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

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Comment author: Marcus_N 14 November 2017 08:02:28AM *  1 point [-]

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 08:32:51AM *  2 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 15 November 2017 12:13:30AM *  3 points [-]

Truly acknowledging the problems with social science in general, and these studies in specific, would involve greatly softening your argument and shelving most of your prescriptions and impact analysis.

Sometimes, the best a field has to offer isn’t good enough to support policy recommendations, and epistemic humility requires acknowledging this. This body of research just isn’t strong enough to do the things that you want to do with it. I think that both you and the audience here has the sophistication to recognize the flaws in this research, and the lack of recognition is explained by biasing factors.

If you find feminist sexual assault research plausible based on your experiences, if you think that a large minority of men are rapists, paraphiliacs, harassers, or frotteurs, then that’s OK—everyone has their experience. But please mark your true reasons for believing those things, rather than acting like it’s scientifically solid enough to be a basis policy and community interventions. Then other people can make up their minds based on their own experiences.

Although you report following the review articles and meta-analyses, it is notable that all the evidence you discovered lines up perfectly with standard feminist narratives and your own experiences. From there, you jump into some very divisive prescriptions without seriously examining the countervailing evidence or the methodological problems. This is hasty at best, and morally questionable at worst—especially if, as you say, you were already aware of the methodological issues with social science.

Here are some of the things you either did not encounter or address. I am not claiming that you should have addressed any particular one of these, but they are critical parts of this debate:

  • The decades of criticism towards feminist rape statistics by Christina Hoff Sommers, among others.

  • The false accusation research.

  • The reality of how people communicate consent, which is primarily nonverbal and implicit, counter to the ideals of feminists and the BDSM community. This paper (unfortunately paywalled) cites a bunch of studies finding things like large percentages of women believing that they are giving consent to sex by doing nothing, or not resisting.

  • The problems of self-justification, unreliable memory, and sex differences in communication pointed out by feminist sociologist Carol Tavris.

  • The research on token resistance. Token resistance is often considered to be a misogynistic PUA red-pill rape myth, but it turns out that the concept has been extensively studied by feminist researchers, who find that women are often very internally divided about sex. One study found that 39% of women had engaged in token resistance, though later research complicated this figure. If indeed there is such a thing as token resistance, or “nonconsensual wanted sex”, or “consensual unwanted sex”, then this validates the common male complaints about women giving mixed signals, and Tavris’ claims about misunderstandings. It also causes significant problems for 3rd parties adjudicating he-said, she-said situations if communication is not straightforward.

  • The collapse of many of the high profile rape accusations backed by the media, such as the Rolling Stone story where a reporter went looking for a sympathetic rape victim, and the story fell apart. This proves that media coverage of sexual assault is inaccurate and biased towards feminism.

  • The college kangaroo courts for sexual assault in universities, which are based on the same sorts of scare-mongering statistics used in the original post. This leads to immense violations of due process (e.g. Sexual Assault Injustice at Occidental: College Railroads Accused Student, and Stanford Trains Student Jurors That ‘Acting Persuasive and Logical’ is Sign of Guilt). The policies are the direct result of the adoption of the same sorts of propagandistic statistics you are citing.

I would be surprised if you have never encountered any of these arguments, and you’ve never heard of Hoff Sommers, or the Rolling Stone story. If not, then your research is so deeply steeped in feminism that it has led you astray and caused you lose sight of any other perspectives. Addressing a single one of these issues would have caused your piece to be a lot more balanced. As it is, the original post comes off as the standard feminist anti-rape narrative inside a thin shell of effective altruism.

Comment author: kbog  (EA Profile) 15 November 2017 01:22:23AM *  3 points [-]

If people are asked such questions directly, there is a very low rate of agreement.

Did you even read the study? The men were asked directly, and 6% of them admitted to committing rape. I don't see what your complaints about feminist literature even has to do with it. Lisak and Miller are both psychologists. Violence and Victims is a broad journal with no specific dedication to feminist ideas. You're just using "feminism" as a term for research on gender issues which doesn't conform to your opinions.

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

What the hell? BDSM is not the same thing as rough sex, and yes, you must discuss it verbally beforehand; not doing that is startlingly bad practice. And "rough sex" does not entail being physically forced to have sex.

6% of men answer convoluted questions on surveys that cause feminist researchers to categorize them as rapists.

Could you do us a favor and tell us which of the questioned behaviors does not count as rape?

Specifically, do you believe that having sex with someone by "using or threatening to use physical force (twisting their arm, holding them down, etc) if they did not cooperate" is not rape?

Or do you believe that having "sexual intercourse with someone, even though they did not want to, because they were too intoxicated to resist your sexual advances" is not rape?

The way that feminists ask the questions is very convoluted and idiosyncratic

What is convoluted and idiosyncratic about asking someone "have you ever had sex with someone when they didn't want to?"

Comment author: Marcus_N 15 November 2017 07:12:45AM *  0 points [-]

Methodologies like Lisak’s—where respondents check a box on a multi-clause question—leave room for doubt over whether the respondent read the question carefully and understands the terms in the same way that the researchers do. Any of the terms that you believe are diagnostic of rape, such as "force", "didn't want to", etc... might be interpreted differently from how you would interpret them. You might think that the additional clauses would help clarify the matter, but actually the longer the question is, the higher the chances that the respondent will misinterpret it or focus on only one part of it.

Remember, most of the people answering these surveys are not feminist programmers or BDSM-practicing logicians. Words mean different things to different people.

The other way to get a false positive would be if someone agreed with one of those questions, but lacked the element of intention of mens rea. Rape refers to a crime involving mens rea. Feminists often discuss rape as an experience of violation by a victim, but this is a redefinition and case of the non-central fallacy. The high stigma of rape is calibrated towards cases where the perpetrator knows what he is doing. Cases of reckless or negligent sexual conduct—even if they cause an experience of violation—should be placed in a morally separate category from intentional or purposeful violations.

These issues are going to lead to a certain rate of false positives for Lisak's methodology, or Mary Koss' "Sexual Experiences Survey", or another methodology based on them. What is that rate of false positives? 1%? 10%? 50%? Who knows. But there is always going to be a cloud of doubt hanging over these methodologies.

Why might men answer positively on Lisak's study, if a rape had not occurred? I feel like you are trying to lay a trap with these questions rather than having open-minded curiosity. I don’t know why someone might check those boxes as a false positive. Maybe someday someone will do a study and ask them what happened. I don’t pretend to know what goes on in other people’s bedrooms. But what I do know is that sexual practices are highly varied based on culture, class, and ethnicity. I think we should be careful to avoid generalization from our own consent practices and interpretation of terms about consent that other people may not share.

I have it on good authority that sometimes neurotypical humans lightly spank each without getting consent first. In the wild, feral homo sapiens sometimes bite each other, scratch each other, or pull each others’ hair without verbally clearing it with each other. Is this nonconsensual BDSM behavior a “bad practice,” and must they change their ways? Is it sexual assault?

The problem with bourgeois-feminist sensibilities around sex is that they portray people with different norms as constantly assaulting and violating each other, when these people naively think they are fine. This variation in sexual practice and communication styles—such as some populations having a higher baseline level of verbal indirectness, mutual physical forcefulness, or token resistance—makes it harder to design a one-size-fits-all survey to demarcate rape.

What would be a better methodology for measuring rape perpetration? There are 3 methodologies that I would consider plausible:

  1. A criminal conviction.
  2. An explicit admission that uses the word "rape."
  3. A qualitative interview, where followup questions can clarify what happened, and establish intention and mens rea.

These methodologies would establish the lower bound of rape perpetration, and I don’t think anyone could debate them, because they don’t have interpretive gaps. I think that this is better than trying to establish the upper bound in a questionable way. Unfortunately, the ecosystem of activists, bureaucrats, journalists, and politicians, need the high stats for political reasons. It might be worth thinking about how to approach sexual assault prevention without using prevalence statistics.

Comment author: kbog  (EA Profile) 15 November 2017 09:26:06AM 3 points [-]

Methodologies like Lisak’s—where respondents check a box on a multi-clause question

But that wasn't Lisak's methodology. That was the methodology used by other researchers in other studies.

leave room for doubt over whether the respondent read the question carefully and understands the terms in the same way that the researchers do. Any of the terms that you believe are diagnostic of rape, such as "force", "didn't want to", etc... might be interpreted differently from how you would interpret them.

I don't see how. Those are pretty straightforward terms.

The other way to get a false positive would be if someone agreed with one of those questions, but lacked the element of intention of mens rea. Rape refers to a crime involving mens rea

No, rape is defined by the BJS as "Forced sexual intercourse including both psychological coercion and physical force. Forced sexual intercourse means vaginal, anal, or oral penetration by the offender(s). This category also includes incidents where the penetration is from a foreign object, such as a bottle. Includes attempted rape, male and female victims, and both heterosexual and same sex rape. Attempted rape includes verbal threats of rape." I have no clue where you got this idea that mens rea is involved.

Feminists often discuss rape as an experience of violation by a victim, but this is a redefinition and case of the non-central fallacy

No it's not, because the badness of rape doesn't derive from mens rea. Don't wield fallacies like weapons if you don't understand them.

The high stigma of rape is calibrated towards cases where the perpetrator knows what he is doing

I don't see any reason to believe this.

Cases of reckless or negligent sexual conduct—even if they cause an experience of violation—should be placed in a morally separate category from intentional or purposeful violations

Again, I don't see any reason to believe this.

These issues are going to lead to a certain rate of false positives for Lisak's methodology, or Mary Koss' "Sexual Experiences Survey", or another methodology based on them. What is that rate of false positives? 1%? 10%? 50%? Who knows

And presumably an equal rate of false negatives, unless you can give some specific reason to the contrary (which you haven't).

I don’t know why someone might check those boxes as a false positive.

Then it sounds like you don't know what you are talking about.

Maybe someday someone will do a study and ask them what happened.

That's exactly what Lisak did.

But what I do know is that sexual practices are highly varied based on culture, class, and ethnicity. I think we should be careful to avoid generalization from our own consent practices and interpretation of terms about consent that other people may not share.

There aren't any cultures or classes or ethnicities which interpret "force" or "didn't want to" in some unique way that makes forcing someone who doesn't want to have sex to have sex something other than rape.

I have it on good authority that sometimes neurotypical humans lightly spank each without getting consent first

That's not BDSM. It sounds like you don't know anything about BDSM. It's also not forcing someone to have sex.

The problem with bourgeois-feminist sensibilities around sex is that they portray people with different norms as constantly assaulting and violating each other, when these people naively think they are fine. This variation in sexual practice and communication styles—such as some populations having a higher baseline level of verbal indirectness, mutual physical forcefulness, or token resistance—makes it harder to design a one-size-fits-all survey to demarcate rape.

Seems pretty easy to me. You take the standard definition of rape, and ask people if they do it.

A criminal conviction

But lots of rapists aren't convicted.

An explicit admission that uses the word "rape."

But there are lots of people, such as yourself with your strange invocation of mens rea, who use nonsensical definitions of rape to make it seem like a narrower concept than it actually is.

A qualitative interview, where followup questions can clarify what happened, and establish intention

Well that's what Lisak did.

and mens rea.

Which is nonsense, as I have pointed out.

Comment author: Marcus_N 16 November 2017 02:21:18AM *  -1 points [-]

Your response comes off as very defensive and lacking in substance, so I don't have much to say other than reiterating my previous views.

Intent is a critical part of moral and legal philosophy, and rape is a general intent crime. The stigma for rape comes from a time when rape was considered to be an unambiguous or obviously intentional violation, such as a stranger jumping out of the bushes. It is both inaccurate and socially harmful to apply this stigma to a wider range of situations that may involve lack of intent or male-female communication problems.

I think the statistical approach to rape is barking up the wrong tree. Lisak's work, whether quantitative or qualitative is especially untrustworthy, and sheds doubt on the entire field. Using a more conservative, and less-debatable criteria for rape is essential, because the more aggressive definitions have large externalities in terms of distrust between men and women, policies that destroy civil liberties, and tear apart institutions and communities with finger-pointing.

People can interpret terms like "want to" differently. Here is a study by feminists discussing a category of "consensual unwanted sex."

As for other people's sexual psychology and consent practices, our perspectives seem very different, so there is little point in discussing it further.

Comment author: kbog  (EA Profile) 17 November 2017 04:19:58AM 0 points [-]

Your response comes off as very defensive and lacking in substance

Is that because I gave a point by point rebuttal to each of your ideas?

Intent is a critical part of moral and legal philosophy

Actually, in consequentialism intent is irrelevant.

The stigma for rape comes from a time when rape was considered to be an unambiguous or obviously intentional violation, such as a stranger jumping out of the bushes. It is both inaccurate and socially harmful to apply this stigma to a wider range of situations

That doesn't follow. The stigma for rape also comes from a time when the world population was less than 5 billion, but that doesn't mean that rapes that happened when the world population was more than 5 billion aren't equally bad.

I think the statistical approach to rape is barking up the wrong tree

Why?

Lisak's work, whether quantitative or qualitative is especially untrustworthy,

Why? That article doesn't do much to indicate that he is untrustworthy. Right-wing blogs on the Internet are not very trustworthy either, so I'm not sure why I should take anything at face value here.

and sheds doubt on the entire field.

What field? You do realize that "feminism" is not an academic field, right?

Using a more conservative, and less-debatable criteria for rape is essential

What is debatable or controversial about the statements in the surveys used in Lisak's study? Can you name a kind of sexual assault which would count as rape in that study, but which we shouldn't care much about?

because the more aggressive definitions have large externalities in terms of distrust between men and women

Pretty sure that there's just as much distrust whether rape is accidental or not.

People can interpret terms like "want to" differently

And in none of those ways is it okay to have sex with someone who doesn't want to.

Here is a study by feminists

What makes you say they are feminists?

discussing a category of "consensual unwanted sex."

And also discussing a category of "nonconsensual wanted sex," indicating that Lisak's figures may well be underestimates.

Comment author: DavidMoss 17 November 2017 05:29:47PM 1 point [-]

Actually, in consequentialism intent is irrelevant.

It might be relevant to the evaluation of the rightness of acts (in a certain sense), but it's not irrelevant (for consequentialists) to what type of act an act is or the evaluation of the actor. (We have other moral concepts aside from the rightness of acts) Consequentialists don't claim that open heart surgery is a murderous stabbing if it happens to be unsuccessful.

Comment author: kbog  (EA Profile) 20 November 2017 06:58:46AM *  0 points [-]

Consequentialism doesn't care about "what type of act an act is" because it views the rightness of acts purely in terms of their consequences, not in terms of what type of act an act is, or what kind of actor an actor is. Imagine if you said, "Utility is irrelevant for Kantian ethics", and then I said "no, it is relevant, because even though Kantians don't make decisions on the basis of utility, the amount of utility caused by a decision affects the Kantian's belief about the amount of utility caused by an action." So what? It's still irrelevant.

Comment author: DavidMoss 21 November 2017 01:30:27AM *  0 points [-]

Consequentialism doesn't care about "what type of act an act is" because it views the rightness of acts purely in terms of their consequences

This is definitely false, because consequentialists can and do analyse and evaluate acts in terms other than their rightness. I made this clear in my first sentence, whereas in your reply you are sliding from "consequentialism doesn't care..." to consequentialism "views the rightness of acts."

The claim MarcusN is making above is about what does and what does not count as rape. Consequentialists can say anything they like about their criterion for the _rightness of acts and it does not tell us anything about what type of act an act is. Put simply: irrespective of whether intent is relevant to the rightness of an act, consequentialists (the same as anyone) can still say that intent is relevant to whether an act is rape, just as they can say that consent is irrelevant to the rightness of an act, but relevant to whether it counts as rape.

Edit: For example, whether someone is intentionally killed may be irrelevant (to the consequentialist) to whether the act is wrong, but it's not irrelevant to whether it counts as murder.

Comment author: kbog  (EA Profile) 21 November 2017 06:06:06AM *  0 points [-]

This is definitely false, because consequentialists can and do analyse and evaluate acts in terms other than their rightness. I made this clear in my first sentence

If you mean it is normatively relevant to consequentialists what type of act an act is or what kind of actor is doing it, you are incorrect. Consequentialists are only normatively concerned with consequences, hence the name.

The claim MarcusN is making above is about what does and what does not count as rape. Consequentialists can say anything they like about their criterion for the _rightness of acts and it does not tell us anything about what type of act an act is. Put simply: irrespective of whether intent is relevant to the rightness of an act, consequentialists (the same as anyone) can still say that intent is relevant to whether an act is rape

But whether an act is rape or not is irrelevant to the consequentialist, because the consequentialist cares about the consequences of an act, not whether or not it counts as rape. I literally just addressed this in my prior comment and you are repeating yourself. Imagine if you said, "Utility is irrelevant for Kantian ethics", and then I said "no, it is relevant, because even though Kantians don't make decisions on the basis of utility, the amount of utility caused by a decision affects the Kantian's belief about whether actions are utility-maximizing or not." Yes, in a basic and trivial sense the Kantian's beliefs depend on the question, but in a normative sense it's totally irrelevant and a silly thing to bring up.

Never mind the fact that it is blatantly false that the definition of rape involves intent; Marcus gave no definition or support for this claim, even though I gave a substantive source to the contrary.

Comment author: Marcus_N 14 November 2017 08:03:59AM *  1 point [-]

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: Kathy_Forth 14 November 2017 08:58:37AM 0 points [-]

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 15 November 2017 12:12:21AM -1 points [-]

I read your post as painting a picture of criminal men and victimized women due to it uncritically referencing feminist statistics or narratives. Your post cites feminist research claiming that 36.3% of women have experienced sexual assault, and that 6% of men admit to rape. You then jump from these figures into discussing high trauma rates for female survivors, and male sex offender populations, even though these are from studies with totally different populations.

These prevalence figures are extraordinary claims and require extraordinary evidence, which the incredibly politicized and methodologically flawed sexual assault studies do not supply. The effect of this narrative is to exaggerate the female victimization rate, male perpetration rate, and the rate of male criminality and paraphilias beyond what the evidence supports. By suggesting radical measures like stings and medicalization, you are implying that the population of male predators is sufficiently large to make this necessary, and the evidence is sufficiently solid—an extraordinary accusation against your own community.

While you do acknowledge a lesser amount of male victimization and female perpetration—which some feminists don't acknowledge—this doesn't solve the problem that your piece drastically overestimates the level of female victimization and male perpetration, and paints an overly negative view of men, which will lead people unfamiliar with the methodological issues astray. My criticism is not that you are underestimating male victimhood: I believe that the male victimization studies suffer from the same methodological problems as the female victimization studies.

By uncritically referencing feminist statistics and narratives, your article is—likely unwittingly—inheriting the bad feminists habits of irresponsible use of evidence and self-righteous patholagization towards men. This baggage will undermine both the rigor and empathy of your case, particularly in the ears of men.

As for my claim that you were citing 90%+ trauma rates, xccf is right. That was my short-hand way of summarizing your section “Sexual violence reduction as suffering reduction”, which contains many negative consequences of rape that occur for 90%+ of the sample. I am pointing out that the studies finding these negative consequences have different populations and methodology from the studies like the NISVS, which you were using to establish a high 36.3% prevalence rate of sexual assault.

Comment author: xccf 14 November 2017 10:42:47AM 0 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: kbog  (EA Profile) 15 November 2017 01:30:21AM *  4 points [-]

The valid points behind Marcus's comments are, in this case, being wielded in an exceptionally broad and haphazard manner, painting vast swathes of academia and media with the same brush, under the assumption that they are all guided by the same ideology and methodology. I rather strongly disagree that he is worth paying attention to here (speaking as someone who is more neutral than anything else on these debates). The lazy generalization of everything being "feminist research" is a pretty poor way of looking at the issue which isn't helpful for the discussion at hand.

Comment author: Marcus_N 15 November 2017 07:50:40AM *  -1 points [-]

Academia and the media do have a high level of ideological conformity, and I am not the first person to make this kind of criticism.

Feminism has greatly influenced the present-day understanding of sexual assault and sexual harassment. In fact, both of these terms come from feminist legal activism. The word "sexual assault" was popularized in 1971.

If you look at the careers of central feminist legal scholars and researchers, like Catharine MacKinnon and Mary Koss, you will find that they have been incredibly influential. Here is an excerpt from one of the many awards that Koss has received:

In her work on gender-based violence, Koss served on the National Academy of Sciences Panel on Violence Against Women. She has twice testified before the US Senate and participated in congressional briefings. She sits on the Coordinating Committee of the Sexual Violence Research Initiative, funded by the Global Forum and the Ford Foundation based in Johannesburg, South Africa. She has consulted with the World Bank, United Nations, World Health Organization, and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the US Departments of Education and Justice. Her current work involves advising the Gallup Organization on their survey of sexual assault prevalence in the US Air Force and advising Social Science International in their work with implementation and evaluation of sexual assault prevention in the Air Force. She recently served as Rapporteur on gender-based violence at the 4th Milestones of a Global Campaign for Violence Prevention in Geneva.

While EAs are working hard to save lives and struggling for mainstream acceptance, Mary Koss is hanging out at the WHO and the DOJ and collecting awards. How come? What has Koss accomplished? Something much more valuable than saving lives (in the current political climate). Koss designed the study that found that 1 in 5 women are supposedly raped, the statistic that launched a thousand rape seminars.

The work of Koss, MacKinnon, and all the other feminist figures, influences policy from the university, to the workplace, to high schools, to global bodies like the UN and the Hague. This feminist framework has became the bedrock of respectable middle-class sexual ethics, which is mandatory due to policies of the workplace and university that are necessary due to state coercion via EEOC sexual harassment law and Title IX. This framework was not adopted due to its accuracy or fruitfulness, it was adopted for political reasons. When put into practice, it creates alienation between men and women, and gross violations of civil liberties.

Everything you think you know about sexual assault, sexual violence, and sexual harassment actually comes from the tireless influence of feminist legal activism that has been operating for decades. Regardless of whether you think this perspective is correct or not, it's important to understand the history of where your foundational moral concepts come from so that they can be examined.

Comment author: kbog  (EA Profile) 17 November 2017 04:27:35AM *  0 points [-]

Academia and the media do have a high level of ideological conformity

As far as I can tell this is pretty much false. I've seen lots of ideological diversity in both. Do you have any evidence for your position?

I am not the first person to make this kind of criticism

No, but among people who are actually informed and make this criticism, they don't blindly wave it as a bludgeon against the mass of evidence which doesn't suit their opinions.

Feminism has greatly influenced the present-day understanding of sexual assault and sexual harassment

That would make sense, since feminists are people whose job it is to understand these sorts of things.

If you look at the careers of central feminist legal scholars and researchers, like Catharine MacKinnon and Mary Koss, you will find that they have been incredibly influential

Yes, it seems like they are regarded as experts by large, competent, nonpartisan institutions.

While EAs are working hard to save lives and struggling for mainstream acceptance

EA has very good mainstream acceptance given how new it is.

How come? What has Koss accomplished?

She has done research and advocacy which was regarded as excellent by large, competent organizations.

The work of Koss, MacKinnon, and all the other feminist figures, influences policy from the university, to the workplace, to high schools, to global bodies like the UN and the Hague.

Yes. That's because they thought it was very good. I'm still not sure what your argument is.

Everything you think you know about sexual assault, sexual violence, and sexual harassment actually comes from the tireless influence of feminist legal activism

What? Where did that come from? Mary Koss is an academic psychiatrist. Do you not know the difference between psychiatric research and legal activism?

Regardless of whether you think this perspective is correct or not, it's important to understand the history of where your foundational moral concepts come from

"Our knowledge of gender violence come from a world-renowned psychiatrist." I'm kind of sad that this is the best argument you can give.

Comment author: Denkenberger 17 November 2017 06:04:59PM 3 points [-]

This shows that psychology professors in the US are ~10:1 liberal to conservative, almost as extreme as EA. So I think there are data to show that there is little ideological diversity in academia, especially the humanities, social sciences, and arts.

Comment author: kbog  (EA Profile) 20 November 2017 06:55:56AM *  1 point [-]

There's a lot more to diversity than the liberal/conservative ratio. I could come up with any partisan divide to argue anything I want, e.g. economics academia has very little diversity because the ratio of communists to capitalists is 1:100, or philosophy academia has a lot of diversity because the ratio of liberal feminists to radical feminists is 1:1, or something like that.

Comment author: Marcus_N 18 November 2017 03:57:39AM *  0 points [-]

I think the crux of our disagreement is that you are far more trusting of large institutions and social scientists than I am. I don't think I can convince you of my position in a comment box, I have given a couple case studies in support of it:

I brought up Koss and MacKinnon to show that feminist ideology is highly influential on the current party line about sexual violence in polite society, the workplace, and academia, and that it is not from a neutral source, or from the social consensus of the population. You can argue that this feminist influence is good, that feminists are correct about sexual violence, and that it's wonderful that they found a methodology to prove it. But it's undeniable that these ideas came from feminism and were imposed top-down via institutions, not by social consensus of the larger population.

I brought up Lisak's shadiness to suggest that the sexual assault field is full of perverse incentives, not "world-class" neutral research. Lisak cannot answer basic questions about his methodology. Also, he cut-and-pasted together decades old interviews to create the perfect rapist predator, played by an actor on a video that he shows to big institutions. This is the behavior of an activist, not a researcher. But his work is behind the policies of tons of public and private bureaucracies.

Jonathan Haidt's work is a good place to start for academic and media political bias.

Comment author: kbog  (EA Profile) 20 November 2017 06:54:43AM *  1 point [-]

I think the crux of our disagreement is that you are far more trusting of large institutions and social scientists than I am

No, the crux of our disagreement is that you are sufficiently unfamiliar with the academic world that you see it purely through the narrow prism of your favorite political topic and therefore lump everyone whose positions you disagree with as part of a vague faction of "feminist ideology".

I brought up Koss and MacKinnon to show that feminist ideology is highly influential on the current party line about sexual violence in polite society, the workplace, and academia, and that it is not from a neutral source,

But you haven't done anything to show that their positions have anything to do with "feminist ideology" (whatever that is) nor that it is non-neutral. Of course it's true that their positions aren't, say, right-wing, but I don't see how the mere fact that they don't agree with right-wing cultural views implies that they should be distrusted. You can't say "these people have views which indicate that feminists are right about something, therefore they're biased!" That's obviously a terrible argument, it's circular.

or from the social consensus of the population

I don't see why the "social consensus of the population" should be trusted to answer questions of sociology and criminology.

But it's undeniable that these ideas came from feminism

Sure I deny it. I don't see how a survey of college students "comes from feminism", it seems to come straight out of ordinary sociological methodology to me. I didn't perceive that the paper in question made any methodological commitments which tied it to feminism. As far as I can tell, the only thing that makes it "feminist" is that the survey total came out to be 6%. If the authors had used the exact same approach and come up with a figure of 0.5%, you wouldn't perceive anything "feminist" about it, and would probably be parading it around as an example of heterodox research that needs to be broadcasted.

and were imposed top-down via institutions

I deny that too. You haven't given any evidence of that. You pointed out that lots of important institutions have endorsed the research(ers) in question. That is evidence that the research(ers) is high quality, but it's not evidence that it was "imposed".

I brought up Lisak's shadiness to suggest that the sexual assault field is full of perverse incentives

First, there's no such thing as a "sexual assault field". Lisak is a psychiatrist, as I pointed out.

Second, it's easy enough to find singular examples of research problems in any field, so your claim is totally spurious (see for comparison the people who bloviate about the Sokal Hoax while ignoring similar hoaxes perpetuated in hard science journals, for instance).

Lisak cannot answer basic questions about his methodology

He gave some answers, just not in response to a partisan blog post. You can find them elsewhere (Google it).

Comment author: Marcus_N 21 November 2017 03:39:14AM *  -1 points [-]

Nearly everyone studying sexual assault in academia, regardless of their purported field, are feminists, are heavily influenced by feminist ideas, or are heavily citing researchers who are feminists or influenced by feminist ideas. Specifically, a focus on "gender-based violence" or "violence against women" is nearly always associated with acceptance of feminist ideology about a high rate of female victimization and male perpetration, and beliefs about "patriarchy" and male dominance or control.

The notion that Mary Koss and Catharine MacKinnon's positions are nothing to do with feminism is untenable. MacKinnon is considered to be one of the most famous and influential feminists of all time, for creating sexual harassment law and driving anti-porn ordinances.

As for Koss, I've found a history of her ideas and work.

BEFORE 1985, when Koss published the initial findings from her survey, there was a general consensus among scholars that the best way to measure rape was to ask about it directly, like any other illegal act: Have you ever been raped? But outside the ivory tower, feminists had begun to argue that rape was not analogous to a crime like, say, robbery; it was a crime of power, used by men to keep women in a state of fear. In her 1975 book, Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape, the journalist Susan Brownmiller argued that women tended to blame themselves for instigating rape—and as a result, they often did not conceptualize what had happened to them as a crime...

Koss had read Brownmiller's book, and as she was constructing the survey, she realized that women might be reluctant to label their unwanted sexual experiences as rape. So instead of straightforward questions about whether women had been raped, Koss developed a series of behavioral queries about specific acts, such as: "Have you been forced to have sex without saying yes?"

So, Koss reads Brownmiller's Against Our Will (a one-sided portrayal of female victimization), which leads her to believe that there is a hidden epidemic of rape. Then she comes up with a new methodology—different from the accepted methodology of her field at the time—and "discovers" a much higher rate of rate. She then works with Gloria Steinem (another of the most famous feminist activists of all time) who helps her seek funding. Koss is a feminist through and through, and her ideas about rape came from feminism (via Brownmiller) prior to her doing research.

Next, Koss' research greatly influences other fields, and is heavily cited. Her methodology comes to look like normal social science, because typical social science is so heavy on badly designed self-report studies. Then they fuel badly-design public policy and laws which are applied top-down.

As for top-down application, you can look at university sexual assault policy and kangaroo courts, and sexual assault policies in the workplace. These are all top-down and involve ridiculous overbroad definitions and miscarriages of justice. For an excellent example, look at the Orwellian persecution of Laura Kipnis where she was accused of sexual harassment for criticizing college harassment policy.

People in the professions or academia are subject to an intellectual monoculture about rape, sexual harassment, and sexual assault—at least for what can be expressed in public. I believe that this leads to a false consensus emerging, where people are biased towards feminist views of those subjects, and any other views are persecuted, leading to the perception that any other views cannot be valid and must be held by horrible people.

Comment author: Marcus_N 15 November 2017 01:57:20AM *  0 points [-]

The most confrontational things I've said were calling the author's sting proposals creepy, I compared them to witch hunts, and I made fun of the author and the entire audience for sleeping through the validity lectures of Psychology 101. The rest of my criticisms were directed at specific claims and specific feminist arguments. After reading my case, anyone is welcome to decide whether my approach is over the top if my premises are correct.

While I understand that many of the readers here are trying to be sympathetic and find things to like about this piece due to their abhorrence for sexual assault and empathy for survivors, such a response downplays serious problems with the piece and deprives the author from getting critical feedback.

If articles with certain types of errors aren't called out and instead they are lauded, then further argumentation of the same type will be incentivized.

That's how we get to point where 6% of male EAs are categorized as rapists who should be captured in stings and medicated. Either this argument is in bad faith—or something has gone horribly wrong if someone can make it and think they are operating in good faith.

(I missed this before, but an additional criticism is that the 6% figure comes from a study by David Lisak. Lisak is known for fraudulent academic conduct. We should not only doubt his results, but we should note that this entire field has extremely broken incentives, and suspect all sensationalist studies emerging from it for cooking their books or falsifying data.)

Comment author: kbog  (EA Profile) 15 November 2017 02:23:23AM *  1 point [-]

(I missed this before, but an additional criticism is that the 6% figure comes from a study by David Lisak. Lisak is known for fraudulent academic conduct. We should not only doubt his results, but we should note that this entire field has extremely broken incentives, and suspect all sensationalist studies emerging from it for cooking their books or falsifying data.)

Your sources are contradicting your own points. If the data for these surveys didn't come from Lisak, and was not originally part of a study on sexual violence, then it's just nonsensical to presume that the data is skewed because it's feminist.