Sunday, March 31, 2013

First the woman takes a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the man takes the woman.*

This post is going to disturb people; I know that going in. I write it on the heels of having watched 20/20's coverage of the Steubenville, OH rape case. Now maybe ABC's reporting was incomplete or distorted, so maybe I might feel differently today if I had a more complete or less distorted picture of what really went on back in August of 2012. Also figuring heavily in the impolitic views expressed here are my wife's feelings on the case, which were shouted regularly at the TV last Friday night as the show unfolded before us. Although the women given the bulk of the air time in the aftermath of the case have been those embracing the feminist perspective—furious at the abuse inflicted on the anonymous 16-year-old girl and no less furious at the media for showing even a hint of sympathy for the boys—I suspect that Kathy speaks for at least some minority segment of the women across America.

Let's be clear in what follows that I am talking about drunken liaisons between consenting (or perhaps I should say not visibly dissenting) NON-adults. In other words, I'm talking about commonplace hook-ups like those at the heart of this case, or like those occurring on any given college campus each weekend, where both boy and girl are under the age of legal majority, certainly under age 21. Now, if the girl is 16, as this Jane Doe was, and the guy is 25, a different standard probably should apply. Anyway, throughout our legal and penal system, an adult bears a greater burden of responsibility (and liability) than does a juvenile. 

By all accounts, this girl, Jane Doe, was wasted that night, but not so wasted that she was literally unconscious, at least not while the questionable sex play was taking place. Later, it seems, she passed out, as most people eventually will after a night of nonstop drinking, but she was by all accounts an active participant in the partying that led to the criminal charges. OK, she threw up a few times. So what? Lots of people who get blitzed and even throw up then go on to have thoroughly voluntary sex. As for the guys, although opting out and walking away might be the gentlemanly thing to do in such circumstances, I submit that it is not a young man's legal burden to pointedly avoid having sex or to assume responsibility for ensuring the propriety of a drunken girl's behavior or the maintenance of her virtue. Haven't we spent the past few decades hearing all about how women have the right to live their lives with abandon, to drink if they want, dress however provocatively they want, go home with whomever they want, whenever they want? Why is it suddenly a teenage boy's job to ensure that a girl doesn't have sex if she seems like she's going right along with the program?

There was no testimony to the effect that Jane Doe was drugged or that anyone poured booze down her throat. On the contrary, not only was she drinking up a storm, but at various points in the evening she was observed draping herself all over the boys who later "fingered" her (giving rise to the rape charge under Ohio statutes), kissing their necks, stroking their chests and accompanying them from house to house in quest of further partying...all of this over the objections of her friends, who kept warning her not to get in the car with the boys. This bears repeating: As the group was turned away from each party venue, one after another (apparently there were three in total), Miss Doe chose to go with the boys to the next party venue. They didn't kidnap her. She chose to go. Just as she chose to kiss them, fondle their chests, and so forth. And so far as I've been able to determine, there was no testimony that she ever protested about the groping hands between her legs, or protested about anything, really. Maybe one could argue that drunkenness made the girl incapable of truly choosing in some rational sense. But does that stricture not apply equally to the boys who were also partying up a storm?

Or are we seriously proposing that Juvenile Jane Doe was too drunk to be responsible for her actions, but the Juvenile Defendants who were also drunk are responsible for their actions? Talk about an indefensible, politically correct double standard!

Does the girl bear no responsibility for mitigating any damage done to her? If you are walking down the street, drunk as a skunk, and you fall into an open grating, you may collect damages from the people/company that left the grating open, but the award will not be what it might have otherwise been if you were sober. The law recognizes that you were complicit in your fate.

Our drunk-driving laws also stipulate that you cannot get behind the wheel of a car if you're blitzed: If you do get behind the wheel, then you are liable for what happens. But if a juvenile girl (who's drinking illegally in the first place) get into the back seat of a car, blitzed, she's not at least partly liable for what happens? Especially if the other people in the back seat are also juveniles and also drinking?

Which brings me to: What signals was the girl sending? Did her signals tell the boys to keep right on doing what they were doing? If we are going to adjudicate every case in which a girl wakes up the next morning and decides that she was taken advantage of, we'd better start setting aside money to build a slew of dedicated rape courts, for the dockets will be crowded indeed. By her own admission, Jane Doe didn't think anything was amiss when she awoke that next morning...not until she saw the photos and videos, which were indeed outrageous and reprehensible. But if she does not remember what happened, how does she even know whether her behavior the previous night was tantamount to consent? Unless we're simply going to say that every woman who's been drinking is incapable of giving consent, in which case, again, we'd better set side the money for that building fund...

Bottom line, so where is Jane Doe's responsibility in all this? My wife asked similar questions after Natalee Holloway's tragic disappearance in Aruba: Ms. Holloway spent her entire day drinking and having local boys drink jello shots out of her navel, and it's the boys' fault that she ends up in a car with strangers? That certainly does not excuse homicide, especially given what we subsequently learned about Mr. van der Sloot. In my view, however, one could make a good, logical case that it gets him and the other boys off the hook for any sex that occurred.

Finally, where does this leave us in terms of social conventions going forward? To my mind, a girl has a responsibility to say no, or to not drink to the point where she loses all sense of what's going on with her body. A boy is 100 percent in the wrong if a girl says no and he proceeds anyway, or if she's insensate (= unconscious) and thus unable to say no. On the other hand, if she is conscious and does not protest (even if she is very drunk), then there is no rape. If through her actions and the general flirtiness of her behavior she indicates acquiescence, then there is no rape. Or...what's the alternative? Must a young man bring a waiver form and a notary along with him to parties? Must he extract an explicit, spoken YES from a woman at each stage of  foreplay? Be real here...is that how intimacy unfolds? Is that where we are in the evolution of sexual mores?

I'm just askin', people.

--------------------------------------
(And if it seems like I'm always "on the wrong side" of these social issues, think about it. Those last three words aren't just a figure of speech. They're the whole point of why I even maintain this blog: Think about it. Don't just react to these situations in knee-jerk fashion or uncritically fall in step with the popular view. Give it some thought; try to see the logic behind the unpopular position. A little devil's advocacy inside the privacy of our one's own head never hurts.)

* The title is a play on an old Japanese proverb that became a mantra at AA. The original goes, "First the man takes a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes the man."

33 comments:

Adrian said...

You're really saying that women are sexual participants by default, and should be required to actively opt out? Apart from how shockingly sexist this is, it's also a virtual invitation for predatory men to drug women into "submission".

I think you're very much on the wrong here.

Steve Salerno said...

Adrian, I am not saying that women are sexual participants by default, though I can see how you'd read it that way. I'm saying...again, let's be real. A boy and a girl, both immature and flirty and horny, are in a car kissing and indulging in mild foreplay. So what's supposed to happen next? Is the boy (or the girl, if she's the aggressor) supposed to ask, specifically, "May I take the next step and touch you there?" Does anyone do that, at any age? No, we kiss and cuddle and touch and remove clothes/impediments until/unless someone pulls away or protests. Are YOU saying that without explicit consent, a rape has occurred?

And what of this "digital penetration" business? What are we talking about? What was penetrated? The vulva, or the vagina itself? Doesn't it make a difference? And don't boys use that term ("fingering") far too loosely for us to know what they're really talking about? If what was penetrated was her vulva, in order to, say, stroke her clitoris, is that still rape?

I'm not being rhetorical. Someone tell me.

roger o'keefe said...

This is a tough one, Steve. Viscerally I tend to side with the girl but you make intriguing points. Hard to take but intriguing. I hope others comment as I'd like to see what the consensus is.

Anonymous said...

There are a number of things that concern me about this post. The primary one is that - if I understand the reporting in this case correctly - this woman was not just a little sloppy but actually unconscious for part of the evening.

The fact that she was flirting with and kissing the boys before she got to the point where she was being dragged around and referred to as a "dead body" doesn't give those boys license to treat her like some kind of sex toy once she was no longer capable of protesting.

For the record, I agree that it's highly unwise for women to allow themselves to get that drunk, but giving in to peer partying pressure and/or failing to properly asses one's alcohol tolerance shouldn't be equated with forfeiture of the right not to be raped.

The idea that men can rape women by accident if both parties are drunk is particularly problematic one that is more extensively addressed here:

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/01/09/rape-is-not-an-accident/

What happened in Steubenville reflects a host of problems in our society, binge drinking among teens being a significant one of them. But the core problem remains that we live in a culture that is not far removed from the days where women's bodies were literally seen as the entitled property of men. The fact that 49% of 18-24 year old males don't think having sex with a passed out girl is rape means we still have a very, very long way to go.

Steve Salerno said...

Anon 12:06, thank you for taking the time to post what you did, and in such restrained terms. I don't disagree with a lot of what you say. I just want people to react to what I literally wrote, and not go nuts on me over the "nuance." If a woman of any age is unconscious when sex is occurring, that is rape. I don't think anyone would argue the point, unless--and I'm not trying to be purposely bizarre here--both parties are on the verge of passing out when sex begins then they do in fact pass out during sex. Should sex take place when the participants are that drunk? No! But is it rape? Again I would say no. And you know, no one to my knowledge has ever looked at the situation from the opposite perspective: If a boy is all liquored up and a girl persuades him to have sex, has he been raped? No laughing allowed, but if we're going to be consistent in our application of the law, the answer should be yes (even though, to reiterate, I disagree with the law in both directions).

The fact that she was being dragged around by the hands and ankles like a hog-tied calf is deplorable, but that in itself is not rape, and if she was conscious a few minutes earlier or later when the sex occurred, then that is not rape either. And I am deeply troubled by this notion of waking up the next morning and deciding that you were raped. Do you, Anon, not see how terribly problematic and subject to abuse that is?

I do not think that a woman's body is "the entitled property of men." I think that women, however, are equally responsible for ensuring that nothing bad happens to that body, and if it means that they shouldn't drink themselves into a stupor, that's part of it.

Steve Salerno said...

I just read that column, btw--the Myth of the Accidental Rapist--and I am rocked back on my heels by the idea that the writer apparently feels that this is a deliberate "plan of attack" on the part of many men, i.e. that they're already rapists at heart (if you will) and that they use alcohol as a tool for enabling their sex crimes. Maybe I'm just naive, but I find that very hard to believe, and also an extremely cynical and almost dehumanizing view of men. You're telling me that lots of boys go to parties already thinking, from the start, "Gee, if I pick out some poor bitch and get her drunk enough she'll pass out and then I can rape her"? I'm not buying it. What a dark view of life. I can see the boys (as well as the girls) thinking something like, "Gee, maybe we can all get drunk and throw our normal inhibitions to the wind and have some mindless fun," but to impute an actual rapist's mindset to the boys... That is part of the societal problem, too, Anon.

Steve Salerno said...

And even if we take a semi-cynical position that's somewhere in the middle, "Getting a girl drunk" (like she has no choice in the matter?) so that she loses her inhibitions and goes along with sex that she would not normally agree to is NOT RAPE, either.

Anonymous said...

Steve,

The point that Marcotte is trying to make in that article is not that all men are trying to get women drunk so they can rape them. Her point is that serial predators target drunk women and exploit the idea that it was just a confusing situation as cover for their actions. As Marcotte points out, any relatively civilized human being is going to have a pretty good idea whether or not the person they are trying to have sex with is on the same page with them and hopefully act appropriately if that person slips over the line of inability to consent.

Unfortunately, it does appear that far more men than one would hope are willing to cross that line and not do the right thing:

"- In a survey of male college students:

· 35% anonymously admitted that, under certain circumstances, they would commit rape if they believed they could get away with it (ref 6,7)." http://www.uic.edu/depts/owa/sa_rape_support.html

The above data is relatively old so I'm not sure what current statistics show. But what's most disturbing to me about the stats in that article are how many women still think men sometimes have the right to rape.

You ask me if I can't see the problem in women waking up the next morning and "deciding" they were raped. While I can certainly imagine that some woman with borderline personality disorder might do such a thing, I find it highly implausible that any normal women would "decide" to subject herself to the utter humiliation of a rape investigation (including detailed discussions of her sexual history and wardrobe choices) unless she truly felt severely violated.

As this infographic shows, the idea of women falsely reporting rape is dramatically overblown:

http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2013/01/08/the_enliven_project_s_false_rape_accusations_infographic_great_intentions.html

Women, on the other hand, are still regularly battling to have their rape accusations taken seriously. Not long ago a friend of mine in a bar had her drink spiked by someone whom we can safely assume had nefarious intentions, yet she almost couldn't get her boyfriend to come get her because she just looked very drunk. It was only after hearing reports of other women drugged at the same bar that he believed her.

In my mind, this conversation isn't about two people who get drunker than they should and have consensual sex. It's about the fact that as a culture, we are still blaming rape victims. Focusing on how much the girl drank and her behavior while she was still conscious is, in my opinion, just perpetuating the stereotype that it's really all her fault.

Steve Salerno said...

Anon, my remark about women waking up and deciding they were raped was intended to refer to women who wake up, find out they had sex, and feel they were taken advantage of. Here as elsewhere I think we need to be clear in determining what is rape. I wish someone would answer my question: If you are very drunk and you just sort of go along with the program, is that rape? If a boy is very drunk at a frat-house party and he sort of relaxes back on a bed and realizes that some girl has unzipped him and has him in her mouth, is that rape? If we are kissing very passionately in the back seat of a car and I (a man) reach down inside your shorts and begin stroking your clitoris, and then the next day someone tells you that you were seen allowing it to happen and you're outraged because you don't remember it, were you raped? (And under the law, should that even be rape?)

If half an hour ago I nudged you toward the bedroom and you protested loudly in front of everyone, saying "No, Josh, I will not have sex with you!", then we keep drinking and we gradually find our way to bed and we have sex, is that rape?

Finally, am I, as a young man who is also drinking, responsible for knowing when you and I have crossed a sexual line that you did not intend to cross when you went to the party?

Steve Salerno said...

One more question. This is a very bad analogy but in a certain sense it may apply: If you are pretty drunk and you walk into a casino and bet the mortgage money at a roulette table and lose it, did the casino take advantage of you?

My point in making that analogy is that our social contract depends on people keeping their wits about them enough so that they can make appropriate decisions in tricky circumstances. That is a factor here, as it was a factor with poor Ms. Holloway, and if that is considered blaming the victim, then so be it, I guess. Let me reiterate: The fact that a woman at a party is drunk does not mean that a man can forcibly rape her! But he is not responsible for assuring that she does not let him have sex with her, just as the casino is not responsible for preventing you from betting the mortgage money.

Anonymous said...

Men like you are the exact problem here Steve. I bet you also think that if you start having sex you're entitled to finish even if the woman changes her mind. Can you spell P...I...G?

RevRon's Rants said...

Anon April 2, 2013 at 8:56 AM: I would counter that women like you tend to give some credence to a misogynist line spoken by Jack Nicholson's character in the movie, "As Good As It Gets." When asked how he (as a writer) managed to create such realistic female characters in his books, Nicholson responds, "I start with a man, and take away reason and accountability."

When a female refuses a man's advance, her refusal should be honored, period. If a woman's choice of actions renders her less likely to make a responsible choice, she must accept some degree of responsibility for those actions. Expecting a woman to accept responsibility for her own actions - and, to a degree, the subsequent circumstances - isn't the mark of a pig, as you so eloquently claim, but of a reasonable human being who recognizes that we - men and women alike - are accountable for our decisions.

Your response is indicative of an attitude we've all seen expressed by bicyclists, especially in groups, who demand the right to share the road with automobiles, yet who routinely ignore the laws that govern those roads, such as running stop signs & red lights.

Anonymous said...

I don't think anyone is arguing here that a woman who has gotten passed out drunk isn't responsible for her choice to get passed out drunk (presuming she wasn't drugged, which happens more frequently that one would expect). But if she gets raped while in that state, being drunk may have made her more vulnerable, but was not ultimately the cause of her being raped.

Here's an example: suppose a man having a bad day goes and gets stupidly drunk in a bar. As he staggers out, he is followed by an opportunist to corners him outside, beats the bloody crap out of him, and robs him. Maybe this wouldn't have happened if the guy wasn't stupidly drunk. But the fact that he was drunk doesn't negate the fact that a crime still occurred. You won't hear anyone arguing that the man wasn't REALLY robbed or assaulted, nor will you hear anyone arguing that the perpetrator didn't REALLY commit assault and robbery because, you know, the guy was drunk and was probably flirting with him in the bar earlier and maybe he really WANTED to get robbed and assaulted, but just changed his mind after he sobered up.

My point is that alcohol consumption may make someone a more likely target, but whoever commits a crime against a drunk person is still committing a crime. They are the ones who bear the ultimate responsibility for the fact that an assault occurred.

Kathryn Price said...

"Maybe one could argue that drunkenness made the girl incapable of truly choosing in some rational sense. But does that stricture not apply equally to the boys who were also partying up a storm?"

Yes, one could argue that she was incapable and I will argue that she was incapable. She was unconscious. Does that apply equally to the boys? No. They were carrying her around naked, posing for cell phone photos, tweeting, while jokes were made about the "dead body." This is assault and abuse it is very, very consciously so.

Steve Salerno said...

Kathryn, did the rape occur while she was passed-out drunk? I did not hear testimony (or anything in 20/20's report) to suggest that. I heard she was clearly blitzed. But so were they. And not to put too fine a point on it, I think we need to be very careful about what constitutes rape, if we are going to extend that definition to "fingering." So now in certain contexts what we used to consider foreplay is also rape? If that is true, is it equally rape when the girl reaches down and grasps his erection, then decides that she doesn't wish to go any farther? Can the boy claim rape? Or is a woman's vagina such an incredibly sacred and privileged body part that only women deserve protection from mere touching?

The behavior that you describe--carrying her around naked, the cell vids, etc--is reprehensible. But does it rise to the level of rape? Or even a sex crime of any type? Did they undress her, or did she undress herself? (That's an honest question; I didn't hear clear testimony on that point.) In any case, unless they were penetrating her while in the process of carrying her around, how do we know that she was indeed unconscious and incapable of giving consent when the supposed rape occurred?

Look, this is ugly stuff. I am not suggesting that we give these boys a merit badge. But a rape conviction and, presumably, sex-offender registration?

Steve Salerno said...

Anon, I hear what you're saying, and even though I'm out to make an unpopular point here, I see the merit. Drunkenness does not excuse a crime perpetrated against the drunk, if a crime in fact occurred in this case. It's just that we also bear some responsibility for what happens to use if we're going to take great chances. If people climb up a dangerous mountain in terrible weather, despite all sorts of warnings to the contrary, of course we rescue them, but we don't quite feel the sympathy we might, because they're not truly innocent victims. And the state probably sends them a bill for the rescue.

Are you going to tell me--is anyone?--that this is the same crime as pulling a female jogger off the street, abducting her in a car at gunpoint, beating her, raping her, then stuffing her into the trunk and dumping her off somewhere?

I'm sorry, it just isn't. To me.

whistle said...

Interesting post and comments.

re: Anon, April 2, 2013 at 7:40 PM
This is an apt analogy, however, I also think it extends in the other direction.

As a woman, I have gotten in pretty heated arguments with other women when I espouse the viewpoint SOME women bear SOME culpability in SOME cases of rape. (Not that rape didn't happen, just that the victim also needs to examine her(/his) own behavior.) I use an analogy similar to anon's.

Imagine a situation where a man is drunk and stumbling down the street talking loudly about how much money he has. Someone robs this man.

I have found that many people think that the robber committed a crime and should be punished but also think that the man was stupid, and maybe even deserved what he got in some sense. (Or if not deserved, has no right to be surprised at the turn of events. "What did he think was going to happen?")

However, some of the same people will deny that a woman who hits on a man, yadda yadda yadda, and then says 'no' after foreplay has occurred bears any responsibility for what happens next. Not only do they deny this, they get so worked up at the mere mention of the thought (a la Anon, April 2, 2013 at 8:56 AM) that they can't even discuss the matter further.

Anyway, rape is tricky. We need more words than 'rape' - not just legal words, but words we use in everyday language.

I think many of the scenarios Steve describes are not 'rape' in my sense of the word, but they're mostly not moral merit badges either. The Steubenville boys in question behaved abominably, and I can't imagine their parents are proud. I honestly don't know if they should be in jail or not...and they certainly shouldn't be labeled sex offenders for life (and neither should anyone else - it causes more problems then it solves).

I can't imagine Jane's parents are proud of her behavior earlier in the night, either.

I have to admit, though, that I spent more than one night at her age in that state of inebriation in mixed company. It never turned out that way for me or anyone else I knew at the time. Maybe the lesson for young girls here is more 'make good friends' than 'don't get too drunk'.

Anonymous said...

I'm not clear what point you're trying to make here, Steve. Is your argument that "mere touching" can't be traumatic? I suspect there are numerous altar boys who might beg to differ, not to mention half a billion women in India who can't take public transportation without being subjected to the Orwellian named "Eve Teasing," a rampant form of groping that sometimes include violent digital penetration.

Sexual assault is pretty meticulously broken down by degrees and no one seems to be arguing that they are all equal. Sex between a 21 year old and a 17 year old may be consensual but society still calls it statutory rape. Just because something can be considered foreplay between consenting partners doesn't mean it can't also be a violent act against an unconsenting partner.

I think a case can be made, however, that date rape, while sometimes less overtly violent, can be more traumatic for the victim than stranger-rape because in addition to the act itself, there is the horrifying betrayal by someone you thought you could trust, not to mention the gut wrenching guilt and second guessing about how you could have been such an idiot not to see that coming?

The violation the Steubenville girl experienced was not only at the hands of the 2 boys but also of all the other people who chose to exploit the situation for their own amusement. How she recovers will depend on who she is, but I think a case can be made that what happened to her was far, far worse than a random stranger attack on a dark street.

Steve Salerno said...

Whistle, a nuanced POV. Thank you.

Steve Salerno said...

Anon, hard to believe your closing graph. If you're talking about the total picture--the pix, the online sniping, etc.--of course it's a traumatic experience. But was all that part of the crime of rape, which apparently consisted of being probed with a finger? You compare that to the violent crime I described earlier? And our Jane Doe bears no complicity in her fate? I beg to differ.

Dimension Skipper said...

Hmmmm, moral ambiguity abounds...

Indianapolis man's Facebook hookup with Noblesville teen actually setup for heist, says IMPD report
Mar 29, 2013

According to commenters, it's technically legal in Indiana to have sex with a 16yo as long as they "consent." I'm not sure if that requires filling out and signing forms in front of witnesses or what... Oh, and the guy is married, but there's no comment from his wife. There's probably plenty of fraud/lies/misrepresentation to go around on this case.

I'm sure the teens must have figured that anyone they'd target would be too embarrassed/fearful to go to police.

Steve Salerno said...

DimSkip, hmmm... I guess you'd have to say the guy got "gang-raped," hoisted on his own petard, whatever.

RevRon's Rants said...

Dim Skip - While I don't condone robbery under any circumstances, I'd say the 41-year-old guy got off a lot easier than he deserved.

Jenny said...

After reading an article in our local paper today, I thought of SHAMblog and this conversation on accountability and sobriety, people's tendency to do what people do (shame and blame), and how all of this mirrors the nature of weather in general. Note: I am not particularly a sports fan and this article did not appear in the sports section.
Rangers fans say hostile reaction to Josh Hamilton not a sign of meaner crowds in Arlington

Anonymous said...

Just rewatched you on CNN talking about so called "self help". Nobody wins on those things IMO, such shows are designed solely to sell the interviewer and make people look foolish in polite sincere ways, and be compelling TV by any means necessary, so for that reason I would never advise anyone to go on them, one either has to be polite, decent passive and as a result get steam rolled by the louder voices or go on the offensive and look like a "bully". So on that basis i do not judge you or anyone on them too harshly. Having said that.....

I could not help notice how you dodged the comment that you are trying to sell your book using the self help industry audience, you simply said "that is not going to happen" , Just because you are your book are commercial failures does not mean you are not a sham artist. Because you are. You also said, and you could barely keep a straight face that you are not giving people advice. Oh? That is all you were and are doing. You were telling people what not do do and what they should do to REALLY deal with their problems once and for all. You were advising them to spend their consumer dollars on self help but to spend them on more reliable treatments and hoping they would all spend their money buying that advice from you in your book.

You may have been composed and polite and the other looked like a salesmen but that did nto mask your dodges or self promotion agenda which put you in the same box as the people you are trying to call out and in the process get paid for doing so , whether you are successful or not is not the point Steve.

Steve Salerno said...

I've made this point a dozen times, but it's been a while and I've sort of let the blog go fallow, so I'll make it here again.

First of all, "SHAM" was not a failure. It performed decently, but a book like "SHAM" has little chance of holding its own against books that sell so-called empowerment and the like, just by the nature of (a) what America wants to hear/read, and (b) the more "scholarly," logic- and evidence-based writing. There is a rare opportunity for books like mine to become a cause celebre, but those ops are few and far between. Our culture is inspiration-based, Anon. We have a need to turn everything into some kind of inspirational narrative, as witness even much of the response to Sandy Hook and the Marathon bombing. It is very, very hard to succeed commercially by debunking inspiration and pushing a literalist agenda.

The larger point--and this is the one I've made repeatedly--is that in writing "SHAM," I was simply calling for adherence to the scientific method. If Rhonda Byrne believes that by beseeching the Universe we can find success, then the burden falls upon her to prove it. And if I come along and write something that reminds her (and consumers) of that burden, then that does not put me in the same category as Byrne. Just like, if Dr. Oz says that a laying of hands can promote healing, and if I say "oh yeah, well where's the evidence for that?" and "I think patients are better off sticking with therapies that have been proven," that does not put me in the same category as Dr. Oz.

You are proposing a false equivalence between arguments in favor of insanity and arguments in favor of reason. Would I like to see my book sell more? Of course. Writing is what I do, and if I'm gonna do it, it'd be nice to prosper. But I'm not going to write "just anything" in order to make that happen.

Anonymous said...

BUT you are poaching the self help audience to make $. You want to profit by being a contrarian. The scientific method can make life better for some and so can phenomena outside the scientific method. There is no one things that upgrades the quality of life for anyone, even though both sides promote that they are real and the other is bunk. Sometimes just staring at a sunset and praying to a grasshopper will impact the quality of a person's life and sometimes the best newest most shiny surgical instrument will not save a life and sometimes just staring at a sunset and praying to a grasshopper is ridiculously inappropriate and has absolutely no impact on the the quality of a person's life and sometimes the best newest most shiny surgical instrument is the only thing that is going to save a person. That you are the expert of when which one is appropriate and when it is not is preposterous and a SHAM.

You do not admit to your trying to profit by attaching yourself to an existing topic that has built in book buyers is my argument. And that as you call it is a also SHAM

Steve Salerno said...

OK, so by that logic anything and everything done professionally is an attempt to "poach" some audience. (And btw, I was a contrarian long before it became profitable to do so. I am also a contrarian when it comes to the nation's criminal-justice system and the existence of free will. Where's the profit there?) I suppose the same could be said of medicine: If I go into medicine and get my MD and hang out a shingle, I am seeking to "poach" sick people.

Fine. You win. Good argument, Anon.

Anonymous said...

"OK, so by that logic anything and everything done professionally is an attempt to "poach" some audience."

I was not saying that but if we look we can probably find that built in audiences and consumers is part of many professional endeavours. Certainly is without question your game to make $$$$$$



"(And btw, I was a contrarian long before it became profitable to do so. I am also a contrarian when it comes to the nation's criminal-justice system and the existence of free will. Where's the profit there?)"

I take it you have a rich and complex life with many things going on. I am just talking about your trying to make $ off of "self help".


"I suppose the same could be said of medicine: If I go into medicine and get my MD and hang out a shingle, I am seeking to "poach" sick people." I wold not use the word poaching as casually in that situation but I would say that the medical profession does benefit from people staying sick, becoming obese and all the things people do that do not lead to better health and well being. All the beamers are paid for by the people who do not take care of themselves.

"Fine. You win. Good argument, Anon."

You can talk like that if you want. Or you can fess up and be honest about built in aspects of what you have made part of your life and writing about.

Anonymous said...

my point is that you are not that different from those you criticize. we all need to survive and make $ - self help people have a built in $ part and so do you, both you and them are dishing out advise and both you and them are trying to contribute while making $$$$$$$$$$

that you lie about that and play the good guy is a SHAM

RevRon's Rants said...

Your newest anon neglects to consider (much less acknowledge) that the things you criticize are those that make claims that cannot be supported by credible evidence, and are for the most part made by people whose sole qualification is their marketing ability,Steve. I suspect that your detractor is either a proprietor of questionable products and services or someone whose well-being (financial or otherwise) is dependent upon others relinquishing common sense. Engage him/her all you want, but I think it's pretty obvious that his/her whole agenda is to discredit you, rather than to seek real answers.

Steve Salerno said...

Ron, as you know, I used to engage some of these people at wearying length, and I even tried to explain myself for a while here. But if our Anons are going to get ad hominem, as this one did, I give 'em a parting shot then I tune out. I will not, however, permit him/her/them such latitude in discussing other members of this forum, such as yourself.

Jenny said...

This latest anonymous critic reminds me of the day I bought a copy of SHAM. Since it was on a sale table, I wasn't able to determine in which section of the store it was originally shelved. Now I am curious, if I were to go into a bookstore looking for a copy of SHAM, where would I find it?

I can certainly understand we all need a means of supporting ourselves. Steve can hardly be criticized for doing what he's been trained to do, which is investigative journalism. I thought he did a fine job of it and SHAM helped me look more realistically at some of the mentors I've chosen over the years.

Steve wrote one book and it was enough to get his point across. I'm sure he's got plenty more to say on other topics and I will probably buy any other book he publishes.

How many of the people he criticizes in SHAM continue to write more and more books about basically the same thing? That is one of the things he criticized and it is an important point.

Thanks, Steve, for helping me realize how much of self-help is redundant and thus expendable.