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Update: Final update added 8 PM PST 6/23/11

In round two I interview Salon writer MaryElizabeth Williams on the topic of what was so objectionable about my blog post Pegs and Holes. (See prior posts for more background.)

MaryElizabeth Williams is a senior staff writer for Salon.com, an author, and has written for The New York Times and other publications. She recently wrote this about me.

Let's jump right in.

MaryElizabeth: Why did I object to your post? Perhaps you meant it humorously, but let's start with the way you lump "behaving badly, e.g. tweeting, raping, cheating, and being offensive to just about everyone in the entire world" together. Cheating is "behaving badly." Raping is a crime. Right off the bat, you're working off fuzzy logic, in which a consensual affair and an act of violence are somehow on the same plane. You do so again later when you suggest that if men were to "lose the urge for sex," there'd be "no rape, fewer divorces," as if rape was all about the "urge for sex."

You state that "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...society has evolved to keep males in a state of continuous unfulfilled urges, more commonly known as unhappiness. No one planned it that way." Your presumptuousness over the natural instincts of men is surpassed only by your wild second-guessing regarding those of women. And society, by the way, is plenty planned. Ours here in America, in fact, was planned by, and its government and businesses are still largely run by, men. So instead of going on about the "instincts" of men and women, consider what our culture deems acceptable behavior from all its members, of both sexes. I would furthermore submit that if our society is "a virtual prison for men's natural desires," you've never been to Vegas.

Now let me ask you - do you believe that rape is a "natural" instinct, or that our culture doesn't differentiate between the "urge for sex" and forcible violation? 


Scott: I'll start by answering you closing question. I think sex is a natural instinct, and it manifests differently in different people. A person who is simultaneously horny, prone to violence, and has sociopath tendencies might act in the worst possible way. That person would be abnormal, and I favor the death penalty for rape. Violent behavior is natural in the same sense that cancer and hurricanes are natural. Natural doesn't mean good. Everything I just explained was obvious to many if not most readers of my Pegs and Holes post. You can verify that claim by reading the comments on this blog and on Huffington Post.

On your other points, let me see if I can break them down to bullet points and get your agreement on what you are saying before I respond to them individually. I believe you are saying...

1. Men who have no sexual desire and no erections will still rape because it's not about the sexual urge.

2. If an author lists three things that are bad, he means all three things are equal to each other. For example, if I say blizzards, ulcers, and head lice are bad, I am implying that they should be treated the same way.

3. Society didn't evolve as the result of millions of people making millions of independent decisions. It is mostly the result of planning by men who successfully designed society to meet their needs. 

4. Men can get their natural urges satisfied by, for example, traveling to Las Vegas. Their wives and girlfriends won't mind. There's no real downside. 

5. You can't tell when I'm trying to be humorous. 

Did I accurately summarize your points?

MaryElizabeth: So to be clear, you're saying do believe that "horniness" is a factor in rape. I wonder, have you ever known someone who was raped? Are you aware that rape is used as a weapon of war? Men who have "no sexual desire and no erections" do rape, Scott. Ask someone who's experienced it. Ask Abner Louima, as just one example.

Further, I wonder why you're backing off from your own use of "tweeting, raping, cheating" and "no rape, fewer divorces" in the same lines of thought. You may facetiously compare your post to saying "blizzards, ulcers, and head lice are bad," but I would argue that if that had been your original statement, you'd have been rightly accused of posting utter gibberish.

Instead, you referred, in the most blanket-like of terms, to the "natural instincts of men" as "shameful and criminal."  You're the one who called men "square pegs" and referred to "males in a state of continuous unfulfilled urges." You made no such distinction, as you do now, for the more "prone to violence" and "sociopathic."

And let me see if I understand you correctly - society has evolved from "millions of independent decisions"? I guess the Constitution can go suck it.

Finally, just because someone can tell when you're attempting to be humorous, it doesn't follow that you're succeeding at it. Likewise, just because people disagree  with you, it's not always a sign they're just not as smart as those HuffPo commenters. Perhaps if there weren't so many of us with what you deem poor reading skills, you wouldn't have the need to create imaginary defenders. (http://www.salon.com/entertainment/tv/feature/2011/04/19/scott_adams_sock_puppetry_scandal) I'd like to believe that you've reached out to your critics because you have a genuine curiosity to understand why your remarks were so offensive to so many, Scott. Or is that one more thing I'm apparently all wrong about?

Scott: If you're lumping together every type of rape from war crimes to date rape to child rape to prison rape, most generalizations fall apart. I will grant you that when rape is used as a weapon of war, horniness is not the inspiration for the act. And I will grant you that if an erect penis is not used in the crime, horniness is probably not involved. And I will grant you that if someone who is seriously insane commits rape, it might not involve any horniness. And I will grant you that there are probably dozens of other twisted motivations that don't start with horniness.

My original reference in my Pegs and Holes blog involved the IMF chief and his alleged rape of the hotel maid. In that case, I don't think he first had an urge to do some violence and decided that his penis was the go-to weapon of choice.

Chemical castration drugs already exist, and have proven extraordinarily effective in reducing recidivism rates among sex offenders. The science is on my side. If you have a link that shows otherwise, I am happy to look at it.

And yes, I've known a number of rape victims. I don't draw conclusions from anecdotal evidence, but horniness was obviously a factor in those cases.

If we can set aside for a moment the clarity, or lack thereof, in the writing of my original blog post, can you tell me what view you think I hold that is different from your own? And please put your answer in bullet point form if you can.

MaryElizabeth: Let's look at how you're changing your narrative here. "My original reference in my Pegs and Holes blog involved the IMF chief and his alleged rape of the hotel maid." Your original post about "tweeting, raping, cheating" declared that "the natural instincts of men are shameful and criminal while the natural instincts of women are mostly legal and acceptable. In other words, men are born as round pegs in a society full of square holes. Whose fault is that? Do you blame the baby who didn't ask to be born male?"  That's not a specific reference to Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who, by the way, is not accused of "horniness" taken to an extreme, but of orally and anally assaulting a woman.  A refusal to take no for an answer may be a "factor" in some sexual assaults, but "horniness" does not lead to rape, Scott.

You go on to state, "Chemical castration drugs already exist, and have proven extraordinarily effective in reducing recidivism rates among sex offenders."  Yet in your original post you said, " Society is organized as a virtual prison for men's natural desires..." and whimsically imagined that  "science will come up with a drug that keeps men chemically castrated for as long as they are on it."  You didn't say, "sex offenders." You said "men." The entire tone of your post    suggests the two are indistinguishable in your mind, and that   " if a man meets and marries the right woman, and she fulfills his needs, he might have no desire to tweet his meat to strangers" ie, the burden of responsibility falls upon women to keep "bad behavior" in check. It's a very cynical and incredibly depressing way of looking at the world.

What views do I think you hold that's different from my own?

-      That, as you stated earlier this year,  "women are treated differently by society for exactly the same reason that children and the mentally handicapped are treated differently." I don't regard my sex as differently abled subset of society.

-      That society forces males to exist  "in a state of continuous unfulfilled urges, more commonly known as unhappiness" (Perhaps you could clarify what society you're speaking of. Is there an Unhappiness Island I'm not aware of?)

-  That "It's a zero sum game. If men get everything they want, women lose, and vice versa." I'm not convinced this general "men" you speak of all want the same things. The men   right now fighting for the right to marry their same-sex partners in New York want something very different than the men of the National Organization for Marriage. Hugh Hefner, whom you claim never got "a round hole for his round peg" likely has damn near everything he could want, if whatever he does want, it's probably not indicative of what Justin Bieber wants. And I don't believe in a world where one gender always has to win and another has to lose.  I think better of humanity.

Here are few questions for you: What are you hoping to communicate with posts like "Pegs and Holes"? Is it means as strictly satire? And if so, why bristle when people take the bait? 

Scott: On your first bullet point, you are making my point for me. The actual point of the earlier blog post you mentioned was that men don't argue in situations where the cost of doing so is greater than the gain. The world is watching you make that true for me right now. This debate will probably reduce my income by a third, as feminist forces have already mobilized and started to ask newspapers to drop Dilbert. That's the sort of risk that men don't have when they engage in a debate with other men.

The exception would be when anonymous men on the Internet debate with women. In that case they have no downside risk and are willing to fully engage. But nothing is gained by it beyond entertainment.

On your second bullet point, regarding men existing in a state of unfulfilled urges, I'm referring to the fact that men (gross generality alert) have hearts that want a relationship with one person and penises that want a thousand different women. Neither marriage nor single life can satisfy that condition. And our current society discourages any other sort of arrangement.

Woman (gross generalization alert) are biologically less inclined to crave continuous sexual variety. That's a statement about evolution. If you have a link that disproves that notion, I'm happy to look at it.

Someone will mention that men and women cheat at about the same rate. But research has shown that cheating isn't about sex for either gender. Cheaters generally just want someone to treat them the way they want to be treated.

Obviously it wouldn't be a point of disagreement if you were to say that many people differ from my gross generalizations. I said the same thing in Pegs and Holes: "Everyone is different."

On your third bullet point, you argue that life is not a zero-sum game for the sexes. That's probably true for economics. But my blog post was about natural urges. If a man you barely know wants to have sex with you, and you'd rather not, you can't both be winners. Society has to pick sides, and you won. I think we both agree that is the best solution. Even the man who wants to have sex with you is glad he lives in a world where his mother/daughter/sister can safely say no.

You asked what I'm hoping to communicate with posts such as Pegs and Holes. My only goal is to be interesting. Ideas are society's fuel. I drill a lot of wells; most of them are dry. Sometimes they produce. Sometimes the well catches on fire.

My next question: Do you support the death penalty for rape, as I do, or are you relatively pro-rape compared to me?

MaryElizabeth: First of all, Scott, your continued assertion regarding the risks "that men don't have when they engage in a debate with other men" is a stellar example of why people find your views offensive. It's insulting, it suggests that talking to a woman isn't worth your time and effort, and when you stoop to do so, you face retribution from the "feminist forces." Here's a thought: if as you claim anyone is asking for your strip to be dropped (and for the record, I am not among them) can you consider that maybe it's because of the things you say, rather than because you've so benevolently deigned to engage in a conversation with a female?

Now, let's consider your idea that "If a man you barely know wants to have sex with you, and you'd rather not, you can't both be winners." So much to unpack! What if it's a man you know well? It gets back to what you wrote about how "the natural instincts of men are shameful and criminal." You're not making the distinction between wanting to have sex with someone and wanting to force her to have sex. And to couch sexuality in terms of "winning" and "losing" just sounds really juvenile. If a woman says no to sex, the man "loses" and the woman has "won"? I will however cop that for a man who views the world that way, the burden of male "unhappiness" you spoke of earlier must be great indeed.

You say, "My only goal is to be interesting. Ideas are society's fuel." I think that sums up the essential difference in where we're coming from. I don't write to be "interesting" (go ahead, peanut gallery, take the straight line). I'm not bored or jaded enough to write just to get a reaction. My Irish firmly in the "up" position, I'm here because I care passionately about these issues, and about the world in which my two daughters are growing up. I don't want their ideas and opinions dismissed as too troublesome for a man to squander his energy on, or to have to put up with what you refer to as "gross generalizations" about their sex.

Now, regarding your question, "Do you support the death penalty for rape, as I do, or are you relatively pro-rape compared to me?" Oh Scott. Oh really. You're just messing with me now, aren't you? What's next, you going to ask when I stopped beating my wife? You can't honestly believe that being opposed to capital punishment is tantamount to be in favor of sexual assault, can you? Where's that great logic you pride yourself so much on?

Scott: I think this would be a good place to stop. I'd like to thank MaryElizabeth for being a good sport and for trying to make the world a better place in her own peculiar way.

I feel as if this has been an Internet-wide conversation, with many websites joining in the debate. I leave it to readers to decide whether it was wise for me to engage in an honest conversation on this topic or whether it would have been smarter to apologize for any alleged offenses and slink away. Here's a link that should help you answer that question.

To the women who are not batshit crazy, and fortunately that is most of you, I apologize for any lack of clarity on my part was deemed offensive. I'm reasonably sure we agree on all of the important stuff.






 

 

 
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Jun 28, 2011
in my experience, people generally are offended by rape proportionately to how much they value virginity and chastity.

this attitude is filtered thru their lense of punishment for wrongdoing.

so little girls who get raped by their dads grow up to be prostitutes, because they emotionally invest in the idea that chastity has no value, to rationalize their worth in the face of overwhelming evidence they have none (raped by dad).

while i strongly favor execution for textbook rape of adults, and generally all types against children, i should admit extremely conservative sexual attitudes and behavior. being a virgin and married simultaneously is not common event in USA.

it must be extremely torturous for raped feminists, simultaneously attesting its an atrocity, and denying sexual purity has any innate value. they burn bras to throw of patriarchal views on sex.


being able to see the world thru the eyes of typical twenty year old man has really helped me to understand my fellow man's attitudes on rape. if she is giving it away anyway, its really little more than coercion for something she does anyway. its like raping a prostitute really amounts to stiffing someone for a business deal.

killing a groom and raping his virgin bride is not coercion nor theft, its a violation of her reproductive choices, her pathway to immortality. not really the case with a hooker...

i understand strippers thinking rapists should only get probation, it makes sense.
 
 
Jun 27, 2011
typical liberal feminist extremism choosing to see negatives in absolutely everything you say. This is what you get for taking "salon.com" seriously = P

Everyone knows you are a funny guy and people who are offended are just paid to be so. I believe there should be a new psychological disorder based on people who get physical pleasure from being offended by others.

She is exactly the reason you are so funny btw...without people like her sobbing and shaking with anger at your little jokes - they wouldn't be so enjoyable!
 
 
Jun 26, 2011
I am a 28 years old doctor, mature and beautiful.and now I am seeking a good man who can give me real love , so i got a username Andromeda2002 on--s'e'ek'c'ou'ga'r.c óm--.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!
So as far as I can tell, it is offensive to suggest that sometimes men have urges that they must keep in check if modern society is to function properly?
 
 
Jun 26, 2011
I am absolutely amazed that this lady couldn't see the whole picture and kept connecting the dots together when Scott has repeatedly said "Don't connect the dots!"

Reading the article, I keep seeing Mrs Williams take personal offense to clearly stated comments which should be taken as food for thought. So many "implies" and "suggests" in her replies show that she's not actually thinking about what Scott's writing, only what she thinks it says.

Why must people twist everything (even if it is right out there, in front of everyone) to suit their own goals?

I also see, reading through these comments, that the majority of people who commend Scott, his writing and his ideas, get severely downvoted. Are these votes because the comments were poorly written or because they are a friend of "the enemy?"

Similarly, the people who personally attack Scott have received decent scores when their posts are generally abusive, ignorant and unintelligent.

Watch this post dive in the voting system right about...... Now!
 
 
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 25, 2011
I think the falacy (misunderstanding?) that jumped out at me most in this debate was the assertion by Miss Williams that our society is the result of the US constitution, and definitely not the result of "millions of independent decisions by millions of people."
Excuse me? The constitution is the reason that gay marriage is not legal everywhere? The constitution is the reason I can't smoke pot but I can smoke cigarettes and drink beer? The US constitution is the reason that it's hard to get a job in retail if your arms are covered in tattoos? Really? I have a question for you, Miss Williams: Are you high? Or just that willfully ignorant?

Last time I checked, the constitution said precious little about how society should organize itself. In fact, if one wants to get serious about it: The US Constitution, with only minor changes (or "Amendments" as they're called) has been the same for roughly 222 years. Are you seriously arguing that American society has been essentially the same for the past 222 years? !$%*!$% insane doesn't even begin to cover it.

Since Scott has posted a multiple choice test out there, I have one as well:

Which of the items I listed above are actually mentioned or get even a passing reference in the US constitution? (Support your answer with the actual text of the constitution, please)

1. Marriage (gay or otherwise)
2. Marijuana
3. Tobacco
4. Alcohol
5. Tattoos
6. All of the above
7. None of the above

Isn't it actually more plausible that the US Constitution is a product of an evolving American society, itself the result of millions of independent decisions, rather than the cause of American society?
 
 
Jun 24, 2011
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Jun 24, 2011
you got Ms. Williams to say "go suck it."

Kudos indeed!
 
 
Jun 24, 2011
DMD!! You've outdone yourself man!

[Thank you. But there is no Fight Club. -- Scott]
 
 
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 24, 2011
Scott - Thanks for a thought-provoking post AND for being a good sport and allowing people who feel instead of think "debate" you.

Those kind of women are exactly the reason feminism has a bad name (and yes, I'm "allowed" to feel that way, seeing as how I'm female).

 
 
+8 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 24, 2011
For what it's worth, I once advocated that no, there is no hard evidence that vaccines cause autism, but simply based on known side effects, our society still clearly over-vaccinates. I really should've known better. It must've been similar to the guy who said torture works, but we still shouldn't do it. Everyone called me a heretic. But unlike you, I had no monetary stake in whether or not people liked me.

Your blog is great at throwing out new ideas that people aren't ready to consider, but the fact that you have a monetary stake in people liking you enough to continue reading your comic and buying your merchandise must have you wondering whether it's all worth it.

I hope you decide that it is, for my sake. I remain inspired by Cheapatopia, and have several times explained the confusopoly concept to friends when I talk about why I support financial reform. I think that while your writing can occasionally be frustrating, (for instance, I am convinced free will exists, even if rather constrained by conditioning and biology) I almost always enjoy engaging with the thoughts behind it.

As for Pegs and Holes, I didn't think you were equating powerful men raping as being on the same level as powerful men tweeting indecent pictures of themselves. They were both different manifestations of men behaving badly, which is all you claimed your list of examples were. It wasn't until you mentioned later on the blog that there was a controversy that I even went back to re-read and figure out what exactly might be controversial. How you managed to create a bigger stink with Pegs and Holes than you got from the Men's Rights post, I'll never understand. Treating women differently, just as you would children or the mentally handicapped - and in the same post where you called Men's Rights guys a bunch of !$%*!$%* no less - what were you thinking?

So good luck. I hope you continue blogging when the urge strikes, and you remain one of my favorite authors, even if you are (apparently) a Godless, evolution-denying, misogynist, misandrist, radical right-wing, radical left-wing, sock-puppeteer. If you are judged by the quality of your enemies, then you're doing quite well.
 
 
-12 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 24, 2011
The problem with trying to have a debate with most women is you look at everything through an emotional filter. The moment you see words or ideas that you don't agree with it becomes personally offensive and hurtful. When you look at what Mr. Adams writes from an intellectual point of view, then you can see that he is only voicing some generalizations that many members of society agree with. The dark ages were a time when society placed few controls on men and their passions. It was a time filled with rape, murder and general chaos. In fact for only about the past few hundred years has society evolved enough to force men to restrain themselves. Shows like "Rome", "Spartacus", and "Game of Thrones" all show how men want to behave. Scott Adams is controversial and thought provoking, but if you take his writing seriously then you are crazy.
 
 
Jun 24, 2011
Scott, isn't this when you come back and say "Dance monkey dance!!" I love that one!

[There is no Fight Club. -- Scott]
 
 
Jun 24, 2011
I liked the post. It was a good exchange of opinions.

It seems you both exposed your arguments, and explained the points that seemed too vague. But in the end looked like you were trying to achieve two different things. Since there wasn't really much to add, it was a good time to end it. Hope Mary understood and didn't take it as being rude.
 
 
Jun 24, 2011
@Dedalhus,

See the second chapter of "Moral Landscape" by Sam Harris (a neuro scientist) to see that (a) the human mind is a natural thing, (b) free will is an illusion, and (c) we can still justify incarceration and correctional therapy in order to keep the rest of us safe.
 
 
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 24, 2011
Perhaps you should place at the top of all your posts the following disclaimer: "Don't take advice from humorists." You say if often, but apparently, not often enough.

 
 
Jun 24, 2011
So as far as I can tell, it is offensive to suggest that sometimes men have urges that they must keep in check if modern society is to function properly?

Thank you MaryElizabeth for clearing that up.
 
 
-36 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 24, 2011
Hey, Adams, I would like to see your or someone else's disertation about rape. Human body is a natural thing, but not his mind. Ancient societies and tribes, which are supposed to be close to nature, punish rape with death. Do you know that? Oh, excuse me, you showed the world you do not know anything. Children are not mentally disabled! I think they deserve a public apology too.
Are you trying to say that you are clever than me! You are very funny. It is impossible.

Do you know that women don't kill, rape etc; and that society brought them there. Woman are socially produced to be victims and NOT naturally. Got me? And I invite you to come try rape me and I promise I will show you how to make a one-eyed men and dead men. Welcome!
I am so sorry that you mother did not abort you.
 
 
Jun 24, 2011
Good work defending your position Scott! Btw Professor Myers from Pharyngula has just criticized your posts, you should invite him for an "interview" too. Dude, that would be epic! ;- )
 
 
Jun 24, 2011
wow,

no offense ladies and gents, but look in the internet news feeds: mostly men rioting in vancouver, a poor lady being viciously attacked by her hubby in bangladesh. basically, mostly men doing dumbass stuff.

dilbert guy, next article you write replace the word men with women and see what happens.

 
 
-10 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 24, 2011
She's married with two kids?!? She probably made that poor bastard take her last name.
 
 
 
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