"Does everyone understand?"




When you are making a presentation or giving a speech, it can be really helpful to check in with your audience about whether they’re understanding.

It’s also helpful to think carefully in advance about who your audience is and what it’s likely that they will already know, and what it’s likely that they will understand easily. But no presenter gets that right 100% of the time, so it’s also good to check in with your audience about what they are understanding.

Not every strategy for checking in works well. In particular: questions like “Does everyone know what this is?” or “Does everybody understand?” are usually not helpful. The problem is that these kinds of questions have an apparent right answer, along the lines of “yes, of course, please go on.” 

These questions are often heard as “Do you understand, or are you too stupid to follow what I’m saying?” or “Do you know about this, or are you shamefully ignorant?” It’s not comfortable to say “No, I don’t know” or “No, I don’t understand.”

It is much more helpful to ask questions in a way that makes it clear that it’s ok not to understand.

Some examples:

Saying “Who knows what this is?” or “Would anyone like me to explain this?” or “Are there any questions so far?”

When you check understanding, it’s also important to pause to give people a chance to form questions. People can’t usually react immediately, so if you go on too fast, it can sound like “I don’t really want you to ask questions, I just feel like I should pretend to.”

tl;dr Checking in with your audience is great; asking “does everyone understand?” isn’t an effective way to check in because people are unlikely to feel comfortable saying “I don’t understand”.

MAYMAY [just after giving a very heady 90m keynote]: Well, I think that went well! People seemed to like it.

ME: Yeah, I think they enjoyed it! It might’ve been a little over peoples’ heads, but the parts they got they seemed to find interesting.

MAYMAY: Wait, you don’t think they understood it?

ME: Well…no, not entirely.

MISH: *shakes head* No.

MAYMAY: But! I asked if anyone had any questions and nobody raised their hands or anything. :/

ME and MISH: *blink* … *start laughing*

ME: Ohh, right! You didn’t go to school! Sometimes I forget…

MISH: People don’t ask questions in class if they don’t understand something. Because then they look stupid and get in trouble.

ME: The only reason you ask a question in class is to prove you do understand something. The point of asking questions is to show off to the teacher.

MISH: Yeah, if you don’t understand, you’re just supposed to shut up.

ME: So, if you ask “Does anybody have any questions?” and nobody has any questions, that’s generally an indication that nobody understands what you’re talking about.

MAYMAY: …Ohh. Wow. School is TERRIBLE!

This is not generally limited to school only. It extends to general social interaction and social media. It results in a self-censorship environment of silence. One of the manifestations of it online has been the lurker phenomena wherein 70% of people will simply listen to discussions and only like 10% engage in discussions critically with the intent to understand. Most social interactions are not actually about understanding what is being discussed but are about social participation for its own sake without regard to formal process, logical or empirical consequences, efficiency, or general effectiveness. Most people who participate in social media and interaction are simply in it for the feel good vibes and attention.

See also:

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Y’hear that, ladies and gentlemen and everyone who’s neither a lady nor a gentleman? If you’re a person who wants to tick the “submissive” box, the only people you can—as in have the innate capability to—be sexually attracted to is someone who ticked the “dominant” box. And that in NO WAY is analogous to telling someone who ticked the “I’m a woman” box that the only person she can be sexually attracted to is someone who ticked the “I’m a man” box. Nothing like that at all!


"I mean, two men getting married? LOL, which one’s the wife?"

"I mean, two lesbians in bed together? How would they ever have sex?"

"I mean, two submissives crushing on each other, lol, what would they even do?"

-_- Blow me.

maymay, expanding on "Submissives need dominants like lesbians need men. Think about it."

See also:

Submissive people don’t need dominants. Period.

Rolequeer: Defining Our Terms

Rolequeerness is not about sex. It’s about power. It’s just that power, in rape culture, is about sex.

(via thebrightobvious)

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Additional information via Upworthy:

Oh, and just because it would be so wrong to leave a post this upsetting without some links to tools to help make things better, here is a link to the OK Cupid Predator Alert Tool, which is a browser extension for Chrome that adds a red flag to the profile of any person who has answered “yes” to one of the four questions asked in the study. Similar tools also exist for FetLife, Facebook, Lulu, and Bang With Friends. And don’t forget, there’s “no good excuse for not building sexual violence prevention tools into every social network on the Internet.” Learn more about how to support the Predator Alert Tools here.

Personally I think the OK Cupid Predator Alert is rad.

After Upworthy realized that the person who coded the Predator Alert Tools (me) isn’t well-liked by everyone and their mother, the post’s author (Rebecca Eisenberg) edited their post, removing all text and links about the Predator Alert Tools. The “additional information” quoted by jhames is the original version. It took Predator Alert Tool co-creator unquietpirate getting in touch with Rebecca Eisenberg personally over Twitter for her to grudgingly re-add mentions of (but no direct links to) Predator Alert Tool back to the Upworthy post. The new version (still live on Upworthy’s site) reads like the Predator Alert Tools are an afterthought, highlighting a common corruption: she cares more about her own reputation than in not censoring tools that help rape survivors.

The takeaway is that Upworthy is a commercial, profit-seeking company, one that’s in the same exact business—and uses the same exact business model—as the likes of Buzzfeed. John Oliver explains why that’s disturbing better than I can, and will make you laugh while he does it:

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It turns out that if you ask the right questions in just the right way, some men will actually tell you that they're rapists. They'll just…admit it. The key is, don't use the word rape. Just ask them what they've done. Researchers asked 1,882 men: and: 120 answered yes. (That's rape.) 1,882 men… 120 rapists. They admitted to a total of 483 rapes and attempted rapes. 483! Whoa.





“Repeat Rape: How do they get away with it?”, Part 1 of 2. (link to Part 2)


  1. College Men: Repeat Rape and Multiple Offending Among Undetected Rapists,Lisak and Miller, 2002 [PDF, 12 pages]
  2. Navy Men: Lisak and Miller’s results were essentially duplicated in an even larger study (2,925 men): Reports of Rape Reperpetration by Newly Enlisted Male Navy Personnel, McWhorter, 2009 [PDF, 16 pages]

By dark-side-of-the-room, who writes:

These infogifs are provided RIGHTS-FREE for noncommercial purposes. Repost them anywhere. In fact, repost them EVERYWHERE. No need to credit. Link to the L&M study if possible.

Knowledge is a seed; sow it.

Reblogging because I mentioned this study in a post the other day and someone reblogged & replied insinuating that I’d made it up, but I didn’t have the citation on hand right then. As I said then: rape culture is what teaches rapists that they aren’t rapists.

^ bolded for emphasis

like we talked about in my college’s Rape Prevention seminar, only a very small amount of men are rapists, but they are repeat offenders, so they harm multiple women before they get caught.

Put simply, there are two general strategies that can be used to solve this problem:

  1. Expose the repeat rapists as early as possible (This is what Predator Alert Tool for OkCupid aims to do.)
  2. Get survivors who share an abuser in common in touch with one another as soon as possible. (This is what Predator Alert Tool for Facebook aims to do.)

Clearly, if there is more than one way to address a problem, the best course of action is to address the problem using all the ways we can simultaneously address it. Activists sometimes call this simple idea “diversity of tactics,” although a lot of people misunderstand that phrase.

Strategy number 1 is an attempt at prevention that will not be 100% successful. (Nothing is 100% successful, especially on its own.) Strategy number 2 is an attempt to provide survivors with the communal resources they need to ensure a rapist is only able to rape a minimal number of times before they are prevented from doing so again.

Technological tools like these are not new. Before Predator Alert Tool for Facebook existed, survivors wrote the names of their rapists on bathroom stalls. (And they still do that, today.) They were also asking their social network (their friends) about how the person they were thinking of going out with behaved like in bed. That’s basically all the Predator Alert Tools do, too. Just, faster, ‘cause computers.

I spend a lot of my time thinking about technologies and the sociocultural and sociopolitical impact they have, especially on rape culture. If you’re curious about the Predator Alert Tool project or these ideas more generally, check out my blog post: “Predator Alert Tool as a game theoretic simulation of countermeasures to rape culture.”

Also, please reblog. Obviously. Thanks. :)

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Anonymous asked:

I really like your blog, it makes me think

No, it doesn’t. It presents you with something you don’t fully understand, and your reaction to that is to try understanding its full implications.

Think about that for a while. :)

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Adam Smith[’s, the father of modern economics,] is a tradition that assumes that liberty is essentially the right to do what one likes with one’s own property. In fact, not only does it make property a right; it treats rights themselves as a form of property. In a way, this is the greatest paradox of all. We are so used to the idea of “having” rights—that rights are something one can possess—that we rarely think about what this might actually mean. In fact (as Medieval jurists were well aware), one man’s right is simply another’s obligation. My right to free speech is others’ obligation not to punish me for speaking; my right to a trial by a jury of my peers is the responsibility of the government to maintain a system of jury duty. The problem is just the same as it was with property rights: when we are talking about obligations owed by everyone in the entire world, it’s difficult to think about it that way. It’s much easier to speak of “having” rights and freedoms. Still, if freedom is basically our right to own things, or to treat things as if we own them, then what would it mean to “own” a freedom—wouldn’t it have to mean that our right to own property is itself a form of property? That does seem unnecessarily convoluted. What possible reason would one have to want to define it this way?118

Historically, there is a simple—if somewhat disturbing—answer to this. Those who have argued that we are the natural owners of our rights and liberties have been mainly interested in asserting that we should be free to give them away, or even to sell them.

Modern ideas of rights and liberties are derived from what, from the time when Jean Gerson, Rector of the University of Paris, began to lay them out around 1400, building on Roman law concepts, came to be known as “natural rights theory.” As Richard Tuck, the premier historian of such ideas, has long noted, it is one of the great ironies of history that this was always a body of theory embraced not by the progressives of that time, but by conservatives. “For a Gersonian, lib­erty was property and could be exchanged in the same way and in the same terms as any other property”—sold, swapped, loaned, or other­ wise voluntarily surrendered.119 It followed that there could be nothing intrinsically wrong with, say, debt peonage, or even slavery. And this is exactly what natural-rights theorists came to assert. In fact, over the next centuries, these ideas came to be developed above all in Antwerp and Lisbon, cities at the very center of the emerging slave trade. After all, they argued, we don’t really know what’s going on in the lands be­ hind places like Calabar, but there is no intrinsic reason to assume that the vast majority of the human cargo conveyed to European ships had not sold themselves, or been disposed of by their legal guardians, or lost their liberty in some other perfectly legitimate fashion. No doubt some had not, but abuses will exist in any system. The important thing was that there was nothing inherently unnatural or illegitimate about the idea that freedom could be sold.120

Before long, similar arguments came to be employed to justify the absolute power of the state. Thomas Hobbes was the first to really develop this argument in the seventeenth century, but it soon became commonplace. Government was essentially a contract, a kind of business arrangement, whereby citizens had voluntarily given up some of their natural liberties to the sovereign. Finally, similar ideas have become the basis of that most basic, dominant institution of our present economic life: wage labor, which is, effectively, the renting of our freedom in the same way that slavery can be conceived as its sale.121

It’s not only our freedoms that we own; the same logic has come to be applied even to our own bodies, which are treated, in such formulations, as really no different than houses, cars, or furniture. We own ourselves, therefore outsiders have no right to trespass on us.122 Again, this might seem an innocuous, even a positive notion, but it looks rath­er different when we take into consideration the Roman tradition of property on which it is based. To say that we own ourselves is, oddly enough, to cast ourselves as both master and slave simultaneously. “We” are both owners (exerting absolute power over our property), and yet somehow, at the same time, the things being owned (being the object of absolute power). The ancient Roman household, far from having been forgotten in the mists of history, is preserved in our most basic conception of ourselves—and, once again, just as in property law, the result is so strangely incoherent that it spins off into endless paradoxes the moment one tries to figure out what it would actually mean in practice. Just as lawyers have spent a thousand years trying to make sense of Roman property concepts, so have philosophers spent centuries trying to understand how it could be possible for us to have a relation of domination over ourselves. The most popular solution—to say that each of us has something called a “mind” and that this is com­ pletely separate from something else, which we can call “the body,” and that the first thing holds natural dominion over the second—flies in the face of just about everything we now know about cognitive science. It’s obviously untrue, but we continue to hold onto it anyway, for the simple reason that none of our everyday assumptions about property, law, and freedom would make any sense without it.123

The History of Debt: The First 5,000 Years, Chapter 8: “Honor and Degradation, or, On The Foundations of Contemporary Civilization”, pg. 205 ¶4 to pg. 207 ¶1, by David Graeber

(Links added.)

TL;DR: When you talk about “having” rights and freedoms, you are describing your own rights and freedoms as a form of property that can be legally (and “legitimately”) sold, swapped, or exchanged in the exact same way you might do to a car or a house. Throughout history, this has been the moral basis on which coercive institutions from slavery to modern employment to government benefits programs have convinced countless generations that they do not deserve freedom, because if they really wanted to be free, they would not have sold their liberties like so many heads of cattle.

See also:

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Despite signing paperwork and a checklist of dos and don’ts, I was in way over my head. What I thought I was agreeing to felt a lot different in reality. I was groped by hands I didn’t know. There were masked people everywhere, but only the ones wearing wristbands were my approved scene partners. If I balked at an act or found it difficult to perform, I was “punished” for my defiance (which is the nature of a BDSM scene). It felt more like a party for the extras than a professional scene. Experienced as I was, it was new to me. I’d never used a safe word before (and forgot to), so when things became too much to bear and I began protesting, no one listened. The word “No” doesn’t work in these types of scenes.

I met my breaking point in this particular scene—halfway through, I had to be untied and calmed down. I was shaking. I felt a catch in my throat when I tried to speak and I could barely keep the tears at bay. I felt like I’d been beat. Yet I was hugged, inundated with compliments, and told how strong I was for being on the receiving end. I was caned, electrically prodded, and slapped around. I didn’t feel powerful. In the interim, I had to decide whether I was going to quit or be a professional and finish the scene. After everything I’d gone through, leaving would have made it worthless. So I stayed.

After the scene, I did a brief on camera interview about my experience—a standard company procedure. I nodded my head, smiled, and said all the right things. To me, that interview was also part of the job. It’s also filmed before performers are paid, or at least that’s been my experience.


While there are plenty of porn stars who regularly work for Kink and sing their praises, those that have had a negative experience are hesitant to speak up, fearing what it would do to their workload. Kink is one of the few large companies with the budget to offer steady work. Some people in the porn industry, it seems, would rather have work they don’t like than no work at all.

My ‘Kink’ Nightmare: James Franco’s BDSM Porn Documentary ‘Kink’ Only Tells Part of the Story

That “documentary” is blatant pro-BDSM subculture propaganda. The more general issue, however, is the multi-headed hydra of mutually dependent coercive institutions: BDSM on the surface, and the capitalist society on which this peculiar manifestation of abusive sex rests. To quote unquietpirate’s reaction to this article on Twitter:

See also more of my criticism of the definitionally pro-rape BDSM subculture:

See also more of my criticism of definitionally anti-equality capitalist social orders:

See also more of my writings on the intersection between ethics, consent, sex, and labor:

And finally, see also one of my most well-cited performative rants, “Re-Caste-ing alternative sexuality: A Class Analysis of Social Status in the BDSM Scene.”

TL;DR: The coercive nature of BDSM relies on and reinforces the coercive nature of capitalist economics. It’s possible to have satisfying, kinky sex that has nothing to do with BDSM. It’s also possible to enjoy doing satisfying work that has nothing to do with capitalism. Anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to control you.

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There is no doubt in my mind that there are other people who have not been lucky enough to find a place where such acceptance and intelligence has coalesced and these people are still looking for it. I hope they keep looking, because I am, and one day we might find each other.

Being loud helps you get noticed. Maybe I am just trying to rouse my little corner into making a little more noise.

- maymay

This quote from 2007 is relevant to my interests.

(via unquietpirate)

Well I’ll be.

Most folks don’t read back that far.

Um. Also?

We need a lot more than “a little more noise.”

Still workin’ on it. :)

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If Alice uses Bob for her sexual gratification, there is nothing she can do to make that objectification right. Bob and Bob alone has that power. In my mind, submission isn’t just some kink that some people have. Submission is the voluntary use of one’s own power to become the means to someone else’s end.

Submission lies at the heart of what makes sex good. It exercises one’s own autonomy, recognizes the autonomy of one’s partner, and places trust in their sensitivity and good judgement. It’s possible to have sex without domination. Putting the two under the same umbrella is another huge logical misstep. But without submission - mutual submission - there is only coercion.

glasswings (via unquietpirate)

In the third post in my “Dominants are rapists” series, I asserted “Submission’s where the magic happens.” This is a much expounded (and beautiful) description of what that actually means. The bumper-sticker slogan that straight people need to get this point through their skulls is “Submissives need dominants like lesbians need men. Think about it,” but is more precisely stated, “Telling submissive people they need dominants for sexual fulfillment is like telling women they need men for sexual fulfillment.” Arguably its earliest articulation in my writing was in the post, “Submissive people don’t need Dominants. Period.

See also:

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On being terminated


omg. I tried to come to your website earlier and it said the page didn’t exist. almost lost my mind.

I know how you feel. After yesterday’s termination incident, I’ve taken out an insurance policy by creating a completely separate tumblr account called Kill Coke Talk where I’ve duplicated my various themes and general data structure, including Dear Coquette.

It’s sort of the blogging equivalent of a FEMA trailer, where if my original account is ever terminated permanently, I’ll be able to flip a few switches and at least have a digital roof over my head.

Hopefully I’ll never have to use it, but everyone should go ahead and follow Kill Coke Talk. If anything ever happens to my original account, that’s where you’ll be able to find me.

Thanks so much!

FYI, I made a tool called Tumblr Crosspostr for this exact purpose. It can mirror your Tumblr blog on a WordPress blog that runs locally on your own computer, so you can instantly re-upload your entire blog to another Tumblr account (or anything to which WordPress can connect, so, like, almost everything) in the event your account is terminated.

I wrote it because I don’t trust Tumblr and I don’t like their draconian TOS. Plus, like you, I get “reported” all the time, and I frequently see my posts about doxing rapists and rape apologists (temporarily) censored by Tumblr Staff (until the usual outcry from my followers puts the Tumblr rapist-protectors back in their place).

Obviously, the Internet has been doing “report abuse” wrong because its admins are corrupt. I’m working on a fix to that problem, too.

Hope this helps.

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