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Slut shaming and the prisoners dilemma

This post generally takes a cis het view of sex, since those are the groups who seem to be involved in our seemingly annual shame a woman fest.

It’s summer, so it must be time to hold another girl up to public shaming and ridicule for her sexual behaviour. Last year it was “slane girl” this year “Magaluf girl”, young people daring to enjoy themselves outside the prescribed norms of patriarchal acceptability. There is a good post here on the right to make sexual choices, as well as the complexities of consent when alcohol is involved.

What strikes me every time that the attacks on the women involved seem to come mostly from cis het men, who would in any logical reading of events not wish to discourage such behaviour, after all if they like blow jobs the number of women willing to give them to random strangers influences heavily their chance of getting one. I try my best, but I don’t think I could provide services to every horny man who asks!

Which is what led me to the prisoners dilemma. It is an old economics theory which has spread into other aspects of the social sciences. Put simply it goes like this;

Jennifer and Lillian are both arrested for robbery and taken to separate cells. They are individually told that if they confess, implicating the other person their sentence will be lower for cooperating. If they do not confess and the other does therefore they will suffer. However if they both remain silent then their is not enough evidence for anything other than a minor charge such as vandalism. There are a lot of diagrammatic ways of representing the prisoners dilemma but they, at this basic level boil down to four options.

Jennifer confesses, Lillian gets longer sentence

Lillian confesses, Jennifer gets longer sentence

Both confess, both go to prison but for a shorter sentence

Neither confess, both get nothing more than a fine.

The dilemma is that co-operation has the best outcome for both over self interest, but you have to trust that the other person will co-operate, remain silent. If you act purely self interestedly you may still go to jail, but if you do not confess and your fellow criminal does, you may face the worst outcome, the longer jail sentence. What on earth does this have to do with slut shaming I hear you ask?

Imagine a scenario under the prison we call capitalist patriarchy, for it is a prison, on human behaviour and emotions. Two people, lets call them Bill and Ted, hear of s young woman who has been behaving in a sexually adventurous manner. They have a number of ways they can react, from criticizing (the confession of the prisoners dilemma) to remaining silent, with the same more advantageous outcome for both in the economy of blow jobs. For if there is no public outrage and censure then presumably more women would be willing to give blow jobs. Remaining silent increases the (hypothetical) supply of blow jobs.

The way society is currently set up though co operation is not the usual outcome here, instead many chose to “confess” or express negative, slut shaming attitudes. I believe understanding the prisoners dilemma can help us understand why. In the first example our prisoners were faced with trusting another, with no knowledge of how they might behave, and trusting them enough to remain silent. The only way the prisoner can achieve the best outcome is through trust and silence (or possible the prisoners dilemma being taught at all Thieves Guild schools).

So what are the pressures faced by a “prisoner” in the prisoners dilemma when it comes to slut shaming? We need, I think, to look at how the theory evolved, especially when prior knowledge is taken into account. This changes it from being a quite simple choice in a multitude of choices, dependent on the previous outcomes. Now most men know how this conversation goes, to win acceptability and peer recognition they slut shame. It is an accepted way of responding, and an expected one. By not confessing (slut shaming) they run the risk of exclusion from the group. The one thing they do not run the risk of though is of reduced opportunity for blow jobs.

Which brings me to the point of this post. Slut shaming is a problem among women, but today I am writing to men, when you hear stories like that of Magaluf girl look at how you, and those around you are responding. Are you acting like those prisoners, unwilling or unable to trust, speaking because you believe that silence may condemn you? Are you trapped by the prison of patriarchy? Just think if you could break free not only would the lives of millions of women be improved by you might even get more blow jobs*.

*other sex acts are available

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10 comments on “Slut shaming and the prisoners dilemma

  1. georgefinnegan
    July 5, 2014

    The requirement for control in public isn’t ‘patriarchal’ – it’s humanistic. Humans aren’t animals. Inappropriate sex causes harm. It does have to do with consent. When done in public, sex is forced on others without their consent. You can say what you want about the level of participation, but the majority rules that public displays of sex are problematic and have to be controlled. Slut shaming is one way of controlling it – like it or not.

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    • The only problem with that analysis is that the shaming in this case is applied only to a single participant whereas both morally and legally all those present and participating had some level of responsibility.

      It’s a “takes two to tango situation” and in the discussion that has been lost. If control of public displays of sex is necessary, which I’ve no doubt it is in this and other situations, then all participants must be condemned for inappropriate behaviour, and aside from those coming at it from feminist positions or sensationalist moral shaming for fun, I’m hopeful that will happen when the local council and police investigate as proposed.

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    • jemima2013
      July 5, 2014

      hmmmm so thats why the men involved are being named and shamed is it?

      Like

  2. georgefinnegan
    July 6, 2014

    I should have said that it isn’t ‘completely’ patriarchal. But I think that reducing the problem to just that is way too simplistic.

    Your use of prisoner dilemma was very good and interesting to read. However, you have to assume that all men will want a blow job in a public place, or that it’s acceptable, for it to have the conclusion you want. Doing so supports rape culture assumptions that all men want sex at any given time, under any condition – that they shouldn’t speak up to keep people from having sex in public, or, more importantly, to prevent rape. You also seem to assume that there isn’t any harm done by having sex in public, neglecting the fact that someone who was raped or molested as a child may have been present, it could have triggered PTSD in that person and the result could have been violence. That’s always a risk when dealing with the public – there are a wide variety of different individuals that should be accounted for and assuming everyone should just join in the fun is fantasy. And when things are done in public, everyone present has a certain degree of responsibility to those around them. My point is, obviously people weren’t comfortable with what went on, there are likely to be a variety of different reasons for that, so they resorted to slut shaming as a way to express that discomfort. I believe that there’s an element of thinking that it would exert some control over similar situations. Choosing to slut shame the vulnerable girl is a part of the patriarchal problem, but that was just a feature of an available outlet and not the root cause of the complaint.

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    • Anonycat
      July 6, 2014

      The people who ‘weren’t comfortable with what went on’ and ‘who resorted to slut shaming’ weren’t in the bar though. They were people who had watched video clips of it after the event.

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      • georgefinnegan
        July 6, 2014

        Obviously, someone who was there took the video and posted it. What do you think their motive was? I’d have to say that, if this were a non-event for the person, it wouldn’t have been posted. But it impacted the person to such a degree that they felt compelled to share it. I’ll also bet that the person understood that slut shaming was going to happen after the video was posted and that was the motive for posting it.

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        • Anonycat
          July 6, 2014

          Well I don’t think their motive was that they felt so uncomfortable by it they thought they’d better get it recorded and broadcast to the general public.

          Like

          • georgefinnegan
            July 6, 2014

            Unless you are that person, we don’t know what his/her motives for posting the video were. We also don’t know how other people who were present felt about the situation. But, as I said, if it truly was a non-event, it wouldn’t have been posted at all.

            The reality is, when someone does something in public, and even more so when it becomes publicized as it did in this case, the public will criticize. I think they have the right to do so – it’s free speech. Let’s face it, if it were done in private, there would be no slut. No one would have known about it; those in the public who are uncomfortable about public sex would have nothing to complain about. It’s the publicity that makes the slut.

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            • Anonycat
              July 6, 2014

              You write, “unless you are that person, we don’t know what his/her motives for posting the video were.”

              That’s true, but you asked me what I thought their motives were- I was just answering your question.

              Correct me if I’m wrong but you seem to suggest it’s what other people think about it, that is the important point, not the act itself. “it’s the publicity that makes the slut.”

              Would you argue that in general? Or just in the case of sluts? If someone does something and gets unfavourable publicity about it, maybe some of the public do disagree with it, does that by itself mean that what they did was wrong?

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              • georgefinnegan
                July 6, 2014

                When something is done in public, what the public thinks about it is important. I’m not sure I said that having negative public opinion means what was done was ‘wrong’, but it would mean that it shouldn’t be done in public.

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This entry was posted on July 5, 2014 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , .

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