Friday, February 06, 2015


There is discussion all over the internet about Sulcowicz carrying her mattress to shame ex-friend Nungesser who she calls rapist.  I had enough of it quickly, but thought that a discussion over at Grim's Hall, might be worth it, but it attempts to go into men's perceptions versus women's perceptions of such events, which is way out ahead of the data.

Well, that is an interesting subject, just as fraternity attitudes leading to rape culture, with reference to Rolling Stone's reporting of what happened at UVA is an interesting subject.  The problem is, we don't know whether there is any grounding in fact of any of the events.

The most likely scenario is that either Sulcowicz or Nungesser is mostly lying about what happened, not that they have different perspectives.  Similarly, the most likely UVA reality at this point is that the accuser was lying, because there are no supporting bits of evidence and many which contradict her.  That UVA fraternity guys may be jerks or even rapey may be true, but no longer has anything to do with this story. In another setting, I might say the evidence leans toward an accuser even though she can't prove it.

But right now, there isn't evidence. Nor does it look like there will be any.  See my post Fanatics about a half-year ago.

Update:  Megan McArdle compared this to the recovered-memory and Satanic-ritual-abuse witch hunts 20-30 years ago, and that shook me deeply.  All mycommenting on the new drawing of lines (mostly among the young, who do not remember those horrors and seek to change their own immediate culture) will be influenced by that.  I cannot recall any statement of mine which encouraged that evil in the 80's, but I certainly said little against it, and did not oppose it.

Plus, I may have conveniently forgotten some evil that I did do.


Texan99 said...

You don't think the reaction of people reading the bare recitation of events is interesting? I have no idea if the story is true either; I'm just fascinated by how people can read the story and not say, "Wait a minute, that's a crazy story even on its own terms." I find it inexplicable that people can read an account like that and conclude that the question to be addressed is whether a rape occurred. The whole story makes no sense of any kind except among a group of people who've clearly lost their minds.

It's as if a young women presented herself to the authorities and said, "A man beamed into my apartment and held up a poster with a green circle on it. I believe that establishes that the sex we engaged in next was a crime. Later there were three flamingos on the lawn." Instead of asking, "Are you nuts?" the police are supposed to investigate the allegation.

There's a notion abroad that sex is so primal, powerful, and irresistible a force that adults can't be expected to communicate in advance the least thing about their expectations or their demands. If we're not going to return to Victorian courting, it would be nice if we could at least expect some minimal conversation, instead of a frantic groping and coupling during which two people are supposed to extract supremely important information about their physical and legal safety from a word or two and some body language. Is everyone that afraid to shatter the mood?

Sam L. said...

What I read elsewhere is he has messages on his phone from her from before and after and well after the alleged rape, all which seem to show she had no fears or concerns about seeing or being with him. Also, the college and the police see/have seen no reason to prosecute him.

It appears, then, to me, likely that their sex was consensual. I could be wrong. I don't have enough info to stake a claim one way or the other.

Grim said...

Just in case it wasn't clear, the bacon and eggs story is not the same as the UVA story. All we have of the bacon and eggs story is her account, which is incomplete and uncontested (quite possibly because the guy still doesn't know she thinks he raped her).

I don't think any more facts are forthcoming, but like Tex I share an interest in the way the account was presented. The story itself suggests something very strange.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

The cultural questions of who is jumping to conclusions and why is indeed very interesting. It's like a Rorschach protocol, where the paucity of information encourages people to reveal what is in their assumptions.

I'm just not giving any of you clowns any window into my prejudices.

bs king said...

My generalized theory for many cases is that our language is incomplete and this makes some cases quite difficult to talk about. Dan Savage has expressed this best when people have written him and asked "was I raped?" about very murky cases. His response is frequently some sort of "I hate saying it wasn't rape because it certainly wasn't right or good what happened....but no it does not meet the legal definition of rape....maybe call it violated?"

At least reading the Columbia/mattress case, I tend to err on the side of "something less than great happened here, but I doubt it was illegal". Lacking the language to express it though, I do believe I've seen women "round up" to rape. Sulkowicz has been really touchy about being asked for specifics, which suggests to me she's buffing the edges a bit.

On the other hand, I had a rape occur in my circle of friends (both the rapist and the victim were good friends of mine and each other). The rapist would likely be quite distressed to learn that the three people who knew about the situation considered it rape. He is a deeply disturbed person, probably borderline personality disorder, and he is not someone who can easily grasp that other people may have desires different from his own. He is still convinced that he and this girl are soul mates but that she can't see it. He has confessed to parts of the rape while drunk, his story about the night has changed quite a few times, but through it all his essential argument is "I know what she wants better than she does, so I'm not lying, she's just confused...she will eventually see that I was right".

No matter which way this goes, I think often the lies that get told are the really scary ones where people believe what they're saying.

Texan99 said...

"I know what she wants better than she does" is a really dangerous frame of mind. Sometimes all the communication in the world can't get through to someone, especially when "her consent" means "something I made up totally in my own mind."

But for less disturbed people, plain talk and clear thinking can work wonders. And, long before we're alone with the guy, we'd do well to notice when he doesn't seem able to pick up on what we say we're feeling. That's a problem that isn't going to improve if we have sex.

bs king said...

I think the key for self protection is definitely noticing early when people don't respect others boundaries. I think the book "The Gift of Fear" should be a must read.

For both men and women by the way. I'd imagine women who falsely accuse men also likely have severe boundary issues.

Getting a sense for the general ethics of others is a valuable skill. Best dating advice I ever got was something along the lines of "find someone who's ethical because then even if it turns out you were totally incompatible at least you know they'll work through it with you honestly."

james said...

I remember Mike Warnke. Marvelous raconteur. I noticed that his later work (before he was unmasked) avoided mention of satanism, which seemed a bit odd given that it was his entryway claim to fame.

It didn't occur to me to try to vet his claims, or those of the other "SRA" allegations. W/o the internet it would have been pretty hard to do, and I had plenty on my plate already at the time. It's easier to assume that somebody else has verified these things. That's the job of the police, right? Not my expertise; if they've locked people up there must have been some tangible evidence, right?

There aren't too many parallels in things I have some background in--some oddball or outlandish claims (e.g. "The CERN Black Hole That Will Eat The World"), but generally nobody gets hurt. The nearest thing (and I'm quite far from expert in atmospheric science) is AGW. I suppose I have to ask myself what I'm doing to try to encourage some healthy skepticism; the answer is not much besides mocking the hockey stick.

Rethink... "from him to whom much is given"

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I think I have a slightly different definition - perhaps an older one - that I am operating from. If there was violence, then it was rape. Violence colors every other response by the victim. Rape is also possible without violence or threat of violence, but it becomes trickier to name.

Her accusation is that he was violent. If so, she need say no more, as far as I am concerned.

Anonymous said...

Megan McArdle compared this to the recovered-memory and Satanic-ritual-abuse witch hunts 20-30 years ago, and that shook me deeply.

Some people have even figured out the WACO connections to that.

As well as the Leftist psychologists weaponizing and testing mind control using regressive memory implantation therapies. They claimed this was to restore memories of child rape. That's what they claimed at least.

People took sides a long time ago. What are left are the fence sitters.

Texan99 said...

BSK, I stayed up late last night reading "The Gift of Fear"--thanks!

Grim said...

If there was violence, then it was rape. Violence colors every other response by the victim.

That's the interesting part to me, though: it's just where the perceptions seem to come apart. Was there violence if she perceived it, but he didn't intend any? It seems as if the perception alone would color her responses too, perhaps in ways that would stop her from communicating the things he would need communicated in order to know she felt she was being forced.

bs king said...

Texan99- Awesome! Had you read it before? In terms of personal psychological protection, I think it's one of the most helpful books I've read.

Grim- Isn't that the crux of a few larger societal conversations right now? I'm thinking specifically of the #blacklivesmatter campaign. Was Trayvon Martin actually threatening? Was Michael Brown? In both of those cases, the perception vs reality of threat was hotly debated. I read this morning an op-ed (NYTs maybe?) that suggested that college rape should use the "reasonable person" standard. It's messy, but I think it's one of the only ways we can really suss out a general idea of a proportionate response.

The statistician part of me just feels this is another case of different people's Type 1 vs Type 2 errors debate. Some people have a low violence tolerance (or a size that would not do well in a fight) and thus will choose to increase false positives in order to avoid false negatives. Some people have reason to believe they could defend themselves and thus might take more risks. Age,size, gender, and experience will all play a part in this calculation. There are certainly people who make this calculation poorly in both directions.

bs king said...

Also, for those interested, there's some interesting research that suggests those exposed to violence perceive threat more acutely and with less discrimination than those who have not (increasing false positives, from my statement above):

Texan99 said...

I had not read it before. I'm about halfway through.

Texan99 said...

It's so easy for me to understand the subjective perception of threat by a young woman in this circumstance, and so hard for me to understand her subsequent reaction. I'd be looking for a weapon and the first reasonably non-lethal opportunity to escape and call for help. It's the ambiguity of the response that I find so perplexing. He's . . . a threat. He's . . . someone I'm going to make breakfast for. It's as if threats were OK, a normal part of sex. Too weird.

Grim said...


Very good. That point about exposure to violence decreasing false positives strikes me as very likely correct.

Grim said...


Wait, I obviously misread your comment. The research you linked to suggests the opposite of what I thought you were saying. I thought you meant by "more acutely" something closer to "more accurately," as 'acute' is used in geometry (i.e. in a narrower degree). You meant it as acute is used sometimes in medicine (i.e., more intensely).

My sense is that regular exposure to violence habituates, such that it becomes increasingly easy to face (and therefore one is less likely to need false positives as an added layer of protection). But the research is about trauma, and especially early trauma, which could be different from violence per se and could have different effects in children than on adults.

Sam L. said...

Found this today at Instapundit:

bs king said...

Grim - I don't think you did misread, but I perhaps did not tie my two points together very well. I went back and read your original post and think there's some further parsing that may be needed.

My suspicion is that those with early and/or uncontrolled exposure to violence increase false positives. What you seemed to have been talking about was a more controlled exposure to violence that could actually aid in confidence building and lead someone to feel free to take more chances.

So really, it's likely the type of violence you're exposed to, and what type of confidence and control it gave you. No exposure to violence at all likely leaves you at a loss as well, as you pointed out....I was just offering that perhaps it's a goldilocks type thing: both too much and too little are no good.

Sam L. said...

Another precinct heard from:

bs king said...

Sam L's links nicely tie in to your original point...the Fanatics post. How people can even pretend to claim this case is clear cut is beyond me.

Also, I remembered why I thought I had sent you/you had cited SlateStarCodex before. He had a post in December that reminded me quite strikingly of your fanatics post, with some interesting commentary on the role of social media added:

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Thanks for the link. There has been a lot of Sulcowicz criticism that flops onto the other side of the boat: that that Nungesser must obviously be innocent because...

I don't buy that either. Of course it's possible that he's guilty. That Columbia did not punish him only indicates they didn't feel there was enough evidence. That's a range of 1%-49% evidence of guilt.

Sulcowicz has done things she deserves criticism for, but those who have encouraged her may be more blameable. They don't have any evidence beyond her word and have pressed their narrative anyway. If she actually does know, not with overinterpretation or exaggeration, that she was yes-sir-no-doubt raped, but also knows she has no regular channel to prove it, her actions seem less unreasonable. And now the counternarratve rolls, with similar fervor.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Bethany - Great Link

Sam L. said...

Most recent link from Instapundit: