#mencallmethings: “ugly,” “mental illness” »« Men Behaving Badly at Atheist Conferences

Which Do You Think Is the Bigger Problem?

In these ongoing discussions about what is and is not appropriate flirtatious/ sexual behavior at atheist conferences, there’s an idea that’s been floated. It’s the idea that many women are trained by our culture to “play hard to get,” and act uninterested even if they’re not — since they’re trained that seeming too eager or saying “yes” too quickly is slutty, will result in being disrespected, etc. So therefore, men can’t always tell if women are really interested, and if men aren’t persistent, neither the women nor the men will get what they want.

I have a lot to say on that subject. But for now, I just want to say this.

Compare, on the one hand, the problem of a hostile environment in which many women don’t feel welcome or safe in a community, because of a climate that tolerates sexual predation, or that looks the other way when it happens.

Compare, on the other hand, the problem that some women who don’t want to seem too eager won’t get laid when they might otherwise — and that some men who aren’t persistent in the face of rejection won’t get laid when they might otherwise.

Which do you think is the bigger problem?

***

UPDATE: This was not supposed to be a hard question.

Comments

  1. Sathya says

    The argument could be made that problem #1 encapsulates itself and #2 as well for free – if the space is hostile enough, then females who might otherwise be interested in getting laid while at/near those spaces will be driven away: leading to females and males not getting laid when they might otherwise.

    And as an added bonus, if the space is hostile enough, the females who stick around and DO have sex might be having sex that is coerced – and coerced sex is no good.

  2. Artor says

    I’m a guy. Kinda a big guy, and some people can be intimidated by my size, so I make a point of being mellow so as not to scare people. As a result of this, I sometimes go years with zero female companionship. As I write this, it’s been almost a year and a half since I’ve had more intimate contact than a hug. It’s lonely and it sucks, but it’s better than getting a reputation as an asshole or a potential rapist.

    My sister was raped by a guy who she trusted, but he didn’t want to take no for an answer. She’s had to deal with the fallout from this for decades. She’s mostly gotten over it now, but it’s been a huge source of pain and disruption in her life.

    It’s pretty clear to me which is the bigger problem. If you know of any guys who don’t get it, send them to me for a chat and I’ll explain it to them, without the anti-intimidation filters on.

  3. NewEnglandBob says

    Maybe I’m too old, but the first sentence: “… what is and is not appropriate flirtatious/ sexual behavior at atheist conferences” strikes me as a question with an easy answer. NOTHING is appropriate at atheist conferences. They aren’t dating conferences, but focused on the topic of atheism.

    As far as which of the two is a bigger problem – we should all try to eliminate both situations by ending the pretense and the dance of flirtation and just attempt to be up front. Clearly state what one wants and clearly state the answer. Then yes means yes and no means no.

    Like I said, maybe I’m too old and too naive.

  4. says

    I would think that it’s just as much of a problem that women are taught that they have to adhere publicly to somebody else’s sexual ethics. So, really, the solution is still very much the same: take a person at their word. This may not only help overcome the conditioning that goes into the “play hard to get so people won’t realize what a slut you are” attitude, it may also help to identify people who are far less likely to slut shame. At least, I’m presuming that people who respect women’s bodies and agency are less likely to think of them as sluts, though I’m too busy at work to really do any research into hard evidence for that at the moment.

  5. jamessweet says

    I agree of course, but I just want to point out that this is still not entirely irrelevant to the problem: When talking about individual behavior, yes, of course, let’s get the priorities straight. When talking about how to address collective behavior — the epidemiology of misogyny, if you will — it’s important to recognize that men are strongly incentivized to be disrespectful of boundaries. I think that influences how the larger problem ought to be tackled (though I’ll be damned if I can say how… fixing this shit can be complicated).

    However, I think that’s mostly irrelevant for the particular topic at hand. (That’s one reason I asked what sorts of behaviors we are talking about, to get an idea of how simple or complex the solutions are) It’s one thing to try and figure out how to cut down on occurrences of one attendee making another attendee feel uncomfortable with overly-persistent-but-not-otherwise-entirely-out-of-bounds advances. That’s a hard problem. It’s an entire other thing to address the issue of a speaker groping an attendee. There’s no ambiguity in the latter, there’s no otherwise well-intentioned people being steered by perverse incentives. That’s straight up harassment and victimization, and there ought not be controversy there.

    The good news is I think there’s a lot of hope. Set up a very clear policy and establish formal reporting procedures, and the most egregious of that stuff should decline dramatically.

  6. says

    Am I unusual in not seeing not getting laid as any kind of problem? It’s good when it happens, but blimey, it’s not like it’s anything to lose sleep over if it doesn’t.

  7. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    I’d say that the extent to which the latter is used as a stalking horse and excuse to look the other way by the people responsible for various aspects of the former complicates things, but that the former is more important.

    Unfortunately, that apparently means that discussions of the latter, that try to approach it in a way that also remedies the former, cannot be allowed to happen, even when that’s explicitly the topic, even when the people attempting the veto the discussion are notable for policing topic derailment in every other circumstance. >.>

  8. John Horstman says

    I think the hostile environment is the bigger problem, which is why I rarely hit on women (I don’t want them to feel put-upon and simultaneously unable to voice that as a result of gendered socialization). Of course, as a consequence of that and not being oh-so-hot-that-women-throw-themselves-at-me attractive, I don’t have a lot of sex. That’s cool for me, since I don’t view (partnered) sex as being nearly as big a deal as so many other people seem to, but given that there are one hell of a lot of people who risk their households, (political) careers, long-tern relationships, friendships, and families over not JUST sex, period, but sex with more than one person, I really do have to wonder how reasonable/practicable it is to ask EVERYONE to put strong limits on ‘flirting’ behavior that might make some uncomfortable.

    Again, I err on the side of caution/not potentially harassing people, but I think it’s clear that some will view that as a much higher price to pay than others, and I think that those who agree with the position that creating a non-hostile environment is most important need to be realistic and acknowledge that fact (usually I see the power of sexual desire being dismissed by people on my “side” of the issue); we’re not going to be able to come up with general guidelines/behavioral norms that work for most or all people without at least acknowledging that we may be asking a given segment of the population (perhaps a large one) to give up something extremely important to them (not even sexual privilege, but sexual activity at all, or with nearly the same frequency). We’re asking people who are bad at judging physical and behavioral cues (most everyone on the autism spectrum, and those with some similar tendencies that are not pronounced enough to be considered pathological) or have different understandings of some cues to adopt behavioral patterns that DEFINITELY result in less sex, perhaps a lot less sex, within the contemporary cultural context.

    I KNOW that “I didn’t understand the response as negative” is frequently deployed as a bullshit excuse for not respecting boundaries; in no way do I think that’s okay, primarily because it doesn’t respect boundaries and therefore bodily agency, and secondarily because it casts those who legitimately do have trouble understanding boundaries that are not made explicit as intentional villains. The trick is coming up with a norm that’s most fair, or perhaps least unfair. I happen to think that erring on the side of less hostility and less sex is the least-worst (I know it’s a double superlative; I like it) option, but I also say that knowing I’m talking from a position in which partnered sex isn’t nearly as important to me as it is to some people. I also don’t think “be clear and direct” is a high bar to clear, so I’m not really opposed to a norm that requires people to be clear and direct in asserting boundaries, but I also know that that’s difficult/problematic for some. The issue is more nuanced than the way in which it’s sometimes presented (I thought the discussion on JT’s blog was going well for the few hours I was following it).

  9. Ignacio says

    If we are restricting the argument to men and women, I would like to point out that men and women do not have an equal shares in taking the initiative in the mating game.

    Also, I want to draw attention that while we talk about men as the source of their own behavior, we are quick to attach the label of “cultural training” to women’s responses. It may be a subtle point, but why not say that men are “trained by culture” to be persistent?

    Is persistence bad in itself? If you are not being forceful or a Certified Asshole(TM), it may be difficult to know when you are being perceived as hostile, because perception does not depend solely on your actions. As an observer, I’ve seen male persistence encouraged by women (possibly) because it is a form of flattery. This is particularly true if there is more than one suitor and all suitors know they are in a sort of competition. If unwanted persistence is to be eliminated, wanted persistence needs to be discouraged as well but relationship “negotiations” rarely occur in a Best and Final Offer manner, or as RPFs.

    In most parts of the world today we are encouraged to not say what we think at all times. Saying all the truth all the time (as in the movie The Invention of Lying) may or may not be a bad thing, but I don’t think we are ready for it.

    Lastly, this is not to condone, support, or otherwise rationalize being “forceful”, which is a different kind of animal. A very bad animal.

  10. John Horstman says

    Re-reading Greta’s specific framing, I actually don’t think there’s a conflict here – there’s no reason to be tolerant of actual sexual predation (anyone objecting to that is a rape-enabler). The problem is that what feels like sexual predation to some is normal conversation or low-stakes flirting for others, and what’s considered to be clear rejection by some is actually (I have no patience for assholes falsely claiming to not have understood rejection/boundaries when they actually did) not understood to be rejection by others (because it’s not clear/direct enough to be understood as such by the person in question).

    I don’t see any problem in taking people at their word and calling people who don’t creepy assholes, assaulters, or rapists as is appropriate; the disagreement, as I understand it, is over behavioral norms with respect to flirting when there aren’t necessarily any words to take at their face value. Perhaps I’m completely off-base there.

  11. says

    I’ve heard this reasoning forever; that men have to be a bit more persistent than the feminists like, because women have been programmed to play “hard to get.” I’ve never understood why anyone thought that it held water.

    If nothing else, the solution of “keep being persistent until you get a clear, blunt yes or no,” under the assumption that she might actually want the attention, and that it’s flattering in any case, isn’t a solution at all – all of the premises explicitly perpetuate the supposed problem, that women are programmed to play hard to get. It’s a statement that women should mismatch their reactions with their feelings, that men can and should react to a cultural stereotype of women instead of the actual reactions that an individual woman gives, and that women should accept that “persistence” as flattering. Every part of the supposed solution to the problem actually perpetuates the problem.

    If we accept that this slight, hypothetical lack of sex is such a huge problem, even then the actual solution is to take women at their word, and back off if they signal disinterest. Seems like this would make them rethink this dangerously problematic cultural programming (*snark), thus reducing the acceptability of the hard-to-get game.

    Incidentally, as Greta implies, the assumption that some women are playing hard-to-get, and moving forward with “persistence,” will obviously and unavoidably result in women being pressured to doing things that they don’t want to do. It should be obvious (though it sadly often isn’t) why this is patently unethical.

  12. kerfluffle says

    John Horstman, you make me sad. It’s comments like these that let me know that atheist conventions are still not safe.

    You’re saying that victims need to come forward afterward. There’s nothing in there about making sure it doesn’t happen in the first place. You also assume that making an accusation will be completely trouble free. There is adequate proof that reporting bad behaviour targets the victim for more abuse. You provide an out for people who push boundaries, it’s just “behavioral norms” or it wasn’t “actual sexual predation.”

  13. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    It may be a subtle point, but why not say that men are “trained by culture” to be persistent?

    I’ve tried but everything I type in response to this sounds snarky. This is not meant to be snarky:

    why do you assume this hasn’t been said?

  14. Zengaze says

    I haven’t read all the blogs on FTB on this subject, but there are quite a few now, so I’d my comment seems out of place it’s probably because of the the slant.

    Firstly what I find in relation to prominent speakers making unwanted sexual advances, so horrible, is the abuse of power that is involved, and works in so many ways, from passively silencing the victim, to effectively power raping…. Strange term perhaps but look at it like this, I’m an employer, my employee needs the money that her employment gives her, I make a pass at her, she accepts the pass…. This is power rape, I believe prominence in a movement gives similar power.

    So the solution is power redistribution combined with a zero tolerance policy, sorry it’s the only workable conclusion I can come to. How do we redistribute power, well unfortunately I hate to say it, but we have to positively discriminate, that means actively raising more females to positions of power within the movement, alongside of engendering confidence from potential victims, that their allegations, concerns will be treated with the utmost seriousness, perhaps a dedicated them of leaders within the movement to handle it. And a very very clear policy document for speakers and attendees, with very clear consequences for breaches.

    Anyway I’m not going to get to point two

  15. Dhorvath, OM says

    Sex is still going to happen. We have no need of persistent ‘hit-on’ behaviour in order to get in each other’s pants, and many conversations that could be fruitful don’t happen because of our broken system of pseudo courting and all it’s attendant misunderstandings. Tear it down.

  16. Alverant says

    The first one is bigger and more important, but we shouldn’t pretend the second doesn’t exist and is part of the first one. What we’re dealing with is adherance to gender roles and mixed expectations. Society expected men and women to act a certain way and it’s not a healthy method. We’re trying to fix that but it’s going slow because there’s so much resistance. Women should be able to say if they’re interested or not and men should accept it at face value. None of this “no means try harder” or “play hard to get” BS. And FFS go slow and when it doubt, ASK.

    The reverse should be true too, there’s no reason why women can’t ask men out or express interest without being seen as “easy” or whatever. Taking the first step is hard and as long as you accept the possibility of rejection, then go ahead.

  17. Robert says

    It’s funny, women have told me all my life that I’m very flirty (in a good way, not like a creepy aggressive way). I just talk to them like they’re people and I tend to match their level of sexual innuendo in the conversation (that’s the key, let them set the tone).

    The point is, you can easily flirt without making people feel uncomfortable. In my opinion, the vast majority of men who make women feel uncomfortable and then hide behind “I was just flirting” know exactly what they are doing, and what they are doing is preying upon women and relying on society to look the other way.

    The other thing about flirting, is that most of the time, it doesn’t lead anywhere. All the women who have told me I’m flirtatious I have never made an actual pass at, I was just enjoying the conversation. If you aren’t enjoying the conversation, and it’s just a means to an end… you might want to take a hard look at your own behavior.

  18. Gregory in Seattle says

    As a gay man, I don’t really have much personal experience in the matter, but….

    If I were to pick the bigger problem, I would say the hostile environment. It has always seemed to me that the best approach for interpersonal relationships is to take a person’s answer when approached at face value. Even on the rare chance that “No” actually means “Not right now,” presenting yourself like a desperate troll is not the way to win access to someone’s pants. Be gracious, offer a card with your name and cell number (even straight guys carry trick cards, right?) with a polite “If you have time later on, maybe I could get you a drink?” and be courteous even if the card is turned down. The target of your affections may remember you kindly later, which can lead to all sorts of interesting adventures.

    If the person whom I approach feels obligated to play hard to get despite an interest… to be honest, I just don’t think it’s worth the effort. At a conference where I only have a few days, I would rather socialize, enjoy myself and find someone who is interested than have someone get pissed at me, arrange to have me thrown out and file harassment charges.

  19. Andy says

    I suspect it’s only ugly women who complain of the environment they find themselves in. It is simply a marker of your typical feminists mental illness.

    Note from GC: I have left this comment up, as an example of the kind of thinking that those of us trying to find a solution to this problem are up against. I have, however, banned the commenter.

  20. says

    Neither problem is the bigger problem. Each reinforces the other premise. Both were woven into our culture by religion. That’s the bigger problem. Removing one will not fix the other or at least not quickly and then different problems begin.

    As the problem itself (all facets of it) is sourced from religion, getting rid of the source is the right answer – good luck with that!

  21. Greta Christina says

    Neither problem is the bigger problem.

    myatheistlife @ #22: Really? Are you sure you want to stick with that answer? Yes, the two problems reinforce each other. But they are still different problems. Between “climate that tolerates sexual predation” and “some people not getting laid,” you’re really going to argue that neither is a bigger problem?

    Also, are you really trying to argue that sexism and sexual harassment are entirely religion’s fault, and have no basis in anything else?

    I would think about that answer very, very carefully if I were you.

  22. Tara says

    Seems to me that if the “hard to get” women suddenly don’t have men aggressive enough to pursue them (who they are also attracted to), they might just stop playing hard to get. Men, I suggest that you all start boycotting these women immediately and only pursue the women who indicate their interest in you.

  23. Zengaze says

    Gender isn’t the problem, you could equally say that it’s only ugly men who complain about strippers not paying them enough attention.

    Presumption 1: ugly guy is straight
    Presumption 2: stripper is female

    The problem rests in attitudes, and that is not limited to males

  24. says

    myatheistlife

    I get your point about “woven” but you also say:

    As the problem itself (all facets of it) is sourced from religion

    Which seems to have the sense which Greta inferred. Maybe you need to clarify?

    Whatever, getting rid of/weakening religion is a pretty long-term goal; so as a matter of practicality, even if you’re right about religion’s role in the sexism problem, which of the two scenarios would you say is the most pressing—folk not getting laid or women being harassed?

  25. says

    I’m sort of used to not getting laid for fear of being judged and condemned for making a pass. Not that it’s ever happened, but by the same token I can’t remember the last time I “hooked up” when I made a first move or propositioned the woman. The consequences of making a pass and being not just rebuffed, but accused of “skeevy” or predatious behavior are high enough, that a lot of men simply expect to be pursued, or always wait for women to make the first move. Which means that a lot of men have simply ceded the field to skeevers, I guess.

    Then again, most of my hookups aren’t really hookups anymore. They’ve all grown out of slightly longer term relationships than a two or three night conference allows – ie, they’ve happened between me and a person I’ve had a bit of time to get to know.

  26. John Greg says

    myatheistlife @ #22:

    The real issue is if you do not answer the question within a set and narrow perspective that meets the FfTB, and Greta’s, ideological requirements-of-the-moment (reqs du jour), you are (one or more; take your pick):

    1. sexist
    2. misogynist
    3. a harrassment enabler
    4. a rape enabler
    5. a rape culture enabler
    6. an MRA zealot
    7. a Slimepit Denizen™
    8. an anti-feminist
    9. a liar
    10. a derailer
    11. a troll

  27. says

    @NewEnglandBob

    Maybe I’m too old, but the first sentence: “… what is and is not appropriate flirtatious/ sexual behavior at atheist conferences” strikes me as a question with an easy answer. NOTHING is appropriate at atheist conferences. They aren’t dating conferences, but focused on the topic of atheism.

    I wouldn’t go this far. From what I read, being an atheist is being a social pariah in various parts of the US, so the chance to hook up with like-minded people has got to be a big draw for attendees. By all means, go ahead and flirt at the social occasions. Speakers are in a different category, though, due to being in a more powerful position. Especially vis-a-vis their assigned assistants.

    I do find the constant conflation of harassment and flirting quite annoying. I’m pretty sure that most men actually do know the difference. Read this.

    If you’re genuinely worried that you’re hurting women by coming on too strong, then you’re not one of the predators, you’re one of the good guys. Yes, it’s possible that you may be misperceived and that you might need to work on separating your presentation from the style of the would-be date-rapist. Mostly what you need to do there is to wind back and relax and keep things very light and low-pressure. And not take offense – or worse, refuse to accept it – if some stranger rejects you. Perhaps go read some Captain Awkward or pervocracy for dating tips.

  28. Robert says

    John Greg:

    “We’re not getting laid; that’s why women get harassed and attacked. If we were getting laid, then that wouldn’t happen.”

    Can you see the logical fallacy here? Can you see the incredible moral failing?

    I’ll lay it out for you, if your sex life is more important than making women feel safe, then you are a predator.

  29. says

    Robert, was that reply on the right thread? I can’t see the comment you’re replying to. (And I’m gritting my teeth and ignoring the only one I can see by John Greg on this thread, as obvious trolling for a reaction.)

  30. KarlVonMox says

    To be honest, I’ve rarely encountered the “play hard to get” mentality. Most women who are interested in sex will make it happen pretty quickly. Or maybe these are the kind of women I attract, I don’t know.

    Given this though I will lean towards the hostile environment being the bigger problem. I can imagine more dudes just being clueless about when they have actually been rejected. There is also something to be said about not pushing too hard, and letting the woman do at least some of the pursuing as well.

  31. says

    to Daz @27

    It could be said sourced from or sourced through or sourced by. The meaning is that without religion it would not be continuously woven into society. The more fundamentalist the religious tenor, the more weaving that gets done. You cannot rid the world of sexism or fear or violence. You can reduce it and give it a bad name. As for men getting laid? Hormones will take care of that problem sooner or later. Even without this little problem, there will always be a problem with everyone getting laid. Both men and women have a kind of filter – either you pass or you do not. Being available and willing is usually not how to get past the filter. Some people are just going to find getting laid a problem no matter what.

    Carnal experience is not a right.If a girl wants to get laid, she’ll adjust her filter. When a guy wants to get laid he will adjust his. Besides the problems funneled to us by religion, there are others. Women and men want to wait for the ‘best’ partner they can get, and consequently even in the animal world we animals lie to each other and trick each other to get the deed done.

    To address the two very narrowly chosen issues appropriately we must address many of the others. Which is worse, that men lie to get laid or that women lie to get the best partner they can? Which lie is worse? The underlying problems cannot be addressed by such exercises in narrow focused questions. It will leave you arguing whether fake breasts are good or bad. Whether the little blue pill is good or bad.

    The problem is that we seldom treat each other with respect, nor have we ever seen sexual intercourse as a casual thing in the context of the larger societal concerns. By this I mean that sexual congress is not so casual as to not merit any serious discussion, just as you would not spend any time talking about washing your hands. In this we can find the real problems, or at least the start of them.

    Neither problem is worse. If you want to get laid, be honest and don’t worry if it doesn’t happen … be casual about it in your frame of mind. Do that and it doesn’t matter if women are indeed frigid. Harassment? You are aware that women are guilty of it as well, right? I know that is not why this was all brought up, but lets not forget that all sexes harass, not simply men. Oddly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone harass another for something as casual as washing of hands.

    Both of these ‘problems’ are symptoms of other deeper problems. Neither is worse than the other. Is a runny nose worse than a bad cough?

  32. Greta Christina says

    Both of these ‘problems’ are symptoms of other deeper problems. Neither is worse than the other. Is a runny nose worse than a bad cough?

    myatheistlife @ #34: You have got to be kidding.

    You’re seriously looking at “people not getting laid when they want to” versus “women being sexually harassed in a climate that tolerates such harassment,” and seeing one as a runny nose and the other as a bad cough?

    One is not a runny nose and the other a bad cough. One is a runny nose — the other is a freaking broken arm. And yes, one is worse than the other.

    Shame on you.

  33. says

    Greta @36
    Shame on you for framing the conversation so narrowly focused on two poorly chosen questions. I’m beginning to think you’ve done so just so that you can claim women are treated worse than men are and that men are somehow the source of all societal problems.

    You chose to make the discussion about the symptoms and NOT the problems. Nice. Shame on you.

  34. says

    If you want to get laid, be honest and don’t worry if it doesn’t happen

    Agreed.

    Do that and it doesn’t matter if women are indeed frigid.

    Not wanting sex with a particular man and/or at a particular time ≠ frigid.

    Harassment? You are aware that women are guilty of it as well, right?

    Of course. It’s a tiny problem compared to the opposite though. If you wish to frame the discussion as people being sexually harassed rather than a subset of 50%, the problem still remains—and is still most often experienced by women.

    Both of these ‘problems’ are symptoms of other deeper problems.

    Unfortunately, the entire disease is a bit much to cure in one go. We’re reduced to trying to fix the symptoms.

    Neither is worse than the other. Is a runny nose worse than a bad cough?

    I commend Greta on her politeness and forbearance…

  35. says

    Daz @38

    The implication is that if women had a greater opportunity to harass they would use it.

    Relieving the symptoms is not how to find a cure. Note here that I never said either problem was not bad, only that neither is worse and that both are symptoms and not root causes, and this is why I feel that neither is worse.

    As for Greta’s politeness, I’ll let others judge that. I personally think she may be having a hard time understanding what I’m trying to say.

  36. Greta Christina says

    You chose to make the discussion about the symptoms and NOT the problems. Nice. Shame on you.

    myatheistlife @ #37: No. You chose to try to derail the conversation into a discussion of your personal analysis of the ultimate cause of these problems is. We’re doing battlefield triage here, and you’re trying to suck us into a debate about medical theory.

    And more to the point: You are persistently trivializing a very serious problem. Even if a broken arm and a broken fingernail are caused by the same thing, a broken arm is still more serious. And even if we agreed that “people not getting laid when they want to” and “women being sexually harassed in a climate that tolerates such harassment” are caused by the same thing, the harassment is still more serious, and still deserves more immediate attention and concern.

    How hard is that to understand?

  37. Dalillama says

    As others have noted, I’m not entirely certain that there are actually two separate problems here, which is to say that the cultural norms that lead to number 2 are the same ones that enable number 1. If it weren’t for the ongoing misogyny and slut-shaming in our culture, we would have neither the prevalent meme that women who seem uninterested are ‘just playing hard to get’ nor the fear on the part of women who may want sex to be proactive in seeking same. If it weren’t for those memes, the assholes and skeevers would be much less able to hide behind claims of social awkwardness and misunderstood cues. Taken as separate problems, the first one is clearly worse, but I think that they’re intertwined enough to make it difficult to separate them. As far as a total moratorium on flirting/hookups at atheist conventions, I would say that that is an entirely impractical idea; flirting and hookups take place at every sort of convention, and indeed almost every other sort of social gathering, particularly those that involve travel, AFAICT have done so for as long as such events have taken place. Not everybody does it, but it is going to happen, so I think it’s best to have clear guidelines to stay within and a clear process for dealing with people who go outside them.

  38. Greta Christina says

    I never said either problem was not bad, only that neither is worse

    myatheistlife @ #39: And I am saying that this position is morally repugnant on the face of it.

    that both are symptoms and not root causes, and this is why I feel that neither is worse.

    Two things can still have the same root cause, and one can still be clearly worse than the other. Example: Racism is the root cause of unfair racial stereotypes on television. It was also the root cause of American slavery. It is absurd at best, morally repulsive at worst, to argue that slavery is no worse than unfair racial stereotypes on TV.

  39. says

    Greta @40
    No. Your post asked for an opinion. I gave one. You could have easily left my comment to rot in lonesomeness. You didn’t. All I’ve tried to do was to explain why I opined as I did. If echo chamber language is all that you want, why not say so in the post?

    You don’t even have to address me personally to let the larger readership know that you disapprove of my logic or thinking along those lines. That’s not what you did. Don’t poke at sleeping dogs and then complain when they bark. The simple fact here is that I disagree with treating symptoms. The intricacies of the dynamics of these problems are far more complex than the medical triage analogy you suggest. It is, I feel, hubris to believe any workable solution can be found by looking only at the symptoms while ignoring the underlying problems.

  40. says

    The implication is that if women had a greater opportunity to harass they would use it.

    Women do have the same opportunity to harass, at least in western society. Yet they don’t.

    Given the extremely complicated and interwoven nature of social problems, our chances of finding some magical cure that will fix the whole lot in one go are next to nil. You’re heading into fantasy-land.

    What you’re trying to say is very plain and obvious. And odious.

    I’m done with this.

  41. says

    *Pops head back in the door*

    Just spotted the update. “Rhetorical” was the intent I’d assumed…

  42. Greta Christina says

    Your post asked for an opinion. I gave one.

    myatheistlife @ #43: And I have been expressing my opinion — which is that your opinion is morally repulsive.

    Anyone who reads my blog regularly knows that I accept, and indeed encourage, a tremendous amount of disagreement here. But encouraging disagreement does not mean that I’m not going to disagree back. If you don’t want to hear my opinion of what you think, don’t comment in my blog.

    It is, I feel, hubris to believe any workable solution can be found by looking only at the symptoms while ignoring the underlying problems.

    For the eighty zillionth time: Sometimes symptoms need to be treated. If a problem is chronic and a cure is going to take a long time, you still treat the symptoms. Especially if the symptoms are causing serious suffering, and/or are making the root cause worse.

    And again, for the eighty zillionth time: It is possible to look at root causes of problems, and still acknowledge that some problems are more serious than others, and are more in need of immediate attention.

    You have persistently insisted, not only that “sexual harassment” and “people not getting laid at cons” have the same cause, but that one is no worse than the other. This is an absurd, morally repulsive position. I have no idea why you are defending it.

  43. says

    Greta @42
    You have gone well off the reservation here. First medical analogy, now slavery?

    You did ask for an opinion. Why must you go to such lengths to tell me personally that I’m completely wrong. I don’t see how that adds value to the discussion. Why not simply address the opinion and let it be? You’ve called into question my motives, intelligence, and perhaps sanity. I did not insult you, nor say that you personally are lacking intelligence. I merely gave an opinion, and the reasons that I hold it. Reasons that are not sexist, nor -ist in any way. It’s simply how I see the problems and their causes.

    I’m quite fine with being told that you disagree with my logic or reasoning. I’m even okay with you explaining why you think it is wrong. That’s not what you did, so I now feel the need to point out how needless and provocative it is when you instead imply that there is something wrong with me rather than simply disagree with my reasoning.

    I would like to be able to understand how this exchange you’ve created helps further an understanding of the issues at hand.

  44. Jim says

    It’s good to see Google keepin’ it classy with the “Snorgtees” banner ad (the one with the “Bn” ‘chemical’ symbol on it).

    Particularly on /this/ particular article. m-/ indeed…

  45. Alverant says

    #41 “If it weren’t for those memes, the assholes and skeevers would be much less able to hide behind claims of social awkwardness and misunderstood cues.”

    What about those who aren’t hiding. I admit I do have social awkwardness and I’m not good at reading body language. I probably made a lot of women uncomfortable and never realized it or intended it. No one is born with social skills, they have to be learned and there will be mistakes. So how do you separate the jerks who should know better from the inexperienced people who don’t?

    Side note: I just saw a commercial for Love in the Wild. Talk about a big step backwards.

  46. rusty says

    Its basically pretty simple – if you make a sexual advance that is unwelcome, you’ve made a mistake.
    We’re all human so mistakes will be made, but those who continually make unwelcome advances surely are deficient in some regard. I expect that they have a highly inflated opinion of their own attractiveness or they lack empathy or both.
    While its true that “no” might mean “perhaps when I get to know you better”, its could also mean “if I wasn’t so polite, I’d tell you to piss off”. If you can’t tell the difference, perhaps you should stick to inflatable sexual partners.

  47. Greta Christina says

    myatheistlife @ #47: I can’t help but notice that you’ve stopped trying to defend your opinion, and have now devolved to complaining about the fact that I criticized it.

    However, I find meta-debates about “how you debated” tedious and almost universally pointless, and I almost ever engage in them. I am not going to waste my time explaining why it’s worthwhile to speak out harshly against morally repulsive ideas. That should be obvious.

  48. says

    Greta,

    You said “You’re seriously looking at “people not getting laid when they want to” versus “women being sexually harassed in a climate that tolerates such harassment,” and seeing one as a runny nose and the other as a bad cough?

    One is not a runny nose and the other a bad cough. One is a runny nose — the other is a freaking broken arm. And yes, one is worse than the other.

    Shame on you.”

    Here you began the bit where you are bringing into question my person and not simply disagreeing with the opinion. The runny nose and cough are symptoms of a cold. Apparently you misunderstood this.

    Lets simply say that we disagree. You seem to think that addressing the symptom will fix the problem. I do not. From the position you seem to hold, you must assert that one symptom (or group of symptoms) is worse than the others, and one who holds my position does not have to assert that one symptom is worse than the others. They are all bad, each is bad beyond a level of reasonable tolerance to the point that addressing the symptoms seems counterproductive when we in fact can begin addressing the root causes.

    If my summary is wrong, feel free to disagree.

  49. Jim says

    I have to admit I’m having difficulty wrapping my mind around myatheistlife’s idea that seems to assert that sexual harassment is rooted in religion (an assertion that I would have to reject as unfounded), and the only possible way to fix it is to get rid of religion.

    That’s how I read #22.

    And since getting rid of religion is something that individual says “good luck with that” about, it seems that they’re saying that the problem of sexual harassment /can’t/ be fixed.

    Which is patently absurd on its face.

    That’s like arguing that since you can’t keep people from breaking into homes, it’s pointless to call the police when your house has been broken into, because the only way to deal with the problem of burglaries is to remove the economic conditions that cause people to commit burglaries.

    Which would be a ridiculous thing to assert.

    Or from the field of computer networking (my area of expertise), one would never, ever, under any circumstances restart a service/reboot a down server unless and until you had identified the exact root cause of the problem – no matter what the cost of leaving the system down during the root cause analysis – because fixing the symptom of “the server is down” is impossible without identifying, say, the fault in the code for the service that was running at the time it crashed. Even if you had no access to that code or ability to make changes to it to fix it.

    Which any IT professional would tell you is a stupid way to run an IT operation. It is, however, a great way to get fired for incompetence.

  50. Jim says

    myatheistlife:

    Of the two choices:

    1. Not being able to get laid when you want

    2. Not being able to rebuff an unwanted sexual advance

    These are /not/ equivalent circumstances. Situation 1 does not generally result in someone feeling threatened. Situation 2 generally does.

    These are not equivalent in any way.

    You seem to be treating them as equivalent “risks”.

  51. Dalillama says

    @Alverant #49
    So am I. I am hypothesizing that absent the social conditions previously noted, it would be easier to have clear and direct communication about boundaries, and thus easier to know when we’re approaching them, while people who ignored such clear boundaries would clearly be putting themselves into the asshole category. I recognize that this may be wishful thinking.

  52. HP says

    One point that isn’t being made is that this problem is not specifically an atheist problem, it’s “con culture” problem. There are people who view any conference or convention primarily as a means to a zipless fuck. (I once followed a link to a blog post about a library science conferences that was all about hooking up.) It happens at academic conferences, professional conventions, trade shows, comic-book and SF cons, you name it.

    So, the question is, should atheist/humanist/skeptic conferences be any different, and if so, why?

    I’m tempted to say, “Yes. It should be different.” But that’s because my view of atheism/skepticism involves turning a skeptical eye on culture and society as much as on irrational beliefs. Atheists and skeptics, of all people, should be able to question the whole convention hookup culture and implement an alternative.

    That being said, two people who really want to have sex will find a way to have sex, even in environments that are far more oppressive than anything atheists could dream up. So, creating a conference culture where unwelcome sexual advances are not tolerated is not going to lead to less consensual sex. It will, however, lead to a more welcoming, less intimidating atmosphere for many women (and not a few men).

    And for those men who judge their virility by the notches in their bedpost, perhaps they’ll cast a more critical eye on their own socialization and how it limits their involvement in a more just, egalitarian society.

    (And, to echo a few comments above, if you can’t go three days without trying to get laid, you have bigger problems than women expressing their discomfort around you.)

  53. says

    @Jim,
    I did not say that sexual harassment is rooted in religion. It exists outside of religion but religion pushes the attitudes that make it so prevalent.

    Both sexes have trouble getting laid when they want to. Both sexes are capable of and do harass the other sex. Comparing one problem to the other problem is not, in my opinion, the best way to find a solution. Religions (especially the Abrahamic faiths) push opinion in the direction that makes it much easier for men to harass women, but religions do not create the issues, humans do.

    I do not equate them as equivalent risks, nor do I state anywhere that either of them is not bad. In fact I’ve stated that both are bad beyond any arbitrary point of tolerance. Humans have relationship issues which manifest themselves in varying ways. These are but two of them and considering these two only is not a sufficient method of addressing the causes. Limiting the discussion to these two manifestations is, in my opinion, not productive.

    That’s it. That is the sum of my opinion here. I simply think that we (where we is society on the whole) should address these issues not as single items, but as symptoms of a larger set of issues; issues that will not go away if either of these two are addressed in some singular way. Because of this I cannot see that either of these two is worse for society than the other. Both will continue to reinforce the other and/or cause additional problems.

    As has been suggested, treating one symptom is a kind of triage where you have to claim one is worse than the other. Triage was invented to deal with battlefield casualties in order to save the most lives possible. The best solution is to stop the war.

    That’s all I’m saying.

  54. says

    Okay, I couldn’t sleep.

    Greta, another thing about your racism/slavery analogy: It’s also a great example of a symptom being successfully cured, even though the root cause was/is a much tougher job. Contra myatheistlife, concentrating on symptoms can lead to good results.

  55. says

    In fact I’ve stated that both are bad beyond any arbitrary point of tolerance.

    In what way is “not getting laid” as bad as “being sexually harassed.”?

  56. Jim says

    myatheistlife,

    “As has been suggested, treating one symptom is a kind of triage where you have to claim one is worse than the other. Triage was invented to deal with battlefield casualties in order to save the most lives possible. The best solution is to stop the war.”

    And how do you stop the war?

    Surrender, get the other side to surrender, or agree to a cease-fire.

    None of those happen instantaneously, and I’d point out that the two “sides” in this “war” are not even negotiating at this stage.

    So do you suggest that nothing be done until both sides agree to a cease-fire or one side (or the other) surrenders?

    I’d just like to point out, though, that “not getting laid when one wants to” is not a horrible, horrible situation. It’s generally inconvenient, and one who doesn’t get laid when they want to isn’t going to go to jail for it or end up on a sex offender list for that specific reason. You’re not going to be labeled a sex offender for the rest of your life as a direct result of not getting laid. (Which is to say, the cops aren’t going to come by and say “You! You’re not getting laid, you’re a sexual predator” – that’s not to say that it couldn’t lead to other behaviours that ultimately cause you to become a sex offender – but that’s a different topic).

    Someone who is involved in propagating sexual harassment, though, may well end up in jail (or losing a job) and runs the risk of being labeled as a sex offender for the rest of their lives as a direct result of engaging in sexual harassment.

    The first is an inconvenience. The second is actually a criminal act.

    So they are not equivalent.

    Stopping sexual predation at conventions (atheist conventions, tech conventions, comic conventions, etc) may not address the underlying cultural causes of sexual predation in society, but it sure is a worthwhile topic and something that needs to be addressed in its own right.

    So let’s start with fundamentals.

    Sexual predation is bad, yes?

    If sexual predation is bad, then something should be done to stop it, right?

  57. says

    Daz @59
    The power that hormones have on us is more than you seem to give them credit for. Humans sadly tie their self esteem to sexual experience. Not getting laid is more harmful than you seem to think. In effect you choose to treat one symptom and let other dies (albeit more slowly) from another symptom.

    I do understand how on immediate impact one can be seen as worse than the other, but I don’t see the problems that way. I would rather prevent both problems than treat only one injury.

    Further, legislating that blacks are equal to whites did not make them so in the communities in which they live. Even today there are many complaints that equality has not been achieved. It seems that it was only a minor victory and the actual battle rages on.

  58. says

    I do understand how on immediate impact one can be seen as worse than the other, but I don’t see the problems that way. I would rather prevent both problems than treat only one injury.

    Well, I suppose “can be seen as” is something of an improvement.

    If one problem is (or ‘is seen as’) worse than another, which should we pay most attention to? The hangnail, or the broken leg?

    ————————————

    At the risk of going meta: Who said anything about legislating equality? Treating the symptom called ‘slavery’ ended slavery even though the root cause—racism—still remained. Please note: this was an analogy to, not the actual, topic of discussion.

  59. says

    I’m completely unsympathetic to anyone who would weigh “not getting laid” and “women feeling disrespected, threatened, and at risk” and consider those things even remotely equivalent. The physical symptoms of sexual frustration on any given evening can generally be dealt with by yourself in private with mild to moderate effort, and if often enjoyable to boot. Dealing with being shut out of interacting in meat space with people who you feel a community bond with, because of a legitimate fear of various harms befalling you is just a horrible thing to even consider.

    The only reason this is at all a hard question for some people is that they are seriously confused about what they should be able to expect from other people. Other people owe you respect and you should be able to expect that they not violate or terrorize you. Nobody, and I mean NOBODY, owes you an orgasm.

  60. says

    Jim @60
    I would like to point out that what I’m suggesting is possible regardless of probabilities. We only have to look at what happened in Rwanda to see that it is. Humans are capable of this group re-think and adjustment. Treating only one symptom actually perpetuates the problems rather than cure the cause.

    My point is not that neither are bad, far from it. Both sides suffer in varying ways. This discussion is framed in such a narrow manner as to be unhelpful when trying to solve the underlying causes. In other animals we can see that they find sexual intercourse as a way to promote cooperation rather than hinder it. Greta herself is not unsupportive of the sex industry. Sex needs to be seen as one of the many ways that humans can cooperate, trade, and give. Religion gives us all the tools we need to use it as a tool to force cooperation rather than a resource to use for fostering cooperation. If I did not explain that well, I’m sorry. I’m not suggesting all women should be prostitutes, rather I’m saying that religion and it’s attitudes tell them that is what they ‘should’ be. This filters out into society devoid of any good intentions that it was wrapped in while preached from the pulpit (if that can actually be said to be true).

    We are taught by religion that sex is bad, but our hormones tell us that we will die if we don’t have sex. Yes, die, look no further than the fact that unrequited love is enough justification for suicide. We are taught to be celibate and then suffer guilt for doing what is most natural. A woman that wants sex is a whore but a man that rapes need only marry his victim. It is little wonder that a balanced and useful attitude toward sex cannot readily be found among humans. This unjust imbalance manifests itself in many ways. We humans, divided by sexual orientation, treat each other as though we are the Hatfields and McCoys (and smiths – lgbtq). Saying that the McCoys are treated worse does not fix the underlying causes, nor will it prevent further problems of similar nature.

    This is all I’m saying. Yes, fine, sure… you can claim that one injury is worse. I’m saying both are intolerable and that we should address the root causes, working to better society on a larger scale than simply treating one wound while preparing our revenge.

  61. Jim says

    “I do understand how on immediate impact one can be seen as worse than the other, but I don’t see the problems that way. I would rather prevent both problems than treat only one injury.”

    Um, “preventing” someone from saying “no, I don’t want to have sex with you” would seem to imply that there’s something OK with not walking away from that “no”.

    While there are psychological effects that can grow from repeated rejection (not just sexual, but rejection in general – and I know from that, because I spent much of my youth being rejected by my peers in school), that is in no way equivalent to someone saying “no” to a sexual advance and being ignored.

    You want to prevent the problem of someone saying “no” to an unwanted sexual advance? As you said earlier in the discussion, good luck with that.

    Culturally, someone saying “no” to an unwanted sexual advance isn’t a problem. Refusing to take “no” for an answer is.

    And the latter is a problem that /needs/ to be dealt with. Dealing with it shouldn’t be predicated on the inability to deal with the “problem” of someone saying they’re not interested – and then when it turns out that that “problem” is a “problem” with no solution, it’s not acceptable to throw your hands up and say “well, I guess we can’t deal with the problem of sexual predation because we can’t resolve the problem of people being rejected for their unwanted sexual advances.”

    It’s somewhat troubling to me that you see these as equivalent “problems” to be solved, and their solutions as necessarily mutually inclusive of each other.

    They’re not. Someone says “DTF?” and gets the answer “No.”

    End of discussion. The person who says “no” is in the right, and if their decision isn’t respected, then there is a problem.

  62. Jim says

    As for #64 – there is a difference between being the person who consent is refused to and the person that denies consent.

    The difference is that the person who is denied consent but is forced to go through an unwanted sexual encounter is a victim of a crime.

    The person who consent was refused to is a criminal.

    The question of consent is paramount. If consent is not given, then the encounter is over. End of discussion – if the encounter doesn’t end, then the aggressor has commited a crime.

    In terms of dealing with this issue at conventions, this is simple. Someone says no. The encounter is over. If the person who said no continues to feel pressured, then the person who is pressuring them is out of bounds and needs to be removed from the venue.

    NOBODY should be told that it’s OK for them to continue to pressure someone when they’ve been told “no”. I don’t care who they are. If an attendee made advances to me and I said “no, I’m not interested” or “no, I’m married” or just plain “no, thank you”, if they continue to pursue that line of discussion, they’re harassing me and I have the right to tell them to leave me alone, and if they don’t, I have the right to ask someone to help me make them leave me alone.

    If my wife were pursued in a similar manner, she has the same right.

    This is /not/ rocket science, nor is it a thought experiment. It’s really pretty simple.

    Someone says “no”, and that’s the end of it.

    And if it isn’t the end of it, then there needs to be a plan for intervention by the event organizers.

    I fail to see what’s so difficult to understand about that. “I don’t want to have sex with you” trumps “I want to get laid”.

    You (not you specifically, generic “you”) didn’t get laid enough? Before you commit suicide, go see a therapist. But don’t think you’re entitled to rape someone because you didn’t get laid enough.

  63. says

    I’m saying both are intolerable

    For the zillionth time, No. They. Are. Not.

    I really don’t see how you fail to grasp that simple fact.

  64. says

    Daz @62
    This is my point. While the war rages, neither injury is more important… both are intolerable, both are an outrage against our species. Attending one before the other does not one thing to stop further injuries of both types. I have never stated or argued that either party should feel not injured. I have only opined that to stop the injuries we must address the root causes and not spend all our energies on worrying about which injury is worse. For this reasons, it is my opinion that neither is worse … both are symptoms of a problem that will not go away by deciding which one is worse. In the end, if you are to be successful, we must address the root causes.

  65. says

    For this reasons, it is my opinion that neither is worse…

    The fact that they share a root cause does not mean that they are equally harmful.

    … both are symptoms of a problem that will not go away by deciding which one is worse.

    No one is claiming that merely identifying one as worse will make it go away. The claim is that the more harmful one, in the absence of a method of treating the root cause effectively and in a timely manner, should be given the most attention.

  66. says

    Jim @66
    you seem to be misunderstanding me. Writing long posts in quick reply is not trivial.

    IF (if is a big word here) all people are equal, then no means no because the exchange would be treated by both parties as an invitation to an equal exchange. Our religious heritage works to ensure that we do not have true equality. Religion serves to tell us that men are above women. Why women attend church is beyond my understanding most days. Western societies’ entire approach to sex is wrong and promotes inequality. Treating one party as injured and the other not does not create equality.

    I cannot defend or support in any meaningful way a solution that does not aim to fix the root cause problem in realistic ways, especially if it’s execution will simply further the divide between the currently unequal parties.

  67. says

    myatheistlife

    Given that you appear to be convinced that religion is the root cause of sexist behaviour, would you mind explaining why, in this post, you appear to be advocating treating the symptom of sexist jokes?

    Your double standards would seem to be showing.

  68. says

    Daz @71
    Challenging someone’s behavior does not in any way say that one behavior is worse than another. Simply challenging it on the spot is often enough to correct it, or at least calm it momentarily. This does not create equality, but calling out bad behavior is part of the process…. only part. Challenging bad behavior on the spot is much better than complaining about it days or weeks after. Waiting for an audience is similar to saying I’m a victim, help me, but long after the crime. That post is not in conflict with what I’m saying here.

  69. says

    @72

    So now we have three actions, we can build a scale:

    * Saying no to an advance: apparently harmful in some unspecified way—not worth calling out.

    * Not taking no for an answer, possibly worse behaviour like unwanted groping and so forth: “seemingly” a bit more harmful—not worth calling out unless the victim feels safe enough to do so straight away.

    * An off-colour joke: definitely harmful—call it out straight away.

    Is that about right?

  70. Jim says

    myatheistlife @70

    “IF (if is a big word here) all people are equal, then no means no because the exchange would be treated by both parties as an invitation to an equal exchange.”

    Yes, and if one says no to the invitation, then that’s the end of it. And when someone refuses to take “no” for an answer, then there’s a problem, and /that/ problem is a problem to be dealt with in the immediate “here and now” of a conference (or any situation where “no” is taken to mean anything other than “no”.

    “Our religious heritage works to ensure that we do not have true equality. Religion serves to tell us that men are above women. Why women attend church is beyond my understanding most days.”

    We agree about that, not least of all because I live in Utah and see this as a part of LDS doctrine as well as how it is practiced by members of the church here.

    “Western societies’ entire approach to sex is wrong and promotes inequality. Treating one party as injured and the other not does not create equality.”

    In the instance of one party being the one who asked and was rebuffed, and the other who said “no, I’m not interested”, if the one who was rebuffed pursues it further, then yes, the party who said “no” and was not respected was in fact injured and violated.

    You seem to be saying (and correct me if I’ve got this wrong, because you haven’t yet in all these exchanges clearly said that you are not saying this and said “but this is what I am saying”) that the one who said “no” has “violated” the person who asked.

    If that’s what you’re saying, then I have to say that’s absurd. I have the right to say no. You do not have the right to ignore my “no”. You do not have the right to assume that my “no” means “yes” or even “maybe”. It means “no”, and in that instance, if the one who asked continues to pursue it, then they have /not/ in any way been injured in an equal way, and they /should/ not be treated as equal injuries.

    A: “I want sex.”

    B: “No.”

    A: “So we should have sex, then?”

    B: “No.”

    A: “Oh. How about now?”

    B: “NO!”

    etc.

    B has made it absolutely clear that they are not interested. If A continues to pursue it, then A is wrong. B is right. B gets to say “no” and have that respected.

    What’s so hard to understand about that? A’s feelings are hurt. Boo hoo. If A continues to pursue it and forces the situation, that’s called rape. That’s a crime. A can go to jail.

    There are no circumstances in which this scenario plays out in this way and B is “wrong”. B gets to decide for himself/herself if they want to take part, and if they decide they do not, then A has no recourse with B.

    That is not a “problem” that needs to be “solved”.

    “I cannot defend or support in any meaningful way a solution that does not aim to fix the root cause problem in realistic ways, especially if it’s execution will simply further the divide between the currently unequal parties.”

    So you’re saying you can’t support a solution that prevents rape unless it also resolves the situation of someone who wants to get laid being told “no”?

    I fail to see how that is in any way rational.

  71. says

    Jim

    I’m assuming that myatheistlife would draw a line somewhere between “no means yes” and rape. Be interesting to know where s/he would draw it, and how s/he would justify the placement.

  72. Greta Christina says

    both are intolerable, both are an outrage against our species.

    myatheistlife @ #68: Not getting laid at a conference when you want to is an intolerable outrage against our species?

    And it is equal in its intolerability and outrageousness to sexually invasive behavior, and a culture that tolerates this behavior and looks the other way when it happens?

    Challenging bad behavior on the spot is much better than complaining about it days or weeks after.

    myatheistlife @ #72: I am challenging your bad behavior. You are trivializing sexual harassment by insisting that it is an equivalent harm to not getting sex when you want it. This is bad behavior. It contributes to the problem, and it harms people. Stop it.

  73. says

    Daz @73
    You do not seem to be understanding. You are confusing justice over a harm as equality. It’s not. It is instead revenge and equality was never actually considered in such an exchange. In this case, the harm is caused by a culture of inequality, which in turn is driven by religions even though they are not the sole source of it. Once a harm is done, any redress that does not directly address the root cause is simply revenge… whether it is legal or not. Revenge does not promote equality, and equality is what prevents the situation (for the most part) in the first place.

    True equality is not easy and understanding it is not trivial. Not many people see it clearly.

    If the elevatorgate was about two men, the exchange would be the same. An offer followed by rebuff. If the initiator was aggressive it is simply a crime. However, in this case there is no culture that tells the initiator that no means maybe, or means yes but ask nicer. The culture does not tell the secondary party that saying yes makes him a slut. This is a more equal exchange. Equality rids us of the root problem. Religion foments the root problem… namely, inequality.

  74. says

    Jim,

    See my comment @73. Equality is the answer. There will always be outliers who are offenders, but they are few. It is the culture of inequality which drives the issues in this blog post and this inequality is driven and fomented by religion.

    True equality is not easy to understand given our current perspective, but if the exchanges were between equals, no does mean no and is respected that way. To change the attitudes, the culture has to change, ergo, religion must go.

  75. says

    Okay, now we are in fantasy land. Stopping bad behaviour is revenge? Silly me. I thought it was the protection of the victim and possible future victims from further harassment.

    I urge you to heed Greta’s advice, and stop. You’re merely making yourself look even worse, if such is possible. It may be instructive for lurkers reading this thread, but it’s doing you no good whatsoever.

  76. Jim says

    Daz @75 –

    I agree, that might be an interesting question to see myatheistlife answer.

    Greta @76 –

    I’m seeing this the same way, but I’m also seeing that myatheistlife is not only equating the two as causing equal harm, but also predicating solving one problem on solving the other.

    And I’m finding that particularly troubling. The idea that it’s unreasonable to even attempt to solve the problem of sexual harassment unless you simultaneously try to solve the “problem” (which I don’t particularly see as a “problem”, but rather is a question of an individual person’s right to say “no”, to mean it, and to have that respected) of being told “No, I don’t want sex with you or to be harassed for sex or about sex by you”.

    He (?) seems to be saying “you can only solve the problem of sexual harassment iff you also solve the problem of people saying ‘no’ to sexual advances” (NB: ‘iff’ = ‘if and only if’ – you (Greta) probably know that, but for the lurkers I want to make that clear. Blame my liberal college education and my digital logic prof. ;) )

    If that’s what he’s saying, I’d like him to clearly say “yes, that’s what I’m saying” or “no, that’s not what I’m saying – here’s what I am saying” followed by a clear explanation.

    I keep coming back to this discussion because I want to see that explanation.

  77. says

    Jim @80
    I’ll answer your comment rather than all individually. I have never said that aggressive advances are not wrong, they are. I’ve never said that saying no is wrong, it’s not. What I’m saying is that treating the two as separate causes to be dealt with is wrong. They are but symptoms of a greater underlying problem.

    In an equal world, no means no, not yes or maybe. What we are talking about has many shades of gray in that each case is different despite the generalizations. We can agree that a woman can say no in ways that mean yes, right? Should it be wrong to do so? I don’t think so but that is dependent on the two participants as to what is okay.

    No means no. I would not hesitate pulling my gun to shoot a rapist in action. Though this would give justice it only actualizes revenge and does nothing to implement a societal prophylactic against future rapes. The ideas that propagate inequality are the core values of Abrahamic religions. Under the law we are all equal, in reality we are not. The law must catch you doing wrong, religion can tell you every day of the week that the law is wrong.

    The culture that we live in makes it impossible to always know when a no means no, but it is not difficult to know when rape is wrong. Dealing with a wide spectrum of possible scenarios is not trivial in one comment. Equality means that your no means no and you must say yes when that is what you mean, no matter your sexual orientation. Such ideals are decimated by religious doctrine which we are almost all indoctrinated with at a young age, rather than being taught how to treat each other in an equal manner. It should be just fine for a female to ask for sex from a male in an elevator and be told no, but our culture says that a man should not say no to such a thing. This is a culture of inequality.

    Addressing only one portion of the problem will not fix it and will in fact only widen the gap, even if you manage to stop some percentage of rapes.

    Now, my perspective is not from the view of revenge or victim, but from that of society as a whole. Addressing one wrong as worse than others is not fixing the problem and will only serve to prolong the situation of inequality, and thus promote more instances of wrong.

    I have personally had to decline offers of sex from every gender orientation, yes, even that one. It’s always awkward, even aggressive same sex offers. I remain convinced that these happen because inequality is the culture. Respect is not given from either party, so the exchange is always difficult if there is not unanimous agreement.

    The point is not simply to eradicate aggressive initiators, but to eliminate the culture in which such people think this is acceptable. Because it is the culture that is the problem, neither issue is worse. Both are instigators of the other and both enrich the wrong culture. for the random offenders, punishment/revenge may be an answer, but these problems are not random or minimal, they are endemic to our society. I’ll take this moment to point out that capital punishment does not prevent murder, nor does it inhibit lesser crimes, even if occasionally it provides legal revenge.

    If I’ve understood the questions properly, that should answer them, I think.

  78. says

    I’ve never said that saying no is wrong, it’s not. What I’m saying is that treating the two as separate causes to be dealt with is wrong. They are but symptoms of a greater underlying problem.

    You’re right. They aren’t separate causes. They are separate actions.

    Saying “no” is a symptom of nothing except the lack of desire to engage in intercourse with the person in question. It is not a problem, and therefore does not need solving.

    Sexual harassment is wrong. There is a perpetrator who violates and a victim who is violated.

    No one is talking about punishment or revenge, except you. Where did you did this strawman up from? We are talking about protecting future victims; hopefully by getting the perpetrators to change their ways, but by denying them access if necessary.

    Yes, we’re all fine with the idea of the eradication of the enabling culture, but that’s a much bigger, global, problem, and needs a much longer timescale, than the localised problem within the atheist community, which we can (hopefully) affect directly, and with more precision.

  79. says

    Daz @82
    So, you have no proof that your desired direction of action will fix the problem, but you think it is better than addressing the underlying problem that you agree exists.

    We simply disagree on how to address the issue. I see no reason for you to disparage me for that. The post asked for an opinion and I gave one and have had to explain it/defend it for hours. Still, you have not found reason to say I’m wrong, only that you think your favored method of addressing the problem might be quicker in some way. The efficacy of either way has not been proven in any meaningful way as we can each point to examples and say that in that situation solution x worked. I’m not saying you are wrong, I’m saying that I think the right way to address the problem is to go after the underlying causes. Doing so addresses more issue than this one narrowly focused topic.

  80. says

    Daz @82
    By the way, your words make it sound like you think that sexual harassment does not happen to men. It does. Get over it. Bad behavior is not a one sex deal. It happens from all sectors, all genders, all perspectives. Arguing as though it only happens from one is simply ignoring the real problems.

  81. says

    myatheistlife, I don’t disparage you for having a different opinion on how to fix the problem. I believe that opinion to be wrong, but you’re entitled to it.

    I do, however, disparage (and, frankly, only Greta’s politeness policy stops me going further) your repeated and loathsome contention that saying “no” is a problem at all, let alone one with as high, or low, a priority as sexual harassment.

  82. says

    I never answered your 82 (and am ignoring your 87):

    So, you have no proof that your desired direction of action will fix the problem, but you think it is better than addressing the underlying problem that you agree exists.

    Where has anyone said this? It’s possible to do both, while admitting that the latter (which isn’t the simple ‘religion done it all’ that you seem to feel it is) will take longer than the former.

    And we have no proof that either endeavour will be successful. Doesn’t mean we can’t try.

    I have things to do AFC.

  83. says

    Daz @88
    Well, you spent your evening arguing with me because I have an opinion that is not the same as yours. Not because I’m wrong, but because you don’t like it, so it seems. I never said you were wrong, I simply offered my opinion and that so incensed you that you had to argue with me, and if not directly disparage me, you did threaten that you would if not for the politeness policy. That’s kind of awesome.

    In Rwanda, they did almost instantly change their minds and make amends. It does not have to take longer than your chosen method. That is an assumption on your part. I did not ask you to accept my point of view. All I did was offer it when asked… which was the point of the post. You don’t have to agree with me. You read my blog, I have never said anyone does have to agree with me. All you have done, if I can summarize, is to say that you think your answer is better because you think it would be quicker. Not that you think it would be more effective in the long term, just that you would see justice sooner. I still hold my position for all the reasons I’ve given… and I still have not said nor do I feel that you are wrong. I simply see the problem differently. Good luck with that.

  84. brianthomson says

    OK, the question as stated is not hard, and I had no trouble coming up with the “correct” answer first time. It wasn’t hard with all that loaded language.

    However, I find myself wondering how we got in to this mess? For example, one of the complaints is about men being persistent – yet the message I see in the media is that men have to be persistent to get anywhere with women. This philosophy was encapsulated in a book called The Rules, which hasn’t gone away. A summary of the contents can be found here, but it can basically be boiled down to: women must play hard to get, according to the rules of the game, and men will pursue you.

    Books, TV, Movies … all pushing the message that “no” does not really mean “no”, and that persistence is not only rewarded, it’s required. When Joey from Friends goes up to a random woman and says “How’re you doin’?”, we are never shown the women who scream and call the cops on him, are we? His “predatory” behaviour is portrayed as harmless. Predatory? Really? Well, yes – but it’s OK, because it’s, well, Joey. Right?

    If I may continue the Friends analogy: the guy who attends a Secular conference is more likely to be a Chandler – clueless about women – or a Ross, who found out that everything he thought he knew was wrong and is starting from scratch again. Joey might be good with women, but he’s clueless about everything else, so you’re less likely to find him anywhere where deep thought is required. (Note that I’m talking in terms of probabilities and likelihoods, not certainties.)

  85. Ariel says

    Which do you think is the bigger problem?
    UPDATE: This was not supposed to be a hard question

    Morally, the answer is obvious; I agree. But in my opinion nothing really follows (in practical terms) from such an answer. All in all, a futile question, a futile answer.

    My suspicion is that in such issues a moral answer, even commonly (‘officially’) accepted, won’t matter much. The key issue (at least from what I see, from my experience in this world) is that what you call “predatory” behavior simply pays off. And that’s it. You might be able to eliminate the worst, most visible excesses, but as long as it pays off, you won’t be able to do much more. I would say: expect no substantial changes as long, as predatory hunters win sexual competition with shy introverts, apologizing for all history of sexism with every second of their existence. (Sorry, it’s a cruel formulation, but it’s a cruel world.)

    Expect no substantial changes if you find any truth in the quote below:

    Why don’t you ever use your strength on me? she said.
    Because love means renouncing strength, said Franz softly.
    Sabina realized two things: first, that Franz’s words were noble and just; second, that they disqualified him from her love life.

    (Milan Kundera “The unbearable lightness of being”)

  86. littlejohn says

    I’m 57 and I’ve been married for 30 years, so I have no dog in this fight.
    That said, it is an inconvenient fact that a significant number of girls are taught by their parents to always say “no” at first, regardless of what they really mean. Men, not being idiots, quickly pick up on that and regard “no” as “maybe.”
    If men could read women’s minds, there would only be problems with the occasional asshole. But we can’t, so many of us don’t give up after the first “no.”
    If parents would stop teaching that silly “hard to get” ethic to their daughters, men, for the most part, would adapt accordingly. I’m not blaming women for over-aggressive men. I’m blaming a quirk in our culture for a common misunderstanding.
    BTW, when I was single I always erred on the side of courtesy and took women at their word when they said “no.” You’d be astonished how many later chided me for not being aggressive enough. I get it that women “can’t win.” But sometimes men can’t win, either.

  87. James Power says

    Persistence does not mean being an asshat. One can be persistent without being too much or too often in someone’s space.

    If we can’t cure the slut shaming social problem that causes reticence on the part of women to say yes when they want to say yes that does not mean no becomes “slightly less no”.

  88. says

    @94 Hellbound Alleee: So did I.

    @7 Daz Re: “Am I unusual in not seeing not getting laid as any kind of problem? It’s good when it happens, but blimey, it’s not like it’s anything to lose sleep over if it doesn’t.”

    To be fair, you might lose some sleep by, er, taking the problem in hand, as it were. This was originally snark, but apparently some people take it as an affront to our species, or something.

  89. marcelkincaid says

    “creating a conference culture where unwelcome sexual advances are not tolerated”

    Ah, life with the Red Queen, where one can be in favor one moment but have one’s head cut off the next if she finds displeasure.

    We have plenty of experience with people who deem behavior to be a crime if they don’t welcome it … eating their crackers, drawing pictures of their leaders, just naming ourselves on bus ads.

    If you’re serious about protecting people and in justice, then write a formal rulebook of behaviors that are allowed or banned, with no exceptions (the rules can be conditional, but the conditions must be explicit and unambiguous and non-discriminating), agreed to as a condition of attending the conference. But as long as things are put in such subjective and ad hoc terms as “unwelcome”, you will come across as intellectually dishonest ideologues more interested in struggle between yourselves, whom you picture as the “good”, and others whom you picture as the “bad”, than in actually achieving what you claim you want.

  90. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    Ah, life with the Red Queen, where one can be in favor one moment but have one’s head cut off the next if she finds displeasure.

    So, not being allowed free reign to sexuall harrass women is like getting your head cut off, huh.

    LOL poor boys. Not getting to do whatever they want to do to whomeever they want whenever they want however they want. Poor, poor boys.

  91. says

    myatheistlife:

    You at #22:

    “As the problem itself (all facets of it) is sourced from religion, getting rid of the source is the right answer – good luck with that!”

    You at #57:

    “I did not say that sexual harassment is rooted in religion. It exists outside of religion but religion pushes the attitudes that make it so prevalent.”

  92. Zengaze says

    @ illuminati 97

    I think that is an unfair reading of what marcel said.

    I understood Marcel’s comment as meaning that people’s comfort zones in relation to sexual advances are by their nature arbitrary, and as such he was arguing for very clearly defined rules I relation to this issue t conferences. I personally think that until clearly defined lines are drawn in the sand, this discussion will keep rearing it’s head.

  93. says

    xtinas @98

    Source: A place, person, or thing from which something comes or can be obtained.

    Religions provide us a source of every facet of misogyny, sexual harassment etc.

    As: a fountain is a source of water yet does not create the water.

    Both of the statements are consistent.

  94. Jefrir says

    Zengaze

    people’s comfort zones in relation to sexual advances are by their nature arbitrary, and as such he was arguing for very clearly defined rules I relation to this issue t conferences. I personally think that until clearly defined lines are drawn in the sand, this discussion will keep rearing it’s head.

    The boundaries are not arbitrary, they are merely variable. Different people want different things. This should not be a surprise to anyone with the slightest experience of human beings.
    Marcel apparently wants to rule out “the person you are doing it do doesn’t want you to” as a reason to not do something, which is an utterly stupid attitude to social interaction.

  95. Jefrir says

    So, Myatheistlife, if we’re all doing this wrong by not attacking the source of the problem, what should we be doing? What concretely, can we do to solve whatever it is that you think is the source of the problem?
    Because the methods being suggested currently might not be perfect, but they should at least have some effect. You don’t seem to be suggesting any alternatives.

  96. carlie says

    Religions provide us a source of every facet of misogyny, sexual harassment etc.

    As: a fountain is a source of water yet does not create the water.

    Both of the statements are consistent.

    And both are wrong. They are conduits, not sources.

  97. says

    jefrir @102

    I’m certainly no expert on any such topic, so have not offered solutions. Prohibition does not work well if it can be said to work at all. Admonishment of all men is certainly not going to focus any energy on the right group and does nothing to fix the issues represented on the female side of the equation. Feminism, for all the attempts made in its name, has not addressed root causes, only symptoms (generally speaking) and it has not yet rid the world of sexism.

    I believe that education is the cure for ignorance. The billboard campaigns are aimed at just that, educating the public that atheists exist and we’re everywhere.

    Part of the problem is that people are generally unaware that they are not behaving well when the sexist attitudes creep in. They might understand that you don’t want to say some things in the company of the opposite sex, but they still don’t see it as wrong. Education can fix that for a good many people. I diluted two such conversations today by pointing out how the object of the conversation is actually a person and how it would suck to have to be in a meeting with them, knowing that they heard what you said.

    Special talks at each Con – Try holding a talk/course at each conference which details and explains how religion (even the friendly kind) pushes ideals which lead to sex and gender discrimination and bigotry and make popular the wrong attitudes towards sex, medicine, and relationships. There are some very smart doctors and thinkers who are non-believers. I’m sure there is some room to get them to talk about how to educate others on what a bad behavior is in regards to sexism and how religious doctrine pushes such ideas mainstream, and going further, why such ideas are bad for society and each of us as individuals.

    I know there are already talks but they are not making enough impact. It would be nice to see effort to explain why religion’s attitudes instigate bad choices and bad relations. We know this to be true, but we non-believers are not presenting this to the world in an understandable way. When non-believers see where the ideas come from that they have been enveloped in all their lives, they can see how it is wrong.

    Instead of trying to be friendly with religious folk who are not WBC crazy, we should be educating people how these doctrine and holy texts promote bad relations, bad choices, and bigotry. There are enough Christian apologists attempting to prove god exists. I think they should be made busy defending the misogyny, bigotry, slavery, murder, and general bad behavior promoted by their doctrines. They should be made to explain why bad behavior x is ok by them, why sexist attitude y is ok by them and so on.

    If it would become common knowledge of how these doctrines push the wrong attitudes into society, it would be easier for folk to see why what they do is wrong; men and women.

    No, that is not a perfect answer. Maybe nothing is. It might not be possible to get all attendees to always behave.

    Lecturing people is not known to be an effective way to get a message across, so inventive and creative ways of presenting the information could help. I’m certain you could get people to comment on this topic for weeks if not longer. Basically, educate, not lecture; demonstrate appropriate behaviors rather than prohibit bad ones.

    The problem is how to fight centuries of indoctrination. Some of our longest standing traditions have sexism and mysogeny woven into them. An effective comb needs many teeth and it is most probable that re-educating society will take many attempts and methods. I just think that it should be a holistic type approach, not band-aids on broken arms and demands that people respect one another.

  98. Stevarious says

    “both are intolerable, both are an outrage against our species.”

    Not getting laid is exactly as bad as rape? That’s a morally reprehensible position.

    “No means no. I would not hesitate pulling my gun to shoot a rapist in action.”

    So who are you going to shoot to stop a ‘not getting laid’ in action?

    Saying that both are equally bad, and that one is so bad that you would pull a gun to prevent, suggests rather strongly that the other is worth pulling a gun to prevent. Obviously you don’t believe that it’s okay to use violence to prevent people from not getting laid (right?) so you obviously actually don’t believe that the two are equivalent. So why would you say you do?

  99. says

    jefrir @102

    We can educate people about where sex comes from and why we human apes have some of the habits that we do (http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sex-dawn/201202/7-things-bonobos-can-teach-us-about-love-and-sex ) and how religion perverts what should be natural causing us to push ourselves into awkward situations. It’s not a simple problem and probably won’t be solved with simple answers. Education is not simple. I guess my point is education rather than prohibition etc. is what I think a good answer to your question is.

  100. says

    I don’t even know what constitutes ‘hitting on’ someone or not, leading me to just err on the side of caution and be more silent because I don’t know how to make an appropriate advance even just for conversation.

    I agree with Dhorvath at number 16. Junk the bullshit, and the attendant misunderstandings, in favor of open and honest conversation.

  101. says

    Religions provide us a source of every facet of misogyny, sexual harassment etc.

    Agreed, in general terms, though ‘every’ might be a bit string. However, note my emphasis. There’s a big difference between ‘a’ and ‘the’.

    Can you provide us with a method of treating/removing these root-causes that doesn’t involve time-spans measured in decades? If you can’t, on what do you base your contention that we shouldn’t, at the same time as working toward fixing the bigger problems, put effort into trying fix localised symptoms which may be fixable over a very few years?

  102. says

    Ariel #91:

    I would say: expect no substantial changes as long, as predatory hunters win sexual competition with shy introverts, apologizing for all history of sexism with every second of their existence. (Sorry, it’s a cruel formulation, but it’s a cruel world.)

    That sounds a hell of a lot like “introverts need to just stop being introverts”.

    Fuck that. I hate predation as a rule. It is a horrible way to treat people. I refuse to engage in it, regardless of how well it “works”, because I, unlike you, actually fucking care about the people I’m romantically interested in.

  103. hf says

    1. I see a bit of a disconnect here. One person called Joey from Friends a predator, like the ones Greta in the OP refers to. Now, I may not have watched enough of the show, but if Joey “goes up to a random woman and says “How’re you doin’?”,” that seems kind of corny. Whereas if someone goes up to a random woman (or even a conversation partner) and gropes her without consent, that counts as sexual assault. One behavior might cause women to “scream and call the cops on him” — the other as a rule of thumb will not, because it isn’t frakking illegal. Nor does it seem relevant to the OP. Corny lines only relate to the topic (I think) if you apply them to a particular woman who’s indicated she doesn’t want to hear them. In which case, do I really have to explain the law of averages and the absurdity of wasting your time on actions with relatively low expected value? Bless me, what do they teach them in these schools?

    2. Likewise, the quote from Kundera in comments sounds like it describes a women who likes BDSM. Distinguishing BDSM from rape or assault seems like almost the whole point of the consent rule. So this example too suggests confusion as to the topic of the post.

    3. If women don’t feel safe at these conferences, fewer of them will attend and those who want sex with women will have fewer opportunities. I feel like we have a close approximation of Newcomb’s problem here.

  104. Emptyell says

    @myatheistlife

    You keep saying that others don’t understand your point(s). I have tried and come to the conclusion that the reason is that they are incoherent. The premise of this topic is which is the bigger problem. You say neither since they are insignificant compared the source problem which you claim to be religion. Which claim you then fail to support in any way I can understand.

    At other times you say they are equivalent and describe them as “abhorrent” and “an outrage”. This is ridiculous. Rape is abhorrent and an outrage. A creepy advance, even repeated, is offensive and sometimes disgusting and threatening. Possibly missing out on having sex with someone who may or may not be interested might be disappointing. These are not equivalent.

    The first is illegal (though grossly under reported). The second Is properly discouraged in civil society. The last I have a hard time even seeing as a bad thing. Perhaps this is because I don’t see the frequency with which I get to have recreational sex to be of great importance in the overall scheme of things. Finding appropriate ways to discourage an environment that is hostile to half the population is a matter of great importance.

    Saying that this is impossible because we first have to address the source of the problem is also ridiculous, as has been pointed out elsewhere.

    …end rant.

    Start new rant…

    More generally I am sick of false equivalences. Men are not the objects of sexual harassment on anything close to the scale women experience. (Of course attention to the problem in general should help those men who are.) I am so sick of seeing “but what about the men” every. single. time. anyone complains about the mistreatment of women.

    Another thing that bugs the hell out of me are arguments that we shouldn’t complain about something when there are much worse problems and I have been amazed at the stature of some who have made this one (ie RD v. EG). It seems painfully, stupidly obvious to point out if we have to fix all the hardest problems first we will never fix anything. Perhaps this is why the argument is pulled out by those who don’t want change, don’t want the problem fixed.

    Sorry for all the me, me, my, my, I think, blah, blah, blah. This stuff just pisses me off. I needed to vent. Thanks for the opportunity. I feel better now.

  105. Emptyell says

    @Stevarious

    “So who are you going to shoot to stop a ‘not getting laid’ in action?”

    Neither. You just threaten them (both, all?) until they have sex. It’s the moral thing to do. You only have to start shooting if they refuse.

  106. Jefrir says

    Admonishment of all men is certainly not going to focus any energy on the right group and does nothing to fix the issues represented on the female side of the equation.

    Who the hell said anything about admonishing all men? We want to get the men who are being predatory to stop being predatory. That’s all. And what do you mean by “problems on the female side”?

    I believe that education is the cure for ignorance.

    You know what would be a really good way of educating people on what constitutes appropriate behaviour? Well-publicized anti-harrassment policies!
    And then we’re back to religion. Seriously, this is not about religion. Yes, religions play a role in justifying and propping up sexism, but sexism is a much broader problem that getting rid of religion (even if such a thing were possible) would not automatically solve. These are atheists harrassing other atheists. Talks on how terribly sexist religion is would be a distraction at best, and at worst would make things worse – because obviously sexism is religion’s problem, and not something we have to worry about in the atheist community, so those women must just be making it up.

  107. Ariel says

    Setár #110

    Fuck that. I hate predation as a rule. It is a horrible way to treat people. I refuse to engage in it, regardless of how well it “works”.

    Fine. And my comment wasn’t an attempt to convince anyone that he (or she, for that matter) should engage in predation, especially with “should” interpreted morally. You are free to hate predation and to take your moral opinion as decisive. What I said is that all the moral talk on ftb and elsewhere notwithstanding, people will engage in it as long as it pays off – as long as predation permits them to win sexual contests. And my estimation is that a good dose of predatory aggressiveness makes winning easier, whether you approve of it or not.

    (Those who lose can still have their comforts, I’m not denying that. They can always say: “Wait a moment, dear hangman, I just wanted to stress how morally right I am and how my defeat is not important! Oh, on reflection, it’s not a defeat at all, really! Yeah … I’m done now, my neck is ready for you.”)

    I omit the personal remarks contained in your comment. We can discuss them freely as soon as we move to Pharyngula, but not here :-)

    hf #111
    Very good remarks. Let’s start:

    … Nor does it seem relevant to the OP …

    Here perhaps I’m guilty as charged. I read the OP in the context of broader discussion, where various sorts of behavior were counted as unacceptable: insisting after hearing “no”, but also e.g. goggling women, or touching someone when you are uncertain that they want to be touched … the examples abound.

    I’m also not sure at all that even insisting after hearing “no” has in fact – as you suggest – low expected utility (in contrast to: for moral reasons it should have low expected utility). In general I’m inclined to believe that these persistent patterns of behavior are so persistent mainly because they in fact work often enough to the agent’s satisfaction; sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly. Is the crowd on atheist conferences really that special? If so, i.e. if there are in fact few gratifications there for such people, the matter should easily resolve itself. But somehow it doesn’t … right? It makes me very suspicious about the “low utility” answer even in this narrower context.

    If women don’t feel safe at these conferences, fewer of them will attend and those who want sex with women will have fewer opportunities.

    So in your opinion the behavior of the predator is irrational – dropping such behavior would give him more gains, right? It seems doubtful to me. Reasons (please note again that the discussion below is purely utilitarian, not moral):

    (a) Even assuming that more women would attend, dropping well tested and effective means would result in more dangerous competition from other guys. It’s like: before I had an advantage of an effective strategy; now I lost it. Will the gain (more women) compensate the loss? The answer is far from obvious (especially if the predator is not particularly good at “soft” strategies).
    (b) Do these conferences make women feel untypically unsafe? Less safe than elsewhere (school, work, ordinary social activities, other sorts of conferences)? If yes, there might indeed be a problem (too few will attend). But if no, the level is still going to be acceptable and the additional advantage of predation may settle the issue to the predator’s satisfaction.

    Likewise, the quote from Kundera in comments sounds like it describes a women who likes BDSM. Distinguishing BDSM from rape or assault seems like almost the whole point of the consent rule. So this example too suggests confusion as to the topic of the post.

    I didn’t intend it to be a remark about BDSM; what I wanted was an illustration of ineffectiveness of a “nice guy”. If you prefer a cruder version: it happens only too often, that the nice and noble guys are left behind, while the predator sleeps with the cutest cheerleader.

  108. Greta Christina says

    What I said is that all the moral talk on ftb and elsewhere notwithstanding, people will engage in it as long as it pays off – as long as predation permits them to win sexual contests. And my estimation is that a good dose of predatory aggressiveness makes winning easier, whether you approve of it or not.

    Ariel @ #115: In a moment, I’ll touch on the question of whether sexually predatory men really have more sex. But first, I want to point out what I would have thought was totally obvious:

    If predatory aggressiveness makes winning sexual contests easier, WE NEED TO MAKE IT HARDER.

    We need to make it harder by putting policies in place that punish it. We need to make it harder by putting reporting systems in place that give accountability for it. We need to make it harder by educating people about it: educating both potential victims and potential witnesses. We need to make it harder by not looking the other way: by talking about it openly, by condemning it, by making it clear that we recognize it as a real problem and take it seriously, by creating a culture that does not accept it and will not tolerate it.

    And all this “boys will be boys,” “men are going to be sexually aggressive and predatory no matter what we do, so why should we even bother to try” bullshit does not help. It makes things worse. I will say that again: Ideas like yours are contributing to the culture that is creating this problem. It contributes to the idea that preying on women sexually is just natural male behavior, there’s nothing anyone can do about it, so we might as well not try.

    Which brings me to the question of whether preying on women sexually is just natural male behavior. And which brings me to a totally obvious fact — which is that not all men are sexually predatory. In fact, most men aren’t sexually predatory. And yet, somehow, the human race continues to propagate sexually. Plenty of men treat women well, with respect, as equals who might or might not want to have consensual sex with them and have the right to make that choice… and still get laid.

    So the idea that men have to be sexually predatory in order to have sex is total bullshit. And the idea that this is simply the normal, natural state of affairs and we should just accept the reality… it’s worse than bullshit. It is reprehensible.

  109. Greta Christina says

    I don’t know why I didn’t see this before. But myatheistlife is totally pulling a “Yes, but…” derailment. (Reference: Why “Yes, But” Is the Wrong Response to Misogyny.)

    myatheistlife’s idea in a nutshell: All sexism and misogyny comes from one original source, and one original source only — religion. Therefore, if we want to fight sexism and misogyny, we shouldn’t try to fight them directly, or even talk about them. We should be putting all of our efforts into fighting religion.

    We’ve already been talking about how ridiculous this premise is. We’ve already been talking about how, even if the premise were true, it would still make sense to work on short-term solutions to immediate problems, while still working on long-term solutions to the larger source problem. Good points, all.

    I want to point out here what, in practical terms, the upshot of this argument is:

    We shouldn’t talk about sexism and misogyny. Ever. Or try to do anything about it directly. Ever. Whenever the subject of sexism and misogyny come up, we should immediately change the subject to how bad religion is.

    I really hope I don’t have to explain why that’s fucked-up. Then again, I really hoped I didn’t have to explain why “sexual predation and a climate that tolerates it” is a bigger problem than “some people not getting laid at conferences” — and look where that got me. m-/

  110. Emptyell says

    @Greta

    I don’t know why I didn’t see this before. But myatheistlife is totally pulling a “Yes, but…” derailment.

    I started wondering about half way through the madness but I hadn’t the time or stomach to confirm my suspicions. I couldn’t be sure there wasn’t some coherent argument behind all the smoke. I just reached the point where I gave up trying. I guess that’s just the form of the “yes, but” tactic.

    I really hope I don’t have to explain why that’s fucked-up. Then again, I really hoped I didn’t have to explain why “sexual predation and a climate that tolerates it” is a bigger problem than “some people not getting laid at conferences” — and look where that got me. m-/

    Clearly any suggestion of anything that might be construed as in any way questioning male privilege is like catnip. Those affected seem to just go crazy. They can’t help themselves. I expect that you’re not really all that surprised after the shitstorm that arose when someone had the nerve so say “hey guys, don’t be creepy”.

    On the other hand I do find it a bit bizarre that anyone can see a possible impediment to more imagined recreational sex is really any problem at all. For one thing I suspect the opposite it true. Less creepiness would probably mean more sex. Perhaps it’s not real sex that is at issue here at all but giving up the fantasy sex that some people imagine having when they are creeping people out with their unwanted advances.

    Now that makes some sense to me. Sort of rape-lite for guys who don’t want (or are afraid) to go all the way. Or a form of non-consensual live porn dominance fantasy.

  111. mas528 says

    Like commenter Satya at @2, I feel it is the same problem. Rather that #2 will solve itself if #1 is solved.

    In fact, I don’t even know why “some people getting laid (at these conferences) that wouldn’t otherwise” is an issue at all.

    I mean, are these conferences about our atheism or they all *really* one big hook-up party?

    Sounds completely uninteresting to me.

    Back to the point, if women are made/allowed to feel safe (“made” and “allowed” sound very wron, I’m not good with words) then some of them might be more open to an advance. Maybe some of the women would even *make* the advance.

    Sure, I’d like to buy a drink for Myers, Christina, Svan, Crommunist, um…. The folk at FTB. But the social scene at the conferences sounds more like junior-high school. I don’t seek that out.

  112. julian says

    Shorter Ariel: “Sexism and predatory behavior are simply rational. Nothing you can do about it, ladies!”

    Not nearly concise enough.

    Shorter Ariel: “Who cares?! Boys need their dicks wet!”

    Seriously, Ariel’s commentary has made me sick to my stomach. She may be comfortable with sexual harassment and bullying people into bed but I sure as hell am not.

  113. julian says

    And which brings me to a totally obvious fact — which is that not all men are sexually predatory.

    Yep.

    Working on getting myself to be one of them.

    Quick note, that predatory thing isn’t nearly as effective as Ariel argues it is. When it does work it’s because of 1)the person they targeted had other issues that made them eager for someone’s affection 2)the person was looking for sex and figured they could do way worse 3)some other quality appealed to them (for example uniform, interesting life, looks).

    Hell most of the idiots Ariel is defending who I’ve met won’t lie about having to go through multiple women a night to find one who’s responsive.

  114. carlie says

    myatheistlife’s idea in a nutshell: All sexism and misogyny comes from one original source, and one original source only — religion.

    And the baffling thing is that they think that religion is somehow… apart from humanity? Sprung from the head of Zeus? Religion comes from people. The reason that religion is misogynistic is because people are misogynistic. Religion is simply a method by which to enforce those ideas, not the source of the ideas. If you dismantle every last bit of religion, you are going to be left with a lot of people who still think women are worthless. Religion is an enabler, but it isn’t the cause.

  115. says

    Personally, I’s still stuck at “not getting laid” being described as intolerable at all, let alone as intolerable as harassment.

    Unbe frickin’ lievble.

  116. says

    Ariel #115:

    Fine. And my comment wasn’t an attempt to convince anyone that he (or she, for that matter) should engage in predation,

    Which is totally why you were saying “but it works!”.

    especially with “should” interpreted morally.

    We are dealing with other people, not inanimate objects. There’s no other way to interpret it.

    Unless you’re an asshole who doesn’t care about other people, that is =/

    You are free to hate predation and to take your moral opinion as decisive. What I said is that all the moral talk on ftb and elsewhere notwithstanding, people will engage in it as long as it pays off

    And if we take active steps to discourage such behaviour, it won’t pay off as well because people engaging it will be looked down upon more.

    Funny how that works.

    And my estimation is that a good dose of predatory aggressiveness makes winning easier, whether you approve of it or not.

    It’s not a matter of personal approval. It’s a matter of being a decent fucking human being, which means treating other people like people not objects.

    Apparently, that is too much of an expectation for you.

    (Those who lose can still have their comforts, I’m not denying that. They can always say: “Wait a moment, dear hangman, I just wanted to stress how morally right I am and how my defeat is not important! Oh, on reflection, it’s not a defeat at all, really! Yeah … I’m done now, my neck is ready for you.”)

    In other words, us introverts just need to stop being introverts.

    Check your privilege.

    I omit the personal remarks

    They’re only “personal” if being a decent human being doesn’t matter to you — but, thanks for being honest about that here, as if your total dismissal of treating people like people didn’t prove that already.

    I reiterate: I refuse to engage in predatory behaviour because I, unlike you, actually fucking care about the people I’m romantically interested in.

    Or, in shorter terms, because I am a decent person and you are a predatory asshole.

  117. says

    If predatory behaviour works so well compared to decent behaviour, why are so many women complaining about it? My point being, I’d assume that the many complainers are actually more interested in those displaying decent behaviour, meaning—without wanting this to sound like a ‘notches on the bedpost’ argument—that decent behaviour pays off just as well, or at least in the same ball-park.

    To me, the whole ‘nice guys finish last’ thing has the smell of ‘common wisdom’ about it. I.e., bullshit; a vaguely logical-sounding excuse for arseholes to act like arseholes.

  118. Emptyell says

    Hmmmm…..

    I think I may see how this pro-predator argument works. Let’s assume that there are women who want this predatory attention (it’s hard for me to understand but lots of people like stuff that I don’t). Then we further assume that to really fulfill this desire requires that they not let on that this is what they want until a sufficient amount of aggressive predation is directed their way. Thus the predatory men have to keep hitting on women until they find the right one. This is the only way I can see some degree of consent in this otherwise repellent behavior.

    Even if these assumptions are valid and this is a real scenario, it in no way justifies polluting the environment for everyone else. And it doesn’t even begin to touch the issue of the gross abuse of power (re featured speakers and organizers) and the added damage this causes.

    Of course it seems far more likely that there is a certain small percentage of women who are for some variety of reasons vulnerable to such advances, and that the predators looking for volume over value don’t want their hunting seasons and territories restricted. Especially with all these durned femnists thinning out the potential scores.

    Ahhh crap, I’m starting to feel like I’m just dancing on pinheads.

    It still just seems utterly absurd to me that people can get their knickers in a bunch about marginal rates of recreational convention sex* as compared to creating an environment that is not hostile and oppressive to women. Especially since these are hardly mutually exclusive and probably positively correlated.

    *…and I still think this is more about fantasies of casual sex and not actual rates of intimate contact. Kind of like the joke, “As a future lottery winner I am firmly opposed to raising taxes on the rich.”

  119. says

    Even if these assumptions are valid and this is a real scenario, it in no way justifies polluting the environment for everyone else.

    Spot on. To make an obvious analogy: slavery may be a cost-effective way of keeping a large work-force, but that doesn’t give moral justification to slavery.

    To be frank*, the fact that I even feel like the subject needs to be explained by analogy is sickening.

  120. Emptyell says

    @Daz

    “To be frank*, the fact that I even feel like the subject needs to be explained by analogy is sickening.”

    Same here. The fact that it has to be explained at all is disturbing. As Greta said, it is not supposed to be a hard question.

  121. Emptyell says

    Sorry. Didn’t close italics properly. It was just at all that was supposed to be emphasized. Format tags are a real pain on the iPad :-[

  122. ChrisB says

    Much as problem #2 annoys me as a man, problem #1 is clearly the more important of the two. It’s the main reason I’m not terribly persistent after rejection. I really can’t see how anyone can argue that a nuisance is worse than a real lack of personal security.

  123. says

    Format tags are a real pain on the iPad :-[

    And I’m on a regular keyboard, so can find no excuse for that asterisk in my comment. How the hell I typo’d shift+8 is beyond me…

  124. says

    Another thought crept into my head while my brain-cell had its back turned…

    These conversations/debates always end up framing “getting laid” as “success,” mostly because they focus on the predator strategy.

    I’d like to propose something gosh-darn radical, an’ all like that, which shifts the focus onto the civilised behaviour:

    Making a friend who just happens to be of the opposite sex = win.
    Getting casually laid = win.
    Making a friend + sex (casual or not) = double-super bonus win.

    The predator strategy, on the other hand—focussed as it is on one one aim, getting laid—merely offers the occasional win.

  125. Caravelle says

    LOL. This was a nice common-sense post, but that update really elevates it to something else. Go Greta :D

  126. says

    I’ll just dig up a little thing from Robert, posted earlier in the thread. It pretty much sums up the entire point, as I see it

    if your sex life is more important than making women feel safe, then you are a predator

  127. Emptyell says

    @Dax

    It seems we share the same brain cell. I’d like to borrow it back for a minute.

    To start with I must admit I have some very strange, outlier sexual preferences (at least compared to what I see in beer commercials). Like:

    1. I’ll take a little great sex over a lot of mediocre sex anytime. In fact I really have no interest in mediocre sex at all.

    2. My main requirement is that the woman be as passionately interested in my company as I am in hers.

    3. Real, proper (and respectful) flirting is how we get from “nice to meet you” to “wow, that was fantastic” but the measure of success is not how often we get to the latter, but how much we enjoy sorting out whether to go there.

    So you can see why I’m so passionately opposed to the hostile, sexually predatory environment. It’s a direct impediment to me getting what I want ;-) I’m only half kidding. I can’t really feel any holier than anyone else just because I support women’s rights. Like other guys I want a larger pool of potential mates. I just happen to be attracted to strong willed, creative, intelligent women and prefer not to see them damaged by the vile, misogynist crap they have to put with.

    Maybe if we can start memes of, “Real men aren’t afraid of strong women.” and “The real turn on is when she actually, really, really wants you.” there will be less of this shit.

    You can have the brain cell back now. Thanks.

  128. Emptyell says

    @Daz (sorry about the typo last time)

    “The predator strategy, on the other hand—focussed as it is on one one aim, getting laid—merely offers the occasional win.”

    …and if the only standard for success is the frequency of dick wetting it becomes pretty obvious how this feeds directly into rape culture. It places consent in direct conflict with its definition of success.

  129. says

    The former is clearly the bigger problem.

    I would also say that it is quite possible that some women do play hard to get and that this explains little to no instances of men ignoring the rejection of women who really don’t want to be gotten.

  130. daniel-sahn says

    Maybe this is a gross oversimplification, but..

    Guys. In these enlightened times more than ever, on these issues women simply have the prerogative. Historically they have been on the receiving end of this conflict. They will have little incentive to concede your points, as airtight in their logic as they might well be (albeit in a vacuum). As unfair as it may seem from the vantage point of a thoughtful dude who’s ‘not in the wrong here’, in the big picture it’s really not.

    Guys, please accept that on this issue and on certain others, you’ll rarely ever get the chance to enjoy being “RIGHT” (even on occasion being “right”, at least as much as any stopped clock could ever be).. As a man, your side of the story, by its very origin, carries little weight. Accept this.

    And, in adknowledgement, realize that there remain plenty of situations in which you every much have the prerogative, and are very much at liberty. No need to be evil about it; but by all means, as fully as you’re able, make the most of them- spread the seeds of /REASON/, within reason.. ;)

  131. says

    There is plenty of evidence that the predator strategy does not “work” for normal values of “working”; even professional predators–Pick-Up Artists, or PUAs–include in their advice, which men PAY FOR, seriously, this world is fucked up, that men should expect to get rejected most of the time, but that if they play the “numbers game,” they will eventually “succeed,” where success is defined solely as getting one’s dick wet.

  132. Greta Christina says

    too bad you can’t apply these “which problem is bigger” questions to prostitution.

    skeptifem @ #139: If you want to debate sex work, please do so in one of the many threads in this blog which are actually about sex work. Do not derail this thread. Thank you.

  133. says

    Problem #1 is the more important of the two problems.

    After running into the various discussions about these issues with conferences (as elevatorgate extended beyond the bounds of your community) it occurred to me that perhaps a specific venue within conferences could be set aside explicitly for those who are open to making romantic connections. For example, a speed-dating setup for those looking for potential romance, or a party for those hoping to make a more casual connection. Then ban all covert or overt advances outside of those venues (even if you encounter someone from the event the night before). Obviously no still means no, within these spaces. (That’s what is nice about speed dating–you don’t have to say no to someone’s face.)

  134. says

    Then ban all covert or overt advances outside of those venues (even if you encounter someone from the event the night before).

    I…

    Erm…

    Okay, I’m sticking to the practicalities here, as trying to discuss the ethics of such measures would end up causing a serious drain on the world’s snark resources.

    How do you suggest this would be enforced?

    (I know I shouldn’t ask, but I’m genuinely fascinated.)

  135. Louis says

    I am trying to see how hard it is to distinguish the different levels of potential harm between:

    a) Not being able to say yes to sex as often as one wants is bad.

    b) Not being able to say no to sex as often as one wants is bad.

    One’s pertains to the ability to consent to something full stop, the other pertains to the possibility of accepting opportunities that come your way. That’s a pretty massive level of difference of “bad”.

    I’m married, admittedly in a marriage that enjoys a certain degree of polyamory, but even I (and even my wife) cannot simply say “yes” to every sexual opportunity that comes our way. Annoying sometimes as that might be, it would pale into insignificance, hell add up all the “missed opportunities” and they would in total pale into insignificance, besides a single instance of not being able to say “no”.

    That’s just in the realm of armchair logic, the inability to consent as often as one would like is less serious than the inability to withhold consent as often as one would like. That’s not considering culture, misogyny etc.

    Hell there even jokes that make fun of this very dichotomy (and no I am not going to tell any), it’s as old as the hills.

    Louis

  136. Bruce Gorton says

    Issue number one. It really isn’t hard.

    I do however have a question for the guys using the argument in number 2.

    Okay, we’re movement atheists. We are all people who highly value straightforward honesty to the point where we are willing to risk all sorts of deep, permanent relationships for the sake of said honesty. We all know people who have lost their families through simple honesty; we admire people who risked the ire of their entire communities for their honesty etc…

    So why would you assume movement atheist women would suddenly change on this sort of issue on something minor like whether they’re into you?

  137. says

    The former of the two options is clearly the bigger problem. I also think it is entirely possible that women sometimes play hard to get or even say ‘no’ when they mean ‘yes’, and that this fact explains virtually none of the instances in which men engage in persistent unwanted sexual advances. Irony communication is a fact of life. So are the contextual cues which make it happen.

  138. says

    @Daz

    Obviously there is no sexual harassment authority at these conferences. But the guys who argued the “elevatorgate” line would have no excuse for bad behavior if there was an official venue for their attempt to seek romance or casual sex, so if they can’t control themselves outside of that they are demonstrating that their whole position is BS, just like we all thought it was.

    Extreme behavior should get one banned from conferences, though, especially if more than one person registers a complaint with the organizers.

    Or maybe women should have separate conferences if the problem persists and few men take it seriously AS a problem. I wouldn’t go to one after hearing all of these stories filter out but I’m not the target audience for them anyway (being a woman but not an atheist).

  139. says

    Extreme behavior should get one banned from conferences, though, especially if more than one person registers a complaint with the organizers.

    Agreed, but that’s not what I asked.

  140. says

    @Daz

    As I said there are no police to enforce it so it would require self-restraint. However, making it clear as a standard of behavior might drastically reduce the occurrence and giving a specific venue where the desire to make romantic connections eliminates excuses made for doing it everywhere and all the time. The obnoxious guys who kept arguing in the elevatorgate incident that the behavior was understandable and appropriate would have no more excuses to fall back on. Of course logic didn’t much enter in to their arguments.

    I just threw that out there as a possibility. Since I’m not going to ever attend a conference my only concern is to find a way to reduce the unwanted attention women are understandably frustrated with, since I am concerned with women’s safety in general. I only heard about this on feminist blogs of various kinds, outside the skeptic community. That potential members are being turned off by this issue OUGHT to give these men food for thought. Do they want their community to grow or do they want to canvas every woman they meet at a conference so they might get laid? Would they be willing to confine their attempts to get laid to specific events within the conference with some guidelines to help women feel safe? Or do they want to drive women out of the conferences altogether? I can’t answer that for them but they should know there is a broader audience for this issue than just the people who attend conferences or directly read atheist-oriented blogs.

  141. daenyx says

    This is so far down on the thread I don’t know if it’ll get read, but what the hell. I have something to say that I haven’t seen yet.

    A lot of people have referenced male attention/persistence as being “flattering” or that we (women) are taught to perceive it as such.

    Does anyone else see how fundamentally fucked-up that is?

    I grew up hearing, from EVERY ADULT IN MY LIFE WHO EVER HAD ANYTHING TO SAY ON THE MATTER, that when a boy was giving me unwanted (verbal) attention of any sort, it was “because he likes you” and I should “be flattered” and “don’t hurt his feelings.” This directly contributed to my inability to set appropriate boundaries as a young adult, hence the abusive relationship and emotional tug-of-wars all through college.

    I should not be “flattered” by persistence. I shouldn’t need male approval to measure my worth as a human being. And now, I don’t.

    I’ll be mildly pleased by a compliment, and very pleased by actual demonstration of intellectual respect. But Flying Spaghetti Monster-damnit, if I say I’m not interested, and you keep coming after me, you are blatantly disrespecting everything about me that matters, and you can fuck right off.

  142. says

    tapatimcdaniels

    I get what you mean. I just find the idea of trying to restrict human beings—men and women—to being attracted to each other and flirting, hooking up etc, only in an officially designated ‘flirtation zone’ or whatever you’d call it, erm … unworkably simplistic. Educating men on what’s appropriate behaviour when doing these things seems more practical and reasonable.

  143. says

    Daz, you are overthinking it. Your “officially designated flirtation zone” is nothing more than an end-of-the-day mixer, or happy hour, or a meal at the hotel restaurant, or some obviously social setting (on the program or not). The professional parts, like while people are in halls waiting to hear a speaker or panel, or waiting in line to get a book signed, or walking through an expo hall, require non-sexual behavior. There’s a difference between hitting on a woman sitting in a chair waiting for a session to start and a woman sitting on a barstool surrounded by people out to have a good time.

    It’s not difficult. It’s not confusing. It’s not “unworkably simplistic.” It just requires people to let go of the idea (the idea they may not even realize they have) that women are fair game wherever they go.

    I’m pretty sure men already know what constitutes professional behavior and can tell the difference between social and professional settings. They don’t need extra education. They just need to cut it out.

  144. says

    KarenX

    I agree, but that’s not exactly the way tapatimcdaniels presented the idea.

    Certainly, people should self-police where and how they flirt, etc, and all too obviously all too many men need to learn how to self-police, but tapati’s initial comment seemed (to me—and if I’ve read it wrongly, I apologise) to be suggesting a more imposed and unworkable structure. As I mentioned in my first reply to her, the part that really jumped at me was:

    Then ban all covert or overt advances outside of those venues (even if you encounter someone from the event the night before). [My emphasis]

    Which kinda looks a lot like the straw-feminism that a lot of MRAs and the like have been accusing many of us of advocating.

  145. says

    Daz, to me, it looks like you focusing on the word “ban” is creating a strawman argument and that “imposing” social hour as separate from professional time is not an actual imposition or tricky, and is something conferences of all kinds already have as a matter of course.

    Maybe I’m misreading the way tapatimcdaniels originally presented the idea, and if I am, I apologize, but the suggestions to establish explicitly social venues and declare professional conference settings off-limits for sexual pursuit seem pretty straightforward, and worrying about enforcement is creating false problems. Conference leaders have enforcement strategies in place for any number of things. It’s not reinventing the wheel here. And to me, this all adds up to more than a whiff of “too hard don’t bother carry on with the way we’ve always done it women are fair game.”

    And banning repeat offenders from future conferences (all you have to do is refuse to register them) is a form of enforcement.

  146. says

    KarenX, you read me correctly.

    Dax, by “ban” I was just suggesting that for the terminally clueless it be made explicit, perhaps in conference sign up materials, that the main part of the conference is for, well, the actual focus of the conference rather than a free-for-all opportunity to keep hitting on women. This is what women have been trying to say makes them uncomfortable whether in an elevator or elsewhere. Giving open opportunities for flirtation such as KarenX described provides an outlet for that and if women don’t attend it is understood that they weren’t ever interested in romance or casual sex in the first place. :)

  147. says

    KarenX

    It’s possible I’m reading more into her wording than was meant.

    I have to object to this though:

    And to me, this all adds up to more than a whiff of “too hard don’t bother carry on with the way we’ve always done it women are fair game.”

    I’ve neither said nor implied any such thing, and have actually stated in this very conversation that men need to be educated into changing their attitudes and behaviours, and have agreed that serial offenders should be banned and expulsed.

  148. says

    Daz, I know you have stated that men need to be educated into changing their attitudes and behaviors. I personally think that spending time educating men is a deflective strategy, on the grounds that men generally already know how to act professionally around people and just don’t wanna around women, and that worrying about if women have done enough work teaching them before they can hold men accountable for their behaviors is another way to make it women’s fault somehow if men behave badly at conferences.

    But that’s a delineation I made myself, and I don’t claim that it’s universally recognized as such, and your mileage may vary.

  149. says

    They’re adults—hold them accountable anyway. “This is what happens to those who act immorally” followed by a swift boot to the backside is definitely a form of education; and not just to the ones being booted.

  150. Marcel Kincaid says

    So, not being allowed free reign to sexuall harrass women is like getting your head cut off, huh.

    I wrote a serious comment and you blew it off and thoroughly misrepresented it. Your comment supports my point about coming across as an intellectually dishonest ideologue, especially with your sexist comments about “boys”.

    I think that is an unfair reading of what marcel said.

    I understood Marcel’s comment as meaning …

    Yes, thank you.

    Marcel apparently wants to rule out “the person you are doing it do doesn’t want you to” as a reason to not do something

    Another misrepresentation. My point, clearly, was that what I was responding to implied that one can know, a priori, that something is unwelcome. While some behaviors are almost certainly unwelcome by the majority of people, there are people who welcome and even desire certain forms of flirtation, and there are people who do not desire the very same forms of flirtation. Either one is disallowed, a priori (my rulebook), in engaging in those behaviors with anyone, or people are put in a situation where they can only find out that something was unwelcome after the fact.

    which is an utterly stupid attitude to social interaction

    Again reinforcing my point about coming across like an ideologue who is more interested in feeling superior to the other than in actually solving anything.

  151. Marcel Kincaid says

    I don’t even know what constitutes ‘hitting on’ someone or not, leading me to just err on the side of caution and be more silent because I don’t know how to make an appropriate advance even just for conversation.

    I agree with Dhorvath at number 16. Junk the bullshit, and the attendant misunderstandings, in favor of open and honest conversation.

    That’s along the lines of what I was talking about. If we want to ban certain behaviors at conferences, then we should be a priori explicit about what is and is not allowed. But “I didn’t welcome that, I’m having you thrown out of the conference” creates a very undesirable atmosphere.

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