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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 23, 2011
@Tesseracts,

I would like to give a more complete reply, but I have some work to finish before 6pm. I'll just comment on one of the points you brought up.

Scott's logical trap makes sense. There's no way he is expecting anybody to think for a second that a feminist writer is pro-rape. It will, however, give him an exit by analogy.

As far as Scott's writing in general, being interesting and making some sense are not mutually exclusive. If there were no grains of logic in his writing, I wouldn't find it particularly interesting.

As far as misrepresenting his opinion, she implies rather strongly in her writing that he is a sexist who is defending the rationale for rape. It could be that the title wasn't hers and it could be that the editor changed some key words, but if that is the case, she has every right to point that out in this discussion.
 
 
Jun 23, 2011
@Blooregard

Yep. I've heard of shot-gun-weddings. I'm glad we live in a society that no longer allows such things. Currently, escorting the groom to the altar with a shotgun to his head is actually considered quite a serious crime. Come to think of it, I've never heard any feminists come out in support of shot-gun-weddings. Maybe MaryElizabeth can weigh in here to even the score...I mean, considering that Scott appears to be trying to earn brownie points by publically coming out as strongly against rape, but the death penalty declaration seems a bit extreme. Scott do you honestly support the death penalty for all cases of rape? Could you clarify your stance here because currently it can be interpreted as a bit extreme.
 
 
Jun 23, 2011
@rmunsil- You think people on the internet apologize?
 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 23, 2011
I'm actually finding the meat of this discussion quite interesting and wish it could be more constructive. Would it be possible for all the debaters to apologize for the personal attacks on each other (unintentionally or intentionally) and just debate the points with a goal of finding the truth? Not everything is going to be resolved, but each party seems to have some knowledge that the other party didn't know and no one seems to be able to use the new data to refine their thesis due to the war going on. As a regular reader, I obviously don't think Scott is "scum" (which seems to be the unstated major premise from the Salon and Jezebel writers that got this war started) even though I don't always agree with everything he says.
 
 
Jun 23, 2011
@Tesseracts

Three things.
1 - An author has to at least acknowledge the headline their piece is posted under, whether they wrote it or not. I have not seen a single point by Mary E suggesting she disagrees with the headline her article was posted under, or attempting to qualify it.

2 - Everything is relative. You say that supporting a rape mentality is different than supporting rape. But this creates two problems. First off, your average reader won't differentiate between the two (partially because they will see "rape mentality" and "rape" as equivalent, partially because some won't even read the last word). Secondly, even if they acknowledge the existence of a difference between the two, they will categorize in their mind that someone who supports a "rape mentality" is "relatively more pro-rape" than an individual who does not support a "rape mentality".

Which brings us to point 3 - Scott (obviously) intentionally used the phrase "relatively pro rape". He did this to beat them at their own game, so to speak. One can create a continuum where pro-rape (no punishment) people are on one side of the scale, and "kill them after torture" are on the other side of the scale. For example, barring any additional qualification an individual who advocates 10 years of prison is theoretically more "pro-rape" than an individual who advocates 11 years in prison. (This can of course all be qualified by additional !$%*!$%*!$%*!$ as some have stated they are against the death penalty because it would lead to murders followin gthe rape, etc etc).

Since there is a continuum (as there is with everything in life), and since the author's title has suggested he is at one point in the continuum, Scott appears to simply be self-identifying himself at a different point and asking her to do the same.
 
 
Jun 23, 2011
@newperson

I don't understand how you can think that "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." falls into Scott's clearly defined category of "natural urges."

Unless of course, your natural urge every time you see somebody attractive is to call your mother and see if she is safe.

I'm not sure why actually reading what Scott wrote makes the debate boring or uninteresting, but I blame the education system in whatever place you grew up.
 
 
Jun 23, 2011
@justjaney- You've never heard of a shotgun wedding, have you?
 
 
Jun 23, 2011
@newperson-

Did you just say that something dealing with the impact on a single person of the quality of their interactions with other human beings has nothing to do with sociology?

So let me inquire, if I'm having a psychological breakdown about my child being gay while driving, become distracted, smash through the guard rails and plummet into a ravine, does the whole of that scenario not fall into both psychology and physics? Can they not be broken down into their component parts and analyzed separately? The feeling that the man gets is not necessarily related to the rejection he just suffered. If anything, if he did feel that relief immediately it would constitute nothing more than a fallacy of inference in that he would think that just because he took no for an answer, some other man would do the same and not rape the snot out of his elderly mother. If anything he may only feel this comfort if/when it is challenged by the possibility of his mother, sister or daughter being raped or a rape being averted. However, returning to the point, in the moment of rejection the man has suffered a loss in the area of discussion that is currently on the table and which is clearly separable from other more vague desires and instincts that aren't directly related to that particular instance.
 
 
Jun 23, 2011
@Tesseracts:

The death penalty comment, as I understood it, was a deliberate jab to show MaryElizabeth that Scott can act childish too.

She started the mudslinging (just read the article she wrote!)

She then came over here and is refusing to even entertain the idea that she misinterpreted his blog post. When Scott is trying to clear it up, she accuses him of changing the narrative. She wanted the narrative to be about what she misread, not what the rest of us read. To make it worse, she then brings up an older misinterpretation that caused Scott headaches earlier this year.

When dealing with somebody so stubborn, it can be worth showing them by example what's going on. He's baiting her into a logical trap.

Her response will probably be something like:

"I don't support the death penalty for rape but I am just as against rape for such and such reason, you posed a false dilemma and used it to misrepresent my opinion."

To which Scott can reply:

"Exactly. And I don't believe that men should be allowed to rape, but for modern society to exist to all of our benefit, men will sometimes need to restrain their natural urges (flirting, cheating, tweeting their package, or raping, depending on the guy), and, sometimes, end up a little less happy. By suggesting that acknowledging that men's natural urges sometimes run counter course to societies overall needs, you posed a false dilemma and used it to misrepresent my opinion."
 
 
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 23, 2011
I like this one much better than the last one. I hope she keeps it going.

I still cannot understand the "x, y, and z" list becoming "x = y = z" in anyone's mind. I think I blame the lack of grammar being taught in schools, people being idiots, and inflatable giraffes.

Does she consider children "differently-abled"? How did she get women as a differently-abled subset? And didn't he already blog about that?
 
 
Jun 23, 2011
"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."

There is a flip side to this. Yeah, men want casual sex more than women do on average. However, women want relationships/commitment more than men do on average. Men have a harder time getting sex and women have a harder time getting commitment. If a woman, over the course of her dating career goes on multiple dates and/or hooks up with several men...and she routinely desires some sort of romantic relationship/commitment from these men, while most (if not all) of these men would rather not commit to her, would you say the men "won" and the woman "lost". I guess you could look at it that way but I choose not to. People get to choose who they have sex with and who they commit to. Allowing such free choice makes us all as a society "winners". That includes both men and women. This is true even though it doesn't feel good on a personal level to be denied the sex or commitment you crave intensely from another person.
 
 
Jun 23, 2011
@scothaiullukapattha-

That's a little more involved than the response needed to be. I see you think that what he's saying is directly and completely representative of what he believes and I can't help but suspect that you've missed the satire involved.

On a slightly related note, why does there need to be a sense of proportion for punishments? Your sense of proportion is just that, a sense. It's subjective and rather arbitrarily plucked from the collective backsides of everyone and everything you've interacted with that has influenced your moral scale. There isn't any reasonable evaluation of this sense, just feeing.
 
 
Jun 23, 2011
@derekludlow

no because the benefit that men get has nothing to do with economics or social economics or sociology or game theory.

as Scott phrased it:
"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."

The would-be rapist accepts this for his own feelings of security and for the safety of his loved ones. That's not an abstract economic concept he's using his rationality to agree to. It's just as primal an urge as horniness to want to feel safe and know that your family is safe.

your separation of the dude's competing interests into competing spheres of society is totally artificial and makes this whole conversation a crazy, boring, uninteresting hypothetical. the whole argument then becomes:
"mens' instincts to be !$%*! are compromised in making society work and it has one simple distinct negative psychological effect on men. men's instinct to want to feel safe is also compromised all the time, but that's got nothing to do with the first part of this, has a completely separate psychological effect on men."

and that's a ridiculous thing to say.
 
 
Jun 23, 2011
"Pro-rape is a phrase that is direct and unambiguous"

Yes, but when you say "relatively pro-rape". It becomes literally nonsensical (since you either are or are not pro-rape). I think most people would then *interpret* that to mean "not as against rape", in the context it was in.
 
 
Jun 23, 2011
Scott isn't changing the narrative. It's just, uh... "evolving."
 
 
Jun 23, 2011
@Blooregard

I'm applying my own standards. I support the death penalty for murder. I even think terrorists, serial killers etc. deserve a fate worse than death and that is to be tortured for several years before being killed. Yet, I think death penalty is too harsh a punishment for rape. And I do not think my views are an aberration. There has to be a sense of proportion.

This is where I think Scott has pandered. There was no need to.
 
 
Jun 23, 2011
"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."

I'm sorry, but this simply isn't true If you engaged in a debate with other men where you made inflammatory statements on topics others are quite sensitive about, you'd see a similar response from men. For example, if you had instead written a blog post which could be easily interpreted as suggesting you supported reinstating the old Jim Crow laws regarding racial segregation...or if you had written a blog post where you implied the holocaust never happened, you'd be facing similar protests, and guess what, lots of men would be involved. The moral of the story here is that groups which were extremely victimized in the recent past (and to a lesser extent continue to be victimized to the present day) do not take careless insensitive comments on these topics lightly. Which isn’t to say you can't discuss rape as a topic, and the factors that lead up to it, but you'd be wise to be a little more diplomatic and careful regarding statements which can easily be misinterpreted. You can claim "low reading comprehension" of those who you claim misinterpreted if you want, but as a professional writer I suspect with a little more effort you could write about such topics in a less inflammatory and clearer fashion.
 
 
Jun 23, 2011
newperson

Its a O multiplication game.

(i cleverly used the letter o hee hee)
 
 
Jun 23, 2011
@scothaiullukapattha-

Why would you assume that he would pander? So far the quality of this interviews interactions seem to be marginally superior to the last one that he outright stopped because it was clear he wasn't going to get a reasonable response. Does pandering seem like the more logical conclusion about the motivations for that last paragraph or perhaps something else that makes more sense when compared with everything else we've seen written, like literary tacticianship?
 
 
Jun 23, 2011
@AndrewV69-

OK some of you are pretty confused, the idiots especially so, I am going to try and introduce some clarity to what is really going on.

Group think is powerfully erosive to clear assessment due to things like socail proof.

What you are witnessing now is a tidal wave of opinions generated from pure ignorance if not from distorted second-hand reporting and confirmation bias.
 
 
 
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