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Morality and context.
April 26, 2009 9:02 PM   Subscribe

How wrong is it to use a kitten for personal sexual pleasure? Depends on whether you've washed your hands.
posted by limon (96 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh, science.
posted by HostBryan at 9:14 PM on April 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


I see that commenting on this post will accomplish nothing, but cause a tumult. I wash my hands of it. I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it.
posted by orthogonality at 9:15 PM on April 26, 2009


Interesting article. However,

The combined ratings were significantly lower -- more immoral -- when the survey was conducted in the presence of fart smell.

Looks like it was only a variance of .75 (on a 7 point scale), and showed no change for increased levels of smell, which presumably makes people more disgusted, no? I know that "significantly" has a very specialized and specific meaning when it comes to this kind of thing, but it doesn't seem like that much of a result to this layperson.

Also, the kitten example is really bothering me. I can't decide if it is perfectly OK (the kitten enjoys it, right?) or completely monstrous (can a kitten consent to being part of your sexual experience?) Gah. Why did you put that in my brain?
posted by Rock Steady at 9:16 PM on April 26, 2009


would it be immoral to keep a wallet made out of a kitten if the smell was offensive?
posted by Hammond Rye at 9:24 PM on April 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


I think it's amazing the way this article captured the two central dilemmas of my life. Should I spend the money of others? Should I rub a kitten against my genitals?

This critical dialectic has been the source of most of our culture, as I'm sure you're aware.
posted by twoleftfeet at 9:25 PM on April 26, 2009 [22 favorites]


Is the kitten declawed and circumcised?
posted by loquacious at 9:32 PM on April 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


I see no problem if the cat you were using was of age but pedo-bestiality? Really?
posted by Sailormom at 9:33 PM on April 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Okay, so they're basically saying that priming works. Didn't we already know that?
posted by Afroblanco at 9:34 PM on April 26, 2009


Well, my personal moral dilemmas revolve around whether I should or should not complete surveys for graduate students who have recently eaten Mexican.

And the moral dilemmas of my townspeople tend to revolve around whether taxpayer dollars, even to the mill, were used in the production of fart smell.
posted by dhartung at 9:35 PM on April 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think it's amazing the way this article captured the two central dilemmas of my life.

Three: where is that godawful smell coming from?
posted by rokusan at 9:35 PM on April 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


I realise that the kitten probably likes it and doesn't really differentiate between genitals and hands and such. But, I just ate a Baconator and I don't have any napkins and I just farted and I'm in a room with artificial lighting and I just watched Saw 49 so fuck you and die kitten molester.
posted by jimmythefish at 9:36 PM on April 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


The other cool thing about the article is that they mention, in passing, the existence of "fart spray":
The catch was that they had rigged a trash can near the experimenters' desk with fart spray.
I had no idea that there was such a thing as "fart spray" - an aerosol can that emits a fart-like odor - until I read this article. Despite the obvious appeal of such a product for sophmoric freshmen worldwide, apparently "fart spray" is only available to serious researchers.
posted by twoleftfeet at 9:39 PM on April 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


FYI (probably not that safe for work)
posted by Burhanistan at 9:39 PM on April 26, 2009


It's an ill wind that makes kitten frottage good.
posted by Abiezer at 9:40 PM on April 26, 2009 [16 favorites]


it doesn't seem like that much of a result to this layperson.

I am not a philosopher, but I think the very fact that people consistently alter their moral judgments in response to changes in their physical environment at all seems hugely significant.

Already in the 19th century, Friedrich Nietzsche argued that moral judgments are always embodied, that is to say, a function of our physical, bodily existence, rather than the writs some autonomous, spiritual self. But beside psychologically compelling accounts of the motives of various types of people, Nietzsche didn't give us a whole lot of evidence. I think these kinds of experiments will lead us closer to understanding how moral judgments form in us as living, biological beings. This kind of knowledge will be tremendously valuable, I think. Of course it can be used cynically, but it can also be used to engineer environments that promote moral well-being.
posted by limon at 9:41 PM on April 26, 2009


FYI (probably not that safe for work)

Oh great. Now I have to zero out my hard drives and reformat.
posted by loquacious at 9:44 PM on April 26, 2009


As a lady, I don't think kitten-humping is at all wise, as they are in one place rough and in all other parts absorbent.

That's because I'm a lady.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:44 PM on April 26, 2009 [9 favorites]


OUCH
posted by Afroblanco at 9:48 PM on April 26, 2009


Thanks for getting me started thinking about this Rock Steady. Looking at the original article, the effect size is hp2=0.11. So the practical significance of the findings is not that large (fart smell accounts for 11% of the variance in the target population). An even more practical study would be to see if you could use it change a dichotomous subject response -- for example by piping fart smell into a jury room. My guess is that it would be even less likely to affect the odds of the responses if people could only choose "right" or "wrong" for each of the four scenarios. I have asked my cat what she thinks and she just went and curled up in the corner.
posted by cgk at 9:50 PM on April 26, 2009


I think I should note here that I hate bar plots as they are so often misused to hide the individual data. Looking at those bar plots I have absolutely no idea of the variance of the data. It seems that Cognitive Daily hates error bars. Me too. Try a box plot instead.
posted by grouse at 9:53 PM on April 26, 2009


This reminds me of Williams' and Nagel's idea of moral luck. It is one of my favorites to teach as a concept because I love showing students the differences between how they THINK they make moral judgments, and how they actually do.

That smell can even play a part like this is fantastic! It shows just how fragile this thing we call reason is when it comes to normativity.
posted by strixus at 9:55 PM on April 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


These are questions of morality, which many people believe we can answer based on reason alone. But a couple of recent studies suggest that seemingly unrelated local circumstances can affect how we perceive the morality of scenarios such as this.

I'm not sure how these two statements relate to one another. As Limon said, the passions have for a long time been considered an effective force in human agency. This isn't Nietzsche's discovery; it goes back to the beginning of philosophy. The New York Times, however, puts the insufferable David Brooks on payroll to dabble in quasi-scientific cultural criticism, and flaunt the results of tests such as this as the end of "rationality," and "philosophy" itself. Not even Kant, the arch-rationalist, denies the efficacy of non-rational motivation in decision making. The non-rational context of a decision, though, doesn't seem to me to effect one way or another to the morality of that decision. I can't ultimately see how studies such as these, although they are quirky and interesting, represent anything "hugely significant," at least morally speaking. They do provide information about the manipulability of the human psyche, which in this case could serve for the removal or addition of non-rational incentives (bad smells that effect decision making) but don't seem to speak to morality itself.
posted by Dia Nomou Nomo Apethanon at 9:58 PM on April 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


From the hamster thread:
I don't understand the point of keeping a furry animal that's too small to hug.
chiraena at 1:19 PM on April 27 [1 favorite +] [!]
Answered less than 3 hours later - Metafilter is on fire today!
posted by AndrewStephens at 9:59 PM on April 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


This reminds me of Williams' and Nagel's idea of moral luck.

Fascinating.

I have asked my cat what she thinks and she just went and curled up in the corner.

Prude.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:59 PM on April 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think that this supports my long-held belief that it is not possible to be perfectly rational when considering an ethical dilemma.

Masturbating with a kitten is kind of like eating your boogers. Neither one is technically wrong, but yuck.
posted by double block and bleed at 10:01 PM on April 26, 2009


> Neither one is technically wrong, but yuck.

Um, I'm pretty sure that doing that with a kitten is in fact technically wrong (as in violating one or many criminal laws).
posted by Burhanistan at 10:10 PM on April 26, 2009


ma, pa. welcome back home from your vacation. yeah, about the cat... i don't think, um, yeah. i did wash my hands before i... fed the cats. no, the cat ate. what? i don't know the cat is so quiet. it's just quiet i guess. i saw this one bar graph that said... oh, nevermind.

anyway, how was hoover dam?
posted by the aloha at 10:11 PM on April 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's an ill wind that makes kitten frottage good.

An ill wind is blowing.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:12 PM on April 26, 2009


Abiezer: It's an ill wind that makes kitten frottage good.

MetaFilter needs a "make comment into t-shirt and/or bumper sticker" button.
posted by Kattullus at 10:17 PM on April 26, 2009


Since I learned the definition for "frottage" as an adult, my brain often first transposes the meaning to be something like "fromage". It sometimes works out to my advantage.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:17 PM on April 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


There is almost no context where I can say "I like pussy" that is as wrong as saying it about kitten frottage.
posted by twoleftfeet at 10:19 PM on April 26, 2009


I have asked my cat what she thinks and she just went and curled up in the corner.

Mine does that whenever I want to talk about Wittgenstein. She's more of a classical Friesian.

Stupid cat.
posted by rokusan at 10:20 PM on April 26, 2009


Burhanistan: "26> Neither one is technically wrong, but yuck.

Um, I'm pretty sure that doing that with a kitten is in fact technically wrong (as in violating one or many criminal laws).
"

All snark aside, what law or laws would be broken? I'm not advocating or condoning the practice, but I'm not making the connection as to what laws you might be talking about.
posted by double block and bleed at 10:22 PM on April 26, 2009


Based on this study, I think we can conclude that Mefites live in some pretty disgusting domiciles.
posted by !Jim at 10:22 PM on April 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Despite the obvious appeal of such a product for sophomoric freshmen worldwide

sophomoric freshmen?
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:24 PM on April 26, 2009 [12 favorites]


> All snark aside, what law or laws would be broken? I'm not advocating or condoning the practice, but I'm not making the connection as to what laws you might be talking about.

It varies from state to state, but I don't think any prosecutor or judge would have much trouble interpreting the law as being violated in the case of the kitten rubbing.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:28 PM on April 26, 2009


Just a warning. Having sex with underage cats is a feliney.
posted by twoleftfeet at 10:30 PM on April 26, 2009 [33 favorites]


Has anyone made a Kitty Porn joke yet? I haven't read the whole thread.
posted by delmoi at 10:31 PM on April 26, 2009


And, according to that site, it would appear that only 28 states have laws on the books. That's kind of odd.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:31 PM on April 26, 2009


Umm... is this the appropriate thread to bring up sadistic necrophiliac bestiality? I mean, I know it's just beating a dead horse, but- ow! Ouch! Hey, OK, I'll stop!~!
posted by drhydro at 10:31 PM on April 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Well, duh. I always wash my hands fir... wait.. nevermind. *slowly backs out of thread*
posted by Bageena at 10:32 PM on April 26, 2009


<steve martin>You people are disgusting! I was talking about her cat!</steve martin>
posted by zippy at 10:38 PM on April 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's not a secret that the practice of making moral judgments is often influenced by external factors, but it is far from clear what the impact of this result might be on the question of what is moral, which is the more interesting question.
posted by Kwine at 10:39 PM on April 26, 2009


Since I learned the definition for "frottage" as an adult, my brain often first transposes the meaning to be something like "fromage"

Frottage cheese?
posted by zippy at 10:39 PM on April 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Just a warning. Having sex with underage cats is a feliney.

YOU STOP THAT RIGHT NOW.
posted by loquacious at 10:39 PM on April 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


i fart on your kitten sex.
posted by sexyrobot at 10:39 PM on April 26, 2009


This post is an affront to all mankind. I can't understand what kind of mind would use kitten frottage as a hook for a shitty Psychology Today-style study and think it was fine FPP mater... [sniff ... sniff] Ugh... what the hell is... brb

Apologies everyone. My unwashed socks were inducing moral outrage.
posted by benzenedream at 10:41 PM on April 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


Frottage cheese?

ARGH AND THAT TOO! LALALA *RUNS OFF*
posted by loquacious at 10:41 PM on April 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I was momentarily surprised that this was not a Savage Love column.
posted by Ratio at 10:44 PM on April 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


What's the world coming to when you can't passively rub your cock on a loving, vibrating little kitten? What better way is there to comfort your sad soul after polishing off your tandoori terrier, Tinsel, what you ran over by accident with the Buick this morning? That's a trauma that is.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:46 PM on April 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


All this reminds me of the one Savage Love column that will be forever, forever, burned into my whimpering brain:

Not a problem unless, of course, you're the poor bastard who has to sit there and watch her widowed, kind, generous, conservative, religious grandmother finger-fuck her parakeet.
posted by granted at 10:47 PM on April 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Prior to the death of Mr. Hands, if you were in Washington State you'd be free and clear even if you frottaged the kitten on the steps of the state legislature.
For it was only after Pinyan died, when law enforcement looked for a way to punish his associates, that the legality of bestiality in Washington State became an issue and a punch line. Absent Pinyan's staggering sacrifice, the fact that there was no law prohibiting the coupling of man and beast would have never surfaced.
From The Stranger.
posted by fatbird at 10:49 PM on April 26, 2009


This post is an affront to all mankind. I can't understand what kind of mind would use kitten frottage as a hook for a shitty Psychology Today-style study and think it was fine FPP mater...

so, you don't think it's really mewsworthy?
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:01 PM on April 26, 2009


Kittens, as opposed to adult cats, have tiny, fiercely needle-sharp claws, which they have not yet learned to sheathe. Unless the subject of this hypothetical tale is a CBT masochist, this scenario is highly implausible.
posted by matildaben at 11:11 PM on April 26, 2009


Err.. what in the sam hell is going on?
posted by Ugh at 11:13 PM on April 26, 2009


Too freaky and/or gross, not gonna read the article.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:17 PM on April 26, 2009


As long as the kitten is over the age of 18...
posted by doctor_negative at 11:26 PM on April 26, 2009


As a lady, I don't think kitten-humping is at all wise, as they are in one place rough and in all other parts absorbent.

As a man, I know that there's a technical solution to this problem. We call it duct tape.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:42 PM on April 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Were these people involved in the study?
posted by louche mustachio at 11:46 PM on April 26, 2009


For a second, when I got to the blue and saw the first part of this post's title I thought I was on AskMefi. I kind of wish I had been.
posted by Midnight Rambler at 11:49 PM on April 26, 2009


Wait, what have people been doing with these hands to make them so stinky, pre cat-fucking.
posted by delmoi at 11:55 PM on April 26, 2009


Were these people involved in the study?

That is a severely strange blog.
posted by delmoi at 11:57 PM on April 26, 2009


And that is why jury rooms smell of farts.
posted by grobstein at 12:10 AM on April 27, 2009


I pluck my kitties from the ceiling when I need them.
posted by chillmost at 12:49 AM on April 27, 2009


64 comments and I still can't tell if it's safe to click the link.
posted by ryanrs at 12:51 AM on April 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


This post on AskMe would be a whole different ball game.
posted by !Jim at 12:58 AM on April 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


... it can also be used to engineer environments that promote moral well-being.

Cleanliness really is next to godliness!
posted by Ritchie at 1:09 AM on April 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


Activated carbon can now be expensed by defense attorneys.
posted by StickyCarpet at 1:11 AM on April 27, 2009


From the hamster thread:
I don't understand the point of keeping a furry animal that's too small to hug.
chiraena at 1:19 PM on April 27 [1 favorite +] [!]
Answered less than 3 hours later - Metafilter is on fire today!


I don't really think that's a good idea. There is a risk that your furry pal would think that thing is a gigantic baby hamster. It would all end in tears.
posted by louche mustachio at 1:33 AM on April 27, 2009


Ceiling cat prefers watching you...
posted by Onanist at 1:45 AM on April 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


The article says that during the positive environment experiment, "the rating scale was reversed". I'd be curious to know what would happen if they hadn't reversed the scale, and the lower number still equalled worse.

Makes me suspect it's less about affecting their judgement of morality and more about how charitable they're feeling about anything at all. Haven't similar studies with similar results been done with morally neutral questions such as what people thought of a particular product?

It seems the only thing this has proved is that most people put as little rational thought into their moral judgements as they do into mundane judgements. I thought we knew this already.
posted by lucidium at 2:35 AM on April 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Were these people involved in the study?
posted by P.o.B. at 2:54 AM on April 27, 2009


Is the kitten declawed and circumcised?
posted by loquacious at 9:32 PM on April 26 [1 favorite +] [!]


In an insomnia-fueled review this comment can be terribly misconstrued as similar to a certain urban legend involving gerbils and a certain celebrity and something about toilet paper tubes and candles or some kind of crazy shit which could be related or construed as actually involving kittens and genitals I totally wasn't even thinking about aiming at at the time, even though it was meant to be pretty much as distasteful as possible while playing on the low-hanging in-joke MeFi fruit of declawed cats and circumcised anyone and brakeless fixie bikes and all of those goddamn sacred cows we need to well, not burn to the ground - but lift from our shoulders and peacefully set aside.

I prefer my cats and humans uncut and unbridled and free as they want to be without harming any other.

Anyway, I'm too metasnarky for anyone's good sometimes, but what do you want from my reaction to such a weird fucking blog? It just enabled me to use the words "at at" in a fairly grammatically correct fashion without talking about Star Wars. Good Joooorb!
posted by loquacious at 3:43 AM on April 27, 2009


CEILING CAT IS NOT PLEASED.
posted by WalterMitty at 3:56 AM on April 27, 2009


I'm surprised no one's raised a stink about this yet.
posted by WalterMitty at 3:56 AM on April 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


instead of fart spray, I suggest this
posted by Hands of Manos at 4:07 AM on April 27, 2009


Ceiling Cat is doing it wrong.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:06 AM on April 27, 2009


God, this is horrible. For one, there isn't much of a statistical difference in the results under both scenarios (disgusting vs. non-disgusting), they offer us no breakdown on the individual questions (which I think would be more interesting and enlightening), and why, god, why would they change the axis on the second graph? It's fine to change your criteria in the test from 'less wrong' to 'more wrong' but for the sake of consistent presentation how easy is it to flip your axis?

And I just hopped out of the shower squeaky fresh and clean after a good night's sleep dreaming of all things lovely, so it isn't me.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 5:09 AM on April 27, 2009


I want to know how that kitten is supposed to wash his hands with no opposable thumbs.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:10 AM on April 27, 2009


Well, look, if the kitten jerks you off, it's a little messy, but no harm done.

If you jerk yourself off, the kitten dies.

I think the moral choice is clear.

(I can't believe no one has made this joke yet.)
posted by fungible at 6:22 AM on April 27, 2009 [8 favorites]


Fart stink, eh?

Interesting.
posted by Drasher at 6:30 AM on April 27, 2009


Ceiling cat prefers watching you...
posted by Onanist at 3:45 AM on April 27 [+] [!]


Holy eponysterical comment, catman
posted by kingbenny at 6:58 AM on April 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sex kitten?

Smeeta Smitten, showbiz kitten adds fuel to the fire:

As my very close friend Amitabh Bachhan said before he threw me off his property: 'Smeeta, who needs sex in our movies when we can have songs?' So ditties instead of titties, pussycats!! If only I'd known that when I started out... miaowww!!

So, that's cleared that up.

/aside

Interesting article and thread.
posted by asok at 8:11 AM on April 27, 2009


In my (non-frottage) experience, if you jiggle pretty much anything in the general vicinity of a kitten, the kitten will immediately grab it in a deathgrip with all of its many tiny hypodermic-like claws. And razor-sharp teeth.
posted by FelliniBlank at 8:22 AM on April 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm so glad this isn't an AskMe question.
posted by idiomatika at 8:30 AM on April 27, 2009


Not a problem unless, of course, you're the poor bastard who has to sit there and watch her widowed, kind, generous, conservative, religious grandmother finger-fuck her parakeet.

Oh, dear.

I'll never be able to watch a Tweety cartoon the same way again.

Especially not that one where Sylvester paints his finger up to look like a female Tweety bird. Oy.
posted by zarq at 8:41 AM on April 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


You're masturbating with a kitten, Leon. Why is that?
posted by adipocere at 8:50 AM on April 27, 2009


what is the probability that subjects would refuse to sit still to answer questionnaires in a room smelling of AXE body spray?
posted by Hammond Rye at 9:02 AM on April 27, 2009


Did the study verify that the participants believed in using logic to determine morality? Did they bother to confirm that the participants were capable of logical reasoning?

Because there are plenty of people I know (and dislike) who believe you should make decisions based on emotional responses...in which case of course they would be altered by environmental conditions having no conscious reasons for their morality to begin with. Further, I could see logical people, who were severely lacking on time thought into or knowledge of a topic, to alter their responses based on various unrelated stimuli. However, I don't as of yet believe that someone who rationally came to a moral conclusion about an issue, would alter it based on environmental conditions and this study isn't a compelling counter-argument as is.
posted by kigpig at 9:02 AM on April 27, 2009


You're masturbating with a kitten, Leon. Why is that?

Kitten? What's that?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:03 AM on April 27, 2009


Oh, science., is right.

Imagine the research and lab work needed to develop "fart spray"
posted by pianomover at 10:03 AM on April 27, 2009


Woolies: people with a wool clothing fetish.
posted by mattdidthat at 10:20 AM on April 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


How wrong is it for Matthew to be rubbing himself against the kitten?

If there was no box to check for Purrfectly Alright, then I for one, could never take this test seriously.


I am so sorry.
posted by ob at 10:38 AM on April 27, 2009


Apart from the Kitty and parakeet sex, there is one really useful tidbit I can take away from this excellent post.

If I want to teach my five year old morality, I have an 11% better chance if I fart in his face.

Thanks Metafilter.
posted by cjets at 2:04 PM on April 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


If I want to teach my five year old morality, I have an 11% better chance if I fart in his face.

Yeah, I'm pretty sure that's how serial killers are made.
posted by FelliniBlank at 3:48 PM on April 27, 2009


I think that this photo (safe for work, even!) pretty much sums up this post: http://twitpic.com/45jzn
posted by bitter-girl.com at 6:28 AM on April 28, 2009


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