstream, and particularly those that touch too heavily on mind-killing topics. It is reasonably within norms to acknowledge this, particularly with an eye to reducing its effect. What is decidedly a violation of norms, I think, is to do so in a self-serving manner. "Norms forbid honest discussion of my pet issue X, therefor X" is obviously flawed. "Norms forbid discussion of my pet issue X, and I have strong evidence for X but can't share it because of those norms, so just trust me that X" amounts to the same thing, in terms of what kinds of discussions are possible. It is also, to some degree, inconsistent - it is unlikely that we forbid evidence for a proposition while allowing discussion otherwise implying/assuming it.
Yes, why should the heretic have the right to remain silent! If he speaks truth the good doctors of the holy mother church will surely update their theological arguments accordingly and if not, well why is he risking his immortal soul by relying only on his feeble and fallible mind?
So you prefer the situation in which a dubious mainstream view remains entirely unchallenged to a situation where a doubter, instead of remaining silent, states that it is likely wrong but that spelling out an explicit argument why it is so would violate social norms? As far as I see, the information made available in the second case is a proper superset of the information available in the former. So how can this constitute "obscurantism" in any reasonable sense of the term?

I'd prefer social norms be violated. Asserting that a proposition is wrong without explaining why one has reached that conclusion or presenting an alternative is not a behavior that is generally viewed as beneficial in any other context on Lesswrong.

ETA: I also see the widespread use on Lesswrong of "politically correct" as an attribution that prima facie proves something is wrong to be problematic. Society functions on polite fictions, but that does not mean that everything that is polite is inherently false.

I'd prefer social norms be violated.

Do you upvote people that do?

I have mostly grown tired of making comments where I mention a contrarian position. I get asked to explain myself; it sometimes leads to an argument, and I put a lot of work into comments that often end up at negative karma. I suspect those threads add to LW, but the feedback I'm getting is that they don't.

I'll understand if you refuse, but... would you mind terribly saving me the work of searching for an example of what you're talking about? Cause, see, if I'm right about what you're referring to (something I'm not sure of, hence the question) I generally do upvote things like that. Also I've only been here, like, two months, so if you have some kind of reputation I'm not aware of it.
The most recent example would be my comment that everyone becoming bisexual might lead to a net social loss, although the karma scores have gone up since that discussion happened (and so maybe I just need to wait before updating on the karma of contrarian comments). I spent way too long looking through other comments I've made, and only really came across this example. I suspect this was misapplying discontent caused by other arguments. I had already noticed a while back that when I made a sloppy comment it would often get downvoted, although I would be able to make up the karma by explaining myself downthread. The only other significant example I can think of was in a thread about infanticide where I accidentally implied that I could be for the criminalization of abortion, and that comment got kicked down to -3 karma, with +1 karma from my following comments. (It's hard to decide how that whole thread contributes to this question, because the person who said "well, I can't say this many places, but I'm in favor of infanticide" got upvoted to 41 karma. That suggests to me their position isn't contrarian locally, but I suspect it is contrarian globally.)
In general, it's been observed that a comment on a controversial topic will be downvoted heavily in a quick flurry but then usually recovers; high-quality such comments tend to end up significantly positive.
And now I have seen it observed by someone who isn't me. Good to hear external confirmation! :)
Careful - if you've stated it out loud, the observation noted above might be your own.
By the way, +1 for noting the tension between "Is that your true rejection" and "Policy debates should not appear one-sided".

I'd prefer social norms be violated.

It sounds, then, as though you should be talking to the people punishing norm violations, not to the people responding rationally to such punishment.

I'd prefer social norms be violated. Asserting that a proposition is wrong without explaining why one has reached that conclusion or presenting an alternative is not a behavior that is generally viewed as beneficial in any other context on Lesswrong.

This does not answer my question. You claim that a situation in which information X and Y is made available constitutes "obscurantism" relative to the situation where only information X is provided. Now you say that you would prefer that not just X and Y, but also information Z be provided. That's fair enough, but it doesn't explain why (X and Y) is worse than just (X), if (X and Y and Z) is better than just (X and Y). What is this definition of "obscurantism," according to which the level of obscurantism can rise with the amount of information about one's beliefs that one makes available?

I still consider myself relatively new here, only been around for a year -- but in that year I haven't seen any actual fact presented in LessWrong that's enflamed spirits one tenth as much as the obscure half-hints by trolls like sam and his "I can't say things, because you politically correct morons will downvote me into oblivion, but be sure that my arguments would be crushing, if I was allowed to make them, which I'm not, therefore I'm not making them" style of debate.

The "obscurantism" that Prismatic is talking about isn't yet as bad as that, but it has that same flavour, to a lesser degree. This sort of thing is... annoying -- hinting at evidence, but refusing to provide it -- and blaming this obscurity at the hypothetical actions by people who haven't actually done them yet.

If the issue is e.g. whether science seems to indicate that the statistical distribution of physical and intellectual characteristic isn't identical across racially-defined subgroups of the human race, or across genders, or across whatever, then it can be discussed politely, if the participants actually seek a polite discussion, instead of just finding the most insulting way possible t... (read more)