12 Comments

I don't live in the Bay; I don't go to EA events where I _do_ Iive; I'm not polyamorous. If I did go to Bay EA events I don't think I'd be likely to hit on women often (if for no other reason than I doubt there'd be many potential partners.)

My reaction to this discourse is nevertheless a rather enormous *fuck you, you don't get to tell me anything*, because if you are a straight guy--in particular if you're a high-scrupulousity straight guy with low-status hobbies/characteristics, i.e. nerds--you will hear an endless series of lectures about how it's unconscionable for you to hit on women at X for...pretty much any X? I've heard that claim about work, about hobby groups, about the park, the bus, dancing, the gym, workout groups, the internet, RPs, hiking, and--no joke--bars. I've never heard anyone say it's evil to hit on girls on Tinder, but I mean, wouldn't be surprised at this point.

Most of these lectures about how you're awful come with a side of "of course, I'm not claiming you can't want to hit on women--but can't you do it in the appropriate places?" But somehow no place actually is appropriate, if you listen to all of these lectures. And yet, it also is empirically true that many men hit on women at any and all of these places and get away with it. Now, I do have a lot of sympathy with women feeling overwhelmed, and practically speaking I very rarely hit on women at all, because, well, it's hard and risky and difficult to find opportunities. But somehow the rules seem impractical to follow and deeply against my interest.

So I look with deep suspicion on, at this point, all of these claims, because I have an extremely strong prior that anyone who says this sort of thing actually thinks--consciously or not--that my sexual interest is fundamentally disallowed. If I listened to all such people I would literally die alone, and, uh, fuck that and fuck you if you want it?

Expand full comment

The ambiguity of the rules might be a feature, not a bug. The purpose is to provide a credible means to ostracize low-status or awkward men for punching out of their league - or for daring to punch at all, in some cases. The steelman for this is essentially that nerds are unattractive as hell and awkward and it is a bad thing for more like them to be made. Using the coercive power of the State is heavy-handed and evil...but using social pressure to make sure that nerds either die alone, are ostracized, or become exceptional and are thus allowed to be interested in sex or relationships is fine. It's just a special case of desexualization, as experienced by disabled people. Here, it's the Silicon Valley sperg that gets hit with it.

> The default is not that I’m celibate and then the effective altruism movement may graciously allow me a sexual relationship if it thinks it increases my net productivity.

The default in many places is in fact that you are celibate and the community graciously allows you to seek a sexual relationship if it thinks that you have compensated for your disability or if they like you enough. NO, I am NOT talking about the idea that nerds deserve a chance or anything like that. This is entirely different. It is "Don't hit on me, or on my friends, or on my friends' friends, or indeed on anyone where I can see or would be expected to find out". It's people looking at you with barely-concealed disgust when you talk, in the abstract, about wanting a family and kids someday.

I am not sure there is anything wrong with these norms as such, but I do think it is kind of harsh and sad that we are not more explicit with nerds about their existence. It would save a lot of sadness and angst.

Expand full comment

"Don't hit on women you don't know except at singles' bars or on dating services" seems like a workable norm. I don't think it necessarily needs to be made the norm, but if it were, it would be fine. Hitting on women you do know is always going to be a more complicated thing, though.

Expand full comment
Mar 4, 2023·edited Mar 4, 2023

> Sorry about EA Forum drama everyone

Personally, I'm here for the forum drama (or at least for your commentary), and for the casual anthropology!

I'm a monogamous person who has hung out with quite a few poly friends over the years. There's a certain kind of geeky community that's partly poly/kinky/queer. I'm very fond of these groups. They tend to encourage people to explore different ideas about relationships and gender, and to ultimately pursue something that seems like a good fit. They're one of the very few social groups that accepts bi guys without blinking. And they tend to have slightly more colorful gossip. A key part of what makes them work is that probably only a minority of people are any one of poly, or kinky, or queer. But probably 2/3rds of the group is probably at least one of those. This creates an equilibrium where it's totally OK to be monogamous or vanilla or cis het.

But these are all social groups, not work groups. I honestly don't want to hear about sex parties or relationship drama at work. In fact, the only sorts of relationship stuff I want to hear from most of my coworkers is "My kids need to be picked up early today" or "I'm going skiing with my partners this weekend!" If I actually socialize with a coworker outside of work, I'll eventually learn more, and that's fine.

I agree that the EA community should not be telling people to break up with their partners. That sets off my "danger! totalizing cult!" immune system in a major way. A better set of social norms might be: Don't hit on people at professional events. Don't conduct business at sex parties. (I am not familiar with sex party ettiquette, but disucssing grant-writing seems like it might be poor form.) Be careful about conflicts of interest. Frankly, it's not of my business how many people my professional colleagues date, unless they're RVSPing for an event and I need to plan for a few +2s, etc.

This probably gets more difficult for certain communities, like queer activists in small enough cities, where the total dateable population may be small enough that everyone knows everyone. In which case, eh, do your best.

Expand full comment
author

"I am not familiar with sex party etiquette, but discussing grant-writing seems like it might be poor form."

You would THINK but I swear to God people will be a foot from a naked girl getting fisted and be talking about their views on how the bioanchors report should affect their AI timelines.

Expand full comment
Mar 4, 2023Liked by Ozy Brennan

No, sadly, I believe you. But it seems like an easy ethical win.

- Discussing business at a sex party is exclusionary in the same way that planning the next big ad campaign in a strip club would be. White collar workers in US corporations are typically expected to understand this.

- Having an extended work discussion at a sex party is probably a "party foul." This is not a technical ethical term, but if Philosophy Bro wants to write a book arguing that it should be, I would back his Kickstarter.

- The poor woman is probably trying to focus on an intense experience, and/or to put on a show. In neither case is it polite to carry on a loud, unrelated discussion a foot away.

I swear, it's like we don't teach people basic manners anymore.

Expand full comment
author

To be fair, the business/fun line often gets a little blurry if people are passionate about their work. I often talk about shrimps at parties, and I don't think that's the same thing as planning the next big ad campaign. Doing networking in a way that is minimally exclusionary is, I think, a complex problem...

...but not talking about it at orgies is overdetermined and I discourage it when I'm the host.

Expand full comment
Mar 4, 2023·edited Mar 4, 2023

There's nothing wrong with being enthusiastic about shrimp at a party! At least, not at any sort of party that I'd want to attend.

So I should be more precise about what I mean by "discussing business" at parties. The biggest issues arise when colleagues/funders/etc. are having actual working discussions, or when professional opportunities are preferentially available to people who attend certain events.

Networking is more complicated. But there's a long history of it being horribly abused in multiple industries, so caution is probably advised there, too.

Expand full comment

>White collar workers in US corporations are typically expected to understand this.

I don't really understand this. As long as the club includes both male and female strippers, or they alternate between having meetings at both male and female strip clubs, it seems like everyone is being included. The idea that the correct way to include women is to stop holding meetings at strip clubs, rather than to make sure the strip clubs appeal equally to women and men, seems like an attempt to smuggle in prudery under the guise of inclusion. If there are some prudes of either gender whom this makes uncomfortable, surely the optimal response is to tell them that they need to control their emotions.

A lot of talk about exclusion seems to follow this pattern. People who do nothing to bar someone from a social space are still told that they are excluding people because some innocuous they are doing upsets other people enough that they don't want to be in that space. For some reason the onus is always on the offending people to stop their behavior, rather than on the "excluded" people to control their emotions. This attitude reaches its peak in political spaces where it is asserted that allowing anyone who disagrees about anything in the space is exclusionary because it is so traumatizing to hear people disagree with them.

In my view we need to spend less time talking about how to make other people feel included and more talking to people about how they can make themselves feel included.

Expand full comment

Thank you <3 I feel like I've been trying to say this less well for weeks.

Expand full comment
Mar 4, 2023·edited Mar 4, 2023

Firm agree, although I might have put it in more utilitarian terms.

With that said, I think there's a spectrum here. The demand that EAs stop being poly is clearly unreasonable, although I don't think I've actually seen it anywhere - the closest is that one guy who said he was going to stop being poly for a while after being accused of sexual harassment. At the other end of the spectrum is something like "men should think twice before asking women out at Official EA Events, you can still do it but err on the side of not doing it", which is a relatively mild - undetectable, in fact, since it happens in your head - imposition (but still one many people oppose on the grounds it inflamed scrupulousity!) Somewhere in the middle is something like "the Official Community Norm is that EAs may not begin dating anyone new in the EA community", which I think is probably too onerous to be worthwhile, but doesn't rise to the level of demanding people break up with their partners. It seems unfair to conflate all these positions.

The consequentualist, utilitarian calculations of the whole thing are tricky, but I suspect they do basically work out to "we should do whatever makes the most EAs the happiest" (reputational effects mostly consisting of "does this group look fun/awful to be part of"), so ... maybe this could all be resolved empirically with a sufficiently clever survey, as naive as that sounds, IDK.

Expand full comment

Out of curiosity, what was the ea forum post that sparked this?

Expand full comment