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.
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.
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)
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 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)
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.
Here is a link describing creepy, threatening desire from a man's perspective.
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 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.
Generally agree that this is important to keep in mind, but:
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".
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
The standard essay is Five Geek Social Fallacies.
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.
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.
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: http://www.reddit.com/r/dating_advice/comments/1bymdq/never_datedbeen_in_a_relationship_i_m21_want_to/c9bu81j
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)
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.
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 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".
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.... (read more)
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?'.
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.
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.
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:
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)
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.
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.
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.
If I feel strongly about the matter, yes, I should. If it isn't particularly important to me, it's a judgment call.
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.
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 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.
 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!
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.
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.
On first seeing this, I assumed it was a reference to broad and varied sexual preferences.
According to the last survey, there are fewer LWers of races other than White, East Asian or Hispanic than female LWers.
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.
Is there intended meaning behind this comment beyond affiliating with a mainstream position by declaring an outgroup meta-uncool?
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.
There's a reason it is easier to dismiss some things as non-truth-tracking ivory-tower nonsense. A good one.
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.)
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. 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.
 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.
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.
I was semi-joking, sometimes I just don't bother.
But the short answer to your question is: I'm a student.
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
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.
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.
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.
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".
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.
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?
I occasionally have... (read more)
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 wouldn't say odd, I'd say rather predictable. The unproblematic happy path is unremarkable, and rarely gets remarked on.
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.
As a woman, I would rather avoid people like you anyway. Hope that helps.
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.
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!
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.
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)
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.
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.
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)
Yes, it's common to find that offering numbers doesn't work very well. One common thing is to ask to exchange numbers.
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.
Well. Dang it. I was hoping we could be friends.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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".
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.
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.
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.)
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.
This doesn't seem LW-specific.
Of course, unless anything of that happened at a LW meetup or -- Omega forbid -- a Minicamp.
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.
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.
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).
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)
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.