Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Naturalist Fallacy

VoxDay writes:

Rodger was, quite literally, beneath Moio [Monette]’s notice in junior high school. Like many pretty, popular girls do, she probably expressed her amusement and disdain when Rodger, a gamma at best, attempted to interact with her in some clumsy manner. There would be no reason for her to remember doing so, she probably treated every boy of insufficient socio-sexual rank at school the same way. Nor can she be reasonably criticized for behaving in that manner, as it is as much a natural aspect of establishing and policing the socio-sexual hierarchy as the alpha boys pushing around the deltas and the low deltas tormenting the omegas.

Vox is too philosophically astute to conflate "natural" with "good" or "right".  But the alternative meaning -- "Sh!t happens." -- isn't very useful.  One might as well assert that every alleged link in the long, sorry chain leading up to this tragedy is "natural".  Certainly the population variance in stability, sociability, and even narcissism is natural.  The low-intensity torment inflicted on him by everyone who came across him, male and female alike, was natural.  Given these priors, perhaps even his violent lash-out was natural, as certainly as were society's late efforts to hunt him down.

So, "natural" isn't much help.  Alternatively, would "virtue" have made a difference?

By way of analogy, let me turn to the SAPR slides from last week.  One of the qualities that sexual predators allegedly look for in potential victims is social isolation.  I don't claim to know how many women are actually isolated socially (at least, women the sight of whom any level of intoxication would induce me to think, "Mmm, sexual assault . . ."  YMMV.)  But unfortunately, the program was so focused on scoring points against feminist's enemies that it missed the obvious point:  loneliness and despair are terrible places to abandon people, yet all too commonly this is exactly where they get abandoned.

Steve writes, "Maybe they [women] could kinda tell."  Sorry, Steve, but I'm calling bullsh!t on this one.  The prisons are full of convicted serial killers getting sacks of love letters.  Women don't reject psychopathy and narcissism.  Women reject weakness, and it is weakness that every aspect of Elliot's sorry life broadcast to the world.  It is weakness that got him picked on by his roommates and dismissed by total strangers.  And it was the aura of weakness that his orgy of violence ultimately sought to dispel.

So, to hell with "natural".  If you want to combat sexual assault (and mass murder), practice virtue instead.  Expand the circle, don't constrict it.  If you are female, use your social standing to include that friendless girl in the group, not exclude her.  If you male, use your charisma to invite that awkward boy in, not bully him away.  Would this have made a difference in Elliot's case?  Probably not; Elliot's was a particularly difficult case.  But it sure beats another round of whining about guns/misogyny/movies/FPSGs.  Because that definitely won't work.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


How long will we wait before the Left blames Santa Barbara on Republicans?  Not long apparently:

It is striking that [spree killer Elliot Rodger] used the politically freighted phrase “right to choose,” normally associated with reproductive freedom, in reducing women to commodities for male use . . . .  He proposed concentration camps for women, with a few allowed to survive for reproduction. All this, he said, was “my war on women.”

That’s a familiar phrase to those who watch politics, and know how that name has been given to the various policies that would seek to curtail women’s autonomy, or that would keep women less safe from violence.

Audience Participation Question:  Does this ever work?

The Left has a proud, ignominious history of blaming tragedies on their political enemies.  Gabby Giffords was the fault of Sarah Palin.  Matthew Shepherd was the fault of James Dobson.  Oklahoma City was the fault of Rush Limbaugh.  Etc.  But my sense of it is that however onanistically satisfying these narratives might be to the Left, they don’t really persuade anyone not already persuaded.  The Giffords narrative was spectacularly unsuccessful.  Clinton tried to make political hay out of OKC, but the end result was probably a draw:  the fear of predatory government emerged as a dominant theme on the Right, while the Left began to shed its few remaining pretenses of little-el liberalism.  Arguably, the Left’s most successful propaganda effort was in the wake of the Shepherd murder – that his death was the result of a meth-deal-gone-bad is not widely known – but it is difficult to disentangle its effect from that of the elite’s long-running effort to deploy “gay rights” as a weapon against Christianity.

But I could be wrong about this, and in any case the Left never seems to pay an actual price for their repeated calumnies, so why not try to see what will stick?

Meanwhile, let the firings begin!

Mahbod Moghadam, co-founder of the popular lyrics site Rap Genius, has resigned from the company's board of directors following controversial comments regarding the manifesto of Santa Barbara gunman Elliot Rodger, according to a report.

Maghadam wrote a series of annotations on a version of Rodger's tome uploaded to Rap Genius, stating that parts were "beautifully written" and saying that he guessed Rodger's sister was "smoking hot."

For the record, I don’t see much eloquence here.  I see a badly written parody of what feminists think the interior life of the incel must be, and if it weren’t for the dead bodies, I would assume I was being trolled.

On the other hand, Georgia Rodger is no-kidding hot!

Fun fact:  According to Google, and as of Wednesday evening, there are 190 million news stories mentioning “Elliot Rodger”.  There are only six mentioning him in a story with “George Sodini”.

Monday, May 26, 2014

The War On Nerds: SAPR Edition

Our group commander held a CC call in our agency auditorium the other day.  I always make it a point to arrive late to group CC calls and lurk around the entranceways, seeing how our group CC is likely the most long-winded individual ever to be trusted with the authority to gather people into an auditorium and talk at them.  This allows me to make as many bathroom breaks and/or early departures as necessary.  For instance, this call was executed in two stages: the first stage lasting 40 minutes; the second, after a brief intermission, going for 2.5 hours.

Until I actually get in trouble for treating “mandatory” calls as optional, the lurk-in-the-entranceways strategy seems like an optimum strategy.

During stage one, the group CC talked about Sexual Assault, Prevention and Response (SAPR).  These lectures are now a semi-permanent feature of all military-ish formations, much as mandatory harangues about “sexual harassment” went on in the years between, roughly, Tailhook on one end, and Monica Lewinski on the other.  Our group CC puts an above average amount of energy* into this, and during this particular call he told us a story.

The story was about testimony he heard during what I took to be SAPR “facilitator” training that he had attended.  (I’m not clear whether he was the beneficiary of this training as a volunteer, or whether he received it by virtue of being an O-6.)  The testimony was from a female second lieutenant who told of being almost the victim of a sexual assault.

As retailed by our group CC, her story went like this:  newly assigned to our installation, the LT was going about attending the usual slate of orientation briefings when she received an email from a major (“I don’t remember his name; let’s call him ‘Major Smith’,” said our group CC) that went something like this:  “Hi, welcome to our base, hope you like it hear, drop me a line if you ever want me to show you around.”  The LT wondered why she was receiving this email.  She carefully checked his organization – all emails from military addresses come with the rank and organization in the “Reply To” line, and in any case, any member of the DOD can be looked up on the Global Address Book – but no, he was not in her chain of command, nor was he from any other organization with a direct professional interest in base newcomers.

Other emails soon followed in like vein:  perfectly friendly if overly-familiar, free of any suggestiveness or innuendo.  I didn’t catch whether or not she replied to any of them, but if she did she was soon routing all his emails straight to the Junk Mail folder and deleting them unread.  Eventually, he contrived to introduce himself in person, and she was soon avoiding him physically.  In one instance, she spotted him at some base assembly or other, and actually hid in the bathroom afterwards for half an hour with the intent of avoiding him.  It was to naught; when she emerged from the bathroom, he was waiting for her with, “Hey, good to see you again!”  Again, he made no threats or sexual remarks.

Eventually, she filed a formal complaint with the Equal Opportunity Office, but was unaware if anything came of it.  She noticed when his name showed up on a list of selectees for promotion, and at that point went to her own commander.  The commander apparently called the major’s previous installation and asked about him, learning that, yes, they had had some complaints about behavior like this, but nothing was actionable beyond counseling.

The lieutenant was eventually invited to tell her story of being “groomed” for sexual assault and/or rape to people attending SAPR facilitator training, where our group CC heard it.  It wasn’t immediately clear why he was telling the story to the peonage, but he stated emphatically that his reaction when confronted with a like situation would be to warn the would-be rapist, “I may not be able to prove it in a court of law, but I know what you’re about.”

Several thoughts about this:

  • The dynamic has been well described in this corner of the ‘sphere:  a low status or unattractive man – you can take my word that the rank of major, in and of itself, carries little cachet in the Air Force – takes notice of a woman of middling attractiveness.  But because he’s a chickensh!t (hey, I can relate!) he doesn’t approach her directly, but rather, with whatever intention, tries to insinuate himself into her “friend zone” so he can try to “convert”.  Meanwhile, the woman, perceiving the loss of status by interacting as a peer with a low status man, and believing that better opportunities are being crowded out, seeks to discourage further interactions, and enlists allies to that cause with words like “creep”, “stalker”, and now, apparently, “rapist”.
  • As a general matter, I’m disinclined to take sides in this contest.  I’m done with vicariously white-knighting for women with whom I don’t actually have a relationship.  But I would like to point out that this kind of behavior is statistically unlikely to lead to a favorable outcome, and at some threshold gives social ineptitude a bad name.  The adage, “Don’t crap where you eat,” comes to mind here:  under the present regime, our best bet is to ignore women at work unless they approach us — and perhaps even then.  (Yes, I appreciate that it is easy for me to say this, being safely married.)
  • The last I checked in on sexual harassment law, “unwelcome conduct” must be of a “sexual nature” to be legally actionable from an EEO perspective.  Is that still true?  If so, and since by her own account the lieutenant’s pursuer never said or did anything sexual, it’s not clear the EEO office had any recourse.  But over the last few years, commanders have put in place their own much broader policies, and they can and do issue no-contact orders at their own (unlimited?) discretion.  I assume that this particular major was eventually a recipient of such an order, although I do not remember that from the group CC’s narrative.
  • I note without comment that the lieutenant here was immediately suspicious of the major’s first unsolicited email.
  • I’m obviously a supporter of “profiling”, “stereotypes”, or any other name we wish to give statistical generalizations.  But I do insist that the generalizations be backed up by actual evidence.  I have over the years seen several profiles of rapists, and “beta” (or, if you prefer, “bad beta”) was not among their characteristics.  Does anyone have any new evidence on this front?  Was the lieutenant, or whoever put her on the SAPR curriculum, or our group CC aware of such evidence?  Or was the chain of reasoning merely:  a woman doesn’t like a man’s behavior!  Therefore, he must be rapist!  Q.E.D.!
  • Did it not occur to anybody that, having had his background investigated at both this installation and the previous one, and having been found free of even an allegation of rape, that the major might be, you know, not actually a rapist?
  • Am I to believe that the only thing standing between this major and being libeled as a wannabe rapist before several hundred people was that my group CC had forgotten his name?  Because wouldn’t accusing a man, by name, in a public assembly, of planning a crime, for which our group CC admitted he had no actual evidence, itself be against the law?  It certainly shows a reckless disregard for the man’s reputation.

* Most senior officers, like most humans, would just as soon tell the truth when doing so doesn't cost them anything. But some fraction of them enthusiastically propagate lies as a tool of social dominance. This is what I mean by "energy".

Thursday, May 22, 2014

SAPR Day: the Confession of “Jack M.” and the Infantilization of Women

One of the videos played during the morning briefing on SAPR Day was a USAF-produced dramatic reenactment of the rape confession of “Jack M.”  The confession supposedly appeared in a publication called the Manhattan Spirit.  Although I can find no website for this publication, you can read the text of the confession here.

Jack M. Re-enactment
Taking his story at face value, “Jack” is an admitted if now-repentant sociopath.  And while the Dark Lord himself would likely shrink from his defense, Jack’s behavior is the logical end-point of detaching sex from relationship.

However . . . the Commander’s Curriculum Guide had this to say:

This is a real example of how offenders think. It is a good example of how they manipulate by insulating victims, justify their behaviors and even place blame on victims. It is also a good example of how a normal social situation, meeting people at a bar, drinking and socializing allows offenders to hide in plain sight and continue their criminal behaviors.

It is important to highlight that we are not focusing on the victim’s behavior here. If the audience goes straight to “why did she?” “she should have…” then they are missing the focus of this Stand Down Day. Encourage the audience to focus on the offender’s behaviors. There would not be a rape if a rapist is not present. If he didn’t rape this woman he would have found another to rape. This film will be further discussed in the facilitated small group discussions.

Anne Munch’s response reminds us to not judge the victim’s behaviors because we were not there.

The motivation behind most sexual assaults (from touching to rape) is power and control. A person can take control, humiliate, intimidate or act out power by raising a fist to someone or they can sexually assault them. Rape isn’t committed because someone can’t stop themselves during a sexual encounter or it’s a mistake- offenders intentionally perpetrate. “No” does not matter to them.

So first of all, it is not to defend Jack or justify his behavior that I point out the obvious shortcomings of this as an exercise in moral reasoning.  The role of the object of Jack’s attention here goes beyond the usual “playing the drunken slut” behavior;  someone can be stupid, reckless, and compromising and still be the victim of a vicious crime.  Nor is it merely a matter of forensic guilt, though that plays its role; many crimes escape punishment for lack of justiciable evidence.  And I will stipulate that the girl didn’t have fun, didn’t participate sexually, didn’t want to happen what actually happened.  These, by themselves, are not enough.

By way of analogy, and considering the context, let’s turn to the words of the Code of the United States  Fighting Force, once known as the Fighting Man’s Code of Conduct.  While it no longer carries the force of law, it is still taught as an ethical guide for American prisoners of war.

Article I: I am an American, fighting in the armed forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.

Article II: I will never surrender of my own free will. If in command I will never surrender the members of my command while they still have the means to resist.

Article III: If I am captured, I will continue to resist by all means available. I will make every effort to escape and aid others to escape. I will accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy.

Article IV: If I become a prisoner of war, I will keep faith with my fellow prisoners. I will give no information nor take part in any action which might be harmful to my comrades. If I am senior, I will take command. If not, I will obey the lawful orders of those appointed over me and will back them up in every way.

Article V: When questioned, should I become a prisoner of war, I am required to give name, rank, service, number, and date of birth. I will evade answering further questions to the utmost of my ability. I will make no oral or written statements disloyal to my country and its allies or harmful to their cause.

Article VI: I will never forget that I am an American, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. I will trust in my God and in the United States of America.

So, in defense of the nation, and in keeping faith with her comrades, a female soldier is to never surrender of her own free will while she yet has the means to resist, and to continue resisting by all means available.  She is to make every effort to escape, accept no special favors, and resist to the utmost of her ability.  Yet it defense of her own virtue*, she is expect to do . . . what?

The Air Force is holding up as illustrative a woman who having been told exactly what Jack’s intentions were, walked under her own power from the bar to Jack’s apartment, lay down on Jack’s couch, and, while fully conscious, bore Jack’s penetration without so much as a “no”, let alone a cry for help.  She then proceeded to spend the night in his bed, and depart the next morning without complaint.  It is not even clear that she considered herself a victim of anything more than a lousy date, let alone a crime.

Sorry, but this won’t do at all.  I’m going to insist on more effort that this.  No, not a Thermopylae Pass level of  resistance (though, in fact, some women offer that), but morally speaking, that cry for help is the difference between rape and fornication.  By that standard, this girl didn’t even rouse herself to French levels of valor.

The point of SAPR Day is to encourage bystander intervention.  Now, I have elsewhere confessed to my personal threshold for intervening on behalf of someone who isn’t related to me by blood or marriage.  But as a general matter, what moral claim does anyone have that motivation of others exceed the motivation of themselves?  I submit that they have no such moral claim.

SAPR Day will have to mark me “Present” for this one.

* For those of my readers you who no longer believe in virtue, or believe it irrelevant, feel free to substitute the words "sexual sovereignty" or whatever else you want. My point still stands.

Monday, May 19, 2014

SAPR Day 2014

So, the USAF devoted an entire day to Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR).  It consisted of a morning briefing, a movie, and a three-hour afternoon small-group facilitated discussion.

I’m going to reproduce a selection of the slides from the briefing, slides that were ordered from the Chief of Staff and intended to be consistent across the entire Air Force.  Some snarky commentary may be involved.


So, we’re already off to a discouraging start.    Since victims are presumably identifying actual offenders out of lineups, the announcement that the Air Force is going to help the rest of us in “identifying offenders” sounds vaguely like what it other contexts (but not this one) has been called “McCarthyism”, or “profiling”.

Next slide:


Wait, what?  Apparently, some other graphics got mixed in with the slides!  That’s a WWII era propaganda poster about how the Japs are coming for our women.  Let’s try again:


Let’s zoom in a bit:


So, under “Potential Perpetrator Characteristics/Indicators”, we see:

  • Hold traditional gender role stereotypes;
  • Endorse statements used to justify rape (“rape myths”);
  • Hold adversarial beliefs about relationships between men and women; and
  • Use powerful rationalizations to excuse their behavior as non-criminal.


No, sorry, that’s a WWI era poster about how the Kaiser is coming for our women.  But . . . I’m starting to notice a pattern here.


A clearer view of the previous slide.  I’ll have more about what “rape myths” are in a subsequent post.  But I bet it would be a surprise to people who follow, say, James Dobson, that they are actually rapists because they believe in “traditional gender roles”.


But then, whoever we don’t happen to like at the time are always about to have their wicked way with our women.

But enough about beliefs.  Let’s look at behavior:


I’ll have more about this in subsequent posts (SAPR day having provided a month’s worth of blogging material), but a couple of points here.  The first is that the “Behavior Progression” is more or less what any guy interested in any girl would do, be his motives honorable or malevolent:

  • Plan contact points;
  • Create opportunities; and
  • Exploits change meetings.

I am grateful, and not for the first time, that I’m already married.  Single guys today are going to have to wait for the official AFI on approved courtship methods.

As for the “Grooming Methods”, many of them look like ordinary bar game, the whole point of which is to secure consent and measure receptivity, not perpetrate rape.

But apparently, seduction is also an enemy trait:


I’m pretty sure that’s intended as a caricature of a Jooish Freudian psychoanalyst betraying the virtue of his innocent client.

Next slide:


Some points about Airmen:

  • “Knowing what constitutes consent”:  the briefing doesn’t actually explain what constitutes consent in today’s environment, especially consent that can’t be retroactively withdrawn.
  • “Confront inappropriate behavior and are willing to intervene”:  I’ll have more on this later but will pause to note the irony that, while the victim’s behavior is never to blame, somehow third parties are now responsible.

And while I’m at it, I’m all for investigators “improv[ing] information collection,” but what does it mean for them to “empower victims”?


Damn!  I’m pretty sure this poster’s caption translates to “Commie basterdz paw ur womenz,” but I would appreciate an expert translation.

The following slides cite the 2012 Workplace and Geneder Relations Survey of Active Duty Members (link below).  I have read criticisms of this survey and the way it has been used, but I would appreciate any links to commentary that my readers can recommend.


That’s pretty specific for a number that includes both reported and unreported incidents.  According to the notes, the “3259” are sexual assaults against active duty Air Force personnel only, but that number isn’t actually in the survey that I can find., It is apparently an extrapolation from the survey.  The survey says:

“Completed surveys were received from 22,792 eligible respondents. The overall weighted response rate was 24% . . . .  Overall, 6.1% of women and 1.2% of men indicated they experienced unwanted sexual contact in 2012.” 

Page 19 says that these numbers were 3.1% of AF women and 0.5% of AF men.  Page 61 says that among AF female victims, alcohol was involved in 52% of incidents, force was used in 63% of incidents.  (Weirdly, considering the occasional insistence that men are victims too, the survey results don’t include male victim data at nearly the resolution for which it has female victim data.

From the Commander’s Curriculum Guide, a set of briefing notes that accompanies this slide show:

Risk reduction techniques (like telling potential victims to act a certain way or to not do certain things) may reduce risk, which is wise, but it does not stop offenders. At every opportunity alcohol has to be named as the weapon that it is. We must point out the fact that it may be skillfully used by the predator, often in what most would consider a non-hostile environment. When alcohol is viewed as the cause (or at least a part of the cause) its presence provides the perfect alibi for the predator. Explanations for sexual assault/rape that emphasize risky situations (drinking, dress, etc.) imply that danger is ‘natural’ to these circumstances as opposed to deliberately chosen by coercive individuals in order to maximize their potential for predating. ((Bourke, J; Rape: Sex Violence History. 2007)

So it seems like the Air Force can’t quite make up its mind about alcohol.

Next slide:


Parenthetically, I want to point out how Powerpoint has really harmed the art of propaganda.  Most of these slides are pretty bloodless; the posters of yore, in contrast, are lurid and colorful.

Anyway, where was that slide . . . oh, here it is:


Slide 82 of the survey says that 73% of female victims did not report the incident, for a 27% report rate.  That’s consistent with an overall report rate of 24%, since men report far less often.  But I assume the Air Force doesn’t need survey numbers to estimate the reports, since they presumably have, you know, actual reports.

Slide 73 says that among Air Force victims, 43% were neither stalked nor harassed, 21% were both stalked and harassed, 7% were only stalked, and the number only sexually harassed is “NR”; however, since the other services’ columns add to 100%, my inference is that the sexual harassment only number is 29%.  That makes 50% of cases that involve some sexual harassment.  It is on the strength of this that the military now says that sexual harassment “leads to” sexual assault.

Here are some questions I had that the survey didn’t address:

  • Racial demographics of perpetrators and victims.  It may be that the survey didn’t collect this, but that kind of oversight strikes me as desperately incompetent.  It may be that the survey collected the information but didn’t report it because there were no significant differences between races – but if not, then why not say so?  As is, it looks like they’re hiding something.
  • The survey makes a point of reporting how many active duty personnel experienced sexual assault prior to joining the military; the number is 27% for Air Force women (p. 143).  But the survey says nothing about what the overlap is between this number and the number reporting sexual assault since joining the military.  That might help develop a profile of victims as well as perpetrators, but despite the ease of its calculation, we aren’t told.
  • The survey makes no mention (and I will return to point later) whether or not the victims verbally objected to the unwanted sexual contact, a.k.a. “assault”, let alone whether the perpetrator honored the objection.  Apparently, the “one free grope” rule that Cllinton enjoyed is Old and Busted.  From the survey (p. 1 – 2):

For the purposes of the 2012 WGRA survey, the term “unwanted sexual contact” means intentional sexual contact that was against a person’s will or which occurred when the person did not or could not consent, and includes completed or attempted sexual intercourse, sodomy (oral or anal sex), penetration by an object, and the unwanted touching of genitalia and other sexually-related areas of the body . . . .   Of the 6.1% of women who experienced unwanted sexual contact, 32% indicated the most serious behavior they experienced was unwanted sexual touching only, 26% indicated they experienced attempted sex, and 31% indicated they experienced completed sex.

My personal opinion is that, for women, the breasts fall pretty unambiguously in the “other sexually related areas” category.  But because this is undefined, it’s left to mean whatever a woman thinks it means.  That’s not unreasonable – if someone doesn’t want to be touched, he/she shouldn’t be touched.  But combined with the New Hotness that the first offense is immediately actionable, it leaves the potential for a lot of people to be caught in the shifting standards.

Here are the citations from the Commander’s Curriculum Guide:

2012 DoD Workplace and Gender Relations Survey of Active Duty Members (WGRA)

Lisak, D. & Miller, P. (2002). Repeat Rape and Multiple Offending Among Undetected Rapists. Violence and Victims 17,1. p. 73-84.

Lonsway, K., Archambault, J., Lisak, D. (2009). False reports: Moving beyond the issue to successfully investigate and prosecute non-stranger sexual assault. National Center for the Prosecution of Violence Against Women. 3 (1).

McWhorter, S.K., Stander, V.A., Merrill, L.L., Thomsen, C.J., & Milner, J.S. (2009). Reports of rape reperpetration by newly enlisted male navy personnel. Violence and Victims. 24 (2): 204-18.

Sadler, A., Booth, B., Cook, B., & Doebbeling, B. (2003). Factors associated with women’s risk of rape in the military Environment. American Journal of Industrial Medicine. 43: 262-73.

Last of all:

red menace anti soviet propaganda 7

Golly, the SAPR office could recycle a lot of this stuff.  Just replace the Hammers and Sickles with, I dunno, crosses I guess.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The cadets are a lot smarter than the grown-ups

This Christian Science Monitor article reports on the results of focus groups from the Service Academies on the subject of sexual harassment:

The focus-group comments of the cadets offer some insights into why the cadets themselves think the problem is pervasive, and how to best handle it.

When sexual harassment and assaults are prosecuted on campus, they think it might be a good idea to publicize them a bit more, even while protecting the anonymity of victims.

“When these things happen, my concern is, Are they being at all like hushed up?” one West Point cadet told Pentagon interviewers. “I think if we wanted to raise awareness and like say that this is a problem, why isn’t it being publicized when it does happen, even anonymously?”

Pentagon researchers also wanted to know from cadets whether they thought unwanted sexual contact was a problem perpetrated by many fellow cadets, or by a few problem cadets.

Female cadets at West Point noted that in some cases, there are one or two well-known seniors in a company “that has made passes at most of the plebe girls. And they all have this uncomfortable feeling around him.” That said, one female cadet added, “I don’t think there are a lot of males here like that.”

Except . . . “making a pass” does not, in and of itself, constitute sexual harassment, and certainly not sexual assault.  But let the academies forbid fraternization between classes if they wish.

Female cadets also reported struggling with how to best handle put-downs and sexually harassing comments, while still being “cool.”

“If someone touches you,” one female cadet explained, there is an unspoken understanding that “you don’t want to be like that girl and freak out about it.” The question is how to let a fellow cadet know, “Hey, that’s not cool, don’t do it,” she told Pentagon interviewers.

“You almost have to make that character judgment and decide in your mind if you think it’s worth it.”

Or perhaps, decide whether you kind of liked the attention, or whether objecting will enhance your status or diminish it.

Okay, I’m being a little snarky here. I'm prepared to offer social support to anyone whose moral virtue is assailed by sexually boorish advances. But while I understand a woman's imperative to discriminate among such advances, she's on her own as far as I'm concerned. The nerds would never get away with what the cool kids do. 

Because female cadets are far outnumbered by their male counterparts, one female cadet reported struggling with feelings of “maybe I am overreacting.” She continued, “So I don’t know what to do when everybody else seems to be okay with it.”

While many women said they feel comfortable speaking up when they feel harassed, they also recognized that many female cadets also blame themselves when they experience unwanted sexual touching. “It starts to seem like the victim’s fault for not being assertive,” one said.

It is entirely possible that many female cadets (and male cadets, for that matter) do wrestle with this question in good faith.  What are your boundaries?  How do you object to which levels of transgression?  I think part of a young woman’s education ought to be how to escalate their objections in ways that don’t make every slight, quite literally, a federal case.

A clear theme that comes through in the survey, too, is that cadets of both genders feel that because the physical standards for female cadets are not as strenuous as those for male cadets, the men may have less respect for the women.

“The only thing I can think of is because some standards for women are lower,” one male cadet told investigators. “My summer training, what I did last summer, girls aren’t allowed to go to it because it’s a male-only role.”

“I think I saw it during ‘Beast’ a lot,” said one female cadet, referring to the grueling summer training for freshmen. “If the female is slowing down the squad because they’re having a harder time carrying the ruck, it sparks that negative mindset, like ‘Why are the women in the military? Our entire unit is slowed down.’ I can see frustration with that.”

Another female cadet noted that because the physical standards are different for men and women at the academies, it is possible for women to get higher scores than men – even though they might not have to do as many push-ups or run a mile as quickly. “That eats him alive,” said one female cadet of a male cadet friend of hers.

Well said.

Unfortunately, the adults seem to be obsessed with grinding their own axes:

The study also found that “the rates for crude and offensive behavior – this is your typical locker room talk – and for sexist behavior on the 2012 survey – those were high,” said Elizabeth Van Winkle, deputy branch chief of the Defense Manpower Data Center, which conducted the focus groups with students at the academies.

Between 80 and 90 percent of women indicated that they had been the object of sexist comments in the past 12 months. Defense officials sought to bore into those figures to see if they were really accurate.

These sorts of sexist comments are particularly troubling to Pentagon officials because, “There is a strong positive correlation between the experience of sexual harassment and the eventual sexual assault of people in military units,” said Nathan Galbreath, the Pentagon’s senior executive adviser to SAPRO.

“And so we think that because these two problems are on the same continuum of harm, getting at that sexual harassment – the crude and sexist behavior – is part of the prevention work [for] sexual assault.”

Kind of like the claims from my last post about “serial predators,” this assertion of harassment-assault correlation is not, this article at least, back by the citation of any actual data.  But even if such a correlation exists – and it well might – it doesn’t prove that harassment causes assault, nor does it prove that reducing harassment will reduce assault.  They’d be better off going after the alcohol and slinky clothing.

Until the Pentagon allows women to compete with men for the same combat jobs in the military, that culture of disrespect will continue, says Greg Jacob, a former US Marine and policy director for the Service Women’s Action Network, in an interview. “Until women become full-fledged members of a team, and the more women get promoted up the chain of command – that’s really the culture change that we’re looking to see happen,” he says.

Idiotic on so many levels.  For decades, women meeting promotion boards have been selected at higher rates than men.  And I’m pretty sure that sexual assault wasn’t nearly as much of a problem when women served in segregated units.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Sex Assault’s “New Paradigm”

From the Christian Science Monitor:

US military's new tactic to curtail sexual assaults: nab serial 'predators'

To combat sexual assaults, military officials shift tactics to focus on ferreting out serial predators. Here's why they're increasingly convinced that relatively few people in the ranks commit the bulk of such crimes.

Caveat:  the article deploys the weasel words “sexual assault” throughout; we the readers are encouraged to assume “rape”, but in fact this category covers everything from rape to ass-grabbing.

By Anna Mulrine, Staff writer / February 24, 2014


The Pentagon, under pressure to show progress on bringing down rates of sexual assault, is putting new emphasis on ferreting out serial predators within the ranks, as military officials become increasingly convinced that relatively few people are responsible for the bulk of sex crimes.

The new direction is being driven by anecdotal experiences of some commanders, as well as by research showing that in certain semi-closed settings – such as college campuses – as many as 90 percent of sexual assaults are committed by serial offenders.

“We think it tends to be, more often than we’ve believed before, ‘serial predators’ with more than one victim,” retired Maj. Gen. Margaret Woodward, who earlier this month left her post as director of the Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, said in an interview. “If you get rid of just one of these predators, it’s pretty significant.”

Some perpetrators have dozens, sometimes hundreds, of victims in a lifetime, says [former director of the Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office retired Maj. Gen. Margaret] Woodward, citing studies by psychologists who are now doing consulting work with the Pentagon.

This is either true or it isn’t true.  On the one hand, I’m leery of contract psychologists pushing the Next Big Thing, but on the other, it’s not inherently implausible that drunken sluts are a minority taste.

However . . .

This necessarily involves a revamped approach – one that turns away from education campaigns that caution potential victims to use the “buddy system” or to dress conservatively on nights out, and more toward aggressive investigation of suspects in order to find other possible victims and help resolve 'he said, she said' claims.

This is important because the latest research finds that most sexual assaults are not simply a result of "mixed signals" stemming from, say, an evening of heavy drinking. “Understanding and accepting that [idea of serial perpetrators] make people understand that ‘he didn’t just drink a little too much,’ ” says Woodward.

But that is, in fact, the profile.  From the Dayton Daily News (via

Seven of the alleged Wright-Patterson assaults occurred in dormitories, five in military housing and 20 occurred off-base, according to Office of Judge Advocate data. The reported offenders were 26 active-duty airmen and six reservists, statistics showed.

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base reported 32 alleged sexual assaults involving adult victims from 2010 to 2013, according to the 88th Air Base Wing Office of Staff Judge Advocate.

Fourteen of the reported victims requested prosecution of the alleged perpetrators, 11 victims did not. Three who reported assaults recanted the allegations, and the status of five others was not known, according to figures.

Among the reported victims, 15 were active-duty service members, three were reservists, four were military dependents and 10 were "non-base connected civilians," Wright-Patterson reported.

Eight of the victims were between 18 and 20 years old, 16 were between the ages of 21 and 24 and eight were 24 or older or the age was unknown.

Twenty-six of the reported incidents involved alcohol, five did not and it was unknown if alcohol was involved in one incident, authorities reported.

So while exactly none of these alleged assailants were “serial perpetrators” over the last four years, 81% of the incidents involved abuse of alcohol.  I don’t slight the satisfaction that comes from seeing one’s enemy receive his comeuppance, but wouldn’t it be better all around if these 26 women didn’t elevate their risk of victimization by their behavior?

Returning to the CSM article:

Today, military law enforcement officers investigating sexual assault crimes are increasingly being trained to dig into the history of the accused, rather than mainly into how the alleged victim behaved in the hours before the alleged assault.

“Obviously you’re going to investigate the incident, but we need to investigate the alleged offender, too,” [Pentagon consultant Dr. David] Lisak says. “Are there any other victims?”

“The biggest thing I’ve seen in our investigators is going from a bias toward investigating the victim,” he says. “If you go into the case with the mind-set that false allegations are rare but [that] perpetrators will perpetrate more than one crime – now that’s power. You may actually find incidents in the perpetrator’s past. It’s easier to prove five assaults than one.”

Looking again at the Wright-Pat data, anywhere from 9% (the recantations) to 34% (the requests not to prosecute) of the 32 initial reports were, legally speaking, false.  That’s not exactly “rare”.  But I will stipulate that smart “serial predators” might be seeking out or creating the circumstances where the boundaries of consent become blurred.

The shift toward digging harder into the backgrounds of sex-crime suspects may in turn put less emphasis on potential victims and their behavior.

“For many years, the way we tried to combat sexual assault was we taught our potential victims to be ‘harder targets,’ if you want to call it that,” [commander of the Eighth Fighter Wing at Kusan Air Force Base, Col. S. Clinton ] Hinote says. The admonishments were never to walk alone, always to have a buddy, don’t get drunk, don’t go out with people you don’t trust, or don’t wear provocative clothing.

“Some of these are unwritten rules, but everyone knows the rules,” Hinote says. The problem “is that if a victim violates one of these unwritten rules and comes forward, there is a possibility that someone might say, ‘Well, what were you wearing? Were you drunk? Did you go out without a buddy? Did you have a plan for getting home?

Except knowing the rules and following the rules are two different things.  For instance, I’m pretty sure that all the men know that “sexual assault is really, really bad” by now.  And yet at least some men are still doing it, and some women are making themselves vulnerable to it.

“This can pretty quickly transform into victim-blaming,” he adds.

Actually, no.  The reason these questions are important is because the criminality of the event depends entirely on the victim’s communicated state of mind.  Nobody is trying to “blame the victim” in the sense of saying, “you deserved what happened to you.”  What any good faith investigation is going to try to find out is, “are you the kind of person, and do you live the kind of life, that makes your expressed or implied consent in this instance likely or unlikely.”  Because that is what will determine the guilt or innocence of the accused.

If investigators find other victims, “that will bolster credibility in a ‘he said, she said’ scenario,” notes the Air Force’s Woodward.

True enough, and I entirely agree that the “sexual history” of the accused ought to be no less at issue than that of the victim . . . but no more either.  And it bothers me that they are presented here as alternatives rather than complements.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

MLMs and Me

Via Steve, this NYT article on the dueling diversity-mongers betting billions of bucks over the future of Herbalife inspired me to write of my own exposure to “Network Marketing”, a.k.a. multi-level marketing (MLM).

My grandparents were Amway salesmen back in the late 1970s (at least, I think it was the 1970s, but it might have been the early 1980s), recruited by friends into the organization.  They eventually left with a garage full of not-especially-effective laundry detergent, which we were still using well into the 1990s.  I myself was too young to have any appreciation for the Amway business model, although I was old enough to know that Amway products weren’t very good.

I have a stronger recollection of the visit the Shaklee Vitamin people paid to my parents house circa 1980 (plus or minus a couple of years).  As my parents explained later, a (somewhat distant) professional friend of my father called and asked to come by to discuss “a personal problem”.  Invited over to the house, he arrived with what turned out to be a higher-level Shaklee pitchman.  My parents, whose Scots-Calvinist resistance to salesmen puts my own to shame, wouldn’t allow them in the house before asking them straight out if they would be required to buy or sell anything.  They were assured that this was not the case.

I sat in on their presentation, and received my first exposure to  the MLM method of marketing goods to consumers.  For those of you new to the concept, MLMs recruit recruiters of recruiters, an endless chain of representatives who build “downlines” fueled by personal consumption of the MLM’s products, some residual became the sales commission for the “uplines”.  So the Shaklee reps weren’t exactly lying:  my parents had they become involved, would theoretically have not been required to purchase any products, nor would they be selling products as such.  They would have been Shaklee representatives recruiting  further levels of Shaklee representatives.  So while someone obviously would have to buy something for anyone to make any money, no individual would be required to.

Flash forward to the early 1990s at a sizeable military town in the Southwest.  An associate from work called and asked to come by my apartment.  The words “personal problem” may not have been spoken, but that was definitely my impression at the time.  And as in the Shaklee experience, my friend served as a stringer for a higher-level rep who made the bulk of the pitch.

“So . . . it’s a pyramid scheme,” I observed at the conclusion.

“No it isn’t!” exclaimed the rep with no small animation.  “We have a letter from the FTC saying we’re obeying the law!”

“I don’t care about the FTC,” I replied calmly.  “I’m saying that, structurally, the money-making enterprise you are pitching here requires an ever-expanding base of consumer-marketers recruiting and ever-expanding base of consumer-marketers.  Definitionally, this is a process that must end in saturation, leaving the bottom of the pyramid consuming products but not actually making any money.”

We went around and around on this point without much progress.  Several times, I disavowed any interest in being a salesman of any sort but expressed interest in seeing the product catalog.  Several times, the rep replied that while they would be willing to show me the catalog at some future date, what they really wanted was for me to recruit.  Since I worked with the stringer, I think I may have eventually seen a catalog; I am certain I never purchased anything; few of the products advertised were ones for which I was in the market, and none were price competitive.

Flash forward a few months later.  I received my second pitch for network marketing.  A “friend” (in the sense that we attended the same young-adult Bible study group) invited me downtown to a restaurant to discuss a “business proposition”.  This sounds relatively honest, but my specific impression was that it was a business that he himself was creating.  I won’t quibble over definitions, except to say that MLMs encourage their reps to think of themselves as “business owners”.

Our dinner meeting was somewhat frustrating.  I was treated to a list of interview-type questions about my goals, financial objectivds, etc., followed by a fairly lengthy and very general lecture on “residuals”, i.e. profit margins.  It was frustrating because (a) I didn’t see myself as applying to join his “business” and (b) the ECON 101 struck me as pretty obvious, yet my “friend” wouldn’t skip to the part where he actually told me what the business was.  At the end of it, he invited me to another meeting where it would all be explained.  “Why don’t you explain it to me now,” I suggested.  “Sorry, but that’s not how I do business,” my “friend” said.  “If you’re really interested, you’ll come to the meeting.”

I was pretty irritated by this point, but since I didn’t yet smell an MLM and, being single, didn’t really have anything better to do with my evenings anyway, I eventually came to the public school auditorium with 1000 other potential recruits for the “meeting”.  The ushers carefully sat us in the front; the recruiters sat in the rows in the back, making slinking out early extremely difficult.

The “meeting”, as you might expect, was conducted in the spirit of a revival meeting by a man that, I swear, was a spitting image of Wayne Newton.  Apparently, every one in the room worked for him.  There was a long inspirational talk about “financial independence”, the revelation that this was indeed an MLM, and a final revelation that this MLM was called “Amway”.  It was not long after “Amway” that I decided that, conspicuousness be damned, I was walking out the door, but I want to share the one visually striking evidence as to what the opportunities in MLMs really are.  At one point, Wayne Newton asked everyone who had achieved the first level of network growth to stand up, and the back half of the auditorium duly rose.  The first level of growth would earn its recruiter, IIRC, $6 per month in commissions.  Wayne progressed through the levels until reaching the level of “financial independence” at which we could quit work:  $20K per year.  (This isn’t as absurd as it sounds:  in the early ‘90s in the Southwest, there were a whole lot of people scraping by on less than $20K, including, just barely, me.)  There were, I think, two individuals in the back left standing at this level of success.  Everyone else in the auditorium was supporting those two people, who were themselves supporting Wayne Newton.

Those two recruiting attempts within the first six months of my residence were the most aggressive.  Other attempts would follow over the next two years, but they were much more conversational.  By the time I returned from Japan two years after that, my professional status had lifted me out of the target demographic, and/or the enthusiasm for MLMs had cooled in the face of much better job opportunities.

In preparation for this article, I set about researching Shaklee’s multiple run-ins with the FTC.  I failed at this research; indeed, it appears that Shaklee has successfully purged the entire internet of its malodorous legal history.  But I eventually came across this exhaustively compiled political, legal, and regulatory history of MLMs.  The article deserves to be read in its entirety if you have several hours to devote to it.  But I wanted to comment on a few summary points I gleaned.

  • The standard MLM pitch as my parents received it from Shaklee and I received it from Amway is, according to formal FTC interpretation of the law, illegal.  This, frankly, had not occurred to me at the time.  I did not believe that anyone was, strictly speaking, lying to me about the income opportunities since the improbability of realizing those opportunities was so immediately obvious.  But as Steve points out, MLMs attract – and exploit – the bottom half of the bell curve, while I sit firmly in the top 5%.  The author writes:
    Most recruits will join because of the "business opportunity" and because they are led to believe the products are not only in high demand but are unique ("always!"), exclusive ("absolutely!"), elite, upscale, innovative, super-concentrated, miraculous, healthier, more environmentally friendly, etc. When the business opportunity fails, they either accept the theft because they've had it drilled into their heads that only losers quit and settle on believing that they're buying these products at some tremendous discount because they're in a "buying club", or quit and feel so guilty they fail to understand they've been robbed. Now imagine an entire legion of MLMers paying for millions of these overpriced, uncompetitive products just so they can participate in a compensation plan they believe is leveraged to help them earn a reasonable part-time supplemental income if not a vast fortune, and you've got MLM's gravity-defying money funnel, which is more aptly compared to a vacuum cleaner sucking the income stream from the bottom up.
  • The FTC wields incredible power.  During the Clinton administration, the FTC under Robert Pitofsky pre-emptively shut down a string of MLMs, forcing them on pain of bankruptcy to sign Consent Decrees without ever having to bring a criminal case in court.  You don’t have to love MLMs to be bothered by unaccountable power.
  • Contrariwise, MLMs in the 2000s went to some lengths to cozy up to Republican politicians in the name of “free enterprise”.  You don’t have to hate MLMs to be bothered by the prostitution of your philosophy for the bottom-feeders of capitalism.
  • We live in a hyper-regulated economy.  As the article makes clear, everything has a set of regulations governing the minutiae of its behavior.  Franchises are regulated.  Buying clubs are regulated.  Independent contractors are regulated.  Commissioned and direct sales are regulated.  And of course, employment is regulated.  Post 2008, I am somewhat less sympathetic than I once was (though not entirely unsympathetic) to the argument that this regulation is as bad in principle and practice as some libertarians will often insist.  But I am pretty sure that no good can come from having the regulations and then allowing MLMs to exploit (or create, or merely assert) loopholes in those regulations to operate with impunity on the grounds that they aren’t actually a buying club, or a franchise, or a sales force.

    Monday, May 05, 2014

    The Best of OSU/UMI Sociology

    From CBS Cleveland:

    Study: Violent Video Games Encourage Racist, Aggressive Attitudes Toward Blacks

    Benjamin Fearnow

    March 21, 2014 9:56 AM

    Everything but the abstract is behind a paywall, so I’ll have to comment on the strength of the article.

    “Our research suggests that people who play violent video games as violent black characters are more likely to believe that blacks are violent people,” writes a research team led by Grace Yang of the University of Michigan and Brad Bushman of the Ohio State University. “Playing a violent video game as a black character reinforces harmful stereotypes that blacks are violent.”

    The study examined the effects of playing violent video games as a black avatar (versus a white character) on racial stereotypes and aggression. Games such as Grand Theft Auto V and Saints Row 2 allow players to choose the race of their character, and the study findings suggest that a player’s aggression against others is increased “immediately afterwards” in some cases, “even more than playing a violent game as white characters would.”

    Multiple problems.  First, the experiment only included white test subjects.  The avatar effect of violent video games on black subject attitudes compared to white subject attitudes remains uninvestigated, but I will speculate that it would add unwanted nuance to the study’s conclusions about how racist white people are.  But nobody cares about black racism, so . . .

    Second, gamers apparently chose their own avatars rather than had them assigned randomly.  So the door is open to selection bias.

    After playing the games for 20 minutes, participants who played as black avatars were more likely to link photos of black faces with weapons, while those who played as white characters associated white faces with objects such as mobile phones.

    Okay, but if your point is to show the effect of the video game, then you should show the associations with blacks by both groups of players.  In other words, ask your control group (playing white avatars) the same question asked of the test group (playing black avatars).  As reported, this study doesn’t really measure the effect of video game avatar at all.

    They were also asked to respond to statements measured on a “symbolic racism scale” such as, “If blacks would only try harder, they could be just as well off as whites.”

    Okay, so this sentiment is pretty dumb, but it strikes me as the exact opposite of racist.  In fact, if you believe the races are equal, then equal effort should produce equal results.

    Participants were also tested on a seemingly unrelated food preferences test in which they tested hot sauce, and then were asked how much another person would like the spicy food.

    Among players of the violent game, those who used a black avatar gave their “partner” more hot sauce compared to those who used a white avatar. The black avatar participants gave the hypothetical food “partner” more than double (115 percent) the amount of chili sauce than participants who played as white avatars.

    The researchers suggested this element of the study was “particularly noteworthy,” because “this increase in aggression occurred over and above any increase in aggression among participants playing the violent game as a white avatar.”

    This finding is interesting, but I would be reluctant to use hot sauce as a proxy for aggression in these circumstances.  It would be more useful if they were asked to add some arbitrary amount of actual hot sauce to actual food about to be eaten by an actual person who had actually told them already that they didn’t like hot sauce.  That would be a credible aggression proxy.  But making it all hypothetical isn’t.

    In addition to negative attitudes held toward black people, the study noted that women and police were depicted negatively in a way that may have aggressive effects following gameplay.

    “Police are portrayed as brutal. Players witnessing or enacting these violent actions may develop a distrust of police,” write the researchers. “Other violent games portray women in a sexualized and stereotypic way” that may impact male attitudes toward women in their real lives.

    This is sheer speculation, not a study.

    According to FBI data on violent crime and murder rates, in 2012, an estimated 1,214,462 violent crimes occurred nationwide, an increase of 0.7 percent from the 2011 estimate. Of the 12,765 murder victims in 2012 for which supplemental data were received, most (77.7 percent) were male.

    Concerning murder victims for whom race was known, 51.1 percent were black, 46.3 percent were white, and 2.6 percent were of other races. Race was unknown for 130 victims. Of the offenders for whom race was known, 52.4 percent were black, 45.2 percent were white, and 2.4 percent were of other races.  The race was unknown for 4,077 offenders.

    As these numbers should make obvious, Hispanics (i.e. Mestizos) are lumped in with the white numbers

    Thursday, May 01, 2014

    Down the Rabbit Hole

    In an excellent analysis of the arguments, law and precedent involved in Hobby Lobby free-exercise case by Stanford prof Michael McConnell, this obiter dictum jumped out:

    [T]here is something Alice in Wonderland-ish about the government’s position. According to the government, there may be some employees who need contraception, who can’t use one of the 14 kinds of free contraception provided under Hobby Lobby’s plan, and who might be deterred from buying Plan B, ella, or IUDs with their own money. Yet the government also argues that, in order to avoid the burden on its religious exercise, Hobby Lobby should drop its insurance coverage, pay a fine, and force its employees to obtain coverage on a government exchange. In that case, all 13,000 employees would lose excellent health insurance and be forced to buy their own insurance on an exchange. That imposes is a far greater burden on Hobby Lobby’s employees. The government strains at a gnat while swallowing a camel.

    As we observed during oral arguments, no amount of Alice in Wonderland-ism is beyond the motivated credulity of SCOTUS’ female justices.  But in general, the Supreme Court has shown itself remarkably insouciant about vastly greater destruction wrought by its decisions as long as the burden is borne by the wrong kind of white people.  Civil Rights law, and in particular the school desegregation cases, completely destroyed countless working-class communities as residents and parents were forced to flee violence-prone blacks, at costs greatly exceeding those imposed by the loss of employer-provided health insurance, as bad as that is.  And all to leave communities and schools almost as segregated as they were before.  Yet what legal scholar or politician working today calls for their reconsideration?