Mr. Deity and the Victim-Blaming and Dismissiveness of Serious Allegations

Brian K. Dalton (aka Mr Deity) has stepped in it bigtime. As a SUBTLE JAB (pfft) at all these issues in the skeptical community with regard to accusations of sexual harassment, sexual assault and general predation, especially the accusations of such leveled against his friend Michael Shermer, he’s slipped into the end post-credits of his latest video (here, starting at 5:24) some interesting parallels. Like all “subtle jabs” predicated on a lack of understanding of a situation, however, they have all the subtlety of a hand grenade in a bucket of paint, and they fall apart under any degree of scrutiny.

Trigger warning for discussion of rape tactics and victim-blaming.

Transcript via John Morales:

I want to take this time today to answer this question I get a lot: why don’t I believe in the gospels.

Um — the first big problem I have with the gospels is that they are anonymous — a lot of people don’t know that, but it’s true.

Um, and no good skeptic, atheist, freethinker should ever accept any anonymous report just offhand; aah especially when we’re talking about something truly awful — I mean, the gospel writers have Jesus doing some pretty ugly stuff. Umm, killing a tree for no reason, which makes him look completely insane; they have him claiming to be God, which would have been a major blasphemy within Judaism at the time; and they have him turning water into wine, which we all know is just a tactic to get the ladies drunk — right? — I mean, no-one turns water into wine for any reason that’s not just completely nefarious!

But if you’re gonna talk [whoopee noise] about someone like that, you can’t do that anonymously — and if you do, what is that? What are we talking about?

That’s nothing more than gossip.

And I think that as good skeptics, atheists, freethinkers, we should all know how absolutely toxic, disgusting and beneath us it is to repeat and or report mere gossip.

[Person with wine bottle approaches wineglass-holding Mr. Deity: “would you like a refill?” “Um, no. Thank you.”]

Now. See how easy that was?

Here’s another little tip: if you find it hard to say no to the refill, you can just leave the glass full! Don’t take another sip!

That’s my friendly little piece of advice to those of you without a backbone, or any sense of personal responsibility!

The other problem with the gospels is that these anonymous reports are made years after the fact; some scholars say decades. Ah, that gives Jesus no opportunity to refute the claims — I mean, there isn’t a decent justice system in the entire world that doesn’t give the accused the right to confront his or her accuser. That’s just basic justice.

And in many cases, even the witnesses of the witnesses are anonymous.

Really?! C’mon! We’re skeptics! We don’t take stuff like that at face value!

The other problem here is confirmation bias: the tendency to see only what we wanna see.

That’s clearly what the gospel writers were doing here; they wanted a hero (or a villain, depending on your perspective), and they found one!
But, as good skeptics, we should all know the power of confirmation bias — I mean, for heaven’s sake, they found witches in Salem, and Joe McCarthy found the communists under every bed — as skeptics, we need to stand up to these anonymous gossipal authors and those who would repeat such gossip and say “have you no sense of decency, Sir! At long last, have you left no sense of decency.”

Of course, if you’re completely divorced from the skeptic community, I don’t expect you to understand these basic principles — but the rest of us should know better!

Remember: “do unto others”

Anonymous reports of extraordinary things, like those found in the Gospels, are in fact untrustworthy because they describe events that would take absolutely extraordinary evidence to prove, and they involve people who cannot be interviewed because they’re long dead.

Reports of rape, on the other hand, describe events that are depressingly common. While the specific people reporting these assaults are anonymous TO YOU AND I, they are NOT anonymous to the people bringing them forward. I explained why I trust the accusers who brought forward the allegations of rape against Michael Shermer, via PZ Myers — because PZ is measured enough to verify that his trust in the people coming forward is not misplaced, and he has a lot of reputation at stake if he trusts the wrong person with a grenade like that. AND, it’s not like PZ’s account is the only one we have on record — there are no less than five accounts given by five separate people so far.

Given that the outcome of this is not likely Shermer behind bars, but rather the public understanding that it’s well possible that people’s trust in Shermer is misplaced and they no longer drink around him, I have no problem with trusting that these rapes likely happened on balance of probability of the perfectly ordinary claim, and that women should likely be warned in advance. But that’s not to say legal action against him should happen, unless it could be proven beyond reasonable doubt in a court of law.

And that’s where it’s different from the gospels, which describe implausible scenarios as truth and demand that you believe it and take drastic action accordingly, despite lack of evidence. Rather than tentatively trusting the gospels and verifying before taking action, you’re expected to go all-in. And if we were asking for extraordinary drastic measures to be taken against Shermer, for him to be put behind bars over this, and if we were doing so with significantly less evidence than what we already used to establish a pattern of behaviour by Shermer, then yes, it would be a good analogy. But we aren’t, so it isn’t.

As for his side-swipes at drinking, and on not “having the backbone” to stop drinking, thus getting drunk enough to be raped, I have to point out that there’s some serious misunderstanding in this discourse about the risk factors for being raped, and that Dalton is well guilty of these misunderstandings.

Drinking alcohol inherently comes with some risks. Some of these include impaired functionality, impaired judgment, vomiting, blackout periods, and long-term damage like liver and kidney functionality issues. Acute intoxication could lead to poisoning, and death.

Being around people who rape others also comes with some risks. Those risks include having your bodily sexual integrity violated, including but not limited to non-consensual sexual activities and having orifices penetrated or otherwise violated in various manners with various body parts or instruments.

The means by which they might ply someone into a situation where they might more easily rape them without resistance can include alcohol, used as a date rape drug. Psychological tricks can be applied to keep a potential victim drinking and to keep them unaware of just how drunk they’re actually getting. Keeping them sitting, refilling their glass for them constantly so they never realize they have lost count, keeping the conversation going the whole while so a victim doesn’t realize how drunk they really are til they start to stand up and are wobbly. Or til they fall asleep and are rendered insensible. I seriously doubt any of these tactics involve actually ASKING the person if they want more — and that’s not what the reports suggested Shermer was doing.

But the fact that they’re insensible doesn’t automatically allow for or entail rape. Having an orifice penetrated against your volition is not a side-effect of over-drinking, and damn you for making me use the passive voice in this sentence.

Drinking is a social experience. We choose who to trust with our less-than-sober selves based on our past experiences with a person. Since most rape is acquaintance rape, it involves violating a built-up level of trust which can be used to help put the victim in a state where they cannot legally consent to anything — especially if they’re unconscious.

So, the risk factor for being raped is not alcohol. The risk factor for being raped is being around someone who rapes people. The alcohol, while under normal circumstances an enjoyable social activity, is actually employed as a tool of the rapist’s trade. And the trust engendered by popularity, while normally integral to any social experience in any community, is also a tool of the rapist’s trade.

People like Michael Shermer may very well be “doing unto others” things that they have not asked for consent before rendering them incapable of giving consent. Minimizing this shit is damaging — not only to the victims of rape, but to the fabric of our community, and to the efforts to stamp out this sort of disgusting, unbecoming, predatory behaviour. And my description of such behaviour is crafted without even assuming any rapes actually occured!

In order to prove with some finality that Dalton has completely fucked this one up, I present two comments he reportedly left on Ashley Paramore’s video:

I witnessed this assault, and it was so bold and blatant that I and several other good men stood around because we couldn’t imagine that it wasn’t just the two of them playing around. None of us could imagine that someone would do such a terrible thing in a room full of people. We all felt so bad that we didn’t understand what was happening and stop it. Men, don’t make the same mistake. Until you know otherwise, don’t hesitate to step in. I adore you, Ashley, and I’m so sorry I didn’t do more.

It is good that you’ve recognized that not every terrible act results in an appropriate response. Imagine for a moment how the victim of such an assault might respond. Or imagine for a moment how someone who idolizes a “big name” in this community might react if they are star-struck by the fact that they’re having a long conversation with them and their wine glass keeps magically refilling without them noticing.

Are you getting the impression at this point that perhaps your dismissive comments in your own most recent video were tone-deaf, and if you were aiming for comedy and parody, you skewered not only these alleged victims of assault within our movement, but also everyone who’s ever experienced a similar sort of assault historically? Including Ashley Paramore, whose video got more than its share of argumentation identical to what you just put forth about your friend Michael Shermer. Your account therefore carries no more weight than those of the anonymous-TO-US accusers bringing allegations about Shermer forward.

And given your own revelation that you could hardly believe what you saw, maybe your comments about selection bias — “only [seeing] what we want to see” — are really fucked-up accusations to level against the people who are seeing a morass of sexism and abuse? Why would ANYONE want to see that?

You’re not a mind reader. But you have to admit, that would be pretty damned crazy of me, right? I’ve spent the last seven years building something valuable to me — it’s how I make my living — but now I’m going to risk all of that (including my financial stability) just to lie about some incident for the sake of a cause I’ve shown absolutely no interest in? I’m not just some guy sayin’ x, y, and x. People know me and could ruin my reputation based on this.

PZ Myers built a reputation for being honest to a fault over the past ten-ish years, to the point of being off-putting to many for his bluntness. He is putting the entirety of his reputation on the line over accusations made by people whom he, himself, trusts. Remember, PZ Myers “divorced” the skeptic community, not skepticism, over churlish juvenile behaviour and dismissiveness of serious ethical breaches. I’m absolutely certain he viewed these claims with skepticism and weighed them carefully. He is doing everything you just said you were doing. And you’re calling those accusations that he brought forward “gossip”, “toxic”, and “beneath us”. And yet here we are, with you putting the trust we have in YOU on the line that your account of witnessing Paramore’s assault is true.

Why is it not “gossip”, “toxic”, and “beneath us” to believe you about what YOU say you saw there?

Don’t get me wrong. I believe you. (Provisionally. We’re SKEPTICS, after all.) I’m even going to make a point to put your corroboration on my timeline post. But I also believe other witnesses and corroborations on that timeline just as provisionally, and the numerous instances of predatory behaviour about Shermer came with multiple corroborations.

Maybe you should look over this timeline again. Get a real handle on the scope and breadth of what you’re denying here.

Then come back and apologize to the alleged victims whom you both said were simply “toxic” rumours, and simultaneously “had no backbone” and fell prey to predatory behaviour. And apologize to those people angry about this bullshit for saying that we’re “seeing what we want to see”.

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Mr. Deity and the Victim-Blaming and Dismissiveness of Serious Allegations
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138 thoughts on “Mr. Deity and the Victim-Blaming and Dismissiveness of Serious Allegations

  1. 51

    gworroll @47:

    For Paramore’s attacker, just her say so is sufficient.

    Now be fair. Dalton claims to have been in the room and witnessed it first-hand. But he’s shown no evidence of that…

  2. 53

    I don’t know how to link to facebook posts, so copy-paste:

    Brian Keith Dalton
    14 August
    A blogger posts a third-party anonymous report of a rape — which includes only the vague charge that the person in question coerced them into a position where they couldn’t consent. Fans of the blogger assume the person in question guilty without evidence, trial, or the right of the accused to confront his accuser. Another blogger posts a third-party anonymous report from an adult child accusing the first blogger of molesting him when he was a child. Again, there is no evidence — excepting an anonymous report from someone saying they saw the blogger talking to children in a “creepy” way. There are no details of the crime. No trial. And no right of the accused to confront his accuser. Do his fans now assume that blogger number one is guilty of child molestation? Prediction?

  3. 55

    Having an orifice penetrated against your volition is not a side-effect of over-drinking, and damn you for making me use the passive voice in this sentence.

    You didn’t use the passive voice. You used a participle phrase acting as the subject of “is.” And your high school English teachers are not correct: use it sparingly, but if the passive voice is the best way of saying something, it should be used without shame or embarrassment.

    Grammar aside, you are completely right, and Dalton is completely wrong.

  4. 56

    Am I wrong in my assumption that people who are arguing against the report didn’t actually read the blog post?

    It’s not a third-party, anonymous report. It’s a first-hand report from a woman who wishes to remain anonymous, given straight to PZ to post. It’s her words with PZ acting as her medium.

  5. 57

    That was quite a downer to see that earlier.

    But it’s nice to know that at least now Mr. Deity is coming out in support of the Catholic Church in dealing with those pedophile scandals. I mean, just a bunch of people reporting things after the fact because they didn’t have the backbone, sometimes anonymously, as if a large, wealthy, and influential organization might do something to them. It’s not as if they feared for their standing in the community, their livelihood, or their peace of mind to go to bed every night without apologists for the priests sending them hundreds of emails hoping they get raped even more.

    And we totally know that reporting something years or decades after the fact after having met someone and had witnesses is completely the same as making up stuff a lifetime later when you never met the person in question and neither did anyone you know.

    To be serious for a moment, I can see why he’d want to say something about gossip, if he left it at that. But he brought up the backbone thing, you know, as if to say women are being too submissive in all this. Like they’re letting it happen to them and claiming victimhood. Like they were asking for it, in a way. And he was talking about things that True Skeptics would do, which means there are some people who are No True Skeptics in all this. Are atheists actually going to start acting like Christians and use that kind of fallacy to distance ourselves from each other?

    But what was worse is that this idiocy was in the begging segment. The part of the video where he asks for subscriptions and donations. He is fundraising off this. He’s saying this and immediately afterward asking people for money. That’s Fox News levels of low right there, using something like this for monetary gain.

  6. 58

    @KevinKat
    That’s exactly what Dalton is saying, that it’s third-hand and completely anonymous(and that it’s not evidence. wut!?)… I even got a reply from him on the video saying as much and responded with the facts – not third-hand, we’re seeing what Jane Doe actually wrote herself, and not an anonymous person for PZ. Didn’t get a response from him after that. He’s being very dishonest, either knowingly or he’s every so skeptically bought what the dudebro brigade have been repeating over and over.

  7. 59

    If I’m not mistaken, mofa’s known for his sexist flavour of bullshit on Pharyngula and was banned for it a while back, not surprising to see them excusing rapists who have targeted drunk people.

  8. 61

    I’m not sure about Mr Deity’s message here.

    Is he saying that if someone gets shitfaced beyond ability to consent, it is okay to stick your dick in her? Because voluntarily drinking alcohol = consent to have seksy times with whoever stops by my unconscious self?

    This makes me seriously worried because once I accepted a cup of hot cocoa and that, apparently, meant I had agreed to have conscious seksy times, according to what the angry cocoa provider yelled through my letterbox at 4am while threatening to kill my cat, until the guy across the hall threw him out. Now I realize I may have – unwittingly of course – committed a serious faux pas in comestible linguistics.

    In sixth grade I accepted a piece of gum from a boy and according to him, that made me his girlfriend for the rest of the term. Despite this, my making cupcakes for my entire class did _not_ somehow make them all members of my dodge ball team. I am confused.

    Are there any more ingestion-related communication cues that I have missed learning about?

    Have I converted to Mormonism if I eat a plate of apple cobbler?
    Do I agree to babysit possessed quintuplets if I have a cup of tea?
    Will lavender sorbet make me French?
    If I take a hit of nasal spray – does that make me a Beowulf scholar?

    Omg, I think I may have inadvertently married my Nero barista. I wonder if we have any kids? – I did ask for an almond croissant once.

  9. Joe
    63

    I am going to try once more, disagreement is fine, but I think there is a fundamental disconnect here.

    I don’t think Dalton is saying anything at all about ‘consent’. He seems to be criticizing the part about being ‘coerced’ into drunkenness.

    Coercion generally means forcing or intimidating someone into compliance.

    Is the anon person saying they were forced, or explicitly or implicitly threatened?
    Or is the ‘coercion’ a matter of someone using their minor celebrity to con women into a false sense of security, either intentionally or not?

    In most cases we DO hold people accountable for their own drinking, DUI for example, regardless of the fact they might be alcoholics.

    I should note, I’m not saying, intentionally getting someone drunk so you can take advantage isn’t a sleazy thing to do, but at what point… an individual might become too drunk to consent… is a grey area. And yes, if you want to avoid harm, you could not drink and get breath samples from prospective partners… but the reality is that social situations are often more fluid, and people seem to prefer it that way.

    And no, I’m not saying anyone wants to get raped. He seems to be saying the ‘coerced into drunkenness’ is the objectionable part. By the way, I’m not looking for agreement, just understanding here. I think Dalton was being insensitive.

  10. 64

    The heart of the “refuse the refill” approach seems to be “nobody can manipulate you without your consent.” There’s a smug superiority at work, IMO, coming from those who believe they’ve never been unwittingly manipulated, or that they are immune from manipulation.

  11. 65

    You don’t think that’s an odd thing to take exception to? A teeny bit pedantic and irrelevant?

    You don’t think it seems a bit like… I don’t know: obfuscating by discussing everything other than the fact that a rape happened? Like arguing minutiae to avoid the big bad?

    Never mind that the tactics of predators have been discussed at length before and how we all don’t exist in a social vacuum and all that. You know, simple stuff that is understandable to anyone who has lived in the world at some point.

    If social pressure isn’t a thing (which is what Mr Deity is asserting by implying that a grown up and responsible person can not be coerced, tricked or socially pressured into drinking something they didn’t plan to drink) – then why object to someone pointing out that someone possibly got a bit rapey, since it’s not going to have any other repercussions except social ones? Clearly a grown man can handle his rape habit being discussed?

    Also, am I the only one who finds it lends itself to unfortunate implications that Mr Deity seems to claim it’s okay to be raped if you aren’t a grown up?

    Because if the chain of thought goes like this: “If you are a grown up, you can’t be coerced, tricked or socially pressured to drink something you didn’t plan to drink. Therefore anyone who lets themselves be coerced, tricked or socially pressured is not a grown up – and then it’s open season on their naughty bits…”

    Wait, what.

    Okay, let’s start again.

    Someone got raped.

    There.

  12. 66

    @Joe

    People are going to drink, and alcohol crashes your judgment, both in terms of your ability to consent and your ability to judge others ability to consent. That doesn’t make the problem easy… it makes it hard.

    Exactly. That’s why the legislation on drunk driving is a huge mess of grey areas and exceptions. Oh wait, no, it’s not! It’s a straightforward limit; over this and you’re breaking the law. Not that hard at all, is it?

    Also, this is less a question of two people getting drunk and hooking up. That may be unintended and lead to hurt feelings or whatever, but it’s not really the problem we’re talking about here.
    We’re talking about predators who are deliberately using this social standard as cover for their actual activities; staying sober, while boozing up their victims to the point where they can’t consent, refuse or sometimes even walk.

    We’re talking about rapists hiding in our midst. We know they’re there and that they can be anybody. We know how they operate because they’ve told us. Maybe we should take that seriously instead of wringing our hands over whether this might impact our ability to get laid at conferences.

    I mean, seriously; what’s the fucking priority here? Getting laid or stopping rapists? Answer that and the rest is easy.

  13. 67

    I should note, I’m not saying, intentionally getting someone drunk so you can take advantage isn’t a sleazy thing to do rape.

    FTFY

  14. 68

    You’d think in a movement this full of mentalists and magicians, people would be more aware of the tricks that people can pull to get people to do things without realizing what they’re doing. If I’m distracting a person with conversation and continuously topping off their wine glass so they can’t keep track of how much they’ve drunk, it’s little different than using sleight of hand to distract someone so I can take their wallet, or confusing people with rapid-fire math questions so I can rob them of $10.

    Coercion refers not just to intimidation or threats, but any use of pressure or leverage to get someone to do something they wouldn’t otherwise do.

    And, as has been shared repeatedly here, in many places we hold not just the drunk person responsible for their DUI, but also the bartender who overserved them. Because the sober person pouring the drinks should know better too.

  15. 69

    you know what else I thought about today? Mr Deity doesn’t understand that assertiveness is frowned upon in women. He has no clue. You learn this lesson every day growing up as a girl- you are being ‘mean’ when you say no, and its a BFD because other peoples feelings are supposed to be your main concern. Its a crock of shit, but it isn’t something that most women completely unlearn, even if they put effort towards it.

  16. 70

    So, as skeptics, we should be telling off the victims of “give me your money so I can remove the curse” scams, because the victim gave the money to them voluntary. I mean, it is not the scam artist’s fault because the victim gave the his/her money to the scam artist. Skepticism, we have all been doing it [email protected]!!! Nice to know…..

  17. 71

    And another thing that I’ve posted on like a BILLION threads about alcohol and consent that rape apologists like Joe just can’t figure the fuck out: being drunk and getting raped is IN ABSOLUTELY NO WAY similar to driving while intoxicated. The reason you’re responsible for driving drunk is that you put other people in great danger of grievous bodily harm through your actions (those actions being the driving, not the drinking, since simply being drunk doesn’t actually harm anybody else). This does not compare to being drunk and being responsible for what SOMEONE ELSE does to you. The person who gets really drunk is not hurting anyone by being so, and no rape would have happened if that person were not steered away from just sleeping it off alone. It’s the rapist there who chooses to exploit them that does the harm, so the proper analogy is not a drunk driver, it would be seeing that a pedestrian is drunk and then using that as an excuse to swerve at them and hit them.

  18. 72

    I use some drunk driving comparisons because you *cannot* convince these apologists that a woman drinking isn’t behaving recklessly. It doesn’t matter if they are behaving recklessly because its *irrelevant* to the fact that rape isn’t a natural disaster or an accident, and this issue is at its core about the harm that has been done and who is responsible for that. The person who caused the harm is obviously the responsible party so I figure, why not argue it on their terms? Sometimes I agree to certain premises that I disagree with for the sake of argument because it makes it easier to actually get at the key issue.

  19. 73

    And another thing about these “it was probably just buzzed sex that she regretted…” folks, is that I don’t think they’ve ever actually thought through how that’s supposed to, like, work in practice. For one thing, if there were some epidemic of women who get buzzed-but-not-incapacitated, have sex, and then “regret” it, we would expect to see these “accusations” spread out at random among all non-monogamous sexually active males (or at least those who hang out at parties). This is most emphatically not the case. Instead, we see repeated patterns of behavior centering around only a few men, in ways that are consistent with their stated attitudes towards women.

    Moreover, people generally don’t do things drunk that are dramatically different from what they do (or want to do) while sober. People who are not making memories but still upright don’t generally react with shock and horror to find they danced on a tabletop or made cheezit-and-Nutella sandwiches when intoxicated, much less think that someone forced them into it. People kinda know they are letting loose and so the things they did while drunk aren’t huge revelations (in contrast to someone doing something TO SOMEONE else, because then the character of the acted-upon doesn’t come into play during the act). Indeed, many people get drunk specifically to feel less inhibited to do things they wanted to do anyway, so in the case of “consensual but buzzed” sex, we’d be seeing people who actively want to have casual sex and use alcohol to facilitate it. The likelihood that such a person would want to encumber their future funsexytimes by accusing a partner is ludicrous. That would interfere with their ability to get more of the sex they wanted. If for some reason someone were “ashamed” of a one-night stand they had consented to, why the everloving fuck would making a rape accusation be the way to address it? And I’m not even talking ethics–I’m saying that any even marginally rational actor would find it counterproductive. A person who actually had a casual encounter that they later regretted (and, as an aside, what the fuck is up with this fixation on “regretted”? Is it 1953 again? Or 1853?!) would be strongly incentivized to just keep it to themselves, not draw attention to it, and not inform the entire world that they had been in physical contact with this person they don’t want to acknowledge. It literally makes no sense.

  20. 74

    As other people have pointed out, if you regret having sex with someone, then the next morning you can just … NOT TALK ABOUT IT. You can refrain from sharing any details with anybody.

    Or conversely, you can tell all your friends that yeah, you slept with so-and-so last night, and it was a HUGE mistake, because he was hung like a baby carrot, or because she had this weird habit of barking the whole time, or even just, “Lousy lay – next time I’ll stick to masturbation.”

    Option 1 keeps your regret reasonably private (depending on what the other person says). Option 2, if presented appropriately, means that you’ll get sympathy or good-natured teasing from your friends, depending on your friends.

    Neither option requires you talking to strangers or having samples collected from your body by strangers, or any other legal-medical steps.

  21. 75

    Victorious Parasol brings up some good points. The “morning-after regret” argument never seems to follow through with a motive. Why would a woman who regrets sex with someone make a false rape allegation? What does she stand to gain? This isn’t Iran, where it would help her explain why she’s not a virgin on her wedding night. This isn’t the 1950s, where it might help her explain an out-of-wedlock pregnancy (and I’ll note that neither of those cases would exactly be easy on the woman, regardless of allegations). What benefit does she get from making a false allegation?

    I think the argument is predicated on the mistaken belief that making a false rape accusation is easy and cheap. But as we’ve seen (in Steubenville, for example), even true rape accusations substantiated by photo and video evidence result in shaming and humiliation and character assasination for the victim, and most of the time result in little to no punishment for the accused. Why would someone go through that because of post-consensual-sex regrets? Why would someone go through that when they know there’s not going to be any legal consequence? What possible motive could they have?

    I’m not even being facetious here: I want to understand what these “post-sex regret” arguers think the woman’s thought process is.

  22. 76

    So, as skeptics, we should be telling off the victims of “give me your money so I can remove the curse” scams, because the victim gave the money to them voluntary. I mean, it is not the scam artist’s fault because the victim gave the his/her money to the scam artist. Skepticism, we have all been doing it [email protected]!!! Nice to know…

    I used to read the JREF blog, and yes, that was often a reaction to those types of stories.

  23. 77

    Thank you, Tom Foss.

    I don’t know what the “post-sex regret” arguers believe about a woman’s thought process is either, especially given all the evidence (reactions in the blogosphere, in the news, in casual conversation) that our culture is overall more likely to shame than to support a victim of sexual assault.

  24. 78

    Mofa

    Commenter here continue to imply that Mr Shermer is the perpetrator of a heinous crime (without evidence)…are you all wishing to join PZ in the court room?

    You are, to quote Brendan Behan, “cuter than a shithouse rat”. There is no law, yet, that abridges people’s right to think whatever they want. There is an absolute defense against attempting to take legal action against people for their opinions (at least, in the US. Please reread the First Amendment until it actually sinks in.) Most states have laws in effect to dissuade people from attempting the retaliatory lawsuits you seem to be advocating–please see SLAPP suits. For a quick definition, let’s go to Wikipedia:

    A strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) is a lawsuit that is intended to censor, intimidate, and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition.

    (bolding added) Do you want a really good example of how Shermer might have handled all this? Look to John Scalzi. Scalzi has put up with Theodore Beale (aka Vox Day) calling him “Raper” for who knows how long. Instead of filing a C&D and/or bringing a lawsuit, Scalzi mocked him. He used Beale’s taunts to raise funds for some deserving charities and organizations. The result of Scalzi being “defamed”? Nothing, other than raising the aforesaid funds. He’s lost either no or vanishingly few fans/Twitter followers/blog readers/book purchasers. And he continues to write excellent books (allow me to recommend Red Shirts).

    Making the choices he has, Shermer has upped the ante. He’s invoked the “Streisand effect”. By filing the lawsuit, he’s spread the word all over the Internet. He’s made himself look silly and (if I may borrow one of the favorite words of the MRAs) strident. For a guy that’s supposed to be oh-so-smart and oh-so-rational, his reaction to this as well as his previous reaction to being taken to task for saying asshole-ish things (“witch hunt”, “lynching” and invoking the ever-popular Nazis), makes him look less than intelligent, touchy, way too concerned with his fee-fees and, by dragging all this into a courtroom, like a bully.

  25. 79

    For one thing, if there were some epidemic of women who get buzzed-but-not-incapacitated, have sex, and then “regret” it, we would expect to see these “accusations” spread out at random among all non-monogamous sexually active males (or at least those who hang out at parties). This is most emphatically not the case. Instead, we see repeated patterns of behavior centering around only a few men, in ways that are consistent with their stated attitudes towards women.

    Thank you — this is a very useful point, and one that bears repeating.

    So much of the discussion I’ve been having elsewhere (as I wandered onto Al Stefanelli’s blog, and other blogs since then) has been about the nature of “evidence” and “standards of evidence” — the sheer number of people who insist we have “no evidence, only hearsay” or “that’s not testimony”, etc is quite impressive — but this is a different useful sort of evidence, indeed. The sort that a skeptic should either a) listen to or b) admit that they’re being one-sided in their skepticism, which is always a useful bit of rhetorical leverage.

  26. 80

    When Dalton advises women to just say no to refills, he unintentionally corroborates the allegation that Shermer is a predator, because what such an advice communicates is: “If you don’t want to get raped, you better stay sober when this guy’s around”.

  27. 81

    Tim Foss, exactly what I’ve been thinking.

    (Aside – not sure why, but I had a couple of replies that are still awaiting moderation – Jason, did I violate the comments policy in some way?)

  28. 83

    “Women need to be vigilant at all times and take every action possible to safeguard against being raped. You may never get drunk while talking to someone; never wear clothing that any man might find revealing or attractive; never go out walking alone; never flirt. That’s just taking personal responsibility!”
    “So we must treat all men as Schrodinger’s Rapist?”
    “What? NO! That would be misandrist!”

    skemono @ #15: QFT.

  29. 86

    Joe @60:

    I don’t think Dalton is saying anything at all about ‘consent’. He seems to be criticizing the part about being ‘coerced’ into drunkenness.

    Coercion generally means forcing or intimidating someone into compliance.

    Is the anon person saying they were forced, or explicitly or implicitly threatened?
    Or is the ‘coercion’ a matter of someone using their minor celebrity to con women into a false sense of security, either intentionally or not?

    I think arguing the minutiae of the definition of “coercion” misses the larger point here. While yes, words have meanings, and yes, word choice is important, the larger issue here isn’t whether the person who used the word “coercion” used it properly. We’re not talking about a police report or formal incident report. We’re talking about what appears to me to be an informal warning to a subset of the community.

    A legal definition, though, also includes “by psychological force”, which does not necessarily imply physical force or threats. There are lots of ways psychological force can be applied, and some of them are pretty subtle. Deception, for example – which is part of some states’ code that applies to rape situations.

    But as I said, getting into a debate over semantics (even though, as I said, yes, words *mean* things) when the larger issue is that women were (at a minimum) harassed seems like a diversionary tactic.

    And no, I’m not saying anyone wants to get raped. He seems to be saying the ‘coerced into drunkenness’ is the objectionable part. By the way, I’m not looking for agreement, just understanding here. I think Dalton was being insensitive.

    He was absolutely being insensitive, and he needs to stop doubling down and apologize for his insensitivity. As I said @29, if he wants to stand by his friend and say “I don’t believe he’s capable of this”, that’s one thing. It’s maybe even a reasonable thing to do – but to go so far as to say/imply that those who have made the accusations should “learn to hold their liquor” or “have a spine” (thus implying “if it happened, they were asking for it”) is not very different from saying that bullied gay kids are “asking for it” because they “chose” to be gay.

    Which is disgusting.

  30. 87

    The heart of the “refuse the refill” approach seems to be “nobody can manipulate you without your consent.”

    I think that is one of the ways they try and deflect from their behaviour, but the reality is that predators know full well that women are (very forcibly) socialised to be nice to men, not to say no, not to assert their boundaries, not to be one of those humourless feminist hags who can’t take a joke, can’t join in with a bit of social drinking …

    Predatory men will take advantage of this, even as they continue to pretend it is nothing to do with them choosing to use alcohol in that situation to drug the women they are targetting.

    The question is where is the backbone and personal responsibilty of the men who leverage a misogynstic culture to enable them to commit rape and other assaults ? Where is their backbone and sense of responsibilty ?

  31. 88

    I’ve just figured out the other thing that’s bugging me about the “parable”:

    Of course, if you’re completely divorced from the skeptic community, I don’t expect you to understand these basic principles — but the rest of us should know better!

    This smacks of the sort of absolutist, “either you’re with me or you’re with the terrorists” rhetoric that I often hear from “True Believing Mormons” (yes, I’m based in Utah). It’s not so much the specific words, but the tone/attitude that maybe conveys this more.

    The wording also strikes me as a little weird, to say the least. “Completely divorced from the skeptic community” sounds like it might be a little personal drama playing out. Maybe not – I don’t know him well enough (or indeed, *at all*) to know if that’s the case or not. But I’m wondering if that made anyone else raise an eyebrow.

  32. 91

    I’ve had a decent amount of success explaining this brand of rape apology (to white dudebros) as follows:

    You play beer pong with your buddies and get smashed. Do they get to molest you in any way they see fit?

    That’s one of the purest examples of male privilege. Bros are free to get drunk recreationally and maintain an expectation that they not be sexually assaulted. A woman gets drunk recreationally and we treat her like a gazelle that sliced her own achilles tendon and limped up to a pride of lions.

    I cannot imagine that the chorus of dudes lecturing women on turning down drinks would similarly chastise one of their friends that was raped after a shot contest at the Frat house, “Look man, you had to know this would happen…”

  33. 92

    I’ll also add to the discussion above about false rape allegations:

    If a woman is ashamed of an unfortunate hook-up, probably the least effective way to deal with that shame would be to submit herself to a multi-year public rape trial where her entire sexual and mental health history will be scrutinized and she will be publicly cross-examined by a defense attorney.

    “Oh no, you guys found out that I hooked up with Steve? The only solution is to publicize that fact to everyone in this town and countless others who will likely follow the trial.”

  34. Joe
    93

    >I think arguing the minutiae of the definition of “coercion” misses the larger point here. While yes, words have meanings, and yes, word choice is important, the larger issue here isn’t whether the person who used the word “coercion” used it properly.

    I don’t think this is ‘just’ semantics though. I think this kind of difference of focus is part of the problem with regards to the ongoing flame war that has been going on, in the community. Dalton seems to be one of those who focuses on ‘personal responsibility’… like many on the libertarian side, this is important to him. (Shermer fits into that camp too of course).

    On the other side, are those who are the ‘social justice’ types. The problem is, they don’t speak the same language because they don’t value all the same things, and then even when there could be a productive conversation, everyone ends up just talking past each other, getting annoyed and hurling insults. Round and round. And on an issue, as sensitive as this sort of accusation… it is even more important to be careful of words, because everyone is high strung and tone deaf.

    It may not be part of your larger point, but it is part of his.

  35. 94

    I don’t think this is ‘just’ semantics though. I think this kind of difference of focus is part of the problem with regards to the ongoing flame war that has been going on, in the community. Dalton seems to be one of those who focuses on ‘personal responsibility’… like many on the libertarian side, this is important to him. (Shermer fits into that camp too of course).

    There’s an element of personal responsibility on the other side – someone who is accused of harassment has a personal obligation to not engage in harassment or rape. They can’t put the blame on the victim and then decry the victim as being irresponsible. It’s always the “personal responsibility” of the victim, but rarely (if ever) the personal responsibility of the perpetrator that gets called out in situations like this.

    Absolution of the perpetrator for their actions by putting applying the “personal responsibility” standard to the victim is no different than idea that women should wear Hijab because guys can’t control themselves. It puts the personal responsibility on the woman for not acting in a way as to “provoke” the men around them, while at the same time absolving themselves of responsibility of, you know, being a rapist or someone who harasses women.

    As a guy, I find the idea that guys can’t control themselves around women to be pretty offensive. It reinforces the stereotype that guys think with their genitalia rather than with their brains.

    Ultimately, if “John” rapes “Sue”, “John” is responsible for his own actions – the action of forcing someone to have non-consensual sex. Nothing “Sue” does or doesn’t do absolves “John” of the crime of rape.

    On the other side, are those who are the ‘social justice’ types. The problem is, they don’t speak the same language because they don’t value all the same things, and then even when there could be a productive conversation, everyone ends up just talking past each other, getting annoyed and hurling insults. Round and round. And on an issue, as sensitive as this sort of accusation… it is even more important to be careful of words, because everyone is high strung and tone deaf.

    Kinda like the idea that “theory” always means “hypothesis”, as seen used by creationists in the in the neverending debate about the Theory of Evolution and “teaching the controversy”. Creationists use the definition that’s convenient for them, and skeptics use the definition that (and I’m going to go out on a limb here) actually applies – because in that context, we are talking about a scientific usage of the word.

    It may not be part of your larger point, but it is part of his.

    That’s a fair point. Maybe I was thinking that but didn’t articulate it clearly enough – that he’s diverting the conversation through the use of a semantic trick by nit-picking a definition of “coercion” that fits his narrative.

  36. 95

    Dalton seems to be one of those who focuses on ‘personal responsibility’… like many on the libertarian side, this is important to him.

    And by “personal responsibility” you/he means everyone else, and women in particular, must be responsible for Dalton’s actions. He would not be responsible for drugging and assaulting someone, they would be responsible for being drunk while in possesion of tits and ass. Something like that, right ?

  37. 96

    72 Tom Foss wrote:

    Victorious Parasol brings up some good points. The “morning-after regret” argument never seems to follow through with a motive. Why would a woman who regrets sex with someone make a false rape allegation? What does she stand to gain?

    It’s a good point and it was basically brought up by a bunch of people but, as already pointed out by LeftSidePositive, it kinda presupposes that people always act “rationally,” which we know not to be the case (your post reads a bit like an argument from incredulity). It’d be more fruitful to look into studies analyzing whether that argument stands (not sure whether they exist) rather than assume it doesn’t because the behavior involved doesn’t seem “rational.” After all, the totality of false allegations is already really small so you’d be looking at rare incidents, happening to very few and by very few people. There’s some room there for reasons provided that might make you go “wtf.”

  38. 97

    This is just so incredibly fucked up.

    This happened to me: I have a friend who also at the time a client of mine. She’s major cute, and a nice person. I like her. We’re not only professional colleagues but personal friends. I saw her through some very tough personal times.

    We were at a BIG event that went extremely well. We (with several others on the larger team) celebrated. Alcohol was involved. Quite a lot of alcohol, in fact. Probably as much as I’ve had in any one sitting in a long time.

    At some point in the proceedings, this incredibly cute, and very, very smashed young woman gave me a hug that lasted far too long to be a “thanks, buddy” hug. And she put her arm around my neck and kind of nuzzled me. At the time, we were both single.

    And you know what happened next?

    ….

    NOTHING!

    Because I’m not the kind of guy who takes advantage of a drunk person. No moral/ethical person is.

    How hard is this to understand? There’s stuff you don’t do. This is one of them.

  39. 98

    I can’t decide what I find more disturbing: the idea that a rape victim needed to be more “personally responsible” or that she needed to be “more careful.” In any case, neither being personally responsible/careful is an absolute defense against a cunning manipulator who’s honed and perfected a technique for subverting all the usual “being careful/responsible” safeguards.

  40. 99

    @SubmitComment: Those are fair points. I don’t necessarily intend it as an argument from personal incredulity–I’m not saying it’s impossible or unlikely just because I can’t imagine the train of thought, I just want to know what the train of thought is supposed to be.

    So your points provide more detail to my question:
    1) The commonness of the “morning-after regret” argument suggests that it must happen with some degree of regularity. Consequently, the proponents of the argument should be able to find studies demonstrating that it exists, and suggesting at the proportion of it. At least they should be able to find publicized examples of it.

    2) If case studies or other examples can be provided, then what caused the alleged victim to make the false claim because of morning-after regrets? Was it a conclusion reached through some application of reasoning, or is there another root cause?

    Surely if this situation is common enough to be trotted out by rape apologists accusation skeptics nearly every time an accusation of rape is made, then there should be some attempt to quantify it and/or explain it. Maybe there’s an evolutionary psychology reason behind it.

  41. 100

    Doubtthat,

    I’m having trouble understanding why certain people seem drawn to the “She just regrets screwing him” narrative.

    If she merely didn’t think the sex was worth shaving her legs over or she found out afterward that he bit his toenails..or whatever caused this “regret”, why would she want to tell anyone she was raped? Exactly how bad in bed is this guy supposed to be? How batshit, cackling, evil is this woman supposed to be to want vengeance years later because she got some dull nookie? Is this something they think women do? Do they think every now and then one of us get’s a lackluster lay, so we write a note in our journals reminding us to frame the dude for rape years later? ? Is she supposed to regret it because sex is shameful and nasty and makes her a slut? That isn’t regret. That’s shame and I don’t see why a person would draw attention to the thing they are so irrationally ashamed of. Are they saying that out of shame she came forward anonymously so that people who don’t know who she is won’t think she had icky, dirty sex on purpose? Really, what sort of motivation is there supposed to be for her to lie about being raped?

    In order to think that scenario is more plausible than one in which the woman is being honest, you have to believe some very nasty things about women to begin with. Which I think is the case with these people.

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