Analogy is not equivalence!

I’ve been forced to it. Analogy is not equivalence, fuckers. Vaguely inspired by (or rather, tipped over the edge by) this thread, I am taking a stand against all those who insist that an analogy must be identical in every conceptual respect to the situation it is supposedly analogous to.

Yes, I just ended a sentence with a preposition, and that is something off with which you must fuck. It’s a lot like oral sex in that respect. Spit or swallow, just don’t come bitching to me. Anyway.

An analogy is not supposed to be exactly like the analogous situation. Then there would be no point to the analogy, it would just be a thing that is the same as the other thing, and serve no rhetorical purpose whatsofuckingever. The whole fucking point of an analogy is that it is similar in key respects to the original topic at hand, while differing in others. A skilfully constructed analogy may wildly differ in many other, hopefully tangential, aspects, which are likely chosen to highlight a key point in the argument about the original topic.

One of those aspects may well be (wait for it … ) degree!

Yes, degree. Yes, an analogy may well present a comparable but worse case in order to highlight the moral question at the core of the discussion. Nazis and rape may well be involved. Maybe Tom Jones will proposition a stagehand, and things will get completely WACKY! The point of this madcap zaniness is to make you think about your position in the original context, and examine what it is in the analogous situation that makes you change your mind. This may or may not be successful, but what it is not supposed to do is present two entirely identical situations which reinforce your previously-held conviction about what is right. That would be fucking stupid.

Now, it may be (indeed, it is likely) the case that the analogy presented is fucking stupid. For that matter, I may well follow up this rant with one about Fucking Stupid Analogies, which will likely draw heavily on filesharing debates. Fucking Stupid Analogies deserve the scorn they draw, for they differ in just about every possible way from the original situation, and are thus, as I say, Fucking Stupid.

This does not mean that all analogies are Fucking Stupid, and I wish you’d bloody accept this. If you spot a difference between a subject and a proposed analogy, please: stop. Think. Is this a Honking Great Difference, worthy of mockery until entropy declares all analogies useless and makes Phil Collins’ atoms blend with The King’s, or is this in fact the whole fucking point of the fucking analogy in the first place? Is this a show-stopper of a difference, or is it unto differences as the Macarena is unto dance? I beg you, ponder these questions, like unto Solomon facing a really fat baby and armed only with a salad fork. Making an analogy is a lot like making love to a beautiful woman, and I just wish you’d all take a bit more fucking care.

This rant has been brought to you by four pints of San Miguel, half a bottle of 2001 Rioja Gran Reserva, two glasses of some sort of disgusting champagne, and a train journey home during which I had to listen to two accountants debating the pros and cons of the new SCA approach to the TMC methodology on the RPA TQL analyses. I asked if they’d got the memo about the new cover sheets for the TPS reports and they just stared at me.

I agree. A good analogy is like a taco. Crunchy on the ouside, and full of beefy goodness on the inside.

The hot sauce. Don’t forget the hot sauce.

The linked thread, for those who are lazy, contains the following comparison: blaming someone for leaving an iPod out where it gets stolen is like blaming someone for not wearing a chastity belt and being anally raped.

There’s a problem with analogies that this doesn’t acknowledge: some subjects have relatively low emotional loads, and others have huuuuuuuuuge emotional loads. The ones with huuuuuuuuuge emotional loads are difficult to discuss rationally: the stink of the emotion overwhelms the senses.

A theft of an iPod is infuriating, and it might make someone more suspicious of their officemates. A rape is a lifechanging event, a major trauma. An iPod theft is comparatively an emotional desert.

The analogy sucked for this reason. Yes, it was different in degree; that’s not the problem (I’m not complaining about the goofy crocodile-moat analogy). It’s different in the amount of emotional baggage it carries, and adding in that emotional baggage does nothing to clarify the situation, but on the contrary, makes it more difficult to see the principles involved.


I was actually going for the “provocatively dressed” … “deserves to be raped” analogy, but yes, I concede that there is a high degree of emotional baggage that goes along with invoking the scenario of rape.

However, I contend that that is why it is a successful analogy. As I pointed out, the difference here is one of degree, and it is what makes the analogy work. People who blame the rape victim are, quite rightly, regarded as irredeemable shitheads. Yet there are precautions one can take to avoid being raped. The existence of these precautions in no way mitigates the foulness of the rapist, and in no way inculpates the victim, but they do exist. This, to my mind, is rational truth, regardless of the fact that rape carries huge amounts of emotional baggage. And by invoking said rational truth, and by asking the reader to question why they are so vehement that the rape victim is not to blame, yet so quick to blame Otto for his apparent foolishness, the analogy gains its point. It is a good analogy. It is not an equivocation of the nastiness of rape and iPod theft - this was never the point, and going to all the effort of pointing out that the former is much nastier is so much wasted breath. We know. That is the point. It is supposed to highlight the crux of the argument, and in this, it succeeded.

Unless you can explain why the degree of nastiness of rape is what exonerates the victim, you have to concede that the analogy is sound. I’d rather think the fact that the victim did nothing wrong is what exonerates them (as if they needed exonerating).

Now, it may well be an insensitive analogy (it pretty definitely is), but that’s a different kettle of badly dismembered babies. It’s still sound, and it still makes its point.

Simple. The stupid act on the part of the rape victim (going someone dangerous) is so overwhelmed by the evil of the criminal (raping her) that focusing on the rape victim’s responsibility is egregious. Furthermore, one of the major traumas of rape is the self-blame, the shame: feeding that is just horribly wrong.

The stupid act on the part of the theft victim is not nearly so overwhelmed by the act of the criminal. Furthermore, self-blame isn’t a major trauma for most victims of iPod thieves.

Again, emotion enters into it. If you’re tempted to turn the emotional dial up to 11, you need to make damn sure it’s appropriate to do so. If there’s any question whether the debate needs to have that much emotional trauma poured into it, don’t do so. I mean, you wouldn’t pour molten lead into a crib with babies in it, would you? Okay then.


Is the takehome message here that you guys apparently aren’t wearing your chastity belts? :eek: I take no chances when my behymen is on the line.

But yeah, I’m sick of seeing reasonable analogies get that enraged “So you think X is exactly equal to Y?” Well, no, fuckhead, the very nature of analogies is that you’re comparing unlike things! It’s one of the reasons I sort of occasionally endeavor to stay out of arguments around here.

That’s not explaining why the evil of rape exonerates the victim, that’s just saying that it does. The fact that blaming a rape victim is worse than blaming a theft victim is not in dispute; I’d say their relative distastefulness is pretty much in proportion to the distastefulness of their respective crimes. But that’s not the point at hand; the point is whether to blame the victim at all. I contend that we should not, in either case. You contend that we should in one, and not in another, and you’ve presented no argument, other than that rape is really bad, to explain why this might be so. Presumably there’s some line past which crime is so bad that it’s entirely the criminal’s responsibility, but otherwise it’s all a bit fuzzy; where’s that line?

I see no need for such complication; crime is the fault of the criminal, full stop. And I think it’s this view that the analogy very piercingly illustrates. And this is why I’m complaining about the dismissal of this analogy. It is analogous in every sense but degree, and the difference of degree is the whole point. It brings in to sharp relief an inconsistency of opinion, and as far as I can see is met only with cries of “you can’t bring up rape! That’s silly!”

This will be my last word on the matter tonight, I’m afraid, for I have availed myself of a large lamb shish kebab with garlic and chilli sauce, and intend to give it my full attention before passing out on the sofa in front of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. The film is remarkably analogous to the repast, really; I know it’s bad for me, I’ve had it before and regretted it, and if I knew any more about the making of it I’d probably vomit. But I’m still going to finish it.

We do not blame rape victims for one reason, they have already been hurt enough.

Women occasionally do ill advised things that increase their chances of being raped. Doing those things is a bad idea, and if a woman does one, she should be told that it’s a bad idea. However, if she was raped while engaging in dangerous activity, we respect the pain she has already been through and shut our mouths.

Otto has not been subjected to the life changing pain and suffering of a rape, he does not deserve that respect. He can be told that he was dumb for leaving his iPod unattended without fear that we are further damaging his psyche.

Personally, I think analogies should strive to be more alike than different. Bringing up rape as an analogy to petty theft strikes me as going for the most extreme example that bears any resemblance to the original. That’s only valid if you are also willing to discuss the opposite extreme, in this case, where someone does something colossally stupid and is subjected to an extremely minor crime.

“I left a can of soda in the office fridge for 3 months, and someone took it.” “Oh yeah? Well I left my Bic ballpoint in one of the conference rooms last week, and it’s gone. Buncha savages in this office.” You’re not going to blame THAT idiot even the tiniest little bit? C’mon.

I find the best strategy for keeping analogies relevant to the discussion at hand is to bring the Nazis in; you can always find a parallel with Hitler. For example, stretching an analogy beyond it cogency is like Hitler shooting himself in the bunker as a Nazi defeat became more and more inevitable. See? Anyone can play.

(Poisoned Koolaid is a good backup analogy.)

Let me get this straight: the Nazis are those who disagree with me, right? And they’re against freedom, which is my right to behave as I wish regardless of consideration for others or an abstract ideal? Okay, I got it. The poisoned Kool-Aid (analogy reserved for people who maintain their world-view in spite of my rhetoric or an abstract ideal and – in violation of history – refuse to die), is for those who are willing to subordinate their personal views in consideration of others (but not me), right? Okay, then. I’m armed with demons to send against all comers. Pity there’s no one left.

Yea, and verily. Today we had Otto comparing having an iPod stolen to being raped. Yesterday we had Dex Haven comparing being banned from the Dope to losing a relative to drunk driving. Where’s the perspective?

Tell you what. From now on every analogy on this board must contain one of the following:
-child molesters
-Kool Aid (or Flavor Aid if you have a stick up your butt about accuracy)
-replacing Hal Jordan with Kyle Rayner (or alternatively Ronnie Raymond with Jason Rouch)

If you can work in Kyle Rayner raping a child while carving a swatiska in his forehead with a chipped glass of Flavor Aid you win the internets.


I was repeatedly sexually assaulted as a child.

Now can I make my little analogy?

Thank you Daniel. Didn’t there used to be a way to link directly to a specific post?

Anyway, regarding the OP. I agree with the gist of his post, but sometimes, there ARE analogies that just don’t fly.

The analogy (thanks again for not making me go through that entire thread Hand of Dorkness), posted wasn’t exactly an incorrect one, but the emotional “hit” of rape on someone’s consciousness does lessen the usefulness of it, imho.

There still is but I was figuratively unhanded, as it were, due to being pissed as a newt. Plus, I wanted to make more of a general sort of point, and didn’t really want to get dragged into this specific example. In retrospect I should have left out the referenced thread entirely and let this one stand on its own; unfortunately, much like me last night, this is probably something of which it was incapable. So yeah, anyone who slogged through the iPod thread - sorry. I entirely agree with you when you say the analogy isn’t incorrect, but is probably a unwise one to use, by the way.

Cheesesteak, I agree with your points about considering the opposite extremes, but I still think this just illustrates the point. Blaming the rape victim is an act of superlative shitheadedness. Blaming the iPod-less is an act of mere dickery. Blaming the newly-bereft-of-biro is quite infinitesimally rude, particularly considering that the biro was probably removed by the cleaners, and that the benevolent bestower of biros is thus not a victim at all.

Hmm, I’m going to have to pick better examples for my follow-up epic. And probably not let Messrs Hops and Grape assist me.

Not with respect to the iPod, you can’t. Unless being told that you screwed up is going to dredge up all the bad feelings from your past.

Grow up, you did something very stupid and got bitten in the ass.

Well, exactly. The problem is that the comparison of blaming-rape-victim to blaming-theft-victim appears to be saying, “See, it’s as if you’re blaming a rape victim: therefore you’ve committed an act of superlative shitheadedness!” If the goal weren’t to express that thought, then another analogy would be much more appropriate, e.g., the crocodile-moat-analogy.

And you said that

but you’re wrong. I do not contend that we should blame the victim in one and not in another. I’m definitely okay with women who take reasonable precautions to lessen their chances of sexual assault, and I definitely think it’s a good idea to take reasonable precautions to lessen you chance of having your iPod stolen. After the fact, i think it’s a lousy thing to do to blame either for the crime.

My objection isn’t to the accuracy of this specific aspect of the analogy. My objection is to the accuracy of the emotional charge of the analogy, and to its consequent bad taste.


Dead Badger, I actually don’t think of it as a continuum of shitheadedness, there is a trip point here. I have a hard time coming up with a rape scenario where I would ever consider blaming the victim, they all sound completely stupid and contrived, and the “short skirt” thing is just moronic to begin with.

Let me go with a non-crime analogy.

A guy decides he wants to jump his motorcycle over some barrels, a-la Fonzie. He crashes, scrapes himself up good, and his mom yells at him for being an idiot. If he crashed and broke his neck, paralyzing himself from the neck down, his mom wouldn’t yell at him. He WAS an idiot, the act WAS stupid, he IS to blame for his predicament, but you just don’t call a person out on that when they are that seriously injured.

Calling him an idiot changes from being justified to being cruel. There is no “slightly” cruel aspect to it when he’s just scraped up, you’re telling it like it is. But, when his dumb act has contributed to a serious life-changing outcome, “telling it like it is” can be cruel.