Re: Mind rape

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Tue, 29 Jun 1999 17:40:39 -0500

A generalized nonconsensual mind alteration is not equivalent to rape. Perhaps someone else could phrase this better, but rape is a traumatic, mind-damaging experience - for most women - because it strikes at the heart of their sexual identity, which, for the aforesaid "most women", is something that they invest a great deal of themselves in. I don't know that a more powerful personality would be damaged by rape, any more than I would be damaged by castration.

This also gets into the discussion of "sexual harassment" earlier. It really is a mistake to assume that, simply because a woman goes out of her way to make herself more attractive, she wants men to compliment her. Part of that may simply be the enforcement of social norms; like it or not, there are a lot of men (and even women), including bosses and personnel managers, who don't feel quite comfortable around a woman who doesn't want to wear makeup, bras, or, God help us, high heels.

More complexly, the evolutionarily optimal sexual strategy for females isn't as straightforward as that for males. In the case of males, the strategy is simple: Screw everything in sight that you can possibly impregnate. In the case of females, who, at minimum, have to spend nine months pregnant, the strategy is to attract a single mate of the highest possible quality. Thus a woman may go out of her way to make herself more attractive, even out of personal rather than social causes, and still be looking for a compliment from only one man.

Sexual exclusivity can become as much a part of the default female psyche as sexual profligacy can become part of the default male psyche
("macho"). This is why rape does so much mental damage, and why
castration is so often spoken of as the appropriate punishment for rape. It's not a matter of prevention; castration does "the same thing" to the default male identity that rape does to the default female identity.

I think that the "general case" of nonconsensual mind alteration is simply too general; minds are complex things. The evils you can do to someone's mind are every bit as general as "evil", period; trying to define the general case is like trying to define the general case of evil.

The term "rape" should be reserved for damaging someone's personality by violating an invariant they value as part of their identity. For example, in Spider Robinson's _Time Pressure_, the protagonist puts such a high value on the integrity of his memories that he feels raped when they're altered.

           Eliezer S. Yudkowsky
Running on BeOS           Typing in Dvorak          Programming with Patterns
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