Doctor Science Knows

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Is rape a hate crime?

A record of my comments at Amanda's post on "Rape is the grown-up version of pulling pigtails", which started out talking about some of Ann Althouse's commenters but then got actually interesting.

One thing this has made clear to me, when compared to the very learned posts about hate crimes Orcinus often makes, is that the word “hate” in “hate crime” is a legal term of art. “Hate crimes” in the legal sense are a form of “terrorism”, and the perps don’t have to feel hate in the emotional sense, any more than the victims of terrorism have to feel “terror” (as opposed to, say, anxiety or anger or grief).

I suspect Dennis is correct, and many rapists don’t feel the emotion of hate. Nonetheless, rape may often be a “hate crime”, an attack on a person for being a member of a particular group, and with the goal of controlling that group as a whole.

The best blogging about hate crimes is probably by David Neiwert aka Orcinus. Here’s a post on why hate crimes are not thought crimes, for instance.

Making something a legal “Hate crime” is not thought-policing any more than defining first- versus second-degree murder is thought-policing. Hate crimes statutes do not change whether something was a crime at all, it just changes how the crime is prosecuted, punished, and categorized.

I don’t think anyone has thought yet about where the line between “hate crime” and “underlying crime” lies with regard to rape.

[warning: thinking things through here.] Rape with the motive & rhetoric of “keeping the bitches in their place” is IMHO (not a lawyer, blah blah) certainly a hate crime. Rape within a relationship probably doesn’t count as a hate crime, *but it functions as one*.

Most rape functions as a hate crime, because it is part of pervasive patterns that frighten and constrain particular groups of people (men in prison, all women). The sense of individual entitlement rapists have is of a piece with group entitlement. The personal *is* political.

So frex, a street harrasser (”hey lady! show us your tits!”) is to a rapist as a kid who hangs a noose on a whites-only tree is to an actual lyncher. The harrasser and the kid both have a sense of personal entitlement — this is *mine*, I can do what I want, you have to be nice to *me* — that is enforced by other members of their entitled group.

More info to consider about whether rape is usually a hate crime: Orcinus on how it feels to be the victim of a hate crime.

Hate crimes can cause victims to view the world and people in it as malevolent and experience a reduced sense of control

What we also know about the victims of bias crime is that they are substantially harmed well over and above what befalls victims of the simpler versions of the same crimes, perpetrated with ordinary motives (what is known as the underlying or “parallel” crime behind these acts, such as simple assault, vandalism or threatening); for instance, some studies have found that bias-crime victims often experience post-trauma psychological stress syndromes similar to those experienced by rape victims, because the sense of violation can be so profound. The result is a commingling of shame, fear and rage.
Note that this implies that rape is not a simple, “parallel” crime like murder.
There is also a secondary level of victimization that can occur with hate crimes: they create a fear of exposure

— parallel to the traditional (and not unreasonable) fear of rape victims that their sexuality will be dragged through the mud if they come forward.

Differences: Hate crime victims are not usually personally known to the perp(s); rape victims are usually known. Hate crimes often involve grotesque, excessive violence; rape doesn’t *usually* involve that level of escalation.

So, how ’bout we follow Orcinus’ current practice, and say “bias crime” instead of “hate crime”. One of the issues that’s not clear to me is what the default or simple mens rea of rape might be.

Some rapes are certainly bias crimes. What kind of rape is *not* a bias crime? Are bias crimes against women for being women covered under bias crime law? They certainly aren’t in practice. Are they so common that, even if law enforcement was willing, they can’t be enforced on a practical level?

Dennis asked:
Is a hate crime a crime that relies on hatred or disenfranchisement of a class (be that class women, children, blacks, the poor, the elderly), or is a hate crime a crime that requires the dehumanization of an individual victim?
My understanding is that hate crime in law is only the first. Pretty much *any* crime against a person falls under the second class.

Further, I don’t think it’s useful to elide the difference between bias crimes (Hate Crimes Class 1) and dehumanization crimes (Class 2, or Crimes of Hate). More strongly, I think it’s actively bad to say all Crimes of Hate are Hate Crimes, because that tends to conceal the political inside the personal.

Hate Crimes are structural, they reinforce each other, in a way that Crimes of Hate do not. That’s why it’s so hard to find examples of rapes that are not Hate Crimes: because the societal bias against women is so pervasive that an individual rapist doesn’t have to hate women very much extra, he doesn’t run the risk of standing out.

Not building on anything specific that's been said, just getting it out there (as I put together a blogcomment record for my own blog):

I hadn't realized until I went searching for a good link how much Orcinus and other people who track or study hate crimes use rape for calibration (or as a baseline?). Hate crimes are crimes that feel like rape, that have many of the same effects as rape, that are at least as bad as rape. I don't know if they're consciously thinking of rape as a hate crime, but it's there in the background -- as the most *familiar* hate crime, the one that's hardest to notice.

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Can this pattern be changed?

I just saw a print ad for Chuck and I finally snapped *ping*. I have *had* it with TV/movies pairing "regular guys" with superhot gals. (and yes, "Knocked Up", I'm looking at you. And "Beauty and the Geek".)

So I wonder -- is it possible to even imagine "regular gal" or even "smart but not good-looking or socially adept gal" with superhot guy, without the guy being a total douche? Is there any example of this besides Ugly Betty? Does it prove the rule?

Showrunners take note: "Ugly Betty" is both popular and critically acclaimed. Almost as though people *want* this sort of thing, even if you basically never give it to them.

eta: I have now been reminded that "Scarecrow and Mrs King" featured "regular gal" and "superhot guy", and it was *very* popular. "Remington Steele" was another possible example. That was a looong time ago, TV people.

Is this all part of the relentless quest for The Lost Demographic of Young Males? Or is it something in the zeitgeist?

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Misogyny as a cross-cultural phenomenon

Hilzoy on "Honor killings" in Syria:
what possible conception of honor could involve being so strict about sexual morality that even sex that's completely involuntary counts as a stain on one's honor, but so loose about murder that the killing of innocents can be tolerated by it, much less required?

Meanwhile, Amanda on Robert Jensen’s book Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity.
People routinely assume that pornography is such a difficult and divisive issue because it’s about sex. In fact, this culture struggles unsuccessfully with pornography because it is about men’s cruelty to women, and the pleasure men sometimes take in that cruelty. And that is much more difficult for people — men and women — to face.

So, class, compare and contrast misogyny in these two societies. Are there common male impulses behind honor killings and porn, or are they arbitrary responses of different societies?

Use other side of page if neccesary.

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Heirloom Tomato Pizza

Tuesday night dinner during tomato season. Looks lovely, tastes *fabulous*. I like a mixture of Cherokee Purple, Brandywine, and Green Zebras to maximize color as well as flavor, but use whatever you've got. When I've tried this recipe with non-heirloom tomatoes, even organic ones, the tomato flavor is just too bland.

The big orange-striped one is a Brandywine, I think. The purple ones are Cherokee Purple. The green ones are Green Zebra. I think the white ones are a kind of cherry tomato, very sweet.

Blogger is being mean right now and I can't upload a picture of the completed pizza here. See it on Flickr and drool.


pesto-cheese: make in food processor:

2 cups basil leaves
2 garlic cloves
1/4 c almond slivers (or pine nuts if you can afford them)
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
3.5 oz mild goat cheese
1 tsp salt

Cover 2 pre-baked pizza shells (Boboli, etc.) with pesto-cheese.

Slice 2-3 lbs heirloom tomatoes 1/2 inch thick, cutting into halves or quarters if necessary, and arrange on top of pesto.

Sprinkle with shredded mozarella or monterey jack (1/2-1 c per pizza, to your preference) and a generous amount of grated parmesan.

Bake @450 degrees for 10 minutes. The crowd goes wild.

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Saturday, September 08, 2007

Reporting on Sexual Selection

A lot of people have linked to the CNN report about a study of human mate preferences with the headline "Men want hot women", which hilzoy called the Dumbest Headline Ever. What seems to have slipped by is that CNN's headline isn't just dumb, it's wrong -- that's not what the study found.

I haven't seen the full study (subscription required), but the press release helps me decode it a bit, as does the abstract. The article, "Different cognitive processes underlie human mate choices and mate preferences", is by Peter Todd et al., an international group mostly at the Max Planck Inst. in Berlin.[1]

As a biological rule, sexual selection is about female choice. Males do not, generally speaking, choose mates, they get chosen by females.[2] In the vast majority of animal species, males fight each other to be the one chosen by females. They compete for territories so females who are basically house-hunting will choose them along with the house. They are the ones who grow the bright colors or the elaborate antlers as conspicuous biological consumption, to show they have health and vigor to burn.[3]

There are a few species of birds where sexual selection is reversed and brightly-colored females compete for drab males, but this is never the case for mammals. When I was in grad school (in evolutionary biology) it is a byward that "milk is the limiting factor for mammal populations", which means that female mammals have even more at stake than female birds and are correspondingly choosier.

In other words, any time you see a popular discussion of human evolutionary biology, psychology, or sexual selection that does not focus on female choice, something fishy is going on. By "fishy" I mean:

a) the person doesn't actually understand evolutionary biology and is just making stuff up to fit their (his) prejudices and presuppositions


b) they are talking about something that is not based in biology, but *is* culture


c) they are talking about a way human biology differs from that of other animals, a way humans are distinctive and even abnormal

It's clear to me that Todd et al. are doing none of these things. This is really a methodological paper, to establish that speed dating can be used to study human mate choice. Speed dating is superficial and limited, but it also lets researchers study a lot of human interactions very quickly and without many ethical difficulties. This is a preliminary, does-this-fly study, that Todd et al. hope to use as the basis for studies with larger sample sizes.

One reason Todd et al. think speed dating is a reasonable thing to study is that they found men to be much less choosy than women. Again, this is exactly what an evolutionary biologist would predict: that female choice is crucial, while males will basically take whatever they can get. I think that if Todd et al. had found men being pickier than women at speed dating they would probably have thrown the results out as being culturally determined and therefore, from an evolutionary perspective, uninteresting.

This is what they mean by writing in the abstract that
Unlike the cognitive processes that Buston and Emlen inferred from self-reports, this pattern of results from actual mate choices is very much in line with the evolutionary predictions of parental investment theory.

Now, I think they're wrong. I don't think speed dating is a good predictor of human mate choice, whether "mate" means "person you live with" or "the other parent of your offspring". I think the anthropological evidence is that human mate choice (however defined) is *both* (a) subject to strong cultural influence, and (b) biologically distinctive.[4] I also see plenty of evidence that in most cultures sexual selection on females is as strong as sexual selection on males. This is a biologically unusual pattern, and thus should have biologically unusual causes and produce unusual results.

The mere fact that Todd et al. are using "speed dating" and "parental investment theory" in the same place should make you think twice -- or LOL, because becoming parents together is not really what the participants have in mind. More seriously, parental investment theory doesn't predict that all mating systems should be the same, or that females should *always* be doing the sexual selection -- it depends on the organism's ecology and reproductive biology.[5]

But, whether you agree with Todd or not, you should notice that CNN's headline says nothing at all about women's choices and how important they are: it's just What Men Want. Is this is common-or-garden variety sexism (in which men *must* be the active party), is it that the CNN editors subconsciously realize that women are choosy and thus need more information, is it part of a pervasive problem with science journalism echidne has discussed, is it just stupidity? I personally am splitting my vote between "sexism" and "stupidity", but you be the judge.

[1] PNAS, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, has a complex and idiosyncratic submission policy which used to have a very large component of pure ego- and nepo-tism. That has been reduced, but it's still important to note who is listed as the "Editor" of a particular article. This one is credited to Gordian Orians, a evolutionary biologist (expert on vertebrate mating systems) for whom I have huge respect but who's not all that young anymore.

[2] This article is a good, non-controversial overview of sexual selection and mate choice.

[3] For instance, it's male peacocks who have the gorgeous tails, male deer who have antlers, male lions who have manes. Do I need more examples, or does everybody know this?

[4] Notably, in the vast majority of human cultures people other than the couple have input into human mate choice. This has no parallel in nature, which means it should have effects that a naturalist would not expect.

[5] For instance, marmosets and tamarins are small South American primates that are frequently polyandrous, where a single female mates with more than one male. Male marmosets do a great deal of baby-carrying and other child-care (=high paternal investment). Probably because of the extra help from the males and from older siblings, marmosets usually have twins and occasionally even triplets, while twinning is rare in other primates.

You can see from the abstract of this review article ("Ontogenetic variation in small-bodied New World primates: implications for patterns of reproduction and infant care") that parental investment theory doesn't predict a single social system for even this one group of creatures. It depends on what they eat, how fast the offspring grow before and after they're born, how large a group of adults can find food together, and even on twins being genetic blended in the womb. (that last article is *boggling* -- germ-line chimerism! in a primate! no wonder they're almost eusocial. I'm gobsmacked, scientifically speaking. I'll write more about this later.)

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Monday, September 03, 2007

Spin, Internet PR, Corporate Culture, and Genesis 3

Teresa Nielsen Hayden has a great summary up of how to deal with internet scandals and other PR disasters: Talk, Don't Spin. My comments, in the midst of a discussion with many useful examples of the Right Way and the Wrong Way to run companies & projects:

But why don't they *listen*?!? Seriously, is there something in the culture of large institutions, corporate or otherwise, that makes them forget or ignore your teachings?

It reminds me of how David Pogue, NYT Technology columnist (not a low-profile guy) has been telling cell phone companies for *years* that:
the way to dominate the cellphone industry isn’t taking out more ads on billboards and newspapers. It’s creating a service that’s so good, the customers love you, recommend you and (here’s the big one) don’t leave you at the first opportunity.
In other words: reasonable service + accurate billing = world domination. It shouldn't be that hard to do, so what's stopping them?

we have this culture in which admitting a mistake is a sign of weakness

Everyone says this is so, but I don't see it. I need examples of public/corporate figures who got into *more* trouble by admitting mistakes than they would have by blustering, dodging, and covering up.

I think that instead there is a problem *within* corporations/institutions where the person who admits a mistake loses big time. Basically, finger-pointing is an effective strategy within an institution, especially a large one, so the PR & spokes people try to use the same strategy when dealing with outsiders (e.g. customers).

Unfortunately, it occurs to me that every one of Teresa's original points is contrary to usual (and AFAICT effective) strategies for dealing with problems internal to a large organization (TNH's Rules in italics, Dogbert's Rules in bold):
(1.) Get out there and say something, fast. Delay. Something else will come up.
(2.) Acknowledge that there have been screwups. Avoid passive constructions. Deny that anything has gone wrong. Use as many elaborate and passive constructions as possible.
(3.) Explain what you’re doing to help fix the problem. Be telling the truth when you do it. Explain what you're doing ("proactively") to fix the problem. Take all the credit. Lie.
(4.) Give up all hope of sneaking anything past your listeners. You’ve screwed up, the internet is watching, and behind each and every pair of eyes out there is a person who knows how to Google. The higher-ranking officials or managers don't know how to Google. They probably don't know what your business actually does, either, so they'll be easy to fool.
(5.) Corporate-speak will do you more harm than good. Instead, speak frankly about what’s going on. React like a human being. Talk like one, too. Corporate-speak shows you are an insider, one of the important people. Talk like a corporate insider and you will become one, too.

The question then is, how do you persuade spokes/PR people to set aside the habits that work well for them inside the organization?

I don't know if it's a question of us being in "a culture" where no-one wants to admit they've made mistakes. Clearly, there are different cultures that we all move among, and there's also a basic human desire for mistakes to be somebody else's fault (cf. Genesis 3:11-13).

It's interesting, though, that Teresa's 5 Rules apply on the Internet. As David Harmon points out @25, these Rules pre-suppose that "we're all in this together", contrary to the hierarchical assumptions of most large organizations. The human connections on the 'Net aren't very strong (e.g. it's easy to get away from someone who bugs you, compared to RL), yet the feeling of horizontal community, of being "in this *together*", is more important than hierarchy.

If one of TNH's and our goals is to persuade capitalists to follow her Rules, instead of my list @13 (which might be called Dilbert's PHB's Rules), one line of argument might be that capitalist free-market relationships are like the weak connections on the 'Net, not the strong hierarchical relationships you get in aristocratic or communist societies.

That passage from Genesis was written at least 2600 years ago, so I don't consider it to be in the "same culture" as our present one in an anthropological sense. It was a very different place and time in almost every way, but the basic human strategy of finger-pointing is still visible.

Now that I think about it, the way this particular passage is interpreted is diagnostic of whether finger-pointing is an acceptable strategy, at least among Christians. The traditional-authoritarian Christian interpretation is that the blame-shifting is correct: Satan is more at fault than Eve, Eve more at fault than Adam.

But the other way to look at the story is to say that Adam is a jerk, that his true original sin isn't disobedience, it's finger-pointing -- and look at the mess *that* made. There's a kind of bitter humor in this story, a dry mocking of human folly and our propensity to pass the buck (IIRC Harold Bloom talks about this in The Book of J, but the point has been made by more conventional scholars and rabbis, too.) -- even though, as S. Morgenstern would say, this was *way* before bucks.

I think it my be more useful not to say that e.g. the chain of command is "broken". Rather, the Bush administration tries to run everything like an especially cut-throat, hierarchical corporation. It's no coincidence that Bush II's biggest donor was Kenneth Lay & Enron. Bush II really is what he promised he would be, "the CEO President". The question people should have asked was, "CEO of what?" -- and the answer was "Enron."

Back on topic, one thing people like TNH have to do is figure out how to persuade upper managment that the Pointy-Haired Boss Rules aren't in their own best interests in communicating with the outside world -- and by implication they aren't a good idea inside, either, but I think that's a tougher job because too much of their experience says otherwise.

Those of you who've worked in large corporations (or other institutions) where bug-fixing was more of an internal priority than finger-pointing, do you think this priority *has* to be set at the top of the organization? That is, is there any hope of changing the corporate culture if you're Dilbert?


It kind of sounds like I've answered my own question, doesn't it?

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