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kbog 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 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 5 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 1 point [-]

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 2 points [-]

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 *  1 point [-]

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: DavidMoss 21 November 2017 06:37:19AM -1 points [-]

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.

I not only explicitly distinguished between criteria for rightness (normative) and other evaluations in the first sentence of first my reply, but I pointed out that I had drawn and repeated that explicit distinction in the first two sentences of my second reply. Consequentialists obviously analyse acts (e.g. whether they are rape / murder / making a bank withdrawal) in terms other than whether whether they are utility maximising and they can and do engage in other (moral and non-moral) evaluations (e.g. character evaluations, like that a person is dishonest or viscious or badly motivated).

Seriously, the fact that you can look at someone saying "consequentialists should care less about these rapes because the criminals didn't intend to break the law" and not laugh them out of the room for the abject idiocy of the claim they made is worrisome to say the least.

His claim above, that I'm addressing, is about the definition of rape (a question which is totally orthogonal to the normative theory of consequentialists/Kantians), not whether consequentialists should "care less [or more]" depending on intent. I don't have any particular views on the differing definitions of rape, but the claim that intent matters for whether an act is accidentally killing (by giving you a peanut) or murder (by giving you a peanut) or whether or not you are a consequentialist is uncontroversial.

Comment author: kbog  (EA Profile) 21 November 2017 06:50:42AM *  0 points [-]

I not only explicitly distinguished between criteria for rightness (normative) and other evaluations in the first sentence of first my reply

You did not do so clearly, since not all moral theories see normativity as purely a matter of evaluating the rightness of actions.

I pointed out that I had drawn and repeated that explicit distinction in the first two sentences of my second reply.

Yes, and I pointed out twice that your repetition of this distinction is just missing the point, so I don't know why you think that repeating it for a third time without addressing my counterargument is going to do you any good. You also seem to have overlooked the fact that I was talking about consequentialism the moral theory, not the practices of consequentialists, which is what you are talking about.

Consequentialists obviously analyse acts (e.g. whether they are rape / murder / making a bank withdrawal) in terms other than whether whether they are utility maximising and they can and do engage in other (moral and non-moral) evaluations (e.g. character evaluations, like that a person is dishonest or viscious or badly motivated).

And, for the third fucking time, these evaluations carry no normative relevance for the consequentialist, so to bring them up here is pointless. If this basic point still eludes your grasp, sorry but I just don't know what to tell you.