Comment author: xccf 14 November 2017 10:42:47AM -1 points [-]

This isn't even in the article at all:

"along with high rates of trauma at 90%+ for female survivors."

I haven't even read the rest of your comment because your claims are blatantly, verifiably false.

I think Marcus was referring to the stats you quoted under "Sexual violence reduction as suffering reduction", such as the claim that 94% of rape victims met the criteria for PTSD one week later.

Marcus's comments were a lot more confrontational than I would have liked, but I still found them worth reading. I think there are some good points if you're able to get past the confrontational tone.

Comment author: xccf 14 November 2017 09:55:04AM *  4 points [-]

I don't think we can have an accurate idea of how much sexual assault is happening in EA without a separate high-quality survey. This is because there are so many definitions of sexual violence which contradict one another, that to ensure an accurate picture of what's going on, we'd have to wrangle with definitions for a long time - and we'd end up asking a set of questions, not just one question.

I'd love to see a yearly undetected sex offender survey given to both men and women regarding how much sexual violence they committed against EAs in the last year, and a yearly sexual violence survey given to both men and women to ask how much sexual violence they received from EAs in the last year. If they added this to the yearly survey that would be awesome!

I think there's a tradeoff here. If this is created as a second, separate survey, there will likely be selection effects in who chooses to take it. I expect people who are more concerned about the problem of sexual assault (such as people who have been sexually assaulted) will be more likely to complete a survey that's specifically about sexual assault. Given these selection effects, I suspect it's best to settle on a relatively brief measure and include it in the main survey.

Brainstorming on what to include in that measure:

One idea is to just ask people "were you sexually assaulted" and let them use their own definition. After all, our goal is to reduce psychological trauma. If someone's experience met some technical definition of sexual assault, but it didn't bother them very much, maybe it's not something we need to worry about.

In a memo that has now been signed by about 70 institute members and advisers, including Judge Gertner, readers have been asked to consider the following scenario: “Person A and Person B are on a date and walking down the street. Person A, feeling romantically and sexually attracted, timidly reaches out to hold B’s hand and feels a thrill as their hands touch. Person B does nothing, but six months later files a criminal complaint. Person A is guilty of ‘Criminal Sexual Contact’ under proposed Section 213.6(3)(a).”

Far-fetched? Not as the draft is written. The hypothetical crime cobbles together two of the draft’s key concepts. The first is affirmative consent. The second is an enlarged definition of criminal sexual contact that would include the touching of any body part, clothed or unclothed, with sexual gratification in mind. As the authors of the model law explain: “Any kind of contact may qualify. There are no limits on either the body part touched or the manner in which it is touched.” So if Person B neither invites nor rebukes a sexual advance, then anything that happens afterward is illegal. “With passivity expressly disallowed as consent,” the memo says, “the initiator quickly runs up a string of offenses with increasingly more severe penalties to be listed touch by touch and kiss by kiss in the criminal complaint.”

Source. I don't think using a broad technical definition like this would be very useful, but a narrow technical definition of rape seems like it could be pretty useful to measure.

This blog post makes the case for vague rules like "don't be a jerk" and "don't be creepy". Maybe that could make a good survey question: "Did you get creeped out by another EA in the past year? How creeped out were you on a scale of 1 to 10? Here's a rubric." I actually think a measure like this could be less controversial than trying to precisely define sexual assault. Hopefully even the most fraternity brother-ish of EAs can recognize the case for not creeping chicks out. (Similarly, having a central registry that tells people things like "a lot of people are getting creeped out by you" seems like it could maybe work better than trying to define what exactly constitutes "assault"--it frames the problem as something you'd like to become aware of and fix, like having body odor, as opposed to grounds for ostracization? Of course ostracization is in fact justified in some cases--I'm just thinking aloud here.)

I suppose one issue with these measures is that they will fluctuate depending on the presence/absence of highly sensitive people in the movement. Overall, I'm much more comfortable using measures like these as indicators for what we should prioritize internally vs an overall measure of the moral worth of the movement. In other words, maybe we should not make them public? I don't know.

It might also be interesting to include a measure of how many women in EA would like men in EA to be more direct and sexually assertive with them--see this comment.

The reason I want to write a separate article about the number of sex offenders in EA is because it appears quite controversial. If we can get closer to having a consensus on sexual violence related matters, I think this will make us more effective at reducing it. The purpose of the article is not to create a more accurate number. I'm not even sure that's possible. The purpose of the article is to address the controversy, explore the complexities, and encourage people to compensate for the various biases that may be interfering.

Well, as a man in EA, I don't like the idea of people thinking of me as a possible sex offender--especially if I'm not, in fact, a sex offender. And whenever you try to estimate how X men in EA are sex offenders, no matter what X you tell people, you've framed things in a way that is gonna make people see me as a possible sex offender. So maybe that's why you got some pushback on that statement.

I'm happy for us to do a survey to measure sex offenses, because that will give us a way to actually measure and fight the problem. I know that any nonzero number that survey finds is going to reflect poorly on me, a man in EA, even if the number is much lower than we'd expect on base rates, because of the framing effects I discussed. However, I am willing to pay that cost because I care about addressing the problem of sexual assault. But I think trying to make an estimate based on prior information will just stir people up.

Edit: I've set up a collaboration with the yearly EA survey team!


Comment author: Kathy_Forth 14 November 2017 08:58:37AM 1 point [-]

No, I do not paint a picture of criminal men and female survivors. Direct quotes:

"Sexual violence harms the health of both men [3] [4] and women." "Additional risk factors - rape myths that apply to male rape:" "While looking for the number of female rapists, I found a meta-analysis on female sex offenders."

This isn't even in the article at all:

"along with high rates of trauma at 90%+ for female survivors."

I haven't even read the rest of your comment because your claims are blatantly, verifiably false.

Comment author: Marcus_N 14 November 2017 08:53:41AM *  4 points [-]

Thanks for this post. It's brave, thorough, fair, and well-researched--a breath of fresh air compared to 99% of internet discussion on this topic.

I have seen several responses saying things like this, but in reality, the research in this article goes only as far as collecting the standard feminist narrative on sexual assault, which is not original and can be found in many places if you are familiar with this subject. The only thing that's new is attempting to marry this perspective to EA, despite the methodology being highly partisan and significantly different from EA methodology.

Among the problems:

  • uncritically taking feminist sexual assault prevalence research at face value, without addressing the many methodological criticisms
  • mixing and matching studies with very different populations and methods to maximize the perception of male perpetration and female victimhood
  • failing to address the debate on false accusations
  • failing to discover any of the complicating lines of research, such as the token resistance research, and the research on self-justification and unreliability of memory
  • discussing drastic and hasty interventions like stings and medicalization
  • accusing an entire community of males of containing hundreds of rapists based on poorly-executed studies on a totally different population

While the article is being criticized for being too long, in some ways, it's actually too short to support the extraordinary claims it is making, which are perhaps not fully recognized as extraordinary due to feminist research not being held to the same standards as other fields, and all sorts of glaring errors being normalized.

Here is my detailed rebuttal which is only enough to cover some of those problems, and here is an additional comment on the lack of balance in the original post.

Comment author: Kathy_Forth 14 November 2017 08:32:51AM *  3 points [-]

I know about the replication crisis, I've read "Statistics Done Wrong" and I've read some Ioannidis. Perhaps I was too subtle, my way of addressing these concerns was to load up on as many review articles and meta-analyses as I could find, in all the areas where there was enough research for me to do so. In other areas, I looked for as many studies as I could find and included them all.

This is not perfect either. Ioannidis has warned about some specific vulnerabilities in meta-analyses and review articles. There isn't something perfect for me to do. I could have chosen to do nothing because the research is flawed. I decided that the subject is too important to ignore and I made the best of it.

A social sciences research disclaimer has been added. I thought that research quality issues were common knowledge in this social network. Maybe it is. Maybe that's mind projection fallacy. Now they have note about research quality.

Comment author: Marcus_N 14 November 2017 08:03:59AM *  2 points [-]

Feminist sexual assault ideology and the non-central fallacy

If the methodological objections to the validity of feminist sexual assault statistics aren’t enough, I would like to raise another class of objections: that feminists, and the original post, are hopping between reference classes to paint a picture of criminal, paraphiliac men, and innocent, traumatized female survivors.

The original post mixes together supposed prevalence rates of 36.3% for female survivors, supposed 6% prevalence for male rapists, along with high rates of trauma at 90%+ for female survivors. This paints a very dark and urgent picture of the situation, and these numbers underly the impact math.

While the post obliquely mentions the possibility for misunderstandings, it portrays sexual assault perpetration in a highly criminal and medicalizing light, even discussing extreme measures like stings and medication for perpetrators.

What the post doesn’t tell you is that all these studies are on different populations with different methodologies. The women who are traumatized by rape at a rate of 90%+, or suicidal, are not selected through the methodology in which 36.3% of women are pseudoscientifically categorized as sexually assaulted. You can’t combine those figures and think that 36.3% of women are sexually assaulted and 90%+ of those same women are traumatized.

(The original post does not explicitly multiply those two figures, but it does a lot of multiplication and ties together figures of survivors and rapists across studies with disparate methodologies, without acknowledging that it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison. It fails to acknowledge that “rape” in one study and a rape in another study are different things due to different operationalization. This is misleading at best, and lying by omission at worst.)

Likewise, you can’t take the 6% of men that feminist researchers pseudoscientifically categorize as rapists, and compare them to criminal population and paraphiliacs. Those are completely different populations. In criminal populations, they have been subject to due process and found to have intent (mens rea, in legal terms). That is very different and a zillion times more reliable than the process that feminist researchers use to determine rape, and a much smaller population.

It must be the case that most of the audience here didn’t read the article, because I’m not seeing anyone else catching these problems. Were the original poster and the entire audience here sleeping during the lectures on validity) during Psych 101?

It is likely that most of the situations that generate these high victimization or perpetration numbers are false positives and misunderstandings, based on the model of feminist social psychologist Carol Tavris, who argues that men and women have different perceptions of consent due to self-justification, unreliable memory, and differences in sexual psychology (I highly recommend that talk because it is more useful for understanding sexual assault than all other feminist work on the subject put together, and it’s also important to underscore how not everyone who disagrees with the standard feminist model is some sort of red-pill PUA or rape-myth-believing rape apologist).

If Tavris is correct, then common events that feminists and their studies would categorize as sexual assault are actually much murkier and ambiguous: more like innocent misunderstanding, or non-innocent recklessness or negligence, not knowing or purposeful violations). And the more clearcut cases of rape, assault, and groping—which do happen—are rarer, and the sort of predators who commit them are also rarer. This view makes a lot of sense unless you think a large minority of men are basically horrible monsters, and the rest are entitled jerks, which is essentially what feminists seem to believe due to their bad experiences with men.

Do we really need to be planning stings for “sexual assault” that comes from he-said, she-said misunderstandings? Should we really be treating people who were over-optimistic, who misread some mixed signals, as tantamount to criminals deserving of medication? The article claims to not want to start witch hunts, but that is exactly what it is proposing.

And of course, the worst of the multiplicative excesses of the original article is accusing the community of containing 100-600 rapists, despite male EA being a totally different reference class from the male population in the study where 6% of men were pseudoscientifically categorized as rapists. This is not just scientism of the worst degree, it’s socially aggressive and creepy.

It is both inaccurate and dishonest to conflate non-central “sexual assaults” (many of which are actually misunderstandings and lack mens rea, per Tavris) with mutually drunk sex or with criminally-prosecutable behavior or Weinstein-style intentional paraphiliac predation. Lumping all these things together into the same category, and associating them with the stigma originally attached to stranger-in-bushes rape, is not helpful for anything except guilt-tripping. These kinds of errors are entirely overlooked and normalized in hyper-partisan feminist discourse.

Contra feminists, and contra the “anti-abuse” activism trend that is growing increasingly popular in EA, most human behavior is a lot more complicated than cartoonish villains and innocent victims. While granting that one-sided predation exists, it is likely that most situations of unwanted sexual contact are not entirely one-sided and lack mens rea. For instance, women do use sexuality to get ahead in business, which makes workplace advances less unreasonable than they would otherwise be.

As an analogy, feminist researchers have sworn that domestic violence is primarily male-on-female, but then Straus and Gelles came along and discovered that DV is much more gender symmetrical than feminists believed. And it looks like the largest category of DV is situational mutual violence, not the one-sided male-on-female terrorism and control that feminists claimed. Likewise, I think that we will eventually discover that most unwanted sexual experiences are a form of mutual misunderstanding and conflict, with a smaller prevalence of reckless and negligent behavior, and an even smaller prevalence of knowing perpetrators and purposeful predators.

As long as males and female can make advances on each other, some of these advances are going to be unwanted, some of these unwanted advances will be in good faith, and some will be in bad faith. This probably is unsolvable by anything other than physical separation, and no amount of feminist browbeating of men can change this, no amount of BDSM-style communication about consent, either. The current zeitgeist of accusations towards men will just cause predators to adapt and get better at silencing or blackmailing their victims, while well-intentioned men will get more suspicious of women and better at forming old boys’ clubs.

While I reject the one-sided picture that feminists paint of unwanted sexual advances, I do acknowledge that even good faith misunderstandings can lead someone to feel violated. I do agree with some of the prescriptions of the article, such as minimizing alcohol at mixed-sex parties, and the problems with men and women together in seclusion. Unmarried men and women in close proximity, or with alcohol, is going to lead to predictable male-female misunderstandings and conflicts, as Tavris documents. If workplace situations are so dangerous, then perhaps we should bring back some level of sex-segregation in workplaces. If feminists are going to engage in such a Victorian portrayal of female vulnerability, then they should go all the way and recognize that the patriarchy actually had solutions to a lot of the problems they are complaining of.

Comment author: Marcus_N 14 November 2017 08:02:28AM *  2 points [-]

The case in this article draws heavily on the field of sexual violence research, but methodological problems in this field and premature thinking on the part of the author make this piece suffer from several problems: it skips over important methodological questions, misleads the audience about the rates of sexual violence, and advises hasty and socially punitive solutions.

It sounds like most of the audience hasn’t read the article closely and they are greatly underestimating the problems with it. As someone familiar with a lot of the literature referenced, my perception is that this article is recapitulating the standard feminist model of sexual assault, and attempting to insert this bottom line into an EA impact framework. My comment here is going to be a detailed multi-part rebuttal.

Sexual assault research is not valid

To understand what’s wrong with the validity) of the sexual assault research field, we will first examine the biasing incentives, and then we will break down the methodology of these studies in more detail.

Social science has a reputation for being a soft science, and sexual assault research is the softest corner of a softest field. Most of the researchers involved identify as political activists, feminists, or victim advocates. That’s not the most neutral approach. They get funding from government bodies with agendas, and their findings are used for political reasons: to expand the power of the federal government over universities, cause media outrage, create kangaroo courts, and to provide campaign-fodder for politicians. Sexual assault researchers have been caught committing outright fabrications and academic misconduct, which nonetheless become the basis for policy. Feminist researchers who produce high prevalence numbers will get lucrative consulting gigs or awards.

There is a strong incentive for sexual assault research to produce figures like “X% of women have been assaulted,” or “Y% of men admit to being rapists.” This article itself relies on these sorts of claims to present sexual assault as a common problem, and sexual assault prevention as a high-impact cause.

The original post cites figures like "36.3% of women and 17.1%” have been sexually assaulted. Elsewhere you, may see figures like “1 in 4” or “1 in 5” women have been raped. The article also cites a figure that 6% of men admit to committing rape.

Are these figures really credible, though? Of course not. Let’s take a look at these studies with our skeptic hats on.

You might be forgiven for thinking that 36.3% of women label themselves as sexually assaulted, or that 6% of men admit to committing rape. This is absolutely not how these surveys work. If people are asked such questions directly, there is a very low rate of agreement. For instance, in crime surveys, few women define themselves as a victim of the crime or rape or sexual assault.

Feminist researchers and activists had a bottom line: they believed that the true rate of rape was much higher, and that women were underreporting their victimization. So they started searching for a methodology to “prove” what they already believed, such as a Mary Koss’ “Sexual Experiences Survey”, which asks people if they were in certain situations, and then categorizes some of these situations as rape or sexual assault (based on conformance to a legal definition, or to the researchers’ own definition). This methodology generates much higher prevalence rates, which is why subsequent feminist researchers started using similar approaches. Very few people have pushed back against this approach, such as Christina Hoff Sommers. My argument here will be a more detailed version of hers.

So far we have reasons to distrust the field due to being greatly politicized or biased, but next we need to look at their actual methodology and see whether it is also biased. We can find the questions in the 2010 NIVS, Appendix C. I will excerpt some of them:

When you were drunk, high, drugged, or passed out and unable to consent, how many people ever…

  • had vaginal sex with you? By vaginal sex, we mean that {if female: a man or boy put his penis in your vagina}
  • {if male: a woman or girl made you put your penis in her vagina}? {if male}
  • made you perform anal sex, meaning that they made you put your penis into their anus?
  • made you receive anal sex, meaning they put their penis into your anus?
  • made you perform oral sex, meaning that they put their penis in your mouth or made you penetrate their vagina or anus with your mouth?
  • made you receive oral sex, meaning that they put their mouth on your {if male: penis} {if female: vagina} or anus?

Feminist sexual assault researchers count a “yes” on this question as evidence of sexual assault. But there are some obvious problems:

It’s ambiguous whether “unable to consent” modifies the whole list of situations, or just passed out. I think society generally agrees that sex with someone “passed out and unable to consent” is rape. But that question can be read in a way that someone could answer “yes” if they have had sex while drunk or high. But society does not agree with feminists that drunk or high sex is necessarily rape. In fact, it’s common for people to get drunk or high together as part of consensual sex.

Next question:

How many people have ever used physical force or threats to physically harm you to make you…

  • have vaginal sex?
  • {if male} perform anal sex?
  • receive anal sex?
  • make you perform oral sex?
  • make you receive oral sex?
  • put their fingers or an object in your {if female: vagina or} anus?

Surely an assent on this one is clearly sexual assault, right? Not so fast. Remember, we are reading this with our skeptic hats on, and our chivalrous hats off (and definitely with our feminist hats off). To people who are not bourgeois feminists, it’s likely that this is actually a loaded and convoluted question, which is not perfectly correlated with rape.

  • Physical force? It may shock feminist academics, but many consensual sexual relationships have some level of light physical forcefulness, which is sometimes referred to as “rough sex” or “passion.” Feminists themselves sometimes admit that sex is not always people gently caressing each other, on the condition that people engage in complex verbal rituals for consent if they want to get wilder. This is known as “BDSM” among people with high verbal IQ. However, much of the population doesn’t agree with feminists that rougher sex requires tedious verbal negotiations, and they negotiate it nonverbally. Sometimes this results in rape, but it is incorrect to equate physical force with rape by definition, because it’s part of the fabric of common sexual patterns. (As an extreme example, try to define consent in a mutually violent relationship, like portrayed here.

  • Similar problems with the wording of “make you.” Maybe it means rape, but it’s not analytically equivalent to “rape.” There is no guarantee that respondents understand it to mean rape. If the researchers were asking about rape, why not ask explicitly?

What is the false positive rate on these questions? 1%? 10%? 50%? Who knows, but it’s definitely not 0%. And that poses a problem for these prevalence figures, and any activists who are hawking them. They are being dishonest by not acknowledging this.

The same logic and methodological problems apply to the claim that 6% of men are admitted rapists. No, they aren’t. 6% of men answer convoluted questions on surveys that cause feminist researchers to categorize them as rapists. That’s not the same thing as being rapists.

Sexual assault prevalence rates are highly sensitive to methodology and operationalization. There may be no way to find the “true” rate of rape or sexual assault, because the answer to those questions is “it depends on how you ask the questions.” The way that feminists ask the questions is very convoluted and idiosyncratic, and an assent on a sexual violence survey has low external validity and does not generalize well to real-world situations.

If your female friend comes to you in real life and says that she was raped, then you have a large amount of information from her body language, and you can hear her story. This is a totally different level of evidence from someone checking a box on a survey and the researchers categorizing that response as rape.

Feminist researchers could have sidestepped a lot of these questions by using a less broad and more defensible definition of rape. For instance, they could ask “have you been raped,” or “have you ever raped someone.” There would be a lot less debate about what responses to those questions mean. However, this approach would have generated much lower prevalence numbers, and meant that the researchers got scooped by other feminist researchers using a broader definition. There is a general statistical problem that the larger the magnitude of your results, the less probable they are.

After looking at these studies with a critical eye, do EAs really want to bet that the approach here is optimal?

Comment author: Kathy_Forth 14 November 2017 06:11:37AM *  5 points [-]

Yeah. There are a lot of different people using a lot of different definitions of sex offender. There are definitions like the undetected rapist study I linked which sticks to such obvious and stereotypical behaviors that it leaves out at least half of the ways one can do obvious bad things (Example: why didn't they ask about spiking drinks?). Then there are people who advocate asking for explicit consent for everything every time, starting with kissing. In practice, most of the people in my experience use things like context and body language to communicate about kissing rather than verbal consent. I have no idea how to resolve this mess of definitions. I guess people need to tell each other what consent philosophy they want to use in addition to stuff like sexual orientation. Maybe we need a norm of advertising our consent philosophy in prominent places the same way we do with gender, marital status and orientation.

Then, there's the fact that most guys are not hit on by other guys, and have not seen what the range of behavior looks like. A lot of them are surprised that it's very common for me to be asked things like whether I want to make out, whether I want to go home with him. I am coy rather than fast (referring to the distinctions Dawkins makes), so I can't really understand this but it doesn't bother me. I tend to assume those men are seeking fast women rather than relationships. Otherwise, I have no judgment. However, if some guy comes up and tells me to smile, my radar beeps and I want to recoil. Why? Because every guy who has ever said that to me has harassed the heck out of me afterward. I've been conditioned to hate it.

Plus, there's this weird variety in pickup lit which includes everything from perfectly healthy self-confidence tips to explicit instructions to commit sex offences.

A lot of guys I know don't have any idea what's normal. Some of them are terrified of trying at all or have given up. It's very sad.

I'm not fully aware of the male experience of this bizarre minefield of information. I might see only the tip of the ice berg. I can tell that it is a very confusing thing.

I really want to do something about this. I would benefit if all the men in my social network had a solid understanding of healthy boundaries. I think they would feel a lot less lost if they had that, too.

What are your thoughts on what needs to happen?

Comment author: xccf 14 November 2017 02:45:47AM 2 points [-]

I agree with all of this. Perhaps I'm too quick to extrapolate from my own experiences--I know that I've accidentally creeped out women in the past, and I always feel really bad about it afterwards, but this could be a bad mental model of the typical case.

Comment author: xccf 14 November 2017 02:42:27AM 4 points [-]

These are all good points. I find it totally plausible that some individuals are responsible for many assaults. I think this is a problem we should address. And I'm really sorry to hear about your experiences.

Comment author: Kathy_Forth 14 November 2017 02:34:20AM *  1 point [-]

I don't think we can have an accurate idea of how much sexual assault is happening in EA without a separate high-quality survey. This is because there are so many definitions of sexual violence which contradict one another, that to ensure an accurate picture of what's going on, we'd have to wrangle with definitions for a long time - and we'd end up asking a set of questions, not just one question.

I'd love to see a yearly undetected sex offender survey given to both men and women regarding how much sexual violence they committed against EAs in the last year, and a yearly sexual violence survey given to both men and women to ask how much sexual violence they received from EAs in the last year. If they added this to the yearly survey that would be awesome!

Then we'd have a way to track progress, and that's important. The survey would have to be designed very carefully from the beginning though.

The reason I want to write a separate article about the number of sex offenders in EA is because it appears quite controversial. If we can get closer to having a consensus on sexual violence related matters, I think this will make us more effective at reducing it. The purpose of the article is not to create a more accurate number. I'm not even sure that's possible. The purpose of the article is to address the controversy, explore the complexities, and encourage people to compensate for the various biases that may be interfering.

Edit: I've set up a collaboration with the yearly EA survey team!

Comment author: xccf 14 November 2017 02:14:20AM 2 points [-]

Why do you feel it's important to have a more accurate guess regarding the number of sexually violent people in EA? I'm in favor of trying to measure the rate of sexual assault using e.g. the EA survey, because that is a metric we can track in order to measure whether things are improving. (Ideally using a question such as "Were you assaulted in the past year?", so our metric will be responsive year over year.) But it seems to me that time spent refining our guess based on priors would be better spent implementing measures to reduce sexual assault.

Comment author: RyanCarey 14 November 2017 01:41:21AM 4 points [-]

Thanks for writing this. I agree that reference management is really useful for paper-writing, and I have come across a bunch of these resources repeatedly. I get the impression people vary a bunch in how much they use subject-specific databases and the structured queries. I usually get by pretty well with Google Scholar. I don't encounter too much noise with the machine learning and biology work that I tend to read, although I can imagine they would be super useful if I was publishing a literature review.

The video at the start is a cool blog post structure. I wonder if anyone else will try it...

Comment author: Kathy_Forth 14 November 2017 01:08:05AM *  4 points [-]

On punishment and stigma: I think it would be better for everyone if we found a cure for sexual violence and persuaded all the offenders to use it. That said, I have no idea what the rest of the world will choose to do. I suggested two options which can scale globally, sting operations and researching a cure. I cannot leave out an option if it might succeed because that would be a failure of honesty, and because I think using either option is much better than letting them run amok.

I did note that finding a cure for sex offenders is probably more cost effective because most of the cost will be paid by the sex offenders themselves when they pay for their prescription and because I think it will scale better. Also, a cure can prevent offences from happening in the first place if people use it early on. Justice can only happen after harm has been done. A prevention method would get at more of the problem for this reason, and therefore has a chance to be more effective.

I think a cure is both more fair to the taxpayers who didn't cause this problem and shouldn't have to pay to fix it, and more fair toward offenders and non-offending paraphilia sufferers who did not choose to have their paraphilias - especially if they would choose to be cured if a cure were available.

I definitely relate to the desire for justice. I suspect that it reduces psychological trauma if justice is swift - like in that study about self defence which shows people experienced less trauma if they fought back, even if they didn't win. I have occasionally had an opportunity to tell off an offender immediately after an offence, and that does seem to reduce the harm to me.

I don't know if justice improves the survivor's health days or weeks or years after the fact, but I suspect justice does help if it's swift enough.

I think the desire for justice is healthy, though it can easily become twisted and go wayward. There are countless examples of a desire for justice going horribly wrong throughout history like the Salem witch hunts and the Spanish Inquisition. I try to avoid the sort of careless thinking which seems to be behind this sort of twisted behavior.

If people choose to use the justice approach, I don't really know where people should draw the line, honestly, and this is because the whole mess is so complicated. Here are a few things I am sure of, in case sharing my perspective may be useful in some way:

  1. If we have a credible reason to believe an offender has reformed and the risk they pose is average, there is no reason to insist that they accept a criminal label like "rapist". There is no reason to pursue somebody who is of average risk when there are high risk people running amok. If they did the hard work to change, and to provide credible evidence that they are actually low risk, I would give them the basic acceptance they are seeking. (For instance: I would treat them like a human being when I see them around, though I'd be unlikely to invite them to my next sleep over.) That said, it is super hard for people to believe someone has reformed. I'm not sure if there is any type of evidence that is of high enough quality that it can be used for this purpose. Each individual person will make their own decisions about whether to trust someone who claims to have reformed, and some people will have much higher standards of evidence than others. At best, acceptance after reformation would be imperfect and it might be highly controversial.

  2. If someone has not reformed, and we have every reason to believe they pose a risk, then we aught to take precautions, whether or not they were punished. This is sad, but punishment doesn't actually cure sex offenders. Please check their recidivism rate. I know some people want to believe in "paying a debt to society" or "doing your time" but this is different from lowering risk. If someone raped someone, and they did nothing to reform, I don't want them around me, and I think this is perfectly reasonable. Other people may have done some stuff to the rapist, and other people may have beliefs about repaying debts, but if other people did not cure the rapist, the rapist still poses a risk. I will protect myself, period.

Comment author: Kathy_Forth 14 November 2017 12:12:16AM *  4 points [-]

On "minor" sex offences vs. rape: even if the 900 acts per frottage figure is wrong, I suspect that acts like groping and frotteurism are far more common than rape. Because frottage offences are so much easier to commit, I believe that frottage offences are likely to be several times as common as rape. I would even go so far as to bet that we can agree on this point.

I didn't find any information on whether frottage causes psychological trauma. My own observations tell me that frottage offences do cause psychological trauma, but it's usually less intense.

So, if we were to compare the average rapist with the average groper, we might find that psychological trauma caused by the groper adds up. This might compare with the amount of trauma caused by a rapist. It might even exceed that amount. Maybe it does not even come close. I have no good way to tell since I did not find any studies on the amount of trauma caused by frottage offences.

Another important thing to note is that each time someone experiences psychological trauma, their sensitivity to future trauma increases. (I suspect I learned this from "The Body Remembers" but I'm not sure.)

So, it might be that if someone is groped ten times, by the tenth time, the experience is as bad as a rape. Maybe it would take a hundred times to get to that point. Maybe three. If I had to shoot from the hip, I'd give it a Fermi estimate between 10-100 times, but I really am not sure. Maybe sensitivity would never increase so much that one frottage offence would be as traumatic as a rape.

Also, and this is really important: the amount of trauma caused by a frottage offence varies greatly depending on context.

For a comparison: I was targeted by an acquaintance in a coat closet at a night club, by a co-worker on a job, and by a popular person at a party. I never had to see the guy from the night club again, so I just avoided the night club and felt fine. The co-worker caused me more problems. I became concerned about things happening to me in workplaces. That was context.

The popular person was far worse than either of those. I was sleep deprived due to jet lag, which a friend and I estimated amplified the trauma by about 3x. Also, this person is higher status than I am and tried smearing me. That situation was several times as traumatic as any of my previous experiences. I still have nightmares about this person sometimes.

Say you have a high status frottage offender, who is very prolific, who targets people who have just flown in and have jet lag, and who likes smearing his victims afterward. I think that a particularly destructive frottage offender of this description could easily do as much damage as a rapist.

Given my level of uncertainty about the psychological effects of frottage, and given the likelihood that frottage is far more common than rape, I am concerned about it. Therefore it was included. Perhaps I need to do a better job of explaining to everyone why I am so concerned about frottage offenders.

Comment author: JamesDrain 14 November 2017 12:10:45AM 0 points [-]

Ha, I think the problem is just that your formalization of Newcomb's problem is defined so that one-boxing is always the correct strategy, and I'm working with a different formulation. There are four forms of Newcomb's problem that jibe with my intuition, and they're all different from the formalization you're working with.

  1. Your source code is readable. Then the best strategy is whatever the best strategy is when you get to publicly commit e.g. you should tear off the wheel when playing chicken if you have the opportunity to do so before your opponent.
  2. Your source code is readable and so is your opponent's. Then you get mathy things like mutual simulation and lob's theorem.
  3. We're in the real world, so the only information the other player has to guess your strategy is information like your past behavior and reputation. (This is by far the most realistic situation in my opinion.)
  4. You're playing against someone who's an expert in reading body language, say. Then it might be impossible to fool them unless you can fool yourself into thinking you'll one-box. But of course, after the boxes are actually in front of you, it would be great for you if you had a change of heart.

Your version is something like 5. Your opponent can simulate you with 100% accuracy, including unforeseen events like something unexpected causing you to have a change of mind.

If we're creating AIs that others can simulate, then I guess we might as well make them immune to retro blackmail. I still don't see the implications for humans, who cannot be simulated with 100% fidelity and already have ample intuition about their reputations and know lots of ways to solve coordination problems.

Comment author: Kathy_Forth 13 November 2017 11:09:55PM 4 points [-]

I know about the replication crisis, I've read "Statistics Done Wrong" and I've read some Ioannidis. Perhaps I was too subtle, my way of addressing these concerns was to load up on as many review articles and meta-analyses as I could find, in all the areas where there was enough research for me to do so. In other areas, I looked for as many studies as I could find and included them all.

This is not perfect either. Ioannidis has warned about some specific vulnerabilities in meta-analyses and review articles. There isn't something perfect for me to do. I could have chosen to do nothing because the research is flawed. I decided that the subject is too important to ignore and I made the best of it.

Comment author: Kathy_Forth 13 November 2017 11:03:42PM *  1 point [-]

I plan to write a new post about estimating the number of sexually violent people in EA. I have a large number of specific concerns about biasing our estimate. For instance, a lot of people commented or messaged me saying that the estimate was too high, but they didn't incorporate any of the information which would actually increase the estimate. They only included information that would decrease the estimate. There are a lot of other ways we could go wrong with adjusting this estimate. That's part of why my estimate is so simple. If I adjust it at all, I could easily be introducing biases.

I will invite the whole EA community to provide specific references that are related. I don't know that this would decrease the chance of bias. It might increase the chance of bias. However, with such a post, one will at least see how complicated it is, think about whether one's perspective is biased, and hopefully start compensating for whatever biases are present.

Comment author: Kathy_Forth 13 November 2017 10:52:39PM 1 point [-]

The per year incidence is a totally different type of number from the numbers I used. The numbers I used cover a much longer time span. Comparing 276,000 annual cases to the number 36,53,846 is comparing apples to oranges.

It is not clear that your intent was to disagree with me. If you are throwing in an additional reference, I can't incorporate that because the other research I referred to wasn't using annual figures.

I suppose it's interesting as something to check against. For an outrageously crude way to do that, you can multiply 276,000 by 80, the number of years in the average female lifespan (for one country) and compare a hacked together lifetime rate to my hacked together 36,53,846.

Comment author: vollmer  (EA Profile) 13 November 2017 09:38:31PM 0 points [-]

Thanks for sharing!

Do you have recommendations for tools to manage reading lists? Especially doing the things that you describe in your flowchart (list types/categories/tags, dragging items around and reordering them, etc.). Mobile apps would be a plus. I've experimented with several tools (e.g. Pocket / Instapaper) but will probably stick with Google Docs / Evernote.

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