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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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+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 23, 2011
I am having flashbacks to the great flame wars of the 90s!

I have suggested to my boss, that we aught to have the policy that all women employed should have their tubes tied, and the men castrated. That would cut the need for insurance for pregancies, and cut the cost of sexual harrasment cases. Of course my boss, she recognized it was a humorus way of saying that too many problems in the work place are from the interactions between staff.
 
 
Jun 23, 2011
@Landscape:

While Scott could easily sue for libel and most likely win, the negative press from the trial would cost him more than he could win from the trial.

Media outlets, looking for a compelling story, would likely have headlines of "Scott Adams fights feminism" and not "Scott Adams defends gross mischaracterizations of his blog post."

Unfortunately, some fights just aren't worth fighting. I mean, the absurdity in MaryElizabeth's comments are frightening!

Rape has nothing to do with sexual desire? Never?

Men can have all of their urges fulfilled within the currently accepted norms of society? Really?

If MaryElizabeth had any idea of what regular men think on a frequent basis, if she could hear our thoughts that go "I would love to do such and such to her" every second time we use public transport, she might push the drive to chemically castrate us!

Society depends on people being able to restrain some of their urges and, instead of getting offended when that is pointed out, it should be embraced. If a girl says no, a guy should restrain himself. To deny that the guy will be less happy because he didn't get laid is silly and besides the point. His marginal decrease in happiness by accepting the no and not continuing to bother the girl (or, in extreme cases with violent or controlling men, rape her or beat her) is a net gain to society!

MaryElizabeth, stop trying to manufacture a controversy where there is none and admit that you missed his point, and at best, are not a fan of his writing style. Write an article on Salon entitles "Scott Adams is not a sexist who supports rape, just a mediocre writer" and that will at least be a defensible opinion.
 
 
Jun 23, 2011
This debate is excrutiating to read.

Scott has come to the table interested in an open discussion thinking that if somebody actually intellectually engages with him they will see that his views are not represented by the article at Salon.

Mary has come to the table with judgements made and no interest in understanding Scotts opinion. Her goal is simply to vilify him, therefore validating her Salon article.

The most blatant showing of this is when she says "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..."" and then says, "...That's not a specific reference to Dominique Strauss-Kahn..."

However in the original article the list of "tweeting, raping, cheating" is a list of things that powerful men have been in the news for lately. In this context, most of Scotts readers took the term "raping" to be refering to the Dominique Strauss-Kahn atrocity.

Scott isn't "changing the narrative", Mary simply isn't open to the idea that the narrative isn't what she first read it to be. That doesn't coincide with her goal to villify Scott.
 
 
+7 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 23, 2011
Scott said: "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. "

Way down at the beginning of the comments I suggested looking at "Sex at Dawn" by Christoper Ryan. It's over 400 pages (plus a huge bibliography). The book goes into considerable detail (with a zillion references to primatology, anthropology etc.) into why humans of both genders were most likely highly promiscuous until the advent of agriculture a mere 10,000 years ago.
 
 
-3 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 23, 2011
"Do you support the death penalty for rape, as I do, or are you relatively pro-rape compared to me?"

My reaction: "OHHHHH! OHHHH! BURN! OH SNAP!"
 
 
Jun 23, 2011
I would summarize Scott's entire original post as "aggressive urges in men help them to become CEO's, politically powerful, etc. but also cause them to act out impulsively in ways that society punishes. The same is true though to a lesser extent in most men. Perhaps their negative behavior could be controlled by a drug. Isn't that an interesting idea?"

I don't see her addressing that at all. But then she'd probably agree with that put in a dry way. Men that keep !$%*!$%* up a relationships by acting impulsively would ask for that Rx.

Arguing the wording of the post seems trivial to me. Is she really arguing that a cartoonist should be more serious? If Scott conceded to cross "rape" out of the post would that satisfy?
 
 
+10 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 23, 2011
Funny as I considered for a moment showing this whole thing to my wife (From the pegs to this). But then, what would happen: she would naturally ask me if it is true (those things that Scott says about men and that women refutes)

Of course, I would say no. Because I have so much to lose by saying yes (and so little to gain)

So all in all, how could those women get the right picture (that we men live in a world of repressed urges more commonly known as unhappiness)? If we don't tell them?
 
 
Jun 23, 2011
Get a room, you two

 
 
Jun 23, 2011
If Scott does this again he should lay a ground rule up front that both sides provide numbered lists of their arguments to make them easier to reference, and pithy if not cogent. Then it could be presented it in a point counter point format.
 
 
Jun 23, 2011
Perhaps I am misunderstanding, but as I read it, Scott says that men (in general) have a repressed natural urge to rape. Both MaryElizabeth and Irin appear to dispute that.

It might be (should be) an uncomfortable thing to contemplate, but as a man myself I would agree that it is basically true. Left to our own devices, we turn into raping and pillaging hordes of Vikings and Mongols. In the modern world we repress those urges in return for greater security and to avoid the penalties for acting out our natural impulses.

I suspect MaryElizabeth and Irin are indulging in wishful thinking.
 
 
Jun 23, 2011
Scott writes: "Do you support the death penalty for rape, as I do, or are you relatively pro-rape compared to me?"

ZING!!!!!

If the right wing is as nasty as the left wing, we should soon see a blog post/article titled "Feminist Supports Lesser Penalties for Rape"
 
 
Jun 23, 2011
hey Scott, here's an AMAZING failure of your logic to hold together for 4 sentences:

"...you argue that life is not a zero-sum game for the sexes... 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... 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."

So the would-be rapist who's not allowed rape someone get's zero win... until 2 sentences later when he gets the security that his mother/daughter/sister gets to live in a better world.

that's not zero win. that's some amount of win. you fail, man. you're an idiot.
 
 
Jun 23, 2011
Hmm, how many noticed this?

Scott: "Society didn't evolve as the result of millions of people making millions of independent decisions."
MaryElizabeth: "And let me see if I understand you correctly - society has evolved from 'millions of independent decisions'?"

Uh, yeah. Your reading comprehension is spot-on, there, Mary Elizabeth.
 
 
Jun 23, 2011
@Julian_Apostate

I'm new here. (Clearly). Are you, like, a moderator or something?
 
 
Jun 23, 2011
Please don't comment about gays, the constitution, john stewart, or the distribution of wealth. Keep it succinct, and to the core of the controversy. Please don't write a paragraph (justjaney) rebutting something that Scott did better in one humorous sentence .."..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."
 
 
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 23, 2011
Forgive my simpleness in this topic (since I am 1/4 Mongolian), but how do you rape when you are not sexually attracted? I don't care how angry you are or what other emotions you bring to bare, I don't see myself humping anything I am not attracted to.

Speaking of war crimes, bringing up rape as a tool of war seems a bit trivial (I've been in one myself). Lots of very bad things happen in a war. What about the men that get their heads chopped off? Isn't that also a tool of war? If you are an innocent guy in a war zone, which would you prefer, to get your head chopped off after you've been tortured or to get raped? I would choose getting raped...sorry feministas.

People deal with tough issues in their own way. Soldiers laugh when they get shot at not because it is actually funny but it is a coping mechanism. Does that mean we condemn soldiers who laugh during combat as crazy war-mongers? Scott's confusion appears to come from the fact that he agrees with the feministas but also likes to bring up discussion topics through a slightly skewed perspective to generate interest and discussions. It helps him to sort through all the different arguments and in many ways reaffirm his own beliefs. Now he is being attacked by the side he thinks he is on.

With that said, interviewing a feminista who uses circular arguments is pointless and is getting boring. Let's move on to something more interesting.
 
 
-3 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 23, 2011
MaryElizabeth > Scott > Jezebel.

Scott - you won the first discussion. You're losing the second. Kudos for making yourself available directly to your critics, and kudos to the two that have taken you up on your offer for having the discussion.

I managed to parse through the generalizations in your original post without any help from the LRC crowd. But nice of them to offer to take the time to confuse me.
 
 
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 23, 2011
I think the reason she is latching on to the nature equals good argument is because it is a tired argument used in a next door topic, that of homosexuality. The argument that anything is "good" simply because we have a natural urge to do it - is to just to doge the question entirely. Whenever I hear the nature argument on any topic, where it is used to define what is good, I stop listening because its obvious the speaker or author is merrily making rhetoric, not reasoned arguments. This applies from the natural urge to have sex, to the natural urge to care for and protect children. Both of these natural urges can be turned to evil.

Scott used this all too common misconception of nature equals good to add humor to his post, but did not argue that natural urges are good. It was very well done.
 
 
Jun 23, 2011
@ blentz: If you had to guess, where do you think Jon Stewart would weigh in on this discussion?
 
 
Jun 23, 2011
@newtodilbert

I guess you must be a fellow Brit with your Dennis the Menace reference there? Made me smile anyhow.

I think you had the key to it there - Scott's answer was flippant, due to his being a comedian and whatnot, and it being more of a jarring juxtaposition to put rape next to tweeting (not randomly or out of the blue but in the context of recent high profile cases). Perhaps offensive if you were raped by a powerful man recently but in the general context of building a spurious case for chemical castration drugs for all, reasonably understandable.
 
 
 
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