My New Convention Harassment Policy

So, I’ve decided something. I am often asked to be a Guest of Honor or a participant at conventions, which is nice. I also have a number of friends and fans who go to conventions, which is nice too. When my friends and fans go to conventions, I would like them not to have to worry, if they are skeeved on by some creep at the convention, that the convention will take the problem seriously. I would also like them to be able to know how to report the problem, should such a situation occur. 

That being the case, moving forward from this very instant, the following will be a hard requirement for my being a panelist, participant or Guest of Honor at a convention:

1. That the convention has a harassment policy, and that the harassment policy is clear on what is unacceptable behavior, as well as to whom those who feel harassed, or see others engaging in harassing behavior, can go for help and action.

2. That the convention make this policy obvious by at least one and preferably more than one of the following: posting the policy on their Website, placing it in their written and electronic programs, putting up flyers in the common areas, discussing the policy at opening ceremonies or at other well-attended common events.

3. In cases when I am invited as a Guest of Honor, personal affirmation from the convention chair that a harassment policy exists, that it will be adequately publicized to conventiongoers, and that all harassment complaints will be dealt with promptly and fairly, with no excuses or rationalizations for delaying action when such becomes necessary.

Why? Because I want my friends and fans to be able to come to a convention and feel assured that the convention is making the effort to be a safe place for them. I want my friends and fans to know that if someone creeps on them, there’s a process to deal with it, quickly and fairly. And I want my friends and fans to know that I don’t support conventions that won’t go out of their way to do both of these things. I want them to know that if I’m showing up as a guest, it’s at a convention that has their backs.

So, that’s my plan. If you’re running a convention and you want to have me show up, now you know what you have to do for me to consider your invitation. I don’t think it’s too much to ask. If you think it’s too much to ask, you can go ahead and skip the invite. We’ll both be happier.

If any other author, artist, editor, fan or human being wishes to borrow this policy for their own: Be my guest. The more of us that make something like this a hard requirement for participation or attendance, the better.

Update, 7/3/13: Want to co-sign onto this policy? I’ve put up a co-sign thread here.

Update 7/5/13: Additional thoughts on the policy.

266 thoughts on “My New Convention Harassment Policy

  1. I’ll note that LoneStarCon 3, this year’s Worldcon, has such a policy here (pdf file).

    I should also note that even when I am not a participant or guest of honor, I am unlikely to attend a convention that does not have a well-drawn and well-publicized harassment policy. Because why would I?

  2. Thank you for this. It’s a nicely principled position to take, and definitely appreciated by me as a survivor of multiple sexual assaults. To me, this is how you be a good ally: by leveraging your privilege to make the world better for people without it.

  3. That is awesome. And a far better use of your fame than the kind of stories about famous authors I’ve been reading in the recent blog posts on harassment.

  4. Dude I just wanted a photo of you and the Tor background, you suggested posing with me.

    In all seriousness, great way to leverage your fame. I believe a lot of conventions these days require participant registration, so having them accept these terms are condition of getting in seems like an obvious no-brainer.

  5. Thank you. This is the kind of thing that will push cons to take those steps, especially cons that are used to having you in attendance.

  6. Clearly articulating this type of policy at all sorts of conventions, conferences and workshops would eliminate a lot of overt and “unintentional” harassment. It would elevate the entire experience, and maximize the reason(s) why people attend.

  7. I applaud your personal policy. I am curious, however, that convention organizers, well-meaning amateur volunteers, are being held responsible in a way that the very large, professional corporations that employ and empower the alleged offenders don’t seem to be?

  8. Jonathan Laden:

    And if they are, so what?

    I’m not telling anyone what they have to do. I am telling them what I expect from them if they want me to participate. If they can’t meet my expectations, then they don’t get to have me as a guest.

  9. I posted something similar on Twitter a few days back—and to their infinite credit, I got ‘You’re still coming to BayCon, right? –> link to their exhausting harassment policy <– within ten minutes.

    Some days I lose hope one minute and have it given back the next.

  10. I’ve been thinking about this a lot when it comes to a convention I help run. We don’t currently have such a policy. I’m leaning towards a simple and more general behavior policy than focusing strictly on harassment. For simplicity, I’m strongly leaning towards Wheaton’s Law: http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Don%27t_be_a_dick.

    Too imprecise?

  11. Brad:

    I would suspect so. Fortunately there are templates to work from, via other cons. The Worldcon link above is one; there’s also the one on the Wiscon site. And of course Readercon has recently update its policies.

  12. We’re actively working on setting one into place at Norwescon. I’ll forward this to the committee. I know some of the people on it and they’re good folks, I think it’ll work out okay.

    I had also just wrapped up a post on harassment at conventions – and also online – and have added a link to this. ( http://crimeandtheforcesofevil.com/blog/2013/07/power-and-supervillainy/ ) Thanks for talking about all this – repeatedly – and taking this stand.

  13. @Farley, if it happens once, it is too often. This policy will help prevent it.

    A few days ago I was feeling disheartened and concerned because I want to introduce my niece to the Con experience. But I certainly don’t want to expose her to the sort of ongoing creep behavior that seems to be so rampant. But something seems to have changed. Many women are coming forward with their stories and offers of help, support, solutions. Perhaps this surge will fade with time, but I am much more hopeful this year than last. Having specific steps to take and knowing who to report to makes a huge difference.

  14. I would encourage people who adopt this policy — and it is a good one — to include “and how will this policy be enforced?” among the questions being asked. Policies are useless if they have no teeth.

  15. Brad Roberts:

    Yes, sadly, experience says that’s too imprecise. Both the creepers and their prospective targets are much better put on notice that there are specific well-thought-out procedures in place and made to believe that reports will be fully investigated and taken seriously, that full effort is being made to prevent the problems in the first place, and that the concom and staff are committed to doing everything in their power to end this problem. Just advising people to ‘Don’t be a dick’ is about as effective as telling drivers approaching the Holland Tunnel to play nice and take their turns — except the latter is at least specific if toothless.

    Best Regards,
    Rick Moen
    rick@linuxmafia.com

  16. @brad roberts, way too imprecise. Fan memes are not professional guidelines–and let’s face it, even if it’s a fan run convention, the pros you invite to talk about their stuff are there AS pros, they’re working. You wouldn’t try and claim that “don’t be an idiot” is your insurance indemnification and absolves you of any liability.

  17. @rick Wheaton’s Law is only the definitional part, the reporting and enforcement parts are required, no doubt about it. My concern with just a harassment policy is that there’s broader issues of conduct than just harassment. The LoneStarCon doc does well with this, broadening the scope to Code of Conduct.

    Also, thanks, John, for expanding the scope from sexual harassment to harassment in general.

  18. Sounds like a good set of rules for attending cons. The willingness to enforce the policy no matter who violated it is really important. The few cons I’ve been at I’ve never been creeped but its good to know that more and more cons are taking this seriously. It’s too bad it’s taken my lifetime for us to get to a point where cons are starting to implement and/or enforce their policies.

  19. Excellent policy. I’m all in favor.

    Perhaps requiring adequately trained, professional security at locations from which they will be able to observe the entire convention and act swiftly in response to harassment is another good requirement? It seems like it would be good for preventing harassment in the first place, but it sound awfully expensive.

  20. John, would it be appropriate to add a section about what you would do if you were at a con and it didn’t follow it’s policy? Something like, if I’m attending a con as GOH or a participant and become aware of an incident in which the con doesn’t follow it’s stated policy, I will immediately stop participating in the con. Would that be out of line if you’re already at the con and traveling on their dime? It seems like their adherence to the published standard is just as important as their having one.

  21. This is a great policy. Thank you for sticking up for your friends and your fans– and trust me, having a policy like this is earning you a whole lot of new fans.

  22. Brad Roberts – dickishness affects everyone’s enjoyment of the con, but harassment affects people’s safety. Even a small con can have a policy adapted from a larger con’s, and maybe have a harassment ombudsperson instead of a committee to handle reporting etc.

  23. Josh Cochran:

    I suspect that if a con didn’t live up to their promises to me when I was on the ground, they would find out very quickly how much trouble I could make. And I think it’s best for the moment to leave it at that.

  24. I recently wrote a long response blog in regards to Elise Mattheson’s official harassment report. I personally feel unsafe at a con, writer or not, as a woman in what should be a safe and fun palce. I want to thank you for taking a stand in whatever way you can. It means a lot to me.

  25. Floored writes: “Perhaps requiring adequately trained, professional security at locations from which they will be able to observe the entire convention [...] is another good requirement?” (Emphasis mine.)

    Nice theory, but impossible for many conventions, which are located in hotels — in a big hotel, the gaming track may be in one set of convention rooms, the writing panels on another, general fan-interest in yet a third wing, kid-tracks in yet another area, and the dealer’s hall in the basement. Oh, and the art show is on the top floor. Hope the elevators are up to it, ’cause my knees sure aren’t.

    Having a policy, roving security who are well-informed, a known Security base for people to find someone, and responding as quickly? Much more realistic.

  26. @ A.Beth:

    Thanks for the input! Obviously, I myself have never been to a genre convention (I am only 16, after all). Roving security combined with bases sounds like a more feasible idea. The only reason I suggested observers was because preventing harassment is better than nabbing the asshat after he’s creeped on someone.

  27. I read a comment on another site that talked about “safety personnel”. I believe they were identified by purple (ribbons or arm bands). Regardless, this would be a good thing at all Cons. The fact that there are immediately available people to help would be a great comfort and would add to the feeling of safety.

  28. Also, for con organizers, the Ada Initiative (http://adainitiative.org/) has some great guidelines, sample policies and really dedicated people willing to consult with you on crafting and improving your harassment policies.

    Kudos to John for taking this step. I agree that there is something wrong with a con that won’t go to the (not that much) trouble to be a more welcoming place for everyone and a less welcoming place for the geek world’s creeps.

  29. This is a stellar example of how to be a good ally. Thank you, John. I hope this helps push cons to adopt workable, VISIBLE and enforceable anti-harassment policies – doing so will go a long way toward encouraging more people to attend cons because it signals that the organizers are committed to creating a space where attendees can feel safe and have a good time.

  30. I am a frequent con volunteer, and the con I currently volunteer for is now clawing its way back from a screwup on how it handled a harassment complaint.

    It shouldn’t matter if a con is a volunteer organization. It should act like any other non-profit org dealing with thousands of dollars, hundreds, if not thousands of people, including professionals. We should act maturely, and responsibly. We owe it to our guests and attendees to be better run than a party in someone’s living room.

    We’re asking professional authors to take time and come entertain us. THese are busy people and we’re usually getting them to show up (outside of the GOH) at some not inconsiderable expense. In return it is in no way too much for them to expect us to provide a safe, respectful environment to EVERY person there.

    Volunteers ourselves are made safer by a well understood, well supported code of conduct.

  31. @Jonathan Laden:
    I am curious, however, that convention organizers, well-meaning amateur volunteers, are being held responsible in a way that the very large, professional corporations that employ and empower the alleged offenders don’t seem to be?

    Well then it seems to me that the very large, professional corporations need to step up their game.

  32. A.Beth, not only are functions scattered throughout the hotel, but at very big cons like Worldcon, events may be in different hotels that are some distance from each other. This year, the party hotel is not the main hotel. In Reno, the masquerade, Hugos, and late night events were at a hotel that you took a shuttle bus from the convention center to. And the Chicon facility is technically all in one hotel, but might as well be in two.

    Floored, I went to my first con at 15. Sure, mom had to drive me there and pick me up, but even that’s kind of late blooming; many people are second or third generation fen and so have been attending before they were born. Or their parents are mundane but schlep them around. Mom didn’t play baseball but she took my brother to games and tournaments.

    I hope (and suspect) that lots of other authors/artists/guests will do the same as Scalzi.

  33. Excellent. I would hope as well that there’s some sort of standard background-check procedure for anyone hired as con staff, especially security, to avoid having assgaskets in positions of authority. A harassment policy is toothless if the people to whom one is supposed to report blow it off, side with the harasser or are harassers themselves.

  34. John, upon reading the LoneStarCon policy, I note that, unlike Wiscon, it doesn’t have a section specifically defining harassment. Do you consider that a problem? It seems to run against your request for a clear definition. I’d like to see that spelled out as much as possible in harassment policies to stop people claiming ignorance as a defense.

  35. Bravo, sir, bravo! It will be interesting to watch developments as I expect other authors, artists, pros & fen to follow your example. (I will be doing so as a long-time fan and occasional panel participant and con committee critter.)

    I’ll have to remember this the next time that I get discouraged about trying to change the world for the better.

  36. I must be ridiculously naive; I had no idea that harassment was so rampant at conventions. Which is really sad, since conventions should, ideally, be safe spaces where we can all geek out together and have an awesome time with other people.

  37. One thing I’ve called for over the years with cons–and at least one even listened, to my mild astonishment!–is VISIBLE security. If I’m backed against a wall and looking around for help, I don’t want to have to find a tiny green stripe on a badge, I want somebody in a sash or a bright red T-shirt so that I KNOW they’re there.

    If I can’t tell your security from a cosplayer, I get mildly annoyed. The con I do the most often has redshirts, and you can spot them from across a dealer’s room and flag them down if you need to report something.

    The one con who added visible security said in so many words that they had always thought of visible security as a drag on the “fun” and hadn’t stopped to think that somebody might feel less safe if they didn’t know there were staff around to help.

  38. @ Lurkertype: I’m basically the first real geek in my family; my mom likes Star Trek, but for the philosophy, Patrick Stewart and George Takei, not the phasers, Klingons, and Borg. Also, I have a terminal case of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, which gives me the ability to read and reread books for literally days on end without the slightest trace of boredom if given a quiet spot to read in, while making me effectively incapable of higher brain functions in loud areas with lots of stimuli.

    Thus, genre conventions have been a spectacularly bad idea for most of my life, and my parents don’t have the time or inclination to take me to them anyway (my dad has a stupidly busy job, and I am homeschooled due to complicated reasons).

  39. Reblogged this on SFFragette and commented:
    I think this is an excellent standard for pros to insist upon and a great way to create change in the community. I’d love to collect a list of conventions that have set clear policies and are enforcing them appropriately.

  40. I continue to be amazed at how bad some aspects of the SF fandom community can be (e.g., Orycon’s handling of the autism panel), when I keep expecting it to be supportive, friendly, and all that.

    But then I see stuff like this, or like Ursula Vernon’s posts, and I think that really, this is the way improvement works. It looks like suddenly things are awful, but actually, they’re improving; it’s just that they’ve improved enough to allow is to conceive of what they should be like.

  41. NIcely done – you’re a good guy, John. The thing everybody has to ask themselves, I believe, is, when I had a chance or the ability to chance things and make them better, did I do it?

  42. Interesting observation: What you’re doing as a matter of principle, a lot of women are probably doing for their own safety. For us, avoiding conventions where we may get harassed will only lead to less female representation at cons. For you, it might actually get results. Thanks for the solidarity. We need people like you fighting this bullshit with us.

  43. I’ll note that LoneStarCon 3, this year’s Worldcon, has such a policy here (pdf file).

    The policy given doesn’t seem to be clear on what is unacceptable behaviour, limiting itself to a general “harassment”. On the other hand, the next clause “If someone asks you
    to leave them alone or tells you no, you walk away, and you do not approach them again. There is no reason for you to have any further interaction with them.
    ” is admirable.

  44. “If somebody tells you no” so if somebody turns down my invitation to dinner tonight because they have to set up a room party, I’m not supposed to talk to them again? That is a remarkably poorly-written policy.

  45. here’s a question [of sorts]

    i used to be regular con staff at a con i know you have, at least, attended in the past.

    and that con was VERY good about dealing with harassment of guests and Guests.
    NOT con staff
    [i was harassed repeatedly the last year i was there for the "sin" of having to use a wheelchair. so i don't go at ALL anymore, because i was told there was NOTHING to be done since A) it wasn't *sexual* harassment and B) i was STAFF and so was getting a "free ride - i was at that con for well over 100 hours, and i WORKED for 83 of them... but i was "getting" something for "free"? gah! - and so i didn't have the "right" to not be harassed.]

    to be fair – i have NOT been back. it’s possible – i don’t know how much, i cut off my friendships with the people involved – that they’ve changed, gotten better. but… i’d never really noticed the level of harassment that all the con staff – especially us XX con staff – recieved until it shifted from “oh great, yet another idiot who thinks that i’m here solely to get laid and refuses to notice that we’re REAL FANS” to “oh, you’ve got to be joking – now i’m not only NOT a real fan, but i’m also a pathetic drag on society who’s only at a con trying to get laid because i’m now worthless because i’m in a wheelchair? SERIOUSLY?!”

    there’s just. there’s always, always this level of “but you KNEW that it would be like THIS, you don’t get to complain”
    it tends to be a lower level of harassment, because the perpetrators have less time and privacy.

    i wonder if anyone even NOTICES. i mean, ANYONE in customer service deals with the same thing [i will NOT go into how many people tried to get me to reinact some porno because i happened to be the delivery driver...] but it’s somehow worse AT a con and BECAUSE we’re doing it for free.

  46. I suspect that if a con didn’t live up to their promises to me when I was on the ground, they would find out very quickly how much trouble I could make. And I think it’s best for the moment to leave it at that.

    That made me laugh. Yeah. I think they would.

    I’m glad you use your metaphorical microphone for the side of good, John!

  47. @Seth: No, it isn’t. It’s actually remarkably similar to my employer’s sexual harassment policy.

    You are allowed to ask once. If they say ‘no’ or ‘I’m sorry, I’m busy’ then you walk away. If they are interested in you, then they can make the next move. (Or they can say “I can’t because of some unrelated circumstance, but can we try the day after that?” in response to your initial inquiry.)

    Basically: if they want to continue the conversation, they can let you know.

  48. Thank you for stepping up and doing what you can to make conventions safer for all of us.

  49. Seth, I’ve written and erased several replies about this.

    In general, as the person playing on an easier setting, you need to cut the other person more slack. The most neutral option which still says “I find you interesting and likable” is switch the interaction to “well, you seem like fun; look me up after you do the setup if you want – I’ll be at X,” and then let them decide if they want to do that, or invite you to come, or make those polite noises about being really busy, you know how it is, lots of stuff to do, maybe see you some other time…

    This is putting the power to make the decision in their hands instead, which is a key part of not bothering people. You can express a wish to be friends and still let someone else make decisions about what they prefer. (I guess this is the social equivalent of enthusiastic consent.)

  50. “Interesting observation: What you’re doing as a matter of principle, a lot of women are probably doing for their own safety. ”

    Oh, I am pretty sure that John is doing this for safety first, daughter, wife and friends and principle second (even if it is a close second or a tie for first).

  51. I don’t know that even the mention of it will play well here, but, any safeguards for the wrongly accused.?

  52. Excellent! Thanks for putting this issue under the spotlight. I am a very minor public figure at this point and not on the Con “To call” list yet. At some point, this will change. In the meantime, for my personal safety as a public figure (and as a woman) I’ve trained in self-defence. Seriously, I train with Russians. At the risk of sounding like a paranoid zealot, I highly recommend personal self-defence training. Actually self-defence, not sports like karate and other martial arts. Until the Con enforcement personnel can actually physically reach you, you’ll have to deal with an escalating situation yourself.

  53. I travel from Nigeria for cons when I can manage. Creep behaviour is a rather hard pill to swallow after all the effort to be there and have fun. It’s great the community is coming together like this.

  54. Scalzi,

    Nice. Copy and paste and modification of this policy is okey-dokey?

    Phoenician: the next clause “If someone asks you to leave them alone or tells you no, you walk away, and you do not approach them again.” is admirable.

    So, like, a do-it-yourself restraining order?

  55. Oddly enough after the guest post you hosted by the woman that sadly was harassed, i was going to comment that if someone gets harassed at a conference you are attending, one of the smartest things to do would be to come find you! One reason I like this blog and indeed buy your books (other than i generally enjoy them) is that you appear to use your fame for good and make generally very positive contributions to the world outside f your books.

  56. “any safeguards for the wrongly accused.?”

    It strikes me that such “safeguards” have already been in place – the problem is that these “safeguards” are actually “the status quo of no one doing anything up to this point” and they were unfortunately being used as safeguards to protect the RIGHTLY accused.

    If it saves the vast majority of women who are legitimately wronged, I think most people would be comfortable with the miniscule to the point of invisibility number of people who may be wrongly accused.

  57. John, you’re far too well read in philosophy, and too experienced a wordsmith, not to know that such requirements are almost impossible to meet, at least in a larger context than the micro-culture of US conventions.

    Just try to “clearly define” « unacceptable behaviors » in terms that are 1/ reasonably objective (i.e. not in the line of “a person should not feel so and so”) ; 2/ reasonably explicit and understandable by people unfamiliar with US PC issues, and more generally with US cultural prejudices ; 3/ reasonably respectuous of other cultural idiosyncrasies as well.

    The tonality of this whole debate is just plain scary.

  58. Aw! I already was planning to buy all of your books, but you’ve made me feel even better about doing so.

  59. Thanks for doing this. I hope more “names” in the SF community follow your example. Not much of a con-goer myself, but the talk about harassment has made me reluctant to go to any great lengths to change that, even if I am far too old and of matronly proportions to be in the general target demographic for harassment.

  60. Eric: Considering that there are already a number of conventions out there (including Worldcon, to which John actually linked) with solid anti-harassment policies in place, clearly it is hardly “almost impossible to meet” reasonable anti-harassment criteria that people can accept. And “cultural idiosyncrasies” don’t earn anyone freebies on imposing their unwanted attentions on another.

  61. @Eric Picholle:

    “Treat everyone with respect.”

    “No means ‘No’. If rebuffed, respect that person’s agency and do not attempt to cajole them into doing whatever you asked of them. If they change their mind, she or he will let you know.”

    “Crude jokes and comments are best kept to oneself.”

    That was pretty easy.

    I hope John’s decision is echoed by all those that get invited to cons as a Guest.

  62. So, like, a do-it-yourself restraining order?

    Well, even if the policy doesn’t define “harassment” (which, note, some of the model policies do quite well), that clause lays out a clear line people can avail themselves of with no ambiguity. You make a clear “no”, and then you have something definitive you can take to an official if they don’t walk away.

    It occurs to me that it’s vulnerable to asshats abusing it though – strike a conversation with your target, announce loudly that you want them to leave you alone, and if they don’t walk away, you get to complain based on violation of that rather than the actual “offense”.

    Then you could get into dueling quick-draw taking offense contests. Maybe you could automate it and have an offended robot chasing a target – there could be a story in this…

  63. I’ve seen such policies in program books before, but you’ve got the clout to take a stand and make it happen on a more widespread basis.
    Pretty much every con has a weapons policy. It’s probably at least as important to have a harassment policy.

  64. Good lord, why would anybody want to go to a con at all? After all this stuff I’ve been hearing about them lately, I can’t imagine any reason to attend one. Maybe if people just stop going because of the unfriendly atmosphere, the organizers will take note and make appropriate changes.

  65. @Thomas M. Wagner : Considering that there are already a number of conventions out there (including Worldcon, to which John actually linked) with solid anti-harassment policies in place, clearly it is hardly “almost impossible to meet” reasonable anti-harassment criteria that people can accept.

    Well, yes and no. Obviously, SF fans are a pretty civilized bunch, mostly everywhere, and the basic acceptable patterns are indeed quite similar. I’ve been personnaly involved in the organization of a number of events, both SF & academic, including full-scale international ones, and I fully agree that a anti-harassment policy is both necessary and rather easy to implement in these context. I don’t think I’m suspect of overtolerancy on the subject.

    But I was actually pointing out was the difficulty to write down universally acceptable criteria. In my opinion, necessary ingredients are 1/ Trust : if you don’t trust the organizer’s integrity and common sense, just don’t come : no official « policy » of their will help. And 2/ a minimum level of fuzzyness in the rules, so that said common sense can apply.

    As for “A number of WorldCons out there” — well, not so much, actually. Canada, England, Australia… Doesn’t sound too much like a representative sample of the variety of world cultures, as far as I’m concerned. Tokyo was the exception. I wasn’t there, and don’t know Japan, but as far as I understand it, it might be the non-US culture most involved in the explicitation of strict mutual obligations.

    And “cultural idiosyncrasies” don’t earn anyone freebies on imposing their unwanted attentions on another.

    Granted. As well as they donc earn activists, including feminists or anti-harassment, a right to impose their agendas.

    @uldihaa “Treat everyone with respect.”
    “No means ‘No’. If rebuffed, respect that person’s agency and do not attempt to cajole them into doing whatever you asked of them. If they change their mind, she or he will let you know.”
    “Crude jokes and comments are best kept to oneself.”
    That was pretty easy.

    No, it was not, apparently. Define “respect”. Define “crude”. Quite culture-dependant boundaries…

  66. Thank you very much for this, John. If nothing else, it means I will never have to balance “wouldn’t it be great to see John Scalzi” against “will this con adequately support my insistence on being treated as a human being”. GoHs and other program participants are used to attract con-goers to the con, so it’s entirely reasonable for them to have standards about what they’re willing to be used to attract people to.

  67. Eric: If you’ve got a more effective way of preventing harassment at cons, those of us who help run them are all ears. For now, we’re struggling against a culture that habitually shuts down any complaints, and defines someone who spends entire conventions vulgarly hitting on women to be a gentleman simply because he takes “no” for an answer and goes on looking for his next target. We’re struggling against a culture in which certain elder members of the community deem it necessary to shut down criticism of the culture by calling opponents Nazis and Fascists.

    So if you’ve got a solution for ending that that will be more effective, by all means, trot it out.

  68. I am pleased to note that GenCon, which I’ll attend in a month and a half, has a fairly explicit no harassment policy as part of its Terms of Service. I only wish it was a little more prominent on the Web site.

  69. Rolling eyes at Eric, but he uses “PC” and talks about feminist agendas, so I’m thinking troll, or at least not worth taking seriously.

    Although I will note that implying other cultures accept and encourage unwanted touching, stalking, or verbal harassment and thus we can’t do anything about them is not exactly respectful of those cultures either.

    Seth: Frankly? “Sorry, I have a party then,” without adding “Why don’t you drop by?” or “Want to meet up on Sunday for brunch?” or even a “Maybe another time?” is a “no”. It’s a “no” where–perhaps wrongly, perhaps for patriarchal reasons, whole other discussion–the other person is trying to spare your feelings and hoping you’ll take a damn hint already, but it’s a no. Hear it; back off. Don’t call us, we’ll call you.

  70. Cindy Lou, a good anti-harassment policy works to safeguard both the innocent guest who was harassed and the innocent person who was misidentified/revenged/whatever as a harasser. That’s why records and eyewitness reports are so important; it helps sort out cultural misunderstandings and erroneous identifications from actual events. If the person who believes that they were harassed follows Elise Matthesen’s guidelines, then there is very little chance that a harasser will avoid the consequences of his actions or that an innocent will be unfairly punished.

  71. @Floored:

    Also, I have a terminal case of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, which gives me the ability to read and reread books for literally days on end without the slightest trace of boredom if given a quiet spot to read in, while making me effectively incapable of higher brain functions in loud areas with lots of stimuli.

    This is kind of the reason I’ve never been to a con either – I’m on the autistic spectrum, and crowded areas with lots of noise = *bad* idea, especially if it’s an unfamiliar environment where I’m doing unfamiliar things, and especially especially if there’s no one I know who can bail me out if I end up in meltdown.

    What I’ve been doing and which might be helpful for you? is looking into con accessibility policies, and particular checking if there’s quiet spaces or the like. E.g. what I’ve seen of Wiscon looks *really* good with things like creating “lanes” in corridors to prevent super-crowding there and quiet rooms available for people who are overloading on noise – if it were closer I’d probably try to go. I might also contact the concom in advance to make sure the information available is accurate, ask for further details/if they can do anything for needs of mine that aren’t covered and see how they respond to a real live disabled person. Of course, everyone’s different, ADHD =/= ASD, and this might be useless for you – it’s just a thought.

    On topic – I applaud Scalzi’s post! The apparently widespread problem of harassment is one of the other things that’s made me stay away from cons, because I can think of little worse than trying to fend off a harasser when I’m already in a really stressful unfamiliar environment and possibly fighting overload. That has the potential to end really, really badly for me! And this looks like a really good way to fight it.

  72. @Eric, geez, your argument basically boils down to “other cultures are too stupid to hear a no”. That’s pretty insulting to people who aren’t North American.

    I’ve travelled in Europe, North Africa, Russia and parts of Asia, alone in relatively poor parts (I was a student and had to save money where I could), when I was in my twenties. Guess what? Saying a firm “no thank you” really does deter the non-assholes. There may be cultural differences, but NOBODY in any culture is so stupid that they don’t get “leave me alone.” Unless they’re assholes.

    In Morocco, where I was expecting a ton of harassment based on stories I’d heard, I would be left alone after I’d say “please respect me and leave me alone”. The men would would look embarassed, but leave me alone! A few wouldn’t, but the majority would, most of the ones that wouldn’t were trying to sell me something.

    Luckily, there really are only a few genuine assholes out there, but they ruin it for everyone.

  73. Eric Picholle:

    “John, you’re far too well read in philosophy, and too experienced a wordsmith, not to know that such requirements are almost impossible to meet”

    To begin, the rhetorical maneuver here of “All reasonable people, such as you are, must know [insert argument the author wishes to promote]” is a somewhat lazy attempt to put the asserter on a higher rhetorical ground, and those differing from his view on the defensive. I am far too well read in philosophy, and too experienced a wordsmith, to go along with such an obvious ploy, or to give it credence.

    Second, you’re wrong. It’s not anywhere close to impossible. In fact it’s really rather simple. To suggest that conventions are somehow a “micro-culture” in which something like this is near impossible is really a backhanded slap on the abilities and competence of those who run them and participate in them.

    Third, even if it were nearly impossible, which it is not, I don’t care. If people want me for a Guest of Honor, this is now a hard requirement. If they can’t or won’t meet this as a requirement, then I won’t be their Guest of Honor. I am perfectly happy to be “unreasonable” about conventions having a reasonable harassment policy.

    Fourth, fuck “the tonality of this whole debate.” I am not debating. I am presenting a list of demands. I’m sick of friends, fans and random people I don’t even know getting harassed at conventions and not knowing what to do or even if they can do something. So this is what I’m doing from here on out. I don’t care whether you like the tone of it or not.

  74. @Isabelscoper : Rolling eyes at Eric, but he uses “PC” and talks about feminist agendas, so I’m thinking troll, or at least not worth taking seriously.

    As you may have guessed, English is not my own language (I’m French), so my vocabulary might be somewhat outdated around those fast-evoluting issues. Sorry for that, and for any ambiguities related to my rusty English.

    As for insisting that one’s current issues are overwhelmlngly important, but that dissenting points of view aren’t even worth being taken seriously — well, that’s indeed a significant part or what I find scary in this debate.

    @Karina : geez, your argument basically boils down to “other cultures are too stupid to hear a no”.

    No, it doesn’t. Possibly to “These are complex issues, but American activists are more and more sounding too self-centered to remember that the customs of their tribe aren’t law of nature”.

    @Josh Jasper : If you’ve got a more effective way of preventing harassment at cons, those of us who help run them are all ears. (…)
    We’re struggling against a culture in which certain elder members of the community deem it necessary to shut down criticism of the culture by calling opponents Nazis and Fascists.

    As I said, I do indeed consider anti-harassment policies necessary. But I don’t buy “zero-tolerance” approachs, especially in multicultural contexts.

    Name calling mostly proves that the debate has gone irrational. “Nazis” and “Fascists” are clearly out of line, and absurd. But if intelligent and politically literate people are reduced to this kind of hyperbole, that might also raise questions about the methods of their opponents.

  75. “As well as they donc earn activists, including feminists or anti-harassment, a right to impose their agendas.”

    Of course feminist and ‘anti-harassment’ activists are imposing their agenda, that’s the point. Their agenda is virtuous and John Scalzi is doing the right thing by throwing his force behind it. More power to him and to everyone else with such a policy.

  76. I should note, for the sake of keeping the thread from drifting, that this is not the right place for a very general discussion of the dynamics of convention culture. The focus is properly on my personal policy as regards harassment policies at conventions. Keep that as a focus so we don’t blunder off into derails, please.

    Eric Picolle:

    “But if intelligent and politically literate people are reduced to this kind of hyperbole, that might also raise questions about the methods of their opponents.”

    No, it mostly raises questions about whether the people using the words are actually intelligent and politically literate, or if they are, if they are interested in a good faith discussion. They’re not “reduced” to those phrases; that’s often their opening gambit, to discredit other views from the start.

    Also, again, not relevant to this particular thread.

  77. John : Fourth, fuck “the tonality of this whole debate.” I am not debating.

    Sorry if I sounded like I was targeting your part in the debate, it was not my intention — it just happens that Whatever is my main entry to intra-US fandom debates (and thank you for that, by the way). I meant : the whole “zero-tolerance over harassment issues” debate, from the ReaderCon to the WisCon incidents.

    Off with me for this thread, then.

  78. @Chris Well then it seems to me that the very large, professional corporations need to step up their game.

    Absolutely. And at least partially my point.

  79. Eric Picholle, try reading the original post this way: John Scalzi has something many cons want: his ability and willingness to be a GOH or participant or panel member. John Scalzi has something he wants: safety at cons for friends, fans, and others. Each party is entitled to want what they want. To get what they both want, the two parties have to come to an agreement. If they can’t, one or both sides do not get what they want. This is a standard situation in many areas of life. You know this already if you have ever been party to a contract. John is entitled to decide what he requires of the cons in order to give them what they want from him. Each con runner is entitled to whether they are willing and able to offer what he wants in order to secure his presence. If they don’t/aren’t, they are free to find other participants/GOH/panel members. John is free to spend the time he would have spent at the con instead doing something he would rather do than be at a con that doesn’t offer the kind of safety for participants that he requires. There’s nothing scary about that, IMO. That is John deciding what he will and will not participate in. He would like it if this requirement on his part would encourage con runners to do a better job of providing safety for participants, but he understands that he has no control over what they do. He controls only what he himself does, and that’s what this policy makes clear.

    If you’re familiar with the concept of personal boundaries (and even if you aren’t), John has set a very clear boundary that does not encroach on the autonomy of the con runners. If no con chooses to organize itself in a way that would meet his requirements, he would not go to any con, and that would be his choice. However, as we have seen, there are cons that are indeed set up to provide safety in a way that meets his requirements. So he will go to that kind of con.

    A personal boundary is scary only to people who want to cross it and feel thwarted.

  80. Eric, my apologies, I was posting and did not see your response regarding tonality. I understand that you do not feel that John’s choice is scary.

  81. The sad thing is that a million years ago when I started going to cons there was a small note in the program that stated something along the lines of “Just because you see a woman in a chain mail bikini handing out hugs to a group of med doesn’t mean YOU are invited into that group. Please ask first” or something to that effect.

    Common sense does seem to have become a lost sense.

    :(

  82. As a lawyer, I never worry too much about the content of a confidentiality clause. You’ll never possibly catch all of the violations and even if you do catch them, the damage is already done. But I’ll never let a client sign an agreement without one because if the other side doesn’t want one (admittedly, a rare thing, but I’ve seen it, with the protest that “these don’t really count for much” which is true, but irrelevant), you know damned well they’re up to no good. It’s the act of agreeing to a confidentiality clause that’s important to me.

    If a con goes to the trouble of creating and publishing an anti-harassment policy, they’re a good way there, culturally, to addressing the problem. Whatever the particulars of the policy that might need improving, if the other side goes through the exercise of it — as they must under this policy — they’re a long way there. And claiming they don’t want it seems the time to walk away.

  83. I’m an astronomer, and, much like the sci-fi Con world, it’s a field where the majority of people are socially awkward white males. Nonetheless, our professional organization has a well-crafted policy on harassment at meetings. While tailored for academic conferences, those of you involved in Con organizing may find this useful:

    http://aas.org/policies/anti-harassment-policy

    Even with such a policy, I have heard of many instances of harassment from my female and/or LGBTQ colleagues and it always shocks and saddens me. Thank you, John, for helping raise public awareness for this very serious issue!

  84. This is a great move, and I hope others follow suit. And for regular convention members, who aren´t guests; remember that you too can demand this from the conventions you attend. Check if a convention has a policy, and if it doesn’t then write to them and tell them they need to. Politely linking them to some of the resources mentioned can be useful as well.

    Most conventions actively rely on input from members to decide all sorts of things from programming to dietary needs, but sometimes people need to push for the con runners to realize something really does need addressing. (And a lot of conventions already have responded admirably to the past couple of years of discussion, so clearly it works!)

  85. Thank you John, and Jim Hines, and all of the other straight white men who are taking a stand that this kind of thing is Not OK.

    I am staff/volunteer/panelist at several conventions in the midwest, and those conventions either have or are working on clear and distinct anti-harassment policies. I was asked to help draft the one for ChiFan for our first event next Spring – so I want to also thank those who posted reference links for sample policies. It really helps those of us who want to implement these kinds of policies but are concerned about getting mired in legal-ese.

    As a woman in fandom, I put up with a lot of crap over the years because I thought it was “part of the price of admission” to this nifty group. But now more people are speaking up, and they are totally right. This kind of crap has got to stop. Every time someone decides not to attend an event, or not to cosplay, that’s depriving me of an opportunity to meet/learn from/hang out with them. Time to put up the “No peeing in the pool” signs!

  86. To listen to a few of the arguments being presented here, you’d think human beings could never, ever make an agreement or write a law, because all language is fatally imprecise, and no statement is immune from being misinterpreted by somebody.

    In fact, as lawyer Andrew Lloyd points out above, all such statements are imperfect. There’s no such thing as language that’s invulnerable to misprision by those determined to misprise it. Somehow we manage to soldier on anyway.

  87. John, I have a teenaged daughter that I want to take to a con or two before she goes off to college. Which cons, if any, would you take your daughter to?

  88. I applaud the there-must-be-a-policy policy. But as someone who has worked all sides of the convention fence – panel participant, GoH, con committee member, and dealer – I do have something to recommend. (Apologies if it has already been recommended upstream; I haven’t read all 117-so-far comments.)

    I suspect that many convention committees will be happy to institute such a policy… but less happy about finding the staff resources to create one. It might be a good idea for you, SFWA, me, or some other entity to register a domain name and set up a web site that serves only to host or point at sample sexual harassment policies. That way, when anyone conforming to your policy policy asks the relevant question of a con committee and the committee says “We’d love to, but it may take a while,” everyone can point to the web site.

    Just a thought.

  89. As a woman in fandom, I put up with a lot of crap over the years because I thought it was “part of the price of admission” to this nifty group.

    @Wendy: I’ve heard that so many times, it’s depressing, and just as often women who’ve had really horrible experiences and decided the bill’s too high (and life’s too short) for that much bullshit. I suspect it also puts off a fair number of men, because I spent five years at an all-male boarding school so I’m over full-time salami-fests.

  90. Reblogged this on The Fog of Ward and commented:
    Full props to Mr. Scalzi. I hope that all conventions will see fit to adopt the recommendations he offers as his conditions for accepting invitations of this sort, so that anyone attending such events will be able to do so without fear of harassment.

  91. MVS:

    Well, that’s a question for which the answer is not going to be helpful. I would take my daughter to any convention I have gone to up to this point because:

    1. My daughter knows very well that being creeped on is not acceptable and has no problem in both dealing with it herself and coming to me, her mother or appropriate people from a convention;

    2. Even when I am not a participant, at science fiction conventions most people know who I am and who my family is, so there’s a better than reasonable chance that any complaints we would have would be sorted out almost immediately. This is one of the unfair advantages I have over many people. When I am a participant, the advantage is even more apparent.

    This is not to say that my daughter has nothing to worry about — she might be skeeved on by someone, because she’s a teenager now, and it happens. I am saying that she’s is well enough educated personally, and I am who I am in that context, that if she is skeeved on, it’ll be dealt with.

    If I were not who I am in the genre, nor my daughter as informed as she is, my response as to which cons I would take her to is simple: The ones with clear and obvious harassment policies. Because one, those cons are aware the problem exists and have a process in place to deal with it, and two, they are more likely to take such incidents seriously.

  92. John, this is amazing. Thank you. Hopefully others in the industry follow suit.

    And thanks for coming into Cinci proper a few weeks ago. Had a great time at your Joseph-Beth reading!

  93. Ok, John, I may have to buy a whole extra set of your books to give away as a thank you for using your “clout” for good.

    Also, for non-Con goers, please don’t take this discussion as a reason not to attend. Think of it as a rare, but undiscussed problem that is finally being brought out into the open to get fixed. It is kind of like that racist, sexist uncle that everyone used to be warned to ignore at the family Thanksgiving and who finally is being told to shut up or get out.

    As a feminist, I have found that when this stuff is finally brought out into the open it is disgusting and frankly kind of scary. However, the only way to fix a problem it to admit there is a problem and take appropriate steps to make sure it never happens again. There will always be jerks. However, now, I know that the Convention doesn’t approve of them and I know what I can do to get help.

    Also, I really like the idea of Con security (Please no rent a cops) choosing to wear red so they are easily noticed. However, I wouldn’t want to volunteer then….

  94. @Aaron Allston

    As linked above in this very thread, the Ada Initiative is a major resources for these policies, and Wiscon, Worldcon, and Readercon have policies in place which can be consulted as a jumping-off point. You’re not working in a vacuum.

  95. Thanks John; I’ll make sure the cons we choose have a clear anti-harassment policy before we attend. My daughter and I discussed this thread and she’s aware and pro-active about unwanted sexual harassment (she calls them “creepers”).

  96. Good personal policy and more con speakers should put that forward, as it will help the cons get on board quickly lest they lose the commodity which makes their con worth going to!

    It is a difficult scenario at times, as people struggle with ‘but do I really have to stop talking after s/he says no to a question such as going to dinner.’ So much, I believe, is in the context, in reading body language, and in speaking clearly. Yes, we may say things like ‘well, not right now, but thanks’ in an effort to be polite and not hurt your feelings, but what we really are saying is ‘for some reason, I’m not ‘clicking’ with you and don’t want to go anywhere and please just walk away.’ You may be thinking ‘is that a hard ‘no and go away’ or is that literally that s/he’s too busy and is interested for later.’ Because sometimes we may say it and mean it literally — we’re busy and we don’t think they’re creepy so it’s okay to keep talking or find me later.

    And THAT, to me, is where we get people struggling with whether or not the policies are written well or right or how to handle it. Bottom line (again imo), is that you have to take a solid no and a polite brush-off no as equal unless given extra information to go on. That helps keep you in the clear and out of creeper territory! If you are the recipient, think about how you’re wording it — if you actually are interested in speaking to the person more and your no is solely because it’s a crappy time, then BE CLEAR. “Hey, I’d like to go but I can’t now – if you see me later, come say hi, but for now, I’ve got to go hang out with some other friends I made a commitment to.”

    I get that some people attending cons just don’t seem to have a good grasp on body language, non-verbal cues, and other social behaviours. These discussions tend to freak out some of these people who now worry that they won’t be able to talk to anyone at a con without being called a creeper, and so they scream in internet forums that these rules are unfair, unclear, wrong, etc.

    Guess what? I don’t care. That doesn’t matter. What matters is that we have policies and processes in place to protect people being harassed. If you’re worried you may get falsely accused or that such policies will hamper normal social interactions, then you’re not doing it right! Ask for community feedback on ideas for how to respond and on how to not trigger someone else. We can all learn! Sometimes it’s just having a few key phrases “hey, no problem — I do think you’re interesting so if you change your mind and want to hang out later, hunt me down, otherwise, have a great con!” “Alright, enjoy your (other activity). I’d be interested in hanging out another time if you are, but I’ll leave that up to you. Just find me if so!”

    There are many, many ways of doing this, and having a strong harassment policy and protocol will NOT destroy socializing at cons. What it will hopefully destroy is people who feel that social interactions are power plays against other people (typically women).

  97. Thanks, Elizabeth. (I’ve been nearly blind for a couple of years, am still recovering from cataract surgery, and consequently I read more slowly than I’d like – meaning that I can’t always pick up the full context of discussion threads in a reasonable amount of time.) I’ll add that web site to my routine correspondence with conventions.

  98. Oh and a ‘con example for me? I’ve attended Norwescon the last 2 years with my 4 kids, and I love it (though I didn’t realize they didn’t have a harassment policy — I hope they get one done soon!). A man there that I recognized from a few panels in 2012 came up to me this year and said “hey! I wanted to say hi and apologize in advance, just in case. You look remarkably like a friend of mine, right down to the hair colour, and I’m afraid that if I get a few drinks, I may run up and hug you before realizing it’s not her!” He was natural and forthright and sincere – this wasn’t some cheesy pick up line or creeper excuse. This was man who kept his natural exuberant nature limited to his interactions with friends, and he was genuinely worried that he might get tipsy and accidentally think I was his friend and act before his brain kicked in ‘omg, not her!’ I’ve run across rooms to hug a friend from behind only to get close and realize it wasn’t them, so I get it :)

    It was respect of women and personal space that made him come up to me, and I appreciated it. So there ARE ways to do it!

  99. Just wanted to say thank you for having clout, recognizing it, and doing something with it. I’m really glad I happen to like your books, because you’re the kind of professional I’d like to support.

  100. Such a stance is a good one.

    I would however like to point out that harassment not only takes many forms but is also not only experienced by those of a single gender (which I would hope is not as shocking a revelation as some people seem to present that it may be).

  101. Personally, I think trying to be explicit about defining harassment is chasing down a rabbit hole. The important parts of a harassment policy for me is: 1) stating it’s not welcome behavior, 2) instructing members how/where to find help, 3) having staff know how to accept reports and handle immediate assistance needs and how to route things up the chain, 4) getting the word out to attendees through multiple channels.

    I think that things like “zero tolerance policies” and extensive definitions are all efforts to remove human judgement from the process and I find that causes more problems than it solves. If you have people who care, judgement will serve you well. If you have people who don’t care, you’re in trouble no matter what you’ve done.

  102. Dave McCarty:

    “Personally, I think trying to be explicit about defining harassment is chasing down a rabbit hole.”

    Oh, I don’t know about that. I don’t think it’s difficult to suggest, say, unwanted physical contact or verbal sexual imposition can qualify as harassment. And I think a con that’s concerned about that can use the phrase “Some examples of harassment can be (but are not limited to)…” and go from there. The point of a policy is not be exhaustive but to signal harassment is being taken seriously.

    Note:

    You will note that the entry does not specify gender with regard to who is skeeved on and who is being creepy; that’s for a reason. That said, let’s not pretend that in this context it’s not men doing most (but not all) of the skeeving, or that it’s not women getting most (but not all) of the harassment.

  103. A convention policy is only as good as its enforcement. I expect that there will be an official policy drawn up, and cons will copy-and-paste it on their websites and publish it in their program books. The question remains: Will anything change? I have my doubts.

    I suspect that the incident which has been discussed at length here and elsewhere would have had a dramatically different outcome had it not A) been at Wiscon, a notably feminist con; B) involved a long-time fannish well-known woman; and C) had not had witnesses.

    Most of these encounters happen in elevators or hallways or parties where few other people are paying attention to the interaction, and involve women who are not nearly as fannishly well-connected. Most con attendees don’t have any idea who’s on the concom, and most Ops departments are filled with guys who look and act remarkably like the perpetrators. Women don’t usually feel comfortable complaining to someone who looks just like the guy who just harassed them.

    So in addition to having a policy, the con needs to be ready to act on a moment’s notice to defend the women, and the con attendees likewise need to be willing to intervene when this sort of thing happens.We need to empower ourselves to push back against the impolite folks among us.

    I think it’s good that we’re talking about it – I hope that it turns into action at the ground level.

  104. Thank you, Mr. Scalzi. I may never go to a convention but posts like these have changed my life.

    I grew up reading SF. I still have a collection of paperbacks from the 50’s-70’s, carefully hunted down in used book shops, thin with garish covers, half the yellowed pages loose but carefully preserved. I love them. I might save them in a fire.

    As I grew older, some aspects of these books started to feel uncomfortable. Then Heinlein went all creepy (The hero’s mother? seriously?) and I became more aware of things that had just twinged before. It seemed my heroes were not writing for me or maybe any other woman.

    I turned to fantasy which was more likely to be written by women (albeit under neutral pseudonyms) but all too often that was problematical as well. (Romance is not a genre I enjoy, even if you put magic/dragons/unicorns in it.) I still picked up the occasional paperback with a garish cover but it just wasn’t the same. The thrill was gone.

    Then Jim Hines did a parody of book covers and that has lead me to a whole slew of other writers (like yourself) who are looking to entertain their entire audience. I have stacks of paperbacks to read and a full clowder of authors to try out next.

    It’s like being a kid again.

  105. hear, hear! when i can afford to con again, this will also be my policy (as a nobody who doesn’t actually get *invited*).

  106. The Lone Star Con policy is an excellent example. It includes the reporting and what is unacceptable as part of the code of conduct, suggests remedy and makes no presumption of guilt or innocence. It provides a process to gather the facts so that the matter can be addressed in an appropriate matter. As well, it has a call to action regarding reporting.

  107. @John: Perhaps it’s a language thing for me. If you say (as you did at the top) that you want it “to be clear on what is unacceptable behavior”….I would suggest that policies that say “some examples are (but not limited to)” don’t hit the mark you said you were aiming for. The latter being (for me) suggestive but not explicit. In my head “clear” and “explicit” are very closely tied in these situations.

    That said, I think suggestive policies are fine and serve well…since at their base they’re going to be relying on human judgement for enforcement.

  108. Very well done Mr. Scalzi and LoneStarCon 3 for both having a defined policy and promoting it.

    One point I might suggest it for LSC3 to add wording that if as another attendee you see clear evidence of harassment you bring it to the attention of Convention staff. Not involve yourself in the situation nor attempt to counter the harassment, but bring it to someone’s attention per the policy.

    Just a way to let every know it’s everyone’s problem, not just harassed individuals. They might also at Convention intro bring up your point about Guests, such as yourself, not attending conventions that do not have defined policies or do not enforce them.

  109. @UrsulaV: Considering that a categorical REFUSAL to put a harassment policy on paper was one of the reasons I stopped volunteering for BayCon several years ago, this is remarkably heartening to hear.

  110. I know I’m late to the party on this one, but I do want to say that this is an excellent policy and I hope it is picked up by others and widely adopted. Thanks, John.

  111. Well said! Well written! I urge any and all convention planners and con chairs to adopt this policy immediately. Yes, it is sad that it is needed at all; that the actions of a tiny minority have become this disruptive, but this is a well- reasoned response.

  112. Thanks cranapia!

    At my first con (age 17) I was groped in the pool by a guest author who wouldn’t take NO for an answer.
    At another con in the early 80s, a fellow guest tried to force his way into my hotel room behind me.
    At neither of these times did it ever occur to me to report it to anyone. Now women in fandom are speaking out and being heard, and they are totally right to.

    I don’t experience as much of it any more – being known in the local community for having an extremely low bullshit tolerance helps a lot. Now I am a staffer/volunteer/panelist at a fair number of cons, and I have been trying to use that to work on this issue. I’ve had “Cosplay/=Consent” posters up in my programming space, and openly discuss these issues at panels and on social media. (Lately, it feels like that’s all I’m writing about). Because I still love this community and I’m not going to let it be taken away from me, or anyone else.

  113. I’d suggest that any cons that adopt a clear harassment policy also instruct their volunteers and staff on that policy, up to and including one or more days of training if necessary.

  114. Oh, perfect! I just took over the website handling for one of the east coast SF conventions, and I’m looking to make it as useful as possible to visitors. Looks like this week’s and the next’s involve a ton of web research! I’m particularly trying to frame what I’m writing (or at least part of it) from the perspective of informing people where the limits lie and how to prevent oneself from going over them, as fandom seems to have an overabundance of people who really really do not pick up on relevant social cues and subtle distinctions.

    (that said, this con seems to be missing a Code of Conduct in general, not just limited to this issue, so I’ll have to get cracking!)

    Anyway, thanks for the suggestion. I likely would have eventually realized the absence of such a section, but now I can put immediate focus on it.

  115. Is there a meta-list of all/most cons? I don’t go to many myself (once in a while, but its usually the same ones). So I don’t even have a sense of how many cons there are in, say, North America. With a list of all cons, the next question would be ‘how many of them already have anti-harrassment policies in place?’

    Elise Mattheson’s post about being harrassed occurred at a con that DID have an anti-harrassment policy in place, didn’t it? And it sounded like they dealt with it appropriately rather than dismissing or downplaying her complaint. So, is the problem that most cons don’t have policies? Or do most have policies, but they’re mostly not being enforced?

    Every company I’ve worked at for the last couple decades has mandatory anti-harassment training of some sort or another. Usually with mandatory refresher training every year. So, I usually default ot assuming eveyrone has such a policy.

    But announcing a boycott on any convention that doesn’t have an anti-harrassment policy would seem to point to most NOT having a policy. At which point… I just… boggle.

  116. First thought: Thank you so much for this; hearing from authors that this is important is helping my own organization get the conversation started and a code in place. The need for a code of conduct came up before the conference and was discussed during, I am happy to say.

    Second thought: Gah I hope I wasn’t creepy! :) Since harassment really is (to me, anyway) about how the recipient feels, not necessarily the intent of the harasser, I can imagine authors can feel harried by star struck fans.

    Really enjoyed hearing you speak recently. Cheers!

  117. Seth: I don’t think it’s that complicated. Really. If a gay man were to walk up to me and say, “I think you’re very attractive, may I buy you dinner?” I’d be flattered (though I’d wonder about his taste) and not be at all uncomfortable. If, after I declined, he continued after me, or started touching me, or stood too close and made overtly sexual remarks, I’d start to get annoyed. So, if you’re interacting with a woman you’re attracted to, ask yourself if you are treating her in a way you wouldn’t want to be treated by a gay man. If you are, you’re harassing her.

    (I recognize this isn’t complete, because it ignores the degree to which men are socialized to say, “Fuck off, asshole,” and the degree to which woman are not; but it’s a start)

  118. Hi John, as someone with a relatively new convention, I appreciate this. We’ve had some policies in place but they haven’t been as obvious or codified as they could be. I’m working on a revised draft of them now.

  119. I LOVE YOU!!!!
    Thank you!! I hope more convention guests adopt your policy. I know after the ReaderCon incidents came to light, my friend and I quietly met with the Chief of Staff for the convention we staff and asked if we had a harassment policy. And she assured us we did, that it was being revised & updated & checked by a lawyer. Yay! :)
    I’ve never not felt safe in a convention space, but with the increasing reports of problems I’ve been hearing, I do worry. It makes me happy to see people stepping up and publicly stating they won’t tolerate it!
    (I wish you wrote manga so I could make my con bring you in as a guest!)

  120. Elise’s guest post – as well as John’s response – is surely the proverbial pebble tossed into the pond: its ripples are spreading far beyond cons to places that will surprise us. How wonderful!
    I haven’t been to a con in years, and I’m thankful I had no bad experiences – now that I’m “old” aggie, well, I’ll be wearing a purple Backup ribbon whenever I do attend an event.
    Thanks, John, for using your influence for good!

  121. I’m unlikely to ever get to a convention you are at due to geography and finances, but I have friends who attend and I’m glad to know if you are there the space is not only likely to be safer for them and therefore more enjoyable but if something does happen it will be dealt with swiftly and appropriately, I hope this practice becomes universal, so if I ever manage to afford a convention over here I wont have to worry about myself or my friends.

  122. In the co-sign thread, you write:

    “This comment thread is for co-signs only. Please don’t comment otherwise here. ”

    So, in other words: don’t go off on tangents?

  123. Personally, I think trying to be explicit about defining harassment is chasing down a rabbit hole. The important parts of a harassment policy for me is: 1) stating it’s not welcome behavior, 2) instructing members how/where to find help, 3) having staff know how to accept reports and handle immediate assistance needs and how to route things up the chain, 4) getting the word out to attendees through multiple channels.

    From here – http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Conference_anti-harassment/Policy

    “Harassment includes offensive verbal comments [related to gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, religion, [your specific concern here]], sexual images in public spaces, deliberate intimidation, stalking, following, harassing photography or recording, sustained disruption of talks or other events, inappropriate physical contact, and unwelcome sexual attention. Participants asked to stop any harassing behavior are expected to comply immediately. ”

    Perhaps I’m cynical from working as a union delegate, but I’ve seen too many things go wrong to trust to a “well we’ll know it when we see it” approach.

  124. This is definitely needed with the cosplayers especially. Just because people want to dress up like their favorite character doesn’t mean they want to be your fantasy come true

  125. I think the most important point that’s been made here is that if you are concerned that your interest/attraction in someone else might be unreciprocated, the right way to handle it is express yourself in a way that says, “I am explicitly handing over the choice over to you; you can decide whether to reciprocate interest or not, at whatever point you want; until then I’m leaving you be.”

    This may be something that can be added to the “how to not be a creeper” portion of the policy.

  126. @Greg – Geek Feminism has a pretty comprehensive list of conferences that have had anti-harassment policies, but I’m not sure how up to date it actually is.

    http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Conference_anti-harassment/Adoption

    FWIW, the main con I go to (C2E2) has a very short “policy” listed in their FAQ, but it’s kind of vaguely worded and could definitely use improvement (I’ll be writing to them an email to that effect because I love that con and the staff/organizers have been very responsive to concerns).

    And as for Chicago Comic Con? Can’t find A WORD about any harassment policy at all on their website. That’s… very discouraging.

  127. Thank you so much for sharing this! I’m a member of an organization that has a side mission of helping fight this sort of thing, and it’s great to see all the (very positive) discussions of it recently.

    If you’re curious, the official David Weber fan club (The Royal Manticoran Navy, trmn.org) has an official policy that our booths and rooms at cons are Safe Zones, and have signs posted to that effect. Many of our members are dressed in military style uniforms at cons, and are willing and able to provide protection if someone requests safety. (Working with con security, of course.)

  128. I posted on the Facebook page for the convention I’m attending in August. They have a “disruptive behavior” policy, but I asked them to strengthen it and make it clearer about harassment.

  129. Thanks for speaking up about this. It’s something marginalized people have been fighting for for a long time now, and it’s important that people with privilege (like able bodied white cis men) need to push for, too. A culture shift in conventions and similar spaces is sorely needed — thankfully, that shift seems to be gaining more and more momentum.

  130. This is a fine step. My local tiny university gaming convention planners (who are unlikely to ever invite you unless you start publishing Role Playing Games (or express the slightest interest in their con, really)) immediately started a dialog about their policy and how they should make it available and prominent.

    So, ripples extend outward. Thank you for taking a positive, proactive step to reduce harassment of all types.

  131. Thinking about the meta issues with confusion, etc. a little more, I wonder if it might not be easier to have a simple rule of thumb:

    Just because a person is out in public doesn’t mean they’re consenting to be hit on. Unless you’re in a space/at an event that’s specifically designed around hooking up with people for dates/sexytimes, don’t go trawling for that.

    Obviously, clear harassment policies still need to be in place, and even in hookup spaces, people need to keep their hands to themselves and take no for an answer. But I do think a lot of socially clueless people might behave better if they just stopped acting as if the entire world is a giant singles’ bar, and everyone in it wants to get horizontal with a stranger or someone they barely know. People who DO want that can go looking for those experiences in spaces designed for that. Everyone else should be able to go about their business unbothered.

  132. Mr. Scalzi, you’re awesome. Thank you.

    I would like to address those who think that attending cons is akin to entering a haunted house and expecting scary monsters to jump out from every corner. It isn’t. Well, not for the majority of attendees, it isn’t. But one bad apple skeeving around on attendees ruins the whole bunch. Even if it’s one or two bad apples out of a thousand.

    I think we are hearing more people share their harassment incidents because they finally feel safe speaking out about it. And that’s a good thing! That means enough people are talking about it that change is happening. Folks are standing up and saying “Nope, not gonna accept his anymore” and doing something about it. Change cannot happen unless we acknowledge the crap on the floor and take steps to clean it up. This policy is part of that clean-up effort.

    I would also like to note that just because I haven’t had a problem doesn’t mean there isn’t one. It makes me feel good that steps are being taken to ensure that I continue to have a good experience no matter where I travel..

    I started attending cons last year, and have enjoyed myself immensely. My husband came with me to Phoenix ComiCon this year, and we had a great time. (Scalzi’s panels were awesome.) I might have felt differently about the con had I been getting a lot of unwanted attention.

    I love that Scalzi is taking steps to making safety at cons a priority, and setting an example for other authors.

  133. John, I want to thank you as a woman from your generation ( I am a couple of years older than you , because I have experienced this in a work place and do not want to experience it in a place I am planning on having fun at. Thank you again. I hope that all convention goers sign this.

  134. As the co-chair of Safety for WisCon 37 (the most recent one, where this all started), At Opening Ceremonies, I encouraged con attendees to think of themselves as part of the Safety team. By this, I wanted people to feel comfortable speaking up or finding one of the Safety team members if they saw anything they felt uncomfortable about. WisCon is an all-volunteer-run convention, so we rely on convention attendees to help us do our work. It’s part of a larger ethic of everyone helping out and really being members of a community working together. There’s a lot more to what we do, but I really wanted people to feel empowered to help out.

  135. Regarding the various comments about being hard to be precise about the definition of harassment… if that ever happens on a case I’m a part of, I’ll just invoke the ‘we reserve the right to refuse entrance to anyone for any reason’ clause. If you’re enough of a jerk to challenge the definition in the grey areas, that’s edging into harassing _me_.

    The world isn’t black and white, it’s a million shades of grey. The variously used languages are not perfectly capable of forming unambiguous definitions, particularly in this space. They don’t need to. They need to be clear enough and leave room for someone to be in charge.

    I’ll be co-signing in the other thread as soon as I wouldn’t be in danger of violating my own signature.

  136. Just to put a little different spin on it, for those who think this is strictly sexual and strictly about arrested-development male fans creeping on girl fans: a few years ago I attended a comics convention in the Northwest, where one of the listed guests was a Major Name Pro (MNP from here on.)

    MNP was not scheduled for an event until 1300 on the first day of the con. The con opened at 0900. He had a reserved booth in the Dealer/Exhibitor Room, and in the event didn’t turn up at the booth until about 1100.

    Someone was behind his table at about 1030, writing on the white paper that the con or the convention center had covered it with. I noticed this, and casually cruised by the table when I saw she had vanished. (Up till then, I’d assumed she had some reason to be there.)

    She had left a note approximating “YOU ARE MY FAVORITE PERSON EVER AND I WAITED TWO HOURS TO SEE YOU AND YOU ARE A HORRIBLE PERSON FOR NOT SHOWING UP ETC. ETC.) and I am paraphrasing and bowdlerizing.

    Having seen this, I grabbed the nearest volunteer and pointed it out to him. He paled, and pointed me to the Con Chair ten feet away, to whom I suggested he might want to get rid of the ugliness.

    And whose response was, “Um, well, he wasn’t at his table when the con opened, so it’s not our fault someone got mad at him for it.”

    Needless to say, when MNP turned up about 15 minutes later, he was furious and damn near walked out of the convention. I don’t think anyone within fifty feet didn’t hear it (and this was a crowded room).

    Point being: if you think someone will be that creepy to a guest of the con, do you think they’ll be any less creepy to one of your attendees? And do you think one or the other is more acceptable?

  137. Co-signing, emphatically. And thank you for taking this step; I suspect others will follow.

  138. This is a problem I would never have dreamed of. Who knew that science fiction conventions are only slightly tamer than biker rallies? I hope your plan works and you can restore civility and everyone can have fun.

  139. What a sterling idea. How shitty that it IS a good idea, but nevertheless, if one’s setting up a public venue To Do A Thing, then one must take responsibility for that Thing and ensuring acceptable behaviour therein. I shan’t say “decorum”, because some of these people speak Klingon and headbutt each other, but in context that’s quite acceptable.

    Harassment is not. Good on you for taking a stand, John.

  140. @Floored

    Also, I have a terminal case of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, which gives me the ability to read and reread books for literally days on end without the slightest trace of boredom if given a quiet spot to read in, while making me effectively incapable of higher brain functions in loud areas with lots of stimuli.

    I hear ya. I’m more than twice your age, but even I’m wary about attending a convention. I have major issues with personal space. In high school I reflexively threw someone across a hallway when they ran up behind me and jumped on my back. I’ve gotten a lot better at self-control.

    Over the last few hours I’ve been whiling away my evening and perfect eyesight reading dozens of posts and hundreds of comments that have been very triggery for me. One warned me that “The SF/F community is huggy”:

    http://sweetmusic-27.livejournal.com/101014.html

    And based on all the other blog posts and comments (some in this very thread), I believe that statement.

    So yeah, I’ll probably be giving the SF convention world a nice wide berth for the foreseeable future, even though I have con-going friends with whom I’d love to go. I’m not sure I could keep my cool if I was contently being subjected to unsolicited contact. This is mildly cowardly of me – my cosplaying friends undoubtedly have to deal with more of this than I ever would – but I refuse to put myself in a position where I know there’s an excellent chance I’ll hulk out over the proverbial hug that broke the camel’s reserve.

    @empressonclinton

    If it saves the vast majority of women who are legitimately wronged, I think most people would be comfortable with the miniscule to the point of invisibility number of people who may be wrongly accused.

    False dichotomy. If the Innocence Project has taught us anything, it’s that lazy investigating, prosecution and institutional bias protects actual wrongdoers.

    @isabelcooper

    Seth: Frankly? “Sorry, I have a party then,” without adding “Why don’t you drop by?” or “Want to meet up on Sunday for brunch?” or even a “Maybe another time?” is a “no”.

    I get the others, but why would anyone invite someone to brunch with them if they didn’t want to brunch with them? I’ve never had someone ask my to dine with them as code for get lost. Sorry for my confusion, but was that a typo? Did you mean maybe another time in response to want to meet up on Sunday for brunch is a no?

  141. Gulliver, I think Ms. Cooper meant “Sorry, I have a party then. Want to meet up Sunday for brunch?” She meant that leaving out something like those three addends should clue Seth in that the answer is “no” and he should move on.

  142. @Doc RocketScience: Ah! Reading fail on my part. Comma placement is important…comma placement is…

  143. Another one commenting with “thank you for stating this”- I’ve forwarded the link to the current staff and co-chairs of the convention I’m staffing for next year to have our policies refined a bit to be less vague and more current.

  144. @ Gulliver: Oh, I have self-control issues as well. That’s part of the ADHD–I can’t control when or how my attention shifts. Given my short temper…well, let’s just say that some stranger running up and hugging me in a crowded, noisy room would regret it, big-time. I may not be built like the Terminator, but I am a black belt in tae kwon do and I am not afraid to go for the nuts. Fortunately, I’m a guy, so that’s not likely to happen anyway, but my parents are still wary of putting me in that environment. I can’t blame them. After my summer camp experience…well, summer camp was “interesting” enough, and that was just 33 kids in the middle of nowhere. I think that 1000+ people in a crowded convention hall floor would be a crisis situation.

    Having written that post, I now must confess that I wish there was a more eloquent, concise way to gt my point across. Alas.

  145. I think it’s great that the Worldcon has a written policy, but I see no definition of what might constitute harassment or discrimination in the view of the con,. which means that the rules are open to misinterpretation or misuse. There are no guidelines for behavior. These are not common sense issues – the term ‘sexual harassment’ as legally defined, for instance, has nothing to do with the way it has been used here.

  146. My bad, and yeah. Basically, if I actually want to hang out with you, I’ll suggest an alternative, or at least the vague possibility of an alternative. If not, then “I have another commitment” is in the same category as “I have to wash my goldfish,” whether that commitment exists or not.

  147. @Don Have you ever tried to define a giraffe? Not entirely a flippant question; I’m a lawyer and end up having to handle nice questions of definition in my day job all the time. And the one thing I know from that experience is that ALL laws, rules, regulations and policies are open to misuse or misinterpretation. Funnily enough, while there are (relatively rare) edge cases, most zoos know where to put something which arrives labelled “giraffe” and most people operating a decently drafted harassment and discrimination policy in good faith know where to put claims arising under it, too.

  148. The widespread confusion about what constitutes sexual harrassment goes a long way to explaining the current high unemployment rate in the U.S., methinks.

    I mean, none of these guys see any reason not to walk up to the boss (or the boss’s wife) at the company Christmas party and go, “Hey, nice rack!” After all, everyone’s there to have a good time, and geez, it was a compliment!

    Oh, but wait. If they acted like that at work they’d get fired. And if they couldn’t keep a job, where would they get the money to attend cons?

    Hmm. Back to the drawing board, I guess.

  149. @isabelcooper

    My bad,

    Not at all. Your comment made perfect sense once I read it correctly. For some reason I mentally transposed the comma after the first phrase to after the second, like one of those visual illusions that flips when you blink (or Doc points it out). I blame sleep deprivation and speed reading.

  150. I would agree completely that a set and well disseminated policy is a good thing.
    I do see problems though from two fringe elements involved in this issue.
    First, a true creep simply will refuse to believe that the policy is directed at him (or her). You could tattoo the whole thing on the back of their hand and it simply wouldn’t sink in that you meant them. It goes beyond a lack of social skills. The only real solution to such admittedly rare types is a permanent minder or ejection from the con.
    At the other extreme are the professional victims. Also reasonably rare, but they do exist. I’ve seen them in action at cons and other venues. Their entire focus is to count coup by seeing how many “offenders” they can get in trouble or booted from the event.
    And both of these types will jailhouse lawyer you to death taking any stray point in your harassment policy and twisting it to support a totally inappropriate and unintended result.
    I have worked staff on a number of Mensa Regional Gatherings which are very con like, and have had to deal with both types. There always seems to be one or two at every event. Best response is to have sensible and well muscled security staff close at hand, and give them or any other event staff the authority to pull the plug and have an offender shown the door.
    Just back from Liberty Con and AFAIK any such incidents were resolved promptly and quietly. With the exception of the extremes I mentioned offenders are usually just poorly socialized and tend to back off when it’s pointed out their advances are inappropriate.

  151. Delurking for first comment. Today I read: [Quote from racist, sexist, homophobic dipshit deleted, along with link, because I don't want his nonsense here, even in quoted form. No worries, Andrea, you probably didn't know that - JS]

    I'd advise against reading that link, personally, but since I did, I discovered that perfect remark. I just wanted to go on record saying that, as a longtime reader of both John Scalzi and Manboobz (manboobz.com, feminist ally extraordinaire) I proudly join the ranks of scalzied manboobs, and hope that together my comrades and I can help to make cons and the rest of the world a place safe from harassment.

  152. What Andrew Lloyd and AJHalll said above, times about a hundred. “Well but can’t we just have a really vague policy about being nice?” and “But we have to make it perfect” are excuses not to have a policy in the first place, and say volumes about the attitude of the persons in question as to whether they really want to promote a good convention for all.

    @Gulliver, I think you misread empresson clinton. The issue is not that it’s OK to punish the falsely accused; obviously the whole point of the fair process that our host discusses is to weed out false accusations. The issue is the fearmongering which suggests that it is better to do nothing formal about harassment than risk the possibility of any false accusation being considered, no matter how remote or unlikely that possibility is.

  153. I disagree. It’s not that the true creep doesn’t know the policy is directed at them; the true creep doesn’t care that the policy is directed at them. True creeps, in my experience, are very, very socially aware, and can judge just exactly how far across the line they can get away with. Clueless creeps? Once they’ve been informed they’ve been creepy, they’re apologetic and embarrassed and back the hell off and stay backed off. True creeps get all rules-lawyerly. Because it’s all about what they can get away with.

    I got creeped at last year by someone who made a joke about my namebadge, apparently not realizing what an extremely offensive joke it was. I called him on it, and he literally ran away in shame, bright red, and looking horrified. The rest of the convention, every time he saw me he blushed. That’s not a true creep. He didn’t get all rules-lawyerly and/or defensive. That’s a clueless fan who has now acquired some Clue.

  154. Also, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, the “oh noes I am just socially maladjusted what if I get dinged for harassment” types? There’s a solution, guys.

    Before you open your mouth, think about what you’re about to say. Would you say it to your grandmother? If not, don’t fucking say it to a stranger. Same thing goes for personal space/touching, except think the Queen of England rather than your grandmother. Yes, someone you’ve talked to for all of an hour at a con is a stranger–I don’t have a mystical bond with you just because we both kinda like 4E. Yes, context is important: if you join the group of me and my friends sitting around making dick jokes, you can probably tell a few yourself.

    But if you’re going to do the But I Just Don’t Get Social Cues dance every time harassment comes up, and if you’re not willing to or can’t learn to read said cues, then…don’t try and go there in the first damn place. It’s not that hard.

  155. The folks I’ve known who don’t get social cues, as a result of their particular neurological configuration, also tend to do rules-based thinking really well. So for those folks, use your strengths: Find Scalzi’s post about how not to be a creeper or something of the kind, or find a friend or colleague who understands (1) how to read social cues and (2) that you can’t but you don’t want to use that as an excuse, and get yourself a list of rules you can use to help you navigate a con-type gathering. Even something as simple as what isabelcooper said will help. There are ways to participate in these kinds of events without inadvertently creeping and without having to be afraid that you will be thrown out.

  156. Harassment implies persistence, repetition, insistence. Socially-awkward, clueless creeps usually back off if told they are inappropriate, like mentioned in many posts above. Those cases are not harassment, and the victim needs to behave as much as an adult as is expected from creeps (e.g. not like Adria Richards for instance). IMO, harassment should be reported and dealt with swiftly, as long as harassment and punctual inappropriate behavior are not confused.

    I don’t attend geek/gamers/scifi conventions, but one thing that makes me uneasy about them is that on one-hand, socially-awkward clueless geeks should behave properly in a social context (I’m not making the apology of harassment, it is never justified, but I refer to inappropriate behavior generally), while on the other hand, the convention exploits these same traits for gain. What proportion of sales comes from socially-awkward geeks purchasing stuff because they get to have their picture taken with DD booth girls dressed as Lara Croft? Why can’t a game be promoted simply based on its merits and innovations (does a Wii game really need girls in spandex for demonstration)? The gaming community has the reputation of treating women as objects, yet the industry and conventions perpetuate this. The harassment discussion is very simple in my mind: harassment should be eliminated completely. But why are there so many weirdly-behaving people at those events and so little desire to change things? Because many of those events are specifically designed to appeal to these people and exploit their weaknesses.

    Perhaps I’ve got everything wrong, as I don’t go to cons. But this is an outsider’s opinion on the topic.

  157. As a regular reader of Freakonomics I’m a believer in “The Law of Unintended Consequences,” which basically says that it’s very difficult to make a rule without causing other things to move unpredictably.

    “The Law of Unintended Consequences” is a good reason to pay close attention to what you’re doing, and to make sure you’ve got incentives in the right places for the right things, but it is NOT an excuse to do nothing when there is a problem.

    Sexual harassment is a problem.

    Will the implementation of harassment policies at conventions have unintended consequences? Almost certainly! We should pay close attention. Some of those consequences may be wonderful (a huge rise in attendance by younger people, advanced civilizations finally deign to land their saucers at the Hilton) and the ones that are not awesome can be addressed as they arise.

  158. It’s a pitty that we need to have harassment policies to begin with, but since we do I am glad you, and others, are taking a stand for it.

  159. I am the Awards Chair for the International Thriller Writers and our annual convention (Thrillerfest) is next week in NYC. I plan on bringing this matter before our Board and getting it added to our official convention policy.

    Solidarity.

  160. But why are there so many weirdly-behaving people at those events and so little desire to change things? Because many of those events are specifically designed to appeal to these people and exploit their weaknesses.

    Choosing to be a creep is not a “weakness”. It’s a deliberate decision.

  161. What proportion of sales comes from socially-awkward geeks purchasing stuff because they get to have their picture taken with DD booth girls dressed as Lara Croft? Why can’t a game be promoted simply based on its merits and innovations (does a Wii game really need girls in spandex for demonstration)?

    Let me put it into the smallest possible package for you, Seb: Harassment is never OK.

    It doesn’t matter what the girls (or guys, for that matter) are wearing. They could be dressed up in burqas or walking around in frilly underwear. Just because it turns you on, that doesn’t make it right for you to inflict your desires on the other person.

    What isn’t surprising (at least to those in the community) is that even “socially-awkward geeks” get that. They understand that “No, thank you” still means “no” and that the proper thing to do is to smile, nod, and head someplace else.

    It is the jerks and worse out there who don’t understand that clothes do not make the invitation. Nor does smiling at you, nor saying “hello” in a friendly tone. And if, like the jerk at the SEG convention who thought it would be a good idea to take an upskirt picture of a performer at a seismic imaging party {he was thrown out of the convention}, you cannot understand that then perhaps you shouldn’t be attending a convention of any sort.

  162. That this kind of policy has become necessary is sad. That you have come up with this idea is both heartening and completely unsurprising. Kudos.

  163. Seb: “Why can’t a game be promoted simply based on its merits and innovations (does a Wii game really need girls in spandex for demonstration)?”

    Maybe because a game is a consumer item, and in our culture, it’s utterly (depressingly) normal for consumer items to be promoted by attractive people, often women who are deemed very sexy by current cultural standards, rather than simply on the basis of their merits and innovations. How many items advertised on TV are advertised solely on the basis of their merits and innovations? Hardly any. Why are booths at conventions and shows of all kind staffed by women dressed to emphasize their physical charms? Because people who have products to sell know that people, not just geeky guys, are more likely to buy stuff from attractive salespeople. Boat shows are designed to appeal to people who fantasize about owning a boat and are more likely to buy one at a show than they would if they didn’t go to the show. Rock musicians sell T-shirts and CDs at their shows because they know that people are more likely to buy them at a show than otherwise. It’s business as usual in pretty much ever segment of the culture. Why should cons be any different? The merchants there aren’t exploiting people. They’re exploiting a sales opportunity, like merchants everywhere. Impulse buying is not limited to geeks at cons.

  164. Mr. Scalzi, I am so glad you feel this way and that you are using your influence to effect positive change. So often people who have been subject to harassment at conventions have had no redress, so they attempt to discuss the situation online, and then the harassment really takes off, as people who haven’t had bad experiences denigrate and belittle them. The only real solution is to have a harassment policy in place ahead of time.

    I’m ashamed to say I haven’t read much of your writing, Mr. Scalzi, but I’m impressed enough by your actions here that now I want to read (and buy!) your books. I’m a rabid science fiction fan, of course.

  165. @mythago

    I think you misread empresson clinton. The issue is not that it’s OK to punish the falsely accused; obviously the whole point of the fair process that our host discusses is to weed out false accusations. The issue is the fearmongering which suggests that it is better to do nothing formal about harassment than risk the possibility of any false accusation being considered, no matter how remote or unlikely that possibility is.

    If that was empressonclinton’s meaning then I agree completely. Doing nothing official helps no one but actual harassers and harms both their targets and any who are wrongly accused (sometimes one in the same), for all the reasons vigilantism can go awry. I am 100% in favor and support of official policies and channels of recourse so no one is left with taking matters into their own hands as their only protection. As I noted in a previous thread, official reports saved my career and possibly my freedom when someone in authority targeted me, so I know firsthand that the fearmongers have it backwards.

    Choosing to be a creep is not a “weakness”. It’s a deliberate decision.

    So much this.

    @Seb

    What proportion of sales comes from socially-awkward geeks purchasing stuff because they get to have their picture taken with DD booth girls dressed as Lara Croft?

    Respectfully, you’re missing the point. Policing woman’s couture, whether they’re fans, cosplayers, volunteers or vendors, doesn’t deter harassment, it promotes it by sending the message that it’s the responsibility of women not to get harassed.

    The gaming community has the reputation of treating women as objects, yet the industry and conventions perpetuate this.

    Yeah, no, sorry, but people are responsible for their own behavior. If you objectify women, that’s on you, not the hypnotic power of “booth babes”. Actually, no, I’m not sorry, because I have dear gamer friends (one of whom is practically my adopted sister) who spend lots of time and effort fashioning their own brilliant and provocative costumes and no one else gets to blame them for being “too hot” for the guys (or gals) to control themselves.

    Also, as someone with diagnosed HFA and GAD, I’m really really fucking tired of people claiming autism or even social awkwardness as a bullshit defense. I spent most of my childhood diligently learning to understand body language, tone of voice, subtext and all the other social graces most people absorb like a sponge. Eventually, like someone who intensely studies math for years, I began to understand the gestaltic patterns. Nor was this mainly for the benefit of others. Failure to read those things in a social species can be extraordinarily dangerous. I know people more autistic than myself, and even they know enough to err on the side of caution. Conflating harassers with people who have differently-abled brains is both insulting and patronizing.

  166. @ Gulliver, regarding this:

    The gaming community has the reputation of treating women as objects, yet the industry and conventions perpetuate this.

    Yeah, no, sorry, but people are responsible for their own behavior. If you objectify women, that’s on you, not the hypnotic power of “booth babes”.

    Sure, objectification is on the person doing it. But that doesn’t actually contradict what you quoted — he’s saying that the industry and conventions participate in this objectification (e.g., by hiring booth babes).

    (I’m not arguing with anything else, just your interpretation of that particular sentence.)

  167. Three points:

    1. Anti-harassment policies are so implicitly noble that it’s almost impossible to debate their moral merits. (they’re an intuitively good idea)

    2. Free speech and American ideals in general depend on the foundational principle of “a few rotten apples don’t spoil the whole barrel.”

    3. Codifying social mores is a slippery slope, and should be handled with caution. After a certain point, a rulebook detailing what one can and cannot do at a convention will dehumanize the convention experience. Asking people to use Wheaton’s Law is one thing, handing out a brochure at the door to outline “appropriate vs. inappropriate social interaction” would be quite another.

  168. @Gulliver –

    Also, as someone with diagnosed HFA and GAD, I’m really really fucking tired of people claiming autism or even social awkwardness as a bullshit defense. I spent most of my childhood diligently learning to understand body language, tone of voice, subtext and all the other social graces most people absorb like a sponge. [...] Conflating harassers with people who have differently-abled brains is both insulting and patronizing.

    Do I ever hear you.

    I’m also diagnosed on the autistic spectrum (AS), and further upthread I talked about how it’s something that makes cons an uncertain prospect for me – sensory issues, routine issues, the danger of overload/meltdown, and of course the harasser issue. After all, being an autistic person on the *receiving end* of harassment can be really dangerous in a multitude of ways, and as someone read as female + someone who tries to be a, y’know, decent human being, I’m way more likely to be on that end of things. (Wow, it’s almost as if not just guys can be autistic!)

    At that point, I thought about pointing out how ironic I find it that ‘but think about the autistic people!’ usually gets trotted out as an argument against clear harassment policies/consequences for harassers/other tactics to minimise harassment a la Scalzi’s suggestion, when those things would make it safer for this autistic person to attend a con. I decided not because it hadn’t been brought up yet…. should’ve known it’d only be a matter of time.

  169. @Robin

    Sure, objectification is on the person doing it. But that doesn’t actually contradict what you quoted — he’s saying that the industry and conventions participate in this objectification (e.g., by hiring booth babes).

    But dressing the way someone else happens to find arousing isn’t self-objectifying. Putting any of the onus on the vendors, their staff or their volunteers shifts responsibility onto them for the actions of others, which they aren’t. And so what if the conventions and industry, or any one else for that matter, intentionally dresses in a fashion designed to arouse someone else? That’s not a license to harass them or anyone else, any more than not wearing a burqa is a invitation to shame, assault or imprison someone. Practically speaking, there’s no difference between telling someone their corset is objectifying women and telling someone their exposed hair is objectifying women. Why should they be the ones to change when they aren’t the ones transgressing other people’s boundaries?

    And where would we draw the line anyway? If people making money from it are objectifying women, then so must be people doing it as self-expression. The friend I mentioned in my last comment, she sells costume pieces she makes herself. I have another who makes and sells artisinal erotic jewelry. Both are combining self-expression and making a cottage business of it, like most professional artists. AFAIK (which I admit is limited), they aren’t uncommon outliers in fandom. It’s all well and good to talk about the big nameless faceless evils of industry, but most people in that industry don’t become designers of art and entertainment products because it’s easy money. They’re actual artists we’d be asking, either directly or through their employers, to self-censor in order not to disturb the hornets’ nest. That’s just wrong.

    We need to progress toward a society wherein people can dress and make what they want without being told they’re enabling (or perpetuating) harassing behavior by creeps towards themselves or others. Because those creeps, they’re gonna harass people even if burlap sacks become the universal dress code and all entertainment products are purged of sexually charged imagery. I don’t need to tell you or any other women that they do it because it’s a power trip and society fails to tell them no with teeth. So why would taking a page from the John Harvey Kellogg school of brand management deter them?

    I know not everyone advocating self-censorship is extending that to all women, but I fail to see why someone making a buck in the process is any more responsible for influencing the behavior of creeps than someone doing it purely for the fun of it. Arguing that making money makes sexual expression less defensible seems shallow and classist. Artists gotta eat. And if self-censorship isn’t implicitly advocated, why even bring the issue up? Surely anyone who genuinely thinks that artists and industry are responsible for objectifying women is either asking or demanding they change to doing something the person thinks isn’t objectifying.

    Reducing human beings to mere objects isn’t something an image or a fiction does. It’s something a person does in their own mind because they choose to ignore the personhood of others. They don’t do that because someone sold them a video game or dressed like Lana Croft. They do it because they think the people doing those things are surrendering autonomy and agency by titillating them. Meanwhile the majority of people (men included) manage to control themselves around expressions of sexuality no matter how unrealistic or outré, and the rest could if they were willing, and many more would be willing if they faced real consequences for failing to check themselves.

    Anyway, that’s my opinion. I respect anyone who disagrees with it, but I stand by it and I stand by my friends who don’t deserve to be told that their sexuality is endangering women everywhere. Sorry my reply turned into a bit of a polemic. Your reply to my comment was appreciated and it got me thinking about these things, but that wasn’t all directed at you, Robin. I don’t presume know your stance other than to know you’re someone I have even more than the default level of respect here for.

    @kaz

    I decided not because it hadn’t been brought up yet…. should’ve known it’d only be a matter of time.

    We make such convenient human shields. It’s nice to be needed /S.

  170. Josh Gipson: “After a certain point, a rulebook detailing what one can and cannot do at a convention will dehumanize the convention experience.” That is arguably true, depending on where that certain point is.

    “Asking people to use Wheaton’s Law is one thing, handing out a brochure at the door to outline ‘appropriate vs. inappropriate social interaction’ would be quite another.” But that’s not the “certain point,” IMO. Nor are those the only two options.

    Did you read http://whatever.scalzi.com/2013/06/28/reporting-harassment-at-a-convention-a-first-person-how-to/? There’s a good instructive instance of someone using the existing policy to report harassment.

  171. Seb: (does a Wii game really need girls in spandex for demonstration)? …. Because many of those events are specifically designed to appeal to these people and exploit their weaknesses.

    That’s the “entrapment” defense. It was designed to exploit my weakness, therefore it wasn’t my fault if I took the bait. It was “too good to be true”, therefore it wasn’t my fault if I took the bait.

    While I think there is some legitimate need to prevent entrapment by police in their sting operations, I find it hard to believe that anyone could honestly argue that a woman in spandex is “too good to be true” and they just couldn’t stop themselves from grabbing her boob.

    A woman in spandex isn’t entrapment to harass her. A woman in a bikini isn’t entrapment to grope her. A woman running around naked at a nude beach isn’t entrapment to rape her. A woman who happened to smile in your direction isn’t entrapment to stalk her. A woman who said “hello” to you on the street isn’t entrapment to threaten her.

    When you hear this entrapment defense enough, it becomes clear that it doesn’t matter what the woman is wearing, or what the woman did, and ultimately the defense boils down to the notion that the woman herself was “too good to be true” and therefore I couldn’t stop myself from [harassing/groping/stalking/raping] her.

    Women aren’t entrapment.

  172. I don’t recall the reporting procedures but IIRC Further Confusion has had these three rules in the con book for years.
    No means no
    Stop means stop
    Go away means go away.

  173. The “I’m socially awkward/unaware” excuse.

    That’s no ones problem but your own. Declaring you have some social situation deficiency does not excuse behavior. In my view it makes you an even bigger asshole because you’re trying to absolve yourself of personal responsibility due to aforementioned deficiency rather than making an effort to counterbalance the effects of it.

    I’m terribly socially awkward in my head (everyone else seems to thinks I’m great in social situations, I never feel that I am) and I worry about saying/doing something offensive. And I manage to not do so by always erring on the side of caution. Someone mentioned above “would you say that to your grandmother” which might be a good metric unless you have very non-typical discussions with your grandmother.

    Yes I’ve missed out on many many opportunities for flirting and more. So what? I’ve also never put another person in a position where they felt I was harrassing them or making them uncomfortable (that I’m aware of). I consider that a win.

  174. I co-signed your policy. No harassment policy, no Starlit Sorceress Jewelry in the dealer’s room.

    Have you considered expanding the signatures to something more detailed than a comments thread? Maybe allow skeptical convention staff to sort by writers/artists/guests/attendees/supporters? (The signatures might have a bigger impact if a large number of them turn out to be dealers and special guests.)

    You could even arrange to verify people’s signatures similar to how Twitter verifies accounts. (I would happily offer proof of my signature on my website.)

  175. I applaud John for taking his position. I would love to be in an economic position to be able to implement this myself, but unfortunately of the 50+ conventions a year we vend at maybe 12 currently have this type of policy. Hopefully more conventions will be influence by all of the current actions to implement this.

  176. Thank you for taking a stand on this issue. Hopefully it’s exactly what is needed to get things moving in the right direction for security at conventions everywhere. :)

  177. I was initially leery of co-signing because I’m a beginning author and don’t believe in burning bridges that aren’t even fully constructed yet, and then my brain came out of the coma it was in and I remembered the sort of places and people that wouldn’t have a harassment policy are not the sort of places and people I want bridges to.

  178. Thank you so much for this thought. It’s difficult enough to go through daily life with the threat of harassment but especially at a place where the hope is to meet your favorite writers and artists and others without feeling degraded during the process.

  179. im in on this. one hundred percent. it sometimes makes me sad that a group of people who have often experienced harassment in one form or another in their lives need something like this, but history seems to prove that it is necessary.

  180. @Robin

    I’m not going to go into it, because John asked the topic be dropped and it’s his house. But I just wanted to say that I thought about what you said regarding my interpretation of what Seb said, and I think you’re half right. That is, I think he was saying both things, but I could be wrong. [John: sorry for the addendum, I just wanted to let Robin know that.]

  181. Good for you John. I remember times when that sort of ‘drooling fanboy’ behavior was shut down in a New York minute at conventions, the offending badges pulled and the offensive jackwads encouraged to go elsewhere for their entertainment. We didn’t have a formal policy but we had Very responsive security-male and female-covering the halls.

  182. I realised that the number of FB friends I have dropped by about a dozen in the past day or so, which seemed like a lot for no reason that I could discover. Then I remembered that I’d just co-signed the policy, even though I hadn’t mentioned it on FB. Someone must be taking notes and making a list. I’ve posted about it now, of course, to see if I can get rid of some more.

  183. It appears these recent threads – Matthesen’s post, Scalzi’s posts here, and so forth – are already having a positive effect. This weekend at Anthrocon we have had no more that the usual number of incidents. But significantly more folks were willing to put their names on reports and enable us to take action.

  184. [Deleted because a reasonable question was ruined by a pointless slam against two people this person clearly has a bug in their ass about - JS]

  185. Count me in. Indeed, I’ll add that, since I’m an intermittent conrunner, as well as a writer and a fan, I won’t *run* or help run a con without a harassment policy.
    I had to think about this initiative for a few days — not because I have reservations about harassment policies at cons — I don’t, I think they’re hugely important — but because I have some concerns about lip-service from some sections of the sff community. There are people out there who will check for a policy, see one in place, nod and go on as usual, without acting if they see any problems, and without thinking if their own behaviour is problematic. But they’re a minority, I think (I hope).
    I’m a little concerned, too, that some people may decide that by signing up to anti-harassment measures they have done enough towards equality and justice in the sff world. We need to be working for things like panel parity, too. But then again, this may prompt others to do more.
    Please excuse my reservations here: I’ve had too many experiences over the years with men who proclaim support, and make gestures, but don’t deliver (and may expect applause or payment in, ahem, favours). So I’m cautious. This does not apply to you, Mr Scalzi: your track record demonstrates otherwise very clearly.
    And thank you for setting this in motion.
    Kari

  186. Out of a desire to be an honest co-signer of this policy, I’ve contacted my local con (the only one I’ve in the past attended, so far) to inquire about whether they will implement such a policy in the future. (Not that my co-signature means anything at this juncture, but honesty on my part is still important, if only to me.)

  187. I’m so very glad you’ve done this. Thank you so much.

    I started going to cons a loooooooong time ago. I was a girl, so I was unusual. Apparently, I was so unusual that the “how young is she?” question never got asked. I was getting creeped on at 12. Had policies like this been the norm in the 80’s, perhaps I would have understood that these weren’t nice, friendly guys, or that it was not ok for them to keep talking to me.

    I had a guy ask for my address so he could mail me a book. Instead, he sent me letters. When I moved, I never updated him, and he cornered me at the next con and demanded the new address. I was maybe 14 then. I didn’t understand that I could say no. I didn’t understand that he was being creepy as all hell. I think it took me 10 years and a dose of mad bluntness on the internet to get him to go away.

    The sad thing? He was NOT my only multi-year creep by a long shot.

    The sadder thing? My former stepfather with whom I went to many cons was one of the creeps who made other women uncomfortable. I got used as a deflector to where the women would think “Oh, he’s here with his daughter, so I’m misreading this.” No, ladies, you were not. (And I wish I could say that he was not abusing me at home, but that would be an utter lie.)

    But one thing that does upset me, and I’m glad to see it being addressed, is that people think this is all about male-on-female sexual harassment. What has happened to me falls into sexual harassment, usually, but harassment includes negging someone for cosplaying out of body type (“he/she is too fat/the wrong color/the wrong whatever for that costume”), vocal racism, sexism, sizeism, or ableism, verbal or implied threats of violence, crude jokes, and a multitude of other sins. Yes, that would include the woman I once saw shouting at a guy who didn’t accept her advances and screaming that he must have a little dick as a harasser. It would include the fat-shaming I’ve seen repeatedly. It would include how I’ve seen a friend with a metabolic illness being told repeatedly to “eat a sandwich” because he was so thin.

    Dare I say it? It even includes making someone feel less because you think your fandom is superior. I have seen that far too much for it to be palatable. I think it broke me the most when I saw a young teen surrounded by middle-aged big guys being laughed at for his appreciation of a particular comic, and they didn’t stop ridiculing him when he was obviously uncomfortable at not being allowed to buy his book in peace and retreat.

    Harassment is a whole lot of things. Certainly, groping and skeezing are very common, but those are not the only forms.

    If someone comes up with a policy where those who insult persons of color for cosplaying outside of canon (i.e. “That character is not black, so you can’t cosplay them because you’re black”) are ridiculed loudly and mercilessly out of the con in a videotaped and livestreamed exodus of shame, I will be co-signing that as well. Immediately. Because that has got to stop, too.

  188. I just co-signed over at http://whatever.scalzi.com/2013/07/03/my-convention-harassment-policy-co-sign-thread/, but was hesitant to do so. Not because I have any misgivings about the policy, but simply because while 800 (at the moment) co-signers is great, I felt that being merely a single fan among millions doesn’t have the same impact as even 100 creators/entertainers.

    What got me to sign was the realization that not many authors and even a good many actors can afford to forego the con circuit. That leaves it to us fans to bolster that number to something attention-getting. I plan to add a blog post in the near future for the 4 or 5 people who will actually see it; I encourage anyone with an audience, no matter how small, to put their own thoughts on the subject out into the world. Let’s spread the word!

  189. As a long time Con attendee and organizer, I’ve seen my fair share of “incidents”. One of the issues that I’ve encountered with CoC’s is the tendency of general fen to be rules-lawyers and being very very literal with interpretation. Our Con has a CoC, and we are in the process of adding a harassment section. We don’t want to be too specific, nor to vague. We have incorporated diversity into our mission statement already and have previously (sans it being in the CoC) taken all reports and observed incidents of harassment very seriously as we have a wide range of members and have a very family orientated feel.

    For everyone involved, it’s a good thing – especially taking into consideration what our Con has gone through (sort of related… sort of not). My daughters over the years have been on the receiving end of some un-wanted attention – and there wasn’t’ much that could be done – so I handled the situation best I could.

    As a man who wears kilts… yeah. I wear them because I like them (not just at Cons), they are comfortable, and yes, I have a very strong Scottish heritage. To me, they are just another clothing option I have on a daily basis. I don’t wear them so they can be lifted to see what I’m wearing or not wearing. Also, reaching up to “feel” is reserved for my wife. By saying something when it happens, I get labeled a “sexist pig” or other not family friendly things — and yet if I were to make the same comments or actions on a woman — I’d be tossed out the door.

    It goes both ways – working together we can continue to make all Fen safe and welcome at our Cons.

  190. Thank you, sir. I was about to comment that your post was lacking in concret exaples when I found your first comment with the Lonestar Code of Conduct.

    I would post a longwinded comment here, but just leave it at having found your example, I am asking our convention lawyer to vet a similar document, even though it makes me rather more sour on the whole running of conventions by needing such a thing.

  191. As a suggestion for a possible way to slow the problem of harassment at the source instead of cleaning it up after it happens, as well as a very visible sign that it is being taken seriously, what would people think of buttons reading something like “I do and will report”? Worn (voluntarily) by any gender, they may possibly make creeps think twice, not only about creeping, but possibly of even attending.

  192. [Deleted because Mr. Caton ended the note with "*stands back and waits for abuse in 3, 2, 1...*", which means either the comment was worthy of abuse, in which case it should be deleted, or that he thinks so little of the commenters here that he does not believe genuine discussion is possible, in which case I am deleting the post to protect the poor man from the horrible abuse that would be inevitably forthcoming. Because I am a gracious host, and would hate to see a guest here abused.

    I have no doubt that Mr. Caton, despite having written such a long post, is delighted that I have spared him the abuse he was anticipating. - JS]

  193. Thank you for this. I recently quit a Soccer Supporters Group because they refused to adopt such a policy, even after I advised them of a specific incident. In fact, I was called “deeply delusional” for requesting they do so.

    It’s good to know that I am not alone in the belief that all people have the right to enjoy their hobbies and feel safe in a group with which they identify and that inappropriate behaviors should not be tolerated or ignored.

  194. There’s still a spam message here. And the very concept of a “steam shower” scares me to death.

  195. Since I know you’re going to be at your computer all day today, given the post you’ve put up, I figure today is a good day to report spam. I hope this is ok with you.

    Anyway, there’s a spam above.

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