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A response to geraldmcgrew on harassment

I have been going back and forth with a commenter under the handle ‘geraldmcgrew’ who was ousted from Pharyngula comment thread. He feels that his expulsion was unfair. For the record, while I understand why he received the rough treatment he did, I think the initial response to his question was egregious and unfair. I don’t have a banning procedure here, but I am satisfied that geraldmcgrew’s behaviour (specifically, repeatedly posing a question to which he had received several responses) was the reason for his banning, not simply the fact of his dissent.

That being said, he asked the following question in response to the related question of sexual harassment policies:

Except “being hit on = sexual harassment” is exactly what is repeatedly stated in this community. Heck, it was expressed in PZ’s first post to TF!

The argument encompasses meetings, but also the larger geek and atheist culture, which turns out to be pretty damned sexist. You do not correct the broader problem by turning a blind eye to the specifics; it doesn’t work to say that you reject misogyny, but oh, that meeting there? It’s OK if you hit on women there. It’s OK if you abuse women in a bar; bars are free-range markets for men to exercise their will.

Hitting on someone is lumped in with abuse of women? Sheesh…

My response to this question, coloured as it was by my zeal to provide a mindful response (as opposed to the accusations that I “mindlessly” defend anything), ran a bit long. I am posting it here both to avoid making the already-loaded comments section of that post grow to an absurd length, but also to highlight what I think is a reasonable response to a question that I suspect many people do not fully understand.

My response:

Any unwanted sexual approach technically qualifies as harassment by definition. Harassment is a subset of abuse, yes.

I think the point you were trying to make (and please correct me if I get something wrong here) is that with a definition drawn so wide, you run the risk of a flood of ‘frivolous’ claims from people who are propositioned in a way that would be entirely socially acceptable somewhere else. Because the organizers have created an explicit policy in which any kind of unwanted approach is harassment, and there is a ‘zero tolerance’ policy for harassment, there is the possibility of someone behaving in a way that a reasonable person would not consider harassment, but the conference would be bound by their own rules to eject that person. That would be unfair to the ejected party, because ze would have no reasonable way of knowing that hir behaviour was unwanted until after the approach. Is that more or less a fair encapsulation of your point?

If it is, then I will try to clarify the refutation that the Pharyngula commenters offered (picked out from in between the insults). The first thing is that the likelihood of someone lodging a frivolous complaint is pretty low. In fact, this “but what if the accusation is false” argument is often used to dismiss the stories of rape victims (I am not not NOT accusing you of defending that logic – I am merely trying to explain a possible reason why you received the response you did). What is far more likely is that any complaints brought to the organizers are happening because all reasonable avenues of personal redress (for example, declining a polite but unwelcome invitation the first time it is proffered) have been exhausted*.

Second, as many noted, not every violation will result in an immediate expulsion. To suggest otherwise is a bit strange. There are gradations of response, which start at a verbal warning and ultimately end with expulsion. While the policy does not explicitly note that, it also does not explicitly state that the conference will exercise no discretion whatsoever in determining the severity of response. What it does say is that the conference decides what is harassment, not the person accused of harassment. I am having difficulty imagining a circumstance under which the conference would not agree with their own policy decision.

Third, this debate has always been about whether or not conferences are taking an active role in ensuring that events are places where participants can feel safe. Despite TF’s insistence otherwise, harassment is a serious issue at these events, and if we want to attract more women to these events we have to listen when they say something is a problem. Not all women have said harassment is a problem, but some have cited it as a real barrier, and it is something we have the power to control. Harassment policies accomplish two things: 1) they send a message to attendees that the organizers have been listening and are taking steps to address the problem raised by a minority group (in some way validating their inclusion in the larger community); 2) they empower the organizers to take active steps, rather than leaving themselves open to reprisal if they do act but have not made their expectations clear. Without a policy, the only recourse is to involve the police (as people have been stupidly suggesting repeatedly). Police involvement in someone being ‘creepy’ is likely not going to go very far, and up will go the cries of “I think the cops are a bit of an overreaction, don’t you?” Allowing the conference staff themselves to intervene sides solidly on the side of people who, up until now, have felt like they don’t have a lot of allies.

And that’s what this whole thing is about – rebalancing the scales to ensure that the maximum number of people feel comfortable. Yes, there will be some people who are so litigious and faux-principled that they will refuse to attend an event because “adults should be allowed to do whatever they want”. The problem is that this is the status quo attitude, and we have begun to recognize that the status quo is untenable. It has made these events a very unwelcoming place to many people who we would very much like in attendance. Something has to be done, and sexual harassment policies accomplish the things I have described above. Yes, they can and should be calibrated to make sure that we don’t end up making completely unreasonable decisions (like banning people in the absence of a complaint, or allowing a non-involved third party to lodge a complaint because ze doesn’t like the way something looks – neither of these are likely, I am just spitballing ideas here), but it does not mean that they are a bad idea.

I will close with the advice that someone else gave you somewhere in that monster of a thread: let’s see if they cause problems before we start imagining doomsday scenarios. If the policies become significantly cumbersome, we can identify the problems and change them. But it does us little good to start inventing problems in the absence of them actually happening, especially if there is no precedent upon which they are built.

*Note: anyone who thinks this is an appropriate time to bring up ‘the elevator incident’ is still deeply confused about why what happened that night was problematic, and why there was a subsequent fight after Rebecca suggested that people shouldn’t do that.

Comments

  1. Beauzeaux says

    I’ve been around the block a few times — well MANY times. I’ve seen this argument before whenever a beneficial policy is proposed.
    Free childcare? What about all those rich women who could afford to pay?
    Abortion on demand? What about those crazee wimmins who could use it as birth control?
    Voter ID is just a way to prevent fraud.
    Sexual harrassment policy? But what about the poor mens who could inadvertently commit harrassment without know it?

    First, these are deeply conservative positions. It’s taking the outlier as a basis for the argument. Better that the many deserving be deprived than one undeserving person get a benefit.It’s also based on the underlying theory that it’s worse to be accused of harassment than it is to be actually harassed. It’s worse to be accused of racism than to be the actual target of racism.

    Over and over — the same arguments I’ve been hearing since the 1960s. It’s depressing.

    I don’t believe in the poor socially awkward nerd who doesn’t realize that grabbing a woman’s butt is unacceptable. I don’t believe he exists. And if he DOES exist, it’s time he had a lesson in manners.

  2. says

    I would advise waiting until we disagree on something before giving me such a ringing endorsement :P

    I do appreciate the sentiment though.

  3. says

    So let’s draw a line between “grabbing a woman’s butt” and “politely asking someone on a date 10 minutes into a conversation”. The first, most would agree, is obviously and egregiously wrong. The second, most would agree, is entirely fine.

    The problem is that there is a whole lot of questionable behaviour happening at various other points along that line, while many actors in the debate are hovering around these two extremes, with the pro-policy side holding up the former and the anti-policy side the latter. Neither of those are ambiguous cases, and neither requires the intervention of a special policy. Problem is, one side is refusing to recognize the fact that doing nothing fixes zero problems (and yes, there are problems).

    The issue has always been, at least in my mind, who we believe is empowered to define harassment – the accuser or the accused. On a more pragmatic level, we also have to decide what actions will be taken in response to complaints of harassment – will they be dealt with or will they be minimized?

    I share your frustration (well, to the extent that I can) because this seems like such a basic thing. Some people have identified harassment as a problem. Harassment can be fixed. Let’s fix it, and then it won’t be a problem anymore.

    As to the larger question of the pattern of response to these issues, I concur with your analysis. We allow the debate to become focussed on these ‘edge cases’ to the point where everything else becomes obscured. The other thing that never seems to make it into the argument is the monumental harm done to those who disproportionately bear the brunt of the social inequalities inherent in the status quo. We make a small change, nobody gets hurt and a lot of people get helped.

  4. meg says

    The interesting thing for me, watching this all go down, is that it’s been at the same time as I’ve been experiencing a potential harassment issue develop at work, and I’ve been struggling on how to deal with it.

    It is not deliberate, openly misogynistic harassment. One of the guys is young, and can be socially stupid. Done a couple of things that are just teenage boy stuff, without thinking them through. The problem is he’s always been given the leeway to be silly. And he drags the other guys into it. Most of it is sexual comments, and normally directed at the other guys. The women who work directly with him normally ignore him, but I’ve started to wonder at their real reaction. The problem is twofold. Lately, he’s started to make sexual jokes towards myself, or about women in general. Possibly because for the most part we get along well. He’s also dragging in one of the guys I work with, who I’ve known on a personal level for many years. Suddenly I’m having to tell a very old friend that what he’s saying isn’t appropriate, as well as trying to work out how to deal with a 20-something kid who’s been allowed to get away with stuff. And who probably can’t see what’s wrong with it. It took me two weeks to get up the courage to say something to my friend, and this is someone I’ve trusted with a lot of very personal stuff.

    And that’s the problem – what isn’t harassment for one person is for another. So I do understand guys feeling that there’s no way to win when there’s a harassment policy in place. Yes, there is the occasional vindictive woman who will allege something as a form of revenge. Doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be a policy in place – there are far more silent victims.

    And for what it’s worth, knowing that it’s been happening on many levels, and there are people – men and women, working on the issue, is what finally pushed me to say something and ask that it be addressed, and the guy spoken to. I don’t want him fired or given a warning, he’s a nice kid. I just want him to learn what is appropriate so that he doesn’t really piss someone off.

    Ok, didn’t mean for this comment to be this long . . .sorry!

  5. says

    I agree. I think the tag of “socially awkward” is often overused to excuse thoughtless/careless/creepy behaviour – almost as if to plead for pity and say “It’s not my fault I hit on you after you already said you were going home to bed/kept hitting on you after you said “No”/slapped your butt during karaoke, I just don’t know how to act in social situations, it’s my genes”, etc.

    But not only can casual/inappropriate use of “socially awkward” put the onus on to the recipient of obnoxious behaviour to then understand and forgive the obnoxious person (instead of impelling the O.P. to take responsibility and accept consequences), it can also delegitimise and disenfranchise people who have actual, real, diagnosed problems with social interaction.

    Also, those with actual social problems, in my experience, purposely avoid complex social interaction precisely _because_ of their difficulty in dealing with it, especially in chaotic, busy places like hotel bars after conferences.

  6. says

    I understand your attitude completely. Like a lot of people around here I’m not the kind of zero-tolerance, anti-flirting, anti-sex-talk, throw-them-in-the-misogynist-gulag feminist that others would have you believe are epidemic. I understand, like you, that a lot of inappropriate talk/action is the result of youth and inexperience (I certainly wasn’t immune to it!) and, if identified early can be modified and altered/stopped.

    But for the most part, when talking of conference attendees and speakers and their extra-conference interactions in bars and other venues, we’re not talking about 20-year old inexperienced kids – we’re talking about liberal, reasonable educated adults who, you would think, would have some idea of how to act appropriately around others, and some idea of how to spot when their own behaviour isn’t welcome. Obviously, a small number of these people aren’t have neither of these ideas, hence the need for a short, sharp document stating “Please don’t do A, B or C as this may ruin other people’s fun. Ruining other people’s fun may elicit Response D, E or F according to the severity or frequency of A, B or C. Thanks and have fun!”

  7. meg says

    And why workplaces need them.

    I think that’s why I want the issued addressed at work now – the more I realised that people I wouldn’t have expected to act in such a way did, the more I realised, if no one says anything to him now, when will he learn?

    It’s often hard to change older people’s views on these issues (though I have made awesome progress with my mother and LGBT rights), which also means an open, transparent policy is important – okay, might not change the mindset, but hopefully means they won’t act on it.

  8. Kahfre says

    With so many men furiously supporting feminism these days, they are giving women a power which can be easily abused. And the funny thing is, those who are trying to ‘empower’ women by giving them these powers, are the ones who will lose their own powers in the process if some women choose to abuse these powers. Don’t say it doesn’t happen and every woman is a victim here and every man is a villain.

    You said:

    “The first thing is that the likelihood of someone lodging a frivolous complaint is pretty low. “

    It is true. But it is also true that low likelihood does not mean no likelihood. Some people seek attention and like to play the role of victims, not to mention create drama. Therefore, every such complaint must be thoroughly analysed before jumping to any conclusions whatsoever. This is especially true for those who refuse to believe in anything without EVIDENCE.

  9. geraldmcgrew says

    Crommunist,

    First, thanks for posting a thought-out, reasonable reply that actually addresses the points I was trying to make (rather than calling me names and threatening me with “the banhammer”). To be honest, given the exchanges at FtB, I was expecting something more along the lines of just calling me a fucktard and leaving it at that.

    specifically, repeatedly posing a question to which he had received several responses

    Just so I’m clear, what question was that specifically?

    Any unwanted sexual approach technically qualifies as harassment by definition. Harassment is a subset of abuse, yes.

    My recent experience with this subject tells me we have to clarify here. When you say “that is harassment”, do you mean “harassment” in the “being annoyed by Jehovah’s Witnesses” harassment, or “formal action is required” harassment? Sorry, but every time I think we’re talking about one, it turns out someone else was talking about the other.

    Is that more or less a fair encapsulation of your point?

    It’s half of it, yes.

    The first thing is that the likelihood of someone lodging a frivolous complaint is pretty low

    I agree, and I’m sure you noticed on the Pharyngula thread that I also agreed with that point several times.

    Second, as many noted, not every violation will result in an immediate expulsion. To suggest otherwise is a bit strange.

    Again, I agree. And actually, I agree with the rest of your post.

    My overall point was simply this…

    The AA policy lists “unwelcome sexual attention” as an example of “harassment”, which the policy states they do not tolerate. By that very definition, an invitation out on a date that is rejected is “unwanted sexual attention” that can be reported by the person who was asked out, or even by a third party who merely observed the exchange. If either one of them (the person who was asked out or the third party observer) reports to management, at the very least the person whose invitation was rejected will be approached by mgm’t and told to cease this “behavior”. Even PZ said as much to me in that thread.

    IMO, there are two potential problems here (and they kinda flow together)….

    It’s been fairly well spread around that the atheist/skeptical community has a “sexual harassment problem” and that some largely anonymous individuals are particularly guilty. But it’s also fairly obvious that there are some within the same community who are, for lack of a better term, hyper-sensitive to this issue. I see that as a potential powder keg. All it would take is one benign date invitation to the wrong person, who then reports it to mgm’t and cites the policy in demanding that they do something. Of course mgm’t would likely elect to do nothing more than (as PZ put it) “wag their fingers” at the person. But, given both the publicized harassment problem and the anonymous perpetrators, the chastised person can now claim that his reputation (and maybe even his professional reputation) has been damaged for doing nothing more than asking someone out on a date.

    Of course a lot of people are going to read that and say, “Oh FFS Gerald, no one is going to do that”. All I can say is, go work in an office with someone who loves nothing more than to generate their own drama…someone whom we call “frequent filers”, because they are constantly filing one sort of frivolous complaint after another.

    My point was, and still is, the likelihood of such a scenario can easily be minimized via a few minor changes to the policy. That’s all.

    And as I said repeatedly at the Pharyngula thread, maybe none of this will ever happen and this policy will totally solve all the problems. I certainly hope it does.

    Finally, thanks again Crommunist for your reply. It’s been somewhat of an eye-opener for me into a skeptical movement that I was gravitating more and more towards. So maybe this was all a good thing in the end.

  10. says

    And the funny thing is, those who are trying to ‘empower’ women by giving them these powers, are the ones who will lose their own powers in the process if some women choose to abuse these powers. Don’t say it doesn’t happen and every woman is a victim here and every man is a villain.

    Wow, I don’t even know where to start with this. Have you heard the term ‘zero sum game’ before? Because what you’re basically arguing (if I am understanding you correctly) is that by making accommodations for women, men will somehow lose something they (we) deserve? I’m almost positive the same argument was made during the suffrage movement. I find it as baseless when it is used now as I do when it was used then.

    Also, nobody has ever said, least of all me, that every woman is a victim. I certainly haven’t said that every man is a villain. What nonsense! Where are you getting this?

    But it is also true that low likelihood does not mean no likelihood. Some people seek attention and like to play the role of victims, not to mention create drama.

    Oh good, the ‘victim-playing drama queen’ meme. Again, unless you are basing this on some kind of precedent, I’m going to have to dismiss it as frivolous (and complicit with some pretty sexist tropes used to trivialize the complaints of women and other minorities).

    This is especially true for those who refuse to believe in anything without EVIDENCE

    I refuse to respond to any more of your comments on this or any topic until you answer me this question: what would you consider sufficient evidence of sexual harassment? What kind of evidence would be credible enough, in your mind, to believe an allegation?

  11. A Hermit says

    Balancing the remote possibility of someone over-reacting and filing a “frivolous” complaint against the fact that real harassment can and does occur and the high probability that it will continue to occur if the problem is not adressed; it seems to me that there is a need to tip the scales away from the real harassment.

  12. Suido says

    Got a question for you:

    Why did Crommunist use the words ‘pretty low’?

    a) He actually meant ‘zero’, but his fingers slipped, and so you felt required to point out the difference.

    b) He actually meant ‘pretty low’, which doesn’t mean zero, so your point is included by implication and therefore redundant.

  13. says

    To be honest, given the exchanges at FtB, I was expecting something more along the lines of just calling me a fucktard and leaving it at that.

    Well, obviously you haven’t been paying much attention then, otherwise you’d know that Pharyngulites frown on insults ending in “tard” (it’s ableist, people with genuine developmental disabilities are harmed by the splash damage).

    “Fuckwit” is more like it.

  14. ImaginesABeach says

    Why is it that we always worry about the “socially inept” person who makes clumsy advances, and we never worry about the “socially inept” person who has a hard time dealing with advances, whether smooth or clumsy?

  15. Suido says

    My recent experience with this subject tells me we have to clarify here. When you say “that is harassment”, do you mean “harassment” in the “being annoyed by Jehovah’s Witnesses” harassment, or “formal action is required” harassment? Sorry, but every time I think we’re talking about one, it turns out someone else was talking about the other.

    Distinction without a difference. JWs at your door once isn’t harassment. JWs at your door every day is harassment. A person flashing their genitalia at you in public is instant harassment.

    To use generalities: for mild incidents, the elevation to harassment requires persistence. For major incidents, a single case can constitute harassment.

    As to the rest of your post, there is always the possibility of false positive or false negative identifications of harassment. So far, there seems to be a history of false negatives at cons (non reporting, no repercussions for harassers), which is unsurprising given that’s the unfortunate status quo of society in general.

    Policies to prevent harassment may lead to false positives, but is that really worse than false negatives?

    Lousy Canuck has referred to the statistics on under-reporting of sexual harassment in society – ignoring that data is why commenters at pharyngula have no patience with you and your defence of false positives.

  16. says

    what question was that specifically?

    The question of “how do we know these policies won’t leave us open to frivolous complaints?” or something along those lines.

    I don’t know that I agree with the accuracy of the term ‘hyper-sensitive’, and I doubt either you or I are in a position to truly judge what the appropriate level of sensitivity is. And I think that’s largely the point here: our barometer for ‘sensitivity’ should be set by those most likely to avail themselves of the policy, not by those of us whose conference-going experience is likely going to be totally unchanged by the presence or absence of the policy.

    The problems you describe are the problems inherent in any harassment policy, not just these. I don’t think you’re arguing that sexual harassment policies are bad per se, right? And I see that you did pass along your recommendation to AA, so hopefully they will find a way to balance that. Until that situation arises though, I think it’s justifiable to err on the side of the harassed rather than some hypothetical innocent to-be-named-at-a-later-date.

    It’s been said by others, and I’ve said it too, but these issues we’re discussing aren’t “atheist/skeptic problems” – they’re human problems. We are just the kind of people who are more self-critical than other groups where these things happen and nobody says/does anything. We don’t have a hierarchy to fear – anyone and everyone can make their voice heard. As a result, we’re going to see issues brought up more often, and so long as no blood is drawn, I see that as a positive thing.

  17. says

    All it would take is one benign date invitation to the wrong person, who then reports it to mgm’t and cites the policy in demanding that they do something. Of course mgm’t would likely elect to do nothing more than (as PZ put it) “wag their fingers” at the person. But, given both the publicized harassment problem and the anonymous perpetrators, the chastised person can now claim that his reputation (and maybe even his professional reputation) has been damaged for doing nothing more than asking someone out on a date.

    There’s an easy fix for this… don’t ask people out on dates. If you’re that worried about false positives, it’s probably the best course.

    If anti-harassment policies are instituted, the worst thing that’s going to happen is that you will be forced to consider the risk to your reputation if you ask someone out on a date without being really, really certain that they’re interested.

    So where is the awfulness in all of this again?

  18. mandrellian says

    I was just writing a post about degrees of first approach (“how about dinner?” versus a NSFW business card, for example), when I saw this:

    for mild incidents, the elevation to harassment requires persistence. For major incidents, a single case can constitute harassment.

    I think this is exactly what needs to be spelled out. Asking someone out once, politely, for the first time isn’t harassment and I think most reasonable people understand that. However, if the asker is told “No thanks” but persists (or if their first request was a purposefully lewd/overtly sexual gesture), it’s then up to the person being asked out how they feel about that behaviour and what to do next. Sometimes a second, unambiguous “No” might do; other times it might require external intervention.

    I honestly don’t think anyone drafting (or honestly discussing) harassment policies would consider a simple date invitation to be harassment; however, there is a clear and obvious need to spell out that if a person subjected to particular behaviour finds that behaviour objectionable, there are ways to address it. Yes, this might create a small number of false harassment claims (which, if done maliciously and aren’t due to misunderstanding, are themselves harassment!), but the overall intended effect of a harassment policy is/should be to reduce as much as practicable (not eliminate, as that’s unlikely) the instances of undesirable behaviour, by indicating (in a purposely general way, as offence is usually subjective) what will be tolerated, what won’t and how to redress a grievance.

    As a general comment and not related to Gerald (I didn’t actually see the Pharyngula thread), I’ve found it difficult over the past couple of weeks to grasp exactly why so many people (not just commenters but high-profile people like Paula K and TFoot) have such a great misunderstanding of what’s being discussed here – it’s almost willful.

  19. cassmorrison says

    You bring up the other problem with having one “that guy” – if no one says anything other people, who have known better in the past, become “that guy”. I don’t know about your work, but at mine the policy is no harassment including age-ism, religion, gender, etc. If you have an anonymous line, use it. I’ll bet once someone says something others will as well if your HR is any good at all. Everyone gets trained annually (which may be another avenue for discussion.)

    Best of luck.

  20. says

    I may have to write about this soon, because it’s coming up a lot in recent discussions. I don’t like speculations about the motivations of other people (and try to avoid doing that whenever I am clear-minded enough to do so). The problem is that we are primed to see intentionality in others that is very seldom there. I don’t think Thunderf00t is a bad person, I think he’s a regular person with a blind spot on this issue and a conditioned response to push back against criticism.

    As far as Ms. Kirby goes – I haven’t run across her until this thing. Again, I don’t think it’s fair to describe her as willfully blind – I think it’s far more likely that she just sees a pattern of behaviour she doesn’t like and has followed her feelings down the rabbit hole that leads to making comparisons between being called out on a blog and the actions of the Stasi. I’m not saying it’s not bizarre, I’m just saying it’s not necessarily malicious or intentional.

    There is also the larger issue of spotlight to contend with. A lot of attention is being paid to these issues for the first time. Someone says something smart (“we should have harassment policies at cons”) someone else replies with something stupid (“harassment at cons isn’t a real problem”) people like the FTBorg respond critically, and then the whole world goes mad. From an outsider’s perspective, it looks like silly divisive infighting where both sides can be blamed. If you don’t bother to understand the issue (which I think both TF and Ms. Kirby are deeply guilty of), it will lead you to come down on the wrong side of it.

  21. F says

    The longer this is allowed to continue, the worse it is going to be when something has to be done. Worse for him, maybe worse of at least more uncomfortable for you and others.

    The problem is that he’s running with what he can get away with, and by no one responding negatively he is being socialized into bad behavior, and it’s probably rotting his mind as well.

    He may not even have this crap ingrained yet, since you seem to think he is an otherwise decent person. He may have simply tried some small-talk or other and this, erm, humor is what got a response. So he is going to keep doing that because that is seemingly, to him, an effective strategy for fitting in and being part of the group. As if it were analogous to sports blathering or something.

  22. Kahfre says

    Wow, I don’t even know where to start with this. Have you heard the term ‘zero sum game’ before? Because what you’re basically arguing (if I am understanding you correctly) is that by making accommodations for women, men will somehow lose something they (we) deserve? I’m almost positive the same argument was made during the suffrage movement. I find it as baseless when it is used now as I do when it was used then.

    No, I wasn’t familiar with the term until you mentioned it and I looked it up. Not sure if this is what I am saying, but I think I can explain my point with a simple example: Suppose there is a group of men who are all furious supporters of feminism. Now suppose a woman, who is familiar with this group of men, decides to play, as you said, the ‘drama queen’ by lodging a ‘frivolous complaint’ about sexual harassment. That group of men hears about that complaint and starts writing and bloging in favour of that woman, while at the same time condemning the accused man, without seeing it necessary to gather more information about the incident and analyse the information objectively. Now, a few weeks later, it turns out that the woman was simply lying and just wanted to create drama and seek attention. Did you just see what happened in the process? All the men who were supporting that women were played like helpless pawns by that woman — thereby losing their power to her.

    The deeper point is, always analyse the facts and information objectively before jumping to any conclusions … anything is possible. Sadly, many supporters of feminism these days do not see it necessary to do that.

    Also, nobody has ever said, least of all me, that every woman is a victim. I certainly haven’t said that every man is a villain. What nonsense! Where are you getting this?

    That it is possible that some women, from time to time, under the urge to seek attention and create drama, may lodge frivolous complaints, thereby accusing innocent men of wrongdoings. And, in the real world, it happens more often than you would like to admit. Depends heavily on where you work and live. If you are a young male working in a female-dominated environment … lots of luck. Sometimes you can get into trouble because you didn’t acknowledge an advance by someone you didn’t like! Imagine that!

    Oh good, the ‘victim-playing drama queen’ meme. Again, unless you are basing this on some kind of precedent, I’m going to have to dismiss it as frivolous (and complicit with some pretty sexist tropes used to trivialize the complaints of women and other minorities).

    Consider both and all possibilities … is the point. The woman could be a drama queen, or she may be a real victim of harassment, plus many other factors. Until there is enough information … hold your horses. I think this is how professionals do their job. And aren’t we lucky that they work this way? Imagine Police officers reacting to such incidents as PZ Myers does? We’d have truckloads of men going to jails on hourly basis, wouldn’t we?

    I refuse to respond to any more of your comments on this or any topic until you answer me this question: what would you consider sufficient evidence of sexual harassment? What kind of evidence would be credible enough, in your mind, to believe an allegation?

    It may work something along these lines: Many expert people should ask the woman lots of questions to analyse the situation objectively. Involve any witnesses and evidence in the process. After having analysed the situation objectively, then and only then, they should arrive at any conclusions. After all, it could be an innocent person being accused here. In other words, consider all possibilities at all times. Try to act like professionals, and not like victim-playing cry babies. Remember Lt. Columbo?

  23. Stacy says

    I may have to write about this soon, because it’s coming up a lot in recent discussions. I don’t like speculations about the motivations of other people (and try to avoid doing that whenever I am clear-minded enough to do so). The problem is that we are primed to see intentionality in others that is very seldom there. I don’t think Thunderf00t is a bad person, I think he’s a regular person with a blind spot on this issue and a conditioned response to push back against criticism

    That’s a good point and one I need to bear in mind more myself. However, one caveat:

    While you’re probably right about most of the players involved in this, like TF and Kirby, I’m pretty sure there’s one or two high profile pitizens whose blindness is quite intentional and malicious. Won’t name names.

    And, of course, the “misunderstanding” exhibited in comments by people trolling for lulz are entirely deliberate.

    It is one of the reasons it’s easy for people to lose their tempers with…certain commenters. Sometimes unfairly.

  24. F says

    “Giving them power”. It’s called “equality”. Otherwise known as treating women as human beings.

    You are full of crap. I’m always amazed when someone says something that is so stereotypically a textbook example of a problem. It’s the sort of thing that folks on your side of the issue mock us with, as if we believe this sort of thinking is the main problem, for which we have no evidence.

    Your post should be suitably framed for hanging.

  25. says

    If one person is filing frivolous complaint after frivolous complaint to the harassment reporting people, it’s going to be pretty clear what’s happening, and I’m sure the reporting committee will handle it properly. If person after person is filing a complaint about the same harasser, it is going to be equally clear what is happening, and I’m just as sure the reporting committee will handle it. Meanwhile, they’ll collect the data and keep track and approach people when they need to be approached, and because it’s all done privately and in confidence, no one has any reason to worry about unfairly besmirched reputations. And if you are leery of the whole process, ask for clarification when before the event gets started. They will explain it to you.

    To go on and on about it in advance looks like to me also a way to avoid doing anything at all, with the end result of the people who get away with harassment now getting away with harassment in the future.

  26. says

    Your opinion of women makes me incredibly sad for you. It’s predicated on this ridiculous stereotype of women as vindictive shrews waiting to ensorcel some unsuspecting innocent man and ruin him for her twisted pleasure. It’s fucking cartoon shit.

    If you are a young male working in a female-dominated environment … lots of luck. Sometimes you can get into trouble because you didn’t acknowledge an advance by someone you didn’t like! Imagine that!

    Yeah… I’m pretty sure that only ever happens when people imagine it. Also, I do work in an environment that is mostly women. I have for years. I’ve never once heard of anything even remotely resembling that, but I have definitely seen some totally out-of-bounds shit perpetrated by older men on younger women.

    Many expert people should ask the woman lots of questions to analyse the situation objectively.

    So… interrogate her. That’s your solution to harassment – interrogate the victims. Your standard for evidence is unreasonable, sickening, and counterproductive. What is far more likely is that if someone knows that if she’s harassed she’s going to be subjected to questioning by a panel of ‘experts’ (like who, the guy from Lie to Me?), she’s probably not going to report it. We know this because it’s what happens to rape victims whose cases are dismissed by ‘skeptical’ law enforcement who question her motives, her state of mind, her sobriety, and her clothing instead of realizing that false rape claims are ridiculously infrequent.

    Also, you say ‘analyze the available evidence’ but you STILL haven’t specified what that evidence IS. Security footage? DNA? Fingerprints? What?

    Your ‘solution’ is really just a dressed up version of the “what about the menz” argument, and I dismiss it as such. You’re labouring under the gross misconception that the scales are not already tipped in the direction of perpetrators of harassment getting away with their crime. Your view of reality is deeply flawed.

    Try to act like professionals, and not like victim-playing cry babies.

    You’re a piece of shit. Straight up. That’s all kinds of fucked up, and I hope a female member of your family slaps you in the face for saying something so completely clueless, offensive, and mean-spirited.

  27. F says

    Sigh. Asking for a date.

    Well, if you’ve been following any of this, you would know that this is exactly the sort of thing people drafting the policies do not want. The know sex happens. They like it. They want other people to enjoy it. At their conferences, even. They have explicitly said so.

    Waling into a group of people having a conversation and introducing yourself with, “Hey, wanna fuck? Anyone?” could be taken as harassment (or maybe they would just think the person an amusing idiot -whatever). But if they tell you to buzz off, yet you persist, then that is harassment.

    What is there not to get about this? The policy creators damn well expect people to hook up. Fact. A single, polite, but unwanted expression of sexual interest is not harassment.

  28. F says

    If one person is filing frivolous complaint after frivolous complaint to the harassment reporting people, it’s going to be pretty clear what’s happening,

    Because that, also, is harassment. Ka-fookin’-ching.

  29. rroseperry says

    The thing that jumps out to me from your posts is the assumption that any and all accusations of harassment would result in the immediate naming and shaming of the accused. The few online policies I’ve seen don’t seem framed in that way.

    When it comes to taking harassment seriously, it means taking the time to do some research. There’s nothing that means every claim will be justified.

    I think you’re reading your own preoccupations/prejudices into this.

  30. Cafeeine says

    I’ve always imagined the ‘tard-style insults were connected to ‘bastard’ actually. BY ‘splash damage’, do you mean to include damage by unintended association?

  31. karmakin says

    Funny thing. I was going to post something about this, so I’ll just reply here so it’s neat and tidy.

    WORST CASE SCENARIO:

    Let’s assume that there’s some woman who gets jollies off of reporting people for harassment. Yes, this is extreme, but I’m giving the worst case scenario here. She reports innocent person for harassment. The staff comes to the person, as it’s their first report, tells the guy to try and avoid her, which he should want to do anyway, because quite frankly, she’s not a nice person.

    And that’s it.

    This is the Worst Case Scenario for this. And it’s nothing. Well. It’s not nothing. I know if I was the guy I’d feel a bit uncomfortable. But that’s nothing compared to the vast number of times that policies like this make someone else feel comfortable. (And quite frankly I’d feel uncomfortable due to personal emotional and mental issues I have anyway. General anxiety YAY! :p)

    People don’t want zero tolerance…much of this stuff is too gray-area and quite frankly most rational people understand the problem with zero tolerance anyway…they want documentation so we can find out who the biggest offenders are and do something about it.

    That’s ALL.

  32. geraldmcgrew says

    To clarify, my point isn’t about the potential for “false positives”. As currently written, if I report someone for asking me out, that’s not a false positive, it’s a valid complaint that mgm’t has stated it “does not tolerate”. If mgm’t does nothing, under the policy I have a legitimate complaint against them for not following their own policy. If they approach the accused and “ask them to stop any harassing behavior”, that person is then “expected to comply immediately” or else they face being “sanctioned or expelled from the conference (without a refund)”, merely for asking someone out, and face the real potential of suffering damage to their reputation, i.e. because it’s been well publicized that there allegedly are actual, real serial harassers at these conferences, this person is now viewed as one of them.

    IOW, a situation where one person can point to the policy and demand something be done, and another person can be forever branded a sexual predator simply for asking a person out.

    As I pointed out in my very first post on this policy, it’s a very, very simple fix. That’s all. If the policy stays the same and things get much better without any incident, everyone should be very happy, myself included.

    Finally, Crommunist…

    The question of “how do we know these policies won’t leave us open to frivolous complaints?” or something along those lines.

    Except I never really asked that question. I raised that point and several of us debated it, amidst a room of pre-pubescents, PZ included. No, it was pretty clear why I was singled out. The stated excuse was my number of posts, while simultaneously a few “minions” were posting things like “you’re an arsehole…fuck off” far more frequently. But that’s another subject and one that I’m done with. I learned my lesson and consider myself the wiser for it.

  33. meg says

    Cassmorrison – thanks. I did speak up this week, and it is being addressed. In fact, today he was told by the boss to ‘give it up’ when he started on something that could have gone downhill very quickly. It’s amazingly reassuring to hear that when I’ve been doubting myself for a while about my reaction.

    F – exactly. I’m glad it’s not just me seeing this!

  34. mandrellian says

    I may have to write about this soon, because it’s coming up a lot in recent discussions. I don’t like speculations about the motivations of other people (and try to avoid doing that whenever I am clear-minded enough to do so). The problem is that we are primed to see intentionality in others that is very seldom there. I don’t think Thunderf00t is a bad person, I think he’s a regular person with a blind spot on this issue and a conditioned response to push back against criticism

    I get that and I’m not trying to project a motivation on PaulaK or TF or RBlackford or anyone else (I’m certainly aware of TF’s penchant for drama, hence me un-subbing from his channel). It’s just their response (especially this hysterical nonsense about “bullying” and “silencing dissent” – I suggested on twitter Paula might like to speak with Aung San Suu Kyi about what that phrase actually means) just baffles me so much that I’m hard-pressed to think of a reasonable explanation that doesn’t involve outright malice (although outright malice has now become a common feature of those allegedly being FTBullied. For that reason I guess I should stop trying!

    Like you, I don’t think any of these people are bad, just that their responses to this latest Deep Rift ™ have been utterly disproportionate and histrionic (and, in Paula’s case at least, out of what I assumed was her character) – moreso than pretty much any response from their so-called FTBullies (well, the half-dozen or less of the thirty-two FTB’ers that they usually mean when they say that, anyway). It reminds me of the incandescent rage and the insults and threats thrown at Rebecca Watson after that thing with the guy in the place – she said three innocuous little words and all of a sudden it’s a slimepit/MRA free-for-all (with, regrettably, some high-profile guest-stars) and she (and anyone who stood by her) is persona non-grata. Only this time around, in addition to the usual trollswarm, a far higher proportion of those throwing the shite are respected and well-known “names” in the movement. As if they’d not paid a whit of attention to the last shitstorm.

  35. says

    You seem to be repeating the pattern of behavior that led to your bannination at Pharyngula. That said…

    To clarify, my point isn’t about the potential for “false positives”. As currently written, if I report someone for asking me out, that’s not a false positive, it’s a valid complaint that mgm’t has stated it “does not tolerate”.

    Regardless, since you’re talking about this from the perspective of the person accused, and assuming that they were sincere about just wanting to go on a date, “false positive” is a pretty good phrase to describe the phenomenon.

    If mgm’t does nothing, under the policy I have a legitimate complaint against them for not following their own policy.

    Indeed. Management should 1. Log the complaint and 2. Inform the person that their attention was unwanted. That’s all that’s required.

    If they approach the accused and “ask them to stop any harassing behavior”, that person is then “expected to comply immediately” or else they face being “sanctioned or expelled from the conference (without a refund)”,

    The point you’re eliding here is that in order to be expelled without a refund, the person would have to repeat the behavior at least once.

    merely for asking someone out, and face the real potential of suffering damage to their reputation, i.e. because it’s been well publicized that there allegedly are actual, real serial harassers at these conferences, this person is now viewed as one of them.

    Where is it written that conference organizers are bound to publicize the names of people accused of harassment? In none of the policies I’ve read does it state this. Instead, they can expect a CONFIDENTIAL discussion of their behavior and a warning not to repeat it. If they repeat it then the consequences may be greater, including expulsion. Again, where’s the terribleness?

    IOW, a situation where one person can point to the policy and demand something be done, and another person can be forever branded a sexual predator simply for asking a person out.

    This “forever branded a sexual predator” stuff sounds like unfounded hyperbole.

    You’re not doing your credibility any favors here.

  36. says

    Well, yeah, sensible anti-harassment policies don’t ACTUALLY discourage people from asking other people on dates, having consensual hookups or anything else.

    Nevertheless, if you are a person who is GENIUNELY worried that you might be mistaken for a harasser because you tend to cut to the chase too quickly, then there IS one easy solution: DON’T ASK PEOPLE ON DATES.

    Is that really so bad? I mean, for an entire weekend?

  37. says

    You seem to be repeating the pattern of behavior that led to your bannination at Pharyngula.

    For the record, I do not share this assessment.

  38. eigenperson says

    Perhaps I misunderstand you.

    It seems like your complaint is that:

    1. If you do something that you don’t think is harassing, but the person who you do it to does think it is harassing, and
    2. that person reports it, then
    3. the management will come to you and tell you not to do it again.

    This is bad how?

    I fail to understand how that is bad. That is exactly how I would like the situation to be handled if I were you.

  39. says

    Yes, “splash damage” is a useful phrase to describe the reasoning behind why racist/sexist/homophobic/ableist slurs are not just distasteful, they’re actively harmful. By insulting a person by comparing them to women/people of color/gay people/disabled people, you’re actually reinforcing the idea that there’s something wrong and bad and inferior about being a member of any of those groups. You were aiming your insult at an individual, but the “splash damage” ends up doing harm to the entire group.

  40. says

    I think the concern is

    4. your name is recorded as a person who has harassed another con-goer, which is problematic. Especially if, in the world outside the con, your behaviour would be perfectly legitimate.

    It’s not an impossible scenario, and would conceivably do serious damage to someone’s reputation. I’m not at all sure that this is a likely thing to occur though, especially if both parties were given an opportunity to offer an explanation of the events. I would like to think that, despite the propaganda stating otherwise, this is a group of people who are not so fem-blind that we can’t see reason if it comes from a man (even one accused of a bad thing).

  41. Ysanne says

    Bastard? Oh, so now we’re discriminating against children born out of wedlock, are we? ;-)

  42. Stacy says

    @geraldmcgrew:

    the chastised person can now claim that his reputation (and maybe even his professional reputation) has been damaged for doing nothing more than asking someone out on a date

    I think they (whoever “they” is in charge of such complaints) are going to have some protocol in place. They’re going to ask the alleged “harassee’s” side of things. If it was a harmless interaction and somebody overreacted, that really should be the end of it. I have to assume names would be held in confidence. Certainly nobody’s gonna be reported to the police for the behavior you describe.

  43. geraldmcgrew says

    Crommunist,

    Thanks again for both addressing my points in a reasonable and thoughtful manner, and allowing me an opportunity to explain further. I truly appreciate it.

    With that, I believe my part in this discussion has been fully vetted and examined from just about every possible angle, thus I’m totally satisfied with moving on.

  44. Smhlle says

    I personally don’t think that asking someone for a date is sexual attention. I do think asking someone for sex is sexual attention. The middle ground is hard to pin down, and probably needs to be up the individual. You can’t be sure that someone won’t say “no” if you bring up getting it on, but with some effort you can have some confidence that she or he won’t be surprised or offended. People who aren’t flustered and feeling bothered are unlikely to report, and, besides what ever s/he had to say would probably fail to work the conference staff into a lather.

  45. Kahfre says

    So… interrogate her. That’s your solution to harassment – interrogate the victims.

    I’ll answer that first, because for you to say this, it becomes obvious enough that I haven’t been able to convey my main point yet.

    Have you ever heard of innocent until proven guilty? So, basically, it is not a harassment, and it can’t be, until it has been proven as harassment. Having said this, the man accused in this incident is completely innocent until proven guilty. You are not seeing this whole thing from the accused’s perspective. A false accusation can ruin a person’s life. Which is why the man involved in this incident must be considered innocent until proven guilty. How do you do that? I don’t know. But for starters, like I said, gather as much information as possible, and then analyse the situation objectively before jumping to any conclusions. This is not too much to ask, is it?

    In the end, anything is possible. A woman, for example, can initially misinterpret someone’s harmless act as sexual harassment. But, later on, she may come to a different conclusion all together. They key here is … try not to get carried away by your emotions.

    You’re a piece of shit. Straight up. That’s all kinds of fucked up, and I hope a female member of your family slaps you in the face for saying something so completely clueless, offensive, and mean-spirited.

    In my family, people are educated and freedom of speech is revered highly. As such, I expect no such extreme reaction from any female member of my family for merely expressing my opinion. Maybe you can calm down a little, as we are only exchanging opinions here….

  46. Kahfre says

    “Giving them power”. It’s called “equality”. Otherwise known as treating women as human beings.

    You are full of crap. I’m always amazed when someone says something that is so stereotypically a textbook example of a problem. It’s the sort of thing that folks on your side of the issue mock us with, as if we believe this sort of thinking is the main problem, for which we have no evidence.

    Your post should be suitably framed for hanging.

    No, it can’t be called **equality.** At best, it could be called men’s deeply hidden desire to act more powerful than woman. Do you see how men can give any power to women? It’s by telling them first that they have less power and men have more power, and then by putting them in a situation where they must rely on men for the power and this so called ‘equality’.

    It’s men’s deeply hidden desire to dominate women and never let them free… never let them act on their own.

  47. silentsanta says

    ‘Any unwanted sexual approach technically qualifies as harassment by definition’.

    I don’t go to bars and identify as a straight male. For the last few years I have been hit on by gay men about once every 5 or 6 months on average (and by women significantly above my age bracket about once per month.) I have never wanted a sexual approach from anyone in either group.

    What you have just said is that I am harassed by these people. I find that absurd. In every case I have thanked my prospective suitors for their attention and politely declined, and in every case -bar one- that was that.

    A definition of harassment that covers ‘being hit on in all cases’ is of no use to anyone. For harassment to occur it seems there must be an element of persistence or (for example) the act occurring in a setting where the recipient is disempowered; that would still cover politely asking someone if they wanted to go for a drink while both people are in an elevator and cant remove themselves from the situation.

  48. violet says

    @kahfre

    It is a possibility whenever you institute any set of rules or laws that someone will falsely claim that another person broke the rules. It hasn’t stopped anyone ever from putting rules in place and we haven’t yet seen a rampant societal problem with people abusing sets of rules the world over to get other people I trouble, “drama queens” or otherwise. Certainly not a problem that makes it inadvisable to have rules and codes of conduct – they are quite commonplace in modern society and seem to work fairly well to lay out everyone’s rights and responsibilities.

    Enforcing harassment policies should be more like dispute resolution in most cases than police work. It’s providing a framework for someone who is having a problem with someone else’s behavior to get it resolved. The types of resolutions are not very likely to satisfy vengeful drama queens, as I imagine they would most often fall into the category of gently explaining to someone that x behavior is making the other person uncomfortable and would they mind not doing that to that person anymore, rather than any type of harsh punitive measures. Done correctly, it would be handled privately so as not to embarrass anyone.

    I don’t see how that is anything to be too worried about. Harsher punishments like being ejected from the event should, with a well-enforced policy only result from behavior that is repeated after the person has been formally requested to leave another person alone, or claims of egregious actions of sexual misconduct (like groping) that have supporting evidence like multiple complainants or witnesses.

    Also,the lack of rules would not stop a person who is determined to hurt someone in the manner you describe. In fact it could possibly allow them to cause more harm, because their accusations could be made in a vacuum where there would be no one to step in and mediate. With a well run event if someone was accusing someone of something, anyone could report it to staff who could step in. Without the policy and trained staff the situation may be more likely to escalate.

  49. says

    This morning I responded to a tweet of yours saying that I thought both sides in this dustup were talking past each other, victims of their own confirmation bias, and that I couldn’t even tell what the argument was even about.

    In this post, you not only present the opposing view fairly and respectfully, your answer is clear and thoughtful. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that.

    But I have to say, I’m a kind of shocked to find that this is all that the hubbub is about. I guess I naively thought there had to be more to it, since everything you say seems… well… obvious.

    Anyway, thanks for this post.

  50. Ben says

    First, any accusation, is just that, and should be treated as an accusation. The standard of modern justice is that you are presumed innocent until proven guilty. The fact that Politically Correct liberals and Social Conservatives often try to treat an accusation as proof, is exactly why bad policies like these ones should never be used.

    Second, ‘harassment’ has a legal status and definition in most jurisdictions, so accusing someone of harassment based on some politically motivated made-up definition opens conferences up to litigation…. slander/libel.

    Third, redefining words to suit your political leanings is exactly what George Orwell warned about in his book 1984. The common understanding of ‘harassment’ may include ‘being offensive’, but they are not not not equivalent.

    The self-righteous always think their shit doesn’t stink and the rule of law shouldn’t apply to them.

  51. Kahfre says

    The thing that jumps out to me from your posts is the assumption that any and all accusations of harassment would result in the immediate naming and shaming of the accused. The few online policies I’ve seen don’t seem framed in that way.

    No, not all accusations. But in situations where we have high-profile women with lots of feminism-supporting men behind them… yes, it could happen easily. Which is why, I for instance, if I knew beforehand about the woman, would never ever want to get involved with such a woman, and would try my best to leave her alone.

  52. silentsanta says

    To clarify, Mandrellian has quoted a policy with the appropriate nuance:

    “for mild incidents, the elevation to harassment requires persistence. For major incidents, a single case can constitute harassment”.

    That sounds great, I think we can roll with that. I hope these policies are adopted by all freethinker and secular related conferences, and by any conferences of any stripe that don’t already have such policies.

  53. silentsanta says

    Huh? I was objecting to the wording of Crommunist’s statement- women’s ability to be level-headed in the face of unwanted attention was not remotely mentioned in my post, and I can’t see where you got this from.

    Not everyone who wants nuanced wording is in panic about the (largely mythical) frivolous complaints. Honestly after seeing how much unwanted sexual harassment women put up with in my field (ie as medical students, harassed frequently by their almost categorically male seniors) and who just ignore it for their career safety (even though they shouldn’t have to) makes me think the great majority of women have -sadly- had to become *far too complacent* about the issue.

    I instead, was saying would like to see a policy that doesn’t mean that a gay man hitting on me is harrassing me. The distinction is important. It is especially important given that the presumed equivalence of the two is a known basis for the disgusting gay-panic defence used by murderers of homosexual men.

  54. says

    There are a few compelling reasons to write the policy in such a way as to include the first proposition as well as repeated propositions and blatant harassment such as groping.

    Most importantly, you talked about getting hit on once per month? For some women, at conferences, it’s once every hour. Or more, or less–either way, it can be a bit much. Letting attendees know that this COULD possibly be perceived and treated as harassment will, hopefully, reduce the incidence of these drive-by attempts at mating. You should read Alethian Worldview’s post about Sexual Panhandling, it really helps people understand why it’s necessary to write the policy that way.

    Secondly, sometimes the first approach IS genuinely weird and skeevy and harassing. It really just depends on the context. It’s better to have reporting as an option than to force a woman to wait until she gets harassed three or four times before it’s within the rules to report it.

    And the reason I asked you whether you doubted the ability of the average woman to deal with propositions in a level-headed way is that the absolute worst case scenario here is that one dude gets talked to one time and doesn’t repeat his behavior. His name won’t be publicized, he won’t be sent home, he’ll just have an additional data point about what kind of thing is likely to get a positive reaction and what isn’t.

    Which brings me to my “thirdly,” which is to point out that the most likely scenario is that the woman just declines and shrugs it off. Most women deal with this all the time and many have even said that they barely notice mild harassment (e.g. Christina Rad’s recent posts on the subject) because they’ve experienced so much really blatant harassment in their lives.

  55. says

    Assuming that this guy simply doesn’t know there’s anything wrong with his behavior, what I’ve heard works best for getting someone like him to stop is a simple “Not cool,” preferably said after he’s crossed the line with a comment, and preferably at a level where only he can hear. If it isn’t public, there’s no threat of social embarrassment, so he hopefully won’t feel the need to double down on his behavior.

    (Note that I haven’t tried it myself, but this is what I’ve heard works best for cases like the one you’ve described.)

  56. says

    A false accusation can ruin a person’s life.

    Citation needed.

    Much has been made of the potential for false accusations to destroy the lives of men (of course) falsely accused of harassing.

    Premise 1: Anti-harassment policies have been standard operating procedure at large corporations, government agencies, universities, and professional conferences for about two decades now.

    Premise 2: As per Khafre, it is easy to make a false accusation and ruin someone’s life.

    Conclusion: there should be at least one clear-cut example of an innocent man having his life ruined by a charge of sexual harassment.

    So, where is your example?

    Here’s my counter-example: Clarence Thomas probably did harass Anita Hill (we’ll never know, of course) but whether she did or not, his life was far from ruined by the accusation.

  57. Kahfre says

    Thanks again for both addressing my points in a reasonable and thoughtful manner, and allowing me an opportunity to explain further. I truly appreciate it.

    Yeah me too, Crommunist.

    And I’ll add: There’s lots of energy and passion in your writing, and I can literally feel this energy oozing out of my monitor — and it doesn’t feel threatening or unwelcoming. So, it’s been a nice experience chatting here. At least, a nice experience on my side…:)

  58. silentsanta says

    Most importantly, you talked about getting hit on once per month?

    To clarify, that was uh, once per month from the specific groups mentioned, not in the general sense. But I certainly and immediately concede your point that women are generally propositioned at rates orders of magnitude greater than men have to deal with, and that this can be problematic. I’m also aware -as I hope anyone reading this is- that such a disparity is one more reason why men are often unable to imagine how frustrating and tiresome being constantly hit on can be for women.

    Secondly, sometimes the first approach IS genuinely weird and skeevy and harassing.

    Not contested.

    It’s better to have reporting as an option than to force a woman to wait until she gets harassed three or four times before it’s within the rules to report it.

    Sure, I want reporting to be an option with the first approach too; however I don’t think classifying every incident of any person being hit on without it being wanted is an appropriate definition for harassment.

    the absolute worst case scenario here is that one dude gets talked to one time and doesn’t repeat his behavior.

    I think it’s more complicated than that. The problem is not just the (previous) lack of a policy, it’s the (almost categorically) male people who are harassing women in the first place. There are a few things I can deduct:

    1. Harassment is a problem, and it is more common than we give it credit for.

    2. Harassers are more common than we think too.

    3. Since nobody likes to think of themselves as a perpetrator of sexual harassment, most of these men probably don’t think they’re doing anything wrong.

    4. They probably engage in this sort of harassment outside of conferences as well.

    5. This current, widespread discussion on policy may therefore be their first wake-up call to the fact that what they have been doing is not wanted and is not okay.

    The current discussion (on policy and harassment in the more general sense) represents our best opportunity yet to not only provide recourse for women who are harassed (first priority), but also a bridge for the ignorant people who engage in sexual harassment to identify that they are doing something wrong and stop doing it both at conferences and elsewhere. I don’t think that this is important as the first priority, but I do think that equipping these less-than-gentlemen with some amount of insight into their own behaviour is a worthy goal too. If harassment is ever likely to decline it must be in part because of better insight from those who would otherwise have engaged in it.

    Therefore we need to unite to credibly outline what harassment is, and what behaviour is and isn’t okay. If we can’t word our policy in a way that credibly distinguishes normal and acceptable behaviour from harassment, what do you think the chances are of actually getting through to those who engage in sexual harassment? There are a lot of them. And when they’re not in conferences they don’t go into storage; they’re out there most likely harassing someone at work or at the coffee shop. And they’re still going to be failing to distinguish acceptable behaviour from harassment.

    I think advocating a definition of harassment that covers those examples I gave (of me simply being hit on when I didn’t want) is not only objectively wrong, it is also likely to make people unreceptive to the anti-harassment message, or even hostile to it. It will be hard enough to create social change we want without alienating people who aren’t engaging in sexual harassment and/or delegitimizing normal and acceptable behaviour.

    That is in summary why I think your ‘worst case’ defense is not actually describing the worst case.

    I instead support Mandrellian’s more nuanced wording which I mentioned in my other comment below.

  59. embertine says

    I saw a comment elsewhere on FtB (cannot remember where, sorry)stating that, since conference organisers were not law enforcement officials, and since most examples of harrassment would not result in a conviction anyway, that the policies were toothless and without merit as they could never be enforced.

    To which I reply: WAT

    I worked down on the Olympics recently, where there is a “No Spitting” policy. Spitting in the street is certainly not against the law, but it is disgusting and soon results in a patina of greenish slime over everything when you have 3,000 builders on site. As many of our workers came from parts of the world where antibiotic-resistant TB is gaining a hold, it represents a genuine health risk too. But it’s not illegal.

    So according to this commenter, the “No Spitting” policy could not be enforced because spitting is not illegal. What utter nonsense. The policy was and is enforced, and the rules are laid out clearly in the mandatory site induction. Non-compliance means a series of warnings and, finally, being firmly escorted off site by security.

    That’s exactly how a non-harrassment policy should work. It should be issued to all attendees in advance. It should be posted in strategic places around the venue. A first offence should get a warning*, then if the behaviour continues or escalates the offender should be removed from the venue.

    This is not difficult and it does not impinge on anyone’s right to have a good time. It just impinges on anyone’s right to have a good time at someone else’s expense, and I’m fine with that.

    *Depending on the severity of the first offense, of course.

  60. Kahfre says

    Conclusion: there should be at least one clear-cut example of an innocent man having his life ruined by a charge of sexual harassment.

    So, where is your example?

    Here’s my counter-example: Clarence Thomas probably did harass Anita Hill (we’ll never know, of course) but whether she did or not, his life was far from ruined by the accusation.

    I am not saying that a false accusation will always ruin a person’s life. I am saying it can. Which is to say, it has the potential to ruin a person’s life, and it can do so in many ways. For example, making such an accused person feeling sad, depressed, guilty and lonely inwardly to name a few conditions that can easily surface in a person going through such events. This is why, it makes no sense to declare a man as guilty merely because someone said so and thought so; and it makes perfect sense to treat such a man as innocent until (if) he has been proven guilty beyond doubt.

    The other aspect of this argument is that nobody should be given such a power, as such powers always have a high potential of abuse. Putting all the women in the same category, as victims, and putting all the men in the same category, as villains is simply childish… since liars, criminals, cheaters, abusers, and all sorts of people, come in both genders.

    Having said this, I can’t give any examples of those men whose lives were ruined by such false accusations. It’s more of a common sense scenario that I am trying to present here. Furthermore, since a lot of people tend to stay quiet and keep a low profile after such incidences … real life examples will always be hard to find.

  61. decanuck says

    To clarify, Mandrellian has quoted a policy with the appropriate nuance:

    “for mild incidents, the elevation to harassment requires persistence. For major incidents, a single case can constitute harassment”.

    That sounds great, I think we can roll with that. I hope these policies are adopted by all freethinker and secular related conferences, and by any conferences of any stripe that don’t already have such policies.

    This. Thank you. I’ve never liked the blanket definition that ALL unwanted sexual attention is necessarily harassment, no matter how polite, tactful, respectful, or singular.

    The definition proposed by Mandrellian provides women recourse for even one incident (if serious enough) without unnecessarily castigating people’s appropriate advances that, if turned down, cease. Sexual harassment is a loaded term that carries with it shame and stigma to whomever it applies (as it should). It should cast a wide enough net to catch as much bad behaviour as possible, but catching benign behaviour discredits the whole effort because the scheme then appears arbitrary, heavy-handed, and ridiculous.

    ‘all unwelcome attention’ is such a net. It would be impossible for anyone navigate the life of a single-and-looking person without committing several instances of what that definition would call harassment. The only way to avoid directing attention on an unwelcoming person would be sheer dumb luck, psychic powers, or body language-reading social skills that us nerdy brainy folks tend to lack.

    Unless some of the feminists skeptics want to desexualize conferences completely–like is often advocated for workplaces–this seems to be the best policy. I seriously hope the former doesn’t happen as these events are fun, vacation, getaway-type trips for many and, when like-minded people congregate in such venues, sex happens. Plus the “don’t shit where you eat” principle of workplaces doesn’t hold as strong here.

  62. Praedico says

    “Also, those with actual social problems, in my experience, purposely avoid complex social interaction precisely _because_ of their difficulty in dealing with it, especially in chaotic, busy places like hotel bars after conferences.”

    As a socially awkward person (currently in therapy for my anxiety), I would like to say: THIS ^

    Put me in a social situation, and I don’t make creepy awkward advances to people. I sit on my own, worrying so much about saying or doing something wrong, that I end up not doing anything at all. I can count on one hand the number of women I’ve actually asked out, and I’ve NEVER approached a woman with casual sex as an intended goal.

    My most major problem isn’t that I’m not aware of social norms, but rather that I am painfully aware that the rules of social interaction are many, complex, often contradictory and vary from person to person. Add to this a deep seated desire to avoid causing offence or being badly thought of, and interaction with people I don’t know starts to look like a particularly dense minefield.
    I take my time getting to know people. I’m careful in my interactions. Sure, I screw up occasionally, but what I don’t do is charge into an unexplored minefield waving even the most euphemistic of ‘Please Come Fuck Me’ banners.

  63. Beatrice says

    Kahfre,

    No, not all accusations. But in situations where we have high-profile women with lots of feminism-supporting men behind them… yes, it could happen easily.

    It’s interesting how you immediately assume the accuser might have an unfair advantage by having influential people supporting her, while not even entertaining the same possibility on the part of the accused. That is, where an accusation of harassment is waved away unfairly because the person who (was said to) have committed it is an influential member of the community.

  64. says

    My sincere apologies to those whose comments were held up in moderation over the past few hours. It’s unusual to have so many new people posting during the hours when I am in bed.

  65. says

    So you’re against sexual harassment policies PERIOD.

    Good to know. We can now remove your opinion from the list of things relevant to the conversation.

  66. says

    The advantage to setting the definition wide is that it makes the implied assumption that victims of harassment are free to decide what does and does not constitute an unwelcome reaction. This ‘doomsday scenario’ of a vindictive political accusation based on behaviour that would be considered benign outside a conference still seems far-fetched to me, but hey I have never run afoul of a policy like this before.

    It seems to me a worthwhile experiment to see what happens if we simply trust those who are likely to be victims of harassment like adults (the other side is constantly imploring us to do that) and assume that they won’t use the existence of a policy to wreak havoc on an unsuspecting and innocent population. That being said, I don’t know that building discretion into a policy like this is a bad idea – I just don’t know if it’s necessary.

  67. NancyNew says

    Considering that one big reason that the need for sexual harrassment policies in corporations has been because men in power use their authority to force women into untenable situations… Let’s just say that I find the “someone might abuse the situation and falsely blame a poor helpless man” not nearly as effective an arguement as NOT having such a policy means some powerful head honcho can get away with holding promotion promises out as an inducement for sexual favors..

    I write policies, programs and procedures for a living (everything from Quality Management Systems to OSHA to Security to International Traffic in Arms Regulations compliance). Having a policy in place means that everyone knows the steps to take if there’s a problem–that it’s been defined and described. It means no one is batting around in the dark when such a problem occurs, just as, if a company plans for a physical emergency situation (fire, flood, power outage), everyone knows what they’re supposed to do if it actually DOES happen.

    Having such policies in place is a sign of effective company management.

  68. says

    I’ve argued at my own blog that the simple “unwanted sexual attention” language should be elaborated on, not because I think there will be a spate of unfair accusations following the letter of the policy, but because some people genuinely do have a hard time intuiting social rules, and having expectations of appropriate behavior clearly and explicitly laid out for them is tremendously helpful.

    To be clear, I’m not talking about someone grabbing someone’s butt and claiming that they didn’t know it was inappropriate. I’m talking about people much closer to the “I’ve been talking to this attractive person for a few minutes and I wonder if it’s okay to ask them out” side of the spectrum.

    Ideally, I think harassment policies should serve the purpose of clearly communicating expected behavior, as well as the purpose of providing harassed persons a clear recourse. At the same time, I recognize the difficulty of drawing exhaustive guidelines, especially at a conference where sexuality is peripheral to the main point (as opposed to a conference organized around various sexual minority identities.) It’s impossible to delineate all the contextual elements that may make “hitting on” inappropriate, especially as many of them will vary from person to person, and we certainly don’t want to get into a situation where harassment complaints are caught up in legalese. But still, something bugs me about just saying “No unwanted sexual attention. You figure out what that means.”

    I like Todd Stiefel’s proposed elaboration, except that I’d remove the word “deliberate” before “intimidation” (if the approachee feels intimidated, ze feels intimidated, and shouldn’t have to prove that the approacher created that feeling deliberately.)

    Unwanted sexual attention will be considered harassment when: a) it continues after being rejected; or, b) it includes threats, coercion or deliberate intimidation; or, c) it is directed towards a subordinate in a hierarchical organization (such as a manager towards an employee below them in an organization.); or, d) it is done by someone who knows or should reasonably know that the attention will be unwelcome.

    To me that seems to cover most of the contextual situations where asking someone out becomes harassment. Can anyone think of any I’ve missed?

    And, to restate my initial point, providing this clarification is not intended to prevent a spate of unfair accusations (I don’t think that will happen under the original language). It’s intended to avoid a situation where the rules say one thing, but everybody knows that you’re not meant to follow the rules exactly, but the exact line is left to common sense judgement.

  69. Marta says

    You see, that is where you went wrong. You were in bed. Don’t let that happen again.

  70. Utakata says

    So according to Ben’s thinking…

    WAR IS PEACE
    FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
    IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH
    SEXUAL HARRASSMENT POLICIES IS ORWELL’S 1984

    …I get the picture.

  71. Utakata says

    I usually sign on with my Pharyngual Word press account. But I am suspecting at some point Ian will lay a smackdown on me at, since I am not always as polite and as patient to the geraldmcgrew’s out there as he is. :(

  72. Utakata says

    *Edit: Pharyngula WordPress account…nor am I the best speller when it comes to morning.

  73. scrutationaryarchivist says

    Kahfre wrote:

    Which is why, I for instance, if I knew beforehand about the woman, would never ever want to get involved with such a woman, and would try my best to leave her alone.

    If by “get involved” you mean “propose sex”, or even “propose making out”, you probably *should* get to know anyone quite well before suggesting such a thing.

    Of course, if everyone was careful with their interactions because they couldn’t anticipate the reactions, that uncertainty might be one way of preventing harassment in the first place.

  74. smhll says

    I don’t like speculations about the motivations of other people (and try to avoid doing that whenever I am clear-minded enough to do so). The problem is that we are primed to see intentionality in others that is very seldom there.

    I think this is a great point. And if there is ever quiet day at FtB, it might be fruitful to go into it in depth. Sometimes I think it would be productive to have a “tone & tactics” thread, but not in the middle of some other thread that is trying to get somewhere on its “rails”.

    I agree with your point because something that just drove me up a wall about Glenn Beck was hearing him make a series of statements like – “Today Obama did something terrible. It was terrible, terrible, terrible. And I know he did it because he was thinking “terrible, terrible, terrible squared”.

    I find the “I know what Obama is thinking” type of statement and “I know his secret motives” to be totally not creditable. But that doesn’t always stop me from guessing at the motives of other people.

  75. says

    I’ve had my own motives questioned so many times over the past week or so that I have developed an even greater empathy for people who, for the life of them, can’t seem to get people to stop putting words in their mouths and thoughts in their heads. I understand where it comes from, and it’s a regular human failing, but it precludes the possibility of the exchange of ideas.

    That being said, sometimes you don’t want to share ideas with people, and that’s totally valid too.

  76. scrutationaryarchivist says

    Wedlock? Oh, so now we’re reinforcing heteronormative, monogamous marriage standards, are we? ;)

  77. smhll says

    Since I just did something to smudge my credit, I’m thinking that this could be something like a credit report, or a credit file. That is that both parties could make a statement about what happened, if it came to that and the the complained about person wanted to make a statement.

    Disclaimer: this is not in my area of expertise at all.

  78. smhll says

    This. Thank you. I’ve never liked the blanket definition that ALL unwanted sexual attention is necessarily harassment, no matter how polite, tactful, respectful, or singular.

    Point taken. I would reply that very few people feel that a polite, respectful singular approach is harassing and such approaches have are quite unlikely to be reported. Although I might put an asterisk on this if one is interrupting someone else’s conversation to do so.

    However, I’d like to point out that at the conference, some of the people in the bar are already in committed relationships and some are more interested in conversation than sex. Some absolutely don’t feel comfortable having sex with strangers, although some do.

    My feeling is that you kind of have to get to know people in order not to “rush” them. But, I realize that lots of conferences only last the weekend and some people only have a hotel room for Saturday night, so I think there’s a sense of urgency that urges haste in hooking up attempts. Also, the supply of hook-up partners is probably not going to be numerically equal to the “demand”, and it’s unlikely that women are going to be the ones putting in any time trying to solve this end of the ‘problem’. Be prepared. Or be resigned. Or something.

  79. says

    I’ve never liked the blanket definition that ALL unwanted sexual attention is necessarily harassment, no matter how polite, tactful, respectful, or singular.

    That’s a distortion of the position (at least of my position). My point is that the burden of defining harassment is the sole right of the person being harassed. The response is another thing, but it is the province of the victim to decide what is polite, tactful and respectful. I simply refuse to believe that, armed with this ability, we’re going to see a flood of complaints for polite approaches. Most people are adults, and most people are capable of declining a polite offer without the embarrassment of involving event security.

  80. says

    So, should we abandon laws against mugging, arson, and murder because sometimes people make false claims? Does having laws against misdemeanors and crimes somehow embolden frauds? Is that risk of someone making a false claim, more egregious than the cases of real crimes?

    We’re discussing having a policy is in place to address a problem, it’s a problem that even the most strident MRAs seem to accept exists to some degree. People have harassed other people. Training staff and having a policy to address that is just good events management in the same way that having a policy regarding dress code can ensure that when you go out for a nice dinner, the person at the table next to you is wearing more than a speedo. Incidentally, a speedo is fine in a multitude of other situations, it just happens to be inappropriate at an upscale restaurant. That’s not an indictment on speedo wearing but an assessment of when and where a speedo is appropriately donned.

    I don’t buy this whole idea that individuals are incapable of distinguishing appropriateness in context. It is more appropriate to kiss your partner on the lips than it is to kiss a stranger about to interview you for a job. It’s more appropriate to dress in a formal suit or dress when going to a wedding than going to an office picnic.

    Of course people have missteps in all areas of life, but acting like
    1) Individuals cannot be expected to know/learn where boundaries are based on context and verbal/nonverbal cues
    and
    2) Therefore no rules should even be made

    Is not only insulting to the individuals (oh sorry, you just aren’t bright enough to be expected to understand) but also completely unproductive. I guess I just don’t see how anyone can continue to make these arguments.

  81. Medivh says

    I don’t believe in the poor socially awkward nerd who doesn’t realize that grabbing a woman’s butt is unacceptable. I don’t believe he exists. And if he DOES exist, it’s time he had a lesson in manners.

    As the flesh-and-blood version of the straw man you’re attacking, I say take your ableism and shove it where the sun shineth not.

    Many an autistic has been accused of harrassment. Most of the situations they were accused of harrassment in, they were harrassing the accuser. In many of these, at a far greater rate than their neurotypical counterparts, they were unaware of the fact that they were harrassing because they lack a theory of mind. And while the obvious “don’t touch other people without their permission” is easily taught to most autistics (possibly more easily than to most jerks), the finer points of neurotypical behaviour will be completely missed in “a lesson in manners”. Specifically the bits where the golden rule fails; where others wish to be treated differently than you would.

  82. Mary P says

    You are forgetting that “harassment” also has a common or general meaning. In Canada, harassment in a workplace setting was defined about 1989. It still has its common meaning. Reporting harassment at a conference and having it dealt with at a conference does not IMHO leave the conference open to charges of libel or slander. Perhaps you should look up the legal definition of libel and/or slander along with that of “harassment:.

  83. says

    I don’t believe in the poor socially awkward nerd who doesn’t realize that grabbing a woman’s butt is unacceptable. I don’t believe he exists. And if he DOES exist, it’s time he had a lesson in manners.

    As the flesh-and-blood version of the straw man you’re attacking, I say take your ableism and shove it where the sun shineth not.

    I attended a college that has a comprehensive program for students who didn’t do well in traditional classes including people with severe learning disabilities and autism. It also had plenty of more traditional students, which, in the spirit of full disclosure, included me. I don’t ever recall any of my friends and peers with high functioning autism ever grabbing my butt or any other part of my body, inappropriately, but I remember a lot of the students who weren’t autistic, trying to touch me without even an attempt at consent.

    This is not to say that butt grabbing and autism are mutually exclusive but harassment spans a vast range of possible behaviors for which there would be a vast array of potential responses from an event. Regardless of someone’s disability, if after being told that grabbing strangers’ butts is not permissible, the person persists in that behavior, then the person needs to be asked to leave. In being as inclusive as possible, it’s entirely fair to ask event organizers to consider that someone may have a disability that makes them less able to read cues from other people and that they should be afforded a second chance, within reason. But that doesn’t entitle the individual to act in any way without consequence.

    A good harassment policy would account both for the possibility that someone may genuinely not know their behavior is inappropriate and also address the wellbeing and safety of the individuals who may be impacted by the behavior. If staff is trained and has a game plan ahead of time, it’s more likely that all parties involved are going to walk away happier. Most people I know, want to know if they are doing something harmful or hurtful, and I don’t think it’s disrespectful to make someone aware so they have a chance to fix that behavior.

  84. says

    “The fact that Politically Correct liberals and Social Conservatives often try to treat an accusation as proof, is exactly why bad policies like these ones should never be used.”

    If that is a fact, which it might be in some cases, then having a clear process for dealing with allegations is even more important. Otherwise, the falsely accused don’t have any recourse. A good, clear sexual harassment policy not only benefits the person who is actually being harassed, it also benefits the person who is falsely accused of harassment by putting in place procedures to fairly air both sides of the dispute.

    Second, ‘harassment’ has a legal status and definition in most jurisdictions, so accusing someone of harassment based on some politically motivated made-up definition opens conferences up to litigation…. slander/libel.

    Do you mean that it opens them up to more litigation than if they didn’t have a policy and someone actually got hurt on their watch? I’m trying to imagine how a sensible harassment policy could escalate to the status of slander or libel. Since I’m a supervisor at my company, every couple years I have to take sensitivity/harassment training. One thing they always make clear is that ignoring potential problems opens an organization to a whole host of potential liabilities that can be avoided with rational policy and addressing problems before they escalate.

    Third, redefining words to suit your political leanings is exactly what George Orwell warned about in his book 1984. The common understanding of ‘harassment’ may include ‘being offensive’, but they are not not not equivalent.

    What? I’m not even sure how to parse this. Harassment means, at minimum, some kind of unwanted attention. If someone completely freaks out after being asked, “hey, you want to get out of here?” and reports harassment, the organizer would quickly figure that out when interviewing the accused person. And, the report would indicate that no action was necessary. The whole matter would be quickly forgotten.

    I’m sorry, Ben, but your arguments are not very convincing, at least to me. I can not see how a sensible harassment policy and a little training for conference staff (usually lasting about an hour or so) doesn’t benefit everyone.

  85. tariqata says

    Putting all the women in the same category, as victims, and putting all the men in the same category, as villains is simply childish… since liars, criminals, cheaters, abusers, and all sorts of people, come in both genders.

    Is there some reason to believe that the proposed harassment policies specify that only men may be harassers, or that only women may be victims of harassment? I’ve been following this debate and haven’t seen any evidence that anyone is suggesting a policy that puts all the women in the category of potential victims and all the men in the category of potential victims. If my past experience is at all typical – it used to be my job to be sure everyone in my workplace had read and understood our (anti-)harassment policy – such policies use gender neutral language and defines inappropriate BEHAVIOURS specifically because although women are often the ones who are most at risk, they certainly are not the ONLY ones at risk.

  86. decanuck says

    That’s a distortion of the position (at least of my position).

    I don’t know how you can claim ‘all unwanted attention is harassment no matter how polite, tactful, reasonable etc.’ is a distortion of your post which said “Any unwanted sexual approach technically qualifies as harassment by definition” unless you misspoke, but whatever. More to the point:

    the burden of defining harassment is the sole right of the person being harassed. The response is another thing, but it is the province of the victim to decide what is polite, tactful and respectful.

    I must disagree in part. Of course the person receiving the attention is perfectly entitled to their opinion on the other’s behaviour. But for the complaints process the standard is objective.

    The person receiving the attention is the sole judge of whether it’s welcome or unwelcome (or somewhere in between), but whether the impugned actions qualify as attention and as sexual is judged objectively by a reasonable disinterested third-party informed of the circumstances. Any exceptions or internal limits to the definition ought to be objectively determined at this stage too. I say this confidently because the definition we’re discussing (unwanted sexual attention) is very close to the definition for sexual assault under criminal law (non-consensual sexual touching) and that’s how the criminal law deals with the parallel aspects of that definition.

    At the end of the day, if organizers are approached with a complaint for harassment that was objectively benign and short, I think it’s better that they respond with, “At this point we don’t think this meets the standard of harassment, but we will intervene if it continues so please let us know” rather than “yes this is harassment but it’s minor so we’re not going to do anything about it”. It’s cleaner, more consistent, and reflects better upon the organizers because then they respond to all instances rather than appearing to selectively enforce the policy with some and not others.

    By the way–I agree with you that even under the over-inclusive “unwelcome sexual attention” definition it’s highly unlikely anyone would rather report some unwanted attention than merely turn it down. Frankly the vast majority of people err on the side of being overly-tolerant of such attention. But I’ve seen it happen at least twice that I can remember. In both cases the women getting the attention asked for third-party intervention with a guy talking to them, without ever giving him a solid rejection. Just because this kind of situation is unlikely and infrequent doesn’t mean a policy shouldn’t be made in contemplation of it if it can.

  87. MV says

    Ginny:

    I think “unwanted sexual attention” is perfectly fine in a policy. I don’t want a policy to be highly detailed. First, it’s not meant to be a legal contract. Informed by and follow the laws, yes. Second, if you provide details, like Todd Steifel did, you encourage people to find loopholes and tend to undermine the purpose of the policy. Unless you create a legal document, a somewhat detailed policy will likely be full of them. Third, it’s meant to be easily communicated (and read). Detailed policies never are.

    In the end, a policy is just words on a piece of paper. What matters is the implementation. For instance, I’ve worked for very large companies that had awesome policies that ignored them. They were not nice places to work. I’ve worked for small companies with simple and vague policies that were well implemented. They were good places to work.

  88. Leon says

    Very well said, Crommie. You get big Good Stuff points for going out of your way to take his question seriously and in the best way, rather than knee-jerking against it.

  89. says

    Hmm, this is an interesting bit of wrongness that I have seen crop up in many discussions about social justice and feminism.

    I must disagree in part. Of course the person receiving the attention is perfectly entitled to their opinion on the other’s behaviour. But for the complaints process the standard is objective.

    If A and B are talking, and A feels that B has been impolite, then it is an objective fact that S thinks that B was impolite. If A thinks that B was disrespectful, then it is an objective fact that A feels disrespected.

    It may also be an objective fact that B feels they were being polite and respectful.

    The thing is, unless both people agree that politeness and respect were present, politeness and respect were not present. These are things that are defined by a mutual interaction. There is no objective standard of politeness and respect. They are things that arise as two or more people negotiate language, cultural norms, customs, ethics, and social expectations.

    Politeness and respect are qualities of communication. And the thing about communication is, unless there are at least two people who agree that communication is happening, communication isn’t happening.

    I find this devaluation of personal experiences, in favor of deference to a somewhat authoritarian “objective” standard of politeness and respect (who creates that “objective” standard?) to be distressingly common, especially when women’s lived experiences are the topic of conversation.

  90. tuatara says

    (This response kind of got out of hand, so please bear with me. At least don’t reject my position out of hand without reading the breadth of my elucidation, because I would like to try to make clear distinctions between myself and people who have said some superficially similar things.)

    The response is another thing, but it is the province of the victim to decide what is polite, tactful and respectful. I simply refuse to believe that, armed with this ability, we’re going to see a flood of complaints for polite approaches.

    I’m sorry, but this just isn’t good enough for me. It’s up to the victim to decide what counts as “unwanted”, but it’s bad policy to base rules on the (often unpredictable) personal feelings of individuals. A good rule should be clear and universal, and it should also be resilient enough to cover even the cases people think are “unlikely”, because, while in this instance I would agree you are probably right, nobody can really judge ahead of time what is or is not likely to take place. Obviously, nobody is obligated to make good rules, but it seems to me like the kind of thing one should want to do.

    Similarly, basing the rule on social norms – generally speaking, “don’t be creepy” – is terrible policy, without even making the “some people don’t understand social norms!” argument, which is, I agree, not so convincing. The reason is simple: social norms are often *wrong*. Those of us in the United States live in a culture where our social norms were largely crafted by people who would view “reminded me that sex exists” as sexual harassment. I don’t by any means intend to imply – as some people have – that I think any convention-goer would try to use the rules to enforce puritanical dress codes or similar; I just mean to establish my opinion that just because someone thinks a certain set of social norms is ‘right’ doesn’t make it good policy.

    I, personally, would stand by a two-part rule that goes like this: 1) If you do something “to” or “at” someone, and that person tells you not to, then doing that thing – a category of action which can be broad or narrow, depending on how the “don’t do that” is phrased – again to the same person is clear harassment (and would quite reasonably be dealt with by summary expulsion, since nobody could reasonably be considered unaware that they are doing wrong in that case). Preemptive refusals are also perfectly reasonable, as long as they are made clearly and unmissably; I, personally, would definitely be inclined to wear a “don’t hit on me” badge in a context where I could expect it to be respected. There are problems, certainly, with the concept of assuming “willing to be hit on” as the default, but this is a case where I would prefer to let my latent libertarian tendencies win out and say ‘You have the right to ask.’

    Now, that one ran longer than I intended, so a new paragraph for 2) None of the above applies to physical contact. Touching of any kind without permission is right out. Speech is one thing, but actually invading someone’s personal space clearly requires a higher standard of scrutiny. The same definitely goes for non-physical invasions, like that upskirt camera fiasco; in fact, I would conservatively state that photographing someone without their explicit permission at all, no matter how benignly, is unquestionably wrong. I feel that I – and by extension everyone else – should have the right to decide whether and how I want to be recorded. Now, you could argue, and I would be more than willing to listen, that speech should not be privileged above these actions; if nothing else, on a physical level it entails literally invading someone else’s head with your air vibrations. But, like I implied earlier, I’m very uneasy about ruling out any form of speech altogether, especially on the basis of something as unreliable and subjective as emotional consequences – I think it’s fair to give everyone the right to ask. Maybe ask is the wrong word – I mean the right to make an advance – sexual or otherwise – and see how it is received.

    I’m still torn on the naked ‘business’ card thing – it’s something that would personally disgust me, and which shows a shocking lack of decorum, but which I can’t convince myself is worthy of any actual punishment because I don’t think anyone has the right not to see potentially unpleasant things when in public. As distressing as I’m sure the experience was, I really can’t think of a compelling reason for a reaction beyond saying “ew, I don’t want to see that”, throwing the card away, and optionally blogging about it later (which constitutes exercising one’s right to counterspeech, regardless of the idiots who call it “shaming” or whatever and would apparently demand that all unwanted interaction be met with stalwart silence). Which, after all, seems to be exactly what happened. So there was really no need to even bother mentioning it, but I thought I might as well bring it up for completeness.

    And yes, it is true, as many have pointed out, that the “one chance” model means that people who opt out of preemptively refusing advances altogether may be flooded with individually innocuous approaches that in aggregate prove intensely distressing without any recourse. I would like to think this is beyond question. But – and I say this as someone who has experienced exactly this; while I wouldn’t self-describe as ‘socially inept’, my asexuality, decided introversion, and proneness to what you might call “social paranoia” definitely make me the kind of person ImaginesABeach described above (and no, as should be obvious, I definitely don’t make clumsy advances, or any kind for that matter) – I’m just not convinced that there should be any recourse. At the end of the day, no matter how unpleasant it becomes, conventions mean interacting with a lot of people, and some people are, to put it bluntly, really creepy. Being creepy isn’t something to encourage, but I don’t think that, without the clear boundary violation my aforementioned latent libertarianism demands to justify punishment, it warrants proscription even when the response is tempered with discretion; even a warning seems unfair when it doesn’t seem to be the case that anyone actually did anything wrong.

    And don’t get me wrong, I don’t have any issue with discouraging some behaviour, even in an ill-defined way – such as by saying “don’t be creepy” – without actually making a rule against it. Asking people to make a general effort not to do things they would themselves consider creepy is one thing, but when declaring an official policy I expect you to clearly and comprehensively detail the criteria for creepiness. (And please don’t reject “don’t be creepy” as a straw man; I mean only to use it as an admittedly exaggerated example, and it is not intended as a literal characterisation of any actual policies.)

    And, further, don’t get me wrong about this either: When I said “I expect you” just now, and other things in that vein, I don’t mean that I am actually entitled to such an explanation. I’m expressing my personal opinion that certain things are bad policy, but at the same time every convention is the exclusive purview of its organisers (as long as their actions are within the law, I suppose), who have every right to enact bad policy if they want to. All I’m really saying is that I’d prefer if they didn’t. And since I’m also sure nobody actually cares about my opinion, there doesn’t seem to be any point in weighing in, but other people are making their positions known with alacrity so I figure it can’t hurt to add another voice.

  91. Ze Madmax says

    kahfre:

    Have you ever heard of innocent until proven guilty? So, basically, it is not a harassment, and it can’t be, until it has been proven as harassment. Having said this, the man accused in this incident is completely innocent until proven guilty.

    You are aware that “innocent until proven guilty” is a legal standard, right? That, in most circumstances, people don’t wait until they have all the evidence before making a judgment, as this is almost impossible to do? And that harassment policies ARE NOT LAW and therefore DO NOT HAVE TO MEET LEGAL STANDARDS OF PROOF.

    You are not seeing this whole thing from the accused’s perspective. A false accusation can ruin a person’s life.

    Citation needed. Who has had their lives ruined because of a false accusation of harassment?

    Which is why the man involved in this incident must be considered innocent until proven guilty. How do you do that? I don’t know.

    I would suggest you then shut up until you have a viable solution. Otherwise you’re just yammering away.

    But for starters, like I said, gather as much information as possible, and then analyse the situation objectively before jumping to any conclusions. This is not too much to ask, is it?

    As Crom mentioned, it IS too much to ask, because a skeptical/chilly atmosphere makes victims of harassment less likely to report harassment. You are ignoring the reality of gender dynamics and social construction of gender relationships because you think every harassment claim should be treated like the goddamn Kennedy assassination.

    In the end, anything is possible. A woman, for example, can initially misinterpret someone’s harmless act as sexual harassment. But, later on, she may come to a different conclusion all together. They key here is … try not to get carried away by your emotions.

    Anything is possible. But some things are more probable than others. Your suggestions ignore that, which means the Demons Of Statistics will haunt your dreams forever. In possible but improbable ways.

    Also, the key here is not to refrain from getting carried away. The key is to realize that harassment is a problem, while false accusations of harassment is not a problem (unless you can provide some of that evidence you seem to love so much)

    In my family, people are educated and freedom of speech is revered highly.

    You are an idiot who has no idea what freedom of speech is. There. I shared my opinion.

  92. Stacy says

    Shoot, where I wrote “alleged harassee’s” substitute “alleged harasser’s.”

  93. decanuck says

    @SamStrange:
    I understand where you’re coming from and I’m definitely not trying to devalue anyone’s subjective emotions. Emotions, after all, are neither really “wrong” or “right”–they’re always right to the person who feels them.

    However, the only alternative to using an objective standard for the permissibility of these minor, singular instances of unwanted sexual attention would be for the organization to adopt the subjective reaction of the recipient of that attention even if it was, all things considered, an overreaction. I think you kind of realize this:

    There is no objective standard of politeness and respect. They are things that arise as two or more people negotiate language, cultural norms, customs, ethics, and social expectations.

    Let me clarify. When I say the conduct should be assessed by third-parties on an objective standard, I’m not saying that there is some tangible codification of permissible and impermissible behaviour against which the conduct should be judged. I’m saying that the conduct should be judged objectively for what it is rather than subjectively for what it was intended to be or how it was received.

    In other words the subjective feelings “I felt harassed” and “I didn’t mean it that way” are persuasive but not determinative in answering the question of whether or not certain actions were harassment. Instead, the conduct that occurred is judged by disinterested third-parties acting in good faith taking into account all the insightful factors you mentioned: “language, cultural norms, customs, ethics, and social expectations.”

  94. Kahfre says

    If by “get involved” you mean “propose sex”, or even “propose making out”, you probably *should* get to know anyone quite well before suggesting such a thing.

    Of course, if everyone was careful with their interactions because they couldn’t anticipate the reactions, that uncertainty might be one way of preventing harassment in the first place.

    By ‘get involved’ I mean everything you say, and it also includes keeping a distance of at least 10 feet between her and I. So, basically, no interaction, no chit chat, none whatsoever.

    If I have to go to a bar because this urge to socialize with girls is killing me … out of all women, why on earth would anyone want to go near someone who is waiting for an opportunity to get even with men? You never know what might upset her, and the next thing you know … you have 100 angry men cursing you. So, why not someone who is waiting for an opportunity to get all lovey-dovey with men? Who doesn’t even know what this feminism thing is? It all makes sense, doesn’t it?

  95. rroseperry says

    I’m missing a step here I think. The policies on harassment that I’ve seen lay out very general frameworks for behaviors. Someone had an interaction they saw as harassment, with the policy in place, they report it to someone. In no case have I seen that there is one automatic response to any and all complaints. Suppose that someone said to an organizer “X is bugging me.” The organizer is probably going to fact-check, yes? From the CFI, which is just one of the ones out there:

    Reports of hostile or harassing conduct will be promptly addressed. On some occasions, where conference staff are witnesses to the prohibited conduct, immediate remedial action may be taken. Where a report of hostile or harassing conduct is made to conference staff after the conduct has occurred, reasonable measures will be taken to establish the facts. This will typically include discussion with witnesses, if any, and the person accused of engaging in the prohibited conduct. Inquiries into hostile or harassing conduct will be carried out as confidentially as possible given the circumstances.

    So either staff sees it (act on the spot) or they investigate, which means not taking one person’s word for it. I don’t see the bad policy you seem to be seeing.

  96. Kahfre says

    So, in other words, you haven’t a single shred of evidence.

    Only baseless speculation.

    Contrast this with how well-documented, both in the news media and in academia, the phenomenon of sexual harassment is.

    Why should take your concerns seriously again?

    Talking about evidence, why do you think many people in certain circles are more than willing to believe women — women who claim to have had been sexually harassed– without a shred of evidence?

    There are around 7 billion people on this planet, and only a tiny fraction of those 7 billion people ever make it to academia and the news-media. This is why, it can be said that both academia and the news-media only represent a tiny fraction of those 7 billion people. Having said this, it is all a matter of not losing one’s ability to reason with common sense to indoctrination and authority…..

  97. Nepenthe says

    So, because I’m feeling especially masochistic and bored tonight, a query for you Kahfre:

    What, specifically, would you accept as sufficient evidence that harassment has occurred?

  98. John Horstman says

    As the flesh-and-blood version of the straw man you’re attacking, I say take your ableism and shove it where the sun shineth not.

    Nope. In the same way (though certainly not to the same extreme – this is hyperbole intended to carry the argument that ignorance is/should be a defense to a logical extreme and demonstrate the absurdity of the line of reasoning) that a psychopath might not understand why murdering people isn’t okay because ze lacks any concept of empathy doesn’t make the murdering people in any way okay, your (I’m using you specifically as a hypothetical example because you held yourself up as an example of an autistic person, not assuming you have/do engage in harassing behavior) lack of understanding due to an autism spectrum disorder doesn’t make harmful behavior in which you engage any more okay. It’s still harmful, it’s still not okay, and it still needs to be dealt with in a way that will minimize the chances that you will engage in similar behavior in the future (in this hypothetical case, by removing you from a conference where you’re engaging in harassing behavior).

    It sucks that, in order to avoid punishment at the hands of a policy or law, you need to go to extra efforts beyond neurotypical people to make sure you’re not harassing anyone. Tough. Deal. It’s more important to create an environment in which harassment will not be tolerated than it is to accommodate e.g. autistic people who will not take the necessary steps to not harass other attendees. People with low IQs have more trouble adding up prices for goods when grocery shopping than people with higher IQs. Life is unfair in the extreme. The onus is still on you to do what you can to learn the rules of acceptable social interaction, and to err on the side of caution (by which I mean the default in an unclear situation needs to be for you to disengage from the social situation) when the set of rules that you’ve memorized doesn’t cover a particular situation.

    Your position still strikes me as rooted in the assumption that you should be able to do what you want, by default, without considering the impact on other people. When you get down to it, if you’re NOT assuming a right to act without considering others, there’s a simple solution: in any situation where you can’t predict someone else’s likely response – because, for example, you lack the cognitive ability to model the thought patterns of others – ask before you act. The Golden Rule is a decent heuristic for people aware of social norms in venues where most people subscribe to the same set of social norms, but it should really be replaced with the simpler, “Ask others how they wish to be treated.”

    (Full disclosure: I am not neurotypical; I suffer from bipolar disorder. I also don’t assume that my right to act outweighs others’ rights to not be threatened or harassed by me; as a result, I take steps to try to avoid lashing out at or even just pestering people when I’m in a manic phase. I am someone who might wind up unintentionally harassing another person – sexually or not – by virtue of difficulty recognizing subtle social cues because when I’m manic I can get very caught up in what I’m saying or doing to the point of being unaware of what else is going on. As such, I very consciously undertake steps to self-monitor in my conversations and interactions, and when meeting and talking to new people, I defer to them and explicitly check in with them about how the conversation is going and whether they actually want to be talking to me on an ongoing basis, with decreasing frequency based on repeated reassurance. An honest lack of awareness of how one is impacting others doesn’t excuse antisocial behavior, it just means one needs to put a extra effort into avoiding antisocial behavior. It sucks; being harassed sucks a lot more. You can’t help being autistic, but you can still help being an asshole.)

  99. Kahfre says

    So, because I’m feeling especially masochistic and bored tonight, a query for you Kahfre:

    What, specifically, would you accept as sufficient evidence that harassment has occurred?

    Hard to say. I tend to stay away from situations where I have to act as a judge….

    But to answer your question, like I said before, if someone makes a claim that she/he has been harassed, sexually or otherwise, then it is up to those who have enforced these policies to determine what constitutes as harassment and what not. My point was, and still is, that the party being accused in such incidences should be treated as innocent until (or if) there is enough information to prove the accused is guilty as accused. Emotions run high in such incidence, which is exactly what we should be careful of.

    Plus, the other side of this argument is, discourage those who would misuse such a power. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

  100. says

    Talking about evidence, why do you think many people in certain circles are more than willing to believe women — women who claim to have had been sexually harassed– without a shred of evidence?

    If a woman claims she has been sexually harassed, that IS evidence.

    Just like a man’s claim of having been mugged IS evidence of a mugging.

    You could easily present just ONE claim, whether substantiated or not, from a man who says his life has been ruined by false accusations of sexual harassment. That would be evidence of a man’s life being ruined by false accusations.

    But you can’t.

    Therefore you have zero evidence of men having their lives ruined by false accusations (which is kind of surprising, frankly, it would be odd if there weren’t at least a few), counterbalanced against literally hundreds of thousands of claims by women of sexual harassment. Millions, if you take into account reporting websites like iHollaback and surveys such as those done in Egypt that reveal that 85% of women there experience it.

    You keep using this word, “evidence”… I do not think it means what you think it means.

  101. Nepenthe says

    Hard to say. I tend to stay away from situations where I have to act as a judge….

    Ah, I see. So you repeat, ad nauseaum in the most literal sense, that we have to “analyse the situation objectively” and that we must withhold judgement in the absence of evidence, but you are unable to say what, exactly, we must be analyzing here. I mean, do you need a series of videos showing every step of the interaction? Four male corroborating witnesses? What?

    And, sorry to say, but if you are human and interact with other humans you may be put in a situation where you have to judge. Let’s say one of your friends has allegedly sexually assaulted another one of your friends. How do you decide whether to support the assaulted party versus assuming the assaulted party is lording zir new-found power over the other friend?

    Plus, the other side of this argument is, discourage those who would misuse such a power. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

    Wait, are we talking about the status quo, where anyone who cares to basically gets a free pass to harass (in society at large, not necessarily in any specific venue)? Or are we talking about people who are harassed in magical fantasy world that you’ve made up regarding what happens when harassment policies are put into place?

  102. says

    Y’all are missing the IF – THEN construction I’m using here.

    Go ahead and ask people on dates. Or ask them for sex directly! Nothing’s stopping you.

    However, IF (<–see the "if" there?) you are geniunely concerned that you might harass someone accidentally, THEN (<–see the "then" there?) there is an easy fix: refrain from asking people on dates.

    For, like, an entire weekend.

    Like, whoa.

    How awful.

  103. Kahfre says

    If a woman claims she has been sexually harassed, that IS evidence.

    Just like a man’s claim of having been mugged IS evidence of a mugging.

    That’s not the way it works. For instance, if a woman goes to her employer with a claim of sexual harassment, her employer is simply not going to take her word as ‘evidence.’ At best, she could lodge an official complaint with her employer, and her employer would then have to go through a standard procedure. Which means, she may have her complaint dismissed for several reasons. In fact, she could also have a complaint lodged against her if it is found that she was falsely accusing someone. The same procedure when a person goes to police with a claim of being mugged. The police are going to start an investigation. In the end, only courts have the power to declare an accused as guilty. And yes, we are lucky it works this way. Otherwise, we would have police with powers which they could abuse easily, and without any fear of any consequences… True, the system can and does work the other way around, but then, no system can ultimately provide 100 percent results.

    Therefore you have zero evidence of men having their lives ruined by false accusations (which is kind of surprising, frankly, it would be odd if there weren’t at least a few), counterbalanced against literally hundreds of thousands of claims by women of sexual harassment. Millions, if you take into account reporting websites like iHollaback and surveys such as those done in Egypt that reveal that 85% of women there experience it.

    This isn’t particularly surprising when we have so many people and so many organisations encouraging women to do so. Yes, most of these cases and claims must be genuine cases and claims, but amongst these genuine cases and claims, we are also going to have bogus cases and claims as well. Since it happens everywhere in the world, as every institution, even the most revered and honoured ones, are a combination of both good and bad elements, being open to such possibilities is only a logical thing to do. This is why, the point is, we can’t simply take someone’s words as ‘evidence.’

    And yes, I have no evidence of men having their lives ruined by false accusations. But, if you are man, just put yourself in such a scenario, and try to work out how a false accusation of sexual harassment could/would affect your life. Especially, if you had a lot of angry people cursing you in the social media.

  104. Kahfre says

    And, sorry to say, but if you are human and interact with other humans you may be put in a situation where you have to judge. Let’s say one of your friends has allegedly sexually assaulted another one of your friends. How do you decide whether to support the assaulted party versus assuming the assaulted party is lording zir new-found power over the other friend?

    Hmmm. It’s a hard one. I guess it would depend on what kind of information and facts are available regarding the incident. But since both persons involved are my friends, it makes sense to excuse myself from passing any judgement, and let them decide the issue on their own, or ask them to find someone else, someone more qualified to handle such issues (like write a letter to PZ Myers). So I’ll excuse myself …not arrogantly, but humbly… by telling them that I am inherently unworthy and unable of judging any situation…thereby avoiding the wrath of one person and gaining the favour of the other…

    Wait, are we talking about the status quo, where anyone who cares to basically gets a free pass to harass (in society at large, not necessarily in any specific venue)? Or are we talking about people who are harassed in magical fantasy world that you’ve made up regarding what happens when harassment policies are put into place?

    I am sorry, but I don’t think I quite understand the point here.

  105. Nepenthe says

    The point is that in the status quo, we already have a state where one group of people–harassers–abuses their power–the power to harass with impunity–over another group of people–everyone else. You don’t seem very concerned with this state of affairs and don’t like the idea of discouraging those who might misuse that power, for whatever reason.

    Though, considering the rest of your response, it might have something to do with your viewing harassment–or in my example, sexual assault–as some sort of personal issue between two people that they have to work out themselves, rather than a profound abuse of power.

    And I really hope that none of your friends ever makes the mistake of confiding in you about being harassed or assaulted. People like you, who take that “I just can’t get involved” stance? You make the lives of survivors suck worse. Congratulations.

  106. Kahfre says

    The point is that in the status quo, we already have a state where one group of people–harassers–abuses their power–the power to harass with impunity–over another group of people–everyone else. You don’t seem very concerned with this state of affairs and don’t like the idea of discouraging those who might misuse that power, for whatever reason.

    We already have policies in place that address such issues. For example, sexual harassment policies at work address the issue of sexual harassment at work. What you are saying was true if I was opposing such policies and rules, which I am not. So, to address your point, we already have policies and rules in place to discourage potential ‘harassers’, and I am perfectly OK with such policies, no matter how they are enforced by a certain organisation.

    But, when you look at the other side of the argument, you would find out that these policies — the policies which are supposed to discourage harassers– can also be easily misused by its beneficiaries. So, all I am saying is that it becomes necessary to keep in mind that the beneficiaries of these policies and rules may also misuse these policies and rules from time to time for whatever reasons and purposes. Therefore, the accused in such incidences must be treated as innocent until there is enough information to prove his guilt.

    Again, this surely can’t be asking too much , is it?

    And I really hope that none of your friends ever makes the mistake of confiding in you about being harassed or assaulted. People like you, who take that “I just can’t get involved” stance? You make the lives of survivors suck worse. Congratulations.

    There is another aspect to your argument. What if I’d passed the wrong judgement? Would you ever want to be in such a position? What makes you so sure that you would always pass the right judgement? If you are not sure, isn’t excusing yourself a much better option?

  107. Fentex says

    Any unwanted sexual approach technically qualifies as harassment by definition.

    That seems to rely on a poor definition of harassement as I think it is illogical and unreasonable to expect every sexual advance to be welcome.

    Surely a rebuffed advance cannot be harassing solely for being rebuffed.

    It is my understanding that harassment requires repetition of unwelcome behaviour towards someone or an abusive intent.

    Perhaps abuse follows from being rebuffed and raises the interaction to harassment, and perhaps the circumstances ought imply sexual advances are unwelcome (for instance in professional interactions or when the subject is fulfilling responsibilities that make avoiding interaction problematic) that elevate ill judged approachs to harassing.

    But to adopt a definition that classifies all rebuffed advances as harasement would, I think, make it a definition of poor utility.

  108. Gnumann, quisling of the MRA nation says

    t ALL unwanted sexual attention is necessarily harassment, no matter how polite, tactful, respectful, or singular.

    If you think unwanted sexual attention is ever either polite or respectful, I got some polite and respectful words for you. Quite possibly with a stick for emphasis.

  109. anon101 says

    I still would like to know whether the elevator guy is now going to be blacklisted for atheist and skeptic events. And if not I would like to know why not and how else you are going to prevent him from behaving that way?

  110. jenny6833a says

    The issue has always been, at least in my mind, who we believe is empowered to define harassment – the accuser or the accused.

    I’m not at all sure what your answer is. My answer is “Neither alone, but all players together — with specific reasons given for each opinion.”

    Too much of what I’ve read sounds like, “If I don’t like it, you can’t do it” and “I’m not obligated to say WHY I don’t like it, and above all I don’t have to demonstrate that I’ve been tangibly harmed in any way. All I have to say is that I’m ever so offended, that my wittle psyche has been ever so afronted, that I just want to cry.”

    It seems to me that some of the disputants in this whole discussion need to moderate their behavior and that (a lot of) others need to toughen up a bit.

    Let’s remember that over-sensitivity (whether or not faked) is also a form of intimidation.

  111. Medivh says

    First and foremost, let me say this in clarification to Marnie, John Horstman, and anyone else I may have mislead. I view harrassment policies as necessary, and I view myself and my fellow autistics as beneficiaries of them. I see we who end up harrassing by mistake as benefited by the harrassment policies that will end up punishing us, as it leads to an overt teaching moment into what behaviours are unwarranted under a neurotypical society; a teaching moment which is usually elided in an autistic’s normal education owing neurotypical priviledge and lack of understanding.

    Marnie:

    I don’t ever recall any of my friends and peers with high functioning autism ever grabbing my butt or any other part of my body, inappropriately, but I remember a lot of the students who weren’t autistic, trying to touch me without even an attempt at consent.

    That’s because physical touching by an ‘other’ is generally seen as an attack. Or, at least, that’s how it was when I was undiagnosed, passing as neurotypical and still at school. It’s a bit of a mix between ‘boys will be boys’, ‘PWDs should be sexless in form and action’ and ‘PWDs can’t be trusted with anything precious/delicate’.

    Long story short, the parts of how your HFA peers were treated by authority that you don’t know about probably involved a lot of punishment around touching anyone for any reason. I saw some of this, but didn’t recognise it at the time. Most of the time the authorities were pretty careful about letting anyone see it, though.

    John Horstman:

    Your position still strikes me as rooted in the assumption that you should be able to do what you want, by default, without considering the impact on other people.

    Not my position at all. I meant purely to vent anger at yet another version of some neurotypical speaking for all autistics, in the guise of a misunderstanding of ‘socially inept’, because we can’t speak for ourselves. I wasn’t, apparently, aware of how little that meme is known outside of autism self-advocacy fora. I’ll keep public unawareness of it in mind for future anger-vents. It might be of help to you, especially as you claim to neurodiversity too, to keep in mind the silencing tactics of people claiming to speak for PWDs.

  112. says

    @Medivh

    I see we who end up harrassing by mistake as benefited by the harrassment policies that will end up punishing us, as it leads to an overt teaching moment into what behaviours are unwarranted under a neurotypical society; a teaching moment which is usually elided in an autistic’s normal education owing neurotypical priviledge and lack of understanding.

    You and others continue to discuss the sort of slippery slope/worst case exception type situations but you aren’t offering solutions. It’s not productive to say “a harassment policy will probably hurt someone, somewhere who has a disability.” If this is something you genuinely care about and not just something you are steadfastly arguing against because you feel that harassment policies are a zero sum game, then make statements like:

    If you institute policy XYZ (describing an actual proposed response to a harassment report), it will hurt people with disability ABC (naming an actual disability and how this response is counter productive), might I propose this alternate wording/policy that will address the concerns of the person being harassed while accounting for the fact that the person being accused might have said disability.”

    This would allow for actual discussion of actual possible causes and effects instead of this undefined possible response to an undefined possible disability in an undefined possible setting.

  113. says

    Awesome! An an actual conversation about sexual harassment, and not just at conferences!

    (Sorry for my surprise — Ima noob at FtB I didn’t know dialogue could actually happen in ‘the slimepit’. So far, one has had to “read between the insults” which I don’t bother to do. Ad hominem attacks are not arguments, and don’t further understanding of the issue.)

    What’s even MORE awesome is that the debate is being extended beyond conferences, which only a privileged few attend, to the larger problem of sexism and sexual harassment in movement atheism. If we hypothetically could solve the bigger problem, by no means a simple matter, it would render conference policies against sexual harassment moot. It goes without saying that such policies would have to first be rendered before they could be rendered moot.

    That’s my take on the meta-discussion. As for the bigger problem of sexist dudebros in movement atheism, skepticism, and geek-culture, it occurs to me that a two-pronged approach might be more effective. It’s not enough to ostracize sexists and other bigots in the movement. We also need more women and minorities joining and taking active roles — not just as “leaders” (which don’t really exist in movement atheism, anyway, it being an anarchic movement) but as comrades.

    IOW, it’s a related problem that too many women and minorities are still True Believers sitting in pews. Clearly community is important to these believers, and why would they join movement atheism if it’s perceived (correctly) to harbor bigots? It throws up additional obstacles to growing the atheist community. Others have written well and at length about why there are so many dudebros and 4chan/b/oys in movement atheism, and how to tackle the problem. That’s one prong.

    The other prong is how to reach out to and appeal to women and minorities. This way we can get a positive feedback loop going: As we eject the bigots in our midst, we will be more appealing to women and minorities who might be inclined to leave the pews. Our demographics will get more balanced by the very people who are the best equipped to identify and disempower sexists, racists and homophobes. Women know sexism when they see it, better than men; similarly minorities and queer folk know racism and homophobia better than whites or straights. More importantly, they know how to deal with the cluster of bigotry better than straight white males do.

    As the demographics shift, bigots will become isolated and eventually they will no longer feel as if atheism, skepticism, and geek culture belong to them. They will either leave (fine! good riddance) or change their fucking tunes. Either way, we’ll end up with a bigger, more inclusive and more ethical movement.

    It’s the hammer and the anvil. Let’s at the same time make movement atheism intolerable to bigots, and more tolerable to the victims of bigotry.

  114. says

    Just re-read my #26. I didn’t make clear that I do think the metaphorical hammer is coming down on the allegorical anvil, even now… at long last.

    Let’s keep hammering, and take it big. Let’s use harassment at cons as a springboard to address the bigger problem, and hammer hammer hammer at it until the problem goes away.

  115. smhll says

    I still would like to know whether the elevator guy is now going to be blacklisted for atheist and skeptic events. And if not I would like to know why not and how else you are going to prevent him from behaving that way?

    I am going to touch this part of the topic very gently and then set it back down.

    I’m pretty sure with the last 12 months of “awareness campaign”, most everyone who dips more than a toe in the skeptical and atheist movements now knows that elevator propositions have a vanishingly small chance of being favorably received by women, if offered by strangers. And I think awareness that it doesn’t work is going to tend to shut down the behavior.

  116. Marie the Bookwyrm says

    Also, as far as I’m aware, nobody knows Elevator Guy’s name. RW definitely didn’t give a name for him in her original anecdote. And I don’t believe she has since. To sum up, you can’t blacklist an unknown person. :)

  117. tuatara says

    So either staff sees it (act on the spot) or they investigate, which means not taking one person’s word for it. I don’t see the bad policy you seem to be seeing.

    Taking one person’s word for it was never my concern – like I said, I don’t actually expect the oft-cited spate of false accusations any more than you do. But as an ancillary point, neither acting on the spot or investigating are really viable ways to determine the subjective criteria of “did the person make someone feel uncomfortable”, which seems to be the popular baseline for what constitutes ‘harassment’ for the purposes of most people writing the policies. I mean, sure, there are times when it’s obvious, but that seems to leave a hell of a lot of grey area. *I* don’t generally show much outward sign of discomfort, and I know that a lot of people do the same for a lot of reasons. It seems like you’d need a witness to prove even the really gratuitous things that you might feel you could safely expect to make anyone uncomfortable, but, as the policy you’ve cited seems to have implicitly noted, witnesses are very often not present or not paying attention. Someone said earlier something about advising people, on first offenses, to stay away from their accusers for the rest of the event, which would obviously solve the immediate problem if there was one, and, if there wasn’t, it would be strange if someone wanted to continue hanging out with someone who falsely accused them of harassment *anyway*; this seems reasonable to me, although it does create a few additional implementation problems (and, of course, if there are a rash of complaints from different people about a certain person, more extensive measures have to be taken, but this seems like it goes without saying), so I don’t think anything more needs to be said about this part of the issue. But then here’s me saying it anyway. Sorry, I tend to get really longwinded sometimes, if you hadn’t already figured that out. :/

    So, yeah, apart from all that irrelevant stuff I just rambled about for far too many words, I also never intended to suggest that I thought there would be “one automatic response to any and all complaints”; certainly some people have said as much, but it seems clear enough to me that the policies permit a certain amount of discretion within a wide range of potential responses. Neither of those things were reasons for my issue with the policies as written – my major problem with them is that the definitions being proposed for “hostile or harassing conduct” have the flaw that it is never possible, for any interaction, to determine whether it is “hostile or harassing conduct” until after it takes place, because it is based on a subjective emotional reaction which may differ strongly between people. It’s possible, sure, to make judgements about whether something is *likely* to be received favourably or unfavourably, but that just isn’t a good enough standard for me. Maybe I’m being unreasonable, but it seems like people should expect to be able to know whether something will be against the rules before they do it. As it stands, the only way to be confident that you aren’t breaking any rules is to not interact with anyone in any way (because even asking permission might itself make someone uncomfortable), and, while I must stress that I am not seriously saying that anyone would behave that way or expect others to behave that way in practice (I don’t want my knowing rhetorical exaggeration to be dismissed along with the arguments of people who seem to be under the impression that that would actually happen), and the rules as written will probably work well enough overall, I still think everyone should have the right to *know*. Not just to assume that something is so innocuous that nobody would take issue with it, but to know with complete confidence that ze is in no danger, however remote, of breaking any rules. The fact that staff will exercise discretion and small incidents will be met with warnings isn’t actually any comfort, because I’m not trying to advocate for harassers here – I’m just trying to advocate for clear rules, because unclear rules are bad policy.

    As I mentioned in passing earlier, I’m very introverted, and depending on the severity of my all-too-frequent migraines I may find people just being near me very uncomfortable, let alone trying to initiate conversation. I know it sounds like I’m exaggerating, and I know it’s pretty clear I have a habit of doing that, but this is entirely literally true. In this respect it seems like I’m among the people these rules are trying to protect, so it seems like I have as much right as anyone to say that I think they’re trying to protect me too much. I’m a grown adult and I can cope with social discomfort by now, and while having a way to safely expect someone with authority to deal with the people who won’t accept ‘no’ is really, really important, I feel like “protect everyone’s emotional states at all cost” is the wrong way to go and probably impossible anyway. And I want to stress again that I’m not worried that people will be punished for things that I don’t think deserve punishment. I already knew before I made that first post that discretion would be exercised. My problem is that I think people should, like I said, have the right to know ahead of time not just whether their conduct will probably be punished but whether, without question, they will be breaking any rules at all, even in small ways. I don’t think writing rules with that aim in mind is too much to ask.

    Because I’ve dwelt too long on the “sometimes things that seem innocuous might upset people anyway, and that shouldn’t be your fault” extreme, and it’s starting to feel a little disingenuous, let me tell you about a friend of mine who is pretty much the opposite of me in this particular regard. She’ll often respond very favourably to interactions by which I think, although it’s admittedly a little hard for me to tell, most people would be completely put off, and which are certainly counter to what I would think of as “social norms”. Now, by all means, the “sometimes it works” argument is extremely unconvincing, because it’s still the case that sometimes it doesn’t; nonetheless, encouraging people to express whether it might work with them, specifically, and then holding others to those individual decisions which are known ahead of time, instead of proscribing the ‘it’ altogether (irrespective of how lightly the proscriptions are treated, because, again, “too many people might get punished” is not in any way my concern here), seems like the best option. At least insofar as it gives all parties as much personal freedom as possible, while simultaneously leaving nobody in the dark about whether they are breaking any rules – and those are what I would view as the two most important features of good policy. And I wish to make it clear that I have been pretty conservative about this, because I think it would be a completely justified argument, if not one I particularly care to make, to apply the same “choose your boundaries” concept to interactions beyond speech, and speech (whether literally spoken or conveyed in any other format) is all I’ve been talking about here. I said before that I would suit me to make words “opt-out” in this fashion while leaving pretty much everything else opt-in, because it’s reasonable to me to apply stricter scrutiny beyond that “speech” line. And in case it wasn’t clear before, my reason for privileging speech is that, like anything else, I don’t think it’s possible to convincingly separate “speech that might cause harm” and “speech that definitely won’t cause harm” except for specific individuals, while at the same time I don’t think making speech opt-in would contribute to the kind of social atmosphere event organisers presumably want to encourage, and may be literally impossible if we take it so far – and I’m not sure I’d say there’s a strictly rational reason not to, because ‘that would just be absurd’ doesn’t impress me much as reasons go – as to insist that individuals must first consent to hear (as a shorthand for “have conveyed through speech of any kind”) the consent of others to hear things. Not, again, that I actually think anyone will expect that. It’s just that I think it’s the only application of ‘consent to hear things’ that would appear to be completely consistent, and I’ve said many times now that I – and this is my personal opinion I don’t expect anyone necessarily to share – don’t see the unlikelihood of a particular result as an excuse not to cover it when writing rules.

    But I’m kind of mixing levels here, I’m uncomfortably realising, and it only serves to confuse what I’m trying to say. I know I’m talking way too much and getting off track, and I’m sorry, but it turns out I can’t really help it. Let me try to sum up and clarify. I don’t think that “X, Y, and Z are considered harassment, don’t do them.” is bad policy in the strict sense I was employing in my last post, assuming (as I intended but only just now decided wasn’t entirely obvious) that X, Y, and Z are all clearly stated so there is no question even from the start whether a given action violates the rule. But such a one-size-fits-all approach wouldn’t really suit (what I’ve interpreted to be) our stated purpose of keeping people out of uncomfortable situations (which should be read as encompassing any severity – trust me when I say that I know ‘being uncomfortable’ can mean a lot more than just mild inconvenience) – and nobody, at least that I have seen, is recommending that we take that approach. I’m just using it to help delineate my concept of “bad policy” as it pertains to the clarity of the rules. Now, on the other hand, people have been both recommending and employing policies that they believe serve that stated purpose (while statements like “they believe” are often interpreted as implying that the speaker thinks the belief is misguided, I genuinely mean to be neutral on this, because, if nothing else, the question is entirely irrelevant to my point), but I don’t think that the (seemingly) most popular concepts have that crucial clarity I consider, for reasons (stated above) with which I don’t expect anyone necessarily to agree, important for something to be ‘good policy’. I’m sure there are multiple ways to achieve both; I’ve set out a particular construction, both here and in my previous post, which I think has both those properties as well as others I generally believe rules should have – notably, the previously mentioned “gives all parties as much personal freedom as possible”, which, for example, my ‘clear but ineffective’ construction earlier in this paragraph obviously lacked in that people who were willing to engage in actions X, Y, or Z had no official ability to consent. The official ability is key here, because the question of whether the rule will be applied with discretion seems to me to have no bearing on the process of writing the rule itself. Another important property I mentioned earlier is internal consistency, which is probably integral to both clarity and effectiveness; I said, for example, that I do not think it is possible to consistently draw lines which could be labelled ‘definitely safe’ or ‘definitely harassment’ in a way that also upholds our definition of harassment, because the criteria are too subjective. All we could really do is label our lines ‘probably safe’ and ‘probably harassment’, and no matter how high our threshold for ‘probably’ that still just doesn’t satisfy me. Maybe that’s unreasonable, but I do think it’s possible to write effective rules without ever declaring something too unlikely to bother covering.

    This is turning into another huge and unwieldy screed, isn’t it. That seems to be my thing, I guess. I’ll cut this off now because I really have said everything important and I don’t think I really need to rehash it all a thousand times over. If it’s still not clear, though, I’ll be happy to try again. Not that I expect to be able to do it any more briefly.

  118. decanuck says

    Absolutely yes, it can be. In the jurisprudence covering workplace sexual harassment, asking someone on a date can be seen as unwanted sexual attention and there’s plenty of polite ways to do that. Such instances are not deemed harassment unless nos are ignored and they’re repeated. After all, how would one know whether an offer would be welcome or unwelcome without asking?

    And did you really just threaten me with a stick in the middle of a thread about harassment?

  119. kilane says

    I would like to think that, despite the propaganda stating otherwise, this is a group of people who are not so fem-blind that we can’t see reason if it comes from a man (even one accused of a bad thing).

    The concern is that you’re going to be unable to do that, you’ve painted yourself into a corner by not allowing yourself the ability to define harassment. The combination of zero tolerance and the harassed defining harassment means you are not allowed to play the cooler head without violating your own policies.

  120. Gnumann, quisling of the MRA nation says

    In the jurisprudence covering workplace sexual harassment, asking someone on a date can be seen as unwanted sexual attention and there’s plenty of polite ways to do that.

    You hear that wooshing noise? No, it isn’t a stick. It’s the sound of the point going well past your head.

    Asking someone in a working environment on a date is in no way polite or respectable. That’s why people have policies for keeping people like you from messing up.

    How very predictable that you would latch on to my little stick-hyperbole by the way. People like you are nothing but predictable, and you just won me a bet :D.

  121. Chingona says

    You keep referring to some unspecified “people” and the “women” who might manipulate them, as if people and women are separate, distinct, and disparate categories. You might want to re-evaluate your assumption that men are arbiters of truth, and constitute the default human.

  122. decanuck says

    Asking someone in a working environment on a date is in no way polite or respectable.

    Not according to the experts who write and adjudicate these policies. Many relationships including marriages start in workplaces in perfectly acceptable fashion. It’s only natural for a place where you spend upwards of 1/4 of your time. Good workplace harassment policies only impugn unwanted attention that is a) repeated, b) egregious enough to be unacceptable in the first instance, or c) between individuals where one is a subordinate. And each of these is not black-and-white.

    For example, a friend of mine represented a client who met her husband at work, and they married while they were in the same department at the same level. She was later promoted which was a violation of c) and a related anti-nepotism policy. They were then going to take action to move her to another department where she didn’t want to go, so she contacted my friend (her lawyer). She managed to convince them that their policy was the wrong legal and business decision and they promptly revised it.

    That’s why people have policies for keeping people like you from messing up. … How very predictable that you would latch on to my little stick-hyperbole by the way. People like you are nothing but predictable, and you just won me a bet.

    You don’t even know me, and your reflects poorly on your argument. I draw from my knowledge of sexual harassment law, and you come back with a stick threat “hyperbole” and some platitude about a bet that probably doesn’t exist.

  123. decanuck says

    The combination of zero tolerance and the harassed defining harassment means you are not allowed to play the cooler head without violating your own policies.

    Agreed. Under such a policy, once a complaint is made some kind of response including a write-up seems to be a discretion-free requirement. I said earlier it’s probably better to have a just enough-inclusive objective definition adhered to 100% rather than an over-inclusive subjective definition that would/could sometimes be ignored.

  124. Katalina says

    I don’t think the goal of a policy would be to inform high-functioning autistics or other neuro-atypicals of what’s appropriate behavior. The goal of a policy is to inform neuro-typicals about the type of behavior that is not tolerated in a given situation. We generally, as humans, make allowances for those who suffer from legitimate difficulties when enforcing the rules. We don’t hold everyone to the same degree of responsibility under the law, but we do expect average adults to follow the rules. I think that’s who the proposed rules/policies are for.

  125. LMM says

    , I say take your ableism and shove it where the sun shineth not. Many an autistic has been accused of harrassment. Most of the situations they were accused of harrassment in, they were harrassing the accuser. In many of these, at a far greater rate than their neurotypical counterparts, they were unaware of the fact that they were harrassing because they lack a theory of mind.

    As a ‘fellow autistic’ who happens to be female, I say take your sexism and shove it.

    I am so sick of this line from *men* with ASDs. As a woman with an ASD, I want stricter social norms. I want inappropriate sexual advances to be stigmatized and dealt with in ways which involve removing the harasser from the situation. I want society to point out and remove people who are behaving in creepy and inappropriate ways.

    You know why I want stricter social norms?

    Because I can’t pick up creepy behavior.

    And what that means is that I am at much higher risk of sexual harassment or assault — because I can’t pick up the cues that suggest that this person might be a bad idea. That means that I don’t know how to deal with harassment — and since I’m triggered by socially awkward situations, I’m prone to blaming myself rather than other people.

    I don’t identify with the ‘ASD community’ such as it is — and this (and related issues) is largely why. Because, ultimately, my right not to get sexually assaulted overrides your right to get laid. Because, even if there is a possibility that that sexual harasser is ‘just’ misreading social cues, the probability that the harasser is actually going to commit sexual violence — or even just chase women out of the bar — is *far* more important to me than any sort of ableism that might impair the ability of men with ASDs to hit on people.

    Check your goddamn privilege. Because what you’re doing (what the ASD ‘community’ usually does) is advance the ‘rights’ of straight cis males — even when that means denying the needs of *others* with similar disorders.

  126. Suido says

    Having just come back to this thread after the weekend, and having read your comments on Christina Rad’s blog, I can honestly say it is not a nice experience reading your comments.

    For anyone else who thinks Kahfre is in any way redeemable, check this. Kahfre is the most blatantly sexist and self-congratulating fuckwit I have experienced.

  127. Gnumann, quisling of the MRA nation says

    To quite the wonderful mr Strange:

    Y’all are missing the IF – THEN construction I’m using here.

    Now, back to my point: Instigating work-place relations should always be viewed as something that is not comme il faut. As is usual in human interaction you can go against this If either you know it will be ok with that other individual or you know the power play lets you do it anyway. Sexual harrasment policies aims to stop the last variant.

  128. decanuck says

    As is usual in human interaction you can go against this If either you know it will be ok with that other individual or you know the power play lets you do it anyway.

    OY! Okay I feel like we’re closing in on the real issue. Let me spell it out as best I can. How, oh how, is one to know whether some kind of attention “will be ok with that other individual” without putting some kind of attention on that person (e.g. asking, flirting, smiling and making eye contact etc.) that might, in itself, be sexual harassment?

    This is why the SH definition “all unwelcome sexual attention” is not widely used, even in workplaces. It’s a catch-22. It’s difficult to know if attention is welcome without asking. Asking is sexual attention. If the asking is unwelcome then it’s sexual harassment and the only way it could have been avoided would have been to refrain from paying any remotely sexual attention to anyone. And given how inclusively the term “sexual” is often used in SH jurisprudence (cases I’ve read have included looking, smiling, complimenting, standing closely, and conversational touching of the arms & shoulders as being sexual) this would stifle a lot of fairly normal human interaction.

    The definition “all unwelcome sexual attention” therefore creates a de-facto desexualized environment. Now, this is not always a bad thing. It is already used in some workplace environments (e.g. prisons, schools, medical situations) and should probably be adopted in some others (e.g. military). But it is overkill in most working environments and WAY overkill in a conference full of adults mingling and socializing.

    Sexual harrasment policies aims to stop the last variant [attention where a power imbalance exists].

    Finally something we agree on!

  129. says

    I don’t believe in the poor socially awkward nerd who doesn’t realize that grabbing a woman’s butt is unacceptable.

    Neither do I. In my experience, the overwhelming majority of “socially awkward” people are too cautious, not too uninhibited. (And those who do stumble into inappropriate behavior are VERY quick to back off and apologize like crazy when they’re called out on it.) This idea that rules of conduct would punish well-meaning socially-awkward geeks is pure fiction. And it’s not being pushed by socially-awkward geeks, it’s being pushed by loud-mouthed idiots who either never learned any manners at all, or haven’t grown past the “rules = slavery!” stage.

  130. says

    It may work something along these lines: Many expert people should ask the woman lots of questions to analyse the situation objectively. Involve any witnesses and evidence in the process. After having analysed the situation objectively, then and only then, they should arrive at any conclusions.

    In other words, force the complainant to endure hearing after hearing, niggling question after niggling question, nitpick after nitpick, before being taken seriously AT ALL? That’s a blatantly obvious excuse to do nothing but humiliate and punish everyone who tries to file a complaint — and then discount less-formal complaints because they didn’t “follow the established procedure,” for some crazy reason you totally fail to comprehend. How dumb do you have to be to think you even sound plausible? The fact that you would advocate such a laughably rigorous discovery process, for complaints that won’t result in anything worse than mere expulsion from a private venue, really says a lot about your attitude toward women.

    After all, it could be an innocent person being accused here.

    Ever consider the possibilty that there could be in innocent person being harassed or otherwise mistreated? Or are you one of those guys who think women lose their innocence as soon as they hit puberty?

    In other words, consider all possibilities at all times.

    In other words, no matter what develops in the exhaustive gauntlet of hearings you speak of, never discount the possibility that bitches could be lying. I must say I never thought I’d hear “teach the controversy” in this context.

    Try to act like professionals, and not like victim-playing cry babies.

    Yeah, because a woman who tries to stand up for her rights and dignity is a “victim-playing cry baby” unless and until a properly-constituted committee of professional men officially rule otherwise, based on facts that only men are competent to assess.

    Remember Lt. Columbo?

    That’s your solution? Keep on hounding women with “just one more question before we do anything so rash as to take you seriously?”

    I know you worked extra-hard trying to make your mindless hatred of women sound all grownup and businesslike and rational and stuff, but you failed. Now fuck off to bed.

  131. says

    …it becomes obvious enough that I haven’t been able to convey my main point yet.

    Excuse me for being rude, but HAW HAW HAW HAW HAW HAW HAW! After all that stupid, pompous, patronizing bullshit you posted, you still haven’t made your “main point” “YET?” What, you’re just getting started?

    ka-ka-fire, your excuse for sounding stupid is even stupider than the burning pile of manure you’re trying to excuse. So much stupider, in fact, that I suddenly feel stupid wasting so much time responding to you. Is that your intent?

  132. says

    “Try your best to leave her alone?” How much effort does it take to leave a woman alone? You’re sounding like a little boy who just had a nightmare about a scary woman (a very srict teacher maybe?) jumping out at him wherever he goes. Your fear of evil bitches ruining good men’s lives is sounding downright pathological. Get help. (And put that Bible down, those stories about Eve, Delilah and Lilith probably aren’t helping.)

  133. says

    To be honest, given the exchanges at FtB, I was expecting something more along the lines of just calling me a fucktard and leaving it at that.

    So you get a civil response to your comments, but your frist response is to harp on the less civil responses you got somewhere else. Can’t give up the phony victimhoood for a minute, can you?

    Again, I agree. And actually, I agree with the rest of your post. My overall point was simply this…

    So you agree with a post that refuted your original point…but you don’t admit your point was refuted, and then you just start repeating the point that was already refuted. Sounds like you can’t bring yourself to admit you’ve been proven wrong.

  134. says

    All it would take is one benign date invitation to the wrong person, who then reports it to mgm’t and cites the policy in demanding that they do something.

    Oh grow the fuck up already — which “wrong person” are you thinking of who would totally freak out over a “benign” date invitation? Are we talking about real women here, or “hypotheticals” based on some wanker’s nightmare caricature of an Andrea Dworkin clone?

    Seriously, if — I repeat, IF — such a thing has ever been alleged to happen in real life, my first question would be, was the invitation really “benign” like you say? Given your ignorance and obtuseness here, your choice of adjectives doesn’t have much credibility.

  135. says

    No, he’s probably not, because (so far at least) he only acted inappropriately ONCE, didn’t persist in the offending behavior all that long, wasn’t accused by anyone of any seriusl offense to begin with — and (IIRC) may not have been participating in the event at all.

    Why the fuck are you asking such a stupid question about EG here?

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