Today I Learned...

Putting the edible back in credibility

A third thought on boys and social isolation
Top Dog talked about research that (on average) women do better in dyads and men in groups.  If this applies to teenagers, and skill is correlated with comfort level, this means that the time honored "find a best friend and do everything with them" coping strategy for social isolation is either easier or more satisfying for girls than for boys.  This would make widespread shunning even more painful.

Obviously this isn't prescriptive, I know men who did the One Best Friend in high school (okay, I know one man who...) or hung out with mostly girls.  But it may well be a factor.

More on high school and socializing.
Bodily and social autonomy is an absolute right.  It is also true that social isolation is awful, even before you add in verbal or physical bullying.  I think social isolation is awful and I'm an extreme introvert.  If you're an extrovert it must be the pain I feel from social isolation and bullying + the pain I feel from an open office + a bunch more, which might actually be hell.

If you are in a two person system, one person's right to autonomy literally comes at the expense of the other's isolation.  High school has more than two people, but it is still fairly closed, and who people exercise their right of autonomy against is not randomly distributed.  I have an extremely negative reaction to the idea of anyone being forced to be friends with anyone else, ever, but even I can recognize that being told you can only make friends out of these N people, and having none of them like you, in part because of peer pressure, would be incredibly damaging.  And I highly suspect that modern technology has steadily decreased the closedness of the system, meaning one person's autonomy no longer necessitates another's total isolation (although I suspect spending a lot of time around people who hate you is hard even with the comfort of seeing friends after school).  Which is amazing and maybe one of the better things technology has done for us, but makes it very hard to imagine how bad it was before then.

More on nerd prosecution/privilege
One consistent problem from NRAs/Nice Guys is them describing beauty as power, and the ability to say no to people as power.  That is bullshit.  Turning down an offer of sex is not oppression, and while having the option to flirt your way out of a speeding ticket is nice, it is strictly less power than the ability to administer speeding tickets.  Being beautiful opens up a lot of opportunities and makes others more rewarding than they would otherwise be, but it is not power, even before you account for the costs it incurs (anything from being dismissed as less competant to other women finding you threatening to rape).

But this is one context in which a combination of physical attractiveness and a level of social adeptness translates to real, genuine power.  High school.*  This is also the time stereotypical nerd traits (social awkwardness, weird interests) are most actively punished (including with physical harm).  The major benefits of being a nerd (money for many, prestige in a field you find meaningful for others) have yet to present themselves.  They don't have the simple ability to walk away that many enjoy in adulthood.**  High schools are much more racially and economically homogenous than the real world, so there's less opportunity to observe intersectionality***.   High school girls are on average more conscentious than boys, which high school academics rewards in ways the real world doesn't.

The importance of all of the factors that make high school awful diminish radically by adulthood.  But, and I think this is the problem, they are still technically present.  Being beautiful does still get you something.  Most people have picked up social skills they didn't have in high school, but their self image of themselves as awkward and Bad At People persists.  Even if they see they have the skills now, they discount them because they take so much work, and assume the skills are costless to others.****  I don't want to overconflate nerd with programmer, but those who are programmers or in a few other fields enjoy not just enormous monetary benefits, but a level of job availability that means they need never stay stuck in a bad situation again.

If you are not paying sufficient attention, it is easy to translate (A was a big problem) and (A still exists) into (A is a big problem).  That doesn't make it correct (although I'd argue that Scott Aaronson never said A was still a big problem, merely that the scars it left are).  But it makes them a much more understandable and sympathetic kind of wrong, relative to throwing a tantrum because the boob vending machine is not meeting their expectations.

*My high school experience is so far from typical it's not a useful model, so I'm basing this on friends' reports and movies.

**My original phrasing was "the simple ability to walk away that makes adulthood so great", but then I realized a lot of adults don't have that ability.  And we tend to view those that don't as suffering and underprivileged.

***Obvious exception: girls and queerness.  On the girls issue you could argue most bullying is intra-gender, at the case of weakening the justification that girls' beauty and social adeptness is translated to actual power that hurts certain boys.  I don't know what is correct here.

****I know so many people that fall into this category.

In Defense of the Cuddle-Shamers
I have an moderate negative reaction when men talk about how much they love female orgams, or giving oral sex.  Some of them are simply lying to get the sex they actually want, which is annoying, but almost unheard of in my social group.  Vastly more common is "I love female orgasms.  Why are you not giving me orgasms? Are you saying I'm not the best at sex?  Have you had an orgasm yet? The fact that you are close to orgasm gets me so hot I'm going to speed up and change the angle."

Then there's the cunnilingus lovers.  There's nothing wrong with any fetish (engaged in consenually), but it can't simultaneously be a Fetish You Do Because You Love It and Proof You Are A Giving Lover (Whose Gifts Should Be Reciprocated).  Choose one.  If it is Proof You Are A Giving Lover, I will begin to wonder why you are not asking your partner what she would like before giving it to her.  And if you imply that any woman who doesn't like head (and only head, until orgasm) is sex negative, or disgusted by her own body, or (g-d help you) frigid, you are officially Bad At Sex.  Men who conflate loving female orgasms with loving cunnilingus can please turn their genitals in at the door.

Maybe this is the cuddle shamers have experienced the equivalent of this in cuddles?  Men who were cookie seeking for liking cuddles, rather than actually liking them?  Obviously that is bullshit, but the problem lies in the cookie seeking, not the cuddling (or, as crystalpyramid pointed out in the last post, failure to realize that asking is itself an act that conveys information regardless of how you treat the answer).

Beyond parody
Selective reading and context is always going to be a problem. I read Jezebel making fun of Nice Guys of OKC and think "yes, men who describe themselves as Nice Guys but think "No is a yes that needs convincing" should be shamed. I'm so glad the internet makes that easy to do." Scott Alexander reads it and thinks "wait, so I'm not allowed to wonder why Henry the wife beater is on his fifth wife and I can't get a date?", or more generally that making fun of men for wearing fedoras is bullshit.

Until now I'd basically taken Jezebel's word for it that fedoras were associated with douchebaggery.  I developed some qualms when Scott pointed out that shaming people for being unattractive was bullshit, but still felt that Nice Guyness is a thing, and a bad one.  I still do, but I am taking away Jezebel's right to judge.  Because Jezebel came out against cuddles.  Against the word itself ("it's gross" ?), against men liking them ("skeeve city"), against men who advertise liking them on OKC ("secretely a ploy for blow jobs").  This offends me on so many levels.  I like cuddles.  I have many male friends who like cuddles.  I have some male friends and partners who advertise liking cuddling on their OKC profiles.  These men like sex, and they like combining sex and cuddles in a "two great tastes that taste great together" sense, but they also like cuddles all on their own, which is convenient for me because I like cuddling.  I really don't like these people saying untrue things that hurt my friends and might lower my access to cuddles.

But the fact that cuddles are awesome doesn't preclude "advertising enjoyment of cuddles" being associated with negative traits.    I haven't noticed a correlation, but then I only read profiles of men matched 95% or higher, which cuts down on the problems significantly.*  I really wanted an objective answer on this, so I searched for "cuddle", clicked on the first N matches, and checked their questions for truly unacceptable answers.  Results:

no obviously unnacceptable answers: 6
at least one obviously unacceptable answers:  5
no obviously unnacceptable question answers but Jesus christ their profile screams douchebag: 1

I used the following as unacceptable answers:
"Do you have a problem with racist jokes" "No" (I didn't count this if they had a sensible explanation)
"Do women have an obligation to shave their legs" "Yes"
"Imagine you have an identical twin. You've had many sexual experiences, but they remain a lonely and frustrated virgin. Would you secretly swap places to give them 'a piece of the action'?" "Yes"
"No means NO!" "Mostly, occasionally it's really a Yes in disguise"
"Do you believe that men should be the heads of their households?" "Yes"

Then I needed something to compare this to, ideally one term associated with douchebaggery and one not.  These are surprisingly hard to come up with.  OKC wouldn't accept "friend zone" as a phrase.  It would take friendzone, but the first two people it suggested were using it as counter signalling ("I'm super embarassed by so-called Nice Guys who complain about the friendzone").  Then I tried "cum", and the first two result were men discussing humiliation play in a feminist context. I tried MMA, and I'm pretty sure most of those guys are douchebags, but they don't answer many questions.  "Bitch" is a verb.  So finally I just set to "show me who logged on most recently" and checked the first 12 who had actually filled out their profile.

no obviously unnacceptable answers: 10
at least one obviously unacceptable answers:  2
no obviously unnacceptable question answers but Jesus christ their profile screams douchebag: 0

I realized the obvious problem after I did this: I didn't control for which questions were answered, or even the number answered.  The broad sample showed a lot of people who had only answered a few questions.  What I should really do restrict to people who have answered a question, but that requires OKCupid Pro.  I actually would spend $8 for the satisfying my scientific curiosity, but in order to get a decent sample size I'd need to automate, and I don't thing OKC encourages scraping.  it doesn't actually matter.  I'm still angry at Jezebel for shaming people for acknolweding a desire for human touch and comfort.   I can't remember where I read it, but someone said that the only time some men get enough touch is when they're caring for very small children.  Meanwhile, lots of women caring for the same age of children report being completely touched out.  This seems indescribably sad to me.

Men who like the cuddle: keep advertising that fact.  It attracts women like me and deters women who think cuddling is gross.

*Although there are disturbing exceptions.

Unsorted thoughts on the Scott Aaronson thing
When I try to discuss any aspect of male privilege with my dad, we have to go through 2.5 minutes of how sad it was that the cheerleaders wouldn't fuck him in high school. For a while I was just happy he was acknowledging the concept at all, but now it's gotten old. I suspect many other women have experienced something similar, and that Aaronson's comment reminded them of this.

I also have very distinct memories of a an ex who felt continually guilty for being male, which translated less into "him being super feminist and considerate" and more into "I could never criticize him because it would send him into a guilt spiral" and yet somehow simultaneously "no criticism was ever translated into action because feeling bad about all the things meant he never had to feel bad about a particular thing." I suspect many women have also had this experience and were reminded of it by Aaronson.

And those would be very justifiable objections, if Aaronson had posted his comment on a feminist blog post talking about the wage gap, or maybe even creepers. But he didn't. He posted it on his own blog, assuming readers would place it in the context of his posting history. When it went viral he added the context in manually, and it looks very reasonable to me, in the context of someone discussing their own pain in their own space.

If you remove that part, you still have a human being whose sexuality has been turned into a source of pain and shame. I expect feminists to be more sympathetic to this.

I really, really wish Amanda Marcotte was not the poster for modern feminism. She is a major reason I didn't identify as feminist for a long time. I never liked her, but I officially Didn't Read Her after she used asexual as an insult. I have no problem believing she was maliciously shamey. This is especially galling in light of her support for noted student fucking/attempted girlfriend murdering professor Hugo Schwyzer. It is really hard to argue that social status isn't entering into a decision to defense Schwyzer and condemn Aaronson.

A lot of the commentary has focused on "women can't know what it's like to be truly unwanted." I'm sure there's at least one woman who feels that way, but I will grant you the distribution is different. But women/feminists aren't trying to argue that they too know what loneliness is, they'are arguing that rolling back the things that made Aaronson feel bad will result in more rapes, which will make them feel bad. Given the conflation of desirability and rape in our culture, "but so many men want to fuck you" does not come across as a benefit. If women's choices are "a small subset of men feel super bad" or "even more rape", they're not wrong for "making" Aaronson feel bad. The blame goes to whoever set up the system with those as the only choices.

That said, the current shame around creepiness seems most effective on the most caring people, and least effective on deliberate rapists. That's suboptimal.

I highly suspect 'fear of raping someone' accounts for less of Aaronson's depression than he thinks it does. Some people are chemically destined to be depressed and the topic is incidental. But I have no way to know this without a control universe, and either way these outliers may help us pinpoint weaknesses in the current system.

Scott Alexander (not the original post writer) compared the feminist shaming of neckbeards and fedoras to old school caricatures of Jews. My first reaction is that it's completely coincidental, it's not our fault douchebags wear fedoras, but my second reaction is "wow, those pictures do look similar." Similar enough that if a side I disagreed with did it, I'd consider it damning. There are also some narrative similarities. Jews got into Hollywood and aggressive corporate law (or, longer ago, banking) when it was low status, because the high status things wouldn't let them in. The world changed, those things became high status, and the fact that they were over represented was suddenly proof they ran the world. Nerds got into math and programming when it was low status.* Suddenly it's much more important, and they're being yelled at for having a stranglehold on something no one wanted until recently.**

This doesn't mean individual nerds, or even structurally significant subsets of nerds, haven't done terrible things with their power, but so did some Jews. It didn't make it okay to burn synagogues and it doesn't make it okay to conflate "unattractive", "virgin", and "anti-feminist." And if we could stop using autistic as a slur, that would be great.

Some nerds definitely have Penny Arcade Syndrome.

I find it amusing that Scott Alexander pretty casually offers Penny a number of dates. It's an excellent example of someone having a lot of extraordinarily specific power.

I find it pretty telling that in attempting to find a friend to discuss this with, I had one female friend tap out because it triggered too much anger (which I think was justified) and a male friend tap out because it triggered too much pain (also justified).

*Eh, almost. Back when computer science was the bastard stepchild of math, it was mostly women. It was only as computers gained importance that men entered the field. But it was definitely less powerful than it is now.

**Except, again, women were in CS before men were.

Review: Black Mirror.
Black Mirror just showed up on Netflix, and multiple sources described it as "brilliant" and "the British Twilight Zone." Having watched two episodes, I think that is simultaneously accurate and misleading. Most things described as "new Twilight Zone" feel like "The Twilight Zone, modernized." Black Mirror feels like the contemporary cultural equivalent of the The Twilight Zone. Mostly it is bringing up uncomfortable ideas in proximity to one other. I don't actually want to spend too long chasing down the symbolism or implications because I don't think they're coherent, and I will be annoyed at wasting my time on them. But they are definitely probing the unconscious, and that is neat.

Chris Rock
Chris Rock's interview with Vulture has been making the rounds, usually with a quote about Ferguson. The Ferguson quotes are good, don't get me wrong, but what made the bigger impression on me were more slice-of-life quotes:

"[My younger daughter] Zahra was 4 when Obama was nominated. So as far as they’re concerned, there have always been little black girls in the White House."

"Lost in Translation is a black movie: That’s what it feels like to be black and rich"

"[Comedy is] the only thing that smacks Hollywood out of its inherent racism, sexism, anti-­Semitism. It makes people hire people that they would never hire otherwise. Do they really want to do a show with Roseanne Barr? No, they want a thin blonde girl."

And while there isn't a single emblematic quote, the whole interview is suffused with aging gracefully. By which I mean, accepting both his new limitations (he thinks Hulu is a social networking site) and the gifts and responsibilities age has brought him.

Dear Men of OKCupid
I know you have been told over and over again to respond specifically to a woman's profile, not just send her a generic greeting. It is true that almost all successful contacts will be personal, but it is not true that all kinds of personal approaches will be successful. For example, here are two approaches that definitely demonstrate that you read the profile but will almost certainly not be successful.

1. Shotgunning 5 or 10 questions about different things she mentions on her profile. Asking one, maybe two, questions is an excellent idea, but the returns decrease and then go negative. If your message in any way resembles a cop shouting questions at a suspect with a lamp in his face, consider rewriting it.

2. Pointing out a contradiction in her profile. Especially if one of the statements is obviously a joke, but honestly even if they're both perfectly sincere this is a bad idea. It telegraphs that life with you will be a constant exercise in justifying your own existence.

Bonus tip: do not cookie seek for reading her whole profile. Either you enjoyed reading, it which case you're welcome, or you did not, in which case I don't understand why you're messaging her.

(no subject)
"My impression of your dad is that he has more emotional intelligence than a brick"

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