The crooked, twisted story of the wanton kid

It’s always the changing story that gives the liar away. We have a couple of accounts of the night in question, when Michael Shermer is accused of taking advantage of a young woman at a conference, and both of them come straight from Shermer himself. Here’s the story from Shermer written shortly after the event.

Alison showed up around 11:30, and of course she’s young and cute and these two guys were panting big time to be with her, but she obviously wasn’t interested in them that way, and was just moving around the room having fun, but when she was hanging on me now and then I could tell that these guys were really pissed off. Long story short, later the next day, after talking to you, I saw both of them standing together and confronted them about the gossip rumors, and [one of them] admitted he was mad at me because he said he felt like I was preventing him from, in his words, “getting into her pants,” and the dreadlocks guy said that he was really drunk and that “I admit that I was running my mouth off.” So, basically, they admitted that it was them spreading the nonsense that I was trying to get Alison drunk and take advantage of her. For the record, by the way, most of the people at that party, Alison especially, could drink me under the table no problem. People kept pouring me scotch, and after awhile I was pretending to drink it and then drinking water instead, and at one point Alison said something like, “hey, he’s not really drinking his scotch,” so I was busted and everyone gave me a hard time (in good fun of course).

Anyway, I wanted you to know that Alison is a good kid and this was just a typical gossip rumor thing that goes on all the time, but that I’m a bigger target than most in this small skeptical pond, so I have to be especially careful.

He portrays himself as the grownup, surrounded by a cloud of hard-drinking young people, and says that Alison could drink him under the table. He’s gallantly defending her from the attentions of two mysterious drunk guys, Jules and Vincent apparently, and neatly evades admitting whether he had sex with Alison or not. There’s the patronizing “kid” and the aggrandizing confession that he’s such a big target that he has to be careful — it’s all just rumors.

So the story here is of a mature statesman of the movement acting responsibly around those darn rambunctious drunk kids, and all the tales about him taking advantage of women are just gossip.

But now he has released a statement (pdf) in response to the Oppenheimer story.

Late one night, at the June 2008 TAM, around 10 or 11, I wandered over to someone’s suite at the hotel where there was a party going on. It was jammed with people. Everyone was drinking and having fun. I talked to lots of people, including Alison, whom I knew reasonably well. We were talking and flirting, and after some time she took me by the hand and led me to the bathroom and closed the door behind us, where she proceeded to proposition me in a very direct, assertive, and physical fashion. I was taken aback. Sex in a hotel bathroom isn’t my idea of a romantic evening, plus I could tell she’d been drinking, so I encouraged her to put herself back together and rejoin the party. We went back to mingling with the crowd and a short while after that we went outside to get some fresh air and we ended up walking and talking for a couple hours out on the Las Vegas strip. We did not drink for the several hours we walked together after the suite incident. She was sober. I was sober. I invited her back to my room and she willingly accepted my invitation.

So now the story is that she’d been drinking, it was all her idea, he waited until she was sober, and then he had consensual sex with that kid woman. No mention of the fact that the woman woke up the next morning in distress and tearfully talked to friends and conference organizers about the event. No mention that the story went around higher-ups in the skeptical scene to the point where he had to write that earlier whitewash to excuse it.

Let’s just leave it at this: a self-professed “bigger target than most in this small skeptical pond” has now confessed to taking advantage of a young woman sexually at a conference, and is changing his story as more and more facts emerge about it. By his own words, Shermer uses conferences as a sexual meat market and is willing to lie about events.

In his defense, Shermer then cites the fact that Alison later invited him to participate in a panel at TAM, and gosh, she didn’t sound traumatized.

If Alison was unhappy with our sexual encounter, let alone if she believed she had been raped, why would she ask a rapist to be on her sex panel, and throw in a smiley face for fun? Why didn’t she tell me back in 2008, or years later, or even now, how she really felt? I don’t know. But I do know this: at the time, Alison definitely wanted to have sex with me, she was not intoxicated when we did have sex, it was consensual the entire time, and by her actions before, during and after she seemed to have no reservations or misgivings.

Some skeptic. How do women respond to rape? A thousand different ways: some are angry, some are in denial. Some try to blame themselves. Some try to pretend that everything is normal. Some laugh, some cry. Why is someone who claims to be knowledgable about human psychology so distorting the facts of response to trauma?

Sexual assault is an arbitrary event in the victim’s lifestyle. It is sudden, unexpected and unpredictable. She is faced with a life threatening situation that she is unable to effectively resolve. Her usual methods of coping with threats and conducting interpersonal relationships fail her. It is a violation of her physical self and her basic beliefs and assumptions about her environment, about other people and relationships and about herself.

As a result women may experience severe psychological effects. The way the victim copes with the trauma of rape is dependent on several factors. These include her ego strength her social network support, her life cycle stage and the way she is treated as a victim.

This is a common theme in the aftermath of violent crimes. Why doesn’t Shermer understand it?

When Tom Tremblay started working for the police department of Burlington, Vt., 30 years ago, he discovered that many of his fellow cops rarely believed a rape victim. This was true time after time, in dozens of cases. Tremblay could see why they were doubtful once he started interviewing the victims himself. The victims, most of them women, often had trouble recalling an attack or couldn’t give a chronological account of it. Some expressed no emotion. Others smiled or laughed as they described being assaulted. “Unlike any other crime I responded to in my career, there was always this thought that a rape report was a false report,” says Tremblay, who was an investigator in Burlington’s sex crimes unit. “I was always bothered by the fact there was this shroud of doubt.”

And the bottom line:

The fact that a woman’s psychological adjustment to rape, is in part determined by the social systems that impinge upon her, indicates a need for a widespread community response to ensure that those systems are both responsive to her needs, and used to their maximum therapeutic capacity.

That a woman employed by an organization that diminishes and rejects her experiences, yet expects her to do the job of working with her assailant, should develop coping mechanisms is absolutely no surprise. Yet at the same time she’s trying to put a happy front she’s quietly distressed and miserable and unhappy, as she explains to other people outside that sphere of responsibility. This should not be so hard to comprehend. Maybe empathy is not a guy thing, though.

Shermer concludes with a little pre-emptive well-poisoning.

No doubt this statement will be poured over, analyzed, and deconstructed sentence by sentence in the days and weeks to come. I will not participate in any of the “he said/she said” battles that play out on the pages of Internet gossip sites. But I will freely respond to Alison or any other woman who communicates with me directly and privately who believes I have insulted or mistreated her. Let’s try honest person to person—and most of all timely—communication as a way of dealing with such issues.

Shorter Michael Shermer: ‘Don’t you dare, like, actually think carefully about my words! Only people on Internet gossip sites will do that. I’m only interested in talking close up and personal to the woman I assaulted.’


  1. Saad says

    Yeah, I can sense that too. It’s like when a criminal without much experience realizes he’s about to get caught and goes into “Oh shit! Oh shit!” mode.

  2. says

    Meanwhile, Alison herself has expounded more on the actual experience (Content note: rape) via Twitter:

    [CN: Rape] So let’s talk about what it’s like to be raped while drunk. Mute me if you don’t feel you can read this, self care first.

    I was drinking. I’ve never been a heavy drinker, but I honestly didn’t think I was anywhere near my limit. I was tipsy then blacked out

    I remember blurs of someone helping me stumble into a shower. I remember throwing up. I remember someone taking off my top.

    I remember someone raping me from behind while I was laid on top someone else. I remember waking up and realizing I didn’t know

    what was happening and where I was. I remember the agony of my hangover the next day. I remember feeling ill over what had happened.

    I’m pretty sure that is nothing like being a drunk driver. Anyone know what it’s like to be a drunk driver? We should compare notes.

    I apologize for my flippant response, but it’s that or burst into flame from the rage I feel and yet more victim blaming bullshit from RD.

    Shermer should be desperate. So should Dawkins, honestly.

  3. embertine says

    Shermer’s story doesn’t even make sense. The only part of it that rings true is the part where people were calling him out for pretending to down his Scotch while he was topping up Alison’s drinks. Sounds to me as though a lot of people at that party knew exactly what his game was and were not best pleased.

    I am so fucking furious about this that I can’t even express it. And STILL the victim blaming and the excuses, any excuses however desperate and implausible, as to how this isn’t MS’s fault and the shrieking harridans of Team Social Justice are ruining things for everyone normal. Stephanie put it best – if this isn’t enough to get through to them, what is?

  4. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Here’s what Richard Dawkins tweeted, then deleted.

    It says, “The REAL rape culture: All occurrences of sexual intercourse are rape unless there is certified evidence to the contrary.”

    Ha. Ha.


    So funny.

    Ppl so sensitive.

    Ha. Ha.

  5. Thomathy, Such A 'Mo says

    CaitieCat, Tyson who?

    Shits got real. On Dawkins, though, this business of deleting tweets is interesting. I thought he owned what he wrote. Dig deep. Is this new? Shermer certainly owns what he’s saying, though, and I have to disagree with those who think he’s desperate or worried. Unless there is special knowledge about goings on with the people Shermer runs with and from whom he gets his pay cheques, I think that he feels quite as secure as ever.

    Sadly, and maybe I suffer from profound cynicism, I think those on the other side of the deep rift, if they don’t outnumber us, they are louder and have more pull. Or I’m wrong and we are winning the culture war. Can I please be wrong?

  6. Thomathy, Such A 'Mo says

    Marcus Ranum @ #13

    This is the guy who, according to Randi, was too drunk to remember?

    Randi was quoting what Shermer said to him, which is something that Shermer had said himself elsewhere. Randi did a bad thing dismissing (possibly naively) a boys will be boys culture, but he’s not the primary source of reports of Shermer’s bad memory.

  7. Thomathy, Such A 'Mo says

    Oh, that makes sense, CaitieCat. Thanks. He just blew up at a …and I already read that Star article. Yes, like all celebrities with such an allegation or conviction, he gets righteously angry if it’s brought up. Well, celebrities are held to a different standard, leave them alone. Right? Which is another reason that Shermer may not actually be doing damage control in the way it’s getting read. He’s an intellectual celebrity, not an addled boxer.

  8. says

    he’s not the primary source of reports of Shermer’s bad memory

    Gotcha. So now we’ve got Shermer giving accounts of incidents he doesn’t remember. Sounds legit.

  9. says

    From the pdf of Shermer’s statement:

    A Personal Statement from Michael Shermer

    Over the past few years there has been a growing movement—at conferences, college
    campuses, and businesses—to clarify or even to redefine the rules of sexual encounters.
    As this movement has grown, a number of prominent people have been targeted on
    Internet gossip sites with complaints of sexual misconduct. Some of these allegations are
    appropriate protests from the growing numbers of women in formerly male-dominated
    groups, who are eager to overcome the legacy of misogyny and exclusion women have
    had to cope with for years. But all revolutions, however welcome, bring unwarrented
    excesses and moral panics. As a public intellectual who interacts with tens of thousands
    of people every year, I have been targeted as well. And once a panic gets rolling, the
    anonymity of the Internet encourages others to start jumping on the bandwagon—“Yes!
    He did something similar to me…I think!”—and reinterpreting perfectly normal acts as
    evidence of misogyny, malice, or seduction.

    You know what? Fuck you Shermer. The rules of sexual encounters need to be redefined because of fucking fuckers like YOU.

    Yes, I want the rules of sexual encounters to be redefined such that people clearly understand that non consensual sex=rape.
    I want them redefined such that people understand that if someone is impaired, they cannot give consent.
    I want them redefined such that people understand that harassment and sexual assault are inexcusable.

    I guess a sexual predator like you wouldn’t want the rules redefined. It makes your ability to be a rapist that much more difficult. Cry me a fucking river you goddamned scumbag. I don’t give a flying fuck about you. I care about the people you’ve victimized through your actions. I wish you, and Dawkins, would get the fuck out of the movement. I wish YOU would go to jail for a long time. I wish Dawkins would go live on an island somewhere with no internet access.

  10. says

    This is the guy who, according to Randi, was too drunk to remember?

    He will have been whatever he thinks he needs to have been to satisfy the person he is currently talking to. Hence the changing, conflicting stories.

  11. says

    Thomathy @14:

    Sadly, and maybe I suffer from profound cynicism, I think those on the other side of the deep rift, if they don’t outnumber us, they are louder and have more pull. Or I’m wrong and we are winning the culture war. Can I please be wrong?

    I really really hope you’re wrong.

  12. embertine says

    I think we actually are winning. Every time something like this comes out, the shield of plausible deniability, of “Well I’VE never seen it happen” gets a little thinner.

    Of course, for those who have so much invested in anti-SJW as part of their identity, that just means they will fight harder to maintain a losing position because to admit their mistakes now would mean such a catastrophic loss of face. The fact that, actually, people on this side of the Deep Rifts™ tend not to gloat when someone changes their mind or acknowledges new evidence, doesn’t occur to them – that’s how THEY would behave, so they judge everyone by their low standards.

  13. chigau (違う) says


    …anonymity of the Internet encourages others to start jumping on the bandwagon—“Yes! He did something similar to me…I think!”—and reinterpreting perfectly normal acts as evidence of misogyny, malice, or seduction.

    I wonder just how many people he RAPED.

  14. A Hermit says

    So she goes from demonstrating her ability to drink Shermer “under the table” and drunkenly propositioning him to being totally sober a few hours later when he takes her back to his room?

    Wish I could sober up that fast.

    Then again, a REALSKEPTIC™ might have some doubts about that story…

  15. ibyea says

    I am going to be a pessimist and say he will still be relatively popular after this. It seems like many of these famous atheists just can do no wrong in the eyes of lots of people.

  16. embertine says

    Ugh, ugh, just checked my Twitter feed and the top suggestion of who to follow? MICHAEL SHERMER

    I wish I really was a venomous snake so that I could bite Twitter. Ugh. BRB, off to shower in disinfectant.

  17. anteprepro says

    Regarding the deep rift: Remember, this debate is paralleled in virtually every “nerd” community online. And what are the divisions, as I see them?
    The actively terrible human beings like Shermer and Dawkins and MRAs and so forth, who are a vocal and powerful minority.
    The meeker sexists and assorted fanboys who side with the previous.
    The True Neutrals, who either don’t know or don’t care.
    The mildly concerned, the people who see the sexism and object to it but either think it isn’t “that bad”, don’t want to be too argumentative, or don’t like the final group.
    And the final group is us, the vocal minority of pissed off feminists and “social justice warriors”. The people who loudly care about our fellow human beings, about fairness, about not raping women and excusing rapists and shaming rape victims and whining about how people “playing victims”. The people who will make sure that we do not forget how terrible the first group is, and are willing to cause discomfort and unease among the devoted True Neutrals who would really rather prefer a quiet status quo and blissful ignorance.

    Do I think that, in the atheist domain, the first group is louder and has more pull? Yes, they have more status and speaking gigs, they are more “normal” culturally, and thus we are more likely to be opposed by The Neutrals, and The Neutrals are in effect supporting the opposition through inaction. Woe is atheism, right? Well, like I said, this same debate is occurring on multiple fronts (sex, race, social class, etc.) and occurring in several different internet spheres (atheism, gaming, sci-fi, liberal blogs in general, etc.). If we find a way to join forces with the other people fighting on the same side of the same debate in a different community, I think that would be a big step forward. The real challenge is effectively changing the culture by informing the uninformed and persuading the apathists into giving a shit. Do that, and we “win”. Fail to do that, and everything stays the same.

  18. Gen, Uppity Ingrate and Ilk says

    Good lawks, those tweets from Alison! Fuck Shermer for wanting to talk all “up close and personal” with the women he assaulted or raped. As if all this were just a fucking misunderstanding on the part of the victim instead of a deliberate and cold-blooded crime.

    And FUCK Dawkins, seriously. Fuckit fuckit fuckit.

    And now I feel a bit like Foul Ole Ron. Millenium hand and shrimp, damn it!

  19. anteprepro says

    Also, the Oppenheimer article is the kind of thing that would sway The Neutral crowd away from the Asshole Contingent. To what degree is anyone’s guess, and it is also dependent on how well the shitstirrers play the PR game and manage to manufacture distractions or turn on the Spin Machine. But it is certainly a faint glimmer of hope and a potential source of great good. We just need to make sure that every fucking person sees it.

  20. says

    It’s not dense. According to @AlisonGranted, Dawkins was talking about her when he made his comments regarding being raped while drunk. I surmised from context that she is the same Allison as the one referred to in the Oppenheimer piece. I have been following her on Twitter for some time already. I could be wrong in my surmise, but I don’t think so.

  21. Thomathy, Such A 'Mo says

    anteprepro (#28), I think we can already see that kind of teaming up happening. I too think that a joint force would tip the scales, so to speak. But it’s not trivial.

    If I think about it in terms of the gay rights movement, many competing priorities were, for better or worse, put on hold while significant focus went to securing a few perceived major wins. This was said to be for the collective benefit of everybody, but we all know that gay men disproportionally benefited. This worked out, eventually, but that history is sordid and sad for, for instance, the trans* community. Certainly, gay rights (yes, I’m using it as a blanket term) isn’t over.

    If we’re to join up in significant ways with other communities facing the same issues, what issue will become dominant and what victories will be initially pursued? I don’t necessarily think that the mistakes of the gay rights movement necessarily have to be repeated, but there is a common thread in the history of such movements and I don’t see how it can be avoided. We may be in a unique position (thanks, technology) to be able to fight concertedly on various issues simultaneously, but movements like this are organic (until they aren’t, and then they cycle) and there’s not going to be an authority.

    So, yeah, not trivial.

    Not that I want people like Shermer and those not definitively on our side to set the standard and for us to remain marginalised, but vocal voices for egalitarianism; I’d take whatever victory we can get. I just don’t want to do it at the expense of others. I’ve seen that happen in gay activism and I’m not even 30. I’d rather not participate at all and damn it to hell, or be a splinter, than see piecemeal progress and people left behind.

    And to that end, I’d say DEEP RIFTS forever.

  22. Ashley F. Miller says

    Hmm, yes, why would someone invite a rapist who didn’t think what he did qualified as rape to a panel about sex myths that would include discussions of what qualified as rape?

  23. says

    A Hermit @24:

    So she goes from demonstrating her ability to drink Shermer “under the table” and drunkenly propositioning him to being totally sober a few hours later when he takes her back to his room?

    He clearly doesn’t know that it takes an hour for the alcohol in an average drink to work its way through the liver.

    Time is the only way to sober up. Alcohol is removed from the bloodstream by the liver at a relatively constant rate of 15 mg% (.015%) every hour or 1 drink per hour.

    That’s a typical drink, such as a drink containing 1.25 oz of liquor, a 12 oz beer, or a 5 oz glass of wine.
    Factors that do not sober you up:

    Drinking coffee may increase alertness to some extent, but does not improve the body’s ability to function — it only creates a wide-awake drunk.

    Exercising and dancing may inspire sweating — but do little to sober a person up. Alcohol is eliminated by the liver at a relatively fixed rate.

    Cold showers may temporarily affect alertness, but they do not influence the amount of impairment caused by alcohol.

    Eating food while drinking slows the absorption of alcohol, but eventually the alcohol will be absorbed and impairment will occur.

    Factors that affect how quickly alcohol affects you:

    Amount of alcohol
    “Double-strength” drinks and servings made with more than one type of
    liquor typically contain more alcohol than Standard Drinks. Distilled
    liquor, which is highly concentrated alcohol, enters the blood-stream
    faster than beer and wine, although their alcohol content is equivalent.

    Food consumption
    Food only slows the absorption of alcohol into the blood-stream. On an empty stomach, alcohol reaches the brain in a few minutes and begins to affect behavior and coordination. After a full meal, alcohol can take longer to reach the brain. Food does not absorb the alcohol. It merely slows the speed at which alcohol is absorbed. Fatty foods are especially effective in slowing down the alcohol absorption process. As fatty foods are more difficult to digest, they remain in the stomach longer than other types of food. The effect of the alcohol still occurs but at a slower rate.

    Tolerance to alcohol
    Experienced drinkers develop tolerance to alcohol. After prolonged
    regular drinking the liver breaks down alcohol more efficiently. Also, brain cells may become less sensitive to alcohol. In a person with high tolerance it takes more alcohol to produce signs of visible intoxication. Blood alcohol concentration, however, is determined by the amount of alcohol and is not affected by experience.

    Other drugs
    Many common drugs (both legal prescription/ over the counter and illegal) impair the user and increase the effects of alcohol. Using alcohol with other drugs can be very dangerous to a person’s health and safety.

    Fatigue and stress
    Physical, mental, or emotional fatigue and stress make a person much more susceptible to the effects of alcohol.

    Body type
    An overweight person generally has a higher blood alcohol concentration than a muscular person who weighs the same and drinks the same amount of alcohol. This is because muscle tissue has more blood to dilute the alcohol.

    A woman will usually have a higher blood alcohol concentration than a man of the same weight if they drink the same amount of alcohol. This is because women generally have more body fat than men. Women
    have less muscle tissue, and thus less blood, to dilute the alcohol.

    Alcohol usually exaggerates moods. A person who is depressed will likely become more depressed when drinking.

    General health
    Healthy people break down alcohol faster than those in poor health. Their livers work more efficiently.

    Carbonation and temperature
    Carbon dioxide causes pressure in the stomach which moves alcohol into the small intestine faster where it is quickly absorbed. Warm drinks enter the bloodstream faster than cold drinks.

    Alcohol and body temperature
    Alcohol is a depressant, not a stimulant. It causes the pores in the skin to open, thereby lowering body temperature. As a result, alcohol
    contributes to deaths caused by hypothermia.

    The above information can be found Here.

  24. says

    One more time:
    CCC (Crystal Clear Consent)

    * First of all: Understand that if you go forward with initiating sexual activity not knowing if consent exists, you may or may not be raping someone, but you have proved beyond a shadow of doubt that you are willing to rape someone. Black areas make you a rapist, grey areas make you willing to rape.

    * Making absolutely sure that consent is obtained and mutually agreed on. This does not include trying for consent when a person is not in condition to grant consent.

    * No doubts as to whether consent was obtained.

    * No guesses as to whether consent was obtained.

    * No assumptions as to whether consent was obtained.

    * No doubt as to whether any partner was capable of giving consent at the time.

    Crystal Clear Consent Practices:

    * Understanding that consent may be withdrawn, by any involved party, at any time. Initial consent does not mean you get to carry on if consent has been withdrawn. In other words, people are allowed to change their mind at any point.

    * If you have not had sex with a given person before, mutually understood language with confirmation is the best way to attain Crystal Clear Consent. Relying on body language or assuming consent without clarification is nearly always insufficient with a new partner. Consent that is not communicated is not CCC.

    * If your partner is communicating something, do not assume that it has nothing to do with consent.

    * If you initiate or offer and are declined in the context of a specifically romantic, sexual, or flirtations setting, do not initiate or offer again until one of the following four occur:

    1. the other party has taken a turn initiating/offering and been declined by you.

    2. the other party has taken a turn initiating/offering, was accepted by you, but after the activity lapsed you wish to restart.

    3. it is an entirely new romantic, sexual, or flirtatious setting.

    4. An amount of time has passed that is inverse to the number of times they have accepted your offer before. While it may be acceptable when dating to offer again in a week or in a closer relationship to initiate again after, say, one day [or whatever is the negotiated norm in said relationship] it’s not acceptable to ask someone again if you’ve just met them.

    * If you initiate or offer and are declined in a context that is not specifically romantic, sexual, or flirtatious, do not initiate or offer again. Seriously.

    * If you’re beginning a new relationship or going for a casual hookup, enthusiasm is key! Your new partner should be enthusiastically and happily involved with you. If no enthusiasm is present, it’s best to go for more communication and put off sex for a while.

    * A person who wants consensual sex doesn’t want to commit or experience rape, and a person who rapes does. Whether a given rapist wants their victim(s) drugged, unconscious, frightened, intimidated, trapped, manipulated or tricked, or just pestered until they give in, the rapist wants the end result to be that a rape happens. That includes being forced to penetrate someone else.

    * Contrary to what is often thought, consent is not difficult. If you still aren’t clear at this point, read this: and this:

    * Don’t want to listen to us? How about MIT:

    Effective Consent is:

    – informed;

    – freely and actively given;

    – mutually understandable words or actions;

    – which indicate a willingness to participate in
    – mutually agreed upon sexual activity.

  25. Anthony K says

    Hmm, yes, why would someone invite a rapist who didn’t think what he did qualified as rape to a panel about sex myths that would include discussions of what qualified as rape?

    Thanks for pointing that out, Ashley.

    It really is another example of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t”. If she hadn’t invited him to her panel, she would have been accused of silencing, being anti-free speech, trying to destroy his career over ‘mere disagreement’, hiveminding, echo chambering, etc.

    As she had, it’s being used as a litmus for her true feelings about what happened, since she can’t be trusted to tell us herself.

  26. eddiejones says

    Seems there are some people who, in addition to attending these functions for knowledge, enlightenment, fellowship, etc., also attend to… (how shall I phrase this…?) “troll for pussy”. Yes, that’ll do. I aim the comment at men because, well, I just haven’t seen the number of complaints about women’s actions as about men’s actions. Now, because of the backlash against this behavior (shame, Rebecca Watson, shame on you for objecting to being… objectified), the guys are complaining that any little display of harmless lekking is being met with a barrage of character assassination! Well, geez, dudes, if you really feel like you can’t even TRY to get your end wet without having problems, well, maybe you should just stop trying!!

  27. Louis says

    ibyea, #25,

    I am going to be a pessimist and say he will still be relatively popular after this. It seems like many of these famous atheists just can do no wrong in the eyes of lots of people.

    Unsinkable rubber duckies….

    ….eh, Randi?


  28. Donnie says

    @37 Tony! The Queer Shoop:

    Alcohol usually exaggerates moods. A person who is depressed will likely become more depressed when drinking.

    I will read your hyperlink, but I would also like to ask you opinion. From back in kid school days, I was told that ‘Alcohol was a depressant’. However, you imply that alcohol impacts moods? So, if you are hyper and start drinking, alcohol will influence you to be more gregarious. If you are in a depressed mood, alcohol will influence you to be more sedated? I can see that in the sense that alcohol can influence someone to be more reckless “Hey, watch me do this….”. Followed by, “hey everyone, I know what s/he did wrong, you need to do this…..”

    The question comes from a discussion with my Mom. she was more inclined to above why I was absolute that it was a depressant. In sufficient quantities, alcohol is certainly a depressant though I can see it, now, also acting as a stimulant.

  29. says

    Donnie @ 42, central nervous system depressant is not the same as depression. You can search CNS depressant (just depressant will get you relevant pages on Wiki.) Alcohol is a CNS depressant which has specific effects, one of which is disinhibition, and yes, sometimes moods like euphoria can result, and so on.

  30. sowellfan says

    @SallyStrange and @FelixBC: Let me clear up that @AllisonGranted is *not* Alison Smith’s twitter account. @AllisonGranted seems to be talking about her own similar circumstance – which is totally germane to the discussion, but different from Alison Smith’s. Presumably Dawkin’s remarks were prompted by this story about what happened to Alison Smith, but they are aimed at essentially every person out there who is sexually assaulted while intoxicated.

  31. Pteryxx says

    For background to those poor confused souls who just can’t understand how drinking too much alcohol could be anything less than a fully conscious and deliberate action on the part of the wanton woman rape victim. We had several long discussions last summer on just that. How an over-eager host topping off one’s wineglass can make you lose track of how many glassfuls you’ve had, with reference to the refilling-soup-bowl experiment. How bartenders or party hosts sometimes deliberately over-pour women’s drinks so that they’ll be softer targets for predatory bros. How traditional “girly” drinks contain a lot of fruit juice that covers the taste so the drink doesn’t seem as strong as it actually is.

    From one such discussion: (link to comment)

    I was responding to statements that the women involved should have known better than to get drunk. Having been in exactly the same situation (@ 194) — my glass never being empty– that one of the women described, I know it’s not that simple.

    I love wine, but I’m a pretty careful drinker. When I order in a bar, I also order water and I stop at three glasses. But the night I got so drunk I didn’t finish even one glass. So the usual rule, a three-drink limit, didn’t ever get into play.

    That “just know your limit and quit,” or “just make sure you also drink some water” can be deliberately subverted by sexual predators, even without spiking drinks. Putting all the onus on potential victims to keep total control of the situation, when the victims are dealing with someone who has studied and practiced ways to undercut that control, is a clear cut example, in my mind, of exactly how rape culture operates.

    The potential rapist is allowed to use any trick in the book to get the victim drunk. It’s up to the victim to see through every trick and remain sober– but of course, all the while not even *suspecting* that the person manipulating her is a rapist until that’s been proven in a court of law.

    Tilted playing field, much?

    See also Almost Diamonds and some research:

    Alcohol: The new short skirt

    Studies have shown that in a large percentage of acquaintance rapes the rapist understands that he does not have consent and he uses alcohol to facilitate the rape. A study conducted by the Naval Health Research Center showed that men who committed multiple rapes knew that they didn’t have consent and they used substances to incapacitate their victims in order to complete the rape. And another study by David Lisak and Paul Miller came to similar conclusions: that men intend to rape and in a majority of the rapes, 80.8 percent, women were under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

    These sexual predators target women who drink because they know it’s easier to physically overpower them. Many women who have been raped report that their attacker bought them numerous drinks and encouraged them to keep drinking for several hours before the attack. According to an article on rape and alcohol by Antonia Abbey in the Journal of American College Health, 75 percent of rapists said that they sometimes got women drunk in order to force sex on them. Another study showed that 40 percent of men said it was acceptable to force sex on a woman who was drunk.

    Alcohol-facilitated rape isn’t an accident. And the gray rape ideas that are currently popular, that assert rape is the result of miscommunication, confusion or intoxication, are not only wrong, they let the rapist off the hook and blame the victim once again.

    Dr. Abbey explained the sexist double-standard of drinking:

    “Women who were drunk when raped are often viewed by others as partially responsible for what happened. Interviews with a group of college students showed that the male attacker was held less responsible for the rape when he was intoxicated than he was when he was reported as being sober. In contrast, the female victim was held more responsible when she was intoxicated than when she was reported as being sober. Thus, in terms of how others will perceive their behavior, the costs of intoxication are higher for college women than for college men.”

  32. Thomathy, Such A 'Mo says

    Donnie, feelings like ‘happy’ and ‘sad’ can result from both depressants and stimulants. As Iyéska says, you’ve confused depressant (of the central neural system) with psychological depression or drugs which can cause depression like symptoms.

    Alcohol can exacerbate depression and certainly has an effect on mood and feeling, but it does not cause depression. Depression like moods can be experienced after taking stimulants, like those that deplete dopamine or serotonin or oxytocin. Any particular drug can have any particular effect on mood, and the nature of a drug as a CNS depressant does not correlate necessarily to psychological depression.

  33. drst says

    Pteryxx @45

    Your post pretty much shows why the idea of “drug detecting nail polishes” and their ilk, while an understandable impulse, will do very little to help prevent rape. Unless there’s a coaster that detects someone adding a beverage without you noticing, or that tells you “hey there’s more alcohol in here than you think” those tools are not going to help very much. (Which is not to say people should not make them or use them, just that they are a micro-individual solution to a structural problem).

  34. says

    Donnie @42:

    The question comes from a discussion with my Mom. she was more inclined to above why I was absolute that it was a depressant. In sufficient quantities, alcohol is certainly a depressant though I can see it, now, also acting as a stimulant.

    I think you’re misunderstanding the effects of alcohol. It is indeed a depressant-on the central nervous system. But it can affect our mood in a variety of ways. The two aren’t the same.
    Here’s more on the effects of alcohol on mood:

  35. twas brillig (stevem) says

    Excuse me, sincerely. Sorry to interrupt this very serious discussion. But given this snippet quote:

    alcohol is certainly a depressant though I can see it, now, also acting as a stimulant.

    I just gotta throw in this quasi-appropriate Shakespeare quote (from Macbeth).
    “Yeah, I been drinkin, it increases the desire, but decreases the performance!” <smirk>
    [the only way I can cope with the subject presented here… Shakespeare’s over…]

  36. Jackie says

    As a public intellectual who interacts with tens of thousands
    of people every year, I have been targeted as well. And once a panic gets rolling, the
    anonymity of the Internet encourages others to start jumping on the bandwagon—“Yes!
    He did something similar to me…I think!”—and reinterpreting perfectly normal acts as
    evidence of misogyny, malice, or seduction.

    Translation: If even more women come forward to say that I raped or assaulted them, remember that they are all so hysterical that they don’t know when they’ve been raped. You can’t trust them because they get all panicked and spooked by the intrawebs and think I’ve raped or assaulted them, because I’m so famous and awesome.


    Maybe by “bandwagon” he means women will think it is so totes fun to accuse Michael Fucking Shermer of rape that we’ll just start yelling “Oh, me too!” once other women start coming forward about being raped by Michael Fucking Shermer?

    Because who wouldn’t want to ride on the harassment and rape threat bandwagon! Gosh, it’s easy to be tempted to falsely accuse a wealthy, famous, white guy of rape when I think of all of the hate mail, cyber stalking, libel suits and death threats I’ll receive! I just don’t know if I can resist! Shit, where do I get on? I may have nothing at all to gain and everything to lose but, hey why would I behave rationally? i’m a woman after all and we just can’t logic. That’s more of a guy thing.


    Not even joking, if you still support this slimy rapist piece of shit, you are not just a misogynist asshole. You're also a complete idiot.

  37. says

    This is the guy who, according to Randi, was too drunk to remember?

    Well, it’s The Amazing New Skeptic Superpower: You can simultaneously believe that Shermer was sober and had consensual sex while he was also “behaving badly” while being drunk and Allison Smith was at the same time sober and having consensual sex while still being drunk and responsible for horrible things that happened to her.

  38. brett says

    Oh, so now Shermer wants to have an “honest person to person conversation” now that he has no cover left, and after threatening lawsuits over the issue when it last came up? Naturally.

    Fuck you, Michael Shermer. Fuck you for raping Alison Smith and who knows who else, for creeping out other women at atheist conventions, and for using the stereotypical excuse of “I was drunk” when James fucking Randi called you out on it. It’s too much to hope that you’ll be blocked from future atheist conventions since TJ Grothe is your eternal best buddy and bodyguard on this problem, but at least now it’s unavoidable anymore.

  39. says

    SallyStrange @4 quotes Allison as saying, “…I was tipsy then blacked out.”

    Why hasn’t anybody mentioned date-rape drugs? Sure, alcohol is usually a sufficient facilitator of rape, but going from tipsy to blackout, with nothing in between, sounds more like a roofie than a gin. Not to pile on our poor, beleaguered, Shermer but if he’s half the shit he sounds like, he wouldn’t be above a little pharmaceutical enhancement to Alison’s drink.

  40. Esteleth is Groot says

    Not necessarily, eoraptor. Alcohol can also inhibit memory formation, so “I don’t remember much after that” can mean literally that as well as “I passed out after that.”

    Also, don’t negate the impact of the brain attempting to repress traumatic memories.

    In any case, Allison’s tweets later discuss how she remembers bits and pieces (getting shoved in shower, someone undressing her, lying on the bed). This is entirely consistent with profound alcohol intoxication.

  41. A. Noyd says

    [Shermer:] But I will freely respond to Alison or any other woman who communicates with me directly and privately who believes I have insulted or mistreated her.

    I don’t believe Shermer; I believe his accusers. So, I read this as: “Give me an opportunity to gaslight you, you dumb whores!”

    But even if he was innocent, the appropriate response to being accused of sexual harassment, sexual assault or rape is never, “Well, if I could just get the accusers behind closed doors, we could work this out.”

  42. says

    A. Noyd:

    the appropriate response to being accused of sexual harassment, sexual assault or rape is never, “Well, if I could just get the accusers behind closed doors, we could work this out.”

    QFT. You’d think he might know that, eh?

  43. FelixBC says

    Esteleth is Groot @56
    eoraptor @54

    It seems that AllisonGranted and Alison Smith are not the same person. We shouldn’t conflate their accounts. See sowellfan @44
    Different number of ll’s!

  44. Ichthyic says

    Donald Prothero’s enthusiasm for the Shermer party crowd tells me all I need to know about why this is a perpetual cover up.

    These guys really DID view TAM as a giant frat party, and the rest, like Donald, go along with it because they’re the nerdy kids who finally got invited to the cool kid’s frat party.

    that’s what all the politics surround this looks like to me.

    it’s pathetically shallow, and I hope it all dies out with Randi, to be blunt.

  45. Ichthyic says

    seriously, Donald constantly brags about being invited to Shermer’s parties on his Facebook page.

    it’s actually embarrassing to even read.

  46. loopyj says

    I was taken aback. Sex in a hotel bathroom isn’t my idea of a romantic evening, plus I could tell she’d been drinking, so I encouraged her to put herself back together and rejoin the party.

    Seriously? ‘Taken aback’? ‘Put herself back together’? Had she fallen apart? Nobody talks like that, except perhaps the leading man who shakes and slaps the hysterical leading lady, “Pull yourself together, woman!”, before she crumples into his embrace and yields to his passionate kiss. /retch

  47. ledasmom says

    loopyj @ 62:
    And it’s such a string of nasty little put-downs, isn’t it? Implications being: she was sloppy-drunk, she was a mess, she was aggressive – putting it all on her.
    I wish I could say all of this was shocking, but it’s not – it’s expected.
    I also note the part of his statement that references the crotch-fondling incident: “Would any man do such a preposterous thing at a public event” blah, blah, blah. His entire defense there is basically “Of course I didn’t do that, because nobody would do such a thing!” It’s the “Catbird Seat” defense.
    But it leaves out that this is exactly what the person who does such a thing counts on. It is preposterous, therefore unlikely to be taken seriously, therefore, in a sense, safe to do because the victim might even hesitate to report it.

  48. questioningkat says

    Several years ago, I recall hearing rumors that someone who was a leader in the atheist community was a womanizer and needed to be watched out for. My mind filtered about about twenty or so names and I came up with …….. Shermer. (Just saying)

    The more this kind of stuff happens, they more I find myself pulling away from the likes of any atheist that supports or holds views that are sexists, socially inept, or unwise. My life is short and time is precious. I’m tired of hearing about this type of drama occurring and me posting responses like this – which is ineffective, and irrelevant to my personal daily life and a waste of time. I wish certain atheists would get their act together or I’m going to stop donating my money and supporting their sites. When will people realize that crappy behavior affects others near and far. Soon their will be one less woman in the “atheist movement.”

  49. says

    I’m coming in late, but I think it’s interesting to see these now-familiar tactics all used at once. Shermer’s managed to string every dishonest asshole skeptic move into a massive combo here.

    Changing stories despite each one being clearly recorded? Just like Brian Dunning (to fans: “I didn’t do anything wrong!”; to FBI: “I did this thing and see how clever I was!”; post-conviction: “I knew it was wrong, but everyone else was doing it!”) and DJ Grothe (“There’s never been a report of harassment at TAM” [several reports come out] “Okay, but no *official* reports!” etc.). Dunning also, notably, pulled out the “they’re attacking me because of my fame and success!” bullshit that Shermer spouts here.

    The “let’s just talk one-on-one” nonsense has been a hallmark of the sweep-it-under-the-rug side of skepticism at least since that “Open Letter to the Secular Community” from last spring, though it (and the common cry of “charitable interpretation!”) only ever seems to apply to people criticizing leaders in the atheoskeptic community, and never to people demonizing feminists. You’d think skeptics would balk at this, as a clear attempt to circumvent transparency–you know, those same skeptics who demanded that names be named and charges be filed or this was all obvious bullshit–but consistency is not a hallmark of skeptical thought, right?

    The bit about women redefining past experiences is just a five-dollar-word version of the old morning-after-regret accusation, which has about as much to do with reality as Shermer’s beloved invisible hand. The “feminists have gone too far!” and “moral panic!” accusations hearken back to those simpler days when Thunderf00t banged out incoherent screeds about leg-gnawing and triplicate forms for all to mock.

    And finally, the usual well-poisoning, dismissing this all as “gossip” (and what kind of people are stereotypically prone to gossip? Woman people. So you know they can’t be trusted), echoing how DJ Grothe dismissed these very same allegations as “distasteful locker room banter.” Looking up that quote to get the wording right, I see Grothe also used the “morning-after regret” argument. The more things change, eh? It’s a shame Shermer couldn’t work in a reference to “drama blogging for the hits,” but I guess he’s got to save something in case more allegations surface.

    Are there TAM workshops on how to dismiss and discredit online criticism? Because I think I have a list of past attendees.

  50. Falken's Maze says

    Thank you for all of this, PZ.
    You and everyone at FtB are doing an excellent job cataloging Shermer’s constantly changing self-serving lies. He wrote first that he was sober but Alison had been drinking and “could drink him under a table”, then he told Randi they were both drunk, now his story is that they were both sober. At least two of these stories must be lies.
    In light of the fact that Shermer freely admits to being a married man in his 50s who chooses to go to parties intended for people in their 20s, he would be both laughable and pathetic if what he did weren’t so horrible.
    Shermer’s latest tale, where he implausibly describes Alison as being aggressive with him in a manner that shocked his nearly Victorian standards of romance and decency are both absurd and vile. By doing this, he is both attempting to slut-shame his victim (writing that he told her “to put herself back together” suggests she had started taking her clothes off and/or was emotionally out of control), and also implies she is somehow beneath him class-wise due to the alleged attempt at seducing him in a place as unromantic as a bathroom.
    This latest pack of lies is his worst yet; if there were even a grain of truth in his account and he believed she was so inebriated (in the bathroom) that she was using what he considered to be bad judgement, we must ask:
    •Would a gentleman encourage that woman to rejoin that party? NO!
    •Would a gentleman do that especially if, as he said in the letter after TAM, he was aware from the moment Alison walked into the room that two men were trying “to get into her pants”? NO!
    •Would a true gentleman do this when he writes that people were “plying” others with alcohol? NO!
    A decent man would do what any bartender would: he’d say she’d had enough to drink, he would have escorted her safely back to the hotel and then walked her to HER room to make sure those two men couldn’t hurt her. Remember, by his own story he had been ready to leave the party just as Alison arrived. If that’s true, why did he stay?
    Walking an inebriated woman safely away from two men who wanted to get into her pants was a perfect excuse to leave.
    (Reading how delicate Mr. Shermer’s sensibilities are in terms of things he would never do, I wonder if he required a fainting couch when he wrote that two men at the party wanted “to get into her pants” in the email he sent to Alison’s friend after TAM. “Getting into a woman’s pants”? I am getting the vapors merely typing such a thing! [/sarcasm])
    And let’s not forget the fact that the after-TAM email was complete unnecessary if two consenting adults had engaged in one-night-stand. SHERMER WAS MARRIED! Why on earth would he acknowledge in writing that there were rumors that he was somehow involved with a young woman at a party? While he doesn’t address what happened after the party, he does admit that he was drinking with a beautiful woman who was hanging on him. Why would a married man do this unless he knew he was guilty and was already working on damage control? If there were a consensual one night stand (which is his current story) rumors or not, it would be best to not acknowledge the evening at all. He’d only acknowledge it if the benefits outweighed the risks. He’d only do it if he knew he was guilty of raping a woman who would be believed and he knew he needed to start spinning the narrative ASAP.
    Getting women drunk and raping them is a crime. The more he lies, the bigger the hole he digs for himself. I’m reminded of a line from Homicide: Life on the Street: “Crime makes you stupid.”
    My blood was already boiling, but his attempt to use Alison’s politeness as some kind of evidence that he hadn’t assaulted her is outrageous.
    Let’s not forget Shermer has a degree in Psychology. He knows this is nonsense but is betting his mind-blind claque won’t.
    This is simply yet another attempt by a predator at manipulating others.
    It’s disgusting.
    Thank you for calling him out on it.

  51. John Horstman says

    @A Hermit #24: Yeah, that part of the story is so transparently a lie that I’m floored he even tried to sell it. ANYONE who has ever been drunk knows that alcohol does not work that way.