Overview:  This is a proposal for a LessWrong Pick Up Artist (PUA)-like sub-community; PUA without the PU (get it?)1. Members would focus on the deliberate practice of social artistry, but with non-mating goals. Origins and intent of the goal are discussed, possible topics for learning are listed, and suggestions for next steps are solicited.


The PUA Community began decades ago with men that wanted to learn how to get better at seducing women. As I understand it, they simply began posting their (initially) awkward attempts at love online. Over the years, they appear to have amassed a fairly impressive set of practical knowledge and skills in this domain.

I admire and applaud this effort. However, my ability to meet women is not currently a limiting factor in my life satisfaction. In reading some of the PUA literature, I was struck how often different authors remarked on the unintended side benefits of their training: better relationships at work, better interviewing skills, more effective negotiations, more non-pickup social fun, better male friendships, more confidence, etc. These guys were able to make major strides in areas that I've struggled to improve at all in...  without even bloody intending to! This struck me as an something worth taking very seriously!

I find it alarming that such a valuable resource would be monopolized in pursuit of orgasm; it's rather as if a planet were to burn up its hydrocarbons instead of using them to make useful polymers. PUA ought to be a special case of a more general skill set, and it's being wasted. I say that my goals are noble, and as such I should have the opportunity to sharpen my skills to at least the keenness of a PUA master!

Statement of Purpose:

The purpose of this post is to open discussion on how to construct a community of developing social artisans, modeled after the useful components2 of the PUA community. If there is sufficient mass, the next goals are probably sussing out learning methods and logistics.

The mission of the hypothetical community will probably need to be fleshed out more explicitly (and I don't want to be too prescriptive), but pretty much what I was thinking was expressed well by Scott Adams:


I think technical people, and engineers in particular, will always have good job prospects. But what if you don't have the aptitude or personality to follow a technical path? How do you prepare for the future?

I'd like to see a college major focusing on the various skills of human persuasion. That's the sort of skillset that the marketplace will always value and the Internet is unlikely to replace. The persuasion coursework might include...

  • Sales methods
  • Psychology of persuasion
  • Human Interface design
  • How to organize information for influence
  • Propaganda
  • Hypnosis
  • Cults
  • Art (specifically design)
  • Debate
  • Public speaking
  • Appearance (hair, makeup, clothes)
  • Negotiations
  • Managing difficult personalities
  • Management theory
  • Voice coaching
  • Networking
  • How to entertain
  • Golf and tennis
  • Conversation

You can imagine a few more classes that would be relevant. The idea is to create people who can enter any room and make it their bitch. [emphasis added]

Colleges are unlikely to offer this sort of major because society is afraid and appalled by anything that can be labeled "manipulation," which isn't even a real thing.

Manipulation isn't real because almost every human social or business activity has as its major or minor objective the influence of others. You can tell yourself that you dress the way you do because it makes you happy, but the real purpose of managing your appearance is to influence how others view you.

Humans actively sell themselves every minute they are interacting with anyone else. Selling yourself, which sounds almost noble, is little more than manipulating other people to do what is good for you but might not be so good for others. All I'm suggesting is that people could learn to be more effective at the things they are already trying to do all day long.

Word! [EDIT: We need not be bound by this exact list. For instance, there is no way I'm going to be doing any golfing.]

I've met people who were shockingly, seemingly preternaturally adept in social settings. Of course this is  not  magic. Like anything else, it can be reduced to a set of constituent steps and learned. We just need to figure out how.

Next steps:

I have a rather long list of ideas ready to go, but they made this post kind of awkward. Plus, Scott Adam's post says much of what I was trying to get at. Let's just start the conversation.

So, what do you think?

1 I have nothing whatsoever against the majority of the PUAers with whom I've had encounters, and the title is just meant to be funny. No offense!

2 The mention of PUA drags along several associations that I want to disavow (think anything obviously "Dark Arts"). I considered omitting the fact that much of the intellectual heritage of this idea is the PUAers to avoid these associations, but I couldn't think of another way to tie it together. This idea owes its genesis to the PUA community, but the product is not intended to be its exact replica. Undesirable elements need not be ported from the old system to the new.

New Comment
639 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 10:42 AM
Some comments are truncated due to high volume. (⌘F to expand all)Change truncation settings

And so the Noble House of Slytherin begins to take form.

Slytherin 2.0, after its triumphant remake following Draco's enlightenment!

The skills in question have appeal across the Houses:

Draco smiled. "Father has, um, a rather refined sense of humor, but he does understand making friends. He understands it very well. In fact he made me repeat that before I went to bed every night for the last month, 'I will make friends at Hogwarts.' When I explained everything to him and he saw that's what I was doing, he not only apologized to me but bought me an ice-cream."

Harry's jaw dropped. "You managed to spin that into an ice-cream?" Draco nodded, looking every bit as smug as the feat deserved. "Well, father knew what I was doing, of course, but he's the one who taught me how to do it, and if I grin the right way while I'm doing it, that makes it a father-son thing and then he has to buy me an ice-cream or I'll give him this sort of sad look, like I think I must have disappointed him."

Harry eyed Draco calculatingly, sensing the presence of another master. "You've gotten lessons on how to manipulate people?"

"For as far back as I can remember," Draco said proudly. "Father bought me tutors."

"Wow," Harry said. Reading Robert Cialdini's Influence: Science and Practice probably didn't stack up very high compared to that (though it was still one heck of a book). "Your dad is almost as awesome as my dad."

Ask yourself: How would a cunning but ultimately good-hearted Slytherin commenter get a message they believed useful to others read when there are hundreds of other comments competing for the same limited attention? By responding to the most-upvoted, and therefore highest-up-in-the-page existing comment, one of the only ones likely to get future eyeballs. I read the first wave of pick up materials when I was a teenager, way back in the Internet Usenet days. It would not be an exaggeration to say they changed my life – not for romantic reasons, but because they spelled social interaction out in the way I needed at the time and got me on track to leading a fulfilling social life. I read this thread on Less Wrong a few years back and it deeply resonated with me. Since then I documented over 2000 useful, intriguing or otherwise noteworthy observations of social interactions happening around me – ways people bragged, compliments that warmed my heart, techniques for starting conversations with strangers. I'm now in the process of coding and analyzing my empirical observations, publishing the results in my blog, Less Penguiny: https://www.lesspenguiny.com/ (Less Awkward, as other commenters suggested, was sadly unavailable.) PS Sorry for hijacking the comments, but I honestly believe my project is of value to Less Wrong readers for whom this thread was important, and I knew that there would be little chance of getting noticed if I instead appended comment #630.

I've studied pickup for many years, and I can confirm that in areas of life aside from mating. I have skills in about half the items in Scott Adams' list that I wouldn't have if I hadn't studied pickup.

PUA ought to be a special case of a more general skill set, and it's being wasted.

Many PUAs are already applying the pickup framework to be successful in other areas of their life; as you observe, PUAs talk about this all the time. Yet while I think it's useful to take the mating component out of pickup, the mating component may actually a big part of how PUAs develop skills in non-mating areas.

If you are a beginning PUA, then you have a lot of areas that you need improvement in. You will probably need to work on your voice, fix your body language, get over shyness, become a lot more confident, and improve your fashion sense. Most normal self-improvement focuses on any one of those areas as its entire goal.

It may be that a big part of what makes pickup work for self development is that you are focusing on improvement in so many areas at the same time that tie together and mutually reinforce each other, and you do it all in service of a greater superordinate goal of mating.

Many... (read more)

Right on. To summarize: PUAs succeed because they have something to protect (or rather conquer). The same reason Eliezer succeeded in inventing something new in the Sequences - he had a big external goal (AI) that was more important than intellectual pleasure. (Incidentally, the same goal motivated many people to create many wonderful things, e.g. Lisp.) Here's a quote from his post that could just as well have come from a creepy lonely man setting out to invent PUA:

...beginning with a desperate need to succeed. No one masters the Way until more than their life is at stake. More than their comfort, more even than their pride.

hmmm... so do you think we would need a common big external goal? Could it work if people just import whatever goals they're working with anyway, and see this as purely instrumental training? Goal setting/discovery seems like it could even be a possible topic/subtopic of study. I don't imagine we could find a single unifying goal like the PUAs have. For example mine's easy: I work in a bureaucracy, and I work on stuff I think is important to do right. Being in a position to ensure things get done right takes more social smarts than I currently have. Ergo, I need to get better at this shit, which does not at all come naturally to me. I imagine most people have something like this, but they might be too idiosyncratic to focus the necessary collective efforts. Something like Existential (or at least Big- Ass) Risk Mitigation maybe?
Ordinary goals aren't strong enough. Last winter I became very ill. Felt pain all the time, couldn't eat or sleep, had trouble even drinking water through a straw. It took me four days in that state to overcome my aversion to doctors and seek good medical help. If it hadn't been so extreme, I'd have simply waited it out like I do everytime I get a cold or something. There are many guys who don't get any female attention, suffer greatly from it (comparable to my illness I'd say), know about PUA, but never give it a try. In fact most unpopular guys are like that. Some of them are more willing to kill themselves than make an effort. Are your work-related desires comparable in strength?
Yup. I'm worried about this, and I'd like to hear any thoughts on how we could get around it.

Well said!

I like how you phrase the "superordinate goals" bit. It captures two potential problems that I had considered:

  1. PUA's have outcomes ("closes"), which makes it possible to do tests and measure success. What are our outcomes?

  2. Motivational power of sex might be necessary and irreplaceable.

I'm still not sure if these are surmountable, but I think it's worth trying.

I really like the idea of your project, but I'd like you to talk a bit more about the ideas in the seduction community that you think will be most relevant (I have some ideas, which I will share at some point).

I'll share my thoughts soon, but someone like you probably has more insight. I have far from comprehensive knowledge of the seduction community's efforts.

Looking forward to hearing more, I'm really encouraged by the quality of the comments so far!

Something to protect.

Scott's recommendations seem in-line with a lot of the training upper-class sorts used to get as a matter of course, even in schools (as I understand it, 'nobility' and the uber-rich still get it). It seems like it's about time this sort of thing is getting to the masses.

It seems like the discussion taking place on Lw is not out-of-line, as it seems to relate to an important aspect of instrumental rationality, so long as most of the discussion is coming from a solid empirical foundation.

It could fork off Lw if someone wants to provide the hosting. If so, a name like "Less Socially Wrong" or "Less Awkward" seems called-for.

a name like... "Less Awkward" seems called-for.

Nuts! I was going to suggest that one!


One of the first things you should learn in a Less Awkward class is that the name "Less Awkward" contains 2 words, both of which have negative associations, and thus is a poor choice of name.

(I like it, though.)

"Overcoming bias" has one negative word in conflict with one very strong positive word. "Less Wrong" is two negative words. But this is not a bad thing - Robin would like everyone to read Overcoming Bias, but I don't know if EY wants everyone to read LW. You could use an emotionally-unattractive name as a filter, to keep out less-rational people.

I've had people say they liked the name "Less Wrong". Your heuristic may be too simple.

The simple explanation seems to be that the two negatives cancel out, similar to "Not Meaningless" or "Without Shame". But maybe the explanation just seems simple/apparent to me because those two examples, and "Less Wrong", are emotionally attractive to me.
"finishing school" for rationalists... :)
Am I the only one instincively thinking of Bourdieu's 'Cultural Capital' theory here?

The problem with a lot of personal development stuff is that people read it but never really change their behavior.

PUA has the advantage of making the way you practice relatively straightforward. You go to a club and approach girls. If you do dozens of approaches per week, sooner or later you will develop skills.

It's not complicated to plan to spent time in deliberate practice. It requires some confidence to overcome approach anxiety but you know what you have to do.

If you don't what to do at some step you can go and read a PUA article that explains a method in detail. It's all about removing barriers that stand in the way of deliberate practice.

When it comes to a skill like being good at job interviews than it's a lot harder to create an environment that allows you to spent hours of deliberate practice per week.

A while ago Socrates made an argument against books. The problem with a book is that it tells the same to everyone.

Today with dynamic websites that doesn't have to true anymore. Dynamic websites can show different people different exercises depending on their previous skills. If something isn't quite clear and the lack of clearness stops the user from taking action than t... (read more)

i wrote a little bit about looking at pick up artistry as a model for scientific inquiry here:


A quote:

"Pickup artists and the military men of Weimar Germany, and probably before, in Prussia, both seem half nerdy intellectual, half man of action.

"I could see both communities being a good example of what intellectuals should aim for--they should be trying to be practical, as well as being engaged in theory. I guess I'm saying I think intellectuals should be more pragmatic. They can go for this wild theory, and it's super fun to speculate about things, but it's also super fun to test out your ideas and see how they work out."

also, to clarify, i'll repost a comment i wrote at http://patrissimo.livejournal.com/1387816.html regarding the same quoted material as what i quoted above: "Look at Hans von Seeckt in the Truppenamt, the institution of the General Staff, the war games played by the Prussian and German military simulating war conditions, the debates of the Militär Wochenblatt. To me this seems a culture friendly to the half nerd, half man of action, or the nerd working with the man of action. The history to me seems to be of a military that was intellectually engaged and also practiced ideas to see what worked and what didn't, and had spectacular battlefield success in the second half of the nineteenth century and twentieth century compared to its enemies (see A Genius for War, Dupuy). Let me be clear that I am not speaking of Nazi bully boys. I am also speaking of their efficacy on the tactical and operational level and not the strategic."

I'd be in.

You can dismiss the shitstorm associated with the phrase PUA by just calling it social skills or charisma.

Some thoughts and anticipated difficulties:

  1. Should this be a forum, a blog, or a LW-style "community blog"? I think the LW structure might actually be optimal: there are top-level articles (which would contain advice) and long threaded discussions (which would contain personal experiences.)

  2. What do you do about different levels? Some people need what I'd think of as "basic" advice (wear a clean suit to a job interview) and some people want something "advanced" (how can I make people think my ideas are awesome?)

  3. A major challenge, I think, is when you can't tell how you appear to others, or when you get too caught up in the moment to remember to make a good impression. Most social-skills advice is along the lines of "remember to do X, Y, and Z" -- but how do you remember to remember? Someone who has cognitive insights could be very helpful here.

  4. Scott Adams' list is very corporate-focused. We might need to poll people to see how many of us actually need golf, tennis, and management techniques.

  5. Scott Aaronson once began

... (read more)

I could, but every time I've tried to describe this without mentioning PUA people tell me to go to Toastmaster's or take a leadership class. It's the community + field-tests + feedback + iteration that I want. Shitstorm notwithstanding, I think this gets my intention across best. If the PUA part becomes too much of a distraction I might re-label it.

I have my own list topics/problems/thoughts that I cut from this just before posting. I'll bring these up if no one else does.

  1. I had the same thought: maybe a subreddit-like thing?
  2. Good question. I would look to see how this developed with the PUAs, as I'm sure they encountered the same issue, but I'm not sure.
  3. Yup. I think that there would need to be some kind of in-person component, I don't think mastery is attainable via any online forum.
  4. I agree that Adams' list isn't ideal, but it's close enough that I went with it. If this thing happens, we should pick our own topics. I would indeed be a little dismayed if this went all corporate. And I fucking hate golf, there's no way I'm learning it.
  5. Interesting, I wish he'd followed up. I've had some insights like this while reading PJeby's stuff, this would indeed be a good place to try and find more good stuff.

3 - It better be very focused, with a strong cultural element that says "do this or you are doing nothing", on in-person practice and feedback, otherwise it will just be wankery - "social skills porn" posts that people read and write without ever learning anything. You know, kind of like Less Wrong is rationalist porn :). While I'm sure that lots of people read PUA without practicing it, there is a strong cultural tradition that PUA is all about "the field" and you can't practice it very far without going into "the field". If you don't have that, you are doomed.

I have a long post about this coming up, with a pretty similar viewpoint to yours, just a more general goal, and similar technical requirements, we should talk.

Yeah, this could easily turn into really boring porn if it's all talk (though I dispute LW being rationalist porn, I use things I've learned here every single day). One of the key reasons I decided to risk the PUA fallout is to convey the tradition of getting out in the field that you mention. That's also part of why I hesitate to suggest books. I know that I have a bad habit of preferring reading about doing stuff to actually doing stuff, and I suspect I'm not alone. Look forward to your post. I'd love to chat, PM me for contact info.
Joining the toastmasters is actually a good idea for some of the items on your list. I did so in 2006, and it helped. But of course it is not a concept for all of it. What do you think of the content on LW so far? There are great posts about Akrasia and Luminosity and other items. If you have, i would like to see your recommended reading list.
I'm still on the fence about Toastmasters, I've heard mixed things. There's a chapter at my work holding an open house this week, I may go and give them a second chance. I have some books in mind, but I don't think this is the type of thing where any major gains will come from reading. Many of the authors I like (Cialdini, Carnegie) have already come up in this thread.
Groups differ alot! If you live in a big US city, you have many to choose from. If you decide it is not useful, I would like to understand why. It is - as was noted earlier - extensive practice.
It's practice, but it's non-field practice of a subset of the skills I'm interested in. It might have potential as one among several methods, but I don't think it's sufficient for what I'm after. Inter-group variability in quality is a good point, I should be more careful to qualify my experience as particular to a single group and not Toastmasters in general.
As a side note it might be interesting to note when a group has important study points that you have already ingrained. TM is a point where some people learn to hold and structure meetings, which might or might not be something one already can do. For the training of abilities I do not think that field experience is the only thing that counts. I would suggest to develop an accurate model of how to learn behavioral changes effectively, because so far there are way to many contradicting ideas.

The idea is that intelligent people have a strong tendency to discount motivational platitudes and self-help books, because those sound (and often are) stupid.

There's a book, "59 Seconds" by psychologist Richard Wiseman, which examines a lot of common self-help claims by looking at actual studies. He shows how many are wrong or are actively harmful. However, the book also has quick tidbits of actually productive things one can do that are comparatively minor. People interested in these issues should read the book.

I'll see if I can get a copy...

Intelligent people have a strong tendency to discount motivational platitudes and self-help books, because those sound (and often are) stupid.

Actually, the proportion of "actually stupid" to "just sounds stupid" is very, very low. The problem is that what you might call "action skills" and "satisfaction skills" do not operate using the same parts of the brain that "intelligent" (i.e. analytical) people are accustomed to using.

So, if you evaluate a statement using the machinery you're most accustomed to thinking with, the sayings sound stupid, even when they're not also phrased in new-agey or pseudoscientific ways.

I've found that most of my advances in personal development came after I realized that my intellectual bullshit-detectors were filtering out everything that was useful in the self-help field, simply because it wasn't true.

IOW, if you ignore the truthiness of a piece of advice, and simply attempt to adopt the state of mind and mental/physical behaviors given, you will very often find that the stupidest, most nonsensical theories are shielding you from some incredibly useful practical advice.


I was once told "Believe in yourself" -- yes, in those words -- by a person I respect.

Knowing him, I know he must mean something genuine by it: there's some kind of behavior that he figured out how to do that he thinks would help me. But how the hell do you "believe in yourself"? That phrase is opaque to me.

That's sort of what I'm getting at. It's not that I'm a condescending asshole who always thinks advice-givers are stupid. In fact, I know this particular guy is very bright. It's just that you'd need to phrase it some other way before I'd understand "Oh! That's what he means! I'll just do that now!"

But how the hell do you "believe in yourself"? That phrase is opaque to me.

I take it to mean something like "The time for a lucid appraisal of your own abilities is prior to action, not in the middle of it. Once you find yourself engaged in real-time application of some skill or other, act as if your mastery of that skill isn't at issue at all, rather than let yourself be distracted by assessments of the likelihood of failure, because they are likely to be self-fulfilling prophecies."

You can see why people prefer the short version.

Yes -- I agree strongly with this analysis.

But how the hell do you "believe in yourself"?

Morendil's given one meaning that's useful; another one is, "assume that you'll be able to handle the (likely) worst-case results of your actions, so that your decision making isn't paralyzed by implicit fears."

Btw, I used to think that doing these sorts of translations were all that was needed for self-help to be usable by geeks, but that's not actually the case: being able to understand a piece of advice (like this one or Morendil's variant) is not at all the same as being able to implement it.

In practical terms, the advice I've just given usually requires one to let go of many existing beliefs or fears, while the one Morendil gave is a skill that requires practice, and may also require letting go of the same beliefs or fears. In neither case is the mere understanding remotely sufficient to accomplish anything except a feeling of having insight. ;-)

(Btw, in general, when self-help advice says to "believe" in something, it actually means refraining from disbelief, i.e., you do not have to convince yourself of something that isn't true, but merely refrain from questioning it, just like one doesn't ques... (read more)

Loehr talks about Real Self and Performer Self, that the goal in performance state is high positive energy, whereas in recovery mode one should, for example, acknowledge hunger and eat, acknowledge thirst and sleep, acknowledge exhaustion and nap....
I like this. It's true that performing (not just socially; also music or sports) usually involves an unsustainable level of effort - reserves are tapped. Also, * hunger : eat * exhaustion : nap * thirst : ? :)

...which means what someone really needs to write is something that presents all the true/useful parts without a bullshit theory behind them? Even if that means just saying "I have no idea why this works but it does"?

For reference: http://scottaaronson.com/blog/?cat=33
A quick point on 3, it seems like a general rule of learning can handle this fairly well. More specifically the idea of using your conscious mind to direct your attention to conscious practice of one thing at a time. It would be much more trying to remember 3 things to do than one. If a person can remember just one, then they can practice that item deliberately until it becomes more unconscious. There's always room to improve, but at some point it becomes more natural to do X than to not do X, and that leaves you free to focus on incorporating Y. Advice to "remember to do X, Y, and Z" might be better interpreted as "ultimately you'll want to be doing X, Y, and Z." Not to say it's not difficult to remember to practice things once I actually get into social skills. I usually forget to practice anything at all, but when I do remember to practice I usually learn something (I should consider making at a habit to ask myself if there's anything I want to practice as I go into a social situation). Practicing with assistance is great as people can point things out and be sure to remind you, but "going solo" can also be very productive.
In regards to 1, while I think a sub-lesswrong would work alright, I do think you'd either want separate karma scores for the sites, or to have a separate site based on the same architecture. I don't think it's too controversial to suggest that people can do well on less wrong without having great social skills, likewise the advice of people who are accomplished socially might not carry over into great less wrong advice.

I myself would like to be part of such a community. But I wouldn't like colleges to offer courses in it, because it seems to be a negative-sum game. What would the world look like now if we had a million graduates of such a curricula in the US? I suspect most people taking the courses would do so in order to go into marketing or politics, and thus reduce the signal-to-noise ratio when choosing products or politicians even more.

How can you disavow Dark Arts? This is the Dark Arts.

I am skeptical that we can win without the Dark Arts.

There are lots of people out there with bad goals and wrong beliefs and powerful skills at persuading and manipulating people to take on those beliefs and help those goals. Like marketers and politicians. If we want resources for our goals, and to spread our beliefs, we need to learn the techniques of persuasion and memetics.

This isn't a video game, the world doesn't care about Light and Dark, and it isn't set up so that the good guys can win. Those who employ the best techniques for achieving their goals are more likely to achieve their goals. In a world where good people refuse to learn how to persuade others and gain power, the world will be ruled by bad people. That's how it is now, and I'm sick of it.

I'm Gray and proud of it. Shades of gray matter - a lot - but White is for losers.

Sure; but you're not addressing the question, which is: Would teaching a whole lot of randomly-chosen people how to manipulate other people be good on balance? Especially considering the selection bias: What sort of people are more likely to sign up for the course?

I would rather have EVERYONE know the dark arts, instead of only the people who want to learn it now in order to gain political power and sell merchandise. Sine you cannot teach everyone right now, you have to start somewhere, and the people who I don't want to know these tricks already seem to have a good handle on the ones they need for their profession anyway. Imagine how much harder it would be to persuade someone to join a fanatical cult, buy the more expensive of two identical products based purely on advertising, or put unreasonable trust into a charismatic politician if they actually understood enough about human psychology to see every single manipulative tactic which was being used.
Yes, but a world where one person in a thousand can expertly manipulate people looks ten times worse than a world where one person in ten thousand can expertly manipulate people.
Knowing how advertising and propaganda works does not mean you can actually use these tools in real life, especially on the level that most people interact socially. Once one in a thousand people understand the mind games which are very common today, we are not going to see a wide scale revolution, because very few people have access to millions of dollars for advertising. instead, I would expect the information to just start leaking to their friends, and before long become common knowledge even to those who never heard of the course.
Very well said. I'd take it one step further and say that when the only practical options are shades of Gray, then Gray is the new White. Options that aren't practically viable should never end up in the moral calculus to begin with. Morality should be the thing we use to select between the practical options.

I acknowledge that this appears to be on the Dark Side of the Arts Spectrum, but I'd like to keep it as light a gray as possible.

I just want to be effective at something that is important to achieving my goals. I'll do good with my powers, honest!

This wins the award for "comment I'd think was Clippy's if I had the anti-kibitzer turned on".

Thank you.

How can you disavow Dark Arts? This is the Dark Arts.

I think two ideas from the field of security are relevant here.

1) In order to design good security, one must be willing and able to think like a criminal.

2) Security through obscurity generally doesn't work.

Applied to the current discussion this suggests that:

  • in order to be able to successfully defend against the Dark Arts one must be able to think like a Dark Artist.
  • Attempting to reduce the use of the Dark Arts by attempting to quarantine knowledge about them isn't going to work.

Also, maybe if more people understood the methods by which politicians and marketers manipulated them, they'd be less taken in by them.

Sure, on average it's negative sum. But I have to guess that society as a whole suffers greatly from having many (most?) of its technically skilled citizens at the low end of the social-ability spectrum. The question would be whether you could design a set of institutions in this area which could have a net positive benefit on society. (Probably not something I'll solve on a Saturday afternoon...)

Influencing other humans is hugely beneficial to almost any goals a human can have. I don't think the techniques of effectively influencing people are Dark Arts. If you use them to make people believe falsehoods, or act against their own interests, that would be Dark. Otherwise, it's just Arts. Your claim that most people who studied these Arts would use them in Dark ways seems likely to me. But, if I expect to master these Arts myself, I will still support their research by default. I don't know how to truly calculate the net utility here; I'm very interested in learning. What do you think?
It's negative-sum if it results in lots of people, say, obtaining sex by deception and creating lots of annoyed or hurt partners. But if it makes people more attractive and gives them better social skills? Sounds good to me.
I disagree. This is Magic, perhaps, but at most a subset of this is the Dark Arts. Taking the list as a starting point, seperate it into the first seven and then the remaining twelve. I would claim that the remaining twelve are all positive sum and I would prefer a world in which more people had those skills, although I wish we could move off of the golf equilibrium. I can also personally vouch for hypnosis. The top part of the list is more troubling, no doubt, especially cults and propaganda which are clearly Dark. You can go too far. But it's a poor art that can't be turned Dark.
Adams' list is a jump-off point, and was included for illustrative purposes only. Cults and propaganda won't make the cut. I wouldn't think hypnosis would either (although I'd be interested hearing your anecdote). "Dark Arts" on LessWrong has a specific meaning. The accusation has merit; this program intends to influence others based on factors other than rationality. However, I (and others) have argued that learning this type of material is: 1. a good exercise in instrumental rationality. 2. necessary to accomplish things in the real world. 3. possibly a requirement to get people to consider the merit of your ideas at all.
It is also a good exercise in epistemic rationality. Neglecting or corrupting whole swathes of your map not epistemically rational, even if you suspect that part of the territory contains dragons.
Humanity: Thar be dragons!
Hello XFrequentist, If you missed my comment above, to summarize: Through networks like freethinker or atheist clubs, and OKCupid, I am more likely to find people who win at life and share my values. But I don't think I'm good enough at talking to them. I want to learn this material so I can do these things: http://lesswrong.com/lw/4ul/less_wrong_nyc_case_study_of_a_successful/ http://lesswrong.com/lw/818/how_to_understand_people_better/ and make friends better. I couldn't find a formal discussion group, like one has been suggested on these threads, but I think it would help me a lot. Can you point me in the direction of one?
Sure, an increased scientific understanding of our weaknesses could be used for negative purposes, but it could just as easily lead to societal improvements designed to prevent manipulation (i.e. laws banning the use of certain manipulative techniques in advertisements).
This is a good point. To the extent that social competency is zero-sum, we want to learn an exclusive, secret art (I am sure it is not, taken as a whole, for the same reason that trade and cooperation aren't only zero-sum, but individual skills as actually employed may be). The desire for powerful secrets biases us - for example, toward accepting nonsense from a cult leader. I'd rather instead include all the available similarly-minded smart people (who may occasional offer fresh insights), even though they would also be my most effective competition.
Then perhaps the focus should simply be on the skills that aren't zero sum? I doubt the majority of non-malicious social skills are zero sum, so...
So the worry is that if this community gains many adepts, most of them will use the Art in Dark ways, making the world a less pleasant place to live overall? Then perhaps the founder of such a community should take care to make the community as obscure and low-status as possible, to prevent it from gaining a wide following. The problem with a small community is that it might not acquire sufficiently many clever ideas to become a useful tool for achieving any goals, Dark or otherwise. So it might make sense to become part of a larger community, whose goals are similar enough to be worth learning from, yet different enough that its adepts are not dangerous. In short, it might make sense to disguise this community as PUA. Perhaps even become part of the existing PUA community, whose members, after all, seem to have improved success in other social arts as well.
Hmm. That doesn't optimize for "keeping the community obscure" to the degree that, I don't know, wearing clown suits might. Or if you're really worried about that problem, fursuits.

If I ever start a real organization of supervillains we're going to dress up as LARPers and meet in the woods. No one will ever suspect....

You don't start an organization of supervillains! People who are up to no good will have too many conflicting goals and will not be sufficiently willing to trade and share and compromise. (Hell, even people who are up to good are usually not good enough at agreeing on how to do it.) You start an organization with yourself as the supervillain plus as many minions as you need. And you read the Evil Overlord List until you can recite it from memory. Edit: Or, if you don't want to take on that much responsibility, you're welcome to be my minion.
See also pjeby's Everything I Needed To Know About Life, I Learned From Supervillains.
The most important thing I learned from Buzzlightyears cartoon is that if you're a villain, never waste time boasting, explaining what you are going to do, or still crave acceptance from the society that has in some way rejected you (or so you percieve).
This might be true of supervillains, but certainly isn't true of lesser villains. There are lots of organizations around of people willing to help others inflict harm in return for help in inflicting their own harm. We call many of these organizations "parliament" or "congress". ;) edit: spelling
Supervillains tend to be notoriously bad employers. Their employees also tend to be incompetent. I don't know which causes the other.
But the clown-suit-wearing community isn't particularly likely to be a good setting for developing social arts.
The relationship may not be causal but I suspect clown-suit-wearing communities currently in existence are extremely good settings for developing social arts. And I'm not even including 'Mystery' in that category!
Why don't you ask your girlfriend how dark my arts where in the morning?
I was also under the impression that the entire field of PUA was basically a giant Dark Arts grimoire. Now I'm not sure what it is. But even if PUA is Dark Arts, an argument could still be made for teaching it in college -- in order to build the students' skills at Defending against these Dark Arts.
I think people here don't distinguish enough between "X is a socially harmful arms race but given something to protect it's an obvious good idea to participate" and "X is not a socially harmful arms race".

I want to join this so I can learn how to better convince humans to help me.

Clip Up Artist?

So are we to expect anecdotes of Clippy negging HBs and getting "clip closes"? :P

Paperclips shouldn't "close" in the sense of the metal wire forming a closed curve; they should be open curves.

So are we to expect anecdotes of Clippy negging HBs and getting "clip closes"? :P
Clippy, how much are you willing to change in order for humans to be justified in thinking that it is worthwhile to help you?
A lot.
He doesn't need to change for me to consider it worthwhile to help him. I'll help him if he gives me stuff or, say, kills one of my enemies for me.

Who do you want killed?

It seems very unlikely that you will have enough control over physical reality anytime soon for that question to matter.
I was asking for informational purposes, not because I intended to kill one of User:wedrifid's enemies. I am sure you, likewise, pose many questions here for informational purposes even though you do not have enough control over physical reality to alter the answer.
The information could be exchanged for paperclips though.

directly pursuing mating is low status, let us disguise it....

I'm engaged to a very nice lady, thanks.

That's a nice try, but you're overdoing it, XF.
Dude... DHTP; HTG.
What does that mean?
Don't hate the player, hate the game.
"Don't hate the player, hate the game."
How's that?

You've got my support.

Sorry to continue the unfortunate trend of the comments so far to focus on labeling, but I just thought I'd throw this out there: You want to capture the framework and emphasis on testable results from PUA, but lose the sex and focus on social adeptness. Many aspects of which we refer to as "clicking" with people.

I hesitate to suggest this, since if someone else did I dunno if I'd laugh or cover my face in shame, but what about "Click Up Artist"?

That's almost too good to pass up!

I have a contribution to this topic, and I have a comment.

First, the contribution. I lurk on PUA and similar forums. I am interested in it as an application of Neurolinguistic Programming, which I sometimes see mentioned. The wikipedia page on Seduction Community does correctly describe the modern edition of these activities as beginning with the NLP trainer Ross Jeffries. I have never seen it mentioned anywhere on the internet that Jeffries was not a successful NLP trainer. Everybody in the NLP community I have discussed him with (who expressed an opinion) said that Jeffries was not only an unsuccessful NLP trainer, but he was a crappy one.

I have written up a very short beginner's how-to for NLP on my blog if anybody is interested.

Second, I have a comment more specific to this post. I see a reductio ad absurdum here, which I have not seen mentioned in the thread yet. Robin Hanson has mentioned it on Overcoming Bias. To join a PUA group is to signal to people that you are not yet getting the sex satisfaction you want, which is a signal of low status. I may have other reasons for refusing to publicly associate with these guys, but that reason alone is sufficient for me. I would exte... (read more)

You mean, of the things they looked at, that is all. If you want to succeed in engineering management (instead of as a low-level grunt engineer), you need to read Putt's Law and the Successful Technocrat. This book is vitally important for anyone hoping to understand the social dynamics of large organizations.
This is a different topic. I am talking about social capital for low-level grunt engineers. Low-level grunt engineer is not chopped liver. Many of us make good dough. Lin and his co-workers put around forty man-years into their research project. I have not seen anything else quite like it. The Dilbert principles and the Peter principle and Putt's law are more anecdotal than data and statistics driven. The Sociologists who do Social Network Theory do measurements and calculations whenever possible.
Not being an engineer or particularly concerned with low-status-by-association on a semi-anonymous forum, and having witnessed several rooms being made people's bitches, I'm going to try anyway. I promise not to mistake any comic writers for domain experts in the process. [Edit: That reads as snarkier than I intended. You make some good points.]

Sounds great.

I think the ideal scenario would be if we coordinated with Tricycle so that we could use our existing logins on the new site, but we had fresh karma scores or none at all.

Especially interesting would be a series of "sub-LWs" that one could be subscribed to in a way similar to subreddits. Other potential subLWs: posts that use math; posts on fighting akrasia (e.g. take caffeine pills at 6 AM and you'll wake naturally at 8 AM. That sort of thing.) Maybe even one for software development?

Is there a typo here? Otherwise you seem to be suggesting either taking pills whilst asleep or sleeping for only 2 hours...
Something that I have used with some effectiveness is setting an alarm, taking caffeine and modafinil upon awaking then returning to sleep until I wake up 'naturally'. This is far less psychologically draining than relying on multiple alarms and willpower.
That could work actually. I've done the caffeine-nap thing (slam a coffee + immediately take a nap = wake 30 minutes later feeling doubly refreshed), and it seems to do the trick.

This reminds me of: Art Of Charm, I met the guys at a conference earlier this year: http://theartofcharm.com/. Basically PUA for business/social success, as a professional coaching business: "The Art of Charm is a team of lifestyle coaches and social dynamics instructors. We teach the skills to become successful in both business and life, with an emphasis on social interactions."

Pretty close indeed, although their website still seems to emphasize meeting women (I'd assume because that's where the money is). The material's probably similar, but I want a leaderless mob of brilliant geeks out doing experiments instead of cool people selling a product. What can I say, I'm a sucker for self-organization!

Count me in. This sounds as though it would help both with people skills and with general efficacy, energy and developing "doing" as opposed to merely "thinking".

I am quite fond of this idea.

I discovered pickup ten years ago and also found that it can have a considerable positive impact on one's life. I'd love to see a rational, generalized approach to socialization skills.

Echoing SarahC and KristianKI's comments, here are some thoughts:

Name: I also think this should have a better name than "Pick-Up Arts" - some possibilities: Charismatic Arts, Socialization Arts.

Focus: I agree with your core idea about moving the focus away from orgasm and dating, but I suspect this may be more difficult than anticipate... (read more)

This study points out that if you think about (or have) just a single episode of past success or failure, that it has the opposite effect you'd expect on future performance (i.e. what works in the direction you would expect is to reflect on a pattern of experience of failure or success, then you will have summarized/abstracted from the individual events and expect them to serve as the rule, not the exception). That is, remembering a single failure made people perform better (I assume because they were able to avoid some of the mistakes, or simply try harder, without feeling completely helpless and likely to fail).
I haven't read the whole thing yet, but from the abstract it appears they compared general vs specific episodic memory, and do not reach the conclusion you claim. The particular quote: The study just shows that general memories have a more pronounced effect than specific memories - it doesn't show the effect of a specific memory alone. The takeaway is that recalling a specific example of success is not a powerful self-hypnosis strategy. That is why you need the snowball effect - you need enough past successes to change your subconscious evaluations.
I assumed they had also shown some isolated improvement from a specific memory of failure alone, which was indeed surprising to me. So my report of the article was correct. So, if what you say is true, then the article misrepresented the study (which I also have not read).
Yeah I started reading the article and then after a few paragraphs realized "this isn't a physics paper, it would be quicker to just read the original". If I wasn't busy/lazy, I'd read the full paper and comment on the article to point out that it misrepresents its source paper, but it's not a wikipedia article, so I don't care so much. Happens all the time.
Cool. The average quality of thinking on the blog (psychologytoday) is really low, so I should probably treat it like you do.

An interesting proposal, but you've got an important obstacle to overcome if you want (PUA-PU) to amount to more than anecdotes and philosophizing. Sales, marketing and PUA all share the unusual characteristic of being amenable to the experimental method, because you can try them repeatedly on large numbers of people and get clear feedback about what doesn’t work. Most of the other areas you mentioned are either too fuzzy for an easy evaluation of success, or too slow/rare to allow much testing.

If you want to establish a reliable body of knowledge about t... (read more)

You're exactly right. I see this as one of the key challenges, actually.

I'm very interested in this, and for some time have been working to improve social skills without a strong desire for sex. I almost wish I had more desire, because it seems to be a great motivator, and also provides tangible results, or tangible lack thereof.

IMO, Real Social Dynamics has some very good material for this kind of thing, especially their most recent video program, The Blueprint Decoded. Every time I've gone through even a fraction of my notes, I experience significant and immediate gains to confidence and social skill. (I still have a ways t... (read more)

That's absurdly expensive for a product with no guarantee of value. Admittedly I'd pay more than that for a college course... but in a college course I know that the content is already validated and socially approved of. Whereas if I tell people that I've ordered these $600 social-skills videos, looks askance are inevitable.
It's probably a good idea to avoid telling people what you paid for it, or even that you bought it, if that's going to cause them to underestimate your common sense or general intelligence. Yeah, it's very pricey, and they definitely could sell it for less. But supply and demand, they can sell it for that much. Unfortunately there is less guarantee, at least of being socially approved of. But you could take a college course for that much about something you're mildly interested in and probably won't remember, or you could gain a big improvement in your understanding of attraction and how people interact, which is something you can use constantly.
First you have to demonstrate that it actually works. Most "pickup" material is obviously scams. Most of the rest is horrifically immoral; it's like a training program for date rapists and psychopaths. Some subset of what's left might actually be valuable; but then we need a way of finding out which is which. College courses have a significant advantage here: There is an accreditation process by which we can distinguish top-tier schools from second-tier schools from mediocre school from poor schools from scams.
I don't have to do anything :) This isn't a debate where I take the "pro-PUA" position and then I need to win impressiveness points, this is me suggesting a resource to other people that I've found very helpful. I hope it's helpful to other people as well, but if it doesn't seem helpful then by all means pass it by. You've got my honest recommendation that it's useful, but unfortunately I can't give much more than that on its effectiveness. As for immoral, Alicorn and Anna Salamon saw an hour of it and thought it seemed positive and healthy. (They only saw one disc, possibly the 3rd or 4th, so if there's anything offensive in other disks then that should be held against me, not against them.)

It is an interesting question why the psychological or sociological research community has not yet paid any serious attention (as far as I know) to the pick-up community.

I've been asking this question myself for, like, 5 years. If anyone wants to do some research, I'm happy to help.

The most attention I think it's gotten is by psychologist Paul Dobransky, and undergraduate feminist Elana Clift's honors thesis. Both are reasonably well-written, but I think they underestimate the interest of PUAs in relationships.

Dobransky portrays himself as a Moses-like figure bringing mature masculinity to the seduction community, yet many experienced guys in the community already hold the ideas about masculinity that he advocates. His piece has some good observations, but I also find it a bit condescending.

While there is a lot of support for men in the seduction community interested in one-night stands and short-term dating, and there are cynical ideas about relationships, there still is a lot of support for relationships (every large pickup forum has a relationships board).

Lots of guys in the seduction community have had either very little success with women, or are coming out of a bad relationships. Since the community is probably growing, the largest segments are probably newbies. Once these guys start getting women to notice them consistently, I think it's u... (read more)

I'm in support of this idea under the condition that all of its output be freely accessible to the public.

I'm in support of this idea under the condition that all of its output not be freely accessible to the public. (Or at least, not easy to find, or most-easily found through certain channels that we choose.)
Can you elaborate? Making this a closed, secret community throws a lot of red flags to me for "potentially evil". It seems like we'd only want to keep it secret if we had a specific agenda (e.g. brainwash and enslave the masses). I can see why if we accidentally did develop a method to brainwash and enslave people, we wouldn't want it to get out, but that's not the goal and doesn't seem like a likely outcome. What's so wrong with an open-source program to help people become "Less Awkward"?
Learning new stuff often involves making mistakes until one gets it right. I imagine that if this community was created, many posts would be of the form "I did X recently and it went wrong; what could I have done better?" Making mistakes in social situations is something that many find embarrassing, so they might want any such field reports not to become public knowledge. Hence, confidentiality may be necessary for people to talk openly.
Anonymous != Closed From a few other comments, I think Phil is more worried about: 1. what such an effort signals about members' and affiliated groups' intentions, or 2. keeping any high-value information that results in the hands of the good guys. Could be mistaken, of course.

Count me in as well - I've gained a great deal of useful knowledge from the PUA community despite having found it while in a fine, and still ongoing, long term relationship.

For a smart person it is relatively easy to take PUA advice and gain utility for non pick-up activities.

Same here. Also are there any existing google study or self improvement groups from Less Wrong? I would be really interested in joining those.
There should be such a thing, but I don't think that there is. There is a semi-active book club that's currently working its way through PTTLOS. I swear I'm not trying to turn LW into reddit, but they have some great ideas. University of LessWrong, anyone?

there is no way I'm going to be doing any golfing

Any particular reason, or just a limiting belief you happen to have?

Offhand I can think of several reasons golfing is a good idea: you're outside breathing big air; the walking and the exercise are good for you; it makes for a relaxed setting in which to have conversations with like-minded people.

The main reason people like me don't golf is... that people who golf typically don't golf with people like me. But that's precisely the kind of reason which wouldn't stand, any longer, if this discussion leads so... (read more)

Golf is expensive, isn't it? (It's certainly more expensive than WoW...)
It does have a reputation for being expensive, which is part of the reason people like me don't think of it as their kind of game. As for the reality... From what I know, it's not exactly cheap. But I'm not sure it's much more expensive than some other forms of exercise people routinely spend money on.
It's pretty expensive, and only mediocre exercise. It also demands quite a bit of training before you're good enough to have much fun (so it seems to me). I spend a reasonable amount of money on staying fit (about $2K a year), but most what I pay for is intended to bind my future self to hard work (team sports, fitness camp, kettle-bell course, etc.). Golf doesn't qualify.
Fair enough. If we're ever in the same part of the world I'll take you up on a round and see if it takes.

I'd be in.

Among other things, I'm interested in how social skills can be used to get people to genuinely consider new ideas.

I have some preliminary thoughts on that subject here. I discovered Cialdini through pickup.
I would argue that much of the time it's actually impossible to get people to consider your ideas without some social slickness. Not here, of course.

Mating is good. I am somewhat baffled as to why the "PUA" discussion has had a strong negative connotation. As you say, there's a ton of benefits for everyone involved, and it serves as a successful, easy-to-test model for many related skill sets. Personally I think the hesitancy to talk about mating and mating development is likely no more than a sort of vestigial organ of society's ancient associations with religion. It still seems "improper" in ordinary society to talk about how to get into someone's pants. But I see no reason why the sort of thing like "pick-up-artistry" must be unethical or wrong.

I am somewhat baffled as to why the "PUA" discussion has had a strong negative connotation. As you say, there's a ton of benefits for everyone involved

There's at least two groups of people who potentially stand to lose from widespread discussion of PUA: women, who may fear that they will be duped into choosing low quality mates by males emulating the behaviours they use to identify high quality mates and men who are already successful with women who may fear increased competition.

These sources of antipathy to PUA are rarely consciously expressed but given how crucial mate selection has been to reproductive success throughout evolutionary history you might expect strong negative reactions from those who sense a threat to their interests. Much of the strong reaction to PUA seems to me to stem from this.


PUA is hardly ever defined and explained as being in women's best interest. It's more likely to appear alongside evo-psych stories that play up the zero-sum aspects of mating. Taking PUA writers at their word, their methods are bad for women -- and by design. So of course women wouldn't like it.

I actually think that it would be a net gain for straight women if social skills and sexiness improved across the male population. It gives us a broader pool of appealing people to choose from. But that's looking at benign behaviors; I wouldn't be so cheerful about behaviors designed to put women at a disadvantage.

This is not really true. There's obviously a spectrum of writers and they don't all agree but generally they are advocating emulating the behaviours and traits that women use to identify high value mates. 'Fake it until you make it' is a common idea in self help and it is often claimed that emulating the signals associated with certain desirable traits can ultimately help to make those underlying traits real. To the extent that desirable traits are genuinely developed rather than falsely signaled these methods need not be bad for women. There are also traits that women find attractive which may not be in their own considered best interests in a mate. The classic 'bad-boy' or 'dark triad' personality traits for example. If it is possible to emulate the attractive behaviours associated with these traits without developing the underlying traits 'for real' you could argue that this is actually good for women.
Not all such writers; for example, on this page, scroll down to "Here's What Women Have to Say About AMP". Of course, the AMP people don't talk evo-psych at all in their sales materials or training; the closest thing to zero-sum logic I've heard them use was when they commented on the idea that a man feels most loved when his woman can give him the freedom to be with other women... and that she in turn feels most loved if he doesn't feel the need to actually use that freedom. (Even there, though, they were talking about it from the perspective of transcending the zero-sum aspect, so as to get both people's needs met, rather than taking it for granted that it means somebody has to "lose" for the other to "win.)
Thanks for the link to AMP -- I'd definitely only seen the darker side of the spectrum. (Stuff disturbing enough that I don't want to name or link it.) But this seems perfectly fine. Making yourself into a person that women like better -- not acting like a creep, dweeb, or dull nice guy -- is good for women as well. I didn't know there were actually programs that helped you do this, straightforwardly, and it actually sounds great. I almost wish there were a women's or unisex version. My attitude to PUA comes from reading things that I actually have good reason to dislike. Planning to wrest back domination of the West from ugly feminazis is... not really in women's best interests. Neither is encouraging guys not to talk to women unless they plan to fuck them, to consider women over the age of 23 damaged goods, to keep their wives and girlfriends subservient, to resent women's right to vote, etc.
Ah, you've run into Roissy, or people inspired by him, haven't you? No wonder you have such a low opinion of the motives of PUAs. Roissy started a network of blogs combining pickup with conservative (and often misogynistic) gender politics (for instance, he seems to condone slapping women). Although Roissy has succeeded in repackaging common pickup advice for mass consumption, he is not an important figure in the seduction community. While there is enough pickup theory in his writing that I can't say that he isn't a pickup artist, he and the community around him are not representative of PUAs in general. I'm not going to say that you won't easily find misogynistic beliefs among PUAs, but it's just not typical for PUAs to resent women's right to vote, for instance. There are plenty of liberal-leaning PUAs.
1Paul Crowley13y
This is good to hear. Some links here would be great!
Roissy insn't really conservative. Social conservatives often cast him as a dangerous, hedonistic nihilist. Which he will be the first to admit he is. He is a odd and quite honestly interesting if for many people scary new breed of reactionary who doesn't take his tips from a old geezer in the sky but from good old allegorical god of biomechanics (http://roissy.wordpress.com/category/biomechanics-is-god/). This goes for everything from gender all the way to class and even race relations.
I took a couple classes in biomechanics, and what I think of as "biomechanics" is not at all relevant to these articles. Is there a meaning of this term that neither I nor wikipedia is aware of?
I'm just paraphrasing his own use of the terms, I'm well aware he's abusing the terminology. I think its an etymologically awkward (if awesome sounding in a "don't think about it too much" way, Roissy isn't anything if he isn't a brand made for popular consumption) phrasing that humans are Adaptation-Executers and that judicial study of the underlying "function" so to speak of our social and attraction circuitry gives vital insight into why humans behave as they do while providing testable predictions as well. I suppose Evolutionary Psychology studies a large part of this, however the way he uses one might be tempted to call it Evolutionary Sociology. Calling this force a God is his way of saying all social engineering and even personal planning that doesn't take it into account in some way or another is very likely to fail. Simply personifying this as Unlce Darwin or the blind idiot God has the unfortunate connotation of evoking fitness maximizer associations. I've spent a good ten minutes thinking about the best way to phrase this. "Human nature" captures much of this, but that comes with baggage, the worst of this is the implication that it doesn't change at all over time, when in reality it does change under selective pressures, however slowly. Any suggestions?
Mechanistic sociobiology.
Probably it's a reference to Blade Runner, i.e. the "god of biomechanics".
I think you are correct. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zK7DBo9Ye6Y Replace "sciency" with "popculture reference" in my previous post then. The way he uses it however I think does still mesh with what I wrote. He often emphasises how our "monkey brains" sometimes go off the rails exposed to evolutionary new situations.

There are multiple levels of duping.

Now that the cat is out of the bag so to speak and the PUA game is well known, I've found that many women are actually surprisingly interested in it. To the extent that PUA skills increase unconscious signals that women find attractive, it may have a net benefit for women by upping the typical attractiveness of the dating pool, as Sarah points out. It could have an effect like tasty but safe artificial sweeteners, or widespread effective invisible makeup and cosmetic surgery.

That level of false signaling is probably harmless and even net benefit for women, but the aspect that many women rightly dislike or hate is the darker side to PUA which focuses solely on manipulating women into one night stands using whatever techniques work - which mainly includes alot of bullshit and dishonesty.

So it depends on what exactly is being faked and to what extent. As we all know men have less risk with casual sex, have higher net demand for it than women, and thus women have to be more choosy in finding mates. PUA 'dark art' persuasion techniques thus give women legitimate reasons for concern. (and reasons to be familiar with PUA game in general).

To the extent that PUA skills increase unconscious signals that women find attractive, it may have a net benefit for women by upping the typical attractiveness of the dating pool, as Sarah points out.

Yes, excellent point. But the reason is not, as you think, because PUAs are duping women. The reason that PUAs provide a net benefit for women is that over time, they actually grow into men who fulfills women's criteria. Although beginners start out with "fake it 'til you make it," experienced PUAs eventually do come to hold the qualities that large segments of women find attractive.

That level of false signaling

Wait a sec, what exactly is "false" signaling? And what's an example of it in pickup?

As I've argued in the past, you can't judge social reality by the standards of epistemic reality. In social reality, if you can get yourself and a bunch of other people to believe an assessment of yourself, and that assessment isn't based on blatant factual errors, then it becomes true.

PUAs indeed present themselves in a self-enhancing way, but they are late to that party. Everyone, except for perhaps some geeky people or non-neurotypical people, already does tons of ... (read more)


I'm with you, Hugh.

If more geeks could come across as "exciting badboys, or masculine and high socially-skilled" then women who are subconsciously attracted to that type could actually wind up with someone intelligent and decent, instead of the usual jerks. You're raising the average quality level of the socially successful man.

The one thing I still have a problem with is self-help courses that guarantee you success with women. Nothing can guarantee you that. You can do things that can make you statistically more likely to succeed, but in the end, when you have consensual social interactions, the other person could always rebuff you. It can get creepy when men think they're entitled to a quota of women, and that it's unfair when they get turned down. I worry about that driving men to violence. You can get better at attracting women, and that's great, but women are free to reject you.

If I may say so, there is something troubling about your third paragraph (edited, with emphasis added):

The one thing I still have a problem with is self-help courses that guarantee you success with women. Nothing can guarantee you that...[W]hen you have consensual social interactions, the other person could always rebuff you. It can get creepy when men think...that it's unfair when they get turned down. I worry about that driving men to violence.... [W]omen are free to reject you.

Try to imagine substituting other forms of consensual social interaction here, and seeing if the tone feels right. For example, right now the economy is bad in many places, and many people are unemployed. I can easily imagine that there are numerous self-help courses that teach people how to make themselves more attractive to employers, by teaching them how to behave during interviews, etc. Now obviously no such program can guarantee anyone a job. Imagine, however, that some poor soul -- let's make her a woman -- goes through these courses, does everything she can to improve her prospects, but still can't manage to secure a job. Presumably, a person in that position would naturally feel a sense of frus... (read more)

but it should be equally obvious that such behavior is less than rational in our modern era of contraception: sex simply doesn't have the same dangers that it did in the ancestral environment.

Is getting pregnant really the only danger? Sex can cause the release of mind altering drug that can cause you to pair bond (women more so than men). This can have a dramatic effect on your life if it is with the wrong person.

This seems like an excellent reason for men to object to PUA: it focuses mainly on one night stands and short term relationships, which may reduce the ease and likelihood of pair bonding for the woman, later in life. PUA statistically works against the success rate of long term relationships.

This seems like an excellent reason for men to object to PUA: it focuses mainly on one night stands and short term relationships,

I've posted some thoughts on the orientation of PUAs to relationships. Although many PUAs do focus on short term relationships, most of what they are doing would be the same even for long-term relationships.

As far as I can tell, limiting factor of most PUAs in attracting women for either short-term or long-term relationships is that they are insufficiently masculine, high-status, and exciting. At least, with young women, who may well be skewed towards short-term mating (contra the stereotypical assumption that women always want relationships).

Young men are often accused of being "led by their dicks" when choosing mates. I think there is something analogous going on with young women. Even though in the abstract they may want relationships, they also want highly sexually attractive guys. And the most sexually attractive guy out there for many women isn't necessarily the guy who would make a good long-term relationship partner.

So if you are a young guy and you want a relationship with a young woman, you have to deal with competition from guys r... (read more)


I've seen this idea before, but I wonder if we actually have any empirical evidence that it is true that short-term mating reduces the likelihood of pair bonding for women later in life. My gut reaction is that this may be true for some female phenotypes, but not for others.

I have my own pet theory about this, extrapolated from real-life observations and a number of other clues, which are not very strong individually, but seem to add up to a pretty strong web of evidence.

To put it as succinctly as possible, the problem stems from two not very pretty, but nevertheless real facts. First, the attractiveness of individual men to women has an extremely high statistical dispersion, even more so than vice versa. (In other words, the difference between men from different percentiles in women's eyes will be significantly greater than the difference between women in analogous percentiles in men's eyes.) Second, and more important, for a typical woman, the attractiveness of men she can get for non-serious temporary relationships is significantly higher than the attractiveness of her realistic options for permanent commitment. (This also holds far more so than the reverse.) It ... (read more)

Second, and more important, for a typical woman, the attractiveness of men she can get for non-serious temporary relationships is significantly higher than the attractiveness of her realistic options for permanent commitment. (This also holds far more so than the reverse.) It follows that when a woman with a variegated relationship history finally settles down, it will likely be with a man whose attractiveness is significantly lower than those she's been involved with in the past.

Excellent point; I was thinking along similar lines in this comment.

I think part of the reason that I found komponisto's original comment in the thread to be less offensive than others was because it instantly reminded me of the hypothesis you describe, which is a potential way of rationalizing his comment.

The argument goes something like this: For many gender-typical heterosexual women, the guys who are the most sexually exciting may not always be the best relationship partners. This could be partly be because the men who are highly attractive to women are also highly attractive to other women, and have so much options that it's difficult for particular women to get them in a relationship. Men have l... (read more)

HughRistik: I absolutely agree with this observation. The saddest thing is that most of the "nice" guys could ramp up their masculinity with some reasonable effort, and without compromising any of the existing aspects of their personality that they value. This would make things much happier both for them and for women, who are nowadays indeed facing a severe shortage of men that are both good long-term prospects and above some reasonable threshold of masculinity. Yet it's virtually impossible to open this topic in public, let alone present any concrete advice on how to actually achieve this goal, without triggering all sorts of politically correct alarms.
If this is true, why aren't they doing it? I'm not convinced that the heightening of happiness you speak of is worth the lessening of happiness that those guys evidently believe would occur were they to change themselves (or alternatively, act like someone else for as long as it takes).
They greatly overestimate the lessening of happiness they would experience from changing things. Saying "changing isn't worth it" seems like some sort of rationalization that leads people to settle for mediocrity, even from the perspective of their own values. And it's a purely theoretical conjecture: you (general "you") will never know until you've tried. Yes, you will need some change in your self-image. But it's not like improving your social skills, body language, voice tonality, and fashion sense is going to shatter your sense of self and turn you into a fundamentally different person. You will feel continuity with your previous version; most of your values will be the same, and some of your values will actually be served better. The only way it would be a problem is for people who have very brittle self-images, like "I don't talk to people at parties." Why the hell not? Of course, it's difficult for people who hold a value against changing their behavior to fit other people's criteria and expectations. For people with this value, I would ask: is it more important than some of your other values and goals? So many introverts have been duped with platitudes like "you shouldn't change yourself for anyone." Yet the entire nature of social interaction involves people adjusting to fit the expectations of others (see impression management. Many introverts and nerdy people huff and puff and say "well, IDONTLIKETHATANDITSSTUPID." But I'm not sure whether social interaction works is inherently so bad, or whether it is merely unintuitive given some of the personality traits and socialization of introverted and nerdy people. The goal of self-identity should not be trying to avoid having to make any changes or adjustments for others; the goal should be to reconcile one's desire for identity and individuality with the adjustments one makes in the social landscape.
Might be useful to explain the compromises necessary in terms of computer security. Somebody wants to know something about your hardware specs, so they ask you to run the performance benchmark app "look like a tough guy" and send them the outputs. They're a lot less interested in whatever other benchmarks you might have, because of the whole apples-to-oranges thing. You're worried that it's malware, so, run it in ring 3 where it can't touch the critical processes. You're running "don't talk to people at parties" in ring 0? That sounds like a fairly serious problem in and of itself, of which conflicts with the benchmark app are just one symptom.
You mean, try on roles as a way of practicing them, while protecting them from "ring 0" (your "true self")?
Practicing them, yes, but also more directly as part of cooperating with established communication standards.
I have a strong negative reaction to much of your argument, but I'm not sure why, so I'm going to hold off on a response to those things that I'm unsure about. However, I would say that some things we do socially involve this, and others do not. For example, it seems unlikely that you believe the point of your comment in reply to me was to adjust yourself to my expectations, or the expectations of others here, and yet we are interacting socially.
When you're ready to articulate it, I would be interested to hear it. I didn't phrase my comment to be maximally persuasive to the particular people who needed it; I aimed it at a more general LW audience. For more about where I am coming from, also see this essay on shallowness. Yes, that's what I was getting at. I mean that social interaction is impossible without some level of conforming.
randallsquared: Because the necessary information is difficult to obtain in a clear and convincing form, and it's drowned in a vast sea of nonsense that's produced on this subject by just about every source of information in the modern society. Therefore, a great many people are unaware of the problem, or even actively misled about it due to the prevailing hypocritical norms for discussing the subject.

I wonder if the women who go for "flashier" males make up a disproportionate portion of the dating pool, because women who tend to choose those types of males who are inclined to become long-term mates end up with long-term mates and stop dating?

It's sort of like how, according to my Econ 101 textbook, most people who are unemployed experience short-term unemployment, but most of the people unemployed at any given moment are experiencing long-term unemployment. For example, during one year, you'd have three people who are unemployed all year, and twelve people who are unemployed for only a month. If you look at who's employed at any given moment, you'll see the five long-term unemployed people and only one short-term unemployed, but the person who's short-term unemployed keeps changing while the long-term unemployed people are always the same ones.

(I think I said that awkwardly...)

HughRistik: I just ran into an interesting link that's highly pertinent for this topic. Slumlord discusses a paper that provides for a very strong case that the answer is yes: http://socialpathology.blogspot.com/2010/09/sexual-partner-divorce-risk.html (H/t Thursday via OB.) I haven't had the time to read the paper in detail, but on a casual look, it seems quite convincing.
It says they controlled for a variety of variables but the obvious question is whether families / cultures that discourage pre-marital sex also discourage divorce and whether this was controlled for. I don't have time to read the paper now so if anyone knows the answer to that I'd be interested.
I read Teachman's paper in the meantime; overall, it looks like a solid piece of work. The controls are definitely not broad enough to rule out the above hypothesis directly. This however should not be held against him, since this question is outside the scope of the study, and it would be a very difficult task to come up with controls that cover all such possible familial and cultural influences reliably. Nevertheless, it seems to me that the basic finding of the paper is inconsistent with the above hypothesis. One would expect that conservative families and subcultures discourage premarital sex and (especially!) cohabitation even between future spouses to a significant extent. Therefore, if the effect of premarital sex on divorce risk is entirely due to such influences, we would expect to see a difference between women who practiced cohabitation or premarital sex only with their future husbands and those who didn't practice it at all. Yet as Slumlord points out, the striking result is exactly that there is no such difference. That said, this finding is inconsistent with a previous study that looked into the question of why exactly virginity at marriage predicts lower probabilities of divorce: J.R. Kahn & K.A. London, Premarital Sex and the Risk of Divorce. (Unfortunately, I haven't found an ungated version.) Kahn & London's conclusion was that this is because lack of premarital sex correlates with traditionalist attitudes, i.e. basically the above hypothesis. However, their conclusion is based on a complex statistical model that makes it look quite far-fetched to me. Frankly, I lack the statistical knowledge to judge it reliably and authoritatively, but in any case, Teachman's work looks like a much stronger and more straightforward piece of evidence that points in the contrary direction. [Update: after rummaging through the literature a bit more, I found a letter to the editor by one Tim Heaton, published in the same journal (vol. 55, p. 240), which harshly cr
I'd like more research on the nature of pair bonding, but it sounds plausible. Specifically whether men who've had lots of sexual partners are more likely to be leave women than those who have had few. If so women are likely to be more wary. Ideally the PUA scheme would be replaced by something as well though. Advice on how to gain experience with women and what they really want, without short term dating and without getting into bad long term relationships. I'm imagining something like the following, it roughly mirrors my development, although it was unconscious. Although it would probably be hard to follow for very sexually frustrated men. 1) Find women that you enjoy spending time with in a non-sexual way, either at work or a shared hobby/interest. Do not try to befriend them specifically, but befriend the group. On-line interaction might work, but you will do better if you see people in the flesh. 2) Do not focus on a specific woman. Do not think you want to have sex with them. That is friendzone them to borrow PUA terminology. If you are interested in long term monogamy this is an important skill to have*! 3) Casually watch their interactions with their boyfriends/husbands and the sorts of conversations they have. Do not try them out on your female friends, unless you are very sure they are interested in you. But knowing what behaviours are appropriate/attractive for the sort of women that you can get on with is important. What they react to is probably a more accurate picture of what they want, than what they say they want though. 4) Improve some of the things that PUA people talk about, appearance, posture, demeanour etc 5) Some of your female friends may flirt with you, especially when drunk. This may be entirely innocent, and is likely to be if they are in a relationship. Practice and have fun but don't take it too seriously. If they do flirt, take it as a compliment and it means you are ready for dating. You should have a good idea of what sort of
I agree that men form lasting emotional bonds partly as a result of (more often than a cause of) physical intimacy. But this usually does not exclude desire for sex with other women. If a man immediately settles down with the first woman who will touch him, it just means he really hates looking for such women (perhaps irrationally so). In this case, his even finding one is (excluding abusive psychopaths) an improvement.
I agree, which is the reason that I specified "for the woman".

Sexual relationships are far more personal, and decided on far more idiosyncratic criteria, than employment relationships. There are fairly explicit and well-defined understandings of what constitutes qualification for a job that do not depend strongly on the personality of the hiring manager. If Human Resources is looking for a new shelf stocker or a new receptionist or a new medical transcriptionist and turn down our heroine as you describe, and they can be shown to be doing it for certain prohibited reasons, they are breaking the law.

Sex is qualitatively different from everything else. Pretend I repeated that a couple dozen times, because I think this concept might be the barrier to understanding in conversations like these.

Would you feel the need to point out -- in a rather defensive-sounding way -- that employers are in fact free to reject those whom they regard as less-than-qualified candidates? It's unlikely you would worry too much about such a person turning to violence

You realize that it's not just made up that sometimes desire for sex turns into violence, right? Let's hear your priors on how likely it is for there to be a victim of sexual harrassment or assault r... (read more)

Some things I didn't get around to posting earlier-- Hanson is somewhat on my shit list because he's posted more than once about how the world would be a better place if women would have sex when they don't want to. He's a geek economist, so he gets to speculate about such things, but oddly enough, he doesn't consider the costs to women in such scenarios.

Consent and fear and all that: There was a previous discussion here about women giving out fake phone numbers, and there seemed to be no grasp of why a woman might do that instead of giving a straightforward refusal.

Imagine a world where all the socially acceptable partners for you are bigger, stronger, and probably more aggressive. You may prefer such yourself, but it's certainly the case that you'll take a status hit if you chose otherwise.

Furthermore, you've had niceness training-- it's hard work to directly contradict what someone else wants. Doing that amount of work is a gift which might not be bestowed on a spammer.

And you're not supposed to make the first move, for values of "not supposed to" which range from being blamed if you're raped to putting off potential partners if you do. I realize both of those vary... (read more)

I think a big component of sex dynamics is, as you said, physical strength. Since women are physically weaker than men, they can't rely on that to protect them from overly aggressive or hostile potential partners. The only thing keeping those overly aggressive or hostile potential partners in line are social norms against rape and abuse, which are already weak enough that, for example, rape apologism for famous athletes and victim blaming are common. Any talk that can potentially weaken those social norms then becomes a legitimate threat... unless the talk includes ways of subverting other social norms that balance its effect. For example, I think we could solve some problems by giving men "niceness training" instead of women.

A sidetrack: I think men's physical strength is a minor factor compared to their ability to organize for violence. If the organizational ability were reversed-- if men who seriously displeased women were mobbed by 4 or 5 armed and organized women and didn't have male back-up, the world would be very different.

This doesn't mean I want that world, but I find it interesting that males seem to almost reflexively organize for violence, and females pretty much never do. Information about girl gangs appreciated if I'm missing something.

"Niceness training" has some real problems-- it's being afraid to express strong desires which might be in conflict with other people's.

Kindness training-- encouraging people to actually treat each other well and having some skills for doing so-- would be a whole different thing, and a world where it was common is hard for me to imagine. It would be a world with little or no status enforcement.

As someone who taught women's self defense courses for years (and am an accomplished martial artist in my own right), I think the willingness to use force--and the expectation that others are willing to use force--is far more important than the effectiveness or quantity of that force. I don't mean that skilled martial artists can defend themselves against unskilled but much stronger attackers; people usually assume this, and I agree. What I mean is that after spending a weekend teaching a woman to fight back against a physical assault she knows almost nothing more than she did before, but has the confidence in herself to use force, and that willingness makes all the difference. Men are statistically more willing to use force to get what they want, and being aware of that, women are forced to be more cautious. I feel like this ought to be more relevant than men being more prone to organizing for violence, especially in the current day western world.
Interestingly, this is more of a negative skill: people don't so much need to learn how to be nice as how to stop being not-nice, especially to themselves. I've observed that whenever I stop judging myself negatively in some type of situation, I find myself spontaneously being much nicer to other people in the same sort of situation. For example, after learning not to judge myself for having made a mistake, I find I'm nicer to people who've made mistakes. Previously, I had tried to "learn" the "skill" of being kind to people when they make a mistake, and had failed miserably at it. Assuming I remembered I was supposed to do it, it felt awkward and unnatural and my mixed feelings were probably quite transparent, even though I sincerely wanted to be nice. Now, there are a wide variety of situations in which my natural inclination is just to be kind, nice, playful, or any of various other attributes, and I didn't need to learn any specific skills -- just getting rid of the emotional judgments I'd attached to specific situational or behavioral patterns.
NancyLebovitz: I'm honestly baffled by what you might have in mind here. These days, in most of the First World, and especially the Anglosphere, there is virtually no organized violence except for the government security forces and the organized crime that's rampant among the underclass. Even the most rudimentary forms of it that were once extremely common are nowadays rare to nonexistent, and for non-underclass men it's a completely alien concept. (When was the last time you read about a mass bar fight, or some impromptu vigilante action against street criminals in your corner of the world?) What would be, according to you, the situations where men's aptness for organized violence is relevant for the relations between the sexes in the contemporary West?
Ancestral environment, mostly. Other than that, I'll need to think about whether I just got entranced by an interesting theoretical riff, or actually had something worthwhile in mind.
This isn't the West, but it is contemporary: Iran is infamous for stoning women for mere adultery This seems like a clear instance of a mob organized for lethal violence. The disparity in sentencing between men and women cited in the linked article also make it relevant to relations between the sexes. (One thing that I don't know is what the gender composition of the killers at a stoning typically is.)
I don't read about them (bar fights aren't newsworthy), but they're hardly unheard-of hereabouts. I believe the relevant violence is by street-criminals, and they're all over the place. "Underclass"? And how, pray tell, does one recognize such a person? Hat color?
More or less.
Why would organizing for violence matter more than physical attributes? (I don't know whether men or women are better at shooting. I've heard anecdotally that women are better first-time learners with guns, because they're more conscientious -- less horseplay and arrogance. But it would also make sense if men were better because of 3-d spatial skills. I'll be testing it out later this week when I learn to shoot; if anybody knows data on this I'd be curious.)
From what I've heard, people are generally not good at fighting off four or five opponents. Also, the ancestral environment doesn't include martial arts. And everybody's got to sleep sometime.
My own limited personal experience with firearms is that women have more difficulty because they seem to be more scared of them. An accurate shot requires a smooth trigger pull, which requires not anticipating when during that pull the gun will go off---anticipation causes tension, causes the gun to move off target. The first shot someone makes with a gun (ever) is often not too bad; the noise and force against their hand scares them, and then they have to learn to stay calm while pulling the trigger. This seems to be somewhat easier for the men I've taught to shoot than the women, though individual differences are greater than group differences. I'm not a firearms instructor by the way; I've been involved in teaching less than a dozen people to shoot, only three of them women.

Sex is qualitatively different from everything else.

Well...yes, as an empirical matter, that was the thesis of my comment! Wasn't it clear that I was questioning, as a normative matter, whether that ought to be the case?

I have met you. I know that you are not an awful (or even creepy) person. I still can't read this charitably

Just what is your uncharitable interpretation, such that you would feel the need to make this kind of disclaimer?

I'm hoping you've just been primed by reading too much Hanson or something

Probably. I can't claim to have thought about this kind of thing much before Hanson brought it up.

Dude: People are not entitled to get things for free from people who don't want to give them, even if you think their reasons for not wanting to give are dumb. It is not acceptable to criticize women for inadequate generosity because they are not as promiscuous as would be convenient for straight men.

First of all, the phrase "it is not acceptable to criticize..." is kind of an alarm bell. Secondly, yes, the issue is precisely at the level of "wanting". Obviously, given that someone already doesn't want to give something, then their giving it ... (read more)

How about "it is hurtful and offensive to criticize..."? I realize that being hurtful and offensive is not a reason not to criticize something (see also: religion), but please recognize that I consider my freedom not to have sex with someone I don't want to have sex with sacrosanct, even above other freedoms that I also consider sacrosanct. I took your original suggestion to mean that my preferences in that area should be up for debate. Since I am completely unwilling to debate whether or not I should be so reluctant to offer up "sexual favors", that makes me hurt and afraid. If you had suggested that I might be happier if I was more willing to have sex with people, I might have bristled a little, but I would at least recognize ways in which that could be a defensible position. However, your initial suggestion came off as "the world would be better if women were altered so that they would be more easily convinced to have sex". Since you failed to mention any specific benefit to the women so altered, it sounds like coercion and is extremely offensive.
Given that this is your point of view, it is not possible for me to discuss this topic with you. I cannot psychologically afford to have a bunch of people here calling me "extremely offensive". That isn't how I see myself. I'm not one of those people. A comment such as yours is already very distressing to me. Yet, it is now clear to me that if I were to honestly express myself, this is exactly what I would have to expect: more of this. I stand to gain almost nothing from wading further into this minefield, and on the other hand risk losing almost everything. Except as incidental to other matters, on the topic of sex and gender on LW, I am officially finished. Now, as they say, off to buy some strychnine....

I was offended by your original comment, but I don't want you to think that I translated being offended by your comment into finding you offensive. I've certainly found you reasonable, and you haven't yet seemed intentionally hostile. I don't by any stretch of the imagination consider you one of those people; if I did, I don't think I would feel that conversing with you would have any point.

I certainly understand you wanting to be finished with this topic. After being downvoted for nearly all my comments on this thread, I've begun to feel very unwelcome here, so I should probably take a break from this topic as well. Also, despite the fact that I feel like I've been arguing with you, I don't feel like you have been involved in making me feel unwelcome.

Don't give too much weight to early downvotes; they reflect only the opinion of the most active users, not necessarily most users. I've found it's best to give it a few days to see what LW in the large really thinks of what you said, and early trends sometimes reverse themselves on controversial topics.
My experience is similar. On especially controversial or social-political subjects I've sometimes found an early downvote to be a predictor of a higher later karma score, a far cry from a negative spiral.
I'm not feeling any too pleased with myself or the world, either. I very tentatively suggest that this sort of discussion is made more awful than necessary (for all participants) to the extent that they think it's urgent to convince other people faster than one can reasonably expect for them to be convinced.
Kompo not being willing to discuss this 'minefield' of a topic on LW which is an indicator that other people will be similarly discouraged. If he and people like him aren't able to participate in the conversation we lose valuable perspective. I know, lets create another site where people like kompo will feel free to contribute!
Is someone stopping you? What obstacle to your progress can I remove so I can stop seeing complaints about it?
There is no complaint here. I am taking the opportunity to encourage XFrequentist to follow through with his proposal. I get the impression that he or she is better suited to the social engineering required to make the system a success. Since XFrequentist has actually made moves to test for support and interest he or she seems like the perfect person to take the lead here. I would, of course, be willing and able to provide technical support and hosting. This is what this whole post was about. The tangent is, Cthulu forbid, interjecting something on topic.
Because it now is the case that sex is qualitatively different from everything else, attempts to make it be not so or create a norm that it be not so now impinge on the current, existent feelings of people (esp. women) who think about sex as how it now is. In other words: Sexuality's differences from other things, if respected, are self-supporting. It opposes these features to try to alter them. Failing to respect sexual rules in these, among other, ways is Very Bad. How about "it makes me afraid when people criticize"? Or is that irrelevant? I am very good at getting people to give me presents. This ability is only targetable to a certain point, but it is partly under my control. Supposing, probably inaccurately, that I could scale up this capacity indefinitely - not stealing things I wanted, but just acting in such a way that encouraged people to give them to me significantly more than they'd otherwise be inclined - there are things it would be unethical for me to try to get in this way. I shouldn't encourage people to spend beyond their means, for example. I shouldn't encourage them to give me things that they need for themselves. I shouldn't encourage them to give me things that I only want a little bit that they have much stronger interests in. Even if their means are limited by choice, or their need for the needed object is evitable, or their reason for strongly valuing the prized possession is really stupid. If I find myself tempted to seek gifts of such things, the correct place to solve the "problem" is in my excessive interest in owning stuff that belongs to others.

In other words: Sexuality's differences from other things, if respected, are self-supporting. It opposes these features to try to alter them. Failing to respect sexual rules in these, among other, ways is Very Bad.

This sounds suspicious to me -- a bit too Fully General. It seems that you could similarly Engrave In Stone For All Time any set of currently existing norms this way.

I'll have to think about this more to determine the extent to which I agree.

How about "it makes me afraid when people criticize"?

That's certainly better and more specific -- and would naturally prompt the followup: "afraid of what?"

I don't think it's as fully general as all that. Most norm sets don't have as their first rule that You Do Not Question The Norm Set. If they have such rules, it's rarely with the historical context of the rule being there to protect against horrific crimes. I'm afraid of not at least trying to nip things in this family of thoughts in the bud. I'm afraid I'll be raped by a guy with expensive lawyers who will use anything I've publicly stated that they possibly can twist into making me look like a slut who deserved it. I'm afraid I'll say something ambiguous and be misunderstood and justify, in someone's mind, some hurt. I'm afraid that if I check my fear, I'll overshoot, and I'll wind up ever so reasonably agreeing with something that can be made to justify attacks on my friends, myself, and others, past and future. I'm afraid that if I bring in my personal history or that of my friends, the ever-so-reasonable attack dogs on this website will demand that I provide details that are no one's business, pick apart the possible motivations of the villains and sympathize with them, and speculate about the participation of the victims. I'm afraid that if I don't make it personal, I'll look like I'm talking out of my ass. I'm afraid to have conversations about this with people who don't start by agreeing to the rules of engagement that may help keep me and people I care about safe.
Actually, my sense is the opposite: that most norm sets do have this rule. (The first of the infamous Ten Commandments might easily be interpreted this way, for example.) And rules are nearly always justified by the supposition that something Bad would happen if they weren't enforced. So I remain unconvinced, for the moment. As for the rest, I'm not sure I'm clever enough to come up with a set of words that will simultaneously communicate to you my disagreement and benignity. So, at least for now, I shan't try.
Dude, saying this (or a simpler permutation thereof) would have helped me so many times in so many of my relationships. I really wish I'd learned that a kiss on the forehead and saying "Never mind, let's go bake brownies" is a much better response than two paragraphs of autistic complex-compound sentences explaining how what I'd said was reasonable but how the other's interpretation was also reasonable given the context. Such paragraphs went half-ignored and were translated as defensive self-justifying and blame-shifting moves. It was so annoying for so long, and I didn't update until like two weeks ago. Normal people don't care about detailed explanations of the motivations behind what you say, they care about the imagined motivations behind what people would say in epistemic and emotional positions that are roughly similar to what they imagine to be yours. This leads to lots of confusion and frustration for the literal-minded.
Well said. You nailed the point and gave me a good belly laugh. I think people familiar with ev psych tend to over-estimate the actual differences between the sexes. They certainly exist, but cultural conditioning and supply and demand effects magnify them into gender roles.
Why is it then that the most vocal critics of pornography and prostitution are generally women? Women seem to treat porn stars and prostitutes (and to some extent 'sluts') as scabs. Ongoing efforts are made to make pornography and prostitution illegal for the same underlying reasons that any cartel attempts to use the government to increase individual members' profits by reducing competition.

I agree -- but also take note that it seems that a large portion of those advocating for sex workers' rights are women.

Because both industries are full of abuse that is mostly directed at women, which fact has been turned into general condemnation of sex work instead of specific address of the factors that directly precipitate said abuse. "Horn effect" (opposite of halo effect) probably bears some responsibility for the extension of this criticism to harmless subtypes of porn/sex work, such as animated pornography which plausibly never leads to abuse of its (voice) actors.
What exactly do you mean by "full of abuse" and how do you quantify it? I have some friends who worked in that industry, and it has more gender equality than most others - such as almost any of the high tech sectors. Female actresses are paid far more on average and women are fairly heavily involved in the business side now as well. It's not all peaches and roses of course. But I suspect that most of the image of 'women being abused' is based on some hard preconceptions one brings in - namely that pornography is inherently wrong in the first place. If you start with that assumption, it will only be reinforced.
I have no direct personal experience with the production of porn or prostitution. Various blogs I read produce statistics about sex work indicating that prostitutes are commonly abused by clients, pimps, police, etc. I'm sure there's plenty of live action porn that's entirely on the up-and-up, and I'm glad your friends found that to be their experience; however, I have heard from people whose information I'm not confident in dismissing that porn participants are not overwhelmingly willing and uncoerced. (I have the impression that coercion is more prevalent in niches like bestiality porn than in mainstream stuff; and I'm told by people who would know such things that hard BDSM productions go to considerable length to prove their consensuality.)
While there definitely is some overlap between prostitution and porn, they are completely different industries separated by the legal divide. When a girl shows up on a porn set, she has undoubtedly given consent - and would typically sign a contract. As porn production companies can operate legally it is just completely against their interests to break the law - especially considering that their end product is video evidence. In the modern era there is no shortage of attractive young women all too willing to perform all kinds of sex acts on camera. There are certainly incidents where girls are tricked into doing additional acts they didn't sign for, but there is a huge legal risk to that which you need to consider. You site strong reasons why BSDM productions go to great lengths to show evidence of consent (typically an interview with the actress that goes into details about the subsequent sex acts) - and these are factors which act as massive dis-incentives to coercion. Prostitution on the other hand is actually illegal, and because anyone partaking in it is already breaking the law it attracts a criminal element and is considerably more dangerous for all parties involved. You can't really compare the two in terms of safety.
There's a big difference between something being consensual and something being non-abusive. Just because an actress signs a contract doesn't mean that she won't be abused, even if the contract holder never violates the letter or the spirit of the contract. It's pretty common in many professions for bosses to abuse their workers in many different ways; the claim is that it is more common and more severe in sex industries. Like Alicorn, I'm glad that your friends didn't have those experiences, but I'm also under the impression that their experiences are not representative of the norm. Also, you assume that prostitution is illegal; one of the best arguments for legalizing it is that it seems to significantly reduce the amount of abuse. That doesn't mean that there isn't a culture of abuse even in jurisdictions where prostitution is legal, just that there are more recourses to fighting it so that it is lessened.
I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around this - what do you exactly consider 'abuse' in the context of pornography? Surely not the sex acts themselves, as they are legalized b contractual consent - part of the job. Do you mean verbal abuse? Perhaps there is a lower standard for that in pornography, but to be honest from my understanding you will find more verbal abuse in the regular film industry. And like the film industry, porn is largely built around small companies and many independent agents. At a larger production company the regular workplace rules would apply - sexual and non-sexual harrassement and all that. But there are other notions of abuse. What about a producer who imports foreign girls for porn who speak poor english and provides them with a nice place to live and drugs? Sounds like a pimp, and yet life is never black and white, as there are plenty of young girls who think this is a fine idea and much more fun than being a strugglin waitress. But I guess the drug part of those situations is illegal. As prostitution is actually illegal, it can attract criminal elements and there you certainly have issues with other criminal behaviour - assault and other forms of actual illegal abuse. I believe these types of criminal incidents are rare in pornography because of it's legal legitimacy.
Contracts rarely discuss tenets of human decency. Whether you work in a cubicle, behind a cash register, or in front of a camera, you can have a boss and co-workers that treat you like garbage. I consider being perpetually insulted, looked down upon and laughed at a form of abuse, and am under the impression that these things are much worse in the porn industry than they are in more "respectable" industries. I am also under the impression that more physical forms of abuse, like manhandling, that still fall short of assault, are also much more common. I think the power dynamics are different in the non-adult film industry in such a way as to make it unlikely to be worse than the adult film industry. I know two people in different parts of the film industry, and while they've had negative experiences, none of the situations they've dealt with seem like they wouldn't have been exacerbated in an adult film environment. Also it seems like the rate and severity of sexual abuse would almost certainly be worse in porn. I imagine that you are correct in speculating that larger studios deal with less of this, but I certainly don't know.
Indecent is an account of ten years in the sex trade-- the author's experience sounds as though it's between what you describe and what Jacob describes-- bad (mostly because of obnoxious clients) but not horrendous.
Amazon's first pages look interesting - any chance you have an e-copy? Bittorrent is proving useless.
Google has most of the book-- all but the last two chapters. I have a paper copy. Her Sex and Bacon: Why I Love Things that Are Very, Very Bad for Me is likewise amazing. The most surprising essay-- she talks about the bacon deficiency economy in which restaurants never give you enough bacon, so she cooks and eats four pounds of bacon to be sure she has enough-- used to be online, but doesn't seem to be there any more. I will tentatively recommend her books to any of the men here who can't seem to figure out why things keep blowing up when they write about sex, since it seems to me that they have a blank spot in their model of the universe about women having desires and making choices. She's quite emphatic about the inside of her head. I'm making massive efforts not to blame the guys-- I have some scary blind spots myself, including one that I was at least past 35 before I realized I had. It turned out that I believed women had emotions and men had desires. That is, I believed men wanted things and women had reactions to getting or not getting what they wanted. What clued me into the blind spot was noticing that men had facial expressions which seemed to indicate emotional reactions, and that I was surprised by this. Possibly relevant: I was born in 1953-- I hope things were more stereotyped then than they are now, but I don't think things have completely changed.
Since I made the comment that initiated this latest mini-flare-up, I feel the need to make it clear that I am not myself in that category. I see the non-alignment of desires among humans as a general problem, of which the sex issues discussed above are merely one particular manifestation. I had actually gotten the impression that you were older than is typical here; and on thinking about it, I suspect it had to do with your first name (which was a lot more popular at around that time than 20-40 years later).
Grasping that non-alignment is a general problem is an important start, but I don't think it's the same as understanding what a specific non-alignment is.
It looks like p. 28-333 are not included.
Apologies-- I trusted that the chapter links in the drop-down menu meant the chapters were there.
Old comments, but I used to know the author and I feel I should pimp for her - pardon the pun.
It seems to me that when people advocate further criminalizing sex work on this basis they are either dissembling (in the way advocates for professional licensing dissemble that it is about 'protecting consumers' because it is more effective than admitting they are trying to protect their own interests) or simply horribly misguided in how best to address the (genuine) problems you describe.
I'm sympathetic, but I wonder if you're jumping to the "godshatter" conclusion too quickly in re: promiscuity. "Godshatter" is a fairly strong claim to make about a piece of psychology; for one thing, it would seem to require human universality. But there are cultures with much more promiscuous female sexuality than the anglosphere.
I've met people who don't like candy. Does that mean that taste for sweets isn't a manifestation of the adaptation execution for seeking high-energy food?

I've met people who don't like candy. Does that mean that taste for sweets isn't a manifestation of the adaptation execution for seeking high-energy food?

Ever met somebody who doesn't like sugar at all?

More seriously,

(1) Claiming that the preferences of female westerners living circa 2010 about sex, are all or mostly innate, is a huge claim - and probably false.

(2) Even if true, it's not clear that innate preferences are automatically ethically unquestionable (more technically, two terminal values may conflict). For example, as someone who has a wonderful relationship with their stepfather, I'm very glad he isn't hung up on the fact that we're genetically unrelated. Most humans care a lot about that.

(3) You still leave yourself open to a nice symmetrical reductio where I mention some nasty male preference about sex, and then play my "godshatter" trump card. I agree with kompo that that argument is way too Fully General.

I will also agree with you that criticizing the preferences of a gender or of an individual, has political & social consequences that are potentially ugly. I suggest that this means we need to work harder conversationally, not ban or severely circumscribe the topic.

I'm exiting this thread now.
Have you met a culture that doesn't like candy?
I haven't met many cultures.

I wonder if it's time someone made the bound-to-be-controversial suggestion that women in modern society are excessively conservative when it comes to granting sexual favors.

That's as silly as suggesting that men should be more conservative in granting those favors.

I rather liked the rest of your comment (even though I likely would find your hypothetical job seeker a bit creepy), but this part struck me as nonsensical... why suggest that any group of people modify their tastes to suit some other group of people? (I suppose racism and sexism might be exceptions, but even so... it still seems the appropriate solution to such things is just to find people with better taste!)

OTOH, if what you really meant was, "people (of either gender) should be more sympathetic/less judgmental to the plight of the unattractive (of either gender)", then sure, that makes sense.

They should—they should not force those "favors" on women who don't want them. That would probably help women be less anxious about granting the wrong sexual favor to the wrong person. I'm pretty sure normal, non-socially-stunted people already do this in their own private environments, access to which is a privilege.
Ok, you have put the suggestion out there, it was indeed controversial, you received some criticism, but apparently no hit to your karma for suggesting it. Isn't it time now for you to flesh out just what it is you mean? "Excessively conservative" by what standard, and who or what makes that kind of standard? The phrase "granting sexual favors". Was that phrase just a convenient euphemism, or do you think that "granting favors" is the right framework for this discussion? (Surely, after all, the world might be a better place if we all did more favors for each other, but it seemed as if you were calling for one small segment of humanity - young, attractive single women to provide the favors, presumably for the benefit of a different small segment. You didn't mention any favors flowing in any other direction. Perhaps now might be the time to mention them.) Also, you might clarify that bit about: You see, I notice unattractive men getting married every day, and then going on to have children. Their wives don't seem to be having nightmares about it. That is the kind of thing you meant by "mating", isn't it? Or, if you are using "mating" to refer to some other behavior, and you want to continue to use that word to exclude the kind of mating I mentioned, please explain why your usage is the correct one.
As I indicated here (final paragraph), I do not currently feel that my further discussion of this topic would be worthwhile. In other words, I wondered if it was time to make that suggestion, and the answer came back: no.
Ok, your call, of course. Just to throw in my own two cents as to when it might be time: Social norms change all the time, but they do so slowly, on a time scale of generations. I am unsure what causes such changes but it seems unlikely to me that a change in female sexual mores could be triggered by a discussion on a male-dominated rational discussion group. Furthermore, regardless of what triggers the change, the actual mechanism by which this kind of change becomes widespread is that some adventuresome soul tries it and comes back to report to her peers that it was safe, it was pleasant, it was actually kind of fun. In other words, to promote the kind of change you are seeking, you need to talk to men, not women.
A job applicant who seems likely to resent being turned down will appear creepy to potential employers. Men do the same sort of thing. Really. Hunt around a little for examples of fat-bashing. The only gender difference I can see is that a significant proportion of men [1] are apt to verbally attack unattractive women just for existing, while women are more apt to wait for a pass to be made by an unattractive man. Is there anything in PUA about what sets off the "creepy guy-- I don't want to be anywhere near him" response as distinct from mere "not sexually interested"? I'm not talking about "less than optimally attractive", and your phrasing it that way strikes me as dishonest arguing. The vast majority of women have children with less than optimally attractive men. [1] It may well be under 5% of men who do that sort of thing-- it's still apt to be quite a buzz-kill for women on the receiving end of it.

Men do the same sort of thing. Really. Hunt around a little for examples of fat-bashing.

I think this is actually an example of the sort of double standard that komponisto is talking about.

It's a pretty mainstream view that the fact that men find overweight women unattractive is either a problem with individual men's judgement (excessive focus on physical appearance over other attributes, unrealistic expectations for a partner's physical appearance etc.) or some kind of wider problem with society focusing on unrealistic or unrepresentative examples of physical beauty ('anorexic' models and actresses etc.).

While probably not a majority view, it seems to me that it is far more common to see this view expressed and this issue discussed in the media than the view that men who are generally perceived as unattractive by women are victims of either a problem with the judgement of individual women or a problem with the ideals of male attractiveness promoted by society or the media.

The only gender difference I can see is that a significant proportion of men [1] are apt to verbally attack unattractive women just for existing, while women are more apt to wait for a pass to be made by an

... (read more)
My personal experience is of harassment at school by girls, to a large extent for being short and for having feet that turned out. Later, I've been subject to some street harassment, but not a lot as such things go. And not enough to generally affect my experience of being out of doors. Weirdly, the worst was from a neighbor kid who looked like she was about five. I've had more harassment about my weight from my mother than from the general public. My take on what fat women in general have to put up with is from reading a lot of fat-acceptance material. My impression is that mean girls at school are much more likely to go after other girls than boys, but I could well be mistaken.
NancyLebovitz: This is true if you judge people's speech and reactions by the usual standards of discourse in polite society, but not if you take into account their actual hurtfulness and the actual level of repugnance and scorn being manifested. Men are indeed apt to appraise women's attractiveness explicitly in crude and vulgar terms, much more so than vice versa. However, the ways in which women talk about unattractive men might sound gentler and far more polite, but it's naive to think that unattractive men don't get the message, and that they don't get hurt just as much as unattractive women who get called by various explicit bad names. Moreover, whenever I hear girls damning some unattractive guy with faint praise, I always feel like it would be more honest if they just scorned and trashed him explicitly, considering the status they assign to him for all practical purposes. Another thing is that even when stated in the most explicit and crude terms, men's usual complaints and negative appraisals about women tend to sound harsher and more vulgar than the other way around. It just happens that the words typically involved in the former have a much more politically incorrect and inflammatory impact, even though the latter are not any less harsh and damning by any reasonable standard.
You're addressing a different aspect, I think. Do unattractive men have to deal with street harassment by women? Online attacks just because there's a picture of them?

Do unattractive men have to deal with street harassment by women? Online attacks just because there's a picture of them?

ISTM that unattractive men are denounced online by women all the time, but it's usually based on what a man has said or done, not their appearance.

School-age unattractive males (up to and including college age) are "street harassed" by women as well. As a teenager, I was chased, threatened and verbally abused by females in a variety of venues, despite (or perhaps because) I just wanted to be left alone.

Women most assuredly do harass men, and I assure you they are much more creative in finding ways to inflict lasting emotional pain.

Thanks for the information. I can believe that women are more skilled at inflicting emotional pain. In a fit of compulsiveness, I read a long discussion about abusive schoolgirls (sorry, no cite, probably about five years ago, and possibly on livejournal), and, yeah.
Yes, this was my experience as well.
How can you assure me? Through your own personal experiences, or can you point me to a series of scientifically-conducted studies on the issue? I assure you, only one of those would assure me. I have little experience with men harassed by women, but based on how viciously some women harass each other, I am perfectly willing to agree that women can be very hurtful. All I object to is your apparent willingness to generalize your personal experiences with X into a comparison between X and Y.
I was comparing the subsets of X and Y that had bullied or harassed me personally.
You didn't actually mention Y, but even if you had, you wouldn't have data to support the comparison of abuses(X,Y) to abuses(Y, X), which seemed to be your claim.
As I said, I was comparing abused-by(X, me) to abused-by(Y, me), in rejection of the hypothesis that males are not subjected to cruel "street harassment" by females.
Your notation is unconventional - I read "abused-by(X,you)" as "X was abused by you". I know this is the converse of what you really meant.
Yes, I've seen that happen at times. I make a habit of bullying the perpetrators wherever I see it (and where it is appropriate and convenient to do so) but it certainly happens. People are cruel, particularly when dealing with lower status targets. It's disgraceful whatever the sex of the victim.
Another difference is that (some) men also talk in crude and vulgar ways about attractive women too.

Another difference is that (some) men also talk in crude and vulgar ways about attractive women too.

And about males, and inanimate objects. And fictional stories. I'd go as far as to say that some men just talk in crude and vulgar ways. Also, they are usually hairier and more smelly.

It was rhetorical understatement, perhaps -- not quite the same thing as dishonest arguing. But note that what is meant here is "less than optimally attractive among their own options". As for men and fat-bashing, etc., yes, that's also quite bad. However, I was under the impression that criticizing this was already far from taboo in elite circles In any event, I don't want to deny any symmetry that may exist, and I don't think it would be fair to impute such a denial to me on the grounds that I specifically discussed only one side of the coin. (And it's interesting how so far no one has noticed the parenthetical sentence at the end of my comment.)
The one about sexual jealousy? I thought it was foolish, but not in a way directly relevant to the part I was most motivated to critique, so I let it be. Women experience sexual jealousy too; implying that it's the special province of men has the weird consequence of implying that women would all rather be some flavor of poly, which is false.
It didn't imply that, any more than the earlier part implied that men never reject women. The proposal was that male sexual jealously is analogous to female mate selectivity in the specific way I was discussing.
Also, really, I think "foolish" is unnecessarily hostile language. Wouldn't "incorrect" suffice?
In this thread, you have used language and expressed opinions which have sounded antagonistic and upsetting to me. I did not intend to be hostile in return, and apologize if my emotional state has caused me to use poor word choice in such a way as to upset you.
This is perhaps the best reason for creating some kind of spin-off or sub-community along the lines of that suggested in the post. Some people, for whatever reason, find this sort of discussion personally upsetting or objectionable. Currently that means there will either be posts and comments that cannot be made at all or conversations will end up being derailed with people claiming (and giving) offence. If there was a spin off site for rationalist socialization discussion then comments on LW that enter the political minefield that is sex can be deemed off topic and redirected. Readers who are offended by discussion of PUA, etc, will be able to read LW freely. Commenters on the subsite who are irritated by repetitive responses that seem hostile to them will be able to manage that community with the standard "do not feed trolls" rule.
Does what the women are upset about make any sense to you? Reading your post gives me the impression that you think topics related to sex just blow up for no particular reason, but I may be wrong.

wedrifid said:

This is perhaps the best reason for creating some kind of spin-off or sub-community along the lines of that suggested in the post.

I disagree. This is exactly the sort of discussion that needs to happen between rationalists with different sorts of life experiences (e.g. male and female rationalists). The controversial nature of these subjects shows why it needs to be hashed out, not that these subjects need to be avoided. Of course, individuals are free to bow out of these discussions.

Nancy said:

Does what the women are upset about make any sense to you?

Yes, put particular details about the exchange don't quite make sense to me.

Originally, SarahC made the point that pickup won't guarantee men success with women, and women are still free to reject PUAs. I don't quite understand why she brought up this point in the first place, and I'm not sure why she speculated about a potential for violence. PUAs know very well that their methods don't guarantee success with any particular woman, and they work very hard on coping strategies to deal with rejection. She said:

It can get creepy when men think they're entitled to a quota of women, and that it's unfair when they ge

... (read more)
I agree that this sentence of komponisto's is where things blew up. Too conservative for who? Who gains under the new system? He frames it as women "granting sexual favors", not, for example, as women having more fun or a larger selection of potential mates or anything else they might want. I think that's where the entitlement issues showed up. I think everyone would be better off if men were less picky about women's appearances. If you optimize for that one thing, it's harder to optimize for anything else, including various sorts of compatibility. However, I think it would be rude to push that point of view-- it seems so clear that men want what they want, and generally don't want to want to be different. (I think there was someone here who did want to want to have broader tastes in women, but couldn't manage it.) There might be some binary thinking going on-- "should be less conservative about granting sexual favors" may be apt to trigger memories of the least attractive men who wanted them rather than the men who just barely didn't make the cut. "Granting sexual favors" does suggest a high-to-low status situation. When I suggested men being less picky about women's appearance, did that seem to imply being attracted to somewhat less currently physically attractive women, or being attracted to women you currently find physically very unattractive? More komponisto: What is to be done by who? Why should they care? And, for that matter, how much work would it take for women to adjust their desires, and by what means? I don't know if I should be blaming anyone for not getting this aspect of things since it's taken me this long to drag it into consciousness, but I think this is why the creep-o-meter and physical danger alarms are going off. In a previous discussion, someone was making a utilitarian calculation which seemed to ignore women's interests-- and when I asked him about it, it turned out that he had. I didn't underline it at the time, but it's really u
Very true. It would be interesting if this were something that was subject to chemical modification. It doesn't seem like the sort of thing one could verbally persuade a man about - but if there was something that reduced pickiness with say the same side effect profile that caffeine has towards increasing alertness I think it would be a good addition to our culture.
It might be possible to verbally persuade some men that this was worth working on-- but it might also take considerable work just to find usable methods. I've read one account of a man who found that pornography was giving him irrational standards about what women ought to look like and do, and that staying away from pornography for a while (months?) recalibrated his standards towards actual women. For a science fictional look at the possible effects of not being able to see facial beauty, see Ted Chiang's "Liking What You See: A Documentary".
But for sure if he abstained from pornography, he was also reducing his masturbation, and therefore more biologically driven to have sexual desire for the women actually available to him in reality. I do agree that porn is a visual superstimulus and at least momentarily distorting.
Don't we call this substance 'beer'?
I found that part of komponisto's comment creepy, and I'm neither a woman, nor do I have anything against men wanting more sex. The suggestion in the comment, though, was creepy for precisely the same reason that the "this could lead to violence" arguments are creepy: both are attempts to influence others to change their actions via social disapproval, rather than through more positive/egalitarian means. I find this sort of victim-rhetoric (i.e., "I'm helpless so YOU should change") to be equally offensive, regardless of the kind of victimhood claimed, or the gender of the self-described victim. (Of course, since I own my offense, I don't project this back into the world to say that either komponisto or Alicorn are therefore bad people who should be punished or prevented from speaking. IOW, I am not a victim.)
I would like to move at least one branch of this conversation to a more abstract level. What, exactly, is your objection to attempting to influence the behavior of others by means of social disapproval? How is it non-egalitarian? Do you disapprove only of negative social pressure, or do you also deplore positive social pressures? Are you perhaps of the opinion that all forms of disapproval should be kept to oneself? Or is it only organized campaigns of disapproval that draw your ire? Or, maybe is it that, in these cases, you are not in sympathy with the behavior-modification objectives, so naturally you don't care for the methods? Could you suggest a more positive/egalitarian way in which komponisto could influence Alicorn, or Alicorn influence komponisto other than expressions of disapproval?

What, exactly, is your objection to attempting to influence the behavior of others by means of social disapproval?

If I were to be more precise, I would say that I disapprove of people attempting to use a claimed victim status as a way to target behaviors they personally dislike, by:

  1. Implying that the weight of societal disapproval or true "ought"-ness is allied with their position, and
  2. Implying that all those people who fail to join them in denouncing or punishing the offenders are themselves worthy of disapproval.

IMO, in a rationalist community, if you dislike something, you bloody well ought to be able to say you dislike it and why, without needing to claim you represent a class of people and calling for people to announce/signal their factional alliances. That's divisive and unhelpful, no matter how "right" your position might be.

Or, maybe is it that, in these cases, you are not in sympathy with the behavior-modification objectives, so naturally you don't care for the methods?

It's possible that I'm biased, but I don't think that it's in the way you describe. For one thing, if komponisto's real objective were to influence women's preferences toward... (read more)

A very good response. Thank you. I agree with much of it, but I would like to continue a bit further regarding the stuff near the top about claimed victim status. Let us all return in our minds to those idyllic days of childhood: Younger sibling: "Quit picking on me!" Older sibling: "Me? I'm no picking on you." Younger sibling: "Mama!" Now, as you visualize this scene, ask yourself whether younger sibling is "attempting to use a claimed victim status as a way to target behaviors they personally dislike". Ask whether she is implying that the weight of parental disapproval or true "ought"-ness is allied with her position. Whether she is implying that a parent who fails to join in denouncing or punishing the offender is not carrying out the parental responsibilities of protection and fair arbitration? By analogy, it would seem that your advice to younger sibling would be "If you dislike something, you bloody well ought to be able to say you dislike it and why, without needing to call for a parent to announce/signal a factional alliance. That's divisive and unhelpful, no matter how "right" your position might be." Well, that just might be good advice, even to a child. But what if the advice is followed and it doesn't work? Doesn't work repeatedly. Older sibling simply gets a kick out of tormenting his younger sister. What then? The problem here, IMO, is not lack of communication of wants and needs, and it is not a matter of stereotyping. It is a matter of deliberate, well-informed, hostility. Hostility which shields itself with the argument "Ah, you are imagining things. See, no one else thinks I am doing any thing wrong." In those circumstances, I think that for you to disapprove of "claimed victim status", to disapprove of seeking allies, is to give your approval to the victimizer.

Older sibling simply gets a kick out of tormenting his younger sister. What then?

You haven't described what the "tormenting" consists of here. My answer is different depending on where it falls on the scale from consensual ("mom, he keeps looking at me!") to nonconsensual (e.g. striking).

It is a matter of deliberate, well-informed, hostility

If it were (and I'm not sure I've seen anything I would consider an example of such in this thread; perhaps you could point one out), then I'd say that there's a "Vote Down" button, and the ability to hide subthreads on a post that one does not wish to read.

(LW doesn't currently have a way to add a new feature to suppress all posts/comments by a particular user or within a particular subthread, but it would make a nice addition.)

In those circumstances, I think that for you to disapprove of "claimed victim status", to disapprove of seeking allies, is to give your approval to the victimizer.

It's really difficult for me to consider posting comments on LessWrong as "victimizing" in any sense (barring personal threats, either direct or implied).

Even the most annoying of deliberate trolls c... (read more)

I agree with all this. Not that it's really something you can fix on an internet forum.
Great Scott! This looks like the work of that dastardly villain, Learned Helplessness! ;-) Seriously though: why can't we fix it? Better (i.e. less victim-y) question: how can we?
PM's. I'm a big fan of the motivational pep-talk (unfortunately I'm not quite good enough to give them.)
I assume that means private messages? If so, I'm not clear on what you suggest. I'm not good at them either, but I personally find that improved questions are more likely to produce lasting results, anyway.
You ask for examples of deliberate, well-informed hostility on this thread. If you don't mind, I would like to keep this branch of the discussion at a more hypothetical level. Let's stick to my hypothetical of the obnoxious big brother and the annoyed little sister. I agree with what you point out; that my example doesn't match the situation here because here the supposed victim has less to fear and far more ways to escape. More power in general. But I want to hold onto my made-up example to ask one more question below. You wrote: I had never heard that term before (not being particularly interested in psychology). From the Wikipedia article, it looks interesting. I intend to read more. Thank you. I have long had the political belief that groups mythologizing their own victimhood are victimizers in training. And I have close personal friends whose lives have been ruined by their own self-constructed history of victimhood and definition of self as past-victim. But it occurs to me, that if helplessness can be learned (but shouldn't be), then it can also be taught (but shouldn't be). And it also occurs to me that the brother in my story, if coupled with a mother who counsels the daughter to work out the problem for herself with the brother, ... these two are effectively conspiring to teach helplessness to little sister. Personally, I think that is evil. Maybe I don't yet understand LH theory, but I would guess that maybe you would too. And that is my question. If little sister learns helplessness in this situation, who is at fault - the brother (who after all, is just a kid), the mother, or the sister?
How about the person who taught the mother that? Her mother? Her mother's mother? Evolution? The universe? What makes you assume that somebody has to be "at fault" here, and how is it helpful to make that assumption? Please note that my advice is for adults, not children. For a parent to give their child only the bare advice, and not the listening, support, and assistance needed to carry it out, would indeed be cultivating a sense of helplessness along the lines of, e..g "what happens to me doesn't matter/my preferences don't count", or some variation thereof. Certainly, that's what happened in my case, when my parents told me to "just ignore" the people teasing or harassing me! However, that doesn't mean I consider my parents "at fault" for the shame and self-hatred I developed as an indirect result of their choices. In fact, fully understanding how my feelings came about actually let me drop the resentment I previously felt towards them for this. Ironically, it is the very idea of blaming people for things that reinforces LH in the first place. If I think it is my parent's "fault" that I developed a particular instance of LH, then clearly, I am a helpless victim! So, in order to drop emotional LH of this form, it is necessary to also drop judgment and blame. When I coach people on letting go of past victimization, one of the more difficult steps tends to be letting go of the judgment of who's "at fault" -- and it doesn't matter whether you blame someone else (e.g. your parents) or yourself (as I did in the case of my parents' attitude about teasing). The fact that you blame anyone is like a deadbolt locking the LH itself in place. Conversely, refusal to acknowledge hurt is also a problem: when somebody tells me something is not their parents' fault, because of extenuating circumstances, my next job is to get them to realize that even if it's not their parents' fault, this doesn't mean they didn't still get hurt, or that they don't have the right to feel ba
Excellent answer. Thank you. I will try to learn something useful from our exchange.
Why do you think this? Having a different worldview and set of priors on the subject of gender is not the same thing as hostility.
Altering one's preferences, especially ones as deeply lodged as ones about sexuality, is a difficult project. I expect I could accomplish certain hacks in myself because self-modification is something I practice and have developed good instincts about. I don't expect women in general to share this ability. So what would it accomplish to hammer out a new set of ideal preferences that it would be better if women had instead? They can't adopt them on purpose even if they see the logic indicating that they should. At best, they can follow a norm that has them act as though they adopt these new preferences, and that just has them acting contrary to their own real preferences to suit those of men. If there's some point to entertaining criticism of women's preferences (as opposed to my own atypical preferences which are unlikely to percolate out into the population) that I have missed, do please let me know.
If altering preferences is so easy then the men could alter themselves to be bisexual and solve the problem... Not advocating that, but if we talk about altered preferences, that is the simplest solution.
Obligatory SMBC link. Summoned Demon: Any wish you have is yours, for the price of your soul! Angel: Don't do it! No wish could justify an eternity of suffering. Demon Summoner: I want to be bisexual, immune to STDs and have absolutely no standards. Angel: S@#T Demon: whistles. Angel: That's good.
Hah, I think about this solution almost every time that women test my nerves! But then I look at the gay/bi people I know, and their lives seem to have even more drama than mine. (That could be some selection effect though...)
In a nutshell-of-simplification, I believe this statement is false. I think people's preferences -- or apparent preferences -- are more malleable than that. As people learn more -- about the world, themselves, and other people -- and learn to think -- if not faster, then at least more powerfully -- they may become susceptible to arguments they wouldn't have been susceptible to before, and the suboptimal game-theoretic equilibrium inherited from the past may begin to break down. At the very least, people are diverse enough that there are bound to be some for whom this is true more than for others. As a result, there is no reason that I can see not to entertain discussion of possible preference-modifications. An individual may find that a particular proposed modification is too difficult to implement, or would even perhaps conflict with deeper, more important preferences; but it is not reasonable in my view for such an individual to thereby conclude that the possibility was not worth considering, or that there won't be a significant number, now or in the future, of other individuals for whom the outcome of this kind introspection will be different. Still less do I think it reasonable for anyone to attempt to suppress such discussions by means of psychological bullying tactics such as implying -- against all plausibility -- that having such a discussion will noticeably increase the risk to the personal safety of participants on this forum. Such an attempt at suppression may be pardonable, if the fear is genuine, and especially if it comes from somebody whom one has met and likes; but the mere fact that it is pardonable does not make it reasonable, when one's own prior for such fears being rationally justified is somewhere between the probability of a summer snowstorm in Miami and the probability (speaking of sex and violence) that a certain American exchange student and her boyfriend of one week got together with a local drifter to end the life of her friend and room
I don't think that the safety concern was limited to the safety of participants in this forum? Why ever would you come to the conclusion that it was? If anything, personal anecdote has been used only to demonstrate prior thought about the subject matter. And I am also wondering why you think that criticism of such discussion, even if it verges on "psychological bullying", can be called "suppression" without engaging in exaggeration which is far beyond the "minimal". There are certain ideas, the expression of which is protected by the ideals of liberty and by the 1st Amendment of the US Constitution. That protection does not extend to protection from being criticized. There are some ideas that have been expressed here that should be criticized. In an ideal community, they would be widely criticized. The reason for criticizing them is similar in some ways to criticism of use of the "N word". It is not so much that the word or the idea is offensive to someone. It is that if that kind of aggressive and abusive verbal behavior is tolerated, then more people will engage in it, and the aggression and abuse will simply escalate to something more physical. Because, make no mistake about it, the behavior I am seeing is exactly analogous that of an adolescent boy testing to see how much he can get away with.
It is reasonable to take precautions even against small risks, when those risks are the sort you run into again and again and must develop habits about. I wear seatbelts even during short car trips with safe drivers in good weather in daylight with minimal traffic at low speed. It is costly to evaluate those factors of risk separately each time I get into a car. It is costly to evaluate the factors that lead you to see this thread as definitely not harmful to me. Perhaps it is harmless. I've never been injured in a car accident, either (although I've been wearing seatbelts each time I've been in one). But I put on my seatbelt as a reflex which it is unsafe to tamper with, and I ask for protective conventions in conversations on this subject as a reflex which it is unsafe for me to tamper with. Inviting me to take off my metaphorical seatbelt, without a reason other than it being inconvenient for you, demonstrates a willingness to take my concerns lightly and to substitute your judgment for mine. Interestingly, that doesn't make me feel safer.

Inviting me to take off my metaphorical seatbelt, without a reason other than it being inconvenient for you, demonstrates a willingness to take my concerns lightly and to substitute your judgment for mine. Interestingly, that doesn't make me feel safer

Despite your use of the trivializing word "inconvenient", the fact is that your personal anxieties do not automatically trump my desires, including my desire (if it exists) to have a discussion about certain topics. You are not the only one with preferences and wishes, and your feeling as safe as possible is not the only concern in the universe.

(I find it notable that while you accuse me of a "willingness to take [your] concerns lightly", you have, so far as I can tell, yet to show any sympathy for "my" concerns as expressed in this thread.)

It would not be costly to evaluate whether or not to put on a seatbelt. What would be costly is a general policy of evaluating every such "reflexive" act. Much less costly, however, would be a general policy of evaluating those reflexive acts whose usefulness has been called into question by intelligent rational people who don't wish you harm. If someone ... (read more)

I agree with this. The problem I seek to avoid by having an alternate place for such discussions is that of having the vast majority of discussion effort diverted to 'meta' discussion. Currently discussion of what human sexual preferences (gender typical and otherwise) are and what techniques are most useful in social interactions are extremely diluted. Most actually interesting material that can be used to enhance our models of the world ends up only included as footnotes and tangents among justifications and criticisms of stereotypes. I would like people to make posts and comments on the actual subject matter. I'd like it if the majority of replies to be agreement, disagreement, elaboration and general discussion of the ideas contained therein. Because then I'd have a chance to learn something new.
Why did I bring it up? Because I was worried about this George Sodini business, and because the promotional material you showed me seemed excessively optimistic in its promises of success with women, and because I think the kind of man having enough trouble that he's willing to pay for a seduction course might be less astute and less realistic than average. I do think desperate guys can get suckered in by promises, and by an ideology that makes seduction look like victory. I think bad things can happen when you tell unhappy people "Here is a way for you to triumph over all the [insert bad word, maybe "political correctness police"] who are keeping you down." That pattern has played out many times and sometimes the results are undesirable. It's just something to be careful about. On the other hand, you (HughRistic) have been very reasonable, and I'm pretty sure your kind of PUA is a good thing, and you obviously aren't a desperate person in the grip of an ideology. Maybe that kind of thing is rare; I've seen it on the internet but obviously that doesn't tell me if it's common. I don't think "any complaint of unfairness in the dating world" is creepy. I just don't. I don't think anybody around here is creepy. I think creeps are creepy. I thought we might be able to agree to be anti-creep. You come up with a system like PUA, I think it's fair to ask you to disclaim unethical use of it. It must get tiring after a while, but that's the way things work. People who make and play video games have to say, over and over again, "No, games do not make people go on shooting sprees, and we're doing our best not to encourage that." I'm sure they're sick of it, but they've made themselves the ambassadors of their art, like it or not. People will judge your art based on its ambassadors.

I think the kind of man having enough trouble that he's willing to pay for a seduction course might be less astute and less realistic than average.

Wow. Just... wow.

So... anyone with poor social skills is "less astute and less realistic than average"?

I suspect that your estimation of how much "trouble" is "enough" is way off, and consequently, your estimation of how many men end up in the "willing to pay" category... and hence, whether you can reasonably compare those folks to the "average".

I know a guy with a $20 million/year training business, that sells many products at $20 and under. That's one guy, in a business with literally dozens of big names, and maybe a hundred small ones.

And that's with his (and everybody else's) products being massively pirated. Even men who aren't willing to pay, are still getting the material. Especially since there is tons of it available for free as well via internet forums (though the free stuff is not always of the best quality).

Ironically, it is the men who are willing to pay the most, who are most likely to be exposed to high-quality, low-deception, maximally self-improvement oriented ma... (read more)

I'm trying to imagine a marketing campaign-- maybe "good sense at reasonable prices". Seriously, is it that small a niche?
High prices are a signal, in both directions. On the purchasing end, it signals commitment, and on the selling end, it signals good results. (Btw, internet marketers routinely advise that charging more money means you get fewer customers, but there will be far fewer problem customers and you will enjoy working with them more. My own experiences support this hypothesis.)
Thanks, Sarah, that answers my question. If you said this stuff in the first place, it would have helped me understand why you brought up the issue of violence. I still think it's a bit of a stretch to connect George Sodini to pickup (he did actually take a pickup seminar at one point, but obviously had deeper problems) to pickup, though I do grant some of what PUAs write sounds adverserial towards women. I agree with pjeby's response on this point. I realize that, and I know it's not your fault or my fault that so many of the ambassadors of pickup suck. That's why I'm trying to talk about it in a way that sounds reasonable and morally neutral, so I can see what people think of it whens it's translated into a language that isn't so off-putting.
Yes. I know the reasons well enough to realise that the 'blowing up' will not go away without creating a separate place for discussing such topics in an objective, rational manner. I wouldn't dream of demanding that people refrain from taking the discussion personally on LW. When on a subsite dedicated to game theory as directly applied to humans then I would expect people to refrain from sabotaging objective discussions, when there is a very real opportunity to simply not to expose themselves to them. Claiming offence is an extremely powerful political weapon. In a value neutral sense, ensuring that a topic blows up is an attempt to assert political influence on the outcome. And politics is the mind killer. I would like there to be a place to discuss topics related to sex in a purely objective manner. Because it just facts. Facts are just true of false. Not outrageous or unacceptable.
I don't know if it's possible to discuss anything in a purely objective manner, sex especially, since it's a topic into which most people bring a lot of biases regardless of how objective and rational they're trying to be. If such a topic is discussed by a group of people who are likely to have the same set of biases towards the subject, then that can create a blind spot. And sex in particular requires deep understanding of both men's and women's psychology and socialization to make headway on, so there may be a limit to how much a discussion involving only one sex could accomplish. I wouldn't want to lose insightful perspectives like Alicorn's "gifts vs commodities" comment that otherwise might not come up. I'd be willing to sift through the strong emotions (that mostly fit the facts) the topic may inspire in order to maximize my exposure to such insights.
There is a difference between strong emotion and typical biases and directly combating the discussion by taking things to the personal level. The historical record of LW posts tells me that this political intervention is at times escalated to the level of outright bullying. When expressing certain positions are associated with the threat of reputation sabotage we cannot expect the discussion to be especially well correlated with non-political reality. Sex doesn't seem to be the distinguishing factor on whether a given participant is able to usefully engage on the subject, especially once the selection effect of 'people who like lesswrong type discussions' is applied. It is a political vs epistemic divide, not a male vs female one.
"Sex doesn't seem to be the distinguishing factor on whether a given participant is able to usefully engage on the subject, especially once the selection effect of 'people who like lesswrong type discussions' is applied. It is a political vs epistemic divide, not a male vs female one." And yet the current norms of discussion are ones that leave a large proportion of the women here fighting through some measure of fear and discomfort to post-- but not the men. This saps cognitive energy and limits how much they can contribute. You may want to consider why this is, and whether there are any minimal changes you would consider making in order to make both genders feel safe enough to post freely. "Strive to only make utilitarian calculations that take into account both men's and women's best interests" is a good place to start. This discussion has also given me a lot of insight into why the proportion of women on this site is so atypically small even for computer programming crowds. Some that like lesswrong-type discussions may find dealing with the PUA-related talk here too mentally and emotionally draining for the site to be a net positive in experience. I've changed my mind and now also support moving all PUA-related discussions to another site, if for different reasons than yours.

And yet the current norms of discussion are ones that leave a large proportion of the women here fighting through some measure of fear and discomfort to post-- but not the men.

The part in bold could not be further from the truth. A not insignificant number of men here are terrified of contributing on this subject, due to their previous discussions. It reached the stage where people making a point that touched on human mating patterns apologised, asked for permission and generally supplicated and grovelled in an attempt to avoid reprisal. It nauseated me.

This saps cognitive energy and limits how much they can contribute.

Precisely, and I hate this effect, as it applies to either sex and people of every conceivable sexual sexual orientation. This is why I hope XFrequentist (or whomever) creates a spin off site where the topics can be discussed without fear of reputation sabotage.

You may want to consider why this is, and whether there are any minimal changes you would consider making in order to make both genders feel safe enough to post freely.

My comments here are targeted towards exactly that ultimate goal, with no small measure of thought behind which intermediate steps ... (read more)

(emphasis added) I’m curious what sorts of comments you have in mind here, although I understand if you don’t want to single anyone out specifically. This pattern is not something I have noticed, although it could be that we have just reacted to the same comments/commenters in different ways. For example, I have found HughRistik’s consistently measured tone in discussing mating patterns very refreshing. It’s my impression that his comments are generally well-received not only because of their intelligent content, but also because of their thoughtfulness and tact. Nor do I have the sense that HughRistik, in making the choice to use this sort of tone, has had to obfuscate his meaning or avoid making any points that he would like to make. But it could be that you have different sorts of comments in mind.
Let me add myself as a data point. Having seen how these conversations go, I made a conscious decision to tread very carefully around them, basically only engaging with peripheral issues that look safe. As a result, I have left things unsaid that I think would be relevant, true and interesting, but also controversial. Even when I have something to say that seems safe, I feel like this topic requires me to put so much more effort into verifying that than a blog comment is normally worth, so I don't bother.
I'm not going to go through and trawl the paper trail but it is something that myself and others have commented on as it happens. I suspect I could find a hit or two via searches for "don't need to ask for permission", "If you think it is relevant then post it", "the line you speak of is imaginary" and almost certainly "quit F@#% grovelling!" More generally I note that you seem to talking about a different issue to the one that my comment was replying to. In the immediate context we were discussing fear and discomfort held by an alleged "a large proportion of the women" and "a not insignificant number of men".


And yet the current norms of discussion are ones that leave a large proportion of the women here fighting through some measure of fear and discomfort to post-- but not the men.

That's not a realistic appraisal of the situation. Generally speaking, when it comes to sensitive topics that cannot be discussed openly and objectively without arousing ideological passions, appeasing the parties who claim to be shocked and offended can only lead to shutting down the discussion altogether, or reducing it to a pious recital of politically correct platitudes. It's a classic Schellingian conflict situation: by yielding to this strategy today instead of drawing a firm line, you only incentivize its further use the next time around.

That said, there are of course occasional situations here where people blurt out something stupid that their interlocutor might reasonably get angry at. But the idea that the general spirit of discussion of these topics here is somehow creating a hostile environment for women is just outlandish.

This discussion has also given me a lot of insight into why the proportion of women on this site is so atypically small even for computer programming crowds.

You... (read more)


Ok, we've got three (declared) women on this thread. Alicorn and Nancy seem to be (roughly) within the world of contemporary feminism -- I'm not, but then again I also don't have experience with rape or abuse. So I feel compelled to keep driving at the centrist line here.

Yes, you can shut down a dialogue all too easily by claiming to be hurt. But I don't want to discount the possibility that Alicorn actually is hurt -- in which case why do you want to hurt her? Let's not, please.

I read Roissy for a while. In one way it was a good experience: it taught me to seriously entertain views that I was previously disposed not to like. I consider that a strength. But in another way it was a bad experience: Roissy would insult classes of people in which I'm included, and my response to being belittled is to believe what I hear. That ain't good. I can see the value in overcoming my fear to enter a hostile environment and cope; I can't see the value in spending my time there indefinitely.

No, women aren't fragile. But this is simply not a tough-love, hostile environment. It isn't that kind of blog. It doesn't fit with the posts -- it certainly doesn't fit with Eliezer's writing. The ... (read more)

SarahC: Here I must point to another highly pertinent comment of mine: http://lesswrong.com/lw/2l8/existential_risk_and_public_relations/2g3z You write as if a rational discussion must end up in conclusions that are pleasant, calming, and reassuring, and if some claims in a discussion disturb and offend, they cannot simply follow from a straightforward and open-minded inquiry into a sensitive topic, and there must be some malice involved. But this is clearly not so. Just imagine how billions of religious folks on this planet would react if you threw the anti-religious diatribes regularly written here, by Eliezer Yudkowsky as well as many others, into their faces. Now, you can argue that in some areas of inquiry, the truth is so awful and inflammatory that it's better to stay away from them because it keeps the website a better place to discuss other interesting things. However, if you're going to argue that, then you must admit that some people's idiosyncratic sensitivities and propensities for offense should be privileged over others. Mind you, I think that it is a defensible position, but it's absolutely fallacious to advocate such limitations while denying this fact. Could you please be more specific? Are you saying that my above comment reads like a personal attack, or that some general claim I advanced is hurtful? I honestly didn't mean to take a jab at any particular person, not in that comment, nor anywhere else.

Vladimir, I got my mind changed about religion, in large part by LessWrong. I learned here not to be afraid of truth. That message would not have gotten across as clearly if there were not a dominant tone of warmth and compassion on this site.

Whatever is true, is true. I'm not saying we shouldn't seek it out. I'm not saying we should fear an awful truth or hush it up.

I'm saying we go about things differently from how Roissy goes about things, and that's helpful. You described women as being tough enough to take a much more offensive tone -- I'm saying that an offensive tone isn't helpful. There is such a thing as honesty without snark.

No, it wasn't your comment that reads like a personal attack. Alicorn made a previous comment when she said that asking her to change her sexual preferences made her feel less safe. I don't think we should be using this site to frighten people. You do not reason with people by arousing those emotions.


I'm saying we go about things differently from how Roissy goes about things, and that's helpful. You described women as being tough enough to take a much more offensive tone -- I'm saying that an offensive tone isn't helpful. There is such a thing as honesty without snark.

This is where our misunderstanding probably lies. My mention of Roissy was an argumentum a fortiori, meant to disprove the hypothesis that the tone of sex-related discussions here is so insensitive that it drives great masses of women away, by pointing out that there are places whose tone is incomparably more insensitive, and yet they have comment sections with far more women participating. I wasn't advocating the introduction of Roissyesque style as the standard of discourse here; there is indeed a time and place for everything.

That said, it should be noted that the quality of discourse can be ruined not only by people who write with an insensitive tone, but also by people who amp up their sensitivity to eleven, and as soon as certain topics are opened, frantically look for a pretext to plead insufferable shock and offense. Honestly, would you say that this phenomenon has been altogether absent from the controversies on this site you've seen?

(Again, please read this only as a statement about generalities, not an implicit personal attack on whoever might come to mind.)

Maybe we should have a norm of just ROT13ing anything potentially offensive?
Good point, lets create a new place where we can have these conversations without Alicorn or anyone else being hurt!
I would strengthen that claim by replacing with 'womenfolk' with 'several particularly politically active members'.
I think people generally dislike and avoid spending time in environments they perceive as anywhere on the scale from unwelcoming to hostile. That's not a trait that makes someone fearful, brittle, paranoid, or delicate, and I'm confused as to why you'd think I was implying any such thing-- quite the opposite.
lmnop: The question is whether the usual standards of discourse practiced here are harsh and insensitive enough to qualify as "unwelcoming to hostile." It seems quite clear to me that only extraordinarily fearful, brittle, or paranoid personalities could honestly answer yes to this. (Here I mean "honestly" as opposed to the already mentioned discourse-destroying tactic where one actively seeks flimsy pretexts for sanctimonious indignation instead of engaging the substance of the argument.) Again, this is not meant as an attack on everyone who has ever expressed indignation about some particular statement posted here, and in the present context, I don't want to express judgments about any such individual incident, whether in this thread or any other. Even among very smart and cultured people, occasional episodes of careless and stupid behavior are unavoidable, and in any discussion forum, people will sometimes be faced with valid reasons to feel angry and offended. However, the idea that the general standards of discussion here represent a threatening and hostile environment for women, which is supposedly the main reason why they're few in number, seems to me completely disconnected from reality.
Not the general standards of discussion, no. But the standards of discussion for some of the speculation on sex relations, especially when related to the PUA subculture, seem to create an unpleasant environment for women who are otherwise quite happy with the general standards of discussion. Therefore, it seems reasonable to hypothesize that without that specific subset of the discussion, the site as a whole would be more attractive to women. It's fairly hyperbolic to say that only an "extraordinarily fearful, brittle, or paranoid person" could answer yes to the question of whether this site is an unwelcoming to hostile environment at times. Forget hostile, you can't see why the label "unwelcoming" could be used by a reasonable-- or at least not extraordinarily fearful, brittle, and paranoid-- person to describe some subsets of discussion here?
lmnop: There are two ways in which I could interpret this comment. If you're saying that some topics are inherently insensitive and unpleasant, in that a rational no-holds-barred inquiry into them will likely yield disturbing conclusions that are apt to inflame passions and hurt people's feelings, and they should therefore be avoided because they poison the atmosphere on the entire forum due to the unavoidable human passions and weaknesses, I will agree with the former and disagree with the latter. (And I'll grant that it's overall a reasonable and defensible position.) However, if you're saying that the way these topics have been discussed here should, on the whole, be considered excessively insensitive, and that an ideally rational, objective, and open-minded discussion of these matters would produce arguments and conclusions that are more warm, fuzzy, and politically correct, then I disagree radically. Aside from a few rare outliers, the discussions here have, if anything, erred on the side of being too cautious, sensitive, and silent about ugly truths. Well, just observe all the innumerable places, both online and offline, in which the standards of discourse are far more insensitive than anything that ever happens here, and which still attract far more female participants than this website -- and not some particularly tough-skinned ones either. Just from the usual human standards, I think it's fair to conclude that people who find enough unwelcoming elements here to be driven away are ipso facto showing that they are unusually sensitive specimens of humanity.
I think you may be right. Let's make a new site where we can have these discussions without making lesswrong unattractive to women!
I think he writes as though visiting this site is recreational, and maybe if it's full of things that offend someone's sensibilities, they won't have fun here and will leave. I upvoted lmnop's comment and downvoted yours.
Who, precisely, are you directing this accusation at?
How do you know how the men feel in discussions like these? Have you asked them? It's not comfortable feeling that you're being made into the Bad Guy. Many men, including myself, base a lot of their self-image on what women think of them, and the kind of acceptance women show them. I doubt komponisto feels that great right now, and I don't think he deserves to continue to be villified after clarifying his original problematic comment. PUA-related talk is a lesswrong-type discussion. It's the same people. We are just dealing with an amped-up level of inferential distance, biases, and disparity between priors due to different experiences.
From the karma scores on his clarifying comments, I think many people here understand his perspective and support it. To say that he's been villified is a pretty severe exaggeration.
Hi Imnop, It seems from your karma that you must have been around for long enough that I missed the chance for a welcome. But welcome to lesswrong anyway. Did you find us via Harry Potter:MoR? Note that the site implements markdown syntax for commenting. This allows for a convention of Using a ">" before any quoted paragraphs. This makes block quotes so much more readable!
Thank you for the pointer! Yes, I started using the site after reading HP:MoR, although I'd read some articles from it before that.
So, if I understand you, under your proposal, comments like this one would no longer appear here on LW? Because people who cannot help making them would have another outlet?
One of the ancestors of that comment would probably be a link to the other site, yes. I don't like the tone. You seem to be suggesting that wanting to make such a comment is a personal failing. I don't agree.
What I meant to suggest is that a failure to foresee that such a comment would be offensive (to many people) would be a personal failing of one variety. And if you were able to make the prediction, but felt that the comment was so insightful and relevant to the discussion that it needed to be made regardless of who was offended, then that would be a different kind of personal failing. But what I suspect actually happened is that you set out deliberately to cause offense. And, yes, in the absence of provocation, I consider that a personal failing too. The tone was indeed disapproving. I didn't expect you to like it. All I really expect is that you might take note of the disapproval. Please notice that at least some of your fellow males really dislike the culture of misogyny around here. And particularly, the smug way in which the victims get blamed for their own discomfort while the victimizers pretend to noble, but puzzled, tolerance.
I'm guessing that they aren't pretending. They really don't know what they're doing.
Surprisingly enough the usual victims don't seem to have made an appearance in this iteration of the discussion. Perhaps they have learned enough about the game to realise they are better served by just letting HughRistik handle the conversation with his usual combination of personal experience, education and level headed insight.
It doesn't look to me as though wedrifid did anything wrong in this case.
Extremely short answer: Degree to which the unattractive male appears to submit to the social reality as she sees it.
Many "alpha" behaviours can be creepy. Someone being submissive is not creepy. This as a personal note, not as a general truth.


Many "alpha" behaviours can be creepy.

Some of the very pinnacles of creepiness are achieved by men who attempt to pull off difficult and daring high-status behaviors but fall short of doing it successfully. I don't know if this is what you had in mind with the scare quotes, but with this interpretation, your comment is very accurate.

I remember there was an old post at Overcoming Bias discussing this sort of situation, where a man's failed attempt at a high-status display backfires and raises an awful red flag that he's a clueless sort of guy who doesn't know his proper place and will probably self-destruct for that reason. Unfortunately, I can't remember the title and I don't have the link archived.

I think they go more into a "that person is more likely defect for his own win than cooperate" and "that person does not seem safe". Also being somewhat sensitive to the system people doing a status competition just stink on a personal level. Then again I prefer androgynous cooperative helpful people, rather than overtly masculine (or feminine) ones. Others might find the same behaviors very hot.
Absolutely this is why such a strong epithet as "creepy" is applied. The implication is that such a deranged individual is one step away from running amok, raping and killing.
It's a good point, but I stand by what I said. I've heard anecdotes of disgruntled graduate students attacking their schools because they weren't given their degrees. (The example that comes to mind is of a woman who set explosives in a lab.) I definitely consider that creepy. I would start worrying about safety if an obviously unqualified student kept ranting about how she deserved her degree. Charles Guiteau, who assassinated James Garfield, was chronically unemployed but convinced that the government owed him a high office (he wanted to be an ambassador.) I would consider his obsession with "deserving" a position far out of his reach was a warning sign for criminal behavior. So it's not just about sex. "Creepiness" is something I associate with being convinced you deserve something that it's totally unreasonable (socially) for you to be granted. Most unemployed workers are disappointed, sure, but that's not the same thing.

Reading this thread has inspired an interesting definition. Creepiness is an approximate estimate of how far someone would have to be pushed in order to do something evil. A history of criminal behavior is extremely creepy, because it's strong evidence of bad character. Physical deformity is creepy because it correlates well with mental illness, but it stops being creepy once it's understood well enough to rule out that possibility. Violating social norms can be creepy, or not, depending on what's known about why it was violated and the nature of the norm. And horror movie villains, of course, peg the creepiness scale, merely by being in that role, regardless of what other features they have.

By this definition, refusing to accept a disappointment that won't go away is very creepy, because the only real options for dealing with disappointment are to accept it, to work harder towards fixing the source of the disappointment, or to escalate. Escalating would be bad, and working harder has a limit that, in the case of the disgruntled student, has probably already been reached or nearly reached.

Not really-- there's a sort of creepiness which is about distaste at least as much as fear.

And I don't think creepiness is a reliable signal of dangerousness-- there are people who are very dangerous who aren't creepy, and it's my impression that there are a great many creepy people who don't do anything awful.

I will tentatively suggest that that some kinds of creepiness are some sort of off-key or out-of-sync body language (not necessarily on the Asberger's spectrum).

A story from one of John Malloy's Dress for Success books: He realized that one of his subordinates had done some very good work for him, and took the chance of offering the subordinate (who had disastrous body language) some consultations.

The subordinate looked distressed, and Malloy was worried that he'd said the wrong thing, but then the subordinate explained that some of his sons had the same body language and were running into similar social problems.

These seem like importantly different categories that merely happen to share some mental machinery. True, but I suspect that's just because many things that used to be useful signals, aren't anymore. Strange body language, for example, may be a signal of distant origin (to the extent that body language differs from place to place).
I'm beginning to get the impression that you and perhaps some other commenters have no idea what the creepy guy experience is. I'm not blaming you, but if there's that lack of commonality of experience, then that could explain some communication breakdowns. Creepiness isn't just about low status, though I grant that if, say, a street person is making a pass, he might well come off as creepy. However, the interesting case is that there are men who aren't obviously low status who just make a high proportion of women's skin crawl. Do heterosexual men ever have the experience of being extremely uncomfortable around women who are superficially be not that much different from other women that the men would find at least tolerable?
Thanks. That's a good essay, and I don't think I'd seen it before. As she says, she doesn't know what the creepiness trigger is-- and whatever is going on, it isn't normal intimacy starting at the wrong time.
Here is a wild guess about creepiness. Some men are much worse than average at detecting negative reactions (like fear) in the person they are talking to. So, when a woman has a negative reaction to something in a conversation, it starts to get creepy when the man does not notice that reaction and persists in the behavior that caused the reaction. I gets creepier fast when the woman reacts more strongly than the first time and the man continues to persist. Just guessing.
I'm guessing too, but the creepiness reaction has a large component of disgust/revulsion-- it isn't just about fear. I've been trying to think of portrayals of creepiness, and whether it can be done in a movie (or might it be pheromones?)-- it's been a while since I've seen it, but iirc, Beetlejuice is an example.
Successful movie portrayal of creepiness: Anakin Skywalker, in Attack of the Clones. Critics commented on the surprising lack of chemistry between Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman; I think the "romantic" scenes achieved exactly what they were supposed to.
I'm trying to think of examples of female-on-male creepiness that I've experienced and heard of, and the only examples I can think of fall into the categories of mere mild-discomfort-induction and outright stalking. Male creepiness appears to have a significant middle ground that seems to be almost completely absent in the other direction. Perhaps this is related to the disproportionate prevalence of male-on-female rape and sexual harassment — because those are strongly negatively-valued events, it's worth having a sensitive filter that'll give false positives sometimes. But that depends on whether features associated with "creepiness" are less perceived as creepy in women by men or if they are actually less prevalent in women. Edit: I have a friend who's internet-famous-in-some-circles and he has had a lot of experiences with young female (and a few male) fans who've crossed the line into conventional creepiness but not into stalking (plus a few who have...), but people act differently toward celebrities. Probably doesn't generalize very well at all to interactions between, say, two people meeting in a bar.
Not really. That is odd, actually. Everyone I've met that I would describe as "creepy" is male. Plus I've never heard a woman described as such except in jest.
Is it even theoretically possible to be creepy to a man? In my—very limited—experience, if a man is afraid of anything, you don't condemn the object of his fear for frightening him; you deem him a coward and a pussy, lose all respect for him and basically stop regarding him as a man. You'd better be ready for him to challenge you to a duel, or some other culturally appropriate, less formal kind of fight, though. As far as I know, the ancestral, sexist rule is that showing fear as a man is like showing sexual desire as a woman: you never ever do it, on pain of losing everyone's respect.
I think it's a lot harder for a woman to come off as creepy than a man. (Standard "within the culture I'm familiar with" disclaimers apply.) I've been made uncomfortable by girls when in high school, but not really "creeped out". You almost have to go to the level of movie villain before they start getting creepy.
From a comment to the Ursula Vernon essay below:
I can only think of one occasion. A female classmate who had had less than 5 minutes of conversation with me announced her cancer treatment and recent bad relationship, then made overtures about meeting outside of class. Basically, forcing intimacy waaaay too fast. This was followed by a lot of "oh look, we're coincidentally on the same bus" sort of events, despite my consciously unfriendly demeanor and monosyllabic conversation.
In my experience, it is much much rarer. As a guy, I have been more creeped-out by other guys than by women.
Some women have an especially intense "you pathetic loser better stay the hell away from me" seemingly permanent look on their faces, to the point that it's actually readable to me. It can be rather uncomfortable when you have responsibilities that involve interacting with them anyway.
Damned if I know. There's at least some commonality of body language across the human race, and I don't know what the xenophobia/exoticism balance would have been for human prehistory. My bet is in favor of exoticism-- my impression is that people who are relatively isolated are desperate for novelty.
Personal space and touchy-feeliness varies a lot by culture. I've heard of American women being freaked out by foreign men standing too close because the men just didn't realize it was too close in the US.

being convinced you deserve something that it's totally unreasonable (socially) for you to be granted

There's some sort of ambiguity in the word "deserve". I would say that every harmless person deserves to be loved, or deserves an enjoyable job, but that doesn't mean anyone owes anyone anything. The world is the way it is.

This is certainly a fair reply. I take it, then, that you wouldn't consider the mere expression -- much less the mere feeling -- of disappointment to be creepy? As a practical matter, I suspect we agree a fair amount on the sorts of actual behaviors that should be considered alarming -- whether in the case of sex or anything else. Rather than disagreeing on what is or isn't bad behavior, my aim was just to point out the problem of amorous disappointment (in the specific case of males, as I have the impression -- which should be corrected if false -- that there tend to be differences in the basic causes of rejection between the sexes). On reflection, though I do tend to think this aspect isn't discussed enough (edit: what I mean here is that the taboo level is too high), it probably wasn't especially useful for me to add my voice to this particular controversy. Perhaps I should indeed leave this kind of thing for the Robin Hansons of the world.
Sure, no, I don't have a problem with disappointment. It does seem that men have more of a problem with amorous disappointment than women do. That definitely is "something wrong" and I'm not on board with women who basically think that men are in the wrong whenever they express desire.


It does seem that men have more of a problem with amorous disappointment than women do.

I disagree. I've been in situations where girls were determined to seduce me, and I kept rejecting their increasingly overt and desperate advances. They'd typically end up getting visibly annoyed, and there were also some ugly scenes of frustrated anger on their part. Similar things also happened sometimes when I would (mostly unintentionally) give a false hope to girls who were below my standards, though admittedly with much less overt drama compared to the former sort of situations.

Of course, such situations are less common than the inverse, and even more importantly, since women are typically physically weaker, men won't feel intimidated and threatened by their flipping out. These were just amusing youthful adventures for me, but I can easily imagine inverse scenarios being awfully scary for women. However, the idea that women somehow handle it more calmly and rationally when they're faced with the terrible feeling of being put down by a disappointing rejection is completely false.

That said, there are some significant differences in practice. Men are expected to take a more proact... (read more)

TvTropes does have plenty of examples of women who don't handle it well, so at least it's something that exists in the popular imagination.
Very well said. I made similar points in two posts I made a while back. Excerpt from #1 Excerpt from #2: (These were acts of terrorism back then, too.)
It's remarkable that you keep harping on this like you're being oppressed here, and the comments of yours that you linked to are highly upvoted, and the comment of Alicorn's that you link to is highly downvoted. It's also remarkable to me that you can consistently come across as a complete asshole and still require an explanation as to why you don't have success in interpersonal relationships. If I ever do find myself in the unlikely position of publishing a formal list of rules for success in dating, I'll be sure to include "1. Don't be Silas" so there's no further confusion.
Where do I come across as an asshole, and what corresponding assholish actions do you infer I do in my interpersonal relationships, including dating, based on them? Are you really claiming that Alicorn doesn't get too much support for her unreasonable request that I not post any comment nested under hers?
No, I was not claiming that. I was implying that Alicorn's comment complaining about your behavior being downvoted and your comments being upvoted are evidence that you won that particular status contest here. But I'll also go ahead and claim that Alicorn doesn't get too much support for her request that you not post any comment nested under hers. Votes, again, are some evidence there. And I will further claim that the request was not unreasonable. You are a very distressing person to receive communcations from, and I would not think anyone was being untoward for requesting anything up to and including you not communicating with anyone ever. Obviously, it might behoove you to decline such a request, as is your right. As for the first, you've received a great deal of advice on this matter in the past, and I've not the energy to spell it out at the moment in great detail. But in the above comment, here is one example: "acts of terrorism" is uncharitable at best; you're specifically referring to the attitudes people have towards your comments, using what I hope is supposed to be extreme hyperbole (I don't think, for instance, anyone actually called the Department of Homeland Security about you). "too" implies that there are readers who are currently taking these things to be "acts of terrorism". And you're linking multiple times to a discussion that was specifically unpleasant for many of the people involved (and you frequently do so). For the second, I'm not even sure what you mean... I take you being an asshole in interpersonal relationships (communicating with people on blogs and via youtube videos) to be evidence that you are the sort of person who will be an asshole in interpersonal relationships - I don't see the need to infer any further actions, as that is sufficient for me to prefer you not interact with myself or let you near my friends or my stuff, and imagine any sane person you were attempting to date would feel similarly. Of course, I'm hardly a p
If you have a reason to give a sudden lecture about my general not-niceness and deservingness of poor treatment, please take it to PM or email. You can contact me at sbarta at gmail. If you want to instead provoke a nasty, public fight in which we recount each others' past wrongs, then continue as you are.
Indeed, (I don't know why your comment was downvoted) we've had this conversation before and ranting at you in a public forum serves nobody. I have a note on my desk reminding me that adderall increases hostility (just in case I'm flying off the handle), but apparently I need to locate it more prominently. Thanks.
Well, at least I got some honest feedback, which is rare. "In adderallo veritas"?
How many hours a week of mercy fucks would you say that women owe to the world? I don't think you should necessarily avoid talking about changing preferences. I do think you should consider that people only change their preferences for reasons that make sense to them, and that contextless statements that the world would be better if only people would make themselves more convenient for someone else (who coincidentally is more like you than they are) are not likely to go over well, and why. When you said it was bound to be controversial, did you have any specific controversies in mind?
The obligation should be no stronger than the obligation to welcome a homeless person into your dwelling for a night's sleep, or to donate a large portion of one's savings+income to feed the starving - that is, nonexistent. The typical person would not necessarily offer sex to all comers on a pro bono basis, but could fund professionals who choose such a line of work.
If it had been phrased as you put it, I don't think things would have blown up. Correction: If it had been conceived as you put it, things wouldn't have blown up.
Glad to hear it. It's painful than seeing people try to blow up rationally :)
Well said, I noticed that same bias cropping up. I suppressed the impulse to reply in this case because on this one extinction seems to be more effective. Well, that and because I didn't want to confess to caring about unsexy men - it's one of those things that is not always correctly identified as a counter-signal.

To rephrase komponisto's reply to this in a simpler manner, and minus the controversial bit:

I wish everyone would extend to the unattractive people of the world, of either sex, our right to feel bitter. This does not make us rapists. Thank you for your attention.

That's a good point. It seems to be too easy to go from "Some bitter people are dangerous" to "Bitter people are dangerous"-- people make that sort of mistake anyway, and it's easier when there's some fear added.
Upvoted. But the right to feel bitter does not automatically imply the right to express bitterness. And even if you posit the right to express bitterness, expressing bitterness may still not be a rational response to the situation. ETA: This probably-volatile comic-strip link suggests one reason why bitterness over one's own unattractiveness is often the result of a deficiency in epistemic rationality.

If more geeks could come across as "exciting badboys, or masculine and high socially-skilled" then women who are subconsciously attracted to that type could actually wind up with someone intelligent and decent, instead of the usual jerks. You're raising the average quality level of the socially successful man.

That's exactly what I was trying to get at.

You can get better at attracting women, and that's great, but women are free to reject you.

Aside from hyperbolic marketing materials, what would make us think that PUAs believe that they are "guaranteed" success with women? What makes us think that they resist the notion that women are free to reject them?

Actually, by joining the seduction community, PUAs demonstrate a recognition that success with women is not guaranteed, and that they will only achieve it with a lot of work figuring out how to satisfy women's criteria.

PUAs call getting obsessed about any one particular woman "one-itis," which is one of the cardinal sins of pickup.

To understand the attitude that PUAs have towards rejection and towards the validity of women's preferences, let's take a look, not at the words of PUAs, but at the wor... (read more)

Viliam's response brought my attention to this quote-of-a-quote. It struck me as massively ill-conceived. This is just entirely backwards. The lessons on discipline - both academic and practical - that I learned during my training and brief career as a teacher have significant overlap with those of PUA. Taking actions in response to those of others that make it clear what behaviours they can get away with with you is an instrumental necessity with people in general. Is the critic's complaint that the interaction is framed as 'pressing buttons that have a desired influence on future behaviour' rather than 'make a moral judgement and punish those whose behavior does not match your ideals'?