Brute Reason

A collection of thoughts about psychology, social justice, and anything else I give a shit about. freethoughtblogs.com/brutereason

Topics: feminism / psychology / lgbtq / sex / politics / abortion / health / mental illness / language / depression / sexism / sexual assault / fashion / racism / education / social justice

my actual writing, if you're curious

I think the most common type of advice I get asked for is “This person is being an asshole/doesn’t get feminism at all/won’t respect my boundaries, what should I say to them.”

I am terrible at giving this type of advice. The only advice I have is to cut this person out of your life. People never want to take that advice, so I don’t give it, but it’s what I would do.

There are very good reasons we do not set an “innocent until proven guilty” standard for every system of justice. It is appropriate in a criminal justice system, where the consequences of a false positive are particularly high. Loss of freedom and possibly of life are large consequences. Proof “beyond a reasonable doubt” is an appropriate means of protecting people from facing those consequences in error, particularly when the costs of false negatives are relatively abstract (being “robbed of justice”) or diffuse (increasing risk of continuing crime across a population).

As soon as we step outside the criminal justice system, the stakes change and so do the standards we apply in deciding between accuser and accused. In the civil justice system, the basic standard is preponderance of evidence. For the most part, the claimants are viewed to be facing equal risk if their claim is inappropriately rejected, so they face equal standards of evidence. (Where risk is particularly unequal, measures are occasionally taken to make it easier for a party to afford to make a good case for a true claim or more expensive to make one that is known to be false. Think recovering attorneys’ fees or facing penalties for frivolous suits.)

When it comes to sexual assault allegations on college campuses, accuser and accused face nearly identical consequences. Both face potentially devastating damage to their reputation. Both face the censure of peers, faculty, and administration. Both face the possible end of their educational career, at least with that institution, as victims of sexual assault do sometimes find it impossible to function on campus with their assaulter present. To the extent they risk unequal injustice, a case could possibly be made that an honest accuser faces a larger risk, as lack of support after a sexual assault is a major risk factor for a poor outcome. However, I’ll stipulate that the risk is equal for the sake of dealing with this argument.

What does it mean, then, when someone posits that it is unacceptable for an innocent accused to be found guilty when that same someone doesn’t equally agree that it is unacceptable for an accurate accusation to be found false? What does it mean when someone tries to require “proof” rather than an equal weighing of all information available?

It means that person is arguing that accusers should bear the larger burden in these cases. In addition to an equal share of the risk, they should bear a greater responsibility for providing evidence for their case. Even before we get into issues of common rape myths and how those influence decision-making in these cases, even before we touch the issue of rates of true and false reports, someone who argues that it is unacceptable for an innocent accused to be found guilty is arguing that accusers should face injustice more often.
I also think it says a lot about our culture that when we talk about BDSM and feminism, we pretty much always mean BDSM within a cis-het relationship, usually referring to a power dynamic where the man is dominant and the woman is submissive. No one ever asks if BDSM between two (or more!) women is feminist, and dominant women aren’t often discussed except in the OHHHHH SCARY SHE’S A DOMINATRIX kinda way. So, as a friend recently pointed out to me, that right there shows you that it’s not so much BDSM that’s problematic, but the way that we assign and act out gender roles. And, again, that’s not to say that men who are dominant are never misogynists, just that one doesn’t necessarily have to equal the other.
Personally, I find that being sexually submissive has a lot of positive things going for it. When I’m in a submissive sexual role, I don’t have to make any decisions, which is actually pretty relaxing because I often feel like I have to make All The Decisions For Everyone in my everyday life. The times that I’ve slept with dudes who are all, “ok, first I want you to go down on me, and then I’m going to fuck you and make you come, and then I’m going to come on your face,” I’ve been like, great! Now I don’t have to worry about what’s coming next or whether he’s enjoying what I’m doing or whatever. It’s basically like a day at the spa (with a complimentary facial) (that was a really bad joke) (sorry).

When They’re Concerned About Your Health | Dances With Fat

Great post about people who concern-troll fat people with worries about their “health.”

One of my blog’s search terms today: “sexy girl gets it in every hole.” Wow! She must be an excellent golfer, and attractive too. I hope the person who searched for that finds the video they’re looking for, as it sounds pretty impressive.

So I’m pretty much done having the “yes I know you admire this person’s work but you can’t admire their work in a vacuum when they’ve done terrible things to people you supposedly care about” conversation with dudes. For some reason I never seem to get anywhere in this conversation. For some reason, for some people, it is ALWAYS okay to look past really, really bad things that someone says and does because they say and do some good things too.

Obviously we shouldn’t write off everyone who makes a mistake or who we disagree with on some point, but I’m talking about some issues quite more significant than that. Are there really so few insightful atheists in the world? Really so few talented writers? Really so few skilled scientists? Do we really need to be so desperate to hold on to horrible people?

We often talk about the “leaky pipeline of STEM” as a way to talk about how women and people of color drop out of STEM careers at alarmingly high rates, but it is time to abandon that language. We’re not talking about a passive system here, where people just happen to drip out of the pipeline. No, we’re talking about a system that actively creates pressure. If you take a large pipe, attach it to a smaller pipe and then a smaller one, while still pushing the same amount of water through, what’s going to happen? Either your pipe is going to spring pressure-driven leaks or you’re going to have to have holes drilled to relieve it. We’re not talking about a leaky pipeline of STEM, we’re talking about a gorram sprinkler system, actively pushing out people who were set up to fail from the beginning by the very system itself.

There are very real problems in the sciences. But right now the field is caught in an auto-catalytic cycle, where people point out ways in which we’re failing at outreach, the people in positions of power dig in their heels with cries of “but *we* weren’t offended!”, the same people then wring their hands and wonder why there isn’t more diversity in science… and continue to ignore us when answers to that question are given. And if we keep making excuses for the smaller things that hurt various groups, it’s never goin to change.
I’m wondering—what can’t be blamed on absent black fathers? Put aside for a moment that the myth of the absent black father has been debunked time and again. We won’t discuss how black fathers have comparable—and in some cases higher—levels of involvement with their children as do white and Latino fathers. The statistic that 72 percent of black children grow up without fathers, which gets thrown around a lot in these conversations, is about out-of-wedlock births; that doesn’t necessarily mean those children are being raised without a father. But I don’t want to talk about the facts right now. I just want to know if there’s a single problem in black communities that can not be blamed on missing fathers.
I’m going to make a very firm statement right now: The only people who have the right to define what bisexuality is are people who identify as bisexual. If they were to come to a major consensus to say “Yes, bisexuality refers to loving two genders or two sexes, and only that” then it would be one thing. It’s also different from bisexuals who say “I am bisexual because I am interested in both men and women.” Instead, a definition is being pushed onto bisexuals by people who do not identify with the label rather than by people who identify with it.

As pansexuals, this is something that needs to stop. We are perfectly capable of defining ourselves without automatically framing it as an alternative to bisexuality. And we are perfectly capable of responding to the inevitable “…so, you’re bi then?” responses with “no, I do not identify with that” rather than “but bisexuals are binarists/transphobic/only open to two genders!” Until we do that, we are perpetuating the same devaluation of identity that causes some bisexuals to make ignorant statements that pansexuals are just hipster bisexuals who want to be special snowflakes. If you oppose pansexuality being defined as an attention-seeking form of bisexuality for hipsters, don’t make the same mistake by giving self-congratulatory definitions of bisexuality.
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