May you have a wonderful Christmas and go where no one has gone before.
May you have a wonderful Christmas and go where no one has gone before.
I have a survey!
I was complaining about not having answers to certain questions about kink and romance, and then it was pointed out to me that I have a readership that can be made to answer surveys.
So please take the survey! It is brief (26 questions) and anonymous, and the only way you will find out about what my questions are is by answering it. I will write a post about my results.
Many people have argued that the BDSM community has a higher rate of sexual consent violations than the outside community.
As far as I’m aware, the largest study on this issue is the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom’s Consent Counts study, which found that 33% of respondents had had a prenegotiated limit violated in a BDSM scene or relationship or had negotiated a safeword or safesign and had it ignored. On the other hand, only about 18.3% of women and ~6% of men have been raped. Does that mean that the BDSM community has a higher rape rate?
Yes. But complicatedly so.
First: many people do not play with safewords. For instance, in pretty much all the kinky sex I have, “no”, “stop”, “ow”, etc. have their ordinary meanings, and therefore I don’t really need a safeword. While it’s possible that people would consider “we negotiated a flogging, it was too much for me and I said ‘stop’, they kept on going” to be ignoring a safeword, it’s also possible they wouldn’t– even though that is clearly a case of sexual consent violations in the BDSM community.
Second: most data about sexual consent violations in the vanilla world is divided up into smaller subcategories. For instance, NISVS divides sexual consent violations into:
It seems plausible that many of the things the Consent Counts survey is talking about would fall in the “unwanted sexual contact” or “sexual coercion” categories. Unfortunately, NISVS doesn’t offer a percentage of people who have experienced rape, unwanted sexual contact, being made to penetrate someone else, or sexual coercion (given that these groups no doubt often overlap), but eyeballing it it looks like somewhere between a third and half of women and somewhere around a fifth of men. There are very large margin-of-error bars on this, but it seems about the rate that is in the BDSM community.
On the other hand, you could argue, while a lot of kinky consent violations would technically be put in the “unwanted sexual contact” category, they’re not central examples of unwanted sexual contact. Nonconsensual electricity play, needle play, or verbal humiliation might usually be more similar to nonconsensual vaginal penetration than nonconsensual kissing, in terms of how the experience affects the victim. Unfortunately, this leaves a lot of unanswered and unanswerable questions, such as “what percentage of kinky consent violations are in the more-like-rape and more-like-unwanted-sexual-contact categories?” and “is that even a meaningful question to be asking or is it more like asking which chicken is most like a dog?”
(This confusion is why I chose the perhaps awkward phrasing “sexual consent violations” instead of “sexual assault” or “rape.”)
Third: The Consent Counts survey only examines sexual consent violations in the BDSM community, as opposed to the percentage of people in the BDSM community who are survivors of sexual consent violations. This makes sense, because you wouldn’t want the data to be confounded by, say, the hypothesized link between an interest in nonconsent play and being a survivor of rape. However, the lifetime rate of rape in the general population includes things like child sexual abuse, which means that we’re comparing apples to oranges. Unfortunately, the CC survey does not include the percent of people in the BDSM community who experienced a sexual assault in the last year, so we could compare apples to apples.
Furthermore, the Consent Counts data explicitly excludes consent violations in vanilla sex. However, other data includes all sexual consent violations, vanilla and nonvanilla. So a naive comparison probably massively undercounts how much being a member of the BDSM community increases your risk.
In conclusion: the Consent Counts data underestimates the increase in risk of sexual consent violations you experience by being a member of the BDSM community. We can’t know how much it underestimates that risk. In their next survey, I hope they ask about the rate of consent violations in the past year and include a question like “did anyone have sex with you when you said ‘no’ or ‘stop’ and had not negotiated a safeword?” Also, comparing kinky sex and vanilla sex is hard.
Long* did Slate Star Codex and Thing of Things live in peace, each tending to their separate magesteria: Thing of Things gets race and gender, Slate Star Codex gets everything else.
“Gender, culture, and mathematics performance.”
This is an unprovoked invasion of Slate Star Codex onto Thing of Things territory! ThingofThingsians, will you stand for this? Will you watch as our cherished traditions fall to the barbarian Slate Star Codex hordes? Will you watch as our great provinces– creep-shaming, Nice Guys ™, reproductively viable worker ants, yes, even arguments in favor of genocide– one by one get annexed to SSC?
Or will you FIGHT?
(As befits a war council, this will be an unmoderated thread. Thing of Things totally endorses fighting in the War Room.)
(I can’t think of a way to tie this into the war theme but, yo, assholes, give Multi money. She’s a bisexual amab trans person in Russia and would like to be a bisexual amab trans person in Canada, a state of affairs beneficial to her and, more importantly, to my ability to not freak out every time I read news about LGBT people in Russia. Rescue ALL the ingroup members from their shitty life situations!)
*a term which here means “for like two months”
I am not saying that religious people are universally stupid. I’m saying that religion is factually incorrect.
I am not saying that atheists are universally smart. I’m saying that religion is factually incorrect.
I am not saying that religion doesn’t provide comfort to and enrich the lives of billions of people. I’m saying that religion is factually incorrect.
I am not saying that everything in the modern scientific consensus is true. I’m saying that religion is factually incorrect.
I am not saying that everything that some asshole passes off as science is true. I’m saying that religion is factually incorrect.
I am not saying that there are no people who attempt to reconcile science and religion. I’m saying that religion is factually incorrect.
I am not saying that nothing good has been done in the name of religion. I’m saying that religion is factually incorrect.
I am not saying that nothing evil has been done in the name of science. I’m saying that religion is factually incorrect.
I am not saying that the tradition and community people get from their religions isn’t valuable. I’m saying that religion is factually incorrect.
I am not saying that religion is inherently tyrannical and oppressive. I’m saying that religion is factually incorrect.
There are atheists that say some of those things that I’m not saying. Which is bad, because all of those things I’m not saying are douchebaggy and factually incorrect and also completely unnecessary.
My radical position is that you should not believe things that are factually incorrect. Even if believing them makes you feel nice. Even if it makes you a better person. Even if it connects you to your community and your ancestors. (You can go to the rituals without believing in God, anyway.) Even if some other people over there believe factually incorrect things sometimes too.
I feel like having to justify why believing things that aren’t true is bad is like having to justify why hitting people who don’t want to get hit is bad. It… is? Duh? But the number of otherwise intelligent people who say “they’re nice and they aren’t hurting anyone, what do you care?” suggests otherwise.
The doublethink necessary to believe things that aren’t true hurts your ability to figure out what’s true and what’s not. Not necessarily; humans are very good at compartmentalizing and often, say, take “I feel it in my heart” as adequate on matters of theology but not on matters of medicine. But in aggregate turning off your critical thinking and rationality sometimes hurts your ability to be rational.
If you believe things that aren’t true, you’re going to make decisions based on the false things you believe, and decisions made based on inaccurate information are usually bad decisions. If you believe apricot pits cure cancer, you might skip chemo. If you believe there aren’t any cars on the street when there are, you might cross and get hit by an SUV. If you believe all-nighters improve your grades, you might flunk an exam. If your map says that Disney World is in Michigan, you will never get to meet the Mouse. For that matter, look at basically any atrocity in history, nearly all of which were caused by people believing untrue things (usually “this group of people is inherently evil,” “God said so,” or “our ludicrous political system totally works”).
As a practical matter, there are a lot of false beliefs in the world, and most forms of theism I encounter in day-to-day life are not actively hurting people and, in fact, might be making people’s lives better. So I’d prefer to try to get people to not believe in untrue things that are also hurting people first.
This is really just a plea for atheists and theists to stop arguing about religion is good. Who cares? The question is whether it’s true.
lease note that I am strictly talking about moral nihilism here, which I’m going to refer to as “nihilism” for the rest of the post because I like saving on the typing. There are lots of other kinds of nihilism, and most of them make my head hurt (I am down with the existential nihilism though). I am not the person to ask about mereological nihilism.
When I say I’m a nihilist, I mean that I believe that there is no such thing as objective morality. All morality is just a kind of preference– when you say “X is morally right” you mean “I would prefer to live in a world where there was X.” It’s erroneous to think that there is an objective system of morals Out There, the same way that it is erroneous to think that, just because I prefer lima beans to microwave popcorn, there is an objective scale of tastiness with lima beans at the top and microwave popcorn at the bottom.
When I say I’m a utilitarian, I mean “I really like happiness, and I really don’t like pain. In fact, these feelings are so strong I want the most possible happiness and the least possible pain!” But I believe that there’s no way I can convince you to like happiness unless you already like happiness. If you believe that gaining honor through war is the highest goal of human life, or (like many medieval Christians) that suffering is good because it leads to the purification of the soul, the closest thing I can come to an argument is “look at all this unnecessary pain you’re causing! You monster!” Which is not really a good argument, because if they primarily cared about minimizing human pain they’d be utilitarians and we wouldn’t be having this argument.
When I argue for assisted suicide after counselling, I say “assisted suicide lets people die if the rest of their life would contain too much pain, which is good because pain makes people unhappy, which is bad because happiness is good, which is good because… I don’t know, it just is.” Similarly, someone else might argue “if people commit assisted suicide they will die, which is bad because they could have lived longer, which is bad because life is good, which is good because… I don’t know, it just is.” And a third person might argue “assisted suicide should be available upon demand, because that way people can die when they want to, which is good because people can control their own bodies, which is good because freedom is good, which is good because… I don’t know, it just is.” I see no reason to prioritize my “just is” over other people’s.
(Of course, you can value freedom or life as a means to happiness. But that’s not what I’m talking about. Many people do, in fact, view both of the above as ends in themselves.)
It’s true that human morality tends to share certain traits cross-culturally, which at first blush is evidence for some kind of objective moral system. But– well, first, I’m disinclined to accept that argument because I’d suddenly have to start believing that obedience to authority and maintaining purity are morally good instead of two of the largest sources of evil. And second, all of the moral beliefs found cross-culturally are things that have obvious evolutionary advantages for a social species. Is it more likely that there are objective morals that we have developed a “moral sense” for, or that humans who were loyal to their friends tended to survive better than humans that weren’t? And if the former, do vampire bats have a moral sense too?
Whenever I say I’m a nihilist, someone immediately concludes that I’m contradicting myself because I have a moral system and do things like “only buy ethically made clothes” and “eat veganish” and “give a tenth of my income to charity” and “blog about social justice.” This makes no sense to me. It’s like saying “saying you like lima beans is a fact about your brain, not a fact about lima beans. Therefore you should like lima beans and microwave popcorn equally!” My morality is an arbitrary preference I have, I arbitrarily happen to prefer happiness to unhappiness, and I act to increase the amount of happiness in the world. Where’s the contradiction?
There are also people who believe that, since I don’t believe morals exist except as human preferences, I shouldn’t judge other people’s morals. This makes no sense to me either. There is only so much happiness I can cause! If I want to maximize human happiness, I need to get other people on board with Happiness and the Maximizing Thereof. Social shaming is an excellent method of convincing people of things, particularly things that are fundamentally arational. (To put it another way: my arbitrary moral preference does not include an arbitrary moral preference for not shaming other people’s arbitrary moral preferences. Nyeh.)
(Arbitrary moral preference has stopped looking like words.)
(Okay, everyone, we know that Ozy Is Not An Education Reform Specialist Or A Teacher And Has Actually Not Even Taken Sociology of Education Yet Despite It Being Offered Every Year, right? Please take this as more “food for thought” than “serious policy suggestion.”)
Right now, schools try to cram in a lot of stuff. Anyone remember the American history classes that never got past the Civil War? Biology classes that never got around to covering vertebrates? World History classes that have a week for Greece and Rome or a day for Vietnam? Math classes where half the textbook could have been blank white pages, because you’re certainly not addressing any of it?
Not just that, but a lot of the stuff schools teach is totally useless. I spent three years in middle school learning how to write five-paragraph essays and four years in high school learning how to write literary criticism. I find it amazing that I spent seven years of my life learning how to write the only two genres that absolutely no one in the world wants to read. I mean, Jesus, I could have spent seven years working on my sonnet skills. At least that would get me laid.
Let me be clear: I’m not blaming teachers for this shit. Most teachers are good people doing the best they can in an absolutely crappy incentive system.
“Our students should learn about Important Subject X!” is popular and “maybe we should take some of this out of the textbook?” leads to cries of dumbing down education. So textbooks have more information than you could possibly teach to a bunch of bored freshmen no matter how good a teacher you are. Someone decided that reading and writing ought to be taught in the same class and “students write about what they’re reading” is a natural way to synthesize that. Someone else decided that a single essay in a prescribed and absurdly artificial format* should be the sole way of assessing how well students are doing at writing, and you cannot blame people for responding rationally to incentives.
But the problem remains: students are being taught things they don’t need to know, and not being taught things they need to know, and this is a terrible way to run an educational system.
I suggest triage. Create a bare minimum list of things that people absolutely need to know– things that are highly effective in making people happier and better citizens, that either you or people around you will seriously regret your not knowing– and concentrate on teaching that. My preliminary list:
“But Ozy?” I hear you say. “What about the love of learning, knowledge for its own sake? Don’t you value that?” Of course I do. I read textbooks for fun. But the love of learning cannot be coerced. You can’t make someone be passionate about learning world history because you passed a law that says everyone in tenth grade has to learn about world history. And even if that magically worked, they would probably be endlessly frustrated that you only spent a week on Greece and Rome.
Once you teach people the absolute basics, they can go where their passions take them: solving math problems, doing experiments, going to Shakespeare performances, writing poems, playing drums, programming, learning everything there is to know about the Abbasids. If people do things they care about, they are more likely to actually remember them a decade later; furthermore, it teaches important skills like How To Find Things Out that are way more important than a half-remembered quadratic equation.
Some people think people wouldn’t learn unless you coerced them. I highly doubt this. Humans’ comparative advantage is intelligence; we evolved to be thinking animals. It is really a sign of success at… something… that schools have managed to convince so many people that learning is boring and sucks. Besides, I highly doubt Hypothetical Would Rather Sit On Her Ass Than Learn To Play Drums Or Something Lady would be much good at learning things in a regular school system either.
So basically I propose modified unschooling! With a caveat that some things are important enough that everyone has to learn them even if they don’t want to! Okay.
*People who didn’t spend three years learning how to write a five-paragraph essay, you cannot imagine how terrible they are. Imagine the guidelines an Overly Literal Genie who’s read too much Strunk and White would give for writing an essay. “There must be an introduction, a conclusion, and three paragraphs of evidence. The introduction contains two sentences of hook, two sentences of transition, and a thesis statement which says exactly what the next three paragraphs are going to say…”
(This post entirely Gabriel Duquette‘s fault. I totally made a resolution not to argue with idiots on my blog unless I have a point other than “idiot over there is an idiot,” but he asked nicely and I am incapable of not doing favors for friends.)
First of all, if they believe that what Orwell was complaining about does not happen today, they clearly haven’t spent much time watching the news. “Democracy” is used to justify atrocities; “fascist” has no meaning other than “generic bad thing”; self-interested foreign policy is given the weight of myth through use of words like “destiny” and “freedom.” He wrote about how leftists use long strings of jargon that don’t actually mean anything– without having ever met a radical queer! (I have spent many an amusing evening trying to figure out how the hell you, oh, “center love and respect for women and femmes.” Does it involve putting a I ❤ Femmes sign in the middle of the room?)
In addition, “I am a plain-speaking bluff honest man calling it as I see it” was not an unknown rhetorical device in Orwell’s time. See Sinclair Lewis’s brilliant It Can’t Happen Here, which satirizes that sort of rhetoric, as well as “traditional American family values” and the rest of that rot. My point, other than “people should read more novels by pissy cynical thirties socialists,” is that maybe Orwell didn’t talk about the problems of plain speech because he’s actually making a completely different point.
Orwell’s claim is that unclear, vague, ugly, cliche writing is all too often used to make a shitty idea look better. If no one can tell what you’re talking about, then they can’t debunk your shitty ideas. If your writing is bad enough, even you might not be able to tell how bad your ideas are. Whether plain writing can also be used to make a shitty idea look better is completely irrelevant to the topic of the essay.
Not to mention that writing can be superficially “plain” and still be unclear, vague, ugly, and cliche. Bullshit peddlers are clever and can use a patina of plain-speaking bluffness to hide that they’re obfuscating the issue, but they’re still fucking obfuscating the issue. “Looking clear” is not the same thing as “being clear.”
The New Statesman criticizes Orwell for lacking evidence. This is unfortunate, because the New Statesman’s primary evidence is sheer Bardolatry. Iago was made up. Iago’s rhetorical techniques being persuasive in the play says nothing about whether the rhetorical techniques are persuasive in real life, because it’s fiction and the characters are persuaded if the author says they are. (I guess you could argue for Shakespeare’s closely observed psychological realism, but… Iago.)
Furthermore, The New Statesman does everyone’s favorite technique: quote a random sentence a Shakespeare character says out of context and then attribute it to “the Bard’s eternal wisdom.” I kind of wonder if five hundred years from now everyone will be talking about how Ron said not to trust Snape and that means that J. K. Rowling is teaching us not to trust people who have done evil things in the past. Well, at least the author isn’t quoting Polonius.
I am not saying that Politics and the English Language is perfect. For one thing, Orwell has a curmudgeonly dislike for the perfectly respectable rhetorical device litotes. But if you are writing nonfiction intended for a general audience, your writing needs to be understandable to that audience. If people cannot tell what you’re talking about, you’ve failed. If you’re not actually saying anything, you’ve failed. The fact that you can make a point that other people can understand and it’s also wrong is as relevant as saying that because cars can have wheels and a broken engine wheels are overrated.
You know what I’m retroactively pissed about? DARE.
Well, okay. Probably about half the reason I’m pissed about them is because I had a phobia of mind-altering substances (as I still do) when I went through the program and thus spent the entire time having a panic attack. That kind of soured me on the whole idea.
But the entirety of DARE, as I recall it in between panic attacks, was about how people are going to peer-pressure you into taking drugs. I spent quite a lot of time terrified of this, because basically the only thing I find scarier than drugs is the idea of people pressuring me into things.
As it happens, I attend a college that is one of the top schools for drug use in the entirety of the United States. I lived with a dealer for a while; I’ve slept with multiple enthusiastic drug users. I have experience here.
What DARE Led Me To Believe Would Happen In This Circumstance:
Them: Hey, we’re going to trip. Wanna join in?
Me: No, thank you.
Them: Come on, are you chicken? Don’t be uncool.
Me: Panic attack.
What Actually Happened:
Them: Hey, we’re going to trip. Wanna join in?
Me: No, thank you.
Them: Okay, cool. I have a lot of respect for the straightedge lifestyle, you know. The important thing is that you know what’s right for you and your body. This sort of thing isn’t right for everyone! It’s really great that you know that about yourself.
I suppose that it’s possible all the horrible pressurey people are hiding somewhere and I just happened to run into all the aggressively tolerant drug users. (The previous sentence was not sarcastic. I have a habit of running into nice people. It’s weird. I am the only trans person in the world who never had a friend respond badly to their request to use gender-neutral pronouns.) But most of the people I know didn’t start using because someone peer-pressured them into it; it was more like “hey, want some?” and they were like “sure.”
I feel like this is the problem you run into when you try to construct an entire anti-drug program without acknowledging that drugs are fun. They make you feel good and see interesting colors and feel a deep sense of connection to the universe and stuff. Even the ones that are a bad idea to take are really fun! That’s why people fucking take them. And while peer group does play a role in access to drugs and making drugs seem like a Thing That Normal People Do and there are people who get coerced or worse into taking drugs, most people who take them take them because they’re fun.
If you can’t say that drugs are fun, because that might encourage people to (gasp) try drugs, then you don’t really have an explanation for why people would risk ODing and being arrested and attempting to hug Hell’s Angels and similar utility-reducing consequences of drug use. So you’re stuck with “…peer pressure?”