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Earlier this week, I happened upon a blog article trending on Twitter (courtesy of a progressive who retweets anything reflecting poorly on men or white people) in which a young woman details two experiences she had with men at an EdTech conference. She posted the stories as part of the #YesWeCan – sorry, #YesAllWomen – movement, which is short for “Yes, all women live in fear of male violence,” or some variation on that theme.

 

One of the stories involves a man being overly forward with her and not getting the hint she wasn’t interested. We all have to deal with creeps and jerks of various stripes (and genders) in our lives, so there isn’t much to comment on there, unless we’re going to dredge up every upsetting or awkward encounter we’ve had with the opposite sex, of which I’d say I’ve had the typical amount.

 

The second story is the one I found meriting serious discussion in that it involved a messy social situation full of mixed messages and gray areas that goes all kinds of wrong in the end with what may have been a sexual assault (there are two sides to every story and we only have one here, but we’ll assume she reported accurately for our purposes).

 

Now there is a type of person who would prefer to stop the discussion here. The fact that a sexual assault occurred, to such a person, becomes the only relevant fact one should ever consider or discuss, and any scrutiny or attention paid to the surrounding events or context constitutes “blaming the victim.” To engage in any thoughtfulness beyond out-and-out condemnation would be condoning rape, and so on. If you are of this mindset, please don’t bother reading any further because it will only waste your time. Tell yourself I am a “victim blamer” and feel free to move along. Oh, I could go on about how much I deplore rape (consent is the core principle of libertarianism), or about how I began my legal career prosecuting rapists and child molesters and helping victims in the sex crimes division of a District Attorney’s office. This type of person doesn’t care about any of that, and playing defensive really isn’t my style in any case. Victim Blamer. Rape Condoner. Got it – happy trails.

 

For those who are genuinely interested in a discussion about responsibilities and consequences of behaviors, be warned in advance, the story reposted below is painful. Although there is nothing funny or entertaining about it, in many ways it’s like the often brutal dramatic ironies that develop in series like Curb Your Enthusiasm or The Office, where characters unwittingly dig themselves deeper and deeper into a oncoming social catastrophe as the audience knowingly cringes in expectant horror. The author said she hopes her piece will be shared and spur discussion, so I’m taking her at her word and attempting to accomplish that here...

 

Continue reading here.

 

 

"Blaming the Victim" on The New Versailles

Edited by Robert Baratheon

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I thought this article was making some good points up until this point:

 

 

I doubt any red-blooded American male would *not* have been utterly confused and frustrated by the woman’s behavior and the mixed messages she was sending that night, even if she didn’t mean to send them.

 

I didn't get the impression that the woman was sending mixed messages from this story -- or at least, if she was, it was only because he was pressuring her. It does sound like their encounter could legitimately be described as a date, and he may have briefly been justified in thinking she wanted sex when she sat down on his bed, but I don't think there is anything inherent in that is explicitly demonstrating a desire for sex, and he is responsible for any mistaken impressions he had. I believe that his initial actions could have been interpreted as an honest misinterpretation of her intentions, if he had stopped when she said no. But he continued, even over her explicit objections.

 

When it comes to consent, both parties are responsible for their part. If someone initiates sex with you, and you don't want it, it is your responsibility to say no. But it is the responsibility of the other person to respect your lack of consent, and to make an effort to ensure your consent in the first place. And if someone thinks the object of his or her affections is saying "yes" through actions as ambiguous as those of the woman in this article, then they alone are responsible for this assumption.

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You seemed like you were going to disagree with me at first, but then you went on and agreed with everything I said!

 

Simply by being there, in his hotel room for "coffee" at midnight, on his bed, after barhopping all night, sends an incredibly strong signal to her male companion that she's up for a sexual encounter. She apparently didn't realize she was sending this signal, but it was sent nonetheless, and she is responsible for that transmission.

 

However, you are of course correct to point out the man should have backed off when he realized he had been receiving false signals all night.

 

Just realize that the following statement you made...

If someone initiates sex with you, and you don't want it, it is your responsibility to say no.

 

 

...while eminently reasonable, will get you shouted down as a pro-rape, victim-blaming monster of the patriarchy by the feminist community.

 

I had a number of discussions earlier tonight in relation to my blog post in which I was told anything short of explicit verbal consent is rape (although they later had to concede that the woman handing the man a condom would count as a nonverbal exception to their rule).

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Just realize that the following statement you made...

Quote

 

...while eminently reasonable, will get you shouted down as a pro-rape, victim-blaming monster of the patriarchy by the feminist community.

 

Of course. I'm fully aware of that. And as I said, the responsibility is on both parties to ensure consent. But this does not mean that we should go to the other extreme and defend someone who continued to sexually violate someone after she explicitly denied consent.

 

She is also not responsible for him recieving "false signals." He made an inference about what she wanted based on the way she was acting, which turned out to be wrong. He alone is responsible for this.

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Flirting isn't a signal that a woman is agreeing to sex. There's no reason for anyone to be confused about that.

 

Simply by being there, in his hotel room for "coffee" at midnight, on his bed, after barhopping all night, sends an incredibly strong signal to her male companion that she's up for a sexual encounter.

It doesn't. Your whole argument is based on the assumption that "coffee at his place means sex". It's an arbitrary assumption. A cliché overused in movies, at best. The woman is telling you that for her it didn't mean sex, and yet here you are still insisting that it does.

Now I'm telling you that it doesn't mean that to me either. Are you still planning on insisting that "coffee at his place" is the universal signal for sex? How many people telling you that it doesn't will it take, before you accept that it isn't? That a woman can go up to a man's room for coffee, rather than sex, as this woman says she did?

If your argument here is that she's lying about what went on, then make that argument. But if you're willing to make a judgment based on her description of the situation, then there were no signals whatsoever suggesting she wanted sex. She's just a victim who expected the person she was with to not be a violent sex offender, and never realized that she was wrong along the way(probably due to being drunk). And the guy wasn't misreading signals, he was manipulating a drunk woman into getting her alone in his room to rape her. There's no confusion or misunderstanding there, the story reads like the carefully crafted M.O. of a serial criminal preying on weak victims.

Edited by Nicky

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She is also not responsible for him recieving "false signals." He made an inference about what she wanted based on the way she was acting, which turned out to be wrong. He alone is responsible for this.

I have to disagree with you there. People are responsible for understanding the contexts and cultures in which they operate, and they are responsible for any reasonable expectations they create in others. Reasonable is the key word there, but it was reasonable for him to think she wanted sex under the circumstances, at least before she began protesting.

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Flirting isn't a signal that a woman is agreeing to sex. There's no reason for anyone to be confused about that.

There is a world of difference between mere flirting and barhopping with a man all night, doing shots with him, and then agreeing to go back to his hotel at midnight. That creates a reasonable expectation of sex. If the woman doesn't want sex, then she is leading the man on.

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There is a world of difference between mere flirting and barhopping with a man all night, doing shots with him, and then agreeing to go back to his hotel at midnight. That creates a reasonable expectation of sex. If the woman doesn't want sex, then she is leading the man on.

Nonsense. I had female friends come over to my place to sleep it off before, by themselves, after a night of drinking. They trusted me to do that. They know I won't read anything into that, nor am I a rapist. It's perfectly normal behavior, for uninhabited people.

Are you really saying that women shouldn't trust me like that? That they should just assume that I can't handle that appropriately, and figure out their true intentions? Or are you claiming that I'm lying, and that no woman has come up to my place before for a reason other than to have sex?

Edited by Nicky

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Nicky - I'm not aware of any culture in which directly asking a woman to come back to your place for sex would not be considered a faux pas.

Going back to a hotel or apartment for "coffee" is, as you said, a cliche - meaning it's widely understood as a pretext or euphemism for a romantic encounter. I recently watched an episode of the Big Bang Theory in which Penny asks the hopelessly inept nerd Stuart into her place for coffee. He says, "A little late for coffee, isn't it?" Penny stares at him like the buffoon he is, then says, "Ohhh, you think coffee means coffee...that's so sweet." Then asexual aspergers-case Sheldon comes out of his apartment and asks what they are doing. "A little late for coffee isn't it?" he repeats. Penny rolls her eyes as the laugh track plays in the background. The joke is only these two bumbling losers could be so socially inept as to not understand the clear subtext of the situation.

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Going back to a hotel or apartment for "coffee" is, as you said, a cliche - meaning it's widely understood as a pretext or euphemism for a romantic encounter.

That's not what a cliché is. A cliché is what people who don't have normal social interactions think they should try to emulate, not what people actually do.

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Nonsense. I had female friends come over to my place to sleep it off before, by themselves, after a night of drinking. They trusted me to do that. They know I won't read anything into that, nor am I a rapist. It's perfectly normal behavior, for uninhabited people.Are you really saying that women shouldn't trust me like that? That they should just assume that I can't handle that appropriately, and figure out their true intentions? Or are you claiming that I'm lying, and that no woman has come up to my place before for a reason other than to have sex?

You're introducing context here that wasn't present in the original scenario. Of course if you have a long history and friendship with a person then that can inform what is reasonable to assume from them. This was a man she didn't know and had invited her out barhopping with him, and only him, all night. It's a totally different context from going out with a longtime friend and crashing at his place.

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I recently watched an episode of the Big Bang Theory in which Penny asks the hopelessly inept nerd Stuart into her place for coffee. He says, "A little late for coffee, isn't it?" Penny stares at him like the buffoon he is, then says, "Ohhh, you think coffee means coffee...that's so sweet." Then asexual aspergers-case Sheldon comes out of his apartment and asks what they are doing. "A little late for coffee isn't it?" he repeats. Penny rolls her eyes as the laugh track plays in the background. The joke is only these two bumbling losers could be so socially inept as to not understand the clear subtext of the situation.

The last decent comedy on network TV was Seinfeld. This scene illustrates why very well: network comedies deal in tired clichés, and never even attempt to paint a realistic picture of modern American life. Real people don't act the way people on network TV act. Cool people don't act that way, nerds don't act that way, old people don't act that way, etc., etc. It's contrived drivel. Edited by Nicky

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That's not what a cliché is. A cliché is what people who don't have normal social interactions think they should try to emulate, not what people actually do.

No, THAT is not what a cliche is. A cliche is something that is commonplace, banal, and overused (dictionary.com). This is why "coming back for coffee" appears in so much of popular entertainment: the meaning is obvious to the average viewer. It's not something that isn't true, as you are implying. It's something that IS true to the point of obviousness ("truism, maxim" - dictionary.com).

Edited by Robert Baratheon

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The last decent comedy on network TV was Seinfeld. This scene illustrates why very well: network comedies deal in tired clichés, and never even attempt to paint a realistic picture of modern American life. Real people don't act the way people on network TV act. Cool people don't act that way, nerds don't act that way, old people don't act that way, etc., etc. It's contrived drivel.

Have it your way. Seinfeld had the exact same joke. A woman asks George up to her place for coffee after a night out and he declines, saying it's too late and it "keeps me up." She stares at him like the dope he is. He spends the rest of the episode kicking himself for the blunder: "People this stupid shouldn't be allowed to live." Laugh track rolls. "Coffee is not coffee in the middle of the night."

You can't reasonably argue people aren't aware of the "cliché" that going back to a hotel room at midnight for coffee means sex. It's pervasive across popular culture.

Edited by Robert Baratheon

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I really don't understand the nature of the debate currently going on, either side of it.

It's perfectly reasonable to read the actions of this woman as an interest in sex, and perfectly reasonable to act on that -- to "make a move."

It's also quite possible that this woman either had no interest in sex from the get-go, or did originally then changed her mind. People misread signals all the time, give off the wrong signals, and drinking can magnify this sort of thing as it clouds judgement.

In any event, as soon as a woman (or anyone else, for that matter) makes clear that they're not interested, that has to be respected.

What am I missing?

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Simply by being there, in his hotel room for "coffee" at midnight, on his bed, after barhopping all night, sends an incredibly strong signal to her male companion that she's up for a sexual encounter. She apparently didn't realize she was sending this signal, but it was sent nonetheless, and she is responsible for that transmission.

How did you determine that this really is a strong signal, and not a signal a guy who wants sex wishes was a strong signal so acts as though it is? The thing about social norms is that you need more than anecdotal evidence that it really is a well-regarded signal. Your example is when you felt you were led on, which says nothing at all about the presence of a norm. Actually, believing there is a norm is sufficient to say that a norm exists, but that doesn't affect the other person! Perhaps what happened is legal; it's anything but moral. Generally, social norms aid with communication in daily life. When it comes to sex though, it really isn't part of daily life for new partners or partners outside of a specific sexual culture.

 

When it comes to signals, the sender is responsible for transmission, yes. But interpretation and subsequent actions is purely the responsibility of the recipient. Only contracts can add responsibility to a sender for the interpretation and subsequent actions.

Edited by Eiuol

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DonAthos - You aren't missing anything. Those were my points exactly. Thank you.

Eiuol - I'm not sure exactly what you mean by "anecdotal evidence" or "well regarded." The actions of the woman under the circumstances sent the signal. I've already explained why I feel it was reasonable to interpret them as a signal according to prevailing social norms in the U.S.

I don't agree that the receiver of a signal is responsible for an objectively reasonable interpretation under the circumstances. That's kind of like saying if I shoot a bullet, the recipient is responsible for being in the way and dying. Senders of signals are responsible for reasonable responses to the signals they send. Call 911 frivolously and you are responsible for the police showing up.

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Senders of signals are responsible for reasonable responses to the signals they send. Call 911 frivolously and you are responsible for the police showing up.

It was probably to hasty to say "only contracts", what would be better to say is obligations add responsibility of a sender. That is, police have an obligation to show up when someone requests help through 911, making the caller responsible for the police showing up. I'm leaving the gun example alone because it doesn't involve communication. When obligations do not exist on either end, I don't see how a signaler can be responsible for what another interprets, at least not in this case. Maybe expectation needs to be introduced as well, but that doesn't help, as clearly expectations didn't line up. The girl expected coffee. The guy expected sex. More on this in a sec.

I doubt anyone disagrees so far. The problem is A) if the guy really had a reasonable expectation, and B ) if his own interpretation of a signal led him to expect sex is the girl's fault.

With A, your argument seems to be: "Being invited over for coffee late at night means sex by any normal expectation. The girl should've known what this meant." Wait a second. How is that a reasonable expectation? For a guy who really wants sex and is willing to seek it dishonestly, or a teenager that wishes it were so, or PUA people, etc, it might be. But what indicates that it is a norm which anyone else follows? So far your examples are sitcoms. "Coffee at midnight" to me is like "she moved her hair out of her eyes while talking to me, she must like me". Well no, it doesn't. It probably meant her hair was in her eyes... Just as coffee at midnight probably means coffee at midnight to stay up longer... Again, where is this expectation coming from? I doubt it's reasonable at all.

As for B, there is no apparent reason that the guy could only make one interpretation. Even feeling unsure means believing there are several possible interpretations. Sure, the girl is responsible for having said something, but she isn't responsible for how the guy really did respond. At the least it's okay to be unsure, so you ask. I just don't see how the girl is *responsible* for his poor interpretation, that's his problem.

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Have it your way. Seinfeld had the exact same joke. A woman asks George up to her place for coffee after a night out and he declines, saying it's too late and it "keeps me up." She stares at him like the dope he is. He spends the rest of the episode kicking himself for the blunder: "People this stupid shouldn't be allowed to live." Laugh track rolls. "Coffee is not coffee in the middle of the night."

Ok, adding stolen jokes to the list of reasons why BBT stinks.

Oh, and I just went on a tangent about network sitcoms because I really hate them, not to try and counter your argument. I figured the counter to your argument was obvious without me saying it. And it applies all the same no matter what TV show you decide to rely on.

Edited by Nicky

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It was probably to hasty to say "only contracts", what would be better to say is obligations add responsibility of a sender. That is, police have an obligation to show up when someone requests help through 911, making the caller responsible for the police showing up. I'm leaving the gun example alone because it doesn't involve communication. When obligations do not exist on either end, I don't see how a signaler can be responsible for what another interprets, at least not in this case. 

 

It's not the obligation that's at issue, it's whether the receiver of the signal could reasonably have been expected to respond the way they did. Even if we remove the legal obligation from the equation, if somebody fakes drowning in a pool and somebody else jumps in to save him and gets hurt, the faker is responsible for that injury.

 

 

With A, your argument seems to be: "Being invited over for coffee late at night means sex by any normal expectation. The girl should've known what this meant." Wait a second. How is that a reasonable expectation? For a guy who really wants sex and is willing to seek it dishonestly, or a teenager that wishes it were so, or PUA people, etc, it might be. But what indicates that it is a norm which anyone else follows? So far your examples are sitcoms. "Coffee at midnight" to me is like "she moved her hair out of her eyes while talking to me, she must like me". Well no, it doesn't. It probably meant her hair was in her eyes... Just as coffee at midnight probably means coffee at midnight to stay up longer... Again, where is this expectation coming from? I doubt it's reasonable at all.

 

The sitcoms prove that the subtext of coming inside after a date for whatever reason (especially coffee) is pervasive in U.S. culture and most people understand what it means. It's also not *just* the invitation up to the hotel room for coffee- it's everything that happened before that point as well. The invitation out. The back and forth all night. The barhopping. Taking shots together. All of that creates important context that the woman should have been aware of and managed expectations accordingly. At a minimum, she should have been aware it might be giving the man the wrong idea. She is responsible for allowing the situation to escalate to the point where she was on a man's bed in his hotel room at midnight after a night out drinking with him.

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I for one, happen to think coffee is coffee, and that no means no. Implications are implications, and as such, more people learning to identify them and state them openly could have wide reaching implications.

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It's perfectly reasonable to read the actions of this woman as an interest in sex, and perfectly reasonable to act on that -- to "make a move."

 

I don't think I even agree with this, and I want to retract my statement saying the same thing. She came into his room after he suggested they have coffee together. That's not a sign that she wanted sex. It's a sign that she wanted coffee.

 

In general, I think even if she'd consented, his actions leading up to this point were morally abhorrent. He invited her into his room under false pretenses so that he could have sex with her. Also, from the sound of it, she was drunk out of her mind while he was at least sober enough to have it together. Note that I do NOT believe that this alone constitutes rape, but he was still exercizing undue influence by taking advantage of her inebriated state, and I believe that this should be regarded as a form of abuse and condemned by all rational people.

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I realize Objectivists aren't known for being the most socially perceptive people (it appears the Sheldon character on Big Bang Theory isn't such a caricature after all), so at the risk of belaboring what the vast majority of people intuitively navigate, I'm going to lay out how things generally do and do not work at the end of a successful date.

Do Not:

Ask a woman to go upstairs to have sex with you.

Reason:

This makes the woman feel like a prostitute and shows you lack critical social skills and awareness.

Do:

Ask a woman to come upstairs for a reason other than sex, such as "coffee" at 12am.

Reason:

This gives the woman an easy out if she wants it along with the option of progressing toward sex in a socially acceptable manner that doesn't make her seem like a whore. If she says no, you can still remain friends or go on another date under the plausible deniability of the circumstances.

See how that works? Elegant in its simplicity. As long as one of the parties isn't an aspergers case, it's a widely accepted social norm that generally works fine and doesn't need progressive reforming.

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I realize Objectivists aren't known for being the most socially perceptive people (it appears the Sheldon character on Big Bang Theory isn't such a caricature after all), so at the risk of belaboring what the vast majority of people intuitively navigate, I'm going to lay out how things generally do and do not work at the end of a successful date.

Do Not:

Ask a woman to go upstairs to have sex with you.

Reason:

This makes the woman feel like a prostitute and shows you lack critical social skills and awareness.

Do:

Ask a woman to come upstairs for a reason other than sex, such as "coffee" at 12am.

Reason:

This gives the woman an easy out if she wants it along with the option of progressing toward sex in a socially acceptable manner that doesn't make her seem like a whore. If she says no, you can still remain friends or go on another date under the plausible deniability of the circumstances.

See how that works? Elegant in its simplicity. As long as one of the parties isn't an aspergers case, it's a widely accepted social norm that generally works fine and doesn't need progressive reforming.

Or I could just date women who share my rational values, and don't think there's anything wrong with sex.

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I wish you luck. You're going to be slapped a lot before you find her.

I would like to note that a cultural norm of not discussing something openly doesn't necessarily imply there is anything morally wrong with the thing itself. For example, there is nothing morally wrong with having a bowel movement, but we don't typically announce when we are having one or provide details. Or if you don't like that comparison, there is nothing wrong with earning an income - whatever the amount may be - yet I doubt many here would want it publicly known how much they earn.

Edited by Robert Baratheon

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