Is it relevant whether Elevator Guy was ever identified? (I don't think he was but I didn't follow this very closely.)
I think if we do an accurate "What's the worst that could happen?", we might find the answer to be more like "The woman I made feel uncomfortable wrote about the reasons why this isn't a good way to ask women out -- preserving my anonymity -- and I learned some stuff about why it was bad and also yeah the Internet kind of exploded afterwards but that probably needed to happen to provoke a useful conversation about sexism in the skeptic community and it doesn't really involve me in any personal way".
I wonder whether real-life Elevator Guy actually knows about the controversy at all. You'd presume so, I guess? I don't know how large and and anonymous atheist conventions get.
I guess I'd like to consider moving from "I'm not blaming that one blogger" to "It's actively good that the blogger said that 'cause not enough people are so honest about what they find attractive and/or creepy in other people, and if they were that actually *would* help with the fear I have, oh yeah and also the people responding to her should be less crazy".
Do you honestly think that most men would find having committed an apparent atrocity of this scale OK as long as their name didn't get out?
And again the overlap between casual approachers and people who read feminist blogs is probably tiny. Not that necessarily all the casual approachers are the douchebags, it's more likely the high stakes high pressure types are more likely to blow a gasket if rejected.
The evopsych explanation I've read is that in small tribal groups a failed approach can have serious consequences to your standing in the pecking order and those consequences translate into real fitness outcomes, meaning that it really is a matter of life and death, genetically speaking. After all sexual selection competes with predation on near equal footing in determining evolution.
The biggest strenght of PUA as far as I can tell is in getting dweebs used to multiple approaches, the tricks and routines may be bunk, but that single thing, desensitizing them to the fear of rejection probably makes the movement "work".
I agree! A lot!
Here's an interesting thing. The standard recommendation for getting over social anxiety, the only thing that I believe really WORKS, is "Do it wrong." Go from being afraid of saying the wrong thing, to getting out there and *saying the wrong thing* (because you're not nearly at the skill level to avoid being awkward), to finally becoming graceful enough to say the right thing. That's what I did in college. There was a lot of screwing up the courage to poke people on Facebook. My first attempt at a relationship involved me waiting THREE YEARS for that one guy, asking him out at yearly intervals until he finally figured he wasn't going to do better than me. It was not smooth. But doing the wrong thing was better than not doing it at all. Now I can, you know, introduce myself to strangers and make friends and have a happy relationship.
But here's the thing. If you're a guy asking women out, the philosophy of "do it wrong" means "Ask women out, and don't worry if you're being awkward or annoying: just practice having the courage to do it at all." But -- almost by definition -- asking women out in a way they don't like means being a "creep." And I don't like the idea that there's no space for someone who's awkward or annoying but morally innocent.
Long ago, my boyfriend used to be socially awkward, and especially had a hard time getting dates. Nobody perceived him as a person with a romantic or sexual side; it doesn't even occur to people that that geeky guy in the corner would even *want* a girlfriend. So (he told me) he started to make a lot of annoying jokes with sexual innuendo. He was obnoxious. But it was a form of "doing it wrong" while he practiced learning to do it right. Putting himself out there, however awkwardly, as somebody who *is* interested in girls. (FWIW, when Pervocracy talks about how *she* used to be "creepy" it sounds like the same phase in development. From cripplingly shy to obnoxiously obsessed with sex to healthy and balanced.)
If we don't have a way of talking about people who are unappealing or annoying or obnoxious but *not* akin to sexual predators, then any time somebody does the necessary work of "doing it wrong" we make him out to be a villain. I got the benefit of the doubt because I was a girl; I was awkward but nobody was *afraid* of me. And there are good reasons for that stereotype -- men are more likely to physically assault women than vice versa -- but I myself am not actually any *more innocent* than my shy, non-violent male counterpart.
Basically I want to insist on the distinction between uncool and dangerous. I've been hit on by amazingly uncool, desperate, annoying guys. But it would be disingenuous to pretend I was *afraid* of them. They were obviously just bad at romance, not anywhere near predatory. Faking weakness as a power play is pretty gross, and I'm not going to claim "oh my god I was scared he was going to RAPE me" when the reality is "it's kind of awkward when a guy is insisting I should date him when I said I wasn't interested." Calling both scenarios "creepy" as though there's no distinction is really unfair.
You have said this much better than I could. Permission to possibly repost this?
Edited at 2012-09-13 05:33 pm (UTC)
2012-09-13 02:01 pm (UTC)
>And you know how 70% of college science majors (our stand-in for geeks here) are virgins?
What is your source for this? I am amazed… In Argentina, where I went to uni (physics), the situation was not nearly like this; there were a lot of hookups going on, and while some people fit the socially awkward geek stereotype, it was a minority, not a majority.
Is this stat restricted to the US perhaps? I think there might be something in the US school culture that leads kids with technical interests to develop a self-identity as "Geeks", instead of becoming relatively normal people with geeky interests. It doesn't have to be that way!
What do you think?
It is certainly known that in the college population, the alpha males cut a swath through the women, and the rest are out in the cold. Men attending college are more likely to be virgins that women who are attending.
I don't know if some women have this same fear about men, although most of the women I've talked to say they don't.
Really? I am surprised. I can assure you that lots of women have similar fears. Though probably not the fear of turning into elevatorgate (which I'd never heard of before).
Oh, women have the fear too. I spent 2002-2006 not asking a boy out because of my crippling fear of seeing the dismay on his face when I asked him.
The difference is that if women wait, we're much more likely to be approached than men are. Even with geeky boys, if I made my interest very clear, some of them would eventually do the hard part and I wouldn't have to. So the penalty for not overcoming the fear isn't as bad for women.
In as non-antagonistic a fashion as possible: is that an exaggeration of your current thoughts on Elevatorgate, a description of your thoughts back then, or your current thoughts? Because from my perspective, there is more to it to that, and if it would help I would like to explain. (fair warning- part of it is going up on my blog).
While I am chaffing a moderate amount, I am also finding this really useful, so thank you.
I have a weak recollection of maybe hearing about it very vaguely when it was happening (in the sense of "some atheists are really upset about somebody at a convention") and not really pursuing it. I read about it again a week or two after Jen McCreight's post and went a little deeper onto a few more blogs (which was also the first time I connected it to the elevator) and this is an exaggeration of my current thoughts.
The things that scared me when I first read about feminist blogs were one-off posts about non-famous incidents (probably not quite as scary, but still scary to see that not only is your rejection published for hundreds of people but that it apparently really really scared and upset the women involved to be asked at all, when I'd always heard things like "Just ask! Even if she's not interested, she'll probably be flattered!"). Elevatorgate was just fresher in my mind, easier to find, and a much better example of it snowballing and becoming huge.
Edited at 2012-09-13 06:24 pm (UTC)
> And now you're going to say - but the problem wasn't that he asked her out. The problem was that he did it in an elevator.
No, the problem was that he (a stranger to her) walked into an elevator with her at around 3am as she was going back to her room, and then asked her back to his room for "coffee".
The entire thing was hugely overblown and horrifically distorted by MRA types. It all started from a 10 second side comment in a 15 minute blog video where Rebecca basically said, "hey guys, don't do that."
Edited at 2012-09-13 04:52 pm (UTC)
So are you saying that there are three problems: the elevator, the fact that he was a stranger, and the fact that he asked her for "coffee" instead of directly saying "let's have sex"?
Wait. Arachnophobia makes sense from the evolutionary standpoint: there are venomous spiders, and one such crawling on your face next to your face cavities can cause you harm. Asking a woman out can not - no the contrary, not asking her out leads to no date, which leads to no girlfriends, which leads to no spreading of your genes, so it makes no sense from the evolutionary standpoint. So, again, from the evolutionary standpoint, you should be fearing not-asking, rather than asking. Right?
I tried to avoid mentioning this on the grounds that if you're writing a post about sensitive gender issues talking about evo psych never helps - but as always the evo psych people have some clever-sounding theories ready
There's a lot of good stuff in this post that I'm not going to address, but I do want to add that my understanding of the Watson incident is that during her talk she had stated quite clearly that she was pretty sick of being constantly sexualised at events like this. So a bit part of the problem was being stuck in the elevator with someone who had just demonstrated that he was prepare to ignore her stated boundaries.
Yes, someone who reads this blog actually just added that to the Wikipedia entry this morning because she noticed it was missing.
Do we have data that geeky boys are getting less action than geeky girls? Your linked graphs indicate that Wellesley science students are more virginal than MIT students of any major. But then Wellesley is a women's school, so I'd expect them to have less sex than coeds.
I think the MIT stats said MIT women were more likely virgins than MIT men, which considering the gender ratio there is pretty impressive.
I'd only heard in passing about Elevatorgate, but read up about it after you posted this. What I found most fascinating was that it started out as a point of controversy among *women*. The whole thing blew up after a couple of women stated on the record that they didn't believe this guy did anything wrong. It sounded like it could've been a really constructive debate until the WHOLE WORLD got really angry.
That doesn't discount Watson's battle against sexism in her community, or even the fact that this guy made her really uncomfortable, just - it's not a foregone conclusion, even among feminists, that what she described was predatory or even particularly poor behaviour. Maybe 10% of the problem about trolls on the internet is that part demented rabble that agrees with you.
FWIW I never liked Richard Dawkins though. Man's a... every single derogatory term I thought to write here is a slang term for "penis". I don't know if that's poetry or sexism. Suffice to say I have no respect for The God Delusion, and have avoided him since.
Edited at 2012-09-13 09:57 pm (UTC)
2012-09-13 10:06 pm (UTC)
Space to do it wrong, but maybe we can reach a baseline?
People without knowledge and experience definitely need to have the space to "do it wrong."
There's a solution you've entirely neglected, though. We, as a society, should be able to get to a point where there are some well-understood hard and fast rules, within which neophytes can feel free to "do it wrong."
The fact that we, as a culture, haven't come up with some baseline standards isn't because it's impossible. It's because we're in a brave new world, where we've smashed the old protocols because we found them lacking. In the process of negotiating new protocols, we may learn to give askers a little wiggle room, and I totally hear that.
A lot of education resulted from the elevator story. Maybe this is society working.
(I'm going to derail my point by extending it. I posit that some, hrm, unilaterally negotiated protocols have filled the protocol vacuum, which represents a slightly different problem from mere naïveté. Harsh measures may be required to eradicate them, and I'm not sure I can fault the use of them, even at the expense of the innocent.)
Edited at 2012-09-13 10:19 pm (UTC)
2012-09-13 11:04 pm (UTC)
Re: Space to do it wrong, but maybe we can reach a baseline?
I get the idea that for most people this space to do it wrong is high school; and now that we're out of high school, we're all expected to get it right, even those of us who weren't practicing then.
2012-09-13 10:09 pm (UTC)
I believe approach anxiety is fear of getting your ass kicked by more dominant males who might already have claimed her.
In a small tribe everyone might easily find out you approached someone.
Internalization of low status in other words.
Oh boy, I have a large number of comments on this! Let's start with this one.
Speaking solely for myself, my own answer to the question "What's the worst that could (reasonably) happen?" has been, "The other person is totally creeped out and you've just driven off a (potential) friend, or at least made relations with them awkward for some time." So yeah, that's a scary thought.
And from what I've glimpsed of Scott's next entry, this apparently actually happened to him! (Though not in a way I would have expected.) Hoo-frickin-ray.
Now I get the idea that my mental model of what other people consider "creepy" is way too trigger-happy, but I don't really know what's standard/reasonable because again, I've next to no experience in this area. So while obviously there is a certain level of ease-of-being-creeped-out that is unreasonable -- a point at which, as per the footnote, if I creep this person out I should not take that as a judgment on myself -- I'm lacking for information as to what that level might be.
Many of the other things people propose as worse than simply being rejected either strike me as too improbable to worry about, or consist of the other person being unreasonable and mean (and thus in such a case you should quickly conclude it's a good thing they didn't accept).
"The other person is totally creeped out and you've just driven off a (potential) friend,"
Right. Also, while Elevatorgate is a freak occurrence, the high school fear would be "she tells all her friends and I become a laughingstock".
In a way, asking out strangers or the girl at the store is safer, no blowback to your social circle. But then it's also potentially creepier, because you're asking out some stranger based on their looks, and the whole "trapped in retail" thing of store employees.
"It takes time to learn these kinds of things. Some people learn them in middle school and are suave and attractive by high school. Other people take until college. And some people like me don't even start getting better until we're in our mid-twenties and goodness only knows how far I have left to go."
And some never get over it as long as they live. You don't hear about us very much, presumably because it is so rare and those inflicted do not speak up and no one notices. Cf. no one knowing James Randi was gay until his 80s.
2012-09-14 05:13 am (UTC)
Lol at a nerdy 20 year old lamenting never getting unawkward in a post that literally talks about it happening later than that
Regarding elevatorgate, the man didn't invite her out for lunch sometime, he asked her if she wanted to come back to his room for coffee, which is code for "do you want to have sex with me right now?" I think that's "creepier" than asking "do you want to go for dinner sometime?"
Why the heck did you get a medical doctorate when you're this good a writer... never mind, as soon as I wrote that I recalled the average pay statistics. But still.
Having now read your whole series (well, up to the seventh meditation now), I am pretty much impressed by it. You might try adding links to the earlier ones in the later ones - I might have gone and read them all before making any comments.
This parallels my own experience. And you're not talking about the literal danger of Elevatorgate - there's only one such failparade per year or so - but the neurosis that it produces in men.
And I also know that, and why, feminists won't care particularly about this difficulty... and I do see their point too: your neuroses here are collateral damage and the actual problem they're facing is more serious than your feelings. (You understand and say things along these lines, that show you understand too - it's not as though you deny that feminists have a real point, nor are you claiming that what they're fighting isn't a real problem.)
For me - tending my own garden - I'm trying, and you inspire me to try harder, to get my geek teen children to socialize more and earlier and better, to learn up front how to avoid the creepiest of the Wrong Ways to do things - but certainly the OMGSPIDERS you're writing about is an effect that makes already-difficult things even more difficult. But there's a limit to how much a parent can do (the father in _American Pie_ is *not* a role model).
2013-03-10 09:49 pm (UTC)
I would just like to thank you for writing this and presenting the problem in this post and several others, in what seems to be a reasonable way, as well as showing that, despite not having asked anyone on a date until well into adulthood, one can:
i) still be an amazing person (as you are, based on your writing on lesswrong, your blog and your website (I really enjoyed much of your fiction/poetry))
and ii) still have hope
addresses the topic of "how not to be taken for a creeper" in her post It's The Same Advice
. Pretty basic set of guidelines there, and short enough that anyone who can't remember it can print it out and keep it in his wallet for handy reference."What's the worst that could happen?"
You could get shot, that's what. An awful lot of women have been raped once, and they're not going to let it happen again. Seriously, hitting on an unknown woman alone in a hotel elevator at night? Why not just hide in the back seat of her car in the parking garage?
"If society wants the woman to take defensive action only after she has been isolated, restrained, or struck, society is placing the woman's right to protect herself far behind the man's desire to avoid being embarrassed by his own behavior. Clueless or intentional--I don't care. The aggressor's feelings are given a higher value than the woman's safety. And frankly, it's the ones who claim cluelessness who are more dangerous. If they claim they don't understand, "Please leave me alone," they can't be trusted to understand, "I don't want to have sex with you," either." Edited at 2013-08-10 12:47 am (UTC)
Where the Boundaries Are Drawn
The moment a woman describes a guy who came onto her as "creepy", she loses all my sympathy. "Creepy" means, precisely, "a man who is interested in me, but not good enough for me." All the woman is saying is, "This guy thought he was good enough for me! Isn't that awful?"
Edited at 2013-09-04 09:59 pm (UTC)
That might be your precise definition, but it certainly is not mine. A creeper is someone who does not believe the object of his/her desire has the right to decline said desire. A creeper is someone who is certain the primary reason the desired object declines is either extreme arrogance or complete stupidity. A creeper is someone who believes the arrogance and stupidity can be corrected by the right amount of mockery, insults, ignoring of requests to be left alone, and/or force.
Are there men who aren't "good enough" for me? Why yes, there are. Men who think the best way to open a relationship is to place hands on private parts of my body, or back me into a corner, or refuse to take a polite "no thank you" as a valid response are, indeed, not good enough for me.
Every person has the right to choose the traits and behaviors they'd like in a partner, and it's rather odd to see that right couched as a dismissive comment.