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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
Reading these interviews is like watching John Stewart on Fox. The accusers' brains explode as they start to realize that comedians are smarter than them. It never gets old.
 
 
Jun 23, 2011
@ froginthewell:

The "head lice..." analogy successfully illustrates that one can clump disparate elements in a list without intending to convey that those elements are alike. But Mary's response also makes a valid point, which is that if you DO clump disparate elements in a list that aren't meaningfully connected, you'll most likely be accused of writing gibberish.

You do not need to be very "willing" or "attentive" to see where Scott is *trying* to go with this analogy. But it's certainly not such a successful analogy as to preempt her response. Frankly, I think callicopse's "war crimes" analogy is much better.
 
 
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Jun 23, 2011
I actually just reread the Salon article and in my opinion Salon and Mary Elizabeth Williams are the ones who we should all be upset with - her article is titled SCOTT ADAM'S DEFENSE OF RAPE MENTALITY.

That is a form of libel and is clearly an attack on Scott as a person. Now (specifically) what has he done to justify this attitude toward him?

As I stated in a previous post, I believe Scott shares the same opinion as Salon yet they are attacking his character and writing sensationalist allegedly-politically-correct headlines that he condones rape.
 
 
Jun 23, 2011
@ callicopse:


"If you were discussing war crimes and said 'War crimes committed by the victors included stealing food, rape and bayoneting babies' you would not be introducing any equivalence of those factors to any debate"

But this is partially because "war crimes" is a pretty specific category. Your example can very reasonably be read to convey: "the following things are alike, because they're all war crimes."

Scott deals with the much broader category of human males "behaving badly." And it can be read to convey: "tweeting and rape are alike, because they're recent forms of bad behavior by human males."

So that's the first difference -- the breadth of the category. Your example is also different than Scott's because there's less dissonance/disparity among the articles enumerated in your list. Yes, bayonetting babies is much worse than stealing food, but when you picture "stealing food" in a war crimes context, it's not Dennis the Menace swiping an apple pie that's cooling on the windowsill. It's rampaging armies looting grain stores and leaving villages to starve. All of these examples are pretty sober and severe. Also, between "stealing food" and "bayonetting babies," you have the intermediate category of "rape," which does create more of a "sliding scale" effect than if you just threw dissonant elements together in a random sequence.

By contrast, Scott's list starts off with "tweeting" -- almost the most trivial act conceivable -- and jumps right to "raping." To create a more accurate parallel with what Scott wrote, we could re-cast your example to read:

"Now consider victorious soldiers. No doubt you have noticed an alarming trend in history. Victorious soldiers have been behaving badly, e.g. gloating about their victories on Facebook, bayonetting babies, raping villagers, and being offensive to just about everyone." If you read this, would you categorize it as a sober discussion about war crimes, or a flippant one? BTW, I love commentary that's flippant (or at least irreverent) -- it's often more fun than sober commentary to read. But if someone commented: "Callicopse, my baby was bayonetted in a war, and I think it's flippant for you to compare this to anything happening on Facebook," you probably would not respond: "You lack reading comprehension. I listed those things together but did not say they were equivalent."
 
 
Jun 23, 2011
Scott,

I just wanted to say that I feel bad that you're having to fight these manufactured allegations. I'm sure there are a lot more like me who have been reading this exchange for some time but haven't left a comment.

All the best!
 
 
Jun 23, 2011
Wow, I learned something new today! Society was invented by the framers of the US constitution. There was no society before that, but then they laid it all out in black and white. All of the social institutions we have today as well as things like the traditional views of the roles of men and women in society all sprang forth from the constitution. I can't wait to find my college sociology professor and tell him how wrong he was!
 
 
Jun 23, 2011
Someone has to argue with them. The naturalistic fallacy and blank slate ideology have real, negative consequences. "Pegs and holes" was crude, but a reminder that we're all just animals, after all. Animals with a thin coating of morals and logic who are trying to make the best of it.
 
 
Jun 23, 2011
I can't spend all day reading everyone else's comments, so I'll just add one-cent to each side:

1 - The Constitution CAN go suck it, in the figurative sense. It is merely the codification of millions of independent decisions. It did not arise out of nothingness.

2 - I think Scott's point would have been better served if he had simply argued that testosterone should be a controlled substance, instead of claiming that those of us (men, myself occasionally included) who are addicted to it (it's a disease!) as having inferior instincts.
 
 
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 23, 2011
This was kinda like watching a train wreck in slow motion.
 
 
Jun 23, 2011
These debates are torture. Shouldn't argue with feminists with a sense of entitlement. The part of the last sentence after the second "with"is redundant.
 
 
Jun 23, 2011
Scott's has kind of stepped in dog poo. There's no way to win this.
 
 
Jun 23, 2011
Rapist.....

(Keifer Sutherland smik)

S...s...s....s....s....s....s...sorry
 
 
Jun 23, 2011
@newtodilbert

If you were discussing war crimes and said 'War crimes committed by the victors included stealing food, rape and bayoneting babies' you would not be introducing any equivalence of those factors to any debate, simply discussing the war crimes on a sliding scale. The link between the items discussed here was simply the were done by powerful men in recent cases, that was all.
 
 
Jun 23, 2011
Beside Scott's humor -- I believe this latest representative of feminist ideology is missing the point -- that essentially, Scott and MaryElizabeth are on the same side. Except that Scott is funnier and more articulate. (just saying...)
 
 
Jun 23, 2011
"behaving badly, e.g. tweeting, raping, cheating, and being offensive to just about everyone in the entire world"

I do not really get why providing a list of examples of things men have done that are bad introduces any notion of equivalence to them? They are examples of things men have done that are bad identified from recent news stories and linked as such, not written as equivalent in any way.

In this case my belief is that Scott wished to test out his theory that castration chemicals could be a possible way society could go down. Not that he necessarily thinks this could, would or should happen. He's just gone around the houses to get to a position to defend that idea - as a mental exercise.

He has never said rape is a good thing, men are all rapists or women are all lovely.

Is this clear enough?
 
 
Jun 23, 2011
"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 !$%*!$%*!$ do rape, Scott."

I don't get this logic. Just because horniness or lust is not a factor in some rapes, that doesn't mean that lust is never ever a factor in any rapes at all. Clearly, "horniness" (lust) is not a factor in some rapes (for an extreme example, occasionally heterosexual women have even been known to rape other women with inanimate objects). ...but, just because some rapes do not have lust as a factor, it does not follow that lust is never a factor in any rapes ever. If a !$%*! drunk college dude date rapes a girl with whom he was making out with (after things were getting really hot and heavy...but she then put the brakes on and said "no"), it kind of seems hard to argue that lust was not one of the several factors involved there. I'm certainly not suggesting that lust is the only factor...other factors might be power and ego (as in the mindset of "HOW DARE SHE SAY "NO" TO ME!"), and clearly being an evil loser who lacks the appropriate empathy and human dignity to refrain from forcing himself sexually on another person is also a factor...probably the main factor. I guess my point is that while I don't think horniness or lust naturally leads to rape (the man needs to have other moral and mental deficits to decide to rape), I do think lust is one of the factors of many rapes.
 
 
Jun 23, 2011
You got it right (again). Keep up the good work.
 
 
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 23, 2011
Wow! I did not realize there were people who did not think you were funny.
I wonder what her idea of "funny" is. Her text?
She did not mean to have a serious polemic with a cartoonist, did she?
And she must be so smart,look how many "smart" words she uses
 
 
Jun 23, 2011
So far this is a losing battle on both sides, due to a lack of agreement on context. To be fair, it appears that both sides recognize this and are trying to gain this context, so kudos to both of you.

In my experience it's possible to gain this agreement, but it's very hard-earned, and nearly impossible via e-mail. It's more likely that this "interview" will fall apart during opening arguments. This is what happened with Scott's last attempt at an on-line debate.

On the plus side, failing to achieve context allows both of you to declare victory once this is all wrapped up.
 
 
Jun 23, 2011
Wow. This woman is losing badly and probably doesn't even realize it.

Irin did a better job holding her own, but as you point out she largely had to move the goal post. If she'd actually tried to defend the post she'd have not managed to sound reasonable.

I predict Elizabeth will continue to throw a barrage of pseudo logic and try to win by sheer volume of rhetoric. Her "logic" will not be sound. Rather it will be irrelevant jabs or not really in line with facts.
 
 
 
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