Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Amanda Marcotte vs. the Nice Guys®

with 36 comments

I’ve avoided posting about Elevatorgate here in part because the skeptical community is not really my community, in part because it’s completely absurd, in part because I try to keep the blog relatively non-contentious, and in part because I already lost my mind once arguing about it over at MetaFilterbut Amanda Marcotte has one of the best step-by-step break-it-down explanations of the whole mess that I’ve seen. If you still don’t understand why it’s wrong to proposition trapped women, there’s really just no hope for you.

36 Responses

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  1. It’s so helpful in political discussions of this nature for writers like Marcotte to draw out what people’s actions reveal about their motivations, especially when what they say is completely different. The method of insight demonstrated in the long and sometimes tedious elevator discussions can be drawn out to a broader level to all of politics since it’s the dominant mode of the opposition to all that is good in our daily life. As another good post explains, “When you are so vehemently unwilling to see some of the ways that privilege works in your favor, I have to assume that maintaining privilege is the point.” It’s made me more hopeful for politics, because I think we’ve demonstrated that facts are not enough.

    Dan

    July 13, 2011 at 4:04 pm

  2. That “the facts are not enough” is one of the things that depresses me most about politics, actually. Perhaps I should resolve to try to see it your way for a bit…

    gerrycanavan

    July 13, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    • I meant something more like: It’s depressing that the facts are not enough, but it perhaps even worse that so much of political liberalism is either blind to this or a quixotic attempt to operate as though this is not the case. So perhaps a politics like that we’ve seen in the best reactions to this dumb elevator discussion, for only one example, I think could point to a way forward that is cognizant of political realities. (I’m not sure if I’ve pulled together these semi-optimistic thoughts I’m having coherently, though.)

      Dan

      July 13, 2011 at 6:02 pm

  3. Amanda Marcotte remains one of the sharpest brains on the webz. I’ll just add that at least the issue in question is nuanced enough that it requires the sort of fine-pointery provided by Pandagon. I’d rather skeptics get all up in a lather over this than over something all together more obvious, like women who don’t want to get raped shouldn’t dress “Slutty,” or whatever. Having to explain that one is more facepalm inducing.

    Bill Simmon

    July 13, 2011 at 4:14 pm

  4. I hate to play devil’s advocate, but maybe these angry men have a perspective that Amanda Marcotte, as an attractive woman, will never have: namely, that among their male friends, the most predatory, most willing to cross boundaries that are established by women, and most aggressive are actually the ones who are able to make themselves perceived as the most trustworthy. Just a thought. It doesn’t mean their anger is justified. But anger and rape are two very different things. I wouldn’t have said this two months ago, but I’ve seen social interactions in the last two months that have completely flipped my viewpoint – I’ve watched attractive, charismatic men gain the trust of women only to coax them into pretty awful situations, and I haven’t seen any uncharismatic, unattractive men do the same, because if the shy men cross a boundary and get told to back off, they do. I read a comment during this whole debacle, from a woman, to the effect of: I tend to be even more suspicious of the charismatic, forward men because they’re the ones who think that they can just take what they want. In my experience, that’s precisely how it works. The “nice guys” are probably not as nice as they think they are, but they’re certainly nicer than many of the ones who get perceived as safe.

    Anonymous

    July 13, 2011 at 6:13 pm

    • I expect Marcotte’s answer to your comment would be to draw the usual distinction between “nice guys” and Nice Guys® — the latter term is generally meant to describe those men who *think* their problem is that they are “too nice” but who are in fact seething with entitlement and hatred for women. This comment at MetaFilter (and I hate to call out the poor guy by name) is a clear and stunningly un-self-aware example of the latter category.

      I wonder too whether your idea that the most predatory men are also the most attractive and charismatic isn’t to some extent confirmation bias. There are all kinds of predators out there. I also don’t see why Amanda Marcotte (attractive or no) would be unable to recognize such a truth, if it is real. Why would only shy men be situated to see the predatory nature of certain attractive men? Wouldn’t we expect women be *better* situated to see this sort of thing, not less?

      gerrycanavan

      July 13, 2011 at 6:21 pm

    • We would expect women to be better situated to see this kind of thing assuming the best predators weren’t also very good at dissembling. When you watch what one of my friends called a “professional seducer” in action, it can be quite unnerving, if you know enough about that person to know what he’s up to. But if you don’t, then it would be very easy to let it slip by. But yes, the metafilter guy seems like he could be well on his way to becoming a serial rapist, but then again, most rape is date rape, and the guy doesn’t even talk to women.

      Anonymous

      July 13, 2011 at 6:28 pm

      • But even if this is so, it still wouldn’t mean that it’s okay to corner women in elevators and proposition them, or that people have a right to be angry when you tell them it isn’t. I understand the frustration of feeling lonely, but the solution is someplace else.

        gerrycanavan

        July 13, 2011 at 6:52 pm

      • I didn’t say it was okay to corner women in elevators. I’m in agreement with you there. And I didn’t say getting angry at women for not liking being cornered in elevators was justified. Only that I understand the anger of the nice guys.

        Also, you’d have to do some pretty hardcore argumentative footwork to convince me that the metafilter guy who hasn’t asked a woman out since 1998 has “male privilege.” I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s committed suicide by the age of forty; his situation doesn’t seem particularly privileged to me. (That’s not to say there isn’t male privilege; there absolutely is. Just that not all men benefit from it, and some even suffer as a result of it).

        Anonymous

        July 13, 2011 at 7:03 pm

      • But privilege doesn’t mean you’re never unhappy, or that nothing bad ever happens to you, or that all your personal outcomes are better than those of every person who doesn’t have privilege.

        A man who angrily resents women for having the gall to reject his advances is still exhibiting a sense of male privilege, even though he winds up alone.

        gerrycanavan

        July 13, 2011 at 7:07 pm

      • The man in question doesn’t resent women for rejecting his advances. That, I agree, is privilege (although loneliness is a drag). He resents women because it’s not enough to simply reject him, he also feels that they tell him not to hit on any other women and render him a moral monstrosity if he does. His perception is a bit off, granted, but it’s how he seems to see it.

        Anonymous

        July 13, 2011 at 7:23 pm

      • it has gotten me nothing but isolation, even though every woman I know says how great I am, how amazing I am, how I don’t even know my own worth, how any and every woman would be lucky to have a guy like me… but uh, not THEM mind you, that part is unspoken but certain.

        So THAT is how I read your words. And that’s why, when I read your words, I hate you all so very, very, very much. Because I read your words as the words of hypocrites, liars, and haters.

        I dunno. It sure sounds to me that he resents women just for rejecting his advances.

        gerrycanavan

        July 13, 2011 at 7:28 pm

  5. He doesn’t make advances.

    Anonymous

    July 13, 2011 at 7:34 pm

    • But isn’t that splitting hairs? He resents women because he perceives they reject him, whether or not it’s literally true that he hasn’t made an explicit advance since 1998.

      I feel certain that once we solve this very in-the-weeds dispute we’ll have solved *everything*.

      gerrycanavan

      July 13, 2011 at 7:36 pm

    • I’ve had women scream at me for deciding, at the very last minute, that I didn’t want to have sex with them. They’ve called me manipulative, they’ve said that I used them (what for, I’m not sure). They’ve said things like, “Men are scum” or “Men are pigs.” They’ve talked about me with their friends. They’ve called me the male equivalent of “cock tease.” They felt entitled to have sex with me, because we had kissed a bit, because I was at their house. Do you call this “female privilege”? Or do you call it frustration?

      Anonymous

      July 14, 2011 at 1:50 am

      • And you don’t get to mark me as “female privilege” on the bingo card, because I obviously tend toward “frustration.”

        Anonymous

        July 14, 2011 at 1:51 am

      • I guess you could think of that as a kind of privilege, though personally I don’t think that’s best way to think about it (as the vast majority of lines of privilege goes in the other direction).

        And if you’re looking for a political solution to your outsized sexual charisma, well, I’m afraid there’s nothing for it. It’s your cross to bear…

        gerrycanavan

        July 14, 2011 at 9:55 am

      • I said I wouldn’t add anything, but misrepresentation of my statement goads me. You’re deliberately skewing what I said here. (For one thing, I never talked about the burden of my sexual charisma – that’s your projection – just human situations in which people were upset, and the reasons weren’t easily untangle-able into political categories). I also said explicitly (below) that I don’t think of women getting angry at me as privilege. But it has all the marks that you seem to think are indicative of privilege: entitlement to sex by virtue of being there, frustration at the entire gender by virtue of one disappointing interaction (or multiple disappointing interactions), aggression toward the person who slighted them. This isn’t privilege. It’s frustration. And the inverse is also frustration, not privilege, even if there’s the added dimension of fear, which is terrible, and I don’t know what else to say, except maybe to say, you can tell someone “Don’t be an asshole” without saying, “Your misery and resentment is an expression of your privilege.”

        Anonymous

        July 14, 2011 at 11:35 am

      • I was joking — sorry the lighthearted nature of the sexual charisma line didn’t come across.

        As for the other stuff, I do see what you mean, and perhaps it’s harder than I originally thought to draw a line between frustration and privilege. It’s an interesting problem.

        gerrycanavan

        July 14, 2011 at 11:44 am

  6. I just found out there’s an Elevatorgate bingo card.

    gerrycanavan

    July 13, 2011 at 7:47 pm

  7. This has gone on too long. Make your final point; I won’t bother to counter it. Let me sum up though: 1) I understand the position of angry men; 2) I think that genuinely dangerous men often (maybe even more often than not) appear not to be dangerous or “creepy” (but, yes, there is an alternative scenario: “creepiness” may be a way to weed out potentially dangerous men and therefore make them less dangerous, meaning only those who are able to hide it can go on to actually prove that they’re as bad as the others are); 3) I don’t think it’s okay to corner a woman in an elevator; 4) I don’t think being frustrated – even to the point of blaming women, as a whole – because one cannot make any form of meaningful contact with women constitutes “privilege.”

    Anonymous

    July 14, 2011 at 2:05 am

    • Between this and the comment below I think there’s really not a tremendous amount of daylight between our two positions. I understand the position of angry men in the sense that I understand loneliness can be a terrible burden. I think (2) is a fine point but sort of outside the conversation. And on (4) I don’t disagree in the abstract, insofar as one doesn’t logically entail the other, but in practice I think the two are frequently found together.

      gerrycanavan

      July 14, 2011 at 9:57 am

  8. Rereading Amanda Marcotte’s piece, I think part of what she’s saying is similar to what I’m saying: potential predators are not the awkward, bumbling guys; they’re the guys who go for it regardless of the signs. So yeah, awkward, shy guys who get upset are chasing a straw man.

    Anonymous

    July 14, 2011 at 3:15 am

  9. I’ve read several posts, and watched the video, and seen PZ Meyer’s response, and Dawkins’ response, and I still must have missed where we went from a slightly creepy event (at least as seen from the receiving end) to “cornering” someone and propositioning a woman while she’s “trapped.”

    An elevator, in fact, has corners. So when I read Marcotte’s piece, I imagined a woman backed into one of those corners, with a man, without being invited in words or action, coming much closer than is polite, holding his arms out while gesturing so as to intensify the woman’s feelings of being trapped, making uninvited sexually suggestive remarks. Obviously this is a very creepy and disturbing image.

    But then, when I see the video, I hear something like, “so me and this guy are in an elevator at 4:00 a.m., and he says ‘don’t take this the wrong way, but I find you very interesting. Would you like to come to my room for coffee?”‘

    OK so this is uncomfortable for her. Got it. But how did we get from there to here?

    I understand that the man could have or perhaps probably had a particular goal in mind, but he didn’t literally proposition her, (at least not according to the young lady’s video testimony). For those running across this story for the first time, reading about women being cornered in elevators, and being propositioned while “trapped,” it’s a bit underwhelming to hear that a woman was asked for coffee in an elevator. I mean, we still don’t know how close she was to the elevator buttons relative to him, how close they were to each other, what tone his voice took on, what facial expression he wore, etc.

    So for the record, asking a woman for coffee in an elevator late at night is cornering her, and propositioning her, while she’s “trapped?” So we’re clear, is there a distinction between the ostensibly more disturbing image I started with on the one hand, and a man on the other side of an elevator, in a non-invasive voice and manner, asking a woman to come by for coffee, on the other hand?

    Jay Jeffers

    July 16, 2011 at 2:56 am

  10. So for the record, asking a woman for coffee in an elevator late at night is cornering her, and propositioning her, while she’s “trapped?”

    Yes.

    So we’re clear, is there a distinction between the ostensibly more disturbing image I started with on the one hand, and a man on the other side of an elevator, in a non-invasive voice and manner, asking a woman to come by for coffee, on the other hand?

    Well, yes, obviously there are gradations. But why would we have to lock down a particular distance to the elevator buttons before we can say that it’s inappropriate for him to do this? The image you started with and the one you ended on can both be bad, even if to significantly different degrees.

    gerrycanavan

    July 16, 2011 at 3:04 am

    • Recall too that she doesn’t know which version of the story she’s in until after it’s over. That’s part of why it’s a bad idea to do what the guy did.

      gerrycanavan

      July 16, 2011 at 3:05 am

      • So all this fuss is really over whether what the guy did was a “bad idea?” I have a hard time buying that. We’ve somehow gotten to making statements about someone being “propositioned” while “trapped,” and talking about women being cornered. I don’t think I’m weird in having the much harsher image than the one actually described by the young lady that was present at the event, given the description in your post and in others. So as for gradations, well, we should lock one down insofar as we use words that connote the harsher image.

        But, I guess if you believe that asking a woman for coffee in an elevator late at night is not only inappropriate or merely a “bad idea,” but is automatically equivalent to propositioning her while she’s trapped, and if you believe that whether she’s literally cornered, you know, like, in a corner, isn’t material to whether she’s “cornered,” then we’ll probably have to agree to disagree.

        Jay Jeffers

        July 16, 2011 at 3:32 am

      • Neither one of us was there so it’s impossible for us to know what happened. This whole fuss happened because RW said she was made uncomfortable and an army of people rose up to tell her why she was wrong to feel that way.

        I guess if you believe that asking a woman for coffee in an elevator late at night is not only inappropriate or merely a “bad idea,” but is automatically equivalent to propositioning her while she’s trapped, and if you believe that whether she’s literally cornered, you know, like, in a corner, isn’t material to whether she’s “cornered,” then we’ll probably have to agree to disagree.

        Asking somebody to “come to my room for coffee” — especially at 4 AM, especially after the preface “don’t take this the wrong way” — is a proposition for sex. I think any analysis of the situation has to begin with an understanding of how language works in these situations. And once you accept that, it follows that bringing up sex to a woman you don’t know (and one you’ve intentionally or not just followed into an elevator) *is* equivalent to cornering her while she’s trapped. Again, she has no idea which version of the story she’s in until it’s over. Maybe he’s a shy guy who doesn’t even know that coffee = sex, maybe he’s a rapist who will stop the elevator and attack her if she rejects him.

        The situation has tended to focus on the later scenario because of the chorus of voices telling RW that she was wrong to feel uncomfortable in this situation. She wasn’t, and in fact it’s wrong to tell her she was wrong.

        gerrycanavan

        July 16, 2011 at 8:31 am

  11. I think she can feel however she wants to feel. I also think it’s not crazy or weird for her to feel that way. I hesitate, however, at the universilization of the standard of never inviting a woman for coffee (which is literally what was done) while in an elevator at 4 am, and I did feel like she wasn’t only expressing her feelings in her video, but laying down a standard (if so, fine; being a “cad” as Meyers put it, is not that admirable, but it’s not like sexually bullying a defenseless cornered creature either). In any case, I’m not sure how she would have reacted to my question,

    “So for the record, asking a woman for coffee in an elevator late at night is cornering her, and propositioning her, while she’s ‘trapped?”,

    while you unflinchingly answered “yes.”

    I balk at the idea that the difference between actually cornering someone, you know, like, in a corner, is a mere gradation away from figuratively making someone feel cornered because they’re in an elevator with you. I don’t these this distinction is a mere gradation or two away, so I don’t think it can be treated equivocally in a sentence describing one or the other scenario. I also think the guy was probably/almost definitely interested in sex, but I think it matters whether the proposition is literal or not. Saying “Of course cornering a woman in a elevator at 4 am while propositioning her for sex is wrong” leaves a reasonable reader with the impression that a woman was literally backed into a corner hearing, “You know you want it baby.” Then we we hear, straight from the woman’s mouth, the actual story, but it’s nowhere near that dramatic impression left by your gloss.

    Am I just being nit-picky? I don’t think so, because the rhetorical ramping up seems to play the role of putting rhetorical pressure on people like Dawkins to accept a morally obvious conclusion. The thing is, the actual scenario seems much more ambiguous.

    But thanks for letting me post on your site.

    Jay Jeffers

    July 16, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    • I balk at the idea that the difference between actually cornering someone, you know, like, in a corner, is a mere gradation away from figuratively making someone feel cornered because they’re in an elevator with you.

      I simply do not understand the distinction you are trying to make. Elevators are by definition isolated, enclosed spaces, with stop buttons. An assailant can not only prevent a person from exiting but also stop the device from operating altogether, between floors. Following somebody you have never spoken to out of a bar (as this individual apparently did) and into an elevator at 4 AM, in order to ask them for sex (as this individual did), *is* literally cornering someone. It honestly doesn’t seem remotely ambiguous to me at all.

      The distinction you’re making — he didn’t get physical, he wasn’t crass or lewd, he allowed her to leave in peace after she said she wasn’t interested — is only true in hindsight; in the moment she doesn’t know what is going to happen once he’s already crossed a pretty obvious, bright-line boundary about not cornering people in elevators at 4 AM to ask to them for sex. That’s why he shouldn’t have done it.

      This particular discomfort of being concerned for her safety is in addition to her general aggravation at the constant harassment women get at these sorts of conferences, which she also speaks about.

      I understand that you think I’m glossing the situation in an skewed manner, but I would ask you to understand that this debate has been going on for weeks, not here but at other sites, and I only linked above one of the tail-end, wrap–it-up discussions. It began with RW’s non-vitriolic, perfectly reasonable statement that she doesn’t like being harassed, and it’s only gotten to this point where we’re now thinly slicing the ethics of of elevator-based courtship because people (at other sites; not you) have reacted very vehemently and angrily to the idea that perhaps there could be some limits to a man’s right to ask a woman for sex whenever and however he likes. I can see how a person might enter the conversation near the end of all this and say “Wait a minute, why are we talking about such extremes when the actual situation was so tame” — but this is only happening because of the large numbers of people out there who refused to acknowledge the existence of any limits at all.

      But thanks for letting me post on your site.

      Thanks for commenting! Come back any time.

      gerrycanavan

      July 16, 2011 at 2:08 pm

      • I think when speaking of a room with 4 corners, when we say a person in such a room was “cornered,” the strong implication is that a person is backed into a corner; if we use that word, but don’t mean that a person was actually in a corner being restrained from movement, I think we’re using the language in a weird way. When language is used in that way, people rightly get suspicious that some rhetorical advantage is being smuggled in, like positioning an elbow illegally (but in a subtle way) in arm-wrestling.

        You don’t seem to worry that there might be a significant moral difference between this scenario and someone feeling isolated from help, but not actually backed into a corner being restrained from movement. And you don’t seem to be interested in the possibility that there might be a significant difference in the rhetorical pressure placed on someone literally invited for coffee and someone else literally being told by someone that they would like to **** their brains out. My position is that these aforementioned moral and rhetorical distinctions exist *even while the event is occurring* meaning, what the guy does after (politely says goodnight, or pins her against the wall) is immaterial to deciding the moral merit or lack thereof of asking someone for coffee (implying sex, since it’s 4 am in a hotel elevator) or being much more forward. She felt uncomfortable, and partly because she didn’t know whether or not he was going to escalate. Understood. But that’s a different topic from whether my distinctions are with or without difference.

        I can imagine a scenario where George Clooney asks a woman to his room for coffee at 4am in an elevator and it’s not automatically received as creepy and invasive and constraining (it very much might still be taken that way; but it might not). Even a non-famous dreamboat a regular woman might encounter in a Dublin elevator might manage to not offend as much. Then again, perhaps I’m just too immersed in an oppressive culture if I think any such scenario could ever be anything other than creepy and domineering.

        To close it out, when I use words like “automatically,” I understand myself to be abstracting away from this particular situation, so it really seems that there is an actual disagreement here, apart from the parsing of this particular situation (i.e., we disagree even in the abstract)

        Nevertheless, I do see now that I haven’t been involved every step of the way, and have come along at the 11th hour, missing all the context in between, and that makes a difference (at least to how this particular situation is viewed).

        Jay Jeffers

        July 16, 2011 at 2:42 pm

      • It’s also leaving out her expressed wish to go to bed and not be bothered. Right after she explained why some behavior she had encountered was annoying and uncool, dude proceeds to ignore her already stated wishes and proposition her anyway. He placed his own desires over her already stated one: please don’t bug me.

        Erika

        July 16, 2011 at 8:26 pm

  12. I think when speaking of a room with 4 corners, when we say a person in such a room was “cornered,” the strong implication is that a person is backed into a corner; if we use that word, but don’t mean that a person was actually in a corner being restrained from movement, I think we’re using the language in a weird way.

    I think on this we simply disagree. “Cornered” has a lot of definitions and is frequently used in a more figurative sense than the extremely literal one on which you are insisting.

    So when we come to “You don’t seem to worry that there might be a significant moral difference between this scenario and someone feeling isolated from help, but not actually backed into a corner being restrained from movement” I say again that a woman who has been followed into a elevator to be propositioned *has*, in a literal sense, been backed into a corner and had her movements restrained.

    I can imagine a scenario where George Clooney asks a woman to his room for coffee at 4am in an elevator and it’s not automatically received as creepy and invasive and constraining (it very much might still be taken that way; but it might not).

    This idea comes up pretty frequently when discussing this situation and I really think it’s orthogonal to the point that’s being made. First, women in these conversations have frequently said that yes, if it were George Clooney they would still be creeped out (and as Anonymous said above, perhaps even more so). Second, once we’ve introduced George Clooney into the mix we’ve pretty clearly transcended the situation actually being discussed and moved into the realm of fantasy. Third, and finally, “it’s not harassment if it turns out she’s into it” isn’t a standard of conduct that will tend to protect women from being harassed, threatened, and attacked, so I’m opposed to it as an ethical norm — even if it leads to a world with slightly less consensual sex than other norms would. Safety first!

    gerrycanavan

    July 16, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    • “First, women in these conversations have frequently said that yes, if it were George Clooney they would still be creeped out (and as Anonymous said above, perhaps even more so).”

      Good. I happen to agree that the action either has intrinsic moral merit or not. If it’s creepy and wrong, it shouldn’t matter whether it’s George Clooney or not. So whenever a woman enthusiastically accepts such an overture from him (or insert preferred dreamboat), she’s acquiesced to something creepy and wrong (or on the other hand, if it’s not creepy when a dreamboat does it, it’s not creepy when a slob does it; it’s consistency that shows whether we believe in the intrinsic creepiness or lack thereof of the action).

      “Second, once we’ve introduced George Clooney into the mix we’ve pretty clearly transcended the situation actually being discussed and moved into the realm of fantasy.”

      Well, this second reason seem to agitate against the first (“the food is terrible and the portions are too small”). More importantly, even when I express the view as abstractly as possible, you still provide very confident, unflinching answers. So call it abstract, or fantasy, or what have you, but if we can’t get more general than the situation at hand, we’re not talking about moral principles at all, but just what some people like and some don’t.

      “Third, and finally, ‘it’s not harassment if it turns out she’s into it’ isn’t a standard of conduct that will tend to protect women from being harassed, threatened, and attacked, so I’m opposed to it as an ethical norm — even if it leads to a world with slightly less consensual sex than other norms would. Safety first!”

      No, truth first, safety second. See I think what we’re doing is trying to objectively figure out if an action is morally blameworthy or not. I’m not setting standards that will help people protect themselves. The minute I move on to that larger instrumental concern is the minute I lose objectivity in the venture to describe the truth of this situation (abstraction is fine, but a different topic is a different topic). So, if she’s into it, or if she’s not, is neither here nor there.

      Let’s take Action A. Action A is where a man corners a woman (in a corner) and says very crude things to her without her inviting it in words or body language. Let’s decide that this is a morally blameworthy thing for him to do. Now, If the woman on the receiving end of this treatment loves not only the general attention but the hyper-aggressive method, she’s dysfunctional (what else could we reasonably call it). On the other hand, if a woman is repulsed by it, then she has the appropriate response a reasonable person would have.
      Now let’s take Action B. Action B is where a guy calls a friendly acquaintance and asks if she wants to go see a friend’s band Saturday night. Whether she wants to or not, she’s not offended or put out, which seems normal. However, if she feels attacked, then she’s not reacting reasonable.
      In both cases, the merit of the action is independent of her reaction to the action.

      What I’m saying is that if we saw a movie where George Clooney asks a woman to his room for coffee at 4 am in a hotel elevator, all while wearing an impish grin, (or imaging some other real life dreamboat actually doing this) if the woman is into it, or laughs it off and politely turns him down, we wouldn’t automatically think what he did could fairly be described as “cornering” her and/or “harassing” her. “Inappropriate” perhaps.

      i understand that the verb “corner” is ambiguous, but when you use it alongside “harass,” and it involves an elevator (which has actual corners,, nouns) you’re playing fast and loose with people’s impressions. Whether you mean to is not something I’m trying to get into (I’m not accusing you of intentionally doing it). The thing is, even as I bring it up to you, you have no connection at all to what I’m saying, so it’s as I suspected at the end of my first post, which is that we’ll have to agree to disagree. See I think when describing a small 4 cornered room and saying that a person in such a room has been cornered, we ought not use that word unless a person has been backed into a corner. More generally, I think something can be true while also being misleading. In a vacuum, corner can mean different things. In a 4 cornered room where ‘harassment’ is going on, I think it’s potential to mean something very specific is so great that another word should be used so as to avoid the very vivid and likely impression of a person backed into an actual corner. But I suppose at this point I’m whipping a dead horse.

      In summary on this sticking point:

      **** I understand that the word “cornered” is ambiguous and can be used figuratively. All reasonably intelligent adults understand this. However when discussing A SMALL ROOM WITH CORNERS where potential harassment is being perpetrated, I think it’s not difficult at all to see the worrisome impression you might create in reader’s minds. We’re not talking in a vacuum; we’re talking in an elevator, as it were****

      Truth first, safety second.

      Jay Jeffers

      July 16, 2011 at 3:37 pm

      • Well, we can probably leave it off here, as I think the differences between us have been pretty well fleshed-out. I really don’t think the idea that we can absolutely and finally determine the objective “truth” of this situation is a very useful way to think about all this — the fact that there may be a (vanishingly?) small number of exceptional cases where such a proposition could be welcome (i.e. a case where the two had been silently flirting all night, or some variation on the George Clooney Exception, or your scenario where the woman perversely prefers to be abused) doesn’t mean that in the main late-night elevator propositions to random strangers suddenly become permissable, or a good idea.

        In any event, the case as described by RW clearly falls, for me, pretty far to the creepy/blameworthy end of the curve, and I’m not at all troubled by this determination.

        gerrycanavan

        July 16, 2011 at 4:14 pm

  13. I understand that you’re not troubled by your determination, and I find that troubling. All we know is that he asked her for coffee at 4am in an elevator. If we add silent flirtation we’re talking about a different example. The only thing George Clooney adds is the suggestion that perhaps more women would be open to such propositions from him, (to the extent that I’m wrong, I’m happy to be) even if we don’t add silent flirtation. So, there are no exceptions. If the act is creepy, it’s creepy. Silent flirtation is another matter. RW didn’t indicate that she had done anything to encourage this proposition, she even seemed to indicate otherwise. So that’s the example. The example of a hyper-aggressive guy is clearly another example altogether, I brought it up to clarify that the woman’s reaction can itself be disturbing (if in fact she wants the quasi abuse). The reason I brought all this up is to respond to your concern that it can’t be a good idea even if some find it welcome.

    Well, if it’s creepy, then it’s true that it’s creepy. And if it’s true that it’s creepy, then it’s true whether a woman responds favorable or not. Whether we’re talking in ways that will tend to protect women is just not a truth-tracking concern. The action is either creepy or not creepy. The reaction it gets is neither here nor there. A creepy action is not made not-creepy by being favorable received, and a not-creepy action is not made creepy being being perceived as such. I did not bring up the George Clooney example to suggest that a creepy action could become not-creepy. I brought up the example to try and demonstrate that based on the facts straight from RW’s mouth, we could envision a scenario that isn’t “on the creepy/blameworhty end of the curve.” Namely, the kind of situation where the act is welcome or laughed off. We have to say that even if it is welcome or laughed off, it’s still creepy. But since it’s hard to do that merely with the facts we have now, it appears that it’s not so obviously harassing. Even though the woman won’t know whether the man will back off or not, a man can still exude charm even in this situation. The facts we have don’t indicate whether he did or not, yet to you that can’t be relevant, because you’ve already affirmed the view that based only on what we know, the act was blameworthy for being harassing. So when we include facts that are consistent with what we know from RW, like a wide smile, standing on the other side of the elevator from the buttons that the woman happens to have access to (not a fool proof escape, but a comforting gesture), etc, you STILL unflinchingly affirm it’s wrongness, creepiness, and its harassing nature. Again, I don’t think a creepy action becomes not-creepy. I think it’s either creepy or not. I’m just much less cocksure in this instance. I brought up examples that I thought would be more non-controversially ambiguous, to illustrate my reaction. And, well, if you get to characterize it the way have, my attempt doesn’t seem out of bounds.

    I normally consider myself a pretty liberal guy, which is confirmed by comparing my views to the views of the people around me, be they my conservative relatives or leftists friends. But based on your reaction to the facts versus mine, I feel like we must be viewing this from different planets. Oh well.

    Jay Jeffers

    July 16, 2011 at 5:49 pm


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