Readercon, Harassment, Etc

While I was in LA, doing Wil Wheaton-related stuff and largely staying away from the Internets, the fandom-related portion of Teh Intarweebs exploded with events surrounding an incident of sexual harrassment at Readercon, a science fiction and fantasy convention. And when I say exploded, I do mean exploded; here’s a long list of blog posts related to the event, starting from the first post by Genevieve Valentine, who was the one harassed, about the incident. That list should keep you busy for a while.

For those of you who don’t want to wade through the list, the short form is this: Valentine was sexually harassed at  Readercon by a fellow named Rene Walling. Readercon has a “zero tolerance” sexual harassment policy, which means anyone who is found to have harassed someone is meant to be permanently banned from attending the convention. In the case of Walling, however, he was banned from the convention for two years, an amount of time which is less than “permanently” would be. Said eruption of the Internets ensued, because the stated policy wasn’t followed, because there is the belief that Mr. Walling was let off easy because he’s a well-known fan who has run Worldcons and other conventions, and because there is the belief that Readercon has ultimately sided with a harasser rather than the harassed.

Understand I am conveying only the bare bones of this whole event; you really should check out at least some of the commentary compiled in the piece I’ve linked to above.

I’ve gotten e-mails and tweets from all over the place wanting to know my opinion of the thing, both as myself and as President of SFWA. Toward the latter, I am going to remain silent for now, because as I am fond of reminding people, I Am Not SFWA, I’m just the president. This is something for board discussion, something we haven’t had yet in part because I was away from the Internets for several days. Moreover, per my standard policy, I am loath to discuss SFWA matters here at Whatever in any manner other than the most basic. I can point you to SFWA’s statement regarding Sexual Harassment, posted last November, however.

Personally speaking? It’s probably easier to present my thoughts in a brief list.

1. No one should have to fear sexual harassment at any science fiction or fantasy convention. The fact people still do — the fact women still do, let’s not dance around that little fact of life — is deeply embarrassing to all of us in this community.

2. It doesn’t matter whether the person sexually harassing someone else is a big name in the field or is well-liked or is otherwise a decent human being or feels really bad about it in retrospect.

3. Conventions should have policies and procedures in place to deal with sexual harassment. Those policies should be unambiguous and clear. They should apply equally to everyone.

4. If a convention has a policy on sexual harassment which it then does not follow, then it has failed — failed the person who was harassed by not living up to its obligations to them, failed its guests by not following the rules by which it purports to run, failed the community at large by continuing to allow exceptions and exclusions and excuses to those who harass, and failed itself by not being the convention it claims to be.

All of this seems pretty straightforward to me.

And all of this seems pretty distanced from events, so let me also say this: I’ve been at conventions where I’ve seen a guy zoom in for unwanted physical contact and seen the woman flinch back, dreading what was about to happen. I’ve been the guy who’s told some dude hovering over a woman made visibly uncomfortable by him to back off. I have friends who have been harassed (or worse) at conventions by men. Some of these men were clueless, for whatever reason, about the fact that they were being harassers. Some of them almost certainly were not.

It doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, everyone at a convention should be free to enjoy themselves without being sexually harassed. At the end of the day, everyone who goes to a convention has to be assumed to understand basic concepts like “no means no,” and “leave me alone.” At the end of the day, a convention is responsible for being a place where those who don’t get those concepts — or choose to believe they do not apply to them — find themselves on the other side of the door. All of them, equally and without exception.

Update, 8/5/12: Readecon has essentially reversed its earlier ruling and apologized to Ms. Valentine.

476 thoughts on “Readercon, Harassment, Etc

  1. One other quick note regarding Readercon specifically:

    The time to change a policy you think is flawed is before or after an event calls for its use, not during.

    General note:

    Contentious topic, so please be civil to each other or I will swing the Mallet. Hard.

    Also as a warning: I do expect some cluelessness in here, which is different than malice. This is why, of course, civility is key.

  2. ” I’ve been the guy who’s told some dude hovering over a woman made visibly uncomfortable by him to back off. ”

    I’ve been at cons with you and have seen you do just that, and I wanted to thank you. I don’t think you’ve ever had to do for me, but I know that if the situation occurred, you would help me out. Thank for being a good person!

  3. I think I have been very sheltered (in a good way) because the main con I have been to so far has been WisCon, which is *extremely* good at making people feel safe and welcome (and when they fail, they seem to do their best to learn from the failure and do better). But there is a good chance that I will be living in the Boston area in a few years…I really hope that ReaderCon manages to learn and improve before then, because right now I can only shake my head sadly, and my desire to visit this con is pretty much nil. :(

  4. You get it. That’s exactly why so many Readercon attendees, female _and_ male, are so upset. Thank you.

  5. I’ve had to interpose myself between friends and the… overly enthused before. Thankfully, in my dealings it has always been cluelessness, but I haven’t been to that many giant conventions.

  6. Your comment at the top of the comments section is the key to this particular instance. The Board stated that there was no doubt that the harassment had occurred, yet set aside their stated policy. In that one action, they indicated that safety wasn’t their primary concern, indicated that rules only applied if they felt that they should be applied, and left themselves wide open to charges of favoritism. Complete fail on all counts. About the only thing left for them to do is to step down; they’re permanently tainted as a governing body.

  7. For some people this might be a moment of anxiety “Oh god, what if I am unknowingly harassing someone?” That’s great! That’s motivation.

    Having social intelligence and emotional intelligence is something that takes time and practice and cultivating more intelligence is a good thing. Part of having social skills is examining what you did and thinking about how you could do better. It does not mean having an anxiety disorder, it doesn’t mean constantly beating yourself up, an anxiety disorder could get in the way of learning because it becomes too painful to think about (so get appropriate help for that if it feels overwhelming).

    It means, like studying maths, language, history or any other skill -> analyzing your strengths and weaknesses, getting outside advice and support where needed. Not letting anxiety or despair or a callous attitude get in the way of your social engagement. Getting appropriate resources and advice for your strengths and weaknesses – often that means not the person you fear you have harassed, that’s not their job (many people who experience harassment are often generous in this regard, but _they have no obligation to be_). I have heard stories from diplomats of the months of intensive training they had as young grads to improve their social intelligence, how I envy them… I have good social intelligence, but I know I’m lacking in several areas (esp names, some aspects of listening and questioning and cross-cultural expressions) and it takes discipline to improve.

    If this kerfuffle makes you feel worried you might harass or let harassment happen – that’s great, that’s an important step in learning. Go and address your fears the same way you would address fears you might fail a test you really want to pass. Study, practice, consult expertise.

  8. Getting appropriate resources and advice for your strengths and weaknesses – often that means not the person you fear you have harassed, that’s not their job (many people who experience harassment are often generous in this regard, but _they have no obligation to be_).

    Quoted for truth.

  9. I think this issue coming to light as it has in the last few days (and the numerous blog posts) has brought to light an issue that happens at conventions and that deserves paying attention to. That being said, I have seen plenty of cases of men sticking up for women, looking after women who are under unwanted scrutiny, ect.

    A particular situation occurred to me early in my convention career when an ex-boyfriend didn’t get it thru his head not to creep around me and other female friends at the con. When he approached me inappropriately in an elevator, I felt utterly out of control and unsafe at the con. My male friends, when they heard the situation, went to him and presented that not only was what he did unacceptable, but they were going to speak with Con security if he did not promise to desist. When he indicated that he would not, they went to con security, who asked him to leave. It was swift, decisive, and restored my faith in the safety as a woman in a convention.

    I’m glad to hear that Valentine had support at the convention and that now, this conversation is shedding light on some serious potential double standards in treatment as well. Zero tolerance should be zero tolerance. Done and done.

  10. John S., Readercon had a response……..I suggest to put up a link to it, or paraphrase some it, just to be fair…but that’s up to you.

  11. Markdek:

    I’m not entirely pleased with the implication that I’m not being fair, Markdek, or that if I don’t follow your suggestion I am not being so (please note, however, that the site disclaimer warns off any suggestion that “fair” is something I am aiming for in a general sense here). Also, the rather large list of links I’ve linked to features the Readercon response, if I remember correctly.

  12. I’ve seen some things at Conventions that I had to intervene in, I’ve also seen some that just left me feeling a bit uncomfortable, including one that affected my non-fan otherhalf.

    I tried to encapsulate my thinking at my Blog, but the upshot is: people can’t indulge in behaviour at Conventions that isn’t acceptable anywhere else. A guy in a bar/coffeeshop/bus stop or party staring at a woman, touching her or otherwise engaging with her would be asked to stop and then made to stop. A convention is no different.

    I worry, however, that culturally fandom has become a little too accepting of people being socially awkward being given a ‘by’ on some of this stuff, or actively ignoring really f’ing unacceptable behaviour by famous people. An ex of mine having had a fairly nasty incident in the 80s with a author who apparently had form for assuming that fannish women would be delighted to ‘entertain’ him.

    We tell ourselves that fandom is a safe place, but based on what my other half says, she doesn’t always feel that safe nor included and I think people who attend conventions need to apply a filter of ‘would this be acceptable behaviour elsewhere’ and act accordingly.

  13. Wherever they pop up, zero tolerance policies for anything don’t seem to work out all that well. By making consequences into an all-or-nothing binary, they make accountability into an all-or-nothing binary; if we don’t want to *permanently get rid of* John for having done X, then we have to excuse John from having done X at all, rather than possibly being able to correct John for having done *part of* X or what-have-you. Or if John has only technically done X, but undeniably so, then we might have put ourselves in a position of imposing insane consequences.

    But that’s all kind of to the side of why zero tolerance policies happen, which is political. They are enacted for narrative purposes; they make people feel safe by selling them the story of a hard line. This is done for the marketing purposes of those doing the enacting. They receive benefit from having sold that story. So having sold it, they should damned well have to follow through even once it turns out to have consequences for *them* as well. They reaped the benefits, and ducking out of paying the price reduces the marketing tactic to a bait and switch.

  14. I have been the “victim” of unwanted physical attention or words. Being a Christian I feel even more sensitive towards what some would consider normal physical contact. One thing that I have been able to do is pull a person aside and gently correct them. This would not be plausible in a convention setting and I’ve never had a dozen guys around me at one time. However, I’ve also been able to be forgiving and honest with the men that are oblivious to their actions. They’ve been truly sorry and later very respectful and protective even because of my honesty.

    In a situation like this convention, men should be very aware that they are not going to receive the same accomidation as I’ve related above and should be very aware of their behavior at all times. They are under such scrutiny now and for that reason they should be prepared for it. A man’s attitude should be to respect and protect. I’m not belittling the strength of women, but sometimes we need a big guy to tell another big guy to back off ;). The convention should always uphold their policies so that they can ensure a safe environment for all.

    Also, for women, please be aware of your behavior as well. Nothing you do EVER warrants harrassment, but be careful of your maneurisms for those men that are truly have a lack of understanding for body language. There are several Learning Disorders and Behavior Disorders that affect a man’s ability to understand body language. So to protect yourself, which you completely deserve, please be aware of seemingly innocent physical contact. Save those moments for the people you know. Some guys are just creeps but some have a true social disorder. Again, I think there should be a zero tolerance policy and it should be upheld no matter who the perpertrator is. We should all do our part to make public gatherings comfortable and fun. I hope I get to go to one soon ;)

  15. To further what Pres. Scalzi already said — and again, not from any official SFWA standpoint, but an observation, and opinion, from one of its members — it is worth noting that this is not a simple case of “he said/she said.” Walling has not denied the allegations, but is in fact depicted (in his reported conversation with the Board of Directors) as fully cognizant of the impropriety of his behavior.

    Likewise, Genevieve Valentine afforded Walling ample opportunities to back off, cut his losses, and avoid any further perception of impropriety.

    Had he connected the dots at the time, and backed the frack off, he would not currently be facing such a public storm of negative opinion. (He would still have been wrong, but he might have emerged with some portion of his dignity intact and the opportunity to learn from a mistake without the overt humiliation which he, by his very persistence, invited.)

  16. In regards to something I saw in the comments here, IMO, there’s no such thing as “unknowingly harassing someone”. Once a clear, “no, I’m not interested,” has been stated you back off. Period. Even my 11 year old on the Spectrum daughter can understand a clearly stated , “No.”

    ReaderCon’s response was sorely and offensively lacking.

    Thank you for your words, John. I’ve been haunting the site for days hoping that once you were finished your traveling you’d say something on the subject. Merely as a comment as to other places I’ve been haunting in hopes of seeing a statement, and not because they have any link to you whatsoever, personally, I would like to see Tor.com, as a site that hosts the offender’s column, make a statement on the subject as well. I’m disappointed that they haven’t.

  17. O’Frizz Thirty, you’re reasonably concerned about men who don’t know how their actions are coming across. But women can be socially awkward too, and have just as much trouble extracting themselves from an uncomfortable situation, and communicating their discomfort, as men can have in realizing they’re making women uncomfortable.

    What would you advise all men to start doing to make sure that they’re not dealing with someone who’s got “a true social disorder” that’s making it hard for them to get away? How should men change their behavior to avoid taking “innocent physical contact” in the wrong way? What should men do to correct for the possibility of dealing with women who “truly have a lack of understanding for body language”?

  18. Oh my ghod, it didn’t take 20 comments before someone brought up the behavioral disorder excuse. I want to reiterate. My daughter is 11. She is on the Spectrum. She can *still* understand the words, “No.”, “Go away.”, and “Don’t touch me.” Behavioral disorders are not, I repeat, not an excuse nor the reason we’re having this discussion today, and should not be brought into the conversation. Doing do only labels people who have them as being unsafe for public exposure. This is not something my daughter needs to contend with when she grows up and leaves my protective sphere.

  19. IMO, there’s no such thing as “unknowingly harassing someone”. Once a clear, “no, I’m not interested,” has been stated you back off.

    I think we need to be honest here, there are behaviours that people seem to think are acceptable in fannish circles that would get you punched in the face if done elsewhere and I don’t think all of them are conscious.

    To whit: at a British Eastercon a fan offered my non-fan wife a foot rub. He didn’t know her, he didn’t have any reason to suppose she was interested, she hadn’t given him any indication that she wanted a foot rub, her partner (me) was in there with her. She said no, and he pushed back and eventually took no for an answer. The issue here is this: HE SHOULDN’T HAVE ASKED IN THE FIRST PLACE.

    It is not appropriate behaviour, period, to ask a woman you don’t know, who is in a public hotel spa pool with her husband if she wants you to rub her feet.

    I don’t think he realised that this was harrassment, but it’s the kind of behaviour that will make most people feel a little uncomfortable.

    If it gets to the point where a woman has to say no to unwanted attention, it’s probably already gone over a line. And I accept that socially a lot of people have trouble with picking up subtle clues but Liz Argall nails it.

  20. Whether or not such behaviors are “conscious” (whatever that means here) doesn’t render them ethically or morally neutral, obviously. We’re not talking about animals.

  21. Daveon, while I agree that his asking in the first place was creepy and not even remotely socially acceptable, I don’t really consider what he did punishment-worthy harassment until he ignored her “no.” There’s an element of perseverance to harassment that differentiates it from merely saying something socially unacceptable.

  22. Also, for women, please be aware of your behavior as well.

    In a conversation about sexual harassment, pretty much nothing following this sentence is going to be good news. And, frankly, “Not that I’m saying you’re asking for it, but…” doesn’t help. Like other versions of that rhetorical formulation (“Not to be sexist, but…” “Not to be racist, but…”), it signals to me that the full sentence is going to be some form of “Not that I’m saying you’re asking for it–but I’m totally gonna say that in some situations that you’ll have to admit I’m right about you were asking for it.”

    I mean, seriously? Suggesting that women sometimes get harassed because they made a bad choice about when and with whom to behave coquettishly? Do you typically get good results from saying things like that?

    And I think people with mental illness, learning disorders, forms of autism or Aspergers, and other non-neurotypical modes of being may well be getting sick of being unfairly stereotyped as Natural Clueless Harassers.

    There have been studies* that discredit the idea that harassment and sexualized attacks happen because the attacker/harasser doesn’t understand non-verbal forms of rejection. Basically, given non-sexual situations, for the most part the men in the study perfectly well understood the body language and conversation markers that signal “Wants to tell you no but doesn’t feel comfortable saying it directly.” But when accepting the “no” conflicted with the goal of achieving sexual contact, the non-verbal cues were discarded. The implication is a lot more harassers pretend not to recognize the flinching, the backing away, the putting objects between her and him, than actually don’t recognize it.

    *I seriously wish I could find the link to the study I’m thinking of. I’ll post it if my google-fu improves significantly over the course of the day.

  23. Peyton:

    while I agree that his asking in the first place was creepy and not even remotely socially acceptable, I don’t really consider what he did punishment-worthy harassment until he ignored her “no.”

    Until we get to the point that people avoid doing creepy and socially unacceptable things at conventions then we’ve got to admit to ourselves that we have a problem. I’ll be honest we were both a bit surprised and I didn’t know the guy so I didn’t explain that I felt this was going too far. Had I done so, however, I suspect that he would have felt that we were being strange at not being interested in his footrubs….

  24. As the father of a very pretty teen girl, I’m sensitive to this subject. In fact, my wife once caught a local photographer (with press pass, even) taking an “upskirt” picture of our daughter who was 14 at the time. Thankfully the CONVergence con security handled it swiftly and unambiguously and the guy left without his press pass or the pics he had taken.

    If she’s going to grow as her own fledgling person, I have to be willing to let her go out and interact with the world without hovering over her. Knowing my local con is looking out for her, and that she has places she can go for help if she needs it, lets con be one of those places.

    Readercon has definitely left me with a bad taste in my mouth by this move. Just as CONVergence has shown me it’s trustworthy in this regard, ReaderCon has shown me it’s not. That takes it off my list of “places it might be cool to go to an out-of-town con.”

  25. John S., my “suggestion” and my “fair” comment was only intended to extend/broaden the discussion. Since you made it clear you weren’t offering an opinion, there would be no point for me to accuse you of not being fair…so perhaps my bad if you took it that way. I’m not as particular w/ my choice of words, as a writer almost has to be, but now you’ve got me on my tippy toes…lol.

  26. I signed up for a tech conference recently, and was a little floored to come across a section describing their harassment policy in no uncertain terms. At first I was a little uncomfortable about it… “what has happened in the past to need such a clear policy now?”, but the more I thought about it, the better it made me feel. No one was going to mess with me, and if they do, they were going to face clear-cut punishment. This is the first time I’m travelling to a con so far away from home, and with such a small group. I’m fending for myself more, and knowing that even though I’m more alone, I’m not going to be more at-risk makes me feel better about it. I’m really sad that ReaderCon took that reassurance away from their attendees. :(

  27. If it gets to the point where a woman has to say no to unwanted attention, it’s probably already gone over a line.

    I think this is generally true, but it’s worth framing it with a little more specificity. In many situations, by asking, you are putting someone in a position where they face negative consequences for refusal. This can mean:

    – Asking in a situation (by location, such as an elevator, or by body or verbal language, or by a many-vs-one situation) where there is a suggestion that a refusal will result in escalation

    – Asking where there are economic consequences for refusal – asking out someone who is at work in a retail environment is the classic version of this, also asking out your subordinates at work

    – Asking where there are social consequences for refusal. This is the tricky one, because in many social circles a woman who turns down any guy, ever, can be derided for being a bitch, a lesbian, frigid, whatever.

    It’s probably safe to say “don’t ask unless you are pretty certain of a positive answer” generally because most situations can fall under one or the other of these – and, critically, the woman can’t tell if they won’t.

  28. fadeaccompli, that’s really a great point!
    It’s true that women can be equally socially awkward. I suppose for women I would advice them that they are not an exception to the rule. They should be very aware of their behavior and leaders of how they want to be treated. (Right now, I’m not discussing what happened to this woman, I’m discussing women behavior in general. So please don’t think I’m in any way demeaning that woman’s experience. I’m simply speaking in general now)… If they don’t want to be touched, then try not to touch. The Golden Rule applies, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It’s not treat others how they treat you. It’s treat others how you would want to be treated. Girls need to be corrected to. “Saying, I dont think my wife would be to happy with you jumping on me right now” or “You really know how to burst into someones personal bubble” or just saying “no, I don’t feel comfortable hugging you.” Girls need to stop feeling rejected if a man doesn’t want to touch them, it’s not personal toward them. It’s personal for the other person whose feeling uncomfortable.

    I think that a person that has a true social disorder needs to not be just told to back off but to explain why their behavior is inappropriate. So instead of saying, “Back up.” or “Back off, Dude.” Maybe just saying “Dude, you are really crossing the line.” or “You are really making this girl super uncomfortable you need to stop before you get in trouble.” Sometimes they need to just be kicked out before they learn. I’m not saying that we should excuse behavior from a social illiterate. I’m saying we should be prepared for it!

    For all people, myself included, just assume that youre not allowed to touch and that certain all comments in regards to sexuality are inappropriate. Be a lady, be a gentlemen, put the others comfort before yourself, be chivalrous (spelling). Be a hero in all your actions!

    I don’t know if this would work, but ideally we should just feel free to be honest with one another. “Sure you can take a picture with me but I don’t feel comfortable hugging you.” Ideally! Really the only thing we can change is ourselves. So if I don’t want people touching me I just have to say, no. I don’t get rejected when others don’t want to be touched because I respect them. Just assume that others don’t want your attention… or simply ask first. But never hover or over stay your welcome. Just stand back and enjoy the person from a reasonable distance. I’m not a sociologist or psychologist, I’m just an honest girl trying to live a loving and honest life. I put others comfort ahead of my own. If we all lived like that, we’d never have harrassment. Only in an ideal world I suspect. Oh well! I’ll keep doing my part.

  29. [Deleted for cluelessness. Kilroy, since you’re not picking up the clue, here it is: This is actually a serious topic, especially in light of the last several days. If you don’t want to treat it seriously, that’s fine, but be unserious about it somewhere else — JS]

  30. What would you advise all men to start doing to make sure that they’re not dealing with someone who’s got “a true social disorder” that’s making it hard for them to get away? How should men change their behavior to avoid taking “innocent physical contact” in the wrong way? What should men do to correct for the possibility of dealing with women who “truly have a lack of understanding for body language”?

    This one’s easy. I’m not a huge guy, height-wise, but I’m wide. Now i’m fat, and when I was younger I was very solid. Either way, I have a “large” presence. I learned a long time ago that it’s easy for me to appear threatening accidentally. There are very simple steps one can take to avoid that.

    1. Maintain a comfortable distance from the people you’re talking to. In a crowded convention hall this can end up being closer than one might otherwise choose, but you can still avoid looming over people.
    2. Don’t go randomly touching strangers. Plenty of time to feel out one another’s comfort zones with regards to casual touching once you’ve made friends.
    3. If you move, speak or otherwise act and your conversation partner suddenly changes their demeanor, you may have a problem. Revert to a neutral position. It’s okay to ask “I’m sorry, was I making you uncomfortable?”
    4. All these things count double if you’re standing and they’re sitting. Stay back or find a way to sit as well, if appropriate.
    5. If you are a few exchanges into your dialog and your counterpart is only giving you monosyllabic or content-less answers, they aren’t interested in talking to you. Go find someone else to visit with.

  31. Sexual harassment is very little about lack of social context and EVERYTHING about the belief that the harasser has the power and right to harass. As long as the narrative exists that women are responsible for their own harassment (i.e., the commenter who said that women’s mannerisms could have an effect), our society will not change.

    A dude refusing to leave a woman alone at a con is not that different from a construction worker whistling at a woman passing on the street.

  32. Nicole J. B-Little, sorry I forgot already how to spell your name.

    I 100% agree with you. And I apologize if my intention was not clear by making that statement. I think that no matter what a woman’s behavior or attire, warrant inappropriate touching or words. Thank you for posting that study. It’s true that not all people with a disorder are social maniacs. My SuperHubby has a disorder and he has never done that. But his disorder is mild. Ive worked with people with severe social disorders and they truly don’t get it. In my other post I do mention that they are NOT excused from their behavior at all. We just need to prepare ourselves for it, and if they dont’ get it, they may just need to be kicked out. You make excellent points!

  33. [Deleted due to responding to deleted message. Don’t worry MSFB, you may still comment on the thread — JS]

  34. I’m on the spectrum myself. I fully acknowledge I will talk your ear off on some subjects, especially at a con where odds are better you may share my interests. I know I can miss cues of ‘you are boring me’ and other such things, especially when I’m excited and happy and let me share these facts about the moons of Saturn with you.

    But, as others have said, I understand ‘No’. I understand ‘stop that’ and ‘go away’. Furthermore, I also understand I don’t pick up subtle social cues, so when someone gives me an unsubtle one, I take it unless I want to be rude. (And, hey, just because I have Asperger’s Syndrome doesn’t mean I can’t also be a jerk; I choose not to be.)

    The vast majority people who are teens and adults on the spectrum who can navigate a con situation have enough awareness of social rules to understand ‘no’, and that people have boundaries and that when they tell you to stop something, stop it. For that matter, I know basic etiquette and that it generally works in a con setting. Cons have some differences in rules — for example, I feel a lot more comfortable asking a cosplaying stranger if I can take their picture than someone on the street with a neat T-shirt — but the rules my parents and teachers taught me before my age hit the double digits do seem to work. And, if I’m a bit formal and stilted, I can live with that.

    Those are pretty basic rules for human social interactions, and most of the harassment situations I’ve heard about are accounts where the victim has made her feelings clear. If one can’t manage those things at a con, one wonders how these people manage at school or work.

  35. Wow, first I want to say, by Great Cthulhu, I wish we had the level of support for women and other victims of harassment in the Skeptical and Atheist communities that I’m seeing in SF&F fandom. Our internts exploded because a few women had the temerity to suggest that having harassment policies in the first place was a good thing. Good on you.

    Second, the thing that bothers me most about this incident is that it appears from Readercon’s statement that the guy got a reduced penalty because he’s *really sorry* and *promised* not to do it again. Does that sound familiar to anyone? To me, that sounds like an abuser’s line. I don’t know this guy or anyone involved but it looks like he already had a chance to get a clue and only showed remorse after he was facing consequences. Harassment is wildly under-reported so I bet this is something he does all the time and usually gets away with. He may even be *really sorry*, he’s still a danger.

  36. Daveon: Until we get to the point that people avoid doing creepy and socially unacceptable things at conventions then we’ve got to admit to ourselves that we have a problem.

    Here we completely agree. We have a problem and it’s not limited to SciFi conventions. I’ve faced significant problems in other nerdly pursuits as well including but not limited to gaming culture, comic book culture, and the SCA in the past couple of decades. I’m hopeful that since we’re now actively discussing the subject instead of being hush hush about it that we will be able to facilitate change before my already nerdish daughter starts attending events on her own. Me? I’m a blunt person who has no problem telling someone to back the heck off, but my daughter…is not.

  37. [This portion deleted for reasons other comments deleted — JS]

    5. If you are a few exchanges into your dialog and your counterpart is only giving you monosyllabic or content-less answers, they aren’t interested in talking to you. Go find someone else to visit with.

    THIS. Really is the main clue. If there’s sparkling 2-way conversation and eye contact and smiles, you’re probably in good shape. If not. Do as the man says.

  38. I find this whole discussion really fascinating and the fact that it’s happening at all makes me feel better about the geek community than I did. I don’t have much experience with geek events and cons, but at the only one I attended (which was in fairness an “adult” geek event) there was a *lot* of harassment and inappropriate behavior towards women, including uninvited/unwelcome grabbing of body parts.

    It was explained to me by people heavily involved in the geek community and the running of that event (such as “security” folk) that this was “a part of geek culture” that “women understand that if they dress or act a certain way this will happen” and “this is part of our community identity as geeks.”

    The Readercon debacle, as badly handled as it was by the event, is the first evidence I’m really seeing as a somewhat-outsider (I am close friends with a personal assistant to a pretty major author, and I’m certainly a big S/F fan, but never got involved in the community) that this sort of thing *isn’t* just “part of the culture” and that maybe things will start to turn around as this issue gets dragged out of the shadows.

  39. Well, I hadn’t heard of Readercon before this (nor of any of the people involved). I have read much of the discussion about what happened, and I certainly don’t plan to attend it in the future. Not unless it’s clear that the board has either changed substantially in membership and/or has realized that a zero tolerance policy towards harassers should mean what it says, no matter who violates it.

  40. I’ve been following this post-Readercon debacle online, and it’s been very educational. I haven’t been to a con in nearly twenty years, and I never suffered any harassment, although I realize now it could easily have happened. Between hearing the science fiction con harassment stories, and the atheist con stories, I am now realizing how prevalent it is. Sad.

    Two things strike me: first, I am seeing a lot of “personality disorder” and “socially awkward nerd” talk. And sure, I suppose there is some of that at cons; I work at a grade school and I see these behaviors. And while none of these students strike me as dangerous to their peers (that’s a whole different group of students) I can see where a full grown adult male could alarm a person with this behavior. And hey, if you don’t know them, you don’t know that they aren’t dangerous.

    But the second thing that strikes me is that Valentine’s case doesn’t sound like social awkwardness AT ALL. It’s hard to say without being there, I guess, but this sounds like very intentional harassment to me. People take power in their own ways, and one way people (and yes, usually men) take power is by trying to control another person’s response to them. They don’t miss the signals, they ignore the signals until they get the kind of attention they want (or someone else stops them.) Whatever they may tell others, or even themselves, they are intentionally trying to force someone else to react to them in a certain way, using their victim’s own fear and reluctance to speak out to do it.

    If that’s a personality disorder, it must be narcissism — it sure as hell isn’t Asperger’s. And while social awkwardness can be fixed (learn the rules!), harassers are unlikely to stop as long as they are getting something from it. And boy did the Readercon board fail to fix that. Again, sad.

  41. It’s obvious from some of the posts following my first post that a lot of women think I imply that a woman deserves to be inappropriately treated. I want to clarify. NO! I don’t believe that at all. I’m just saying that in an environment where there are a large number of men and WOMEN that are socially awkward we can help make the line of appropriate behavior more clear and defined by how we behave as women.
    NOTHING EVER WARRANTS HARRASSMENT OF ANY KIND.
    I do think there can be a double standard and that women need to be held responsible for their actions as well. (again i’m not addressing what happened to this woman) There are socially awkward women that make men feel uncomfortable too. Its far less common but we should be BOLD and FIERCE and LEADERS in how we want to be treated. If we want to be respected then we should be respectful too. I’m not trying to belittle real harassment or victimization. It is sexist to think women shouldnt be held to the same standards as men though. If we want true equality then the rule has to apply to us as well. This is the only way we will make change happen. We have to lead the way!

    Im sorry that my first post was not clear and if i offended anyone. I’m tying up a lot of space here. but my hope is that men and women will get my true point which is loving others more than ourselves. If all of us make the decision to put anothers comfort ahead of our own, then this world would really be a great place to live. One person at a time! I choose to live this way. And I hope all men and women will join me. It’s like Wil Wheaton says, “dont be a *ick.” ;)

  42. Thanks for writing this out clearly and explicitly. I think it’s important to be seen talking about the issue, and to correct our mistakes.

    For female fans (and there’s a reason it’s women only) there’s The Backup Project, and for men, there’s the Gentleman’s Auxiliary (I’m a founding member).

    The concom can overrule the board, and is meeting to discuss the incident. These are people with day jobs, so it’s probably moving slower than fandom wants it to, but fandom needs to be a bit more patient.

  43. Peyton, my wife is much the same way as your daughter. She doesn’t like confrontation, and has tended to suffer unwanted attentions in the past in the hopes that they will eventually end rather than go off on someone who’s bothering her. She will do so eventually, but it takes a *lot* of effort on the part of the jackwagon in question to get her there. I have had to intervene on a couple of occasions at social functions to keep her on an even keel. I fully intend on educating our daughter, who is just a newfledged toddler right now, in the fine art of the polite but firm “f*ck off, mister.”

    On the other end of the scale, my three-going-on-four son, who is a little handsy when he shouldn’t be (like a oot of very young kids are before they learn better), is getting some extra time and effort in the “I *will* keep my fingers near my sleeves and away from others'” department. This is where parenting gets to be a full-time job, because those lessons sometimes need to be taught over and over again.

  44. I attended Readercon two years ago, and had a wonderful time. I hoped to go back often, but I won’t as long as they are being run by people who do not enforce their own safety rules. And a policy on sexual harrassment is most definitely a safety rule.
    If Walling is such a supporter of fandom, he should do the honourable thing and accept a lifetime ban from Readercon, for the sake of the con and for fandom in general.

  45. It disturbs me that the solution for this so many times is a man telling the harasser off. That pretty much keeps the woman in the place the harasser thought of her, a feature of a man’s world and not an equal stakeholder. People (of all sorts) should listen to and respect women (in every circumstance) without waiting for a man to tell them to.

  46. Songwind Apogee, those are a damn good set of rules. Thanks for writing them up. (Possibly they should be printed in convention booklets, even.)

  47. I totally agree Manny, and I only speak up for my wife when she is clearly showing me signs that she wants my help, and I generally phrase it as a question to her: “Do you need this person to stop bothering you?”–making it clear that it’s her wish, not mine, that the problem get solved. Sometimes that has actually prompted her to speak up for herself with no further intervention from me. But my wife is also an abuse survivor, and when she gets triggered (and a lot of harassing behavior can be triggering behavior as well, whether it’s meant to be or not) she tends to withdraw. And in those cases I step up.

  48. @chaosprime, actually zero-tolerance policies have some very positive features. Certainty and clarity: “If you do X, the penalty is Y.” There is no room for misunderstanding about what happens if you do X, no complaints that you don’t understand why you got Y penalty rather than Z. Consistency: it doesn’t matter if you are a big-name author, a SMOF, the King of Latveria or a humble newbie, the actions are all that matters and the penalty is the same. Protection for the con: they do not have to worry about griping (or, in the case of one disturbed fan, a threatened lawsuit) that the penalty was too harsh or too light.

    Where they don’t work “all that well” is when the range of possible behavior is from trivial to severe. For example, a “zero tolerance policy” that prohibited any drugs other than prescriptions would sweep up everything from heroin to aspirin.

    But here we’re talking about a particular type of bad conduct (sexual harassment). That’s not really the equivalent of aspirin.

  49. JS wrote, “The time to change a policy you think is flawed is before or after an event calls for its use, not during.” True. Regrettably, policies are often enacted without sufficient regard to their potentially unintended consequences. Wonder of wonders, when it’s time to use the policy, people realize that it might not have been what was needed. (The conduct here is way loathsome, and I’m not saying it doesn’t warrant a lifeime ban. I’m speaking generally about the ways that policies are drafted and enforced.)

    I don’t know anything about the inner workings of this organization in particular, but their “banned forever no matter what” policy strikes me as amateurish. Automatic permament bans and the like paint with a broad brush. Human behavior — bad behavior, especially — comes in many gradations, some of which might compel the most serious sanction available, and others not. For the sake of comparison, I looked at the SFWA policy. It is well-drafted: “SFWA will respond promptly and effectively to reports of harassment and discrimination of any kind and will take appropriate action to prevent, to correct, and if necessary, to discipline behavior that violates this policy.” Exactly right! Take “appropriate action” including, “if necessary,” “discipline” to correct the bad behavior. That policy is a good model to emulate.

  50. Manny, you make a good point. (Two points, really)

    I think we should always encourage those around us to have agency and act on their own behalf. It’s been a long time since I had to step in to a social situation like that, but I wouldn’t do it unless a) the offending party is ignoring the harassed’s attempts to speak for themselves, or b) I had reason to believe my harassed friend wouldn’t take steps until things had advanced dangerously. Some people are too programmed to be meek, and others have their own baggage that makes it hard for them to act.

    As for people needing to respect each other, that’s the obvious best solution. But that’s not going to happen over night, if at all. I’d like to think that people are evolving socially and that one day this sort of flagrant disregard for another’s person and wishes will be abhorrent and only even thinkable to a tiny minority. Unfortunately, that’s not the case now. For the time being we need to discuss strategies for people who find themselves in these situations, and for allied people as well. Ditto for policies and action on the part of organizations, events, or locations.

  51. @KSB: you’re comparing apples and oranges. SFWA is a professional membership organization with many functions. Readercon puts on an annual convention. Their options for how to approach problems are necessarily different.

  52. Excellent to see this topic brought into the light.

    I have not been to any kind of geek convention since a Dragon Con back in the 80’s in Atlanta. I don’t like crowds, I don’t play games, I don’t collect toys, so a lot of what goes on at these things is not for me. I would enjoy the panels, etc. but it seems the most interesting ones are invariably impossible for the newcomer, or the person not in the industry, to get into, without queuing up for eleventy hours. Alas.

    Just as an observation, however, I will say that *very few* social settings in the U.S. have an “anything goes” atmosphere. Very few people are undisturbed by physical contact with strangers. Very few Americans can tolerate prolonged eye contact with strangers, and even fewer think it’s okay for a casual conversation to include more physical contact than a handshake. Vanishingly few women – no matter how sexily they may be dressed or how flirtatious or seductive their “con character” may be – actually want people to invade their personal space.

    In the U.S. it is simply socially inappropriate to stand less than 18 inches away from a woman you don’t know very well. For the men: if you wouldn’t stand that close to a man, you shouldn’t stand that close to a woman. And if she leans away from you or turns her head away … back off.

    This is quite apart from the amazing boneheadedness required to make a sexually suggestive comment to a woman with whom you are not intimate, and the pure unadulterated jerkitude required to persist in following, talking to, looming over, touching, or otherwise pestering a woman who has uttered any variation on the words “please leave me alone.”

  53. “SFWA will respond promptly and effectively to reports of harassment and discrimination of any kind and will take appropriate action to prevent, to correct, and if necessary, to discipline behavior that violates this policy.” Exactly right! Take “appropriate action” including, “if necessary,” “discipline” to correct the bad behavior. That policy is a good model to emulate.

    Zero tolerance policies shouldn’t exist if their purpose is to punish an offender. They should exist to make the attendees feel safe. The policy as stated above does absolutely nothing to convince me that I would be safer at an SFWA event than I would be at any other SciFi event. Zero tolerance policies go a long way toward convincing women that they will be taken seriously if something untoward occurs. While the myth of the ReaderCon policy existed I knew a *lot* of women who felt ReaderCon was a woman friendly event.

    Sadly, that reputation is gone forever.

  54. Horrified, but not surprised, to hear of these things occurring. Most everyone above me has already echoed things I was going to say, so I’ll just add something that negates nothing gone before. I only want to say that if harassment is minimized in its seriousness, then an open situation that backhandedly apologizes for (wink, wink) and encourages more harassment is created. Slippery slope arguments notwithstanding, there can be room for discretion, but apparently not in this situation being discussed.
    As far as the opposite direction, I can verify from years ago at a convention (non fan but business) being made to feel uncomfortable by a female attendee who paid no attention to my declaring I had a girlfriend (later my wife, but not attending the convention). I’m a big guy, so there would be no physical reason for me to be intimidated, however, there was a SOCIAL intimidation since she was an important person in my industry. I luckily backed away from her and avoided her the rest of the convention. Therefore, in a very minor way, I understand how women can possibly be targets of this sort of thing if it were someone powerful in con circles or a celeb or what have you.
    WHICH MAKES IT ALL THE MORE IMPORTANT that the rules be enforced just as strictly against the elite as to the nobody.
    Not sure I made my point as well as I wanted to, but there you go.

  55. @Mythago: Unless you think “sexual harassment” means something different at a “professional membership organization with many functions” versus an “annual convention,” I’d say we’re comparing apples to apples. As far as their available options, can’t Readercon “respond promptly and effectively to reports of harassment”? If so, the SFWA policy would presumably work for them. If not, they have no business putting on a convention.

  56. I think it’s sad that if my daughter is ever interested in the sorts of geeky things that I am, that I am going to have to give her a really extended lecture on all the ways that groups-of-mostly-men can be bad to women. This behavior is observed at tech conferences, sci-fi conferences, police forces, fire departments, military… anywhere a group of mostly-men congregates.

    It’s really quite commonplace. I have no doubt most incidents are not reported.

    I’m going to suggest something possibly useful. The LGBT world has the concept of safe zones – https://www.google.com/search?q=safe+zone&tbm=isch – people who self-identify as being gay-friendly, and choose to wear badges, pins, stickers to publicly identify themselves as such. It’s a way to challenge social norms. I can imagine a convention where a sizeable percentage of the attendees chose to wear badges or pins identifying themselves as being dead-set opposed to sexual harassment in all of its guises. I can imagine that harassment would be much less likely to occur around people wearing such badges, and that the act of putting on the badge (this is basic psychology) helps reinforce people’s commitment to such beliefs and helps them take action if required. I can imagine that multiple conventions could do this, using the same badge, so it became a commonplace and easily recognized symbol.

    I can imagine this, but because I have absolutely no connections in the world of putting on conventions, I can’t implement it. Perhaps someone else can.

  57. Michael S., I may be a pessimist, but I can imagine a lot of harassers wearing those badges and using it as a means to pressure women. “I wasn’t harassing you. See? I’m wearing a no harassment badge!” and “Oh, you can come to my room alone, it’ll be okay, I’m wearing this badge…” spring immediately to mind.

  58. @KSB: Not sure what you’re saying. SFWA is an organization with limited membership and activities that include, but are not limited to, events. So what would “zero tolerance” mean? Expulsion? Limiting the scope of membership to nonvoring status? Permitting the person to remain a member but not to attend SFWA events? And what if the harassment occurred on the discussion board but not in person; kick them off the forums only?

    Whereas Readercon is a single event that anyone who pays for a ticket can attend. Participation is “show up”. It’s much easier to have a clear an unambiguous solution.

    The drawback to a flexible policy is that it can bend too far in the other direction. I explained this up thread re “zero tolerance” policies.

  59. I’d like to throw in my experience here, too. It’s not just shy or quiet or reticent women who are harassed, in case some are wondering. I am assertive, outgoing, and have no problem whatsoever clearly saying No.

    I found myself facing harassment this past year. A man who had previously bothered me at two parties spotted me at a Con, and proceeded to bother me a third time. This was a guy who didn’t like the answer he got from me about whether I’d date _his friend_, and so he kept trying to get a different answer. I got Con security involved and it was resolved to my satisfaction.

    If this Con had had a zero-tolerance, lifetime-ban policy in place, I’m not sure I would have gone to security. It was hard enough for me admit that I wanted help. Feeling that the Con would work with me to find an appropriate level of response was important for me being able to take that step.

  60. At the end of the day, everyone who goes to a convention has to be assumed to understand basic concepts like “no means no”

    In the alt-sex communities that I am a part of, there’s been a shift from using “no means no” to using “yes means yes”; that is, unless someone gives explicit, unambiguous consent to do something with someone, no one should assume consent.

    Considering that there is frequently a very large overlap between geek and kink, it may be worthwhile to check up on the conversations that many kink communities have been having around this.

    Some links you might find interesting (disclaimer: may be triggering):

    http://singlevoice.net/2012/07/12/sexism-redyellow-cards-at-defcon/

    http://tacit.livejournal.com/359244.html

  61. fadeaccompli I had the same thought, unfortunately, many decades ago when I was in college, we heard of an incident during a rapist scare on our campus that someone who “volunteered” to walk women home from class also sexually assaulted someone (not the same person who started the scare, but a despicable opportunist). Things being the way they were back then, these things were not discussed as openly as perhaps they should have been (late 70’s).

  62. In following the links provided, I came across the term PUA’s, which was heretofore unfamiliar to me. (Some posters referred to PUA techniques as a tool of harassers). I looked it up and followed some links

    Oy. I need eyeball bleach now.

  63. Anyone read Bruce Schneier’s “Liars and Outliars”?

    It’s really good. Anyway, a lot of the book uses the game theory concept of the prisoner’s dilemma and how it breaks down into cooperators and defectors. The book went into a bunch of different situations where the prisoner’s dilemma game applied. Pretty straightforward stuff, you either cooperate and everyone wins or defect and try to get a good outcome for youself at the expense of everyone else.

    But then, he started talking about bribes. Guy gets pulled over for a speeding ticket. He could cooperate or defect. He could accept the ticket or attempt to bribe the cop. If the cop is dirty, he takes the bribe and the driver goes off without a ticket. But if the cop is clean, the speeder gets a ticket and gets in trouble for attempted bribery.

    But the driver could take a third approach, which doesn’t show up in the Prisoner’s Dilemma: He could use innuendo to indirectly hint at a bribe. When the cop asks to see the driver’s license, the driver hands the cop his wallet with a $50 bill poking out ever so slightly and say something like “I hope we can clear this up right away.”

    If the cop is dirty, he gets the innuendo, takes the bribe, and everyone goes on their way. If the cop is clean, the innuendo might be indirect enough that it would be hard to prosecute, so the cop just gives the guy a ticket and lets the bribery attempt slide. Too difficult to prosecute.

    A lot of social interaction is actually innuendo.

    The reasons are varied, but one very valid reason is there is always a possibility for misundestandings. If someone pisses you off and you vent your spleen at them, and it turns out the thing they did that pissed you off was a complete misunderstanding and had absolutely nothing to do with you, well, if it was a friend, they might not be so friendly anymore.

    Innuendo is kind of like social grease. It makes a lot of relationships easier to work with. Most people have a natural tendancy to resort to innuendo to deal with most of their communications.

    So, the thing is harrassers take advantage of their target’s natural tendency to use innuendo rather than come out and directly say “no”. Bob might invade Alice’s space, and Alice will tend to avoid a direct “back off” statement and will likely do something less confrontational like simply back away herself. Maybe Bob didn’t realize Alice was there. Maybe he can’t hear her talk and had to move closer. Maybe Bob and Alice are in a crowded room and Bob is getting elbowed in the back by someone else behind him. If Alice goes ballistic with a “Back off!” statement, and Bob was actually not intending to make Alice uncomfortable, then Alice did the equivalent of directly offering a cop a bribe and it turns out the cop is unbribable. Alice just made things much worse for herself. So Alice resorts to innuendo.

    The thing is, maybe, just maybe, Bob is a fucking creeper. He knows that most people won’t resort to an immediate “back off!” to his advances, because innuendo is social grease and misunderstandings do actually happen. So Bob takes advantage of this and makes advances and uses the lack of an immediate and obvious “Back off!” as an excuse to continue.

    So, the thing is, telling a woman she has to be careful of what she says, does, or wears, will have absolutely no effect on creepers and absolutely no effect on a woman’s initial response to possible creepiness. Because it’s in a woman’s best interest (because it’s in everyone’s best interest) to assume a misunderstanding is a possible source of the problem and resort to innuendo to communicate their discomfort, rather than to go balistic and scream “back off!”. And because people will almost always resort to innuendo, creepers will try to take advantage of this to “get in” (a sexual come on, or put down, a grope, a feel, or worse) before the person goes ballistic and gives them a “back off” ultimatum.

    The thing is, I don’t see any solution to the problem that would make the social grease that is innuendo no longer be neccessary. You can’t just tell women that they need to instantly go into “back off asshole!” mode because, hey, sometimes its just a misunderstanding, and sometimes a little inuendo is all you need to communicate and straighten up the problem.

    In this particular case, what I’ve read sounds like the victim started off resorting to innuendo. When the guy invaded her space, she moved away and did not confront. By the third or fourth time, it was clear it wasn’t a misunderstanding, she gave him a clear “back off” message. After that, the guy went into “orbital-hover” mode, keeping a minimal distance but showing up on occaision to be close enough to watch her.

    I don’t think there is any advise to give to the victim to do anything differently that would be realistic. She couldn’t go into “back off, creeper!” at the first encounter because its in people’s best interest to allow for misunderstandings, and so they resort to innuendo to deal with it.

    But, jesus fucking christ, by the time this gets to the Readercon board, it is clear the guy is a creeper. He admits what he was doing constituted harrassment. And, skimming through a few other links, it appears this guy has been doing this shit for a long time to a bunch of other women. At that point, innuendo is not the fucking solution.

  64. @Mythago: If Readercon lacks the organizational heft to deal with ambiguties, then their policy makes sense. Bright line rules are particularly useful when it would be administratively unrealistic or excessively burdensome to take things on a case-by-case approach. I don’t know enough about Readercon to weigh in on their available options, given their internal governance.

    More to the point, any policy which involves discretion in its implementation is subject to the risk that it will be “bend too far” in one direction or another in a particular case. It’s the price of doing business. Flexible policies can be misused (though there will inevitably be disagreement about what constitutes “misuse”) and sometimes bright line rules are a good idea. The question isn’t an easy one to answer in most cases. I’ll quote the Supreme Court, discussing whether a “bright line” rule should be kept, or abandoned in favor of a case-by-case analysis: “The value of any prophylactic rule … must be assessed not only on the basis of what is gained, but also on the basis of what is lost.”

  65. O’Frizz Thirty, I understand what you’re trying to say, but I think you may be missing a critical piece of awareness. We live in a world where constant scrutiny on a woman’s behavior is the norm, and excusing or explaining men’s behavior are the norm as well. Many, many people will still argue that women invite harassment, or send the wrong signals, or are in some way culpable for unwanted attention; many others will argue that it’s natural for men to act in predatory manners, or that it’s a compliment, or that it’s all part of the game. These arguments don’t need to be stated. They’re in the air we breathe.

    When we focus a conversation on men’s behavior, we’re working to dismantle that narrative and to hold people to fair standards. When generalizations about how women might be leading men on are brought into the conversation, they serve to reinforce that narrative, and that’s not good for anyone.

    If we don’t bring up women’s behavior in these conversations, it’s not because we think women should be privileged or that they should be exempt from behaving well. It not because the possibility of their bad behavior is invisible or unknown to us. It’s because it’s too visible, blown up to neon-sign hyperbole, almost automatically fingered as an underlying cause or something we must take into consideration even if it doesn’t apply in *this* instance, because it might apply in *some* instance. It distracts from the conversation we are trying to have, and it doesn’t add anything we haven’t heard again and again, ad nauseum.

    I understand that your intentions may be good, but bringing the topic into these discussions usually brings in the implication of the entire culture of holding women responsible for things done to them, and it leaves a bad taste in many of our mouths.

  66. If you all read some of the posts John linked to, it’s pretty clear that the original zero tolerance policy was enacted in response to a specific incident back in 2008. Worse yet, it’s at least implied that that individual was less in control of his actions than Mr. Walling. Not that this means the guy shouldn’t have been banned, but it casts the bending of the policy because the dude expressed contrition in an even worse light.

  67. This whole discussion topic makes me somewhere between sad and angry. As a husband and father of a teenage girl, it worries and upsets me. My wife has been the target of unwanted attention at a con. I was oblivious to it at the time and am fairly sure that ‘Filthy Pierre’ was trying to make her uncomfortable…but he did. My wife didn’t tell him to leave (this was 20 years ago, I think), but clearly gave body language signs and social cues. After realizing what occurred, at subsequent encounters at cons, I had to fight the urge to angrily confront him. I’m sure in his mind he thought he was charmingly serenading my wife. She thought he was an icky predator (if perhaps generally non-threatening).

    robotisred @ “If this Con had had a zero-tolerance, lifetime-ban policy in place, I’m not sure I would have gone to security. It was hard enough for me admit that I wanted help.

    I’m not sure what you’re saying…that you didn’t want him to get in trouble? I think you’re being far too kind to him and worse, you’re sending a clear message to him that his behavior was OK until a certain point. He approached you three times and apparently would have kept approaching you. I understand if maybe you felt like asking for help might have diminished you or that you felt like it was admitting you weren’t able to handle the problem yourself, but think of other women who might have not felt that way on their first encounter with him…or on their fourth.

    I let my daughter roam the conventions we attend without supervision…but only because she’s travelling with a group of her peers (numbering from three to ten, at times). I don’t like feeling that she needs to be surrounded to be safe anywhere…and I hate that this makes me think that at conventions, which should be the safest of places for geeks.

  68. KSB wrote:

    I don’t know anything about the inner workings of this organization in particular, but their “banned forever no matter what” policy strikes me as amateurish.

    Keeping the sound of a swinging mallet in mind, I’ve got to say we’ve got rather different ideas of what constitutes “amateurish.” It would be nice if Genevieve Valentine’s account of being harassed was a novelty to me, but sadly we don’t live in that world. I’m all for zero tolerance harassment policies because, frankly, they’re better than the zero policy approach too many cons have taken for far too long.

    As others have said more eloquently that I could, the real amateurism is having a policy you’re disinclined to enforce.

  69. To tack on to what Josh Jasper mentioned about the Backup Project, I am also involved with it. My part of the Project was to create and offer for free bright purple badge ribbons that said “BACKUP” in large block letters. Essentially, it was a way for people who were willing to step in to be easily identified (more here, specifically in regard to ReaderCon).

    For last year’s Dragon*Con, I gave out more than 1,000 ribbons. Stories filtered back to me of several instances where a Backup person was able to intervene successfully.

    I’m now in the process of revamping the Backup Ribbon Project, and more info will be forthcoming shortly. There is currently a Twitter feed @BackupRibbon, where I will be updating the progress and generally sharing information about the issue of harassment at cons.

    Thank you, Mr. Scalzi. Thank you for speaking up. And more importantly, thank you for being willing to step in and help out.

  70. The whole situation becomes much more fraught for me because I have a daughter who is into things geeky and will be heading off to college in a year. The two major things I’ve done to try to prepare her to handle harassment are to (a) teach her to be direct and clear in dealing with boys and (b) learn a martial art and participate in sports. I’ve heard someone describe sports as “ritualized conflict”, and I think that’s pretty apt. Martial arts has given her a chance to experience conflict in a safe manner.

  71. My guess is this guy has done the same sort of thing for years at convention after convention. And he has probably gotten good results (from his own POV), at least once, and probably more often than many here would be happy with. Whereas he has gotten little pushback. Then Readercon went and changed its rules on him, and he thought it didn’t apply to him, or perhaps didn’t really apply to anyone. So he was busted, but half-way weaseled out of the punishment.

  72. I’d like to second everything that An Owomoyela says in response to O’Frizz Thirty. Because of everything A.O. says, and more, I will argue that there is never a place for “But women have to watch how they act/dress/speak too!” in a conversation about sexual harassment and sexualized attacks. We need to keep the focus front-and-center on what harassers do; any shift toward how women have this or that “responsibility” to act in non-harassable ways/keep to the moral high-ground/not lead him on, etc. destroys that focus in a way that an alarming amount of our mainstream media is already doing. We need to hold harassers responsible, and there is no way to urge harassment victims to “share that responsibility” without damaging the cause of holding harassers responsible.

    Again, O’Frizz, I do not care how much mitigating fluff you surround your central thesis with; your central thesis is “I would like to shift the focus away from holding harassers responsible and onto holding women responsible.”

    That I refuse to tow your line is not sexist. When the vast majority of harassers are male and the vast majority of victims of harassment are female, it is your argument –that responsibility be apportioned equally– that is sexist. Turnaround is not fair play when a huge power imbalance exists between the players. Right now, power is disproportionately on harassers’ side, not just because of women being socialized against raising their voices, saying an outright NO, or otherwise hurting the the harasser’s feelings, but also in a large part because so many people in our society agree with you that when a woman alleges harassment, her behavior must be carefully analyzed to determine that she didn’t “lead him on” or some shit.

    Do yourself a huge favor and look up the term “rape culture 101″. Then understand that your argument throughout this thread has, without exception, fit flawlessly into rape culture narratives. This is clearly not your intent, but since when has intent been a prophylactic against unintended consequences?

    And as for spelling your correspondent’s name right, I don’t particularly care if you abbreviate mine (although it would be nice if you could at least abbreviate correctly; LeBoeuf doesn’t start with a B!), but do have the honesty to admit that you just couldn’t be bothered to scroll up and then copy-paste. All our names are right there on the same page where you compose and submit your post. You’ve posted enough in this thread that I’m sure you know how it works.

  73. On good days I sometimes think I’ll be able to pass the Social Skills Test I and be able to qualify as a Pet Rock. (I know, I’m dating myself.) My wife tells me not to hold my breath, I’m just a rough hunk of granite and there’s been little smoothing over the last thirty years.

    Zero tolerance means zero thinking is allowed. Eternal penalties raise the stakes to infinity.

    This makes it hard for the victim, and impossible for the accused, whether guilty, misunderstood, or innocent; they’re put into the position of attempting to prove a negative that was in the eyes of the accuser to begin with (and of having sincere contrition — assuming that’s what it was — labeled fake.) I know I don’t do the human mind-reading thing well. I begin to feel I’m not alone in that. I’ve been the victim of a stalker and had nightmares for years. I was told by a friend to stop stalking her, and cut off all contact with her. Decades later, my attempts at avoiding her failed and it turns out she may have said that, but did not mean it that way, and she was still furious at me for disappearing from her life.

    The message I’m getting from this uproar is that I should avoid going to such gatherings. I’d feel like I was a porcupine in an inflated balloon gathering. Enjoy yourselves.

  74. O’Frizz–

    The question you were being asked was, Given that many women are socially awkward, and that there’s no way to be sure that a stranger isn’t in that group, what extra steps should people (especially men) take to make sure that their actions don’t make women uncomfortable? Not “What should socially awkward women do?” People who assumed or suggested that the harasser was socially awkward were suggesting that women should be more forgiving of him. But when the topic is socially awkward women, you’re still advising women on ways to avoid sending the wrong signals.

    No. Not fair or reasonable. If you think socially awkward men need more slack than socially skilled men, you should be giving more slack and protection to socially awkward women. If your default is to assume that any man who does something wrong did it out of awkwardness, you should also default to assuming that any woman who is made uncomfortable by what a man does is socially awkward, and may have trouble telling him to stop. That model would require men to assume that the woman they are talking to is socially awkward, give her extra space, and back off if they aren’t actively encouraged to stay near.

    A model in which socially awkward men are forgiven for trespassing, and socially awkward women are given hints on how to stop being awkward, isn’t about being helpful to awkward people. It’s another excuse to protect predators and tell men they don’t need to be responsible adults. It assumes that women, even if we’re socially awkward, are responsible for policing male behavior, and should expect difficulties if we don’t.

    In the specific case, given that there is no evidence that Rene Walling has any sort of spectrum disorder or is particularly socially awkward–we’re talking about a former Worldcon chair here–the question isn’t whether a hypothetical woman should be careful not to touch him [as Genevieve Valentine did not]. It’s that he should stop assuming he has permission to touch people who haven’t explicitly given him that permission. As men in general should stop making that assumption.

    (Maybe Rene was being clueless here, rather than deliberately pushing Genevieve’s boundaries and ignoring her wishes. I would like to believe that, but “I would like to believe this” doesn’t mean it’s true.)

  75. @KSB: As a point of order, if you’re going to quote a court opinion it’s good form to cite where you’re quoting it from. That provides context, especially since the ellipses strongly suggest you’re actually quoting it second-hand (that is, another case citing that language from a prior case). The Supreme Court upholds a lot of bright-line rules.

    On Readercon, not sure what “organizational heft” is about. The rule, more colloquially, is that if you engage in sexual harassment you’re no longer welcome at Readercon. Does this rule have disadvantages? Yes, it does, as does a very subjective rule. It also has advantages. Those will vary depending on the organization and the goals of the policy.

  76. I will argue that there is never a place for “But women have to watch how they act/dress/speak too!” in a conversation about sexual harassment and sexualized attacks.

    You know, fellas, if you start assuming that women dressing in ways that please the eye or engaging in casual banter are issuing you an invitation to be a pushy asshole–or worse–they may just quit doing those things. And the world will be a drabber and less fun place for it.

  77. @Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little: I’d just like to jump in an offer a hearty tautoko (Maori for “support, endorse and offer three hearty cheers for what you’re saying”) to both you & An Owomoyela.

    And you know what, as a man the idea that women have to “share responsibility” in any way, shape or form for men’s harassment, intimidation and outright abuse bugs the frak out of me. (And, no, KSB, I’m really not in the mood to draw up a sliding scale of “trivial” harassment and the more serious stuff.) It’s obviously demeaning to women, and enables douche-baggery. But come on guys, it also patronizes and demeans you too — as if we’re all drooling beasts controlled by our Neanderthal penis brains and incapable of non-douche conduct around attractive women.

    Screw that. As I said elsewhere, no man is born a creep. It really is a lifestyle choice, and WE need to own OUR OWN bullshit and police OUR OWN communities. That simple.

  78. Dear Mr. Scalzi,
    I bought your book today, I have a baby who doesn’t like to sleep and doubt I will get a chance to read it anytime soon. However I want to support your writing and this blog in particular. I am a geek and female scientist, the issues of harassment and gender that I have seen you so eloquently discuss affect me every day. I react emotionally and internally when these things happen. I am never able to say all the things racing in my head, because I am too scared or too angry to do so. But you say them for me here. You say what I can’t say and I want to support you, so you can continue to do so. You are my advocate. Thank you.

  79. What I find really funny about all this—not humorous funny, but the other kind—is that by attempting to protect their friend, the Readercon board has pretty much ensured that Walling’s name is out there and linked on Google to sexual harassment. (Seriously, that’s the second, third, and fourth links at the time of this writing.) Readercon fares little better.

    If they had enforced their own damn policy, there would have been maybe a couple blog posts praising them, people like me who can’t remember names would have forgotten his almost instantly, and life would go on. Now we all know he’s bad news, the name has been written enough that even I’ll remember it, and it looks like Tor may have even dropped him as a columnist.

    It’s actually gotten the sort of attention and outrage it deserves because of this, which is all to the good and very heartening—but I’m gonna guess that that was not the outcome the board members were actually going for. As an object lesson in “Why Trying To Make Policy Exceptions For Your Friend’s Bad Behavior Is Really Dumb,” this one takes the cake.

  80. An Owomoyela,
    i’m not aware that I have written anything that says that women are responsible for their victimization. In fact, I state clearly many times that nothing a woman does warrants harassment of any kind. I do not think anything I’ve written suggests or implies that a woman’s behavior invites an attack. If you sense that from what I have written, it may be you are a sensitive and intuitive person that is close to this issue. I think its wonderful that you care so much. I’m trying to reach a male audience, speaking in terms I think they can relate to & I’m speaking to women to be “leaders”. We lead the way in how we want to be treated so that in no way says or even implies that a woman’s behavior invites abuse.

    To say that my statements hurt the cause and leave a bad taste in many mouths does a disservice to women. If we are being constantly put under the microscope, shouldnt we act in a manner that is bold and respectable? Just because we don’t share the same views as how to approach the situation doesnt mean one is wrong and the other is right. We both share a common goal. Women’s equality and support and protection. We should be working together, not scrutinizing how something is worded.

    I’m interested if any of the other posters feel the same as you do. I’m curious how something as optimistic, positive and widely accepted among professionals could be construed as destructive and harmful. Thanks for you’re insight and I will humbly consider what you’ve said.

    *NO WOMAN DESERVES TO BE HARRASSED

  81. @htom I believe you’re fundamentally misinterpreting certain aspects of the situation based on what I can read of your past history in what you wrote.

    “Zero tolerance means zero thinking is allowed. Eternal penalties raise the stakes to infinity.”

    This is rhetoric as a substitute for thought. We’re talking not the kind of eternal punishment that you refer to, nor any over the top remedy for a clear-cut case of harassment, but a specific, limited penalty being applied (lifetime ban to Readercon), as stated in the convention’s rules.

    “…put into the position of attempting to prove a negative that was in the eyes of the accuser to begin with (and of having sincere contrition — assuming that’s what it was — labeled fake.)”

    While this may be *a* situation, it is not *this* situation. This is not a case of ‘(s)he said/(s)he said’ since the facts are not in doubt; it is also not the case that contrition should make any difference to the penalty being applied. The rules are clear-cut and can’t be changed mid-application or they have less value.

    I would politely suggest that you’re letting what is obviously a difficult past experience with a putative stalker and misreading social signals color your reactions to the Readercon situation.

  82. @htom: Are you genuinely saying that you had no idea it’s problematic to touch women you don’t know, repeatedly, after having your hands removed? That it is beyond the “pet rock” level to understand you shouldn’t tell a woman you just met at a con you want to do “wrong things” to her? That if she tells you to leave her alone, you are so socially stunted you can’t understand that?

    You may be a curmudgeon, but I give you far more credit than that.

    You are also having a knee-jerk reaction. Instead of throwing a fit and saying you didn’t want to go to our stupid party anyway, why not read Scalzi’s links?

  83. Vicki Rosenzweig,
    It’s clear from the reaction posts that I’m receiving that I’m just not good at communicating whats in my heart. I did answer his question, but he also asked my opinion on socially awkward women. “What should men do to correct for the possibility of dealing with women who “truly have a lack of understanding for body language”?” It’s also clear that you may not have read all the posts where I try to clarify my stance. Please follow up with that if you would like clarification.

    I cant believe that I’ve actually allowed you to make my cry over this. :D Emotions running high on my side ;) I really thought this would be a forum where we share our thoughts to help the cause. But it is apparent that most people will allow their emotions to outweigh giving someone on the same team the benefit of the doubt. I’m really surprised that as women we spend time cutting each other down instead standing up for each other. I hope this changes.

    So with that, I humbly bow out and leave this discussion to the professionals. Thank you so much John Scalzi for handling this discussion with great tact! I’ll keep fighting the battle the best way I can. I’ve made myself as clear as I am able :)

    I truly feel for Valentine and like I said before, I’ve been a victim myself and it is truly upsetting.

  84. htom: Zero tolerance means zero thinking is allowed. Eternal penalties raise the stakes to infinity.

    Can we keep some perspective here? We’re not talking house arrest; we’re talking being banned from *one con* out of, what? Dozens? Hundreds? Not mention the infinite number of non-con events out there.

    As others have stated in discussions elsewhere, if you are part of the tiny minority of people in our culture who legitimately cannot see the boundary between social awkwardness and sexual harassment then, no, you shouldn’t be attending such events. It’s a shame to lose what positive contributions you could’ve made, but it’s a small price to pay to gain the contributions of the legions of women who don’t feel comfortable coming to venues where harassment (be it intentional or otherwise) is tolerated.

  85. @Manny, 2:221 pm:

    I hear what you’re saying, but I think it’s not always accurate to say that a man (or another person) stepping in when a woman is being harassed “pretty much keeps the woman in the place the harasser thought of her, a feature of a man’s world and not an equal stakeholder.”

    I worked for a comic store when I was in high school. It was an awesome job, in a friendly, relaxed, and happily geeky environment. One of my bosses usually worked the same hours as I did, and once took me out for dinner. Then he started wanting to walk me home at night. (A short walk, in a very safe neighbourhood.) His extra attentions made me extremely uncomfortable, and although I don’t for an instant believe that was intentional on his part, at 17, I had no idea how to tactfully communicate that to my *adult, male, boss*. Cue my other boss, who took me aside, said he’d noticed a couple of behaviours that he thought were making me uncomfortable, and asked me if they were, in fact, doing so. I said yes, he offered to have a discreet word with nice-but-just-a-bit-too-attentive-boss, the issue was resolved without confrontation, and I continued to work at an awesome place until I moved for university.

    I don’t think I was denied any agency here. I think someone stepped in to offer me some confirmation that I was being subjected to behaviour that was objectively wrong, communicated clearly that I had every right to be comfortable at work, and acted on it. The lesson I took away from this was not that I needed my boss to intervene for me; rather, it was empowering to realize that I could trust my own feelings and that I could trust my co-workers to be supportive if I spoke up, and to see a clear demonstration of how to effectively let someone know when their behaviour isn’t acceptable.

  86. As to the sincerity of Walling’s apology: His track record seems to argue against it.

    And regarding the repeated assertion that women need to respond to harassment by holding themselves to a yet higher standard of behavior, it appears to be Walling who is the common thread here. If there’s a women’s behavior that needs to stop, apparently it’s “Being at the same con with Walling and visible by him when he starts feeling like getting his harass on, yo.” But, good news! Women can change that nasty harassment-inviting behavior of theirs and stop recklessly being at the same con with Walling and other harassers by insisting that con boards implement their lifetime-ban-of-harassers policy! Isn’t it great when problems can be solved so simply?

    [/sarcasm]

  87. Ideally, a beautiful naked person should be able to walk, unharassed, around a con with a clear duffel bag full of unmarked twenties in one hand and an original Star Wars prop Lightsabre in the other.

    Until this is true, we have much self improvement to do.

  88. O’Frizz Thirty @ 4:33,

    I definitely feel the same way as An Owomoyela. You say: “We lead the way in how we want to be treated.” To me, that implies that you think we (women) are at least partially responsible for how other people treat us. I think you’re trying to use that sentiment to say that if women behave well, we will be treated well — but in many, many cases, society focuses on the flip side of that idea and comes to the conclusion that if we are treated badly, it must be because we were behaving badly. Stating in all-caps that no woman deserves to be harassed is great, but the rest of your comment promotes the idea that women are responsible for how other people treat us (and therefore that possibly some of us would deserve it). Each individual only has control over their own behavior, not the behavior of others, so when someone sexually harasses someone else, the harasser is the one whose behavior should be focused on, not the victim.

  89. @WizarDru:

    I’m not sure what you’re saying…that you didn’t want him to get in trouble? I think you’re being far too kind to him and worse, you’re sending a clear message to him that his behavior was OK until a certain point. He approached you three times and apparently would have kept approaching you. I understand if maybe you felt like asking for help might have diminished you or that you felt like it was admitting you weren’t able to handle the problem yourself, but think of other women who might have not felt that way on their first encounter with him…or on their fourth.

    This is another species of victim-blaming. Robotisred is not responsible for establishing the harasser’s boundaries and she is not responsible for other acts of harassment he may have committed.

    Being urged to empathize and forgive harassers to the detriment of your own needs is another common effect of female socialization and another way to shift the focus to the target’s behavior rather than harasser’s. Blaming someone for not reporting harassment — when targets have many good reasons to fear the results of that report — is concern trolling.

  90. @Martin: Perhaps you thought you were bringing the snark, but I’d say all that with a perfectly straight face. Because (guess what?) I’m accountable for my own behaviour not you.

    If you want to walk around a con cosplaying Conan The Barbarian in nothing but an itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny loin cloth and a bondage harness? Go to. That doesn’t give my gay self license to get in your space and ignore the hints that you’d really like me to stop talking dirty, take my hands off your arse and just frak off.

  91. shainaed,
    just one last thing before I go. :) That’s not at all what I mean, by saying we lead the way, I mean we have to demand respect. Not that in our behavior we need to be good girls to receive good treatment. We need to stand up for our rights and be “Bold and Fierce” in our efforts. Here’s where the benefit of the doubt comes in as we support the same cause. Instead of pulling apart my syntax you all should be supporting my efforts by helping me. Restating what I’ve said in another way. Just because we don’t communicate the same way doesn’t mean I’m against the effort to protect us. I’m very sorry that by even mentioning equality (being held to the same standard of conduct) hurts the cause for equality. It’s seems hypocritical to me and a double standard. I’m guess I’m just an innocent and too naive. Too optimistic. I am obviously out of my league. Thanks for pointing that out to me. I greatly appreciate the insight to how truly sensitive people are to the language that surrounds this issue.
    shainaed, I appreciate a certain gentleness also, unlike those who seems intent on throwing some low blows, though I agree with what those women believe and I was gentle and respectful about responding to them. Clearly, they all have a heart for this effort and I respect that.

    My only wish, is that instead of cutting eachother down with petty criticisms we could support eachother. Signing off, with large falling tears. Good luck, ya’ll.

  92. Manny: “It disturbs me that the solution for this so many times is a man telling the harasser off. That pretty much keeps the woman in the place the harasser thought of her, a feature of a man’s world and not an equal stakeholder. People (of all sorts) should listen to and respect women (in every circumstance) without waiting for a man to tell them to.”

    Yes.

    On the other hand …

    If I think a person needs help and I’m the person in position to do so, I’m not going to let the fact that I’m a man prevent me from helping if that person happens to be a woman. (Obviously, there are better and worse ways of helping, and my gender may be a big factor in how that works. And I need to make sure my perception of whether they actually need help isn’t distorted by my own sexism.)

    Also, while while people *should* “listen to and respect women (in every circumstance) without waiting for a man to tell them to”, many people obviously don’t. If I can use my relative gender privilege in a way that *undercuts* someone’s assumption of privilege more than it reinforces it, it seems like I should do so. Or to put it another way, it would be sexist for someone to only take “Don’t be sexist” seriously if it’s a man saying it to them, but if that’s what it takes for them to actually *hear* it, then I think I need to say it.

  93. O’Frizz Thirty: women, please be aware of your behavior as well. Nothing you do EVER warrants harrassment, but be careful of your maneurisms for those men that are truly have a lack of understanding for body language. … please be aware of seemingly innocent physical contact. Save those moments for the people you know.

    fadeaccompli: What would you advise all men to start doing to make sure that they’re not dealing with someone who’s got “a true social disorder” that’s making it hard for them to get away? How should men change their behavior to avoid taking “innocent physical contact” in the wrong way?

    I may have misread, but she seemed to be saying “do not touch someone you do not know”.

    Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little:Suggesting that women sometimes get harassed because they made a bad choice about when and with whom to behave coquettishly? Do you typically get good results from saying things like that?

    Except she didn’t suggest that.

    I read it as tactical advice along the lines of “learn martial arts” and “get a gun” and “don’t touch people you don’t know”. Someone who gets attacked isn’t faulted for not knowing martial arts or for not carrying a gun. O’Frizz Thirty said in her post Nothing you do EVER warrants harrassment. She explicitly stated that even if a victim doesn’t follow her advice it doesn’t justify their attack. But she considered it to possibly help, the way people advise folks to learn a martial art or carry a gun, in case of an attack, not that they deserve to be attacked if they don’t.

    The implication is a lot more harassers pretend not to recognize the flinching, the backing away, the putting objects between her and him, than actually don’t recognize it.

    that’s basically what I was talking about in my post about innuendo. Creepers take advantage of the fact that most people assume the interaction that is makign them uncomfortable is a misunderstanding and respond with innuendo or indirect response. Most creepers can only operate in the space from when the innuendo and indirect responses occur up until a direct “back off” is given.

    An Owomoyela: I understand that your intentions may be good, but bringing the topic into these discussions usually brings in the implication of the entire culture of holding women responsible for things done to them, and it leaves a bad taste in many of our mouths.

    It seemed fairly clear to me that she did not imply that. She outright stated the exact opposite, and I don’t think she just lied about that to camoflage the implication.

    I think that she was talking about women’s behavior as a way for women to protect themselves and it reminded you of when other people talk about women’s behavior to blame the women. But that’s not the same thing.

    Nicole: I will argue that there is never a place for “But women have to watch how they act/dress/speak too!” in a conversation about sexual harassment and sexualized attacks.

    I’ve been in sexual harrasment discussions where someone talked about learning martial arts and they got some heat because even if a woman learns karate, a lot of men could still simply overpower her or maybe he has a gun.

    Tactically speaking, defensive maneuvars aren’t a guarantee of safety, but they might improve your odds if you’re attacked. That’s an entirely different conversation than “if you don’t carry a gun, if you don’t learn martial arts, or if you don’t watch who you touch, you deserve what you get”.

    O’Frizz Thirty’s advice seemed to be entirely tactical/defense, not a judgement of blaming the victim.

    Daveon: If it gets to the point where a woman has to say no to unwanted attention, it’s probably already gone over a line.

    This is a strange statement. I agree with it, but the way you state it, it comes across as if it should be a different way. People will generally respond to the first interaction that makes them uncomfortable by assuming the possibility of a misunderstanding. Because a misunderstanding is often a real possibility. So the first response is almost always going to be indirect, is going to be innuendo, or is going to be non-verbal. If its’ a misunderstanding, the other person will usually pick up on the nonverbal cues and adjust.

    If the other person is a creeper, then they will persist until its clear to the victim that this isn’t just a misunderstanding, at which point the victim should drop the innuendo and indirect/nonverbal responses and make a clear “back off” statement.

    So, of course by the time a victim comes out and clearly says something, its gone over a line, because by that time, the victim is clear the harrasser crossed the line on purpose, and not just some misunderstanding.

    But there is no way to remove that phase of “maybe its a misunderstanding, I’ll respond indirectly” to “Oh, clearly its not just a misunderstanding”.

    As for the foot massage thing, if you make a rule that no one should offer anyone a foot massage, then creepers will simply adjust their creepy behavior such that it still illicits a “maybe this is a misunderstanding”. They game the rules by design.

  94. The problem with the “We lead the way in how we want to be treated” assertion is the implication that we aren’t doing this already. Personally I resent the assertion that my bold, fierce, assertive self isn’t already doing enough to communicate that I want to be treated with respect–and that if a woman isn’t as bold, fierce, or assertive, why, then, how can a guy be blamed for not realizing she doesn’t want his attention? Ugh.

  95. O’Frizz Thirty @ 5:14,

    “Instead of pulling apart my syntax you all should be supporting my efforts by helping me.” My point, and the point of other people who’ve been responding to you, is that your syntax is (unintentionally) hurting our mutual cause. When you reinforce the idea that women are responsible for how other people behave towards us, no matter how you meant it, you end up playing right into the societal trope that some women deserve to be harassed. I don’t find that to be a “petty criticism,” I think it’s pretty darn fundamental. I don’t doubt at all that you’re on our side, but friendly fire is still fire.

    I understand your need to step away from this conversation, but I hope you’ll think about what people have been saying, and that our explanations might influence the language you use in future discussions like this.

  96. Readercon is dangerous for women.

    Other Con’s need to be warned about this offender.

    Do bylaws of Readercon require the board to be dissolved if it fails to uphold policies, or does it just require a reelection by the members/shareholders?

    I find the wishy-washy-ness of the “out raged” parties to be almost as troubling as the boards incompetence. (and by out raged parties I mean people commenting on the subject/thread/livejournals, not those actually involved) Let’s be clear. Readercon’s board, decided that sexual harassment either didn’t occur, or that battery (unwanted touching) and stalking are acceptable (at least with a brief period in “time out”).

    I find the whole thing disgusting and highly offensive. .

  97. @Manny:

    It disturbs me that the solution for this so many times is a man telling the harasser off. That pretty much keeps the woman in the place the harasser thought of her, a feature of a man’s world and not an equal stakeholder. People (of all sorts) should listen to and respect women (in every circumstance) without waiting for a man to tell them to.

    I take your point, Manny, and it’s a valid one, but it’s not about man-tronising or ‘White Knighting’ women. Let me put it this way — as a man, and a decent human being, it’s definitely my responsibility to say sexual harassment is not cool. That doesn’t mean charging in when it’s obvious a sister has the smack-down well in hand. But what about the other occasions? A huge part of harassment/rape/sexist culture is enabling — and saying to yourself “hey, it’s not my problem moving right along” is neither respectful of nor empowering to women. I’d argue it’s just sending a harasser (and his victim) the message that his bullshit is “normal” and tolerated. As I said upthread, conventions are never going to be safe spaces for women until MEN (yes, guys, US) make a clear decision whether to keep being the problem or an active part of the solution.

  98. @ roguecyber Readercon’s board, decided that sexual harassment either didn’t occur

    Except that even the harasser admitted to the board that it was harassment. So I think we’ll have to go with choice “B”.

  99. Thank you cranapia, you made me laugh.

    @Bearpaw that’s my take on it too. I’m not going to sit on my chuff waiting for the situation to resolve itself. And it’s not as if my only options are to go all Conan the Barbarian on someone or sit mute. I can just say “hey, how’s it going” and see what happens. Because in my experience that’s often all it takes for the immediate situation to resolve itself. As a rule most women don’t want a hue and cry and it’s not my place to create one without their consent.But, you know, if they do, me saying “I’ll back you up” can be helpful. The old thing where three female witnesses are required to balance one male one hasn’t entirely gone away, it’s just been broadened to cover any discriminated against group.

  100. :Oh, sigh.:

    The state confined my “putative stalker” in a mental hospital against her will. I assume but don’t know that she was eventually released. I hope she’s been cured and not just dumped on the street. I no longer live in fear of her, but I don’t want any relationship with her.

    I brought it up to explain how a simple misunderstanding could have long-term consequences neither party desired when zero tolerance got involved. I almost wish I hadn’t. I should be less real on-line, I suppose, make up examples.

    I think some of you haven’t read the penalty. Banned from ReaderCon for two conventions, yes, and their ban becomes lifetime if there are any reports — presumably more than rumors — of any other such behavior at any other convention. From some of the fury (mostly elsewhere) I’m sure they’ll be forthcoming. Perhaps if he were to avoid all cons for the next decade?

    “Eternal punishment” was hyperbolic, but we only get one lifetime, and that’s all of it. What happens in the subsequent mixing of souls in the WuChi is beyond our knowledge or control.

    I’m much more likely to be touched by strange women than to touch them. Part of it comes with wearing a bow tie, strange women just walk up and adjust them, and then introduce themselves. It’s mostly fun, rarely are there misunderstandings. I’ve been called any number of kinds of flirt, but it’s all words and winks and air kisses, no touching (other than on the dance floor.)

  101. @iamthesupercommittee says: “I have not been to any kind of geek convention since a Dragon Con back in the 80′s in Atlanta. I don’t like crowds, I don’t play games, I don’t collect toys, so a lot of what goes on at these things is not for me. I would enjoy the panels, etc. but it seems the most interesting ones are invariably impossible for the newcomer, or the person not in the industry, to get into, without queuing up for eleventy hours. Alas.”

    If you are still interested in panels and can tolerate smaller crowds, I recommend that you attend some fan-run non-profit conventions. These typically have between 200-1000 attendees and are run by fans who want other fans to have a good time. The focus is usually on panels covering SF&F Lit, Writing, Fandom/Pop-culture, comics, movies, and the like. Many have gaming, video rooms, an art show, and sometimes live music. These smaller conventions usually don’t bring in media guests and in fact most of the “big name” guests (usually authors and artists) are donating their time just so they can interact with their fans.

    A good place to find fan-run cons is: http://news.ansible.co.uk/conlisti.html

    In the aftermath of the Readercon controversy, I fervently hope all conventions, big or small, take a hard look at the harassment problem and institute strong policies to encourage proper behavior.

  102. Greg

    I suspect that I might feel somewhat more sympathetic to O’Frizz Thirty’s tearful departure were it not for her assertion in her first post that:

    “Being a Christian I feel even more sensitive towards what some would consider normal physical contact.”

    That really isn’t helpful in this conversation; oddly enough it’s perfectly possible for people who aren’t Christians to be sensitive towards being groped. And there are, regrettably, Christians who have used their roles, for example as priests, to enable them to sexually harass children as well as older people.

    Religions, particularly the religions of the Book, certainly produce a long list of the ways women should behave in order not to provoke male sexual desire; none of those have any relevance to this discussion, notwithstanding O’Frizz Thirty’s apparent conviction that they do.

    Asserting her purity may well have made her feel good but claiming that she is supporting other women is nonsense. If she had wanted to do that she would not have kicked off by telling people how pure she is by comparison with other women…

  103. @htom: you should go back and read your own post. It’s not a real-life cautionary tale of “what happens when a con says the penalty for sexual harassment is exclusion”. Your parade of horribles – a lying accuser, presumption of guilt, a careless Board, a severe penalty – have NOTHING to do with the facts of this situation and could just as easily happen under a policy as vague as SFWA’s. Also, protip, the hyperbole and stomping odd detract from rather than enhance your arguments.

    If you had actually read Scalzi’s links, you would immediately understand why telling people they ‘haven’t read the penalty’ is belittling. In part, because at those links, others have pointed out the problems with the two-year ban (above and beyond the fact that it violated Readercon policy).

  104. I’ve taken a deep breath. I didn’t say that the issue of language was petty. I was referring to someones low blow about me misspelling her name. I was really respectful in responding to her direct comment to me. That was below the belt and just unnecessary.

    I stepped away from the thread to calm down. I’ve genuinely been hurt by the false accusation and unfounded assumptions towards what I’ve written. It disturbs me that people refuse to see what has been made clear again and again. People keep talking about implication, when I’ve stated things so clearly that its become redundant. It’s impossible to receive any implication out of an idea that has been overly emphasized that no implication is appropriate. You all either havent read my posts fully, you certainly havent read them how they were written, and despite all of my humility and respect in the thread, you have disrespected me and bullied out a genuinely loving person.

    I have written myself clearly and I cant even believe that all of this has distracted from the real issue. You’ve spent more time attacking my language and me as a person (which is petty), then the abusers out there who hurt women. Seems petty to me. Its gotten so distracting that it took Greg’s post to defend the “clarity” of my posts. I have not given you ladies any reason to fight me, so I ask that you focus your hostilities towards the men who are creepers and abusers of the system. Not on an innocent woman who genuinely cares deeply about this issue.

    Thx Greg for defending the “clarity” of what I posted.

  105. On more than one occasion in my life at cons and similar events, I’ve been the temporary centre of attention of a guy with poor social skills. I’ve probably been so many, many more times than I actually know about. The guys with poor social skills often don’t even attempt to engage with me, or any other women; they don’t know how. Sometimes they do try. They’re easy to deal with. After all, I have social skills, and they don’t. They might annoy me, but they’re not a threat.

    On far more occasions in my life at cons and similar events, I’ve been the target of a guy who’s a predator. Usually, he’s a serial sexual harasser, just as Walling was (and still is). Personally, I have yet to hear of a sexual harasser who is not a serial offender, although some have wider reputations than others.

    I’m wondering, at this point, if the script of “Socially Awkward Man Tries to Approach Woman, Flubs, Woman Freaks Out and Accuses SAM of Harassment” isn’t as much a convenient myth as “Scantily Clad Woman is Raped By Violent Stranger”. IIRC, less than 10% of rapes are committed by strangers. I’d make a wild-assed guess that less than 10% of sexual harassment is perpetrated by people, male or female, who are socially awkward/ terminally clueless/ can’t read social signals/ ‘don’t understand the nuances of the situation’. Hell, yes, harassers understand the nuances of social situations! Their MO involves gaming those same nuances for their own benefit.

    Predators are not socially awkward. (Walling has plenty of friends, although hopefully fewer than he had two weeks ago.) They know the patterns and rules of their particular social groups very well indeed. They know how to operate within those patterns so as to keep themselves in the best possible position to continue as successful predators. They learn quickly how to operate well, so as to get what they want with the smallest possible risk of failure (including the failure of Being Caught, and the worse failure of Being Obliged to Stop). This is the opposite of being socially awkward, ignorant, or inept.

    As far as I’m concerned, the entire topic of the Socially Awkward Male (or female) is no more relevant to a conversation about serial sexual harassment than a picspam of cats would be. This particular breed of predators likes to hang out where they can be masked by the Socially Awkward Males. The SAM makes excellent cover for hunting, and the predator can duck back into that cover at need. And does. And apologizes (another excellent form of cover).

    And it works. Because Successful Predator is Successful.

  106. @O’Frizz Thirty: just in case I misfired — my comment was not directed at your comments at all, but is the result of a lot of thought and a great deal of disquieting reading from link to link today.

  107. @O’Frizz Thirty: there’s nothing wrong with stepping away from a discussion. However, it is discourteous to say that you are “humbly bow[ing] out” only to come back and post repeatedly. The snarky Internet term for this is the “flounce”, for obvious reasons.

    Regarding clarity, please consider that either you were not as clear as you believe – or perhaps that you were clear, but others simply disagree with you. I, too, would like to believe that if only people listened to me they’d see I am right and they are wrong, but that may not actually be the case.

    (It also does not help to imply that people are disagreeing with you because they’re too emotional, or enjoy infighting, or are imposing a double standard on you. Unless you are ok with others also assuming bad faith on your part, anyway.)

    Substantively, you argue about how women should behave when “under the microscope”. I’d rather ask why we’re expected to be under a microscope in the first place, and why anyone feels the right to examine and rate us like specimens.

  108. Stevie, has made it clear that they are judging me simply because I’m a Christian. I regret that you thought I was saying that I was purer than other women. That is not true at all. I’m saying some women might think touching on the shoulder is okay but “I” am nervous of that physical contact. I didn’t not say I was purer. That is simply an assumption and prejudice on your part. You have made it clear that you are judging me inappropriately based on a religion. Nothing I have written should have given you the impression that I am better than you. It is truly amazing that though my heart is kind and genuine, you seem more intent on attacking me than the issue at hand.

    Even as I type this I regret stepping back in. My hope was to keep at it so that we can unify our cause as women and to defend a woman’s right to offer an opinion that is different yet still helpful and good. But it’s clear to me now that there is a prejudice against me because I said I was a Christian… Benefit of the Doubt is dead on this thread.

  109. @O’Frizz — when your opening statement is that, *as a Christian*, you are more sensitive to touch than others, you have frankly put yourself out there for judgment on that statement. Because, you see, as somebody with a chronic pain condition, I am also more sensitive to touch. Which has nothing to do with how I self-identify in any religious aspect. It’s the qualifier about your religion making you more sensitive to touch that is troubling.

  110. @mythago: Those all sound like valid benefits, I think, yeah. I don’t know that they cancel or overcome the problems. When I was talking to my girlfriend about this earlier, she was dubious about one-size-fits-all penalties because she has felt harassed *to varying degrees*, and some were cases where permanent expulsion seemed appropriate and others called more for a stern word. Which leads to another consequence of zero-tolerance programs that robotisred brings up: fostering underreporting. Because if one knows (or, previously at Readercon, believe because one has been assured) there is only one penalty, then as a responsible human being one is placed in a position of having to decide whether one personally feels that penalty is appropriate to the situation. Which is pretty different from being able to hand the situation over to judgment-using, possibly even trained people who can be reasonably expected to handle nuance, should there be some.

    @Beth: In a related vein, one thing I’ve been thinking about this is that when concoms or boards or whoever are adopting these sorts of policies, they should explicitly ask themselves the question of how and whether they’re going to be able to handle it when that policy needs to be applied to a Pillar of the Community type. Because guaranteed it will be. Becoming a Pillar of the Community is thoroughly known, at this point, to be the oldest trick in the sexual predator book, precisely because of the sort of faltering of will that gives every appearance of having taken place here.

  111. When I have found myself victim blaming, it is because I wanted to believe I could separate myself from potential victimization. If wearing longer skirts or less makeup or earning a black belt or any of those things could make a person immune from attack, it would be nice. If only the world were nice. Doing those things *might* make an attacker select a different victim, but I maintain that it doesn’t make the attack not happen.

    (O’Frizz and anyone else thinking along those lines– That way lies madness.)

  112. O’Frizz Thirty

    I see you are back to misrepresenting others, whilst making statements about yourself which are risible to the point my keyboard may not survive.

    Let’s recap your latest verdict on yourself: “my heart is kind and genuine”

    Really? Do you have any evidence that you could supply to support that claim? Let’s face it, your posts have not exactly overflowed with the milk of human kindness to others, but I am always ready to accept that I may be mistaken so perhaps you could direct me to the bits which might support that claim.

    And I’m sorry to break the news to you but I’m not attacking you because you are a Christian, much as you would like to pretend that’s the case. I’m a Christian myself. It’s just that when I read your stuff I understand what Christ meant by whited sepulchres…

  113. John
    Sorry, had not seen your post; will do deep breathing which will also assist lung function: two for the price of one!

  114. O’Frizz – I was relieved to read An eloquently talking about the issue with rape culture. To dismiss what people are saying because you believe they are anti-Christian is not fair. Some of the posters have responded with what seems some heat, and some have disagreed with you extremely politely and with care. I urge you to take a closer look at what An wrote in response to you, which I believe is far from an attack. I believe this is at the heart of many concerns and it is not that people want to attack you, it is that your intentions are good, but each of us is capable of unthinkingly re-enforcing negatives in the world. Good allies look out for each other, good allies discuss, question and ask more of each other. We need to!

    An said:

    “I understand what you’re trying to say, but I think you may be missing a critical piece of awareness. We live in a world where constant scrutiny on a woman’s behavior is the norm, and excusing or explaining men’s behavior are the norm as well. Many, many people will still argue that women invite harassment, or send the wrong signals, or are in some way culpable for unwanted attention; many others will argue that it’s natural for men to act in predatory manners, or that it’s a compliment, or that it’s all part of the game. These arguments don’t need to be stated. They’re in the air we breathe.

    When we focus a conversation on men’s behavior, we’re working to dismantle that narrative and to hold people to fair standards. When generalizations about how women might be leading men on are brought into the conversation, they serve to reinforce that narrative, and that’s not good for anyone.”

  115. @chaosprime: The flip side of that is underreporting because “he’ll just get a slap on the wrist anyway”; I do not mean in any way to dismiss robotisred’s very valid point, but compare it to Ms. Valentine’s reaction on finding out Walling got a two-year ban.

    Consider, also, that the focus is not on punishing the offender. It’s on making sure someone who misbehaves does not get to use their con as a forum for misbehavior. It’s saying no, if you throw up on my cats or grope the guests I don’t want you at my party ever again. Go bother somebody else, if they’ll have you.

    I think part of the problem is that we’ve all heard so much of overboard, poorly-thought-out zero tolerance policies with harsh real-world consequences (grade schooler expelled for having a nail file in her purse!) that we automatically assume that’s all “zero tolerance” could mean. Are they always the best idea? Nope. But I’m not convinced that by definition “flexible” policies are better.

  116. John, I honestly feel like I’m being misinterpreted and it was obvious I was being attacked for my religious background. I am truly sorry that by simply stating my reiligious affiliation it has distracted from a very important issue. I’ll be stepping away from posting on your threads from now on. I am truly disturbed at what has happened and I was merely trying to defend the my right to freely express my opinion without being attacked for my language choice or religious affiliation. Thanks for your statement about how you feel about the what happened to Valentine. I whole heartedly agree. I will definitely have a sleepless night tonight for I have been deeply pained by the assumptions made about me. I encourage you (and I’m sure you will do this anyhow ;) ) to delete this post. It is mainly for you to understand my good will. Im sure this may sound pretentious and self righteous to some but I want to convey with utter clarity that my feelings are sincere. Good night.

  117. The flip side of that is underreporting because “he’ll just get a slap on the wrist anyway”; I do not mean in any way to dismiss robotisred’s very valid point, but compare it to Ms. Valentine’s reaction on finding out Walling got a two-year ban.

    @Mythago: And let’s not forget Valentine made the very careful point that she spoke up in the first place because she knows a hell of a lot of women who’ve had similar (or even more horrific) experiences they just didn’t feel safe reporting because they didn’t feel it would be taken seriously. Which is actually a massive component of rape/harassment culture. Not just the abuse itself, but the complex web of enabling, apologism and “slut-shaming” where women who do speak up are harassed and abused all over again. Genevieve Valentine is a heroine in my book for speaking up, but it would be damn nice if conventions were a genuinely safe space where she never had to.

  118. The words “harassment” and “sexual harassment” are being used interchangeably here. Is there no difference between the two at this point? I read what Waller did, and while it was loathsome and stalkery and he deserves punishment – and it’s bad form for Readercon to change the punishment policy for one guy – I guess I’m not understanding what qualifies as sexual harassment these days. I was under the impression that it had to do with people in positions of power using it to force sexual favors from underlings. Am I thinking of something else? Is sexual harassment pretty much anything at this point? Because I’ll definitely agree that his unwanted touching, etc, is at minimum assault if he’s told not to and keeps doing it, but I’m having a hard time seeing the sexual harassment here. Again, it might just be because I’ve got a bogus definition somewhere.

    Otherwise, yeah, guy got (less than) what he deserved.

  119. “I think you’re being far too kind to him and worse, you’re sending a clear message to him that his behavior was OK until a certain point.”

    This may be true, but it doesn’t change the fact that many women (and girls*, as not every person at a con is an adult) will indeed be more hesitant to make reports if they feel that doing so will definitively result in what is seen as a harsh punishment, deserved or not. That is, in fact, one of the reasons why cons have anti-harassment policies. The harassment that Valentine received could be considered serious enough to justify a police report, but if we hold that as the kind of authority that must be called in every time an offense reaches that level, even fewer women will report such behaviors – and not just because that’s more of a hassle.

    Part of women being socialized to be nice and of culture focusing on men’s wants as being more important than women’s needs involves a non-insignificant number of women internalizing these ideas, often without being fully aware they are perpetuating them at the time of their own actions.

    The solution to this is not zero-harassment policies, and shame on you for not taking it upon yourself to dismantle culture single-handedly. It’s to have harassment policies that clearly state that removal from the con (now and in perpetuity) is one possible outcome of a harassment complaint, and to have clear instructions for the people deciding on “punishments” as to what constitutes a bannable offence, and to have those guidelines in turn be informed by knowledge of how serial harassers work.

    *I endured months of harassment form a particular boy because he was younger so I thought I could handle it, and also he was someone I had previously seen as someone I was duty bound to protect from others and what kind of narc tattles like that anyway? The narrative that boys who do this sort of thing should be subjected to extreme violence from fathers defending their daughter’s virtue – not helpful in this regard, btw. Are you saying I am responsible for my own harassment? Any harassment he may have done to others? Most con-goers may no longer be minors, but we are all works in progress and this isn’t an a-typical reaction for any age.

  120. @chaosprime: I’d love it if that was the question on the table. But at the moment a lot of groups are still stuck at “should we have an anti-harassment policy at all?” and I suspect you’re right that for many of them they’re implicitly trying to deal with “what about pillars of the community”. Some of them, I fear, because they know that one or more of their core members will be directly affected. Either because “if you bring in this policy I will quit” or “we don’t believe that X will change their behavior”.

    To me, an anti-harassment policy is just a part of the more general “be polite” policy that every group has to have in order to function. Maybe I’ve spent too much time in anarchist groups where there’s a focus on making the rules explicit and trying to be inclusive. That starts with the very basic point that if you don’t have the power to coerce someone to do something you have to persuade them. Conventions lack the coercive power to force attendance, so they have to persuade people. Making the rules public and using them publicly is part of the persuasion.

    And as @cranapia keeps saying, vocally supporting women who complain and not supporting the men who create the problems is a really important thing for the spectators to do. From what I can see, everyone here is one of the spectators.

    If nothing else, does anyone really believe that woman don’t face enough policing of their behavior already? If not, why add to the policing?

  121. @mythago: Yeah, we (aforementioned g/f and I) were just talking about that, how reporting is encouraged by the belief that something will at least *happen*, which ZT helps with, at least on a public perception level. Because who the hell wants to go through the process of reporting when the result seems perfectly likely to be nothing in particular, i.e. “we don’t really care”? The next thing she said, though, was that her experience with ZT situations was that the strongest incentive becomes for the concom is to explain to the complainant that the situation didn’t quite meet the definition of harassment. Which goes back to what I was saying in my first post, and tends to reinforce my general feeling that ZT is better as a public relations strategy than as an operating policy.

    Also kinda goes to one of the benefits of ZT you were talking about. It definitely clarifies what happens if you do X, but does nothing to clarify what X actually consists of. It sounds like in the present relevant case there’s no question at all that sexual harassment took place, but it seems unlikely that it will always be that clear.

  122. @jennygadget: to me “zero tolerance” is more “there will definitely be consequences” and less “we only have one possible response”. I would prefer to have a range of consequences available and a more nuanced way of dealing with complaints. I also think that the US con scene needs to work up to that rather than trying to dramatically change the culture in one step. That probably means that initially they only deal with the most egregious cases in a simplistic way. Once the organisers have shown that they can do this simple thing well we can start introducing subtleties.

  123. @Moz Again: That’s unfortunate. I would hope organizers’ takeaway from this would be that you should write your harassment policy carefully and have the will to enforce it, not that it’s better to attempt to abdicate from the issue. (Which I have to suspect is a very poor idea for liability purposes.)

    Do you read me as advocating increasing policing women’s behavior in this context? Because I certainly don’t mean to be. What I mean to be talking about is practical effectiveness of different approaches to policing harassers’ (i.e. almost entirely men’s) behavior, and a bit of pissiness about people waving the “ooh we’re ZT” banner and delivering something else.

  124. Is the issue that they had a specific policy, and didn’t follow it, or that the harasser wasn’t banned for life with no opportunity for rehabilitation?

  125. @Michael Kirkland: The issue is that they had a stated zero-tolerance one-offense-equals-banned-for-life policy and failed to implement it.

  126. That’s not at all what I mean, by saying we lead the way, I mean we have to demand respect. Not that in our behavior we need to be good girls to receive good treatment. We need to stand up for our rights and be “Bold and Fierce” in our efforts.

    That statement implies that if you aren’t assertive, and someone violates your rights, it’s your own fault for not being stronger, or clearer, or bolder, or whatever. I have a real problem with this. You should not need to be “bold and fierce” in order to ensure that you are given simple human respect, and not treated like an object or a plaything by a predatory man. And predators often seek out the meek, or the under-confident.

    If someone is harrassing you, then they are the one at fault. They are the one who needs to change their behaviour. The idea that if you (scared You, threatened You, shocked You, shy You, quiet You, You,desperate for acceptance, You who doesn’t want to make trouble) only acted differently it wouldn’t happen is as wrong and unhelpful as “well, look what she was wearing; asking for it, I tell you”.

    I say this as a fully certified battleaxe-in-training. I should not have to go into full Maggie Smith mode to repel unwelcome advances. And my more timid friends should not be told that they have to, either.

  127. I had a rather similar thought, Vian.

    It might be worth mentioning that I am quite an assertive person, especially where my personal space is concerned, it’s been years since I was too shy or intimidated to make my own preferences known in terms of how I’m treated, and I’ve been training in kung fu since 1998.

    Despite this, I’ve been sexually assaulted twice and harassed more times than I can count, usually when going about my daily business.

    My point being, there are no guarantees. I think O’Frizz would agree, but for the life of me I can’t figure out how what she says is supposed to add to the discussion. Treat others as you want to be treated, fine, I agree with that, but if that worked always then we wouldn’t be having this conversation. The issue for me is that she’s talking as though anyone female (or who simply presents as such) over the age of about, oh, let’s say 10 isn’t already aware that we need to protect ourselves; to engage, as Greg put it, in defense behaviors.

    But I honestly can’t figure out what that point is doing in this discussion. Genevieve Valentine DID engage in defense behaviors, up to and including reporting the harassment, and the reason so many of us are so pissed is that the ReaderCon board didn’t follow its own policy. (There is a discussion to be had indeed about whether a ZT policy is the best response, but I think we can all agree that the time to have that conversation is NOT in the middle of deciding what to do about an accusation of offense.)

  128. @chaosprime: no, not you at all. I was referring to anyone tempted to say “but women should…”. Because, really, “do you think women are not policed enough” is my entire response to that suggestion.

  129. @vian: My only issue with your statement is that if the victim doesn’t say something (ANYTHING!) then, as someone who is more than willing to intercede, I may not register that there’s a problem.

    There are covert ways of doing this, too. Send a text, perhaps, or a prearranged hand signal. Point is, I think everyone should have a plan that works for them. If someone is in the shy-and-quiet category, then find out which of your friends is attending the con and maybe set up some kind of rescue plan. Worst case, if attending solo, find out if the convention handlers have a plan.

    Point is: the victims cannot keep silent forever, and the sooner they say something, the faster the situation can be handled. Since harassment definitely constitutes what makes the victim feel uncomfortable, the community needs a way to determine when someone is feeling uncomfortable.

  130. @vian: SO MUCH FRAKING THIS I WANT TO EXPLODE. Let me transpose this into a slightly different context. Do I feel pretty confident calling out homophobic smack talk both IRL and on-line? Hell yes, but it was a very different story not so long ago when I was a very closeted teenager in the toxically macho and profoundly homophobic environment of an all-male boarding school. Jesus, I was already bullied enough for being bookish with no-interest-in-sports. Effectively outing myself in an already physically and psychologically dangerous environment would have been nuts.

    Even now, I don’t see why it’s always my job to call out and shut down homophobes just because I’m the stroppy queer in the room. It’s kind of nice when straight allies pick up the slack, or homophobes decide not to model their new arse-hat in a space that’s (yes!) genuinely zero-tolerant towards GLBT-phobic foofy tosh.

  131. I have spent time at conventions the last several years doing almost nothing but protecting the younger people in my group from unwanted harassment–especially on the days they want to wear the costumes they’ve been working on all year–so often I’m seriously thinking of just hiring myself out as a ronin bouncer. Not that I haven’t been the victim a few times myself, back in the day when I was younger and thinner, but now nothing puts the brakes on a douche-canoe faster than some 250 lb bald woman in a black t-shirt telling him loudly to back the hell off.

    The thing is I shouldn’t have to be doing this. I should be able to go to a convention and actually attend, see things, talk to people–not have to be my own one-woman freelance police department because I can’t trust the con to do the job for me. It’s been this way for years.

    Readercon does not surprise me in the least. More’s the pity. It may just become synonymous with other great moments of harassment like Penn State and Tailhook.

  132. I agree, the guy should be banned for life.

    Being a socially-unaware sperglord is no excuse for not being able to take a hint (or an overt “leave me alone” in this case!)

  133. My only issue with your statement is that if the victim doesn’t say something (ANYTHING!) then, as someone who is more than willing to intercede, I may not register that there’s a problem.

    That is indeed a problem. But I was talking about signalling a predator, not an ally, as was OFT.

    The sad fact is, a lot of women do go to cons (and restaurants, and work, and so on) with strategies for calling for help. And there’s a place for teaching the young and the shy how to get help when they need it, alas. I don’t know how to do that in a general way; perhaps a short announcement at the opening ceremony reaffirming the harrassment policy and telling attendees what to do if someone makes them uncomfortable? It’s a buzzkill, but not everyone reads the programmes.

  134. @vian: My mistake. Apologies!

    I like the notion of a reiteration of the harassment policy at the start of an event.

  135. Arlnee — At a couple of cons I do, there’s been some discussion among the artist-dealers and the security staff that we’d like to set up a system where we can text a number and have someone come to the table and tactfully clear out a weirdo. Not even necessarily a threatening weirdo, mind you, although some people do have to cope with those, but just an exhausting, whining, let-me-tell-you-about-my-character one who is not responding to hints that the artist is not going to suddenly hand you free stuff, induct you into the Super Sekrit Art Society, or convert to your political position. We would pay MONEY for this service, almost universally. If I can hand someone twenty bucks up front so that I never have to listen to anyone’s great fanfic idea for a hour again, I would write the check so fast that my pen would throw sparks.

    So, err, it’s not really germane to the discussion at hand, but if you wanted to hire out as a ronin, there is so totally a niche for that in the dealer’s room.

  136. O’Frizz Thirty – Generally, women don’t need to ask themselves whether or not their attentions are unwelcome because men can easily assert their boundaries with societal approval and be considered all the more masculine for it. Women are not granted those advantages when the situation is reversed–indeed, when they do assert their boundaries, they are chided for being ‘unfeminine.’

    Or worse. (Warning–link is Very Not Nice and potentially triggering.)

    In short, a man can say “no” and be taken seriously with far less effort than a women typically has to make in the same situation. Does this adequately explain why your helpful suggestions aren’t as helpful as you think they are?

  137. There was a similar harassing male at WFC San Diego, and it took more work than it should have to eject the man from the con. Far too much. Far too much on the part of the harassed and those that decided to act to remove the creature.

    It is difficult, when using all-volunteer groups, to get everyone on the same page about pulling the trigger on banning individuals. Most volunteers want everyone to have a good time and behave, and when called on to enforce penalties, they naturally shy from it. Juries in criminal cases also shy away from the harshest sentences as a natural outgrowth of empathy with the person (however criminal) they are called to pass judgement on.

    I am not excusing the sentence, which I see as inappropriately light, but rather positing possible reasons to explain the behavior of the board that rendered that light sentence.

  138. Oh, for goodness’s sake. O’Frizz, I closed one of my posts with a reference to your “sorry I misspelled your name” bit not out of some sadistic glee in landing a low blow, but because I have a low tolerance for dishonesty.

    If you had simply misspelled my name and then said nothing at all about it, I would have said nothing at all about it too. I mean, you’re not printing my checks or publishing my words; why should I care whether you mangle my admittedly complicated moniker?

    But you called attention to it in order to excuse it with the nonsense of “Sorry I misspelled your name but I couldn’t remember.” It’s not a matter of memory when everyone’s names are right here on the page to be copy and pasted! It’s like the class clown who says “I’m sorry, I know that was rude, but I just had to!” Nobody who employs that excuse just “has” to; they’ve got the option of not. That whole category of “sorry but tee-hee!” disingenuousness gets right up my nose, and you handing me a ripe specimen of it, and it stank.

    By all means, choose not to expend energy on such minutiae. Choose not to bother with referencing the name on the page. Choose to consider the scrollbar hard, hard work. But have the honesty to own that choice.

    All in all, it strikes me as a great shame that you’re so exceedingly sensitive about this point, but quite cavalier about asserting that victims of sexual harassment have a responsibility to “watch how we act” so as not to encourage harassment.

    And as for this bit:

    I honestly feel like I’m being misinterpreted and it was obvious I was being attacked for my religious background. I am truly sorry that by simply stating my reiligious affiliation it has distracted from a very important issue.

    When you write this, I have to doubt either your reading comprehension or, again, your honesty. Because you didn’t “simply” state your religion; you cited your religion as supporting evidence that your opinion (on how much public touch is OK, on how to react to unwanted touch, on when to forgive) should be privileged above others’ opinions.

  139. Ann Leckie says:

    Waaaaay back at the beginning of comments someone wished they had the link to some research about the whole “but you have to be clear, men don’t understand those subtle signals!” thing.

    http://yesmeansyesblog.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/mythcommunication-its-not-that-they-dont-understand-they-just-dont-like-the-answer/

    I live to serve.

    You have served well and admirably. Where would you like your internets delivered?

    (Bookmarks and Scrapbooks link immediately. Exuent all, singing IO EVOHE and similar psalms of adulation)

  140. As a survivor of emotional abuse, the ReaderCon decision dismays me greatly. No, that’s not strong enough.

    It *angers* me that they gave an abuser a slap on the wrist when the policy says otherwise. I’ve seen first hand the games abusers play, and looking like they’re sorry is at the top of the list.

    There is no way I’d attend that convention at this point, either presenting in my “convenience mode”, or in my transgender “comfort mode”. What’s the worst part? This is the first time I’ve heard of ReaderCon, and the first impression is of a bunch of *ahem for my upcoming foul language* fucking abuse enablers. That’s not going to get erased.

  141. @Sheila O’Shea that link is awesome. I especially like this comment from the author:

    There’s a flowchart … about responding to racism. Each branch on the flowchart tree starts with “Are you safe?” The basic idea of the flowchart is to help people drop this assumption of “must always respond because it’s the right thing to do.” If you are not safe, you do not respond, because your safety is primary. … So I don’t engage when I feel that kind of interaction coming on, while refusing to explain my non-engagement, because my purpose of existence is not to bring education and enlightenment to all who demand it of me right now.

    The post reminds me (and not in a good way) that for many being being children was not fun because they were treated like children. It’s completely normal to override children’s autonomy and feelings, then tell them that they are wrong about those things and they actually enjoy the abuse. “bad touch” your evil alien twin is “kiss Aunty Nora”.

  142. @Michael Kirkland: as you can see from the links in the original post, the issue was that Readercon completely overrode its stated and publicized policy, did so without providing any rationale, and when pressed, claimed the reason was that the offender showed contrition. Additionally, another person who stated she was harassed by Mr. Walling sent a statement to the Board about her experience. There is a strong suspicion among many that the reason for Mr. Walling’s treatment was his status in the fan community, particularly as the last time the Readercon policy was actually used (in 2008) it was applied as written. There is also no evidence whatsoever that Mr. Walling is “socially awkward” or has an ASD: on the contrary, friends of his have posted that their experience is that he’s a very nice person, is neurotypical to all appearances, and is apparently functional to have co-chaired a WorldCon and to be on the bid committees for others.

    Keep in mind, also, that it’s not as though this was a secret policy only revealed in the breach. This policy has been in place since 2008 and is in the con handbook, as I understand it. Anyone committing harassment is aware “if you are caught doing this, then you don’t get to come back, ever.” It seems odd to me that if somebody decides he’s willing to risk expulsion in order to grope somebody attractive, that we should feel sorry if, in fact, he ends up losing that bet.

    @chaosprime: You’ve brought up ‘public relations’ a number of times, in a way that suggests you think zero-tolerance policies – I’d call them logical consequences policies, but okay – are cynical window-dressing. If you’re going to be cynical, they’re not about PR; they’re about liability. That’s why many institutions (like schools) use them. You don’t have to worry that anyone will complain Person A got treated more leniently than Person B or that Person A was treated too harshly. (And there will be complaints, ranging from well-founded to ‘I just like to argue’.) You eliminate the possibility that Person A is going to get away with egregious behavior because he’s a friend of half the Board, or because the person he harassed is not well-liked, or because Person A is a big-name writer/fan and everyone’s afraid of pissing him off. Keep in mind that the policy was implemented at Readercon because of an unrepentant serial harasser who threatened legal action.

    And yes, it is true that one of the drawbacks of a rigid policy is going to be that some people won’t report – or a concom will gloss over a complaint – because they feel a permaban is too harsh. It’s also true that one of the drawbacks of a flexible policy is that it can be unfairly applied and may result in making things worse for the reporter. After all, what’s the point in reporting harassment if the person I report learns that he can do whatever he wants, because all he’s going to get is a slap on the wrist? It’s not quite as easy as “well, some people won’t report if we permaban.”

  143. first, John, thanks for a wonderfully succinct summary of the issue as well as a clear unequivocal personal response.

    second, one thing that has been glossed over in the discussion is that roughly the second half of the series of harrassment incidents at Readercon was the harrasser continuing to hover around the harrassee with the apparent goal of “apologizing”, after being told unequivocally that she did not want to talk with him at all. that is still harrassment. even in the best light where he genuinely realizes he was acting badly and feels horrible, he is STILL putting his need to feel better/make it better over her clearly stated need for him to go the eff away. And given the history, i doubt it was even that, but simply another level of the same behavior, knowingly imposing himself on her despite her clear indications of not wanting to interact at all. the hovering “trying to apologize” is a great tactic to get others on his side. he’s sorry, why are you being such a bitca? i can see well meaning folks like our fiercely bold Christian commenter upthread urging a victim of his harrassment, with well meaning clueless sincerity, to just hear him out, educate him, help him see the error of his ways…and he gets what he wants, which is someone pressured into interacting with him whaen all she wants is out. Bleah. Genevieve is very clear and aware of whats going on but many arent, and a harrasser takes advantage of any perceived ambiguity to keep pressing against and through boundaries. The contrition is not sincere, its just an change in tactics. and the thing that makes me most mad about the Readercon board decision is that they appear to have taken this alleged contrition into account in moderating the punishment.

    Third, zero tolerance doesnt have to equal life ban…that could be revisited. but if that isvthe stated policy at the time of the incident, that is what needs to happen. i think a zero tolerance policy in Readercon or another con’s case is a good thing, and the punishment should be at least immediate, no refund ejection from the con at that time and some term of ban (2 years, 5 years etc) after which the person can apply for readmission. The opinion of the harrassment victim should count in the decision, and any stay away conditions made clear and enforced. anything happens a second time, life ban, the end. But that is for a future board or committee to decide. Readercon failed everyone, including the “brand” of their own con, by not enforcing the policy as written.

  144. OT but, @Sheila O’Shea, thank for that link. I really miss Harriet J. She and Sady Doyle helped me more than they will ever know.

    And, for emphasis,
    “Women who are taught not to speak up too loudly or too forcefully or too adamantly or too demandingly are not going to shout “NO” at the top of their goddamn lungs just because some guy is getting uncomfortably close.”

  145. Thanks mythago :)

    I think we can all agree that a stated policy shouldn’t be overturned for someone who happens to have a bit of social capital to throw around even if we think that policy has too steep an escalation curve and should be rethought.

  146. also, for the record, while an anti harrassment policy leaving room for a wide range of actions might be the way to go in a multifaceted organization like SFWA, in terms of trying to make a con a safe space, or FEEL safe to those concerned about harrassment, it is pretty useless. Even if the mandated consequence of violating a zero tolerance policy was less harsh than a lifetime ban, a con’s policy needs to be unequivocal and crystal clear, and at a minimum specify immediate ejection from the current con. after all, the official con book and booklet for DragonCon has to spell out that attendees need to eat, sleep, bathe and change clothes at least once every 24 hours, and people failing to do that may be made to leave. that statement could only have been added because at some point there has been a need to spell out rules of basic physical maintenance because too many people were failing there. if that is the case, you obviously are dealing with a demographic where a percentage of the members doesnt do nuance. A zero tolerance policy on harrassment would be a minimum of what is required to make the con a safer space, methinks.

  147. @Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little– I actually pulled that page up several times in the last couple of days in various stages of fury at the whole “but…socially awkward!” thing. So when I saw the “if I only knew where to find that link…” comment, I said to myself, “Self, you know exactly where that is!”

    Glad to help!

  148. Women: For an sf convention with a low probability of sexual harassment from men, think about Gaylaxicon. As for same-sex harassment: I know and trust two members of this year’s Gaylaxicon concom, one of them the chair. I would expect to be safe there. (Of course, being in my late 60s, I’m not likely to attract anyone interested in young people.)

    I don’t feel good about making this suggestion; I would rather all cons were safe for women.

  149. Moz Again,

    Oh, I agree. It’s just that that isn’t how “zero tolerance” is usually applied or works, and so that isn’t how most people will read it, so that should be kept in mind when communicating policies.

    Colleen,

    The only reason I’m not so sure about any incident equaling immediate ejection is because I do think that there is a range of behaviors that are not harassment in and of themselves, but that, as a pattern, mean something else altogether. I don’t think these are the kinds of behaviors that get reported pretty much ever for that reason, because an individual isn’t going to be certain what it is. Encouraging people to report so that other people can more easily see these patterns is a good goal, imho, but it’s not one that really fits easily into what you have described.

    I don’t want to encourage participants to be all Big Brother on each other or something, it’s just that I can see larger cons especially finding it useful to keep track of “questionable” incidents in order to see if patterns are emerging.

    Also, what I said before about not allowing for other options in your policy discouraging people who are torn between protecting themselves and protecting their “friends.” Even if ejection ends up being the best course of action in every instance, you still want to say that other options are out there so as to not scare off a significant percentage of victims.

  150. First of all, since we are talking about obliviousness and not knowing: Could ReaderCon just not have realized how poorly worded their policy was? Second of all: The fact that the harrasser was not immediately ejected from the con means that security or somebody failed in a serious way! Third of all, I have been going to cons my whole life (admittedly generally with Father in tow), and although I have occasionally experienced inappropriate contact, I have never even witnessed this quantity of safety FAIL.

  151. @ Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little: If you ever find that study, I’d love to know what it was. Sounds like something that deserves widespread attention… plenty of us have noticed that males seem to have no problems sorting out delicate social nuances when they’re assigning a group of people to tasks, or pitching a product to customers, or managing a team of kids playing soccer–but apparently, they lose that capacity when faced with a post-pubescent human female in a social setting.

    The whole ”maybe he just didn’t notice she was frowning, flinching, and edging away” myth has got to stop, and then we can tackle the ”maybe he didn’t notice she NEVER SMILED and never said anything remotely encouraging, and no, ’failed to run away screaming’ is not an invitation to get closer.”

  152. SORRY! Some males. Not all, by a long shot. Just enough to make crowds of strangers a nightmare of uncertainty for a lot of women.

  153. O’Frizz: “Being a Christian I feel even more sensitive towards what some would consider normal physical contact.”

    Stevie: “That really isn’t helpful in this conversation; oddly enough it’s perfectly possible for people who aren’t Christians to be sensitive towards being groped.”

    Oh good grief.

    Was this not the same blog that had commenters making fun of christian-based father-daughter virginity pledge/purity pledge?

    I had to do a quick search because maybe that was somewhere else.

    Nope. It wasn’t.

    http://whatever.scalzi.com/?s=purity+pledge

    I personally don’t agree with the whole “Purity Ball” idea. I think its a horribly bad idea, actually. But it’s a distinctly Christian thing in America.

    I don’t even particularly agree with O’Frizz, but it’s abundantly clear that people are purposefully misinterpreting what she said and the intent behind what she said because they don’t like anything even remotely resembling what she said being put into the conversation.

    She’s said multiple times that a woman’s behavior does not mean she is to blame for being harrassed or attacked. But some folks apparently, cannot bear anything resembling this being brought into the discussion without making sure it’s soundly drummed out. She didn’t say it, but folks want to attack her for their interpretations and their baggage that was triggered by what her words reminded them of, regardless of whether her words actually said what they were reminded of.

    Jeebus, people.

    And now folks are twisting her words around about being Christian???

    For a Christian to come out and acknowledge that, hey, maybe they have some phobias or issues or baggage around being touched, around sex, around intimacy, that might be directly tied to the fact that they’re Christian? That’s a good thing in my book. It wasn’t presented in a “I’m Christian, I’m better than you” way. It wasn’t presented in a “I’m Christian and therefore I’m right” way. It was presented in a “Because of my Christian upbringing, I realize I’m more sensitive to touch than I might be without that upbringing.”

    God forbid a Christian come out and confess they might be overly sensitive to some particular issue. Better they present their viewpoint as the high and mighty truth, I suppose.

    For fuck’s sake, people.

    If I was in a conversation with a Christian about homosexuality, and they confessed “Being christian, I realize my upbringing has given me a slanted view on homosexuality that might not be normal, and might not even be moral.”, I’d fucking keel over with shock. Frizzy didn’t go to that level, but she was at least acknowledging to some extent that her sensitivity to touch might be, in part, due to her upbringing, and might not be what would be considered “normal”.

    You know what? If you walk down a dark alley at night? You might get mugged. Maybe you want to avoid dark alleys in the really crappy parts of the city where graffitti is rampant and the storefronts are covered by armored doors that roll down at night. If you go around touching men you don’t know, one of them might be a creeper and latch onto you.

    If you go down a dark alley and get mugged, that doesn’t mean you deserved it. It’s just a defensive measure to potentially avoid it. If you touch some guy at a convention and he turns out to be a creeper and harrasses you the rest of the week, that doesn’t mean you deserve it. It’s a defensive measure that might help you avoid it.

    Maybe it’s not the best advice to give. Maybe the woman happens to live down that dark alley and can’t really do anything about that. But the folks ripping Frizzy apart aren’t ripping apart the advice she gave. They’re ripping apart their reinterpretation of the advice she gave, which somehow morphs into “if you touch a man and he harasses you, then you deserve it.” That’s a stupid bit of advice, but that’s not what she said. Criticizing her for something she didn’t say is an approach called a Strawman. Several people are doing it here.

    It’s a defensive/tactical bit of advice, like “learn martial arts” or “get a gun”. And knowing a bit about force, I’m not entirely sure that defensive/tactical advice is the best solution. I’d rather see the culture shift to not tolerate harassers than to see women have to carry guns. But I’m not going to prevent a woman from carrying a gun or learning martial arts either.

    And then people are reinterpreting what she said about being Christian, and attacking her for that. I mean, come on. What she said can be taken to confessing that her faith might make her more conservative around physical contact than others. You know, like purity balls. And for someone to confess their own limitation like that ought to be acknowledged as a good thing, not turned around and twisted into something it isn’t like “I’m better than you because I’m Christian”. That’s just another Strawman.

    Good grief.

  154. O’Frizz Thirty, I have to say that Vicki Rosenzweig has the right of it. My point was that if we need to allow for awkwardness of men who just can’t read the signals that mean no, we also need to allow for the awkwardness of women who just can’t say no clearly. And I’m a lot more concerned about the latter group–and how to protect them from being harassed–than I am about the former group.

    It is a pity that some people don’t realize that they’re harassing people when they are. However, the onus is not on the people they’re upsetting to gently instruct them in the ways of basic polite adult behavior. If I punch someone in the face by accident, it is not the responsibility of the person I punched to carefully, politely explain how I should move my hands in the future to avoid doing the same.

    Greg, as a Christian, I would like to say that I read O’Frizz’s statement the EXACT SAME WAY as all these people you’re accusing of misinterpreting her. I was in, fact, offended to see it implied that as a Christian she and I would be offended by unwanted sexual contact more than other people would be. If she didn’t mean it that way, I will accept that she stated it poorly. But it was still stated poorly enough that multiple people quite easily misread it.

    I can totally see how she would misread my questions about what men should do to compensate for socially awkward women. It’s pretty damn easy to misread things in conversations as fraught as this. But I think it’s unfair and unreasonable of you to claim that multiple people reading the same implications in her phrasing means some sort of group malicious intent. It’s a damn sight more likely that she just worded things poorly. People do that sometimes.

  155. martin:
    Ideally, a beautiful naked person should be able to walk, unharassed, around a con with a clear duffel bag full of unmarked twenties in one hand and an original Star Wars prop Lightsabre in the other.

    Until this is true, we have much self improvement to do.

    Really? Really?

    A woman’s body is not an object or a possession.

    Please to instructing how a woman can attend a convention and leave her body at home. (And no, Skype etc don’t count.)

  156. Good grief indeed. But Internet comment logs, even Scalzi’s, aren’t exactly the best place for nuanced discussions of power and privilege.

  157. @Miche: can you please explain that, I’m struggling to link your response to the text you quoted. Do you agree or disagree with martin, as your text and tone seem to contradict each other. At least to my eye.

  158. It seems I have failed, completely, to make my point. Yes, I was being snarky, but from the opposite direction from which I have been interpreted by cranapia/Miche. Try reading the last sentence straight without assuming irony. The snark was meant to be snark about the human condition ~ “This extreme situation should be safe amongst moral humanity, yet we see it as an impossible dream, so we have much striving to do.” In that I apparently communicated something very different from that, my apologies.

    … F*ck. Now it looks like irony to me too.

    I probably shouldn’t have tried for the obscure allusion.

  159. I’ve been sitting her the last half hour trying to figure out what that opening clause “Being a Christian…” had to do with the rest of the sentence.

    I grew up in the US, come from a family of nominal Christians, even attended a parochial elementary school for a few years. I consider myself fairly conversant in the basic tenants of Christianity. Never have I heard it said “Christians don’t like to be touched.”

    Maybe its a sectarian thing? But O’Frizz didn’t self identify a particular sect (i.e. “As a Catholic…”, “As a Baptist…”, “As a Premillennial Dispensationalist…”, etc.) so I’m left feeling that that sentence was just profoundly weird.

    However, the structure of the statement suggests that O’Fizz intended “Being a Christian…” as justification for “…I feel even more sensitive towards what some would consider normal physical contact.” So, I don’t see it as unfair to call that assertion into question.

    Also, hardly anyone brought it up. It was fully 5 hours between the original comment and Stevie pointing it out. And Stevie was the only person to do so before the Flounce. (Fun Fact: of the now 34 instances of the word Christian on this page, 5 are in this post, 5 more can be attributed to Stevie, 3 to O’Frizz, and 15 appear in Greg’s post at 11:37pm). So, as far as I can see, for most of this conversation O’Frizz is the only person who thought religion was relevant to the conversation. But, boy howdy, did O’Frizz blow a gasket at the first mention it might not be so.

  160. Moz: I completely, utterly disagree with him. I’ve heard that species of bullshit from so many people now that I have zero tolerance for that argument.

  161. @Doc RocketScience: I read the original as a derail. It seems to have succeeded. It really doesn’t matter what someone says after “I’m special and …”, it’s going to have much the same effect as “I’m not an asshat but …”. Especially with an identity as fluid as “christian”, where you have people like Ratzinger and Santorum claiming the same label as Bono.

  162. Miche, the argument that people should be able to walk around safely? My reading matched what Martin said his intent was, because it reads perfectly fine (to me) that way. I still don’t really get the ironic reading. It seems to be so blindingly obvious to you that it’s not worth even hinting at the meaning, but I’m just sitting here not understanding the irony at all. Is it “ironically, we don’t want people to be safe” or “ironically, people can’t possible be safe” or something else?

  163. People believe that their religion teaches any number of strange things. This would be an extreme form of the “men and women don’t do x together” where x may be sing in a choir, sit in a pew, hold hands in the church building, … all of which I’ve heard in this or that Christian preaching (not in Christ’s words, however.)

    Zero-tolerance is really about not trusting those set up to enforce the rules.

  164. Except it’s not, “if you walk down a dark alley at night…”

    It’s, “if you attend a convention of science-fiction fans in a well-lit, fully-populated hotel with a security staff…”

    …you don’t *deserve* bad consequences, but really, what were you expecting? It’s not your fault, but you should have taken more precautions. Oh, no, I don’t *blame* you, BUT YOU SHOULD HAVE TAKEN ALL THE PRECAUTIONS WHAT WERE YOU THINKING.

    And the folk who respond to the suggestion that the guy doing the harassing could maybe, I dunno, MODIFY HIS OWN BEHAVIOR TO ACCORD WITH THE PUBLISHED POLICY OF THE CONVENTION by ignoring, brusing aside, maybe give a sentence or two of lip service before you’re back to talking about how the woman in question has failed to modify *her* behavior so as to pass unscathed through the perpetually moving goalposts? I don’t believe you when you say you don’t blame her. If you actually thought it wasn’t her fault and she didn’t deserve it, you would stop talking about her failures and and start talking about *his.*

  165. This reminds me of the youtube videos of a dude at Comicon this year, he had a camera and probably a small crew following him around, which he took as a license to hunt down and harass the female cosplayers, boldly mentioning the ladies t*ts and a*ses while talking to them. Some played along but I still felt like I needed to wash after seeing this jackass in action. A website paid for by advertisers, or one part of a corporate entity, or even a good set of credentials in the field shouldn’t inoculate one from getting a life time ban for such behavior. Most importantly if things seem to be getting out of control your first call should be to the police not the organizers of the event.

  166. Moz: I read it as sarcasm, and since I have seen people use the “well if you don’t want people to steal your wallet just leave it at home” argument in relation to assault and harassment against women, I said something. I absolutely agree that anyone should be able to walk around safely no matter where, no matter what, but that is not how I read the comment. martin has since clarified and as far as I’m concerned, all is well between us.

  167. I’m seriously over the “women must be bold and fierce” approach to harassment. The shyest, most timid, gentlest woman is just as entitled not to be harassed as the most gladiatorial woman. And it’s not okay to tell women that they have to change who they are to be safe. If we are only able to protect bold and fierce women, then no woman is safe.

    I’ve seen this sort of formulation before, and the people who sling it around often view it as being about empowerment, about encouraging women to be bold and fierce. But the fact is that not all people are (or can be) bold and fierce. And of those who could be, not all want to be. It should not matter, but the “women must be bold and fierce” formulation says that there is something wrong with women who aren’t empowered in that particular way, and this is simply not true.

    It’s not empowering women to tell us that we can’t be safe unless we change who we are. (And it’s a false promise, because GV is bold, fierce, and the victim of harassment.) We empower women when we empower women, as they are and whoever they happen to be.

    No one deserves to be harassed, but when you talk about how women should be bold and fierce, it reads as an assertion that if only the victims were bold and fierce, harassment would not happen. This is false.

    You know what would keep harassment from happening? If men didn’t do it anymore.

  168. I agree with Sorcharei (and others). This idea that women just need to be empowered or stronger or more forceful for harassment to stop is absolutely wrong, inane, and just plain blind to reality. Harassers need to stop harassing. Abusers need to stop abusing. Period. The End.

    Except that’s not actually the end. Men (mostly) who wouldn’t consider themselves to be harassers need to be aware of themselves and situations that could cause harm to women (mostly; and often it’s not physical harm). And we need to recognize when other men are exhibiting awful behavior and tell them to stop.

    Here are a couple of essays on this topic:
    First, a report by the BBC on an ad campaign in Wales that addresses this issue.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10198459

    Second, a two-part essay all rolled into one post:

    http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2012/07/31/guys-crossing-the-street-rabid-dogs-and-elevators/

    Third, the infamous (in certain parts) Schrödinger’s Rapist essay by Phaedra Starling, in which she explains why mens’ unwanted and unintentional advances are absolutely unacceptable.

    http://kateharding.net/2009/10/08/guest-blogger-starling-schrodinger%E2%80%99s-rapist-or-a-guy%E2%80%99s-guide-to-approaching-strange-women-without-being-maced/

    This topic (and its somewhat predictable comment path) is intricately related to the “SWM: Lowest Difficulty Setting” analogy that John posted in May. The people who don’t get why the 2-year banishment is insulting to this creature’s victims are the same kind of people who don’t get why, in the US, life starts off easier if one is born a SWM than if one is born any other way. This is another example of how the difficulty setting of life is set at 11 for some people and 1 for others.

  169. @martin:

    Thanks not only for the clarification, but not being a totally defensive “gee, what’s your problem you hysterical humourless…” dick about it. When this topic comes up, it can sometimes get hard to tell the difference between snarking crappy attitudes and the real deal. I’ve certainly had a few “OMFG, I’m totally mortified you took my snark at face value” moments myself. Thanks again.

  170. Sigh.

    I’m fully aware that Readercon was held in Massachussetts, U.S.A. and that any foreigner
    there should adapt his behaviour to local customs (just as any American abroad should
    also try to, obviously). René was wrong. He apologized.

    Still this whole debate sounds a lot like “the customs of the American tribe are laws
    of Nature, and any foreigners not fully sharing its prejudice are unwelcome barbarians.”
    Including in supposedly “international” SF events, apparently.

  171. @Mely: “Blaming someone for not reporting harassment — when targets have many good reasons to fear the results of that report — is concern trolling.

    Hence my question. If I understood her correctly, she was stating that she was more than able to say No to the person harassing her, but she specifically avoided discussing the policy until the third time because she was concerned that the policy…but I didn’t quite follow why. What are the results that are feared? False accusation? Reprisal? The tone of her message didn’t seem to indicate that, so I wanted clarification. I can see your point and it certainly wasn’t my intention to claim that she had a duty to report him; I merely meant to point out that others who were more intimidated by this guy would have benefited from her not being so.

  172. I know this is a tangent so I really don’t want answers here but reading this and following the threads on the problems with the skeptic community. I am stunned, saddened and more than a little angry that harassment is such a big problem with these two groups. I have never been to a con for either group but I have been in many large event social gatherings and the number of incidents I have seen or heard about don’t even come close the the sorts of volume that the commenters here make clear happen routinely at these con events. Why is that? I don’t believe it is because I am clueless because I have seen harassment and seen it dealt with in other venues. But I suppose it could be me. But, and I’d like to assume its not just me, if it is not me then these events occur much more frequently at SF/comic cons and skeptic gatherings than any event I have been to – why is that? What is so unusual about the attendees that would make this the case?

    Just food for thought, as I said its tangential but at some point I would like to discuss this with a group that might provide insight

  173. @Eric Picholle

    As a non-American, I’m highly offended that you would think that the behaviour described here would not be considered harassment outside the United States.

  174. To get somewhere near the topic of enforcing rules…

    I recently took a job with local government (at one remove, in the form of the University owned by the LG): I have been, for some time, a member of several fora about home education in the UK.

    (stick with this: relevance happens soon)

    Some of these groups have a standing rule that no-one who is employed by a local government organisation can be a member. THERE ARE INCREDIBLY GOOD REASONS FOR THIS, centred around abuses of trust 2-3 years ago.

    So I publicly posted that I now had this job, and would thus be regretfully leaving, etc.

    Some groups responded with, and I paraphrase, “But, we didn’t mean you! We’ve known you for years!”

    Now, that got my goat. Either it’s a good rule, and needs enforcing, or it’s a bad rule and needs removing. Making me an exception weakens the group, as newcomers are essentially told that if you contribute enough, the rules don’t apply to you any more. Boasts of being a safe place ring hollow.

    Generally, I am against inflexible rules making, but if the alternative is arbitrary application of both power and protection post facto, that helps no-one, not the organisation, not the people in fear of harassment and not, and here’s a secret, offenders. Especially potential offenders, especially those with a tin ear for subtle social cues. Because what they really need is to know before hand that, no matter who you are, you really, really can’t get away with this shit.

    There’s been a fair bit of discussion on this thread that certain types of people (mostly male) should be communicated to as clearly as possible by potential harassee’s (mostly female) before harassment occurs. To my mind “You *will* be permabanned if you are deemed to have harassed someone. *You* do not get to define ‘harassment’. No free passes, no gimmes”, coming from the hosting organisation, is about as clear as possible and doesn’t put the onus on the victim of harassment to “be clear” first.

  175. @Eric

    So, it’s okay to harass someone in Boston, as long as you apologize later, because that’s the local custom?

    How about groping? Flashing? Verbal abuse? Adulteration of drinks with psychoactive compounds

    As a foreigner, I need to understand your quaint local customs.

    /snark off.

    Really, “it’s our culture” is becoming a regular defence for dick behaviour. Change the fucking culture. That culture sucks a bag of dicks.

  176. @Eric Picholle – ”Still this whole debate sounds a lot like “the customs of the American tribe are laws of Nature, and any foreigners not fully sharing its prejudice are unwelcome barbarians.” Including in supposedly “international” SF events, apparently.”

    He’s from Canada. Treating women with respect isn’t some strange and puzzling ”local custom” of Boston or Readercon – we don’t tolerate sexual harassment north of the border either. (And I’d like to know from what ‘foreign’ nation we’re supposed to tolerate men who follow women around and grab them despite being told repeatedly to go away.)

    Not to mention Walling is active in fandom, as a google search on his name or even reading of the comments above would tell you. He attends a lot of cons. He’s hardly in ignorance of the rules even if they were obscure, which they’re not.

    Please don’t try to portray him as some kind of bumbling first-timer who accidentally stepped across a line without realizing the social norms. That is blatantly untrue.

  177. @Eric Picholle

    It sounds like the issue here is more the stated policy was not followed (lifelong ban) for a more famous person. The fact that the harraser feels remorse is good. However, an apology does not make a con safe or excuse violent behaviors. And yes this was violence, it just wasn’t physical violence.

    To everbody: I know i’m restating a point others have made but a woman should not be blamed for harrasment/abuse (unless she was the abuser which DOES happen). To illustrate the point: My friend was making out with a guy she liked and thought she knew well when he suddenly became forceful and violent. She said stop, he didn’t. Had not roommates/friends interfered what followed would have been rape. Was she being intimate with the guy? yes. was she at fault, NO!!!!

  178. @ Bess, Peterdardby & Ceri : Come on. We’re on the Whatever. Please don’t infer anything from what I have not said – and certainly do not get offended by you own inferences.

    @ Peterdarby : Really, “it’s our culture” is becoming a regular defence for dick behaviour.
    I thought I made it clear that I was not justifying in any way René’s “dick behaviour”, if you want to qualify it so.
    What I was, quite explicitly, commenting was the ensuing debate. And in my humble opinion, there was also a quantity of “dicky” bullying there, or at least verbal violence, too.
    And to be clear : neither one is an excuse for the other (except maybe for Mrs Valentine — yet she remained fairly restrained and decent).

    @ Jani : It sounds like the issue here is more the stated policy was not followed (lifelong ban) for a more famous person.
    … who was, additionnaly, a foreigner. A fact which, as I understand it, might well have be taken into account in the final decision.
    I guess that it only proves that “zero tolerance”, which I consider always unpractical when applied to subjective behavioral issues, which are context-dependent by essence, are even more silly in multicultural contexts.

  179. Eric Picholle: ” who was, additionnaly, a foreigner. A fact which, as I understand it, might well have be taken into account in the final decision.”

    Has this been stated by any of the parties who were privy to the decision-making process, or is this an interpretation by an outside observer? I haven’t read all the material in the links John posted yesterday, or all the comments on the ones I did read, but nothing said upthread seems to indicate that the parties involved took his nationality into account. Would you mind pointing me to the information that led to your understanding that it might have been a factor in the decision? Thanks.

  180. Eric Picholle @ 10:27am:

    … who was, additionnaly, a foreigner. A fact which, as I understand it, might well have be taken into account in the final decision.
    I guess that it only proves that “zero tolerance”, which I consider always unpractical when applied to subjective behavioral issues, which are context-dependent by essence, are even more silly in multicultural contexts.

    I really do not think that the difference in culture between Canada and the US is nearly as great as you are making it out to be.

  181. I’m not normally a fan of zero tolerance policies. I believe they generally are too draconian, and exclude any consideration of extenuating circumstances. In this case I think zero tolerance is entirely appropriate. For some guys the only thing that’s going to make them step back, and have a long-dark-night-of-the-soul about how the look-at and treat women is a cold bucketful of water to the face, followed by the bucket to the face.

  182. fadeaccompli : I would like to say that I read O’Frizz’s statement the EXACT SAME WAY as all these people you’re accusing of misinterpreting her.

    argument ad populum. Look it up. Explain what non-subjective measure you’re using to avoid that fallacy. I don’t see any. It might just be that your group of like-minded people all have the same bias.

    Maybe part of the problem is I’m just getting old. I’ve heard every goddamn argument from every political stripe there is. At some point, my experience of people having arguments on the internet or in real life shifted into a bunch of people, all thinking they’re right, correct, and infallible, stating their position about something, attacking anyone with a different opinion. And then nothing changes.

    Do you know how rare it is to have someone come into a discussion and prefix their statement with “I may be biased around this topic because of my association with X”? It’s so rare that the steak is still blue and “moos” when you stick a fork in it.

    I’m shifting more and more to the notion that I’d rather have discussions with people who are my complete political/religious/philosophical opposite but are willing to acknowledge and look at their biases, than to hang around a bunch of poeple who think exactly the same political/religious/philosophical thoughts that I do but who are unwilling to acknowlege that they may be biased and are unwilling to acknowledge that they are not infallible.

    Because if no one is willing to look at their own shit, then every conversation turns into “this is my opinion, I’m right, screw you” and nothing ever changes. But if someone is willing to say “I might be biased about this”, then maybe the conversation could for once get real.

    So, O’Frizz’s post started out with a “I might be bringing my bias to what I’m about to say” pre-qualifier, and then gave out some fairly generic defensive/tactical advice.

    A whole gaggle of people on this thread completely misinterpreted her post into something else entirely different than from what she said. And then they attacked her repeatedly for this thing she did not say.

    And now you want to come back with the “everyone else was doing it” defense? Seriously? Remember that part where I was saying no one is willing to admit they’re fallible? You’re doing it right now. You misinterpreted her, you turned her words into something she did not actually say, and then you attacked her for it. This is called a Strawman. Whether it was intentional on your part or not is fucking irrelevent. You are the one who made the strawman attack. Not her.

    And now you and a bunch of other people unwilling to just come out and admit you made a mistake and (God forbid) apologize or somehow clear things up with her, and instead you want to blame her for your attack. Jesus fucking christ. Seriously? She wasn’t clear enough in her statement (even though her very first post came with a disclaimer saying she didn’t mean exactly the thing you were attacking her for) so it’s OK that you attacked her for something she didn’t say?

    Seriously? In a thread about sexual harrassment, you’re going to defend your strawman attack by blaming the victim? The part where she said, no, “Nothing you do EVER warrants harrassment”, wasn’t clear enough to you? Was she was sending mixed signals with the way she batted her eyes and fluttered her keyboard and so you decided to reinterpret her words into what you decided her words must imply????

    Oh my fucking head.

  183. Eric Picholle said:
    “Still this whole debate sounds a lot like “the customs of the American tribe are laws
    of Nature, and any foreigners not fully sharing its prejudice are unwelcome barbarians.”
    Including in supposedly “international” SF events, apparently.”

    Eric, I plan to attend WorldCon in London in 2014 and may also go to EuroCon in Ireland the weekend after. If objecting to being touched and grabbed from behind and followed around the convention, even after I’ve told the person “Leave me alone, do not speak to me again.” is a custom of the American tribe of fans, and foreigners do not share this prejudice, do you recommend I change my plans? Because I don’t want to go to a con where the custom of the tribe of foreign fans say that’s acceptable behavior.

    What kind of cons do you put on in your country? Why do women in your country put up with that? Hell, why do the men?

  184. @BW Has this been stated by any of the parties who were privy to the decision-making process, or is this an interpretation by an outside observer?
    Nothing but my own, private interpretation, and definitely by an outside observer who haven’t even attended a single ReaderCon (and probably won’t consider it, now)

    @Kayjayoh : No, Eric Picholle, the fact that he is Canadian has absolutely no bearing on the topic. Stop suggesting that it does.
    Which, I guess, takes us back to my initial point : the US tribe’s take on any moral subject as a law of nature.

  185. Eric: What? You aren’t making sense at this point. Are you saying that not harassing women and not showing favoritism by bending the rules for people you like are peculiar?

  186. Kayjayoh:

    “When and how did this become a thread about O’Frizz Thirty?”

    Yes, this.

    Greg, et al: You’ve gone far afield, and from my vantage point mostly because it seems you want to argue just to argue. Let’s drop that particular thread and get back to the actual topic at hand.

  187. Eric: this whole debate sounds a lot like “the customs of the American tribe are laws
    of Nature, and any foreigners not fully sharing its prejudice are unwelcome barbarians.”

    So, when a religious extremists moves to America from some theocratic country, he ought to be able to stone his bride if she isn’t a virgin on their wedding day?

    About the only place the local laws don’t apply to people who are within some national boundary is when those people are inside an embassy.

    How do they do things on the planet you come from?

  188. Ok, I have only attended our local Con here in MN (Yaa Convergence!) But they have a pretty clear policy along with new “safe places”. That is, on almost every main area near a volunteer station were clearly labeled “No Harassment / Safety Zones” where someone could quietly talk to a volunteer and get a tough situation dealt with. Now I know a lot of the people who work operations and I am astonished about the stories that happened that I never saw or heard about. In almost every case like this, the individual was kicked out immediately and the situation was passed up to be reviewed after the Con. As a woman I feel safe there. I also would feel comfortable about asking for help because I don’t know if the jerk bothering me was a serious safety risk or just a drunk accountant gone wild. Having a sanctuary already set up makes it more likely that women will know that their safety needs are valued and that they have a easy place to ask for help.

    MOST WOMEN DON’T WANT TO MAKE A SCENE! Why do women have to be the ones to be responsible for adult communication? In every alcohol related event in my life I have seen women struggling to ignore or politely leave men who are in their space bothering them. I personally have no problems with being upfront and aggressive but I am an extrovert, a firm metal head, and not an abuse survivor. Come on guys, if you wouldn’t act like that with your best friend’s wife, don’t do it in public. I am also a mom of a spectrum son, and he understood “No”, “leave me alone”, and “stop that”, before he was in 1st grade.

    I am looking forward to going to some bigger Cons this year and I hope my positive feelings of finding my tribe continues. I am also really looking forward to seeing a naked person walking around with a bag of cash and mint light saber. I could really use the light saber….

  189. Greg @ 10:59: I don’t buy that refraining from grabbing a person from behind and continuing to follow hir after being told to go away is a quaint American tribal custom. Though Eric seems to be implying such restraint is unknown in his experience. I’d like to know what country he’s from so I can try to avoid cons in that area.

  190. Eric Picholle, thank you for your explanation. So as I understand it, you are simply speculating that his nationality might have been a factor without any evidence that it was. Imagining what might have gone on that led to the decision can be fun, but it’s pure speculation, not much of a basis for a serious argument of your point.

  191. @Eric Picholle: You do realize you just profoundly insulted Mr. Walling? I’m sure I’m only touching on his background when I note that has participated in conventions across the US and Canada for many years, was the fan GoH for Arisia (in Boston), was on the bid committee for WorldCon for both Kansas City and New Zealand, and has been involved in writing and publishing SF (including a column at Tor.com), in both French and English, for years. Yet you would have us assume that he’s some kind of insular provincial who just fell off the turnip truck and hasn’t the faintest clue about our oppressive, Pax Americana, our-way-or-the-highway customs that suggest one doesn’t repeatedly paw and harass women one doesn’t know. After all, he’s a foreigner, and it would just not be diverse and inclusive of us to assume the poor guy knows better!

    (You’ve also backhanded Montrealers, who we are expected to believe have a quaint culture that celebrates groping and stalking and who think, a la Pepe le Pew, that “go away” is adorable flirting.)

    Not only is Mr. Walling a provincial hick, in your eyes, but he’s somewhat dim. After all, while he is a prominent SMOF who has co-chaired conventions, he apparently can’t be expected to be aware of Readercon’s published policy on harassment – in place since 2008 – and to understand that if he violates the strange ways of his American hosts, they wound, in their imperialistic and rigid way, ban him from the convention. I’d like to think Mr. Walling is brighter than that, but apparently you disagree.

    The “cultural defense” is not a new or clever excuse for harassment. Usually it’s just an attempt to try and liberal-guilt people into backing off lest they be thought Ugly Americans. Sometimes it’s almost wistful, too: surely there’s some less uptight, enlightened nation out there where horny men can get their freak on without Big Sister telling them they need some bullshit thing like consent first. Funny that they are rarely in need of actual evidence that X country/state/province actually has a culture where harassment and groping is A-OK; the mere fact that It’s Foreign is enough to make desperate assumptions, and if people who are actually from that place disagree, well, best to just ignore them.

    TL;DR: the “Canadian defense” is nonsense. We all know it’s nonsense. Canadians know it’s nonsense. If you think that groping and harassment ain’t no thang and sure as hell shouldn’t lead to a permaban, then have the brass to say so, instead of hiding behind a maple leaf.

  192. @Eric: Wait, you’re saying the problem isn’t harassment, it’s cultural imperialism? Buh What?

    Try to answer bearing in mind that I’m not from the US. And somehow still think harassment is badwrong.

  193. Is it clear to everyone discussing this here that René Walling ADMITTED he harassed Genevieve Valentine? That the facts are not in dispute, as the Board of the convention put it?

  194. @Christopher Rowe, it’s the cascading pattern of excuse-making.

    Yes, but we don’t know if it really happened.
    Okay, it happened, but maybe it didn’t happen that way.
    Okay, it happened that way, but maybe he doesn’t understand it was wrong.
    Okay, he understands it was wrong, but he apologized…..

  195. @Ultragotha : If objecting to being touched and grabbed from behind and followed around the convention, even after I’ve told the person “Leave me alone, do not speak to me again.” is a custom of the American tribe of fans
    It is, isn’t it ?
    and foreigners do not share this prejudice
    They do, almost everywhere. But of course your question is rhetorical..

    Eric, I plan to attend WorldCon in London in 2014 and may also go to EuroCon in Ireland the weekend after. (…) do you recommend I change my plans?
    Of course not. You’ll probably love it. Both England and Ireland are great places. (and I’ll be pleased to buy you a drink at either Con.)
    Yet you’d miss something if you don’t also visit some real Irish taverns, allowing for the local idiosyncrasies, which may include mild ebriety, loud singing and genial hugging without much warning…

    @Kayajoh : What? You aren’t making sense at this point. Are you saying that not harassing women and not showing favoritism by bending the rules for people you like are peculiar?
    No. I’m saying that your “Shut up ! Cultural differences have absolutely no bearing on a moral topic” (I know, somewhat abusive paraphrase here) can be construed as typically American.

    If not, please explain exactly what is so unique about the “US tribe’s take”.
    I don’t know. Maybe they just haven’t learnt yet that their customs are not absolute and universal. I live in a small harbor of 8000 souls, with over a million tourists passing through annually, from everywhere. When a foreign visitor gets angry because he doesn’t understand the local rules, or somebody comments on his behavior, there’s a 90% chance he’s an American. Visiting military ships are quite welcome, also from everywhere (at one point in history, the place simultaneously hosted American and Russian bases) — but when it’s an American flag, and only then, (US) MP patrols are in order in the village’s streets.

    I have attended a number of conventions, both local, national in several countries and languages, Eurocon, WorldCon, etc.. Every one of them had a distinct national flavour, with the foreign guests blending in — except whenever a significant portion of the attendants where American, thus making it an American event.

    @BW. you are simply speculating that his nationality might have been a factor without any evidence that it was. Imagining what might have gone on that led to the decision can be fun, but it’s pure speculation, not much of a basis for a serious argument of your point.
    Granted. Yet, it’s a possible explanation for the ReaderCon committee bending its own rules — and I haven’t heard many.

    @Mythago. You do realize you just profoundly insulted Mr. Walling?
    No. All I’ve said about him is, quote : “René was wrong.” Nothing insulting there, and he admitted it himself.

    The very fact that several contributors could interpret this very simple phrase, René was wrong as either a/ a justification of his behaviour ; b/ a statement that same behaviour would be acceptable in my, or any other particular culture ; or c/ a personal judgement on his wits ; shows how passionate, and irrational, the debate has gone.
    TL;DR: Apparently.

    @peterdarby Wait, you’re saying the problem isn’t harassment, it’s cultural imperialism? Buh What?

    I guess I am. As far as I am concerned — repeat: I — the harrassment problem at hand is closed, and quite anecdotical. As Christopher underlines, there was harassment. Every involved parties admitted it. Apologies and sanctions have been issued. Not a specially original or interesting case either. I don’t see how it will affect in any way my personal take on harassment (and please don’t infer anything from my not exposing it here — it’s quite unoriginal, and of little interest).

    On the other hand, and still speaking only about my own perception, there is something new about the tone of this debate, which might indeed pertain to cultural imperialism, and might directly affect me though the “tolerance”, or lack thereof, to non-fully-american behaviours in SF conventions.

  196. Y’know, I’ve traveled pretty extensively overseas, and I have yet to visit anywhere that Walling’s behavior would be considered acceptable–though I HAVE been a few places where it seems to be more common, based on personal experience.

    That’s not the same thing, though, and I fail to see how bringing up Walling’s nationality enters into it.

  197. Eric, Kayjayoh hasn’t said anything anywhere about a moral topic. I believe Kayjayoh meant that cultural differences have nothing to do with this particular situation: Rene Walling broke a stated rule, there is no question that he broke it, and the consequence handed down was not the consequence stated in the rule.

  198. Eric Picholle:
    “As far as I am concerned — repeat: I — the harrassment problem at hand is closed, and quite anecdotical. As Christopher underlines, there was harassment. Every involved parties admitted it. Apologies and sanctions have been issued.”

    So all that’s left is what really motivated the huge consternation: Readercon violated it’s own standing policy in issuing the sanction on Mr Walling.

    Is expecting a convention to enforcing it’s own standing policies a Quaint American Tribal custom in your eyes? Or do foreign fans expect that too?

  199. @Jacqie: I wouldn’t even assume Eric is “foreign”, just bored with the conversation and thinking it would be more exciting to piss people off by calling them imperialists. He doesn’t seem genuinely anguished about multinationalism otherwise.

    I’m not linking to her LJ because I don’t want to open a floodgate, but apparently the chair of the Readercon con committee (NOT the same thing at the Board) who has been off the grid for a few days is now trying to work through the situation with the rest of the committee, and has asked for patience and forbearance while they do so. A number of folks on the committee are pretty upset about the situation and trying to organize a positive response.

  200. Eric, ok this is where it becomes clear that you are trolling:

    @Ultragotha : If objecting to being touched and grabbed from behind and followed around the convention, even after I’ve told the person “Leave me alone, do not speak to me again.” is a custom of the American tribe of fans
    It is, isn’t it ?”

  201. Come on guys, if you wouldn’t act like that with your best friend’s wife, don’t do it in public.

    Not necessarily a good yardstick. Some people would act like that with their best friend’s wife. If you wouldn’t act like that with your mother, perhaps…

  202. @Guess Why would the SFWA need a sexual harassment policy. … It is rather pathetic that a professional organization that people use to promote their career needs to do this.

    I am a programmer and it is a male dominated profession. I have done quite a bit of job hopping and I have never seen issues with sexual harassment.

    Are you serious? I mean, seriously serious? I think that any professional organization these days that *doesn’t* have a sexual harassment policy has its head in the sand, is asking for trouble, and is probably not an organization that I’d want to join. What that would say is not “we never have this problem” but “we don’t deal with this problem and like to pretend that it could never happen. La la la!”

    Also “I have never seen issues with sexual harassment” =/= “there are no issues with sexual harassment.”

  203. I think some here took different lessons from Act 4 Scene 1 of The Merchant of Venice than I did. Some will have their bond, and grant no mercy.

    That’s a harsh world, especially when it turns on you.

    Perhaps the solution is to test all potential attendees to see if they’re properly socially skilled to the desired cultural standards and inuendos before admission. Seems a bit contrary to the flatness of Geekdom. It also seems boring. The Balkanization of Geekdom.

  204. Guess, why do large corporations have sexual harassment policies? Their employees tend not to be groups of kids or mostly overweight geeks.

  205. @mythago: The link you’re using is screwed up.

    Someone mentioned this above, but no one seems to have followed up on it: Where is Walling in all of this? It would have been easy for him to cut this off on day one at the first sign of a shitstorm by saying “I realize the harm this is doing to Readercon. I’m voluntarily banning myself from Readercon and I encourage the board to reinstate their zero-tolerance policy towards sexual harassment that I misguidedly encouraged them to change.”

    It’s a bit of a Catch-22 situation for him, but the fact that he isn’t voluntarily banning himself indicates that he’s probably not the sort of BNF who is worth protecting.

  206. Eric: there is something new about the tone of this debate, which might indeed pertain to cultural imperialism

    Well, it’s fun to use highly charged words in a debate to demonize your opposition, but in this case, the words don’t fit.

    Empire means expansionism, like invading, conquering, overthrowing, or otherwise taking control of someone else’s way of doing things. Readercon didn’t go into Canada and force American culture on them and Mr. Walling.

    Mr. Walling came to America and was subject to American culture and American rules. He’s admitted he broke those rules. And his punishment is that he has been banned from coming back to Readercon in America.

    The punishment did not follow him back to Canada or anywhere outside Readercon for that matter. If Mr. Walling wants to be a douche back home in Canada, he is more than welcome to do so and face whatever Canadian cultural rules that might apply.

    If you go to Readercon, you follow their rules. If you break their rules, they can refuse future admission to their con, but you can still do whatever you want outside the con.

    It’s almost the exact opposite of Empire or Imperialism.

  207. @htom: Over and over, you persistently identify with the plight of an admitted harasser. Over and over, you treat a policy that says “if you behave in this abominable way, we don’t want you here again” as if it were a death sentence or condemnation to the eternal Pit. Over and over, you make sarcastic and overdramatic ‘suggestions’ about how people should react. You show not the slightest concern for victims of sexual harassment, implying that they are liars or are overreacting to perfectly well-intentioned behavior by good-hearted, awkward folks.

    Seriously, why?

  208. Seems I got the guy’s name wrong earlier. Waller – Walling. Perhaps I thought he was the ringleader of a secret government base creating superhumans? At any rate, Eric, being foreign is an incredibly poor defense of the indefensible. Yes, in some places people talk closer than others or have weird restrictions on eye contact or pointing, but pretty much nowhere is it accepted to stalk and harass anyone, especially after being asked to stop.

  209. htom, are you referring to the zero-tolerance policy? Couple of points about that. The first and most important thing is that such policies exist not as punishment for wrong-doers but as protection for organizations and attendees, especially in the future. Zero tolerance is bad law, but acceptable rule-making for organizations. Secondly, focusing on the punishment in these kinds of discussions focuses on the harasser, which I find an ethically problematic position. Finally, and least importantly, consider what the actual punishment here is. As enacted, he has to find something else to do for a couple of weekends over the next couple of years. And even if a permanent ban is enforced, for René Walling it simply means he can’t go to one convention. For Readercon and its attendees, the actual beneficiaries of the ban, it means at least one less harasser to worry about (potentially more, since other harassers may shy away from attendance in the face of such a ban).

  210. @htom

    That’s a harsh world, especially when it turns on you.

    Not being able to go to *ONE* con? Out of many, many, many cons in the world? Harsh indeed. How about all the women who aren’t able to go to *SO MANY* cons, because they have to deal with guys who harass them and face no consequences.

    Seriously, get some proportion.

  211. Seriously, mythago, why do you persist in saying that I am implying that victims of harassment are liars?

  212. When I was in high school, there was a person, both in school and around town, who got a kick out of repeatedly touching me after I shirked away from them the first time, and then subsequently told them to stop. They told me that since I didn’t object to my friends putting their hands on my arm or touching my hands, that it obviously didn’t really bother me. What they failed to understand was that it was precisely because they were not my friend and were clearly doing it for the express purpose of ignoring my wishes that it bothered me.

    After several months of this, they at one point jumped on my back in the hallway. I had already been practicing martial arts for eight years and my reflexes reacted before I did. I ended up sending them across the hallway with a hip throw. Once I realized what I’d done, I fought the instinct to help the person up. I loudly told them to NEVER touch me again and walked off.

    After the inevitable call to the counselor’s office (my first and only visit), I asked if the person (who, happily, the counselor had the good sense to interview separately) was okay and I explained what happened. There were about fifty witnesses, so there was no question that the person jumped me, and the person apparently didn’t deny doing so, but the counselor wanted to know why I reacted the way I did. I told her what led up to the debacle and explained that there would be no further problems as long as, from then on, the person stayed away from me. The person at least had the good grace, whether out of embarrassment or final realization that I wasn’t going to submit to bullying, to stay away.

    I later learned from a mutual acquaintance that the person thought they were flirting with me because I had once smiled and thanked them when they served my coffee at a coffeehouse where they worked as a barista. The worst part is that if they had respected my boundaries, we might have been friends. I had no reason to believe they were otherwise a bad person. But because they decided my boundaries weren’t up to me, they ruined any chance of a healthy relationship.

    I can only imagine how much worse it would have been if the gender roles had been reversed. As it was, I had the advantage in size, strength, speed and a cultural acknowledgement of my right to bodily sovereignty. I didn’t have to fear being treated like a pariah for defending myself. To Rene Walling and anyone else who thinks it’s okay to touch someone without their consent, Keep your hands to yourself!.

    Sorry about the rant. I haven’t mentioned these events since high school, and I guess they affected me more than I realized.

    Separately, me and my partner were watching an episode of Ally McBeal on Netflix a couple of weeks ago. In the episode, Ally’s roommate gets attacked by a sexual predator. She tells him to get off her and leave; he gropes her; she slaps him; he slaps her. Being a kickboxer, she lays him out unconscious. My immediate thought was that the fucker was lucky to be alive. The rest of the episode is spent with every character blaming her for breaking his collar bone. I haven’t yelled that hard at a TV show in years. Let me be crystal clear: If you assault someone, you forfeit your just moral right not to have your ass kicked into next week, and you’re lucky if you leave with your life. When you initiate nonconsensual violence against another human, you are responsible for what happens to you. End of story.

    To the individual trying to derail the discussion by yammering about imperialism: You are part of the problem.

    This topic makes my blood boil, so, after this, I’m probably going to stay out of this thread in the interest of civility. If I fail to reply to any replies to my comment, I apologize for the post and run. I will be reading, but I’ll only comment I’m sure I can remain polite. If I don’t reply, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I take umbrage at your reply, only that this topic is a hot button for me.

  213. Kayjayoh @12:35:
    Did you mean to quote me in that post? If so, I’m not sure why what I said makes it clear that Eric is trolling? Did you mean that you think that I am trolling? I’m not.

    I was trying to understand why Eric evidently thought that objecting to harrassment was an American tribal custom and that enforcement of sanctions against it is some form of imperialism.

    Eric has clarified that it’s not the harrassment or the response to it that he thinks is an American tribal custom. So now I’m trying to understand what he does think is an American tribal custom that we are imperially imposing on foreign cons. Cons enforcing their own rules as stated? Or what? ‘Cause at this point I’m not sure what he means.

  214. @BW: I think they have sexual harassment policies to CYA themselves. If you have a lot of employees, the odds of 1 person being an idiot is rather high. If that one person harasses a woman that leaves the company open to a lawsuit since they have deeper pockets than the individual. Even if the company fires the individual the company can still have to fight a lawsuit.

    My point was that in IT and Software development there are far more men than women, yet women seem to disproportionately get into management. I have never seen guys complain about a manager because she is a woman (though I have have had bad managers who happen to be women). I have repeatedly seen woman complain about female managers because they are woman and female managers complain about female employees because they are women. I can’t help but find this funny. I have literally seen female manager who is liked by all the guys, but 1-2 woman can’t stand her. I have actually heard women(many times and in many different jobs) say ‘you only get along with her because you are a guy’.

    So I looked at the readercon Blog stuff. If I was Rene Walling, I would have preferred a permanent ban to having my name all over the internet. I would be incredibly embarrassed by this. His public embarrassment is way worse than a life time ban. This will never go away. So in one respect, not getting the life time ban is worse for him. I would be too embarrassed to ever go back to readercon.

    That being said… it sounds like he acted like an idiot. Then tried to apologize. He tried to apologize in public. I am not sure I get why the apology is part of the harassment. I have never done something like that, but I would pretty damn embarrassed if I had… and I would want to apologize. I saw some references to this guy doing this to other woman. If that is the case, get rid of him. But I don’t get how the apology to the woman was so bad. What am I missing?

  215. @Ultragotha : So all that’s left is what really motivated the huge consternation: Readercon violated it’s own standing policy in issuing the sanction on Mr Walling.
    More or less, yes.

    Is expecting a convention to enforcing it’s own standing policies a Quaint American Tribal custom in your eyes?

    Of course not. For me, this (and more generally points 2, 3 and 4 of John’s initial post) also goes without saying.

    But what the whole heated debate brought out, for me, is the emphasis of some US Conventions’ “zero tolerance” rule about matters involving subjective appreciations of personal behaviour. I wasn’t previously aware of it — the rigid “zero tolerance”, I mean, not the obvious provisions about harassment — And since, in my experience, a minimum of tolerance from the natives is usually necessary at some point to any stranger in a strange land (including, of course, Americans abroad), a strict application of such a rule is problematic, at least in international conventions.

    By the way, I don’t agree with John’s first point. As far as I understand it, it bears a contradiction with point 3 : how could any rule be unambiguous and clear as far as other people’s feelings — the very definition of a subjective issue — is concerned ? The fact that some women are afraid is both regrettable and sad but, when this fear has no objective basic (and it doesn’t always have), I don’t see why I should be embarrassed by it, individually or as a member of the SF community.

  216. @htom: Interesting that you misstated my question, because I asked why you believe victims of sexual harassment are liars or are overreacting to are overreacting to ‘perfectly well-intentioned behavior by good-hearted, awkward folks’. That stemmed from your comment that the supposed bad intent of the conduct “that was in the eyes of the accuser to begin with”.

    So, again, why the drama? Why the non sequiturs when people point out that “Eternal penalties raise the stakes to infinity” is perhaps a little over-the-top as a description of ‘you may not come back to this convention again’? Why the eye-rolling, sarcastic ‘well FINE, if we’re going to have THAT rule I might as well not do ANYTHING’ denouncements, which frankly I would expect to hear from one of my teenagers rather than an older, wiser gentleman such as yourself? (And no, that wasn’t sarcasm.)

    I’m edumacataguessing the thought process is this: I am socially awkward*; if I were socially awkward, I might do something that offends another person; if someone else is offended, they might claim I harassed them and then I could be condemned and thrown out of a convention forever. But that’s a different conversation. That is an argument that we must be careful in weighing evidence and deciding whether bad conduct has occurred (and if so, how bad it was), and that zero-tolerance policies can be too harsh.

    You know: the conversation that we’re already having, sans the Grand Guignol. You’re more than welcome to join in, socially-awkward or no.

    @LMM: Thanks, betrayed by my browser cache again. This is the comment I meant:

    http://whatever.scalzi.com/2009/03/23/re-the-hugo-ebooks-package-patience-please/#comment-137527

    *as are, you know, probably most of us here.

  217. Guess (and possibly htom), I’m not sure this is the appropriate venue for educating oneself about redemption narratives and how they turn situations on pivots to be about the wrongdoer instead of the wronged, but you might want to consider that “apologies,” when unwanted, are very often simply couched demands for forgiveness.

  218. mythago: You show not the slightest concern for victims of sexual harassment, implying that they are liars

    “implying” is not shorthand for “I get to strawman your position any way I want, regardless of what you actually said and intended.”

    People seem to be getting those two ideas confused though.

  219. Eric Picholle, what in the case of René Walling’s admitted harassment of Genevieve Valentine do you find “subjective?”

  220. This is long, feel free to skip over it. It’s directed at the guys who are worried that their actions will inadvertently be construed as harassing.

    When I was in college, sometimes I gave boys the wrong idea. Part of this was that I was at the U of C, a notoriously hyper-geeky school. I suspect many of the boys I interacted with hadn’t spent a lot of time with girls before; they hadn’t had much of a chance to learn how to interpret social cues.
    Specifically, what happened, more than once, was that I would be friendly, I would smile, I would happily chat with them. I liked these boys fine, as people, as friends. I wasn’t interested in them romantically, and I didn’t say or do anything that I meant as flirting. And I certainly wasn’t the prettiest girl around, or the most attractively / seductively dressed. I think I lived in grubby jeans and baggy t-shirts back then. But nonetheless more than a few of those boys interpreted my smiles and cheerful chatter as flirtatious.

    Sometimes their responses were awkward, inappropriate. A few tried to kiss me, entirely out of the blue, as far as I could tell. When I, flustered, avoided the kiss, they stopped, and tried to apologize. It was messy and terribly awkward, but it also wasn’t the end of the world. None of those boys were persistent in their attempts to gain my affections — we clarified the misunderstanding, and moved on. We stayed friends.

    One of them didn’t try to kiss me, but did ask me, repeatedly, why I didn’t want to date him. What was wrong with him? Why didn’t any girls want to date him? We spent a few hours on that painful conversation freshman year, and that was the most awkward of all, mostly because he just couldn’t let it go. The repetition made it uncomfortable, and a bit pressuring. But you know, we were very young, and trying to figure this stuff out, and we may have been a little drunk that night too. In the morning, we were still friends, and he eventually found some girls happy to date him.

    After freshman year, I mostly didn’t run into that kind of thing again. In part, because the boys were older, and more used to girls and reading their cues. In part because I was a little more careful not to signal interest when interest wasn’t there. I did completely mangle it all again when I realized I also liked girls — I had no idea how to signal or not signal my interest in them. But eventually I sorted that out too.

    I don’t meant to imply that I think I was doing anything wrong as a freshman in college, when I wasn’t signaling as clearly I as I do now. I don’t think any of those boys would have been justified in attacking me, just because my signals were unclear. Yes means yes, and no means no. But I do think it helps us have a more nuanced conversation on this complex topic if we can use some specifics about what various signals mean, and how they get read.

    I went years without running into any issues along these lines — I was very lucky not to encounter any workplace harassment or other issues, beyond the unfortunately common harassing guys on the street. When I was walking home one night, one guy followed me in his car for a few blocks. That was fun. But still, mostly I encountered very little difficulty in my daily life. And then I started going to SF conventions. Oy.

    For the most part they were fine. But occasionally, I would run into the same sort of situation as in college. My behavior hadn’t changed, but pretty clearly, some of the people at SF cons were even less deft at reading social cues than those freshman boys. Mostly men, but a few women too.

    And in some ways this was even harder to deal with, because these were my people. I remembered being an excluded outsider as a kid, the geeky one. And I am a woman, socialized to niceness no matter what. When trapped in an endless awkward conversation, with the other person sitting too close, their knees edging closer to mine, my instinct is still to be polite. I don’t want to hurt their feelings.

    Generally, I don’t actually feel unsafe in these situations — I’m not alone in an elevator with them, or in a hotel room. We’re in a public space, a hallway or a panel room or the lobby. There are people around, or there will be soon. But I do feel extremely uncomfortable, and I’m rather desperately hoping that I will soon be able to get away. Without hurting their feelings.

    This dynamic has been exacerbated as I become better known in the field, as I publish more, edit more, give speeches. I’ve been listed as an ‘attending luminary’ in program books. I’ve heard, second-hand, that there are people desperate to meet me, who are afraid to come up to me. Readers want to meet an author they like, want to have a personal connection with them.

    I understand that wish; I feel it too. I have been reduced to the giddiest of awkward fangirls in the presence of Neil Gaiman, Pamela Dean, Dorothy Allison. As a writer and editor, I want to be friendly and open and welcoming. I would love to get to know all of my readers, at least a little. If you come up to me at a convention, I will be happy to meet you, to chat with you.

    Sometimes, even with the best wishes in the world, it can be hard to tell where the boundaries are. When you mix gender dynamics, physical size and social power, author-fan issues, romantic longing, professional concerns, geekiness and the welcoming and sometimes touchy-feely culture of SF/F-fandom together, sometimes you get an explosive mess. In the public response to the ReaderCon Rene Walling decision, I have seen some people expressing anxiety that they are equally as bad as Rene. That they might, inadvertently, do something awful at a convention, and end up banned for life. That maybe they shouldn’t go to cons at all.

    That makes me so sad, that fear. I don’t think it’s necessary. If social cues aren’t your best thing, that doesn’t mean you can’t, safely and appropriately, participate in social activities, mixed-gender or otherwise. It’s true that most of the guidelines that let us interact appropriately in these situations, to read clearly whether someone is romantically interested in us or wants to be our bestest friend for life or is just being friendly and polite are unspoken. But those rules can still be learned. Here are a few guidelines for interacting with me, personally; I think they will generally do well for you:

    1) If I’m at a convention, in a public space, you are very welcome to come up and say hello. And if you like my work, PLEASE feel free to say so.

    2) If I’m already talking to other people, wait for a break in the conversation before you speak. (Generally, when a new person comes up to a group of conversing folks, there will be some kind of nonverbal or verbal acknowledgement of your presence. A smile, a nod, a ‘hi.’ If it seems like people are avoiding your eyes, avoiding contact, then maybe there’s some reason why now is not a good time to approach. Perhaps they’ve already decided that they want to keep to a small group of six for dinner, and are afraid that you’ll ask to join them. It’s almost certainly not personal — if that happens, smile and wander off. With any luck, you’ll get another chance to talk later.)

    3) If we’re talking, but I’m responding in monosyllables and/or avoiding eye contact, that probably means I’d like to end the conversation. Maybe I’m late for a meeting, but don’t want to be rude and cut you off. Maybe I need to use the restroom. Maybe I’m uncomfortable for some other reason. An appropriate response might be something like, “You probably need to get going.” That gives me an opportunity to gratefully agree. Or, if by some chance I actually DO want to keep talking to you but have gotten distracted, it gives me the chance to say, “Oh no, I’d love to keep talking.” And we’re good either way.

    4) If we’re not already good friends, please stay at least an arm’s-length away, if possible. That makes me feel safe. Sometimes conventions are so crowded that that’s not possible; do what you can.

    5) And if you think I’m flirting with you, and would like to flirt back — please, just ask. I can’t speak for anyone else here, but I’m pretty blunt about this sort of thing, ESPECIALLY in SF/F circles. I’m a geek, and I appreciate clarity. You could say something like, “Are we flirting here?” I know this part is awkward — for me too. But it’s even more awkward, I promise you, to think someone’s interested, and you lean in for a kiss, and they pull away, startled. I’ve been on that side of the misreading too, and it’s really no fun at all.

    None of this is directed at the people who harass intentionally; I don’t know how to talk to them. But for those who know that they’re sometimes clueless (aren’t we all?), and are worried about misstepping, I hope this helps a bit.

  221. Guess, what you’re missing is that she made it clear that she did not want to interact with him in any way. She had no obligation to give him her attention, regardless of what he wanted the interaction to consist of. If his only concern was a sincere apology, he could have written a note and asked someone to give it to her. Instead, he kept showing up and hanging around where she was, after she had made clear she wanted nothing to do with him. Continuing to try to make contact with someone who has made it clear he/she wants no contact is not behavior that bespeaks remorse or understanding of her wishes.

    Take-home lesson: If someone expresses a desire for you to stay away from him/her, the proper response is to stay away from him/her. The person needs that more than he/she needs words from you. Your action, by staying away, will express better understanding of his/her wishes than you’ll show if you continue to try to impose your own need (to express apology). She didn’t give him any indication that she wanted an apology. She wanted him away from her. He kept trying to get near her, in disregard of her wishes. How does that show that he is sorry for bothering her in the first place?

  222. @Greg: (cultural imperialism) Well, it’s fun to use highly charged words in a debate to demonize your opposition, but in this case, the words don’t fit.
    Not my choice of word, actually. I was quoting Petedarby. While it might be lateraIly related to cultural imperialism, I basically agree with your analysis on this special instance.

    @Christopher Rowe: what in the case of René Walling’s admitted harassment of Genevieve Valentine do you find “subjective?”
    Nothing. What is it you don’t understand in the phrase René was wrong. ?

  223. Must have misinterpreted something you wrote, Eric Picholle. I thought you were suggesting that the in-place zero tolerance policy at Readercon had been applied or misapplied under subjective circumstances.

  224. Christopher — The rule’s justification is protection; what the rule does is punish. We focus on the harasser because that’s whose behavior needs to change. People do change, sometimes. Not often. Not without (usually) psychic pain. But it can happen. Whether the punishment fits the crime and has the desired effect … is the desired effect to change the offender so that he or she won’t further offend, or to make the world so that he can’t attend the con? The given punishment seems to me to be more likely to achieve the former, the life ban the latter.

    Tanya — nothing hard about “no”, as far as I’m concerned. Maybe my problem is that I take it too seriously. Recently I’ve been told by some that decades ago I took their “no” too seriously, they had meant “not now”, not “never”. That’s how it goes. Everybody makes mistakes. Sometimes in one direction, sometimes the other. “Maybe later”, I called again. One of my mistakes was getting involved in this conversation. What is so very, very, hard about “mercy”?

    Kayjayoh — That there are women (and men) who don’t go to cons for fear of inappropriate behavior by others is sad. That there are others who don’t go because they fear they won’t able to participate properly is also sad. That there are those whose behavior is such that other attendees feel threatened is infuriating. That one of them was banned for the next two meetings of that group, rather than for life, with an extension to a lifetime ban if the behavior is repeated anywhere, is an example of proportion, but it seems to being taken as a total collapse of the society.

  225. is the desired effect to change the offender so that he or she won’t further offend, or to make the world so that he can’t attend the con?

    The desired effect is to say, “We find this behavior so odious that we no longer wish to have you in our community.” It’s not about the person, it’s about that con and the community attending it. The convention bears no responsibility to be nice to people who are not being nice to others.

  226. @christopherrowe: Please assume I have the IQ of a turnup. I cannot figure out what you are talking about.

    @BW: I got that farther down the line when she said I don’t want an apology. I did not get that the first time the guy apologized. I also don’t get how the mere act of apologizing is harassment. I can see how it can be really annoying if the guy doesn’t get ‘just go away’. However, going to apologize one time really isn’t an awful thing to do if you act like an idiot. As I said, I’d be pretty embarrassed. Then again I’m not too big on the ‘touch a strange woman’ during a conversation thing’. So I really wouldn’t know. The only reason I would talk to this woman at a con is if I liked her book and I had a question about it. It is a bit hard for me to relate.

    I didn’t say the guy didn’t deserve a ban for what he did. There were just pieces of the story, I didn’t quite get. I noticed another blog post where the woman pointed out something that this Rene guy wrote of ‘I shouldn’t be considered guilty just because a woman says so’. I actually agree with that. Again this does not excuse what the guy did.

    For the record, I have never been to a con. I like to read sci-fi books, but I’m not really interested in going to one. Its really not my thing.

  227. “In short, a man can say “no” and be taken seriously with far less effort than a women typically has to make in the same situation”

    Which is why The Backup Project, etc, are good ideas. The dudes who harrass women don’t hear the word “no”. How many times did Valentine make it very clear to that skeezy dude she didn’t want to talk to him. Did he listen?

    THAT’S why we need men speaking up against this as well. Dudes who harrass already don’t respect women. They already don’t listen to women. Men, they just might hear.

  228. Mythago — I’m not sure if we’re talking past each other, or talking away from each other; we are exchanging words, not understandings, and I, for the moment, abandon the attempt.

  229. @Kayjayoh: Did you intentionally not read the next line? I said ‘oh yeah now I get it’. I was clearly mocking Science Fiction writers for you know being fat and so on.

    You also bundled two different points. The second one was about experiences from work where I am in a male dominated profession and yet women disproportionately make it into manage and the guys don’t care.

    you really should read the entire post before you respond so you don’t take something completely out of context.

  230. Eric Picholle:
    “But what the whole heated debate brought out, for me, is the emphasis of some US Conventions’ “zero tolerance” rule about matters involving subjective appreciations of personal behaviour.”

    Mr Walling’s conduct wasn’t subjective. Both he and his victim agree about what happened. And what happened is harrassment.

    Harrassment isn’t subjective. It’s got a definition and Mr Walling’s conduct met that definition.

  231. @ULTRAGOTHA

    Kayjayoh @12:35:
    Did you mean to quote me in that post? If so, I’m not sure why what I said makes it clear that Eric is trolling? Did you mean that you think that I am trolling? I’m not.

    I quoted you for context for Eric’s reply. You said, “If objecting to being touched and grabbed from behind and followed around the convention, even after I’ve told the person ‘Leave me alone, do not speak to me again.’ is a custom of the American tribe of fans”

    And his reply was, “It is, isn’t it ?” Which indicated to me that he was saying that, yes, the objecting was a uniquely American custom. Which is such bullshit that I couldn’t imagine it to me anything other than trolling. Sorry if I was confusing there.

  232. Can we post links here? I think the post I’m [going to try] linking below has some interesting things to say about reform versus deterrence in the light of this incident and of the in-place zero tolerance policy at Readercon the convention’s board set aside for admitted harasser René Walling.

    http://gaudior.livejournal.com/420541.html

  233. @Ursula Vernon: re: dealers rooms, oh yes, I have used my ronin security services for professionals too. One very nice well known professional comic artist of the female persuasion had this guy standing in front of her table at SDCC a few years back, blocking buyers and fans alike from access while he rambled on about whatever apropos of nothing for damn near 20 mins; she was trying to be polite but you could tell it was pissing her off; I’d been hanging back waiting to talk to her because I thought at first he was a fan and it’s bad form to interrupt but once I did notice it I immediately did my Brian Blessed-channeling “EXCUSE ME CAN I GET IN THERE I WANT TO BUY SOMETHING!” and he jumped back far enough that I was able to ask her if she was being bothered and she affirmed it was so. So I became gatekeeper for her table and the guy stood across the way for ANOTHER HALF AN HOUR while I did the blocking, but in a way that allowed others to come in and interact, but not him.

    Only when he was gone did said artist confide to me that this guy has been doing this to her at every convention for years. And that he’s not the only one. She has blogged about this before also; not naming names but judicious Googling will point one in the right direction.

    TL;DR If it would get me a SDCC badge (I have no luck with the current lottery system) I would gladly spend it as dealer room ronin. Give me a list of tables to periodically check in on and numbers to text and I’m on it.

  234. @Guess

    Did you intentionally not read the next line? I said ‘oh yeah now I get it’. I was clearly mocking Science Fiction writers for you know being fat and so on.

    No, I did read the next line. I didn’t quote it because it didn’t seem necessary that I quote every single word you wrote. But the take-away of your whole post (which looks to have been deleted by Scalzi) was that you were ridiculing the having of sexual harassment policies. Which was backed up by your very next word to me:

    You also bundled two different points. The second one was about experiences from work where I am in a male dominated profession and yet women disproportionately make it into manage and the guys don’t care.

    That point being, just because you don’t personally happen to notice sexual harassment doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen or that there isn’t a need for a policy on it. It just means that you are privileged to never have to see it.

    you really should read the entire post before you respond so you don’t take something completely out of context.

    Thank you for your kind condescension. I’ll treasure it always. Not. Hint: just because I disagree with you, it doesn’t mean that I didn’t read all of what you wrote or that I didn’t understand what you wrote. It means that I think you are wrong.

  235. paranoyd wrote: I guess I’m not understanding what qualifies as sexual harassment these days. I was under the impression that it had to do with people in positions of power using it to force sexual favors from underlings.

    You’re thinking of the specific kind of sexual harassment that’s legally considered sex discrimination in a working environment. The more general dictionary definition, as in this example from Merriam-Webster, 11th edition, is “uninvited and unwelcome verbal or physical behavior of a sexual nature especially by a person in authority toward a subordinate (as an employee or student).” Especially doesn’t mean exclusively.

  236. I concur with Christopher Rowe. Our society has made it de rigeur that any voiced apology — whether sincere or not — must always result in forgiveness for the malefactor. There are limits, of course, but we’re seeing that in this very thread. “He apologized, the case is closed!” Except the case is most assuredly not closed since (a) the actual consequences of his actions did not match what was indicated would happen (to wit, a lifetime ban on attending Readercon) and (b) this sort of bull keeps happening at cons. I’d rather it didn’t. Most people here seem to prefer it didn’t. If someone disagrees with this assertion, I do invite them to speak up.

    A person who has done wrong and later realizes that they have done wrong does not need to dine on ashes for the rest of their life; but they have to realize that they have very well broken a trust. They have harmed someone. That person probably does not want to be reminded of the harm that was done to them. Perhaps forgiveness can come about later; but there is such a thing as ‘too soon,’ and there is NO requirement that an apology be accepted. In such a case, the malefactor, if they are sincerely apologetic and realize that they have harmed someone, should be content to be told ‘leave me alone and don’t come near me again,’ and to be polite enough to do as they are requested without police, courts, and restraining orders getting involved.

  237. @htom

    That there are those whose behavior is such that other attendees feel threatened is infuriating. That one of them was banned for the next two meetings of that group, rather than for life, with an extension to a lifetime ban if the behavior is repeated anywhere, is an example of proportion, but it seems to being taken as a total collapse of the society.

    It’s not seen as a total collapse of society. It’s seen as a total collapse in the ability to trust the group that stated, in no uncertain terms,

    Harassment

    Readercon has always had a zero-tolerance harassment policy.

    Harassment of any kind — including physical assault, battery, deliberate intimidation, stalking, or unwelcome physical attentions — will not be tolerated at Readercon and will result in permanent suspension of membership.

    When suddenly that contract with its membership is modified, with no advance notice, because the offender stated that he was “sorry,” then the trust in the group is gone. They broke their contract with their entire membership for the sake of a single member. A member who knew the policy before attending the convention. A member who knew his behavior was unacceptable. A member who has behaved in this manner before. The protection of this member was apparently so important to the Convention that they were willing to break a contract with ALL of its other members. That’s what’s wrong about this. Not that they were lenient, but that they didn’t adhere to the contract that everyone else expected them to adhere to.

  238. Interesting, HelenS. The OED has this:

    sexual harassment n. harassment (typically of a woman by a man) in a workplace or other professional or social situation, involving the making of unwanted sexual advances, obscene remarks, etc.

  239. @Mythago: I wouldn’t even assume Eric is “foreign” ,
    I’m French, actually.

    just thinking it would be more exciting to piss people off by calling them imperialists.
    Funny thing is that, apparently, you were the one who introduced the term “imperialism” in the thread (@ 11:37)

    He doesn’t seem genuinely anguished about multinationalism otherwise.
    Not overly, no. So-called WorldCon are basically english-speaking events. That’s not about to change, and I’ve no solution for a genuinely multi-national SF culture. So I get along well enough with several subcultures. But that’s another debate entirely.

    @Kayjayh: You said, “If objecting to being touched and grabbed from behind and followed around the convention, even after I’ve told the person ‘Leave me alone, do not speak to me again.’ is a custom of the American tribe of fans”
    And his reply was, “It is, isn’t it ?” Which indicated to me that he was saying that, yes, the objecting was a uniquely American custom.

    Well… My English is possibly faulty, but I think I know something about Logics. Better check yours. In any case, I’ve never said or inferred any such idea, and certainly don’t accept it as mine.

    Which is such bullshit that I couldn’t imagine it to me anything other than trolling.
    Taking a comment at its face value being too far-fetched an option ?

    @Ultragotha Harrassment isn’t subjective. It’s got a definition and Mr Walling’s conduct met that definition.
    Granted. But this definition (as quoted above by HelenS) involve subjective elements, such as “unwelcome”.

  240. Well… My English is possibly faulty, but I think I know something about Logics. Better check yours. In any case, I’ve never said or inferred any such idea, and certainly don’t accept it as mine.

    Ok, trolling-troll-who-trolls. Answer me this:

    Is objecting to being touched and grabbed from behind and followed around the convention, even after the person being followed has said “Leave me alone, do not speak to me again.” a unique custom of the American tribe of fans?

    Your statement that I quoted indicated that it was.

  241. “If objecting to being touched and grabbed from behind and followed around the convention, even after I’ve told the person ‘Leave me alone, do not speak to me again.’ is a custom of the American tribe of fans…”

    “It is, isn’t it ?”

    It is a custom of the American fans to object to this, but elsewhere in the world this is a strange, outside idea?

  242. @mopomi — One could argue that “permanent suspension of membership.” refers to the membership at that current convention, not at all succeeding conventions, which could have been stated by saying that … permanent suspension of membership and never allowing future membership.” (which seems to be what everyone is reading it as having said; maybe it says that elsewhere, I haven’t read the entire rules and am not going to.) The cons I’m acquainted with come into legal existence and go away after the close, leaving a loose thing that isn’t bound by previous actions of previous cons, like Sessions of Congress.

    I don’t know what the Board meant by that phrase (they may not have thought much about it either) and hope they clarify it. If they meant the limited form I described, they overreached by banning him from the next two cons, and should have stopped at expulsion, or the following con. If they meant a lifetime ban, they’ve expressed that idea poorly.

  243. @htom:

    I find your confusion about the term ‘permanent’ to be mind boggling.

    The Readercon board is the group that organizes the annual conference on imaginative literature. In 2012, that conference was Readercon 23.

    The harassment policy doesn’t indicate anything to do with Readercon 23, it has to do with Readercon.

  244. Oddly enough, none of the Canadians I know has ever tried to grope me at cons or followed me around after I’ve told them I didn’t want anything to do with them. Maybe I just know defective Canadians?

    I don’t go to cons these days. Not as a fan–and I’d be wary about going as a writer. When I was younger, I met some awesome people there, and I had some very good times, and I was fortunate enough not to get actually harassed. In the end, though? The good times and the awesome people weren’t worth getting cornered in hallways and talked at for three hours by guys who didn’t understand personal space; they weren’t worth having to make the polite “oh ha ha ha (GOD, NOT IN A MILLION YEARS)” face in response to some “joking” suggestion and hope that the guy picked up on the parentheses so I didn’t have to make a scene; they just weren’t worth the hassle.* I bet I’m not the only woman who feels that way.

    I think that a person that has a true social disorder needs to not be just told to back off but to explain why their behavior is inappropriate.

    Well, they might need that, but providing it is not my job.

    Seriously. I didn’t sign on to be your life coach or your shrink. I am not your best friend or your mom. I don’t really give half a damn what you understand or not: if I tell you to back off, BACK THE FUCK OFF. And stay backed off. Get your explanations elsewhere.

    Likewise, I don’t actually care whether Walling or whoever learns and changes and grows as a person. If they do, great. If not, whatever. I care about not having to deal with That Guy at cons. A policy where we throw you out if you pull that bullshit means less That Guy; therefore, I support that policy. If that means that OH THE SHOCK AND HORROR people might actually have to think a little before they hit on other people, I’m…not seeing a downside.

    And “mercy” is bullshit in this case, because mercy toward a creeper is anything *but* mercy toward his victims.

    *Instead, I LARP, where I still get the occasional “…so, since you don’t go into an entirely separate building to change costumes, you must totally be okay with me asking to see your tits, right?” comment. It’s less of an issue, because people all tend to know each other better, but…yeah.
    “Shut up, That Guy,” is often the geek girl’s unofficial anthem.

  245. @Guess:

    I also don’t get how the mere act of apologizing is harassment.

    It wasn’t the mere act of apologizing; it was the attempt to continue contacting Ms. Valentine after she had made it very clear she wanted no such contact. The reason for the attempted contact is irrelevant.

  246. The cons I’m acquainted with come into legal existence and go away after the close, leaving a loose thing that isn’t bound by previous actions of previous cons, like Sessions of Congress.

    Nope. These are cons with an established structure that re-occur from year to year, and generally keep the same leadership structure, properties, bank accounts, etc.

    The con with which I have the most familiarity is WisCon, which is run by a every year by a volunteer-based group called Society For The Furtherance And Study Of Fantasy And Science Fiction (SF3). The ConCom may change from year to year, but the con itself is a going concern.

  247. Sigh…
    @Kayjayoh: Ok, trolling-troll-who-trolls. Answer me this:
    Is objecting to being touched and grabbed from behind and followed around the convention, even after the person being followed has said “Leave me alone, do not speak to me again.” a unique custom of the American tribe of fans?

    No.

    Your statement that I quoted indicated that it was.
    No it didn’t. “Unique”, “uniquely” are strictly yours.

  248. I added “unique”. Yes. But it was implied in the sentence, and I was rephrasing slightly to keep the fragment from sounding odd.

    In that case:

    “If objecting to being touched and grabbed from behind and followed around the convention, even after I’ve told the person ‘Leave me alone, do not speak to me again.’ is a custom of the American tribe of fans…”

    “It is, isn’t it ?”

    What do you mean by “It is, isn’t it?”

  249. O’Frizz Thirty:
    “I think that a person that has a true social disorder needs to not be just told to back off but to explain why their behavior is inappropriate.”

    If a person has a true social disorder of that magnitude then it’s on that person to bring a minder who can explain why the behavior is inappropriate. As Isabel C already said, I don’t have a responsibility to explain anything.

    There are thousands of people with true social disorders that involve problems with communication that manage to not harrass people every day.

    The very few who do harrass people don’t get a pass from me as far as removing them from the environment to make it more safe for everyone else. I might have some sympathy that they have so failed to deal with their handicap effectively; but that doesn’t change the fact that if they can’t handle the environment acceptably they need to be away from the environment.

    Not that this has anything to do with the Readercon incident this year as I don’t think there’s any evidence that Rene Walling has any kind of true social disorder.

    In fact, that’s one of the objections. The guy who was permabanned before does have a true social disorder. But they guy who does not have that handicap to contend with was only banned for two years.

  250. Because, you see, you keep objecting to all of this based on

    “Still this whole debate sounds a lot like “the customs of the American tribe are laws
    of Nature, and any foreigners not fully sharing its prejudice are unwelcome barbarians.”
    Including in supposedly “international” SF events, apparently.”

    So, if this is a “custom” of the American tribe of fans that other people are not supposed to get?

    Anyway, I think you are trolling, and it occurs to me that if I think you are trolling, I am really wasting my time in interacting with you.

  251. Guess, I haven’t see where anybody described the mere act of apology as harassment, so I’m not clear whose post you’re referencing. The attempted apology was described as one of the sequence of interactions, included to present a full picture of the situation and the reason for Ms. Valentine’s complaint. It wasn’t an act of harassment by itself, nor has anyone presented it as such. It was one action in a pattern that added up to harassment. Harassment hardly ever consists of a single incident, and the incidents that add up to harassment might not, if viewed individually with no context, appear threatening. I’m not sure why you’re focusing so much on the attempted apology.

    I’m willing to bet that if Mr. Walling had done the initial touching and vaguely inappropriate comment and the only other time Ms. Valentine saw him was a polite, face-on approach in which he offered an apology, there would have been no complaint.

  252. It’s not “the mere act of apologizing.” It’s her saying go annoy someone else, and him coming back to annoy her over and over again. That’s not apologizing. That’s pestering. Really, it’s a dominance display – he’s communicating that *he* gets to decide whether he interacts with her, and her wishes be damned. She didn’t immediately make the complementary submission display he apparently expected (holding still while he “apologized,” responding with ritual forgiveness-phrases), so instead of backing off he kept after her, chasing that submission display.

  253. Isabel: And “mercy” is bullshit in this case, because mercy toward a creeper is anything *but* mercy toward his victims.

    Perhaps we should hang all harrassers and creepers by the neck until dead? Wouldn’t anythign less than that be showing them “mercy”?

  254. @Mary Anne Mohanraj:

    And if you think I’m flirting with you, and would like to flirt back — please, just ask. I can’t speak for anyone else here, but I’m pretty blunt about this sort of thing

    Sure, but I’ve sometimes found myself in a situation where my “flirting” really isn’t. I’m slightly hard of hearing, so in a crowded, noisy room I have been known to lean in close to someone just so I can hear what the frak they’re saying. I’ve learned through experience to just ask if that makes people (especially women) feel uncomfortable or even unsafe, but I’d like to think I can grok that if someone is flinching or looking around the room for someone – anyone – they know I really really need to step off, apologize and go away.

    OTOH, I was one in an astoundingly unpleasant situation where saying “Oh, you know my partner, you work with him, yes?” got heard as “PLEASE PLEASE keep up the drunken, aggressive not-at-all amusing, and most certainly not hot ‘flirtation’ in front of my MALE partner.” I can kind of laugh about it now, but I found an excuse to dodge the next office social.

  255. Come now, Greg. Nobody’s suggested any such thing. What’s been suggested is that one particular harasser and creeper–that would be admitted harasser René Walling–being banned from attending Readercons from here on, in line with their in-place policy at the time of the harassment and the harasser’s admission.

  256. @Kayjayoh : No. I was just making a smart ass remark about science fiction writers. Not about a policy.

    My other point had nothing to do with sexual harrassment. It was about guys not having a problem with female managers, but the female employees being able to get along with them. Basically women were complaining about female managers and the guys were going ‘we think she is ok’ and then the woman going ‘you get along with her because you are a guy’ and then the guys looking at each other going, I don’t get it.

    I stand by my condescending point. You took my post out of context.

  257. Kayjayoh — WisCon was one of those I was thinking of; I thought that SF^3 was the on-going legal group, with a new WisCon legally created under its umbrella every year. I learn something every day.


    All: lest there be any confusion, I think that stalking, harassment, … are things that should not be done by anyone (male or female.) I think that they will be done, in spite of my thoughts. The problem is what to do about these acts and those who commit them. Ejecting someone from a con is a good first-aid measure, but it does not solve the problem (which is the evil-doer’s.) Banning someone from the con forever may feel good (and may be a short-term good for the other attendees), but e is merely going to go off to some other con, and you’ve discarded the opportunity to enable em to change eir behavior. No, the con isn’t eir therapist. Over the years, I’ve found positive reinforcements much more effective. Point em at proper social training, see if it works. If it doesn’t, then ban em for several sessions, maybe time will cure. Take chances to do some good, or pushing the bad off on someone else. Seems an easy choice to me.

  258. @Greg:

    Perhaps we should hang all harrassers and creepers by the neck until dead? Wouldn’t anythign less than that be showing them “mercy”?

    Slippery slope argument foolishness aside, how does this man deserve his victims’ mercy? Did he show any of them mercy when he repeatedly harassed them, making them feel unsafe? Did he show any of them mercy when he invaded their personal space and TOUCHED them without permission?

    At what point does mercy become enabling?

    Zero-tolerance towards this behavior exists because it shouldn’t be tolerated. If it’s tolerated, it means that it’s okay for a non-zero number of women to be mistreated. That’s not okay with me.

  259. Guess:

    “My other point had nothing to do with sexual harrassment.”

    Then it’s not actually relevant to this thread? Excellent. Stop talking about it here, please.

    Guess, again: Do you have a reason to be on this particular thread, other than cause trouble? Because so far all you’re adding to it is irritation.

    htom:

    Unless the convention is called “Change Your BehaviorCon,” a convention does not exist for the purpose of giving people opportunities to learn to change their behaviors. It exists for other purposes entirely.

  260. @Greg: …seriously? You’re going there? Whatever.

    @htom: Yeah, but “chances to do some good” are chances for more women to get harassed. Ideally, the con the creeper gets kicked out of is the only one he can afford, the only one in geographic range, etc. Otherwise, I’m also fine making the ban a matter of public record, and letting other cons decide how to handle *that*.

    And “enable em to change eir behavior”? Please. Fucking *please*. They’ve had every opportunity to change their behavior. It’s called “being an adult in society.” They haven’t taken it.

    Frankly? I doubt these asshats are ever going to change. The best we can do is keep them away from their potential victims as much as possible. If that means Mister Skeezy has to be consecutively banned from every con he can get to…well, that’s probably as effective as the just-be-nice-and-give-him-one-more-chance approach. Plus, a) it means that at least he has less chance to be vindictive toward the women who reported him, and b) it sends a message to other potential creepers about what the cons will tolerate.

  261. My apologies for not recognizing sooner Guess was setting up a straw man with the whole apology issue (since nobody had in fact argued that a mere apology constituted harassment). I took a few swings at the straw man before I came to my senses and, in the process, I encouraged him to keep posting.

    He’s in it for personal debating points, would be my guess. Some might consider that trolling. If so, I admit, IHBT.

  262. Slippery slope! Thanks, mopomi, I obviously recognized what he was doing there, but the name for it didn’t jump to mind. Permanent banning from science fiction conventions being the clear first step on the road to lynchings, I guess.

  263. isabelcooper — and when people leave the con, there the harassers are. It’s true that the con-goers are diluted in the general public, lowering their chances of encountering those harassers from the con, but the harassment is caused neither by the concentration nor by the con, but by the harassers. If you convince the harasser to change their behavior, all of the harassment they do everywhere ends. Banning alone primarily moves where the harassers find victims, not that they are harassing. I want the harassers to wake up to what they’re doing (for some it’s intentional, and they’re hopelessly on the path to becoming rapists; I suspect that most are socially inept, unskilled, or both, and can be saved from that intentional path.)

  264. Cross posted, John. Sorry. I agree, that is not a good intended by the purpose of the con. I’ll shut up about it.

  265. Christopher: Come now, Greg. Nobody’s suggested any such thing.

    Take this statement:

    Isabel: And “mercy” is bullshit in this case, because mercy toward a creeper is anything *but* mercy toward his victims.

    and from that statement alone, extract at what point the punishment exceeds the crime. There is none. That’s the problem with moral absolutism like that. Any mercy shown to the offender must be taken as an another offense towards the victim instead. There’s no point where the punishment is too severe. Because anything less than the most severe is an offense to the victim.

    I’m not entirely sure a lifetime ban would be a fair punishment. But this “mercy is bullshit” is itself bullshit when trying to have a conversation about whether the punishment actually does fit the crime or whether it is too much for what happened.

    mopomi: Slippery slope argument foolishness aside,

    Hey, “mercy is bullshit” is moral absolutism bullshit, and it deserved to be pointed out for what it is.

    how does this man deserve his victims’ mercy?

    You know what? Whether the victim forgives the offender isn’t up to you or me or Isabel or anyone else. It’s up to the victim. But the victim doesn’t get to choose the punishment for the offender, because, well, the victim might be someone who quotes Isabel and says “Mercy is bullshit” and demand a hanging.

    The question that is being batted around is whether a lifetime ban is appropriate for harrassment. Would 10 years be OK? 5 years? What if we give them the option to publicly humiliate themselves and they can circumvent some of the ban? Would that be OK? Or take a public caning? Is there a limit or not? if so, what is it? And what is the basis for drawing the line/limit there?

    The folks taking issue with the lifetime ban are questioning whether it fits the offense. But it’s kind of hard to have that conversation when people try to take “what’s the appropriate punishment for this behavior?” and turn it into “lets show the offender mercy just to further offend the victim”

  266. htom: “Banning someone from the con forever may feel good (and may be a short-term good for the other attendees), but e is merely going to go off to some other con, and you’ve discarded the opportunity to enable em to change eir behavior. No, the con isn’t eir therapist. Over the years, I’ve found positive reinforcements much more effective. Point em at proper social training, see if it works. If it doesn’t, then ban em for several sessions, maybe time will cure. Take chances to do some good, or pushing the bad off on someone else. Seems an easy choice to me.”

    That is A) not the job of a bunch of volunteers trying to run a convention to spend years monitoring someone they don’t even necessarily know and who may live half a continent away; and B) won’t work. Adult abusers and harassers regularly apologize, promise to attend therapy, sometimes do lip service in therapy and then don’t change. Convention runners have absolutely no power to make someone go to therapy anyway. The only power they have is to eject and ban someone from a con for causing damage and to protect other convention goers. And “trying to do some good” for the harasser supports the harasser and further victimizes the victims. Valentine is now having to deal with all these people coming at her and keeping track of what is going on with Readercon, will not be able to go to Readercon to work because she can’t trust them, and is being victimized over and over again. Several people resigned from the organizing committees because they can’t trust Readercon either, so they are ending their involvement and also have been victimized by Welling and the con board. Others are staying and trying to clean up the mess; they’re victims. Other female authors and fans now won’t go to Readercon because they can’t trust them, so they’re victims. There has been no reform from the con board’s decision, only more victimization and leniency for a serial harassing bully (whose kids are victims too.) If behavior such as this is not allowed and there is removal as the consequence for the behavior, then people like Welling will either be careful at cons or not go and the cons become safe spaces that positively reinforce good behavior. People — women, children and men — won’t be victimized. If behavior like this is ignored — as some want to do with Peacock’s article — or downplayed with the con board violating their own policy — then people are victimized and driven away and the behavior stays acceptable. Valentine could have called the cops but didn’t to help the con. They screwed her. The con board’s job was to support the victim. They failed. Fuck Welling. He can go look after himself somewhere else. He is not a victim and no one involved with the convention owes him anything.

  267. Oops, sorry, cross posted with John’s warning. Htom, it’s okay, you don’t have to respond. I just wanted to make the point that the victim pool from the con board’s decision is actually quite wide.

  268. This is actually the first I’ve heard of this and I plan to read more about it but an important point is that harassment, of any kind but particularly the sexual kind, is in the eye of the harassed. Full stop, end of story. You can have a great time without violating simple social etiquette, and as long as you follow simple social etiquette there’s no chance of violating another person in any sense of the word. This is not hard to do at all. If you’re someone who can’t have fun without letting your hormones out to play then you have a problem and you need to seek some help. In the meantime, stay home. You’re a menace and no one wants you around, whether you know it or not. Otherwise, expect consequences because sooner or later you’re going to run into someone that knows they don’t have to put up with your shit.

  269. htom:

    That lofty goal isn’t going to be accomplished by having cons hold “Fix Your Asshattery” sessions.

    It’s going to be realized by people recognizing inappropriate behavior and stopping it before it escalates.

    It’s going to be realized by society not accepting “bitch” as an appropriate word for a woman. Ever.

    It’s going to be realized by society accepting that feminism’s definition is, “The advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.”

    A permanent ban from a convention sends the message that men (mostly, in this context) need to be aware of what they’re doing and how it affects others. It starts us on the conversation of why this kind of behavior is not at all acceptable. It doesn’t magically stop the asshats from behaving this way, but it extends the awareness so that more people realize that their behavior affects others and is sometimes not acceptable…and that they should be aware of it and cease bad behavior and stop smirking or laughing or high-fiving when worse behavior is exhibited by someone else.

  270. htom, if the intent is to make the con safer, the effects on the banned person are whatever they are but are not the concern of the ConCom. Nor is there any reason they should have to be. Changing his/her behavior is the perp’s own concern. Not the intent, and it need not be part of the results of enforcing the policy.

    Suppose the published rule was: “Anyone caught picking pockets will be banned from ThisCon for life.” Now suppose some person attends ThisCon and is caught picking a pocket. Might be the first time he/she ever did it, might have been a drunken lark, might have been done on a dare, might be an established habit, might be a manifestation of a compulsion that rises to the level of a mental illness. The reason the person takes the action isn’t germane to the policy. Once ejected, the pickpocket may do any number of things as a result: He/she might decide it’s not worth the thrill, ply his/her habit elsewhere, seek help to control the compulsion, commit suicide, sulk at home and declare himself/herself a victim of discrimination or oppression, or some other action. The intent of the rule is to keep attendees safe from having their pockets picked, and the effect of the rule should be to make that happen. Whether or not the perp’s behavior changes is up to the perp.

  271. Between the mess at ReaderCon, the crap going on at SkepChick and the horror of what Ms Sarkeesian is going through, it’s not really encouraging me to get out and socialize or share an opinion outside of my immediate circle of friends. I’m grateful that there are lots of great men out there that not only can be relied on not to be “That Guy,” but also come to act as a barrier to That Guy. However, knowing that the situation isn’t getting better (and may actually be getting worse, even discounting the fact that people are openly discussing the problem where they weren’t before), really makes me hide in my basement with my action figures. :( Thanks, That Guy, for ruining it for everyone.

  272. @htom: And that’s why we have restraining orders, security, and prison terms. Someone lurks around outside a con from which he’s been banned? Call the damn cops. Get a restraining order.

    If some guy comes up to me on the subway and puts his arm around me, I’m yelling and he’s spending the night in jail, or at least getting kicked off that particular car.

    If some guy at work comes up and puts his arm around me, makes comments about “making him think the wrong things,” etc, I’m writing a quick letter to HR and dude is getting his ass fired, most likely.

    This isn’t the situation all the time, God knows–there are plenty of slimebuckets who get away with horrible things everywhere–but harassment in the “outside world” is much less prevalent, and much less blatant when it is, than it is at cons, *because there are harsh deterrents.*

    If you convince the harasser to change their behavior, all of the harassment they do everywhere ends.

    And if a frog had wings, he wouldn’t bump his ass when he hopped.

    Frankly, most creepers know damn well what they’re doing. I refer you to my “they’re adults, and they were not raised in a cave” point above. The majority manage to function in society just fine, it seems; it’s only when they’re at cons that they decide that social mores don’t apply, because…well, because they can get away with it.

    If you want to redeem them…knock yourself out, buddy. Everyone needs a windmill to tilt at. Just don’t expect the rest of us to put up with them while you try.

    And honestly? There’s something more than a little offensive about saying that, if women don’t put up with creepers in one venue, we’re responsible for their behavior in others.

  273. htom, just read a later post of yours about what social good might be done by a different attitude toward the perp. Not a bad idea, though as someone else pointed out, it’s probably not practical to expect the organizers of the con to add that to their responsibilities. This might be an area where you could do some real good. Pick a con that is convenient to you and volunteer to be the mentor/”parole officer” for anyone who is ejected because they have harassed another attendee. If it goes well, you’ll have the basis for making your case at other cons. If you can make a good case, you might be able to build up a corps of volunteers.

    I’m not being snarky. If you have a good idea, go out and try to put it into action.

  274. @Greg: I’m perfectly willing to argue about what an appropriate punishment for harassment is. However, when other people have said “I want this guy to go away,” asking what’s so very hard about mercy is, indeed, bullshit, and is emotionally manipulative.

    That said, I should have been clearer: in this case, a third party calling for “mercy” is emotionally manipulative bullshit. Said third party is asking the victims of harassment to place some idealized version of mercy above their right to feel safe and have a good time at conventions.

    And I have little problem with moral absolutism in some cases. For what it’s worth.

  275. Greg:

    The rest of your comment clearly being a troll, I’ll respond to this:

    The question that is being batted around is whether a lifetime ban is appropriate for harrassment.

    The time to have that question batted around is before the policy is put into place. Or after the policy has been used, but not in the middle of when the policy needs to be used. Changing the policy on the fly means it is a worse-than-useless policy because every member of Readercon who attended Readercon 23 was promised that any harassment would be met with this harsh penalty. It was not. That means that potential attendees cannot trust Readercon to meet its obligations.

  276. BW: The intent of the rule is to keep attendees safe from having their pockets picked, and the effect of the rule should be to make that happen.

    They used to hang horse thieves because they wanted to scare all the other theives into not stealing horses. The intent may have been to keep people’s horses safe. But that doesn’t mean hanging is an appropriate punishment for the crime.

    For example, would a ten year ban, instead of a lifetime ban, invoke the “mercy is bullshit” nonsense? And if a lifetime ban is acceptable, is there anything else that could acceptably be added to the punishment? Maybe a fine? Maybe all SF cons should have a blacklist of harrassers and ban all of them for life if they harrass at any con. Maybe cons should do background checks and not admit convicted criminals.

    Is there a limit where the punishment exceeds the behavior or not? Because those advocating the “mercy is bullshit” line of thinking certainly aren’t arguing that any such limit exists.

  277. Catherine Schaff-Stump makes an excellent point in her blog post: http://cathschaffstump.com/archives/2012/07/30/readercon-its-not-rocket-science-its-litigous/ To wit:

    “Personal feelings aside (yuck!), there is a much more pragmatic concern. The liability of your organization in regard to a potential felon’s activities, especially if you are aware of that potential, and it is known you are (you must admit that the knowledge that your perp is an offender is out there, thanks to the magical and awesome power of the Internet), is a high liability. If for no other reason than your personal liability and potential sue-ability, get this guy off your books, and ban him. Honest to God, this is not a question of morality, this is a question of protecting your organization and your own legal futures. Ask yourself: Is he worth the risk to your convention, your staff, and you personally? …

    You are under-reacting to a serious injustice and minimizing the culpability of a serious offense. Should you walk away from this highly suspicious situation, and hang the victims out? It spoke ill of Penn State officials, and it speaks ill of you. And again, it makes you liable. …

    Your job is to protect your event, its attendees, and its staff. That’s your raison d’etre. It’s not to help a perp reform. I doubt much you have the qualifications or the ability to make the judgment that he has. What would you require as proof? How would you test him? How would you determine he is Readercon safe? This is logical balderdash…..”

  278. Yes, because having a bouncer tell you “You’re upsetting the other customers. Don’t come back,” is much like the death penalty too.* Gotta love the geek social fallacies.

  279. Greg, you seem to be using a different definition of “mercy” from that which Isabel is using, and I think she’s more right than you are. I’m not generally a fan of hauling out dictionaries in arguments, but I think it is rather necessary here: “Compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm: ‘the boy was begging for mercy’.” That’s just the first one that popped up on Google. Isabel’s statement “…mercy toward a creeper is anything *but* mercy toward his victims.” in no way suggests limitless punishment is the only acceptable outcome; it argues for sufficient punishment. Because “compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish” is likely to be expressed as leniency, that is, insufficient punishment for the wrongdoing. That’s what would be “anything but mercy toward his victims.” No compassion is shown them when their assaulter gets off lightly.

  280. *Footnote, which I forgot: seriously, cons can claim to be female-friendly and enlightened and blah blah blah when people stop getting up in arms over things that would be common policy at any half-decent nightclub. Any half-decent *strip club*, for God’s sake.

  281. Greg, I don’t know what would be an appropriate consequence as a general rule. There might be no general rule. It might vary from one con to another, depending on the ability of the organizers to carry out the consequence and other possible issues. Far be it from me to set up a blanket consequence for all cons, especially when I don’t go to cons and am not well versed in the social aspects and practical limitations.

    Specifically, the appropriate consequence when there is already a published rule is the one specified in the published rule. If the organizers of ReaderCon decide to change the rule, it wouldn’t bother me in the slightest. It’s part of their job. I hope that they would have a thorough discussion, explore the possible ramifications, and try to get a solid consensus for the eventual choice.

    The central concern here, though some of us have enjoyed wandering off along various tangents at times, is that there WAS a clear and public rule, there WAS a violation of the rule, and the violator WAS NOT given the clearly stated consequence. My opinion, like that of quite a few other people, is that the consequence should be the one that was stated by the organizers and agreed to by all parties (since the attendees agreed to it as part of their attendance). Once this particular situation has been resolved, the organizers can discuss whether to change the rule and, if so, how. But that discussion should take place at a later time, and in the meantime, the existing rule should hold unless it endangers anyone in a clearly demonstrable way.

    You mention horses. Changing horses in midstream is generally held to be a bad idea, and so it is here, IMO.

  282. mopomi: The time to have that question batted around is before the policy is put into place.

    As far as I know, and I could be wrong about this, no one on this thread is on the Readercon board, or at the very least, I doubt the Readercon board is not usign this thread as a venue for deciding what to do next. So, your demand that the question should be asked before or after the incident, shouldn’t really apply here, because we’re not Readercon.

    The question is whether or not Readercon’s original policy of a lifetime ban would be appropriate for the offense.

    Changing the policy on the fly means it is a worse-than-useless policy because every member of Readercon who attended Readercon 23 was promised that any harassment would be met with this harsh penalty

    Well, was it also an appropriate penalty? Or was it simply a harsh penalty? Because if it was actually a bad penalty, if it was too harsh, then one could argue that it would be better to correct it, rather than be forced to invoke it out of some blind obediance to the notion that the rule must be followed, no matter how horrible the rule. If people were promised a bad penalty, does the promise somehow override the fact that the promise was bad?

    I think 2 years is too short, but I’m not convinced that “lifetime” is the minimum required to fit the offense.

  283. mythago:

    @chaosprime, actually zero-tolerance policies have some very positive features. Certainty and clarity: “If you do X, the penalty is Y.” There is no room for misunderstanding about what happens if you do X, no complaints that you don’t understand why you got Y penalty rather than Z. Consistency: it doesn’t matter if you are a big-name author, a SMOF, the King of Latveria or a humble newbie, the actions are all that matters and the penalty is the same

    I think that chaosprime sort of has half a point, though, that one result of zero-tolerance is that those in charge look for ways someone they don’t want to enforce the policy on didn’t do whatever it is.

    I don’t think a system that overtly lets certain people get away with harrassment is a good solution, obviously.

    htom:

    The message I’m getting from this uproar is that I should avoid going to such gatherings. I’d feel like I was a porcupine in an inflated balloon gathering. Enjoy yourselves

    If that is actually the level of your social skills, you probably should avoid such gatherings. Is that the point you’re trying to make? You make it sound like this thread is the first time you’ve ever heard anyone say “keep your hands to yourself” and “don’t talk to someone who doesn’t want you talking to them, even if that person is a woman” and how can you possibly exist in such a world?

    mythago (re htom):

    Over and over, you make sarcastic and overdramatic ‘suggestions’ about how people should react. You show not the slightest concern for victims of sexual harassment, implying that they are liars or are overreacting to perfectly well-intentioned behavior by good-hearted, awkward folks.

    I’m also getting a bit of “but if people want me to touch them, they’ll have no way of communicating this!”

    Greg:

    The question is whether or not Readercon’s original policy of a lifetime ban would be appropriate for the offense.

    And the answer is, yes, because that was the stated penalty. Walling was free — and you are free, and I am free — to say “that’s a draconian penalty, and so I’m not going to that con.” But the issue isn’t whether being a creep merits a lifetime ban; it’s whether someone who does something explicitly mentioned as drawing a lifetime ban should be banned for life. Someone who knows they hang horse thieves isn’t going to impress anyone by saying that it’s too harsh a penalty

  284. @htom: You’re really not getting it, are you? I’m on the executive of a volunteer-based organisation (and just for the record, am speaking entirely in a personal capacity). Our primary responsibility is the health, safety and comfort of our members and guests and, yes, that includes a clearly defined – and strictly enforced – policy around sexual harassment.

    It’s not actually our responsibility, or even within our legal powers, to force a creep to undergo therapy or wear a Battle Royale style neck brace to ensure everyone else knows where his creepy arse is at all times.

    However, we can make sure harassers have their ability to attend our events removed, because it’s not actually about the abuser but making sure his victims aren’t further traumatized, and everyone else has a pleasant time under our roof.

    It’s really not rocket science.

  285. I fucking love you. Thank you for this. As a woman who enjoys things of the geeky variety, it is very hard to go to any con or really participate in the culture at all, because of exactly this. If I’m not being harassed or ogled, I’m told that either my interests in those things are “totally hot” (because everything a woman does is to get attention from men, right?) or, alternately that I’m “into comics, videogames, etc just to get attention”. It makes me feel so good that there are thoughtful people like you, who see that issue too. I really hope that someday there will be a space for women to enjoy these things too, without being reduced to sex objects.

  286. When I was at University there was a particular room off the main lab which housed the weighing equipment and scales and such and it was necessary to go in there to weigh out the materials you needed to make up laboratory reagents you required for your wok. It was a small room, with a single entry point. There was a period of time when the “girls” used to go into that room in batches – because there was one guy who apparently used to get his jollies by simply walking up to that single doorway, and then *standing in it*, staring into the room – remember what I said earlier? It was the only way in or out of the place, and it was a fairly small room, and dammit the feeling of being cornered in there without any possibility of escape was STRONG. And this bastard knew exactly what the effect of his behaviour was, and gave every indication of actually enjoying his position of power. No,he never escalated – he never did or even attempted to do anything physical to any of the women who entered that weighing room – but this was STILL harassment. He would do it in a premeditated manner with full awareness of the effect his presence – and did I mention that he was built like a star quarterback?!? – had on the obviously physically weaker female victims inside that room. It was a sense of “if I really really WANTED to do it, I could take you down, and there is absolutely nothing you can do to stop me” coupled with a put-downish intimation of “but why would I want to screw with the likes of an inferior female like YOU?” it was both a physical intimidation – a strong and well-built male blocking a more slighly built female’s way out of a potentially dangerous situation – and a psychological put-down (I could do things but you really aren’t worth anything more than a leer…) He was told to stop. Repeatedly. By both some of the more assertive female students, and several times by faculty. As far as I can tell those interactions left precisely no impact at all, and the only reason this behaviour stopped – HERE – was because the moron moved on. What happed at the next place where he wound up, I have no way of knowing. But – how can I put this – if I had seen a newspaper headline about a woman being attacked and seen his picture attached to it I would not have been in the least surprised. Predators are predators, and he had a predatorial mind.

    Now, about cons in general and Readerrcon in particular. Yes, it’s different than the above scenario – people there are all present of their own free will and voluntarily and by their own choice. And yet… let me just say that given the accounts I heard about Mr Walling’s behaviour, I would have felt rather too uncomfortably like that girl I was back in the day when Dickehad loomed in the doorway of the weighing room while two or three of us, there for hte safety in numbers, went about th business of weighing out our chemicals while trying not to look at the guy in the doorway who stood between us and our freedom. The word is TRAPPED. And anyone who makes anyone else feel trapped – especially after this has been pointed out to them in no uncertain terms, several times, such as the case appears to have been for Mr Walling, is crossing a line. No means no, go away means go away, and sometimes a smile can only mean “I am fucking TERRIFIED of you” rather than the final vindication of your actions and the invitation to press your advantage home.

    Just saying.

    As for whether or not punshment was “draconian” – let me point out that it was *Readercon* that formulated that harassment policy. Way before actual harassment took place. It wasn’t something concocted to deal with this particular occasion or this particular offender. it just seems that way because – well – the policy doesn’t seem to apply to him. Some incidents, apaprently, are more equal than others,

  287. “Perhaps we should hang all harrassers and creepers by the neck until dead? Wouldn’t anythign less than that be showing them “mercy”?”

    No. There, that was an easy answer to a dumb question. Anything less than the publicly stated and agreed upon penalty (eg banning from the con for life) would be mercy.

    There, any other questions?

  288. Greg, what are you on about?

    The board decided on a 2-year ban instead of following their written policy. This is one of the major causes of the uproar.

    The asshole, Walling, said (not a direct quote), “I did it. I’m sorry.” The Board said, “Oh, well, then, that’s okay. You’ll only be banned for two years even though we promised every one of our members that this kind of behavior would result in a permanent ban, and even though we know you’ve done this before.”

    The 30-member committee for Readercon has taken this up and is now debating whether to overrule the board, in part because of the uproar over the fact that the board didn’t stick to their contract with their members.

    This isn’t a state government and this isn’t the federal government where some measure of rehabilitation effort or mercy might be expected. This is a private enterprise entering into a contract with its members. Part of that contract states that assholes like Walling will not be allowed back into the conference, EVER, if they can’t keep their hands and creepy behavior to themselves. Now that someone challenged that contract and the board failed to meet its obligations, there is no reason to trust that this particular board can be expected to keep any of its other obligations; there’s no reason to trust them to hold a safe conference.

  289. Eric, are you arguing that it’s not the harassment policy that is indicative of a USian-centric attitude, but rather the “zero tolerance” policy? That, as a Canadian, Walling would not be accustomed to such policies, ’cause “zero tolerance” is a uniquely USian concept? If that’s your point, well, here: http://lmgtfy.com/?q=zero+tolerance+policy+canada

    If that’s not your point, I’m starting to think that railing about USians’ lack of sophistication is just your bag. Which is fine and all, but what does it have to do with this discussion?

    Greg, whether or not a “zero tolerance” permaban is appropriate is a completely separate question from whether or not Walling should be subject to a permaban under the “zero tolerance”. The answer to the former is “Maybe”, but the answer to the second is pretty unquestionably “Yes”. It’s the First Rule of Rules: Don’t make any rule you’re not willing to enforce. The Second Rule of Rules is: Once you make a rule, you have to enforce it until you change it. The Third Rule of Rules is: Don’t change a rule in the middle of enforcing the old rule.

  290. Could somebody please clarify something for me? I’m a New Zealander and we have tiny cons here by US standards when we have them at all, so I’m not familiar with how big cons in the US are run.

    Which body is seen to be “in charge” of the convention — to have the final say on things such as policy and enforcement thereof, the board or the committee?

  291. In the case of Readercon, the committee oversees the board.

    Readercon is actually fairly small by US con standards.

  292. @Kat — happens. Not a problem.

    The rest of you — I think I said the offender should be pointed or persuaded or convinced; compulsion rarely works in such treatment, and it’s not available to con management anyway. A “First Con Social Skills” or “Check Your Social Skills” session might be useful, but I’m not going to attempt teach it; I do preach that the way to really learn something is to teach it, but I don’t think that applies in this case. Just not a topic I’d be comfortable trying to instruct others in. Team teaching with both males and females might be best, showing examples good and bad.

    Yes, an apology can be a request for forgiveness. It should contain such a request explicitly if it is. Sometimes an apology is only an apology; the apologizer may consider forgiveness unneeded, undeserved, or unattainable, but feels he owes the apology like a debt that must be paid. Sometimes it’s an excuse to further harass. Your POV, apologizer’s POV, recipient’s POV; “Truth is a three-edged sword”, as Kosh said.

    My social skills tell me that as far as what I understand, and don’t understand, about sexual harassment … ‘way off topic at best.

    Some other thread, folks.

  293. “Sometimes an apology is only an apology; the apologizer may consider forgiveness unneeded, undeserved, or unattainable, but feels he owes the apology like a debt that must be paid”

    Why does the apologizer get to decide how the interaction goes forward?

  294. For calibration on cultural norms in Canada, via the Canadian Human Rights Commission [1] Employers are required by the Canada Labour Code to develop their own harassment policies. In addition, the existence of appropriate harassment policies and procedures will be a factor considered by the Canadian Human Rights Commission in evaluating a company’s liability in harassment complaints. The purpose of the model policies is to assist employers in meeting these requirements. However, employers retain responsibility for preparing appropriate policies, monitoring their effectiveness, updating them as required, ensuring all employees are aware of the policy and providing anti-harassment training.

    The concept of sexual harassment is not some strange and exotic idea from far beyond Canada’s borders, something no Canadian could be expected to know of but rather a matter of public policy and federal law.

    1:
    The Canadian Human Rights Commission is an independent body established by Parliament in 1977. It carries out its mandate at arms-length from the Government of Canada.

    The Canadian Human Rights Commission administers the Canadian Human Rights Act and is responsible for ensuring compliance with the Employment Equity Act. Both laws ensure that the principles of equal opportunity and non-discrimination are followed in all areas of federal jurisdiction.

  295. Sadly, htom, there is bugger all evidence that supports the idea that team training dickheads not to be dickheads works any better than one-on-one training dickheads not to be dickheads works; in both cases the success ratio is so close to zero that it is for all practical purposes zero.

    And may I add that your suggestion that others should volunteer for your proposed dickhead training scheme, whilst ruling yourself out of having to actually try doing it yourself, is adding insult to injury on the people who have been on the receiving end of the dickheads being dickheads. They deserve a great deal better than that…

  296. Greg: The question is whether or not Readercon’s original policy of a lifetime ban would be appropriate for the offense.

    Hershele: And the answer is, yes, because that was the stated penalty.

    I don’t mean for Walling, I mean in general. Is that an appropriate punishment for that offense.

    mopomi: what are you on about?

    Not sure why you decided to review the case rather than just answer the question.

    Doc: whether or not a “zero tolerance” permaban is appropriate is a completely separate question

    It’s worth asking though. If a lifetime ban is inappropriate then changing it, rather than enforcing it, might be the appropriate response.

    The Third Rule of Rules is: Don’t change a rule in the middle of enforcing the old rule.

    Meh. I don’t buy this at all. If the rule is bad, then don’t follow it.

    If you want to say it was part of a contract, fine. But that doesn’t make it moral. Just like “I was following orders” doesn’t exempt you from the morality of your actions.

    If the rule had been something horrendously bad, but had never come up because it never needed enforcing, and then when it came up, everyone realized it was horribly wrong, the correct response is to do the right thing, not follow a horrendously bad rule.

    I don’t think a lifetime ban would be the end of the world, but I might see it as a bit much and have changed the punishment to something shorter (assuming I was on Readercon, blah blah blah)

    So, yes, “is a lifetime ban the appropriate response for harrasment” is a separate question, but I think if the answer is “no it’s not appropriate, its too severe”, then I can at least understand the board wanting to do the right thing rather than follow a bad rule.

    I think 2 years was too short, but I’d get the concept that they thought it a bad rule.

  297. In my field, most of the professional conferences I would want to attend are sponsored either by IEEE or by ACM. All IEEE conferences are governed by the IEEE nondiscrimination and harassment policy (http://www.ieee.org/p9-26.html). As far as I can tell, ACM conferences make that decision individually. SIGPLAN and SPLASH (the latter better known by its former name OOPSLA) both have harassment policies, for example. My guess is that eventually all ACM conferences will, if they don’t already.

    I don’t know how effective those policies are or how they’re applied in practice — as we’ve seen here, a policy means little without the will to enforce it. But there certainly is precedent for professional computer science conferences to care about this.

  298. @Greg:

    It’s worth asking though. If a lifetime ban is inappropriate then changing it, rather than enforcing it, might be the appropriate response.

    No it isn’t, Greg. It really really isn’t. FFS, have you bothered getting up to speed on what specific chain of events involving real live human beings occasioned John’s post in the first place? OK, I get this is probably just a nice thought experiment to you and your experience of the kind of shit Genevieve Valentine went though is purely theoretical.

    Like Mr. Scalzi I don’t see what’s so damn complicated about this: The time to change a policy you think is flawed is before or after an event calls for its use, not during.

    Or this:

    3. Conventions should have policies and procedures in place to deal with sexual harassment. Those policies should be unambiguous and clear. They should apply equally to everyone.

    4. If a convention has a policy on sexual harassment which it then does not follow, then it has failed — failed the person who was harassed by not living up to its obligations to them, failed its guests by not following the rules by which it purports to run, failed the community at large by continuing to allow exceptions and exclusions and excuses to those who harass, and failed itself by not being the convention it claims to be.

    And I’ll repeat this one more time: It is not the responsibility of any convention management to take on the role of de facto therapist and caregiver to a harasser. In the case of people with an extensive pattern of seriously inappropriate conduct towards women, that’s not only impossible but unwise and doomed to failure. Their primary responsibility is for the health and safety of their attendees, guests and staff. Your hyperbolic false analogies aside, I’m not seeing you make a convincing case that zero tolerance/one strike you’re out policies don’t do that.

  299. Greg, I didn’t answer your question because that question isn’t actually pertinent to the fact that the board screwed up and didn’t protect their members in the way they promised that they would. The pertinent question is: why didn’t the board protect their members like they promised they would?

    Finally, the permaban rule, in my opinion, isn’t bad.

    Zero-tolerance means no harassment. Zero. None. Zilch. Nada. Do it once and it’s out. Forever. Because we just don’t want to deal with that and we don’t want our members to feel unsafe at our conference. Don’t like that? Don’t harass. Can’t help it? Don’t attend; go to counseling instead. Whatever. Just don’t come to a conference where the members were promised a safe environment and destroy that safety.

    Restating a point that’s been made before: Anything other than zero-tolerance for this kind of behavior means that sometimes it’s okay for a woman to be mistreated. How can that ever be moral?

  300. Greg, also what immorality do you see in Readercon’s current rule? Saying the rule is part of a contract doesn’t make it moral, as you say. It also doesn’t make it immoral. Why even bring that up?

  301. You’re thinking of the specific kind of sexual harassment that’s legally considered sex discrimination in a working environment

    Sorta. There are actually two kinds of actionable harassment: quid pro quo (“sleep with me or I’ll fire you”) and hostile work environment (your co-workers regularly leave photos of your face pasted on images printed from Goatse taped to your monitor).

    @Hershele Ostropoler: Oh, there are a lot of drawbacks to a one-size-fits-all penalty. I think there’s a decent case to be made for a more flexible policy; I just don’t see that zero-tolerance policies are inherently bad or inherently worse than squishier ones. I mean, imagine what the ReaderCon board would have done if the only rule they had to follow was ‘impose an appropriate penalty’.

    @cranapia: People tend not to ‘get’ arguments when they are very emotionally wedded to them, or when they’re invested in being right, sadly.

  302. Meh. I don’t buy this at all. If the rule is bad, then don’t follow it.

    Then I doubt you’re concerned with your credibility with those who are subject to your rules. The correct answer is you follow through on your rules, then you change the bad ones. Do otherwise, and they’r not really rules, are they. And if they’re not really rules, then why the hell should anyone follow them>

    And before you over-blow it to something like the death penalty, context matters. And since the context for this rule is whether a given individual is welcome to this one particular event, permabans, while harsh, are hardly a crime against humanity.

  303. Cranapia, I share your incredulity that there are people commenting who seem to have succeeed in sticking their fingers in their ears whilst whistling a happy song to the extent that the facts of what actually happened seem to have been edited out from their memory banks, leaving them to engage in deep philosophical ponderings untroubled by what might loosely be described as reality.

    I have to say that I’m still reeling from htoms team training dickheads proposal, see above, so I’m profoundly grateful to discover that I am not hallucinating all this…

  304. @Doc Rocketscience: Particularly because, in this case, the reason the rule was stated to be bad was ‘well, he said he was really sorry, and when we came up with this policy we never imagined a harasser could be sorry.’ Not that the conduct was so mild that it didn’t justify the harsh penalty of a ban. Not that there was a question about what actually happened. Not that the victim specifically requested that the penalty be lesser.

    Also, if one reads the links, this wasn’t something the Board announced to all and sundry; the fact of the ban (without explanation) was communicated to Ms. Valentine and to Mr. Walling only, and only later, when she talked about it publicly and there was an outcry, did the Board change its mind and make a statement, which included the ‘but he sang the Very Sorry Song’ excuse.

    It’s funny, but if we were talking about something other than sexual harassment I doubt people would be wringing their hands out of poor Mr. Walling being cast out of heaven. If I went to a party at Scalzi’s house, threw up on Zeus, broke the strings of his ukelele playing it without permission, and told Ohioan jokes to his friends until they were ready to throttle me, nobody would bat an eye if he said I was unwelcome in his home; nobody would plead “But what if mythago is socially awkward?” or argue that, as a native Michigander, my culture is probably one where it’s acceptable to barf on people’s pets. Nor would anyone try to say that it’s Scalzi’s job to rehabilitate me and teach me the right way to behave at parties.

    Yet when we’re talking about sexual harassment at a SFF con, well. We must place the psychological well-being of the offender over all else, and aren’t you people overreacting to the poor Montrealer anyway?!

  305. mythago is right. Replace “sexual harassment of a guest” with “robbery in the book dealer’s room” in this narrative and the apologists and deniers disappear. Crimes against property are worse than crimes against women for some people, after all.

  306. @Christopher Rowe: to be fair, it was BW who brought up the comparison to pickpockets. But you’re entirely right. I suspect that few people identify with thieves, or worry “What if I picked something up from a dealer’s table to look at it and I was unjustly accused of theft?”

  307. Greg @ 6:34:

    Meh. I don’t buy this at all. If the rule is bad, then don’t follow it.

    I can see that Mythago and DocRocketScience have already addressed this, but I want to add that from an organization’s perspective, the results of not following their own rules are not going to be good. I’m currently working with an organization that ran into a similar issue a few years ago: they had a very loose policy about political messages that could be displayed at a community event that they produce. There were some complaints about certain messages which some community members were uncomfortable with, and the organization created a stricter policy, behind closed doors. The new policy prompted so many more complaints that they abandoned it immediately before the event. And again, behind closed doors. The end result was that everybody was mad at the organization, not just because of the rules they made but because of how they made them – and they’re still feeling the impact of that anger.

    In other words, DocRocketScience has it right: The correct answer is you follow through on your rules, then you change the bad ones. .

  308. Yeah, just wrote a comment that was a post. Will put it at a_d_medievalist.livejournal.

    Short version: Male or female, mixed signals or not, why the hell would anybody want to err on the side of making someone feel threatened? I mean, the worst case scenario for thinking someone is not interested when they really are is that they might have to be clearer that they are interested. Ok, maybe it ends up being a “might have been,” but life’s full of those, and who wants to waste time on people who seem ambivalent towards you?

    There seems to me to be no way past “if someone says no, and you don’t back off, you’re being a threatening asshat and deserve to be banned for being anti-social, if nothing else.”

  309. Anotherdamnedmidievalist:

    That last sentence is true, but it’s more than that.

    If it isn’t explicitly a “yes” then it’s a “no.” If someone doesn’t receive obvious permission to continue interacting, then they’re on the wrong side of asshattery. Why? Because it doesn’t always have to be “no.” It can sometimes be ” I shut him down politely, turned my back on him, and talked to someone else.” That’s a no. A yes would be to respond positively. If there’s not positive response, then it’s a “no.”

  310. @Doc RocketScience: Eric, are you arguing that it’s not the harassment policy that is indicative of a USian-centric attitude, but rather the “zero tolerance” policy?
    Basically, yes.

    That, as a Canadian, Walling would not be accustomed to such policies
    No. From my first post in this thread, I’ve unambiguously insisted that he was wrong. But again: everybody agree on the facts, apologies and sanctions issued, case closed.

    My whole point has thus little or nothing to do with the ReaderCon incident, but rather to the ensuing “internet explosion”, as John put it. It was, and is, that outcries of “zero tolerance” and “moral absolutes”, when not related to globally consensual values, tend to become creepy for people not involved in the associated provincial issues. And that’s it’s thus probably not a good thing for a supposedly international Convention — and even less for a WorldCon.

  311. Greg: “The question is whether or not Readercon’s original policy of a lifetime ban would be appropriate for the offense.”

    Hershele: “And the answer is, yes, because that was the stated penalty.”

    Greg: “I don’t mean for Walling, I mean in general. Is that an appropriate punishment for that offense.”

    They had applied the stated penalty to an individual previously, Greg, so apparently they considered a lifetime ban to be the appropriate response to violations of the policy.

  312. It was, and is, that outcries of “zero tolerance” and “moral absolutes”, when not related to globally consensual values, tend to become creepy for people not involved in the associated provincial issues. And that’s it’s thus probably not a good thing for a supposedly international Convention — and even less for a WorldCon.

    Good thing we’re talking about ReaderCon, then; Mr. Walling was not banned from Worldcon.

    “Zero tolerance” is not an ‘outcry'; it is and was a stated policy at Readercon, and has been since 2008, that harassment will result in permanent expulsion. “Moral absolutes” seems to suggest that unless every culture on the planet agrees that certain behaviors are unacceptable, it’s provincial, America-centric and just plain wrong for a convention to state that they are unacceptable.

    Also, it’s flatly untrue that the “internet explosion” resulted from global culture clashes. It resulted from a con board acting in violation of its stated policy for no given reason, and when pressed on that reason, claiming its sole motivation was the contrition of the wrongdoer.

    Given that Mr. Walling does not appear to have claimed a cultural misunderstanding, nor has anyone offered anything other than random speculation that he was acting out of misunderstanding, nor has anyone pointed to any actual cultural background of Mr. Walling’s which might lead him to think it’s OK to grope or stalk strangers, the you-Americans-and-your-naval-gazing argument seems little more than opposition to the penalty dressed up as multiculturalism.

  313. Eric Picholle:

    when not related to globally consensual values, tend to become creepy for people not involved in the associated provincial issues. And that’s it’s thus probably not a good thing for a supposedly international Convention — and even less for a WorldCon.

    Mkay… I’m still jealous of the girlfriend who went to Aussiecon 4 in 2010. She reported back that all the Americans she met (including John Scalzi) were perfectly house-trained, the one guy who got a bit sketchy with her took “fuck off, and don’t come into my line of sight again” for an answer, and I don’t recall anyone being too horrendously culture shocked by the Australians and their peculiar ways. (I’m a Kiwi, it’s a genetic imperative to cheek our next door neighbors.)

    Perhaps this makes me culturally insensitive, but if you don’t consider treating women with dignity and respect a “globally consensual value”, I hope the WSFS and Worldcon organizers would not only strenuously beg to differ but shitcan any Worldcon bid that doesn’t have a clear, explicit and enforcable committment to being a harassment-free zone.

    And, Eric, with all due respect I can think of plenty of non-Anglo feminists who would find it even more “creepy” to be told that harassment and abuse of women is a cultural value worthy of deference.

  314. Welling sexually ASSAULTED Valentine. That is a crime. He should have gone to jail. The only reason he did not go to jail was because of the mercy shown to him by Valentine. Valentine can sue the hotel the convention was at — who do not seem, as far as I know, to have been consulted about this, a serious mistake by Readercon staff — and Readercon for allowing her to be sexually assaulted on their premises and at their event. As soon as Valentine reported the sexual assault, Readercon should have ejected Welling from the event and told him if he tried to enter it again that police would be called, and they should have notified the staff of the Marriott that a sexual assault had occurred, which would have likely resulted in Mr. Welling being asked to leave the hotel as a guest at the very least (which may have indeed happened.) There is no question of what needed to be done even if a policy had not already been in place. Mr. Welling committed a crime in front of witnesses and needed to be expelled for the physical safety of everyone at the convention. Mr. Welling further needed to be permanently expelled for the safety of everyone at future conventions. The con had no legal right to decide on rehabilitation for someone who committed a crime and doing so places the whole con in legal danger.

    It is unlikely that Valentine will sue them, (although someone else in the future may and other people who were at the con could threaten a lawsuit or demand a refund since the con willingly endangered their safety,) but now every time she goes to a con, she will bear the scar of that assault. She will have to fear for her safety. Because she showed the man mercy. She did that because the con did have a policy printed in the con booklet that they would expel those committing sexual assault and harassment and ban them permanently from the convention. She did that because they told her they would live up to their responsibility to keep her safe at the event. They lied. They did not show mercy. They aided and abetted a criminal, shielding him from criminal prosecution and endangering the people who paid them money for the event, which is a form of fraud. There should be no need for a vote from the committee. The board should be automatically fired because they engaged in criminal behavior that endangered the con and everyone who did or will attend the event.

    Sexual assault isn’t a cutsey thing. It isn’t a mistake. It isn’t a lack of social cues. It’s a crime all through North America. Valentine had no obligation to call the cops on the man. But if you are at a con and a man grabs a woman whom he has been stalking (or anyone) and she screams at him and scrambles away, you take out your phone and call the cops. Because it is a sexual assault. It’s people’s lives, not a game of philosophical morality. As for Welling, I won’t be at all surprised if it comes out he raped someone. Because that is the level that this man is operating on. In any case, he committed sexual assault and he is an uncharged sex offender. And ReaderCon is in deep legal doodoo.

  315. Greg,
    I’m interested to know why you think a lifetime ban from a con for harassment is excessive. Part of my work involves the criminal-justice system, and it’s a regular part of my job to have to consider the appropriate punishment for a crime, so pardon me if I’m just a little overexcited to get to think about this issue in a new context.

    There are a number of generally recognized goals of sentencing, which can sometimes be in tension with one another. They include deterring the offender from committing future offenses; deterring other would-be offenders; incapacitation–that is, rendering the offender unable to re-offend, at least for a certain period of time; and retribution–that is, satisfying the society whose norms have been transgressed that the punishment adequately reflects the seriousness of the offense.

    It seems reasonable to me that a private organization would choose incapacitation as a primary goal. After all, as others have pointed out, whether a harasser can or will reform isn’t really the con’s concern. A con might also choose a lifetime ban as a general policy to take a stand in what seems to be a culture war–to reflect its own view that harassment is a much more serious problem than many people think, and by so doing maybe change the perception of how serious it is. That’s all I’ll say for now, but I’m interested to learn in what way you think the lifetime ban is disproportionate.

  316. Something I did once was stand brother/husband close to a fem
    who was, perhaps, to “well” brought up to know that balls are
    made for kicking.
    I gave him not my dead face,* but my what’s going on face.
    He left, I left, and she never knew (she was looking down, doing
    that try-to-hide thing) that I was why he hastily apologized and
    went away.

    *Dead face: No facial expression, no body movement, look the
    person in the eyes.
    Wait for them to respond.
    _ I learned this one from a town police chief friend of Mom’s.
    The guy who she said had said “[If I believed that you meant
    that death threat I’d kill you right now.]”

  317. I’m kind of sympathetic to the general idea that if a policy is bad it ought to be changed. But there are two problems with thinking that that general idea has anything to do with what happened here. First, if you’ve changed your mind and decided that you now disagree with a policy you previously supported, it’s always a good idea to explain the new information or arguments that made you change your mind. And second, and more important, the concom doesn’t claim to have changed the policy. Did you notice them publishing their new improved policy? Nope, me neither. They still kept their policy, they just decided not to enforce it.

    I’m also kind of sympathetic to the general idea that even if a policy is good, there may occasionally be extraordinary circumstances where everyone would agree it shouldn’t be applied. But it’s hard to see how that general idea applies here either. Again, if you’re making a special exception, you’d better be able to give some convincing account of just what’s going on that’s so exceptional. An offender who says he’s very sorry? That’s not quite ‘exceptional’ so much as ‘routine’.

    It’s hard to avoid the suspicion that, in this case, concom realized something they hadn’t thought of before: the offender might sometimes be someone they know and like.

  318. Folks, here at 340+ comments in, we’re starting to repeat ourselves, so let’s ask ourselves if we’re adding anything new and/or useful to the conversation at this point.

  319. mopomi — That’s pretty much what I I meant by the first question I posed. That is, given no clear “yes”, especially if there is any indication of ambivalence or “no”, why would anybody choose to behave in such an antisocial way?

  320. cranapia: Like Mr. Scalzi I don’t see what’s so damn complicated about this: The time to change a policy you think is flawed is before or after an event calls for its use, not during

    Doc at 5:39 pm gave his three rule of rules, which included this as well. My meta-rule that overrules all rules is even simpler: do the right thing. You can huff and puff and bluster all you want, but a rule is just a rule and doesn’t come with any intrinsic moral authority. Nor does a law. Nor does an order from a commanding officer, or Der Fuhrer, or Herr Bush. If a rule says no colored people at the front of the bus, it’s immoral, and the fact that its a rule doesn’t change its immorality. If God himself tells you to murder the nonbelieving infidels, the correct response is not “follow the rules”, the correct response is not murder the infidels and then afterwards change your faith, the correct thing to do is to tell God to go screw.

    There’s nothing so damn complicated about “Do the right thing”.

    It is not the responsibility of any convention management to take on the role of de facto therapist and caregiver to a harasser.

    Good thing I didn’t argue in favor of that then, eh? See? We agree on something.

    mopomi: I didn’t answer your question because that question isn’t actually pertinent to the fact that the board screwed up and didn’t protect their members in the way they promised that they would.

    Just like rules, promises don’t guarantee morality. A rule can be moral or immoral. A promise can be moral or immoral. If you promise something and sometime later you realize it was an immoral promise, then you don’t say to yourself “Well, I promised”, no you do the right thing and break the promise.

    Anything other than zero-tolerance for this kind of behavior means that sometimes it’s okay for a woman to be mistreated. How can that ever be moral?

    I don’t have a problem with “zero tolerance”. But it’s not required to be tied to “mandatory lifetime ban”. It’s not OK for someone to be harrassed. The question I have is whether a 5 year or 10 year ban must necessarily mean that it is OK to harass someone. 20 year ban? Why would a 50 year ban somehow mean that its OK to harrass, but a lifetime ban is clearly on the side of “not OK to harrass”? What’s so magical about a lifetime ban?

    BW: also what immorality do you see in Readercon’s current rule? Saying the rule is part of a contract doesn’t make it moral, as you say. It also doesn’t make it immoral. Why even bring that up?

    Because its been brought up on this thread about whether a lifetime ban is too much. And the response has generally been to attack anyone suggesting a thing, that its a wholly invalid way to think about it. I think it’s completely valid because if a lifetime ban is excessive, then the Readercon board did the right thing in NOT following the rule.

    And so far, the only reasons people have given that a lifetime ban is valid is that “it’s the rules” and “its the contract” and “its the promise”, none of which override the requirement that it needs to be moral to be followed.And no one’s really given a moral argument to why a lifetime ban is moral and a ten year ban is totally immoral and insufficient.

    Doc: Then I doubt you’re concerned with your credibility with those who are subject to your rules.

    heh. I’ll just say you have no idea what you’re talking about here and leave it at that.

    The correct answer is you follow through on your rules, then you change the bad ones.

    No. It’s not. If its a bad rule, you don’t enforce it just because its a rule.

    And before you over-blow it

    Right. A 5 or 10 year ban, like I offered as a possible alternative, is totally overblowing it.

    permabans, while harsh, are hardly a crime against humanity.

    Well, if the basic reason Readercon changed their enforcment was that they decided the rule was too harsh, then that doesn’t mean they thought it was a crime against humanity, but that they thought it too harsh.

    mythago: Yet when we’re talking about sexual harassment at a SFF con, well. We must place the psychological well-being of the offender over all else,

    Nice strawman you got there. It would have been perfect if you had prefixed it by saying that’s what we’re all implying. Oh well.

    tariqata: I want to add that from an organization’s perspective, the results of not following their own rules are not going to be good. … The end result was that everybody was mad at the organization,

    From what I’ve read, how Readercon managed this decision of changing the rule was a big failure from a PR perspective. If they felt the rule was too harsh they could have dealt with it in a public manner rather than behind closed doors. But having everyone be mad at your organization means you might be in commercial trouble. But if the rule was excessive, they still did the right thing around that. They could have handled how they went public about it much better though.

    Elizabeth: Part of my work involves the criminal-justice system, and it’s a regular part of my job to have to consider the appropriate punishment for a crime,

    I’ve been on jury duty several times now (randomly selected my ass). I recall one case where the jury listened to all the evidence over the course of months (damn long case), and when we were put in the jury room and allowed to deliberate and finally talk about the case, on the first day of deliberations, several people suggested “lets just take a vote now, it seems pretty clear cut”. Everyone agreed it seemed pretty clear cut so we voted. We were split 6 and 6. We ended up in deliberations for quite some time.

    That case taught me a lot. One thing it taught me is its not like CSI on TV where they get the bad guy, they have a preponderance of evidence, and the guy confesses at the end so its perfectly clear that they got the right guy. I watched CSI pretty religiously before that trial. I stopped afterwards.

    The other thing it taught me is nothing is ever so clear cut as the prosecution or the defense want you to believe it is. There’s quite a few people who think “lifetime ban” is clear cut, the right response. But other than the economical argument that goes along the lines of “the convention could get sued if they don’t take a stand against harassment, so a lifetime ban is protection against a lawsuit” it doesn’t explain why a 5 or 10 year ban wouldn’t also protect against a lawsuit, or what moral weighing was done to reach the conclusion that a lifetime ban is the right way, as a general principle, to respond to any harrassment.

    I do NOT expect the convention to be a therapist, but that doesn’t mean a lifetime ban is the correct response either.

    A con might also choose a lifetime ban as a general policy to take a stand in what seems to be a culture war–to reflect its own view that harassment is a much more serious problem than many people think, and by so doing maybe change the perception of how serious it is.

    But that’s not punishing someone for their actions. That’s punishing someone partly for political reasons. It’s like the politicians go try to one-up each other as to who is the toughest on crime and you end up with absurd punishments. It would be like hanging horse thieves, not because its the appropriate punishment for the crime, but because you want to make a statement and try to scare the other horse thieves into not stealing horses.

    SFWA doesn’t have a policy for a mandatory lifetime ban. I don’t think “mandatory lifetime ban” is universally accepted. But it’s being trucked around here as if it were unquestionably the morally correct universal punishment, without any basis other than non-moral reasons. (protect themselves from lawsuits, its the rules, they made a promise, etc). But if Readercon realized the rule was too harsh, then they did the right thing not enforcing it (and they totally screwed up how they interacted with the public about it)

    They include deterring the offender from committing future offenses; deterring other would-be offenders; incapacitation–that is, rendering the offender unable to re-offend, at least for a certain period of time; and retribution–that is, satisfying the society whose norms have been transgressed that the punishment adequately reflects the seriousness of the offense.

    The way I generally look at it is that the punishment ought to reflect the benefit the offender got out of committing the offense and the damage the offender inflicted on others as a result of the offense. With money crimes, its easy math. Corporation decides to dump pollution into river. They save a million dollars doing so. They also inflict a hundred million dollars in damages to everyone’s health in the area. Throw in some multiplier so that it isn’t simply a “break even” if they get caught and profit if they get away with it, say 3x or 10x or something, and the fine becomes something like 300million to a billion dollars. The end result is that corporations see the possible fines and decide its just easier to follow the laws.

    For non-money offenses, there are no numbers for the math. But we want the end result to be the same. The potential offenders see the possible punishment and decide they’re better off following the rules. I think a 5 to 10 year ban would do that. I think that would be sufficiently long that many potential offenders would do the math in their heads and decide its not worth it and do what it takes to keep their shit in line. Maybe I’m wrong about that. I don’t have any hard and fast statistics to point to to back that specific number up. but then again, I’ve not seen any hard and fast statistics to show that a mandatory lifetime ban is the appropriate punishment either.

    And 5 or 10 years wouldn’t be perfect either, just like a lifetime ban wouldn’t be perfect, just like no matter what the fine system is for pollution, some companies will still try to dump toxic waste into the earth. But the main measure for me would be the point at which rational potential offenders see the punishment and adjust their behavior because they do the math and decide whatever they get out of harrassment is not worth the punishment.

  321. To the original issue: if the rule said banned for life, it should be banned for life. The law is hard but it’s the law. Someone mentioned liability, and that’s true. It’s much easier to make someone who’s a troublemaker not able to make trouble around people who might sue your organization.

    To the more general explosion–am I seriously the only female who has NEVER, in over a decade of fandom-related activities, experienced anything I would consider being “sexually harassed”? I mean, seriously. I have been to large cons. I have been to small cons. I have worn costumes (including one based off Amidala’s black leather corset in “Attack of the Clones”). I’m not a 10, but I think I’m at least reasonably comely and practice good hygiene. I’ve wandered large convention centers packed with other geeks by myself. I’ve had what in my interpretation were somewhat-awkward attempts at chatting me up by guys in whom I was not remotely interested. I don’t recall ever being touched in a way I found more than mildly annoying (and that includes being hugged by female acquaintances. I dislike this far more than I dislike a stranger putting his arm around my shoulders for a costume pic, but it seems to be socially required somehow, in and out of fandom, so I’ve learned to put up with them.) I never was so traumatized by anything I would in any way think it warranted complaining.

  322. @julia_octavia: It would be super awesome if you’re not, and if harassment and tolerance thereof is dropping. The fact is, though, that an awful lot of women and a non-zero number of men are harassed, and that there is far too much tolerance of such harassment because ‘that’s just how [big-name dude] is’, or ‘well, fans are just huggy/backrub-y’, or ‘what do you expect dressed in that costume’, or Geek Social Fallacy #1 (which predators know damn well how to exploit).

  323. julia_octavia, I’m very pleased you’ve never experienced sexual harassment at a convention, and I say that without the tiniest bit of sarcasm.

    I’ll be even more pleased when your experience is the norm rather than the exception.

  324. Greg, you’re doing that thing you do where you unleash far more verbiage than anyone can be reasonably expected to read, much less respond to, in a quest to Win The Point. While I am not going to tell you that you have to step away from the thread, I am going to suggest that you do. It’s obvious you’re pretty wound up.

  325. I’ve struggled to find a way to make this more than just a bit relevant to the incident under scrutiny.

    The NY Times just published an article on harassment in gaming, including video of a gaming coach harassing one of his team members (the only female on the team).

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/02/us/sexual-harassment-in-online-gaming-stirs-anger.html?hpw

    While this is gaming and not sci-fi/fantasy fiction, the communities do overlap. Now to the point of making it relevant to the discussion here.

    The Times article mentions PAXDev, the gaming developers convention (an offshoot of the PAX convention started by the Penny-Arcade folks). PAXDev have decided to do something about the unacceptable culture that is so violent toward women in gaming, by hosting a session titled “Ending Harassment in Gaming.”

    http://dev.paxsite.com/schedule/panel/ending-harassment-in-gaming

    Now, I’m not suggesting that every convention should do this, but it is encouraging to see that more than just a few people with the power to affect attitudes on a large(ish) scale are taking on this awesome responsibility.

  326. John, I’d like to leave something here for Greg should he decide to read through the rest of the thread. If you’d rather I didn’t, well, I’ll commemorate the date of my first Malleting.

    Greg, the impression I’m getting is that you haven’t been in a position where you had to establish a set of rules that you needed a group of people to abide by, e.g. a convention organizer, a classroom teacher, a parent. Those Rules for Rules aren’t things I pulled out of the ether, just to argue with you. they come from years of attending workshops, advising others, and practical experience in classroom management. The credibility of the rule-maker is crucial here. Everyone under the rules has to believe and trust that the rules will be enforced, first and foremost. Now, you are correct that if you find a rule that isn’t working for you (it’s too harsh, or too lax, or too vague, or too specific) then you are best off changing the rule. But you have to be very careful how you go about doing so. And you absolutely cannot change a rule after it’s been broken but before you apply the consequence. Doing that damages your credibility. It seems like it would make you, the rule maker, seem reasonable, but that’s not what happens. Rather, it makes the rules (and by extension, you) look soft. And this isn’t to say that consequences are set in stone, either. You can adjust the punishment imposed on a rule-breaker, if you’re careful.

    Again, I am speaking from a position of experience – mine and that of many many other teachers and parents. I have made the very mistake (changing a rule carelessly midstream) that the Readercon board has made, though I can’t recall the implications of my errors being near so dire as this situation. And I admit that I am making some assumptions about your experience level. But I’d be very surprised to find that you have level of experience comparable to mine and yet don’t subscribe to these very fundamental precepts about managing people. I think what you have is a philosophy that has been fortunate not to have had reality intrude.

  327. “If a woman has indicated you are unwelcome (see above, but also including but not limited to: lack of eye contact, moving away from you, looking for other people around you, trying to wrap up the conversation), and especially if a woman has told you in any way, to any degree, that you are unwelcome, your apology is YOU, VANISHING.” – Valentine

    Does anyone else see the potential for abuse here? This quote reminds me of something my vengeful ex-roommate pulled on a guy.

  328. Doc:
    The correct answer is you follow through on your rules, then you change the bad ones.
    Greg:
    No. It’s not. If its a bad rule, you don’t enforce it just because its a rule.

    Greg, you are missing the point. We’re not executing him. We’re not putting him in jail. The ban has no meaning for a full year (until next con). If there is evidence and a consensus that the lifetime ban might be wrong in this specific case, you impose it but request time for discussion and an appeal say six months later.

    Impose the ban and if that’s an injustice, fix it with due deliberation and time and open discussion. That does not call the rules and legitimacy of the process into question, or further debase the victim.

    Your response here seems predicated on assuming a lifetime ban was in fact wrong (morally, ethically) in general and/or specifically. Arguable, but not reasonable to presume, especially when arguing with people who believe the alternate.

  329. Greg: Whether or not Readercon’s published consequence for harassment is excessive, it is a commitment they made to their attendees: “If you are harassed, your harasser will be removed from our company, permanently.” They broke that commitment. That is why so many people feel betrayed. All they would have had to do to make this right is say, “We are imposing a lifetime ban, as we said we would, but we are also reviewing this policy to see if it is too harsh, and if we decide to change it, we may retroactively shorten the bans already imposed.”

    That said, I disagree with you. I think a lifetime ban is entirely appropriate for someone who is a known serial harasser. As I said earlier, it’s not about fixing that person, it’s about protecting everyone else while they are at future Readercons.

    As to your random jury selections: in a truly random process, you would expect to find some people never chosen and some lucky people chosen several times, even in a population as large as ours. “Random selection” doesn’t mean “pick only from people who haven’t been chosen yet.” As an experiment, shuffle a deck of cards and deal off the top five. Jot them down, put them back, and reshuffle the deck. If you do this 15 or 20 times, you’ll see some cards three or four times and some cards not at all.

  330. Does anyone else see the potential for abuse here? This quote reminds me of something my vengeful ex-roommate pulled on a guy.

    What I’m seeing is someone I’ll pay the courtesy of assuming is coming to this party without being fully loaded with context. Otherwise, characterizing Ms. Valentine — you know, the actual harassment victim in this sad and sorry tale — as akin to a “vengeful ex-roommate” is a shitty thing to say.

  331. Reading through all this I think it’s quite simple: men should never, under any circumstances, initiate conversation with a woman or introduce themselves to a woman they don’t know. This rule works perfectly well in Arab societies, and should be the norm here also. It removes any chance of being seen to be ‘hitting on’ a woman or making her feel uncomfortable. There are no real reasons why men should feel it neccessary to simply walk up to a strange woman and strike up a conversation – if she wants to talk to you, she’ll talk to you. It’s as simple as that. This should be the rule at all conventions – hell, it should be the generally accepted rule in society at large.

    Men need to learn how they can make women feel. My SO is a wonderful, totally well-adjusted, successful guy, but it’s taken even him many years for me to get him to understand how his behaviour might come off to others. Now he follows that rule, and even avoids eye contact or bows his head when women are around he doesn’t know or hasn’t been introduced to.

  332. @Penny:

    Reading through all this I think it’s quite simple: men should never, under any circumstances, initiate conversation with a woman or introduce themselves to a woman they don’t know. This rule works perfectly well in Arab societies, and should be the norm here also.

    Ah, yes — I’m sure it works just splendidly for those women in societies where it’s perfectly acceptable to be beaten into a pulp if the wrong person sees you having the most innocuous public conversation with a man who isn’t your husband, father or brother. And it worked really fucking well for British journalist Natasha Smith who was told over and again she flat out provoked her her brutal sexual assault in Tahrir Square (WARNING: SMITH’S FIRST PERSON ACCOUNT MAY BE TRIGGERING TO RAPE SURVIVORS) because she was a young woman who shouldn’t have been interviewing people in a Muslim country. Gee, isn’t victim-blaming and rape apology dressed up as cultural/religious sensitivity adorable?

    Gah…

  333. @Penny: This is something I actually have personal experience of. I have attended Film and Book Conventions in a number of Arab cultures, and socialise/network with Arab and Muslim men and women. At all these events the general rule of engagement is that men and women introduce themselves and discuss their work/interests, but respect each others’ personal space and do not lay hands on each other.*

    How is that so very very different from the standard of mutual respect expected at ANY convention?

    * Which is not to say that Arab and Muslim communities are sparkly women-friendly safe spaces either. A friend was followed to her hotel room by an aggressive Saudi man who attempted to break the door down. He was promptly removed by hotel security and a guard was placed at the door overnight to reassure her.

  334. I find myself a bit confused at the combination of the “what about the socially awkward” and “hard-and-fast rules are a problem” arguments here. Maybe my experience is massively atypical, but over 30+ years of being a socially awkward geek, interacting with many many others, and even enforcing rules on them, I’ve found socially awkward geeks to mostly really like hard-and-fast rules. They’re comforting, they take the “can I do this, I don’t know, what do I do now” guesswork out of the situation and give us a nice logical “if X then Y” rule we can just follow and save our energy for the stuff that actually interests us. And if you have rules that are less hard-and-fast, or make exceptions for reasons that are unclear, then you’re basically asking the rules lawyers to show up to figure out what your hidden real rules are and game them (either because they want to be an exception or just because they have rules-lawyer tendencies), and many socially awkward people will be uncomfortable because they don’t know what the true expectations are.

    What (in my experience) the socially awkward really don’t like? Having it be about who your friends are, that if you’re popular with the right people you can get away with things that others can’t. We’ve usually had more than enough of that in other situations. And whatever the Readercon board may say about Walling’s BNFness not being taken into account, they started considering who his friends are the moment they decided to talk to character witnesses.

    The people that I deal with on a daily basis (as a CS prof) appreciate that I am unambiguously clear about my expectations and my rules, and that I don’t make exceptions for the ones I like more. Potential targets of harassers and assaulters shouldn’t have to worry that social capital will be a consideration either, and the really socially awkward folk tend not to have very much of it.

  335. @Cranapia
    I’m certainly not ‘victim-blaming or ‘rape-apologising’ – I’m not sure I’d even know what they mean, and the case of the woman attacked in Cairo is awful, but I don’t see what that has to do with anything we’re talking about. Natasha Smith approached those (male) interviewees presumably? Well, that’s perfectly alright then. As I say the rule should be quite simple: men should never, under any circumstances, initiate conversation with a woman or introduce themselves to a woman they don’t know. I don’t see what’s so hard to understand about that; it’s not prescribing women in any way whatsoever, it’s a simple rule that ensures that women feel safe and empowered in any space.

    @Tanya Lees
    The ‘general rule of engagement’ you describe is, of course, absolutely the minimum standard of respect one should expect at ANY event. I’d simply suggest that the key word there is ‘minimum’ – polite, respectly and friendly interaction between the sexes would be vastly improved if men are discouraged from foisting unwanted attention (or worse, as in your example) upon women.

  336. Penny, why not make it even simpler: An adult should never, under any circumstances, initiate conversation with another adult or introduce themselves to an adult they don’t know.

    I don’t think that would make for a pleasant world to live in, but neither is a world in which no man every speaks to me unless I speak to him first. And it wasn’t pleasant when women were expected to let men make the first approach and were socialized to be the recipient, not the initiator, of social interaction. Segregating the sexes and making one rule for men and another for women isn’t the kind of word I want to live in, regardless of which one is given the role of initiator.

    Not that I think you are serious in your proposal. It’s an interesting thought experiment, but interesting doesn’t mean desirable, necessarily.

  337. @Penny said: men should never, under any circumstances, initiate conversation with a woman or introduce themselves to a woman they don’t know. I don’t see what’s so hard to understand about that; it’s not prescribing women in any way whatsoever, it’s a simple rule that ensures that women feel safe and empowered in any space.

    Leaving aside the possibility that you are trolling, your “simple rule” doesn’t ensure that women feel safe, because it makes the interaction too all-or-nothing. It most assuredly does prescribe behaviour for women. I should be able to have, and initiate, a conversation with a man about a topic of mutual interest without having to worry that I have somehow given him blanket permission to stalk, harass, grope, and attack me. Especially in areas of interest that tend to be male-dominated, a “segregate yourselves or it’s open season” rule is, quite frankly, disgusting.

  338. As I say the rule should be quite simple: men should never, under any circumstances, initiate conversation with a woman or introduce themselves to a woman they don’t know. I don’t see what’s so hard to understand about that

    Oh, I understood it perfectly and still found it incredibly problematic, especially when you capped it off with “it should be the generally accepted rule in society at large”. Well, I’m sorry if this offends you but I live in social and professional spheres where treating any woman in that way would be anything but “safe and empowering” to women. Unprofessional, culturally unsafe and/or plain bloody rude would be closer to the mark.

    And then you went on to assert it “works perfectly well in Arab countries”. ‘Arabs’ are no more a Borg collective than women, and I’d suggest you do some research because there are ‘Arab’ feminists who would make the argument that those kinds of practices – and the patriarchal social norms they’re a part of – don’t work for women at all.

  339. John: (1) where you unleash far more verbiage … (2) in a quest to Win The Point (3) It’s obvious you’re pretty wound up.

    (1) I shall try to keep responses shorter. (2) The last post was long but I was responding to seven different people who had directed some question or statement to me. (3) I admit I was getting ticked off around the Frizz conversation because it seemed people were attacking her for things she didn’t say and the attackers didn’t seem to care that she didn’t say it. That’s something that can get me wound up. I need to work on that. But this latest conversation seems pretty straigtht forward to me. I don’t feel wound up around it or ticked off about it. Just do the right thing.

    Doc: (1) if you find a rule that isn’t working for you … then you are best off changing the rule. But you have to be very careful how you go about doing so. (2) And you absolutely cannot change a rule after it’s been broken but before you apply the consequence.

    (1) (sigh.) Yes. Yes. Trust me I know. (2) What you’re talking about is trying to change an agreement you have with a group of people and maintain your integrity. “We promised this. We think keeping that promise would be wrong. We’re changing the promise. And now we have to clean up this huge mess with the rest of you as a result of changing that promise.” Even if we all accepted the idea that Readercon did the right thing by not enforcing the lifetime ban (i.e. even if we accept it was too harsh), the way they went about it completely destroyed their integrity.

    People break major promises all the time. Sometimes they keep their integrity. Sometimes not. People promise to love their spouse till death do us part, and the divorce rate is 50% or something. Some of those people end up with an amicable divorce, where they both realize its not working and the best thing is to go their separate ways, and they both leave with integrity, and some of those people end up doing everything in their power to destroy their integrity in the process of divorce.

    George: Your response here seems predicated on assuming a lifetime ban was in fact wrong (morally, ethically) in general and/or specifically. Arguable, but not reasonable to presume, especially when arguing with people who believe the alternate.

    I presumed no such thing. I’ve actually pointed out that (A) a bunch of people on this thread have presumed that lifetime ban is morally correct and universally accepted (B) proposed a 5 or 10 year ban as a possible alternative. Then I’ve asked people who think a lifetime ban is needed to explain why the 5 or 10 year ban would be an injustice.

    Andrew: All they would have had to do to make this right is say, “We are imposing a lifetime ban, as we said we would, but we are also reviewing this policy to see if it is too harsh, and if we decide to change it, we may retroactively shorten the bans already imposed.”

    I’ve said a couple times that the way Readercon went about this was horrible. It pretty much destroyed their integrity with everyone. But whether a lifetime ban is too harsh and whether they go about changing the policy in a way that maintains integrity with everyone else are different issues.

    cranapia: Gee, isn’t victim-blaming and rape apology dressed up as cultural/religious sensitivity adorable?

    Penny’s suggestion was pointless, inoperable, and culturally impossible in America. But she didn’t suggest what you’re accusing her of. That was an out of the blue strawman as far as I can tell.

  340. I attended a retirement do last week; two guys are leaving around the same time so they held a joint party. Whilst there was some overlap in the guests, that still left a lot of people who had never met each other, and yet we managed to introduce ourselves without worrying about the gender of the people introducing themselves, and nobody got harassed.

    Admittedly the two guys in question are very powerful within their field, and are both noted for their exceedingly hard line on anything which might even remotely approach harassment, so anyone trying it on would have been committing career suicide, and would have known that they were committing career suicide.

    I feel this point has some relevance to the present discussion; harassment can be prevented provided there is the will to do so, and that will has to come from the top as well as from the rest of us. Readercon showed that the people at the top do not have the will to do so, and that will not change until the people at the top are changed…

  341. @Anthony VanWagner: No, I don’t really see the potential for abuse, particularly when you review the entire circumstances from which you extracted that quote. Can you elaborate?

    @cranapia: What bess said. The bit about having taught the SO to avert his eyes or bow his head in the presence of women was an especially obvious touch.

    Though it’s interesting, isn’t it, how many people react to any suggestion that their behavior might not make Miss Manners swoon with operatic drama? The death of flirting, eternal punishment, persecution of the innocent, no more friendly hugging, ban men talking to women……I mean, what provokes such anxiety and anger?

  342. @Patricia & @BW – I think those are perfectly valid points.

    @Cranapia – my use of ‘Arab countries’ was poorly chosen, I agree, I think the norms in those countries raise a lot of issues. Also, I can see that in many business settings common courtesy might create some grey areas – it’s difficult to come up with a ‘hard and fast’ rule when it comes to human relationships.

    Perhaps it would work better to simply have guidance, rather than a rule? Provide a couple of case studies or examples rather than a list of dos and don’ts?

  343. Penny: “Perhaps it would work better to simply have guidance, rather than a rule? Provide a couple of case studies or examples rather than a list of dos and don’ts?”

    “Work better” in what context? Recommendations for organizers of cons? Provice case studies or examples to whom, exactly? I’m not sure what list of dos and don’ts you’re referring to.

  344. @Greg

    Think of it from the perspective of a woman who would like to go to Readercon and not be harassed.

    Under the old policy: “Person X was identified as a harasser last year, and will not be coming back.”

    Under the apparent current policy: “Person X was identified as a harasser last year and has a two-year ban. He will probably be there in 2015, I don’t think I’ll feel comfortable going that year.”

    Under your five-year suggestion: “Person X was identified as a harasser last year and has a five-year ban. He may be back in 2018. Hmm.”

    … now carry it forward into the future. Person X was identified and banned in 2012. Person Y was identified and banned in 2014. Person Z was identified and banned in 2015. Now women who would like to attend the convention and prefer not to share space with known harassers have to keep a rolling list of what years are and aren’t marginally more “safe” to attend until the harassers re-offend and are perhaps permanently barred. (I say marginally because, clearly, there is no shortage of harassing jerkwads in the world, but there is a difference between acknowledging there’s a non-zero chance someone around you might cross your boundaries, and knowing that a person or persons in your vicinity has a history of doing same.)

    Breaking it down to economics, cons need attendees. A large percentage of potential con attendees are women, and a significant percentage of those pay attention to things like this and make their decisions accordingly. Is the harasser’s membership fee magically more valuable than the membership fees of women who will stay home when he’s allowed back?

  345. Penny,

    Actually, I see no need for guidance; in my experience all those troubling social issues disappear when the people you think need guidance discover that they can shape up or they will be shipped out. And since life is short, and we all wish to live it to the full, there is no reason to allow the whims of spoiled brats who believe they have a free pass on common civility to waste our time…

  346. Obvious concern troll is not only obvious, but not especially original. Dagnabit, I know I’m getting old because I’m feeling nostalgic for the witter denizens of alt.flame.

    (Kids, that’s what we had before 4chan.)

  347. I don’t feel any need to demonize Rene Walling, but neither does the consequence for his behavior seem worth all the rhetoric about morality and whether or not the rule in question was a bad one, let alone idealistic and impractical schemes for teaching manners to con-goers. Walling acted like an asshole, not Jack the Ripper, but even if the rule had been applied as written, he would have been 86ed permanently from one (count ‘em, one) con. It would suck for him, but it’s pretty small potatoes. Most people who have been assholish enough to get 86ed permanently from a bar just go drink somewhere else, and there usually aren’t a lot of people crying foul. Most customers understand that there are rules and that each bar gets to set its own rules. Being 86ed might involve permanent banning, or it might not. Management might decide to change the rule, or it might not. Who is to say which consequence is appropriate? I suggest that the owner and/or manager of the bar get to say. And if the owner and/or manager of the bar is smart, he/sh/they will look at what it will mean to the bar if the rule isn’t enforced equitably. if other customers see that the bartender 86ed an asshole, but the asshole is friends with the manager or popular with the regular customers and the manager therefore overturns the bartender’s decision, there may be fallout. The bar might lose the business of people who don’t want to be around that asshole. The bar might lose the business of people who feel that it damages the ambience of the bar if the manager overrules the bartender the customers have come to count on to keep the place friendlly. Or the customers might not care. The owner/manager can take that risk and hope it pays off. Maybe he/she knows the customer base well enough to let the asshole slide this time. In the case of Readercon, management is finding out that a large number of customers or potential customers are being very vocal in their displeasure and this could have negative effects on Readercon. From a purely practical point of view, the choice they made looks to be a bad one in terms of customer loyalty and the con’s reputation. Moral, immoral, whatever. That may be fun to debate in terms of theory, but in terms of practice, this was a stupid choice, and I will be surprised if the board doesn’t change it.

    But really, if someone were to be 86ed permanently from one con for bad behavior, it’s not a big deal. Let him go attend other cons.

    Somebody upthread made a similar point about bars and bouncers, and it struck me as eminently sensible.

  348. Greg, you can call it “integrity”. I call it “credibility” Either way, we’re talking about the same thing, so that’s good.
    But next time, rather than typing out a condescending “(sigh)”, remember that there are people in this world who do, in fact, know more than you do about a given subject. You’re not obligated to agree with such people, but this lack of respect or even acknowledgement of others’ expertise doesn’t make you the smartest the guy in the room, just the most pompous.

  349. Ah, alt.flame, those were the days.
    @Penny: glad you agree. I’ve spent a large part of my life having far more interests in common with the men around me than the women; I would have been miserable in a time when segregation was the norm.

    @Wrenlet : Well put. I would also add that, now that Readercon is known as a con that will not keep harassers away, there is a justifiable fear that people with harassing tendencies are more likely to go and less likely to keep themselves under control, since they have reason to believe the consequences are not severe and can cite the current situation if they are caught. Forget about just not going back in 2015, when Walling can (currently) return; I wouldn’t go next year.

    I’m glad I know about Walling’s pattern, since his home turf is also quite close to me; not sure what I can do about it, though, except just not go to cons there. I wouldn’t trust any con he was involved in running to take harassment seriously (from anyone, not just him — would he enforce such a ban himself?), and I’m saddened to know that this includes several likely upcoming Worldcons. When these matters are not taken seriously, women end up having to deny themselves opportunities.

  350. *Wrenlet*: Now women who would like to attend the convention and prefer not to share space with known harassers have to keep a rolling list of what years are and aren’t marginally more “safe”

    It would only be not “safe” if you’re saying someone who harassed 5 or 10 years ago, was banned, and came back to a convention would be unable to stop themselves from harassing again.

    Breaking it down to economics, cons need attendees.

    Money isn’t moral. What’s in someone’s business or economic interest isn’t neccessarily what’s the right thing to do.

    Is the harasser’s membership fee magically more valuable

    No one is saying anything remotely resembling that.

    *BW*: the consequence for his behavior [does not] seem worth all the rhetoric about morality

    Uhm, except that’s pretty much all everyone’s doign here, right? Talking about the morality of everything that happened around this incident. This was wrong. That was wrong. yada. yada. yada. And then poeple disagree on what was wrong and what was OK, so discussion ensues.

    Who is to say which consequence is appropriate? I suggest that the owner

    And again, this is an economic argument, maybe even a libertarian argument, as in: Let’s not discuss the morality of what happened, lets just let the marketplace sort it out.

    *Doc* But next time, rather than typing out a condescending (sigh)

    Look. You posted

    Doc: I doubt you’re concerned with your credibility

    Which was just silly.

    I responded by saying heh. I’ll just say you have no idea what you’re talking about here and leave it at that.

    You then continue with how I “have to be very careful how” I go about changing a rule… because of how it would affect my credibility.

    And again I will say, yes, I know.

    I’m not trying to come across as pompus, I’m not trying to come across as knowing more than you. But for you to say you doubt I care about my credibility is you making rather large assumptions about me.

    I tried joking it off. But then you go on about Integrity 101 stuff about how one has to be careful when changing their rules. Which seemed like you making a bunch more assumptions about me, and I found all the assumptions a bit tiring, so the (sigh).

    yes, in fact, I do care about my integrity and I do care about my credibility.

  351. Greg: “Uhm, except that’s pretty much all everyone’s doign here, right? Talking about the morality of everything that happened around this incident.”

    Wrong. Some people here are talking about it, but not everyone. And some people are talking about other aspects of it.

    You might want to talk about the morality of it, but others may want to talk about other issues. Quite a lot of posts in this thread aren’t about your points and aren’t responding to your posts.

    “And again, this is an economic argument, maybe even a libertarian argument, as in: Let’s not discuss the morality of what happened, lets just let the marketplace sort it out.”

    It is an economic argument. I don’t see it as a libertarian one. True, it doesn’t discuss the morality of what happened. I wasn’t aware that we were required to discuss the morality of it.

  352. I think an official statement from the SFWA and its board will have a telling effect. Hope to hear an official comment soon.

  353. Now he follows that rule, and even avoids eye contact or bows his head when women are around he doesn’t know or hasn’t been introduced to.

    It’s interesting to me that the reductio ad absurdum consequence offered by Concern Troll here is the actual, real strategy that I, real life woman, automatically employ every time I leave my house in *this country*. Not, of course, that any actions/non-actions on my part magically protect me from cat calls or staring. So, yeah Concern Troll, it would be a crappy world if people felt they needed to behave that way. I know. I live in it.

  354. BW: I wasn’t aware that we were required to discuss the morality of it.

    You’re not. But you’re trying to shut down a part of the discussion you happen to disagree with, pretending that you’re just observing “oh, we don’t have to talk about the morality”. It’s not like you said that about anything you agreed with.

    And it happens to be a central issue to the uproar. Readercon had a mandatory lifetime ban policy. They changed the policy for someone who broke it. If they decided a lifetime ban was too severe, then they did the right thing not enforcing a bad policy.

    No, you don’t have to talk about that part of it, but it is very much on topic for the thread.

    Lastly, back at 5:05, you said: The central concern here, though some of us have enjoyed wandering off along various tangents at times, is that

    That’s your central concern. As you yourself said, some people are here to talk about that. And some are talking about other aspects.

    It is an economic argument. I don’t see it as a libertarian one.

    Also from 5:05: the consequence should be the one that was stated by the organizers and agreed to by all parties (since the attendees agreed to it as part of their attendance).

    If you’re not familiar with the Libertarian mindset, they think everything should be handled via contract law. What you’ve been arguing for is quite Libertarian in its approach: let’s not discuss the morality of the thing, let’s let the market decide. Let’s not discuss the morality of the events, hold people fast to the contracts they signed and agreed to.

  355. Okay. Given that the harasser has no innate “right” to attend any specific event and his lack of attendance at said event causes him no physical harm, explain how a lifetime ban from an annual event for an identified harasser is morally wrong.

  356. Greg, I don’t believe everything should be handled via contract law, so I guess I don’t have a Libertarian mindset.

    You seem to want to force me to talk about morality or to defend my not wishing to talk about morality. I am not trying to shut down anyone who wishes to talk about morality. I have no power to shut down any aspect of discussion that anyone in this thread cares to pursue. I simply won’t be draggged into discussions of topics I’ve already indicated I’m not interested in just because somebody keep replying to my posts by trying to make them relate to that issue. At what point do you hear “no” as “no”?

  357. Actually, there is moral content in expecting people to do what they say they will do which has nothing to do with libertarianism. That moral content cannot be dismissed simply because someone may perceive events in purely contractual terms…

  358. Apologies; I should have noted that my response was directed to Greg; 2 intervening posts appeared after I’d hit the post button…

  359. @mythago It’s the quote that bothered me. Valentine is justified because if what she suffered.

    I can think of other situations though, different situations, where someone didnt like the look or bearing of a person, gave them eye clues, and expected them to leave or get tossed.

    “If a woman has indicated you are unwelcome (see above, but also including but not limited to: lack of eye contact, moving away from you, looking for other people around you, trying to wrap up the conversation)…”

    Correct for her situation and many others… But I don’t think this should universally be adopted.

    Example: Heavy guy bustles through room where there friends of his are talking, he initiates a conversation with someone who gives him eye clues, and doesn’t appreciate his presence.

    I expect him to keep his distance, but I don’t want him to vanish, or be pressured from staying away from the room.

  360. Actually, there is moral content in expecting people to do what they say they will do which has nothing to do with libertarianism.

    There’s also a moral contract in the idea that if I purchase a membership to Scalzicon both parties have certain rights and obligations. Mine would include not treating the policies around, say, only smoking in designated areas as an optional extra. Scalzicon’s would be the reasonable expectation that said policies are not only enforced, but seen to be applied consistently.

    It makes life so such more agreeable when contracts and laws are worth the paper they’re printed on, don’t you think?

  361. Bozo the Clone:
    “I think an official statement from the SFWA and its board will have a telling effect. Hope to hear an official comment soon.”

    I’m not sure what value SFWA making any additional statement would have in this situation. Readercon is not a SFWA venue. The harrassment did not happen at a SFWA sponsored function. From reading the program grid, SFWA wasn’t even at Readercon as an entity.

    About all they could say regarding the Walling/Readercon incident is “Haraassing harrasser is bad, mkay?” And maybe something in support of Valentine who, for all I know is a member of SFWA. Which nice but SFWA’s already got an anti-harrassment policy. I mean if they want to say more, good on them. But I don’t know that it’s either necessary or will tip any balances.

    An official comment from the Readercon Committee, which seems to be in the works, will hopefully have a very telling effect indeed.

  362. That reads entirely more condescending than I meant. Apologies.

    If Walling and Valentine are both SFWA members then SFWA may indeed have telling things to say. But right now I’m looking more for the Readercon Committee to be making the most telling comments.

  363. cranapia

    I’m with you all of the way on that one; I find it bizarre that so many people seem to want to find ways to circumvent what seems to me to be entirely straightforward. The repeated desperate attempts to derail the discussion, whether it be by ‘religion’ or ‘cultural differences’ or ‘libertarianism’ speak to the willingness of at least some posters to try time and again to slide over what actually happened, presumably in the hope that if they keep going long enough people will forget what actually happened.

    Which is why we keep posting, so that the derailers don’t succeed in rewriting history…

  364. I’m coming at this from outside – I’ve never been to a con, but I’ve been at and worked at a number of business/professinal conventions and conferences.

    One thing occurs to me – this is to a large extent a social event. Is Rene Walling going to suffer professionally from this? will it cut him off from a vital part of his profession? If not, it seems to me that it comes down to a matter of allowing one person to make a number of others seriously uncomfortable in that setting. Is his being able to stalk, harass and generally annoy any woman who takes his fancy more important than a number of women being able to feel safe and comfortable?

    Also, by not following precedent, does it give a tacit message that his behavior – and possibly that of others – will be tolerated?

  365. Again, Readercon is legally liable for removing Welling permanently from their con whether they have a policy or not. He sexually assaulted a woman at their event. They are in danger of getting sued by multiple parties. That’s why the organizing committee is scrambling to overturn the decision and probably make this board resign. It’s not about feelings, it’s not about morals, it’s not about culture. It’s about law. This was not just an unfortunate tussle. It was a crime. Welling got out of being prosecuted by the courts, but that doesn’t void Readercon’s legal responsibilities in the state of Massachusetts.

  366. Penny, predators don’t care whether there’s guidance, a rule, or a song-and-dance routine. They think it doesn’t apply to them because it gets in the way of what they want.

    Consequences are the only thing that make a difference to them, and sometimes it takes more than one instance to get the message across.

  367. @Kat Goodwin, unless you have some brand-new inside information, that’s really out of line. The Readercon board (which issued this decision) is not the same as the con committee. Many people on the committee are pushing for a review because they are upset about the decision – not because they are cynically circling the wagons.

    I’m curious to know which “multiple parties” you think are hovering in the lawsuit wings such that only a change of policy can thwart them. Ms. Valentine, I suppose, although she’s given no indication of such. Who else? What are the grounds of these lawsuits, and what are the damages?

  368. Lawsuit talk about this specific incident does seem a little, I don’t know, out of bounds. I do strongly agree with Stevie that the voices of the apologists, side-trackers, and deniers should be consistently and continually answered with the facts, with reminders that sexual harassment is real, and that this particular case undeniably occurred.

  369. Unlike @stevie, I think it’s quite germane for those who might be involved in setting future policy to not just consider this specific case – where the details are unambiguous and the board can be held up to a bright-line test* – but also what would happen if there was an element of doubt. As an analogy, laws named after people are rarely, if ever, Good Law – because they tend to foster one-size-fits-all solutions. I’ve been sincerely horrified by one or two comments (early in the thread) because I see clear scope not just for abuse, but the potential for all parties to agree that a particular resolution is bad, but having no discretion to avoid it.

    * It shouldn’t need to be said that I agree that the board clearly fails the test, but with the way the discussion has gone at times, I guess it does need to.

  370. Stevie: there is moral content in expecting people to do what they say they will do

    cranapia: There’s also a moral contract

    contracts are not inherently moral. There is value in keeping your word and keeping your contracts, but just by saying “its in the contract”, doesn’t mean it overrides any immorality of the contract itself.

    If a lifetime ban specified in the contract is excessive, or if any other aspect of the contract is immoral, then the moral thing to do is break that part of the contract and do whatever it takes to restore integrity with the people you made the contract with.

    People don’t pinky-swear when they sign a contract. It’s not “cross my heart and hope to die” if someone fails to fulfill the contract. There is nothing magically special about a contract that means it overrides the morality of the actual actions you’re taking as a result of that contract.

    BW: I simply won’t be draggged into discussions of topics I’ve already indicated I’m not interested in

    I didn’t force you to write this: the consequence for his behavior [does not] seem worth all the rhetoric about morality .

    But the point at which you said that is the point you voluntarily entered the conversation about morality. Of your own free will. With me over here, my hands trapped behind the keyboard, unable to force you to do anything at all.

    Imagine the power I’d have to force you to do things if we were in the same room and I could give a subtle wave of my hand: You don’t need to see my identificaiton. These are not the morals you’re looking for. He can go about his business. Move along. Move along.

  371. Greg, and then later when I acknowledged that my comments were not about morality and that the morality aspect wasn’t what interested me, yet you continued to quote my posts and write your little italic interpretations of what I said as my comments were about morality, no, you didn’t force me to respond then either. But it does get more than a little annoying when I’m trying to talk about one thing and someone repeatedly recasts what I said as if it related that I’ve already said is *not* what I’m talking about. I can’t stop you, but your insistence on taking what I said and interpreting it in a way that has nothing to do with what I was talking about and everything to do with what you would prefer to talk about does affect your credibility, at least with me. ‘Nuff said.

  372. Guys, you appear to be having a conversation on why you’re not having a conversation. Might be best to go to your corners and take a break from each other.

  373. Greg,

    If a lifetime ban specified in the contract is excessive, or if any other aspect of the contract is immoral, then the moral thing to do is break that part of the contract and do whatever it takes to restore integrity with the people you made the contract with.

    Wrong. The policy was obvious, clear, and in a place that is difficult NOT to see. The “moral” thing to do, for someone who is concerned about the lifetime ban, is to make a series of choices:

    Choice 1: To go or not to go to the conference. A “moral” choice for someone who disagrees with the lifetime ban is not to go to the conference.

    Assuming that person disagrees with the ban but decides to go anyway, they have another choice:

    Choice 2: To harass or not to harass. A moral choice is always not to harass. Given that the asshat chose to go to the conference and then chose to harass even though he had agreed to the clear policies, he is now subject to the agreement he made: A lifetime ban from Readercon.

    The board chose not to live up to its agreement and it was wrong. And it has hurt its members. It needs to resign.

    After the harm that can be undone is undone, the NEW board can choose to revisit the policy. That’s when your rhetoric should be coming into play, not while the decision not to uphold its agreement with its members is still under review.

  374. Wrenlet: Given that the harasser has no innate “right” … and… causes him no physical harm, explain how a lifetime ban … is morally wrong.

    Would you say any punishment we can think of, so long as it doesn’t cause physical harm, would be a moral punishment? That would be an.. interesting yardstick to measure punishment by.

    I said at 12:29 that the goal of a punishment is to be sufficient enough to cost the harrasser more than they get out of harassing. I think a 5 or 10 year ban would discourage potential harrassers and get them to keep their behavior in line.

    I’m pretty sure if Readercon’s policy had originally had a 5 year ban and if Walling had gotten a 5 year ban, this incident wouldn’t be storming through the internet the way it is now. The problem wasn’t so much that the only punishment that fit the offense was a lifetime ban, the problem was Readercon didn’t fulfill its promised policy and didn’t do what was needed to maintain their integrity from changing their policy. That, and I don’t think a two-year ban is long enough to discourage a potential harrasser.

  375. mopomi: The policy was obvious, clear, and in a place that is difficult NOT to see. The “moral” thing to do, for someone who is concerned about the lifetime ban, is to make a series of choices:

    any attendee who agrees to the policies has an integrity issue to deal with if they break the policies. But that’s a contract issue, an integrity issue, not neccessarily a moral issue.

    At the point of enforcing the policy, Readercon can’t simply ignore the morality of their actions and say “welp, the contract says X, we have to do X, even if we realize now that its the wrong thing to do”.

    You may sign a contract with your landlord, but if there’s something in the contract that’s against the law, the law overrides that part of the contract.

    Everyone who keeps pointing to the policy and the contract and saying but they promised is ignoring the simple fact that a contract and a promise is not inherently the right thing to do. And if Readercon realizes this after the fact, they should do the right thing, not enforce a bad policy.

    Seriously, there’s some really messed up logic going on that says contracts trump morality. An even more simple example that might hit home to people given this topic: A physically abusive spouse living in a state where they can contest a divorce, and prevent the person they’re abusing from leaving them because they promised till death do us part. That’s what it looks like when people think contracts and promises are more important than what’s right.

  376. @Greg: I think it would be polite to note I’ve read your 6:07 pm comment partially addressed to me. However, I think any further response would be little more than mallet-bait. Let’s just say I think we’re going to have to agree to disagree on that, and much else.

  377. El Muneco

    I’m having problems in finding the post in which I expressed the views you say I hold. Could you please quote it?

  378. Greg
    I’m having difficulty in finding anything in your posts about the subject matter of this thread. Is this a mere oversight on your part or is it simply another derail?

  379. Stevie: I’m having difficulty

    I see that.

    Readercon had a policy of mandatory lifetime ban for harrassment. Walling harrassed. Readercon did not give Walling a lifetime ban.

    There’s the contract (slash) policy (slash) promise of lifetime ban, which Readercon broke.

    But if they decided that the lifetime ban was too harsh, then they did the right thing not holding themselves to a bad promise (slash) policy (slash) contract.

    It’s pretty straightforward.

    If you sign a contract with your cell phone company, and the FTC rules some part of it illegal, that part of the contract is voided. The cell phone company doesn’t get to say “well, you have to hold to this contract until you sign another one” It’s just voided.

    You can’t create arbitrary contracts as a landlord with your tenants. You’ve got state laws to follow. If you don’t follow them, your contract is void.

    You might sign a contract with your credit card company, but if you go bankrupt, bankruptcy law trumps it.

    If one finds that the punishment of a lifetime ban is too harsh, then one should not enforce the contract that included it.

    Those are all examples of bad contracts being voided. Contracts aren’t infallible. They’re not inherently moral.

    And if Readercon decided their policy (slash) contract (slash) promised punishment was too harsh, then they should not allow a contract to bind them to do something wrong. You are talking about the Readercon thing, right?

  380. Greg,
    You say that the purpose of punishment is to cost the harasser more than they get out of harassing in order to deter harassment. But that’s just one of the possible goals of punishment. Why isn’t a private organization free to emphasize a different goal, like depriving the harasser of the ability to use its forum to harass?

    Setting that aside: even if the only goal is deterrence, I think there’s a flaw in your logic. Earlier you said something about not having statistical data to calibrate the precise level of punishment needed for deterrence. But we do have one data point: we know that the prospect of a lifetime ban was NOT enough to deter Rene Walling. And now that the board has proven that it won’t always enforce its policy, he is even less likely to be deterred.

    Finally, you also rejected my argument that punishment can serve to make an example of the offender and reflect society’s condemnation of what he did–and can even be used to shape society’s view of the seriousness of the offense. I gather that you personally do not regard this as a legitimate goal of punishment, but it is in fact a fundamental precept of the American legal system.

  381. Greg, huge favor –
    could you tell me if you’re going to be attending any conventions this year? Which ones?

    Because I get that *you* think you’re defending some philosophocal point, here. But what you’ve conveyed to this member of the peanut gallery is that you have a tender, solicitous concern for the absolute entitlement of men to leer, creep, grope, harass, annoy, pester, follow, stalk and generally ignore the boundaries of any women who catch their fancy. And while you officially deplore such behavior (deplore it!) what you really care about, to the point of typing multiple screenfuls per comment, is that no man should endure any real-world consequences for the behavior you were just deploring. And that it’s a horribly excessive burden on a man to be told that, because he knowingly violated event policy, in the future he will not be able to purchase tickets to a privately run event that occurs in one hotel, for one weekend, once a year, in a city in which that man does not reside.

    You’re creeping me out, dude. I don’t want to be in the same room with you.

  382. Ah here we are…

    Greg:
    I said at 12:29 that the goal of a punishment is to be sufficient enough to cost the harrasser more than they get out of harassing. I think a 5 or 10 year ban would discourage potential harrassers and get them to keep their behavior in line.

    This is entirely the wrong way to be looking at this. This is not “society and criminal law”, this is a private organization and protection of its members and participants from other members and participants’ improper behavior.

    The point of the policy is to say explicitly “We will protect you from this happening again”. i.e., it’s preventive of future abuse, and intended both to prevent and to convince victims that they will be protected, so they feel comfortable continuing to attend in future years.

    …Except that the shortened ban has convinced many concerned that they are NOT protected from it happening again. Ergo, it failed.

    Criminal law is both preventive and punitive. Anything cons can do realistically is simply preventive. The lifetime ban (with possibility of future parole) is preventive. What happened is not convincingly preventive.

    If say he was banned for life, reformed, had no further incidents, and two or three years from now apologized again and asked for the ban to be reduced, then there would be evidence (years of good behavior) that the participants were likely protected from further abuse, and in due course a reduction of the ban could be discussed and potentially be made.

    If you keep phrasing this as a punitive / criminal-law like response, you’re mischaracterizing it and the premise you’re working from is faulty.

  383. Elizabeth: Why isn’t a private organization free to emphasize a different goal, like depriving the harasser of the ability to use its forum to harass?

    Well, that’s not what Readercon was doing, was it? Even when I stay strictly on topic, people who disagree with what I’m saying (like Stevie for instance) will feign that they cannot find any relationship between what I’m saying and the actual topic of the thread. And you want me to go completely off the reservation? No thanks.

    If Readercon decided a lifetime ban was excessive, then they did the right thing by not enforcing an excessive punishment. (And as I said before, the way they went about it pretty much destroyed their integrity, but that’s a different issue).

    But we do have one data point: we know that the prospect of a lifetime ban was NOT enough to deter Rene Walling. And now that the board has proven that it won’t always enforce its policy, he is even less likely to be deterred.

    Well, anecdote is not statistics. And I said in my reply specifically to you that no matter what the fine is for pollution, some people will still try to get away with polluting. That doesn’t mean you keep raising the punishment for polluting until you start implementing the death penalty. Because no matter what the punishment, there will be crime. If you start subscribing to the “the punishment is too soft, see! there’s still people breaking the law!” you’ll get into a feedback loop and end up with totally stupid punishments like zero tolerance drug policies with minimum mandatory sentences of several years for even the smallest amount of drugs.

    Seat belt laws had face ginormous cultural pressure to not wear them. That doesn’t mean you create crazy high fines for not wearing a seatbelt. I think the biggest thing that shifted the thinking around seat belts has been awareness. There’s the “click it or ticket” ads and there’s also the “seat belt save lives” ads.

    As for Walling specifically, I’ve found posts on the web saying he’s a serial harasser. Has he ever faced any kind of punishment before this point? Banned? Ejected? Arrested? I haven’t found any that mention it either way. If not, then that might account for Readercon’s policy not deterring him more than anything else.

    punishment can serve to make an example of the offender … it is in fact a fundamental precept of the American legal system.

    Yes, and the american legal system used to hang horse thieves using that very same thinking. Same goes for those insane anti-drug laws going on now. Doesn’t mean it’s right. And I think it rather devious to cherry pick only the situations where “making an example” worked out to some end that you agreed with. So, if we look at all the times the American legal system has “made an example”, I’m not sure we would find that it is overall a good thing.

    iiii what you really care about,

    yeah, no. Based on your current mind reading skills as to what I really care about, don’t quit your day job. But nice way to preface a totally fabricated strawman. Usually, people just say I’m “implying” (insert totally fabricated strawman here). So, you get points for originality.

    no man should endure any real-world consequences

    I’ve said “5 to 10 year ban” enough times on this thread that you’re really making me worry about our educational system’s poor performance with reading comprehension. And the phrase “5 to 10 year ban” is all single syllables, so I don’t even know how to make it any more clear to you. Perhaps if I spell out the numbers? “Five or ten year ban”? Does that help? I’m sort of at a loss. I mean I can’t blame it on my poor penmanship. Are you using an appropriately legible font for your web browser defaults? If I draw a picture, could I email you the jpeg?

    What’s that? You just made shit up knowing full well it wasn’t true?

    Oh.

    Well, that’s a relief. For a moment there I thought I was going to have to move to a country with a better public education system. You just saved me a ton on moving expenses. So thanks!

  384. Greg, I’m just not following you, and I’m sincerely trying to understand your point. It seemed to me that you identified deterrence as the only legitimate goal of a punishment. My point is that it is not the only legitimate goal, and I really don’t understand how it’s debatable that incapacitation–or prevention, as someone else said and is probably a better term– is not also a legitimate goal.

    You accuse me of cherry-picking examples where punishment supported some end I agreed with. I’m not sure what you mean. I didn’t give an example. I’m talking in very general terms about the types of considerations that one would normally take into account when deciding on the appropriate consequence for any wrongdoing. In fact, I don’t actually have a strong view one way or the other about what the appropriate consequence should be in this situation. What I do think is that a lifetime ban is certainly within the realm of reasonable choices that Readercon could make. You obviously think it’s completely beyond the pale, and I’m trying to understand why. That is why I started talking about the generally recognized goals of sentencing; I thought it would help frame the discussion. So far as I can tell, though, you refuse to recognize as legitimate any point to punishment beyond deterrence (and you even seemed to suggest that punishing one offender to deter others is just making a political statement).

  385. Greg:

    At this point I believe you have genuinely lost perspective on anything other than arguing to argue. Equally importantly, you’re becoming increasingly unpleasant and rude to others while you are doing it, which to be blunt about it is something you do altogether too much of the longer you argue with people here.

    I suggested to you before that you should probably step off the thread. Now I’m telling you to do it. Go do something else with your time, please. Also, learn better to be polite over long comment threads, or I’m going to start malleting you with greater regularity.

  386. Scalzi: “Walling, not Welling” — Oops. Sorry about that, it was late. I’ll just call him “that guy” from hereon.

    Mythago: Stop snapping at me. I’m not declaring that it’s the only reason that the committee is meeting to overrule the board’s decision. A lot of people involved in the convention are understandably upset and several of them resigned from the committee in protest. There is also the general reputation of the convention and as people who care about the convention, I’m sure that’s important to them too and not just for mercenary reasons. (I mean, most of these cons are not big profit making ventures, if any, and the volunteers don’t get it in any case.) But it is an issue that has come up — Readercon is under liability in the case of a sexual assault at their event and the board’s decision increased that risk, a risk that a small con can’t afford. When you run an event, you have to satisfy legal regulations of whatever municipality you’re holding it in, including in regards to safety regulations concerning the locale. Some events require insurance to be taken out, though in this case the hotel’s insurance was probably sufficient. In selling attendees a ticket, you are promising to reasonably keep them safe from harm at your event. If you have activities at the event that could cause harm, you have to have attendees sign a waiver of this liability, which was not an issue at Readercon. If an attendee trips on a loose flagstone at an event and is injured, that person can sue or demand insurance information from the hotel and the event. A sexual assault where an attendee is grabbed, groped and stalked, and the attacker is not immediately ejected from the con is a much bigger deal.

    And that the board of the con went against the assurances of legal protection of the con and legal requirements of the locale and agreed that the attacker can have continued access to the con leaves the con open to claims. A female attendee of the con could assert that Readercon knew about the attacker and allowed him to assault women at the con and also deceived female attendees of the con. A claim or a demand for a refund of the fee could come from them. If there are any other incidents of sexual assault at the next Readercons by someone else, etc. They are not particularly strong claims, but even if it’s just people demanding refunds, it puts Readercon in a very bad spot. And Valentine could change her mind and sue. And there is the hotel, which might have a financial issue with Readercon over how Readercon handled the incident on their property. There is nothing wrong or venal about the organizing committee dealing with that issue — it’s part of their job to protect both the attendees and the con. It was the board’s job, but they flubbed it.

    I personally would not go to Readercon, knowing that they did not treat a sexual assault seriously. I would not feel safe at an event that had no security to deal with attacks, that does not call police in the case of an attack (though that may have been at the request of Ms. Valentine,) and that allows an admitted and witnessed attacker to have continued access to the con. That is not a convention event that is living up to its legal liabilities under the laws where it is held. The committee is trying to correct that error and make the con safe for women and others again, and I certainly hope that they manage that. My main point again is that people keep trying to minimize this attack as not a big deal, not a legal issue, and not a crime breaking the law. Moral issues, cultural ones, or the existence or usefulness of zero-tolerance policies don’t enter into this particular case. But the sexual assault part seems to keep being put to the side for a debate on the fine points of bureaucratic procedures of an organization. However, I will stop beating that particular drum, since it is being interpreted as me attacking the volunteers of the con, which is also apparently a bigger issue than that a sexual assault occurred.

  387. @Kat Goodwin: You did, in fact, declare that fear of liability was the reason that the con committee is taking action: They are in danger of getting sued by multiple parties. That’s why the organizing committee is scrambling to overturn the decision and probably make this board resign. It’s not about feelings, it’s not about morals, it’s not about culture. It’s about law. That’s a long sight different than noting that liability is a concern, or that it’s something they should be concerned with. (You did, I assume, see the multiple comments above where zero-tolerance was discussed in the context of its usefulness re liability.)

    The only person who is really in a position to file a lawsuit is Ms. Valentine, should she choose to do so. From the point of view of other attendees, the board’s actions took place after the harassment. Again, what would anyone else be suing for? A refund? I’m pretty sure small-claims court filing fees are more than a Readercon membership. Any liability for ReaderCon at this point would be “you should have known Mr. Walling was a harasser and kept him out in the first place” – or, if he returns and then gropes someone again, ditto. I’m not sure which multiple parties you believe can sue them ‘right now’, or what the ‘legal liabilities’ are in Boston or in the state of Massachusetts were that Readercon has violated. There’s no insinuation that Readercon refused to permit anyone to contact the police, or dissuaded anyone from reporting criminal sexual conduct.

    By the way, accusing people of being insufficiently interested in the seriousness of a sexual assault because they disagree with your comments is breathtakingly passive-aggressive. It also, bluntly, suggests that you’re turning to personal attacks because you dislike contradiction. Is that what you meant to convey?

  388. Kat Goodwin: I am not sure you are correct that Rene Walling’s actions constitute criminal sexual assault. I’m not familiar with the laws of Massachusetts, but certainly in the state where I live, elbow-and-shoulder touches and wrapping an arm around someone’s shoulders would not constitute even 5th degree criminal sexual conduct (which is the lowest level).

    This is not at all to make light of what Walling did; of course it was totally unacceptable and clearly constituted civil battery. But I’d be surprised if it actually met the definition of criminal sexual assault under Massachusetts law. You may well know more about the relevant law than I do, though, which wouldn’t be hard–as I said I don’t actually know anything about it, I’m just guessing that it is probably not all that different from my state’s law.

  389. John, sorry.

    Elizabeth, sorry, the “cherry picking” reference wasn’t directed at you. I was trying to shorten my post, deleted a bit about people cherry picking results around drug laws, and didn’t catch the “cherry picking” part that I left in. Looking at it now, I can see how it reads like an accusation against you. That was absolutely not my intent. You haven’t said anything that would fit the definition of “cherry picking”. Sorry for that. That was totally my mistake.

    Shutting up now.

  390. I’ve been puzzling over the response to this situation at Reacercon for a few days now. We have a man who does not contest the fact that he sexually harassed another con goer. Reacercon has an explicit ” zero-policy” rule about such behavior and they chose to not enforce it. As far as I am concerned they screwed up big time ( as much as I love many of the folks involved and have known them for many years) and have damaged the reputation of the con and more importantly apparently sided with an abuser over their entire membership.

    This isn’t about what does or doesn’t constitute harassment, those are interesting discussions but not relevant here as both parties are in agreement that the abuse took place. Readercon has now formally decreed that while they in theory deplore sexual harassment, they don’t always deplore it enough when someone they like is a perpetrator and they aren’t willing to make their convention goers feel safe by following their own policy ( one they have followed before).

    I’m very sad about this, Readercon had always been an interesting and fun con for me but if they can’t get that what they’ve decided to do is offensive then it’s time to say goodbye I guess.

  391. Van Wagner (8/2 15:18):

    Example: Heavy guy bustles through room where there friends of his are talking, he initiates a conversation with someone who gives him eye clues, and doesn’t appreciate his presence.

    I expect him to keep his distance, but I don’t want him to vanish, or be pressured from staying away from the room.

    Still not seeing the potential for abuse.

    Greg (8/2 23:18):

    If Readercon decided a lifetime ban was excessive, then they did the right thing by not enforcing an excessive punishment.

    The trouble is that they seem to have suddenly decided it was excessive when faced with the prospect of applying it to someone they liked.

  392. Mythago: So because I did not say more properly “one of the reasons the committee is meeting” when writing late at night, I therefore cannot have meant that, even when I clarify the confusion my initial remark created for you? I am sorry that I was sloppy and you misunderstood me. I am not saying your confusion was unjustified. But moving on from that, I clarified what I meant for you in the second post. You can either believe me, or consider me to be lying. The actuality is, I’m rooting for the people on the committee who have been dealt a very bad hand through no fault of their own.

    The legal liability issue has come up and people involved with the con have mentioned it. A veritable treatise of articles has been written this past week on the various ways this con board fucked up. (I quoted one earlier in this thread specifically about liability.) Their actions do expose the convention committee to legal issues and do effect the future of Readercon. There is continued legal concern regarding Ms. Valentine, even though she seems a nice and forgiving person. But she’s been further traumatized by the Board’s action and that is an issue that the convention committee cannot ignore. To say that legal issues current and future have nothing to do with what they are currently doing seems to me to be as unrealistic as saying they are the only issues the committee is dealing with. (See, I do understand why you’d object to that latter assertion.) For me, legal liability and safety issues are a great deal more important in how the con operates than a simply policy rule wording debate.

    “There’s no insinuation that Readercon refused to permit anyone to contact the police, or dissuaded anyone from reporting criminal sexual conduct.” — I never made any such insinuation that they did. What I did say is that they didn’t call the police and that may have been because Ms. Valentine asked them not to or said they didn’t have to, that she was not interested at the time in trying to press charges. Nowhere in that is any assertion or implication that the Board was strong-arming people or Valentine to keep them from talking or contacting police. I have never accused the Board of any form of cover-up. In fact, I think they’re one of the ones who announced the guy’s identity. However, the general lack of interest in involving law enforcement, assuming it wasn’t due to a specific request from Ms. Valentine, is something of a safety issue for other people. A lot of people now have expressed their belief that the con is not safe and they won’t go to it.

    “By the way, accusing people of being insufficiently interested in the seriousness of a sexual assault because they disagree with your comments is breathtakingly passive-aggressive. It also, bluntly, suggests that you’re turning to personal attacks because you dislike contradiction. Is that what you meant to convey?”

    In many discussions here on this blog that you’ve had with me, has that been your impression of my arguing style? If so, then I’ll definitely have to work on that. That last comment was not directed purely at you, in any case. It reflected my general frustration with arguments here and elsewhere over issues such as whether the con committee is being insulted, whether it is morally right or wrong to change a procedural rule and when, how women are allowed to function at cons, whose culture is better at female-male stranger interaction and other stuff. Rather than what I feel is a more central issue — sexual assault and harassment at cons and fan events and how the response to them has been woefully inadequate. The comments some here have made that a theft from the book room would have been taken more seriously (which may have included you,) are to my mind dead on target. And that is a real mess, I feel.

    Elizabeth: How does: “any sexual activity that is forced or coerced or unwanted” sound? Valentine was stuck in a crowded hallway, unable to move. The guy grabbed her around the shoulders and chest in slinging his arm because she was immobile, and propositioned her. And then there was the stalking, which was textbook, which in Massachusetts can get you a sentence of up to five years in jail (obviously this guy’s stalking would have been seen as more minimal and more likely subject to a few days in jail and/or probation,) and fines. This was not a minor inconvenience to Valentine. It was an attack that endangered her and threatened her with rape. (Author Elizabeth Bear, who has worked as a domestic violence counselor, had one of the most cogent pieces on this issue: http://matociquala.livejournal.com/2146364.html) That was my point: we keep trying to minimize what happened to Valentine. We keep hearing “I know what the guy did was serious, but…” There isn’t a “but,” in my view. What he did was not simply serious annoyance. It was a crime for which he could have been arrested. (And apparently not the first time he has attacked and stalked a woman, which the Board was made aware of.) And for me, the con board also victimized Valentine and abused her, both her trust and her person, in not even being willing to permanently evict the man who stalked and assaulted her on their watch. Whether they had a rule or not saying that’s what they should do, legally that’s what they should have done. Because the man was someone they knew, they pretended he had not committed a crime, just made a mistake. And that puts everybody at risk.

  393. Kat –

    “It reflected my general frustration with arguments here and elsewhere over issues such as whether the con committee is being insulted, whether it is morally right or wrong to change a procedural rule and when, how women are allowed to function at cons, whose culture is better at female-male stranger interaction and other stuff. Rather than what I feel is a more central issue — sexual assault and harassment at cons and fan events and how the response to them has been woefully inadequate.”

    Yeah, this thought resonates with me. I’m not sure *my* (interpretation of *my* thoughts in this line) word for this would be frustration. I do see value in discussing what kinds of punishment the cons should mete out for this. Particularly where there doesn’t seem to be agreement that a lifetime ban should be the rule. And 101 is bound to happen around suddenly widely discussed incidents such as this. But, I can tell you I found myself reading the following from Ms. Valentine’s site and thinking “Well, that fucking settles that.”

    “Some people, in comments throughout this fine internet, have expressed a deep and touching concern that this has all happened because I have never experienced or encountered any embarrassing social miscues, accidental physical contact, flirting, socially-awkward people, or people on the autism spectrum, and thus I am somehow mistaken, and my harasser, a serial predator, is actually a flirting, socially-awkward, terminally-self-unaware Aspie. (Assuming this last about him is, by the way, particularly offensive to those on the autism spectrum.) … Luckily, since harassment is none of these things, I am still able to distinguish harassment clearly, as that was what I experienced when Rene Walling chose to harass me.”

    She goes on to quote Anne Leckie at length:

    “If you really think that “speaking to women” is indistinguishable from harassment, there’s a problem and it’s not with the rules. If you really think anti-harassment rules bar flirting, you’ve got an idea of what constitutes flirting that really needs some re-evaluation. I mean, if someone said, “Hey, we should outlaw rape,” and the guy standing next to you said, “But that’s the same thing as saying people can’t have sex!” you wouldn’t say, Wow, good point!. You’d look at him sideways. Or, sweet unconquered sun, I hope you would.”

    I mean, 101 has to happen sometime. But, like, it surprises me how people want to really nail down what harassment is *even in light of all parties concerned agreeing that what happened happened*. Mind, this is a general thought on this conversation happening everywhere.

  394. If you step on my foot, you need to get off my foot.

    If you step on my foot without meaning to, you need to get off my foot.

    If you step on my foot without realizing it, you need to get off my foot.

    If everyone in your culture steps on feet, your culture is horrible, and you need to get off my foot.

    If you have foot-stepping disease, and it makes you unaware you’re stepping on feet, you need to get off my foot. If an event has rules designed to keep people from stepping on feet, you need to follow them. If you think that even with the rules, you won’t be able to avoid stepping on people’s feet, absent yourself from the event until you work something out.

    If you’re a serial foot-stepper, and you feel you’re entitled to step on people’s feet because you’re just that awesome and they’re not really people anyway, you’re a bad person and you don’t get to use any of those excuses, limited as they are. And moreover, you need to get off my foot.

    See, that’s why I don’t get the focus on classifying harassers and figuring out their motives. The victims are just as harassed either way.

  395. @ Hershele Ostropoler

    ♪ And bingo is your last post’s name-o ♫

    Not to make light of a serious discussion, but that was the most worthwhile thing I’ve seen typed in over a hundred comments. The (I fear not uncommon) notion that it’s just for anyone to transgress against someone else because they just can’t help themselves is plain dumb.

  396. Greg–no worries, thanks for the clarification.

    Kat Goodwin–you may well be right that what Walling did was criminal stalking; I have no idea. You also quoted some language to show that it was criminal sexual assault, but unless that language is from a Massachusetts statute or judicial decision, it’s not relevant to that issue. if it was from one of those sources, I’d have some more questions about it, but debating the precise definition af “sexual activity” under Massachusetts law would be getting kind of far afield from the topic at hand, I think.

    One last thing: I don’t know if your comments about minimizing what happened to Ms. Valentine were meant to apply to me. Please understand I was just making a technical point about the law (I am a lawyer so it comes naturally) and that it had nothing at all to do with whether what happened to Ms. Valentine was serious or not.

  397. Elizabeth

    There has been a lot of commentary in places without the Mallet reaching levels of hysteria notable even for teh Internet, much of it attempting to equate banning one person from one con with a lynching. It can be a tad difficult to gear down when returning to the safe haven of Scalziland, so sometimes people may seem to overreact to observations.

    As an example, Cogitationitis on Livejournal has suggested that ‘newbie authors’ will regret making a fuss about being sexually harassed; fortunately the people she implied would blackball those ‘newbie authors’ have denied it, and even more fortunately those denials seem credible. But it gives you a flavour of what is going on elsewhere…

  398. Elizabeth — No worries. Not aimed at you specifically again. Mythago, if I remember right, is also a lawyer. I was mostly just trying to clarify my point. The quoted language came from the Massachusetts government site as did the info about sentences for stalking. Most states have a fairly wide definition of sexual assault. Some states, like Texas, insist that physical contact must occur. (In Valentine’s case, it did.) Stalking laws have also gotten a lot tighter over the years. My familiarity with these kinds of things unfortunately comes from a close relative endangered by her ex. So I’m probably over-badgering. But as Other Bill notes, there is an ingrained social response that Valentine is now encountering that women are supposed to be the caretakers, gatekeepers, and keep men in check on their sexual or aggressive impulses for civilized behavior, that Valentine was supposed to make sure her attacker was okay before taking any action, and that his getting into trouble is her fault or responsibility. This sort of thing happens even in cases of rape. In cases where it stops short of that (but the possibility is always there,) we tend to expect that the women should have solved the problem in some way, perhaps caused it, and should not make too much fuss. As we know, this further victimizes the victim. And that’s basically what the Readercon Board did without very likely deliberately meaning to.

    Otropoler — hats off to you. That was terrific.

  399. Ostropoler

    You have completely overlooked the fact that I am standing on your foot so I can apologise to you for standing on your foot. Please be more sensitive in future!

  400. In the past dozen posts several posters have pulled out the “anyone who disagrees with any part of my position supports sexual assault and/or rape” canard that has derailed too many arguments over con harassment. It’s inappropriate. Full stop.

    It’s a basic part of being an adult to know not to go around harassing or assaulting women. It’s also a basic part of being an adult to accept legitimate disagreement in a polite forum without trying to shut down arguments by dishonestly accusing opponents of advocating unacceptable or illegal behavior.

    The con community needs to have an adult discussion about harassment policies, starting with a rule that assaults need to be referred to the police. Pulling out accusations of rape apologetics as a debating tactic is not conducive to an adult conversation.

  401. Er, I’m having some difficulties in finding any thing in the last dozen posts which would even remotely supports Curmudgeon’s claim. Perhaps s/he could try again, this time quoting the content of the posts which s/he claims support his/her claim.

    In the absence of that evidence, of course, we could simply conclude that Curmudgeon is so desperate that straw man arguments are the only tactics available to him/her in the desperate attempt to derail the discussion…

  402. There is a missing ‘s’ after the word “dozen” in my post. I have low vision and cannot proofread effectively.

    Beyond that, I refuse to engage your argument any further because your dismissive and condescending attitude, use of stop words (‘derail’) and willingness to read into my text views that are not expressed show that you have no intention of arguing in good faith.

    Perhaps you could step back and try again with less condescension and more humanity?

  403. @Patricia (August 2, 2012 at 9:27 am):

    I realize your comment is two days old, but I have to say something about this:

    your “simple rule” doesn’t ensure that women feel safe, because it makes the interaction too all-or-nothing. … I should be able to have, and initiate, a conversation with a man about a topic of mutual interest without having to worry that I have somehow given him blanket permission to stalk, harass, grope, and attack me.

    By what stretch of logic does the base premise that men should never talk to women they don’t know invalidate the concepts of consent and graduated social interaction? If a woman says good morning to a man she doesn’t know, how does a taboo against a man doing the same to a woman make the first encounter any more likely to be interpreted as “please harass me” than it might be taken as already?

    I’m sorry, but that’s underpants gnome logic. You’re missing at least one intermediate step.

  404. Curmudgeon:

    “In the past dozen posts several posters have pulled out the “anyone who disagrees with any part of my position supports sexual assault and/or rape” canard…”

    Please substantiate this.

  405. Issues like this should be handled internally like any other company in the good ole U.S. of A. would handle it. This is a liability issue that can cause all sorts of issues that are frankly dangerous to the longevity of the convention as a company.

    “Ban” the person? That is such an old school, out of touch, get even approach. Just exercise the right to refuse service to the customer/attendee for as long as you want, but call it that. The longer these outdated approaches continue to be utilized, the longer these emo-post sessions will continue on unabated in their ridiculous nature. Banning is this “get even” approach that fandom has been using for decades: it isn’t the twenties anymore peeps. Conventions are not the island of specialness anymore either, they can get sued and tanked like any other business.

    These are also the sorts of massive commenting posts that insurance companies look at when they are assessing company risk: what are the internal controls of the company like? Well you, as the president of the company just admitted it to the insurance trolls and your customers are corroborating it……..not good.

    Worse yet, in addition to the actual harassment itself of course, is the problem of having to spend a VAST amount of money on public relations when a good, sound business structure with practiced company values would have led to a lessened blow to the convention/company or even mitigated it.

    Fandom needs to realize that the “good ole days” of convention management are gone and modern business practices need to be engaged alongside the “traditional” elements to ensure that these kinds of conventions/companies simply do not get sued into low orbit in our excessively litigious society.

  406. The Guy Over There:

    “Just exercise the right to refuse service to the customer/attendee for as long as you want, but call it that.”

    i.e., do the same thing they already do, but use the phrasing you prefer.

    You have an adequate grasp of corporate speak, TGOTDS, as evidenced by your use of the word “utilize” and the ability to say in five paragraphs a thing that could be summarized in a sentence. What’s not actually in evidence is any indication, outside a willingness to assert your opinion as if it were fact, that you have relevant experience from which to assert your position. First piece of evidence that you may not know what you’re talking about: the fact that many conventions are 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations, not “companies,” in the sense of profit-seeking organizations. Conflating the two for the purposes of making general assertions may not provide the results you wish.

  407. One thing I haven’t seen addressed here is the membership of the Readercon committee itself. I just looked it up, and see that it includes a number of women. Was the vote on a mere two-year suspension unanimous? If not, did the men simply outvote the women?

  408. Sorry, confused the Committee with the Board, which signed its statement, I see from Genevieve’s link. I presumed that all five board members, Bob Colby, Merryl Gross, B. Diane Martin, David G. Shaw and Eric M. Van, agreed with this. But I guess they have more explaining to do now that they have reportedly quit.
    Speaking of favoritism, a more egregious case may be that of Harlan Ellison and Connie Willis back at the Hugo awards in 2006. He too apologized, of course, but was upset that Willis didn’t thank him for his apology and insisted he hadn’t actually DONE anything — at least, that’s the impression I get from his Wikipedia entry. I rather suspect that a “lesser” writer would have been treated differently, just as a “lesser” fan than Walling would have been treated differently.

  409. John J Pierce

    I think it would help if you apprised yourself of the basic facts before diving in; the decision in question was made by the Board, not the Committee.

  410. John

    Our posts crossed; thanks for self-correcting so speedily! And yes, one of the points made elsewhere is that a con is a workplace for authors, and it appears that they are at the mercy of fellow authors and fans…

  411. On the other hand, should we assume (as Penny appears to) that if a male fan strikes up a conversation with a woman fan (or writer?) he doesn’t already know, he can have Only One Thing on his mind? In my case, though, it’s been with women I knew of but hadn’t yet met, like Leigh Brackett and (much more recently) Nancy Kress — and the latter was right after a panel she was on (the former was at the hotel bar at a Discon, I think, where I happened to spot Leigh.

  412. I think if you read the responses to Penny, including my own, you will see that it was dealt with fairly comprehensively…

  413. True, but the same proposal might come up on another board. It seems like a simple “solution,” even if it isn’t really a good solution.
    There was also some discussion as to whether Walling’s behavior was legally criminal as opposed to totally obnoxious. That being the case, does anybody know whether there was any consideration given to calling the cops.
    And finally, for any who claim they aren’t aware they’re harassing women, I propose that sf cons consider making “Get lost, creep!” an official warning to be employed by any woman who considers herself victimized. No ambiguity there, and any guy who ignored it would be kicked out of the con forthwith and barred from ever coming back.

  414. John J Pierce

    Re Penny:

    It’s an exceedingly stupid idea, and in my experience exceedingly stupid ideas rarely solve anything.

    Re Calling the cops, etc

    I suggest that you read the latest statement from Readercon which John has linked to in his most recent post…

  415. I read through this event. Interesting on many levels. It was amazing watching her report and stick to her guns. It is so easy for victims to back down.

    But. I was greatly disturbed by description of the moderator. And that nothing was done about him. He was harassing her just as much as Rene, but stayed just out of range. My guess is that she was picking her battles, worried about not being invited back or getting blackballed as a trouble maker. Which is what these people thrive on.

    Eternal Vigilance

  416. Wow, I missed Penny’s idea first time around. I would not attend a convention that had a rule that men may not initiate conversation with women. I would not continue to participate in any social environment where that was a rule or expectation. In fact, I would suggest that if you want a rule like that you should simply limit attendance to women and be done.

  417. Frankly, Xopher Halftongue, I think we were being overly polite in describing it as an idea…

  418. Stevie, I agree, and in fact rereading her post I’m sure we were just being trolled. This line in particular seems extremely unlikely to be true:

    Now [my SO] follows that rule, and even avoids eye contact or bows his head when women are around he doesn’t know or hasn’t been introduced to.

    Now, if he’s on a leash in a collar, I can think of places where that might be plausible behavior (in fact not being allowed to speak to anyone his Mistress doesn’t give him permission to speak to might be believable), but in general I’m skeptical.

  419. I admit that I have only read about half the comments on this blog, so I apologize if I’m beating a horse that someone else has already flogged.

    While this situation (and many harassment situations) involve a male harasser and a female victim, I would like to point out that women too can be harassers. It doesn’t happen often, but it has happened. If we are going to apply anti-harassment policies to men, we must also admit that they should equally apply to women. I have been harassed both in a convention setting and a workplace setting (many years ago and the situations were resolved to my satisfaction), so I am more than willing to stand up and say women should not be harassed. However, men don’t deserve harassment either and given our society’s view of men (they should be strong, weak men are horrible – um, yes, I’m generalizing), men find it just as hard, if not harder, to admit when they are being harassed by someone. After all, it should be a good thing to have a woman chasing after you and making inappropriate remarks, right?

    No, actually. I don’t believe it is. I’m all for protecting other women (and myself) from harassment, but let’s not forget the fundamental argument here: harassment is never acceptable, no matter what the gender of the harasser or the gender of the victim.

  420. @ Brandie Tarvin

    What you say is true. However, men do frequently have an advantage in that we are less often ostracized for fighting back (physically, verbally or legally). In the balance, though, there should be no question that anti-harassment policies need to be universal whether the victim is female, male or genderqueer.

    Riffing on what you said, I grind my teeth and wish for a cluebat every time some asshat dismisses adult women having intimate relationships with boys under the age of consent with some asshattery to the effect of, I wish there were women like that when I was a teenager.

  421. Rose Fox has made it clear that Readercon’s policy is to stand against all forms of harrassment; I think you’ll find that explicitly set out in the Readercon Statement. And I whole-heartedly agree…

  422. We’re approaching 500 comments so I’m way late to the party.

    I’ll just say this: it’s been over 20 years since I went to a con, when I did, it was packed with slime. Do legends of the genre still slime after under aged fans? Probably not. But they used to.

    While this current event is bad, and it took the concom a second try to get it right, things have gotten WAY better over the years.

  423. No one need fear being expelled because they are clueless. Intruding or being clueless once is not harassment. It’s harassment if you are told to back off or go away and then don’t. You have gone from clueless to intrusive. On the other hand, if you are going from woman to woman with the same intrusive approach and they all tell you to back off and go away, you had better stop–because a pattern of intrusion is harassing.

  424. Ian: That reminds me of what happened to me at my first WorldCon, because it was so NOT that. Standing in front of a writer I worshiped, who unbeknownst to me had a thing for just such boys as I was then, and for boys who did just the sort of thing I was innocently doing in front of him…and he never touched me or flirted or was in any way even faintly inappropriate (not that I would have minded, frankly).

    He did, however, remember my name the next time he saw me, and ever after. And I still think he’s one of the best people around, writer or no.

  425. People need to remember that it isn’t just women being harassed. As a long time con-goer and as a guest, I’ve been harassed by both sexes. It may be primarily women harassed, but it’s on both sides of the gender equation. Nerdequette 101, a new group started this year, has been trying to educate folks in the NC con scene, not just men on how to behave, but everyone.

  426. tigtog: Miss Otis regrets she’s unable to lunch today. Also, huh?

    Rich: Have you been reading these threads, or did you come here based on the title and put that in? Just asking.

  427. Xopher

    The Miss Bennett reference is from Cat Valente’s blog, but certainly not intended for use anywhere else; I’m pretty sure she would be mortified by anyone trading on her name to suggest to John that he should mallet a comment here.

    And I don’t think you need to ask Rich; he clearly hasn’t read John’s posts or the threads…

  428. Thanks, Stevie. Can you imagine why tigtog (whoever ze might be) would say such a thing? Seemed like a pretty innocuous comment to me.

    And yeah, I know re: Rich. Question was rhetorical.

  429. Harassment of any kind really shouldn’t happen, and if it does should not be tolerated. This includes touching, suggestive comments, and prolonged or repeated staring. I’m a 70 year old male and in the last 50+ years I’ve experienced some very inappropriate contact and comments from both sexes. I’m distinctly hetero and have never been an Adonis (not even MY dreams) and I will admit that the latest was from a female. None of this has ever been at a con of any kind as I’ve only been to one as a panel member discussing Artificial Intelligence.

    A con has too many opportunities for too many things to go wrong without creeps crawling around as well. I actually hope to go to a SF con again, especially if my favorite living artist is there. And I will not be doing any touching or commenting; however, if someone is extremely unusually beautiful I may well stare (a stare IS an overly prolonged look). And, I’m a reader so if someone is wearing a shirt with writing I’ll read it — and no, I won’t be staring.

  430. Just heard about this and doing a little casual gossip chasing. Certainly no one should be harassed and no one should be punished because they cannot handle harassment, but this comes across, on the face of it as a fairly dealable incident–which perhaps should have ended, given the ‘no tolerance policy’ with Walling being thrown out of the convention immediately. G Valentine may be young, I don’t know her and haven’t hunted down a picture. I did, however, find a report from someone that Walling had done this to her, following her out of fandom to harass her in her real life (when she had left some activities to avoid him). Certainly if this is true and G. Valentine knew about this she was correct to be concerned, even frightened, and again should have marched to hotel security and to the fan committee and made this generally known on the internet. But she isn’t saying so, or at least no one is saying this and it was apparently not part of the initial information.

  431. Atalanta, I recommend you follow some more links. You are conflating two different incidences of harassment by Mr. Walling. One targeting Ms. Valentine at Readercon and a series of earlier harassment incidents targeted at another woman.

    I have no idea why Ms. Valentine’s age has anything to do with how she handled the incident at Readercon. I think she handled it well regardless of how old she is.

    The earlier target of Mr. Walling’s harassment resigned from the Hugo Marketing Committee and avoided cons at which Mr. Walling was present. Kevin Standlee says Mr. Walling has also resigned from the Hugo Marketing Committee and I hope the earlier target of his harassment feels safe to rejoin fandom.

  432. Months after the events, I think I’m still stunned by how much of the thread — and indeed, how much of the larger discussion both on and off the internets — seems to be focused on “How does a given anti-harassment policy affect the perpetrators?”

    As directly opposed to something Hershele O. alluded to, to wit – “How effectively does said policy shield/protect victims?”

  433. So after going through quite a lot of these threads I have two things to say. As a con attendee I do not believe that harassment should be allowed or tolerated however, the disconnect is what constitutes harassment the easy cases are just that, easy, if there was a clear no, etc. However the harder cases are for instance the culture in which you are immersed if it is acceptable to touch others, and hug without asking in that context then I would not call doing those behaviors harassing . From a policy standpoint it comes down to the very hard line of what is the difference between a douche-bag and a harasser. The second point I would like to make is that as a con-runner having all or nothing discipline policies I think is a bad idea. One can have zero tolerance policy but the consequences for that policy should be flexible enough to allow the governing body or person the lee-way to take each different situation on a case by case basis whether the consequence is a warning, a suspension, or a life long ban. Again because hard cases are in fact hard for a reason

  434. Please pardon the zombie intrusion onto this old thread, but the comment above that appears to come from me leaves me as baffled as it left Xopher. I certainly would never have targeted his comment as requiring that response from me, in fact I remember his anecdote distinctly and fondly as an excellent example of how simple it is for an attraction to not be acted upon because acting upon it would have been totally inappropriate.

    I do remember posting Cat Valente’s Miss Bennet disapproves sentiment elsewhere as an injoke in a discussion of moderation practices around August last year, and wonder whether I perhaps inadvertently cut/pasted/posted it here due to one of those weird moments where my laptop seems to open tabs/fields that I didn’t ask it to open (mostly when I’m getting a bit tired, not holding my wrists in the optimal touch-typing position as I should, and presumably brush against a fn or ctl button while I’m typing). I suspect that’s far more likely than the distant possibility that someone else was masquerading as me and chose to attempt to discredit me with such a bizarre non-sequitur.

    Anyway, fulsome apologies to Xopher for the bafflement. Whatever exactly was going on in my mind (or my wrists) it absolutely was not targeted at you.

  435. On the subject of whether it is okay “just to ask”, I’ll leave this one here to think about. I and my two partners are kinky; what floats our boat is consensual BDSM, and we enjoy doing this with additional consenting male adult partners. Basically we like tying up hot guys together and doing wicked things to them. When we go to a BDSM event or to Frolicon, we do flirt and ask people to join us in these activities. When we go to a con that does not explicitly have the consent of its attendees to be exposed to adult invitations or activities, we leave the whips, chains, X-rated clothing and invitations AT HOME. We are out about being a poly triad, but we do not engage in any more PDA than any other folks. Probably less; we’ve been together a long time.

    Oh, the eye candy. Oh, the temptation. But no. There is absolutely no polite way for us to ask someone whose consent status is unknown for the kinds of activities we enjoy, and we don’t really play separately or vanilla (non-BDSM) with people outside the relationship, so flirting would be a complete waste of time or worse, deceptive. So we just do not go there. If any of us takes pictures of someone in an attractive costume, it is from a respectful distance and with permission, and we aren’t likely to speak to them beyond a friendly and nonsexual compliment in passing. Eg, about the costume or the fandom, not about their bod.

    I consider it fairly reprehensible to “just ask” for activities that cross the line to kink or fetish if you do not know the age and consent status of the person beforehand. If they did not sign up on purpose for a kink event, and especially if the event is a family friendly one where underaged people are present, you need to leave all of that AT HOME. Haul it out for Frolicon or your local BDSM events where you know everyone is an adult and has consented to watch and be politely invited to participate. Those are the places where asking is okay. The average sci-fi con is really not.

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