How to deal with someone in a LessWrong meeting being creepy

by Douglas_Reay1 min read9th Sep 2012774 comments

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Sex & GenderMeetups (topic)
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One of the lessons highlighted in the thread "Less Wrong NYC: Case Study of a Successful Rationalist Chapter" is Gender ratio matters.

There have recently been a number of articles addressing one social skills issue that might be affecting this, from the perspective of a geeky/sciencefiction community with similar attributes to LessWrong, and I want to link to these, not just so the people potentially causing problems get to read them, but also so everyone else knows the resource is there and has a name for the problem, which may facilitate wider discussion and make it easier for others to know when to point towards the resources those who would benefit by them.

However before I do, in the light of RedRobot's comment in the "Of Gender and Rationality" thread, I'd like to echo a sentiment from one of the articles, that people exhibiting this behaviour may be of any gender and may victimise upon any gender.   And so, while it may be correlated with a particular gender, it is the behaviour that should be focused upon, and turning this thread into bashing of one gender (or defensiveness against perceived bashing) would be unhelpful.

Ok, disclaimers out of the way, here are the links:

Some of those raise deeper issues about rape culture and audience as enabler, but the TLDR summary is:

  1. Creepy behaviour is behaviour that tends to make others feel unsafe or uncomfortable.
  2. If a significant fraction of a group find your behaviour creepy, the responsibility to change the behaviour is yours.
  3. There are specific objective behaviours listed in the articles (for example, to do with touching, sexual jokes and following people) that even someone 'bad' at social skills can learn to avoid doing.
  4. If someone is informed that their behaviour is creeping people out, and yet they don't take steps to avoid doing these behaviours, that is a serious problem for the group as a whole, and it needs to be treated seriously and be seen to be treated seriously, especially by the 'audience' who are not being victimised directly.

EDITED TO ADD:

Despite the way some of the links are framed as being addressed to creepers, this post is aimed at least as much at the community as a whole, intended to trigger a discussion on how the community should best go about handling such a problem once identified, with the TLDR being "set of restraints to place on someone who is burning the commons", rather that a complete description that guarantees that anyone who doesn't meet it isn't creepy.  (Thank you to jsteinhardt for clearly verbalising the misinterpretation - for discussion see his reply to this post)

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This makes me lose respect for both you and Eliezer.

I don't really enjoy bringing this up, much less in this thread, but IIRC, it used to be that SilasBarta would hound Alicorn and "follow her around" on the site (by specifically tracking her recent comments) in order to confront her. This is deeply disruptive behavior which can actually drive honest users off the site, so it's very much not OK. No users should be getting this kind of treatment, unless they're actually being so annoying on their own that we'd rather drive them off.

Let Silas apologize to Eliezer directly for his problem behavior, then we can think about lifting these restrictions on his commenting privileges.

but IIRC, it used to be that SilasBarta would hound Alicorn and "follow her around" on the site (by specifically tracking her recent comments) in order to confront her.

Completely and utterly false.

Eliezer confirmed to me via PM that he did grant permission, and did it based on his trust of Alicorn.

[-][anonymous]8y 48

POST IDEA- Feedback Wanted

When these gender discussions come up, I am often tempted to write in with my own experiences and desires. But I generally don't because I don't want to generalize from one example, or claim to be the Voice of Women, etc. However, according to the last survey, I actually AM over 1% of the females on here, and so is every other woman. (i.e. there are less than 100 of us).

My idea is to put out a call for women on LessWrong to write openly about their experiences and desires in this community, and send them to me. I will anonymize them all, and put them all up under one post.

This would have a couple of benefits, including:

  • Anonymity allows for open expression- When you are in the vast minority, speaking out can feel like "swimming upstream," and so may not happen very much.

  • Putting all the women's responses in one posts helps figure out what is/is not a problem- Because of the gender ratio, most discussions on the topic are Men Talking About what Women Want, it can be hard to figure out what women are saying on the issues, versus what men are saying women say.

  • The plural of anecdote is data- If one woman says X, it is an anecdote, and very wea

... (read more)

I'm really curious what this would turn up (and I wonder if it'll bring up things that no one woman would say by themselves to everyone on the site), so I definitely think it should happen!

I'm unclear on what exactly I would tell you, but assuming there exists a useful answer to that question other than "y'know, stuff", I'm game. Also, given that there are so few, anonymity may not be anonymity (my writing style's probably recognizable to some; any individual incident I've probably already told all my friends about so it'll be recognized at least by those; etc.); how would you work around that?

[-][anonymous]8y 14

I'm unclear on what exactly I would tell you,

This comment actually gave me An Idea, so thank you!

Idea- In the Call for Responses post, there could be a Ask the Women thread, where people can submit questions. If you want a question answered, upvote it.

When the women write their responses, they can use the questions as prompts. A question that gets many upvotes will probably be written on by more women, thus getting more data. But if you want to respond to a more lower voted question, you can (or just say whatever you want to say)

I would say that the submitted questions will be assumed to be answered using Crocker's Rules, no exceptions. What we want is a more stream-of-consciousness, gut-level reaction . Not self-censored, want-to-be-polite-and-concise, filtered answers.

8Caspian8ySome topics for the call for responses I would propose: Occasions when a man was creepy towards you at a social event. Occasions when a woman was creepy towards you at a social event. Occasions you met a new male friend at a social event, and how it wasn't creepy, and what was fun/interesting/good about it. Occasions you met a new female friend at a social event, and how it wasn't creepy, and what was fun/interesting/good about it. (I mean new friend in the sense that you didn't know them, not that they were already a new friend before the event) "This has never happened to me" would also be a useful response. All of the above questions could be answered for either lesswrong-related events, or social events in general.
3dspeyer8yOccasions (or general patterns) when someone tried too hard to not be creepy toward you and displeased you as a result. (Some of the policies that get tossed around are pretty extreme, so I'd be interested in measuring the overcompensation risk.)
8[anonymous]8yI'm expecting few enough responses that I'm willing to work with people on a case-by-case basis. For example, for you I could edit your writing towards my own style, or even (so long as it's not pages) read it, wait an hour, and re-write it in my own voice, if needed (going back to make sure all relevant details are added in) Discussing individual incidents is a bit trickier. In general, I would like to keep the narratives individual-specific. (i.e. "Lady Q writes: " , rather than "Thoughts on Question X: ") . Otherwise, the concern would be unable to differentiate between 10 women writing 1 good thing and 2 bad things each, OR 9/10 women wrote 1 good thing, and 1 woman writes 20 bad things. That said, I do see the use of an "Anonymous Incidents" section, where people can put identifying incidents they would like to discuss, without associating it with the rest of their narrative. Do you think that would solve this issue?

I would be game for this. In fact, I've pretty much been going round doing this where I thought people were failing to understand how women worked anyway. This is a great way of avoiding generalising from one example though, which from what I've noticed of posts on the subject of women, happens a lot.

Just also remember that this isn't going to give helpful advice unless we can all learn to stop saying things that we say and really don't mean. I might be generalising from one example again, but women often rationalise more than men, so it's hard for us to speak in an unbiased way about our actual preferences. It took me a lot of effort just to learn /when/ I was rationalising, let alone fix it.

This seems interesting. There have been threads on specifically female viewpoints before, but the anonymity is a wrinkle that no one's tried yet as far as I know. Go for it; the worst that can happen is not turning up anything new.

(Well, I suppose the short-term worst that can happen might involve stirring up resentment that's been obscured for social reasons and that turning into a fight, but in the long run that resentment either is or isn't there already.)

9TheOtherDave8yI'm .8 confident it won't turn up anything surprising enough to make it worth your effort, but if you're motivated to expend the effort anyway, I'd certainly read the results. I'm cis-male, so pretty much irrelevant to the effort other than as a reader.

I'm never a fan of "don't"-oriented guides to social interaction. In my experience, the reason people do things that are taken as creepy is that they don't know a better way -- if they did, wouldn't they do that and thus avoid alienating everyone in the first place?

Giving more "don'ts" doesn't solve that problem: it just makes it harder to locate the space of socially-optimal behavior. What's worse, being extremely restrictive in the social risks you take itself can be taken as creepy! ("Gee, this guy never seems to start conversations with anyone...")

These guides should instead say what to do, not what not to do, that will make the group more comfortable around you.

Edit: Take this one in particular. 90% is "don'ts", 5% is stuff of questionable relevance to the archetypal target of these guides (the problem is that male nerds announce their sexual fetishes too early? really?), and the last 5% is the usual vague "be higher status" advice which, if it were as easy as suggested, would have obviated the need for this advice in the first place.

(To its credit, it has a link to more general social adeptness advice that I didn't read, but then that article, if useful, should be the one linked, not this one.)

Wow, sweeping dismissal of legit concern. Sometimes people do creepy things. When they do, it's very important to the people they're creeping on that they be believed. This doesn't mean sentences of the form "X is creepy" have some kind of sacredness property that immunizes them from ever being false or used for goals they shouldn't be.

My request that you not reply to my comments was not, and never became, an invitation for replies to my comments.

Alicorn's request for SilasBarta to not reply to her comments was not, and never became, an obligation for him to not speak up when Alicorn says things that he opposes.

Replying to a comment on a forum is not the same as approaching someone in person to engage in conversation. It is, fittingly, like responding to a public speech at the forum. Accordingly, the right to reply to Alicorn's comments isn't something that requires her 'invitation'. She does not have the right to speak whatever she wishes and demand that someone in particular who disagrees with her may not reply. (Except, I suppose, in the technical sense whereby she could in principle abuse her moderation powers to prevent someone replying for any reason she chose.)

This particular play for status and control over SilasBarta should be rejected and crushed mercilessly. SilasBarta's comment isn't personal in nature and so does not represent the kind of social approach that fits with the subject of this thread and doesn't get the same treatment.

The solution to not wanting to see replies by a specific individual... (read more)

4komponisto8yAlso, the grandparent is disingenuous. Presumably, Silas assumed that the request had simply expired, not that it had morphed into a different kind of request. ...as did I, frankly. I'm now commenting here after seeing this [http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/egz/meta_lw_policy_when_to_prohibit_alice_from/] and thinking, "Oh, no, please don't let this be about....that [http://lesswrong.com/lw/e5h/how_to_deal_with_someone_in_a_lesswrong_meeting/7ds9] !", and then finding [http://lesswrong.com/lw/e5h/how_to_deal_with_someone_in_a_lesswrong_meeting/7du3] , to my utter horror [http://lesswrong.com/lw/e5h/how_to_deal_with_someone_in_a_lesswrong_meeting/7dun] , that it was indeed about that.

Question: Is there anyone here who has helped a creep become substantially less creepy? How did you help that happen?

Other question: Is there anyone here who used to be creepy, and now is significantly less so? How did that happen?

I used to be a giant creep. I knew I had no social skills, tried to develop some, and it backfired more often than not. For example, I knew I was clingy and unable to tell if people wanted to get rid of me. So I reasoned that I should just hover around people I wanted to talk to and make it unclear whether I was there because of them or by coincidence, so they would feel free to talk to me or not as they wished.

What helped was Internet articles like those linked above. Those actually explain what behaviors are desirable and undesirable, and basics of reading people.

I still don't know the difference between "You should go away" and "Should I go away?" - verbal expressions of these are identical. "I'm leaving, bye" and "I'm leaving, wanna come along?" are also hard to distinguish.

Other question: Is there anyone here who used to be creepy, and now is significantly less so? How did that happen?

I apparently sometimes come across as intense, and am often bad at small talk, but once people get to know me, they tend to like me. The result is that I have a number of social links where I was originally perceived as a creepy guy who thought we were closer than they thought we were when we met, and through continued interaction the social distance has settled at an agreed-on point (around my initial estimate, though generally a bit further than it. I've recalibrated since then, and think I would get it right now for most people).

For example, the first guy I dated told me (after I started dating him) that I was creepy the first time I met him. I basically went to a con just to meet him, and didn't have anything else to do. So... I ended up following him around. At one point, he said to a friend "hey, let's go to dinner!" and I said "Great! I'll come along!" Rookie mistakes fueled by wishful thinking. Later, he told me that he was hoping to get rid of me by going to dinner. At no point did he ask me to leave or make obvious that he didn't want me... (read more)

[-][anonymous]8y 26

Other question: Is there anyone here who used to be creepy, and now is significantly less so? How did that happen?

raises hand

I read this, included the comments thread, and thought about it.

OTOH, there's the huge confounding factor that it was shortly after I came back from Ireland to Italy, and Italians are harder to creep out than Anglo-Saxon people. Stand one metre from (say) an American and they will freak the hell out; stand one metre from an Italian and they'll wonder whether they smell. Also, I can't see any evidence that many women in Italy are anywhere nearly as scared of potential rapists as Starling describes (at least where I am -- in larger cities and/or more fucked-up regions the situation might be different). So, to be sure it's my absolute creepiness that decreased and not the standard by which it's measured that increased, I'd have to go back to an English-speaking country and see how I'm received there.

6wedrifid8yThe example you give illustrates the difference in personal space norms between cultures, I'll take it on your word that Italians also happen to be less easily creeped out. But the difference in personal space norms doesn't itself indicate much about who is most easily creeped out. Trying to make a social approach and standing a more than appropriate distance away could itself be creepy (although obviously not as creepy as a personal space invasion itself.)
5[anonymous]8yItalian doesn't even have a good translation for creepy! (Inquietante ‘unsettling’ is close, but not quite there.) :-) (Smiley obligatory per Poe's Law, as some people seem to take such arguments seriously [http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=1081].)
4RobinZ8yFrom what I'm told about queues in New York, there might be significant regional variations among Americans in that respect.
[-][anonymous]8y 15

queues

Not obvious to me that that can be generalized to other interactions. Some people could be much less creeped out by someone waiting in a line two feet behind them but not otherwise interacting with them in any way than by someone standing in front of them talking to them at the same distance.

Hard problem.

"Change your behavior if a significant fraction complains" fails to protect isolated victims, who are likely to be the most common targets of bad behavior and also the ones in most need of support. "Change your behavior if one person complains" is grossly abusable, and the first-order fix to complain about frivolous complaints spirals off into meta. Appealing to common sense, good judgment etc. seems to me like passing the buck back to the situation that created a need for this discussion in the first place.

As a secondary consideration, there's the spectrum between an ex-Muslim requesting that all women present cover up for a few meetings while acclimatising, and a nudist showing up to a meeting and being requested by others to wear clothing while present. At what point does one's apparel start to constitute "behavior" that other people may complain about as creepy?

On thinking about this (five minutes by the clock!) I start to suspect that trying to write rules about creeping is too high-level and abstract, and it would be better to codify rules on what specific behaviors are tolerated or not, and this ruleset could vary by group. Such as:

  • You must accede to requests of the form "Don't ask me to do that again".

Edit: oops, list syntax

[-][anonymous]8y 32

"If a significant fraction of a group find your behaviour creepy, the responsibility to change the behaviour is yours."

No, no, no, no, no, no, no.

One thing that is spoken about over and over in those links is how majority-male groups often ignore creepy -- or outright abusive -- behaviour towards women. If you're a man, and you're in a large group with only a small number of women, and they find your behaviour creepy, you need to change it even if none of the men care. It's actually worse if it's not 'a significant fraction', because then the person you're upsetting may have no support within the group.

If someone tells you "don't do that, it's creepy and it's upsetting me" then don't do that.

IAWYC but this gets you the conjugate problem of allowing some asshole who finds things like partial loss of speech creepy to evict people from the group.

6ArisKatsaris8yThat doesn't seem a very plausible problem. In the majority of cases I'd guess that someone declaring themselves creeped are actually creeped out - and in the few cases where they're just obviously trying to make trouble, I expect the group's common sense will prevail in order to evict them instead. As a sidenote, isn't it just as easy to write "Agreed" instead of IAWYC"? I had to look up what that meant...

Being creeped out by some manifestations of disability seems quite plausible to me. If not "partial loss of speech", we could go with something like stereotypical Tourette's.

Some people are creeped out by sex-related behavior described in the post. We agree that this creepy behavior is wrong and want to reduce it, so we talk about norms and actions against creeping.

Some people are creeped out by disabilities, or by minorities, race, disfigurement, and a host of other things. We think (some of) these creepy things are not wrong and want to encourage or legitimize them, so we talk about not allowing anti-creepy action.

This seems indeed like the worst argument in the world. The problem seems to be that the behavior discussed in the post has no precise name of its own, so it appropriates the term "creepy" which was originally much wider in application. Then others react against the new norms being applied to all "creepy" behavior.

We're trying to assign a static attribute to explain behaviors which shake out to a particular (and highly individual) emotional response. That's not quite the Worst Argument -- though it is related -- but it is a very bad habit of argument.

We're never going to find a "creepyp" type predicate attached to anyone. It may be that some subset of LWers exhibit behavior which reliably tends to alienate certain groups we'd be interested in hearing more from, though, and if so it should be possible for us to describe this behavior and try to develop group norms to exclude it: as a community we're pretty good at analyzing that sort of thing, and it certainly beats spiraling further into semantic fail.

On the other hand, I can see some potential for close examination of the problem to lead into gender fail -- something that we've historically been very poor at dealing with.

7MixedNuts8y"Creepy" is a natural category - it describes behaviors that are likely to cause a certain emotion. This emotion is triggered by things that are obviously bad, by things that are subtly bad and often announce worse things when the group isn't looking, and by non-bad things. Our aim is to combat the first two while allowing the last one. Anti-creepy action ("Stop all creepy behavior, get out if you can't") acts against all three. Banning obviously bad things ("Ask before you touch") acts only against the first one.
5[anonymous]8yI'm reminded of the Diseased Thinking [http://lesswrong.com/lw/2as/diseased_thinking_dissolving_questions_about/] post. If you can't successfully discourage someone with Tourette's from inappropriate swearing but you can successfully discourage a neurotypical male from exhibiting inappropriate sexual-like behaviour, then it makes sense to attempt the latter but not the former.
6SilasBarta8yI thought the issue was creep behavior, not sexual-like behavior (the latter of which I assume nerds are permitted, from time to time!). And that makes it harder, since a person can also seem weird for erring in the opposite direction, in which they don't start conversations or make eye contact (outside of conversations).
3[anonymous]8yI was mentioning swearing and sexual-like behaviour as two different examples of behaviours which might creep people out. (Edited the grandparent to say “inappropriate swearing” and “inappropriate sexual-like behaviour”.)
5Kaj_Sotala8yAlso, people who are prejudiced against certain groups (or against specific behaviors by those groups) might claim to be creeped out by those people, while giving a reason that seems entirely distinct from their prejudice. It might not even be at all conscious. E.g. if a woman is assertive and has strong opinions, people are more likely to say that the woman is being rude than if a man had exactly the same behaviors. In a man, they might even consider those traits admirable. It's not at all a given that the complainers even realize that they have a double standard - to them, the woman simply comes off as rude while the man comes off as strong-willed and charismatic.

So, my social skills are not great. Aren't even really good. But over the last few years, I've gotten so much better from where I was that it's ridiculous.

Anyway, I wish people, particularly women, had been that open with me about my behavior.

Let me be clear: the scenario you present almost never happens. Now, if it does happens, yes, the creep involved has no excuse but to stop. But the signals people, and particularly woman, give off can be much more obscure if you don't know what you're doing.

5[anonymous]8yThat sounds like placing the onus for dealing with poor social skills onto the person who's confronted with them, though, in a general sort of way.

If you're dealing with a person with a person with poor social skills, the onus is already on you. You can try to help, or you can run away, or do a hundred other things, but you are already dealing with it.

I'd just like to suggest that using subtle social cues on the socially inept might not be terribly effective for accomplishing desired social outcomes with that person.

I'd just like to point out that "onus" is a horrible word, one that should automatically be marked with a red flag. It's probably not doing you any favors here.

For practical purposes, the onus should be on whoever has the ability to deal with it. If someone unknowingly does something you don't like, and you want them to stop, telling them is say more useful to both of you, regardless of your views on "victim blaming"

If someone tells you "don't do that, it's creepy and it's upsetting me" then don't do that.

Don't do that to them, and reevaluate tactics in general after updating for this encounter.

7[anonymous]8y“If” just means it's a sufficient condition, not necessarily that it's also a necessary one.
4Douglas_Reay8yI agree, I just wasn't sure how to word it to make clear that the same reasoning applies if a significant fraction of the members of one gender think you're creepy then, even if they are outnumbered by the other gender, that's still a significant fraction.

Do not initiate intimate physical contact (hugs, touching shoulder, etc) unless the target has previously made similar contact with you.

If everyone follows this rule nobody will ever initiate physical contact.

For a better-phrased example of this rule, see the code of conduct from the OpenSF polyamory conference:

No touching other people without asking! (Or unless you already have that sort of relationship with them.) We really mean it. This means no random hands on knees, shoulders, etc. We know this is California and everyone hugs, but please do that awkward "wanna hug?" gesture before actually hugging. When in doubt about any kind of social or erotic touching, please ASK FIRST. We have attendees who do not like to be touched, and they will like you much better if you respect their personal space.

9Eliezer Yudkowsky8yThe OpenSF code of conduct seems pretty good in general.
5fubarobfusco8yIt does! Want to clone it for the Singularity Summit?

I don't think a commonsense reading of this rule would prohibit holding one's arms up and saying "Hugs?"

[-][anonymous]8y 14

Or possibly just "Hugs okay?", sans the arms outstretched (it can create pressure; the person has signalled very loudly in social terms, so the other person's denial can lead to face loss; people who've been socialized to be sensitive to that, whether for cultural or other reasons, might find the outstretched arms add pressure. Fine for folks who've no issue asserting their boundaries loudly and clearly without concern for face, but that's not even enough of everybody to be a really good rule, I think.)

7Zvi8yJandila's response here illustrates the vital point that common sense is not a safe way to read advice in this area. If you need advice, what you consider common sense will often be deeply wrong.
[-][anonymous]8y 10

So, I know this funny little trick where you can verbalize a desire and seek explicit permission to act it out while taking care to make sure nothing about the situation seems especially likely to make the other party feel coerced or intimidated into giving an answer out of synch with their preferences. It basically involves paying attention, modelling the other person as an agent, deciding on that basis whether the request is appropriate (while noting the distinction between "appropriate" and "acceptable to the other person") and then asking politely. You do have to take care not to assume that the answer is or "should be" yes, though -- the difference that makes in your approach usually comes off as a bit creepy.

If it happens that you don't know how to perform all of these magical tricks, using your words is a good first approximation. The likelihood of a good outcome is often improved if you ask e.g. "Can I hug you?" as opposed to just bounding up and hugging the person, and your blameworthiness is significantly lowered.

Note please that physically imposing folks who appear to be men and are not charismatic (like social status, but interpreted on an individual basis - the individual one considers highest-charisma is likely to be thought of as creepy by a lot of other people, because it's about walking the fine line between creepiness and friendliness) are most likely to benefit from this. This does stand to be noticed. Cute perky energetic young women can get away with hugging practically anyone without asking. This does not necessarily mean that they should.

8CronoDAS8yChallenging, but certainly possible.
[-][anonymous]8y 27

Which bit do you find challenging?

I mean, I was kinda being snarky (I don't think what I suggested is all that hard or unusual at all, though it obviously varies. I've noticed a few reasons for that:

-The person is failing to model the other as an agent, as a center of perspective. Their model of the person starts and stops at their own feelings and reactions; hence, if they find the person attractive, "X is attractive to me" becomes way more salient than it would otherwise be, in determining how they'll attempt interaction. Men do this to women a lot, in general, but there are plenty of other dynamics or situations which can lead to it. Autism or similar psychological variance is massively overstated as an explanation for it; it's way too prevalent a behavior in the general population for that.

-The person has no sense of whether something is appropriate or not, even though they've modelled the other party accurately ("is agent, has preferences"). This is very common among people who, for whatever reason, have had socialization issues. They usually know there's a bewildering array of possible rules or at least broad patterns that might theoretically bear on the ... (read more)

The hard part is forming an accurate model of the other person and situation.

7Alicorn8yYour last paragraph is excellent. (Others also good, last excellent.)

There's a bit of confounding between

  • "Hug?" "No, I don't want a hug." "Okay, won't ask again."
  • "Hug?" "No, I don't want a hug." "How dare you deny me what I want?"
  • "Hug?" "No, I want to lower your status, and this refusal is a way to do that." "Okay, I'm a worthless and horrible person and should grovel."
  • "Hug?" "No, I want to lower your status, and this refusal is a way to do that." "How dare you rudely shun me?"

The usual way is to convey requests and refusals by cues too subtle for status fights. The nerdy way is to always interpret answers as preference reports, not status fights. Bad things happen in the intersection.

5[anonymous]8yThat can come across to some women as insecure. (Though I'd expect most of those are in the left half of the bell curve and hence unlikely to be found in LW meetups.)
8Barry_Cotter8ySome women? And you're Irish? This behaviour is practically tattooing "I have poor social skills or severe confidence issues" on your forehead in any guess culture [http://www.theatlanticwire.com/national/2010/05/askers-vs-guessers/19730/]. Odd is about as positive a description as it's going to get outside of people who've not read a good deal of woman's studies stuff.

Certainly! As such, we should figure out how to turn geekdoms into ask cultures, when they aren't already. Putting even marginally socially-awkward people in situations where they have to guess other people's intentions, when everyone is intentionally avoiding making their intentions common knowledge, well, that's sort of cruel.

So, this become a problem we can actually try to solve. In a relatively small environment, like a group of a dozen or so, what can one do to induce "ask culture", instead of "guess culture"?

(This should probably be a discussion post of its own... hm.)

My own approach: if I can afford the status-hit, I ask about stuff in a guess culture, and I explicitly answer questions there. In some cases I volunteer explicit explanations even when questions weren't asked, although I'm careful about this, because it can cause a status-hit for the person I'm talking to as well.

Some additional notes:

  • I was raised in two different guess cultures simultaneously, then transferred to an ask culture in my adolescence, and I'm fairly socially adept. This caused me to think explicitly about this stuff rather a lot, even before I had words for it. That said, I strongly suspect that there's much clearer understandings of this stuff available in research literature, and a good scholar would be invaluable if you were serious about this as a project.

  • Talking about "affording the status-hit" is oversimplifying to the point of being misleading, since I live in the intersection of multiple cultures and being seen in culture A as deliberately making a status-lowering move in culture B can be a status-raising move in A. Depending on how much I value A-status and B-status, "taking a hit" in B might not be a sacrifice at all. (Of course, bei

... (read more)
5MixedNuts8yA downside of asking for things in a guess culture is that people have to give you the things. (Unless you're demanding so much they'd rather refuse and lose you as an ally.) Imposing this cost on people hurts them, as well as lowers your status.
7TheOtherDave8yNote that I wrote "asking about", not "asking for". I agree that turning down requests in a guess culture has social costs, which is one reason the distinction between appropriate and inappropriate requests is considered so important. Imposing costs on others by making demands of them doesn't necessarily lower my status.
4wedrifid8yWhere "doesn't necessarily" for most intents and purposes could mean "does the reverse of"!
6TheOtherDave8yYes. But now you've gone and ruined my guess-culture use of understatement with your ask-culture explicitness! Hrumph.

It's almost as though some people consider your status hit as something of extremely low importance!

8fiddlemath8yUnderstood - but essentially no humans consider their own status hits as of extremely low importance. this is so strong that directing other people to lower their status - even if it's in their best long-term interest - is only rarely practical advice.

Oh absolutely. To be clear, I am asserting that people making this recommendation are basically following the FDA playbook. Given a tradeoff between bad things happening and costly safety measures...radically optimize for an expensive six sigmas of certainty that no bad event ever happens, with massive costs to everyone else.

Now, this strategy can make sense, if either:

  • You view even a single creepy incident as an extreme harm and believe that this sort of thing happens very often. [Note: "Creepiness is bad and I have an anecdote to prove it" is does not prove this quantitative claim.]
  • You care a lot about the feelings of people claiming creepiness and care very little about the costs to everyone else.

Arguably, the few people in this thread that are advocating extremely socially costly "safety measures" believe a combination of both.

This is sometimes a fair characterization, but remember that (like this thread has been discussing) the social cost depends a lot on your environment. Better to say that categorically recommending behaviors without understanding the perspectives of those that those behaviors would harm is a problem (obviously somewhat inevitable due to ignorance). (I think we need the term "typical social group fallacy".)

8[anonymous]8y(I'm Italian.)
7Barry_Cotter8yForgive me, my memory is poor, I took your references to Ireland to mean you were Irish.
6[anonymous]8y(I studied in Ireland from September 2010 to May 2011.) EDIT: Why were this and the grandparent upvoted?

I wasn't the one who upvoted it, but volunteering extra information that reduces confusions certainly seems worth upvoting to me.

9faul_sname8yBecause we want to see more comments like this (i.e. clearing up confusion), and because in a thread this large it only takes a small percentage of people deciding that a comment is high-quality for it to get upvoted.
7NancyLebovitz8yIt's probably more accurate to refer to hint cultures rather than guess cultures. I wish lojban had worked out better-- it would be very handy to have a concise way of indicating whether you're talking about how a culture feels from the inside or the outside.
5waveman8yThe only explanation for this is that it is acceptable for women to initiate physical contact without prior contact by the other party. This is an unconscious double standard.
7eurg8yIn many social groups touching initiated from women is often received just as bad as from men, and fairly so. I am sure there are lots of groups with this specific double standard, but it is not universal, not by a large margin. Also, "only explanation": Really?

Is anyone else distressed by the fact that, at the time of writing this comment, all of the "Recent Comments" displayed on the front page of the site are on a topic called "How to deal with someone in a LessWrong meeting being creepy"?

I'm not usually the kind of person who worries about "marketing" considerations, but....

Discussion section, ffs!

Since this comment got more upvotes than the article itself, I'm moving to Discussion.

Is there an actual history of people complaining about 'creepy behavior' in LW meetups? Or is this just one of those blank-statey attempts to explain the gender ratio in High-IQ communities due to some form of discrimination, without any evidence?

[This comment is no longer endorsed by its author]Reply

The creepy-expulsions will continue until the sex ratio improves!

Considering that the atheist and fannish communities were somewhat caught by surprise, I think it's reasonable for LW to try to avoid this problem before it surfaces.

I doubt that a rogue moderator would receive express advance approval of abusive actions. If Eliezer says that Alicorn may ban certain comments, then it is not abusive for Alicorn to ban those comments.

If Eliezer's approval makes the action tautologically non-abusive then please act as if I substituted a different word that means something along the lines of "detrimental, innapropriate, politically ill advised, deprecated and considered 'naughty' by user:wedrifid". ;)

[-][anonymous]8y 12

Eliezer's approval makes the action tautologically non-abusive

I am stealing that.

I think this conversation could start with a good dose of Korzybski and General Semantics.

"Being creepy" does not represent the situation as well as "Person X is uncomfortable with Person Y's overtures for an increased level of personal contact."

The situation is improved when Person X more clearly communicates their discomfort and disinterest, and when Person Y pays more attention to how well their overtures are received, up to just moving on and avoiding contact.

But neither communication nor perception are perfect, and worse, the incentives would tend to promote a nonzero level of creepiness. The person with interest should be expected to make an overture - they're hoping for more.

The advice I see in the first article basically tells the interested party not to make overtures. I don't see that as helpful. Human beings touch each other. They stand close. They make sexual comments. Particularly when they are interested in someone.

Consider one piece of advice:

That person you want to touch? Put them in charge of the whole touch experience.

If they both want to touch each other, then they never will, both waiting for the other to touch them. Somebody has to make... (read more)

I think this conversation could start with a good dose of Korzybski and General Semantics.

"Being creepy" does not represent the situation as well as "Person X is uncomfortable with Person Y's overtures for an increased level of personal contact."

Thankyou buybuy. Tabooing the term and describing the actual behaviors and circumstances specifically is exactly what is called for here!

9buybuydandavis8yYou're welcome. You seem to be one of the list elders, so to speak, so I've got a tangential question for you. I see occasional references to Korzybski, and the Map is Not The Territory sequence article. "Tabooing a word" is just the kind of semantic hygiene practice of which he had zillions - in fact I wouldn't be surprised if he originated "tabooing a word". But I don't get the impression that a lot of people here have read his work, or if they did, few have interest. What's your sense of the level of familiarity with and interest in Korzybski here?
5wedrifid8yYours is the only reference I can recall. From the sound of it I'd like to hear more. Any other key insights of his that you think we could benefit from?

Hard to summarize a lot of stuff, and I don't know that seeing the summary without the explanation of it is that helpful.

Instead, I'll apply General Semantics to my response to the conversation, as an imaginary Korzybski (K). It's been a while since I read the stuff, so my use of his terms will doubtless lack some precision, and be colored by my own attitude as well.

K: We have a discussion here. People are saying things like Joe is creepy, or Joe is a creep.

K: They are using the "is of identity", and the "is of predication". We know that this falsifies reality. An apple is not red, but is perceived as red by us in the proper circumstances. In other circumstances, we would not perceive it as red. Even taking a conscious being out of the equation, the apple would be measured as red by some instrument or process under certain conditions, and not red in other circumstances.

K: Now let's look at the term "creep". Our total evaluative response to the word "creep" contains a mass of associative (often emotive) and extensional (observable) components. We have many negative and unpleasant emotional associations with the term. If we are going to prope... (read more)

3wedrifid8y(May be worth editing your comment and replacing all instances of "_" with "\_".)
4Emile8yI've seen a few references, and the impression I got is that the sequence on words overlaps a lot with Korzybski's General Semantics.

By this exact scenario, do you mean something TOTALLY different? disagreeing with someone who makes public comments on an internet forum is not "creepy entitled shit" (you wouldn't even have thought to make this accusation here if SilasBarta was female and Eliezer was the target) and even if we assume that the original situation of banning him from responding to her was totally justified (I don't know, I haven't read the backdrama), then it's still ridiculous for Alicorn to respond to a thread SilasBarta is talking in without him being able to reply. I'm not trying to defend anything SilasBarta did in the past, I'm trying to defend conversation. If you have a restraining order against someone, you shouldn't walk right up to THEM and force them to leave wherever they happen to be.

3JoeW8yAgreed, and I think that says something interesting and useful. Symmetry is not a useful tool here. If there's broader interest in seeing some attempt at a rationalist view of privilege I'm keen to get whatever help is available, and take it to a separate Discussion.
4coffeespoons8yI would be interested in seeing some attempt at a rationalist view of privilege, however I'm not sure that it would be welcome here; also I do think there are many advantages in trying to stick to the "no mindkiller topics" rule. Do you have a personal blog that you could post it on? If you do decide post it on LW I would recommend using the open thread, rather than the discussion or main section.
3HistoricalLing8yhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HlTJLFgKoWk&feature=player_detailpage#t=109s [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HlTJLFgKoWk&feature=player_detailpage#t=109s]

I have just solicited from Eliezer, and received, permission to ban further comments from Silas that reply to me.

(Except, I suppose, in the technical sense whereby she could in principle abuse her moderation powers to prevent someone replying for any reason she chose.)

It seems my caveats were too generous. I honestly thought you would be outright offended if I even hinted that you would do such a thing. It seems obviously the sort of thing a moderator would be careful not to do.

Silas, please document all such abuses---PM them to me.

It should be noted that all instances of comments which moderator privileges prevent reply to represent comments that I wish to see less of on lesswrong, for reasons related to filtered evidence.

If only one person in a group is allergic to my aftershave, they are allergic to my aftershave.
If only one person in a group finds my voice intolerable, they find my voice intolerable.
If only one person in a group finds my behavior disturbing or frightening or alienating, they find my behavior disturbing or frightening or alienating.

Yes, that person has a problem.
And the question is, what are we going to do about that problem, if anything?

The notion that because they have a problem, we therefore ought not do anything, strikes me as bizarre. It's precisely because they have a problem that the question even arises; if they didn't have a problem, there would be no reason to even discuss it.

So, OK. If my behavior frightens or disturbs or alienates you, or my aftershave causes you an allergic reaction, or whatever, you have a problem.The question is, what happens next?

I might decide I care about your problem, and take steps to alleviate it.
Or I might decide I don't care about your problem, and go on doing what I was doing.
Or somewhere in between.

You might similarly decide to alleviate your own problem, or decide to ignore it, or something in between.
Third parties might, similarly, decid... (read more)

Creepiness is bad.

But, I've seen labeling people as creepy used as an extremely Dark Arts sort of tactic. The problem is, if someone is labeled as creepy, it becomes very difficult for them to justify themselves to other people, or to confront those who've labeled them. People use the representativeness heuristic and see that they expect a creeper to deny their creepiness and to confront the people who are calling them creepy, so for the wrongly accused it's very difficult to ever clear their names in the eyes of the general public.

There were a couple guys in my high school who admittedly had big personality flaws, but then girls preyed on them by intentionally putting the guys in positions where the guys thought the girls were showing interest, but then the girl could immediately retreat to calling the guy creepy. This was useful for discrediting people the girls didn't like, as well as making the girls seem more desirable. This always really pissed me off and made me sad at the world.

(Full disclosure: something like this happened to me in middle school. I waited it out and made extra efforts to signal not creepy behavior. It worked, but only to a limited extent, people were always cautious when they were first getting to know me and it made me a bit sad. In high school, I never had any issues.)

That Readercon example points out an irrationality in the thinking of some creeps/rapists/PUAs

Seriously? Creeps/rapists/PUAs. People kept reading after that introduction?

My experience of PUA memes for "improving success with women" is that

Your testimony thereof gives an overwhelming impression that your experience with such memes comes either exclusively from or is dominated by second hand sources who are themselves hostile to the culture.

they're written by men

Yes. (And dating advice for men written by women gets a different label.)

cast interaction in competitive terms

A significant aspect of it, at certain phases of courtship, yes.

, treat all the parties' interests as zero sum

Nonsense.

and their success relies on women having little or no agency and remaining that way.

This assumes that the will directing said agency does not wish to mate with or form a relationship with someone with the social skills developed by the PUA. As it happens the universe we live in enough people (and, I would even suggest most people) do prefer people with those skills

I contrast that with intersectional social justice feminism, which is largely written by women, casts interaction in collaborative terms, rejects zero-sum framings, and its success relies on upgrading everyone's agency & ability.

Those sound like noble ideals. It is plaus... (read more)

Mm, I agree I could know PUA better than I do. You're under no obligation to educate me, of course, but if you had a few links you thought exemplary for PUA at its best, I'd be much obliged.

I'm finding (scholarly, thoughtful) critiques of PUA and the seduction community from a feminist social justice perspective, but in case they're attacking PUA at its worst. I'll do some reading. I'm concentrating on inside-view critiques from people well versed in PUA techniques and the seduction community, there are some good links out there.

Putting this as charitably as possible, even if in fact there is nothing misogynistic or unjust in PUA, there is a vast amount of feminist distrust of it, and PUA doesn't seem to have responded well to those critiques (or even particularly to think they need to be responded to, as far as I can tell).

PUA is probably too far off-topic for this post and I'm willing to continue this elsewhere (Discussions?) or let it drop for now.

Putting this as charitably as possible, even if in fact there is nothing misogynistic or unjust in PUA, there is a vast amount of feminist distrust of it, and PUA doesn't seem to have responded well to those critiques (or even particularly to think they need to be responded to, as far as I can tell).

Here are a few quick counterexamples to your comments about zero-sum, lack of agency, lack of response to feminism, etc::

I think these should be sufficient to provide a shift in your opinion regarding what the field of "PUA" includes, even if you view these schools of thought as isolated examples. (They aren't the only such schools, of course; they just happen to be ones it was easy for me to find representative links for.)

See also Confessions of a Pickup Artist Chaser, a substantial overview of different sorts of PUA, a woman's experiences exploring the PUA subcultures, and some theory on the subject.

Has anyone read the book?

She picks up on something I find off-putting about much of the PUA material I've seen (and LW is almost the only place that I've seen PUA material). It seems to be set in a universe where no one likes anybody.

something I find off-putting about much of the PUA material I've seen (and LW is almost the only place that I've seen PUA material). It seems to be set in a universe where no one likes anybody.

That is actually a good way of stating the difference between the material that I don't like, vs. the material I do. People who focus on the zero-sum aspects of mating and dating (i.e. both inter- and intra-gender competition) seem, well, creepy to me.

I suppose those folks might write off my concerns as simply saying they're displaying low status by focusing on those aspects, but I think the real issue, as you state, is simply that they seem to live in a universe where nobody likes anybody or has any positive intentions, and people who think otherwise are all just signalling or deluded. It's like if HP:MoR's Professor Quirrel was giving relationship classes!

(Luckily, this is not a universal characteristic of PUA theory, as Soporno and AMP demonstrate.)

[Edit: brain fart - I wrote "non-zero sum" when I meant "zero sum"]

7NancyLebovitz8yNon-zero sum? I'm not sure that's the issue. In theory, I think it would be possible to have an alliance-building PUA model of relationships, and it would still be Quirrelesque. HughRistik had a different list of benign elements in PUA, I think-- but have any of the benign styles shown up at LW? I'm not sure whether this is relevant, but it took me a while to put what bothers me about PUA as I've seen it into words, and longer than that to pull together the nerve to post about it.

Reading the book now. I'm certainly less anti-PUA than I was before I started reading it., and I have much more sympathy for the guys who join the seduction community than I used to.

She picks up on something I find off-putting about much of the PUA material I've seen (and LW is almost the only place that I've seen PUA material). It seems to be set in a universe where no one likes anybody.

Yes, this!

[-][anonymous]8y 12

PUA doesn't seem to have responded well to those critiques (or even particularly to think they need to be responded to, as far as I can tell).

Why would they find that worth their time?

Why would they find that worth their time?

Agree and my own reaction took this a step further---I was glad to hear that JoeW, as someone who seems to affiliate with people politically opposed to PUA, got the impression that the PUA community felt no obligation to engage or respond. I would have thought less of the community if it did.

PUAs are not political activists. They are people who enjoy, practice and develop a specific set of skills with a specific purpose. Their comparative advantage really isn't in engaging in moral and political debate to convince others that they deserve respect, acceptance or special treatment. Moreover acting as if you need to justify yourself (or your group) to others already represents a significant loss of standing. That is one aspect of politics in general that PUAs should be expected to be familiar with, since it overlaps so much with the rules of the social game that they are dedicated to mastering.

(This is different from simply explaining their own personal ethical values completely divorced from any reference to external critics and in terms of conveying information rather than giving excuse. That is something that PUA-instructor types seem to enjoy doing.)

3JoeW8yWhat's the downside? Adopting PUA techniques and values: arguably improves sex and/or relationship outcomes with some women.Visibly adopting and affiliating with PUA: definitely worsen sex and/or relationship outcomes with some (other but not wholly disjoint set of) women. Addressing those perceptions might offset some of the latter (certain) penalty, and it's not clear to me that it would come at any reduction to the former (possible) bonus. I'm still reading the "PUA at its best" links so I don't know enough to say how costly this approach is. Perhaps you're saying you think it's better to cut your losses, completely give up on any women alienated by PUA and focus on those who don't notice or don't care?
[-][anonymous]8y 14

What's the downside?

Time and effort spent are a very real costs as is opportunity cost.

Adopting PUA techniques and values: arguably improves sex and/or relationship outcomes with some women.

...

Perhaps you're saying you think it's better to cut your losses, completely give up on any women alienated by PUA and focus on those who don't notice or don't care?

I'm not sure why women who are alienated by PUA would be off the table as potential romantic partners. I'm sure it has a cost, but I'm not sure the kind of person who sough out PUA in the first place doesn't still have better odds using game and paying the price, rather than doing what he would have done before.

Visibly adopting and affiliating with PUA: definitely worsen sex and/or relationship outcomes with some (other but not wholly disjoint set of) women.

I'm sceptical of claims that PUA being practised in the wild is easy to spot. To bring in ancedotes from my social life, I've had both false positives and negatives when guessing which strangers (later acquaintances and friends) where running game and which had never heard of it.

I've had very positive experience talking to my gfs about game as I see and practice it ... (read more)

I think this argument:

Creepy behaviour is behaviour that tends to make others feel unsafe or uncomfortable. If a significant fraction of a group find your behaviour creepy, the responsibility to change the behaviour is yours. There are specific objective behaviours listed in the articles (for example, to do with touching, sexual jokes and following > people) that even someone 'bad' at social skills can learn to avoid doing. If someone is informed that their behaviour is creeping people out, and yet they don't take steps to avoid doing these >behaviours, that is a serious problem for the group as a whole, and it needs to be treated seriously and be seen to be > treated seriously, especially by the 'audience' who are not being victimised directly.

is flawed as it proves far too much.

We consider the (very plausible) hypothetical scenario of a LW meetup with many men and few women. The men are prone to hitting on the women. The women just want to talk about utility functions, and say no.

The men, being nerds, handle rejection badly. They are uncomfortable and upset.

Therefore by the argument above, the women are engaging in creepy behaviour. Plus, a significant... (read more)

[-][anonymous]8y 22

"sex is a need."

Taboo “need”. Yes, it's not necessary for survival; but homeless people can survive too, and still not many people say stuff like “shelter is not a need” or “stop acting like you're entitled to shelter”. (But I still agree no-one is expected to give you a sleeping place solely because you think you are a decent person.)

I mean, Maslow put it in the bottom layer of his pyramid... (Though the fact that he separately lists “sexual intimacy” higher up means that by “sex” in the bottom layer he likely meant the kind of sex that even prostitutes can give.)

5MixedNuts8yOff-topic: your model of prostitution is wrong. Social skills, putting people at ease, listening, and acting are big parts of the job. Look up "girlfriend experience".
5[anonymous]8yWell, I was thinking more about street prostitutes than escorts, but what in my comment suggests anything about “my model of prostitution”, anyway?

What do you know about them [creeps, rapists, PUAs] that makes them like apples and oranges in your mind?

I was originally going to argue with wedrifid and say he was being uncharitable in interpreting your statement as considering all three groups to be basically the same: my interpretation was that you meant "some creeps, some rapists, and some PUAs", and your statement could then be read in a meaningful light.

However, this new question suggests that you did in fact mean to lump all three groups of people together as a single category, so I'm now downvoting both comments.

If you can't give me a reason for why they're not comparable in any way, I'm gonna have to give your a kick in the ass for being so dismissive of what another person knows.

Ironically, you are threatening wedrifid with violence for doing something which you yourself are doing, i.e, dismissing others' knowledge as irrelevant. I don't think either the dismissal or the threat are appropriate discourse for LW.

Creepy behaviour is behaviour that tends to make others feel unsafe or uncomfortable.

It would be really good to have a definition that had some shreds of objectivity to it. As it stands your definition simply assigns to one person the responsibility for another person's feelings. This is infantilizing to the 'victim' and places the 'perpetrator' at the mercy of the "victim's" subjectivity.

The alleged safeguard that a significant fraction must agree the behavior is creepy is rarely applied in practice. "If you made her feel creeped out, man, that's creepy".

In practice this definition of creepiness is almost solely used against men. I had a female colleague (many, actually over the years) who wore inappropriately 'hot' outfits at work and behaved in overtly sexual ways that left me feeling uncomfortable. One cannot complain about this because it is "slut shaming".

I notice a disturbing trend for rationality orientated groups to be invaded by people who like to impose long lists of rules about acceptable behavior and speech, generally with a feminist flavor. These people generally have made little to no contribution to the groups in question. I see he... (read more)

The open source and atheism communities have seen similar phenomena.

Science fiction conventions too. Clearly, this is an outrage.

9JoeW8yIt seems to me that it is this argument that infantilizes the targets of harassment and other unwelcome behaviour we're lumping under "creepy". It only works if these targets are "gormless, passive babies who can't be trusted to make decisions for themselves" [http://www.shakesville.com/2010/04/on-triggers-continued.html]. (That link is on "trigger warnings" but applies here for the same reasons.) Allowing people to define their own subjective states ("this is how I feel") seems to me to in fact be the opposite of infantilizing. "Oh no we'll all be in trouble if this sort of behaviour is explicitly forbidden" is actually quite a common response in these sorts of discussions, and it is discussed and addressed in the OP's links. ... how many commenters here have actually read those links? :/
7bogus8yUm, no. There is legal precedent [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stand-your-ground_law] for this phrasing in related contexts, albeit with the understandable proviso that the behavior must be "reasonably believed" to be threatening. This is pretty much what we're dealing with here: the whole problem with creepy behavior (as opposed to merely being awkward or anti-social) is that it puts people's personal safety at risk.
7David_Gerard8yYes, to the vast benefit of both.

I am amused that you came up with exactly the same list I would produce in trying to introduce this discussion to any geeky audience. :) The Captain Awkward ones especially have many useful comments - a bit of a read but nothing compared to the Sequences.

Since there have been lots of requests for specific rules to implement that don't reference supposed categories of people:

  1. Ask first. Always. For everything. Really.
  2. Frame all such questions to require enthusiastic active consent to proceed.

To expand on the second point: rather than ask "may I [x]?", ask "would you like me to [x]?" Keen readers will note an analogy with opt-out vs. opt-in. It is easy to mumble, to take too long thinking about it, to start calculating social & status costs if the opt-out is chosen... but those issues are largely addressed by the second form.

Ask first. Always. For everything. Really.

I'm going to disagree with this. Honestly, straight up asking can be even more creepy in a lot of situations. For example if you ask, "Can I give you a hug?", you've double creeped me out.

First, you violated my boundaries because we're not hugging friends yet if ever. Second, you violated my social norms by not reading our friendship hug level from the vibe of our conversation and my body language. You're right that I may not actually tell you "no" because it is more difficult to opt-out, but that doesn't make it less creepy.

There are some situations where asking is appropriate, but most of the time I would say if the social cues aren't clear err on the side of caution and later on ask a buddy who's good at that stuff what was going on in that situation and if you made the right call. Asking for stuff just tacks awkward onto creepy.

There is a deep, bad problem with "if you can't read cues, go fuck yourself". I'm fine with generic norms of what is and isn't okay to ask: don't ask to hug someone on your first conversation, don't ask for anything romantic/sexual outside of certain specific contexts, only ask for things a little more intimate than what's already approved. You can learn those.

I'm not fine with there being nothing you can do given unclear cues. The cost of two people who wanted to hug not hugging is negligible; the cost of someone being unable of social interaction until someone comes to clue them in is not.

I think the "real norms" are awfully complicated and depend of gender (not only of people, but of whether the present company is all-male, all-female or mixed), status and subtle cues; whereas the "spoken norms" are simpler and give more lip service to our far values by being gender-neutral and not referring to status.

You can probably get along with the simpler spoken rules, but you will miss some opportunities, and may occasionally break an unspoken rule and look bad. How big of a difference it will make will depend of the gap between the spoken and unspoken rules (a small gap for nerds; a larger gap for say European aristocracy).

The articles in the OP seem to try to address this problem mostly by making the "spoken norms" restrictive enough so that you won't screw up following them, you'll "only" miss opportunities that would be allowed by the unspoken norms (like hugging given the right cues). Another approach is to close the gap in the other directions by allowing more things to get closer to the spoken norms, e.g. Crocker's Rules.

The heart of the problem is body language.

It's an actual language that must be learned and spoken, but a lot of people for some reason never learned it, or learned it poorly.

When these people interact with strangers, it's exactly like the guy with a bad understanding of a foreign language who tries to speak it, and instead of saying "Hi, are you friendly? Lets be friends!" he says "Hi, I want swallow your head!"

I hope you can see why people wouldn't like someone who goes around talking like that on a regular basis, and that the problem really does lie with the speaker, not the people he's speaking to.

What's worse, if he doesn't understand what others are trying to tell him (in the language he speaks poorly - aka body language) when he makes these kinds of statements he certainly can remain oblivious to the problem and be unable to fix it himself. If a person in that situation never meets a kind soul willing to help him speak correctly then he really is screwed, and there isn't much he can do about it unless he recognizes the problem on his own and seeks help.

6MixedNuts8yWhat kind of help? If you don't speak a language, you can buy a grammar, or ask native speakers to think up some examples and build rules from them. Whereas if you ask people "How do I know if someone is bored?" they don't give you actual tips, or even "There's no rule, you have to learn it case-by-case" and a few examples. They just say "Oh, I can never tell either" when they obviously can, or "Well, they just look and act bored...".
3Emile8yImpro acting, maybe, or have someone point things out like "don't you see how impatient he looks?", etc. - the kind of things parents may do with their kids. Or read a book on etiquette, or hire some kind of body language coach, I'm sure it exists. Or of course a pick-up artist book. By the way, "There's no rule, you have to learn it case-by-case" is something I often had to say when teaching French to Chinese students; or rather often it was "there may be a rule underneath all those cases, but I have no idea what it is!". Often finding the rule for your native language requires significant effort; and some rules you come up may not accurately describe the way the language actually works.
9Barry_Cotter8yWhat motivation do people with social skills and those norms have to help those with less social skills? Because unless there's something in it for them they're not doing it. Many of the kind of people who have social skills find hanging out with the kind of people who don't actively unpleasant. That is actually overlaps substantially with the way creepy is used; people whose social skills are so low that they are unpleasant to be around in a group, who do not have redeeming features/high status. Also, other people's lack of social skills? Mostly not my problem. The only people I would give social skills advice to unsolicited would be those who are clearly likely to be receptive to it, i.e. people who are in a status hierarchy I'm in where I'm superior. Most people who ask for advice don't want the real thing, and sugarcoating it and getting the real message through is hard.

What I find really annoying is the following dynamic:

1) not allowed into existing groups, people without social skills form their own group

2) said group acquires higher status (largely because people without social skills frequently have other useful skills)

3) people with social skills notice the new group with rising status and start joining it

4) said high-social-skills people use their skills to acquire high positions in the group and start kicking the original low-social-skills people out

This more-or-less describes the history of geek/nerd culture over the past several decades.

9TheOtherDave8yDo you find this more annoying than other patterns where people lacking X trait and thereby excluded from valuable X-having groups form their own groups, create value within those groups, and then lose control of those groups (and the associated value) to X-havers who appropriate it? Because it seems to me there are a great many Xes like this. Wealth is an obvious one, for example.
5Emile8yI don't know enough about geek culture to tell how closely that model fits reality; but it looks plausible. I have some doubts about step 4), I prefer explanations that don't involve malice. An alternative model is that people with social skills tend to be used to subtle and implicit modes of interaction (guess culture vs. ask culture), and the group's explicit modes of interaction makes them uncomfortable (giving rise to this thread). Yet another model that skips step 1): small groups with a homogenous membership will have simple norms; as the group gets successful it grows and attracts more people and more diversity (in age, sex, nationality, and interests), and the simple norms don't work as well, and "success" in the group depends more and more on being able to handle social complexity ("social skills" and "politics" in the office politics meaning).
7Eugine_Nier8yI never said step 4) involve malice.
6Emile8y"Malice" may have been a bit strong; maybe it's something like "I prefer explanations that don't imply moral blame for one of the parties involved".

Which is why Internet articles are so wonderful. You can give general, detailed, justified advice with many examples, and it's not a personal attack on anybody in particular.

6tmgerbich8yI would say that if the people with the high social skills have the option of removing the people with low social skills from the group then there is little/no incentive to help them beyond perhaps altruism. But in many situations these mixed groups are forced, and teaching the people with low social skills to interact according to the understood cultural rules can make them more pleasant company. So if you're continually forced into an environment with someone, improving their social skills can be of direct benefit to you. Examples would include a coworker in a team work environment, a family member or in-law, the roommate or significant other of a valuable friendship, etc.
4tmgerbich8yI don't think that's what I was intending to get at. If you can't read the cues about the appropriateness of a particular course of action then it is advisable to wait until you can ask someone more informed for information about how to act in a future similar situation. But that doesn't mean you have to stand there and not participate. For example, let's say you and I are talking and I'm telling you a story about how something in my immediate environment is causing me to think of something that caused me personal distress in the past. Now for the sake of the example, let's say that you and I have met a couple times but are not close friends. During the interaction I shift my body to close out the rest of the room and increase the intimacy and exclusivity content of the private conversation between the two of us. Perhaps I even visibly deflate while telling the story, shifting my posture convey a decrease in confidence and happiness. This is a situation where it might be appropriate to give someone a hug. But if you're not comfortable reading the cues at the time to determine if this is that kind of situation then I would advise you NOT to ask me right then. Because even though on the surface it may seem as though I have given all the right signals to convey that I would welcome physical comfort, I have not told you anything about the number of other people in the room, the style of clothing being worn by the conversationalists, the presence or absence of mind-altering substances, the relationship statuses of the conversationalists, etc. There are many other factors that could influence whether or not a hug is appropriate here. And yes, I recognize that in this situation asking "Can I give you a hug" may work out, depending on how "creepily" you ask (and that's a whole different topic, but body language while asking makes a HUGE difference). But most likely I would find it off-putting and it would increase my desire to removal myself from the situation, because

At Bicon in the UK, the code of conduct requires that people ask before touching. People hug a lot there, but they nearly always ask (unless they know each other well). It doesn't seem at all creepy because it's a community norm.

I think it's generally an excellent system. Once you've asked a lot of people an occasional no* doesn't hurt. And generally, people haven't seemed offended when I've said no to them.

*It's important to remember that no doesn't necessarily mean "go away you creep." Some people don't enjoy hugs.

5JoeW8yI do agree with everything you say here. I say in another reply here that I'm a fan of reframing for active consent and opt-in. I don't ask "can I give you a hug" for precisely the reasons you say. If it's not clear to me if we're on hugging terms or not, then I assume we're not. Cost to me if wrong about that = low. If I have high confidence that we're on hugging terms, but I don't know if you feel like it right now, and I have high confidence that we're on terms where asking this is ok, I'll ask "would you like me to hug you?" That's an implied "at this particular time", and not used for escalating from non-hugging to hugging. If I have doubt on any of these points, I don't ask. Cost to me if I'm wrong about that = low. Perhaps it asks a lot in terms of social/people/communication skills to model if processing the question will be costly, or if the cost to them is high for me asking when perhaps I shouldn't have. It doesn't particularly seem so, to me. TL;DR : costs to you in me asking when I shouldn't are higher than the costs to me of not asking when it would've been ok. I'm ok with that asymmetry - privilege is profoundly asymmetric.
7[anonymous]8yIndeed. Expected utility maximization (using a TDT-like decision theory so as to not defect in prisoners' dilemmas), keeping in mind that one of the possible actions is gathering more information. We're on Less Wrong after all.
4fubarobfusco8yIt seems to me that if we update to be less creeped out by people asking for permission that we don't end up granting, we will make it safer for people to ask for permission. This means that ① some people who might otherwise not hug, but whom we would like hugs from, might be more likely to ask and thence to hug; and ② some people who might hug without asking will instead ask and take no for an answer. So, encouraging asking will get us ① more wanted hugs, and ② fewer unwanted hugs.
3ChristianKl8yWhen it comes to hugging you can to ask nonverbally. You look at the person and open your arms in prepartion of the hug. If the reciprote the gesture, you hug them. Otherwise you don't.

I suppose that these rules could move someone from "creepy" to "extremely awkward", which is probably an improvement. People never say no to "Would you like to talk to me?" or "You look kinda bored, do you want to continue this conversation?" (unless they take the latter to mean "I'm bored, go away").

Refusals are always at least a little rude. True opt-in forms use implications (things like "I like bowling, too bad my friends don't" vs "Want to go bowling?"), but they require social skills to generate and understand.

If someone asked me point blank "would you like to talk to me?" I would evaluate the answer to this question and provide it, and sometimes it would be no.

I will have to try that at a party now, just to see what kinds of reactions I get.

6[anonymous]8yThat sounds backwards to me: the former sounds like I really want to go play bowling with you, the latter (in certain contexts at least) like I'm just inviting you out for politeness' sake but not actually expecting you to come.
7Alejandro18yI think either of them could be the more pushy one, depending on the context, intonation, etc.
5[anonymous]8yYes. OTOH, if you say the former in a context/intonation such that it doesn't sound like an invitation at all, it kind of defeats the point.

I'm struck by the fact that for centuries there were complex rules of etiquette established for interacting with other members of society depending on class, gender, family relationship, etc. Then during the 20th century that formal system of rules was all but abandoned. Obviously we can't simply revert to Victorian mores, but perhaps we should pay attention to the history of etiquette and re-engineer it for modern society. Pick some Schelling Points for polite behavior and publish them. There is already an Etiquette For Dummies book on amazon, but I've only read the first chapter as a free preview which contains generic advice with few details. I imagine there are more comprehensive collections available.

When I was reading about the elevatorgate flamewar I wondered if perhaps a lot of the people arguing with each other were actually arguing past the elephant in the room; society is currently structured so that it is common and considered normal to put people into social situations that they find very uncomfortable. For instance, who thinks it would be fun and not awkward to get into a 5 by 5 foot windowless room with a complete stranger, close the door, wait 30 seconds (prob... (read more)

I'm struck by the fact that for centuries there were complex rules of etiquette established for interacting with other members of society depending on class, gender, family relationship, etc. Then during the 20th century that formal system of rules was all but abandoned.

Were they really? Here in France, when you meet a woman you kiss her on the cheek, but when you meet a man you shake his hand; you use different pronouns ("vous" or "tu" - cognates to "you" and "thou" in English) depending on the relative status of your interlocutor (and other things); in many western countries (the US more than France; though it seems) it still seems expected for a man to buy an overpriced piece of rock to the woman he's planning to marry and not the other way around, etc. - we have plenty of rules that depend on gender! (probably more than on class)

I think that what happened is that there was an effort to increase fairness by removing some discriminating rules, which meant those rules became weaker, but also more likely to be tacit: since Victorian society didn't consider gender equality to be a major principle, there wasn't anything wrong with spelling out the norms that regulated gender relations (unless they went against other values of the time). Now nobody wants to sound sexist; so people have to figure the rules out on their own.

6[anonymous]8yDunno about French, but I think that in most languages with such a system the V form is getting rarer and rarer. For example, in Italian the rule used to be that one only used “tu” with friends, family and children/teenagers (of course this is only as precise as one's definition of “friend”, but still); but nowadays one uses it with everybody except superiors and people obviously (at least a decade) older than oneself (with the weird result that someone in their 20s is more likely to be addressed as “tu” by a stranger in their 40s than by a stranger in their 70s). In English too, addressing people as “Firstname” vs “Mr Lastname” is roughly equivalent, and the latter is becoming rarer and rarer.
4Emile8yYup, the usage is following the same evolution in France - there are also similar usages in China (ni vs. nin) that are disappearing.
6[anonymous]8yNot many people would be willing to climb stairs to get to the twentieth floor. Some people (e.g. my very sedentary and morbidly obese grandmother) wouldn't even be able to do that.
6Pentashagon8yIt's interesting that the creation of a social awkwardness device is essentially the only reason we have high-rise buildings in the first place. Note that malls, which must make significant efforts to attract people and make them feel comfortable (and ready to spend money), either make limited use of elevators or actually do make them transparent. Escalators wouldn't work for anything more than a few floors. Like you mentioned, stairs don't work either. We need levitation (or at least pneumatic) tubes!
[-][anonymous]8y 20

Are you suggesting rape doesn't happen among hunter-gatherers?

No, but I am suggesting it's probably not been selected for as a genetic predisposition due to the fitness it supposedly brings. The cost/benefit ratio seems pretty damn bad. Let's assume a man of 25 (great fertility, past the peak risk-of-mortality age on a pure-forager's lifespan curve, presumably able to provide for himself to greater or lesser degree.) Assume he only targets women of peak reproductive age, 25 to 30 years (this is very generous for the rape-as-adaptation argument; in reality rapists are known to target women of any age, from single-digits to senescence), thereby maximizing expected payoff per act.

He loses fitness if:

-He is killed by the victim or her relatives. How likely this is depends entirely on his culture -- some forager band societies are quite pacifistic; others resort quickly to violence and have no real way to regulate its spread. It's a pretty strong risk, though.

-The mother refuses to raise the child. This is unlikely to happen, but in a society with high infant mortality rates and established protocols for socially-legitimate infanticide by abandonment or handing off to a relative for ... (read more)

I find it hard to believe that a tendency to rape (or more specifically, the psychological traits that make one more likely to be a rapist today) wouldn't have been a fitness advantage in at least some of our forager ancestors. There are too many examples in societies close to our own where various forms of rape or were forgivable/forgiven (by society, not necessarily by the victim): rape of foreigners in war, marital rape, rape as punishment, protection of the rapist by an influent member of his family, marrying the rapist ... sure, some of those situations may not happen in a forager society, but there may be different ones that do happen.

Having a reputation as a rapist makes it harder for him to survive

This supposes that the society in question has a concept of "rapist" analogous to our own; I suspect many societies would have different concepts, and only harshly punish some of the behaviors (rape of enemies and marital rape seem to usually get off the hook, except in very recent history).

As an illustration of the way different societies approach the problem, I've already been in a conversation with African men who were saying how under certain conditions rape was an acceptable way of getting sex from a girl.

That being said, I don't know much about how foragers approach the question of rape, I'm merely skeptical of the idea that they have very few children of rape.

4Emile8yAlso, date rape of course, duh.

Upvoted for careful thinking even though I probably disagree with the conclusion.

8DanArmak8yOn the other hand, in most contemporary and historical agricultural societies, rape is often kept secret, and women have incentives not to make public accusations. This has been true for long enough to allow for some quite drastic changes in behavior to spread through natural selection (on, say, mostly existing variation).
7Eugine_Nier8yObserve that if he's unlikely to be able to have sex otherwise, it's worth the risk.
6[anonymous]8yNo way -- kin selection. He can still net genetic fitness by helping out his social unit, which will almost invariably contain his relatives, who share some of his genetic payload. Conversely, raping someone is likely going to be terminal in some fashion, which eliminates any chance of getting lucky later. Even if they only cast him out instead of killing him, his chances of successfully mating later drop precipitously.
5NancyLebovitz8yI don't think we can know much about how social norms and rape played out in the early environment. There are competing pressures. Unless someone is very low status, throwing them out is likely to be disruptive to the group.
6[anonymous]8yWe can make some inferences from mobile foragers who've maintained some cultural distance from the outside world, though -- they're not a perfect substitute, but they tell us something about patterns of human behavior and existence in the absence of other economic or ecological resource bases. It's certainly a whole lot more likely to be, at minimum not entirely off-target, than you'll be semi-consciously conflating "hunter-gatherer" as a synonym for "primitive", assuming that all societies without industrialization or intensive agriculture of the type one recognizes are in that category, failing to account for the spread of of particular value-systems and norms that have widely impacted societies around the world, and hyper-focusing on chimps to the exclusion of other primates as analogues for our own evolutionary history (which is what I'm seeing and responding to here).
6beoShaffer8yAs someone with almost no vested interest in the conversation I'm not going to do the (rather extensive) work it would take to provide a good summary of the science of rape, however I find it odd that this conversation seems to be completely ignoring that fact that it is a heavily researched area, particularly by evolutionary psychologists. As a representative example this [http://www.epjournal.net/wp-content/uploads/EP09509521.pdf] experiment suggests a link between status manipulations and additudes towards rape, and the evo-psyc journal it's in has 50+ other articles that mention rape, even though its less than ten years old.
4drethelin8y[citation needed] If nothing else, a reputations as a "rapist" is not at all the same thing in a society where women aren't considered to be people, but property. Hunter gatherers as well as civilization at least up to the biblical level have also engaged in Bride kidnapping (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bride_kidnapping [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bride_kidnapping]) Which we would definitely think of as rape but clearly wasn't viewed in the same way at those times. Genghis Khan didn't get to be the ancestor of 8 percent of people in east asia by being nice. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Descent_from_Genghis_Khan [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Descent_from_Genghis_Khan]) You seem to be doing a lot of theorizing about ancient behavior on very little data, because you don't want rape to have been adaptative.
7[anonymous]8yThat does not describe forager societies at all. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hunter-gatherer#Common_characteristics [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hunter-gatherer#Common_characteristics]
6J_Taylor8yIt should be considered rude to post: and then offer irrelevant information to back up your point.

Just as threats of violence are morally equivalent to acts of violence

Threats of violence are bad. Threats of violence are bad because acts of violence are bad. Some of the moral badness of acts of violence flows into threats of violence and makes them bad too. Threats of violence should not be tolerated.

Threats of violence are not morally equivalent to acts of violence. The fact that we're talking about practical real-world morality is no excuse to lose our ability to think quantitatively.

"threats of violence are morally equivalent to acts of violence"

Um, what?

Oh the irony. The last link in the OP specifically discusses exactly this scenario.

No. It. Does. Not.

On the one hand, emphatically yes - when talking about How To Interact with people of X gender, people tend to make a lot of generalizations.

On the other, feminist scripts seem to be against didactically learning social rules to an extreme extent - instead of pointing out "Hey, this thing works on maybe three out of four women, referring to that subset as 'women' makes you believe less in the other one-quarter," they go the entirely opposite direction and say that learning any rule, ever, is wrong and misleading and Evil. I dislike this, and while your comment is clearly not being this, it can easily be read as it by someone with experience interacting with those scripts.

While this kind of advice seems useful, I do wish those articles you linked wouldn't attempt to stay gender-neutral: many of our social norms are gender-specific, and describing them with minimal reference to gender is going to be inaccurate!

In addition to that, the gender ratio in this community and in many nerdy/geeky communities (open source, sci-fi fandom, atheism, etc.) means that a majority of the "creepiness problem" is going to be a guy creeping out a girl, and not some other combination - since that's the kind of interaction that needs the most "fixing", why not focus exclusively on it?

It's nice to try to find a general rule that applies to many cases, but if you're giving a talk to a bunch of people about to go camping and hiking in British Columbia, "How to avoid getting mauled to death by a Grizzly Bear" is more useful than "How to avoid large carnivores, like Tigers, Bears and Lions".

5[anonymous]8yYes, but the gender-specific aspects vary from culture to culture, even within the First World. (Silly example: it is normal throughout Italy to greet a female friend by kissing her on the cheeks, but greeting a male friend that way is normal for some Italians, unusual for others --i.e. they only do that with close friends they haven't seen in a while--, and almost unthinkable for others still.)
8Emile8ySure! But the gender-invariant rules also vary from culture to culture. (I'm French by the way, we have the same cheek-kissing as you italians, and I think neither of us hugs nearly as much as those weird Americans)

I'm not sure I'm entirely comfortable with this line of thinking. Sexuality isn't a physical need in the sense that, say, water is a physical need, but it is a pretty fundamental drive. It certainly doesn't morally oblige any particular person to fulfill it for you (analogously, the human need for companionship doesn't oblige random strangers to accept overtures of friendship), but it's sufficiently potent that I'd be cautious about casually demoting it below other social considerations, let alone suggesting sexual asceticism as a viable solution in the average case; that seems like an easy way to come up with eudaemonically suboptimal prescriptions.

Nice Guy (tm) psychology is something else again. I'm not sure how much of the popular view of it is anywhere near accurate, but in isolation I'd hesitate to take it as suggesting anything more than one particular pathology of sexual politics and maybe some interesting facts about the surrounding culture.

5fubarobfusco8ySome have argued the same regarding revenge, nepotism, and various other "drives" that we might expect people to learn how to express in a moral way.
6Nornagest8yI'm not arguing against the need to express sexuality in a moral way. But if we have good reason to think that sexuality (or status-seeking, the wish to redress grievances, or any of the psychology behind revenge, nepotism, etc.) is a low-level motivation, then from a eudaemonic standpoint it seems like a very bad move to prioritize denying or minimizing those motivations instead of looking for relatively benign ways to express them. We have only a very limited ability to change our motivational structure, and even within those limits it's easy to screw up our emotional equilibrium by doing so. It's far better -- if far harder -- to come up with an incentive structure that rewards ethical pursuit of human drives than to build one which frustrates them.
5fubarobfusco8yI agree with the first paragraph and ADBOC with the second. Human culture contains lots of incentive structures that do just that. It is often not at all necessary to invent new ones, but rather to evaluate, choose, and tweak existing ones.
9Nornagest8yI don't disagree, but I do think that the existing incentive structures surrounding sexuality are pretty damned dysfunctional. I chose the wording I did because I think there'll need to be a lot of original thought going into a better incentive structure (and because I don't think there currently exist any really good candidate solutions), but I'm not trying to imply that we need to throw out the existing culture completely.

I didn't say that. You can do what you want. But if someone made you feel uncomfortable, you already feel uncomfortable. Should they not have made you feel uncomfortable? Yes. Is it fair? No.

What are you going to do about it? That's the only question you get to answer.

I just wanted to say that I'm truly impressed: things are teetering a bit, but it's been 24 hours and we still have a multifaceted conversation that hasn't degenerated into a flamewar! On the Internet!

(In case anyone wondered, yes, I do like to tempt fate with statements like this—it's no different from loudly announcing, "Nothing can stop me now!" at various intervals.)

I have seen several posts in LW where someone moderately informed in a field comes to us with (my paraphrase) "there are many flaws and mistakes being made here, and time spent dealing with issues that are actually well understood in the field; here are some high-value expert resources that will quickly level you up in this field so you can at least now make interesting and important mistakes, rather than repeating basic mistakes the whole field moved past".

These have been universally well received (AFAIK) except for this one - and make no mistake, that's exactly what the OP was.

I strongly suspect in any other topic area, the defensiveness, cached behaviours and confirmation bias abounding in many of the replies here would be called out for what it is.

I also suspect in any other topic area, any links presented as "read these to quickly level up" would in fact be read before the post is being argued with. I strongly suspect that is not the case here because, well, basic arguments are being made which are addressed and dealt with in the links (sometimes in the comments rather than in the OP).

Variations on "but if we did that, all of us would constantly be in ... (read more)

I, for one, have read these. They come up any time feminism rubs up against male geekdom, like blisters. Hopefully they do some help, but change is hard, and that's just how social skills are: they're skills, and acquiring them is and requires serious change on your part as a person.

This is obfuscated by other things, like hey, sometimes it is the other person's problem. Not all the time. Maybe even only rarely. But sometimes. And the temptation to make that excuse for yourself is very strong, even if you do know better.

The defensiveness isn't a good thing, but it's certainly understandable, and if you're part of the contrarian cluster, there's going to be some instinctive, automatic pushback. I know there is in me. Plus the criticism is leveled at (one of) my (our) tribe. What did you think was going to happen?

Naively, I thought the LessWrong commitment to being, well, less wrong, would extend to all opportunities to be less wrong.

I know attempts to discuss privilege here have typically not gone well, which is a pity because I think there's some good argument that privilege is itself a cognitive bias - a complex one, that both builds on and encourages development of others.

I think there's some good argument that privilege is itself a cognitive bias - a complex one, that both builds on and encourages development of others.

It's not clear to me that privilege is a bias of its own, so much as aspects of privilege are examples of other biases, like availability bias.

I think the primary reason that attempts to discuss privilege don't go well is because the quality of most thought on privilege is, well, not very good. People who volunteer to speak on the topic generally have strong enough opinions that they can't help but moralize, which is something to resist whenever possible.

I think another problem with discussions of privilege is that they frequently sound as though some people (in the ways that they're privileged) should have unlimited undefined obligations and other people (in the ways that they're not privileged) should have unlimited social clout.

Or is that what you mean by moralizing?

I would love to see a discussion of privilege in terms of biases. Obvious ones include: attribution errors (fundamental & ultimate); system justification; outgroup homogeneity & ingroup superiority biases.

I hadn't considered the availability heuristic but yes, that's probably relevant too.

6Despard8yThat's actually a really interesting thought. I am white and male and straight and am very aware of my privilege, and also am very interested in heuristics and biases and how they are part of our thought patterns. I consider myself very much a feminist, and also a realist in terms of how people actually work compared with how people would like each other to work. I might brood on this for a bit and write about it.
4JoeW8yThis could be something that's kicked around in Discussions for a while perhaps? Related, I'd like to see defensiveness discussed through the lens of cognitive bias. It has wide impact; it can be improved; improving it likewise has wide impact on one's life. I think it's one of those meta-levels of improvement where upgrades significantly affect our ability to upgrade many other things.
4novalis8yThere's also the fundamental attribution error ("they're not doing a good job because they're just lazy").
6orthonormal8yWell put. I lean towards the "requiring more of male geeks" side, but that's a really good analysis. Exactly. [http://lesswrong.com/lw/13g/outside_analysis_and_blind_spots/] (Interestingly, the clash that led me to write that post had the shoe on the other foot, so to speak.)

I suspect there is also a correlation here with approving of PUA and disapproving of anti-"creeper" measures, and am now fascinated by how we might confirm or deny that.

I'm not a PUA expert by any means, but from what I've read of the field its approach is complex. On the one hand, it concerns itself extensively with not coming off as creepy, as that's one of the easier ways to be profoundly unattractive. On the other, it acknowledges that building social skills entails a lengthy awkward phase while they're being learned, wherein an aspiring PUA might inadvertently seem creepy, and encourages an aggressive approach during this phase in order to gain skill faster. Offhand I couldn't say whether this approach inspires more or less lifetime creepy feelings than the alternative.

I'd model most of the PUA types I've read as being dismissive of at least some attempts to minimize creepy behavior on grounds of it trying to solve a wrong problem, but as being outright contemptuous of the behavior itself.

I have seen several posts in LW where someone moderately informed in a field comes to us with (my paraphrase) ...

These have been universally well received (AFAIK) except for this one - and make no mistake, that's exactly what the OP was.

I'm sorry, do you have actual evidence that reading Yet Another List of Don'ts will "quickly level you up" in this field? Or that the TC is an expert? Or that they are even high-value resources? Can you identify even one person that has (as you put it) gained a few levels from these resources?

Being extremely doubtful of this parallel you've made, I can't buy your claim that this is being treated differently.

9JoeW8yI saw the main gains of the top post being the links. I don't agree that the links contain only "don'ts"... but, well, so what if they did? If there are clumsy don'ts as routine mistakes, learning to recognise and avoid them is surely an improvement? As these aren't academic peer-reviewed articles, I can't give you objective evidence in the form of citations and impact measures. What sort of metrics could one provide that would make them more convincingly expert? If these aren't the best experts available I too would like to know who is better so as to learn more. If you're saying you'll accept anecdotes as weak evidence, then yes, I am one data point there. :) Comments particularly on the pervocracy and Captain Awkward links contain other such claims. As many have said - both here, and perhaps ironically, in many of those links too - it's more productive to focus on behaviours rather than on labels for people. "Creeper" is a very laden term, probably very similar to "racist" - most of us don't want to think of ourselves as someone with all the imputed characteristics of those labels, and we get defensive. When I started being able to focus on behaviours (my own and others'), I recognised a number of ways in which my own biases, ignorance and negligence were costing me flawless victories in many social & business settings. This is why I wonder why there's so much pushback, as the upgrades in general communication/social/people skills from a good reading of privilege and social justice are useful everywhere. Rationality & intelligence should win, right? If smart women with better people skills than us have specific practical advice, how can we lose by listening carefully and bypassing our defensiveness? Even if only 1% of it were useful, don't you want that 1%? I do.

I don't agree that the links contain only "don'ts"... but, well, so what if they did? If there are clumsy don'ts as routine mistakes, learning to recognise and avoid them is surely an improvement?

For the reason I gave earlier: the weird stuff happens because they don't know what the superior option is, not because they're under the impression that it was a great idea all along. Moreover, to borrow from EY's felicitous phrasing, non-wood is not a building material, non-selling-apples is not a business plan, and non-hugs-without-asking is not a social adeptness enhancement method.

As these aren't academic peer-reviewed articles, ...

you should probably avoid implying that they met such a standard with a statement like:

I have seen several posts in LW where someone moderately informed in a field comes to us with (my paraphrase) "there are many flaws and mistakes being made here, and time spent dealing with issues that are actually well understood in the field; here are some high-value expert resources that will quickly level you up in this field so you can at least now make interesting and important mistakes, rather than repeating basic mistakes the whole field

... (read more)

These are good points, and I don't have great answers to them.

My weak answer is that in a field that isn't well represented in peer-reviewed academic journals, we still have to sift it by some measures. I agree self-reports are close to worthless - we could find self-reports extolling the virtues of astrology and homeopathy.

My other weak answer is that Elevator-Gate and responses to the discussion of forming a Humanist+ community make it abundantly clear that the atheist/rationalist movement is widely perceived by a lot of smart women as both passively a horrible place to be and actively hostile to anyone who says so. I haven't tried exhaustive online searches but I'm not finding even 1% of the same data volumes from women saying they find atheist/rationalist space actively attractive because of these attitudes.

I like your point about non-wood, but if someone tells you you are stepping on their foot, non-stepping-on-feet probably does need to figure prominently in your short term decision tree.

(Great link, it's short, it's to the point.)

9SilasBarta8yIf someone is routinely stepping on feet, it would make more sense to find out why, and offer non-destructive ways of accomplishing that. For example, if they're stepping on feet to get attention, then offering the general rule of "don't step on feet" is just setting yourself up to write an unending list of articles about "... or lift people in the air", "... or play airhorns", "...or dress as a clown", etc. (And I know, "you're not obligated to fix other people's problems", but once you've decided to go that route, you should take into account which methods are most effective, and "don't [do this specific failure mode]" isn't it.)
3JoeW8yI find I agree with everything you've said, yet I'm still wondering what happens to the poor person whose foot has been stood on. Perhaps I'm just restating and agreeing with "no obligation to fix others", but the comments in the CaptainAwkward link address this specifically: the approach you describe still makes the person transgressing boundaries the focus of our attention and response. I find that caring about why someone routinely steps on feet is quite low on my list, and (perhaps this is my main point) something I'm only willing to invest resources in once they (1) stop stepping on people's feet and (2) agree and acknowledge they shouldn't be stepping on feet. I'm also a bit skeptical of the idea you peripherally touch on, but we're seeing in a lot of the comments in this post, that avoiding the "creeper" equivalent on stepping on toes is a tough bar to clear and is unfair to ask of someone with deficits in social/people/communication skills. I think it's very telling that such people seldom seem to get into boundary-related trouble with anyone they recognise as more powerful than them (law enforcement; airport security; workplace bosses). There was that study [http://yesmeansyesblog.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/mythcommunication-its-not-that-they-dont-understand-they-just-dont-like-the-answer/] about (average, neurotypical) men's supposed deficits in reading indirect communication compared to women that found that it's basically rubbish - they can do it when they think they have to, and they don't with women because they think they don't have to. (Link is to non-academic summary, but has the links to the journal articles.) I'm wandering well past your point here but you reminded me of this. :)

Certainly, if your main priority is stopping this behavior, that affects how your respond to it. But once you've decided to write articles telling the creeps how to act at events, and the advice is something other than "never go to events, just be alone", then I think you need to offer advice more than "don'ts".

And so if you've closed off the "they should just go away" route, then I think you have no choice but to offer solutions that avoid having to write the infinite list of articles about "... or dance Irish jigs at random, either". And that means saying what to do right.

I'm also a bit skeptical of the idea you peripherally touch on, but we're seeing in a lot of the comments in this post, that avoiding the "creeper" equivalent on stepping on toes is a tough bar to clear and is unfair to ask of someone with deficits in social/people/communication skills.

I've never suggested that. That is an easy bar to clear indeed. My point is that clearing every such bar without positive advice (about what to do rather than not do) is hard. And so, again, you can certainly take the "who cares if they just never come at all?" a... (read more)

6drethelin8yI'm not saying either way which it is, but if only 1 percent is useful, that doesn't mean the other 99 percent is neutral. It could very well be BAD.

I agree with you that the socially awkward among us could reap large benefits by implementing these "anti-creeper measures". That's because we live in a society where such "creepy" behaviors are deemed unacceptable, and in order to fit into a society, one has to follow that society's norms.

However, I think many people on this thread have a problem with these norms existing, and that's what they're upset about; they'd like to combat these social norms instead of acquiescing to them. And I can certainly see why a rationalist might be opposed to these norms. The idea of "creepiness" seems to be a relatively new social phenomenon, and since it emerged, people have gotten much more conscious about avoiding being "creepy". Most of the discussion in the comments has been about unwanted physical contact, but another part of creepiness is unwanted verbal communication. Social norms seem to cater increasingly to the oversensitive and easily offended; instead of asking oversensitive people to lighten up a bit, we often go out of our way to avoid saying things that will offend people. And of course, any social norm that prevents people from communi... (read more)

It isn't clear to me that the connotations of "oversensitive" as it's used here are justified. Some people suffer, to greater or lesser degrees, in situations that I don't. That doesn't necessarily make them oversensitive, or me insensitive.

There are some things we, as a culture, are more sensitive to now than our predecessors were. That's not necessarily a bad thing.

I don't believe a rational person, in a situation where honesty causes suffering, necessarily prefers to be honest.

All of that said, I certainly support discouraging people from suffering, given the option. And I support discouraging people from claiming to suffer when they don't. But I don't support encouraging people to keep their mouths shut when they suffer. And I suspect that many social structures that ostensibly do the former in reality do the latter.

9David_Gerard8yWhat the whuh? Perhaps the label is new (though I find that implausible too), but I really don't think the behaviour as an observed phenomenon is. What do you base your statement on?

Hmm, I think I meant that the label is new, as well as the increased social consciousness of creepiness. A couple years ago, I realized that at my college, the two things everyone wanted to avoid being were "awkward" and "creepy". I could tell because people would preface comments with "this is super awkward, but" or "I don't mean to come across as creepy, but". Usually, the comments would be anything but awkward or creepy, but prefacing the comment does a couple of useful things:

  • The speaker safeguards himself against being judged by anyone who might possibly find the comment awkward/creepy, or on the threshold of awkward/creepy. If he knows that he's being awkward/creepy, at least no one will think he's so socially maladjusted that he's doing it by accident.

  • The speaker demonstrates that she's not awkward/creepy. I mean, if she's worried about a comment as innocuous as /that/ being perceived as awkward/creepy, she's certainly not going to do anything /actually/ awkward/creepy!

The conspicuous self-consciousness and constant safeguarding against awkward/creepiness always annoyed me, so I'm likely responding to that as much as I'm re... (read more)

8DanArmak8yYou're just asserting that your preferred level of sensitivity is better than other people's higher preferred level. You call them "oversensitive and easily offended", which assigns your preferences an apparently objective or otherwise special status, but you don't give a reason for this. What reason does anyone else have to go along with your preferences instead of their own?
7JoeW8yActually society mostly has no problem at all with these behaviours, which is why the creeper memes flourish. The success of high-status creepers critically relies on this. But if I grant you your point, I'm reading what you say as the benefit of not being a creeper is conformity with supposed anti-creeper norms. Is that what you meant? Because if so, er, I would have thought the benefits of not being a creeper were the upgrades from no longer seeing women chiefly (or solely) as mating opportunities.

The links above do not strike me as good advice. For people with sufficiently low social skills, the only way to follow the advice above is to never interact with anyone ever (i.e. it is easy to fail the eye contact test if you do not know how to initiate conversations, or if you happen to hang out with a group that does not make eye contact often, something which is particularly common among nerdier folk). Furthermore, one can break some of these rules and yet still be non-creepy; never following a group along when they go to do something is a recipe for meeting many fewer people, and not necessary to avoid creepiness if you are decent at interpreting social cues. I therefore do not think the parallel you are drawing is a valid one.

As a further point, the post on weight-lifting a while back was not well-received, despite being more correct than this post. What is has in common with this post is a lack of citations back to reputable-seeming sources (such citations definitely do not guarantee the correctness of a post, so I am not claiming this to be good grounds for discrimination, but am pointing it out as a difference).

ETA: I have no strong opinions on PUA, I think decreasing creepiness is a good thing, but I don't think that these are great resources for doing so. I definitely got something out of them --- for instance, an outside view awareness of the different responses that men and women tend to have when a man is creeping on a woman --- but it is hard to endorse the advice given in aggregate.

4Douglas_Reay8yDo you have better advice to give? For someone with low social skills, who has been told that their behaviour is making other people uncomfortable, maybe the correct course of action is not to continue those behaviours until they have improved their social skills sufficiently to be able to do them without making other people uncomfortable. Because what's the alternative? Asking people to put up with X's behaviour that makes them feel creeped out, because "Oh dear X can't help it, they have poor social skills." ?
6jsteinhardt8yIf you think that is your best course of action, then by all means follow it. That wasn't the point I was trying to make (like I said, I think decreasing creepiness is a good thing). Although I would suggest that if you really want to improve social skills, you can do much better by reading Luke's post on romance [http://lesswrong.com/lw/70u/rationality_lessons_learned_from_irrational/] and accompanying references. Also, by reading How to Win Friends and Influence People. Take this with a grain of salt as I haven't read the books myself but am mainly going off of skimming the subject matter. (You may wonder why something on romance matters for non-creepiness; it's not as directly related as I would like, but creepiness is essentially the result of unwanted sexual advances, which can be as implicit as a guy showing inordinately high amounts of attention towards a girl that is not attracted to him.) The point I was trying to make was that this post would be analogous to the situation where, say, Luke or Yvain were to write a post that was substantially and obviously technically incorrect, but such that following the advice in that post was better than not doing anything. I therefore disagree with JoeW's claim that poor reception towards this post indicates sexism (although there are plenty of comments elsewhere in this thread that do indicate sexism, or at least extreme social naievete, as well as plenty of comments coming from poorly-thought-out feminist positions; there are also plenty of comments that indicate not sexism but a valid critique of the poorly-thought-out feminist positions, as well as well-thought-out feminist positions; the story is not as black-and-white as most are trying to make it out to be, and there is plenty of noise and bias to go around).
4Douglas_Reay8yYou are looking at this as being advice aimed at the person being creepy, and evaluating whether the information in the links would be practical at helping them improve their social skills. Have you considered it from the perspective of it being aimed at someone who is uncertain about the validity of their feeling there is something wrong in a group, and whether the information in the links would help them identify the problem and confirm to them that it is actually a problem that they do have a right to have addressed?

They totally told me I was doing things wrong. All the time. It's just they were doing so in a code I didn't understand and expecting me to operate by rules I wasn't told about. If a woman did something like this seven years ago, (And, while the same thing didn't happen, a lot of the subtler cues did.), I would have done the same things the man did. I was never, ever told, "Hey man, you're being creepy. Cut it out." I wouldn't have known what to do, and I would have done the exact wrong thing.

I wouldn't do it now. I'm roughly as good of a person as I was then, I just understand the rules better.

End of thread is something you are not in a position to enforce.

End of thread is something you are not in a position to enforce.

Is that literally true?

I would have said "Enforcing End of Thread would seem to be politically ill-advised in this instance".

9Eugine_Nier8yWell, given Eliezer's recent actions [http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/ebv/dealing_with_trolling_and_the_signal_to_noise/] his attitude seems to be that as the supreme rationalist leader of lesswrong he can ignore anyone else's opinion.

Well, I disagree that complimenting a stranger's netbook is creepy, but...

This disagreement on what is creepy demonstrates precisely how hard it is to predict in advance if some behavior will be perceived as creepy or not.

These aren't mutually exclusive choices.

If someone is violently allergic to peanuts, I certainly endorse them overcoming that reaction if they're able to do so (e.g., if there's a viable cure for peanut allergies available) but I also endorse accommodating it (e.g., by not putting peanuts in their food).

ADBOC to the first link in this context — its tone is appropriate if the target audience is unrepentant creepers who need to be shamed into shaping up*, but as advice to random people who may or may not behave creepily, it feels way too aggressive, like it's presuming guilt. (The third link, on the other hand, is great tone-wise.)

* A narrower category than "people who behave creepily some of the time".

** Not that I would expect it to work well; most people wouldn't consider the author a moral authority who's entitled to shame them. Behavior modification is hard.

7Airedale8yNot a moral authority for most people who might stumble upon the post, sure, but I would guess that Scalzi is a reasonable facsimile of such of person for the audience of SFF fandom and con attendees at whom the post was more specifically aimed. He's perhaps not a "moral authority" but he is a person of sufficiently high status in that community that his words would carry some weight. As for tone, it seems pretty typical of Scalzi-style prose, so again, for his main audience of fans, I don't know that tone would be a problem. The follow-up post [http://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/08/10/a-tangential-personal-note-on-creepers-and-me/] linked on the page also seems to do a fair job explaining why the post is not just targeted to unrepentant creepers but also applies to people who may quite accidentally veer into that territory without even realizing it, and details how he has had to consciously check himself from doing so on occasion.

What this boils down to is trying to get the benefit of excluding low status folks without thinking about the "nasty" "exclusionary" mechanisms that cause such convenient exclusion in real life.

Most real-life social groups have mechanisms to exclude low-status people - from informal shunning to formal membership criteria. Since people as well as groups seek to maximize status, this evolves into a complex equilibrium. (Groucho: "I wouldn't want to join a club that would have [a status exclusion mechanism weak enough to have] me as a member.")

But since we at LW must have a rational explanation for things, these arbitrary criteria (of which my proposal is a pastiche) won't do. Half of the folks here are OK with outsourcing the power and responsibility for excluding low-status folks onto the women of LW. The other half doesn't even want that. Both sides want to consciously come up with convoluted arguments about why "creepy" [low-status male] behavior is objectively bad. That dog won't hunt.

What this boils down to is trying to get the benefit of excluding low status folks without thinking about the "nasty" "exclusionary" mechanisms that cause such convenient exclusion in real life.

What your comment boils down to is a statement that you intend to treat other people's objections to your (or your friends') nonconsensual or threatening behavior as attempts to exclude you (or them) as low-status rather than as requests for you to behave in a more consensual and nonthreatening manner towards them.

[-][anonymous]8y 11

"creepy" [low-status male] behavior

It's easy to be low-status without being creepy.

It's entirely possible (I'm imagining being meek and social risk-averse) in the same way as it's entirely possible to grow up poor and stay out of trouble with the law. It's a lot easier to be creepy if you're low-status, and much of the behavior that is deemed creepy would not be called creepy if a high-status person did the exact same thing (think "quirky," "endearing," "charming").

In practice, cracking down on creepiness means excluding low-status people, except for a meek remnant.

[-][anonymous]8y 17

There's high-status creeping too (like someone putting an arm round someone who doesn't want him to). This can be very bad for the creepee - the high status means that complaints to the group are likely to be dismissed as oversensitivity or whining.

It's a natural human tendency to let high-status people get away with things, but I don't think it's so immutable that a group can't develop a culture that reduces the damage.

And if you are the creep, there's at least a chance that you didn't mean to be and that you're willing to modify your behaviour in ways that have large advantages for the creepee and only small disadvantages for you.

If male creepiness is contributing to the gender imbalance on LessWrong, I would expect high-status creepiness to be far more problematic than low-status creepiness. In a social setting, it's a lot easier to call a low-status member out for being creepy. If a high-status member is being creepy, a newcomer might prefer to leave than to confront him/her or complain about his/her behavior to the rest of the group. Alternatively, if the newcomer does complain about the high-status member, he/she might be scoffed at by the rest of the group, who likes that individual.

There's high-status creeping too (like someone putting an arm round someone who doesn't want him to).

Yes, but if you're high-status, a much higher fraction of people do want (or are okay with) your arm around them, and so the GP is right that status affects the probability of triggering the creep classifier.

6AdeleneDawner8yTrue, but it's also entirely possible to want behavior X from person Y and still find it creepy when Y actually does X, depending on how and in what context they do it. Creepiness is often about those details.
6SilasBarta8yThat still wouldn't justify the unhelpful, over-general warning of "don't do X", stripped of the specific (correctly-diagnosed) "how and in what context" caveats.

For at least some X's, the real warning is not "don't do X, ever." It's: "if you do X, you are responsible for anyone being creeped out by X. You might get away with it, depending on how considerate, socially aware, or charismatic you are - just don't complain if you get it wrong and we have to kick you out so that people can feel safe and comfortable."

AFAICT, there's nothing wrong with this rule: in fact, it is close to optimal for the purposes of LW meetups.

9AdeleneDawner8yPretty much this. Also, the advice being given might more accurately be "you don't do X, because you obviously don't know how to judge the context and details and are therefore very likely to get it wrong". Except, if someone actually says that, the person it's being said to is liable to try to rope them into explaining the context-and-details thing, which 1) is very complicated, to the point where explaining it is a major project and 2) most people can't articulate, so that's awkward if it happens. Also, it's often true that once a person does learn how to judge the context and details properly (on their own, generally speaking, by observation and reading many things on the topic), they will then be able to see what they were doing wrong before and how to avoid that mistake, and conclude that they can try again regardless of previous advice. Most of what I just said isn't relevant to meetup groups, though; bogus' angle is much more relevant there.
7[anonymous]8yCreepiness is not down to status. High-status people can be plenty creepy.

Can be, sure. The claim is still valid as a heuristic.

What's more, people are more likely to pre-judge the high status person favorably, and thus want whatever behavior would be a "no-no" for the low-status person, and so behavior violating the supposed anti-creep rules is much less likely to be noticed and recognized as such (e.g. my example before about pushy hugs).

Anytime you find yourself saying, "How dare he do X? That's creepy! Don't ever do X, folks!", ask yourself if you would have the same reaction if you liked this person and welcomed X. If the answer is no, you've misdiagnosed the problem.

Moreover, when a low-status person creeps on me, I feel like I have more freedom to express nicely to them that I was creeped out and offer to explain why. When a high-status person creeps on me, I feel like they have too much power to want to stop or listen to me, and nobody else will listen to me either, because this person has social command.

[-][anonymous]8y 15

Yeah, same here. Creepy behavior from people with high status is a big red flag on a group or social situation for me; it implies that at least in some cases they can get away with that, and I categorically don't feel emotionally safe in those environments.

See also: The Missing Stair. Source has a history of overusing feminist memes with the result of obfuscating their point, but I think this piece was particularly well-written.

5TimS8yLikewise, there are times and places when creepy is not low-status.
8RichardKennaway8yThe fuck it does. This is about creepiness. Actual attempts at unwelcome intimacy. Whoever from and whoever to. It is not about status, except to the extent that high status can (this is a bad thing) protect the perpetrators of actual creepy behaviour from being called to account, and low status (this is also a bad thing) can prevent the target from being heard. For further enlightenment, see, for example, here [http://www.catherynnemvalente.com/2012/07/concerning-readercon/].

Actually, "unwelcome" means that the definition sometimes depends almost exclusively on status. In the extreme situation that a guy is so high status I wouldn't mind anything he did and would always say yes, he couldn't possibly be creepy.

In a less hypothetical case, my reaction to statements like "you're beautiful" or "your hair looks amazing" depends entirely on who is saying it. It would be considered creepy only if the guy was sufficiently low status that my intuition doesn't process the statement as sincere.

Similarly I mentally flinch violently when touched by males who are too low status for my intuition to classify as attractive, have no such reaction for moderately attractive guys, and get a jolt of pleasure if the guy is very attractive. This effect is consistent and something I have no conscious control over.

I think people dismissing status are underestimating either the degree to which people's unconscious can control their conscious, or the degree to which status interactions controls the unconscious.

4Sarokrae8yWhy am I getting karma for this when it's been established that I'm using a highly unconventional definition of status [http://lesswrong.com/lw/e5h/how_to_deal_with_someone_in_a_lesswrong_meeting/7dhq] ? I mean, I like karma and all, but this confuses me...
5Emile8yStatus is not an extremely clear thing to begin with, the same criticism could probably be applied to most uses of the term on LessWrong. I just mentally reparse what you write as You're basically talking about how attractive you find him, but using "status" adds the connotations that it's not just about the looks, and that how others judge him comes into the equation; both those connotations seem true.

The fuck it does. This is about creepiness. Actual attempts at unwelcome intimacy. Whoever from and whoever to.

Like how starting a conversation with a stranger who doesn't want to talk to you is unwelcome, and thus creepy?

Or did you think people would never get the C-word for doing just that?

For further enlightenment, see, for example, here.

I missed the enlightenment you were expecting me to get from learning of a case where a high-status person got surprisingly little punishment (and no effective loss to social life) from doing creep things.

The fuck it does. This is about creepiness.

It is not about status, except

The arrogant vulgarity doesn't fit well with the demonstration of naivety (come to think of it "The fuck it does" wouldn't be be appropriate here even if well informed). Creepiness is significantly about status. Typically it refers to something along the lines of "low status male attempting interaction".

This doesn't mean I'm endorsing any particular instance of creepiness but it is useful to understand what it is that prompts the perception 'creepy'.

It is not about status, except to the extent that high status can (this is a bad thing) protect the perpetrators of actual creepy behaviour from being called to account

High status can also make the identical behaviors not creepy in the first place. Even if unwelcome the perception of the high status 'unwelcome' will feel different to the creepy low-status 'unwelcome'.

5[anonymous]8yWell, yeah, someone you wouldn't like to have sex with hitting on you is creepier than someone you would like to have sex with hitting on you (obviously -- why the hell would the latter be creepy at all?), and (especially if “someone” is male and “you” are female), whether you would like to have sex with them correlates with their status. But would that still hold to the same extent if you could change the “status” variable while holding the “attractiveness” (broadly construed) variable constant?
6Sarokrae8yTabooing "status" might be necessary. I couldn't compute your last sentence... Apparently my word-space is so constructed that attractiveness of a man to a woman basically equates to status. (They might not be the same thing as far as hormones are concerned, but they arise from the same mechanisms.) What you call a less "attractive", higher "status" man, I call a lower "status" man who has motivating factors to have incorrect beliefs about his "status".
8Emile8yCompare Bill Gates to Jose the charming tour guide.
7[anonymous]8yThere's your problem right there! I'm usually not a big fan of the "look it up on Wikipedia" approach to amending skewed perception (it has the failure mode of encouraging an excessively topical, definition-driven understanding of a term), but if you perceive status and attractiveness to others as basically synonymous, or even largely so, then you're viewing the world through a seriously-distorted lens and should really start at the ground level: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_status [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_status]
4wedrifid8ySynonymous---clearly not. "Largely so" is more of an exaggeration than a fundamental incomprehension.
4DanArmak8yConsider interaction among heterosexual people of the same sex (men with men, women with women). This is probably a majority of all social interaction, and it strongly influences status in mixed-sex social groups. While attractiveness is generally helpful here too, it's less important than other factors.
9Jonathan_Graehl8yattempts at (unwelcome intimacy) = naked aggression. unwelcome (attempts at intimacy) = failure to anticipate rejection. both sides lost. asking for harsher penalties for the second (which is already quite painful) is like asking cops to beat up panhandlers - the price you pay for a place you want to live.
4FiftyTwo8yI'm not sure what you are using status to mean. Would you be willing to restate your argument with 'status' tabbooed?
4anon8958yAs a low-status male, right now I'm less worried about being excluded from a meetup than I am about being publicly associated with LW at all. It already has a reputation [http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/LessWrong] (and not just for the things mentioned there); now it's a place where a comment like Jade's here [http://lesswrong.com/lw/e5h/how_to_deal_with_someone_in_a_lesswrong_meeting/7dd2?context=1] isn't just downvoted, but downvoted to a level that labels it a troll comment not worth replying to [http://lesswrong.com/lw/ebv/dealing_with_trolling_and_the_signal_to_noise/].
[-][anonymous]8y 17

Related to: List of public drafts on LessWrong

The Problem With Rational Wiki

It already has a reputation

Since you cite it as source you should be aware Rational Wiki has a certain reputation here as well. I'm not talking about the object level disagreements such as cryonics, existential risk, many-worlds interpretation and artificial intelligence because we have some reasonable disagreement on those here as well. Even its cheeky tone while not helping its stated goals can be amusing. I'm somewhat less forgiving about their casual approach to epistemology and their vulnerability to cargo cult science, as long as it is peer reviewed cargo cult science.

While factually it is as about as accurate as Wikipedia, it is very selective about the facts that it is interested in. For example what would you expect from a site calling itself "Rational Wiki" to have on its page about charity. Do you expect information on how much good charity actually does? What kinds of charities do not do what they say on the label? How to avoid getting misled? The ethics of charity? The psychology, sociology or economics of charity?

I'm sorry to disappoint you but the article consists of some ... (read more)

3[anonymous]8yI find it quite entertaining.

It already has a reputation

lesswrong wishes it had a reputation!

It's amusing how some comments to this thread degenerated into versions of Yvain's worst argument in the world:

is labeled creepy and the archetypal example of creepy is harmful, therefore A is bad.

Also: behavior B is bad and is creepy. People talk about creepiness being bad, rather than behavior B being bad. But behavior A is also creepy, and some people think it's not bad. So they say creepiness is not bad. Then they feel they have to defend behavior B against claims of being bad (blue/green politics).

Of course, but you don't get surprised when we turn out to be a bunch of apes after all.

The function of JoeW's comment is not informing you "I put P(LWers behaving badly)<.05" but "If I remind LWers of a virtue they profess to like, they may alter their behavior to be more in line with that virtue."

I mean, women almost never react to being creeped out with an unambiguous response that makes a socially inept person know what's going on with no room for denial.

I really wished they did, but I can understand why they don't.

Sure, I think we agree on all that. Do you see why "no room for denial" might seem deeply creepy, and not a requirement that an inept adult could possibly be applying consistently?

The parens note pauses (very short or, where a number is given, in seconds or tenths thereof); the “.hh indicates a short inhale.

Example 3

Mark: We were wondering if you wanted to come over Saturday, f ’r dinner.

(0.4)

Jane: Well (.) .hh it’d be great but we promised Carol already.

(Potter and Wetherell, 1987: 86)

6MixedNuts8yThis says that people understand indirect refusals the same in sexual and non-sexual contexts. It doesn't say that everyone understands them. A person who never thinks "Shit, are they bored, or are they just making sure I'm not bored?" will never think "Shit, are they turning down sex, or are they just making sure I really want it?". A person who has trouble with the former may well run into the latter. (Still not an excuse though.)
4RomanDavis8yI suspect the denial doesn't come so much from "determined to do things despite consent" as much as "determined to preserve one's own self esteem." But it comes off creepy anyway. They're totally applying it inconsistently. But they don't know that. Hence, the social ineptitude.
5Alicorn8yIt doesn't always work anyway.
4RomanDavis8yOf course. But it destroys excuses, which I've found to be the best motivation for action, both in myself and others

Well, I really don't see much hope for bridging the gap between pro- and anti-PUA camps on this board; both positions are already entrenched, and large portions of both sides have adopted the other as a Hated Enemy with whom no rational dialogue can be maintained. It's not a battle I'm interested in fighting; besides, that battle's already been fought. Several times. To no productive effect.

Speaking as someone who's fairly familiar with both sides yet identifies with neither, though, I think they have more in common than they're willing to admit. There's a great deal of adversarial framing going on, yes, to the point where you've got people like Heartiste who've built their reputations on it. But both sides are basically trying to advocate for greater agency and fulfillment within their scope and among their constituents, which sounds like a great opportunity for intersectionality if I've ever heard one. As to zero-sum framing -- well, "leave her better than you found her" is a well-known, and fairly mainstream, PUA catchphrase.

If I'm going to demonize anything here, this unspeakably stupid war-of-the-sexes model seems like by far my best target.

I think that to the extent we have a conflict between "pro-PUA" and "anti-PUA" camps on LW, most of the conflict consists simply in deciding whether to cheer "yay PUA" or "boo PUA", and, relatedly, what specific memes to treat as central to the PUA memeplex. I suspect that if people were asked to endorse or repudiate specific pieces of concrete social advice, there'd be a lot less disagreement than there is over "yay PUA" or "boo PUA".

8Viliam_Bur8y"What specific memes to treat as central" is very important part. I would say this is the part where many memetic wars are won or lost. If you allow pro-X people to design the official definition of X, every time you use the definition you automatically provide applause lights to X. If you allow anti-X people to design the official definition of X, every time you use the definition you automacally provide boo lights to X. A typical pro-X definition of X is something like: "X is a movement of people who want happiness and cookies for everyone". Far-mode applause lights; omitting the controversial details. A typical anti-X definition of X is something like: "X is a movement containing evil low-status people (here are some extreme examples)". For any group consisting of humans, you can create both definitions, and then pro-X and anti-X people will disagree on which definition is the correct one. The group more successful in popularizing their message has essentially already won.
4Antisuji8yI'd love to see Yvain's blog post you linked turned into a top-level LW post. I found it more elucidating that the Worst Argument in the World post, say.
7Vladimir_Nesov8yAt the very least this doesn't seem to be clearly the case. To the extent this is an unstable property influenced by social norms, approved claiming of more certainty than actually present pushes the norms towards establishing that property more strongly. Since what you describe is a bad property ("no rational dialogue can be maintained"), I disapprove of the claim of certainty you've made.
7Nornagest8yInteresting perspective. I think the grandparent should make it fairly clear that I disapprove of this state of affairs and feel that entrenched members of both camps are, at best, wasting their time; on the other hand, I also feel that most of the cultural mass of the problem is out of our hands. This isn't an endogenous squabble of LW's; it's a wider cultural dispute that just tends to instantiate itself here because of our demographic placement (and our taste for metacontrarianism). And since for whatever reason it doesn't seem to partake of our norm of political detachment, I think we'll have a very hard time with it unless and until the conventional wisdom shifts one way or another. I could be wrong. I hope I am.

Creepy behavior has an evolutionary purpose, just like all human behavior.

Humans are adaptation-executors, not fitness-maximizers. Evolution may have crafted me into a person who wants to sit at home alone all day and play video games, but sitting at home alone all day and playing video games doesn't offer me a fitness advantage.

(I don't actually want to sit at home alone all day and play video games. At least, not every day.)

8hg008yYep. I'm arguing that creepy/misogynistic behavior may be an adaptation that fires when a man is feeling desperate. It's weird because since thinking of this yesterday, I've noticed that it has a ton of explanatory power regarding my own feelings and behavior. And it actually offers a concrete solution to the problem of feeling creepy: hang out with more women. But I'm getting voted down both here and on reddit. I guess maybe I'm generalizing from myself improperly, and lack of social awarenesss is actually a much larger problem? Hanging out with more women could also be a solution to lack of social awareness, by the way. In my experience, I naturally tend to start making friends with some of them, and in conversations I learn a lot more about how they think and feel.

You seem to be confusing high-status creep and low-status creep. The latter, which you describe, happens among desperate low-status men (rarely other genders), is characterized by misogyny and a sense of thwarted entitlement, is obvious to outsiders, and makes then even less desirable partners. Hanging around women is usually promoted as a cure, and looks like it works. I see little evidence for or against this being evolutionary or cultural.

The former happens among predators, who often (not always) are high-status because they're driven to be, is characterized by a sense of entitlement that is denied but acted on (by flouting norms and personally-imposed boundaries on interaction, especially sexual), and works in the sense that it gets the creeper lots of dubiously consensual sex while avoiding social blame. This seems to be a straightforward outgrowth of "Screw the rules, I have status".

That seems like an accurate description to me. I'm inclined to think that if LW has any kind of creep problem, it's more likely to be low-status creep problem, i.e. men who feel like social outcasts (possibly because they're really smart and have always had a hard time finding people like them to make friends with) and have been programmed to alieve that as social outcasts, the only way they're going to have sex is through creepy means.

And maybe part of the solution to this problem is to help men feel less like social outcasts. Group hug, everyone! I'm also in favor if discouraging creepy behavior verbally; I'm just suggesting this as an additional solution.

6[anonymous]8yAnd this gets into a related issue -- male/male affection in general is often strongly proscribed, at least in Western society, to the point where a risk of censure for the mere possibility of a sexual component is a real risk. My guess is that most men, regardless of status or other factors, will not fail to pick up on this, given the sheer amount of signalling to that effect. Some groups that recognize this problem try to drive an even harder wedge of distinction between the two possible readings of any given affectionate act, which doesn't help in the long run; it simply exacerbates the matter. Clearly a whole lotta lower-status creepy men who feel like social outcasts need to start doing something to shake this homophobia and this obsession with their own sexual dissatisfaction, and the rigidly-framed societal narratives they're willing to accept that being fulfilled within...
[-][anonymous]8y 16

And this gets into a related issue -- male/male affection in general is often strongly proscribed, at least in Western society, to the point where a risk of censure for the mere possibility of a sexual component is a real risk.

It should be noted this is a recent phenomena. This wasn't at all the case in the 19th and early 20th century.

Clearly a whole lotta lower-status creepy men who feel like social outcasts need to start doing something to shake this homophobia and this obsession with their own sexual dissatisfaction, and the rigidly-framed societal narratives they're willing to accept that being fulfilled within...

The vast majority of modern societies where male/male non-sexual affection is considered normal are incredibly intolerant of homosexuality, like say Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and to a lesser extent other Mediterranean cultures like say the Sicilian one, so I'm not sure it is useful to frame it in those terms.

The unfortunate norms basically arise out of the following: "It is socially acceptable to have sex with men, the standard social identity for that assumes you have sex with only men, how do I signal I don't have sex with men?"

6MixedNuts8ySo the solution is increased tolerance and visibility of bisexuality? That explains the most male-male-affectionate subculture I know of, the sigh furry community, where bisexuality is rarely erased.
[-][anonymous]8y 12

So the solution is increased tolerance and visibility of bisexuality?

A possible solution, yes. It works as long as people don't mind dating bisexuals. If people prefer to date those who only date one gender, it doesn't work that well since it still pays to signal.

4[anonymous]8yYah, it definitely varies in time, place and cultural context. The vast majority of modern societies (full stop) are incredibly intolerant of homosexuality. The variance on human cultural diversity has been winnowed a lot; you don't see much like the Spartan or old Celtic norms today. Both colonialism and the spread of big, monotheistic conversion-focused religions probably have at least a bit to do with that (though the religion angle shouldn't be overemphasized either -- indigenous cultures that aren't violently subjected to conversion often come up with interesting syncretic adaptations -- the Minangkabau are polyandric, matrifocal, animist, intellectual-focused Muslim culture who were able to bring in Islam at their pace, on their terms). Basically what I'm saying here is I don't think acceptance of male/male affection in general is a causal determinant of homophobia in culture, and that pragmatically, both problems need attention in this culture.
8[anonymous]8yThere are worlds of difference between Sweden and Turkey, let alone Sweden and Saudi Arabia. Remember that while in some parts of the ancient world homosexual relations with young men or fellow fighters where tolerated or even idealized as a higher form of love than with women, men where generally still pressured to find wives and produce heirs with them. There where exceptions to this [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sacred_Band_of_Thebes], but they where just that, exceptions. Homosexuals outside of the closet in the West are not under such pressure by society at large. Naturally the social construct of homosexual identity has besides such benefits also limitations and expectations peculiar to our society that came up with it, that may not be something everyone wants.

And it actually offers a concrete solution to the problem of feeling creepy: hang out with more women.

If that works, it might just be that by doing so you learn more about those women's preferences. In other words, that specific sort of creepitude may just be low skill, and the remedy is practice. That is, it's not an adaptation firing any more than the fact that an untrained trumpet player produces painfully unpleasant noise (and doesn't get invited to perform at parties) is an adaptation firing!

What worries me is some folks' readiness to rationalize exhibiting the low-skill behavior — especially when it comes at others' expense. "Asking me not to play my trumpet at meetup is just calling me low-status!"

This is different in its causes from deliberate, exploitative creepitude — the person who gets off on blatting their crappy trumpet at others to demonstrate their dominance, or some such ...

7Jade8yYour theory fails to account for cases of creepiness among men surrounded by their targets (women, children, men, whatever). See my explanation [http://lesswrong.com/lw/e5h/how_to_deal_with_someone_in_a_lesswrong_meeting/7dd2] .
7Matt_Caulfield8yEven if hanging out with women makes you grow less creepy over time, you're still inflicting your creepy self on them at the beginning. Being willing to do this for your own benefit is... creepy. I'm still not convinced there's an ethical way out of the creepy trap. Is there any sound (not self-serving) argument against the idea that the best thing for creepy males to do is just go away?

Ceteris paribus, the world where a creepy guy turns into a non-creepy guy is better than the one where the creepy guy ceases to exist. (Marginally, at least, the world needs a whole lot more well-adjusted nerds.)

So a better question is, how does a social group help and encourage creeps to become non-creeps wherever possible (without enabling creepy behavior)?

9Douglas_Reay8yPoint them at the links in the OP.
7[anonymous]8yThis one too [http://kateharding.net/2009/10/08/guest-blogger-starling-schrodinger%E2%80%99s-rapist-or-a-guy%E2%80%99s-guide-to-approaching-strange-women-without-being-maced/] (which, on a totally unrelated note, exhibits the groping-her-way-towards-Bayesianism phenomenon I have noticed [http://lesswrong.com/lw/dx6/rationality_quotes_august_2012/7alf] -- to the point of (appearing to) incorrectly think that Schrödinger's cat is about epistemic probability).

Is there any sound (not self-serving) argument against the idea that the best thing for creepy males to do is just go away?

Maybe. Telling people to go away makes them stop listening to you - and probably not "go away", but "find people who agree with them and hang out there instead". You can move the problem, but making it stop being a problem isn't going to happen through mere eviction unless you can effect very systematic culturewide change.

Telling people to go away makes them stop listening to you - and probably not "go away", but "find people who agree with them and hang out there instead".

Yeah, I see this in the wild pretty often and it seems... suboptimal. Not to name names, but when you get lots of creepy-labeled people hanging out together, one natural consequence is the formation of identity groups based partly around the behaviors that got them labeled as creepy in the first place. Which in turn creates positive reinforcement that makes those behaviors a lot harder to get rid of and the process of removing them a lot more painful.

That seems like a straightforward loss for everyone, except in the hypothetical case where allegedly creepy behavior is consequentially positive but maintains negative associations thanks to some random social hangover -- and I think those cases are pretty rare.

7hg008yI suspect you and Matt are talking past each other a bit. Let's say we've got a guy who went to engineering school, works as an engineer, and plays Magic the Gathering in his spare time. As a result most of the people he has interacted with over the past decade are men, and evolution has programmed him to feel desperate and act creepy. Is there any ethical way for him to overcome his creepiness problem? Matt's arguing that maybe there isn't, because even if he finds women to hang out with, he'll end up creeping them out some at first by accident. So the ethical thing to do is to avoid women at all costs. What's your take on this argument? My take is that someone needs to give Matt a big hug.
[-][anonymous]8y 17

As a result most of the people he has interacted with over the past decade are men, and evolution has programmed him to feel desperate and act creepy.

For all that it's relevant to your point and means in context, you might as well replace "evolution has programmed him" with "he is being moved by the gods."

My take is that someone needs to give Matt a big hug.

Correction, Matt needs someone to give him a big hug.

9Rubix8yIt might be optimal for this guy to befriend men, or women he knows to be married or gay, who know how to socialize with people and are willing to help him out with that. There's a bootstrapping issue, but it's the best outcome if it can be attained. [ETA: I failed a pronoun.]
4DanArmak8yMarried women frequently (warning, availability) report men making unwanted sexual advances. That they're married makes them even more creepy.
6JoeW8y[Edit] Misread, unfairly singled out one responder, editing to make generic. My take is that any such person can read all the links provided by the OP, some of which are written specifically for people in that scenario. Some of the other links have many comments now, but it's worth reading all of them. Anyone who can read every comment on all of those links is pretty much guaranteed to level-up in all sorts of ways that will be to their benefit in many respects, including improving their interactions with other people, which includes women.

Best thing for who?

4Matt_Caulfield8yThe world. Find highest possible total utility, act accordingly. Of course that result may not work out great for some particular person, and that's interesting, but that's not the question I'm asking right now.
5drethelin8ySo you think the world would be better off if creepy men all "go away"? A bold point to make. Maybe they should just kill themselves while they're at it?

Creepy behavior should go away. Individuals can update.

There is little value in staying creepy, after all.

4Matt_Caulfield8yI'm not sure, I'm still thinking it through. The point is that it is not immediately obvious to me that we should reject a result just because it seems unattractive. Maybe our intuitions are just wrong. See the Repugnant Conclusion and Torture vs. Specks.
9lucidian8yPresumably some women are less averse to creepiness than other women. Perhaps a socially awkward guy could start by interacting with women who are tolerant of social awkwardness, but who will point out his mistakes so he can improve. Then, he could work his way up to interacting with people who are less and less tolerant of creepiness.
4DanArmak8yEven if such women are numerous enough, a socially awkward man who is bad at reading others will not be able to reliably identify them, and so will occasionally creep out more-averse women, and that may be enough for him to be banished from the whole social group. This is a matter for empirical measurement.
7dspeyer8yIf noncreepiness can be learned fairly quickly under the right circumstances, and the decreepified individual can contribute to people around him significantly, then the benefit to the world at large of decreepification is larger than the cost.

A problem with teasing is that it sets up an environment where it can feel very risky to say "No, I don't like being teased". Will the request be respected, or will it be met with more teasing?

I like the sentence "I am done being teased now". It seems to work pretty well.

I like that approach. Unfortunately, for some of the most socially-adept (in other respects), any request not to tease is itself regarded as an invitation for more teasing -- or at least, the "I really need to stop" sensor is way too insensitive to negatives. Even worse, some end up liking the person because of this (which obviously has horrid incentive effects).

6katydee8ySince many issues of this type stem not from polite-but-overreaching people but rather the legitimately impolite, this method may not always be hugely effective. Legitimately impolite people would hear something like that and reply "Are you?" with a smirk. Also, if you get angry or seriously assertive, they are likely to assume the problem is on your end and tell people about how "crazy" you are. The fact that many people reward such behavior is of course a major contributor to this issue.
3Alicorn8yYeah, I solve that problem on the meta-level by not hanging out with impolite people after discovering this fact about them.
6NancyLebovitz8yThanks-- I'll keep it in mind. The advantage might be that it has no flavor of "please stop teasing me".
5SilasBarta8yI think it manages to avoid the usual unpleasantness associated with saying, "hey, this is serious now", but then, I prefer bluntness anyway.
5Alicorn8yIt doesn't say please at all. It says "we were doing this thing. Now we aren't anymore."

Exactly. It's a status assertion.

I've presumably got some background assumptions that being teased means I'm in a one-down position.

If only one person has a problem with it, that's not being creepy, that's "he's being charming and you have a problem."

And that, folks, is one of the ways that the ~6% of educated males (according to one study, anyway) who are rapists get to do their thing: by being "charming" to everyone but their target, so the target is isolated and feels she has nobody to turn to.

FYI: If one person in my meetup group has a problem with Person X touching them when they don't want him/her to, I have a problem with Person X, too.

Moreover acting as if you need to justify yourself (or your group) to others already represents a significant loss of standing.

boggled] Isn't that what we're all doing here at LW? Arguing and justifying our arguments? Did you just lower your standing with your justification? At time of writing I see quite the reverse.

LW is a freakishly abnormal social setting, even for internet fora. Most people here care more about figuring out what's true than winning arguments. This is unique in my experience of the internet. "facts" are not the primary use case for language., social politics are.

Creepy behavior has an evolutionary purpose, just like all human behavior.

The primary 'evolutionary purpose' here is in the selection of instincts for things feeling 'creepy', not evolving to be 'creepy'. It is at the core a mechanism for reducing the chance that the host will mate with a low value male---either consensually or otherwise. 'Creepy behavior' then is largely a matter of losing at an evolutionary arms race. (With confounding factors around there being trade-offs to acting confident.)

4NancyLebovitz8yHow do you know any of this?

How do you know any of this?

The central claim I made is that creepiness, like sexiness is about perceptions of the observer. Looking at the "evolutionary purpose of creepy behavior" is the wrong place to look and is likely to involve some confusion about the map and the territory.

I also mentioned offhand that the instinct to be 'creeped out' serves the purpose of reducing the chance of impregnation by inferior mates, either consentually or otherwise. It honestly didn't occur to me that this is something people would expect significant justification for. It doesn't strike me as a deep or particularly controversial insight.

Gender-related Lesswrong threads have almost always been problematic, historically. However, in all honesty, the signal/noise ratio in this thread seems low, even when compared to others of its kind.

Can anyone here honestly state that they learned something from this thread?

Note: The question was not rhetorical. If anyone was helped, I would actually like to learn that they were helped. Other note: I apologize for making the signal/noise ratio of this thread even worse by going meta.

Can anyone here honestly state that they learned something from this thread?

I would note that, even if true, we are unlikely to see replies of the form "I learned that I am creepy" or "I knew I am creepy, but from this thread I learned that LessWrong is aware of the problem and I'm unlikely to get away with it in meetings because people have named the problem and are aware of the importance of picking up on it."

7Rubix8yI was also pleasantly surprised to notice how little this thread was mindkilled. As for something I learned, the distinction between individual interpretation of someone's behavior as charismatic v. an individual's social status within a group was made salient in a way that let me notice it. There's several other things I can't call to mind but which I'm pretty sure I did learn.
69eB18yI think you may have misread the comment you are replying to. He said that this thread had a low signal to noise ratio, and expressed disbelief that anyone "honestly... learned something from this thread."
5Rubix8yThanks! I totally did misread the comment. Honestly, I might just be filtering out the noise at this point - or having recently worked out how to point out that a comment is noise in a certain way might be helping me consider noise more of a learning experience and less of a blank field.

People behave differently in different social contexts, though. If person Y finds person X's behavior creepy, and no one else finds person X's behavior creepy, it could be that X is behaving differently towards Y than he/she is towards everyone else.

Obviously, this is relevant to the gender situation, where person X is male and behaves differently towards females than he does towards males.

It's socially influenced, but you're being a bit too status-deterministic about it. Take the example of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's (probably true but not prosecuted) rape allegation. Beforehand, he was as high-status as a man can get in the United States, and a vast majority of American women who knew who he was would have found him attractive. Afterward, he seems to have regained much of his status among male Steeler fans, but he has the unmistakable tag of "creepy" (to say the least) among women who follow football.

I think it's clear that:

  • Different people have different creepiness tolerances.
  • Creepiness is significantly associated with mainstream social status (as opposed to status within the LW group).
  • Most people, including most LWers, find it stressful to be around very creepy people.

Therefore, I propose the following system to reduce the stress of creepiness in LW groups while still maintaining a "big tent."

  • In every city large enough to support a large LW meetup population, there will be multiple tiers of LW groups. (Use common sense in determining optimal group size. I doubt any city beyond SF/NY has enough people to implement this right now)
  • These groups will be explicitly ranked by status (or more precisely, degree of tolerance - with high status groups having the lowest tolerance for creepy behaviors)
  • Membership in the lowest-tier group is automatic; membership in all higher-tier groups is conducted through an interview/probation process. This review process involves observers from the immediately higher- and lower-tier groups.
  • Membership in a higher-tier group automatically grants membership all lower-tier groups.

In this way, we'll have a series of meetup groups ... (read more)

LessWrong readers are about the only group of humans on the planet that I can see explicitly describing such rules and then making them work. It is far more common to end up with this kind of arrangements but put up some façade to save face.

5Pentashagon8yThat might cover a fair portion of the autistic spectrum.

Oh the irony. The last link in the OP specifically discusses exactly this scenario.

No way. Hounding users on an internet site can cause a lot of annoyance and status problems, but it's not creepy, i.e. it entails no shared threat of bodily harm. People routinely get away with extremely weird behavior on internet groups, even though corresponding behaviors (even something as mild as a heated social confrontation) would get them shunned and ostracized, or perhaps physically assaulted and injured, in a real-world actual community where bodily harm considerations are critical. There is nothing wrong with this persay - it just takes some getting used to.

Hounding someone, even if there are no threats, can turn an online group into no fun for them.

I'm not convinced it's true that all female fury at male inappropriate attention is based in fear of physical harm. However, large amounts of inappropriate attention can be a huge attention and energy drain-- mental cpus are a limited resource.

4Douglas_Reay8yI disagree with your definition of "creepy". However, whether we define the word that way or not, would you agree that it is behaviour worth discouraging? It is one thing to disagree with a view that someone is expressing. It is quite another to follow that person around, disproportionately, in order to find opportunities to disagree specifically with them, (whether that's in order to make them feel unwelcome and drive them out, or whether via some twisted logic the hounder feels it gains them dominance or even sees it as courting behaviour).
3JoeW8yJust confirming: are you disagreeing because link posited risk of escalation to assault which I agree seems impossible in a purely online context? I drew the analogy because it called out the toxic effects on a community, and that in many ways the toxicity is not that there was a creeper, but that there is much signalling in their support that has follow-on effects. Assuming those claimed signalling secondary losses are correct, I don't see anything specific to an online context that would be immune. The "risk of escalation" discussed there seems severable from its other points.
5bogus8yI am disagreeing because I regard what you call "risk of escalation to assault" (or, more generally: risks of bodily harm and benefits from tightly-knit social cooperation) as a critical determinant of social interaction. It is very hard to meaningfully compare real-world and online contexts, much less regard them as "the exact same scenario". (Indeed, I have jokingly argued before that we should totally deprecate and taboo the term "community" as referring to online social groups, since it tends to promote this very kind of ontological confusion.) As for your question about "toxicity", let's just say that this particular discussion has been held already. If anything, LW has seemed to err towards taking complaints about divisive or disruptive behavior more seriously than they otherwise would, especially when outgroup status is a factor.
[-][anonymous]8y 12

taking the way chimpanzees live now as an very broad approximation of how our great great great ancestors lived

Bad assumption. We're genetically equidistant from chimps and bonobos, who are pretty nearly opposite in their social and sexual behavior.

Did that common ancestor favor one strategy, or the other? Or neither one, or a mix of the two? Is the chimp model an adaptation subsequent to that divergence? Is the bonobo model one? Are both?

[-][anonymous]8y 12

Since it's very low-cost to stop touching someone who doesn't like it, compared to the cost of enduring it, a group where it's considered "creepy" is a better group.

There are basically two ways: (1) Learn to feel when you make other people uncomfortable. (2) Follow a set of rules that make your interactions safe.

Another piece would be learning how to recognize when people are attracted to you-- a fair number of people (perhaps especially geeks) aren't reliably good at that.

8ChristianKl8yIt's an important skill but it's not enough. Even a girl that's attracted to you can get uncomfortable if you touch her too much. A shy girl might get uncomfortable with physical touch from a guy she's attracted to. Another girl who isn't attracted to the same guy might find the same amount of physical touch acceptable.
7[anonymous]8yYes. I creeped out girls who had cold-approached me first a few times in the past.
4NancyLebovitz8yI agree with your comment. It's just that noticing when someone is attracted to you frequently gets left out of advice.

Alicorn's request was exactly that.

A request is not exactly an obligation. If you disagree, I request that you give me all your money.

What else could the words possibly mean?

I think my words above mean that I have uttered an unreasonable request that someone with healthy boundaries would ignore.

(Note that even if you happen to believe people have the particular rights of control over others that Alicorn has claimed your reply here would still seem to be confusing the nature of the relationship between verbal symbols and obligation.)

I don't have the data to answer that question, but the fact that we talk about cognitive bias a lot isn't good evidence that average members of our community are exceptionally effective at dealing with any particular bias. Witness akrasia.

It seems to me that the best, most straightforward solution to creepiness is to have very low tolerance for it, and eject anyone who violates with extreme prejudice. A lot of the discussion in this thread is about how to compromise with creepers, which seems a little shameful, like negotiating with terrorists.

Ugh. Now you're kinda creeping me out.

I probably should've just said "I agree" in the grandparent and left it at that. But I would like to plead that I don't want to use power against anyone. I realize I have been treating this whole discussion more like a thought experiment (in which we are free to create and kill 3^^^3 people, tile the universe with paperclips, and negotiate with babyeating aliens) than a real-world issue. Maybe that was insensitive and I'm sorry.

If you can see your way clear to it, please try to take my comments as being the equivalent to saying "Well, it appears that egalitarian utilitarianism obligates us to give most of our money to the AMF and live lives of impoverishment, isn't that interesting," without having any real desire to take anyone's money.

But again, the error is mine; this is a near problem and shouldn't be treated like a far idea. Apologies.

8wedrifid8yI am creeped out by Matt's comment too, and not just by way of making an ironic point. The declared wish to use power based against others based on his own naivety. Creepy and dangerous (to the extent that it is not impotent).

WIthin a social group, most people don't secretly resent high-status people, by definition.

That certainly isn't true by definition and it isn't even always true in practice. "It's better to be feared than to be loved", etc.

(The rest of your comment seems more or less accurate as a description of how social power and moralizing works.)

Nice Guy and Nice Gal are idealized gender roles for an optimal society.

I think we're talking past each other here. The "Nice Guy (tm)" phenomenon I was referring to is categorically not an idealized gender role within an optimal or any other society, hence the sarcasm trademark, although it has its roots in (a misinterpretation of) one idealized masculinity. Instead, it's a shorthand way of describing the pathology you described in the ancestor: the guy in question (there are women who do similar things, but the term as I'm using it is tied up in the male gender role) performs passive masculinity really hard and expects that sexual favors will follow. When this fails, usually due to poor socialization and poor understanding of sexual politics, bitterness and frustration ensue.

I actually think the terminology's pretty toxic as such things go, since it tends to be treated as a static attribute of the people so described instead of suggesting solutions to the underlying problems. It's common jargon in these sorts of discussions, though, and denotationally it does describe a real dysfunction, so I'm okay with using it as shorthand. Apologies for any bad assumptions on my part.

I think the most important advice is not "Don't be a creep." It is "Do not tolerate creepiness in others."

If someone is accused of being a creep do not back them up or dismiss their accuser unless you are damn sure they weren't being creepy. If someone looks creepy based on social cues (ex. is focusing on someone much more intently than it is returned.) consider creating a break in the conversation that would allow for a graceful exit. If someone is consistently creepy, especially with touching or gross innuendo and will not stop they should not be welcome in your group.

Assume guilt!

No. Address the behavior, not the person. "Don't hug people without asking" is not the same as "You are an evil person, begone with you." Aspiring rationalists should be able to accept the request and update their beliefs regarding others' preferences accordingly. Failure to update when others' happiness is at stake, is bad rationality and morally wrong.

I don't really understand attempts to solve creepiness problems with things like "don't hug people without asking". In my experience, the most socially adept people violate this rule in spades, it's just that they more correctly guess who wants to hug them (which is easy when most want to hug them to begin with).

More generally, it bothers me when advice is of the form, "Don't do X" when the real rule is "don't do X with low status" and the advised's problem is more the low status than the X, and the advisor has no intention of giving advice on status.

First: Skill ("socially adept") and status are distinct; I'm not sure but it kinda sounds like you are conflating them.

Second: Formal "don't hug without asking" rules are usually recommended for situations involving strangers, such as conventions and meetups — and for situations where a person might be discouraged by power imbalance from expressing their discomfort, such as workplaces. Much of the purpose of the rule is to assure people who don't want to be hugged that they will not be. The goal isn't to regulate intimacy but to deter unwanted intimacy and to assure people they won't be subjected to it.

(I posted the relevant bit of the OpenSF polyamory conference's code of conduct elsethread, but here's the link.)

Third: Some of the times that you think you've seen someone correctly predict that someone wanted a hug, you may have actually witnessed someone who didn't want a hug playing along to avoid making a scene, or to please the hugger, or the like — especially if the hugger is high-status. Pretending to enjoy something is a thing. Part of the point of the rule is to reduce the chance of putting anyone in that situation — and to remind people that saying no is respected.

I think you're right about the socially adept overhugging situations. Nevertheless, I don't think the non-hugging-without-asking advice is helpful to the intended audience.

For one thing, this socially-adept over-hugger, for all his flaws, is still much preferable and beneficial to the group than the archetypal, socially-inept creep under discussion. So, while the overhugger might be strictly better for the group to the follow the hugging advice, I would still say the most important thing (the low-hanging fruit here) is to teach the creep the things that the overhugger is doing right, not to tell him to avoid the things the overhugger is doing wrong.

Like I've tried to demonstrate here, it's hard to form a model of the things you need to do in a group setting when a) you don't know how to act, and b) all advice you get is in the negative. If it does anything, the negative advice just reinforces a mental model that says, "to be on the safe side, don't even talk to anyone because you might hit one of the prohibited things", which is not a step forward. And if my own experience is any guide, it just blends into the same old message of, "your desires are bad, how dare you act on them" -- not a healthy mentality to encourage in the target audience, who probably already assimilated this message early on.

6Emile8y(Mostly unrelated to your point) Things become even more complicated when that rule means that doing X can work as a status signal (like a way of "acting confident").
4Furslid8yNo, it is not don't do X with low status. It is don't do X when unwanted. Status may influence what is wanted, but it does not excuse unwanted physical contact. It is just as wrong for the alpha male to do this as the omega male. For instance, I know someone with OCD who really does not like being touched. Are you saying it would be ok for some high status person to leave her uncomfortable with an unwanted hug?

No, it is not don't do X with low status. It is don't do X when unwanted.

So the rule is to use a mind-reader?

Are you saying it would be ok for some high status person to leave her uncomfortable with an unwanted hug?

I'm saying that the rare failure of a heuristic does not make it wrong to employ the heuristic; it just means that the user of it should stop employing it after it is known for this (very unusual) case.

There exist people who are extremely allergic to peanuts, so much that taking them out would cause a negative reaction far worse than an unwanted hug. Does that mean you're going to go around promoting a rule that "You should never bring peanuts with you"? Or would you recognize that this condition is rare enough to make it the obligation of the person with the condition to alert others, rather than demonizing those who fail to account for cases like this?

(Note: hug-unwanting is, of course, far more common than this peanut allergy, and thus carries different implications.)

6faul_sname8yRoughly, yes. Standard-model humans come with mind-reader included. So the average person writing these is effectively saying to use it.
5SilasBarta8yIsn't that kind of missing the point, though, since the people in question almost certainly don't have mind-readers with such a capability? Sounds like yet another failure of insight on the part of the writers. It reminds me of a certain LWer's "helpful" advice that, "You have to dress right, and wear the right clothes, that look good, and wear it the right way." Ah, thanks, man, how'd I miss that? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- But even more importantly, I don't think anyone has a mind reader capable of what these writers are expecting of it. Everyone has some margin of error and so can't be categorically expected (or advised) to avoid "all" "unwanted" behavior -- much more reasonable to ask that they not do a (person-invariant) category of generally disliked behavior, whether or not a particular person happens to like or not like it (and punish even if it happened to be liked, because of incentive effects). Worse, "unwanted" behavior with respect to Jones might be for Smith not to make romantic overtures toward Doe (assuming Doe and Jones aren't in a relationship). Or for Smith not to offer products for sale that are competitive with Jones's. Or for Smith to keep his golden watch rather than give it away. No reasonable social rule requires you to junk your life in order to be a perpetual font of charity, however wanted that might be.
3faul_sname8yI was not under the impression that we were discussing reasonable, consistent social rules. To someone with built-in social skills, it basically feels like the policy reduces to "do what other people want". It takes a lot of effort to see that the reduction goes the other way (i.e. we're trying to reduce "do what other people want" to actionable rules). Additionally, the writers are probably giving the first explanation that comes to mind for why people seem creepy (naturally, one that reflects favorably on them and, more importantly, unfavorably on the person they're criticizing). If they dug deeper, they might (might) be able to come up with specific verbal and nonverbal behaviors that trigger the "creepy" association. This would be useful if they were interested in helping creepy people become less creepy, but for the most part the people writing about creepiness are writing because they've just been on the receiving end, and just want it to go away. I suspect that at least some people have a mind-reader at least close to the specs of these writers, particularly people those from the writers' social groups. The standard model onboard human emulator really is quite good, particularly when it's been trained by large amounts of social contact (something most people labeled creepy (the low-status kind) don't get much of). Which is why the most successful advice on how to become less creepy is to get out more. Being creepy isn't something you can really think yourself out of, because it has a lot to do with posture, timing, intonation, and trained guesswork. I'm fairly sure that formal training for becoming less creepy would be effective (possibly more so than the "getting out more"), but it's something that would require an outside, experienced party.

[totally offtopic] That's ridiculous. Taking the Montgomery, AL bus system as an example, black customers were critically important to the economics of the city transit system, which is one reason the Rosa Parks bus boycott was such a big deal. Outside Montgomery, we do know of streetcar companies who refused to segregate their customers, until they were forced to do so by the government (See Roback, Jennifer (1986). "The Political Economy of Segregation: The Case of Segregated Streetcars". Journal of Economic History 56 (4): 893–917. doi:10.1017/S0022050700050634).

Racial segregation in the U.S. South was a wholly political decision - in fact, it was politically pushed by pro-white Democrat politicians in opposition to the Republican party (which used to be pro-integration).

I also can't help but think that if & when PUA works, its success inversely varies with a woman's intelligence, self-awareness and rationality.

I actually taught my girlfriend some of the PUA stuff so that she's better at seducing me! (with success)

I hope that doesn't make me any of those things :p

Rape has been prevalent throughout human history, but forced copulation doesn't seem to be a leading or even closely-tailing human reproductive strategy.

"Forced copulation" could describe a fair percentage of co-habitations in a fair percentage of cultures throughout history.

Trigger warning: more mechanical discussion of nonconsensual sex.

The odds of insemination are lower

On a per-act basis, rapes are about twice as likely to result in pregnancy than consensual sex. I suspect that you're right that various fertility-boosting measures don't happen during rape and this effect is due primarily to selection effects (who rapes, who is raped, and when the rape happens), but the net result is still that rapes are a decent reproductive strategy (if the rapist can get away with it).

Rape has been prevalent throughout human history, but forced copulation doesn't seem to be a leading or even closely-tailing human reproductive strategy.

This seems really unlikely in the context of marriages before the Enlightenment, or in the context of wars and raids (where women were a resource like any other).

7J_Taylor8yYes, in America. We also frequently do our best, when having consensual sex, to minimize our odds of having kids. (I was unable to find rates of birth control use during rapes, unfortunately.) In the ancestral environment, this would probably not be a factor.
7Vaniver8yI'm pretty sure the 3% number comes mostly from women trying to get pregnant [http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2001-06/NS-Raes-1906101.php], and it's estimated that the per-act incidence of rape pregnancy would be about 8% instead of about 6% if none of the victims were using birth control.
4J_Taylor8yTentatively updated. Will investigate further later. 3.1 number comes from an odd data-set. http://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/atniehs/labs/epi/studies/eps/question/index.cfm [http://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/atniehs/labs/epi/studies/eps/question/index.cfm]
6[anonymous]8yThey touch on the statistics further down -- it's believed to be due to the fact that, in the case of consensual sex, the woman is more likely to have control over when in their fertility cycle the act occurs. Different cultures have had very different approaches to marriage throughout history; they still often do. Anyway, I'm talking about the claim that rape is an evolutionary adaptation from the ancestral environment, couched as a reproductive strategy -- Neolithic Eurasia is a bit too recent to be germane to my argument.

You seem to be underestimating how easy it is to guess beforehand whether or not a stranger would want to talk to you. See the comment thread to this. (Well, I disagree that complimenting a stranger's netbook is necessarily creepy, but...)

Upvoted for an excellent link which caused me to update my intuition regarding the nature and frequency of various types of public harassment of women. I didn't update so far as to regard the XKCD cartoon as "promoting rape culture" (which I still think is going overboard), but after reading the (very very long) comment thread with all the subway/public/other harassment stories, I can totally see where they're coming from.

5NancyLebovitz8yThat thread gives an important overview of a sort. It's got its limits because women who talk about not having it that bad from men are not kindly treated in the discussion. I'm not denying any of those stories about behavior ranging from intrusive to seriously threatening and it's obviously fairly common, just saying that it's not a overview of the whole situation. I've never seen an overview of the whole situation for women.

... well, that bit is a p.r.r.f.i. only in the same way as things like "Are you really as stupid as you sound?" are. I repeat: Douglas_Reay's post contains no blank-slatey attempts to explain anything and makes no claims that anyone's discriminating against anyone else. It just doesn't.

Well, if you bring up a a bunch of links about learning how not to come off as creepy, and pose it as a salient topic of discussion to the community, you're tacitly implying that people coming off as creepy is a problem of particular relevance to the community.

The connotations are such that, rather than having to make explicit that there have been cases where people at Less Wrong meetups have been offended by behavior they've found creepy, it could reasonably be taken as implied, unless explicitly disavowed.

If there is evidence of such a pattern, then it is certainly worth knowing about. But posing it as an explanation, or even a contributing factor, in the gender imbalance of the community, is something that could reasonably be taken as insulting.

Suppose you have an online acquaintance who's rather unpopular. Your only information on why they might be unpopular comes from your online i... (read more)

4gjm8yI think all it implies is that creepiness could be a problem. There have been a number of recent instances -- much discussed online -- where it seems to have been, in the SF and atheist communities; that seems to me plenty enough to explain Douglas's decision to bring it up. I don't find the analogy with suggesting that an unpopular person shower more very convincing. The main (though not the only) reason is that the dynamics of giving and taking offence seem to me quite different in the two cases, on account of the difference between saying something to one person and saying it to a whole community. Consider: rather a large fraction of LW's content consists of articles saying "Here is a mistake it's possible to make when thinking. You should probably try not to do that." If you go up to an individual person and say something like that then they're likely to think you're accusing them of making that mistake, and they may well take offence. If you say it publicly to the whole community then no one is being accused of anything and empirically it seems that people don't take offence. Similarly, no one takes the LW articles about akrasia as personal accusations of Not Getting Stuff Done, etc. For that matter, since you use it as an analogy: I've seen articles in LW that said explicitly: "Some people, more of them among people of the sort LW attracts, have poor personal hygiene: you should shower regularly." And, as it turns out, no one seems to have been offended; I don't recall any responses saying "How dare you accuse me of having poor personal hygiene?". Why take a statement of the form "Some people in our community may do such-and-such a bad thing; let's avoid it" as a personal attack and take offence? It just isn't a personal attack. Not even if it really does mean "Some people in our community actually do do such-and-such a bad thing". -- Not unless someone thinks that actually they, personally, are being attacked (or that someone close to them is) and that the
4Desrtopa8yI personally agree that creepiness could be a problem in this community, and was not offended by the article, but I don't see it as unreasonable defensiveness for someone to be offended by the implication that this is a significant problem in the absence of evidence. This is an issue which, I suspect, a significant number of our members are very conscious of, and take pains to avoid. One effective way to offend people, indeed the way in which I have most recently personally been significantly offended, is lecturing them in the assumption that they're unaware of an error which they have actually gone to significant effort to correct. Since this is a particularly touchy subject, it helps to take pains not to offend people. Maybe this article "just isn't" a personal attack, but then many creepy behaviors "just aren't" making inappropriate advances, but still set off the triggers of people who, after all, can only read behaviors, not intentions.

The article on bride kidnapping contained no hunter-gatherers, as far I could see.

It's an undisputed example of violent tactics working for reproduction, and a description of how the culture of many societies either endorsed or did not frown on what we would see as rape.

I do not think it wise to attempt to extrapolate information about the EEA from contemporary (or even merely ancient) societies whose material conditions do not resemble the conditions of bands in the EEA. (Hell, I don't even know if we can extrapolate information from modern bands. All of this is an incredible epistemic mess.)

Genghis Khan didn't get to be the ancestor of 8 percent of people in east asia by being nice. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Descent_from_Genghis_Khan)

I do not dispute the truth of this fact. However, the ruler of the largest contiguous land empire in history is not the sort of fellow we wish to be looking at in order to determine whether or not rape was adaptive in the EEA. If you were interested in answering such a question, I guess you would want to look at some folks like the Hadza and observe how reproductively successful fellows like Scumbag Sengani, a hypothetical rapist, end up being.

If I may argue from anecdote for a bit:

I was at a party a while back where I made a somewhat sexual joke and the people in that conversation (probably more female than male, I can't remember; my social scene is lopsided towards women) all laughed. A couple of minutes later, another guy made the same exact joke with a different group of people at the party and his reception was a lot less warm than mine (some people groaned).

I could only explain why this happened as a result of relative status in a social group. Status seems to determine who is "creepy... (read more)

[-][anonymous]8y 9

I read your links. How very encouraging. I think I'll stop talking to women now...

Why? Have women been complaining that you make them feel uncomfortable by how you talk to them?

Think of the basic advice in the first few links as being like a computer trouble shooting guide that starts off by saying "Is the plug in the socket? Is the socket turned on? Have you tried rebooting?". Sort of a checklist, that you only need to work through if there is actually a problem.

Kind of like: "Do women glare and yell at you when you hug them? Check whether you're using the PolyApproved (tm) procedure of making the awkward 'wanna hug?' gesture first, and only proceeding to an actual hug if the gesture is reciprocated. Note for advanced users: there are alternative procedures and short cuts which can be used at your own risk."

(paid karma to respond)

As I understood the spirit of the original agreement, you were not supposed to comment downthread from Silas if you didn't want to be responded-to. You did so.

I'm not sure that it is - unless you mean that the target is unjustified in feeling physically safe, and the loser is actually posing a threat to hir.

That would also be sufficient to abandon the definition. But no, I mean she is actually are physically safe and the guy is being creepy as @#%#. Either the recipient of the creepiness or an observer can both legitimately call that behavior creepy even if the victim of it neither feels nor actually is physically unsafe.

but this does not imply that there isn't a salient cluster in thingspace which is adequ

... (read more)

The odds of insemination are lower, because things like self-lubrication and uterine peristalsis (which make a big difference) aren't typically going to occur.

A quick Bing search found this:

A SINGLE act of rape may be more than twice as likely to make a woman pregnant as a single act of consensual sex.

[...]

The Gottschalls focused on 405 women who had suffered a single incidence of penile-vaginal rape at some point between the ages of 12 and 45. Of these, 6.4 per cent became pregnant. But that figure jumped to nearly 8 per cent when the researchers

... (read more)

Fortunately, this isn't just about some kind of abstract "being creepy" XML tag getting attached to individuals.

In places where there is a socially determined reputation, that's exactly what it's like.

That seems like enough of a trivial inconvenience to deter a lot of people, even if it was being actively encouraged in some context similar to this one. Sending a PM to Daenerys seems much less inconvenient, if more work for her.

I often find that what is not creepy for internet feminists can be for women who use other social conventions, and vice versa. Makes it hard when one doesn't know the convention being used. Also makes other-optimising a problem here.

(Edited for clarification)

8Viliam_Bur8yCreepiness is partially context-dependent. If you try to list all details, there will be too many details to remember. On the other hand, if you try to find some general rules (such as: "don't make people feel uncomfortable"), some people will have problem translating them to specific situations. This could be possibly solved by making a "beginners" handbook, which would contain the general rules and their specific instances in the most typical situations (at school, at job, on street, in shop), and later some specific advice for less typical situations (at disco, at funeral, etc.). But still, even the internet version would probably need different sections for instant messengers, facebook, e-mail... even for e-mail to different groups of people... Eh. Anyway, it could also start with most frequent situations, and progress to the more rare ones.
7Eugine_Nier8yHeck, I suspect that in a lot of cases what a feminist claims is creepy on the internet, and what the same feminist would find creepy in real life are different things.

That extends to more than feminists, and more than creepiness; people's verbal descriptions of grammatical or moral rules often don't match the judgement they will give to specific cases. More generally, people can't see how their brain works, and when they try to describe it they will get a lot wrong.

He may have been misunderstanding some of the same information Jandila supplies. But it's not an absolute effect, it's a probabilistic one. I'm more likely to break an egg yolk if I open the egg two feet above my bowl; that doesn't mean it doesn't happen pretty frequently when I open it closer to the bowl (or that it couldn't land intact from two feet up).

The point of my post was: you may have swung rather wide of mine.

6Kindly8yThat link should really be compulsory reading for everyone discussing these topics.

Depends how reliable a signal of threat it is, and also on how we feel about sexual status markers. As others have noted, the behavior that gets labeled "creepy" covers a pretty wide spectrum -- sometimes it's a reliable indication that the person you're dealing with is sexually threatening, sometimes it's an indication of inexperience or low status but not a strong marker of threat, and occasionally it shows up due to conflicting social protocols even when both parties are high-status and nonthreatening.

The latter's straightforwardly something ... (read more)

[-][anonymous]8y 8

That was my question though, albeit not stated so clearly: is it really an opportunity cost?

The thing is convincing people on the internet about something is very different from talking to people in your personal life.

Does fetishising intelligence, sex positivity, communicative effectiveness, intersectional social justice, and active informed consent really turn off mainstream conventional women?

I'm just wondering what is intersectional social justice? I found it challenging to unpack the meaning behind the words used in the wikipedia article. Ple... (read more)