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This is a comment thread from my recent blog post (http://freethoughtblogs.com/brutereason/2014/01/16/having-to-see-it-to-believe-it-men-and-online-sexual-harassment).
The last comment brings up an excellent point: why do so many people take it for granted that some men will do terrible things to get women because those strategies work some tiny percentage of the time, even though people use this type of reasoning in so few other situations? (Spam is the only example I can think of, and sending someone a spam email is a much lesser deal than sexually harassing them or stealing their food.)
Well… it’s possible to distinguish the restaurant scenario from the online dating scenario, in that people are likely to face social censure for eating food off of others’ plates in a way they won’t simply from harassing women online. (Which is, of course, incredibly fucked up.)
But this idea that men harass because it’s efficient seems incredibly and obviously wrong-headed, to me. Does anyone honestly believe that men are sitting down and crunching the numbers before deciding to harass women? That they’re keeping careful track of how many positive responses they get in order to decide whether to keep doing it or not? That they’re trying alternate methods periodically just to make sure they’re maximally efficient?
Men harass women as a result of having no respect for boundaries and a perception that harassment will get them what they want. Whether or not that perception is based in fact is, in my opinion, almost entirely irrelevant. (And confirmation bias is a helluva drug, when it comes to keeping faulty perceptions running.)
And while some might argue that the social censure difference is simply caused by this being online and therefore in private, men have made the exact same argument to me about street harassment, which is often very public. “But what if it gets him laid 1% of the time—” no.
The idea that sexual harassment is somehow “rational,” given a certain despicable set of parameters, reminds me of the attempts to “rationalize” rape as evolutionarily advantageous. Leaving aside whether or not it’s true - and I think it’s rarely well supported - it kinda skeeves me out when people are so determined to make awful, dehumanizing behavior seem justifiable.
Yeah, and it’s often the exact same people who make both of these rationalizations, sometimes even weaving them into one: men evolved to be fucking awful because being fucking awful works 1% of the time.
The men who are not fucking awful are, apparently, evolutionary anomalies.