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Lila comments on An Exploration of Sexual Violence Reduction for Effective Altruism Potential - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: Lila 12 November 2017 10:10:24PM 13 points [-]

103 - 607 male rapists in EA

False precision much? This seems like an inappropriately specific number - it makes it sound like you have concrete evidence, but in reality you're just multiplying the number of men in EA by 6%. I hope that this number won't start getting spread around.

A more tractable approach to reducing the trauma from sexual violence might be to change perceptions of sexuality. Many people believe that it's important for women to be sexually "pure", which is one reason that female victims experience trauma.

Feminists, to their credit, reject such notions, but if anything they interpret sexual violence even more symbolically - as an attempt to have power over women and "violate" them, whatever that means. According to feminist theory, rape is never about sexual gratification. However, there isn't much evidence for this interpretation. Interviews with convicted sex offenders reveal a mix of motivations. In addition, there does seem to be a relationship between sexual attractiveness and probability of rape. For example, one study looked at female robbery victims, using age as a proxy for attractiveness. (For obvious reasons, we can't actually study the attractiveness of victims.) Middle-aged and older women were far less likely to be raped by their assailant.

Setting aside the empirical question of whether rape is actually about destroying the victim's autonomy, it seems unhelpful to interpret negative events in one's life symbolically, personalize them, or cast them as part of a larger conspiracy. Cognitive behavioral therapy and other techniques may help victims overcome irrational negative beliefs.

Comment author: xccf 13 November 2017 04:32:53AM *  12 points [-]

I also found this stat frustrating. The "A 1:6 ratio means 7 rapes per 6 women on average" stat frustrated me even more--it assumes that EA men are rapists at the base rate of the population at large (probably false), and that every time a rapist rapes someone, if the rapist is an EA, their victim must be an EA too.

I worry that hearing stats like this will cause women to avoid EA, which will then contribute to the imbalanced gender ratio that Kathy has identified as being part of the problem.

Comment author: Kathy_Forth 13 November 2017 12:29:47AM *  2 points [-]

Good point about false precision. I hadn't thought of that. The article has been updated!

You wrote: "A more tractable approach to reducing the trauma from sexual violence might be to change perceptions of sexuality. Many people believe that it's important for women to be sexually "pure", which is one reason that female victims experience trauma."

You didn't cite anything for this. I am concerned that some people may become confused and think they can convince women to tolerate atrocity. There are people out there who will twist anything into a justification to rape. Your paragraph there is the sort of information they might twist into rationalizations and cognitive distortions.

I've read a lot of research on psychological trauma. I'm convinced that most people have an instinctive reaction to sexual violence which involves psychological trauma being triggered automatically. From where I'm sitting, it looks like you just haven't done very much reading on this topic.

For one thing, if sexual trauma is social programming, why do men respond in the same manner? Shouldn't they have a different reaction? If a woman rapes a man, he will be psychologically traumatized. I've heard of men who were baffled by their own sexual trauma. Men are harmed, too, and in a similar way to what women experience.

Children don't even have social programming about sex yet. A lot of children have never even heard of sex. Yet, if a child is raped, that's psychologically devastating. The effects can last their whole lives. Explain that.

Comment author: Lila 13 November 2017 12:45:06AM 5 points [-]

I'm convinced that most people have an instinctive reaction to sexual violence which involves psychological trauma being triggered automatically.

There's no reason that this should be the case.

Yet, if a child is raped, that's psychologically devastating. The damage can last their whole lives. Explain that.

There are a lot of factors that are difficult to untangle. The ways that adults or peers react can certainly have an influence. I heard one father saying that a sexual abuser "stole his daughter's innocence", or something in a similar vein. While I'm sure he meant well, I'm not sure if these types of heavy-handed symbolic declarations are constructive for healing. I think sexual abuse could be prevented and its effects could be mitigated if people could have conversations (including with children) about healthy sexuality versus violence and coercion. Instead, some people seem more upset about the "sexual" side than the abuse side.

Comment author: Kathy_Forth 13 November 2017 02:47:21AM *  1 point [-]

There are many statements people make to other people that are similarly discouraging / humiliating / upsetting. Verbal abuse is certainly bad for people, but people's reaction to sexual abuse is very different. Making statements like the one you described does not cause the sort of sudden, deep, intense, devastating psychological trauma you see with rape. You're comparing an apple to an orange here.

Additionally, hearing one's dad say a rapist stole your innocence is bad, but it's not going to account for most of the upset. Not nearly. It seems that you are vastly underestimating the intensity of psychological trauma that comes with rape.

Attributing a sexual trauma to a verbal statement is like blaming a snowflake for an ice berg. The ice berg was not caused by the snowflake. The snowflake is too small.

It seems like you'd really like to understand trauma better. There are good authors on this topic. Instead of chatting with me, it would be far higher value for you to read this book:

https://www.amazon.com/Body-Keeps-Score-Healing-Trauma/dp/0143127748/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1510541134&sr=8-2&keywords=the+body+remembers

Comment author: Lila 13 November 2017 03:15:51AM 0 points [-]

It seems that you are vastly underestimating the intensity of psychological trauma that comes with rape.

Even if this is descriptively true (and I think it varies a lot - some people aren't bothered long-term), there's no reason that this is a desirable outcome. Everything is mediated through attitudes.

Comment author: Kathy_Forth 14 November 2017 11:54:09PM *  0 points [-]

Some people have blue eyes and other people have brown eyes. A lot of mind-related traits vary from intelligence to personality to capacity to pay attention. Not everybody even has two chromosomes (see XXY).

If not everyone experiences sexual trauma, let's not jump to the conclusion that it's due to culture. There are a multitude of possible reasons. For just one example: they might have different genes.

I definitely have the capacity to experience trauma, and I'm pretty sure that's genetic, so it's not fair to me for people to expect me not to experience it. In fact, I think it would be more traumatic for me to experience my natural instinct for trauma and then be told I shouldn't experience trauma. Telling me I should have experienced less trauma would hurt me too.

If someone doesn't experience trauma, don't assume it's genes, either. It might not be genes or culture. To assume it must be one of these is a false dichotomy. There could be dozens of different possible reasons why that might happen, and we just don't know.

Point: just because some people didn't experience trauma when they could have does not mean we should expect for everyone else to stop experiencing trauma. First of all, we don't even know why some people don't experience it. This is totally unfair to the victim because victims do not actually know how to stop experiencing trauma.

Second of all, expecting people to reduce their experience of trauma puts the responsibility onto the victim. Sex offenders might be confused by this sort of thinking. They might tell themselves "the victim shouldn't feel trauma" and then feel good about going off to commit a whole bunch of sex offences, blaming the victims for all the negative consequences. This is how sex offenders think. They create justifications to commit crimes. These are called cognitive distortions.

By arguing in favor of an attitude that can be used as a justification to commit sex offences, you are making us all less safe.