Sunday, April 12, 2015

Consent Catastrophes

Trying to compile the following mess into some sort of meaningful point is probably a fool's errand. Read it for yourself and make up your own mind.

Here are the stories -

The Three-Year Long Campus Assault

From this story:

Yes, he was her boyfriend. No, he hadn't pinned her down, or threatened violence. But Espinosa insists that he coerced her, psychologically and physically, into having sex against her will for most of their three-year relationship. She resisted, told him no, pushed him away. More often than not, he persisted and she gave in "just to get it over with," she says.
"I knew that it was sexual assault, but at the time, I felt extreme shame and was not ready nor willing to fully accept what was happening," said Espinosa, 24. "Like most unpleasant truths, I buried it until the end of my relationship, when I realized I was holding onto a relationship with a man who was abusive."
The relationship came to an end in February 2013. The next month, Espinosa filed a sexual harassment claim against her former boyfriend with her school, the University of Texas-Pan American, where some of the incidents occurred. The reporting process was traumatizing in its own right, she says, leading her to file a federal complaint against UTPA. The Title IX complaint, filed last week with the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights, alleges that UTPA violated her right to an education free of gender-based discrimination by mishandling her report and creating a hostile environment.

Sorority blog's grey area

From a clickbait blog called  "TotalSororityMove" : "Is it Possible That There Is Something In Between Consensual Sex And Rape…And That It Happens To Almost Every Girl Out There?"

He slid inside me and I didn’t say a word. At the time, I didn’t know why. Maybe I didn’t want to feel like I’d led him on. Maybe I didn’t want to disappoint him. Maybe I just didn’t want to deal with the “let’s do it, but no, we shouldn’t” verbal tug-of-war that so often happens before sleeping with someone. It was easier to just do it. Besides, we were already in bed, and this is what people in bed do. I felt an obligation, a duty to go through with it. I felt guilty for not wanting to. I wasn’t a virgin. I’d done this before. It shouldn’t have been a big deal–it’s just sex–so I didn’t want to make it one.

Canadian politician booty call 

A Canadian politician shared her story about going to a colleagues' hotel room alone at 2 AM only to find that he wanted to... have sex.

After a night with a large group at a bar, Pacetti allegedly invited her for a nightcap in the hotel where he stays while in Ottawa.
“It was already 2 a.m., so I thought, another hour isn’t going to be a big deal, it’s already late,” she said.
Once in the room, she says she sat in a chair while Pacetti sat on the bed. Eventually, she says Pacetti patted the spot on the bed beside him, asking her to sit with him.
“I said no, I’m good here in my chair. I went to the bathroom to try to find a solution, to leave,” she said. 
When she returned to get her purse from the chair, she alleges Pacetti pulled her to him as she passed by. The MP won’t go into the precise details of what happened next, other than she froze, and blocked out the situation. She said she had previously been the victim of a violent sexual assault.
She alleges it was sex without her explicit consent.
[...]
Is she alleging rape then? The MP said she’s no expert in criminology, and so doesn’t want to put a legal label on it.
As it is, the Canadian politician has already labelled the man a slimeball so the r-word does not matter anyways, does it?

In another report, the woman told people she had handed the man a condom:
“He just grabbed me when I passed near to him, and then we had sex with no explicit consent from me. I froze, in fact,” said the MP, who explained she was a victim of assault in the past. “...It was late, I was tired… It makes you unable to think really fast, losing control of how to react.”
The NDP MP provided a condom and said she did not say yes or no to Mr. Pacetti’s advances. Initiatives launched in Canada in recent years, including at universities and by police forces, have stressed the importance of explicit consent as part of so-called “yes means yes” campaigns.
After intercourse, the NDP MP said, she dressed and left the hotel. She was in pain for three days afterward, she said, but chose not to come forward. “Sometimes talking about it gives you more trouble than trying to deal with it on your own with other medical support,” she said.
Apparently handing a man a condom isn't explicit consent. And really it shouldn't be, as there is some ambiguity in the situation. Maybe one is ready for sex, but on the other hand maybe one is ready for pranking other hotel guests with balloon animals.

For more on this absurdity, read this column.

Prevention through PowerPoint

In defense of expansion of Title IX requirements - or adherence to a strict view of existing requirements - a student has written her own story about assault on campus:
When I arrived in Hyde Park for my O-Week in September of 2011, I was woefully ignorant about sex. I did not have any form of sex education at my high school and never received any “sex talk” about sexual decision making, much less about the mechanics of sex.
[... O-Week = orientation week, presumably in one's first year of university]
So when I attended the Sex Signals presentation during O-Week, a nationally popular sexual assault awareness program whose inaugural college performance was given at the University of Chicago in 2000, I was unfamiliar with what consent meant in regards to sexual encounters.
[... clipped a very oddly specific description of a seminar held once in her first year... who can remember these things?]
At the subsequent Chicago Life Meeting titled UChoose, I received what other students called a rape whistle and participated in a 10-minute conversation about the Sex Signals presentation. Unfortunately, this discussion promptly moved on to other topics and non-sex-related campus safety issues. [...] 
This hasty glossing over of the reality of sexual violence was simply not enough to adequately get students on the same page in a group with varying levels of familiarity on the topic. I was left still unclear on what sexual assault encompassed or how it was defined, and I did not understand what my options were or where to turn if it ever happened to me. Because of the framing of the issue, assault seemed to happen rarely and I naively thought that it would never happen to me.
In my third year, it did happen to me; I was raped by someone that I went on a date with. While he was assaulting me, the thoughts running through my mind were variations of, “Why is he doing this when I said I did not want to do this,” “That really hurts,” “Why is he hitting me,” and “Why won’t he stop?” The words “sexual assault” and “rape,” however, did not initially come to mind as a way to think about my experience. I spent a few weeks in denial about my own assault because I had not internalized that I truly had autonomy over my own body. The preventative education from O-Week provided only a cursory understanding of sexual violence, without any sustained dialogue or examples of what constituted sexual harassment, dating violence, and stalking. In addition, it did not clarify that a lack of a sustained or verbal “no” was not indicative of a “yes.” This lack of education ultimately contributed immensely to my denial.

This has the appearance of making some sense - when is more education not a good thing? However, if a third year university student does not "get it", how is the answer yet another lecture for those that happened to spend the tens of thousands of dollars to attend a four-year in-person degree program?

Universities faced with this dilemma would be better served to exclude these students at the time of admission. Men and women that do not understand the fundamentals of basic human interactions - especially those related to sex and alcohol - make campuses dangerous. For this reason it makes little sense for colleges to accept students that need catch-up courses.

Universities do not teach one to drive. Universities do not fill one in on classes skipped during high school. Universities are not supplementary parenting.


Free drugs and accommodations does not equal consent!

Once upon a time, a woman travelled from Toronto to New York for a free stay by sharing a room with a man she had spoken to online:

Stan invited me to stay at his place after we had exchanged emails for about one week. I was unfamiliar with his work as a writer other than a publication he ran, which I had read and enjoyed on multiple occasions. He and I began exchanging emails daily, which contained playful updates on our lives, unpublished writing, and occasionally planning my stay at his place. He explained that there would be three other people staying in his apartment at the same time I would be there, and that I was “welcome to sleep in [his] bed if [I would] be comfortable with that haha.”
[...]
Stan made it clear that we would be going on a ‘bender’ throughout my visit, which, for the most part, I had no problem with. I have always liked drugs, and was definitely open to taking them for free.
[...]
That evening we were in his room sitting on his bed, and he began kissing me again. I felt unsure of how to proceed. I had no interest in making out with him or having sex with him, but had a feeling that it would ‘turn into an ordeal’ if I rejected him. I had never been in a situation where I was living with someone for a period of time who wanted to have sex with me, that I didn’t want to have sex with. I knew I had nowhere else to stay, and if I upset him that I might be forced to leave.

... this went on for a week. That's how much people would rather stay in New York than take the bus home.

Science’s Sexual Assault Problem
This is a rather tragic story wherein a woman was raped in Turkey while doing field work. The woman concludes that field work is more risky for women than men - and then ends up with the title "Science's Sexual Assault Problem".

It is slightly irresponsible to project this on to science - someone reading the title may think jobs in science are more dangerous, when in reality there is nothing to suggest field work is more dangerous than merely existing and travelling. Unfortunately, this is the reality.

However it's difficult to criticize the author as she has been victimized again - not by rapists in some far away land, but by "progressive" critics in her own. In her blog post response, she answers the most ridiculous of her critics:

Commenters have noted that my piece does not treat the multiple issues of race and class that intersect with violence against women. This valid criticism is a part of a much larger ongoing discussion examining the exclusionary history of mainstream feminism. I recommend this post by Ambika Kamath as particularly insightful about my piece; her follow up is also important.
[...]
Commenters have critiqued the Colonizer mentality that drove the reconnaissance that I attempted. This is absolutely valid. The idea that an establishing scientist must go into an unstudied locality and claim it as one’s own was a model in common use twenty years ago. Since then things have changed for the better, and my grantsmanship demonstrates how my own approach has evolved. The best international field programs are now shared ventures with extensive local participation. Scientific funding agencies actively promote and often require the prior establishment of international collaboration to support foreign fieldwork. The rise of the internet after Y2K made the process of opening correspondence with international colleagues immeasurably easier, and smartphones have made travel easier, and safer, as well.

Indeed, after reading about her rape in Turkey, "progressive" or "social justice" commentators had the courage to point out that the trip itself was problematic and her storytelling was not intersectional enough.

To some people, speaking to any particular point about the premise (i.e. science's 'problem' with sexual assault) is secondary to speaking to an external spiderweb of privileges and victimization that must be addressed first. Yet one only truly needs to check themselves if the critic is actually of a lesser privilege - white men asking white women about the circumstances of non-white, non-colonizer women can be ignored as derailment, of course.

Another absurdity is one of equivalence. One can acquire the blood of a stranger under their fingernails while doing field work in a foreign land. Alternatively, one could simply not saying no to an acquaintance just to make things "easier". In the eyes of many "feminist" thinkers, it is itself a crime to arrive at the obvious conclusion that these situations are different.

When it comes to rape, if one asks a white woman what she was doing in a "colonizer" study of Turkey, it's "social justice" criticism. At the same time, if one asks a federal politician why she handed another adult political representative a condom, it may be anything from "sexism", "misogyny", "victim blaming", "rape culture" or outright rape apologia.

Is this not odd?

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Jackie's Awful Mother

One must be aware already that the UVA story told by one "Jackie" has imploded in a spectacular manner, as outlined in this CJR report

One detail about her mother stood out:

Yet Jackie could also be hard to pin down. Other interviews Jackie said she would facilitate never materialized. “I felt frustrated, but I didn’t think she didn’t want to produce” corroboration, Erdely said. Eventually, Jackie told Erdely that her mother had thrown away the red dress. She also said that her mother would be willing to talk to Erdely, but the reporter said that when she called and left messages several times, the mother did not respond.

As it turns out, Jackie's mother could have been a credible witness regarding another allegation:
Jackie meets with Eramo and says she was struck in the face by a glass bottle on April 6. Jackie says her roommate at the time, a nursing student, helped her remove glass from her face. When interviewed by investigators, the roommate denied this and described Jackie’s injury as a bruise consistent with having fallen.
According to Jackie, she also called her mother around the time of the attack. Phone records reviewed by investigators didn’t show that she made such a call.
Before we ask what this mother was thinking, let's see where the father was, from Erdely's original reporting in Rolling Stone:

Before Jackie left for college, her parents – a Vietnam vet and retired military contractor, and a stay-at-home mom – had lectured her about avoiding the perils of the social scene, stressing the importance of her studies, since Jackie hoped to get into medical school. Jackie had a strained relationship with her father, in whose eyes she'd never felt good enough, and always responded by exceeding expectations – honor roll, swim team, first-chair violin – becoming the role model for her two younger brothers. Jackie had been looking forward to college as an escape – a place to, even, defy her parents' wishes and go to a frat party. "And I guess they were right," she says bitterly.

By all appearances, Jackie's father is not dead or absent - it's rather strange that both parents seem quite silent for two years about what happened to their daughter.

Yet the mother has more culpability, as she's been mentioned as playing a crucial part in several elements of the story.

Jackie's mother could:

  • Corroborate the story about the red dress (e.g. that it existed and she discarded it)
  • Corroborate the story about the beer bottle attack
  • With Jackie's father, speak to her credibility and emotional state over the past two years
  • Pick up the damn phone when Rolling Stone was going to publish the story and make it a worldwide spectacle
These are things Jackie's mother could have done. What did Jackie's mother do? Absolutely nothing. 

One of three things are can be true:
  1. Jackie lied about and/or manipulated her mother
  2. Jackie's mother is neglectful and indifferent
  3. Both
Now, as a rule, we can say that #1 is not true and then #2 must be - Jackie must have been telling the whole truth about her mother's involvement. We know this is the case due to one simple fact - lying about child neglect is rare. According to FBI statistics that probably exist, we can say that the vast majority of children reporting their parents to Child Protective Services/Social Services are telling the truth. 

When do children lie about neglect? It almost never happens.

Therefore, using impenetrable social justice logic, we can conclude that Jackie's mother is a terrible person.

Not only is Jackie's mother indifferent and neglectful, her silence on this matter is buttressing the patriarchy and outright rape apologia. This is the worst possible form of child abuse and she deserves to be called out on it.

For evil to flourish, it only requires Jackie's mother to do nothing.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

How to hate men

Many words are spilled in the effort to convince people that feminists do, or do not, hate men.

In some view, it is a useful discourse. In all subjects, prejudice matters. Bias matters. Motives matter. And good activism relies on objectivity - if facts are always second to immutable feelings, it's hard to imagine any arguments standing up to critical analysis.

It's also true that feminism positions itself as a movement to end bias and gender-based hatred. Feminism, it is said, exists to end sexism and misogyny. It would obviously be a failure to exchange one contempt for another.

But there's a reason that "misandry" is not a word that seems to be catching on.

Some self-styled "feminists" that are fond of jokes about "male tears" and "manbabies" will say that their form of humor is a way to "punch up" and battle the oppressors. Others may say that it's a satirical expression that aims to show how feminists are perceived.

Perhaps the answer is simpler. Nobody cares about "misandry" because the hatred any feminist has for men does not even register. That is, perhaps feminist women cannot hate men more than men hate men.

Consider comedy that is fat-shaming or transphobic. The staple that puts a heterosexual man in bed as he wakes up to find that the person in his company is an individual that does not conform to the typical assessment of beauty and propriety. The joke shames women, while it also shames the man - ultimately he is culpable for his situation and his loss of social status. Entirely a product of his own choices, he now has a shameful secret to hide to the end of his days. The men in the audience can laugh at his demise while feeling comforted that his existence ensures other men are not laughing at them.

Second, the tired lament that women date "assholes" and not the "nice guys". Does this protest illustrate contempt more for women or fellow men? The phenomenon is not unique to men, as we know women also do not have one another's back.

This is not to suggest that men do not hate women, only to suggest when doing so men also find copious amounts of distaste for one another.

The feminist hatred of men, to whatever extent it exists, is not only drown out by volume of awfulness but also by its similarity. Consider that in some corners of the internet, men can be witnessed calling each other "manginas" and "betas". The 'feminist' side of this coin are the terms "neckbeard" and "angry virgin". The common denominator is a man qualifies as a loser when subservient to or not winning the affection of a woman. These words only exist as "faggot" is now thankfully passé.

The question of man hating is a tiresome debacle. If there is something interesting to see in self-styled "feminist" women, it is that they love men too much. Take for instance the coveted office of the CEO. As it turns out, there is not a lot of evidence that suggests it really matters how much these paragons of business dismiss, talk over or tie up women.

Attention focuses on the 'problematic' behavior of these abrasive, self-confident, pushy and wealthy men - but at the end of the day they remain winners. Their asses are firmly planted in the driver's seat, as they are impeccably dressed providers that will get invited back to a panel that will ask them politely for advice as to how more women could land a CEO job. The job can be naturally be assumed to be the CEO position at someone else's company, of course.

These titans of industry are mouthpieces of status quo uniformity, but look good in a suit. Brash, but bold. Sexist, but seductively stoic.  The boss critiqued by "progressive" pundits still epitomizes a man in control, simply given an opportunity to slap rationality into or whisper sweet-nothings for the horde of hysterical bloggers.

Whether men are loved or hated is at times irrelevant, as we have a common preoccupation. We all greatly admire and respect gender roles more than we're willing to admit. Even the most hardcore gender warriors live lives that are embarrassingly normative and old fashioned.  Some other woman is going to flip marriage on its head and put a ring on a bloke. Someone else's husband is going to be the stay-at-home dad. Someone else's workplace can be exactly 50% women. The next generation will be the one that finds a way to excel at both pregnancy and promotions. A systemic problem is continually someone else's problem.

There is more ambivalence than anger.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Does Sexual Assault Matter?

Recently an alarming study was published that concluded that twenty-one percent of high school girls have been physically or sexually assaulted by someone they dated. Ten percent of boys reported a similar experience.

This is oddly similar to the college statistic cited - that "1 in 5" women are "sexually assaulted" before completing their program. Even more concerning, we know that "young women who don't attend college are more likely to be raped."

Within this mix of factoids, we've gone from variations on partner violence, to statistics about sexual assault exclusively, to a definitive judgment of the likelihood of rape. All of these concerns are related, but not necessarily equivalent - something to remember as "feminists" are often great at escalating all concerns to the level of rape. For a specific example of this, note the recent mix up by Valenti and Al-Jazeera that gave the label of "rapist" to all those accused of "sexual assault".

Using the Wikipedia definition of "Sexual assault":
Sexual assault is any involuntary sexual act in which a person is coerced or physically forced to engage against their will, or any non-consensual sexual touching of a person. Sexual assault is a form of sexual violence, and it includes rape (such as forced vaginal, anal or oral penetration or drug facilitated sexual assault), groping, forced kissing, child sexual abuse, or the torture of the person in a sexual manner.

The label seems to apply in many circumstances. Perhaps one circumstance that may qualify is a situation in Florida where a man has demanded his four year old son be circumcised:

A South Florida woman fighting the circumcision of her son has fled with the boy and will face imprisonment for contempt if she doesn't allow the surgery to proceed. 
Palm Beach County Judge Jeffrey Gillen said Friday that Heather Hironimus could avoid jail if she appears before him by Tuesday with the child and signs paperwork needed to schedule the procedure.
[...]
The 4-year-old boy's father, Dennis Nebus, testified he last saw his son Feb. 19.
Court documents show that Hironimus and Nebus had a son together on Halloween 2010. Although never married, the couple is considered to be the legal and biological parents of the boy.
Hironimus and Nebus agreed to a circumcision in a 2012 legal document, but Hironimus later changed her mind and fought to prevent the boy's circumcision. Circuit and appellate judges have sided with the father.

In this circumstance, the boy is at the age or very near to the age to vocally opt-out of a foreskin removal. Despite that, the law says that what must happen to this boy's body is described in a legal document between his parents signed years ago. There does not seem to be any time limit to this agreement, so the boy may need to evade his father's hatred of foreskin another fourteen years before legally free from complying with this order.

The question is, what could this father do that would qualify as sexual assault?

To many, taking a knife to his son's genitals is not sexual assault. What would be sexual assault is if the man managed to kiss his ex-girlfriend against her will.

In this strange world we live in, the son of this man is to be circumcised without his consent, at an age where he would presumably remember a great deal of the impact of the procedure. A number of years later, he will borrow money to attend a school and learn what "sexual assault" in the first year of life in academic regret - as if his puny male brain did not know what violation truly was.

If circumcised, in the eyes of the majority this boy has not been "sexually assaulted". While we're on the subject, perhaps it it's helpful to point out that Janay Rice was not "sexually assaulted" either.

"Sexual assault" that gets the magnifying glass of concern occurs in some union of intent (sexual desire) and intrusion of consent and personal boundaries. If someone grabs a breast by mistake, it's not sexual assault. If someone receives a punch to the genitals out of pure rage, it's likely not sexual assault. If someone is forcibly kissed in a car commercial and does not hate it, then it's up for interpretation.

Revisiting the story of the boy in Florida, it would be simple to dismiss the case as a crazy southern state doing crazy southern things. But on this issue the most bizarre region may be New York. It turns out that in New York there are several people that choose to practice what is known as Metzitzah B'Peh. The practice is known to have given several infants herpes and may have been a factor in the death of a child.

To borrow lingo from the climate change drama, it turns out the "science is not settled" as to whether or not euphemistic oral suction of an infant's penis is the cause of herpes transmission. As an outrageous consequence of this, New York has failed to ban the practice outright. Further, it has even failed to establish a most basic structure of informed consent :

Under the agreement, the city will no longer require that a mohel obtain signed consent before the ritual.
Keep in mind this is of course not written consent from the impacted party - that is, the child - but informed consent from the child's parents.

It gets worse:
If a mohel is found, by a DNA match, to have infected an infant with herpes, he will be banned for life from performing MBP by the health department, officials said.
It does not say a proven infection will end the practice forever - as it probably should - it simply states that infection will end a single career in an industry of sexually transmitted disease.

Consider the baseline of violence that is constructed in youth. Routine genital cutting, bizarre and neglectful parenting practices, the impact of a boundary-free inquisitive sibling, the chaos that is high school.

Despite all this, the tradition that creates the scary statistics right now are the choices made during the ritualized prayer before the gods of Pabst Blue Ribbon at the local temple built on non-dischargeable student debts. After the pilgrimage is over, one can look forward to a web-based survey that asks about "unwanted sexual contact" (Appendix A, link via WP) that is then qualified as "sexual assault" possibly only by the authors of the publication and its concerned readers. There are some good reasons things are not as straightforward as asking a respondent to check yes or no to the question of "Have you been sexually assaulted at college?", but choosing to not be this direct sure makes a lot of tiresome false panic.

Reusing this rule that we need not the assessment of the victim to label an experience a sexual assault and the old social justice slogan that "intent is not magic", one can simply also brand circumcision as sexual assault. And one arrives at the answer to a mischievous title at the bottom of a cumbersome journey through disconnected experiences - of course sexual assault matters.

To their credit, our progressive journalists are concerned about both issues - campus sexual assault is an "epidemic", while having a foreskin removed is getting much too expensive. Even the CDC would tell the state of Florida that it's a tragic to have to circumcise a four year old, as it's much cheaper to circumcise an infant.

Does one tip a mohel that really makes an effort at oral suction?

Saturday, February 14, 2015

To Sound Smart, Go Negative

A relevant and disappointing article surfaced in WIRED recently - "A Sad Fact of Life: It’s Actually Smart to Be Mean Online"

Some excerpts:
She took a group of 55 students, roughly half men, half women, and showed them excerpts from two book reviews printed in an issue of The New York Times. The same reviewer wrote both, but Amabile anonymized them and tweaked the language to produce two versions of each—one positive, one negative. Then she asked the students to evaluate the reviewer's intelligence.
The verdict was clear: The students thought the negative author was smarter than the positive one—“by a lot,” Amabile tells me. Most said the nastier critic was “more competent.” Granted, being negative wasn't all upside—they also rated the harsh reviewer as “less warm and more cruel, not as nice,” she says. “But definitely smarter.”
[...]
Other studies show that when we seek to impress someone with our massive gray matter, we spout sour and negative opinions. In a follow-up experiment, Bryan Gibson, a psychologist at Central Michigan University, took a group of 117 students (about two-thirds female) and had them watch a short movie and write a review that they would then show to a partner. Gibson's team told some of the reviewers to try to make their partner feel warmly toward them; others were told to try to appear smart. You guessed it: Those who were trying to seem brainy went significantly more negative than those trying to be endearing.

There we have it.

Perhaps there is a physical reality that means it is more effort to be lucid and critical, so it would not be so bizarre that we find negativity to be more intelligent. More effort, more thinking must be involved. Right?

The downside is that on the internet, it's easy to have the appearance of credibility. If the reader is willing to share a few assumptions, it's simple enough to string sentences together in a semi-logical way and successfully preach to one choir or another. One does not even need to wear pants while assailing the world with their insight.

And there is no end to the issues that we should be concerned about. Climate change, vaccination rates, pollution, war, economic problems... a safe default is to be concerned all the time about all the things.

Except the train of all things terrible must eventually stop. Nothing can be perfect, but life in many aspects can be quite acceptable. Not every day in one's life can be an ordeal of harassment and destruction of one's civil rights.

Sadly, nobody wants to read about how great one's day was. Content creators have incentives to make every day the worst day. Moreover, "activists" face incentives to create drama and outrage out of ambiguous situations.  As Scott Alexander explains, animal rights groups like PETA will be attracted to create fireworks out of trivialities (pet ownership, perhaps?) rather than fix issues everyone seems to agree with. Similarly, contemporary "feminist" journalism may be condemned to always champion confusing antiheroes simply to court controversy.

There's writing polemic, pushing boundaries, and thinking critically - and then there is pseudo-intellectual trolling and activist delusions of grandeur.

It's fun to participate in all of the above, but maybe the lot of it is thoroughly stupid.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Feminism Likes Big Buts

The subject of campus rape remains a subject of concern, as it should, and Amanda Hess wrote a decent article in Slate on the subject of drunk sex.

An interesting disclaimer was put into the article:
And I’m not raising the specter of false accusations, the rare phenomenon in which a vengeful woman “cries rape” after engaging in consensual sex (or no sexual activity at all).

The article linked to is a piece by Cathy Young, describing a case where a xoJane commenter completely falsified a story about a musician. Amanda Hess' piece wishes to speak about cases where both parties are drunk and what that means as far as legal consent is concerned. It's interesting to consider that the latter not being in the same category of "false accusation", as for an allegation to be false it does not actually need to be a lie with malicious intent.

That is, perhaps Brian Williams actually believes most of the things he says - this does not change the fact that they are false allegations when viewed in the perspective of any reasonable person.

This "but I'm not talking about false allegations" to keep the pseudofeminist hivemind at bay was actually not the biggest but in feminism-related commentary this week -


Where to even begin.

It seems odd that, at a moment when we’re finally making headway on campus assault – with White House-backed initiatives, rape victims sharing their stories, and students mobilizing to make their campuses safer and more responsive to sexual violence – the response from some quarters is to worry for men’s futures rather than celebrate women’s potential safety.

It seems odd we are to celebrate the posturing by the administration and universities that ultimately has not been shown to have made any real changes. "Potential safety" could not be a more accurate portrayal of what has been going on.

No one wants to see innocent people accused of horrible crimes, but there is a distinct lack of evidence that young men on college campuses – even the ones who have raped women – are suffering any harm due to the increased focus on ending rape.

Here is the but that Valenti thought was good enough to highlight in a tweet. It's a long way of saying the ends justify the means. Valenti admits that someone is going to be smeared with little evidence, then bemoans how little evidence there is that enough punishment is happening. Evidence is apparently something that matters only sometimes.

Rape remains a chronically underreported crime, and only 2% of rapists ever spend a day in jail. On college campuses, only 10 to 25% of rapists are expelled,less than half are suspended and many are given university-mandated“punishments” like writing a research paper or an apology letter.

This paragraph is ridiculous for a number of reasons. First, the efforts by the White House and campus tribunals have never even attempted to put more people in prison nor do they have the power to do so. Valenti knows this, so why it appears as a criticism here is bizarre.

Second, watch this phrase:
"only 10 to 25% of rapists are expelled"
This statistic comes from this link. Which then redirects one to this NPR article, which includes the following:

Colleges almost never expel men who are found responsible for sexual assault
Reporters at CPI discovered a database of about 130 colleges and universities given federal grants because they wanted to do a better job dealing with sexual assault. But the database shows that even when men at those schools were found responsible for sexual assault, only 10 to 25 percent of them were expelled.
The Center for Public Integrity reports it as such:

Though limited in scope, the database offers a window into sanctioning by school administrations. It shows that colleges seldom expel men who are found “responsible” for sexual assault; indeed, these schools permanently kicked out only 10 to 25 percent of such students.

NPR reported the people as responsible for "sexual assault". Al-Jazeera included this as a subheading of "male college rapists". Valenti went with Al-Jazeera's subheading.

Does Valenti and Al-Jazeera not understand the difference between sexual assault and rape? Do we need to explain this?

Let's say a woman files a complaint with a university officials that a fellow student grabbed her bottom at a campus bar. This would, in the English language, qualify as a "sexual assault". However it is not a "rape" by any means. Imagine the man is brought before the university administration and the institution finds him absolutely culpable, as it should.

In Valenti's feminist utopia, (borrowing from Filipovic for a moment) what ought to happen then is the man should be forever exiled from campus -- as he is a rapist. The statistics say so!

I also believe that the disproportionate worry for accused rapists over their victims boils down to a fundamental distrust of women.
[...]

The rape truthers’ belief that any increasing efforts to stop rape and hold more accusers accountable will hurt innocent men is, at best, magical thinking. While multiple female rape victims at 89 different colleges have filed suits citing Title IX violations and unfair treatment by school administrators, there has not been one recent public case of a wrongly-accused male student who suffered significant, permanent legal harm at the hands of a malicious accuser. That hasn’t stopped people from trying to identify one, though.

Ah yes, Title IX complaints. "Look at the Title IX complaints, they matter!" After already destroying statistics (Charles Blow and nearly everyone else also get the numbers wrong) we're going to spend time counting Title IX complaints.

The thing about counting Title IX complaints is that it is a metric that will never change. It's safe to say that every sizable school will screw up something worthy of filing a complaint on an annual basis. All large academic institutions can be thought of as permanently under investigation, as the government will always be asked by concerned parties to do so.

Perhaps it's time to make a wager. If a single school of sufficient size can have a record clean of Title IX complaints for a span of three years, then it's a metric worth following. There is no evidence to suggest that Title IX complaints are not simply the new normal, as even if mistakes are not made complaints will still be filed.

Revisiting this sentence:
"there has not been one recent public case of a wrongly-accused male student who suffered significant, permanent legal harm at the hands of a malicious accuser."

Notice how the words "recent" and "legal" makes the word "harm" nearly meaningless. According to this sentence, the accused are only truly damaged within the confines of a court of law -- and only within some time span that Valenti does not disclose. Those are apparently the only true victims of false allegations. There is some level of irony here.

Later, Valenti points out:
"no school has ever had their funding taken away because of a Title IX violation."
Why would this be infuriating? The threat of a funding loss does not mean that a funding loss needs to happen. It's like threatening employees with dismissal - it's entirely possible that compliance is achieved without terminating people to set an example.

All this said, Valenti's biggest critic remains Valenti:

The tagline:
"Reporting, prosecution and incarceration haven’t eliminated intimate partner violence. Some new solutions offer women hope"
Quote:
But some advocates say that the focus of mainstream anti-violence organizations – relying on statistics, reporting assaults to police and putting offenders in prison – while well-meaning, may be part of the problem. Grassroots activists believe this broad brush approach is a mistake, and instead are working on alternative methods, from restorative justice to iPhone apps, to tackle violence from a community mindset.

Yes, Valenti wrote a piece about how prison is not always a fantastic idea just a few months before demanding that more men go to jail. Valenti thinks the public at large disagrees with her as there is a  "fundamental distrust of women". Maybe people just cannot follow the incoherence of contemporary "feminist" activism.

"Restorative justice is great, but..."

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Islamophobia and Chapel Hill

A man in North Carolina has killed three college students. The victims were two women and one man. All victims were muslim and of Arab descent.

It must be admitted that at least one person was reading early reports on Twitter with the morbid and regrettable hope that the suspect was not a man, not white and definitely not a secularist. If the murders could be branded just another "honor killing", it would be simpler to reconcile with certain worldviews.

The suspect is by many accounts a left-leaning, pro-choice, pro-LGBT secularist. Not a right-wing Christian nutjob, not a delirious escaped inmate, not a Brevik-like manifesto-wielding psychopath, but a seemingly regular guy that likes to read Richard Dawkins and watch Rachel Maddow.

It meets all the qualifications of a racist and Islamophobic hate crime like the shooting in Wisconsin.

Some may run to point out to claim that the inevitable comparison to the Charlie Hebdo shooting is a false equivalence. Others may point out that the shooter may have been motivated by a pitiful neighborhood parking dispute and not out of anti-theistic rage.

Regardless, what matters is that it's immensely disappointing, tragic, outrageous and unacceptable that secular folks are not better than such violence. It matters not whether the trigger was a hijab or a parking spot. If believing in a higher power makes one relax about parking spaces, then within modern life it is absolutely a moral obligation to take up monotheism.

This blog is decidedly "Islamophobic" and will remain so, if that word has any meaning. Islam is a terrifying dogma that too many confuse for a social, economic and legal policy. At the same time, hijabs should not be confused with threats and parking spaces should not be confused with things that are worth killing over.

There is another escape route to be closed for some on the secular left - it may be said the shooter was a "pro-gun nut", which would put him at odds with many "sensible" supporters of the grand secular conspiracy. While it's true that many of the secular left would not have armed this man, pointing this out is ultimately a derailment. If the man had not a gun, he would have victimized these youth with his fists and given well-read "progressive" secular "rationality" just as much to think about.

As everything is politics, many things recently said about Islam by secularists will be viewed with a sense of irony. It is the time to hear this criticism and be better for it.

It's difficult to find enough words to condemn this man's actions, but the search is meaningful.