Archive for March, 2018

Sexism in the Atheist Movement

March 30, 2018

So, P.Z. Myers made a post talking about the Just Us Women podcast ending. He quotes the reason for its demise as follows:

I will no longer be interviewing women who have left religion, since I cannot in good conscience refer them to the atheist community, where they could find support. … All the resources are tainted with connections to the top tier of misogynist, sexist men.

People in the comments have noted the oddity that she’s not going to interview women who have left religion because somehow doing that would mean referring them to the atheist movement, even though she doesn’t have to do that and has no reason to unless she’s still going to stay in the atheist movement, or considers herself such a tainted resource. I don’t want to talk about that oddity. I want to talk about another oddity, which comes from considering that these women have left religion, and so in general have left religions that the atheist movement considers incredibly sexist, and as sexist as something can possibly be. So, by that, these women have likely experienced the worst sexism that they possibly could have experienced. Unless the atheist movement is worse than the average religion when it comes to sexism — and I’ve argued in the past that it seems like it clearly isn’t — then surely even referring them to the current atheist movement would mean an improvement in the sexism they face from the movement that is so critical to supporting them.

Unless the atheist movement really is more sexist than religions. But that can’t be the case, can it?

When it comes to sexual harassment … maybe it is. See, one of the main differences is that the atheist movement attached itself to progressivism, and progressivism embraced the idea of “sex positivity”. Indeed, one of the main criticism the atheist movement leveled against religion was how repressed and prudish they were about sex and sexuality, particularly in women. Sex was supposed to be fun, and something that everyone should participate in, and that attempting to limit that in any way was denying people not only great experiences, but a critical part of themselves. So free sexuality was important, and all of the traditional sexual mores were done away with, with people embracing things like polyamory and casual sex so that even the idea that sex was something that was supposed to happen between people who were in a committed relationship was lost. As long as the sex was consensual, anything went.

This, of course, ended up being controversial, as it clashed with feminism. The problem was that a lot of the “anything goes” were things that feminism traditionally considered objectifying. This included all forms of sex work, leading to the characterization of some of them as SWERFs. While some denied that sex positivity and feminism weren’t at all in conflict — because of the insistence that it was all consensual — the issue remained. And it’s clear what the underlying issue was: if women were going to be having sex and being sexual, unless they were all going to be lesbians and only have sexual relations with women, that sex and those sexual things were going to be done with and for men … and at least some forms of feminism insisted that doing that would be objectifying. Yes, sex with men and doing sex shows for men could definitely be consensual and could derive from the woman’s desires, but all of that would involve doing things that feminism said men expected women to do in order to please them. Which could lead to them thinking that they were entitled to that from women. The more women who were willing to do those things for men — even for their own pleasure — the more men could justify the idea that those things were what women should do for men. The counter to that is the standard “Restricting women from pursuing what they enjoy is just as bad as what patriarchy did”, which has generally not convinced anyone on the other side.

So what we have is sex positivity which chides anyone for restricting the sexual fun that people can have or seek out, and a sex positivity that is a critical differentiating factor between atheism and religion. At that point, all of the traditional sex norms are gone, and thus all ways of enforcing those sexual norms. In traditional or religious social circles, sex is supposed to be limited to couples in a serious relationship that could lead to marriage. Yes, that wasn’t always followed, but at least if someone “took advantage” of a woman to get sex without commitment the woman could easily be consoled by saying that the man was immoral and bad, and would get sympathy from the social group for that. And someone who called that man out as a cad would be appealing to the overarching social structure, and so would at least get some consideration for saying that the person was breaking the social rules.

But that didn’t exist in the sex positive atheist movement. Casual sex — and the pursuit thereof — wasn’t a bad thing anymore. I wonder how many atheists who noticed some of the more … aggressive approaches refused to intervene not because they were intimidated by the power of the person making the approach, but because they were afraid of being called prudish or its modern equivalent of “sex negative” for interfering with two consenting adults seeking sexual pleasure.

If they couldn’t use that they were essentially being tricked by promises of a long-term relationship into having casual sex — and that therefore that they were being “used” in that way — but still felt “used” in some way, what could they appeal to? Well, the only thing left was consent. If they could claim that it wasn’t really consensual, then they could still condemn the men who took those actions without having to reject sex positivity. For example, with the Michael Shermer allegations, Smith said that he “coerced me into a position where I could not consent, and then had sex with me”, which is incredibly vague and could range from convincing her to let him tie her up to, well, what she ended up claiming, which was that he encouraged her to drink more heavily than she should and had sex with her while she was intoxicated, and presumably too intoxicated to give consent, which tied into the long-standing feminist claim that a woman who was intoxicated could not give consent. Of course, people pointed out that it didn’t seem reasonable to claim that someone else offering someone alcohol, even if they weren’t drinking that heavily themselves, was a kind of coercion that we couldn’t expect people to resist, and the debate was on. But the key was that all of this was being used to insist that she didn’t really consent, and so the sex was wrong, as that’s the only line left that she could pursue.

This led to the reinstatement of some of the old mores, as people insisted that you shouldn’t have simple casual sex with a stranger, but should have sex with someone you knew well and respected so that you could read their cues and so get affirmative consent. This, and the harassment policies, clashed with the sex positivity of people who thought that it meant that they could pursue and get guilt-free sex, and that it was all okay as long as the other person agreed. In fact, most of the clash around harassment policies was indeed about having to put restrictions on who you could pursue and when, with some of the restrictions seeming inconsistent unless you looked at it from the perspective of trying to replace the old “taking advantage of” sexual mores.

Now, which side is right or wrong is beside the point (I think both are in some ways). But the key point here is that in the “sex positive” atheist movement, women were going to get more invitations for sex, those invitations would be more direct, and a sexual atmosphere was going to be more present and more open, and there would be more pressure to be sexually open. For women who found that uncomfortable, there was no real way to deal with that. And even those women who were more comfortable with that were going to have a problem when they ended up feeling taken advantage of. So it is possible that, when it comes to sexual harassment, the atheist movement was worse than religions because it would be more open and there were no social structures in place to deal with it, and attempts to add in those structures felt like ruining all of the fun for those — men and women — who had no problem with the way it was.

Personally, I still think that the impression of egregious sexism more reflects disappointment than reality. They expected the atheist movement to be better than everything else because they came to it from certain progressive and feminist worldviews, and so expected that everyone else did, too. When they found out that they couldn’t, they felt a disappointment akin to finding out that their hero had feet of clay, except that it was the entire movement that had that and not just one or two people. Myers’ entire argument against dictionary atheists is that atheism has to imply the liberal, progressive, feminist values that he supports, even if people disagree with them. When these atheists became convinced that the atheist movement wasn’t going to adopt their entire set of values, the atheist movement itself was seen as unethical, and that caused them to abandon it … even as they ignored that the religious alternative was supposed to be worse by their own arguments.

In their disappointment, they risk abandoning burgeoning atheists to an alternative that they should find even less acceptable. That can’t be what they wanted, but it’s what they’re going to end up with.

If not for you …

March 28, 2018

In “Nine Princes in Amber”, the first book in the Amber series by Roger Zelazny, Eric of Amber says this to his brother Corwin: “I might have pardoned him, save for your present recommendation”. He goes on to say that because Corwin wanted their brother Random spared, it had to be for some ulterior motive, so Eric couldn’t trust that recommendation.

I now feel the same way about “Ready Player One”.

I heard about the book from numerous sources. Despite being in the age range to get the nostalgia hit, it didn’t seem to me like a book that I’d want to read. And after giving up on popular sci-fi — and pretty much any sci-fi — after the whole Hugo Awards thing and my assessment that the winners in 2016 were at best mediocre, I certainly wasn’t inclined to try out something else that some people liked and some people griped about.

But P.Z. Myers hates it.

Now, this is not the first time Myers has griped about it, and it’s not the case that I’d do anything or seek out something just because Myers hates it, because if you look up the word “curmudgeon” in the dictionary you’ll probably see his picture (or Jerry Coyne’s, which makes it all the more ironic that they even dislike each other). If I tried everything he hated I’d never get done. But in the latest post he linked to another post talking about other people disliking it:

Let’s not beat around the bush: Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One is a circle jerk of male geek culture sustained over a grueling 400 pages.

Well, now I’m interested, just to see what it did to tick them off so much (despite her later commenting that there’s nothing wrong with a movie about that, despite the harsh response). So, I bought it, and I’m going to read it. I’m going to read it with the same attitude as I read all of those Hugo nominees from 2016, and attempt to give an objective assessment of how good or bad it is. I could think it terrible. I could think it great. I’m expecting to find it “Meh”. But we’ll see. And it’s filling up the Amazon free shipping for the Infinity War TPB, which I’m looking forward to reading after really enjoying Infinity Gauntlet. So, there’s that.

But let me talk about the rest of Jess Joho’s article above, because her main point is indeed less that “Ready Player One”‘s focus is bad, and more that it leaves out all of the girl pop culture from the same time periods, and goes on to suggest things that could be done to make up the gap:

That why everything from Transformers to The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles can get reimagined with CGI reverence — but the idea of a blockbuster live-action American Girl Dolls or The Powerpuff Girls franchise sounds laughable.

So, why did those two specific things get their movies? Well, let’s start with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. See, the reason it got reimagined might have something to do with the fact that in 1990 it actually had a live action movie, that was successful enough to spawn two sequels. If you were looking for something from that era to reboot as a live action movie, that one was a pretty good bet, especially after Transformers worked. And for Transformers, it was actually still running incarnations of the cartoons up until 2006 (the first movie was made in 2007). Oh, and it had a theatrical movie, too, which was poorly received at the time but has gone on to be a cult classic. So if you were going to try out a couple of old cartoons to turn them into modern movies, these were pretty good bets for having, you know, actually been movies at some point.

But it’s far more enlightening to look at what she left out. She left out the G.I. Joe movies, and since Transformers and G.I. Joe were both Hasbro products, it only makes sense that they’d try those two, and also explains what she finds inexplicable that the “Battleship” board game would get a movie before the “girl” movies she wants. And given that Hasbro is involved, we might want to ask about a Jem and the Holograms movie … except that it had one, which was poorly received, and so didn’t get a second movie even though they clearly planned for a sequel and even planned for a potential crossover with G.I. Joe and the Transformers, which was killed by how poorly the Jem movie did. Wonder why she left that one out. And she could have asked about “My Little Pony” … except that it got a theatrical release in 2017. Again, wonder why she left that one out. So far, her post is more noteworthy for what she ignores than for what she says.

So let’s look at her seven suggestions:

1. An HBO The Baby-Sitters Club mini-series

The original #girlbosses, Baby-Sitters Club is lowkey one of the most enduring feminist staples of girlhood. Long before Time’s Up made pay equity a central cultural conversation, these young entrepreneurs were making business plans and getting ****ing paid. Yes, there was a 1995 movie, but the time is ripe for a reboot (Hollywood loves those!). So we propose HBO takes this on to deliver a Big Little Lies for the younger generation.

I’ve heard of this series. I’m not sure how it would work on HBO, given that it’s not likely to be a deep or complicated story, and if they made it that way it would probably end up a lot like the Jem movie. And it also had a movie. Still, it’s hard to see this one working in the same way as Transformers or TMNT did, because Michael Bay took the source material and built a somewhat credible set of action movies out of it, which meant it had an audience beyond those who wanted to watch it out of nostalgia (and good thing, because Transformers, at least, for the most part ignored what made the original shows so interesting and so killed most people’s nostalgia anyway).

2. A live-action Sailor Moon franchise

Sailor Moon was the ’90s kid Saturday morning cartoon blast in the face of lady power. Aside from being a radical school girl who could turn into a magical goddamn moon princess, she also taught us about the enduring power of female friendship. We’re envisioning something that’s Sucker Punch levels of extra — only without all the gross male gaze-y bullshit.

I watched this show. I liked it (Sailor Mercury was my favourite). I think it would make a crap live action movie. First, because it was an anime, and unlike cartoons anime tends to stretch their storylines out over an entire season and so it’s hard to isolate a storyline that can fit nicely into one movie (and a planned trilogy can fall apart if it isn’t done right, like Jem and the Holograms) and second because it’s a magical girl story and I think that would be hard to pull off credibly in live action. I suspect that such a movie would turn into some kind of action movie a la Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which I don’t think would please any audience that might be inclined to see it.

3. Libba Bray’s Gemma Doyle Trilogy

This Victorian-era fantasy trilogy is not only beautifully written, but one of the starkest YA portrayals of how girls must navigate complicated relationships to power, patriarchy, and friendship. We got pretty close to seeing them made into movies when Icon Productions licensed it in 2006. Then nothing happened… until the company recently relinquished the rights — leaving it totally open for grabs (are you listening, Warner Bros.?!)

The what now? I’ve never heard of this, and if you’re looking to get comparisons to Transformers and the like you’d think I’d have heard of it, having heard of the first two and Powerpuff Girls …

4. A feminist reboot of Life-Size

Who could forget Trya Banks’ acting debut in 2000 as a Barbie brought to life. But while the original Disney movie played Eve’s inability to perform Barbie’s many jobs (doctor, astronaut, lawyer, etc) for laughs, there’s a real metaphor there. There are endless possibilities in a feminist reboot that actually critiques the cultural messages we send young girls through marketing and toys. And, yeah, we know: a sequel was actually announced. But we want less made-for-TV Life-Size 2, and more of a wide theatrical release for Life-Size: The Reckoning.

Well, at least it being from 2000 explains why I’ve never heard of it … but it also doesn’t make it fit the sort of nostalgia narrative that the other series hit.

5. The Song of the Lioness series, or anything from the Tortall Universe

Wouldn’t you know it — here’s another beloved, classic female-oriented YA series that almost got made into a movie, and then didn’t. But for the love of god, if we can get an Eragon movie and two Percy Jackson movies made, then I think we can spare one measly Hollywood adaptation to Tamora Pierce. This book follows the story of Alanna of Trebond, a noble girl that disguises herself as a boy so she can train to become a knight.

Seriously: everyone wants this adapted, for too many reasons to count. Just call Maisie Williams and tell her to clear her schedule already.

I guess I’m not everyone, because I could care less. Mostly because I have no idea what it is or was. Then again, the same could be said for Eragon or Percy Jackson … but then I didn’t watch those either and they clearly don’t have the same cultural cache as the things she originally talked about.

6. A Daria movie that isn’t a joke

Do we even need to defend this? The fake College Humor trailer for a live-action Daria starring Aubrey Plaza basically did the work for us. And it feels like a sin that no one’s taken up the task of turning that dream into a reality. I mean, we can all agree that Daria is an icon for apathetic millennials everywhere, regardless of gender — right?

I’ve heard of Daria, watched it, liked it. Am not convinced that you can turn it into a movie, although a live action series could work. Still, it might be worth someone taking a stab at it, but on the other hand it’s not like anyone tried to do a reboot movie of Beavis and Butthead yet, either.

7. Skip the Bright sequel, and make Tithe instead

Bright already felt pretty much like a really bad, racist knock-off of Tithe, a well-respected YA novel that brought fairies into cityscapes. Holly Black’s Tithe didn’t originate the gritty urban fairytale genre, but it grounded it in girlhood experiences through protagonist Kaye Fierch. You can find Kaye struggling to reconcile with her musician mother’s unconventional lifestyle, while also dealing with hangovers from a night out partying with the faery folk in their (literal) underground bars. Think Lord of the Rings if it was dropped into the Gossip Girl universe (and a lot less reductive.)

The what now? I haven’t heard of either … and I’ve heard of “Sweet Valley High”.

Okay, what’s clear is that Joho is really simply posting a list of things she wants to see made into movies or TV series or whatever, but that don’t really have any kind of logical link to the male geek culture nostalgia movies and shows that have been made. While I think it intentional, the main reason to gripe about male geek culture being made is that she thinks that making arguments like that are more likely to get attention than simple arguments about how good this series would be if it was made into a movie. It also lets her hide behind the excuse of sexism if they don’t get made or if they are made and fail, without her ever having to admit that it wasn’t a good idea in the first place. So we can see that people are using the excuse of sexism to argue for personal preferences as opposed to things that really highlight sexism, ignoring things that would cast doubt on the sexism interpretation and hyping up the parts that neatly fit that narrative. This clutters the landscape and makes it hard for us to know when things are really sexist and when it’s just a result of personal preferences that aren’t shared by most people and so don’t have an audience. There’s no real consideration of who the audience might be or if that sort of thing can work. This results in people demanding that customers who are not interested in those things buy it anyway in the name of fighting sexism even though the intended audience itself won’t buy enough of it to make it work. This, of course, is very, very bad for any media that actually listens to them.

And remember, I liked some of these things, and still am wary about trying to find a way to give her what she wants (because I think we can’t). If she can’t appeal on the basis of there being enough of an intended audience to make that work, we should not let her get away with appealing to how important it is to women to do it.

Thoughts on the Women’s World Championships

March 26, 2018

I didn’t get to watch much of the Women’s Worlds because they were pretty much only showing Canada’s games and they didn’t play in the afternoon on the days when I was home early enough to watch them. I did catch part of the qualification rounds, one semi-final, and the bronze and gold medal games. The bronze medal came down the last rock, with Russia defeating the U.S.A., who had lost a lot of games on the last rock, and whose skip, Jamie Sinclair, reacted very angrily to what she thought was a missed line call on her second last rock. The gold medal game was a classic between Canada and Sweden, with Canada taking it in an extra end. So let me talk about that game in a little bit more detail.

Now, while I haven’t made a secret of the fact that I’m not that fond of Jennifer Jones’ team, I was of course cheering for her as she was representing Canada. And the game started off slow, as Jones had the hammer on the basis of a perfect 12 – 0 round robin and simply refused to be baited into taking a single point. The first scoring, then, happened in the fourth end, with Jones taking two. Then a mistake in the next end let Anna Hasselborg take three, and the race was on. Jones made a great shot in the ninth to go up by two and seemingly be in control, but Hasselborg made a couple of great shots in the tenth to tie it up and send it to the extra end. Finally, Jones made a great shot to leave a tough shot for Hasselborg, who missed hitting a rock in the four-foot completely, giving Jones the win, who ended up going 14 – 0 for the tournament, becoming the second straight Canadian women’s team to do that, after Rachel Homan did it last year.

After Canada’s disastrous — for Canada, at least — showing in women’s curling at the Olympics, many people were saying that the Roar of the Rings format was a bad way to choose a Canadian representative, and they should have just sent Jones, the defending gold medalist who had a lot of international experience and success. This showing probably added more fuel to that fire. However, Homan had won the Women’s Worlds the previous year, as I’ve already mentioned, and it’d be hard to argue that she wouldn’t deserve consideration after that performance. You could appeal to Jones’ previous Olympic experience, but you can’t leave out a team because it doesn’t currently have Olympic experience because at one point Jones herself was playing at the Olympics for the first time. You can’t get that experience unless they let you play. And trying to send an all-star team is difficult in curling, because different players throw differently and see the game differently, and so you’d need that team to have a lot of experience playing together if you wanted to give them the best chance of winning the Olympics, which makes it so much easier to simply get the best teams together and see which of them is hottest at the moment, and send that one.

Another thing that has struck me lately is while watching some of the men’s games — sometimes there really isn’t anything better on TV, especially since baseball hasn’t started yet — I’ve noticed that they don’t seem to blast as much as they used to. This doesn’t seem to be out of necessity, but seems to be strategy. The men seem just as capable of blasting when they need to, but they seem to be choosing to follow the skins or recent mixed doubles strategy of leaving a lot of rocks in play, likely because if you don’t leave rocks in play then you can’t score, and I’ve seen a lot of cases where an end that looked terrible for one team ends up being great for them if they make a great shot and their opponents miss. So it seems to me that they’re waiting longer to bail on an end, which leaves more rocks in play. A lot of the time they might be waiting too long, but it will be interesting to see if this is a strategy that sticks or how the risk/reward calculations get adjusted as time goes on.

Of course, leaving rocks lying around is what allowed Jamie Sinclair to score 7 in an end against Eunjung Kim of Korea. To put that in perspective, each team only throws 8 rocks total, so Sinclair made all but one of those count.

Next up is the Players Championship in early April.

Hostility …

March 23, 2018

Recently, Ophelia Benson at Butterflies and Wheels wrote a post talking about Russell Blackford’s and Jerry Coyne’s defenses of James Damore. What’s important about it is that she says this:

But this wasn’t a disinterested discussion at a think tank. It was a non-supervisory male employee writing up his unsolicited opinions on why there are fewer women than men in jobs like the ones at Google – in other words a contribution to a hostile work environment. It’s not just a matter of “oh my god this man’s valuable academic opinion on a completely random abstract subject has been suppressed!!” – it’s also a matter of person from favored group explaining to disfavored group that it’s disfavored because of its own psychological quirks, in the workplace.

The problem, though, is that Benson is ignoring that Damore didn’t just wake up one morning and decide to talk about this, or decided to use this method to put out a personal screed. At the time he wrote this — and, obviously, still today — there were lots and lots of discussions over the lack of women in the workplace and what could or should be done to get more women into the workplace. If the methods being proposed were based on a false idea of what women want, they wouldn’t have the appropriate impact and could be harmful. Damore’s main point was that instead of pushing for this sort of loose diversity, what they should do is refine the work and work environment to what it should be — which would mean changing some things that the “male-dominated” workforce had put in that weren’t necessary or good — and then let the chips fall where they may. So Damore’s memo was commenting on things that the company was trying to implement and replying to things that people at all levels of the company were talking about, and that he thought were factually incorrect and/or would cause harm to the company.

You don’t get to declare someone correcting or challenging your facts to be a hostile working environment.

I didn’t want to talk about this for fear of it looking like whining, but after reading this post it’s actually relevant. On a guest post there, Maureen Brian based an entire conclusion about men on a narrative describing Elevatorgate. A narrative that was, in fact, factually incorrect, because it said that men blew a fuse over Watson’s purportedly innocuous comment of “Guys don’t do that!” and used that to conclude that that happened because men didn’t want to deal with that small point, when the truth of the matter is that that didn’t happen at all. I made a long comment there — which, sure, I recognize could be annoying — and the only two comments on it was one from Screechy Monkey linking me to Gamergate for some reason, and Benson commenting on the length and, most importantly, asking this:

Also, boy is there anything we need more than a verbose relitigation of “guys don’t do that” a mere SEVEN YEARS later.

Well, if you don’t want people relitigating Elevatorgate, you might not want to use that as the basis for your arguments, and you especially might not want to do so with an incredibly misleading narrative. This leads to the first rule that everyone in any sort of discussion and argument needs to accept: if you bring something up, you have to expect that your opponents are going to talk about it. So if you want to talk about Elevatorgate and use your interpretation of that event to drive your argument, you have to expect that people who have a different interpretation will call you out on that, verbose or no. And if you want to talk about why there’s a lack of women in a workplace or field and advocate for measures based on your interpretation, you have to expect that people might question your interpretations and talk about that. And if you want to advocate for a specific philosophical view, even at times heatedly, you have to expect that people who disagree might do the same thing.

To be honest, this is where the focus on “feels” really makes its mark. While some may conclude that attempting to shut down opposing viewpoints is the point of making those claims, I don’t think that’s true for most of those who advocate for this. I think it is all about “feels”. If something makes them feel good and aligns with their view of the world, then no matter how verbose or distorted it is it’s perfectly fine, and anyone who dares say that it isn’t is just ignoring their “experience”. But if the speech makes them feel bad, then it’s hostile and dangerous, even if it merely expresses different views in the same manner and in the same places and follows the same rules as the things that make them feel good.

I think this is behind the defenses of “no-platforming”. P.Z. Myers recently linked to a post talking about “Free Speech Grifters”, and endorsed it and used it to endorse the “no-platforming” protests despite the post saying that the “no-platforming” tactics were a bad idea (which he never mentioned nor responded to in the comments). If you read the comments, there are a number of people saying that universities shouldn’t be allowing those in the first place because some students oppose it, despite the fact that some students oppose the liberal views that Myers and his commenters support and so would have the same right to disrupt events that they put on. The “no-platformed” speakers go through the same procedures to get access to university facilities as everyone else, and would potentially have the same sorts of security issues as liberal speakers if those who opposed liberal speakers would try to disrupt their speeches in the same way. But those ideas make them feel bad, so it’s okay to do whatever it takes to shut them up, while speakers that make them feel good should not only be allowed to speak, but have the right to speak. And we can see this when we look past the “Nazis”, but to a group that Benson, at least, thinks are being invalidly “no-platformed”, so-called TERFs. Trans activists think that TERFs create hostile environments, too, but Benson doesn’t think that that’s enough to stop them from expressing their ideas. But that’s all she needs to try to stop Damore from expressing his ideas as a reaction to expressed ideas in a forum designed for that sort of expression.

So when Benson says this:

But the point isn’t that the ideas “offend”; the point is that they can contribute to an environment perceived as hostile.

We can see that, no, the point really is that they offend, and offend a specific group, because all of the other factors are identical except for the fact that what those other people say offends them personally for whatever reason, while similar ideas that don’t offend them are just fine. After all, it can’t possibly contribute to an environment perceived as hostile if they don’t find it hostile, even if others do, right? I’m sure no feminist or liberal activist has ever said something so crazy.

No, that you are offended is the point, whether you see it or not. And that’s a bad criteria to use when determining what speech should get a platform, and one that can just as easily be turned on you when you express something that the powers-that-be find offensive, as Benson herself found out with the whole TERF thing. That she misses that fact when she approves of the speech is sad, but entirely in keeping with the mindset.

Dragon Age Blues

March 21, 2018

I have three different characters mid-game in Dragon Age: Origins: A dwarf noble, a Dalish elf, and a human mage. I enjoyed playing as these characters, and had relatively distinct personalities for all of them: the dwarf was lawful, respectful and noble, the elf was adventurous, and the mage was mostly average. And yet, for all of those stories some other game came along and pre-empted the stories. For the dwarf, I’m pretty sure it was “The Old Republic”. For the elf, it was a replay of Persona 5. And for the mage, it’s going to be Blue Reflection.

So, why Blue Reflection? Well, when I was browsing on Amazon, it recommended it to me. Looking at it, it was described as a Persona-like game, which always piques my interest. But in looking around, it seemed that many people were also pushing it as a girl-focused game, which didn’t appeal to me that much. But then I thought about it, and thought that if I was willing to play Conception II and defend it as a game, I really should be willing to give this one a chance, even if it was being advocated as a game aimed at girls/women. Maybe, since there were some complaints about fanservice and thus hints that it was aimed more at the male audience, but then there were the comparisons to Sailor Moon, which had similar things but was definitely something that girls were drawn to, but then I also watched that anime a bit — Mercury being my favourite of the characters — and so maybe it would be good and …

Yeah, no one should really put that much thought into whether or not to buy a game. And ultimately, I decided to get it, figuring that if it was a decent Persona-style game then I’d enjoy it, and if it wasn’t I’d get some blog posts out of talking about it and where it went wrong as a Persona clone and whether or not it’s really a girl game or not. And, heck, I just finished watching “Jem”, so it wouldn’t be the first thing I watched that was aimed more at girls than at boys.

So, I’m through the prologue, and are just at the point where you actually get to go out in the world and talk to people and build affection and thus do the elements that I like in the Personas. What do I think of it so far?

The biggest thing that struck me is just how good Persona 3 did this that the other games simply don’t seem to be able to match, despite having it as an example, and despite the fact that the later Persona games seem to have improved on that model while their competitors are still miles behind. While the Personas can be said to have prologues that run for too long before getting to the good stuff, Blue Reflection has a shorter prologue that seems more boring than those did. The main reason, I think, is that the game’s protagonist is not a silent protagonist and has a set personality — which is tightly tied to the plot — and so they don’t actually let you choose her responses to the people she meets in the prologue (this might change later). While the protagonist’s responses didn’t actually change anything in the game, at least you could set a personality, and Hinako — the protagonist — often makes very odd, extreme, mean or rude responses. The biggest one is with the girl who wants you to decide how or if she should approach her crush, and Hinako when directly asked snaps at her, causing her to have an emotional breakdown that you need to clean up. Since the main issue she had was the fear of making a decision, that could have been triggered with a much less rude response, and there is no way for the player to choose how Hinako reacts.

The game is built around emotions and empathy, as people losing control over their emotions can cause damage to their consciousness, and so Hinako has to go into the collective unconsciousness and stabilize their emotions. In doing so, she has to empathize with what they’re feeling, and in general how this works is that Hinako remembers something in her life that was similar to what they were going through and so can relate, and so can stabilize their emotions that way, which turns them into support members in her fight with the massive enemies that show up on occasion and are going to destroy the world, at least according to her fellow Reflectors.

I found it disappointing that you don’t get to convert them to fighting beside you directly, like the Personas do, and I don’t really see why they didn’t do that, or at least didn’t do that for some of the characters.

Hinako herself is damaged psychologically, however, as she had a serious knee injury that ended her career as a ballet dancer, which she had dedicated her life to doing, and at the start she is even wondering what kind of life she could have without ballet, and the player can’t really do anything, at least in the prologue, to steer her towards any kind of goal. She even tries to refuse the call as a Reflector until the other two say that if she manages to save the world she’ll get one wish granted, no matter what it is. Of course, she wants to wish to be able to do ballet again. I can see two ways this could go. The first and the one I both think the most likely and the best is that she will finally get the chance to make her wish … and there will be something else that she has to wish for instead, like the life or emotional health of one or all of her support people and friends. Alternatively, there was a look between the other two Reflectors that could suggest that they were actually lying to her about the wish to get her to fight the enemies. I hope the latter isn’t true, but it would be a nice bit of foreshadowing if that happened.

The combat on Easy is pretty boring, but not so much because it is that easy, but because it is that repetitive. You really should just use your skills until you run out of MP and then recharge as appropriate, as your HP and MP refill after every battle so there is no reason to conserve it. That’s nice, but so far the enemies haven’t really required any targeting of weaknesses — which they supposedly have — or any variation in strategy other than to delay their turns as much as you can and/or wipe out multiple enemies with your area attacks. This might change as things go on.

So far, the game is entertaining enough, but I’m just getting to the good part, where you actually have to do quests in the world. It’s this part that will make or break the game for me.

Thoughts on “Living Among Us”

March 19, 2018

So, as I said at the end of my thoughts on Jem, I was going to talk about some other things for the next little while. What happened was that I was browsing in Walmart and saw some cheap horror movies on DVD that I thought sounded interesting. I didn’t think much of them at the time, and figured they’d be like the old, schlocky B-movies but, hey, they cost about $10 and might be interesting. So, I bought three and as of the time I write this, I’ve watched all of them, and have things to say about all of them, which is what I’m going to do for the next little while. And this worked out so well that I went back and bought some more — which I haven’t watched yet — specifically to talk about on the blog and generate content for the blog. So you’re going to see a number of these for a while.

The interesting thing is that after I watched each of the movies, I went and looked online for reviews to see what people thought of them. In general, the reactions were quite positive, and far more positive than I’m going to be about them. It seems that these aren’t, in general, considered cheap movies that do some kind of horror, but are taken seriously as being innovative or strongly artistic. Given that, my looking at them in-depth seems far more reasonable and far less unfair than it might have seemed at first.

Since these are relatively recent and I’m going to provide massive spoilers as I talk about the plot, I’ll continue below the fold:


An argument against PoC gaining power …

March 16, 2018

There is a long-standing debate over whether or not PoC can be considered racist. In general, the debate revolves around them having the structural power to impose those prejudices on others, with the argument being that they don’t have power and so can’t actually be racist. I tend to find this sort of reasoning meaningless, and in general really want to know if the person denying that PoC can be racist think that them having prejudices against whites is bad or not. Tony Thompson at “The Orbit” pretty much answers that question in a recent post while defending the idea that PoC can’t really be racist:

People of Color (Black and non-Black) in the United States can (and many do) hold prejudicial or bigoted beliefs about white people. Whether it is right or wrong to do so (IMO, a strong argument could be made that it is reasonable for PoC, based on their treatment by white people, to hold anti-white prejudices) …

It seems, then, that he doesn’t think they’re wrong to do so, or that it’s wrong. About the only way this can work is if he argues that their prejudices generally reflect reality, but if that was true then they wouldn’t be prejudices, but would be more or less accurate generalizations. So he’d still have to answer whether or not actual prejudices are right or wrong, and he’d also open up the purportedly prejudicial and therefore racist attitudes of whites to the challenge that they as well aren’t prejudices, but are more or less accurate generalizations. This probably isn’t the sort of thing he was going for in this short little comment.

He then moves on to make an inadvertent argument that white people should not allow PoC to have power if they can prevent it:

In short, People of Color can be anti-white, but they cannot be racist against white people bc they lack the collective power to impose their prejudices on white folks as a racial category. Access to social, political, economic, and religious power is a fundamental component to the system of oppression known as racism (in the same way that access to such power is essential to sexism, which is why men do not experience sexism). Without that access to power, there can be no domination, oppression, or subjugation of white people by PoC.

So let me be generous and assume that this prejudices are about as common in PoC as they are in white people. It’s probably more likely that they are more common in PoC since they are deemed more acceptable by the peers of PoC than they are in whites — there are far more whites who strongly and openly oppose those prejudices in whites than there are amongst PoC — but let’s assume they are equal. This means that if PoC gain power, they will impose their prejudices on whites at about the same rate as whites currently do. Assuming that white people really do have all the power now, given Thompson’s argument they have good reasons not to share it with PoC. First, it’s not likely to reduce actual racism at all, even using the “power” argument, because once PoC gain power then their actions really will be racist by that definition. Second, it’s not the self-interest of white people to give up that power because, again, once PoC gain that power then imposing their prejudices will result in the actual oppression of white people, and there’s really no reason for a group to participate willing in their own oppression. So, from this argument, it seems reasonable for white people to oppose PoC gaining the power to oppress, because sharing their power won’t do anything to reduce oppression and it’s not a rational move for white people to take actions that will lead to them being oppressed.

Alternatively, we could work to simply eliminate prejudice entirely, which then should mean that no matter who has power there is no racism and no oppression. I don’t think Thompson being able to justify his righteous anger is enough of a benefit to allow prejudice, among any group, to remain or be seen as acceptable.

He then goes on to list a number of historical examples of racism and, by casting them as PoC doing those things to white people, tries to make the point that whites were not oppressed and PoC were, historically. He completely ignores Asian and PoC-led countries — Japan, China and much of Africa — where PoC do indeed have the power and discriminate against white people, focusing only on the United States. While he may want to focus on the United States, these examples show, again, that giving power to PoC does not result in fair and equitable societies, but instead in actual oppression of white people (and PoC that are not their colour, demonstrating the key flaw in claiming that all PoC are allies). Moreover, this argument is an actual “Dear Muslima” argument. If a white person doesn’t get hired while a demonstrably less qualified — even taking Affirmative Action into account — PoC does because of the racial prejudice of a PoC hiring manager, it’s not much comfort to that person to appeal to “Well, there was slavery in the past!”. And if a white person gets attacked and beat up by a PoC or group of PoC based on racial prejudice, that those PoC don’t have political power isn’t going to take away the pain or heal the injuries. All those become, then, are excuses to allow then to avoid having to admit that what they did was, in fact, actually wrong.

The direct consequence of the argument that PoC can’t be racist because they don’t have power is that we should avoid giving them power if we want to oppose racism, since if they hold those prejudicial attitudes giving them power will end up with them being actually racist, as long as the defenders of that argument stick to that argument. Somehow, I don’t think that they will stick to that argument should PoC gain power. Thus, at the end of the day, all this is is a way to avoid having to actually oppose prejudicial attitudes in PoC, thus allowing them to focus all of their criticism on similar attitudes in white people. Personally, I think that we should work to eliminate prejudicial attitudes where ever they arise and should never consider them acceptable … which probably makes me a racist bigot in their eyes.

Super Seducer …

March 14, 2018

So, there’s a big kerfuffle going on in the gaming world over a game by Richard La Ruina called “Super Seducer”, that appears on Steam but has been rejected from PSN network. Normally, I’d have probably ignored something like this, but this issue hits on pretty much everything that I’ve been talking about on this blog for, well, its entire existence, except for Stoicism. It involves dating sims, video games, PUAs, feminism, social justice, social justice and video games, social justice vs video games, and shyness. While controversial, it’s not like I’ve actually shied away from commenting on controversial issues, and it represents a microcosm of things that bother me about things work today.

So, the basic issue is that La Ruina has created a CYOA dating sim type game to promote and teach his PUA techniques. The game is, as I said, on Steam. A number of the usual Social Justice suspects heard about this and, despite not being in either of the intended audiences — either people who are interested in PUA techniques or who are interested in dating sims — raised a huge fuss over it, essentially because it’s a PUA game and therefore bad. This is despite the fact that many of them have no idea what PUA techniques actually are. For example, a constant criticism of them is over negging, which is always presented as being insulting a woman to lower her self-esteem and make her vulnerable when the technique really is about using that against a woman who is confident in herself to demonstrate value, that unlike all of the other men who won’t dare even playfully tease her for fear that she’ll be offended and so they will lose any chance they have with her you are perfectly fine taking the chance that she’ll be offended because, presumably, if she does get offended and shoots you down you believe that you’ll have other options anyway, which demonstrates that you’re a man who is desirable.

Anyway, let me dump a bunch of resources on you. I’m probably going to talk most about Jim Sterling’s discussion of Sony rejecting it, mostly because it talks about a number of issues that I want to touch on. Since that’s a video, I won’t quote much from it directly, and so will paraphrase, but I’m likely to quote at least a little bit from a number of articles, like this one by Harris O’Malley (also Dr. Nerdlove) at Kotaku, this one calling for a petition to get it removed from Steam by Carys Afoko, this one from John Walker at Rock Paper Shotgun (hey we meet again!), and maybe this one from Allegra Frank at Polygon, but you can read that even if I don’t talk about it much.

So there’s lots to say, in other words.

Okay, before I get more into this, let me outline my own experience with PUAs. I’m one of those shy virgin types that La Ruina says his stuff is designed for, as related by Jim Sterling. In the olden days, when newsgroups were big things, the PUAs used to go directly to their audience by frequenting the newsgroup. The famous — or infamous, depending on who you are — Mystery definitely posted their directly, and they spent time “debating” techniques with someone else who was promoting his own system that they felt wasn’t going to work. So I got to interact directly with them, which also allowed me to post my own objections to their methods and see their responses. And my general objection was that it would probably work to get sex, but wasn’t going to be all that great at getting a relationship, despite their insistence that you could. The reason was that the method was essentially aimed at figuring out what sorts of things she liked and then molding your approach to feed that back to her, which might work in the short term but would be hard to maintain. The general idea was that what you always wanted to do was make her feel good, and then associate those good feelings with you, so that you could demonstrate value, in that you would be seen as someone who would make her feel good. Thus, even if she didn’t actually find you all that attractive to start with, by instilling positive feelings in her she might feel more pleasantly disposed towards you and develop enough attraction so that you can, well, score. This is why negging isn’t aimed at making her feel bad about herself and thus vulnerable, because the key there is that it makes her feel bad, which most PUAs find counter-productive. Now, as most of them aren’t scientists or psychologists or anything formal, it’s actually possible that the success of negging is because it makes her feel vulnerable and she tries hard to prove to herself that at least someone finds her attractive, but that’s not the intent.

Also, the common complaint in all of the articles and the video is that it encourages men to treat women like objects as opposed to actual people. Aside from these being related as strategies that you can use to get women — which men and women have been coming up with and relating for thousands of years now and so shouldn’t cause anyone to bat an eyelash — the biggest element that does this is the encouragement for shy men to stop fixating on one woman and developing massive crushes on her, sometimes even before meeting her, and instead believing that, at worst, she’s one woman much like any other and so a) you should just go up and approach her as soon as you can without waiting for some kind of “perfect” moment and b) if she declines, don’t moon about it or persist, and instead just move on to the next one (this is the strategy of “one-and-done”: try once, and if it doesn’t work, forget about her and move on). Of course, while this attitude might seem like it treats women as interchangeable objects, it’s generally better than obsessive crushing over someone who either doesn’t know you exist or isn’t interested, and avoids all sorts of complications like someone suddenly coming on too strong because they’ve been fantasizing about a relationship for ages or someone hanging on as a friend in the hopes of turning it into something more. It also avoids one of the big problems shy men have, which is being afraid to approach and putting too much pressure on themselves which makes them either not approach or flub it when they do by taking the pressure off the approach and encouraging them to just do it and not care as much about the outcome. I’ve long commented that if all I cared about was sex approaching would be less of an issue, because if the approach fails I wouldn’t care, whereas if I’m feeling out a potential relationship I obviously think more of that person and their at least somewhat unique traits than I would otherwise and so don’t want to screw it up. For me, though, simply getting sex isn’t enough motivation for me; the pressure is off, but the motivation is reduced so much that I can’t be bothered, and approaching is never a trivial investment for me. And, in fact, one of my worries about the “respect women” approaches is that they increase the potential negative consequences of approaching. Rejection is bad enough, but if a bad approach might get you fired or kicked out of a conference or bashed all over the internet for many shy men they might as well not even bother. Sure, their fumbling might not have those consequences, but shy men will tend to worry more about the worst possible outcomes than other men do.

In fact, I’d suggest that the advice that people like Dr. Nerdlove give to men have created more misogynists than PUAs ever have, as most shy men did not take lack of relationships as sanguinely as I did, and the advice like “Get to know them first” and “Start as friends and then move to sexual things later” only ends up with friendzoning, and men end up not succeeding and being made to feel like misogynists for following the given advice, and note that people who ignore it succeed and are, in general, not considered misogynists. Most of the misogynists on were indeed men who tried the standard advice, found it didn’t work, and found that society blamed them for that instead of the advice. This, of course, would leave them vulnerable to PUAs who ignore that advice and appeal to their own personal experiences that what you are told works doesn’t, but that their approach does.

Okay, so let’s leave PUAs for a while, and talk about the game. Sterling comments on the reasons that people are crying that this is censorship is entirely because Sony said they’d put it on and now say they won’t, and so it seems like something was taken away. He links it to Hatred, which never even made it to consoles and was pulled from Steam, and people only complained about it being taken off of Steam. Here, he makes an argument that is both obvious and misleading. The issue is that Sony had accepted it but then there was a huge outcry from people who are not the intended audience — again, see the article about there being a petition to pull it from Steam — and then Sony decided to pull it. It’s a perfectly reasonable assumption to assume that the outcry played a big role in this decision. Sterling does not help this impression when he talks about Sony having a task force designed to promote women playing games who wouldn’t care for this game, because again this game is not aimed at them and so we’d have to assume that their argument would have to be that having this in the store would discourage women from buying other Sony games, or perhaps that every game on the store has to be aimed at women as well as men or else it can’t be there. And my response to either argument is that the arguments are utter crap. Women are perfectly free to not buy games that aren’t aimed at them, and even to not buy games that they find personally offensive, demeaning, or whatever. Promoting women in gaming does not have to mean that there can never be any games that don’t aim at them, and this game is definitely and specifically a game that is not aimed at them. Even if it was a bit misogynist, it’s aimed at people who either are that or don’t care about that … and they’d still have to establish that.

And the Hatred example turns out to be a bad example, because the ESRB gave it an AO rating and consoles don’t accept games with AO ratings. Since the game was clearly aiming for that sort of rating, then this really was just the consequence of what they tried to do … unlike the Steam case. Again, people are assuming that it was the controversy and complaints that got it removed, and that’s a reasonable assumption. Sure, Sony might just have thought that La Ruina wasn’t handling the controversy well and didn’t want to have to put up with that crap over such a small game, but they really should say that if they don’t want people thinking that it was the controversy that did it.

So let’s talk more about the complaints. Are they valid? Are they reasonable complaints that someone who isn’t the intended audience can reasonably make? Let me start from the post with the petition that’s calling for it to be removed from Steam by Afoko:

Pickup artists like La Ruina make a living selling men sleazy “seduction tricks” to teach them how “to pull”. Behind the so-called psychology of his methods are some pretty dangerous ideas. That persistence and the right lines are more important than what a woman tells you she wants. Too many of us have been on the receiving end of those ideas. Too many of us have had to deal with men who won’t take no for an answer, convinced it’s a matter of time until we succumb to their “charms”. La Ruia may not know better than to encourage men to harass women, but a company the size of Steam should. They never should have approved this game for sale.

Of course, most PUAs actually advocate taking a “No” for an answer, at least once it has become clear that it is a “No”. Does the game encourage this sort of pressure after a clear rejection? She doesn’t say, and doesn’t give any examples. The title of the article is about how the game encourages groping, but she gives no examples of it doing so and most of the other sources talk about how the more egregious approaches are portrayed as ones that won’t work. One of them (Walker) even tries to use that against him:

All the way through, the game attempts to disguise the repellent stupidity of the whole process with the outlandishness of the “wrong” choices. So those two girls in a bar – should you click on, “Ask them if they know what you like in a girl. The answer being your dick”? Ha ha! No! That won’t work! They’ll say, “Ew!” and ask you to leave! Much better to instead just creepily invade their lives for your vile creep motives.

These choices serve two purposes. They give you the option to watch Richard say the deeply demeaning thing to some actresses, and laugh at that; and they allow the so-called “right” option to seem, in comparison, much less lecherous. In reality, of course, you’re just picking the least creepy option of a bunch of creepy options, the result still being incredibly, repellently creepy.

Implying that the choices are there mostly so that the players and La Ruina can say those demeaning things that they really want to say to them while masking the fact that the right responses are, presumably, cleaned up versions of those things. While I’m not as good at mindreading as Walker clearly is, I’m more inclined to think that they are there for those men who take people like Walker seriously and think that all PUAs are just misogynistic and so think that that sort of strong approach is right, while PUAs know that being that openly misogynistic doesn’t actually work.

And that’s another issue here. The articles waffle between insisting both that the right answers are completely obvious and that the advice and methods don’t work. Frank implies that it does work here:

There’s definitely some fun to be had at first with making a live-action avatar talk about his dick with abandon. But there’s always an awareness of the discomfort the woman sitting across from Richard must feel — or will eventually feel — as he eggs her on or chips away at her defenses. We have those defenses up for a reason: The dating game is a challenge, and it’s one that us women stand to lose more often than not.

Now, another personal anecdote here. When I was in university, I was in the debating society and helped out with a tournament. A female friend of the president at the time — also female — was there, and I thought she was pretty and seemed nice. And then she said that whenever she was drinking and was around a rather … successful member of the society, she always ended up having sex with him even though she didn’t want to. And I lost a ton of respect for her right there. While the guy could be charismatic and a player, certainly, if she knew what was happening and really didn’t want it to happen she could easily take precautions like, say, not drinking (and note that I grew up in an area where drinking was the number one passtime and still becoming a complete non-drinker, so it’s not impossible to do that). The same thing applies here: if you know that these techniques are being used and are chipping away at defenses, then you can do lots of things to avoid that happening, like being more suspicious, or even leaving. If these techniques are common, I’d almost say that every woman worried about that should want to buy the game and study them to learn what they are and to develop strategies to deal with them, which should be available. In fact, one of my main comments on it was that smart women will see through them and will only go along with them when they want to. So how is it that I give women more credit than these feminist defenders of women do?

Anyway, though, the more common refrain is that they don’t work. From Walker:

Of course, alongside its inherent grossness, PUA is complete woo from top to bottom. It’s entirely reliant on men who are so completely clueless, and so completely in denial of a woman’s agency, that they aren’t able to recognise that their ridiculous pack of “techniques” are a sordid fantasy. The concept is completely entwined in this idiotic notion that women are a near-inanimate castle to be conquered, just a series of routinely deployed defences to break through, before reaching the treasure hidden inside the walls. Rather than, oh I don’t know, being other humans.

But how does he know that? Has he tried them? Because the PUAs always cite the empirical evidence that they have some success — and they brutally eviscerate (verbally!) any competition who can’t claim to have that success, even challenging them to contests to prove that they have success — using their techniques, which is what they use to convince people to pay for the materials. Sure, there might be other explanations, but so many critics jump to the idea that these things can never work and never test them, while constantly misunderstanding and misrepresenting what it actually says. Again, I agree that it relies too much on deception and manipulation to work for long, but most PUAs don’t want a relationship anyway … and it’s not like a lot of the existing techniques, even those aimed at women, don’t do that either (like going someplace you don’t want to go because it’s a good place to meet members of the opposite sex, like joining a club you don’t enjoy but is dominated by people of the opposite sex. My objection to that has always been that my not enjoying myself is not a good mindset to be in when trying to impress a woman). If they don’t work, these men will ditch them soon enough. And if they do work, then he’s selling precisely what he says he’s selling … and if they are problematic, it might be a good question to ask women why these problematic approaches actually work.

So, finally, what is the game itself actually like? From looking at various reviews, I was interested in it as a fan of dating sims, and it looked like one that might be somewhat interesting, with a range of responses allowing for roleplay and reasonably attractive models to interact with, although it might be a bit shallow. Since the last pure dating sim I’ve played was Huniepop, and since I don’t really have any others to play beyond the elements in Persona 5, it seemed like it might be a more pure dating sim and a slightly deeper one than Huniepop, and so somewhat interesting. Of course, there might be tons of other games out there that I don’t see because I refuse to use Steam and don’t really have any other way to get them — I got Huniepop from GOG, which doesn’t seem to have anything else like that on offer — but it looked like it might be unique. However, I’m going to agree with O’Malley’s criticism here:

With each choice, Coach-Richard will appear to let you know whether you made the right choice, the wrong choice, or the enh-I-guess choice, and why it should or shouldn’t work. Get the right choice, and you’ll see Player-Richard lounging around on a bed with models who resolutely ignore him and stare into the middle-distance. Make a “meh” choice and the models are busy doing their nails instead of draping themselves over the bed like throw pillows. Get the wrong choice and it’s just Richard on the bed, staring at you with stern disapproval.

The effect is actually jarring.

Super Seducer could have actually have become marginally more entertaining by stealing a page from Telltale games and let each scene play through. Live with your consequences, while Coach-Richard analyzes choices at the end of it all, explaining, why doing X got Y results. Instead, each scene ends with your rating—will you be a chump? A Casanova? The titular Super Seducer?—and a replay of Coach-Richard’s advice before moving on to the next scenario.

I think this would have been better for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it would turn it into an actual game rather than simply a tutorial. Even better, it would allow for roleplaying, where you take on the role of someone and act as they would act and see how that works out for you. Of course, while there are different endings (according to O’Malley) the difference isn’t likely to be big enough to make that work out all that well for most people. Still, I don’t have interest in it as a tutorial in La Ruina’s PUA techniques, but was only interested in it as a game, and don’t think it would be that great. That being said, in reply to O’Malley:

Super Seducer isn’t worth it. Its value as education is as marginal as its value as entertainment. Frankly, you’d be better off learning how to seduce women by playing Stardew Valley. At least then you’d have a future as a farmer when the whole pick-up artist thing doesn’t work out.

It’s about $15 on Steam, regular price. I’ve dropped about that on games that sounded mildly interesting and never played before, so it doesn’t have to be all that interesting to be worth that price. As it is at least currently only on Steam, I won’t be buying it, but I think that, at the end of the day, all of the complaints against it are greatly overblown, and at the end of the day only serve to give a mediocre game attention that it wouldn’t get otherwise. The best outcome for the Social Justice side here is that it gets “censored” and most non-Social Justice people get left wondering what the big deal is and start thinking that they overreact, and the worst case is that it stays and does better than expected as most people buy it for the controversy and find that, again, the criticisms are overblown, promoting better made games inspired by it. I really think that in this case the Social Justice side should really have just let it go.

New Thoughts …

March 12, 2018

So, I’ve spent a number of weeks watching half-hour TV shows and giving my thoughts on them. However, I can only watch full series of half-hour shows right now, and I’ve been having a hard time finding new half-hour shows to watch. And I’ve either already talked about the shows that I own, or they aren’t all that interesting. So, what to do? And then it hit me: cartoons! I have a number of cartoons that I’ve either never watched or that I’ve watched but haven’t really explored or talked about, and since I’ve been wanting to watch them anyway, this is the perfect time to do that and comment on them or comment on them in at least a little more depth than I have before. And so, given that, the first one I’m going to talk about is …


Damasio and Emotion …

March 9, 2018

So, a post at Butterflies and Wheels grabs some tweets from Antonio Damasio about his new book. I looked up the book on Amazon and decided that it didn’t interest me, as it’s pretty much about our basic emotions related to survival instinct, which does not fall into my range of philosophical interests. But the first tweets say things about the relation between emotions and social improvement, and in particular about the importance of emotions and how reason isn’t as important as people think. As a Stoic, obviously that greatly interests me, mostly because I strongly disagree with it [grin].

Feelings have not been given the credit they deserve as motives, monitors and negotiators of human cultures.

Emotions have, of course, in general been great motivators of human cultures, and have played strong roles in the monitoring and negotiating that goes on in those cultures. Few will disagree with that. The general response from people who at least dislike emotions is that while emotions have been used for all of those things, they are often actually quite bad at it. Emotion, in general, has been used to justify atrocities as much as it has been used to justify progress. I, at least, am not going to argue that emotions are, in fact, always bad or destructive. My reply is always going to be that emotions aren’t necessarily any more likely to produce good results as bad ones unless they are strongly tempered by reason. If all of your emotional reactions are strongly and intentionally aligned with what the rational thing to do to promote the good is, then emotions are fine. But, in general, emotions don’t necessarily align with rational assessments, and when they do so most often do that completely accidentally. That’s precisely why we can’t rely on emotion when we’re trying to do the right thing.

Love, compassion and gratitude are emotions and are forces for the good. Only negative emotions such as anger, hate or contempt are destructive. Blaming emotions for our social ills misses that critical distinction.

Except that it isn’t clear that his negative emotions are always destructive and his good ones are always forces for good. If someone gets angry at a perceived injustice and that anger motivates them to oppose that injustice, is that anger destructive? If someone hates or has contempt for evil, is that destructive? And love can lead to strongly irrational and harmful actions if taken too far. Even compassion can be a destructive force if done in cases where compassion isn’t warranted. The only exception seems to be gratitude, but gratitude, in general, is defined as only being true gratitude in cases where the person being grateful really ought to be grateful for the kindness that the other person has done. If they are being grateful for something that they ought not be grateful for, we usually don’t consider that valid gratitude. From this, we can see that the case where emotions, in general, are forces for good is when they judge the situations correctly, and act in a rationally justifiable way for that situation. Thus, again, if emotions are tightly joined to reason, then they are forces for good, but should they stray, then they are destructive. This, of course, is not a good justification for the importance of emotions in and of themselves.

Claiming reason as the solution to social ills misses the point that often facts and arguments only improve conditions when they persuade and prompt action. Persuasion requires emotions and feelings as the critical negotiators.

While emotions can be powerful persuasive forces, that doesn’t mean that relying on them — and, in particular, on strong emotions like love — is a good thing. The overall issue with emotions is that they roll three separate components of actions into one. First, they are always judgements of a specific situation, as they assess whether this situation is something to be happy about, fear, be angry about, or whatever. Second, they suggest an immediate action to take in reaction to that situations. And finally, they provide a very strong motivating force to take the action that they suggest. Since this is all rolled up into one base reaction, it is incredibly easy for us to simply go along with it and very hard for us to resist it. And that, of course, is perfectly fine as long as all of those things are correct. But any one of those could go astray. We could be judging the situation incorrectly or the action could be inappropriate given the situation we’re in. If either of these is incorrect, then we should resist the temptation to take that action … and the emotional motivation is very tempting. Since the emotional motivation is both strong and immediate, we really want to make sure that what we’re doing is the right thing to do, or else we could cause a disaster by taking such a precipitous action. That requires reason to take the lead here, not emotion.

We can use emotion to persuade people, certainly, but doing so implies that using reason would fail. However, if we are in a situation where reason would fail there are only two reasons why that would be the case. The first is that we simply don’t have a rational argument that we can make, and so have to appeal to emotion to get the other person to ignore reason and act the way we want them to. That’s not a good solution, because it implies that we are trying to convince them to do the incorrect thing since we really ought to be able to determine what the correct action is using reason. The second is that the person, for whatever reason, is impermeable to actual reasoning, and so despite the fact that we can prove that our view is the rational one they will resist it anyway. An argument can be made that in some strong cases appealing to emotion would be a better solution than letting them act on their irrational conclusions, but we certainly shouldn’t use that as a general rule, and instead should be working on getting them to fix their irrationalities. And one of the main ways to do that is to insist that all decisions have to be rationally justified, and that we can’t use emotion to substitute for reason in making these sorts of decisions.

Emotions are only useful if they are right. The only way to ensure that our emotions are right is to assess them using reason. If we insist that emotions are to be listened to over and above reason, then all we do is encourage listening to emotions when they are wrong, which can lead to disaster. If given a choice between passionless reason and reasonless emotion, I’m going to choose the former every time.