Putting your (thunder)foot in it

I haz a sad.

Look I’ll make it simple, the point of a bar isn’t to make everyone maximally safe (indeed if it were, they would ban bars, as it would be far safer if everyone just stayed at home and did nothing), it’s to let everyone have the most amount of fun.  The reason people don’t go to bars that are maximally safe, is because they are DULL, with folks always living in fear of crossing some random rule written by  some hypersensitive pencil-necked PC jockey.

Thus does my new blog-neighbour thunderf00t button his argument that sexual harassment policies at conferences are onerous and unnecessary. Apparently TF thinks that asking conferences to put in place clear policies about how sexual harassment and assault will be handled will deprive him of his favourite bar-night activity: eating the calves of strangers.

A picture of thunderf00t biting someone's leg

I wish I was making this up. I’m not.

So I want to quickly get one thing out of the way. Different blogs and bloggers have different styles, and I am not at all insensitive to the fact that there is the need to grant some artistic license even to bloggers. That being said, if you format your post like it’s a Mabus spam e-mail (with random caps, senseless bolding, inconsistent colour changes), you should have to sit in the DUNCE corner for a little while and think about what you did. Thus ends the snobbery.

So yeah, TF evidently thinks that a) bars exist to maximize fun, and b) sexual harassment policies make it impossible (or at least more difficult) to have fun. I suppose embedded in that assumption is the idea that there isn’t a problem worth addressing in the first place, which is frankly very stupid. To that end, TF points out the above picture as an example of a time when he was having fun at a bar with another person without requiring the arduous task of first establishing whether or not she was okay with that kind of spontaneous physical contact. To wit:



Nor do I see why everyone who is happy with such bars should have to comply to your dull set of rules that would SPECIFICALLY PROHIBIT EXACTLY THE SORT OF FUN GOING ON IN THIS PICTURE.

Here’s the thing… if you’re going to go on a long ranty post about the evils of strawmanning people, you might want to avoid doing so yourself. What everyone has been talking about literally this entire time is enforcing harassment policies – not exchanging sexual behaviour contracts. Amazingly, some people don’t find it fun when they are groped, pestered, and otherwise ogled by people who believe it’s their right to maximize their own fun at someone else’s expense. For some reason, the fun of the people in that first group doesn’t really seem to make its way into the utilitarian calculus that TF claims is so clearly obvious.

Of course, what TF doesn’t know (and probably couldn’t know) is that I was a bouncer at a bar (a few bars, actually) for a number of years. Here’s a weird factoid factlet (Matt Penfold has rightly pointed out that I am using the word ‘factoid’ incorrectly) that might blow TF’s mind: bars actually do have sexual harassment policies. However, when they (we) enforce those policies, they often take the form of punches in the face and getting your ass dragged outside by a bunch of ‘roid-swollen malcontents who’ve been watching your drunk ass try to inappropriately touch that woman under her dress for the last half hour and are really excited to fight.

Despite TF’s assertions to the contrary, having security at bars that enforce sexual harassment policies doesn’t actually spoil the fun for anybody except the total sleazebuckets that break them. Here’s another fun factlet: those same sleazebuckets often come back to the same bars, hopefully sufficiently chastened that they don’t do that shit again. If not, then you’d better believe they get tossed and banned. The reason why bars have those policies in the first place is because (drumroll) they want women to come to the bars. I’ve known a few places that had really lax security, and they were nowhere near the most popular establishments. Weird how that works, eh? Almost as if having a reputation as a pit of iniquity kept people from wanting to spend their money there.

This isn’t difficult: if you want women to be part of your conference, you have to listen to them when they tell you that X is a problem. You can whine all you want about how you don’t personally think it’s a problem, or that their having a problem is spoiling your good time, or that you (and not they) are the grand arbiter of what is reasonable behaviour. But you can’t do that and then turn around and express dismay that female attendance is down.

So thunderf00t, if your position is seriously “I should be allowed to chew on people’s legs without making sure they’re comfortable with it first” then yeah – you’re the problem. Sure, you personally might be a real limb-chompin’ Don Juan. Not everyone is blessed with your suaveness and ability to seamlessly establish consent through what I guess is some combination of telepathy and pheromones. A lot of people do creepy shit at conferences, and when the response is “oh well, creepers gonna creep”, you can’t act all shocked and dismayed when people avoid your crappy club for jerks.

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P.S. There is apparently a conspiracy theory out there that the FTBorg co-ordinates these things on the back channel. I guess you’ll just have to decide how trustworthy I am when I tell you that this isn’t true.