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Update: Newest material is at the end. Updated 6/22/11

My recent blog post titled Pegs and Holes caused quite a stir on the Internet. One of my harshest critics, feminist website Jezebel.com, accepted my offer to be interviewed about whatever it is that they find so objectionable about me. Jezebel's Editor-in-Chief, Jessica Coen, asked writer Irin Carmon to represent the common viewpoint at Jezebel.

Let's start with some background on the participants to give you some perspective on the bias that each brings to the table. I've been a long-time financial supporter of women's causes, particularly in the abuse realm. I have a long history of promoting and mentoring women in my own businesses.  And I'm pro-choice.

My mother was a strong woman who raised three kids, worked most of her life, taught me to play baseball, and was the first member of the family to get a motorcycle license. She kept a loaded rifle in the kitchen and often used it to gun down rabbits and other assailants to her vegetable garden.  And she didn't take shit from anyone.

My first career, in banking, came to an end when my boss told me there was no potential for a white male to get a promotion until the company did a lot of catching up in the diversity department. My second career, at the phone company, ended the same way, although I stayed around while I worked on my cartooning career on the side.

Irin Carmon has been a staff writer for Jezebel for about two years, during which time she has been covering politics, reproductive rights and health, sexual assault, workplace discrimination, and more. Irin is a 28-year old woman who reminds me that she does not deign to speak for all women.

We begin...

Scott:  Irin, your editor volunteered you to discuss your objections to my recent blog post titled Pegs and Holes. What in particular did you find objectionable?

Irin: Even seen as hyperbole or intentionally incendiary rhetoric, the piece does a disservice to men above all, and to women too. You start out by referring to men in the public eye who are "tweeting, raping, cheating, and being offensive to just about everyone in the entire world," and suggest that this happened because "society is organized in such a way that the natural instincts of men are shameful and criminal while the natural instincts of women are mostly legal and acceptable." Leaving aside for a minute the implied equivalence of that laundry list (breaking your marriage vows versus raping someone), this is a bleak perversion of biological determinism. By that reading, the presumed majority of men who don't rape (or cheat, or tweet) are simply better at managing their innate desires to violate someone else, which I'd wager isn't true to the lived experience of most non-raping men. What you deem the "natural instincts of women" isn't defined, but I'm going to assume you mean stereotypes about nurturing and nesting. In fact, history, recent and otherwise, is full of examples of women who were treated as "shameful and criminal" for following their own natural instincts for how to live their lives, whether it was whom to sleep with and when and how often, what jobs women "should" do, how many children to have and when, etc. etc. Until very recently, those strictures were on the books and enforced by men, full stop. Men and women are both better off that all that's no longer official, at least in this country. 

You write, "Society has evolved to keep males in a state of continuous unfulfilled urges, more commonly known as unhappiness." In fact, what's evolved is that women are now politically and, to a greater extent, socially recognized as full human beings. In contexts where women were seen as men's property, rape, or any non-sanctioned sex was (or is) punished as such, and often the women were punished too. We now have a legal and social model that formally recognizes women as people. That changed because some men and women didn't see the world as, in your words, "a zero sum game. If men get everything they want, women lose, and vice versa," and who saw the harm and dehumanization implicit in that model. Incidentally, though women were historically told they are too volatile or emotional to run the world's affairs, you suggest it's men who are unable to cope. 

You cite Hugh Hefner as an example of a man who has "lost," or implicitly, been societally shamed. ("Society didn't offer him a round hole for his round peg.") But by every possible measure, Hefner's no victim. He is a very rich man. He has a robust sex life with women who look like the ideal upon which he made his fortune. He's an icon. I'd say society has offered him quite the round hole. It's hard to think of a woman who has experienced anything comparable, but then, I don't agree this is a zero sum game. 

My question to you: What do you get out of posting these incendiary commentaries on gender? And why accuse others of misrepresentation when they've mostly stuck to directly quoting you?

Scott: Phew! Wordy.

As for your question, I write what I think will be interesting and thought-provoking. I stake out positions that I haven't seen - whether I believe everything I write or not - because unique viewpoints interest me most. My blog is about inviting readers to wrestle with unique points of view strictly for fun. My regular readers understand that. When my writing is taken out of context, the way Jezebel and others did, it sometimes looks like a crazy rant and it pisses people off. That's more of a bonus than a main goal.

I don't understand most of what you wrote in response to my question. Can you try it again without the history lessons? I agree that women had it worse in the past. My offending blog post was about today and the future.

I think we can skip the question of whether I offended men, since that is not what is bothering Jezebel or Salon, just to name two. And most men correctly interpreted the post as saying that male sexual urges manifest differently in different men. The men who complained imagined I was saying all men are repressed rapists. That's a simple case of bad reading comprehension, or maybe it is because the post was carved up by bottom-feeding websites until the meaning was distorted to fit an agenda. At Huffington Post, where the average reading comprehension is high, you can see that most commenters can't understand how anyone would be offended by the post.

You say that the natural instincts of women can lead them to shameful and criminal behavior. I have a higher opinion of women than you do, in the sense that I think men are genetically more prone to bad behavior. If your point is that women suck just as much as men, I'll take your word for it. But you'll need to explain why our jails have so many more men than women.

I'm still confused why my blog is more offensive than what you just wrote. Can you try again, in simpler terms, and without the history lesson, to explain your objection to my post?

Irin: Not sure what's left to say if all you can say about my good-faith critique of your piece boils down to TL;DR. (Sorry, "Phew, wordy.") Surely a "certified genius" such as yourself knows how to read English when strung together in three paragraphs.

But I'll boil it down anyway. Feminism is not about women being better than men. It's about creating a world where gender and sexuality don't stand in the way of each of us pursuing our individual rights, including to autonomy over our own bodies, whether that means who we have sex with, how many children we have, if at all, or what jobs we have. This might be a "history lesson," but for thousands of years, that hasn't been the case. Men ran things for most of that time, and by and large they still do; feminists and allies happen to believe that full participation will be better for everyone. Unfortunately, the transition is still incomplete, including on your blog, but we'll keep at it nonetheless.  

Scott:
If that's your point, we're in full agreement. I'll leave it to my readers to decide if the bottom line is you're unwilling or unable to defend what another writer on Jezebel has written on this topic. You simply explained some history and made some generic points about equality.

My readers should know that I requested this interview with Lane Moore, the Jezebel.com writer who characterized my opinion, with manufactured quotes, as "All men are rapists." That is the ridiculous view I was expecting your employer to defend. I assume that in preparation for this interview you reread my blog and realized there is no defense for Jezebel's position, and so you smartly retreated into history lessons and generic statements about the goodness of equality.

To be fair, you were assigned this interview by your boss. It's clear to me that you're too smart, and probably too ethical, to defend Jezebel.com's grotesque interpretation of my writing.

So we'll end here, and I'll take this up with Salon's writer, MaryElizabeth Williams, assuming her offer still stands. Stay tuned.

[Update: Jezebel.com is linking to this post. That's why the voting changed direction so abruptly.]
 
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Jun 21, 2011
@drummerjoe

Absolutely!

There is no "blame" just process and time and our feeble attempts to understand and describe the majesty and horror of the thing.

The forces that affect us that we barely think of in our day-to-day lives, from neurology to ingrained societal forms and functions and much more, are really important to understand if we want to move beyond this silly angry-echo-chamber of individual offense and plight, regardless of gender.

We used used to call these nigh-unknown forces our gods and our devils, but there are no such things. It's only us. And it's taken us a lot of time and process just to get THIS self-aware about existence, and we've yet a long way to go before the information fully disseminates and we have something approaching a shared culture and world view again.

We've yet a long, long way to go. But there has been progress, thank goodness.
 
 
Jun 21, 2011
Wow Scott, props to you for cojones, although I don't know if this is a wise battle. But once joined, don't wither, hang in there!

Regarding Irin's post, I have to agree: wordy. Lemme try to pick out the points.

1) "the piece does a disservice to men above all, and to women too." == Scott, you were bad.

Probably wasn't wise to start this war, but he did, so yeah, maybe he was bad.

2) "tweeting, raping, cheating, and being offensive" == Scott implied tweeting is equivalent to raping.

C'mon, clearly that conclusion is logically ridiculous, and is merely stretching things to take a shot at Scott and whip up the cheering section. If I say "Such and such is a liar and a murderer" am I making those equivalent?

3) "this is a bleak perversion of biological determinism."

While this is subjective, I at least agree with "bleak". But it's only a perversion if it is ain't true at all. Which it probably ain't, since Scott usually goes for thought-provoking rather than claiming and stating his own new authoritative truths to the world.
But some people seem to take it that way, especially if reading-comprehension-challenged.

4) "the majority of men who don't rape (or cheat, or tweet) are simply better at managing their innate desires" == I guess Erin's statement here is supposed to be seen as inherently untrue?

But of course it's true! C'mon! Let's say that 70% of all men don't rape or cheat or tweet. If you think that the majority of those men wouldn't be at least *tempted* to cheat given a great opportunity... well, what planet do you live on?
And if the majority of those men pass up on that great opportunity (yea guys!), well yeah they did it because they "managed their innate desires." How else would they do it? Are you trying to say they don't **feel** those desires? Sorry but this point is really the worst of the entire word salad.

5) [Women were treated badly throughout history, things are better today.]

Yep.

6) [More: Women were treated badly throughout history, things are better today.] to refute Scott's thought-challenge that "Society has evolved to keep males in a state of continuous unfulfilled urges, more commonly known as unhappiness."

Again, yep to the first part. But what if Scott's statement were *also* true? Whether it is or isn't, there is no refutation here. Debate fail.

7) [Hugh Hefner has it made.]

Maybe in some ways (do you really think he is happy?). But if so, he sure doesn't represent all men. But recognize that Scott does go for funny in his posts as well, and HH getting stood up at the altar is maybe too good to pass up.



Now for all future posts, I suggest a standard disclaimer for Scott:

The following post is a "what-if" designed to provoke further thought in the reader and is not known, or maybe even believed, by the stater (me) to be true. As such, it is certainly not designed to be offensive, unless you find thinking itself offensive. If you are the type of person that is upset by any notion that is contrary to your beliefs then please do not read further, for the sake of your blood pressure.

Which begs the question: why are you taking a cartoonist so seriously?

(OK, I know the answer, it's because ideas matter and they can even change the world. True. And Scott has some good ones. But you're going to have to work a lot harder or be a lot smarter to take his post apart, cuz we sure ain't there yet.)
 
 
Jun 21, 2011
@Cassidyqu

To add to your point, He's not saying that society is to blame for the crimes of men. Instead, he is suggesting that, maybe, As society has advanced and become more civilized, men fit less well into it.

That's not to suggest that we can't and don't adapt. It does suggest that we probably had to adapt less when impaling your enemy with a pointy object was a virtue.
 
 
Jun 21, 2011
@drummerjoe

Indeed. The adaptation has not happened very quickly, if at all. The rise of our current society has happened much faster than evolution can move.

And living in society as we know it is more or less about compromise and understanding of long-term goals and consequences. And men, in general and on a whole, are worse at compromise of this sort than women.

A major diffidence between compromise in our society today and in a hunter-gather one is that the whys and where-fors of compromise are a bit shiftier and looser today. There are more options for behavior than ever before and less shared culture than ever before.

And despite that lack of shared history and culture, we need to have shared values in order to keep the machine going.

This is where secular humanism comes in.

In previous times and places a shared mythology and history and culture combined with a need to keep the group together just to survive took the place of secular humanism. Bad behavior wasn't something that was thought of as often due to the unification that shared upbringing often, well, brought.

The fight or flight button was pressed less, for all sorts of different reasons, shared culture large among them.

Nowadays the evolutionary pressures are different than when we lived in the bush with our tribe or clan. Scott's point was that the evolutionary pressures of society pressure some men (and their traditionally, as evolution goes, "good" behavior) into situations that evolution has not bred them to succeed in.

They are bad civilized creatures, in other words. Their neurology does not allow for compromise and adaption beyond instinct (though one could argue that those who do adapt as such develop neuroses of sorts (Hi Scott!) and that we have not yet fully domesticated ourselves to modern society no matter where you look for an example).
 
 
+14 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 21, 2011
Seriously people, Scott is not saying that men have it worse, he's saying we ARE worse. As people. As humans.

And he's not saying that women have it better, he's saying they ARE better. As people. As humans.

Nowhere in that is the glorification of one side's plight over the other's (truthfully, there ARE no "sides").

What's so hard to understand about this? Men are generally worse civilized creatures than women. That doesn't mean that women have it easy, it means ya'll are generally better people. That's the point. Or are we going to just nit-pick the language used to make the point instead of addressing the point itself?

Sigh. But actually gleaning the point through the writing style would require reading comprehension, a trait that many people of all genders sadly lack.
 
 
Jun 21, 2011
Mainly I don't understand what you get out of this, specifically. What's the point? Are you trying to persuade her that you are a decent human being? That she's wrong? It's fun to annoy brittle people and post online for amusement?
I am seeking a good man who can give me real love , so i got a username Andromeda2002 on--seekcougar.com--.it is the first and best club for y'ounger women and old'er men, or older women and y'ounger men,to int'eract with each other. Maybe you wanna ch'eck 'it out or tell your friends!
 
 
Jun 21, 2011
@agfbanks

Certainly everyone has to give up part of what they want in life in order to live in society. Whether man or woman.

While I can see where you're coming from (and you explained you point excellently) I still think that you're missing a teensy (though important) bit of what the original post seemed to be about.

From what you've written you lay out very well that all people, men and women, have wants, needs, desires, whatever, and that those are often stymied by the structure of society. The thing you seem to have missed is that there are much much harsher societal repercussions for men "exercising their natural urges" than those for women.

Important point: That isn't to say that men have it harder and that women can do as they please.

Far from it: It is to say that men are generally more of a threat to society than women.

Scott seemed to be, quite equivocally, saying that men are worse than woman as far as preserving the structure of society goes.

It has nothing to with "who is more put upon" and everything to do with how society regulates bad behavior and what it considers to be bad behavior.
 
 
Jun 21, 2011
While your mentoring etc is certainly respectable and impressive, this doesn't change the fact that you appear to mistakenly believe society caters to women's natural whims and desires and not men's.

I'm going to repost here a comment I also posted under your original Pegs and Holes article. For some reason, it was deleted twice over there. (??) I'm hoping that was a glitch. I realize, what I wrote to you was written in a harsh, no nonsense tone, (btw, the "boo freakin hoo" etc was intended to be humorous). I guess I figured you could take it as well as dish it out. My goal is honestly not to upset you, and I'm willing to give you the benefit of the doubt that you were not trying to upset others when you wrote your original Pegs and Holes article, although clearly you did upset others.

Here is the repost:

"Oh, boo freakin hoo...come on Scott Adams, women's bad behavior could be argued to be natural instinct too. I mean, maybe it's natural instinct for women to want to screw around and then trick men into raising and financially supporting other men's kids...but every day on the Maury Povich show, the women that try to pull that get busted and then shamed for society's entertainment. Oh, cry me a river...so men don't get everything they want out of sex and romance...well news flash...NEITHER DO WOMEN. In case you haven't noticed, women don't tend to get unconditional love, commitment, and devotion from ridiculously handsome and sensitive millionaires on a daily basis (while enjoying the pool boy and the UPS guy on the side as well no less). The key difference between men and women in this regard is that women, on average, tend to whine way less than men about society not catering to their every romantic and sexual whim. More women than men seem to have a grip on the fact that they need to compromise in order to have a successful romantic/sexual relationship and that society won't, and in fact shouldn't, cater to their every whim and desire here. OK, to be fair, lots of men clearly also have a grip on this...but unfortunately, there is a sizeable minority of Scott Adams type whiners out there who tend to make men as a group look bad.”
 
 
+13 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 21, 2011
Scott,

I read all your blog posts and do not comment enough. It seems every once in a while a little spat creeps up, and I love that you continue to post in spite of that.

You write "My blog is about inviting readers to wrestle with unique points of view strictly for fun. My regular readers understand that." I am a regular reader and I entirely agree with that summation. I often feel you give me things to thing about - and I don't take you too seriously. Without gushing to much. You're awesome.

I'll go onto a little diatribe and say that am also annoyed that there is very little recognition that men and women are different. Its even hard to get most people to admit that there are inherent physiological difference between members of the same sex. Some are better physically, some are smarter: yes, that sounds like a given, but I my experience is that most people you can achieve anything if you try. What a load of crap. If you've got a limp you'll never make it in the pro sports leagues. If you such at numbers, don't become a math teacher. The sooner you come to terms with your own strengths and weaknesses, the sooner you'll be able to make the most of your life.

Part of understanding those strength and weaknesses if acknowledging you sex. If you're a woman and want to have kids, you have to plan for that. If you are a man with a raging libido, don't settle down yet. If you're someone that can't control your libido or you desire to do something that will get you in jail, you better find help.... or a pill.
 
 
Jun 21, 2011
Scott,

I read all your blog posts and do not comment enough. It seems every once in a while a little spat creeps up, and I love that you continue to post in spite of that.

You write "My blog is about inviting readers to wrestle with unique points of view strictly for fun. My regular readers understand that." I am a regular reader and I entirely agree with that summation.

I am also annoyed that there is very little recognition that men and women are inherintly
 
 
Jun 21, 2011
I read your original post, and while I don't think you are a sexist pig or especially objectionable, I do think it demonstrates that you don't understand women very well. Maybe this is what your critics are reacting to (admittedly in a rather silly fashion)?

You say in that post that while men's natural urges (to have sex with a very wide variety of women; to have sex with women who aren't necessarily interested; to not be monogamous) are consistently stymied by societal mores. Meanwhile, women's natural urges are not (you do not define what these are). Thus, living in our current society is more difficult for men.

I actually agree with you about men's natural urges, for the most part (although there are others which you do not list). But women's natural urges are equally stymied. Most women, for instance, have the drive to: 1. be in a committed relationship with a man equal or higher in status than themselves (not happening for many women, especially black women and poorer women); 2. have children with this committed partner (given the very high rate of single mothers and the unwilling infertile (ie professional women in their late 30s/40s), this obviously doesn't happen for many); and 3. be able to spend large amounts of time (including possibly staying home) with the resulting offspring: since most women are compelled to work for economic reasons, and maternity leave in the US is only a few weeks, this obviously doesn't happen either.

Society stymies everyone's natural urges, for good or bad (we could debate on whether monogamy is really a good idea for most people, for instance). I found your post somewhat offensive because it stated things as if men were uniquely oppressed, while women got to do exactly as they pleased. In reality, we are all oppressed or thwarted in our desires. In any case, it's not a competition: we ought to try alternatives to make things better for both men AND women.
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 21, 2011
@mesplin, his point, I don't know, but I'm guessing it's entertainment (and as he points out, it's just interesting). If you can't see it then you just can't, but if you can, it's hilarious (and pretty interesting indeed).

This blog and ThisIsTrue.com provide the most thought-provoking writing on the Internet, IMHO.
 
 
+13 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 21, 2011
This debate is going to go nowhere, unfortunately.

There's too much willingness in the politically correct mindset to attack each and every word and phrase as though part of a term paper, and not enough, as Scott would put it, true reading comprehension.

Reading comprehension is more than just the ability to know what words mean, it's about knowing what the writer means.

And when taken out of context of the forum in which it was made and personality that made it, statements can and do often become colored with the whatever shade of glasses the reader is wearing.

The take-offense-at-everything PC mindset and the echo-chamber of the internet make for a potent combination of self-righteous indignation.

It really makes me wonder what the reaction would have been had Scott not used the word rape at all. Seriously, would this have caused remotely the stir it did if the post had been exactly the same if not for that one omitted word?

It probably still would have, unfortunately, but it still would have been an interesting case study, could we do it.

Keep the purposefully left-field edge-case ideas coming Scott, some of us really do have reading comprehension beyond OMG HE USED A TRIGGER WORD AND SO IS SAYING THAT ALL MEN ARE REPRESSED RAPERS!!!
 
 
Jun 21, 2011
Irin,
Some advice (which is similar to what Scott gave you):
1) Scott was not discussing history in his post. We all know what the history says. We really don't the lesson again from you.
2) The question is not about the moral implications of way the society has evolved (your second para). The question is how this social evolution makes men feel.

You say "By that reading, the presumed majority of men who don't rape (or cheat, or tweet) are simply better at managing their innate desires to violate someone else, which I'd wager isn't true to the lived experience of most non-raping men."

This is the only point under discussion. What evidence do you have about your claim?

Please skip the history/morality lesson. Thank you!
 
 
-13 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 21, 2011
Scott is posting his ideas as an exercise in thinking and personal development and to spread his own unique sense of making sense of life. He has challenged those who criticize him to defend their position because he wants to clear up their misunderstandings.

I think the problem people have with the word rape is just that we are taught it is a bad word. As I understand a long time ago it was just used to mean initiate. maybe "poke" is a better term.
 
 
Jun 21, 2011
Scott,
Keep up the great work! This is the first time that I've read your blog, and I found the posts thought provoking and a great distraction from the remainder of my day. I'll come back again -- (a female reader)
 
 
Jun 21, 2011
I don't understand how this comment, which has been I think the most quoted from your post, is so offensive to women: "men have been tweeting, raping, cheating, and being offensive to just about everyone in the entire world".

Where is the offense to women that they and their talking heads in the blogosphere feel the need to get all up in arms about this? My first thought is they are just still reeling from your previous post regarding men and women.

I mean, for the most part, haven't we always heard that men are animals, and don't you prove that point in your blog?
 
 
+13 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 21, 2011
Irin Carmon was a great choice, and so far I think she's doing a great job. The "history lesson" is very relevant in response to the claims in the original post that society has been organized to criminalize men's natural instincts while women's instincts are acceptable.

Although she touches on the problem with listing raping and cheating in the same list, so far, she hasn't talked about one of my main objections to the post, though, which is that rape was characterized as a natural instinct at all. Listing rape among the other "natural instincts" implies that the desire to rape is normal and understandable, just part of being male, and that it's only criminalized because of oppressive laws that disadvantage men. And since the opening paragraphs talk about how you can't blame animals for following their instincts, readers are left with the impression that you don't think it's fair to blame rapists for raping because it's what comes naturally to them. And it's not their fault that they were born into a society that decided it's wrong for one human to sexually assault another. This is offensive to feminists (and should be offensive to everyone). In addition, characterizing rape as a natural sexual instinct (instead of as an act of violence) is a false and harmful view that is offensive to men (most have no desire to rape whatsoever) and dangerous for everyone, because part of combating sexual assault is educating the public that it's not normal, not sex, and not ever okay -- it's an act of violence that is no more "natural" than murder. Some humans apparently have the impulse to rape and/or murder, but it's not a normal sexual instinct that is suppressed by arbitrary laws. People who rape are not normal.
 
 
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 21, 2011
Score: 7/10
1. She disagreed with your point that the world was a "zero sum game" and said the world bettered from people who disagreed with "zero sum game" concept. I didn't see you address this point.

Mainly I don't understand what you get out of this, specifically. What's the point? Are you trying to persuade her that you are a decent human being? That she's wrong? It's fun to annoy brittle people and post online for amusement?
 
 
 
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