Why Would Anyone Think This is Appropriate?

There’s been a lot of talk in the atheist/skeptical community lately about the need for harassment policies at conferences, led by some of the bloggers here at FTB. And then this happens and just leaves my jaw on the floor wondering what planet these people are from. Elyse at SkepChick tells the appalling story:

This past weekend, I flew out to Columbus, Oh, to attend Skepticamp Ohio as the keynote speaker. I was honored to be invited and I want to thank Carl Tracy, Ashley Paramore and everyone involved for putting together a great event and a fun weekend. One thing that I really want to commend them for was their harassment policy, which only had to be enforced one time, and was done so swiftly and respectfully. I applaud them.

Well, technically, it needed to be enforced twice. But the second time, no one was given the opportunity to act. And it’s a big deal. And days later, I’m still really angry about what happened.

After lunch, I gave my talk about vaccines. I talked about my experiences as a mother, how I came up with the concept of Hug Me, showed photos of my kids, did a fake Q&A, and utterly shamed the audience for not being vaccinated, which I only half apologize for. And I did this talk while on Vicodin… which I also only half apologize for.

The rest of the conference went beautifully. No inappropriate comments. No more Vicodin-infused talks. Or at least no more talks that started with “So… I’m on Vicodin.”

Then, at the very end, when everyone was preparing to leave, and I was packing up the Hug Me table, answering questions, and generally socializing with other speakers and attendees, thinking about how fat my check is going to be from Big Pharma when one man and his wife, whom I’ve become vaguely acquainted with on Facebook in the last week, approached my table. He said, “Here’s a little something to remember us by” and handed me an upside-down card. I turned it halfway over, glanced at it peripherally, then thanked them.

A minute or so later, I had a “wait… what?” moment, then flipped the card over and looked at it not peripherally to discover I had not been handed a business card, but a card with a naked photo of the two of them, with their information on how to contact them should I want to fuck.

Elyse talks about this from the framework of turning women into sexual objects and making them feel unwelcome at such events, and that’s entirely valid. But this goes even beyond that. What they did would be incredibly inappropriate even if they had handed their card to me instead of her. What planet do these people live in?

I have nothing at all against the swinger lifestyle; I have friends and even family members who are into swinging and I’m obviously no prude. Have sex with any consenting adult who agrees to have sex with you, in whatever configuration you agree to participate in. But how about getting to know someone first? How about having some conversation first that might give you a clue to whether they might be interested in such a request? How about having some fucking dignity and treating others as though they have some too? Elyse continues:

It’s not okay to assume that any woman (or non-woman) is at a conference to be your plaything. But to reduce your keynote speaker to a thing you want to fuck, and not respect that she’s there as a professional is so much more than offensive to her personally. It’s disrespectful to the conference and its organizers.

It’s not okay to assume a stranger welcomes your nakedness. I was never asked if I was interested in this couple. Not explicitly. Not implicitly. This couple obviously knows that it’s not acceptable to just go around flashing your sexy nudie pics at people since they’re adults functioning in society, but they also waited until the conference was over to give it to me and they handed to me upside down. A clear indication that there’s an understanding that sex cards are not handed out the same way as business cards are.

Quite so. She didn’t identify the couple who did this; she did put up a picture of the bard, but blurred out the faces and names. But I sure hope I never run into them at a conference. They clearly have no concept of what is and is not appropriate and no understanding of context at all.

130 comments on this post.
  1. gesres:

    Why Would Anyone Think This is Appropriate?

    I don’t think they would. This strikes me more as a stunt to cause another fight in the freethought community for sheer amusement.

  2. karlvonmox:

    Yeah, I think that regardless of how you feel about feminism, elevatorgate, etc – this behavior is clearly lacking in decorum.

    Like the commenter above, I have a sneaking suspicion these people were just trying to be trolls – and succeeded.

  3. Tualha:

    Planet Heinlein? :)

  4. laurentweppe:

    And then this happens and just leaves my jaw on the floor wondering what planet these people are from.

    So… your jaw has some existential concerns on its own?

    ***

    I don’t think they would. This strikes me more as a stunt to cause another fight in the freethought community for sheer amusement.

    That would be turning trollism into a wicked form of art…

    ***

    Planet Heinlein? :)

    Planet Strauss-Kahn

  5. rickdesper:

    I suspect they were not trolls. I suspect they were simply swingers.

    Swingers proposition people. It’s what they do. They’ve been around for decades. There aren’t many of them, but that’s what they do. A lot of people think they are creepy. They don’t consider themselves creepy.

    I don’t think we need a policy for every possible variation of human behavior. Just say “no” and move on.

  6. jba55:

    I definitely think this is wildly inappropriate but what annoys me about the reaction is the majority of the things I’ve read about it are all ‘Men behave badly! Look what they did!” and ignore the fact that one of the swingers (or whatever) was a woman. I don’t see why this needs to be turned into a men vs women gender issue, even though the injured party was a woman.

  7. Marcus Ranum:

    This sounds like sex-spamming: ask as many people “do you want to fuck?” as you can, and hope that sooner or later someone will say “SURE!”

    There are websites where you can go if you’re into that, and it’s probably more likely to pay off if you work a pre-selected target group, rather than just “everyone who stands out from the crowd for even a brief moment” I have noticed that some people seem to mistake standing out from the crowd for being interested in sex. If you think about it for a second or two, that sort of makes sense – as a mating strategy, if you’re antisocial. But we’re social animals; someone appears to have forgotten that or not been adequately socialized.

  8. Raging Bee:

    Wow…that’s so ridiculous I can’t think they intended it as an intentional slight or harrassment; but so completely asinine and inappropriate I can’t think it’s anything else either. Seriously? They couldn’t be bothered to ask her out and chat a bit and get to know her before giving her a nude photo and inviting her to have sex? WTF?! I know a few poly people myself, and none of them are that wacked.

    I wonder how often those idiots leave their number to strangers. And what do they do if any of those strangers actually takes them up on their offer?

  9. Ed Brayton:

    rickdesper wrote:

    Swingers proposition people. It’s what they do. They’ve been around for decades. There aren’t many of them, but that’s what they do. A lot of people think they are creepy. They don’t consider themselves creepy.

    I know many swingers; I don’t know a single one who would even think about doing this.

  10. gesres:

    Swingers proposition people. It’s what they do.

    Sure, but given the low probability of success and high probability of the episode being plastered on a number of prominent freethought blogs, it seems likely they had other goals besides sex, unless they’re just stupid.

  11. Raging Bee:

    Swingers proposition people. It’s what they do…

    Um…no. I know enough about both the swinging lifestyle and the poly lifestyle to say that most people in either camp would never think of propositioning anyone in this manner. There are much classier — and SAFER — ways to look for playmates.

  12. Captain Mike:

    WHAT. THE. FUCK.

  13. Raging Bee:

    There are websites where you can go if you’re into that…

    Yes, and there’s also personal ads in both paper and online publications. They could have placed an ad saying something like “Couple [specify ages and ethnicities] seeks F for…” Not sure what sort of response such an ad would have got, but I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be the “WTF is your problem?!!” kind.

  14. andrewryan:

    “she did put up a picture of the bard, but blurred out the faces”

    Does this make anyone else imagine a pixelated picture of Shakespeare?

  15. Eric R:

    In the end she recieved (indirectly) the classic nopology of “….Please pass on our apologies to anyone who may have been offended” No Direct communication, even though she has a blog and no direct mention of apologising to Elyse just the classic “anyone who may have been….”

    Jeesh

  16. Dalillama:

    Honestly, most of my encounters with swingers, as distinctly opposed to poly types, have been of a nature that leads me to be totally unsurprised by this behavior from swingers. I realize that anecdotes are not data, but I’ve never personally met anyone who identified as a swinger who didn’t come off as a total creep (male or female), and the experiences of my associates are similar.

  17. democommie:

    “Call you if I want to fuck?”. Sure, it just won’t be you that I’m wanting to fuck.

    I have lived with two women who did some swinging before I met them. They never did, to my knowledge, while we lived together. It probably was ‘cuz I wuz such a hunk-a-hunka burnin’ love OR cuz’ they didn’t want to take jell-o mold to a banquet.

    Seriously, the swingers I’ve known did creep me out and some were more than a bit pushy.

  18. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle:

    What’s (totally not) interesting to me is how every single person pretending this is no big deal/just ignore it/shutupaboutit are men.

    It makes the reasonable, logical men stand out much more. Good to know who is who, I say.

  19. Raging Bee:

    What’s (totally not) interesting to me is how every single person pretending this is no big deal/just ignore it/shutupaboutit are men.

    I don’t see anyone, male or female, pretending that, at least not here. Who/where/what are you talking about?

  20. gesres:

    this is no big deal/just ignore it/shutupaboutit are men.

    I fall into the “just ignore it” category. Freaking out just feeds the trolls. While perhaps there was a legitimate issue in “ElevatorGate”, I don’t feel there is one here, other than it’s a funny story.

  21. d cwilson:

    Sounds like this couple has watched too many pornos, which is about the only place where such a direct and creepy proposition would actually work.

    Or maybe they just assumed that “Free thought” meant people would be free with other aspects of their nature as well.

  22. ashleybell:

    Maybe they conflate liberal with libertine

  23. Ben P:

    Swingers proposition people. It’s what they do. They’ve been around for decades. There aren’t many of them, but that’s what they do. A lot of people think they are creepy. They don’t consider themselves creepy.

    I don’t think we need a policy for every possible variation of human behavior. Just say “no” and move on.

    This probably comes closest to my reaction.

    Inappropriate and creepy? Absolutely. It’s neither “normal” or “polite” to randomly proposition people you only know in a business context for sex. But some people are neither normal, nor polite.

    This also gets into the “asking versus guessing” divide. On a fairly basic psychological level some people fall into a pattern of thought where they feel perfectly acceptable asking for anything, because “hey, the worst that can happen is the other person can say no, right?” Other people fall into a thought pattern where they feel they should only ask for something if there’s a reasonable chance the person being asked will say yes, then the focus falls on “feeler” to determine if the person is receptive to being asked.

    Askers routinely place guessers in awkward situations, because the asker has assumed it’s just fine for the person to say no, while the guesser feels an implicit assumption that they should say yes and feels bad about saying no. This isn’t just sex, this might be the boss who asks if you mind working this weekend, the friend who asks if he can crash at your place for a week,

    It’s the “assuming that any woman is at the conference just to be your sexual plaything” is where she loses me. I don’t see that they’ve assumed any such thing.

    I think many swingers (and similar individuals although certainly not all) by nature of their preferences have at least some belief that casual sex is much more of a fun social activity than some special bond shared between people.It’s something fun, nothing particularly more, nothing particularly less. Unless they deliberately seek out concentrations of people who are into the same thing, the only way they find out is by asking. Is it weird and inappropriate? absolutely, but I think people can read too much into it.

  24. Stevarious:

    “she did put up a picture of the bard, but blurred out the faces”

    Does this make anyone else imagine a pixelated picture of Shakespeare?

    This is in fact exactly what happened to me.

  25. Tony:

    rickdesper @5:

    Swingers proposition people. It’s what they do. They’ve been around for decades. There aren’t many of them, but that’s what they do. A lot of people think they are creepy. They don’t consider themselves creepy.

    Swingers go around propositioning people at public events? People they don’t even know? If they don’t consider themselves creepy, fine. They should have considered whether Elyse thought it would be creepy. Oh wait, they hadn’t gotten to know her as an individual before they made the assumption that she would be interested in sleeping with them**. Perhaps thinking outside of themselves and considering the situation from a different perspective, they might realize the inappropriate and arrogant nature of their actions.

    **I don’t think being acquainted with someone qualifies as getting to know them.

  26. Modusoperandi:

    She didn’t identify the couple who did this; she did put up a picture of the bard, but blurred out the faces and names.

    That’s it? If she was sneaky, she’d add it to her Magic: The Gathering deck.

    Ed Brayton “I know many swingers; I don’t know a single one who would even think about doing this.”
    Um. Ed. Maybe it’s just you?

  27. ryanlangford:

    I don’t think just because some people might find it unsettling, means it is unacceptable. I can definitely see how and why both men and women would find it the proposition shocking, but I’m not sure why that necessitates the proposition isn’t acceptable. It is like saying some people find the idea of drinking coffee as blasphemous, therefore you should never invite people to coffee. The social norm isn’t universal by any stretch.

  28. lofgren:

    I agree that it is creepy and obnoxious and I wouldn’t want it done to me, but I am seeing a lot of extrapolation of this event around the web, people saying “Don’t do this” or “This is not what sex is about” or even “women have to put up with stuff like this all the time.” (Really? Couples hand you naked pictures of themselves all the time? Why is this one incident such a big deal then?)

    The thing is, it’s a bit weird but I don’t see any indication that it “reduced” her to a thing they want to fuck, or that they assumed she was there as a plaything. I frankly don’t like the idea that I am somehow diminishing somebody by wanting to fuck them. It doesn’t interfere with my ability to listen to their talk or to take them seriously in any way. There seems to be a general assumption that you can’t find somebody sexy and also be interested in them as a person, which I find very sad. Asking somebody out (even if it is in an awkward, socially unacceptable manner that makes the other party uncomfortable) does not indicate a lack of respect. (Necessarily.)

    Ultimately they asked – albeit in a totally inappropriate way – and she said no. It doesn’t seem like anything worth getting all excited over, except that it is kind of titillating and juicy.

    Even her point about foisting your nakedness on others, the most obvious and clear offense that they committed, is one I am uncertain about. Women walk around all the time with barely-there outfits that some would demand they cover up. In some towns in the US it is legal for nudists to walk the streets. Women have fought for the right to go topless anywhere that men can. These standards shift constantly.

    Again, not saying it’s not creepy and not saying that people should be OK with it. Just seems like one of those things where we should say, “Dude. I mean, seriously. Dude.” and move on. (Rather like Ed does here.) Any attempt to extrapolate some kind of policy or cultural significance from this act seems like a waste of time. It’s so rare it’s practically aberrant, and ultimately it’s basically harmless.

  29. Raging Bee:

    It is like saying some people find the idea of drinking coffee as blasphemous…

    Um, no, making unwanted sexual advances toward strangers is not like drinking coffee. Not even remotely similar, especially in the “hostile environment” department.

  30. jefrir:

    Ryanlangford, what is so difficult about the idea that you shouldn’t do things to people that they don’t want you to?
    People thinking that coffee is blasphemy doesn’t mean you should never ask anyone for coffee, but it does mean that you shouldn’t ask those people for coffee. If you know, or have reason to believe, that the person you are talking to is likely to be offended by being asked for coffee, and you go ahead and do it anyway, you are at best being an arse.
    It’s not exactly a shock to find that most people don’t want to be randomly propositioned by strangers – so don’t do it, unless you have a good reason to think that the person in question wants you to.

  31. lofgren:

    Not even remotely similar, especially in the “hostile environment” department.

    What’s hostile about it? They didn’t even force her to turn them down to their face. All she had to do to extricate herself from the situation is not call them. They even waited until the event was over, so it’s not like she had to spend the whole day dodging them.

    Where are you registering hostility?

  32. Raging Bee:

    I frankly don’t like the idea that I am somehow diminishing somebody by wanting to fuck them.

    No, but you’d sure as hell be diminishing someone if you asked him/her to fuck you in such a ridiculously indiscriminate, impersonal and tone-deaf way. This isn’t about desire, it’s about presentation. Read the anecdote again.

    It doesn’t interfere with my ability to listen to their talk or to take them seriously in any way.

    Um…this isn’t about YOU, dumbass, it’s about someone else who clearly was not interested in having a conversation with the object of their desires in the first place.

  33. ryanlangford:

    Raging Bee said:

    Um, no, making unwanted sexual advances toward strangers is not like drinking coffee. Not even remotely similar, especially in the “hostile environment” department.

    Who is defining “hostile environment” here? The person that finds coffee blasphemous?

  34. ryanlangford:

    Jefrir said:

    Ryanlangford, what is so difficult about the idea that you shouldn’t do things to people that they don’t want you to?

    I would have no problem with people asking me engaging in a three way. In fact, I would find it greatly complimentary and thank them for it.

    So next time you meet me, you now know how to make me feel better.

  35. Raging Bee:

    Ah yes, another clueless guy thinking everyone else should enjoy what he thinks he’d enjoy. I guess Illuminata’s comment #18 was a prediction of nonsense to come.

  36. ryanlangford:

    Sorry Raging Bee, I have no interest in swingers. But you just go on assuming if it makes you feel better.

  37. WMDKitty:

    Ugh. Creepy and kinda rude.

  38. lofgren:

    No, but you’d sure as hell be diminishing someone if you asked him/her to fuck you in such a ridiculously indiscriminate, impersonal and tone-deaf way. This isn’t about desire, it’s about presentation.

    Diminishing how? It’s tone-deaf and arguably impersonal, but how do you get indiscriminate? You are supplying facts and feelings that you do not know anything about. You can’t just make up bullshit and state it authoritatively as if you know what you are talking about.

    Elyse said “But to reduce your keynote speaker to a thing you want to fuck…” clearly implying that she thinks the subjects cannot both respect what she has to say and also want to fuck her, that by wanting to fuck her they are somehow diminishing her and her message. You know nothing about what the couple was thinking and you are not accurately describing Elyse’s reaction and words.

    it’s about someone else who clearly was not interested in having a conversation with the object of their desires in the first place.

    I don’t think that’s clear at all. I think it’s perfectly reasonable to interpret their behavior as trying to express their interests and give her plenty of space to make her decision free from pressure. It seems to me that they were quite interested in her, and they were upfront about their interests. I do not see how you can take from the fact that they were interested in sexy time, they must therefore not be interested in other aspects of Elyse.

    Again, you don’t have to like the way they did it, but they certainly did everything they could to express their desires and spare Elyse unnecessary awkwardness. Could they have approached it differently? Obviously, and the proposition would be a flying leap past most people’s comfort boundaries. Should they have done this differently (or not at all)? Yes, definitely. There is a time and a place for such things and this was not it. But the extrapolations from this awkward advance are frankly ludicrous. They didn’t reduce her in any way, and they didn’t “assume” anything – they offered, which is the opposite of an assumption. They were not indiscriminate as far as I can tell, and even if they were, who are you to judge if they want to be indiscriminate about who they invite into their bed?

    This is titillating and juicy but really it’s between them and Elyse. They propositioned her. It was awkward and inappropriate. She said no. There’s nothing more to see here.

  39. Raging Bee:

    You are supplying facts and feelings that you do not know anything about.

    And you know…what…about this situation that the rest of us don’t?

  40. Raging Bee:

    …how do you get indiscriminate?

    How do you not? How is a stranger leaving a card with someone before even making any effort to start a conversation NOT “indiscriminate?”

  41. Chaos Engineer:

    Who is defining “hostile environment” here? The person that finds coffee blasphemous?

    In this context, the community. If this had been some kind of Mormon Swinger’s Convention then, yes, there’s a possibility that passing out a contact card like this would be acceptable, and openly drinking coffee would be seen as offensive.

    So the rules do vary according to the situation. If this is your first time at a convention, it’s a good idea to hang back at first and see what other people are doing. This is especially important if you lack basic social skills. (And if people have to explain things like this to you, then there’s a good chance you’re lacking in basic social skills. That means you need to pay extra close attention to what people are telling you.)

    Let’s see, what else…if a group doesn’t have a stated policy on something, then it’s usually safe to assume that they use the same guidelines as the surrounding culture. In American culture, it’s historically been considered rude to show erotic pictures to people that haven’t signaled an interest in seeing them.

  42. Evolouie:

    Yes it was rude.
    I know many swingers and this would be out of the ordinary for all of them.
    However I think it’s not worth getting all worked up over.
    Accept it as a compliment. And move on.

    Because whatever any of you may think, it was a compliment.

  43. ryanlangford:

    It is the social norm to follow puritanical social norms. I guess I’m one of those rebels that think that it is possible to simultaneously reject sexism AND puritanism.

    Granted, I recognize this is a fine line. Sexism is difficult to separate when it comes to sexuality. However, I would hope our rationalism are enlightened enough to recognize there are different levels of sexual enlightenment and it is OK to not be into them, but also willing to accommodate them. It doesn’t ruin my breakfast to discover the table over are gay and enjoy sodomy, and in the same way, it shouldn’t ruin my breakfast to learn that the table over are swingers.

  44. lofgren:

    And you know…what…about this situation that the rest of us don’t?

    Nothing, which is why I’m not pretending to know something I don’t. The supplied description of events suggests that the couple wanted to have sex with Elyse and did not want to talk to her directly about it unless she was already interested. Anything else about the couple’s motivations, feelings, thoughts, or opinions of Elyse are unknown at this time. I don’t have to know what they were thinking to call you out on your baseless bullshit and assumptions.

    How do you not? How is a stranger leaving a card with someone before even making any effort to start a conversation NOT “indiscriminate?”

    There is no indication that they were leaving cards all over the place with dozens of strangers. They picked an acquaintance who they were interested in, targeted her, and passed her a note discretely after she had concluded her professional duties. Maybe they are not as discriminating as you or I but since when did we set the standard?

  45. flatlander100:

    PZ:

    In re: your headline: and who exactly do you think among the posters on the previous topic dealing with this do you think would argue that it was “appropriate” behavior? No one I know.

    Some of us have been arguing, though, that a certain percentage of people showing up at conventions/conferences [any kind] are in fact, and are going to act as, buttholes, cads and curs. I notice there was an anti-harassment policy in force at this event. Didn’t stop the cads from behaving as such, did it now?

    Yes, people should behave as adults. No, harassment is never acceptable. And no, people being people, there is no way this sort of thing can be stamped out, prevented, banned in every instance.

    From all the reports that have been posted on your blogsite on atheist, free thought etc. conferences in the US and around the world, such instances seem to involve [happily] only a very small segment of attenders. Which has some of us wondering if all this heartburning and angst regarding the creepaziod fringe isn’t perhaps something of an over-reaction. I notice, for example, here and on the Friendly Atheist’s blog, people saying they were thinking of attending such events, but have now been put off if the events are this sexually “toxic” [their term].

  46. kacyray:

    Jesus Christ… the Whaa Patrol, once again on the beat.

    @32 – “No, but you’d sure as hell be diminishing someone if you asked him/her to fuck you in such a ridiculously indiscriminate, impersonal and tone-deaf way. This isn’t about desire, it’s about presentation.”

    Indiscriminate? Handing their card to the bartender would’ve been indiscriminate. Handing it to the keynote speaker… hardly.

    Impersonal? Had it been any more personal, they’d have been accused of overt sexual hostility. Of course, there’s no good way for people to act “out there” that people “in here” won’t whine and moan about it.

    “it’s about someone else who clearly was not interested in having a conversation with the object of their desires in the first place.”

    Because we never have sex with people that we’re interested in having conversation with, right? Because as any groovy professional blog-commentator knows, there are women whose ideas you find interesting, and then there are women you want to fuck. And they are never the same woman, right?

    This whole thread is ridiculous. The card they handed her wasn’t even r-rated. There have been more explicit pictures on the cover of Time Magazine.

    If you’re a straight guy and you get a passive proposition from a gay man, the response should be a simple “hey, no thanks”. So should it be when you are passively propositioned by swingers (unless you *are* interested, and then, whatever…).

    Elyse, like most feminists, sees every goddamned thing in the world as a threat or sexually hostile act. The fact that she stated it was a “naked” picture without adding the caveat that the “nudity” was actually covered up only highlights the dishonesty that lies behind this story. The fact that Ed either didn’t notice or didn’t point it out only shows his willingness to swallow these sorts of dishonest wolf-cries whole.

  47. axilet:

    @45:

    …a note with their naked pictures in it.

    Sorry, that’s a big no-no. Lots of people are uncomfortable with seeing strangers naked. They had no reason to assume Elyse would feel otherwise. (Otherwise, I would actually agree with your comment.)

  48. flatlander100:

    Re: me @ 45. Sorry Ed. Meant you, not PZ. Been following this on PZ, Friendly Atheist and now here, and forgot which one I was on for a moment. Again, my apologies.

  49. dingojack:

    Flatlander – Firstly, Ed isn’t PZ (despite being roughly the same shape). Secondly, there was (it seems) no harassment involved. The couple gave someone else (an adult) a card with a naked picture of them on it and invited this adult to call them, which the receiver could do (or not) as she desired.
    Do you feel ‘harassed’ when someone advertises, or gives you a business card?
    Dingo

  50. flatlander100:

    Dingo@49:

    Yes, if someone I didn’t know handed me a card at a conference or convention, unsolicited by me, with their naked picture on it, soliciting my participation in sex, I think it could reasonably considered sexual harassment. And I don’t know what kind of business cards you’re used to getting. I can’t recall a single one from a business contact or colleague that had their naked picture on it. Nary a single one.

  51. jonhendry:

    “Like the commenter above, I have a sneaking suspicion these people were just trying to be trolls – and succeeded.”

    Maybe if it was just a guy. I can’t see a guy and his wife/girlfriend doing this as a troll.

  52. gabby:

    For one thing, my wife would totally join me in a trolling of this level, though I’d like to think that ours would be of better quality.
    As a second point, I thought I remembered her having known them on Facebook. It’s a small point but one that I feel is being ignored conveniently. I’m not saying they’re old pals or anything, but it seems like some people are getting a bit of mileage out of total strangers angle. I don’t think we have the information to judge their interactions leading up to this.

  53. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven:

    I don’t think we have the information to judge their interactions leading up to this.

    We have the information that Elyse found it unexpected and inappropriate and that it made her extremely uncomfortable….

    Though I guess the “HER” part means we have to ignore that.

  54. jonhendry:

    “I know many swingers; I don’t know a single one who would even think about doing this.”

    The guests on Jerry Springer have to come from *somewhere*.

  55. jonhendry:

    Kinda wonder what the response would have been if the couple had been Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

  56. Who Knows?:

    Why Would Anyone Think This is Appropriate?

    Fuck if I know, but there seems to be a few numbskulls that do.

    For most of us, our sexuality is the most intimate part of our being. Not something we share with casual acquaintances and most people have sense enough to respect that.

  57. jonhendry:

    “Askers routinely place guessers in awkward situations, because the asker has assumed it’s just fine for the person to say no, while the guesser feels an implicit assumption that they should say yes and feels bad about saying no. ”

    It’s kinda like the “staying too long at the party” problem. Guest thinks the host will declare the end of the party, host hopes the guests will intuit when it’s time to leave.

    Only a bit higher-stakes, in terms of risk of embarrassment.

  58. ryanlangford:

    It amazes me how proud people are of being terrified others might discover their sexual preferences. If only we could outlaw certain sexual acts, we could keep these nasty people in check!

  59. Crudely Wrott:

    If I may I’d like to make a modest suggestion.

    I would suggest that those who attend meetings of any kind that attracts large numbers of, shall I say, active and forward people, adopt a simple strategy to avoid this kind of sophomoric entanglement.

    Since you will be wearing a badge or name tag of some kind you have a golden opportunity to tune out unwanted advances.

    Simply add the following words to the badge or tag that you will have prominently displayed:

    I am not here to get laid.

    or

    I’m not attending in order to . . . you know.

    or

    If you hit on me I’ll kick you in both your knees before you can grin..

    There will always be some subset that don’t get it. Prepare for them.

    I’m sure that there are a lot of you folks thinking along the same lines. I’ll say that it’s a shame that such fools must be suffered but there you go and here we are.

    Additionally, anyone at any moment can do something stupid. Keeping this in mind it would be a good idea to go loaded for bear even if you think it’s just an afternoon strolling on the mountainside. Bears do in fact live there.

    I wish it were not so. It is. Be prepared.

  60. Gretchen:

    Kinda wonder what the response would have been if the couple had been Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

    Just speaking for myself, the same. It doesn’t matter how amazing your equipment looks; don’t assume someone wants it shoved in their face.

  61. Chaos Engineer:

    Yes it was rude.
    I know many swingers and this would be out of the ordinary for all of them.
    However I think it’s not worth getting all worked up over.
    Accept it as a compliment. And move on.

    Because whatever any of you may think, it was a compliment.

    OK, I think I see where you’re confused. The problem is that human interaction is really complicated; you can’t just look at the surface meanings of words and think you understand everything that’s going on. At face value this sort of pass looks like a compliment, but most people would take it as an insult. The subtext is: “We think your standards are so low that you’d have sex with random strangers, even ones as crude and boorish as ourselves.” A pass only becomes a compliment if there’s been some back-and-forth signalling going on, and it suggests that there’s a possibility you’d be interested.

    Under the standard rules of etiquette, she’s entitled to glare at them with disgust and say, “Get lost, creeps!” or words to that effect. If she’s holding a drink then she can splash it in their faces. A simple “No” isn’t really appropriate…that should be reserved for the rejection of a polite request, which this wasn’t. The couple certainly realized what was likely to happen…you’ll notice that they made a point of leaving before she had time to react.

    But put all of that aside. I don’t see how this could be a serious attempt at soliciting sex. It looks an exhibitionist game; the goal was just to shock the target and then scurry off giggling. This is exactly the sort of thing you want to discourage at conventions; too many people wind up getting annoyed by it.

  62. gabby:

    Azkyroth
    Yeah, making judgments knowing I lack all the information absolutely isn’t what I, as a skeptic, would ever do. It must be based on sex.
    You really don’t see how ridiculous you are, do you?
    My entire point is that some are pretending they had no prior interactions. This isn’t true and seems intended to make the event even more shocking. Kinda dishonest.

  63. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven:

    It amazes me how proud people are of being terrified others might discover their sexual preferences. If only we could outlaw certain sexual acts, we could keep these nasty people in check!

    What the fuck does that have to do with anything anyone’s said here?

    Although, actually, outlawing THE IMPOSIITION OF ONE’S SEXUALITY ONTO NONCONSENTING PEOPLE was a really good move for society, and if we could do something about the stupid sacks of shit who insist on making excuses for it, we COULD keep the genuinely nasty people in check pretty effectively.

    Yeah, making judgments knowing I lack all the information absolutely isn’t what I, as a skeptic, would ever do. It must be based on sex.

    But you ARE making a judgment. You’re dismissing Elyse’s claims that this was inappropriate and upsetting out of hand. (Given what we do know, pointedly reserving judgment is equivalent to dismissing them, absent some very compelling evidence of mistruth).

    My entire point is that some are pretending they had no prior interactions. This isn’t true and seems intended to make the event even more shocking. Kinda dishonest.

    Exchanging a few messages on Facebook does not make a person “not a stranger.” What conceivable reason other than an obsessive need to dismiss women’s concerns could you have for grasping at straws like that?

    And whatever you imagine those messages could have consisted of, it is clear from Elyse’s reaction, unless you’re assuming at the outset that she’s unreasonable, lying, or just crazy (and there’s NO reason to think that’s likely unless you simply assume that about all women who have a problem with being hit on), that their previous interaction would not even remotely make this okay.

  64. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven:

    Crudely: Make it opt-in rather than opt-out and it might be a good idea.

  65. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven:

    Kinda wonder what the response would have been if the couple had been Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

    I assume what you’re getting at here is that a proposition from someone a person would actually want to have sex with is far less likely to be unwelcome.

    NO SHIT.

    Do I really need to explain why the hypothetical case of a wanted sexual advance has no relevance to discussion of unwanted sexual advances?

  66. christophepetroni:

    My entire point is that some are pretending they had no prior interactions. This isn’t true and seems intended to make the event even more shocking. Kinda dishonest.

    If you read the Skepchick post, you’ll see that Elyse did describe the extent of her past interactions with the couple, and explained that those interactions did not support the level of intimacy the couple presumed with their proposition. Are you going to suggest that Elyse’s account shouldn’t be accepted at face value?

  67. gabby:

    I’m not dismissing anyone’s claim and I absolutely agree that this event was creepy as fuck.
    If the interaction on facebook couldn’t possibly mean anything, then why are some so eager to pretend it didn’t happen? Why is it important enough to ignore? It could absolutely be nothing, or it could turn out to be a situation where serious comments were taken as jokes and jokes taken as serious comments. Misunderstandings happen. Very similar situations have happened to me and turned out to be misunderstandings on my part. Maybe that’s not the case here but we don’t have the information to make that judgment.

  68. gabby:

    What I remember from the original post was that they had had about a week of interaction. A week of interaction on facebook could be anything. To someone who primarily socializes on Facebook, that could be more than the strangers they’re being described as. We just don’t know.

  69. christophepetroni:

    If the interaction on facebook couldn’t possibly mean anything, then why are some so eager to pretend it didn’t happen? Why is it important enough to ignore?

    What? Who’s “eager to pretend it didn’t happen?” Maybe people are ignoring it because it’s insignificant. How do we know it’s insignificant? Because Elyse mentioned the Facebook interaction in her post and yet still remarked that the proposition was creepy and demeaning.

  70. gabby:

    Yeah, that’ll do it.
    I’m going to find a skeptics blog to read.

  71. christophepetroni:

    A week of interaction on facebook could be anything. To someone who primarily socializes on Facebook, that could be more than the strangers they’re being described as. We just don’t know.

    We know all we have to. Elyse mentioned the Facebook interaction. She also mentioned that the proposition was creepy and demeaning. Therefore, Elyse did not consider the Facebook interaction intimate enough to suggest to the couple that the proposition was anything like appropriate.

    QED. This is not difficult, unless somehow you doubt Elyse’s account of what happened.

  72. christophepetroni:

    I’m going to find a skeptics blog to read.

    Given your performance here, I’m curious about how you expect to recognize a skeptics’ blog when you find one.

  73. neuroguy:

    When is this nonsense going to end?

    Oh, I bet Elyse’s life has just been shattered by the fact that she saw a picture of a couple of naked bodies on a card. Get her her smelling salts ASAP.

    Really, who the f**k cares?

  74. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven:

    What I remember from the original post was that they had had about a week of interaction. A week of interaction on facebook could be anything. To someone who primarily socializes on Facebook, that could be more than the strangers they’re being described as. We just don’t know.

    We DO know. Elyse told us.

  75. christophepetroni:

    Oh, I bet Elyse’s life has just been shattered by the fact that she saw a picture of a couple of naked bodies on a card. Get her her smelling salts ASAP.

    Really, who the f**k cares?

    Elyse cares. Have you read the Skepchick post? Would you be perfectly comfortable being reduced to your primary and secondary sex characteristics no matter what the context? (Oh, neuroguy. That would be no, then.)

  76. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven:

    Now, now.

    I’m sure her tertiary sex characteristics were also taken into account.

  77. dingojack:

    Flatlander100 – you hang with a better class of business people. :)
    (I once halped out a friend of a friend at a sexpo – so lots of cards with nude men and women. I’m sure that couple would have blended in nicely).
    Dingo

  78. Childermass:

    It would have been fair game to outright out the jerk by providing his real name since there is no possible misunderstanding here and he has no possible defense. This was not the action of the social awkward or a moment of simply not thinking: this was clearly planned.

    Any organization associated with the event has every right exclude him in the future and indeed should strongly consider doing so. Any proven repeat performance after he is informed that his is unacceptable behavior should automatically result in a lifetime ban.

  79. Ed Brayton:

    I’ve learned two things from this thread so far. First, that there really are people who think this is appropriate behavior (I still have no idea why — it would be as inappropriate if done to me as it was when done to Elyse). Second, that PZ and I are roughly the same shape. I imagine he’ll be quite disappointed to hear that, since he’s about half my size.

  80. gabby:

    Look people… I’m not saying that anything is going to justify this behavior, but if condemning it requires ignoring some of the information, we’re not being very skeptical or honest, are we? Is this really so hard? Does including all of the information change the reality? No, but it’s a good way to control peoples perception. If that’s what you’re after, so be it. But know that people see it.

  81. kacyray:

    Ed – Do you draw no distinction between “appropriate” and “not particularly socially intelligent, but really not that big a deal in the overall scheme of things”?

    And do you not see anything wrong with the fact that Elyse failed to mention that there was no actual nudity in the picture? That it was rated PG-13 at worst?

    And do you not sense the disproportional nature of the self-victimization claimed by Elyse by this particular transgression to the damage (or lack thereof) caused the transgression itself?

    Reading Elyse’s blog post about it, I couldn’t get the words “Get the fuck over it!” out of my mind. Seriously, is this really worth losing sleep over? Is it worth spending however long she spent typing up her post, painting herself out as a poor helpless little victim over it?

    I guess when you’re a hammer, the whole world really does look like a nail.

  82. Crudely Wrott:

    Azkyroth @ 64 said in response to me @69:

    Crudely: Make it opt-in rather than opt-out and it might be a good idea.

    Precisely. That is what I am suggesting. Amusing and instructive the results will be.

  83. dingojack:

    Ed – PZ is secretly cephapodic in shape, he’s only disguised in human form. ;)
    ……
    Acceptable behaviour, no. But I’m not sure I would be angry about it, I’d hand the card back and say “No thanks, I’m really not interested in that kind of thing” and then it would become one of those ‘a weird and embarrassing thing happened at a conference I went to…’ stories.
    Although I’m not in severe pain, nor am I confronting a couple I vaguely know handing out nude photos of themselves in a mostly empty conference room – so I don’t know.
    Dingo
    —–
    PS: just to be really pedantic: a one centimetre square is the same shape as a two centimetre square, despite being twice the height.

  84. Gretchen:

    First, that there really are people who think this is appropriate behavior (I still have no idea why — it would be as inappropriate if done to me as it was when done to Elyse).

    It just seems like if you’re so unfamiliar with a person that you’d need a photo to clarify how they look naked, you’re not familiar enough with them to justify a proposition for sex…

  85. satanaugustine:

    @kacyray: Can you understand that it matters not one whit how you think Elyse should (not) be reacting? How you would react to the situation were you in Elyse’s shoes is irrelevant. It bothered Elyse a lot! Why can’t you make a genuine attempt at empathy instead of accusing her of overreacting? You don’t get to decide what is overreacting for someone else.

    And what’s your problem with feminists?

  86. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven:

    Look people… I’m not saying that anything is going to justify this behavior, but if condemning it requires ignoring some of the information, we’re not being very skeptical or honest, are we? Is this really so hard? Does including all of the information change the reality? No, but it’s a good way to control peoples perception. If that’s what you’re after, so be it. But know that people see it.

    No information is being ignored, you stupid sack of shit.

  87. kacyray:

    @85

    Then I suppose one could say that there are two conversations taking place here: 1. A judgment of the behavior of the couple who left the card and 2. A judgment of Elyse’s response to it.

    IRT #1: This is what Ed’s post was actually about – the impropriety of the behavior of the couple. And it is this that I am commenting on. I agree that handing the card over was a socially dubious act, probably committed since the couple who handed her the card have a very different social frame of reference than Elyse has. The probably spend most of their free time with people who do not see male sexuality as almost inherently aggressive and repressive. They probably spend most of their time around people without inhibitions – people that always welcome the opportunity to see naked people.

    So for them, I’m sure they saw it as no big deal, particularly since there was no real nudity in the picture (something no one seems to want to acknowledge). I’m sure they couldn’t have imagined that anyone would be so sensitive to something they regard as so innocuous.

    And that’s my point – it was innocuous.

    IRT @2: This isn’t really the “primary focus” of my comments, but since you are asking… I’d be willing to bet that Elyse, being a member of the skeptic community, if confronted by, for example, a Christian homophobe who went all up in arms because they saw two men holding hands on a TV show, would probably think to herself , “Just change the freaking channel!” (which would be a completely reasonable response).

    My point is that this situation isn’t really much different. You aren’t interested in their offer? Throw the card away!

    Should we have genuine empathy for such people? People who feel they are victimized just because they saw something harmless that offended their delicate sensibilities? I generally have empathy for people who are hurt. What I don’t have much empathy for are people who claim to be hurt by something that isn’t actually damaging in any significant sense. I have very little patience for people who whine about their own victimization when they aren’t actually being victimized.

    As for what my problem with feminists is… there are a few things, I suppose. I am pretty certain you are about to demonstrate one of them with your next comment, so for now I’ll just sit back and afford you that opportunity.

  88. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven:

    I have very little patience for people who whine about their own victimization when they aren’t actually being victimized.

    Why does your “just change the channel” dismissal of Elyse’s response not apply to your own umbrage towards said response?

  89. kacyray:

    @88 – You overestimate my emotional investment in this conversation.

    What you may be sensing is a degree of frustration I have found myself having with the skeptic community at large. Not with skepticism, but with the community. That frustration sometimes compels me to interject my immediate thoughts into conversations that I know ahead of time will ultimately be fruitless and irritating… like the compulsion to touch a cold sore in your mouth over and over.

    Yes… that’s pretty much what it feels like every time I give in and read the commentary on Ed’s posts. An endless series of cold sores.

    In any event… I’m not claiming victimization. Hell, I’ve seen more overtly hostile acts in the comments sections of FTB than the act Elyse is complaining about.

  90. Setár, self-appointed Elf-Sheriff of the Pharyngula Star Chamber:

    I’ve seen more overtly hostile acts in the comments sections of FTB than the act Elyse is complaining about.

    Do go on…

  91. kacyray:

    Looking at her telling of the story, I find a couple points to take issue with:

    1) She claims to have initially flipped the card over and looked at it peripherally, but then a minute later had a “wait, what?” moment.

    That doesn’t pass the sniff test. This is the keynote speaker – someone presumably intelligent enough to have something of intellectual value to pass on to everyone there. Yet it took her a full minute to process what was on the card she looked at? So we’re supposed to believe that she saw the card, this horribly offensive and insulting card, well enough for the picture to register in her mind one minute later, but not at the moment she saw the card. That doesn’t stand to reason.

    A much more likely explanation is that she chose the safer, less confrontational, passive-aggressive approach to simply wait until they were gone and then clinch her fists and resolve to get ‘em back by lambasting them from her cushy online soapbox in the company of all her supporters who are guaranteed to tell her how right she is and how awful that couple was.

    2) She said “It’s not okay to remove another person’s ability to have a say in the situation you’ve put them in.”

    Except they didn’t. She said herself that she looked peripherally at the card, said “Thank you”, and then they parted company. That means she had every opportunity to look at the card and speak her mind. Whether she did or not… that’s on her, not them. They clearly left the situation thinking she had seen the picture and was fine with it.

    To me this is a clear case of yet another professional victim who wanted a great opportunity to get on her soapbox and tell the world (in this case, the “world” consists of all those whose confirmation bias leads them straight to her blog) about the latest example of how she was victimized.

    Such a disappointing conversation.

  92. KG:

    So now kacyray is accusing Elyse of lying, without a scintilla of evidence. It’s clear enough why kacyray thinks she just has to be lying: she’s a feminist.

    The probably spend most of their free time with people who do not see male sexuality as almost inherently aggressive and repressive.

    A sterotypical MRA caricature of feminism.

    @88 – You overestimate my emotional investment in this conversation.

    No, I really don’t think so. I think many of us know what your emotional investment in it is, even if you don’t.

  93. democommie:

    Kacy Troll, er, I mean, Ray:

    “They probably spend most of their time around people without inhibitions – people that always welcome the opportunity to see naked people.”

    Gee, I spent about the first 20 years of my life surrounded by people who called people who were somewhat darker than themselves, “nigger”, “coon”, “jungle bunny”, “porch monkey” and a lot of other names–though generally not when they were in the company of the larger, more aggressive and self-respecting darkishfolk.

    They had ZERO inhibitions in that regard when no overmelanined people were around and some of them didn’t genuinely care if there were nonwhites within hearing distance.

    Some of them still don’t know why those OTHER people get so fucking worked up over a simple word or phrase. I don’t really believe that fact would make them other than the clueless, hate-filled morons and assholes that they were 60 years ago. YMMV.

    “Second, that PZ and I are roughly the same shape. I imagine he’ll be quite disappointed to hear that, since he’s about half my size.”

    He did say, SHAPE, Ed. I expect I’m more like your size AND shape!

  94. dingojack:

    Demo – actually I said ‘despite being roughly the same shape’.
    Dingo
    —–
    ‘obstante esse dure eadem figura’ Google Translate tells me. :)

  95. dingojack:

    Demo – broadening the argument considerably, what if a black man leapt onto your relative’s porch and offered to shake hands with them, which they did out of politeness. Suppose they subsequently felt genuinely angry and upset by behaviour that they considered to be impulsive and impudent and wrote a note describing how put-out they felt and placed it on the church noticeboard.
    How would we view that?
    Curiously, Dingo

  96. democommie:

    dingojack:

    Depending on the law, the shaker might be committing trespass on the shakees’ land. I generally view the “Hail fellow, well met!” types as being “on the make” in some way or other. Having said that, if someone nods and says “hello.” in a non-threatening manner I’m gonna go with them being courteous. If that person is a person of color it makes no difference to me? My relatives, the ones that aren’t assholes feel pretty much the same way as I do.

    If they put a note on the church bulletin board? I’ll never see it.{;>)

  97. democommie:

    That should have read:

    Makes no difference to me.

  98. Raging Bee:

    I have very little patience for people who whine about their own victimization when they aren’t actually being victimized.

    Then why are you bothering with this thread at all?

  99. Raging Bee:

    Such a disappointing conversation.

    Well excuse the shit out of us for not conversing according to your exacting standards…

  100. Akira MacKenzie:

    ryanlangford:

    I guess I’m one of those rebels that think that it is possible to simultaneously reject sexism AND puritanism.

    That’s funny, because in your head-long rush to show the world how sexuality liberated you are it, seems you are willing to trample on others in the process.

    As far as I can tell, no one is playing the puritan and pissing on the poly/swinger lifestyle. I’ve got got a feeling that many here (and on other FT blogs) are very open-minded about sex in both theory and practice. However, casting aside sexual-prudery does not give one a license to proposition everyone they feel like screwing, and they certainly should not be surprised when their inappropriate requests are held up for what they are: harassment.

    I’m sorry you are too fucking dense to fucking see that.

  101. democommie:

    “Looking at her telling of the story, I find a couple points to take issue with:”

    “Such a disappointing conversation.”

    I think I hear the sound of a trolling motor “Putz,putz,putz…”.

  102. Ben P:

    If you read the Skepchick post, you’ll see that Elyse did describe the extent of her past interactions with the couple, and explained that those interactions did not support the level of intimacy the couple presumed with their proposition.

    This is precisely the issue. Some people, (many of whom might fall into certain communities), accept a far lower level of intimacy before engaging in sex. Do you seriously think that people who engage in lots of casual sex with multiple partners see it as a deeply emotional and fulfilling intimate act? or do they think it’s something fun that might follow a night of partying and that they wouldnt’ give a second thought the next day?

    Elyse clearly doesn’t fall into the latter category, but if the people who propositioned her are, in fact, swingers, I would bet they do.

    What I find interesting in all of this is that, the same community that goes all out to argue tolerance for one sort of sexual preference get so up in arms about another.

    Some people, a great many people, in fact would have an equally strong reaction if there’d been any romantic overture, even a slight one, by someone of the same sex. I can almost guarantee the reaction here would be that the *proper* response is to simply say “sorry not interested,” and not for example, throw your drink in the person’s face, call them perverts and ban them from the conference.

    A preference isn’t the same as the manner of approaching someone, so Elyse is perfectly entitled to think that the experience was creepy and weird and inappropriate. I’d agree it’s inappropriate.

    On the other hand, it’s the making of all the bizarre assumptions about what the people intended by making such a proposition that just completely lose me. I would suggest the people didn’t intend any such thing. If they’re suggesting casual group sex I’d think they’re more than likely people who do not consider sex to be “a big deal,” and they act accordingly. That absolutely doesn’t mean handing out cards with semi-nude pictures isn’t inappropriate, but it precludes all this silliness about being sexually attracted to someone is reducing them to nothing more than a sex object and demeaning them, and that it’s somehow wholly inappropriate to ever even think about sex until you have some sort of deep and intimate connection with someone.

  103. soul_biscuit:

    Do you seriously think that people who engage in lots of casual sex with multiple partners see it as a deeply emotional and fulfilling intimate act?

    No. “Intimate” doesn’t mean “emotional and fulfilling.” Even purely casual sex is much more intimate than a gesture appropriate for fresh acquaintances, say a handshake.

    What I find interesting in all of this is that, the same community that goes all out to argue tolerance for one sort of sexual preference get so up in arms about another.

    If you think this is about sexual preference then you haven’t paid attention. It’s about respect for personal boundaries. It’s also about a woman’s value as a human being once again being reduced to her sexual desirability. (More on your next strawman in a moment.)

    Some people, a great many people, in fact would have an equally strong reaction if there’d been any romantic overture, even a slight one, by someone of the same sex. I can almost guarantee the reaction here would be that the *proper* response is to simply say “sorry not interested,” and not for example, throw your drink in the person’s face, call them perverts and ban them from the conference.

    Maybe, but you’re also missing that Elyse was at work, so any romantic overture from anyone who hand’t bothered to make any effort to find out how she might have felt about it was inappropriate. That, and the couple ran away before Elyse had a chance to respond meaningfully to the card, which would increase her sense of impropriety.

    . . . it precludes all this silliness about being sexually attracted to someone is reducing them to nothing more than a sex object and demeaning them, and that it’s somehow wholly inappropriate to ever even think about sex until you have some sort of deep and intimate connection with someone.

    I’d be interested if you could point out where anyone has suggested this. A feeling of attraction doesn’t demean the woman at whom it is directed. Expressing that attraction, to the exclusion of all else, in a context in which no reasonable person would think the expression was appropriate, is “wholly inappropriate.” And doing so in a further context where any reasonable person would understand that the woman is present in a purely professional or intellectual capacity suborns her professional or intellectual contributions to her sexual desirability.

    Honestly, this last strawman is so egregious that I doubt the sincerity of the rest of what you’ve posted. I hope my doubt is unfounded.

    Note: I’ve been posting as “christophepetroni” in this thread up until now. I just figured out how to use a pseudonym (I’m slow.)

  104. reverendrodney:

    evolouie @ 42:
    “Yes it was rude.
    I know many swingers and this would be out of the ordinary for all of them.
    However I think it’s not worth getting all worked up over.
    Accept it as a compliment. And move on.

    Because whatever any of you may think, it was a compliment.”

    No, no, I would not accept it as a compliment any more than a side of beef would accept being poked for quality as a compliment.

    It’s like this, too: if a dog tries to hump your leg, would you consider that a compliment? The dog only cares about one thing, getting off, and not you.

  105. Modusoperandi:

    Okay, okay! It’s inappropriate, etc! I get it! I’ve taken all of you off my Christmas card list. Sheesh.

  106. spartan:

    satanaugustine,

    It bothered Elyse a lot! Why can’t you make a genuine attempt at empathy instead of accusing her of overreacting? You don’t get to decide what is overreacting for someone else.

    Well actually we do, and it’s done here constantly. Are Muslims overreacting when they threaten the lives of cartoonists who dare to depict Mohammed? How much empathy is ever shown in this community to religious people who are harmed by having their beliefs criticized? Isn’t our less-than-empathic response to these partly based on the idea that, no, you really don’t have a good rational reason to react that way to your beliefs being criticized or to fucking cartoons? I’m not saying these are equivalent to what happened to Elyse, but the argument that someone was hurt/offended and thus it’s automatically a ‘problem’ is pretty weak.

  107. dingojack:

    Demo – the point was at what point does someone get the right not to be offended?*
    Curiously Dingo
    ———
    * I’m not talking about this case in particular, but in general.
    In this case, I think that there was a fairly hefty miscommunication on both sides, but neither side is to blame. Each thought their actions were reasonable and sensible, and were acting in good faith, none were trying to be intentionally hurtful to the others.
    Based, of course, on the imperfect information presented (no witness is 100% reliable, which in no way makes them liars either) and generous sprit.

  108. bwe4:

    The irony of this whole doctrinal schism happening in one of history’s most irrelevant movements is nearly overwhelming. The headline ought to read ‘

    “Freethought movement split over what thought they are allowed to think.”

    How is this different from the religion again?

  109. Childermass:

    “Ed – Do you draw no distinction between “appropriate” and “not particularly socially intelligent, but really not that big a deal in the overall scheme of things”?”

    I can’t speak for Ed, but I dare say this is not the act of someone who is merely lacks social intelligence. This was the act of someone who did know it was wrong and did not care.

    I bet the overwhelming majority of six-year olds know better.
    I also suspect that he would care very much if someone did to a close female relative that he cares about.

    So unless some reason to suspect this person is retarded, it is simply not credible to say that he did not know better. This was also clearly premeditated: it takes time to get a photo of oneself naked and to get it printed out in what looks like a business card. Clearly he knew he was going to do this to a woman (or women) for quite some time. This rules out a mere moment of thoughtlessness. That he also did it in a way that gave him a chance of a getaway prior to the nature of the “card” being discovered also is suggestive.

  110. bwe4:

    I know lots of things are wrong and don’t care. Sheesh.

  111. Childermass:

    “They probably spend most of their time around people without inhibitions – people that always welcome the opportunity to see naked people.”

    What people are these? Do they really don’t know that most women object to this? Bull. If they ever watched TV, listened to the radio, read the newspaper, attended school, etc. then they are fully aware of it. And even these people have not done any of these things, they certainly could not possibly have missed the great effort society goes to to keep women from seeing naked bodies that they don’t wish to see.

  112. Who Knows?:

    “Freethought movement split over what thought they are allowed to think.”

    If this is not the dumbest ideas on this thread, it’s got to be in the top 5.

  113. dingojack:

    bwe4 – so you think that everyone on this blog thinks identically on all issues do you? You really must be new here.
    @@
    Dingo

  114. dingojack:

    I find the judgemental tone curious.
    The couple ran away, to avoid the writer’s reaction. Is that a fact, or a supposition?
    The couple must have low intelligence/social skills. Perhaps they have different boundaries and expectations but are low intelligence/social skills a fact or a supposition?
    The couple harassed the writer. Did they follow, threaten, berate or prevent her from leaving, or did they simply leave a card and then leave?
    It takes time and effort to get a photo card therefore their motives were malevolent. The same could be said of business cards, but that’s hardly evidence that business people are evil.
    Lots of suppositions from an incomplete set of facts, IMHO.
    Dingo

  115. abb3w:

    Mmm. Looking at the SkepChick account, I’m more bothered by trying afterward to pass off the incident with the apparent explanation that it was “just a joke”. If the pass-via-card wasn’t serious, that would seem both an offense against anti-harassment norms, and damaging to the reputation of actual swingers. But… if it’s serious, and even to the extent social norms might be debated as permitting it, trying to pass it off as a joke seems dishonest. On that level, it would seem far better to say “we hoped you’d be interested; sorry for our misread on our prospects”.

    However… the debate seems to be focused on sexual proposition-vs-harassment level of subcultural norms, in a more heat-than-light fashion. I’m afraid my thoughts there are mostly too subjective, reflexive, imprecise, and disorganized to improve the signal to noise ratio.

  116. Gretchen:

    The irony of this whole doctrinal schism happening in one of history’s most irrelevant movements is nearly overwhelming. The headline ought to read ‘
    “Freethought movement split over what thought they are allowed to think.”
    How is this different from the religion again?

    More accurate headline: “Members of freethought movement get fed up with sexual harassment by freethinkers, then get further fed up at fellow freethinkers telling them there’s nothing to be fed up about.”

    And no, it’s nothing like religion. Religions rarely concern themselves with objecting to sexual harassment. They tend to respond a lot more like you are.

  117. leni:

    What they did was inappropriate, rude, and creepy.

    But hostile? They handed her a card and pretty much bolted. I guess I’m not seeing hostile here either. She sees it as not having the opportunity to respond, but they also gave her the option of not being forced to respond to it.

    I have a friend who’s a freelance photographer. She was at a wedding reception taking pictures when she was approached by a man from the wedding party. After “chatting her up” for a bit, making some stupid jokes, pointing out his goddamn wife to her, he whips out his phone and shows her a picture of his cock.

    And then asks her opinion of it and if she’d like to see it for real. While she’s working for a client who is this asshole’s good friend, for which she has not yet been fully paid, while his wife was sitting a few tables away, and while his friends were watching, laughing, jabbing each other in the ribs and probably saying some pretty awful things about her. She was completely humiliated and afraid that if she said anything she’d be blamed for it.

    Sorry, but that’s hostility. Handing someone a “fuck us” card is rude, creepy, stupid and very much “wtf”, but Elyse’s presence at the conference, her payment, and ability to do her job were hardly compromised. She also knew she had more powerful allies to which she could turn if needed, which is why I think the harassment policies are good. I know we can all think of worse examples than Elyse’s, but as far as hostility goes, I don’t think that’s what this was. And I’ve experienced harassment from a superior. I know what hostile feels like and I know what it feels like to not have any recourse or even options other than putting-up and shutting-up. A stupid card I could have crumpled up and tossed would have been a relief.

    On the other hand I do understand that there has to be some lee-way and that what I consider hostile might be different than what others consider hostile. And I definitely believe her version of the events. But she wasn’t even trapped on an elevator with them. They left, which is definitely better than if they’d hovered expectantly, despite what she says. She had their contact info and had numerous possibilities for response if that’s what she truly wanted. And she did respond. She shouldn’t have had to deal with it at all and I totally understand being angry, but I’ve seen and experienced hostile. This was just not that.

  118. kacyray:

    @114 Dingojack and @117 leni

    Please read my comment @91, where I pointed out Elyse’s inconsistency and her dubious account of how she “peripherally” looked at the card and then suddenly, a minute later, it hit her in a flash what she had seen.

    The couple stayed there long enough to hear her say “Thank you” (this is according to her OWN account!), and then politely left.

    This pretty much demolishes any idea that 1. The act was hostile or 2. They handed her the card and hauled ass, denying her the opportunity to tell them how horrible and rotten they are.

    So you see, this whole line of conversation began from a dishonest premise.

    (I saw that the two of you are hinting at the direction I’m going here… that’s why I directed this comment your way)

    And then you have a range of completely asinine comments like @109 Childermass (who apparently didn’t pay enough attention to the story to realize that it was a *couple* who handed her the card, and thinks it was a single naked guy), or dozens of others who will take any opportunity to buy into the poor-old victimhood of poor-old-elyze.

    The act was stupid. And the ruckus being made over it… even more stupid. It’s stupidity squared.

  119. Sadie Morrison:

    Two things this thread is bringing to light:

    One, there is a sizable segment of the skeptical community that pays little to no attention to issues of women’s representation in said community and, more broadly, women’s status as human beings in the same vein as men. This largely male community even reacts extremely defensively whenever women’s issues are brought up. I’m not an atheist or an agnostic, but if I were, this would be even more disappointing to me than it already is.

    Two, with every thread that kacyray participates in, he further reveals himself to be an insecure MRA as well as an asshole, and frankly not that bright.

  120. Raging Bee:

    And the ruckus being made over it… even more stupid.

    And your ongoing presence here makes you a fucking hypocrite — and a stupid one at that. Seriously, do you really think you sound at all plausible?

  121. dingojack:

    kacyray – I did, twice. The ‘inconsistencies’ you try to squeeze from the narrative sound implausible and ‘forced’.
    In the context of the events described she was packing up to go home, she was tired, in pain, thinking of the next hundred or so things she had to do, so she didn’t pay a lot of attention to the card that someone put on her table (people often do this in the hope that the receiver either calls them, or so when they contact receiver the receiver has at least some idea who they are). Your attempt to imagine the most negative context has neglected the most probable one.
    Again your insistence on shaping the narrative has overcome commonsense. She probably didn’t look at the card until she was going to pack the table itself, by which time the couple were gone. It was the inability to respond in person that left her feeling angry and upset. No self-victimisation, just a feeling of not being able to respond to what she perceived to be a stealthy attack.
    You are trying to ‘create’ acts to fit the desired scenario, not letting the evidence take you toward the truth.
    Dingo
    —–
    PS: Of course there are inconsistencies in the narrative, witness statements are like that. No witness is completely accurate, but neither do the inconsistencies necessarily make witnesses liars.

  122. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven:

    No information is being ignored, you stupid sack of shit.

    Okay, that wasn’t true.

    No information is being ignored, except for you idiots ignoring the information provided that puts the lie to your pretense that the inappropriateness of this proposition is somehow subject to legitimate question.

  123. democommie:

    “Demo – the point was at what point does someone get the right not to be offended?*
    Curiously Dingo”

    Nobody has the right not to be offended. Everyone has the right to not be accosted. The woman who was approached by the couple and given their business card is feeling accosted–I don’t know why–and sharing her feelings with others.

    That people have the right to offend is, at least in the U.S., enshrined in law. What people do not have the right to do is act in a threatening manner towards others. I would say, from the tone of her report that Elyse felt threatened in some way.

    Being offensive is something I’m familiar with but in that offensiveness I try, at all times, not to veer into speech or behavior that is “threatening” to someone. And, yes, I have been accused of “threatening” someone for telling them that they were wrong, stupid, nasty or something else that they didn’t want to hear.

    It appears to me that Elyse is reacting far differently than I would, but I don’t know why and will leave it to her to know whether she felt demeaned, objectified or threatened.

    The act of the couple giving her the card was idiotic. Her reaction to that act is obvious from her complaint. I don’t know how I would reach; nobody has wanted to have a menage a geeze with me, in a LONG time.

    Leni:

    I am a photograper, too. Last week I was at a wedding and a woman who was much closer to my age (62) then the bride’s, while being photographed with her hubby said, “Tits and up!”. I simply told her that ALL of the photos I was taking were “tight” frames, just head and shoulders for most folks.

    If a guy said something to me, like was said to your friend (well, after thinking about decking him), I would likely say, “Oh, sorry, I left my macro lens at the house. I didn’t know I’d be shooting miniatures.”.

  124. dingojack:

    Demo – from some of the comments here (certainly not all) – it seems that some are to be protected from anything that may offend, others not so much.
    What people do not have the right to do is act in a threatening manner towards others. I would say, from the tone of her report that Elyse felt threatened in some way“.

    Actually she said she felt angry and upset, not threatened. I’d think you’d have a hard time convincing a jury that the couple were in way threatening toward her.

    It appears to me that Elyse is reacting far differently than I would, but I don’t know why and will leave it to her to know whether she felt demeaned, objectified or threatened“.

    See mine 83.

    If a guy said something to me, like was said to your friend (well, after thinking about decking him), I would likely say, ‘Oh, sorry, I left my macro lens at the house. I didn’t know I’d be shooting miniatures.’”.

    Or Harry Harrison:
    ‘Hmmm, looks like a human penis but much, much smaller.’

    Dingo

  125. democommie:

    dingojack:

    Looks like it’s just us curmudgeons left here. Anyway; sorry, I didn’t mean that Elyse was threatened in a legal sense, but more in a “fight or flight” sense. Emotional intimidation not legally actionable behavior, iow.

    Under law, your interpretation is obviously the correct one (at least in the U.S. and, I presume, Australia. Legal and morally or ethically correct are often different things.

  126. leni:

    Totally forgot about this thread and it’s super old but for the record:

    demo:

    If a guy said something to me, like was said to your friend (well, after thinking about decking him), I would likely say, “Oh, sorry, I left my macro lens at the house. I didn’t know I’d be shooting miniatures.”

    I’ll tell her that :) She’ll laugh and maybe put it in the bag in case it ever happens again. But at the time she was shocked and more worried about ruining someone’s wedding/getting paid than she was about having a quick comeback. I doubt she would have said it, but she’ll definitely like it.

    kacyray:

    Please read my comment @91, where I pointed out Elyse’s inconsistency and her dubious account of how she “peripherally” looked at the card and then suddenly, a minute later, it hit her in a flash what she had seen.

    I did read it and I don’t care. I believe her account and I don’t see any reason not to. And I believe that she was legitimately creeped out by it, because I would have been too. And I don’t think it matters when she noticed it.

    I also don’t think that what that couple did (in and of itself- though it definitely could be a breaking point in the right circumstances) necessarily constituted creating a hostile atmosphere. So don’t mistake me. I would have been perfectly ok with having that couple booted from the conference on Elyse’s word. They should know better and if they don’t, maybe getting booted from a conference would make it more clear.

    My main point was that something like this, so long as it’s relatively isolated (which I’m guessing it is because really- fuck us cards?), is not nearly as hostile as some of the more mundane bullshit that occurs. Especially since the more mundane things are harder to complain about, harder to get people to believe, and rarely as easy as demonstrating as having a card with photos and contact info.

  127. stewart:

    Only remembered now to look back at this thread to see if anyone else noticed the typo. We responded the same day at FB Gnu Atheism: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=438298726188594&l=830f333987

  128. dingojack:

    Stewart – see here.*
    ‘Gnu Atheists: marching toward the future (just several miles behind).’
    Dingo
    —–
    * There’s a groovy function called ‘search’ (CNTL+’f’), it’s your friend :)

  129. stewart:

    @ dingojack:

    Misunderstanding: of course I’m aware that a couple of people here had the same idea; I did search by “bard.” The Gnu Atheism graphic went up the same day those comments did, 30th May. At the time it went up those comments hadn’t yet been made and I only remembered to check back a second time now.

  130. dingojack:

    Steward – apols, forgot to add the ‘:)’ before hitting ‘submit’.
    Note to self: ‘preview’ is your friend. :/
    Dingo

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