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.


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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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?

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.

Some 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.
Occasions (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.)
I'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 don't have a clear picture of what this would look like.
I think I can illustrate with an example. Let me know if this helps! Jane submits her narrative to the post. One paragraph in her narrative describes an incident that many people would recognize as her. Jane wants to mention this incident, but does not want to associate it with the rest of her narrative, because then people who could recognize that single incident, will know that the rest of the narrative is also hers. She pulls out the identifiable incident to be placed in a "Anonymous Comments" section that is not linked to the rest of her narrative. It is still somewhat anonymous, in that her name isn't on it, and only the people who already know the story realize it is hers. But they can not trace knowledge of that particular story back to the rest of her narrative. The post layout would be something like:
Okay. But what is the content of "whee, I'm a narrative"?
All of the other stuff you have to say that wouldn't be easily identified as something said by you.
By "narrative", I am referring to the bulk of whatever Jane wrote. Probably items such as answering the questions upvoted in the forum. It would be everything Jane submitted to me, modulo the paragraph or two that she wanted placed in the "Comments" section instead, because they are incidents known to be hers. Perhaps I shouldn't have used the phrase "Anonymous Comments". The narratives are also anonymous. The Comments section is what allows them to be so, by having somewhere else to place Obviously-Jane material. In fact, the Comments section is probably even LESS anonymous than the narratives, because they are composed of identifiable material that you don't want associated with your super-anonymous narrative.... Um.....feel free to suggest better words than "Narrative" or "Comments section"... I don't think I'm explaining well. :P

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.)

I'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 actually am very curious to the responses, but whether the results are surprising or not, I think another value it would have is as a place to point people to. For example, Norm New-Guy or Felicity the Feminist says "I think X is a problem," you can point them to the narratives, and say "8/10 women disagree." (or vice versa) Also, even if there are no "surprises" per se, it could still be enough to redefine your hypothesis space. For example, maybe before the results, I would guess that any one of six issues might be occurring to effect the gender ratio. After reading the samples, I notice that most the results focus on only 3 of my original issues, and maybe there is a new one women were discussing, that although it wasn't in my original hypothesis space, wasn't necessarily "surprising" (depending on your definition- perhaps you hadn't thought of it yourself, but when someone said it, it made sense. I can see how you'd consider this a "surprise" though.)
In general, when making an example that could equally be made in either direction, I think it's best to go the direction against what you think - or what others think you think. So in the same way I think Yvain's post would have been improved if his examples had been against positions he held, so too you might in future want your examples to be phrased more like Obveously this is a purely about reducing system 1 negative reactions to posts and demonstrating an ability to visualise the other side's hypothesis, and not a content issue at all. It's much like the motivation behind Politics is the Mind Killer.
Thanks! I like this idea a lot, and have changed the relevant example accordingly.
I wonder if there's a general rule about how confident you should be there.
Dunno. What confidence level would you consider appropriate? I could have said "I'm pretty confident..." or "I don't expect it to turn up anything..." or something along those lines, but I figure I have more of a chance of calibrating my confidence levels if I state them more precisely in the first place.
I don't know. I'm mostly musing about whether "it won't turn up anything surprising" is already contained in the concept of a confidence level, or else whether there is a particular confidence level at which you expect to not be surprised. Put another way, when do you expect to be surprised?
Well, for example, if more than a third of the women responding reported never experiencing any unpleasant experiences of the sort described, that would surprise me.
If you do this you could also make a small poll for the participants; numbers are easier to skim and to regroup than anecdotes are. Anyway, I think this is a good idea, whatever form it takes.
Is there a missing word after "small"? ETA: I probably should have sent that by private message
Yep, fixed, thanks.
There's already the option of doing this through alternate accounts.
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.
Two points: 1) Alternate accounts are suspect to manipulation (anyone can create an account claiming anything), and as such what they say carries little weight. The cohesive post will have the added weight that the submissions will be verified as being written by actual female Less Wrongers, and not sock puppets with 0 karma. Also, some posters might be ok having their name associated at the level of "I wrote A submission" versus "I wrote THIS submission." 2) If you post on your own, rather than as a group, you will still run into the difficulty of being overpowered by the amount of male voices, so either few will hear you, or you'll be one against many, or you'll be taken as "single anecdote/ feminazi" rather than "The Women of Less Wrong"

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.)

I think the Dr Nerdlove link does give useful advice. It tells you what not to do and what you should do instead. I have pretty good social skills, and I'm female, so it's unlikely that people see me as being creepy, but I actually think that reading through that may have improved my social skills further! For instance, in the past, when I've been interested in someone I have sometimes tried to keep talking even when they appear to be losing interest. This paragraph gives very useful advice: If the conversation is starting to die off – as opposed to a natural lull – you don’t want to try stick around desperately trying to keep things going. Make your excuses and bow out of the conversation gracefully. Similarly, if you notice that her eyes are starting to dart around to the sides – as though she were looking around for someone – you need to realize that she’s looking for someone to rescue her from you.

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.

If they don't tell you where they're going, I guess it's definitely the former.
I wonder what a normal person would do in a slightly trickier situation. You and someone you're only slightly acquainted with (I'm not sure the relationship I've ever had with anyone can be described as more than a slight acquaintance) start walking off along one, broad street both your destinations happen to lie close to, so deliberately avoiding that street is rather impractical and time- and energy-consuming, and you don't exactly have the latter to spare. You've made the trip together once before, the preceding day, uneventfully, and you faintly hoped that might be a chance to break out of your lifelong social isolation. The other person is younger than you, but not to the point that you clearly have no business socializing with them. Surprise! Someone else quickly catches up with you both. They're half your age and just about the most popular and high-status person in the group you're leaving for the day. It goes without saying their social bonds to everyone else in the group are orders of magnitude stronger than any you can dream of ever establishing, including to the person you were walking with. As naturally as they breathe, the third person says goodbye to you and starts talking lively to the other, who, surely enough, reciprocates and forgets about you. They don't look the slightest bit interested in halting their chat to hear "Actually, I'm heading in the same direction" from you. Hence, you're stuck with only a few unpleasant options: * Keep walking next to them, quietly and creepily. I suppose crossing the street and walking along the other side may reduce a bit the creepiness, but it'll still be awkward if they ever notice. * Walk faster to leave them comfortably behind. Oh, if only you were young and fit like them! * Wait for them to leave you comfortably behind. Well, that sucks, because you're tired, aching and in pressing need of reaching your bed and collapsing on it. You're not sure you'll have the energy left to take a shower first. With a
As a kinda-maybe-normal person: I would simply say "Actually, I'm heading in the same direction" loud enough for them to hear (their non-interest be damned).

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)

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.

The 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.)
Italian 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.)
Neither does French, by the way, which seems to indicate some difference on how that topic is considered in different cultures. I'm not familiar enough with gender issues in geek conventions in France to tell what forms similar concerns take here; though I do remember a girl complaining that Richard Stallman kept staring at her boobs.
Have heard that some parts of Europe have very large problems with sexual harassment of an agressive form beyond creepyness.
I suspect, based to the limited number of cultures I'm familiar with, that if you did cross-cultural studies you'd find that the two are correlated.
That wouldn't surprise me.
From what I'm told about queues in New York, there might be significant regional variations among Americans in that respect.


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

This rule is always safe to follow, but is suboptimal in that it rules out some contact that both parties would enjoy. This is mostly an anti-innuendo rule. Just as threats of violence are morally equivalent to acts of violence, entitlement to entering personal space is equivalent to entering personal space.

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 Yudkowsky12y
The OpenSF code of conduct seems pretty good in general.
It 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?"


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.)

Is being vague with who it's directed at and counting on something like the bystander effect a good hack for that?
Hm. I've not tried that myself, but as someone who had a lot of past awkwardness and cluelessness in social situations, and now does alright, it strikes me as not a good move. My sense is that it'll just look like a different flavor of awkward-confused, albeit one that puts less direct pressure on the person.
Jandila'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.

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.

Challenging, but certainly possible.

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.

Don't worry -- I'm sure those links are packed with advice on this particularly difficult subproblem! Why else would they be recommended?
Your 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.

That 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.)
Some 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. 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)
A 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.
Note 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.
Where "doesn't necessarily" for most intents and purposes could mean "does the reverse of"!
Yes. 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!

Understood - 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".)

(I'm Italian.)
Forgive me, my memory is poor, I took your references to Ireland to mean you were Irish.
(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.

Because 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.
It'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.
Probably depends who's talking.
It's almost like there is no one magic rule set for interacting with us or something! ;p

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.

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)
Creepiness 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.
Heck, 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.

I suspect one of those negatives still has to go, no?
I think I was really meaning to say "not not creepy" at the time :S
But do you mean to say that the creepiness standards of internet feminists are the same as that for "women who go other social convention"? I was expecting you to mean that they were different.
Is it clearer like this?
Possibly even clearer: "I often find that what is not creepy for internet feminists is creepy for women who follow other social conventions, and vice versa." Examples would be nice.
I meant 'not creepy' for internet feminists (asking politely) corresponding to 'not not creepy' for other people.
Ah, OK, it makes sense now (though I suspect most people will still read it the wrong way)
I didn't even notice where the negatives were in the original version -- I just assumed the intended meaning to be the one that makes sense. Relevant Language Log post
I like how the guides go about detailing how to do this, rather than simply telling people more things they're doing wrong. Wait...

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).

Since 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.
Yeah, I solve that problem on the meta-level by not hanging out with impolite people after discovering this fact about them.
Thanks-- I'll keep it in mind. The advantage might be that it has no flavor of "please stop teasing me".
I think it manages to avoid the usual unpleasantness associated with saying, "hey, this is serious now", but then, I prefer bluntness anyway.
It 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.

The 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.
In 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?

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

Um, what?

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.


"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.

That 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.

"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.
I'm reminded of the Diseased Thinking 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.
I 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).
I 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”.)
Also, 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.
No, it doesn't, because it's talking about the responsibility of the individual, not the group. If someone tells me I'm behaving inappropriately, that's for me to deal with. It's only if and when I don't deal with it that it becomes a problem for a group -- and one would hope that any group confronted with such a person would dismiss their complaints.
This directly contradicts your comment in response to Douglas_Reay lower down
How so?
He recommends bringing it to the group in this comment, but says in the other comment that even if the entire group disagrees with the creeped out person they are still in the right.
Only as a last resort, and he didn't prescribe a particular action for the group to take. The whole point was that individual people should take responsibility for addressing problems if they can, but that individuals don't have sole power to evict people from the group, which was the argument he was responding to.

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.

That 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.

As a person with poor-to-middling social skills at the best of times: no, that's silly and I reject it as a working premise for conflict resolution and group interaction. Establishing a social norm that hey, some folks here might be autistic or poorly socialized or otherwise have some difficulties with the usual set of interactions is completely different from establishing a norm that whenever someone failing at some element of socialization, and thereby causing others to feel unsafe, pressured or disturbed, then those who've had the reaction are obligated to see the situation resolved to that first party's favor.

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.

You're swinging rather wide of my point, here.
The point of my post was: you may have swung rather wide of mine.

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"

The scenario may not have happened to you. That doesn't mean it 'almost never happens'. If you haven't been told that you're doing anything wrong, then obviously you can't be blamed for carrying on. My point is only that if you have been told, you shouldn't be waiting for some quorum to come to a conclusion, just stop doing the thing that is upsetting the other person.

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.

Saying "You do NOT touch me" or "Don't want to talk about this", as that person did, is not a code.
Great! Now speak in non-code when people are approaching the line, not five miles past it.

If (1) a population varies widely in terms of how direct a demand needs to be before they recognize it as one, and
(2) framing a demand much more directly than necessary for a particular target to recognize it is viewed as socially inappropriate ("hey, OK, you don't have to make a federal case out of it lady! Jeez. Some people have no friggin sense of proportion, y'know?"), and
(3) framing a demand much more weakly than necessary is both ineffective (that is, my demand gets ignored) and viewed as socially inappropriate when I eventually ramp up to the necessary level of directness...

...well, you tell me: what should I do in that situation, when there's a demand I want to make of an individual whose sensitivity to demands I don't know?

You forgot (4): not recognizing a demand and refusing to comply are indistinguishable.

Can you clarify why you consider this something I forgot?
Can be. Depending how the refusing is done I'd even suggest that not recognizing can be 'creepier'.
This is troubling if true. The worst offenders described in the OP's links are creepers of the latter type, who know their behavior is bad but do it anyway. And yet this is seen as not as creepy as behavior from someone who is socially inept but not malicious?
Given the structure of the sentence, I can't tell if you endorse that "oblivious is worse than malicious" Oblivious is more difficult to deal with, in that it takes a more subtle intervention over a longer period of time. But I'm not sure that difficulty of correcting the problem is correlated with how "creepy" the behavior is, or appears to be to the target.
In that case I am confused. Which is seen as creepier, deliberate bad behavior or ineptitude? Or do I completely misunderstand?
Ineptitude mostly. Doing something that could be interpreted as creepy in full knowledge is either a calculated risk or the act of an asshole. Assholes might sometimes be worth hanging out with, or being associated with from a social/political point of view. Creepy people have well below average social skills more or less by definition; associating with them is harmful to ones reputation. That's why one gets the feeling of revulsion/contamination.
Female perspective- I see deliberate bad behavior as MUCH MUCH worse than ineptitude. People who act deliberately bad are bad people and I don't want them near me. Assholes are NOT worth hanging out with. Men who are ok with hanging out with these sorts of people ("Well they act deliberately bad towards women, but have social status/ are fun to be with, so...") are supporting their deliberately bad behavior, and showing that they will not support women when men are deliberately bad towards them. I don't want to hang out with THOSE sorts of guys either. People who are just inept are not as scary, and can learn "ept-ness". They might occasionally creep me out accidentally, but are not doing the deliberately bad things that I believe SHOULD result in social shunning.
I haven't actually made a claim about either deliberate bad behavior or malice. I do claim that there is a subset of situations and responses where the form of aware-noncompliance is less creepy than the ignorance. I doubt that subset overlaps all that much with the other subset of noncompliance which also constitutes either bad behavior or malice. Not even noticing demands really does have the potential to convey a lot of creepiness.
How do you figure? Also, what do you mean? 'Only a small fraction of men do this,' or 'This almost never happens to women as described'? And are you taking 'creepy' to mean deliberately malicious, or more like what you just said you used to do?

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.


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

(Potter and Wetherell, 1987: 86)

This 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.)
I 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.
It doesn't always work anyway.
Of course. But it destroys excuses, which I've found to be the best motivation for action, both in myself and others

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.

I'll add that you should also reevaluate how much you should be interacting with that person at all, and not just changing some particular behavior. Someone who finds you upsetting is just not your natural market in the first place, and even if that limited data sample is an unfortunate fluke, or even if you agree that your behavior was inappropriate, it has happened, so you're now Mr. Creepy to that person. Maybe you can climb your way out of that hole, but you're likely better off spending your time and energy where you're not starting out in a hole. Know when to fold a bad hand.
“If” just means it's a sufficient condition, not necessarily that it's also a necessary one.
I 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.
No. Not 'a significant fraction'. One of the prime tools used by the kind of arsehole who infiltrates groups in order to rape is to isolate individuals, and behave differently towards them. If any individual person thinks your behaviour towards them is creepy, it is your responsibility to change your behaviour towards that person, even if everyone else disagrees with them.
I can understand this on a sort of "don't be a dick" set of rules where if something you do makes someone uncomfortable you should prefer not to do it, a rule of this kind is not just open to abuse but oppressive in and of itself.

Most moral guidelines have a bajillion exceptions. All rules are ultimately something of a "don't be a dick" rule.

It occurs to me that perhaps, as LW-ers we tend to like nice, codified rules you could program into an AI, so our tendency is to read rules as "execute this behavior consistently" rather than "this is the generally correct heuristic, but use your judgement as appropriate."

Falling back on vagueness misses the entire point of the rules, which is simultaneously to provide a guideline for well-meaning but oblivious people and to allow your group to expel people for clearcut reasons. If you are worried about being creepy and bad at reading social signals, the rules do you the favor of allowing you to be good nonetheless, whereas a vague exception-filled guideline is almost useless as telling someone to not be creepy. If you are a bad person, the rules mean you can't defend yourself by saying you're well-meaning or whatever, because if you touch people without permission a bunch, we can point to the rules and say "Go away".

First: I'm actually in the process of figuring out my own take on this, so my opinion may be subject to change over the course of this thread (and a few other threads elsewhere in the internet that happened to come up at the same time). There's two sets of rules getting talked about here - one is the rules for the group, the other is the rules for an individual. Because of things like bystander effect, status-quo bias, etc, it's important for groups to have some clear cut lines which, if crossed, result in expulsion (or at least a solid warning with a clear threat of expulsion). I think AndrewHickey was not referring to codified group rules at the time, but to your own personal rules you should be following, regardless. The group shouldn't automatically expel every member who's doing something that one person finds arbitrarily creepy. But if you find that someone is creeped out by a behavior of yours, you should still take it upon yourself to alter that behavior, at least around that person, for no reason other than that it bothers them. You should also use common sense in the corner case that some person is arbitrarily deciding "I find X creepy" in a deliberate effort to screw with you. It's also your responsibility to treat that question seriously and not look for reasons like "this person is arbitrarily declaring me creepy" as an excuse to not have to change your behavior.
I agree that the distinction between group rules and personal rules is very important, and should be more explicit in this sort f conversation
Exactly. I was talking about the 'rule' "If a significant fraction of a group find your behaviour creepy, the responsibility to change the behaviour is yours." That's a rule for an individual's behaviour. And as written it's a stupid rule that invites abuse -- the stereotypical 'nice guy' can just say "well, no-one else complained" and still carry on behaving that way and thinking of himself as behaving properly.
Taking responsibility for one's own actions is not oppressive.
I find your point of view creepy, and want you to stop talking about it. Take responsibility for your actions, and stop creeping me out.
Given we're establishing guidelines that people will choose to follow in order not to be jerks, "don't rape people" is a perfectly good rule. You said yourself that for group-enforced guidelines, the group has to judge (and thus reject "Alice speaks in a creepy monotone, I am creeped out, she must stop"-type complaints); it's hard to see how to do that if every one else disagrees.

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.

It won't help.

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!

Only if that process is faster than females leaving on their own accord because they think there are creepy males.
Security through creepy obscurity, eh? :P
What? (What I mean is that, assuming “improves” means “becomes closer to that of the whole population”, and considering that the sex ratio is close to 1 in the whole population but more like 10 in Less Wrong, five men leaving would improve the sex ratio, but not if one woman also leaves.) I guess you were making a joke, which I don't get.
I interpreted your comment to mean something like "talking about creepiness might make women leave faster." I will now attempt to thoroughly dissect what I said after I thought you said that. Because why not :P "Security through obscurity" is a model of security where talking about security makes you less secure - it's generally agreed to be pretty suboptimal. Drawing the analogy between not talking about creepiness to have people not leave and not talking about security to be secure is the surface point of my post. But there are several flaws in the analogy between not talking about security and not talking about creepiness, which I refer to pretty subtly and form the main point of the post. The first word is ambiguous: "security" for who? The analogy-ey interpretation would be for LW users, but the problem the "creepy obscurity" is directed at isn't keeping people secure, it's not making people leave, so the analogy breaks down. If we look at the part of reality where the analogy breaks down, the security that would be granted by not talking about problematic behavior is actually the "security" of the people who don't want to have to deal with the problem or worry about their community getting smaller, not the security of LW users in general. Also, "creepy obscurity" serves two purposes. The first is to modify "security through obscurity" to talk about creepiness, thus drawing the analogy. The second is to be a little threatening by referring to the obscurity that gets granted to creepy people, and also referring to literal creepy obscurity. This second interpretation turns the sentence into a bit of an oxymoron, since "creepy obscurity" doesn't sound very secure at all. The oxymoron here could be considered a joke, like "jumbo shrimp" or "anarchy rules." But calling this an oxymoron also contains a rhetorical claim that keeping creepy people in the community obscure could not actually be secure. And, of course the ", eh?" is there to imply that there's a jo

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.

All Douglas said on that score is that creepiness is "one social skills issue that might be affecting this". I think you are overreacting just a teensy little bit.
Hi, downvoter(s)! Do please let me know what you think is wrong with my comment. Thanks!
I didn't downvote, although I might have if your request for feedback hadn't already been there by the time I read your comment. Filipe's comment is a perfectly reasonable request for information. If many people have been giving reports of being creeped out by other people at LW meetups, that's a pretty important thing to know, and if there aren't many people who've been giving such reports, that's also worth knowing. Treating reasonable requests for information as unwarranted defensiveness is something I am personally inclined to downvote for.
This bit of Filipe's comment ... ... is a perfectly reasonable request for information. If that had been all Felipe said I'd have had no problem with it. Excellent question. But this bit ... ... 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. The absolutely most it could reasonably be said to do along those lines is this: It gently suggests that maybe one contributing factor to gender imbalance in groups like LW meetings, if the participants don't make any attempt to avoid it, might be that some people behave in a way that creeps others out. And apparently Filipe objects to even that much being said. That looks to me not like a "perfectly reasonable request for information" but like an attempt to discourage even mentioning the possibility of such a problem. Am I missing something (or imagining something) here?

... 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)

I 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
I 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.
Not sure. Perhaps "you are overreacting just a teensy little bit" was interpreted as making things more personal than necessary.
Well, honestly. Douglas_Reay posts something saying "if people attending LW meetings are creepy then that might be bad for the community's gender balance", and Filipe responds by suggesting that it's "just one of those blank-slatey attempts to explain the gender ratio in High-IQ communities due to some sort of discrimination, without any evidence". It is absolutely beyond my understanding why Filipe's comment has been voted up to +13 since what Douglas wrote was not an "attempt to explain" anything and he didn't assert that anyone was discriminating against anyone. Filipe's comment is based on two gross misrepresentations of what Douglas wrote, and on the basis of those gross misrepresentations he's made an entirely unreasonable accusation, and apparently the consensus of the Less Wrong community is that this deserves to be at +13. In what possible world is Filipe's grotesque misrepresentation reasonable (and indeed worthy of all those upvotes) and gently pointing out its errors unreasonable (and deserving of drive-by downvotes)? Note: "absolutely beyond my understanding" is not strictly correct. I have an obvious candidate explanation, but not one that speaks well of the portion of the LW community that's active here: reflex-action anti-anti-sexism from people who have taken to upvoting everything they see that oh-so-daringly says that men are more often very intelligent than women. Comments saying that white people are more intelligent than black people also consistently attract high scores too. It seems to me that, seeing how common and how consistently upvoted these comments are, they shouldn't any longer be considered either unusually insightful or courageous, any more than other comments that could get you in trouble elsewhere but would be widely agreed with here like "I think there is no God" or "a lot of what people say and do is best understood in terms of signalling rather than in terms of its explicit propositional content". But evidently rather a lot

I think a few mutually-reinforcing things are going on, and the narcissistic pattern you describe is a big one. Another is feeling socially unsafe, in a way that's hard for me to summarize, but easier to describe some features of:

  • Talk of how women are underrepresented at LW meetups (or whatever) pattern-matches to a moral demand that there be more women at LW meetups, otherwise LWers are bad sexist people. As is often the case with perceived moral demands, this feels threatening and defending oneself by attacking premises and identifying the demander as the Enemy is a really tempting response.
    • The perceived moral demand is seen as vague, which makes it feel more threatening — it feels like one can never know whether or not they're subject to criticism.
      • The OP's first link, for instance, says "no one’s required to inform you that you’re creeping" and "Not a complete instruction set on how not to be a creeper." Even if these are true, saying them in that piece's aggressive tone without indicating that doing something simple gets you a lot of the way ('you don't get cookies for being a decent person') causes me, at least, to feel gut-level fear of doing Something
... (read more)
This made me feel condescended to. Compare "being creeped on in this and that particular setting carries only very small objective risks, and the mature thing to do is feel this, but not trying to please everyone (or whatever is the analogous irrational decision policy here) is really hard for some people".

If anyone has a less depressing explanation of what's going on here, then I would be very glad to hear it.

I do! Filipe wrote:

Is there an actual history of people complaining about 'creepy behavior' in LW meetups?

I would genuinely like to know the answer to that question, so I upvoted it.

OK, I agree that that's a good reason. (Though I personally wouldn't upvote a question on those grounds if it were already at a large positive score; in so far as others have the same quirks as I do, your explanation can only be part of the story.)

It is absolutely beyond my understanding why Filipe's comment has been voted up to +13 since what Douglas wrote was not an "attempt to explain" anything and he didn't assert that anyone was discriminating against anyone. Filipe's comment is based on two gross misrepresentations of what Douglas wrote, and on the basis of those gross misrepresentations he's made an entirely unreasonable accusation, and apparently the consensus of the Less Wrong community is that this deserves to be at +13.

In what possible world is Filipe's grotesque misrepresentation reasonable (and indeed worthy of all those upvotes) and gently pointing out its errors unreasonable (and deserving of drive-by downvotes)?

Personally, I upvoted Filipe's comment for the reason Emile gave here, I agree with Manfred's comment here, and while the second part of Filipe's comment could be taken as overly politicizing, I feel that your comments have acted to degenerate the situation further. For reasons Nick Tarleton has outlined in this comment, "blank-statey attempts to explain the gender ratio in High-IQ communities due to some form of discrimination, without any evidence" are something that some peop... (read more)

Well, honestly. Douglas_Reay posts something saying "if people attending LW meetings are creepy then that might be bad for the community's gender balance", and Filipe responds by suggesting that it's "just one of those blank-slatey attempts to explain the gender ratio in High-IQ communities due to some sort of discrimination, without any evidence".

Douglas_Reay didn't provide any evidence for his theory. Not even what one would expect to be the minimal standard, i.e., an assertion that creepy behaviors do in fact take place at LW meetups.

Filipe was pointing this out and presented the obvious candidate explanation for Douglas_Reay's action, i.e., the one that makes his actions look bad. How is this any different from what you just did in your comment?

What theory? The one Filipe just made up out of thin air, where Imaginary Douglas Reay proposed discrimination as a blank-slate explanation for "the gender ratio in High-IQ communities"? Or some actual theory that he actually claimed was likely to be true? (It looks to me as if the only theory anywhere in this region of ideaspace that he endorsed was this one: "If people act creepily towards others and nothing is done about it, that might contribute to gender imbalance in offline LW communities." This doesn't look to me like the sort of claim for which I'd expect evidence to be provided before anyone's even challenged it, still less the sort for which if someone makes it without such accompanying evidence I'd go looking for nefarious explanations. Of course your opinion may diverge from mine; if so, and if you can say anything about why, I'd be interested.) Either I'm seriously misunderstanding you, or you have what seems to me a seriously broken heuristic for how to generate candidate explanations for people's actions. It seems like you're saying that when you're trying to understand why someone did something, "the obvious candidate explanation" is "the one that makes his actions look bad". Why? It looks to me as if you just pointed out one similarity between what I said and what Filipe said, namely that we both speculated that someone might be doing something for not-very-impressive reasons. I agree: we both did that. Aside from that, I see many differences and no other similarities. I can try to list some differences, but there are so many that I think it would be helpful if you'd first explain what inferences you want drawn from the alleged similarity.