Convention Harassment Policy Follow-Up

Interesting responses and questions out there to me announcing my new personal policy of requiring the cons who want me as a guest to have (and actually be willing to enforce) harassment policies. No harassment policy, no John Scalzi as a guest (nor am I likely to attend as a fan).

One very positive response, in my opinion: As of me writing this, nearly 500 other creators, fans and humans have co-signed onto this policy, including but not limited to writers, editors, publishers, con-runners and con staff (update, 7/6, 11:00pm: Now it’s well over 700). This is encouraging, especially because many of these folks signed on during a holiday here in the US. We’ll see where it goes from here. If you are one of the people who have co-signed: Thank you. I’m glad to have written something worth your participation.

Apropos to this policy, I was asked how one might go about implementing it. Well, here’s how I am going to do it, and all y’all can adjust for your own potential needs from there.

1. If I get an invite from a con to be a guest, or otherwise decide I want to attend and/or participate, I’m going to go to the con’s Web site and see if I can find their harassment policy. If I can find it, then hooray! That makes everything a lot simpler.

2. If I can’t find it, then I would write back to the con and say something along the lines of:

Hi there –

I am interested in attending your convention. However, it’s important to me that I attend cons I know have policies to prevent harassment of guests and con-goers, and it’s important to me that those policies are enforced. It’s important enough that I choose not to attend cons without such policies or the commitment to enforcing them.

I’ve looked on your site and I can’t find any information on your con’s harassment policy. So, let me ask: Does your convention have a harassment policy? If you do, is it something that you make sure those attending your convention are aware of? And will your convention assure me that this policy can and will be enforced?

Let me know, so we can move forward from here.

Thanks,

JS

3. If the con responds with “why yes, we have one, and we’ll happily publicize and enforce it,” then, again, hooray! Easily sorted. If they don’t but say they will, then I’ll tell them to let me know when they have and I’ll be happy to consider them then. If they don’t and don’t know where to start, I might point them at some examples of current con harassment polices: Here’s one that’s fairly involved, for example, here’s one that’s a little more compact (scroll down a bit) and here’s a general resource on such policies. Then I’ll tell them to contact me again when it’s all sorted. If they don’t have a policy and don’t want to create one, then we’re done and I won’t go.  I’ll note that I’ll reserve the right to note publicly that, look, here’s a convention that not only doesn’t have a harassment policy but refuses to create one.

So that’s how I am going to do things moving forward.

And now, some responses to questions/comments that have been asked of me or that I’ve seen online about or relevant to this new policy of mine. The comments/questions will be paraphrased/condensed/etc because they’re all over the place and I want to get through them.

You can’t do this.

Sure I can. I just did. And, incidentally, I got almost 500 people so far to agree with me.

No, I mean you can’t expect conventions to make changes just because you say so.

Conventions are entirely free to do what they want. What I am doing is setting conditions for my participation in their convention. If they want me, this is what I require. Other guests might have other requirements: For example, some guests might require business class air travel rather than economy. They might require that they only have to do two events a day. They might require a room with handicapped access and an aide to help them navigate the convention. And so on. This is something I now require. And for me it’s a non-negotiable.

You might now not get invited to some conventions.

Oh, well.

Lots of conventions already have harassment policies, so you’re just grandstanding on a non-issue.

Indeed many conventions do have harassment polices, because a) they want to be places where people feel safe, and b) they understand they have liability issues and they want to have their asses covered. However, some don’t, and in some cases conventions with harassment policies are hesitant for whatever reason to adequately publicize those policies or to enforce them. A convention with a harassment policy that no one knows about is little better than one without one; a convention that will not enforce a harassment policy you could argue is worse, since they’ve assured its con-goers that it has their backs and doesn’t. So I’m happy to grandstand on this one a bit longer, thanks.

You’re just doing this for the feminist cookies and/or to suck up to the women and minorities and/or to get laid. 

Toward the latter, I trust most rational people will understand why “I have asserted you have a right not to be harassed at a convention NOW IN EXCHANGE YOU WILL DO ME LIKE A FEVERED STOAT” is actually not a winning strategy.

Toward the former, I would be perfectly happy if women/minorities/queerfolk of all sorts feel like I fully support their right to go to a convention (and, in general, go through life) and not get harassed for it. The problem is not that I would be happy about this. The problem is the people who think being happy to be seen that way constitutes “sucking up.”

For the record, the reason I’m doing this is that I know too many people who have been harassed at conventions, and who, if they want to go to a convention, have to factor a certain amount of harassment into their day. For every person I know who has to do that, there are twenty people I don’t know who have to do that too. That’s complete bullshit, and I want it to end. I can’t easily stop every single harassing asshole at a con from being a harassing asshole, and when I’m at a convention, that’s not my job anyway. What I can do — and am delighted to do, by the way — is make it more difficult for them do it at a convention I am part of. I can also encourage others — creators and fans — to do the same, so the harassing assholes have less and less cover at a convention to do their thing.

Also, you know what? Fuck these assholes. I’m sick of politely sharing cultural space with the sort of pissy lump of a human who sees nothing wrong with being a racist and/or sexist and/or homophobe, who attacks and harasses people because they feel they have a right to, and who goes out of their way to make the places I work and socialize in uncomfortable and even threatening for too many of the other people I work and socialize with, and for so many others as well.  Having robust, visible and enforced harassment policies at conventions will go a long way to making these assholes behave, or making them go home. Either is fine with me.

But free speech!

Spare me. Conventions are private entities that have every right to put conditions on attendance, including on conduct, including harassment. Conventions also typically take place in private property (i.e., hotels, convention centers), so that’s two layers of private entities you’re dealing with.

But political correctness!

Leaving aside that there’s a high correlation between the sort of person who uses the phrase “political correctness” and the sort of person who either doesn’t know or doesn’t care that the next thing coming out of their mouth or fingertips is going to make most everyone else in the room cringe in embarrassment for that person, and then look for a way to gracefully exit the conversation: Why, yes, it is politically correct not to harass another human being at a convention. It’s also, without any additional modifier, correct not to harass another human being at a convention. This should not be difficult to grasp.

But oversensitive people!

That’s why you have a policy and a process, quite obviously; to allow the con to sort out the genuine problems from the misunderstandings. Likewise there are some people who genuinely don’t know they’re doing something that’s making other people uncomfortable and will happily attempt to correct their behavior when it’s pointed out. Good for them, and that should be allowed for. On the other hand, when you don’t have a policy and process and an institutional memory for these things, a harassing asshole can play the “oh, I didn’t know” card multiple times. That’s no good for anyone but the harassing asshole.

Back in my day, a man could go up and would graphically proposition every woman at a convention! As a way of saying hello!

And? You used to tool around without seatbelts in a car filled with leaded gas, too. You don’t do that anymore. You used to smoke on planes, too. Another thing you don’t do anymore. You used to listen to Edgar Winter on your 8-track! Seems doubtful you do that anymore, either. Wide lapels! Medallions! Sansabelt pants! Members Only jackets! Polack jokes! Tab! And, I don’t know. Maybe you miss the days. That’s fine. But you’re probably not under the illusion Sansabelts and 8-tracks and leaded gas are suddenly going to come back.

Also: the dude back in the day, going up to every woman at a convention, saying hello by asking them if they want to fuck? Harassing asshole. Mind you, back in the day apparently no one was going to call him on his shitty harassing actions. Now they would. And they should. Because they are. Welcome to the future!

The corollary to this is the handwringing that now the sort of awkward people who go to cons won’t ever be able to meet people/you can’t talk to people without worrying that you’re going to offend them/no one will ever get laid at a con again. Jesus, people, have you been to a convention lately? The kids are doing just fine. Also, of course, if your flirting strategy is indistinguishable from harassment, it’s not everyone else that’s the problem.

Let’s also be clear that this mindview is not about how old you are. There are older people who are appalled at harassment; there are younger people who don’t see what everyone’s complaining about. Likewise there are people of good will who are used to particular approaches and attitudes that worked perfectly well at one time that don’t any more — dealing with harassment through “back channels,” rather than making a public deal about it, as an example. I’m all for good, constructive conversation there. It can be had.

You have no right to lecture people about harassment when you harassed that woman when you were on Oprah!

This is the latest stupid dude attack on me. They’re talking about this clip, and specifically me briefly touching the upper back of the woman I’m sitting next to, at about the two minute mark. For the record, if my memory serves, she and I had a perfectly nice chat before the cameras went on, and I let her know why I was there and what I might be doing, so she was neither surprised nor upset with me. I think that’s fairly obvious, but then I’m also not one of those people who believe a robust and enforced harassment policy means no one will ever touch at a con again, ever, so.

I will apologize for the sweater. It was 1996. Like Sansabelts and leaded gas and (hopefully) harassment as an acceptable convention tradition, that sweater is never coming back.

How do you feel about N.K. Jemisin’s amendment to your Convention Harassment Policy?

I agree with it entirely. I’ll note that with this policy of mine, I intended to speak to harassment as a general thing, not just specifically relating to sexual harassment. However, at the moment, thanks to Elise Matthesen’s choice to report her harasser, sexual harassment at conventions is at the forefront of people’s minds. Ms. Jemisin’s comment is a reminder that the harassment issue is larger than that.

Do you really think this will make a difference?

It makes a difference to me. That’s a start.

290 thoughts on “Convention Harassment Policy Follow-Up

  1. I hope you don’t mind: I sent a link of your policy to the Skepchick website, and they put it in their daily list of interesting links yesterday (http://skepchick.org/2013/07/skepchick-quickies-7-4-2/ ). I hope that it makes a positive difference, and that it becomes a completely moot issue (in the sense of everything always ending in step 1 of your process) soon.

  2. That’s all fine and all, but do you still have the sweater? I can’t even begin to imagine the bidding war at the next Scalzi Family garage sale for that special item.

  3. “Do you really think this will make a difference?”

    I get asked this at times about whether I think when I take a “stand” it makes any difference. My response is that it may not change the world, but it doesn’t have to. I’m only responsible for my own behaviour.
    It’s like adding those Facebook “Likes”, social media slactivism, I know that it isn’t going to fix any of those problems, that’s not why I’m liking it. It’s to send a message of support to those I know and love who are facing those challenges, that I’m standing with them. It may not make a difference in the world, but it may make a world of difference to those I love.

  4. Dude I just fell head over heels in brainy love with you. Thank you for this. Thank you for taking a stand and thank you for freaking defending it so eloquently and passionately. May there be many many many more people on this planet like you! Have a glorious weekend!

  5. The sole reservation I have about some of the sexual harassment measures is that misunderstandings will result in a permanent stigma for persons who were not guilty of the behavior:

    I like to flirt. I am somewhat accomplished at it, but I know that I often dance upon ground that others (like those, who, in passing, overhear a conversation) might consider inappropriate and decide to lodge a complaint about.

    It makes me nervous.

    That said, I am on the lowest difficulty setting, and clearly, my being a little nervous about being mislabeled as something I am most definitely not is good for me in a metaphysical sense. Others have to contend with both the fear of the possibility of and actually being harassed, while I merely have to worry about being labelled a harasser by someone who has taken exception to some aspect (hopefully misperceived) of my behavior.

    In short: I am responsible for me, not other people’s perceptions of me.

    On balance, I’ll take being a bit nervous about how I’m seen over anyone being harassed, sexually or otherwise, for merely trying to enjoy a convention (or work, or walk down the street).

  6. The curator of the eventual Scalzi museum will be very disappointed. Where Krissy and her closet wins, history loses.

  7. There’s an intense thread over at Popehat on this very issue – touched off by your original post. It is so sad that there are still men who think that normal male behavior consists of hitting on women and that it’s the woman who has a problem if she can’t handle it.

  8. Someone is collecting names of SFWA members who have cosigned your declaration, too. Will it become policy that SFWA members should avoid guesting at cons that have no defined harassment policy? Probably not…but stay tuned. This is moving really fast.

  9. Who at the convention would you write to about this? As an example, I was considering attending the Chicago Comic Con in August, put on by Wizard World. Lots of cool guests there, and I haven’t been to a Con in years. Well, I looked over their website, and nothing on harassment. Did some searches, still nothing. So, now I’m going to need to write them. But when you go to the contact us page, there isn’t a general contact, and there isn’t one of the categories that screams out to me as the right ones to get in touch with about an issue like this. Logistics? PR?

  10. OK, thanks for the advice. I’ll write them now. And if I get a response, I’ll send the info your way, maybe for a signal boost on it, to get the information out, one way or another.

  11. Re: the specific individual whose preferred form of introduction was “Hi, I’m [redacted], wanna fuck?” . . .

    My understanding is that he didn’t do it to everyone he met, at every con, all the time.

    The detailed description that I read — delivered by one of his apologists, to illustrate how harmless the guy was really! — was that he only did it selectively, to newbie females, while drunk (or drunk enough for “plausible deniability”), at parties where it was deemed “not inapporpriate” — that is, parties at which the organizer would put up with him, or laugh it off, or otherwise have his back and let him do what he wanted to. Because he was a Big Name. He did not do it when sober, or at parties where it might be a problem even by the appalling standards of the time. He did not do it more than once to any person who was actually able to say no at the time. (He probably also didn’t acknowledge her existence again, but that isn’t part of the narrative; his “willingness to take no for an answer” is.)

    I don’t have a word for this: I have a term. I call it “the deliberate strategy of a serial sexual predator”. I regard this as a much higher and more dangerous species of harassing asshole, since it’s a harassing asshole who’s put in enough practice to become more selective about his victims and his hunting grounds, upping the odds that he’ll continue to get away with his behaviour.

  12. Beautiful. I am still crying tears of joy ten minutes later.

    This is an excellent policy, and I hope that it is universally implemented as quickly as is humanly possible.

  13. John:

    I haven’t been to any cons, so I can’t objectively judge whether your policy is warranted, or if you are in fact amplifying the significance of a few isolated incidents. Since you have more experience at cons than I do, and this is your site, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt.

    Now that I’ve got that disclaimer out of the way, let me ask you: Why do you think this is such an issue at SF-related events?

    The reason I ask (and why I was initially skeptical about all this): I’ve attended lots of trade shows (basically what a con seems to be) for my job. I also have several hobbies that hold these sorts of events. I’ve attended dozens, maybe hundreds over the years.

    The aforementioned events are attended by more or less equal numbers of men and women. I haven’t heard of this as an issue in the trade shows/conventions I attend. And I know plenty of “feminist” (I use this term neutrally here) women who participate in these and would very vocally complain if it were a problem.

    To the best of my knowledge, there is no formal sexual harassment policy governing any of these conventions. It’s just kind of a “everyone here is an adult” sort of thing.

    What is unique about SF that makes this such a problem? Theoretically speaking, sexual harassment could be a major issue among shoppers at Walmart, but it generally isn’t. What is in the water at SF conventions that makes it a problem *there*?

  14. I have a teenage daughter who has been asking to attend a Con wearing some sort of cosplay. I had heard about con gropers and said, “Absolutely not.” With this, I can inquire and have some assurance about policies and practices, review it with her and her friends, and, oh hell, there’s no way I’m letting her go to her first one alone but, now I’m armed. You *are* making a difference.

  15. Todd:

    “Why do you think this is such an issue at SF-related events?”

    It’s not just an issue at SF-related events. However, SF-related events are where I go, and for which I have the most experience, so clearly my comments here relate to those cons.

    That said, I will note that my policy does not specify SF-related conventions and conferences. It’s generally applicable, as regards my participation.

    (Update: I should note I’m talking about me here. I don’t necessarily expect everyone else to have the scope it be outside sf/f cons.)

  16. To the best of my knowledge, there is no formal sexual harassment policy governing any of these conventions. It’s just kind of a “everyone here is an adult” sort of thing.

    If there’s a difference between this and “suck it up, you’re on your own,” I don’t see it.

    Just because there’s no policy for dealing with it doesn’t mean it doesn’t go on. And remember, harassers don’t typically pick on people who are ready, willing, and able to kick their asses if offended.

  17. I like to flirt. I am somewhat accomplished at it, but I know that I often dance upon ground that others (like those, who, in passing, overhear a conversation) might consider inappropriate and decide to lodge a complaint about.

    Griffin, might I suggest that you reread Scalzi’s post, specifically:
    “if your flirting strategy is indistinguishable from harassment, it’s not everyone else that’s the problem”

  18. “Do you think it will make a difference”

    Of course it will. The fact that people are talking about it demonstrates it already has. On a smaller level, as I am not even famous on the street I live on let alone to millions of people around the world, when I take a prinicipled action it does make a difference in several immediate ways as well as hopefully others that are less directly observable.

    1 – I show my kids the importance of being true to ones beliefs and ones self.

    2 – I demonstrate to my friends and family that if they’re on the opposite side of this issue that I’m willing to challenge them and that if they’re on the same side that I’m willing to step up and take action to be an ally

    3 – This may or may not apply to your own situation, but I have a fairly comprehensive ethical framework that informs my choices and actions in life. It is important to me personally to live in a way that is consistent with this ethical framework. For this reason alone it always makes a difference.

  19. @Griffin Barber:I like to flirt. I am somewhat accomplished at it, but I know that I often dance upon ground that others (like those, who, in passing, overhear a conversation) might consider inappropriate and decide to lodge a complaint about.

    In this case, when you and the person you are flirting with are asked questions such as, “Was he making you feel uncomfortable,” and “Do you feel as if you are being harassed,” you can both answer ‘No’. Problem solved. The person who alerted staff to possible harassment would be notified that the potential victim was not actually being harassed according to her own statement and that the matter was clarified.

  20. I’m amused by the naiveté of certain straight men, thinking that this kind of policy targets them and their state of imagined privilege, when in reality it protects them just as much from straight or bisexual women, and gay or bisexual men who might regard them as prey for their unwanted advances.

    I suspect this is what a lot of homophobia (and not a certain amount of misogyny) derives from — that they might be treated the same way they expect to treat women (regardless of their level of interest).

  21. Thank you John for taking a stand on this.
    So far in the last few days I have seen two conventions who have been “working on” an anti-harassment policy for some time finally suck it up and put it on record.
    I have been asked to help write the policy for the third.
    I have also been adding to my list of “wow, I’m never giving X author a dime ever again” because of their reaction to this discussion.
    Welcome to the future indeed.

  22. I love you for this. I was harassed at Book Expo, and had no idea what I could do about it, other than tell the guy to F off. Thank you for bringing this onto everyone’s radar – not just the coordinators, but the attendees who may harass or become victims of harassment as well. I only hope it is not an illusion of safety, but will also inspire action to violations of said policies.

  23. Todd: within the last decade, at trade shows for manufacturing, I, as a young female engineer, was harassed. Maybe it depends on the type of trade shows you attend, and maybe it depends on who you are/who you are with. I have attended these shows to purchase (high $$ value) equipment, and the first one I went to in particular was not the happiest experience I have ever had.

    General thread comment: I firmly believe that any small changes will help – and even just TALKING ABOUT IT helps. It brings up awareness and allows people to learn.

  24. Good stuff, there. Thank you. And I don’t even go to conventions. It works for the rest of the world, too.

  25. @ Todd

    I’ve attended lots of trade shows (basically what a con seems to be) for my job. I also have several hobbies that hold these sorts of events. I’ve attended dozens, maybe hundreds over the years.

    Obviously I don’t know what kind of business you’re in, but I’ve heard a lot of discussion of these same issues with regard to professional conferences and trade shows in the last year, too. The IT world in particular has had a lot of attention drawn to the way women are treated at conferences in the last few months. It’s definitely not just an SFF-community thing.

  26. I’ve attended Norwescon in Seattle for over a decade now and really love it. Great con. I just went to their web site to look at their harassment policy and couldn’t find one, so I sent them a quick note asking about it. Simple and easy. And I hope when they get back to me it’s with, “Here it is!”

    I went to their org chart and sent the email via their contact page to the department that security is listed under. A bit of a hassle to find, but not egregiously so.

  27. On a point having nothing to do with the main focus of the conversation:

    Since I had no idea about sansabelt nor why anyone would want/not want one of these, I had to do a search. And I have learned that they are apparently coming back this fall. At least according to this website (http://sansabelt.com/), which is admittedly rather thin on information so maybe it’s just there to tramatize people. I still don’t know why pants without belts should be such a sign of the terribleness of ye olden days (wikipedia didn’t help either). Can someone explain?

  28. John, thank you for putting in the comments about asking the convention if they have a policy if you don’t one online. My home convention has had a comprehensive policy for years, but for some inexplicable reason we never put it on our website. It only appeared in our program book at the convention.

    We are in the process of fixing that mistake and getting our policy online as soon as possible. We are quite grateful for your publlic stance and that of so many others. Also, the many great links to other policies are giving us the opportunity to improve ours.

  29. Generally agree with this, tho I also appreciate Griffin Barber’s comment, which is especially relevant in terms of nth-wave feminists who think that “wrongful flirting” is something only men do vis-a-vis women and never the other way around.

    And, John, re the word “gracefully”? Maybe that’s part of the problem. Maybe more of us should walk away from PC-invoking blatherers with less grace.

  30. As always, well said. I propose all young males receive this line from an adult male of their acquaintance (if they have) when they turn 14: ” if your flirting strategy is indistinguishable from harassment, it’s not everyone else that’s the problem.”

    This article prompted excellent conversation on Twitter. Policy that is publicly stated and posted is the best first step. Second step has to be staff training. Every single staff member and volunteer should have a 1-2-3 steps for handling harassment issues presented to them.

    1 – Make sure the person is OK. (If not get help *Immediately* Even if that means you’re not watching that door anymore.)

    2 – Know who to contact to handle the situation (Junior staff and volunteers should not be taking reports like this. Have a person or persons on staff who job it it to immediately address these situations.)

    3 – Do NOT try to Fix the situation. If it can’t be fixed with duct tape, it cannot be fixed by you. Find the person who is trained to handle it as quickly as possible, then hand the person off with encouragement and comfort.

  31. I sometimes think that the disingenuous false equvilancies certain racist, sexist, homophobic elements like to fling around are the rhetorical equivilant if “I can’t have fun, ain’t nobody gonna have fun.” If they can’t approach a strange woman by asking her if she wants to fuck, then by god! nobody shall ever approach or even blink at a woman ever again, that’ll show them all.

    Re: Sweater – when you say that Krissy has disappeared clothing articles, this springs to mind: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SYf5YPNnfRY

  32. By all means, stand on a public sidewalk and be a harassing asshole there; that should be interesting.

    Actually, it’s not at all interesting, or even unusual. It is an entirely common experience to be harassed on the street while walking.

    Most of what you’ve written here is admirable and wonderful. This one sentence, however, seems to reveal a blind spot about what walking around in public can be like for women and visible minorities.

  33. @uldihaa:

    @Griffin Barber:I like to flirt….

    “In this case, when you and the person you are flirting with are asked questions such as, “Was he making you feel uncomfortable,” and “Do you feel as if you are being harassed,” you can both answer ‘No’. Problem solved. The person who alerted staff to possible harassment would be notified that the potential victim was not actually being harassed according to her own statement and that the matter was clarified.

    Absolutely.

    I was, in my round-about way, saying: I am right to be nervous about how people might perceive my actions, and that an occasional misapprehension by parties who are concerned that no one be harassed is alright, so long as no one skips the question phase and leaps to the penalty phase.

    It is also, for me, an acceptable risk, as I enjoy such interactions, and hope that my behavior would always withstand such a litmus test.

    @JohnD:

    @Griffin Barber “I like to flirt…

    “Griffin, might I suggest that you reread Scalzi’s post, specifically:
    “if your flirting strategy is indistinguishable from harassment, it’s not everyone else that’s the problem””

    I read and understood it perfectly.

    What the rest of my comment meant, perhaps less clearly, is that: someone mislabeling my behavior is a risk I gladly run in exchange for the protections such a policy offers all people.

    No one should ever have unwelcome advances pressed upon them. Ever.

  34. Socharei:

    “Most of what you’ve written here is admirable and wonderful. This one sentence, however, seems to reveal a blind spot about what walking around in public can be like for women and visible minorities.”

    Fair point.

    My point was they couldn’t hide their attitudes within a private space, which is what I see so many of them using conventions for; they would have to own up to their assholishness, which is a thing many of them do not wish to confront. It was not artfully phrased. Sorry about that.

  35. One thing that has encouraged me in the past few days is the number of conventions that either already meet the Scalzi-Jemison Standards, or only fall short in minor ways, like the need to better publicize the policy they already have, or to do a better job giving examples of what constitutes harassment. In that way, we’ve already moved a lot of the way from the world of the dinosaurs to something close to the 21st century.

    We have more work to do In terms of creating a culture where people feel more comfortable reporting harassment, and especially assuring them that their reports will create action. This discussion, happening in many places and involving thousands of people from Hugo winners to people considering attending their first con, can only help that process.

  36. JB Sanders: I think a great deal of homophobie/anti-gay sentiment derives from this, that sexist/misogynist straight men expect gay men to treat them the way they treat women. Not all, of course, but enough that I’m comfortable telling young women that homophobia should be a red flag when deciding whether to date a guy.

    In fact, I experience something that could be called glee when doing so.

    The other side of this is that of course there will be some straight men who will treat any detectable sign of interest from a gay man as harassment and report it as such. There is no regimen without some way to troll it, and it’s better to have a policy than not.

  37. This matters a lot. There are a number of reasons I don’t go to cons, among them anxieties that increase in crowds… but the root of those anxieties can be traced to significant sexual harassment when I was in my twenties. So, yeah. If you can encourage more women to feel safe (and be safe) in cons by changing the environment, it’s a wonderful use of your leadership position.

    I may make a goal to go to the next con that takes place in Kansas City (so I don’t have to fly, y’know). It sounds like an idea, especially if it is one you accept an invite to.

  38. If various celebrities can ask for irrational things as part of their backstage demands (a bowl of only brown M&Ms?) how is this request any worse? Particularly when it can only benefit everyone concerned.

  39. *fist-bump of solidarity*

    Also, re: the “free speech” issue: it really annoys me when people equate “objecting to harassment” with “censorship/denying free speech.” Censorship is something that governments do. If the government tells you to shut up, that’s a free speech/second amendment issue. If another person tells you that what you’re saying or doing is problematic, that’s not censorship; it’s an indication that you are saying or doing something problematic.

    Of course, I have always suspected that people who respond to “you’re harassing me” with “but free speech!” are just saying that because they think that “free speech” is some secret code phrase that will magically erase all objections, and allow them to keep saying whatever the hell they want, with no consequences.

  40. MadLibrarian, it was a bowl of M&Ms with NO brown ones. And it was their mine canary for “did these people read our requirements.” Easy to check if there are brown M&Ms in the bowl; not so easy to check that the load-bearing members under the stage are adequate.

  41. Maybe I should have gone the “all white dressing room decor” route :D Adequate supports under the stage are same flavor as a emplaced and enforced harassment policy: important and necessary.

  42. Thanks again John.

    Todd: I am aware of similar issues not only in SF, but also in the Skeptic/Atheist conferences, the computer games world, and more general IT as well. So it is a broader issue.
    My examples are all within the nerd/geek corner of the world, which does point to general issues there; but they are also all communities with powerful free agents that can talk about these issues in public, which might mean that there are hidden issues elsewhere.
    This is one reason that these harassment policies are so important, everyone needs to be reminded we have a right to talk about it, and that it should be safe.

  43. Scalzi wrote that if con harassers were put on the street “they would have to own up to their assholishness, which is a thing many of them do not wish to confront.” Street harassers have the advantage of anonymity (no nametags!) and unengaged passersby.

    This video is about an Egyptian journalist, but it’s not as exaggerated from a US walk as you might think if you haven’t been a victim of it: http://youtu.be/Az1DsRo6QX4

  44. See, “I have learned not to ask what happens” (e.g., to the sweater) is the kind of thing I think is basically incompatible with the active mental life of a science fiction writer. I think you should find out what happens. And if it is as terrifying as it sounds, make a story about it. Hmm. You think the title “Old Man’s Sweater” would sell books? (Heck, I’d buy it just because what could go wrong?)

    I would like to nominate the “frenzied stoat” sentence for some sort of word for unreasonably evocative language.

  45. Todd: it’s possible that you’re unaware of sexual harassment of females at conferences for the same reason you’re unaware of inadequate women’s restrooms at sports stadiums.

  46. Hopefully, the announcement will include a general convention etiquette policy. I didn’t see anything posted about this on site either. When moderators say turn off devices..turn them off. Someone recorded at Phoenix Comicon during a JMS panel, and it showed up at a news outlet.

  47. Listen, I absolutely support your new harassment policy, but you leave my Members Only jacket the hell alone.

  48. Manny:

    Again, fair point.

    I’m going to go ahead and zap that sentence from the piece. The comment thread should serve as testament that it existed and I agreed it didn’t do what I wanted it to do.

  49. Lots of conventions already have harassment policies, so you’re just grandstanding on a non-issue. You’re just doing this for the feminist cookies and/or to suck up to the women and minorities and/or to get laid. Back in my day, a man could go up and would graphically proposition every woman at a convention! As a way of saying hello!

  50. Sadly it isn’t just SF cons that this goes on at. I’ve seen it happen at gardening shows! Not something that is normally thought of as hotbeds of harassment, but it happens.

    Believe it or not the worst place I’ve seen harassment was at a dog show, where a couple of otherwise respectable middle aged males took great delight in referring to women attending the show as “bitches” because apparently that was “funny as it’s what you call female dogs you see”. There was also much allegedly hilarious wordplay about asking young women at the show “if they were ready to be put to a stud” and all totally acceptable to the organizers. Depressing, isn’t it.

    It just shows how entrenched sexism and entitlement is in current culture. It is pervasive and inescapable it seems, so I really hope that this starts a change. Maybe one day I can go to a hobby show and enjoy the exhibits and events without having to keep in mind an escape route in case of assholes.

  51. And while you’re at it, the “large men who look ridiculous in narrow lapels” club would like to have a word with you. Does your policy cover sartorial harrassment?

  52. “Someone is collecting names of SFWA members who have cosigned your declaration, too. Will it become policy that SFWA members should avoid guesting at cons that have no defined harassment policy? Probably not…but stay tuned. This is moving really fast.”

    And this is how the world changes. One step at a time.

  53. “Frenzied Stoat” dot tumblr dot com…..

    “if your flirting strategy is indistinguishable from harassment, it’s not everyone else that’s the problem” ranks right up there with “You’re not a goddamn shark.”

  54. I see that this has already been mentioned – harassment occurs at all kinds of conventions, so I posted a link to your (Mr. Scalzi’s) rules on FB with the recommendation that any of us who might be asked to speak at *any* convention adopt this kind of policy – additionally, since many conventions are run by volunteer staff, why limit it to people who might be invited guests? Volunteer staff, paid staff, speakers, panel moderators, and attendees can all adopt this kind of policy.

    The more people that think that they can do this, then the faster and stronger these changes will become – throughout all of society.

  55. So, I just now found out that Norwescon doesn’t have a harassment policy but they are looking into the “possibility” of doing one. Also found out (same source, not affiliated with the con) that at Norwescon 36 (earlier this year) they put up a sexist poster about volunteering. Excuse me for a minute while I bash my head into my desk.

    Okay, they have at least apologized for the poster and promised not to put up anything like it again. But still. Looks like there’s a “possibility” I’ll be going to NWC next year. I hope they get their act together: they’ve got a good list of people coming next year and it would be a shame to have to miss it.

  56. To the best of my knowledge, there is no formal sexual harassment policy governing any of these conventions. It’s just kind of a “everyone here is an adult” sort of thing.

    The Game Developers Conference has a code of conduct. Can’t find one for PAX or E3, sigh.

  57. @ Miscellaneous Steve:
    “put up a sexist poster about volunteering”

    *headdesk*
    *headdesk*
    *headdesk*
    *headdesk*
    *headdesk*
    *headdesk*

    That is just wrong. Unbelievable.

    At least they fixed it when it got pointed out to them–although that shouldn’t be necessary.

  58. I can’t believe people are up in arms at the policy. It’s there to assist people, not crack down on others’ rights to socialize. Many have a system of verifying claims and interviewing the alleged harasser so that misunderstandings and truly harmless comments can be sorted out. No one is trying to undermine your activities at any conventions, we just want to feel that our rights are protected also.

  59. Hey, I like Tab. (And also miss Pepsi Light, with that bit of lemon.)

    Other than that…hell yes.

  60. You’re just doing this […] to get laid.

    How absolutely terrible that, in order to get laid in the twenty-first century, one must acknowledge the equality and fundamental humanity of one’s partner(s) in this endeavor. (Not as a sufficient precondition, mind, merely a necessary one.) However will the human species survive?

    To be serious for a moment, I can attest what Mr. Scalzi says — as one of those kids at the conventions, despite this supposed handicap, we are in fact doing just fine.

  61. What the rest of my comment meant, perhaps less clearly, is that: someone mislabeling my behavior is a risk I gladly run in exchange for the protections such a policy offers all people.

    Given that very few of my sentences end up saying what I meant them to say, I sympathize with your leading clause. And I agree that policies can pose problems as well as solutions but that generally the solutions are worth the problems that are caused (sort of like the 10-15 people who die every year due to a bad vaccine interaction when compared to the 10,000 or so people who died before the vaccine was available).

    No one should ever have unwelcome advances pressed upon them. Ever.

    And here we agree completely.

  62. Love the policy! As for the back-in-the-bad-ole-days graphical harrassers who thought harassment was a fine way to say hello to a person, I remember those days very well, and also the conversations among women warning about those folks.

    Folks who object to this policy on the grounds of “cramping their style” might want to consider that this particular cramp will actually upgrade their style, resulting in a much happier situation for all. Just a thought.

  63. @Xopher Halftongue:
    “If there’s a difference between this and “suck it up, you’re on your own,” I don’t see it.”

    ******

    Not at all. The conventions also didn’t have explicit policies against open flames in the display booths, or bringing live farm animals into the convention hall. But that didn’t mean that anyone would think these activities were OK.

    Again: Common sense. The idea is that you start with the premise that people are adults, and deal with non-adult behavior on an exception-basis. The “policy” starts with the premise that a significant percentage of men go to these conventions to sexually harass women.

    Here is what I’m getting at: At a certain point, the con becomes as much about anti-sexual harassment as it does about science fiction. That creates a very stilted, and even paranoid, environment.

    I worked in a large company that was very, very militant about sexual harassment. Lots of training and soapboxing on the subject. It created an atmosphere of paranoia that practically invited frivolous sexual harassment claims.

    Just for the record, I never sexually harassed anyone (nor was I ever accused of it). My reaction (and that of many of my male colleagues) was to say: “Interaction with women in the workplace is best avoided in order to avoid *any chance* of a sexual harassment charge.”

    So most of us gave women the silent treatment in the workplace–not because we disliked them personally, but because we had been told that practically anything (if it was “unwelcome” or made someone “uncomfortable”) could land us in HR. The safest course, therefore, was to limit all conversation with women to the absolute bare minimum.

    The anti-sexual harassment brigade that I see forming here reminds me a lot of my company’s HR. Based on what I saw in the workplace, I believe your ultimate result will be to create an atmosphere that is so paranoid that people no longer feel free to interact with others at these events, which should be a part of any convention.

    This doesn’t mean that you have to tolerate sexual harassment (or any other form of harassment). However, dealing with it on an exception basis avoids poisoning the overall atmosphere.

    If you must have a written policy for every con, then by all means have one. But also realize that if carried too far, this “anti-pervert crusade” will make a large number of perfectly innocent men simply avoid all contact with women at these events.

    Once again, I’ve seen it happen.

  64. John, you’re being far too polite in your reply to the people complaining about this policy. If it were me, I think my response would be:

    “You don’t like it? GOOD. If you have a problem with this, then STAY HOME. We’ll all be happier.”

    I don’t have enough thumbs to stick up for you. And I don’t have enough middle fingers for them.

  65. Bryant – if you want a high leverage person to change things at PAX, you might try contacting Jonathan Coulton and asking him to sign on to the pledge. He’s a PAX regular (or at least PAX East).

  66. Just FYI : I am a Woman of Color who fully supports John’s stance on this issue and I applaud him for it. I also have no plans for boom -boom, laying, intercoursing or any other euphemism to him at any point in the forseeable future just because he has acknowledged my humanity.

  67. As an utterly flabbergasted viewer of recent events in various geek communities (mainly organised secularism of various intersecting kinds, but also gaming. yes, also SF writing , and sadly, my own field of IT) I’m very happy that John Scalzi has stepped up with this, We _are_ making a difference, which is pretty much why we’re seeing an escalation in people prepared to say harassment has been a problem for some time. Silent no more.

  68. Not at all. The conventions also didn’t have explicit policies against open flames in the display booths, or bringing live farm animals into the convention hall. But that didn’t mean that anyone would think these activities were OK.

    Analogy fail. Some people *do* think that harassment is OK. And/or they think that what they’re doing isn’t harassment. Thanks to anti-harassment policies, fewer people repeat that mistake.

    The “policy” starts with the premise that a significant percentage of men go to these conventions to sexually harass women.

    No. Except in the sense that any percentage greater than zero is significant to the person being harassed.

    At a certain point, the con becomes as much about anti-sexual harassment as it does about science fiction. That creates a very stilted, and even paranoid, environment.

    That’s a lovely theory, but unsupported by actual real-world evidence. As repeatedly noted.

    I worked in a large company that was very, very militant about sexual harassment. Lots of training and soapboxing on the subject. It created an atmosphere of paranoia that practically invited frivolous sexual harassment claims.

    I used to work in a place where a group of men claimed this. But it wasn’t the sexual harassment policy that created the atmosphere of paranoia. It was the group of men.

    (They assumed that I, as a man, would sympathize with them. When it was clear I was having trouble not rolling my eyes at their attitudes, their reactions were … about what I expected. Whiners.)

  69. Todd:

    “The conventions also didn’t have explicit policies against open flames in the display booths, or bringing live farm animals into the convention hall. But that didn’t mean that anyone would think these activities were OK.”

    You know, Todd, using hyperbolic examples to explain why your conventions don’t adequately plan for harassment is not nearly the winning argument you think it is.

    Beyond that, I don’t have any doubt you don’t see very many examples of harassment at your various conventions. I’d like to hear from the women who attend your conventions. I’m willing to bet their perspective would be illuminating, in a number of ways.

    Let’s go ahead and wrap up this particular conversational avenue, please.

  70. I still don’t know what’s so hard about “don’t hit on strangers unless you’re at a singles bar/other appropriate space.”

    The vast majority of people going to a con are not doing so because they want to find a stranger with whom to do the horizontal hula. And the people who DO want that as part of their con-going experience should have no trouble limiting their search for it to spaces/events specifically designed for that kind of interaction.

  71. What the hell do people think you are, John? Comments like “You can’t do that.”? Huh? Tell me why he can’t, and then I’m going to tell you why he can and why YOU can’t tell HIM he can’t do something. I swear, some people just need something to occupy themselves without trying to get their grubby paws into someone else’s plate. I got harassed at ChiCon/WorldCon last September. I was not happy, and I didn’t go to the Con organizers, because I figured nothing would happen. After all, the person who did it seemed to be pretty well known by everyone else, but nobody seemed to think he was out of line. I left after about 15 minutes, I didn’t need to hear him, and I was afraid I would have stuffed the neck of my guitar up his ass, ruining a perfectly good set of strings. Last time I go to one of those, I don’t need the bullshit, and I don’t need arrogant assholes ruining MY fun. So, John, you go right ahead and say what you need to say about harassments, I’ll go right along with you.

  72. Also, you know what? Fuck these assholes. I’m sick of politely sharing cultural space with the sort of pissy lump of a human who sees nothing wrong with being a racist and/or sexist and/or homophobe, who attacks and harasses people because they feel they have a right to, and who goes out of their way to make the places I work and socialize in uncomfortable and even threatening for too many of the other people I work and socialize with, and for so many others as well.

    Ditto.

  73. Some of us women are by ourselves in a bar because we want to try an interesting cocktail/new wine or spirit and/or might not be ready to turn in for the night. If we want to be approached, we will let you know by our body language.

  74. Thanks for your policy. I discovered it while reading the Mary Sue. I like to put my money where my beliefs are so I bought one of your books.

    Thanks. :)

  75. It was “disappeared” several years ago by Krissy. I have learned not to ask what happens.

    Don’t worry. It went to go live on a nice farm somewhere that it can be outside and have lots of other sweaters to play with.

  76. Great follow-up on your con policy post. In regard to the “Free speech!” argument, I usually have a stock answer: “Freedom of speech doesn’t guarantee freedom from the consequences of free speech.”

    Okay, so the government shouldn’t censor you. But that doesn’t mean your peers won’t judge or shun you for what you say. There are social consequences and you have to be aware of them when you speak. It is, as J.L. Austin put it, a performative utterance.

  77. Sansabelt. If you have the right shape for the pants, they are both comfortable and attractive. If you don’t … they’re not, losing their attractiveness much faster than their comfort. The waistband is attached to a 4″ high elastic band which grips the wearer. They can present the appearance of being tied in the middle by a 4″ invisible belt. This is not good. Properly fitted, they appear to cling to your hips without a belt or waistband.

    I find that if I flirt with the idea of giving my partner compliments so she feels good about herself I rarely have problems and usually have a great deal of fun. Flirting with the idea of getting her into my bed was much riskier (that’s not really flirting, that’s courting or foreplay.)

  78. Mythago: “Don’t worry. It went to go live on a nice farm somewhere that it can be outside and have lots of other sweaters to play with.”

    Oh! I hope it’s friends with my jazz musical instruments vest and my parachute pants! I bet they’re a happy ensemble. Oh yes. Happy happy happy.

  79. Beltless pants are the bastard offspring of khakis and sweatpants.

    @A Mediated Life

    I still don’t know what’s so hard about “don’t hit on strangers unless you’re at a singles bar/other appropriate space.”

    As I’ve never frequented bars or other singles establishments, I can’t speak to what goes on there. But “hit on” is nebulous slang. Plenty of folks, regardless of gender, flirt or even politely ask someone out without so much as considering the “horizontal hula” as you call it. There may be places and occasions where propositioning someone to have sex is an acceptable way to flirt with people you don’t know well, but in most milieus it’s rude, lazy, pathetic and exceedingly unlikely to succeed. My understanding is that most fan conventions are not billed as bacchanalian orgies.

  80. Having someone do me like a fevered stoat sounds unpleasant and bitey. And they have those scent glands, right?

    Ew.

    Also, I do not remember the days of Sansabelt and wide lapels, but I’ve seen pictures, and I’m sort of amazed that the human race managed to reproduce. Which: see, That Guy! If people got laid in seventies fashions, you can get laid while not harassing anyone!

  81. Bluntly propositioning a woman (or anyone) in a non-sexual context (e.g. a conversation about SF) seems far less about actually trying to pick her up and far more about putting her on notice that her sexual availability is the main thing that matters about her. So of course the other similarly-minded men had no problem with it.

    And these similarly-minded men shouldn’t complain about Scalzi’s policy. They can feel free to only attend cons that don’t have anti-harassment policies, secure that their behaviour won’t be called into account, and now they also don’t have to worry about running into Scalzi! It’s a win, right? And since their targets “didn’t really mind” (or some such), the women will all still go to those cons, right? Right?

    It’s good to enable people to self-select for appropriate behaviour, unless what you really want is to take advantage of people who don’t agree with you on what is appropriate.

  82. I never understood why it is hard for some people to not be assholes. I get that there are a lot of socially inept people who don’t understand how they are received but in either case a simple, clear, “don’t be an asshole and if someone says you are being one stop it even if you don’t think you are” policy should help.

    I think a guy with your status, joined in by others that people want to see at cons, will make a huge difference. Its something you could easily ignore & pretend to be above. I am sure it would actually be less hassle for you to pretend you have to concern about this issue. That you actually get out in front of it and make yourself a target for the mouth breathing *morans* says a lot about you as a human. Thanks

  83. I’d suggest starting a “Find John His Lost Sweater” campaign, but I don’t want to be sent to the farm.

  84. Jack Lint #10:14: I think John already put up posters and flyers when the sweater went missing. He might have even put its picture on a milk carton.

    Needless to say, this didn’t help. When Krissy wants something disappeared, it stays disappeared.

  85. I just want to say that the only reason I’m not putting my name on the list, is that I know myself too well, and I’m a space case: The chances that I’ll forget to ask about this when speaking with a convention is roughly 100%. It seems like a bad idea to sign a pledge to do something I’ll probably forget to do. But in principle, I quite agree with you.

  86. Mr. Scalzi, I am not the first to say this, and I am sure I will not be the last, but eh, I don’t much care.

    You. ARE. Making. A. Difference.

    A huge one, sir, and not just in the SFF convention world.

    There is a female university professor in a highly misogynistic hard-science department who now has a framework for reporting the harassment that she and her female colleagues and her female students experience on a regular basis. She has that framework is as a direct result of your willingness to provide a public platform for Ms. Mattheson’s essay, as well as your willingness to take a strong anti-harassment stand and to host these ongoing discussions on the topic.

    I know how much of your time it takes to moderate these threads, having a tiny bit of experience in that realm myself. There is a part of my head that is anguished at the thought of all the potential writing time you are losing to managing the conversation here – but oh, what a difference you are making. To me, to that university professor, to my daughter, to her daughter, and to so many others that you’ll never meet or hear about.

    So, thanks for what you do. Thanks for recognizing your privilege, and for using the power of your position to speak for what is right, not what is convenient/expedient. Thanks for talking about it, for encouraging others to talk about it, for giving others the courage to take a stand. And thanks for Malletting the Mallet-worthy.

    Rock on, Mr. Scalzi, rock on.

  87. John, thanks for using your powers and prominence for good. An excellent example of leadership!

  88. “Let’s also be clear that this mindview is not about how old you are.”

    Thanks for making that clear (tho’ I never doubted you anyway). I’ve seen way too much stuff in comment threads around the Intertubes lately on this that has “Yeah, those creepy, sexist old guys are teh sux0rs!” as the main point.

  89. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. And you’re right- sexual harrassment is like an iceberg- for each person who reports, there are still more people too scared to do so.
    I was sexually harrassed by a professor who was head of my department in a small, close-knit community back in the early ’90s, and it was male friends (along with female friends) like you who gave me the courage to speak up. I had my worries about following through- until our gay student council president backed me up by revealing his unsavory run-ins with the same man. Still later, I was approached by another female student, thanking me for reporting him, because he had sexually propositioned her after FOLLOWING her into the women’s room! And she felt powerless to say anything because he had the power to rescind her scholarship.
    Being socially awkward or older, or male, is NO excuse. And thanks to your stand, lots of us will feel safer, and hey, the “ignorant harrassers” will get a chance for education that may save their jobs and personal lives in the future!

  90. I just want to add my thanks to those of all the others. It is wonderful that you are doing this.

    On a side note, I have this image in my head of a re-worked picture of Wil Wheaton in his clown sweater battling the Scalzorc in that sweater from the Oprah appearance!

  91. SF Cons sound like a bastion of lawless sex starved convicts, Hell’s Angels, and Catholic priests all rolled into one. I’ve lived a colouful life but I’ve NEVER
    seen anything close to the anecdotes I’ve been reading. I think this may perhaps be a specific problem in the literary, or SF, world. Wow, a Tailhook convention has nothing on these guys. I wonder why this particular culture seems so afflicted?

  92. Mamasue9, I was at JMS’ panels in Phoenix and it was never requested for recording devices to be turned off. The only time JMS requests that is when he’s showing advance footage of an upcoming project. In Phoenix, one panel was promotional and one panel was a message that was announced there specifically so that it could be widely shared.

    That said, you’re exactly right – when requested, all recorders and phones should be turned off.

  93. John Callaghan:

    Asked and answered previously in this thread. Short version: It’s not just SF/F. However, SF/F is having a public moment about it.

  94. @ GlochidiaGirl:

    Ooooh, yes, gimme Warrior Wheaton, Scalzorc-in-sweater, and Unicornpegasuskitten of DOOM!!!!! Or maybe Darth Scalzi (like Vader, but with the Sweater instead of the armor and cape) vs. Wil Wheatonwalker (Wil Wheaton with a lightsaber, in his Star Trek costume for the sake of laughs) and the Unspeakably Awful Indescribable Horror (Ghlaghghee with wings made of bacon strips and a Superman sign in place of the UPK’s horn). Now THAT would be hilarious.

  95. Thank you. No, I understand it’s not just SF/F but I am surprised it is as pronounced. The predetory, alpha male, testosterone, driven tone seems so out place in what I would assume to a more enlightened segment of society. I’ve worked on construction sites that were less hostile to women than some these conventions. Thank you for opening up my world. And your books are awesome.

  96. @Todd: “If you must have a written policy for every con, then by all means have one. But also realize that if carried too far, this “anti-pervert crusade” will make a large number of perfectly innocent men simply avoid all contact with women at these events. Once again, I’ve seen it happen.”

    This is already the case as far as I’m concerned. The last con I was at, I spent much of the time while I was walking through the common areas of the convention thinking, “don’t look, don’t look, don’t look, oh God really don’t look, don’t look…” Even while sitting in one place, at a panel, say, if anyone even reasonably attractive was sitting nearby, I’d immediately start thinking, “don’t move, don’t move, don’t move, poker face, poker face, poker face, don’t think, don’t think, don’t think…” The only place I felt really “safe” was sitting off somewhere by myself…but one’s certainly not going to meet anyone interesting, of either gender, that way.

    Needless to say, this fear of being accused of harassment–which means, in the view of many people, tried and convicted on the spot–makes it hard for me to enjoy myself there, or to make any inroads into the society of fandom. Paradoxically, I’m left feeling like an outsider, at the very place I’m not supposed to feel like an “outsider.”

    Perhaps I should just skip the next one and save myself the trouble.

  97. Afraid: If you are truly unable to interact with people without running the risk of harassing them, then I commend you for recognizing this situation and excluding yourself voluntarily. The alternative would be for the potential harassment victims to be either excluding themselves or attending the con in fear for their safety and personal integrity.

  98. @Todd & Afraid

    If you two are really so terrified of public opinion rushing to judgement, you could try lifelogging.

  99. I work for a Fortune 100 company. I’m contracted to a different Fortune 100, subbed to a federal government entity. I work at an office run by a different federal entity, staffed by five additional Fortune 100s and a couple of small consulting firms. I also travel a lot, eating out and socializing with my coworkers.

    I state all that to say that I’m in a potential nightmare scenario for harassment (if I wanted to look at it that way.) Any incident I was connected (accuser, accused, witness) would immediately involve 2 government entities and more HR than anyone ever wants to see. And I’ve got lots of work-connected (but not actual work) time with my coworkers, much of it with alcohol involved.

    But I’m not worried about it at all. When it comes to my female coworkers, I respect their abilities and they respect mine. I pay attention, figuring out what jokes and topics are appropriate for each of them, and stick to those. I strive to build up a reserve of goodwill, so when I mess up (and I eventually always will, with anyone) it’s taken as a mistake and forgiven. In other words, I treat them like people, not sex objects or honey traps. Exactly the same as my male coworkers. It’s a little more work, but I like being friendly with my coworkers.

  100. Having recently called an artistic boycott of DragonCon for its continued financial ties to a man accused of serial child molestation,I find many of the counter-arguments to your announcement all too familiar. Then again, DragonCon is pretty much the poster-fanboy for sexual harassment as well. http://dragoncon.livejournal.com/2542632.html

    As more and more women become involved in the 21st century’s ‘geek community’ (I suspect the phrase ‘fandom’ will eventually disappear as the original fanzine & club oriented fans die off), less and less of this behavior will be tolerated or, worse, expected at conventions, regardless of their size.

  101. Patricia:

    “If you are truly unable to interact with people without running the risk of harassing them, then I commend you for recognizing this situation and excluding yourself voluntarily.”

    Indeed, with regard to Mr. Afraid, it’s not that difficult to interact with people in a way that is not construed as harassing. Heck, I even once wrote a guide. The large majority of people seem to manage just fine on the “I’m not harassing anyone today” front.

    That said, I think it’s fine to wrap up this particular avenue of discussion; I don’t see it going anywhere particularly fruitful.

  102. One thing I haven’t seen mentioned enough is that a lot of the behavior that women are describing is not just naughty, it’s outright assault-with-words up through attempted rape. (I haven’t seen anyone mention actual rape, but probably that too.) Why is it taking so much commotion to get con organizers to deal with serious crimes under their umbrella? How can anyone claim that grabbing someone’s intimate body part uninvited or pushing them against a wall and grinding on them is a misunderstanding when they read every day about people getting arrested for things like that?

  103. [Deleted because people pissing on my friends for no particularly good reason is not a great way to make friends with me. However, to answer the question that was asked here, no, I don’t anticipate any exceptions to my policy – JS]

  104. from way earlier – I think it is a problem at some SF conventions because for a long time we allowed people to get away with bad behavior for a couple reasons.
    a. Many SF fans in the old days were social awkward geeks and we excused them, because of that, as having poor social skills and a lack of understanding about personal space..
    b. When you already view yourself as “other” it is hard to do something that might ostracize you from a group you perceive as loosely being of your tribe.
    c. Many geeks are socially awkward and just plain don’t know what to do or how to do it when something does happen(which brings us nicely around to the do you think this will make a difference)
    d. There is still a perception that people in skimpy costumes are somehow asking for it. I am at a large SF convention at the moment that has a very successful poster campaign (Costumes are not Consent) and has worked with many party hosts and other so there are places with posted signs declaring them a safe space where someone can go should they feel uncomfortable in any way.

    Bravo to you sir for taking a stand and explaining it so lucidly.

  105. I’m just a fan and con-goer, but I’ve started speaking with my wallet in the same way. If a con has a clear anti-harassment policy I am far more willing to spend the money to book the flight or drive, hotel, badge, panel fees, etc etc etc. Thank you for having more value to the conventions and making it even more clear to them why their convention might not be seen as the most inviting place to everyone.

    My husband and I are going to GenCon this year because they have a good policy and last year I felt extremely comfortable and safe, even when he wasn’t standing anywhere near me. The only thing I’d like to see are more visible staff members, as if anything HAD happened, I would have had to go all the way to the front desk to report it — that’s not really acceptable. I wrote them a letter about it last year and did not get a response.

    We did not do PAX East this year, or last year, and will not again, because people were screaming homophobic things in line for a panel two years ago and the Enforcers refused to do anything about it. There was no harassment policy, and no one to report it to — the Enforcers were the ones riling up the crowd. I reported it both at the convention to guest services and afterwards directly to the convention heads and never received any kind of response. I do not feel safe there, we’ve taken our large group of friends to another convention entirely for meet-ups.

    We skipped E3 this year and will continue to until it stops valuing the egos of harassing assholes over the safety and respect of the women in the industry. It is EXPECTED to get harassed there, and anyone who tries to report it is just “spoiling the fun”… I don’t need to give them my company’s money. I spoke with them when the invites came out this year about their lack of harassment policy, and they refused to address it.

    Honestly, just the fact that places are RESPONDING to you is a huge step.

  106. I appreciate your willingness to take a stand. There’s a lot more harrassment at conventions and everywhere else than most unharrassed people realize. It isn’t limited to a region, an ethnic group, age group, socio-economic bracket, educational background or lack thereof. If we could spot assholes by looking at them, it would make everything so much simpler. So thanks. From me and all the people who’ve been taking shit from assholes our entire lives. Nice that someone notices and cares.

  107. It occurs to me that there should be some internationally recognised symbol that designates that events and participants have a zero-tolerance anti-harassment policy, along the lines of the red cross, the pink ribbon etc. This symbol could be prominently displayed on websites, marketing material etc so that people don’t need to wade through paragraphs of legalese buried away in the TOS to find out whether they will be safe or not. How would someone go about organising this? I guess the sale of the symbol as a wearable badge would fund the organisation?

  108. First, thanks for taking a stand and posting. I agree completely that everyone should think of conventions and events as a safe, enjoyable place to congregate, socialize, and discuss common interests.

    I don’t always feel safe. I’ve rarely felt safe when not with a group. I hate the idea that anyone else could ever feel that way.

    I recently completed some training on how to stop bullying in schools, and I realized there is a fascinating overlap. Olweus (bullying researcher) defines bullying as a repeated pattern of an individual or group taking negative actions toward another individual or group over whom they have power. The harassment, as described, fits the definition of bullying.

    My concern is that bullies are neither stupid nor fearful, nor does the culture of bullying die easily. Those who have enjoyed abuse of power will look for ways to continue, working within or around the rules as they need to, and those who have been abused will often, rather than defending themselves and others, lash out at those they see as weaker.

    It would be a wonderful thing if everyone who felt uncomfortable could come out and say that, and it would be equally wonderful if everyone who caused that discomfort could apologize and alter their behavior accordingly. Until that happens, having a solid set of rules defining what harassment is, and a process for enforcing them in a fair and even handed manner is absolutely critical.

  109. Just an observation and off topic to this particular thread but relevant to the site in general….
    I seem to recall a posting not too long ago that a scalzipocolypse was coming in which you would fall off the grid for the month of July. I just noticed you have posted every day of July except for this day.
    Maybe the month of doom has begun……

  110. What if the convention has a ‘code of conduct’ policy which is only vague, or possibly inadequate in terms of harassment? Where can you ask a convention to go from there?

  111. UhNoThankYou:

    I said I would post less, and for the last several days I’ve only posted once a day. That’s less!

    Malkin:

    Ask them to improve the policy, is what I would do, I suppose.

  112. How do you know when they intend to enforce? Rather, how does anyone know? How can you tell if they say “we’re definitely going to enforce this policy” but they mean “… but Joe’s just like that, and everyone knows Steve doesn’t mean anything by it, and René’s a great guy and a Friend of the Organization, and Jim is important in the field …”

  113. Kate C Thank you for your insights. This helps to clarify my mystification on this matter. I wonder if SF and F had at one time been male dominated and now, with the introduction of more females, the tribe is behind the times as apposed to other segments of society that have enjoyed a longer period of intigration?

  114. Had this movement —people saying things like you are saying— existed way back in the day when I was a 20-something bouncing around cons, I might still go to some and might still be an SF fan. I was turned away by too much systemic dehumanization of women, both at the cons and in the books I otherwise loved, and it was a sad loss. I’m quite happy for the younger generation, though.

  115. Hershele Ostropoler:

    If a convention assures me they will enforce their policy in order to get me to attend, and I learn they have not, I imagine that I will make my displeasure known in a very loud and public way.

    Note this is different from them having a policy, enforcing it, and deciding to handle a complaint in a manner consistent with the policy but different than what the complainant wanted. I can’t set myself up as the arbiter of every complaint. That’s not my job.

  116. I’d like to reply to Kate C above (who I’m sure means well), specifically;
    “a. Many SF fans in the old days were social awkward geeks and we excused them, because of that, as having poor social skills and a lack of understanding about personal space..”
    and;
    “Many geeks are socially awkward and just plain don’t know what to do or how to do it when something does happen(which brings us nicely around to the do you think this will make a difference)”

    The Socially Awkward Geek Boy Problem has unfortunately become the focus of a lot of these harassment discussions and I believe that it’s a red herring. A particularly dangerous one at that. If I may quote this blog post from Jared Axelrod (http://www.jaredaxelrod.com/main/2013/07/02/what-we-talk-about-when-we-talk-about-con-harassment/)

    “To start with, con harassment is rarely done by socially awkward men. I see this confusion over and over. Socially awkward men may have uncomfortable conversations. They may spend too much time staring at woman’s cleavage. They may not take a hint that a conversation is done. But if you’ve ever spent some time around socially awkward men (and you probably have, it’s a big world) you may have noticed that they don’t touch people. Touching adds an extra layer of complication to social interaction, one that can easily be avoided by not touching. So they don’t.”

    St. Isaac Asimov wasn’t a SAGB, he was a celebrity with a shit ton of privilege who didn’t see anything wrong with pinching ladies bottoms. he thought it was hilarious. Focusing on the SAGB’s (and there are SAGG’s as well) provides cover for the real problem actors, not people with poor social skills, but people with plenty social skills who know exactly what they are doing when they use them to harass or intimidate women or other marginalized groups.

    To exacerbate the problem, these bad actors poison the atmosphere of the very place that SAGB’s and G’s and Others should be able to open up a little, meet like minded individuals and go at it like frenzied stoats if they come to such a consensual arrangement.

    The problem here is not geek guys who are disparaged as being somewhere on the Aspergers spectrum (that’s some shitty ablism that I see way to often btw), but people who are actual outsiders to our convention spaces and our blogging spaces, people who INTENTIONALLY violate others personal space, who INTENTIONALLY act in a harassing manner. Pretending this kind of behavior happens by accident or misunderstanding is derailing.

    As Mr. Scalzi says above,
    ” Likewise there are some people who genuinely don’t know they’re doing something that’s making other people uncomfortable and will happily attempt to correct their behavior when it’s pointed out. Good for them, and that should be allowed for.”

    That’s why a policy is necessary.
    (Sorry this is so long ;)

  117. Intent is the red herring. You can be a creepy harasser without intending to be, and it isn’t the horrible outsider invading geekdom that makes for uncomfortable experiences, there are plent of creepy harassers in fandom who make things uncomfortable intentionally or not.

    The socially awkward geek boys who stare at boobs and won’t take the hint a conversation is done (or in many cases that there is no damn conversation to start with) are problems. Because that crap is just as harassing as the ass grabbing pervs. It is time to stop tolerating both types. Harassment doesn’t start with touching, it starts with harassing, and that includes staring, uncomfortable conversations, and all the other crap that the socially awkward geeks pull and try to excuse because it is no-touchy so should be okay. Trying to excuse the SAGBs by saying they aren’t part of the problem is just enabling them.

    We do need Scalzi’s policy, god we need it, but it has to be applicable to all the creepers, including those SAGBs.

  118. Simon mentioned “zero-tolerance” policies. There are serious problems with zero-tolerance policies — if there’s no room for discretion in a policy, then edge-cases where the policy is applied get dealt with unduly harshly, and a desire to avoid that harshness can lead to people (both reporters and enforcers) hesitating to bring the policy to bear. That is *one* of the things that went wrong with the case at readercon last year, and we can also see the trouble with zero-tolerance policies in the various ridiculous outcomes of zero-tolerance drug and weapons policies in schools.

    I absolutely agree with crypticmirror that while some (and quite possibly the worst) harassing behavior comes from the socially savvy, people who are awkward and clueless do also commit harassment and they also need to be called out on their behavior.

    Which is part of why zero-tolerance doesn’t work! There needs to be room to respond to people who are making mistakes and people who need a time out, as well as to people that we’ve known for decades are consistently way the hell out of line and we’re only just now getting the intestinal fortitude to deal with them.

  119. @Rachel K-G:

    There are serious problems with zero-tolerance policies — if there’s no room for discretion in a policy, then edge-cases where the policy is applied get dealt with unduly harshly, and a desire to avoid that harshness can lead to people (both reporters and enforcers) hesitating to bring the policy to bear.

    Yeah, that sounds really wonderful in theory but guess how that works out in practice, at least in my experience?

    Who gets the pass from “discretion”? The articulate, socially well-connected creeper who knows how to play everyone around him (or her) like a cheap fiddle. And does. Over and over and over again.

    And not surprisingly, harassment victims who know how the game always plays out decide not to put themselves through the trauma and public humiliation. And this plays out over and over and over again.

    A clear and rigorously enforced harassment policy doesn’t involve having a guillotine set up in the parking lot. It doesn’t involve a Con taking ownership for the socialization of any of its guests — whether they’re Hannibal Leecher or those “awkward” guys I hear so much about.

    But it does involve sending clear messages to everyone that THIS place, right NOW, is an unsafe place for creeping and any form of sexual harassment. And that such behaviour has immediate, real and lasting consequences.

  120. Re The Socially Awkward Geek Boy “Problem”.

    I was reenacting at a cultural festival this weekend. We were approached by a man definitely somewhere on the “my social skills are vastly inadequate” spectrum. So much so that he was accompanied by his brother as a sort if minder. He reminded me very much of the discussion happening here and around the internet.

    He was intensely interested in what we were displaying. He asked many questions. He told me all about his university degrees and the books he had written on our and other subjects, mostly historical myths. He interrupted me in his excitement about what we were demonstrating.

    At no time did he attempt to touch me, proposition me, harass me, or say anything inappropriate to me. We had an interesting, if rather detailed and obsessive, conversation about our demonstration and his research and writing. When I stuck my hand out to shake his when his brother indicated it was time to go look at something else, he looked a bit surprised and clumsily shook my hand.

    This man knew what was and wasn’t appropriate. It’s not really that hard. We don’t need to make exceptions to harassment policies for the Socially Awkward Geek Boys. The vast majority of them already know how to interact without harassing or, if they don’t and don’t bring a minder, then why should anyone put up with that?

  121. I am pretty sure that I don’t sexual harass, and, as I’ve said before, was fired from a teaching job because I actually DID report sexual harassment of one student by another.

    However, in the interests of full disclosure, I typed something today that got me banned by Facebook for 12 hours. There’s a second-order crackpot I’ve been arguing with in a Facebook Group (“The Matrix of KNowledge), who attacks me for daring to demolish the ravings of crackpots already blocked in other groups (anti-Darwin trolls, Jesus Hates Einstein trolls…), by deconstructing their rants in comparison with properly cited peer-reviewed scientific publications.

    The second-order crackpot believes that the crackpots should be allowed to spam our group, and that there’s something wrong with me rationally debunking them. So I posted a comment (she had been spewing gibberish about mathematics for weeks, and finally admitted suffering from Dyscalculia when I defined it), she complained (double-standard), and I got locked-out of Facebook for 12 hours. What do you think?

    We Removed Something You Posted
    We removed this from Facebook because it violates our Community Standards:
    .
    (1) To the contrary, Ulla. Kel Van Der Meel was correct. Your brain diseases prevent you from thinking clearly.

    (2) You wrote, insanely: “Ulla Mattfolk There is one weak point with that reasoning, Jonathan. Can you guess what? How does it come that I resist your teaching, but is vulnerable for ‘crackpots’ teachings???”

    (3) I am an Expert Mathematician, Expert Biologist, and Expert Physicist. You have proven to be astonishingly clueless in every aspect of Mathematics, Biology, and Physics.

    (4) I am an extraordinary teacher in depth and breadth of experience.l

    (5) Crackpots have NOTHING to teach.

    (6) Your ignorance and brain diseases have led you all your sad life to reject actual teachers, and be drawn like a moth to a flame by people with even more severe ignorance and brain diseases than you have.

    (7) My motto as teacher: “ANYONE CAN LEARN”

    (8) You are trying very hard to be an exception.

  122. Extreme zero-tolerance policies (of the “do any of this at all and you’re out” kind) tend to get worked around instead of used, undermining the whole process. They can significantly increase the pressure to not report and lead to a backlash against the person reporting. It can also lead to “in for a penny, in for a pound” escalation on the part of the harasser.

    But that supports considering degrees of the behaviour, not the people; nobody should get a pass, because the goal isn’t to educate the harasser, it’s to protect con-goers from harassment. If someone grabs me, it doesn’t matter who you are or why you did it. I’m actually at a loss to understand how people heavily involved in the SF community manage to convince others that they’re clueless, though clearly this has happened. And speaking as someone who has had to enforce policies at work, it’s a lot easier for everyone to deal with the situation if I don’t have discretion about who I apply it to, because then they shouldn’t take it personally. Rules are rules, they apply to everyone including my friends and my boss.

  123. Yes, the issue of “Extreme zero-tolerance policies” is of some relevance. Here’s one of the actual postings in the aforementioned “Matrix of Knowledge” Facebook group which I debunked, having been a High School Biology teacher often under attack by parents and grandparents who would phone the school district to say: “You should fire Jonathan Vos Post because he is telling my little boy/girl not to believe in God” when, in fact, I was scrupulously careful to teach to the California State Standards for Biology, including the section we were in on Evolution by Natural Selection. I give the below to show that I wasn’t being out-of-line in calling something “crackpot” — and, as I say, I was constructive in giving a citation to refute it.

    =================================

    Angels Proclaim 4:36pm Jul 1
    All humanity is delivered to irrationality (Darwin would be horrified to see his theory being shaken by the discovery of DNA). Evolutionists insist on denying the existence of a Supreme Designer and Creator. They scour the land, stubbornly looking for evidence to justify their rebellion, despite not having even a shred of evidence to support his theory …

    =================================

    I admit, it’s hard to imagine an Intelligent Design loon saying that at a Science Fiction con panel on Evolution of, say, Extraterrestrials. But where did I cross the line? In calling Dyscalculia a “brain disease”? In citing my expertise? In saying “Crackpots have NOTHING to teach.” — Are crackpots a protected class who get equal time? In saying “Your ignorance and brain diseases have led you all your sad life to reject actual teachers, and be drawn like a moth to a flame by people with even more severe ignorance and brain diseases than you have.” — which I thought was a direct answer to Ulla’s specific (if weird) question? Should I be kicked out of a Con for saying such awful things (“Darwin is not having even a shred of evidence to support his theory? Then what about this list of 25 categories of evidence, see this hotlink here…?”)

  124. Jonathan Vos Post:

    You’ve been veering rather dramatically into things that have no bearing to the current discussion. Again, this site is not your personal corkboard. Please focus.

  125. Sorry, got off-target in reacting to an “Extreme zero-tolerance policy” that I didn’t understand. But not sex-harassment related. You’re right. [returns to lurking]

  126. @Jonathan Vos Post

    That’s not harassment. That’s flaming. facebook isn’t arXiv. You were rude (and ablist) to an moron and facebook exercised their right to tolerate morons but not rudeness.

    @caranpia & Patricia

    I agree with Patricia (and to a certain extent Rachel K-G). A con’s harassment policy should be enforced on everyone. But having one response for every infraction (zero tolerance) is ridiculous. Dealing with uncomfortable conversations or wandering eyes the same way physical assault or even clear sexual insults are dealt with will create an atmosphere where people are reluctant to report someone because they don’t want to get a minor nuisance permabanned. This will lead to a situation much like we have now where serial harassers will go unreported and their pattern will go undocumnted. Which leads me to my next point that once someone is told to stop doing something and they persist, it’s time to show them the door for at least the rest of that convention.

    Another reason zero tolerance policies fail miserably is because they leave no room to exercise judgement in determining if in fact harassment actually took place. There will be occasional misunderstandings and grudge reports. Empowering anyone to get anyone else booted without the benefit of review is not an intelligent way to combat harassment; it will encourage spurious reports while deterring serious reports once people realize it’s a great bludgeon, but a poor scalpel. Enforcers need the latitude to exercise judgement.

    cranapia, you point to the problem of selective enforcement. Well, unless the policy is that any accusation by anyone against anyone results in immediate penalties, there is going to be the possibility of selective enforcement. Selective enforcement, however, is something that can be addressed much as John is addressing the lack of harassment policies in the first place, with people speaking out. The problems of zero tolerance are innate to taking human judgement out of the loop, and thus cannot be addressed merely by speaking out.

    Note however that penalties are not the same as precautions. If someone accuses someone else of harassment, the accused should be kept away from their accuser, if the accuser so requests, pending the outcome of the inquiry.

  127. If you meant my post, Jonathan, it wasn’t intended as a response to your post just before it — I wrote it while you were posting, following up on the discussion above.

  128. @Gulliver:

    OK, I don’t think we’re actually disagreeing on anything here, but I should have been more precise and clear in defining my terms. By “zero tolerance” I don’t mean “instant and eternal perma-bans”, just having clear, explicit and CONSISTENTLY ENFORCED FOR EVERYONE policies. (You know, like cons do every damn day with things like smoking, liquor bans, photography and sound recording of panels and so forth.) And those policies sending a clear message that this con is actually a safe space for everyone, not just straight white guys and their sense of social entitlement to do whatever the fuck they want to whoever they want to do it to, whenever they please.

    As I said, that doesn’t involve man-hating Feminazis and their emasculated girly-man tools setting up a guillotine in the parking lot to wipe out those poor “socially awkward” flirts. (I love The Mikado, but I don’t think W.S. Gilbert ever intended it as a blueprint for public policy.) Though that’s how plenty of creepers and their apologists would like to frame it.

    Where I start getting squicky about hearing the words “selective enforcement”, is when I’ve seen who does the selecting and how. For me, a big part of a quality harassment policy is when staff don’t actually get much discretion at all. If a situation arises, then there’s going to be the same response – regardless of whether it’s your BFF, the Guest of Honour or some asshole you’ve never laid eyes on in your life. I’m not calling for the Ban-Hammer to get dropped on all offenders all the time.

  129. Very, very good, John. Thank you.

    My familiar is telling me “If you’ve got nothing to say here, don’t say anything more than nothing!” But I just wanted to add my 2 millicredits there.

  130. @cranapia

    I love The Mikado, but I don’t think W.S. Gilbert ever intended it as a blueprint for public policy.

    They never would be missed.

    Joking aside, fair enough. Zero tolerance has a somewhat more draconian implication here in the good ol’ USA thanks to decades of posturing politicians, twitchy school administrators and ass-covering corporations (including ones I’ve worked for and the one I helped found) that just take the easy boot ‘em all and let God sort ‘em out approach. Graduated penalties are generally not included under their aegis. I sincerely hope things are better down there in the land of the long white cloud.

    And while discretion in who the policy is enforced upon is a Bad Idea, there still needs to be a person (or, better yet, people) in the decision-action loop to determine if and what actually took place and which penalty is therefore prescribed.

  131. As a female who has volunteered and been on the exec board for several conventions for about five years I really admire this standpoint. I have worked with conventions that have struggled to put out a workable policy simply because general creepiness is not limited to attendees. It is very hard to make a move if your con manager is the creep! Making this kind of demand shows people in exec boards that the idea of a harassment policy is not just the whimsical brainchild of the lonely female tied to the convention, but actually a legitimate money tied need. That is when the proverbial s**t hits the fan.

    I make this post, but I do not want any misunderstandings. Of all the convention staff I have ever worked with the creep percentage is extremely low, but it is still present. If you feel like the security personnel you are reporting an incident to is of the creep variety, ask loudly to speak to Head of Security. If Head of Security is giving you a problem, go to the Convention Manager. There is a chain of command, find the link that isn’t a creep. Conventions are ultimately to provide a positive experience for the guests, which means if you express your unhappiness we will do the best we can.

  132. I sincerely hope things are better down there in the land of the long white cloud.

    Sometimes, yes. Sometimes, a whole world full of no with a side order of cringing embarrassment at having human DNA.

    Anyway, thanks Gulliver — I think we were talking past each other a bit (entirely due to my lack of clarity) and it was really helpful of you to take the time to get me in focus on where you’re coming from. Added cat-bacon: Finding we’re not terribly far apart after all. :)

  133. Long ago I came to the conclusion that perhaps the only thing I really have zero tolerance for is zero tolerance policies.

  134. The potential of it being con staff (as Liz brings up), or their close friends, is another key reason to leave motivation out of consideration. It’s a whole lot easier to get people to penalize their buddies if all they’re saying is “you did the wrong thing and this is the penalty” than if they’re having to say “you’re a creep”, and organizers need a policy that they can enforce on anyone. It can be easier to get people to accept the penalty as well, if it’s officially linked to their behaviour and not their character.

  135. @cranapia

    You’re one of my favorite people here to talk with (or even past). You’re unfailingly decorous netiquette sets a standard that brings out the best in me, which is something I wish I could say I always did anyway, but I do lose perspective sometimes.

    Also want to give props to Patricia, who put the words I couldn’t find to my misgivings about zero-tolerance policies.

  136. @Leslie – re: staff at GenCon. There should be an event staffer along with several volunteers in every area of the convention. Look for a black shirt with a red/white checkered stripe. The shirt will say Event Staff on the back. Once you see it, you’ll start seeing them everywhere. :) Doors to/wandering the dealer’s room (or anywhere in the convention center, really), at the event desk for each of the hotels, etc… If you can’t find one of those, look for the “volunteer” t-shirts. They should be able to direct you to an event staffer quickly.
    Any one of those people should be able to help you if you ever have an issue. I don’t think you will, but should it happen – there you go.
    (And John, I apologize for being slightly off topic, but I hope this response is okay.)

  137. I mentioned this in the original thread, but I’ll repeat it here: Con organizers must make sure all of their staff (both paid and volunteers) are properly trained in their harassment policy. Not just informed, not brought into a room where the policy is explained, but trained. As in given practical exercises in what to do and how. When I say ‘all of the staff’, I mean ALL of them. If there’s the remotest chance they’ll be interacting with guests and attendees and could be then approached about a harassment issue, that person needs to know what to do.

    Yes, this includes those that wouldn’t actually be doing much except contacting the staff that will be dealing with any problems. Everyone needs to know what to do, how to do it, and just as importantly what NOT to do or say. If this means arranging several days worth of training, then that’s what you do.

  138. @cranapia, “…not just straight white guys and their sense of social entitlement to do whatever the fuck they want to whoever they want to do it to, whenever they please.”

    Because all of us straight, white guys are Just. That. Way. (no biting my head off, what you wrote is difficult to interpret any, other way).

    I’m socially & politically liberal and have been a SF fan since I learned to read and was finally allowed to check out classic SF in my elementary school library in the mid-1960s. I also thought our host’s essay about the “Lowest Difficulty Setting” was brilliant, and think this new policy of his RE: cons is the right thing to do. But having said all that, the tone of comments like the one above have put me off ever attending a SF con.

  139. @ dhuff

    I’m a straight white guy and I don’t read cranapia’s comment that way. I read it as applying specifically to the kind of straight white guys who behave that way, which does not include me. It’s a pretty big jump from cranapia’s comment to your choice to never attend a con.

  140. Well, I’m going to have to disagree. If he/she had intended to be clear about it being addressed “specifically to the kind of straight white guys who behave that way,” then the comment would have clearly said so. And no, I’m not letting one person’s opinion dissuade me. I just used that comment as being illustrative of a sort of “zeitgeist” that seems, to an outsider like me, to be emerging in the SF con culture.

    And it’s not that big a deal. I’m already aware that being a middle-aged, average looking, white guy makes me creepy and suspect by default in a lot of venues anyway, no matter what I’m really like*. However, I’m not such a delicate little flower that I spend a lot of time agonizing over that :)

    *Honestly, I’m a reasonably nice and intelligent guy. And as socially acceptable as any INFP is probably capable of.

  141. I remember one woman’s answer to one Famous Name who famously asked her at a con in The Old Days, “What would you say to a little fuck?” Her answer, before turning and leaving, “Hello, little fuck.”

  142. I could easily have written something like “not just neighbors and their sense of entitlement that leads them to flout the law and set off professional-grade fireworks in their back yards without any safety precautions” and some other stuff in telling friends about what I experienced on the Fourth of July, but I would be surprised if any of my friends read that as meaning that *all* my neighbors were setting off illegal fireworks.

    Nevertheless, dhuff, you have the right not to go to any or all cons for whatever reason you choose.

  143. I took my 14 year old daughter to CONvergence this weekend – a first for both of us. I was nervous about it. However, there were posters everywhere remind people that “costumes are not consent”, and there was a room specifically labeled as a safe space with a sign that said that staff would be there to help with harassment. We had a good time, and were comfortable enough to attend different panels a few times.

  144. I would be interested to know if you are planning to apply this policy to also international cons. I don’t think that having a policy on everything is a norm outside of US, with maybe an exception of UK. Would you consider e.g. Loncon 2014’s take on harassment to be sufficient?

    http://www.loncon3.org/faq/does-loncon-3-have-code-conduct.

    (Or would you skip the worldcon 2014?)

    Another example is Finncon 2013 (http://2013.finncon.org/en/) – speaking as a local I would say that harassment etc. is considered to be covered by laws and regulations and thus not considered necessary to define a specific policy against it. It would be considered rather ridiculous, in fact.

  145. rap:

    I’d have to think about how it applies internationally. Off the top of my head, if locally there clear anti-harassment laws, and the convention is committed to making sure those laws are followed (and that there are avenues for congoers to easily report problems) then I suspect that would probably be fine. I would still want those avenues publicized, particularly to those congoers who are no familiar with local laws/policies.

  146. Loncon 3’s “here are the local laws” would look better if the link they give for the Protection from Harassment Act wasn’t to a Wikipedia article that (at the time I looked at it) focuses on things people don’t like about it, in a “why this law is controversial and some say is poorly thought out” way. It certainly doesn’t clearly say what the law is or how it would be applied.

  147. @dhuff:

    You’re right — I know plenty of straight white guys who aren’t complete dick-bags around women (and people of colour and GLBT folks) because…. well, they are. And that’s kind of my gay, mixed-race, non-misogynist baseline for people in my life. Got more than enough bullshit to go on with in this world of woe and sin without inviting it into my house for tea and scones.

    But in my experience (please note the emphasis), there’s also waaaay too many SWG’s who should – but probably won’t – take the lead from our host about being aware of their existence on the lowest difficulty setting in life, and adjust their behavior accordingly. (It’s not as if I don’t have my own multiple levels of privilege to be mindful of either, and occasions on which I’ve shown my arse like a baboon in heat.)

    If that doesn’t apply to you, my sincere and non-snarky thanks and my genuine encouragement to go to every con you have the means and time to attend.

  148. @cranapia Hey, non-snarky thanks for the clarification. And yes, plenty of SWGs out there who could benefit from a thoughtful reading of “Lowest Difficulty Setting,” but who won’t. (Ye gods I love that essay. Really nails it, with perfect geeky language & way of approaching the idea to boot)

    Bonus: “shown my arse like a baboon in heat” almost made me spit my afternoon tea all over my K/B…

  149. DHuff: “But having said all that, the tone of comments like the one above have put me off ever attending a SF con.”

    From another INFP, good, don’t come to them then. We will not miss you. You might in fact want to avoid all large public events. And you might want to go back and re-read “Lowest Difficulty Setting,” because you clearly didn’t get it the first time. Because you are throwing a privilege temper tantrum and desperately throwing the tone argument around. The tone argument being that you, a privileged guy, feels that other people talking about an important issue in their lives is being mean to you and making you have to enter a hostile environment in these conventions (never mind that it’s a hostile environment for us automatically,) by being facist paranoids who clearly hate, hate, hate SWMs because they complain about some of them and want a harassment policy in place. A harassment policy to make sure the maximum number of people get to actually enjoy the convention, including, get this, middle aged white guys with the sensitivity of rabid monkeys.

    What Cranapia was talking about is our society, the culture that supports and teaches guys that they are entitled to privileged treatment, to not being taken to task for any of their behavior unless it is extremely egregious and in front of many witnesses (preferably an auditorium of them with a special announcement,) and that they should not be inconvenienced or forced to think about anything uncomfortable even a little bit (never mind what anyone else has to go through.) Many guys are so used to this privilege in every arena that they don’t even think of it — unless other people start talking about their experiences and concerns that they have to deal with, at which point, the person with privilege has a choice. Listening and thinking about their own behavior. Or announcing that these “whiners” are “hostile,” overly paranoid, making you feel bad, out to get you, and they should shut up or you’ll take your toys and go home.

    Contrary to your melodramatic assertion, we do not automatically assume middle-aged, average looking, white guys at conventions are “creepy.” I have spent a good part of my time in fandom hanging out with middle-aged white guys without issue. At one convention, I even had a pal entourage of them. But guys who try to assert that we only go after the ugly harassers, or that talking about this issue is threatening to them, or that there will be hunting parties trying to enact 1984 at conventions or other frankly bigoted bullshit are definitely not people I want to be attending a convention with. I have to be uncomfortable and careful every day of my life simply because of who I am. So I think you can afford to be a tiny bit more conscious and occasionally a little uncomfortable for a few days at a convention and might even learn something from it. You could actually support the other people there, who, because they don’t have your privilege, are vulnerable and often treated with casual callousness and discrimination at such events. You could accept that those people are currently expressing frustration to try and change the climate of conventions so that they are less vulnerable and that this does not automatically mean that you will be persecuted. That this is in fact going to make the conventions better for everybody, not just middle aged white guys. (Who are also sometimes subjected to sexual harassment.)

    Or you can mutter about zeitgeists, pout as a “delicate little flower,” and stay home, even though Cranapia gave you a totally unnecessary apology. Because people are dealing with real shit and you are being a privileged jerk about made-up shit. Chances are at a convention with a harassment policy, you’ll never even know it was there. Nothing will happen to you. Because you really aren’t the problem. But your attitude about this issue is exactly why more vulnerable attendees need a harassment policy in place in case something happens.

  150. I think part of the problem is (And I have seen this) is the whole nerd social fallacy thing where you don’t ostracize people, even if they’re being douchewaffles, because, GOSH. THAT IS MEAN. I don’t put up with that, noone should put up with that.

    I’m going to Wizardworld Chicago as an artist and fan and I’m sad (As a poster posted) they don’t have an official harassment policy, but I may just send them an email and ask them about it. For me, I don’t put up with it if I see it. I don’t put up with the nerdier-than-thou gatekeepers, or the people who talk to my chest instead of my face, or sniff my hair (Actually happened, I didn’t say anything then, but I should have, and now I totally would).

    As I get older, I hang out on the fringes of fandoms more, stay away from most of the seedy-underbelly types and don’t let the morons get me down.

    And anyone who tries to pull anything on me or anyone near me will get a mamma bear style growl-down.

  151. This past weekend I was at Westercon 66, which was one of the most fabulous experiences I have had at a con in my 30+ years of attending. Interesting programming, terrific staff, wonderful parties, and THE BEST CON SUITE EVAR!!!

    I was discussing the comments on Scalzi’s previous post where he printed Elise’s account with long-time con-goer/feminist guy/Scalzi reader Ctein, (hi, Ctein!) and mentioned “Ya know, nobody’s harassed me here, but on the drive, I got hit on TWICE at the place we stopped to buy a sandwich and pee.” Yep, in schlumpy clothes, two “men” leered and talked at me in the time it took to order, make, and eat a sandwich. One specifically waited till my husband was out of earshot, and the other one actually WINKED. Gaaaahhh.

    While at a convention full of supposedly socially awkward types, where we often get squashed into very tight spaces, where I was wearing very tight t-shirts, nobody gave me any attention I didn’t want.

    I suspect having a policy, knowing there would be no tolerance, and the fact that the con chairs were a married gay couple probably helped. And the openly gay toastmaster. Lots of transfolk too, racial minorities, etc.

    Sure, there were Aspie-types, but ya know what? They, and the majority plain old Straight White Men managed to keep their paws to themselves, at least around me. I can’t speak for others. And yet the parties were very happening, and there was plenty of consensual naughtiness going on.

    I can’t thank people like Scalzi, Jim Hines, Elise, etc. for opening people’s eyes to the problem. Just having folks know that this is happening is such a help.

  152. I don’t think there is anything wrong with a man walking up to me or any adult woman and declaring “Hey, I think you are hot. Do you want to fuck?” It is not something I think women want to hear with frequency but it is not wrong if it truly and sincerely represents the desires of the man who is saying it (as oppose the the man maliciously saying it just to cause embarrassment or stress to the woman to whom it is being said)

    What is wrong is when, after the woman says “No thank you” or “Never in this life Buster!” the man doesn’t just walk away, instead he keeps trying to talk to the woman or he tries to demean her. What is wrong is when, before making the straightforward declaration/invitation the man catcalls or touches.

    If “Hey, I want to have sex with you are you up for it?” is all men said, free of catcalling, free of demeaning comments, free of showing off for friends, free of saying it with a hidden wedding ring in their pocket, free of saying it to obviously under-age girls and free of continuing to pursue after the initial rejection, that would annoy me but it would not rise, in my opinion, to the level of “wrong”.

  153. John, I know exactly where that sweater is. Just as Krissy knows exactly where my husband’s old Sansabelts are. There are some things we simply can’t tell ANY men, no matter how wonderful they are and how much we love them.

  154. John, at our (con) meeting yesterday, we were excited at the idea of doing some positive things toward helping people feel legitimately safer, including ribbons for people who have read our policy and want to be aligned with the forces of good (harassment-wise) and a “how to make a safer space” type panel as a main-room event. I think you might hear a request along those lines in due time, but it’s not ‘for’ you. It’s for us, because this is what we unanimously want from our con.

    Anyway, when people ask you if it will make a difference, I hope by next May it can be said that at least one con you frequent took the opportunity to say, “We already meet these requirements, but how can we do this better?” because you started that conversation.

  155. [It took a bit for this dude to reveal he was a complete troll instead of merely an asshole, but, boy, he got there. Deleted – JS]

  156. “I don’t think there is anything wrong with a man walking up to me or any adult woman and declaring “Hey, I think you are hot. Do you want to fuck?”

    I’ve got to disagree with you on that one, Andreana. A guy coming up to me at a convention and propositioning me is stalking me and harassing me. I don’t care what his motivation is or whether he’s married or not. It’s hostile, aggressive, and presumes that if a woman is present, it’s okay to ask her for sex because that’s what women are for, and clearly I should just accept it as part of my con experience because I’m female. It is wrong for a guy to hassle me because he’s decided he wants to have sex with me. It indicates that the guy doesn’t see me as an actual person, but as basically a walking sex doll. Sex may occur at a convention but it isn’t what a convention is for. And treating women as if sex is their purpose at a convention is wrong, whether the woman is sixteen or fifty two, and whether she’s flattered or not. It’s what we call the vending machine philosophy of sex, and that philosophy is a large part of the problem why sexual harassment complaints aren’t taken seriously at conventions unless the people running the con are organized and have a harassment policy and stick to it. Because we’re supposed to just accept men trying to hassle us about sex in a public place. But no one should be hassled about sex at a convention, IMO.

  157. @dhuff I am a lot late to the party but I have to agree with you. The chances of me attending a sci fi convention are pretty close to zero right now. The things being described in the two comment sections about this topic are things I don’t want to be anywhere close to.

  158. @bn, Yep, I’m still pretty much there, too. I’m happy to discuss issues rationally with someone like cranapia, but I’m in no mood to encounter someone with Kat’s (apparent) attitude.

    @Kat, Great Googly-Moogly! You are making a whole bus-load of assumptions about my motivations, thoughts, and feelings that are completely unwarranted. Not to mention putting words in my mouth. Maybe ask next time instead of just assuming, OK ?

  159. Any adult, man or woman, who isn’t either my customer, student, employee, boss, academic superior or otherwise in a chain of command where they’re in a position to retaliate against refusal, is welcome to politely ask me once to join them for sex. They’ll get turned down, and would have even when I was single because I don’t care for casual sex, but I’d be flattered to ask to participate. I won’t feel that being propositioned implies that’s all the asker thinks I’m good for, or that that’s all I’m wherever there is for, unless they actually say so, which would be pretty impolite, and therefore a form of harassment. This, however, is my personal prerogative as sole master and commander of my body. I strongly advise against assuming others share it. But I also fully support Adreana Langston’s and Kat’s right to set the boundaries for interacting with themselves (albeit not each other or me) because they are master and commander of their bodies.

    That said, propositioning other people treads into an area with a whole boatload of cultural baggage and, just as most people wouldn’t try to walk down the street buck naked, it behooves everyone to mind the sexually repressed mores, even though those mores are ultimately a relic of patriarchal strictures against body-sovereignty. You might be fortunate enough to proposition someone who will merely turn you down, but odds are better that they share the prevailing social mores (or those mores would not persist), and you run risks ranging from obloquy to arrest. When in Rome, exercise discretion.

  160. bn, yeah, ragging on cosplayers and giving grief to people because of the comic books they buy–doesn’t sound like my kind of thing. Ditto being groped by other con attendees. That’s the kind of thing I saw being described in these comment threads that I wouldn’t want to be anywhere close to.

  161. Dear Mr. Scalzi:

    I just want to thank you for all you’ve done regarding this important issue. I’ve been on the ConComm of my local SF/F con for a few years, and the first thing I did when I led our Programming department was put a sexual harassment policy in place. I’ve also run a panel at our con every year since to discuss harassment with our members, and provide education to young and old about how to fight it.

    If you ever find yourself in Louisville, KY in April, I hope you’ll consider coming to our convention and attending my “Geek-uality” panel. We’d love to have you!

  162. @Patricia: here’s a link to the text of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. It strikes me as unhelpful, though, to refer to it at a Worldcon, except for definitional purposes (and probably not even then, given that I believe there are behaviours which wouldn’t meet the standards of criminal harassment but which probably should be discouraged at social events) because given that it’s a Worldcon a lot of people are only going to be in the jurisdiction briefly and criminal laws do not have extra-territorial application; in the (admittedly far-fetched) situation where someone from say Canada committed criminal harassment at the London Worldcon and returned home before anyone could get the cops interested then a prosecution could only take place if a) the behaviour in question was also a criminal offence in Canada; and b) the powers that be could get sufficiently interested to apply for extradition, assuming that extradition were available for the offence in question anyway given that “plain” harassment under the act is an offence triable summarily.

    So if that’s all the policy is (and the link to Loncon suggests it’s a work in progress) then I don’t think it qualifies because all it does is draw the attention of attendees to certain criminal law statutes .

  163. By way of compare and contrast for policies used at UK conferences, here’s this year’s Eastercon policy, which seems to have been successfully applied at this Easter’s conference.

  164. The Mallet gets a warming chamber??? I figured it’d be ice cold, for maximum effect. >;^)

  165. “I like to flirt. I am somewhat accomplished at it,….”

    Oh, BARF. jfc, it’s Comicbook Guy in real life.

  166. Dhuff: Dude, I went by your words:

    “Because all of us straight, white guys are Just. That. Way. (no biting my head off, what you wrote is difficult to interpret any, other way).”

    As Cranapia explained to you, your interpretation of what cranapia said, an interpretation that you declared to be near iron-clad truth, was entirely wrong. Nor did you bother to apologize for basically wrongly accusing Cranapia of persecuting straight white guys when actually the topic was talking about the rationalizations some men make in a privileged society. Far from having a rational discussion, you threw a privilege temper tantrum and Cranapia was nice about it.

    “But having said all that, the tone of comments like the one above have put me off ever attending a SF con.”

    You don’t like the “tone” of some people talking about the very real issues they face at cons and assume that they want to persecute straight white guys, so you don’t want to go to a con as you will then have to deal with people like that who want to persecute straight white guys (instead of just have a harassment policy that protects everybody so that everyone can enjoy the con, not just straight white guys.) The claim that we’re persecuting straight white guys and are creating a hostile environment for them is the backbone of every argument against harassment being a real issue that cons should deal with. It basically sounds like you’re saying that cons having harassment policies is a bad thing that will make you avoid cons. And “no biting my head off, what you wrote is difficult to interpret any other way” but hey, give it a shot.

    “I just used that comment as being illustrative of a sort of “zeitgeist” that seems, to an outsider like me, to be emerging in the SF con culture.”

    The zeitgeist of people talking about harassment at cons and changing that environment through things like harassment policies seems to you to be over zealously persecuting straight white guys so that you don’t want to go to cons. Privilege and tone policing. (Seriously, try reading Scalzi’s Lowest Difficulty Setting again.)

    “I’m already aware that being a middle-aged, average looking, white guy makes me creepy and suspect by default in a lot of venues anyway, no matter what I’m really like*.”

    This was the claim that many talking about harassment view straight white guys automatically as creepy harassers at many events — what you accused Cranapia, wrongly, of doing — making cons difficult for you to attend safely as you’ll be mistaken for one, and the additional “Brad Pitt” claim that says we don’t accuse pretty men of sexual harassment or being creepy.

    So basically, what I was saying is that if this is the attitude, from your words, that you have about cons — that they are hostile environments for straight white men due to an over zealous zeitgeist that automatically brands you as creepy and wants to have harassment policies, then I’m okay with you not going to cons. Because your attitude and lack of understanding is the problem we’ve been dealing with to try to get harassment policies in place at cons. The problem of harassment is not limited to SF cons and has nothing to do with con culture. It happens wherever women go and harassment also happens to men. It has to do with human culture.

    What we want is for the maximum number of people to have fun at a con. I’m sorry that trying to work towards that, for you, from your words above, means you feel you can’t have fun at a con and will be persecuted. Just as you were highly critical of cranapia, I get to be highly critical of what you said, because I happen to believe that you’re wrong about your view of the “zeitgeist.” You don’t have to have a rational conversation about it with me because I don’t find your views very rational. I find those comments above to be spoken out of privilege and wrongly accusatory. Which I suppose makes me part of the hostile zeitgeist. But as long as you have that attitude about people’s “tone,” I’m okay with that.

  167. @ Dhuff: Well, Kat Goodwin already analyzed this point while I was out watching Despicable Me 2 with some family members (it was OK, but Mr. Scalzi could write better jokes in his sleep), but I do have a direct counterexample to this point that you made:

    “I’m already aware that being a middle-aged, average looking, white guy makes me creepy and suspect by default in a lot of venues anyway, no matter what I’m really like*.”

    My father is a middle-aged, rather unattractive white guy with too much body hair and not enough head hair (to put it nicely). He has a crude sense of humor and regularly makes sexual jokes that make me and my mother shake our heads in our shared amazement at the fact that he finds these jokes funny. And yet, he is an important senior director for a major international corporation, is generally regarded as the best leader in his division of the company, and has NEVER been accused of sexual harassment, whether in the workplace or otherwise. Sexual harassment is not about whether you are attractive or not, or whether your sense of humor is crude or not. It is about being smart and/or considerate enough to recognize that, among other items, (a) “no” means no, and (b) sexual jokes that your drinking buddies, spouse and/or teenage children find mildly amusing are NOT appropriate for use in public.

    I hope that makes sense.

  168. Sarah Hoyt has her own take:

    http://accordingtohoyt.com/2013/07/03/what-is-harrassment/

    Wow, that was toxic. She pretty much defines away street harassment as “Sorry, ladies, you don’t have the right to expect to never be made uncomfortable in public. Either suck it up or stay out of public spaces.”

    Her comments have a non-trivial number of men saying “I know, right? All this screaming and overreacting and calling everything harassment, I’d be better off staying home for fear of false accusations” and the like.

    So her message isn’t just toxic but also enabling.

    Ew.

    Thankfully, her voice is not unopposed in this: http://stopstreetharassment.com/

  169. Ew is too mild a word for it, Nicole. Why should I stay in the women’s quarters/purdah instead of men being taught that women are human beings who shouldn’t be shouted at and treated as sex vending machines?

  170. I’m already aware that being a middle-aged, average looking, white guy makes me creepy and suspect by default in a lot of venues anyway, no matter what I’m really like

    What, pray, are those venues? The Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival? Radical lesbian separatist potlucks? Sailor Moon-themed pillow fight parties for teenage girls? Clandestine meetings of the Society for Cutting Up White Dudes? Yes, I agree that in those venues, you will unfortunately be creepy and suspect. Elsewhere, such as SF conventions, you can be assured that the standards of appropriate behavior are All About You.

    Also, the ‘average looking’ was a nice shout-out to the entitled jackwagon’s “yeah, ladies, you wouldn’t care if it were current.HollywoodHearthrob doing the ‘harassing’.”

    re Sarah Hoyt, her take appears to be “I’m a special snowflake, and you bitches need to STFU, or else I’ll stamp my foot and issue laughably empty threats”. W’evs, as the kids say.

  171. I’d never heard of you before I saw this linked on my Facebook, but as a woman, thank you. Thank you for standing up for us, because sadly men’s voices still hold more weight than women’s. You’ve already been presented with many of the counterpoints women have to face when they stand up for this crap, and I applaud your steadfastness in refusing to back down.

    I hope I am at a convention you’re attending sometime in the future so I can shake your hand.

  172. Kat: It indicates that the guy doesn’t see me as an actual person, but as basically a walking sex doll.

    As someone who has been propositioned for sex from women… and from men… I’d rather support “Harassment is bad” without trying to drag it into “sex is bad” or some notion that “sex before (some person’s time limit) is bad”.

    If you want to wait until the third date, or six months, or the honeymoon night, that’s a fine choice people can make for themselves. But that doesn’t mean they then get to demonize anyone who doesn’t follow their standard. A physical relationship isn’t harassment. So there’s no need to demonize physical relationships by pretending all physical relationships require treating the other person as something inhuman.

    The problem called “sexual harassment” isn’t the sexual part but rather the harrassment part. Demonizing sex is missing the target.

    Gulliver: That said, propositioning other people treads into an area with a whole boatload of cultural baggage

    true that.

  173. @mythago

    The Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival?

    Yikes! Just looked that up. That’s some blatant transphobia worthy of the KKK. Sadly, already knew about the genocidal wackos who take SCUM seriously. I suppose in a strange way it’s reassuring to know the worst human characteristics aren’t limited to a specific gender. If it can be learned, it can be unlearned.

  174. Nicole: I agree – her attitude is enabling. She’s not just denying there’s a problem; I’d suggest she’s -part- of the problem.

  175. @ Greg: Kat Goodwin isn’t saying that sex is bad, she’s saying that treating people like walking sex dolls is bad. Which is a (literally) perfectly understandable position, by the way.

  176. Floored: Kat Goodwin isn’t saying that sex is bad.

    A woman on this thread said it wasn’t wrong for a man to proposition a woman for a physical relationship. Kat categorically said it was not only wrong, but the mere act of asking presumes that sex is all women are good for and relates to them as walking sex dolls.

    As someone who has been propositioned by women and by men, as someone who has experienced the thing she is talking about, her global declaration of how it must be for everyone wasn’t anywhere near my experience. The vast majority of time, if I wasn’t interested a simple “no thank you” ended that line of conversation. If they were relating to me as a sex vending machine, they wouldn’t stop asking (they put their quarter in and they want their candy), at which point, it becomes harassment. But that never happened to me. Also speaking from experience, a physical relationship doesn’t have to have two people relating to each other as walking sex dolls to be used and abused and tossed aside.

    Her attempt to redefine reality for everyone everywhere just occurs as silly. it might be that she is accurately reporting her personal experience but that’s not enough to make generalizations from.

    It’s the harassment part that’s the bad part, not the sexual part.

  177. I wondered what the Jury women thought in the Zimmerman trial when Rachel Jeantel, Trayvon Martin’s friend but not “girlfriend”, testified that she warned him on his cellphone that “the creepy-ass cracker” following him might be a rapist. Seriously, there was so much race and sex and class bound up in that testimony, and I was shocked at how the young lady was attacked for her attitude and diction, especially as I am not able to converse in Creole, and Spanish, as she can. I’m not trying to troll or change the subject. Just pointing out that fear of rape is as complex an issue as “reasonable fear of bodily harm or death” as in the Florida “Stand Your Ground” law. Which is not in line with con weapon policies that I’ve seen. I prefer to err on the side of not offending people, which takes focus sometimes, as I am both a geek and a self-promoter still learning how to communicate better (for which teaching and my wife and son have been most useful in domesticating me),

  178. Floored: “Kat Goodwin isn’t saying that sex is bad, she’s saying that treating people like walking sex dolls is bad. Which is a (literally) perfectly understandable position, by the way.”

    Actually the sex part has only partially to do with it. It’s the attitude of I want something and the other person’s feelings and experiences don’t enter into it. The person who wants dehumanizes the person who is desired to supply what is wanted. And it’s particularly dire when it’s a woman who is made the object because the society already treats women as objects who should supply what is desired, with often punishment if it is not supplied or the woman complains.

    So the guy who comes up to me at a convention and says, you’re hot, wanna fuck, isn’t really talking about sex per se. He’s made me an object like a T-shirt for sale on the tables. He does not see me as a person with feelings but as something he wants and he’s aggressively trying to force me into supplying it. He doesn’t care if he’s interrupting my con experience or ruining it. He doesn’t care how I feel or what consequences this situation he’s forced on me will have for me. He doesn’t care if I’m there working at a job as an author, staff, vendor, what have you. The only thing that’s important is he gets to do what he wants to do. (And this applies not only with straight men doing propositioning but gay men, women, etc, which is why harassment policies apply to all.)

    And he doesn’t care that he’s threatening me. Gulliver can say that he’s okay with someone propositioning him, but Gulliver also doesn’t have to worry much about what happens when he says no. But women in general do, as has been explained numerous times in threads on these topics. Adreana may have her particular reasons for being okay with some approaches, which is her right. But others, as Gulliver noted, have the right to not be okay with being hassled by someone coming at them, and that’s what harassment policies are dealing with. A guy who propositions me in such a way, I have to face that he might get violent, might grab me, molest me, rape me, stalk me, etc. He is a stranger acting aggressively forcing me to deal with him because he wants to. For me, this is a high level of callousness and not somebody I want to be around, and it can be very scary.

    For instance, we had a link to a woman talking about her long time con experiences which included at one point a man picking her up and putting her over his shoulder and running out of a room with her while she was screaming and no one helped her. She kept screaming and hitting him, so he put her down and said “You’re no fun.” The you’re hot, wanna fuck is like that incident — it’s aggressive, forcing the woman to deal with it, scaring her, and insisting that she should be okay with it and go along with it, or she’s a bitch.

    A woman or a man, etc., should be able to attend a convention or event without being harassed, and especially without being harassed because of their gender or sexual orientation. A harassment policy in place helps because it tells people what behavior is and is not allowed, and the consequences of disrupting the event by harassing others trying to enjoy the event. Conventions already do this with props and weapons. They have a policy that explains what attendees can and cannot do with large props and potentially harmful weapons to ensure everyone’s safety and enjoyment of the convention. The harassment policy is the same. We’ve had this conversation before. If you’re worried that you will be accused if you flirt, then don’t flirt at the convention. There is no need, ever, for a person at a convention to go up to another person and say, you’re hot, wanna fuck, except that the person wants to and doesn’t care who he or she hurts about it. And for that matter, physically threatening someone, racial slurs, etc. And the harassment policy reminds people about that and backs up all the attendees of the event. At least that’s the plan.

  179. There are behavioral mores for various situations. I don’t think a great many people would argue that it’s okay to approach a stranger at a church service and proposition that person for sex. It’s also not appropriate in the supermarket, at a PTA meeting, when you’re picking your kid up at daycare, when you’re in an elevator in an office building going to work or a business appointment, at that business appointment, in the waiting room of a doctor’s office, and you can fill in dozens of your own. There are situations in which it may be acceptable: singles bars in a tourist town, for instance, or at some kinds of parties. It’s difficult for me to see why a con should be treated as the equivalent of a singles bar. The purpose of the con isn’t to provide a venue for hooking up, so propositioning strangers should be right out. It’s not about sex being bad, it’s about what’s appropriate behavior at at an event that’s not about sex. If I’m at a singles bar, I’m accepting that I might get propositioned, and I might want to get propositioned for sex or to proposition someone (and have done, and have enjoyed it). But when I’m at the office supply store or riding a bus or going to a carnival or going to a con or walking along a street, I shouldn’t have to deal with being propositioned for sex, and if it happens, there should be a clear way to get the inappropriate behavior out of there.

  180. Greg – there’s a few things you’re missing; or, context is everything.
    Women are simply smaller, weaker, and more likely to be overpowered then men are. And complaints about being violated (raped, groped, stalked, whatever) are very often ignored or turned against the complainer instead of the accused (she shouldn’t have worn that, she shouldn’t have been so drunk, she shouldn’t have lead him on, or Sarah Hoyt’s answer – she should have fought him off with a hatpin*!…) (And then there’s the men who take a polite no as a maybe and a hell-no as a challenge.) As a consequence, women in general *have to be* more leery of the wrong kind of attention then men are-they have no other recourse than to stay out of trouble before it starts.
    Anyhow, most of the time women are propositioned, it’s not by men who actually have a hope of sleeping with them that night, it’s by men who, knowing that women are likely to be leery, get off on making them uncomfortable. So that is the context that women nearly invariably hear come-ons in, the fact that the few you’ve received didn’t phase you is irrelevant.
    Secondly, for centuries, (to this day in many environments), intelligent, well-educated, and talented women have found that all that count for naught, that the world only judges them by their sexual characteristics. (This happens to men, too, occasionally, but with nowhere near the constancy and severity that women get it.) And, umm… when you proposition a woman point-blank, at convention that she came to came to talk to like-minded people about sci fi? You’ve just told her you don’t want to hear what books she’s liked, what author she’d recommend, who she’s dressed up as and why, you are in fact stating that the characteristic of hers you’re most interested in is her genitals.
    So, in that context, maybe you can see why Kat Goodwin feels like a walking sex toy?

  181. Part of the problem with arguing for a single unsolicited proposition for sex, which respects a negative answer, isn’t exactly in the individual proposition. For the record, I have an issue with that in itself.

    It’s that arguing that means a person attending a reasonably popular public venue for a couple hours can then be reasonably propositioned for sex every five minutes. Not realistic? Read any PUA manifesto’s thoughts on “numbers game.” Or, sit in any lively public gathering and observe.

    In a (flawed) analogy, it isn’t really a problem for a person to take a keepsake of a rock from a river bed in a national park. It’s that in aggregate folks can easily remove twenty five tons of rock a year.

    Contextually, this came out of a discussion about opening lines. No “My name is Bill, what’s your name?” No hot number on the dance floor. No “Oh, yeah, I’m a huge fan of that [product], what do you think about [other product]?” Straight to “Wanna get down? No? That’s cool.” Repeat indefinitely forever.

    Existence should not necessitate the constant addressing of unsolicited offers for sex. The individual may respect the answer as a final decision, but in aggregate it represents an eternal obligation.

    And, in reality, people generally don’t deal well with a no for answer. Which is, like, kind of a big deal. Creeps are ninjas. They strike with calculation. Arguing for a cultural norm in which anyone can proposition sex once at any time, in this reality, just gives more cover for the Creepy Ninjas. Which leaves women stuck developing their own social arts.

    Fifty individuals propositioning one person for sex still represents fifty propositions for sex to that one person. It’s harassment in aggregate. And, while individuals share only two percent of the harassment, the receiver is forced to address one hundred percent of it.

    In a convention context, an unsolicited proposition for sex should be an automatic yellow card with the right to review for more serious action. Further, the convention staff should preserve the names of those yellow carded for the duration of the convention. Two yellow cards merits automatic expulsion, with the right to review for more serious action.

    Granted, that’s tough to enforce given the “drive-by” nature of the encounters. But, the policies should, at the least, recognize that that behavior is out of bounds.

  182. @Kat Goodwin

    The person who wants dehumanizes the person who is desired to supply what is wanted.

    Sex should be a mutual activity. If it’s not, there’s a word for that.

    Gulliver can say that he’s okay with someone propositioning him, but Gulliver also doesn’t have to worry much about what happens when he says no.

    Actually, I have. As I’ve previously noted, I was propositioned as a minor by a workplace superior. Even if it had been done politely, which it wasn’t, I took a risk whether I declined or acceded. Which is why others convinced me to report my harasser and why I was careful to note that propositioning someone in any sort of business relationship is beyond the pale.

    However, I disagree that politely asking someone once if they wish to have sex and taking no for an answer (including no answer which is the same as no) is automatically aggressive or that it necessarily telegraphs disregard for the comfort, autonomy or safety of the person being asked. If, on the other hand, it’s done aggressively (i..e. impolitely), then it is indeed harassment. Just as any aggressiveness towards another person outside of a consensual fight or competition is harassment.

    Cons are, of course, like any private establishment, at liberty to define unacceptable behavior even if it’s not harassment, and people such as John Scalzi are free, if they so wish, to demand propositioning be among that which is prohibited as a condition for their participation, though whether that is a condition he has not, AFAIK, specified. There may even be an entirely reasonable rationale for such limitation on interpersonal interaction. For instance, but not exhaustively, Other Bill’s analogy, which boils down to people’s time being monopolized with frivolous requests. How common that is I couldn’t say. Personally, I wouldn’t want to put up with that in a bar either, but then I don’t spend my time in bars anyway, so maybe that’s what people go there for (though they strike me as unromantic places to “hook up”).

    More generally, there are social mores that hold force whether they’re ethical or not (see gay panic defense for example), and which it’s inadvisable to ignore. In our society, there are times and places where propositioning someone is perilous, and places where it is not, but very few places where the distinction between aggressively propositioning someone and not taking no for an answer on the one hand, and politely propositioning someone and taking no for an answer on the other hand is bothered to be made. This reflects, IMHO, not differing attitudes toward autonomy, but toward openly discussing sex in public. This is a distinction I believe Sarah Hoyt fails to recognize in her post on harassment. She seems to see all propositioning as equally nonharassing, but of course it’s entirely possible to harass someone in the course of propositioning them.

    Mores, as practiced and irrespective of the word’s root and dictionary definition, are not morals, they are customs that are treated as having moral authority.

    As always unless otherwise noted, I respect your or anyone else’s dissenting opinion.

  183. I disagree that politely asking someone once if they wish to have sex and taking no for an answer

    If it’s the first thing you ever say to a person?

  184. Kat: The “you’re hot, wanna fuck?” is like that incident

    A verbal invitation is not equivalent to kidnapping or battery. I’ve been propositioned by gay men, said no thank you, and that was pretty much the end of it. It was in no way like kidnapping and/or battery. Maybe that was your experience, but it’s not everyone’s experience. And you have a habit of dismissing anyone who has a different experience than you and asserting your experience as the “global truth”. You poo-pooed Gulliver because he was a guy. And you poo-pooed Adreana because she was a woman who had a different opinion than yours. So, I’m not going to hold my breath that you grasp this point, but your experience is not everyone’s experience.

    OtherBill: a person attending a reasonably popular public venue for a couple hours can then be reasonably propositioned for sex every five minutes.

    First of all, that’s a slippery slope argument no matter how many times you say “reasonably”. Second of all, that’s not the fricken point. The point is Kat keeps trying to reframe even a single proposition as indistinguishable from kidnapping and battery, for everybody, no matter what anyone else’s experience is. Gulliver doesn’t count because he’s a guy. And Adreana doesn’t count because even though she’s a woman, she’s just, well, wrong.

    The point is there is no need to demonize sex in order to stand up to harassment. There’s no need to demonize a verbal invitation for sex to be just like kidnapping. Declare it an off-limits conversation at your con, because its your con and you get to make the rules. Great. But don’t try ot push it through by dressing up a physical relationship as if it were the devil, and portraying it as something it isn’t. And don’t try to dismiss everyone else’s experience as invalid simply because they don’t agree with you.

    I’ve been propositioned by gay men more than once. It wasn’t a big deal for me. No thank you, and we moved on. Sometimes we kept conversing. Not a big deal. And I’ve been propositioned by women, and it was not an evil thing, and it wasn’t like we were indifferent to each other’s feelings, or we wanted to treat each other as walking sex dolls to be used and discarded. The amount of baggage Kat is piling on top of physical relationships is just laughable to someone who has had a different experience of physical relationships. Maybe she’s reporting her experience, but it’s not a universal truth for everyone.

    And it keeps coming back to my point that one can have a sex-positive view of things and still oppose and stand up to harassment.

  185. @DAVID

    Even if it’s the first thing you ever say to and ask of a person, politely asking someone once if they wish to have sex and taking no for an answer is not automatically aggressive nor does it necessarily telegraph disregard for the comfort, autonomy or safety of the person being asked. That doesn’t automatically make it appropriate, or likely to elicit an affirmative response. Venues, and the people who financially support them, do and should have the power to set the rules by which they gather, whether they are harassment or not. They’re also free to alienate that support and fail.

    As a co-signer of John’s pledge, I will not attend conventions that lack a clear means of reporting harassment and a policy taking reports seriously, investigating all allegations and for stopping it when found to have occurred or be occurring. What that means to me is not being aggressive towards others, not being verbally threatening, not physically restraining, not boxing in, not stalking, not uninvitedly touching, not heckling, always taking no for an answer, and treating others the way you wish to be treated. What it does not mean is dictating the things that individuals, strangers or otherwise, may politely ask each other. Whether conventions do dictate the details of conversation as a condition for participation is, obviously, their prerogative. But such dictates are not a condition I place on my participation.

  186. I think too many men in the world and commenting here don’t understand the fundamental difference between experiencing life as a man, and experiencing life as a woman. Sure, you might be propositioned as a member of either gender, but I seriously doubt that if a man was standing on a street corner waiting for his spouse, that a woman would walk up to him and ask ‘how much?’ As happened to me on the corner of the street where I lived (and I assure you I wasn’t dressed in net stockings and push up bra. I was pissed off, hot, and wearing my daggiest clothes.)

    Outside a swingers’ party, there is no place where “Wanna fuck?” is appropriate or polite as the opening gambit for anyone to anyone else. The difference for a man is that he might feel vaguely flattered even if not interested, but a woman won’t be able to tell if she’s being complimented, insulted, trolled or even stalked – because the possibility of all four is there. And because women routinely get inappropriate offers and touches in inappropriate situations, she’s not going to feel particularly sex positive just because someone sees her as one of the menu items of the sexual buffet of life.

    Margaret Atwood said that men are afraid women will laugh at them, women are afraid men wll kill them. It would be nice if men understood how damn fundamental that is to our lives.

    Too many men debate the necessity of harassment policies because (a) harassment is such a tiny part of their lives and (b) they either see themselves as potential victims of wrongful complaints or because it interferes with their game.

    Most women welcome harassment policies because they then have one more thing they can point to in protection. It might just stop the next victim of a Pick Up Artist or creep from having to endure the same treatment. Sadly, that won’t prevent the woman who reports the PUA being called a stuck up bitch or insufficiently sex positive if they turn down an offensively inappropriate “What would you say to a little fuck?”

    Which quote by the way, Isaac Asimov (serial harasser) admiringly attributed to that other serial groper and misogynist, Harlan Ellison. But Harlan was just sex positive, so that’s okay.

  187. Greg: I intended reasonably to describe each individual proprosition. And then expanded that out to indicate that this also describes multiple propositions from different people in a single night as also reasonable. It struck me as a strong contrast of what one might easily consider reasonable.

    I also am not sure what that is a slippery slope to.

    My thoughts on this come out of more than what Kat is offering. And, I think she can speak in response or not as chooses.

    Are you reading what I said as demonizing sex? FWIW, if it is true that an unsolicited proposition for sex is acceptable and it is also true that people that commit sexual assault generally have quality social camoflauge, it’s worth considering the perspective of the person being regularly propositioned by well-intentioned nice guys looking to bone.

    What will *this* guy’s reaction to no be? Is he a Ninja or just an asshole?

  188. Even if it’s the first thing you ever say to and ask of a person, politely asking someone once if they wish to have sex and taking no for an answer is not automatically aggressive nor does it necessarily telegraph disregard for the comfort, autonomy or safety of the person being asked.

    We disagree on that.

  189. @Ann Somerville

    Sure, you might be propositioned as a member of either gender, but I seriously doubt that if a man was standing on a street corner waiting for his spouse, that a woman would walk up to him and ask ‘how much?’

    That’s not a polite request. That’s a demand for a price quote, which implies that the person making the demand is presuming consent. That is indeed one of the ways to harass someone in the course of propositioning them. Or it was meant as a way of goading, which is heckling, which is another way to harass someone.

    And because women routinely get inappropriate offers and touches in inappropriate situations, she’s not going to feel particularly sex positive just because someone sees her as one of the menu items of the sexual buffet of life.

    Anyone who sees another person as a menu item is essentially a failure as a human being. If I thought someone…anyone…regarded me as such, I wouldn’t be the lest bit flattered. But I wouldn’t necessarily assume someone asking me to join them for sex did so regard me. It would depend on how they asked.

    @Greg

    I don’t think Other Bill or Kat Goodwin are demonizing sex. Kat may be painting diverse experiences with a broad brush, but using loaded words such as demonize comes across as combative. That may not have been your intent, which is why I’m pointing it out.

    @DAVID

    We disagree on that.

    I respect that.

  190. Some women probably don’t mind being randomly pinched on the rear either. That doesn’t mean it isn’t harassment.

    Adding my vote to, yes, I consider someone coming up to me and saying, “You’re hot, let’s fuck” or “Do you want to fuck” to be harassment. I am not first and foremost any person’s sex toy. I do not consider a convention to be a meat market. I am not meat.

    Now checking the preview to see if the mallet has come out…

  191. “That’s not a polite request.”

    I’m aware of that. I was pointing out one way that men’s life experiences differs dramatically from women’s.

    Honestly, Gulliver, I don’t need you to mansplain my own life to me. I don’t need men to tell me how to react to intimate invitations in any situation either.

    Like most women, I’m perfectly capable of distinguishing crap from a canapé, and like most women, I will treat a sexual advance before introductions, conversation or engagement with me as a human being, as not a postive (sex or otherwise) experience. There will be exceptions but we’re talking about guidelines for acceptable public behaviour at conventions and the like. “Wanna fuck” as an introductory statement is rarely going to fall under that heading.

  192. Folks, we’ve gone as far as I want to go with the “wanna fuck?” line of discussion. Time to drop it. And for the record, if the first words out of a man’s mouth to a woman he’s never met are “wanna fuck?” he’s almost certainly a complete piece of shit.

    There, now we’re done with the topic.

  193. OtherBill: Are you reading what I said as demonizing sex?

    Here:

    the individual proposition. For the record, I have an issue with that in itself.

    I took that to mean you had an “issue” with a verbal invitation for a physical relationship, in and of itself, regardless of how it is presented. I may have parsed it wrong.

  194. @ Mr. Scalzi:

    “And for the record, if the first words out of a man’s mouth to a woman he’s never met are “wanna fuck?” he’s almost certainly a complete piece of shit.”

    I had a magnificent rant that I was going to post, but you summed it up in that one sentence. All of my carefully crafted arguments, like links in an intricate suit of chainmail, are mere verbage. I shall now go cry in a corner and reread “The Android’s Dream”.

  195. @John: This apology is tangential, but if it goes it goes.

    @Ann Somerville: I would not presume to try to explain your life to you. My intent was to explain how I would interpret something, not tell you how you should. I apologize for not clearing stating that in my reply.

  196. The absolute best flirtage I ever got at a con was a guy who I was talking to for maybe 20 minutes about something fannish, and then when we got to one of those pauses in the conversation, he said, “Okay, um, HI, here’s the part where I ask the obligatory question, you know… if you’re interested.” I said I was happily married and thus no, but thanked him for the compliment and said that indeed I would have been if I was single. He said “Okay” and we went back to discussing Star Trek or Heinlein or whatever it was. He didn’t run right off to look for another woman (although he did find one later in the con), and we remained friendly acquaintances till I moved to another state.

    Lesbians have indicated their interest in me in the same way — after a conversation about sci-fi, the party we were at, what news happened yesterday — and I tell them that I’m straight but appreciate the interest. The “worst” comment in such cases has been “Let me know if you ever get tired of men!”

    In all cases, the person engaged me as a human first, did not grope, and calmly took no for an answer.

    THAT is how you inquire about a physical relationship. It’s not harassment. Con policies won’t be banning this. SWM will still be able to find partners.

  197. OtherBill: I would say not exactly correct

    Ah, well, I said I may have parsed it incorrectly.

    My bad.

  198. LurkerType: “…the obligatory question…”? I guess it’s obligatory if you are looking to get laid, but that just brings us back to the whole only reason to talk to a (presumably) attractive MOTAS is to get laid bullshit.

    Of course, when I was going to cons I was definitely one of the SAGBs who would have been terrified of asking the…frighteningly awkward…question and would have gleefully chatted for the whole time about fannish things.

  199. Other Bill: What a wonderful analogy — fifty tons of river rock indeed. And in the case of women, it is fifty tons of threats. As Anne pointed out to Gulliver, there is no “politely” for women getting propositioned. There’s just low threat and high threat and we must assess the threat level each time we are propositioned. Someone who is a very high threat to us may be exceedingly polite in propositioning or take on that veneer. There is a ton of crap that women have to deal with in deciding to go to a con, from minor annoyance to deep vulnerabilities, that men do not. But more to the point, whether you are a man or a woman, the propositioning is a demand of time, effort and threat assessment in a public event that is not about propositioning. It is a constant demand which routinely ruins the event for many, mostly female, participants. And that means just going to cons becomes highly uncomfortable and exclusionary. It means not simply that women are shut out of cons — and the benefits to their careers for female authors — but that the culture remains exclusionary, discriminatory, hostile to and in deficit of women in general. It means the con, the fandom and the business of SFF remains less diverse. Because the society regards women as objects to be propositioned at public events, politely or otherwise. Women assess threats differently from each other as well, and that’s why the harassment policy is so necessary and useful because it sets the baseline for the event for everyone, it provides a process for dealing with problems and it creates an atmosphere that is less hostile and exclusionary for all women to participate in and people in other vulnerable groups to participate in.

    For instance, numerous black fans and authors have talked about the regular occurrence at cons (fifty tons of river rock,) of white adult strangers touching their afros or dreadlocks, as if, again, they were dolls. If the white adult stranger asks politely to touch their hair, it’s no less of a harassment, of treating these people as Other, as objects. Because if a white person is fascinated by black hair, by gum, he should get to touch it and the black person supply it. And for the black person to refuse or object to being touched in this manner is taking a big risk against a threat, including risk of death and unfortunately jail. The black person must engage, over and over again, in the soul sucking task of assessing the threat, dealing with the demand, request, unwanted touching and stalking, and trying to avoid dangerous consequences from it. And this and many other circumstances cause non-whites to feel the environments at cons to be hostile, dangerous, exclusionary. And not surprisingly this also keeps cons, and the field less diverse. Black authors careers are damaged. These are not simply petty annoyances of delicate flowers — they are the backbone of systemic discrimination.

    As Scalzi says in his recent post: “Others had to deal with harassment on a personal level and push hard against a culture that was inertial at best and hostile at worst. Others had to develop the policies that do already exist, and push to have them adopted by the conventions that already have them. Others have had to fight the same battles, over and over, about harassment in a culture they are part of.”

    People who have been kept out of and discouraged from cons by the catering to the whims of a few are saying that they want to go to the cons and that they aren’t going to put up with a hostile, discriminatory environment at them where they get regularly harassed. Especially as often they want to bring their kids. And a con without a harassment policy is turning people away, turning authors away, limiting its growth and phasing itself out of the field. The code of silence is going bye-bye and smart cons know they need to get their ducks in a row to provide a safe, exclusionary, enjoyable con experience for the maximum number of people in order for them to want to come back again, and a proper legal channel to deal with problems. And when they do that, the clueless people (the low threats as opposed to predators,) are less likely to do stupid, harassing stuff like touching black people’s hair, trying to hit on women who strike their fancy or wear a costume, etc., not only at cons but in general. It literally changes the thinking of people and the tendency to see others as objects. And the predatory stalkers, the high threats, don’t have as much in the way of hidey holes for indulging in their behavior.

  200. That was actually meant to be “to provide a safe, inclusionary, enjoyable con experience” not exclusionary. :) I think I’m going to bed now.

  201. Ah well, in addition to not being a woman, the shortest I’ve ever waited to extend or accept an invitation to bed was six weeks in my first impetuous romance many moons ago, which most people seem to find absurd, so I’m probably not a very good judge of whether there are circumstances where a woman would not be threatened by it on the first encounter. The whole idea of sleeping with someone I don’t know very well indeed isn’t even disconcerting, it’s utterly alien to me, and the three or four occasions in my adult life where a woman propositioned me in a social setting I simply smiled tightly (arguably grimaced), declined, thought WTF? and reminded myself that not everyone is like me. Not only do I lack a common frame of reference with which to discuss the experiences of most women or even know how diverse those experiences are, I lack a common frame of reference with most modern people on the topic of sex. Which is why I don’t know if a person can ask off the cuff without being a piece of shit, why I’m unwilling to assume Adreana Langston is wrong to say they do, and why I believe it should be the prerogative of each person to set their own boundaries.

    Also, I don’t know about anyone else, but I consider flirting and propositioning two separate things. I’m a flirt. I don’t proposition.

    Anyone who lays a finger on my hair is going to learn one of several ways their body is not designed to bend.

  202. Thinking about all the people I caved to – usually women, but occasionally men, who asked to touch my hair or simply touched it without even asking – because I didn’t want to be off-putting or appear threatening leaves me wishing I had had that uncompromising attitude when I was younger and wore my hair in a buzz cut. I put up with a lot of shit I shouldn’t have.

  203. “Anyone who lays a finger on my hair is going to learn one of several ways their body is not designed to bend.”

    Which is your privilege as a white man to say that.

    A black man or woman who attacks someone who’s invaded their space is not going to receive the same sympathy you would in the same situation.

    This is the second time you’ve commented on something well outside your sphere of experience without stopping to think about why that anecdote or example is being used. You do it regularly in my observations of your participation in discussions on issues of this nature. It’s just not helpful for you or any straight white man to assume that how *you* would interpret or react to an experience that is rarely a problem for SWM, is relevant to how those who *do* regularly experience that situation.

    What *would* be helpful would be if, instead of sharing one’s hypothetical reaction to a hypothetical experience (for SWM) as a SWM, the SWM would listen to how such experiences affect those other people. You reacted to my anecdote of being taken for a prostitute by telling me what that encounter signified. What I wanted you to understand is how degrading and threatening it is for women to be constantly seen as nothing but vessels for sexual fulfillment, as objects to sate men’s desire, when all we’re doing is going about our daily lives, and then to be villified and mocked and threatened when we push back against that.

    I don’t actually give a damn how you would view a ‘How much?’ offered to you, because that situation just doesn’t happen to 99% of men, and certainly not outside their suburban homes. Yet being treated as or spoken to as a prostitute just because we’re in public is not unusual for women. You don’t understand how the constant degrading treatment women are subjected to destroys our ability to walk safely and happily through our lives because because that shit doesn’t happen to men.

    Same as black women (and men) don’t give a damn what a white man would do to someone touching his hair without permission because that shit doesn’t happen to white men. The point of Kat mentioning that is the impact of such microaggressions upon the aggressee, the drip drip drip effect on the ego and the emotions. Even if someone did offer to touch your hair, it doesn’t come with the entire baggage of black people being seen as pets, slaves and less than human, which makes too many whites automatically assume they can do what they want with black bodies.

    Greg said “I’ve been propositioned by gay men more than once. It wasn’t a big deal for me.” Well no, of course it’s not, because he’s likely to be approximately equivalent in weight and size to the gay man asking him out, and isn’t going to feel threatened. He’s not going to be catcalled. He’s not going to be followed home by a man he rejected, and raped. No man is going to assume he’s a street walker because he’s standing talking to a colleague in his car outside his own home – as happened to a friend of my husband’s. (The police pulled up to arrest her as a prostitute, though she was dressed for her incredibly respectable job, and carrying a briefcase and a laptop. Her supposed male ‘client’ – actually a work mate – was ignored, of course.)

    Greg also said “one can have a sex-positive view of things and still oppose and stand up to harassment”. Yes – if you’re a bloke. A ‘sex positive’ woman will be labelled a slut, and if she turns a man down, an uppity bitch who needs to be taught a lesson. (Because the second a woman is theoretically available to a man, she’s available to all men until claimed, didn’t you know.)

    The world is not the same for you and I, Gulliver. It’s not the same for men and women. Please try to understand more and offer your opinions less when it comes to this topic. Listening to women when they talk about how harassment actually affects them is more important than all the policies and grandstanding and “Well, if I’d been there, I’d haves” in the world.

  204. “What would you say to a little fuck?”

    Which quote by the way, Isaac Asimov (serial harasser) admiringly attributed to that other serial groper and misogynist, Harlan Ellison.

    It’s actually an old Vaudeville joke, and the woman’s reply is “Go away, little fuck.” Neither Asimov nor Ellison ever actually said that to anyone AFAIK.

  205. “Neither Asimov nor Ellison ever actually said that to anyone AFAIK.”

    That’s why I said ‘attributed’. Asimov did so in one of the volumes of his biography (don’t ask me which one as it’s over thirty years since I read them.) He clearly thought it was something Ellison *might* say.

    Gulliver, have a look at:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jun/13/you-can-touch-hair-hottentot-venus

    http://www.racialicious.com/2013/06/12/you-can-touch-my-hair-but-why/

  206. Oh, absolutely, Ann. It’s just the sort of story people make up about Harlan, partly because he’s short, and partly because it’s easy to imagine him doing something so shitty.

    Though IMO what he actually documentably did to Connie Willis is much worse, and much more maliciously intended, than any of the silly “Harlan is a pig” stories.

  207. “what he actually documentably did to Connie Willis is much worse”

    Quite.

    The point about Asimov’s attribution is that he wasn’t remotely horrified by Ellison’s supposed harassment, but used the story to show Ellison’s legendary chutzpah. To Asimov, Ellison being a creep was just something that lent colour to an already colourful reputation. it certainly wasn’t a negative to Asimov (whose first encounter with his second wife included an even less edifying example of how not to talk to a strange woman, IIRC.) This is the kind of thinking that’s kept harassment such a popular recreational option over the years, and contributes much to the women-hostile atmosphere prevailing in the SFWA and SF/F generally.

    “the silly “Harlan is a pig” stories.”

    That’s the only story which is fairly obviously fake. The other ‘pig’ stories I’ve heard have come direct from women who’ve experienced the maestro in action, in person :(

  208. I don’t know the tone with which Asimov related it in the source you read, but it’s hard to believe a jokester like Asimov wouldn’t have included the punchline. He had at the least a sparring relationship with Harlan and would not have easily resisted calling him “little fuck,” especially in a “Harlan sexually humiliates himself” story.

    I’m sure there are plenty of stories of Harlan’s harassment of women. There are also a number of jokes where “Harlan Ellison” is a character who is put down by women he’s trying to proposition. I think those are a kind of awkward defense mechanism whereby the body of fandom attempts to neutralize the pathogen (H. ellisoni) by making him a laughingstock. I don’t think this is effective, but it’s certainly plausible.

  209. “it’s hard to believe a jokester like Asimov wouldn’t have included the punchline.”

    Yes, he did, only he said it was ‘Hello little fuck’.” He was definitely making fun of Ellison but in a ‘boys will be boys’ way, and Ellison’s manner towards women wasn’t seen as a negative.

    I’m a little uneasy at you juxtaposing “stories of Harlan’s harassment of women” with jokes about Ellison. The stories I’ve heard about Ellison have been first hand, not remotely humourous reports. The only jokes I’ve read about him were in Asimov’s books.

    “I think those are a kind of awkward defense mechanism whereby the body of fandom attempts to neutralize the pathogen (H. ellisoni) by making him a laughingstock.”

    Maybe. I rather think it’s because Ellison’s behaviour, and behaviour like it, isn’t seen as a real problem – merely risible rather than hurtful and offensive.

    But then I don’t really hang out with the real SF fan types. I just write the stuff off in my own little corner.

  210. @Ann Somerville

    A black man or woman who attacks someone who’s invaded their space is not going to receive the same sympathy you would in the same situation.

    I’m aware of that. My point was that they would receive my sympathy and, more substantively, my support in making certain they didn’t have to put up with people touching them with impunity.

    This is the second time you’ve commented on something well outside your sphere of experience without stopping to think about why that anecdote or example is being used.

    I did think about Kat’s anecdote. I believe you misunderstood my reason for what I said about it. I take responsibility for being unclear.

    You do it regularly in my observations of your participation in discussions on issues of this nature.

    I did misunderstand your meaning in the last thread, yes.

    It’s just not helpful for you or any straight white man to assume that how *you* would interpret or react to an experience that is rarely a problem for SWM, is relevant to how those who *do* regularly experience that situation.

    That’s my whole point. So why should I take a position as arbiter of other people’s experiences? One non-SWM says one thing. Another non-SWM says they’re wrong. What place is it mine to judge? I support individual self-determination precisely because I do not and cannot claim the moral authority to support one standard over the other.

    What *would* be helpful would be if, instead of sharing one’s hypothetical reaction to a hypothetical experience (for SWM) as a SWM,

    That’s a valid criticism.

    the SWM would listen to how such experiences affect those other people.

    I have. There are multiple non-SWM points of view in this thread alone, and more in the threads I’ve been reading outside this blog. Are you asking me to take your POV as more valid than those others?

    You reacted to my anecdote of being taken for a prostitute by telling me what that encounter signified. What I wanted you to understand is how degrading and threatening it is for women to be constantly seen as nothing but vessels for sexual fulfillment, as objects to sate men’s desire, when all we’re doing is going about our daily lives, and then to be villified and mocked and threatened when we push back against that.

    Your right. That was insensitive and tone-deaf of me. I apologize and will endeavor to be less abstract in my reading.

    Yet being treated as or spoken to as a prostitute just because we’re in public is not unusual for women.

    That’s immeasurably fucked up.

    Same as black women (and men) don’t give a damn what a white man would do to someone touching his hair without permission because that shit doesn’t happen to white men.

    Again, not why I mentioned it. I was not comparing my experience to theirs. I was condemning the act of touching someone without their permission. Also, there are things about my life that you don’t know and which I don’t feel comfortable talking about. My experience isn’t equivalent to theirs. That doesn’t mean my experience hasn’t been traumatic in its own right. I spoke out against unwanted physical contact as much out of an emotional visceral reaction as a statement of support. I will not apologize for that. I apologized for being oversensitive for years and I’m long since done apologizing for it. That’s a privilege everyone should have and I’ll work for a world where everyone does have it, but I will still exercise it.

    Because the second a woman is theoretically available to a man, she’s available to all men until claimed, didn’t you know.

    Yes, I’m well aware of the prevalence of that reprehensible proprietary view of women which neither I, nor you nor, I’m sure, Greg shares. It doesn’t mean any of us are oblivious to it.

    Gulliver, have a look at:

    First let me say that I do get why you posted that. And again, I was not comparing my experience. Second, the Guardian article leaves me with a question. Which is more important: someone’s individual self-determination or how other people believe that person’s actions reflect on them? Is it the fault of the black women that bigots exoticize them, or is it the fault of the bigots? If it’s the fault of the bigots, why criticize the women? Shouldn’t they be able to do whatever they want without being exoticized? The Racialicious article doesn’t seem to fault the women, merely ask why they did it.

    But then I don’t really hang out with the real SF fan types.

    Me neither. I don’t think you have to be a fan to enjoy an artform or have something to contribute. One of my favorite SF authors is your fellow countryman Greg Egan, and he’s about as under the radar as a published author can be.

  211. [Deleted because Greg is getting too cranky in his responses to others. Take a powder for the rest of the thread, Greg – JS]

  212. Gulliver: “why I’m unwilling to assume Adreana Langston is wrong to say they do, and why I believe it should be the prerogative of each person to set their own boundaries.”

    Yes, absolutely people set their own boundaries of tolerance, whether they report harassment, etc. Which is why I said that for ME, here’s why that particular issue was problematic. But actually what we’re talking about is people setting their own criteria for assessing and responding to potential threats that may become real threats with real consequences. A black person who gets physical with someone who touches his hair can end up in jail, whereas a white person doing the same would not.

    It has very little to do with actual sex. It has to do with basic human interaction, which includes harassing others, and how we view other humans when we interact. A fan who slapped Beyonce on the ass during a concert wasn’t expecting to have sex with her. But he was treating her as an object, a doll, there for him to slap because he wanted to and wanted to see if he could get away with hitting one of the most powerful women in music. And Beyonce, being that powerful, yelled at him and said he’d be escorted out. Not by her, by security. Who were there to back her up. As they would if she decided not to use them. Beyonce was not on her own, but most of us attending a con are.

    So if I have concerns about such potential threats and a hostile environment at a con that supports those threats and bad consequences for me, then my choices are to not go to the con or take the risk, which I may do. But it shuts me out. The harassment policy of a con sets the baseline for the boundaries of the con, not individuals, so that the maximum number of people with their different boundaries can participate, so that the con itself is not threatening and violating the different boundaries of its attendees, so that there are policies when there is a problem where someone is harassed and threatened, and so that those reporting harassment are not then beaten, raped, jailed, ignored, etc. It means the con backs its visitors up. The con cannot stop people from propositioning. Those who want to do it are going to do it. But the con can offer support to the people being propositioned and harassed through a process that sets clear boundaries on behavior at the con going in. And that very support, even though it is not perfect, changes the environment to a more equal and participatory one, where potential threats are lessened for everybody.

    To give example, people like Hoyt fail to see the irony of their position when they talk about how women should deal with harassment on their own by getting tough with harassers and telling them what-for and attacking them with a hatpin or whatever it was. Not that many decades ago, the idea of a woman protesting harassment or telling a guy off at a con, much less attacking him back, was considered a gross outrage. Women were not supposed to defend themselves, get outraged, protest, say hostile things to a man and certainly not fight back. Women were supposed to put up with the behavior, keep quiet, never challenge men, enjoy the attention and even give in and put out. We have eye-witness accounts of cons in the past where women were held down by men so that male authors could grope them and the women were expected to think it was fun.

    Women who fought that and fought to change the climate at cons, which they were often running, were called delicate flowers, overly sensitive, and no fun bitches, just as she’s calling the women who are asking for harassment policies at cons. But because they didn’t back down, for conventions and society in general, it now is a thought in Hoyt’s head, an idea that it is normal for a woman to tell a guy off who is hassling her, whereas before women risked fighting for it, it was considered abnormal. So the climate of cons changed and became safer and more inclusive. But there is still the attitude that women (and others) should put up with harassment (such as being carried off on a stranger’s shoulder or being propositioned ten times at a convention,) that they should fight it off on their own no matter what danger that exposes them to or how they feel about doing that, and that most harassment is normal and fun, etc.

    So the harassment policy changes that. It sets what is and is not acceptable behavior at the con for everybody, just as it does with props and weapons and how you can and cannot interact with celebrity guests. And if a person chooses to violate those rules and is reported, there is a set procedure that is the same for everybody. And that becomes normal behavior for the con, which makes it safer and more inclusionary — and clearer for everybody. Which again has very little to do with people’s actual sex lives. People’s actual sex lives are irrelevant at a SFFH con, even if it is a media con and there are female models, etc. The issue is what behavior is being inflicted on others at the con, what is allowed and what is not. And a con has to deal with that issue, for hundreds or tens of thousands of people.

  213. “And a con has to deal with that issue, for hundreds or tens of thousands of people.”

    We’re a tiny, tiny writers’ workshop and we’ve had to deal with harassment complaints. One time it was a woman who was doing the harassing, to multiple people and in different ways. She refused to acknowledge her behavior as being a problem and we asked her not to participate in the future. We now have a formal Code of Conduct in place and several staff members who are familiar with how to handle a complaint.

  214. @Kat Goodwin

    Which is why I said that for ME, here’s why that particular issue was problematic.

    Fair point. And that’s why I said I support your and anyone else’s right to set your boundaries. The elephant in the room is the baseline behavior. Every society, large and small, has one, codified or not. I believe a codified baseline is almost always better (allowing that I can’t think of all possible circumstances). We may disagree on one of the details, but we do not disagree on the need for policies.

    But actually what we’re talking about is people setting their own criteria for assessing and responding to potential threats that may become real threats with real consequences.

    I fully and unconditionally support everyone’s right to do that. Echoing what I and many others said in the threads on this topic last year, no one justly has a default right to demand the time, attention, contact or interlocution of anyone else. The fact that society unjustly gives that right of trespass to some people is a major flaw.

    A black person who gets physical with someone who touches his hair can end up in jail, whereas a white person doing the same would not.

    We’d be much less likely to in Western civilization, though it’s not a risk we can ignore completely. But yes, everyone should enjoy the right to self-defense. And the second someone lays a hand on another, it’s morally self-defense. I’d like to think I would support that right purely as a matter of principle, but I have personal reasons as well.

    Beyonce was not on her own, but most of us attending a con are.

    Understood, and all the more reason to support anti-harassment policies.

    But because they didn’t back down, for conventions and society in general, it now is a thought in Hoyt’s head, an idea that it is normal for a woman to tell a guy off who is hassling her, whereas before women risked fighting for it, it was considered abnormal.

    I don’t know whether or not you’re right about why Sarah Hoyt holds the views she does, but I want to be clear that I do not agree with 90% of her views. I unconditionally support her right to be heard, but I strongly disagree with the vast majority of what she says on her blog.

    And if a person chooses to violate those rules and is reported, there is a set procedure that is the same for everybody. And that becomes normal behavior for the con, which makes it safer and more inclusionary — and clearer for everybody.

    While forbidding propositioning isn’t a condition for my participation as a paying customer, it is something a con or other gathering has a right to include in its rules of conduct. I require a harassment policy, but I don’t require that they limit themselves to the things I require of that policy. If others believe it’s a problem, they should lobby for it. I support a con is listening to its customers.

  215. “Also, there are things about my life that you don’t know and which I don’t feel comfortable talking about.”

    Understood. My comment posted before I saw your second one. I maintain that your experiences are necessarily different from those of black people in the same circumstances, but you don’t have to be black to experience being othered or having your bodily autonomy threatened, or your privacy ignored. I apologise for having dismissed your lived experience in that way and I’m sorry to cause you hurt in doing so.

    “Are you asking me to take your POV as more valid than those others?”

    No, not at all. Just that men as a group tend to think their contribution to a discussion involves active comment and reaction, rather than sitting back and thinking – they feel the need to *do* something – and because of that, they often fail to fully absorb the points of view from the other side being offered before they do react. It often leads to the male POV taking over discussions about (largely) women centric issues, and the opportunity to acquire informed empathy is lost.

    I can assure you, white women involved in a black discussion space are notorious for doing the same thing. It’s a function of privileged blindness even when people are motivated by the purest of good intentions.

    As for your questions about black women and the touching issue raised in those links, you would probably do better to do some research on that on your own as I’m no expert and I don’t want to speak for black women. Black women and their hair is a very complex issue- Chris Rock made a movie trying to untangle it all (no pun intended)

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1213585/

    I think the Racialicious article was questioning what message was being sent by the black women in the art project on behalf of black women as a group, not as individuals (who of course have the right to set their own boundaries). Maybe someone else could expand on that?

    Kat’s most recent comment really summed things up well, I thought.

  216. @Ann Somerville

    I maintain that your experiences are necessarily different from those of black people in the same circumstances,

    I agree completely. I cannot, by definition, have the exact same first-hand experiences because society doesn’t categorize me as black. And experiences inform our understanding.

    I apologise for having dismissed your lived experience in that way and I’m sorry to cause you hurt in doing so.

    I knew it was an honest misunderstanding, and even a perfectly understandable one given that I had just insensitively steamrolled my own analysis over your lived experience. I appreciate the apology and I’m sorry I did the same to you.

    It often leads to the male POV taking over discussions about (largely) women centric issues, and the opportunity to acquire informed empathy is lost.

    I sometimes fear that remaining silent on an issue of import will be taken as condoning the status quo, especially in light of my opinionated nature (online anyway). This can lead me to air my thoughts before I’ve taken enough time to make sure I’m understanding what someone else has said. I will take a page from my own real life and try to think more about what’s been said before I opine.

    As for your questions about black women and the touching issue raised in those links, you would probably do better to do some research on that on your own as I’m no expert and I don’t want to speak for black women.

    I could use some of that tact myself. Thanks for the link. I love Chris Rock and think a case could be made that he’s the funniest and mist insightful comedian of our time, IMHO. I’ll definitively check out the movie and research the history. As it happens, I had surgery this afternoon, so I have some time on my hands and my partner is making a movie run. I think an intelligent comedy would compliment The Avengers nicely :)

    Kat’s most recent comment really summed things up well, I thought.

    I agree.

  217. “I had surgery this afternoon”

    I can’t speak for the Chris Rock film as I haven’t seen it, but The Avengers would definitely fit my idea of recuperative therapy :)

    Hope you are in no pain and resting comfortably.

  218. Gulliver: “We’d be much less likely to in Western civilization, though it’s not a risk we can ignore completely.”

    No, Gulliver, I was talking specifically about Western civilization and the U.S. A black person, particularly a black male, is far more likely to be arrested and sentenced to jail than a white person for the same charges. A black person, especially a black male, is more likely to be shot in an encounter with the police than a white person. Black people are at risk every day of their lives for simply existing as black people in the U.S., whereas in African countries, that is far less likely to be an issue. It is exceedingly dangerous for black people in the West to display anger in public events with white people, even verbally, no matter what the white person did to them. So a black person who say put a white person who touched his hair in a restraining chokehold would very likely be facing a jail sentence, if he didn’t get shot. Whereas a white person would probably get off with community service, or the police might not be called at all. Statistically, for a black person to go to any event in the U.S., they take their lives and freedom in their hands when they do so. If the threat involves sexual harassment for a black man or woman, it’s even worse. For a black person, a harassment policy at a con may be the difference between survival and their lives being ruined; it’s a lifeline. For transgender people, it’s a lifeline. For women, it is pretty much a lifeline. For gay people, etc. Because our society is very dangerous for a lot of people simply on the basis of who they are. The stakes are higher; the actions are not innocuous and cumulatively they can ruin the whole ecosystem./culture just like removing fifty tons of river rock from a valley.

    You don’t need to respond to this; I know you just had surgery. I just wanted to clarify that one point. Here’s a video from a CNN roundtable interview in which LeVar Burton, one of the most famous black actors around, explains how he has to be careful while driving because of the police and how he taught his son how to deal with the police, and another participant who is white pointing out how this contrasts with what happened when he locked his keys in his car, was trying to bust into it and a cop helped him out. There are many different Americas; the reference points and the threats are different.

  219. [Deleted because someone who is missing the point this entirely, and is so smug about it, shouldn’t probably be posting comments – JS]

  220. To return to the topic of Socially Awkward Geeks, there are really two types: those that don’t know how to behave, and those that don’t care how they behave.

    The first group may stare at cleavage or extend a dead conversation, but once this behaviour is identified as Not Right, they will (or at least try) not do so in the future. It might make them more Socially Awkward as they try to follow their internal checklist of socially acceptable behaviour, but it also increases their positive social interaction ratio.

    The second group are really the ones this policy is looking to exclude. They have no desire for self-moderation, and so the opinion and welfare of others has no effect. As such, that concern must be taken up by an Authority Figure.

  221. @ Tood The aforementioned events are attended by more or less equal numbers of men and women. I haven’t heard of this as an issue in the trade shows/conventions I attend. And I know plenty of “feminist” (I use this term neutrally here) women who participate in these and would very vocally complain if it were a problem.

    Companies usually have anti-harassment policies that not only apply during working hours and at company events, but that they insist their employees follow when they are attending trade shows and industry conventions.

    I worked with one employee of a Fortune 500 company who got fired for harassing various women at Comdex. He confused being an engineer for a high tech company with his previous immunity from consequences as a college athlete. They knew who he worked for – it’s on the badge – and went straight to HR and his manager.

    He was not missed. At work he was constantly skating along the edges of what was appropriate conversation and behavior. The men I worked with were occasionally bawdy, but his dial was stuck on crude and lewd.

  222. Regarding harlan Ellison and Connie Willis: Ellison aparently thinks that the statute of limitations on his having to acknowledge reality (and documentary evidence) is 7 years.

    DW [Damien Walter]: Everyone always seems to ask you, have you killed anybody, did they survive?

    HE [Harlan Ellison]: Well, that’s a different question. That’s a different question. I’ve never thrown anybody down an escalator shaft, and I did not grab Connie Willis’s breast.

    DW: I didn’t want to ask you that question either.

    HE: Oh, that just infuriates me. That just infuriates me.

    DW: Do you want to – do you have anything you want to say about it?

    HE: About Connie Willis? I think she’s a brilliant writer.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2013/jun/14/harlan-ellison-q-and-a-interview

  223. @Doc: Yeah, Harlan KNOWS that’s bullshit, which is why he keeps trying to rewrite history. There were hundreds of live witnesses AND it was on video! There was a gasp in the room and a decidedly chilly atmosphere afterwards. He’d been everywhere at the con that day, and the next day he wasn’t anywhere, cancelled events all of a sudden.

    @Kat Goodwin: I’ve had enough problems in my life being a woman and disabled; I’m thankful I wasn’t also dealt the cards of being minority or gay. The only times I’ve been followed around a store as if I was about to shoplift have been when I’m with black friends. On the question of going somewhere “You wanna drive or should I?”, it has often been decided that I should, even if it’s not my car — because I’m white and if I wander around a bit lost, the cops will help me instead of being suspicious.

  224. Just wanted to say I’ve written to a convention my partner wanted me to attend with her, as I can find no actual harassment policy on their site or in their published prior year program book (just a “do unto others” statement). Thank you.

  225. Wow, I can’t believe Ellison is trying to pull that. Saying that he was trying to make a lame joke that was ill-thought out would work better; more folk would give him a pass. But trying to pretend that he didn’t do that on the podium when Willis was very upset disrespects her as much as the act itself.

    But that shows what goes on with a lot of this stuff — it often is done in front of witnesses rather compulsively. Which makes it hard for others to understand — why would you do that in front of lots of people; obviously there must be a mistake, the person would not have done that and says that he was misunderstood, etc. Which again is why the harassment policies are needed. Because even when there is a video tape, these things get disputed.

    Lurkertype: “On the question of going somewhere “You wanna drive or should I?”, it has often been decided that I should, even if it’s not my car — because I’m white and if I wander around a bit lost, the cops will help me instead of being suspicious.”

    It’s awful, isn’t it? Although at least now you can drive in the car with the black people and not have that get them into trouble all by itself. That’s their gauntlet that they have to run going to a con. And women have to run their gauntlet, especially if they are wearing a costume. Just like watching compulsive harassment in public that seems to make no sense, it can be very difficult for someone who doesn’t have the frame of reference to understand the stakes involved, the little adjustments that have to be made just to walk in the door safely. And yet, we manage, we live our lives, but it’s like the sensors on the Enterprise — we’re always scanning for problems because we have to. We tend not to do certain things because the risk factor is high or it’s too much hassle and that may cost us a lot. We have to make difficult assessments if someone decides to harass and conflict with us. Add being gay or being disabled, etc. to that and the stakes go up.

    But oh no, we’re lying liars who lie, and we’re going to cramp their style, we’re over sensitive witch hunters who will ruin men’s reputations, blah blah, (cause we have so much power supposedly,) and so we can have fire regulations and rules about how you stand in lines for panels, but it’s the end of days if there’s a harassment policy in place. It’s the usual garden variety attempt at intimidation. It’s just not working very well right now. Just like in the 70’s, there’s a shift going on. And it’s not surprising that conventions are getting smart and getting their policies in place. The last con I went to, there were children all over the place, squealing happily as they ran from live Daleks. They made up most of the masquerade show. Conventions cannot afford to ignore women and family attendees, disabled attendees who need access, and male and female authors trying to work a con who are fed up. They cannot afford to ignore 16 year old girls who want to wear anime costumes without knowing the entire media history of the character and in spite of 40 year old men who feel squishy about their presence. Those people are not going away, they paid their money, and that gives them certain entitlements, such as an environment made as safe as possible. That includes a harassment policy.

  226. (I apologize for the long paragraphs. They look very different in my window when I’m writing, then they go up and print longer. So I will try to do breaks more often.)

  227. Ann: I’ve always avoided Ellison, but many people I believe have attested to his reprehensible behavior. I have no doubt about it.

    I think once he grabbed Connie Willis’ breast, people started taking it more seriously. Not as seriously as they should, perhaps (he is still allowed to attend cons as far as I know) but there was serious outrage, and I did not hear anyone dismissing it with “Oh, that’s just Harlan.”

    It’s unbelievable that he’s now denying it. But then he’s never had any brakes.

    I really think part of an intelligently-written harassment policy should include “Harlan Ellison is not welcome at this con.”

  228. My 2 cents: Harlan Ellison is an asshole. Not just any asshole; a flaming, arrogant, self-important and unrepentant douchebag of titanic proportions. He is one gargantuan ego, with no apparent internal controls on his behavior. Unfortunately, his type is all too common. Take that assclown Frenkel who started this latest incident. Or the flaming morons in Texas, who did this:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/12/tampons-confiscated-texas_n_3588177.html

    Yes, that news story is for real.

    Harassers and reactionary idiots are everywhere. We should adopt stronger policies to discourage them.

    @ Xopher: Your suggestion is perfect. Serial harassers should be banned from all cons. If Harlan Ellison or James Frenkel wants to be a flaming asshat, they can take their misogyny and idiocy somewhere where we non-asshole geeks can attend cons without having to tolerate them.

  229. Ah – I got an almost immediate response from my con inquiry. Unfortunately it’s rather lacking:

    “At this time we do not have a written harassment policy. We are well aware of the pledge and have a very strong Conference Assistance Team (CAT) located in Conference Operations that takes any and all notices of any kind of harassment seriously.

    If there is a written harassment policy, rest assured it will be in the program book as well as on the website. Thank you for reaching out to XYZCon with your concerns. If this is not sufficient for you to reassure you about your safety at the conference, please feel free to contact the con chair directly [address]”

    Which I’m reading as “We don’t talk about this publicly. If someone is bothered enough that they then come find us in our lair we’ll consider it. If we sometime in the future do write a policy we’ll make it public.” Yeah… Though I probably will write to the Con chair (as well as some people I know who are usually presenters) as a further step.

  230. “We are well aware of the pledge and have a very strong Conference Assistance Team (CAT) located in Conference Operations that takes any and all notices of any kind of harassment seriously.”

    But because we don’t define harassment, we can handwave anything that might be awkward for us, like a misbehaving GOH, and because we don’t write anything down, we can’t be held liable if anyone complains.

    Nice. Standard corporate cockroach letter response. If I were you, Betty, I’d either make a stink about this and see if other people can write in too, or just avoid this con. Nothing about their response would give me any confidence a harassment complaint would get anywhere or be taken seriously. If a con is not aware already of the problems not having a clear written policy can cause them – and they’re aware of the pledge – then they just don’t give a shit.

  231. To be fair, it can take some time to get a policy in place — we took a couple of months going over the version we used, to get the wording where all members of the board felt it would do the most good.

  232. @ Cascade Writers: True, but you guys actually got a policy (and should be commended for doing so carefully). The con that Betty is talking about just has an excuse, which is inexcusable.

  233. @Kat Goodwin: “I thought it would be a funny gag” is what Harlan said at the con.

    I don’t mind using my white privilege to keep my melanin-enhanced pals from being pulled over — but why should I have to? Just like why should I have to button up and still get creeped on, even with a male escort?

    I spent last weekend at Westercon 66, and I did not feel unsafe anywhere at the con. Even when somewhat scantily clad. Yay! I did get hit on TWICE at the place we stopped to grab a sandwich on the way, though. So cons are still much safer than the open world. 4 days with no sleaze beats 20 min. with two harassments. It was also extremely LGBTQI friendly, disabled-accessible, and the con suite food had vegan and gluten-free options. And yet somehow we all managed to have a roaring good time.

    @Betty W: It would kill them to adopt one of the many, many model platforms that other cons are managing to put in place? Apparently so. They’re not even pretending to work on the problem, just hoping people like you will go away. At least they’re honest? Do contact the con chair directly and tell us what he says.

  234. You were getting food and in a costume. Clearly that meant come hit on me. :) You have enormous grace. Glad you had a good time. I think N.K. Jemisin’s piece on the subject really hits home: http://nkjemisin.com/2012/09/things-people-need-to-understand-issue-223-2/

    Betty, if you are willing, do give that con chair a call. The more it raises its head as a potential problem, the more likely the con will come up with a policy within a year. Other cons are scrambling forward right now. Nobody wants to be in the position of Readercon. But don’t feel you’re obligated, of course. It’s nice to know that the pledge is helping wake folk up a bit.

  235. I had an incident at a geek con when I parked next to some individuals who apparently didn’t want anyone to park next to them while they were getting their gear to head into the con (please keep in mind the parking attendant at the entrance told us where to park). Without a word from us, they started screaming very hurtful and scary things: racist slurs, threats to our car and our personal safety, insults about our weight and looks.

    They stood around our car screaming at us for 20 minutes straight while we called security who never showed up while I started bawling hysterically in my car (this was very amusing to my harassers who barring us opening our doors). A witness told them they were way out of line and queried why were they even yelling at people just for parking next to them, he was threatened with violence and chased away.

    To make a long story short, we told the con authorities who did nothing even when we pointed out the harassers walking around and the witness also reported them. The convention had no way of handling our complaint nor any policies laid down. The actual convention site security didn’t care. I couldn’t face another convention for years, and even writing this made me burst into tears.

    Every convention needs a harassment policy that is actually enforced. I couldn’t believe the community that I thought I knew as genuine and supportive was allowing downright scary and potentially violent people to roam the halls. Thank you so much for taking a stand on this.

  236. @Kat, I was actually in an oversized gray t-shirt and an oversized old ugly pair of shorts, not a costume. I save my cute clothes and costumes for the event, not the car ride.

    However, I made the fatal mistake of being more than six inches away from my husband in both cases, which will learn me, I guess. I should have gone to the bathroom with him so that the second sleazeball would not have then seen his chance to hit on me. I guess he was hoping the fact that my assigned man was out of sight for a minute would make me forget I was married and throw myself at him?

    Because nothin’ turns the boys on more than a slightly overweight, badly dressed, middle-aged woman who is also wearing a fanny pack. Yeah baby.

  237. @ dev:

    Jesus fuck, that’s a horror story. Which convention was this? We can organize a boycott and find the idiots in charge, and then shame them into apologizing.

    The people who attacked you should have been arrested. I think that barricading someone in their car and screaming threats and insults at them is illegal–a class b misdemeanor or something like that.

  238. Ummm, I don’t think that anyone has said this but Tab is not necessarily a good example because they still make it and you can still buy it which I believe implies the opposite of what is being asserted.

  239. Tad, the reason that no one said it is because everyone knows that Tab (and Sansabelt, and Members Only) still exist. However, they also recognize that the moment that those things had their cultural influence was decades ago, and the likelihood of them returning to their former places of cultural cache are slim approaching none. Just like being a harassing asshole! Hope that helps.

  240. I think you’d be on firmer ground if you had used Fresca as an example. You can clean out blocked drains with that stuff.

  241. @Magda: I hope you’re not arguing that is a bad thing about Fresca.

    @Betty, I would be interested in knowing which con. Certainly it would be useful information for all to know what policies a convention has, so as to make an informed decision about whether to attend.

  242. It could just be that there was a clumsy response from a con that is trying to come up with an official harassment policy in response to this outcry.

    Or not. But in either case writing to that con chair is the right thing to do.

  243. Betty, I agree with Xopher. Whatever the reason for that response (and we can only speculate), contact the con chair, keep the (polite, firm) pressure on, explain that you need this information by whatever date because you need to be able to plan whether to attend the con or not, so you need something a lot more concrete before you spend any money. Waiting to see what’s in the program book isn’t going to cut it, since by then, you’ll have paid the money and taken the time, and if what they have is insufficient, they’ll have your money and you’ll be stuck.

    That’s unless you plan to attend the con whether they have something available before then or not. In that case, besides contacting the chair now to reiterate your concern, you could perhaps take the time while at the con to meet with some of the organizers and put them on the spot a bit, make them walk you through how they would handle a complaint.

    Again, only if you feel you want to. You have no obligation to do anything further.

  244. Dev — That’s insane and awful. The con should have called the police. I hope you got a chance to go to other cons where there was a policy and a safer atmosphere. Ninety percent of fans are not like that, by any stretch. But of course, it’s the ten percent that we’re dealing with here.

    Lurkertype — LOL, well I’m sunk then too.

  245. I so admired and approved of your stance on not attending a convention if it didn’t have a clear anti-harassment policy that I decided to adopt a similar one of my own (though, of course, as an attendee, not as a special guest). If I may, I’d like to share my very recent conversation with a staff member at Gen Con regarding this very topic (with all parties’ real names elided for privacy/protection).

    MY INITIAL QUERY TO THEM:

    Gen Con Customer Service Staff:

    I’ve heard so much about Gen Con — about how _awesome_ it can be –, and so I’m rather excited about the possibility that I might be able to attend this year for the first time.

    However, I also know that gaming conventions are, unfortunately, places where many people are harassed (often sexually harassed). Thus, I’d like to know more about your anti-harassment policy before registering and attending. This is all I could find on your website:

    “*No Harassment Policy*

    Gen Con: The Best Four Days in Gaming! is dedicated to providing a harassment-free Event experience for everyone, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, religion, or affiliation. We do not tolerate harassment of convention participants in any form. Convention participants violating these rules may be sanctioned or expelled without refund at the discretion of show management.”

    Would you please provide — or direct me to — a complete version of your anti-harassment policy (where, for instance, the responsibilities of the show management in terms of handling instances of harassment, reported or otherwise, are fully laid out)?

    Thank you so much. I look forward to having a fun and safe experience at Gen Con this year.

    Sincerely,
    [my name]

    THEIR RESPONSE (which arrived on the same day):

    [my name],

    Thank you for your email. The Harassment Policy you have bellow is our complete policy. It clearly states that we do not tolerate harassment in any form and that if such harassment does take place the person doing the harassment is subject to being expelled from Gen Con with no refund.

    When a report of harassment is received by our staff or volunteers the operations and event security teams will be notified and will investigate the situation at which time the perpetrator in question may be removed from the convention.

    Thank You

    [customer service rep’s signature]

    MY RESPONSE:

    Thank you very much, [customer service rep], for your prompt reply. I really appreciate that.

    The reason I assumed what was posted on the website was not the full and complete policy was it still leaves many questions unanswered. For instance:

    * How will the staff and/or security ensure the physical and psychological safety and comfort of the victim(s) when they report incidents of harassment?
    * How will the staff and/or security respond to incidents of harassment that the victims do not report? How will they respond to incidents they witness, for instance? How will they respond to incidents that third parties report to them?
    * Will the anti-harassment policy be clearly and prominently posted about the venue and/or printed in the program? What does “at the discretion of show management” mean? Will this merely mean that it’ll be the victim’s word against the harasser’s — and whichever the show management deem more believable will determine their decision on how to handle the situation? In other words, what mechanisms will be in place for ensuring that no innocent parties are subject to undue burden of proof (particularly that of resistance on the victim’s part)?

    Thanks again for your time and attention.

    Sincerely,
    [my name]

    A week goes by — nothing but crickets.

    I FOLLOW UP:

    [customer service rep],

    I haven’t heard from you (or any other Gen Con staff members) for a while now regarding my questions on Gen Con’s anti-harassment policy.

    It’s important to me that I attend cons I know have strong policies to prevent harassment, and it’s important to me that those policies are strongly enforced. It’s important enough that I choose not to attend cons that lack such policies or the commitment to enforcing them.**

    Thus, I’d very much appreciate hearing back from you soon (i.e., within the next few days), for your answers on this matter will determine whether I decide to attend Gen Con for the first time this year — and potentially every year thereafter — or never.

    Sincerely,
    [my name]

    ** And here I must apologize for stealing the language of your blog post, so thoughtlessly, without citing you and/or asking for prior permission. In my final response to them, I will rectify the lack of citation, at least, and include a link to your blog post. In the future, if I wish to quote you substantially, I’ll ask for your permission beforehand. My apologies again.

    AND, FINALLY, THEIR RESPONSE (which, again, arrived the same day as my most recent e-mail to them):

    [my name],

    Thank you for your email. Unfortunately I do not have any more details to provide surrounding our policy on harassment at this time. Overall harassment has never been a major problem at Gen Con. I think you would come to see that those who attend Gen Con are a very open minded loving group of people and are not the type overall that would harass someone and harassment is not something they would ever condone.

    I truly hope you are able to attend Gen Con.

    Thank You

    [customer service rep’s signature]

    All in all, I wasn’t terribly impressed — and quite rather disappointed.

  246. Oh, I see a line break in my original bulleted list of questions wandered off somewhere in the comment above. It _should_ read:

    * How will the staff and/or security ensure the physical and psychological safety and comfort of the victim(s) when they report incidents of harassment?
    * How will the staff and/or security respond to incidents of harassment that the victims do _not_ report? How will they respond to incidents they witness, for instance? How will they respond to incidents that third parties report to them?
    * Will the anti-harassment policy be clearly and prominently posted about the venue and/or printed in the program?
    * What does “at the discretion of show management” mean? Will this merely mean that it’ll be the victim’s word against the harasser’s — and whichever the show management deem more believable will determine their decision on how to handle the situation? In other words, what mechanisms will be in place for ensuring that no innocent parties are subject to undue burden of proof (particularly that of resistance on the victim’s part)?

  247. Late to the conversation here, however, I think what would help make this easier is if people had a well publicized and well supported on all servers (agonizing is the fall of net neutrality) website profiling conventions a la “Fat,Slutty, or Ugly.”

    Idea is simple: present overall convention ratings on summary pages, and then give specific (both horror and victory) stories as to why this is on a page dedicated to each and every single convention. It would be nice if there was one maintained and supported by individuals, and one maintained and supported by the governments (police reports versus lack of issues).

    I am willing to try and make and support this with a friend of mine, however, does anyone know if anything like this already exists?

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