"Entitlement, Nerds and Neanderthals"- today's Prime post etc.

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Post by OneTrueGuest on Mon Jan 05, 2015 11:45 pm

I think male nerds are still his audience.  I think the problem is many male nerds don't like his advice, don't think it applies to them when it actually does.  Not saying this goes for every male nerd, I really don't mean that, I just think sometimes it's not a question of audience and more a question of does the audience want to hear what he has to say.

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Post by Guest on Tue Jan 06, 2015 12:10 am

eselle28 wrote:I think it's fair for men to want a movement of their own to deal with their issues. I also think it's perhaps counterproductive for women to say feminism solves those problems. Feminists, of various stripes, may end up being allies when it comes to some of them, but I think it's probably done both men and women a disservice to claim that women who are feminists can take up the banner for everything equally. Particularly when it comes to the nerdy men issue, I don't think that's ever going to come up in feminist spaces without nerdy women coming up, because a lot of the hurtful messages nerdy women have received have come from nerdy men, particularly the more frustrated dating rants about how women ought to make their dating choices. Perhaps the issues need to percolate on their own, among likeminded people, and then be held up as [fill in the name of the movement] ideals are when people who aren't quite identified as movementists view them.

Agreed on it being counterproductive to feminism to try solve men's issues too. I don't trust them to, but not because I distrust the people or the movement itself but because they have enough on their plate. One of these days, it'll reach a point where feminism is (hopefully) unneeded, but I can't see that being the day men have had their fair share of grievances addressed if only because feminism is about women's right. It may be about gaining equality through them, but it's made by women for women first and foremost. I just doubt they'd really give men's problems the proper look-in due to actually focusing on women. Which is totally fine. But having one part of the movement say 'it's all our problem' another say 'it's a problem but not necessarily ours' and yet another say 'men aren't our concern at all' then it causes too much infighting in feminist circles for one, I'd imagine. Although I'd be interested to hear if this is really a thing that's internally questioned within the movement on a regular basis?

And, indeed, men need some kind of movement to almost quarantine the issues for at least a while. Something to unify over and process ideas. The problem I see is that the well has been poisoned in a many ways. MRAs, Men Going Their Own Way (this sounded great when I heard the name for the first time... then I researched it. Ugh.) and more! Don't get me started on the traditional notion of a 'boys club' too. None of them suit me. Feminism doesn't suit me. But, it is the best fit by leaps, bounds and lightyears than the male equivalents.

eselle28 wrote:I would say that I do think men with these frustrations have some responsibility to try to cultivate a nascent movement, or perhaps make a space for themselves within the existing men's movement, or to at least be held responsible when they don't pick their fucking battles. We are holding feminists to that standard in this discussion.

Agreed! I think men need to take charge and make themselves a space that is free from the rancour of the... less than jolly male movements if anything is going to actually happen for us. Will they butt heads with feminism? Probably. All the time, I'd bet. But if it can be done civilly and discussion made then we can all feel more comfortable that things are moving for everyone the movements cover.

And, yes, we need something use to address that issue of battle picking. It's a failure I see in the social movements because of the emotional link they have with their members. Way too easy to get heated and jump guns.

The Wisp wrote:Great post, Mapwater. You're very articulate and I sympathize a great deal.

Thank you. I had been thinking on the topic of the SCC post on the subject a lot so it just kind of rolled out my head.

As for the tonal shift, yes, I think there has been one. It's less playful, more biting. More tough love than coddling. I think he misses the mark a bit in his tough love, however, the root of his shift being a little bit of everything OneTrueGuest has mentioned if I was going to put money down on it.

As someone who identifies as a nerd, but has never been part of the nerd 'culture', I've looked at it from the outside in. It's changed since I was younger. In some good ways and some bad ways. I think he's reacting more to the bad ways, but in trying to get nerdy guys to act right I think he believes he has to.

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Post by reboundstudent on Tue Jan 06, 2015 12:49 am

nearly_takuan wrote:This is going to move somewhat away from the primary discussion, but perhaps we'll find a way to tie it back in:

Caffeinated wrote:When I read the Scott Alexander piece, one of the things that really stood out to me was this sentence:
Nerds are told that if they want to date girls, that makes them disgusting toxic blubberous monsters who are a walking offense to womankind.

That's a horrible message to receive. It's damaging and untrue and unkind. It's villainous. But what I kept looking for was who in the hell is saying that? Who is the villain? How can I have spent so much time thinking about, reading about, and discussing this stuff (in particular dating and relationship advice and feminism) and I don't remember ever coming across this statement before? I don't mean that I've never run across people who feel that way about themselves (people on this very forum seem to share the sentiment) but that I've never run across the people who are telling others to feel that way.

At risk of repeating myself, I think it's worth noting that this always seems to come up in a passive voice. We are told or are taught things, even if we don't know who, or how, or when, or why. But the message came from somewhere, and it can't just be coincidence that it's always interpreted the same way. My first several guesses as to possible sources don't feel right to me, so I'm going to ponder this a bit more and see if I can't point out anything more helpful/informative.

I and the Boy were discussing this in regards to the Reddit thread I mentioned on the Prime site. In essence, why do so many men in our generation and right around us seem to feel they are completely unlovable? For me, these two attitudes ("I am disgusting for wanting women" and "I am unlovable") seem to go hand-in-hand, as I feel like one reinforces the other. As to which came first, chicken or the egg, but I DO have a theory about the "unlovable."

As equality grows, privilege and entitlement slowly begin to wilt away. Privilege/entitlement is frequently a cushion; it shelters you somewhat from harsher messages of society and reality.

For years, women have had unrealistic portrayals of what a woman "should be" fed to them by media, our peers, our elders, etc. These unrealistic portrayals absolutely have an impact on our psyche... but at the same time, we've kind of learned to deal with it. It's a pain, but after years and years of indoctrinate, it's a dull ache, like a low-level headache. We look at those unrealistic portrayals of bodies or relationships or morality ("A lady on the street but a freak in the sheets!" Yeah, that seems completely plausible) and while it hurts, it no longer painfully effects us.

Privilege used to be a cushion for a lot of guys. If there were unrealistic portrayals of relationships or gender roles, it was in their favor. With the slow erosion of privilege, however, that has slowly turned. Men are now more fully experiencing either a society that doesn't totally cater to their view of the world, and/or are experiencing unrealistic expectations of who they, as Men, should be. Without that cushion, that pain probably feels sudden and intense, almost blinding. All of those contradictions and stereotypes women have lived with for years (Be a virgin up until you're married, and then turn into a total nympho) are now being experienced by men (Be sexual and aggressive, but that aggressiveness makes you a pig.)

Women have learned how to separate out unrealistic portrayals from reality; not only what is expected of us, but what we should expect. Absolutely no woman I know who loves 10-cent Walmart romance covers believes a jerk-with-a-heart-of-gold millionaire is going to come and snatch her up, despite the fantasy that's been sold ad nauseum to women. But there seem to be men who genuinely believe they can get or should have the female equivalent, because that used to be a plausible reality.

A lot of these "Nice Guys" (for lack of a better term) seems to hold themselves up to ideals or portrayals that are no more realistic than the equivalent for women. But because women grew up in the toxic sludge, we've developed a kind of nose for sniffing a path through it; guys are just beginning to wade into it, and have no idea what's fake, what's real, what women really want and what unrealistic portrayals say women want. Thus, they can't live up to these unrealistic portrayals, and are unlovable.

I may be completely off-base here, but that's kind of my origin theory for the moment. Thoughts? Rebuttals?
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Post by reboot on Tue Jan 06, 2015 1:06 am

RBS, you are definitely onto something. It is as if men are getting many of the relationship pressures that women get, but there is no cultural narrative to support and assist them in processing it. Most women have always known that spinster, old maid, crazy cat lady etc. was a role and knew that was, if not desirable, at least existed in the social narrative. For men, though, other than the "confirmed bachelor" (e.g. gay, preferred the company of professionals, was having long term affair with house keeper, always voluntarily single) which fell out of favor in the 30's-40's, there is no narrative for the man no one wants to be with.
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Post by OneTrueGuest on Tue Jan 06, 2015 1:06 am

Marty, I can't say for sure, but I really am impressed by your theory. It sounds pretty darn sound to me and I'm sitting here picking my jaw up off of the floor.

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Post by nearly_takuan on Tue Jan 06, 2015 1:10 am

I'd rather we didn't keep framing what I've experienced as a rather unrelenting and ongoing element of my existence for as long as I've cared about it (though I'll admit I had a late start), as a natural consequence of suddenly removing privilege/entitlement I didn't deserve but allegedly had before. I can certainly relate to the "dull ache", though—at least in the sense of cultural/ancestral memory plus lived experience as part of a Model Minority.

I'd also like to remind folks that I, for one, have not been paralyzed by expectations. I'd agree with DNL that
the thing that changed for him [Aaronson] was that he asked a woman out.
but that is not the case with me. It's true I don't know what women "really" want or how to distinguish that from the billions of other messages out there, but I do know that whatever it is, I don't have it.

And yeah, maybe the answer is as simple as "any sexuality" and I just shouldn't bother.

Get over here, Clarence.
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Post by Guest on Tue Jan 06, 2015 1:20 am

reboundstudent wrote:I may be completely off-base here, but that's kind of my origin theory for the moment. Thoughts? Rebuttals?

I don't have much of a rebuttal as I don't feel confident enough on the point to argue it per se, but my assumption was always that it was never that wonderful being a guy that a lot of people like to perceive it as because there's privilege involved with being one.

Now that it's becoming more acceptable for men to actually talk about their emotions openly thanks to the mighty internet hiding everyone behind that quaint little screen name instead of the real you that hurts, well, that's what's happening.

In other words, I attribute it more to technology allowing men to say what they've wanted to a while. Question what they've wanted to. Just like how it's done some mighty good things for feminism too.

While this could happen before the internet, the internet lets anyone jump in as long as they can grab a computer 15 minutes that patches in. Just think about that. Think about this very discussion.

Am I saying that men have always had it worse or anything to that affect? No. But I am saying I believe men have been hurting for a long time and this is just people talking about it. I can only speak confidently for men over women in this regard, but I have seen the effects that gender roles have done to the men around me. Family, friends and coworkers. It's strange to think that something that's supposed to be beneficial is destroying so many people. For a lot of men I know, it's 'too late' - they are from much older generations and everything is too ingrained. Too much a part of them.

All this said and done, I understand the push back against this kind of talk - women are still treated worse and thus this can easily be misconstrued (or justifiably seen, in many cases) as derailment from the grander, more pressing issue. But my male friends are hurting too and not a lot is being done. Not to mention a lot of men that do care aren't helping in the right way - whinging at feminists (or anyone, really) they aren't doing enough or they are cads and dastards helps no one. It widens gaps, stops talk and pisses everyone off.

Do I think this is all 100% the way it is? Eh, not sure. I actually like the idea it could just be no more privilege cushion. But it's a complex issue. A super complex issue. I don't think I know enough about anything to know why so many of us hate ourselves.

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Post by Lemminkainen on Tue Jan 06, 2015 1:24 am

eselle28 wrote:As I did on the prime site, I'm going to provide the background of Aaronson's post, which is being defended here. Aaronson isn't just a nerdy man complaining about his awful experiences being a nerdy man. He's a nerdy man who's complaining about his awful experiences being a nerdy man in the middle of a discussion about a 78-year-old professor at his university sexually harassing college students. I think Marcotte was overly harsh in response to his suffering, but I think it should be noted that Aaronson is himself expressing his suffering in a place and manner that's likely to cause harm to others.

The problem with this argument is that Aaronson's point probably couldn't be made outside this context-- he's arguing that certain feminist interventions to stop sexual harassment are both a) ineffective, and b) actively harmful to people who have psychologies like his, to the point that the structural harm outweighs the positive value of the intervention.  (It seems pretty clear that both he and the other Scott A view nerdiness as something more like a disability or cluster of disabilities than like a subcultural affiliation).  I think that, as a general rule, people should be allowed to say "Yes, I know that [Bad Thing X] has happened, but the interventions you're proposing are probably not helpful and might be actively harmful on balance"-- because otherwise, we would have no way to contest the utility of policy proposals.  Making a more just society is a nontrivial problem, so dissenting voices are important for helping us to find the truth, particularly since measures advanced to protect the interests of one marginalized group can often wind up really hurting a different marginalized group.

Of course, we should, in turn, argue vigorously with these sorts of arguments if we disagree with them-- I think that there are some significant problems with parts of both Scotts' arguments, and problematic things in the rhetoric that they used.*  But Aaronson's experiences as a nerdy man are immediately relevant to his arguments about sexual harassment-related interventions-- they're not irrelevant, bad-faith or derailing, unless you consider any disagreement derailing.

*Issues that most immediately come to mind: I found Aaronson's nostalgia for Shetls and arranged marriages totally cringeworthy and clueless, and I found Alexander's comparison of anti-nerdism with anti-Semitism kind of a stretch and his description of Amanda Marcotte as a Vogon gratuitous.

______________


Regarding the general issue: I think that most people don't read Andrea Dworkin at a young age, but I do think that most conscientious, intelligent young people do hear some messages about objectification at a young age. And that can sometimes be a bit of a mess. Because objectification is actually a fairly sophisticated philosophical concept which has provoked a lot of commentary, critique, and elucidation from lots of very clever philosophers, who still haven't consensused on how to define it and have complicated thoughts about its ethics (A good summary-- http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/feminism-objectification/ I think that Miriam Nussbaum's take seems especially thoughtful and comprehensive), most ordinary people aren't quite sure what objectification is or in what cases it's bad. A lot of people seem to think it means that all sexual desires for women, and men's desire for women in particular, are oppressive and destructive.

Of course, there is a communication failure going on-- most feminist women who aren't lesbian separatists** either want to have sex with men themselves or want their straight female friends to get laid in a way that makes them happy. Consequentially, they actually do want men to sexually desire them and express that desire, in at least some contexts.

I think that a good solution for that would be to accompany more "don't"-type feminist advice lists with "do"-type lists. I appreciated the information that the feminist community gave me which helped me to avoid harming women. However, I felt that I had to figure out how I could actively do things to make women happy (including appropriate expressions of sexual desire, which seem to have made several women very, very happy) on my own. I think that being a good male feminist ally isn't just about avoiding and fighting oppression, but bringing pleasure and joy to the women in your life. More advice about doing that would be nice-- perhaps I shall write some.


**A very, very small percentage of feminists these days.

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Post by Werel on Tue Jan 06, 2015 3:29 am

(I'm way behind the conversation, since I've been trying to think of how to phrase all this for a while, but I'll try to keep up Razz)

My first reaction to the Scott Alexander piece actually ended up being something like sympathy. I went in with my dukes up, rolled my eyes into my head every time I saw the phrase "typical feminist," and was largely annoyed through all the recounting of which other bloggers had said what. But when I finished it, to my surprise, I was fairly sympathetic to his point of view. Because when I read a piece (NB: without a lot of outside context, it was the first I ever read about any of these people) which is centrally about suffering, and which is begging others to reduce that suffering through their own actions, it's hard to hold on to most of the indignation and scoffery I felt going in. I'm just left thinking "god, yeah, aren't there some concrete ways to reduce that specific suffering?"

Scott Alexander wrote:Gender is weird. Self-loathing is easy to inculcate and encourage, even unintentionally. Heck, we’ve already identified this market failure of people preferring to castrate themselves rather than ask ten people on a date, something weird has got to explain it... The reason that my better nature thinks that it’s irrelevant whether or not Penny’s experience growing up was better or worse than Aaronson’s: when someone tells you that something you are doing is making their life miserable, you don’t lecture them about how your life is worse, even if it’s true. You STOP DOING IT.

I don't agree with the bolded bit, because it is relevant to many things--but I felt, at his most persuasive, Alexander was appealing to the idea that the reduction of suffering should take priority over decrying the causes of suffering. That while there is often an astonishing lack of perspective in a lot of the white-male-nerdosphere's public discourse (e.g. not having a firm, empathetic grasp on the suffering of people unlike them, and being holy-fucking-shit-bad at battle-picking), it's not productive to try to introduce that perspective before or without first establishing a baseline empathy of your own: "I hear you on your suffering. I'm sorry. I will try my best not to exacerbate it. But now, I'd like to tell you about some other kinds of suffering in the hopes that you will not exacerbate them-- will you listen?"

Maybe I misinterpreted that intent on Alexander's part, but it's what I took away. I thought he might be getting at the idea that the pleasure of pointing out a problem, especially waving it in the face of those you see as complicit in the problem, should not trump the more difficult, less appealing priority of assisting those harmed by the problem. Whether that problem is harassment, body-shaming, chronic loneliness, stigmatizing/mocking a group's sexual desires, unequal access to education, terrible labor practices, or poaching, wouldn't priority #1 be helping those who are suffering before going after those who caused the suffering? And wouldn't attempts to improve others' understanding of privilege, suffering, and systemic harm be best served by starting at a compassionate place instead of an oppositional one?

Which is why, when I read DNL's article immediately afterwards, I was put off. Alexander's article (and Aaronson's comment*) had me in full Compassion Mode towards dudes who internalize and amp up the message that their desires are inherently harmful, creepy, and repulsive. How do I read things like this and not feel a little heartbroken?

nearly_takuan wrote:I've heard through various grapevines that at least some women were apparently offended by the idea that I was interested in them romantically or sexually, even when I really wasn't (though naturally, saying so after the fact only looks like posturing).

Caffeinated wrote:When I read the Scott Alexander piece, one of the things that really stood out to me was this sentence:
Nerds are told that if they want to date girls, that makes them disgusting toxic blubberous monsters who are a walking offense to womankind.

MapWater wrote:I deserve to be treated like shit because that's all I am.

Creepy. Nerdy. Shit.

Reading DNL in full tough-love deal-with-it mode while I was still all "AAUUGHHH THE SUFFERERS" probably made me more prone to wince at "build a bridge and get the fuck over it," but I can't shake the feeling that the whole article was... unnecessarily rough. I get that approaching others with compassion, especially when they are demonstrating a great lack of it, is way more than anybody can be expected to do all the time. I get that he's an advice columnist and that for years he's been having to repeat the most basic, no-shit concepts to people who refuse to listen. That'd wear down anyone's patience. But there were moments that felt almost cruel in their willingness to dismiss people's suffering simply because they belonged to a privileged group (and displayed some ignorance stemming from that privilege).

Doctor Nerdlove wrote:
Scott Aaronson wrote:Anything, really, other than the curse of having been born a heterosexual male, which for me, meant being consumed by desires that one couldn’t act on or even admit without running the risk of becoming an objectifier or a stalker or a harasser or some other creature of the darkness.... At one point, I actually begged a psychiatrist to prescribe drugs that would chemically castrate me (I had researched which ones), because a life of mathematical asceticism was the only future that I could imagine for myself.
While I can sympathize with the emotion – I’ve had all the same worst-case scenario nightmares when I’ve approached women I like – the cold truth is that this anxiety is self-inflicted. The problem isn’t in the desire, it’s in the belief. At their core, these imagined nightmares are about ego protection. All these over-the-top consequences – the mockery, the social expulsion, even being jailed – are ways our brain protects us from the fear of rejection.
Doctor Nerdlove wrote:Don’t get me wrong: the discomfort and anxiety that Aaronson and so many others feel is very real
Surprised Begging a doctor to sexually deactivate you, because you consider your sexuality and/or very existence so hideous and harmful that it's an active danger to those around you, sounds like a kind of suffering I can't even imagine. Not a self-inflicted, nut/ovary-up-and-get-over-it thing, not a "protection from a fear of rejection," not "discomfort and anxiety," but... something seriously horrifying, and minimizing it as part of a larger grievance with an overlapping cultural conversation seems like very poor form.

I dunno. Maybe I'm just a soft touch. But I wince when somebody says in good faith "I'm hurting here"* and the conversation doesn't start at "oh man. What reasonable things could we do to lessen that?"





nearly_takuan wrote:2. IRL, I would guess posturing actually does play a part; possibly embarrassed by what others might think, people amplify their negative reactions to things they think they're supposed to have negative reactions about. "I'm not terribly interested" becomes "what a horrifying idea".

I think this is a really, really important part of it-- it's easy to be unkind in the moment, especially if one's face is at stake. I've done it, and I feel awful about it. And people without good social perception, who don't know how to recognize an action taken in fear or under duress--like being meaner than you want to, in order to save face--will believe that their peers actually think that of them. Which makes it sting a lot worse.  Neutral  

reboot wrote:RBS, you are definitely onto something. It is as if men are getting many of the relationship pressures that women get, but there is no cultural narrative to support and assist them in processing it. Most women have always known that spinster, old maid, crazy cat lady etc. was a role and knew that was, if not desirable, at least existed in the social narrative. For men, though, other than the "confirmed bachelor" (e.g. gay, preferred the company of professionals, was having long term affair with house keeper, always voluntarily single) which fell out of favor in the 30's-40's, there is no narrative for the man no one wants to be with.

Yeah, I think y'all are onto something there. One time in a fast food restaurant I saw a guy who looked and dressed like the 45 year old version of a close friend, who's had a long rough streak with dating and feels all the "gonna die alone" pangs. I tried to imagine that guy was my friend, tried to picture what his life would be like at that age if all his singledom doomsaying played out, and I mostly drew a blank. I don't know any cultural narratives of men who didn't find a partner having successful, fulfilling lives, which was pretty fucked up to realize.

Lemminkainen wrote: I think that, as a general rule, people should be allowed to say "Yes, I know that [Bad Thing X] has happened, but the interventions you're proposing are probably not helpful and might be actively harmful on balance"-- because otherwise, we would have no way to contest the utility of policy proposals.  Making a more just society is a nontrivial problem, so dissenting voices are important for helping us to find the truth, particularly since measures advanced to protect the interests of one marginalized group can often wind up really hurting a different marginalized group.

Nicely said.

Lemminkainen wrote: I think that most people don't read Andrea Dworkin at a young age, but I do think that most conscientious, intelligent young people do hear some messages about objectification at a young age. And that can sometimes be a bit of a mess.

Yeah, I was exposed to a lot of relatively radical messages as a young person, and I think it actually hindered my receptiveness to different schools of thought. When a woman identifying herself as a feminist speaks at your high school with the message that yes, technically, all heterosexual sex is rape! (happened), and a lot of the vegetarian voices you're exposed to are the ones insisting that keeping domesticated dogs is tantamount to slavery, most teenagers don't have the experience or faculties to process those messages meaningfully. They just go "hey, okay, fuck all the movements" and disengage from those discussions for a long time. Or they internalize those messages to a really inflated degree, start thinking they're not only a repulsive piece of shit but one which is inherently bad and harmful, and a whole bunch of misery ensues.

Definitely not saying "kids should have restricted access to extreme or radical versions of large movements," especially surrounding really necessary messages about consent and sexual health, but I do kind of wish I'd had a more guided and less incendiary introduction to feminist, anti-racist, anti-capitalist etc. thought. And a lot of the internet, where most young people get their intros to these subjects, is nothing if not incendiary. Neutral

I like the idea of a "do-list" a lot, and

Lemminkainen wrote: I think that being a good male feminist ally isn't just about avoiding and fighting oppression, but bringing pleasure and joy to the women in your life.

Yesss. It's not all about flagellation; making someone's life better is a pretty solid way to support them (and one they'll probably appreciate more). Smile
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Post by Jayce on Tue Jan 06, 2015 4:03 am

reboot wrote:RBS, you are definitely onto something. It is as if men are getting many of the relationship pressures that women get, but there is no cultural narrative to support and assist them in processing it. Most women have always known that spinster, old maid, crazy cat lady etc. was a role and knew that was, if not desirable, at least existed in the social narrative. For men, though, other than the "confirmed bachelor" (e.g. gay, preferred the company of professionals, was having long term affair with house keeper, always voluntarily single) which fell out of favor in the 30's-40's, there is no narrative for the man no one wants to be with.  

I think "the nerd" fills the role of the man who women don't want to be with. I've had people telling me that it was my role, it was who I am supposed to be. Last year I bumped into someone I knew from high school in university and he asked me what I've been doing today, I just said I was flirting with someone a couple of minutes ago, he said, literally "you can't flirt, or date, you're...you know". I guessed he didn't finish the sentence because it would seem too overtly insulting. Another guy that I've bumped into from high school at the same time, told me "but you're too innocent, you're not supposed to date". When I was actually in high school there was a conversation that was supposed to speculate about who would end up being what in the future, i.e who do you all think is going to be the richest, who do you think is going to be forever alone. I've had some people saying that I would totally be forever alone. I've also had mean snarks when people told me to stop tucking my school uniform shirt (which is a white dress shirt) into my pants, because I was never going to get laid, cause that's what nerds looked like (at least stereotypically).  

And there's a fair few number of people feel relatable to that role cause they have some or all the defining characteristics. After all that role is not that hard to fulfill. Quite skinny/ or quite fat, kind of introverted, quiet, sensitive, not very athletic, male, likes "insert nerdy thing(s) here".

But the thing is these people's heads are still kind of stuck in high school. It's only been two years since I've been out of high school and I've spent a lot of 2013 and even some of 2014 still in my high school mindset. "Of course no one would like me, I'm just nerdy", "I don't think I'm good enough for anybody yet", "I can't wear my glasses in this lecture! She would think I'm a nerd! I should just suggest to seat ourselves closer to the board!". I would tell myself these things. In society there is nobody policing me in the same way as high school. There is no one telling me how lame they find me when I told them I've been playing video games. Even if there was, it actually makes them look bad instead of me, because they are actively being anti-social. While in high school it's the opposite, that kind of policing behaviour is encouraged. Outside of the people I knew in high school no one has ever treated me that way. Not even when I told them of nerdy things I do. I might be extremely fortunate and also these days from first impressions I don't ping as stereotypically nerdy.

Out of high school, the people usually who are characterising them as "the nerd" are themselves (and of course those few assholes out there if you ever are unlucky to meet them).

But there are characters that are nerdy and yet not "the nerd". Yet a lot of nerds decide to characterise themselves as "the nerd" in teen movies. I know Superheroes like Tony Stark or Clark Kent are fantasies far from reality and looking up to superheroes is something that only children are supposed to do, but it dosen't mean you can't learn anything from these characters. They are created by nerd culture, they are what nerds idealised themselves as in their dreams.

I don't have dating experience to make an informed comment about this but: It's most likely not even the nerdiness that is screwing nerds over when it comes to dating. That professor Aaronson guy clearly labelled himself as the loser Nice Guy. He wasn't think about other men or women as people either. He viewed his life as the extended sequel to a teen movie, where all the women liked the jocks or in his words Neanderthals, and he is still the nerd. All of the women I've told about my nerdy interests to, are at worst, neutral, and usually at best curious. Or they just happen to know and like the same nerdy thing that I liked.

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Post by reboot on Tue Jan 06, 2015 9:49 am

Jayce: I suppose I never saw nerd=spinster/crazy cat lady because in my mind nerd is culturally linked to men under 40 while the others are more "adult", but you may be right

Werel: I really had trouble seeing past Aaronson writing about his experience as a defense for his colleague who was being charged with sexual harassment of students. I can feel compassion for his experience, but side eye him because he chose to try and garner sympathy for the harasser. Had he spun it as, " Hey, I experienced [story], but believe that these bad experiences do not mean that nerds get a pass on harassing their students and we need to do X, Y and Z to avoid this happening again" this piece would not have made my blood boil. The idea that the biggest problem with sexual harassment is that now it makes guys like him have to go through training which makes them insecure makes me want to bite someone. Apparently his solution to the situation is to stop training on sexual harassment, feminists should stop talking about bad treatment of women in nerd heavy settings, and that women should shut up about their experiences because it makes men and boys like him afraid to date and afraid of women. Fuck that noise. Dr Aaronson, you are a smart man. Why not try to come up with a solution that does not involve sweeping the harm done to others under the rug?

On another note, I personally disagree when feminists tell men that feminism is going to solve all their problems as well. It may solve some by, say, expanding acceptable gender roles and allowing women to be more forthright approaches, allowing men to be stay at home husbands, allowing more fluid definitions of what is masculine, etc., but since the focus is on women, some men's issues will be ignored and that is fine with me. If men want to change things for men, they need to create their own movement and do it themselves. These things can not be outsourced.
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Post by BasedBuzzed on Tue Jan 06, 2015 10:53 am

On becoming disillusioned with the Doc: this is a good thing, because it means you're critical of what works and doesn't work for you. Recognize that the most valuable thing about the site is the community, of which he is just as much a part of as anyone else.
Compare 2011-12 Doc with 2015 Doc: more controversies in the news used as illustrations of a toxic mentality, more entrenchment in the Twittersphere, and a busier life outside of the site, which will have an effect on how much nuance he can put into the columns. Diversify your reading material.

On men having a less thick skin when they 'lose' their privilege: probably also got something to do with women being brought up to be the nurturers and thus learning Emotional Self-Care 101.

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Post by Nerdator on Tue Jan 06, 2015 11:41 am

MapWater wrote:Agreed on it being counterproductive to feminism to try solve men's issues too. I don't trust them to, but not because I distrust the people or the movement itself but because they have enough on their plate. One of these days, it'll reach a point where feminism is (hopefully) unneeded, but I can't see that being the day men have had their fair share of grievances addressed if only because feminism is about women's right. It may be about gaining equality through them, but it's made by women for women first and foremost. I just doubt they'd really give men's problems the proper look-in due to actually focusing on women. Which is totally fine. But having one part of the movement say 'it's all our problem' another say 'it's a problem but not necessarily ours' and yet another say 'men aren't our concern at all' then it causes too much infighting in feminist circles for one, I'd imagine. Although I'd be interested to hear if this is really a thing that's internally questioned within the movement on a regular basis?

And, indeed, men need some kind of movement to almost quarantine the issues for at least a while. Something to unify over and process ideas. The problem I see is that the well has been poisoned in a many ways. MRAs, Men Going Their Own Way (this sounded great when I heard the name for the first time... then I researched it. Ugh.) and more! Don't get me started on the traditional notion of a 'boys club' too. None of them suit me. Feminism doesn't suit me. But, it is the best fit by leaps, bounds and lightyears than the male equivalents.

You might want to check out Ally Fogg's blog, Heteronormative Patriarchy for Men, he writes essentially from the same perspective you're taking here: while feminism does make the world better for men, too, it's not its primary purpose, and it does not directly cater to the issues that mostly men have to deal with, so there must be solutions 'from the other side' to complement it. The blog definitely comes without the anti-social justice or anti-feminist bullshit baggage that usually comes up when it comes to men's issues (it probably wouldn't be on FTB if it were otherwise).
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Post by OneTrueGuest on Tue Jan 06, 2015 12:54 pm

Question: can someone explain the hating the sexual arousal thing as a man? I have more familiarity with it as a woman: that it's impure etc. But I'm seeing more and more self loathing from men that they get aroused by women and I don't fully understand the reason for it. If that isn't too personal a question of course.

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Post by eselle28 on Tue Jan 06, 2015 1:47 pm

Lemminkainen wrote:
eselle28 wrote:As I did on the prime site, I'm going to provide the background of Aaronson's post, which is being defended here. Aaronson isn't just a nerdy man complaining about his awful experiences being a nerdy man. He's a nerdy man who's complaining about his awful experiences being a nerdy man in the middle of a discussion about a 78-year-old professor at his university sexually harassing college students. I think Marcotte was overly harsh in response to his suffering, but I think it should be noted that Aaronson is himself expressing his suffering in a place and manner that's likely to cause harm to others.

The problem with this argument is that Aaronson's point probably couldn't be made outside this context-- he's arguing that certain feminist interventions to stop sexual harassment are both a) ineffective, and b) actively harmful to people who have psychologies like his, to the point that the structural harm outweighs the positive value of the intervention.  (It seems pretty clear that both he and the other Scott A view nerdiness as something more like a disability or cluster of disabilities than like a subcultural affiliation).  I think that, as a general rule, people should be allowed to say "Yes, I know that [Bad Thing X] has happened, but the interventions you're proposing are probably not helpful and might be actively harmful on balance"-- because otherwise, we would have no way to contest the utility of policy proposals.  Making a more just society is a nontrivial problem, so dissenting voices are important for helping us to find the truth, particularly since measures advanced to protect the interests of one marginalized group can often wind up really hurting a different marginalized group.

Of course, we should, in turn, argue vigorously with these sorts of arguments if we disagree with them-- I think that there are some significant problems with parts of both Scotts' arguments, and problematic things in the rhetoric that they used.*  But Aaronson's experiences as a nerdy man are immediately relevant to his arguments about sexual harassment-related interventions-- they're not irrelevant, bad-faith or derailing, unless you consider any disagreement derailing.

*Issues that most immediately come to mind: I found Aaronson's nostalgia for Shetls and arranged marriages totally cringeworthy and clueless, and I found Alexander's comparison of anti-nerdism with anti-Semitism kind of a stretch and his description of Amanda Marcotte as a Vogon gratuitous.

Well, then I'll vigorously disagree. To the extent that affirming the sexuality of nerdy men means that college students will need to endure sexual harassment by elderly professors and everyone else will shrug it off, I'm okay with not affirming the sexuality of nerdy men. Being able to obtain an education and pursue a career are more important considerations than [edited to replace "people" with "men" - because it is men who benefit from this, while women who are shut out of education and career advancement because of harassment have less opportunity to choose the sexual and romantic partners they actually want] being able to pursue any potential romantic or sexual partner in any situation regardless of consequences.

So, I'm done with Aaronson then, and by extension, I'm also done with Alexander. If people want to approach the problem from some other angle, I'll consider those proposals.


Last edited by eselle28 on Tue Jan 06, 2015 1:55 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Post by celette482 on Tue Jan 06, 2015 1:52 pm

I agree with eselle.

The ability to get your education without being harassed for being a female-presenting person is WAY more important that the chance to pursue romantic/sexual partners in all contexts.

I think I mentioned this on the main site. These problems would be much less of a problem if men actually accepted that this is the proper ranking of preferences. Go ahead, fight me on this.
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Post by reboot on Tue Jan 06, 2015 1:59 pm

celette482 wrote:I agree with eselle.

The ability to get your education without being harassed for being a female-presenting person is WAY more important that the chance to pursue romantic/sexual partners in all contexts.

I think I mentioned this on the main site. These problems would be much less of a problem if men actually accepted that this is the proper ranking of preferences. Go ahead, fight me on this.

Thirding this one. And if you are going to fight cellette on this be prepared to fight me too.
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Post by celette482 on Tue Jan 06, 2015 2:04 pm

Here's the thing. It's not the right circumstance to start this discussion.

Those harassed students? They were young! Some of them were nerds! For a bunch of them, THIS WAS THEIR FIRST EXPERIENCE WITH ADULT MALE ATTENTION.

Think about that. Even if it's not true for these specific women, I guarantee you any random sample of women will produce a bunch for whom it is true. It was true for me.

Take all the problems male nerds have with the opposite sex- those apply to the female nerds/the female shy/ the female awkward. But, instead of being laughed at by the cheerleaders, they're laughed at by the cheerleaders AND their 73 year old professor harasses them! Nerds fall into things like academia because it's an escape from the popular, athletic world. Female nerds want to do the same thing, and here, in their place of safety away from the jocks and mean girls, it's just as bad.
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Post by reboundstudent on Tue Jan 06, 2015 2:37 pm

Werel wrote:
Doctor Nerdlove wrote:Don’t get me wrong: the discomfort and anxiety that Aaronson and so many others feel is very real
Surprised Begging a doctor to sexually deactivate you, because you consider your sexuality and/or very existence so hideous and harmful that it's an active danger to those around you, sounds like a kind of suffering I can't even imagine. Not a self-inflicted, nut/ovary-up-and-get-over-it thing, not a "protection from a fear of rejection," not "discomfort and anxiety," but... something seriously horrifying, and minimizing it as part of a larger grievance with an overlapping cultural conversation seems like very poor form.

Yeah though at the same time, those kind of statements really pull me up short and go," Wait... what exactly is going on here that chemical castration is the choice instead of just, acceptance at the idea of being single??"

I do think it's suffering, but it seems to be suffering that is so specific and so based in an individual's head space that I don't really think it can be addressed by either social change or even sympathy.

It.... puzzles me that a lot of the guys I see who talk about this kind of intense suffering seem to do so without any kind of, I dunno, awareness?, that there are other options out there besides blaming society (whether that's blaming women via being angry about feminism or blaming society for not liking nerds or blaming women for not sleeping with them.) Dr. NL has touched on some of the reasons guys without romantic relationships are more isolated in society, and thus have a harder time coping with certain aspects of being single, like not having strong, emotional male friendships or social support systems.

But when I've read about the suffering, very rarely do I see the guys who are suffering consider fixing those kinds of issues. Like reducing homophobia so men actually can build intimate emotional connections outside of a relationship; building strong social support networks that are nurturing; talking about toxic masculinity outside of just strictly dating/women.

The topics, and blame and cures, always seem to focus on dating/sex. Discussions of social awkwardness that I've seen always seem to focus on how it's not awful to be socially awkward just at society in large, but how it's awful to be socially awkward because it means less sex/less dates. As if sex/dates are the ONLY thing worthwhile, and dating/romance is the ONLY area of society that needs to be fixed/made empathetic to the suffering of these guys.

It just strikes me as very strange. I also feel the pain of being unattractive and socially awkward, but it's a social-wide pain; I feel the pain even among people who I don't consider as partners. I would rather have a society that was more accepting of larger people and an intolerant dating world than the other way around. I absolutely feel an intense longing for romance, love and sex, and yet I don't believe all of my problems are limited to just that sphere.

I think that's probably why I have a rather large empathy block. It feels, to me, as if the guys who suffer aren't asking me to empathize with their societal-wide suffering; as a fellow member and creator of society, it makes sense that I would emphasize there. Or even emphasize in a realm I am unfamiliar with (strictly male problems, like toxic masculinity and how men relate to each other.) But by making it all about dating/sex, it kind of gives off this impression that I, or at least my gender, is to blame for male problems; why else would these problems exist only in dating/sex? If the men who are suffering are by and large heterosexual males, and all of their problems are about dating, it isn't that much of a leap to think "Women are responsible for men's suffering."

And when I do hear a suffering guy put forward suggestions about how to help the guys who are suffering, it never seems to be to fix a problem that we're all responsible for.... like homophobia, or lack of social support networks, or to fix areas that largely men are responsible for (intergender communication, enforcement of toxic masculinity.) The fixes always seem to be things that only women can do; changes only women can make. I mean, why isn't any part of his article addressing the "Neanderthals" who bullied him, and (rightly) demanding that regardless of his social interests, he be treated with respect? Where's the male-on-male accountability? Why is the focus of his pain entirely on the Neanderthals "stealing" sex and how he can't get women? Why is the issue not social respect, but sex??

It just strikes me as.... a little bizarre, ya know?
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Post by celette482 on Tue Jan 06, 2015 2:46 pm

reboundstudent wrote:

It just strikes me as very strange. I also feel the pain of being unattractive and socially awkward, but it's a social-wide pain; I feel the pain even among people who I don't consider as partners. I would rather have a society that was more accepting of larger people and an intolerant dating world than the other way around. I absolutely feel an intense longing for romance, love and sex, and yet I don't believe all of my problems are limited to just that sphere.
 

All you said, but especially this. I'm married, for pete's sake, but I still feel the pain of being awkward, because I just moved to a new city and I need to make friends and that's HARD and my life is currently not as awesome as it used to be because I don't have my people. Awkward guys *probably* have the same troubles making non-romantic friends. Or, I just went to ask my landlords to take money off my rent to pay for a repair we had to have, and it was f*cking TERRIFYING! I hate being confrontational because I'm awkward and I was going over in my head what all they'll say etc etc etc. That's a thing that happens to all awkward people.

But no, dating/sex is the end all, and somehow, magically, it comes down to being about what women should and shouldn't do. Again. Smash against wall

EDIT: they took it off no problem and we debated WHY someone cut 9 inches of the cable and took it away and HOW they did that without putting a huge hole in the drywall.
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Post by The Wisp on Tue Jan 06, 2015 2:53 pm

I certainly am just as pained by my inability to connect with people platonically as I am romantically and sexually. Romantic and sexual relations actually seem easier to build than a supportive social network, however (which says more about the difficulty of the latter than the ease of the former). A romantic or sexual relationship is where intimacy builds very quickly and is expected to. There are at least vague rules and structures around dating. Close supportive friendships take years to build, by contrast, and there are no rules, it's a fucking crap shoot. Furthermore, as a man, other men will be suspicious because they're homophobic and women will be too because they'll think you want to date them.
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Post by Caffeinated on Tue Jan 06, 2015 3:14 pm

celette482 wrote:Here's the thing. It's not the right circumstance to start this discussion.

Those harassed students? They were young! Some of them were nerds! For a bunch of them, THIS WAS THEIR FIRST EXPERIENCE WITH ADULT MALE ATTENTION.

Think about that. Even if it's not true for these specific women, I guarantee you any random sample of women will produce a bunch for whom it is true. It was true for me.

Take all the problems male nerds have with the opposite sex- those apply to the female nerds/the female shy/ the female awkward. But, instead of being laughed at by the cheerleaders, they're laughed at by the cheerleaders AND their 73 year old professor harasses them! Nerds fall into things like academia because it's an escape from the popular, athletic world. Female nerds want to do the same thing, and here, in their place of safety away from the jocks and mean girls, it's just as bad.

I actually think it could have been the right circumstance for part of the discussion, at least for one of Aaronson's original points. The point I mean is when he said he thought it would have been better if the university had not kept the specifics of the sexual harassment a secret. While his reasoning was about the nerdy young men witnessing it and thinking that any tiny thing might be sexual harassment, and that reasoning does, as you say, take the focus off the harassed students, there is a different reasoning that would argue for the same thing without doing so. He could have said that the university should tell the specifics so that the world could see what kind of garbage female students still have to face, that it is real and it is serious and it can no longer be tolerated. I think it's true that the young male nerds in the audience may have unrealistic ideas about what constitutes sexual harassment. Finding out the truth could lead to more empathy for what their female-presenting peers are facing in addition to the same nerd-stuff that applies to any gender of nerd.

I think that approach would have gotten the post a lot less attention, though, and we likely would never have heard about it.
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Post by Caffeinated on Tue Jan 06, 2015 3:20 pm

reboundstudent wrote:
I do think it's suffering, but it seems to be suffering that is so specific and so based in an individual's head space that I don't really think it can be addressed by either social change or even sympathy.

It.... puzzles me that a lot of the guys I see who talk about this kind of intense suffering seem to do so without any kind of, I dunno, awareness?, that there are other options out there besides blaming society (whether that's blaming women via being angry about feminism or blaming society for not liking nerds or blaming women for not sleeping with them.) Dr. NL has touched on some of the reasons guys without romantic relationships are more isolated in society, and thus have a harder time coping with certain aspects of being single, like not having strong, emotional male friendships or social support systems.

But when I've read about the suffering, very rarely do I see the guys who are suffering consider fixing those kinds of issues. Like reducing homophobia so men actually can build intimate emotional connections outside of a relationship; building strong social support networks that are nurturing; talking about toxic masculinity outside of just strictly dating/women.

The topics, and blame and cures, always seem to focus on dating/sex. Discussions of social awkwardness that I've seen always seem to focus on how it's not awful to be socially awkward just at society in large, but how it's awful to be socially awkward because it means less sex/less dates. As if sex/dates are the ONLY thing worthwhile, and dating/romance is the ONLY area of society that needs to be fixed/made empathetic to the suffering of these guys.

It just strikes me as very strange. I also feel the pain of being unattractive and socially awkward, but it's a social-wide pain; I feel the pain even among people who I don't consider as partners. I would rather have a society that was more accepting of larger people and an intolerant dating world than the other way around. I absolutely feel an intense longing for romance, love and sex, and yet I don't believe all of my problems are limited to just that sphere.

I think that's probably why I have a rather large empathy block. It feels, to me, as if the guys who suffer aren't asking me to empathize with their societal-wide suffering; as a fellow member and creator of society, it makes sense that I would emphasize there. Or even emphasize in a realm I am unfamiliar with (strictly male problems, like toxic masculinity and how men relate to each other.) But by making it all about dating/sex, it kind of gives off this impression that I, or at least my gender, is to blame for male problems; why else would these problems exist only in dating/sex? If the men who are suffering are by and large heterosexual males, and all of their problems are about dating, it isn't that much of a leap to think "Women are responsible for men's suffering."

And when I do hear a suffering guy put forward suggestions about how to help the guys who are suffering, it never seems to be to fix a problem that we're all responsible for.... like homophobia, or lack of social support networks, or to fix areas that largely men are responsible for (intergender communication, enforcement of toxic masculinity.) The fixes always seem to be things that only women can do; changes only women can make. I mean, why isn't any part of his article addressing the "Neanderthals" who bullied him, and (rightly) demanding that regardless of his social interests, he be treated with respect? Where's the male-on-male accountability? Why is the focus of his pain entirely on the Neanderthals "stealing" sex and how he can't get women? Why is the issue not social respect, but sex??

It just strikes me as.... a little bizarre, ya know?  

You make a very interesting point here. My guess is the guys who are talking about this suffering in this way have internalized an idea that the only cure for their loneliness and pain is in the form of a woman. Sort of the flip side of the coin of women getting the message drummed into our heads that the only thing we're good for is sex/romance/being the love interest.
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Post by celette482 on Tue Jan 06, 2015 3:29 pm

Caffeinated wrote:
I actually think it could have been the right circumstance for part of the discussion, at least for one of Aaronson's original points. The point I mean is when he said he thought it would have been better if the university had not kept the specifics of the sexual harassment a secret. While his reasoning was about the nerdy young men witnessing it and thinking that any tiny thing might be sexual harassment, and that reasoning does, as you say, take the focus off the harassed students, there is a different reasoning that would argue for the same thing without doing so. He could have said that the university should tell the specifics so that the world could see what kind of garbage female students still have to face, that it is real and it is serious and it can no longer be tolerated. I think it's true that the young male nerds in the audience may have unrealistic ideas about what constitutes sexual harassment. Finding out the truth could lead to more empathy for what their female-presenting peers are facing in addition to the same nerd-stuff that applies to any gender of nerd.

I think that approach would have gotten the post a lot less attention, though, and we likely would never have heard about it.

Could you further explain your point? I'm not sure I'm following and I don't want to put words in your mouth.
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Post by Caffeinated on Tue Jan 06, 2015 3:38 pm

celette482 wrote:
Caffeinated wrote:
I actually think it could have been the right circumstance for part of the discussion, at least for one of Aaronson's original points. The point I mean is when he said he thought it would have been better if the university had not kept the specifics of the sexual harassment a secret. While his reasoning was about the nerdy young men witnessing it and thinking that any tiny thing might be sexual harassment, and that reasoning does, as you say, take the focus off the harassed students, there is a different reasoning that would argue for the same thing without doing so. He could have said that the university should tell the specifics so that the world could see what kind of garbage female students still have to face, that it is real and it is serious and it can no longer be tolerated. I think it's true that the young male nerds in the audience may have unrealistic ideas about what constitutes sexual harassment. Finding out the truth could lead to more empathy for what their female-presenting peers are facing in addition to the same nerd-stuff that applies to any gender of nerd.

I think that approach would have gotten the post a lot less attention, though, and we likely would never have heard about it.

Could you further explain your point? I'm not sure I'm following and I don't want to put words in your mouth.

I'm referring to the first two paragraphs of Aaronson's original blog post (not the infamous comment 171, but the post itself), where he said this:

Yesterday I heard the sad news that Prof. Walter Lewin, age 78—perhaps the most celebrated physics teacher in MIT’s history—has been stripped of his emeritus status and barred from campus, and all of his physics lectures removed from OpenCourseWare, because an internal investigation found that he had been sexually harassing students online. I don’t know anything about what happened beyond the terse public announcements, but those who do know tell me that the charges were extremely serious, and that “this wasn’t a borderline case.”

I’m someone who feels that sexual harassment must never be tolerated, neither here nor anywhere else. But I also feel that, if a public figure is going to be publicly brought down like this (yes, even by a private university), then the detailed findings of the investigation should likewise be made public, regardless of how embarrassing they are. I know others differ, but I think the need of the world to see that justice was done overrides MIT’s internal administrative needs, and even Prof. Lewin’s privacy (the names of any victims could, of course, be kept secret).

I think a lot of people have the idea that sexual harassment isn't real, or doesn't happen much any more, or isn't that serious. So when he says that those who know what happened say that the charges were extremely serious and not a borderline case, I think it could have provided an opportunity for people who brush off the idea of sexual harassment to see what it really is instead of continuing with their made-up versions that always seem to end in aggrieved questions like "So I can never say hi to anyone anymore? Is that what you're saying?"

I think if the discussion had been about the reality and seriousness of sexual harassment, it would have been an appropriate circumstance to have that discussion. But of course, that wasn't the main point of Aaronson's blog post.
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