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Innerbrat
Advancing the sum total of human knowledge and endeavour!
"Moral Conundra": Rape and bread 
9th-Jul-2008 02:57 pm
wtf
Wow. Just wow, there are some seriously messed up people on the internet.

ginasketch linked to a blog entry, which linked to a blog entry, both of which, and the comments absolutely and completely baffle me.

Scott Aaronson observes:
Consider two men, A and B. Man A steals food because he’s starving to death, while Man B commits a rape because no woman will agree to have sex with him.

From a Darwinian perspective, the two cases seem exactly analogous. In both we have a man on the brink of genetic oblivion, who commandeers something that isn’t his in order to give his genes a chance of survival. And yet the two men strike just about everyone — including me — as inhabiting completely different moral universes. The first man earns only our pity. We ask: what was wrong with the society this poor fellow inhabited, such that he had no choice but to steal? The second man earns our withering contempt. We ask: how could this monster, this animal, have been identified and stopped earlier?

Complicating the puzzle further, the very same people (namely liberals) who’d tend to be the most sympathetic in the first case, are also the ones who’d tend to be the least sympathetic in the second case.
While Robin Hanson adds:
When we give food aid we don't just give rice and beans to keep folks from starving; we give them enough to have a moderately tasty diet. We do nothing remotely similar for sex.

To me the obvious answer is that our concern about inequality is not very general - compared to inequality in access to food, humans are just not that concerned about sexual inequality, especially for men. Presumably for our ancestors, the gene pool of a tribe could benefit from equalizing food in ways that it could not benefit by equalizing sex.
And, interestingly enough, neither man can rationalise this situation. And the comments are just as bad. There seems to be some sort of mental block going on which makes them equate women with bread. Or think that rape is just sex, and sex isn't all that bad, or... something. I don't even know.

Which is frustrating.

OK, here's the argument:
A starving man steals food in order to survive. We, the observers sitting in judgement, usually forgive him this act as something committed in order to save his life.
Another man hasn't had sex for a while and is getting the urge. So he rapes a woman. We, the observers sitting in judgement, usually condemn him.
And they pose the question why?

And they are both Professors. I'm kind of surprised they made it to adulthood while not being able to tell the difference between a woman and a loaf of bread, but I guess that's privilege for you.

(Do you get it now? If I point to a white man and say 'he can afford to have theoretical discussions about whether or not rape is like stealing bread because a vagina is as alien to his very being as is a loaf of bread', will you understand what privilege is? It's a very obvious and crude example, but they're equating rape to stealing bread.)

The moral void here is of course obvious, and seems to stem from some sort of belief that men have an ethical and human right to sex in the same way that they have a right to food. But what worries me the most is that they think they keep using buzzwords like 'Darwinian' and 'genes' to try and make like their hideous oversimplifications have any evolutionary weight at all. Which, of course, they don't.

There's plenty of evolutionary imperative behind morals and altruism; from 'if I protect you, you'll help me' to 'that's my daughter/wife you bastard' through 'if I share my bread with you we can work together'. And it boggles the mind that people who think they're intelligent can actually think this is a point worth debating.
  • Dying of starvation is not evolutionarily equivalent to not getting laid. How hard is this, seriously? Starvation is an immediate problem that needs to be dealt with right now. Blue balls is not. Dying terminates all of your potential fitness and damages the fitness of your surviving kin if they are in any way reliant on you. Not having sex right at this moment does not damage your fitness. For a significant detrimental effect to fitness to occur, there would have to be extensive periods of no-sex throughout your sexual peek, and one sexual act is not going to remedy that.
  • Rape is not about procreation. It's not even about sex. It's a violent act of exerting control over another human being. In primates, it does not form a major part of reproductive strategy. It does, however, fulfil a social role in chimps that use buggery to exert social dominance; or, y'know, humans who use rape as a tactic in war.
  • Men do not have a right to sex. SERIOUSLY. It's generally accepted that everyone has the right to life, but sex is not a right that society has an ethical imperative to supply. If you really insist on having this spelled out in evolutionary terms, it's because fitness is not just about offspring, and because the contribution to the population a living person can provide is not limited to their genes. But mostly it's because men do not have a right to sex.

The fundamental aspects of evolution is so appallingly subverted that both posts (I'm scared to read the rest of their blogs) read like cunningly crafted strawmen set up by Creationists. Hey! They'll say, Evilutionists are so morally depraved they need to have long drawn out arguments over whether rape is equivalent to stealing a loaf of bread.

It even works in that people on Gina's (locked) posts were commenting about how this is why evolutionary psychology is bullshit. Which, at the risk of sounding whiny, it's not. It's a fascinating subject, and one I consider very important to understanding the human animal. It's just not a basis to build a morality on, because invariably you'll get men like these who sprout utter bollocks like this.

I sincerely don't recommend reading the comments on Aaronson's post, because it does get eyebleeding. There are people who think forcing a wife to have sex isn't 'rape', there is condemnation of women who refuse to have sex, there is further misappropriation of evolution, and worse. There are many that qualify for an entire section on youlikeitsomuchspEak You're bRanes. Hanson's commenters are a little more intelligent, but the general tone is still very much one of a bunch of pretentious pricks with no experience of either starving nor of rape.

However, I leave you with an excerpt from my favourite comment on Aaronson's blog, because sadly, it's kind of ture:
Not only with rape but with all things we find morally reprehensible, we’re really only disgusted when it happens to “people.” The reason rape (for example) has become less and less acceptable is that our definition of a person has become more and more liberal.
Opinions 
(Deleted comment)
9th-Jul-2008 01:54 pm (UTC)
I also have been humming Les Mis to myself while writing this. Stupid catchy tunes.
9th-Jul-2008 01:56 pm (UTC)
Ev. psychology is not (always) bullshit, but it's often used for bullshit excuses. To me, people who do this are as bad as fundie creationists.
9th-Jul-2008 01:57 pm (UTC)
Oops. Fundie Creationists is pretty much redundancy.
9th-Jul-2008 02:04 pm (UTC)
Mmm. But it's worse because they're on my side! It just saddens me when people think every sociobiological school of thought is like this.
9th-Jul-2008 02:07 pm (UTC)
Well I don't. I love science, but I'm really starting to lose patience with a lot of EV PYSCH mainly because it seems to be purported by male scientists as excuses to be wankers, even ones at top institutions.
9th-Jul-2008 02:07 pm (UTC)
Naturally, in choosing a loaf of bread, they've made the "stolen" object just that - an object, with no thought, emotions, or anything like that. This is only about the rapist's actions! Of course! No one else enters into it! Bleh.

Not to mention that, as you say:
you do not have sex - you continue much as you were before.
you do not eat - you die.

The only way you could ensure genetic survival, to use their term, is to capture the woman in question and keep her prisoner... and the reason that's not functionally equivalent to stealing a loaf of bread is see above RE: women being people and having thoughts, emotions, reactions. Also that I don't think our instincts push for "genetic survival" nearly to the same extent that they push for "my survival right now", but I'm not an evolutionary psychologist.
9th-Jul-2008 02:14 pm (UTC)
Yup, women are the same as loafs of bread and dying of starvation is the same as being sexually frustrated.

Once again we see that some academics can manage to be highly intelligent and profoundly stupid at the same time.

It even works in that people on Gina's (locked) posts were commenting about how this is why evolutionary psychology is bullshit. Which, at the risk of sounding whiny, it's not. It's a fascinating subject, and one I consider very important to understanding the human animal. It's just not a basis to build a morality on, because invariably you'll get men like these who sprout utter bollocks like this.

That's pretty much what I've been saying in my comments to Gina's post, but you put it far more eloquently and succinctly than I do. :)
9th-Jul-2008 02:18 pm (UTC)
Am I reading this wrong here or are you both implying that I and the people on my f list are "helping creationism" along by questioning a certain aspect of science that is clearly being used by some chodes for their own political ends?
9th-Jul-2008 02:35 pm (UTC)
Noooo!

I'm just saying that evolutionary psychology is a worthwhile field of study, but it gets a bed rep because some idiots use it to back up their misogynist ideas about gender roles. I'm not implying that you are helping creationists in any way!
9th-Jul-2008 02:37 pm (UTC)
ah ok

I was just confused by this on IB's post:

The fundamental aspects of evolution is so appallingly subverted that both posts (I'm scared to read the rest of their blogs) read like cunningly crafted strawmen set up by Creationists. "Hey!" They'll say, "Evilutionists are so morally depraved they need to have long drawn out arguments over whether rape is equivalent to stealing a loaf of bread".

It even works in that people on Gina's (locked) posts were commenting about how this is why evolutionary psychology is bullshit. Which, at the risk of sounding whiny, it's not. It's a fascinating subject, and one I consider very important to understanding the human animal. It's just not a basis to build a morality on, because invariably you'll get men like these who sprout utter bollocks like this.



/paranoia.

9th-Jul-2008 02:45 pm (UTC)
No, it's not paranoia, I should just have been clearer about what I meant.

I can't speak for innerbrat of course, but I think she was being ironic when she suggested that the bloggers who started all this are in fact working for the creationists, to make all evolutionary scientists look like bloody fools.
9th-Jul-2008 03:00 pm (UTC)
OK, sorry.

The idiots in the blogs were setting up the strawman for creationists to knock down.

Some of the people in your comments (not you necessarily), were knocking down the same strawman, by implying that all evolutionary psychology was therefore amoral misogynist claptrap and should be dismissed.

I didn't mean to imply you were a Creationist.
9th-Jul-2008 03:14 pm (UTC)
I don't think that's what they were saying at all. I didn't see anyone saying it was all claptrap. The problem isn't evolutionary psychology but evolutionary-armchair-psychologists.

I have no creationists on my f list(I'd go insane). I suspect they're just tired of the same things I am.
9th-Jul-2008 03:51 pm (UTC)
if women were at all similar to loaves of bread I don't think rape would be much of a problem at all

8)
9th-Jul-2008 03:57 pm (UTC)
Now I'm tempted to start using the phrase "the best thing since sliced women".

Thanks.
10th-Jul-2008 12:37 am (UTC)
And I'm now thinking of women covered in chocolate spread.
9th-Jul-2008 04:15 pm (UTC)
Uuuugh, that is just heinous.

And let's face it, it's not Darwinism for the sex-deprived to get sex, when the world already struggles to actually provide resources for the population that currently exists and procreates.

Darwinism is gently nudging those @$$holes out of the gene pool.

With a pair of scissors.
9th-Jul-2008 04:50 pm (UTC)
Is there a chance of a future post on what Evol. Psych. *is*/*does*? I am frequently confused by such terms.
10th-Jul-2008 08:43 am (UTC)
I will try.
9th-Jul-2008 05:20 pm (UTC)
How disgusting!
9th-Jul-2008 09:09 pm (UTC)
I guess these guys have never heard of masturbation or something.

I can't wrap my mind around the idea that someone thought to themself, "HEY THESE TWO SITUATIONS ARE EXACTLY ALIKE! THERE IS NO QUANTIFIABLE DIFFERENCE INVOLVING, SAY, SENTIENCE OR ONE BEING A NONLETHAL SITUATION!"
10th-Jul-2008 02:27 am (UTC)
... no no no.

The first situation they should be using is: Man A is starving to death, and he kills and eats his neighbor.
10th-Jul-2008 07:02 am (UTC)
INDEED.

Batya speaks for me.
12th-Jul-2008 10:29 am (UTC)
... Okay, but. But there's a thing. (It's three am and I may not make my point coherent, but I just chased a VERY HEALTHY AND ACTIVE baby rat around a bathroom, forgive me.)

Females have a say in choosing sexual partners.

In whatever species, but especially ours.

Because a female looking for a mate is looking for two things: A male who will provide her with good genetic material for her offspring and a mate (note the T) who can be a decent provider for her and her offspring. (These do not have to be the same person, it's just a hell of a lot handier if they are.)

I can't remember where I heard the theory, but someone suggested serial monogomy is a decent evolutionary strategy for ensuring your genes get passed on-- a male who does a different female every day is going to sire some offspring, sure, but he won't be as certain of their survival as a guy who does the same female every day and sticks with her to aid in rearing said offspring. The female gets someone to bring food to her and her offspring, so there's less work and worry for her, and the offspring get the benefit of two adults working to feed, raise, and shelter them.

Courtship rituals ensure the female you get is willing, because if she's willing she'll enjoy the mating process and if she enjoys the mating process maybe she'll want to do it with you again. If what the female wanted wasn't important, males wouldn't flaunt their tails or inflate their pouches or show off their brightly-colored behinds or buy flashy cars.

So equating 'the female' with 'a consumable object that can be stolen' regardless of the fact that brides were often stolen, which is why we now have the tradition of identically-dressed bridesmaids (used to be they all wore veils and the same dress, if such could be afforded) and ANYWAY, equating the female with a meal is pretty good evidence that a male does not possess the innate intelligence and sense of community that would make him a desirable mate in the first place.

I have no fucking idea what I just said there, but it took me half an hour. My god I need to sleep.
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