I suspect that the ick reaction being labeled "objectification" actually has more to do with the sense that the speaker is addressing a closed group that doesn't include you.

Suppose I wrote a story about a man named Frank, whose twin brother (Frank has learned) is in the process of being framed for murder this very night.  Frank is in the middle of a complicated plot to give his brother an alibi.  He's already found the cabdriver and tricked him into waiting outside a certain apartment for an hour.  Now all he needs is the last ingredient of his plan - a woman to go home with him (as he poses as his brother).  Frank is, with increasing desperation, propositioning ladies at the bar - any girl will do for his plan, it doesn't matter who she is or what she's about...

I'd bet I could write that story without triggering the ick reaction, because Frank is an equal-opportunity manipulator - he manipulated the cabdriver, too.  The story isn't about Frank regarding women as things on the way to implementing his plan, it's about Frank regarding various people, men and women alike, as means to the end of saving his brother.

If a woman reads that story, I think, she won't get a sense of being excluded from the intended audience.

I suspect that's what the ick factor being called "objectification" is really about - the sense that someone who says "...but you'll still find women alluring" is talking to an audience that doesn't include you, a woman.  It doesn't matter if you happen to be a bi woman.  You still get the sense that it never crossed the writer's mind that there might be any women in the audience, and so you are excluded.

In general, starting from a perceptual reaction, it is a difficult cognitive task to say in words exactly why that reaction occurred - to accurately state the necessary and sufficient conditions for its triggering.  If the reaction is affective, a good or bad reaction, there is an additional danger:  You'll be tempted to zoom in on any bad (good) aspect of the situation, and say, "Ah, that must be the reason it's bad (good)!"  It's wrong to treat people as means rather than ends, right?  People have their own feelings and inner life, and it's wrong to forget that?  Clearly, that's a problem with saying, "And this is how you get girls..."  But is that exactly what went wrong originally - what triggered the original ick reaction?

And this (I say again) is a tricky cognitive problem in general - the introspective jump from the perceptual to the abstract.  It is tricky far beyond the realms of gender...

But I do suspect that the real problem is speech that makes a particular gender feel excluded.  And if that's so, then for the purposes of Less Wrong, I think, it may make sense to zoom in on that speech property.  Politics of all sorts have always been a dangerous bit of attractive flypaper, and I think we've had a sense, on Less Wrong, that we ought to steer clear of it - that politics is the mindkiller.  And so I hope that no one will feel that their gender politics are being particularly targeted, if I suggest that, like some other political issues, we might want to steer sort of clear of that.

I've previously expressed that to build a rationalist community sustainable over time, the sort of gender imbalance that appears among e.g. computer programmers, is not a good thing to have.  And so it may make sense, as rationalists qua rationalists, to target gender-exclusionary speech.  To say, "Less Wrong does not want to make any particular gender feel unwelcome."

But I also think that you can just have a policy like that, without opening the floor to discussion of all gender politics qua gender politics.  Without having a position on whether, say, "privilege" is a useful way to think about certain problems, or a harmful one.

And the coin does have two sides.  It is possible to make men, and not just women, feel unwelcome as a gender.  It is harder, because men have fewer painful memories of exclusion to trigger.  A single comment by a woman saying "All men are idiots" won't do it.  But if you've got a conversational thread going between many female posters all agreeing that men are privileged idiots, then a man can start to pick up a perceptual impression of "This is not a place where I'm welcome; this is a women's locker room."  And LW shouldn't send that message, either.

So if we're going to do this, then let's have a policy which says that we don't want to make either gender feel unwelcome.  And that aside from this, we're not saying anything official about gender politics qua gender politics.  And indeed we might even want to discourage gender-political discussion, because it's probably not going to contribute to our understanding of systematic and general methods of epistemic and instrumental rationality, which is our actual alleged topic around here.

But even if we say we're just going to have a non-declarative procedural rule to avoid language or behavior that makes a gender feel excluded... it still takes us into thorny waters.

After all, jumping on every tiny hint - say, objecting to the Brennan stories because Brennan is male - will make men feel unwelcome; that this is a blog only for people who agree with feminist politics; that men have to tiptoe while women are allowed to tapdance...

Now with that said: the point is to avoid language that makes someone feel unwelcome.  So if someone says that they felt excluded as a gender, pay attention.  The issue is not how to prove they're "wrong".  Just listen to the one who heard you, when they tell you what they heard.  We want to avoid any or either gender, feeling excluded and leaving.  So it is the impression that is the key thing.  You can argue, perhaps, that the one's threshold for offense was set unforgivably low, that they were listening so hard that no one could whisper softly enough.  But not argue that they misunderstood you.  For that is still a fact about your speech and its consequences.  We shall just try to avoid certain types of misunderstanding, not blame the misunderstander.

And what if someone decides she's offended by all discussion of evolutionary psychology because that's a patriarchal plot...?

Well... I think there's something to be said here, about her having impugned the honor of female rationalists everywhere.  But let a female rationalist be the one to say it.  And then we can all downvote the comment into oblivion.

And if someone decides that all discussion of the PUA (pickup artist) community, makes her feel excluded...?

Er... I have to say... I sort of get that one.  I too can feel the locker-room ambiance rising off it.  Now, yes, we have a lot of men here who are operating in gender-imbalanced communities, and we have men here who are nerds; and if you're the sort of person who reads Less Wrong, there is a certain conditional probability that you will be the sort of person who tries to find a detailed manual that solves your problems...

...while not being quite sane enough to actually notice you're driving away the very gender you're trying to seduce from our nascent rationalist community, and consequentially shut up about PUA...

...oh, never mind.  Gender relations much resembles the rest of human existence, in that it largely consists of people walking around with shotguns shooting off their own feet.  In the end, PUA is not something we need to be talking about here, and if it's giving one entire gender the wrong vibes on this website, I say the hell with it.

And if someone decides that it's not enough that a comment has been downvoted to -5; it needs to be banned, or the user needs to be banned, in order to signify that this website is sufficiently friendly...?

Sorry - downvoting to -5 should be enough to show that the community disapproves of this lone commenter.

If someone demands explicit agreement with their-favorite-gender-politics...?

Then they're probably making the other gender feel unwelcome - the coin does have two sides.

If someone argues against gay marriage...?

Respond not to trolls; downvote to oblivion without a word.  That's not gender politics, it's kindergarten.

If you just can't seem to figure out what's wrong with your speech...?

Then just keep on accepting suggested edits.  If you literally don't understand what you're doing wrong, then realize that you have a blind spot and need to steer around it.  And if you do keep making the suggested edits, I think that's as much as someone could reasonably ask of you.  We need a bit more empathy in all directions here, and that includes empathy for the hapless plight of people who just don't get it, and who aren't going to get it, but who are still doing what they can.

If you just can't get someone to agree with your stance on explicit gender politics...?

Take it elsewhere, both of you, please.


Is it clear from this what sort of general policy I'm driving at?  What say you?

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...while not being quite sane enough to actually notice you're driving away the very gender you're trying to seduce from our nascent rationalist community, and consequentially shut up about PUA... In the end, PUA is not something we need to be talking about here, and if it's giving one entire gender the wrong vibes on this website, I say the hell with it."

Very unfortunate that we are suggesting censoring a rather important and fertile topic that fits bang in the middle of the overcomingbias/lesswrong framework because:

  1. PUA related discussions are certainly of enormous practical importance; it offers enormous insight into the working of attraction, though I dare say folks at lesswrong may be able to push the frontier way more particularly with their knowledge of evolutionary psychology etc.

  2. PUA related discussions are all the more important and relevant to lesswrong since attraction is an area that conventional wisdom doesn't say enough about, in part due to political correctness.

  3. One thing I have really liked about lesswrong is its manner of addressing politically incorrect questions with honesty; and not having a long list of taboo topics.

  4. PUA tells us a nu

... (read more)

"But let a female rationalist be the one to say it."

this really bothers me.

Okay, sorry for the ambiguity here.

I'm not assuming that the hypothetical original denigrator of evolutionary psychology would react better to a feminine rebuke. I think this hypothetical person is lost to us anyway.

I think that someone who calls evolutionary psychology unfeminine, is insulting the honor of feminity - but it's not my place to say that. It's not my place to borrow offense, if indeed the honor of feminity has been insulted.

Someone who has actually, directly, personally been offended... can be apologized to, her offense has a limit because it's hers. Someone borrowing offense - how do they ever know when an apology is enough? They can always insist that it's not enough because they're not really the one being apologized to, and maybe if they accepted the apology, it would mean they weren't sufficiently virtuous enough in their offense.

It's sort of like how I'm willing to argue with genuinely religious people or Luddites but not with hypothetical religious people or Luddites being simulated by nonreligious people or non-Luddites, who can always refuse to be hypothetically persuaded because there is no limit to how unreasonable and evil the simulator thinks a theist or Luddite can be, in contrast to real theists and Luddites who think of themselves as the good side.

That is, in general, I don't like to borrow trouble - the first-order troubles of this world are enough.

I'm not assuming that the hypothetical original denigrator of evolutionary psychology would react better to a feminine rebuke. I think this hypothetical person is lost to us anyway.

I think that someone who calls evolutionary psychology unfeminine, is insulting the honor of feminity...

I agree that calling evolutionary psychology "unfeminine" because it "denigrates women" is bullshit. The truth about the human brain is not determined by our preferences. But failing to control for cultural influences in ev-psych-speculation is bullshit too. In fact, it's reversed stupidity.

Evolutionary psychology is about human universals and therefore should, in the ideal case, apply to all human cultures at all times. Exceptional cultures that deviate from the biologically determined base should be actively sought for and if found, explained. The pick-up-related speculation here (and on many other forums I've read; I'm not familiar with the PUA literature though) has considered only modern Western women (and to a lesser extent, modern Western men) and tried to explain their behavior by fitness arguments. Cultural explanations of behavior haven't even been considered, even thou... (read more)

...Is there some chance I can, like, deputize individual (amenable) males who I think have their heads on straight? This would make me feel less like I have to go on being the feminism police because I am one of a handful of people around here eligible (by your standard) and one of even fewer who also cares and is obstinate enough to speak up. Edit: Why does this apparently bother multiple different people that I suggested it? Edit 2 to address replies (thanks for the explanations): I was not suggesting that I should, upon seeing a sexism-related problem, call on these hypothetical deputies and collaborate on hammering the comment into oblivion. I meant that the hypothetical deputies would have the approval of me, a female, to identify things that are "insulting the honor of femininity" so that if this identification needs doing, it doesn't have to fall to me to do it. In my mental model, they'd do this on their own initiative, much as [anyone who I would select] already does; they'd just have the backing from someone with the anatomical credentials Eliezer wants to make this sort of call.
Given the variety of ways people objected to "Sayeth the Girl", I suspect even firsthand "anatomical credentials" are ineffectual. I'm not saying I won't help call out sexist remarks, but that "how would you know that's sexist?" is a Fully General Counterargument you will face whatever reproductive system you have.
6Eliezer Yudkowsky15y
That's why I'm suggesting a policy which says "We want to avoid writing that causes women (or any other gender) to flee", rather than a policy which says "Sexism is a bad, bad thing." You don't need to know what's sexist. You just need to know what makes you personally (not some hypothetical average woman) want to flee.

A policy that says we have to carefully monitor our writing lest we scare someone away makes me want to flee.

I already carefully monitor my writing so that it reads properly for the intended audience. It's called "writing well". Sometimes "editing" specifically.

You may be overestimating the effort involved here. I doubt you are in the habit of using - to draw an example from the French Revolution, as has been suggested - the phrases "clergy" and "enemies of the revolution" interchangeably, or any of the equivalent modern equivocations which can offend. If I were to try to make concrete rules, I would say to use the singular "they" or randomize pronouns for hypothetical persons, take care to be general when speaking in the second-person, and question any generalizations you propose not strongly backed by peer-reviewed evidence (particularly about nations and genders). That set of rules doesn't sound onerous.
It's not about the amount of effort it takes, it's about this whole mentality that when a certain turn of phrase or writing style risks 'offending' or 'scaring off' a person, the one who has to give way is always the writer, never the reader. In other words, it's assumed that the responsibility lies with the writer to change his wording, rather than with the reader to see past the offending words to the meaning behind them. The mentality described above is similar to the one that has forced anyone speaking in public to use the childish euphemism "n-word" instead of saying "nigger", even when it's obvious from the context that they're not expressing a racist sentiment. People will even say, "Hey, don't use the n-word, you racist!" They have to speak this way because, where the word "nigger" is concerned, it's universally believed that it's the speaker's responsibility to censor himself rather than the listener's responsibility to actually use his brain and understand what the other guy is saying. I think this mentality is lazy and anti-rational. The way I see it, if you're offended by the superficiality rather than by the substance of my words, it's your problem, not mine. Being able to overlook the surface of a message (and suppressing whatever feeling of offense it may have triggered in you) is an essential skill to a rationalist, and skewing the balance in favor of easily offended readers can only cause its atrophy. If you find the kind of monitoring Eliezer is advocating natural, go for it, but don't pester the rest of us about it.
Behold, the internet. It's full of people, and most of them have something to say. In a market of attention where people decide "should I bother to read this", the power is purely on the buyer's side. In other words, if you want to be taken seriously as a writer it's your responsibility to communicate effectively. As a group, we all share an interest in keeping the quality of communication on Less Wrong high.
There's a difference between communicating effectively and catering to hypersensitive nuts.
I think we actually agree with each other more than it seems. I agree with the following: * Generally speaking, it is better to not offend than to offend * All other things being equal, use the non-offensive word * Worrying about not offending everyone is pointless and impossible * There is a line somewhere between avoiding potentially offensive words/language/topics and freaking out over every offense * Accept pointers about being less offensive when the less offensive route is rather trivial * Use common sense Do you disagree on any particular point? The details are up for grabs, but the gist sounds right to me.
You're right that people can be hypersensitive. It's a fool's errand trying to avoid offending such people, and if I were suggesting that you try, you'd have every right to tell me off. But think about what you're sounding like for a moment. From what you said, you'd think it was an imposition to expect that you not call black people "niggers"! Why would you want to? Why would you want to anger a large part of your potential audience, why would you want to lose their respect and their attention?
I wouldn't call black people niggers in a sentence such as, "Niggers tend to be less well educated than whites", because that would clearly imply that I'm being racist (or a troll). On the other hand, using 'him' instead of 'them' as a gender-neutral pronoun doesn't imply sexism. Maybe one day it will, but right now it doesn't. Anyone who is offended by this kind of wording is hypersensitive.
The word "sexism" is a distraction here - what we are discussing is what makes people uncomfortable, and the rules I suggested are addressing actual things which have a track record of making people uncomfortable. To start with the example you give here, since you specifically state that it is mistaken: using "him" in a sentence primes the reader to assume the male, and is therefore intrinsically not gender-neutral. (I believe studies can be found to this effect, although as a mechanical engineer I do not know where to look.) Less rigorously, "him" as a default enshrines "her" as an exception, an aberration, rather than half the population of the globe. Finally, if you were to substitute race-specific terminology for sex-specific - as Douglas Hofstadter did in A Person Paper on Purity in Language - the legitimacy of taking offense would be obvious. Similar arguments can be made with respect to hypotheticals in the second person - not everybody was working up the courage to talk to the girls in high school, even if you limit the pool to people who went to high school (I didn't). And generalizations about gender and nation (and race, and creed) are warned against because people are continually motivated to find evidence for generalizations matching their prejudices - meaning a lot of the evidence and generalizations you see are unmitigated bull. I chose these examples to enshrine in rules because these are the easy ones, the well-established ones, the ones which we rationalists should think of instantly when someone says "biases associated with prejudice". If you don't know about them, you need to learn.
Your comment starts with, "what we are discussing is what makes people uncomfortable", but most of the rest of it talks about biases! Fighting people's biases is a good reason to pester them about wording things differently; I've never said otherwise. But then let's make it clear that's the reason we're doing it, and cut all the chatter about offending the hypersensitive nuts out there. As for Hostadter's essay, it doesn't work. All of his examples sound offensive to us because if they were introduced in a sentence in reality, we would have good reason to think that the person who spoke them is a racist. On the other hand, you can't rationally conclude that I'm a sexist because I wrote "him" instead of "them" two comments above. We legitimately take offense because of the implied racism, not because of the words themselves.
I thought that the extension from "implicitly excluding women" to "making women feel unwelcome" was evident. Likewise (often) from "drawing unjustified generalizations about a class of persons" to "making a class of persons uncomfortable". If it wasn't, I apologize - consider it hereby explicitly stated. As for Hofstadter's essay, it explores a world in which linguistic genders do not exist and linguistic colors exist instead. The author isn't racist, not in any strong sense of the word - the author is just following the standard convention of their hypothetical world by using "white" both as a race-specific and a race-neutral term. It's obvious that you have a visceral distaste for calling black people white "in reality", but given that - and this is the point of the damn essay - why do you consider calling women men acceptable?
I recently read Jaquez Barzun's "From Dawn to Decadence", which includes a digression on the word "man". He notes that in its origins it actually is a gender-neutral word indicating person, with "woman" deriving from "wife-man" (man who is a wife). To use racial terms, this is not like appending "white" to words, because "white" means a color rather than person. It is like deeming non-whites "colored", however nonsensical the practice may be (as illustrated in the poem "White Fella"). I can't recommend the book as a whole, when I hear the word "culture" I reach for my gun.
I used to mention that derivation whenever the subject came up IRL (with the rather unfortunate gloss that therefore "man" really was gender-neutral and women should not feel left out by its exclusive use), until I realized that usage 800+ years ago has little to no influence on the current meaning of the word. No one ever noticed the fallacy, which is depressing now that I think about it. Don't count on others to fix your thinking is the lesson, I guess.
The etymology of the word "man" is completely irrelevant to its present use. This isn't some obscure term like "ironic" for which it would be reasonable to claim that common usage is mistaken - this is one of the ten most common nouns in the English language. The common usage is as the only formal term for male human beings. Were this thread a discussion of the evolution of gendered terms in English, your remarks would be apt. Were it a novel argument in the dialectic of gender in English, your remarks would be apt. It is neither.
Because it's obvious from the context that by 'men' I mean human beings. If you put aside the chance that it will trigger certain biases in the reader, there is no reason to feel offended by the use of words like mailman... no reason except the unthinking reflex of political correctness that drives certain people to get hysterical when they read the word 'nigger', or to get offended when they hear Neil Armstrong's legendary phrase (even the version with an 'a'). And yes, if we lived in a world where 'mailwhite' had the same (widely agreed-upon) meaning that mailman has in our world, it would be silly to be offended by it. If there are women who are made to feel unwelcome by my use of 'him' instead of 'them', and similar conventions, they're hypersensitive, because it doesn't implicitly exclude them: I don't mean to exclude them, and anyone who reads my posts will understand what I mean; anyone who wants to understand and isn't looking for an excuse to be offended, that is. ... is wrong because if we value truth (and we do), holding a false belief when it's in our power to do otherwise is wrong. This being the website that it is, we don't need additional justification to avoid such generalizations; there's no need to bring offensiveness into it.
It is evident that further conversation would be tiring and mostly ineffective for the both of us.
Actually, the n-word did not acquire unambiguously negative connotations until well into the 19th century. So you might run into a sentence like what you just quoted in a historical source, and the word would merely be denotative of black skin color.
This is unsurprising, as it's a straightforward derivation (probably via Spanish) from the latin word for "black", which can be found also in scientific names for species and such (for instance, the black pepper used on food is the seed of the plant Piper nigrum). The negative connotations are purely based on use and social context, not the denotation of the word.
I take it you're not a professional writer, then?
You sure as hell aren't a professional reader. EDIT: I guess I'll clarify, just in case thomblake isn't the only who doesn't get it. I am not arguing that crafting your post, article, or comment to 'reach the widest audience possible' isn't the best thing to do. What I'm arguing against is the promotion of the mentality I've described at length in my previous post. Constantly pestering LW posters (however politely) to get them to change their wording promotes that mentality. If all LW posters magically started using 'them' instead of 'him', and so forth, do you think I'd be saying "No, no, no, this is wrong, go back to using 'him'!" Of course not. It's the pestering about the wording I'm against, not the wording itself.
They have those?
Why is that? And, more importantly, if you are not willing to think about the community before clicking "comment," why would the community mind if you flee? Now, of course, "carefully monitor" is a bit relative. I would consider myself in thomblake's camp in the sense that I already try to monitor what I write. I also appreciate posts that let me know I accidently offended someone. Hopefully I am not in the minority with either of those behaviors.
You just need to know what makes you personally (not some hypothetical average woman) want to flee. This assumes two things. One: there being enough women available to identify the offputting behavior. Two: there being no men capable of identifying the offputting behavior. The first is false and the second offensive - and yes, offensive to me personally, as a black male social liberal. It's not the victim's job to fight unjust discrimination. It's everyone's. Edit: As Eliezer Yudkowsky points out, "discrimination" is an unfairly loaded term in this context. I shouldn't have used it. To reword: offputting behavior can be recognized by more than just those it would make uncomfortable, and it is, in fact, everyone's responsibility to avoid it in their own writing and to point it out in others. (With the caveat, as thomblake and Jonathan_Graehl observed, that offensiveness should not be pointed out where it does not exist, and overzealous policing should be discouraged as well.)
9Eliezer Yudkowsky15y
But it's not about discrimination. It's about providing a non-gender-unfriendly environment. We are not assuming the speaker is guilty - of sexism, of deliberate intent, of anything. We are not on a crusade. We are just trying to avoid that sort of speech in the future.
If you've got a better word than "discrimination" to describe the problem, let me know, I want to hear it.
6Eliezer Yudkowsky15y
That assumes innoc...dagnabbit, why am I arguing about vocabulary? You're right, I shouldn't phrase it to present all gender-unfriendly speech as intentional. I'll edit in a disclaimer.
True, but Eliezer's point is well-taken. One wouldn't want to defend hypothetical people that don't even exist.
Women exist. Given that, your objection must be other than that expressed in the surface content of your words. Please make it explicit so it may be rationally discussed. In the interests of full disclosure and not being deliberately obtuse: I suspect you may be concerned that kneejerk censorship of remarks perceived to be offensive to a given group by those ignorant of the feelings of members of that group towards said remarks (a phenomenon often pejoratively referred to as "political correctness") would inhibit the free exchange of ideas to an unacceptable degree. I propose that a reason why you might be concerned in this fashion is because "offensive" looks like a chaotic feature of the environment to you - the metaphor in this case being that of a minefield, with the pejorative political correctness being roping off the entire thing even though many topics you wish to discuss are within it. If that's your concern, stop it. It's not a minefield. If you want to avoid accidentally giving offense, all you need is empathy and education. And if you think you have those things but you're still accidentally offending people, you're probably wrong. Now let's start getting less so.
The "hypothetical people that don't even exist" would be "people who are offended by comment X". Given how often people are mistaken about what might give offense, it's easy for some crusader to start campaigning on behalf of someone who doesn't want or need their help.
Another critique of offense once-removed comes from the comedian Bill Maher. He rails against what he calls "feigned outrage", which he takes to be mostly to be aimed at establishing one's status as a defender of the weak. I don't think second-hand offense is all conscious signaling, but it's certainly sometimes inapt and even a little patronizing. I've complained about racist comments in various net communities I've been a part of, and been met with the excuse "you're not even Mexican, don't be so intolerant" etc. I don't mind leaving the "that's unfairly demeaning of X-people" argument as long as there are refutations available independent of that. But there are certain offenses which, when met with only silence, could result in every single offended person simply deciding that the community is not worth it, leaving without even a reply. That's clearly not the case re: the pickup teapot's tempest.
When we find such crusaders, we should criticize and downvote them appropriately. We should all avoid being ones ourselves. And, on a different note, we should establish a norm in which declarations of offensiveness require justification. None of these require that we restrict all complaints of offense to when we are personally insulted. That requirement would almost entirely eliminate complaints even in the face of endemic bad behavior, which is precisely what we do not want.
I don't think we actually have any points of disagreement here.
Hey, I doubt I have my head on straight, but if I see comments that display objectionable gender attitudes in my view, I will do my best to critique them. Here's an example of how I've gone about it in the past. The goal was to point out the potentially objectionable implications of that post, and to do so in a way that might actually convince the other person rather than making them feel shamed.
I downvoted you because I believe mod power should never be centralized. Once you deputize four other people, you're able to instantly make any unfavored comment invisible; I wouldn't like any entity on LW (except maybe Eliezer) to have such power.
Unless, of course, anyone else upvotes the comment in question.
Unless, of course, someone else upvotes the unfavored comment.
I downvoted you because you're endorsing overt factionalization of Less Wrong's userbase (again). As the previous discussion has shown, there's no shortage of people (male and female) who will take genuine offense at objectifying or otherwise insensitive language: we have no need for meat-puppets or "deputies". Edited to address reply: The only situation where Eliezer called for female rationalists to intervene was to debunk a hypothetical feminist commenter who took offense at eminently sensible things like, say, evolutionary psychology [1]. This is not at all the same as identifying genuine sexism concerns. [1] Which is ironic, since evolutionary psychology as currently practiced is full of baseless "just-so stories". It wouldn't surprise me in the least if some of these stories were genuinely problematic.
2Eliezer Yudkowsky15y
The idea of deputies is... well... silly... but I suppose if you actually were finding that it took up your time, then sure, I guess so. I'm hoping you won't have to do this more than once in a blue moon once we settle what the actual LW policy is. I have no idea. Those downvotes really should've come with an explanation.
I have plenty of guesses, on the other hand, for the downvotes: 1) divisive langauge - there are those who "I think have their heads on straight" and everyone else, who is suspected of wrongdoing. probably more offense at being suspected than desire to behave brutishly 2) attempt to assume authority and power - unless your position is secure, or your proposal compelling, people will tear down and mock the young upstart 3) interpetation of "i think we should do this" as a call for votes 4) actual rational disagreement
Agreed with EY. "deputize" sounds silly. And I think it's clear enough at this point that you don't need to take any action, as there are enough people being affected regardless of 'anatomical credentials'.
You could -stop being the feminism police-and move on.
This would be a credential of negative value. I think (whether accurately or not) that I have my head on straight on this matter, but if I comment on these things it will only be because I have found it worth commenting on, not because I have been conferred with an office of The Male Voice of Feminism, no matter who by.
Okay, anyone who ridiculed my remark about the potential "special class of feminist censors", you may begin your gold-plated apologies ... now.
Did you not read the rest of this thread? EY suggested that one might require certain 'anatomical credentials' (not his wording) to speak up, and Alicorn despaired that it might put an undue burden on her and asked if other people could help. Incidentally, insisting that people apologize to you is not good form.
That speaks to whether the feminist censors' existence is justified. That issue is distinct from my point, which is that Eliezer_Yudkowsky's proposal amounts to assigning feminist censors, which turns out to be an accurate assessment. You may have wonderful reasons for supporting this policy, but I was absolutely right about the implications of Eliezer_Yudkowsky's proposal, when others didn't see such implications. Perhaps, but so is: 1) Ignoring warnings that turn out to be correct. 2) Not apologizing for ridiculing someone who turned out not to deserve it.
that makes a lot of sense. thanks for clarifying.
Indeed... well said.
Why do you think the comment bothers you?
partially because if I was a female rationalist it would be offensive to me that Eliezer assumes I would respond differently to the same comment simply because of the gender of the commenter. Just like it would be offensive to me as a black person if the LW community thought that I would only respond positively to comments made by another black person. there's absolutely nothing wrong with men making generalizations about women, nothing wrong with whites making generalizations about blacks or vice versa. allowing overly sensitive members of minority groups to dictate behavior is a waste of time.

if I was a female rationalist it would be offensive to me that

See... that's where I'm not willing to go, there. That is a hole with no bottom. There's enough real trouble in the world without borrowing imaginary subjunctive counterfactual trouble on top of that. If I really said something offensive to a female rationalist, a female rationalist can tell me so.

I agree completely, and I'll add that it's still valid even though it's also an often used tactic of actual clods attempting to squirm out of censure.
I'm not sure Eliezer qualifies as an "overly sensitive member of a minority group" but I take your point. I think he's making a pragmatic decision but we can disagree. In this particular case, I think Eliezer is arguing that the hypothetical woman who thinks all evolutionary psychology discussions are sexist is not a rationalist. As such she has no rationalist honor and would probably not respond as you (being a male rationalist) would. I think it's fair to give her (as a female assumed-non-rationalist) a little breathing room, which is what I think Eliezer is suggesting. I think this is consistent with his narrative of trying to recruit/grow the rationalist pool, and as such trying to be more tolerant/welcoming of people who may not yet be rationalists but are interested and learning.
And you'd be wrong to be offended. Because as far as we know, humans can't reliably switch off the biases that would make them act irrationally in such a circumstance, and a rationalist should be humble enough to acknowledge when his/her brain can't be expected to do the right thing. That being said, I agree with your second paragraph: there's nothing wrong with making generalizations, per se. (Actually speaking about them, however, or otherwise revealing them to other persons, alas, is fraught with many perils.)
"there's absolutely nothing wrong with men making generalizations about women, nothing wrong with whites making generalizations about blacks or vice versa. allowing overly sensitive members of minority groups to dictate behavior is a waste of time." Are you serious? Assuming that you are, you are treading on ground that is far from stable, especially in a place such as this...
I fear I play a poor inquisitor, and you a poor Galileo. The thought that it's all right to make broad generalizations about large groups of people isn't some great new theory that society is trying to suppress-- it's just wrong. Indeed, such an idea is regressive, not revolutionary.
you're attaching a bunch of words with negative connotation without actually telling what's wrong. we all make generalizations all the time. we can't interface with reality without making generalizations. if it is clearly wrong then you have the entire apparatus of social statistics to debunk.
I'm quite surprised that this requires explanation, since this seems like basic-level rationality to me, but here we go: Generalizations about people of a particular ethnicity, based solely on their ethnicity, are racist. Overt racism is not acceptable in modern civilized society. In the past, overt racism was acceptable, but we have moved beyond that. It is extremely unwise both from a personal belief perspective and from a general signalling perspective to hold or argue for such views.
generalizations about individuals based on their ethnicity is clearly dumb. inquiring into broad trends that correlate well with ethnic divisions is interesting and demands further research. http://www.reason.com/news/show/116483.html we're at the dawn of understanding genetics. to preemptively decide that a branch of inquiry will not be allowed simply because our ancestors were ignorant douche bags is silly. as rationalists I'd say it's our job more than most to take a mature, level headed look at the data that emerges. things are really going to heat up once we get cheap complete genome sequencing. we'll be able to look at actual allele distributions in ethnic sub-groups on a large scale for the first time in history (!)
I understand this research, view it as important, and know several people who are working in this field at the present time. That said, the work of geneticists is quite different from casual social observations and generalizations. When I speak out against sweeping generalizations based on gender or ethnicity, I do not speak out against the geneticists.
I'm not going to shout down people who make observations about group behavior just because their observations haven't been tested in a double blind trial yet. the data precludes us from making certain generalizations. it doesn't stop the tentative creation of new ones. if I made a generalization about people with fingers of certain length it wouldn't generate nearly this much ire. we shouldn't treat race any differently just because people made stupid generalizations in the past. We don't have enough data to make the case for OR against any racism (biological differences -> behavioral differences)
If a topic tends to historically collect relatively more stupid generalizations than other topics, isn't it reasonable to keep a stronger default prior against such generalizations that aren't backed by data? So, lacking data, what is the null hypothesis?
That's an important point (that others' generalizations on race are suspect by default). However, I'm perfectly happy to consider appearance (including race) as a conditioning variable in my own thinking. I guess it might be smart to not admit this, but I think it's relatively uncontroversial amongst the mind-not-yet-killed. There are some reasons to distrust one's own baseline p(trait|appearance) estimates, other than the obvious (confounds, low sample size), say, particular personally experienced traumatic events, or exposure to explicit indoctrination on the matter. Most of us are not committing errors like: "in my experience, chinese people like chocolate ice cream more than strawberry, while everyone else prefers strawbeery; therefore chinese genetics code for chocolate-preference."
The main problem is not that you can't, or even shouldn't, draw conclusions based on personal appearance. The problem is that obvious, superficial differences are very easily observed and remembered, and so seem to carry more weight than they deserve. For instance, upon observing one woman and three men exhibiting Annoying Behavior X, many will immediately go for "it must be a guy thing" rather than looking for more powerful explanations, for instance all four people sharing the same profession, or being from the same geographic region, or any number of even more subtle things.
Example: xkcd
I'd like to test myself somehow, to find out how often I make mistakes along those lines, but nothing occurs to me right now. Yes: just because I have no reason to be especially biased toward making positive or negative associations toward e.g. pretty vs. ugly people (let's not even consider race), it doesn't follow that I'm free from a general tendency to form and cling to assocations from chance, or interpreted as causal without recognizing confounds. Link to cool study/test, anyone? Such demonstrations on Overcoming Bias are the primary reason many of us are here today.
Unfortunately, I expect this sort of thing to be difficult to deliberately test an individual on, because if someone goes in knowing what's being tested, or figures it out from the test, it's going to alter the results beyond use. Self-testing may not be possible at all. I recall having read about blind studies being done on related topics but, alas, I am terrible about keeping organized links to such things.
The link you are looking for.
I've seen that, but you're right, it's related. That I have some implicit association doesn't actually tell me I make errors in thinking (but maybe if I'm distracted, my errors will tend in the direction of my implicit association?)
the null hypothesis for me is that i'll listen to a wide variety of other people's hypothesis.
I'm not sure you're clear on what a null hypothesis is. Your statement sounds to me more like the wrong kind of humility.
That's a reasonable starting point, but I think his argument about the prevalence of stupid generalizations about "people of race X", especially taken to wrongly prove "race X has more of a genetic predisposition for Y", suggests a convincing case against your stance, unless you only mean to "listen" with great discrimination.
Indeed. I don't see why that bit was needed, but I was hoping we could all ignore that one.

Agreed. So in short, when things go wrong, this should happen:

"blah blah blah"
"Hey, that's the sort of remark we agreed not to have around here"
"Sorry, didn't notice. Edit: bleh bleh bleh"

4Eliezer Yudkowsky15y
Sure, until it results in: "Women might be less willing to take dangerous jobs because in the EEA[1], there was less return to taking big risks." "Hey, that's disempowering to women and we agreed not to be like that here." "Sorry, didn't notice. Edit: Women can do every job a man can." [1]Environment of evolutionary adaptation aka ancestral (ETC wrong word) environment aka where most modern human psychology was molded
Come now. "Less willing to take risks" is a probabilistic statement, not a statement about every female or any individual female. To consider that disempowering is wrong (though some might mistakenly). I would encourage prefacing potentially mis-interpreted statements with a reminder genetic or evolutionary pressures do not determine any individual's behavior. It should be the responsibility of the person who presents a fact or theory to at least take steps to make sure it's not intentionally or unintentionally misused. If you discover something about ethnicity and IQ, or nurture and homosexuality, or anything else that's potentially explosive, you should be sure you make an effort to disarm the dark side from abusing it.
Sure, just like to consider it disempowering to say, "getting rich will get you women" is wrong. But you don't get to make that call. It will be up to the special class of feminist censors to (arbitrarily) decide what counts as "objectifying". Who can then use that power to taboo any argument they don't like, since that topic is "beyond the pale". Because who's going to stop them, right?
I understand your objection to granting immunity from criticism certain ideological preferences (and I didn't vote your comment down). However, my thought is that here at LW we can identify the difference between "women can't do the same jobs as men" and "many women don't do the same jobs as men, perhaps in part because of prehistorical environments." "Getting rich will get you women" isn't disempowering; it's just lame. "Research/theory suggests that getting rich will make you more attractive to potential mates, if you are male" is at least defensible.
That's a complete non-sequitur. The first statement is not the sort of thing we've been talking about, and its 'rephrasing' has an entirely different meaning. Are you just trying to keep this conflict going?
Maybe my point wasn't clear. Of course there are differences between the Obviously Offensive Statements that are Unquestionably Scaring Away Women, and the example I gave. However, once you give a few LW censors the power to make topics off limits based on their secret, inscrutable reasons, what's to stop them from using it as a "get out of justification free" card?
Common sense? And the fact that there aren't any censors? The advice is to be nice, on your own accord, when someone points out that you're not doing so, if you feel like that's okay, and there's a way to do it without hurting the level of discourse. How hard is that?
Maybe we're having different discussions here. I thought the discussion was about whether to make a certain topic off-limits for the site. Whatever enforcement mechanism for that decision is "the censors". And since the criteria for something being objectifying is still unclear to most posters (and it's unclear that Alicorn's position is even representative of women), any enforced restriction on future will appear just as arbitrary as the examples I gave above. Point being, it's a bad, bad path to go down. If someone's comment is Obviously Beyond the Pale and Driving Women Away, you should have to explain it to the commenter, not just rule it off limits.
I think you're arguing against something that nobody has suggested. Eliezer has suggested a specific topic that he thinks is worth making off-limits on LW (maybe even temporarily), since it seems to bring us all off-track, just like he did with AI and the Singularity when LW started. He did not suggest that this should happen automatically every time someone thinks something is objectionable. Separate from this was the idea that if someone mentions to you that you're being inconsiderate and suggests an alternate phrasing that does not distort your meaning, it might be a good idea to fix it. In short, "don't be a jerk".
Did you give any thought to how to "off-limits" decision would be enforced? From what I read, Eliezer_Yudkowsky was hinting that this be enforced by -5 downmods. So, there's a consensus to majorly downmod people violating that limit, with many members participating. ... and you're telling me this isn't going to be used against people arbitrarily, far outside the scope of where you think it applies? I guess I underestimated the inferential distance of what I was saying when I came into this subthread. Does that justify the downmods I've gotten, or are some downmodding for the wrong reason? The problem is that there is nothing close to a consensus on whether the statements in question are "being a jerk". Most people here still don't see how "be a millionaire to get hot women" is being a jerk. (Or they don't see how to generalize the prohibition on that statement, which amounts to the same thing.) We've also seen examples where Alicorn has suggested changes that do change the meaning, like "If I were a millionaire I'd have a gardener" to "...I'd have a garden", which is not the same thing. Put simply, giving in to this request to unquestioningly reword posts is not going to be limited to removing jerkiness, and it's definitely going to change meanings.
He wasn't hinting any such thing. He said explicitly that downvoting is sufficient, and there is no reason to go around banning anything. I didn't see any reason to read any more than that into it. He was reassuring any alarmists out there that nothing needs to be done at the level of admin-level censorship. Note: we can already downvote whatever we want! sigh The request is not to "unquestioningly reword posts". The request is to be considerate, and if everybody is telling you over and over that you're not being considerate and you still don't get it, then maybe you should just realize you have a problem and make suggested edits. We're not on some "slippery slope". We're not wielding banhammers or introducing official censors. There are no nazis with dogs dragging you out in the middle of the night. Eliezer just made a request that people make a genuine effort to be nice where possible, and let's not get into any affective death spirals.
Yes, the "hinting" was in reference to the specific level of -5, not the downvoting as such. -5 is the threshold for hiding from view, and shifts the comment to the bottom in the absence of (rarely used) changes in preferences. Geez. But we aren't officially encouraged to do it en masse on specific -- to become less specific -- topics! People are ALREADY being considerate, and this topic is NOT in reference to people who are being told by many that they are inconsiderate, but rather, being told by one person, Alicorn. The question, then, is whether to elevate this specific concern to something of an endorsed downvote policy, because hey, Alicorn might be representative of all women, please ignore the immense success of PUAs. If that's all you got out of it, let me remind you that policy debates should not appear one-sided, and politics is the mind-killer.
That's not true at all. If you think Alicorn was the only person bothered by this, then you haven't been paying attention to the discussion - lots of other people have weighed in on it. I was going to say something before she did, and for reference, I'm not a woman. I don't think this is just about driving women away from the site, because the issue was in danger of driving me away from the site as well.
Every non-Alicorn commenter "bothered" by it was only bothered because Alicorn claimed to be -- which just regresses to the question of whether Alicorn is typical enough of a female to make us worry about scaring away females. If the women's magazine's cited by pjeby are representative -- and they are -- she's not. As evidenced by such magazines, women do not, in general, find it "beyond the pale" to think in terms of "getting a man" as a predictable result of attaining certain attributes (looks rather than money). At most, they might not like it when it's used against them. But -- remind me why such hypocrisy carries moral weight? Many commenters have also been extremely considerate in trying to isolate what exactly what the offensive content was, and how to know if their statement is offensive. But because it's so inscrutable, the best they can do is ask Alicorn to tell them when they've gone over the line, at which point they promise to change it to what she asks. But if your "standards for behavior" necessitate giving you a unilateral veto over others' statements in order to be adhered to, You're Doing It Wrong. And in that case, you're certainly not representative of your gender, your class, or your century.
Not true.
You're not listening. I was going to say something before Alicorn did. I was bothered. What. The. Hell. There have been a lot of comments lately about "feminists like Alicorn" and frankly based on my number of contributions to the conversation it would make a lot more sense to be talking about "feminists like thomblake". Part of my day job is looking at every major magazine every week. I'm not sure what you mean by 'representative', but most magazines, and even most magazines targeted at women, do not read like Cosmo. And even if they did, that would not tell us anything about how women in general feel, just about what the magazine company thought might entice the target audience of the magazine to buy the magazine.
Oh, I was listening. I heard you make an all-too-convenient claim about what you were, like, totally about to do before Alicorn jumped in and make the exact feminist claim that you were going to make, and yet you still don't understand well enough to teach to others how to know whether their statements objectify women without resorting to "I'll tell you when I see it". Please understand why self-serving statements about what you would have done in the past are not good evidence. Yeah, why should anyone think Cosmo knows anything about how women think? From the movie Legally Blonde: ELLE He means well. He's really brilliant and all. Brooke sits, not looking convinced. BROOKE He better be, for what I ' m paying him. Elle pushes her basket forward. ELLE I brought you some necessities. Pink sheets. Aromatherapy candles. Loofah. And The Bible. She holds up a "Cosmopolitan".
I sent thomblake a draft of "Sayeth the Girl" before I posted it and he offered to post something to the same effect in my place because he thought I would get more heat for it than he would.
I submit that the movie "Legally Blonde" is also not compelling evidence of how women think. I have no idea how to read that suggestion charitably.
So, one of the most-read women's magazines isn't suggestive of how women think, a major high-grossing film that describes Cosmo as "the Bible" and expects viewers to get the joke isn't suggestive of how women think, the success of PUAs isn't suggestive of how women think. Now, stuff that agrees with thomblake's noble defense of Alicorn ... that is the real evidence. Oh, and to the downmod squad: check out this comment before you view me as just another bad guy on the other team worthy of lower karma. Any of you confessed that much with your name on it?
I agree that Cosmopolitan knows a lot about how many women think, but this isn't the same thing as Cosmo being representative of women-in-full-generality. The qualifier really does seem important here. Compare: Sports Illustrated or Esquire know a lot about how many men think, but (I submit) we wouldn't want to say that these publications represent men-in-general. I mean, I would bet that most of the men here given their choice would rather read, oh, let's say, IEEE Spectrum. Considering that the linked comment presently has 9 points, I wouldn't rule out the hypothesis that your comments are largely being voted on by their perceived individual merit, rather than an aspersion cast upon everything you write as the words of a "bad guy."
It isn't necessary for the latter claim to be true to make my point. (See below) Let's go over this again: 1) Alicorn claimed that viewing women as something to "get" once you achieve a certain status, is objectifying and thus obviously beyond the pale. Not some idiosyncratic preference on her part, but something we really need to discourage, wherever it occurs. 2) Cosmo was brought up to show that, no, clearly women generally don't find it beyond the pale to think of other humans in exactly these terms. Even if Alicorn is bothered, it is therefore not the case that women agree with her, and this language is therefore not something we should worry about in terms of scaring away women. 3) Alicorn and thomblake go to herculean efforts to downplay the relevance of such an obscure, poorly-regarded publication as Cosmo. Now, your turn: 4) You say there's a difference between the kind of woman who reads Cosmo and the kind who reads (???), just as there's a difference between the kind of guy who reads Esquire vs. the guy who reads IEEE Spectrum. Now for the hard part! For this comparison to make any point in your favor, you need to show how there's a kind of language used in Sports Illustrated, etc., that most men here consider beyond the pale in its offensiveness, no matter who uses it. Can you do it? No? Then you don't have a point. Look again: the downmods are concentrated in this thread. Why do all my good posts just happen to fall in the other thread and accumulate upmods gradually, while the bad ones fall in this thread -- and get modded minutes after they're made. Oh, and go on up/down rollercoasters, apparently being defended by some people trying to restore sanity. While again, the other thread has no such rollercoaster effect. I avoid modding commenters in exchanges I'm directly involved in. I guess not everyone has that kind of restraint? (Alicorn, this is where you learn the dangers of unilateral disarmament.)
While it's true that I probably can't find an example of something most men here would find "beyond-the-pale offensive," I don't agree that that's the correct standard to apply here. If I'm reading you correctly, you're saying that Cosmo is evidence that Alicorn's reactions are not gender-typical, and that therefore the fact that Alicorn was offended by some behavior, doesn't tell us that that behavior discourages potential female users. But the fact that P(Cosmo-reader|female)!=P(female|Cosmo-reader) does seem relevant here, because honestly, Less Wrong's potential female user base is probably not primarily composed of the type of women who read Cosmo; probably, it's primarily composed of women like Alicorn. We really are drawing from the tails here. I made an analogy: I said that mainstream women's magazines aren't representative of the women here, just as men's magazines aren't representative of the men here, and you seem to be pointing out that the analogy isn't perfectly symmetrical, saying that there's nothing in the mainstream men's magazines that would offend a majority of the men here to such a degree as Alicorn was offended by what she perceived as objectification, which you are saying is condoned by mainstream women's magazines. Well, I agree that the situation isn't perfectly symmetrical: gender issues are never perfectly symmetrical. But the analogy still seemed worth making. For what it's worth, I'm male, and I'm frequently offended or annoyed by mainstream men's culture claiming to represent the interests of men-in-general, when they certainly don't represent me.
Quite a number of people already here agreed that the language was bothersome. How many people need to agree before it's a problem? It seems that we've already had a long enough discussion about it to establish that it's a volatile issue here already.
It's not an uncommon practice to refer to this or that book or publication as "the Bible of X". The fact that Elle thinks Cosmo is the Bible of things relevant to her life is revealing of her character, not her gender.
Okay, so now your position is that the makers of Legally Blonde were trying to portray Elle as a member of a tiny, outlier subculture that regards Cosmo as authoritative. And therefore expected the audience to laugh about "hah, that strange, tiny subculture that revolves around Cosmo!" rather than, "heh, women sure do depend on Cosmo a lot!" :-/ Like any bad lie, your position has forced you into defending ever-more-absurd positions entangled with it. Please reconsider.
This does seem a bit out of line to me. I dropped the whole Cosmo issue when Alicorn made it clear that she considers "getting" a man to be equally objectifying language. I'd sure hate to be on the receiving end of somebody browbeating me about Sports Illustrated being evidence of how men act, if it was something I personally considered reprehensible. Of course, in that case, I'd also happily admit that my disagreement with Sports Illustrated might put me in an atypical minority among men, and that therefore I might not be reliably considered to speak for my the majority of my gender in the matter. I might be able to claim to be more representative of male rationalists on Less Wrong (ha!) except for the fact that we're actually more different than similar... as are the female rationalists here, who've weighed in with a variety of opinions that are even more diverse than the male opinions, AFAICT. (Or at least, opinions that are less equivocal than the male ones.) All of which tends to support the contention that the only way to be considerate towards rationalists is on an individual basis. Heck, the male rationalists here have occasionally been at each other's throats about what constitutes appropriate courtesy for charitable interpretations of each others' theses. Rationalists, it seems, are a diverse lot, and respect has to go both ways. So it's probably better not to be the one who's escalating things.
Your first paragraph was merely presumptive, false, and ignorant. Your second was also accusatory and rude. Please reconsider. Edit: To go into more detail in case the above statements are not immediately obvious. I didn't say tiny. I didn't say outlier. I didn't even say subculture. The people who worked on Legally Blonde portrayed Elle as an individual woman who spends a great deal of time on the sorts of things Cosmopolitan is known to write about. She therefore refers to as Cosmopolitan as "the Bible", in much the same sense a cook might call The Joy of Cooking "their Bible". I think they're supposed to go, "ha ha, look at this wacky, silly, caricatured protagonist who thinks everything revolves around makeup and fashion and romance!" It's not clear if you think I have lied or just that I have said things that resemble lies. Still, such entanglement is not at all obvious to me, mostly because you made distant and unwarranted leaps from what I actually said to the funhouse mirror version of what I said.
Ahem. You claimed that the scene was only intended to reveal a fact about just one (presumably ultra-unique) character, and you disputed my claim that the humor in the scene derived from the knowledge -- assumed to be held by the audience -- that women heavily rely on Cosmo. I just did your work for you by presenting the best way I could think of to defend your alternate interpretation -- that is, a framing that would have the filmmakers NOT assume "everyone knows" women rely on Cosmo. Now, if you find anything presumptive, false, ignorant, accusatory, or rude about my post, all you have to do is come up with a better defense of your interpretation. But this is an uphill battle -- you're defending a position that appears quite ignorant of the prevailing culture. Maybe it's best to just concede the point? (P.S. The "lie" bit was a reference to Entangled Truths, Contagious Lies. But you knew that, right?)
No. I claimed that the scene is revealing of Elle's character and is not revealing of her entire gender. The very same movie, not to mention movies in general, contain other female characters who do not share her Cosmopolitan-topic obsession (the female professor; the rival; the woman she gives the magazine to); Legally Blonde also includes a horde of sorority sisters who are portrayed as being inch-deep replicas of Elle in everything except intelligence, who would presumably agree about the Biblical nature of Cosmo. Do me no favors. Please. If you find something I say indefensible, ask me to defend it, don't paint a parodied strawman to make me look ridiculous. I have told no lies of which I am aware.
Straw man. I haven't been pointing to evidence about 'how women think'. I think it's irrelevant to the discussion. Well, I'd upvoted that comment, but I don't see what your point is. What did you 'confess' there, and what does that have to do with people downvoting you?
Could you or someone else cite some specific examples of where discussion of pickup has brought things off track, and explain why this is worse than any other tangents we have here?
By the way: ancestral environment.

What say you?

I agree, pretty much completely.

In general, I thought the recent discussions on seduction were beneath us. First I was put off by the de-personalization of people considered as sexual partners; and then I was equally offended by the undercurrent of "some people don't deserve (a high level of) sexual gratification, because they're not attractive enough" running through some of the indignant responses that I should otherwise have agreed with. For all the talk about "altruism" and concern for "humanity" in this community, there wasn't much of that spirit to be found anywhere in those threads.

Having locker-room discussions in public is low-status behavior. Now it is a debatable question whether we should go out of our way to signal high status. (I for one think the prestige of Overcoming Bias, run as it was by high-status folks like Robin Hanson and associated with no less than Oxford University, contributed in no small part to getting us this far, and is something we are in danger of losing to the extent we become perceived as a group of underachieving sex-starved male computer programmers in their twenties.) But I think most of us shoul... (read more)

So, yes, this is in fact an argument for a certain kind of political correctness -- just enough of it to avoid signaling low status if at all possible.

No no no. Discouraging topics with "low status" connotations (as opposed to topics which are politically divisive or needlessly exclusionary) is cowardly and epistemically dangerous. If we were playing a chronophone game, this would come out as "Let's not discuss Copernicus' theories: this should be a place where Jesuit scientists and philosophers can be comfortable".

Rationalists should win, and one can win big by seeing things that society at large dares not point out just yet.

If we were playing a chronophone game, this would come out as "Let's not discuss Copernicus' theories: this should be a place where Jesuit scientists and philosophers can be comfortable".

Nonsense. It was with the aim of preventing this misunderstanding that I suggested the Dawkins/Dennett test (apparently to no avail). "Low status" doesn't mean what you seem to think; it's not the same thing has holding a minority opinion. Galileo's status was quite high, which is why he was treated as a threat by the church rather than being ignored as a lunatic. A more appropriate chronophone rendering might be: "Let's make sure we wear our wigs and robes properly and have a Latin version ready to go ."

Finally note that I said "if at all possible". If for some reason a particular line of reasoning actually does signal low status but nonetheless needs to be heard, we have an escape clause. It shouldn't be used lightly, however.

Factual nitpick: scientific status doesn't imply sexual status, in fact I gut-feel the real-world correlation is negative when controlled for income, though of course I don't have enough data. Value nitpick: if we manage to find important truths at the price of collectively looking like sex-starved nerds, I for one am willing to pay that price. Those of us who aren't can always conceal their identities with nicknames.

if we manage to find important truths at the price of collectively looking like sex-starved nerds, I for one am willing to pay that price.

The question is whether that's necessary (or helpful) for finding important truths. You implicitly assume it is a required cost. More generally, is "writing in a way expected to alienate large numbers of people" a price that we must pay in order for our community to succeed?

Any pervasive trend that results in our community being the sort of place that a Dawkins or Dennett or Pinker would avoid is a trend that we should carefully analyze, and the burden of proof is correspondingly high to show that the net benefits of that sort of behavior warrant allowing it. I don't think anybody has shown that the sort of objectionable writing in question has such benefits or that there aren't alternate ways of communicating the same ideas without being alienating, the primary cost being some extra effort required on the part of the writer.

The categorical goal should not be a "successful community", but rather a truly rationalist community. As such the process of truth-finding should not be compromised by any social "niceties". Now, I can bear some extra effort on the writer's part, but if you feel the pressure to please everyone, it is already a step in the direction of self-censorship, which should not be tolerated. No policy here should step on such a slippery slope, for there is a reason why they are called such. And an explicit ban on any topic is (of course) categorically not acceptable - be it PUA or whatnot; as such is already a huge slide down on said slope. I am surprised there is not much more of an outcry following such a daring suggestion. Rationality encompasses all - it has no taboo themes. Neither should you or this community.
There have already been explicit bans on topics. In the early days of Less Wrong, there were bans on discussing the Singularity and artificial intelligence, for fear that without such a ban the conversations about these topics would overwhelm the fledgling site and create an undesireable skewed tone. The ban was lifted after a certain amount of time, when the tone was supposedly established. If pickup artist discussion is creating a tone that is skewed in ways we don't like, it is not without precedent and not in opposition to rationality to end it.
You might want to read Eliezer's posts on the importance of a healthy community. I will link some later if noone's done it before me.
Here's the link, after a minute's effort. Wasn't it worth that?
Fixed it for you.

Put me in the camp of those who agree with avoiding exclusionary language (particularly sexist language), but who disagree with limiting or eliminating discussion of particular topics.

So far, the situation seems to be that some people who have detailed knowledge of the seduction community think that it is relevant to discussions of rationality.

Other people suggest that this topic may lead to low quality discussions, particularly due to the tendency of some people who discuss it displaying gender-related insensitivity. Consequently, some of this latter camp suggest limiting the discussion of pickup on LessWrong.

This view suggests that the difficulties in discussing pickup are so great that they exceed the benefits of discussing it, at least for now. I argue that this view is premature.

It is premature to assume that the pitfalls associated with discussing pickup and rationality are best dealt with by a moratorium on the topic. It is only the "best solution" in the same way that a police state is the "best solution" to crime: solving the problem, but at what cost? As I pointed out to Alicorn, some of the comments she protests met with vigorous disagreement, inclu... (read more)

To be clear, I also support not discussing it here, as long as the ban extends to making negative statements about it.
Frankly, I thought the idea of a ban on a topic was a bit heavy-handed. But it's clear that the sanity of those who participated in this discussion should be called into question, and when Kiritsugu speaks, we should listen.

Eliezer, I think you're spot on here. I think objectification is both exclusion from the dialogue and being relegated to the status of an object, but I hadn't considered the first aspect to it before.

The PUA dialogue as a whole is unpleasant for me, as a woman, exactly because women are implicitly excluded as agents. I am bisexual and I would like it if more women were interested in me, so one would think PUA might be of interest. But PUA excludes me completely and alienates me. When I read about it, I realise with a horrified fascination that I am reading instructions for someone else on how to hack MY BRAIN for their own personal gratification.

Being "objectified" in the sense of being relegated to the status of an object implies that one neither needs nor deserves autonomy or agency. A person willing to employ pickup artistry or similar is revealing their opinion that women do not deserve full agency and/or the chance to make informed decisions in this arena, purely because the Artist disagrees with their probable decision. I believe that's why I and so many other women find PUA repulsive: it is an attempt to control us and dilute our autonomy.

And for the record, I am really interested in evolutionary psychology and don't understand how it could be offensive. It doesn't attempt to exclude or disempower any group to my knowledge - am I wrong? From my reading on the matter, it is simply one scientific approach attempting to explain and predict human behaviour.

(edited for clarity)

A person willing to employ pickup artistry or similar is revealing their opinion that women do not deserve full agency and/or the chance to make informed decisions in this arena, purely because the Artist disagrees with their probable decision.

Is a person willing to take a class on public speaking revealing their opinion that audiences do not deserve full agency or the chance to make informed decisions about what they're presenting in a speech? Should they not practice to make the best possible impression?

I realize there are schools of PUA that are based on trickery. However, the "direct", "natural", and "inner" schools of PUA studies deal only with what makes men more attractive to women, generally. That information is unlikely to be useful to you as a bisexual woman, but it is certainly not about treating women as objects. Some teachers (most notably Johnny Soporno) are quite explicitly about emancipating women from oppressive societal constructs around sexuality (such as the idea that having sex with more than one partner means a woman has no self-worth).

Still other teachers (e.g. Juggler) teach men how to make emotional connections in conver... (read more)

I have no problem with attempting to make oneself more attractive to other people or make the best possible impression. When you make a speech to a lot of people, of course you should practice it - but nobody in the audience thinks that you got up and ad-libbed it, just like nobody who sees me dressed up thinks I'm always going to look like that. We realise we're seeing your best effort, which acts as a signal of your valuation of the event or activity - we don't think that you're always like this, and the self enhancement is common knowledge.

Pick up artists are different. Let's break them into two groups: the outright tricksters and the "inner" school. We can agree, unless i'm very much mistaken, that the tricksters are clearly attempting to hack women's brains (ie with the little psychological games to make them look insightful or deep, with use of negging, etc) in an unethical way. Mystery is a good example of this. By "hack" I mean "influence in an underhanded way without permission" - if for example you managed to convince me PUA is good, you didn't hack my brain, you changed my mind.

But the inner school is also problematic, and I think you mis... (read more)

Let's break them into two groups: the outright tricksters and the "inner" school. We can agree, unless i'm very much mistaken, that the tricksters are clearly attempting to hack women's brains (ie with the little psychological games to make them look insightful or deep, with use of negging, etc) in an unethical way. Mystery is a good example of this

Agreed. Ross Jeffries and Mystery both explicitly belong to this school. However, the general trend in successful schools has been moving progressively further and further away from these approaches. Indeed, even Mystery is viewable as a step away from Jeffries' position - arguably most of the Mystery Method can be compared to a generalized pattern for "how to give a speech" -- i.e., this is the order of steps that people go through in becoming attracted to one another, so this is the order in which you should do things. You can discard all of the specific problematic techniques at each stage, and just use the stages themselves.

In fact, this is what the RSD people do - the company formed from the feud between Mystery and certain of his Project Hollywood brethren. They kept the logistics, and substitute what mi... (read more)

We both think it’s a good thing if men want to learn about how to be more considerate, more confident, and more comfortable around women – you were right to assume I agree here. I have no problem with your examples; in fact, I can tell you now I would probably respond well if a guy started a conversation with me about salad in a confident way. :D

You and I disagree about the extent to which the PUAs are teaching people that. You say that they are, and I believe your examples, but most of the sites I can find are all about sequences, “running game”, tricks, mind games, strategies, etc. They rank women from 1 to 10 and advise different techniques. So many of the websites I am seeing talk about women as though they're objects, not people - and simplistic, easily hackable objects at that. Press button X, the man is assured, and she is likely to respond with Y. I went back to look at them for the purposes at this discussion and I feel revolted all over again. The Mystery Method for example explicitly advises stimulating positive AND negative emotions in a woman, specifically jealousy and frustration, because that makes her emotionally vulnerable to male advances! Do you agree this is hi... (read more)

Yeah, I don't read most of those sites. As I said, it certainly can be considered selection or availability bias on my part. However, that being said, I must reject the idea that "PUA is bad" because some or even most PUA are bad. If most women have some disliked property X, it would be just as wrong for me to attribute property X to "women". Seriously, doesn't virtually every book in the "relationships" section of a bookstore (not to mention Cosmo) do just the same with men? If one of those books says, "Men need X in order to give you Y, so be sure to give them X", how is this actually any different? In truth, it isn't. Many men prefer to use language that sounds like they have control or mastery over a situation, and many women prefer language that sounds like they are caring or giving in the same situation. And, this language difference is independent of the person's behavior. There are women who can read that relationship book and use what they find to make men miserable, and those who want to know because they care. Same thing with men: there are those who learn PUA to get back at women and society, and there are those who genuinely want to relate better. And for the latter men, the language may or may not be a barrier. I personally relate better to materials that are about "this is what she needs/wants" rather than "this is what button to push", but usually even the button-pushers (among the professional trainers) will include some info about the need/want side of things. My impression is that the jealousy and frustration here is very mild, on a very playful level. After all, we are talking about two people who've just met a few minutes ago. If someone experiences real jealousy or frustration from a few minutes of Mystery's antics, I suspect they would not be able to handle a normal relationship very well... and not just with him! For the rest of your comment, I think HughRistik has done a good job of addressing your points. The touch issue, for exampl
Yes. The rating system is controversial in the community, and many PUAs refuse to use it exactly because they see it as objectifying. The reason that it probably sticks around is that it happens to be useful: a woman's conventional attractiveness is a factor in how she has been treated by men, and the physiological effect she has on the PUA, both of which are highly relevant. Do women not realize what is going on when a strange guy approaches them? Are you against all hidden artifices in dating (including female artifices)? Or just some particular types of artifice? If the latter, what distinguishes the artifices that you find objectionable? The moral standards you are advocating seem potentially over-broad to me. The problem I have with the term "mind tricks" is that a lot of these behaviors are isomorphic to social behaviors shown by men who are naturally successful with women (which is not to say that I don't have a problem with some techniques, see below). The neg, and cocky/funny for instance. It seems counter-intuitive to hold that these behaviors are OK if you don't realize you are doing them, but not OK if you know how they work. Of course, you might see the neg as bad either way, in which case it sounds like the main problem you have is with the effects of the technique, not its covert nature. And indeed, I also have a problem with the neg. I think that the potential benefits it provides don't outweigh the potential discomfort or insult it can cause to the woman. Or though it might in some contexts, there are better ways to get the same interest without risking hurting her feelings. I think the seduction community as a whole is coming around to this view. Mystery had them believing that negs were practically necessary on highly attractive women in clubs, but eventually people discovered that there were other ways to get their foot in the door, so the neg could no longer be justified on the grounds of virtual necessity.
The neg can simply be more on the teasing side than on the insulting side. I don't think teasing is all that objectionable.
Part of the issue is that, even when the hurt is minimal, it's a decision that one's own self-interest outweighs the harm to someone else, and as humans we're not very good at making that calculation objectively.
Exactly, thank you.
Hi jfpbookworm, long time no see. I agree with skepticism when making decisions over whether one's self-interest outweighs harm to someone else, which is why in this post I advocated weighing in the potential benefit to the other party also (emphasis added): I think I came by this way of thinking from reading Mane Hajdin's The Law of Sexual Harassment. He wrote an article in this book that has some relevant comments (read page 297-299, though we don't get 298 in the preview): He then sets up three hypothetical advances: 1. 10% chance of success, 88% chance of mild annoyance, 2% chance of offense 2. 10% success, 89% mild annoyance, 1% offense 3. 11% success, 69% mild annoyance, 20% offense He says that advances #2 is obvious preferable to advance #1. As for advance #3, the relevant question to ask is: When pickup artists think about ethics, I suspect this is the kind of implicit moral framework they are using. Of course, all of these calculations have subjective factors, but they are better than nothing.
I'm glad to hear the 1-10 scale is out of favour. I don't care how useful it is. :) “Do women not realize what is going on when a strange guy approaches them?” When a guy comes up to me, no, I don’t know how to instantly differentiate a nice guy who wants to make conversation with me from a “nice” guy who wants to subtly insult me to make me emotionally vulnerable. “Are you against all hidden artifices in dating (including female artifices)? Or just some particular types of artifice? If the latter, what distinguishes the artifices that you find objectionable? The moral standards you are advocating seem potentially over-broad to me.” On reflection, I’m not against all hidden artifice – as I said in my other reply to you, and this I think is also clear from the comment you're responding to now, what I don’t like is the hidden attempt to directly influence the other person. If a person chooses to act such that the other person is completely unaware that actions are being performed on them, and these actions can substantially influence their behaviour, I think that is morally problematic. So, Ido see the neg as bad either way! That behaviour is wrong whether you are taught to do it by Mystery, or you were just born with the innate ability to put women down to further your own gratification. It’s also covert either way, the only way I would consider it non-convert is if a guy came up to a woman and said “would you mind if I subtly put you down?”. Other seduction techniques are overt: “Can I buy you a drink?” “Can we go somewhere more private?”. Those are fine. I'm not asking for super awkward overtness - there's a set of social conventions people have in place to avoid that (ie "do you want to come up for coffee") and the conventions are common knowledge. But I definitely find the clear harm more objectionable than the covertness - I do still object to the covertness, as I explained in the previous paragraph. Possibly it would be easier if we had one thread going s
Rachael, I think you raise some excellent questions about the ethics of social influence. Could you explain this without using loaded terms so I can understand exactly what your objection is? I'm glad you try to unpack "hack" as "influence in an underhanded way without permission", but "underhanded" is still a loaded term! My best guess is that you're saying that it's unethical to intentionally use a tactic of social influence that the other person doesn't understand and hasn't granted permission for. (Please correct me if I'm wrong.) I would agree that such behavior is often creepy or distasteful, but I think calling it unethical would have results that are counter to our intuitions. Does it imply that if the other person knew what you were doing, then it would be OK? Or that if you didn't know you were influencing them, it would be OK? Let's look at an example from the feminine behavioral repertoire: push-up bras. Are these a hack into the male mind? Some males probably don't know what push-up bras are, or what their effect is, so they are being influenced by that "tactic" without their knowledge or permission. To avoid potentially banning large swathes of male and female mating behavior, I think we really have to look at the content of social influence techniques, not just at who knows how it works and who doesn't. I think what we should really be asking is: is the technique harmful, can the user of the technique reasonably be expected to know that, and can any potential harm be justified by potential benefits to the recipient of the technique? Are there any similar techniques out there that can accomplish the same result with less risk of harm? When looking at pickup techniques, I think we would see a whole gamut of answers to those questions.
I think you’re right that we have to look at the harm and good of influence tactics. That probably would help us separate, say, wearing push up bras and learning how to be attentive and confident around women, from learning to put women down or make them feel negative emotions so they’re more vulnerable to you. I do think the permission aspect is still important, though, because otherwise it smacks of a kind of paternalistic approach – the male judges what’s good for everyone and then executes it, without checking with the woman if this is what she thinks is good too. Sort of “I should trick her into liking me because I’m a really swell guy, so it would be better for her if she liked me!” Because in relationships between people a lot of things are subjective and personal, this is an area where it’s reasonable that rational people’s estimations of what’s good and bad will differ. I don’t think permission is an issue when you’re self-optimising. So I don’t think it matters if men secretly take courses to be more confident and comfortable around women, or if women secretly wear push-up bras. I think it’s important when you’re trying to directly influence the other person, like with the PUA mind games and strategies for producing emotional vulnerability. Unpacking "hack" more is difficult, I guess "underhanded" would be "using a technique that is deceptive, dishonest, and potentially harmful". Except now I brought harm back into it so I'm not sure if that helps at all. I do think a hack has to be a direct influence on the other person, not an indirect influence, so that the self-optimising never counts as a hack. I realise the line between direct and indirect is difficult to draw here and it could take us a while to figure it out (if we felt so inclined.)
I'll probably need to do a couple posts to properly reply to you, but I like your idea of consolidating them into one thread. For others' reference, I'm also replying to this post by Rachael. I do think we can say that if a form of influence is harmful and covert, then the covertness makes it worse. Trying to harm someone sneakily is worse than trying to harm them overtly. I still have trouble with banning covert methods of influence, merely for being covert, even direct influence. That's why I brought up the example of the push-up bra. It's not self-optimization, it's deception, and it's a direct attempt to effect male sexual psychology in a way that can "substantially influence" their behavior. To say that it is ethical suggests that certain types of deception can be justified. The use of covert influence techniques raises a question: if the person it was being used on found out later, how would they feel? In the case of push-up bras, I think the intuition is that if/when a man finds out about the covert technique, he will/should consider it justified, or at least excusable, if he understood the challenges women go through in satisfying men's sexual preferences for looks. Likewise, the intuition around a PUA a technique may be that if women discovered it, they would or should consider it to be justified, or at least excusable, if they understood the challenges men go through in satisfying women's sexual preferences (e.g. for masculine traits, and see the Draco In Leather Pants TV Trope for some less-empirical but more humorous examples of the dark side of female preferences). Furthermore, in both cases, the intuition may be that once the other person's stereotypical sexual preference is satisfied (e.g. looks for men, or masculinity for women), and they actually get to know the other person, they might be less concerned about the other sex using using a bit of deception to get their foot in the door. The level of deception typically involved in pickup techniqu
Not that I'm arguing a normative point here, but I've always gotten the same negative vibe from public speaking classes (and rhetoric) as from marketing/PUA. But then, I've often been known to disregard relevant social skills.
I had the same reaction of revulsion to PUA sites until I realized it only works when I let it, and I suspect the same for most women. PUAs work in singles bars and other places where single people go to interact with other single people. Girls go to these places when they want sexual attention; IE when they want to be picked-up. Sure there are accompanying reasons like drinking and dancing, but a woman who wants to avoid getting hacked by these techiniques has the very simple option of just not exposing herself to them. If one of these "artists" hit on you when you are not in a receptive frame of mind, wouldn't you just reject him? I certainly do. When you are in a receptive frame of mind, it is of course different, and that is when the PUA-stuff can hack you, so to speak, into accepting the advances of someone you'd otherwise reject. That is not to say these guys can just point a finger at you in the street and Bang. Long story short, he can't deny you agency unless you are already objectifying yourself.
If someone offers you a tasty dessert when you're hungry, is that "hacking" your mind, because you otherwise wouldn't choose to eat it?
If I'm in a bakery, they can hardly be blamed for offering me a cupcake. If I don't want the sweets, it is on me to avoid sellers of desserts. if I'm in a music store and someone offers me a dessert, I'm going to go "WTF" and leave before the weirdo with the candy starts doing something even weirder.
My point is about the "hacking" part, not where the thing is being offered. Let me rephrase. If a person deliberately sets out to make a tastier dessert, so that it's more attractive than competing desserts, how is this "hacking" anyone's mind? If it's more attractive, then it's more attractive! One can argue about whether it might be better from a health or finanical perspective to skip the dessert. One can even say that it's rude to offer a person some dessert in an inappropriate context. But none of these things have to do with how the dessert tastes, or the quality of ingredients used, or the presentation of the dessert on the plate. If the baker doesn't lie about what's in the dessert, and has gone to extra trouble to procure the finest ingredients, and make the best possible presentation... And if you choose that dessert because of these things, is that "hacking" your mind? Or just someone offering you a nice dessert? Your earlier comment implied that someone is "hacking" your mind, when all they've actually done is try their best to offer you a nice dessert. Whether you choose to indulge or not is still an essentially free choice, just like we are all free to turn down an actual dessert, no matter how tempting to our palates it may be. It seems wrong (to me) to imply that using better ingredients or presentation of a dish somehow equals reaching out into someone's brain and taking control of it. If it were, then we could turn around and argue that men have no control when they see an attractive woman... and I don't think any of us like where that kind of thinking takes us (e.g. burqas, to say the very least). (Footnote: is this comment insensitive to Muslims? I'm going to have to guess that religion is the one reasonably-safe whipping boy on LW, at least for the moment.)
I see. Well no, -making- a more attractive dessert is not in any way hacking. PUA techniques that rely on maximising the man's attractiveness to women are not hacking her brain, they are life-hacks for him. These are not the techniques likely to be objected to, methinks. I think the improving-the-product aspect is eminently laudable. Self improvement is good. What does count as hacking is more along the lines of this: To push the bakery example; I do not like caramel, but let's say I go to a bakery intending to buy a banana muffin, but the charming presentation of fresh baked caramel ones, along with some tactics by the bakery employees, convince to buy a caramel muffin just this once. The tactics of presentation and salesmanship have effectively hacked my brain into going for a lower-order preference. It would take one amazing hack to make me eat a caramel muffin when I'm not hungry and not in a bakery, one that I suspect is not acheivable. I can say no to banana muffins, too. I don't mean to say that all PUA technique is fakery and salesmanship; rather I think that the sales-based portions are the ones that horrify women. Given that I don't find salesmanship horrifying when buying food or anything else, I've stopped finding descriptions of PUA work horrifying.
In all fairness, the consequences of choosing a bad "dessert" are probably much worse in the singles' bar than in the bakery, so I can certainly empathize with an intuitive horror of being "sold" something you don't really want in that context. Thanks for listening and being open-minded. I appreciate it.
If someone who is trying to quit smoking complains about a craving, and you offer them a cigarette, are you doing them a favor?
I'm sorry, I don't understand the connection.
All three situations are roughly equivalent, in that someone is offered something that they are currently primed to accept for some reason, but that they would reject normally in a typical mental state. Many people seem to consider this ethically dubious, especially when the one offering has participated in priming the offeree to be receptive.
Sex, dessert, and cigarettes are "roughly equivalent"? Remind me not to come over to your house for dinner. ;-) Edit to add: Wow, some people have no sense of humor. Or at least were unable to see past the humor to the actual point. That is, that it stretches the analogy too far to equate "emotionally complicated" and "fattening" with a dependency-forming drug that will then proceed to give you cancer and kill you. Bit of a negative applause light, eh?
Interesting thought. I've never been to a "singles bar" or similar place, I think, and I wonder if the divide here was between people who go to such places, and people who do not.
I can't understand your position. There are people who seem to reliably be able to (in a sense) "hack" women's minds ... and you don't want to know about it? Wouldn't you want to be aware of when you are tricked into wanting something that goes against your interest? ETA: I'm male, and I felt the same revulsion at PUA discussions, but decided that it's all the more reason to learn about them.
I see I didn't make myself clear on this one, sorry. I do want to know about it, and indeed I spent some time researching it when I first found out about it. But I find any discussion of it in the context of possibly trying to use it on women, or any attempt to optimise the process to that end, to be repulsive. I don't want to be in an environment where it is considered acceptable. I'm not against discussing it per se, I am against discussing it as an acceptable/admirable course of action or in a positive light.

I think anyone who feels excluded as a gender is not a very good rationalist, and therefore might want to shut up and study some more.

You are not your genetalia. Stop being a girl or a guy; put your rationalist hat back on. PLEASE.

For the record, I'm female and have been adversely affected by what other females have called objectification on this site.

Hopefully this site is not strictly preaching to the choir. Someone who believes people here have good ideas and understands why you should probably be charitable to naive generalizations or somewhat offensive assertions made here will not have a problem occasionally running into them. However, it is not hard to imagine an individual unfamiliar with "rationalism" seeing a few too many posts on pickup artists and deciding their time would be better spent on another site.
If the person is familiar with PUAs, won't they just laugh and ignore the posts? That's what I did until this ugly gender/hormonal mess flared up.
At current tech levels, I do not believe it will be possible for a rationalist to stop being a girl or a guy. Additionally, I don't know that it's even desirable for people to try to think only in a gender-neutral fashion, any more than it would necessarily be desirable for humans and Happies to try to think only in species-neutral terms.
It is desireable to think in a rational fashion. Prioritizing your gender is not rational, optimal, or desirable for pursuing rational discussion. Gender is salient and important in some discussions, but it is not the only salient part of your identity. I am amazed this even needs to be said, but here it is anyway: you don't have to stop thinking like your gender ALL THE TIME. Just ignore your hormones when they are not salient to the topic at hand, as surely you do any time you are not interacting with bedable members of the appropriate gender. Humans are meat puppets run by hormones, but at least we can recognize the hormonal signal and, you know, not respond when it's innapropriate.
Seconding this sentiment. Personally, I cannot even fathom why people seem to consider it an unusually significant part of their identity compared to other traits.
It might be considerate to realize that females do have a legitimate reason for why they are more salient to their own sex and issues regarding gender. More so than males. This is because society treats male-ness as the norm versus female-ness, which is treated as special. As a result, many females become VERY AWARE of the fact they are female, have female genitalia, are treated "differently" because of their sex. Perhaps a lot of this awareness is in fact, subconscious. But none-the-less, this results in a stronger identification with their own gender. Whereas males have less problem disassociating with their own genitalia. Becoming a good rationalist is a journey one takes, not something one "is" or "isn't". It is insulting to simply say "you're not a good rationalist if..." and then hold everyone to these standards. I'm not saying your end-goal isn't correct, but the way to attract people to a site like this is not to BEGIN by assuming everyone is a "good rationalist" but that more people start out as "bad rationalists" and attracting them might take different approaches than what is rationally optimal or acceptable to current members.
This comment was never intended to attract people to the site, so your last paragraph is not relevant. Please refrain from lecturing a female on what females do or do not do.
I think that most of the discussion of content quality around here revolves around either community-building or effective rational inquiry. It is a valid criticism of any comment to say that it fails at community-building, though it's not necessarily a standard everyone needs to worry about all the time.
Please explain your second statement exactly. I don't see why you have this objection.
Your comment begins "It might be considerate to realize that females do have a legitimate reason for why they are more salient to their own sex and issues regarding gender". In saying this, you are telling me (a female) that I need to realize something about females. This is questionable, at best, and is so regardless of your own gender. Then you conclude "... a stronger identification with their own gender. " to which I reply "Balderdash". Gender is a part of one's identity, obviously, but to say that women can't help but feel theirs is more salient is a broad-strokes over-generalizing statement that is ultimately as patroniaing as anything else that can or has been taken to be biased against women. It effectively says "Oh, women can't help but feel they are treated differently," and in doing so, treats them differently. Do you understand the objection, now? More to the point, my original comment was expressing that rationality is NOT a gender issue. I very strongly believe that to let gender issues interfere in one's goals, be they rationality goals or not, is a bad move. That is all.
The site lost my response; bugger. I have to object to your first objection there. What can you claim to know about the female sex in general solely based on the fact that you yourself are female? You are just a data point. So, regardless of your gender, I think it's fairly legitimate to say, "You need to realize something about females." That something -- whether females identify with their own gender more strongly than males -- is absolutely verifiable using scientific channels. The only thing that may be objectionable about my statements - is if they're flat-out wrong. But to remedy that is easy - just find the truth. Your objections threw me off. I could understand saying, "That hasn't been verified." But to say, "I'm a female, so you shouldn't lecture me on females" - something struck me as wrong about that. Can we agree on this or am I falling for bad logic? As for the last statement, I respect your belief that gender issues interfere with your goals. But the way you stated it in the original post was judgmental. You could have just presented a rational case for it. Or is that not the way things run around here? Is it better to insult everyone that doesn't think the way you do?
We can certainly agree on this point. Though I hasten to add that if you had indeed presented some sort of research, I would not have made the comment. Without objective fact behind it, it smacked of condescencion. I made no original post. I urge you to read the actual original post my comment was made to respond to, and the threads the prompted it. I will not be recapping the gender kerfluffle for you. Consider your bait safely ignored.
(The point is good but it is obscured by punctuation. Extra proof reading is recommended when potential readers do not have an incentive to be persuaded by your words.)
I do that on purpose. But I'll fix it.
You could say the same thing about any bias. If it were shown that, for example, young people are more susceptible to confirmation bias, it would be useful for a young rationalist to know that, and it would not be a good objection for a young person to respond, "please refrain from lecturing a young person on what young people do or do not do." (and saying "You are not your age" probably doesn't help.) If you believe that letting gender issues interfere in one's goals is a form of bias, then you should believe it's precisely the sort of thing that we should be aware of, and your objection (if any) should have been that orange seems to be making a dubious claim, and he should have to provide experimental evidence to back it up.
This is blatant identity politics, and if I could downvote, I would.
Out of curiosity, do you mean that you have been adversely affected by objectification in your life, or adversely affected by instances of objectification on this site?
I meant the former. Instances of objectification that, if described, sound like what has been described in certain threads. I have most certainly not been affected by the discussions on this site itself. I am not so thin-skinned as to feel objectified by words on a screen.

Disliking talk about PUA in a place like this is very ironic, as that's the best example of practical use of evolutionary psychology I can think of.

If we also start disliking behavioral economics as equally manipulative, we're running of real world examples.

As far as I can tell most people who dislike PUA techniques don't really understand them.

As far as I can tell most people who dislike PUA techniques don't really understand them.

Most people here don't understand them because they have this model in their mind that if you treat an attractive woman nicely, try to respect her desires and needs, perhaps compliment her, with the internal attitude that women should be "respected" she will respond in kind by respecting your desire to have sex with her.

They never test this model by going to a bar and trying to use it to achieve the goal of sex with an attractive woman. I know this, because if they had tested it even 3 nights in a row, they would have discarded it as "broken". I would love to go out into the field with 10 guys from LessWrong and alicorn to coach them, and watch them get rejected time after time by attractive women.

I would write a top level post explaining the techniques, the PUA model of the generic male-female interaction, the predictions it makes, and how you can go out and collect experimental evidence to confirm or disconfirm those predictions, but I think that I would not get promoted (no matter how good the post was from a rational perspective, measured in bits of information it conveys about the world) and not get much karma, because people here just don't want to hear that truth.

Do PUA techniques withstand the woman's reflection? Once made aware, do they acknowledge the effectiveness and accurately reaffirm their interest independently of the technique's effect? If incredulous, is her attention held after a demonstration on another woman?

If the answer is yes, that does a good deal in converting PUA from a ("dirty") trick (like Fool's Mate, in chess) into a valid strategy (like Sicilian defense). If you could demonstrate valid strategies, you'd get a lot more karma out of the effort.

If the answer is yes

For PUA styles described as "inner", "direct" or "natural" game, the answer is yes, since they all focus on making the man actually have attractive qualities (such as honesty, confidence, social connections, and emotional stability), rather than simply presenting the appearance of these qualities.

It's rather like "How to Win Friends and Influence People", in that respect. (Whose advice is to cultivate a genuine interest in other people, as opposed to merely faking an interest in other people.)

I missed most of the PUA stuff, so bear with me a bit. Does "honesty" include averred intention? Does the "natural" style promote the mutual and explicitly acknowledged one night stand associated with PUA, or does it foster a "Relationship Artist"? Have discussions of the "inner" style conjured "ick" factors? Would continued discussions be frowned upon? (If yes, I think this is a more fruitful area for dissection.)
Yep. Different teachers promote different things. Daniel Rose, for example, says that one-night stands are stupid because you can't get the same physical or emotional intensity that you can with a longer relationship. Soporno doesn't seem to have an explicit duration preference, but implies that most of the women in his circle have been there for years, and that those who left because they thought they found "the one" are always welcome to return. But now I'm sitting here repeating stuff that really should be in a FAQ. You should probably just search for my previous comments about these teachers, or perhaps just google their stuff directly; my comments are based on free materials of theirs, as I don't actually spend any money on pickup stuff. I just read it for the articles, so to speak.

I think most of us here have had at least some exposure to the PUA worldview and a sizable fraction (including me) feels quite sympathetic to it. That said, I wouldn't want to see a toplevel post introducing the basics. There's already plenty of good introductory material elsewhere on the 'net, a couple clicks away. Our site will interest me more if it follows the general direction that Eliezer and Robin initiated at OB, not getting overly sidetracked into applied rationality topics like pickup, marketing or self-help.

I suspect that efficiency is not necessarily the reason that many dislike PUA techniques. Personally, I don't particularly doubt that there are patterns for how women react to men (and vice versa), and that these can be used to have more sex. On the other hand, spiking people's drinks or getting them drunk can also be used for the same purpose, and that's commonly known as rape. Sure, there are ways to hack into people's minds to get them to do what you want. The fact that they exist doesn't make them ethically acceptable. Now, I don't know whether PUA methods are or aren't - but the fact that "the attitude that your partner should be respected" is seen as a negative thing seems to be pointing pretty clearly towards the no direction.
Right. But now we have an ontological problem: "hack into someone's mind" and "not hack into someone's mind" are not natural kinds. In any social, romantic interaction, there is some degree of mind-hacking going on. When a person spends all their time and energy chasing a member of the opposite gender who is not interested, what has happened is mindhacking. The pain of unrequited love is a result of asymmetric mindhacking. Love itself is symmetric mindhacking: you have hacked her mind, and s/he has hacked yours, and both of your implicit utility functions have been shifted to highly value the other person. What the Seduction community seeks is to allow men to create an asymmetric situation to cause a woman to have sex with them (and this is a place where some members of the community really do behave like assholes and not let the woman down gently afterwards, a practise know as "expectation management", though the community has built up a tradition of karma: we ostracise men who break the rule of always managing expectations and leaving the woman in a happier state than when we met her). The other major goal of the community is to allow the man to create a symmetric situation - which is usually achieved by first creating an asymmetric situation (male strong), and then gradually evening it out by allowing yourself to fall in love with the woman. Women who have been "screwed and left" by pickup artists feel good about themselves more often than one would naively expect - and this surprised me until I realized that if the PUA has demonstrated enough alpha quality, the woman's emotional mind has classified him as "good to have sex with even without commitment" because alpha-male sperm is so evolutionarily advantageous - if you are impregnated by an alpha male then your male descendants will have whatever alpha qualities he has - and will impregnate other women, spreading your genes.

I'll also say that insofar as women think that PUA "mind-hacking" techniques are black-hat subversions of female rationality, the most obvious solution I see is disseminating more information about them. Knowledge of these techniques would allow women to at least attempt to "patch" themselves, assuming they are open to the idea that they actually work.

For example, say I learn about negs. I can either think, "Oh good, it's fun to be attracted to guys, so I hope guys neg me effectively," or "I think it is immoral to neg girls, the world would be a better place if guys didn't do it, and individual guys who neg are probably not worth my time, therefore I will avoid them even if their techniques work and I find myself attracted to them."

Either way, I think I'm better off knowing about negs and how they work. (Apologies for a not very nuanced view of the neg, but it's not that relevant to my main point.)

I realized after I wrote this comment that I think learning about PUA is an excellent exercise in rationality for women in general and me specifically, since it exposes areas where I have in the past not always been aware of the reasons for my decisions.

I could see how women who believe themselves to be immune to PUA (perhaps because the are in fact immune), would not find the topic as interesting.

No! NO! NO! Your long-term partner should be your soulmate, with a high degree of mutual trust and respect. But a woman who you have not yet had sex with is simply not going to respond well to you "respecting" her.

But a woman who you have not yet had sex with is simply not going to respond well to you "respecting" her.

Actually, people in general will be creeped out or think you're of lower status if you're too easily impressed, i.e. offer too much "respect" before they feel they've earned it. It's got nothing to do with gender, except insofar as low status-ness is unattractive.

I think that some people will easily misread your comment as implying that men should not respect women early in the interaction.

My guess is that you are actually trying to say something different, based on your use of "respect" in quotes: You are saying that women may not respond well to attempts by men to signal respect.

If you are saying the second thing, then I agree: it is important to hold respect for the other person at all points in the interaction, yet certain ways that society encourages men to signal respect are counterproductive and unattractive.

The subject definitely deserves a few top posts, considering how important it is, and how many misconceptions there are. You get positive expected karma for almost every kind of activity, and karma doesn't make much difference anyway, so I don't know why you're concerned about it.
You can always write it up on another blog and link to it here. I'm sure many people would follow and comment on it there. I'd certainly be interested in what experimental evidence you propose to collect in order to really confirm or refute the predictions of the theory.
But is PUA discussed here because it's a great example of evolutionary psychology in practise, or because this is a community of mostly single men who are interested in evolutionary psychology? I find neuro-linguistic programming endlessly fascinating and would love to see a good article on it at Less Wrong, but what are the odds that it will reference* pickup artists rather than, say, Derren Brown? The odds that no pop cultural references will be made are low. This *is Less Wrong.
I admire Derren Brown enormously for his cleverness, but he's not doing NLP (if indeed there's anything to do: an article which addressed the evidence would be good, I think). He just wants you do think he is. The bit at the end of the trick where he gleefully shows you how he did it using NLP to implant words in people's minds is itself misdirection. It's part of his act, as pretending to be psychic would have been back in the days when people kind of believed in that. Brown: "Years ago the issue was whether or not you told people it was psychic because people were prepared to believe in psychic ability--and how far down that road do you take them. Now we're in a situation where we're into pop psychology, and NLP, all these huge industries, and people are prepared to believe in that, and maybe in a way that's the new psychic realm." The whole interview the quote came from is worth reading.
Especially since it contradicts what you just said about Brown not doing NLP. From the interview: It struck me that the interviewer was really pressing Brown rather hard to say that things like NLP and hypnosis are shams and false, and Brown was pressing back rather hard with the idea that no, people can actually get some benefits from learning these things, they just won't be able to duplicate all my effects that way. Of course, I've seen Brown do certain things that are pretty much straight-up, textbook NLP or hypnosis with no real embellishing. For example, confusing a woman about what color her car is - a simple submodality anchoring belief-change exercise, straight out of the NLP textbooks, with no alterations that I noticed. And the one where he uses blank pieces of paper to pay for things as if it were money, he uses an NLP language pattern to prime the person at a critical moment with the idea that "it's good; take it". (Although I suppose you could say it's an Ericksonian hypnosis pattern; the NLP inventors certainly were among the first to document it, however.) That having been said, quite a few things he does are not NLP at all, or at least not any cataloged NLP technique I know of. In neither of the two cases that I just mention, did Brown draw any attention to the NLP aspect of the effects, either verbally or nonverbally. He provided no explanation at all for either, actually. (Maybe he only does it with techniques that aren't real NLP?) Anyway, I had to very carefully view the paying-with-paper footage several times in order to notice what he was doing, as he was telling different stories each time in which to embed the "it's good, take it" message, which was always timed to occur just as he was handing them the "money". (Of course, I also respect him for including outtake footage in the episode of him trying the trick on a suspicious hotdog vendor (whose English wasn't so good) and having it fail miserably. I'm glad he's not representing these
So, the context is whether it's ethical to let people believe they've understood how the tricks work when their understanding is that it's done with psychic powers or with NLP. There's also Brown's statement in Tricks of the Mind (see the Straight Dope article on Brown and NLP) that Given the way NLP is a "dirty word", I don't think Brown is doing whatever you find on NLP courses, or at least, he doesn't think it's quite ethical to let people think he is and as a result decide to pay for an NLP course. Whether there's anything to NLP is a separate consideration from whether Brown uses it on stage (except that if there's nothing to it, it's obviously not how Brown does it). On the wider question of whether there's anything to it, in the section on NLP in Tricks of the Mind, he says there's some valid stuff in NLP, but he was put off actually being an NLP practitioner by attending an NLP course where there was a lot of bunk mixed in with the valid stuff. The tricks where I've seen him "explain" how it was done using what I think of as NLP (although, as Brown says, he never uses that word) were the one where he predicted Simon Pegg's ideal birthday present (a BMX bike), and the finale of one of his stage shows, where the effect is that he predicts a word freely chosen from a newspaper which itself was freely chosen from a bunch of possible newspapers (I can't access the formerly working YouTube links for any of these, or indeed your own link, but that may be because I'm in the UK, so you might have more luck viewing them). In both cases, the "explanation" involved words hidden within sentences ("that would B-aM-Xellent present"). "Part of what I do" might mean that he does some stuff which NLP lays some claim to (telling people are lying by watching eye movements) and/or that his act includes him making it look like it was done using NLP :-)
As I pointed out above, at least one effect of his is a straight-up use of two pure textbook NLP techniques: submodality elicitation plus anchoring. Thus in at least one case, "part of what I do" refers to "the entire mechanic of the effect", while perhaps leaving out things like: * showmanship * carefully picking his subject * repeating attempts until he gets a subject that responds well enough to keep the footage * not showing the part where he puts color-vision beliefs back to normal However, the actual application and result of what's shown is precisely what you'd expect from a reasonably responsive subject, in response to the demonstrated NLP procedures. On a semi-unrelated note, if someone you don't trust to muck around with your head ever asks you the questions that Brown asks at the beginning of that video -- i.e. asking you about something that you believe and something that you don't believe -- you would probably be best off answering "no, thanks". AFAIK, even the slimiest, mind-hackiest of NLP and hypnosis-trained PUA teachers don't suggest doing something as unethical as what Brown actually did in that video would've been, if it were done to a non-consenting subject.
I did not realize that NLP was involved in that trick, probably because I know little about it past the name (suggested remedy?). Which video?
The one I linked to in the grandparent comment, which shows Brown confusing a woman about her car color. If you mean the paper-as-money one, that one is probably more accurately classified as a hypnosis trick using "quotes" to mask an embedded command ("it's good, take it"), although there are NLP books that explain/teach the same process. (You could consider it a form of applied priming, discovered by hypnotists and NLP people long before the modern studies of priming.) Do you want technical/theoretical knowledge or practical applications? There are zillions of practical application books, most of which contain considerable amounts of nonsense. Bandler and Grinder's books also contain lots of nonsense, but it's far more useful nonsense. (I think one even began by saying, "we're going to tell you lots of lies. None of them are true, but most of them are useful. And if you pretend to believe these lies, and act as if they're true, then your clients will also pretend to change. And if you pretend really well, they will continue to pretend to be better, for the rest of their lives.") Anywho, Structure of Magic I and NLP Volume I are probably the best books for getting the fundamental ideas/theories, and Using Your Brain For A Change contains the basics of the technique Derren Brown used in the car-color-confusion video. The "quotes" pattern and embedded commands (as used in the paper-money trick) are discussed in Frogs Into Princes and Trance-Formations. (All of the above are by Bandler and Grindler, or Bandler by himself, except for NLP Volume I which is by Dilts and others.)
Hats off to you for explaining this concisely. People are overly quick to bash on NLP. I just hope they have other means to get what they want. For those who might have quickly disregarded NLP for a quick laugh: if you learn it, you will be able to do some amazing things, from gaining control over your emotional responses, to befriending people out of your league, to learning to lead groups of people, to helping get yourself in the proper frame of mind or mood for what you're supposed to be doing, such as getting in a frame of mind to work in the morning and to relax and enjoy cooking when you get home. To avoid NLP quacks, yes there are some, do as much research on your own first and start by absorbing all the free material you can and test it and practice it. It may take a few years until you get your enhanced powers, but god damn it was so worth it for me. And many times I've sat there and watched people bash NLP and remained silent because I was happy to benefit and keep it secret how I do it... but now that I'm studying Buddhism, I've been practicing empathy and preferring to share with others how NLP can be useful... so take my words with a grain of salt and I wish for everyone, everywhere a lifetime of happy living.
Well, about fourteen lines later he starts talking about NLP again and says "I've taken NLP courses and learned some NLP" and "It's part of what I do." I do think it's all part of his act when he lets you in on the NLP "secret", but I think it's also part of the magic that he puts it out in plain view so that people say "ah, that's misdirection" and discard it. I think magicians have been using NLP much longer than NLP has been an acronym, and I think Brown uses it, along with a host of other methods. However, I think it is often mistaken for more fundamental (and tried & true) psychological techniques like priming. Thanks for the link.
I'd love to see a detailed text on Derren Brown because the Wikipedia article about him is so intriguing.
My favourite of his shows is his Channel 4 special "Messiah". It's an extraordinary piece on confirmation bias, but worth watching purely for the entertainment value as well. Unfortunately, Brown declines to share his actual methods, although many can be inferred. [edit] Adding to this, Brown himself is a rare phenomenon: an entertainment celebrity who promotes overcoming bias. Since he appeals to a large audience, not just those who are interested in 'magic' or psychology, I wouldn't be surprised if his shows have caused a measurable increase of critical thinking among his viewers.
I didn't get around to watching this until today, but having just finished part 3/8, I want to urge everyone to watch it and the end of part 2 as well; it was extremely moving and horrifying for me. It didn't tell me anything I didn't already know about what must necessarily be true about irrational believers, but it gave me a more detailed and authentic set of examples than I'd imagined. Of course, it does occur to me that some of his amazing feats may have involved a few less successful attempts that didn't make the cut - i.e. I feel like his success must be in some way exceptional or unusual (but probably it isn't).
Great recommendation. Just watched it on youtube. ETA: I'll be sharing that video with family members that I've had fruitless discussions with in the past on psychics, alien abduction, etc.. It's too bad that his programs aren't shown in the USA and his DVDs aren't available here for purchase. I wonder why that is? Surely not lack of interest, given that there are 5 times as many people in the USA than the UK. And the greater number (proportion?) of proudly irrational people in the USA would only ensure that any such program would be that much more controversial and thus that much more lucrative.
One could also reference marketing; there are two NLP-in-advertising blogs out there that I read, for example. (http://nlplanguagepatterns.blogspot.com/ and http://nlpcopywriting.com/). Both are pretty shallow, though, compared to, say, the stuff Frank Kern does. Kern sort of is to other NLP marketers as Brown is to other NLP magicians -- i.e., he disclaims any expertise in the subject, but wields it like a master of the craft instead of like a geek fascinated by the subject.

Funny thing that. Your mention of marketing gave me an instant "ick, sleazy" reaction. Does Alicorn feel the same way every time she sees mentions of PUA? If so, I can finally understand where she's coming from!

Funny thing that. Your mention of marketing gave me an instant "ick, sleazy" reaction. Does Alicorn feel the same way every time she sees mentions of PUA? If so, I can finally understand where she's coming from!

Be a rationalist and get over it, since it will inhibit your ability to accomplish "real world" goals like getting paid for your work. But more than that, it'll diminish your quality of life, by requiring you to avoid things that are just a normal part of life.

One reason I'm here is because I used to be the sort of person who got all squicked out by PUA and marketing and whatnot, before I realized that most of my "rationality" was being used in the service of justifying my pre-existing emotional reactions to things.

The thing that really opened my eyes about marketing was understanding that people want experiences, not things, and trying to get them to want what you believe they should want (vs. giving them what they actually want) is not really about being nice to them: it's just your ego talking.

This insight is equally applicable to marketing and PUA, as in both cases, the objection is, "but people shouldn't want that", whatever &... (read more)

I am extremely leery of rationalism being used as a reason not to feel things. I would just like to say that among the things most likely to make me want to scream at someone is when they try to give me what they think I want, or what they would want, or what most people superficially similar to me want, instead of what I tell them I want. In words. Out loud.
And I'm extremely confused by your reference here to my post, which was an attempt to illustrate the dangers of allowing your thought process to be driven by your emotions, and to illustrate a tool for identifying whether that is happening (i.e., observing somatic markers). When I say "get over it", I don't mean "don't pay attention to your feeling", I mean, "pay careful attention to this signal you aren't thinking or behaving rationally, and do whatever it takes to change your thinking in such a way that the feeling does not arise in the first place." That is, when you can think about the subject in question without the somatic marker of "ick", then you will know you've successfully removed whatever cached thought was making you feel that way. The "ick" does not exist in outside reality, it exists solely in your mind and body, and any attempt to justify it as existing in outside reality is prima facie bottom-line reasoning. That is, irrational.
Wow. That post was particularly hard to read, but somehow I got the impression it was about quite the opposite. Emotions are powerful tools, and should not be undervalued.
It said that your emotions control your thought process. It didn't say that was a good thing, it said it was a fact. Nor are they to be used inappropriately. Negative emotions in lasting doses are likely harmful to your health, as well as to your rationality. Depressed people aren't thinking rationally.
I've noticed several instances of "that's so gross and low-class" signaling at LW, and agonized over whether it was worth pointing out (that it's signaling). I don't claim that the internal gross-out feeling is affected; I have had similar reactions all by myself, especially to pumped-up motivational speak on e.g. pjeby's site. I've decided it's still a valid signal, so I won't be bitching about it when I see it, and I'll continue to express disgust at trashy (even if effective) persuasion (I'm so sophisticated!), but I'll try to moderate my actual feelings of revulsion, so (I hope) I can evaluate the content more accurately.
Relevant post. There is a huge difference between marketing communications which is the garden-variety sort of marketing you're talking about, and marketing research, which is about giving people the things they'll want to buy. (And not just what they say they want to buy, but what they'll actually put cash down for).
Neither of which is, of course, the same thing as what they'll actually enjoy the most.
This... merits a response. To me the topics of PUA, marketing and self-help feel interrelated. Not just because it's all applied rationality, but because it's all about goal-directed tweaking of human wetware. Which is precisely the icky problem. As a kid I invented and devoutly followed a strict moral injunction against any form of self-manipulation - what's today called self-help - and against lying. As an adult I have relaxed both those requirements, but instead explicitly invented and have followed for years an equally strict injunction against manipulating other people (like in Games People Play). The only PUA techniques I ever adopted were about loss of fear and increase of self-esteem; I shied away from anything that smelled even vaguely manipulative. (I have grossly neglected the skillz over the last two years and will soon start practicing from scratch again, under the same restrictions.) The morality of hacking minds is still unclear to me, but it feels worse if it's done consciously. Not every means of reaching the goal is okay... even if it does no visible harm. According to my life experience, explicit mind-hacking harms the hacker.

(This will be my first post on the current flamewar, which I've been hesitant to post on, for obvious reasons.)

Does Alicorn feel the same way every time she sees mentions of PUA? If so, I can finally understand where she's coming from!

If that's where she's coming from, it's a horribly wrong reason to exclude discussion of it. Whether or not PUA techniques repulse you, whether or not you'd be receptive to them, whether or not you intend to use them...

You do need to understand why such counterintuitive methods work, to the extent that they do in fact work. Otherwise, you have a huge hole in your understanding of social psychology, and are setting yourself up to Lose, whether your are a man or a woman.

For what it's worth, I also get a negative physical reaction from PUA discussion, though for very different reasons. I would describe it as a combination of hopelessness at my own ignorance, and refusal to accept that it could be true. In fact, the first time I'd heard about PUAs, someone referenced a related Feyman anecdote, and I rushed to look it up, and after I read it, I felt really, really, unexplainably miserable, almost giving up all hope. By itself, that almost made me ... (read more)

Agreed, but there's a world of difference between a post that discusses PUA techniques under the assumption that the readership is actively interested in applying them, and a post that discusses PUA techniques under the assumption that the readership is interested in learning more about "the enemy". In much the same way, there would be a world of difference between a post that gave advice on how best to convert people to Christianity, or to market the latest designer piece of crap, and a post that documented commonly used conversion or marketing techniques for the purposes of understanding how people can come to believe silly things or buy stupid products.
I accept that, in the interest of good communication, people can do a better job with their tone and emphasis when they make PUA posts. The danger, however, is buying into this idea that you have to adhere to some vague feminist concern that can only result in good-intentioned male posters walking on eggshells to avoid saying the wrong secret phrases. While there are valid feminist concerns about objectification, this kafkaesque hypervigilance simply serves to enforce a very self-limiting mindset in posters. It wussifies them, in other words. I believe that has been my experience, having resolved at an early age to be supersensitive to offending women. I've certainly avoided it, but it's not very conducive to leaving copies of me in the next generation.
Feminist concerns are vague and the only possible result of thinking about them is "good-intentioned male posters walking on eggshells to avoid saying the wrong secret phrases"? I guess I can see how, if you don't understand the relevant feminist concerns, then they will seem vague, and that the effect of not really knowing what it is you're supposed to avoid could be quite frustrating. But I tend to think that vagueness, like probability, is in the mind, rather than being a property of the concerns themselves. If you do understand and appreciate such concerns, then it's usually not very difficult to avoid offending people - and even if you do end up accidentally offending someone, it's easy enough to just apologise after the fact, without it opening yet another front in the gender wars. Maybe this means that the feminists among us need to do a better job of communicating the concerns, but it would also be nice if attempts to do so didn't result in (IMHO pretty ridiculous) accusations of "kafkaesque hypervigilance". P.S. If trying to understand others' perspectives and attempting not to unnecessarily offend them means that I'm a wuss, then I'll wear the badge proudly. I can't speak for anyone else, but certainly hasn't affected my ability to leave copies of me in the next generation.
But the thing is, we're interested in the truth. What you or anyone else will use it for is their own business. Our goal is not to filter out topics which could potentially enable marketers to sell more crap or something.
Interesting, I don't agree with this at all. Perhaps it comes down to a difference between those of us who are most interested in truth, and those of us who are most interested in winning. Insofar as anyone's utility function has a term for people-not-being-converted-to-Christianity, people-not-buying-loads-of-crap-they-don't-need, or people-not-treating-members-of-whatever-gender-they-happen-to-be-attracted-to-as-sexual-trophies, what others do with knowledge is their business. Which is not to say that they should somehow censor people who advocate such things; but I wouldn't expect them to sit idly by and pretend that they think these goals are all fine and dandy either.
I find this excessively repugnant. This "we know what's best for you"/"for you own good TM" attitude is very disturbing.
"what others do with knowledge is their business." Rather, they think it is, but they're wrong.
I agree, but on the other hand, how important is the topic? We can rationally decide to lose the topic here on this ground: not everyone posting or reading has achieved perfect equanimity, but we can help them develop that quality more effectively by tricking them into thinking that we already have it (the illusion would be shattered in the type of failures elicited by each discussion of the sensitive topic). An absolute prohibition would be ridiculous, though.
Huh?!? Seriously, marketing seems sleezy to you but PUA doesn't? To each his own I guess. I really agree with pjeby below though.
Cousin It lives in Moscow, where people tend to have a different take on free-market institutions such as speculators, middlemen and (as now appears likely) marketing.
Nah, I like free markets. My negative impression is more of an intellectual aversion to the output of Western marketing gurus like Seth Godin.
Cousin It has "an intellectual aversion to the output of Western marketing gurus like Seth Godin". Godin seems pretty icky to me too. Paul Hawken's book Growing a Business had some nice insights into marketing.
I recently unsubsribed from Godin's feed after a sequence of particularly atrocious posts. clientk writes about marketing, but in a pleasant and often insightful manner.
I'm not even sure what relevant difference there is, the fundamental character of both seem pretty much identical to me. I'm curious why you have such different reactions to the two.
50/50. I think Derren Brown has been mentioned the same number of times as PUA; it's just that the latter threads are longer and less pleasant. Google doesn't make it look like a lot, though.
I don't think Eliezer is saying he doesn't like PUA techniques, but rather that the way they're brought up here can make women feel like they're not part of the intended audience - hence the Frank example, which shows a situation where those techniques could be discussed without giving off that impression.
9Eliezer Yudkowsky15y
Yup. Is there somewhere in the PUA literature where they tell you to, you know, notice the way women react to your speech? We're not talking about slavish adaptation here. We're talking about noticing.
Yes, it's called "social calibration", and from the way teachers go on about it, I gather it's one of the most difficult things to teach to someone who doesn't have it. By default, people pay more attention to their projections of what other people are thinking about what they're doing, than they are to either what they're actually doing, or how people are actually reacting to it. Of course, social calibration is even harder in a purely textual environment, especially one where it's easy to mistake one's conversation for a one-on-one interaction with the person you're directly replying to. Here, it can be almost as if you're having a nice little person-to-person chat in a noisy club, and then all of a sudden, the music goes quiet just as you're yelling (to make yourself heard to the person next to you) some embarassingly out-of-context thing , and then everybody's staring at you...
I don't want to have to be socially calibrated on LW. Social calibration for the seduction community has a very simple rule about talking about pick-up techniques: don't do it, except with other trusted members of the community. If someone outside the community brings it up, just don't mention it, because society has conditioned them to start going into a feminist death-spiral about it. So if I follow that rule, I will just have to not mention it here.
That seems awfully close to "I want to act like an asshole on LW and not care what effect it has on anyone else". I hope that if you do then you'll get voted into the ground. I think that holding a belief of the form "You mustn't admit to X outside our inner circle, because the unenlightened have been conditioned by society to hate and fear it" should be treated as a warning sign that one might have been sucked into something unpleasant. I expect the members of various cults have similar rules. (Of course, sometimes it might be perfectly correct; see, e.g., Paul Graham's essay on what you can't say. But my guess is that such occasions are outnumbered considerably by ones where the reason why you'd get in trouble for saying X in public is because X is stupid or unpleasant or something of the kind, and people who haven't been desensitized to it will notice.
Fully general counterargument against any unpleasant truth.
That sentence wasn't an argument. The two paragraphs containing the sentence do constitute an argument or something like one; they are not "fully general" in any sense that seems problematic to me. The most one can say is this: they claim that if a proposition is socially unacceptable to state then it's less likely to be true. I'm happy to stand by that: I think "unacceptable" propositions are less often true than "acceptable" ones. Do you really disagree with that? Incidentally, I wasn't primarily thinking of X as being a proposition but as a behaviour or an attitude. I bet that among, say, politicians, advertisers, tobacco company executives, television evangelists, there are common habits or ways of thinking that "of course we wouldn't mention in public -- they wouldn't understand". And that neither you nor I would be keen to defend those habits or ways of thinking, even if we're pretty sure we do understand them. For the avoidance of doubt, let me repeat something I already said. Of course, some "unacceptable" ideas, behaviours and attitudes are in fact perfectly sensible and are unacceptable only because of silly social traditions or whatever. I claim only that such unacceptability is a useful warning signal.
...sounds right to me, actually.
Apt simile. Noted for posterity.
I can't tell whether your comment was sarcastic or sincere. If the latter, the answer is: yes, oh yes. PUAs devote a lot of effort to reading female responses. But you aren't going to appreciate this noticing when you see it up close. Example (don't click, this is my last warning): Doggy Dinner Bowl Look.
What about women who dislike PUA techniques, them too?

Women are basically anosognosiacs about pick-up. In fact, I once discussed the efficacy of PU with a woman, and she started insisting that women couldn't possibly be that stupid. I had to remind her that she'd left her long-term boyfriend for a fling with afellow PUA a few months earlier.

Some women aren't. I know because I'm one of them. I've already commented on this subject, and my views haven't changed much since then.

While I'm open to the idea that discussing PUA on LW is a net loss, selfishly I want the discussion to stay because I find it fascinating. Since I know it works on me, learning about it helps me understand myself better and make more informed choices.

Personally, I think controversy is more interesting than not. The internet keeps proving this over and over again. So if you want to attract more females, KEEP TALKING ABOUT THEM. Getting offended is one way to get started on a rationalist path because it evokes an emotion. It evokes an inner-conflict. Which can result to greater self-understanding. Offending people is fine. Since it reflects more badly on the offensive person than on the offended person. It might even reflect badly on this community as a whole, but hey, if it gets people to start thinking, what's so bad? If it gets women to understand something about themselves? What's so bad? However I would try to balance it out by ALSO examining men in such a way. There's a lot of literature on PUA, and it is actively discussed here. Why not just find proven methods for attracting men and discuss them also? In a rationalist fashion, of course. If it offends the men on the site, then... all the better. Men need a wake-up call, too.
The topic of PUA seems to suffer from the Streisand effect around here. Mentioning reasons people shouldn't talk about it gets people talking about it, as evidenced by this now quite long, and expanding, thread, and most of the previous threads as well. I deleted my initial comment here since I didn't want to contribute. Now I'd say to others that non-engagement may be a better strategy.
Rather than non-engagement, I would advise dependency management: if there is a topic we find it difficult to inquire into, switch priorities to observing and discussing why we find it difficult to have the object-level discussion.
I think I can solve the mystery: people keep bringing up PUA because they like thinking and talking about sex and things related to sex. The only reason it "appears to be relevant" is this weak relationship to dark side epistemology that everyone keeps mentioning. But I haven't seen a 'dark side' discussion, separate from sex, in a long while. If politics is the mind-killer, then what is an even more fundamental drive?
I believe it was originally brought up in a discussion about instrumental rationality - applying rationality to achieve concrete goals rather than as empty discussion. It was in the same vein as Alicorn's luminosity sequence (applying rationality to improve life outcomes) as opposed to the more abstract discussions over things like Newcomb's problem. If rationality is supposed to be about winning then it should be possible to use rationality to improve outcomes in areas of life that you place value on. Most humans place high value on sex and relationships and so instrumental rationalists will often be interested in applying rationality to improving outcomes in these areas. Do you disagree with some part of that line of reasoning or is it simply the specific approaches of 'game' that you disapprove of?
I think sex is worse than politics when it comes to mind-killing.
People undoubtedly have difficulty thinking rationally about sex but it does not suffer from many of the same mind-killing problems as politics. Instrumental rationality has very little use in the field of politics, other than obvious things like not voting and avoiding political discussion (unless you enjoy it for its own sake and don't make the mistake of thinking it actually achieves anything). The field of sex and relationships is much more amenable to the application or instrumental rationality in that there are things you can reasonably do that can impact your personal outcomes. There is very little most people are in a position to do to change policy. There is a great deal that individuals can do to improve their sex and relationship outcomes.
So do you think we should also share masturbation and fantasizing techniques (self-actualization) instead of continuing to focus solely on interpersonal relations (collective action problems)?
If someone had a novel application of instrumental rationality in these areas that solved a common problem I wouldn't object to them sharing it, though I have difficulty imagining what that might look like. I've always been more interested in the aspects of this site that focus more on instrumental rationality than in the abstract theorizing. I'm more interested in how to apply rationality to improve life outcomes I care about than in debates about what to do if Omega shows up with his boxes. I'm sick to death of discussions about Omega to be honest but I just don't bother to read them rather than complaining about people who do want to talk about it.
I think you're assuming that the things you like will work across a wide range of people. Speaking as a woman who posts to LW, I'm not especially interested in PUA being discussed here unless there's some consideration of consent issues. Those consent issues actually have some parallels to FAI problems-- who decides whether someone is better off? By what standards? I would say that the equally offense-laden parallel for PUA would be methods for getting men to commit. I don't know whether they've been as carefully studied as PUA--- at a minimum, it's a harder subject because the cost of experiments is higher. There's an optimal level of controversy and offense for individuals (not necessarily the same for interest and for learning), and it probably isn't the maximal level. Because PUA comes off as dividing women into hackable systems and not worth hacking. If it's too accepted, it can make it seem as though talking to you isn't worth the trouble. "Talking about women" isn't enough. How they're talked about matters.
This is a really interesting point, actually. What is about PUA that makes it more concerning from a consent standpoint than, say, advertising? Both are manipulative, and I see considerable parallels between the two. (I find it hard to believe that the big advertising firms have put less effort into figuring out how to get people to do things than pickup artists have...) Should advertising to someone require their consent? Is there a significant difference between product placement in entertainment media and PUA techniques that are based on normal conversations, as opposed to PUA techniques based on being in a traditional picking-up-dates scenario, which seem more like standard commercials? What does consent even mean in the context of situations like PUA or advertising where the point of the manipulation is to get you to say yes? Is it even possible to require consent to that kind of thing, without just pushing the problem back a level and having the manipulators focus on getting you to give your consent to be advertised/PUA'd to?
You're considering whether advertising is problematic and/or should be legal without looking at whether people on the receiving end of advertising want it or benefit by it. If someone wrote in Less Wrong about successful techniques of advertising, and said it must be a good thing because people buy what's advertised, I don't think it would go over entirely well. Even before I'd read Rain's comment, I was willing to bet that most LWers limit their exposure to advertising-- not so much for political reasons or for fear of it, as just that it's low information repetitive input. I admit I'm generalizing from myself on this one, though it's worth noting that even the general public tends to avoid tv ads if they can. One thing that's clear from the akrasia and luminosity discussions is that not everything in people's minds can be relied on to make their lives better. It's reasonable to be concerned about inputs from people who are trying to influence your mind and have specific goals which do not include your welfare. In the case of PUA, saying that some women like that approach (which is true), or that PUAs mean well (which is neither trustworthy [1] nor relevant) substitutes for a general follow-up on how women who've been PUAd perceive the experience later,. At this stage, advertising may well be less effective than PUA-- for most things, it isn't personally directed. A small story-- I know a person who used to sell stuffed dragons, and she said she sold them by finding the little part of the potential customer which wanted one ot the dragons, and (by implication) getting that part of the person to make the decision. She didn't see any problems with that, but I later met someone who wouldn't go near that woman's table because of being afraid of getting talked into buying a dragon she didn't want all that much. Even if the sales effort had been more carefully constructed so that anyone who bought a stuffed dragon would not be capable of regretting it, there would
At the risk of being seen standing up for low-status males, I feel obliged to point out that that's not incompatible with "meaning well".
It's not incompatible with meaning well, but I wouldn't recommend taking their word that they aren't doing harm.
I don't think this holds true for me. I am somewhat selective about what advertising I attend to but I don't in general limit my exposure to it and I sometimes actively seek it out. I tend to skip over adverts when viewing TV on my PVR because they are of low average quality, high density and are generally interrupting something I was actually interested in. On the other hand I will sometimes watch adverts that catch my attention when skipping through either because they are visually interesting or because they are providing information about something I am interested in. There are a variety of adverts that I don't avoid and may actively seek out. These include movie trailers for films I might be interested in watching, adverts that are notable for clever or dramatic visuals and adverts for products I am interested in purchasing. I'm interested in visual media in general and so find both filmed adverts and commercial photography interesting from that standpoint when the quality is high. I have purchased a number of DVD collections that include the advertising works of directors - many of todays most interesting film directors started out in advertising and music videos (which are a form of advertising). I also have photography books that include commercial photography. In the age of the Internet there is a blurred line between advertising and product information and I'm not uncomfortable reading information in the blurred area, though I prefer clear disclosure of any commercial interests driving the material. I quite happily use a manufacturer's website as one source of product information for products I am considering purchasing though and I also find that third party reviews can be valuable even when it is disclosed that the product was provided free to the reviewer or that there are other reasons to treat the opinions provided as not entirely unbiased. In general I find advertising less problematic in terms of bias and manipulation than political speech or mu
In the case of women using beauty-enhancing techniques (high heels, push-up bras, make-up, hairstyling), saying that some men like that in women (which is true), or that women mean well (which is neither trustworthy [1] nor relevant) substitutes for a general follow-up on how men who've been allured perceive the experience later. At this stage, advertising may well be less effective than sexy attire on women -- for most things, it isn't personally directed. ... If advertising becomes that effective, I don't know how this should be addressed legally or philosophically. I do think there are problems. [1] Some women start from a position of resenting men for not caring more about their personality.
I'm not sure that many would object to this analogy. It strengthens the case that sharing PUA techniques isn't an appropriate use of LW, just as sharing beauty-enhancing techniques isn't. It seems to me that the situation is pretty simple, for PU artistry as well as for advertising. Most PUA techniques that I've seen amount to efforts to persuade using Dark Side Epistemology. Bottom-lining is rampant. For example, with "negging", the PUA starts with the bottom line "You should feel self-conscious and insecure", and then seeks only evidence that supports this conclusion. Such PUA techniques should be discussed like any other Dark Side methods: with a view towards minimizing their use and effectiveness.
I think I agree. My opinion is that LW shouldn't be for PUA/beauty tips or how-to's. But it would be appropriate to discuss why these methods work, under what conditions you'd want to resist them, and what countermeasures you can take. (And I suspect some don't even want it to go this far, or want to restrict PUA more than beauty.) So, IMO it would be appropriate to say, "This beauty/PUA technique exploits the psychological hardware in men/women for the following evolutionary reasons ... " But it would not be appropriate to say, "Here's a trick you can use to dupe men/women into obeying you/sleeping with you ..."
Have there been actual discussions here about beauty enhancement techniques that we should worry about restricting?
I meant they would have a different standard for discussing the cognitive bias issues related to beauty (despite the parallel in PUA), not that such discussions have been common.
What leads you to make this prediction?
The massive flamewar this board had which was partially over the PUA issue, compared to the tame discussions of evolutionary psychology that touch on judgments of female beauty. What leads you to find it implausible?
It's not that I find it implausible. It is that, other than you bringing it up, I don't know why I should even be considering that hypothesis. Can you point to a particular statement about evolutionary psychology referencing female beauty that is analogous to a statement about PUA, but did not provoke analogous offense?
That example does not work. For one thing, the same paragraph goes on to describe: None of the comments to that post expressed any offense at either of these descriptions, so this illustrates the symmetry you predict does not exist. Also, neither of these descriptions was advocating that anyone should deliberately trigger these evolved thought processes in others to manipulate them, and thus are missing what people find offensive about PUA. A good answer to my question should point to three things: a discussion of beauty techniques which provoked no offense, an analogous discussion of PUA, and someone taking offense to the analogous discussion of PUA. By analogous I mean that the elements that made the PUA discussion offensive should correspond to elements in the beauty techniques discussion.
I think it's time to take a step back here: I stated a suspicion of a bias in one direction with regards to the "male side" and the "female side" of an issue as it appears on this site (and, I'd add, society in general). A suspicion, not something I could document my basis for forming. This is a low standard to meet. In turn, you raise a reasonable question about why this hypothesis should even be on the radar (i.e. am I maybe privileging a hypothesis)? However, this is a less-than-2-bit claim. Given the topic matter, either there's a bias in one direction, or in the other, or there's no bias. Focusing on any one of those doesn't require a lot of evidence to justify to begin with, so again it's a low standard to meet. Furthermore, you seem to arbitrarily give no weight to the fact of a large flamewar on PUA, without a corresponding one of female physical attractiveness. (And, I'd add, no one's modded you up after your first question, while they've modded me up.) Therefore, your requests on this issue seem out of proportion to the evidence I need to present. This suggests to me there's a deeper issue going on, which maybe we should be discussing instead. If so, could you tell me what that issue is? Now, with that said, I will answer your latest question: it's true that both the male appeal and the female appeal were discussed in the link I gave. And yes, in giving that example, I did need you to fill in a few assumptions to see why it supports my case. So let me explain what conclusions we should draw from that post: Imagine that EY's post were a bit different. Let's say that instead he went to great detail explaining the female attractiveness enhancing techniques, explain why make-up works (it has to do with how the brain interprets images from shadows, light gradient, etc.), why certain gestures work, why certain styling works. Let's also say that he went into comparable detail about things that the male did to increase his sexual desirability, and why those a
I'm not sure that settles it.... "There is an object one foot across in the asteroid belt composed entirely of chocolate cake" is either true or it isn't - in the sense you used it, that's only a one-bit claim. So with "this murder was committed by Mortimer Q. Snodgrass, who lives at 128 Ordinary Ln." It may be relevant that it takes a lot more than two bits to specify your hypothesis in the first place.
In the "Mortimer Q. Snodgrass" example, Snodgrass is not one of three or so people that the evidence has not ruled out, he is one of a vast multitude of people that the evidence has not ruled out. Of the three (mutually exclusive, jointly exhaustive) hypotheses listed by Silas, which do you think corresponds in likelihood to "someone other than Snodgrass did it"? Or do you dispute that those form a worthwhile trio of hypotheses?
Indeed, I'm skeptical that there are a 'male side' and 'female side' to this issue, and that it's worthwhile to divide it up along gender lines, and that the two cases Silas refers to are analogous to the extent that it would be meaningful to talk about a 'bias' towards one as compared to the other. But I'm convinced there's a high enough probability that my skepticism is unwarranted that I shouldn't bug people about it at the moment.
I'm familiar with the concept, Thom. Take a guess at why I used this phrasing: GIven that we already have enough evidence to be discussing the matter, there are only a few options left. So yes, if we had enough evidence to be considering MQS as the murderer, it would not require additional evidence to justify considering the hypotheses "MQS guilty" and "MQS innocent".
Perhaps I should have instead disputed whether the 'topic matter' was 'given'. But we've already established that my intuitions regarding gender / society / taboo / PUA are vastly different from yours, and that I seem to be atypical, so perhaps my skepticism is unimportant.
ETR: Okay, let me tone that reply down. Yes, that would have made your point responsive, and have prevented you from falsely accusing me of a basic error. Please exercise caution when someone's comment initially appears to you to be rather stupid -- you may need to look at the context some more.
Let's have a real test, that actually has elements corresponding to the offensive elements of PUA. Write your article to explain how a woman can use beauty enhancement techniques to increase her apparent attractiveness so that she can get men she is not actually interested in to buy her drinks, or do her other favors they incorrectly expect will win her attraction. Advocate that women should actually do this. I predict that this will cause offense. If it does not, that would count as evidence in your favor.
But I already agreed from the beginning that "how-to"s should be off-limits! So that's not a relevant test. The question here is whether the cognitive bias issues related to male/female attraction (which could potentially inform someone wanting to increase attraction in others) are disproportionately stigmatized when they talk about female biases (which matches society's general tendency to let women be overt about effective ways to attact men beyond their natural beauty, but not men to attract women beyond their "natural" status). People who describe biases in men (how e.g. bras can affect their judgment) do so without being criticized, but the parallel case doesn't hold for women. Now, do you have any further evidence to dispel this suspicion, or would you prefer to explain to me what's really motivating your question?
Fine. Then write an article about PUA that is not a how-to, presenting the biases involved as something women should be aware of when they are approached by men, and see if that is still offensive. The point is to make a real comparison, to hold both sides of this issue, men manipulating women and women manipulating men, to the same standard. I am still not convinced there is any evidence for your suspicion. Everything you presented has been an apples and oranges comparison. The only data I have seen about an actually analagous pair of discussions is that no offense was produced in either case. I consider it rude and a distraction from the object level discussion that you are questioning my motivation.
I guess I should have said more from the beginning: any detailed article about the bias will be usable as a how-to, by a sufficiently intelligent person. So why bother with the distinction, then? It's an issue of tone and etiquette. "Men are attracted to X for evolutionary reasons" is preferable to "Use X -- your ability to manipulate men will improve", even though the former is informative about the latter. So I think that for me to write a sufficiently elaborate article like the one you've described will provoke outrage, no matter how refined the tone. And I consider that a proper test, but I reject the constraint that the article have a deliberate focus on "this is evil, here's how to protect yourself". Attractiveness in women has effects on men's minds; must any discussion of make-up be prefaced with "make-up is evil, here's how to identify a woman's 'beauty-invariants'"? This just shows me the extent to which the bias I warn about is present in you, and why my allegation seems to bother you so much. "Manipulation" is a really big category, and we need to be talking about which kinds of manipulation are unethical and which aren't. The use of the term "manipulation" is followed up with an implicit standard of "behavior-altering actions I don't like", which are labeled "manipulation", while the ones you don't like "aren't manipulation because I like them". Make-up, hairstyles, bras, etc. are forms of manipulation. Why are those acceptable, but not e.g. "negging"? That's something you have to prove, not just assume. So when I see you automatically attach all kinds of negative features to bias discussions involving PUA, in order to count that as a fair comparison, that looks to me like you're trying to sneak in your own arguments by use of definition. And therefore counts as the very evidence of disparate treatment I warned about. I consider it rude that you ignore my substantiation of that suspicion, and a distraction from the discussion that we should be havi
Because women make no bones telling men they're wearing make-up, or had their hair styled, but for a PUA to explain that they are using "negs" specifically to deflate a good-looking woman's ego would ruin the effect. This is a case of the general hypothesis "manipulation is the use of techniques that wouldn't work if their targets knew about them". An interesting intermediate case is the padded bra: this is deceptive, hence arguably manipulative, and I would predict with some confidence that both women and men would look askance at the practice (and that they'd both consider padded shoulders somewhat lame), while a purely decorative bra is OK.
The bra is one of the best inventions of all time. I encourage women (and I suppose males that way inclined) to make use of the technology to whatever extent pleases them or suits their purposes. Even more so if that purpose happens to include attracting me. I note, however, that for the purposes of this data point the supporting influence seems to be more important than the enlarging. My attitude to all other forms of manipulation is similar. I like people influencing me in a way that is beneficial to me and have a strong aversion to people attempting to influence me in a way that is detrimental to me. My hypothesis: manipulation works even when the target knows about them. This applies to negs and most other manipulation effects, particularly those that relate to attraction. Attraction isn't a conscious choice and conscious awareness of the process makes little difference.
(That downmod wasn't me; I recognize when my objectivity on a thread for purposes of modding is compromised.) Well, actually, women will deny or refuse to talk about a lot of these. How many women actually tell men how much makeup they have on? How much "assistance" their bust has gotten? (ETA: I actually remember an ad campaign, possibly still going on, that encouraged women to lie about their age, because of the effectiveness of the makeup. It was actually phrased in terms of "Don't like about your age -- defy it!", accompanied by a scene with a woman getting away with lying about her age.) Also, I'm not sure your claim about negging is as obvious as you suspect. For one thing, how do you differentiate it, morally, from any kind of teasing? Or the negging that naturals do automatically without even knowing the term or the psychological dynamics of it? That's interesting. But while you're wringing your hands about this or that practice, the rest of the world has moved passed this debate and doesn't adhere to any kind of standard code on those issues. And women are still sleeping with, dating, and marrying those who use PUA techniques, whether they come naturally or not. (Maybe that makes them all rape victims? Who knows?) And these women and men are making more copies of themselves. I guess I should get back to the hand-wringing ...
This may be a left-over 1950s stereotype, but I was under the impression that men both want a rather artificial appearance from women and despise women for their attention to the details needed to create it. I would be glad to find out that I'm mistaken.
I think it'd be more accurate to say that we prefer any makeup to look like the wearer just naturally looks that way, rather than like they made themselves up. (Since awareness of the makeup detracts from the immediate and visceral pleasure we'd otherwise receive from viewing an attractive woman.) We also dislike it when the time spent on making up goes past that point of attractiveness, because it suggests that the additional effort is being spent on signaling other women, rather than on being attractive for us. ;-) (Even if a man doesn't "get" signaling, he knows that the additional effort is both decreasing his enjoyment and eating into the time he will be spending with his date.) The things that men most widely despise in relation to artificial appearance are not the attention to detail, but rather, the lack of attention to which details men actually prefer. There are fashion trends in makeup and clothing that seem to be beloved by women, but are absolutely hideous to men at large, because they fail to trigger the visual systems that give us pleasure, or do trigger ones that trigger avoidance. For example, I forget what they're called, but those tops that make it look like the woman's waist is just beneath her bust... they make women look pregnant at first glance, no matter how otherwise nice and fashionable the tops may be. Eyebrow treatments that make women look like Ming The Merciless, etc. These are the sort of "details" men tend to despise. In other words, it's not that we dislike women's attention to detail. It's more that we're appalled by the amount of time and effort that appears to go into doing things we don't like. I would guess that this is probably symmetrical to the things that men spend a lot of time on for women's sake, that women don't like either. E.g. bragging about their possessions and accomplishments might be a good example of a place where men try too hard and turn off women in the same way.
You mean an empire waistline? (I don't think I've ever actually seen one in person, but the description is eerily familiar. ^_^)
Yep, that's the term. I was more thinking of the lingerie term (babydoll), because my wife owns a lingerie store, works at home in the office next to mine, and I overhear a lot of stuff. (Yes, they make those hideous waistlines in lingerie, too. [shudder])
I've heard about a study (sorry no cite) which found, not only that men think women with light make-up look better, but that those women look more natural. I may not be typical, but it doesn't feel like working on signaling if (as rarely happens), I fiddle with my appearance. It feels more like trying to get things "right", like something between an art and a craft. A goddawful thing I've occasionally run into from men is them boasting about how dangerous they are. I really detest it. I don't know if it turns off all women. Part of the problem is that I don't know how to evaluate it for accuracy. This makes it noise (and rather repetitive), not signal. Furthermore, I'm 4'11'' and not athletic. I haven't found people to be especially dangerous to me in general, but I make it through my life without needing to be scary. And I have the irrational impression that those guys are trying to prove that I don't scare them. Ick. I mentioned all this to a male friend, and he said that talking about how dangerous one is is normal male chat. If so, I'm glad I'm not stuck with it.
This data point isn't terribly relevant to the question of whether signalling is the 'true' explanation for your actions - signaling is not in general expected to be a conscious motive for any given action. This would generally be an example of cheap talk rather than signalling. To the extent that women are attracted to 'dangerous' men (more accurately men who will be able to defend them and their children from harm and to dominate other men and so provide more resources) they will be attuned to signals that are hard to fake. Boasting is a cheap signal and may well backfire even on targets who are genuinely seeking the advertised quality. I assume you realize that your experience would likely be different if you were male?
You mean, better and more natural than women without any make up? I would guess that's probably a simple case of the halo effect at work, with "better" creating a halo inclining them to rate higher on "natural". But where does your learning of what's "right" come from? Don't women generally learn what's "right" in this area from other women? The PUA literature says this is true of all forms of male boasting, so presumably you're far from alone. It's rather like disinformation - if you want the enemy to believe your fake plans, you have to make the information more costly for them to obtain than just listening to a broadcast announcement. ;-) Wouldn't surprise me. Men generally do the stupidest things when trying to prove their bravery, get laid, or both. ;-) It might be more accurate to say that male chat involves posturing about one's prowess, which might be intellectual rather than physical, depending on one's circle of friends. (Of course, if you put it that way, "normal" female chat tends to be the same, just less overt, and more about social knowledge and status than individual ability.)
I would expect it to, particularly when the boasts are directed to women and not overheard when directed to other men. As you suggest, it isn't a credible signal and can also seem insecure.
Your comment is non-responsive because I was (mainly) referring to cases where the man doesn't have advance knowledge of how much make-up the woman was using. In general, women aren't expected to disclose such a thing to men they've just met, and don't do it voluntarily. Hence why Morendil's claim is wrong. Now, regarding your point: Pjeby beat me to it: It's another case of average vs. marginal. Men might expect women to do a lot to make themselves beautiful, but resent them wasting time on fruitless marginal units of effort when they "look just fine, what's the fuss?" -- especially when it makes them wait, of course. This isn't a case of impossible expectations. In terms of being attractive to men, most of the effort spent finding "just the right color" of lipstick or whatever is completely wasted. (I remember a Maddox rant about the different names for indistinguishable lipstick color.) Many a time I've been tempted to go up to a woman in the beauty aisle of a store and say, "Ah! That's it! That's why men don't show enough interest in you! Because your make-up is a slightly wrong color! Aha! It makes so much sense now! The mystery is solved!" Fortunately, even I have enough restraint not to do that. But the point is, most of this effort does not benefit men. Though I'm obviously atypical, I thought you might be interested in this: One time I met a woman through a group and asked her out. She later confessed on a date that she was caught completely off guard because she was in her nurse scrubs, was tired from having worked a long shift, and hadn't done anything to look good, and so couldn't understand why I had been attracted to her. Of course, I did the stupid thing by explaining it with appeal to the concept of a "beauty invariant" ... but that's about right: I (seem to) know a lot about how physically appealing a woman will be to me on average, even if my first impression is in the lower range. But I don't know if this is true in general.
Men also spend lots of time doing things that are more impressive to their peers than to women. I sometimes wonder if this is part of a price-fixing game of sorts, where both genders work to keep individual attractiveness close to some group mean, in order to prevent all-out, no holds-barred competition for mates. Perhaps we would expect to see some sort of slogan, promoting group loyalty over individual sexual fitness.... like, oh, I don't know... "bros before ho's"? ;-) Women don't have such a catchy motto, but the same idea is definitely in effect. Otherwise, PUA literature wouldn't need to teach strategies for the neutralization of jealous friends and giving women plausible reasons to "ditch" their girlfriends. I think these things are much more symmetrical than you are claiming, and that you're simply biased towards paying attention to the problems on the male side of the fence, without looking at how the same limits, penalties, stigma, etc. apply on the female side as well.
pjeby said: This is an interesting idea. I've observed that while there is a norm among men in mainstream white middle class culture that negatively judges men who put a lot of work into fashion and style, yet PUAs work a lot on their style, and it majorly pays off because it is a large factor in women's perceptions of male status (and therefore, attractiveness). It is probably a good thing for most men that the average level of style is commonly so low, and men aren't held to such a high standard for appearance. Yet the cat isn't quite out of the bag about how much style actually effects women's attraction, or some process is fixing the price. Knowing how powerful style is, I can't go back to dressing like a normal guy.
Stored riff: I think mainstream American culture encourages men to go way below the human norm for interest in how they dress. As far as I can tell, the default is for men and women to put approximately equal effort into how they dress.
Men really despise women for that? I suppose I cannot know the mind of men in general but that attitude sounds both bizarre and a terrible thing to signal if they desire positive attention from women (ie. to get laid).
How did you get from "women should be aware" of the biases, to "this is evil"? The constraint seems to fit with your standard: I believe that discussions following this standard will not provoke offense. Mostly it is important to not come off as advocating the use of the technique for manipulation. So, me wanting to use the same standards in evaluating the two things I want to compare is a sign of bias? Where did I claim that some of these are acceptable and some are not? The standard I would apply is what sort of manipulations the manipulated person resents when they find out about it. It would be perfectly fair for you to point to discussions of PUA that lack the features I describe as offensive, which still provokes offense, and to analogous discussion of beauty techniques that do not provke the same offense. Since I know, and have explained, what evidence would persuade me that I am wrong about what features are negative, it is not fair to claim I am saying they are negative by definition. I did not ignore your substantiation. I refuted it. You don't get a free pass on supporting a claim because it is part of a larger issue. And your attempt to parallel my objection does not seem to fit well. Maybe you should not try to be cute like that.
Mainly from your implication that the purpose of the article is that these are things that should be resisted and, in a perfect world, never done to begin with. No, because you're ignoring the part I just bolded: for some of the techniques, one might be perfectly okay with others using on them. A lot of men are okay with their opinion of a woman being altered by makeup. A female commenter (which I'll dig up if you don't believe me) had remarked that (some appropriate subset she had in mind of) PUA techniques would have the effect, if widely used, of making all men hotter, which she would regard as good. Let's not forget, a lot of PUA is just teaching autistic-spectrum males to do things that "naturals" already do automatically. If you find yourself saying an action is bad only when you know why it supports your goals, you made a mistake somewhere. No, your attempt to equate your ungrounded hidden definition of manipulation with "real comparisons", plus the substantiation I gave that you just cut off in your reply, is a sign of bias. Probably at the point where you required any discussion of biases related to PUA have the premise that it's only being talked about as a way to destroy its effectiveness. But why does that matter in terms of whether it should be included in the article? Why can't it describe the effects that certain actions have, by reference to specific biases, which exist because of a specific mechanism, without rendering judgments about whether people deem them manipulative (which people, including and especially the targets of the techniques, will disagree on)? Okay, but you still seem to have this presumption that any article discussing PUA-related biases in women is by its nature promoting bad stuff and so must apologize at every corner by focusing purely on how to resist them. No, you did not refute it. You have said nothing about the evidential standards I discussed, or the reason it is so important for you to learn the basis for my suspic
You are horribly misunderstanding my position, and detecting biases in a position that I do not actually hold. Stop trying to infer a deeper agenda than the things I actually say. Your mental model of me is wrong. I said women should be aware of biases they have that men will try to manipulate. That does not mean they have to resist it. They could react to this awareness by saying, "Oh, that's cool, it lets me enjoy sex/dating more", as long as that is their decision. You were the one who made the leap, on my behalf, from "they should be aware" to "it is evil and must be resisted". I never claimed and do not agree that this is a necessary conclusion. Though, it is also a reaction that women could have. Or they can react anywhere in the spectrum to each sub technique independantly. Or they can react by thinking "I want sex as part of the process of getting to know someone for a potential long term relationship, and it bothers me that men try to make feel like that is what we are doing when in fact they are not interested in a long term relationship." (And I am aware some PUA's explicitly make their intentions in this regard clear, and this reaction is not fair as a response to their techniques. This should produce less offense.) The refutation of your "evidence" was noting that there was no analogous discussion about women manipulating men to the particular discussions about men manipulating women that caused offense, so there is no expectation to observe offense at an analogous discussion until one actually happens. You have evidence that a certain class of discussion of men manipulating women causes offense, and the a different class of discussion of women manipulating men does not cause offense. What you do not have is a comparison of the same class of both types of discussion. Do you want to show my refutation is wrong? Then stop trying to attack me, accusing me of biases, and find the two discussion that you can argue are in fact analogous, in which the discu
JGWeismann said: When you used the word "manipulate," I do see why Silas thought you were being judgmental and primarily advocating resistance. If you say you don't mean that, then I believe you, and I would prefer that the discussion move on to substantive issues, rather than what biases you might supposedly hold. I think part of the problem in discussions like this is the word "manipulation," which different people use to mean different things (some people use it in a value-neutral way, while others use it with a negative connotation... and some slide between these two meanings whenever convenient). I prefer to talk about "social influence," and whether it is ethical or not. Perhaps you and Silas can just start this discussion over? What was the main question, anyway? I lost track.
I see what you are saying. But I find it strange to apply this interpretation to "men manipulating women", but not "women manipulating men". Me too. Should we expect this community to hold discussion of PUA to a higher standard than discussions of other sorts of "social influence", in particular, the use of beauty enhancement techniques to make women more attractive?
What is this in reference do? Who do you claim was doing that? FYI: In case you're interested: That would seem to contradict the discussion's history. You entered after I said this: And you entered to respond to the bolded part. I don't think that's equivalent to I was saying that, even though both beauty methods and male charisma methods induce bias, some posters (unfairly IMHO) support more restriction on discussion of the latter despite their relevance. JGW denies the existence of such a class of posters.
I am not saying that no individual poster will treat discussion of PUA unfairly. But I think that there will not be enough to cause problems if we have discussion of PUA following the standards you specified. Are we in agreement about this? If not, can we discuss it at the object level, without trying to assign each other motives for the positions we take?
Better yet, skip the meta discussion entirely and just create a relevant, well written post on a charisma related subject that one of you happen to be interested in. If someone happens to object on principle then we'll see it and respond as appropriate. Why waste time second guessing hypothetical unreasonable objections?
Hey, fine with me. I'm not the one demanding huge-likelihood-ratio evidence to justify an estimate made in an aside. That would be JGW. If I turn out to be wrong in my estimation that LW mirrors a lot of society in going apes*** whenever useful female romantic biases are mentioned, like it has in the past -- GREAT! The reason we have guesses is to have expectations BEFORE the ultra-conclusive evidence comes in.
I don't see why SilasBarta could not have merely said "female romantic biases". We don't talk about "useful halo effects", after all. The extra modifier only makes sense if you assume the audience wants to pick up women. Edit: The above is apparently mistaken - SilasBarta's correction.
I wouldn't have used 'biases' either. That framing gives the wrong implications about where the actual 'bias' lays, conveying the impression that for some reason female attraction 'should' conform to some other ideal. I am more inclined to look at the bias that propagates the ideal.
Good point also. "Bias" should be reserved for predictable deviations from accurate estimates, while the concept doesn't carry over here neatly. There are certainly biases in the sense that "negging you is not evidence that he's higher status", but then, women are not more "correct" for wanting high-status men, nor is it quite accurate to say that women consciously pursue status, which is only as true as saying "men want to spread their genes". Rather, evolution formed women's minds with preferences that are imperfect detectors of status. A woman may thus only want an "attractive man [that I have a bond with]", even knowing that the attractiveness is just an artifact of long-invalid built-in heuristics. (Just as men may merely want an "attractive woman", even though the judgment uses heuristics irrelevant to gene propagation in the present day).
I agree. I don't accept "biased" as a meaningful modifier to female subjective perceptions of male attractiveness. At most, bias could be ascribed to female perception about facts about men that might influence their perceptions of male attractiveness.
Well said!
Alright, that sounds creepy/sleazy/demeaning. Fair point. Let me explain why I chose that term: Like I said before, accurate discussions of biases can be transformed, by an intelligent person, into strategies to take advantage of others. This is sad, but it's the price you pay for accuracy. The harm is, however, substantially mitigated by the theory/practice gap that exists even for good theories. I could have said, less creepishly, "accurate female romantic biases", and that was my first choice, but it doesn't really capture what I'm referring to: no one objects to e.g., "women like gifts", but it's not very insightful into female psychology. What I want to refer to is the kind of things that are politically-incorrect to talk about, but are actually true and do reflect the functioning of female psychology. So I probably should have said, "real, female romantic biases that are taboo to talk about", but shortened it to "useful". In retrospect, that was unwise.
Oh! You meant "important"! I fear I have done you a disservice.
Thanks, but I'm not sure "important" does it either. It is likewise important that women are often revealed to be biased estimators of the commitment of fathers they're not married to, but it is the psychological basis of the misjudgment I'm referring to, not its empirical regularity. In any case, don't let it bother you; any poor phrasing is my fault alone.
I agree that JGW demands were unreasonable, in fact, they came quite close to the line at which I would label them disingenuous.
Seriously? I asked the questions to see if there really was evidence that LW really will scrutinize a PUA discussion more than a beauty techniques discussion that is equally demeaning/objectifying. The best evidence I have is that when both topics were discussed side by side, in the same style and tone, neither produced offense. Silas attempted focus in on only the discussion of beauty techniques not producing offense. And you think I am the one who is unreasonable and nearly disingenuous? Perhaps my questions could seem unreasonable if interpreted as the only form of evidence I would accept. But if that is the case, why not just present another form of evidence, instead of complaining that my questions are not reasonable?
It is quite possible that my impressions do you an injustice. I share them only to express empathy with Silas, who seemed to me to be getting frustrated in a way that seemed understandable to me.
You provide important insights, as usual, and it is appreciated. Well, I didn't, and I generally try hard not to. That's why I've now posted two summaries in the course of this discussion (first, second), tracing it back to JGW's entrance.
What you call an "attack" and "accusation of bias" was actually a very relevant query. Let's review the history (again): 1) I stated a suspicion (prior tilted slightly toward one hypothesis rather than another) that PUA bias discussion would tend to be criticized unjustifiably more than beauty bias discussion. 2) You asked why I harbor such a suspicion. 3) I pointed to the flamewar over PUA, vs. tame discussions of beauty. 4) You say, in essence, that my position is so wildly implausible that I need to provide the same level of evidence as would be necessary to refute a "privileging the hypothesis charge". You ask for an example. 5) I show a case where a man was shown to be biased because of a woman's beauty, while less bias was mentioned for the woman, and a following calm discussion. 6) Here's where the problem begins: Despite my relatively low belief in my claim, you go through the effort to refute the analogy and ask for better ones. Now: all throughout society, discussion of manipulation of men with beauty-enhancing products is widely discussed, while PUA, or any actually effect methods of drawing attraction from women is taboo. Yet you act shocked, shocked that this forum would be otherwise, and demand very specific evidence (and IMHO unfairly specific evidence) that it would be. 7) At this point, I'm confused. Why do you treat my mere suspicion like it's some bizarre, random idea (actually one of 3 relatively plausible options) and keep asking for more and more evidence (and more specific evidence)? It's been pretty commonly noted that a disparity exists (since the OB days), and you won't stop until I can provide copious substantiation for a mere suspicion. Hm. That's strange. Is this part of a broader discussion we should be having, I wonder. And so I ask. See how it all fits in? It just seems strange that you really want to stomp out any belief, anywhere, that PUA discussions might be unfairly stigmatized. You ask for comparisons from beauty discussions,
I have already told you that your mental model of me is wrong. Update already. As you have not given an example of a reasonably parallel case, you should not be predicting that I would reject such a case for not being perfect. I am not hounding you for a perfectly parallel case. I am looking for some evidence that I would not expect to see if the two types of discussion were held to the same standard. If you believe the example you provided is reasonably parallel, please address my object level objections to it on the object level. There is no need to speculate as to why I made objections that you think are wrong, just explain why you think they are wrong. If you can't respond to my objections, and can't find a better example, or other type of evidence, then perhaps you should abandon your suspicion, which you claim is already weak. Abandoning your suspicion does not mean it is false, it just means there isn't a reason to be considering it in the absence of the sort of evidence that could support or refute it. What is going on here has nothing to do with my feeling about PUA specifically. The objections I made which you seem to feel are nitpicking are in fact things that immediately jump out at me saying this observation does not discriminate between the theories being considered. It is like if person A gets sanctioned for engaging in behavior X, and complains that no one else ever got sanctioned for engaging in behavior X, when it turns out that no one else had ever engaged in behavior X at all. If you can substantiate this, it would be object level evidence for your position. There is no need to act surprised that I have not taken it into account. Just present it as evidence and explain why you think it is true.
I would consider an appeal to common knowledge adequate in this instance. While some could plausibly deny awareness that discussion of attraction (and social dominance in general) tactics are frequently taboo, an argument would be a sub-optimal context for Silas to engage in education on the subject. Since the topic so closely ties in with themes like 'near/far' thinking and related social-political biases it would be a post that would be worth Silas making if he has sufficient interest and some useful sources to draw from to signal credibility.
I would not. In our society, a man who has many sexual partners is reverentially referred to as a "player" or a "stud", and a woman who successfully manipulates men is derisively referred to as a "manipulative bitch". There are 3,940,000 Google results for Manipulate Men, and 3,040,000 results for Manipulate Women. A ration close to 4:3 in favor of manipulating men, but it seems like neither subject is being repressed.
I was contemplating your post, and thinking that there's no concept in the culture for a woman who successfully manipulates men into having sex with her, though there are concepts around "slut" for having a lot of partners. Or more partners than the speaker approves of. "Manipulative bitch" would be generally be for a woman who gets men to spend more resources on her than is approved of. I don't think the women other than his wife that Tiger Woods had sex with would be considered manipulative.
Seductress? And what is the label used for women who sleep with married men? Something about 'family destroyer', I don't recall exactly. The difference seems to go along with the trend of 'sex for resources' in sexual relations. It is low status to be a female who gives sex for little return in resources while it is low status to be a male who gives resources without getting the sex that he desires. At the other side of the trade the 'player' and 'manipulative bitch' are of neutral or high status but also 'bad' and subject to intended social sanction by the one doing the labelling.
Homewrecker? (I am not at all surprised that this has 4 pages of definitions on urbandictionary.)
That one occurred to me, but I don't think of it as being in current use. However, I tend to hang out in places that are leftish, libertarian, and/or poly. I don't know about the whole culture.
That's the one!
The appropriate comparison would be to a woman who gets men to spend resources on her with an insincere promise of sex. And there is a vocabulary for such a case, though not as a term for the woman. Anyone familiar with "being friendzoned"?
Note that Google result counts on the first page of a search are approximate, not exact figures. On smaller result sets the actual count (as obtained by getting to the last page of the search results) can be close, or half, or even (that I've seen) a hundredth the approximated count. I would't conclude much of anything from the ratio of estimates with such large error bars.
Those aren't errors. If you repeat both searches with duplicates included, and go to the last page of results, you will find that Google is returning exactly 1000 for both. This is because Google never returns more than 1000, regardless of how many hits there are. Comparing the estimates is the correct operation.
Do you have the empirical data to back up your unqualified assertions? Try comparing Google's estimates to actual hit counts (as reported by going to the last page), with and without "similar results" included, for searches returning fewer than 1000 hits. Here is one experimental result: estimated count 585, actual with similar results excluded 177, actual with similar results included 224.
I gave some: Google never returns more than 1000 hits. Therefore estimates orders of magnitude above 1000 (as in the case at hand) cannot be tested by looking at the actual number of hits returned: the two numbers have nothing to do with each other. I do not know how accurate the estimates are, but a factor of several seems to be about right, as in the test you just made. I have also seen anomalies such as a search for X giving an estimate lower than for a search of X and Y, but never by orders of magnitude, that I've noticed.
That's worth knowing. Is there a source for non-obvious things about google searches?
Interesting. How about the totals according to the last page, excluding "similar results"? That gives 899 for Manipulate Men and 893 for Manipulate Women. That ratio is pretty close to 1:1. And the totals were way off from the front page estimates, by orders of magnitude. Maybe this reflects a lot of excluded similar results?
Posting this as a separate reply so the separate issue can be voted on. JGW, you're confirming my suspicion that that there's a deeper issue going on here, and I think we've found it. You see the issue I raised a one part of the broader issue about whether men or women have it better (in some appropriate sense I'm starting to discern). So you see it as completely topical to bring up a point like you just did, because it supports your stance, even though it has nothing to do with the point I'm arguing here. Like wedrifid said, I'm not trying to prove that men, in some broad, general sense, are somehow "more manipulated" or "more oppressed" than women or anything like that. I'm saying that with respect to one particular issue -- sharing accurate information among themselves that could be used to appear more attractive to the opposite sex -- men receive more rebuke than women. I think this is pretty common knowledge, and several quick sanity checks should convince you. For example, go to a retail center and count the number of places overtly promoting effective ways of making onesself attractive to the opposite sex, and the effort and specificity they give, and show how it compares to men and women. Alternately, consider the rebuke you get for giving advice for being attractive to women that actually works.
You might want to rephrase that -- even knowing your overall position, I parsed it wrong the first time I read it. i.e., as "giving advice (for being attractive) to women" rather than "giving advice for (being attractive to women)". Your sentence is also unclear as to who is giving the rebuke -- the recipient or a third party -- although of course both are possible. Actually, you can also get rebuked (or at least disbelieved), by giving accurate information to women (about what's attractive to men) as well. Many things that men consider attractive in female clothing, appearance, interests, or behavior are things that will get women docked status points by their peers... and I'm not talking about revealing clothing or overtly sexual behavior, either. I actually think that the situation regarding accurate advice is more symmetrical than you're arguing. Women are actually just as stigmatized for seeking accurate mate-attracting information as men are, if not more so. What is socially acceptable is advice on how to be fashionable, not how to be attractive. As I mentioned in another comment, many fashions are not actually attractive to men. Both men and women fear being stigmatized by their peers for seeking information that will actually help them attract the opposite sex, as opposed to information that merely helps them signal attractiveness and group loyalty to their same-sex peers. What's different about men is simply that men have much more to gain and less to lose by breaking with their peers, and are more likely to be outcasts or rejects with nothing to lose. The current (relative) popularity of PUA at the moment is likely because it's mildly fashionable for men, in the same way that "The Rules" were mildly fashionable for women a while ago. "The Rules", however, are out of fashion now with women, and discussing them would probably provoke similar rebuke from men as PUA does from women. (For readers who don't know, "The Rules" was a book for women discussing
Those are some good points about the attractiveness/ fashionability distinction, and I made similar remarks to a different end. I'll have to think about that. However, I can't but refer back to simple comparisons of the social reactions to advice, such as this: "If you want to appear more attractive to men, show cleavage and arch your back." --> "Duh, already know that, of course that's how men are." vs. "If you want to appear more attractive to women, act dominant by ordering her around, thinking of her like a disobedient child, and generally making yourself appear scarce and unavailable." --> "Shut up!!! Shut up, you F***ING terrorist! Women are NOT like that, you worthless misogynist! You should be RESPECTFUL and DEFERENTIAL and give them lots of gifts. That's what we want, chauvanist. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go meet my boyfriend, who is such a jerk to me. I hope he's not late ... again." Disclaimer: I'm not advocating the advice I paraphrased for men, but actual successful PUAs -- who would know what they're talking about -- seem to believe it, and the refusal to discuss such cases seriously is inexcusable.

I can't but refer back to simple comparisons of the social reactions to advice

Your comparison isn't fair -- compare mental manipulations vs. physical ones, and notice that "The Rules" were almost as controversial as "The Game". Conversely, you're not going to be declared evil if you tell men they should work out to get a certain chest-waist or shoulder-waist ratio that women find attractive.

Nobody cares that much about what men and women do to emphasize their physical attractiveness, or change in superficial behaviors to be more attractive. It's things that involve direct effect on the attractee's mind, or direct alteration to the attractor's body (e.g. implants, lifts, hair plugs) that produce the most impression of deception and manipulation, and thus the most excoriation.

Also, phrasing is very important. I could rephrase your controversial advice in a much-less offensive way thus:

"Women prefer men who are confident and know what they want. So be clear about what you want, and don't be afraid to tell them. They don't like it when men come across as needy or uncomfortable around women, so it can be helpful to think of how you might interact with yo... (read more)

I actually think your formulation is the better way to teach it, as well. This variety of bitter misogyny tends to leak out in a man's interactions with women even if he knows the right things to say. And women won't find it attractive. People aren't resentful toward their kid sister. A PUA's target audience might like hearing the objectionable version more but it won't be as helpful to them.
In other words, you listed G as well as G*. I mention this explicitly because I think this actually renders your wording importantly different from SilasBarta's. In the specific context of men-seeking-women that this advice was written for, a man who lies about what times he's free can make himself seem scarce and unavailable, whereas a man who actually has a crowded schedule will seem scarce and unavailable ... but only the latter has (or might have) the actual desired property.
Yep, that pretty much sums it up. Higher-status PU gurus advocate approaching G as much as possible, rather than faking G*. It's easier and more beneficial to your life to have more of a "life", than it is to fake having one in order to play hard to get. It's also substantially more beneficial to actually be confident, than to learn a zillion and one tiny behaviors that signal confidence, etc. That's only true if you view unavailability as a positive, rather than over-availability as a negative. A man who can simply avoid doing things that turn women off is still far ahead of the average man in attractiveness, regardless of the reasons or means by which he avoids doing those things. As it happens, unavailability is one of those characteristics women may deny finding attractive, because it's not actually enjoyable. (Note that we often behave as if we "want" things we don't actually like "having".) Yet, over-availability is a negative criterion that women don't deny is unattractive. It seems, though, that the thing that makes something "manipulative" or "deceitful" is whether the behavior is described in terms of things the subject agrees he or she would like, using "far" language, or things the "manipulator" would like, in "near" language. The objectionable PUA advice is very specific "near" instruction about how to behave in such a way as to meet the PUA's goals; my version was a mostly "far" description of "what women like/dislike". Similarly, I could take "The Rules" and attempt to recast them in a positive-to-men light, by saying that men don't want to be in a relationship with women who are clingy, desperate, or might be sleeping with other men... so if you're looking for a man who wants a relationship, do these things to avoid putting them off. (Of course, the truth is that both the Game and the Rules are pushing evolutionary buttons in the opposite sex that can hijack conscious intentions, AND contain elements that are consciously considered desirable. Th
I don't think we have any substantive disagreement.
This is a really good point. Think like reality! Behavior that pleases others and benefits yourself is virtuous!
All manipulations under discussion pass through the mind, so I don't understand the distinction mental vs physical. And, "The Rules" certainly hasn't gotten near the attention as "The Game", nor does it commit the sin of breaking from advice women already get. ("Hold off on having sex with a man" -- gee, I'm sure women aren't taught that, right?) So there parallel isn't nearly as strong as you claim. But that's not advice of remotely similar effectiveness: a) women rank looks as relatively unimportant beyond a certain point, and b) for a man, simply looking good is not attractive in that it does not, er, attract. You won't get approached by women just for looking good; women, OTOH, will be approached by men mainly on their looks. (ETA:) I'm not alleging deception or hypocrisy in those standards and judgments. What I criticize is the attempt to suppress and disparage truthful information about what criteria women are actually using. What goes on now would be like if men adamantly denied that breast implants have any effect whatsoever on female attractiveness, and that they're immoral, and pursued women with implants almost exclusively. (I know you disagree that this accurately characterizes what goes on, and my responses to that are elsewhere in this post. I just want to clarify what specific behavior I'm criticizing.) Not for "ordering them around", you didn't; there was no parallel in the advice you gave for that. More importantly, the good advice you claim women agree with is given side by side with the stuff that's completely ineffective and countereffective (gifts, admiration, letting her make choices -- which by the way does not contradict "knowing what you want"). How are men supposed to know which advice is deception and which isn't (or perhaps more politely, which advice reveals a lack of self-understanding / luminosity / going along with what one's expected to say)? Sure, but like above, they say the same thing about men doing the counterproductive stuf
Oh come now. It'll get you AIs and IOIs (Approach Invitations and Indicators of Interest), which are the female equivalent. (Of course, "looking good" includes dressing well and being well-groomed.) Yes there was -- be clear about what you want, and say it. This is merely one of the ways a woman would positively describe what you're calling "ordering them around". Both descriptions carry subjective connotations, without being a truly accurate low-level description of "confident leadership" behaviors -- and are equally biased. A truly neutral description of the behaviors in question would be much longer to write, since it would need to describe behavioral guidelines in much more detail. WTF does that have to do with this discussion? I didn't say men should try to learn PUA from women; there's a clear and obvious advantage to learning them from men (for the most part). (I'm skipping replying to the rest of your comment, because it's just more down the same sinkhole.) You seem to have confused me with the "PUA=bad" crowd, but nothing I said can't be found in PUA materials. I'm also not in favor of banning PUA discussion on LW. What I disagree with you on is the assertion of asymmetrical bias and social pressures for men and women regarding the "venusian arts". Most of the asymmetry you assert disappears when you control for physical vs. mental, male vs. female goals, etc. AFAICT, you are so stuck in anger about women, that you can't see just how symmetrical the situation actually is for them. Men don't give women good advice for what we want in long-term relationships, being just as likely to say we want one thing, but actually commit to another. And men are just as likely to be irritated when women point this out, as the reverse. ISTM that one reason you don't see this is that you keep talking about "beauty" techniques as the appropriate parallel to PUA, when that would only make sense if women's evolutionarily-assigned mating goals had to do with short-term
I will start from your more personal remarks: What? Where are you getting you this? I've long known you were not part of the "PUA = bad" crowd, and that you're not in favor of banning. I would counterpropose that you're interpreting my disagreement and occasional impatience as hostility, and assuming it carries over to other areas. I'm going to delete the unhelpful psychoanalysis from the rest of these excerpts; they have nothing to do with the validity of my points and only serve to insult. If I'm wrong, let it be for some reason other than "Silas is a nut". Don't speak for me; I've never been asked, and, on principle, I would refuse to give advice if I knew it would be skewed. Again, speak for yourself -- if I feel social pressures that keep me from being truthful, I say so rather than perpetuate what I know to be wrong. I imagine that if I were a woman, I'd adhere to the same standard and expect no less out of others, male or female. Not really. I accept quite well that women usually aren't going to be drawing men in for short-term sexual interest. Nevertheless, part of the necessary steps in getting "shortlisted" for a long-term relationship is looks, which is why I claim the parallel holds. 'Cause it's a critical example of bias and poor specification of values, maybe? Now, for the rest: Female AI/IOIs, by design, have plausible deniability. One can only take them as definitive at one's own risk -- that breaks the equivalence. "I want beer" --> being clear about what I want, but not giving orders "Bring me beer" --> being clear AND giving orders I'll accept that full specification of which is okay and which isn't, is going to be difficult. Point taken, and I'll stop bringing it up. But on this issue, at least, you're going two far in blurring very different concepts.
Especially since: "I want beer" (with a strong voice and expectant eye contact) --> Being clear about what I want and communicating that my mere wishes should implicitly be interpreted as orders. "Bring me beer" (lowered eyes, end of the sentence raised slightly in pitch) --> Making an uncertain claim about what I want, with a supplicating request for action.
A potential asymmetry that is of some interest is a difference in (typical) ability to separate 'far mode' signalling beliefs and 'near mode' actions. Now I'm curious. What do men say we want in long-term relationships and what do we actually commit to? I think I know what I want but when it comes to related areas (what I want from work life) I have atypical preferences so I am not comfortable generalising from a sample of me.
Certainly, it's easier to make anything more palatable if you talk about in "far" -- which of course is the whole point of "far" thinking in the first place. ;-) Maybe you should ask a woman that question -- honestly, I'm not sure how comfortable I am with trying to answer it in any detail. Actually, contemplating just how uncomfortable I am with trying to say what I know, makes me considerably more sympathetic to why women don't often give guys good advice. No matter how true or useful the information might be to the opposite sex, there is considerable social stigma (from one's own sex) attached to telling the truth. (Imagine the social consequences if a woman said she wanted guys to boss her around, or a guy said he wanted a woman who wasn't always interested in sex when he was. And that assumes that either the man or the woman are able to notice this not-necessarily-conscious preference in themselves, and admit to it, before the social stigma issue can even come up!)
(A different tangent to where mine lead but:) No, some things are much more palatable in 'near', particularly when talking to those who believe they have correlated interests. I know women who say that, particularly to other women and do so without losing status and while maintaining rapport. They are less inclined to say it around guys but if, to give an example, I said 'you love it' they would take girlish pleasure and agree. One of the messages communicated is 'Oh, great, he doesn't believe in Santa Claus. We don't need to lie to him'. Really? Guys actually act like they want to commit to a woman who is not always interested in sex when he is? With the aforementioned caveat that I do not generalise from me I have extremely strong evidence that this doesn't apply in my case. (And thanks for giving your answer without answering.)
Why do you think women are advised not to have sex on the first date, and not to be a man's "booty call", if they want a relationship? Why do you think men routinely have affairs with women who'll have sex with them, while remaining married to a woman who's not? I'm not saying guys like this -- I'm saying that this is an example of controversial mating advice that works for "women's goals", in the same way that PUA does for "men's goals". (Both phrases being in quotes because not all men and women have the same goals.)
That is good evidence. That I do not find nearly persuasive. Men are less likely to have affairs when their sex life within the marriage is healthy. They are also less likely to end the marriage. That's what I was allowing for when I said 'act like' (economic 'want'). Do you believe that 'be less interested in sex' would be helpful advice for maintaining a long term relationship that has already formed? I don't deny the possibility, just assert that (concrete evidence indicates) this is definitely not works with me. A relevant quote: The quote is rather tongue in cheek but I would not rule out an element of truth (to the suggestion that without the externally enforced obligation more sex is required for maintenance and to secure marriage). In fact, high quality sources of dating advice often give suggestions on how manage such dynamics for the benefit of both parties.
I think you're misinterpreting the scope of what I said. I didn't say that lack of interest in sex was attractive - it isn't. I said, "isn't always interested" - i.e., variable reinforcement. I think it's the case that a man will be most satisfied in a relationship when his partner expresses sexual interest and attraction on an ongoing basis, but nonetheless does not say "yes" to all requests to do something about it, or has variability in how far that interaction proceeds. Having sex whenever a guy wants to is potentially as damaging to a relationship as never having sex at all, in the same way that too-difficult and too-easy tasks don't lead to a "flow" state. I've seen relationship advice for women that actually described a relationship in terms of a video game, advising that there always be new challenges and levels to unlock, so to speak, so that things don't get too predictable. For that matter, I've seen relationship advice for men that was basically the same, although I find it amusing that it was the advice for women that used the videogame analogy. (And written by a female author, at that.) (OTOH, men are stereotypically interested in videogames, so I guess explaining that you need to be like a videogame to keep a man interested would make more sense than the reverse analogy.)
Got you! (Although even so, observation suggest that isn't what works best on me.) I've actually seen a lot of good advice for guys of the form "If a girl did that how would you react? No, really. Well, it's the same for girls." Once people actually have a strongly developed self awareness that sort of direct empathy actually works rather well. (OTOH, men are stereotypically interested in videogames, so I guess explaining that you need to be like a videogame to keep a man interested would make more sense than the reverse analogy.) True.
Be aware that I'm saying in the ideal case, the woman isn't saying no because she doesn't want to have sex, or doesn't find you attractive at that moment. (Or even that she's necessarily saying "no" at all.) I'm saying that the "flow" experience comes about from having obstacles that are a good match for your skill at overcoming them. It can easily appear to the man in such a circumstance that he is in fact getting sex as often as he wants, just not as soon as he might want it. A good "courtship" videogame may provide hours or days of enjoyment for both parties, prior to unlocking a new level. ;-) (In contrast, having "god mode" on for a game might be interesting for a time, but quickly become boring. The reason "crazy chicks" have a reputation for being good in bed may well be as much about the crazy before, as the bed after.) So, I think we've now succeeded in having a conversation about what works to attract men, that might be able to be found as offensive as the reverse. Let's see what happens. ;-)
I think you're right. (And our conversation has also reached an agreement).
So, the sound bite version is "To get a man to commit, be a tease?"
Only in the same way that the pejorative and inaccurate soundbite for PUA is, "To get a woman to have sex, be a jerk." There's an awful lot lost in both translations. ;-)
Perhaps, I would say that better paraphrases the earlier comments in he conversation than the later ones.
I believe I was in college when "The Rules" came out, so a bit younger than its target demographic, but I recall that there was quite an uproar about it at the time. There was a lot of criticism about the advice being manipulative of men, but also somewhat anti-feminist and representing a step backward for women. Heck, I even remember a series of Cathy cartoons dedicated to "The Rules," with the takeaway being part horror (I seem to recall Cathy's Aaaak!) , part fascination, part willingness to try it out because it just might work, or something like that. . . . and, ok, Cathy may not display perfect insight into the American woman's psyche, but it tends to get the big trends right, or at least did so in that era So, yeah, The Rules aren't the hip new thing right now, but in its heyday, the book got a lot of attention and a lot of criticism, and it also sold a lot of copies. I think it's a pretty fair comparison.
Sorry if I'm piling on. I don't think anyone here is saying: "listen to the women, they always know what is best". Rather people are saying: "Hey men who know what women find attractive, you don't need to phrase your true advice in such objectionable language." Not to bring this back to object level but I'm not sure "ordering them around" actually communicates good advice. There are circumstances where taking charge is attractive but it isn't nearly as simple as "order them around" and I suspect whatever good advice is here can be phrased in a similarly unobjectionable way.
I wouldn't go as far as to support the (absolute part of the) first claim but I certainly support the second. I disagree. Naturally things aren't simple (simple isn't a Nash equilibrium in the dating game!) but 'ordering them around' is good advice, particularly to those who most need dating advice. That class of guys tends to associate receiving orders with resentment and so tends to have a failure of empathy when it comes to their expectations of how women will react to similar assertions. "Order them around" is what they need to hear while the more abstract "taking charge" crosses too much of an inferential gap.
I've seen more than one bit of PUA literature cross this gap by carefully pointing out how behavior X might seem asshole-ish among men, but is in fact perceived as positive quality Y when received by women from men, and further pointing out that it's an error to assume this means one should act like an asshole in general. Certainly, I don't think teaching material should do any less. It's likely that a properly framed discussion here relating the venusian arts to, say the Dark Arts, advertising, consent, consistent decision theories, etc. would also need to discuss both sides of that perceptual gap, at least in passing. (Albeit without so much detailed how-to info in between.)
That is a good way to teach it, even though it is somewhat of a lie (similar to teaching Newtonian physics). It usually isn't healthy to teach about things that are actually perceived as a negative quality by women can also give desired results to men. That darker truth is best left until after people have developed their social skills and let go of their tendency to bury their frustration behind a façade of righteous indignation.
Huh? I don't see the connection between this and what I was talking about.
More explicit: There are two messages to convey: * Some things you (naive guys) think will be a bad experience for women are actually a good experience, healthy for them and perceived as desirable. * Some things that are absolutely bad, unhealthy and perceived as undesirable by women can also be used to attract them. The first of these (and the one that you mention) is a better subject of education. The second is a recipe for excuses, passive aggression and bitterness for people who don't already have an appreciation for the first point.
Yeah, the absolute part made it too strong. We're probably being too vague to evaluate this question. I read "order them around" and I picture men doing a lot of things that women probably won't find very attractive. I suspect it might lead to the audience just trying to be mean to women thinking that will make them attractive. If I knew less about the subject that advice would lead me to do counterproductive things, I think. Language often needs to be tweaked for audiences that don't understand right away. I might be in the minority when it comes to my interpretation of "ordering them around" but it really isn't clear to me exactly what behaviors it recommends.
"Order them around" seems to be evocative of "Bitch, make me a sandwich!"
I actually have success (ie we both have fun and build attraction) when using such orders. But I do it playfully and there is a distinct element of counter-signalling involved (we both know I am not a controlling asshole) so how that data point relates to the topic is non-trivial.
Same here. But this is so context based I sort of doubt a bitter near-misogynist who just started reading attraction advice would be able to implement it correctly. In any case if this is the behavior that "order them around" recommends why not say "Women find it attractive when men can confidently joke and be ironic about traditional gender roles without worrying about being offensive." And then give examples of this behavior and explain the counter-signaling going on.

Yes, counter-signaling is fun.

When orders are given sincerely, they are usually more subtle:

  • Call me.
  • Come hang out with us on Friday.
  • Hold my umbrella for a sec? (the words are an order by the tonality is a question)
  • Would you hold my drink for a sec. (The words are a question but the tonality is an order)

The purpose of such orders is not to control the other person, it is to signal status.

Another use of orders (and other forms of dominance) is a reactive one, specifically reacting to "bad" or "naughty" female behavior. I put those words in quotes because perception of what is "bad" or "naughty" is somewhat subjective. Anyone experienced with young women (at least in Western culture) knows that some female personality types sometimes engage in behavior with men that could be considered "bratty" or "naughty," by the standard of general cultural norms. PUAs hypothesize that these women do so consciously or unconsciously as a "test."

What many people reading about PUA techniques (either critics or newbies) don't realize is that a lot of the more controversial techniques such as dominance and status tactics are ... (read more)

I really enjoy your writing on this subject, it's informative and ethically enlightened in a way that most discussion of such topics usually isn't. Returning to subject of my parent comment is there any reason this same advice couldn't be communicated with "use imperative sentences" instead of "order them around"? The former seems both less offensive and less likely to lead to students being controlling (in a way that is poorly calibrated, unattractive and ethically ambiguous). I feel like it's also worth noting that none of those examples are particularly unusual things to say. Among groups of platonic male heterosexuals of approximately equal status saying these things is totally routine and doesn't even imply gaming or hidden agendas. The only reason it is meaningful advice for men trying to be more attractive to women is that the default behavior of so many men around women is to put them on a pedestal and start supplicating and self-flagellating. So some feminists are upset that PUAs are telling men to "order women around" when really a lot of the advice actually consists just telling them to treat women like the equals they are (I've said it before, treating someone as an equal doesn't mean being super nice to them and deferring to them when possible). Part of this is probably feminists not looking at the actual advice closely enough, but I don't think I could blame someone for thinking "order them around" implies something more offensive than "Call Me" (Do PUAs actually use the word "orders"? I don't recall seeing it anywhere before this thread. The advice is familiar just not the wording.) In fact, playing a status game with someone isn't really the power play our language makes it out to be. A lot of time status games are just sort of skirmish played out between equals. The winner doesn't really come out with significantly higher status, all they really get is something like a tip of the hat from those around them. This why, again returning to platonic ma
I agree. I think this element is what made the interaction mutually fun and attractive.
It would be helpful to have been there, to hear the tone throughout the exchange and observe your body language together, but I believe the interaction you describe seems familiar to me. I agree she was testing you, and the outcome of the test was positive as she indicated by the affectionate body language of touching your arm. However, my interpretation of the test is more straightforward -- I'd guess she was just seeking affirmation that you like spending time with her. I've often noticed that social norms (like modesty) are relaxed among women with men, especially if the context is flirtation. Also if she was testing you, she might have felt justified in relaxing the norm in order to get a more dependable test result. I wonder to what extent generally, in male hacking of female social interaction with them, they're coming up with the correct behaviors with the wrong theories behind them. I think I would find the "bad news" poke you gave -- which, funnily enough, is an aggression I would have incorrectly interpreted as provoked by jealousy rather than a disapproval of her status grab -- more coy (and possibly more attractive) than a straight signal that you would be jealous and want her to hang with you. Instead, the counter-punch you gave signaled the desire to be with her without creating a request to contend with. It also seems attractive along the lines of a male acting more stereotypically male in an endearing way (jealous, and not admitting it). I think you could have also passed the test by a straight signal that you liked hanging with her: "No, don't hang out with him this weekend. Hang out with me." In this case, you would also be signaling sincerity and a desire for a relationship, which may or may not have been appropriate for either of you. If you guys are "just friends", then you could have the same response, but then I would expect you to overdo it a little until there is a laugh / affectionate punch on the arm.
I have more to say in response, but I will clarify one thing: the "bad news" jibe wasn't implying that it was bad news for me that she was hanging out with him, it was implying that it was bad news for the other guy that she was hanging out with. I think that implication came across, because of her response which was to claim that I would want to hang out with her (which as interpreted as "any guy would want to hang out with me, including you, which is why it's justified for me to so blatant assert that a guy is lucky to do so"). I'm not sure if that's why you interpreted my jibe as displaying jealousy; but if given my intended interpretation, I do agree that it could have subcommunicated jealousy, like a case of "sour grapes" on my part (which is slightly true, though not the primary reason for the jibe).
Yes, this is what I understood. Only because a jealous response seemed to be expected and solicited. So I predicted she would have interpreted the jibe as a form of sour grapes, as I would have if I was eavesdropping on the conversation. ("You're going to spend the whole day with him? ... Poor him!" is an appropriately funny and defensive jealousy response.) However, from your description of the interaction, I understood that you weren't actually displaying jealousy and she and I would have been somewhat mistaken about the initial effectiveness of her test. But then it lead to a conversation in which you did signal the desire to be with her, anyway.
I wouldn't give this advice to a bitter near-misogynist (and don't have a special interest in advising bitter near-misogynists, that doesn't usually work all that well anyway). I would give it to 'good boys' who are still under the impression that the polite supplication that sometimes works for keeping mommy happy is attractive to female peers. It opens up a whole new world to them. Because I consider this tangent distinctly different from the original 'order them around' discussion. In particular, I don't think 'order them around' implies 'refer to them as bitches'. (I didn't reject ChronoS' claimed evocation because the tangent is interesting and had no inclination to invalidate his contribution. For the purpose of your attempt to build upon that evocation as a shared premise I do reject it.)
(insert joke about finding someone's root password here)
All the instantiations I can think of make me laugh out loud. Too true. :)
Thats fine, I was just trying to clarify my initial position. Edit:... since the disagreement we had seemed too ambiguous to continue discussing.
Also trivial and completely unimportant!
Cool, I didn't care about it either.
Really? Are we looking at the same forum? Because of all criticisms of PUA discussion, I never saw anything of that form -- most importantly, I don't remember acknowledgement that it is true (just as society in general won't admit it). Those who found it objectionable, like this characteristic poster, demanded much more serious straitjackets: That's way beyond, "hey, use less objectionable language when making these true claims about what women find attractive". Don't you think so?
Agree With What You Are Saying But Good Pickup Advice Would Recommend Ignoring That Frame Rather Than Validating It. (AWWYASBGPAWRITFRTVI?)
Sorry, "here" is ambiguous. I meant in the discussion presently occurring, perhaps I should have just said pjeby is only saying that but I felt like my statement applied to everyone who replied to your comments recently. My position is here. But yes, past discussions involved broader disagreement. I mostly meant that I didn't think your interpretation of pjeby's comment was accurate. (ETA: I'm sympathetic to a lot of what she says but I'm not sure I'd agree alicorn was "characteristic" in that particular discussion.)
I'm wondering about this "taking charge" thing. Does it just apply when the woman isn't very sure about what she wants? Or also when the male overrides a clear desire of hers? What if the man takes charge and turns out to be wrong about the outcome?
The main context it's discussed in is situations where no-one has expressed a strong preference. In the case of conflicting preferences, men are advised to be clear and non-deferential regarding their preferences, without necessarily "overriding" anything. The point is to show initiative and non-wishiwashiness, not to push people around. Then how he handles that is the next test. ;-) I saw an interesting discussion of the movie "300" that sort of relates to this. Someone said that in almost every action movie, there is a woman who wants the man to stay with her and not go do the dangerous thing that's his mission in life. But, if he were the sort of man who would stay - who'd, before going off to war against the Persians, would say, "you're right honey, I should just stay here with you and the kids" - then she wouldn't have been attracted to him in the first place. And, if he did change his mind and stay, the attraction and romance in the relationship would pretty much die right away. So the advice to "take charge" is really just to be the sort of man who doesn't let a woman talk him into things for the sake of immediate pleasure (or lack of immediate conflict), at the expense of long-term interests. Such a man may be too easily convinced to leave or to cheat by a different woman, and be a lousy protector who won't do difficult or painful things in his family's interest. So, the function of taking charge is that the man must demonstrate that he can tell the difference between what a woman says she wants and what's actually best in a given situation, as well as his nature as a man of constancy, certainty, and initiative. It's not really about making decisions, per se. (For example, some "chivalrous" gestures like opening a door, pulling out a chair, or giving your arm to someone can be forms of "taking charge" in the sense that they show purpose and initiative, even though no decision is really being made, nor are any orders being given.)
That's fictional evidence-- that is, not evidence at all. All I'm sure of is it's harder to make a movie about the guy who stayed home, though you could do it if trouble came looking for him.
It's not evidence but it is a good illustration that helps point people to intuitive understanding that they already have.
The person who wrote that was pointing to the fiction to give a point of common reference for his observation of the dynamics between men and women, not using the movie as his evidence. The author's observation (and mine) was that women tend to lose respect (and thus attraction) for a man who they can talk into delaying or abandoning things the man says are important to him. The movie version is just that idea writ large.
The initiative and non-wishiwashiness is the most important factor but sometimes the actual override/push people around part is a useful signal in its own right too, if done skillfully.
That's the part that's really hard to communicate in a soundbite, or really to communicate verbally at all.
Especially since 'do exactly the same thing but be two inches taller' can completely change the outcome. Sometimes it is best to just suggest 'err to the other side to what you are used to'. That makes the difference between what works and what doesn't much easier to spot so the countless subtle differences in context can be learned more readily.
With trivial desires it probably applies. With significant desires not so much. The line between the two is probably fuzzy but has obvious extremes. How strongly the woman holds the desire matters too, I suppose. I don't know if I can say more without context: I don' t teach people how to be attractive so I'm not good at spelling all the intricacies out. I just know enough to make it work for me. You'd have to be more specific but I suspect the outcome usually doesn't matter.
Or maybe the really effective thing to do is to know which type of behavior to exhibit when (so much of social skill is about context-sensitivity); all-out dominant behavior is more effective in some cases than all-out the other direction ('submissive' seems like the wrong term) or ham-fisted attempts at variation, so advice to adopt all-out dominant behavior, combined with the idea that the other sort of behavior is completely ineffective, persists among men who are less skilled and interested in those cases; and women introspecting on what they want get that they want both but don't get the context-dependence, or don't realize it needs to be said.
I don't disagree with any of that, but note that this failure of introspection on the part of (influential) women on this matter is exactly what my thesis has been all along. And I wouldn't tolerate that from myself, or from men either, especially if such advice had the impact that the widely-taught (and wrong) male-to-female engagement rules has.
No, but you are definitely not supposed to be bitter about it. ~1,000 times on OvercomingBias:
Speak for yourself! :-)
[1] Which counts as sexual harassment, btw (unless you're really hot). Only in specific environments. And then, yes, the offence is mostly 'making sexual advances without being hot enough to get away with it'. Outside of a place where sexual harassment claims are an option it would instead just get demeaning looks.
The negative reactions may have to do with the fact that such advice -- and indeed, a comment like the above -- amounts to accusing half the audience of a very blatant form of hypocrisy. Obviously one should exercise extreme caution when making such an accusation, and it had better be backed up with some pretty solid evidence -- to say nothing of the pragmatic considerations of whether there is much to be gained by voicing such truths (if they are in fact true). Yes, lots of people probably don't tell the truth about what is sexually attractive to them. But if you go around saying "women are such hypocrites", it's understandable for a woman hearing this to take it as a personal insult. (If you didn't mean for her to be insulted, you wouldn't say it that way.)
What if you go around saying "almost everyone, whatever their gender, has poor insight into their preferences and responses"?
By the way: Welcome to Less Wrong!
I summarized some of the research on stated vs. actual preferences here. It seems to show that both men and women are often wrong about what they go for, but women may well be more wrong. However, I've only found a few studies like this so far, and I want to see more to feel confident about that conclusion.
An important clarification: it's not the hypocrisy per se that I object to, but its institutionalization, the massive failure to recognize the unqualification to give advice, and the tremendous benefits accruing to those who are "wise" enough to ignore women. See why that might be objectionable? Okay. How about my life history, plus that of pretty much everyone joining the PUA crowd or identifying with its message?
I'm sure you can see that exactly one of those pieces of advice is ambiguous, and easily disambiguated as advice to engage in genuinely wrong behavior. I think that some sorts of people, which I would expect to overlap with the sorts of people opposed to pickup, tend to directly leap from a statement being potentially harmful to express, to that statement and its speaker being Bad. (Another example: statements about the basis of intelligence and race/sex correlations, with their genuine usefulness to bigots.) I don't think that this is entirely incorrect of them, either instrumentally or epistemically — such statements are Bayesian evidence of bad character, for both direct and signaling reasons. PS: Don't be so sarcastic.
I accept that the advice I listed can be ambiguous. I also claim that a very large class of men has been so horribly misled by the official line on male-to-female interaction rules, that even the above advice, in its crude form, in its rank misogyny, would actually cause them to be more attractive to women -- which just goes to show the depths of their deception. Btw, what was sarcastic? Men who present the plain truth on this are the target of severe vitriol from women (even and especially those for whom it is true) and men who recognize its truth, but want to appear part of the "reasonable" crowd. My illustration of the vitriol is exaggerated, but not by much. And the misleading advice women promote does in fact mirror the official line (in mainstream books, advice from women, behavior taught in schools, etc.). What are you objecting to?
And yet, you seem to object to framing the truth in terms that women usually like and respond positively to... which makes me wonder WTF your actual goals are here. Oh noes, people don't like language they don't like, and I am being forced to use the language of the oppressors in order to talk with them about anything. Help, I'm being oppressed! Damn, dude, this is like saying you ought to have the right to describe people using racial epithets, simply because the epithets are included in statements that are true, like "That [epithet] is wearing blue jeans." In NLP there's a saying that the meaning of a communication is the response you get. If you want a different response, try a different communication already, and stop bothering everyone with this low-status whining. It's a disgrace to everyone you claim to be speaking for, and everything you claim to be standing for.
Where are you getting that? I'm not objecting to framing the truth in a professional, reasoned tone. I'm objecting to your attempt to claim that two phrasings mean the same thing, when they really don't, thereby promoting a sort of uninformative politician-speak, as I explained here (and which you didn't address): You seem to really be taking the concept of "ordering a woman around" to mean so freaking many benign things that the term no longer has any meaning. Doing so voids the usefulness of words and cripples the ability to clearly communicate on the issues. "A man who knows what he wants, and isn't afraid to say it" does not, as you claim, equate to giving orders. And yet, PUAs do advise "giving orders", while an uninformed man who was simply told to "know what you want, and don't be afraid to say it" would not at all see how this means giving orders ... because the concept thereof isn't entailed by that advice! While a professional, uninflammatory tone is preferable, it should never delete the substance of the claim, but that's exactly what your supposed rephrasings do.
Agree, some of the suggested replacements destroy the communication. pjeby is naturally trying to force your words into a nice sounding (mostly true) framework that does not necessarily have room for your actual position. That's just what pjeby does in general. But in this instance do consider HughRistik's comment: You know what I think replacing 'ordering her around' with 'give orders' does? It gets rid of politician-speak. You are trying to embed a message in there, and it obfuscates the advice. (And this is just an example from a trend!)
I don't know what trend you mean or if there's a chain of things I've been doing wrong; I do admit that I didn't even notice that "order her around" and "give orders" were different phrases to begin with, since I kept lumping them together. Your distinction between the two is noted, and appreciated.
Consider the suggested trend to be "not being hyper-vigilant about differences like 'order her around' vs 'give orders' when the political context makes nearly anything an invitation to umbrage".
The meaning of the communication is the response you get, and the intended response to the behavior described as "ordering around" is that the woman feel that she is with a man who "knows what he wants and isn't afraid to say it". By omitting the intended response from the discussion, it is you who are distorting the communication. So, why does it then surprise you if women feel excluded, when you are systematically excluding their goals and values from the discussion? You are insisting that your particular selection of concepts is "the truth", when it is also the truth that women describe the benefits of these behavioral patterns in ways you deride as "uninformative politician-speak". But clearly, it is NOT uninformative to women! They know what they like, but have difficulty breaking it into smaller chunks because they have evolved recognition machinery for it. And that is not their fault. And just because at one time you didn't understand what this woman-speak means in men-speak, does not entitle you to claim that all women are therefore deluded, unhelpful liars and hypocrites, engaging in a campaign of mass deception to keep oppressed low-status men in their place with the conspiratorial assistance of the mass media. This entire post was because of "exclusionary speech" -- talking about women in a way that excludes their goals and values from consideration. That's exactly what you're doing -- not just omitting those goals and values from your own statements, but actually objecting when anybody else brings them up. Are you really not noticing this?
No, by casually equating means ("give orders") with ends ("a woman who feels she is with a confident man who knows what he wants") -- an equation you just now revealed you are using! -- it's you who's distorting communication. No, I'm systematically using words by their standard meanings; the discussion of the ends is not, like you claim, being excluded; it's just that you need to identify it as such. Don't say "X and Y are the same instruction because they would, in the best case scenario, get the same reaction." That's wrong, and a misuse of language. No, I'm calling it uninformative when it uses the wrong terms and acts surprised that I didn't read minds for the real intended meantings. No, like I said before, even if you can claim specific instances of women giving advice that (by hidden transformations) is true and useful, it's still drowned out in the sea of advice that is ineffective and countereffective. How should I have known that this advice is reliable, but the (far more numerous) instances of "oh, be deferential to her, make sure not to cross these six trillion feminist lines" isn't? How should the majority of men have known it? Just women, or women and men? I make a genuine effort to convert my "recognition machinery" into something communicable. I don't tolerate "you wouldn't understand" as a curiousity-stopper from anyone, not me, not men. Why do you (seem to) think women are so frail and stupid that they shouldn't be expected to carry out this introspection?
This is the part where the problem is: you aren't separating "words that make sense to me" from "real intended meanings"... which then leads to an exclusionary result. How should you have known that the world is round, when all of the immediately-available evidence is that it's flat... unless you specifically go looking for obscure and "hidden" information? Reality is not under any obligation to be comprehensible to human beings, so what makes you think you have a moral right to have comprehension handed to you on a silver platter? Because, being a human, I'm too "frail and stupid" to carry out the reverse introspection in response to a casual inquiry. I also don't expect the average person of either sex to have the degree of intellectual rigor required to refrain from confabulating, when asked. (My own experience shows me that it is hard to get people to not confabulate, about any topic. Non-confabulation is unnatural to most humans and requires sometimes-difficult training, even if you're highly motivated to learn... and people who think they already understand confabulation and the need to refrain from it are usually the ones who have the most difficulty learning not to.)
There are points in here that have value but they are not a reasonable (or particularly relevant) as a reply to the objection that Silas has made. Silas makes enough of a target of himself. You need not pad him out with straw. No. The intended response to the behaviour is not that. Or, at least, it is not just that. You can not demand that Silas use language that does not express what he is trying to say just because it happens to fit neatly into your own model. More generally, it is unreasonable to expect people to comply to the quote from the NLP guru, regarding the meaning of a communication, least of all on a site that emphasises epistemic rationality. Yes, it is a useful concept but your appeal to 'the meaning is the response' to try to reverse a claim of who is distorting the communication is 'clever' but far from sound. Your words do not convey the information (to women, or anyone else) that Silas was trying to convey. Don't insist that he use them. You are taking significant liberty in applying negative spin to Silas's claims here. More liberty than that which you presume to deny Silas in his claims. Be consistent.
But omitting the part of the behavior that women do say they value, is the part that makes the language exclusionary, and provokes the objections and social stigma that SilasBarta claims to be arguing against. His thesis appears to be, "Most women (and some men) don't like it when people say truth X" - I am saying, "Most women (and some men) are generally fine with it when you also give sufficient information for them to connect truth X with their goal or value Y, and I see no reason to exclude that connective information... since it does in fact produce the negative reaction described."