St. Rev. Dr. Rev

Old rant, rehosting here, do not read

Wrote this in 2014, at the height of "rape culture" marketing. Funny how things change, and how they don't.

Q: What do you think of the male privilege of agency? What do you think of the female privilege of protection?

My thesis: men have privilege of agency, women have privilege of (physical and economic) safety, and these mirrored privileges and oppressions are thoroughly entangled.

In the wake of the Enlightenment and the industrial revolution, the value of agency has grown, and the value of safety has declined; it's just and necessary to interrogate and renegotiate the privilege of agency. This can't be achieved, however, without interrogating and renegotiating the occulted shadow of male privilege of agency: female privilege of safety.

Feminism recognizes correctly that men have had, and continue to have, a privilege of agency--the right to travel, contest, struggle, own, rule, act in the world. In the wake of the industrial revolution, that privilege needed to be renegotiated. In conditions of rapidly expanding wealth, amid a wider variety of social options, agency has higher value. Furthermore, most useful labor draws on capacities that neither sex has a decisive advantage in. Agency is simply of greater economic value now, and there's less to differentiate men and women than there was in a predominantly agricultural society. There's just more to be gained for everyone by women acting freely in the world.

Women have had, and continue to have, a privilege of safety--the right to be protected, defended, supported, gifted. But everyone's safer now: with the rise of professional law enforcement, falling crime rates, fewer war casualties, etc., the marginal value of personal security has fallen. Finally, physical strength is less decisive in a fight: Smith and Wesson made all men and women equal. For all these reasons, the relative value of individual men providing security has dropped sharply.

In short: if traditional gender roles were functional once, they're much less useful now. In this sense, I support feminism wholeheartedly.

But there's a shadow to the feminist project: women simultaneously deny and defend their privilege of safety. Men suffer. Men are simply in far more danger than women, in most places, from most sources, most of the time, and this truth is taboo.

Third-wave feminist discourse today is obsessed with Violence Against Women. That women are under attack everywhere, all the time, in every aspect, is pretty much axiomatic.

It's bullshit. It's plain bullshit. And it's easy to verify.

Women are victims of violent crime at far lower rates than men in every category except sexual violence...where the waters are muddled as hell. My best guess is that women are victims of somewhere between 60% and 75% of sexual violence, but there's recent data that suggests it might even be close to parity. But men are murdered 3.5 times as often as women, and battery, robbery and so on show similar gaps. Twitter is all, uh, atwitter about harassment of women, but a recent survey of actual data showed male celebrities getting harassing tweets at higher levels than women.

This is consistent across pretty much every statistical report in the US: not counting sexual offenses, men are attacked and harmed at significantly higher rates than women. The data on sexual offenses suggests women are harmed more often--but the data is far more politicized, and far harder to interpret. cf. CDC's current rules defining rape as something that can only happen to women, separating out "made to penetrate" as something different--an awkward, sterile term that doesn't carry the visceral lurch of the word 'rape'. Even though it is.

And that's not even addressing prison rape.

One honest response to this disparity is to suggest that men just basically bring it on themselves, they deserve what they get. Without arguing this point, I'll just point out that the actual violent crime victimization rate in the US goes like this:

black men > black women > white men > white women

If your argument is that violence against men is OK because they're just more prone to it anyway, you're also saying that black men deserve to be murdered the most. White women are the single safest, most protected class in the entire culture, for fuck's sake. Seriously, graph the relative risk for murder and you can barely distinguish white women from the x-axis: black men are about THIRTY FIVE TIMES more likely to be murdered than white women.

Oh, and one other thing: you know who's at highest risk of rape in the US? Black men. It's not even close: black men are at high risk of going to prison, prison rape is extraordinarily common. There's a rape culture in the US, but it's not on college campuses.

What is positively obscene about third-wave "feminism" is that in pinning their colors to the mast of violence against women, using their threatened status to demand concessions and support, they abandon agency, which is what they actually fucking need.

St. Rev. Dr. Rev

Selective Serotonin Retraction Enhancer

OK maybe I was trolling the audience a tiny bit there. Or myself.  Mostly I found the prospect of duelling inhibitors and enhancers to be hilarious, but reality is never so neat, as several interlocutors of fine taste and discernment quite rightly commented.

In fact, while the SSRIs do inhibit serotonin reuptake, this is probably not how they actually work; hell, it's not entirely clear that they work significantly better than sugar pills. Similarly, if you followed the link to the article on tianeptine, you saw that it's now thought to act via glutamate receptors, not serotonin.

Finally, while rational drug discovery has led to some very silly situations in psychopharmacology, it's been very successful in other areas, and psychopharmacology is really mindblowingly difficult, so it's not really fair to attack it the way I did.

Also I am a big dumb head. But I still think the pixie joke was good.

St. Rev. Dr. Rev

Selective Serotonin Rewait what

The SSRIs--selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors--are a class of drugs commonly used as antidepressants. They 'work' by keeping neurons from absorbing serotonin from the synaptic cleft back into the cell, increasing the amount of available serotonin. This is good because serotonin is made of tiny pixies who want to be free, so keeping it out of the cells makes them happy, and that makes the patient happy by the magickal principle of contagion.

Well, that's about as close to the truth as any other version, and closer than the popular 'chemical imbalance' non-explanation, which is just updated humoralism. You need more serotonin, or black bile, one of the two.

If you don't believe me, consider tianeptine.  Tianeptine is a selective serotonin reuptake enhancer--it encourages the neurons to suck more serotonin out of the synaptic cleft, reducing the amount of available serotonin.

Yep, it's an antidepressant. Apparently a pretty effective one.

What the hell is going on?  Well, either:

  • Nobody actually knows how the hell these things work, or...

  • Tweaking serotonin in either direction can treat depression.

Actually, the first option is pretty much true regardless. Do SSRIs actually work directly via serotonin, or by indirectly promoting neurogenesis, or what? Last I checked (which I admit was a few years ago) it seemed very much up in the air.  But the second option appeals to my interest in dynamical systems, and my own 'punching the TV set' hypothesis of psychopharmacology.  You youngsters may not remember such things, but when an old CRT TV set was on the blink, hitting/shaking it would often knock its components back into their sockets and get it to work again.  By analogy, some psychiatric disorders may amount to getting stuck in a pathological stable orbit of a dynamical system, and perturbing the parameters of the system may knock it back into a healthy orbit*.

*: Yes, this is super-waffly, things are vastly more complicated than that, and it's unlikely that this is a fruitful metaphor for treating most illnesses. On the other hand, look at bipolar disorder.  What is that but an eigenvalue wandering into the right half-plane**?

**: This is also a super-waffly metaphor but perhaps slightly less so***.

***: Note also that there's a separate medical application for this metaphor where it works quite well: cardiac arrhythmia. Perturbing the system to knock it back into a healthy orbit is precisely what a defibrillator does.
St. Rev. Dr. Rev

T. Rev and Random's Guide to Lovecraftian Drinking

rfrancis informs me that this essential document from ancient days is in the process of falling off the edge of the Internet. For posterity's sake, then:

T. Rev and Random's Guide to Lovecraftian Drinking


  • 1 part kahlua

  • 1 part vermouth

  • 1 part Yoo-Hoo

The drink that belongs at the bottom of the ocean locked in a tomb.


  • 9 parts Everclear

  • 1 part vodka

Makes you sit at the center of the universe and gibber.


  • 1 part NyQuil

  • 1 STP Oil Treatment

Puts you to sleep, kills you, then takes over your body and makes you drive
to Arkham. Okay, not really.


  • 1 part Chambord

  • 1 part beet juice

Need we say more?



St. Rev. Dr. Rev

Understanding Zhuangzi

Want to write this down while it's on my mind.

Some very smart and insightful people I know have bounced off Zhuangzi with the impression that the book is full of self-contradictory nonsense. This is in some sense true, but misleading.

Most philosophical works seek to make deep points via extended argument, building up ideas over whole pages or chapters, leading to some capstone idea. Looking for that kind of thing in the Zhuangzi will do your head in. If most philosophical works are like textbooks, the Zhuangzi is like a cookbook.

Zhuangzi's usual mode plays out like this: "Here's something interesting to consider. What does it mean? Hmm..." If you're expecting a conclusion or thesis, this is very disorienting, because a lot of the time there is none! Zhuangzi constructs situations and turns away from them ambiguously, often leading the reader in one direction and then undermining them. Zhuangzi isn't presenting a point, Zhuangzi is presenting a point of view.

Compare these passages on death:

From chapter 18:
When Zhuangzi's wife died, Hui Zi went to mourn with him, but found Zhuangzi sitting on the floor with his legs stretched out in front of him, banging on a drum and singing.

Hui Zi said: "You lived with this woman, raised your children with her and got old together. That you don't cry about someone dying is one thing, but to be banging on a drum and singing shows complete lack of affection for her!"

Zhuangzi said: "Not at all. When she first died, how couldn't I react to it! I thought back to the time before she was born. Not only before she was born, but to the time before she had any shape whatsoever. Not only before she had any shape, but to the time before she had any spiritual essence. So many different pieces blended together between the time when she was nothing at all and the time when she came into existence. As they evolved, so did her spiritual essence. As her spiritual essence evolved, her shape arose. As her shape evolved, she was born, and now the evolution has resulted in her death. Just like there are spring and autumn, summer and winter, the four seasons naturally progress from each other. For the time being she is lying down and appears to be sleeping in a huge room, and I started out rushing around trying to follow her while crying my eyes out. Then I realized I was simply trying to obstruct destiny, so I stopped."

Chapter 24:
Zhuangzi was taking part in a funeral procession when he passed the grave of Hui Zi. He turned around to face those behind him and said:

"There was a man from Ying who had a speck of plaster on the tip of his nose sitting there like the wing of a fly, so he requested that Carpenter Shi chop it off. Carpenter Shi swung his ax making a sound like hissing wind and chopped off the piece of plaster without causing any harm at all to his nose while the man from Ying just stood there without losing his composure. When Duke Yuan of Song heard about this feat, he summoned Carpenter Shi and said: 'I'd like you to try doing that on me.' Carpenter Shi said: 'As your servant I'm able to carve things. However, what I used as the substance for doing that particular feat died long ago.'"

"My own dearest friend has died. I no longer have any substance to act upon! I no longer have anyone I can share in discussions with!"

Chapter 18 again:
On his travels through the state of Chu, Zhuangzi noticed a hollow skull. Even though it was old and covered with dirt, he could still make out its shape. Zhuangzi poked it with his riding crop and then asked it:

"My friend, was it because you lost your principles and were corrupt in your life that you ended up this way? Or was it because you had no loyalty to the affairs of your country and your head was chopped off that you ended up this way? Or was it because your behavior was so horrendous you brought shame to your parents and wife that you ended up this way? Or did you end up this way simply because you found yourself cold and hungry out here in the wilderness? Or did you just die a natural death when your time was up?"

When he was finished speaking, he went to sleep using the skull as a pillow. In the middle of the night the skull came to him in a dream and said: "It's obvious from what you said that you're an eloquent and educated speaker. Everything you said shows the ways people exhaust themselves while they're alive. After you're dead, there's no need for all that. Do you want me to tell you about what it's like to be dead?"

Zhuangzi said: "Yes."

The skull said: "In death there's no ruler above you nor a servant below. Also, you're not affected by the four seasons. You can be as spontaneous as the heavens and the earth, and simply flow along naturally. Even the happiness of the highest king couldn't be any better than this."

In disbelief, Zhuangzi said: "If I could control destiny and bring you back to life again in your previous body with bones, flesh and skin, and you could return to your parents, wife, friends and neighbors, would you like that?"

The skull gave an angry glare and said: "Why in the world would I want to give up happiness comparable to the highest king and return to the toils of human life?"

(All translations by Nina Correa:

What's the Zhuangist philosophy of death? That's something interesting to consider. What does it mean? Hmm...
St. Rev. Dr. Rev

Rev's Law

This seems like it ought to be a well-known principle, but I can't find it set down anywhere, so I am claiming it for myself.
Rev's Law: Given sufficient inferential distance, wrong and confident is more convincing than correct and hedged.
St. Rev. Dr. Rev

Goodbye Tumblr

Made a Tumblr account about a week ago.

Using Tumblr was like eating a cake and slowly realizing it had been made with spoiled eggs.

Just deleted the account. I know nobody's using LJ any more but this is home.
St. Rev. Dr. Rev

Upside Down

On one fateful day in 1986, Army veteran Steven Down’s (Matthew Tompkins) life was turned upside down, when an assignment in Nicaragua led to his capture at the hands of a paramilitary unit who beat and tortured him within inches of his life.

When Eva (Thora Birch) secretly adopts a mischievous capuchin monkey, her life turns upside down in this slapstick family comedy.

50 Cent stars as gifted college running back Deon in this touching drama. Deon’s world turns upside down when an unexpected crisis jeopardizes his professional ambitions — and causes him to look at himself and his life in a new way.

Tangie the Tangerine Bear has a problem: His smile was sewn on upside down at the factory, and nobody wants to buy a toy bear with a frown.

A Chicago couple’s perfect life is instantly turned upside down when a kidnapper with an elaborate scheme abducts their little girl.

Single politician Melissa has her life turned upside-down when she is made guardian of her niece, Lennox, and nephew, Ryder.

Two teens turn a staid convent upside down with their youthful glee and zany antics.

A magic Christmas ornament turns two men’s lives upside down when homophobic Tony starts preferring men two weeks before his wedding and his gay co-worker Steve finds himself blossoming into a ladies’ man.

History and legend are both turned upside-down as Lincoln tracks the creatures of the night.

Our best guess for you: ***

Based in your interest in: Maverick Cop: the Motion Picture, Firefly, and Ponyo.