Naked Women With Guns

(No, that is not the ultimate Armed & Dangerous post title. The ultimate Armed & Dangerous post title would be Naked Women With Guns Smash The State!.)

A few nights ago I was on IRC with a friend I shall refer to as ‘H’ who may, if she wishes, identify herself in a comment, discussing rape statistics; she had been a post-rape counselor and I thought she would have a useful on-the-ground perspective. H shared my evaluation that the rape statistics I reported are seriously inflated by definitional flimflam, but that’s not our topic this evening. This post is, instead, stimulated (as it were) by her thoughts on the subject of pornography.

Regular readers of this blog will be aware that I find the semiotics of pornography more interesting than porn itself. In Why does porn got to hurt so bad? I attempted to develop a theory of why there is so much demand for bad porn on which, as I put it “full of the fetish signifiers of sexual allure, to the point where they crowd out the reality of sexual allure”. I explained these fetish signifiers as a method of increasing the emotional distance between the viewer and the viewed.

I asked H what she thought about the implications I drew from this. H agreed with the obvious hypothesis that men who associate sex with sin and dirt may develop a need for women to look trashy to be aroused by them; also with my more particular theses that symbolically jamming women in a box marked “sluts, to be used and discarded” might function as a sort of power-equalizing move to men who feel hemmed in and controlled by female power of sexual and other kinds. (This second theory is interesting because it predicts that porn will grow more ugly and degrading as female power increases.)

H pointed out a third possibility I had missed; that bad, emotionally-distant porn appeals to men who can handle women being in overtly sexual roles or as desexualized equals, but not women who are both sexy and equals. I thought this sounded reasonable, but immediately noted that it failed to explain a relatively popular porn niche – naked women with guns.

Many men find pictures of dangerous women – women with weapons, especially – to be erotically charged. (One of those men is me.) I pointed this out and wondered how it could be reconciled with H’s theory. She observed that for many men the weapons were simply another form of emotional or narrative distancing…

…and I felt that shock like being slapped one sometimes gets at a moment of enlightenment. Because, you see, that isn’t my reaction to such images at all – and, when I realized I has been projecting my own reaction on other men, I realized something important about this kind of porn. That is, there are at least two different ways that men react erotically to images of naked women with guns, and these ways predict very different preferences about the composition of the porn.

For one group of men, H is correct. The weapons (guns or otherwise) act as a yet another distancing element. These men will favor images in which the women are merely posing with weapons, and much of the focus is on implausible costume – fetishized version of military gear, chainmail bikinis, etc.

For another group, the draw will be women exhibiting martial competence – shooting weapons, fighting hand-to-hand, moving gracefully and aggressively. For this group, fetish elements in the composition will be perceived as neutral or even anti-erotic. The fantasy this group is having is “This woman could kill me, but I can make her want to have sex with me”, and the women have the sort of I-would-bear-you-strong-offspring appeal I reported on in Dangerous Sons. In view of the next category I will discuss, I note that it is not required that the women look hostile, angry, or dominating – just really capable.

Later I reported this conversation to my wife Cathy (who, you should not be surprised to learn, looks really sexy swordfighting or shooting). She pointed out a third group – men who want to be sexually dominated. For this group, the key is probably that the woman has to actually look like a dom – threatening, powerful, ready and able to punish with her power. Competence may help, also the right sort of fetishy gear.

My thoroughly unscientific impression, from the trait distribution of naked-women-with-weapons porn I’ve stumbled across, is that group one (the distancers) is relatively large, while groups two and three (competence-seekers and dom-seekers) are relatively small.

The personal lesson for me is a pretty obvious one: beware of unconsciously projecting your own reactions on others. Their preferences may be odder than you imagine. There will be no prize for guessing which group I fall in – the thing is, I didn’t even imagine the existence of the other two groups until clever women pointed them out to me.

I’m not sure there’s a wider lesson, other than “Most porn is really sad.” But I knew that already. I’m also left wondering if there are groups 4 through N, size-distributed on some sort of Poisson or exponential curve, that I’ve missed.

205 thoughts on “Naked Women With Guns

  1. I seconded much the idea competent women in porn. In fact, I was meaning to continue to write some erotica about such women for a freelance assignment.

  2. For another group, the draw will be women exhibiting martial competence

    Yeah, I like Oleg’s work, too. :D

  3. How about, “I like porn stars because they look like they fuck really good”… or other much more simple explanations.

    In reality, porn sex is generally not very sexy, nor in fact does it feel all that fgreat, but it LOOKS like it feels great; and most guys are fairly simple sexually.

    Every time I hear someone with complex emotional theories about why men like bad porn, I fall back on the Vampire hypothesis.

    You know the one: How do you kill a vampire? You stake them through the heart, cut their head off, and burn them. Of course, that’d kill just about anything living or dead now wouldn’t it.

    Most guys would like both good porn, and bad porn (presuming equal production values, and equally physically attractive participants).

    Bad porn is simpler, quicker, cheaper, easier to produce, and you can find more people who are qualified to make it, act in it etc… which means you can make it cheaper at a higher profit.

    Since the market is not substantially discriminatory, and you can make bad porn cheaper, at a higher profit, that’s what most porn is going to be.

    Nothing to do with sexual politics, or deep motivations. more like “Ohh, big tits and she looks like she fucks good… here’s some money”.

  4. “H pointed out a third possibility I had missed; that bad, emotionally-distant porn appeals to men who can handle women being in overtly sexual roles or as desexualized equals, but not women who are both sexy and equals.”

    Best description of Palin hatred I have heard.

  5. Eric,

    Are there no men who identify with the women in the porn?

    (Forced) Cross dressing is said to be rather popular in SM.

  6. Cathy and H have interesting, plausible hypotheses. but it would be worth seeing if there’s anything by men who like women with guns porn and/or by people who produce such porn about why it’s wanted. They’d be closer to the subject.

  7. Another point. I have heard or read women complaining that sexual arousing seriously impairs male cognitive functions (I suspect some parts of the brain must receive less blood or so). Bad porn might simply mean the intended consumers are expected to experience a temporal reduction of cognitive functions to a level that requires serious adaptations of the plot.

    Obviously, this must be something that affects other men.

  8. I get the impression that most porn today is produced by people who simply lack taste altogether. I think that way too many people in that line of work are just trying really hard to piss off their parents and whatever church warped them as children.

    I’ve just about given up on anything produced in the United States. Porn from countries that don’t have our puritan hang-ups tends to be far more pleasant.

  9. A woman using a weapon (especially her own weapon) needn’t be particularly skimpily dressed to strike me as quite erotic: full of the vim and promise of a long, happy relationship involving thousands of pounds of freshly-grilled corpses. & the tartiest bimbo in existence holding a SMLE No.1 Mk. III* like it’s a drowned rat is as unappealing as Helen Thomas in a bikini driving a Prius.

    Or to put it another way, a woman with a gun looks less likely to be the sort who would be needing constant reassurances of her own worth. “Yes, of course I think you’re prettier than that random bag lady. And that one too. No I wasn’t looking at them until you asked. Why are you crying again?” Or maybe that’s my cynicism creeping in when all we need is good ol’ post modern patriarchal hegemony.

  10. A hypothesis: men who like competent women (in any sense, not necessarily just weapons) are likely to be more self-confident. More self-confident men get laid more, and therefore watch less porn.

    An alternative way of expressing this: porn is aimed at men who aren’t getting laid, and therefore isn’t representative of the sexual preferences of most/all men.

  11. @Richard Gadsen
    “A hypothesis: men who like competent women (in any sense, not necessarily just weapons) are likely to be more self-confident.”

    A simple empirical question which can be answered by visiting your nearest SM “club”. I understand Dominant Woman can make a nice living without even involving “sex” as defined by the law.

  12. > … “sex” as defined by law.

    Tells you how dumb a law is that does not recognize that the primary sexual organ sits between a human’s ears.

    Any good dom or domme (for hire or for pleasure) works mainly with the partner’s psyche; everything else is just a means to achieve the end.

  13. This post makes me wonder if Eric has never heard of Occam’s razor.

    Or perhaps Eric should be nominated for the first Extreme Naval-Gazing Over-Analysis Award.

    The simple and correct explanation is that a naked woman is the most interesting object in the entire universe. Period. Full Stop.

    So pose her with another interesting object, say, a firearm, perhaps an exotic looking weapon from a foreign military and you’ve got a great combo. Fun to look at. Fun to fantasize about. One at a time or even both together.

    Posing a naked woman with a motorcycle is also a great idea. Preferably a model from Germany or Italy. No, the motorcycle dummy, not the woman.

    Eric, there are some things that are immune to analysis simply because any attempted analysis is likely to take one farther and farther from the actual, simple, easy-to-understand and correct explanation. Leave it at that.

    (Just don’t pose the naked woman with an iPhone please, some things can’t be made attractive even by a naked woman.)

  14. @Michael Hipp
    “Posing a naked woman with a motorcycle is also a great idea. Preferably a model from Germany or Italy. No, the motorcycle dummy, not the woman.”

    Actually, the naked woman is added for two reasons:
    1 Operand conditioning (dog-food-bell) linking product to pleasurable experience

    2 Sexual arousal reduces intelligence while increasing spending urge (linked effect)

    Product+Naked woman == increased margin

  15. In regards to the parenthetical supposition, (This second theory is interesting because it predicts that porn will grow more ugly and degrading as female power increases.) porn has already grown more ugly and degrading. I think you’re perhaps spot on as to why.

  16. > H agreed with the obvious hypothesis that men who associate sex with sin and dirt may develop a need for women to look trashy to be aroused by them; also with my more particular theses that symbolically jamming women in a box marked “sluts, to be used and discarded” might function as a sort of power-equalizing move to men who feel hemmed in and controlled by female power of sexual and other kinds. (This second theory is interesting because it predicts that porn will grow more ugly and degrading as female power increases.)

    Female power isn’t the only factor. There’s also independence, or rather, something closer to “men are optional/temporary”.

    You see the other side of that coin in the “why are guys behaving like boys” screeds that have become commonplace in women’s publications.

  17. I think the answer to why porn tends to emphasize the bizarre, dramatic or “dirty” types of sex is much easier then stated. It is because the people involved in making porn tend to be bizarre, dramatic and “dirty” types of people. I don’t think a lot of the more (for lack of a better term) stupid things you see in porn are what most viewers are looking for but rather what they are willing to sit through to see what they want to see. Probably to a casual or uninterested viewer of porn it would appear that since the industry makes money by providing what people want then logically this must be what they want and just as logically most people who view porn must be “sick”.

  18. Perhaps it’s because I read science fiction works with strong female characters, like pretty much any Heinlein heroine, or Harry Harrison’s Angelina diGriz, that I find women with technical and or martial competence to be more attractive than the helpless dummies. I am given to understand that some women deliberately dumb themselves down to make themselves more attractive to men, but it doesn’t do a thing for me.

  19. I used to like Heinlein’s portrayal of women.

    Hypercompetent, intelligent, witty. When he was permitted by editors to comment on sex and secondary sexual traits, sex-eager and Definitely Mammalian. Then I noticed several things.

    1) Once they have found their True Man, for the most part, the independence that I liked about them tended to be suborned by the “Support the True Man” role.

    2) Once the subject of BABIES! crosses their brains, even the limited independence they had once they became an appendage their True Man goes away.

    3) The ultimate reward for a Heinlein Woman is to become a housewife and baby factory. This also tends to be her implicit driver for most of her actions.

    Sadly, as Heinlein stopped having to deal with prudish editors, these got even more overt. The scene in Time Enough For Love when Lazarus Long has his clone daughters pleading for him to get them pregnant…*shudder*.

    Heinlein’s novels were written from 1940 to 1985 or so – and his attitudes changed at a slightly faster pace than the society around him. A large part of plotting exercises for SF included the “and then the hero gets the girl” eigenstate. He was progressive for his time, in assuming that the hero would find a woman with multiple Ph.D’s more attractive than one without any of them, and very progressive in assuming that multiple Ph.D holding women would be possible and not be ‘freaks of nature’.

    The realization that in Heinlein novels, multiple Ph.Ds are a signalling behavior to attract a True Man, rather than an expression of competence and independence, has really made a LOT of them less pleasant re-reads.

    And I know a lot of women who got advanced degrees and found the hordes of geek men hoping they’d be Heinlein Women (including wanting to become housewives and baby factories) repellent.

    Heinlein’s male characters also come in three stock tropes – the Genius Adolescent Of Good Moral Character, The Competent Rationalist and The Wise Old Curmudgeon Who Is Not Robert Heinlein.

    I’m enjoying a fair number of Elizabeth Bear’s and CJ Cherryh’s books – where women are competent in their own right, often times like men, as both partners and sexual partners – and don’t treat getting a degree as a Leks display.

  20. Michael Hipp: I think you have a point– is there anything that men are apt to find visually interesting which isn’t used to amplify pornography? If there isn’t, then I think his theory stands, though there’s another factor– the items need to be small enough that a picture can reasonably include both the object and the woman. Airplanes or trains are more difficult than guns.

    Ken Burnside: Jo Walton has said that Heinlein tried to imagine female equality before it happened, but didn’t get it right. Kornbluth got one piece of it right– he had women doing responsible, technical work as part of the background (without the “Gosh! She’s intelligent and she’s beautiful!”), but he didn’t put a lot of emotional oomph into it.

    Another thing (which might fit with degrees as a mating display) about Heinlein women is that their omnicompetence just seems to happen– you’re more apt to see the male characters learning.

  21. The ultimate Armed & Dangerous post title would be Naked Women With Guns Smash The State!

    That covers sex, politics, and firearms, but what’s it got to do with software?

  22. That covers sex, politics, and firearms, but what’s it got to do with software?

    Just tune in for part 2, when Eric finds competent woman porn that’s locked behind some sort of Microsoft DRM scheme.

    (Windows Media DRM was until recently something of a de facto industry standard for online adult entertainment.)

  23. @esr:
    Well, there is also the Randian philosophy that people tend to prefer sexual partners that reflect their own values. Under this philosophy, it would make perfect sense that you find women competent with guns, swords, etc., to be attractive because not simply because you yourself are competent with guns, swords, etc., but because competency in self-defense techniques almost necessarily implies that the person values a kind of self-sufficiency and rugged indvidualism. You take pride in these within yourself, and you admire them most in other people, and especially in your women.

    What that theory says about the men who are looking for emotional distance is clear: they’re cowards who are afraid that someone will find out who they are, and so that reflects in their choice of porn.

  24. Actually, although I’m not an avid porn fan, I haven’t heard of too much “porn with guns.” What seems much more common is non-porn with very titillating and attractive women with guns. Actual porn I haven’t seen, although it may be out there.

    Anyway, here is a fourth class of men who probably are attracted to sexy women with guns: traditional conservative men from conservative areas, mostly but not entirely from “red states.” I gather that you mostly are acquainted with blue state types, who tend to view guns as weird and subversive (and that you, with your libertarian views, consider that a big plus). However, to many men in the heartland, a gun represents not murder, but American self-reliance.

    Keep in mind that to many people, porn is a pretty leftist, subversive, even anti-American thing, although very tempting. To many men from rural Kansas, the more “urban” the setting is, the more the woman seems to be saying, “I’ll fuck anyone except squares like you.” A gun is simply a means of making the whole scene American yet still naughty.

  25. Lazarus Long has his clone daughters pleading

    They were not his daughters. If anything they were his (much younger) sisters. They had all of his DNA other than his Y chromosome, which was replaced by a second copy of his X chromosome. Heinlein liked to probe questions of how societal norms would be changed by technology that produced novel situations for which words like “daughter” or “sister” don’t really fit.

  26. The Monster,

    I have met such women. One of them — of whom I was once quite fond — is somewhat prettier now, but far less attractive.

  27. So it sounds like two major classes of warrior-women in porn and other fiction are the competent warrior-woman who throws off lots of “highly desirable woman” signals (healthy, high status, would be a good mother to our children) and the incompetent warrior-woman whose existence proves that Men Are Just Better (and that women exist only for their use) – since even the most dangerous-looking female is just a paper tigress.

    And then there are the many many attempts to try to combine the two, somehow, and press both sets of buttons at once.

  28. @Daniel Franke: Maybe “Naked Women With Open-Source Guns Smash The State!”

  29. @Daniel Franke, @Deep Lurker:

    I was thinking of Naked Women With Guns Smash The State With Emacs and Linux, Navigating Via gpsd

    ;-P

  30. Two more groups :

    1. Omega males with some hope : to these guns might indicate a proactive nature of the female – both in terms of approaching them on their own accord (so they don’t have to work on their pick up skills), and readiness for initiating forays into wilder realms of sexual experience.

    2. Intelligent omega males who are smart enough to realize they can’t pick up enough skills to “land chicks” that are actually worth their effort : to them guns wouldn’t matter – all they demand of pornography is fantastic simulation and super-model-type women, and the role of guns etc. would be barely more than aesthetic. This is different from your “distancers” because the distancers still harbor hope, which means they price the “attainability factor”, something that often overrides deficiencies in appearance (which this group does not tolerate).

  31. Richard Gadsden: An alternative way of expressing this: porn is aimed at men who aren’t getting laid, and therefore isn’t representative of the sexual preferences of most/all men.

    You’re on the right track here, but I think that can be pushed even further: because there’s so much of a difference between the people who consume porn and the tiny subset of people who buy porn, the usual market signalling mechanisms are subverted. Porn is aimed at the small minority of creepy raincoaters who buy a disproportionate share of it.

    Money shots are like Christmas music in every damned store from Labor Day until New Year’s: most people, if asked, will tell you that it’s moderately annoying after a while, but it won’t stop them from going shopping. The people who do care will raise a stink about the matter and write angry letters. Hence, the music plays even though most people don’t want it there.

  32. ESR,

    I think you might have a strange definition of porn. Pictures of naked women isn’t porn, that’s simply erotic. Pictures of women having sex is porn, or really that’s the most innocent kind of it, this is its basic, introductory level, then on harder levels it is women having sex with multiple men, then all sorts of fetish and BDSM things, and so on, and probably the hardest kind ever invented is Apollinaire’s http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Les_Onze_Mille_Verges which is so profoundly disgusting that I wonder how could anyone ever find that arousing… it is the perfect weight-loss book, you won’t want to eat for a day after reading a few pages.

  33. “Naked women with guns smash the state and then port gpsd to Android”.

    Not just the perfect A&D post title, but perhaps a play slightly deeper into the actual subject matter of this post.

    See also http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lkRTyP86Jcg :)

    The most annoying thing to me about most porn is that people are too busy getting naked and having sex to bother with personalities. “Competence” is hard to show in porn, as most people conventionally understand porn. If I want nudity and fucking…well, my wife is in the next room, so I don’t need to pay for that. Which is a big part of why most of what I’d classify as the “porn” on my hard drive consists of stuff that most people who don’t know me and the relevant communities in which I travel wouldn’t classify as porn at all.

  34. >I gather that you mostly are acquainted with blue state types, who tend to view guns as weird and subversive (and that you, with your libertarian views, consider that a big plus). However, to many men in the heartland, a gun represents not murder, but American self-reliance.

    I’ve lived in blue country all my life, but my friendships aren’t restricted to it. I’m a heartlander in the sense you intend.

  35. This post makes is evident that you do not know how to reason.

  36. Porn is aimed at the small minority of creepy raincoaters who buy a disproportionate share of it.

    I’d be interested to know what experiment you used to test this hypothesis.

  37. >I think you might have a strange definition of porn. Pictures of naked women isn’t porn, that’s simply erotic.

    You’re getting hung up on map rather than territory. Substitute “erotica” for “porn” everywhere in my post; the questions it raises are still interesting.

    I have noted before, in Porngraphy Redefined, that the term seems to be undergoing a shift and narrowing in the way you describe. Consider me to be using the older definition in this post.

  38. This post makes is[sic] evident that you do not know how to reason.

    And this comment makes it clear that Muphry’s Law is mighty indeed.

    Perhaps if you could elaborate a bit on the specific logical fallacy, or unjustified inference, some hint of a clue as to the, you know, evidence that would substantiate this assertion, we’d be able to do something about teaching people how to reason.

  39. ESR: OK. Note: then newer, narrower kind of porn would be ridiculous with guns or similar props.

    Sexuality follows a tension-release pattern, the older kind focusing on building up the tension, the newer kind on releasing it. This is a very visible trend. First, naked women, then, sexual act, nowadays, quite often, depicting only the ejaculation and nothing else, more and more focus on the release and less focus on building up the tension before.

    This is why guns, dangerousness etc. works with the older kind: that adds a different kind of tension, and they get mixed, thus the adrenaline-tension lifting the erotic tension higher. And this is why wouldn’t work with the newer kind, mixing tension-signals and release-signals is confusing and just feels wrong. Because the older kind focused on tension, almost any kind of other kind of tension helped increasing it, not just dangerousness, quite often the opposite, the naked-damsel-in-distress, being chased by nazis and suchlike was a very frequent occurence on the art cover of cheap pulp erotic fiction.

    I figure what you call bad porn mixes tension and release signals. That picture of the woman in the bathroom was for example a very clear example of it, the hazy eyes staring into space symbolize orgasm without seeing anything leading up to it etc. etc.

  40. *You’re getting hung up on map rather than territory. Substitute “erotica” for “porn” everywhere in my post; the questions it raises are still interesting.

    I have noted before, in Porngraphy Redefined, that the term seems to be undergoing a shift and narrowing in the way you describe. Consider me to be using the older definition in this post.*

    I consider plot with porn to be erotica, and that sex is an integral part of that experience. However, if the plot can be down without sex, than it breaks down my suspension of belief.

    For some reason, certain medium, such as video tend toward no stories and ugly actors while manga and prose fiction tend toward erotica.

    (that being said, hentai of the manga kind develop certain genre such as NTR which serves to anger emotionally invested readers…)

    On one hand, I find it interesting that the Japanese did not really develop any sort of speculative science fiction work other then BLAME!, Biomega, Knight of Sidona, Ghost in the Shell, and others that I can only count on my ten fingers. However, it is important to note that print American science fiction is very popular in Japan.

  41. Perhaps if you could elaborate a bit on the specific logical fallacy, or unjustified inference, some hint of a clue as to the, you know, evidence that would substantiate this assertion, we’d be able to do something about teaching people how to reason.

    None of the hypotheses put forth are properly tested. Many of the supposed observations are dubious at best. The hypotheses suffer from a bad case of the narrative fallacy.

    The post starts off with a value judgment about certain kinds of pornography, and the premise that there is some kind of explanation for a supposed discrepancy in the consumption patterns of said pornography. This explanation is then sought through a process of inadequately tested supposition about psychological states. That is a poor way to reason. Maybe I’m wrong, and the author is simply content to make things up. It wouldn’t surprise me.

  42. Oh, I forgot to mention that the last paragraph of my last posts deal with difference in science fiction quality between Japan and America, not sex. Sorry for going on a tangent there.

  43. >This explanation is then sought through a process of inadequately tested supposition about psychological states.

    It appears you haven’t read any of my previous posts on the topic. If you had, you’d have a better idea what sorts of testing I performed. Nothing rigorous or at scale, mind you, a lot of it was introspective – but the point of this series of posts isn’t to be peer-reviewed sexology, it’s to provoke my readers into thinking about porn from a different angle than either passive consumption or the tendentious categories of media theory or feminist critique.

    Also, note the pattern in all my posts about porn of not being satisfied with a hypothesis unless I can draw testable consequences from it. In particular, I’m pretty sure I could design a test protocol to distinguish between distance-seekers from competence-seekers by pupil-dilation reaction to flashed images. I am less sure that I could distinguish competence-seekers from dom-seekers, but that’s because I don’t understand dom-seekers as well.

  44. @Michael Hipp: Perhaps I’m in the minority here, but I’ve always found woman-with-machinery porn to just be weird. I see a naked woman on a convertible somewhere, and it doesn’t get me in the mood, because I can’t imagine any circumstance where that’d happen other than a porn shoot. It’s so obviously fake I just can’t get into it – even if I like the woman and I like the car, the combination is just somehow wrong. Same reason why naked women with guns has always just seemed weird – I mean, I’ve got nothing against a woman who knows how to shoot, but what in the hell is she doing with a gun when we’re getting naked?

  45. “[M]artial competence … moving gracefully and aggressively” is an apt description of roller derby. The sport certainly has its fetishistic and burlesque elements!

  46. >“[M]artial competence … moving gracefully and aggressively” is an apt description of roller derby. The sport certainly has its fetishistic and burlesque elements!

    Also, Lingerie League football, which fails to be a serious draw for me only because football bores the crap out of me. Still, I find those women far sexier than most porn models.

  47. Think evolution. Our knuckle-dragging ancestors probably found great utility in mating with an Amazon who could kick ass and make babies. Its not porn, its rational self-interest.

  48. My personal experience as a porn user, not having consumed (spent money for) much since discovering this new-fangled gizmo known as the internet, is that arousal triggers are Extremely Subjective think ‘Duke’ in SIASL. As I say, my personal experience is that my ‘tastes’, or what ever you wish to call it, evolved as I became older, or maybe jaded would be clearer. Embracing hedonism fairly early, and being OCD when it comes to any media, means that I still own various magazines, movies, books etc.Combine this with packing and unpacking and I have been given the opportunity to reacquaint myself with porn / erotica which I hadn’t seen from say 3 years to 25 years ago. These older items might still retained some appeal, but as time went by I found the porn I already owned even if refreshed by years became less and less effective in generating arousal. I found that I was spending an inordinate amount of time assembling media and other gear, and that my fantasies where becoming darker, which eventually led me abandoning my approval of masturbation as a worthwhile activity, which eventually led to reducing time spent pursuing pleasure for pleasure in most aspects of my life (Think Karen as found by ?Joe? in Spider Robinson ‘Mindkiller’). When I finally confronted that aspect of myself, it was “if I’m going to be an addict, then why not go straight to heroin, strangle sex, or the wire?”. There are also medical, relationships and age factors to consider sure.

    As to RAH the Elder, and ‘creepiness’ walk a mile in his protagonists shoes. You are old in years but young biologically. You have already experienced the joys and happiness of first love, first partner, first child, first family and so on. You have pursued various intellectual endeavors, to the point that you have a good idea as to your ‘ideal’ occupation, either as a full-time pursuit or as ‘hobby’. Maybe you purposely join a group marriage or are carried into some arrangement that does not agree with 20th century values. So when given the opportunity to share sexual pleasure or even offspring with a family member that you love, freaking out about a parent / child, or sibling / sibling relationship that may lie decades or even centuries in the past, would seem as weird as the reverse seems to us. Did I mention that there are no rapists in our environment? That there are no ‘birth defects’ because we can calculate what the combination of ova and sperm will yield before impregnation occurs. That surprise pregnancies are a thing of the past. Did I mention that venereal disease is a term known by historians? That we have finally solved the various issues that caused Economics to be labeled ‘the dismal science? That prostitution is no longer a business run by slavers, and sex workers share the same status as say, physical therapists or nurses, with the exceptional skillful winning the social status of present day olympic athletes crossed with rock stars. The 3 faces of Heinlein was a dubious notion when Panshin first developed it and it still sounds silly to me today

  49. >>Also, Lingerie League football, which fails to be a serious draw for me only because football bores the crap out of me. Still, I find those women far sexier than most porn models.

    Wikipedia: Critics say the league degrades female athletes through “pernicious objectification”;[16] others say it “simply” uses sex to sell a legitimate athletic league.[citation needed]

    Women are beautiful and sexy! What’s wrong with showing their bodies?

  50. >I used to like Heinlein’s portrayal of women.

    My feelings about that are rather complicated. On the one hand, I’m a Heinlein fan and his works have shaped my life. On the other hand, much of your critique of his portrayal of women is justified from the point of view of a culture that is trying to make a go of genuine sexual equality. On the gripping hand, I am not at all sure that attempt is actually sustainable – not unless we can re-engineer human females to have longer fertile periods.

    I think there’s a real possibility that the future may belong to Heinlein women simply because those less instinctively focused on reproduction won’t breed. RAH looks in some ways regressive now; I’m not at all sure that will still be true in 500 years. Or even, necessarily in 50 – if you happen to be undergoing a Japan-like baby dearth.

  51. All such elaborate theories are sunk by the fact that men who like girls with guns, and female superheroes also frequently like bondage porn and rape porn.

    Could it be that men just like: cuteness: availability, genetic quality, and submission – thus, for example, classic wonder women always winds up tied up by her own ropes. She subdues people, demonstrating high quality, gets subdued, suggesting availability, and wears clothes that resemble a coat of paint.

    Women are complicated, and project those complications onto men. Men are very simple.

  52. > not unless we can re-engineer human females to have longer fertile periods.
    I believe there is a lot of medical research being done now in an attempt to do just that.

  53. Nothing rigorous or at scale, mind you, a lot of it was introspective – but the point of this series of posts isn’t to be peer-reviewed sexology, it’s to provoke my readers into thinking about porn from a different angle

    If your intention wasn’t to present something of substance, then I suppose I can’t fault you for not doing so. However, I find value judgments and elaborate opinions to be an unhelpful waste of time. These things have a way of becoming increasingly seen as fact over time.

  54. No doubt this double-post will wreak havoc upon your spam filter, but oh well.

    Also, note the pattern in all my posts about porn of not being satisfied with a hypothesis unless I can draw testable consequences from it. In particular, I’m pretty sure I could design a test protocol to distinguish between distance-seekers from competence-seekers by pupil-dilation reaction to flashed images. I am less sure that I could distinguish competence-seekers from dom-seekers, but that’s because I don’t understand dom-seekers as well.

    I’m pretty sure you didn’t understand my post. The very designs you’re proposing encode your own implicit assumptions sexuality, such as the existence of certain categories of sexual preference. Then again, this is a pattern that can be observed in your posts going back a long time: the willingness to pigeonhole.

  55. >All such elaborate theories are sunk by the fact that men who like girls with guns, and female superheroes also frequently like bondage porn and rape porn.

    [citation needed]

  56. >The very designs you’re proposing encode your own implicit assumptions sexuality, such as the existence of certain categories of sexual preference.

    So what? If the theory is generative, and leads to predictions that are both falsifiable and correct, it doesn’t matter what my “implicit assumptions” are, or how they’re generated. All science begins from the scientist’s experience; it cannot be otherwise. That fact is no justification for going off the postmodernist deep end.

  57. So what? If the theory is generative, and leads to predictions that are both falsifiable and correct, it doesn’t matter what my “implicit assumptions” are, or how they’re generated. All science begins from the scientist’s experience; it cannot be otherwise. That fact is no justification for going off the postmodernist deep end.

    This, like other posts you’ve made shows how shallow your understanding of science is. There are numerous generally accepted principles in science that contradict your assertion that prediction is the only thing that matters, such as Occam’s Razor.

    Your attempt to conflate the naive use of experience (what you are doing) with extremely judicious use of the same may be lost on others, but not me. One might as well conflate naive empiricism with skeptical empiricism. You might be able to convince a few people with such a superficial comparison, but in the end it’s still junk science.

  58. >This, like other posts you’ve made shows how shallow your understanding of science is. There are numerous generally accepted principles in science that contradict your assertion that prediction is the only thing that matters, such as Occam’s Razor.

    Heh. You claim that my understanding of science is shallow, and then you utter a howler like that about Occam’s Razor?

    Occam’s razor is all about efficient prediction. What it tells us is that in the presence of theories with equivalent predictive power, we should choose the theory which can be unpacked into predictions at the lowest computational cost. This is a valuable heuristic because we have only finite computational capacity and must maximize its utility jointly across all the predictive challenges that will ever be thrown at us.

    Now look at your other “generally accepted principles”. I’m not sure which particular ones you have in mind, but I think you’ll find that they’re all optimization hacks for compressive learning from predictive checks. I say this with confidence because in a deep a-priori sense there’s nothing else they can be. Go ahead; try to pose a counterexample, that should be entertaining to watch.

    You shouldn’t throw around terms like “skeptical empiricism” until you, er, actually know what you’re talking about.

  59. Newton said “I make no hypotheses” – meaning he rejected theories that have enough ad hoc parameters to fit any data.

    Deep psychological theories about porn are non falsifiable. Evolutionary psychology theories about porn (that when it comes to sex, males are rather simple minded animals) have fewer free parameters and easily adjustable predictions.

  60. Occam’s razor is all about efficient prediction. What it tells us is that in the presence of theories with equivalent predictive power, we should choose the theory which can be unpacked into predictions at the lowest computational cost.

    Occam’s razor isn’t “all about” efficient prediction. What does that even mean? It’s a principle designed to eliminate junk from models. Yes, this may make prediction more efficient in some cases, but it also improves the quality of the explanation. I can always fit a finite sequence of observations with a sufficiently complex model, and often with significant predictive power (think machine learning). That does not suffice as an explanation.

    What you have done in your post is not just put forth a model, but a narrative one. Narratives are fine when we’re talking about electrons orbiting a nucleus. When it is a cultural narrative containing value judgments, as in your post, it most certainly is harmful because the extra narrative content that is not tested contains tacit implications.

  61. esr asks for a citation for my claim that men who like girls with guns and superheroines also like bondage porn and rape porn.

    “Wonder woman” and “Gunsmith cats”.

  62. @Roger Phillips
    “Occam’s razor isn’t “all about” efficient prediction. What does that even mean?”

    From Wikipedia:
    https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Occam%27s_razor
    “In 2005 Marcus Hutter mathematically proved[15] that shorter computable theories have more weight when calculating the expected value of an action across all computable theories which perfectly describe previous observations.”

    @all
    To start a model of erotica etc, you should start with the realization that an erotic scene is a story fragment. The audience is expected to participate in that story by identifying with some of the protagonists.

    The makers take note of the fact that the material is to be used to wank off, which puts some constraint on the story structure. Much of the discussion here seems to forget that people might identify with several characters in a scene, which might explain the popularity of opposite same-sex scenes (even lesbians seem to like gay porn). I understand that the switch in identification even holds for SM.

  63. >Yes, this may make prediction more efficient in some cases, but it also improves the quality of the explanation.

    How do you “improve the quality of an explanation” without either improving its predictive power or decreasing the computational cost of generating predictions? What else are you supposing is the point of “eliminate junk from models”?

    I am not sure what you think you mean by “narrative”, but it probably unpacks to generative content in the theory, an implicit causal account of the observations. So, uh, I’m supposed to utter a predictive account without a causal one, otherwise I’m committing some obscure sin. That’s silly.

    Did an analytical philosopher drop you on your head when you were little or something? Most people I wouldn’t criticize for being this confused about Occam’s Razor, but you are a working scientist and understand computational complexity and therefore ought to know better. Slow down and think consequentially; you’re tossing around terms for which you have failed to think through the operational referents.

  64. >“Wonder woman” and “Gunsmith cats”.

    I’m not seeing a citation, justification, connection, or causal account here.

  65. Sexy women with guns. Check the trailers for Sucker Punch, the girls are not striped bare but still look ready for action ( either way ).

    Tomb ( boobs ) Raider I think sums up the competence-seekers type lady.

    How much of the martial manga is also “girls with guns”.

    On a side note, note how many “red carpet” dresses are nearly soft porn, the depth of the neck line split is VERY low!

  66. “The realization that in Heinlein novels, multiple Ph.Ds are a signalling behavior to attract a True Man, rather than an expression of competence and independence, has really made a LOT of them less pleasant re-reads.”

    Of course, what else would they be? Heinlein writes from his own perspective (that of a very high IQ male who requires sufficiently high IQ women, possessing a signaling marker such as multiple Ph.Ds.) Why this should be shocking I don’t know — to men, women are baby factories first and foremost. Preferably sufficiently smart baby factories.

    Everything else is, as has been put here in other posts, “left-wing silliness.”

    “I think there’s a real possibility that the future may belong to Heinlein women simply because those less instinctively focused on reproduction won’t breed. RAH looks in some ways regressive now; I’m not at all sure that will still be true in 500 years. Or even, necessarily in 50 – if you happen to be undergoing a Japan-like baby dearth.”

    Eric, I think you’re severely underestimating the onset of the turnaround. We’re probably at the tail end of this little social experiment — I give it a generation at most.

  67. @JB
    “Eric, I think you’re severely underestimating the onset of the turnaround. We’re probably at the tail end of this little social experiment — I give it a generation at most.”

    Actually, if you look at University entrance numbers world wide, we are just at the start of the wave. In a few years it is the women that will earn the bulk of the PhDs. And not to shelf them with their first baby.

  68. Re the ultimate post title: shouldn’t that be – Naked female kernel hackers with guns smash the state! ?

  69. Career and Babies will be less of a conflict in the future for many brains-oriented Jobs.
    Home-office-ready jobs enable you to raise your kids and do valuable work.

    BTW, career and babies go together well already when you work at companies like SAS.

    Regarding the increase in “fetish” porn: this signals, IMO, that what you do becomes more important than how you look. In the past, porn mostly was the depiction of nude people and/or their genitals in a rather “static” way; nowadays, it becomes more important to tell a story with a series of pictures, or even with a single one.
    Best example, IMO: Eric Kroll (scoere another for the Eric conspiracy!)

  70. “I think there’s a real possibility that the future may belong to Heinlein women simply because those less instinctively focused on reproduction won’t breed.”

    Baby factories, even smart baby factories, have never been in control of the future. Much less so if they’re bonded with the Smart Male provider. Or did you mean “the future may belong to them” in the evolutionary sense of “those will be the only women out there”?

  71. I do not know much about ‘naked girls with guns’ erotica/porn, but i can imagine another reason why is popular with some men: it may act as a strong signal aimed at the gun-subculture, that _only_ men are expetced to be members of that group, and that women can only be the ‘warrior’s rest’ at best.

    More precisely, by using a cleary sexual image that only men enjoy, it would act both as an barrier entry for women (‘if you want to join, you better fit this role’), and as a strong reassurance for men (‘cheer up, your bitchy girlfriend will never turn up here’). I know many women are part of that group, and many many men make a point of treating them as equal, but that only makes the signal much more needed and powerful for the population of men I am talking about.

    The parallel is car magazines with lots of purely decorative ‘hot babes’ (in some magazines in italy, the girls are namless) or a recent discovery of mine, magazines devoted to the (illegal) cultivation of pot (which I read only for the music reviews, of course), proudly showing the various plants in the hands of similarly nameless ‘hot chicks’.

    If I’m right, ‘naked girls with guns’ would appear in gun magazines as well as in general porn/erotica.

  72. In re degrees as mating display for Heinlein women: Hilda is a counter-example, I think. She was concealing her degrees and intelligence until she was no longer in her cultural matrix. The fact that she was concealing her degrees and intelligence made me a little queasy– anyone have a theory about why she was doing that?

    In re Heinlein women (those with a strong desire for children) inheriting the world: I assume this means genetically. If there were significantly increased longevity and the Hln gene complex includes political skill, you could get a world where matriarchs get a lot of power in their own right and through their numerous descendants. This is a premise at least good enough for science fiction, though it would take some hand-waving to explain why the patriarchs in those families don’t have as much power.

    I’m wondering what the Hln gene complex (a hypothetical grouping which causes a strong desire for children, pragmatiism, and intelligence) looks like in the world today. I believe that the desire for unlimited numbers of children is much more of an advantage on frontiers than in settled places– Heinlein was mistaken to imply that it’s an advantage at all times and places.

    My bet is that the Hln complex would manifest in women born into well-off families as having 3 children rather than 1 or none. Maybe 4 if the household income is very high.

    Low probability: choose a pro-fertility religion (quiverful Christianity, some forms of Catholicism) in order to improve the odds of getting a husband who wants a lot of children, or who will at least support her choice to have them.

    The interesting case for this blog is what happens if a woman with the Hln complex is born poor in the US. She knows she wants to start having children young, and she probably doesn’t want to put it off until she’s well past 25, with a degree or two and a solid job. I suspect she’d be taking welfare and working under the table, and possibly have more children than any of the others. (In the real world, women on welfare have the same number of children, on the average, as women not on welfare.)

    What do you think a Heinlein woman in the last category would do?

  73. I’ve been hearing the paterfamilias nostrum about how conservatives will win in the end because they have large families, and urbanites and liberals tend to not have children since, oh, the 1990s, when there was this huge prediction that the Mormons (!) would become a large demographic insurgency.

    The reality of the matter is that somewhere between about 1960 and 1980, two things happened.

    1) A large enough fraction of women had moved into “the work force” and found jobs that were better pay/more rewarding/less work than being the happy homemaker.
    2) The cost-benefit ratio of raising a kid got higher for the middle class on up. It’s not quite a universal, but as per capital income reaches about 1970s Lower Middle Class level, birth rates drop…and because people move to where economic activity rewards them, the projected “Mormon Baby Boom” never happened. Interestingly, Muslim populations that gain some sort of social traction in European societies suddenly drop from 6 child families to 2. Which appears to indicate that the wealth effect is more powerful than religious memetic programming.

    Throw in complicating (or just concealment) factors like no fault divorce, and 99.9% reliable birth control in the hands of women, and you get a muddled mess that has so many people stridently clinging to one element as the One True Factor that it will never be resolved.

    On to the original topic:

    Naked women with guns? Most of the photos I’ve looked at of that type of thing evince the same “Er, if we’re going to have sex, why do you have a pistol? Is there a step in the negotiation process that I’ve flubbed?” coupled with “The photographer has no idea how proper firearms safety is handled.” To me, a naked woman with a gun who is not showing ‘barrel awareness’ is not erotic…it is the exact opposite of “competence is sexy” – “dangerous idiots with firearms make me want to Be Somewhere Else.”

    @Nancy Leibowitz: I had not noticed that Heinlein females don’t need to learn. I’d just accepted that they were there in the story without really thinking about how they formed in the millieux he’s writing. Good observation.

  74. Nancy: Since about the early 1990s, women on AFDC have had slightly fewer children on average than the women not getting the stipend; from the 1970s through 1980s, they were having them at about a 10-15% higher rate.

    The big difference? Planned Parenthood and ‘abortion on demand’. The VAST majority of the abortions in this country are done for women who are in the bottom quintile of SES. While I’m not entirely sure that the conclusion in Freakonomics is complete (urban crime goes down about 10 years after a Planned Parenthood clinic opens in a neighborhood is a result of the children of criminals being aborted before they become old enough to repeat the patterns of behaviors of their forebears), it’s an interesting observation of a correlation.

  75. Lingerie League Football ?!? You have got to be kidding me. I thought it was a frat boy joke….

    It demonstrates the knuckle-dragging sophistication of many mens’ libido. IMNSHO ;)

  76. > In a few years it is the women that will earn the bulk of the PhDs.

    Which PhDs matters a lot.

    The male cabbie with an English Lit PhD is an all-too-true stereotype. If he disappears because women start getting a greater share of “useless credentials”, who got the best of that change?

  77. Ken, I’ve decided it’s impossible to tell how many children people “really want” to have. The concept may not even be meaningful, since social pressure and economic circumstances seem to have such a large influence.

    There seems to be a small proportion of people with a strong desire for children, and another small proportion with a strong desire not to have children.

    My current theory is that human fertility happens because people like sex and tolerate raising children– raising children was presumably a lot easier in the ancestral environments. No cars, no formal education, and more adults to help.

  78. @Andy Freeman
    What PhDs do women chose?

    Law, psychology, and medicine (women took over humanities years ago). Informatics and math are following. You see an increase of the ratio in every field.

  79. And back to RAH:
    It may not be a popular notion these days, but there is no more important function for members of the tribe, male or female than making healthy babies and raising them to be competent adults.

    There is certainly space for being a support person, instead of directly passing on your genes, but that simply means doing your reproduction vicariously, through your sibilings and cousins.

    In the long run, unless you raise healthy competent kids who carry your genes, your genetic pattern will be lost and replaced by those who do.

    So, baby factory and parent, directly or indirectly, must be a high priority, or you just as well cut your throat now and save your self the trouble.

    RAH also said explicitly that the father should participate in all parts of the above, with the exception of gestation and breast feeding. Again, the ones that don’t will lose to the ones that do.

  80. @Jim Hurlburt
    “It may not be a popular notion these days, but there is no more important function for members of the tribe, male or female than making healthy babies and raising them to be competent adults.”

    And what should these babies do when they grow up? Make more babies?

    And how are they supposed to grow up and take the place of other people when they do not do something, say, useful?

  81. Isn’t all this assuming that we are not immortal and will die of cancers, random car accidents, and heart attacks?

  82. @Winter
    Among the factors contributing to the decline of onanism in my life, I found myself falling asleep because so much time went to creating the story and the background for the fantasy.

  83. @The Monster
    If they are comperent in anything beyond raising more babies, they must apply it to somerhing useful. Just as their mother and father should do more than raising babies.

    Because that is what humans do, useful things beyond growing babies.

  84. Jim Hurlburt:

    No one is keeping score, and evolution will take care of itself. I think you’re trying to find ultimate values without having a religious basis, and I don’t think it works.

    Babies don’t have to be healthy (though it’s to be preferred) to be healthy enough to eventually have descendants.

    It’s an open question whether groups which have an ideology of reproduction will do better than those which leave reproduction up to individual desire. I’d like to think that people are more competent when they aren’t trying to prove that they’re worthwhile.

    Ken: thanks for the details about reproductive rates and welfare.

    My last name is Lebovitz.

  85. @Winter
    Again, you’ve erected a straw man. Growing babies is a necessary condition for reproductive success, but it is not sufficient. And no one but you is saying that it is. OTOH, you can do all the “useful things” in the world, and if no one in your near family is growing babies, your genes won’t be around for the next generation.

  86. @Nancy Lebovitz:

    I think you’re trying to find ultimate values without having a religious basis, and I don’t think it works.

    The Monster, why should anyone care about their genes?

    We can attempt to be “civilized” and work around or through this, but for the genes of any animal, successful reproduction is, in fact, the ultimate value.

    As The Monster says, not just sex, or even raising children. The most successful reproduction results in your genes (or closely related genes) in the gene pool many generations later. This means that critical, long-term thinking skills are imperative in any kind of morality, and are best used in deciding how to shape the world to us and us to the world so as to achieve the best chances for survival for our descendants.

  87. @Nancy

    I agree, who cares about genes?

    If my genes don’t agree, they can jump in the lake (cited from Stephen Pinker).

  88. How long till we have sufficient genetic engineering that memetic and genetic engineering blend into each other?

    Is it just as good if you design a gene which is in use for millennia? Actually, that sort of evolutionary win is more likely (especially if you want millions of years) if you design a gene for bacteria.

    What if you invent a method of genetic engineering?

    Do you lose if a gene of yours is passed on, but the surviving version is mutated?

  89. James:
    > >“Wonder woman” and “Gunsmith cats”.

    Esr:
    > I’m not seeing a citation, justification, connection, or causal account here.

    In comics, gun toting and superhero chicks tend to get tied up a lot: Implication: men are attracted to quality, as demonstrated by girls kicking ass, and availability, as when they lose. No deep psychological explanations required.

  90. @Nancy and The Monster
    About Genes

    Let us take a few people who wasted their lives because they did not produce offspring:
    Mother Theresa, Jesus (if he was historical),Florence Nightingale, Emily Dickinson, Ayn Rand, Joan of Arc
    For more, see http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/childfree_by_choice/58081

    On the other hand, Djengis Khan and his sons are said to have made the very best of an opportunity to spread their genes.

    The fact that genes use our bodies to reproduce themselves does not obliges us to follow their “orders”. I rather follow the example of Immanuel Kant than Djengis.

  91. >In comics, gun toting and superhero chicks tend to get tied up a lot: Implication: men are attracted to quality, as demonstrated by girls kicking ass, and availability, as when they lose. No deep psychological explanations required.

    There are several things wrong with this, beginning with the fact that it doesn’t actually back up the claim you’re using it to support about a cross-preference for bondage and rape porn (especially not the latter).

    Furthermore, the clustering of porn images emphatically does not follow the pattern you describe; sites like Actiongirls (a typical genre example aimed mainly at the group I call distance-seekers) never include bondage and rape porn. The converse is also true. It is quite clear that the porn industry regards these as sharply separate markets.

  92. @Nancy:

    How long till we have sufficient genetic engineering that memetic and genetic engineering blend into each other?

    Arguably, that’s happened for millenia, because any genetic engineering that is widely propagated has a memetic quality. Certainly, genocide is memetic, and is crude, if often effective, genetic engineering. Even other animals can have memes (crows passing on the use of tools, for example) that affect genetic survivability. To the extent you are distinguishing memetic engineering from simple memes and it becomes meta-engineering, that’s arguably the sort of thing that religions and other propagandists have engaged in for millenia as well.

    Is it just as good if you design a gene which is in use for millennia? Actually, that sort of evolutionary win is more likely (especially if you want millions of years) if you design a gene for bacteria.

    What if you invent a method of genetic engineering?

    To the extent that people’s minds can twist and distort the urges of their genes into some other impulse that will seem fulfilling because they will be remembered or have eternal life or whatever, sure, engineering a new organism or inventing a method of genetic engineering, or even being a good example to other humans (as Winter alludes to) could easily suffice. But remember that, just like a gene itself, messages or accomplishments that are more helpful to survival will, statistically speaking, be remembered (will live) longer.

    Do you lose if a gene of yours is passed on, but the surviving version is mutated?

    This is really two questions.

    The first question is “do your genes lose?”, which probably depends both on the long-term survivability of the mutation and on whether the mutation is actively hostile to unmutated versions of your genes. For example, one mutation might confer resistance to some disease (good), while another mutation might somehow greatly reduce intra-species cooperation (bad).

    The second question is “does your mind think you lose?” This is a completely separate question. If the mutation makes your child butt-ugly, you might think so, but if your child is a musical genius, perhaps not.

  93. “If the mutation makes your child butt-ugly….”

    Warning– stored rant follows.

    If you think your child is ugly, keep your fucking mouth shut on the subject. This applies even if your kid looks like you and you think you look ugly.

    I know at least a couple of people who took real damage because their parents hammered them about not being good-looking enough. (And if you think you know who they are, please don’t post their names.)

    There are people who don’t deserve to have grandchildren, and in fact don’t have grandchildren.

  94. > There are people who don’t deserve to have grandchildren, and in fact don’t have grandchildren.

    And there you have the answer: memetic engineering affecting genetic propagation.

  95. We can attempt to be “civilized” and work around or through this, but for the genes of any animal, successful reproduction is, in fact, the ultimate value.

    This might be true, but it’s somewhat dangerous intellectual territory; might want to read this. Briefly, individual organisms don’t “try”, in any meaningful sense, to maximize their genetic fitness (reproduction); they execute adaptations that succeeded in doing so in the past. The actual values held by sentients who evolved to pass on their genes are not necessarily related directly to reproduction; they are those which increased the reproductive prospects of that species of sentients in the past.

  96. March 22nd, 2011 at 4:30 pm
    esr:
    Furthermore, the clustering of porn images emphatically does not follow the pattern you describe; sites like Actiongirls (a typical genre example aimed mainly at the group I call distance-seekers) never include bondage and rape porn. The converse is also true. It is quite clear that the porn industry regards these as sharply separate markets.

    Consider the famous Hentai series, La Blue girl, where the heroine alternately kicks demon ass, and then gets massively tentacle raped by demons, then kicks demon ass some more while wearing no clothes, having lost all her clothes while being tentacle raped. New episodes appear endlessly, and lots of hentai imitate it. La Blue Girl is almost an industry in itself.

    Comics industry does not regard them as separate markets. DirtyPair is another example. Obviously pure porn does not have enough story line for girls to both kick ass and get tied up, but stuff with with a story line, for example wonder woman, tends to to result in kick ass girls getting tied up from time to time.

    The Hentai “Words worth”, one of the few hentai’s with a substantial story line, good characterization, and actual artwork, has most of the love interests kick ass, suffer defeat, get tied up, and get raped on screen in lengthy and maximally explicit scenes. The first sex scene starts off with a hot chick kicking ass in battle, is captured when her side is defeated gets chained up in a torture chamber, thoroughly sexually molested by a half human monster, defeats the monster, thoroughly kicking his ass and comically humiliating him, then the hero … rapes her all over again

  97. What it tells us is that in the presence of theories with equivalent predictive power, we should choose the theory which can be unpacked into predictions at the lowest computational cost.

    Really? The attempts I’ve seen to make Occam’s razor rigorous usually end up trying to minimize something like Kolmogorov complexity, which is not the same thing as computational complexity. It’s easy to come up with programs that are easy to state and expensive to execute or vice-versa.

  98. (@esr: Please remove previous version of this post in moderation queue.)

    @Tom Dickson-Hunt:

    Briefly, individual organisms don’t “try”, in any meaningful sense, to maximize their genetic fitness (reproduction); they execute adaptations that succeeded in doing so in the past.

    I agree this is dangerous/interesting. The article you reference says this:

    No human being with the deliberate goal of maximizing their alleles’ inclusive genetic fitness, would ever eat a cookie unless they were starving. But individual organisms are best thought of as adaptation-executers, not fitness-maximizers.

    This is too simplistic by half. Barring mutation, our genes are what they are. We can no more make them fit for a particular environment than we can wake up tomorrow with zebra stripes, so in that sense, our genes have certainly created us as their adaptation-executers. But to the extent that we can deliberately make accommodating changes in our environment, we can, in fact, maximize the fitness of our own genes. Too much fat in your cookie? Invent Olestra. Too hot for northern Europeans? Invent A/C. Etc. And, as Nancy implied, we are probably very close to that time when we can add a few designer genes to increase the fitness of the rest of them. (Or, more probably, to increase the perceived fitness while decreasing the actual fitness…)

  99. I don’t want to drag this blog thread into the gutter, but has anyone addressed the obvious rational for the appeal of “naked women with guns.” Namely, the conjecture that guns are phallic symbols, and consequently that a naked woman gripping a phallus is primordially sexual. Don’t need Freud to figure that one out.

  100. > Namely, the conjecture that guns are phallic symbols, and consequently that a naked woman gripping a phallus is primordially sexual.

    Umm, no. Guns are seen as phallic symbols by those who are afraid of them. It’s the whole penis-envy thing.

    The confusion on this point comes from the “noted” Dr. Joyce Brothers, who was a gun-control fetishist.

    FWIW, her husband had an NYC CCW….

  101. >It’s easy to come up with programs that are easy to state and expensive to execute or vice-versa.

    Indeed. What you’ve demonstrated is that Kolmgorov complexity in itself is the wrong minimization target. It does enter in to the complexity cost metric we actually want to minimize, because part of the cost of turning a theory into predictions is the cost of representing the theory in the first place! But it can’t be the whole story.

    To my knowledge, nobody has a completely convincing formalization of the execution cost of a theory; the Halting Problem suggests obvious difficulties in that direction. Thus the widespread tendency to use Kolmgorov complexity as a proxy.

  102. > Guns are seen as phallic symbols by those who are afraid of them.

    I don’t understand this comment. Are you afraid of your penis?

  103. >Umm, no. Guns are seen as phallic symbols by those who are afraid of them.

    Not that simple. Some men who aren’t afraid of weapons seem to over-gun themselves as a sort of phallic compensation – I think the preposterous Desert Eagle must get most of its sales that way.

    But naked woman gripping a phallic symbol is not necessarily “primordially sexual either”. It rather depends on what she’s doing with it.

  104. Considering that a woman gripping a gun is typically in a position to shoot it (and if she were in a position to be shot by it, that would be an excessively creepy sort of porn [1]), this suggests a fair amount of gender complexity if we’re using a Freudian analysis.

    [1] IIRC, Poe said something to the effect that the death of a beautiful woman is the most romantic thing. He’s not the only one, though normally the body is left intact, which leaves guns out of the picture.

  105. >> > Guns are seen as phallic symbols by those who are afraid of them.

    > I don’t understand this comment. Are you afraid of your penis?

    Not at all. The people who see guns as phallic symbols are the gun banners, not the gun owners. They’re looking to “de-penis” other folks. That’s why I mentioned penis envy.

  106. For many years, a company known as Rigid Tools has used imagery of scantily clad women to market their line of industrial tools. You can find these posters and calendars hanging in maintenance shops all across America. My guess is that this marketing works well because a lot of red-blooded, blue-collar men enjoy the thought of an attractive women having a firm grip on their tool (so to speak). I think both men and women understand the message implicit in this form of advertising and it has nothing to do with dysfunctional psychology.

  107. This is too simplistic by half. Barring mutation, our genes are what they are. We can no more make them fit for a particular environment than we can wake up tomorrow with zebra stripes, so in that sense, our genes have certainly created us as their adaptation-executers. But to the extent that we can deliberately make accommodating changes in our environment, we can, in fact, maximize the fitness of our own genes. Too much fat in your cookie? Invent Olestra. Too hot for northern Europeans? Invent A/C. Etc. And, as Nancy implied, we are probably very close to that time when we can add a few designer genes to increase the fitness of the rest of them. (Or, more probably, to increase the perceived fitness while decreasing the actual fitness…)

    True, those sorts of things are useful to reproduction, but this is only incidental. Once we became self-aware, evolution’s ends stopped being served. The point that the article is trying to make is that things like Olestra are not designed to increase genetic fitness, they are designed to increase the quality of life of individuals–something about which evolution cares not a whit. It is a misunderstanding of evolutionary psychology to say that the fact that human traits exist because they increased humans’ genetic fitness millions of years ago means that individual humans are at all interested in genetic fitness. Thus, individual humans have an enjoyment of sex, and an ingrained love for small children, and various other traits that make reproduction more likely and common, because evolution put them there. Humans do not have an actual, explicit goal that says “Reproduce as much as possible”. Otherwise, as the article says, in the current situation in which calories are abundant, we wouldn’t eat cookies, and in the current more-or-less overpopulated era, we wouldn’t invent condoms.

  108. >>True, those sorts of things are useful to reproduction, but this is only incidental. Once we became self-aware, evolution’s ends stopped being served.

    Wrong, evolution’s ends don’t cease being served. It’s still true that the value that we hold determine the fate of our species. When we annihilate ourselves, we become an evolutionary dead end.

  109. > Once we became self-aware, evolution’s ends stopped being served.

    I don’t believe that for a minute. There are many levels of enlightenment, and most of us aren’t Mother Theresa.

    > Olestra [is] not designed to increase genetic fitness

    The entire purpose of something like Olestra is to alter the plethora of rich food in man’s current environment such that it doesn’t adversely impact people so badly. Again, this is fitting the environment to the species, rather than the other way around. Arguably slowing evolution by increasing the average person’s fitness for his environment.

    > they are designed to increase the quality of life of individuals–something about which evolution cares not a whit.

    I agree that evolution doesn’t care about the quality of life of an individual, but it certainly cares if the quality of life of groups of individuals is so impacted that reproduction suffers or goes too far non-linear.

    > It is a misunderstanding of evolutionary psychology to say that the fact that human traits exist because they increased humans’ genetic fitness millions of years ago means that individual humans are at all interested in genetic fitness.

    It is certainly a huge misunderstanding to think that brains are anything special, rather than just another tool that our genes use to help adapt us to our environment. The extent that our brains manage to thwart evolution is not yet clear.

    > Humans do not have an actual, explicit goal that says “Reproduce as much as possible”.

    Maybe you don’t, but your genes do. Who’s in charge? Perhaps, ultimately, your brain, but maybe it gives in to your genes more than you realize. Or maybe there’s no free will at all, as some argue.

    > Otherwise, as the article says, in the current situation in which calories are abundant, we wouldn’t eat cookies, and in the current more-or-less overpopulated era, we wouldn’t invent condoms.

    These examples are actually diametrically opposed. For most of our evolutionary history, eating cookies was good for reproduction. To say “oh, if you want to reproduce, stop eating cookies” completely misses the point. People can’t stop for the simple reason that they are genetically programmed to eat the damn things in order to maximize chances of reproduction!. Never mind that that strategy backfires now. So eating cookies and having sex is where our genes control us. Using Olestra and using condoms is our brains trying to wrest a small amount of control back from our genes.

  110. This idea of “evolution’s ends being served” shows a fundamental misunderstanding of evolution. It’s not any kind of goal-seeking exercise. Species evolve over time in response to environmental conditions, and that’s pretty much it.

  111. >>This idea of “evolution’s ends being served” shows a fundamental misunderstanding of evolution. It’s not any kind of goal-seeking exercise. Species evolve over time in response to environmental conditions, and that’s pretty much it.

    It is hard for me to say that evolution have no intention but I believe that evolution is just is. It just happens according to the law/rule of the universe

  112. I’ve been hearing the paterfamilias nostrum about how conservatives will win in the end because they have large families, and urbanites and liberals tend to not have children since, oh, the 1990s, when there was this huge prediction that the Mormons (!) would become a large demographic insurgency.

    Sure, but that’s a prediction based entirely on cultural factors, not genetic ones. With Catholics first, Mormons second, and now Muslims, it’s clear that prosperity corrosively dissolves cultural preferences for large families.

    However, assuming a situation where there is plenty of access to birth control, no cultural pressure to have lots of kids, and an economic disincentive to have lots of kids, the only people who will have lots of kids are the ones that really, really want to. If there’s a genetic allele that can cause desire for having lots of kids, that allele will now have higher frequency in the next generation.

    Since this big family allele will only result in larger families than the neighbors have in populations where cultural factors promoting high fertility have ceased to operate, if it exists, it is actually likely that it is currently more frequently carried in the urbanite/liberal population than in, say, Mormons, since the urbanites have had a generation or two of higher selection for it.

  113. esr wrote

    To my knowledge, nobody has a completely convincing formalization of the execution cost of a theory; the Halting Problem suggests obvious difficulties in that direction. Thus the widespread tendency to use Kolmgorov complexity as a proxy.

    If a single solution is known, the halting problem can be circumvented and there is a consistent measure of computational costs. This solution can be extended to any computational model. An example can be found in:

    Quantifying Resource Use in Computations
    http://arxiv.org/abs/0911.5262


    It is currently not possible to quantify the resources needed to perform a computation. As a consequence, it is not possible to reliably evaluate the hardware resources needed for the application of algorithms or the running of programs. This is apparent in both computer science, for instance, in cryptanalysis, and in neuroscience, for instance, comparative neuro-anatomy. A System versus Environment game formalism is proposed based on Computability Logic that allows to define a computational work function that describes the theoretical and physical resources needed to perform any purely algorithmic computation. Within this formalism, the cost of a computation is defined as the sum of information storage over the steps of the computation. The size of the computational device, eg, the action table of a Universal Turing Machine, the number of transistors in silicon, or the number and complexity of synapses in a neural net, is explicitly included in the computational cost. The proposed cost function leads in a natural way to known computational trade-offs and can be used to estimate the computational capacity of real silicon hardware and neural nets. The theory is applied to a historical case of 56 bit DES key recovery, as an example of application to cryptanalysis. Furthermore, the relative computational capacities of human brain neurons and the C. elegans nervous system are estimated as an example of application to neural nets.

  114. #Ken Burnside said:

    I’ve been hearing the paterfamilias nostrum about how conservatives will win in the end because they have large families, and urbanites and liberals tend to not have children since, oh, the 1990s, when there was this huge prediction that the Mormons (!) would become a large demographic insurgency.

    #Steven Ehrbar said:

    Sure, but that’s a prediction based entirely on cultural factors, not genetic ones. With Catholics first, Mormons second, and now Muslims, it’s clear that prosperity corrosively dissolves cultural preferences for large families.

    And as you gents have rightly guessed, all of those predictions are utter crap. Religion or political preference is not a reliable predictor of family size. Steven’s right that propsperity corrosively dissolves cultural preference for large families. Large families are more common when the likelihood that some percentage of the children will die before they reach adulthood is higher.

    I don’t have a convenient link to data showing this, but I’m reasonably sure you could find it with a little googling.

  115. The Monster, why should anyone care about their genes?

    You’re missing the point. It doesn’t matter whether anyone “cares” about their genes, and “should” doesn’t even enter into the picture. But people who act in such a way as to reproduce on their own, and improve the survivability of their children; and/or to improve the survivability of their siblings, cousins, etc. aid in propagating those genes to future generations.

    To whatever extent our genes inform our behavior, a set of genes that does not promote these activities will tend to die out, at the expense of those that do.

  116. @Morgan Greywold
    “I don’t have a convenient link to data showing this, but I’m reasonably sure you could find it with a little googling.”

    This is what you are looking for. The resources (eg, time) a woman invests in all her children is more or less constant. So if rearing a single child is more expensive (sending it to college), she will reduce the number of children to compensate. If children are expected to die young, she will compensate by rearing more children. There is probably a similar effect in the fathers.

    The driving factor is thus the motivation to increase spending resources on individual children.

    Lifetime reproductive effort in humans
    http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/277/1682/773.short

    The ?nding that human LRE converges on the pre-
    dicted value demonstrates the fundamental role of
    stabilizing selection and the strength of the underlying
    trade-offs shaping the structure of life histories. Despite
    the fact that derived components of the human life history
    are probably affected by the complex socio-ecology of
    humans, our results show that each adjustment trades-
    off against a complementary variable, resulting in an
    LRE that is not fundamentally different from other
    organisms.

    Another, earlier paper:

    Lifetime Reproductive Effort
    http://repository.unm.edu/handle/1928/6924

  117. Roger Phillips: I’d be interested to know what experiment you used to test this hypothesis.

    I freely admit that the theory is highly circumstantial; if you have some harder evidence, I’d be very happy if you’d share it. I’m basing the idea on noticing that most men watch porn, few men pay for porn, and that, for instance, nobody I’d asked about facials seems to really like them; they just think it’s kind of weird.

    Dan: Lingerie League Football ?!? You have got to be kidding me. I thought it was a frat boy joke….

    I can’t imagine why people pointed to that, rather than, say, roller derby. LFL is the sort of thing done as a show for male approval. (Yes, I’m aware there’s an actual sport struggling to get out from under that, and that the women are real athletes. It doesn’t change the point.) You can squint and see the women primarily as competent athletes (which they are), but it’s still kind of what Twisty Faster would call “empowerful”.

    Competence is sexy precisely because it isn’t just a surface display, kiba’s “it’s sexy; what’s the problem?” stance aside.

  118. @Some Guy:

    This idea of “evolution’s ends being served” shows a fundamental misunderstanding of evolution. It’s not any kind of goal-seeking exercise. Species evolve over time in response to environmental conditions, and that’s pretty much it.

    And yet the end result resembles a goal-seeking exercise with multiple competing/cooperating players, the very minute you name the goal as assembling a set of genes that can propagate itself indefinitely within some existing and/or expected environmental constraints.

    It is not anthropomorphizing mosquitoes or cockroaches, or even amoebas, to observe that they engage in goal-seeking behavior. Yet when we go down one more rung, to DNA or RNA, all of a sudden we have to toss out all our higher level reasoning. It may, in fact, be like quantum physics in that the rules seemingly change at the bottom, but if I may tie this discussion to another ongoing thread, Occam’s Razor might just indicate that genes, in fact, exist to propagate themselves, and are pretty darn clever about it, to boot.

    @The Monster:

    You’re missing the point. It doesn’t matter whether anyone “cares” about their genes, and “should” doesn’t even enter into the picture.

    To whatever extent our genes inform our behavior, a set of genes that does not promote [reproduction goal-oriented behaviors] will tend to die out, at the expense of those that do.

    Exactly. And genes may be dumb as rocks, but to the extent we blindly assume that this is true, we miss out on a lot of possible insights. It is, IMHO, no accident that genetic programming algorithms work extremely well for some class of goal-directed problems.

  119. > For many years, a company known as Rigid Tools has used imagery of scantily clad women to market their line of industrial tools. You can find these posters and calendars hanging in maintenance shops all across America. My guess is that this marketing works well because a lot of red-blooded, blue-collar men enjoy the thought of an attractive women having a firm grip on their tool (so to speak).

    That’s a load of self-serving crap.

    A much simpler explanation is that Rigid Tools noticed that their customers put up such pictures from other sources such as magazines. Rigid Tools wondered “If we give them similar pictures with our name attached, will they put them up, leaving our name attached?”. This is an interesting question because Rigid Tools believes that customers that see its name a lot are more likely to buy its products, aka brand advertising 101.

    The answer is yes, their customers will display such pictures and not tear off the Rigid Tools name.

    Other companies do exactly the same thing with pictures of trains, cars, flowers, etc. Some even manage to charge for such things, especially if the pictures are part of calendars).

  120. @Andy Freeman: While I see your point, many of those pictures that TomA refers to don’t just show scantily clad women and a Rigid Tools logo; they show scantily clad women holding or posing next to Rigid’s actual products.

    So they are, indeed, using sex to sell their tools in much the same Victoria’s Secret uses sex to sell their lingerie.

  121. > So they are, indeed, using sex to sell their tools in much the same Victoria’s Secret uses sex to sell their lingerie.

    What would you call it if they used pictures of flowers, cars, trains, or babies instead of pictures of scantily clad women?

    After all, Rigid’s customers also put up pictures of cars.

    I ask because many tool companies, including Rigid, use pictures of cars in exactly the same way that they use pictures of scantily clad women. Other suppliers for other biz use pictures of trains, flowers, and babies.

  122. ESR,

    “RAH looks in some ways regressive now; I’m not at all sure that will still be true in 500 years.”

    Just what exactly you mean you (thankfully, really) use words like “regressive” and “progressive”? You are not the type to obey fashions, not even powerful fashions like these two terms. I think one can only progress towards a clear final goal, or regress from it, and what kind of clearly defined final goal (and commonly agreed) do we have? Chesterton got it it right, we keep changing the goal and the direction and call continuous movement / change “progress”, but towards what? And, similarly, what final goal can anything called “regressive” regress from?

  123. typo:

    > and, when I realized I has been projecting my own reaction…

    have been…

  124. Nancy,

    “I know at least a couple of people who took real damage because their parents hammered them about not being good-looking enough.”

    Yes. And of course you know another couple of people who took real damage because their parents told them they are amazing, unique, and wonderful, and then wondered why the world does not appreciate their awesomeness and were totally offended that they too have to work in order to achieve things. That means a long and painful growing-up period.

    Given that both extremes are harmful, do you happen to have any useful heuristic how to aim for the middle?

  125. >Cathy and H have interesting, plausible hypotheses. but it would be worth seeing if there’s anything by men who like women with guns porn and/or by people who produce such porn about why it’s wanted. They’d be closer to the subject.

    I don’t think so. It’s an industry where profit matters. The film makers react exactly on what is in demand. Porn buyers obviously show interest in these genres otherwise those films would go unnoticed and the producers bankrupt.

    So It is almost certainly most relevant to see what wrong is with the audience (though I don’t agree that there is necessarily something wrong with people who are interested in fetish porn. It’s just ESR’s theory)

  126. Re: the whole “guns as penises” thing:

    I agree with Andy Freeman that it’s the anti-gun people who make this association, and I think the reason is that, for them, the penis is really a stand-in for courage and competence. They don’t want to face the fact that they lack those traits, and they sexualize that lack.

    The worst part of it is that, unlike the athletes in pro sports, for instance, gun owners don’t have any special physical traits that anti-gunners are lacking; they simply are more courageous and more willing to take up responsibility for themselves and their families. In essence, the anti-gunners know they don’t measure up and want to drag everyone else down to their own cowardly level.

    Look, for instance, at the anti-gunners who use their Virginia Tech victimhood badge as a means for convincing the government to use violence to disarm gun owners. Colin Goddard and John Woods both played dead so that Cho would kill others instead of them. In the case of Woods, he allowed Cho to kill his girlfriend while playing dead, then used her death to gain sympathy. In the case of Goddard, he claimed to have been an Army veteran–a claim that was proved to be a LIE.

  127. @Patrick Maupin
    This means that critical, long-term thinking skills are imperative in any kind of morality, and are best used in deciding how to shape the world to us and us to the world so as to achieve the best chances for survival for our descendants.
    This touches on something I’ve been kicking around for the last few years.
    If…
    ,,,we live in a causal, random, accidental, natural, universe
    …nothing we do has an outside, objective, meaning
    …humans are mostly non-rational actors
    …much of humanities actions are based on occult electro-chemical signals
    Then what rational reasons could we have for staying alive? Indeed what incentive could we have for trying to shape a better world if ultimately in the end nothing really matters? Which brings me to thinking that part of the problem is confusing the levels. If a hypothetical entity could watch earth from the outside, it would see flowing patterns as as the first proto-cell came to be, evolved into cellular organisms and multiceluar organisms and went extinct and then the next proto-cell evolved into the first cell and so on and so on. How could the entity care about some patterns more than others, what incentives could it have that would be meaningful to Us?

    Winter, that hypothetical entity might declare that the people you list were of little value, but why would you care?
    Let us take a few people who wasted their lives because they did not produce offspring:
    Mother Theresa, Jesus (if he was historical),Florence Nightingale, Emily Dickinson, Ayn Rand, Joan of Arc
    If their lives and work increased the viability of the ‘Human Genome’ then from a genetic standpoint their lives had value to humankind but how could you prove it from here?

    I have spent much of my life trying to find meaningful magic with no success, I have found no credible science demanding acceptance of supernatural reality, of heavens or hells or emergence or the ‘science of history’. I’ve gradually come to think that I didn’t need them because I CA N directly observe and experience that loyalty exists, that love and friendship and support are real. That kindness is possible, that sacrifice can happen that civilization is worthwhile.

    It may be that we are wrong if we struggle to build the best of all possible worlds, that humans cultures that reward theft, rape, and murder will be the ones that conserve the human genome the longest but again how could you prove it?

  128. >I agree with Andy Freeman that it’s the anti-gun people who make this association

    Not only them. Some people who like guns do phallicize them. I’m not saying this makes the anti-gunners’ intentions any less disgusting, but it is a fact which we deny at peril of undermining our own credibility.

    >In essence, the anti-gunners know they don’t measure up and want to drag everyone else down to their own cowardly level.

    True of many, but not all. There is a tiny minority of anti-gunners who are not cowards; I’ve met maybe two in my life. It’s better that we acknowledge the existence of such people; doing so actually makes our ethical arguments easier to hear for people not already convinced.

  129. @murph:

    It may be that we are wrong if we struggle to build the best of all possible worlds, that humans cultures that reward theft, rape, and murder will be the ones that conserve the human genome the longest but again how could you prove it?

    An excellent question. I meant to say something about genetics on the rape statistics post of a couple of weeks ago. Obviously, in some cases rape is a very viable reproduction strategy. Historically, it goes hand-in-hand with war, for example. But, even if we allow for the sake of argument that genes are rational actors, it may not be about conserving the human genome so much as conserving particular genes. In other words, just like the human animals that carry them, genes cooperate when it is in their best interest, and compete otherwise. And, obviously, like any animal, genes (or collections of genes) can make mistakes. There are lots of evolutionary dead-ends.

    It’s interesting that different continents have spawned vastly different ecosystems. The historical ecosystem dangers in Africa for humans are markedly different than those in Europe, so it may be that rape and theft are more viable in one ecosystem than in another.

    On a slightly related topic, the NY Times has an article up about free will:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/22/science/22tier.html?_r=1&pagewanted=1

  130. @Ken:

    [gun owners] simply are more courageous and more willing to take up responsibility for themselves and their families. In essence, the anti-gunners know they don’t measure up and want to drag everyone else down to their own cowardly level.

    You can’t seriously use VT to claim that all gun owners are more responsible than all non-gun owners. That’s a deranged claim that will seriously backfire.

  131. >You can’t seriously use VT to claim that all gun owners are more responsible than all non-gun owners. That’s a deranged claim that will seriously backfire.

    You are quite right. There is a valid claim about the distribution of certain positive ethical traits having a much higher mean among gun owners outside the criminal-deviant 3% buried in there, and a valid indictment of cowardice at VT, but like many partisans of gun rights Ken is sloppy and overreaching in his rhetoric and ends up sounding like a loony elitist.

  132. Shenpen, I actually don’t think I know any people who took damage from their parents thinking they (the children) were excessively wonderful. This may be chance, or may be generational– I’m 57, and a lot of the complaints along those lines seem to be about people a good bit younger. Or it might be that some of the fouled up people I know were mishandled in that way and haven’t talked about their childhoods in that sort of detail.

    I would think that the general advice would be to avoid thinking of your children as qualitatively much more magical than people in general– not good magical or bad magical– but damned if I know how to tell that one is caught in such a delusion.

    Also, I think it’s normal and probably helpful for parents to think of their kids as fairly good looking, including somewhat better looking than most people would think, and obviously deleterious to teach one’s children to think of themselves as ugly. I’m not sure why you think I need to make a balanced statement about parents who are too indulgent to their kids.

  133. @Nancy:

    I would think that the general advice would be to avoid thinking of your children as qualitatively much more magical than people in general– not good magical or bad magical– but damned if I know how to tell that one is caught in such a delusion.

    I don’t think anybody can figure out if they are caught in such a delusion because the Dunning-Kruger effect applies here. If you’re caught in such a delusion, you’re incompetent enough at raising kids that you won’t be able to figure it out. The only way to tell is to get an outside opinion. Of course, if you’re incompetent at picking the right person to deliver that opinion (e.g. if you religiously read and follow every new-age child rearing guide you can get your hands on), then you’re still back at square one.

    I, of course, think my two girls are perfectly magical. One of them is staying very busy with the second year of her MD/PhD program and the other one is a double-major (physics and music) junior at UT Austin with a 4.0 GPA, who pedicabs to earn the difference between what she spends and what dad gives her, and plays in a band in her copious spare time.

  134. We live in an increasingly PC world in which the normative behaviors that I grew up with are no longer acceptable to most liberals. This topic is a case in point. When I was a young lad back in the 60s, it was quite “normal” to sneak-a-peak in my dad’s Playboy magazine and enjoy the nudes vicariously. I suppose that this sort of thing may have turned a few deranged souls into serial killers in later life; but for most of us, it was just good fun and nothing to get all bent out of shape over. Nowadays, if you ogle naked women with guns or a busty vixen holding an 18 inch wrench, then by God there must be some deviant explanation. Where does this nonsense end? Can’t we just enjoy looking at attractive women just because we like to?

  135. >I, of course, think my two girls are perfectly magical.

    On the description given, I for one would not be able to argue the contrary with much force.

  136. @esr
    “and a valid indictment of cowardice at VT”

    Personally, I was thinking the likes of Dalai Lama, Gandhi, and Mandela were condemned as cowards. I really do not think this is what was intended.

  137. Patrick Maupin: Ok, if you think of your daughters as magical (and probably thought so at least a fair amount of the time when they were kids), then maybe there’s a need to distinguish between good ways of thinking of one’s kids as magical and bad ways, or maybe my theory was just wrong.

    The Dunning-Kruger effect doesn’t apply to everyone who’s making a mistake.

    An alternate theory of how to avoid some common modes of screwing up your kids might be to think of yourself as raising adults, not children. This could lead to pushing maturity earlier than is feasible, but at least it pushes parents to think that they’re dealing with people who will be around for the long haul.

    As for Shenpen’s comment, I’ve currently got it filed under the idea that I dumped anger, and that made it likely that I’d remind someone of something they were angry about.

  138. The Dunning-Kruger effect doesn’t apply to everyone who’s making a mistake.

    You’re right, of course, that it doesn’t always apply, but I think it might more often apply when somebody’s making long-term cumulative mistakes and doesn’t realize it, e.g. I’m not talking about not exercising enough, falling off your diet, or other things people know they should do, but don’t.

    An alternate theory of how to avoid some common modes of screwing up your kids might be to think of yourself as raising adults, not children.

    This. Almost.

    This could lead to pushing maturity earlier than is feasible,

    Not this.

    but at least it pushes parents to think that they’re dealing with people who will be around for the long haul.

    Certainly this.

    I don’t know if any of you have been following the controversy about Amy Chua, but I have certainly had dealings with Chinese-American people with similar attitudes. Seven or eight years ago, it came up in conversation with some of my co-workers that my older daughter was taking French in high school. One Chinese man was incredulous: “French !!?! Why would you let her take French?”

    Knowing that his children were considerably younger, and hoping that I could help them out, I explained that you have to pick and choose your battles, and more importantly, you have to let your children have some input into their lives, even, especially if it means they are making mistakes. Theoretically, they can tell you to sod off and do whatever they want when they’re 18. If you haven’t been slowly, steadily loosening the reins since at least the time they were 10, you’ll be very lucky if they don’t react badly to sudden newfound freedom, and if you’ve never let them make a single mistake, they’re much more likely to make a big one and then compound it with lots of follow-on mistakes. And unless you’re a heartless bastard, watching them making one of those slow train wreck style mistakes that will impact their (and your) quality of life for several weeks or months can be quite painful, but is sometimes necessary. (I’m not advocating not gently informing them that you think they’re screwing up in enough time for them to avoid the mistake, just advocating letting them make the mistake and deal with the consequences if that’s how they’re so inclined.)

    On a side note, for what it’s worth, I don’t know that my daughter’s French classes were a mistake. She had a goal of spending some time in Paris, and managed to land a summer internship at the Pasteur Institute…

  139. I ask because many tool companies, including Rigid, use pictures of cars in exactly the same way that they use pictures of scantily clad women. Other suppliers for other biz use pictures of trains, flowers, and babies.

    Cars are equally about sex, especially sports cars, which are designed to resemble various pieces of anatomy. Consider for example, the lines and curves of the hood on a 1982 Corvette, or lines and cuves of the rear quarter panel on the same car. Use your imagination if you’re uncertain what I’m talking about. Trains, flowers and babies are irrelevant to the question of Rigid Tools, because they do not use them.

  140. I, of course, think my two girls are perfectly magical.

    On the description given, I for one would not be able to argue the contrary with much force.

    Thanks! Of course, due to our relatively traditional nuclear family structure, most of the credit belongs to my wife :-)

  141. I, of course, think my two girls are perfectly magical. One of them is staying very busy with the second year of her MD/PhD program and the other one is a double-major (physics and music) junior at UT Austin with a 4.0 GPA, who pedicabs to earn the difference between what she spends and what dad gives her, and plays in a band in her copious spare time.

    Wow. Now for the question burning in the mind of every available bachelor reading this post: are they single? :)

    You’ve definitely done a fine job raising them. It’s clear from your daughters’ accomplishments that they understand the value of hard work, education and discipline.

  142. > Consider for example, the lines and curves of the hood on a 1982 Corvette, or lines and cuves of the rear quarter panel on the same car. Use your imagination if you’re uncertain what I’m talking about.

    You’re confusing your predelictions with general truth.

    A cigar is a cigar, even if some folks see every cylinder as a penis.

    > Trains, flowers and babies are irrelevant to the question of Rigid Tools, because they do not use them.

    They’re relevant to the “selling with sex” claim. If you insist that pictures of scantily clad women is “selling with sex”, then what are pictures of flowers, babies, trains, bridges/buildings, landscapes, etc?

  143. ESR wrote “There is a tiny minority of anti-gunners who are not cowards.” I think there’s a substantial fraction that have other bad reasons.

    (TL;DR summary of a main point: If they think they know that government control of currency is an important good policy, then they probably think they know that government control of guns is an important good policy. The first seems hard to explain by cowardice as traditionally understood.)

    Sometime around age 11 or 12 I started thinking and reading rather seriously about politics (dated roughly from memory of a decision to try to write a new Constitution as a class project). Shortly thereafter I started noticing a lot more serious contradictions and unquestioned assumptions in things that everyone around me had been telling me. But until that time I had, to the extent I thought about it, been confidently pro-gun-control as one aspect of uncritically accepting of our general high level of legally imposed specialization in professions and in legal status. I’m pretty sure physical cowardice wasn’t a big reason that as an 8 year old or 10 year old voracious reader I had accepted that gun control was a good idea; it was just that ZOMGCHAOS Dark Ages and Wild West high noon massacres and lynchings and fascist takeovers and general degeneracy were evidently the alternative and we had all wisely learned that clear lesson of history by now, Similarly it wasn’t squeamishness that made me accept that only certified professionals should be allowed to give medical treatment or even advice, but ZOMGCHAOS quacks and race to the bottom and backwardness and no one getting training and so forth. Generally I picked up from the great and the good that without our wise and good policy of government comprehensively restricting key activities to government employees or government-licensed specialists, it was simple objective social scientific causality that society would naturally fly off the rails.

    I know I am an unreliable judge of how other people think, so you don’t need to agree with my impression. But it seems to me that that way of thinking has been a bigger part of average US voter anti-gun sympathy than cowardice as traditionally defined. As supporting evidence, note that the case of government control of guns seems to be one case in a very broad pattern of cases, extending to many cases where traditional cowardice just doesn’t make sense as an explanation. E.g., most people seem to believe with high confidence and without particularly compelling evidence or theoretical understanding that it is wise and very beneficial for government to control currency. It doesn’t seem as though this is caused by fear of money, It seems to me more that they’ve accepted the general idea that the null hypothesis is that government control of something is beneficial, so that sensible people accept that government control is beneficial in any given case unless the contrary evidence is quite strong. And as more evidence, note the contagious spread of gun policy changes, such as shall-issue concealed carry. It seems unlikely that peer pressure from shall-issue states could be effective at changing the bravery of voters in other states very much. But it’s easy to believe that the evidence from existing programs is effective at disproving the idea that without wise restriction of guns to specialists society terrible things will naturally happen. (And more broadly, it may be a bit more corrosive damage to the general credibility of academics, old media, regulators, and the well-connected which had pushed the social scientific inevitability of ZOMGCHAOS from such policies.)

    Now, all that applies to voters in general. Perhaps gun control *activists* have different motives. I dimly remember _A Nation of Cowards_, and I can agree that some persistent official lines do sound like an expression of cowardice. But on the left as elsewhere activists and other politically ambitious people tend to be astonishingly inconsistent, dishonest, and hypocritical in their official lines. For that reason I’m very cautious about reasoning from their statements to their real beliefs. I’m less cautious about reasoning from *actions* to real motives, but I’m not sure that actions particularly suggest sincere cowardice. I’m not particularly trying to stick up for them: many of the alternative motives are also unpalatable. (E.g., impatient spotlight-chasing ego and more patient cynical calculating sorts of political ambition.) The difficulty is a little like trying to identify fear as an important part of the real agenda of Greens; appealing to fear could be a marvellous tactic for various cynical ends, which complicates my guess as to how sincerely that organizer with a megaphone or a book contract actually fears meltdowns.

  144. “a lot of the complaints along those lines seem to be about people a good bit younger”

    Yes, the oft-repeated “precious little snowflakes” is the Gen X-er young manager’s complaint about the Gen Y-er employees…

  145. “might be to think of yourself as raising adults, not children”

    Wow. Is there any OTHER way to raise children? I mean if you are planting a flower, you are thinking about the flower, not the seed, and direction your efforts towards having an optimal flower and not an optimal seed, whatever that would mean?

  146. >(TL;DR summary of a main point: If they think they know that government control of currency is an important good policy, then they probably think they know that government control of guns is an important good policy. The first seems hard to explain by cowardice as traditionally understood.)

    I think there are at least two errors in your reasoning. One is to assume that reasoning from analogies or general principles has much to do with opposition to firearms rights. The other is to implicitly equate “cowardice” with physical cowardice and thus fail to notice that many of the other motives you describe are variations on a theme of moral cowardice – a craving for government or some unspecified other to make hard decisions so the coward won’t have to.

  147. @Patrick Maupin
    > On a side note, for what it’s worth, I don’t know that my daughter’s French classes were a mistake.

    Why on earth would learning French be a mistake?

  148. Shenpen, I think a lot of parents are sort of trying to raise adults, but mostly just trying to deal, moment by moment, with emotionally difficult situations and not thinking very much about what they’re doing.

  149. Patrick Maupin:

    While Morgan Greywolf asked the first order questions (“Are they single?”), I think the vastly more interesting question is “Is this a repeatable and definable process?”

    But I’ve always been one of those people who want to build the tools and see what others do with them. :)

  150. @Tom:

    On a side note, for what it’s worth, I don’t know that my daughter’s French classes were a mistake.

    Why on earth would learning French be a mistake?

    Well, from the perception of my Chinese colleague, it was a huge mistake. From my perspective, it may or may not be a minor mistake, simply based on opportunity costs. With everything else she had going on, she only had room in her academic life to learn one foreign language, and in Texas, knowing Spanish is, at least economically speaking, on average much more valuable than knowing French.

  151. The French have lots of ex-colonies, at least.

    (As I’ve looked into what goes on in sub-Saharan Africa, I get more and more cynical about putting that “ex-” on them.)

  152. @Morgan Greywolf:

    Wow. Now for the question burning in the mind of every available bachelor reading this post: are they single? :)

    The older one has been in a seemingly stable relationship for many years. I was at first somewhat unhappy at her reluctance to sow a few wild oats, but she just doesn’t seem that way inclined. Maybe she’s storing them up for a midlife crisis? The younger one still has many hearts to break…

    @Ken Burnside:

    Is this a repeatable and definable process?

    Ah, the ISO 9000 question :-)

    I think it very much is. As I mentioned, we have a fairly traditional western European/American style family unit, based on precepts that have slowly evolved over several centuries. This sort of structure, combined with the right genetic material, has been shown to be able to repeatably produce good citizens. Of course, as for any stochastic production process, Deming would probably argue that measurement is key to getting the yield up, but as a society, we seem to lack the political will to measure the correct things.

    While there is no doubt that it is also possible to produce good citizens with a more modern family structure (e.g. single parent or two full-time workers), I, for one, wouldn’t have succeeded nearly as well with that model, for the simple reason that it takes a lot more energy.

    But I’ve always been one of those people who want to build the tools and see what others do with them. :)

    I think this is one of the defining attributes of a hacker. I’ve always loved Terence Parr’s motto: Why program by hand in five days what you can spend five years of your life automating?

  153. BTW, it may be that the reduction in traditional family structures will lead to a gene selection process. I know for a fact that a lot of people have a lot more energy than I do, so it may be that my genetic material and the traditional family structure co-evolved, and that people with more energy are better suited to a different family structure.

  154. @Patrick Maupin
    “BTW, it may be that the reduction in traditional family structures will lead to a gene selection process.”

    Gene selection processes take a long time. The time it takes for a neutral gene variant (allel) to disapear from a population is of the order of the number of fertile women in generations (#women * 25 year). That is, for an allel to disappear from the USA would take some billions of years (25*100M), if the population of the USA would not mix with other humans.

    It takes extreme selection (actually, breeding) to speed this up to millions of years. If all humans mix freely, the disappearance of, say, blue eyes or red hair, from the species would take some 50-100 billion years. Longer if humans spread out over the universe, less if they die out.

  155. @Patrick Maupin-
    > I think it very much is. As I mentioned, we have a fairly traditional western European/American style family unit,
    > based on precepts that have slowly evolved over several centuries. This sort of structure, combined with the right
    > genetic material, has been shown to be able to repeatably produce good citizens. Of course, as for any stochastic
    > production process, Deming would probably argue that measurement is key to getting the yield up, but as a society,
    > we seem to lack the political will to measure the correct things.

    I think what you’ve stated here is not a definable process so much as a the best way to get favorable odds. Chiefly, because of the genetic component which starts with 2 people with enough of the correct genetic material choosing to reproduce. Then, their offspring have to inherit enough of the correct genetic markers for all of this to have the happy-ending you’re experiencing. Or, more correctly, the “proud parent” ending.

    Taking it a step further, I’d say the odds approach 0 for being able to repeat the process and results indefinitely, ie- down through the generations.

    BTW, congratulation to you and your Wife on your success. I’ve got 2 of my own(still very young)- any words of advice are appreciated.

  156. @shenpen:

    “might be to think of yourself as raising adults, not children”

    Wow. Is there any OTHER way to raise children? I mean if you are planting a flower, you are thinking about the flower, not the seed, and direction your efforts towards having an optimal flower and not an optimal seed, whatever that would mean?

    You certainly have to consider the adult you’re hoping to produce, but is that really the end-product, or are you looking for grandchildren? :-)

    In other words, it’s a continuous process that is a bit more complicated than that, as Nancy alluded to when she mentioned people who screwed up so badly they won’t be getting grandchildren.

    Unlike a seed, children are to be enjoyed for their own sake, as well as to be prepared for the next stages in life. If you reflect for a moment, you will realize this is how it has to be — two decades is a long time to make a speculative investment in something that gives you zero payback in the meantime. If you’re the kind of person who goes down to the pound specifically to get an older, house-trained dog, you probably shouldn’t be raising children, but if you’re the kind of person who buys a kitten and then gets rid of it and gets a new one when it’s no longer cute, you shouldn’t be raising children either — you should be getting one of those miniature dogs which have been bred specifically to live inside handbags.

  157. @Gerry:

    I think what you’ve stated here is not a definable process so much as a the best way to get favorable odds.

    It’s as definable as most other processes, but yes — the actual process will only help up the odds. But in the business of building lots of physical things (chips, PC boards, washing machines, etc.), this is all you can ask for. Why should building physical humans, which are considerably more complicated, be any different?

    BTW, congratulation to you and your Wife on your success. I’ve got 2 of my own(still very young)- any words of advice are appreciated.

    Moderation.

    Love them, but not so much that you can’t bear to see them and the world exposed to each other. Enjoy them, but not so much that they become mere fashion accessories. Nourish them, but not so much that you neglect yourself or your spouse. And challenge them, but not so much that they can never win or that life becomes a treadmill.

  158. @Winter:

    > The time it takes for a neutral gene variant (allel) to disapear from a population…

    Certainly. But (1) when the environment changes, even if it is a self-induced change like in social structures, then perhaps a gene variant that was or seemed neutral is no longer so, and (2) the effects of gene selection show up in the population well before the incidence of an allele reacnes 100% or 0%.

  159. @Patrick Maupin
    “selection and the effects of gene selection show up in the population well before the incidence of an allele reaches 100% or 0%”

    Yes, indeed. Much earlier than a few billion years. Think in only hundreds of millions of years.

    Things like obesity linked Adult Onset diabetes, sensitivity for plague germs, and the like tend to work over a few hundred years. But then you are really talking about preventing more than 50% of the affected population from reproducing (>90% with the plague).

    That type of selection is rather the exception. The problem is that in mixing, sexual reproducing populations, it is extremely difficult to remove an allele without rather rigorous targeted selection.

    But you can do the sums yourself using any text-book in population genetics.

    How Selection Changes the Genetic Composition of Population
    http://www.cosmolearning.com/video-lectures/how-selection-changes-the-genetic-composition-of-population-6688/
    The third thing that I want you to take home from this lecture is that when adaptive genetic change starts to occur, it is virtually always slow at the beginning, fast in the middle and slow at the end. So that if you are looking at a graph of gene frequencies over time, it looks like an S; and that’s the third thing.

    Population genetics
    https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Population_genetics

  160. > But in the business of building lots of physical things (chips, PC boards, washing machines, etc.),
    > this is all you can ask for. Why should building physical humans, which are considerably more
    > complicated, be any different?

    I think “considerably more complicated” underestimates the situation by an order of magnitude, probably several.

    When building widgets, the designer/manufacturer has almost complete control over the process: materials, temperatures, equipment, people, training. There’s a whole engineering discipline dedicated to the concept of “build one thing perfectly- a billion times.” Just to pick something mundane, have you seen the complexity involved in getting a bottle (or can for that matter) of Coke into your hands? Truly impressive stuff- and that’s just for putting a liquid into a container.

    Now, how much control is there over reproduction? I’d submit very little- at least of the conscious kind. If you’re not genetically predisposed to seeking out a mate with the types of traits you’ve mentioned, then you’re already one foot in the hole- and you haven’t had kids yet. This doesn’t even take into account things like “Game” where people are essentially fooling each other about who they are and what they’re about.

    No- in all there’s way too much variability here. Too many known unknowns, and unknown unknowns, to really analogize reproduction/child rearing to widget production. Being able to point out what’s involved, as you have done(and to be clear- I don’t have any argument with your observation), is one thing. Being able to make it happen over and over again across an entire population range, is quite another that’s beyond our capability.

  161. >Personally, I was thinking the likes of Dalai Lama, Gandhi, and Mandela were condemned as cowards. I really do not think this is what was intended.

    You’re right. It wasn’t. The fact that I doubt the general effectiveness of the methods of the Dalai Lama or Gandhi, or that I realize that Mandela was non-violent mainly because he was in prison, do not change the fact that I recognize they were courageous men. Of course, Fidel Castro is also a courageous man, as was Adolf Hitler; courage isn’t the only virtue. (No, I’m not equating the three you mentioned to Castro or Hitler).

    However, the specific people I mentioned in the VT massacre, Colin Goddard and John Woods, were very definitely cowards there. Both of them played dead while others were sacrificing their lives trying as best as they could to slow the murderer down.

    Normally, this would not be particularly notable. Every disaster has its share of heroes and cowards. I myself have better things to do than hound somebody who didn’t come through when it was needed.

    However, I find it interesting that these are the spokesmen specifically chosen by the anti-gun groups to make their case. In addition to the overt message “Guns suck,” there is a covert message: “If you act as a coward in a moment of danger, causing the death of others, we will lionize you and make you into a celebrity.” I think this is completely intentional on the part of the anti-gunners; it encourages people to think of not only guns, but any kind of defense of others, as something only the state can do. Furthermore, it encourages people at the scene of future massacres to do nothing, which will inflate the death toll–something that to the anti-gun crowd is like manna from heaven.

  162. Patrick:

    Moderation.

    Love them, but not so much that you can’t bear to see them and the world exposed to each other. Enjoy them, but not so much that they become mere fashion accessories. Nourish them, but not so much that you neglect yourself or your spouse. And challenge them, but not so much that they can never win or that life becomes a treadmill.

    Thanks for defending the golden mean– that’s not something I see often enough online.

  163. @Gerry:

    > I think “considerably more complicated” underestimates the situation by an order of magnitude, probably several.

    I agree completely. I was trying to be funny, but on a more serious note, sometimes I wish that widget engineering was as sure a thing as you make it out to be. It’s disconcerting to get back wafers that yield 10% (as in, 10% of the die from the wafer work perfectly, but 90% don’t). It’s extremely problematic when your customer says that 0.1% of your products fail after he solders them down on a very expensive board (but none of your other customers have this problem), and you have to spend months figuring out that the back-grinding on your die changed, and the dice are now smoother than they used to be, which, almost perversely, makes them more prone to cracking when the package is stressed by the soldering process.

    > Being able to make it happen over and over again across an entire population range, is quite another that’s beyond our capability.

    And I think that, in some ways, this is a feature (not a bug) of evolution that we should actually be quite grateful for.

  164. @Ken:

    However, I find it interesting that these are the spokesmen specifically chosen by the anti-gun groups to make their case. In addition to the overt message “Guns suck,” there is a covert message: “If you act as a coward in a moment of danger, causing the death of others, we will lionize you and make you into a celebrity.” I think this is completely intentional on the part of the anti-gunners; it encourages people to think of not only guns, but any kind of defense of others, as something only the state can do. Furthermore, it encourages people at the scene of future massacres to do nothing, which will inflate the death toll–something that to the anti-gun crowd is like manna from heaven.

    That’s an interesting thesis. I’m not particularly interested in whether this is an intentional maneuver, but it is interesting to think about whether it will work or not, and to the extent it does work, how to counteract it without things backfiring. Obviously, there are people who really, really want to be celebrities, and there are people who will sacrifice a thousand other people if it increases the probability of their own survival by ten percent, but will this purported technique really get that many additional limelight-seeking individuals to roll over and play dead?

    BTW, if it does work and is, in fact “completely intentional on the part of the anti-gunners” as you state, their obvious next step will be to find as many mentally unstable people as possible, and arm them to the teeth, kind of like in the movie “Demolition Man.”

  165. Ken wrote “it encourages people to think of not only guns, but any kind of defense of others, as something only the state can do.” That sounds right, but I also think in encouraging people to think this way the gun controllers are swimming with a much broader tide, a pattern of convincing people to shut down critical facilities when it comes to certified expert action and action by the state, so that when the state does something it can be assumed to be doing it better than mere human actors would be able to do it. That pattern of shutting down critical facilities doesn’t seem to be cowardice particularly, but a version of the Nirvana Fallacy.

    I remember being unreasonably surprised when I first ran across the history of some military outcome that turned on misreading maps. I knew enough about map reading from camping and such that if I had ever thought about it explicitly I shouldn’t've been surprised that yes, people can screw up map reading badly under time pressure and other kinds of stress. But I was enough of a reader to have picked up a strong version of what seems to be (from a few remarks from other people I’ve seen over the years) a common impression that certified specialists (military officers, in this case) are somehow largely immune to map errors like that.

    Most people today seem to be confident, much more than any evidence warrants, in their belief that hospital medical practice is extremely sanitary or that any particular provision of a building code is good public policy or that workplace deaths dropped sharply after OSHA was created. The confident knowledge that e.g. without gun control the wrong people would be shot in confusing situations (and that this kind of human problem substantially goes away to the extent that those who have guns are government cops) looks to me like a case of this Nirvana Fallacy pattern, much more than a case of rationalization to avoid being the one on the spot trying to avoid shooting the wrong person. Falling prey to the fallacy is intellectual “cowardice” arguably, but if I were choosing for a term to criticize this tendency in the average Joe, I’d probably use intellectual laziness instead. And for the average Joe this kind of laziness is not necessarily a symptom of a personal failing: it’s genuinely hard to think things through for yourself, and no one has time to examine everything, so in practice one ends up leaning on a perceived consensus. And our society pushes this consensus very hard, and there’s some strong general patterns that need explanations, and one can make various explanations that are superficially consistent with this. (Government grew, prosperity grew, QED!) Among people with enough intellectual bent and opportunity to examine aspects of the world more closely and communicate seriously about what they find, I do see lots of behavior related to this consensus that I would criticize as serious personal failing. But even that seems to be largely basic dishonesty and opportunism or at most “intellectual cowardice”: concern for things like loss of social and career opportunities, not fear of being stabbed or shot.

  166. @Patrick Maupin

    > I agree completely. I was trying to be funny,

    Ah. Apologies- I totally whiffed on the humor. I cop to having difficulty picking up on it in comments (not so much blogposts, interestingly). That’s interesting about yield on wafers- how ’bout we leave them out of the conversation and stick to filling cans with liquid? ;-)

    >> Being able to make it happen over and over again across an entire population range, is quite another that’s beyond our capability.
    >
    > And I think that, in some ways, this is a feature (not a bug) of evolution that we should actually be quite grateful for.

    Agreed.

  167. > BTW, if it does work and is, in fact “completely intentional on the part of the anti-gunners” as you state, their obvious next step will be to find as many mentally unstable people as possible, and arm them to the teeth, kind of like in the movie “Demolition Man.”

    That’s not such a stretch. In almost all of the “nutter” cases, the loony in question was reported to the relevant authorities in actionable circumstances and they did nothing. The canonical case was in the UK, where they let a loony keep his gun permit even though they had plenty of cause to revoke it.

    One might claim, without much evidence, that they weren’t hoping for a bad outcome, but it is pretty clear they didn’t act within their authority to prevent a bad outcome.

    It’s always fair to ask why.

  168. @Andy Freeman:

    That’s not such a stretch. In almost all of the “nutter” cases, the loony in question was reported to the relevant authorities in actionable circumstances and they did nothing. The canonical case was in the UK, where they let a loony keep his gun permit even though they had plenty of cause to revoke it.

    That’s an interesting observation, but it’s problematic all around. Let’s say the authorities actually started to “do something” about “strange people who like to play with guns.”

    Who do you think would be the actual targets of such action?

  169. > That’s an interesting observation, but it’s problematic all around. Let’s say the authorities actually started to “do something” about “strange people who like to play with guns.”

    Who said anything about “strange people”?

    I’m talking about serious threats, assault/battery, and the like.

    And, wrt the “typical” murderer, they’re almost all well known to the police by virtue of their violent activity. (Yes, even the domestic killers.)

    Do you want to argue that police are incapable of distinguishing those things from “strange people”?

  170. > Do you want to argue that police are incapable of distinguishing those things from “strange people”?

    Sorry, didn’t read your first post closely enough — missed the “actionable circumstances” part. I quite agree.

  171. >BTW, if it does work and is, in fact “completely intentional on the part of the anti-gunners” as you state, their obvious next step will be to find as many mentally unstable people as possible, and arm them to the teeth, kind of like in the movie “Demolition Man.”

    They don’t need to. They have “gun-free” zones that automatically raise the death count without the government having to get its hands dirty. Why do you think they fight so hard against any law that opens up new areas to legal carry? They *want* more massacres–not just so they can pass some lame new gun control law, but also in order to create hatred against gun owners, so that they will have public opinion on their side when they are ready to violently confiscate guns nationwide.

  172. >> Do you want to argue that police are incapable of distinguishing those things from “strange people”?

    > Sorry, didn’t read your first post closely enough — missed the “actionable circumstances” part. I quite agree.

    Damn. I was hoping that you were going to make that argument or a related one because you might have provided evidence which explains some “coincidences”.

  173. They *want* more massacres–not just so they can pass some lame new gun control law, but also in order to create hatred against gun owners, so that they will have public opinion on their side when they are ready to violently confiscate guns nationwide.

    Several thoughts.
    1. Oh, God, I hope not. For the sake of all involved.
    2. Political opinion, in the US, on the side of the people violently confiscating firearms? They dream.
    3. Would it even work if they tried? (The violently confiscating part, not the public opinion part. I think that’s a lost cause, barring really major changes.) Somehow I doubt it.

  174. >Are there no men who identify with the women in the porn?

    Winter – I think that’s pretty likely, actually. If you check out written porn, I believe that when it follows a single protagonist, it’s almost always a female who sluts around rather than a male who ruts around, and that goes back as far as Fanny Hill and Justine. (There’s also a sub-genre of written porn that shows gender-switch fantasies, where a male character is changed into a female, and then becomes either a repeated rape victim or a very slutty individual.) I won’t claim extensive knowledge, and it’s hardly rigorous proof, but I think you have a point that goes further than BDSM practitioners.

  175. > 2. Political opinion, in the US, on the side of the people violently confiscating firearms? They dream.

    Of course they dream – they’re human.

    I suspect that the vast majority expect/hope that the confiscation will be, for the most part, peaceful, but that a few will resist violently and be crushed to the applause of crowds.

    That’s how all utopians dream.

  176. In the late 1990s, when it looked as if the gun control trash might get their way, many of them were openly gloating online about the coming massacres. One poster on the now-defunct Ken Hamblin forum referred to the victims of the Waco massacre as “Koresh Southern Fried Babies,” said that he looked forward to the coming massacre of gun owners nationwide, and threatened to murder a woman on the site for not agreeing to have sex with him. One poster on the now-defunct Intellectual Capital site, Bill from Buckhead, endorsed the Waco massacre and claimed he was turning in the names of the pro-gun posters to the FBI, and expressly gloated about their coming extermination.

    These are not people. These are subhuman trash.

  177. I suspect that the vast majority expect/hope that the confiscation will be, for the most part, peaceful, but that a few will resist violently and be crushed to the applause of crowds.

    It’s worth noting that the people holding this (“this” meaning eventual violent confiscation of guns) as an explicit end goal are most probably a very small proportion of anti-gun voters or even of anti-gun activists. I’m always a little bit leery of theories that hold that the anti-gunners are all evil, because I know several and they aren’t. The activists I have less respect for, and people like VT-man even less so, but the majority of anti-gun voters are well-intentioned and simply believe that strong gun control policies will reduce crime and loss of life, which is not a hard view to come around to by default if it’s not an issue you’re devoting a lot of mental effort to. And, frankly, anyone who reads the above as the likely end result of a confiscation effort doesn’t strike me as an effective political manipulator, though their attempts may well lead to tragedy.

  178. >I’m always a little bit leery of theories that hold that the anti-gunners are all evil, because I know several and they aren’t

    Agreed. Horribly, dreadfully wrong, but not evil. The cadre and leaders of anti-gun organizations (and their pet academics) are a different matter. The few I’ve encountered are the same sort of authoritarian professional-leftist types one tends to find at the core of the antiwar, anti-nuclear-power, and global-warning-alarmist movements. My point is that many of their supporters would bail out in a nanosecond if they knew what these people were really like, not that this is likely to happen with a sympathetic media constantly whitewashing them.

  179. It’s worth noting that the people holding this (“this” meaning eventual violent confiscation of guns) as an explicit end goal are most probably a very small proportion of anti-gun voters or even of anti-gun activists.

    Oh, true. There are lots of people who support gun control that don’t realize to make it effective, you’d have to manage to round up a couple hundred million existing firearms, seal the borders of the country to prevent smuggling, and then put pretty much every machine shop in the country, including those in private citizens’ garages, under surveillance. This is to a significant degree because, holding guns to be evil, they don’t know anything about them.

  180. The leaders of the anti-gun movement want to kill large numbers of gun owners in order to set up a totalitarian state. The followers want to kill large numbers of gun owners because Bill Maher told them they had small dicks, and therefore no civil rights.

    Both sound pretty vile to me.

  181. >> I suspect that the vast majority expect/hope that the confiscation will be, for the most part, peaceful, but that a few will resist violently and be crushed to the applause of crowds.

    > It’s worth noting that the people holding this (“this” meaning eventual violent confiscation of guns) as an explicit end goal are most probably a very small proportion of anti-gun voters or even of anti-gun activists.

    Some supporting evidence would be nice.

    Since there hasn’t ever been a “non-violent confiscation” of anything, anyone rooting for confiscation is either willing to tolerate some violence or hopelessly stupid.

    I’m an optimist – I think that most of the folks rooting for confiscation hope that the violence will be limited.

    However, all of the confiscationists that I’ve come across have explicitly said that they want to see some “examples”, that they want to see some gun owners killed.

    I’m not saying that they say “kill them” every time they mention confiscation, but I am saying that that is where they go when pressed on what they mean by confiscation.

  182. Andy Freeman: it sounds as if you expect them to be successful, specifically when you seem to define “optimism” as only a few gun owners killed. Am I right?

    I personally think these weirdos are on the ropes, and I’d like to press on until they not only have no political power, but are in fact social pariahs, unacceptable in polite society like the KKK or NAMBLA.

  183. The leaders of the anti-gun movement want to kill large numbers of gun owners in order to set up a totalitarian state. The followers want to kill large numbers of gun owners because Bill Maher told them they had small dicks, and therefore no civil rights.

    See, I don’t think this is true. The anti-gun voters who I know, and who I don’t think are extreme outliers, don’t want to kill anyone at all; they sincerely think that gun control will lead to reduced loss of life. It may be true that massive violence is the logical conclusion of their espoused beliefs, but this doesn’t make them evil, just wrong. It doesn’t even necessarily mean that they’re stupid; most people don’t bother to think every political opinion they hold through entirely, and as I said earlier anti-gunism is an easy default stance that appeals to the intuitions of citydwellers. In some it even grows to a kind of religious stance which resists rethought in the same way that a religious belief does, which as far as I can tell is an easy consequence of holding a strong belief on a controversial issue that you haven’t actually thought through.

  184. >It may be true that massive violence is the logical conclusion of their espoused beliefs, but this doesn’t make them evil, just wrong.

    And just as relevantly, people you demonize are people you can’t convert.

    I had to teach the hacker culture the lesson that talking as though profit and business and closed source are moral evils prevents actually co-opting the people you need to make your reform movement successful. Gun-culture stalwarts need to learn the analogous lesson; talking as though all boosters of gun control are evil is deadly to your own propaganda goals even though some of them are in fact evil.

  185. Where in the U.S. are guns not controlled by the civil authorities? I know there are “shall issue” and “may issue” jurisdictions, but there is nowhere where *just anyone* can lawfully possess guns.

  186. >Where in the U.S. are guns not controlled by the civil authorities? I know there are “shall issue” and “may issue” jurisdictions, but there is nowhere where *just anyone* can lawfully possess guns.

    Felons and the legally insane are barred from owning firearms just about everywhere. There’s a federal equirement for background checks on firearms purchases. Concealed carry is generally banned in courthouses and a few other classes of location, including some (such as schools) for which such bans have repeatedly proven to be a deadly mistake.

    With those exceptions, there are in fact many U.S. jurisdictions in which firearms are not “controlled by the civil authorities”. Vermont, Arizona and Wyoming do not require permits for concealed carry. Most states do not require either a permit to purchase, registration of the firearm, or owner licensing. The trend is towards less regulation rather than more, with only two states now refusing to issue carry permits at all and a large shift from may-issue to shall-issue over the last fifteen years.

  187. >Gun-culture stalwarts need to learn the analogous lesson; talking as though all boosters of gun control are evil is deadly to your own propaganda goals even though some of them are in fact evil.

    Eric, I’d see your point if this were a close-run issue, as it was in the late 1990s. Now, with the gun control lobby in steep decline, I think it is a good time to make the kill (speaking figuratively). People have changed their views about gun owners, in a positive direction. Now is a good time to get them to change their views about our opponents, so that instead of being seen as unrealistic idealists, they are seen as a criminal conspiracy against civil rights.

    I spent the entire late Nineties fully expecting that there would eventually be a Kristallnacht against gun owners nationwide. During that time, the majority were anti-gun to some degree or other, and were having the time of their lives, with the NASDAQ at 5000. Meanwhile, gun owners were the only ones not allowed to participate in the party, being the n#####s of the Clinton regime. I say it’s well past time to make *them* shake in *their* shoes.

  188. >Now is a good time to get them to change their views about our opponents, so that instead of being seen as unrealistic idealists, they are seen as a criminal conspiracy against civil rights.

    The trouble with this is that most of our opponents are unrealistic idealists, even now. Your chances of convincing them that they are dupes of an anti-American prospiracy of totalitarian-minded leftists are not at all improved by the fact that you’re speaking the truth.

    I sympathize with your desire to scare the living shit out of that hard core of evil people — hell, I’d like to string them up from lampposts myself. But you can’t get at them, and continuing to frame your rhetoric as an attack on them will only damage your credibility with the people they’ve duped and used. Sometimes righteous indignation is an unaffordable luxury that gets in the way of victory; this is one of those times.

    So, difficult though it is, my advice as an experienced and successful propagandist: Ignore the prospiracy, ignore the crypto-totalitarians that have been pulling the gun-control movement’s strings since forever. You know they’re out there. You know they must be defeated. But the way to defeat them is with rhetoric that won’t make the vast political middle in the U.S. stick its fingers in its ears and write you off as a loon.

    Look at how we won the Heller ruling. The way forward is not by trying to make our opponents look evil but by persuading the general population that we are good – that we are the people they want to identify with. This is how I took “open source” from marginalization to inevitability between 1997 and about 2003. To accomplish that, I had to show a lot of hackers that they were way too fond of their own anger and indignation for their own good. It’s a lesson many gun-rights activists have yet to learn.

  189. I’ll grant that you are right about Heller, at least. I remember at the time, I feared that we’d *win* the case–and that it would immediately become extremely unpopular, causing an anti-gun backlash at the polling booth. This was partly because I thought the anti-gunners might be able to sell it as a democracy issue (“Why won’t the gun lobby let DC residents make their own laws?”), and partly because everything else seemed to be breaking for the Left at the time. I thought it might be portrayed as Bush and the NRA vs. black voters.

    Instead, the public seems not only to have supported the decision, but to have pretty much completely dropped whatever support for gun control they had left.

  190. Where in the U.S. are guns not controlled by the civil authorities? I know there are “shall issue” and “may issue” jurisdictions, but there is nowhere where *just anyone* can lawfully possess guns.

    States that do not require permits, licenses, or registration for possession or ownership of firearms (including handguns) include: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

    “Shall issue” and “may issue” are, in the cases of the above 36 states not for permits to own or posses guns; they are for permits to either carry concealed weapons or carry handguns. Carrying a concealed weapon or a handgun is a distinct matter from ownership or possession.

  191. > Andy Freeman: it sounds as if you expect them to be successful, specifically when you seem to define “optimism” as only a few gun owners killed. Am I right?

    No, you just demonstrated that you didn’t read what I wrote. I’ll repeat it with some unnecessary explanation.

    “I’m an optimist – I think that most of the folks rooting for confiscation hope that the violence will be limited.”

    The “I think …” is just a claim about the hopes of folks who are rooting for confiscation. It doesn’t say anything about what I feel the odds of success are. It doesn’t say anything about how I think that confiscation.

    The “I’m an optimist” says that the “evidence” for that claim is my outlook on life.

    Let me suggest that anyone who misunderstands such a simple sentence would be a liability when it comes to “like to press on until they not only have no political power”.

    Many gun advocates seem to think that being correct or pure is essential to being effective. They’re wrong. Correct is a tool, one of many. It’s also a motivation. However, it’s often irrelevant or even counter-productive, especially the way that they practice it.

    Do you want to win or do you want to be correct? You do have to choose.

  192. “With everything else she had going on, she only had room in her academic life to learn one foreign language, and in Texas, knowing Spanish is, at least economically speaking, on average much more valuable than knowing French.”

    With English and French she will be able to learn Spanish without any formal education in nor any sort of boring learning by rote, just by simply reading some good novels in Spanish. She will be able to figure out that 20% of the words she doesn’t understand from the context, and after the fifth novel or so she will be fluent without any effort or boredom. This is how many kids here in Europe speak good English: it is certainly not the school, not the classes, it is just that they wanted to read the Harry Potter novels the day they were published, not the day they were translated, and just figured it out with some help from a dictionary, and after the second novel or so, no dictionary at all. This works for languages with a simple grammar, like English or Spanish, where grammatical gender is nonexistent or easy to recognize, where irregular plural forms are rare etc. etc.

  193. @shenpen:

    A lot of what you say is true, but even though there are a lot of excellent Spanish authors available, very few have the cachet to get the average reader excited enough to learn a foreign language from a standing start. Perhaps even more problematic — she reads French fine, but despite spending an entire summer in Paris, I would have to say that her verbal skills aren’t really up to snuff. I suspect that the same thing would happen if she tried to learn Spanish by reading, and that some sort of balance will be required.

    Nonetheless, she will be picking up a lot of Spanish by osmosis. She’s going to medical school in San Antonio, and one of the things that excited her about that particular school is the number of clinic hours she will be able to log.

  194. I think you and your friend are /WAY/ over-thinking it. For the viewer, Porn is about sex, girls dressed trashily in porn is because we associate girls dressed trashily with easy sex.
    Second of all, I think your friend is nuts when she says that the elements in porn are for distance, nonsense. Guys want to place themselves in the porn elements, even if its just a fantasy. It has nothing to do with sin and dirt or anything like that, you have the causation backwards. Girls dressed trashily is associated with being dirty because its associated with sex, not the other way around.

    I agree with your final conclusion though, you did project your mental state on others, hence why you thought that porn was sad, when it has a market so obviously someone likes it.

    Furthermore to those who say that sexual stimulation makes men dumb: they are very wrong. It increases vasopressin which enhances short term memory and improves recall. Men /act/ in ways we modern people ASSOCIATE with being unintelligent when they are sexually aroused, but their actual IQ goes up.

  195. I agree with Doc Merlin regarding male sexual stimulation- makes us look like neanderthals, yet improves intelligence, concentration, creativity. I for one am encouraged by that!

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