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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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+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 22, 2011
Scott, These guys simply do not get that you are expressing what sounds to me like a common "middle-aged angst" just to create an interesting conversation.

By the way, what an interesting conversation among a widely diverse group!!

Awesome.
 
 
Jun 22, 2011

Adams is wiping the floor with her. At least with "Dilbert" readers, although I'm sure Salon's readers have reached the opposite conclusion.

As enjoyable as this dialogue is, it's not really an honest discussion. Williams is not honestly trying to understand Adams, and vice-versa. They are both merely trying to score rhetorical points to make themselves look good for their respective audiences. And that's fine, as I think every one of us enjoys a good, staged pro-wrestling match every once in a while.

The truth us, there is probably very little of substance in this area that Adams and Williams actually disagree about. Do you think that there is any disagreement whatsoever between these two on the issues of a) Punishment of spousal abusers, b) equal pay for equal work; c) promoting work environments that are free from discrimination and sexual harassment; d) women having autonomy over their bodies, especially reproductive freedom; e) any other tangible social policy involving women. And yet, the women's movement is more than happy to make an enemy of someone like Adams (who fully supports their goals) because he doesn't agree with feminist theory. I think this explains a lot why relatively few women are willing to call themselves feminists, even though they agree with them 100% on policy goals - the feminist movement requires everyone to pass a "purity test", and everyone who doesn't drink the Kool-Aid is an enemy...even though they support the same policy goals.
 
 
Jun 22, 2011
This reminds me of the men's rights post, when you said everyone who was offended had poor reading comprehension and shouldn't have assumed you were comparing women to children. When you list things together, as examples for the larger point you're making, readers are going to understand that you think all of those things have something in common. Otherwise they wouldn't all be connected to your point.

If you think rape is very different from the other things in that list, you should have said so in your essay instead of listing rape with other things and then talking about them all together as men's natural instincts. So when you talk about how men can't be blamed for being born male and having these instincts, and how our society oppresses men and makes them unhappy because they can't act on their instincts without punishment -- you might want to either exclude rape from your original list, or add a little paragraph that explains how rape is different from cheating and tweeting. Because if you don't do that, you can't blame people for not psychically figuring out your actual views on rape.

Leaving the part about rape side, it's also disheartening to feminists when you describe our society as organized to oppress men because in our view, society is organized to oppress women in many, many ways. When you say that our laws and our society protect women and unfairly punish men, you're promoting the view that women are the privileged sex already. Which makes you one more influential person using your influence to minimize and deny the struggles currently faced by women in our society. Saying "actually the [apparently privileged group] is oppressed" hurts the cause of actually oppressed people by making people think we actually need change in the opposite direction. So even if you had omitted the word rape from the original post, I would still have a problem with it.
 
 
Jun 22, 2011
Your web censor is very Victorian - it censored the word s-m-i-l-e-s in my previous comment.
 
 
Jun 22, 2011
Scott, I think you're assuming that men want sex and women want fidelity. Yet, many men want very much for their women to be "faithful" to them; and many women want sex. Let's recast this whole discussion this way: Society always !$%*!$ on the Victorians who want to suppress desires, and always frown on the hedonists who want to enjoy them.

When we learned that Arnold Schwartzenegger had sex with a woman other than his wife, people castigated him for the emotional pain he caused his wife. Yet I find it unlikely that the emotional pain his wife felt on learning he had had sex with another woman, could be as great as the emotional pain it would have caused Arnold to never have had sex with another woman again. And if it is as great, whose fault is that? This sounds to most of you like a shocking statement intended to provoke. But it isn't. It's simply an even-handed look at the matter. When people want sex, and could have it, it causes them real emotional pain to forego it; yet this harm to their well-being is never acknowledged.

This is not something restricted to sex. We have a host of opinions that stem from believing that virtue is supposed to be difficult and painful, such as wanting to believe that dieting is best accomplished by willpower, or that reform is best accomplished by long and hard punishment. The hard is always good; the good is always bad.
 
 
+8 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 22, 2011
Corbu

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8wvxSXhlSZQ

Go watch Nat Geo's "The Dark Side of Dolphins"
The reason I know dolphins are the !$%*!$%* of the sea is because I am in my 3 year, working towards a PhD in oceanography. I'm not saying it's nice, or pleasant, or all sunshine and lollypops like most people think dolphins are, I'm saying it natural, and from what I have heard from people who research dolphins, the norm.
The original blog post was wit and humor...and clearly you missed both, and I pity you for that. Because of your misinterpretation of clever blog post, looking at something from a different angle than most, you have turned angry, throwing out all sorts of wrong and hateful opinions of me. What a very childish way to argue your point.
"YOU'RE NOT RIGHT BECAUSE I SAY SO! YOU'RE STUPID!!!" is no way to argue.
 
 
Jun 22, 2011
"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."

No, but if a charitable foundation for ulcer victims invited you to write an article about the seriousness of ulcers, you wouldn't include this particular comparison, because it would seem trivializing -- just like if you wrote that "head lice and the Holocaust are bad," you would seem to either be exaggerating the seriousness of head lice or trivializing the seriousness of the Holocaust. While in a strict aspie sense the syntax you have used does not require equivalency, most reasonable readers will infer equivalency on some level.
 
 
Jun 22, 2011
"1. Men who have no sexual desire and no !$%*!$%*! will still rape because it's not about the sexual urge."

It really depends what you deem to be a "sexual" desire. Plenty of rapists don't achieve !$%*!$%*! during the act (raping w/foreign objects instead -- in fact, many of the most violent, sadistic serial killers fit this description). Then they cut off the woman's finger or something and go home and !$%*!$%*!$ to that, and to the memory of mutilating and killing her. These men have conflated sex with a whole bunch of other things: power, gore, whatever. The mingled desire that results can be called "sexual" in some respects, but it's not like the man sees a woman, gets a primal sense that she's fertile/hot, and must put his seed in her as a result. Also, some prepubescent males and castrated sex offenders have raped. They're a minority of rapists, sure, but their rapes contravene the assumption that rape is all about mens' natural sex drive. And there are female rapists (not just females who "take advantage" of !$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$% males, but females who insert foreign objects into victims of either gender). Again, not something most people would call "natural sexual desire." Moreover, you've got straight men raping other men, both in prison and in extreme hazing or power-play scenarios, which again does not seem to be an outgrowth of natural manly sex drive.

"Rape is about power, not sex" sounds like a cheesy feminist refrain, but it has a lot of truth. Animals mount and sometimes rape each other as pure dominance displays. Do we really think we're any different?
 
 
-15 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 22, 2011
Having enjoyed Dilbert for many years, and as a male with many natural tendencies, I find this post, and the comments naive at best. There is nothing remotely funny, ironic, or humorous about rape. Jonah, no offense, but you really are a !$%*!$% idiot to suggest that rape is okay and - by the way - since dolphins "do it" and dogs "do it" it is "natural." Who was stupid enough to teach you that dolphins rape other dolphins and are you seriously stupid enough to believe it? And just because a dog is happy to hump YOUR leg you really think it is okay for you to physically assault and rape a woman? Seriously? You really think that rape is a "natural thing?" How many years do you have left on your sentence? Seriously, if you aren't in the penitentiary I sure as hell hope they put you there soon - or maybe just a mental institution. Wit and humor are a great part of our society. Abuse and stupidity, that's another thing.

Mage - there is no humor here to understand. Brilliant? No !$%*!$% way (see above). Scott - you are losing years of respect here. This is just sad - without wit nor humor are present here.
 
 
Jun 22, 2011
Scott,
Thank you! This was hilarious. And brilliantly analytical. This is more or less exactly how I perceived MaryElizabeth's arguments, but it takes special skills to ridicule them like you did.
 
 
-2 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 22, 2011
Amusing, but it was predictable. She'll probably dig herself deeper into it and Scott will keep tweaking her with logic. I still think it's rude on both parts.
 
 
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 22, 2011
I know I'm gonna touch a nerve here that has already been bludgeoned to death. I think the main problem here, firstly, is women. They (by 'They' I mean most of them) just have a completely different idea of what is funny and what isn't. I could show my mom my top 5 favorite episode of Southpark, and she could sit there and not laugh at a thing; partly because their sense of humor is different, and partly that they carry feelings longer than needed. Each sentence in your original Pegs and Holes made me feel something...but I allowed the next sentence to allow me to feel something else. Some made me go "Ughh", while others made me go "Ah! I see what he did there." You need both the Ughh and Ah to be funny, and you must see them as separate before combining them. Women just took that Ughh feeling and raked it across the entire post...which is obvious after skimming those articles about it. And those articles were not journalism, they were opinions. Women read them, and were already good and angry well before they got to Scotts blog to read it for themselves…though I assume most did not read it and just voted it down and commented. The ones that did read it did not find it funny, they found it disgusting…because they were like that when they got here. Which is unfortunate because it was rather clever…if read properly.
I’m all for men and women being equal…but unfortunately they are not. Men seek power and leadership, and women seek nurturing and have lots of feelings…sometimes too many feelings. Looking at our nearest cousins, most primate groups are led by males. And how does a male come into power? By picking a fight with the current male and taking him down. And how does he show dominance so other will follow his lead? By beating up and raping others in the group. It’s as much a sexual thing as it is a dominance thing…and it is natural. Dolphins do it, dogs do it too. Lions beat the old male, and then kill all of its young offspring. But again, natural does not equal good.
If you were offended, go read it again. This time, try to read it knowing that it is supposed to be humor, and not offensive. If Scott really wanted to offend an entire gender, he would have made it very clear.
There was a clear disclaimer that it wouldn’t work out well for anyone who tried to make their point against this article, and so far it hasn’t.
 
 
Jun 22, 2011
Having read your blog for years now it is a joy to observe the mind of Scott Adams at work and what the Scott Adams Modus Operandi is while interacting with the female of our species. As I recall from previous blogs you readily admit that the female perspective has mystified you for most of your life. Many years of marriage have taught you that women do not respond to logic and reason and are primarily emotion driven. Your sizable intellect has allowed you to analysis all the obvious contradictions in the female mind, and after many years of suffering from the confusion that they have caused you, have gained substantial insight into the female mind within the limits of a males ability to comprehend it and now its time to have a bit of fun with them at their expense. All in good fun of course. You've figured out how to push all of their buttons and cause them to unwittingly display all of their idiosyncrasies and inconsistencies of thought. Causing them to dance like trained circus bears for your amusement. All in the hope of teaching them and us something about human nature, and the dance that the male and female of our species have been locked into for many eons of time.
The most ironic and amusing thing is that having just allowed them in on the gag it will in no way diminish the hilarity that will ensue. The lessons will be completely lost on them and they will continue to respond with offense and indignation to your comments and find your thinking crude and a perfect example of the male superiority ego at work. Good work oh masterful one. Keep up the good fight.
P.S. If I have in any way misrepresented your intentions I deeply apologize for my transgressions.
 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 22, 2011
Take a look a Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá's "Sex at Dawn" for an interesting take on what constitutes "natural urges" for humankind (both male and female).
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 22, 2011
Your reply made me smile for 2 reasons. First of all, because I'd like to see the interviewer's face when she reads it and doesn't understand the humor in it. Secondly, because, in addition to being funny to read, your reply was brilliant as well. Thank you scott ^^
 
 
 
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