Gentle Silent Rape

Added Oct ’13: Warning: you may find this post disturbing if you are  disturbed by the topics of rape, abduction, or being drugged.

A year ago I wrote two controversial posts (each 150 comments) that compared cuckoldry to rape. I was puzzling over why our law punishes rape far more than cuckoldry, arguing:

Biologically, cuckoldry is a bigger reproductive harm than rape, so we should expect a similar intensity of inherited emotions about it.

Counter arguments included:

  • what the cuckold doesn’t know can’t hurt him
  • lots of men don’t mind raising genetically unrelated kids
  • rape victims are more socially disapproved of
  • rape has direct physical effects, while cuckoldry does not
  • rape victims are more often diagnosed “post traumatic stress”
  • rape victims they know seem more expressively upset

I presented evidence that most men would rather be raped than cuckolded, and that even though men complain less, they gain and suffer more from marriage and divorce, and the birth and death of kids.  Someone noted that many past societies did punish cuckoldry more than rape.

It occurred to me recently that we can more clearly compare cuckoldry to gentle silent rape. Imagine a woman was drugged into unconsciousness and then gently raped, so that she suffered no noticeable physical harm nor any memory of the event, and the rapist tried to keep the event secret. Now drugging someone against their will is a crime, but the added rape would add greatly to the crime in the eyes of today’s law, and the added punishment for this addition would be far more than for cuckoldry.

Now compare the two cases, cuckoldry and gentle silent rape. One remaining difference is that the rapist might be a stranger, while a cuckolding wife is not. But we could consider cases where the rapist isn’t a stranger. Another difference might be that punishing the cuckolding mother financially may punish her innocent kid. But we could specify the punishment to be non-financial, perhaps torture. Consider also that it tends to be easier to prove cuckoldry than rape, so if we avoid applying the law to hard-to-prove harms, that should favor punishing cuckoldry more than rape.

Even after all these attempts to make the cases comparable, however, I suspect most people will still say the law should punish rape far more than the cuckoldry. This even though most farming societies had the opposite attitude (I’m not sure on foragers). A colleague of mine suggests this is gender bias, pure and simple; women seem feminist, and men chivalrous, by railing against rape, but no one looks good complaining about cuckoldry. What other explanations you got?

Added 11p 1Dec: 95 comments so far, almost all of which ignore my “gentle silent” modifier, and just argue about standard rape. Seems a post mentioning rape and cuckoldry is treated by most as a red flag urging heated discussion on those topics without regard to anything else that the poster might have said.

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  • Michael

    Aren’t there a lot of cases where we punish violent crimes that physically harm people much more harshly than non-physical crimes? I haven’t looked up the statutes, but I’m under the impression that I’d be eligible for more jail time / fines if I brutally beat somebody than I would if I slandered them in a way that was incredibly destructive to their life or conned them such that it bankrupt them and harmed their livelihood.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Kyle Munkittrick

    Rape is a violation of consent, autonomy and bodily integrity; cuckoldry is a violation of loyalty. Even gentle silent rape is non-consentual, compromises autonomy and compromises bodily integrity. Further, rape is an “intimate” crime, cuckoldry less so.

    As for your argument that “men would prefer rape to cuckoldry” my guess is that you’re not referring to anal rape, which my intuition is that most men would prefer to be cuckolded than anally raped.

    Cuckoldry is not a larger biological harm than rape. If women are the “selectors” and men are the “selected” to override the woman’s biological imperative is more harmful than to go “unselected,” which, biologically speaking, is what happens in cuckoldry. In biological terms, rape is a more significant harm.

    • Peter Twieg

      ‘Rape is a violation of consent, autonomy and bodily integrity; cuckoldry is a violation of loyalty. Even gentle silent rape is non-consentual, compromises autonomy and compromises bodily integrity. Further, rape is an “intimate” crime, cuckoldry less so.’

      Cuckoldry isn’t simply a violation of loyalty, it’s a state on ongoing fraud. But listing out the reasons why people care misses the point, unless you think that any violation of consent / autonomy / bodily integrity is worse than any violation of loyalty – what’s being asked for is a justification for the differential in outrage, not a list of variables which factor into the outrage.

      “If women are the ‘selectors’ and men are the ‘selected’ to override the woman’s biological imperative is more harmful than to go ‘unselected,'”

      In a word with zero paternal parental investment, this might be true. We do not live in this world.

      • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Kyle Munkittrick

        The factors are the justification. I don’t have space for an extended defense of those criteria, but it’s intuitive in that the autonomy, bodily integrity, and consent are foundational to both medical ethics and our legal system, while loyalty is much less so. We value each of those criteria individually more than loyalty, let alone combined.

        Furthermore, loyalty is relational. I can be loyal to x or not loyal to x based on how I interact with y. My action on a third party impacts my relation to x. With rape, my action on x is direct, physical, and intimate. It is not a relational violation but an intimate one.

        As for the “zero personal investment” issue, I was addressing Robin’s argument that cuckoldry is more biologically harmful for men in terms of being a “bigger reproductive harm.” My point is that if cuckoldry is a biological harm because it undermines the ability reproduce one’s genes, rape has a similar consequence in that it prevents the woman from controlling whose genes she helps reproduce. Paternal investment does not play into his calculus, nor mine regarding that specific argument.

      • Paul Schmidt

        You have it right as opposed to the person you responded to. Paternity fraud denies a person the opportunity to pass on his genes and also causes that person to spend 100,000 dollars or more of resources.

        After 25 years of marriage I discovered that two of three children I thought were mine are not mine. Some nitwit here said anal rape is worse. What a joke.

        Get real, people. If I obtained 100,000 dollars through fraud, how long would I be in prison if convicted and would I be ordered to pay restitution?

        When I found out and proved it, I divorced the woman. The kicker; in spite of proving it, I had to pay alimony to the female dog until she was 65.

        Rape is rape, give the rapist the prison sentence he deserves and give the woman that is guilty of obtaining 100K through fraud the prison sentence she deserves and quit debating which CRIME is worse.

      • Halford

        Paul Schmidt had it exactly right. The exact same thing happened to me. Two of three children were not mine. It was 27 years before I knew. I also had to pay alimony until she turned 65.

        It is fraud. Fraud costing hundreds of thousands of dollars and it destroys families. I won’t debate which is worse, rape or paternity fraud since they are two different things but a rape does not cost the victim hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    • VK

      I am a heterosexual male and I think the following is a fair comparison between the two scenarios:

      1. Having a horrible icky experience for a couple of hours and having to get over its after effects for the next few days or weeks.

      2. Realizing that the child you have deeply loved and emotionally invested in for 5-10 years or more is simply an example of another male managing to subvert some of your most “sacred” feelings of instinctual love for a biological child (Both Ev Psych and also everyday experience suggests that we are hardwired to love a biological child, more than we would love a parent and likely more than even a spouse or sibling, which makes this emotion the strongest form of love a person can ever feel. Brief Ev Pysch reason: rare gene sharing is 50% with parents, siblings as well as children; however children have far more “juice” in them from the standpoint of spreading genes and having additional offspring due to age being on their side).
      Realizing that the child is simply
      a walking testament to another man pissing over your most cherished emotions. Realizing that while rape victims will get a lot of sympathy from society and the laws which will make efforts to bring the perptetrators to justice, there is no similar respite here. Facing a non-trivial amount of ridicule rather than sympathy compared to a rape victim. Society considering you a selfish prick, because you no longer want to associate with the other child, who only brings to mind all the pain and humiliation. And of course, to top it all the high likelihood of creating a financial windfall for the cheating spouse with community property, alimony and child support laws.

      Is there even a contest between the two? Only a fool would get married without adequately covering their bases in a society where the prevailing opinion is that 2 is preferable to 1.

      • VK

        Sorry for the ambiguity. In (1), I was specifically referring to Anal rape of men.

      • Anonymous

        Most rape victims would feel lucky if they were able to heal from their experiences in a matter of days or weeks. Most of us are traumatized for years.

    • http://www.cephalove.southernfriedscience.com Michael Lisieski

      This is my feeling. Out justice system is set up to protect one’s self and one’s property. Not included within that boundary is the behavior of people around you that does not directly damage yourself or your property. Because the “fraud” of lying while in a relationship is not damaging to one’s property or self directly (while, for example, other types of fraud that are legally punishable hurt people’s finances, real property, or ability to earn money directly,) they are less clearly a violation of one’s self/property. Because most aspects of personal relationships are not contractual, there’s no concrete thing that a cheating partner has damaged that could be held up as evidence of their violation of your personal/property rights. Even a contract stipulating that either partner would be liable to pay damages to their partner if they cheated might not hold up in court, because it may be considered to be too limiting of each party’s inalienable rights.

      In a married couple, where there is a sort of contract pertaining to this activity, divorce (and damages) can be sought in court.

      Rape, on the other hand, is clearly a violation of one’s self/property (depending on whether you like to think of your body as yourself or your body as your property.)

      I think the difference might stem from the focus of our (specifically, North American, though I suspect this is similar in many areas) justice systems on real property rather than less tangible damages. I think this is done for convenience, to facilitate reproducibility/generalizability in laws, and because it’s easier to convince a number of people that harm has been done when you can point to a specific event that directly caused the harm.

      The premise that our justice system should follow our evolved/inherited emotional responses to various acts sounds suspect to me; we’ve developed justice systems to help safeguard against the ethically inappropriate actions that emotionally-driven retribution often causes. If the goal of justice systems was to facilitate emotionally-driven retribution, we wouldn’t bother – we’d just let angry people kill/beat/psychologically abuse their cheating spouses.

      • JenniferRM

        The premise that our justice system should follow our evolved/inherited emotional responses to various acts sounds suspect to me

        If a criminal justice system becomes so out of sync with people’s sense of personal justice that their emotional need for revenge is not satisfied by proxy, then amateurishly messy “vigilante justice” will occur in addition to legal processes. Part of the reasons courts exist is so that people can be mollified by assertions that “justice will be done” when they would otherwise go off half-cocked and do massively disproportionate damage to whoever they are randomly suspicious of having done them harm, likely in a place where it is widely visible to bystanders who could be accidentally hurt in the crossfire.

        A legal system can and obviously should be wiser than a run-of-the-mill person, but if a legal system gets too far up into the clouds and away from the “monkey reactions” of the community it serves then there will be serious social and economic repercussions.

    • Lord

      I agree. Cuckoldry has a simple solution, divorce. It can even be viewed as preliminary to one. Someone raped has no other recourse than the law or vengeance.

      • J

        Divorce doesn’t solve cuckoldry. By the time a guy finds out, he has already been a cuckold. That is like saying putting a rapist in jail cures the rape situation.

    • J

      The reason that cuckoldry is a larger biological harm than rape is that even though the woman is not choosing her child’s genes, she is free to do so in the future. If a man is a cuckold, he thinks he has already produced offspring and may only want one child, so in effect, his genetic line is dead without his knowing it.

      • Marcus

        Thanks, J, I’m ashamed to say that your explanation was key for me understanding the whole line of thinking in this post.

        I raise an older step-daughter and a biological daughter, teenagers. I know others in roughly the same circumstance. From what I can glean of my motives, having at least one biological child was ‘needed’ and was strongly motivated. Although at the time I was still shaking off religion of my parents and would have probably described it as a culturally implanted requirement, which I would have a hard time believing at present.

        I’m making a [admittedly fault-prone/self-selected] case for biological motivation which I have normally found harder to identify with confidence about what I am seeing.

    • C Lee

      Your definition of Cuckoldry is ridiculously oversimplified. And that child serves as a constant reminder, and would pain much like post-traumatic stress. It seems that there’s a bias as far as the “bodily integrity” goes. Especially if already married what can be more intimate than someone else having sex with your wife??

      You simply assume things to be so trite because of the physical or overpowering nature of rape, while refusing to accept the overpowering nature of being bullied into fathering a child that isn’t yours. It’s definitely comparative if not more traumatic psychologically to be a cuckold, especially if it happened while you were already married.

  • http://thebookliberationproject.wordpress.com/ Cyndi

    I wonder this quite a bit when our society values bodice-ripper romance novels. It seems like the rape (or forcible sexual act) becomes “okay” when the man gets the woman to fall in love with him and eventually marry him. All within 200 pages, it turns from a violent crime to a celebrated relationship.

    As far as books go, it’s a profitable formula so it’s not hard to see how society can (and does) send mixed signals.

  • jsalvatier

    I sometimes accuse you of being gender biased (because sometimes I think you are). That said, this is an interesting post.

  • JS Allen

    I think you’re getting closer, but perhaps you’ve gone too far in the other direction, with respect to culpability.

    It’s interesting to note that people often blame the rape victim, even if she was physically compelled and fought back. However, if she was completely drugged and unconscious, people place less moral blame on her.

    Nahmias and Nadelhoffer conducted some interesting experiments showing that people don’t assign culpability based on free will — they assign culpability based on how closely the crime is *identified* with the person. When the person is unconscious or not present, they share no culpability.

    So, in your example, the woman being drugged would instinctively be considered to have very low complicity in the crime — maybe some culpability for negligence. However, when a man is cuckolded, people instinctively feel that he bears some amount of culpability beyond simple negligence.

    • RasmusF

      “It’s interesting to note that people often blame the rape victim, even if she was physically compelled and fought back.”

      I strongly disagree. I very often see claims that rape victims get blamed, but aside from distasteful jokes about how somebody raped had it coming (and then never adressed to somebody involved), I have never seen anyone both agree that a woman has been raped *and* claim that it was her fault.

      Sure, it’s pretty common for people to accuse a woman who’ve claimed to have been raped of lying. But that’s not blaming a rape victim, that’s disagreeing that she is a rape victim at all.

      As far as I can tell women who are believed to have been raped typically gain a lot of sympathy and suffers almost no loss in status, desirability or respect.

  • wophugus

    A. I suspect more people feel the drive to cheat on their mate than to rape (or maybe I should say, “feel the drive strongly enough to actually do it, legal consequences being equal”). This has 1. Led us to draw different conclusions about the sort of people who rape. We are lest convinced they will be able to function in and contribute to society, so we see imprisoning them as less harmful. Consequentialists are more willing to jail them.
    2. Increased the moral outrage people can feel towards rapists, or at least increased people’s willingness to heap up social and legal costs on rapists. If you aren’t tempted and aren’t likely to do something, you are more likely to condemn and punish it.

    B. The rapist comes into physical contact with the “victim” of a rape. The cheater is far removed from the “victim” of cuckolding. Because it is an immediate, physical act, rape is more likely to activate the part of our brains that doesn’t want to push fat people in front of trains and less likely to activate the part of our brains that will divert a train to a track with one dude on it to save five. To the extent most people are either retributivists or negative rebtributivists, and most retributivist inferences are rooted in gut moral inferences, this mitigates against treating rape as lightly as cuckolding.

    C. Physical consequences for the victim remain in your new hypothetical — pregnancy, STDs.

    D. People may have a moral intuition that hurting someone through coercion is worse than hurting someone through deception. Evidence for this: “Rape” accomplished by fraud in the inducement is traditionally legal. I think the best consequentialist argument for this is, again, that lying is a more common and more irresistible impulse. It costs more to deter.

    Anyways, I wouldn’t be too quick to draw inferences from the fact that societies in the past sometimes treated rape less harshly and pretty universally treated cuckoldry more harshly. If you think current decision making is distorted by the social value placed in holding opinions that support women, you’ve got to acknowledge that past decision making was heavily distorted by social and institutional bars against taking account of women’s prefrences.

    • Jim Stone

      Wophugus, your analysis is an excellent reply to a provocative question. Kudos to you and Robin.

      I think “rape” is way too broad a category in general usage, and several distinctions should be observed. Legally, it would seem best to me to recognize maybe 50 or so different acts that currently all fall under the title “rape”, and different punishments should be applied appropriately to each. Some distinctions are made, but not enough, and the general public still often seems to treat consensual statutory rape or ambiguous non-violent date rape simply as “rape”.

      This diversity makes it difficult for me to straightforwardly compare “rape” to “cuckoldry”.

      I do agree that the costs of cuckoldry are under-appreciated.

      In fact, count me as one straight guy who would rather take it up the bum for hours from one guy or a bunch of guys (without STDs, mind you) than be cuckolded. The thought of being deceived into putting my resources toward raising someone else’s kid makes me shudder — not to mention the embarassment and emasculating effect of the deception.

      • Isabel

        Like a woman can stop a rapist and ask if he has STDs so she doesn’t have to worry about it. What a joke this whole discussion is.

        Why don’t you just compare it to a man cheating and having a separate family that the wife finds out about years later, that he has been putting resources toward all that time, and the children of which will probably share the inheritance with her children, that she has contributed to. Nah, too obvious.

  • Kieselguhr Kid

    OK, accepting for the moment the question framing where this is all to be viewed through an evolutionary biology frame — I don’t get Prof. Hanson’s puzzlement at all.

    Generally the woman is going to cuckold you with a more sexually desirable (read: genetically “better”) and/or higher-status male, so you produce “better” offspring, and the community is better off for the cuckoldry — so, yeah, there’s a weakening of an insitution which the community needs for its long-term survival, but it’s weakened in the “right” direction. But a man rapes a woman he can’t have otherwise: it is a technique that allows a less desirable man to sire offspring on a woman who’d normally be paired with someone “better.” So it’s a lose/lose, not a lose/win.

    There seem obvious other biological places to bite. When Prof. Hanson says that “Biologically, cuckoldry is a bigger harm than rape” he’s saying, harm to the husband, who has to waste effort raising a kid without his genes. But that’s not necessarily so — he gets a “better” kid, which might help his own genetic kids, and there seems to be a benefit to his community (and kin): it’s not a clear lose for the husband. As for the other two parties: either way the woman (may have to) raise a kid who has her genes, but in the cuckolding scenario she can maybe fool her husband and can maybe get help from the biological parent on the sly, in the rape scenario probably not, so again, less harm to the woman. And for the biological father, the cuckolding scenario is nice since probably he’ll have to expend less effort on his offspring. So for each of the three, the cuckolding may be better.

    You could go further too. Rape after all is a crime with more potential victims since the woman doesn’t have to be married/paired (and in fact probably isn’t — easier to rape the less protected I’d imagine). In that case there’s a grave harm to the woman — who now may well be doomed to single parentage, and so less healthy offspring. And there’s a grave harm to the woman’s parents, who’ve invested all these resources on her and now don’t have the marriageable prospect they once did. And the parents of those high-status women than the low status rapist can’t have — those are the folks who make the rules, no?

    And still more, rape can have still _more_ victims — children, for example. So rape can be perpetuated on a young girl who can’t bear children yet (or who is unlikely to bear/raise them successfully) and then just close off that genetic avenue entirely since she now loses good reproductive opportunities.

    Again, I don’t see the issue, even from within Prof. Hanson’s constraints.

    • Peter Twieg

      Generally the woman is going to cuckold you with a more sexually desirable (read: genetically “better”) and/or higher-status male, so you produce “better” offspring, and the community is better off for the cuckoldry — so, yeah, there’s a weakening of an insitution which the community needs for its long-term survival, but it’s weakened in the “right” direction.

      Reducing the incentives for low-status men to invest in children is a move in the right direction? Even if your logic is accepted, there should be a Pareto-improving Coasean solution here that doesn’t involve tricking low-status men into making sacrifices, and thus possibly creating an adverse selection spiral in paternal investment: Instead of tricking people into taking care of kids that aren’t theirs, you could try paying them. You might even call them “nannies” or something along those lines!

      • Kieselguhr Kid

        Peter, cuckoldry is still seen as a bad — it’s just seen as _less_ of a bad than rape, and that’s the question with which you’ve got to grapple. Cuckoldry doesn’t “reduce the incentives for low-status men to invest in children,” it _increases_ them, because the low status man doesn’t know he’s being cuckolded (so I don’t grasp your sense that there is any negative change in his incentives) but the children are magically “better.” Good deal!

    • Jim Stone

      Really? You can’t see it at all? I think you need to spend less time thinking about the wee chance that the husband *might* benefit from being cuckolded, and think of the overwhelmingly more likely event that he experiences great harm.

      • Kieselguhr Kid

        No, I can’t see it. Remember the framing of this isn’t an emotional one, it’s a biological/genetic one. And it seems like the community is more likely to benefit from the cuckoldry than not, and in fact so is the husband for the reasons I gave above. Even though, yeah, if he finds out he’ll be very very very miserable. Nature can be a bitch, man.

      • Kieselguhr Kid

        To make that clear: I can’t see the grievous harm at all _within Professor Hanson’s framing_. Personally of course I’d think it’d suck.

  • http://dmorr.livejournal.com Dave Orr

    I think there’s a real distinction between violating a contract, and violating a person. Thus we have criminal penalties for assault, false imprisonment, rape, and so on, but civil penalties for breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and similar.

    Cuckoldry seems more similar to contracts than it does to criminal assault. You have a contract (marriage), you violate it by cheating, nobody is physically harmed.

    You could ask why cuckoldry is not enforced even at a contract level. This, I think, is for two reasons: first, the damage done is emotional. This does not make it less important, but it makes it less measurable, which is problematic from a legal enforcement standpoint. Plus, there are many other harms that can occur in a relationship that are as significant — for instance, a breakup — that we would not want to enforce as a civil crime.

    Second, adultery rates are very high. Some googling suggests the rate among married men is maybe 60%, with slightly lower rates among married women. So penalizing adultery would penalize a huge proportion of the population. We’ve tried that with the drug laws, and it hasn’t worked out so well. Do we want to try that with marriages, too?

    Lastly, if foragers permit more and varied relationships, as I think you’ve argued here, then as we become richer and more forager-like, shouldn’t we expect less authoritarian enforcement of relationships?

  • Zach

    @Kieselguhr Kid

    What about “sneaky” males, who are genetically inferior but good at inducing cuckoldry?

    • Sister Y

      If they’re reproducing, they’re ipso facto not “genetically inferior.”

      • michael vassar

        Exactly.

      • anon

        Imagine a card game with lax rule enforcement. In that game, the “superior” way to play would be to cheat. However, some players would wish for stricter rule enforcement. This would make cheating no longer superior. The rules determine what is superior.

        As tough as it may be, I’d prefer male superiority to be judged by male characteristics – public status, ability, success etc. rather than let PUAs exploit women’s selection systems.

      • Kieselguhr Kid

        Bingo. Honest, I’m not one of those “I know the answer” type guys. But on this one issue I think I’ve got it. I don’t see Professor Hanson’s problem.

      • Jack

        Same goes for rapists though.

  • http://hanson.gmu.edu Robin Hanson

    To the many of you pointing to the fact that even GSR involves physical contact, is this to you just an explanation for the differing treatment, or also a *justification of it?

    Kyle, I think we meant anal.

    Wophugus and Kleselguhr, so in a society where most men rape when the opportunity arises, and it tends to be higher status men who get the opportunity, you’d be ok with punishing rape at the level we now punish cuckoldry?

    • Kingreaper

      To the many of you pointing to the fact that even GSR involves physical contact, is this to you just an explanation for the differing treatment, or also a *justification of it?

      For most of them it’s quite clearly an explanation.

      Which makes sense, because you asked for explanations, not justifications.

      Wophugus and Kleselguhr, so in a society where most men rape when the opportunity arises, and it tends to be higher status men who get the opportunity, you’d be ok with punishing rape at the level we now punish cuckoldry?

      I find it surprising you couldn’t tell that Wophugus was making a factual, rather than a moral, argument. Wophogus never once even hinted that the way reality is is the way zhe prefers it.

    • Kieselguhr Kid

      Well, hold up: this isn’t about what “I’m okay with,” its about your question of, given the underlying biological harms, why did _society_ develop its preferences this way? Personally “I’m okay with” punishing rape harder in either circumstance because for whatever scientific or spiritual reasons my personal ethic has ended up that way, but I can’t say for sure that those reasons aren’t path-dependent and I wouldn’t feel differently if somehow I’d developed in the society you describe.

      But do I think that _social_ stigma would be reversed in the society you describe, where rape is by and large a mating tactic of the high-status? _Hell, yes._ So I really do think that’s the answer to your initial query.

      • Sniper

        You’re like, the only smart person here. Kudos to you for seeing the basic logic behind this instead of wallowing in your emotions like a lot of the other comments.

    • Anonymous from UK

      To enhanc. The similarity between GSR and cuckoldry, one could point out that the cuckolded husband might be dipping his manhood into another man’s ejaculate. Or worse, kissing his wife 5 minutes after she gave the other guy oral sex.

      It seems then that there is a similar degree of bodily violation.

      • SG

        no, a similar degree of body violation would be the woman force-feeding the cuckolded husband the other guy’s ejaculate, orally and/or propelling it into his ass with a squirting dildo, if there is such a thing.

  • jeff

    We are adaptation executors, not fitness maximizers. You argue that cuckoldry “might” cause as much psychological harm as rape, but that argument is based on fitness maximization. I’m told by anthropologists that there are societies that do not have cuckoldry anger because they do not have a conscious understanding of how babies are related to fathers. If that’s true (I don’t have any expertise in the subject, and would be interested to hear those who do), that argues for an understanding of and reaction to cuckoldry being a cultural phenomenon, which would defeat your argument entirely.

    Evolutionarily, we may also object to rape so strongly (at least in part) because of the loss of personal control it implies, the shape of the power play between the rapist and the raped. Yes, we also probably object because of the evolutionary angle, but considering all of our status mechanisms that you argue for, we cannot easily know (at least not by thought experiment) how much of our objection to rape is based on the status/power loss and concern and how much is based on pure “that’s not my preferred genetic material donor”. Cuckoldry doesn’t have the power/status loss if it remains secret, so we don’t know how strongly to contemplate it.

    That said, I think from a pragmatic standpoint, an argument for mandatory paternity testing should be structured differently: doctors could be required to offer paternity testing at a later date, when the social construct of giving birth is no longer the strongest emotional state in the room. That still preserves the idea of choice of knowledge, while creating a space where it’s safe to ask for it.

    • http://hanson.gmu.edu Robin Hanson

      Yes, there are societies with weak “marital” bonds and common promiscuity, so that cuckcoldry is punished little. But there are also societies where rape is common and punished little.

      • jeff

        Yes! So we get to make a choice about what we want to punish how. You’ve presented no evidence for why we _should_ follow the guiding principle of evolutionary value. As a culture, it seems we choose to punish violations of the body (personal physical control) greater than other kinds of violations. I’m okay with that, and I’m not sure I understand why you object to it, since you’ve been arguing primarily by what evolution wants. That’s not a good value system.

  • Zelda

    You’re ignoring the fundamental difference between cuckoldry and rape: One is a voluntary transaction between two consenting adults and the second is a forced invasion of a non-consenting person’s body.

    If you believe bodily integrity and physical liberty is a fundamental human right, then you should treat rape more harshly than adultery.

    • Thomas

      What about fraud? (Or government-enforced slavery, if the fraud is detected but “paternity” still enforced on the defraudee.) I consider those serious violations of liberty and human rights.

    • Alice

      A point well made Zelda. I agree with this distinction. The difference is one of consent.

    • Halford

      We are not talking about adultery here. We are talking about fraud. You do know the difference between adultery and fraud, don’t you?

  • Sister Y

    We have evolved to dislike rape and dislike cuckoldry. The reasons we evolved to dislike these things are similar, but that does not make the harm actually suffered comparable. Both avoid a market in some way; rape risks the theft of sexual and reproductive capacity by the rapist from the victim (and her husband and/or relatives), and cuckoldry risks the woman “stealing” her reproductive capacity back from the male she (presumably) promised it to. We have evolved to find both “thefts” painful. But there’s no reason to suppose the violations we experience from these should be comparable.

    We should not confuse “harm perceived and suffered by the victim” with “harm to reproductive fitness in the EEA.”

    I also want to harp on the fact that the concept of who the victim of a rape is has changed drastically very recently. For the past generation or so, rape is considered to be a dignitary violation of the victim him- or herself. That has not always been the case. Please do not ever forget that a woman’s reproductive capacity has rarely been her own property – rather, it has been the property of her parents and male relatives. Where a bride price exists, it is paid to the parents. Where there were civil penalties for rape, they were paid to the parents of the victim (or her husband, if she had one). A rapist could, under some schemes, make up for a rape by marrying his victim. I think the bodice-ripper plots mentioned above are nasty little reminders that rape is not unnatural, but rather a part of human nature that women have evolved different strategies to deal with (“Stockholm syndrome” among them). Staying with an abuser may well be the best strategy in the EEA.

  • JAMayes

    Home invasions and armed robbery are punished more harshly than embezzlement or white-collar crimes. There seems to be a consensus that the use of force is worse than a breach of trust. This also explains why, like cuckoldry, seduction by deception is almost never punished.

  • komponisto

    A simple status-based explanation seems adequate to me:

    While cuckoldry is a crime with low-status men as victims (high-status men are able to satisfy their partners), rape is a crime with low-status men as perpetrators (high-status men get plenty of consensual sex).

  • wophugus

    No. I’m a negative retributivist (ie, I punish in order to maximize good consequences, but I will not punish more than I intuit someone “justly” deserves. This is 1. Just how I prefer to be, on a fundamental level; and 2. A good check against me making errors in moral calculus. People’s moral intuitions normally aren’t *that* radically harmful, especially when, like me, they are pretty mainstream. Occasionally, calculations about what is best for society divorced from mainstream moral intuitions *are* radically harmful. So to me it makes sense to have a check when I’m figuring out how much to punish people — even if it seems like it will be best for everyone, if it strikes my considered intuition as outrageously wrong, I won’t do it. This preference might be sorely tested if I was ever staring into the face of overwhelming certainty on the consequentialist side of the calculation) so one of the reasons I prefer lower punishments for cuckoldry is that I morally intuit that higher punishments would be wrong. This is, again, likely because I myself am more likely to want to cheat on a woman than to rape one, so the crime seems less alien to me; it is a more tactile and physical crime, so it activates my gut moral calculator rather than my utilitarian one; I’d rather be cuckolded than raped, etc. It’s possible that my intuition would change if I grew up in your hypothetical society, but assuming it didn’t, I would not want the *same* level of punishment for rape and cuckoldry.

    Maybe a lower punishment for rape, though, on consequentialist grounds. If the reason that most men in your hypo who can rape go through with it is that it is a fundamental and very hard to deter impulse, it seems to me that punishing a rapist would, in that society, get you less deterrence per unit of suffering inflicted on the rapist. The actual calculus would also depend on how harmful rape is, how many rapists are doing how many rapes, and how harmful imprisonment is to a rapist, but if rape was harder to deter, more widespread, and not causing much more suffering than it is now (perhaps because many victims don’t know about it — we’ll say a lot of rapists are using condoms and roofies — just like many men now being cuckolded don’t know bout it) I would certainly want less harsh punishment for rapists.

    So to be more concise, right now I think that if we made cuckoldry a felony we’d have more women in jail and x less suffering thanks to cuckoldry. I also think that legalizing rape would lead to much more than x suffering from rape. This is partly because I think one unit of punishment . Unfortunately I’m having trouble thinking about how to test that — you can’t just compare our society to one where adultery is heavily prosecuted, because those societies tend to have other social and institutional controls on women that might deter adultery (IE, if all the chicks are in their husband’s kitchen its harder to bang them).

    I also think an act of rape tends to cause more unhappiness than an act of discovered adultery, but I’ll admit that 1. I don’t have much evidence for that, 2. I’m biased against rape, and 3. I’m really stumped about a solid metric on this one. So my opinion isn’t worth shit on that point. On the other hand, I’m not very convinced by your observations that a. men suffer similarly or more from similar harms, despite being stoic (that’s kind of assuming your way to the point that these are similar harms), b. in your opinion cuckolding causes as much of an evolutionary disadvantage as rape (1. Evolution doesn’t always work that way (ie, there may be an evolutionary advantage towards making coercive “crimes” more abhorrent and hurtful than deceptive ones, and evolution just wasn’t a precise instrument to separate out this one exception from that general rule) 2. everyone has selected their mate in a cuckolding arrangement; no offspring are born from a pairing where one of the partners was thought unsuitable by the other), and c. the extremely biased sample of Roissy readers would rather be raped than cuckolded.

    Apparently, when I write off the top of my head I a. ramble, b. am confusing, and c. make a s— load of lists (and parenthetical statements). Sorry for that.

  • wophugus

    Shoot, my last post was in response to Hanson’s post asking me about a society where all men who can rape. Sorry for the bad formatting, I thought I had replied to him.

  • Matt

    Perhaps a comparison for cuckoldry and rape might be if an in vitro fertilization clinc would mix up the eggs of two different women, due to bribery and at the request of a women’s husband, without the knowledge of his partner.

    Another comparison might be between a conman who deceives a woman into thinking that he has much higher occupational status and wealth than he in fact does, and deceives her as to a history of ill health and insanity in his family. Would we treat his insemination of her as akin to cukoldry?

    • rapscallion

      Yes, and in such a case as your first example in most countries the woman would get a large settlement from the clinic and the husband. As well, the husband the doctors involved would almost certainly go to jail, but most people seem to agree that in the case of cuckoldry nothing much should be done.

  • http://scatterbright.com Corbin March

    A few ideas:

    1) Rape has a greater social cost because it destabilizes a potentially stable family. Cuckoldry is a symptom of an already-unstable relationship so less is destroyed if it is discovered.

    2) There is no GSR. Secondary violence is common. Rape is a gateway drug to more grievous offenses so we punish it harshly to avoid the future costs of violence. Cuckoldry may end violently but isn’t part of a pattern of violence.

    3) Since mating is competitive, we secretly view cuckoldry as devious but still fair play (please your woman or I will). We don’t pity the cuckold because we believe he was bested. Rape is not fair play as there aren’t two consenting players.

    4) Cuckoldry may not hurt the overall reproductive success of the group. If cuckoldry is discovered, the non-violent fallout is no worse than any other divorce. We still end up with adequate parents and healthy kids. Rape’s side-effects hurt marital and parental bonds resulting in less healthy families and kids.

  • manzana

    with due respect, i’m going to assume that prof. hanson (along with most of the commenters) has never been a victim of rape. i strongly doubt that anyone who had would elect to have the act repeated rather than be cheated on.

    • Matt

      I think the problem with those comments is people operating from different definitions of cuckoldry. There’s a definition in play of cuckoldry which involves a man’s wife becoming pregnant with another man’s child and deceiving the original man as to his parentage of the child and the definition that is simply cheating. I don’t really think it’s too hard to credit that the first of these would be experientially worse than rape for an average man (although I would think this would vary with time scale and conditions but this is of course true of rape as well).

      • SG

        it seems that many are comparing what they would imagine be the easiest kind of rape to deal with with the worst kind of cuckholdry, that you mention. The thing is though, you don’t get to choose who’s raping you, that’s why it’s rape. So the presumably male people here saying they’d rather be raped and get over it after a few weeks, are assuming the worst case scenario for cuckholdry, but neglecting to do so for rape. If there are varying degrees of damage to the victim based on the scenario of rape or cuckoldry, they should be compared on the same scale, not the worst of one vs the least bad of the other.

  • Hrm

    You can opt out of a cheating relationship after the fact; you cannot “opt out” of rape.

    Choice is what separates these things. You can always find another partner and get over the infidelity. You may not be able to “recover” my sense of dignity/worth/feeling of not-being-violated after being raped.

    • rapscallion

      i) Courts sometimes require child support even if you can prove you’re not the biological father.

      ii) Leaving a relationship, finding another partner, and having another kid cost time and resources. By the time you find out about the deceit, having another kid may be too costly. Cuckoldry can and has prevented many men from ever reproducing.

    • wophugus

      “You can opt out of a cheating relationship after the fact;”

      Not always! In texas, for example, if you hold yourself out as a kid’s father and cohabit with the tyke for two years, the family code presumes that you are her dad. Four years after the kid’s birth, that presumption can only be rebutted if you declaim paternity AND another man acknowledges paternity. That’s it. You can come into court with every genetic test in the world, in the eyes of the law she’s still your daughter unless some other dude will claim her.

      So if you find out that your wife cheated on you five years ago and your son is not your own, tough. You can end your relationship with the wife, but you can’t end the relationship with your “son,” even if she fraudulently snared you into it.

    • Kingreaper

      Choice is what separates these things. You can always find another partner and get over the infidelity. You may not be able to “recover” my sense of dignity/worth/feeling of not-being-violated after being raped.

      And everyone will always find it so easy to recover their sense of self-worth after discovering the person they loved, who they thought loved them, has been tricking them into raising someone else’s child for years?

      No. You’re pretending there’s no psychological harm from cuckoldry, but there is.

  • Just sharing

    As a guy, I thought I’d chime in with regard to getting anally raped or cuckolded. I deeply love my girlfriend (not even married, but together five years). Between the two scenarios:

    1. My girlfriend truly loves me, but one day I get anally raped.
    or
    2. My girlfriend has been cheating on me with someone else.

    I would pick getting anally raped and still having a loving girlfriend.

  • Thursday

    But a man rapes a woman he can’t have otherwise: it is a technique that allows a less desirable man to sire offspring on a woman who’d normally be paired with someone “better.”

    Rape tends to occur in two situations: one, as you outlined above, a low status man uses force when he cannot use persuasion, and, two, a high status man who rapes because he isn’t afraid of pissing a woman off by pushing things along as fast as possible.

    According to your logic we should allow the high status man to rape with impunity.

  • http://hanson.gmu.edu Robin Hanson

    The comment conversation seems to have drifted back to discussing ordinary rape, and comparing it to cuckoldry But this post is about gentle silent rape. Can we stay on topic?

    • Just sharing

      Sorry for feeding the off-topic-ness.

      Assuming that the child-bearing process was more like the “Stork story” (thus removing the gender stickiness) and a child could just appear in my bed tomorrow night representing my girlfriend and I having a child…

      With ordinary rape, you know right off the bat that things are wrong. Yes, your world is shaken to the point of breaking.

      But with gentle silent rape, you continue on with your life believing that the child is yours, falsely believing that things are great. When you finally find out the dark truth, its like the floor of your life is pulled out from under you, because you find out that so many years of your life were a complete lie.

      Your partner doesn’t love you and your child isn’t yours. I’m not saying I wouldn’t continue loving and raising the child, but that would be a terrible terrible blow for my faith in the world.

      My profile (for transparency):
      Age: 20
      Sex: Male
      Relationship: Dating
      Term: 5 years

    • Redden

      Best two sentences from a comment section ever:

      “But this post is about gentle silent rape. Can we stay on topic?” RH

      Great posts Robin.

  • Thursday

    I’m okay with that, and I’m not sure I understand why you object to it

    The argument for punishing cuckoldry as harshly as rape is a ultilitarian one. Cuckoldry causes as much pain as rape. It’s fairly easy to understand and quite a powerful argument.

    The opposite argument is that the body is sacred therefore, even though the amount of pain and the feeling of violation in the victim is equal, the punishment shouldn’t be. But even that doesn’t explain why many people seem to object to cuckoldry being punished at all.

    • http://kazart.blogspot.com mwengler

      The argument for punishing cuckoldry as harshly as rape is a ultilitarian one. Cuckoldry causes as much pain as rape. It’s fairly easy to understand and quite a powerful argument.

      There are a tremendous number of men and women who feel a tremendous amount of pain when their partner chooses to divorce them. It would seem your argument for criminalization of cuckoldry would also be an argument for criminalizing divorce.

      • Thursday

        Cuckoldry involves fraud. The analogy to Bernie Madoff made below is very apt.

        Again, while I can understand the argument that we should treat crimes agains bodily integrity worse, even if the amount of pain is equal, but it is really hard to explain coherently why we don’t punish cuckoldry at all.

  • Gil

    Cuckoldry is a type of fraud not rape, QED. An analogy would be giving the keys of your car to a teenager with the proviso he doesn’t do street racing in your car and you’re happy until two years later you see your car in a street race on Youtube. You can jump up and down telling him he’ll never your car again but that’s not same as saying he’s stole you car. Just as some steal cars and set fire to them when they’re finished while others just park them it’s still car theft so too rape is rape regardless of the violence. Admittedly, the less violence used the less likely a woman will go to police (especially as non-violent rape leaves little evidence). However, pretending cuckoldry is rape comparing apples and oranges.

    P.S. I agree with the notion that you’re getting a better class of father with cuckoldry than rape.

    • Sister Y

      Good point – the law distinguishes between types of theft and punishes them differently, often based on the risk of physical harm to a person. Embezzlement or theft by false pretenses is punished less severely than regular larceny, and much less severely than robbery. Robin’s “gentle silent rape” asks us to consider the non-physical harms of rape.

      A real-life example of something like “gentle silent rape” is People v. Boro, 163 Cal.App.3d 1224 , 210 Cal.Rptr. 122 (1985). In that case, a miscreant convinced a medical patient that he was a doctor and needed to treat her by repeatedly having sex with her in a hotel room. She was tricked into consenting to sex – kinda like theft by false pretenses. She found out, and the dude was prosecuted for rape. The court ruled it wasn’t rape.

      • Psychohistorian

        This is no longer true. In response to that case, the California legislature changed the law, so that such an act would now be a felony. However, it is not punished as heavily as, say, forcible rape would be.

        “The court ruled ____ was not _____” is not a definitive statement that such a thing is legal. Courts generally interpret the letter of the law, so in some cases – like this one – a thing is ruled not a crime because the law was poorly written or legislature’s imagination insufficient, and the legislature immediately corrects the error.

      • Sister Y

        I was mentioning the case for pedagogical purposes, not citing it as precedent. I have discovered that a snappy story is generally better at communicating a point than a formal holding.

        In reality, of course, there are myriad sex offenses that provide for different punishments and different levels of culpability for similar harms, depending on the method in which it is perpetrated, by whom, etc. Robin’s GSR would be just plain old rape, but even at the time of Boro, the California Penal Code recognized that what Boro did was SOME crime (procuring a female to have illicit carnal connection with a man “by any false pretenses, false representation, or other fraudulent means”), and he was charged with that – just not regular rape.

        My point: it is not that weird that cuckolding and rape are punished differently.

    • Psychohistorian

      This assumes the two crimes are categorically different and thus incapable of causing equal harm. This is a common and fulfilling social value, but not does not realistically fit people’s preferences.

      Who does more harm, a man who rapes one woman, or Bernie Madoff who ruins thousands (or tens or hundreds of thousands) of lives? Would you rather be knocked out and someone have sex with your unconscious body, or have all of your assets, savings, and possessions taken from you?

      That said, rape does have substantial psychological effects that RH is doubtlessly discounting. Some people may actually feel that being taken advantage of while passed out is worse than losing everything. I actually think that this is because of a somewhat misguided social value that encourages people to see themselves as victims. The extent to which rape is considered by society to be superlatively bad may actually exacerbate the suffering of victims.

      Consider a similar case: child molestation. There’s substantial evidence that children who are molested (but don’t suffer serious physical harm) do not experience negative psychological effects until they later learn that they are victims and something bad happened to them. If this is true, it suggests that encouraging victimhood may actually exacerbate the effects of harmful behaviour; it seems likely the same thing would happen with rape.

      http://www.salon.com/books/int/2010/01/18/trauma_myth_interview

    • Kingreaper

      > Cuckoldry is a type of fraud not rape, QED.

      QED means quod erat demonstrandum: “what was to be demonstrated”.

      Note that it’s in past tense.

      You put it at the end of a proof, when you reach the conclusion you outlined at the top.

      Putting it at the top of an argument indicates that you’re attempting to sound smart, by using fancy language, but you don’t actually know what you’re saying. It also really annoys people who know what QED means, because it reads like saying “Tarantulas are reptiles. There, me saying that should be all the proof you need.”

  • Ben

    Cuckolds are low status. To admit concern over cuckoldry is to admit that you might be low status… and then you might be cuckolded.

    Maybe we protect the identities of rape victims for the same reason we hesitate to express concern over cuckoldry? Rape seems to lower status, too.

  • David C

    The best counter argument I could of think of was that women already bear too much of the burden of raising a child, and mandatory testing would increase that burden. Still, it seems there are probably better ways of resolving such an issue.

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  • Joey Steel

    Wow, I just discovered for myself how repulsive that Roissy guy is. Might as well throw a Steve Sailer link in while you’re at it.

  • http://marketurbanism.com Stephen Smith

    Jesus Christ, you people…

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  • http://queersingularity.wordpress.com/ Summerspeaker

    Yikes. This helps explain your position on prostitution. I had no idea.

    For the record, the pain caused by unsuccessful control over others in no way compares with the pain caused by a violation of bodily sovereignty. Medieval lords and Southern plantation likewise suffered when their subjects rebelled.

  • Nathan_M

    This is off topic, but I would like to see a post explaining why many people are disgusted by accounts of rape which do not mention the enormous emotional trauma rape can cause (especially by saying that “rape victims are more often diagnosed “post traumatic stress”” to sidestep the issue).

    I have never been a victim of a sexual assault, so thankfully I cannot relate to the potential emotional trauma personally, but I still find this post and the comments which do not treat the emotional damage a rape can cause extremely disturbing.

    Why is that?

    • SG

      because it is disturbing, to witness a group of dudes discussing a topic from which they have the great privilege of being detached emotionally, while others, mainly women, do not. It’s nice to see that SOME folks, like yourself are able to see that for what it is even without experiencing sexual assault.

  • Constant

    Rape is romantic and funny according to the movie The Switch, in which a man replaces sperm bank sperm with his own sperm, thereby causing his female friend to have his baby. While this is not a typical case of rape in which the penis enters the vagina, the central physical consequence is the same, namely, impregnation.

    The movie reduces the man’s culpability by a couple of means, such as by impairing his judgment, putting him in a desperate situation, and erasing his own memory of the switch, which suggests that the moviemakers are aware that a fully conscious and deliberate switch would have been terrible. Still, that they based a romantic comedy around this premise, which suggests they don’t see it all that negatively.

  • http://Honormac.livejournal.com Honor

    One almost has to assume the primary interest you have in this subject lies in how to make posts that will gather zillions of comments…

    Before any comparison of rape and the archaic faux-crime of “cuckoldry” can even pass the giggle test, we have to first buy into the barbaric fiction that a husband owns his wife and her sexual organs.

    If cuckoldry were to be appropriately punished by law at all, the only appropriate comparison would be a mild form of “beach of promise”.

    • Psychohistorian

      Cuckoldry in this case refers not so much to the act of adulterous sex but to the bearing of a child that is not or might not be husband’s and the hiding of this fact from him.

      This does not require that a man own his wife and his sexual organs. It simply requires that a man own his own income, property, and time, and that he has a right to withhold such from his spouse and her progeny if said progeny is not his. I think saying that a man does not have the right to insist that the kids his wife claims are his are in fact his does not pass the giggle test. I can think of few breaches of trust that are more severe or repugnant than lying to a man about his paternity in order to extract his time and resources from him.

  • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com TGGP

    JS Allen, those Nahmias and Nadelhoffer experiments sound interesting. Got a link?

    Constant, I could easily see a movie treating a less technologically assisted version humorously. Just people in the dark who think they are with someone else. “Clerks” contained a funny reference to such an incident and a more disturbing occurrence within the plot.

  • http://blog.jim.com James A. Donald

    Crimestop:

    The commenters illustrate crimestop, as defined by the doubly fictional Goldstein in Orwell’s “1984”

    “Crimestop means the faculty of stopping short, as though by instinct, at the threshold of any dangerous thought. It includes the power of not grasping analogies, of failing to perceive logical errors, of misunderstanding the simplest arguments if they are inimical to Ingsoc, and of being bored or repelled by any train of thought which is capable of leading in a heretical direction. Crimestop, in short, means protective stupidity.”

    All the commentators are refusing to understand Darwin and Darwinism, since the real Darwin is so horribly politically incorrect – they refuse to be capable of thinking dangerous thoughts.

    Let us take Roissy’s analysis: Which is worse? Cuckoldry or Butt rape?

    http://roissy.wordpress.com/2009/12/03/cuckoldry-vs-butt-rape/

    In which he dramatically presents, colorfully and in repugnant detail, two scenarios, and asks which one his male readers would prefer

    And a poll:

    http://polldaddy.com/poll/2334387/?view=results

    In which the great majority said they would rather be raped than cuckolded.

    • http://kazart.blogspot.com mwengler

      How is it that no one has questioned whether Roissy’s poll says more about preferences or more about what guys would signal? In my opinion the idea that you can ask this kind of question and expect an answer on an internet poll means anything other than telling you how people who choose to read that blog and choose to answer that question would answer that question is ludicrous.

      You are talking about subtracting one very large uknown pain from another very large and unknown pain to determine whether the result is positive or negative. You would have an easier time determining the true result of the florida vote on bush vs gore by an internet poll than you would resolving this question about “true” preferences of men who had neither been raped nor cuckolded.

      • Sister Y

        There’s an implicit assumption here (Robin & Roissy both) that if the vast majority of the population prefers A to B, that (1) the harm of B is worse than that of A and (2) B should be punished more harshly than A. But preference is only one criterion for badness and punishment. We can also evaluate, separately from preference, how worthy the harm is of being remedied.

        Another way to put it: how many Roissy readers would prefer being raped to having their daughter marry a black guy?

        My ex claims he’d rather have his arm cut off than be cheated on. But no matter how many men share this sentiment, we have good reason to punish mayhem more harshly than fornication.

      • http://blog.jim.com James A. Donald

        It is pretty obvious that when the scenarios are depicted in life like realism, as Roissy does, the cuckolding scenario is worse.

        Which is what we would expect from Darwinism.

        As would be obvious, both the Darwinism and the moral intuition, were it not for crimestop.

  • http://thecoldequations.blogspot.com coldequation

    It’s hard to make an apples-to-apples comparison of cuckoldry to rape, because they’re fundamentally different. In Darwinian terms, cuckoldry is worse than GSR. A woman who’s been GSRd and impregnated is stuck with a kid who has paternal DNA she wouldn’t have chosen, but at least it’s still her kid. A cuckold can end up investing hundreds of thousands of dollars and the best years of his life in raising a kid that isn’t his at all.

    Regarding non-gentle, non-silent rape, there’s been a big push against “blaming the victim” in recent years, but I think the natural inclination is to blame the victim (which is why that big push was necessary). There was a popular girl at my wife’s high school who was gang raped, and after that (or more precisely after she made the mistake of telling a blabbermouth) she wasn’t popular anymore. This reaction to rape has been socialized out of us now (or at least feminists have tried to do so), but it’s still PC to make fun of cuckolds.

    • unbelieveable

      “The term Victim blaming refers to holding the victim of a crime to be responsible for that crime, either in whole or in part. In the context of rape, it refers to the attitude that certain victim behaviors (such as flirting or wearing sexually provocative clothing) may have encouraged the assault. In extreme cases, victims are said to have “asked for it” simply by not behaving demurely.

      “It has been proposed that one cause of victim blaming is the just world hypothesis. People who believe that the world is intrinsically fair may find it difficult or impossible to accept a situation in which a person is badly hurt for no reason. This leads to a sense that victims must have done something to deserve their fate. Another theory entails the psychological need to protect one’s own sense of invulnerability, which can inspire people to believe that rape only happens to those who provoke the assault. Believers use this as a way to feel safer: If one avoids the behaviours of the past victims, one will be less vulnerable. A global survey of attitudes toward sexual violence by the Global Forum for Health Research shows that victim-blaming concepts are at least partially accepted in many countries. Many of the countries in which victim blaming is more common are those in which there is a significant social divide between the freedoms and status afforded to men and women.”

      Enjoy your third-world mindset, knuckle-dragger!

      • http://thecoldequations.blogspot.com coldequation

        I guess it’s my fault that kids at a school I didn’t go to ostracized a girl who was raped. Sorry about that.

        I’m not saying it’s laudable, but it is what it is. That’s why there are campaigns against blaming the victim. They don’t have to have campaigns for things that people are inclined to do on their own, like smoking weed or jerking off.

  • Kieselguhr Kid

    So to clarify a lot of my thinking:

    Professor Hanson is, as jeff notes in their exchange above, trying to frame this in terms of evolutionary advantage. The issue can get corrupted but other effects (like physical harm to the victim) so Professor Hanson has abstracted it further to the “gentle silent” scenario, in order to address his fundamental question, which is, given that cuckoldry is a bigger _genetic_ harm than rape, why isn’t cuckoldry more stigmatized?

    And my issue (FD: I am a physicist with experience mostly in molecular biology and biochemistry) is that the _premise_ of Hanson’s question is bullshit, and it’s amazing to me that he (like jeff above) doesn’t think to question it. Who says cuckoldry is necessarily a big genetic harm? Certainly on the social scale — where these codes get made — it seems not to be, or anyway it’s ambiguous. To argue that cuckoldry is a comparable genetic harm to rape is to argue that female sexual selection — which gets precedence in cuckoldry and is violated in rape — is not a very strong indicator of genetic fitness, which is, at least in every evolutionary theory of which I’m aware, _loopy_.

    • Constant

      Who says cuckoldry is necessarily a big genetic harm? Certainly on the social scale — where these codes get made — it seems not to be, or anyway it’s ambiguous.

      Cuckoldry is a big reproductive harm to the husband because it significantly reduces the probability that he will reproduce and it significantly reduces the resources he has available to raise his own biological offspring. The “social scale” is irrelevant here.

      The premise of Hanson’s question is not bullshit.

      Earlier you write:

      Generally the woman is going to cuckold you with a more sexually desirable (read: genetically “better”) and/or higher-status male, so you produce “better” offspring, and the community is better off for the cuckoldry — so, yeah, there’s a weakening of an insitution which the community needs for its long-term survival, but it’s weakened in the “right” direction.

      “What the community needs for its long-term survival” is irrelevant here. whether something is “right” for the community is irrelevant. Whether the offspring are “better” is irrelevant. What matters is whether the offspring are the biological offspring of the husband. It does not matter one bit whether the husband is in some sense inferior or superior to the man who is cuckolding him.

      Your comments simply do not make any sense in the context of natural selection. Your comments appear to be group selectionist, since it is group selectionist to talk (in the context of selection) about the social scale, about what the community needs for its long-term survival. But group selection is not a major mechanism of evolution.

      • Kieselguhr Kid

        Well, no, the premise remains bullshit. You tell me there is a genetic harm to the cuckolded. I say to you, and to Hanson: “Prove it.” I’ve offered some good reasons why not.
        One of the best is, the community _is_ the relevant scale for the genetic case. Consider a low-status, genetically-less-viable family. If one of them gets cuckolded (NB they can’t _all_ get cuckolded, you need to have a social stigma, just a lesser one), it brings into the family a higher-genetic-fitness individual. Your nieces and nephews and close genetic relations do better becuase your “son,” who’s now pulling for your family, is just a bit better, faster, stronger. And if you have other kids, who are gentically yours (and probably you do, the cuckolded husband, typically, is still having sex with his wife), then your own kids benefit.
        Now, there’s a very complex balance here. Maybe those benefits to your genes are outweighed by the effort you put into to somebody else’s. Maybe not. But I’m pretty sure you don’t know and have no basis to know, and I’m pretty sure you can’t get a single evolutionary biologist to call it definitively in your favor. On the other hand the rape issues with genetics, as I pointed out above, are much more clear.
        And the stronger society matters in other ways of course. It means your village, your community, is that much stronger, and in the end your children and nieces and nephews do that much better. To argue that the social scale doesn’t matter — in particular for, “why does society hate this crime more?” — which remember, is Prof. Hanson’s querstion: not _which is worse_ but _why is the stigma the way it is_ — is bizarre.

      • Constant

        Now, there’s a very complex balance here. Maybe those benefits to your genes are outweighed by the effort you put into to somebody else’s. Maybe not. But I’m pretty sure you don’t know and have no basis to know, and I’m pretty sure you can’t get a single evolutionary biologist to call it definitively in your favor.

        That strikes me as dubious. The causal chain that you offer by which cuckoldry may serve in part to increase the reproductive success of a man strikes me as insignificant. For one thing, the point of cuckolding a man is so that he will provide for your own offspring. This presupposes that the man being cuckolded is a good provider. But if he is a good provider, then that means that his sons are likely to be good providers. So if we’re wondering how much a man’s wife’s son will provide for his brothers and cousins, then the man’s biological son, having his father’s good-provider genes, is a good candidate. In contrast, a man whose strategy for reproduction is to cuckold other men, for that reason doesn’t have to be a good provider. That being so, then his son is unlikely to be a good provider. So right there we have a reason to think that the husband’s biological son is going to be a better provider than the alternative.

        Moreover we have the evidence of male behavior. We don’t notice men welcoming cuckoldry. We notice, rather, a range of behaviors which act to reduce cuckoldry.

    • Matt

      If it were the case that it were beneficial for the men who were cuckolded, you would expect them to feel good about it, not “society” (rather than that it were more offensive than rape). Possibly they do and there is simply a gap between stated and actual preference (maybe so they look good – is admitting to being happy with being cuckolded “low status”?), but I am inclined to think that men are generally telling the truth, as it seems more parsimonious (and while not directly relevant, “No matter what he says, he’s really asking for it” seems like it should the dispreferred hypothesis).

      In any case, I’d doubt that kind of sibling effect, or that it would be greater than simply not having “distractions” and competition from devoting resources to your offspring (the benefit that the cuckoo’s egg gives to your offspring must be greater than the cost of resources put into it, rather than to your own children). I certainly think these are far less likely to exist in an atomistic and open access society like modernity, particularly in contrast to the more clannish and collectivist farmer and forager societies that proceeded ours. Inclusive fitness motivations in humans (of which your is such) are also generally highly shonky, in terms of giving predictions.

      I think you may be on more plauisble ground with the idea that “society” as a whole feels that it is eugenic, and presumably more optimal than simply permitting polygamy and taxing childless men more to make up any income shortfalls, but I really doubt that society as a whole considers cuckolders to be of superior stock to the men they cuckold (even in terms of Darwinian fitness).

    • Matt

      Rape (forced mating) seems to be in a constant arms race with female choice across species, so it doesn’t seem to be a slam dunk that female choice is in a Darwinian sense superior to rape. I wouldn’t expect this from a strongly disfavoured morph (with much lower fitness taxonomy wide). I think it would be hard to say which is superior in terms of fitness without making a large cross taxonomic assessment.

      Within the human species it seems to me that female choice is favored, but we don’t really know about the frequency of rape rates in the past, and much of what seems like rape to us may have been classified as normal sexual behaviour.

  • scott

    Because being the cuckolder (ie, having women break their loyalties to mate with you) and having influence over how social, cultural, and legal mores develop both correlate with power?

    That is, the people who have power actually benefit from cuckoldry, as they are unlikely to be cuckolded themselves, and are more likely to cuckold other men – on the whole, improving their own genetic fitness significantly.

    This also explains why rape is heavily punished. Rape is considered the resort of lower-status men, men without power – and it carries the chance that the targeted woman will be (one of) the powerful man’s mates. This poses a threat to the powerful man’s genetic fitness, and must be stomped out.

    Rape victims suffer some punishment from society too; once they have been raped, there is the chance that a child she bears is not yours but the rapist’s – and so mates avoid her, at least temporarily. This phenomenon is known as ‘damaged goods’.

  • josh

    I have no idea what the best punishment should be for rape or cuckoldry, but I protest the idea that punishments should be based on a giant matrix of “what’s worse.”

  • ad

    Consider also that it tends to be easier to prove cuckoldry than rape, so if we avoid applying the law to hard-to-prove harms, that should favor punishing cuckoldry more than rape.

    I should think that if a crime is hard to prove, we should apply especially severe punishments to those few criminals we do catch, in order to maximise the expected cost of the crime.

    It occurs to me that cuckoldery is to some extent punished socially – it cannot be easy to remarry if you have a bunch of children that are NOT the children of your ex-husband.

    Also that legal punishments for cuckoldery would open big cans of worms that people who desired a quiet life might well want to keep closed.

  • unbelieveable

    what an excellent perspective on two different types human tragedy, as written by a broken commodore 64. human pain is NOT comparable, apples to apples, and to base punishment for one crime on “how bad it is” compared to another is the thinking of a crazy robot.

    one in four–25%–of women are sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. how often does cuckoldry occur?

    and how about when men cheat on women, and they don’t get the “mistress” pregnant? how about pain then? what if they DO get the other woman pregnant? then either woman, wife or mistress, either of whom may have children, are both being GENTLY SILENTLY RAPED by the man, and will have to raise his children whether he’s there or not?

    what about women who are raped, and due to current laws, are forced to carry the child to term? some women even raise the children of their rapists. what should we compare that to? is that worse than when a man gets laid off? okay, then cheated-upon women should receive unemployment pay? no? that example doesn’t work? NEITHER DOES YOURS.

    you need to overcome YOUR bias against women and your irrational, paranoid obsession with making things “even” for victims of cuckoldry. it’s a bad thing, being betrayed–but it’s not comparable to rape. ever.

    • Thursday

      one in four–25%–of women are sexually assaulted in their lifetimes.

      Christina Hoff Sommers has falsified this statement.

      • SG

        how? where? Who Stole Feminism is problematic. Even if 1/4 is not exactly accurate what difference does it make? if it’s 1/2 1/10 1/20? it’s not like, oh all this time we thought so many women were being raped but it’s actually only 1/100 so we can stop caring…

      • http://www.viliam.bur.sk/en Viliam Búr

        Even if 1/4 is not exactly accurate what difference does it make? […] it’s not like, oh all this time we thought so many women were being raped but it’s actually only 1/100 so we can stop caring…

        It’s rather like “oh, it’s actually 1/100, so we can stop saying in every discussion that it’s 1/4″.

        Precisely because 1/100 is bad enough, it is not necessary to exaggerate. Is it necessary to lie to support a good cause?

  • it should be noted

    Given your attitudes, I’d say any woman who’s able to get sperm other than yours would be doing herself a biological FAVOR by eliminating quite a bit of self-centered, compassionless idiocy.

    • Konkvistador

      Yes since people who think up uncomfortable arguments should be punished!

  • OhioStater

    Assuming women make good choices in men (I’m laughing as I type) then cuckolding has positive eugenic effects. Assuming rape is perpetrated by men without access to sex, unworthy men, then rape has negative dysgenic effects.

    We like strong men. Our most watched TV show is the Super Bowl. It seems like a lot of people are repulsed by weak men and don’t mind if weak men are removed from the gene pool. Defending women is noble but there is nothing to be gained defending weak men.

    Just as a politician needs to win a seat in his city or state before he can run for president, a cuckolded man was rejected by the woman that knows him best.

    This could explain a preference for the first born as there is less likelihood of cuckolding in the first years of marriage, the “honeymoon”, when attraction is strongest.

  • OhioStater

    Sorry, my last comment was off-topic.

    Your GSR framework is incomplete because no kid results from GSR whereas a kid, by definition, results from cuckolding. A victim of GSR is either on the pill, could take a morning-after pill, or abort the fetus.

    If a GSR victim chooses to keep the kid, do we then assume her assailant was “fit”, “worthy”, and “alpha”?

  • Ted

    Perhaps I’m a male outlier, but I don’t think cuckoldry is that bad. If I find out after the child is only a one year old or something, I’m pissed as hell, but I dump her and move on with my life. If instead I find out after my child is say, 15, this is actually an even better scenario for me. I’m only marginally more pissed at my wife than I would be in the first scenario, and I got a child who I care about deeply. All things equal, I would prefer my own genetic offspring only because I suspect we’d be more similar and get alone better – but after 5 or 10 or 15 years (seriously, I can’t form a committed bond with someone less than 3 years old) that kid is my child regardless of whether he has 50% of my DNA or not. While I’m horribly angry and enraged by my wife, my relationship with my son or daughter wouldn’t change. I’ll be honest, I don’t understand why it would be so emotionally traumatizing. If you loved your son before, you finding out he’s not your son shouldn’t change that. That’s only true if you are so absurd that you give your love to anything genetic related to you but withhold it if something is not. I suppose you can cite absurd evolutionary psychology reasons why this is so, but since much of evolutionary psychology is not empirical science but mostly just a series of conjectures I don’t put much stock into it. Obviously, I get the rage you’d feel towards your wife – the deceit for all those years actually be much worse than the affair, in my opinion, – but that seems like something I could move on from relatively quickly. It’s obviously horrible, but I don’t see how it’s as bad as being raped (of course, this rape scenario was the best possible). Especially since you got a loving son or daughter out of the terrible ordeal.

    On the issue of legal issues. There are two things here. The father’s obligations and the punishment for the fraud of cuckoldry. Obviously it’s absurd that in some state the father is still financial obligated to support the child once paternity tests proves it’s not his. If it’s not genetically his, he should have no legal obligation to support it. However, I think, on the flip side, if you are a like me and would love and support the child after believing it was your child for all those years the laws also need to be changed to give you parental rights. For example, after 15 years, the true child’s father should not be able to come along and claim absolute custody. At a minimum, I should get partial custody. Furthermore, if the genetic father knew it was his child and then tried to claim it later he should be denied those rights if another person is acting as the father in his stead. If you are a lazy jackass who wouldn’t support the kid for years, you have no right to the kid in the future. In terms of what should happen to the mother, the father should be able to recoup damages from her. He should be able to sue her for the costs of living he provided to the child (and possibly to her). Whether she deserves jail time, I’d say so – how much I don’t know, but it would appropriate. Of course, I’d think most men would actually prefer she be out of jail and working if they could collect money from her future income to pay him back for the fraud.

  • Konkvistador

    I’m just amused by the people arguing that at a societal level (invocation of weak group selection) cuckolding is actually beneficial because women choose “better” mates.

    Has anyone even bothered to think that perhaps the characteristics that make the best seducer, the best cad so to speak may not be exactly the same ones that make the best “dad”?

    Its obvious that how much males will invest into offspring is directly proportional to how sure they can be their children will be theirs. But I’m going to take the argument further, all things being equal the greater the odds of males being cuckolded the fever men will be *capable* (this includes parenting instincts and natural inclination) to invest in offspring. Sure there is a lot of overlap between what women find attractive and what makes a man “capable” to take care of offspring. But female sexual attraction mechanism adapt too so the overlap becomes smaller the lower the payback is for a male provider strategy.

    Why invest directly into offspring if you can’t get more bang for your buck by investing in a outlandish peackock tail?

  • Psychohistorian

    Probably too late to this thread to have much effect, but ah well. Here goes.

    Older societies did not punish women bearing offspring that were not their husband’s; they punished women having sex with men who were not their husband. They also punished unmarried women for having sex. Punishments for rape, in many cases, were much slighter than they are today.

    This is entirely consistent with an increasingly permissive view of female sexuality, which fits in neatly with the general liberalization (philosophical, not political) of society that has been ongoing since the enlightenment. Once women were recognized as full-fledged autonomous people, it follows that they should have significant control over their sexuality.

    Laws – civil or criminal – against deceiving a man as to his paternity were simply not viable until very recently, because the burden of proof could not really be met, particularly in criminal cases. They clash rather directly with two recent and significant political developments: as mentioned, the liberation of women, and also increased state for the welfare of children. There are somewhat good reasons why we tend to favor these interests over that of men, who in most other circumstances are in a better case to look after themselves. It seems quite possible that the law will adapt existing punishments – like that for fraud – to accommodate deception as to paternity, but the law will need time to make this adjustment.

    Incidentally, I don’t see how deception as to paternity fails to meet current fraud standards – it is a knowing or reckless misrepresentation which a man relies on to his detriment. I think that the law has held it in disfavor historically (because it was unprovable) and may require time (or legislation) to come around.

  • CR

    The differences in the current punishments for GSR vs cuckoldry seem to me to directly reflect the evolutionary aspects of reproduction. We need only assume that a female having a choice about who to reproduce with has more value from her genes’ perspective than if she were tricked (GSR) or forced (raped) into reproducing.

    So it is clearly in women’s interest to have this asymmetry. What about men? For every man that is cuckolded, there is some other man’s genes that won the reproductive lottery. Thus, this is neutral from a strictly male viewpoint.

    If we go on to assume a few things about what kind of people get legislation passed and whether they benefit more or less from harsher cuckhold punishments, then we can see there is just no incentive to have more symmetry in the punishments for these two cases.

    -CR

  • William H. Stoddard

    You seem to be talking specifically about harm to men. Consider the situation of a woman. If she cuckolds her husband, she presumably has chosen to do so with a man she finds desirable (see, for example, studies on fitness gain from having children by a father with a different immune spectrum); the result is a marginal boost in the fitness of her children at the expense of her husband. If she is raped, she may have a child by a man she did not choose at all and finds undesirable, and perhaps at a time when she has no resources to support the child. For her, the costs of rape are drastically higher.

    Women in our society have political weight comparable to that of men. This was not true in the Victorian era, but it saw the first women’s rights legislation in the Married Women’s Property Act, passed by MPs who had sisters and daughters (there’s apparently a correlation between number of daughters and voting choices), and the first protests against the “double standard.” Older laws and customs seem to have treated cuckoldry as a much more serious matter—and were much more exclusively a reflect of male priorities.

    • Sister Y

      passed by MPs who had sisters and daughters (there’s apparently a correlation between number of daughters and voting choices)

      I’m surprised by that, as I’ve read that the motivations for the Married Women’s Property Acts had nothing to do with the rights of women (since they gave married women zero control over their own property, even their earnings – that didn’t happen until MUCH later) and everything to do with husbands’ interests in protecting family property from creditors.

      • William H. Stoddard

        Wikipedia (“Married Women’s Property Act 1870″) does not agree with this interpretation; they say, “The wages and earning made by a wife were to be held by her for her own separate use, independently from her husband. The meaning of wages included money made from any employment, occupation, or trade, or the use of any skill such as a literary, scientific, or artistic skill that resulted in money being made. This section also covered investments made with the money earned.” Apparently specifically this allowed a married woman to leave her husband and earn her own living, even without a divorce.

  • http://montclairsoci.blogspot.com Jay Livingston

    Prof. Hanson’s question seems to be: why are we not more like agricultural/pastoral societies in punishing women who cuckold more harshly than men who rape? We could turn the question around and seek to explain the priorities of farming societies (which may also punish not just the rapist but also the woman who is what we would call the victim of the rape). Maybe we could get better purchase on those societies by thinking analogously about individuals. We would ask, What kind of man would get more angry at his cuckolding wife than at a man who raped her? What kind of man would get angry at his wife for being the victim of rape? My guess is: a man who sees his wife and children as his property. That’s also the crucial assumption of patriarchal, agricultural societies.

    In post-ag society, we tend to see wives more as autonomous individuals, and we view children, insofar as they are like property, as the property of both mother and father. Those children too will, in this view, soon enough become autonomous individuals rather than merely the carriers of their father’s lineage. This is the view that seems to underlie much of the defense of our punitive priorities.

    We can probably trace this idea back to Enlightenment philosophy, but I would guess that the philosophical superstructure was not sufficient for the idea to have taken hold and that there is something about social structures that allows that philosophy to make sense.

    We’ve been post-ag for only two – or at most three – centuries. As Chou En Lai famously said when Kissinger asked him about the consequences of the French Revolution, “It’s too soon to tell.”

  • http://www.nancybuttons.com Nancy Lebovitz

    I suggest “stealth rape” rather than “gentle silent rape”– “gentle” has emotional connotations that I find creepy in this context, and “silent” doesn’t have much to do with the situation.

    The only people who really have standing to compare the personal effects of being cuckolded and being raped are men who’ve suffered both. People aren’t especially good at estimating how various events will effect them.

    Rape seems to be, in addition to physical risk, a way of drastically lowering the status of the person who’s been raped.

    People who’ve been stealth raped tend to find it horrifying.

    Robin, why do you compare the (lack of) punishment for cuckoldry to the punishment for rape rather than just saying that cuckdoldry is under-punished?

    As usual in these discussions, I recommend Yes Means Yes, a book about the importance of enthusiastic consent in sex.

    • http://hanson.gmu.edu Robin Hanson

      Yes, “stealth rape” does sound like a better term.

    • Thomas

      Cuckoldry itself is extremely creepy, so on the contrary I think “GSR” mirrors this fairly.

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  • http://www.hopeanon.typepad.com Hopefully Anonymous

    I think folks have hinted that it may be advantageous for society (though bad for the male nurturer) for very fit men’s offspring to be raised by less fit men who are good parents.

    I don’t think anyone’s brought it up directly, but isn’t it better for the species for women to procreate with several different men? Serial cuckoldry would allow for that better than monogamy. Although serial cuckoldry wouldn’t be necessary for women to do this, it could provide a more stable family situation.

    • LesHopeful

      “. . . isn’t it better for the species for women to procreate with several different men?”

      Whether ‘better’ or not, by that logic we should transition to the current practice for cattle breeding: use germ of the best males to fertilize eggs of the best females. All other males are desexed and all other females used as birth surrogates.

  • William H. Stoddard

    Hopefully anonymous:

    Evolution is not about doing “what’s good for the species.” That represents a pre-Darwinian metabiology. Human societies can be, or pretend to be, socialist; nature cannot.

  • mike

    I’m sad but not at all surprised that so many of these comments are to the effect of “HOW DARE YOU EVEN THINK ABOUT THIS TOPIC?!!?!?”

    I can only imagine how much more frustrating it must be for Professor Hanson have to deal with increasingly harsh anti-mind climate that envelopes the Western world. The all-encompassing ideology of political correctness is truly a fearsome juggernaut.

    I think the status signaling arguments are right on the money, and the rest of the comments serve as the proof.

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  • Fourmyle

    Robin,

    The answer to your question is: Because society isn’t about fairness. It’s about power. And right now feminists have been successful in acquiring power. The power of “sexual freedom” includes the power to have sex with (and children by) any man they choose, and stick the bill of raising a child to whatever man they can scam into it.

    From the point of view of evolutionary psychology this makes perfect sense (for women). They get the genetics of the superior alpha male for their children (the man they could never hope to be in an exclusive relationship with – he’s out of their league), and the exclusive access to the resources of the chump they can con into marrying them. Or, if they can get a Family Court judge to agree, the resources of the chump they can get a payment of child support order against. In fact, that latter might be even better because they get the money without having to put up with the sexual advances from the lowly beta male. It’s the best of both worlds.

    In a fair world cuckholdry would be on a similar plane for punishment. Or husbands would have the power to abort any pregnancy that results of it, just as wives can abort pregnancies from rape. But fairness has nothing to do with it.

  • katie

    I tell you what. Next time you pass out I’ll stick a big dildo up your ass. But I’ll do it gently and silently so you won’t suffer any adverse physical harm. I’m sure that would be okay with you.

    • mike

      Or you could just tell him you stuck a big dildo up his ass, gently and silently… he wouldn’t know the difference, would he?

      • katie

        Are you kidding me? Stick one up your ass and tell me if you can’t tell the difference! You have obviously never been anally penetrated.

        All you who think a woman can’t tell when she’s been penetrated because it happened when she was passed out or drugged or whatever are nuts. WE CAN ALWAYS TELL regardless of whether we were drugged or whatever. To wake up and know someone has fucked you against your will is creepy and horrible and raises all kinds of issues. Who was it? Do I need the morning after pill? What if he has an STD? What if he does it again? Can I trust any of the men I know? What if it was more than one of them? Do I need to test every six months now for HIV?

        You guys on here are seriously screwed up.

    • Thomas

      And in the same spirit of fun, I’ll switch your eggs at the fertility clinic. I’m sure you don’t mind.

      • katie

        no I wouldn’t mind at all. I give birth, the kid is mine and I don’t give a rat’s ass if its genetically mine at all. Men are selfish.

  • hf

    It’s almost as if you’ve oversimplified the issue, perhaps in some blindingly obvious way.

    Control of one’s body has a greater relation to survival (and in some limited cases the survival of one’s children) than does control of one’s sexual partners. Control of one’s body in matters that touch on one’s self-image must originally have shown an even greater relation. I’ve seen an avowedly asexual person — one who not only denied having much interest in sex as a pass-time, but denied any relation between sex and hir self-image — say that rape without any true threat of harm would have no more effect on this person than a forced game of baseball.

    • Sister Y

      Control of one’s body has a greater relation to survival (and in some limited cases the survival of one’s children) than does control of one’s sexual partners.

      That’s an empirical question. I don’t think it’s obvious either way.

  • Desertopa

    It might be more evolutionarily disadvantageous to be cuckolded than to be raped, but we’ve also evolved to have emotional and ethical responses that are strongly proximity based. Rape is near, cuckolding is far.

  • http://twitter.com/afoolswisdom sark

    Rape is a denial of mate choice. Cuckoldry is an assertion of mate choice.

    Hence, railing against rape is showing your acceptance of the rules of the mating game as fair. Railing against cuckoldry as unfair makes you seem like a loser.

    Here, ‘fairness’ is how you yourself have observed people seem to use the term.

    Raping a woman means you don’t play fair, women are charmed by status and wealth, not ability to rape. Cheating on a cuckold is fair because it is simply mate choice in action. The woman was supposed to be able to choose her mate anyway.

    The rules for the mating game are roughly: you show off, display status and wealth, and you charm consenting females. They have the option of leaving you any time for someone even more charming. By these rules, rape is unfair, cuckoldry is fair.

    • MarcKS

      Sure, it is fair for a wife to cheat on her husband with another man and when she gets pregnant inform her husband of her indiscretion – In that case she has asserted her right to mate with the male of her choice and left her husband with the ability to move on and mate with another female of his choice in hopes of reproducing.

      But that isn’t cuckoldry… that’s adultery, which isn’t what this post is about.

      Cuckoldry would be NOT informing the husband of her indiscretion and leading him to believe that her child is his. In this case the wife has unilaterally removed the husbands ability to responsibly reproduce (responsibly being key here).
      This is especially true if the cuckoldry isn’t revealed until the husband is essentially no longer in a position to reproduce.

      Cuckoldry is essentially the same as a husband impregnating another women and being able to force his wife to support that child as though it was her own. (except that at least in that case the wife knows she isn’t raising her own child)

      • http://twitter.com/afoolswisdom sark

        Yes you are right, adultery is not cuckoldry. I wasn’t actually trying to defend rape as worse. Just providing a descriptive explanation for why people seem to think so.

        And under the polygamous model of our ancestral sexual behavior, you are correct that this analysis fails. But I think the Sex at Dawn multimale-multifemale mating with communal childcare model is correct. Robin thinks so in any case, he did a post praising that book. Under communal childcare, cuckoldry was simply a non-issue. Which explains why we havent inherited specialized emotional responses for it.

        Normatively I don’t give a damn about genes or reproductive success. Rape causes physical and psychological harm far worse than cuckoldry. I do acknowledge the validity of having a preference to be a father of your own child, even though I find that quaint. But the frustration of that preference simply does not measure up to the suffering of a rape victim. This point should be empirical, if it turns out not to be the case, then sure, cuckoldry is as wrong, or more wrong. (Note: this paragraph was a defense of rape as worse, something which wasn’t in the previous comment of mine)

  • katie

    Wow. Sark, that was totally rational. Thanks.

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  • http://freesoc.wordpress.com sconzey

    Apologies for the necro-post, but I believe I have something novel to add…

    It seems to me that much of the debate over this and similar issues like pre-nupitals and criminalising adultery stem from the fact that most countries do have laws to do with marriage that override contract law. Supposing marriage were considered a matter for contract law rather than criminal law. Couples would be free to pair (or triple, or quad etc.) for whatever purpose and upon whatever terms they chose.

    If men in general consider cuckoldry worse than women in general consider marital rape, this will be reflected in the negotiated contractual terms of the customary marriage contract.

  • Anonymous

    Men can send a swab to dnatest.com for each child a woman claims is his. Given the odds that she is wrong, all men should do this for each child. This is like $100. This simple cheap solution is why a cuckold is not like rape.

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  • http://sebscogblog.blogspot.com/ Sebastian Nickel

    My first thought was “Cuckolds are seen as losers. They may not want others to know they have been thusly victimised, as this would reflect badly on the quality of their genes. Men might also not want to display opposition to cuckoldry, as this might indicate that they think themselves likely to fall victim to it, which, again, would reflect badly on the quality of their genes.”

  • Michael Wengler

    I’m not even sure what anyone means by punish cuckoldry.  Punish the woman?  The man?  Punishing the woman is pretty common, just usually referred to as punishing for adultery.  Cuckoldry does not particularly refer to children by a man other than the husband, to the extent people are using it to mean that PLEASE get terminology that coheres with common usage of the words you are using.  

    Rape also is not particularly about issued children.  Moreso it is a form of battery, 

    “Gentle, Silent, Rape?”  I”m sorry if I missed much of a description of that, but I would be happy to criminalize anybody perpetrating upon me the rufies, chloroform, or whatever unwilling medication to knock me out against my will and/or without my knowledge, whether they proceed to strip my clothes off and shove their body parts or toys in my orifices or not.  Again, nothing much to do with children.  

    Rape is primarily a physical assault or a sequence of physical assaults, typically criminal, typically thought of as coercive, whether or not sex is involved.  “Cuckoldry” or more usually stated Adultery, is consensual, not forced in the usual senses.  

    If cuckoldry should be punishable (again, for the man or for the woman?) similarly to rape, then we are going to have to redefine rape to include telling a girl that you love her and that she is beautiful in order to sex her.  

  • angry

    Robin you should be ashamed to publish garbage like this. What kind of man are you? Certainly not the type I would want my daughter anywhere near. For what it is worth it sounds like you are the type of “man” who is intimidated by strong, independent women. What kind of example are you setting for your children?

  • Caravelle

    Geez what could it possibly be… Rape (“gentle silent” or otherwise”) involves someone doing something to your body without your consent… Cuckolding involves somebody else doing something to their body without your consent… What standard could we possibly apply to make one acceptable in a way the other is not ?

    Consider also how the morality of cuckolding

  • http://myindigolives.wordpress.com/ Ellie Kesselman

    I changed my mind about you. You’re scary. What about “gentle, silent” male rape, Robin? You said you think men prefer to be raped… no, never mind. This is just awful, in every way.

    • mary

      it’s because he’s thinking the raper is a woman. yeah right, robin. in your dreams. he doesn’t realize the raper would probably be a man. the whole thing is very sick.

  • Danielle L

    “Imagine a woman was drugged into unconsciousness and then gently raped, so that she suffered no noticeable physical harm nor any memory of the event, and the rapist tried to keep the event secret. Now drugging someone against their will is a crime, but the added rape would add greatly to the crime in the eyes of today’s law, and the added punishment for this addition would be far more than for cuckoldry.”

    Ok let me break this down for you:
    1. There is no such thing as ‘gentle’ rape. Whether or not the rape leaves noticeable external or internal injuries does not matter- all non-consenting (thus, forcible) sexual acts are cruel and violent breaches of a victim’s safety, physical and emotional well-being, and humanity.
    2. You attempt to justify the atrocious crime of rape by stipulating that the female victim had no knowledge of the event, and that she was not physically harmed. This appalling logic justifies nothing. Rape is, at its core, a gross breach of humanity. To be raped is to lose control over one’s own body. The act of rape on an unconscious and unknowing victim is, on some levels, more horrible than rape on a conscious victim- unconscious rape takes away not only one’s right to their own body- it renders their mind powerless to even comprehend what is being done to them. Essentially, in an unconscious rape, the victim’s humanity is completely suspended, in mind as well as body. Examining this so-called ‘gentle-rape’ using reasoning that incorporates not only human conscious logic, but also behavioral physics and the very principles of human self-awareness, it is clear to see that the perpetrator of an unconscious rape deserves harsh punishment in a court of law.

    3. Cuckoldry does not take away a person’s right to control and possess their own body and mind. Even if the husband (using your example from the article) is unaware of his wife’s affair, and thus is in a sort of false-reality, he is still able to remain conscious during the time that the affair is occurring; he is completely in control of his own physical and mental self throughout the cuckoldry, though he may processes life through a slightly distorted mirror. With an unconscious rape, the victim is unable to control any conscious portion of their mind during the attack; therefore the crime of a ‘gentle rape’ is far worse than the practice of cuckoldry, because it targets and disables the victim’s mind and body while it takes place, leaving them completely unable to process any sort of reality, even in a distorted form, due to the fact that it mentally and physically removes them from a human existence. The complete removal of a person from reality during an unconscious rape leaves them unable to enter back into any sort of actual truth until they are made aware of the horrific, spiritually altering act which has been committed against them.

    The psychological and humanity-based nature of my responses to your article are framed this way because the logic you use in your writing is not a physical logic, therefore the proper response to it is of a ‘higher’ nature (rooted in philosophy). I could write a 20 page scientific paper that formally rebuts your article from a biological (and possibly chemical) standpoint, however this type of dialogue seemed more appropriate. I hope that it is able to, if not convince you of the erroneousness of your argument, at least make you think a little deeper about what it is that you are really saying.

    Sincerely,
    A 16 year-old feminist and philomath.

    • chaosmosis

      What is this mythical autonomy of which you speak, and why does it matter? How can someone have autonomy while they are unconscious?

      I care about well being alone.

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  • Gwen P.

    Your problem is that you think you can quantify the severity of rape based on physical damage. In fact, the whole problem with economists is that they think material value is the only resource which can be measured. This allows you to (wrongfully, disgustingly) assume that a man’s finances being “tricked” away via cuckoldry can in any way compare to the emotional harm of rape. Even if you were to suppose that the subjective experience of a man finding out his wife had cheated would be comparable to rape, which it is not, because it is hardly a physical violation of his person, your post would still be ridiculous because it fails to account for the massive difference between a financial violation and a bodily one. And I would guess that men who have actually been raped, if you had bothered to do a survey of actual victims or even type something into a google search box, would by far prefer to spend some money on a child not their own than have another human being bodily violate them and emotionally dominate them. It is apparent that women have no value to you, and their emotional/mental wellbeing even less. I do not think I am overstating my opinion here. In fact, based on your insipid argument, it seems pretty clear that human life has very little value to you in general, you backward, obtuse misanthropic piece of flotsam.

    • das keyboard

      Hanson is fully aware of the severe emotional consequences of rape which is why he compared them with cuckoldry. You contradict yourself when you say that the harm of rape is emotional and then dismiss the harms of cuckoldry on the grounds that they not “physical violations” of the person when before you said that the severity of rape is not quantifiable based on the physical damage. Spending “some money” on a child that is not your own is not cuckoldry, or anything close to it. As a woman you are used to receiving sympathy for your complaints. In this case, it is very hard to feel sympathy for you when you demonstrate that you are unable to empathize with men. Betrayal by someone you love is far worse than betrayal by a stranger.

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  • Danielle

    I agree with you that “gentle, silent rape” would have no ill effect on me. If, for example, I never discovered that the baby was not my husband’s, and I never discovered I was raped, I would never be hurt by it.

    That said, I’m not sure why cuckoldry is biologically more harmful, according to you. In each case, the baby is thought to be a product of two people, and it actually is not. Whether I cuckold my husband or am gently raped, the effect is the same: the baby does not have his genetic material. Biologically, the harm is equal.

    Secondly, I think that “silent, gentle rape” is worse because bodily autonomy is more important than biological reproduction. If someone implanted a chip in my brain–without me ever being aware or ever noticing–and used it to record all my thoughts and emotions and location at all times, I’d be outraged. I would want that person to be prevented from ever doing something like that again. But did I experience any harm? No. And, like the “gentle, silent rape” I would never know it happened. But the very idea of it happening fills me with rage–the fact that I wouldn’t know makes it worse.