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Sexual violence is an important human rights issue. It’s important because it poses a significant risk of suicidal behavior, because it causes a lot of suffering, and because sex offenders can drastically reduce other people’s progress toward their goals.

Sexual violence receives a lot of attention, but attention is not the same as taking effective action. Level of attention is a heuristic we can use to quickly locate areas where the most effective options haven't been applied yet, but heuristics are an imperfect method. We will miss things if heuristics are all that we use. Sexual violence is very complicated, there are a lot of common myths about it, and it's hard to reason about such an upsetting topic. After spending hundreds of hours reading research, I'm concerned that too few people understand sexual violence well enough to seek out and use the most effective options. When I learned more, I saw that it is worth evaluating for effective altruism potential. The amount of impact looks huge, and multiple options are worth trying.

These figures might surprise you: unfortunately, sexual violence is very common. Figures from the Center for Disease Control show that 36.3% of women and 17.1% of men in the US have been sexually assaulted. [1] Part of this commonness is the difficulty of catching the offenders due to stigma and insufficient evidence. Using figures from the Department of Justice, RAINN showed that the majority of sex offenders walk free. [2] A meta-analysis of unreported rape studies found that 6% of men are undetected rapists [12] (and there doesn’t appear to be a study with the percentage of women who are undetected rapists). It can be hard for sexual violence survivors to talk about sexual violence. A lot of what happens ends up hidden.

I estimated various quantities related to impact including: the number of sexually violent people in EA, the number of lives that can be saved, the amount of productivity currently being lost, the effect on movement building, the effect on diversity / potential for disadvantage reduction, and suffering reduction. The amount of impact at stake is high.

I evaluated nineteen sexual violence reduction options and included relevant research in the tractability section.

I also addressed the question of whether this is a neglected area. William MacAskill said in “Doing Good Better” that “If a specific area has already received a great deal of funding and attention, then we should expect it to be difficult to do a lot of good by devoting additional resources to that area. In contrast, within causes that are comparatively neglected, the most effective opportunities for doing good have probably not been taken.” [13] Because no EA had previously done work to identify the most effective opportunities to reduce sexual violence in effective altruism, this should probably be considered neglected until the most effective actions have been taken. Due to time constraints, I wasn’t able to fully evaluate neglectedness on a global scale, but I have a specific concern about this which I detailed in the neglectedness section.

There is potential for an excellent cost-benefit ratio between the necessary time investment and the results that are possible. It is worth considering investing more resources into sexual violence reduction.

In-network sexual violence reduction is very likely to be an effective altruism cause as a high-leverage way to protect EAs, increase effective altruism diversity, job satisfaction and productivity, as a way to reduce the talent shortage by retaining more employees and volunteers, and as a way to attract more people and grow the movement. Outside of the effective altruism network, sexual violence reduction has potential to be an effective altruism cause through saving lives, suffering reduction, disadvantage reduction, and by increasing productivity but more research is needed to further explore EA potential on a global scale. Of the nineteen methods explored, there are two methods that have the potential to scale globally.

(Note: For those that are unfamiliar, there are some concerns about social science research which I had to work around. For instance, the replication crisis, the concerns covered in "Statistics Done Wrong", and the various issues identified by John Ioannidis. To address these concerns, I found multiple review articles and meta-analyses wherever possible. If I couldn't find any, I looked for as many studies as I could find and included them all.

This method is not perfect. For instance, Ioannidis has warned about some specific vulnerabilities in meta-analyses and review articles. There really is not a way to create a perfect research based article, especially not while covering this much ground at the same time. It is simply too complicated. There wasn't a perfect method for me to use anyway.

I could have chosen to do nothing because the research is flawed. I decided that the subject is too important to ignore. I decided not to make the perfect the enemy of the good and I made the best of it.)

(Note: The belief that most effective altruists care about sexual violence is not in question. Many people, including effective altruists, do not have a strong awareness of how much risk there is, how much impact is at stake or which actions have the best chance to succeed. Additionally, some people are not aware of the amount of leverage that is possible. Awareness about these areas needs to be raised.)

Table of Contents:

Article Scope:

In-network sexual violence reduction vs. global sexual violence reduction.


Estimating the number of sexually violent people.

  • Why we should not assume that effective altruism repels sex offenders
  • About 6% of men are rapists and an unknown percentage of women.
  • A rough estimate of rapists in EA.

Sexual violence reduction as a life saver

Sexual violence reduction as suffering reduction

Sexual violence reduction for diversity and disadvantage reduction

  • Comparing sexual violence rates by gender
  • Greatly multiplied risk to women due to the gender ratio in EA
  • Gay and bisexual people have around twice the sexual violence risk
  • List of specific disadvantages that EA women, bisexuals and homosexuals face

Potential of sexual violence reduction to prevent productivity loss

  • The low estimate
  • The high estimate

Sexual violence reduction as part of movement building

  • The male sex offenders studied are shockingly prolific
  • Sex offenders increase turnover in workplaces

Sexual violence reduction for lawsuit prevention


Global neglectedness:

  • Expecting sexual violence to leave enough evidence prevents solving it.

The main challenges in evaluating neglectedness in our network:

  • Survivorship bias makes gathering numbers tricky
  • Most sex offences are not reported
  • An alternative: focusing on whether we could be more effective

Observations about sexual violence in the EA network

  • A list for informational purposes only (please take no drastic actions)

Effective sexual violence reduction isn’t an EA focus yet


The key obstacle

Alternative sexual violence reduction options explored

  • Look for work quality issues.
  • Keep an eye on suspected offenders for other forms of misbehavior.
  • Look into setting up a sting operation (sex offenders are often criminal generalists).
  • Strike a balance between dismissing accusations and witch-hunting people.
  • Create a robust sex offender detection strategy.
  • Help solve male-female relations issues.
  • Help minimize sexual violence risk factors throughout your social network.
  • Encourage careful thinking and learning about certain sexual behaviors.
  • View less serious sexual assaults like groping as a security heuristic.
  • Learn self-defence, promote self-defence, and/or offer self-defence education.
  • Offer a prevention program.
  • Encourage sex offenders to seek help if you can do so safely.
  • Do more research on sexual violence treatment.
  • Encourage or host dry events and parties.
  • If appropriate, consider having the accused work from home.
  • Centralize reports so that survivors can ally with each other.
  • Help replace stereotypes about sexual violence situations with real information.
  • Object to pressure to go to private and secluded areas alone or with someone.
  • Join EAs and Rationalists Against Abuse (ERAA) on Facebook.



Article Scope:

In-network sexual violence reduction vs. global sexual violence reduction.

Sexual violence is a human rights issue all over the world, causing problems on multiple levels. Some of the sections in this article are limited to in-network sexual violence reduction because of the extreme cost of quantifying and scaling on a global level. For instance, the amount of sexual violence risk varies by country, sometimes by a lot. Consider the abhorrent treatment of women in Afghanistan and the unusually bad prison rape situation in Russia. The amount of variance could be quite high. There are 200 countries in the world. A good estimate of the amount of sexual violence risk present in all 200 countries would require an entire article of its own. It is necessary to quantify the amount of sexual violence in each country in order to quantify impacts like lives lost, suffering, etc. Quantifying all the impacts requires additional articles.

Another notable difference between large and small scale sexual violence reduction is that most of the methods that have a chance to get good results can only be used to ban the offender from a particular organization or group. There is no way to ban them from the entire world. The methods that do have some potential to scale globally are:

  • Sting operations to catch offenders, if they result in incarceration.* (This might be made to work without risking sexual traumas to the sting operation staff. See the tractability section.)
  • Finding a cure for sexual violence and a way to persuade sex offenders to use it. (It might be easier than you’d think to persuade them. See the tractability section.)

Unfortunately, there just isn’t enough information on these two methods to make global level estimates yet. Good researchers need to be hired. Research funding is needed. I am not qualified to do this research by myself, though I’d be happy to get involved. I hope the information I included in this article is useful to people interested in investing in research on these methods. Feel free to contact me through the effective altruism forum or Facebook if you’re interested in doing large scale sexual violence risk reduction.

* Due to the high rate of prison rape, increasing the rate of incarceration for a given country may not reduce the sexual violence rate on net in that country.


Estimating the number of sexually violent people.

Why we should not assume that effective altruism repels sex offenders:

Effective altruism probably attracts more altruists, but does it repel sex offenders? Four things to consider: 

1.) It appears common for people to believe that sex offenders are never empathetic or altruistic. People also seem to believe that altruistic and empathetic people never commit sex offences. According to studies, rapists demonstrated more empathy than other types of criminals [14], however rapists have empathy deficits specifically toward their victims [14][15] and have higher hostility toward women. [15] Rapists may have a comparable amount of empathy to others. [16] How can this be? “It is suggested that empathy deficits in rapists might better be construed as cognitive distortions specific to their victims.” [14] Essentially, rapists have irrational thinking patterns that seem to selectively sabotage empathy for their victims. Being capable of empathy isn’t everything a human needs to behave well. We also need to think clearly enough to avoid prejudices and misunderstandings so that we can empathise with everyone in each situation.

2.) There have been some incidents in the EA social network which suggest that having more effective sexual violence reduction methods would be an improvement for EA. For anonymized examples, see the neglectedness section.

3.) Some sex offenders are masters of deception. “The first author interviewed one sex offender who reported that he had used newspaper reports of his release (including an old newspaper photograph of his face) as the pretext by which he entered into conversations about sex with new victims. Many sex offenders have histories of using demonstrations of "good touches" and "bad touches" to enter into sexually inappropriate activities with children. One of the most notorious sadistic pedophile murderers of all time, John Wayne Gacey, worked in disguise as a clown.” - “Myths and Misconceptions about Sex Offenders” [18] One of my two EA sex offenders was both stealthy in committing his offence and cunning in covering it up with a smearing attack afterwards. Some sex offenders are not particularly strategic. Many rapists are drunk at the time of the offence. Some are opportunistic and take advantage of time and place. Multiple types of sex offenders exist. We may not have a complete list of different types yet. It’s not safe to assume that any type of sex offender will simply leave altruists alone.

Exploitative people may actually prefer effective altruists as targets because many of them are young, so more likely to be naive. They would find it easier to target us if we tend to trust other group members more. We might trust people too much because a lot of people think that altruism and criminal behavior are mutually exclusive. Additionally, altruists may be more generous or forgiving, so highly selfish and exploitative people may particularly seek us out. Psychopaths are known for their charm and for their ability to blend in. Date rapists are known for enticing people to go on a date and then spiking their drink or luring them into a secluded location. If we happen to have anything that harmful people want or prefer, there is no reason to believe that they’d keep out. They are known for blending in.

4.) Dawkins doesn’t believe that the selfish simply leave altruists alone:

“Even in the group of altruists, there will almost certainly be a dissenting minority who refuse to make any sacrifice. If there is just one selfish rebel, prepared to exploit the altruism of the rest, then he, by definition, is more likely than they are to survive and have children. Each of these children will tend to inherit his selfish traits. After several generations of this natural selection, the ‘altruistic group’ will be over-run by selfish individuals, and will be indistinguishable from the selfish group. Even if we grant the improbable chance existence initially of pure altruistic groups without any rebels, it is very difficult to see what is to stop selfish individuals migrating in from neighboring selfish groups” [17]

About 6% of men are rapists and an unknown percentage of women.

    It’s hard to find figures for sexual harassers and gropers, but less hard to find these for rapists. One obstacle to finding out how many rapists there are is that most are undetected, that is to say they are never convicted or even taken to court. One study pooled the results of four self-report studies together to find out what percentage of men are undetected rapists. Unfortunately, the study only has a figure available for men. That number is 6% (ranging from 6%-14.9% in the studies it referenced). [12] Rapists don’t usually say “yes” when you ask them if they are a rapist. For whatever reason, they just do not self-identify as rapists. In this study, rapists were defined as people who answered yes to one of the following questions:

  1. Have you ever been in a situation where you tried, but for various reasons did not succeed, in having sexual intercourse with an adult by using or threatening to use physical force (twisting their arm, holding them down, etc.) if they did not cooperate?
  2. Have you ever had sexual intercourse with someone, even though they did no want to, because they were too intoxicated (on alcohol or drugs) to resist your sexual advances (e.g., removing their clothes)?
  3. Have you ever had sexual intercourse with an adult when they didn't want to because you used or threatened to use physical force (twisting their arm; holding them down, etc.) if they didn't cooperate?
  4. Have you ever had oral sex with an adult when they didn't want to because you used or threatened to use physical force (twisting their arm; holding them down, etc.) if they didn't cooperate?

There are more actions that count as rape than are listed here, for instance: intercourse with a non-consenting disabled person (in which case they may not employ physical force), intercourse with a sleeping person, intercourse with an adult over whom someone else has legal power of attorney. It may be that 6% is a low estimate.

While looking for the number of female rapists, I found a meta-analysis on female sex offenders. The percentage of sex offenders reported to the police who are female is 2.2%. The police data seems to have a reporting bias. The percentage found in surveys is 11.6%. [19] Please remember that these are the percentages of sexually violent people who are female, not the percentage of females who are sexually violent.

I don’t see a way to use the 2.2% and 11.6% figures to estimate the number of female rapists. If I calculate 2.2% or 11.6% of police reports or convictions, the result will have a massive under-reporting bias. Numbers from victim reports are not directly comparable to numbers from undetected rapist surveys. Therefore, if I try to compensate for the under-reporting bias by taking 2.2% or 11.6% of the 6% male rapists figure from undetected rapist studies, this will be inaccurate. Among other things, reports from victims can include the same rapist more than once because one rapist might target multiple people. Therefore, multiplying numbers from victim reports of sex offences against the percentage of undetected rapists might give an exaggerated result. For what it’s worth, female sex offenders are unlikely to reoffend. (Their recidivism rate is less than 3%.) [24] However, I’m still not sure that the numbers from victim studies are comparable enough to the numbers from undetected rapist studies to put them together for an estimation.

Unfortunately, no undetected female rapist studies were found in the search. Given the appearance that female rapists are rare, it’s doubtful that such studies exist. There just doesn’t seem to be a good way to estimate them using the available information.

A rough estimate of rapists in EA:

There are a large number of factors that may influence the number of sex offenders in a particular group. For instance, Younger men have higher testosterone levels, and younger women are more likely to be targeted for sexual violence. Determining how each of these factors influences sexual violence risk can be very complicated. For instance, do highly educated people commit fewer crimes, or are they simply more likely to get away with crimes? Do people of a particular race commit more crimes, or are they just more likely to be convicted due to prejudice? Given the very large number of studies on sexual violence risk factors, and the complexity of processing them all, it would be extremely time consuming to take all of the factors into account. It could easily require an article of the same length as this one, just to create an estimate which takes all known relevant factors into account. To ensure enough time for the other parts of this article, a simple rough estimate has been created based on information about the overall population. Please remember that this is an *estimate*.

According to the 2015 survey of effective altruists, there were 2,352 respondents who consider themselves an EA. [20] Some people are so uninvolved that they would not take the EA survey. They should not be counted. Others are so very busy that they might not take the EA survey either, even though they should be counted. Unless research is done to determine what percentage of EA takes the EA survey, we cannot assume that it is accurate. For that reason, I am using the total number of EAs from the survey as the low estimate. For the high estimate, I am using the EA Facebook group. There are over 13,861 people in the effective altruism Facebook group. [21] Not all of these people are active. The exact number of EAs is unknown but probably lies between these two figures. So, as an estimate, there are probably between 2,352-13,861 people in the effective altruism movement.

Using the number above (6% of men are rapists) to estimate, and after encoding the following information in rot13 to keep it out of search engines and discourage quoting: fvapr 73% bs gur fheirl erfcbaqragf ner znyr, gurer ner na rfgvzngrq 100-600 (103-607) znyr encvfgf va gur rssrpgvir nygehvfz zbirzrag, tvira 2,352-13,861 crbcyr gbgny.

Additionally, there are an unknown number of female rapists.

Sexual violence reduction as a life saver:

Sexual violence harms the health of both men [3] [4] and women. Multiple studies have shown that rape survivors have a greatly increased risk of death via suicide. [5] [30] This is true even in very tough individuals, like those in the military. [31]

A summary of a study of 4008 women conducted by National Institute of Drug Abuse: “When asked if they ever thought seriously about committing suicide, 33% of the rape victims and 8% of the non-victims of crime stated that they had seriously considered suicide. Thus, rape victims were 4.1 times more likely than non-crime victims to have contemplated suicide. Rape victims were also 13 times more likely than non-crime victims to have actually made a suicide attempt (13% vs. 1%).” [5] Multiple sources attributed the suicidal behavior to rape or the psychological impact of rape.

Unfortunately, it can be very difficult to find specific sexual violence information that pertains to male sexual violence survivors, and sometimes no study has been done. Therefore, only the number of female rape survivors who attempted suicide will be used in the following rough estimates.

For a sense of how suicide differs by gender: women are more likely to attempt suicide while men are more likely to die from it. [6]

Suicide attempts are not always fatal: 25 people attempt suicide for every death.  [7]

Each rapist might have committed an average of 7.2 rapes (there isn’t an unbiased sample available that I could find). [8]

So far we have:

7.2 rapes per 1 rapist.

12% higher chance of a suicide attempt after a rape (a 13% chance minus the 1% usual risk).

4% chance of a suicide death for each suicidal person (1 in 25).

0.48% chance of a death for each person raped (1 in 208).

3.5% chance that each rapist contributed to a death on average.

Notes: Sometimes rapists may target the same person more than once. It would be difficult to find research on how frequently this happens. In theory, the rape-related suicide risk already includes this, so attempting to adjust for that might exaggerate the suicide risk estimate. The estimate is not based on studies about future rapes, this is based on studies of past rapes. This is the information that is available. For that reason, it’s not possible to use this to provide a figure like “For every X rapists stopped from committing future rapes, we will save one life on average.” For the sake of curiosity, a different estimate can be provided:

If a rough estimate of 29 would-be rapists were stopped before they started, at least one life would be saved (on average). The “at least” is there to hint at the fact that because past rapes don’t include future rapes, the would-be rapists might have targeted more than 7.2 people over their lif etimes.

To go about it a better way: for every 208 people we prevent from being raped, a rough estimate of one life will be saved on average.

Sexual violence reduction as suffering reduction:

According to a systematic review, rape is “one of the most severe of all interpersonal traumas”. [44] Another study said “Rape victims were found to be significantly more depressed, generally anxious, and fearful than control subjects.” [45] In a study called “The Psychological Impact of Rape”, the impacts are explored in detail. [46] Here is a summary:

Effects hours later:

92% were terrified and confused

96% were scared, worried and trembling

96% felt exhausted

88% felt restless

84% felt depressed

1 week later:

94% met the criteria for PTSD (though not the time requirement)

2 weeks later:

75% were depressed (mildly to severely)

1 month later:

44% were moderately to severely depressed

Many still met the PTSD criteria.

3 months later:

47% still met the criteria for PTSD
Likely to experience fear, anxiety, self-esteem trouble and sexual dysfunction.

Significantly more distressed than non-victims.

1 year later:

Likely to experience fear, anxiety, self-esteem trouble and sexual dysfunction.
Significantly more distressed than non-victims.

2 years later:

More likely to experience fear, social adjustment issues, depression and sexual disorders.

3 years later:

Differences on several fear and anxiety measures compared with non-victims.

Rape causes intense suffering to most survivors, and the suffering can last a long time for some of them.

Sexual violence reduction for diversity and disadvantage reduction:

Comparing sexual violence rates by gender:

According to the most recent NISVS report by the Center for Disease Control, far more women than men have experienced sexual violence over their lifetimes, though men and women experienced a comparable amount of rape* in the 12 month period the survey covered. [1] (See tables 3.1 and 3.5.)

* It is important to note that the way rape against men is defined in research often leaves out envelopment or puts this in a different category like “made to penetrate”. Envelopment has been included in the rape definition used for this article. When reading sexual violence research, please remember to check the definitions and categories of violence to see what is contained in each.

Women experienced more sexual coercion, unwanted sexual contact and non-contact unwanted sexual experiences both over their lifetimes and also in the year the survey covered.

Greatly multiplied risk to women due to the gender ratio in EA:

The 73% / 27% male to female ratio in the effective altruism movement creates a significantly worse sexual violence risk for women (though some areas of the movement have a different gender balance like in animal charities). Please remember the estimate of male rapists in the effective altruism movement from the beginning of the article. It is not possible to calculate the exact number of rapists in the movement. Estimating them is the best that anyone can do.

There are 635-3742 women the male rapists in the movement might target. The ratio of male rapists to women outside the movement is around 1:17 (3:50), based on a 50/50 gender ratio. The estimated ratio of male rapists to women in the EA movement is 1:6, which is significantly worse. In the rationalist diaspora sector of the movement (like LessWrong) the gender ratio is 83.6% / 16.2% [47] and the estimated male rapist to female ratio is around 1:3.

Worse, according to one study, the rapists surveyed committed an average of 7.2 rapes each. [8]

To tie it all together:

Outside EA: A 1:17 ratio means 7 rapes per 17 women on average.

Inside EA: A 1:6 ratio means 7 rapes per 6 women on average.

Rationalists: A 1:3 ratio means 7 rapes per 3 women on average.

Note 1: Some women are targeted multiple times.

Note 2: The 7.2 rapes per rapist is based on past rapes. It’s not a prediction of future rapes. This is to give the reader a sense of the disadvantage women face in male dominated environments.

Note 3: We cannot assume that EA rapists target only other EAs. Sometimes, they might target people outside the social network. We cannot assume that EAs are targeted only by EA rapists. Sometimes they might be targeted by people outside the social network. Depending on how much of an EA’s social life consists of contact with other EAs and also depending on how sociable they are, their individual risk will vary. There is not enough lifestyle information available on EAs for me to include numbers on this into the estimate.

Female lawyers often work in offices with a similar gender ratio to EA. [48] According to The American Bar Association, between half and two thirds of female lawyers experienced or observed sexual harassment by male superiors, colleagues, or clients during the two years prior to the survey. [37]

Gay and bisexual people have around twice the sexual violence risk:

Bisexuals and homosexuals of both genders experience more sexual violence than heterosexuals. The problem can be around twice as bad for them. [41] (See tables 1 and 2.)

List of specific disadvantages that EA women, bisexuals and homosexuals face:

  1. Offenders increase their suicide risk more often.
  2. Offenders psychologically harm more of them.
  3. Offenders drive away a disproportionate number of them.
  4. Offenders reduce their progress toward their goals through psychological trauma and other health concerns.
  5. Offenders pose a threat, so they must self-impose various limitations for security purposes.
  6. Offenders damage more of their careers and reputations through cover-up slandering.

Reducing sexual violence is a way to significantly reduce their burden of disadvantage.

Potential of sexual violence reduction to prevent productivity loss:

The low estimate:

For every 208 people protected from rape, a rough estimate of 1 life will be saved due to the related suicide risk. (See also: the “sexual violence reduction as a life saver” section.) One lifetime includes up to ~80,000 hours of work. Not every effective altruist will spend their entire life working in EA, and not every effective altruist has 80,000 hours left in their career, so this wouldn’t always yield an 80,000 hour productivity boost. *Up to* 80,000 hours of productivity could be saved by saving people from rape.

The high estimate:

If just one person is stopped from committing sex offences in the effective altruism movement, that could be as high-impact as gaining one new superstar level effective altruist, possibly better.

According to a Harvard Business School working paper, employees who engage in misbehavior like sexual harassment (which includes sexual violence, rape, sexual assault and other inappropriate touching [9] [10]) are net negative. [11] One employee of this type does enough damage to more than cancel out the value created by an unusually productive person or “superstar worker”, defined as “in the top 1% of productivity”. “Even if a firm could replace an average worker with one who performs in the top 1%, it would still be better off by replacing a toxic worker with an average worker by more than two-to-one”. In the paper, sexual harassment is provided as an example of toxic behavior on the extreme end of the scale for harm and severity, so the impact of reducing sexual violence could be greater.

The ratio of effort to impact might be really excellent. To represent the productivity boost of adding a superstar worker, I’ll estimate the impact in terms of hours gained.

Careers don’t always last a lifetime, so I’ll start my range with just a five year long career. Five years contain 10,400 hours of work. A full lifetime contains 80,000 hours of work.

Since many offences leave insufficient evidence, I’ll quantify the time it takes to review the quality of someone’s work to see whether there is evidence that they should be fired. (One strategy which has a chance to succeed, detailed below.) The time required for this probably ranges from minutes to hours.

If it takes a few hours to review someone’s work, and 10,400-80,000 hours worth of productivity are gained, then it could be that the impact gained is thousands of times greater than the time invested or more.

Reviewing the work of a person accused of a sex offence won’t always lead to a reason to fire them. The ratio of reviews to firings is unknown. Even if it were only 10:1, the cost benefit ratio is still very good.

Sexual violence reduction as part of movement building:

The male sex offenders studied are shockingly prolific:

Some sex offenders who commit offences like groping, frotteurism (crotch rubbing), voyeurism, and exhibitionism can be quite prolific and each act has a chance to scare people out of the effective altruism movement.

How prolific are they? It’s difficult to get an unbiased sample of sex offenders. Even jail samples are biased because so many sex offenders are not sent to jail. For an example, the frottage offenders (who touch or rub a clothed person) surveyed in this study targeted an average of nine hundred people each. [22] That is not a typo. Given this much activity, one offender easily has the potential to drive more than one person out of EA. These “less serious” sexual assaults could be worsening the talent shortage.

A lot of information on sexual violence includes only men or has a reporting bias that leaves out some of the female sex offenders, so I sought information on female sex offenders specifically. The studies I found said female sex offenders are unlikely to reoffend. Their recidivism rate is less than 3%. [24] [25] Sex offences committed by females are obviously still important. The point here is to gather numbers useful for getting a sense of the amount of impact that sex offenders have on the movement.

Sex offenders increase turnover in workplaces and probably movements:

There is very little research on movement building, so the chance that a sex offence will drive someone out of a movement is not known. It’s reasonable to be concerned about this because toxic behavior like sex offences can increase turnover rates in workplaces [11] and the EA movement is partly composed of workplaces. 

A study with a very large military sample found that “For every 1 standard deviation increase in sexual harassment experience, there is an effect size equivalent to a 21% greater risk of turnover—despite controlling for the contribution of coworker satisfaction.” [35]. The results of another study showed that “the odds of  sexually harassed employees having turnover intentions are 1.63 times greater than for employees not experiencing sexual harassment.“ [36] All of the other available studies I could locate on the topic found that sexual harassment increases turnover intentions. [37] [38] [39] [40]

Sexual violence reduction for lawsuit prevention:

A sexual harassment lawsuit can cost into the millions of dollars, and a survey shows that many company policies are inadequate and may even violate “effective action”. [42] I am not qualified to provide legal advice, I just want to raise awareness. For further information, please consult with a lawyer.


Global neglectedness:

Expecting sexual violence to leave enough evidence prevents solving it.

 It does not appear to be widely known information that for every 1000 rapes committed, only 6 rapists go to jail. [2] If sexual violence tends to leave too little evidence, then calls for justice make an unrealistic demand on court systems. It seems to me that people have been expecting these crimes to leave enough evidence, so they haven’t put enough investment into other avenues that have potential such as sting operations for the criminal generalist type of sex offender or a cure for paraphilias. To get an accurate idea of whether sexual violence reduction is neglected in each country requires more research to do the question justice.

The main challenges in evaluating neglectedness in our network:

Survivorship bias makes gathering numbers tricky:

Due to survivorship bias, surveys of the movement asking about sexual violence will unfortunately be inaccurate. The problem is that people who have been targeted by sex offenders may have stopped participating in order to avoid the offenders. They may have even lost their jobs because of conflicts or mental health issues resulting from the attack. Nonetheless, a survey has been done. This survey should not be considered the main support. Data from the survey is included in the list of observations below.

This problem of survivorship bias will likely affect information from most of the methods we could use to discover whether sexual violence is being handled effectively. For instance, asking around would only give us opportunities to gather information *if* we met the sexual violence survivors before the offence. There are some who we may not have ever met, if they left before we could meet them.

Survivorship bias is a really big problem that makes gathering information about neglectedness hard.

Most sex offences are not reported:

Another problem is that the majority of sex offences are not reported. [2] One cannot simply contact EA organizations to ask how many reports they received because most of the sexual violence will not have been reported to them.

An alternative: focusing on whether we could be more effective:

Because there is not currently a way to directly measure the size of the problem in effective altruism, this section will instead focus on whether actions against known problems could be more effective.

Observations about sexual violence in the EA network:

A list of observations has accumulated over time as I participated in the movement. I’ve seen some people taking action, but there doesn’t seem to be enough awareness about what’s likely to be effective. I’ve seen others take no action. I can’t be sure I haven’t ended up with a biased view, but from what I’ve seen there have been some problems and the problems happened in a lot of places. The nature and scope of what I’ve seen suggests that there is plenty of room for improvement.

Inspired by the #metoo phenomenon, I have chosen to be a bit more candid in this section than traditional social norms would usually allow. My personal belief is that sharing *anonymized* sexual violence related events has a lot of educational value (with the caveat that it’s possible it may be experienced as entertainment by the people we’re trying to raise awareness about, so my descriptions are as boring and concise as possible to prevent that [43]).

Because a lot of sexual violence incidents lead to unresolvable he-said-she-said arguments, it isn’t clear to me whether publicly outing the real identities of offenders does more good or more harm. Sex offenders can and will smear their survivors with rumors when survivors fight back. This makes unwary people confused and further attacks the victim.

Sex offenders are not above trying to manipulate friends, witnesses, and investigating organizations, nor are they above gaslighting and manipulating the survivors themselves. The result of an outing can be a huge intractable mess which causes a lot of pain and trouble for a lot of people, including the survivor.

For some situations and/or survivors, outing might do some good. For others, it will only cause harm.

Each person has to make their own decision about their own unique situation.

Because my assessment tells me that outing the following people is not productive at this time, their identities have been intentionally anonymized.

A list for informational purposes only (please take no drastic actions):

  1. I was told after one EA sex offence, by the offender’s co-worker, that the inappropriate touching was due to “confusion” related to having read pickup literature. The behavior is unacceptable regardless, but to see what was going on, I decided to read some pickup literature myself. Below is what I found after I was directed to “The Red Pill” (TRP) by a friend.

    Note: opening up the following three sources is not safe for work, though this summary of them intentionally avoids explicit descriptions. “Male Dominance: A Beginner's Guide” on “The Red Pill Room”, a blog with over 3 million views, advocates using name-calling, hair pulling, manhandling, and general aggression with women. [32] For another example, a “Sixteen Commandments” article on Reddit claims that “Touching a woman inappropriately on the first date will get you further with her than not touching her at all.” [33] In a Reddit compilation PDF known as “The Red Pill” one author explains that /r/TheRedPill has become a major "front page of the manosphere” (a play on the Reddit slogan “Welcome to the front page of the internet”). Another author in the compilation states “TRP advocates taking advantage of women to bend them to your will. It absolutely says "the best basis for a good relationship is Stockholm Syndrome".” [34]

    Perhaps not all pickup authors encourage violence, but there are definitely some notable examples who do.

    Even if, as some sources claim, some women do like aggressive behavior, this is definitely not true of all women. In addition, it seems to be the case that there is a risk of psychological trauma even among women who can enjoy aggression. Encouraging sexual aggression is not a low-risk thing to do.

    A lot of other people have mentioned pickup. It seems to me that a lot of people in my network have been influenced by pickup artistry. That there exists a sexually aggressive form of pickup and that it has likely influenced or confused some of the people in our social network is concerning. That EAs might use the existence of this pickup lit as an excuse to commit sex offences, or as a way to cover them up is also concerning.

    “The Red Pill” is not merely a stream of crudeness. There are many valid pains and complaints listed in the compilation PDF, mixed with things like exercise and health tips, in between its insults and encouragements to be insolent and aggressive. The book depicts a large schism between men and women. This is very detailed, so it isn’t easy to evaluate how many of the problems it describes are accurate to reality, but at least some of the problems are real. There are wounds to be healed between men and women and the wounds are on both sides.

    There are deep problems here. They won’t be solved overnight. We need to fix various male-female relations issues and promote accurate information about healthy sexuality.

  2. I took an informal survey of the group Women and Non-Binary in Effective Altruism. I included an anonymous feedback form so that participants would feel more comfortable with replying. One of the respondents reported a bad experience with bringing a sex offence to an authority in our social network.
  3. During an after party for EA Global, someone came up from behind and committed frotteurism against me. There was an obstruction in front of the security camera at the time. These might be unrelated, but it makes sense to think that sex offenders are more likely to strike when accountability is low.
  4. In an EA workplace, one of the workers unexpectedly kissed me. I was not trying to date this person or anything. I had already turned him down, explaining that I wasn’t available. After he kissed me, I told him “I don’t want you to kiss me.” and he did it again immediately.
  5. I’ve encountered a significant minority of people who do oppose sexual violence but don’t regard the problem as important. In other words, there is too little “herd immunity”. Information about impact could go a long way.
  6. An investigator was hired to check for evidence of a sex offence, but sex offences usually leave insufficient evidence. What evidence is left by a kiss, a grope, a rub? Nothing. Money was spent on the investigation. It seems like the right thing to do. However, given that sex offenders usually aren’t caught, one cannot simply investigate a sex offence and decide it didn’t happen because there was no evidence of it. If interpreted this way, investigations can create a false sense of security.

    To be accurate, one has to become very knowledgeable about all the unintuitive ways that victims can respond and choose very carefully between conclusions like that it was an unsubstantiated / unfounded accusation, a partially true / partially false accusation, a false accusation and various others. It takes a lot of information to do this accurately and even professionals in the criminal justice system are known to make mistakes according to research. Professionals like psychologists who work with sexual violence survivors are also needed. A lot of education is needed. (See also: the “Help replace stereotypes about sexual violence situations with real information.” section.)

  7. A group was being targeted with an unusual number of communications that promoted things like a sexual violence method and sexual violence risk factors. This activity overwhelmed one of the members of the management team. Instead of addressing the problem of an increased number of people promoting sexual violence in the group, most of the management team abandoned the group.

Given these observations, I think there is a lot of room for improvement.

Effective sexual violence reduction isn’t an EA focus yet:

Even if most EAs wouldn’t neglect sexual violence on purpose, most of them don’t have the time to do a thorough job of figuring out what might be an effective way to solve such a complicated and challenging problem. This is not an area that any EA organization specializes in. Sexual violence is more of an issue that comes up from time to time when people are busy working toward other goals. Given the impact at stake, the time required to do the topic justice, and the fact that no EA organization has specialized in it, I believe it’s likely that effectiveness has not yet been maximized throughout the movement. Promoting information on the options and their effectiveness has a chance to do a lot of good


The key obstacle:

Unfortunately, as the Department of Justice showed, sex offenders *usually* evade the law. The data supplied by RAINN shows that even in cases where the police become involved, the suspects are likely to go free.

The law has high standards. Our legal system insists that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. In the legal system, there are serious punishments at stake, so this approach makes sense. Unfortunately, sexual violence often does not leave enough evidence for the criminal justice system to work with.

Anger is natural, but if we insist on punishment as our only strategy against sex offenders, our burden of proof will leave us mostly undefended.

In cases where we have too little evidence, we can’t just punish people. This would create a culture of witch hunting. If we create an opportunity to witch hunt, we’ll open ourselves up to being taken advantage of by unscrupulous people.

Sexual violence is an important enough issue that this challenge shouldn’t stop us. It is for this reason that I offer an exploration of alternative options.

Alternative sexual violence reduction options explored:

  1. Look for work quality issues.

    Periodically double checking the quality of work being produced by all employees may create opportunities to remove toxic workers. This includes sexually violent people. Harvard Business School explains in a working paper that “workers with poorer quality performance are more likely to be toxic. Here, a one standard deviation increase in the quality of production results in a 27% decrease in the hazard.“ [11]

  2. Keep an eye on suspected offenders for other forms of misbehavior.

    Some sex offenders misbehave in other ways. One study found that 99 sex offenders committed 20,000 nonsexual offences. [22] That’s not a typo. That’s an average of over 200 offences per person.

    Rapists contributed a disproportionate share.

    Some of the other misbehavior by sex offenders might leave more evidence behind than their sex offences, creating opportunities to oust them. Think carefully about the rules they might have been tempted to break, and any details that seem out of place. Report any useful observations to authorities.

    It could be worthwhile to check the quality of their work as well.

  3. Look into setting up a sting operation (sex offenders are often criminal generalists).

    Obviously, there is an ethical concern worth worrying about when it comes to what might happen to people participating in a sting operation to bust sex offences. Participants could be traumatized by a sex offender. Gladly, there seems to be significant overlap between sexual violence and other forms of misbehavior which are easier to set up a sting operation for. Therefore, well-designed sting operations meant to detect crimes like theft or fraud may also catch people who commit sex offences. A well-designed sting operation could result in you having the evidence you need to get rid of sex offenders and other criminals by firing the person, having them banned from events, or possibly even put in prison.

    It takes skill to design something which only catches people who are actually misbehaving without generating a bunch of false positives. It also takes skill to avoid unfairly causing people to misbehave (called “entrapment”).

    Before attempting a sting operation, ask a lawyer about what is legal for you to do in your region. Also ask what you’ll be able to legally accomplish with the type of evidence you might collect. To minimize risks like false positives and entrapment, please get a knowledgeable person to help design the sting operation.

  4. Strike a balance between dismissing accusations and witch-hunting people.

    What percentage of rape accusations are false? According to DiCanio, the researchers and prosecutors generally agree on a number somewhere in the range of 2% to 10%. [23] Since 90%-98% of rape accusations are probably true, it makes sense to take them seriously. Since there is a much lower but still uncomfortable chance of them being wrong, it also makes sense to be concerned about punishing an innocent person.

    Additionally, there is concern that if we punish people based on accusations alone, more people will make accusations. This is because an incentive would be created for people to make false accusations. Depending on what the punishment is, unscrupulous people could use accusations for all sorts of strategies. Accusations could also be abused in a general way: threatening to make an accusation against someone could be used to control them.

    There are some things which are appropriate to do in the event of an accusation. For instance, do not send people off to be alone with the accused in a meeting room. Do consider reviewing their work for quality issues, looking for evidence of other types of misbehavior, and persuading them to seek treatment if these things can be done safely.

    There are other things which are not appropriate to do in the event of an accusation such as putting them in jail without evidence.

    What is and isn’t appropriate will vary from one situation to the next. Please think about this very carefully.

  5. Create a robust sex offender detection strategy.

    Given the state of psychology research, studies on the personality traits of sex offenders *alone* are unlikely to be enough to give us the level of accuracy we desire when it comes to figuring out which people are likely to commit sex offences and which people are not. However, that does not mean they’re worthless. Combining a lot of different numbers and types of research together has the potential to produce far more accurate information than using one type of research alone.

    We can combine all the following together into one probability estimate:

    1. The prior probability that an individual is a rapist based on unreported rape research.
    2. Research on recidivism and the amount of activity different types of offenders tend to have can be used to help estimate future risk.
    3. We can adjust probabilities based on the percentage of accusations that are found to be true and false.
    4. We can take into account behavioral risk factors such as whether the person believes rape myths.
    5. We can then tweak a probability further using personality research.

    This could also help people who have been falsely accused to be deemed low risk.

    It might identify people who are low risk due to having reformed, if there is enough relevant research about that.

    This could help us predict and prevent sexual violence.

    It turns out that there is a plethora of information on the various personality traits and other characteristics of sex offenders. [57] [58] [59] [60] (The first citation in this list contains a wide variety of related references. These are just what I found with searches for links between the big five and various terms for sexual violence. A much broader search could be done for links between sexual violence and other personality tests or characteristics.)
    A thorough analysis is needed to process the available research and to develop and test research-based methods of calculating sexual violence probabilities.

  6. Help solve male-female relations issues.

    Providing a constructive alternative to sexism and hostility could help to reduce these risk factors for sexual violence. For instance, we could open up a dialogue with double crux sessions between people of different genders, focusing on gender related issues. This would take attention away from people who are promoting hatred to people in the group and channel that attention into positive progress.

  7. Help minimize sexual violence risk factors throughout your social network.

    Various studies show that certain beliefs about sex and gender are risk factors for sexual violence. [61] [62] [63] [64] [65] [66] If we succeed at reducing confusion and either change aggressive attitudes or drive away the people who harbor them, this could help reduce our risk.

    Specific examples of risk factors:

    1. Adversarial attitudes about relationships [61]
    2. Attitudes that violence is acceptable (both the offender and survivor) [62]
    3. Rape-supportive attitudes and beliefs [65]
    4. The presence and acceptance of violence [63] (review)
    5. Rape myths [61]
    6. Male patriarchal values [66]
    7. Men's acceptance of traditional sex roles [61]
    8. Some gender attitudes [65]
    9. Peer influence (both the offender and survivor) [62]
    10. Miscommunication about sex [61]
    11. Sexual misperceptions [64]

    The research probably has not identified a complete list of risk factors. For example, unfortunately, little research has been done to help prevent sexual violence against men. I did find one study on myths about male rape [67] so I can provide a few examples.

    Additional risk factors - rape myths that apply to male rape:

    1. “Men cannot be raped.”
    2. “‘Real’ men can defend themselves against rape.”
    3. “Only gay men are victims and/or perpetrators of rape.”
    4. “Men are not harmed by rape (or not as much as women).”
    5. “A woman cannot sexually assault a man.”
    6. “Sexual assault by someone of the same sex causes homosexuality.”
    7. “Homosexual and bisexual individuals deserve to be sexually assaulted because they are immoral and deviant.”
    8. “If a victim physically responds to an assault he must have wanted it.”

    Please do not stigmatize sexual violence survivors by claiming they’ll become rapists. The abuse to abuser hypothesis is questionable. For one example of why you shouldn’t believe this: more women have been raped than men, but more men are rapists than women. Even if having been sexually abused is a risk factor for some subset of the population who commit sexual violence, we should not assume most survivors will become sex offenders, and this applies to both genders. For more detailed information on the abuse to abuser hypothesis, read “Myths and Misconceptions about Sex Offenders”.

  8. Encourage careful thinking and learning about certain sexual behaviors.

    Some believe there is a distinction to be made between some form of aggressive play or ritualized aggression and certain other forms of aggression which are deemed unacceptable. When the distinction is made, the version perceived as acceptable might be called “kink” or “BDSM”, etc. Some do not think that this distinction should be made, and believe that aggression should not be combined with sex. The purpose of this section is not to determine the best way or to advise. Making all of the ethical and health distinctions required for this would be a very large project in and of itself, so is outside the scope of this article. That would be unlikely to resolve the controversy anyway. The purpose is simply to refer to a few of the main ways of making the distinctions and to encourage careful thinking, reading and professional consultations to reduce the risk of negative consequences.

    This is not mental health advice, but it’s worth noting that there are books psychologists use to make distinctions between what is considered normal and the class of mental disorders known as paraphilias. Specifically, the ICD-10 (International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems) and DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistic Manual). Visiting a psychologist is one way to make distinctions.

    Don’t take anything in this article as legal advice as I am not a lawyer. Not every kink is legal to act upon in every region. Even if mental health professionals deem a behavior normal or kinky, the legal distinctions don’t always match the psychology distinctions. For another source of relevant information, contact a lawyer in your area.

    Please take this as a summary of information, not as encouragement or advice: Some believe that BDSM (Bondage, Domination, Submission/Sadism, Masochism) can be done ethically and in a healthy way. Even if you have a genuine intent to practice BDSM, you could still commit a sex offence by accident or cause physical harm. For instance, an attempt to practice BDSM role play rape can accidentally result in rape, complete with psychological trauma. Safety practices are employed to make BDSM safer such as consent (sometimes under BDSM specific consent philosophies), negotiation techniques, training, and use of a BDSM philosophy like RACK (Risk-Aware Consensual Kink) or SSC (Safe, Sane, Consensual). Even when all precautions are taken to reduce risk, BDSM still poses some risk. Like sports or motorcycle riding, even things like a helmet won’t bring your risk to zero. If you choose to explore BDSM please keep in mind that people who have received or caused harm during BDSM activities are more likely to leave the community. If you never meet them, you will not learn from their mistakes, and you will not see their level of risk aversion reflected in the community. If you meet people who encourage you to take risks you’re not comfortable with, consider that they may be the lucky people who were left over after an unknown number of unlucky people stopped participating. If you‘re interested in BDSM, please consider all the risks very, very carefully and be sure to consult with knowledgeable professionals about the risks rather than just participants.

    If you are not qualified to advise people on which behaviors are ethical and healthy, you can certainly encourage people to think very carefully about the distinctions, explore the best sources of information, and visit all the relevant types of professionals.

  9. View less serious sexual assaults like groping as a security heuristic.

    Because those who commit frottage can be so prolific, sexual assaults like groping are worth reporting on their own. There’s an additional reason to do so:

    Paraphilias are the mental disorders that motivate sex offences, and they tend to come in multiples. One study found that only 10.4 percent of paraphiliacs experienced a single paraphilia and 37.6 percent of them had five to ten paraphilias. [26] An offender with toucherism, the groping paraphilia, could have one or more other paraphilias which motivate them to do other kinds of things. Some paraphilias might not harm others (like masochism). However, hidden among our gropers, there are probably paraphiliacs with biastophilia or pedophilia, the paraphilias that motivate rapists and child molesters. A less serious offence does not necessarily mean you’re dealing with a less serious offender. Ignoring gropers is a gamble.

  10. Learn self-defence, promote self-defence, and/or offer self-defence education.

    In 2005, the National Institute of Justice commissioned a report on the impact of victim self-protection. [27]. Based on this, they created a web page listing certain self-defence actions which reduce the risk of rape and injury: attacking or struggling against the attacker, running away, and verbally warning the attacker. [28]

    Other actions were found to increase risk: stalling, cooperating and screaming from pain or fear.

    Additionally, NIJ shared a study that showed mental health outcomes were better in those who fought back, even if they didn’t win. [29]

    Warning: It’s possible that these research results were skewed by a minority of people who have serious training and/or experience. Some experts regard self-defence courses as likely to give you a false sense of security. Before investing in self-defence training, an in-depth evaluation of effectiveness needs to be completed.

  11. Offer a prevention program.

    Many programs were found to be ineffective [68][69] so you’ll need to be careful when selecting a program. One important thing to consider when seeking a program is whether the effects are long-term. [70]

    I found one program which, according to one systematic review, “demonstrated significant effects on sexually violent behavior” and has long-term results: Safe Dates. [69] The longest follow-up period assessed for the Safe Dates program was 4 years.

    According to the same review, another program, Shifting Boundaries, has a building-level intervention that may be of interest. The effectiveness of Shifting Boundaries was not assessed beyond 6 months. This is better than the results of a lot of other programs which *were* assessed long-term, as the long-term assessments of the other programs showed that they were *not* effective in the long-term. Therefore, Shifting Boundaries may have something worth trying while others are less likely to be useful.

    Please note: these programs were tested on a younger age group than most of the people in EA. I don’t mention them because they are proven to be effective for our age group. I mention them because after going through every page of Google Scholar results for 11 different keyword searches, these are the only programs I found that were supported by research. There’s a chance that these are worth trying to find out whether they work for us.

    Another possibility is to choose a program that gets short-term results and apply it repeatedly, every time the results wear off. To determine whether results can be maintained this way, testing is needed.

  12. Encourage sex offenders to seek help if you can do so safely.

    Most nonincarcerated paraphiliacs in one study said they were motivated to seek treatment by family members, friends, lawyers or healthcare workers. [8] The study doesn’t say what proportion of sex offenders were persuadable. The point is that some of them were persuadable. A significant proportion of the study’s participants were referred this way, so there’s a chance persuasion could work to get sex offenders into treatment. This could be researched further.

    Whether treatment will make a difference for a particular individual isn’t easy to discern, but it’s a serious enough problem that it makes sense for them to *try* treatment to see whether anything works for them. In case believing that treatment doesn’t work for sex offenders is a self-fulfilling prophecy, it might be possible to get better results by taking a less discouraging attitude (while balancing this against the possibility of creating a false sense of security, of course).

    Most of us aren’t qualified to diagnose or treat anyone but we can certainly be part of a more open culture around discussing and promoting the treatment of sexual offending. If people have too little awareness about the treatment options, they might not consider treatment. We can make sure they’ve at least heard about the treatment options.

    If they have privacy concerns, you can urge them to see a lawyer or consider medical tourism. A visit to a lawyer is nowhere near as costly as the damage that sexual offending might cause to their reputations, careers, personal lives, and to their survivors. Some countries have more favorable privacy laws than others, and it may be viable for sex offenders to do medical tourism.

    Obviously, please remember to mind your own safety if you choose to persuade someone to seek treatment for sexual violence. Consider sending a message instead of talking in person. There are still some risks involved in sending messages such as being smeared with rumors if the sex offender is feeling paranoid. An anonymous message with no identifying information would be safer.

    It is also possible for a group to schedule an intervention with the offender to persuade them to get treatment together. This isn’t risk-free, but might offer some increase in security through safety in numbers. On the other hand, a group intervention probably increases the risk of initiating rumors (including retaliatory rumors created by the offender) or starting a kerfuffle.

    Treatments are not something for non-professionals to toy with, but we can certainly talk about possibilities and encourage people with problems to seek professional help.

    Some offenders may have already tried the available treatments without success. Consider persuading such people to switch to earning to give or participating in sexual violence treatment studies instead of working in EA. This could really improve their impact.

  13. Do more research on sexual violence treatment.

    Nothing in this article is medical advice. Please see a professional if you have any health concerns.

    Sex offenders might be treatable, but it’s unclear how effective the options are and sources differ on that. Here’s a brief introduction to the existing treatment research as well as some thoughts about additional areas that could be researched.

    According to “Myths and Misconceptions about Sex Offenders”, “Most therapists who treat sex offenders make a point of telling them early on that their condition is "Incurable" and “it should be noted that for psychological conditions, the belief of the therapist that the condition is curable is one of the most robust predictors of whether the condition will be (Frank, 1974). The assertion of incurability is thus counterproductive for therapists, for offenders in treatment, and for those attempting to develop and safely evaluate better methods of intervention.” [18]

    A large number of reviews and meta-analyses support various treatment methods [71] [72] [73] [74] [75] [76] [77] [78] [79] [80] [81]. According to The Cochrane Group, psychological interventions for sex offenders are unsupported [82]. Cochrane’s view on the state of the research in the area of drug treatment research is that it’s pretty poor, so they couldn’t draw strong conclusions about it [83]. According to other sources, it increases effectiveness to use therapy and drugs in combination. [75]

    Treatments that have been researched:

    1. Cognitive-behavioral therapy [81] [80] [78] [77] [72] [71]
    2. Hormonal medication (examples: progestogens and antiandrogens) [81] [75] [72] [71]
    3. Behaviour modification [81]
    4. The relapse prevention model of therapy [76]
    5. Circles of support and accountability [74]
    6. Treatment programs that adhere to what are known as “risk-need-responsivity principles”. [73]
    7. Antidepressants have been researched for use as a treatment [49], [50]. These do pose a risk of anorgasmia, especially if the dose is too high. Anorgasmia could be counterproductive, as frustration may increase risk. Additionally, mania is a risk and mania can include disinhibition of libido. [56]
    8. Combining SSRI with Methylphenidate SR: “Addition of methylphenidate SR (mean dose = 40 mg/day; mean ± SD duration = 9.6 ± 8.2 months) was associated with additional statistically significant effects on paraphilia/PRD-related total sexual outlet (p = .003) and average time per day (p = .04) in addition to improvement of putative residual ADHD and depressive symptoms.” [51]

    My thoughts on areas where more research has a chance to be useful:

    Important: There are professionals who have more insight into this than I do. Definitely do a consultation with multiple experts before spending research money to test treatments.

    Note on testosterone reduction: although reducing testosterone has been shown to drastically reduce offending, this does not mean high testosterone is the cause of sexual offending. More about this is explained in “Myths and Misconceptions about Sex Offenders”.

    1. A large SSRI sexual side effects survey might be a fast way to identify existing drugs for further testing. A description from “Myths and Misconceptions about Sex Offenders” [18]: “the case of a transvestite who had no motivation to lie about the efficacy of treatment. According to this man (and his wife), while taking buspirone (a medication with primary action on serotonergic autoreceptors), he was able to function sexually for the first time in his life with no fetishistic stimuli or fantasies. When he stopped the medication, his dependence on the activity or fantasy of wearing female clothing returned (Fedoroff, 1988). Since then, there have been numerous reports of successful treatment of the full range of paraphilic disorders with a variety of selective serotonergic reuptake inhibiters (SSRIs) (see Greenberg & Bradford, 1997; Fedoroff, 1994).”

      In one study, 56% experienced sexual side-effects on SSRIs, so there could be a plethora of potential treatments among them. [52] Some of the sexual side effects might be useless or risky (like anorgasmia), but some of them might be helpful.

    2. The “NoFap” method or similar, if there is a way to make it through the initial frustration period safely. (Which is a larger risk? A sex offender, or a sexually frustrated sex offender?)
    3. An herbal supplement called Shakuyaku-Kanzo-To might have potential, as it was shown to decrease testosterone. [53] [54] [55] An alternative option might be important for patients who have trouble with anti-androgen side effects.
    4. Testosterone reduction surgery. This could be especially useful if reducing testosterone works for a patient but they can’t tolerate medication side effects. I haven’t checked, but there might be countries where doctors offer various surgical options.

    Researching treatments for sexual offending has a chance to be the most cost effective option on a large scale because after the initial research is done, the sex offenders will pay the costs of diagnosis and treatment themselves. With incarceration, taxpayers must keep paying around $30,000 per year per offender (not including the costs involved in catching them). If 6% of men are rapists as the research shows, and there are around 200 million adults in the U.S., keeping every U.S. sex offender in jail would cost at least 180 billion per year. Over the years, this would keep adding up. Treatment research will definitely cost us less in the long-term, and is probably less costly in the short-term too.

  14. Encourage or host dry events and parties.

    According to a research review, half of all sexual assault perpetrators are under the influence of alcohol at the time of the assault (this ranges from 30% to 75%, depending on the source) [84]. Additionally, researchers have consistently found a positive relationship between sexual assault perpetration and heavy drinking. The review covered three potential explanations for this relationship: one, that alcohol causes sexual violence. Two, that offenders drink “liquid courage” in order to become bold enough to act on aggressive sexual feelings. Three, that there is some other association (for instance: that the personalities of offenders just so happen to make them likely to engage in both alcohol consumption and sexual violence). The review found that alcohol contributes to sexual assault perpetration in multiple, complex ways.

    A different study showed that being released from minimum legal drinking age restrictions was associated with “significant and immediate increases” in sexual assault perpetration among men throughout most of Canada. [85]

    From a study on the effectiveness of alcohol policy changes: “Alcohol policy may represent one promising avenue for the prevention of sexual violence perpetration at the community level, but additional research is needed.” [86]

    In any case, alcohol is not a necessary component of an EA event. Given the possibility that it might decrease risk to attendees, it seems sensible to have dry events and after parties.

  15. If appropriate, consider having the accused work from home.

    If you don’t have enough cause to fire an employee accused of sexual violence, keeping them away from the workplace might be a doable risk reduction strategy. Some people experience working from home as a reward or punishment, and some regions may have laws about this, so it could sometimes be an inappropriate option. If appropriate, getting them out of the office is a way to reduce the probability of sexual violence in the office.

  16. Centralize reports so that survivors can ally with each other.

    Sex offenders can be quite prolific. One offender could generate a lot of reports. If all of these reports go to different authorities, each authority may only perceive a single game of he-said-she-said which cannot be resolved. If all of the reports go to the same authority, their perspective may be different. If survivors approach the same person together, they can encourage an authority to assign a higher level of priority to implementing sexual violence reduction methods.

    I would be happy to introduce survivors of the same offender to each other. Unlike some of the other options, I am under no professional obligations to report any crimes or take any actions. I might share anonymized aggregated information like the total number of people reporting sexual violence, or, in cases where there are a lot of reports against one offender, the name of the offender (but not the survivors). I will not share a survivor’s name without consent of the survivor, (nor the name of the offender unless there are a lot of reports against them).

    To make a report, you can message me through the effective altruism forum or find me on Facebook.

    If you want to report something to me anonymously, you can. Anonymity limits what I can do with your report because it reduces the credibility of the report. If you want to report something anonymously anyway, my anonymous feedback forms are here:

    Plain one-way feedback:

    Anonymous two-way conversation form:

    Please be aware that to make a police report, you need to visit the police directly. You can request for me to be your advocate, but I cannot make a police report for you.

  17. Help replace stereotypes about sexual violence situations with real information.

    The National Victim Center and Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center offer this recommendation: “Many widely held stereotypes about rape, who rape victims are and how they respond after the assault are not accurate. The American public, our criminal justice system, and jurors in rape trials should be provided with accurate information about these topics to eliminate misconceptions about rape and its victims.” [5]

    Human psychology can be complicated and surprising. Even in life-threatening situations like car accidents, a significant proportion of people behave in a counter-intuitive way. In “The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma”, a book on psychological trauma, the author describes an emotionally detached response that many have to traumatic events called dissociation. [87]

    A few confusing examples to explain why education about this is so important:

    Example 1: A man claims that someone grabbed his bottom from behind. He didn’t yell in surprise or move away. Instead, he remained still. Is he making a false report, or did he freeze in shock?

    Example 2: A woman claims that someone groped her. Her behavior seems really strange. Did the sexual assault trigger some kind of mental health episode for her or does the presence of symptoms mean this is a false report?

    Example 3: You meet someone who claims they were raped. You don’t see any bruises or signs of a struggle. Does this mean they must have consented or that they felt too intimidated to fight back?

    Do sexual violence survivors ever experience denial, try to pretend that everything is fine and carry on business as usual? Do they ever blame themselves even though it isn’t their fault? If they’re not answering questions, could it be because they are too upset to find the words or can’t make themselves actually say such horrible things out loud?

    These are the kinds of questions we need to be asking ourselves if we encounter a sexual violence survivor who responds in a way that’s different from the stereotypes we have.

    Only a mental health professional with relevant experience is qualified to make distinctions about behaviors like these. If someone makes a report and the details don’t match your stereotypes, consider consulting a psychologist who works with sexual violence survivors.

    It is not possible to do this topic justice in this article. This topic deserves an entire long article of it’s own, complete with many references and multiple professional opinions.

    Please consider this section to be a very brief introduction to a complex problem.

  18. Object to pressure to go to private and secluded areas alone or with someone.

    Unfortunately, it is very common for people to be sexually assaulted by someone they know such as an acquaintance, friend, date or lover. Reviews of studies done with college women show that between 10% to 25% of women have been raped by someone they know and that men are targeted in 10% of acquaintance rape cases. [88] [89] [90]

    Not only do sex offenders run free, some of them manage to blend in enough to gain the sort of access necessary for a sexual assault.

    If you notice that two people are required to spend time alone together in places where accountability is low, speak up. For examples: offices with no windows, out-of-the-way meeting rooms, vehicles and elevators. It doesn’t take long to commit a sex offence, depending on what type it is. An elevator ride is easily long enough for a traumatic event to occur in the form of a groping or frotteurism. If people are sometimes required to work alone in secluded areas, this increases risk, too. Encourage management to decrease the risks employees are required to take.

    Never expect anyone to trust someone, even if you do. A sex offender might behave well around a man, but not a woman, or vice versa. They might have unexpected preferences that don’t match you, but do match your friend. Unless you have relevant qualifications, do not expect yourself to be able to tell who is and is not a sex offender by guessing. Even professionals can find this challenging.

    Respect other people’s personal security habits, even if you don’t use the same ones. If someone doesn’t want to take a ride with a person they don’t know well, don’t pressure them. If someone doesn’t want to be alone with you, don’t take it personally.

  19. Join EAs and Rationalists Against Abuse (ERAA) on Facebook.

    There is a group and a page for those tough enough to learn about and oppose abuse within the EA/rationality social network. Even raising your own awareness makes a difference. Abusers are not always obvious. Many of them try to confuse people into accepting harmful behavior. Some abusers are confused, themselves, while others are just sadistic and have no objection to trying to hide their sadistic nature. The more shrewdness there is in our network, the more acts of abuse will be spotted and the more instances of confusion will be resolved. The more acts of abuse that are spotted, the more effective actions can be taken. Some of the abusers who’ve joined us are educated and strategic. Therefore, the more non-abusive, educated, strategic people we have increasing their shrewdness, the better.

    In emergencies, call an emergency number like 911.

    This group is NOT for organizing vigilante actions. It is ONLY for organizing effective actions that are also legal.

    The page is public. The group is secret to protect the names of the members. To request access, contact me on Facebook.


The amount of impact it’s possible to have through in-network sexual violence reduction is high and could be extremely high. In the realm of human rights, sexual violence reduction has the potential to reduce suffering, decrease inequality for homosexuals, bisexuals and women, and save lives (because some survivors kill themselves). In the realm of productivity, up to 80,000 hours of work can be saved for every 208 people protected from rape due to the related suicide risk (for the low estimate). For the high estimate, up to 80,000 hours of work, at a level equal to a highly productive superstar worker (top 1%), might be saved by stopping just one sex offender according to a working paper from Harvard.

There is no effective altruism organization which specializes in sexual violence reduction and the problem is too complex and unintuitive to assume that people will be effective by default. Additionally, there are places in the effective altruism network where there are signs that awareness needs to be increased.

There are a lot of options that have a chance to succeed. The impact could be many times greater than the effort it takes to use the options explored herein. Testing is needed to determine the effectiveness of the options. Given the human rights concerns and the potential for a large productivity impact, testing options could turn out to be very worthwhile.

Evaluate Sexual Violence Risk Reduction Options


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Thanks for this post. It's brave, thorough, fair, and well-researched--a breath of fresh air compared to 99% of internet discussion on this topic.

People seemed to appreciate it when I laid out my points of disagreement with the last post of this sort, so I'm going to try doing the same for this post. Feel free to let me know (including via PM) if you think it's a bad idea for me to do this.

Like the last post, I think this post could benefit from less uncritical acceptance of social science research. That said, my sources aren't any better. So my comment is just an attempt to present a coherent worldview--take it with a grain of salt.

I think this post underrates the degree to which effective altruists are likely to be unrepresentative of the population at large. In particular, all the EAs I've met are really smart. And all the discussion I see in online EA communities is really intelligent. I don't think there's any IQ data that backs up these observations directly. But the 2015 EA survey found that Less Wrong was the most popular way to discover EA, and survey data on Less Wrong users seems to indicate that the average IQ on Less Wrong is around 140. My impression is that ... (read more)

I agree with this for the most part, but let's not exclude people from EA who, like me, are low-IQ and high-libido.
On "minor" sex offences vs. rape: even if the 900 acts per frottage figure is wrong, I suspect that acts like groping and frotteurism are far more common than rape. Because frottage offences are so much easier to commit, I believe that frottage offences are likely to be several times as common as rape. I would even go so far as to bet that we can agree on this point. I didn't find any information on whether frottage causes psychological trauma. My own observations tell me that frottage offences do cause psychological trauma, but it's usually less intense. So, if we were to compare the average rapist with the average groper, we might find that psychological trauma caused by the groper adds up. This might compare with the amount of trauma caused by a rapist. It might even exceed that amount. Maybe it does not even come close. I have no good way to tell since I did not find any studies on the amount of trauma caused by frottage offences. Another important thing to note is that each time someone experiences psychological trauma, their sensitivity to future trauma increases. (I suspect I learned this from "The Body Remembers" but I'm not sure.) So, it might be that if someone is groped ten times, by the tenth time, the experience is as bad as a rape. Maybe it would take a hundred times to get to that point. Maybe three. If I had to shoot from the hip, I'd give it a Fermi estimate between 10-100 times, but I really am not sure. Maybe sensitivity would never increase so much that one frottage offence would be as traumatic as a rape. Also, and this is really important: the amount of trauma caused by a frottage offence varies greatly depending on context. For a comparison: I was targeted by an acquaintance in a coat closet at a night club, by a co-worker on a job, and by a popular person at a party. I never had to see the guy from the night club again, so I just avoided the night club and felt fine. The co-worker caused me more problems. I became concerned about things
These are all good points. I find it totally plausible that some individuals are responsible for many assaults. I think this is a problem we should address. And I'm really sorry to hear about your experiences.
You make an interesting point here that I thought was worth digging into a little bit. Difference in IQ between the self-reported rapists and the the community is lower than you might think The 6% self-reported rapist figure used in the above is from a paper that surveys university students. University student have an IQ of around 113. If we, as you suggest, use LessWrong as a proxy for the EA community the average EA IQ might be as high as 139. There's still a difference there, just not as large as if the 6% figure was drawn from the population at large. Effect of IQ on sexual behaviour is lower than that study suggests That graph is unfortunately misleading, it's from before the authors of the source paper (Halpern et. al, 2000) controlled for age, physical maturity and mother's education. After taking these things into account the relative odds (compared to IQ 100) of a high IQ male teen being a non-virgin is 0.62 rather than 0.32 – quite a lot higher! (The paper itself is behind a paywall so for reference I've uploaded the controlled graph for male teens to Imagebucket.) It's worth being aware that Halpern et. al were studying adolescents between 7th and 12th grade. IQ scores don't stabilise until later in life so there are a lot of questions left to be asked on how well this translates to the adult population. Perhaps the discrepancy here is due to high IQ teens being those who have developed their executive function faster than others? Then there's the question of how being more likely to be a virgin as a teen affects the odds of perpetrating sexual violence as an adult. For example: it might be that odds of perpetrating sexual violence are correlated with sexual frustration in teen years, in which case having a higher IQ might indirectly increase the odds of becoming a rapist! (Also: I think you might have misread the graph? The graph you linked to is relative of odds of having had intercourse: so a male teen with average IQ is 3x more likely to hav
On punishment and stigma: I think it would be better for everyone if we found a cure for sexual violence and persuaded all the offenders to use it. That said, I have no idea what the rest of the world will choose to do. I suggested two options which can scale globally, sting operations and researching a cure. I cannot leave out an option if it might succeed because that would be a failure of honesty, and because I think using either option is much better than letting them run amok. I did note that finding a cure for sex offenders is probably more cost effective because most of the cost will be paid by the sex offenders themselves when they pay for their prescription and because I think it will scale better. Also, a cure can prevent offences from happening in the first place if people use it early on. Justice can only happen after harm has been done. A prevention method would get at more of the problem for this reason, and therefore has a chance to be more effective. I think a cure is both more fair to the taxpayers who didn't cause this problem and shouldn't have to pay to fix it, and more fair toward offenders and non-offending paraphilia sufferers who did not choose to have their paraphilias - especially if they would choose to be cured if a cure were available. I definitely relate to the desire for justice. I suspect that it reduces psychological trauma if justice is swift - like in that study about self defence which shows people experienced less trauma if they fought back, even if they didn't win. I have occasionally had an opportunity to tell off an offender immediately after an offence, and that does seem to reduce the harm to me. I don't know if justice improves the survivor's health days or weeks or years after the fact, but I suspect justice does help if it's swift enough. I think the desire for justice is healthy, though it can easily become twisted and go wayward. There are countless examples of a desire for justice going horribly wrong throughout h
I agree with all of this. Perhaps I'm too quick to extrapolate from my own experiences--I know that I've accidentally creeped out women in the past, and I always feel really bad about it afterwards, but this could be a bad mental model of the typical case.
Yeah. There are a lot of different people using a lot of different definitions of sex offender. There are definitions like the undetected rapist study I linked which sticks to such obvious and stereotypical behaviors that it leaves out at least half of the ways one can do obvious bad things (Example: why didn't they ask about spiking drinks?). Then there are people who advocate asking for explicit consent for everything every time, starting with kissing. In practice, most of the people in my experience use things like context and body language to communicate about kissing rather than verbal consent. I have no idea how to resolve this mess of definitions. I guess people need to tell each other what consent philosophy they want to use in addition to stuff like sexual orientation. Maybe we need a norm of advertising our consent philosophy in prominent places the same way we do with gender, marital status and orientation. Then, there's the fact that most guys are not hit on by other guys, and have not seen what the range of behavior looks like. A lot of them are surprised that it's very common for me to be asked things like whether I want to make out, whether I want to go home with him. I am coy rather than fast (referring to the distinctions Dawkins makes), so I can't really understand this but it doesn't bother me. I tend to assume those men are seeking fast women rather than relationships. Otherwise, I have no judgment. However, if some guy comes up and tells me to smile, my radar beeps and I want to recoil. Why? Because every guy who has ever said that to me has harassed the heck out of me afterward. I've been conditioned to hate it. Plus, there's this weird variety in pickup lit which includes everything from perfectly healthy self-confidence tips to explicit instructions to commit sex offences. A lot of guys I know don't have any idea what's normal. Some of them are terrified of trying at all or have given up. It's very sad. I'm not fully aware of the male exp
Here is an interesting thread in the slatestarcodex subreddit where some possible problems with this idea were discussed (ctrl-f "public symbol"). The simplest way to do this would be on the basis of whether a woman wears revealing clothes. Unfortunately, there's something of a taboo among feminists regarding this approach, because if you say anything about how a woman wore revealing clothes, feminists round that off to victim blaming and condemn you on that basis. Thanks for asking! Some brainstorming: * I like your centralized reporting idea. Julia Wise says she has served as a contact point, and CFAR recently added a community disputes council which does this, among other things. (If you're unable to see the post I linked, you can get in touch with the CFAR people here.) Getting all these people to make entries in a shared database seems good. (BTW, how many people reached out to you since you made this post and shared your anonymous feedback link?) * Try to understand why people don't want to report sexual assaults. Would they be willing to report them in the context of the EA survey or some other anonymous survey? But also, would allowing for anonymous accusations this way present its own set of problems? Maybe if someone gets more than one anonymous accusation from different sources, then they should get quietly kicked out of the community ("quietly"=in a way that doesn't harm their reputation, because these anonymous accusations are unverifiable--so we are kicking them out in order to mitigate risk, not because we think they should be condemned). * Instead of doing expensive social norm experimentation ourselves, maybe survey the anthropology literature and try to understand whether some societies have lower rates of rape/sexual assault than others, and what those societies have in common culturally. * I personally don't really think the EA community should be seen as a place for dating/relationships--the same way workplaces are not seen this way. S

I personally don't really think the EA community should be seen as a place for dating/relationships--the same way workplaces are not seen this way.

15% of Americans met their partner/spouse at work, so I'm not sure your claim about workplaces is correct.

I'm also not sure the comparison is fair. Workplaces have specific regulations about how people can interact; an EA meetup is not your workplace and attendees probably shouldn't be held to the same standard of conduct.

I also know of a number of happy EA relationships. I think it would be a shame if we decreed that they were off-limits.

I know about the replication crisis, I've read "Statistics Done Wrong" and I've read some Ioannidis. Perhaps I was too subtle, my way of addressing these concerns was to load up on as many review articles and meta-analyses as I could find, in all the areas where there was enough research for me to do so. In other areas, I looked for as many studies as I could find and included them all. This is not perfect either. Ioannidis has warned about some specific vulnerabilities in meta-analyses and review articles. There isn't something perfect for me to do. I could have chosen to do nothing because the research is flawed. I decided that the subject is too important to ignore and I made the best of it.
I have seen several responses saying things like this, but in reality, the research in this article goes only as far as collecting the standard feminist narrative on sexual assault, which is not original and can be found in many places if you are familiar with this subject. The only thing that's new is attempting to marry this perspective to EA, despite the methodology being highly partisan and significantly different from EA methodology. Among the problems: * uncritically taking feminist sexual assault prevalence research at face value, without addressing the many methodological criticisms * mixing and matching studies with very different populations and methods to maximize the perception of male perpetration and female victimhood * failing to address the debate on false accusations * failing to discover any of the complicating lines of research, such as the token resistance research, and the research on self-justification and unreliability of memory * discussing drastic and hasty interventions like stings and medicalization * accusing an entire community of males of containing hundreds of rapists based on poorly-executed studies on a totally different population While the article is being criticized for being too long, in some ways, it's actually too short to support the extraordinary claims it is making, which are perhaps not fully recognized as extraordinary due to feminist research not being held to the same standards as other fields, and all sorts of glaring errors being normalized. Here is my detailed rebuttal which is only enough to cover some of those problems, and here is an additional comment on the lack of balance in the original post.
I plan to write a new post about estimating the number of sexually violent people in EA. I have a large number of specific concerns about biasing our estimate. For instance, a lot of people commented or messaged me saying that the estimate was too high, but they didn't incorporate any of the information which would actually increase the estimate. They only included information that would decrease the estimate. There are a lot of other ways we could go wrong with adjusting this estimate. That's part of why my estimate is so simple. If I adjust it at all, I could easily be introducing biases. I will invite the whole EA community to provide specific references that are related. I don't know that this would decrease the chance of bias. It might increase the chance of bias. However, with such a post, one will at least see how complicated it is, think about whether one's perspective is biased, and hopefully start compensating for whatever biases are present.
Why do you feel it's important to have a more accurate guess regarding the number of sexually violent people in EA? I'm in favor of trying to measure the rate of sexual assault using e.g. the EA survey, because that is a metric we can track in order to measure whether things are improving. (Ideally using a question such as "Were you assaulted in the past year?", so our metric will be responsive year over year.) But it seems to me that time spent refining our guess based on priors would be better spent implementing measures to reduce sexual assault.
I don't think we can have an accurate idea of how much sexual assault is happening in EA without a separate high-quality survey. This is because there are so many definitions of sexual violence which contradict one another, that to ensure an accurate picture of what's going on, we'd have to wrangle with definitions for a long time - and we'd end up asking a set of questions, not just one question. I'd love to see a yearly undetected sex offender survey given to both men and women regarding how much sexual violence they committed against EAs in the last year, and a yearly sexual violence survey given to both men and women to ask how much sexual violence they received from EAs in the last year. If they added this to the yearly survey that would be awesome! Then we'd have a way to track progress, and that's important. The survey would have to be designed very carefully from the beginning though. The reason I want to write a separate article about the number of sex offenders in EA is because it appears quite controversial. If we can get closer to having a consensus on sexual violence related matters, I think this will make us more effective at reducing it. The purpose of the article is not to create a more accurate number. I'm not even sure that's possible. The purpose of the article is to address the controversy, explore the complexities, and encourage people to compensate for the various biases that may be interfering. Edit: I've set up a collaboration with the yearly EA survey team!
I think there's a tradeoff here. If this is created as a second, separate survey, there will likely be selection effects in who chooses to take it. I expect people who are more concerned about the problem of sexual assault (such as people who have been sexually assaulted) will be more likely to complete a survey that's specifically about sexual assault. Given these selection effects, I suspect it's best to settle on a relatively brief measure and include it in the main survey. Brainstorming on what to include in that measure: One idea is to just ask people "were you sexually assaulted" and let them use their own definition. After all, our goal is to reduce psychological trauma. If someone's experience met some technical definition of sexual assault, but it didn't bother them very much, maybe it's not something we need to worry about. Source. I don't think using a broad technical definition like this would be very useful, but a narrow technical definition of rape seems like it could be pretty useful to measure. This blog post makes the case for vague rules like "don't be a jerk" and "don't be creepy". Maybe that could make a good survey question: "Did you get creeped out by another EA in the past year? How creeped out were you on a scale of 1 to 10? Here's a rubric." I actually think a measure like this could be less controversial than trying to precisely define sexual assault. Hopefully even the most fraternity brother-ish of EAs can recognize the case for not creeping chicks out. (Similarly, having a central registry that tells people things like "a lot of people are getting creeped out by you" seems like it could maybe work better than trying to define what exactly constitutes "assault"--it frames the problem as something you'd like to become aware of and fix, like having body odor, as opposed to grounds for ostracization? Of course ostracization is in fact justified in some cases--I'm just thinking aloud here.) I suppose one issue with these measures is that
What I was envisioning was a whole section within the survey where multiple questions about sexual violence are asked. For whatever reason, I described this using the word "separate". That's not actually what I was trying to suggest. I agree that if the questions are separated, there will probably be some bias. If we use a definition that is vague, a lot of people will ignore the survey results. They'll assume that a lot of what was reported is stuff they wouldn't agree is a sexual assault. Therefore, specific definitions are needed. Ideally, I would like to see a set of specific definitions that a lot of people agree are sexual assault, and that cover a broad range of types. To make sure the questions are relevant to the goals, I think there should be questions about things like whether the sexual harassment resulted in psychological harm, suicidal behavior, or intentions to leave the workplace or movement. I'd also like to see questions about whether sexual assaults are happening at work, EA events, etc. Depending on how well anonymized the survey is, we may or may not get answers to these sorts of questions. Without knowing the limit to the number of questions we can add, there's no point in discussing what should be asked. We would just waste time optimizing for the wrong trade off between detail and brevity. Also, it would be good to get some perspectives from people who do research in related areas. I'm going to hold off on investing time into planning until I have had a collaboration with the survey team.

Researching treatments for sexual offending has a chance to be the most cost effective option

I'm not convinced.

The Cochrane review on psychological treatments for sex offenders mentions a number of studies, each including hundreds of participants, that still weren't sufficiently well-designed to tease out a signal from the noise. Suffice it to say that this doesn't seem like a neglected area. It's not clear what low-hanging fruit there are re. psychological treatments; I doubt that the EA community is going to be able to run randomised controlled trials on hundreds of people at a cost of tens of millions of dollars given that many other scientists have failed to do so.

The other Cochrane review, on drug treatments for sex offenders, which shows that there's basically no evidence that e.g. testosterone-reducing drugs are useful and that there haven't been any RCTs published in two decades. So the fruit there are lower-hanging, but again, studies are going to be very costly.

As a meta-level aside, I'm also a bit worried about being too blasé about suggesting very radical interventions. From the Cochrane review:

It is a concern that, despite treatment being mandated in many jurisdic

... (read more)
This response is correct. Additionally, a major point I want to reiterate is that convicted sex offenders are a much narrower and more pathological group than any offenders who may exist in EA. Even if medicalization and surgery was a successful and ethical intervention for convicted offenders—which you shed doubt on—it does not follow that such interventions would be helpful for other contexts, like corporations, academia, or EA. When sex offender are convicted using legal methods of due process, this is a much smaller and more pathological population than people who are accused under extra-legal processes, like corporate/academic kangaroo courts, or community witchhunts around he-said, she-said cases. This is not an apples-to-apples comparison of offenders or offenses. Convicted sex offenders are a small and pathological group, and it is unlikely that there are many people who fit that profile in EA. It is likely that the vast majority of disputes over consent that might occur in EA will be misunderstandings, drunkenness, recklessness, or negligence, which does not rise to the level of intentional assault. It is both a statistical error—and a moral error—to suggest interventions designed for such criminal populations in one's own community. Unless, of course, one believes that their community contains a bunch of criminals.

103 - 607 male rapists in EA

False precision much? This seems like an inappropriately specific number - it makes it sound like you have concrete evidence, but in reality you're just multiplying the number of men in EA by 6%. I hope that this number won't start getting spread around.

A more tractable approach to reducing the trauma from sexual violence might be to change perceptions of sexuality. Many people believe that it's important for women to be sexually "pure", which is one reason that female victims experience trauma.

Feminists, to their credit, reject such notions, but if anything they interpret sexual violence even more symbolically - as an attempt to have power over women and "violate" them, whatever that means. According to feminist theory, rape is never about sexual gratification. However, there isn't much evidence for this interpretation. Interviews with convicted sex offenders reveal a mix of motivations. In addition, there does seem to be a relationship between sexual attractiveness and probability of rape. For example, one study looked at female robbery victims, using age as a proxy for attractiveness. (For obvious reasons, we can't actually stu... (read more)

I also found this stat frustrating. The "A 1:6 ratio means 7 rapes per 6 women on average" stat frustrated me even more--it assumes that EA men are rapists at the base rate of the population at large (probably false), and that every time a rapist rapes someone, if the rapist is an EA, their victim must be an EA too.

I worry that hearing stats like this will cause women to avoid EA, which will then contribute to the imbalanced gender ratio that Kathy has identified as being part of the problem.

Good point about false precision. I hadn't thought of that. The article has been updated! You wrote: "A more tractable approach to reducing the trauma from sexual violence might be to change perceptions of sexuality. Many people believe that it's important for women to be sexually "pure", which is one reason that female victims experience trauma." You didn't cite anything for this. I am concerned that some people may become confused and think they can convince women to tolerate atrocity. There are people out there who will twist anything into a justification to rape. Your paragraph there is the sort of information they might twist into rationalizations and cognitive distortions. I've read a lot of research on psychological trauma. I'm convinced that most people have an instinctive reaction to sexual violence which involves psychological trauma being triggered automatically. From where I'm sitting, it looks like you just haven't done very much reading on this topic. For one thing, if sexual trauma is social programming, why do men respond in the same manner? Shouldn't they have a different reaction? If a woman rapes a man, he will be psychologically traumatized. I've heard of men who were baffled by their own sexual trauma. Men are harmed, too, and in a similar way to what women experience. Children don't even have social programming about sex yet. A lot of children have never even heard of sex. Yet, if a child is raped, that's psychologically devastating. The effects can last their whole lives. Explain that.
There's no reason that this should be the case. There are a lot of factors that are difficult to untangle. The ways that adults or peers react can certainly have an influence. I heard one father saying that a sexual abuser "stole his daughter's innocence", or something in a similar vein. While I'm sure he meant well, I'm not sure if these types of heavy-handed symbolic declarations are constructive for healing. I think sexual abuse could be prevented and its effects could be mitigated if people could have conversations (including with children) about healthy sexuality versus violence and coercion. Instead, some people seem more upset about the "sexual" side than the abuse side.
There are many statements people make to other people that are similarly discouraging / humiliating / upsetting. Verbal abuse is certainly bad for people, but people's reaction to sexual abuse is very different. Making statements like the one you described does not cause the sort of sudden, deep, intense, devastating psychological trauma you see with rape. You're comparing an apple to an orange here. Additionally, hearing one's dad say a rapist stole your innocence is bad, but it's not going to account for most of the upset. Not nearly. It seems that you are vastly underestimating the intensity of psychological trauma that comes with rape. Attributing a sexual trauma to a verbal statement is like blaming a snowflake for an ice berg. The ice berg was not caused by the snowflake. The snowflake is too small. It seems like you'd really like to understand trauma better. There are good authors on this topic. Instead of chatting with me, it would be far higher value for you to read this book: https://www.amazon.com/Body-Keeps-Score-Healing-Trauma/dp/0143127748/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1510541134&sr=8-2&keywords=the+body+remembers
Even if this is descriptively true (and I think it varies a lot - some people aren't bothered long-term), there's no reason that this is a desirable outcome. Everything is mediated through attitudes.
Some people have blue eyes and other people have brown eyes. A lot of mind-related traits vary from intelligence to personality to capacity to pay attention. Not everybody even has two chromosomes (see XXY). If not everyone experiences sexual trauma, let's not jump to the conclusion that it's due to culture. There are a multitude of possible reasons. For just one example: they might have different genes. I definitely have the capacity to experience trauma, and I'm pretty sure that's genetic, so it's not fair to me for people to expect me not to experience it. In fact, I think it would be more traumatic for me to experience my natural instinct for trauma and then be told I shouldn't experience trauma. Telling me I should have experienced less trauma would hurt me too. If someone doesn't experience trauma, don't assume it's genes, either. It might not be genes or culture. To assume it must be one of these is a false dichotomy. There could be dozens of different possible reasons why that might happen, and we just don't know. Point: just because some people didn't experience trauma when they could have does not mean we should expect for everyone else to stop experiencing trauma. First of all, we don't even know why some people don't experience it. This is totally unfair to the victim because victims do not actually know how to stop experiencing trauma. Second of all, expecting people to reduce their experience of trauma puts the responsibility onto the victim. Sex offenders might be confused by this sort of thinking. They might tell themselves "the victim shouldn't feel trauma" and then feel good about going off to commit a whole bunch of sex offences, blaming the victims for all the negative consequences. This is how sex offenders think. They create justifications to commit crimes. These are called cognitive distortions. By arguing in favor of an attitude that can be used as a justification to commit sex offences, you are making us all less safe.

First of all, thanks for making this extremely detailed post that addresses a tough issue in a diligent fashion. I especially admire your evenhanded tone.

I do have two points to make:

Firstly, when we discuss impact the effectiveness of an intervention, we are usually discussing things which effect huge numbers of people - perhaps all people who will ever exist - or interventions which effect hundreds of thousands of people at a very low per-person cost, like deworming. Here you're discussing this for an intervention that targets just EAs, which is a very small number of people. There may be ~13,000 people in the facebook group, but the vast majority of them have no in-person interactions with the EA community. As such, the interventions you mention would have to be very efficacious at reducing sexual assault within the community to be competitive. Unless I'm reading this wrong, and you were more just suggesting these would be good things to do, though maybe not candidates for the best thing?

Secondly, I think Scott has a good criticism of this statistic:

What percentage of rape accusations are false? According to DiCanio, the researchers and prosecutors generally agree on a number

... (read more)
The second point is irrelevant - what statistic is changed by the prevalence of false rape accusations? The Lisak and Miller study cited for the 6% figure do a survey of self-reports among men on campus.
The post explicitly talks about false rape accusations, so his second point does not seem irrelevant to me? (Although it is clearly irrelevant to the 6% figure).
It mentions them, but does it make any points based on the assumption that there are too few of them?
The 'Strike a balance between dismissing accusations and witch-hunting people' is about how to act given that accusations have some small (but non-negligible) chance of being false. If we instead learned that the true rate differed strongly from this, it seems reasonable that the advice would also change. (E.g. if it turned out that there were never any false accusations, we could act much more strongly on the basis of accusations). I also think generally if a piece of writing states a fact you think is false, it is reasonable and should be encouraged to bring it up in the comments, even if it is not central to the argument's conclusion.
There are a lot of ways in which sexual violence has an impact on effective altruism, so reducing sexual violence will help us reach our effective altruism goals in various different ways. Because it will help us do more effective altruism, and the cost-benefit ratio looks good, I believe that gives it a lot of potential to be an effective altruism cause. It seems like you may not have read the entire impact section. Here is a table of contents for the impact section: Impact Estimating the number of sexually violent people. * Why we should not assume that effective altruism repels sex offenders: * About 6% of men are rapists and an unknown percentage of women. * A rough estimate of rapists in EA: Sexual violence reduction as a life saver: * Sexual violence reduction as suffering reduction: Sexual violence reduction for diversity and disadvantage reduction: * Comparing sexual violence rates by gender: * Greatly multiplied risk to women due to the gender ratio in EA: * Gay and bisexual people have around twice the sexual violence risk: * List of specific disadvantages that EA women, bisexuals and homosexuals face: Potential of sexual violence reduction to prevent productivity loss: * The low estimate: * The high estimate: Sexual violence reduction as part of movement building: * The male sex offenders studied are shockingly prolific: * Sex offenders increase turnover in workplaces: Sexual violence reduction for lawsuit prevention:

I read the whole post, and though I saw a lot of good points about why sexual violence is bad, I didn't see much about how efficacious the interventions you suggested were. It might be the case that things which increase EA productivity in a cost-effective manner are EA causes - though it seems a little strange to consider something like "getting enough sleep" to be an EA cause - but I don't think you've really made the case that these interventions do have a particularly high effectiveness.

"There are a lot of options that have a chance to succeed. The impact could be many times greater than the effort it takes to use the options explored herein. Testing is needed to determine the effectiveness of the options. Given the human rights concerns and the potential for a large productivity impact, testing options could turn out to be very worthwhile." - from my conclusion section. This is my honest conclusion, which I made as accurate as possible. We do not know how effective all the methods are, but it looks like it's worth testing them to find out. Having this information is a valid kind of progress.

Thanks for writing this, I had not seen any public posts on this topic before, and the loss of productivity considerations etc. are novel arguments to me.

I have no object level comments, but a few meta level ones:

  1. As Denise mentioned, this post is very long, and I think would probably benefit from being split into multiple shorter posts.

    In particular the two strands of 'preventing sexual violence within EA' and 'preventing sexual violence in the rest of the world' seem suitably different in both arguments for their importance and calls to action that clearly splitting them into two posts might add clarity. (Although they clearly share some backbone in the discussion of the effects and severity of sexual violence).

  2. I found the post structure not especially clear, and on multiple occasions was somewhat confused about what exactly was being discussed (an example of which is the "Observations about sexual violence in the EA network" section). I also found the formatting a bit confusing and this made reading somewhat more challenging.

    I find writing lengthy posts like this very challenging, and I am not trying to claim any objective problems, just that I often found it diffic

... (read more)
This post is long because there are a lot of myths and misconceptions about sexual violence. To have accurate ideas about the effective altruism potential of sexual violence reduction as a cause, one needs to be informed about a bunch of things at once. Given the complexity of the issue and the number of common misconceptions, a long length was the only way to do this topic justice. This is a foundation article. Now that it exists, a series of short articles can be written based on the information and context contained in it to help raise awareness. (As explained to Denise.) So, yes, it's a long and complicated post, and there are certain downsides to that, which you have described pretty clearly. I'm sorry about the post formatting. It didn't paste over very well from Google Docs. I'm currently working on editing the HTML version to fix all the formatting issues, so at least that should be improved soon. :)
I am not sure I understand your reasoning for having this as one long post instead of (say) a series of three posts, still covering all the content. This would still allow people to be linked back to it as a foundational resource (either by linking to the most relevant post for them, or just to the start of the series, telling them to read them all). Glad to hear about the formatting :)
The reason is because the topic is simply too complicated, there is too much ignorance, and there are too many myths. If I published anything shorter it would seem to be full of holes to the reader. I hope to have the time to write a series of shorter articles in the future. Even if I don't do this, I bet other people will. People have already begun expressing interest in this. The ball is rolling. The short articles will come.
This still does not obviously ring true to me as an advantage over one long article vs a series covering the same content. Still, it is written up now, and I think you will have your hands full replying to the other comments, so I am happy to let it be :)

Hi Kathy,

as I said before, thank you very much for your research into this! I agree with you that it is an important issue.

I'd be interested to hear about estimates of how much sexual violence lowers quality of life compared to other issues like poverty and depression. My hunch is that it causes similar amounts of suffering (whereby similar means 'within an order of magnitude') but I don't have any evidence for this.

Unfortunately your post is somewhat long which makes it a bit hard to read. More structure and maybe splitting it up into a few posts would help. People, even EA forum readers, tend to be lazy - and it'd be disappointing if thereby fewer people get informed on potential strategies to address sexual violence. I'm happy to work with you on this if you like.

I have to admit that I haven't read your post completely yet myself, so therefore I'm only commenting on one point related to the content for now.

I disagree with your characterisation of people who commit rape. [Edit: Kathy actually doesn't mischaracterise this in the article, but since it's a common misconception which is important to avoid I'll let the rest of the comment stand.]

I think the idea of the dichotomy of '... (read more)

Lisak and Miller (link repeated for convenience: http://www.davidlisak.com/wp-content/uploads/pdf/RepeatRapeinUndetectedRapists.pdf) give decent data on the distribution. 91% of rapes/attempted rapes are from repeat offenders.
Does this contain detailed enough information on the different kinds of perps that you can actually use it to target the worst type? That's the part I'm concerned will be missing.
I find your comment slightly confusing, as it suggests - even on the most charitable reading of your comment I can muster - that if a sex partner is not enthusiastic, the sex must be ipso facto rape. Where does this leave men who start having sex and then lose their enthusiasm for whatever reason, whether physical or psychological hangups, I wonder... or does your definition of rape only apply to the woman's enthusiasm?
(Disclaimer: I am Denise’s partner, have discussed this with her before, and so it’s unsurprising if I naturally interpreted her comment differently.) Enthusiasm =! consent. I’m not sure where enthusiasm made it into your charitable reading. Denise’s comment was deliberately non-gendered, and we would both guess (though without data) that once you move to the fuzzy ‘insufficient evidence of consent’ section of the spectrum there will be lots of women doing this, possibly even accounting for the majority of such cases in some environments.

Agreed that Denise's comment didn't equate enthusiasm and consent, but in UK law at least:

> the legal test has long been whether it was reasonable for a defendant to think she consented at the time

So someone's enthusiasm during sex can legitimately portray consent – insofar as it would make it reasonable to believe they were consenting.

I am very confused by this reading, it was not what I got from the comment at all.
"Multiple types of sex offenders exist. We may not have a complete list of different types yet." This is a direct quote from the article, from a section covering a few different types of sex offenders. Section name: "Why we should not assume that effective altruism repels sex offenders" I can't cover every single sub-topic in entirety in every single spot where a sub-topic is mentioned. The article would repeat itself a ridiculous amount. I also cannot remove all mentions of all sub-topics that have not yet been fully covered. That would ruin all the natural connections inherent in the information. The article would seem to leave out a huge number of obviously important things. This is why I support the implementation of a social norm where one doesn't argue with an author until after they've finished the article.
I agree that is a sensible norm. I'm sorry I implied you personally think that, I'll edit my comment accordingly. However, since many people will stop reading before the article ends I think it's important to not get people get away with the impression this is what you think.
Good point, Denise! Would you please direct me to the part of the article I should edit?
Great suggestion! "Are most acts of sexual violence committed by a select particularly egregious few or by the presumably more common 'casual rapist'? Answering this question is relevant for picking the strategies to focus on. This is because it seems plausible that different types of people who commit rape require different strategies to stop them." I suspect political pressure has effectively prevented in-depth research on this specific topic from being done. There is a lot of political pressure to stigmatise rape as much as possible, no matter what kind it is, or how often it occurs, or any other factors. Without this pressure, there is a realistic concern that a significant minority of people would twist the information into a new rape myth. For instance, a sufficiently twisted person might decide that the "real" rapists are the ones targeting 10 people or more, and then incorrectly conclude that "just" one rape doesn't make you a rapist, therefore rationalizing committing an atrocity. :( I think it's great to use information-based leverage from research to prevent mayhem. Since you asked, I will check this if I can manage to fit it in somewhere. I'm just letting you know that the reason I didn't already invest the time into looking into this is because I suspect political pressures would prevent that sort of study from being done in the first place.
This post is long because: There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about sexual violence. To have accurate ideas about the effective altruism potential of sexual violence reduction as a cause, one needs to be informed about a bunch of things at once. Given the complexity of the issue and the number of common misconceptions, a long length was the only way to do this topic justice. This is a foundation article. Now that it exists, a series of short articles can be written based on the information and context contained in it to help raise awareness.
I don't disagree with the full content being laid out. I'm glad you wrote such an in depth article. Although I think it would be better if you created an index of contents and having split it up into a few posts would help as well.
Edit: There is a table of contents now. By the time the suggestion to create a table of contents came along, it was too late to do so. I agree. If I get some time today or tomorrow I will do that. I couldn't split this into multiple posts. There are multiple context reasons for doing it this way. I'm sorry that this is inconvenient. I accept that fewer people will read the entire article. That won't stop me from making progress. Like I said, this article is a foundation. This is step 1. :) I will probably write multiple shorter articles later. The great thing about having all the context in one place is that when I write multiple shorter articles, I can refer to the big article a bunch of times! :D That will help me keep the short articles short!

Are you assuming that crimes committed by people in EA will be towards other people in EA? According to RAINN, 34% of the time the sex offender is a family member. And most EAs have social circles which mostly comprise people who are not in EA, I would think. (This is certainly the case if you take the whole Facebook group to be the EA movement.)

I think that for all intents and purposes we should just use the survey responses as the template for the size of the EA movement, because if someone is on Facebook but is not even involved enough that we can get ... (read more)

While some people are so uninvolved that they would not take the EA survey, others are so very busy that they might not take the EA survey either, even though they should be counted. Unless research is done to determine what percentage of EA takes the EA survey, we cannot assume that it is accurate. For that reason, I am using the total number of EAs from the survey as the low estimate. For the high estimate, I am using the EA Facebook group. The exact number of EAs is unknown but probably lies between these two figures. So, as an estimate, there are probably between 2,352-13,861 people in the effective altruism movement, like I mentioned.
The study on the left will say race A commits more crimes while the study on the right will say it's race B. Do people of a particular race commit more crimes, or are they just more likely to be convicted due to prejudice? As I said, incorporating all these other factors would be very complicated. "It could easily require an article of the same length as this one, just to create an estimate which takes all known relevant factors into account. To ensure enough time for the other parts of this article, a simple rough estimate has been created based on information about the overall population. Please remember that this is an estimate." I feel like you didn't read the quoted part there.
Yes, I saw that part. But first, just because there are lots of unknown factors doesn't mean we should ignore the ones that we do know. Suppose we're too busy to look at anything besides demographics, that's fine, but it doesn't mean that we should deliberately ignore the information that we have about demographics. We'll have an inaccurate estimate, but it's still less inaccurate than the estimate we had before. If you don't/didn't have time to originally do this adjustment, that's fine, like I said you already did a lot of work getting a good statistical foundation here. But we have more information so let's update accordingly. Now the statistics could be incorrect because of different rates of conviction or indictment or something of the sort. Sure, that is a different possibility, and if we have any suspicions about it then we can make some guesses in order to facilitate a better overall estimate. I would assume, from the outset, uniform priors for conviction rates. Maybe whites are under-represented due to bias in the system, or maybe they are over-represented due to the subcultures in which they live and the social independence or access to legal/judicial resources of their victims. What are the facts? Sexual offense victims report (https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/fvsv9410.pdf) that 57% of offenders are white, exactly in line with my other source. Only 27% report the offender as black, which is significantly less than my other source suggests though of comparatively little consequence for EA going by statistical averages. 6% say other and 8% say unknown. In this case you are right that it seems like there was a disparity, blacks are apparently convicted disproportionately. But here at least we have an apparently more reliable source of perpetrator demographics and it says roughly the same thing about what EA base rates would be relative to that of the broader population.
It's not clear that spending hundreds of hours updating this estimate to include dozens of factors is worthwhile. We could instead do our own undetected rapist study on the EA population with that kind of time. Do you have a few hundred hours for this, and the research background needed? Do you want to fund a researcher to do it?
Of course that would be suboptimal, hundreds of hours calculating base rates would certainly not be worthwhile. I'm not offering to do it and I'm not demanding that anyone do it. Hundreds of hours directly studying EA would surely be more worthwhile, I agree on that. All I'm saying is that this information we have now is better than that information which we had an hour ago.
Actually, to avoid bias when adjusting a prior, we really need to include as many adjustments as possible all at once. Otherwise, unscrupulous people can just come along and say "Let's adjust these three things!", which all make the risk look smaller, thereby misleading people into thinking that the risk is negligible. Or an ordinary biased human being could come along and accidentally ask for ten things to be adjusted which all just so happen to make the risk look super exaggerated. We'll have a lot of vulnerability to various biases if we adjust stuff without careful consideration. Also, if we think it is always better to chuck in arbitrary adjustments, then this creates an incentive for people to come along with a pet political belief and try to have everyone include it everywhere all the time, just for the sake of promoting their pet belief constantly. One arbitrarily selected adjustment is not better.
Well that's true. Depending on how many unscrupulous people you think there are on the EA forum :) Though you don't necessarily need to include all possible adjustments at once to avoid biased updates, you just need to select adjustments via an unbiased process. Demographics is one of the more obvious and robust things to adjust for, though. It's a very common topic in criminology and social science, with accurate statistics available both for EA and for outside groups. It's a reasonable thing to think about as an easy initial thing to adjust for. You already included adjustment for gender statistics, so racial statistics should go along with that.
The way in which gender is relevant while race is not is that sexual attractions are limited by gender preferences in most humans. Given that most sexually violent people attack one gender but not the other, and given that our gender ratio is very seriously skewed, gender is a critical component of this sexual violence risk estimate. Given that you believe a race adjustment should go with gender adjustment, I don't see why you are not also advocating for all of the following: * age * marital status * literacy * education * employment status * occupation * geographical location * place of birth * previous residence * language * religion * nationality * ethnicity * citizenship
Sexual violence tendencies are correlated with racial status in most humans. Why treat it differently? And given that sexually violent people are disproportionately represented across racial categories, and given that our race ratio is very seriously skewed, race is a critical component of this sexual violence risk estimate. Try and find some statistics for both EAs and sex offenders with comparable data categories on those topics and you'll see.
I hope you're just using this as a demonstration and not seriously suggesting that we start racially profiling people in EA. This unpleasant tangent is a great example of why applying aggregate statistics to actual people isn't a good strategy. It should be clear why people find the following statements upsetting: Statistically, there are X rapists in the EA community. Statistically, as a man/black person/Mexican/non-college grad/Muslim, there is X probability you're a rapist. Let's please not go down this path.
I think it's pretty odd of you to try to tell me about what upsets EAs or how we feel, given that you have already left the movement. To speak as if you have some kind of personal stake or connection to this matter is rather dishonest. Racial profiling is something that is conducted by law enforcement and criminal investigation, and EA does neither of those things. I would be much more bothered if EA started trying to hunt for criminals within its ranks than I would be from the mere fact that the manner in which we did this involved racial profiling. Neither of those statements are upsetting to me.
It's often useful to be able to imagine what will be upsetting to other people and why, even if it's not upsetting to you. Maybe you'll decide that it's worth hurting people, but at least make your decisions with an accurate model of the world. (By the way, "because they're oversensitive" doesn't count as an explanation.) So let's try to think about why someone might be upset if you told them that they're more likely to be a rapist because of their race. I can think of a few reasons: They feel afraid for their personal safety. They feel it's unfair to be judged for something they have no control over. They feel self-conscious and humiliated. Emotional turing tests might be a good habit in general.
It's nice to imagine things. But I'll wait for actual EAs to tell me about what does or doesn't upset them before drawing conclusions about what they think.
Considering that most people would be unhappy to be told that they're more likely to be a rapist because of their race, we should have a strong prior that many Effective Altruists would feel the same way. What strong evidence do you have that, in fact, minorities in EA are just fine with being told their race makes them more likely to be rapists? Seems like a very strange assumption. Apart from Lila's argument, this "non-white people are more likely to be rapists" is a terrible line of thinking because (IMO) it's likely to build racist modes of thought: assigning negative characteristics to minorities based on dubious evidence seems very likely to strengthen bad cognitive patterns and weaken good judgement around related issues. If the evidence were incontrovertible, this might be acceptable, but it's nowhere near the required standard of proof to overcome the strong prior that humans are equally likely to commit crimes regardless of race (among other reasons, because race is largely a social construct). Additionally, the long history of using false statistics and "science" to bolster white supremacy should make one more skeptical of numbers like this.
Well I saw statistics that suggest that I'm more likely to be a rapist since I'm a man, the post explicitly said that I have a 6% chance of being a rapist as a man in EA, and that didn't make me unhappy. And I haven't seen anyone who has actually expressed any personal discomfort at the OP nor any of my posts, leaving aside the secondhand outrage expressed by characters such as yourself. So my prior is that this is false. Well you can actually ask rape victims what race their attacker was and then see what the statistics are, as RAINN did in the link I provided. That's not dubious evidence. Huh? Why on earth would you have that prior, given the long long history of different ethnic groups behaving differently and being treated differently throughout Western history? And we have damningly strong evidence that people of difference races commit crimes at different rates, as a pure statistical fact backed up by mountains of data gathered by the Bureau of Justice Statistics and many other institutions. What you want to attribute that to is up to you, but refusing to acknowledge it is the height of denialism which even race and progressive activists don't do. The actually well-informed progressive/leftist activists and philosophers don't grasp at concepts of rationality to try to throw together some skepticism about whether different races commit crimes at different rates, they just say that the cause of these differential rates is social and a result of structurally racist society, but if you gave a whiff of charity to my posts then you would know that nothing that I have said in any way assumes that the increased propensity of blacks to commit rapes relative to whites in the Western world is not a direct result of structurally racist society. This is a silly cop-out. Only uninformed right wing pundits who strawman poststructuralism think that for something to be a social construct implies that it doesn't matter and isn't real. We can define race as minimally as "the
I am already aware of a pretty large number of correlations between sexual violence and a lot of different things. I'm telling you that there are a bunch of other things on that list I provided which would significantly alter the result of the estimate. I'm definitely not going to alter the estimate to incorporate just race. I am definitely not going to alter the estimate to incorporate the entire list. I think the most worthwhile way of getting a better estimate is to do a study, so I will not put further time into this discussion.
I think you'd get better results if you spent your time simply including things that can easily be included, rather than sparking meta-level arguments about which things are or aren't worth including. You could have accepted the race correlations and then found one or two countervailing considerations to counter the alleged bias for a more comprehensive overall view. That still would have been more productive than this.
"Note 3: We cannot assume that EA rapists target only other EAs. Sometimes, they might target people outside the social network. We cannot assume that EAs are targeted only by EA rapists. Sometimes they might be targeted by people outside the social network. Depending on how much of an EA’s social life consists of contact with other EAs and also depending on how sociable they are, their individual risk will vary. There is not enough lifestyle information available on EAs for me to include numbers on this into the estimate." I am beginning to wonder if you read carefully because it looks like you missed multiple things that were already addressed.
I did not see that note. But for the calculations on the productivity impact, it seemed like one might read it with the assumption that the 80,000 hours in a career are EA career hours. If we don't have enough information to make an estimate on this proportion, that's fine, but it definitely doesn't mean that we should implicitly treat it as if it is 100%; after all it is certainly less than that. What I read of the calculations just didn't make it clear, so I wanted to clarify.
I am using estimates to make other estimates. I clearly labelled each estimate as an estimate. It would be nice to have high-quality data, such as from doing our own studies. First, someone needs to do an estimate to show why the research questions are interesting enough to invest in studies. I am doing the sorts of estimates that show why certain research questions are interesting. These estimates might inspire someone to fund a study.
Again - I'm not making any demand about putting a lot of effort into the research. I think it's totally okay to make simple, off-the-cuff estimates, as long as better information isn't easy to find. On this particular question though, we can definitely do better than calculating as if the figure is 100%. I mean, just think about it, think about how many of EAs' social and sexual interactions involve people outside of EA. So of course it's going to be less than 100%, significantly less. Maybe 50%, maybe 75%, we can't come up with a great estimate, but at least it will be an improvement. I can do it if you want. And you didn't write that the number was 100%, but the way the calculation was written made it seem like someone (like me) could come away with the impression that it was 100% if they weren't super careful. That's all I'm suggesting.
I'm glad to hear you would find that easy, Zeke. I made dozens of estimations in this article, and decided that instead of upgrading every single one of them to the maximum level of quality, I should focus on higher value things like raising awareness and persuading people to test methods of sexual violence reduction and doing in-depth evaluations of the two scalable sexual violence reduction methods. Unfortunately, I don't have time to upgrade all these estimations to the maximum level myself. How long do you think it would take you to upgrade every single estimate to the maximum quality level? (I'll just let you count the number of estimations in the article since they're right there.) Would you be up for meeting my quality standards if I laid them out as a set of criteria? Please provide your estimate as the number of hours you will require to upgrade every single estimate in the article to the absolute maximum level of quality. Also, would you be able to do this for free? I'm in the middle of a career change. (I normally wouldn't ask but you said you would find it easy and asking can't hurt!) Thanks.
Um I don't know, I just said I would estimate this one number. I think I was clear that I was talking about "this particular question". Assuming 2,300 people in EA per the survey, for every 100 rape victims: Out of the 25 rape victims who are spouses or partners of the perpetrator (https://www.rainn.org/statistics/perpetrators-sexual-violence), 20 will be outside of EA, when the offender is in EA. Out of the 45 rape victims who are acquaintances of the perpetrator, 30 will be outside of EA, when the offender is in EA. Out of the 28 rape victims who are strangers to the perpetrator, 20 will be outside of EA, when the offender is in EA. Out of the 6 victims who can't remember or are victimized by multiple people, 4 will be outside of EA, when the offender is in EA. For the 1 victim who is a non-spouse relative, the victim will be outside of EA. This makes a total of 30% of rape victims of EAs being in EA. Assuming 13,000 people in EA per the FB group, for every 100 rape victims: Out of the 25 rape victims who are spouses or partners of the perpetrator (https://www.rainn.org/statistics/perpetrators-sexual-violence), 23 will be outside of EA, when the offender is in EA. Out of the 45 rape victims who are acquaintances of the perpetrator, 40 will be outside of EA, when the offender is in EA. Out of the 28 rape victims who are strangers to the perpetrator, 24 will be outside of EA, when the offender is in EA. Out of the 6 victims who can't remember or are victimized by multiple people, 5 will be outside of EA, when the offender is in EA. For the 1 victim who is a non-spouse relative, the victim will be outside of EA. This makes a total of 12% of rape victims of EAs being in EA.

Posting these links here for cross-reference:

As I understand it, there are two arguments in this article:

  • Sexual violence is bad for individuals.
  • Reducing sexual violence substantially is unlikely to be too difficult/costly.
  • Conclusion: We should generally look to evaluating/fund/spend time on solutions to sexual violence.


  • Sexual violence reduces EA's impact
  • Preventing sexual violence in EA is unlikely to be too difficult/costly
  • Conclusion: We should spend more effort on reducing sexual violence in EA because it will increase our effectiveness.

###Sexual Violence in the world### On funding/sp... (read more)

Chris Leong
"Let's adjust that figure for the suffering rape causes even when non-fatal and say that 100 rapes are as bad as 1 death." - that seems like an unrealistically low figure given that rape can lead to trauma that takes years to get over or derail someone's life.
I would far prefer being raped over a 1% chance of dying immediately. I think the tradeoff would be something like 100,000 to 1.
I would far prefer dying immediately to being raped again.
The sexual violence I've endured has had disastrous affects on my health and wellbeing. I have treatment resistant disabling PTSD and depression, have not been able to hold a job due to symptoms, have not been able to have anything close to a healthy sex life, and in spite of availing myself of all the help I can afford (and putting myself in debt getting help I could not afford) am still not in any way functional or healthy. Sexual abuse and rape, both that which occurred when I was very young and when I was an adult, have driven me to suicidality many times, and being suicidal for extended periods of time, especially without recourse to fix it (either by dying, which is harder than it looks when you have very little resources, or by getting better), is far worse than an immediate death.
An outrageously crude estimate of life saving potential: 7,600,000,000 (world population) 3,800,000,000 (females, approximately half, because the suicide figure I have is for females) 760,000,000 (females raped, based on figures from just one country because I don't have all ~200 figures) 36,53,846 (suicide deaths related to rape, phrased in past tense because the research isn't about the future) 6,211,538,200 (cost of saving 36,53,846 people through deworming) Point: If 6.2 billion dollars is enough to find a cure for rapists, and rapists pay for their own prescriptions so that nobody has to use charity money for their treatment, then funding research for a cure for rapists would have as much life-saving potential as deworming. Of course, I have no idea how much research funding is needed to cure rapists and it would take a lot of time to investigate that. This is why my global scope section says more research is needed. So basically all you have to do to see why I'm curious about this is to think about it on the right level of scale. The rest of your comment contains so many egregious straw men of what I actually wrote that I have decided not to address it. There might be some valid concerns in there, but I don't have the time to tease them apart from the straw men.
There are an estimated 276,000 annual cases of female suicide in the entire world (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3367275/). If, say, half of them are associated with sexual violence (guess), and you throw males in as well, then the eventual lifesaving potential is maybe 150,000 people per year. Most of these suicides are in SE Asia and the Western Pacific where I believe healthcare and medication provision are not as comprehensive as they are here in the west.
The per year incidence is a totally different type of number from the numbers I used. The numbers I used cover a much longer time span. Comparing 276,000 annual cases to the number 36,53,846 is comparing apples to oranges. It is not clear that your intent was to disagree with me. If you are throwing in an additional reference, I can't incorporate that because the other research I referred to wasn't using annual figures. I suppose it's interesting as something to check against. For an outrageously crude way to do that, you can multiply 276,000 by 80, the number of years in the average female lifespan (for one country) and compare a hacked together lifetime rate to my hacked together 36,53,846.

There was a project in London where we decided on where to donate £1000. The participants were EAs in London who have non-utilitarian ethical intuitions that equality / justice are intrinsically morally valuable. The result was a sexual violence prevention charity called 'No Means No' that runs education workshops in the developing world, and has a few RCTs that support their claims about impact.

Project written up here: http://effective-altruism.com/ea/1fe/the_effective_altruism_equality_and_justice/

Someone is also working on a write up of the evidence bas... (read more)

Thanks weeatquince. Given problems like the replication crisis and publication bias, I am focusing on meta-analyses and review articles as my main source of information wherever possible. If I didn't see any, I sought out multiple studies on the same topic and included them all. So far, the results of these studies has been really poor when it comes to sexual violence reduction programs. Therefore, I'm feeling sceptical. Until the research on a particular method has at least replicated, I cannot include it in the article. I'm sorry.

Thanks for writing this, Kathy! You pointed out some things which I hadn't really internalized yet, plus some statistics that I found surprising. I hope this sparks a good conversation.

As I see it, the case is basically: (1) Rape & other forms of sexual violence, harrassment, etc. are common enough that we should expect them to be significantly hurting the effectiveness of the EA movement. (2) Insofar as we think EA movement building is important (and it is), reducing sexual violence etc. in the EA movement in particular is also important. (from 1) (3)... (read more)

I scoured Google Scholar for sexual violence reduction methods. I already included what I found in the article. It appears to me that workplaces don't have anything better. I'm pretty sure managers just decide who to believe when someone is being accused, and just make a decision about which side to take. Some might investigate, but investigations would usually produce no evidence because this is sexual violence and it doesn't leave much. Most issues just lead to a game of he-said-she-said that can't be resolved. I don't see any reason to believe anyone has any better methods than what I found. This is not just because I didn't find anything better while scouring Google Scholar, it's because of what I'm seeing out there in the world. When I have reported sexual violence, there was no tried and true method to rely on. When I look at my Facebook feed, I see articles about celebrity survivors publicly accusing people, suggesting that they don't have an evidence based method. If you have an angle, great, please let me know if you find a well-researched method.

Thanks for this, Kathy. I feel like you've taken multiple academic fields and worked them into one blog post, so I appreciate the length and detail. Also looking forward to shorter posts that tease out more concrete info and next steps.

To that end: would it be worth pulling apart the term "sexual violence" into a broader spectrum? Possibly:

  • rape
  • sexual assault (unwanted touching, but not meeting above criminal standard)
  • sexual harassment (i.e. sexualized/objectifying conversation, but not touching)
  • gender-based implicit bias

For example, the E... (read more)

Part of the reason I combined various types of sexual violence together is that there wasn't enough research on all the different types for me to explore as broadly as I would have liked. Unfortunately, that's an element that I cannot change even though I want to write more deeply on different types of sexual violence. I just did my best with the information that was available. I have begun to wonder what proportion of sexism against women is coming from sexually violent men. Sexism is a risk factor for sexual violence. Hostility toward women is common among sex offenders. Some people who are excited by being sexually aggressive are also excited by being verbally aggressive. I would not be the least bit surprised if getting rid of sexual violence also gets rid of a huge root cause of sexism.

By the way, I think the below sentence is slightly wrong?

The ratio of male rapists to women outside the movement is around 1:8 (3:25), based on a 50/50 gender ratio.

Shouldn't that be 3:50 (in a group of 50 men and 50 women, you expect 6% of 50 = 3 male rapists)?

Oops! Thanks! I updated the article.

Just want to say I value that this topic is now openly discussed and considered. A few 'bad apples' (or to put it in more nuanced terms, people who're trying to get their sexual desires/needs met without considering the needs and feelings of the other person enough) in our community can kill off the open, supportive and trusting atmosphere I often experience myself.

An intuition I wanted to bring up: if we'd slam down too hard on the topic of rape, this might create a taboo the other way where it's hard to discuss a possible incident with someone who insti... (read more)

The case in this article draws heavily on the field of sexual violence research, but methodological problems in this field and premature thinking on the part of the author make this piece suffer from several problems: it skips over important methodological questions, misleads the audience about the rates of sexual violence, and advises hasty and socially punitive solutions.

It sounds like most of the audience hasn’t read the article closely and they are greatly underestimating the problems with it. As someone familiar with a lot of the literature referenced... (read more)

I know about the replication crisis, I've read "Statistics Done Wrong" and I've read some Ioannidis. Perhaps I was too subtle, my way of addressing these concerns was to load up on as many review articles and meta-analyses as I could find, in all the areas where there was enough research for me to do so. In other areas, I looked for as many studies as I could find and included them all.

This is not perfect either. Ioannidis has warned about some specific vulnerabilities in meta-analyses and review articles. There isn't something perfect for me to do. I could have chosen to do nothing because the research is flawed. I decided that the subject is too important to ignore and I made the best of it.

A social sciences research disclaimer has been added. I thought that research quality issues were common knowledge in this social network. Maybe it is. Maybe that's mind projection fallacy. Now they have note about research quality.

Truly acknowledging the problems with social science in general, and these studies in specific, would involve greatly softening your argument and shelving most of your prescriptions and impact analysis. Sometimes, the best a field has to offer isn’t good enough to support policy recommendations, and epistemic humility requires acknowledging this. This body of research just isn’t strong enough to do the things that you want to do with it. I think that both you and the audience here has the sophistication to recognize the flaws in this research, and the lack of recognition is explained by biasing factors. If you find feminist sexual assault research plausible based on your experiences, if you think that a large minority of men are rapists, paraphiliacs, harassers, or frotteurs, then that’s OK—everyone has their experience. But please mark your true reasons for believing those things, rather than acting like it’s scientifically solid enough to be a basis policy and community interventions. Then other people can make up their minds based on their own experiences. Although you report following the review articles and meta-analyses, it is notable that all the evidence you discovered lines up perfectly with standard feminist narratives and your own experiences. From there, you jump into some very divisive prescriptions without seriously examining the countervailing evidence or the methodological problems. This is hasty at best, and morally questionable at worst—especially if, as you say, you were already aware of the methodological issues with social science. Here are some of the things you either did not encounter or address. I am not claiming that you should have addressed any particular one of these, but they are critical parts of this debate: * The decades of criticism towards feminist rape statistics by Christina Hoff Sommers, among others. * The false accusation research. * The reality of how people communicate consent, which is primarily nonverbal and impl
Did you even read the study? The men were asked directly, and 6% of them admitted to committing rape. I don't see what your complaints about feminist literature even has to do with it. Lisak and Miller are both psychologists. Violence and Victims is a broad journal with no specific dedication to feminist ideas. You're just using "feminism" as a term for research on gender issues which doesn't conform to your opinions. What the hell? BDSM is not the same thing as rough sex, and yes, you must discuss it verbally beforehand; not doing that is startlingly bad practice. And "rough sex" does not entail being physically forced to have sex. Could you do us a favor and tell us which of the questioned behaviors does not count as rape? Specifically, do you believe that having sex with someone by "using or threatening to use physical force (twisting their arm, holding them down, etc) if they did not cooperate" is not rape? Or do you believe that having "sexual intercourse with someone, even though they did not want to, because they were too intoxicated to resist your sexual advances" is not rape? What is convoluted and idiosyncratic about asking someone "have you ever had sex with someone when they didn't want to?"
Methodologies like Lisak’s—where respondents check a box on a multi-clause question—leave room for doubt over whether the respondent read the question carefully and understands the terms in the same way that the researchers do. Any of the terms that you believe are diagnostic of rape, such as "force", "didn't want to", etc... might be interpreted differently from how you would interpret them. You might think that the additional clauses would help clarify the matter, but actually the longer the question is, the higher the chances that the respondent will misinterpret it or focus on only one part of it. Remember, most of the people answering these surveys are not feminist programmers or BDSM-practicing logicians. Words mean different things to different people. The other way to get a false positive would be if someone agreed with one of those questions, but lacked the element of intention of mens rea. Rape refers to a crime involving mens rea. Feminists often discuss rape as an experience of violation by a victim, but this is a redefinition and case of the non-central fallacy. The high stigma of rape is calibrated towards cases where the perpetrator knows what he is doing. Cases of reckless or negligent sexual conduct—even if they cause an experience of violation—should be placed in a morally separate category from intentional or purposeful violations. These issues are going to lead to a certain rate of false positives for Lisak's methodology, or Mary Koss' "Sexual Experiences Survey", or another methodology based on them. What is that rate of false positives? 1%? 10%? 50%? Who knows. But there is always going to be a cloud of doubt hanging over these methodologies. Why might men answer positively on Lisak's study, if a rape had not occurred? I feel like you are trying to lay a trap with these questions rather than having open-minded curiosity. I don’t know why someone might check those boxes as a false positive. Maybe someday someone will do a study and ask them
But that wasn't Lisak's methodology. That was the methodology used by other researchers in other studies. I don't see how. Those are pretty straightforward terms. No, rape is defined by the BJS as "Forced sexual intercourse including both psychological coercion and physical force. Forced sexual intercourse means vaginal, anal, or oral penetration by the offender(s). This category also includes incidents where the penetration is from a foreign object, such as a bottle. Includes attempted rape, male and female victims, and both heterosexual and same sex rape. Attempted rape includes verbal threats of rape." I have no clue where you got this idea that mens rea is involved. No it's not, because the badness of rape doesn't derive from mens rea. Don't wield fallacies like weapons if you don't understand them. I don't see any reason to believe this. Again, I don't see any reason to believe this. And presumably an equal rate of false negatives, unless you can give some specific reason to the contrary (which you haven't). Then it sounds like you don't know what you are talking about. That's exactly what Lisak did. There aren't any cultures or classes or ethnicities which interpret "force" or "didn't want to" in some unique way that makes forcing someone who doesn't want to have sex to have sex something other than rape. That's not BDSM. It sounds like you don't know anything about BDSM. It's also not forcing someone to have sex. Seems pretty easy to me. You take the standard definition of rape, and ask people if they do it. But lots of rapists aren't convicted. But there are lots of people, such as yourself with your strange invocation of mens rea, who use nonsensical definitions of rape to make it seem like a narrower concept than it actually is. Well that's what Lisak did. Which is nonsense, as I have pointed out.
Your response comes off as very defensive and lacking in substance, so I don't have much to say other than reiterating my previous views. Intent is a critical part of moral and legal philosophy, and rape is a general intent crime. The stigma for rape comes from a time when rape was considered to be an unambiguous or obviously intentional violation, such as a stranger jumping out of the bushes. It is both inaccurate and socially harmful to apply this stigma to a wider range of situations that may involve lack of intent or male-female communication problems. I think the statistical approach to rape is barking up the wrong tree. Lisak's work, whether quantitative or qualitative is especially untrustworthy, and sheds doubt on the entire field. Using a more conservative, and less-debatable criteria for rape is essential, because the more aggressive definitions have large externalities in terms of distrust between men and women, policies that destroy civil liberties, and tear apart institutions and communities with finger-pointing. People can interpret terms like "want to" differently. Here is a study by feminists discussing a category of "consensual unwanted sex." As for other people's sexual psychology and consent practices, our perspectives seem very different, so there is little point in discussing it further.
Is that because I gave a point by point rebuttal to each of your ideas? Actually, in consequentialism intent is irrelevant. That doesn't follow. The stigma for rape also comes from a time when the world population was less than 5 billion, but that doesn't mean that rapes that happened when the world population was more than 5 billion aren't equally bad. Why? Why? That article doesn't do much to indicate that he is untrustworthy. Right-wing blogs on the Internet are not very trustworthy either, so I'm not sure why I should take anything at face value here. What field? You do realize that "feminism" is not an academic field, right? What is debatable or controversial about the statements in the surveys used in Lisak's study? Can you name a kind of sexual assault which would count as rape in that study, but which we shouldn't care much about? Pretty sure that there's just as much distrust whether rape is accidental or not. And in none of those ways is it okay to have sex with someone who doesn't want to. What makes you say they are feminists? And also discussing a category of "nonconsensual wanted sex," indicating that Lisak's figures may well be underestimates.
It might be relevant to the evaluation of the rightness of acts (in a certain sense), but it's not irrelevant (for consequentialists) to what type of act an act is or the evaluation of the actor. (We have other moral concepts aside from the rightness of acts) Consequentialists don't claim that open heart surgery is a murderous stabbing if it happens to be unsuccessful.
Consequentialism doesn't care about "what type of act an act is" because it views the rightness of acts purely in terms of their consequences, not in terms of what type of act an act is, or what kind of actor an actor is. Imagine if you said, "Utility is irrelevant for Kantian ethics", and then I said "no, it is relevant, because even though Kantians don't make decisions on the basis of utility, the amount of utility caused by a decision affects the Kantian's belief about the amount of utility caused by an action." So what? It's still irrelevant.
This is definitely false, because consequentialists can and do analyse and evaluate acts in terms other than their rightness. I made this clear in my first sentence, whereas in your reply you are sliding from "consequentialism doesn't care..." to consequentialism "views the rightness of acts." The claim Marcus_N is making above is about what does and what does not count as rape. Consequentialists can say anything they like about their criterion for the rightness of acts and it does not tell us anything about what type of act an act is. Put simply: irrespective of whether intent is relevant to the rightness of an act, consequentialists (the same as anyone) can still say that intent is relevant to whether an act is rape, just as they can say that consent is irrelevant to the rightness of an act, but relevant to whether it counts as rape. Edit: For example, whether someone is intentionally killed may be irrelevant (to the consequentialist) to whether the act is wrong, but it's not irrelevant to whether it counts as murder.
If you mean it is normatively relevant to consequentialists what type of act an act is or what kind of actor is doing it, you are incorrect. Consequentialists are only normatively concerned with consequences, hence the name. But whether an act is rape or not is irrelevant to the consequentialist, because the consequentialist cares about the consequences of an act, not whether or not it counts as rape. I literally just addressed this in my prior comment and you are repeating yourself. Imagine if you said, "Utility is irrelevant for Kantian ethics", and then I said "no, it is relevant, because even though Kantians don't make decisions on the basis of utility, the amount of utility caused by a decision affects the Kantian's belief about whether actions are utility-maximizing or not." Yes, in a basic and trivial sense the Kantian's beliefs depend on the question, but in a normative sense it's totally irrelevant and a silly thing to bring up. Never mind the fact that it is blatantly false that the definition of rape involves intent; Marcus gave no definition or support for this claim, even though I gave a substantive source to the contrary.
I not only explicitly distinguished between criteria for rightness (normative) and other evaluations in the first sentence of first my reply, but I pointed out that I had drawn and repeated that explicit distinction in the first two sentences of my second reply. Consequentialists obviously analyse acts (e.g. whether they are rape / murder / making a bank withdrawal) in terms other than whether whether they are utility maximising and they can and do engage in other (moral and non-moral) evaluations (e.g. character evaluations, like that a person is dishonest or viscious or badly motivated). His claim above, that I'm addressing, is about the definition of rape (a question which is totally orthogonal to the normative theory of consequentialists/Kantians), not whether consequentialists should "care less [or more]" depending on intent. I don't have any particular views on the differing definitions of rape, but the claim that intent matters for whether an act is accidentally killing (by giving you a peanut) or murder (by giving you a peanut) or whether or not you are a consequentialist is uncontroversial.
You did not do so clearly, since not all moral theories see normativity as purely a matter of evaluating the rightness of actions. Yes, and I pointed out twice that your repetition of this distinction is just missing the point, so I don't know why you think that repeating it for a third time without addressing my counterargument is going to do you any good. You also seem to have overlooked the fact that I was talking about consequentialism the moral theory, not the practices of consequentialists, which is what you are talking about. And, for the third fucking time, these evaluations carry no normative relevance for the consequentialist, so to bring them up here is pointless. If this basic point still eludes your grasp, sorry but I just don't know what to tell you.
The claim I make quite clearly (based on this distinction) is that even if intent is not relevant, for the consequentialist, as to the _rightness _of the act, it may still relevant, for the consequentialist, to other questions like what kind of act an act is (e.g. a murder, a rape) You then keep reiterating that it is not normatively relevant, which actually is ignoring my contention, given that I am saying that even if x is not normatively relevant to the consequentialist, it may still be relevant to questions like whether something is a rape. I don't know what counter-argument you think I've missed, but you need to establish that whether something is part of the consequentialist's criterion of rightness is relevant here, rather than simply whether something is relevant to whether an act counts as a rape.
No I'm not, first of all because I have already pointed out that it is entirely false that whether something is rape has to do with intent. Secondly, I'm not "ignoring" your claim, I'm denying that it carries any weight, since my point was that the definition question of whether something is rape doesn't factor into the consequentialist's normative considerations. If you repeat the same thing three times, and each time I tell you "that's irrelevant, because you're totally missing the point of what I said," then in one sense sure I'm ignoring you, in the same sense that I ignore anyone who makes irrelevant points. Just because I haven't directly told you that the claim is wrong doesn't mean that your position hasn't been addressed. Sometimes people just say things that miss the point of the conversation, and this week it's you. Why? It's pretty obvious that what is normatively relevant is, quite simply, relevant. I don't have to explain why having a reason to do something is relevant in any broader sense. It's trivially true that normativity encompasses all of our reasons for doing things, and we can't appeal to anything more basic and foundational than reasons, so whatever grander sense of relevancy you have in mind is nonsensical. No, I think the burden of argument is on you to tell us why a dispute over definitions, which you've already essentially admitted is normatively irrelevant, should concern us.
Feminist sexual assault ideology and the non-central fallacy If the methodological objections to the validity of feminist sexual assault statistics aren’t enough, I would like to raise another class of objections: that feminists, and the original post, are hopping between reference classes to paint a picture of criminal, paraphiliac men, and innocent, traumatized female survivors. The original post mixes together supposed prevalence rates of 36.3% for female survivors, supposed 6% prevalence for male rapists, along with high rates of trauma at 90%+ for female survivors. This paints a very dark and urgent picture of the situation, and these numbers underly the impact math. While the post obliquely mentions the possibility for misunderstandings, it portrays sexual assault perpetration in a highly criminal and medicalizing light, even discussing extreme measures like stings and medication for perpetrators. What the post doesn’t tell you is that all these studies are on different populations with different methodologies. The women who are traumatized by rape at a rate of 90%+, or suicidal, are not selected through the methodology in which 36.3% of women are pseudoscientifically categorized as sexually assaulted. You can’t combine those figures and think that 36.3% of women are sexually assaulted and 90%+ of those same women are traumatized. (The original post does not explicitly multiply those two figures, but it does a lot of multiplication and ties together figures of survivors and rapists across studies with disparate methodologies, without acknowledging that it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison. It fails to acknowledge that “rape” in one study and a rape in another study are different things due to different operationalization. This is misleading at best, and lying by omission at worst.) Likewise, you can’t take the 6% of men that feminist researchers pseudoscientifically categorize as rapists, and compare them to criminal population and paraphiliacs. Those
No, I do not paint a picture of criminal men and female survivors. Direct quotes: "Sexual violence harms the health of both men [3] [4] and women." "Additional risk factors - rape myths that apply to male rape:" "While looking for the number of female rapists, I found a meta-analysis on female sex offenders." This isn't even in the article at all: "along with high rates of trauma at 90%+ for female survivors." I haven't even read the rest of your comment because your claims are blatantly, verifiably false.
I think Marcus was referring to the stats you quoted under "Sexual violence reduction as suffering reduction", such as the claim that 94% of rape victims met the criteria for PTSD one week later. Marcus's comments were a lot more confrontational than I would have liked, but I still found them worth reading. I think there are some good points if you're able to get past the confrontational tone.
The valid points behind Marcus's comments are, in this case, being wielded in an exceptionally broad and haphazard manner, painting vast swathes of academia and media with the same brush, under the assumption that they are all guided by the same ideology and methodology. I rather strongly disagree that he is worth paying attention to here (speaking as someone who is more neutral than anything else on these debates). The lazy generalization of everything being "feminist research" is a pretty poor way of looking at the issue which isn't helpful for the discussion at hand.
Academia and the media do have a high level of ideological conformity, and I am not the first person to make this kind of criticism. Feminism has greatly influenced the present-day understanding of sexual assault and sexual harassment. In fact, both of these terms come from feminist legal activism. The word "sexual assault" was popularized in 1971. If you look at the careers of central feminist legal scholars and researchers, like Catharine MacKinnon and Mary Koss, you will find that they have been incredibly influential. Here is an excerpt from one of the many awards that Koss has received: While EAs are working hard to save lives and struggling for mainstream acceptance, Mary Koss is hanging out at the WHO and the DOJ and collecting awards. How come? What has Koss accomplished? Something much more valuable than saving lives (in the current political climate). Koss designed the study that found that 1 in 5 women are supposedly raped, the statistic that launched a thousand rape seminars. The work of Koss, MacKinnon, and all the other feminist figures, influences policy from the university, to the workplace, to high schools, to global bodies like the UN and the Hague. This feminist framework has became the bedrock of respectable middle-class sexual ethics, which is mandatory due to policies of the workplace and university that are necessary due to state coercion via EEOC sexual harassment law and Title IX. This framework was not adopted due to its accuracy or fruitfulness, it was adopted for political reasons. When put into practice, it creates alienation between men and women, and gross violations of civil liberties. Everything you think you know about sexual assault, sexual violence, and sexual harassment actually comes from the tireless influence of feminist legal activism that has been operating for decades. Regardless of whether you think this perspective is correct or not, it's important to understand the history of where your foundational moral concepts c
As far as I can tell this is pretty much false. I've seen lots of ideological diversity in both. Do you have any evidence for your position? No, but among people who are actually informed and make this criticism, they don't blindly wave it as a bludgeon against the mass of evidence which doesn't suit their opinions. That would make sense, since feminists are people whose job it is to understand these sorts of things. Yes, it seems like they are regarded as experts by large, competent, nonpartisan institutions. EA has very good mainstream acceptance given how new it is. She has done research and advocacy which was regarded as excellent by large, competent organizations. Yes. That's because they thought it was very good. I'm still not sure what your argument is. What? Where did that come from? Mary Koss is an academic psychiatrist. Do you not know the difference between psychiatric research and legal activism? "Our knowledge of gender violence come from a world-renowned psychiatrist." I'm kind of sad that this is the best argument you can give.
This shows that psychology professors in the US are ~10:1 liberal to conservative, almost as extreme as EA. So I think there are data to show that there is little ideological diversity in academia, especially the humanities, social sciences, and arts.
There's a lot more to diversity than the liberal/conservative ratio. I could come up with any partisan divide to argue anything I want, e.g. economics academia has very little diversity because the ratio of communists to capitalists is 1:100, or philosophy academia has a lot of diversity because the ratio of liberal feminists to radical feminists is 1:1, or something like that.
I think the crux of our disagreement is that you are far more trusting of large institutions and social scientists than I am. I don't think I can convince you of my position in a comment box, I have given a couple case studies in support of it: I brought up Koss and MacKinnon to show that feminist ideology is highly influential on the current party line about sexual violence in polite society, the workplace, and academia, and that it is not from a neutral source, or from the social consensus of the population. You can argue that this feminist influence is good, that feminists are correct about sexual violence, and that it's wonderful that they found a methodology to prove it. But it's undeniable that these ideas came from feminism and were imposed top-down via institutions, not by social consensus of the larger population. I brought up Lisak's shadiness to suggest that the sexual assault field is full of perverse incentives, not "world-class" neutral research. Lisak cannot answer basic questions about his methodology. Also, he cut-and-pasted together decades old interviews to create the perfect rapist predator, played by an actor on a video that he shows to big institutions. This is the behavior of an activist, not a researcher. But his work is behind the policies of tons of public and private bureaucracies. Jonathan Haidt's work is a good place to start for academic and media political bias.
No, the crux of our disagreement is that you are sufficiently unfamiliar with the academic world that you see it purely through the narrow prism of your favorite political topic and therefore lump everyone whose positions you disagree with as part of a vague faction of "feminist ideology". But you haven't done anything to show that their positions have anything to do with "feminist ideology" (whatever that is) nor that it is non-neutral. Of course it's true that their positions aren't, say, right-wing, but I don't see how the mere fact that they don't agree with right-wing cultural views implies that they should be distrusted. You can't say "these people have views which indicate that feminists are right about something, therefore they're biased!" That's obviously a terrible argument, it's circular. I don't see why the "social consensus of the population" should be trusted to answer questions of sociology and criminology. Sure I deny it. I don't see how a survey of college students "comes from feminism", it seems to come straight out of ordinary sociological methodology to me. I didn't perceive that the paper in question made any methodological commitments which tied it to feminism. As far as I can tell, the only thing that makes it "feminist" is that the survey total came out to be 6%. If the authors had used the exact same approach and come up with a figure of 0.5%, you wouldn't perceive anything "feminist" about it, and would probably be parading it around as an example of heterodox research that needs to be broadcasted. I deny that too. You haven't given any evidence of that. You pointed out that lots of important institutions have endorsed the research(ers) in question. That is evidence that the research(ers) is high quality, but it's not evidence that it was "imposed". First, there's no such thing as a "sexual assault field". Lisak is a psychiatrist, as I pointed out. Second, it's easy enough to find singular examples of research problems in any field, s
Nearly everyone studying sexual assault in academia, regardless of their purported field, are feminists, are heavily influenced by feminist ideas, or are heavily citing researchers who are feminists or influenced by feminist ideas. Specifically, a focus on "gender-based violence" or "violence against women" is nearly always associated with acceptance of feminist ideology about a high rate of female victimization and male perpetration, and beliefs about "patriarchy" and male dominance or control. The notion that Mary Koss and Catharine MacKinnon's positions are nothing to do with feminism is untenable. MacKinnon is considered to be one of the most famous and influential feminists of all time, for creating sexual harassment law and driving anti-porn ordinances. As for Koss, I've found a history of her ideas and work. So, Koss reads Brownmiller's Against Our Will (a one-sided portrayal of female victimization), which leads her to believe that there is a hidden epidemic of rape. Then she comes up with a new methodology—different from the accepted methodology of her field at the time—and "discovers" a much higher rate of rate. She then works with Gloria Steinem (another of the most famous feminist activists of all time) who helps her seek funding. Koss is a feminist through and through, and her ideas about rape came from feminism (via Brownmiller) prior to her doing research. Next, Koss' research greatly influences other fields, and is heavily cited. Her methodology comes to look like normal social science, because typical social science is so heavy on badly designed self-report studies. Then they fuel badly-design public policy and laws which are applied top-down. As for top-down application, you can look at university sexual assault policy and kangaroo courts, and sexual assault policies in the workplace. These are all top-down and involve ridiculous overbroad definitions and miscarriages of justice. For an excellent example, look at the Orwellian persecution of L
But that doesn't say anything about their research methodology. That just says they are pro-feminist. I thought you were here to say that the methodology itself was problematic, right? Or is it true that you just object to the mere fact that the research doesn't come to the conclusions that you want it to? Could you point out where in Lisak and Miller's study they do this? I must have missed that part. Seems pretty straightforward to me. The reason this stuff is widely accepted in academia is that it's obvious in retrospect. Victims are reluctant to label their own experiences as rape. Since being forced to have sex without saying yes is rape, and response rates differ, it is empirically proven. It's true that hardly anyone in the relevant areas of academia believe in right wing counternarratives about sexual violence, but it's false that there is a monoculture - there is plenty of variation among different approaches to gender studies and deep disagreement among different feminist theories. Oh no! What could give them the impression that other views are held by horrible people? Is it the fact that they engage in rape apologia and weasel their way around having to admit that forcibly penetrating someone who doesn't want to have sex is in fact rape? No, surely it can't be that.
The most confrontational things I've said were calling the author's sting proposals creepy, I compared them to witch hunts, and I made fun of the author and the entire audience for sleeping through the validity lectures of Psychology 101. The rest of my criticisms were directed at specific claims and specific feminist arguments. After reading my case, anyone is welcome to decide whether my approach is over the top if my premises are correct. While I understand that many of the readers here are trying to be sympathetic and find things to like about this piece due to their abhorrence for sexual assault and empathy for survivors, such a response downplays serious problems with the piece and deprives the author from getting critical feedback. If articles with certain types of errors aren't called out and instead they are lauded, then further argumentation of the same type will be incentivized. That's how we get to point where 6% of male EAs are categorized as rapists who should be captured in stings and medicated. Either this argument is in bad faith—or something has gone horribly wrong if someone can make it and think they are operating in good faith. (I missed this before, but an additional criticism is that the 6% figure comes from a study by David Lisak. Lisak is known for fraudulent academic conduct. We should not only doubt his results, but we should note that this entire field has extremely broken incentives, and suspect all sensationalist studies emerging from it for cooking their books or falsifying data.)
Your sources are contradicting your own points. If the data for these surveys didn't come from Lisak, and was not originally part of a study on sexual violence, then it's just nonsensical to presume that the data is skewed because it's feminist.
Agreed - but I still think we should be concerned about the quality of the data. The linked article suggests that Lisak's study was assembled from other studies which he's apparently unable to cite, which weren't especially careful about the data they collected, and which probably aren't representative of most college campuses.
Nothing in that article suggests that the data was low quality, just that some of them might not have been traditional college students. That's irrelevant here, because the number here is being used as a representation of men in EA, not men on college campuses.
I think the fact that Lisak literally cannot remember where his data comes from should be concerning. Good point - I'll instead say then that these numbers are likely specific to the particular population of that college and are even less likely to be useful for making inferences about the EA community as a whole. Lisak himself says of the study: "Because of the nonrandom nature of the sampling procedures, the reported data cannot be interpreted as estimates of the prevalence of sexual or other acts of violence."
I read your post as painting a picture of criminal men and victimized women due to it uncritically referencing feminist statistics or narratives. Your post cites feminist research claiming that 36.3% of women have experienced sexual assault, and that 6% of men admit to rape. You then jump from these figures into discussing high trauma rates for female survivors, and male sex offender populations, even though these are from studies with totally different populations. These prevalence figures are extraordinary claims and require extraordinary evidence, which the incredibly politicized and methodologically flawed sexual assault studies do not supply. The effect of this narrative is to exaggerate the female victimization rate, male perpetration rate, and the rate of male criminality and paraphilias beyond what the evidence supports. By suggesting radical measures like stings and medicalization, you are implying that the population of male predators is sufficiently large to make this necessary, and the evidence is sufficiently solid—an extraordinary accusation against your own community. While you do acknowledge a lesser amount of male victimization and female perpetration—which some feminists don't acknowledge—this doesn't solve the problem that your piece drastically overestimates the level of female victimization and male perpetration, and paints an overly negative view of men, which will lead people unfamiliar with the methodological issues astray. My criticism is not that you are underestimating male victimhood: I believe that the male victimization studies suffer from the same methodological problems as the female victimization studies. By uncritically referencing feminist statistics and narratives, your article is—likely unwittingly—inheriting the bad feminists habits of irresponsible use of evidence and self-righteous pathologization towards men. This baggage will undermine both the rigor and empathy of your case, particularly in the ears of men. As for my cl
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