Standard Intro

The following section will be at the top of all posts in the LW Women series.

Several months ago, I put out a call for anonymous submissions by the women on LW, with the idea that I would compile them into some kind of post.  There is a LOT of material, so I am breaking them down into more manageable-sized themed posts.

Seven women replied, totaling about 18 pages. 

Standard Disclaimer- Women have many different viewpoints, and just because I am acting as an intermediary to allow for anonymous communication does NOT mean that I agree with everything that will be posted in this series. (It would be rather impossible to, since there are some posts arguing opposite sides!)

To the submitters- If you would like to respond anonymously to a comment (for example if there is a comment questioning something in your post, and you want to clarify), you can PM your message and I will post it for you. If this happens a lot, I might create a LW_Women sockpuppet account for the submitters to share.

Please do NOT break anonymity, because it lowers the anonymity of the rest of the submitters.

Submitter D

The class that a lot of creepiness falls into for me is not respecting my no.  Someone who doesn't respect a small no can't be trusted to respect a big one, when we're alone and I have fewer options to enforce it beside physical strength.  Sometimes not respecting a no can be a matter of omission or carelessness, but I can't tell which.  

While I'm in doubt, I'm not assuming the worst of you, but I'm on edge and alertly looking for new data in a way that's stressful for me and makes it hard for either of us to enjoy the encounter.  And I'm sure as heck not going anywhere alone with you.

I've written up some short anecdotes that involved someone not respecting or constraining a no.  They're at a range of intensities.

Joining someone for the first time and sitting down in a spot that blocks their exit from the conversation.  Sometimes unavoidable (imagine joining people at a booth) but limits my options to exit and enforce a no.

Blocking an exit less literally by coming across as the kind of person who can't end a conversation (follows you between circles at a party, limits your ability to talk to other people, etc).

Asking for a number instead of offering yours.  If I want to call you, I will, but when you ask for my number, I can't stop you calling or harassing me in the future.

Asking for a number while blocking my exit.  This has happened to me in cabs when I take them late at night.  It's bad to start with because I can't exit a moving car and I can't control the direction it's going in.  One driver waited to the end of the ride, asked for my number, and then handed my reciept back and demanded it when I didn't comply.  I had to write down a fake one to get out without escalating.  This is why I'm torn between walking through a deserted part of town or taking a cab alone at night.

Talking about other girls who gave you "invalid" nos.  Anything on the order of "She was flirting with me all night and then she wouldn't put out/call me back/meet for coffee."  Responding positively to you is not a promise to do anything else, and it's not leading you on.  This kind of assumption is why I'm a little hesitant to be warm to a strange guy if I'm in a place where it would be hard to enforce a no.

Withholding information to constrain my no.  The culprit here was a girl and the target was a friend of mine.  The two of them had gone on a date and set a time to meet again and possibly have sex.  The girl had a boyfriend, but was in some kind of open relationship and had informed my friend of this fact.  What she didn't disclose was that the boyfriend was back in town the night of their second date.  She waited to reveal that until my friend had turned up.  My friend still had the power to say no, and did, but there was nothing preventing the girl from disclosing that data earlier, when my friend could have postponed or demurred by text.  Waiting til she'd already shlepped to the apartment put more pressure on her.  It suggested the girl would rather rig the game than respect a no.

Overstepping physical boundaries and then assigning the blame to me.  You might go for a kiss in error or touch me in a way I'm not comfortable with.  Say sorry and move on.  Don't say, "You looked like you wanted to be kissed."  That implies my no is less valid if you're confused.  


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I really want to reply to this but I'm also really conflicted about how to do that. I think it is smart to acknowledge that women often associate being alone with an unfamiliar man as a serious risk. As a result it is totally reasonable to make judgments about how a man would behave in that setting. And it is good for men to be aware of this and to calibrate their behavior to take it into account.

But my sense is that using the kind of rhetoric in this post with young, well meaning men with poor social skills causes problems. And since the audience here is mostly young, well meaning men with poor social skills I'm kind of concerned. Nyan's reply is illustrative of this effect. Let's suppose there are two kinds of creepy: people who are creepy because you actually can't trust them to be alone with you and people who just come off that way. With the first group learning about what behaviors seem creepy is not going to actually make the trustworthy. With the second group, well they're by definition really bad at calibrating how to act in social situations. And it seems like it is pretty routine for men in that group to drastically overcompensate to avoid seeming creepy to the point whe... (read more)

I want to largely but not totally agree with this comment.

I agree that the sort of rhetoric that often gets used in talking about these things has these effects (and part of this post might). However, I think much of this post will actually help counteract that sort of thing.

See, here's my mental model: The sort of men we're talking about, who overcompensate to avoid being creepy -- they're doing this because they just know to not be creepy; they don't have a good concrete any idea of what that means, they just know the general direction of it and that it's bad. And so they step back from anything they think might at all be over the line and... well, you know the rest. Of course, they don't realize that they were never anywhere near the line in the first place, because the things that are actually over the line are things they wouldn't even think of doing in the first place. Having actual examples then is helpful because it allows you to see, "Wait, that's a typical example of what's over the line? I guess I was never anywhere near the line in the first place after all."

A lot of the rhetoric that gets thrown around about this sort of thing, it's easy to get the impre... (read more)

Except we frequently do get called "creepy" when we approach it.
I don't agree. Treating these problems as skill deficits rather than inherent personal traits is a far better response. Instead of trying to hide one's sexuality (as if one's sex desire is inherently creepy), one should attempt to improve the skills so that one can display sexuality without being creepy. More generally, people who don't care if they are creepy rely on a fair amount of social license to operate. If there were less social tolerance of creepy, even people who wanted to be creepy would do less creepy behavior.
Jack did not say that male sexuality was creepy in itself.
Sexual desire is not inherently creepy. But if one thinks this routine is productive: then one is probably very confused about how to fix one's problems about expressing sexuality.

Um, I think I was pretty clear that this routine is really, really unproductive and was my central point of concern about "creepiness" rhetoric. In other words I think it's really bad that what we say to young men leads them to repress their sexuality and walk around on egg shells. I didn't really give a detailed alternative but my implied position was clearly that men can be both sexual and non-creepy and that not worrying about being creepy so much is part of developing that skill.

Um. On re-reading, my response to ikrase is pretty incoherent. D'oh. To try again:

A certain population of men is noticing a problem, and trying to solve that problem. The first attempted solution makes members of the population very unhappy, and doesn't seem to solve the problem.

I read your original comment as saying that we should stop trying to highlight the problem to those men because it will cause more people to try to implement the failed solution. Instead, I suggest we should identify what is wrong with the attempted solution.

To cash that out explicitly: Some folks are treating their social deficits as an inherent trait, similar to a grotesque deformity on one side of their face. Their response is to try to hide the deficit, as if they were turning their head so that the deformity doesn't show. But that solution is very uncomfortable, because it effectively denies a part of their life (sexual desire) actually exists. Thus, it's a really bad solution. Instead, folks with social deficits should recognize socializing is a skill, which can be improved with practice.

Not worrying about the existence of creepy behavior just allows actual creeps to hide in the tall grass of ... (read more)

I read your original comment as saying that we should stop trying to highlight the problem to those men because it will cause more people to try to implement the failed solution.

I definitely didn't mean to say we should stop trying to highlight the problem at all. My concern is the problem being presented a) to a general audience instead of specific individuals who are actually known to come off as creepy b) in a way that seems to inflate how common it is, c) in way the imputes creepiness to behaviors that aren't generally understood to be creepy and d) unaccompanied by any other socializing advice.

So I'm totally okay with going up to someone and saying, "Hey, you're coming off as really creepy because you're doing x under conditions y. In general, try to avoid doing things that have characteristic z and make sure to do p and q." Similarly, any kind of socializing manual ought to include something about it. But the way creepiness was dealt with in the post, at least how I saw it was more, "Creepiness is this awful thing women have to deal with. It happens whenever people (generally men) do things that meet this vague criteria. Here are some examples that I think ... (read more)

It seems really plausible that inexperienced men with poor social skills who aren't creepy at all read posts like this and think "Oh my God, am I creepy? I really don't want to be creepy. Let me try really hard to avoid being creepy at any point in my interactions with women." The above is totally counterproductive to good socializing and I think a net negative.

This seems to be a general problem with psychological "self-medication".

Imagine that a standard medicine would practiced in the following way: There would exist a pill to cure almost any problem. Those pills would be freely available in shops. The only missing part would be the diagnosis. So you could go to a shop and buy a pill for increasing blood pressure, or a pill for decreasing blood pressure. But you would not have information about which of these pills (if any) you need.

Even worse, imagine that people would have a bias to medicate themselves the wrong way. For example, people with high blood pressure would be more likely to choose the pill for increasing blood pressure, and vice versa. So despite having a magic pill for almost anything, the medicine practiced this way would be mostly harming pe... (read more)


We need two different words for what's been called “high-status creep” (e.g. a hypermasculine, fashionably-dressed guy who snatches your phone and dials his own number, or similar) and what's been called “low-status creep” (e.g. someone with very poor social skills and poor personal grooming). So long as there are people using that word for the former and people using that word for the latter, confusion will keep on ensuing.

Excellent comment! If you came up with a few more examples of the psychological self-medication problem in addition to the creepiness one, I think this would make for a good LW post.

Thankyou for the effort you have been putting in to your replies in this series Viliam. You are injecting much needed balance and perspective into the the conversation.

Hear, hear!
This is a very good point. To extent your metaphor, I think the problem is that people feel ashamed to seek expert advice (or any outside advice) about what sort of pill to buy. If we could do something to make it less shameful to seek outside advice, from either professional expert or informal expert, I think some of this problem would disappear. I think these types of posts have the potential to help in that process, but making explicit what the current rules really are, how different folks implement them, and what hypocrisies may exist within a particular set of rules. Hopefully, when one has a better sense of those things, one will be in a better position to figure out what intervention to select.
This is very well put.
I'm afraid I run in exactly this kind of failure mode. I have read a lot about the problems and dangers women face on a daily basis in interactions with men, I understand why they're creeped out, and I do my very best to avoid coming off as creepy. Together with my poor social skills and low empathy, this attitude leads to other problems. I turn down invitations by females (repeatedly by the same female, currently, though in the past it have been different females) which may or may not indicate romantic interest - invitations to the cinema, to their place, for studying, etc.. I refuse to hand out my cell phone number, I don't answer e-mails, I consciously avoid eye contact and try to get out of conversations quickly. I know that this creates huge amounts of disutility for all parties involved, whether there is a romantic interest on either one's behalf or not, and it certainly is stressful for myself and makes engaging with persons of the opposite gender unpleasant. Though on the abstract level, with my "conscious" parts, I act this way, I frequently catch myself subconsciously participating in the "dance", which annoys me since most times there definitely is no romantic interest on her behalf. As soon as I notice this behaviour, I stop it. As the parent wrote, it's probably visible that I try to hide my sexual attraction, which comes across as creepy on its own. All in all, I regularly end up frustrated and wish I had no sexuality. Chances are I'm not going to change anytime soon, and that is probably because I know of the vast damages I might be capable of causing if I act on anything although I am clueless about whether I should act and what I should do, which in turn is caused by my low social skills and empathy, which this way have no chance of improving, ever. I feel like a greedy algorithm caught in a high-cost local minimum with even higher walls. This is, of course, my fault, and harrassment of females is a real problem not to be underestimated, even if
Er... Why? Things usually described as creepy involve wanting to interact with someone regardless of whether they want to interact with you; if it's them who initiated the interaction (and so you know they want to interact with you), why would they be creeped out when you reciprocate? (Unless you have a reason to believe that the invitation was only for politeness' sake but didn't expect you to actually accept, that is.)
I dunno, perhaps this is just anxiety in general, with no line of thought behind it? I feel myself put in a fight-or-flight situation and, basically, stall.
Do you recognize any difference between a man experiencing intense arousal ("smoldering libido") around a person's presence and their believing that an intimate relationship with that person would be beneficial?
I'm afraid I run in exactly this kind of failure mode. I have read a lot about the problems and dangers women face on a daily basis in interactions with men, I understand why they're creeped out, and I do my very best to avoid coming off as creepy. Together with my poor social skills and low empathy, this attitude leads to other problems. I turn down invitations by females (repeatedly by the same female, currently, though in the past it have been different females) which may or may not indicate romantic interest - invitations to the cinema, to their place, for studying, etc.. I refuse to hand out my cell phone number, I don't answer e-mails, I consciously avoid eye contact and try to get out of conversations quickly. I know that this creates huge amounts of disutility for all parties involved, whether there is a romantic interest on either one's behalf or not, and it certainly is stressful for myself and makes engaging with persons of the opposite gender unpleasant. Though on the abstract level, with my "conscious" parts, I act this way, I frequently catch myself subconsciously participating in the "dance", which annoys me since most times there definitely is no romantic interest on her behalf. As soon as I notice this behaviour, I stop it. As the parent wrote, it's probably visible that I try to hide my sexual attraction, which comes across as creepy on its own. All in all, I regularly end up frustrated and wish I had no sexuality. Chances are I'm not going to change anytime soon, and that is probably because I know of the vast damages I might be capable of causing if I act on anything although I am clueless about whether I should act and what I should do, which in turn is caused by my low social skills and empathy, which this way have no chance of improving, ever. I feel like a greedy algorithm caught in a high-cost local minimum with even higher walls. This is, of course, my fault, and harrassment of females is a real problem not to be underestimated, even if
Creepy casts a wide net, but that seems to me the key differentiating aspect to me. It's the unasserted desire for increased levels of intimacy or physical contact that makes for creepiness. Asserted, it might make someone uncomfortable with dealing with it. If there is a question about whether he would use force, it is more threatening than creepy.

Here is a link describing creepy, threatening desire from a man's perspective.

This goes back to the ever expansive use of the word "creepy". I take it a little back to the roots of moving slowly along the ground. In terms of humans, that largely became slowly and furtively stalking. Which people find repulsive, so that creep became anyone you find repulsive. I think that's broad to the point of signifying little but your own repulsion and dislike, just slightly different in connotation from dick or asshole. The guy was repulsive. Intrusive. Annoying. Lot's of people would call him a creep, but in a sense largely interchangeable with loser, schmuck, or freak. I wouldn't call him creepy, as that's just the wrong connotation to me. There was nothing furtive, slow, or stealthy about his behavior. Quite the opposite. It was a full frontal assault. Part of it was the author's discomfort with an inner conflict on ideological grounds, about being open minded towards gays. Maybe that's really part of what I would consider creepy too. In most cases, there seems to be a conflicted reaction. Wanting to get away or tell the guy to piss off, but feeling constrained in some manner from doing so. I think this is an unexplored general aspect of creepiness, that conflicted feeling within the person feeling creeped out. Part of the conflict in "classical" creepiness is the slow and furtive stalking, so that one feels uncomfortable with rejecting someone who has yet to make an overt offer. But you want to get it over with too. The unresolved tension makes for discomfort. Sometimes that tension comes from perceived threat, wanting to stop the behavior, but not wanting to escalate the issue either. It's a discomfort that one can't resolve. Except at the very beginning, I wouldn't have felt conflicted about the guy on the plane. My projected reaction to him would first be discomfort, then annoyance, then violation of boundaries. I didn't find the guy creepy as much as intrusive, and I wouldn't have my undies in a bunch over telling him to back off. I wouldn't
I think you're making the same mistake as Yvain here []. I think that etymologically speaking Bob is called “creepy” because he gives Alice the creeps (a visceral feeling of uneasiness, as though spiders were crawling on her skin), not because he's metaphorically crawling towards her. (The word for the latter is “sneaky”; the two are correlated but not the same concept.)
From what I can see, the verb sense came first, then creeper as one who creeps, then creepy as the feeling of having things crawl on your skin, and then creep as someone who creeps and gives you those feelings. As a matter of semantic hygiene, if used to indicate one person's reaction to another, creepy is a two place term. If used to indicate an observer independent fact, such as actions of a person, it is a one place term. However, many habitually deny the two place aspect in all sorts of concepts, claiming objectivity and observer independence. That tension between riding my philosophical hobby horse of pointing out two place terms is coming up against those who would habitually seek to make their reactions a quality of the the object they're reacting to. There is validity in that if creepy is a two place term, but it is an over generalization as a one place term. [] creep (v.) Old English creopan "to creep" (class II strong verb; past tense creap, past participle cropen), from Proto-Germanic kreupanan (cf. Old Frisian kriapa, Middle Dutch crupen, Old Norse krjupa "to creep"), from PIE root greug-. Related: Crept; creeping. creeper (n.) Old English creopera "one who creeps," agent noun from creep (v.). Also see creep (n.). Meaning "lice" is from 1570s; of certain birds from 1660s; of certain plants from 1620s. creep (n.) "a creeping motion," 1818, from creep (v.). Meaning "despicable person" is 1935, American English slang, perhaps from earlier sense of "sneak thief" (1914). Creeper "a gilded rascal" is recorded from c.1600, and the word also was used of certain classes of thieves, especially those who robbed customers in brothels. The creeps "a feeling of dread or revulsion" first attested 1849, in Dickens. creepy (adj.) 1794, "characterized by creeping," from creep + -y (2). Meaning "having a creeping feeling in the flesh" is from 1831; that of producing such

This reminds me-- I wonder if "creepiness" is to some extent a group phenomenon. If one or two (high status?) women in group are creeped out, then they might influence others in the group.

I'm sure it is. Emotions themselves are contagious, particularly with an ingroup member, and that's not counting the usual status and ingroup/outgroup dynamics. One complication. I'd expect real unsafe assault threat creepiness to decrease while you're in a group from mitigation of the threat, while low status creepiness to increase.
“You” the creeper or “you” the crepee?
You the creepee.
Wait... Why would you be more creeped out by a low-status person if they're your friend? If anything, I'd expect you to eventually realize that theirs is cluelessness rather than malevolence, and eventually get used to it. (I'm reasonably sure I'm more likely to low-status-creep someone I've just met that someone I've known for a while -- though I might just be insufficiently controlling for the relevant confounding factors.)
I wouldn't. We have a clash of the imaginations. In the scenario in my head, the Creep was never a member of your group, was an assault threat creep, and you may or may not be in a group. When you're in a group, you're safer from the creep, therefore perceived creepiness is diminished along with decreased feeling of threat.
Yes, I got that, I was talking about the “while low status creepiness to increase” at the end of that comment.
Ohh, I see what you're saying. I guess I won't object if you decide that you don't want to use the word "creep" to describe this guy, but I'm guessing the word originated not from the stealthy behavior of the creep, but the sensation of the person experiencing the feeling of creepiness. Because a creepy feeling is a type of growing discomfort that it's hard to pinpoint the source of. Even in horror movies, a place can be creepy because you feel like something bad is going to happen, but you don't quite know why. And indeed, it takes the narrator some thinking before he's able to figure out what made this guy's approach so much more disturbing than the usual attention he's received from gay guys before. I'm not sure how big the issue surrounding "creep" is actually a language issue, but I think part of what's happening is that the meaning of words drift slowly enough for people to notice. For example, I have a tendency to disagree when people tell me that "lame" is ableist language, because I always think of lame as referring to jokes and maybe occasionally pack animals and ... never people. I think the usage of that word has drifted away from people, but there are enough vocal people who are still sensitive about it. (And I guess I would try to not use it around those people anyway.) So I guess I would conclude that when you hear other people use the word creep, they probably mean "a nebulous source of discomfort that I can't quite place" rather than "an agent deliberately trying to cause me discomfort", which is definitely pretty broad, but maybe a lot less accusatory than the latter? EDIT: Just to be extra pedantic, here are some [] links []! :)
Creepy also seems to include people who just violate lesser boundaries without expressing desires.
Why is that creepy instead of just shy?

I think people tend not to believe in shyness, unless you're actually blushing. I used to be shy (still am, depending on the situation). But when I talked about it with my classmates one day, it turned out they actually thought I didn't want to associate with them and was aloof because I felt superior to them. Nothing could have been farther from the truth...

In general people believe in explanations that involve them more than ones that don't involve them. "X doesn't like talking to people" is the x-is-shy explanation, while "X doesn't like talking to me" is the x-is-aloof explanation.

Huh. I've never thought about it in that way before, but I feel sure you're right.
I used to be shy but now I actually do feel superior to a lot of people and don't want to associate with them.
There are at least two possibilities: a) I've always been an elitist asshole but I used to rationalize it as shyness. b) I've always been shy and still am but now after overdosing on Robin Hanson and various meta-contrarian writers it flatters my self-image more to think of myself as having base and vain motives for everything.
There was a point at which I realized shyness was unattractive and started acting aloof to cover up shyness. It's a lot easier than than being friendly and high status.
This sounds testable. Do you find it harder to interact with more awesome people, or less hard? If it's shyness, I'd expect you to find it harder, because you're more intimidated, whereas if it's aloofness, I'd expect you to find it less hard, because you'd be more interested in them.
Yes. My System 1/elephant keeps forgetting that there exists such a thing as shyness,¹ and as a result it repeatedly misinterprets ‘[I like you, but I'm too shy to show you]’ as ‘[I don't like you, but I'm too polite to show you]’. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1. Well, I'm often shy myself, but only when initiating an interaction. When the interaction has already started, I usually have no problem whatsoever reciprocating, unless I actually don't like the other person. And my System 1 generalizes from one example and finds it hard to alieve that other people can be too shy to continue an interaction that's already started unless they don't like me.
I certainly sympathize with being shy, as I used to be more shy, and tend to like shy people. But consider the situation from the perspective of the person the shy person has desire for, but won't fully assert the desire for. The shy person seems interested. They're sort of approaching, but they don't make a move that you feel you could reject without seeming presumptuous. You're put in a position where either you escalate, or you live with an uncomfortable and unresolved situation. I think that's a consistent theme across similar senses of creepiness. An unresolved discomfort with someone, perceiving a likely escalation on their part, where the removal of the discomfort at your initiative requires confrontation and potential escalation. There's no crime to shyness, but one should be aware how your behavior affects other people.
Flip side, however, they didn't escalate because they already knew they'd be rejected, and don't want to potentially terminate the non-romantic friendship in pursuit of unrequited feelings. Is escalation and subsequent rejection an improvement in the general case?
Smarter to acknowledge that for a women to be alone with an unfamiliar man often is a serious risk.
I didn't mean to imply that it isn't a serious risk. I would agree that it is. The phrasing was mainly there to avoid making more assertions that might be controversial but aren't actually relevant to my point.

Generally agree that this is important to keep in mind, but:

Asking for a number instead of offering yours. If I want to call you, I will, but when you ask for my number, I can't stop you calling or harassing me in the future.

It's possible my model is just mistaken here, but my understanding is that people generally expect (straight) men to ask for numbers and (straight) women to offer numbers, and deviating from this script on the male side is low-status. Something like "I can't be bothered to take the next step here, so you do it." Or maybe "I'm not confident enough to ask for your number, so I'll give you mine instead and hope for the best." Agree with the other commenters that offering fake numbers is an option.

In a situation like this I usually say something like "let's exchange our phone numbers".

If that's how you actually say it, I'd be a little concerned about how you were coming across. "Let's exchange our phone numbers" doesn't lend itself to a polite "no" in the same way as, say, "Do you want to exchange phone numbers?"
Replace Viliam_Bur with a pretty girl. Are you still concerned about how she's coming across? What if it's two people of the same gender? What if one of them is secretly attracted to the other but pretends to be a friend, yet the other knows about said supposedly secret attraction? I think you were assuming a certain context and tone and approach that have been more closely associated with that phrasing in your personal experience, perhaps without realizing it.
Good point. I checked by visualising a selection of people in my head asking this, male and female, with various characteristics. I had the same reaction to about equal numbers of men and women. Usually some something along the lines of "erm, can we add each other on facebook first?" ...Then again, I'm probably just particularly not-keen on giving people my phone number, and as such was reading the situation exclusively in terms of "which way of asking makes the certainty of me saying "no" less awkward?"
Yes, but I guess the OP also had that kind of situation in mind.
Since we're talking about impressions and pressures to say yes and the like, I prefer something like "I'd like to exchange numbers. Would that be all right?" This lets you take most of the risk in the interaction and makes your intentions clearer, while the "Do you want..." version asks the other person to express their preferences first and only implies your own. And going one step further, it's not about getting a phone number (or shouldn't be). It's about keeping the conversation going. So: "I'd like to keep this conversation going / talking with you / talking about this. How does that sound to you?" and if you get a positive response, then "Let's exchange numbers" or "how can I find you on Facebook" is perfectly natural.
Your requests are -too- reasonable. They would make many people feel unreasonable for saying no. Make people feel comfortable telling you no. For example, by asking first: "May I ask you a rather personal question?" Plus, it's amusing. And doubly so if you freely volunteer the reason -why- you asked that question first. A little dark-artsy, mind, but most of social interactions involve a little bit of that anyways.
That's not dark-artsy. It contextualizes your personal request as a personal request, thereby making it acceptable to refuse. Sort of the opposite, really. It's a lot like introducing an idea you have for working with someone as 'a [potentially] unreasonable request' - by saying it, you're almost explicitly giving them permission to say 'no' to whatever comes next, and if they think it was perfectly reasonable then they go along and all you spent was 4 words.
It doesn't -sound- dark artsy, and it doesn't -feel- manipulative to the person on the other end, but the apparent significant of the leading question diffuses the relatively low significance of the second question. The question of why you asked for the phone number in this manner distracts them from the question of whether or not they really wanted to give it to you. (This only applies while it is an unorthodox approach, mind.) That's where the dark arts come in. I recommend it anyways because, as you say, it gives them a comfortable way of saying no.
I think that hardly anyone is going to be so confused by the framing that they don't think about the object level question, especially since the object level question is most often a gut matter where most of the difficulty arises from reading yourself, not generating the judgement itself. Taking the pressure off makes it all easier.
It's a marginal effect, not a primary one; you couldn't get a phone number out of somebody who doesn't like you, but you might get one out of somebody who is near the threshold. Other effects from framing the question (such as signaling that you respect their right to say no, and therefore will respect it if they later decide they'd rather not be called by you) this way probably dominate the impact; but as somebody who grew up around manipulation, and have a natural and despised tendency towards it, manipulation is something I am rather paranoid about, and avoid as much as reasonably possible.
But... this is the opposite of manipulation. How does making every effort to minimize manipulation get you in trouble for manipulating?
It won't get me in trouble for manipulating. But you misestimate what's going on: Such a strategy isn't manipulation-minimizing. In fact it depends on some (positive) manipulation, trying to frame the question in a way that makes the other person more comfortable saying no. There's also some negative manipulation going on, however, in that the framing -also- makes the other person less likely to say no, even if it is just at the marginal cases. Effective manipulation doesn't rely on changing another person's thought processes, it relies on subverting them. Don't make them into a person who will do X, be the person they would do X for/to.
Your definition of manipulation is so broad I think it loses all relevant meaning. Framing a question is a matter of clear communication.
I think the tone of voice is as important as the actual wording used.
Or “here's my phone number, if you ring me I'll save yours”.
Bad idea; that carries the subtext of "I won't let you get away with giving me a fake number". (See for example comment thread 17 here [].)
They can still say, "I don't have my phone with me at the moment." ;-) (And as I mentioned elsethread, these days I only ever ask for phone numbers in situations where I can be reasonably sure that they are OK with giving me theirs.)
Only better in the unlikely event that the other party will take it at face value and believe them; and that the other party hasn't previously caught a glimpse of their phone at any point.
I find it very puzzling how people can get used to so much lying and casual disrespect for each other's intelligence. I'm looking at it from the "privileged" viewpoint of someone who never entered the world of dating or sex, nor would've had much to offer in it, and thus didn't bear its costs, but I expect a lot of people to consider the very fact that you feel the need to give someone a fake phone number, as opposed to simply refusing, or to pretend you don't have your phone with you, a gigantic red flag and a sign that there are an awful lot of much better things you could be doing than being in that place interacting with that person. Measly pieces of knowledge I've gathered so far: * The man probably just wants to get into the woman's pants and to show and defend his masculinity and his status. He needs to look tough, and hence can't let his lack of mutual trust with the woman visibly bother him; that's why he doesn't appear to think twice if given the chance before inserting a pretty vulnerable part of his body into an orifice whose unenthusiastic owner could've set up any number of nasty surprises in the way. This also probably implies he can't afford to respect the woman very much. * The woman..., well, I have no idea what she wants in the first place. If asked, she'll probably say she just wants to have a good time, making a point to look down on all those sex-starved men who fall dismally short of her standards, as if they don't know there's more to life than sex. Of course, her own sexual drive is not contemptible at all, and neither is that of the men she does find attractive. She obviously has no respect for the man she's interacting with. She might fear him, and—unlike in a man—this fear may be high-status, since it signals her desirability and her ability to summon allies eager to mop the floor with any lowlife who distresses her. I read the great-great-grandparent as giving your number so the other person

I had exactly the same reaction. I believe (though have extremely small data number of data points) that offering a number instead of asking for one would be taken as low-status. On the other hand, I doubt that the balance between having a proposition accepted or denied is often that delicate. Presumably in most cases, by the time you're considering exchanging information, she or he has already made up their minds enough that such a small faux-pas wouldn't matter much.

I feel like I'm restating the obvious, but things are nearly always more creepy when done by an unattractive person and nearly always less creepy when done by an attractive one, ceteris paribus. I haven't seen attractiveness mentioned in any of the examples in this topic so far. (???)

A couple comments have pointed it out. If few people have mentioned it it is probably because it is the standard complaint against "creepiness" rhetoric.

I think there are times when it is basically used as a slur against unattractive people. But there is also a good reason to interpret a behavior from an attractive person and an unattractive person differently. This is because people generally have some idea of attractive they are.

Imagine you are an attractive women evaluating the intentions of men around you (say at a bar). A man displays some kind of body language or verbal behavior that suggests he is sexually attracted to you. You ask yourself "Why is he doing that?". Well if he has reasoned that the two of you are similarly attractive than it is very likely that he has expressed attraction as a way of telling you he is attracted and seeing if the attraction is mutual (and could lead to a fun consensual relationship).

But if the man isn't nearly as attractive as you are then it seems like he should know that and think it unlikely that you would want to be involved with him. Thus, you instinctively lower the probability that he is merely trying to gauge mut... (read more)

Do they? I'm under the impression that the Dunning–Kruger effect (for unattractive people) and the impostor syndrome (for attractive people) often apply.
But you're right that those biases happen. Also, the women making the judgment may not be taking these biases into account sufficiently.
Well, of course few people in the 10th percentile will incorrectly believe they are in the 90th percentile or vice versa (or at least, I hope not).

This seems to be reifying "attractiveness". It's bad enough to treat it as a one-place function; this line of thinking seems to treat it as an unchangeable one-place function.

Take the "creepyness" part, which is also a multiplace function of the beholder and beholden and context, and you've got the same problem. I guess I shouldn't have assumed it was obvious that I was scope-masking both "creepy" and "attractive" under respective "as perceived by whoever is making the attractiveness/creepyness judgment at the time where this parameter is relevant" formulas. So, to factor, unpack, inline and reiterate: Ceteris paribus, actions or behaviors or phrases always appear more creepy to a given observer or participant whenever said observer or participant finds the source of the actions, behaviors or phrases less attractive at the time of evaluation where the level of creepyness is evaluated by said observer or participant, and conversely appear less creepy when the source is found more attractive under the same circumstances. To me, by charitable reading when taking LessWrong as context, the above paragraph and the first one in the grandparent seem equivalent. Should I not be reading others' comments like this mentally? I've been doing this on every comment I read for months.
There is something to be said about being confident enough that you don't follow the social script. Like seemingly most things in dating, the strategy doesn't matter very much - it's all about the way you portray yourself. After a friend recommended giving women my number, I have completely stopped asking for theirs. With n=~10, only one has declined saying that it was my responsiblity to take hers. The others all seemed delighted that I was different, and willing to give them more of the direct power whether or not they'd like to see me again. My general advice in this department would to be to completely forget that there is a script and simply experiment to see what works for you.
How many called you?
Three. Edit: Interestingly, the woman who insisted I take her number was positively disintersted when I did call.
Seems like she was interested in rejecting you, and created for herself an opportunity to do it twice. Different people optimize for different things.
Or she was trying to Enforce a Rule, regardless of whether she wanted Paamayim's company. Some people just aren't consequentialists.
On the rare occasions I've had the testicular fortitude to ask for anything from a woman, I've gone with asking for an email address rather than a phone number. Like the OP, I read "can I have your number?" as "Can I have a long-term license to annoy the crap out of you in future?" Though in my case it's just because I hate talking on the phone. Asking for an email address seems to fit the social formula while being easily blackholeable at a future date.
Is there a reason to ask for a number at all? If you're unsure about whether someone is interested asking if you can add them on eg facebook seems much less pushy! Then you can message them the next day saying "lovely to meet you." If they're interested they'll reply.
The straightforward answer is that those PUA folks who do lot's of approaches find that the chances of getting a date are higher when they ask for a number than when they try to connect over facebook.
My guess is that most of PUA techniques developed before Facebook became ubiquitous, and they just haven't caught up with that yet.
Actually no. There much pressure in the PUA industry to sell new secrets to getting woman. I consider it highly unlikely that no one of them tried to ask women for facebook information.
Yes. I generally only actually offer to exchange numbers with people when I have already agreed (usually via the Facebook chat or in person) to meet them at a certain time and place, just in case they have to tell me at the last moment they'll be late (or couldn't make it) or vice versa.
If you have a nice voice but aren't good at chatting on the internet (such people do exist!), asking for numbers is probably a better option for you.
I'm not entirely sure of this either, but I think that if you happen to have a business card, then handing out one is relatively high-status. And if you don't, you can have some made for cheap.
Forget business cards. Have personal dating cards printed, with intentionally bad sexual puns and innuendo. Or hand out dating resumes. Bonus points if you include references. Double bonus points if they're references for sexual skill.
I think our community is BADLY in need of a broad-ranging set of asessments as to when status is fragile and/or important. Like, on a scale of friends to court intrigue... I'm not saying it's unimportant here, and not disagreeing that it might be pretty omnipresent, but I think people have gotten into a state of always paying attention to status and ways it may be indicated.

I think people have gotten into a state of always paying attention to status and ways it may be indicated.

The implication here seems to be that people are not in this state by default, which doesn't seem true to me. It's certainly true that LWers have gotten into a state of frequently talking about status, which is not default.

That's also possible. But I still think we have a bias toward paying too much explicit attention to it.
From my own experience: I only ask for a number when I sense that the interaction has established a solid foundation to do so. So nowadays in my interactions with women I very rarely ask for a number for that reason.
Another take beyond "low status". I've had it described as "putting the onus on the woman to initiate contact with you". I don't know why my giving my phone number and requesting she call back with her number shouldn't count as initiating contact by me, but apparently it doesn't with some. People expect women to offer numbers, or do they expect them to supply numbers at their discretion when asked? I'd think generally the latter, and not the former,

The famous "[elevatorgate]" case is highly relevant to the topic, I'm surprised no one has brought it up.

The short version: Rebecca Watson was leaving a mixer after an atheist conference to go to her hotel room. A guy followed her to the elevator and invited her to come to his room for coffee. She felt creeped out/disturbed by the incident and wrote about it on her blog. The incident got a lot of attention after Richard Dawkins left a comment mocking Watson's reaction. Amanda Marcotte's response was typical of the feminist reaction.

In sum, men who corner women know what they're doing. And yes, they are relying on the fear of rape to grease the wheels towards getting laid. Rebecca may not have put it that way, but being a mean ol' feminist bitch, I'm happy to say it. Also: duh. It also strikes me, in my dealing with geek culture, that there's a taboo against rejecting someone, and creepy dudes also are happy to exploit that, knowing that women who reject them will be condemned for violating the "don't be judgmental" rule.

The total lack of interest in seeing this from the elevator man's perspective is typical. Neither Watson nor Marcotte seemed to have ev... (read more)

Some meta observations:

You make rules. People abuse them. You make meta-rules against abusing the rules. People abuse the meta-rules.

You make rules to help less socially skilled people to raise from the bottom. More socially skilled people are better at playing these rules, so at the end, the less socially skilled people remain at the bottom. Any advantage you design for less socially skilled people, if it has positive total worth, it will be taken by the more socially skilled people.

If it's making a rule explicit that socially skilled people already know and use, then this should narrow the difference between socially skilled people and some socially unskilled people.

There will be some socially unskilled people who don't hear about the rule, don't understand it, or can't or won't follow it. They'll be relatively worse off.

I've always thought of this incident in terms of the calibration idea above.

The chance of his advance succeeding, given that in that context she was a celebrity and that they hadn't established any rapport, were incredibly slim. It was a total hail mary. And it was made in a context that made rejection more uncomfortable (confined space), and it was pretty directly sexual.

In short, the advance was wildly miscalibrated: it was such a stunningly bad bet, she concluded that he just didn't have her interests on the ledger at all. And that pissed her off, and I think that's thoroughly reasonable.

Agree totally. It was not, however, in itself worth the outrage. The only reason anybody remembers it as Elevatorgate is because of the huge war that developed over it.

Maybe I'm not geeky enough (or not part of a culture enough): Is there a taboo against rejecting someone in geek culture? What exactly does that mean? It seems like a bizarrely bad rule in and of itself, not just because it is exploited by "creepy dudes".

Seems to me there are two important factors:

1) Many geeks have (or at least had at some part of their lives) low social skills. Which makes them generally more forgiving to lack of social skills in other people, because there is a silent voice in their heads telling them "if having low social skills is enough reason to send someone away, then you should be sent away too"; or at least a fear that if there is a treshold of required social skills and it starts rising, at some point it could rise too high for them too, so it is better to oppose it while the treshold is low. From inside, tolerating people with low social skills feels like a virtue, like not being a bully.

Overdoing this can lead to suboptimal results. Presence of people with low social skills can drive other people away, or at least prevent new people from joining. Also there is something like the opposite of the "evaporative cooling" -- if most human groups send people with low social skills away, and only some groups accept them, then those tolerant groups will have improportionally huge amounts of such people; they will collect the outcasts from other groups. In extreme situations it can lead to ac... (read more)

Interesting. Though, I read the comment as suggesting a taboo against rejecting a romantic/sexual advance not against excluding someone from a group.
Oh, you are right! Seems like my thoughts switched to a different topic while composing the comment in my head. :D
The Cat Piss Man [] problem.
That's GSF#1 [].
It's worth noting that the actual event in the elevator wasn't actually all that bad (although it was creepy). Elevatorgate is only notable because it stirred the pot and brought a huge upwelling of rape threats and stuff like that to the surface.
It's important to note that "nerdy/loser/awkward/unattractive" men (and women) frequently in fact lack social skills, which is a major part of what leads to that label being applied in the first place. I know people who would generally be considered physically unattractive but were very socially popular; similarly I know people who would generally be considered physically attractive who were socially unpopular despite this (significant) advantage. Unfortunately, social skills are often difficult to learn or even notice one needs to improve, leading to widespread frustration among those who lack them but don't realize this fact. My general recommendation is that anyone reading this comment should improve their social skills, and I say this not as an indictment of the social skill level of the average LW reader but rather as advice that applies to nearly everyone, regardless of current status.
Citation needed. Here [] is the original source text of ElevatorGate. (8-minute video, no transcription. Start around 3m15s to save 3m15s.). Here [] is her subsequent text response to comments. I don't see anything in there about the character of the man, only his actions. And even if his character was as you have imagined it to be, so what? Being wrong does not excuse being wrong.

Citation needed.

I'm going to need a citation that supports your claim that I need a citation.

I'm not arguing that this must have been elevator-man's motivation, but that not wanting to risk asking someone out in front of lots of others is a very common sentiment. I certainly remember the process of trying to ask a girl on a date in high school, and trying to find a moment alone was always a part of it. It's certainly more reasonable than interpreting his actions as a form of intimidation.

There are many places where you can talk to a person alone that aren't elevators that prevent physical escape.

Everyone faces that problem. But even if this is a primary reason for the man's actions (and I have seen nothing to favour the hypothesis), the man still found a really bad solution.
I explicitly said that it doesn't matter whether that in particular was his motivation. There are a number of perfectly acceptable reasons for his behavior and I can think of several off the top of my head that are more plausible than "he was trying to intimidate her into having sex."
Even if we grant this, it doesn't affect the conclusion that Elevator Guy behaved unreasonably. The reason this particular incident attracted so much attention in the first place was because it involved such a perfect storm of disturbing/threatening factors. Each of these factors might have been considered quite mild when taken in isolation, but the problem was 'death by a thousand cuts'.
Here you go. [] And this []. HTH.
Supplying a complete text and video citation in direct response to a claim gets downvoted to -5? There's some fucked up people here.
Does a guy who's really shy ask a woman who wants to go to bed that he doesn't know at 4AM to come to his hotel room?

You are interpreting "shy" as a fixed character trait rather than a situational one. Many people who are not ordinarily shy-acting are shy when it comes to asking someone something personal in front of a group of friends and acquaintances.

There was nothing that forced the guy in that interaction to start the interaction by asking something personal. He could have started interacting with her by making harmless small talk.
What it means to be shy is that someone is bad at doing small talk.

Often I hear guys complain that an advance is deemed "creepy" if it's unwelcome, but not if the same thing were said or done by an attractive man. I also see a lot of emphasis on "confidence". Guys are often advised to "be more confident" in the way they approach or "escalate" with women.

The problem is, sexual advances are often gambles where the potential downsides are paid by the party approached, not by the one who does the approaching. When you think of it this way, complaining about unwanted advances is perfectly justified, and telling guys to "be more confident" is totally upside-down.

Take this example of a highly upvoted piece of advice on how a guy should try to kiss a girl for the first time:

The advice here is in general very "high risk": if the girl didn't want to be kissed and the guy grabbed her and moved in suddenly in that way, that would really suck for her. Often these types of risks are also high-reward: a welcome advance of this type is often hotter than a more timid one. Being pressed against a w... (read more)

To avoid being creepy, the focus should be on keeping your model well-calibrated, and on being fairly risk averse.

How is he to get calibrated while being risk averse and not taking data? Calibration implies knowing the boundary between yes and no.

For the first time kiss, I thought the "suddenly" was exactly the wrong advice. The proper tactic, IMO, is to go slowly and incrementally. Confidence is projected by going slowly but with clear intent. That also allows a woman to decline graciously. She should not be asking "what was that", because you should have made it clear before doing it.

In most physical and emotional human endeavors, rushing is the sign of a mind focused on success/failure instead of the act. Do not try, do.

So, in the example of kissing that girl for the first time from before, I'd be suggesting he get verbal consent.

That seems a comment based in ideology, and not reality. I guess there must be some women for whom that would work, but I believe most women would find that a massive cold shower - perhaps permanently. The offer and consent should be nonverbal. Going slowly and incrementally allows you to minimize any delta between act and consent.

That seems a comment based in ideology, and not reality. I guess there must be some women for whom that would work, but I believe most women would find that a massive cold shower - perhaps permanently. The offer and consent should be nonverbal. Going slowly and incrementally allows you to minimize any delta between act and consent.

I think this is really an imagination failure for how "verbal consent" would work. An example that includes a minor verbal component: I often smile and say something like "come here" while shifting myself around (e.g. putting my arm around him/her). We then meet half way. This works just fine.

I've had someone say something like "God! I've been trying to find a break to kiss you for the last five minutes, but we keep just having too much to say!". That was absolutely fine too.

A friend once told me he said something like, "you know what's awesome? Make outs are awesome".

I can't remember whether I've ever done something as direct as whispering "can I kiss you", but it's hard to imagine that being a deal breaker for anyone I've hooked up with.

The post that advice was in reply to made it clear that they had ... (read more)

I think this is really an imagination failure for how "verbal consent" would work. An example that includes a minor verbal component: I often smile and say something like "come here" while shifting myself around (e.g. putting my arm around him/her). We then meet half way. This works just fine.

I imagine a great many things, and many of those I don't call "verbal consent".

I don't see that as much different than doing a little "come here" sign with your finger. That's not a question, and you didn't receive verbal consent in reply. You can accomplish the same effect just by doing - approach, but don't continue without a positive response in answer.

With the breasts, no, I wouldn't explicitly ask in that way. Hands go on body, hands caress slowly toward breasts. Pay attention to response. Another way is to look where you intend the hands to go, and go there. Perhaps a comment on the breasts first.

"Can I take these off?" Probably more like "Let's take these off." Which again, is more like what you generally do. You don't say "will you come here?", you say "come here".

I don't see that as much different than doing a little "come here" sign with your finger. That's not a question, and you didn't receive verbal consent in reply. You can accomplish the same effect just by doing - approach, but don't continue without a positive response in answer.

In that specific case the verbal aspect isn't so important, no. And the big difference from the context in the advice thread is that I don't have trouble communicating my intent with the body language anyway. But it has felt once or twice that saying something, even something token, has given them more of an opportunity to say something back, and this has led to a non-awkward refusal. I'm not surprised if you find that unconvincing, it's a personal thing and pretty context-specific.

With the breasts, no, I wouldn't explicitly ask in that way. Hands go on body, hands caress slowly toward breasts. Pay attention to response. Another way is to look where you intend the hands to go, and go there. Perhaps a comment on the breasts first.

"Can I take these off?" Probably more like "Let's take these off." Which again, is more like what you generally do. You don't say "will you co

... (read more)
I could probably work up some context specific thing too. I largely had the first kiss in mind. I don't think it's a winner for that. Part of going slow is feeling if they're relaxed and comfortable. If I'm relaxed. If they're uncomfortable, it's time to back off.
I think what the 'suddenly' is really getting at is that the first-time kiss should be seen as a pleasant surprise from your partner's POV. It's certainly possible to make this compatible with a slow and intentful approach (where you can gauge implied, non-verbal consent), but it does require a bit of strategizing. However, actual verbal consent seems to be incompatible with this goal - for this and other reasons, I agree that it wouldn't really work in practice.
Among other limitations, I think the verbal consent business puts one in the wrong frame of mind - getting into a verbal, logical mode is not conducive to getting busy.
Not sure about that. Sex-positive consent-culture feminists typically suggest combining verbal consent w/ verbal seduction and nonverbal consent w/ nonverbal seduction. This, is, however, all after one is clearly in lover-space and not the friend-zone, leading up to actual sex/kissing/whatever. 'Rescripting Sex' (Pervocracy 2012) is a good explanation of this. Unfortunately I don't see how to adapt it for very early nonphysical interactions/flirting/whatever. My preferred solution is better norms but that will never happen.

Here, read this post about ask culture and guess culture. Or get it closer to the source.

The point is that both men and women are immersed in guess culture from day 1 when it comes to romance, and so asking rather than guessing really is rude to average people, even though guessing carries very real costs.

I tend to get bogged down in infinite regress of 'Should I ask if it's okay to guess? Should I guess if it's okay to ask if its okay to guess?'.

My usual way out of this is to introduce other levels of indirection. E.g., "I often wonder whether it's OK to ask people X in situations like these. It's tricky, because sometimes not having asked is taken as demonstrating a lack of interest in X, which is of course a problem when I genuinely am interested, but on the other hand sometimes asking is taken as expressing too much interest in X, which is of course a problem when it makes people uncomfortable. Oh, look, pie... would you like some?" Of course, this is within the context of my goal being to communicate my state meaningfully enough that other people can make meaningful decisions, which I understand is only one of many possible goals.
I... uhh... don't really understand what you mean. Except that I wish I had some pie right now. Of course it's often moot since I operate similar to Yvain does (i.e. though opera-worth crushes that have to be toned down to a ludicrous degree to avoid scaring off even totally interested people).
To be fair, I often get that reaction.
I'm reminded of Yvain's Fourth Meditation On Creepiness [], though I hadn't heard of the ask- and guess- terminology before now.
Wow. That was jarring. I like Yvain's writing a lot, so the level of cluelessness on dating is a bit of a revelation about how compartmentalised social intuition can be from general reasoning.
Those posts are interesting and relevant, and I've had discussions about similar topics with people from different cultures. With that framing, what I'm saying is that you want to be guessing very well, and you're violating norms in a way that costs the other party utilons if you're too "asky" --- which is what the PUA advice amounts to. But I'd also say there's a continuum, depending on how you make the move.
So you're saying we should respect the guess culture of other people? Or do you want to switch over to ask culture?
Yeah, we should respect the guess culture. Imagine a limit of askiness, where you regularly force people to be explicit about not being attracted to you, while also communicating that you very much want them to be. I think that even with different cultural norms, that communication's going to be painful for them, so it's quite right that it's considered rude to put them through it.

Imagine a limit of askiness, where you regularly force people to be explicit about not being attracted to you, while also communicating that you very much want them to be. I think that even with different cultural norms, that communication's going to be painful for them, so it's quite right that it's considered rude to put them through it.

Here's a hypothetical for you: a man looks at a woman from across the room, and proceeds to walk in her direction, gazing directly into her eyes in a way that indicates attraction/romantic interest. He's walking from something of a distance, and actually only begins walking just after she happens to notice that he's looking. He maintains his gaze.

Within a second or two, she's going to display a reaction of some kind -- a reaction that will be pretty darn indicative of whether the approach is welcome or not. And if it's not, the man's gaze shifts slightly, so that he's looking past her, as though to someone further along the path, and his route diverges slightly, so that he passes without intruding on her personal space.

Is this "ask" or "guess"? Is the woman forced to be "explicit about not being attracted", while the man is "communicating that you very much want them to be"? Is it a painful communication, and rude to put them through it?

I assume that the man and the woman are in a culture where they don't take for granted a level of explicit awareness of social cues that eliminates significant ambiguity or plausible deniability about what messages are being sent and received in a hypothetical case like that, because I've never encountered a culture that behaved otherwise.

Given that assumption, this seems pretty clearly a guess-culture (which I prefer to refer to as "hint culture"; "guess culture" is a very ask-culture way of referring to hint-culture) interaction. So, no, the woman is not being explicit, is not being forced to be explicit, and the man is not being explicit either. That's precisely what hint-culture is for.

The dichotomy breaks down a bit here, but the important property is that both parties maintain plausible deniability. An argument I've heard Steven Pinker make (but might not be originally his) is that you can avert awkwardness by avoiding the creation of shared knowledge, and that's the reason the plausible deniability is important.

The dichotomy breaks down a bit here, but the important property is that both parties maintain plausible deniability.

Right. I mentioned this example partly because it's a PUA technique in the category of "forced IOIs", which is an awkward name for maintaining plausible deniability about whether a request has been made and whether it has been rejected, to avoid awkwardness and social status loss.

Yeah, I notice that PUA stuff suggests being very asky before rapport is established, while feminist consent-culture stuff suggests being very asky after rapport is established.
Not sure that 'asky' is the right word here, since PUA is all about adapting to a hint culture. What PUA is very clear about is that it's important to make one's attraction known (put the cards on the table, as it were) well before the rapport/comfort stage is reached, in order to avoid creating a friendzone/Nice-Guy problem.
Feminists also suggest that when talking about the Nice Guy issue, although they also tend to claim that the friendzone doesn't really have a hard boundary between it and the lover-zone. Possilby an inferential distance thing, possibly PUAs too cynical and failing at naive stuff when they actually get the chance. I have no idea how to do that, and if I (personally) tried, i would probably shunt into Opera-Worthy Crush Mode.
The boundary is not that hard, but it's definitely there. IIRC, trying to cross that boundary is called "remixing" in PUA-speak, and it's considered to be quite difficult. Part of the problem is that you most likely ended up in the friend-zone for a reason, so a "remix" often involves radically changing your outward identity in order to appeal to your 'target' in a lover-like, not friend-like sense. Asides from that, PUA does tend to cultivate a healthy skepticism about "remixing", because trying to remix is taken to be a sign of attachment which one should be clearly aware of, and either accept or discard. Basically, you might as well start out afresh with someone who is not going to have that unwanted association of you as a mere "friend".

The advocacy of 'confidence' in this context is properly about alief, not belief. You can appear and feel confident while also being well-calibrated with respect to the consequences of your social moves. Incidentally, I have to agree that the advice from reddit is high-risk - I would not support it unless perhaps you had very strong evidence that the woman is attracted to you, but even then, some residual risk remains.

I disagree about the externality from unwanted interaction being "priced out", since freaking people out is something guys would want to avoid at all costs.

I read a lot of PUA advice as basically counselling guys like this: there's nothing to lose from an unsuccessful approach, you know that, so update your aliefs accordingly. The downside's all in your head. So, they agree guys start by worrying about freaking people out, but their line of thinking is that that doesn't actually matter. Except, that part is all tacit. I think the prominent men writing the advice are mostly very low empathy, so they don't actually understand why normal guys have that aversion.

Second, I see what you're saying, in that you don't have to be nervous while you make some well-calibrated move. But, a move that offers a graceful out is going to be less confident, too, just along a slightly different dimension. I'll get personal here: I use online dating sites, and I'm a bi male. So I make and receive advances quite regularly.

Going through my message history on a popular site that isn't exclusively about casual sex, this advance slightly irritated me, and I didn't reply:

Sydney_fella80: top or bottom?

Here's how I phrased a message with basically the same intent, to a girl who said she was on the site for NSA sex, and partially indicated her interests:


... (read more)
This is mostly correct, conditional on following 'good practices' when approaching (and an aspiring PUA will want to do this anyway,in order to minimize effort and maximize the probability of being successful). Basically, the unstated assumption is that if you manage to freak out your 'target', you're most likely doing something very, very wrong. It's not just a numbers game. I agree with your point about always "leaving a line of retreat". AIUI, this is actively discussed in good PUA advice.
Line of retreat is also discussed by feminists (and I advocate it as well, and always make sure to explicitly include it.) Also ties into the complaint of some woman (source not remembered) who seemed to be coming from a feminist framework, who complained about nerdy men who became too attached too quickly so that saying no became too costly to say to somebody she respected.
"Often I hear guys complain that an advance is deemed "creepy" if it's unwelcome, but not if the same thing were said or done by an attractive man." Yes that seems to be the crux of some criticism, and for good reason. Anyone who has been through high-school knows a lot of unattractive or socially undesirable men get tremendous backlash for behaviors that a desirable men get away with. It doesn't help that sometimes the word creep is a slur for an unattractive person hitting on another. The complaint goes beyond the double-standard, it sends a message that people have a right not to feel creeped out even when the feeling is unwarranted, and therefore benign behaviors (too much chatting or asking for a number) should be avoided altogether by some, specifically the awkward. And many may also feel genuinely unsafe, but the advice given by many is to improve social skills or courting behavior, and this doesn't mitigate any real harm. The legitimate creep or the awkward geek is not any less dangerous because he read Dale Carnegie or a PUA website. Granted, some of the anecdotes are cause for legitimate concern, but I'm not addressing those.
The word "right" seems to be unwarranted here. It's not clear that people have a moral right not to be exposed to rude or anti-social behavior, but this does not make the behavior any less rude or anti-social. There is such a thing as good etiquette, however minor and trifling it may be when contrasted with genuine ethical concerns. But an awkward geek may unwittingly behave in ways that make people mistake him for a creeper; reading Dale Carnegie is a good way to address this. As for legitimate creepers, it would be nice if they too could reform and stop posing a danger to others; unfortunately, most of them seem to be actively hostile towards other people and lacking in empathy, so this is not a likely prospect.
I think your confusing what John meant. Learning PUA/Carnegie doesn't change someone's goals only the means. A legitimate creep who acquires better social skills, doesn't become a normal non-creep, he becomes a charming sociopath.
This is not true. Actually creepy folks use unwillingness to reflect on social skills of society in general as camouflage. When called on their behavior, they can say something like "I was only joking" and escape most of the consequences. But if society as a whole was more explicit about social norms, then (1) people who have trouble picking up social norms would be happier because the norms would be easier to learn, (2) people who want others to follow the norms without being required to follow themselves would have less room to operate, and (3) people who want to change the social norms would have an easier time communicating the case for a change of the norms.
In general the stricter the social norms the less room for trying to change them.
In small groups, social norms can seem very resilient and yet actually be very fragile.
I guess it might first help to define what creepy folks are. If we mean someone who is socially oblivious who is interested in a date, then it is undeniably false that all are using it as a form of camouflage, as many could attest to. By mitigating real harm I mean mitigating the risk of a woman being near a potentially dangerous or coercive man, where some in the comments have said the "creepy" fear actually stems from, but awkward people can also give out this false signal. If this is true, then taking steps to improve ones social skills makes the safe men more accessible, but also gives ammo to a potentially dangerous one as well. No risk of harm is reduced.
I didn't go to a coed highschool, but I imagine a lot of that backlash was status signalling, and the target of the advance wasn't genuinely aggrieved. So, that isn't just. But factoring that out, I think it's quite right to view a guy making a bunch of unwanted advances as rather a jerk, depending on how much he makes rejecting him suck for the targets. He's generating a bunch of negative utility. When I see guys with poor social skills complain about this, it basically amounts to saying that it's not fair. Sure --- it's not fair that looks and charm get parcelled out unevenly, but so what? You still don't get to make your problem someone else's. It's not fair that we become more unattractive as we age, but a 70 year old man who constantly makes unwelcome advances on young women is rightly viewed with contempt. It's not fair that gay men and women can very seldom hit on strangers with a good expected utility either. It doesn't make it okay for them to just "assume they're gay until stated otherwise", given that most people are straight.
"I think it's quite right to view a guy making a bunch of unwanted advances as rather a jerk, depending on how much he makes rejecting him suck for the targets. He's generating a bunch of negative utility." Yes in that situation one would be jerk, but not everyone was complaining about a bunch of advances (and I did say that some of the grievances were justified), but even one advance or something that could have been miscontrued as an advance. If we (safely) assume the anecdotes come from people who have freely given out their number or have let a guy talk over them, then it sets a tone that the socially awkward should come off as asexual as possible to avoid offending a member of the opposite sex. That doesn't seem like a reasonable expectation to put on others.
I don't think the potential downside of having to reject someone is much bigger than getting rejected. It's valuable to learn to accept a rejection without feeling bad just as it's valuable to learn to give out rejections without feeling bad. Confident advances are more likely to be successful and pleasent to the person being approached than unconfident advances. There no way to develop a well-calibrated model without making some mistakes along the way.
Would you say you were a proficient driver before you had your first car accident? We learn skills in fault intolerant contexts all the time. There's a bunch of learning theory work about Bayesian models not needing negative examples too, although I don't really think it's relevant here. There's two things here. First, even if that's true, the person who's doing the rejecting didn't ask to be approached. So even if the downsides are small, you're playing dice on their behalf. And if you're wrong a lot, and generate a bunch of negative utility for people who didn't sign up for any risks, I think you deserve some culpability. As for just how bad giving out a rejection is, again, I think it really depends on the advance. Here's the idea taken to the extreme: sometimes, waking someone up with oral sex is a very welcome advance. But you better be damn sure, because if you're wrong, you've potentially done a great deal of harm. There's a continuum of less presumptuous advances, through the press-them-against-the-wall example, to something like putting your arm out in front of them to block a door, or even just making the move in an elevator, that may make someone more or less uncomfortable if they have to reject the advance. This is the sense of "confident" that I'm talking about. The answer isn't, "that's a consent violation and nobody should do that ever". It's that if you do do that, and you were wrong, you can't excuse yourself from culpability by claiming it was an honest mistake.

I made mistakes ALL THE TIME when learning to drive, and my driving instructor normally caught them and yelled at me in time for it not to be a problem. You're creating a false dichotomy when you compare any mistakes with a car crash.

It depends. Last week I was at a seminar where most seats are filled with people. I sat down next to the place where a girl put her bag and jacket with whom I chatted previously. She sat the lecture next to me. Afterwards she asked me whether I was okay with her sitting next to me. In her mind she did make a choice to sit next to me for which I didn't ask. I don't think it's automatically more ethical to engineer a situation in a way where the other person thinks they are making the approach and proclaim you have no responsibility for being approached. Most people are pretty bad at interpreting what goes on in an interaction and who actually initiates various things. Sometimes people interpret things wrong and do make honest mistakes. I grant that point. It makes sense to calibrate with acts that don't produce much harm. Especially with acts that don't contrain the ability of the other person to issue the rejection. I don't think making a move in an elevator is an expression of confidence. I haven't read a specific analysis of the situation from a PUA guy but I would expect them to advice against that behavior.
I think tabooing "confidence" would end up being revealing here. I suspect yours, confidence-1, would read something like "not signalling anxiety or nervousness", whereas I'm talking about confidence-2, the anticipated probability of success, which informs the expected value of an approach. I accept responsibility for the miscommunication. In my initial post I talked about PUAs advocating "confidence", and equated that to confidence-2. You and others have pointed out that actually some or all of the advocacy is for confidence-1, which I didn't at first appreciate. I haven't read all that much PUA stuff, so I'll accept what you've said and leave it at that.
Anticipating success in an approach in no way implies that it's a good idea to constrain another person to reject you. If a girl thinks that she only gave you her phone number because you coerced her to give it to you, why should she answer the phone when you call and look forward to going on a date with you? The way people backwards rationalize their behavior matters a lot.

Half of what the submitter talks about sounds more like "Not giving a 'No' at all" or "Behaving inconsistently."

Like a person complaining that somebody else didn't call them back, in spite of behaving like they would. This sounds less to me like "That person was obligated to do X" and more like "That person misinformed me on whether or not they would do X". It's not the little "No" the person is complaining about, it's the little "Yes" they got first that they're complaining about. I think minor social sanctions against people who are dishonest about how they conduct themselves is not unreasonable.

Also, asking for a phone number is creepy? This sounds more like unwillingness to give explicit ("Big"?) No's, rather than any social maladjustedness on the part of the person asking. In general, the tone of the submission comes across to me as "I'm afraid to tell men no" with an implication that "Asking me to tell you no directly is invasive and creepy."

Personally I find it kind of invasive when people talk to me uninvited at all. But I can hardly hold other people responsible for not complying with my own, unknown-to-them social antipathies.

Personally I find it kind of invasive when people talk to me uninvited at all. But I can hardly hold other people responsible for not complying with my own, unknown-to-them social antipathies.

The issue is, should you let those folks know that you'd rather not be bothered? And if so, how to do so in a way that doesn't look like an outright rejection, or ascribing low status to them, since some people might be antagonized by that.

The issue is, should you let those folks know that you'd rather not be bothered?

If I feel strongly about the matter, yes, I should. If it isn't particularly important to me, it's a judgment call.

And if so, how to do so in a way that doesn't look like an outright rejection, or ascribing low status to them, since some people might be antagonized by that.

If somebody behaves in a manner that requires outright rejection, they must be willing to accept outright rejection. The sane principle is to make outright rejection socially acceptable, -not- to demand that people not engage in any behaviors which require outright rejection; the latter principle creates an incentive to defect from social norms, precisely because annulling the advantage conferred by defection requires a defection in turn from the recipient party.

It is utterly insane to let communication be entirely ruled by rules of social standing which reward antisocial behaviors. Such attitudes transform communication from a process of imparting and receiving information into status games where a large part of the goal is subverting, manipulating, and changing information. Social behaviors shouldn't be informed and ruled by the dark arts of rationality.

To a third-party observer, rejecting someone overtly is almost indistinguishable from ascribing low status to them. This is a fact about how social interaction works in the real world (not about contingent social norms) and it largely explains why people dislike being publicly and overtly rejected. I actually think that there might be some ways around this, but saying that current social norms are "utterly insane" seems unwarranted.
I'm not suggesting current social norms are utterly insane, but rather those which are implicitly proposed by the submission author, enacting social prohibitions against any kind of behavior which requests overt rejection (such as asking for a phone number, which is currently a socially acceptable behavior). Social standards shouldn't be determined by the least socially acclimated people, which is essentially what is being proposed. "I'm afraid to say no, therefore you shouldn't make requests that require me to do so." You apparently believe the social cost of rejection is borne by the rejectee, so there's no reason to add social costs to making requests subject to such rejection. (If somebody is unaware of the social costs of rejection, and so makes an uninformed request, they certainly aren't going to be helped by more implicit rules punishing their behavior.)
Need a norm for blind (outsiders don't know whether it's a deliberate rejection or something circumstantial) polite rejections. Would still have forceful low status rejection for bigger problems. Edit: Also, don't think she even did reccomend no behavior at all which requires rejection.
I thought about a mobile application for all participants. You could "block" a person; the other person would get that information, but no one else. You could send an "invitation to talk" to a person who is not blocking you, and the person would respond by "yes, now", "try later", or "block". An invitation followed by "yes, now" would allow you to start a conversation. This could work in a setting when there are many people walking in a room, making one-to-one conversations. Which would probably be too limiting, but not completely impossible. With a larger group of people, I can imagine upleasant situations difficult to solve algorithmically. Imagine this: You have three friends F1, F2, F3 and one enemy E. (Suppose the enemy wants to talk with you; only you don't want to talk with them.) Now all F1, F2, F3, E are sitting at one table, discussing some interesting topic, you walk around, and your friend F1 uses whatever protocol to invite you to the discussion. You would like to join, but only if E is not there. But the social norm is that you shouldn't make this information publicly known (to F1, F2, F3). (EDIT: Also, E actively abuses this norm by staying with your friends F1, F2, F3 the whole evening, hoping that your preference for interacting with them will be greater than your preference for not interacting with him.) What should happen now?
Sure you could. Others manage. You could demand that no one talk uninvited to anyone else. Or demand that they only speak to you when you've spoken to them first. Or only speak to you when you want them to. Just claim that your social antipathies are the right, good, and true antipathies, and anyone violating them is a moral leper.
All of those involve making your social antipathies known. And given the nature of this particular objection, pre-empting it with a warning seems singularly counterproductive!
That doesn't stop a lot of people.

This is a fairly thin sockpuppet as I've made similar remarks elsewhere, but:

I find posts like this (or similar discussions places like metafilter) depressing because I'm left with the feeling there's no positive option.

I read posts by women, complaining about various male behaviour. Obviously I don't want to be creepy and Worse Than Hitler(tm), so I try to determine what I should be doing.

So many things are apparently bad that I am left with the conclusion that merely by existing I am offensive to women, and there is no action I can take to improve the situation.

I can see other comments talking about this viewpoint as an undesirable failure mode.

disclaimer: I don't particularly claim to be right or rational here. This is actually a toned down version of my original thoughts.

So obviously I recognize this view point (I'm one of those who called it an undesirable failure mode). But I actually am really perplexed by how someone could think this is the only option. I probably have a good bit of social and looks privilege[1] so maybe I just can't see it. Why can't you just worry a little less about coming off as creepy, smile at people and if they smile back go and say hello? Cultivate confidence, or fake it. Tell jokes. Just about everyone here is really smart and has interesting things to say. You don't have to spend ten years studying pick-up artistry to be able to meet women through friends and activities. Nice guys actually have sex all the time-- just maybe not with anyone they want or at the frequency they desire. Lots of women will find something wrong with you. Which is totally fine. Most women love flirting. I mean try not to do it when you're a stranger with zero shot and you're locked in an elevator with them, dressed in a trenchcoat and your only facial hair is that whisp of a mustache you didn't shave. But "not being creepy" shouldn't even be the tenth thing on your mind when you're meeting a woman unless someone has told you you have a problem.

[1] Relative to the LW median anyway. I couldn't come up with a way of saying this that didn't sound like a brag.

Well, this is the naive theory I had before exposure to these posts.

However I have learnt that ineptly flirting is very bad and makes you worse than Hitler, incompetence is no excuse, etc. So I can't go out and practice dating skills.

If I do want to practice dating skills, that makes me a PUA and worse than Hitler.

Obviously now, having read about elevatorgate, I am less likely to try to flirt with women in elevators, but I would totally expect that I would do something equally as bad in a non-elevator-based situation. So, Hitler.

Therefore I decide to give up on the whole thing as a bad job. But now I'm concealing sexual attraction, which comments on this post have established is definitely creepy.

So then I hypothetically decide to avoid women entirely, we haven't actually covered this one but I'm pretty sure it would be considered misogynistic.

Short of someone inventing a telepathy pill, I have no options, and I feel sure if someone did invent a telepathy pill, there would be people explaining why it made you Hitler.

A lot of the creepiness stuff comes from online social justice people. Sadly, there is a lot of nastiness in the social justice area of the internet (See this article). I am female and a feminist and I've been accused of being Worse Than Hitler on occasion. That doesn't mean there's no value in the social justice movement, so I still read blogs, but I discard a lot of it!

Well, some people want to help others, but some people simply enjoy screaming at others... and screaming at someone from a position of a good person (member of the tribe of everything good) feels so deliciously righteous. Should we cynically assume that social justice is not about social justice, but about feeling superior to outsiders? For some people this seems correct.
This statement is quite spot on, and in more ways than you realize. There must be something about this particular form of self-styled "social" and "political" engagement (it is of course nothing of the sort) that makes folks especially likely to exhibit Great Internet F****ad [] behavior. Thank goodness it's all harmless Internet fun of no consequence for the real world - but if that wasn't the case I would be seriously creeped out.
How about stop having your norms dictated by unreasonable demands that are likely to be simply signaling, status games, or go-team exercise?
The general lesson of the elevatorgate story is to flirt in environments where flirting is expected social behavior. Nightclubs are a good example. As a nerd Salsa or Tango dancing are good choices. Those places have fairly straightforward rules that allow you to interact with the opposing sex.
If everyone limited flirting to places where it was considered socially acceptable, we'd still be going on chaperoned dates.
That's not what I advocate. I advocate that people who have trouble with it practice in enviroment where it's socially acceptable.
Which behaviors are socially acceptable in which environments changes with time, largely as people push the envelope or otherwise ignore the rules.
It pays to learn the rules before you break them. Specifically you should be able to perceive when a woman is uncomfortable before try to push the envelope and ignore the rules.
Sometimes, other times it's easier if you don't know the rules you don't know what they are. Pushing the envelope always makes people uncomfortable.
That's an interesting belief to have. I don't think that it's either helpful or true. Yesterday I asked a guy who's very touchy feely with everyone about how he know when it's okay to touch girls. He said something along the lines of: "You have to touch people to make them comfortable. I listen to my intuition." There are various PUA people who can go and kiss a girl in a club with whom they didn't interact before. The girl enjoys the kiss and it doesn't make her uncomfortable. I would classify actions like that as "pushing the envelope". At the same time a girl who's uncomfortable just won't go along with the kiss. I would expect that consensual strong physical escalation that ignores the social rules of the place in which it happens nearly always needed a feeling of comfort to happen.
That made me laugh pretty hard! But yes, for every behaviour however unobtrusive you can find a woman complaining about it. And it's true that is unethical not to care about that discomfort, but if you care too much, you're driven to become an asexual social bureaucrat. It's also true that if you care too little, you're driven to become a rapist. Within these two extremes, there are all kinds of women: there are those who prefer rapist (and will get raped), those who prefer asexual social bureaucrat (and will never get approached) and everything in between. The point is that you cannot know a priori which category the woman you're interested in fits, there's simply no standard signal to tell them apart. That's why you should act as if you were exploring a totally different terrain every time: err on the side of boldness, calibrate along the way and leave a line of retreat.
Give a serious consideration to becoming more gay. Definitely better than Hitler. Hey, it worked for Orphan_Wilde [].
According to the Law [], if someone compares you to Hitler it's them who lose.
No one said this. No it doesn't. Being a PUA does not make you this. There is a difference between not concealing sexual attraction and shouting it. But anyway, being creepy does not make you Hitler. It doesn't even make you a bad person. You are not morally obligated to make people comfortable in all circumstances. Making people uncomfortable for no reason is kind of a dick move. And making people uncomfortable is not going to lead to friends or girlfriends-- so if you have been specifically told that you are doing something creepy then it is a good idea to find out what it was and stop it. But that's it. Seriously. I can see how the feminist rhetoric about creepiness overstates the issue, overgeneralizes and over-sensitizes some and I made those criticisms in this thread. But they're not nearly as dramatic about it as you're being. Have you ever talked to a woman about this who isn't preaching about it on the internet or enrolled as a women's studies major? Edit: Flirting with women in elevators is totally fine. Asking them back to your room late at night, when you haven't met and have no chance is a little creepy. Neither make you Hitler (or any less hyperbolic bad thing).
I'm sorry you feel that way.I reread and the only bit I thought unfair is the "don't ask me for my phone number bit." I thought the submitter was reasonable with the other things she mentioned, but maybe that's my failure. What about this post caused you to worry?
I will try to fill in a fuller response later, but I should clarify that a) it's a general feeling rather than being tied to any specific comment, b) on this post I'm responding more to the comments than the submitter.

I think this is on topic since it seems to be a common complaint about LW meet ups.

Agreed that creepiness usually means disrespecting my boundaries in some way. I don't mind being flirted with initially, but if I'm not interested, and I let you know, I expect it to stop. Hitting on me even harder just makes me feel more uncomfortable and creeped out by you.

Also I am glad that an example where a woman was creepy was included. It seems that while it is more often men who are creepy, women who are creepy get less stigma from their behaviors.

How do you go about "letting someone know?" There may be a gap here. I have a lot of difficulty recognizing an indirectly signaled No. (and indirectly-signaled Yes, for that matter) This has led to creeping people out when an explicit No would have been acted on immediately. I do agree with your sentiment, however; someone who presses on when he's aware the woman wants him to go away isn't just creepy, he's a jackass.
I don't remember exactly, but I believe I said something along the lines of "I'm not interested right now, but I would still like to be just friends with you." Perhaps it was too gentle? But I gave a more harsh no a few days later, which seems to have stopped the unwanted behavior, with the unfortunate consequence of damaging a potential friendship.
Your first response seems fine to me. I'm generally not very good at picking up on subtle signals, but saying "I'm not interested, let's be friends" or any variation thereof is as clear as day from any perspective I can successfully empathize with (which I know says more about me than about the workings of other humans). Certainly, I strongly oppose the notion (which I've seen several times in different contexts) that your statement was "too gentle". Sure, your statement was gentle - and that's great! You weren't trying to be harsh, and you wanted to be friends, so your tone actually matched your intention in this case. The force with which a statement is delivered cannot override it's content even had they not matched up, or were not understood to match up by the recipient. Just because you gave a nice "no" does not make that "no" any less important. Your response was sufficient to make your intention clear to a fairly strict standard, and the fact that it was ignored does not change that. I really don't want to live in a world where everyone feels like they have to act less nice than they want to just to get their meaning across, and especially not in a world where you skip to the "damaging friendship" response. I am aware that a harsher response may tend to get you listened to more often, but that's not universal and may come at a cost.
It has come up as a potential concern, but we don't necessarily know whether it's an actual problem. If it was, I'd expect to see some evidence of that, either in the anonymous commentary or otherwise. The recent entry on LW Meetups [] did include an example of socially clueless and perhaps disrespectful/condescending behavior, but I'm not sure that it qualifies here.

The things I mentioned in my post have happened in relation to a LW event. I won't elaborate more for various reasons.

Given the notably active human biodiversity enthusiasts on LessWrong, it would be interesting to hear the experiences of non-white visitors to meetups, even on an anecdotal level.

human biodiversity enthusiasts

On first seeing this, I assumed it was a reference to broad and varied sexual preferences.

And I thought it was about how courtship and creepyness perceptions are influenced by genetics.

According to the last survey, there are fewer LWers of races other than White, East Asian or Hispanic than female LWers.

LGBT folks are vastly more common on LW than in the general public. Hmm.

I've never heard this topic even alluded to in in-person conversation between LW participants. It's possible I've been going to the wrong meetups, but the simplest explanation seems either to be that it's a lot more taboo in person or that most of the human biodiversity talk is coming from a relatively small number of very loud people, who may or may not be participating in the in-person community but who aren't numerous enough to be skewing it very much on average.

Both might be true, but I suspect at least the latter; even on the site I only associate the topic with a handful of names. This of course doesn't rule out discrimination from people who aren't loud HBD enthusiasts, but it does make that particular source of discomfort a little less plausible.

I've heard it at an LW meetup, though with only white male participants present. I'm as white as can be and I found it offputting enough that that was the last one I went to.

Scientific racism on LessWrong is the nonconformist in black, not the one in a clown suit.

Scientific racism on LessWrong is the nonconformist in black, not the one in a clown suit.

Is there intended meaning behind this comment beyond affiliating with a mainstream position by declaring an outgroup meta-uncool?

Who is in the clown suit, then?


I could certainly buy that one...

Who is in the clown suit, then?

Serious Marxian and feminist theory, in any sphere. Not that someone's been seriously trying to post about those on LW and met with hostility, oh no - LW in general just can't bridge the inferential distance to those schools of thought, so what we're getting here is a strawman in a clown suit. We aren't so much failing to extract value from those traditions, we aren't even trying - because it's much easier and more fun to mock it all as self-absorbed non-truth-tracking ivory-tower nonsense.

I've been reading lots of good stuff on both fronts lately, and attempting to mark what's appropriate and good for LW (analysis of systemic behavior, self-perpetuating structures of power, etc), so that I can at least provide some good links eventually. Translating any serious insights into LW-speak by myself is a bit of a daunting task; again, a lot of Marxist/feminist context as seriously studied by those schools of thought is nothing like the strawman version that many people have likely absorbed through pop culture.

But at least I can say that, while the inferential gap between the transhumanist/geek discourse of LW and the discourse of left-wing academia that tech geeks love to deride is great, there is a lot to be gained on the other side. We are ignoring some vast intellectual currents here.

I look forward to your further posts.

my limited research on these topics has been very negative.

We aren't so much failing to extract value from those traditions, we aren't even trying - because it's much easier and more fun to mock it all as self-absorbed non-truth-tracking ivory-tower nonsense.

There's a reason it is easier to dismiss some things as non-truth-tracking ivory-tower nonsense. A good one.

We are ignoring some vast intellectual currents here.

This is a feature, not a bug. (Although I don't necessarily claim that the set of vast intellectual currents ignored is perfect, just that there is such a set and that there is non-trivial overlap.)

I'm skeptical, but I haven't investigated either of those things at all, so I would try to read something about them if you posted it. Has knowing things about those theories been useful to you?
Yeah. Unfortunately all of that stuff is covered with a thick level of mindkilledness, plus some other incredibly messy stuff, anti-epistemology, etc. I was really disappointed by the way that rather than adapting the valuable stuff, Atheism Plus just assimilated. I do think that looking at this stuff would be pretty useful, although it should be scrubbed first.
I like to think my entire tenure here has been something of an attempt at this, although of course I can't say how successful it's been. (I'd also characterize it as in black rather than clown suits, at least from the inside. Will Newsome and muflax are the clown suit guys here, God bless them.)
In many academic fields (including some social sciences, although obviously not econ), Marxist theory is still considered the go-to theory for what most people would simply consider "the economic way of thinking". This means that there's an absolutely huge amount of "Marxist analysis" of culture and society with uncertain status, because economically-literate folks simply haven't had a chance to look at it. Much of this analysis probably makes a lot of sense from the POV of modern economics; much of it is probably utterly nonsensical. The situation when referring to other branches of "Continental" theorizing (and AIUI, this includes feminist theory) is roughly analogous, except that this particular kind of philosophy spans the range from utterly worthless stuff ("Uncle Bob's musings on life, the human mind and society!") to stuff which is probably valuable but we can't understand it properly because we lack more modern tools wrt. these topics (Freudian psychology might actually be a case in point here, especially in the light of cognitive-behavioral theory, perceptual-control theory and similar) and stuff which just needs some sort of cleanup, like Marxist analyses.
Worth noting that as far as I can tell, the phrase 'cultural marxism' refers to a strawman, and a strawman alone.

Wikipedia seems to disagree, actually. It is used to refer both to a political strawman, and to a legitimate school of thought - which need not have political implications persay[1]. The generally used label seems to be "critical theory", or even "theory" for short (talk about ambiguity!); which definitely includes Marxist ideas in addition to other stuff.

[1] Considering how ubiquitous the use of Marxian theory is in the humanities and social sciences, expecting everyone who uses such theories to be a radical socialist is kind of like expecting all business or econ professors to be extreme conservatives or libertarians.

Hmmm. I have never heard the exact phrase used in a non-politically-smearing context.
Can I just note I'm amazed by the commenters in this post who are libertarians about money but appear to be socialists with other people's time and attention. The world does not owe you a social living [].

Worth noting that libertarians on Less Wrong tend to be libertarians because they think free markets produce more utility without government intervention-- not because they believe a story about taxation being unjustified coercion or wealth redistribution being theft. There is nothing necessarily hypocritical about thinking that wealth shouldn't be redistributed but social status should.

Though I suspect there are pro-free market arguments that would cross apply.

True, it also isn't entitled to stop us from trying to acquire one by imposing arbitrary rules. Edit: I could equally well turn the question around and ask why liberals aren't trying to make social livings more fair.
Is there any chance that there are people who want your company that you've been ignoring?
I gotta ask: how's your present approach working out for you?
Do you mean the present approach to markets, or to dating?
How your present approach to everything works out in terms of dating.
While I agree with your fundamental point, you seem too be confusing libertarian political philosophy with libertine ethics.
give me three simple examples on the order of length of sequence posts of what there is to be gained from these vast intellectual currents there.
Again, please understand that this is a little frustrating for me. Just throwing some goddamn links without further comment for now, OK? The below is entirely random, just the stuff I had in nearby tabs - I have no idea of what links to pick for a proper LW-style introduction to a subject. Structural power as applied to decision theory: [] Erik Olin Wright's works on Marxist social analysis: [] Gender: [] Econ: [] [] [] (Also check out Chris Dillow's blog [].)
Responding to these in the order I look at them which is not the order you linked them: The gender one fails literally in the first 2 paragraphs. Women aren't oppressed and haven't STARTED being oppressed due to 18th or 19th century cultural regimes like the bourgeois. This is like explaining black oppression as a consequence of the KKK despite african slavery having been a thing for centuries before that. can you show me ONE post you read (not at random) that seemed as awesome and sense-making as [] or [] or [] or etc.
0drethelin10y [] this seems good but not actually about Marxism?
0drethelin10y [] This is good but seems pretty self-evident to me?
Hi, In the interests of policing every comment about my blog anywhere on the internet thought I'd comment. @drethelin It is self evident, but posts like that are intended to communicate the point to libertarians in a way they can understand (eg weird reductionist economist speak). I wish we lived in a world where nobody denied employers have power over their employees, but alas it is not the case. @orphan Work is necessary; working for a man in a moustache under hierarchical conditions is by no means natural (in fact, historically people have been incredibly resistant to wage labour and in many cases were effectively forced into it). It isn't about people being free from consequence; it's about their livelihoods and even life depending on whether someone who happens to own, legally, the means of production, decides to 'grant' them the 'privilege' of enough money for basic rights.
Holy shit, that sounds exhausting. How do you find the time?

I was semi-joking, sometimes I just don't bother.

But the short answer to your question is: I'm a student.

Continental philosophy.
Hmmmm.... Not sure who 'people who expect Super AI or AI in general to have low impact' or 'ditto to have much less impact than typically predicted' are, but they seem between black and clown suit to me. Maybe the person who goes to school in flashy, multi-colored Manic Pixie Dream Girl attire. (I actually was friends with this person.) Also, I'm not sure if 'scientific racism' is necessarily the one it black all on its own. There's a spectrum from 'more evo-psych than is politically correct' to racist HBD.
Would you mind tabooing 'racist'?
People who don't believe that beliefs should pay rent? People who think math interferes with understanding reality? People who think Eliezer is wrong about MWI, and that his wrongness is likely to interfere with raising the sanity line?
Those might work. I seem to see more criticism of that than support.
Right. On LW, thinking Eliezer is wrong on QM and that it matters is a clown suit belief. There's no reason to think a belief is right just because it is a clown suit belief in a particular context. Edit: Gwern, I think I misread you, so this post accurately states my position, but probably isn't responsive to your comment.

You think that those of us who disagree with EY on QM look ridiculous to most members of LW? I think gwern was saying that criticism of EY's stance is the majority opinion on this website

I think that the locally respectable position is that EY's mistakes describing QM don't matter. I think the purpose of describing QM was to articulate a position in philosophy-of-science []. Whether EY made particular errors is irrelevant to the philosophy-of-science point. And any errors in the philosophy-of-science point are probably irrelevant to raising the sanity line.

Oh, well-clarified. Thank you.

I personally find EY's arrogance regarding MWI off-putting, but I suppose I stuck around the site anyway, so I don't know whether it's driving away others.

yeah. I... antipredict that EY is wrong on QM, but don't expect it to matter.
Are there such people? On LessWrong??
We drove off the most recent one []. But it took an unfortunate long time.
People who say: "I think science doesn't support either way yet (and I don't want to make wild guesses about sensitive topics)"?

That sounds completely sober, mainstream, and establishment. (Think of medicine.)

"Clown suit" implies something being extremely low-status. So, no, the example you gave really doesn't qualify.

Will_Newsome is an example of someone who has worn the occasional clown suit here; not about this topic, mind you.


They're only out of place on LW; the whole rest of the world is pretty much theist. To use the clothing analogy, theism would be like wearing a business suit to high school.

Plus I don't think I've ever actually seen a theist argue his case on LW. I do know of at least two Catholics who use our shibboleths though.

I've seen theists explain why they're theists and be well-received for it. Actual attempts at conversion tend to end badly -- the community interprets them as disruptive and broadly equivalent to trolling -- but they're also very rare.

Based on this pattern, I'd say the right clothing metaphor would be neither black nor a clown suit, but something more along the lines of wearing a thawb and matching headdress in the US or western Europe: quaint, exotic, interesting, and vaguely backward and threatening in stereotype if not in reality.

Too well received at times. The 'open-mindedness' signalling impulse is such that even terrible arguments in favour of theism are defended from criticism. (Kind of like the privileges given to disabled people.)
Huh. Updated. Where are you based? I just realized that California, where I'm located, is plausibly a lot more sensitive about race-related talk than the average meetup location, so I suppose that makes a third option.
London, which is no less sensitive.
The London LW meetups have had a massive amount of turnover over the past 18 months. It could be worth your while checking it out again.
Would you mind tabooing "scientific racism".

[some examples involving blocking exits]

In the interests of demonstrating that our kind can cooperate, I found myself in full or near-full agreement with the examples in the OP that dealt with cases of blocking exits or otherwise not leaving a line of physical retreat. Never put someone you don't know in a situation where they can't run if they need to.

Please taboo "creepy".


Someone who doesn't respect a small no can't be trusted to respect a big one

Really? I think a big no would be a lot more off-putting than a small one. I can totally see myself bulldozing small nos and then taking a big one seriously.

Further, what the socially privileged think of as a "small no" is not recognizable as such to the socially unprivileged.

From the outside, "creepiness" looks a lot like "ew, he doesn't play the social game on my level and should therefore be reviled and shamed". I understand that there's more to it, but that particular aspect looks downright evil.

Asking for a number instead of offering yours. If I want to call you, I will, but when you ask for my number, I can't stop you calling or harassing me in the future.

I used to offer numbers, but the incentives are such that I deliberately switched with exactly this in mind. If you want to fix this, give a fake number, say no, or somehow work on the incentives.

The other examples are worrying, but I'm unsure what to do with this information. I'm already afraid of women, how does it help me to know that some men aren't and it causes problems?

More generally:

I occasionally have... (read more)

Then all I hear about the internal experience of women is that interacting with men is uncomfortable and even frightening.

I can only think that what you're hearing from women about interacting with men is subject to a really odd selection effect.

Yes. Every time I read a post like this, I wonder "Where are all these horrible overtly sexist men? I have never spoken to one." I can't think of a single time I have witnessed or been subject to a man's overtly sexist behavior, let alone sexual harassment or assault.

But then, I might just be really fortunate. I don't have a good idea of the proportions here.

I'm willing to bet there are regional variations.
Oh, without a doubt. I also live in an enclave of (socially) liberal well-educated people and don't get out much except to hang out with more liberal well-educated people. So there's that.
I think environment and priming play a large factor. If you're comfortable somewhere than it's easier to shrug off potentially annoying behavior, and if you're somewhere you're expecting sexism (or simply primed to expect it from men in general) I think you're likely to notice it a lot more. I think this is part of the reason you get some people who are like "Ugh I see sexism everywhere it's horrible" and others go "I haven't noticed this so much"
Note that I was careful to say "overt" sexism. I haven't noticed anything that would make me say, "That person just did something obviously, unequivocally wrong." But I do notice sexism a fair amount, it's just usually of the "That person doesn't know any better/ is under the influence of a society that has subtly sexist beliefs, and I could very well make the same mistake when not paying attention" variety.

I wouldn't say odd, I'd say rather predictable. The unproblematic happy path is unremarkable, and rarely gets remarked on.

From the outside, "creepiness" looks a lot like "ew, he doesn't play the social game on my level and should therefore be reviled and shamed". I understand that there's more to it, but that particular aspect looks downright evil.

I don't think this is usually the case, especially not within the context of rationalist gatherings. I have had several interactions with people on (or who seem to be on) the Autism spectrum, and I have not ever felt creeped on by them, and most of my interactions have been positive with them. While it seems that low status men are more likely to act creepily, I do not automatically feel this way about someone who is low status, and I do feel creeped out by high status people who disrespect my boundaries. So I don't think this is a significant part of creepiness.

So, can someone remind me why I should go out of my way to adjust myself to be women-compatible? I've already given up on 95% of people, why not another 50% (actually more like 10%) of the remainder if it saves me trouble and improves my life?

As a woman, I would rather avoid people like you anyway. Hope that helps.

My brain just doesn't wrap around that and find the second sentence true.
You don't believe I have never felt creeped out by an autistic person? Or what?
I apologize, I should have quoted. I was referring to the last couple of sentences.
Sorry, I am still not sure what you mean.
Why is this? Is it because he admitted to being socially low status?

If I imagine a similar post in which all references to "women" have been replaced by references to some other group with which I identify more strongly, like "Jews" or "queer men" or "white people," my desire to interact with the hypothetical author of that hypothetical post similarly plunges, to varying degrees.

If the reason for that plunge were the author's admission to low status, it would seem to follow that I could infer the status of various groups in my society from the degree of plunge. I haven't thought too hard about this, but I doubt that would actually work terribly well.

Imagine the "creepiness" question were also coordinated on race; black people come off as creepy, and a black person complains that all the complaints white people make about creepy black people makes them disinclined to try to interact with white people.

Does this change how you regard the hypothetical author?

Do you mean a post that also says the same things about white people that n_s's post says about women (e.g., that the author becomes subhuman around white people, that interacting with white people is distressing, that white people are less interesting than black people and that the author's occasional belief otherwise is simply an illusion they ought to adjust for)?

Yeah, I expect that would change how I regard the author. I mean, if nothing else, I'm a white person, and it's difficult to listen to that sort of thing without having an emotional reaction to it.

Or do you just mean a post that says that the complaints of white people about black creepiness make the author disinclined to try to interact with us? I expect that would change how I regard the author less.

The latter is how I interpret nyansandwich's post; it's what it starts with, it's how it justifies the former points, and what it isn't used to justify comes off as something like sour grapes. (How does nyan_sandwich know how interesting women are if he's too nervous to interact with them on a human level?) Can't really criticize you for taking the more negative interpretation, however, since I do the same thing pretty frequently.
Especially given that the "more negative interpretation" in this case involves treating the author's statements about their experience as accurately describing their experience. But, sure, if I restrict my attention to only those claims which are somehow justified by the assertion that the complaints of women about male creepiness make the author disinclined to try to interact with women, my reaction to the post is very different. That said, I'm not sure why I ought to restrict my attention in that way.
FYI, the former "uncharitable" interpretation is correct.
I'm quite sure the creepiness question is coordinated on race. Black men often have a really difficult time hitting on white women without coming off as creepy.

Probably because of wall of text phrased in rather misogynistic terms, (which were not really strictly necessary)

He's said that he doesn't really enjoy the company of women and that they make him "subhuman." I think that's reason enough to not want to be around him if you're female!

I did no such thing! I expressed sympathy with socially unprivileged men, and complained about how my interactions with women tend to be driven by sexuality rather than friendship. I'm actually rather high status (eg. everyone shuts up and listens when I talk, and I'm not shy at all.) in the circles I move in. Sorry about being unclear.
This is generally a status-lowering move. If you can afford that in real life, it could be a counter-signal, but it probably doesn't work [] online.
Or perhaps because he is as bitter as quinine?

FWIW, I endorse not interacting with people who don't interest you, especially when doing so is distressing and/or makes you behave in ways you consider subhuman.

It seems like there might be more productive ways to address this problem, no? Especially since our say in who we interact with is often limited. One could, for instance, work on changing yourself so you are no longer distressed and no longer behave like a subhuman when around those people.

Certainly. I would endorse that as well.
And once that work is complete, I would likely endorse interacting with those people again.

I tend to behave differently around people I choose to interact with than around people I need to interact with; the latter set of behaviours is more low-risk low-reward, so to speak.

Man, you wrote so much, without being any specific about the most interesting (and probably most emotionally sensitive for you) part of your comment -- what exactly is your definition of "being subhuman"?

Because people can use the same words to mean totally different things, especially with words like that. I can imagine some specific meaning behind them, but your meaning could be miles away. You could be a rapist monster unable to control your impulses. Or you could be an oversensitive guy who feels guilty and depressed for getting a boner in a politically incorrect situation. Or anything between that.


Right. What do I mean by "subhuman"? It's probably a bad word to use.

Besides my wife, most of the value I get out of other people is intellectual. Sharing interesting ideas, working together on cool projects, pair programming, etc. I can do these things with the occasional interesting female, and it works for a while, but then it inevitably slides towards flirting and the subtle sexual dance. My thoughts turn towards sex, I start acting differently, sitting close, talking and making jokes, steering things towards sexual escalation, and so on. This is mostly uncontrollable; the meat does as it was programmed to. This ends up distracting from the real reason I might want to be friends with this person; they were intellectually interesting. (This has happened at least five times.)

So why "subhuman"? I've gotten pretty good at noticing the social game and the behavior protocols. People act a lot differently depending on attraction and the gender match; with men and women there's that flirty sexual undertone. It looks a lot like a dog sniffing another dog's butt and then executing different behaviors depending on the result; subconscious, nonsentient, animal behavior.... (read more)

What about interesting women that clearly aren't available or most likely don't find you attractive?
How about women you don't find attractive?
Dunno. Can't think of any examples. Probably don't even notice them as people or something horrible like that.
That's a shame. I've had some very good close platonic relationships with men in the past (especially at university) where there's been a lack of attraction on both sides. [I wasn't attracted to them, and since they were mostly single and generally pretty confident with women, it's likely they would have told me if they had been attracted to me].
Nyan_sandwich, how about interesting women that clearly aren't available or most likely don't find you attractive? (I'm replying to the wrong comment again.)
As they say: the vodka is good but the meat is rotten. Seriously, I think you should just try to exert your self-control to the extent that you manage to, whenever you find that this might be a problem. Eventually, your behavior will improve and it will not require as much effort to maintain. (Do realize however, that there's nothing wrong with light flirting persay. It's not even clear that it would hinder you from pursuing intellectual interests with your female friends.)
The point of my rant was that I've lost faith that it's worth it to bring out the big magical-free-will guns, as opposed to just disengaging.
Well, TBH, I'm still unsure about that. Have you been approaching this problem with a goal of changing your behavior for the better in the long term, as opposed to simply plowing through and overpowering your instincts occasionally? It could make a difference. Moreover, it's possible (IMHO) that disengaging outright from socially interacting with women may not work well at all, in terms of helping you achieve your goals. Honestly, I find your experience to be mildly surprising. My understanding is that guys (or guys who have attained a reasonable level of maturity and self-knowledge, at any rate, as you surely have) do not typically have this kind of self-control problem.
Note that, if we assume that mating behavior approaches 0% of a social interaction without reaching it, experiencing this kind of problem depends on the ratio of self-knowledge to self-control.
Thanks for being honest and open about this. I agree that willpower isn't a solution. How much time have you spent brainstorming- literally and explicitly brainstorming- other solutions? There might be Third Alternatives [] out there which would allow you to enjoy the company of other women without sliding into those habits. (Important addendum: when I have a problem this significant, I first brainstorm about any roots of the problem I can find, reducing it as far as possible: e.g. my issues with overcompetitiveness and anxiety boiled down in part to a defense strategy self-narrative I used unconsciously as a kid to feel better about having few friends, and realizing this made it easier to discard that self-narrative now that I have many friends. Only when I don't feel confused about the roots of the problem do I work on brainstorming explicit plans and actions.)
So, you are disgusted with biology in general, with the fact that biological programs have so much power over your mind. The male reproductive instincts are just one part of a larger repulsive whole, perhaps the part which interferes most strongly with your intellectual goals. Do I get that correctly?

I am attracted to women, which makes them seem far more interesting than they actually are. I have a very hard time disengaging from friendship with a woman even when it's clear it's no longer worth it for me. It also makes it hard to interact with women on an intellectual or friendship level without creepily dragging it towards sexuality like some kind of subhuman. I'm starting to really hate this. Maybe If I were asexual I could be friends with women. Point two and three: Women seem more interesting than they are, and I can't trust myself around women.

I had this problem, and I eventually realized that some of the problem was I was poorly calibrated in my interpretation of certain signals from certain types of women. I interpreted the signals as "this woman is interesting," yet when I got to know those woman, I was not actually interested in their personality. I put a lot of effort into fixing this miscalibration, and I think it was worth the effort.

Further, what the socially privileged think of as a "small no" is not recognizable as such to the socially unprivileged.

This is a learnable skill. The fact that some high status people don't bother to l... (read more)


I was interested in intellectual women, and somehow got it in my mind a that certain kind of contrarian signalling in women was evidence that they were intellectual.

Thus, I tried to spend more time with that type of woman, both as friends and potential partners. But that type of woman didn't find me very interesting. Several times, particular individuals were painfully careless with my emotions.

Eventually, I realized that (1) those types of people didn't find me interesting, and (2) I didn't actually find those types of people interesting. So whenever I received the contrarian signals and got a first impression that the sender was interesting to me, I would try to consciously remember what I'd learned.

In short, I realized I needed a better / more compatible group of friends, and went and found better friends. It hasn't been an unqualified success, but some of that is that I've invested time in things other than making friends - and Paul Graham is probably right that popularity is a skill, and needs an investment of time just like any other skill.

I'm interested in intellectual people, even angels or robots. The shape of their reproductive system is irrelevant. I'm interested in doing the innate programmed courship dance that Nyan referred to, mostly with women But in particular I am interested in doing the innate programmed courtship with intellectual women and that I never managed to do on the southern hemisphere. I don't feel creepy or creepied around women. During the last 11 years, from 15 to 26, the majority of groups and classes I belonged to were mostly female (Theather, Psychology, Dance, Neighbors, travellers...) I am interested in knowing whether it is impossible to keep intellectual with an attractive women as a straight male while doing the dancing. The problems are many: As Nyan mentioned, due to biocultural heritage, women are less interesting on average. Males are attracted mostly to fertility characteristics, so I'll just want to do the dance with women who are less than 15 years older than me, have different genetic profiles, different immune system (smell good) and have the oh my goodness I hate evolution so much stupid, evil 0,7 waist to hip ratio. Words cannot express how I hate this fact, it's nearly as much as I hate ageing, yep, that much. So there's about 20% of my age women I'd like to do the dance with. 45% in northern areas where my genes are outliers. To find the interesting ones, It is necessary to see through the thick signalling fog. Isn't it disgusting that the thickness is not only proportional to the attractiveness, but it is the attractiveness? If that was not enough, let me remind you that the more attractive a woman is, the less incentives she'll have to bother being interesting beneath the fog. There, here is the human condition. Thank you darwinian evolution for such a thoughful careful design of a hell worst than Dante's for anyone who wants to have a truly interesting women with whom he can interact both intellectually and do the sex dance... Damn I wish all
And if any male feels this is correct, then just begin to think how each of the items can be reversed, and how it is even ever more terrible to be a female that is reading that commentary, or things Unbelievably more stingy []. If you are a girl, a guy's fog is as thick as his attractiveness for the same reason, but he is also larger than you, and because in humans as a near-universal it is the woman that moves into a male's house/city/village/hut that fog not only keeps hidden the secret of the attractive and intellectual partner, but may sometimes be literally guarding the difference between life and death. Or at least having kids or not (if that is a value for you). Women are not much socially smarter than man for nothing. They are smarter on social cues because they have much higher stakes if they access people incorrectly. A betrayed men usually will turn his rage on a woman. Whereas a woman that is betrayed will not turn hers into the man first, but the woman with whom he slept. This is not completely understood yet, but on thing is known, the guy is more dangerous than the woman. If evolution has made being a male looking for a dance with intellectuals in Latin America hard, I can only begin to fathom how hard it must be to be a woman in some societies (!kung, Arabic, Yanomamo)....
Huge inferential distance [] between us. I don't understand your response, and I can't even tell if you agree or disagree with my comment [].

I occasionally have these big updates where I realize that women aren't worth associating with.

Over generalizing.

Then all I hear about the internal experience of women is that interacting with men is uncomfortable and even frightening. This makes interacting with women quite distressing. I am constantly worrying about overstepping boundaries, interpreting subtle cues, etc, even when she's clearly responsive and wants it. So point one: interacting with women can sometimes be actively unpleasant.

More over generalizing in the face of biased sampling.

Woman come in all styles. Many enjoy flirting. Many like to be pursued, even when not interested. Many perceive a man's interest in them not as a threat, but as a compliment and an asset. Many like confidence, strength, and assertiveness in a man. Many want a man to be driving the bus. Many are quite sympathetic and understanding about your lack of psychic powers, and are unobtrusively doing what they can "under the rules" to make it easier for you. They are cheering for you. They're on your side. But they will cut off your penis, drive over it, grill it on a hibachi, and feed it too you if ask for a first kiss. Many, in ... (read more)

I used to offer numbers, but the incentives are such that I deliberately switched with exactly this in mind. If you want to fix this, give a fake number, say no, or somehow work on the incentives.

Yes, it's common to find that offering numbers doesn't work very well. One common thing is to ask to exchange numbers.

  • Interacting with women is distressing.
  • I become subhuman around women (like the examples in OP).

You're going to have a bad time, especially since your emotional distress can be sensed by others and unconciously make them more wary as well. When in doubt, you need to project yourself as outcome independent, i.e. you should not care whether the other person is interested in you. You can make this easier by practicing social interaction with other sorts of people, where sexuality or things like that are not going to be an issue.

There is something wrong about things when the people who care the most are the ones who are most likely to fail. And I don't mean wrong as in incorrect. It's just a horrible way for the world to work.
The trouble is that multiple meanings of 'care' are involved here. If I'm a really good artist, I'm not going to care1 about producing a quality picture, but I am going to care2 about producing a quality picture. The difference is whether you're thinking about 'doing it right this time', or 'doing it right, however many tries that takes' It certainly seems like a perverse incentive, but when I think about it, it's really just the difference between wanting a magic bullet and being willing to work hard to achieve your desired outcome. The only real alternative would be a world that incentivized wanting magic bullets. Or to put it another way: One of those types of 'care' should be written 'is desperate'/'enslaved to their emotions'. (i'd format those numbers as superscript, but I haven't found how to.)

Well. Dang it. I was hoping we could be friends.

Likewise. You being a lw meetup organizer pretty much screens off everything I said above.
Hmm. Okay. I am less confused by your rant now, though still somewhat confused. Does a female attending a LW meetup or being a LW regular also screen off those things? And if not, what is the difference? (Also, yay possible friendship.)
Specifically the interestingness prior; LW is selected for intellectual interestingness. The inane sexual dance is still a problem.

I suppose it would help that you are hundreds of miles away from where I am, too.

As a female nerd, I've more or less resigned myself to the problem of sexual tension in my social circle. The vast majority of my friends are male, and of those, I have asked out or been asked out by just about every one (with the exception of guys who have been in relationships the whole time I've known them, or who are clearly outside my age group). Most of the time this has worked out okay in the end. Not always. So... Be glad you can still be friends with guys without having this problem, I guess?

It's interesting: I seem to have the rare case of the opposite problem. I'm male, pretty nerdy --though probably a standard deviation less than the LW median-- but I have no close nerdy male friends. Nearly all my friends are women who are nerdy but not nearly nerdy enough to fit in at a Less Wrong meet up. I've been romantically or sexually entangled with a little over half of them at various times. I have the flirty friends-but-maybe-more thing down pretty good and have several very deep, very close friendships with women. But find it extremely difficult (if not impossible) to connect deeply and maintain a friendship over time with someone of my own gender. I'd really like to change that. But women seem to be both a) more likely to want to make new friends and b) interested in meeting me and talking with me under a framework of maybe-we-can-date that can turn into a friendship. People are often trying very hard to meet new people for dating, so it isn't that hard for me to meet people that way. But men don't seem to try hard at all to make new male friends, so I have no idea how to go about it.

Consider coming to LessWrong meetups! We'll, uh, we'll increase your male-to-female ratio?


2Jack10y []
Why is the fact that most of your friends lack a penis a problem? I had that for years, but I newer saw anything wrong about that.
"Most" would be fine. But having no close male friends means I lose out on certain conversations, perspectives and experiences.
I was about to reply “So does having no close X friends; I don't think that's such a big deal either” for a few other values of X (e.g. “foreign” or “non-nerdy”), but if I get what your point is correctly it only applies if you're an X yourself, so never mind.
Boardgames? If you live in a metropolitan area, there's probably an active scene.
Look on the bright side, you could be bisexual. (I've caught myself flirting with a dozen people simultaneously in the same thread of conversation without having realized I had started doing it.)
Perhaps you can elaborate on what that bright side is? (personally, being bisexual myself, I can agree that it has good points and bad points. In this conversation however what comes up is mostly the bad -- experiencing that sexual tension distorting my behaviour with both sexes, pushes me towards the belief that there's no escape -- that sane behaviour and interesting relationships are mutually exclusive. Maybe sane behaviour is just a myth :P.) [ I did upvote your post because I do feel it adds something to the discussion.]
The bright side is that Nyan (AFAIK) isn't bisexual, and only has to deal with this problem with half the population, so pretty much what you seem to be anticipating here. (On the other hand, bisexuality means you have a lot more practice dealing with sexual tension. Good or bad out of that depends on whether or not the extra practice helps you solve the problem rather than just exaggerating it.)
Ah, it's another victim of the absence of tone in text, then. (That's also a good point. Certainly I don't suffer from the more facepalm-worthy expressions of sexual tension, and I can make fun of it instead of taking it seriously.)
Fantastic point.

This post is really popular (at +12 right now), and I'm finding it difficult to see why. Is it because people empathise with it, or is it something else? I may be being mindkilled by the "women are less interesting" statement.

I upvoted it for a few reasons. First, it's interesting to read. Second, the author is being brutally honest, not just about how he feels about women but also how he feels about himself. Third, he wrote this apparently expecting to be attacked from every angle; I can respect that, in a I-might-as-well-die-with-a-sword-in-my-hand kind of way. Fourth, the post is reasonably insightful; he does a pretty good job of laying out exactly how he feels and why, and notices that his own behavior is pretty self-destructive.

If he had written it from a position of authority, written it as something that should be treated as beyond reproach, it wouldn't have read the same way to me; it would have just been a sexist rant. As it is, it comes across as the bitter regrets of somebody who feels they don't have anything to lose because they've never won. It's hard for me to take it as anything but sour grapes.

Thanks for getting it.

Consider, for example, that you were a male and your interests (hypothetically) were limited to computer games, programming and rationality forums. Mind you, not that there are any such persons out there... But just for a hypothetical:

Given these interests, would you not agree that a random 20 something male you encounter has a larger chance of having at least some of those in common with you, compared to a random 20 something female?

The statement you find so mindkilling would follow.

Yes, if my interests are limited to activity-set X, and interest in X is strongly gender-linked, then I should not be surprised if my chances of a random person sharing an interest with me correlate strongly with that person's gender. And if I have a choice between picking humans at random from either a mixed-gender or a single-gender jar of humans, picking the proper single-gender jar maximizes my chances of finding an interesting human. But in real life, that's not the only choice I have. If I'm only interested in X, I can choose social activities that are highly structured around X. Having done so, I'm effectively picking humans at random from an X jar. And, yes, I should expect the gender ratio in the X jar to not be evenly distributed. But also, at that point I should stop using gender as a proxy metric for X, because otherwise I'm in effect double-counting gender. If instead I continue to select by gender, even on reflection, that seems to indicate that I'm not using gender as a proxy metric for X, but rather interested in gender for some other reason.
Not really. It is true, I think, that more men than women share my interests, but it doesn't follow that more men are interesting (to me). I've met women (and men) who I have very little in common with interests-wise, but who I still consider extremely interesting people. An example: I'm not all that interested in surfing but I have a number of friends who are really into it and I've had fascinating conversations with them about surfing. Being able to take a certain amount of vicarious pleasure in another person's enthusiasms, even if you do not share those enthusiasms, seems like a useful social skill to develop (and I do think it's trainable).
I would characterize the condition you describe as being interested in people. (It applies to me as well.) Kawoomba's hypothetical posits that "you" aren't interested in people, merely in computer games, programming and rationality forums.
Fair enough, but if this hypothetical character is not interested in people at all, I don't see why he cares about the gender distribution of people who share his interests. The implication seems to be that this person is interested in social contact, and uses his other interests as a filter to decide who he spends time with. My suggestion was that the desire for social contact might be more effectively satisfied if the person trained himself to be able to talk about (and at least temporarily be interested in learning about) things that he isn't immediately interested in. I wouldn't characterize myself as merely being interested in people, incidentally, because my desire to converse with other people about their interests isn't indiscriminate. I doubt I could sustain an interesting conversation with someone who is really into the life and work of Kim Kardashian, for instance.
I was hoping your reply was the 'more pointed summary' I intended to post, but since it's not: .. Being interested in how people work and universal human experiences.
I don't follow what you meant to express here.
You wrote I originally intended to post something similar but more pointed. Since your post didn't quite attain the suitable level of pointedness, I replied to your post instead of the original. That is, I originally intended to post something like (combining the wording of your and my posts):
Ah, I see. Thanks for the clarification.
I understand. I would have found it less mindkilling if he'd said "women are less interesting to me" or "I find women less interesting than men." [Edit: re-read - he does actually sort of say this.] I think sarcasm's unnecessary here!
"Interesting" isn't defined without a frame of reference, so the "to me" interpretation should be the default.

Perhaps it should be, normatively speaking, but I've interacted with enough people who behave as though "to normal/admirable people" was the interpretation they meant that my priors are pretty high for that interpretation.

You might find this exchange a useful pair of data points. Then again you might not.

For my own part, when I ask myself whether I want to see more discussions like this on LW, or fewer, I get a muddled answer... basically, I don't find the discussion itself terribly valuable, but I have a vague intuition that it represents a missed shot at a valuable target, and I'm not quite willing to write the target off.

So I haven't yet voted either way.

I don't really get it either. I was expecting to get heavily downvoted, flamed, and possibly banned. This conversation is surprisingly civil.
Do you feel uncomfortable/awkward around men at all? Or is is just female company that makes you feel this way?

It's not uncomfortable or awkwardness, it's frustration with the meat having different plans from me, and the meat usually winning.

I'm married and reasonably skilled at women, I'd just rather do things other than flirting.

Ah Ok, I'd misunderstood the problem. I thought you were socially lower status than you are.
Yeah, I think it is sympathy.
Being a magnus opus about why living for others is not worth it, I suggest we henceforth refer to this post as "Nyan_sandwich Shrugs".
If you are attracted to them, they are interesting to you, you're just ruling out their type of interesting as counting. Than who? Men? I've found that they're interesting in different ways. You don't have to be "women-compatible", anymore than you have to be "human-compatible". The number of women you might like to have in your life is a tiny tiny fraction of all available women. And these reports from women that are distressing you aren't all women either. Do you think that improves the experience for her? For you? No? Then knock it off. I'd say your problem is that you think that was a sexist rant. You're frustrated with the way you perceive society is supposed to work. I suggest you look at how it actually works, and how it can work better for you.
(In this comment, by “interesting” I specifically mean ‘interesting to me’, and my “men” and “women” I specifically mean ‘men around my age’ and ‘women around my age’.) FWIW, I think there's larger variance among men than among women: most women fall in the ‘somewhat interesting’ bin, whereas most men fall either in the ‘hardly interesting at all’ bin or in the ‘very interesting’ bin. I think the median woman is more interesting than the median man, but that might be me overcompensating for sampling bias.
Clarification please - what do you mean by "socially privileged" in this context?
Kneejerk downvoted. Finished reading post. Un-downvoted. You could have toned that down.
I kneejerk upvoted. Then finished reading the post (with the pessimistic self-sabotaging thoughts) and removed the upvote. Returned it again after seriously considering.
I find myself marveling at the concept of anything SEEMING more interesting than it IS. First of all, interesting is not a property of the thing you are interested in, it is your reaction to the thing. Maybe you could say women are far more interesting to you than your rational mind wishes they were, or that because you are attracted to women you find yourself both interested in them and pained at their lack of apparent interest in you, or something like that. But I parse what you wrote as, essentially, "I feel more interested in women than I actually am." I think you will find these issues easier and more satisfying to deal with when you treat "interesting" to mean "I am interested in..." and not some property of things outside of you that you may or may not be correctly perceiving. So for example: If you ARE interested in women and you'd therefore like to know more of them better, than you would be interested in making yourself more women-compatible, just as if you were interested in skiing you might want to strengthen your legs and build some of your physical endurance before going on a skiing trip. Conversely, if you are interested in women and skiing, but you can't be bothered to make yourself more woman-compatible or a stronger skier, you need to decide whether in your out-of-prepared state there is likely to be enough payoff for you in engaging in either skiing or spending time with women anyway. It is YOU that is interested or not interested, not women that are either interesting or not interesting. It is your decision what you will try in terms of interacting with either women or snowy mountains.

Re-translate it like this: A woman "seems" more interesting than she "is" if after finding out she's not available suddenly the things she says and does are a lot less interesting and fun to hear about. I've definitely had situations where I liked and was interested in someone and then later on looked back and realized they were fairly boring and I was just feeling attraction to them.

So, if I understand the sequence of events, it's: * At time T1, I am interested in a woman, and think she's available. * At time T2, I discover she's unavailable and I am no longer interested in her. We interpret this as my judgment at T2 being accurate -- she actually is boring -- and my judgment at T1 was being distorted by attraction, which I no longer feel at T2. Have I understood this correctly?
pretty much? But when you use "interested in a woman" in that phrase it has different connotations than "a woman is interesting".
Agreed about different connotations. That said... are you suggesting that the connotations of "interested in a woman" are less accurate/relevant? What evidence suggests that? For that matter, why should I prefer this interpretation over my judgment at T1 being accurate -- she actually is interesting -- and my judgment at T2 is being distorted by some other factor, such as (for example) "sour grapes"?

For that matter, why should I prefer this interpretation over my judgment at T1 being accurate -- she actually is interesting -- and my judgment at T2 is being distorted by some other factor, such as (for example) "sour grapes"?

Well, there may be other relevent facts, like "I'm married, and have generally sworn off hedonism except to maintain the meat, I'm only really interested in people as high-intellectual/networking-utility nodes in my social network".

That sounds like a vitally important detail, which you need to mention in the initial comment [] lest it gives a totally incorrect impression of what your issue is, especially given your talk of phone numbers near the beginning. (So, you don't actually have it with women, you just have it with your elephant [], do you?) BTW, do the women you interact with know that? IME, when there's common knowledge between me and another person that our riders [] aren't interested in sex e.g. because either of us is already taken, pretty much no interaction will be taken to be sexual (except jocularly), short of stuff like a kiss on the lips or a hand on the crotch; hell, I've had people jokingly proposition me in front of their boyfriend/husband/children. (OTOH, this may just be nice guy privilege [] and not apply to more masculine guys.) Have you tried to somehow bring up in conversation the fact that you have a wife (and if possible somehow imply that you aren't looking to cheat on her), and see if the women are still as uncomfortable?
The logic here being that because of those things, I should expect that you are fairly resistant to the natural tendency to judge something as less desirable once it's no longer available, so they would therefore serve as evidence against the second interpretation?
That is a good approximation, but it is insufficient change. You brain won't get around a woman's attractiveness because she is 1)allegedly 2)temporarily 3)according to her, not available. To get a good sense of how interesting a woman is, you have to imagine she is 50. Beyond reproductive age, then you'll see how interesting you truly find what she says and does.

Is calling people "creepy" more than a manifestation of the affect heuristic? Consider how attractive people are thought to be more honest and kind, and even get more lenient sentences in court. Then how powerful this effect is when combined with one of the most deeply ingrained forms of complete irrationality - romance.

Talking about other girls who gave you "invalid" nos. Anything on the order of "She was flirting with me all night and then she wouldn't put out/call me back/meet for coffee." Responding positively to you is not a promise to do anything else, and it's not leading you on. This kind of assumption is why I'm a little hesitant to be warm to a strange guy if I'm in a place where it would be hard to enforce a no.

Huh. When I mentioned (not complained, mentioned) to a couple friends (female friends) that a girl I had gone on one (1) date ... (read more)

Maybe it's alliances in action. I've had a few cases where I incurred justified (social) punishment of one kind or another, and certain people close to me had very nasty (and unjustified) things to say about the punisher. So far as I could tell, it wasn't because they'd thought through the situation and concluded I was in the right; it was just that I was part of their tribe and they were going to aggressively defend me.

I found the behavior incredibly frustrating.

And don't get me started with the advice about women my mother would give me: it sounds exactly like you took everything people complain of about Nice Guys™ and told me to do exactly that. Fortunately it has always been obvious to my System 2 that it's not enough for me to romantically like a woman but she has to romantically like me too, but my mother nearly convinced my System 1 otherwise.

That's exactly why these gender relation things are so insidious! They don't come from evil mens oppressing womens because they want to cause suffering and inequality or evil womens calling mens creepy and taking away all their status. They're cached thoughts that well-meaning mothers and grandmothers pass down to us because they think they're helping us survive in a cruel and confusing system. Without stopping to think that we can slowly dismantle the system to make it suck less.

Well-meaning? How in the stars can implying that so long as I'm a decent person and I'm attracted to someone it's irrelevant whether they're also attracted to me be well-mea... Wait. She grew up in a Guess Culture, so maybe her advice is sensible -- under certain assumptions that don't actually apply in my case.

(At least, she isn't asymmetric about that -- she also tried to shame me into dating someone who was attracted to me whom I wasn't attracted to.)

Have you considered not thinking of X being attracted to Y as an immutable property of X?
Yes, but IME there's usually much more variation among different X than among different time slices of the same X.
This was certainly less true in your mother's day when post people probably didn't go far from their village.
Wait... Ain't that backwards? I'd expect how much X is attracted to Y today to be a better predictor of how much X is attracted to Y if the two of them have known each other for ten years than if they have for ten minutes. (OTOH, people talking to one another decreases how much different Xes vary in how much they're attracted to a given Y, but probably that's a smaller effect.)
The point is you have fewer potential mates, so it makes sense to devote more effort to changing preferences.
She grew up near a major metropolitan area, whereas there are probably less than 10^5 people within 30 km of me, so whatever effects you might be thinking of probably apply more to myself than to her. (OTOH, she did get with my father, who lived within walking distance from her, when she was 15 and never dated anyone else.)
Right now, or throughout your life, e.g., did you go to college?
Most of my life, except the year I studied abroad (and stuff like holidays), and including time in university (I'm still here BTW, as a PhD student). (OTOH, given that this is a university town, the fraction of these people who are the appropriate age is a lot larger than the national average.) But especially when I grew up -- where (even if the population is not as small as what you probably had in mind when you said “village”) ISTM that most people only date people they have already known for years.
What would be the alternative to being well-meaning in this case--your maternal relatives conspiring to keep you single? I think well-meaning but clueless is the safer assumption. edit: oh right. lost the train of reference
Yes, she's well-meaning towards me -- I meant, how could that be well-meaning towards my potential partners? (Anyway, that was more an expression of frustration than literal confusion.)
While rephrasing it as the matriarchy is deeply amusing to me, I don't think we're even talking about some deliberate system here. I think most women just have no idea how to date women, and give men advice on how they interact with women, which is to say, behave like a friend. Pity lesbians have been fetishized. Men could use lesbian friends.
I think women actually give men advice by telling them how they'd like to ... be dated? At least, that's what I do []. Which makes me think army1987's mother probably wanted a hypergentlemanly man to lavish her with niceness and gifts and attention. Actually, maybe she was experiencing a shortage of gifts and attention from someone she DID have romantic feelings for, and so didn't realize what an overabundance of gifts and attention would feel like from someone she had NO romantic feelings for, which is generally when Nice Guys™ become problematic. Maybe we need to ask the opposite question. Mens! How would you like to ... be dated? EDIT: I think it was a system back in the day when land and inheritance and dowries were important and some memes from back then are still alive and floating around confusing everyone.
Don't ask me how I'd like to be dated. I have no idea. Historically I think women have had the most luck with... ... Well, historically, being shoved into a preemptive friendzone after I suspected them of sexual interest, hanging out for a while, disappearing off to college, waiting eight years, and then contacting me out of the blue. Yeah, maybe I shouldn't give anybody advice on how to date me.
"Actually, maybe she was experiencing a shortage of gifts and attention from someone she DID have romantic feelings for, and so didn't realize what an overabundance of gifts and attention would feel like from someone she had NO romantic feelings for, which is generally when Nice Guys™ become problematic." Yes, what is desired of someone who you are attracted to vs someone you aren't is markedly different. When men ask for dating advice, they want to know how they get into that attracted-to category in the first place, whereas the question may be answered as if the man was already in that category for the woman of his affections, perhaps because the answered is not conisdering the second category of suitor at all, in teh same way that people don't usually desire to /know how to change their desires.
This [] may be helpful.
Oh, that's easy [].
I don't think I follow. This is what you want from every lady in the store/library/train who thinks you're cute?
I suppose that would be a bit too forward as the first sign of interest, given current cultural norms. But it probably has a grain of truth once you are dating.
99.9788% (hey, if I'm going to make up two significant figures, why not six?) of all the advice I've ever gotten from women on dating women has been to dial the Nice Guy up to 11. After I decided I was bisexual, it's really weird how much better I got at dating women, because I didn't have all nonsense baggage in dating guys; gave a much different, and infinitely better, perspective on dating.

I think that was probably your female friends' way of offering their sympathy. They probably didn't mean that she was a bitch to everyone always, but that what she did was not a nice, pleasant thing to do and since you only went on one date, then thinking of her as a bitch will make the experience easier to not be sad about.

It might sound really convoluted, but I've done this before (though not recently). "What a bitch!" makes a much better soundbite than "She was probably not interested and she was entitled to her preferences but not replying was a little not nice but maybe she was afraid to reject you to your face, but I'm sure she's probably a nice person, but you're a nice person and there are plenty of other even nicer ladies, so don't feel bad, etc."

It's interesting. Suppose I go on a date with a guy, after which he decides he's not interested and doesn't want a second date. I email him a couple of days later asking if he'd like to go on another date. If he doesn't reply I'll get the message that he's not interested. I'd prefer he didn't reply at all to an email saying "sorry I'm not interested." I get the message both ways, but the first is less awkward.

Given my preferences, I have stopped replying to guys in the past. I haven't been dating at all recently, but when I start again, maybe I should send "sorry not interested" emails.

It's even worse when you start dating someone else but you want to stay friends with the guy! What are you supposed to write? "I think you're really cool but I want to date this guy over here. Can we still hang out?!"
Yes, people offering me their sympathy when someone wrongs me even when I've pointed out that I'm not terribly bothered myself seems to be a common pattern. (Seems like my resent-o-meter is under-sensitive; in game-theoretical terms, it's like when someone makes me an excessively small offer in the Ultimatum game, my System 1 infers that they're not an agent and decides that I might just as well do the CDTical thing and accept the offer anyway.)
In the iterated Prisoner's Dilemma, ‘assume your opponent is a fellow superrational agent until proven otherwise’ yields tit-for-tat...
Now that you mention it, I've only ever used this tactic on people I didn't know very well, so I expected their resent-o-meter to be average. And then I could use their reaction to gauge their actual resentment-setting. Meanwhile, I have a friend with a resent-o-meter that's perhaps higher than necessary, and I always go with the "Well you CAN'T just hate people for something like that ..." which led to really long, tedious debates about why she shouldn't demonize some gentleman or another. But I think she finds reasons to resent people because it's the only way she knows to deal with sad things. :(
And "she's just not that into you" makes a better soundbite than either - but I do agree that this is probably what's going on here. Flaking is not even that uncommon nowadays; regardless of anyone's opinion about this, it does mean that it's hard to take the female friend's comment at face value.
Well, there's a bunch of things it communicates at once: * Probably you are angry, and I'm your friend so I will give you a place to vent your anger, if you want. * Probably you are sad, so I will try to cheer you up by telling you that what happened is not that big of a deal, because if she's not interested, then she is not worth feeling too sad about. Meanwhile, "she's just not that into you" sounds like you're taking her side. "Well, she can do what she wants." But if you're my friend and I'm the one that the sad thing happened to, then I'd want you to keep the situation about me. So even if she is perfectly justified in being not that into me, I don't want it brought up right at that moment. Therefore! Those girls who reacted by calling that girl a bitch probably don't actually think she's a bitch. If they encounter her later in life, they probably won't pounce on her with something like, "You're that bitch that stopped replying to my friend army1987! We totally hate you!" They are instead most likely just comforting you in a confusingly aggressive-sounding way.
Actually they were more like ‘Huh, you don't seem to be very angry.’ [And indeed I wasn't.] ‘How comes??? If a guy did that to me, I'd be FURIOUS!!!’ (That's a paraphrase, of course, but not a terribly loose one.) ETA: In other words, it seems that's another instance of a pattern I noticed before [].

This doesn't seem LW-specific.

Of course, unless anything of that happened at a LW meetup or -- Omega forbid -- a Minicamp.

Did it?

6Eliezer Yudkowsky10y
Not that I know of. Obviously it has happened somewhere, in some city, given the number of LW meetups. Statistics do not permit otherwise, even allowing for male LW attendees to be unusually cultured.
We discussed something related to this last year ... *search search* ... Oh, here it is ... []
Ironic, given we had a hugging lecture at july 2012 minicamp.
The Minicamp cab?
OP says these are excerpts from longer responses (average of 18/7 pages per woman). In the original context, it's probably part of a complaint about creepiness and LW.

Just wanted to clarify: The posts were kept whole, so each person's post was NOT split up in any way or excerpted/shortened. All I did was a bit of speelcheking, and grouped some submissions on similar topics into one post.

(Original first paragraph, but I agree with the commenters that I was misreading the other responses here): A lot of the responses here may tacitly assume that Submitter D or any other woman in her position "should" give all these geeks and nerds a fair or even shake. But should she?

EDIT: When I wrote the above I was most influenced by this thread of comments which is a discussion where women who say no to men are characterized as "bitches" and otherwise in the wrong. I'm leaving the original wording in place because there are a few c... (read more)

There's a difference between not being attracted to someone and regarding them in a manner more appropriate to something crawling up your shoe which I don't think your comment is really acknowledging. The complaints seem to originate about the latter, not the former.

I don't think I've actually seen any comments that somebody should give them a fair shake as a dating prospect. Treating people as people would be an improvement.

Eh, I don't know. To some folks, finding out that someone is attracted to them, when they don't reciprocate, might be a little like finding out that someone you know would really like to stick their fingers up your nose and sneeze in your mouth.
Given the person in question isn't willing to violate your consent in order to do so, what's the problem?
How strongly do you believe that? Plus, they keep bugging you about it and thereby eliciting unpleasant imagery in your mind. And trying to modify you to cause you to consent. And moping dejectedly about how nobody lets them do it. And coming in to work after watching snot videos and staring at your mouth when you yawn. I mean, seriously, ew. Even if it's not threatening, it's still unpleasant.
"Finding out" and "Being pressured into" aren't the same things at all. Your "plus" is an insertion after the fact; the statement Mwengler made which I responded to was that all the complaints were about how women wouldn't date poorly-socialized people, and my response was that this isn't what the complaints are about at all, but about how a particular segment of society demands we -revile- poorly socialized people. There are some really good comments made recently pointing out that the audience for these demands is strictly composed of those people for whom these demands are most implicitly harmful. But back on point, you do realize your argument here represents an attempt to trigger a halo effect on my part? I should revile all snot-gobbers (to make up a suitable invective for your made-up kink) because some snot-gobbers are assholes? This argument is -particularly- unpersuasive to me because you're telling me I'm an extra-horrible person for being bisexual and being potentially attracted to -everybody-, and anything I do which reveals that to be the case is equivalent to pressuring them into sex. [ETA: This may not be the case you're making, in further consideration. I'm leaving this here, however, because this is exactly how you're coming across to me; your argument shares too many similarities with people who have made exactly this argument against me before.]
Eh? I'm not making an argument that anyone is horrible. I'm trying to express that people who do have an unpleasant reaction to others' sexual attraction to them are not some kind of broken alien robot zombies, nor are they dehumanizing anyone (as you implied upthread). They are (frequently) in situations that, if we empathize with them at all, we may notice their responses actually make a heck of a lot of sense.
They're free to have an unpleasant reaction to others' sexual attraction to them. But their freedom to have that unpleasant reaction stops short of being free from criticism when they suggest that that sexual attraction, being unwanted, makes -other- people broken alien robot zombies. ETA: Parallel conversation suggests where our disconnect is coming from. I'm not arguing against unpleasant reactions, I'm arguing against certain behaviors arising from unpleasant reactions.
No, even if unwittingly creepy folks were not reviled, most of the complaints about them would still stand. It's not even clear that the people who complain about creepers are demanding anything, as opposed to simply expressing their own revulsion. Consider that many and perhaps most folks dislike rude people to some extent - and creeper behavior is unquestionably more obnoxious than many other kinds of social faux pas.
Sigh. I'm not talking about people complaining about creepy behavior. I'm talking about people who, for example, lump passive-aggressive sexual behavior in with "rape culture." Google "creep rape culture". There are a lot of people who argue that creepiness should be clamped down on, hard, by society. Lost in the discussion is that "creepiness" is -really fucking vague-, and includes not only the examples of aggressive behavior listed in some of the links there, but also a lot of passive behavior which, as another commenter here pointed out, can be as simple as never acting on feelings that are apparent to other people. "Creepy" is a spectrum, ranging from the harmless (and in some cases maybe even helpful - I'm not going to hit on a guy I know isn't gay/bisexual, even if I'm attracted to him, and even if it might be painfully apparent that I'm attracted to him - for example, the really cute waiter with blue hair at my favorite restaurant who I probably look at a little too often) to the harmful (not going into examples here, I'm sure you can come up with something). It's not helpful, in the least, to address the entire spectrum as if only a subset of it were real.
Well, now you're changing the subject. AIUI, nobody in this thread has been lumping mild forms of creepiness in with 'rape culture'. However, it only takes listening to the latest gangsta hip hop rap "songs" to realize that some parts of popular culture do glorify predatory behavior (if not perhaps actual rape) to a disturbing extent. It's not a stretch to assume that at least some people who consume such content might be unconciously influenced by it and perhaps become more creepy as a result.
The person I was responding to -was- lumping mild forms of creepiness in with rape culture with the "snot-gobber" example (as the aggressive behavior described pretty much fit that nomer). That wasn't me changing the subject, that was me responding to somebody else changing the subject. And now you're changing the subject. (Also, what the hell, Less Wrong? Of all my views, why do I get upvoted most consistently for my views on gender relations, of all things? I'm antisocial bordering on sociopathic. My idea of a good dating profile is one which frightens away as many people I deem unacceptable as possible, my idea of a good dating profile picture involves me holding a gun and a bottle of Jack Daniels. One of us is extremely poorly calibrated here.)
I don't know why you were upvoted either, but that's a perfectly good dating profile picture (if you look at it in terms of what the women are saying is creepy, rather than what the men are saying the women are saying is creepy, then it's fairly clear)
I have no idea who the men and women in Less Wrong are. Even if I'm told I don't care enough to remember. To the extent that I gender people, it's based on usernames; your username comes across as male to me, which makes your comment come across as a little silly. I'm making my judgment of what is called creepy based on what I've heard it used to describe in real life. In my family, it was exclusively used to describe people who come across as wrong; who have this unidentifiable aura of wrongness which wasn't necessarily tied to behavior. One such individual, who we had long described as creepy, killed his daughter. (He deliberately got in a car wreck; it was an attempted murder-suicide.) Outside my family, I've heard it used to describe a pretty wide range of things. "Creep" is in fact a commonly-used word to describe men who fail miserably at legitimate attempts at socialization. I've stopped using the word "creepy" to describe people. It didn't fit common usage. I refer to these people now as "off," or "not right." I prefer the word creepy, but it doesn't convey the meaning I intend it to convey, so I dropped it. I'm sympathetic to people who use it to refer to a feeling of wrongness in a fellow human being, but I'm not going to privilege their definition.
But this only applies if you assume that snot-gobbers may be described as creepy not because of any particular behavior on their part, but because of their supposed desire to pick someone else's nose. I don't think that anyone would be willing to go that far, at least in this context[1]; even mwengler probably assumes that the "creeper" description is rooted in some kind of bad behavior. You suggest that "passive-aggressive" behaviors might be seen as just as creepy as actually aggressive ones, but you're the one who's making a catch-22 argument here. [1] As you say in a related comment, some people may simply appear "wrong" or "not right" to us, for some unidentifiable reason. But it makes no sense to refer to this kind of creepy if the issue is whether "creepiness should be clamped down on, hard, by society".
The author expected me to find them creepy -without any particular behavior on their part-. That's the bit you're missing. The behaviors were added later to try to make me feel like they were creepy, but the author -already- found them creepy, without any of those behaviors added in (or at least expected me to, which I take as good evidence). Look, I'm more than happy to completely start over, with a completely new context, and argue with you about behavior - but don't drop the context of the argument I was already having in order to try to score a point against me. Yes, I think there should be social prohibitions against certain behaviors; I'd prefer both well-defined and gray areas. No, I don't find "creepy' to be a useful way of describing those behaviors, because it's used to describe a lot of gray areas as well. No, I don't think complaints about these behaviors should be eradicated. However, and it's a really big however, all the valid criticisms that can be raised against gray-area creepiness -also- apply to COMPLAINTS about non-specific creepiness. Creepiness makes people feel uncomfortable because they aren't certain of your intent and lowers their utilons? Well, complaints about creepiness make people feel uncomfortable because they aren't certain what you're describing, and lowers their utilons. When you communicate about creepiness, be socially well adjusted enough to consider the possibility that what you're communicating isn't what you're intending to communicate. Audience matters, interpretation matters. What's in your brain isn't what's in your mouth and in their ear isn't what's in their brain. And maybe it's a good idea to just drop the "creepy" label and use a more specific description.
Taboo "find them creepy". He was certainly trying to empathize with others' emotional reaction [], but that's not the same as actively reviling them or finding them horrible. Adding in behaviors after the fact was probably not a wholly kosher argument, but fubarobfusco only insisted on that after you equated unpleasant emotional feelings with deliberate social shunning. So there were multiple sources of confusion in your argument. I suppose I should apologize for not trying to clarify these before - I honestly am not trying to score logical points against you, but I can't really fault you for thinking that.
Ah. I see where the disengagement happened. From my original comment: That wasn't complete - it was modified by this statement: My comment wasn't just about the -attitude-, but the behavior that arises out of that attitude. Wanting to punch somebody is not the same as actually punching somebody. I didn't mean to imply that visceral reactions were thoughtcrime.
No they haven't. Why is this straw man encouraged? And it makes sense for person-submitter-D-doesn't-require-for-sexual-services to put in the effort required to get his needs met. For example, by following the conventional courtship strategy of asking for phone numbers at a certain point in the process. It makes no sense for him to comply with demands to not ask for phone numbers because that would make it more personally convenient for her at the expense of himself. (Especially since resistance to that kind of social pressure is one of the key elements of attraction. Being sensitive to disapproval and vulnerable to shaming is a terrible mating strategy!)
That's most definitely not at all what my friends whom I paraphrased in that comment were thinking of.
I just reread that entire thread and I see what you mean. These commenters were really commenting on a woman who did not communicate her disinterest but simply stopped communicating. I think I am guilty of projection, of having my own powerful issues around attraction and rejection, and seeing them in other places even when they are not there. This is great info for me to have, that this issue is still so alive in me that it warps my ability to even read. Since I am very recently separated, I may actually be able to use this information. I hate romantic rejection SO MUCH. I think it totally warps me.
Huh. I've seen a fair share of Nice Guy™ism on the Web, but very little in this thread. (I immediately came up with a couple reasons why this analogy breaks down, but neither of them actually apply to LW meetups, where men largely outnumber women and a sizeable fraction of people are polyamorous.) The problem with that is that it can generate nasty information cascades. I agree with the rest of the comment.

I don't think that you can effectively get rid of creepyness without empathy.

Anyone who follow a specific set of rules like: "If I see X, I should do Y" is likely to be socially maladjusted. Intellectual rules just don't work, if you are in the wrong emotional state.

If a man does sexual advance X but doesn't feel the emotions that a human would naturally feel if he would do X, he's likely to be perceived as creepy if the woman is empathic enough to assess his emotional state.

There a ton of difference between a man going for a kiss because he read somewhere that it's the proper thing to do at the end of a date and a man going for a kiss because he feels a sincere desire to kiss a woman.

This comment absolutely expresses the key problem with way too many of the responses to this series of posts. The posts complain of bad and creepy behaviour, the responses attempt to explain away the complaint but read like perfect examples of the problem.

The creepiness complaints pointed out here all seem to be strong signals of low confidence: the guy is signaling with his body language and behavior that he expects to be rejected and is very concerned about this possibility. This is also signaling that he sees his status as lower than hers.

It seems to me that "creepy" is just another word for "low confidence," and confidence is a major factor in attractiveness. I'd argue that it's the low confidence itself- not the specific behaviors which are making her feel cornered. If an otherwise ... (read more)

Most of the behaviors being called creepy here very much aren't signals of low confidence, by my reading. Physically blocking exits isn't a low-confidence move. Ditto for (deliberately) overstepping physical boundaries. Complaining about people who didn't honor perceived social commitments could go either way depending on wording and demeanor, as could asking for a number instead of offering yours, but here it sounds like it's being framed in high-status terms. Following someone around at a party is indicative of limited social skills, which often come with low confidence but needn't necessarily -- I've got a couple of Creepy Stalker Anecdotes of my own thanks to people with more social confidence than competence.

Identifying creepiness with low confidence is starting to seem like a predictable impulse in geeky spaces. There's a few different things that could explain this, but the one I find most compelling starts with the stereotypical high-school experience of a shy and awkward male geek being labeled creep, stalker, pervert, etc. on their first crude and tentative forays into expressing sexual attraction; frustration then ensues when they're caught between wanting to improv... (read more)

You're right, I was projecting my personal experience of being labled "creepy" as a geeky socially awkward teenager. My behaviors had nothing in common with those mentioned in the original post, but I did not realize this.

I agree that a taboo on the word creepy would help here, I missed that the word gets applied to drastically different situations and behaviors (on the part of the person being labeled so).

The same thing is happening here with the word "confidence"- you and I are using different definitions of it. I meant it in the context of someone who expects the interest level of a conversation to be symmetrical, and if the other person doesn't seem interested they will notice this and instead talk to someone who shows more interest.

Shy geeky guys often enter conversations with women expecting them to be disinterested. Because they don't expect the other person to be interested, they may keep talking to someone showing outward signs of disinterest which is a huge social mistake.

This is very different from an "overconfident" guy who so strongly expects a woman to be interested that he doesn't check to see if she really is… however in both cases I think the woman would feel similarly trapped (because signs of disinterest are being ignored).

What's that? Except for something in Swedish and initials of person names, the only expansion for that Google finds is “Society of Jesus”, which doesn't quite fit the context.
Social justice, sorry. I'll go back and expand that; clearly I've been reading Tumblr too much.
Some of the behaviours that "creepy" refers to are what I would think of as "red flags." I've described inappropriate physical contact as being creepy in the past.* I tend to wonder if the guy would continue doing inappropriate things were I to spend more time with him. High status men do this as well as low status men, but I tend to think of them as being dangerous rather than creepy. I'm likely to avoid spending much time with them in future too. *I am willing to believe that this could often be due to poor social skills/not knowing how to behave with women.

I'd like to know what is the reason behind American women distrusting American men so much i.e. expecting harassment, rape or something. Why don't you see this in e.g. Western Europe and if the answer is people are "nicer" there, then maybe why don't you see this in Eastern Europe even though on the whole people are more aggressive/passionate.

Is it a multiculturalism thing: it makes harder to read each others values, intentions or also there are no subconsciously shared courting rules and rituals, and as long as the man sticks to them you subco... (read more)

Exactly how this sort of social attitude evolves is very path-dependent. There may not necessarly be a reason why these ideas are more common in the US other than "these ideas happened to spread a bit more than others, and some ideas get amplified the more other people believe them".

The fear women have of being raped is certainly real but evolutionarily obsolete and irrational in today's world. Thus I'm dismayed that on a forum that's supposed to be about rationality, the creepiness problem is presented entirely as a behavioral issue men have and need to fix, rather than a bias women have that we might develop techniques to alleviate.

BTW, I'm a straight man and I've been putting in an effort to be less "creepy" for instrumental reasons.

Dear gods these comments are a shitshow...

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