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February 02, 2009

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Righteousness is so ugly.

I say we exterminate all other lifeforms on earth cause the "eat or get eaten" thingy is so cruel.

Legalized rape?

Weirdtopia, alright.

One arrangement that would make legalizing rape just fine would be having very good security almost everywhere. Maybe everyone has the option to carry a little personal security-bot in their pocket, and that bot is very effective in repelling all attacks on the person.

So rape is legal, but so is defending against it, and everyone is able to defend themselves unless they've opted out of it. And certainly some people would find "risky dating" exciting and nice. Perhaps even a majority of the population, once they've lived long enough in a world quite different from ours in it's safety, luxuriousness and overflowing supply of nice guys. Rape might not feel like the current meaning of the word in such a society; they would have difficulty understanding our meaning of the word, and indeed would have no real use for such a concept. (And let us also separate non-consensual physical damage or severe pain from their concept of rape. One assumes these things would still be illegal.)

Just being able to read and understand this story made reading OB worthwhile.

I"m longing for the other half!

Martin

Well... would you prefer a life entirely free of pain and sorrow, having sex all day long?

False dilemma.

> Well... would you prefer a life entirely free of pain and sorrow, having sex all day long?
I would prefer to life painfree and healthy, having sex as often as i want to.
Its not another job to fullfill, but a pleasant leisure activity.

Martin

I gotta say, Eliezar, you're doing a good job of making the alternatives look worse than religion. And I say this as a guy who drifted away from religion because he could find no rational reason to believe in the existence of the deity.

Tho those who hinted at "legalized rape": READ AGAIN. You seem not to have understood that the abolition of the law carried with it free retaliation against rapists and prediction markets that surely ended up influencing the incidence of rape.

Jeez, I dunno how that zinged past you.

BTW, Eliezer: man, come on, don't keep us waiting for the next part!

Rudd-O,

That's not the idea I'm getting at all (free retaliation, etc). It seems more to me that these people can't imagine intentionally hurting or being distrustful of each other, and so when they say 'rape', think 'tickle fight'.

"You seem not to have understood that the abolition of the law carried with it free retaliation against rapists"

This is nowhere to be found in the story.

...though having said that, I do see how a casual reading might give that idea. The problem is clearly the clause "take matters into her own hands if you went a little too far". I think that line should be rewritten to rule out the wrong interpretation.

That is, assuming it's not me who has the wrong interpretation, but I'm fairly confident I got it right. As I understood it, it should read like this:

I can't imagine how boring your sex lives must have been up until then - flirting with a woman, teasing her, leading her on, knowing the whole time that you were perfectly safe [from non-consensual sex] because she couldn't take matters into her own hands [by forcing you to have sex] if you went a little too far [with your flirting]"

"You need a history refresher, my Lord Administrator [because that's nothing like what non-consensual was, back in those days].

...is that the reading that was intended?

"Um," Akon said. He was trying not to smile. "I'm trying to visualize what sort of disaster could have been caused by too much nonconsensual sex -"

Akon obviously does not regard the idea of nonconsensual sex with much distaste. So why would he want it banned?

I think the important question is: Why does he not regard the idea of nonconsensual sex with much distaste?

(I can't help but think of The Forever War, where military custom and law require consent to any request for sex.)

So it's only sex if both people climax, and since guys have less control over their reflex they are the ones to get raped? Maybe both genders can get raped, and naturally he was just thinking of his own problems wit it. In fact, the oddest thing isn't that rape is legal, but that he imagines noone broke laws.

Catperson: I agree with your reading.

Additionally, it seems Akon is unaware of the historic asymmetry of gender roles in non-consensual sex.

Either that, or in this impossible possible world there was a reversal from our present gender dynamics at some point in the past.

Akon seems to be assuming that a male cannot possibly initiate sex, in this sentence:

I can't imagine how boring your sex lives must have been up until then - flirting with a woman, teasing her, leading her on, knowing the whole time that you were perfectly safe because she couldn't take matters into her own hands if you went a little too far -

That suggests some sort of genetic editing. Perhaps they've left the male sex drive in place, so 'rape' is not actually going to be very unpleasant, but given the females a perfect defense, or a consciously-controlled pheromone that must be on for the male to get an erection, or something of this nature.

Rolf: Perhaps they've [...] given the females a perfect defense

I think you're trying too hard to make it "acceptable". It's common currency in transhumanist circles that - even if all goes well - the future will almost certainly contain some things that we would find shocking. But your suggestion would mean it's not really shocking.

What I'm taking from it is that, in this imaginary future society, there is non-consensual sex that - for one reason or another - is not unpleasant.

Again, though, it does not seem to occur to Akon that he might be the one to initiate the sex. To me this indicates some heavy editing of the male psyche or sexual response.

A further point: The scenario Akon describes doesn't actually seem all that nonconsensual to me, and also very unrealistic for an un-edited male human. (This is by no means a criticism; rather I'm impressed at the ability to show someone who thinks almost like a contemporary human, but not quite.) Who flirts with a woman with absolutely no plan to sleep with her if the opportunity is offered? I don't think un-edited humans act this way. I take no position on whether the editing is cultural or biological, but I do think that the Babyeaters and Superhappies are not the only aliens in this story.

Trying to wrap my head around this, I'll propose that this society has 'freedom of intercourse'. Stopping someone by force from having sex with you would be as improper as stopping them by force from talking to you, even if you didn't like it. Walking away might be acceptable but considered generally impolite. People who have nonconsenual sex frequently would be stigmatized and avoided as annoying people are today, but

Today nonconsenual sex is bundled with violence, fear of violence, and expectations of personal space. If the impossible possible culture is such that everyone expects their genitals to be part of the social space instead of their personal space, then no great sense of emotional violation will be felt even if the social interaction is unwanted.

They likely view the prohibition as just as shortsighted as we would view restrictions on 'free expression'.

Very good of Eliezer to let us identify with the humans before delivering further culture shocks. I suspect that the next installment will have further human weirdness.

Rolf, I flirt with women with no plan to sleep with them even if offered. Flirting can be fun in and of itself, not just as a means to sex.

My understanding is closer to Thom's, "when they say 'rape', think 'tickle fight'." Their 'rape' doesn't involve violence, and isn't considered a violation (it's more likely to be flattering).

In certain older cultures the phrase "If at first you don't succeed..." would be finished with "kill yourself" whereas now we "try again".

Rolf, aside from an authorial intention to mildly soften the shock, in the context of the story you need not assume that males in general don't initiate sex. You need only assume that Akon is getting more himself out of being the recipient of nonconsensual sex or imagining himself so, than initiating / imagining initiation.

This is actually a pretty complicated Weirdtopia premise with an awful lot of implications, none of which we get to see here.

I confess that a hidden motive behind this in-passing conversation is that I have an entirely different story in progress where this is a central plot point, and I wanted to see to what degree I could get away with it. The fact that it's taken over the comments is not as good as I hoped, but neither was the reaction as bad as I feared. Albeit that in this case I was able to go to some length to insert the disclaimer that "rape" in their world just doesn't mean the same thing to them as it does to us, and that rape in our world is a very bad thing of which I disapprove; I wouldn't be able to do that, to the same degree, in the other story I was working on.

I'll also note that the premise I was working from is "the boundaries of consent around your sexual self have been redrawn in different places" not "the boundaries have been eliminated".

This is actually a pretty complicated Weirdtopia premise with an awful lot of implications, none of which we get to see here.

Of course; that's what makes it fun to speculate. :D I would love to see your story where this is explored more fully, though.

Speculation: A sufficiently powerful, well-trained mind might have the ability, the superpower if you like, of being able to follow the old advice about enjoying the inevitable. Or to phrase it differently, might be able to genuinely flip its state of consent in some circumstances, very quickly. There are lots of hardwirings in the human body that enable us to enjoy sex; a powerful mind might be able to engage those circuits swiftly.

Another possibility: When I was a child, we played card games where the winner got to rap the loser over the knuckles with the deck; if you lost a lot, you developed quite large sores on the knuckles. The danger of pain was part of the fun of the game. Akon seems to be referring to a somewhat similar concept. Perhaps, if he is powerful enough to regard a rape as we regarded a rap over the knuckles, the game would be - the phrase has relevant origins - worth the candle, for him, even if the rape actually was quite unpleasant. Again, this relies on having a really stable, powerful mind that does not react to rape as contemporary humans do, with crippling feelings of invasion and shame.

Possible inconsistency: Akon is not troubled by the thought of nonconsensual sex, but in the previous installment he seemed rather bothered by being cyber-raped - nonconsensual sex by proxy, presumably. Maybe because he does not get the fun of being there himself?

Eliezer Y: The fact that it's taken over the comments is not as good as I hoped, but neither was the reaction as bad as I feared.

Heh, well, I will (perhaps?) make the reaction worse. It is interesting what people choose to use as an example of what would be "shocking" but possibly/arguably better. I will note that this choice (non-consensual sex) is guaranteed to make a lot of women uncomfortable to the point where they may, pretty justifiably, have difficulty responding in an unemotional, bayesian manner to it as a purely hypothetical premise. But I don't see your typical white male geek having quite the same problem, even if it is still shocking to us.

I'm pretty sure it would be possible to find a premise where it would work the opposite way (women would be shocked, but mostly capable of discussing the ramifications as rationally as humans tend to, while men would have a lot of difficulty holding even to that weak standard), but oddly, I've seen a few of these ventures on blogs (I don't mean to imply that this is the whole point of your story, which is very interesting, and I look forward to the next installments), yet I've never seen a guy come up with such a suggestion when the time comes to hypothetically discuss things that might shock people horribly. Just a thought.

I'm not saying that I think you should make it your business to be avowedly feminist, but it might be useful to observe the difference in reactions, and it's worth considering the ways in which your (and other reader's) gender influences their response to that part of this story. I see that no identified women have commented in this part of the discussion yet. Of course, there are few enough regular female identified commenters here that it could be random.

@Micheal>
You expect women to be shocked?
You may want to google some common female fantasies...

- a female

I didn't realize that the mention of Akon worrying about his lipstick was going to be so important. I really like how subtly the (at least partial) reversal of sexual roles is implied here.

Eliezer, I'd be wary of drawing too many conclusions from people's reaction. We're primed to hear you say weird stuff. And of course it took over the comments! It's a poke in a taboo with a thermonuclear level of affective charge, much easier to respond to than hard moral questions, and in stark contrast to an otherwise downbeat but worthy dialogue on compassion fatigue. (Which worked by the way - it snapped me at least into noticing how much I make excuses.)

Any chance to turn the topic to sex and relationships will consume the comments. A surprising number of OB threads have turned into discussions of pick-up artists.

A surprising number of OB threads have turned into discussions of pick-up artists.

Well, they do epitomize "rational agents should win".

would you prefer a life entirely free of pain and sorrow, having sex all day long?

Depends on the specifics, but quite possibly. The Superhappies aren't wireheads, they're out exploring the universe and learning while being super happy. I could go for that.

Sullivan, making your male audience uncomfortable is as easy as inserting a male-male kiss.

Sexual fantasies of being raped tend to be readily distinguishable from real rape as we know it. Receiving oral sex is a lot more common in rape fantasy than in rape (though (obvious disclaimer) it could certainly be part of a real rape).

But building a Weirdtopia around "nonconsensual lovemaking" or "risky dating" isn't as simple as substituting rape fantasy for rape, because the concept of "rape" isn't just about the danger of death or damage. It's about violation of a boundary of consent that you draw around your sexual persona. (To see the potential independence, consider having a naked photo of yourself posted to the Internet against your will.)

Even the most extreme sort of rape fantasy - the sort I once read a woman describe as "carrying through to where he finally spits on me and walks away" - is still, in some sense, under the control of the fantasizer; you're choosing to imagine it.

And this will, to some degree or other, be different for women than for men; maintaining/losing control of your sexuality on this deeper level is going to tap into female drives more strongly than male drives, for all the obvious reasons of evolutionary psychology.

The main scenario I was worried about was that women would read the story and assume I didn't know about that part; I did think I managed to signal that I'm aware of the basics of rape fantasy (as opposed to just supposing that men had free sexual access to everything).

At the same time, 21st-century Western males are shocked by the idea of rape because it violates cultural assumptions about gentlemanly conduct and the rules of how men compete among themselves for women; so another possibility I was wondering about is if, indeed, men would simply be more shocked by the whole idea than women. It just wasn't clear from the comments whether this was actually the case, or if my female readers were so offended as to not even bother commenting.

In terms of Weirdtopia, I was assuming "the boundaries of sexual consent have been withdrawn in different places" not "this part of human nature has been eliminated". Maybe you never kiss anyone without their consent - that's something that a lover freely withholds or gives, not necessarily only to a one true love, but still only to people chosen. So the psychological boundary is still there, the concept of consent is still there - it just doesn't apply to sexual intercourse, per se.

In this case, they really wouldn't have any concept analogous to our "rape" - beating someone up while kissing them? Attacking them, taking naked photos, and posting them to the Internet? And "beating someone up while having sex with them" would sound as strange to them, as "beating someone up while kissing them" does to us.

One similarly assumes that brothels are as common as restaurants and that nearly all citizens are rich enough to afford them, so that nonconsensual sex doesn't become about sexual access for those who don't have it. In fantasy-rape the rapist has to do most of the work, so if you just wanted sex, it would be easier to buy it.

In our own society, you can probably get away with slapping someone on the butt if they've been flirting with you. But doing it to a complete stranger with whom no current sexual tension exists, would be a wholly different matter. In the same sense, you could of course walk around wearing body armor to defend yourself from getting your butt slapped, but most people wouldn't. In our society, following a complete stranger for an hour through public spaces, would be very unusual and annoying, even though it wouldn't be at all surprising to do the same with someone whom you'd met only recently. We assume that having nonconsensual sex with a genuine random stranger would be at least that socially disreputable. Likewise, you should not be using lubricant or drugging the man to give him an erection, etcetera ad obvious.

The main remaining question is why Akon seems to think that women are at least somewhat likely to initiate nonconsensual sex. Physical disparities can be overcome by presuming that there's a standard 'risky dating' drug that can easily be slipped into someone's drink and which reduces muscular strength by 70%, or some such. But the last time I checked the statistics, it went something like "nearly all women and most men fantasize about being raped, but only half of men and nearly no women fantasize about initiating rape". This is another case where the distributions don't overlap well; a woman who wants a rape fantasy can with some work find a man with a fantasy of rape initiation, but the reverse case is a lot more difficult. Certainly women may often want to have sex with men who would refuse them if asked, but from there to fantasizing rape and finding the fantasy enjoyable is a different step. In Akon's world, I've been waving my magical wand and assuming this is something that can be overcome with the right cultural upbringing - giving girls the right role models - which may or may not be the case.

> the future will almost certainly contain some things that we would find shocking

I'm going to state this more forcefully: "the future will certainly contain things that we would find shocking."

One need only look to the past to see what moral fashions have changed. If you need a refresher on what offices were like less than 50 years ago, watch some episodes of Mad Men. During the dotBoom of the late 90s, I found drinking on the job (most software companies at that time - or at least the trendy ones - had soda machines or refrigerators stocked with not just free soda and juice, but free beer as well) to be shockingly unprofessional. I flunked several job interviews for stating it out loud.

http://www.paulgraham.com/say.html

How great is this story?

The encounter with aliens was enlightening for those humans. Just reading this fiction, is still very enlightening for humans!

That's the greatness of it.

The real problem with non-consentual sex is that the cute guys/girls would not be able to cope with all the attention...

"In America, a woman gets raped every five minutes. And she is not enjoing it!"

Tangurena,
Are you an old person from the era of Mad Men, shocked at the future of today, in which people drink on the job?
or vice versa?

Douglas, I first worked in the 70s, where the last of the unrepentant [jerks] from the era depicted by Mad Men were still controlling the workforce. And I'm a lot older than the youngsters who got all the bucks in the dotBoom. I saw was rampant alcohol consumption did in the workplace. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that each generation has to learn a number of painful lessons all over again.

Beer on the job at software companies?

I'm shocked, too, and I'm almost old enough to have worked at one of those places...

James Andrix says: Trying to wrap my head around this, I'll propose that this society has 'freedom of intercourse'. Stopping someone by force from having sex with you would be as improper as stopping them by force from talking to you, even if you didn't like it. Walking away might be acceptable but considered generally impolite. People who have nonconsenual sex frequently would be stigmatized and avoided as annoying people are today, but

Today nonconsenual sex is bundled with violence, fear of violence, and expectations of personal space. If the impossible possible culture is such that everyone expects their genitals to be part of the social space instead of their personal space, then no great sense of emotional violation will be felt even if the social interaction is unwanted.

Like in Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World"?

And this will, to some degree or other, be different for women than for men; maintaining/losing control of your sexuality on this deeper level is going to tap into female drives more strongly than male drives, for all the obvious reasons of evolutionary psychology.

BUAHAHAhahahahahaha! Did you wanna restate that, or are you going to let that stand as worded?

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