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Science says we should blame the victims

Let’s face facts, people: if you get assaulted, or worse, it’s your fault. You shouldn’t have been walking in that area. You shouldn’t have been out at night. You shouldn’t have been alone. You shouldn’t have worn that dress or those shoes, or been wearing such an expensive watch/handbag/ribbon.

I mean, there are studies to demonstrate these things.

You can, of course, ignore this information. But once you know that certain behaviours increase your risk, then choosing to express that particular behaviour… Well… That’s all on you.

Right?

Absolutely not.

Studies like these get kicked around, and (I’m sure) are great science. Good methodology, good math, careful controls. All that good stuff with dotted ‘i’s and crossed ‘t’s that is the core of Good Science. But it’s really shitty Philosophy: a study with a massive conceptual error is going to be a crappy study regardless of the rigour of everything else. And these studies do have a massive conceptual error at their core.

So let’s talk about Crommunist’s favourite topic:

Personal Responsibility

When are you responsible for your own problems? Conversely, when are you not responsible? And is this different from being morally blameworthy?

For the purpose of this article, when I say ‘responsible’ I mean ‘your action is the trigger for certain consequences, which inevitably follow from your action’. ‘Moral blameworthiness’ only comes into the picture once responsibility is established, so I’m shelving that for now.

An ‘Agent‘ in this article is a being who is capable of impressing their will upon the world. An ‘Agent’ is a being who can (but may not) make choices regarding their life and the lives of other folk that fall within their purview. Rocks cannot be Agents due to a complete lack of sentience. A dog or dolphin may be considered an Agent, but probably isn’t. A human below the so-called ‘age of reason’ is, by definition, not an Agent, although certain individuals may demonstrate that they are. This is a fuzzy term.

Furthermore, it’s necessary to discern whether an Agent has created/setup a system such that the decisions of other Agents will lead to harm. An example would be a Loan Shark setting up a loan system that inevitably traps any other Agent who enters into a contract with the Loan Shark. In this case, the consequences (destitution) do not “inevitably” flow from the actions of the Agent, but from the actions of the Loan Shark who crafted the system to act in this fashion.

Let’s start with a couple of examples. Unless stated otherwise, all “person”s are in complete control of their faculties, and have whatever information you feel is necessary to the situation.

Example A: a person walks to the edge of a cliff. They are in full comprehension of how gravity works in these situations, and it’s clear that there is nothing but rocks (jagged and many) at the base of the cliff. It’s a clear 500 metre drop, and death is certain. The person hurls themselves over the edge, knowing all of this. They die on impact.

Example B: a person takes a boat out to ‘piranha-infested waters’, and locates a school of piranha. They are in full comprehension of how piranha feed, and they hurl themselves into the water. The piranha feed, and they die.

Example C: A person talks a stroll down a street, after dark, that is known to be a haven for thugs and gangs. They are well-dressed, wearing obviously expensive clothing, and habitually jingle the money in their pocket as they walk. They are wearing an ipod, frequently close their eyes to listen to the music from time to time, and occasionally sing out loud. They are aware that the area is known to be dangerous, yet broadcast “I’m not paying attention” signals constantly. They are subsequently assaulted, robbed, and left for dead.

Example D: a person who is a woman dresses extremely provocatively and goes to a bar that is known (to her and in general) to be frequented by people with a penchant for assault and rape. She drinks heavily, flirts shamelessly, and indicates sexual interest with any man who happens to glance her way. As a matter of fact, she’s not at all interested in having any relationship (of any duration), but enjoys the feeling of being desired. She is subsequently raped shortly after leaving the bar.

Example E: a person who is a woman dresses extremely conservatively and goes to a high-end bar, where she is extremely careful about who she drinks with, what she drinks, and what signals she sends to the men in the room. She arranges for a friend (who is a woman) to drive her home. She is subsequently raped by a neighbour whom she had known (and trusted) for several years.

 

I think that it’s safe to assert that everyone would agree that the person in Example A and Example B are wholly responsible for their situation. They knew the risks, and indulged accordingly. Quite simply, if the people in Example A and Example B are not held responsible, then ‘responsibility’ is a meaningless expression: neither rocks nor piranha are Agents, thus the only being capable of exerting their will on the situation is ‘the person’ indicated in the example. The death of the person inevitably follows from the jumping off a cliff, ditto swimming with hungry piranha (note: I am not a marine biologist. It may well not be the case that piranha ‘inevitably’ eat people, but I trust that ye get my point).

The article Attracting Assault-Victims Nonverbal Cues (Grayson, Stein) is my target for Example C. Example B serves as a contrast against Example C: in Example B, piranha react as a force of nature to the introduction of food into their eco-system. Piranha are, as per the above definition, not Agents. They have no ‘choice’ about reacting to attack, or not.

Are “thugs” and “gang members” Agents? Are they capable of exerting their will upon the situation to alter the world? Absolutely.

In the absence of piranha, would the piranha-infested waters be safe to swim in? Absolutely.

In the absence of thugs, would the thug-infested streets be safe to walk in? Absolutely.

Do the piranha choose to dwell in the piranha-infested waters, to prey on whatever comes their way: No.

Do the thugs choose to dwell in the thug-infested streets, to prey on whatever comes their way: Absolutely.

Here we can see the immediate and readily-apparent difference between the two circumstances: the area is made dangerous by a choice that is being made by a group of Agents. They choose when and where (and why) they attack the victims that they do. The victims choices do not inevitably lead to their mugging: the choice of the thug does. The thugs are in control of whether or not the area is dangerous, and it’s from the choices of the thugs that danger flows.

Now, let’s imagine a world where every single human being magically stopped generating those ‘I’m a victim’ signals that Grayson and Stein so helpfully went out of their way to identify. Would the muggings stop? Would crime (that is currently “triggered” by those signals) suddenly cease to exist?

I find it difficult to believe that anyone would argue that “yes, all that is necessary to reduce the incidence of assault is for people to stop issuing these particular signals”. What would happen, of course, is that those thugs and gang members would start to differentiate ‘potential victims’ and ‘not-victims’ by a different set of signals. In short, what makes these signals dangerous is not the signals in and of themselves but the choices of the thugs and gangs (i.e. what they have chosen to interpret those signals as representing). Again: the danger flows from the choices made by the thugs and gangs.

What if people stopped walking in those areas? Surely then all crime would magically stop? Of course not: the thugs and gangs would start to roam farther afield in search of victims, or change their approach from simple assault to some other form of violent crime (house-breaking, for example).

Fundamentally, the responsibility for these assaults are the thugs and gangs. There is zero causal responsibility to be dropped at the feet of the person dancing through the ‘dangerous’ area jingling money in their pocket. (Of course, I’d argue that the system that generates thugs and gangs is ultimately responsible, but that’s beyond the scope of this essay)

Example D is, frankly, entirely identical to Example C in all meaningful ways. As such, my conclusion is the same: the responsibility for the rape lies entirely with the rapist.

Example E is, again, entirely identical to Example C and Example D in all meaningful ways. The only difference here is the action of the victim, which in no way entails the necessity of the crime. The crime occurs if and only if the would-be criminal chooses to enact the crime.

Let me spin this around a little, as I’m sure that (to some) I’m articulating a controversial position: imagine that you’re sitting in a bar, people-watching. Riddle me this: what action is necessary for someone in that bar to take for you to say “well, their action has indicated their consent to be raped/assaulted/mugged”? If the answer is “there is no action which would indicate that”, then we’re done here: the responsibility is entirely at the feet of the attacker.

(incidentally, if you feel that there is some action a person can take that would legitimise your attack of them: please seek psychiatric assistance as soon as possible, your choices here indicate that you are currently a danger to the people around you)

To pull ‘moral blameworthiness’ back into this: as there is no responsibility on the part of the victim, the victim cannot be considered to be morally blameworthy. Agreeing that they are not responsible, but nonetheless attempting to consider them morally blameworthy is to exhibit your confusion on these topics.

Now there is a common counter-argument to the position that I’m articulating, and that argument is that none of the actions of any of the Agents are necessary in and of themselves to cause the rape to happen ergo the rape is due to a combination of choices. Since the rape is due to a combination of choices, responsibility should be doled out in proportion to the level of choice involved. Insofar as “dressing provocatively” and “flirting shamelessly” influenced the probability of the woman being raped, the woman is responsible to that degree.

Let me be clear: this is unadulterated bullshit.

When an assailant adopts the disposition (consciously or not) of “I’m going to rape someone today”, the actions of everyone around them function merely as a sorting mechanism. Just like I am not “responsible” in any meaningful way when I win in a raffle (by definition, someone is going to win and I have no ability to affect this, I can merely choose to be involved or not), the participants in (what is essentially) a rape-raffle are not responsible for their subsequent rape: they did not choose to participate. And while it may be true that a certain set of actions may raise a woman’s visibility to a particular rapist, this does not make her responsible for the rape. In any way, shape or form.

 

But let’s, for the sake of argument, examine the position that is often espoused by people who haven’t thought deeply about this issue. Let’s frame the situation as if there are certain brute facts in play, and that people who make choices in the face of those brute facts are responsible for the results of their choices. (The people who profess these arguments usually call themselves “Libertarians”, or “Mens’ Rights Activists” when really this argument neither aligns with the axioms of Liberty, nor does it support any ‘rights’ of men)

The brute facts, they say, consist of there being men in the world who will rape if certain ‘triggers’ are presented. Given that these ‘triggers’ are chosen prior to the appearance of particular women, then women need to avoid these triggers to stay safe. Should they choose to violate this warning, well… The women have made a foolish decision and must deal with the consequences of their choices.

It’s a simplistic and ridiculous argument. Why? Watch.

The brute facts consist of there being women who choose to dress in a certain way. Given that these dress codes are chosen prior to the choice of the rapist to rape (women’s fashion was set, to a large degree, several decades ago, certainly before the birth of many recent rapists). That the men chose otherwise common fashions to trigger their rape-reflex… Well, these men have made foolish decision and must deal with the consequences of their choices.

This is a (as noted above) ridiculous argument. But the alleged “Libertrarian” or MRA has two options:

  1. Reject the reframing of the argument: however any valid reason for rejecting the reframing will also invalidate the initial framing, thus denying validity of the original argument
  2. Accept the reframing, which inherently denies the validity of the original argument (multiple conclusions can be reached from the same base premises)

In either case, the validity of the argument is destroyed.

But let’s explore the idea, for a moment, that it actually is the case that there are some human beings out there who will respond sub-rationally to how people dress and walk, and attack those people. Where is the responsibility in this situation?

Dogs are intelligent animals, that are both loved and reviled by various folk in various societies. Dogs have a wide variety of personalities: some are docile, some are aggressive, some are terrified of their own shadow and some are vicious.

Knowing this, when someone is attacked by a dog, a being that will respond sub-rationally to how someone acted around them, who do we hold responsible for the attack? Assuming the person didn’t physically attack the dog, we hold responsible the person who was caused the dog to develop as it did: the owner. Should an owner fail to train a dog adequately such that it attacks a human being, then (depending on the country) the owner may be fined and (if the upbringing was sufficiently poor) that owner will be banned from raising any more animals.

Even if it were the case that rapists and thugs were inclined to act entirely sub-rationally, we don’t hold the victims of sub-rational animals responsible for the acts committed against them. Ergo it makes no sense to dehumanize the rapists and thugs in order to blame the victim of their attacks.

 

Rapists  and thugs are not ‘animals’ in the ‘lacking rationality’ sense. Even if they were, then (just as with all dangerous animals) it’s the responsibility of the state to ensure the safety of its citizens. Just as the state would be held accountable for allowing a lion to wander the streets of a populated city, so is the state accountable for allowing (and/or generating) dangerous sub-rational criminals to wander around unchecked.

These “studies” are based on the errant notion that victims participate in their crimes, that there is some sort of unspoken covenant between people and society, that you agree that if your behviour fails to meet certain norms then the criminals are given a green-light to attack you. For which we will subsequently punish them. This highlights the bizarre hypocrisy upon which these standards are maintained.

 

Finally, there is simply no study that can be done that will adequately address the ‘signals’ that ‘vulnerable’ people need to stop sending, because even if those signals were changed, the criminals would alter their behaviour to seek out other ‘signals’. Researchers would serve a greater purpose by expending their efforts in identifying the systemic issues within society that drive people to commit criminal acts instead.

 

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Comments

  1. Dianne says

    a person takes a boat out to ‘piranha-infested waters’, and locates a school of piranha. They are in full comprehension of how piranha feed, and they hurl themselves into the water. The piranha feed, and they die.

    IIRC, piranhas only attack if there’s blood in the water. So the person would have to cut themselves or otherwise have a bleeding wound to get eaten. I think.

  2. David says

    Really science? Why you got to be like that? I figured this out at age 8. If you go out in a storm waving a metal rod around, you are risking getting struck by lightning because we can’t control lightning (yet).
    To draw the parallel to assault is to imply that the thugs are similarly out of control. It’s not a similar situation at all and even my incomplete pre-pubescent brain could see that.

  3. karmakin says

    Generally speaking it goes past rape, Western society generally does a piss-poor job of differentiating between a micro-level solution and a macro-level solution. Generally speaking when discussing things such as society and policy and all that, we should focus on the bigger picture as much as we can. We can use individual incidents to fill in the bigger picture, but the focus should be on the bigger picture as a whole.

    Even if something can be done on the individual level to change the outcome, that in no way shape or form changes the big picture, as you said, it’s a sorting mechanism. Rape culture is still rape culture, regardless of how women dress or if women drink or not. It’s still going to happen, unfortunately.

    A more positive, well-meaning example of this in action, is the focus on education on “curing” poverty. The problem is that more education does little positive to actually change the demand for labor. (It has a much greater negative effect, by driving down the value of higher education, making those jobs more “competitive” on a global basis). Again, you’re seeing education used as a sorting mechanism, not something that directly changes the big picture.

    The point of this isn’t to defend the MRA’s of course, it’s simply to acknowledge how common this fallacy is, and why it gains so much traction.

  4. Interrobang says

    It’s the thrashing around that does it, actually. I watched Jeremy Wade do this on an episode of River Monsters — he dropped a piece of bleeding meat into a swimming pool full of piranhas…nothing. He dropped a piece of bleeding meat into the same swimming pool, and made it jump around, and the piranhas ate it.

    In that episode, he also gets into the swimming pool filled with piranhas and sits in with them for several minutes, and even starts herding them around the pool with his arms, and they don’t do a damn thing except go where he pushes them. I have to say, that was some of the most amazing television I’ve ever seen.

    So, if you’re ever in piranha-infested water, walk or swim calmly and without splashing to the edge and get out. (Who knew the Hitchhiker’s Guide could protect you from piranhas?!)

  5. Makoto says

    “(incidentally, if you feel that there is some action a person can take that would legitimise your attack of them: please seek psychiatric assistance as soon as possible, your choices here indicate that you are currently a danger to the people around you)”

    Thank you for stating this so clearly. It seems like such an obvious statement of fact, and yet I’ve heard people arguing it against so often.

  6. Konradius says

    Interesting piece, and I agree with most of it.
    I however have one question about it, and I’ll put it in counterexample D:

    Counterexample D: a person who is a woman dresses extremely provocatively and goes to a bar that is known (to her and in general) to be frequented by people with a penchant for assault and rape. She drinks heavily, flirts shamelessly, and indicates sexual interest with any man who happens to glance her way. As a matter of fact, she’s not at all interested in having any relationship (of any duration), but enjoys the feeling of being desired. She has consensual sex shortly after leaving the bar.

    Now there are cases where you know clearly whether we’re talking about example D.
    However I can imagine a situation where to an outside observer both D’s are exactly the same, and the distinction between the two is made by the woman after the encounter and possibly even some extra time.
    I think this complicates your story considerably. I personally think the other person who either engages in consensual sex or rapes is in the wrong. After all, even if the sex is consensual I do not think the woman as described is fully capable of communicating clearly that the sex is consensual.

    Note that any indication that sex is unwanted makes it rape.

    Now I’ve got half a dozen tangents in my head, but I want to see the reaction to this first.

  7. says

    As someone who’s had to navigate counterexample D a few times, I’ll tell you that it’s not particularly difficult to distinguish between someone who is capable of giving consent and someone who is too inebriated to do so. If you honestly do find it challenging, then it’s best to err on the side of caution and pump your brakes. The rule can be generally summed up as don’t do anything while you’re drunk that you wouldn’t do if you were sober.

    You’ll have to wait a bit for Brian’s response, I’m just writing this in case you are at a bar right now and looking for guidance.

  8. ischemgeek says

    I just thought of a decent example: Let’s say you’re driving along on you commute home at rush hour and someone enters your lane and crashes head-on into you.

    One of these “men’s rights activists” would be inconsistent to not argue against you getting compensated and found to not be at fault for the collision. After all, you should have been able to avoid the accident by noticing that the other person was nodding off/texting/drunk/distracted/losing traction/whatever (from several hundred meters away and despite thousands of other distractions on the road) and engage in evasive driving actions (even if it’s rush hour and to change lanes would result in a larger pileup). Don’t you know it’s dangerous to drive at rush hour?!

  9. says

    I’m sure you’re acting out of a well-intentioned desire to prevent the sort of dishonest and uncaring victim-bashing we’re hearing from certain reactionaries these days; but your arguments are still full of holes.

    In your examples C and D above, the assailants are sane adults, and are thus fully responsible for the consequences of their actions. They deserve punishment for whatever crimes they choose to commit, whatever “signals” their victims may have given beforehand. HOWEVER, if the victims are also sane adults, then they have at least some capacity to judge in what situations they are most likely to be victimized, why those situations are dangerous, and what reasonable measures they can take to anticipate trouble and avoid it.

    Criminals are not predictable because they’re dumb animals like sharks; they’re predictable to the extent that they show a consistent propensity to do certain things in certain situations. We — all of us, not just women choosing what to wear when they leave their homes — are required every day to anticipate how other people will choose to treat us, and to do what we can to make it more likely that those other people will make choices that benefit us. We ahve bosses who can choose to fire us, cops who can choose to harass us, friends who can choose to dump us, as well as people of dubious motives who can choose to do violence against us. And those of us who don’t make the right choices in these situations will be held at least partially responsible for the harm that comes to us as a result. Not CRIMINALLY responsible, mind you, not responsible as in excusing what someone else does to us; but responsible to ourselves for making, or not making, the right choices and taking care of ourselves.

  10. says

    To draw the parallel to assault is to imply that the thugs are similarly out of control.

    Well, the thug is out of his victims’ control; so from the POV of his potential victims, he’s a lot like a dangerous weather phenomenon that peace-loving people should take reasonable precautions to avoid.

  11. ambassadorfromverdammt says

    Each agent is responsible for the choices they make. A is responsible for jumping off the cliff; B for jumping in the water; C & D for choosing to increase their risk, E for choosing to minimize her risk, and the lottery player for buying a ticket.

    C, D & E did not choose the muggings or rapings, those actions were chosen by other agents, so C,D,E are not responsible for them. C & D did not behave less responsibly than E; all three behaved equally responsibly. What differs is the level of risk they chose to take.

    All 6 agents made choices that affected the risk of a particular outcome. They are not responsible for the outcomes, they are responsible for the choices. (A, B, & L made choices that increased their risk of losing to astronomical proportions.)

    A criminal is responsible for his criminal act. He is not responsible for his prison sentence, as that is imposed by other agents.

  12. David says

    Point was that the thug has a choice to make and regardless of what the victim does or does not do, it is the thug acting in a conscious manner that results in the action. The lightning has no such choice, it is just going to take the path of least resistance, even if that is you.
    To suggest the assault victim is in any way at fault removes the idea that the thug can choose not to commit the crime. Instead of (or in addition to) trying to figure out how to keep people from doing things that put them in the path of these thugs, it would be prudent to figure out why these thugs are making these choices and how to go about getting them to make different ones.

  13. Alverant says

    In one of your earlier posts you talked about how your race and gender has led you to avoid certain behaviors and perform certain acts in order to avoid being perceived as a risk. How does that post relate to this? If, in your examples C&D the behavior of the person has nothing to do with their personal responsibility for what happened then why are men who don’t shuffle their feet when walking behind a woman responsible for the woman being uncomfortable?

    Sorry, I’m seeing an inconsistancy here.

    Likewise how do you feel about temptation? The credit card crisis a few years back was partially caused by credit card companies tempting people with low interest pre-approved credit cards then pulling a bait-n-switch. People aren’t made of stone, many eventually fell to the endless flood of offers. If you tempt people to do a certain action, how responsible are you for their actions? (I’m going beyond the initial scope of crime and into the area of general behavior.)

    Here’s an example I’d like your take on:

    F: Fred goes to a mosh pit and sees people crowd surfing. It looks liked fun so he goes to where the other crowd surfers started and throws himself onto the crowd like the others. No one catches him and he falls flat on his back. (Note, there is nothing about Fred like weight or smell or appearance that differenciates him from the other surfers.)

    G: George does stunts on his mountain bike. One day he makes a mistake and face-plants on a manhole cover. Why should he pay more in insurance if he’s not responsible for the accident?

  14. Alverant says

    Here’s a question, if we changed the last sentence in Example E to “Her neighbor, who is also her boss at work, was so impressed with her actions (choice of dress, having a driver, etc) that he gives her a promotion with a higher salary.” would we still say she is not responsible for what happened? Would we say she didn’t deserve the raise?

    Or we changed the last sentence of Example D to “Her boss, who was also at the bar, was so impressed with her outgoing personality that he put her in charge of organizing a company party, a position that came with a hefty bonus.” and ask the same questions.

    Then we add onto that example. “During the planning phase of the company party she embezzled all the party funds. She was then sent to prison and her ex-boss was fired for putting her in charge.” How much responsibility does the boss have for her theft?

    In this discussion we have 4 aspects:
    Person
    Action
    Interactor
    Result
    and how Person is not responsible for Result if the Interactor made a choice. But in all the OP’s examples, the Result was negative. Do things change when the Result was positive? Why?

  15. Konradius says

    I am not, and I am personally far less interested in someone mildly intoxicated, so I don’t expect to even have to make such a call.
    One of the problems though is that “well, their action has indicated their consent to be raped” is the wrong question. The word rape already determines the answer.
    The question should be “well, their action has indicated their consent to have sex”.
    This question is presumably easily answered for you and I. However I can imagine people having trouble with it, for instance if they themselves are intoxicated (I myself hardly ever drink and never to excess).

    The rule can be generally summed up as don’t do anything while you’re drunk that you wouldn’t do if you were sober.

    I know and like this rule. However, if it is broken, who determines who is the victim and who the perpetrator. And whom should get the blame?

    More to the point: if someone allows him/herself to become intoxicated in a non-safe environment, can he/she be (partly) blamed for the result?

    I think the answer there is yes, but with the caveat that the blame will lie with a man in most of the cases.

    Bonusquestion: if a man thought he became intoxicated in a safe environment (with friends he thought he could trust). And while intoxicated he committed a rape. In how far is he a victim, and in how far can he be blamed?

    Should this not be clear: I am interested in exploring these issues, this is not something I personally expect to encounter. I see a general statement and I think reality is messier than that.

  16. says

    We — all of us, not just women choosing what to wear when they leave their homes — are required every day to anticipate how other people will choose to treat us, and to do what we can to make it more likely that those other people will make choices that benefit us.

    There is no evidence that rapists pick women based on “provocative” dress. Rapists rape women who are wearing jeans and T-shirts, business suits, long “prairie muffin” dresses, footie pajamas, and burqas.

    The first article linked in the OP doesn’t mention dress or sexual assault at all. The second, which is narrowly focused on sexual assault risk factors, identifies two such factors: a history of childhood sexual abuse, and alcohol consumption.

    Considering that we live in a society in which alcohol is an extremely common social lubricant, it’s reasonable to ask why we should limit women’s ability to relax and knock a few back in the presence of men. Especially as men and women are, these days, often platonic friends. In some cases, predators cultivate a “friendship” in order to get within a woman’s guard, and sometimes they overcome the woman not with alcohol but with greater physical strength. Shall we therefore insist that women refuse to be alone with one or more men, including relatives, co-workers, and others known to them?

    It’s also reasonable to wonder why victims of childhood sexual assault who are struggling with their trauma, and perhaps abusing alcohol and/or drugs in order to cope, should be considered “fair game” for predatory rapists.

    I disagree entirely with the conclusion of the study:

    Women are faced with interactions with men on a daily basis; it is difficult for women to recognize a perpetrator prior to interacting with him and more difficult to influence his thoughts, intentions, and behaviors. We believe that it is important for women to be able to anticipate potentially dangerous situations, deter a potential perpetrator, and reduce their own risk for sexual assault. Women will be better able to do so by sending clear nonverbal and verbal messages indicating that they are not an easy target and by recognizing potentially dangerous or risky situations with sufficient time to extricate themselves and employ effective resistance.

    Centuries of blaming the victim, including by those who state, “I’m not blaming the victim, but…”, have done very little to lower the rates of rape. Perhaps it’s time to focus on the victimizers. In other words, we need a cultural and therefore a political change, not a multitude of individual changes.

    And those of us who don’t make the right choices in these situations will be held at least partially responsible for the harm that comes to us as a result. Not CRIMINALLY responsible, mind you, not responsible as in excusing what someone else does to us; but responsible to ourselves for making, or not making, the right choices and taking care of ourselves.

    Yes, because rape victims don’t agonize and second-guess themselves constantly, even when they were raped as children, or raped by relatives or significant others in their own homes, or raped to “cure” them of lesbianism. I’m sure they would all find your exhortation to greater “responsibility” bracing.

  17. says

    If the question can be rephrased as: “does consent become more difficult to establish when both parties are under the influence” then I will certainly concede that this is the case. I don’t know anyone who says otherwise. The issue is how we react to this reality. Do we tell women to not get drunk if they don’t want to be raped, or do we make sure to tell men that it is their responsibility to avoid rape as well?

    The larger issue (at least in my reading of Brian’s argument) is that while agency is not a factor in getting raped, it is a factor in raping, and in that case we must doubly shift our modus operandi away from victim-blaming. Your counterexample about post-hoc withdrawn consent after sex between two intoxicated parties strikes me as an ‘edge case’ (much like the protestations of those who oppose abortion in the third trimester). Someone with access to the stats should quickly tell me if I am wrong about that.

  18. julian says

    I see according to a few commentors rapists and those who commit other forms of sexual violence are indistinguishable from the ground and inanimate objects.

  19. Brian Lynchehaun says

    Point was that the thug has a choice to make and regardless of what the victim does or does not do, it is the thug acting in a conscious manner that results in the action.

    Bingo.

  20. Brian Lynchehaun says

    HOWEVER, if the victims are also sane adults, then they have at least some capacity to judge in what situations they are most likely to be victimized, why those situations are dangerous, and what reasonable measures they can take to anticipate trouble and avoid it.

    You don’t appear to have read my article.

    Once you’ve done so, if you have a relevant comment at that point, I’ll be happy to engage. But I’m not going to engage points that I’ve already addressed within the article.

  21. Brian Lynchehaun says

    What differs is the level of risk they chose to take.

    You don’t appear to have read my article.

    Once you’ve done so, if you have a relevant comment at that point, I’ll be happy to engage. But I’m not going to engage points that I’ve already addressed within the article.

  22. Brian Lynchehaun says

    Sorry, I’m seeing an inconsistancy here.

    Reading the by-line and noticing that this article was written by a different person would resolve that problem.

    Regardless of that, there is no inconsistency here:

    If, in your examples C&D the behavior of the person has nothing to do with their personal responsibility for what happened then why are men who don’t shuffle their feet when walking behind a woman responsible for the woman being uncomfortable?

    Your question indicates that you don’t understand Crommunist’s previous article.

    Insofar as the behaviour of a man is indistiguishable from that of a would-be rapist, that behaviour will make some women uncomfortable. Crommunist is arguing that (knowing this) it’s important to take steps to distinguish your behaviour from that of a would-be rapist. Because this alternate behaviour is of minimal cost (virtually zero), and has a reasonably high payoff in terms of stress relief, it is the ethical thing to do.

    If you tempt people to do a certain action, how responsible are you for their actions?

    If you’re setting up a system to intentionally trap people, then you are wholly responsible.

    F: Fred goes to a mosh pit and sees people crowd surfing. It looks liked fun so he goes to where the other crowd surfers started and throws himself onto the crowd like the others. No one catches him and he falls flat on his back.

    I don’t understand what you’re attempting to get at here:

    No-one has explicitly invited Fred to crowd surf.
    No-one has decided ahead of time that they will attempt to harm ‘someone’.
    The individuals in the crowd are under no moral obligation to catch someone who hurls themselves in the direction of the crowd.

    Fred is entirely responsible for his fall. This example doesn’t seem to parrallel any of the examples I’ve given, so whatever point you’re shooting for is entirely opaque to me.

    G: George does stunts on his mountain bike. One day he makes a mistake and face-plants on a manhole cover. Why should he pay more in insurance if he’s not responsible for the accident?

    This doesn’t make any sense at all: George is, indeed, responsible for the accident. George is the only Agent involved.

  23. Brian Lynchehaun says

    Here’s a question, if we changed the last sentence in Example E to “Her neighbor, who is also her boss at work, was so impressed with her actions (choice of dress, having a driver, etc) that he gives her a promotion with a higher salary.” would we still say she is not responsible for what happened? Would we say she didn’t deserve the raise?

    This significantly changes the scenario.

    Do you believe that there is a behaviour that justifies/warrants/earns a promotion? (the typical answer to this is “yes”)

    Do you believe that there is a behaviour that justifies/warrants/earns a rape? If “yes”, please seek a counselor before you harm someone. If “no”, thank you for acknowledging that your counterpoint is entirely different in a relevant way to the examples being used.

    Do things change when the Result was positive? Why?

    You seem to be arguing that there are grounds under which rape is justified.

    Alternatively: you don’t seem to understand that ‘raping someone’ is a categorically different choice from ‘promoting someone’.

    Could you specify which of these two points (or both) you are confused about?

  24. PSG says

    Yes, yes, yes. This, exactly! I got as far as “and this is bullshit” and I was saying thank you aloud. Excellent. Saving this post to link to later.
    Thanks to you, Brian, for writing this, and thanks to you, Crommunist, for having Brian here to contribute. *hugs* to both of you if you take them.

  25. mouthyb says

    I haz a sad face, in that this has to be explained.

    Why don’t we add a condition to the last two scenarios: The woman is aware that if anything happens and she attempts to report a rape, the best case scenario involves a thorough personal examination, including having her cervix scraped and her body photographed, even though she has just had a traumatic experience. She knows this because she knows someone who tried to report and had to go through the exam. She also knows, from other friends, that the more likely scenario is that she’ll be mocked and told she shouldn’t have done something and that the police will not press charges. They may even call her a slut or tell her that she deserved to be raped. She delays reporting for a day while weighing out whether or not she can stand to be probed and treated badly.

    As a result, her complaint is unlikely to be taken.

    This is from personal experience, and the experience of friends. Idealistic models are nice and all, but they assume we can report and anything will be done about it.

    Also, when one of my friends was assaulted in a changing room at a popular local clothes store, the first officer told her she could expect that for being ‘naked in public’ (the dressing room, and she was in her underwear). And the male nurse they sent in, when she convinced someone to take her complaint, asked her out while examining her.

    Still her fault?

  26. LeftSidePositive says

    This thread and its discussion will go into this question on all the details you brought up.

    By the way, if someone gets drunk in a “non-safe” (whatever that means!) environment NO YOU MAY NOT BLAME THEM AT ALL. Not even a little bit. So stop right now. People have a right to make their own assessments about risk (which may be totally different from how it looks to you!), and to trust people, and to live their lives in a way that doesn’t hurt anyone AND THIS DOES NOT MAKE IT OKAY OR ANY LESS HORRIBLE WHEN OTHERS ASSAULT THEM.

    You should NEVER assume that someone’s actions indicate consent to sex. People come from different cultures, backgrounds, classes, regions, families, social circles, etc., etc. For some people going home with someone means crashing on their couch. Sometimes it means cuddling. Sometimes it means just oral. Sometimes it means suspension bondage, ball gags, and flogging. You don’t know until you ask, and your partner needs to show enthusiastic consent for the particular act in question–you can’t just “assume” it through actions, which are circumstantial, highly unspecific, and variable.

  27. LeftSidePositive says

    Also note (even though it was written by a different person than this piece!!), that if Crommunist chooses not to shuffle his feet or otherwise appear less threatening for whatever reason, he would in no way be at fault for any violence that was directed his way as a result of it. He was simply arguing for going the extra mile to make people feel comfortable and consider their internal experiences, not that he should be expected to make such adjustments to his behavior or face the risk of great personal injury to himself.

  28. says

    Considering that we live in a society in which alcohol is an extremely common social lubricant, it’s reasonable to ask why we should limit women’s ability to relax and knock a few back in the presence of men.

    Also note that if women do follow that advice, they have to pay the price, too. They’re spoilsports, prudes and, if somebody should become aware as to why they’re not drinking, they are of course feminazis who accuse all men of being rapists.
    It’s nice to see that we’re going to take the blame whatever we do. In that case, I prefer to take it while drunk.

  29. says

    Ah, I know what you mean.
    The one time I got nearly assaulted in a dark car park, the few friends I told of this somehow never bothered to offer me their support, they never suggested that we should go to the police.
    They were too fucking occupied with telling me how stupid I was parking my car there.
    The fact that I had not been raped was somehow not something I was kind of entitled to, but clearly a bonus I didn’t deserve.
    I didn’t bother telling it to my parents or the police.

    You also probably agree that I should just drop out of college. There’s a rapist on the loose and he targets women in the car park and on the way to the car park. The university has issued a warning that female students should not go there alone.
    Since I don’t have anybody to chaperone me, I should just stop going there, or take the blame for being raped.

    Good to see that the responsibility not to be raped lies with me.
    Now, since we know that most women are assaulted by their intimate partner, and not by a stranger, do you think I should get a divorce to stop putting me at risk?

  30. Konradius says

    First of all, thank you for that link, I’ll check it out.

    I do disagree with you on one point though. I can blame someone for getting drunk in a non-safe environment. So what is a safe environment? Well, for example a bar where you give your carkeys to the bartender and trust her/him* to make sure you take a cab to your home at the end of the evening. Or a setting with friends where one of them doesn’t drink so he/she can make sure everyone makes it safe home.
    If someone (m/f) doesn’t do this I will blame that person for driving drunk, falling off a cliff or whatever. I will not blame her/him for being raped, but I will blame him/her for getting in a situation where he/she is a risk to him/herself AND TO OTHERS.

    *if the bartender wasn’t to be trusted, the bartender was at fault.

    So, does that make sense to you, and do you agree this is contrary to “not even a little bit blame” laid at the victim?

  31. Konradius says

    I think we tell (or should tell) people to make an exit strategy before getting drunk.
    Not to escape rape, but to avoid drunk driving or whatever else can go wrong when you’re not in full control of your faculties.
    And yes we do it also to avoid making bad sex decisions.

    You’re right about the 3rd trimester abortion “discussion” equivalence.
    The way I read the piece Brian was asking us to find holes in his reasoning. I think this would be the place where an MRA would find his escape.
    As MRAs are the target of this essay I think it should be strengthened on these points.

  32. says

    Your scenario is still wrong.
    Unless, of course, the boss is a slave owner.
    The correct scenario is:
    Woman behaves in way X
    1.) Boss sees woman
    2.) Boss is impressed
    3.) Boss offers her a promotion, the opportunity to organize the party, his hand in marriage
    4.) Woman can either accept or decline offer

    By leaving out the crucial point 3 you’re framing the whole situation differently.
    Because point 3 could also be “rapes her”, only that this eliminated point 4 which is where she gets the agency.

    Also, why does it see so hard for you to understand the crucial difference between doing something and having something done to you, and between doing something benign/beneficial and causing harm?
    Do you understand why there’s a crucial difference between giving somebody 100$ and taking 100$ away from somebody?
    Why, if you secretly slipped 100$ into my wallet would be very different from you taking 100$ out of it, no matter where I keep my wallet?

  33. says

    No, stop it.
    If they get drunk in whatever environment you can blame them for getting drunk. FULL STOP.
    If they end up in hospital with an alcohol poisoning and need to have their stomach pumped that’s a direct result of them drinking.
    If they wake up the next morning with their face glued to the floor with their own vomit, it’s their problem.
    If they trip, fall and break their leg, it’s their problem. It is yours if you push them.

    The example of drunk driving is not that good because:

    A) It’s something you DO, not something that is done to you.
    B) Drunk-driving applies long before alcohol inhibits you from making meaningfull decisions. The regulations are based on the scientific facts that you’re not able to react adequately anymore in situations that need your full attention and split of a second reactions.

    But there’s one level where the example holds up:
    People who accept that drunk-driving is bad usually don’t forget about it after a glass or two. They take precautions, like not being in a situation where they need to get home and the only solution is to drive.
    People who end up drunk-driving usually do have a serious problem with alcohol and decision-making.
    I would think that people who accept that intoxicated people can’t give consent won’t forget about it after a glass or two. And there’s no situation in which you’re going to suffer serious consequences if you don’t get to fuck somebody now.

  34. ischemgeek says

    G: George does stunts on his mountain bike. One day he makes a mistake and face-plants on a manhole cover. Why should he pay more in insurance if he’s not responsible for the accident?

    Because it is his fault, considering that gravity can’t decide whether or not to act and the manhole cover didn’t decide to jump out of the ground and break his teeth.

    By contrast, a rapist can – and does – decide whether or not to rape.

    Here’s a better example:

    George is a mountain biker. One day, he goes to a store to buy a new bike part. He notices that a product from an unknown company is on sale and buys that instead of his normal brand because it’s cheaper and he feels like trying a new brand out. The part is defective, and he falls and faceplants into the manhole because the part failed.

    Should he “accept responsibility” for the company’s decision to not institute adequate quality control? Or should he seek compensation from the company that caused the crash?

  35. Carlie says

    Sigh.

    Ok, let’s say that she’s what is typically known as a floozy and a slut. One afternoon she thinks “Hey! I would like to have fun sexytimes tonight! I will wear my shortest skirt and tightest low-cut blouse and push-up bra, so that the men at the bar will know that I am up for fun sexytimes!” And then she goes to the bar, and proceeds to have a few drinks, flirting with many men that she meets there.

    And let’s say one man in particular finds her quite attractive. His penis even tells him how attractive she is, and lets him know in no uncertain terms how eager it is to get it on with the sexy lady, who is dressed so sexy and acting in such a sexy way and who is so blatantly advertising her desire for fun sexytimes.

    But what is this? She doesn’t seem to like him very much. Maybe he’s not that attractive to her. Maybe he’s talked with her and come off as a total boor. Maybe he’s suggested sexual acts that repulse her to the point of kind of throwing up in her mouth a little just thinking about them. The question is, does she have any right to express any judgment of her own as to who she has the fun sexytimes with? I mean, she was pretty blatantly interested in general, so does she have any right to refuse a specific guy just because he’s not her type or creepy?

    That guy says no! She doesn’t have the right to refuse him! His boner is telling him that she is the right one for his sexytimes! So he is going to take her and force her to do what he wants, even if she cries or screams or whatever, because she asked for it.

    Is that the scenario you’re actually trying to defend, Raging Bee and ambassadorfromverdammt and Alverant? Because that’s the position you’ve taken. You are saying that if a woman acts with her own agency to go out and look for someone to have sex with, that she has to then accept sex from anyone who wants to have it with her, regardless of how she feels about them in particular. You are saying that she should, in fact, expect to have some man she doesn’t want force himself on her, because that’s just what happens when you go looking for a partner.

    That is utterly vile.

  36. Brian Lynchehaun says

    So, does that make sense to you, and do you agree this is contrary to “not even a little bit blame” laid at the victim?

    Given that LeftSidePositive was quite focused on assault and rape, you seemed to have missed the point in a spectacular way.

    Hopefully you will carefully read what you are responding to in the future, rather than repeating this kind of nonsense.

  37. says

    Point was that the thug has a choice to make and regardless of what the victim does or does not do…

    My point was that the thug does NOT make choices “regardless” of what his potential victims do. If you’re not available to be mugged, then that affects his choice of victims.

  38. says

    Is that the scenario you’re actually trying to defend, Raging Bee…?

    I dunno…why don’t you quote me actually “defending” anything remotely like that?

  39. says

    Did anyone here say that a woman would be “at fault” in such circumstances?

    Why don’t you try responding to what we actually said, instead of what you imagine we said?

  40. LeftSidePositive says

    Oh, so if I just withdraw from life everything will be fine? If I just ignore my desires and needs to interact with the world, I couldn’t possibly be a target?

    Great, thanks for the advi– wait, that’s not what I mean… What I mean to say is GO FUCK YOURSELF.

  41. LeftSidePositive says

    You did not just fucking pull a “you’re too emotional,” did you?! How about, consider the fact that you might be an insensitive, behavior-policing, concern-trolling asshole.

  42. Brian Lynchehaun says

    My point was that the thug does NOT make choices “regardless” of what his potential victims do

    You are conflating the thugs choice to mug with their choice of who to mug. The actions of the victim do not influence the first, ergo the thug makes their chioce (to mug or not to mug) regardless of what his potential victims do.

    If you’re not available to be mugged, then that affects his choice of victims.

    And how does one, exactly be “not available to be mugged”?

  43. LeftSidePositive says

    Here you go:

    And those of us who don’t make the right choices in these situations will be held at least partially responsible for the harm that comes to us as a result. Not CRIMINALLY responsible, mind you, not responsible as in excusing what someone else does to us; but responsible to ourselves for making, or not making, the right choices and taking care of ourselves.

    All your “make the right choices” bullshit 1) ignores that predators do not actually seem as obvious as you imagine, 2) means that women are expected to lead a severely constrained life that cannot include the freedom and enjoyment you take for granted, and 3) is basically a playbook for telling rapists, “I don’t care if you rape so-and-so, and neither will the cops, and neither will a jury.” Yeah, you might pay lip service to concern for the victims, but in real life your bullshit means women get blamed and rapists walk free.

  44. Brian Lynchehaun says

    why don’t you quote me actually “defending” anything remotely like that?

    Because you’re playing a bullshit game of pretending to argue a point, without being willing to explicitly spell out your point: you were asked a simple ‘yes/no’ question, and responded with agression instead.

    This indicates that you are more interested in passive-aggressively denying when people point out the transparently obvious.

    This would, of course, be avoided by you explicitly stating your aimed-at conclusion. But I don’t imagine that that’s going to happen anytime soon.

  45. carlie says

    If you’re not available to be mugged, then that affects his choice of victims.

    So, the woman in my case should never have gone to the bar at all, or never have dressed that way, or never have had the desire to find someone to hook up with in the first place? Which one was the one that affected the rapist’s choice to pick her as a victim?

    And who says that any of those things made her the “easy target” from the rapist’s perspective? He could just have easily have decided that someone like her, who is advertising herself, probably does this a lot and therefore has a lot of good defense mechanisms she’s built up over time to disable pushy creeps, and the better bet is to go after the mousy prude in the corner who is obviously out of her element and probably doesn’t know how to deal with forceful men.

  46. LeftSidePositive says

    Because, we know the “you’re partly responsible” and “you increased your risk” can and will be used for EVERYTHING.

  47. ischemgeek says

    Rapists don’t work like muggers. For one, I doubt most mugging victims were mugged by someone they know. I doubt muggers go to parties and get their victims drunk and drugged.

    Sure, if you’re not in a dangerous area frequented by muggers, a mugger won’t be able to attack you…. but to remove yourself from all areas frequented by rapists, you’d have to be a hermit.

    Think of it this way: Someone you know tells you they have terminal cancer. You give them as much as you can afford to give so they can pay for medication and painkillers. You arrange fundraisers and other people in the community come by and help out.

    Their projected life span comes and goes. Twice. People start to get suspicious, expecially when they notice that the person doesn’t seem to be losing weight or getting weaker even though, by rights, they’ve got a terminal illness that should have killed months ago. Someone starts an investigation.

    The person disappears. Turns out, she’s a con artist who was sending the money away to an overseas bank. She took everyone – including her kids – in. Over the past year and a bit, she’s conned the community out of nearly a hundred thousand dollars. I’ve taken heavy inspiration from a real con artist who defrauded my mother out of thirty thousand dollars for this one.

    Let me ask you: were the people who gave that woman money deserving of being taken advantage of? Were they responsible for taking their friend at her word and not demanding an oncologist’s certificate?

    Real rapists tend to work like that. They make themselves look sympathetic, they stalk you, and then they prey. I went to school with a guy who’s a serial rapist. Know who he preyed on? His friends. His sister-in-law. His cousins. His step-sister. His godmother’s daughter. His friends’ girlfriends. People who knew him, who trusted him, who he could convince to let him “take them home” after a few too many to make sure they made it safely… never mind that he made sure they had too many, and if she was too cautious about her rate of drinking, he’d give a little nudge with some other illicit substance.

    To them, he was the “safe person” who they could ask to hold their drink. Until he wasn’t. Were those girls responsible for the fact that he abused their trust?

  48. mouthyb says

    The argument that a woman shares blame for the actions of a rapist was the one used on my friend. After all, she was ‘in public’, and she was in her underwear. The officer didn’t care that she was in a dressing room, and trying on clothing. As far as he was concerned, this was a great excuse not to take a complaint.

    And my observation that these models assume pressing charges is easy enough to make it an option stands. It’s ridiculously hard to press charges, and so many women won’t file, making the question of responsibility moot.

    The only person who gets ‘punished’ in that sense is the rape victim.

  49. says

    I see a sexist, privilege-blinded douchebag is pulling a classic derail.

    Yeah, heaven forbid women be emotional when the menz “dispassionately” treat our lives and safety and rights like a fucking parlor game.

    There are the occasions that men—intellectual men, clever men, engaged men—insist on playing devil’s advocate, desirous of a debate on some aspect of feminist theory or reproductive rights or some other subject generally filed under the heading: Women’s Issues. These intellectual, clever, engaged men want to endlessly probe my argument for weaknesses, want to wrestle over details, want to argue just for fun—and they wonder, these intellectual, clever, engaged men, why my voice keeps raising and why my face is flushed and why, after an hour of fighting my corner, hot tears burn the corners of my eyes. Why do you have to take this stuff so personally? ask the intellectual, clever, and engaged men, who have never considered that the content of the abstract exercise that’s so much fun for them is the stuff of my life.

    Asshole.

  50. says

    And then he goes and chooses another victim. Great for me, except I don’t consider it a “victory” when another woman is raped in my stead.

    I can see how you might consider it a victory, however, given your blatant empathy deficiency and your delight in mansplaining our own lives to us silly gurlz.

  51. says

    Likewise how do you feel about temptation?

    Women going about our business in any sort of outfit = credit card companies preying on people for money.

    Nice. Do you frequent MRA blogs much, by any chance, where women who won’t fuck the MRAs are considered to be “assaulting” them with their vaginas, which they also use to extract money from men?

  52. ischemgeek says

    And then he goes and chooses another victim.

    QFT.

    If a rapist wants to rape, he’ll find someone to rape. If a serial killer wants to kill, he’ll find someone to kill. If a con artist wants to con, the con artist will find someone to con.

    In each case, the fault lies not with the victim, but with the criminal.

  53. ischemgeek says

    You did.

    Criminals are not predictable because they’re dumb animals like sharks; they’re predictable to the extent that they show a consistent propensity to do certain things in certain situations. We — all of us, not just women choosing what to wear when they leave their homes — are required every day to anticipate how other people will choose to treat us, and to do what we can to make it more likely that those other people will make choices that benefit us. We ahve bosses who can choose to fire us, cops who can choose to harass us, friends who can choose to dump us, as well as people of dubious motives who can choose to do violence against us. And those of us who don’t make the right choices in these situations will be held at least partially responsible for the harm that comes to us as a result. Not CRIMINALLY responsible, mind you, not responsible as in excusing what someone else does to us; but responsible to ourselves for making, or not making, the right choices and taking care of ourselves.

    Emphasis mine. What you said pretty much means “anyone who gets raped and wasn’t obeying all of the oft-contradictory anti-rape tips society gives her is at least partly responsible for what happened.”

    In other words, what you said implies that if a woman gets raped, it’s her fault (at least in part) unless she was the patron saint of virtue.

    But please continue to try to pretend like you’re not victim-blaming.

  54. ischemgeek says

    And how does one, exactly be “not available to be mugged”?

    Don’t you know that everyone’s supposed to have clairvoyance to know exactly where and when they’ll be victimized so they can avoid it before it happens! To do anything less is putting yourself at least partly at fault for not avoiding the situation in the first place.

    It’s personal responsibility, after all. Just like if you’re crossing the street and get plowed by a car when you have the light, you might think it’s entirely the driver’s fault for ignoring your right-of-way and the light and hitting you, but it’s it’s your fault for not predicting that the driver was going to run the red light… and even if you couldn’t predict it, it’s your fault for letting yourself get in a dangerous situation anyway… don’t you know that people can get hit at cross-walks?!

  55. P Smith says

    “Let’s face facts, people: if you get assaulted, or worse, it’s your fault. You shouldn’t have been walking in that area.”

    That’s the way of nature: when a mouse walks into the path of a snake or a gazelle into the path of a cheetah. But in those cases, we’re talking about different species. Within a single species, it’s a different story.

    Nature actually provides a good argument for being sympathetic to others. Within many social mammalian species, animals show sympathy towards their own kind and generally don’t cause others harm. (That’s not always the case. Many male cats – domestic, lions, tigers – kill the young of competing males to provide more mating opportunities for themselves.) In many species, animals will protect the young of others in their species which are competing for resources (e.g. wildebeests protecting the young of others) even when it’s potentially to the detriment of their own young.

    We shouldn’t try to claim that we are “above” animals. We should try to be more like them.

    Have you ever seen the movie, “Runaway Train” (1985)? Jump ahead to 3:00 to see the best part:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g6OI_Ia5Qdg

    Sara: (Rebecca De Mornay) You’re an animal!

    Manny: (Jon Voight) No, worse! Human!

  56. sparrowmorgan says

    Oh come now, don’t you know we’re supposed to use men like ATM cards? That’s how society works. /sarcasm

  57. Beth says

    I don’t see these studies as science saying we should blame the victims. I serously doubt that the authors of those studies would agree that blaming the victim is acceptable or considered that a possible interpretation of their choice to do the study.

    I interpret them (well the first one anyway, as being a victim of child sexual abuse isn’t something under a person’s control) as looking into what factors affect the probability of being victimized and letting people know what factors are important in order to help them better manaage their risk level.

    I agree that the victim of a crime is not morally blameworthy in any way for the crime. But I also think that it’s a good idea for science to conduct studies that could help people understand the factors that may increase or descrease their risk level in our culture. This would help people to make better informed decisions about what the risks are before deciding what risks they wish to take.

    After all, whether it’s appropriate to assign some blame to certain actions by a crime victim is an entirely different question from whether or not certain actions by a potential crime victim may increase or reduce their risk of becoming a victim.

    Do you think that if an agents actions have any foreseeable impact on the outcome of being a crime victim, they are then partly responsible and morally blameworthy to some extent for that outccome? I’m don’t, for precisely the reaons you have laid out, but that seems to be the assumption you are making in portraying the study authors as “blaming the victims”.

  58. Brian Lynchehaun says

    I interpret them (well the first one anyway, as being a victim of child sexual abuse isn’t something under a person’s control) as looking into what factors affect the probability of being victimized and letting people know what factors are important in order to help them better manaage their risk level.

    Then you are misunderstanding the study, and the situation. I have already dealt with this:

    Now, let’s imagine a world where every single human being magically stopped generating those ‘I’m a victim’ signals that Grayson and Stein so helpfully went out of their way to identify. Would the muggings stop? Would crime (that is currently “triggered” by those signals) suddenly cease to exist?

    I find it difficult to believe that anyone would argue that “yes, all that is necessary to reduce the incidence of assault is for people to stop issuing these particular signals”. What would happen, of course, is that those thugs and gang members would start to differentiate ‘potential victims’ and ‘not-victims’ by a different set of signals. In short, what makes these signals dangerous is not the signals in and of themselves but the choices of the thugs and gangs (i.e. what they have chosen to interpret those signals as representing). Again: the danger flows from the choices made by the thugs and gangs.

    Back to your comment:

    After all, whether it’s appropriate to assign some blame to certain actions by a crime victim is an entirely different question from whether or not certain actions by a potential crime victim may increase or reduce their risk of becoming a victim.

    Please explain the difference to me.

    Do you think that if an agents actions have any foreseeable impact on the outcome of being a crime victim, they are then partly responsible and morally blameworthy to some extent for that outccome? I’m don’t, for precisely the reaons you have laid out, but that seems to be the assumption you are making in portraying the study authors as “blaming the victims”.

    As a Utilitarian, someone who measure the morality of an act by the consequences of the act, being causally responsible and being morally responsible are inextricably intertwined.

    I have yet to find someone who puts forth the position that you do to:

    1. Have a robust understanding of Ethics.
    2. Not be a Deontologist (i.e. someone who simply has a list of ‘do not do x’ commandments)
    3. Have a clear understanding of what it means to be causally responsible but not morally responsible.

    I look forward to your response.

  59. LeftSidePositive says

    If this is the same Beth as this one from the Almost Diamonds thread about date rape, you’re going to get a whole lot of circumlocutory, vaguely rape-apologetic runarounds…

  60. Brian Lynchehaun says

    I do not agree with your characterisation of Beth’s post(s), from the 5 or 6 that I just read in that thread.

    I would also like to give Beth a chance to speak for themselves, rather than simply dismissing them.

  61. Beth says

    Then you are misunderstanding the study, and the situation. I have already dealt with this:
    Now, let’s imagine a world where every single human being magically stopped generating those ‘I’m a victim’ signals that Grayson and Stein so helpfully went out of their way to identify. Would the muggings stop? Would crime (that is currently “triggered” by those signals) suddenly cease to exist?

    I don’t think muggings would cease to exist. For starters, not all ‘I’m a victim signals’ can be eliminated. A frail elderly person with a walker is still going to look like an easy target. However, if every single human could magically stop generating such signals, I do think the overall incidence of muggings would go down dramatically as muggers shifted to occupations where they could better assess the probability of success with a particular target. Perhaps they would move to car theft or armed robbery in your magical world where potential victims are not distinguishable in any way. Or, since it’s a magical world, perhaps we could magically supply them with meaningful well-paying work, eliminating their need to mug people for a source of income?

    Do you disagree? Or do you think that if muggers could not differentiate ‘easy targets’ from people who would fight back they would continue to attack the same number of victims?

    I find it difficult to believe that anyone would argue that “yes, all that is necessary to reduce the incidence of assault is for people to stop issuing these particular signals”.

    I think it would more appropriate to phrase it as ‘one way to reduce the probability of being assaulted’ rather than ‘all that is necessary’. I don’t think eliminating such signals is a solution to the problem of crime. It is, however, helpful to individuals who live in such areas to learn how to reduce their risk of becoming a victim.

    What would happen, of course, is that those thugs and gang members would start to differentiate ‘potential victims’ and ‘not-victims’ by a different set of signals. In short, what makes these signals dangerous is not the signals in and of themselves but the choices of the thugs and gangs (i.e. what they have chosen to interpret those signals as representing). Again: the danger flows from the choices made by the thugs and gangs.

    This I agree with. The danger does indeed flow from the choices made by the thugs and gangs. I also agree that they would continue to look for and find signals that differential easy targets from more difficult assaults.

    However, those thugs and gangs are just as much a part of the big city environment as the piranha in your example B. Where ever a person lives, they need to be aware of the potential dangers in their environment and what may attract predators attention lest they wind up a victim with no idea of what they were getting into whether it was piranha invested waters or thug infested streets.

    A single individual can no more eliminate thugs from city streets than they could eliminate piranha from Amazonian waters. It is, however, quite useful for an individual to know when, where and why an attack is most likely to occur. It allows the individual to modify their behavior to reduce the risk of being the victim of such an attack.

    Back to your comment:
    Beth: After all, whether it’s appropriate to assign some blame to certain actions by a crime victim is an entirely different question from whether or not certain actions by a potential crime victim may increase or reduce their risk of becoming a victim.
    Please explain the difference to me.

    This is a good question. I’ll try to articulate it. Consider your examples C and D. I agree with you that those people are NOT blameworthy. However, I do think they could have decreased their risk by choosing to take different actions.

    The man in C could have turned his I-pod off and paid more attention to his surroundings. The woman in D could have arranged for safe transportation home from the bar.

    Is this sufficient or do I need to explain why C and D are not obligated to make the ‘safer’ choices in order to avoid being blameworthy for having been a victim of a crime? I think we are in agreement on that point.

    Beth: Do you think that if an agents actions have any foreseeable impact on the outcome of being a crime victim, they are then partly responsible and morally blameworthy to some extent for that outcome? I’m don’t, for precisely the reasons you have laid out, but that seems to be the assumption you are making in portraying the study authors as “blaming the victims”.

    As a Utilitarian, someone who measure the morality of an act by the consequences of the act, being causally responsible and being morally responsible are inextricably intertwined.

    Okay. I’m not a utilitarian, but I find it a reasonable position. There are many levels of causality and, on a practical level, it’s simply not possible to tease out all the intertwining strands of causality and randomness. It makes more sense to me to place the moral blame for criminal acts solely on the criminal, not on their victims for not being sufficiently vigilant or armed or whatever to have avoided the attack.

    I have yet to find someone who puts forth the position that you do to:
    1. Have a robust understanding of Ethics.
    2. Not be a Deontologist (i.e. someone who simply has a list of ‘do not do x’ commandments)
    3. Have a clear understanding of what it means to be causally responsible but not morally responsible.

    I not sure what you mean by a robust understanding of ethics. I do not have any formal education in ethics, only Sunday school classes from several decades ago. However, I do not simply have a list of ‘do not do x’ commandments. I tend towards moral relativism instead (despite the dire warnings of the dangers of moral relativism from my Sunday school teachers. :D).

    I don’t know that it’s possible to clearly delineate between causally responsible but not morally responsible. I think they are somewhat fuzzy and overlapping concepts and any dividing line between them would have to be established by subjective preference and practical considerations.

    How far back do you want to trace causality? Do we absolve the rapist because his behavior was caused by his having been sexually abused as a child? Do we absolve the mugger because he was driven by hunger or addiction and had no other resources or way to earn money? What does it mean to be ‘morally responsible’? What obligations does being morally responsible entail both to society and to the individual? These do not seem to be easy questions with obvious answers to me.

    I look forward to your response. I’ll look forward to yours in return.

  62. Brian Lynchehaun says

    However, if every single human could magically stop generating such signals, I do think the overall incidence of muggings would go down dramatically as muggers shifted to occupations where they could better assess the probability of success with a particular target.

    This makes no sense whatsoever.

    You seem to be suggesting that people choose to ‘be muggers’ based on the fact that people issue ‘I am vulnerable’ signals. Your conception of causality seems to be genuinely fucked up.

    It is not the case that there exists vulnerable people, and therefore people choose to be thugs.

    it is the case that people choose to be thugs, and therefore interpret certain actions on the part of their potential victims as a sorting signal. The studies listed above are based on this very assumption, hence they didn’t poll random members of the public.

    Perhaps they would move to car theft or armed robbery in your magical world where potential victims are not distinguishable in any way.

    In my magical world, people are also literate.

    I did not say that “potential victims are not distinguishable in any way”. This is your invention, and you are now presenting a Strawperson Fallacy.

    Do you disagree?

    I have no idea. You haven’t presented a coherent position for me to dis/agree with. You have misrepresented my position, which I (obviously, I hope) disagree with.

    Or do you think that if muggers could not differentiate ‘easy targets’ from people who would fight back they would continue to attack the same number of victims?

    To make it explicit: muggers cannot differentiate between ‘easy targets’ and ‘people who would fight back’. There is no study to support any assertion that they can.

    The study at the start of this essay indicated that the thugs assumed that certain actions on the part of the people in the videos indicated that they were vulnerable. Nothing in that study tested whether or not such an assumption was justified. The fitness of the people being watched was not assessed. Their ability to defend themselves was not assessed. Their tenacity was not assessed.

    In short, the correlation between the thugs assumption and reality was not assessed.

    My point, for the hard of thinking, was that thugs will attempt to differentiate between people who are easy targets and people who are hard targets. They will infer weakness and strength from the way people move in the world. Eliminating one set of movements (that indicate ‘weakness’) will merely force the thugs to seek other signals of weakness, rendering this change pointless.

    I think it would more appropriate to phrase it as ‘one way to reduce the probability of being assaulted’ rather than ‘all that is necessary’.

    Citation needed.

    It is, however, helpful to individuals who live in such areas to learn how to reduce their risk of becoming a victim.

    Citation needed.

    This I agree with

    This is in bizarre, because it’s in direct contraction with your other statements. If your actions were to “reduce the probability of being assaulted”, then it is not true that “the danger flows from the choices made by the thugs and gangs”, because the danger would flow from the choices made by both the victim and the thugs and gangs.

    You don’t seem to understand the position that you are arguing in favour of.

    However, those thugs and gangs are just as much a part of the big city environment as the piranha in your example B.

    Reading comprehension fail.

    Thugs are agents, piranha are not. this is a significant and relevant difference.

    Do you understand this?

    A single individual can no more eliminate thugs from city streets than they could eliminate piranha from Amazonian waters.

    Irrelevant.

    It is, however, quite useful for an individual to know when, where and why an attack is most likely to occur. It allows the individual to modify their behavior to reduce the risk of being the victim of such an attack.

    Yes, I realise that you are restating the bias that I’m arguing against in this essay.

    Now, do you have any evidence to bolster this assumption, or are you going to continue making shit up?

    Is this sufficient or do I need to explain why C and D are not obligated to make the ‘safer’ choices in order to avoid being blameworthy for having been a victim of a crime? I think we are in agreement on that point.

    No, this is not sufficient.

    You need to explain how these choices reduce their risk of assault.

    You have repeatedly asserted that this is the case, but you haven’t provided even a pre-school-level argument in favour of this assertion.

    There are many levels of causality and, on a practical level, it’s simply not possible to tease out all the intertwining strands of causality and randomness.

    Irrelevant bullshit. You are evading the question.

    It makes more sense to me to place the moral blame for criminal acts solely on the criminal, not on their victims for not being sufficiently vigilant or armed or whatever to have avoided the attack.

    In short, their actions were causally responsible for their mugging, but they aren’t morally blameworthy = a nonsensical statement.

    I do not have any formal education in ethics, only Sunday school classes from several decades ago.

    You have my condolances. However, your ignorance is easily rectified. Start here (click HTML if you’re just going to read on your computer): http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/11224

    I tend towards moral relativism instead (despite the dire warnings of the dangers of moral relativism from my Sunday school teachers.

    Surprisingly, your Sunday school teachers were on the right track with this one (I am reminded of blind squirrels).

    Moral Relativism is the pinnacle of bullshit: to claim that there is no objective morality is to claim that there is no objective measurement of length. Have a view here (this is me): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1H3ZoWeURYU

    I don’t know that it’s possible to clearly delineate between causally responsible but not morally responsible.

    On a Utilitarian framework, the former entails the latter.

    I think they are somewhat fuzzy and overlapping concepts and any dividing line between them would have to be established by subjective preference and practical considerations.

    I’m sorry, but this is incomprehensible bullshit.

    How far back do you want to trace causality?

    As far back as we can.

    Oh, your question was merely rhetorical, and not serious? My bad…

    Do we absolve the rapist because his behavior was caused by his having been sexually abused as a child?

    Depending on the circumstances: possibly. If we’re talking about non-consensual sex between people with mental developmental issues who also had access to alcohol… this is a more complex situation than simple blanket statements allows for.

    Do we absolve the mugger because he was driven by hunger or addiction and had no other resources or way to earn money?

    Possibly, yes.

    What does it mean to be ‘morally responsible’?

    Now that is the first intelligent question that you’ve asked. And I’m not certain of the answer. But I suspect that ‘causal responsibility’ plays a major part of the answer.

    What obligations does being morally responsible entail both to society and to the individual?

    Again: damn good question.

    These do not seem to be easy questions with obvious answers to me.

    Irrelevant. Nothing good is easy.

  63. Beth says

    BETH: However, if every single human could magically stop generating such signals, I do think the overall incidence of muggings would go down dramatically as muggers shifted to occupations where they could better assess the probability of success with a particular target.
    BRIAN: This makes no sense whatsoever.
    You seem to be suggesting that people choose to ‘be muggers’ based on the fact that people issue ‘I am vulnerable’ signals. Your conception of causality seems to be genuinely fucked up.
    No, you are not understanding what I am trying to get across. People choose to commit muggings based on a variety of factors, one of which is that vulnerable people exist that they think they can successfully mug.
    BRIAN: It is not the case that there exists vulnerable, and therefore people choose to be thugs.
    It’s certainly not the only factor, so going from one to the other directly as you did doesn’t make sense. But I would expect the existence of vulnerable people to be a factor in that decision. I’m not sure why you don’t think it is.
    You seem to be saying that if there were no vulnerable people, there would still be thugs mugging people. I don’t agree. I think if thugs were not able to successfully mug vulnerable individuals, they would choose another way of getting money.
    BRIAN: it is the case that people choose to be thugs, and therefore intepret certain actions on the part of their potential victims as a sorting signal. The studies listed above are base on this very assumption, hence they didn’t poll random members of the public.
    This seems a very reasonable assumption and is not in conflict with what I said above.
    BRIAN: I did not say that “potential victims are not distinguishable in any way”. This is your invention, and you are now presenting a Strawperson Fallacy.
    I thought in your magical world people presented no cues as to vulnerability. If I misinterpreted what you meant, I would appreciate it if you would clarify rather than accuse.
    Beth: Do you disagree?
    BRIAN: I have no idea. You haven’t presented a coherent position for me to dis/agree with. You have misrepresented my position, which I (obviously, I hope) disagree with.

    I’m sorry I’ve misrepresented your position. It was not intentional. Perhaps you could clarify what it is that I’ve misinterpreted about what you wrote.
    Beth: Or do you think that if muggers could not differentiate ‘easy targets’ from people who would fight back they would continue to attack the same number of victims?
    To make it explicit: muggers cannot differentiate between ‘easy targets’ and ‘people who would fight back’. There is no study to support any assertion that they can.

    A study to show exactly that? Not that I’m aware of. However, the study you referenced shows that criminals can consistently rate videotapes of various people walking with a high rate of agreement does lend credence to that assumption. The fact that those identified as easy targets have some common identifiable traits also provides for support for that assumption. Do you have any reason to think that muggers are unable to assess people regarding their probability of being successfully mugged?
    I’ll ask again. Do you think that if muggers could not differentiate ‘easy targets’ from people who would fight back they would continue to attack the same number of victims? Would you expect their success rate to be the same despite being unable to accurately target vulnerable people?
    BRIAN: The study at the start of this essay indicated that the thugs assumed that certain actions on the part of the people in the videos indicated that they were vulnerable. Nothing in that study tested whether or not such an assumption was justified. The fitness of the people being watched was not assessed. Their ability to defend themselves was not assessed. Their tenacity was not assessed.
    In short, the correlation between the thugs assumption and reality was not assessed.

    True enough. While I doubt such ratings are perfect, I also expect they do better by making such judgments than they would by simply assaulting people at random. They have experience in making that sort of judgment and, when they do attempt a mugging or other crime, they will get immediate feedback on the accuracy of their assessment, so I find it a reasonable assumption that their ratings would show a correlation with the ability and willingness of victims to fight back.
    Do you have some reason to feel that there would NOT be a statistically significant correlation between the thugs assessment and the reality of how those people would react if such a study were performed?
    BRIAN: My point, for the hard of thinking, was that thugs will attempt to differentiate between people who are easy targets and people who are hard targets. They will infer weakness and strength from the way people move in the world. eliminating one set of movements (that indicate ‘weakness’) will merely force the thugs to seek other signals of weakness, rendering this change pointless.
    It’s not pointless from the point of view of a victim! Sure, such things are an arms race of sorts. If one signal is removed because people stop doing/wearing/whatever, thugs will try to find another one they can use.
    However this doesn’t render the attempt to reduce or eliminate such signals meaningless. Nor does it mean that victims can either do nothing to reduce their chances or that if they can do something and choose not to, they are morally blameworthy for having been victimized.
    Beth: I think it would more appropriate to phrase it as ‘one way to reduce the probability of being assaulted’ rather than ‘all that is necessary’.
    Brian: Citation needed.

    Do you actually want a citation for the existence of strategies to reduce the risk of criminal assault in various circumstances? As an extreme example, do you think that banks paying for armored vehicles and bonded security people to move cash around is not an effective strategy for preventing theft of their cash during transport?
    It is, however, helpful to individuals who live in such areas to learn how to reduce their risk of becoming a victim.
    Citation needed.
    Citation for what? Do you disagree that it’s helpful for people to learn strategies for reducing their risk of being the victim of a crime?
    If you want me to provide evidence in the way of citations, I need you to be more specific about what you are looking for. For example, if I direct you to a webpage giving out tips for women to reduce their risk of rape, would that be sufficient for establishing the existence of such strategies? Or are you looking for scientific evidence of the effectiveness of crime prevention strategies? I’m simply not clear what you are asking for here.
    This is in bizarre, because it’s in direct contraction with your other statements. If your actions were to “reduce the probability of being assaulted”, then it is not true that “the danger flows from the choices made by the thugs and gangs”, because the danger would flow from the choices made by both the victim and the thugs and gangs.
    We are not communicating well. I’ll try to explain again. Danger flows from the choice in your example A to walk off a precipice because death is the only expected outcome of their choice. Choosing to walk home after dark in a large city has an expected outcome of arriving safely home but that is not a certainty. There is some risk of being mugged on the way. Does danger flow from the choice to walk home after dark? From what you have written, I gather that you would say yes, but I’m not certain of that.
    Choosing to walk home through streets that are known as “havens of thugs and gangs” while listening to an I-pod and ignoring your surroundings has the same possible outcomes as above but with a higher risk of being mugged. That is why I don’t find it accurate to say that danger flows from that particular choice. It only changes the risk of being attacked; it has no effect on the danger inherent in actually being attacked.
    Brian: You don’t seem to understand the position that you are arguing in favour of. I think it more likely that I am failing to communicate my position in a way you can understand.
    Beth: However, those thugs and gangs are just as much a part of the big city environment as the piranha in your example B.
    Brian: Thugs are agents, piranha are not. this is a significant and relevant difference. Do you understand this?

    Yes. I understand this. I agree it’s a relevant difference in terms of assessing moral blame. I’m don’t think it’s a relevant difference to a potential victim choosing their actions, since the potential victim can no more control the actions of the thugs than he can the actions of the piranha. What is relevant to that decision is the risk of suffering harm and whether or not he is willing to accept that risk as it is or if he would prefer to alter the risk by modifying his behavior.
    Beth: It is, however, quite useful for an individual to know when, where and why an attack is most likely to occur. It allows the individual to modify their behavior to reduce the risk of being the victim of such an attack.
    Brian: Yes, I realise that you are restating the bias that I’m arguing against in this essay.

    You seem to be arguing that people have no ability to alter their risk of becoming the victim of crime in any circumstance. Is that actually what you are claiming or am I misunderstanding your position again?
    Do you think the man in your example C is just as likely to be mugged whether he’s listening to an I-pod and ignoring his surroundings or paying attention, avoiding areas known to “a haven for thugs and gangs” and keeping his distance from possible muggers?
    Brian: Now, do you have any evidence to bolster this assumption, or are you going to continue making shit up?
    What would you consider evidence of the disputed claim that people can alter their risk of being the victim of a crime by modifying their behavior? This is the claim you are disputing, is it not?
    Beth: Is this sufficient or do I need to explain why C and D are not obligated to make the ‘safer’ choices in order to avoid being blameworthy for having been a victim of a crime? I think we are in agreement on that point.
    Brian: No, this is not sufficient.
    You need to explain how these choices reduce their risk of assault.

    A man paying attention to his surroundings can notice when a potential mugger appears and try to avoid letting him get close enough to strike. Those who can successfully manage to outrun or outmaneuver their potential assailant will not be mugged. Thus, a lower proportion of the potential victims who are paying attention will suffer being mugged.
    If the woman in example D called a taxi-cab or a friend with a car and waited for the driver to collect her and take her home, she is less likely to suffer an assault because she is no longer in the vulnerable position of walking home alone. Is that sufficient for the how it can reduce their risk of assault.
    Please note – such actions do not eliminate the risk – the individual paying attention can still be mugged. The woman can still be raped in her home by her neighbor as in example E.
    Beth: It makes more sense to me to place the moral blame for criminal acts solely on the criminal, not on their victims for not being sufficiently vigilant or armed or whatever to have avoided the attack.
    Brian: In short, their actions were causally responsible for their mugging, but they aren’t morally blameworthy = a nonsensical statement.

    I think their actions increased the risk they would be mugged. You have chosen to equate “causally responsible” with having the ability to lower the risk and choosing not to do so. You then go on to claim that “causally responsible” = “Morally blameworthy”.
    I’ll grant that a causal connection exists because the choices made by both parties affect the what actual outcome results, but the connection is weak and tenuous for the victim’s choices while being very direct and strong with regard to the criminal’s choices. Thus, I don’t think it makes sense to equate the victim making choices that may have increased their risk with being morally blameworthy for having been assaulted.
    Beth: I don’t know that it’s possible to clearly delineate between causally responsible but not morally responsible.
    Brian: On a Utilitarian framework, the former entails the latter.

    One more reason for me to reject Utilitarianism then. :D
    Beth: I think they are somewhat fuzzy and overlapping concepts and any dividing line between them would have to be established by subjective preference and practical considerations.
    Brian: I’m sorry, but this is incomprehensible bullshit.

    Just because you don’t comprehend something doesn’t mean it’s bullshit.
    Beth: What does it mean to be ‘morally responsible’?
    Brian: I’m not certain of the answer. But I suspect that ‘causal responsibility’ plays a major part of the answer.

    You admit that you have no clear definition for being morally responsible while simultaneously claiming that if someone has causal responsibility that entails moral responsibility. To then turn around and complain that I described those concepts as fuzzy and overlapping seems a bit…inappropriate.
    As far as a dividing line between them being based on subjective preferences and practical considerations, that is how we humans generally deal with fuzzy and overlapping concepts when we need to separate them. What sort of answer were you looking for?
    BTW, I agree that casual responsibility would play a major part in defining moral responsibility. I also agree that a victim’s choice to accept some elevated risks associated with certain behaviors can be a factor in the chain of causal responsibility as you trace it backward in time. Where we seem to disagree is that the causal responsibility from the victim’s choices equates to moral blameworthiness.
    Beth: How far back do you want to trace causality?
    Brian: As far back as we can.

    How far back do you think we can do that? If we found a causal connection between economic circumstances of a muggers great-grandparents and his criminal behavior in the current time, would that mean his ancestors are morally blameworthy for his current behavior while he is not?
    Beth: Do we absolve the rapist because his behavior was caused by his having been sexually abused as a child?
    Brian: Depending on the circumstances: possibly.

    I agree. This is what I meant by moral relativism: that we take circumstances into account when making moral judgments. Since you agree that circumstances matter, but find moral relativism to be the pinnacle of B.S., I’ll assume our definitions differ. What do you mean by moral relativism?

  64. Leni says

    I once read a “how to avoid getting raped” guide that suggested not wearing bibs.

    Apparently bibs are like wearing a “RAPE ME!” sign. Really? Bibs? Really, I guess. Once you cut those flimsy little straps they just fall right off, making them ideal for the knife or scissor-wielding rapist.

    I had a pair and every time I wore them I’d think “Is it safe to wear the bibs today?” “Am I going to potentially be in a parking lot or elevator?” Sort of sarcastically, but sort of seriously too.

    I threw the bibs away because they just became potential rape pants. Well, and because they are pretty bad fashion (but dammit they are comfy! And yes, kinda cute!). But mostly because I’d see them and think “Do I really want to wear the rape pants?” and just stopped wearing them.

    Years later, in fact last year, and mostly as a result of reading various bloggers who are less gullible than I am, I realized that there is simply nothing in my wardrobe that I should fear to wear, at least for this reason. If bibs send out “rape me” vibes, then so could a bear-suit. Why bother and honestly, I’m just not going to tailor my wardrobe to avoid a rape I’d probably be unable to prevent anyway.

    Yet still I find myself not texting while going to my car in the dark parking lot. Having my keys ready. Locking my car doors immediately after I get in. Avoiding men on the street at night and watching them out of the corner of my eye for any suspicious activity, while clutching whatever sharp object I have handy. Usually a pen. (hey: Casino!)

    It’s almost like the threat of being called an idiot is as pervasive as the threat of rape. Rationally I know most people I encounter are not a threat, yet I feel compelled to treat them that way because I would be remiss not to. And if they become a threat it’s going to me who pays double for not noticing. First, by being the victim and second by being the person who “let” it happen. Or at least who failed to prevent it.

    While I know how to rationally work around all of this from my nice chair in my warm and locked home, it’s (at least at this point and for me) very much ingrained. As it is with most women. And I’m not really convinced that it’s done any good, except preventing me from wearing comfy, comfy bibs.

  65. Brian Lynchehaun says

    Using the [blockquote] tag (with the triangular arrows) makes reading your post easier. You use it just like the italics tag.

    That said, most of your post is babble, with you being continually unclear, apologising for being unclear, and then not attempting to clarify your position. As such, I’m going to focus on just a few key points.

    You seem to be saying that if there were no vulnerable people, there would still be thugs mugging people.

    This is a failure of reading comprehension on your part. I have stated things very precisely and simply, you are expanding my writings to encompass additional ideas that they do not encompass, thus you are confused because with this interpretation they don’t make sense.

    Here’s what I said:

    Now, let’s imagine a world where every single human being magically stopped generating those ‘I’m a victim’ signals that Grayson and Stein so helpfully went out of their way to identify.

    I’ve copy/pasted to save you the trouble of scrolling up. I’ve also bolded the critical point. Now read this really slowly. 4 or 5 times would be good.

    There is a set of signals that thugs assume indicate vulnerability. Grayson and Stein have identified this particular set of signals. If this particular set of signals stopped being generated, thugs would assume a different set of signals indicated vulnerability.

    Get it? Now read it again, and again, until you comprehend that I am not saying “if there were no vulnerable people, there would still be thugs mugging people”.

    If I misinterpreted what you meant, I would appreciate it if you would clarify rather than accuse.

    “You are now presenting a Strawman Fallacy” is a clarification. It means that you are misrepresenting my position. It does not mean that you are intentionally misrepresenting my position: it doesn’t speak to motive at all. Please google these terms rather than leaping to conclusions.

    Perhaps you could clarify what it is that I’ve misinterpreted about what you wrote.

    Right. Because 2500 words on the topic wasn’t enough. I have presented one example (the whole signal thing) of how you have grotesquely misunderstood my article. There comes a point where the responsibilty for comprehension lies with the reader. If you read a discussion about the existence of “signals” and come away from the piece thinking the writer is discussing the existence of “people”…. The problem doesn’t lie with the writer.

    However, the study you referenced shows that criminals can consistently rate videotapes of various people walking with a high rate of agreement does lend credence to that assumption.

    Only in the land of “let’s make shit up as we go along”.

    Over here in reality-land, people have to justify this assumption. Merely asserting that credence is lent doesn’t justify the assertion.

    Do you have some reason to feel that there would NOT be a statistically significant correlation between the thugs assessment and the reality of how those people would react if such a study were performed?

    Yes: because “my feelings tell me that there would be a staistically significant correlation” is not a statisically significant correlation. Presenting hypotheticals that are merely restatements of your already stated opinion isn’t an argument, it’s just restating the same bloody opinion again.

    It’s not pointless from the point of view of a victim!

    You are assuming that the change will be effective.

    I have been trying to get it through your head that we have no reason to believe that such a change would be effective.

    Please note: your belief that it would be effective is not a reason for anyone else to believe that such a change would be effective.

    Furthermore: there are no studies that confirm your belief. There are rapes in societies where people dress demurely, and in societies where people dress provocatively. The rapes occur at about the same rates. Focusing on the actions of the victim is fucking stupid BECAUSE IT’S INEFFECTIVE AT REDUCING RAPE.

    Does bold and caps get it through your head? Or are you just going to restate your opinion again?

    Do you actually want a citation for the existence of strategies to reduce the risk of criminal assault in various circumstances?

    No, i want a citation that demonstrates the effectiveness of these alleged strategies. For fuck’s sake.

    Also, your armoured car example is extremely different in highly significant and relevant ways. If you can’t comprehend how ‘big sheets of metal that make harm difficult’ is different from ‘wear a long skirt’, then there’s no helping you. Seriously, there’s a big fucking difference here. I seriously have to question your thinking process if you believe that this is somehow a relevant example. What the fuck?

    Do you disagree that it’s helpful for people to learn strategies for reducing their risk of being the victim of a crime?

    Cite the study that demonstrates that these alleged strategies are effective.

    If you want me to provide evidence in the way of citations, I need you to be more specific about what you are looking for.

    Given that I was quoting studies about how women can allegedly reduce their risk of harm, I took it as a given that I wouldn’t be asking for proof that such a study existed. I mean, *I* cited such a study at the start of the essay. I’d have to be completely fucking stupid to want you to cite the study that I had already cited. But hey, I’m sure that (to someone) that that was a more reasonable assumption to make than “Brian wants me to cite evidence that these things actually work”.

    My bad.

    We are not communicating well.

    I would appreciate you not dumping your issues on me. I’m communicating just fine with everyone else who comments.

    Danger flows from the choice in your example A to walk off a precipice because death is the only expected outcome of their choice.

    Wrong. Read the article again. I’m skipping the rest of this section because you haven’t read the article properly.

    the potential victim can no more control the actions of the thugs than he can the actions of the piranha. What is relevant to that decision is the risk of suffering harm and whether or not he is willing to accept that risk as it is or if he would prefer to alter the risk by modifying his behavior.

    This is the core of the idiocy that you are espousing.

    You say:

    the potential victim can no more control the actions of the thugs than he can the actions of the piranha.

    Which is to say that the potential victim cannot control the actions of the thugs.

    You then say:

    if he would prefer to alter the risk by modifying his behavior

    Which is to say that the potential victim can control the actions of the thugs.

    This is a contradiction. This is where you complain about my use of the word ‘control’, and want to change it to ‘influence’ in one instance, and another word in the other instance. This is also known as ‘handwaving the problem away’, aka babbling. There is an inconsistency in your position that you are refusing to address, and this inconsistency renders your argument meaningless.

    Do you think the man in your example C is just as likely to be mugged whether he’s listening to an I-pod and ignoring his surroundings or paying attention, avoiding areas known to “a haven for thugs and gangs” and keeping his distance from possible muggers?

    I think that thugs will decide to mug him, or not, so the thugs are the ones responsible. It doesn’t matter a damn what he does, as the occurence of the mugging hinges on the choice that the muggers make. And I’ve already responded to this point in the goddamned essay.

    A man paying attention to his surroundings can notice when a potential mugger appears and try to avoid letting him get close enough to strike. Those who can successfully manage to outrun or outmaneuver their potential assailant will not be mugged. Thus, a lower proportion of the potential victims who are paying attention will suffer being mugged.

    I’m sorry. When I asked you “to explain”, I didn’t mean “make shit up”. I meant provide links to actual studies where it was shown that when a large group of people altered their behaviour, the incidence of crime in that area, against that group of people, went down.

    My bad. I’ll try to be more clear in the future, I didn’t realise that “make shit up” was your default response. Message received.

    I’ll grant that a causal connection exists because the choices made by both parties affect the what actual outcome results, but the connection is weak and tenuous for the victim’s choices while being very direct and strong with regard to the criminal’s choices.

    So on what grounds are people morally responsible? If they are morally responsible in as much as their choices are causally responsible for their consequences, then the victim is (on your analysis) slightly morally responsible.

    If you deny this, then you can’t assign moral blame consistently.

    One more reason for me to reject Utilitarianism then.

    Smily faces don’t make assinine statements less assinine.

    Talking about “moral responsibility” without a notion of what “moral responsibility” is means that you are babbling.

    Just because you don’t comprehend something doesn’t mean it’s bullshit.

    That’s true. However, when someone strings together word salad and calls it a sentence, that makes the sentence itself incomprehensible, and thus the argument that it is part of is bullshit. Now you can continute to complain about my characterisation of your ‘sentence’, or you can clarify your point so that it makes sense. Your call.

    You admit that you have no clear definition for being morally responsible while simultaneously claiming that if someone has causal responsibility that entails moral responsibility

    Right.

    We call this sort of thing “a working definition”. http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/working_definition

    To then turn around and complain that I described those concepts as fuzzy and overlapping seems a bit…inappropriate.

    You haven’t provided a working definition. You’ve just shrugged your shoulders, said “um…. it’s fuzzy” and kept on using the word. Define your terms.

    How far back do you think we can do that? If we found a causal connection between economic circumstances of a muggers great-grandparents and his criminal behavior in the current time, would that mean his ancestors are morally blameworthy for his current behavior while he is not?

    Responsibility isn’t binary.

    This is what I meant by moral relativism: that we take circumstances into account when making moral judgments.

    This is not what ‘moral relativism’ means. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/moral-relativism/

    I have attempted to give you the benefit of the doubt, but your ignorance is making it very difficult to take you seriously.

  66. LeftSidePositive says

    If this is the same Beth as this one from the Almost Diamonds thread about date rape, you’re going to get a whole lot of circumlocutory, vaguely rape-apologetic runarounds…

    Is it too early to say “I told you so”?

  67. Brian Lynchehaun says

    Is it too early to say “I told you so”?

    Yes.

    That someone has basic problems with reading comprehension and reasoning/logic does not entail that their clusterfuck of a post is ‘rape apologetic’, even vaguely.

    Beth is clearly confused about their own thoughts, and the basic meanings of words. Dismissing them as ‘rape apologetic’ merely pats them on their head and sends them on their merry way to propagate their confusion.

    When someone is sincerely confused and professing nonsense out of ignorance, stigmatizing them doesn’t help (and, in my opinion, harms).

  68. says

    I’m late to the game, but they only attack injured or dying critters. So if you have a cut, or have something else’s blood on you, and are swimming or wading all strong and healthy, they won’t attack you. Pirhanha fact of the day!

    Thank you for this post! Beyond the huge sexism of “men are slavering beasts who cannot control themselves when it comes to not raping people” (I know people of any gender can rape, but when it comes to victim-blaming discussions the other party always seems to assumes male-on-female), I haven’t been able to articulate why that element is a hugely flawed argument even if it’s true.

    On a side-note, my least favourite end-result of trying to have this conversation with someone was me saying that most rape victims are raped by someone they knew, in their own homes, and the person retorting, “Well, that just means you’re friends with rapsists.” … Yes, probably, but I don’t know it yet and maybe neither do they, and that’s the problem.

  69. says

    You would think that such a simple concept wouldn’t need such a long explanation, but the fact that it needs to be explained is the very reason perpetrators exist! Human nature is not based on the science of cause and effect , because of the very fact that, humans are capable of making choices, so A doesn’t automatically cause B. People who hold a victim partially responsible for a crime are essentially saying human behavior is predictable and the victim should have known better. This cause and effect view of humanity allows others to believe they have control over the outcome of someone else’s behaviors. This promotes positive feelings of control and well being and allows people to go about their daily lives without fear of being victimized. Control over others is an illusion society creates and perpetuates to make themselves feel better. If there are no innocent victims, then I will not be a victim, because I would never do something to “cause” myself to be victimized. We cannot more control the actions of someone else, than we can “will” it to rain – both are completely out of our control.

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