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Sexual Harassment: Definitions and Legalities

There has been some muddying of waters in the last month or so over what sexual harassment is. The most prominent of people getting it wrong was D.J. Grothe, who said on The Ardent Atheist:

“So if someone is accosted or assaulted, and to be legal about it, sexual harassment cannot happen in a public event. Right? Sexual harassment can only happen in a workplace, by definition.”

Wrong. Very wrong. So let’s straighten it out, for the record.

Sexual Harassment Defined

There is one king of sexual harassment that everyone understands. This kind is called quid pro quo (“this for that”) harassment. This is the classic “Have sex with me if you want to keep your job/get a passing grade” extortion form of harassment. Blatant, simple, easy to figure out why it’s wrong.

That isn’t the only form of sexual harassment, however. There is also the sort of sexual harassment that creates a hostile environment. This is the sort of harassment that is much more like any other kind of harassment, which should make it easier to recognize rather than less. After all, we can recognized that someone is being harassed based on the color of their skin without requiring demands that they suffer extortion.

This is where the most basic of definitions of harassment comes in: Harassment is persistent, wearing attacks that interfere with the rest of your activities.

So racial harassment is harassment received because of or focused on one’s racial identity. Disability harassment is harassment received because of or focused on one’s disabilities. And sexual harassment is harassment received because of or focused on one’s gender or sexual identity.

Sexual harassment is slightly more confusing because it can also mean harassment using sexual behavior. Practically, however, the overlap between the two definitions is nearly complete.

The Equal Rights Advocates have a good description of what that means in practical terms:

Many different kinds of conduct—verbal, visual or physical—that is of a sexual nature may be sexual harassment, if the behavior is unwelcome and if it is severe or pervasive. Here are some more examples:

Verbal or written: Comments about clothing, personal behavior, or a person’s body; sexual or sex-based jokes; requesting sexual favors or repeatedly asking a person out; sexual innuendoes; telling rumors about a person’s personal or sexual life; threatening a person

Physical: Assault; impeding or blocking movement; inappropriate touching of a person or a person’s clothing; kissing, hugging, patting, stroking

Nonverbal: Looking up and down a person’s body; derogatory gestures or facial expressions of a sexual nature; following a person

Visual: Posters, drawings, pictures, screensavers or emails of a sexual nature

** Non-sexual conduct may also be sexual harassment if you are harassed because you are female, rather than male, or because you are male, rather than female.

As with quid pro quo harassment, very little of the behavior listed above is bad in and of itself. Sex is not a bad thing just because someone insists on using extortion to get it.  Insults and physical aggression can sometimes happen between friends as a normal interaction. Sexual jokes aren’t wrong because someone insists on telling them where they’re neither needed nor wanted. The problem is that the behavior is unwanted and interferes with someone’s normal conduct.

Nonsexual Sexual Harassment

One thing we haven’t talked about much is the last sentence of that quote. Sexual harassment doesn’t have to be sexual in nature. If it is pervasive, as it has been in many of these discussions, the simple assertion that women cannot be believed when talking about their own experience is sexual harassment because it specifically targets women.

Those people who have singled out the women in this discussion for their negative attentions are also contributing to a sexually harassing environment. They are creating a hostile environment for women in these movements and these discussions. (Men have been sexually harassed as part of these discussions too, but that’s mostly involved direct commentary on their sexuality or gender identity.) The same goes for those places where women are discussed as being less rational than men.

The Hostile Environment

Understanding the concept of “hostile environment” is central to understanding harassment in its various permutations. Quid pro quo harassment falls under the “severe” categorization, as does rape (yes, rape is harassment) and other forms of assault. Many of these forms of harassment are covered criminal law on their own. However, these are not the only forms of behavior that interfere with a person’s activities.

Smaller acts add up to a larger effect if they are ongoing or inescapable. Being asked out on a date once in a place or a manner that you consider to be unacceptable is a small annoyance. Being unable to hang out at a event with your friends without being interrupted by someone who thinks they’re entitled to stand as close to you as they want is quite something else.

People aren’t oysters. If something is continually irritating us, we move. If harassing behavior is pervasive in a organization, participation in that organization is denied to or severely limited for anyone who doesn’t excrete the equivalent of mother of pearl.

As people are not oysters, it also doesn’t matter whether the irritant someone encounters today is the same as the irritant they encountered yesterday. This is why a single act from a single person is not necessarily “no big deal”. It can still constitute harassment if it occurs where other similar acts are happening. One small act by one person can’t create a hostile environment, but it can certainly contribute to one.

Equal Civil Rights

It is not true that the workplace is the only place where sexual harassment is illegal. It was simply the first place (in the U.S.) where sexual harassment was formally recognized as an impediment to equal participation because it was among the first places where the value of equal participation in general was formally recognized. It has the most history, and it’s the environment most of us come into contact with.

Sexual harassment is also illegal in housing because we have formally recognized equal opportunity in housing as a civil rights issue. It is illegal in the administration of government programs. Last summer, I wrote about sexual harassment being recognized under Title IX by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights as an illegal barrier to equal participation in education. California recognizes a variety of professional relationships in which sexual harassment is illegal.

Sexual harassment is illegal in situations where a state or the federal government has chosen to recognize a right to equal access regardless of gender or sexual identity. It is a civil rights issue and it’s treated as such under the law. The limitations on the illegality of sexual harassment map very closely to the limits of our understanding of civil rights.

Along with plenty of other things in our modern lives, attending a conference isn’t generally considered a civil right, unless not being able to attend interferes with someone’s profession or another protected right. So harassment that doesn’t rise to the level of assault or another criminal charge isn’t illegal.

That doesn’t, however, mean it isn’t harassment, as I’ve already discussed. Low-level behavior can still create that hostile environment. It can still created inequalities in access.

This is why organizations that want to provide equal access across gender and sexual identities–or across racial identities or disability or socioeconomic status or any of a number of other classes that face significant discrimination–will want to adopt an anti-harassment policy. It’s also why they will want to make sure that their policies reach beyond criminal law.

And that is what and where sexual harassment is. All clear now?

Comments

  1. says

    Excellent. It should all be self-evident, considering that sexual harassment is clearly defined everywhere a policy is implemented, but sometimes you just need to lay it all out for the purpose of pointing people back to this.

    I’m going to add this to the timeline, but I’m slowing down my work on it considerably. Unless more conferences implement policies or some other major action happens, I don’t see adding every single blog post — no matter how valuable individually — to the timeline as being productive any more.

  2. says

    “Sexual harassment can only happen in a workplace, by definition.”

    Wait, so DJ Grothe actually thinks that it’s legally impossible for a store employee to sexually harass a customer? WTF??

  3. Remainder says

    Ugh, you know he was talking about the legal definition, and you admit that, you are just insanely picking a fight as usual. Just one more long post arguing against views nobody holds just for the enjoyment of your cheering followers! You’re obsessed!!

  4. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    I suppose they wouldn’t have been much encouraged by my elementary school, which literally, as a matter of explicit official policy, defined sexual harassment SOLELY as behavior of boys towards girls. Being called a “faggot” on a daily basis by both sexes and so forth (for not performing preteen masculinity “correctly”) was something you were just supposed to shrug off.

  5. Tony... therefore God says

    @3:
    Did you read Stephanie’s post for comprehension? She’s not arguing anything of the sort. In fact, her post is about defining sexual harassment in terms that people like DJ (and whole lot of privileged males in society) should be able to understand.
    I also see no “picking of fights”.

  6. Tony... therefore God says

    Stephanie:
    An incident happened tonight for a friend and I, involving this very subject
    {cross-posted from TET]

    Follow up to my Chili’s story:
    I just sent this email to their Guest Relations Department:

    Tonight I chose to dine at my local Chili’s with a good female friend of mine. I’ve been there many times in the past, and had no issues with food or service. Tonight was likely the last time I will eat there again. Shortly after our food arrived, the [male] bartender and a [male] server began a conversation within earshot of my friend and I, as well as one other table. Their conversation involved buying women drinks in the hopes that sex would be forthcoming. In addition, they made comments regarding women passing out and what might happen subsequently [in slight defense of the bartender, he did express the desire to be a gentleman in that situation]. The servers’ response ruined my meal. He chose to make light of the situation by saying that he might black out and not remember the events of that night either. This attitude is appalling and unacceptable. Women in the U.S. face sexual harassment and rape to a horrifying degree and are often shamed into staying silent. Attitudes such as those of the two employees contribute to a society in which women are treated as objects, not as human beings. (My friend, by the way has been sexual harassed in the past.)

    ::still pissed off::

    Purely by chance, I was reading this very post while having dinner and the moment I lost my appetite was also when I was reading about hostile environments.

  7. Brisvegan says

    Quick question for Stephanie and/or any FTB lawyer folks.

    Does the US or any of its states have laws about sex discrimination in the provision of services? Would allowing a hostile climate of sexual harrassment mean you were discriminating against the harrassed group on the grounds of their perceived gender? From my reading of the above, I think maybe your sex discrimation laws may not go so far.

    Here in Australia, BTW, allowing sexual harrassment at a con might fall afoul of our federal or state anti-discrimination laws (which cover sexual harrassment in the provision of goods services or facilities at the federal level or ALL sexual harrassment in my state, whatever the situation).

    What about your tort law? Could there be any liability if a con allows the infliction of emotional distress?

    I really wouldn’t want to be the lawyer or insurer for someone who deliberately ignored this sort of potential liability.

  8. Bernard Bumner says

    Ugh, you know he was talking about the legal definition…

    But, why? Why was he even talking about the legal definition? What was the point?

    At best, it is at odds with the experience of those various individuals who have been sexually harassed at TAMs and know this to be so. At worst, it gives the appearance of trying to define the problem out of existence.

    At best it was crassly insensitive to even mention it, at worst it seems to be a direct attack on victims.

  9. says

    Remainder, did you catch the part of this post that explains why even the legal definition D.J. gave was wrong? It’s very sweet of you to call me “insane”, though.

  10. Didaktylos says

    Remainder – don’t go disputing bridge-crossing rights with goats: the form book is not in your kind’s favour. And stay out of the direct sunlight – it’s fatal for the likes of you.

  11. John says

    Definitely a good post. I’ve been going through a debate with some folks on this issue, and the definition of sexual harassment keeps on coming up.

    I support policies being adopted by con organizers, and cite the numerous examples of harassment, but inevitably those examples are shot down as “not sexual harassment”, but single incidents of inappropriate behavior.

    The counter argument goes “that’s only sexual harassment because the policy you’re advocating for defines it as such, it doesn’t meet the legal definition”.

    The more I look at it, even under the guidelines you referenced, I’m not sure the “swingers card” incident would qualify under their definition – ie. is it “severe” enough for the single incident to count as harassment?

    At the same time I know my companies SH policy would have me terminated if I engaged in the exact same behavior, but that hardly seems like a good counter argument.

    Ultimately it seems that arguing over definitions over what is actually “sexual harassment” vs. “inappropriate behavior” is almost immaterial to the goal of implementing policies that ban this kind of behavior. Is the whole definition debate a red herring that we need to move beyond or is it worth fighting?

  12. a says

    #2 John – the example you give is a workplace.

    A better example would be two people in a public park can’t sexually harass each other.

  13. Brisvegan says

    I should add that whatever the legal status, I agree 100 % with Stephanie’s 2nd last paragraph.

    If an organisation actually wants non straight white cis male attendees, it is useful and productive to have policies addressing bigotry and harrassment and be seen to actively apply those policies and take the concerns of marginalised people seriously. This applies whether or not the undesirable bigotry or harassment is illegal. Its about respect and comfort for all potential attendees.

    Of course, if you don’t care about marginalised folk and dismiss their concerns, don’t whine if they’re not coming to your event. If you treat them like afterthoughts and liars, they might not want to to go. Marginalised folk don’t owe their attendance to anyone, just so the con organisers can point at stats and pat themselves on the back for how many attendees from x group they have. You actually have to make an event interesting and welcoming to marginalised people for them to want to attend. Scolding them for not ignoring your disregard for their safety is usually not the bet choice for making someone feel welcome.

    So, legality or not, liability or not, willingness not to encourage harm or not, decency or not, harrassment policies make good sense, if you want a diverse audience.

  14. says

    a, anyone can sexually harass anyone, anywhere. If it is severe enough, it will likely fall under a criminal statute. If it is severe or pervasive enough, it may be a civil rights issue. A public park may well fall under Title VI.

  15. John Stevens says

    Lets leave out the part where DJ says he had problems with the policy at TAM9 and would like to improve it for TAM2012.

    Lets also not forget the two posts on Skepchick after TAM last year that talked about how great TAM was, and how there were no issues.

    http://skepchick.org/2011/07/22660/

    and

    http://skepchick.org/2011/07/ai-rage-on/

    So what changed, what happened in the past 6 months or so that brought on this crap that TAM is now somehow unsafe, despite TAM9 being an “incredibly enjoyable conference” to an unsafe place.

    Lets also not forget that some of these people that are boycotting TAM due to lack of what they see as a proper policy are continuing to go to conferences that still have not announced any policy at all, or plans to do so.

    This is an attack on DJ and/or the JREF, plain and simple. Somebody felt slighted for some reason, or there was a falling out so they are going on the attack.

    Finally, I’m curious, what are the FTBers going to say if the email between DJ and Ophelia gets out there, what if it’s shown clearly that DJ and the JREF were not dismissive to Ophelia? Will you change your mind as all good skeptics should, or will you hunker down and twist it to still fit your needs?

  16. John says

    @Stephanie #14

    But then doesn’t it all come down to what is “severe” enough?

    Isn’t the problem now that we’ve just pushed back the definition problem a step? Won’t that just happen no matter how far we try to define things?

    The other problem I’ve come up against is that since these policies apply at conferences, it isn’t really analogous to workplaces in terms of how/where the policy applies. Does the policy apply in the bars afterwards? The hallways/hotel spaces that aren’t necessarily part of the conference?

    All these little detailed points pop up as objections, and it feels like a death by a thousand cuts.

    At the end of the day, what’s being argued for is prohibiting behavior that organizers think is inappropriate for their conferences – and people railing against the imposition of these rules.

  17. says

    Lets leave out the part where DJ says he had problems with the policy at TAM9 and would like to improve it for TAM2012.

    Where is that part? I haven’t seen it.

    So what changed, what happened in the past 6 months or so that brought on this crap that TAM is now somehow unsafe, despite TAM9 being an “incredibly enjoyable conference” to an unsafe place.

    You have some catching up to do. See this: http://freethoughtblogs.com/almostdiamonds/2012/06/17/harming-tam/ and this: http://freethoughtblogs.com/lousycanuck/2012/06/19/safe/

    Lets also not forget that some of these people that are boycotting TAM due to lack of what they see as a proper policy are continuing to go to conferences that still have not announced any policy at all, or plans to do so.

    Actually, no: http://freethoughtblogs.com/lousycanuck/2012/06/21/the-ftb-conversation-about-tam-transcript-pt-2/

    This is an attack on DJ and/or the JREF, plain and simple. Somebody felt slighted for some reason, or there was a falling out so they are going on the attack.

    That’s a highly irresponsible statement from someone who doesn’t understand how we got where we are. I expect you’ll be wanting to apologize for that once you’re caught up.

    Finally, I’m curious, what are the FTBers going to say if the email between DJ and Ophelia gets out there, what if it’s shown clearly that DJ and the JREF were not dismissive to Ophelia? Will you change your mind as all good skeptics should, or will you hunker down and twist it to still fit your needs?

    I’ve seen it. Ophelia characterizes it pretty well. Tim Farley, on the other hand, did a great job of taking it seriously.

  18. John Stevens says

    #17

    Wait, you’ve seen the email DJ sent to Ophelia in response to the threat?

    I’m not talking about the actual threat, I’m talking about DJ’s response that Ophelia said was dismissive. The one she said she hasn’t shared.

    I thought Tim only saw the threat since he helped trace it back.

  19. John Stevens says

    Those links to FTB blog posts happen long after the posts where TAM was first mentioned as being unsafe, those posts happen before DJ jumped in and fumbled up his response saying that talking about there being a problem with harassment at TAM.

    TAM was safe, then a few months ago people started posting it was unsafe, then DJ left comments in various places saying that these posts saying that TAM was unsafe could be partially the cause for the low registration numbers for TAM2012 (and something new FTBer Thunerf00t agrees with). That’s when things “blew up”.

    As far as for not seeing when DJ said he wasn’t 100% happy with TAM9′s policy and that he wanted it reworked for TAM2012, who’s the one that doesn’t have all the facts. It was in the premium version of the Ardent Atheist podcast that had DJ and Carrie on it.

  20. says

    As far as for not seeing when DJ said he wasn’t 100% happy with TAM9′s policy and that he wanted it reworked for TAM2012, who’s the one that doesn’t have all the facts. It was in the premium version of the Ardent Atheist podcast that had DJ and Carrie on it.

    You’re telling me that with people asking about TAM’s policy for this year, D.J. made a statement agreeing with the people who have been unhappy with him for his nonresponsiveness only on a show that is behind a paywall? This is his public statement? Oy.

    So, what did he say he wanted to change?

  21. John Stevens says

    The links to where TAM was said to be safe are in my first post, linking back to Skepchick.

    As to Ophelia saying the email isn’t getting passed around:

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2012/06/as-praised-on-twitter/#comment-201902

    Ophelia Benson says:
    June 22, 2012 at 4:11 pm

    Good grief. DJ’s email to me is getting “passed around”? I find that highly unlikely. Anyway all this insistence that I “release” it is bullshit. I don’t have permission to release it! (Nor have I asked for it.)

    Go back to ERV, troll.

  22. says

    John, where are “the posts where TAM was first mentioned as being unsafe” (which isn’t what people are saying even now) before D.J. jumped in with both feet?

    Ophelia is correct. D.J.’s email is not getting “passed around”. “Passed around” means in general circulation. I have seen it, by request. I have not passed it on. Not passing it on was, in fact, a condition of seeing it.

  23. says

    John @16, severity is not the only criteria for sexual harassment, as I explained in the post. Also, event organizers are being encouraged to adopt policies that explicitly lay out what behavior is considered problematic. That clarifies the situation for everyone who may be considering attending the event.

    For example, the card that Elyse was given may or may not have risen to the level of harassment all on its own based on severity. It may or may not have contributed to a hostile environment based on how one defines the environment involved. (Note that it was not the only incident at that event.) It definitely violated the anti-harassment policy, making everyone’s responsibilities in the situation clear.

  24. says

    None of that is about TAM. This was already explained in the first post I linked you to. You’ve got one more chance: John, where are “the posts where TAM was first mentioned as being unsafe” (which isn’t what people are saying even now) before D.J. jumped in with both feet?

  25. John Stevens says

    Regardless of the specifics. As Thunderf00t points out in his post on the topic, talking about freethought/atheist conferences being unsafe can of course cause people to not sign up.

    I’m curious if other events had similar. I think TAM got brought to the forefront because DJ mentioned the number publicly, and it was the next conference coming up.

    But that’s okay, lets forget about the other conferences that people have said they are going to that have no policy at all.

  26. says

    No, there is no “regardless of specifics”. You’re done. Particularly as the “points” in your last two paragraphs have already been addressed in the links I provided in my very first response.

  27. John says

    Steph @25

    Thanks for the reply, I appreciate it.

    I agree that the actions with the card violated the policy, although I’ve seen that argued as well, which kind of makes me wonder where to draw the line in having debates on the issue.

    The fact that this specific incident may not rise to the level of harassment is immaterial to the fact that if behavior is objectionable and putting out a policy to outline what is and isn’t acceptable is the best way to address the issue.

    The question I’m left facing is what is the limit of the policy in terms of application. It’s clear it’d apply at any talk, but then things start getting fuzzy at after events at bars, or the hallways/hotel spaces not distinctly part of the convention.

  28. jefrir says

    talking about freethought/atheist conferences being unsafe can of course cause people to not sign up.

    Well, yes, giving people more information about a subject can cause them to change their minds about it. Unless you are suggesting that people are deliberately making things up to support TAM, I’m not sure I see what you’re complaining about. People are talking about a genuine problem at conferences, one that is severe enough for some people to decide that they do not wish to attend (with the proliferation of other conferences creating more competition very likely also being a factor). Most conference organisers have responded by trying to do something about the problem being reported; DJ Grothe has apparently decided to complain about the reports instead.

  29. Pteryxx says

    TAM was safe, then a few months ago people started posting it was unsafe, then DJ left comments in various places saying that these posts saying that TAM was unsafe could be partially the cause for the low registration numbers for TAM2012 (and something new FTBer Thunerf00t agrees with). That’s when things “blew up”.

    And that’s the rewritten, bullshit narrative used to discredit the entire discussion of sexual harassment. Fortunately it’s easily debunked, both by Stephanie’s own “Harming TAM” post, and Jason’s timeline of events:

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/lousycanuck/2012/06/15/harassment-policies-campaign-timeline-of-major-events

    TAM was safe

    BS. TAM wasn’t specifically mentioned. However, discussion of women being harassed at conferences has been ongoing for at least two years: see the Elevator incident in June 2011, and PZ’s “The Woman Problem” post in 2010.

    then a few months ago people started posting it was unsafe,

    BS. This round started on May 20 (ONE month ago) with Jen mentioning warnings about certain speakers, with no mention of any specific conference.

    then DJ left comments in various places saying that these posts saying that TAM was unsafe could be partially the cause for the low registration numbers for TAM2012

    On May 26, DJ responds to questions about whether TAM has a harassment policy in place, as other conferences are adopting policies in response to the previous week’s discussion. He claims there were no incidents of sexual harassment at TAM. Also, he volunteered that TAM registration numbers for women were down, and blamed public discussion of the harassment issue for this.

    On May 30, several bloggers quote DJ’s statements, disprove his claim that no harassment occurred, and discuss how harassment policies need to be backed up with proper recordkeeping. Over the next few days, evidence is presented debunking myths that harassment is rare, that reporting is easy, or that victim reports shouldn’t be trusted; see Jason’s “Hyperskepticism” post on June 2.

    Good skeptics would look over the facts and stop believing and propagating a false narrative for weeks afterwards, right? …Riiiiight?

  30. says

    Yeh. We really need to get that out there – which I guess means everybody posting it like eleventy million times in GIANT FONT since the posting that’s already been done hasn’t gotten it “out there” yet because people keep repeating the original bullshit claim.

  31. Pteryxx says

    What burns me is that the original problem was brought up, discussed, and resolutions implemented in less than two weeks: between May 20 and July 2. Conference organizers started adopting harassment policies, with plenty of evidence and resources to back up their use, and increased awareness of the issues and how to deal with them. The community could’ve been fine with that, instead of getting dragged into a huge denial-based camouflaging shitstorm about some guy’s honor. DJ only put his foot in it because he denied the problem and blamed the solution, and now he’s being made the poster child for meddling feminazis and used to poison the entire harassment discussion in the process. Sheesh.

    I keep forgetting to thank y’all, and especially Stephanie, for putting all these resources together. Obviously this post will be a useful educating resource in arguments to come, too.

  32. says

    Pteryxx, that’s why I put this post together. This particular battle is largely won. Most organizations in these movements understand the purpose and importance of a policy. People aren’t screaming about the policies that have already been adopted. (Look for more policies debuting soon, by the way.)

    The issue, however, keeps coming up in multiple contexts with the same misunderstandings and misinformation, so I thought it would be useful to have a solid overview somewhere.

  33. smhll says

    Regardless of the specifics. As Thunderf00t points out in his post on the topic, talking about freethought/atheist conferences being unsafe can of course cause people to not sign up.

    Rebecca, as quoted in USA Today, said “freethought community” not “conference” and not a specific conference. (I read the whole article, and there is not much more context there.) In my mind, freethought community includes virtual gathering spaces, local gatherings, conferences…

    She also used the phrase “safe space”, which has a more specific meaning than “dangerous space”. The buzz phrase “safe space” has implications about emotional safety from prejudice. (Look it up for greater nuance. I’m hurrying.)

  34. says

    Sex is not a bad thing just because someone insists on using extortion to get it. Insults and physical aggression can sometimes happen between friends as a normal interaction. Sexual jokes aren’t wrong because someone insists on telling them where they’re neither needed nor wanted. The problem is that the behavior is unwanted and interferes with someone’s normal conduct.

    (Emphasis mine)

    THIS! This, this, this, this-ity, THIIIISSSS!

    THAT is the crux of the issue! That some people are, a) engaging in behavior that is making people uncomfortable; and b) continuing said behavior (and defending it!) after being told, “Hey, knock it off.”

    How freakin’ difficult is it to just, you know, behave like a decent person? (I mean, if I can manage it…)

  35. echidna says

    John Stevens,

    There is a misunderstanding with the term “safe space”, which has a particular meaning (see wikipedia):

    A place where anyone can relax and be fully self-expressed, without fear of being made to feel uncomfortable, unwelcome, or unsafe on account of biological sex, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, cultural background, age, or physical or mental ability; a place where the rules guard each person’s self-respect and dignity and strongly encourage everyone to respect others.

    Saying that a particular con or community is “not a safe space” is not the same as saying it is unsafe.

    It’s quite consistent for reports from the con to have said it was normal, where normal means no major problems; nothing to write home about. A couple of incidents, a couple of reports, but nothing worse than normal life.

    But DJ made a big mistake when he said that there were no reports of harassment, because this was not true. By not correcting this mistake, he compounded the problem by essentially sending the signal that harassment is in the mind of women, not an objective reality. Others are doubting that any incidents occured at all. Green-light for the guys wielding an upskirt camera!

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