Richard Feynman was not a sexual predator

In contrast to this author’s claims:

But I suspect the issue is that the author and I disagree on what makes a person a “sexual predator.”

Feynman did not exactly pretend to be an undergraduate. He was, post-war, a very young professor, comparatively, and describes attending a dance n which he was surprised that every young woman he talked to was keeping away from him after a few minutes. The mystery was solved when one woman said to him that he was a damn liar and walked away – he realized that they all avoided him after he told them (truthfully) that he had been at Los Alamos and helped design the atomic bomb, and they all thought he was bullshitting.

So he tried the reverse tactic: not saying anything about his past, and ended up being befriended by two sophomores who, in his words, we’re both very motherly in advising him he shouldn’t be ashamed of being a freshman at his age, because a lot of guys were starting over on the GI Bill after the war. He then comes clean with them and they are both upset with him for tricking them. He doesn’t sleep with them.

Nothing in either book describes his targeting the wives of male grad students, so I have no idea how to respond to that.

The PUA accusation is the most undefined. According to Feynman, his “technique,” was, “You just ask them.” [to sleep with you]

But even if he did play PUA games, I don’t agree that “sexual predator,” is a fair description. I admit it’s a term that different people can define differently, but I argue that it’s an unreasonably pejorative term to use in Feynman’s case.

When people abuse terms like rape or sexual predator to mean ‘anyone who does anything I don’t like’ they really cheapen a serious issue. Pathetic.

Even worse he was a “nice” guy :slight_smile:

He should have laid everything out for them in a diagram.

I haven’t read any of Feynman’s books of anecdotes (or anything nontechnical by or about him), but I do know that there are three biographies of Feynman out there – one by James Glieck, one by Lawrence Krauss, and a third. From a quick survey on the internet, the charge of “pretending to be a student” seems to be associated with Krauss’ book. Perhaps he describes it that way, or cites someone who does. In any event, the Galileo’s Pendulum piece clearly drew from other sources besides Feynman’s own books.

You’re not the only one to have disagreements with that blog piece. See here as well:

It’s been a while since I’ve read Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman, but I recall him getting some advice after striking out at a bar. The advisor told Feynman to be rude/disdainful of women in order to get them interested rather than pursue. Very much like “negging.”

Of course he was. Look at the OP.

He is a Physicist Under Attack.

The fact that an MIT science nerd managed to figure out how to get laid on a regular basis only only makes me admire him more.

Game recognized!

As I recall, he tried the technique with some success, but, found it distasteful and didn’t keep using it.

Let me preface this by recommending both books of anecdotes, particularly the first, Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!

It’s also been a while since I’ve read it, but the key part of the ‘advice’ he was given that I remember was to ask very early (specifically, before buying them anything such as a drink or meal) whether or she was going to sleep with him at the end of the night. On a no, he was told to proceed on to other prospects, and on a yes continue as usual with a woman he’d just met at a bar, buying drinks and meal etc before the expected end of the evening. Feynman reported a surprising rate of yeses when using this strategy, a much higher rate than he had found when asking for sex at the end of a standard evening after spending hours with a woman.

These are definitely non-standard dating tactics, particularly for the time, but at least this aspect of the advice does not strike me as inherently misogynistic. The part about buying things does seem rather… mercantile, but given that the man paying for everything in a bar was pretty much ubiquitous behavior at the time with or without the ‘advice’, I don’t think the ‘advice’ should be faulted for it.

Does Sheldon Cooper know about this? :eek:

He did have a nasty habit of busting o-rings.

Well, ‘sexual predator’ is putting it a bit harshly, but Surely You’re Joking makes it abundantly clear that the man had a seriously skeevy attitude towards women. Consider:

Also, after this strategy at first fails to work, and one of the ‘bitches’ gets him to buy her a sandwich without immediately reciprocating with sex, he calls her ‘worse than a whore’—where I’ll let everyone draw the obvious implication.

I’m going on memory of the book rightnow, but as I recall, he tried this technique and really didn’t like himself when he did it. So he abandoned it, even though it worked.

Feynmann was pretty big on trying to adjust his mindset in a clinical way (he did a whole chapter on mediation and his analysis of it) and did not always succeed ro end up with what he wanted.

Agreed. A womanizer as such is no sexual predator, and the PUA approach is dishonest and cynical and exploitive, but hardly predatory.

His reaction when the technique ends up working after all is to call it ‘terrific’:

Though, to be fair, he has some qualms about trying it on ordinary girls:

And yes, he does eventually cease using the method. This seems to be about the extent of his remorse:

So he ‘didn’t enjoy it’. Nothing about how degrading it is towards the women he tried it on, nothing about how twisted it is to believe that ‘bar girls’ essentially owed you sex if you get them free drinks.

I can certainly see him thinking two things.

  1. Let us reapply the technique.

  2. Logically speaking, that is a true statement.

Nobody ever said experimentation and logic was pretty.

As I understand it, their game was to hint that sex would be in the cards if you bought them drinks.

I don’t agree that anything on either side of that is either admirable or degrading.

Terrific does not automatically mean ‘good’. Especially when Feynmann is talking.

I loved that book. Perhaps I will re-read it.

sounds to me like a man who finds it degrading. There are other possibilities, of course, but that seems like the most probable.