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Atheist Elevator Redux, Part Deux: The Return of the Nice Guy

You wouldn't want him propositioning you on an elevator at 4 AM either.

So now it’s all about the “nice guys.” It’s not just that mean, mean Rebecca Watson slandered the good name of all men in the world by suggesting that one amongst their number had committed a somewhat creepy act in an elevator at 4 AM. Now some commenters are accusing her of something like a hate crime against the Nice Guys of the world.

According to cranky sometime-Men’s Rights blogger The Damned Olde Man, the woman he refers to only as “Rude Elevator Bitch” has publicly humiliated a man whose only crime was that he was a little bit shy. Embroidering liberally on the scant few facts we know about the case, Olde Man sets forth a brand new narrative of the incident — based largely on his own imagination –with the mysterious man at the center of the story now transformed into a sweet, awkward fellow he calls Nice Elevator Guy:

By all accounts, NEG appears to be a rather shy, somewhat unconfident nerd or geek who appears to be lacking in the social graces.

When Olde says “by all accounts” he actually means “by no accounts.” We have no idea what sort of personality this fellow has, only that he apparently propositioned Walker in an elevator in Dublin at 4 AM.

It was probably not a good idea to ask REB for coffee just after she finished a lecture on how she is offended by men who sexualize her, especially late at night in an isolated elevator. That would be her point of view which she and all of her supporters have stated quite eloquently. So if one only accounts for REB’s feelings, it was the wrong thing to do. But how about looking at the situation from NEG’s point of view?

That is, from the imaginary point of view of the imaginary character Olde has simply superimposed on a real man we know almost nothing about.

A shy, socially awkward nerd who lacks confidence is likely to feel uncomfortable in any situation where he intends to proposition a woman. But he is likely to be terrified of doing it in a public setting with plenty of people around to witness his humiliation when she turns him down. So from his point of view, an isolated elevator in the middle of the night is probably the ideal location, especially since he was probably never going to have this opportunity again.

Note to shy guys of the world: this is not a good idea. It’s not going to work out well for you.

I’m not quite sure if that’s necessary. I’m a shy guy, and I’m pretty sure most of us shy guys already know that propositioning a woman when the two of you are alone in an confined space is a bad idea.  Many of us who sometimes feel awkward in social settings have what is known as “empathy” towards other people and thus are aware when something we do might just make someone else feel awkward. Olde Man continues:

His fear of humiliation is probably not as irrational as her fear of rape and in hindsight, it was definitely more justified. He didn’t rape her, she did reject him. She not only rejected him, she humiliated him, publically, for all the world to see.

Yeah. She “publicly” humiliated a guy she never named.  According to a guy who has just written a long post in which he repeatedly refers to her — a blogger who posts under her real name — as a “bitch.”

It’s bad enough to read this bullshit in MRA blogs, where it’s irritating but hardly surprising.

It’s a bit more troubling to find much of this dumb argument repeated – in somewhat more polite language, admittedly – in Psychology Today.  In a post entitled “What’s a Shy, Geeky, Nice Guy to Do?” cognitive psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman offers a very similar version of events, in which

a nervous, presumably geeky, socially awkward guy gets on [the elevator] ]with her … [his] heart probably beating fast and palms sweety as heck … .

“Presumably,” “probably” – in other words, these details are simply invented.

While Kaufman acknowledges that the mysterious (alleged) Nice Guy’s approach was “lame,” he, like Olde Man, turns the story into one in which Nice Guys are the real victims:

many entitled, narcissistic males have commented to the effect “what an ungrateful bitch, she should be grateful for being complimented!”,  and quite a few feminists have commented “good for Rebecca for scolding men, they need to be put in their place!” All the while, shy, geeky, genuinely nice guys have sat there, reading these extreme comments, no doubt scratching their heads and wondering what in the world they are to do.

What is a shy, geeky, nice guy to do?  

Then Kaufman gives some advice on how the Nice Elevator Guy could have handled the attempted pick-up better:

Don’t be creepy. Asking a girl to your hotel room in an elevator at 4 in the morning when the girl has already announced she is tired shows very poor mating intelligence. …

Well, yeah. He continues:

Look for indicators of interest. Any dating coach will tell you how important it is to look for signals of interest. Pay attention to her state. Does she look exhausted?

Generally speaking, when a woman gives a talk about how she hates being hit on at atheist conferences, then later announces that she’s tired and wants to go to bed, these are what you might call “Indicators of Leave Me the Fuck Alone.”

Kaufman goes on:

Does she cringe when you start talking? That’s probably not the right time to put your arm around her.

Can’t argue with that one, really. Cringing: never a good sign.

Kaufman barrels ahead with this mixture of the obvious and the creepy:

Build some sort of rapport first. The guy in the elevator was a complete stranger. There was zero connection. What could the guy have done to increase his chances of receptivity in this particular situation, when she clearly was not in the mood? It’s hard to imagine he could have done anything, but at the very least he could have tried to make some sort of connection.

Or, here’s a radical notion: he could have just LEFT HER ALONE.  This one tired lady in the elevator is not the only lady in the world. There will be other chances. Stand down, dude.

But Kaufman, who can’t leave well enough alone himself, goes on to imagine a scenario in which Nice Elevator Guy manages to charm Watson utterly.

RUPERT: Oh, hi Rebecca! I’m a huge fan of yours. I really liked your ideas earlier about skepticism…feminism…blah…blah…And I totally hear you about the guys here. They really are creepy, aren’t they? [Insert witty joke here about how if you were a female at this conference you’d become a lifelong skeptic of geeky men]

WATSON: [Laughs] Yea, thanks for understanding. You were really listening to what I said earlier. What do you research?

Ungghhhh. Excuse me, but I have to go lie down for a moment. The stupid here is too much.

After a bit more of this imagined witty banter, the charmed WATSON is inviting HIM to HER room!

It was at this point that I discovered that there was another whole page worth of this shit. I couldn’t bring myself to read it.

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Posted on July 12, 2011, in beta males, idiocy, misogyny, MRA, nice guys, oppressed men, sex. Bookmark the permalink. 236 Comments.

  1. @summer_snow Yus let’s. xD I only replied b/c issues of “disclosure” and eating disorders BOTH hit pretty close to me… but I’m sry for elaborating on it… :] I will stop

  2. On the topic of ‘creepy’ and its definition.

    caseymordred, earlier in the conversation you said that you think when someone says another person is ‘creepy,’ they mean that person is a ‘potential rapist,’ and that is equivalent to saying there’s a good chance the other person is a ‘Complete Monster.’

    We’ve already made some distinctions between calling out someone’s creepy behavior, and calling someone a creep. Let’s move on to the discussion of ‘potential rapist.’ I think that saying ‘potential rapist’ is actually a really, really bad move. Because, in my experience, in the overwhelming majority of encounters in which I was creeped out, I was not afraid of being raped. I was afraid of less serious unpleasant things.
    If I was getting ‘creepy vibes’ (as you said, caseymordred) off a guy who was, for example, hitting on me, here is a list of possible things I could be worried about. Not all of these thoughts apply to the same scenario, or at the same time, or to the same level of creepiness.

    I’ve worried about the awkwardness of having to say no politely. I’ve worried about whether I can avoid hurting the guy’s feelings. I’ve been worried that he’d bring up sexual topics I feel uncomfortable discussing with strangers. I’ve worried about whether the guy is going to get mad at me, or be rude to me. I’ve worried that he won’t stop talking to me if I ask him to leave me alone. I’ve worried about whether he’d make fun of me and then laugh at me. I’ve worried about whether he’d call me a bitch. If he does all the other things on the list first, I’ve worried that he’d try to stand too close to me or touch me.

    This is ordinary creepiness. Some of it is stuff I apply to normal encounters, and some I only have to think about if a guy is already demonstrating to me that he is mean or doesn’t listen to what I say. If a guy badly misreads a situation and tries to hit on me when I’m feeling scared or vulnerable or skittish, then he doesn’t really understand my point of view too well, and I’m worried that I won’t understand where he’s coming from effectively enough to communicate well with him and save everyone some hurt feelings. And there’s always the chance that he does understand what he’s doing, and he’s just a bully.

    The overwhelmingly vast majority of ‘creepy’ encounters are really low-level creepy for me, and probably for most women. I have worried that I’d be called a bitch a lot. I have never worried that a guy is going to kidnap me, rape me, kill me, skin my corpse and wear me as clothing, and then eat the remains. That right there is Nuclear Creepy, and it’s not what I mean when I say it’s kinda creepy to hit on women in elevators at 4 AM. Rape is damn high up there on the scale of Worst Case Scenarios. There are very few Complete Monsters in the world, and when we say ‘geeze, that was creepy,’ the odds are high that we are not talking about Complete Monsters.

    By ‘creepy’, we don’t mean ‘potential rapist’ any more than by ‘jerk’ we mean ‘potential guy who smears poop under my car door handles’. We mean ‘potential guy who makes me uneasy or uncomfortable by overstepping boundaries’.

  3. Actually, given that about four percent of the population are sociopaths, I’d say at least four percent of the population are Complete Monsters.

    In any case, there’s not much to say in reply, except that perhaps this sort of highly nuanced explanation should be 101 stuff, precisely as an antidote to those of us who visit the more extreme sites and are blown away by the louder voices there, where honestly I think they do conflate creepy, boundary violating behavior with potential rapist.

  4. @ caseymordred: I’m flattered that you think I can do 101 stuff well, but it is an awful lot of work and I doubt I’m cut out for doing it more than a couple times. I’m glad that we had this conversation, though. Feel free to forward this conversation to your friends if you feel they would enjoy it or benefit from it. It’s okay to disagree with some feminists, and agree with others, and by no means am I the nicest, most reasonable or most patient feminist here. I’m just the one who had a lot of free time today.
    I think you could benefit from sticking around Man Boobz. Just remember, a lot of the people here are well past Feminism 101, and might not have the patience or inclination to parse out issues in great detail. Not to mention, a lot of them will strongly disagree with your opinions. Mostly we are just here to mock terrible people, not educate nice people. This is also a very snarky place, so if someone snaps at you, it’s not the end of the world. MRAL has been dogpiled on for saying nasty things, but he has also had an awful lot of sympathy extended to him from the same people.
    I’m getting tired and incoherent, so I need to get going now, and tomorrow is a busy day, but if you want to continue this conversation or start a new conversation, you can let me know about it the next time you see me actively commenting.

  5. re Schrödinger’s Rapist: I don’t have any problem with it. I don’t intend to rape anyone (my definition of rape is sex without obvious consent).

    I know that any person might do any number of terrible things. I treat anyone in my sphere of action as a possible attacker if I have no reason to rule them out.

    Cops, the first thing I do is see if they are right/left handed, so I know which arm is going to go for the gun/baton/taser if something goes south.

    Even people I have reason to trust (e.g. fellow soldiers) are treated as potential threats; they might be clumsy.

    So that a woman should see me as a potential rapist, until something makes her decide I’m not doesn’t bother me.

  6. People choose to become cops or soldiers.

    I did not decide to be born male.

  7. caseymordred: So? Did you see the part where I said I do that to everyone? I mean everyone. Range is a factor. Someone with a visible weapon is treated as a greater threat than someone without. A person with a gun is more a threat than someone with a knife (who is less a threat than someone with an axe-handle). People in cars can be threats.

    It doesn’t mean I shun them. It means I pay attention to the harms they might choose to do to me.

    Men are the people who perform the most rapes. If you don’t rape anyone the potential aspect of it is moot. You could also kill someone. Everyone is Schrödinger’s murderer. They are all also Schrödinger’s love one’s life.

    You didn’t choose to be born at all. You were; cope.

  8. I’m sorry, but “I didn’t choose to be born” is the be all-end all of all arguments, despite smartasses who pretend to the contrary.

    Anyway, I don’t think we’re going to agree on such less nuanced descriptions, especially ones that rely on statistics.

  9. @caseymordred So what’s it say about Pecunium that he does this to *everyone*? Don’t dismiss this point just because you’re sore.

  10. PS @Pecunium I actually do a lot of this stuff too! Only without the details of being right or left handed… I’ve never had any military or defense training. I am especially wary of people in cars after being clipped by one a several years ago.

  11. I didn’t choose to be born male is the same as, “I didn’t choose to be born”.

  12. Yeah, I got sore because “cope” or “deal with it” sounds pretty dismissive.

    I also don’t trust arguments from statistics because racists often used that to justify their fear of blacks.

  13. Molly Ren: I grew up in the bad part of several towns. I was (until my teens, when the part of town was much better) the non-dominant social grouping (white kid in an area of dense, and not so well off, hispanics; just outside of East LA). It made me very good at spotting threat behaviors.

    Then I did security work, and martial arts.

    Then I joined the Army. It was when I was carrying a pistol on a regular basis that I got in the habit of “gun-checking” anyone I saw packing.

    I like to think of how I view the world as, “reasonable paranoia”. I carry a good first aid kit with me, pretty much all the time. I always have a knife (they are really handy tools. I rarely carry one that’s designed for fighting. Knife fights are messy, and usually lead to long discussions with cops, and often with district attorneys). I usually have rope of some sort (550 cord is a really handy thing).

    I ride bicycles, and motorcycles, and walk a lot. That puts me in places/circumstances where a lot of latent risk exists. I don’t see why I should have to not do what I like, just because there is risk. I figure women ought not have to do that either. So treat everyone as a potential risk, calibrated to visible threat indicators, and distance.

    So far, so good.

  14. “I also don’t trust arguments from statistics because racists often used that to justify their fear of blacks.”

    So you never trust statistics at all? XD No matter their source/methodology?

  15. More like I keep in mind that it could well be a razzle dazzle.

  16. caseymordred: What was the point of dismissing how I react to cops/soldiers (and note I said that soldiers are presumptively not threats; but I watch them for risky behavior nonetheless), and then comparing it to being born?

    That was dismissive too. And the comparison was one which had no relevance. You are male. Being male means there are some reasonable presumptions people will make. I am male, I face the same things. I cope with them.

    You can’t really say I am making the sort of “statistical” argument you lump in with racists, because I am not saying subset x is dangerous, and so I will only pay attention to subset x.

    The closest you can come to that is my statement that men perform the overwhelming majority of rapes of women. That’s not the same as saying, “More blacks are in prison, so I need to worry about blacks”. If I said “you need to worry about frat boys, because there are more rapes on college campuses” then you would have a valid point.

    I didn’t.

    I lump myself in the category of people it is reasonable for a woman to worry about being raped by. I figure anyone who sees me walking down the street is entitled to be preparing themselves for me to attack them too. So long as they don’t pre-emptively “defend” themselves there is nothing wrong with that. It’s what I do.

    It’s reasonable behavior. In a lot of ways it parallels the (decent) rape-prevention advice of police departments. I just extend it past strangers hiding at the side of jogging trails.

  17. So…saying a whole x is dangerous rather than just a subset of x is better?!

  18. caseymordred, you seem to be having problems understanding where Pecunium is coming from.
    Remember what I was talking about when I said sometimes it’s hard for men to understand me when I talk about feminism? As a man, you have grown up with a different worldview from a woman – people have told you different stories about how sexual attraction works, people have given you a different idea of what things are dangerous for you to do, and people have treated you differently. That means that when you are talking about feminism, or talking to a woman about gender issues, you will probably not be working from the same basic assumptions and information.
    I think it would benefit you to realize that you don’t really understand where people like Pecunium are coming from, and you should ask more questions instead of getting hurt by your interpretation of what he’s saying, or saying that he’s wrong because that’s not how you’ve experienced things. An example of a useful statement is “Pecunium, that’s nothing like what I’ve experienced. In my life, X happens. That’s nothing at all like Y. What in your experience makes you say that Y is true?”

    Full disclosure, I am really quite a sheltered person. I have never been physically assaulted. So in my daily life, I’m not expecting anything more unpleasant than being called a bitch. It’s not too reasonable for me to worry that strangers will even just punch me. Pecunium has lived a far less sheltered life. Since he has, in fact, lived in combat zones, he has come to expect that it is possible for people to try to kill him. And it is reasonable for him to assess the people he encounters for the probability that they will try to do anything from punching him all the way up to killing him. Though he does not currently live in a combat zone, his wariness has probably kept him out of dangerous situations, and it’s ingrained now. This doesn’t mean he’s an unfriendly misanthrope who is being unfair to people. It just means that he takes into account the possibility that people might decide to hurt him, and is more conscious of possible dangers than most people are.

    Similarly, many women have been raped. Many women on this blog have been raped, by the way. Just as a person who has to deal with the possibility of physical assault *sizes people up* for whether they’re likely to get violent, so too are people who have had sexual violence in their histories going to *size people up* and think about whether they’re going to get assaulted again. I’m sorry you think this is a gendered insult. It really isn’t. The people (both men and women) who have been assaulted by women will spend more time sizing up women for their likelihood of assaulting them. The people who have been assaulted by men will spend more time sizing up men. This doesn’t mean they think every man is going to assault them, or most men. It just means they’re scared of being hurt, and want to know if someone is likely to hurt them. And in *most cases* they size people up, and then decide that the person in question is *unlikely to hurt them*, because most people in this world *do not want to hurt you*.

    You don’t have to agree with Pecunium’s point. But does this help you understand where he’s coming from, and what basis he has for saying the things he says?

    @ Pecunium, sorry if I’m being presumptuous by using you as an example.

  19. summer_snow: No problem.

    caseymordred: Saying all “x” is better than subset “y”, where there is no valid measure of risk for subset “y”.

    I am going to stick to rape; because that’s the topic.

    Men commit the vast majority of rapes.

    Until a man actually tries to rape someone, you don’t know he’s a rapist.

    If one doesn’t prepare oneself for a possible attack, that attack is much more likely to succeed.

    Therefore it’s wise to assume any man might attempt a rape.

    If I limit that to “college boys” or “blue collar workers” or “young black men” I am doing both the subset a disservice (because the truth of the matter is they aren’t significantly more likely, all things being equal, to engage in rape). I am also doing myself a disservice, because if this guy should happen to be the one in a thousand who wants to rape me, and I ruled him out… I’m in trouble.

    Back to the cars analogy.

    I ride a motorcycle. I assume drivers who have not made eye-contact haven’t seen me. I assume any driver who hasn’t actively yielded the right of way is likely to pull out in front of me.

    The vast majority of drivers to see me. The vast majority do properly yield the right of way. But if I were just assume all of them were aware of me, and not assholes about right of way, when I interact with one who doesn’t, I’m fucked.

    Let me ask you a question: Why is the idea that someone might be assessing you as a rapist so bothersome? It’s not as if they are saying, “I know he has raped people”. It’s them saying, “I have no reason to know he’s not going to.”

    Given contact (from somewhere after hello) the assessment of possibility goes down. When someone approaches me on the street, I am assessing. When they ask if I have a cigarette, or a light, or know how to get to someplace in town, my sense of risk changes. Tone of voice, etc., all come into play. Do they have a hand in their pocket? Are they nervous? Did they ignore someone else to come talk to me? Do I fit into the neighborhood? The last is because if I don’t fit in I want to know why that person chose me. Is it because they are white, and I am white and they feel more comfortable? Or might it be that I am white and the area is aisian and I am less likely to have friends?

    None of this is moral judgement about the people who approach me. I think that is that part so many people who have trouble with Schrödinger’s Rapist have with the concept. It’s not a moral judgement. It’s a risk assessment.

  20. caseymordred, you said. “People choose to become cops or soldiers. I did not decide to be born male.”

    Okay. What about this then, in Germany in the 1970’s everybody over the age of 50 was a Shroedinger’s Nazi. They didn’t decide to be born in Germany. They didn’t decide to be 50 years old. But they were still suspect. Is that wrong?

  21. (Sorry about the godwinning)

  22. Um, Snowy, that’s probably not going to result in productive discussion. I mean, I know old German people and everything, so I’ve got a bit of perspective on the issue, but if we pick up on your analogy, we’re either going to have “DON’T CALL ME A NAZI HITTING ON WOMEN IS NOTHING LIKE BEING A NAZI” or “okay, politics 101…”. Neither of which is helpful to the conversation we’re having right now on whether it’s okay to run personal risk assessment on people.

  23. Well, all right. Sorry.

  24. No worries. :)

  25. summer snow, it is interesting you speak of value judgements.

    It is my personal theory that the perception, rightly or wrongly, that women make value judgements about a would be suitor, accounts for a good amount of Nice Guy Syndrome.

    You see, there’s “I’m not attracted to you” rejection, which is not a value judgement but merely a statement of fact, but there’s also “You’re a loser geek who needs to take a bath and stop being so socially awkward” rejection, which is a value judgement.

    After all, it goes back to the geek fallacy of “everyone has to accept me as I am.”

    So if they perceive most attractive women as going against that, there is the recipe for bitterness.

    Point being, maybe they read too much into rejections, and read value judgements that may or may not even be there.

  26. “Point being, maybe they read too much into rejections, and read value judgements that may or may not even be there.”

    That would account for why so many of them get really, really angry when people start discussing things like whether it’s a good idea to hit on women in elevators at 4 AM.
    Unfortunately, so many of these discussions get derailed from “situations that make women feel unsafe” to “ways that men should hit on women”. That’s part of why feminists are so grouchy when non-feminists show up to these discussions, since it’s off topic, and shifting the focus from the people they wanted to talk about in this case.

    But in any case, I hope you’ve picked up the distinction between a woman making a risk assessment to gauge her personal safety, and a woman making a value judgment about a man. Conflating the two leads to a lot of hurt feelings. Also conflating discussions of whether a woman is attracted to someone and whether a woman feels safe in a situation leads to a lot of guys feeling really awkward and defensive about their sexualities. It’s important that guys keep track of which scenario is being discussed.

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