We need to stop sacrificing women on the altar of deeply mediocre men (ISBA edition)

(This is not Andrew. I would ask you not to speculate in the comments who S is, this is not a great venue for that.)

Kristian Lum just published an essay about her experiences being sexually assaulted at statistics conferences.  You should read the whole thing because it’s important, but there’s a sample paragraph.

I debated saying something about him at the time, but who would have cared? It was a story passed down among female graduate students in my circles that when one woman graduate student was groped at a party by a professor and reported it to a senior female professor, she was told that if she wanted to stay in the field, she’d just have to get used to it. On many occasions, I have been smacked on the butt at conferences. No one ever seemed to think it was a problem. I knew it would be even more difficult to get people to find S’s behavior problematic since he is employed by a large tech company and his participation in academic conferences, I have heard, often comes with sponsorship money.

I have a friend who had essentially the same experience with the same man.

Although it’s heartening to see that some senior people in ISBA cut his name from the nominations in the recent elections, there is no formal mechanism for the society to respond to these type of allegations or this type of behaviour.

Why is that important?  I’m just on my way back from O’Bayes, which is the cliquiest of the Bayesian conferences (all of which are pretty cliquey). You can set your watch by who gives the tutorials and who’s on the scientific committee.  They’ve all known each other forever and are friends. To report this type of behaviour in an environment where the people you should tell are likely friends with the assaulter is an extreme act of bravery. ISBA (and all of its sections) need to work to help people come forward and support them formally as well as informally.

And keep the creeps out.


(Quick clarification: In the second last paragraph I really do not want to suggest that the senior people in ISBA would not act on reports about their friend. And, as the article said, they did in one case. But I know that because I know these people reasonably well, which is not a luxury most have. ISBA needs to do more to signal its willingness and openness to dealing with this problem.)


More important edit:

Kerrie Mengersen, ISBA president and all-round wonderful person has just weighed in officially.  I look forward to seeing what ISBA does and I look forward to never seeing “S” in person again.

Update: ISBA’s Taskforce is now live.  The announcement is here. If you have any suggestions or concerns, there is an email address at the bottom of the announcement.

354 thoughts on “We need to stop sacrificing women on the altar of deeply mediocre men (ISBA edition)

  1. That’s horrible what Lum and other women have had to deal with, and I applaud Lum’s bravery in speaking out. I agree with Dan that we all should do what we can, individually and institutionally, to support people who have been harassed, and to change the culture so that harassment is stopped in its tracks. It’s my impression and hope that we’re moving in a positive direction, thanks in no small part to the actions of Lum and others who have shared their experiences and shined a bright light on the problem.

    I wrote this comment on 18 Dec but I pre-dated it so it would appear at the beginning of the thread to emphasize my support and appreciation for what Lum did in speaking out. I’m pretty sure that most readers of this blog feel the same way, but it’s the nature of blog comment threads to get tied up in the more contentious aspects of any issue. So I thought it would be important to again show my support. Lum put herself out there, and that’s not easy—and there’s been lots of confirmation that what she’s talking about has been a real problem for a long time.

  2. “…no formal mechanism for the society to respond to these type of allegations or this type of behaviour.”

    It’s almost like there should be an organization to which reports of this type could be made. Ideally, after these reports were made they would be investigated and if evidence was found they could be prosecuted… then in a formal, organized setting, a group of say 12 or so neutral people representing something like a cross-sectional selection of society would hear the evidence and a decision would be made and action would be taken to prevent someone from committing the act again.

    … If only… If only society had such mechanisms already in place.

    • Glib, sarcastic responses are probably not what we need here. Responses that put all the responsibility on the victim and none on the people who facilitate the assault are not helpful. Please just stop.

      A not unrelated point is that ISBA2010 was in Benidorm, Spain which is not where most people who were at the conference live (or speak the language of).

      • Disagree. The burden of proof must always lie with the accuser / prosecution. With regard to civil proceedings, it’s possible to shift that burden to the accused, but I would never involve myself with an organization that had adopted such a policy (for fear of being falsely accused and punished). I suspect I’m not alone in that regard.

        • How do you prove that someone groped you underwater in 2010? Lum didn’t name names for a reason. But all that insisting that everything must have a “court of law” sheen does is discourage women from reporting bad behaviour. So serial harassers and abusers just continue harassing and abusing, and women just keep quietly leaving statistics. That isn’t good enough.

        • Please propose a system to address these sorts of matters, and be fully transparent regarding the likelihood of it punishing innocent people. I have yet to hear a cogent argument in favor of shifting the burden of proof to the accused; the idea that a person can levy charges against me in the absence of any physical evidence, and for me to then face a significant possibility of being punished despite the fact-free nature of the accusations, is completely unacceptable.

        • Let’s be statisticians about this. There will be false negatives and false positives in any system. Right now, the system is strongly unbalanced in the direction of false negatives. So let’s do something about that.

        • On another site I heard about this scheme.

          Women could confidentially report a person to a central agency (not police) giving all the details. Nothing would happen with that report until two (or more) women reported something about the same person – the number being up to the women involved. Then when they had strength of numbers the reports would be acted upon.

          It harder to dismiss a pattern of behavior or ignore a group of people who all have the same grievance.

          It’s obvious that S was grooming women to exploit later but it also appears he was grooming the men around him to accept the exploitation that they observe.

        • I’m not a statistician…but I agree that’s a useful way of looking at it. I freely admit to being vastly more concerned with false positives. If you asked me how many women I would subject to having their butts groped for, say, three seconds by a total stranger in order for me to avoid a one-year (or even one-day) prison sentence, the answer is not a finite number. I’m simply unwilling to reduce my chances of remaining free from false conviction in order to address this problem. Unwanted touching by strangers is bad, but being in prison is worse. Not rolling the dice.

        • Joshua’s comment is really disturbing because it implies that the only consequence to those who are harassed or assaulted is that they were subjected to unwanted physical contact for a moment. This completely ignores the lasting emotional, mental, and even physical strain that harassment and assault cause. I personally do not even have the emotional energy to detail the negative pervasive impacts of harassment and assault on surviver’s professional and personal lives. I would encourage Joshua to reflect on his attitude and spend some time listening to experience of survivors.

        • joshua Warren:

          I invite you to imagine the following scenario.

          you are a graduate student. you attend conferences. at roughly ever other conference, some senior figure – someone you’d like to impress – commits some low-level act of violence towards you – say, tripping you on your way up the stairs, a swift unexpected kick, etc. – always with enough plausible deniability that you wonder if it was intentional, or recognize that if you brought it up, the senior figure could simply deny it, and everyone would believe him.

          imagine this happens for years, and you eventually decide you’re tired of it, and go find a job outside of academia.

          imagine you then tell this story to a friend who didn’t experience this violence at all, who stayed in academia, and he tells you, “well, that certainly sounds unpleasant, but if we tried to seek redress for your experience, I’m concerned this would empower my students to falsely accused me of violence against them – and the chance of my being wrongly imprisoned is far worse than your experience, so I’m afraid we can’t do anything about it.”

          it’s not just “unwanted touching”. as the post title says, we are sacrificing women’s careers by allowing hostile environments that drive them out. what Joshua is saying is that he is basically comfortable with sacrificing women’s careers, as long as there is not the slightest bit of risk that his career might be jeopardized.

        • Yates said,

          “Joshua’s comment is really disturbing because it implies that the only consequence to those who are harassed or assaulted is that they were subjected to unwanted physical contact for a moment. This completely ignores the lasting emotional, mental, and even physical strain that harassment and assault cause.”

          This is a false statement. I implied no such thing; rather, Yates inferred it (I have no idea how). I was talking about butts being groped, as I stated explicitly in my comment. I said absolutely nothing about more egregious forms of sexual assault.

          It is my view that a lot of folks exhibit what I call “soft misogyny” on these matters; that is, they seem to think that women are these helpless, fragile little things whose mental and emotional health will be destroyed by a single creep groping them on the train. This is patently ridiculous, and betrays a low view of women’s resilience. I do not share this view.

          Regarding more serious forms of sexual assault (from which lasting emotional scars are expected), those crimes typically result in physical evidence and are well within the purview of law enforcement. Municipal (and campus) police departments have the capability and resources to investigate and bring charges in those matters. Last I checked, this is something they do regularly.

          I’d like to point out that no one has yet proposed a solution here. Dan Simpson started off with a useful description of the problem (in terms of false positives and false negatives); perhaps we should pursue that.

        • K:

          If I were to allege that a person had committed a series of rather minor offenses several years ago, with exactly zero physical evidence substantiating my allegations, then that is exactly the response I would expect. Especially in light of the fact that at the time I quite apparently did not regard the offenses as significant enough to report at the time.

          So yeah, I guess I’m guilty of exactly the lack of sensitivity of which I stand accused. Given the situation as you described it, I think that is exactly how people (myself included) would respond. The suggestion that the burden of proof should be shifted to the defendant is simply unacceptable.

          On another note, do not presume to summarize what I’m “saying.” What I’m “saying” is what I already said in plain English further up this comment thread; your digestion and regurgitation of those statements into easily-slain caricatures (I think the term is “straw men”) is infantile and, well, annoying.

        • Response to sib comment by Joshua Warren:

          The risk that women bear by our collective tolerance of sexual harassment and assault is much much more than just getting their ass grabbed for 3 seconds. You’re plainly stating that you see how the system is extremely biased in your favor, and you wouldn’t have it any other way. You’re a craven coward. Also I’m guessing you approximately zero female friends, because if you did have literally any, the odds are high that you would have some amount of empathy for their experience in a world of frequent sexualized hostility, instead of saying “Nah, I don’t want to increase my risk profile of going to jail for even a day, women continuing to endure the same levels of harassment in silence is the far preferable outcome.” Disgusting.

        • Traditionally, the system to “address these sorts of matters” was for young women to be carefully guarded by their fathers and other male family members (read:the patriarchy) until they were married off, at which point the responsibility shifted to the husband. Men are hesitant to take too many liberties if they know they’ll get a beat down (or worse).

          In modern times, women are out on their own at 18 and often stay single for many years in sex-mixed educational and professional settings. It’s going about as well as I would have expected.

        • So men can’t control themselves unless there is an imminent threat of physical violence?

          It seems to me the wrong sex is being held prisoner.

        • Women were not at all protected from sexual harassment and abuse by being kept at home. Instead, they were subjected to a lot of harassment at home, by family members and friends of the family, which they had no means to address. The only safety in this method is that it ensures thst only your family and your friends can assault “your” women. Statistically, being out in the world makes women *leas* likely to suffer violence and sexual harassment, not more likely.

        • Clearly, women are far more resilient than Joshua Warren who displays such plain cowardice as to reveal his own lack of coping skills. Just another mediocre man willing to subject others to pains he could not withstand himself.

      • No, it’s not cowardly. It’s a concession to a reality in which the person who raises this topic automatically becomes the target of the very abuse being discussed.

        • This is all getting a bit off track but let me just emphasize that anonymous comments are just fine. In addition to anonymous blog comments, I also get lots of emails from people sharing stories and wanting to remain anonymous. It’s great when people can put their names out there with their opinions but I fully respect that not everyone is comfortable with doing that.

    • Society does have such an organisation. But it is so far from your ideal that very few women (and men) who are sexually assaulted will use it.

  3. More and more academic societies are starting to adopt codes of conduct for their conferences. A good CoC will define what conduct is unacceptable, tells people how to report violations, and communicates possible consequences of violating the policy. It can also make a society accountable if it does not follow its own procedures.

    I think the point about cliques in the post helps illustrate why CoCs cannot just exist on paper, they also need visible endorsement from a society’s leadership. To be effective, people have to trust that their reports will be taken seriously.

    • Also, ISBA conferences are notoriously boozy, which certainly doesn’t help. And the poster sessions are always in a room that’s just a bit too small where we’re al crammed in just a bit too tight.

      • Alcohol plays a part in some of these harassment charges. S sounds like he drinks too much at conferences, bothers all the women, but is fine at work. The best quote about alcohol is from a Dick Cavett, NY Times column a few years ago “In large quantities it is destructive but in small quantities it is useful”. He was referring to performers who took a shot to get over stage fright. One or two drinks does relax people and get them talking. But there are people who can’t stop, act stupid, and should not drink.

        The first man sounds like a friend (at least on Facebook) who was looking for more. When he almost drowned her, she should of put a stop to it, along with their friends at the outing. Are grad students classmates or colleagues? If they are adult classmates who socialize with each other often, it has nothing to do with the conference organizers or the subject experts. We have different social rules for both. However I agree that there should be a code of conduct for conferences because of the way unfamiliar social groups meet up.

        Re: her dress at the poster session. I don’t know what she was wearing but presenters, male and female, should wear clothes that are neither too casual or for clubbing. Often the afternoon poster sessions have an adjacent cocktail hour but it is still a business event. Statisticians don’t have to dress like pharma sales reps but should be professional.

        • “I don’t know what she was wearing.”The comment following this statement sounds a lot like you’re assuming she was dressed inappropriately. No matter what she was wearing, his comment was unprofessional and inappropriate. If in fact she was wearing something not appropriate for the event (which I personally doubt was the case), saying that it is “way too sexy for a poster session,” is creepy and unprofessional. There are many ways I can think of if you’d like to suggest to someone to dress more appropriately for an event that do not include commenting on how “sexy” they are.

        • Let’s make it a hypothetical because the author had some type of ongoing situation. The best way to respond to an invasive remark of any kind is to say “Why is that important to you?” with the emphasis on important. It puts the ball back in their court.

          What if a woman tells a colleague ‘your dress is way too sexy for a poster session’? Is that creepy, cranky or mentoring? What if a man with good intentions tells a woman to tell another woman that her clothes are too sexy? Is that double-creepy? Does substituting ‘revealing’ or ‘tight’ make it better? A conference setting, even in warm weather, is different from a campus but sometimes first time presenters don’t realize this. The same goes for clothes with logos. Usually these hotels are so cold that everyone needs a jacket anyway

          I was once in a cramped meeting with a recent graduate who was dressed inappropriately. I sensed the discomfort of the small group. But someone must of have said something to her because I never saw her dress inappropriately again.

    • ” (…) they also need visible endorsement from a society’s leadership”

      I read that the Society for the improvement of Pscyhological Science (SIPS) has a code of conduct. See here:


      Do you think it would be useful for SIPS 2018 to:

      1) put sexual abuse/misconduct on the agenda and/or

      2) set up an (anonymous) study to try and find out just how big of a problem this is in Psychological Science?

  4. Can this kind of behaviour be related to “incentives” somehow?

    That seems to be the hip thing to do these days concerning scientists behaving badly.

    It’s like a magic word: when you say it, everything is explained and there is no accountability whatsoever.

      • Yeah, could be.

        That may also explain all the bad science that has been brought forward in the past decades. Now that the general public has become more familiar with what goes on at universities, the game is over, and you finally begin to see some change.

        I compare it to the church. In the middle ages churches got rich, and had priviliges, and exploited that. Then the general public became more aware/critical/whatever. Perhaps the same is going on with science/universities now.

        Due to the internet, everyone can now have a say, and it’s less about power imbalances anymore. Although the power imbalances are still there, and some “scientists” want to keep holding on to it as long as possible, the game is over.

        I thank people like you and Sanjay Srivastava (also see post above), who want to try and improve things and give this topic much deserved attention. I was also impressed with Simine Vazire, who came forward here:


        I am most familar with psychology, and I wouldn’t be surprised if >40% of PhD students have had affairs, or even relationships, with their “mentors”. It’s not surprising to me, given several possible characteristics of psychology professors and psychology students, and the environment they work in.

        Perhaps some researchers or societies can make a study of this type of thing to (anonymously) get an idea of just about how big of a problem this is. My guess would be it’s a very big problem.

        • “I am most familar with psychology, and I wouldn’t be surprised if >40% of PhD students have had affairs, or even relationships, with their “mentors”. It’s not surprising to me, given several possible characteristics of psychology professors and psychology students, and the environment they work in.

          Perhaps some researchers or societies can make a study of this type of thing to (anonymously) get an idea of just about how big of a problem this is. My guess would be it’s a very big problem.”

          Ah, look at this:


          And, the majority are graduate students…

        • The link lists the amount of received complaints about sexual abuse/misconduct. When reading it, i immediately thought about the hierarchy/branches of sciences, and whether a connection could be made. I wouldn’t be surprised if there would be a correlation between the individual sciences and their place in scientific hiararchy and the problems of sexual abuse/misconduct.

          If you list the amount of complaints received per scientific field, and try and use a simple 3 part hierarchy/branches of the sciences (natural sciences, formal sciences, social sciences, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Branches_of_science) i get this:

          1) English (social science?)
          2) History (social science?)
          3) Science (i don’t know what this refers to)
          4) Sociology (social science?)
          5) Psychology (social science?)
          6) Music (social science?)
          7) Comparative literature (social science?)
          8) Humanities (social science?)
          9) Biology (natural science?)
          10) Anthropology (social science?)
          11) Creative writing (social science?)
          12) Political Science (social science?)
          13) Social science/work (social science?)
          14) Art (social science?)
          15) Philosophy (formal science?)
          16) Communication (social science?)
          17) Education (social science?)
          18) Art history (social science?)
          19) Religious studies (social science?)
          20) Physiscs (natural science?)

          Small sample size of course. Still possibly interesting.

          Things i notice:

          1) the only 2 examples of natural sciences, and the only 1 example of formal science, are low on the list.

          2) perhaps you could even make a further division between the social sciences, and a hierarchy which is in line with the order of no. of complaints.

        • Aren’t English, Music, Art, Creative Writing, Philosophy, and Comparative Lit part of the humanities? I think they would be insulted to be called social science.

        • As an actual social scientist (unlike anyone employed in an English, creative writing, art, philosophy, art history, religious studies, HUMANITIES, or education department) I will tell you that survey is biased based on who distributed it and networks of those who are exposed to the survey. For instance in my field (sociology) it has been highly publicized in many prominent academic blogs and message boards. It will also be biased by which fields have more women in them to some degree, since there will be more women to experience harassment (and yes, women harass men too, but based on the gender distribution of that survey it tends to go the other way in the vast majority of cases)

        • “Now that the general public has become more familiar with what goes on at universities, the game is over, and you finally begin to see some change. ”

          Emphasis on the “some”.

          Here is the latest in the line of “improvements” in the form of “let’s try and sell “confirmatory” v “exploratory” analyses without the reader being able to verify any of this” as a thing that’s useful and will improve matters (when i reason it makes a mockery of the entire purpose of pre-registration and the validity of being able to use the terms “confirmatory” and “exploratory” analyses).


          And, as expected, the entire (social) psychology twitter-sphere praises this initiative as if nothing happened in the past 5 years concerning researchers writing down one thing in their papers, but doing something else (cf. John, Loewenstein, Prelec, 2012)


          In 25 years John et al. (2037) will do some research on this and will come to the shocking conclusion that “confirmatory analyses” has now become the “we hypothesized/predicted” of the John et al. (2012) paper.

          The ammount of incompetence in psychology is so staggering to me, that i actually feel ashamed of it.

  5. Those are serious issues and I am sure they will be handled appropriately by the society.

    The comment on the cliquery of the society is instead unrelated and gratuitous. On the one hand, that behavior is common of many social aggregations. On the other hand, there are people that have done and still do a lot for the Bayesian community beyond posting a blog on the internet. Disparaging their engagement and their service is – to say the least – quite unfair.

    • Thanks for your comment Michele. I also hope that the society will handle these thins properly and seriously.

      I take your point about my last paragraph. The point that I was hoping to make is that the big challenge with dealing with sexual harassment within ISBA is that almost no one is at arms length, which makes it a scary environment to report misbehaviour and harassment. While Lum’s post did a great job in not completely identifying the two men, there was enough information to indicate that these were not “Johnny come lately’s”, but rather people who had a prominent role in the Bayesian community.

      I would edit the post, but I can’t think of a better way to say what I need to say.

      • Thank you for your reply. I understand and appreciate the point you are making. Indeed, this is a general problem of social aggregation. Certainly, not one of collusion.

      • > On the one hand, that behavior is common of many social aggregations.
        But cliques do additional damage and for the same reason need codes of conduct that attempt to lessen that.

        As for the main focus here (but in a wider context than the events Kristian reported on which I completely believe given I knew her when at Duke but only learned about today) given all the uncertainties, possible actions, loss functions, dramatic changes in environment, etc. some timely scholarship would seem to be in order.

        All my recollections of people confiding in me in the past (more women but also men) almost always there was a request not to do anything/say anything in public (even when there was a hand written signed letter documenting the sexual proposal and a lawyer will do initiate the case pro bono). Given that has changed opportunities to prevent and deal with this behaviour should be maximized.

        So that we better know how to be wise about taking women seriously and shunning men we hear about (for how long) when that does more good than harm.

      • Response of the conference organizers to unsavory incidents reported in social media has become real time rapid. There was an incident of bullying at AGU this week which was met by multiple officials tweeting support of the grad student. Ultimate outcome not clear yet

    • A less pejorative description might be that ISBA conferences have a strong feeling of family, with multiple generations of statisticians connected by academic lineages and cousin-like relationships. At its best, the atmosphere is warmer, more open, and less obviously hierarchical than other conferences. But, as in families, the closeness can also be silencing and the lack of boundaries enabling. It will be a challenging but worthwhile task to retain what makes ISBA special but remove the inadvertent shelter it might provide to abusive behavior.

  6. Thanks for posting this Dan! I expect a solid and appropriate reaction from the ISBA board. In the meantime, thinking hard about what to do on an individual level. Any suggestion welcome!

    • Kristian Lum did all the work and she should be showered in gifts and goodwill for it. This is a minimal effort signal boost.

      On an individual level, I don’t really know. Except to take women seriously, shun men you hear about, and avoid the “I’m gonna kill him” macho posturing. Male bullsh*t got us into this mess, it will not get us out of it.

      • “Male bullsh*t got us into this mess, it will not get us out of it.”

        I would like to note that it seems possible to debate what is “male” and male, or “macho” and macho, or “being a man” and being a man.

        For instance, if i hear stories about how male scientists (the “old boys network”) may have formed groups of “friends” who put eachother on their papers as co-authors, or “work together” to keep criticism out, or give eachother the best jobs, i am always amazed that some folks call this “male bullsh*t”. I wouldn’t dare call myself a man if i were to have acted like that, and i am pretty sure many others wouldn’t either.

        So what i am trying to say is that “male” in the “male bullsh*t” could perhaps depend on what you view as male/manly/being a man, etc. To me, any abuser is per my definition not a real man.

        • i don’t understand your comment, but perhaps that has to do with me not being familiar and/or sensitive to all the recent gender discussions. It is not my intention to be disrespectful and/or to offend anyone. If i do, or did, i apologize.

          Should this be helpful to make clear what i wanted to make clear:

          I was not commenting on your use of “male bs” in the sense that you should have called it “female bs”.

          I was commenting on that some folks might question whether the “male” in “male bs” is representative of being male (in the sense that some folks might attribute actions/characteristics/whatever to being/acting male that do not fit with abusers and their actions)

        • I’m reasonably comfortable that people understand that masculinity and male bs encompasses a vast array of behaviours and I don’t need to point out that I’m not referring to all men.

  7. Along with all the problems discussed above regarding sexual assault, power imbalances, etc., there’s also the very basic concern that it’s usually a bad idea to get a reputation as a complainer or troublemaker. When I’ve seen unethical behavior at work, I’ve told it to people but usually not in a public forum—that is, either I’ve named names but while telling people one at a time (that is, using gossip channels) or I’ve spoken about the problem in general terms without naming names. One reason for this is the fear that the sort of person who would behave unethically is also the sort of person who would retaliate if publicly exposed. To put it in game-theoretic language, we have a prisoner’s dilemma and a coordination problem, hence the “me too” movement and the pattern of years of silence, followed by cascading revelations. Sexual harassment, also lots of plain old lying, cheating, and stealing: and, again, the sorts of people who do these things might well be the sorts of people who will retaliate.

    It’s also my impression that a lot of people who misbehave don’t realize they’re hurting people. I mean, sure, they realize they’re breaking the rules and sometimes breaking the law, but they don’t quite realize it’s bad behavior: maybe they think that “everybody does it” or they think that their intentions are so clear that anyone who objects has been willfully misunderstanding them. Then, when these abusers are confronted with their behavior, they can feel betrayed. I say this not in any way to excuse bad behavior; rather, I’m just trying to make sense of behavior I’ve seen, where someone is called out on his misdeeds and then has the reaction that his accuser has stabbed him in the back. As if the history of the abuse has implicated the person being abused into a sort of complicity. Which is really horrible: something bad happens, you shake it off, and then in the mind of the person who did the bad thing, you’re now in on the joke.

    • Andrew, you may be right about the mindset of the abusers. Though, as a woman who’s been on the receiving end of horrible behavior, I do not have the luxury to speculate about abuser’s psychology. I don’t know who S is. I suspect, as a prominent Bayesian, you do. I also suspect you’re in a better-than-average position to call him and abusive statisticians like him out on their bad behavior and explain to them why it’s wrong. I shouldn’t have to explain why those who are abused aren’t always able to do the calling out themselves. Again, as a victim, I can attest that the passivity of innocent bystanders who should know better adds enormous insult to injury.

      • Anon:

        No, I have no idea who S is. I am a prominent Bayesian but I’m not involved much in conference committees, parties, etc., and I really have no idea who’s being talked about there. That said, I’ve seen bad behavior at conferences and other work settings (and I’ve been on the receiving end of bad behavior, but not of sexual harassment), and it is surprisingly difficult to call people out on it, either while it’s happening or later on. I agree that we should all be better at doing this; that’s the coordination problem.

        Also, just on a side note, I don’t think of speculating about abusers’ psychology as a “luxury.” When something disturbing happens, I try to understand it. My psychological explanation might well be wrong—I certainly don’t claim any expertise in the area—and I don’t know that it adds any value. But when I see someone behaving badly to myself or others, I do try to understand their motivations; it’s one way for me to try to get a handle on the situation.

        • “I’ve seen bad behavior at conferences and other work settings […] and it is surprisingly difficult to call people out on it either while it’s happening or later on. I agree that we should all be better at doing this; that’s the coordination problem.”

          Responding in the moment may not be within reach for most people, but let’s face it, if we don’t respond afterwards it’s because the ‘bad behavior’ is acceptable in our social group and nobody is willing to share in the risk experienced by the target of the bad behavior. If the whole #MeToo moment has taught people anything, I hope it taught people that step #1 is checking in with the person affected most and offering some appropriate support. Likely even “hey I saw/heard that too and it was gross” will be meaningful support.

        • Krzysztof:

          I disagree with your statement that a lack of systematic responses to bad behavior implies that “let’s face it, if we don’t respond afterwards it’s because the ‘bad behavior’ is acceptable in our social group.”

          Let’s step away from sexual harassment for a moment and consider the more general case of whistleblowing. The sad pattern is that whistleblowers get ignored or even punished.

          Here’s an example. Ten years ago or so, someone pointed me to Ed Wegman’s pattern of bad behavior (copying material from other sources without attribution). Ed Wegman is now retired, I guess, but he used to be a prominent figure within statistics; among other things, he received the Founders Award from the American Statistical Association. I was a third party in this dispute, but it bothered me enough that I screamed about it. (You could well argue that I’d better be spending my time screaming about worse offenses than that, but that’s another story, akin to an argument that Vin Scully should’ve been a newscaster rather than a sportscaster.) Anyway, in the Wegman case I blogged, I wrote articles, I contacted the American Statistical Association. Others did more than I did on this whistleblowing. Anyway, it had no effect. OK, maybe that’s fine. It’s not my job to judge what Ed Wegman’s employer should do upon hearing that he violated academic norms.

          Another example is the work of Nick Brown and others exposing flaws in the work of Brian Wansink, i.e. pizzagate. Again, they’re third parties, they got involved and they put themselves out there. It can be risky. People can get attacked for drawing attention to research misconduct.

          I am not at all trying to equate those sorts of professional misconduct with assault and sexual harassment. My point only is that it can be difficult to call out rulebreakers, and calling out rulebreakers can result in retaliation, hence the coordination problem. If there is no coordination and few people are calling out rulebreakers, I don’t think that should be taken to mean that the bad behavior is considered acceptable. I think movements like “me too” are good for many reasons, including the breaking of the coordination problem.

        • Yes, I was thinking about Ed Wegman today as well. After all the publicity, he is still on the organizing committee for SDSS (http://ww2.amstat.org/meetings/sdss/2018/index.cfm) which is being held in his honor. (“The 2018 Symposium on Data Science and Statistics (SDSS) will be held in honor of Edward J. Wegman, who has done seminal work in many areas within the interface of statistics and computing science—as well as data visualization—and has been a driving force in creating the SDSS and its predecessors.”)

        • Jesus. H. Christ. If they’re gonna honor Wegman, I hope they honor all the people whose work he and his colleagues published as their own, without attribution.

        • I was not aware either of “S” (in fact, I am still not aware of his contributions) or this conference. Now that Google has suspended him, I do hope that something (perhaps a campaign to shame the SDSS Organizing committee) will be done to cancel the honoring at this conference. There is not much difference between power wielded to advance one’s professional interests and one’s prurient interests. Both start and end at the same place: the feeling that persons in power can get away from exploiting others. Both leave behind emotional scars even though the recipients in one case are overwhelmingly of one group.

        • Andrew: I appreciate your response and that this is something you’re being thoughtful about. It occurs to me that for personal reasons I don’t worry about abstract future career retaliation very much so the whole coordination problem is a little lost on me.

        • Andrew, if you have no idea, just ask someone. I had no idea either; I don’t spend any time in Bayesian circles. And yet when I asked, two Bayesian (male) friends instantly and independently identified S to me, and said “yes, this is common knowledge”. The author of the post clearly did not intend to make it hard to figure this out. It is more comfortable not to know and not to name names; but I don’t think we can afford that luxury now.

          At any rate, looks like ISBA is getting involved and possibly other societies, so my guess is whether to keep it anonymous is not going to be our decision for much longer.

          On a separate note, I am sad to see women commenting mostly anonymously on this post. I realize it is easier for me to sign my name as I have no stakes in the Bayesian community whatsoever, but it’s just sad to see women feel so threatened by the culture that they choose to remain anonymous.

        • I think it’s understandable but sad and I can leave my name and avatar because it’s also not my community. At some point what happened in the #metoo moment is that women did start putting their names out there (and suffering the consequences for that) and Kristian Lum has done that, but it will take a bit of time I suspect before more academic women are willing to come forward publicly especially in smaller fields. Also, even for me, just based on the medium article and twitter thread it was not hard to make a reasonable inference (though I don’t know for sure). I think with some of the first cases that started coming into the public view newspaper reporters got independent information from a large number of women before writing about the specific predators.

    • Along with all the problems discussed above regarding sexual assault, power imbalances, etc., there’s also the very basic concern that it’s usually a bad idea to get a reputation as a complainer or troublemaker. When I’ve seen unethical behavior at work, I’ve told it to people but usually not in a public forum—that is, either I’ve named names but while telling people one at a time (that is, using gossip channels) or I’ve spoken about the problem in general terms without naming names. One reason for this is the fear that the sort of person who would behave unethically is also the sort of person who would retaliate if publicly exposed.

      Yes! Speaking up about bad behavior is a statement of faith in your community: for it to be rational, you have to believe that you matter to the community, or at least that the norms of decency do. This faith does not seem justified to me in general, and so I tend to view speaking up anyway as an act of self-sacrifice.

      • What I hope is that everyone in our community has a senior colleague that they can take these issues to. That senior colleague could then approach the conference organizers (or whomever the appropriate people would be) and tell them what happened without naming the accuser. While it’s unclear to me what action should be taken once that occurs, at least it would provide (a) anonymity to the accuser and, if sufficient evidence is found (e.g., multiple complaints), (b) an opportunity to prevent future complaints (via whatever form of punishment seems necessary).

        And if you find yourself without a senior colleague you can trust, I’d direct you to my Department Chair, Leslie McClure, aka, Stat Girl:

  8. Dan: Thank you for putting up this (yes minimal) effort, I really appreciate seeing this message in a variety of venues.

  9. Assume that the name of S becomes public. What punishment should he receive and via what process? Punishment could come from a variety of organizations, most importantly the police, but also from his home university and from various professional organizations.

      • Many statisticians have pointed out that “S” is widely known for this behavior. I look forward to seeing how quickly “S” tucks his tail and runs once the notion of a process comes up that might expose the sheer volume of the community’s knowledge about his actions. These people do not thrive on sunlight no matter how many times they claim to want due process.

  10. I have a meta-question about this post. I agree with the content, which is easy for me to do, being outside of ISBA and not the kind of person who smacks butts without consent. Or tries to sleep with their grad students (which would be tough anyway, because I don’t have grad students).

    Here’s my sitch: Lots of political issues have something to do with statistics. When I’m talking with someone about a political issue (criminal justice, voter surveys, public support for X, what we can know about Y cultural thing, etc), and I recognize there’s an important statistical component that they don’t recognize, I point them to Andrew’s blog. This is a really nice place to learn about statistical thinking, without it being related to ‘hot button’ issues.

    Maybe I’m the only person who does this. If that’s the case then please ignore the rest.

    For my purposes, it’s nice that this blog focuses primarily on scientific questions — most posts have to do with psychology, or non-ideological social science. They demonstrate how to think about statistics without making claims that an ideologically-motivated person would find abhorrent. I consider it a plus that Sailer posted regularly here, though I haven’t seen him in a bit.

    The unfortunate truth is that a post like this will ‘turn off’ a significant number of people. They will assign the blog an ideological agenda that has nothing to do with the actual content of the post, and subsequently ignore the value of statistical thinking presented here. Very few people that I talk with would be OK with sexual harassment at statistics conferences or anywhere. But the title ‘We need to stop sacrificing women on the altar of deeply mediocre men’ counts as a signal for an ideological agenda that many people are opposed to, once again, apart from the actual content.

    • Although I do not understand how “women should not be harassed by anyone but especially not by senior members of their professional community during work events” is a political position.

      • I’m not sure what the ‘I’m fine with that’ refers to. Sorry!

        I actually think ‘women should not be harassed by anyone but especially not by senior members of their professional community during work events’ is much less of an ideological signal than ‘We need to stop sacrificing women on the altar of deeply mediocre men’. Similarly, ‘men who sexually assault women are bad for our academic community, bad for women, and should be excluded’ is less of a signal than ‘keep the creeps out’. Why that is would be difficult for me to say.

        • I’m 100% fine with people being turned off because I posted this with this title. I can’t fix the fact that some people react to seeing a title they disagree with by an occasional co-blogger by deciding that there is nothing of value on the site.

          Also, given that the linked article is about a woman who saw the only practical way to avoid sexual harassment at work was to leave the field entirely, I think it’s fair to say that we are sacrificing their careers in favour of ensuring that these senior men are not incorrectly sanctioned.

          The “mediocre” part was a judgement call, but it made the title flow better.

          I’m also pretty sure I stole the phrase from somewhere. Most likely from a woman.

        • I think the core of the objection is that the title isn’t a true summary of Kristian Lum’s account. The impression I have is that S is very far from mediocre as a researcher and wielder of influence and power: If he were mediocre he would not be capable of being such a serious problem.

        • The title isn’t a summary of Kristian Lum’s account. You can find a title like that in her account. The title is a summary of my views (and while I definitely defer to Kristian’s account, it’s a blog under my name, so that should be clear).

        • Someone’s work makes them a good person regardless of behavior? Is that what you are saying, that this S is not mediocre or worse as a person because he has a good publication record?

        • It doesn’t matter in the slightest whether S is Fisher reborn (or Jeffrey, Savage, Lindley, Box, etc., maybe all together in a big Bayesians Reborn All Stars team). Dan Simpson’s is 100% correct: if even one of the numerous accusations against him are true, S (whose name, and probably soon-to-be-ex-employer) is a mediocre man, and all scientific contributions in the world won’t change this fact. In the twenty-first century we should really stop mistaking scientific excellence with human decency: James Watson, Thomas Edison and Richard Owen come to mind, among other “excellent” jerks.

        • whoops, I ate part of my comment. It was “S, (whose name, and probably soon-to-be-employer are at this point in time well-known)[..]”.

        • Thank you a million times for the post and these comments, Dr. Simpson. I’ve just read countless examples of sexual harassment and violence towards women (from a closed #wetoo group). In a vast majority of these stories, the assaulter/harasser faced absolutely no consequences. After processing those stories, your responses to Adam here literally brought tears to my eyes because they represent an opposing force to the harassment culture.

          Adam, the culture has to change and it is changing. It’s fantastic that the authors of this blog do not follow the rules of the old harassment/rape culture and try to please misogynists. That’s one way to change things.

        • I don’t think this was the intention of the title but adding “mediocre” implies that it adds ability is relavant. It doesn’t matter if the man is great or mediocre–the behavior is disqualifying. Likewise, it doesn’t matter if the victim is great, mediocre, or terrible in the field, they deserve justice. This thought is obvious enough from the post but I still think it’s worth saying explicitly.

    • “… the title ‘We need to stop sacrificing women on the altar of deeply mediocre men’ counts as a signal for an ideological agenda that many people are opposed to”

      I didn’t think of it as an agenda before but now that you mention it, it’s a really good one.

    • “The unfortunate truth is that a post like this will ‘turn off’ a significant number of people.”

      If we keep talking about this issue, I wonder if those people will just leave statistics, this could also be a good strategy. It might lower HR costs for companies that hire statisticians.

    • Adam:

      My quick response is that I don’t think that the presence of this particular post should reduce (or, for that matter, increase) anyone’s trust in the statistical or social science posts on this blog. I just don’t see it.

      My longer response is that we do occasionally post on hot button topics, including current political debates, campaigns, elections, etc. In recent years the blog has not had such a strong focus on politics, but hot button issues do come up from time to time.

      My main response is that we get value from the posts and the comment threads. Dan’s post was not statistically-focused and it was on a hot-button issue; fine. Meanwhile the comments lead to interesting discussions in all sorts of directions. I like that this blog can have calm discussions, even on hot-button topics. That’s not always so easy to find on the internet. Hey, a few years ago we even had a calm blog discussion about racism!

        • I was checking for replies and just saw this.

          While it’s fun (hence the :p), tone and style matters a lot when communicating ideas to actual people. We aren’t perfectly rational agents who only read evidence and then update our priors. I’m not sure we should be, either.

      • Hi Andrew!

        Thanks! I was originally not going to reply because it’s a bit much to talk about a blog with the guy who runs it… But I think people have been reading my comment a bit differently than I intended, so here’s a good place to clarify.

        In response to yours:
        ‘ I don’t think that the presence of this particular post should reduce (or, for that matter, increase) anyone’s trust in the statistical or social science posts on this blog’
        Yeah. it shouldn’t. I think it does though. I’ll give an example below, but you may well disagree with that as well. And regardless of if you agree, it’s your blog! If an article like this one appeared every week, I wouldn’t be able to refer some people to your blog for takes on statistics. That’s all; not the end of the world.

        ‘I like that this blog can have calm discussions, even on hot-button topics. That’s not always so easy to find on the internet.’
        Heck yes! Thanks again for running this place, it’s great.

        About my comment:
        I tried to split up what I saw as ‘signals for an ideological agenda’ from the actual content. Because once again, very few people that I interact with would tolerate sexual assault in their communities. As such, very few would be against the content of the post. My whole problem involves maybe.. 3 lines from Dan’s post? The title, the last line, and the talk of ‘cliquiness.’

        The reason I don’t like these lines: a few months ago, I talked with an old prof about the under-representation of women in Philosophy. Some people argue the under-representation is due to discrimination^1 in admission and hiring. Others argue that it’s due to a lack of interest^2 in philosophy before women ever take a Philosophy class. Both sides of this argument could benefit from statistical thinking, and I directed my old prof to this blog in order to read a few posts about stats without the highly-charged context. Everything about this was gravy.

        If I had sent my prof here and the first text that they saw was ‘We need to stop sacrificing women on the altar of deeply mediocre men,’ I doubt they could’ve divorced the content of the blog from those lines. A perfect truth-seeker could do so, but many people can’t (myself included, for different sorts of issues).

        1: For the curious, check out the Eastern division of the APA (philosophical, not psychological) ‘smoker’. It was (maybe still is) VERY INFLUENTIAL for job searchers, and is the perfect example of an ‘old boys club.’ Obviously not the whole story for this side of the argument, but it gives a taste.

        2: I was going to include something here out of a sense of fairness but nothing off the top of my head is either good or interesting. If anyone is dying for a reference, I’m sure Brian Leiter talked about it at some point…

        • Adam:

          I agree that the “mediocre” thing was a slip-up on Dan’s part. After all, there are harassers who are brilliant scientists, true leaders in the field. In some ways, that’s even more of a problem. After all, it’s easy to shun someone who’s obnoxious and mediocre, not so easy when the person has great intellectual strengths.

          But blog posts are rarely perfect. I hope that if you sent colleagues to this blog and they happen to notice a diversity of posts, including the writings of Dan Simpson, Bob Carpenter, myself, and others, that they’ll accept that we present a range of perspectives!

        • As for the last line: it completely reflects how I feel at this moment of time.

          As for “cliques”: I tried several other words but that was the one that was true. It’s also one commonly applied in a his context. Sometimes you need to write the truth as you see it.

          I’ve already talked about the title.

          In the end, it’s not Auden it’s a blog post. A close reading isn’t going to get more information out of it.

  11. Geeze, I’ve never come across any professor who was sexually suggestive or gross. So I’m really astounded. But I always told my friends that don’t get so inebriated that they are physically vulnerable. Very tragic culture we’ve honed apparently. It truly saddens me because this was not the US that I grew up in.

  12. Dan, please keep doing what you’re doing. Amongst the great chorus of strong voices regularly featured on this blog, your solo notes, sir, can make a jaw drop.

    My training load over the past several months has been such that I haven’t taken the time to ponder the ramifications of the #metoo movement for my academic career. But your post—and, of course, the amazing Kristian Lum piece that inspired it—came at just the right time that I’m now thinking about how I might address these issues within my own academic communities and how I’ll work with my future graduate students to support them and help keep them safe. Thank you for shaking a man up.

    • I’d really prefer the conversation to focus on Kristian. I only posted to amplify her words. The only way that sexism has affected my career is that I don’t get to work with fabulous statisticians like Kristian.

      I encourage you to stop encouraging men for doing almost nothing and to start asking why we’re not doing more.

      • Dan: Thanks for making me aware of Kristian’s post and also for demonstrating how to act as a male person in this kind of context. I could use a couple dozen more role models for that kind of behavior at this point in time.

        So: Why are we not doing more?

  13. Thanks for this post. I wanted to add my voice here, because – after reading through the 50+ comments, I was disappointed by the tenor of the conversation – and the fact that there were only (I think) two women in the thread. I’m a woman, but I’m posting anonymously because I don’t feel comfortable sharing my name/link.

    I’m disappointed by the push-back I’m seeing by the early commenters, and the nature of their complaints:
    – #NotAllMen: that is, the logical fallacy that because something doesn’t apply to all X, it shouldn’t be mentioned or addressed.
    – Diluting the purity of a stats blog with an “ideological agenda”: that is, that speaking out against harassment in a short blog post is too burdensomely political, even alienating (!).
    – Victim blaming: that is, that in a primordial idyllic Past, when men were men etc, this dangerous mixing of the sexes didn’t happen. Also, alcohol.
    – Fear of false accusations: that is, that enough women take the personal and professional risk of falsely accusing innocent men as to make this a real concern and something to guard against.

    I really want to shut down each of these arguments, one by one. But I’m fed up with trying to yank people towards empathy. So I’ll just address one: first, casting back to mythical, more moral pasts is, in and of itself, an ideological agenda – one commonly used by conservatives. That is, after all, a definition of conservatism, right? Yet these pasts are mostly fictional. See, for example, Cato the Elder’s love of a manly Rome, devoid of feminizing Greek culture. See Trump’s making America great again. Can someone put dates and metrics on the when the “great” started and ended? Who was it so “great” for?

    Rape and sexual harassment are underreported, but I would hazard that the “men were men” era of yore did not, actually, protect women. And in countries where much is made of “protecting” women from the hazards of other men, women’s rights and freedom are curtailed. Those are societies I don’t want to live in, because it’s suffocating.

    Gloria Steinem says women become more radical as they age. I think it’s because the effect of a lifetime of small, daily grievances (such as enthusiastically coming to your blog, Andrew, for the stats – only to find a reasonable blog post followed by a comment section complaining about that post) is cumulative. So: thanks for the post, Dan, and please feel free to continue using this platform to make reasonable pleas for obvious ethical standards…

    • So, I’m going to go in a different direction entirely, and maybe it amplifies what you’re saying.

      Look, coming up behind a woman and grabbing her butt or crotch or the like goes a lot beyond a whistle or a catcall, or an inappropriate verbal suggestion, doing it while restraining someone for example is amplification for a felony charge here in CA.

      In CA we have laws against “sexual battery” which simply means touching someone’s private/sexual organs without permission for your own pleasure. It can be misdemeanor or felony depending on severity. In CA the self defense laws allow you to use reasonable force to prevent battery, that is, just to prevent being *touched* even without the real threat of physical harm. A man who comes up behind a woman and grabs her buttocks should receive as a minimum in my opinion a swift stomp to the bridge of the foot hopefully breaking several metatarsals, a hard elbow to the face hopefully breaking the nose, turn with a leg sweep putting them off balance, push backwards, and a quick fall to the ground, followed by a wrist lock and a foot to the neck, and a call for “help this man attacked me someone call the police”.

      Now, all of these maneuvers can be taught in something like a weekend course in self defense, and should be practiced. They aren’t actually that difficult to carry out, especially on someone who isn’t expecting the response. It might be a low grade attempt at momentary contact, but when the contact comes unexpectedly from behind by a larger person, you don’t know, you don’t have time to find out. The whole thing should be over in about 5 seconds:

      Here for example is a real life case of a woman using these kinds of techniques against a sexual predator:


      Now, obviously, in self defense situations, it’s important to know something about self defense techniques, and to know something about the law. But sexual battery is a crime here in CA, and unexpected sexual battery from behind by a person larger than you justifies a lot more response than a situation where the person is more overt and the victim can see the attempt and put a stop to it verbally for example.

      Dan may consider this macho posturing, I don’t. I don’t want to hear about any women in my life being physically victimized, and I believe the best way to avoid that is for them to have effective knowledge about self defense. Obviously, the physical response should be modulated to the degree of threat, and this is true for all self defense situations.

      • I don’t agree with any suggestion that it’s a woman’s job to ensure she’s not harassed / protect herself when she’s being assaulted.

        Also I’m pretty sure women know self defence exist but also know that beating the snot out of someone at a poster session will cause a scene (which they want to avoid. See Andrew’s comments up thread)

        • If you think I mean that we shouldn’t do other things because women should just take care of themselves, then no that’s not at all what I’m saying. What I’m saying is, in addition to whatever else we do, all people should learn to protect themselves from assault and battery, and while men are more likely to learn this stuff, women need it as much or more.

          Obviously, in the middle of a poster session may not be the issue I’m referring to here. but as you leave “a somewhat boozy evening mixer” might be much more the scenario I have in mind.

        • Also, any career where you regularly put up with someone grabbing your ass in the middle of poster sessions and you can’t stomp around and yell “Don’t you EVER grab my ass again you sonofabitch” because you’ll be ostracized from success in that career… is not a good career and we should all get the fuck out of it whether we’re women or men.

        • This post and line of arguing upsets me tremendously (yes, woman here).

          I know self-defense, and what you describe, really, this is not how reality works. You never know how you will respond when someone does something like that to you. Generally, people either fight back, try get away from the situation, or freeze. There is often relatively little control over how you react to such an aggression in such a moment.

          Beyond that: Fighting back is incredibly risky in such a public situation. Hell, even in a private situation it is incredibly risky, and not necessarily the smart thing to do.

          “Solutions” like this are not helpful, and just make victims feel like crap because this makes it seem like it is their own fault they were harassed or worse. You should have just stopped it from happening! Why didn’t you scream! Why didn’t you just punch the person! People are just trying to survive the situation in the best way they can, figuratively and some times literally.

        • Male, Australian, email linked but name withheld.

          I had this conversation with a friend of mine a long time ago. Around the university campus, several women had been sexually assaulted (I’m unsure of numbers or exact severity) and a safety campaign had been initiated. My friend was outraged. She interpreted this as victim-blaming, and shifting responsibility away from men. When I pushed her for her solution, she furiously spat “how about teaching men not to rape?”.

          Her anger was justified, 100%. It was an unacceptable situation, after all. But her response could charitably be described as misguided. Men are taught not to rape. Despite what people say about a culture of acceptance, I can’t think of a single guy I know who would accept such behaviour. Even when I was in the military, even in the most macho, male-dominated part of it, rape was unacceptable and was considered the mark of a coward – not the kind of person who soldiers look favourably upon. Men are taught not to rape. So why does it happen? Well, clearly, the lessons didn’t stick for some.

          My logic is as follows; Further education might have marginal benefits, the majority of men who would not sexually assault a woman don’t need a class to reinforce the message, and the majority of men who would sexually assault a woman are hardly likely to pay attention to the message in such a class. Teaching women to protect themselves is not blaming the victim, but rather it’s a hedge against that subset of men for whom the social conditioning has failed. This does not mean they’re responsible for the attack (regardless of what some attackers claim), but is an extension of the principle that women ought not to be seen as defenseless targets or helpless victims. This is not about shifting responsibility. This is about mitigating the damage.

          To put this in a different context, consider driving a car. I can choose whether or not to wear a seatbelt. (Hypothetically, of course…in Australia it’s an offense to not wear it.) Now, if everyone does the right thing, I should have no need for it. Therefore, in an ideal world, I should not have to wear it. In an ideal world. Let’s put aside the issue of random accidents for a moment (as I do not want to imply that sexual assault and rape is just an accident that sometimes happens). Even if I do the right thing, and mind my own business, there is a non-zero chance that someone else will not. They’ll cut across my lane, ignore right-of-way, run a red light, or otherwise violate the road rules. Sooner or later, I am likely to experience a collision. In that situation, despite my lack of culpability, my outcomes will be much better if I am wearing a seatbelt. I’m not wearing it because it’s my fault if I get injured, I’m wearing it because I don’t want to be injured and the actions of other people are not within my control.

          Now, is there more we men should do? Certainly. I stop short of blanket support for the woman making the accusation, but certainly moves in this direction would be a smart approach. Despite this, I don’t think teaching women how to fight back is a bad thing, nor does it imply responsibility for the attack on their part. There would be potential unintended consequences, but I think on balance it would be a net positive. Scenes might be made, yes, but with any luck the fear of retribution would deter opportunists, much like a lock on the door deters amateur thieves. A scene isn’t made if a groper is afraid to attempt it. Not a perfect solution, but I think it’s a far better proposal than you give it credit for.

        • Thanks Anonymous, your opinion very closely mirrors mine. We teach people to defend themselves not because as a society we don’t plan to support them and they’re out on their own… instead it’s because the outcomes will be better if they have these skills and we want them to have the better outcomes.

        • Indeed. I choose anonymity because both extremes of this argument miss the point, and discovery of someone advocating a moderate position can be lethal to a career in political science. Pragmatism dictates that when prevention breaks down, damage mitigation takes over. It doesn’t indicate responsibility, and womens’ advocates desperately need to recognise this as their dogmatism is doing more harm than good. Appealing to law and rules only works when people follow them. A quick glance at crime statistics suggest that this would be foolish. This is the point where we bring in Andrew’s point above…we ought not just condemn attackers, but seek to understand them so that the causal conditions can be addressed. But of course, we should not stop there. We cannot simply give everyone a gun and expect that the crime problem will address itself. Rather, we should address every possible aspect we can identify, and resist monocausal explanations or solutions. Given your other posts, I’m sure we agree on this as well.

          Which means I should explain: @Dan Simpson, not accusing you of blind dogmatism – rather, perhaps a lack of pragmatism borne of removal from the realities of violence and violent action. (Not that I wish this on you or anyone else.) The car analogy was never intended to insult your intelligence, but rather to see how the concept works within a less politically-charged medium. In my experience, reasoning by analogy often works to take the heat out of the discussion. This blog is remarkably civil in its debates, and I hope that even though I think you missed the point re: self defence, you understand that I respect your position regardless.

        • Anonymous Woman here. I wasn’t going to say anything, but after the repeated, repetitive, not-said-only-twice notion of women learning a “martial art – like chess!” continued, I was – well, getting mad.

          First: the notion that women learning self-defense is a good solution to the above complaints (or somehow, in some other way, relevant to discussions of women’s harassment leading to women leaving professional fields) is solutionism instead of listening.

          I’m not going to yank you towards empathy, but I’ll implore you only once: try listening first. No one asked you for the solution to a completely different problem. You misunderstand your female friend’s anger as “misguided” (thanks for the charity, too! very big-hearted…) – maybe she was getting frustrated with *you*? And with the campaign? And, given that, did you stop to wonder why? Again, empathy.

          Why, I wonder, do you think *I’m* frustrated with you? Am I angry about sexual harassment? Yes, definitely. But I’m *also* angry at *your* reading through reams and reams of men using technical jargon to inflate half-thought arguments about how and why and whether women do get harassed and then how and what should women do about it. (And also how and whether and why women should be “protected”.) Let me frame it in stats terms: I (and many women) have had many opportunities to update our priors. We have a lot more data than you do. Our coping mechanisms are probably better than the ones formulated by people with much less data. I’ve never been physically assaulted. That’s rare. But I have been: catcalled, poked, touched, and demeaned very often, by a variety of men in a variety of situations. When do I judo chop? The president has multiple accusations of sexual assault against him. Can I judo chop my despair that I live in a world that devalues women’s voices so much?

          But you specify this isn’t about harassment, you want to solve the sexual assault issue (or, not solve, but add another “weapon” to women’s arsenal). This encouragement to invest in Highly Effective Martial Arts perpetuates the (false) notion that most sexual assault happens by strangers hiding the bushes and things like that. That it’s literally about physical force. What about the (far more likely) assault that happens from someone you know? There are stats on this. Do you really think it’s a matter of force? Again, I’m despairing here – it’s like you haven’t actually read many (any) #MeToo stories. It’s like you haven’t looked at the data. It’s like you didn’t stop to understand why your friend was mad, but were instead interested in perpetuating your Very Helpful Solution that (somehow, somewhy) women have chosen to neglect.

          So: thanks for the suggestion. It’s not very helpful – i.e. not very pragmatic. I hope this updates your priors.

        • I think you got your Dan’s mixed up (a search for self defense will find Dan Simpson being wary of that as a solution).

          Certainly agree with you and Anonymous Woman below.

        • When a man is looking to get his jollies by sexually assaulting someone then he is going to look for the easiest target.

          Having a safety campaign will lessen the risk of some women becoming the target (the ones who change their behavior) but will increase the risk for other women (the ones who weren’t part of the campaign or didn’t change their behavior). It’s effectively a zero-sum game.

          For all women, in totality, a safety campaign doesn’t improve anything – although for individual women heeding the campaign might be a good thing. That’s why your friend ‘furiously spat “how about teaching men not to rape?”’.

        • ‘Spat’ was carefully chosen, as the percussiveness of her utterance is burned into my memory.

          As for zero sum, I have my doubts. That assumes potential attackers have access to this information, questionable given the opportunism characterising the majority of attackers. (I could be wrong on this point though, I am not a specialist.) It certainly raises the uncertainty regarding the vulnerability of individuals, and thus ought to deter. Law of unintended consequences may of course apply.

          I’d like to hear a justification for how you see this zero sum situation arising though. Short of people wearing signs to denote their readiness, I fail to see how this might translate into a net neutral position for women. I can see, at worst, small gains due to resistance and at best big gains due to uncertainty and deterrence. I just don’t follow how your conclusions could translate to real life. (Admittedly, my conclusions are biased, based on my military background and preparation for ambush. Not exactly apples and apples, but I feel there is a certain similarity.)

        • If a women learns self-defence and is attacked – she could fight back but she was still attacked.

          If a women learns self-defence and is not attacked because of it then the predator is going to look else where for someone else to victimise.

          If every women learns self-defence then a predator will use some other means to over power her – drugs, weapons etc.

        • If a person learns defensive driving and doesn’t get in an accident, then bad drivers will just crash into other people who didn’t take defensive driving courses… therefore we shouldn’t bother with defensive driving courses?

          The deeper thing I think your point continues to emphasize is that various people have *different priorities* about *what the real problem is* and this is really not explicitly understood and so we’ve got a lot of talking past each other.

          If your main priority is to eliminate sexual battery from even occurring at conferences, then teaching individual women techniques of self defense probably doesn’t lower the incidence rate, it just changes the victims. Any lowered incidence will be an indirect effect of men either finding fewer opportunities, or getting hurt and wary of repeating… both of which are hard to predict the magnitude of.

          On the other hand, if you are a woman, and your main concern is that sexual battery doesn’t happen to you… then there are tools you can learn about to reduce the risk. Suggesting that we shouldn’t point this out because it doesn’t solve the real problem is indirectly, and probably unintentionally a value judgement that implies individual women shouldn’t take action for themselves unless all women are going to benefit and only “all women benefiting” has real value. This is maybe influenced by the fact that we’ve got a lot of statisticians here and they’re likely to think about things like aggregate rates.

          I think it’s fair to say that the problem I’m trying to address (reduction of individual risk) isn’t the problem that you and several others are trying to address (reduction of aggregate rates). But that doesn’t mean addressing my problem is worthless.

        • Daniel Lakeland:

          I’d put it slightly differently. Suppose that, in the cases of the two men mentioned in Lum’s article, the women who had felt uncomfortable with the behavior in question had acted right away or soon afterward—not using martial arts techniques, but simply by screaming in public about it, or afterward telling enough people so that everyone knew about it. Not just a network of students, young women, and PhD advisors telling each other, “Avoid X, he’s a rapist,” but really telling everybody. (For example, it’s not the case that “everybody knew” about those two guys: I don’t go to a lot of conferences but I know both those guys and I had no idea at all about any incidents of this sort involving them.) In that case, where the news of each incident gets out right away, I suspect that these patterns would not go on so long. You’d have lots of people going up to these men and saying: Hey, I’ve heard you’ve been harassing women, stop doing that, it’s not cool. Etc.

          In saying this I’m not at all faulting Lum or others for not blowing the whistle sooner: as has been noted many times in this thread, blowing the whistle can be costly for the whistleblower; it can be bad both personally and professionally to be known as a whistleblower or a complainer. I’m hoping the costs and benefits are changing on this. Because I think a lot of misunderstanding and a lot of bad behavior could be avoided if guys realized right away that certain specific things they’ve been doing are (a) giving them a bad reputation, and (b) hurting other people.

        • Andrew,

          I agree that if the incentives change so that whistleblowers have less negative results, and whistleblowing occurs faster, that overall rates will decrease. I hope this and other things happen.

          I’d also like to point out how several men here myself included are very “out” about their desire to help women at a direct personal level (and I’d like to point out that the Australian gentleman actually hid his name because he feared repercussions of admitting this… think on that for a second).

          But anyway, women should tell their male allies. Their male allies face different cultural responses. The woman K who mentioned that she was treated like a “hysterical” woman for fighting back against an attacker in a public place has a good point. A man in that situation would have been treated like a hero “protecting defenseless women” or whatever. If you are a woman, and you go to a conference and you know and trust several men, and you have heard stories about other men sexually assaulting women, confiding about your concerns and their reasons in your allies will improve your personal outcomes: people will have your back. Someone also made fun of my analogy to chess, but I *deeply* feel that I learned a lot about self defense through studying chess. In chess if a lone knight is threatening you and you can make a move that attacks the knight, and reveals a second attack on the knight, and cuts off a line of retreat for that knight… that knight is toast: Concerted and coordinated and directed responses are effective, random poorly thought out and uncoordinated responses are what *predators rely on to be successful*.

        • Daniel Lakeland:

          Beyond “what predators rely on to be successful,” it also seems like much of these problems are due to misunderstanding: Mr. X does some inappropriate behavior, Ms. Y responds politely (out of a real concern of the consequences of calling out the bad behavior), and then Mr. X thinks the behavior is tolerated, if not welcome. That seems like what happened in the facebook exchange that was linked to earlier in this thread. If the incentives are changed so that Ms. Y can feel free to tell Mr. X right away that the behavior was unwelcome and inappropriate, and Ms. Y can also tell colleagues A, B, C, D, etc. that the behavior was unwelcome and inappropriate, then this will get back to Mr. X through various channels, and this can reduce misunderstanding in the future. This won’t solve all problems—there are predators out there—but I think that reducing misunderstandings would take us a big step forward. I’m hoping that’s the direction of the equilibrium.

        • Daniel Lakeland said: “women should tell their male allies.”

          Women don’t always know who their male allies are. So men who are willing to stick up for women who face harassment need to tell the women they know that they are willing to do so.

        • To Daniel Lakeland: I have taken all reasonable precautions against sexual assault ALL MY LIFE. I definitely will teach my daughter to do that too. That is just basics of living as a woman in this world, and is lightyears away from the point. All women already know about self-defence classes etc. We really don’t need a man explain about them to us.
          We need to change the culture of harassment and the structures legitimizing it.
          Also, a man saying in this context what “women should do”? Really?

        • I consider part of your reponse to be very unhelpful, Sofia. I’m sure Daniel Lakeland wants nothing other than to help women. Telling such a man that “we really don’t need a man explain about them to us” and “Also, a man saying in this context what “women should do”? Really?” is simply unfair and might also discourage his efforts to support women.

          Further, these remarks commit a basic fallacy that is one of the obstacles to a fruitful dialogue between women and men: to imply that a man, by virtue of his belonging to a particular sex, cannot possibly give any good advice to women about what they should do, let alone advice that might possibly be as good or better than the advice that women give to each other. This is simply unwarranted.

          Then, by speaking of “us”, you’re doing a similar thing for women: implying that you can speak for all of them, that they are uniform with respect to the issue simply by virtue of belonging to a particular sex.

          It’s also striking to me how this is disconnected from the statistical perspective that we rehearse over and over on this blog: presumably, you would never find it legitimate to generalize from your own case or even the case of all the men and women you’ve ever met to the whole population of women an men.

        • Alex Gamma: I’m sure my response seems unhelpful to you because it is not formulated to coddle men’s feelings. To address your concerns:

          1. Do you honestly believe that there are women reading this blog who do not know about the possibility of self-defense classes, assertive behavior etc.? Do you really think that there are women who are assaulted on a regular basis, have no idea that they could learn to physically defend themselves, and could have some kind of aha moment when reading from the internet that they could in fact do this? If an intellectual individual actually believes this, it must because of a deep need to see harassment as an individual matter with no larger cultural meaning, and it is completely justified to point this out.

          2. Good intentions are irrelevant regarding these questions. People with good intentions have suggested all kinds of stupid things to oppressed groups all through history (for instance, women would be safe if they never left home alone. Or that persons of color would not get into trouble if they would not demand all kinds of things).

          3. The problem of harassment is a problem in the structures of our culture. This problem is not reducible to statistics because the existing conceptual framework in rigged into the favor of those who take advantage of male privilege. The goal is to change this framework. Furthermore, how was the suggestion that women should learn to defend themselves made from a statistical perspective?

          4. Men seem to be very intimidated by women coming together and willing to do anything to break such unity. One tactic is your “you do not represent all women”. But I don’t represent anyone, I’m simply speaking about gender/power structures and how they work.

          5. Women have tried and tried to be nice to men for years and decades and centuries. Based on what we know now, this has not worked in our favor at all. There is a strong sentiment within the metoo movement and its derivatives that we actually need to start caring less about men’s feelings and fruitful dialogue.

          (6. If you honestly want to know what you can do to help, #1 suggestion is to listen to women, believe them, and to not start giving advise from your perspective immediately.)

        • Sofia:

          You’re making assumptions that I did not intend. My points were not about the self-defense issue, they are more general, about your reaction to a man who wants nothing but to help. If you wanted to enlist my help and I were offering my sincere opinion on a way to address part of the problem, would it really be fair and deserved and helpful if you then criticized me that my ideas were off the point, and, in particular, that you don’t need “men to explain you something” or “saying what women should do”? I don’t think so. All you have achieved is to scare off a potential ally. You have a bigger battle to fight, don’t you?

          “I’m sure my response seems unhelpful to you because it is not formulated to coddle men’s feelings.”

          I’m afraid this is another example. You seem to assume a lot, in particular that I’m a certain kind of man, when you don’t know me at all (or do you think all men are the same in this regard?) It’s needlessly hostile.

          Regarding your bullet points:

          Nr. 1: As I said, I was not referring to this.
          Nr. 2: ” Good intentions are irrelevant regarding these questions.” I don’t find this even remotely plausible.
          Nr. 3: This doesn’t seem to address what I meant to say. I brought up the statistical perspective in the context of you seemingly lumping together all men and speaking for all women. I was objecting to the generalizations involved.
          Nr. 4: Another example of unhelpful generalization: “Men seem to be very intimidated by women coming together…” Certainly, SOME men will be. Others won’t. The variation matters. And another assumption: that I used saying “you can’t speak for all women” as a “tactic”. No, I wasn’t. The intention does matter.
          Nr. 5: “There is a strong sentiment within the metoo movement and its derivatives that we actually need to start caring less about men’s feelings and fruitful dialogue.” How do you or do we achieve true gender equality by caring less about one sex’s feelings? I can understand the sentiment, but I don’t see how this is a good way forward.
          Nr. 6: Yes, I want to and do listen to women. Also, I want to stay critical, so I won’t “just” believe them, as little as I “just” believe anyone. Also, I want to keep a clear mind despite all the emotions, the outrage and the moral urgency. Finally, yes, when I want to learn something from another person, I will listen to their perspective. I consider this simply a mark of a civilized conversation.

        • “All women already know about self-defence classes etc. We really don’t need a man explain about them to us.”

          You *directly* speak for “all women” here, and yet:


          indicates that there are women right here in this comment thread who find my comments helpful or interesting and who don’t necessary really know that much about self defense. So I will continue to offer my support to them. When I speak about what “women should do” I do so with the directly and obviously implied “based on my limited understanding of the teaching of self-defense experts” on the basis that, having read about and participated in a modicum of this topic, I might know something more about the content of those courses than other people. So, if you don’t find that helpful, you’re free to take offense and all that, yet I’ll still be there helping the women, men, children, whoever around me to the extent I’m able, if they need it. I’m no super-hero, but I care deeply about my fellow community members. I’m disheartened that you find that offensive, but I’m aware of the general dissatisfaction of women with men in this area so there’s that.

        • Alex Gamma said,
          “If you wanted to enlist my help and I were offering my sincere opinion on a way to address part of the problem, would it really be fair and deserved and helpful if you then criticized me that my ideas were off the point, and, in particular, that you don’t need “men to explain you something” or “saying what women should do”? I don’t think so.”

          When someone botches something, they are liable to criticism. When one botches something and is criticized for botching it, the adult/responsible/constructive thing to do is to accept the criticism and apologize for botching it (and ideally, try to learn from one’s mistake) — rather than saying that the criticism is unfair or undeserved.

        • Martha (Smith),

          I don’t agree that anyone (Daniel Lakeland, me) has “botched” anything here. DL has offered his ideas for addressing one aspect of the problem (yes, he has been very vocal about that) and other people (like Sofia) find this advice unhelpful. There are appropriate (“adult”) ways to deal with this: acknowledge the good intentions, explain why you nevertheless think the ideas are unhelpful or even misguided. But to say things like »a man saying in this context what “women should do”? Really?«, no, that’s not helpful, nor is it adult, nor reasonable, nor a good strategy to get men to contribute. It’s letting your emotions get the better of you.

        • In a thread about sexual harassment and ensuring women are safe at work, maybe you should consider putting the needs of women first. Maybe you should consider listening to women, who have to navigate these environments on a daily basis and are therefore experts in the system we are talking about (unlike you, who [and this is assuming Alex is a male name] like me are a dilettante at best).

          The first most useful thing every man can do here is to actually listen to women and put their views first.

          There has been literally nothing in this very long comment thread that has been a surprise. The only people I’ve seen who have thought it’s a good thread have been men. Women who I have spoken to in the last few days have all specifically mentioned just how awful the things they’re reading in this thread are.

          Maybe just listen to women when they tell you you’re wrong.

        • In a situation at a conference where a man observes a woman being groped over in a corner while she quietly keeps saying “come on will you please stop it”. My instinct prior to this thread was that if I intervened and took this jerk to the ground and called the police, that the victim would back me up as having acted in her defense. I’m not so sure of that anymore. Maybe she’d be afraid her publication record would be hopelessly ruined and I’d wind up serving 5 years for assault.

          I find that disturbing. Further reasons to stay out of academia I guess.

        • In fact of all the arguments to eliminate anonymous peer review, I can think of no better one than apparently powerful men in the field actively use it to intimidate women into not reporting their sexual predatory actions. Wow.

        • I’m going to go so far as to say that this conversation has been eye opening in a way that I’m pretty thoroughly unhappy with. I am definitely *not* one of those men who thinks this has been a good thread.

          I’d analogize it to the kinds of things depicted in The Wire, say where a person has lived in a crime zone their whole life and knows about 1/1000 chance they’ll be murdered each year, but if they testify and point the finger at the murderer it’s about 100% chance they’ll wind up dead in the courtyard of the projects as a lesson to the others about what happens if you testify.

          If women are really having an issue making a decision between letting a man commit say felony sexual battery against them… vs the ambiguously, possibly more damaging events they fear if they ‘testify’ or call out to stop it, or use self defense, or have an inept clueless male like myself intervene on their behalf, or otherwise bring attention to the powerful “kingpins” that carry out these activities, that’s really a *very* different view of academia than the one i had coming into this conversation. And a much uglier one, that makes me unhappy for the multiple women I know in academia.

        • @Daniel Simpson

          Someone actually pinged me to thank me for commenting saying she was so angry with this thread that she couldn’t post.

        • @Elin:

          Well I’m equally angry, and I need to stop posting, because it’s just not good for my health. And I want to be super explicit: I’m not angry at women, and I don’t blame them in any way for whatever their choices are that they make in this difficult environment. I’ve now had some more details related to me in several cases, and I see that academia is really ugly in certain places, and maybe anywhere that women reach high levels of achievement, some predatory men use the threat of loss of that achievement to extort quiet from women, and that goes beyond “sexual harassment” (defined exclusively as basically verbal behavior) and includes women putting up with actual sexual battery and sexual assault, including felonies that the men should be serving 10 years for, and being afraid to be the one who can be identified as the person who pointed the finger, and so maybe consciously choosing to let the behavior go on …

          That’s a lot uglier than my initial assumptions, where I assumed it would be obvious that there’s some line between getting your bottom pinched anonymously and having a man say stick his hands down your pants… where most women would see physical defense as a good thing and want to be able to do it… I now think there is a considerable population of women who have already been in the situation where a powerful man in academia sticks his hands down their pants or worse, and they’ve put up with it to get where they are because they fear the consequences of fighting back are ultimately even worse. And that’s just really really angry making.

          Women being much more explicit about the extent of their troubles is a good thing from my perspective. Unfortunately it really needs spelling out, because I’m sure many men would be shocked to hear what has *already* happened in secret to the people they care about. I’ve heard plenty of sexual harassment and gender-bias and whatnot, but really the sexual battery and predation stuff is much more “hidden” and seems to be far more common than I’d have expected.

        • Two comments:

          1. I was surprised at the reaction to my comments about how criticism is appropriate even if one is well–intended — especially since my comments were in line with a common theme on this blog: If someone engages in questionable research practices, it is appropriate to criticize them even if the researcher was just doing what they were taught, and to expect that they consider the criticism seriously, acknowledge their mistakes, and learn from them – as for example Dana Carney has done so much better than Amy Cuddy. Also, in my teaching, I expect students to learn to listen to criticism of their work, acknowledge their mistakes, and learn from them.

          2. Also, I think I need to say something that I have been thinking of saying for the past couple of days (but haven’t had the time to write out) about Daniel Lakeland’s proposal that women should learn self-defense techniques. (mpledger also gave what seems like a reasonable criticism).
          My criticism involves a kind of cost-benefit analysis. As Daniel has acknowledged, what he proposed would require a lot of time and effort from women. But there is an alternative that would require less time and effort overall, although some from men — namely, if enough men agreed to consistently point out inappropriate behavior to men engaging in it. This could be done in many ways, depending on the circumstances and the preferences of the person doing the pointing out. (Examples include: “That’s inappropriate”, “You’re treating her like shit.”, “You’re violating her personal boundaries”, “You’re acting like a creep,” etc.) Of course, this would require that there are men willing to help in this way, and that they keep an eye out for inappropriate behavior, and that women tell them about such behavior that they are not able to observe, and also some co-ordination in this effort. But the total amount of time and effort required would be far less than that required of women only in implementing Daniel’s proposal, and I think the results would be at least as good.

      • If we’re being hypothetical, then openly accusing someone at a conference of sexual assault would be more effective then beating the snot out of them. Unfortunately, I don’t think either of those are reasonable options/expectations in the real world.

        • Self defense ability isn’t something that just happens. There are mental and physical skills involved. In general, the bigger the opponent the more skill matters. One thing that’s clear though in the case studies is that fighting hard is more effective than just giving in and hoping nothing too bad will happen. Also, if you escalate you don’t escalate a little at a time, you apply overwhelming force and very rapidly. In this sense, mental preparation is extremely important. The idea that you’ve already thought through how a response works, and what level is appropriate is going to help you a lot. The woman in the running magazine article had just had that mental preparation, but didn’t have tons of physical preparation. It was really the *mental* willingness to fight hard that saved her.

          For example the Portland Max stabbing would have turned out differently if the response by the three men who tried to intervene had followed this principle of “stay the hell away, or escalate to overwhelm the opponent” there’s not really a middle ground there that works.

        • It’s for this mental training issue that I personally consider chess a form of martial art. It’s about attack and defense, you learn a lot about what works: overwhelming and combined force, and what doesn’t: trying one little thing at a time without coordination.

          just some thoughts. I wonder if our resident marine is still around to amplify things ;-) Laplace?

        • If men want women to learn self-defence skills because men can’t be trusted then men can’t be upset if women don’t trust them.

        • I have a certain perspective on this, clearly it’s not shared by everyone, but I believe my perspective has merit for some people and if there are people like yourself who will look for further information and make an informed decision, then that’s the real purpose of my post here.

          I’m not really an expert here, just someone who knows some stuff and who has thought about it a lot recently after the Portland Max attack (I have many friends and family in Portland). Also someone who grew up in Oakland Ca in the height of the 80’s crack epidemic drug war, and experienced various forms of physical intimidation and attack, so I had some motivation to know something about it all, but I’ve never been particularly into Martial Arts as a sport. My interest is in effective defense. I’ve had multiple encounters where my tactics prevented escalation of what would have otherwise been a violent situation. Once in college for example with a bully cruising the streets in his overly loud hotrod looking for marks to beat up.

          If you want to explore this area I recommend looking specifically for material on self defense, and to take all of it with a heaping portion of salt so to speak. Anyone who claims to offer “the best” or whatever is full of it. Much of this stuff is geared towards hyping up over-testosteroned men who wish they had joined the marines 20 years ago… All that stuff should be avoided at all costs.

          But, there are people who specialize in helping women, including women instructors. I think that’s probably a good thing to look for. Principals and mindset are more important than particular movements.

          I liked David Kahn’s “Krav Maga Defense” as introduction to principles and mindset. It’s cheap and available as a kindle book if you don’t want people questioning you about it on your nightstand or whatever ;-)

          I emphasize again, this is all offered in the spirit of helping those who feel receptive to it but for whatever reason never quite got up the courage to find out more. It’s not for everyone.

        • Also Sameera, there is a difference between say the average violent predator (street mugger, gang member, drug dealing thug etc) and the average sexual predator. The average violent predator is likely to have been in many violent encounters, likely to train and strengthen their muscles, has too much testosterone, is strong and prone to rapid escalation to violence. They are really much more physically dangerous than the average sexual predator, even the average rapist. I doubt rapists who are also academics/professors think: women are dangerous and might hurt me, I’m going to go the gym and work out and bulk up and hit the heavy bag… etc

          My guess is the average sexual predator is choosing weak and small targets where they have both physical control and psychological control due to their status, and is relying on them not fighting back in any way: verbally, physically, reporting to police, etc. Being relatively strong, confident, and aware makes you less of a mark in the first place, and having skills and practiced techniques puts you in a better position if you are the one assaulted. Using those skills against a guy who just got out of Rikers and has been body building for 5 years to avoid male-on-male sexual assault in prison… yeah really dangerous, but anything that happens with such a person is dangerous.

          Context matters a lot. Tactical thinking helps. Training helps. Fast decision making under stress goes better if it’s practiced.

          I should really take my own advice to tell you the truth, knowing it and making time to practice it are two different things.

        • > utility of self defense
          Excellent question – given my 30 years in martial arts my assessment is mostly snake oil.

          Unless one trains hard for years and regularly engages in unplanned reactive sparring of some sort (which will result in minor injuries). Additionally be able and willing to hold back nothing in a potential encounter (be prepared for possible excessive force charges).

          Now once a chief instructor had a group of us provide training for female family members and friends. It was primarily focused on getting away and attracting attention of others. Probably should have called it self escape training. Maybe that is better?

          When there is no escape seemingly possible, any practice of self defense can be helpful (picking up on Daniel L’s point below) as anything might work.

        • Keith: I think there is a lot of snake oil in martial arts as a business. But I do think there are important principles that lead individuals to be safer. Most of them are mental: threat assessment, avoidance of sketchy situations, changes in behavior, self confidence in the face of adversity, tactical thinking, etc.

          Again I reiterate that martial arts is not “the solution” or even “a solution”, it is simply one tool that individuals can put into their toolbelt to reduce their chance of being victimized. The idea that women all have to just wait until a “society level” solution appears because that’s the only acceptable solution doesn’t fly, just like Anonymous Australian above’s example of we have to just wait until everyone is a careful driver with an autonomous vehicle because we can’t put seat-belts in cars doesn’t fly.

          I’ve also said before and I will say it again: if success in your chosen career requires you to put up with frequent grabbing in the middle of crowded rooms at poster sessions… it’s a totally rational individual response to get the hell out of that career.

          This post may be more about “how can we make it so this career doesn’t suck” but my response is more about “how can an individual learn to respond effectively to sexual battery”

        • > But I do think there are important principles that lead individuals to be safer.
          Definitely agree with that – my main point being any hitting back (self defense) can make things a lot worse.

        • Keith my guess is that one would at least have to be black belt. And that’s just conjecture on my part. I worked in a hotel right after high school. Alcohol was a factor in my observation. It makes you even more vulnerable to being violated.

      • Daniel Lakeland:

        Regarding the idea of self-defense, or even just a loud holler of “Get off my ass!”—yes, I do think that would work! But it can be hard to think of doing this at the time, because the whole experience of harassment is so unnerving.

        Here’s a different example, unrelated to assault or sexual harassment: Several years ago I learned that a colleague of mine was plagiarizing my work: putting his name on some things we’d done together as if he’d done it himself. For this discussion, it’s not important who this person was; what’s relevant is that in that case I did scream. Not in public, though: I screamed at my colleague. (I was not in a public place; I think I was in his office when I realized what was going on.) I honestly thought that at this point he’d have no choice but to add my name to the manuscript—after all, how could someone keep on with this behavior after being caught? Anyway, long story short, he refused to do it!

        At that point, in retrospect, I should’ve called up everyone I knew, also my department chair, his department chair, maybe the president of his university—just put it all out in the open, shed light on it: that would’ve been the equivalent of shouting “Get off my ass!” in the middle of a crowded ballroom.

        But I didn’t.

        Why not? A few reasons. First, I was untenured, indeed my work was under attack for unrelated reasons having to do with some fanatical anti-Bayesians I had to deal with. So I didn’t want to go around making a reputation as being a troublemaker, right when I might have to be looking for a new job. Second, I still couldn’t really believe this was happening so it was hard to give up on the whole collaboration thing. In retrospect, I’d seen signs for several years of this credit-stealing—people had warned me about this guy!—but I’d set it all aside. So it was hard suddenly to change course. Third, inertia: raising a stink would’ve required effort.

        Again, I’m not at all equating scientific misconduct to sexual assault. I’m just saying that, yes, raising a stink right away could well be the right thing to do. But when it happened to me, I didn’t take that step. It just seemed too risky. Withdrawing from the situation can seem like the safer course. So I’m never going to be the one to criticize someone for not responding more forcefully at the time of the offense.

        • A major principle of martial arts is threat assessment and tactics, as is a principle in chess! I would *never* criticize someone for deciding their best tactic was to quietly sneak away for example. That can absolutely be the best tactic. My position is more that preparation for conflict is a good idea, at an individual level, and if it comes to something more threatening than a quick feel, you will be better off with this preparation.

          While I’m sure women are *aware* of self-defense as a thing, relatively few people learn principles of self defense, and especially relatively few women. I think that should change on general principles. I also think we should make systematic changes to society that Dan is looking for. I just think that the individual level changes are things that individual women or men, but especially women, can do to make their lives better.

        • Also, Andrew, let’s consider what would happen if a man were at a conference and someone walked up from behind him and reached around and grabbed his crotch… just to put it in the light of gender reversal and how women’s physical size and acculturation influences the outcome.

          That would be a frightening thing, and I would totally expect that the man would respond physically. If he had any martial arts training at all, I’d expect the attacker to take a trip to the hospital afterwards (and yes, this is straight up a physical attack regardless of whether it’s for sexual gratification or for the purpose of just injury)

          So in my opinion it’s an application of a terrible double standard to say anything other than: physical assault or battery merits self defense. We need to support that as a response, even if we are after a broad sweeping cultural change that makes the problem go away as our “ultimate” goal. At an individual level: this is unacceptable and violent behavior, and a physical response is totally justified, and supported by self defense law in California at least as I understand it.

        • Daniel Lakeland (just using last name to distinguish from Dan Simpson):

          Sure—on the other hand, it can’t be that easy or natural to scream or punch or whatever. After all, by now we’ve heard of zillions of cases of blatant sexual harassment or assault as in the examples the above post, but very few stories of the recipients of this unwanted attention screaming bloody murder in the middle of the conference ballroom or punching out a harasser, or whatever. So, just looking at this empirically, that have to be some good reasons why victims of sexual assaults only rarely make a public fuss while it’s happening.

          Also, times really have changed. See for example the story in the P.S. here. Even at the time we in the audience were all stunned, but nobody jumped up and said, “Hey, that’s offensive!” I’ve seen all sorts of things (even while not being the direct target of the offenses) and I’ve just sat there: it takes a lot to stand up and say something, to say the right thing at the right time.

        • Dan Lakeland:

          if women are concerned already about potential career repercussions for merely *reporting* harassment – what woman could possibly think her career would benefit from a reputation as someone who *screams*, or even better, *beats people up*, in professional surroundings, especially *senior colleagues who will be reviewing her work and her job applications for decades to come*?

          recognizing when someone is intentionally trying to assault you, as opposed to, say, accidentally brushing past you (or, say, “accidentally-on-purpose” brushing up against you in a way that you perceive as clearly intentional but to all other viewers retains plausible deniability), absolutely takes time to figure out. I’ve had my butt grabbed by a stranger out of the blue, and I only realized it because when I turned around in disbelief he was still standing there grinning at me, a stoned idiot, instead of having quickly moving along the way a more seasoned, serial harraser will. and that’s in the clear case of a stranger – imagine how much reflection is involved in the scenario of a senior colleague. “this person just gave the keynote earlier today; did he really mean to put his hand so close to my chest, or was he just being friendly?” etc.

          in the case with my assaulter, once I realized he had indeed meant exactly what I thought he did, I started screaming and yelling, and kicked him in the shin while he just stood there smiling, high off his rocker. his friends came and yelled at me – “what’s your problem, who cares, this isn’t a big deal, calm down” – and took him away, and everyone esle in the public space (a flea market) stared at me like I was a banshee. a woman at a nearby stand asked me what happened; when I told her he grabbed me, she shrugged and said, “ok, yes, well, that’s too bad, but these things happen, you’d better just calm down, you’ll be better off if you just deal with these things quietly.”

          that was the reaction of people around me to my self-defense in a clear-cut situation, in which I was able to determine it was harassment. fortunately these were all strangers and I never saw the assaulter again.if the assaulter, or any of the people around me, had been in any way professionally involved in my life, I am sure it would have had a negative impact on my career. the specter of a screaming, hysterical woman would have been attached to my name for the rest of my professional life.

          the idea that *physical self-defense* will solve the structural problems outlined by Kristian, or even help to address them, I would say reflects a well-intentioned but woefully misguided reading of the actual issues at hand. the issue is not physical power. it is social and economic power. you cannot hit or scream at someone who has power in your field and expect it to turn out ok – in that scenario, you will absolutely be the one to suffer the consequences. even reporting their misbehavior, you will suffer the consequences. women know this.

        • I’ve said it before: physical defense doesn’t solve the structural problems, it’s a tool for an individual to protect themselves because those structural problems do exist.

          One major portion of that tool it turns out isn’t *physical* at all, it’s threat assessment, and tactical response (ie. quick thinking about which of several pre-thought-out responses is best in a given situation). It may be a very fine tactic to turn around, look a person direct in the eye, and say very clearly, quietly, and slowly “Do not EVER touch me again, do you understand?” That response is far easier to carry out with the appropriate level of “fire” after confidence building that comes with martial arts training, after thinking through responses and practicing them… these are the actual content of quality self defense oriented classes.

          In your example scenario, your response of kicking him in the shin and yelling was basically the kind of thing you should be taught NOT to do in a self defense class. If you felt that he was a continuing physical threat: a hard palm heel strike to the groin followed by a quick retreat would be appropriate: escalate to the point where the attacker is overwhelmed, not to the point where they’re irritated.

          Now, much of the business of martial arts is actually just sport… I’d recommend avoid the sport oriented schools unless you really like sport.

          Martial arts isn’t a “solution” it’s a mitigation technique.

        • Dan: thanks for correcting my misapplication of proper martial arts technique. I’d like to draw attention to the main points of my argument:

          – the difficulty of determining when someone is intentionally assaulting you
          – the negative reactions of witnesses even in the case of clear-cut assault
          – the likely career consequences of taking any self-defensive action in a professional setting (even saying “don’t touch me again” to someone you will see at conferences for years to come is likely to have more negative effects for you than for them)

          for all these reasons, the self-defense tactics you suggest are, I would say, not realistic in professional settings. no matter how much you believe they help – and I’m sure you do, and I’m sure there are edge cases in which a firm “don’t touch me” may resolve the issue – in most cases they are truly unhelpful (for the reasons I mentioned above), and continuing to insist that this “mitigation technique” *is* in fact helpful sends a signal to the people involved that perhaps you may not be listening to them very carefully.

        • Also K, I hear you loud and clear when you say “the idea that *physical self-defense* will solve the structural problems outlined by Kristian, or even help to address them, I would say reflects a well-intentioned but woefully misguided reading of the actual issues at hand”

          what I take that to mean is that most of the time in academic situations discussed here women don’t feel physically threatened in the sense of worried that they will be seriously physically harmed etc… Women put up with a lot of this crap that’s basically like a school bully only with a sexual nature. And the political power wielded against them is such that they feel “put up or shut up or get out” are their real options career wise.

          I’m all for solving that problem at a societal level, but I’m not holding my breath for it to happen overnight. In the mean time, individual women who want to not be bullied may benefit from making bullying them extremely unsatisfactory. It works for school kids, and it will work for women who are being bullied without real physical danger. If you really don’t feel physically threatened / in danger but simply bullied… A simple quiet not-scene-making “Fuck you asshole” with conviction takes courage and tactical thinking… if that is the level of threat and the level of response… self defense classes, good ones not bullshit ones, should teach that threat assessment skill, and portraying of confidence that it takes to make you an unlikely mark. Bullies target weak targets, that’s both physical and psychological weakness. Role playing through how to handle these confrontations gives you tools you can use to make yourself seem like a bad mark. Most people are put in this position with no training. They get grabbed, they react in whatever way, with no practiced set of skills and techniques. It makes them easy marks for bullies.

          Someone else has mentioned this may be zero-sum as the bully goes and bullies some weaker person… that may or may not be, but for *you* there are definite benefits.

        • my post was written before seeing your response, we crossed in the night so to speak.

          I hear your complaint as: “I want to stay in this fucked up field, and I want to play along, except I also want to get the field fixed so I don’t have to play along”

          That’s the choice that women are faced with and I’m fully on board with it being a shitty choice and that “in a perfect world” the bullying wouldn’t be there in the first place.

          Your assessment of your situation or situations like this is that “in most cases [self defense training is] truly unhelpful (for the reasons I mentioned above), and continuing to insist that this “mitigation technique” *is* in fact helpful sends a signal to the people involved that perhaps you may not be listening to them very carefully.”

          That is your assessment, but evidently it’s an assessment of a technique that you have no knowledge about having never actually taken any good self defense courses involving teaching of the mental and physical techniques I’m talking about so I take it as basically an uninformed opinion based on no data. You might be right, but you might also just have a strong prior bias against my suggestion.

          Now, there’s self selection involved in taking the courses, but I’ve never heard a woman who took a good self defense class come out of it saying “damn that was a terrible idea and will be totally useless to me” whereas I have heard women say that they felt like they had better tools to handle various levels of bullying from a quick ass-grab to sexual predator while they’re out jogging…

          so, based on that, I’m not so sure your prior bias is correct, it may be mostly based on an assumption that self defense is mostly about chops blocks and kicks, whereas in fact self defense is mostly about threat assessment, threat avoidance, tactical thinking, and repeated role playing creating a set of relatively “automatic” responses, giving you tools and principles that help you avoid being victimized in the first place, and help you respond when you are.

        • In fact Australian anonymous analogy to seat belts would be better if it were an analogy to defensive driving courses. A good self defense course would teach you for example to partner up with someone you know and trust at the poster session, let them know your concerns and place your poster near to them. Leave the boozy social mixer early and sober, identify the men in the room who you are most uncomfortable with and don’t let them out of your sight. If they “accidentally” brush up against you, “accidentally” stumble hard on their metatarsals… Whatever the tactics are real and when applied appropriately will be helpful in making you less of a target.

          It’s not about punches and kicks, except when it is… But it is about not being an easy victim.

          Again solving the deeper problem is important, but empowering individuals is too.

        • DL: People do sometimes feel physically confident and empowered as a result of participating in either. Sure.

          How can you be familiar with all that martial arts stuff and just ignore that there are psychological costs to the constant vigilance required to protect yourself from some unpredictable antisocial creep? People go to conferences to communicate about science and to advance their career, they barely have the bandwidth to read the schedule. They certainly don’t have the bandwidth to keep looking over their shoulder for Dr. Hand(S)y. It mitigates next to nothing.

        • Krzysztof:

          Of course constant vigilance takes a toll. This is actually something that is addressed in self defense courses: how to assess the threats you are under, and how to tune yourself to the surroundings. If you are in a crowded room at a poster session it seems unlikely you will be raped while everyone watches… so your threat level for severe attack is low, and the vigilance you should have may be mainly ensuring that you stick with a group of people you trust, and have some idea what you will do if groped, what response do you think is going to work best for you.

          That lower threat may not be the case at 11PM while walking to your detached cabin in the dark at the Asilomar conference grounds at the Stan Con. I’ve been there, Asilomar is beautiful. I met my wife on a dive trip in Monterey years and years ago. But Asilomar is a classic easy hunting grounds for a more forceful predator, even just a drunk one who wants to grab a woman and push her against a wall and force his hands up her blouse rather than say outright rape. In a field where it’s known that people go around grabbing women in crowded rooms, I’d recommend wariness in such a more secluded scenario. Getting someone you trust to walk with you to your cabin is a great idea… so having realistic expectations that modulate to different scenarios is a big part of self defense.

          Also, I don’t claim this is some kind of cure, I’ve been very explicit that we need the real societal improvements. I’m happy to say that an informal poll of women in biology suggests that this kind of sexual battery never happens at poster sessions in molecular biology. Maybe in more private settings associated with bio conferences, yes, but not out in public like that. So apparently Bayesian Stats has really ugly piss-poor behavior relatively speaking.

        • +1 to Elin’s comment: “The training that is needed is for male witnesses to learn how to stand up and tell the harassers to stop.”

        • Daniel:
          At a college party in Oxford a female graduate student grabbed my bum from behind, my reaction was “huh, what I guess its part of a joke”. Afterwards I started to worry that there were other intentions but nothing further happened. The uncertainties of the moment, especial for on lookers, is huge as K describes below.

          (As for the male crotch, the anatomy makes it much more something that needs protection from grabbing in any physical altercation.)

        • No yelling out a conference or other professional setting would no “work” most of the time. It would just make the woman the subject of jokes and further abuse in the short term and retaliation for the long term. The idea that a woman could do anything like engage in physical combat with someone in the middle of a party without being viewed as deranged is ridiculous. That’s one reason those places are good for predators.

        • Elin:

          Yup. From the standpoint of game theory it goes like this: If you scream at your attacker at the time, it will hurt his reputation but also hurt yours. And, at least until recently, women and younger people had more to lose in such an interaction than men and older people. So: it’s to your immediate benefit not to raise a ruckus. What’s worse: your attacker knows that, so he can feel free to harass with impunity, knowing that as a rational person you will realize it’s in your best interest to keep quiet. That’s the game-theoretic aspect I was talking about.

          Again from a game-theoretic perspective, one can change behavior by changing the payoffs, which happens in different ways. In one direction, we increase the losses associated with getting caught doing bad behavior; from the other, we decrease the losses associated with calling that behavior out. The other thing that can be done is to reduce the coordination problem. All these things are being done, which helps explain how it is that we’ve been having this deluge of incidents being reported. The rules of the game are changing to the extent that maybe those places aren’t so good for predators anymore.

        • > The rules of the game are changing
          Yes and along with the upsides there are always (unanticipated) downsides (Again from a game-theoretic perspective) that may benefit from timely scholarship.

        • Thank you Andrew! It is absurd that the onus should be on women to protect themselves (and they will probably suffer consequences for doing so) instead of the onus being on the men to behave properly.

        • You don’t need game theory to know this. It’s classic symbolic interactionism and understanding that there is “definition of the situation” and a set of unstated but known rules of the road and norms and informal sanctions for different kinds of behaviors. I mean it’s fine if you want to frame it as game theory, but social science has a lot of other useful theories for understanding what is happening in context and in terms of changing norms.

          I also think that considering the issue of informal sanctions, whether is very important. People talk about “due process” like most of social life happens in a court room. First of all except for people in the US lucky enough to have tenure or unions most hiring is at will and no reason for dismissal needs to be given. Second, people shun, talk about, etc people who behave inappropriately all the time.

        • Elin:

          I agree. Game theory is just one way of looking at the situation; there are other useful models too. Indeed it can be helpful when trying to understand a situation to model it using different frameworks. In mentioning game theory I was not trying to imply any privileged position for a game theory model; it’s just one way of thinking that I’ve found useful.

        • I have done this precisely once in my professional life (some homophobic stuff went further than I was prepared to ignore). It wasn’t a golden experience to suddenly have a whole room looking at me and being told to calm down. And then assuring people that I wasn’t upset, I just wanted it to stop. And then smiling and talking to the person I yelled at for a little while.

          There is a *really* good reason why people typically don’t yell out. I knew what was going to happen. It happened pretty much the way I expected. I moved on. Most of the time, though, (and thankfully I’ve rarely encountered this behaviour) I don’t think it’s worth it and just try to get away.

      • Women spend an enormous amount of time in their life organizing it so they don’t get assaulted. Always read the situation for possible danger. Who should I avoid? Never be in a taxi alone. Don’t walk or bike alone there. Be sure to go home with people you know. Be sure to not be escorted home by men, even if you know them. Make sure you are not alone with those persons. Don’t drink. Always watch your drink. Someone starts following/harassing you on the street, be sure to not walk towards home so they know where you live. Text someone before you go anywhere alone at some point at night. Plan in when friends should step into action when they don’t hear from you. Think a lot about how you dress. Learn self-defence. Etc etc etc etc. Constant constant vigilance.

        I’ll be sure to also include learning advanced martial arts and further mental training to the list, so I finally put some real effort in not getting assaulted. Thanks for the great advice.

        • The types of things Anonymous listed in her/his first paragraph are connected to what some people are calling “male privilege”. I personally don’t like the terminology, since its “definition” is not something one would easily deduce from the two words “male” and “privilege”. Instead, the “privilege” in the phrase “male privilege” refers to the specific privilege of not having to worry as much (on average) as women about the types of things Anonymous listed. I think the concept (even though I don’t like the phrase used to label it) is important: worrying about these things is an extra burden that women on average have to deal with more than me; and the worry/caution can detract from other things that many women would prefer to do (like thinking about science, statistics, math, etc.)

        • Women rarely have to deal with the kind of crap that is typified by the event in this video (it turns out well in the end, safe to watch, maybe low volume there is some cursing)


          In fact, lots of men face this kind of crap all the time. I’ll note that the good outcome came because of quick, decisive, overwhelming action that took good tactical thinking. This occurred on the LA subway system. So, yes I think women have more exposure to sexual violence, and men have more exposure to testosterone driven just straight up violence… It’s not all one way or another.

        • Motorcyclists and bicyclists spend an enormous amount of time trying not to be hurt by clueless or malicious car drivers: look in your mirrors all the time, be aware of people turning left, look out for lane changes… etc

          If a statistician analyzes say several common courses in motorcycle defensive driving and finds that 2 of them seem to offer real reduction in risk, and then goes to an internet board where motorcyclists are complaining about the behavior of car drivers, and offers helpful advice about taking certain defensive driving courses, I’d expect pretty much a similar response… but I don’t think it makes the advice wrong.

        • Let’s say specifically in a thread in which people are complaining about car drivers that *intentionally* endanger motorcyclists / cyclists, there is a personal story about how a motorcyclist was almost seriously injured multiple times along a single road by the same driver who kept threatening them over and over, and where there is already an emotionally charged start to the thread complaining about say “deeply mediocre cages” (cage is derogatory slang for a car driver among some motorcycle riders).

        • Well, among other things, it’s easy to see how you could use motorcycle defensive driving in this context. You’ve made your point that self-defence could be useful. Maybe it’s time to move on.

    • > But I’m fed up with trying to yank people towards empathy

      I am sorry you feel that way. But do you really think that “Fear of false accusations” is not a “real concern”? There are hundreds (thousands?) of innocent people currently incarcerated in US jails, each one of them false accused, tried and convicted.

      • I’m sure there is (I’m not from US), but only about 2-6% of accusations of sexual assault are later considered to be false (http://kunskapsbanken.nck.uu.se/nckkb/nck/publik/fil/visa/197/different). Moreover, false accusations of sexual assault almost never lead to any consequences, as discussed here: https://qz.com/980766/the-truth-about-false-rape-accusations. I would imagine that false accusations of harassment are even less consequential, though I have no data on that.

        When considered against the ongoing history of abuse against women, the gazillions of unreported incidents of rape, harassment, and abuse, the concerns of false accusations seem a bit overstated. We don’t need to make this shit up.

        • I have little doubt about the past/current incidence of false accusations but from a statistical perspective I believe we need to be worried about that changing given other (long overdue and positive) changes.

          Increased engagement to act on complaints changes the benefit/cost of making both true and false accusations – right?

        • According to the FBI, false accusations of sexual harassment and assault are at the same level as false accusations of other crimes. However, most other crimes are much, much, much more often reported, investigated, and brought to trial. Would you like other crimes to be investigated less? Because you must be really worried about the already high level of engagement re these crimes? I mean, what about all those false robbery accusations? Which are actually investigated?

          Relatedly, 40-80% of rapes are not reported. For sexual harassment, the non-reported % is very likely even higher. And, as an active member of my country’s metoo movement, I’m now convinced that is is in fact entirely possible for a man to rape a woman and get away with it with absolutely no consequences. And I live in one of the most gender-equal countries in the world.

          So, it’s not like we have up until now lived in a “normal”, just state of affairs and that some women are now trying to shake into some kind of imbalance. We’re trying to get the practices of the police, justice, and common opinion to match the law and basic human rights.

        • Poverty is strongly correlated with violence, including sexual violence. A lot of violence, including sexual violence in poor neighborhoods is under-reported. We need to send more poor people to prison.

        • My point above was to show how misguided Keith’s framing of the situation was. He seems to be concerned that there will be much more false harassment claims if and when authorities start “engaging” more strongly with these claims. However the situation is more like this: there’s a huge amount of harassment incidents that are not reported and also a huge amount that are reported but not investigated properly (even) compared to other crimes.
          If we would suddenly learn that robberies are largely underreported and underinvestigated, and that in fact in most cases, the robber just takes the victim’s stuff and faces no consequences, and people would set out to change this culture, would our first concern be that hey, now that the police/courts start taking these robbery claims seriously, there can be so many false accusations? NO. We would be appalled that people were allowed to be robbed for decades, and would want to change such robbery culture.

        • > My point above was to show how misguided Keith’s framing of the situation was.
          My framing included ” given other (long overdue and positive) changes”.

          But given this a scholarly statistical blog I feel we should point out how to best reason about situations similar to Kristian’s as well as related but different ones. I am definitely not suggesting solutions of any sort but rather raising considerations that I believe should be carefully thought through.

          As Dan S pointed out early in this post, there always is going to be false positives and false negatives. I was (trying to) point(ing) out those need to be discerned as best we can and they change over time.

        • The statistical study showing that only 2-6% of claims are false, is bogus.

          The author removed from his study any allegation where the accuser abandoned the claim, which is some 60%.

          He also didn’t consider allegations where the claims are true, but did not constitute sexual misconduct.

          He’s also refused to produce the underlying data, claiming that it was stolen from his car.

          And he’s crazy. He claims (I am not making this up) that throughout his childhood he was systematically raped by every male member of his family.

          2% is actually the number of claims that lead to the accuser being successfully prosecuted for making a false report.

          The best statistical study on claim falsehood showed that some 40-80% of claims did not arise from actual sexual assault. Either the accuser made the whole thing up (very rare), or the accusation they made simply did not amount to an assault.

        • You do know that there are people who, during their childhood, were raped by multiple male family members, right? Saying that that happened doesn’t make you crazy.

          I am unsure where 40-80% comes from, or what “actual sexual assault” is in this context. Any hope of a citation?

    • Anonymous: Thanks for your passionate and cogent concerns. I agree that there are men AND women who are quite passive-aggressive about rape and sexual harassment. But frankly, I think these recent revelations are consequence of the hazards of being ambitious too. In other words, sex has been an incentive for powerful to be powerful. They are to be surrounded by beautiful women. They can have sex with them, etc. It’s been the culture for centuries.

      As for the fear of false accusations, women too have argued this proposition which surprises me.

  14. Thank you very much for using this platform to raise awareness of this stink in the Bayesian statistics community and amplify KL’s important message.

    Ever since #metoo became a cultural phenomenon, I have wondered when these particular individuals would get their predation exposed. I am elated that day has finally come. I recognized immediately who the two men KL was referring to in reading her brave post from their broader patterns of inappropriate behavior, as she is far from the only one. Her anecdotes have many similarities to stories I had heard from others linked to this community. I suspect nearly every young woman in Bayesian statistics who has been to ISBA, a SBSS mixer, or the Google-sponsored social events at JSM has either been personally victimized by one of the two men KL refers to, or knows someone who has.

    The particular subfield of Bayesian statistics I started out studying seems rich with these kinds of predators, including S and others I would place on the creep spectrum for how I have observed them conducting themselves at these events. I changed paths for many reasons, but one factor contributing to my losing interest in that area was the disappointment of learning that the small set of people who would review and engage with my work was riddled with that kind of unprofessionalism. What do you do when you can’t trust the gatekeepers to be interested in your work on its own terms? Why butt your head against MCMC problems for weeks leading up to a talk for an audience that is counting down the seconds until they can use their drink tickets and hit on the latest batch of young female graduate students? Who in their right minds would continue on the natural career path of a postdoc with one of these men or working in S’s research group at his extremely prominent tech company?

    • Thank you for this, Anon. I am a grad student who spent a lot of time after ISBA analyzing and overanalyzing what happened there. I kept mentally replaying my interactions with S. I did not experience anything as bad as KL’s story, but multiple interactions with him ended in territory which made me deeply uncomfortable. Had I been unintentionally flirty or unprofessional? Was I sending the wrong message somehow? What could I do differently to avoid situations like that in the future? Or worse yet, was this normal networking for academics or people in tech?

      I am grateful to you, KL, and everyone else who is articulating what the field misses out on when it tolerates and downplays inappropriate behavior. I am sorry we will not get the benefit of your research ideas, and I hope you are fulfilled in your new direction. Thank you for helping to clear a path for others.

  15. “Power” has been mentioned in a few of the posts in this thread. It (in the sense used here) is a concept I’ve never quite been able to wrap my head around. But in recent years I have been doing a little better – and in particular, see it as complex and multifaceted. I’d like to give some examples of the interaction between power, sexual harassment, and other aspects of gender that I hope others reading this blog will think about.

    1. I first heard on the radio that Garrison Keillor had been accused of sexual harassment. The report was that he remembered the incident in question, that the inappropriate touching arose accidentally– that the woman involved had been upset and he had tried to put his hand on her back to comfort her, but didn’t realize that her blouse was open in back, so inadvertently touched her bare back. He said he had apologized for the inadvertent touching, and thought she had accepted his apology. I thought, OK, it was a mistake, so not really sexual harassment.
    But later that evening when I saw a report on the web of the incident that included a picture of Keillor, my gut reaction was, “Oh, my gosh! If I were upset, the last thing I would want would be to have a big guy like him put his hand on my back, even if I were wearing a heavy suit jacket over my blouse.” (I’m about one s.d. below the mean for women, and he’s about 2 sd’s above the mean for men.) In other words, I still didn’t see the incident as sexual harassment, but saw it as having inappropriate intentions – inappropriate because he didn’t seem to have enough awareness that the “power” of his being a big guy might make intentions that to his mind were good seem heavy-handed (figuratively as well as literally). I don’t mean to paint big guys as nasty; it’s an “it’s not easy being green” type thing; they need to take into account that there size gives them a power that they need to be careful to take into account when interacting with others.

    2. Another size/power thing from my own personal experience: I have a brother just 14 months older than I am. As small children, we were friends, playmates, almost like twins. (In fact, our mother would read The Bobbsey Twins to us at bedtime). In particular, we engaged in friendly wrestling a lot. Even though I was smaller than him, we were evenly matched, since I was quicker and more coordinated than he was. (Much later, he was diagnosed as having had polio around the time I was born, which would explain the differences in physical abilities.) But when we were about 12 and 13, he shot up and gained more muscle mass, and developed a simple technique that I was never able to counter: He put his palm on my forehead. The physics of the situation was on his side. He never beat me up or pinned me down, but it was clear that he could if he ever wanted to – that he had physical power over me. So we stopped wrestling and became little lady and little gentleman; on dress-up occasions, he would hold doors and pull out chairs for me, and walk on the street side.
    I think many women have had some kind of similar situation where they are aware that men could beat them up if they wanted to. Smaller men have undoubtedly had such experiences as well.

    3. This one is about power coming from age and status, where a professor pursued a romantic interest in one of his Ph.D. students. There was nothing technically improper about his behavior: he didn’t ask her out until she had finished her Ph.D.; he was divorced; and he was interested in marrying her. But I don’t think he realized what a difficult situation that put her in. She seriously considered marrying him, but his age and status made it more difficult for her to try to work out the details than it would have been with someone her own age. Also, there was “talk” that she was getting professional advantages because of his relationship with her. She finally broke off the relationship; he then courted and married another woman in the field.

    • Before law school I was in graduate school. At a recent funeral of someone who unlike me completed his PhD (tragic car accident took his life) I ran into the guy to whom I’d sold my fancy mattress (purchased with my first T.A. check) when I left town. He introduced me to his wife and after reminiscing about our late friend said “you know,we conceived all 4 of our kids on that mattress and we still have it in the guest room”. He’d married a freshman girl he met teaching Mystery Class Lab 101 and they’ve been happily married 28 years. Sometimes these things do blossom into true love. But then, we were Aggies … Whoooop!

      P.S. I still use your stats outline even though you are a teasip. Can’t deny smarts can we?

      • Well, I wasn’t born and bred a teasip. I’m still in ways a Michikanuck at heart (but maybe that’s even worse than a teasip?).

  16. There is a tremendous “imbalance of power” when justice is misapplied by the mob siding with an accuser. It’s odd to see that the same people who decry over-incarceration appear to demand relaxing the evidential standards when in their opinion the threat warrants it. What can be more dangerous than murder and other violent crimes?

    • Dear Anon,

      Do you have any statistics on false positive accusations?
      I think no one reasonable anywhere denies that there have been false accusations. Some might be due to “misunderstanding”, different cultural back grounds or just accidents, while others might have been malicious (two cases involving somewhat famous people in Germany spring to my mind where in both cases the accused was eventually declared innocent by the court – in one case the victims probably where after money, in the other the victim maybe wanted to get publicity for hear “career” – I want to emphasize that I did not follow both cases closely and that of course the courts could have been wrong on declaring the accused innocent!). So yes, you and others above are right, that it is wrong to ALWAYS believe the victim and imprison everyone accused immediately.

      But that is not what (most) people want. That is not what is discussed here. What we should do is listen to the victims, assess their stories, gather the evidence and in any case condemn any form of inappropriate behavior. And yes, paying more attention to this will eventually lead to some men being falsely accused, losing their jobs and maybe even ending up in prison. But the number of women who will not be physically and/or mentally injured, who will not leave their fields and will not think of themselves for the rest of their lives also as victims will far outweigh the men innocently being harmed.
      If we would follow this logic, should we also stop investigating fraud? Scientific misconduct? Or even murder? There are quite a lot of innocent people even sitting in death row. Why are false positives acceptable there, but not regarding sexual assault?

      If you do not like the comparison to false positives in other crimes, how about disease?
      Only because some people get unfortunately wrongly diagnosed with HIV, is no reason to stop doing HIV tests. It is a reason to develop better tests and stop the disease from spreading, but as long as we have nothing better, a test with some false positives is better than no test at all.

      And btw: “What can be more dangerous than murder and other violent crimes?”
      The suicide rate among rape victims is higher than for non-rape victims, is it just murder when I pull the trigger or also when I destroy your life so much that you see nothing left worth living for? And also, many forms of sexual harassment are violent, all of them are a form of psychological violence and many also physical violence.

      Sorry, this really makes me angry.
      We are talking about sexual harassment in the context of scientific communities. Sure, I understand that if I could believably claim to have been harassed by Kevin Spacey I might maybe get some money out of it. False accusations in that direction might be beneficial for me (I want to make clear that I do not think that people accusing Kevin Spacey make false accusations, only that if I would accuse him, it would be false). But what does the gradstudent openly complaining about sexual assault gain? I have not heard of a hiring or grant committee giving favors to victims of sexual assault. Your work will not be cited more, because you are a victim. The evidence you present will not be worth more, because you are a victim.
      Sure, you might be able to damage the reputation of the accused, even ending their career, thus maybe take down an academic rival? I have yet to meet the (female) gradstudent who would do such a thing. There is virtually NOTHING to gain and everything to lose. As was stated over and over again above: You will be a trouble maker. You will have the label of victim. Ohh, and you are also committing a felony (at least in some states). And for what, please?

      Do you think that the small recognition that people like Kristian Lum get for speaking up makes up for the victim label? I honestly do not know, for some it might, for others it will ruin their interactions with their coworkers. Some (male) coworkers will probably refrain from any meaningful interaction with accusers out of fear that their innocent behavior might be misunderstood and they are the next “poor victim of a feminist witchhunt”. I do not think that any actual victim of sexual assault will get out on top in anyway (especially if the assault is severe). No money or delivered justice will make the damage disappear. And in the academic context, I see hardly any incentive for false accusations.

      So, No, do not just believe every victim. But take them serious. Allow the possibility that they are right. Sure, if you maybe know this S person and think, I cannot believe this, he was always so nice. Then talk to S, get his side of the story. But insinuating that this discussion here would lead to mob justice and high rates of false accusers is unfounded and in no way helpful. Do you believe the status quo is better than much more speaking up and actions being taken?

      Do not get me wrong. To quote William Clifford: “It is wrong always, everywhere, and for everyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.” Maybe just the story of a victim is not sufficient evidence to put someone in prison, and yes, it generally should not be. But it is surely sufficient evidence to start an investigation. To pay a bit more attention.
      And yes it is a very difficult topic where irrefutable evidence often can only be found in the worst cases. There will never be a perfect solution.
      But the status quo has become unacceptable for many people. If we look at it not from our own, personal, perspective, but from the view of society, the few false positives will be worth all the true positives and the following true negatives (I assume that the behavior will reduce vastly, once it has become clear that such behavior is no longer tolerated), compared to the current amount of false negatives.

      • Just Germany have an “innocent” category? Or is it like the Anglo countries with guilty/not guilty?

        People do get brow beaten into recanting. Sometimes the horror is just too much that it’s healthier in the moment to recant and escape.

        I seem to recall a case where a woman recanted over being sexually assaulted and got prosecuted for wasting police time and then other evidence came out that proved she was actually assaulted.

      • +1

        Plus there is no “mob” (as characterized by another commenter) There are a long list of individual women who are sharing similar experiences with the same person. There is a second list of women and others who report having heard about these experiences happening to others.

    • Academic and professional organizations, whose responses to sexual harassment and assault reports are the relevant ones here, don’t incarcerate people. Ideally, they just stop letting them attend meetings and, if possible, get them fired from their jobs. I don’t see any reason that academic or professional organizations should demand the same standards of evidence as a criminal court for individual reports of a violation known to be widespread and rarely falsely reported. Anyone who cares enough about this issue to pay attention to the data is aware that sexual harassment and assault accusations are very rarely false, for reasons that someone halfway conscious should be able to guess. Murder has a very different set of evidential problems and is a complete non-issue in academic organizations.

  17. Where are people like Amy Cuddy and Susan Fiske in all of this??

    If i am not mistaken, they are all about women and diversity and empowerment.

    1) Have they ever done any research concerning sexual abuse/misconduct in Psychological Science?

    2) If not, why not, and would that perhaps be more useful than publishing (another flawed) paper about power-posing and counting how many times their names appear on science blogs (+2 right here)?

    • Anon:

      I don’t think you’re being fair to Cuddy or Fiske here. First, they may be doing a lot of work on these problems behind the scenes. Second, Cuddy and Fiske’s research is on topics that relate to power relations; one can criticize how this research is done, but the topic is certainly relevant. Third, as a general matter I don’t think it’s so useful to criticize people for doing X, when Y is more important. That way lies madness: why for example should I write blog posts on sports when children are dying in poor countries around the world? Etc.

      • “I don’t think you’re being fair to Cuddy or Fiske here”

        I am just posing a question.

        It was not my intention to suggest that they *should* do and/or say something about this matter in any way, shape, or form.

      • “Third, as a general matter I don’t think it’s so useful to criticize people for doing X, when Y is more important. That way lies madness: why for example should I write blog posts on sports when children are dying in poor countries around the world? Etc.”

        I thought about this, and please hear me out.

        What if they were writing blogposts about children dying in poor countries while actually being in the poor country themselves, and having a big stack of food sitting next to them?

        Because, to me, that may be a more accurate description of the/their situation.

        Still not saying they *should* do anything about this.

        Just posing a question.

        • So a few things:

          Firstly, I doubt they have an opinion about the specific topic of this post, because I don’t think they interact very deeply Bayesian community.

          Secondly, I imagine they have some strong opinions on similar issues in their own community and, as Andrew said, may well be actively addressing them.

          Thirdly, it’s not the job of every woman in science/social science to fix sexism and harassment. They have other things to do.

          Fourthly, your analogy doesn’t make sense. It implies that women who are doing well in their field are not subject to harassment (ie, while the other “children” are dying of starvation [harassment] they are sitting around with with piles of food [success?]) or that because they are successful they have to fix sexism.

          Finally, while I try to take what people write at face value (in this case, your last two lines), the “if not/why not” construction of your question strongly suggested the opposite.

          TL;DR: It’s not the job of women (even those who are successful, even those who’s work you do not like) to fix sexual harassment.

        • All your other comments do not make much sense to me, and most importantly are not relevant in this case. So i’ll just focus on your 4th point, and say the following:

          “Fourthly, your analogy doesn’t make sense. It implies that women who are doing well in their field are not subject to harassment (ie, while the other “children” are dying of starvation [harassment] they are sitting around with with piles of food [success?]) or that because they are successful they have to fix sexism.”

          I wrote: “What if they were writing blogposts about children dying in poor countries while actually being in the poor country themselves, and having a big stack of food sitting next to them?”

          1) What if they were writing blogposts about children dying in poor countries (e.g. see https://amycuddyblog.com/about/ and “Cuddy is currently writing a book about bravery, bullying, and bystanding.”)

          2) while actually being in the poor country themselves (being part, or having been part, of academia)

          3) and, having a big stack of food sitting next to them (having certain status and tools available to them to say and/or do something about the matter of sexual abuse/misconduct in acacemia)

        • So your view is that Amy Cuddy, who I’m pretty sure has left academia, is writing a book about bullying and should therefore publicly do something unspecified about sexual harassment in academia.

          As I said above that’s not her job. As Andrew said above, there is every chance she’s doing something behind the scenes.

          I’m going to sign off this subtopic now because it feels to me to be more about your feelings towards Cuddy than sexual harassment. Feel free to continue without me, I’m finding this tedious. But do consider broadening the scope to people who study bullying who aren’t Cuddy.

        • ” (…) there is every chance she’s doing something behind the scenes. ”

          That would be great! I thank her in advance.

          And i thank you for bringing up this topic.

          And most importantly, i thank Kristian Lum for being brave, and trying to help improve matters!

        • This is the same logic that says every African American and/or Female and/or Hispanic has to serve on multiple committees dealing with “issues” so the committees look diverse and then also has to be the unofficial mentor to all of the students of color or women in their programs. And then should be criticized for not being as productive in scholarship as the people who do not take on those jobs. And make no mistake they would be criticized for not taking on those jobs too, it is a no win situation. That is why what you asked made people outraged. I do think that you are correct that the very general topic of their research is related. Sexual harassment is a kind of bullying, and it’s not a bad idea to think of it that way to remove the “men just want sex and you can’t solve that” perspective from the discussion. But no one here is talking about the research literature otherwise half of the derailing that is happening would not be happening.

        • Anon:
          Why aren’t you working on this issue?

          And why are you hiding your name? Even though Andrew allows it, you don’t have to.

          Just asking.

        • “Anon:
          Why aren’t you working on this issue? ”

          To try and help improve the sh#tshow you call academia, i

          1) praised several people who i think are brave and/or doing an important job of getting the topic of sexual abuse on the agenda

          2) tried to come up with (steps toward) solutions like performing research into how much of a problem this might be in academia

          3) tried to more directly ask if it would be useful if certain people and/or organizations that a) have worked on related issues, and/or b) try to improve psychological science on a broader level would do some research in this

          4) posted links to articles containing links to places where people can anonymously report abuse

          That’s just in this thread alone.

          The funny thing is, I am not even working in academia, nor do i ever want to. For me personally, there is too much fake science, too many fake scientists, too many fake morals, too many fake ethics, too much fake outrage, too much fake logic, too much fake reasoning, too much fake evidence, too many fake men, and too many fake women for me to ever want to be close to.

          I am just trying to help improve this sh#itshow you call academia so people like Kristian Lum can have a chance to try and contribute to science in a system that operates according to scientific values, principles, and responsibilities.

  18. And yes, paying more attention to this will eventually lead to some men being falsely accused, losing their jobs and maybe even ending up in prison. But the number of women who will not be physically and/or mentally injured, who will not leave their fields and will not think of themselves for the rest of their lives also as victims will far outweigh the men innocently being harmed.

    First, this is partly an empirical question. Assume whatever new process you like. How many men will be falsely accused, lose their jobs and so on? How many women, who would otherwise have been “physically and/or mentally injured,” will not be?

    Turns out that the US has been conducting a version of this experiment at US colleges over the last 5 or 10 years. The results don’t look good to me.

    In recent years, politicians led by President Obama and prominent senators and governors have teamed with extremists on campus to portray our nation’s campuses as awash in a violent crime wave—and to suggest (preposterously) that university leaders, professors, and students are indifferent to female sexual assault victims in their midst. Neither of these claims has any bearing in reality. But they have achieved widespread acceptance, thanks in part to misleading alarums from the Obama administration and biased media coverage led by the New York Times.

    The frenzy about campus rape has helped stimulate—and has been fanned by—ideologically skewed campus sexual assault policies and lawless commands issued by federal bureaucrats to force the nation’s all-too-compliant colleges and universities essentially to presume the guilt of accused students. The result has been a widespread disregard of such bedrock American principles as the presumption of innocence and the need for fair play.

    The famous case at Columbia is particularly instructive.

    How good a job do you think that, say, the American Statistical Association would do investigating/judging/punishing in these situations?

  19. I am so beyond tired of these kinds false equivalencies. The referenced Columbia case is in no way instructive in this context.

    That case involved an allegation of rape behind closed doors with no witnesses or material evidence. It was messy and highlights the complexity of balancing presumed innocence and sufficient pursuit of justice under such conditions.

    Dr. Lum’s article and Dr. Simpson’s post address habitual sexual assault and harassment in a relatively closed community. It seems that S’s behavior is so well known that most people in that community not only can identify him but also know people whom he has assaulted.

    If S, T, U, V, X, Y, and Z have been groping people for years and everyone knows this, where exactly do you see the risk for false positives? If this is a binary signal detection problem, the distance between these kinds of cases (which involve community-wide recognition of the perpetrator) and the decision boundary is functionally infinite.

    Your conflation of the issues addressed in Dr. Lum’s article with the Columbia case is more obfuscatory than helpful. It is perfectly possible to reasonably address the issue of systemic and habitual sexual assault in ISBA without also solving the larger problem of developing a sufficient legal and institutional framework for addressing all sexual assault in all contexts.

      • All right, I clearly need to take this attitude to twitter otherwise I’m going to say something that’s not appropriate for an academic blog. Whoever tries to keep this thing clean: please feel free to delete these two (or not).

      • Indeed, curio! I too see no meaningful distinction between lynching and holding well-known habitual sexual assailants accountable for their actions. Particularly after reading Wikipedia’s introduction to lynching (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lynching):

        “Lynching is an extrajudicial punishment by an informal group. It is most often used to characterize informal public executions by a mob in order to punish an alleged transgressor, or to intimidate a group. It is an extreme form of informal group social control such as charivari, skimmington, riding the rail, and tarring and feathering, but with a drift towards the display of a public spectacle. It is to be considered an act of terrorism and punishable by law.[1][2] Instances of it can be found in societies long antedating European settlement of North America.[3][4][5]

        In the U.S. most perpetrators of lynchings were white and the victims black. The political message—the promotion of white supremacy and black powerlessness—was an important element of the ritual, with lynchings photographed and published as postcards which were popular souvenirs in the U.S.[6][7] As well as being hanged, victims were sometimes burned alive and tortured, with body parts removed and kept as souvenirs.[8]”

        Thank you for your thoughtful response!

        • “In the U.S. most perpetrators of lynchings were white and the victims black”

          That is false. Please find the numbers and convince yourself that you are wrong.

          There is no reason to believe that the majority of the victims of the lynch trials were innocent or that lynchings did not reduce crime. What is abhorrent about the lynchings is the procedure itself

          Now, aside from the false claim you’ve made above, what exactly is the disanalogy?

        • I was wrong. According to Tuskegee “from 1882-1968, 4,743 lynchings occurred in the United States. Of these people that were lynched 3,446 were black. The blacks lynched accounted for 72.7% of the people lynched. Out of the 4,743 people lynched only 1,297 white people were lynched.
          Situation was not uniform. For instance according to “Converging to a National Lynching Database” https://msu.edu/~lisacook/hist_meths_lynch_paper_final.pdf
          “In reviewing the Tuskegee data for New Mexico, they find that, of 36 people reported lynched in New Mexico between 1882 and 1968, 33 were reported as “white” and 3 “black.” They find that nine of 33 whites were of Mexican descent, and one was Native American.2” (it reflects the fact that people of Mexican descent were classified as “white” in the racist hierarchy)

          Again, that does not say much about the innocence of the victims. Given that in 2015 African-Americans, 13% of the population committed majority of murders, it is quite possible that most of the black (and white) victims of lynchings were actually guilty The point is however that the way the “trial” was conducted is a mockery of justice

        • They were killed in lynchings, but the crimes they were alleged to commit were much more severe than “groping” and “harassment”. What remains constant is the “community-wide recognition of the perpetrator”. The analogy stands.

        • Not really actually in all cases. Emmett Till who is usually thought of as the last victim of lynching in the US was accused of whistling at a white woman. Many lynching were more about race than about the accused crimes and I encourage you to stop with the false analogy. It’s not helping make your argument.

    • If S, T, U, V, X, Y, and Z have been groping people for years and everyone knows this, where exactly do you see the risk for false positives?

      I see a very low risk indeed! But is this the evidentiary standard that you propose? No one is punished (or even investigated?) until they have been groping (many?) people for (many?) years? I doubt it! I suspect that you would live every single allegation of a single grope to be investigated and, if substantiated, punished. And I might very well agree with you! But, if that is the process you want then, surely, you have to admit that there is a non-trivial chance of false positives.

    • It is perfectly possible to reasonably address the issue of systemic and habitual sexual assault in ISBA without also solving the larger problem of developing a sufficient legal and institutional framework for addressing all sexual assault in all contexts.

      Well, you can certainly come up with a system, and that system will have effects, but it is hard for the rest of us to agree/disagree unless you get into the specifics. Start with:

      1) Who will investigate complaints? In your world, Kristian Lum would accuse Steve Scott. Do volunteers ISBA members investigate? Do they hire professional investigators? Who pays for that? Columbia, in its efforts to combat sexual harassment/assault on campus, has spent millions of dollars. ISBA does not (I assume) have that sort of money, but it would also (I assume) not face the volume of complaints that Columbia receives. Still, money must be found.

      2) What rights, if any, will the accused have? For example, will Scott (or his attorney!) be able to cross-examine Lum? This has been a controversial issue for university sexual assault investigations. I would be in favor of allowing cross-examinations but I could also imagine the case against them. Until you specify the details of your proposed process, it is tough for any of us to form an opinion.

      3) What will the burden of proof be? Presumably, the only punishment that ISBA could hand out is banishment from its events/publications. Would we have to find beyond-a-reasonable doubt that Scott had assaulted Lum to punish him? Or would it be preponderance-of-the-evidence? Or some other standard? Obviously, this choice has a big effect on the rates of false positives/negatives.

      Summary: The details matter.

      • The details definitely matter. And we will have to wait for ISBA’s policy before we can criticise them. They are currently soliciting suggestions (I’ll put a link at the bottom of the post)

      • The youtube video has an academic value despite of the allegations. It is sad that our emotions may tamper our scientific judgement.

        • “The youtube video has an academic value despite of the allegations.”

          I totally agree! Thank you for the comment.

          (another reason why individual awards in science are just silly, but that’s another conversation)

          I think i should have left out “either” and used “and/or” instead of “or” to more accurately phrase things.

          (I think it might be explained by me trying really hard not to post a video of someone with the same name, but not being the person the article mentioned. I think my wording and the use of “either” and “or” reflects that.)

        • Statisticians should be good at dealing with the “bad people, good work” problem. Fisher had his eugenics etc etc. I don’t need someone to be a good person to read/cite/use etc their work. But I do require that if someone is going to be part of the statistics community they should not make it less safe for other people. (I.e. I don’t want people who abuse people around my colleagues, PostDocs, students, or me)

          Others may fall differently on this issue and it’s a good thing to discuss

    • Thanks for the link. The last line (“[Kerrie] Mengersen said the organization was in the process of establishing protocols for appropriate behavior and support mechanisms for members who have been harassed.”) sounds encouraging.

  20. Read Kristian Lum’s story.
    Now did S. try to initiate a sexual relation? Probably.
    If so, was he clumsy about it? For certain, very cringeworthy indeed.
    So what?
    To be honest, Lum strikes me as grabbing for attention and victim points here,
    piggybacking on the current #meetoo mass hysteria, using her 8 year old story.
    In fact, it smells of the old feminist plan to backstab great men in order
    to make room for mediocre women.

    • Anon:

      I don’t want to respond to every comment. But I don’t want to delete comments either, so let me very briefly respond:

      1. According to Lum and others, it wasn’t just this one assault at the beach; apparently this person has a reputation for sexual assault, to the extent that women are warned to avoid getting raped by him. That’s a big deal, no?

      2. What Lum did was tell some stories about striking things that happened to here, contextualizing these stories by referring to the experiences of others. I don’t see how it makes sense to call this “grabbing for attention.” And it seems ridiculous to call it “grabbing for victim points” when she was describing an occasion in which she was actually the victim.

      Think about it: When someone is victimized and doesn’t tell the story, that’s taken to imply it’s no big deal. When she does tell the story, you’re taking it as “grabbing for attention.” That’s not right. Yes, Lum posted her story in a public place and it got attention: there’s no problem with that.

      Regarding the bit about great or mediocre people: as discussed in the thread above, I think the whole great/mediocre thing is irrelevant to the discussion. I don’t think it’s a “backstab” to report an incident when someone assaulted you—even if it happened several years ago.

      • Well, you possibly can’t and obviously shouldn’t.
        I also don’t see why you would bring up deletion with my post, tbh.
        The issue i raised is very real, even if your prior places a low value on that.
        Speaking of priors, all see is confirmation bias piling up a prior here, placing all weight on somehow guilty.

        ad 1 )
        That is just hearsay. You can get a ‘reputation’, a social prior if you will, really fast.
        This is especially true with women. Just assume one of his affairs went sour, for whatever reason,
        and as soon as the dirty laundry is out there the ‘reputation’ begins to build. Then a collegue of his,
        suspecting (justified or not) his affairs being disruptive and being somewhat jealous of his ‘success’,
        makes a sarcastic and hyperbolical remark about ‘warning of rape’ while being unnerved with S.
        So that gets taken verbatim (how convenient, myladies) and here we are talking about ‘alledged’ rape.
        That is a pretty strong allegation and needs a proper citation and not some insinuations on twitter.

        If you really think that what Lum reported constitutes an assault, then good for you and i hope you never
        have to witness a real assault.
        It was a botched mating dance on some beach as far as i can determine.

        ad 2 )
        She does have attention now, doesn’t she? You obviously have to position yourself as victim if you want
        victim points, so there is nothing ridiculous about that.

        I also am not sure what you want to talk about: victim of
        a) harrasment (could be argued, far from certain, depending on definition, probably not provable)
        b) assault (i see nothing to support that)
        c) rape ( ” ”)
        What is the precise allegation and under what definition?

        Again, all i see is a guy positioning himself as a player drawing on his status while being embarassingly
        clumsy about it, and a playess protruding her cleavage during a poster session hoping to draw the attention of some bigwig.

        • I guess it’s time for the 101s. You are not allowed to touch people in a sexual without their consent. This is true always, but especially true in a work setting. This is always true in a work setting but especially true when you are significantly more senior than the the person you are touching without consent.

          As for why it took eight years: before she told her story publicly she first left academia (in part because of this) and got a job neither of these men had any control over. Right now there is culturally some indication that she’ll be taken seriously and not dismissed as attention seeking. You’ve proved her not completely right, but thankfully senior people in the Bayesian community are taking this very seriously.

        • “I guess it’s time for the 101s. ”
          It funny to hear how it is fundamentally not Ok to _touch_ someone from the same kind of people (not you , Dan) who say that it’s OK to “Punch a Nazi” or assault a someone at a political rally ( presumably because you disagree with them so strongly etc.) Clearly people’s “101”s depend o n the size of the stakes involved, how important something is to you, what your preferences are – in other words, there are very little “principled” stuff here, mostly supporting your friends and condemning your enemies .

        • Corey:

          We do get some clueless commenters (I say this in general, not in reaction to any particular comments in this thread), but overall I love how our comment sections give people the opportunity for in-depth discussions. The occasional clueless or obnoxious comment is a small price to pay for the open environment in which people can engage with each other and feel free to say what they really think.

        • Corey:

          That link you sent is from 2009. We seem to have done ok since then. Every once in awhile I get some really obnoxious commenters, and I do think it helps that people respond to them. I think that the real trolls just get bored with our scholarly attitude and they go away. If people started to use comments as a way to attack the forum then we’d have to start deleting comments for real. But fortunately that hasn’t happened (yet).

        • I would like to point out that the “more scholarly” posts on this blog do not have the expressions like “deeply mediocre” in their title. You start with an attack (because you think it is well-deserved), you set the tone and the level of the “scholarly depth”. It is odd then to complain about the emotionally charged comments

        • Anonymous (December 16, 2017 at 8:33 am) said,
          “a playess protruding her cleavage during a poster session hoping to draw the attention of some bigwig”

          I think it’s very unlikely that a woman would “protrude her cleavage” during a poster session at a statistics conference “hoping to draw the attention of some bigwig”. That’s just not the way the women I know in science, math, statistics, and engineering behave. Nor is it the way other women I know behave. Possibly your view of women is shaped more by graphic novels and fantasy films than by real life experience?

        • Good point. Cleavage is something women have in varying quantities. If you don’t have it, you can’t protrude it. Some women who have a lot exspend a lot of effort trying not to protrude it.

    • I have three main thoughts on that Facebook conversation:
      1) She says “Do we have enough context yet?” but it would seem that the context for each of these comments is not shown (i.e., there were likely public comments on a Facebook post and then he sent her these private messages). Minor point, but whatever.
      2) Setting aside the obvious ~strangeness of his comments — do they constitute sexual harassment? I mean, I don’t see any “quid pro quo” or anything that implies he’s wanting anything from her.
      3) Why was she Facebook friends with him?

      This isn’t to say that I think this is normal behavior, but I don’t see why these private messages needed to be made public (Did anyone doubt that he said these things?) or why they’re relevant to the “sexual harassment” conversation.

      • My understanding of that thread was that her only response to the 538 article was to correct one of the graphs and that was the response. So it gives context. Obviously you can’t do that for all aspects of the story, but for the bit that was written down it’s pretty easy. I’m not sure it’s practical to go back and find all of the comments on the facebook post.

        Facebook is also used as a professional networking tool, so it’s not weird to be friends with someone you aren’t exactly friends with. Also, some people take “unfriending” as rejection, and people typically avoid rejecting powerful professional acquaintances.

      • I’ll respond to your second and third points as I think Dan has sufficiently responded to the first. Yes I strongly believe this is sexual harassment. To quote the EEOC, sexual harassment is “harassment (typically of a woman) in a workplace, or other professional or social situation, involving the making of unwanted sexual advances or obscene remarks.” These are quite clearly obscene remarks, with no similar remarks being made by Kristian.

        Your comment about being friends with him on Facebook at all concerns me because it is very close to victim blaming. I don’t think her being Facebook friends with him is relevant here at all. Being Facebook friends with someone is not an invitation to receive inappropriate messages.

    • I am not questioning her authenticity as such, but the intellectual honesty of her position.
      Nothing in these comments impresses me, and i am otherwise easily impressed.

      • There’s no position here. She related what happened. Parts of the story have been verified (fbook chats, other people with similar experiences outlined in that Bloomberg article).

  21. I just want to praise you, Dan, for this post.
    I saw a few comments of men, and I couldn’t believe some arguments made here. We have a lot of way to go to get rid of sexism, and I think this post helps to do that.
    Thanks again for posting this.

  22. Morals and ethics are different. I may hold the moral position that I wouldn’t work with Brad Carlin (NB: not the BDA Carlin!!) but that is personal and does not transfer to others.

    I’m also not sure who here thinks they have a mystical fountain of easy answers to the extremely complex problem for the community.

    • I actually think that, at least from a sociology perspective, one of the interesting questions about this moment is what happens next to the perpetrators. Yes there are immediate responses and stigmatization, but what about 6 months or a year from now. Will there be a path to rehabilitation? What will it be? Sure some of these people are old enough to retire or rich enough to disappear from public life, but that’s true for far from all of them nor may they all want to retire to bee-keeping. I don’t believe anyone thinks that mandatory attendance at some corporate/university training is going to change these people or make it comfortable for others to work with them in the short term. Also in the case of faculty you really would not want in the short term to provide access to students or junior faculty in the near future. But what if they can change and demonstrate that? In New York State felons who don’t reoffend for a period of years can apply to have their records sealed. I don’t think people are incapable of change. But we really don’t know what that will look like in these cases where the sanctions are losing jobs, honors and respectability rather than freedom.

  23. When I first saw this post, and followed the link, and then other links, I came across a twitter (or maybe Facebook) post by a woman who either is still in philosophy or was and left, because 25 years earlier she was harassed by a professor. In the post she lists the 12 ((or maybe 14) reasons for why she never reported it, and still isn’t naming the person. It was very thought provoking, but of course I didn’t bookmark it, and now I can’t find it (it may have been linked in one of the comments in the Imposteriors Facebook page which is now taken down).

    If anyone is a better internet sleuth than I it would be worthwhile to find it and post the URL. I believe her last name began with S (I am not making this up). The comments on the post are also interesting for the most part, about the tradeoffs if names aren’t named and reports made.

    • It would be interesting to compare these kinds of stories to the stories of the men who left academia because of their bosses (male or female) being mediocre women who demand excessive adoration, or women who stayed in the fields mostly due to the fact that they are attractive or people who hated that the “communities” get to decide what is right and what is wrong on someone’s say so. Then one could get a more complete picture of what is hurting academia the most.

      • Hi Diana:

        Yes, exactly, thanks. There was a followup somewhere where I think she added two other reasons, maybe Facebook, maybe twitter. The discussion in that was also worthwhile, with people saying “but why didn’t you do X” and her response. The value of that discussion was it made it clear what a difficult position people are put in, and the hard choices they have to make, which fortunately I have not had to make (but as an aside, someone in my family has had to recently, so it is real for me – off topic for here but if you are curious and know who I am email me offline)

      • Diana,

        Thanks for the link. It says lots of things that I’ve been afraid to say (and I’m much bolder about saying things now, in my seventies, than when I was younger.)

  24. What a richly interesting comment section!

    At first, the snark stands out and the first reaction is to snark back. But once you get past that there are all sorts of thoughtful and articulate comments. This is pretty extraordinary and very uncommon. Probably, the technical difficulty of the website as a whole acts as a filter that only the thoughtful and articulate get past.

  25. I have to wonder why ISBA and similar societies with very accomplished women also at the helm of affairs fall from the blue and do nothing until something like this happens. Surely, one of them would have heard or felt or seen the unwelcome advances (on others). You do not have to take action in the absence of formal complaints, but why not factor in these kinds of behavior and not put these people up on a higher pedestal by making them invited, keynote snd plenary speakers. All this confers power on these perpretrators. So, the high-ranking men and women at ISBA are also culpable by omission in facilitating and fostering this culture of wink-wink nod-nod acceptance.

  26. How do we handle conferences in the future? It is a sub-problem but the current issue I face organizing StanCon2018 (Jan 10-12, registration is still open, please come).

    I am highly motivated to prevent any sexual harassment events. I am hoping that current awareness will shut down bad behavior but the NIPS 2017 event (please read first sentence of Kristian Lum’s blog post referenced above) indicates that things could be otherwise.

    Any suggestions? What we have currently for a code of conduct:


    Currently I am thinking:

    1) Announce at the beginning that we expect decent behavior.
    2) Email attendees with said link, reminding decent behavior, put reminder in SWAG bags.
    3) Have some easy, low key, reporting mechanism with women involved if something comes up. I have no idea what to do if a report is made.

    What else? We are NOT giving a self-defense tutorial.

    I am looking for concrete ideas that can be put into action.


      • Breck: This is a very good CoC that outlines exactly what the conference will do if a report is made. I haven’t read the StanCon one yet, but I’d suggest copying that bit if it’s not in there. Don’t be afraid to toss people out if they misbehave.

        • “Don’t be afraid to toss people out if they misbehave.” <- Seconded.

          I would also always internally document incidents and actions taken and always inform key organizers (I keep seeing these incidents where a complaint is made but then never acted on and the lead conference organizers are later stuck saying something like "well _I_ didn't know about it" which is satisfying for no one.

    • A possible additional idea: Recruit a collection of men and women who are willing to do the following:

      1. Develop and make a button or badge with some snappy design and a logo (e.g., “I support …” or “I am committed to …” promoting “Decent treatment” (not sure that is the best term, though; perhaps Professional treatment? or Respectful treatment?)

      2. Develop a short handout, perhaps in question-and-answer format.

      3. Staff a table at registration and other appropriate times, wearing their buttons, offering a button and handout to passersby, and inviting them to ask questions.

      Part of the idea is to get a large number of people wearing the button, to show widespread support for the idea.

      • Sorry, but i don’t like the button-idea. I reason that:

        1) you are sort of creating groups (people with and without a button) and putting the responsibility for things more in the hands of individuals, when they should be more in the hands of the organization (and ultimately academia at large)

        2) to me (but this might be personal) the issue is too fundamental and too important to be put on a button

        Possible improvement while still getting the same result could be just putting up posters with code of conduct (?)

        To me, that way it:

        1) isn’t about certain people who do or do not support these things, and

        2) the responsibility is more in line of where it should be in my reasoning: the organization (and ultimately academia at large)

        Just my 2 cents.

        • I can see your point that if it comes across as “creating groups if those with and without a button,” then it can be problematical. I was envisioning the group as being more an adjunct to the organization’s code of conduct, as people showing their support and being willing to explain the code to others.

    • Yes really, and also how to police attendees thoughts better? Some of those could really be unclean.
      Regarding the sexual language, would you have banned Lum from your conference for wearing her sexy dress
      or just told her it was inappropriate?

        • So we *are* talking about policing here?

          That is the easy way out though, call someone whose position you are not prepared to understand simply a troll.
          Well, if i am a troll i am a very well meaning one, rest assured.

        • We are talking about defining appropriate behaviour and requiring attendees to behave appropriately. We are not talking about thoughts. And we are definitely not talking about blaming victims of abuse for wearing the wrong clothes. None of that original comment appears to be well meaning. It was neither on the topic of the CoC or in the spirit of the CoC but rather there to land a gratuitous attack on Kristian Lum. That’s trolling.

        • This is hardly a moral panic. These are basic attempts to address an issue that permeates this field and most others. Dealing with drunk driving brings up many of the same issues (thresholds for action, responsibility for one’s choices while inebriated, etc…) but I don’t see anybody calling that a moral panic.

        • Of course there has been a moral panic surrounding drinking and driving. The fact that you don’t see anybody referring to it says something about your ability to sample information and opinion. If you instead wanted to argue that good can come from moral panics, you would have a better argument.

          In the case of drunk driving due process and access to an objective criterion to measure violations (BAC thresholds, for example) has at least made the process relatively fair. The same can’t be said for the current moral panic, in which as far as I can tell the enforcement process will be ad hoc, inherently subjective and ideological. If anyone has proposed a system which affords those accused due process, or one in which wrongdoing is measured in some objective way, I would be happy to be disabused of my misconceptions.

          One concerning tell is that codes of conduct are being adopted from those with ideological agendas. See Dan Simpson’s endorsement of SIP’s COC which adopts language from “Geek Feminism”. This has become political. It will end badly.

        • Re: JG. I didn’t ask your opinion about my ability to do anything, thanks. Blood alcohol content is hardly objective since it’s a proxy for the thing we care about and gets applied unevenly. Then again if your idea of a moral panic is so broad as to include drunk driving then yes certainly, let’s have a moral panic over creepy men driving capable women out of science and statistics.

        • KS:

          Your sensitivity to hearing opinions that you didn’t ask to hear is not going to suit you well. That is a feature of life in the real world, or in a healthy intellectual culture.

          I think you don’t know what “objective” means. The relevant definition, in the context I provided above, is given by OED as


          Whatever the flaws of BAC – and I agree there are flaws – police subjectivity doesn’t enter into it.

          Your glib reply shows that you have no wish to engage thoughtfully with ideas that shock your sensibilities. Why engage in discussion then? Social signalling?

        • The definition was mangled by the brackets.

          “) not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts.”

          a : expressing or dealing with facts or conditions as perceived without distortion by personal feelings, prejudices, or interpretations objective art an objective history of the war an objective judgment
          b of a test : limited to choices of fixed alternatives and reducing subjective factors to a minimum Each question on the objective test requires the selection of the correct answer from among several choices.

        • I’ll be sure to let you know when your opinion of me becomes relevant. My main point is that if you’re equating sexual harassment with drunk driving you’ve basically conceded it’s a serious issue that needs to be addressed that runs against your otherwise dismissive attitude.

          I’m the one talking about issues whereas you’re spending most of your time making snide comments about my “ability to sample information and opinion”. You’re also ignoring my good looks which seems really unfair.

        • Sure, I’ll resist the urge to point out the misrepresentation of my position above. I’ll just note that despite the usual quality of the comments section here, this post does not seem to have generated a particularly thoughtful dialogue. It is in emotionally charged times/matters that the standard of dispassionate reason and intellectually charitable engagement across worldviews is most important. A Truth-seeking community is fragile to even tiny lies, widely embraced.

  27. So far this discussion is focusing on the aspect of ‘wrong behavior’ and I think most would say it was wrong behavior. To put if formally, p(wrong behavior) = 1

    However, I would be interested in discussing the severity of ‘wrong behavior’ because only by connecting this additional aspect the severity of the punishment can be determined. The punishment could range from ‘no punishment’ to imprisonment.

    From a legal point of view it doesn’t look to me like a case at all (even if all accusations are true and can be proven). As written above, a clumsy and pathetic attempt to flirt can hardly lead to criminal conviction, or can it?

    Aside from the legal perspective, an employer can certainly take action by firing an employee. But would this be justified if there is no criminal conviction?

    In contrast to the assessment how wrong the behavior is, I find it hard to quantify the punishment.

    I would be curious to hear what punishment you consider appropriate?

    • Anon:

      Before talking about punishment etc., I think it would be good to move toward an equilibrium in which women who are harassed in this way could feel free to call it out right away, rather than the situation until recently in which women have had to use secret channels to warn each other about abusive behavior. I’m guessing that it were easier to blow the whistle on this behavior, there’d be a lot less of it going around.

      • This is absolutely wrong. There must be zero tolerance for any sexual transgressions against women and the fact that you are equivocating on this subject, Dr. Gelman, is very disturbing. Contrary to Anonymous’s claim, aggressively flirting in a professional setting is NOT appropriate and should have career-changing consequences. Those concerned about the victimizers here have lost sight of the lived experience of those who have been victimized. Sexual assault is simply intolerable.

        • Nadia:

          I am not equivocating in any way. All my comments above have made it clear that the behavior described by Lum is unacceptable, abusive, etc. My comment does not lose sight of the lived experience etc., nor does it express concern about the victimizers; rather it expresses the goal of reducing the amount of abusive behavior and stopping it when it happens.

          To put it another way: I agree with you on “zero tolerance,” and I think the best way to get to that point is through making potential harassers realize that this behavior is unacceptable and will be called out when it happens, and by fully supporting people such as Kristian Lum who call out harassment.

        • “Prevention as treatment” through education and empowerment is an important tool in this fight. It’s not the only one.

    • We could start at social opprobrium. If we had a culture in which this kind of bad behavior were called out publicly, I think that most men who care about their reputations would stop engaging the bad behavior. No court system necessary.

    • “Aside from the legal perspective, an employer can certainly take action by firing an employee. But would this be justified if there is no criminal conviction?”

      An employer does not need a criminal conviction to fire an employee. Heck, they don’t even need a crime. If you work for Pepsi, you can be fired for proclaiming you like Coke. If you work for a university, you can be fired if you don’t publish enough papers. Sending people unsolicited creepy emails about viewing porn is not a crime, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get fired for doing it.

    • Inline with Andrew’s comment part of the challenge likely comes from either no real punishment at all or extreme punishment for the wrong doer.

      In one case I was aware of, the women declined to pursue because the perpetrator was the sole breadwinner with numerous kids and almost surely would have lost their job. Now I met the perpetrator about 10 years later and it was clear he had little to no sense he had done something wrong (I had been asked not to say anything). A continuum of punishments likely would help along with more tolerance of false positives regarding less severe infractions.

      Hopefully when ISBA looks into Kristian’s case, a wider investigation will be undertaken to get a full sense of the range and severity of the behaviors the perpetrators.

  28. “She did accept his friend request on facebook – does that not imply that she wanted to know him socially beyond academic setting?”

    No. It implies she wanted a connection with him through facebook.

  29. Lum posted a comment about a figure in an academic paper (yes, a paper on pubic hair). I hardly think that justifies people sending creepy emails about their porn viewing. Surely you don’t think porn actors are a legitimate sample that provides “empirical evidence”.

    • “Surely you don’t think porn actors are a legitimate sample that provides “empirical evidence”

      Go watch some 70’s porn, and contemporary porn. Then compare it to possible data on “pubic hair”. Porn actors might very well be a legitimate sample (i.e. being representative) concerning things like “pubic hair”.

        • To try and get on topic again:

          1) Does anybody know about any research into sexual abuse/misconduct in academia?, and

          2) Would that be useful/helpful to try and investigate?

          “Sexual Harassment in Science is Just Like Hollywood: Everyone Knows Who The Weinstein Is”


          This article is one of many (recent ones) to be found via google about sexual abuse/misconduct in academia, but i can not so easily find a lot of (recent) scientific papers about this issue, which i find remarkable.

          The following is the only one i could find:


          “Codes of conduct and sexual harassment policies were not regularly encountered by respondents, while harassment and assault were commonly experienced by respondents during trainee career stages. Women trainees were the primary targets; their perpetrators were predominantly senior to them professionally within the research team. Male trainees were more often targeted by their peers at the research site. Few respondents were aware of mechanisms to report incidents; most who did report were unsatisfied with the outcome”

  30. One reason I posted my original post on self-defense and the law surrounding sexual battery (in CA where I’m familiar) is that in fact there are really two totally separate classes of crime getting intertwined here and LOTS of people have absolutely NO idea what is in the law:

    1) Sexual Harassment and gender bias, primarily involving inappropriate verbal comments, displays of inappropriate material such as pictures, and the use of organizational power to exclude one sex/gender from activities, or treat them unequally in a well defined illegal way

    2) Sexual Battery and Sexual Assault. Here in CA, battery is just *touching* someone without their consent, even if no physical harm occurs. If harm occurs it’s a more severe form of battery. Assault involves just the *attempt* to cause physical harm regardless of the outcome, so for example throwing a rock in the direction of a person is assault, as is swerving your car towards them (that would be Assault with a deadly weapon and occurs regularly for bicyclists for example). Both assault and battery are crimes here in CA, both seem to be explicitly mentioned reasons for the application of self defense laws (https://www.shouselaw.com/self-defense.html and https://www.shouselaw.com/battery.html for a CA summary). If a man sits down next to a woman in a crowded room at a booth at lunch and proceeds to appear to be having an academic conversation while in secret actually slipping his hand up her skirt… as a very plausible example… simply *touching her there* is a misdemeanor for which physical self defense laws (probably) apply. In a more secluded setting, where the man restrains the woman so he can grab her breasts or the like, *felony* charges apply and multiple years imprisonment can result. Legally, the response of a hard punch to the gut or nose would be extremely effective and appears legally justified where I live.

    Knowing the law allows you to INSIST on having it specifically enforced. No matter how many people around you say “hey calm down this isn’t a big deal that he touched you there” it simply *does not matter what their opinion is* when the police arrive and you say “He placed his hand on my bare inner thigh while I was seated at this booth, I want him charged with misdemeanor sexual battery officer” that police officer, who is supposed to know the law, will know that you also know the law, and should respond appropriately. You can continue to insist on this, or insist to speak to a more senior officer etc. You can’t very easily use the law to help you, unless you learn what it contains.

    I agree with you that saying these are different actions, and the law seems to agree with you as well. My suspicion is that regardless of what they’ve been taught by their mothers or well meaning peers or other family members, most *people* don’t know much about the content of this law, and in particular most women don’t. Also, different states/countries have very different laws, so knowing them is extremely useful and important.

    Empowering yourself about explicit knowledge of what the law protects you from and how to use it is a powerful technique in and of itself, and is usually included in self defense classes.

    • Other content that self defense classes should have is to train you to not run your mouth off under stress. When the police arrive and you very bluntly state that you want the perpetrator charged with a specific crime, that you acted in self defense, that you would like to know whether you are under arrest, and that before speaking any further with the police you would like to discuss things with your own lawyer… you are going to get a better outcome than if you act “hysterical” or you act indignant and keep insisting that he “deserved what he got” or whatever else comes into your mind under that level of stress hormones…

    • Your commitment to bringing up self defence classes is impressive. The law on this changes from place to place, so for the most part knowing it in California is useless.

  31. > There has to be a thorough investigation and proof.

    Both Google and the University of Minnesota have begun separate investigations into the claims (as is appropriate) so this is happening.

    > being a feminist does not imply trust females blindly

    I agree with this. We are obliged to take women seriously, take their claims seriously, support them in making claims, and shield them from reprisals.

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