101: Will Bobba for Furni

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Archon:

There is considerable evidence across disparate fields (sociology, criminology, psychology) that young men at the bottom rung of their culture are more likely to commit crimes. Evolutionary biology explains this by suggesting males represent an evolutionary gamble: They can produce no children, or a virtually unlimited number. Women are evolutionarily the more conservative bet. As a result, men who see themselves as having very limited opportunities for reproduction are driven to desperate deeds - deeds of honor (or horror) in war, acts of greatness, crimes of rape. This is all explained in depth in, for instance, Steve Pinker's works, or The Mating Mind.

I actually think we are *both* misunderstanding what they are saying--because they don't really know what they're saying! You said to me that "men who see themselves as having very limited opportunities for reproduction are driven to desperate deeds."

I get that out of what they are saying too, but look at this line from that link: "Rapists may be motivated by many different immediate desires, but a desire for reproduction is probably one of them in only the rarest of instances." It's in the 11th paragraph.

How can they be saying that men who see themselves as having very limited opportunities for reproduction are driven to desperate deeds is the explanation for rape in general, when they're also saying that rape results from the desire for reproduction only the rarest of instances? I think we've both had trouble understanding what the heck they're saying. And that's because sociobiologists are sensationalistic morons.

That's not to say that sociobiology *itself* is moronic. I think it's an excellent way to look at human behavior. In fact, we can do some right now: let's go with the hypothesis that rape is a crime of power and violence. :-D

Well, isn't it entirely possible that a drive for power or violence would provide the individual having them--either through genes, environment/culture, or some combination of the two--with an advantage in securing reproductive opportunities? If I as a male want power over women, and am disposed towards treating women violently, doesn't that up the chances that I'll unintentionally stumble into leaving more of my children in the next generation than the other guy?

If I'm motivated by power and violence, won't I stumble into every evolutionary advantage from having eunuchs guard my harem from men who can reproduce, to making sure my followers throw my living wives on my funeral pyre, to deciding that 'if I can't have her, no one will' and going O.J. on her and her new guy? I mean, this is sick, but O.J. wound up with more kids than Ron Goldman, right?

If we go with their idea that rape is a product of a specific desire to rape or as an incident effect of another desire, we still have to explain harems, the immolation of wives, and O.J. In other words, we leave unexplained why men make women sexually unavailable to other men even when they are not having sex with those women. If we go with rape as a product of a desire for power and a propensity towards violence--whether that desire is a product of genes, environment/culture, or some combination of the two--we explain *two* phenomena with one theory of two desires. And we explain a phenomenon that makes no sense: killing the mothers of my children.

Not to mention, like you said, "young men at the bottom rung of their culture are more likely to commit crimes." Doesn't a desire for power and propensity for violence go a long way towards explaing that too? That's what I mean when I was talking about their own example of disenfranchisement: if all crimes--including rape--are correlated with a lack of power and can be prevented by empowering the people committing them, well, is there any better argument that rape is a crime of power?

Russ Pitts:
And I won't say we're off point either, because I do think, as Cheeze suggested, the issue at stake here is if it is possible to break those barriers between real and virtual, if it is possible to love receive stimulation online, to fulfill those Maslow desires, and to have them fulfilled through you, against your will, by someone else, then we really need to think more seriously about what happens in virtual worlds, and how acts stemming fro them are handled. In courts, living rooms or elsewhere.

This actually got me thinking of a game that's considered totally family friendly: Guitar Hero. That's another game that seems to break the barrier between real and virtual by tapping into a higher order psychological need. If better music played just because I pushed buttons on a controller to overcome obstacles or puzzles in a game, it would just be a game. When people talk about playing Guitar Hero, though, they seem to be experiencing something along the lines of what real-live musicians do and are getting some of the same satisfaction.

Cheeze_Pavilion:
This actually got me thinking of a game that's considered totally family friendly: Guitar Hero. That's another game that seems to break the barrier between real and virtual by tapping into a higher order psychological need. If better music played just because I pushed buttons on a controller to overcome obstacles or puzzles in a game, it would just be a game. When people talk about playing Guitar Hero, though, they seem to be experiencing something along the lines of what real-live musicians do and are getting some of the same satisfaction.

That's a good point, Cheeze. I've often felt like Guitar Hero was little more than an overly complex Pavlov trigger, designed to elicit a correct response (in this case, pressing buttons in sequence) by providing aural and psychological stimuli (better music, fantasy reward, etc). I'm sure someone with the appropriate leanings could turn such a thing into a torture or manipulation device, but it sure does make for good fun.

Russ Pitts:
I'm sure someone with the appropriate leanings could turn such a thing into a torture or manipulation device, but it sure does make for good fun.

They already have--it's called: "Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s"

Just kidding...sort of.

Cheeze Pavilion,

First, you ask people to be scientific. Someone cites a scientifically researched book. You discard it with hand-waving arguments. Then you suggest people be more scientific. I don't get it. Yes, the book talks about power, but it attempts to be more detailed and objective by talking about drives for sex and other quantifiable metrics. That's how science works.

That said, I don't think that your ideas of power and the book's ideas about evolutionary selection are mutually exclusive. Try reading the page about the book again without trying to shoehorn everything into a power paradigm.

Karl

Cheeze, any evolutionary scientist will tell you that evolution yields two core genetic drives, from its two types of adaptions: survival and reproduction. Other drives are "secondary". They may seem immediate to the individual of the species, but they are there only for reasons of primary drives.

So, for instance, in The Mating Mind, you can find a detailed discussion of the human drive for art as having evolved from the drive to reproduce. No where does the author claim that artists are consciously creating art to impress the ladies, in fact he specifically disclaims that; but he provides evidence that art in fact evolved to impress the opposite sex, i.e it was adaptive towards reproductive fitness.

Likewise, if I am dying of dehydration and I kill a man to get his canteen of fresh water, no one would call it just "a crime of thirst" and argue that it had naught to do with survival. Even if I were crazed with thirst to the point of insanity, an unthinking thirst-quenching killing machine, I'd still ultimately be acting out of survival instinct, even if I didn't know it consciously.

So in introducing this issue of power, all you've basically done is establish that holding power could be an evolutionarily adaptive strategy towards reproduction (and presumably survival). To which I say: Of course it could. That's where the entire "alpha male" concept evolved from. It's not random, however; alpha males are alpha males because it gives them benefits in reproduction. It's still ultimately about sex.

So I don't disagree with you, but I think you are trying to avoid giving credit to evolutionary biologists where credit is due. And if you think evolutionary biologists make sensationalistic arguments, you are reading the wrong ones. Everything I've read has been nuanced, book-length arguments, backed up by evidence including numerous examples of the exact same behavior showing up in other species for reproductive and survival reasons. Check out The Mating Mind, The Red Queen and The Blank Slate if you haven't already.

Nordstrom:
Cheeze Pavilion,

First, you ask people to be scientific. Someone cites a scientifically researched book. You discard it with hand-waving arguments. Then you suggest people be more scientific. I don't get it.

Right--I asked people to be scientific about scientific questions. That doesn't mean that we stop there--the science has to be *good* science too, right? Like I said, I have no problem with sociobiology--just with the way it's being done by the people doing it: it reminds me too much of bad science like social Darwinism. What's not to get about that?

Nordstrom:
Yes, the book talks about power, but it attempts to be more detailed and objective by talking about drives for sex and other quantifiable metrics. That's how science works.

Why is a drive for sex less quantifiable a metric than a drive for power, or a propensity towards violence? Why is an inquiry into the desire to have sex more "detailed and objective" than one into a desire for power, or to inflict violence?

Nordstrom:
That said, I don't think that your ideas of power and the book's ideas about evolutionary selection are mutually exclusive.

Neither do I anymore; however, that's how Archon presented it to me ("There's growing debate as to whether rape really is 'a crime of power and violence'") and how I initially took it. I blame that on the authors of the book being unclear and coming close to contradicting themselves. I agree with what you say here completely.

Nordstrom:
Try reading the page about the book again without trying to shoehorn everything into a power paradigm.

I did--check comment 36. I think it's a pretty convincing argument that rape is a crime born of the desire for power, violence, AND sex. That a whole host of crimes--"harems, the immolation of wives, and O.J."--all share something in common: the desire to exert power over the sexual lives of women, and the willingness to do violence to achieve that power.

So when you add the desire for sexual stimulation to the mix, you get rape. I'm fine with the statement "[s]exual stimulation is a proximate cause of raping and is the common denominator across human rapes of all kinds" and that "although a given rapist may have numerous motivations for committing a rape, social scientists have failed to prove that sex is not one of these."

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I'm sorry but, I find your comment to me to be a bit silly--I mean, here you are telling me that I shouldn't "shoehorn everything into a power paradigm" when the comment of mine that Archon replied to in comment 33 was:

"Better to just consign a sexist term to the dustbin of history, and start over with a term that recognizes this as a crime of power and violence, such as 'sexual assault,' right?"

I mean, how exactly did I shoehorn rape into a power paradigm to the exclusion of an analysis of the sexual dimension of it by saying 'we should call it SEXUAL assault'?

I think the problem isn't that I'm shoehorning anything; it's more that I'm the one being shoehorned into the role of someone who denies there is any sexual component to rape. Amazingly enough, on the basis of my comment that we should replace the term rape with the term SEXUAL assault.

In a paragraph where I was basically saying that rape isn't a good term anyway because it doesn't emphasize the sexual nature of the crime!

Cheeze Pavilion, obviously we take different approached to examining this issue. I wrote a short post in an attempt NOT to derail the thread but instead it was just inflammatory. I fail to see why you see a big conflict but it seems clear to me that we're not going to come to agreement on it any time soon. I'm content to let the issue go in the interest of the thread getting more on-topic with the original article. You've written half of the thread and I would be happy to hear from some other voices too.

Archon:
Cheeze, any evolutionary scientist will tell you that evolution yields two core genetic drives, from its two types of adaptions: survival and reproduction. Other drives are "secondary". They may seem immediate to the individual of the species, but they are there only for reasons of primary drives.

I'm not an expert in this field and I'm sure from our discussion you're more widely read on the subject than I, but, I have to disagree with you that that is what evolutionary scientists are saying--or at least, what they actually mean.

Like it says in the link (with emphasis added):

"The reader may also be surprised to find that, contrary to media reports, we do not argue that rapists are driven by an urge to reproduce. As is explained in detail in our book's Chapter 1, this assertion confuses the motivations that form the immediate (what evolutionists call "proximate") causes of a behavior, with the evolutionary (what evolutionists call "ultimate") effects of a behavior during countless past generations of evolutionary history."

They are not calling reproduction a drive--a drive is a cause, right?. So how can the effect of a behavior ever 'drive' that same behavior in an individual? Unless you have a time machine!

Like they said, reproduction does not drive or cause anything in the individual; instead, individuals who have mutated in such a way as to possess a drive--in this case, a sexual drive--that increases the chances of reproduction are better represented in the next generation. That explains why that drive is so widespread in this generation--drives are capable of being passed down through generations.

That is why they call it an 'effect': reproduction isn't the 'cause' of the behavior, but of the prevalence of individuals with desires that cause the behavior that made them so widespread in the first place. Reproduction is the mechanism that passes those drives down, not the cause of those drives.

I'm not denying that survival or reproduction may be drives; what I am saying is that at least in the article you linked to, the authors are denying that either are drives for the behavior of rape. I really don't think I'm misreading them or reading anything extra into what they are saying when they specifically stated in paragraph 11 that "Rapists may be motivated by many different immediate desires, but a desire for reproduction is probably one of them in only the rarest of instances."

If I am, let me know how I'm misunderstanding them or why that doesn't contradict your interpretation of what they are saying, but, I don't see how I could be.

And that's why I'm not giving them credit--they write so poorly and express their ideas so badly, they create more confusion than they resolve.

Nordstrom, sorry to give you the impression that anything you said was inflammatory--it wasn't. I apologize if I was a little too blunt in trying to point out why what you said about me trying to "shoehorn everything into a power paradigm" wasn't applicable. I agree it is applicable to some people who say 'rape is a crime of power and violence' but, well, I am not one of those people.

CP, I disagree on several points but I don't take offense with anything you've said. I just don't feel like getting in an extended discussion. That's all.

To Cheese and Archon -

I feel that it becomes largely irrelevant to me what motivates / causes / creates a drive of any kind that results in rape. Society at large might benefit from the information if there were a way to actually control the way society at large will continue to grow. Barring that - it would be interesting certainly, but ultimately not that useful. We will continue to punish crimes of all kinds to the severity we think they take.

A far more interesting and (I feel) more valuable question is how new online communities will affect our children and ourselves. Russ is correct to wonder how we will define crimes in this new frontier. I personally haven't got a clue. It's extremely difficult to parent a child correctly, which is part of why I've avoided having one so far. I'd like to set myself up in the best possible position so that I can take the time to do it right. Most children don't have parents who have given the matter a lot of forethought. Really the issue at hand is the larger one of whether or not we can make parents act responsibly. I don't know the solution here. The only idea I have is mandatory sterilization, which doesn't really agree with a lot of people, myself included.

We do need to decide what constitutes a crime in a virtual world, especially as real-world assets are increasingly traded for virtual ones. Russ is also correct that the virtual world will have it's McDonald's lady suing for 4 million dollars because her coffee was hot and she spilled it on herself and gave herself a burn. These are the worlds we live in, we may as well start planning now.

TomBeraha:
To Cheese and Archon -

I feel that it becomes largely irrelevant to me what motivates / causes / creates a drive of any kind that results in rape. Society at large might benefit from the information if there were a way to actually control the way society at large will continue to grow. Barring that - it would be interesting certainly, but ultimately not that useful. We will continue to punish crimes of all kinds to the severity we think they take.

I don't know if I'd agree with that--often the motivation or cause or the presence of a drive influences how severely we punish a crime. If I kill you because you provoked me and I was in the heat of passion, I'll only be punished for manslaughter. If I kill you in say, Reno, just to watch you die, I'll be punished for murder.

TomBeraha:
A far more interesting and (I feel) more valuable question is how new online communities will affect our children and ourselves. Russ is correct to wonder how we will define crimes in this new frontier. I personally haven't got a clue.

I think we're finally going to have to face a question that we've been avoiding for years: how many things that don't involve some kind of physical element--but cause significant emotional/psychological damage--should we punish.

So far we've been able to get away in most cases because there's been a physical event to hang the crime on. We don't think of rape as evil so much because of the physical damage, but because of the emotional impact and what it reveals about the character of the attacker. Even though we've acknowledged that making someone 'feel bad' is one of the most evil things a person can do, we've always had something physical to point to in deciding what's a crime and what isn't.

That's why I say the question isn't so much about whether the law should say "you can't make me feel bad" because the laws have always said that in many cases. The question seems to be: how do we draw a clear line when we don't have some physical act to look to?

Like I said before, this really started with the problem that the laws didn't prevent stuff like stalking and upskirt/bathroom videos. Imagine if the law just decided that stalking was no different from heavy breathing on a phone, and upskirt/bathroom videos were to be handled like any other videotaping without having a required waver for the use of someone's image?

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Oh, but I do have to say one things about the McDonald's lady--actually, she only sued them when they refused to pay her 20,000 dollars when she had 11,000 in medical bills, because she wound up with that coffee that spilled on her injured her so badly she needed an eight day hospital stay and skin grafts.

I'm not convinced it was unreasonably dangerous either, but, it's funny how these things like 'she got 4 million for a burn on her leg' become part of popular culture and wind up influencing our views on how much the law should require of other people in protecting us.

TomBeraha:
A far more interesting and (I feel) more valuable question is how new online communities will affect our children and ourselves. Russ is correct to wonder how we will define crimes in this new frontier. I personally haven't got a clue.

I don't know how virtual crimes will be defined either, but I think that will only happen after our governments figure out a way to regulate and tax virtual property. It's no secret that there's very real profit in virtual goods. Once laws are established to protect one's virtual property, we'll start to see laws that protect one's virtual human rights.

Cheeze_Pavilion:

TomBeraha:
To Cheese and Archon -

I feel that it becomes largely irrelevant to me what motivates / causes / creates a drive of any kind that results in rape. Society at large might benefit from the information if there were a way to actually control the way society at large will continue to grow. Barring that - it would be interesting certainly, but ultimately not that useful. We will continue to punish crimes of all kinds to the severity we think they take.

I don't know if I'd agree with that--often the motivation or cause or the presence of a drive influences how severely we punish a crime. If I kill you because you provoked me and I was in the heat of passion, I'll only be punished for manslaughter. If I kill you in say, Reno, just to watch you die, I'll be punished for murder.

I hope we're not going to compare rape to murder in an act for survival too- If you rape someone because they "provoked" you and you were in the heat of passion. You had better be punished for rape. That you will be punished for manslaughter in your event is in my opinion a failure of our system, Being stupid doesn't excuse an action. Acting in self defense does. In your situation if someone pulled a gun on you, and you disarmed them and shot them with it, I would hold no issue with your actions. If someone started insulting you, and you got heated, and then you charged them and beat them to death, you still deserve the punishments for murder.

Interesting point on the McDonalds lady, I was mostly using it for it's cultural connotation for a frivolous lawsuit. I still don't thikn she should be awarded 20,000 in damages for 11,000 in medical bills that were caused by HER SPILLING HER OWN COFFEE.

If we need another example - Two carpet layers in Akron, Ohio, Gordon Falker and Gregory Roach, were severely burned when a container of carpet adhesive exploded into a ball of flame. The three and a half gallon container ignited when the hot water heater it was sitting on kicked on, and because of their injuries the men filed suit against Para-Chem, the manufacturers of the adhesive. Both men thought the warning label on the back of the can had been insufficient to prevent their injuries. Apparently words like "flammable" and "keep away from heat" were not strident enough to let them know that an explosion would happen if they set the container on top of a water heater. A jury obviously agreed with Falker and Roach, because they awarded the two $8 million for their injuries at the hands of the negligent manufacturer.

I'm quoting the above text directly - It seems to be copied numerous times on a few sites almost verbatim. The court case can be found in the Akron, Ohio court system if you do a search for Falkner's name. I am unable to verify the judgment amount through my little 5 minute research. But it's still there.

"The reader may also be surprised to find that, contrary to media reports, we do not argue that rapists are driven by an urge to reproduce. As is explained in detail in our book's Chapter 1, this assertion confuses the motivations that form the immediate (what evolutionists call "proximate") causes of a behavior, with the evolutionary (what evolutionists call "ultimate") effects of a behavior during countless past generations of evolutionary history."

Cheeze, from your reasoning, you logically have to insist that sex isn't evolutionarily driven by reproduction either, because the proximate cause of sex for people isn't a conscious drive for reproduction, it's lust or passion.

If you insist that only proximate causes are relevant, then you ignore most of what we can learn about the origin of behavior from evolution. Yes, people act from "proximate" causes of behavior (what I called "secondary"), but what causes those causes? Evolution, which is driven by survival and reproduction. And much of the most interesting discussion in evolution is determining whether particular traits are in fact "naturally selected" (i.e. adapting traits for survival) or "sexually selected" (fitness indicators, reproductively adapative behaviors). Rape wasn't something that benefited survival during the evolutionary adaptive period. It almost certainly was something that benefited reproduction.

Look, I grok the political agendas at work here. If rape isn't ultimately an evolutionary trait stemming from reproduction, then instead rape becomes evidence that our culture has been twisted by evil forces that transform the act of sex into a weapon to oppress women, and gives leverage for making changes to that culture. If rape is a pan-cultural phenomenon, stemming from our evolution a hundred millenia ago, that is likely to always occur in certain contexts, regardless of the culture -- well, that is a much messier diagnosis. It isn't neat, it isn't pretty, and it suggests we don't know as much as we'd like to pretend we know about how to change human nature. In some circles, even the suggestion that there is such a thing as "human nature" are fighting words.

And I'm not claiming the theorists know everything - indeed virtually every sociobiologist admits a broad place for environmental factors. It's the other side that wants it to be all-or-nothing.

All I've been suggesting - if you go back to my very first post - is that even in the real word, the causes of rape are hotly debated and without agreement on that, determining what causes or constitutes virtual rape is a tough challenge. What's ultimately driving it? Why do people do it? Really hard to say. It's tougher than just putting it into a box as being about "power".

Since then I've been asking you to stop being dismissive of that debate by suggesting that the evolutionary biologists who disagree are "disingenuous" or "sensationalist". Neither is the case... You are normally a results-oriented debater, so I'm not quite sure why you want to draw a line in the sand and spill blood there endlessly over what seems like a fairly modest claim, unless it's because you just enjoy arguing with me (like Joe Blancato does).

Archon:

"The reader may also be surprised to find that, contrary to media reports, we do not argue that rapists are driven by an urge to reproduce. As is explained in detail in our book's Chapter 1, this assertion confuses the motivations that form the immediate (what evolutionists call "proximate") causes of a behavior, with the evolutionary (what evolutionists call "ultimate") effects of a behavior during countless past generations of evolutionary history."

Cheeze, from your reasoning, you logically have to insist that sex isn't evolutionarily driven by reproduction either, because the proximate cause of sex for people isn't a conscious drive for reproduction, it's lust or passion.

If you insist that only proximate causes are relevant, then you ignore most of what we can learn about the origin of behavior from evolution.

I'm saying only proximate causes are relevant *in deciding what actually motivates an individual to commit an individual act.* Like I said originally, "I wouldn't call that a debate over the *crime* of rape, just the *phenomenon* of rape." I don't think the debate in which I made the statement you disagreed with was ever about the origins of the behavior, only about why someone like Mr. Bungle would do something like that to those two other players. Not why Mr. Bungle's genes are widespread.

Archon:
Look, I grok the political agendas at work here.

Actually, like I said to Nordstrom, I think you get the political agendas at work with some people who say 'power and violence' but I wouldn't say you get it 'here' with me. I have no agenda along the lines you're suggesting. I don't see how my statement "If we go with rape as a product of a desire for power and a propensity towards violence--whether that desire is a product of genes, environment/culture, or some combination of the two" rules out the possibility that "rape is a pan-cultural phenomenon, stemming from our evolution a hundred millenia ago, that is likely to always occur in certain contexts, regardless of the culture."

If I'm saying that it's possible that the sexual drive, a desire for power, and a propensity towards violence all 'stem from evolution' then I fail to see how I have an agenda that "rape becomes evidence that our culture has been twisted by evil forces that transform the act of sex into a weapon to oppress women" unless I've also called either the desire for power, the propensity towards violence, or the evolutionary process by which they became part of human nature as an "evil force," and I don't think I have at any point. And if I did, I misspoke.

Archon:
Since then I've been asking you to stop being dismissive of that debate by suggesting that the evolutionary biologists who disagree are "disingenuous" or "sensationalist". Neither is the case...

See, I think it is *precisely* because they're dismissive of looking into a drive for power. For example, the komodo dragon, after it defeats its male rival in a contest for sexual access to females, gets on top of its defeated rival and starts clawing at the parts of the rival that sexually excite the female. I think a drive for power explains that natural phenomenon way better than trying to shoehorn it into one about rape.

That's why I'm dismissive of sociobiologists: from what I've read, and especially from that link you provided, *they* seem to have an agenda to discredit the idea that rape is related to a desire for power. Even one that attributes the presence of that desire to genes rather than culture. Even though they themselves have identified that giving power to people--that part about disenfranchisement--seems to diminish the incidence of rape.

Archon:
All I've been suggesting - if you go back to my very first post - is that even in the real word, the causes of rape are hotly debated and without agreement on that, determining what causes or constitutes virtual rape is a tough challenge. What's ultimately driving it? Why do people do it? Really hard to say. It's tougher than just putting it into a box as being about "power".

I agree that figuring out the causes of rape in the real world will make it easier to figure out whether it exists in the virtual world. However, I fail to see how anything but the proximate causes at work are important in figuring that out unless we have a time machine that will let us go back and exert different evolutionary pressures on early humans so that modern humans do not possess whatever genes are responsible for whatever drives are the proximate causes of rape today.

The value of looking at rape as a product of evolutionary pressures has been exhausted. It has tipped us off to the possibility that there may be a rape gene, or another gene with rape as an incidental effect. I really don't think it has much more to offer if we're interested in the crime of rape as opposed to the natural history of rape, right?

TomBeraha:
That you will be punished for manslaughter in your event is in my opinion a failure of our system, Being stupid doesn't excuse an action. Acting in self defense does. In your situation if someone pulled a gun on you, and you disarmed them and shot them with it, I would hold no issue with your actions. If someone started insulting you, and you got heated, and then you charged them and beat them to death, you still deserve the punishments for murder.

Okay, but, then should you be saying: "We will continue to punish crimes of all kinds to the severity we think they take." when your ideas on what makes a crime severe is different from what a lot of other people think?

I'm not saying your wrong--maybe you're right and everybody else is wrong. However, it is relevant to most people, right?

TomBeraha:

Interesting point on the McDonalds lady, I was mostly using it for it's cultural connotation for a frivolous lawsuit. I still don't thikn she should be awarded 20,000 in damages for 11,000 in medical bills that were caused by HER SPILLING HER OWN COFFEE.

Maybe, but, people only get e.coli when they undercook their ground beef, yet we recall that all the time just so people who can't use a meat thermometer won't kill themselves and their families.

Again, not saying you're right or wrong, but, just saying there are a lot of instances where we protect people from their own stupidity, even though it costs a business lots of money.

Cheeze, I think sociobiologists aren't looking for a "drive to power" because the "drive to sex" is simpler. Given that the crime is one of forceful intercourse on a member of the opposite sex, mirroring behavior in the animal kingdom that is a known strategy for reproduction, they are going to start with the simplest possible explanation and see if it fits the known facts. It seems to. Why would they look for another explanation when sex explains it?

They say: Rape is about sex, and men developed certain traits (attraction to fertile females, willingness to assert themselves on an unwilling partner under certain circumstances) that lead them to rape because those traits led to reproductive success in the evolutionary adaptive period. They have other traits that prevent rape (empathy, self-preservation, incest taboos) because those traits also led to reproductive success. Seems very straightforward.

If someone wants to theorize that rape is about power, it seems to me that such a theory should be able to explain the following:
1. Why does rape involve an act of sex rather than other acts by which one can demonstrate power?
2. Why are the victims of rape usually members of the sex the rapist is sexually attracted to?
3. Why are the victims of rape usually of reproductive age?
4. Why do rapists speak of sexual fantasies involving rape?
5. Why does erotica frequently include rape scenes?
6. Why does chemical castration (of the sex hormones) significantly reduce the incidence of rape and the chemically castrated person’s sex drive and sexual fantasies at the same time?

Evolutionary biology provides a cohesive and succinct explanation for all of the above by tying it into reproduction. I've talked a lot about sociobiological theories; what's the counter-theory?

For the record, I have not read nearly as extensively on social sciences as I have on evolutionary biology, so my questioning is genuine. Please do share the (or your) theory / explanation. And just as I have recommended books and offered links to relevant texts that go into more detail, I would welcome any such detail.

And with regards to the rape in cyberspace, it should be obvious by now, but my personal position is that it wasn't a rape at all. It was harassment, bullying, virtual sociopathy - although my opinion might change if it was demonstrated that the perp got off on it.

Interesting sidebar to this: I just noticed via Kotaku that Habbo Hotel is currently the #2 MMOG (guess who's #1) with 7.5 million subscribers. This raises the stakes a bit I'd think.

Archon:
Cheeze, I think sociobiologists aren't looking for a "drive to power" because the "drive to sex" is simpler. Given that the crime is one of forceful intercourse on a member of the opposite sex, mirroring behavior in the animal kingdom that is a known strategy for reproduction, they are going to start with the simplest possible explanation and see if it fits the known facts. It seems to. Why would they look for another explanation when sex explains it?

Because like I said, a theory of rape as just being about sex is simpler, but it only explains rape. A theory of rape as being about sex AND power AND violence explains not only rape, but also "harems, the immolation of wives, and O.J."

Newton's theory of gravity is much simpler than Einstein's, but, we go with Einstein's because it explains more. I agree with the simpler of two theories that explain some phenomenon is the one to go with; what I'm trying to say to you though, is, that if a more complex theory explains multiple phenomena, you go with the more complex one if it makes up in explanatory power for that increase in complexity.

If someone wants to theorize that rape is about power, it seems to me that such a theory should be able to explain the following:

Well, first off, I am not theorizing that rape is about power. I am theorizing that rape is about power AND violence AND sex.

1. That's...a tautology. If rape is defined as a certain form of sexual assault, it doesn't involve acts other than sex by definition. That's like asking why theft involves an act of taking possession of something rather than another act by which the person could fulfill their greed.

2. Because, like I said, rape is about power and violence when sex is added to the mix. People prefer to have sex with people they are sexually attracted to. Adding power and violence to the mix will help explain why a person will rape someone they're *not* attracted to a lot better than just attributing it to the sexual drive alone, won't it?

3. People of reproductive age have physical characteristics that appeal to the sex drives of others.

4. Why do thieves speak of enrichment fantasies involving theft?

5. Counter question: why does erotica frequently include scenes where no one is having sex? Why does some erotica involve someone getting tied up or dressing in a military uniform or licking high-heeled boots of women with Teutonic accents, even though no one is having sex?

6. Because sex is a necessary drive before someone will rape. Power and violence are also not sufficient, just necessary. Remove one leg of a three leg stool, and it falls over. That's not proof that the leg that was removed was capable of supporting the stool without the other two, though, right?

Evolutionary biology provides a cohesive and succinct explanation for all of the above by tying it into reproduction. I've talked a lot about sociobiological theories; what's the counter-theory?

A sociobiological theory that includes an examination of the role secondary drives of power and violence play alongside that of sex. Which is equally capable of being tied to reproduction, but has the advantage of not only explaining why someone will commit violence in the form of rape that ensures he reproduces, but will commit violence in forms as diverse as "harems, the immolation of wives, and O.J." to ensure the other guy doesn't.

For the record, I have not read nearly as extensively on social sciences as I have on evolutionary biology, so my questioning is genuine. Please do share the (or your) theory / explanation. And just as I have recommended books and offered links to relevant texts that go into more detail, I would welcome any such detail.

You're certainly more well-read on the subject than I am, I would say. If I had any recommended books or relevant texts I could link to, I would. However, it seems everyone writing about this are either sensationalistic moronic sociobiologists, or social scientists who "suggest rape is a crime of power so that they can further a social movement to empower women." :-D

I'm just the guy pointing out that the emperor is nekkid...

And with regards to the rape in cyberspace, it should be obvious by now, but my personal position is that it wasn't a rape at all. It was harassment, bullying, virtual sociopathy - although my opinion might change if it was demonstrated that the perp got off on it.

That's the position I've leaned toward since the beginning--way back in comment 3 I said: "Maybe we need a physical violation before we call something rape/call someone a rapist. That's the way I lean." We've never been in disagreement about that. In fact, I agree with what you say here--the strongest case is to show the perp enjoyed it in the same way a real-life rapist would.

It sounds spectacular to write about avatar rape and I believe that people can be emotionally damaged by it. However, I have a hard time imagining text-based avatar rape to be anything nearing the severity of actual rape. Next, are people going to be raped by mail? Are people going to be punished for tea-bagging in Halo? Can people go to prison for words that they write in an online world?

This has a lot to do with freedom of speech. I think it's good for people to have a place where they can write what they want. And, I think that it's good for people in whatever venue to have control over how they are portrayed, such that their avatars aren't forced to do things beyond their consent. And, I think that it's good for kids and other safety oriented people to be protected against sexually inappropriate material. The real debate should be about how these things are mediated and controlled.

How do we ensure that potentially harmful sites are not easily accessed by kids? Should companies be held responsible to have protective measures? Should companies be forced to be responsible by the government? Is that even possible? As much as I want companies to be morally responsible, I'm not interested in a highly legislated web.

How, in a world with nearly free access to an online "world", do we help our kids explore without wandering down dark alleys online? I believe that it's the parent's responsibility to encourage and teach web "street smarts", but parents don't have full control. There's no such thing as simultaneous freedom and safety. Kids need a chance to grow and explore safely. As they grow, they need to take appropriate risks without being thrown in the deep end. As a parent, I feel the impulse to protect and micromanage my kids but I don't believe that's the best approach. Given that my kids seem to be pretty smart and that they like to learn, I expect (hope) that they will be fine. We have fairly open channels of communication. That said, there are no guarantees. Life involves real risks and there aren't easy answers to these questions.

Nordstrom:
Can people go to prison for words that they write in an online world?

This has a lot to do with freedom of speech.

Interesting link given the topic that this led me to: Annoying someone via the Internet is now a federal crime.

Cheese-

I think my stance is defensible, I don't agree with many of the judgements of our society, I still accept that I am part of it, and will stand by those decisions in terms of respecting laws I don't think should apply and so on. As to bacteria ridden food, the reason they recall it is because they haven't done their job right, and are liable. It's not like when a little bit slips through, or grows on it after the fact. They aren't recalling it to protect other people from their stupidity, they're correcting a mistake they made. The coffee she was served wasn't served in a broken cup, wasn't poured on her, wasn't brewed at 300 degrees, It was the same coffee numerous other people had enjoyed that same morning.

I think Nordstrom has the right of it, I don't think that there is a way to write a hard and fast law that will cover the exceptions to the rule if we say that "Molesting someone verbally / literally etc is going to carry consequences just like physical molestation." Defining what constitutes a violation would go word by word, and try to encompass every possible conceivable method, and while in a strange way that would be amusing, it would also be a little too big brother for me. I'd much rather we try the carrot and do our best to educate every one, parent or not, on the complexity of the issue so that the people closest to an event can make intelligent judgments.

I am already upset that announcing you're going to bomb a school is somehow equal to calling said school and issuing a bomb threat. It's not the same, and situations are impossible to make allowances for in the word of a law, Laws will either be too strict or not strict enough in every case, and I personally prefer to err on the side of freedom. I don't like that a young man was not so long ago EXPELLED from his school for making a map of it in counter-strike. I know I certainly started out map making with buildings I was familiar with.

The best weapon we as a society have against this is the methodical and continuing hunt to purge ignorance and to expand education.

TomBeraha:
Cheese-
As to bacteria ridden food, the reason they recall it is because they haven't done their job right, and are liable. It's not like when a little bit slips through, or grows on it after the fact. They aren't recalling it to protect other people from their stupidity, they're correcting a mistake they made. The coffee she was served wasn't served in a broken cup, wasn't poured on her, wasn't brewed at 300 degrees, It was the same coffee numerous other people had enjoyed that same morning.

Yeah, but the ground beef they recall is also the same ground beef numerous other people enjoy that same day. Only they cook it until they kill the bacteria.

What you seem to be saying now is that we shouldn't protect people from their own stupidity *if* the other person did their job right. That's different from saying 'we shouldn't protect people from their own stupidity' period. This beef isn't tainted with prions, or something--it's tainted with bacteria that can be killed by cooking to over 160F.

If it's stupidity to put a cup of coffee between your legs, why isn't it stupidity to cook ground beef improperly? I mean, at least she has the excuse that she was clumsy--people who improperly cook ground beef are either consumers who are too lazy to use a meat thermometer, or fast food places incapable of properly training their staff.

Why should a food company have to foot the bill of a recall or face liability because of the fact that some burger joint won't hire competent cooks? Why should I have to pay more for ground beef--when the cost of the recall gets passed on to the consumer--in a supermarket just because some other dimwit hasn't mastered the futuristic, esoteric technology of fire? ;-)

I'm not arguing either way about legal liability--I'm just pointing out that you're not saying that people shouldn't be liable for the stupidity of others: you're saying that people shouldn't be liable for the stupidity of others *unless* they themselves screwed up, *even if* that person had it completely within their own power to render that screw up harmless if they just hadn't been stupid.

From what you've said, you do have sympathy for and think the law should respect stupid people who could have protected themselves completely by just acting competently. As long as someone else in the line of causation also acted incompetently.

Which...is kinda weird to me. I can certainly see a good reason for letting McDonald's off the hook as far as legal liability in a coffee case and not the ground beef supplier in the tainted meat case. Maybe McDonald's did all it could while the ground beef company screwed up, and we should only punish people who screw up, and say it's no excuse that someone else down the line was stupid and could have saved your bacon. There's a very valid reason for that, in that it encourages companies to run their business well and all that kinda deterrence stuff.

However, I can't see why we'd turn the McDonald's lady into a joke--even though she did something PLENTY of people do, and she wasn't so much stupid as clumsy--and not make a joke out of the person too lazy to cook their own food properly. I mean, she made the mistake of not preparing for the fact that something that was handed to her to put in her mouth would injure her legs if it got on them. The person who gets themselves sick on ground beef isn't competent enough to get past high school home economics.

No, coffee lady would have a case if the McDonalds had put something in her coffee which got her sick, but no case because they did everything they are supposed to with hot drinks, the most that should have come out of it, is a new regulation stipulating that restaurant's now have to warn customers that their coffee is indeed hot, and will burn them, through a notice on the container. If such regulation existed prior to the incident, they might be responsible for her medical bills, or whatever else the punishment given by the law above said. (ie fine of $X amount for failing to comply with regulations) This isn't the situation we have, and especially while talking in the light of new frontiers, we need some common sense to reign. The reason we shouldn't be holding McDonalds liable is because the lady could have brewed coffee at home to the exact same temperature by following the directions on the machine, spilled it on herself, and had the exact same results, and I don't think anyone would argue that was Mr. Coffee's fault.

I'm not sure we as the society need to punish stupidity, as it seems to punish itself. ignorance isn't an excuse.

Technically, the law had already put McDonald's on notice that they should be warning customers--coffee lady wasn't the first person to burn herself with McDonald's coffee. Her lawyer had already represented someone suing McDonald's for their hot coffee back in 1986.

TomBeraha:

I'm not sure we as the society need to punish stupidity, as it seems to punish itself. ignorance isn't an excuse.

Wasn't talking about *punishing* stupidity--I was talking about deciding not to protect people from the results of their own stupidity. If I were talking about punishing stupidity, I'd be talking about the stupidity of McDonald's deciding to make their stand in a trial after years of settling these cases with a plaintiff who was an 81 year old with a burnt taint! :-D

If ignorance isn't an excuse, why do we protect people who are too ignorant to prepare their own food correctly? Really, one can ask: why *do* we have a regulation against selling beef tainted with e.coli, if the only way that can harm people is if they're stupid, and fail to do exactly what it says on the package--cook to a temperature above 160F, just like those carpenters you mentioned who ignored the warning labels? Why is ignorance an excuse when engaging in risky behavior with ground beef, but not with coffee? Why are warning labels good enough when it comes to carpet adhesive cans but not hamburger packages?

I'm not saying there shouldn't be recalls of tainted beef. However, I am saying that we shouldn't hide behind the argument that the beef company did something wrong to pretend like we're not protecting people from their own stupidity.

I agree there's a need for common sense. However, isn't it common sense to recognize that coffee handed to someone over a counter standing up is a different situation than coffee handed to someone sitting down in a car?

It's...a little weird to me to say we need common sense, and then say handing hot coffee to people in cars is indistinguishable--when it comes to the dangers of coffee in cars--from selling someone a home coffee unit. Sure she *could* have accomplished the same feat with a Mr. Coffee machine. However, when has common sense been about what's logically possible, and not about what's probable out in the real world?

To me, common sense isn't about refusing to protect people from their own stupidity. Especially when plenty of people engage in the same act of stupidity on a daily basis only they just happen to be luckier or have better coordination. It's about refusing to protect people from their own stupidity when it wouldn't make, well, 'sense' to do so. Either because it's prohibitively expensive to implement a safety measure or because even people who spill McDonald's coffee on themselves went to McDonald's in the first place because they like their coffee steaming hot or because people should be able to enjoy a rare hamburger or because if we make the carpet adhesive less flammable it won't do as good a job or some other good reason.

Cheeze, now that we've laid it all out, you and I aren't very far off in our opinions. It seems like my focus on "rape is about sex" is reactionary to the "rape is power" stance on the other side, as much as your "rape is about power" is reaction to "rape is sex" talk. We are in agreement that it's sex and power. Your note on erotica that doesn't include sex at all was cogent. I think if one takes a very broad-minded view, it's easy to see that dividing sex from power in any circumstance is hard - harems, as you say, come to mind.

Good debate!

Archon, I agree--very fruitful discussion. By the way, based on this conversation, here's a PBS series you'd probably like if you haven't seen it already--I know I really liked when I saw it last summer: http://www.pbs.org/howartmadetheworld/

It's also funny that this thread on sex in video games contained a discussion about hot coffee, and it had nothing to do with GTA!

Cheeze_Pavilion:
It's also funny that this thread on sex in video games contained a discussion about hot coffee, and it had nothing to do with GTA!

Comments like this make me groan :P

Russ Pitts:
Incidents like Bungle's assault on LambdaMOO, the creation of a Dominic in Sociolotron and the rape of Jung Na-yung paint a grim picture, but to date, they are isolated occurrences far removed from the mainstream.

Sorry but this is going to seem off topic by now, seeing as how the discussion moved the way it did, but I wanted to clarify what I originally wrote.

I have no problem with discussing things as they have been here in the forum. I think the parallels and differences make for interesting debate. My problem is best captured in the line quoted above.

I recognize that there is a common thread that binds the three instances. The focus of the article was to bring up the dangers of having interactions with anonymous people in online communities. To me, however, the last example doesn't belong there. I think the article would have been compelling (and personally, perhaps even more so) had the last case been omitted and the article been focused more on the other two cases. The use of chat rooms and online communities is well known (and something anti-MySpace people have been lobbying about for some time). They belong in separate categories.

Rape victims have a tendency to take on life-long psychological disorders that can include (but not limited to): eating disorders, depression, self-mutilation, difficulty with sexual identity, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Some victims commit suicide.

While online rape cases don't come with the same amount of empirical research as physical rape, I believe it is unlikely that the list of long term issues is the same. That is why I don't like putting actual people up for comparison like that. What happened to the virtual rape victims and the physical rape victims is a world apart. If I was Jung Na-Yung I would be angry to have my experience compared to that of people whose avatars were manipulated online without consent.

Blaxton:

While online rape cases don't come with the same amount of empirical research as physical rape, I believe it is unlikely that the list of long term issues is the same. That is why I don't like putting actual people up for comparison like that. What happened to the virtual rape victims and the physical rape victims is a world apart. If I was Jung Na-Yung I would be angry to have my experience compared to that of people whose avatars were manipulated online without consent.

That might turn out to be true. Then again, even if it did, should it matter to us?

If fully conscious violent stranger rape turned out to lead to more severe long-term issues than (1) date rape, (2) rapes committed with the help of date rape drugs, or (3) non-violent rapes, would we not put up for comparison with the co-ed walking home from the library who is punched into submission by a stranger who then rapes her (1) the co-ed out on a date that starts with some fooling around and leads to intercourse against her will, (2) the bar patron that gets a drug slipped in her drink and can't remember anything about it, or (3) the woman who clearly indicates 'no' but just doesn't fight back or try to get away?

If the "list of long term issues" wound up being different in any of those cases than the ones that arose from 'fully conscious violent stranger rape' would we be as comfortable saying there was 'no comparison' as we are when the case is virtual rape? If the standard by which we measure what to compare is the "list of long term issues," we should be: but are we?

I bring these up because all three were in their time not recognized as 'real' rape because people thought there was 'no comparison'.

I linked to this earlier; I realize this is anecdotal and not empirical, but, I know it surprised me when I read it: "Sexual Threats Stifle Some Female Bloggers"

+++

However, I do agree that the real-life case wasn't the best fit with the other two. Then again, the article wasn't just about the dangers of online interaction; it was about the role of sex in online interaction. There are parts in there about virtual sex leading to real life, to consentual sex in the context of happy fun relationships. There were also parts in there about prostitution in a digital world, and the question: if prostitution is sex in return for something of material value, and the IRS and the company running the game both agree that epic mounts are not things of material value, then is it prostitution to offer real life sex in return for a virtual epic mount?

I think it's just that the article started with the story it did that made it seem like that was the focus--I know I felt that way too. Then again, the title was about what is considered to be a *victimless* crime, so.

CP, what I'm saying is that the two things are vastly different, and though I have seen a breakdown of rape types I would be willing to bet that the things you enumerated would yield similar consequences for the victims.

Suggesting that virtual rape and physical rape are the same thing because of a common signifier doesn't make much sense either. Just because the act is sexual it doesn't demand the term rape, I don't think it should be used here. Sexual assault or harassment would be much more apt, and those terms (with their connotative meaning) bring valid comparisons. I never said there was no comparison, but rather that the comparison with rape was not proper.

And yes, if the destructiveness of the various acts of rape were drastically different then they need to be viewed differently. Crimes often bring sentencing directly related to the destruction, be it physical or mental, that they cause. You can't separate the severity of the crime from the impact it has on the victim(s).

Virtual rape may be the dominating term, but it forces people to categorize it improperly in my opinion. It aggrandizes the severity. Virtual rape may be very frustrating, confusing, and painful, but it isn't the same as being physically raped and it isn't close enough to warrent the comparison.

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