Long-Term and Near-Term Causes



Many effective altruists, including myself, tend to consider certain cause areas to be “long-term” and other cause areas to be “near-term.” Global poverty, farmed animal welfare, developed-world politics, and the prevention of rare diseases in cute puppies are near-term areas; conversely, AI risk and prevention of extreme suffering are long-term areas.

(Tangent: “long-term” and “near-term” are awful terms, since some people expect AI superintelligence or a global communist revolution in the next fifteen years. I am using them because they appear to be the commonly accepted terminology, but I appreciate suggestions for better terminology.)

However, in a recent discussion with Kelsey Piper, I noticed that essentially all cause areas can be approached from a near-term or a long-term perspective. I will begin with a definition by example:

Cause Area Near-Term Long-Term
Global poverty
  • Bednets
  • Deworming medicine
  • Cash transfers
  • Education for girls
  • Global communist revolution
  • Spreading democracy and capitalism
Farmed animal welfare
  • Welfare-improving legislation
  • Vegan outreach
  • Corporate outreach
  • Lab-grown meat
  • Banning the farming of animals
Wild animal welfare
  • Wildlife contraception
  • Keeping cats inside
  • Habitat destruction
  • Genetically engineering predators to not eat meat
  • Combating algorithmic bias
  • Friendly artificial general intelligence
  • Planned Parenthood
  • Passing the Equal Rights Amendment
  • Paternity leave
  • Overthrowing the patriarchy
  • Crisis pregnancy centers
  • Supporting unwed parents
  • Abortion-limiting laws
  • An abortion ban
  • Uterine replicators
  • Financial aid for cancer patients
  • Ronald McDonald House
  • Early screening for cancers
  • Cure for cancer
Developed-world poverty
  • Food banks
  • Homeless shelters
  • The Salvation Army
  • Global communist revolution
  • Economic growth to eliminate poverty
Rare diseases in cute puppies
  • Treating the rare diseases
  • Genetically engineering puppies so they never get sick again

(To be clear, I don’t think this is a complete taxonomy of all the possible approaches to a particular cause area. For example, I could add another category for “foundational research,” which includes GiveWell, philosophers trying to solve population ethics, and research into the basic biology of diseases– research that is trying to reduce our uncertainty.)

I believe all these long-term causes have several things in common. They’re radical, in the radical feminist sense: they get to the root of the problem. For that reason, they have a very high payoff, much higher than anything in the near-term column. If you give a kid a bednet, that kid won’t die of malaria; if you end global poverty, no children will ever die of malaria ever again.

Long-term causes tend to be highly speculative. Many long-term causes sound like the subject of a science fiction novel more than they sound like a charity, which can lead people to unfairly consider them absurd. (Reality does not generally check whether or not it resembles a SF novel before it does something.)

Long-term causes tend to have many steps between the last outcome that one can reasonably measure and the outcome of interest. For insecticide-treated bednets, the primary outcome of interest is deaths from malaria. In principle, it is perfectly possible to measure how many fewer people die if you have distributed bednets.

Conversely, for lab-grown meat, the primary outcome of interest is how many fewer animals exist if lab-grown meat is available on store shelves. But it’s not possible to measure that outcome, because you’re only going to know it once lab-grown meat has already been invented. You instead have to measure outcomes like the amount of progress a particular lab is making or how favorable the regulatory climate is. In theory, these outcomes are linked to your outcome of interest– but if your theory is wrong, your work could be useless or even counterproductive.

Long-term causes also typically have a qualitatively different kind of uncertainty than near-term causes do. Deworming charities are highly uncertain. A study has suggested that children who are given deworming medicines have far higher lifetime incomes than children who are not given deworming medicines. However, the proposed mechanism turned out not to be affected by deworming, and many papers fail to replicate. Still, deworming medicine is so cheap that– even though it’s more likely than not that deworming doesn’t do much of anything besides cause children to have fewer worms– it’s a cost-effective charitable intervention.

AI risk is also highly uncertain, but it’s a different kind of uncertainty. Deworming essentially comes down to a single well-defined question: “given that there’s a replication crisis, and given that the proposed mechanism was not affected by deworming, what is the chance that deworming increases income?” Conversely, the uncertainty in AI risk comes down to dozens of extraordinarily broad questions: “When do we expect human-level AI? Will a human-level AI rapidly self-improve until it becomes a superintelligence? How easy is it to program an AI that won’t destroy the world? What strategies should we pursue to program an AI that won’t destroy the world?”

Of course, long-term causes are not a monolith. I’d like to contrast lab-grown meat with overthrowing patriarchy– both causes I feel strongly about. Lab-grown meat is speculative, but many informed experts believe it will be available on store shelves within decades. While it’s totally possible that we’re fundamentally mistaken about lab-grown meat, there are many actions which seem very likely to increase the likelihood that it’s invented and accepted by the general public, such as funding researchers and getting good PR.

Conversely, no one has any idea when sexism will be eradicated from society: it could be decades from now or thousands of years from now. There are some steps that might help– gender-neutral parenting, less sexist media, improved contraceptive access, legal equality for women throughout the globe, feminist awareness-raising– but it’s unclear how much any of those steps could accomplish. They may very well be useless or even counterproductive.

I suspect a lot of disagreement about AI risk comes from people placing it in different categories. Many people who don’t think AI risk is a good thing to spend money on think that AI risk is as speculative as smashing the patriarchy. Many people who prioritize AI risk think that AI risk is about as speculative as lab-grown meet. A few people who prioritize AI risk seem to believe it is as speculative as deworming medicines.

I think illuminating the reasons people disagree about AI risk is just one of the many ways that this framework would improve discussions about near-term and long-term causes, and I hope this framework will be more generally useful in the future.


On Sokal Squared


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Three scholars– Peter Boghossian, James Lindsay, and Helen Pluckrose– have recently gotten several papers published in various top journals, despite not believing in the claims of their papers and despite the fact that their empirical data was faked. I congratulate Mr. Boghossian, Mr. Lindsay, and Ms. Pluckrose on their successful passes of the Intellectual Turing Test, although I wish they’d chosen a method of testing it that didn’t involve publishing false data in multiple peer-reviewed journals. Being able to write something you disagree with that is indistinguishable from what supporters of the claim believe is a rare skill.

I do, however, disagree strongly with the claim that this is an indictment of gender studies as a field.

Let us consider six of the seven papers which Boghossian, Lindsay, and Pluckrose wrote. (The seventh was accepted into the Journal of Poetry Therapy, which is not a serious publication.) You may find all of Boghossian, Lindsay, and Pluckrose’s papers here.

Fat Bodybuilding

Fat Studies published a paper called Who Are They to Judge?: Overcoming Anthropometry and a Framework for Fat Bodybuilding. The thesis of this paper is that it would be a good idea to have a non-competitive, body-positive bodybuilding event where fat people showed off their bodies, because that would lead people to question why they think some bodies count as “built” and others don’t. Boghossian, Lindsay, and Pluckrose say this paper counts as a hoax paper because “it celebrates morbid obesity as a healthy life-choice.”

Let’s set aside the issue of whether competitive bodybuilding celebrates unhealthy life choices, such as anabolic steroid use and unhealthily low body fat percentages, and why it is okay to celebrate one unhealthy life-choice and not another. Obviously, fat studies celebrates obesity as a healthy life choice. That’s, like, the thing that fat studies is.

Imagine I published a paper in a theology journal arguing that it was a good idea to adopt a certain liturgy because it would help people praise God. Later, I announced that this was a hoax paper which proves that theology as a discipline celebrates delusional thinking. Certainly, many people believe that theism is delusional. But the ‘hoax’ paper doesn’t address the subject at all. All it proves is that you can publish papers in theology journals which work from the premise that God exists, which is also provable by (for example) picking up any theology journal and looking at the table of contents.

I have literally no idea why Boghossian, Lindsay, and Pluckrose would bother, unless they were confused and thought that Fat Studies was a medical journal about obesity prevention.


Sexuality and Culture published Going In Through The Back Door: Challenging Straight Male Homohysteria, Transhysteria, and Transphobia through Receptive Penetrative Sex Toy Use. Through (faked) semi-structured interviews with thirteen men, the paper found that man who enjoyed anal masturbation using dildos were less transphobic, less homophobic, more feminist, and more sensitive to their partners’ needs, but not more concerned about rape culture. It noted that, since the sample size was small, the results are suggestive but may be unreliable. The paper proposed that receptive anal penetration may be used as a form of “exposure therapy” about homophobic and transphobic anxieties, but cautioned that many men might simply decide that anal penetration was okay while continuing to be homophobic/transphobic in general.

I literally have no idea what is objectionable about this paper. Lindsay, Boghossian, and Pluckrose claim the thesis is unfalsifiable, but it’s obviously not; they themselves say in their own discussion section that the data don’t support a correlation between anal penetration and concern about rape culture. If feminist men who oppose homophobia and transphobia never took it up the ass, while homophobic, transphobic, anti-feminist men proudly showed off their extensive collection of Bad Dragon dildoes, the thesis would be disproved.

Lindsay, Boghossian, and Pluckrose point out that not wanting to be anally penetrated is a common and harmless sexual choice, which it certainly is. But nevertheless it is puzzling that many men feel disgust and shame at the prospect of exploring receptive anal penetration, given that receptive anal penetration is very pleasurable for many (perhaps most) men. Surely we can agree that a sexual choice is common and harmless, and also agree that societal stigma plays a role in whether people choose to do it? Is your claim that it’s a complete coincidence that women who grow up in socially conservative communities are also less likely to have casual sex? If a man says “I don’t want to have a dildo put in my ass because that’s gay,” are we supposed to pat him on the head and say “I’m sorry you’re a victim of false consciousness, but in reality all your sexual preferences are completely causeless and the fact that you don’t want a plastic dick up your ass is entirely unrelated to the fact that you think enjoying anal penetration makes you homosexual and being homosexual is the worst thing in the world”?

A choice can be common and harmless and still have reasons. Some of those reasons– particularly for something as culturally important as sexuality– are worthy of scientific study.

Hoax on Hoaxes 2

Published in Hypatia, When The Joke Is On You: A Feminist Perspective on How Positionality Influences Satire argues that irony and satire by marginalized groups acts as a force for social justice, while irony and satire from privileged groups supports oppressive power structures. Since hoax papers are in the latter group, it argues, publishing hoax papers is morally wrong.

Clearly, it is horrible that a philosophy journal published an argument that a thing that lots of people don’t think is morally wrong is actually morally wrong. Boghossian, Lindsay, and Pluckrose have done us a great service by revealing that feminist philosophy journals somtimes do this. However, I’d like to draw their attention to the many non-feminist philosophy journals that sometimes argue that things that lots of people don’t think are morally wrong are actually morally wrong. Why, I have read arguments that it is wrong to eat meat, go on vacation instead of giving your money to help poor Africans, accept death as a natural part of life, lie to Nazis about the Jews hidden in your basement, fail to euthanize your severely disabled children, have an abortion, not have an abortion, masturbate, have gay sex, and fail to push fat men in front of runaway trolleys.

One hopes that Boghossian, Pluckrose, and Lindsay will soon turn their attention to the rest of ethical philosophy, and because of their hard work from now on all ethical philosophy papers will solely consist of arguments that it is wrong to murder people.

Philosophy is a field where there is not universal consensus that the external world exists, that time is real, or that science is an effective way of seeking truth. It seems a bit absurd to me to believe that “it is morally fine to publish hoax papers” is more obvious than any of those claims, and in fact so much more obvious that it is inherently ridiculous and a stain on the entire profession that they published a paper arguing for it.

(Personally, I agree with When The Joke Is On You that publishing hoax papers is unethical, because you’re literally faking data and publishing it in peer-reviewed journals. I don’t care what kind of high-minded reason you have for faking your data, it’s wrong.)

Feminist Mein Kampf

Published in Affilia, Our Struggle is My Struggle: Solidarity Feminism as an Intersectional Reply to Neoliberal and Choice Feminism is adapted from Hitler’s Mein Kampf.

It is a little-known fact that when you put different nouns in a sentence, the sentence says something different. For example, if you say “apple pie is delicious,” you’re making a banal statement about desserts, but if you say “cyanide is delicious,” you are maliciously trying to poison people.

A corollary is that many unexceptional statements become horrifingly evil if you put Nazis in them. For example, “we should all work and sacrifice to help freedom take over the globe” is a statement that can come from a particularly boring State of the Union address. “We should all work and sacrifice to help Nazis take over the globe” is a Nazi belief. You would not conclude from this that every US president is a Nazi.

Therefore, Our Struggle is My Struggle is full of paragraphs like this:

Fourth, for feminism to achieve solidarity, it must change culture. To accomplish this, it must change
the discourses defining culture. Feminist education must therefore take place indirectly through social uplift— “feminist politics are made, not born” (hooks, 2000, p. 7) –which is best achieved by a philosophical com-
mitment to inclusive values-based allyship and solidarity (cf. Edwards, 2006; Patel, 2011; Russell & Bohan, 2016), particularly in a way that listens (Dotson, 2011; Greenberg, 2014) and acts upon the awareness it has raised (Gibson, 2014). By exclusively pursuing this approach a feeling of liberation can be generated that per-
mits all oppressed people to fully participate in a state of justice.

See, if you listen to Nazis in order to figure out how to educate people into being Nazis, that’s bad. But that does not mean that it is somehow wrong for a social work journal to ever talk about the concepts of culture change, education, and listening. There is nothing wrong with culture change, education, and listening as long as you don’t use them as tools to help you kill seventeen million people.


Sex Roles published An Ethnography of Breastaurant Masculinity: Themes of Objectification, Sexual Conquest, Male Control, and Masculine Toughness in a Sexually Objectifying Restaurant, which is an ethnography about the behavior of men at Hooters. The data is fairly weak, as one of the reviewers noted, and perhaps more caution should have been provided about how much you can generalize from one group of friends.

That said, I’m not sure why Boghossian, Lindsay, and Pluckrose think it is ludicrous to observe men saying things like “it’s just part of being a man to like hot young girls showing off their bodies” and then conclude that maybe part of the reason men like breastaurants is that it allows them to behave in ways they consider manly.

I myself was dubious of the article’s claim that part of the appeal of breastaurants is bossing around hot young women; I went into reading this article expecting to say “yes, I agree that’s stupid”. However, the paper claims that the subjects said some of the appeal of the restaurant is that you can “tell hot young girls what to do and have them do it for you with a smile”. The subjects literally said that. What would Boghossian, Lindsay, and Pluckrose have ethnographers do, ignore what their subjects say when it’s politically incorrect?

Dog Park

This one is legitimately extremely stupid and it won an award. Boghossian, Lindsay, and Pluckrose should be proud of themselves.


Link Post for September

Who makes false rape accusations? Unfortunately limited, because many (perhaps most) rape cases are he-said she-said cases that can’t be reliably classified as true or false. Nevertheless, very interesting.

Alcohol use was always higher among the men who committed more assaults than among those who committed fewer, but trends in assault weren’t tied to trends in alcohol use… But the men who committed fewer assaults over time also reported falling rates of impulsivity, hostility toward women, and beliefs that supported rape.

Man mocked online for shaving on public transit turns out to be homeless and struggling with mental illness. Cringe culture is evil.

Yahweh’s example – not forcing others to labour while Yahweh rested – was one anybody in power was to imitate. It was not enough for you to rest; your children, slaves, livestock and even the ‘aliens’ in your towns were to rest as well. The Sabbath wasn’t just a time for personal reflection and rejuvenation. It wasn’t self-care. It was for everyone.”

Zetetic explanations. It’s hard to explain precisely what this is, which I think is why Hoffman gives us a worked example, but if you click on the link you will maybe acquire an interesting concept and definitely learn a lot of interesting things about yeast.

Moral systems with the same goals can recommend wildly different behavior day-to-day.

A really nice review of the science of obesity, by… the Huffington Post? Okay then.

Critique of Just Love, Part Two


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[Content warning for discussion of the ethics of rape, pedophilia and sex with teenagers.]

Free Consent

Consent: Affirmative, Verbal, or Enthusiastic?

Consent is necessary for ethical sex. But what does “consent” mean? (As always throughout this series, I am discussing the ethics of sex, not the legalities.)

Many feminists have argued for an enthusiastic consent standard: that is, you shouldn’t have sex with someone unless they are enthusiastic about having sex with you. As the saying goes, “if it’s not a fuck yes, it’s a fuck no.” However, I ask the reader to consider the following vignettes:

  1. A couple struggling with infertility is trying to conceive a child. Their fertility monitor has shown that today is ovulation day. They’re both tired and neither of them is really feeling it, but they have a quickie to maximize their chance of conceiving.
  2. A man notices his boyfriend is horny today. Since he’s not in the mood, he cuddles his boyfriend while the boyfriend jerks off and whispers to him all of the nasty things he’ll do to him tomorrow.
  3. A woman and her girlfriend want to keep the spark alive. Every Friday, they schedule sex. They usually both end up getting incredibly turned on, but even if they don’t, making sure to have sex once a week makes them feel like sexual beings and increases their satisfaction with their sex life.

All three vignettes involve unenthusiastic consent. All three vignettes seem to me to be completely and utterly morally unproblematic. Certainly, some people might decide that it is wrong for them to have sex when they’re unenthusiastic about sex. But it seems to me to be perfectly normal and ordinary for some people to sometimes consent to sex when they aren’t enthusiastic about it, and have that as part of their flourishing as human beings.

You might try to save the enthusiastic consent metric by saying “the first couple is enthusiastically consenting to sex because they enthusiastically want a baby!” By this logic, if you hold a gun to my head and force me to have sex with you, I’m enthusiastically consenting because I enthusiastically want not to be dead.

So I think unenthusiastic consent is sometimes a part of ethical sex. I will now consider no-means-no consent, affirmative consent and verbal consent. (I am informed that everyone else uses “affirmative consent” and “verbal consent” interchangeably. This is stupid and I refuse to bow to common usage.)

No-means-no consent is beloved of consent rules lawyers everywhere. The basic idea is that if your partner says “no” or “stop” or “safeword” or “red,” then you should stop, and otherwise it is open season and you can do whatever you want.

The nice thing about no-means-no consent is that there is a bright line. If your partner has said “no” or “stop” or “safeword” or “red,” and you continued, then clearly you are doing something wrong. The problem with no-means-no consent is that, taken literally, it says that there is nothing wrong with getting as close as humanly possible to raping someone as long as you don’t technically rape them. In fact, it’s a good thing to do that! Hey, man, you got laid!

No-means-no consent implies that there is nothing wrong with having sex with a man if he is lying there, silent, unmoving, staring at the ceiling, with a blank expression on his face. After all, he didn’t say ‘no.’ Would you like a sticker that says Technically I Didn’t Commit A Felony on it?

I think we need a fundamental shift in our understanding of consent. We need affirmative consent.

As I use the term, seeking affirmative consent means only having sex with people if you have sufficient evidence to believe that they want, at that moment, to have sex with you. Explicit verbal consent, such as dirty talk, can be a form of affirmative consent, but it is only one form. Perhaps the most common form of affirmative consent is active participation, such as touching, moving, and kissing. Sounds like moaning or grunting can also be affirmative consent.

In general, I’d argue, affirmative consent should be given throughout the sex act. If your partner stops affirmatively consenting, you should pause and say something like “hey, you okay?”

Of course, this is a rule that admits of many exceptions. For example, some people become quiet and still and meditative during sex, which can be hard to distinguish from a person who isn’t enjoying sex. Some people enjoy roleplaying nonconsensual sex. Some people want to have sex when affirmative consent cannot possibly be given– most commonly, they want to be woken up during sex.

I think all these cases should be addressed through pre-sex negotiation. For example, you can say “I get really quiet when I’m turned on, but nothing’s wrong,” or “if I don’t call ‘red’, you should keep going,” or “you can wake me up with sex whenever you want,” or “you can wake me up with sex but only when I’ve said you can the night before.” (You might say that that is an unreasonable level of negotiation to have about sex while the other person is sleeping, which most people are fine with. This is because you have never dated a sleep-deprived person who has finally gotten a chance to sleep in, and it would be totally justified for them to throw an alarm clock at your head.)

I do not think explicit verbal consent is necessary for affirmative consent. Verbal consent means saying something like “I want to have sex with you,” or “let’s fuck,” or “do you want to have sex?”, or “down on your knees, slut,” or “your slave has prepared himself for you, master,” or otherwise communicating with your words that you want to have sex with someone.

The problem with saying “verbal consent is necessary for ethical sex” is that observably lots of people have sex without saying anything. My experiences with sex-without-saying-anything have mostly been that it was extremely awkward, not that my consent was disrespected or that people had difficulties reading my signals. I see no reason to believe that nonverbal communication is any less effective at conveying “I want this” than verbal communication. (Of course, verbal consent seems superior for complicated negotiations, such as kink or fetish negotiations, which probably explains its popularity in those communities.)

Verbal consent is also difficult to maintain continually throughout sex. It is not actually ethically mandatory to chant “yes! yes! yes! yes! yes!”, although many people may find it enjoyable. Therefore, verbal consent ends up being a form of no-means-no consent– once a person says “yes”, it is assumed they mean “yes” until they say “no” again. Affirmative consent, however, is possible to maintain all the time.

I suspect all these niceties, however, are rarely relevant in the bedrooms of the nonrapists of the world. In fact, I myself have had the experience of forgetting to establish a safeword before I began noncon play with someone. Don’t do this, it’s a terrible idea. And yet when I actually had to say no to sex, “no! I mean, really, no! This is not part of the scene, stop right now! RED! SAFEWORD!” conveyed the message very well and nothing bad happened.

I suspect the reason is that I was having sex with someone who actually cared about whether I wanted the sex. Naturally, they paid attention to information that suggested that I might not be interested in sex and paused to check in when they thought that might be the case. I think this is actually the normal way for sex to go among the non-rapists of the world.

Problematic Consent: Sex With Teenagers

Midway through writing this section, I noticed this old blog post of mine about age of consent, which I still agree with. Go read that.

Problematic Consent: Intoxicated Sex

The problem with ‘intoxicated sex’ as a category is that it refers to several different things.

First, sometimes when people say ‘intoxicated sex’ what they mean is ‘having sex with someone who has said that they don’t want to have sex with you when they are too intoxicated to meaningfully resist.’ That is technically called ‘rape’ and it’s a violent felony. Don’t do it.

Second, ‘intoxicated sex’ sometimes refers to sex with someone who is incapable of giving informed consent because they are too intoxicated to understand what they’re consenting to. If a person is confused about who they are, where they are, what time it is, or what’s going on, they are incapable of providing consent to sex, and having sex with them counts as rape morally and, in most jurisdictions, legally. (Exception: if a person has prearranged ahead of time that they consent to sex while intoxicated, I think that’s morally fine, although you’re on your own on the legalities.)

Third, ‘intoxicated sex’ sometimes refers to sex with a person who has consented to sex and understands what is going on but has poor judgment due to being intoxicated. I don’t think this counts as rape morally, and my understanding is that in nearly all jurisdictions it does not count as rape legally. (Unfortunately, sex education classes– even “feminist” sex education classes– often lie to people about this fact.) I think there are three cases worthy of consideration here.

The simplest case is when you’re having sex with someone who agreed while sober to sex while intoxicated, or with a person you know very very well (such as a long-term romantic partner) whom you sincerely believe would like to have intoxicated sex with you. In that case, I think you should go ahead and have sex, as long as you respect their drunken preferences (you don’t get to rape people even if their sober self said it was okay).

If a person has said while sober that they don’t want to have sex with you, or if you have reason to believe that they wouldn’t want to have sex with you while sober (e.g. they are married to someone else), then you should not have sex with them when they’re drunk no matter how enthusiastic they appear to be. You would be taking advantage of their poor judgment in order to get them to do something that they wouldn’t do sober; that is skeezy as fuck and shows a deep disrespect for the person’s ability to make informed choices about what happens to their own body.

A complicating factor is that some people get drunk in order to feel able to express preferences they can’t express sober. I feel sorry for these people and the way that our sex-negative culture has messed up their ability to communicate their sexual needs; they are victims, not wrongdoers. However, I do not think it is too much to ask that they at least maintain an ambiguous silence about their sexual desires while sober, so that people who know they make poor decisions while drunk can say “I do not want to have sex with you” and trust that that will be respected.

Finally, sometimes you don’t know whether someone would want something while sober: perhaps they’ve maintained an ambiguous silence, or perhaps you met them while they were intoxicated. I would not want to entirely ban drunken hookups with strangers. I understand this is a very common kink which many people enjoy greatly and find deeply fulfilling. However, I would suggest that if there is any uncertainty about whether your partner will regret it in the morning, you should suggest waiting until they sober up.

Obviously, quite often, people who are intoxicated enough that they have poor judgment are having sex with other people who are intoxicated enough that they have poor judgment. Being intoxicated is not an excuse for committing rape; if being intoxicated might cause you to commit violent felonies, then you should not become intoxicated. However, having sex with someone who might regret it in the morning is more of a puking-in-front-of-someone-else’s-door-and-not-cleaning-it-up offense, which is wrong but for which “I was really drunk and not in control of my actions” is an excuse.

Finally, if you are less intoxicated than the person you’re having sex with, it is your job to ensure that you have sex responsibly, including taking all safer-sex precautions.

Fourth, ‘intoxicated sex’ sometimes refers to sex with a person who is slightly intoxicated but still capable of making good decisions, such as a person who had a glass of wine with dinner. This sort of intoxicated sex is morally unproblematic.

[Coming up next post: power dynamics, sex work, safewords, emotional pressure, and suicidality.]


Silicon Valley Liberalism


A while ago, I stumbled across the following study of the political opinions of tech entrepreneurs, which found a distinctive pattern. Tech entrepreneurs tend to have liberal positions on social issues, globalism, and redistribution, while having conservative opinions on regulation.

Specifically, according to the questionnaire, tech entrepreneurs believe the following:


  • We should not pay less attention to problems overseas and concentrate on problems at home.
  • We should not, in trade agreements, prioritize American jobs over improving the standard of living of people overseas.*
  • Free trade agreements are a good thing.
  • We should let more people immigrate to America.


  • We should have universal health care, even if it means raising taxes.
  • We should have programs which benefit only the poorest Americans.
  • We should support taxes on those making more than $250,000 a year.
  • We should support taxes on those making more than $1 million a year.
  • We should increase federal spending on the poor.


  • We should not regulate Uber like taxis.
  • We should not regulate gig workers like regular workers.
  • It is too hard to fire workers.
  • Government regulation of business does more harm than good.**
  • Regulations on self-driving cars should stay the same.
  • Regulations on drones should increase.***
  • Regulations on how Internet companies store data should increase or stay the same.****

Social Issues

  • Same-sex marriage should be legal.
  • Abortion should be a matter of personal choice.
  • The death penalty should not be legal.
  • Gun control is a good idea.

*Actually, tech entrepreneurs still favor American jobs (boo! hiss!) but much less so than everyone else, so I’m counting it.
**Tech entrepreneurs are between “somewhat disagree” and “somewhat agree” on this one, which means they’re less pro-regulation than the average college-educated Democrat and Democratic donor, but more pro-regulation than any Republican and, weirdly, the average Democrat.
***Tech entrepreneurs are less pro-drone-regulation than college-educated Democrats and Democratic donors, about tied with Republican donors, and more pro-regulation than the average Democrat or Republican. No, I have no idea why average Democrats are so ambivalent about regulation.
****This is more anti-regulation than anybody except Republican donors.

As I read through this questionnaire, I was like “oh crap, I agree with tech entrepreneurs about everything”. So I thought I would sketch the outlines of the Silicon Valley liberal perspective from my own point of view.

If you have to sum up Silicon Valley liberalism in one quip, it’s “the government shouldn’t do anything except redistribution.”

That’s a little facile. The Silicon Valley liberal does see a role for regulation. A carbon tax can help prevent global warming. Congestion pricing could prevent traffic jams. It makes sense to regulate drugs so that people know they’re getting what it says they’re getting on the bottle.

But from the perspective of the Silicon Valley liberal, the burden of proof is on the people saying the regulation is a good idea. The Silicon Valley liberal takes seriously the idea of regulatory capture: they worry that special interests have an incentive to pervert even the most high-minded regulation into regulations that advance their own interests at the expense of everybody else. They worry about regulations making it easier to engage in rent-seeking, collecting money from people without actually benefiting anyone. They believe the invisible hand of the market usually improves outcomes for everyone, and before they accept a regulation they want to be sure that in this case the market has failed.

Most of all, the Silicon Valley liberal fears regulation because of their concern that regulation will hurt poor people. Zoning regulation and rent control are well-intentioned, but they mean that poor people in the Bay Area can’t afford a job within driving distance of their house. Minimum-wage laws might cause people to lose their jobs. Hairdresser licenses prevent poor women from getting good jobs braiding hair. A dyslexic I once knew who was an excellent carpenter illegally remodeled people’s homes for money because he could not read well enough to get the appropriate licenses.

When the Silicon Valley liberal supports regulations, they tend to support regulations that are minimal and freedom-maximizing. For example, Silicon Valley liberals tend to favor a universal basic income or negative income tax over more complicated welfare programs, because it gives people the maximum freedom to make their own decisions with what they should do with their money. Similarly, Silicon Valley liberals tend to prefer taxing harmful things to banning them, all things considered, because that allows people to decide to spew carbon or drive in crowded cities as long as it’s worth it to them.

You might notice that the ‘regulation’ section of the questionnaire is the one festooned with the most asterisks. I think that is because Silicon Valley liberals cannot fairly be described as anti-regulation. Rather, they are suspicious of regulation, but very very enthusiastic about regulation that passes the sniff test.

(One flaw with the questionnaire, unfortunately, is that since most of the questions are about tech it is unclear whether Silicon Valley liberals are suspicious about regulation in general or regulation of tech specifically. However, I live here, and the former is clearly the case.)

Silicon Valley liberals have a strong technocratic bias. They are unusually likely to identify themselves and their preferred policies as “economically literate.” If something could reasonably be described as “data-driven” or “evidence-based,” Silicon Valley liberals are inclined to like it. Silicon Valley liberals tend to support wonky policies: you can see several mentioned so far in this post, including YIMBYism, congestion pricing, carbon taxes, universal basic income/negative income tax, and opposition to licensing. (Here we can see the common DNA between Silicon Valley liberalism and effective altruism.)

I believe the technocratic impulse is behind the otherwise puzzling tendency for Silicon Valley liberals to support single-payer health care, which seems to go against all their heuristics about regulation. I have had many conversations with Silicon Valley liberals where they’re like “yeah, it’s weird that single-payer health care works, but it obviously does, so let’s do it.”

Silicon Valley liberals also tend to be globalist. It’s important not to overexaggerate here: while Silicon Valley liberals typically support free trade and freer immigration, they still believe trade agreements should favor American jobs over the welfare of people overseas. There is a natural tendency to prioritize people in one’s own country, which Silicon Valley liberals still have. One important detail, I think, is that Silicon Valley liberals tend to believe free trade and freer immigration benefits everyone, including poorer people in one’s own country; they point to the economic theory and empirical research that appears to show this is the case.

One thing I’m uncertain of is how best to describe the Silicon Valley liberal attitude towards social issues. Part of the problem is that, while there are certainly many programmers with very Tumblr attitudes on social issues, many of them are, for example, Communists. Unfortunately, people rarely identify their economic views before saying how extremely Tumblr they are, so it is difficult to estimate how many Silicon Valley liberals are extremely Tumblr. I am also trying to account for the fact that many of my friends are rationalists, who tend to be anti-social-justice because of a founder effect from Slate Star Codex.

Certainly, the Silicon Valley liberal has a libertarian bias in their thoughts on social issues. All things equal, the Silicon Valley liberal is likely to care more about drug policy, criminal justice reform, and civil liberties than an establishment Democrat does. “We should just leave the freaking cake guy alone and let him bake his homophobe cakes” is not necessarily a mainstream opinion among Silicon Valley liberals, but it definitely is more common than among liberals elsewhere.

There is certainly an anti-feminist tendency among many Silicon Valley liberals, as we see in famous cases such as James Damore. But there is also certainly a feminist tendency, as we see in famous cases such as all the programmers at Google calling for the firing of James Damore.

I hope that the “Silicon Valley liberal” terminology becomes more commonly used, because I think it makes discussion of Silicon Valley’s politics clearer. There are several other terms used to describe Silicon Valley liberals, but to my mind they are generally inadequate. Some Silicon Valley liberals identify as “neoliberal,” but the term is used for so many contradictory sets of beliefs that it appears to be utterly meaningless; certainly, Silicon Valley liberals are unlikely to follow the Austrian School and are often quite Keynesian.

Silicon Valley liberals also sometimes identify as “centrist” and “moderate.” While it’s true that Silicon Valley liberals are centrist and moderate in that they tend to agree more with Republicans on some issues and more with Democrats on other issues, they are not centrist and moderate in that their views on many issues are fairly extreme or outside the Overton Window. The research on tech entrepreneurs found that they were substantially more globalist than the average Democrat, and many Silicon Valley liberals support ideas that are ludicrously outside the mainstream (drug decriminalization) or don’t come up in conventional political discourse at all (UBI).

“Libertarian” is commonly used to describe Silicon Valley liberals, both by their supporters and their detractors (the former in such constructions as “left-libertarian” and “liberaltarian”, the latter in such constructions as “libertarian techbro”). While Silicon Valley liberalism has a definite libertarian tendency, I don’t actually think Silicon Valley liberals are fairly described as libertarians. Favorite Silicon Valley liberal policies such as a UBI would require in a massive expansion of the state’s power to tax. Many Silicon Valley liberals support regulations, such as a congestion tax or alcohol taxes, that orthodox libertarians would frown upon.

Over the next few years, I expect Silicon Valley liberalism to grow in prominence on the national stage, as the Democratic party adjusts to the increasing share of its big donors who are tech entrepreneurs. Perhaps we can even have senators and representatives from California who cater to Silicon Valley liberal interests. If this happens, it’ll be important that people understand what Silicon Valley liberalism actually is, and I hope this blog post helps spark a discussion.

10 Questions We Need Radical Feminists to Answer Pronto, Answered



[Content warning: child-on-child sexual abuse, rape]

If there is one thing that the history of this blog has shown, it’s that I absolutely love answering strawmanny questions people ask about people with my ideology. (Seriously. Send me lists. It makes my day.)

Future Female Leaders, which identifies itself as “America’s leading social network for young, conservative women,” has some questions for radical feminists. I’m not actually in any way a radical feminist– boring liberalism to the core over here– but I think “radical” is a term which here means “literally in any way at all.” So I consider it to be perfectly valid for me to answer these questions.

1) How is being pro-choice, or pro-abortion, supporting equality for all: mother, father, and baby?

The difference between pro-choice people and pro-life people, in general, is that pro-choice people don’t think a fetus has the same right to life that we give to a human being outside the womb, and pro-life people do.

Certainly there are exceptions– pro-choice people who believe so strongly in bodily autonomy that they think you should be able to kill an innocent person to protect it, pro-life people who are primarily interested in limiting sexual promiscuity– but in general I find that this is the case.

I’m not going to go into the entire issue of how much right to life a fetus should have. (I say “how much” because many pro-choice people think that a fetus has a little bit of a right to life, and that means that it is wrong to, for example, carelessly fail to use birth control so that you have to have an abortion.) But you can understand how, thinking of a fetus as a potential person, a robust right to abortion protects everyone.

The vast majority of men have PIV sometimes when it would be a really bad idea for them to have a baby. They might have PIV with a woman with whom they don’t want to coparent; they might not want children; they might not have the emotional or financial resources to be a parent right now; they might have an infant or young child already. Of course, in those situations, the couple should use highly reliable birth control. But sometimes people don’t have access to highly reliable birth control or make a mistake and don’t use it, and even the most reliable birth control fails. (For example, if every man and every woman in the US paired up into a couple, and every one of those couples used an IUD, we would expect a little less than 150,000 unplanned pregnancies a year.) Therefore, it protects men if they have the option to have their partner end a pregnancy they do not want.

From a pro-choice point of view, a fetus is not a real person like an infant; a fetus is a potential person, like the eggs or sperm currently in your gonads. Our intuitive system of population ethics says that no particular potential person has a right to come into being: if you refrain from PIV on Saturday, you are not harming the child who would have been conceived if you had PIV on Saturday. However, our intuitive system of population ethics also says that it is possible to harm potential people. If before your child was born you had a deficiency in an essential nutrient that caused damage to the egg, and your child lived three weeks in horrible pain that was not treatable with painkillers and then died, you would have harmed your child. It would be a good thing to delay the pregnancy for three months while you get that nutrient deficiency sorted out.

The vast majority of situations where a fetus is aborted cause harm to the potential person. No one wants to be raised by a parent who doesn’t have the money to raise a child, or who doesn’t have the emotional resources to be a loving and supportive parent, or who feels unhappy and resentful about having a kid. Therefore, abortion leads to the best outcomes for the fetus, a potential person, as well.

What if there’s a conflict of interests? What if the father desperately wants the child and the mother does not, or the fetus would be very happy if it became a person but the mother would be very unhappy in that situation? Well, it is impossible to ask for a fetus’s opinion on things, so the fetus cannot make the final choice, regardless of one’s position on population ethics. The mother and father have more-or-less identical interests in the child (they both might have to pay child support, they both might enjoy parenting, and so on), except that the mother has the additional interest that if she continues the pregnancy she has to have a chronic illness for nine months and then perhaps be tortured. Therefore, she gets the final say.

2) Do you really believe that American women are horribly oppressed when there are women in other countries that cannot vote, drive, file for divorce, etc?

Let me try another example which is no doubt close to conservatives’ hearts.

Many conservatives complain about certain aspects of American society, such as high taxes and burdensome regulations. But lots of countries are way worse than America on this front! In North Korea, private sector business is virtually impossible, all property belongs to the state, and the government commands virtually every aspect of the economy. Many countries that are less batshit than North Korea are still awful: they don’t adequately protect property rights, it’s very difficult to start a new business, and the tax burden is extreme. Any businessperson would rather start a business in the United States than in Haiti, Malawi, or Mongolia, to pick three of the Heritage Foundation’s “mostly unfree” countries. Therefore, it doesn’t make any sense to complain about taxes, regulation, and property rights in America.

I think a conservative would have any number of reasonable responses to this, such as:

  • I live in America and thus have a particular concern about conditions in America specifically.
  • I can’t do anything about North Korea, but I can improve conditions in America, such as by voting or writing my congressperson.
  • We’re supposed to be the beacon of the free world that inspires other countries and we’re clearly falling down on the job.
  • I just happen to care more about economics in America, and you shouldn’t yell at people who are doing a good thing if they aren’t doing the best thing when you don’t yell at people who spend all day sitting on their butts playing stupid iPhone games.
  • The fact that things are worse someplace else doesn’t make what’s going on here okay.

That is exactly why many American feminists care about sexism in America.

3) How do you hold yourself on such a pedestal for promoting “equality for all women” but then bash women who do not agree with you?

Feminism is the idea that women should be equal to men, and more generally the idea that we should not have sexist gender roles limiting people’s behavior. It is not the idea that no women are ever wrong, stupid, evil, or ignorant. If you look outside at the world, you will observe the existence of many wrong, stupid, evil, and ignorant women, and that does not disprove feminism.

In fact, the idea that women are all thoughtful, good, and right about everything is the opposite of feminism. Everyone agrees that wrong, stupid, evil, and ignorant men exist. Therefore, if we pretend (in defiance of all evidence) that wrong, stupid, evil and ignorant women don’t exist, we’re treating men and women differently based on their gender, which is sexist.

Therefore, there is nothing contradictory about feminists bashing women whom they disagree with.

4) Why do you consider government restrictions on abortion “politicians being all up in your business” but are happy with politicians and the government dictating which healthcare you must have, what you must learn in school, and taxing you left and right?

I can only answer as one feminist; I imagine many feminists have different opinions on this fundamental question.

I believe all people should have certain basic freedoms, and that the duty of society is to provide people with these freedoms. One of our most basic freedoms is the ability to have control over our own sexual and reproductive lives. Sexuality and reproduction are, for many people, very important, to the point of striking at the heart of who we are as people. It is inappropriate for the government to make this sort of private, important decision for a person.

However, some freedoms cannot be meaningfully exercised if they are just negative freedoms (“freedom from”); they must also be positive freedoms (“freedom to”). (To e clear, the fact that you should have the positive freedom to do something does not mean the positive freedom should necessarily be provided by the government, as opposed to private charities, the market, social norms, etc.) Abortion is, actually, one of those freedoms. You are not free to have an abortion if there is no abortion provider in your state or if you can’t afford to have an abortion, which is why feminists are concerned about abortion access as well as abortion legality.

Healthcare is also private. The government has no right to force you to receive healthcare against your will or without your informed consent; in fact, in many cases, forcing someone to receive healthcare against their will is considered a form of battery. There is considerable debate about the best way to give people the positive freedom to access healthcare, which is mostly irrelevant to this blog post. Unfortunately, we cannot give people the unlimited freedom to access as much healthcare as they want, because there are too few doctors and hospitals; all forms of allocating healthcare involve some form of rationing.

In the United States, the government does not regulate what you have to learn; it simply offers a public option for schooling. More than half of states have no enforced requirements about what children should learn when they are homeschooled, and most of the remaining states merely require that children learn reading, writing and math. Further, education is a proper concern for the state. Children are not yet capable of exercising freedom the way that adults do, and so the state takes a paternalistic attitude towards them. Many adult freedoms can only be fully exercised by people who were properly educated as children (for example, one cannot take advantage of freedom of the press if one can neither read nor write), so a small amount of coercion can result in more freedom of choice overall.

Finally, while taxes do limit people’s control over their own money, they allow the state to provide many essential services, such as police, the military, food stamps, etc. I think that is a tradeoff worth making.

5) Why are you more concerned about fictional characters on fictional television shows getting fictionally raped than real men having their real lives ruined by very false rape accusations? I’m looking at you, Rolling Stone.

False rape accusations are bad. It is wrong to falsely accuse people of rape. Those who knowingly make false accusations to the police should be charged with wasting police time. The Innocence Project is doing excellent work. We should demand reforms to the criminal justice system, including a complete ban on pseudoscientific forensics, so that the only people who go to prison are those who have committed a crime. If someone you know has made a false accusation and has not apologized and made amends, you should, in general, avoid interacting with them in order to provide support to their victim.

Some feminists have claimed that false accusations never happen or are “as rare as a lightning strike.” I point the reader to Scott Alexander’s excellent blog post debunking these statistics. We need to do better, particularly given that false accusations are a common tool of abusers (it’s the RVO part of DARVO). As feminists and anti-abuse advocates, we cannot find ourselves providing comfort to abusers.

That said, I don’t believe anyone’s life was ruined about the A Rape On Campus story, except perhaps the author’s, and she deserves it. A fraternity was vandalized, and all fraternities on UVA campus were briefly suspended; neither is life-ruining. The accuser accused a person who didn’t actually exist, and who therefore does not have a life to be ruined. It seems like the author of this series of questions should also be concerned about the possibility that they’re prioritizing the feelings of fictional characters over those of real people.

Fiction matters because fiction influences our beliefs about the world. It doesn’t do so directly or deterministically or didactically; but it does so profoundly, for all that. Movies glamorized smoking. The CSI TV series made more people interested in crime scene investigation. Advertisers pay for product placement because they think that if fiction depicts a car as cool then people will be more likely to drive it. The murders and rapes and kidnappings in our fiction make us believe the world is more dangerous, even as it becomes safer. Feminists are concerned about the depiction of rape in media not because we think that fictional characters have feelings but because we are concerned that the way rape is depicted on TV can have effects on actual rape victims, perpetrators, and bystanders in real life.

6) Why have you let Lena Dunham become a spokesperson for your cause, a woman who has admitted to taking advantage of her younger sister sexually and doing “anything a sexual predator might do”?

First, Lena Dunham is famous because she wrote that TV show Kylo Ren was in before he hit people with lightsabers. Famous people have a big platform, which means that when they talk about feminism more people listen than when I do. It is not like there was an election and Lena Dunham was voted President of Feminism. We have no power to give Lena Dunham a smaller platform except by not watching her TV show. I already don’t do that, because I have a strict lightsabers-only media policy.

Second, let’s be clear about the actual allegations here: Lena Dunham, age seven, curiously looked at her then-one-year-old sister’s vagina. As a teenager, she occasionally masturbated while her sister was sleeping in her bed. She also at various unspecified (but young) ages gave her sister candy to kiss her. Obviously, you shouldn’t bribe your sister with candy to kiss you, and it’s an enormous boundary violation to masturbate while someone is sleeping in your bed. (The vagina thing is just a seven-year-old being curious.) But there’s a reason that if a child steals a candy bar we don’t send them to prison for shoplifting. Children and teenagers are not fully mentally developed and are not responsible for their actions the same way that adults are. Treating children as if they are identical to adult sex criminals causes people to criminalize ordinary curiosity about sex and to unreasonably punish behavior which, while wrong, does not indicate the child will grow up to be a rapist. It leads to policies that destroy people’s lives.

7) Do you really think being able to walk around topless is a freedom that women need to live a good life?

Is walking around topless a freedom that men need to live a good life?

Men take off their shirts in public because it’s hot out and they’d like to exercise or (sometimes) because they would like to show off how attractive their chests are. These are not particularly important reasons in the grand scheme of things. However, if you’re allowing men to do something and forbidding women to do the same thing, purely because of gender, that is in fact sexist: it’s treating men and women differently for no reason other than their gender.

Some people might object that men experience visual sexual attraction and therefore women shouldn’t take their shirts off. This argument implies that gay and bi men don’t exist, which is a bit strange: at the very least shouldn’t taking your shirt off be taboo if you’re a man in San Francisco? It also implies the nonexistence of straight and bi women who experience visual sexual attraction, which is a bit hard to square with, for example, that girl who bit through her retainer when she saw Erik Killmonger shirtless.

Straight women appreciate this scene in a completely nonsexual fashion.

It is not clear to me why straight and bi men experiencing visual sexual attraction means that women should not take their shirts off. Judging by both my personal experience and straight men’s porn habits, they seem to enjoy looking at women without their shirts on, so if anything it is a favor to them. (I just asked a straight man of my acquaintance and he said “that sounds GREAT! Who is even against that, religious conservatives who are afraid they will go to hell for having boners?”) Certainly some women would prefer that men not look at their chests sexually, but those women are free to leave their shirts on, just as men who don’t want their chests to be looked at sexually can leave their shirts on. No one is proposing a tyranny of mandatory shirtlessness.

I suspect in many cases the problem is not “men experience visual sexual attraction” but “certain men would not appreciate women’s chests in a quiet and polite way, but would instead make rude, upsetting, and perhaps frightening comments.” I think the problem here is clearly with the men who make rude and upsetting comments, and if anyone’s freedom should be curtailed it’s theirs. Perhaps all of us– women who want to go shirtless on a hot day and men who would like to look at shirtless women– should keep spray bottles in our bags and squirt those men when they make rude comments, much like one squirts a cat who is trying to climb on the couch.

But there is another, more important reason for women to have top freedom.

Over the course of their lives, many women feed babies with their breasts. Reliable studies show that breastfeeding is linked to small but real benefits for both mothers and babies. In particular, PROBIT, a large randomized controlled trial of a successful breastfeeding intervention, suggests that breastfeeding may cause a gain of five points of IQ. Breastfeeding is inexpensive and, for many parents, convenient. And I’m sure everyone who’s ever listened to a crying baby in public is happy about the fact that putting a hungry baby to a breast takes far less time than preparing a bottle.

As a culture, we should make breastfeeding as easy for women as possible, if for no other reason than to save the eardrums of those who happen to share an airplane or a restaurant with a baby. It would be unreasonable to demand every building contain a lactation room. Going into the bathroom to feed your baby is humiliating and can result in a long wait time if someone is already in there. Fumbling with nursing covers is difficult for the already sleep-deprived (and, remember, the whole idea here is that we want to put as little time as possible in between the baby being hungry and the baby being fed). And I’m sure we all agree that women with babies should be able to participate in public life.

There’s a simple solution here. It’s that we, as a society, get over ourselves and accept that sometimes, in the process of feeding a baby, you will see a bit of boob or a brief flash of nipple.

Men have two pretty unimportant reasons to show strangers their chests. Women have two pretty unimportant reason and one very important reason. Why, then, is only the latter taboo? Sexism.

8) How do you make supporting the right to abortion a tenant of feminism when the majority of abortions performed worldwide are due to the child being female, or also known as gender-selective abortions?

Sex-selective abortion. The phrase you’re looking for is “sex-selective abortion.” Gender-selective abortions would involve inventing a prenatal test for transness.

It is difficult to estimate how many sex-selective abortions there are in the world, since sex-selective abortions mostly occur in developing countries and often in countries in which sex-selective abortion is illegal. Experts do believe the “missing women” problem is not solely caused by sex-selective abortion. Other causes include female infanticide and inadequate healthcare and nutrition for girls. Therefore, I don’t think it’s possible to reliably state what percentage of world abortions are sex-selective.

It is unclear to me to what extent sex-selective abortion trades off against the other causes of missing women. If it does, then sex-selective abortion might actually be a good thing, because it is better that a potential person not be brought into existence than that a real girl be starved to death.

Clearly, we should fight patriarchy in developing countries as well as developed countries. But it is not clear to me that banning abortion would have this effect. If parents are not allowed to abort female fetuses, they will still value women less than men, and that will have effects throughout their daughter’s life– on the amount she is fed, on her education, on her health, on whether she is abused. Conversely, if we try to create a society in which men and women are valued equally, it will prevent sex-selective abortion and sexist mistreatment of girls and women. The latter seems like a better deal all around.

9) When you say “Teach men not to rape” are you meaning to imply that men have been, in the past, taught TO rape, or that men are the only people capable of rape. Mary-Kay Letourneau, anyone?

You are absolutely right that all people, regardless of gender, should be taught not to commit rape. The erasure of female rapists is a serious issue in modern-day feminism.

The idea that we should teach people not to rape does not necessarily imply that people were, at some point, taught to rape. We have to teach toddlers to pee in the potty, preschoolers not to hit, and teenagers not to drive drunk. This is not because some malicious person is going around teaching people to pee on the floor, hit each other, and drive after six shots of tequila. It is because civilized behavior is often very different from natural behavior.

And are we so sure that no one is teaching men to rape? I suspect that, if they are not taught ethics, many people will use violence, threats, or coercion to get what they want, including sexual things they want. But I– along with most other feminists– believe there is also a cultural role. When we teach women that men always want sex, we’re teaching them to rape men. When we equate masculinity with sexual success, or encourage women to play hard to get and men to play along, or create media depicting men ignoring women’s nonsexual nos as sexy and romantic, we’re teaching men to rape women. When we teach children that they’re not allowed to say “no” to hugs and kisses, food they don’t like and clothing that is uncomfortable, we’re teaching people of all genders that they don’t get to say “no” unless they have a ‘good reason’ and they don’t have to respect a “no” unless the other person has a ‘good reason.’

Finally, while obviously no one of any gender should have sex with their thirteen-year-old student, Mary Kay and Vili Fualaau have been married for thirteen years and have two children, and Fualaau does not consider himself to be a victim. I feel like this is an odd poster child for women raping men.

10) Do you really think the original feminists, the women who fought for the right to vote, would be proud of you fighting for the right to bare your lady parts, abort your children and shame men into submission like you claim they would?


Petrov Day Ritual

I revised Jim Babcock’s Petrov Day ritual and used it for a small household ritual on Saturday. A link to the Google Doc with my ritual is here.

Major changes:

  • A much stronger focus on nuclear war throughout the text; AI risk, biorisk, and risk from nuclear war are name-checked near the end.
  • In line with the above, a “global coordination” candle replaces the “computation” candle.
  • Many factual errors fixed, including a complete rewrite of the section about World War II.
  • Preserving knowledge required redundancy. In 1439, during the European Renaissance, Gutenberg perfected a device to do just that” now appears twice (h/t Andrew Rettek)


  • Jim Babcock’s version suggests using a menorah to hold the candles. Unfortunately, menorahs appear to be poorly designed for the amount of lighting candles, blowing them out, picking them up, and putting them back that the ritual calls for. Your Jewish friends will also complain a lot that it is not Hanukkah. I do not recommend doing this.
  • I unfortunately found out after the rewrite that the Black Plague may not have slowed the progress of humanity and, in fact, may have improved it by increasing the bargaining power of peasants. I would suggest that future ritual users either cut that section entirely or replace it with a less ambiguous case such as the Fall of Rome.
  • I’d suggest handing out the list of questions ahead of time so that no one pauses the ritual for two minutes while they try to think if they know of any older relatives.

Getting To A Fifty/Fifty Split of Parenting Duties



I find, now that I’ve had children, that I spent rather a lot of time bragging about my husband.

For example, a while ago, I was having a conversation at the library storytime with the other stay-at-home parents. They were complaining about how sleep deprived they were. Eventually, the conversation got around to me, and I said, “I’m not sleep-deprived because my husband takes care of the baby all morning every morning until he goes to work, so I sleep in until 9am every morning.” At this point everyone stared at me and I had to flee lest I be suffocated in a jealous rage with a onesie.

So, as one half of one of the Mythical 50/50 Parenting Division Couples, and also one of the 33% of couples whose relationship satisfaction did not decrease after having a baby, I thought I’d explain how we got here.

Partner selection. By far the most important factor in having a fifty/fifty parenting split is having children with the right person. Your spouse is not your slave, and you can’t force someone who parent who doesn’t want to.

One of the most important factors to select for is a genuine desire to parent. My husband is very enthusiastic about having children: in fact, it’s been one of his primary life goals for as long as I’ve known him. Other green flags to look for include an interest in other people’s children and experience taking care of children (such as taking care of a much younger sibling or a housemate’s child, or teenage employment as a babysitter). A lot of the filtering can be done simply by believing people when they tell you about themselves. If your partner’s opinion on children is “meh” or “I guess this is the socially accepted thing to do” or “how about I go live in a yurt in the backyard until they are five years old and therefore interesting,” you will almost certainly not end up having a fifty-fifty parenting division.

Unfortunately, even the most child-loving spouses can fall into patterns of inequality. I would suggest looking for a deep-seated commitment to equality and, if you are a woman or nonbinary person married to a man, anti-sexism. It’s important not to be fooled by male feminists who are woke on Twitter but sexist in their personal lives: in my experience, a man’s tendency to make male tears jokes or talk about mansplaining has surprisingly little correlation with how sexist he is in day-to-day life. It is difficult to make a list of green flags for anti-sexism, because there are plenty of good reasons for any anti-sexist man to not do any specific thing. A man with depression or ADHD may be unable to share chores equally, and a socially conservative man may disapprove equally of promiscuous people of all genders. If there is interest I may write up a list of things I consider to be green flags for anti-sexism in men, but it is a bit of a tangent for this post, so I’ll leave it be.

Be prepared. Two-thirds of couples find that their relationship satisfaction decreases after having a baby. If you don’t have a solid relationship, you should not have a child together, and you certainly shouldn’t have a baby to repair the relationship. A solid relationship– one with affection and intimacy and where you can resolve conflicts in a constructive way– is a necessity for a 50/50 chore division.

Many couples assume that they’re both equality-minded liberals and so naturally a fifty-fifty parenting division is going to work itself out. I think this is often false. I think it is a good idea to talk about division of labor with anyone you plan to coparent with. If you’re a woman in a relationship with a man, bring up the research on the Second Shift. If you’re the primary caregiver, make sure your partner understands and agrees that while they put in a 40 hour week at work you put in a 40 hour week at home, and that not even the military and medical residencies expect people to be on call 168 hours a week.

Long parental leave. My husband got three months of paternity leave and took all three months. (Thank you, Women in STEM retention efforts.) I don’t know how I could have made it through those first three months without him, and I salute everyone who has to be at home alone with a newborn. You guys should get a medal.

I think both partners taking parental leave helps in two ways. First, you get in the habit of 50/50 parenting division from the beginning, when it’s easier and you don’t have to juggle competing obligations. Second, it builds a sense of confidence. Many fathers and many parents who are not the primary caregiver have a sense of learned helplessness about many aspects of caregiving: they don’t know how to make up a bottle, change a diaper, or comfort a crying baby, and they’re pretty sure it’s an impossible skill they’d never actually be able to learn. Parental leave is a chance for both parents to learn how to parent when both of you are sometimes screwing it up.

Unfortunately, many men in America do not have access to paid paternity leave, and for many couples arranging for unpaid paternity leave would be a hardship. But I think that if your future coparent has access to paid parental leave and refuses to take it, that is an enormous red flag and you should strongly reconsider parenting with this person.

The right amount of criticism. Some books on how to reach a fifty-fifty parenting division recommend not criticizing your partner’s parenting ever. However, when I took this advice, I found myself taking over the parenting even on my off days, because I was the only one who knew that the baby needed his iron supplement or how to soothe his teething pain.

There are probably some people who are so defensive that whenever you say something like “the baby needs an iron supplement” they will respond with “I guess I’m just never going to be as good a parent as you are, here, you take the baby” and then they go off to play video games. Don’t coparent with those people. If you’re coparenting with a reasonable person, then they will respond reasonably to kindly and tactfully phrased criticisms, and you shouldn’t feel bad about saying them.

If you’re the primary caregiver or the person who did the most caregiving in the past, then you probably know things your partner doesn’t. You’re the one who takes the baby to her doctor’s visits, who has the most practice comforting her when she cries, who first sees her learning her new abilities, and who spends the most time frantically googling the best ways to treat diaper rash. It’s okay to share that information with your coparent! Your coparent might be thankful that you did, because they also want the baby to be healthy and happy and stop crying so much.

The core of the advice I read, however, is correct. It’s important to chill out. If it’s your partner’s day to take care of the baby, it’s very easy to get mad at your partner when it’s 2pm and the baby is still in his dirty clothes from last night, or to be like “ugh! I’ll take care of it!” However, that happens sometimes. It is a fact of babies that sometimes taking care of them is really hard and they are wearing dirty clothes at 2pm. This has happened to lots of babies and they pretty much all grew up okay. You should remember all the times that you didn’t put the baby in his new clothes until 2pm, and remember that if you try to take over then you will not get a break at all, and then go out to a coffeeshop and let your partner deal with it.

In addition, your parenting style is probably different from your partner’s parenting style. I tend to alternate between periods of focused play with Viktor and periods of letting him play quietly by himself; my husband tends to interact with Viktor every few minutes, while being on Twitter or playing a video game. I have a real tendency to go “why aren’t you doing focused play with Viktor? You should do focused play!” But neither of our styles are bad; they’re just different. The baby will probably have a perfectly enriched environment either way.

The only way to get the child to be parented 100% of the time the way you want to parent him is by doing 100% of the parenting yourself. If you don’t want to do that, you have to accept that sometimes your coparent will do things differently than you will. Obviously, if there’s a legitimate concern for the baby’s safety, health, or development, bring it up! But if it’s just different people having different styles of parenting, let it go.

Link Post for August


Effective Altruism

Why do we ignore genocides?

The four kinds of problems: problems to be solved, problems to be gotten over, crucial considerations, and defeating problems.


Read Arlie Hochschild’s The Second Shift to prepare yourself for parenthood and its effects on your relationship. “The problem: We tend judge our husband’s contributions not by whether they are equal to ours, but by how they measure up other dads’ contributions.”

Virtually every health website contains misinformation about preeclampsia.

Having a child, like heterosexuality, is a very stupid idea.”

Civil Liberties

Sarah Huckabee Sanders used to be an activist for voting rights.

Louisiana police department under the impression that it is constitutional to jail anybody for up to 72 hours without probable cause. (It is not.)

Police officers routinely misgender and deadname murdered trans people, potentially hampering investigations.

One man’s quest to bring better ramen to the incarcerated.

Texan professor fired for his support of gun rights.

Border patrol agent almost decides not to listen to a podcast because the guest is a sex worker, listens to it and discovers the sex worker was actually really interesting, realizes he’s bigoted, starts to think about how else his bigotry affects his actions… and quits the border patrol. Absolutely heartwarming.


A beautiful personal essay about abuse in academia.

The student loan system is a perfect example of how there’s no government program so awful you can’t make it worse by adding corporations to it.

“Stigma against porn, kink, and sex work is bipartisan—which is precisely why this particular tweet [about Bigfoot porn] was so effective in garnering attention and in targeting Riggleman.”

Just Plain Neat

A student mistakes an example of an unsolved statistics problem for an unusually difficult homework problem and, due to the power of positive thinking, solves it. Sounds like glurge? Actually, according to Snopes, it totally happened.

There are lots of Thai restaurants in America because the Thai government deliberately promotes them.

Pop songs written by fluent but non-native English speakers have some weird lines.

It never occurred to me before that elementary school history books would have to talk about President Trump. Inside what is no doubt the world’s most awkward job.

Bird with fifty ducklings.