Hanson Loves Moose Caca

Warning: this post touches on sensitive topics.

In the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” when Toula was a little girl, she sat alone in the school cafeteria, frizzy haired, big nosed, and unpopular. The blonde girls at the next table asked her what she was eating, and Toula quietly said “moussaka.” The popular girls laughed cruelly, saying “Ewwww, ”moose caca!”” (more)

Imagine that those cruel girls had gone on to tell other kids “Toula says she loves to eat moose caca!” That is how I feel when Noah Smith says:

Why is it that the sciences look like a feminist nirvana compared with the economics profession, which seems to have a built-in bias that prevents women from advancing?

Consider this 2011 blog post by George Mason University economist Robin Hanson. Hanson writes that “gentle, silent rape” of a woman by a man causes less harm than a wife cuckolding her husband:

I [am puzzled] over why our law punishes rape far more than cuckoldry…[M]ost men would rather be raped than cuckolded…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 compare the two cases, cuckoldry and gentle silent rape.

There was no outcry whatsoever over these remarks, nor any retraction that I could find. (more)

Now I’ve admitted as far back as 2006 that academia, economics included, is biased against women. (Having been in both physics and computer science before, I doubt the situation is much worse in econ.) This one post of mine that Smith points to did induce many negative responses in comments and elsewhere, and of my thousands of blog posts I’d be surprised if much more than a dozen had induced any blog responses by economists whatsoever. And I suggested that we consider that the harms of rape and cuckoldry might be similar; I didn’t claim I knew one to be definitely larger.

But more fundamentally, Noah Smith is plenty smart enough to understand that I was not at all minimizing the harm of rape when I used rape as a reference to ask if other harms might be even bigger. Just as people who accuse others of being like Hitler do not usually intend to praise Hitler, people who compare other harms to rape usually intend to emphasize how big are those other harms, not how small is rape.

But I’m pretty sure Smith knows that. Yet, like the girls who taunted Toula, Smith finds it suits him better to pretend to misunderstand.

Added noon: Steve Sailer weighs in.

Added 2p: Noah Smith and I have been having a twitter conversation on this.

Added 4p: My topic was the relative harm of cuckoldry & rape. Noah Smith says that this topic itself is innately offensive to most women, who think cuckoldry to be of such low harm that comparing it with rape suggests rape to be low harm. He is further offended that I would talk on a topic if I knew it might offend in this way. I said his presuming cuckoldry is of very low harm offends the many men who think it very high harm. He disagrees that there are many such men, and would bet on a poll on the subject, but thinks it offensive to make such a poll, and won’t help with that.

Added 10a Sunday: Heartiste has a poll with over 3700 respondents so far on preferring rape or cuckoldry. Express your opinion there, or start a new poll somewhere.

Added Tuesday: Now Noah Smith wonders out loud if I’m a fake nerd, who pretends not to understand political correctness so I can have an excuse to offend people. Cause people so admire nerds that of course everyone wants to look like one …

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  • advancedatheist

    Steve Sailer writes about Smith’s attempt to provoke hostility towards you here:


    • as a guest

      Some comments there are saying that Robin is too obscure for a lynch mob. Look what happened to Geoffrey Miller when he said that fat people lack self-control.

      Also, why is Steve Sailer so patronizing.

      • Larry D’anna

        I think he’s always like that. He always came off as really patronizing to me when I read what he says about immigration.

      • Handle

        Care to provide an example?


    I see your point Robin, yes, saying one thing is worse or just as bad as another thing is not the same as saying that other thing is not bad, Noah Smith does indeed seem to gloss over that for his own convenience.

    Still, you can’t just say things like “most men would rather be raped than cuckolded”, you really don’t know that for sure and it’s not about what men think if we’re talking about women getting raped, if women find rape 10x worse than getting cheated on then that’s the only thing that matters (there is plenty of reason to think women fear rape more than men do, for example it’s more of a real life possibility for women than the far hypothetical it is for most men and the physical threat of strange men is much more urgent for women).

    Also, it’s not like cuckoldry is not punished in our society or seen as ok: it’s seen as a morally bad thing that has social consequences (it’s practically seen as socially acceptable to trash the belongings of the partner who cheated) and can end up costing you dearly in divorce court. It’s just that we do not award criminal sentences for it because that would have too severe negative effects on personal freedoms. It’s considered too messy and personal for the state to interfere with.

    • as a guest

      it’s more of a real life possibility for women than the far hypothetical it is for most men

      The Justice Department now seems to be saying that prison rape accounted for the majority of all rapes committed in the US in 2008, likely making the United States the first country in the history of the world to count more rapes for men than for women.


      • IMASBA

        If true, that would really be a shocking result of American culture and its justice system, although it still means that men who are not likely to go to prison don’t realy have to fear rape.

    • anon

      Rape is also a notoriously “messy and personal” crime, most relevantly in cases where overt violence is not an issue. Proving that some sexual act was only acquiesced to under duress is quite difficult, as is disproving such a claim. So why do we indeed prosecute these things, but leave cuckoldry unpunished, even though it leads to comparable harms?

      • You’ve provided (part of) the answer to your question. An offense that is difficult to prove ought to be penalized more severely to get the optimal amount of deterrence.

      • IMASBA

        It depends a bit on your jurisdiction but in general the rapes that are hard to prove or fall in some grey area (sex while being very drunk for example) do go unpunished. Of course the accusations can do a lot of damage on their own but that’s also true for accusations of cuckoldry.

      • IMASBA

        Also, it’s a whole other degree of being “personal and messy”, most people have cheated at least once in their lives and it is possible to make the “victim”, or the immediate social circle understand why the other person cheated, even getting them to say they might’ve done the same (after a cool down period). That’s obviously different from rape, in fact in the case of cuckoldry what the victim is most angry about is not the act itself but the fact that it breaks trust/ends the relationship. They’d be almost just as angry if the other person just broke up with them without cheating. Breaking up hurts, but it’s too much of an infracture on personal freedoms to make it a criminal offense.

      • anon

        When people talk about “cuckoldry” in _this_ context, they’re generally referring to false paternity, not just any ‘dalliance’ or ‘cheating’. That seems like a fairly severe consequence and one that folks might easily be bothered with, even beyond any implications about the state of their relationship or trust in their partner.

      • IMASBA

        In the case of false paternity I actually do think the “father” should be entitled to a financial compensation from the mother. But prison time, no.

  • ryan

    The problem here is that you suggested that a violent physical assault is somehow comparable (preferred even!) to sex between two consenting adults. The argument was constructed correctly, it just makes you seem completely unhinged from reality.

    • IMASBA

      That’s not what Robin said, he said that the damage to the victim might be comparable (at least he thinks they are for men). That the acts themselves are completely different things does answer Robin’s question of why these things are punished differently, but what Robin did mostly was point out that getting cheated on can hurt a lot and he wanted to investigate exactly how and why we think the differences between the acts themselves are reason to punish them so differently (he undoubtedly was hoping to uncover some counterintuitive homo hypocritus-related dynamic).

      Personally I disagree a lot with Robin and think he could state some things a lot more clearly but in the end he’s one of the few “intellectuals” out there who is willing to admit that every moral system has its losers, it’s just that some systems have better overall outcomes or less losers, whoever is unwillig to admit that isn’t truly being open-minded.

    • anon

      Some people do seemingly argue that _all_ heterosexual sex, even sex between two consenting adults, is either comparable to rape or even that it _is_ rape. Should we then be outraged by this view and see it as “unhinged from reality”? Even if you disagree with the claim itself, that’s quite a strict standard to be applying.

      • Maude

        Well of course one could say that these people are unhinged from reality (in my opinion, they are). Fortunately, very few people believe that all sex is rape.
        There is a difference between criticizing or dismissing an idea and being outraged. I assume you’ll agree that free criticism is at the heart of the concept of free speech/ marketplace of ideas. The argument that Hanson’s post was sexist (whether he intended it to be or not) and is a symptom of a bigger problem in econ is pretty compelling to me. No need to be outraged.
        But seriously, it’s okay to criticize people. Smith has a different opinion than Hanson and backs it up with arguments. There’s nothing wrong with it, except perhaps Hanson’s hurt feelings. Then maybe he can write a blog post wondering why criticism of him that he deems unfair is comparable to various crimes.

      • anon

        Well, outrage is clearly relevant here because people _were_ outraged by Landsburg’s claim that some kinds of rape have lesser consequences than others, and Noah Smith’s article does make that comparison.

  • spandrell

    This is karma retribution for praising Obama’s immigration policy on Twitter.

    You shall not praise progressives if you aren’t in the progressive avant-garde. Cowen is quite smooth in that respect.

  • Sam Dangremond

    When progressives attack, always double down – never come anywhere even close to apologizing – or else they’ll be after your shirt next.

    • IMASBA

      What a healthy tribalist response which completely misses the point and basically does what Noah Smith did.

      • Sam Dangremond

        You’re not taking my shirt!

      • IMASBA

        And you stay away from my organic soy latte!

  • Jess Riedel

    It’s really a shame the Noah Smith decided to do this. Scummy.

  • advancedatheist

    Robin, why do you think the social justice scolds have ignored cryonics so far despite the fact that it signals “inequality”? Cryonics has a reputation as a rich white man’s indulgence, even though relatively few really wealthy men have signed up for it compared to guys like me.

    • IMASBA

      They’ll stop ignoring cryonics if/when the first person is revived from cryostasis would be my guess.

      • advancedatheist

        #Gamergate, to the extent that I’ve tried to make sense of it, involves the intersection of money (gaming as a for-profit industry) and fantasy. Yet look at how passionate both sides have gotten over something so relatively trivial.

        Cryonics similarly involves the intersection of money (cryopreservation costs money in the here and now) and a kind of fantasy (about the capabilities of future technologies); and on top of that it confronts people with what Terror Management theorists call mortality salience, which activates people’s anxiety buffers to suppress thoughts about death.

        So again I ask: Given all of these emotional components, why hasn’t cryonics as a manifestation of inequality, not to mention patriarchy and white privilege, drawn the attention of the social justice warriors?.

      • IMASBA

        Cryonics at the moment isn’t even something trivial, it’s a non-subject as long as the vast majority of people have either never heard about it or believe that cryonics cannot work/won’t work for a very long time. The second that changes there will be a lot of outrage, since it wuld basically mean rich people get to buy extra years of life.

  • Larry D’anna

    Wow. I thought Noah Smith was one of the good ones. I guess not.

  • Smith’s attack on R.H. is vile anti-intellectualism.

    [But Robin’s initial question seems very naive–for someone who teaches law and economics. Robin is puzzled that rape is published more harshly than cuckoldry even when it causes less harm. Where does Robin get the idea that the severity of punishment strongly reflects the amount of harm? (Perhaps from the fact that stealing is worse the more money that is stolen, but this is a narrow rule.)

    [Apart from the disparities between punishment and harm predictable from ordinary economic theory, there’s the general Katzian perversity of the law.

    [Robin’s question might have been better phrased as “Why do we think unconscious rape is worse than cuckoldry?” This would have been less vulnerable to intentional misunderstanding.]

    • Handle

      Nothing is invulnerable to intentional misunderstanding when someone questions the degree of sacredness of the sacred.

      That’s the problem, and that’s the point.

      If attempting to engage your accuser into an inquiry as to whether moussaka really exists is itself blasphemous, then you are never going to get very far.

      If one places the burden on the poser of questions to phrase them in ways less vulnerable to intentional misunderstanding, then the forthright can never win, and the winners will never be forthright. It’s a mug’s game, doomed to failure.

      So it’s better to place the burden on an accuser to prove they didn’t misunderstand, and to provide data regarding perceptions of offensiveness. They refuse to do this, and call the demand for data itself offensive, which is highly revealing.

      • Essentially, you’re accusing me of blaming the victim. But you’ve started with a straw man regarding “invulnerability.”

  • JW Ogden

    Excellent analogy. This really does seem to be getting a little out of hand. My theory about this sort of thing is that people tend toward legalism and that agnostics today have their own legalism and Smith is saying you have sinned, repent. He gets away with it because you touched a subject in an unholy way. You are not only supposed to advocate not raping, you are to put great distance between you and it not even touching on it or comparing it with some other sin relatively.

    An example of a modern legalism:

    I like to grow a vegetable garden and so I was at a gardening lecture and of course you get a lot of organic gardeners, so one asks where you can get seeds that were organically produced. Talk about Holy, they were worried about the pesticides that might be on the seeds! Then not to be out Holied another person next to them says “Yeah and also where can “You have to watch out you cannot use manure from horses and cows have eaten grass that was fertilised with chemical fertilizer or that they used pesticides on.” Wow! And I (being 58 years old) am sitting there and thinking what has become of us!
    (BTW 1. I get that same feeling when I hear about chemotherapy for dogs! They offer chemotherapy and radiation for dogs now! We used to just put the dog down and get a puppy. BTW 2. I saw lady in church with a little dog last Sunday!)

  • caryatis

    I found that a pretty damn extreme post–in fact, the most memorable one I’ve ever read here. Naturally it sounds like you are denigrating rape when you compare it to a peccadillo like cheating. A person has an absolute right not to be raped. No one has a right to reproduce.

    • caryatis

      I mean, it’s equivalent to writing a post that said, “Rape is bad, but no worse than running a red light.” This would be an absurdly tone-deaf claim, even if everyone understood you were not advocating rape but rather motivated by a personal crusade against red-light-running.

      • You don’t find it tone-deaf to compare cuckoldry to running a red light, when many men say it would be worse than rape for them?

      • Damien S.

        Which many men? One of your old posts links to a dead blog, claiming 3/4 of respondents said rape would be worse. Was it a random poll of the general population or an open access poll of a biased subpopulation?

        I saw you say you’d prefer being raped. You’d prefer a high risk of PTSD, acute and chronic pain, long term anal fissures, and STDs to supporting a child who didn’t raise your genes? Can you even have an informed preference on this?

      • You interesting in working with me to create a more neutral poll? I asked Noah but he said it would be offensive to make such a poll.

      • caryatis

        Wouldn’t it be more useful to ask men (or women) who have actually experienced both rape and cuckoldry/cheating which was worse? Probably not many men in that group, though.

      • IMASBA

        Yes, that would add some much needed credibility. Rape is a very hypothetical scenario for most men. But of course the opinion of the men doesn’t matter if we’re talking about how bad it is for a woman to get raped.

      • brendan_r

        Damien, not much more than a year ago football player Jovan Belcher killed his girlfriend and himself upon finding out that his one-year-old was probably not actually his. By all accounts Belcher was normal enough as football players go. do you think Belcher would’ve been more devastated if raped? do you think cuckolding or rape has triggered more revenge murders throughout history? Do you understand the relevance of natural selection to this question? How is out rage an appropriate response to talking about the issue?

      • Damien S.

        Arguing statistics with single data points?
        I’m not going to google, but there’s probably male rape victims who wanted to murder their rapist. Or who committed suicide instead. You going to tell me they’d have been even more devastated if they’d been cuckolded?

        Belcher was also (a) way drunk at the time of the murder-suicide and (b) suffering from progressive brain damage caused by all the concussions you get from playing football. So a pretty terrible example of a normal person.

      • caryatis

        I credit what rape victims say about the experience more than an undefined group of men making hypothetical statements about rape, mostly no doubt without having experienced it.

        Now, writing about why you think cuckoldry should be considered more bad than it currently is would be a fair argument. Skip the analogy to rape (or any other Very Bad thing) if you don’t want the criticism.

      • Since when must an intellectual abide by the morals of politicians and avoid “tone-deafness”?

        Unless one’s attention is turned in particular to tone, being “tone-deaf” is an intellectual virtue.

      • caryatis

        Good point. I guess more than “tone-deaf” I meant that the post doesn’t seem to take rape seriously.

      • Why should it need to seem to take a certain position?

        I think the question we are all inclined to ask is this: does Robin truly not share the intuition that rape should be punished more severely than cukoldry? Is his perplexity intellectual or moral?

        But he has no duty to satisfy our curiosity.

  • brendan_r

    Linking to Steve sailer to fend off a social justice warrior attack. Unconventional. I like it! It might confuse them.

    Noah can’t seem to figure out his persona. those who thought he was a good guy thought so because he is one when he’s dealing with an audience that requires that from him. But give him a broader audience and he turns into a lying hack. He just seems a very insincere dude.

    • “Social justice warriors”? An example of a social justice warrior might be Abraham Lincoln. These practitioners of identity politics are better termed “social-injustice collectors.”

  • Then there’s the sociological question: why are the feminists—at this time—making a bid for higher status (at the expense of free thought and sexual freedom)?

    My hypothesis is that their appetite was whetted by the immense gains obtained by other groups, gays in particular, in gaining status through inviolate orthodoxies.

  • Damien S.

    “I was puzzling over why our law punishes rape far more than cuckoldry”

    That sure sounds like you’re either saying rape should be punished less or that cuckoldry should be punished much more. What are the punishments you think are appropriate to the crimes?

    • chaosmosis

      Knowing Hanson, he’s probably not saying either, and just wants to claim that it’s concerns about status that cause one to be punished more than the other. Because everything here is about status, in case you didn’t notice. :p

  • Joshua Brulé

    As I understand it, Robin Hanson supports the ideas that almost everyone is dishonest to themselves and other people, that we should scrap representative democracy and replace it with prediction markets or privatized law, that a 50% cut in healthcare would be a net benefit and that we’re all crazy for not freezing ourselves when we die.

    There’s a *lot* of ways to make Robin Hanson look bad/weird. As far as personal attacks go, this one seems kind of lame.

  • chaosmosis

    To respond to the actual substance of the question you raise here:

    Rape is an experience one goes through. It is something visceral and phemonological. In contrast, cuckoldry is not an experience one can have, but a fact one realizes about the world. Evolution has spent much more time wiring us with the nerves to respond to things like rape, physical pain, lack of bodily control, etc. than it has wiring us with nerves about our relationships with others and pairbonding.

    Rape’s trauma is due to more than just the hit to genetic fitness. It triggers many of the modules associated with fear of death, whereas cuckoldry does not. Therefore, it is quite obvious why rape is less pleasant than cuckoldry, and there is no need to appeal to a sociological or signalling based explanation for the different amounts of attention paid to each form of suffering.

    • das keyboard

      There is a very high correlation between hits to evolutionary fitness and subjective suffering. There is little reason why rape would cause fear of death since it is in the interest of the rapist to keep the woman alive. If impregnated, a woman can know that the child is at least half hers, albeit the other half is an undesirable mate. Cuckoldry is likely worse than rape because a man who is cuckold not only doesn’t gain fitness but loses a tremendous amount of fitness due to the opportunity cost of raising a child that isn’t his. Cuckoldry is certainly an experience, and a devastating one. It is unlikely that you have every read accounts of men actually being cuckolded. Is being low status or having racial epithets thrown at you not visceral or phenomenological? You throw those fancy words around as if people can’t suffer in a myriad of ways.

      • Damien S.

        “There is little reason why rape would cause fear of death since it is in the interest of the rapist to keep the woman alive.”

        Genetic interest, maybe. It can be in the personal interest of the rapist to silence his victim and dump her body in the woods.

        Not to mention the pain, trauma, and violation of the rape itself.

        “Cuckoldry is likely worse than rape”

        So what do you think the punishment should be?

      • o rly

        > So what do you think the punishment should be?

        Look, it’s easy. You get caught cuckolding, you’re not going to white-collar resort prison. No, no, no. You’re going to Federal, pound-me-in-the-ass prison!


      • chaosmosis

        Jesus, please don’t complain about people using bigger words than you. That’s ridiculously anti-intellectual for someone frequenting this blog. Dumb dumb dumb.

        If you’re being manhandled, that’s going to trigger your fear of death no matter what your cognitive parts tell you about the interests of the rapist. Also, I disagree with your views on the interests of the rapists. Evolution is merely an adaptation executor, so rapists don’t have any compelling reasons to keep their victims alive. They’re in it for the sex and the power, not the offspring.

        I’ll take your point that Cuckoldry is an experience into consideration. Don’t be a jerk about it next time, and maybe I’ll give your ideas even more credit.

      • Peter David Jones

        There is a is a lot wrong with this , but I will point out that it is often in the interest of rapists to kill victims who are also the only witness to the crime.

        It’s like you’ve never read a newspaper,

    • Larry D’anna

      The entire point of qualifying as “gentle silent” qualification was to sharpen the thought experiment by eliminating the visceral, phenomenological aspects. The point is that rape which is not visceral, phenomenological, is still really bad, and is more directly comparable to cuckoldry, so you should think cuckoldry is also really bad.

  • oldoddjobs

    “There was no outcry whatsoever over these remarks”

    Yeah, I forgot to give a hoot at the time. Let’s do that now, shall we? Let’s all have a big cry about the Bad Man who wrote the Bad Words.

  • Here are my (somewhat bigoted) “moral intuitions.”

    In their essences, cuckoldry is a breach of contract and rape is a tort. [You can only be cuckholded by someone with whom you have married.] To punish someone for cuckoldry is to unnecessarily intrude the state into contractual relationship. The cuckold had responsibility for choosing partners who don’t betray him, but you can’t reasonably hold victims of rape responsible for their misfortune.

    Cuckoldry is much less severe an offense than rape for the same reason that the most serious breach of contract is (criminally) less serious than larceny.

    • Alphaceph

      Most breaches of contract are civilly punishable, in fact what is the value of a contract if breaches of it are not punishable?

      Cuckoldry should, in my opinion, be punished in some way. Cheating in marriage should also be punished, but less severely.

      A suitable civil punishment for cuckoldry might be financial reparations from the woman (cuckolder?) to the man. Perhaps also favourable divorce terms.

      • The legal value of a contract is that you can obtain compensation for breach. Breach of contract is not “punishable.” You can’t get punitive or exemplary damages; you’re strictly limited to recovering the value of the contract. [Which is to say, the intrusion of the state is held to a minimum.]

        Divorce these days is no-fault. This is a fairly recent development. In the old day, if you committed cukoldry, you’re alimony would be reduced, which is appropriate in a contractual setting. (I think divorce became no-fault for the sake of efficiency, not because of a moral consensus that there’s no one at fault.)

  • efalken

    The more extreme the position, the clearer the point in these little thought experiments. It’s too bad such exercises can’t be taken by most who are at the whim of social media shirstorms, because a young journalist would obviously be blacklisted if they ever did such a thing.

  • James Donald

    It is so obvious to me that cuckoldry resulting in false paternity is enormously worse than rape, that I really cannot take seriously those who would deny it. They are just flat out lying about their subjective experience in a status competition to destroy their status adversaries.

  • James Donald

    That Robin Hanson has been selected for the next witch burning neither troubles me or surprises me. The left has a witch shortage, therefore consumes itself. He deserves this as much as Trotsky deserved the Icepick.

    Of course the reason Hanson is getting this treatment is that it is perfectly obvious he is right. Women don’t really mind being physically coerced for sexual purposes all that much – consider the response to Roman Polanski (which incident was real rape, plea bargained down to merely statutory rape). Every fertile age women wants Roman Polanski to rape her also. And the more violent he was, the more they want it. Similarly, the rape scene in “Gone with the wind”. Every woman leaves a wet patch on the movie theater seats when they watch that. And, of course, the rape scene in “The Fountainhead”.

    Men, on the other hand, obviously object to their wives committing adultery.

    It is simply obvious that adultery is more harmful than the rape of a single woman. It is just absurd to deny this, and this is how we would expect evolution to have shaped our preferences. A cuckolded husband takes a big hit to reproductive fitness, a raped woman does not.

    • Did Trotsky deserve the icepick?

      • James Donald

        The butcher of Kronstadt.

        He lost to Stalin largely because he was so busy personally torturing people.

      • I was trying to be sure I understood what preceded: “That Robin Hanson has been selected for the next witch burning neither troubles me or surprises me. The left has a witch shortage, therefore consumes itself.”

        You really are saying that R.H. deserves what he got—because he’s a leftist.

        [Folks should appreciate your views on Trotsky in that light.]

      • James Donald

        Robin Hanson piously tells us:

        “The simplest most reliable way to help the world’s poor a lot would be for rich nations to accept more poor immigrants.”

        Ignoring the lesson of “world on fire” – that market dominant minorities are apt to be exterminated or ethnically cleansed.

        Burn witch, burn!

    • rrb

      “Every fertile age women wants Roman Polanski to rape her also. And the more violent he was, the more they want it.”

      This looks obviously false. People get very upset about being violently raped, and that’s such a strong general principle that’d it take a lot to convince me that rape by an attractive celebrity is an exception.

      You bring up rape scenes in fiction. It’s true lot of people find rape in fiction hot. I only know one such person, and they only want to read about rape and role-play it. They don’t want it to actually happen to them.

      I expect this is common, based on the general principle that most things people like reading about, they don’t want to happen to them.

      I think you should trust the kind of outside-view reasoning I’m doing here more than inside-view evolutionary arguments.

      • Sieben

        “They don’t want it to actually happen to them.”

        Maybe they have this subconscious desire for it but society has been telling them it’s wrong, wrong, wrong, and so they lie to themselves so they can fit in.

      • James Donald

        Revealed preference: If women were all that upset about rape, would see fewer women cruising late at night half drunk and half dressed. The rape rate for the category “wife of head of household” is indistinguishable from zero, so women who are getting raped are doing something that “wife of head of household” would not do or would not be allowed to do. If rape is really so bad, stop doing that.

      • rrb

        People drive drunk. Revealed preference: they don’t like being alive.

        Risky behavior doesn’t reveal much about preferences, because people aren’t rational about risks with small probabilities.

        Also, being drunk and wearing skimpy clothes at night isn’t that risky, is it?

      • Jason Young

        Oh, you said what I wanted to say more concisely.

        But it isn’t just irrationality regarding risk. It’s that people *do not* have well-considered and coherent systems of well-ordered preferences. Sex really does “just happen” as a consequence of choices made that seemed to the chooser as if they had nothing to do with sex.

      • Peter David Jones

        And there’s a lot of young men who want broken glass in their face…what else would they be doing in a bar?

      • James Donald

        In wine there is truth

        Most of the time, the guy who got glassed in a bar, was in the bar looking for a fight. We should similarly conclude that most of the time the woman who got drunk in the bar and got raped, was looking to get raped.

      • Jason Young

        Preferences are not connected or coherent in the way required for your argument to hold.

        Coeds get sloshed and go to frat parties because that’s What Is Done. It’s the accepted weekend ritual. They do not do it because they secretly want to have casual sex they’ll regret the next morning, or because they’d kinda-sorta like to get gangbanged by the basketball team. That drinking leads to lower standards and greater promiscuity is an unforeseen and unintended consequence that very few women ever really consider, and even when they do there are dozens of ready-made rationalizations floating around in meme-space that can be used to shut down attempts at generating attitudes and decision-policies that would cut them off from the standard social gatherings of (cool) youth.

      • IMASBA

        A lot of people consciously go to college parties to get laid, just not to get raped. James Donald is a troll, don’t feed him.

      • James Donald

        Coeds get sloshed and go to frat parties because that’s What Is Done.
        It’s the accepted weekend ritual. They do not do it because they
        secretly want to have casual sex they’ll regret the next morning, or
        because they’d kinda-sorta like to get gangbanged by the basketball

        Revealed preference.

      • Tj Swift

        The root of the male/female rape inequality question: “That drinking leads to lower standards and greater promiscuity is an unforeseen and unintended consequence that very few women ever really consider” is a belief in the inferiority of women.

      • James Donald

        The extremely low rate of rape of “wife of head of household” is most plausibly explained by the husband restraining the wife from risky behavior – which most plausibly explained by the husband being far more concerned about being cuckolded, than the wife is concerned about being raped.

      • rrb

        Ah, I see that you only need a single statistical correlation to firmly believe a cause, and a cause for that cause. I wonder why social scientists bother writing those long reviews of many studies before deciding on the most plausible explanation?

      • Tj Swift

        They don’t do that. They default to whatever is the Progressive position. See Chaidt.

    • caryatis

      “A cuckolded husband takes a big hit to reproductive fitness, a raped woman does not.”

      Not so! A raped woman loses a woman’s most valuable reproductive asset–the ability to choose who she reproduces with. Not to mention that rape can cause serious injuries or diseases.

  • Mahmet Tokarev (Tajik Pride)

    I wonder what the next step of the SJW war on thought-experiments will be.

    Perhaps Philippa Foot (creator of the trolley problem) can be dug up and put on trial for fat-shaming?

  • stevesailer

    High functioning cultures tend to keep the rates of both rape and cuckoo’s egg births low:


  • Handle

    I would be happy to help with a poll and would like to see the results.

    But I understand that you asking Smith to help with a poll “isn’t about having a poll”, but instead to make a point about the protective edifice he tries to build around his claims so that they simply cannot be tested, refuted or examined intellectually or empirically.

    The offensiveness trump card is impervious and self-prophylactic, because any inquiry into a claim that a statement is offensive, insulting, or threatening is itself offensive, insulting, and threatening, and it doesn’t matter how many meta levels one ascends because the property carries forward to infinity by induction.

    It’s the new unfalsifiability.

    At the extreme, any skepticism, criticism, or lack of immediate display of perfect trust and adoption of a counterparty’s claims leads to accusations of violative hostility and a descent into inaccessibly relativist epistemologies. Heather MacDonald’s latest in City Journal provides some choice examples, which are both disturbing and depressing.

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  • Daublin

    It’s a great topic for “Overcoming Bias”.

    There’s a strong bias for punishing crimes against women much more strongly than against men. To continue this particular example, look at the way cheating *men* get treated if their wives go public with it. It’s pretty rough, and it’s not dissimilar from how a borderline rapist will tend to get treated.

    There’s also a taboo against speaking on these kinds of things. Is taboo too strong a word? People are pulling every stop to shut Robin up on the basis for raising the question at all.

    In such a discussion environment, we should be very surprised to arrive at the truth. To have a productive discussion, it has to be possible to make a mistake without instantly being treated as a bad person.

    • IMASBA

      Here in Western Europe it’s considered equally bad for men and women to cheat, so what you say must be an American thing. Or rather it’s a victim role some American men like to place themselves in, not so dissimilar to what radical feminists do. I suppose it’s not easy to live in a country that’s half modern-secular and half puritan-christian-traditional and you never know who belongs to which half. When half the people you know expect you to be “courteous to a lady” and the other half wants you to treat her in no special way that can be confusing, but remember that women are equally caught between being expected to be ladylike and being expected to be an independent strong woman and that the opposing demands come from different people so there’s no real hypocrisy.

      • cloudswrest

        Here in Western Europe it’s considered equally bad for men and women to cheat, so what you say must be an American thing.

        They’re not equally bad. No woman on the face of the earth ever unknowingly supported her husband’s bastards.

      • Charlene Cobleigh Soreff

        >No woman on the face of the earth ever unknowingly supported her husband’s bastards.

        Probably true, thus far. IVF creates possibilities for genetically analogous actions… One could have cases where either the eggs or the sperm, or both are fraudulently swapped with someone else’s. If the eggs were swapped, that would put the woman in a position analogous to victim of paternity fraud.

      • IMASBA

        Here in Western Europe (sans Britain) people know how to use contraceptives (we don’t have that medieval “abstinence only” BS), abortion and the morning after pill are also much more available and accepted, unwanted pregnancies are extremely rare compared to the US. If a woman over here becomes pregnant from cheating she most likely intended for it or didn’t care from the beginning, that’s something completely different from “just” cheating. Naturally I wonder what your position is on cheating men impregnating their mistresses…

  • Handle

    Someone has to say it. I’m frankly stunned that on the blog of an economist called ‘overcoming bias’ the notion of subjective value and the inherent diversity of opinion regarding the severity of certain harms based on an individual’s interests is all but being ignored.

    So many people are arguing within a particular moral or legal framework as if it’s been settled that these are the single right
    answer and correct perspective on the question, and there is a magical tablet of platonic ideal rankings somewhere in the universe.

    That’s absurd. It makes no sense, for example, to appeal to notions of contract law, as if we were talking about a petty warranty claim, when the context of procreation and child-rearing is so far removed from the typical stakes in those disputes.

    Yes, we have a system in which there is supposed to be one law for everyone, and so we can to find a way to reconcile all the different assessments of harm into one rule. But that’s a matter of politics, not cosmic truth, and the question is why do the politics of law come down so assymetrically in this one case when that is not usually the case in opinions on other subjects are dispersed in similar ways.

    Many questions of opinion show large gender gaps, and it makes sense that the gap in this case would be massive because of fundamentally different experiences and hazards.

    Women cannot be cuckolded, and when they try to imagine it, they are probably visualizing it happening to an unattractive beta male family-provider type. If they are trying to imagine themselves in the situation, they will naturally more easily sympathize with the difficult position of the woman in the situation who faces the kind of risks, emotions, and moral dilemmas that they care most about.

    On the flip side, while men can be forcibly raped, it can only be at the hands of other men (other cases obviously negligible), and of course they cannot get pregnant.

    So, if you do the poll and ask people to rank in order or increasing harm A. “False labeling of very expensive merchandise as being authentically from a premium brand”, B. Serious Assault and Battery C. “forcible rape of a man”, D. “forcible rape of a woman” E. Cuckolding, and F. Homicide, I’d guess that most men would answer “A, B≈C, D≈E, F” and most women would answer, “A≈E, B, C≈D, F”.

    There are certainly other circumstances in which the difference in opinion as to the severity of crimes has the same statistical profile as above, but isn’t manifested so asymmetrically in our law. So the question is why?

    The answer is that for well-known reasons, men usually lose by complaining, and women usually win, and any topics where there is a huge gender split on harm will favor the female assessment when translated into law, which is why ‘Men’s Rights’ has been such a dead-end despite its facial compatibility with commonly espoused principles of justice. Hanson has explored this question before in his discussion of The Man Who Was Thursday’s blog (which has, alas, disappeared. If anyone knows of a preserved archive I’d greatly appreciate a link.)

    One can, in fact, witness this precise asymmetry in Hanson’s twitter dialogue with Smith. Smith claims the whole discussion and inquiry is tone-deaf and offensive to women since it doesn’t automatically adopt the average woman’s assessment of the relative ranking of harms, which should be presumed accurate, and which all right-thinking people who care about women and aren’t misogynists would do.

    Hanson laid the classic BS-artist-trap and asked that if one is really doing what what claims – operating on principles of human equality and not playing favorites with gender – then how, by that same logic, would the dismissal of the harm of cuckoldry in relation to rape not be equally reprehensible and offensive to those men who hold those assessments?

    Smith appeared to take the bait and reduce the issue to an empirical question and said that his claim is still justified because the numbers of such men are negligible (but who probably constitute a majority of men in reality). Hanson went in for the kill and said, “Well, let’s say we put it to the test, huh?”

    Using poker as an analogy, if you trying to out someone as bluffing when you know you have the strongest hand, then you politely raise the stakes as high as you can to encourage the other person to fold or else publicly lose their shirt.

    But that’s where it gets interesting. When Hanson raised, Smith announced that the new rule of the intellectual game was an automatic ending of the hand in a draw upon the execution of any bluff-exposing-raise, and then he picked his chips out of the pot and left the table.

    Well, that’s crazy; a true recipe for disaster in our public intellectual life. Reason-defying technique evolution in action. This mutation produces a new kind of stealth, self-armoring BS that cannot be probed.

    It’s like announcing a new rule that people accused of witchcraft must prove they aren’t witches but then imposing a catch-22. When an individual provides evidence of how non-witch-like they are, then the response is, “Well folks, isn’t that exactly what a tricky witch would do?”

    This is like the development of antibiotic resistance in bacteria. Oh, you’ve got staph? No problem, we typically cure this with penicillin. Oh snap, this is a new kind of staph, it loves penicillin. Look like the patient it going to die.

    But our patient in this case is intellectual discourse and progress. Oh well, nothing lasts forever.

    • It makes no sense, for example, to appeal to notions of contract law, as if we were talking about a petty warranty claim, when the context of procreation and child-rearing is so far removed from the typical stakes in those disputes.

      It is simply your dogma that our intuitions about procreation, etc. are entirely based on the primordial tendencies rather than the enculturated.

      If the distinction between contract and tort law captures our inclinations about the law of procreation, then your dogma is falsified.

      [On the other hand if our intuitions about these matters are as diverse as you think, that would refute my position.]

      • Handle

        What leads you to think that intuitions about this are homogenous? I see a lot of variance.

      • The extremely different way they’re treated under law and the way they’re treated uniformly in literature. [You may be subject to an illusion due to the amount of contrarian discourse on the subject.]

        Let me add an explanatory advantage that occurred to me for the tort/contract theory. It answers Robin’s question: why is it so bad to rape someone who’s unconscious. After all, isn’t this part of what makes the charges (which I don’t necessarily believe) against Bill Cosby extra damaging: they were not conscious.

        When the person is unconscious, they’re harmed less, yet the culpability is actually greater under common morals and law. [There is no contractual when the victim is unconscious.]

      • The apparent heterogeneity is signaling, and the present sample is misleading. Rape hysteria is feminist; cukoldry paranoia is patriarchialist.

        I think if almost anyone here made an honest attempt to introspect, they would report that it seems utterly crazy to imprison someone for cuckoldry, while being equally insane not to treat rape criminally. The evidence from Western literature is overwhelming, as well as the consistency in Western law. That it is culturally driven is also obvious: Islamist fundamentalists take a much harsher view of cuckoldry and, apparently, a milder view of rape.

        I’m only addressing our “moral intuitions” regarding deserved legal consequences, not intuitions about relative harm (I, for one, don’t have any) or even whether we “should” follow these intuitions.

      • James Donald

        I think if almost anyone here made an honest attempt to introspect, they
        would report that it seems utterly crazy to imprison someone for
        cuckoldry, while being equally insane not to treat rape criminally.

        Oh come on. You are lying to yourself, You will see the truth as soon as you think about it, which is why you don’t want to think about it.

        Visualize this scenario. A male has a young hot wife. At midnight, when everyone’s in bed, wife wants to go to the laundromat. No one is going to be around, so she is at risk.

        Husband is going to put his foot down., It is always the husband that prohibits the wife from engaging in behavior that puts his wife at risk of rape. Husband is never going to say “Oh, the laundry is piling up. Why don’t you make a midnight run to the laundromat.

        That we instinctively and intuitively expect the husband to be the one opposed to rape risk behavior, and the wife the one likely to engage in it if not restrained, shows that we instinctively and intuitively know that rape is not such a big deal, except that it is a particular case of cuckoldry.

      • Like everyone else intent on signaling their patriarchialism (or feminism), you change the subject. (Well, you’re an extreme case of that, but that makes you a good illustration of the process.)

      • James Donald

        I am not aware that I changed the topic.

        You say it is obvious to you that rape is worse than cuckoldry. I reply, “imagine real life people, and intuit how they will behave in dealing with a real life risk of rape.” You will intuit that the husband will be far more averse to putting his wife at risk that his wife will be averse to putting herself at risk. Therefore, in fact, your intuitions of human behavior imply that it is obvious to you that cuckoldry is far worse than rape.

      • James Donald

        I am not changing the subject.

        To repeat myself in slightly different words: You claim to intuit that rape is enormously worse than cuckoldry, but when you imagine how a husband and a wife address a real life risk of rape/forcible cuckoldry, you will intuit them behaving as if cuckoldry was enormously worse than rape.

      • No, I reject your view that calling one “worse” than the other has any serious meaning. My claim is only about intuitions about condign punishment. There are highly destructive acts that don’t receive imprisonment–that we assume shouldn’t receive punishment.

        We don’t criminally punish cuckoldry not because of intimations of the degree of destructiveness; rather because even the most destructive breaches of contract aren’t criminal acts in Western legal systems.

      • James Donald

        There are highly destructive acts that don’t receive imprisonment–that we assume shouldn’t receive punishment.

        If a man loses half his assets because he let a slut get hold of some of his semen, is he not being punished?

        If a man’s much wanted son is killed in the womb by his wife, is he not being punished?

        We don’t have any hesitation in imposing the feminine imperative on men by the most draconian punishments. A wife briefly marries a man at the height of his earning power. He get ordered to make payments but his earning power declines. He goes to jail. Is he not being punished?

        The underlying theory of his punishment is that by marrying the women he contracted to support her regardless of her behavior. And for breach of this supposed contract he goes to jail. Why then not send a woman to jail for failure to perform her contract?

      • The underlying theory of his punishment is that by marrying the women he contracted to support her regardless of her behavior.

        That was never the underlying theory. In the days of divorce trials, the woman would be deprived of her alimony for infidelity. (Breach of contract.) Under today’s no-fault divorce, the breach is interpreted as nobody’s fault, and both parties are (in theory) restored to their original positions. (I think it’s true it leans too much toward the woman, but the reason is that in America we use the legal system in place of functions that should be served by a proper welfare system.)

        Criminalizing infidelity assumes that it was the female’s fault. Divorce law was inefficient because fault had to be litigated. But you would prefer that the woman’s fault be assumed. That’s what fails to concur with anyone’s intuitions.

      • James Donald

        That was never the underlying theory. In the days of divorce trials, the woman would be deprived of her alimony for infidelity

        In practice that has not happened significantly since 1820. Normal procedure was in practice that the man gets punished for his wife’s infidelity. And since 1880 or so there has been no hesitation in applying criminal style punishments to supposed male breaches of contract.

        No matter how flagrant the wife’s adultery (Example Queen Caroline) a man could not get a divorce for his wife’s adultery, so had to pretend that he was the one at fault, and indeed, this was the justification for no fault – that pretty much everyone found to be at fault was falsely pretending to be at fault.

        You argue that it is irrelevant whether rape or cuckoldry is more hurtful, because one is a contractual breach and the other more akin to assault, but we put men in jail over child support, which is a contractual breach.

      • we put men in jail over child support, which is a contractual breach

        Which, to anyone seriously contemplating the practice, is outrageous.

  • brendan_r

    Oh, I see. so Noah’s a big fan of intellectual politeness which is why he loves brad Delong and defames robin Hanson.

  • Sieben

    Getting raped just isn’t that bad. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m so so sorry I am not signaling sensitivity to women.

    Off the top of my head, here are some mundane things that are plausibly (but not always) worse than a woman getting raped:

    1) Getting your hand chopped off (or even losing a couple of fingers)
    2) Losing $10,000
    3) Getting a drug offense on your permanent record
    4) Getting a liberal arts degree and working at starbucks when you’re 30
    5) Going to prison for > 1 week

    Now, I am very firmly of the aesthetic view that its your job as a man to be tough so you can take 10 bullets to the chest and then go hand-murder the guy trying to shoot your loved ones (and no complaining!). As a result, I take rape of women very seriously. Not because I think it’s a particularly deep harm, but because my tolerance for women and children suffering is basically zero.

    I won’t offer a justification for this kind of ultra macho protection bullcrap, but it’s just a way to synthesize the two views: That rape isn’t that bad, but we should take it rull seriously if it’s happening to certain groups.

    • rrb

      All you’ve said is that it’s less bad than other horrible things. A lot of the people I see on Tumblr being outraged about rape are also outraged about prison conditions, and about how drug laws fuck people over. I don’t see any hand-chopped-off outrage, though I do see acid attack outrage.

      So, I think you’d have a lot in common with these people, when it comes to ranking the badness of things.

      Although you’d probably diverge with them in thinking that it’s my job as a man to do anything in particular. Which I agree with, and I’m annoyed at you expecting me to do these arbitrary things in which I have no interest.

      • Sieben

        Are they also outraged about moderate financial losses?

        Other men can do whatever they want. When I said: “your job as a man”, I was speaking about my own little disney fantasy world. I wasn’t giving recommendations or judging other people for having a different opinion on gender roles.

        The self deprecation was supposed to signal this pretty strongly 😉

      • rrb

        Oh, okay. I don’t know if they’re outraged about moderate financial losses. They’re outraged about college tuition prices? Those are larger than $10,000 though. And they talk about rape way more.

        By the way, I do see myself as commenting on minor points in your post. I’m not disagreeing with your main point, which is that the protective side of masculinity is a reason you might pass laws restricting rape more than cuckoldry.

        I just want to question that you judge the harms of rape significantly differently than those who make it into a big political topic. Rape is emphasized by a certain political faction more than the other stuff you brought up, it’s true. But there are a variety of reasons that could be the case. For example, if it’s more common. Or if it’s more solvable with political argumentation; GiveWell doesn’t focus on malaria because it’s the most common disease, but because there’s more you can do about it. I don’t know why you think it’s unusual to think that rape is not as bad as losing $10,000.

        You could be right; maybe most people do think it’s worse. I think it’d be worse for me personally, due to particular issues I have about being touched and constrained; I’d probably suffer permanent psychological damage. I’d rather lose $10,000, unless I’m wrong about the psychological damage.

        But even though you might be right I’m questioning it. You might be wrong.

        Which is interesting, because saying losing $10,000 is worse than being raped still makes you a political enemy of feminists, right? There’s this, like, implication, “it’s not as bad as losing $10,000, therefore stop taking it so seriously.” I think the apparent antifeminism of your statements have more to do wth this implication that people are going to read into them, than any diffrence in opinion over what’s actually worse.

      • Sieben

        I actually do go along with that implication. I don’t think rape should be taken seriously in this kind of broad SJW sense. Yes, I am personally overprotective because I choose to be. No, people shouldn’t have to live in fear of being raped. But if you look at aaaaalll the other things that happen to people that they’re expected to just deal with, rape is par for the course.

        What the feminist crowd is going to say to me in response is that rape is certainly worse than losing $10,000. They’re going to say it without thinking. “How dare you” etc etc. They’re going to go back to the leftist antimaterialist narrative that you can’t put a price on X. Of course, $10,000 represents a ton of time and energy for most people. And it’s certainly plausible that a small amount of discomfort for many months is worse than a large amount of discomfort for 5 minutes.

        … and that’s where the difference of opinion is. They’re just outright committed to being wrong so they can signal solidarity with women.

      • The overprotectiveness explanation founders if we’re inclined to think the rape of a man (whether by a woman or another man) is felonious.

        I gather that you’re not inclined to think that.

      • Sieben

        What do you mean by felonious? Rape should probably be illegal.

      • Felony, a serious crime, as opposed to a misdemeanor. Being a felon or ex-felon is a big demerit in America.

      • Sieben


        “In the United States, a crime punishable by incarceration for a year or less generally is considered by the federal government to be a misdemeanor offense. Punishment that exceeds a year is considered a felony. States often follow this federal determination.”

        I think rape should be severely punished. I also think other “misdemeanors” like assault and battery should be more severely punished than 1 year in prison.

        … US legal absurdities…

      • IMASBA

        The connotation you have with words like “assault” may not match the practiced legal definition, if throwing a shoe at someone is legally considered “assault” then >1 year in jail doesn’t seem right. Law is a messy affair where different sides are always locked in a battle to exploit differences between connotations people have with a word and the practical legal definition. This is especially pronounced in the US with its elected judges, heavy reliance on jury trials and state of polarized culture.

      • What should the punishment be for cuckoldry–how much for the woman and what for the man she betrays with?

        [Not that many years ago, there was in U.S. jurisdictions a legal action for “alienation of affection.” This, incidentally, also supports the contract/tort theory, since there still today is an action in tort–against the interfering apart only–for the deliberate interference in contractual relations]

      • Sieben

        Contracts that don’t specify what happens if you break the contract seem kind of dumb.

        I don’t know. I’d need more details. I can see cuckoldry ranging from mostly a dignity issue to being tantamount to grand theft.

        I tend to be in favor of harsh punishments for theft.

    • IMASBA

      A lot of people (men and women) would gladly pay $10.000 or spend two weeks in prison to go back in time and prevent themselves being raped. It’s different for everyone but a substantial percentage of rape victims get serious mental issues from the incident and can actually easily miss out on $10.000 of income because of that. Add to that that rape victims fear for their lives during the rape and can get STDs. You really don’t have to be signalling to state that for most people rape is far more than just 5 minutes of discomfort. I’m really wondering if you know any people who have been raped because it sounds like you don’t.

      • cloudswrest

        Uhhm $10,000?? How about $500,000 to a million dollars. That’s how much it costs nowadays to raise and educate a child. And a man is cheated out of that if he is unknowingly (or even knowingly under some laws) forced to pay for some other man’s bastard spawn. And by the time he finds out it might be too late to sire his own kids.

      • IMASBA

        It also costs that same amount for a woman to raise a child after she gets pregnant from a rape… And I wasn’t discussing cuckoldry with Sieben, we were talking about simply losing $10.000.

      • das keyboard

        at least the child is half hers, also she can abort

      • IMASBA

        “Also she can abort”.

        She can, if she’s lucky enough to live in a place where that’s allowed, just like a cuckolded man can refuse to pay child support in a place where that’s allowed.

      • SCOTUS has ruled abortion is legal everywhere in the US. The Canadian supreme court has ruled that DNA tests proving a man is not the father is no barrier to the requirement of child support payments. In the U.S men have been fined for failure to pay child support payments when they have never even met the mother, but were simply wrongly noted as the father due to a welfare bureaucracy that doesn’t care what mistakes it makes. And going to another state would not affect such fines, unlike abortion in pre-Roe America.

      • IMASBA

        Rape is in itself not a condition for abortion in countries like Ireland, New Zealand, South Korea and some Australian states. Refusing to pay child support after a negative DNA test is legal in the Netherlands, at least a dozen US states and a man in the UK once got a court ordered financial compensation from his ex-wife for cuckoldry. Really all the US needs to do is to get the other 38 states to change their laws regarding mandatory child support, don’t you agree that would be a much more elegant solution than having a moral police or making comparisons with the rape of women? Instead of imprisoning people for cuckoldry perhaps it would be better to do something about a stupid law that makes the effects of cuckoldry so terrible in the first place.

        I think Robin is allowed to make the comparisons, freedom of speech and debate is important after all, but this whole thing is now descending into apples and oranges territory, see the poll on heartiste that Robin decided to link to and that compares the least possible form of rape (and rape of a man) with the worst possible form of cuckoldry. You too automatically assume that a raped woman lives somewhere where abortion after rape is legal (and doesn’t cause her to be disowned/shunned by her family and community) and where contesting paternity is impossible. Would you accept a radical feminist comparing cuckoldry in the Netherlands with rape in Ireland?

      • Hanson and I both live in the US, so we tend to disproportionately focus on it. I was aware of Ireland’s relatively restrictive laws, but not the other countries mentioned.

        Perhaps states should change their laws, but Hanson is generally less interested in campaigning for policy changes than wondering why the status quo is the status quo.

      • chaosmosis

        Hi there! This is unrelated to your current conversation, but we were talking on Noah’s Dismal Science article. I seem to have been banned shortly after I posted my comment that gave specific criticisms of Noah’s presentation of the research as unethical and intentionally misleading, so I’m not able to respond in the way you requested. I’ve emailed you at the hotmail address on your blog, and I’m editing my earlier comment so that my criticisms can hopefully get past the moderation team to people other than you.

        (Please keep my email address quiet, I like anonymity.)

      • The Canadian case is interesting ( http://www.canlii.org/en/on/onsc/doc/2008/2008canlii68884/2008canlii68884.html )

        I don’t read the case as standing for the proposition that DNA tests are “no barrier.” The case only held that they aren’t an absolute barrier.

        To put the matter in American law terms, the father waived ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waiver ) his right to deny paternity because he accepted responsibility despite having good reason to doubt the paternity. Most rights can be waived by one’s own informed conduct when it causes someone else to change their position.

        Apart from the letter of the law, I think it’s true that’s there’s a strong trend to dissociate “paternity” from biology. Men who are concerned about whether it’s really their kid are viewed as dinosaurs. [How can homosexuality be extolled as psychiatrically normal if having children that are yours biologically is a very big deal?]

      • IMASBA

        Also, while there is the added upside of the baby being half hers there’s also the added downside of the baby being, you know, half the rapist’s and conceived through rape.

        With cuckoldry the father might be a nice guy (he may not have known about the existence of the husband, or the wife may have falsely told him she was on contraception).

      • Sieben

        My mom was actually raped in a laundromat doing laundry at midnight. No, you don’t have to apologize for walking into that one. Yes, I am an insensitive b!@#ard.

        But let’s say you can come up with a peanut gallery of examples of women who have been raped and suffered ultra mega psychological damage that has rendered them basically unable to work. Catatonic, if you want.

        One interpretation of that is that rape is just objectively horrible.

        Another interpretation is that society has spent so much time talking about how horrible rape is, that if it actually happens to you, you go into “victim mode” and shut down rather than “I stubbed my toe” mode and find a way to cope.

        Now, I wouldn’t claim that it’s 100% the latter interpretation, but society really does tell women that they have golden vaginas. And they believe it.

      • IMASBA

        I wasn’t talking about catatonic people. “Just” people who have to go in therapy for a while or don’t dare to go outside alone in the dark for the next 6 months, have trouble enjoying sex for a year or trouble trusting men for a while, that sort of stuff, very common and potentially very costly financially or otherwise. And yes, some of that is because of societal attitudes, the fact that everyone sees the victim as “broken” or sometimes even as “defiled” does add a lot to the “base damage”, but that is true of many other horrible things as well, 2 weeks in a Norwegian prison is far less horrible than in an American prison, cuckoldry is far less worse in a country that doesn’t force you to support the child and that have macho culture. And part of the cultural component of the horribleness of rape is simply unavoidable: it’s simply more rare in some countries than in others and when it is rare it becomes much harder to cope with, just like losing that $10.000 and being poor is something Westerners cannot cope with easily but people in the third world can.

      • IMASBA

        *and [a country] that has NO macho culture…

      • Sieben

        “And part of the cultural component of the horribleness of rape is simply unavoidable”

        Why do you think it’s unavoidable?

        Society tells you all sorts of things that are wrong that you should just ignore.

        I’m not going to sit here and say it’s *easy* to overcome. But if the stakes are so high and can be lowered to basically nothing by getting your head straight, well, I can’t have much sympathy for you if you just sit around letting yourself be artificially vulnerable.

        I dunno. Life seems too important to go through it brainwashed by whatever middle class suburban hell values happen to be pushed on you by a bunch of fat 40 year olds who never accomplished anything other than get a job and then consume pop culture fantasy shit. Shrug.

      • IMASBA

        Didn’t I just explain why part of it is unavoidable? If something horrible is comparatively rare in your culture (at least as far as you’re aware) then it automatically becomes harder to deal with. If half the people you know did hard time in jail I’m sure that >1 week in prison wouldn’t horrify you that much anymore either. You’re setting an impossible standard: rape victims are not allowed to be influenced by culture, the reactions of people they know or the shock value of something bad and rare happening to them (or the fear of STDs or other physical damage, or the fact that it’s usually someone previously trusted by the victim who commits the rape) but you somehow do not require that of people who work at Starbuck’s at age 30, people who lose $10.000 or people who go to jail for >1 week. That seems like an obvious bias to me.

      • Sieben

        “then it automatically becomes harder to deal with. ”

        Harder doesn’t mean unavoidable. It just means you might actually have to think for yourself and deprogram your inherited biases.

        “You’re setting an impossible standard: rape victims are not allowed to be influenced by culture,”

        Why is this impossible? I think it is eminently reasonable to ask people to cast off an oppressive culture.

        “the reactions of people they know”

        Reasonable request #2: Don’t get emotionally invested in the opinions of stupid or biased people.

        “the shock value of something bad and rare happening to them”

        Reasonable request #3: Don’t go on tilt and become an emotional cripple just because you roll snake eyes 10x in a row.

        “or the fear of STDs or other physical damage”

        These fears are only short term. Most of the time you’ll find out that you’ll be okay in the long term.

        “you somehow do not require that of people who work at Starbuck’s at age 30, people who lose $10.000 or people who go to jail for >1 week”

        Require what of these people? I don’t think any condition I’ve listed warrants long term psychological trauma.

        Let’s try this from a different angle. Two people experience very similar rapes. #1 goes into the familiar SJW narrative that rape is the worst thing ever and needs therapy for the rest of their life. #2 just says: “f*ck that guy he deserves to die”, gets whatever medical tests, and goes on like normal.

        I think #1 is pathetic. You fold and let the experience destroy your life because you have no self control and no perspective. #2 is only reasonable.

      • James Donald

        people who have to go in therapy for a while or don’t dare to go outside
        alone in the dark for the next 6 months, have trouble enjoying sex for a
        year or trouble trusting men for a while,

        I don’t seem to observe those people.

        If rape had that effect on women, one would expect prison rape of males to have at least that effect and considerably worse, yet no one seems to think that prison rape of males matters a damn thing, let alone that it would ever have that sort of effect.

      • Peter David Jones

        I think prison rape matters.

        Also, I think you’ll find that the people who tolerate it, don’t tolerate it because they think it is harmless, but because they think it is part of the punishment.

      • James Donald

        My mom was actually raped in a laundromat doing laundry at midnight.

        If your mom had had a husband at the time, he would have said “No way in hell are you going out at midnight on your own. We will just wear dirty clothes. Come to bed!”

        Which tells us that husbands worry about being cuckolded more than women worry about being raped.

  • Cahokia

    You can observe this bias in comedy.

    Rape jokes are beyond the pale, but comedic violence and murder are okay.

    • Jason Young

      Tosh.O loves rape jokes and he’s pretty popular with the kinds of twentysomethings who actually get laid. Even the late Joan Rivers was known for a rape joke now and then.

  • caryatis

    Just for clarification, are we talking about cuckoldry as in infidelity (the OED definition) or cuckoldry as in infidelity that actually results in childbirth?

    • Cahokia

      From Hanson’s original 2011 post, it’s clear he’s referring to cuckoldry as in paternity fraud.

      • caryatis

        If we’re talking about mythical painless, consequence-free rape, wouldn’t it be more fair to compare it to consequence-free cuckoldry which the man is never aware of?

      • Cahokia

        There’s nothing mythical about it. The archetypal case of the intoxicated girl who, after having blacked out, wakes up in the bed of a stranger is exactly Robin’s scenario of a “gentle, silent rape”.

  • caryatis

    Oh great, we get to hear from Heartiste readers on the subject. Not exactly representative men.

    • brendan_r

      No. But are the consumers of click-bait feminist claptrap representative women?

      Normal women don’t have aneurysms when they hear something controversial about gender, rape, math ability, whatever. It takes 20+ years of formal education, or 10,000 hours of immersion in Jezebel to properly hone a woman’s microaggression sensor. (Heroine Sandra Fluke’s insight that insurance policies’ that lack coverage of female contraceptives is an OUTRAGE does not come easily to the untrained mind.)

      More seriously, it’s a problem that the demand for what Noah provided is so high; and that in some domains objectivity and commitment to rationality declines with years of schooling.

      People don’t like Heartiste, but they miss that demand for what Heartiste does will rise in reaction to the idiocy of, for example, what most modern feminists and their supplicants do. I’m a happily married man with a kid, with no interest in Game, and yet I enjoy Heartiste precisely because his enemies deserve to be mocked.

      To me it appears that the ratio of activists/scientists is greater among female researchers than male.

      And my conviction rises every time some hack- who glories in ridiculing dumb white religious southerners- explains X can’t be talked about because it offends women.

      • IMASBA

        So if you’d come across the rantings of the “white males are so being oppressed” crowd first you’d now be allying yourself to radical feminists and say it doesn’t come easily to the untrained mind to demand that viagra be covered by insurance?

      • brendan_r

        I don’t understand what you’re asking me.

        But I’m guessing that if I did understand I’d point out that regardless of how crazy any Men’s Rights people are, they have no power whatsoever so they don’t worry me.

  • Chris_Brennan

    “And I suggested that we consider that the harms of rape and cuckoldry might be similar; I didn’t claim I knew one to be definitely larger” — Robin Hanson

    You “suggested” that the quality of harm between the two is similar and that the degree of harm is can be interpersonally measured.

    You thus “suggested” that a man raping a woman (even “silently” or “gently”) causes qualitatively similar harm as a women causes if she breaks a promise of marital fidelity she made to a man. Your only concern was which harm is larger.

    You did not actually “minimize the harm of rape”. You did something more appalling. You essentially “suggested” that, if committed in a certain manner, rape can be qualitatively categorized as something “similar” to a broken promise.

    • brendan_r

      “You essentially “suggested” that, if committed in a certain manner, rape can be qualitatively categorized as something “similar” to a broken promise.”

      I promise not to shoot you in the head with a shotgun.

      Bam. Broken promise.

      You know, types of broken promises vary quite a bit in their harm.

    • Doug

      I don’t see how this is any different, than the umpteen times a day feminists compare any number of far more trivial activities to rape. Among the myriad of activities that are equivocated to rape by many people on a regular basis: catcalling, men ogling a woman’s body, pornography, abortion restrictions, marriage, traditional gender roles, men dismissing the opinion of women, women having to wear skimpy uniforms, men hitting on women, women getting paid less than men, unrealistic female beauty standards, and a endless litany of “microagressions”

      I think any reasonable person would agree that any of these offenses carry far less harm than either rape *or* cuckoldry. And while many people dismiss these comparisons as exaggerated or even ridiculous, virtually no one ever gets offended. In fact I’m nearly certain that the typical person incensed by Robin’s comparison is much quicker to throw around the equivocation of rape in other contexts.

      In my opinion the key difference is that cuckoldery, unlike the other offenses, victimizes males. Bandying the rape comparison, even for nearly harmless actions, is fine when done in the name of defending women. In the minds of many feminists comparing any type of male suffering to rape “misappropriates” it. Even the presence of an actual epidemic of male prison rape is largely glossed over. Feminists are far more interested in a status grab from men as a gender. When comparing rape to X suits that purpose they’re all for it, when it doesn’t they get offended.

  • empathy is underrated

    so much brain power being wasted on defending patriarchy

    • Bruce Leroy

      I think you’re assuming brain power where there is a distinct lack of evidence for its existence.

    • chris3721

      So being opposed to cuckoldry = patriarchy?

      I guessed you’ve just shown what feminism’s agenda is.

      • IMASBA

        “Feminism” is not a protected term, anyone can call themselves one or get called one by others so no one person can show “feminism’s agenda”, in fact there isn’t even one “feminist agenda”, just like there no one “capitalist agenda”: many people with different, even conflicting opinions call themselves “feminist” or “capitalist” or are labeled as such by others. Someone who doesn’t even understand that has no business on this site.

        P.S. the same goes for the word “patriarchy” (you were right to challenge someone who thinks they can just define for the world what is patriarchy and what is not, pity you were not as critical of your own opinions).

  • kangarara

    I am confused. You mention men preferring to be raped rather than cuckolded, but then you describe a woman being raped. Were you actually meaning to say that “a man would prefer his wife was raped without physical/emotional harm to her than that she cuckold him?” Or were you actually saying that a man would prefer himself to be raped than cuckolded? Your wording doesn’t match your example.

    • IMASBA

      He’s saying the latter and yes, he is using the argument that (some) men (most of whom have never been raped or cuckolded) would rather be raped than cuckolded to say something about how bad rape feels for women.

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  • pdvst

    I still don’t understand why that particular comparison was made. Comparisons serve to make a point. Hanson’s point was that cuckoldery and lying about paternity is damaging to a man, with damage not sufficiently appreciated by our society and reflected in its laws? He could have made that point and argued for whatever insights or actions or policies he considered appropriate, without any comparison at all. Or with comparison to closely related phenomena, for example adultery. The fact that he felt that rape was a suitable comparison, the logically sloppy terms of the comparison that had to be revised to posit a “gentle rape”, the assumed appeal to an abstract, common-denominator scale of harm or damage? All these lead me to conclude that this was not some bold thought experiment, but a tiresome and fairly predictable implicit downplaying of rape as a real-world phenomenon. Reveals a lot about the blogger, ironically enough does not even move the discussion of paternity fraud forward at all.

  • chaosmosis

    Allying yourself with Heartiste in any way was a mistake, if you’re at all concerned with image management.

    I’d recommend you take a look at the study he cites: there’s a lot in it to challenge his claim that economics is the most biased social science. The study is actually quite well done and doesn’t oversimplify like he does.

    • Cahokia

      He isn’t interested in “image management”, i.e. signalling, but rather in investigating the biases underlying such phenomena.

      • chaosmosis

        I don’t really buy that defense, because Heartiste’s help is not going to give good data. His commenters are not inclined to honest introspection.

      • oldoddjobs

        They’re very naughty boys!

  • anonymous

    As a woman who’s experienced both, being cheated on is much worse. Physical pain is fleeting – it only lasts for the moment. Ego pain lasts forever – every time you think back. Being sexually assaulted honestly didn’t affect me at all. I just laughed afterwards, because what else could I do? My only thought was, people do silly things when intoxicated.

  • JamieNYC

    Noah Smith seems simply evil, as clean as they come. You should stop transacting with him.

  • Twitter seems like a horrible medium in general and an especially ill-suited medium when you’re worried about being quoted out of context. There’s no space for context.

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