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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 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.