Unmixing Messages: Nudity, Sex, and Hooking Up at Atheist Conferences


If some atheist women pose nude for a calendar, does this have implications for the question of sexual conduct at atheist conferences?

My attention was recently called to a blog post by John Loftus at Debunking Christianity, in which he addresses (among other things) this question. I quote:

Some high profile secular women have undressed for a Nude Photo Revolutionary Calendar, which is promoted by some of the women at Freethought Blogs and includes Greta Christina and Maryam Namazie in solidarity with blogger Aliaa Magda Elmahdy, who posted a nude photo of herself as a scream “against a society of violence, racism, sexism, sexual harassment and hypocrisy.” Others participated in Boobquake. Skepchick regularly posts something called “Skepchick Quickies” (*ahem*). The message is clear to me, that women can use their bodies as they see fit. I understand that completely. Men do not own the bodies of women. (No, I’m not interested at all thank you very much).

But this sends a mixed message to some ignorant young men now doesn’t it? It’s not surprising to me that some of them may think some secular women are “available.” It can create an environment at Freethought conventions where some men may look to hook up. Thunderf00t is asking what’s wrong with that in the bars afterward? Hooking up is what some people want to do (men and women). Knowing which ones want to do so is another question. How are some of these men supposed to know?

I was unaware that my posing for the Nude Photo Revolutionary Calendar was sending a “mixed message,” or indeed any kind of message, about people having sex at conferences. But if there’s anyone reading this for whom these messages are getting mixed, let me un-mix them posthaste.

First, let me get this out of the way before we go any further: The question of whether I — or anyone else, of any gender or any level of prominence — posed nude for a calendar? This is entirely unrelated to the question of whether people like to hook up for sex at conferences. I am frankly baffled as to why these questions are being seen as relevant to each other, or how the former could be seen as a “message,” mixed or otherwise, about the latter.

So let’s talk for a moment about hooking up for sex at conferences. Yes, some people like to do this. Some men like to do this; some women like to do this; some trans and gender-fluid people who don’t identify as one gender or another like to do this. There is nothing wrong with this. There are some things wrong with some of the ways that some people go about doing it — but there is nothing wrong with the basic idea of hooking up at conferences. Some people at conferences like to do this…

…and some people don’t. Some people are open to this possibility — and some are not. Some people who enjoy socializing at bars during conferences are solely interested in socializing of the non-hooking-up variety. And some people who are interested in hooking up will nevertheless not be interested in hooking up with you. A general interest in the possibility of hooking up does not imply a specific interest in hooking up with any particular person.

So yes, if you’re interested in hooking up at atheist conferences, knowing which other people might share this interest — as an interest in general, or with you in particular — is not always obvious. So if you’re at a conference hotel bar, and you’re trying to figure out which people there also want to hook up — and which among those number might be interested in hooking up with you — how are you supposed to know?

You ask them.

Not right off the bat, of course. There are some settings in which etiquette permits introducing yourself to strangers by asking if they want to have sex with you — but hotel bars at conferences are, as far as I can tell, not among them. So you start by conversing on other topics. You see if you establish a rapport. You behave in slightly flirtatious ways, and see if these are met with a withdrawal or a response in kind. If it seems that things are moving forward with this, you behave in slightly more flirtatious ways. If this seems to be moving forward, and you want to try establishing physical contact — you ask them if they would be interested in that.

This seems to be a tricky concept for some people. So I’ll spell it out again: If you are interested in having sex with someone, the person you need to consult about it is the person you’re interested in.

You do not, however, consult the question of whether some atheist bloggers posed nude for a calendar. Or whether they participated in a mock scientific experiment designed to make fun of the hypothesis that female immodesty causes earthquakes. Or whether they title their quick-summary-of-interesting-links blog posts with the mildly double-entendre title of “quickies.”

These activities are not what create an environment at atheist conferences where people look to hook up. What creates an environment where people look to hook up is the fact that human beings are descended from thousands of generations of animals who replicated their DNA through sexual reproduction, and we have evolved to be extremely interested in sex. Yes, some social occasions are more sexually charged than others — sex parties more so, funerals not so much — but conventions and conferences have long been environments where some people hook up, since well before I posed nude for a calendar. And I suspect this is true for atheist conferences as well. Yes, some secular men do think of some secular women as sexually available — most likely because some of them are, as are some secular people of all genders. I have only been attending atheist conferences for a couple of years, but I strongly suspect that people have been hooking up at them long before Boobquake or Skepchick Quickies or the Nude Photo Revolutionary Calendar.

Now. As it happens, the Nude Photo Revolutionary Calendar was not intended to be erotic or pornographic. (If I were to permit myself a tangent, I might write a brief discourse here on the notion that nudity automatically implies sex.) But let’s say, for the sake of argument, that the calendar was intended to be erotic. Or let’s say, for the sake of argument, that I had recently participated in some entirely different project that was intended to be erotic. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that I recently performed in an explicit adult video — let’s call it “Mixologist Spanking Gangbang Vol. 9″ with Belladonna and Maggie Mayhem — and posted trailers for the film on my blog.

How would that, in any way, be relevant to the question of whether people are looking to hook up at atheist conferences?

How would my performance in “Mixologist Spanking Gangbang Vol. 9″ send any kind of message whatsoever about whether other women at atheist conferences may or may not be available for hooking up?

And if some people took this bizarre leap of logic, and mistakenly interpreted my performance in “Mixologist Spanking Gangbang Vol. 9″ as creating an environment at atheist conventions where some men may look to hook up and might think that some women would be interested in that… how would that be that my responsibility?

It occurs to me that we may be facing one of Natalie Reed’s classic Catches-22. If women display our bodies, if we discuss our sexuality or make sexual jokes or talk about sex in a positive way, we are accused of (among other things) sending mixed messages about whether we — we personally, or women generally — are sexually available. But if we don’t, if we conceal our bodies and veer away from the topic of sex, we are accused of being uptight, sex-hating, no-fun prudes.

But I suppose that’s a bit of a tangent. The message I am trying to convey, hopefully now unmixed, is this: Some people, of all genders, like to hook up at conferences. Some do not. If you want to know which ones are which, consult (after an appropriate introductory interlude) the people in question. Do not consult the question of whether atheist bloggers of any gender are posing nude for calendars. It is not relevant. Thank you.

Related post:
What I May Do With My Naked Body: A Reply to Azar Majedi About the #NudePhotoRevolutionaries Calendar

Comments

  1. embertine says

    A) I would totally watch that movie. B) Are we still doing the “women acting in any way sexual creates de facto consent for anything else I may want to do to them now or at any time in the future” thing? SERIOUSLY???

    If the message is getting mangled on the way to “ignorant young men”, then maybe those men need to wise the fuck up and stop putting the onus on us to educate their pathetic asses.

  2. says

    I’ve been sitting with this window open for 5 minutes just trying to find some observation cleverer than WTF is wrong with some people, but that’s about all I’ve got.

    Wait, found something – this idea that any one woman’s behaviour has anything to do with any other woman’s sexual intentions is one of the most bizarre arguments I’ve yet seen, truly. And why do they keep framing it as “availability” instead of “interest” or “desire”? It stinks of the idea that a woman who signals sexual interest in any one person should be just as interested in everybody else (and thus lose her agency over who she actually wants), which is one of the most toxic sexual myths out there.

  3. John W. Loftus says

    I agree completely with your assessment Greta. It’s surprising that it even needs to be said.

  4. embertine says

    Good point, tigtog. As though women are like packets of bagels in a store, waiting to be picked up by any hungry shopper.

    I’m technically “available”; that sure as hell does not mean I am necessarily “interested”.

    Grrr, sorry, am ornery this morning. Not enough cake.

  5. says

    I am baffled too, it seems like some men confuse the notion that a woman happens to like sex means that the woman should want to have sex with them (the man) in particular.

    It further seems that when these men ask (often is awkward or inappropriate contexts) and are turned down they seem to think that the woman was a tease, when in fact they may just be choosy and have every right to be so.

  6. says

    It’s kind of a common … idea, I guess, that sex is a binary choice. Like, you either protect your “virtue” or not, and if you don’t, then you have to have sex with everyone, or else you’re being mean by indicating that that person is not “good enough” for you.

  7. axolotl says

    Definitely with you about that. Just straight up proposing sex? Creepy. Don’t do that! Why not just go for coffee first or something, see how it goes. I can’t believe there are people who have a problem with such a simple thing.

  8. says

    But this sends a mixed message to some ignorant young men now doesn’t it? It’s not surprising to me that some of them may think some secular women are “available.” It can create an environment at Freethought conventions where some men may look to hook up. Thunderf00t is asking what’s wrong with that in the bars afterward? Hooking up is what some people want to do (men and women). Knowing which ones want to do so is another question. How are some of these men supposed to know?

    There’s so much wrong in that paragraph it’s hard to decide where to start.

    First there’s the problem with the ignorant young men. So far in history, the only working solution for ignorance has been education. Avoiding situations in which their ignorance is showing is NOT a solution.

    The next one is the privileged assumption that the message that is sent has anything to do with them. Yes, I know, it’s hard, but come to terms with it, the world does not revolve around your penises. Those selfish women often don’t spend a mere second thinking about your penises when they get dressed or undressed.

    It doesn’t surprise me any more than Loftus that they might draw the false conclusion that those women are avaible than it surprises me that people thought the sun revolved around the earth. It’s just that it’s wrong and the solution is not making the facts fit their opinion.

    Thunderfoot was asking stupid questions strawmanning the whole conversation to a degree I wouldn’t have thought possible after the last year.

    And how are they supposed to know? I mean yeah, women are mysterious beings who communicate in ways completely alien to men. Unless we’re (not) wearing item X.
    I mean, how are you supposed to know whether somebody would like a soda or a beer when they’re standing at the bar?

  9. Peter says

    Well, there goes any benefit of the doubt that I was willing to extend to John Loftus.

  10. julian says

    There’s two things I see being at play here. 1) we (young men and boys) are told that this is how women signal their ‘avaliability’. And 2)rationalizing after the fact. Obviously the two feed into each other but one is honest obliviousness (which still does’t make it excusable) and the other is predatory behavior. 1) one could easily be someone not sure of how to handle social situations (and not necesarily a shy guy. Just someone grossly mislead by general attitudes towards sexuality) while 2) would be those creeps who walk up to Jen McCreight, snap a picture of her chest and say “those are nice.”

    ((Sorry for errors and such. Typing on phone. Laptop has given me the finger.))

  11. Justin Griffith says

    10/10

    This seems to be a tricky concept for some people. So I’ll spell it out again: If you are interested in having sex with someone, the person you need to consult about it is the person you’re interested in.

    You do not, however, consult the question of whether some atheist bloggers posed nude for a calendar.

    This was my favorite part.

  12. Ray Moscow says

    But you have to admit that the modern practice of women, and even some men, going naked underneath their clothes gives confusing, mixed signals to men.

    Seriously: thanks for another clarifying post, Greta.

  13. Dunc says

    Yes, I know, it’s hard, but come to terms with it, the world does not revolve around your penises.

    Fnarr fnarr…

    Sorry.

  14. ischemgeek says

    Here’s my take:

    But this sends a mixed message to some ignorant young men now doesn’t it? It’s not surprising to me that some of them may think some secular women are “available.”

    No, it doesn’t. It sends the message that the person who owns a particular body’s sexuality is the person who enhabits it. Which is exactly the message we’re trying to send. Second, nice slut-shaming there. Third, that A is “available” in the sense of being receptive to casual sex does not mean that A is necessarily available to B. B might not be A’s type. A might think B is too drunk. A might just not be in the mood tonight. Whatever. A is the one who gets to decide A’s availability, not B, regardless of B’s perceptions of A’s prior acts.

    It can create an environment at Freethought conventions where some men may look to hook up.

    You miss the fact that some men act like this no matter where you go and that not all men who act like this are ignorant or young. Many are old and knowledgable enough to know better. Many men who act like this do so in wholly asexual environments, like university classrooms. Some men I’ve worked with in real live continue to act like that literally moments after they’ve left a seminar on sensitivity training and sexual harassment! Ignorance and misperception are not the problems here. the problem is a willful disregard for other people.

    Thunderf00t is asking what’s wrong with that in the bars afterward? Hooking up is what some people want to do (men and women). Knowing which ones want to do so is another question. How are some of these men supposed to know?

    No, Thunderf00t was telling everyone that there’s nothing wrong with anything like that and everyone who disagrees is irrational and stupid because he’s never seen or experienced the problem and therefore it doesn’t exist. He wasn’t asking anything (not in good faith, at least). As for what’s wrong: *snark* Gee, I don’t know. What could be possibly wrong with treating women like we don’t have a right to decide for ourselves who will touch us and what we’ll do with whom? */snark*

    If you want to hook up, that’s fine. Go for it. But, here’s the thing: Talk to people. Get to know them. If you find someone you’d like to hook up with, talk to that person. Flirt a bit. Get to know each others’ boundaries, and if a boundary is erected, back off. If someone declines you, don’t pressure. Finally: At no point should you treat the person you’re interested in as an object of your desire. That way, if you get laid, you know the person you’re coupling with is with you because that person finds you attractive and wants to be there with you at that time. If not, you might meet interesting people, and you don’t have to worry that maybe you pressured someone into an unwanted situation.

    Regarding your post, Greta, I think this hits the nail on the head:

    It occurs to me that we may be facing one of Natalie Reed’s classic Catches-22. If women display our bodies, if we discuss our sexuality or make sexual jokes or talk about sex in a positive way, we are accused of (among other things) sending mixed messages about whether we — we personally, or women generally — are sexually available. But if we don’t, if we conceal our bodies and veer away from the topic of sex, we are accused of being uptight, sex-hating, no-fun prudes.

    If you’ll forgive my rather amateur musing on it (I have nowhere near the feminist chops of you, Natalie, and other bloggers here), I think the issue is partly that and partly the fact that our sexuality is commonly perceived as binary: A woman is either a slut or she’s virginal and pure. I cannot remember the last time I saw a character who was portrayed as somewhere in between. It’s a common and destructive meme. Even when a woman who is not a slut has sex, she is an object of conquest for the main character who overcomes her pure nature.

    There are exceptions: a few of the books I read as a teenager had female characters who owned their own sexualities, but those were books by women for teenage girls written with explicit feminist subtexts. One small subset, written by a handful of authors, all but one of whom in my experience were female. Which kind of comes back to how women are portrayed in media as a whole, but that’s a whole nother topic.

    Anyway, this is probably rather incoherent because it’s too early the morning after a long weekend where I live, but: I think it all comes down to how society as a whole still doesn’t really accept women as people with all the variation and quirks inherent. They try and categorize us in set archetypes, and if we don’t fit, it’s our fault for sending mixed messages rather than their fault for trying to sort us like inventory.

  15. ischemgeek says

    … that last one was not supposed to be a nested blockquote. Forgot to preview, sorry. I said it was early.

  16. penn says

    Loftus’s whole argument comes off as concern trolling. He says “But this sends a mixed message to some ignorant young men now doesn’t it?” He makes it clear that he doesn’t think this, but some set of vaguely ignorant young men could. He’s one of the reasonable people, like you, but he’s concerned about how those unreasonable people will understand these messages. He never articulates why we should worry about what some set of vaguely ignorant people think. They could literally think almost anything depending on their level of ignorance, and they would need to be quite ignorant indeed to conflate posing naked, showing cleavage for skepticism, or the name of a daily link update with being sexually available to them at conferences. A person with that level of ignorance could think that having an odd number room number in the conference hotel means someone is available for sex with them. They could literally think anything about anything for essentially no reason at all. It’s completely worthless to speculate, and I do wonder what Loftus’s point is, if it’s not just concern trolling.

  17. julian says

    Really don’t get why everyone’s reading bad motives into Loftus’ bit. It was not well phrased but it’s an interesting question to follow. Why do so many men misinterpret behavior or why do so many pretend to?

  18. says

    I think Loftus is trying to be subtle in his inquiry about whether the calendar was wearing a short skirt, or if the Skepchick Quickies was maybe asking for it by having a few drinks and getting flirty.

  19. klatu says

    Listen, sex is a big motivator in life, something I argued is too strong for some human beings to handle

    Oh brother.

    But this sends a mixed message […]

    To help combat this problem Al Stefanelli reports that American Atheists now have an official policy regarding harassment at events, and guess what, one of the rules is no touching others without prior permission. Yep, that’s right, “Don’t Ask or No Touch.”

    Wait, he’s against these policies because he thinks women at conferences might be available?
    What. The. Christ!

    Is this really the voice of an organization that represents reason? […] This AA statement places the burden on the person doing the touching.

    Damn straight, it does!

    The bottom line is that people, most all of us, use what we’ve got to get what we want. If we’re attractive we use that to get what we want. If we’re muscular we use that to get what we want. If we have money we use that to get what we want.

    He’s not just committing an Is-Ought fallacy, he’s specifically making a Might-Makes-Right argument. How wrong can you possibly be?

    I weep for Ignorant Young Men™! They have the worst spokesperson.

  20. says

    It can create an environment at Freethought conventions where some men may look to hook up. Thunderf00t is asking what’s wrong with that in the bars afterward?

    That’s certainly a charitable reading of Thunderf00t’s concerns. I haven’t seen anyone arguing that men shouldn’t look to hook up at bars outside of conventions (except maybe PZ Myers). Thunderf00t is arguing that conferences shouldn’t have harassment policies, that harassment isn’t a big deal, and that the real problem with harassment is that people are talking about it too much. That’s a bit more objectionable that “what’s wrong with hooking up?”

  21. Tyrant al-Kalām says

    But you have to admit that the modern practice of women, and even some men, going naked underneath their clothes gives confusing, mixed signals to men.

    What, we are naked under our clothes???. *sound of 50 million bible belt puritans collectively fainting on their couches.*

  22. Josh says

    I have had friends that have done Rocky Horror floor shows, which tends to be a very sex-positive atmosphere, and what happens is that some awkward and clueless people are drawn toward that milieu because it looks like sex might be easier to get there. What they end up learning (sometimes) is that it may be more available, but that doesn’t mean you can just reach out and take what you want without asking. “Sex positive” does not equal “free-for-all,” yet people confuse the two, either unwittingly or because it’s a convenient excuse.

  23. Peter says

    Julian@11:

    I don’t see how you get that John Loftus agrees with Greta. I really don’t.

    Aside from conflating the whole calendar thing with the conduct at conferences thing…which is, at its heart, a massive red herring as Greta indicates…my reaction to the “This AA statement places the burden on the person doing the touching” was basically the same as klatu’s. Of COURSE the burden is on the person doing the touching.

    Loftus’ post is a wonderful way to live in a fantasyland where there are no creeps and everyone is perfectly rational and treats everyone else as equals. In this world Loftus is just plain ignorant and worse, refusing to listen.

    (And then for bonus points there’s the “Apart from the ban on perfume and fragrances (is there a problem?)…” bit. Yes, there’s a problem, and if John Loftus was vaguely curious person perhaps he’d dig a little and try to learn what the problem is instead of casually dismissing it. But that’s just a symptom of the larger problem, methinks.)

  24. says

    Is this really the voice of an organization that represents reason? Not on that score I’m sure of it. If someone touches your shoulder and you don’t want him to do so then step back. If he persists then say something to him. If he does it again then get some help from others. It’s that simple. This AA statement places the burden on the person doing the touching.

    Shocking!
    I mean, that’s like asking people not to rape instead of asking people to make sure they’re not raped!

  25. says

    Peter @ 24:

    I don’t see how you get that John Loftus agrees with Greta. I really don’t.

    He says so in #3. All I can think of is he was concern-trolling, like penn speculates.

  26. Dunc says

    Peter @24: I think you may be missing comment #3 in this thread, (ostensibly) from John W. Loftus, which says “I agree completely with your assessment Greta. It’s surprising that it even needs to be said.”

  27. cassmorrison says

    I’m with Peter on the topic of John Lofthus. I thought he had some interesting things to say but his weird focus on FtB is just weird and your dismantling of his argument is right on. If there are some ignorant young men attending conferences then they absolutely need to know that they will not be getting any cover from event organizers for inappropriate behavior towards others.

    I’m sure that skeptic/freethought cons are no different than other venues wrt harassment but they should be because these people claim to think critically about accepted ideas.

  28. Peter says

    You’re right, I had missed that comment. I also find it impossible to reconcile with the blog post.

  29. fmcp says

    I’ve been hero worshipping Greta for a while now (because of all the awesome), but this is my first time posting here. My first impulse was to post over at Loftus’s blog, since he’s the person I wanted to address. Then I read his comment section. I’m appalled, and I don’t want to be part of that conversation.

    Here’s my question, though: these “ignorant young men” probably aren’t reading Greta’s blog, or any of the other sex positive feminists. They’re all talking to each other, and feeding each others anger and self-righteousness. So how do we effectively deal with their ignorance? Loftus sure isn’t helping

    Oh, and by the way, in my experience the ignorant men are rarely all that young.

  30. CT says

    In one of his video’s Thunderf00t mentions that he gets more hits than the largest Christian denominational website does, the Catholic Church.

    Awww, but you know, it’s not about the hits or anything, it’s about spreading teh knowledge. /rage sarcasm

  31. CT says

    crap, hit submit too soon.

    But this sends a mixed message to some ignorant young men now doesn’t it? It’s not surprising to me that some of them may think some secular women are “available.”

    Yes, anything they do that seems to indicate that they know what sex is immediately means that’s what they are all about.

    such logic! /sarcasm

  32. CT says

    You’re right, I had missed that comment. I also find it impossible to reconcile with the blog post.

    I dunno. Maybe her response made him change his mind?

  33. Erista (aka Eris) says

    God, I find that post creepy. I wonder what John Loftus meant, given his comment in this thread. Because that post up there just reeks of the whole, “Well, she had sex with one man/was sexual in one situation, so that means she should have sex with any man who wants to have sex with her” mentality.

    No no no no no no no.

    *shiver shiver*

  34. says

    How? Just… How?! I can’t even begin to wrap my head around how anyone could walk away from a nude calendar with the interpretation that the women in it are automatically available for sex. Leaving aside the assumption that nudity = sex, as you mentioned, even if it was intended to be erotic, HOW does that translate to making the leap that the women posing for the photos are interested in hooking up? How does that even further, by a stretch that is way beyond my ability to understand, become a source of confusion for poor, dopey men who see boobies and assume the atmosphere is rife for casual sex? This guy does know that there are married male and female actors in pornography who are married, right?

    Beyond frustrated and confused right now.

  35. Sarah says

    I read his post a day or two ago and I’ve been struggling to explain what exactly made me so mad. I’ve got it now.

    By his logic, I have to wear a burka and never ever use a term that could possibly be related to sex again. Otherwise I’m saying that it’s totally ok to sexually harass me, that in fact I want it.

    His argument is just another version of “she was askin’ for it”.

  36. says

    John’s argument basically amounts to nothing more than “men are just poor impulsive children when it comes to sex and they can’t be held accountable if a woman catches their eye” In no other part of an adult’s life is “i want it, if you have it, it’s your fault if I act inappropriately,” an acceptable argument, and yet, that’s what he’s saying.

    If you post pictures of your new laptop online, are you saying you want other people to use it whether you’ve discussed this or not? Does that mean everyone has a right to use your computer if they want to? Have you tantalized people and sent them mixed signals by posting appealing pictures of your new computer equipment? The argument sounds obviously absurd when applied to anything else you own, why doesn’t it sound absurd to some people when discussing one’s own body?

  37. Brad says

    Maybe we should have a “atheskeptifeminism and hookup” con, the people who want that can go there, and we lean on the idea that few people are rich enough to go to tons of cons. Like how people going to Women in Secularism as their one con of the year meant they aren’t going to, say, TAM.

    Or just scheduled “singles night” type events at existing cons, which is an idea I’ve seen floated on FTB before.

  38. smhll says

    “HOW does that translate to making the leap that the women posing for the photos are interested in hooking up?”

    It suggests that they might be not very inhibited? Which someone enthusiastic about having sex with women might find slightly encouraging? (I’m just translating what I think fans of the calendar might be thinking, um, with their groins.)

    So, religious folk think women are “occasions of sin”. Apparently, ignorant and or horny young men atheists (and their older blogger advocates) think women are lust creators . As in “you created that lust; you have to clean it up.”

    I am exaggerating to make a point. (Not a point that I support.)

  39. ben says

    Do you really think Loftus would have sex with someone without asking? I think “You ask them.” begs the question. OF COURSE you ask them. Duh (kind of the definition of not-a-rapist). The question is: why would you write a blog post about other, less direct, ways of acquiring hints as to what the answer might be? I’d like to dig into a theory that I just pulled out of my ass that might help to explain the motivation for the blog post, rather than just answering the question it asks.

    If at some point in the conversation you ask someone “Would you like to have sex?” and the answer is “No”, that’s cool. But if you ask “Would you like to have sex?” and the answer is “You horrible creeper! You’re harassing me! I’m going to warn all of my friends to shun you!” then the question becomes “Chicks be crazy! Alright, so what signs indicate whether the question is appropriate?” Now some women (and a few men) are very straightforward and willing to say what they want, and some are not. The latter demand a ridiculous guessing game–does posing for a calendar suggest sex-positivity and sexual playfulness? Does it mean that someone is more likely to answer with a sane “No” rather than a freakout?

    Obviously there are procedures for escalating intimacy in a way that respects the less comfortable party. But that’s about reading signs and understanding a rather subtle language that us guys are well known to have trouble with, and that is highly dependent on things such as how the less comfortable person’s last lover was like and what they had for breakfast–there’s no standard protocol! It absolutely makes sense to me that looking for other signs, such as signs of non-prudishness, might contribute to not getting yelled at.

    How “Body-positive attitudes are not uncommon at atheist conferences” might imply “Plenty of atheists want to hook up” is left as an exercise for the reader.

  40. says

    Richard -Dawkins has a daughter. Therefore he has had sex. Therefore anybody who studies biology is obviously available for sex with me whenever I want it, regardless of my appearance, behavior or personal hygiene.
    /sarcasm.

  41. baal says

    I’m sympathetic to horny young men. I was one once and it was awkward to deal with. I wasn’t alone in that discomfort but I’m glad I didn’t have a bunch of commentors back then shaming me for being human (or insisting I just needed to get over it).

    That said, Loftus needs to stop making any comments whatsoever about FTB or its various bloggers – they all come off as weird pot shots and whatever their substance is gets lost. FTBers shouldn’t troll there either but I’ve not been there often enough to see that happen.

    Finally, um yeah, total non-sequitur to suggest the calendar bespeaks consent to random anything.

  42. embertine says

    I have no problem with the idea of hooking up, with singles nights, with people wearing buttons saying “I am up for casual sex!”, with people trolling for sex on Craigslist, or whatever if that’s what they want to do.

    None of this takes away to responsibility of potential sexual partners to OBTAIN CONSENT. This is not a difficult thing to do, no reports in triplicate needed. This stuff is only difficult because those who do not care about consent are annoyed at being expected to care about it.

  43. says

    “It suggests that they might be not very inhibited? Which someone enthusiastic about having sex with women might find slightly encouraging?”

    Yes, it suggests a lack of inhibition. I don’t think that it is even remotely logical to make the leap from “uninhibited and sex positive” to “interested in hooking up.” In Greta’s case, for example, she is quite open about her longterm and committed relationship. So how does a woman in a monogamous (I’m assuming, I’ve read nothing to the contrary so correct me if I’m wrong, Greta) relationship posing nude in a calendar suggest that she is available for casual sex?

    I know you were posing a hypothetical, but I’m just trying to work through the logic there. Uninhibited and enthusiastic about sex are still not even remotely indicators that created “mixed signals” because they do not suggest availability.

  44. says

    If at some point in the conversation you ask someone “Would you like to have sex?” and the answer is “No”, that’s cool. But if you ask “Would you like to have sex?” and the answer is “You horrible creeper! You’re harassing me! I’m going to warn all of my friends to shun you!” then the question becomes “Chicks be crazy! Alright, so what signs indicate whether the question is appropriate?” Now some women (and a few men) are very straightforward and willing to say what they want, and some are not. The latter demand a ridiculous guessing game–does posing for a calendar suggest sex-positivity and sexual playfulness? Does it mean that someone is more likely to answer with a sane “No” rather than a freakout?

    Just for the sake of argument… So what? So what if the woman you proposition “freaks out” on you?

    Let’s say for the sake of argument that this hypothetical woman who as just “freaked out” on you is the victim of rape or serial harassment or has a stalker she is currently dealing with. Is it acceptable now?

    And hinting that someone isn’t sane for freaking out on you is ableist bullshit. Calling someone not sane a.k.a. crazy, is fucked up in the extreme. Just because someone doesn’t react the way you want them to doesn’t mean they are mentally ill. And you’re putting a black mark on people who are mentally ill.

    Also? Posing nude in a calendar has nothing to do with what that woman will do when propositioned for sex. That’s like me saying that if I see a man wearing tight pants he obvious is looking to get laid because he’s trying to show off his “assets.” Let’s not make assumptions about people because we see them do things that could be sexual. (Hint: That Calendar is not sexual. And those “come hither stares” commenters in Loftus’ thread are claiming to see in that calendar, still don’t mean it’s sexual.)

  45. Onamission5 says

    I would ask Loftus to replace Nude Photo Revolutionary Calendar with Hot Firefighter Guys of XYZ City Calendar and see if his concerns still stand. Does the fact that some male firefighters pose in their skivvies for calendars create an environment where all firefighters risk sexual harassment while trying to do their jobs, or in which no male person can be present at a fire station without getting groped? If the answer is no, then his point about calendars is moot.

  46. dysomniak, darwinian socialist says

    @John Loftus #3 If you agree with this article then don’t you think an apology and/or clarification is in order? After all, you’re the reason we’re having this conversation that we shouldn’t even need to.

  47. says

    But this sends a mixed message to some ignorant young men now doesn’t it?

    You gave to charity, so how was I supposed to know it wasn’t okay to mug you?

  48. Kazim says

    John W. Loftus says:
    July 3, 2012 at 5:52 am
    I agree completely with your assessment Greta. It’s surprising that it even needs to be said

    …Wait, what?

  49. says

    So much wrong here…

    If at some point in the conversation you ask someone “Would you like to have sex?” and the answer is “No”, that’s cool.

    Really, are we sure that’s cool? Are we positive?

    But if you ask “Would you like to have sex?” and the answer is “You horrible creeper! You’re harassing me! I’m going to warn all of my friends to shun you!” then the question becomes “Chicks be crazy!…”

    No, chicks be individuals with individual preferences and experiences. Not crazy. Although some “chicks” also have mental illness, that has zero bearing on how interested they are in hooking up with you. If the reaction is “chicks be crazy” then we can be pretty sure the speaker is an ableist misogynist, and the question now becomes, “How can we discourage this bigot from inflicting his ignorance on innocent people?” Reporting him to the conference organizers would not be a crazy act by any stretch of the imagination.

    “…Alright, so what signs indicate whether the question is appropriate?”

    There are zero signs to be found in a calendar, the title of a blog post, or any other place that is not the person’s face and body.

    Now some women (and a few men) are very straightforward and willing to say what they want, and some are not.

    Some women get punished dreadfully for being frank about what they want, if the things they want involve being a sexual being. But I suppose it would be asking too much to expect these Ignorant Young Men™ to understand that and take it into account. No, it is OUR burden to constantly psychoanalyze these poor helpless boys and cater to their ignorance.

    The latter demand a ridiculous guessing game–does posing for a calendar suggest sex-positivity and sexual playfulness?

    Probably, but it doesn’t mean that the person in question feels positive about sex or play with YOU. Is that really so hard to understand?

    Does it mean that someone is more likely to answer with a sane “No” rather than a freakout?

    Way to accuse women who report harassers of being insane, crazy bitches. Of course there’s no legitimate reason to be upset about being harassed, it’s just a “crazy freakout”.

    Thanks for that ugly glimpse into the mind of the developmentally delayed, entitled man-boy. Are you a native or just passing through?

  50. julian says

    @dysomniak

    I think the reason we’re having this conversation are people like ben (the kind of guy I pointed out in 2) of my first comment. The kind looking to rationalize why why a woman should be available rather than admitting fault on their end.)

  51. says

    @ben #41

    You are at a skeptic event, someone comes up to you and tries to sell you a t-shirt, you say “no” they keep pressing you, telling you about the construction, the printing process, the charity it supports. You say no. They storm off and call you a cheap bastard.

    A few minutes later, another person comes up and interrupts a conversation you are having. They keep getting way too close and you step back and tell them, again nicely, no, I’m not interested, thanks. They storm off muttering what a jerk you are.

    This keeps happening throughout the night, people interrupting you trying to get you to buy stuff you are not interested in. Someone says you have a really nice watch, you must be able to afford it, what’s the big deal?

    At what point do you stop being polite and start telling people off? How often are you expected to respond reasonably to people who are asking you for things you don’t want to give them and then insulting you for saying no? Do you think it’s possible that the 10th person, who probably didn’t see you saying no to the previous 9 people, might think that maybe you over reacted a little to an innocent query and hey, they just thought you liked t-shirts. Do you really think no one should be able to buy or sell t-shirts?

    You may or may not like t-shirts, you may or may not want to buy one, but if you are at an event where you feel like you can’t just enjoy yourself and have a conversation without someone giving you the hard sell, there’s a point where you are going to get fed up. It’s just not fun and it may make you turn down purchasing something you would have otherwise been interested in.

  52. dysomniak, darwinian socialist says

    @julian this post is a direct rebuttal of Loftus and he says “It’s surprising that it even needs to be said”. He brought up (and indeed seemed to justify) this kind of assumption in his blog post, along with a bunch of other horseshit about “chicks be crazy”. If he agrees with what Greta is saying then surely some further explanation is warranted.

  53. John Horstman says

    Jesus Fucking Christ! They’re trying to kill all of the not-misogynists by making our heads explode. If I have to hear one more “that just how people act” non sequitur, I swear…

    We struggle with each other for more power, money and/or sex, or we use money, power and/or sex as ways to gain more of what we want.

    Once more, with feeling: just because some people DO behave this way doesn’t mean that anyone SHOULD behave this way. It’s all right there – Loftus thinks using unequal power relationships to get what we want is fine and dandy. While not exactly pro-privilege, he’s basically arguing that privilege is an inevitability, with the subtext that we shouldn’t try to fight it. Apparently Loftus doesn’t realize that people have cognitive systems in place that don’t rely solely on immediate desires, but in fact allow us to evaluate potential actions against abstracted models like market projections or ethical frames.

    See, John, when we realize that trying to get what we want might harm someone, some of us think that it’s not okay to get what we want at someone else’s expense, so we don’t try to do so. You don’t strike me as a sociopath, John, so I really have to wonder why you think it’s impossible for people to not exploit power differentials, and specifically with respect to sex. I have to imagine you’re aware that most people actually DON’T run around hurting people in order to further their own interests; they use empathy and perhaps even formalized ethical systems to mediate and moderate their behaviors. All anyone is asking is that you and the rest of the harassment-apologists recognize that, say, groping random women (to pick something that falls under your cited portion of the policy) can be harmful, and moderate your behavior accordingly (i.e. don’t fucking do it), just like you do when you when you pass someone at an ATM and somehow manage to not hit that person over the head and steal hir cash.

  54. Blueaussi says

    “If someone touches your shoulder and you don’t want him to do so then step back. If he persists then say something to him. If he does it again then get some help from others. It’s that simple. This AA statement places the burden on the person doing the touching”

    This statement from Loftus’ blog creeps me out. It’s like Victim Blaming, The Prequel.

  55. joseph8th says

    One point that I haven’t seen addressed in the Elevatorgate blog-wars between professional atheists is just how disconnected the debate over European conferences is from the reality of many poverty-stricken amateur atheists.

    Let me try to be clear on this:

    Without addressing the question of whether or not a specific conference has put appropriate guidelines in place to properly address harassment and other inappropriate and criminal behaviors; and without addressing the very very real problem of sexism and harassment in the world outside of conferences; and without addressing the prevalence of dudebro 4chan /b/oys in the skeptic ‘movement’ and movement atheism; and without addressing why there are so many women still sitting in pews instead of leaving their churches, temples and mosques to join movement atheism …

    Without addressing these — and also without dismissing or diminishing the hard reality of these very real problems, I would like to comment, if I may, on the additional problem of class privilege which the Elevatorgate blog-wars has highlighted (at least to my poor amateur godless eyes).

    I have never been to Europe, and can’t afford to attend conferences, either. I can’t afford to take time off, and I can’t afford the air fare, hotel costs, admission fees, etc. I doubt I’ll ever get to visit Europe — I’m almost 40 and I’ve never made more than $14K/year — let alone be paid to speak at a European conference.

    Starting to see my point yet? To many of us poor amateur atheists, Elevatorgate seems a bit… disconnected… from daily life. It’s occurring in a rarefied environment that is completely inaccessible to very many of us. I for one have hesitated to form an opinion on Elevatorgate precisely because it really has nothing to do with anything I will ever experience. Not because I’m male, but because I will never get to attend the conferences where these issues come up.

    That’s about all I have to say, here. I spent some time writing a more complete opinion that does address some of the issues I set aside here, if anyone wants to know where I’m coming from on those subjects, and a more complete explanation of my sense that class privilege is being overlooked in Elevatorgate, here’s the link:

    http://banned.bentzine.net/2012/07/02/elevatorgate-we-have-met-the-enemy-and-he-is-us/

    (Not that I expect anyone to care what I think — after all, I’m not a prominent or professional atheist. Just a poor schmuck writing words on a wall that nobody will ever read. Like most atheists.)

  56. says

    “Is this really the voice of an organization that represents reason? Not on that score I’m sure of it. If someone touches your shoulder and you don’t want him to do so then step back. If he persists then say something to him. If he does it again then get some help from others. It’s that simple. This AA statement places the burden on the person doing the touching. And while no means no, and yes means yes, maybe means maybe! What, are we being hypersensitive here not to offend some women? Apart from the ban on perfume and fragrances (is there a problem?) the rest of the statement concerning harassment is very much welcome of course.”

    The whole paragraph for context.

    So, essentially his policy is that it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than for permission.

    I do not think this is acceptable. I think the crux of this is that some of the people who are finding fault with the policies don’t understand that you can ask for permission non-verbally and no not want to go around asking verbal permission for shaking everyone’s hand.

    As others have said – you extend your hand (that is asking) then someone takes it (that is accepting). You extend your arms (that is asking for a hug) and then someone comes nearer to you with their arms extended (that is accepting).

    It is THAT simple.

    For pete’s sake, someone doing EXACTLY what Loftus said was “simple” created an international incident DUE TO IT’S INAPPROPRIATENESS.

    http://www.dailykos.com/tv/w/001109/

    *face palm*

    So Loftus – don’t be George W. Bush – K?

    And apparently since silence is implied consent to you, are you going to create some sort of data-base so that people who don’t want to be touched by you can register? Cause I personally do not like being touched on the shoulders by complete strangers. Perhaps I need to wear a button or T-shirt to communicate that to you, to avoid being touched? Barring that, it seems I just have to deal with it – because heaven forbid we restrict the rights of people to touch others who wish not to be touched before such communication is given.

  57. anatman says

    i’m always amazed when i see remarks about women ‘asking for it’ or giving ‘implied consent’ because of clothing choices or prior history coming from fellow atheists and skeptics. that is the exact attitude that puts women in burkas and the like in fundamentalist moslem societies. do we really want to be like that?

  58. John W. Loftus says

    I’m sorry but I cannot be expected to deal with stupid people. Learn to read. Learn to read charitably.

  59. John Horstman says

    @56: Yeah, what the fuck? Does he not understand that that’s exactly the intent?

  60. Rieux says

    Julie @45:

    I don’t think that it is even remotely logical to make the leap from “uninhibited and sex positive” to “interested in hooking up.” In Greta’s case, for example, she is quite open about her longterm and committed relationship. So how does a woman in a monogamous (I’m assuming, I’ve read nothing to the contrary so correct me if I’m wrong, Greta) relationship posing nude in a calendar suggest that she is available for casual sex?

    Re your example: you’re wrong. Greta and her wife, Ingrid, have a (“theoretical[ly],” the former has written) non-monogamous marriage. Greta has actually written quite a bit about this online—though my last few minutes of Googling lead me to believe that most of it was on the now-defunct Blowfish Blog, so not much is easily available to the public at the moment.

    None of this justifies (1) the arguments made in the Loftus post Greta and commenters here are criticizing or (2) the absurdly clueless posture of the “ignorant young men” he purports to be defending. Nor does it rebut your other points @45. It does make Greta a poor “example” on the terms you state, though—and it suggests that monogamy/polyamory might not be a very relevant factor here. Whether they’re monogamous or not, women are perfectly capable of doing stuff (not to mention entitled to do stuff) like posing nude for calendars without making themselves sexually available to any idiot who happens along.

  61. smhll says

    John H., I love your post. It captures both what I am feeling (head just might explode) and thinking, only you said the thinking stuff better.

    See, John, when we realize that trying to get what we want might harm someone, some of us think that it’s not okay to get what we want at someone else’s expense, so we don’t try to do so.

    A word that popped into my mind is “coercion”. Most women, and many, many men (and gender fluid people) do not want to be coerced into sex. Many will be quite peeved if other people try to coerce them into sex. When looking for sex, at conventions and elsewhere, we all should strive to entice not coerce.

    And if I hear that there are young men and women in our movement who are so ignorant that they do not how to use Google to learn the definition of “coerce”, my head really will explode in a fiery ball of rage and disbelief.

  62. julian says

    @Dysomniak

    I don’t really see them in conflict. It isn’t surprising we have to keep having these sorts of conversations but it’s surprising, in a broader sense, that these conversations are necessary.

    After all, look at ben. Surprising anyone would be that oblivious? Yes. Surprising someone would show up to say that? Not really.

    Hope that kinda makes sense.

  63. Candra Rain says

    Loftus may wish to stick with scholarly posts rather than “what I think” ones as every single word I read of those brings a larger moue of distaste to my face.

    JFC, what is so hard to understand about the concept of “Ask”?

  64. dysomniak, darwinian socialist says

    I’m sorry but I cannot be expected to deal with stupid people. Learn to read. Learn to read charitably.

    If one person misinterprets you then maybe they’re stupid. If an entire room full of people get the wrong idea… Well, you see where I’m going.

  65. Rieux says

    Loftus @63:

    Learn to read. Learn to read charitably.

    Oh, please. What, pray tell, is being misread from your post? What is being read “uncharitably”? How in the world could the text Greta quotes from your post—such as the following—be read as anything but apologia for clueless (or worse) misogyny?

    But this sends a mixed message to some ignorant young men now doesn’t it? It’s not surprising to me that some of them may think some secular women are “available.” It can create an environment at Freethought conventions where some men may look to hook up. Thunderf00t is asking what’s wrong with that in the bars afterward? Hooking up is what some people want to do (men and women). Knowing which ones want to do so is another question. How are some of these men supposed to know?

    Please do enlighten us about how we are supposed to read that ugly dreck “charitably.” “Mixed message”? Seems to me that the proper response to the rhetorical question at the beginning of the above-quoted paragraph would violate Greta’s comment policy. And the question at the end has been answered succinctly and directly several times here. What does it say about you that you evidently find it befuddling?

  66. smhll says

    “JFC, what is so hard to understand about the concept of “Ask”?”

    I think there is a strawman that ‘just asking’ will cause the daintier women to faint and call security. (At least that seems to be the fear behind the odd arguments I’ve heard.)

  67. daniellavine says

    I’m sorry but I cannot be expected to deal with stupid people.

    Ditto.

    Learn to read. Learn to read charitably.

    Learn to write. Learn to write competently.

  68. klatu says

    ben #41

    OF COURSE you ask them. Duh (kind of the definition of not-a-rapist).

    Incorrect. The answer however is pertinent. As are the events that follow that answer.

    Does it mean that someone is more likely to answer with a sane “No” rather than a freakout?

    It absolutely makes sense to me that looking for other signs, such as signs of non-prudishness, might contribute to not getting yelled at.

    Incase you haven’t guessed yet, the opposite of your straw-scenario is true. Women are conditioned from childhood not to be assertive, not to say “no”. Whereas many guys will actually freak out when they are turned down. “Hey, I really like you. Would you be open to a more physical relationship?” frequently turns into “Well, who’d wanna fuck you anyway, you frigid bitch!” in no time. Not to mention the potential of violence. Women know this. And your willingness to ingore such levels of discomfort because you wanna fuck makes you a horrible person.

  69. says

    “I’m sorry but I cannot be expected to deal with stupid people. Learn to read. Learn to read charitably.”

    So, is there anything you would like to clarify, that appears to be misunderstood?

  70. WScott says

    @ Marnie 54: That’s an excellent analogy – thank you!

    Loftus does kindasorta have a semi-valid point that some men may misinterpret the actions he describes as signals of sexual availability. His problem is he ascribes the error to the message sender (ie – a woman posing nude), rather than to the message receiver (ie – the man who misinterprets the signal). If his post had simply said: “Dudes, don’t assume that X means Y” he would’ve been fine.

  71. Sarah says

    Loftus @63

    I think I read it quite clearly. You state that women who pose for calendars, participate in “boobquake” or use words like “quickie” are confusing men when all they want to do is proposition us.

    Guess what. That’s not how it works. I can pose for Playboy, sleep with 10 men the night before and litter my speech with sexual terms and that doesn’t give anyone the right to assume I’m happy with being touched by a stranger or propositioned rudely. My body.

    Your entire post is another form of “she asked for it”. I could play “how to avoid being raped” bingo from it. You sir, are victim blaming.

    And you can fuck right off.

  72. Who Knows? says

    Reading John Loftus charitably, I think he believes that by calling the men who receive these mixed messages, “ignorant young men” he has placed the blame on these ignorant young men.

    Yet he goes on to place the responsibility on the shoulders of women.

  73. Will the Vague says

    Greta, thanks for this post. Also relevant to the subject: one of the most clear, direct articulations of this very problem showed up on my newsfeed just yesterday from More Women in Skepticism.

    http://morewomeninskepticism.wordpress.com/2012/07/02/understand-that-consent-is-temporary/

    The foundational premise being that “consent doesn’t transfer”. It can’t be used inductively to conclude anything about any other person or instance, because consent is not a “fact” or a “characteristic” of situations or individuals. It isn’t a piece of information one can handily tuck away for future use.

    I love the blogger’s statement that “consent expires immediately”. It’s a single-use device. A lot like a condom.

  74. A. Noyd says

    Loftus sez: “But this sends a mixed message to some ignorant young men now doesn’t it?”
    Loftus also sez: “I’m sorry but I cannot be expected to deal with stupid people.”

    Hey, Loftus, why can’t women’s answer to the confusion of “ignorant young men” be “we cannot be expected to deal with stupid people”?

  75. says

    So if you’re at a conference hotel bar, and you’re trying to figure out which people there also want to hook up — and which among those number might be interested in hooking up with you — how are you supposed to know?

    You ask them.

    Isn’t it fascinating, how this is still such a difficult concept to grasp? It’s like these guys can’t imagine that women are individuals who don’t function as a unit and aren’t all interested in the same thing.

  76. says

    So, to be fair – your scenario is probably how that issue would go down. It is doubtful that, anyone would grab a staff member the moment someone touched hir in relatively mundane way; especially if it seemed to be some sort of communication issue.

    I mean, are you worried that the moment someone misreads someone else and places a hand on hir shoulder that the person is going to get booted? Or what?

    Not touching someone else unless it has been communicated to you that it is welcome – is pretty fundamental respect. Respect of others should be expected at ANY conference or frankly ANYWHERE at all.

    Especially since many of these conferences attract people from different areas of the world and differing levels of comfort; it is in the best interest of those mythical “ignorant young men” or other people who might not understand what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior to be told.

    If some ridiculously socially unaware person thought that Ms. Christina appearing in a nude photo means that she is open to having sex with anyone and everyone – wouldn’t it be better for zie to be told explicitly that touching her without her consent is completely and utterly inappropriate?

    Am I missing your point completely? – or are you saying that it is an unreasonable expectation and burden on George W. Bush not to touch Angela Merkel? That since he didn’t “persist” that his behavior was appropriate?

    The AA policy is clear – if you are uncertain (that MAYBE) or know that someone does not want to be touched – do not touch that person.

    I mean, would you take that “learn to read charitably” bit and apply it to yourself please.

  77. doubtthat says

    Oh no! Look at what you people have done…again! Once again everyone has failed to grasp the super-subtle, ephemerally elegant arguments of a dude-blogger. When will the madness stop?

    When will if finally be safe for someone’s ill-conceived blog post to exist in the internet ether without a bunch of killjoy nags coming along to point out the stupidity contained therein? Tragedy, indeed.

    Though one wonders if the attendees to actually conferences filled with actual porn stars have the expectation of simply grabbing and fucking the stars and other attendees? They had sex on camera, so I should be able to just go after them, right? Assumption of risk. Don’t have consensual sex in one setting if you don’t want non-consensual sex in another. Simple logic, really.

  78. says

    I can’t even begin to wrap my head around how anyone could walk away from a nude calendar with the interpretation that the women in it are automatically available for sex.

    Julie @ #35: Actually, the “mixed message” supposedly being sent is even worse than that. The message isn’t, “Some women posed nude in a calendar — therefore those women want to hook up at conferences.” The message is, “Some women posed nude in a calendar — therefore other, entirely different women want to hook up at conferences.” Somehow my appearing in the calendar signals an interest in casual sex, not only on behalf of myself, but on behalf of all women at atheist conferences.

    Oh, and as to this:

    Definitely with you about that. Just straight up proposing sex? Creepy. Don’t do that! Why not just go for coffee first or something, see how it goes. I can’t believe there are people who have a problem with such a simple thing.

    axolotl @ #7: I’m going to quote Stephanie Zvan’s excellent piece, Elisions, on how discussions of sexist or harassing incidents often leave out the very details that make the incident problematic:

    “It’s always fascinating to watch a tale be retold and see what gets left out. It says almost as much about the storyteller as what is left in.

    “In the case of the infamous elevator, sometimes all that has been left in is the coffee. Even the elevator itself is sometimes elided. The hours of opportunity for a single word of conversation generally disappear. Certainly all the hours of discussion of being tired of being hit on are gone. So is the expressed desire for sleep. That one never makes it into the story.”

  79. Brownian says

    Loftus sez: “But this sends a mixed message to some ignorant young men now doesn’t it?”
    Loftus also sez: “I’m sorry but I cannot be expected to deal with stupid people.”

    Hey, Loftus, why can’t women’s answer to the confusion of “ignorant young men” be “we cannot be expected to deal with stupid people”?

    Must be some of that Sophisticated Theology™ Skepticism™ we hear so much about.

  80. Jeanette says

    Years ago I read a short murder mystery. At the heart of it was a young born-again twenty something man who meets up with some (gasp) non-church going twenty years olds at a beach.

    They invite him to join their BBQ and then one of the young women burns her fingers on the hot ribs and says “Fuck, that hurts!” He instantly decides that a woman who said that word is sexually available. He very abruptly and clumsily comes on to her, and she tells him to get lost.

    He decides she is a sexual tease, and rapes and murders her. As the police pick him up he is totally convinced he did nothing wrong as she was a godless slut who should be punished. In fact he did a good god-fearing thing in cleansing the world of her.

    John Loftus and his crew strike me as a more subtle, but no less dangerous, version of that young man.

  81. says

    “Loftus sez: “But this sends a mixed message to some ignorant young men now doesn’t it?”
    Loftus also sez: “I’m sorry but I cannot be expected to deal with stupid people.”

    Hey, Loftus, why can’t women’s answer to the confusion of “ignorant young men” be “we cannot be expected to deal with stupid people”?”

    My thoughts exactly – irony is fun.

  82. DoesItMatter says

    Hi, longtime watcher from the periphery here.

    This is somewhat relevant to the thread in question and somewhat irrelevant, but I hope it’s not completely so and apologize in advance if I’m mistaken.

    Firstly I’d just like to say that in general I really admire and respect your writing, I may not always agree with your positions but I’ve often found them challenging and thought provoking. However, there is an increasing problem and that’s the association with the risibly titled FreeThoughtBlogs, a place in which thought is often conspicuously absent and is certainly far from free.

    Now normally I’d just not read a blog I didn’t care for. I stopped reading the enraged fulminations of PZ Myers after a) noting a distinct lack of critical reasoning skills outside his area of expertise and b) he pretty much acts in exactly the same manner as those intolerant religious folks he rails against such as in the Gelato Guy incident. I skipped on Greg Laden – now departed – after quickly realizing that beyond bombastic drudge there is little of substance ever to be found there. I rarely delve into the comment sections as the stupid spewed forth by the many fevered egos imagining themselves as the mighty “horde” of reason is often too much. As is their penchant for falling upon anyone who deviates from orthodox FTB scripture. Instead of goddidit assertions far too many think that merely intoning ‘troll’, ‘misogynist’, ‘tone troll’, ‘mansplaining’ and so on actually negate whatever argument they’re deployed against. The only FTB blog I have bookmarked and regularly read is yours but even this seems to be succumbing to the malaise that infects this place.

    This is related to the ongoing and seemingly endless ructions over atheism as a movement and the perceived sexism / misogyny that is seemingly rife within it. Take the recent ‘Holy.Fucking.Shit’ article, by the needlessly hyperbolic title we’d be given to thinking that DJ Groethe had committed some heinous atrocity. Instead we had a post, since correctly if poorly updated, that initially ran on incorrect information as a result of improper basic research and due diligence. Presumably the opportunity to expose another example of the popular narrative proving to great to resist. Nowhere is this failure to be fully cognizant of all the facts before launching an attack on Groethe given a ‘mea culpa’. Instead it’s essentially just hand-waved away as if the facts don’t really matter and even the whole false accusation of up-skirt photo shots is left in as a strong and reasonable suspicion where my reading suggest otherwise. Whilst the issue was something worth highlighting given Groethe’s previous claims of no knowledge, it’s delivery was incredibly OTT and lacked any withholding of judgment until Groethe supplied his side of the story. But like I said it’s part of the chosen narrative at FTB so in it goes with the barest of thought, grist for the mill.

    Then there was the recent welcoming of newcomer to FTB ThunderFoot, until the scamp made the mistake of not adhering to FTB’s prescribed doctrines. His heresy and his failure to meekly accept the hierarchies imposition of doctrine has apparently done for him and now ThunderFoot has been excommunicated from FTB. Dissension from the approved dogma is apparently not tolerated at FTB; does no one find that even the least bit absurd? Yet no one thus far has spoken out to the effect of noting that whilst they may disagree with ThunderFoot that’s no reason to silence him. As an aside, making a four article meal of a response seemed to be milking the outrage for all that could be wrung from it.

    Beyond that there are many problems with the FTB culture. The whole double standards at work, when Christian nuts try to get Myers sanctioned by his department it’s the act of craven dogs. When Laden pulls the same stunt on Abbie Smith because she will not jump to the holy decrees of FTB no one appears to think anything of it; but they’ve excuses to rationalize the cognitive dissonance of course. The defense of St Rebecca Watson’s abuse of her speaking position regarding Stef McGraw much like the abuse of accidental moderator privileges at JREF were abused and subsequently defended. Certain gendered words are an affront to all human decency but others are perfectly okay as is the cultural imperialist notion that US meanings trump all others. Abuse, veiled threats, non-arguments are beyond the pale, unless it is those at FTB be they commenters or bloggers, it’s perfectly ok for them to do it. Take the recently departed Laden, likely ejected because they couldn’t hide his nasty email what with it going public forcing their hands. Now how did PZ react, oh yeah, he completely ignored Laden’s abusive email and instead drilled in on what Justin subsequently said as though the email never existed beyond being utilized as an excuse by the blowhard to the effect that PZ had no choice but to do the same to this ostensibly “private” email response; nor had commenter’s pointed out Il Papa’s failure to address the real problem in Laden’s email before I gave up on them.

    FTB perpetrates just about every last distasteful attribute of the religions they claim to be against and I’ve had just about enough of this hive of intolerance and irrationality. It’s not interested in thought, rationality, reason or skepticism when it comes to it’s own dogmas and it is certainly not free if you don’t tow the line; it’s a dogmatic echo-chamber. If it’s FTB I’m not reading it, even though I am but one person I’ll not give this place a scintilla of traffic in the, likely vain, hope that if enough people shun the place then it might just vanish into obscurity. And yes, that’s all a bit long-winded and probably containing more than one error though none critical to my position that I can see. Just think this needs saying is all.

    Oh and just to spare any sanctimonious commentariat peon’s time, I’ll not be back to read whatever devastating throw downs of tone troll are marshaled. When I say I’m gone I actually mean it. I’ll catch whatever worthwhile articles Greta Christina posts elsewhere.

  83. says

    This stuff ISN’T difficult, even remotely. I’m forced to assume that Loftus is arguing in bad faith, because I’m not going to assume he is as stupid and evil as his post makes him out to be. Because basically the choices he leaves are “dishonest asshole” and “rape apologist”.

    Here’s how stupid his “point” is: Does Loftus thing Angelina Jolie is “available” for sex? She’s done sex scenes in movies, and lots of time she’s been nude on camera. She’s talked about her sex life a whole lot in interviews. Does that mean that John Loftus thinks she’s available at the bar after a movie premiere? Or that women who also attended that movie premiere are automatically “available” for sex because Angelina Jolie does nude scenes?

    And can we assume bad faith from anyone who uses the word “available” in reference to women? Women aren’t goddamned rental cars.

  84. Grannysue says

    I thought the point of posing nude was to show that women aren’t responsible for men’s actions. As in, burka or nude don’t touch without asking. How is that a mixed message?

  85. daniellavine says

    @DoesItMatter:

    Wow, you seem awfully worried about the internal politics of an organization you claim to totally ignore.

    Oh and just to spare any sanctimonious commentariat peon’s time, I’ll not be back to read whatever devastating throw downs of tone troll are marshaled.

    Well then, brave soldier, I’m glad you spent so much time and effort on this topic.

  86. Anri says

    Starting to see my point yet? To many of us poor amateur atheists, Elevatorgate seems a bit… disconnected… from daily life. It’s occurring in a rarefied environment that is completely inaccessible to very many of us. I for one have hesitated to form an opinion on Elevatorgate precisely because it really has nothing to do with anything I will ever experience. Not because I’m male, but because I will never get to attend the conferences where these issues come up.

    If you believe that sexual harassment occurs only at expensive European conferences, you might want to wake up and join the world.
    If you believe that sexual harassment – either in or out of conferences – is an inconsequential issue, you might want to read a blog post or two (or a hundred hint hint) on it.

    This particular incident was perhaps part of a world you don’t operate in.
    Now – and here’s the apparently difficult question – is there any lesson from that incident that can be applied to the world at large?

  87. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Loftus—Seriously. Do you understand how words work? I am literally baffled by your statements (really, I’m not just trying to antagonize, and I’m not unintelligent). Greta’s post is critiquing your post. How do you then come to “agree” with Greta’s dissection? And why are you having a hard time getting that people are baffled?

    This is so twisted I’m having a hard time describing it. It’s like this:

    Josh: All fire hydrants should be red because everyone knows that and painting them different colors is stupid.

    Sadie: Um, there’s actually science showing that other colors are more visible. Besides red paint is expensive and some towns are cash-strapped.

    Josh: Of course Sadie, I can’t believe you’d think I thought otherwise.

    Do you understand why Sadie is confused?

  88. julian says

    Again.

    Loftus agrees with Greta. He does not think sexual activity or nude photographs are aan invitation for sex. He’s trying to point out how warped the perceptions of some men aare and how terribly they read (and impose) meaning in certain attitudes and activities. He is not excusing the behavior or condoning it. He agrees in full that the responsibility isn’t on the women.

    @DoesItMatter

    You will not be missed. Such an entirely off topic long winded rant is trolling of the most condescending form. Also, you smell slightly like a jerk.

  89. joseph8th says

    Classism. Pure unadulterated classism: sexism and sexual harassment are a societal problem. Sexual harassment at a conference in Melbourne is so far outside the realm of the working class experience that all y’all sound like a bunch of elitists to my poor, amateur ears.

    This isn’t about sexism. This is about money and who has enough to attend a conference. Professional atheists do.

    The rest of us — which is most, including most of the trolls, here — do not.

    Ivory atheist tower of manufactured outrage. It’s one thing to tackle sexism in society — I’m down for that that. Let’s go after them. It’s another to expect poor atheist schmucks to care what rich, privileged kids do at pricy hotels at expensive conferences attended only by professionals and trust-fund kids.

  90. says

    “John Loftus and his crew strike me as a more subtle, but no less dangerous, version of that young man.”

    Though I’m not familiar with other posts he has done. This seems a bit out-there.

    The analogy might have some merit on an extremely limited level, but comparing someone (and a crew) to a murderer and rapist is just inflammatory.

    Conflating serious (but not AS serious) things with extraordinarily serious things can backfire rhetorically.

    I get wanting to nip certain attitudes in the bud – but at some point these arguments run the risk of essentially being an implied slippery-slope fallacy as well as an appeal to fear.

  91. says

    I’ve had to combat such nonsense sense the calendar, too.

    “wait wait wait this woman poses for a nude calendar and she doesnt want to be treated like meat?” -john058

    Yes, I posed boldly in a nude calendar. An artistic calendar that was a stand against female oppression, and that advocated for free-expression and women’s rights. It not only revealed our bodies, but our intelligence and resilience as well. Unwanted sexual comments, jokes, propositions and more have nothing to do with my involvement in a women’s rights /free-expression tasteful & artistic nude calendar. emilyhasbooks

    Full comments here: http://emilyhasbooks.com/sexual-harassment-an-interview/

  92. says

    @joseph8th in #100: you post this a full hour after PZ explained to you that this isn’t about a conference in Australia, and that there are many free cons as well? Please acknowledge that you understand this or risk that people will assume you are arguing in bad faith.

  93. says

    @ joseph8th

    Your argument is basically “please stop talking about this topic because it doesn’t relate to me.”

    Classism is a real issue but is not relevant to the topic at hand. If you want to talk about Classism, please feel free to write a blog post about how classism effects the atheists communities. Classism is not an either/or topic with harassment. Both can be valid concerns. But in a conversation about harassment, trying to get everyone to talk about classism is trolling.

  94. Rieux says

    joseph8th @100

    Sexual harassment at a conference in Melbourne is so far outside the realm of the working class experience that all y’all sound like a bunch of elitists to my poor, amateur ears.

    WTF? Your “poor, amateur ears” also appear to be absurdly American-centric.

    Do you think there exists no one, or no atheist, in Melbourne who has lived or is living “the working class experience”? Do you think the per capita income of Dublin, Ireland, is 100,000 Euro? How buried in your own parochial navel can you get?

    For that matter, are there no working-class atheists in Columbus, Ohio, or Las Vegas, Nevada?

    How willfully ignorant do you have to be to be able to pretend that this is all about swanky international travel? Sexual harassment is a problem faced by women, atheist and otherwise, working class and every other class, all over the freaking planet, pal. They don’t have to fly anywhere to find it.

    It’s another to expect poor atheist schmucks to care what rich, privileged kids do at pricy hotels at expensive conferences attended only by professionals and trust-fund kids.

    That is simply blitheringly ignorant—not least because several of the conferences at issue (such as Skepticamp Ohio) are free, and a notable side-issue in the entire TAM discussion was the extent to which women attending TAM did so by virtue of scholarships for which the Skepchicks did significant fundraising.

    I am attending a con this weekend in my hometown. How, pray tell, does this make me a “trust-fund kid”?

  95. julian says

    @joseph

    As someone who’s family was on wellfare, who’s nnever been to college and who can only support his family because he enlisted, I’m telling you to shut up. No one is dismissing the problems of classism and this is not a bunch of trust fund kids. (Watson is the first in her family to even have any kind of college degree.) What you are doing is dismissing issues of sexual harassment outside of your social sphere and that’s reprehensible.

    Even if this were the Kardashians complaining about being groped at Hollywood parties you would be wrong to dismiss them. That’s still sexual harassment and that’s still something worth fixing even if it isn’t inyour immediate sphere of problems.

  96. says

    Hmm, on second thought I don’t think that post by PZ was an hour ago, there seems to be a timezone difference between the time stamps on this blog and PZ’s, while I assumed the time stamps would be the same across all blogs on the same server. So I apologize to joseph8th for suggesting he was ignoring a response for over an hour. The suggestion to acknowledge the information in that reply still stands though.

  97. says

    @Joseph8th

    Classism. Pure unadulterated classism: sexism and sexual harassment are a societal problem. Sexual harassment at a conference in Melbourne is so far outside the realm of the working class experience that all y’all sound like a bunch of elitists to my poor, amateur ears.

    This isn’t about sexism. This is about money and who has enough to attend a conference. Professional atheists do.

    The rest of us — which is most, including most of the trolls, here — do not.

    Ivory atheist tower of manufactured outrage. It’s one thing to tackle sexism in society — I’m down for that that. Let’s go after them. It’s another to expect poor atheist schmucks to care what rich, privileged kids do at pricy hotels at expensive conferences attended only by professionals and trust-fund kids.

    I’m wondering just what you consider rich and privileged. When someone cares about a cause and they have little money for extra expenses outside the normal food, clothing, and shelter, they often save that money up until they’ve got enough in order to attend conferences or meetings or marches that address what they are advocating for. Or, even better, they attend free cons where they live locally.

    Please don’t paint everyone as a trust-fund kid or assume we’re all professionals making six figures just because some of us attend conferences and want to ensure everyone has a safe and enjoyable time.

    I myself will never go to a conference due to lack of funds. That doesn’t mean I don’t support fighting harassment wherever it happens. And right now, in a community I have a vested interest in seeing prosper, there is a subject that is constantly being discussed. I won’t stop talking about it until I see a majority consensus that agrees that harassment is indeed worth talking about and striving to resolve.

  98. klatu says

    @julian

    He agrees in full that the responsibility isn’t on the women.

    Really?

    Loftus:

    Listen, sex is a big motivator in life, something I argued is too strong for some human beings to handle and one reason I don’t think God created us at all.

    In his linked article:

    The power of the orgasm is so strong it motivates some married people into infidelity; some men to rape women; some Catholic priests to direct these urges toward molesting children; and it drives the prostitution and the pornography industries, including child pornography.

    The bottom line is that people, most all of us, use what we’ve got to get what we want.

    Translation: “Men are animals. They cannot control themselves. Rapists are not responsible for rape. They’re only doing what comes naturally.”

    He goes on:

    If someone touches your shoulder and you don’t want him to do so then step back. If he persists then say something to him. If he does it again then get some help from others. It’s that simple. This AA statement places the burden on the person doing the touching. And while no means no, and yes means yes, maybe means maybe!

    Translation: It is the victim’s responisibilty to avoid or extract themselves from situations of harassment.”

    He is actually the one saying these things. Where are these Ignorant Young Men™ I hear so much about?

  99. Greta Christina says

    joseph8th @ #100: Some conferences are free. Some conferences are low-cost. Many conferences make free or low-cost attendance available to students, and/or have scholarships for other low-income people who couldn’t otherwise afford to go. Yes, on the whole, cons tend to be disproportionately attended by people who are financially comfortable. But it is simply and factually wrong to say that they are “attended only by professionals and trust-fund kids.”

    And perhaps more to the point: The issues we’re discussing are not only relevant to conferences. They are also relevant to local organizations, meetup groups, and anywhere atheists/ skeptics converge. This is a long conversation which has been going on for some time, and while at the moment it’s focusing largely on conferences, at other times it’s focused on behavior at local free meetup groups. When we “tackle sexism in society,” we tend to tackle it one piece at a time. Right now, we’re tackling this particular piece.

    Yes, classism in the atheist movement is a problem, and it’s one that’s worth discussing. But this particular conversation is not that one. Please do not derail it. Thank you.

  100. daniellavine says

    Classism. Pure unadulterated classism: sexism and sexual harassment are a societal problem. Sexual harassment at a conference in Melbourne is so far outside the realm of the working class experience that all y’all sound like a bunch of elitists to my poor, amateur ears.

    That’s right, folks, talking about problems that you have is classism. The only problems you are allowed to worry about is problems of poverty. Specifically, joseph8th’s poverty. Never mind that, because of the country joseph8th lives in, he’s actually in the top quartile for living human beings in terms of quality of life, availability of food, shelter, and basic medicine, etc. Never mind that he clearly has enough income and stability in his life to be able to get on multiple(!) blogs to complain about things…specifically to complain about how no one is paying attention to HIS poverty problems.

    Surely the world would be a better place if we all just concentrated on solving joseph8th’s money problems. I mean, a better place for joseph8th. F*ck everyone else.

  101. says

    @Rieux #65 – Ah, my mistake. My point, I guess, was that beyond the implications of assuming that a woman is interested in sex because she took some nudey pictures, or beyond that, that any woman who is in the same interest group as said woman must also be receptive to any and all suitors, that it is somehow even more ridiculously offensive to proposition a woman who has made an explicit expression of monogamy. It’s a boundary that should be respected, like Rebecca asking not to be propositioned and then a proposition immediately following that request. Not only are you not respecting my personal space and me as a person instead of a sexual object, you’re outright disrespecting my explicitly stated boundaries.

    If that made any sense whatsoever.

    @Greta #87 – Oh, I acknowledge that, actually.

    “How does that even further, by a stretch that is way beyond my ability to understand, become a source of confusion for poor, dopey men who see boobies and assume the atmosphere is rife for casual sex?”

    By atmosphere I meant the general environment of a convention where any woman associated with atheism or skeptical thinking was assumed to be complicit. Sorry if that was unclear.

  102. Beauzeaux says

    “y’all sound like a bunch of elitists to my poor, amateur ears.

    This isn’t about sexism. This is about money and who has enough to attend a conference.”

    Joseph8th —
    You’re wrong about that. Unless you never leave your house, you have been places where unwanted attention is a problem. I’ve never been to an atheist conference but I have experienced sexism at work, at school, even in groups where I volunteer. Unwanted advances have been made to me at parties, the supermarket, airports, hotel restaurants, and other public places.

    This is not because I am any kind of gorgeous but because I am female and I’ve lived a long time.I didn’t have to spend a dime for it either. This is the reality of women’s lives, elite or not.

  103. says

    I’ve started to consider whether or not a great deal of outrage is instigated by poor writing.

    That was certainly PART of the issue with Thunderf00t; as the main criticism was “What is your point?”

    I don’t even know what Loftus is trying to say. I get that he was describing what mythical “ignorant” people MIGHT think. He is not supporting their flaws.

    Now, I don’t even know if he really thinks these mythical socially unaware creatures exist – or if he is accusing the people who wrote the policy of thinking men are too ignorant to NOT realize that they should behave; and therefor the policy is unneeded?

    It’s just confusing – not quite Thunderf00t incomprehensible – but weird.

    Well, I asked him some questions. If he doesn’t answer – I don’t even know what I’m responding to.

    When he said “to combat *this* problem” he says so right after talking about Christians hooking up at their conferences. I can only assume he means the problem of “ignorant young men” stupidly thinking that atheist women are available?!

    …of does he think the policy deals with the problem of being trying to hook up…which nobody sees as a problem?

    Is he just doing the whole, “self-evident” thing with what he thinks is wrong with the policy and why? Then he just moves on to other stuff that doesn’t seem relevant at all?

    Sorry, now I’m rambling – my apologies.

  104. says

    Wow. All this melodrama over a conference that’s priced out of range of 95% of all atheists. Melbourne?! Australia?!? I will die without having visited that continent, let alone be paid to speak at an elite atheist’s conference.

    To hell with sexism, this is about classism if you ask me. (Which nobody did, or ever does, because I, like 95% of all atheists, can’t afford such luxuries.)

    “Joseph”, you cross-spammed this message here and at PZ’s blog under different monikers, but the response can only be the same:

    First of all, as others noted, you don’t help cash-strapped atheists (of all genders) by refraining from addressing misogyny, as if it was some zero-sum game. And there are local or regional conventions much more affordable, or even free.

    But you know what? The USA is not the only country with atheist, skeptic, or secular movements, even if you only consider the English-speaking world! Imagine that: conventions held in Australia attract lots of Australian skeptics. Ditto for those held in Europe and European skeptics, especially from the UK and Ireland.

    I happen to be atheist, European, a woman and also of low income, so you can guess how your clueless ranting-cum-linkspam disgusted me.

  105. jimmy60 says

    The mixed signal thing is just another way to blame women. Signals are sent, the mixing up happens with the receiver.

  106. doubtthat says

    I will just my special knowledge gained by years of being 1) a man who 2) likes women and 3) knows a lot of geek dudes of various ilks to explain what’s really going on when the nude calendar is raised:

    Loftus describes a dynamic where men are aware of the nude calendar and then think skeptical women must be easy. Not right.

    Men show up at these conferences, try to hook up with women (many of them not being used to conversing and interacting with women–though that’s not the sole or even main problem), and when their behavior is shown to be creepy, they feel humiliated and ashamed. Some change that behavior, but others blame the women for the problem, refusing to accept that they might be in the wrong.

    What do you call a woman who calls you a creep? Whore. Look, naked pictures, you whore, how was I supposed to know that weren’t just there for my benefit? The calendar is introduced AFTER the condemnation of behavior, not before the interaction.

    The population of men exhibiting the thought process described by Loftus is so miniscule as to be beneath notice. We’re dealing with men who are ashamed and humiliated at being told their behavior is inappropriate and are lashing out at women. That’s an important distinction as very little of this is actually innocent confusion.

    These people need to be treated as assholes, not children.

  107. says

    As someone who does a lot of glamour/nude/fetish photography, I’m baffled when someone fails to understand the difference between “expression model just put on for that photograph” and “how model feels about the person looking at the photograph 2 years later.”

    I periodically get people emailing me asking if I’ll introduce them to this model or that. I think there’s an inability in some people to understand that there’s reality and then there’s fiction and that the connection is unknown at all times. I had a friend years ago who I went to (some movie) with and she started telling me all about how she was sure Leonardo DiCaprio was really nice (“you can tell by his face”…) etc. I was kind of horrified. It’s lighting. And photoshop. And costume. And body language.

    Obviously, those indicators – even in a static 2d image that has been manipulated – are interpreted as real sexual cues by some people, and not others. I find that as unsettling as knowing that some people interpret things as true if they’re in print. :\

  108. doubtthat says

    @jimmy60 118

    Shorter version of previous point: there aren’t any mixed signals. You’re seeing rationalization and hatred. I don’t think anyone is actually confused.

  109. says

    @Joseph8th
    “To many of us poor amateur atheists, Elevatorgate seems a bit… disconnected… from daily life. It’s occurring in a rarefied environment that is completely inaccessible to very many of us. I for one have hesitated to form an opinion on Elevatorgate precisely because it really has nothing to do with anything I will ever experience. Not because I’m male, but because I will never get to attend the conferences where these issues come up.”

    Don’t minimize your part in this conversation, just because you have not been able to go to conferences. As others have mentioned, there are more and more inexpensive and free events happening all over the world, and at some point you may find one or more in your area.

    But that’s not really the point here. This is not just about atheist conferences. If we are to be able to speak to the rest of the world outside the atheoshpere about sexism and harrassment, we had better damn well have our own house in order first. We need to develop harassment policies that are easy to understand and straightforward to implement. We can discuss and develop ideas here on the web, but the only real way to know how policies work is to test them. Our conferences are an excellent crucible for this, since there is an instant mountain of feedback available on any policy we try out.

    If we can fix, or at least improve, the problem among ourselves, then we are in a better position to “take the moral high ground” when talking to the rest of the world about women’s issues. And we will be able to speak from the experience of knowing what works, not just lecturing people on how they are doing it wrong. If we do a good job with this, the effects could spill over into many other areas of social interaction. A good sex-positive anti-harassment policy that’s been tested and found effective could benefit all of us in the long run, not just those who can afford to attend conferences.

  110. says

    His problem is he ascribes the error to the message sender (ie – a woman posing nude), rather than to the message receiver (ie – the man who misinterprets the signal). If his post had simply said: “Dudes, don’t assume that X means Y” he would’ve been fine.

    This makes me think of those “pickup artist” books I hear horror stories about. “If she does X, that always means she’s into you and wants to have sex.” If a woman does X and refuses sex, the harasser has an excuse to get on his high horse. She’s breaking the rules the authoritative book made up, thus it’s her fault for being an individual, contradicting what the book says about her sexual desires, and thereby causing the conflict. It’s not his blind trust in a book of stereotypes that caused it. The blame moves to the victim.

    It doesn’t help that rapists and harassers have often unwitting supporters who perpetuate ideas that behavior X inherently signals consent or an inclination to consent. Assuming that nude photos by some individuals signals that the group at large is prone to easy consent is one example of those fake rules. Those kinds of things provide an easy out for anyone to plead confusion or ignorance while shifting the blame to the victim for allegedly being confusing, as if they override the need to ask.

    The real rule of engagement is, essentially, “ask first.” It’s not rocket surgery. There are no bureaucratic fast tracks, loopholes, or probability tables to get past that. Treating fake rules as if they were real unnecessarily complicates matters and leads to unnecessary confusion. Many rapists and harassers know this and will use that confusion to their advantage.

  111. smhll says

    Loftus describes a dynamic where men are aware of the nude calendar and then think skeptical women must be easy. Not right.

    I’ll say it. Christian women, and women in some other religious traditions, are under a lot of pressure to be sex negative or to pretend to be sex negative. Atheist/skeptic women have (generalizing madly here) started to repudiate that oppressive baggage. Statistically, atheist women might find the concept of sex with someone who is not one’s spouse less alarming than a ‘proper Christian woman’ might. Statistically. Still one must ask for or look for consent. And getting to know someone before asking is often appreciated.

    It is not automatically an ‘insult to the honor’ of an atheist woman to tell her you are interested in having sex with her. However, as I understand it, it is still possible to proposition a woman (or man, etc) quite insultingly. Tact is nice. Mutuality is really nice.

  112. Meagen says

    And don’t forget all those articles from Christian preachers about how atheists have rejected all morality and just want an excuse to have sex with anyone they see. What of the poor confused young men who read those, and then show up at an atheist conference expecting orgies?

  113. julian says

    @doubtthat

    First of all, thank you for saying what I was trying to say earlier about how men will rationalize a rejection or “back off” behavior. You’re entirely right that these by and large aren’t children and the vast majority of them should be treated like assholes instead of ignorant school boys. They are adults (mostly) and this is something they should know.

    But I think your implication that it’s only assholes rationalizing away their misbehavior is wrong. The promiscuous and always open for sex woman is a powerful meme in across Western culture. Some men are going to think along those memes because that’s all they’ve ever been taught or been exposed to.

    That isn’t to say it isn’t their responsibility or that anyone is wrong in strongly rebuking them. Just that, because their reasons are different from the kind of men who rationalize away inappropriate behavior, a different approach should be used in educating them. I think a good example of such an approach is this post though one much more harsh and strongly worded would do just fine. The point is to expose them to the error in their thinking and isolate them from the dudebrahs who are going to try and defend them (hoping not necessarily to win them over but to start the same rationalizing and to reinforce the social stereotypes we need them to abandon.)

  114. julian says

    @klatu

    I’m not saying he shouldn’t write an follow up post but he has said here that he agrees with Greta. He gave no conditionals and joined her in despairing such things need to be said. His original post may have been ambiguous as to what he was saying or what he was arguing but we don’t have any indication (besides a post that doesn’t clearly state from who’s perspective he’s arguing) to think he’s defending PUA behavior or rationalizing.

  115. bubba707 says

    In general, all women are sexually available to someone at some time. This does NOT mean they are sexually available to anyone at any time. As for hooking up, that seems to me as satisfying as masturbation and just as lonely.

  116. says

    But this sends a mixed message to some ignorant young men now doesn’t it? It’s not surprising to me that some of them may think some secular women are “available.”

    That response is part and parcel of the very mindset the Nude Photo Revolutionaries are now protesting against. Loftus’ words are almost an exact echo of what the Iranian mullahs were probably thinking when they first imposed those dress codes on women in their own country. That says a LOT about John Loftus.

  117. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    I’m having a weird experience, right now, having read this and doubtthat’s comment at #119 and a few paragraphs of that utterly worthless, clueless wall o text from Doesn’tMatter. I’m not sure I can articulate it. Because Lofton’s piece gave me a glimpse into a world where one honestly believes (apparently) that other people exist solely for your own pleasure and how upsetting (again, apparently) it is to have reality leak into this bubble of astonishingly stupid, stupendously arrogant, supremely self-obsessed bubble the “ignorant young men” apparently live in.

    Is this seriously how straight men are trained to see women? That, if one woman poses nude for a non-erotica, political calendar, then ALL women at conference are there to fuck them? Seriously? So it’s not just the Madonna/Whore complex applicable to ONE women, but to ALL as a group? We’re ALL giving constant, unending, irrevocable consent to whatever dude happens to pass us because OTHER women posed nude?

    I mean, I knew that before in an academic sense, but right now it seems so . . . . what’s the word? . . . . . ridiculously, absurdly fucked up. Almost comically fucked up. Patriarchy genuinely does hurt men too, if this is honestly what these “ignorant young men” are thinking.

    For whatever reason, this really drove home to me just how much it fucks them up.

  118. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    I dunno. Maybe her response made him change his mind?

    You know, I’ve had enough experience with a combination of people’s actions and my disabilities making any apology, retraction, or acknowledgment of a mistake needlessly, crushingly humiliating that I find it incredibly difficult to publicly offer anything more than a curt, shrugging apology (to the extent that I find some of the “I’m sorry for how I used to think” comments I see from other people on feminist blogs literally painful to read) and even I make it explicit when I’ve changed my mind about a position I’ve taken if it’s still the same conversation.

    This is just grasping at straws.

  119. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    Thanks for that ugly glimpse into the mind of the developmentally delayed,

    What was that you were saying about being ableist?

  120. julian says

    Is this seriously how straight men are trained to see women? That, if one woman poses nude for a non-erotica, political calendar, then ALL women at conference are there to fuck them? Seriously?

    I obviously can’t speak for all men but this is what I was told growing up (by my mother and others in my life) and what just about every guy I know is either rationalizing or honestly thinking.

  121. julian says

    What was that you were saying about being ableist?

    It’s not really an ableist slur. It’s a sad commentary on how messed up what we teach our children is on how long these ideas stay with us.

  122. =8)-DX says

    Just to add an addendum: When I saw the Nude Photo Revolutionary Calendar I was slightly taken aback, slightly artistically intrigued, but mainly: envigorated in the fight against oppression of women in religion and society! Sex was the last thing that crossed my mind (or one of the first irrelevant things that crossed my mind).

    I think the main problem is an inability to distinguish:

    But this sends a mixed message to some ignorant young men now doesn’t it?

    Sex-positivism is actually highly empowering to women and men alike, and is the anti-thesis of pick-up-lines and pick-up-just-for-sex approaches towards sexual others in bars.

    As a discple of Dan Savage I have yet to be corrected on this.

  123. WeWanttheFunk says

    The reason it sends mixed messages to “some young men” is because (drumroll….) THEY’RE MISOGYNISTIC KIDS WHO ARE THINKING WITH THEIR DICKS.
    You’re 100% right – it shouldn’t be an issue. Folks ought to be mature enough to understand that if a woman posts a nude photo or displays her sexuality, it doesn’t make her sexually available.
    I think it’s important to remember, however (“Yes, but!”), that interpersonal sexuality is tricky business. It’s jam packed with emotions, compulsions, awkwardness and messages that are meant to exist between the lines. Sexual freedom as we know it today has only been around for 50 years or so, is constantly evolving, and is always going to take some getting used to by many of the people involved.
    People are perfectly within their right to expect to be able to engage in the above mentioned behavior without suffering an onslaught of unwanted sexual attention and or sexist comments. But it’s going to take folks like Greta explaining how it is supposed to work and probably a great deal of time, before the majority becomes enlightened enough that the messages become un-mixed.

  124. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    It’s not really an ableist slur. It’s a sad commentary on how messed up what we teach our children is on how long these ideas stay with us.

    “Developmental delay” is a term explicitly used in the clinical literature to refer to certain kinds of disabilities, including autism spectrum disorders. Using it as an insulting labeled for immature, entitled behavior is genuinely stigmatizing to people with those disabilities, far more so than the use of “crazy” which was being protested but which in common usage is fairly thoroughly decoupled from specific references to mental illness.

    I think the standard boilerplate is that “you don’t get to second-guess the sentiments of people in the affected group about whether a term is stigmatizing or bigoted.” It’ll be interesting to see if that sticks here or if an exception is about to be discovered…

  125. julian says

    Didn’t know that. Sorry. I was looking at developmental delay as if it were just a common phrase or expression.

  126. smhll says

    The reason it sends mixed messages to “some young men” is because (drumroll….) THEY’RE MISOGYNISTIC KIDS WHO ARE THINKING WITH THEIR DICKS.

    I think that sentence can cause some trouble. Wanting to have sex with a woman, even desperately wanting to have sex so much that it interferes with brain function is not misogynistic. Heterosexual men “hit on” women and not men because of their orientation, not some kind of unfair prejudice. (Demeaning types of harassment would be a different case.)

  127. WeWanttheFunk says

    Oh Kay. Interesting. If one is objectifying women based purely on a chemically sexual desire, is that not misogynistic?
    (Genuine question here. Not trying to start a fight)

  128. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    Being attracted to someone is not the same as objectifying. Which is why the “thinking with their dicks” thing is problematic; it muddies the waters.

  129. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    (At least, I don’t think it is. The word gets used so much, so many different ways…)

  130. WeWanttheFunk says

    Indeed, being attracted to someone is not objectifying – objectifying is objectifying, and that’s what’s wrong. Now, the particular objectification in question (unwanted advances at conferences, I believe?) is bred of sexual desire. I suppose that a useful message, then, would be that ‘It’s OK to think with your dick, just not to act with it (off the hop)’?
    I made my share of unwanted sexual advances towards women when I was much younger and still figuring out how these things work. I’m interested in clarifying this stuff – I maintain that it’s an inherently muddy pond.

  131. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    I don’t think there’s any reason for it to be inherently muddy, at least for neurotypicals. We just have a really fucked up set of conflicting cultural messages about it.

  132. T says

    I’m just trying to imagine how some hypothetical ignorant young man could possibly get that message from your actions. Let’s say that Steve sees your photo in the calendar, and falls madly in love/lust with you. He sees you at the conference(!) and, because he knows that you are available, he infers that you definitely want to have sex with him. He approaches you and asks you to have coffee in his hotel room. Steve knows you’re just playing hard to get when you tell him “No thanks”/”Fuck off” so he persists. Because of the mixed messages you had sent earlier, he is totally blindsided when you report him to the staff/police/your mean right hook.

    Can we stop pretending that men are really this stupid? I for one am totally not buying it.

  133. Smhlle says

    @145

    My thought is that trampling on the woman, or on her feelings, to get her vagina is clearly wrong. Just wishing to contact the vagina with some part of one’s body is not wrong. Treating the woman as an obstacle course to outwit to unlock the vagina, also, um, not right. The stuff in between is hard to talk about, and I’m distracted, so I’ll stop before I really put my foot in it.

  134. WeWanttheFunk says

    I’m not sure that interpersonal relationships are, or will ever be, crystal clear on any level. They’re inherently complicated for the neurotypical and neuroatypical alike. Much of the human “mating dance”, if you will, is non-verbal, implied, relies on suggestion and signals. For some, it’s just plain confusing. This isn’t proffered as an excuse, but rather as an example of why SH policies are needed, and why this doesn’t “just work” the way it ought to.
    I admit: I don’t know how “typical” one’s brain has to be before they find it not-confusing, or whether being lost in the complications while swimming in emotions & hormones makes someone neuroatypical, but I’d welcome any kind of data that can help define it.

  135. WeWanttheFunk says

    T – Steve has no excuse for persisting and making an ass of himself, trampling on our subjects feelings and creating a nuisance in the process. He’s kind of hard-wired to want to ask our subject to coffee in his hotel room, and might have to be ironed out on the fact that that isn’t exactly or necessarily a cool thing to do.

  136. opposablethumbs says

    No, smhll, if these mythical young men feel desire – as you point out – that’s not a problem. The problem arises when they leap to the misogynistic conclusion that nude calendar = all women at cons are there for them to have sex with. In other words, the problem is when they construct the “mixed message” bullshit.

  137. opposablethumbs says

    Sorry, should have said – my 154 was in response to smhll’s 144.

  138. Feats of Cats says

    I think if you find yourself confused on the signals happening in the interaction, you should play it safe and back off on any kind of pressure you may be putting on the person. You don’t necessarily have to break off the conversation, but back off on the flirting until you’re more sure about how the person feels about it.

    If you think the risk of making the other person uncomfortable is less important than the risk of missing an opportunity to get laid, you are selfish.

  139. WeWanttheFunk says

    Feats of Cats: I agree. What I’m trying to point out is that nerds aren’t exactly known for picking up on social cues. Are many willfully blind? Quite likely.

  140. Smhlle says

    @154

    Yes, I think the mixed messages from calendar pix thing is a sexist double standard. I hear the implication “they have shown some skin; they are not pure.” And I pretty much loathe Loftus’ usage of the word “available”. (Not exactly sure why.) I guess it suggests a permanent state of pre-consent when I think none has ben given.

    I still think the factions in the movement people are talking past each other. Mentioning sexual interest at a conference is not forbidden. My feeling is that it should be done delicately, and should not come as a complete surprise to the person who is receiving the suggestion. I don’t like to be startled, and if it comes from a complete stranger, it can be kind if alarming.

  141. klatu says

    What I’m trying to point out is that nerds aren’t exactly known for picking up on social cues.

    Don’t go there, please, I beg of you!

  142. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    Especially without dealing adequately with the distinction between people who ACTUALLY have difficulty interpreting social cues (like people with ASDs and other developmental delays) and people who “just don’t like the answer.”

    This is setting of alarm bells insofar as it is starting to resemble YET ANOTHER attempt to conflate predatory, entitled behavior with social disability. Which is a shitty thing to do to both people with social disabilities and the victims of predatory, entitled behavior.

  143. WeWanttheFunk says

    AFGTO: Conflation of predatory behavior with social disability is certainly not my intention. We’re on the same side here. I simply want to point out that this isn’t a simple thing. Matters concerning emotions, hormones and sexuality rarely are. That’s why I’m in favor of policies at these conferences.
    Indeed, many plain don’t like the answer and hide behind imagined social disabilities. Not cool. I’m not saying it’s cool. No buts.
    Here’s the kicker: The very question can be harassment if not properly invited! Much of flirting is subtle and non-verbal, much can be misinterpreted legitimately especially by those who are new to interpersonal adult interaction.
    I’m not trying to be an apologist. I’m not even trying to tell women that “they just don’t understand”, I AM trying to point out that – for many well meaning individuals this does have to be spelled out, for better or for worse.

  144. klatu says

    Thank you.
    And here I thought EGate would have to be regurgitated for the millionth time.

  145. says

    Didn’t know that. Sorry. I was looking at developmental delay as if it were just a common phrase or expression.

    Erm, yeah. Ditto. I was thinking of it as a more or less literal term, as in, there’s “normal” psychological development, in which adults learn to realize that the world does not revolve around them, and then there’s these guys, who still think it revolves around them.

    It was thoughtless of me. I’m sorry.

  146. says

    I simply want to point out that this isn’t a simple thing.

    Actually, you’re wrong. It is simple: regardless of hormones or whatever else it is you’re on about, a woman’s body belongs to herself and no one else. Whatever “mixed signals” you get, presuming that you’re entitled to access to her body on account of those signals is sexism in action.

    Full stop.

    Now stop muddying the waters.

  147. Ross says

    I don’t think anybody, barring a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of the male population thinks that a woman behaving in a sexual way entitles them to her body. This is as ridiculous a red herring as one can possibly come up with in defense of the feminism hysteria.

    And I mean this with all due respect to women. Men might flirt with women. Men might behave obnoxiously and in rude, crude and disgusting ways in their attempts to flirt with women. And this can be a serious problem.

    But to assume that this reflects a sense of entitlement to a womans body is ludicrous.

    Please, get some perspective.

  148. klatu says

    And I mean this with all due respect to women.

    Right, because “feminism hysteria” isn’t in contradiction with that statement at all. Gotcha’.

  149. Ysanne says

    Great article, Greta!
    Having waded through most of the comments, I think it would be great to read your take on the question “How is a guy supposed to know when/how/what/whom to ask without making the woman he’s finding attractive uncomfortable/feel harassed/freak out?”
    There are obviously genuinely clueless guys out there, as well as guys pretending to be socially awkward as a way of ignoring any “no” answers that are less explicit than a shouted “fuck off!”, and also contradictory opinions on what constitutes a message in the first place (e.g. body language ok or too unreliable and prone to deliberate misreading?), or on what is a non-creepy level of starting an interaction.
    So, please, please, spell it out. It would really help to get this discussion out in the open, nice and explicit, and I think you’re one of the people best qualified to do this.

  150. says

    Bah.. what about the pen markings across.. Oh, no, that was some place else. Or the sign you hel.. no, that was also someplace else. Hmm. The pose that was so overtl… well, no, it really wasn’t overly anything. Yeah, having a serious problem understanding where these people get “confused”. Amd. frankly, many of them would call me a complete freak for having this as my desktop image ((not work safe)):

    http://konachan.com/post/show/70786

    Mind, the same idiots, if they found someone that looked at all like the picture, would probably ask if she had reddish contacts, and if they could buy her a tail and ears, to dress up for them. I.e., bloody idiots.

  151. RealityBasedSteve says

    A little background, so you know where my opinion is coming from.

    1. Never been to a Con, but that will be changing this year.
    2. Early 50’s, so not ALL my spare energy goes into chasing women (only about 30%)
    3. A good friend of mine told me that I am hopeless at picking up cues from women, in her words, “Steve, if a woman was naked on your lap, with one hand down your pants and her tongue in your ear, you still wouldn’t get the clue”
    4. That all being said, I’ve got an easy rule that has kept me out of trouble all these years.

    If at anytime things feel stressed, uncomfortable or awkward boundaries have been crossed that weren’t meant to be. Back off and figure out where the comfort level is for all involved.

    It’s really not rocket surgery, just don’t (in the words of someone else), be a Dick!

    Just my .02

    Steve

  152. smhll says

    I don’t think anybody, barring a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of the male population thinks that a woman behaving in a sexual way entitles them to her body. This is as ridiculous a red herring as one can possibly come up with in defense of the feminism hysteria.

    Where have you been living and what have you been reading. People’s friends, people’s parents and sometimes policemen tell them that they weren’t really raped because of what they were wearing and the “signals” sent by their clothing and location.

  153. says

    @Ross #165

    But to assume that this reflects a sense of entitlement to a womans body is ludicrous.

    Maybe you can explain “the friend zone” to us. You know, that thing where a guy feels entitled to sex with a woman because he was nice to her? Sound familiar? Sound rare? Is that a term you’ve never heard before?

  154. says

    At a certain point, the assumption that a woman’s availability relies on anything but her consent—clothes, prior sexual choices, whatever—you’re excusing rape. So why would you do it with regards to any sexy interaction short of penetration? Who wants to be with someone who doesn’t want you, but has been forced by some sort of made-up social contract beyond direct consent?

  155. says

    I can’t put words in his mouth, but I don’t think he was trying to argue that you don’t ask permission from the woman to have sex and all you need to know is that she once posed nude or something. I believe what he means by that is men use heuristics to determine which women are available and likely to have sex with them. A few of those heuristics are how they are dressed, whether they have a wedding ring, or whether they have done a nude photo shoot. A man will assume that a woman dressed in a short skirt at a bar for a night on the town (and who knows she has posed nude) is more likely to be sexually available than, say, a woman wearing an Amish homemade dress at a hardware store. Like you imply in your post, people use nondirect routes to establish attraction and willingness to have sex. Few people outright ask “Want to have sex?” because that puts people off and is perceived as socially inept and too aggressive. Instead you do things like try to establish a rapport, flirt, perhaps put a hand on the knee, etc., and see if each step is well received. Ultimately, the woman herself still has to consent to sex (and I’d maintain that this doesn’t necessarily have to be verbal, though it usually would be), but a man will probably be more likely to approach a woman and flirt with her or possibly ask her if she wants to “come up for coffee” on an elevator depending on other signals she has sent. (And as I said, these are “heuristics” meaning they are not 100% accurate though in general these sorts of things are seen as signs of sexual availability.)

    This doesn’t mean conferences shouldn’t have harassment policies or that men have the right to do whatever they want to women. However, reading his post I do think he has a point about the “no touching” rule in that it denies normal forms of human interaction and any harms associated with it would seem minimal. In normal romantic interactions it is highly unconventional to be direct and say something like “Can I have sex with you?” (which you note in the post), and even “Can I touch you?” is a bit odd and off-putting. Frankly, most women will probably find you inept and weird if you do something like that (though not all women, of course). For whatever reason, humans like to rely on nonverbal, indirect routes to establish sexual and romantic attraction. And given that we acknowledge there are going to be romantic and sexual interactions at these conferences, I think explicitly labeling normal behavior under those contexts as prohibited to be a bit odd. This is not to say that a man has a “right” to touch a woman. The ONLY point I’m making is that it is completely normal to touch someone without their permission in a romantic context. And the proper response to someone telling you not to touch them, or recoiling, or any other obvious sign like that, is to refrain from touching them further.

    I’ve tried to be careful with my wording because I know it is easy to assume that what is being said is “Men have a right to touch women without asking! Feminists are trying to prohibit having sex!” I absolutely do NOT think that. I’m only pointing out that I think these policies can be unnatural in that they make explicit verbal communication the only acceptable route to a romantic or sexual encounter when that is not the norm in our culture and is indeed often counterproductive when trying to engage in such an encounter! All too often I think too much emphasis is put on verbal communication even though much of our communication is normally nonverbal. I think it is possible to be realistic about human psychology and also have a great harassment policy in place.

    With that said, I do not think it is a big deal to include such language about “no touching” in the policy. I highly doubt it will lead to countless “innocent men” being dragged away from conventions because they touched a woman’s knee while flirting with her, because the policy also says they will warn infringers first. Most of the time, I’d suspect this sort of thing will be done in the natural way and it is unlikely anyone will complain, anyway. I suspect it will do far more good than any of the unlikely harm of innocent men being dragged away that some people probably envision.

    On the other hand I can sympathize with those on the other side who see that sort of language as pretty naive about normal human interaction, and personally I don’t think much is gained from trying to reduce whatever harm is associated with something like not asking before touching someone’s knee or elbow or whatever – the harm is likely minimal and restricted to a very few individuals who may have issues like PTSD or other anxiety issues, and there is a point where catering to special needs like this isn’t worth the effort. For instance, it is fine to build ramps to make buildings wheelchair accessible, but few would argue that we should build special ramps that make things incredibly easy for those in wheelchairs but that end up impeding those who are not in wheelchairs. The “no touching without asking” rule SEEMS to be bordering on that sort of territory (though that is open for reasoned debate, of course – from my perspective the impedance of lots of normal human interaction could very well trump the minimal harm it will do to others or the medium harm it may do to a very few individuals with major anxiety problems).

  156. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    Ross:

    You don’t know anything about the actual situation, but you feel entitled to make an authoritative statement about The Way Things Actually Are.

    There’s not much I can add to that. It’s pretty much saturated on “damning.”

  157. dysomniak, darwinian socialist says

    I’m only pointing out that I think these policies can be unnatural in that they make explicit verbal communication the only acceptable route to a romantic or sexual encounter

    No, they don’t. Implicit consent (body language, mutual participation, etc.) is fine as long as you’re not trying to use “it seemed like she wanted it” as an excuse.

    when that is not the norm in our culture and is indeed often counterproductive when trying to engage in such an encounter!

    Bullshit. It may not be the norm, but basically every woman who has ever opined on the subject says that being asked for a kiss is not only romantic but shows respect for her boundaries.

  158. klatu says

    the harm is likely minimal and restricted to a very few individuals who may have issues like PTSD or other anxiety issues, and there is a point where catering to special needs like this isn’t worth the effort.

    Comment by Saint Gasoline blocked. [unkill]​[show comment]

  159. Ross says

    Marnie: A lot of girls have equally unrealistic expectations. We don’t wage war on them. We just tell them to get lost.

    smhll: That’s a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of people. Stop exaggerating.

    klatu: If you are offended that I used the phrase “feminism hysteria” to reflect the small but unfortunately too vocal slice of extremists who ruin gender-relations by going overboard, that’s your problem not mine.

    To everybody:

    I can be a feminist while affirming that some feminists go overboard. I can be a feminist while affirming that men are often unfairly targeted and demonized by feminists. I can be a feminist while affirming that my end goal is not feminine domination, but gender harmony and equality.

    If I am not allowed to disagree rationally, pointedly and respectfully in a discussion with other feminists, then the atmosphere has been poisoned and free thought and diversity has been quashed.

    I’d like to humbly suggest that feminists who advocate moderation, balance and gender equality in favor of extremism are not the enemy.

    Thanks.

  160. dysomniak, darwinian socialist says

    So, no response to my post? The one that addressed your specific “concerns”?

  161. says

    @Ross

    A lot of girls have equally unrealistic expectations. We don’t wage war on them. We just tell them to get lost.

    Don’t be disingenuous. Firstly, harassment rules are gender non-specific. They protect everyone from harassment regardless of gender or orientation. Secondly, i was responding to your quote I posted above:

    But to assume that this reflects a sense of entitlement to a womans body is ludicrous.

    “The friend zone” is the cry of a man who feels entitled to a woman’s body.

  162. astrochicky says

    I’ve been hovering around here and other atheist blogs for a number of years without making any comment. But recently this whole sexual conduct at atheist conferences has really intrigued me. I really don’t understand why some people have difficulty in understanding the concept that some women want to have sex at conferences and some dont. And the way that you find out what they want is to ask them – nicely (not in an elevator in the wee dawn hours after being told such approaches are a no go) and politely (not by giving out cards with your naked picture and an invite to someone who is essentially at work).

    I have no idea why that concept is so difficult. Lets assume that because a woman has posed for a nude mag (for whatever reason/cause), does this signal her sexual availability for any man at any time? Shouldn’t availability and consent be asked each and every time a man (or woman of course) seeks sex? How is this confusing? How does posing for a nude mag, or consenting for sex once, imply ongoing interest or consent? Or is it really true that by consenting to a nude mag pose or sexual activity (even just once) now means that you are marked as sexually available to anyone who is interested? Are people really this stupid or have I just been out of the ‘scene’ for too long?

  163. smhll says

    I’d like to humbly suggest that feminists who advocate moderation, balance and gender equality in favor of extremism are not the enemy.

    It’s really the knee grabbing I have a problem with, not your personal flavor of feminism. (Nor your interesting guesses about the plans of other feminists for “feminine domination”. That might be the beginning of an awesome party game.)

  164. Ross says

    Marnie: Not buying it. Harassment rules might be gender neutral but the behaviors they address are very much gender specific. If you know anything about, say, alimony laws, you know that despite being gender neutral, weakening alimony laws would disproportionally affect one gender more than another. Dancing in night-clubs, for example, sounds like a gender neutral subject until you actually visit a nightclub. Regulating skirt length sounds pretty gender neutral too, doesn’t it? No? Oh, okay.

    So no, you understand how gender-neutral laws don’t protect both genders equally. This reasoning is sophomoric and betrays a lack of understanding of how gender, behavior and legislation interact. I suggest you educate yourself.

    Or, consider broadening your worldview to account for the well-being of humanity instead of focusing only on women. Greta might ban me for saying that, but I’ll take the risk.

    smhll: I know a lot of men. And I imagine most men don’t care about your knees. If it becomes a particular problem for you, maybe the solution isn’t legislative restriction of normal human expression, but dealing with the problem without forcing people to ask permission before shaking hands.

    But hey, I liked the party game idea. Two thumbs up on that one! ;)

  165. dysomniak, darwinian socialist says

    Comment by Ross blocked. [unkill]​[show comment]

    *yawn* just gonna keep throttling the same “points’ no what anyone says.

  166. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    Ross.

    You don’t think it’s “all THAT bad.”

    Based on what?!

  167. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    Well, in his defense, given what ELSE lives in Australia it’s a miracle any humans are still LIVING there…

  168. echidna says

    No, sorry, Joseph is right. Nobody lives in Australia. We made it all up as a prank. I confess. I’m really from Kenya Hawaii.

    Me? Live in Australia? Of course not…..

  169. A. Noyd says

    Ross (#177)

    I’d like to humbly suggest that feminists who advocate moderation, balance and gender equality in favor of extremism are not the enemy.

    I’d like to humbly suggest that you go to a mirror, look deep into your own eyes, and tell yourself to knock it the hell off with the mansplaining. (I doubt you’ll listen to anyone besides yourself.) And then point and laugh at yourself for the ridiculous levels of irony it takes to condemn Greta and her commenters for voicing concern over what you say is “a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of the male population” when your purpose here is to air your anxieties about the “feminism hysteria” of the “too vocal slice of extremists who ruin gender-relations.”

  170. echidna says

    Ross,
    I am getting the impression that you don’t really listen to women, but that is only a guess. I could be wrong, but some data would be good. I gather you are trying to be constructive, but I think this is an area where you don’t know what you don’t know. I think you might have some fun with this:
    For the next X days, where X is up to you, observe closely whenever you hear someone interrupt someone else. Take note of whether the interruption is of a male to a male, MF, FM or FF. Include yourself.

    Let us know what you find, if you’re up for it.

  171. says

    One of the things ross said sound to me like
    when someone says that allowing same-sex marriage would be giving gay people “special rights”. No, it would expand everyone’s freedoms, even though some people wouldn’t take advantage of the new freedoms.

    Similarly, if the anti-harrassment rules are only targeting things that men happen to do to women, it’s still giving protection to everyone, but some people just haven’t felt a need for it.

    Also, if you’re saying that it’s only men who’ve been harrassing people, and only women who’ve needed protection, that’s not convincing me that the harrassment policy would be misandrist, but rather that the men are misogynist and need to be stopped.

  172. jherazob says

    This makes me wonder what the hell is wrong with these people. As a naturist, the idea that posing in a nude calendar makes skeptic women free game to proposition is doubly outrageous.

  173. says

    @Ross

    Harassment rules might be gender neutral but the behaviors they address are very much gender specific.

    Harassment is not gender specific. It may more frequently be male harassing female but that doesn’t mean that females don’t harass men and women. If you read Cristina Rad’s blog here on FtB, you’ll see she outlined just such a situation in which a woman harassed both her and her male friend, separately. But I’m not sure what point you are trying to make since your first claim was that there was no problem and now you are saying it’s gender specific.

    But what if we accept your most recent point as true. So what? If men were the *only* ones who harass and women were the *only* ones to be harassed what would be the problem with having a harassment policy that made clear that there were consequences for harassing someone and ensuring staff were trained to spot and address it? Please explain why this is a bad thing.

    So no, you understand how gender-neutral laws don’t protect both genders equally. This reasoning is sophomoric and betrays a lack of understanding of how gender, behavior and legislation interact. I suggest you educate yourself.

    Your point is basically that because things aren’t perfectly equitable in the real world, we should ditch any attempt to make them more equitable at a privately run event of limited size. Point rejected.

    Or, consider broadening your worldview to account for the well-being of humanity instead of focusing only on women. Greta might ban me for saying that, but I’ll take the risk.

    TONE TROLL, I think I got bingo. Ross, you just shot me down saying that gender neutral rules are ineffective and then followed that, in the same comment with a sentence that basically says rules shouldn’t be gender specific. You are talking past yourself. I don’t even have to dismantle your argument because you are doing a fine job yourself. But no, you don’t get to come here and derail this topic with a “you aren’t focused on the right thing, focus on what I want” comment. We are discussing harassment. It’s one of many topics. If you don’t care about it, that’s fine but that doesn’t mean the whole blog has to cater to your whims.

    maybe the solution isn’t legislative restriction of normal human expression, but dealing with the problem without forcing people to ask permission before shaking hands.

    This is more proof that you think you know what conversation you are having and are wrong. Repeatedly, from every last person you think you disagree with, individuals have said that there will be no forms, no express written consent required, none of this paperwork or any other nonsense. A hand shake, by its very nature, is consensual. If it’s not, you are simply grabbing a person. You put your hand out and the other person either grabs it in return or doesn’t. Consent. Friends will hug without asking first. Individuals will kiss, grope and have sex without filling out any forms. No one is intending to add red tape to normal human consensual interactions. A harassment policy would ensure staff are trained to deal with and have a procedure for addressing harassment. If you cannot grasp the difference between a harassing and a consensual interaction, or worse, if you don’t care if your behavior is harassing or consensual, then you are part of the problem.

  174. pipenta says

    Jebus Fuck! If you had told me, back in 1979, that we’d still be having to teach this, that even participants in the atheist movement didn’t GET, in 2012, that women should not have to follow a set of complex and arcane rules or else it was open season, I might have thrown myself under a train.

    Of course, in 1979, I couldn’t have imagined a large atheist movement, so that cheery thought might have encouraged me to stick around and fight the good fight.

  175. smhll says

    digressing, in the interests of making you feel less metaphorically suicidal…

    Of course, in 1979, I couldn’t have imagined a large atheist movement, so that cheery thought might have encouraged me to stick around and fight the good fight.

    Also back in ’79, or in recent memory of ’79, people were still saying women couldn’t be taken seriously as news anchors and mainstream feminists were trying really, really hard to distance themselves from the lesbian movement, but what we have now is Rachel Maddow. Rachel Maddow is the awesome thing that I could have not imagined in 1979, and she’s even more awesome than I could have ever failed to imagine. (And my apologies to everyone for ever thinking that lesbian rights were a bridge too far. I was an ass.)

  176. WeWanttheFunk says

    Sam Strange: Righteous indignation is unbecoming.
    I’m not muddying anything, I’m just trying to add a bit of perspective. If an unwanted invite to coffee is considered harassment (and it can be), then many young men are going to have to get straightened out about that and have it explained to them. I’m actually trying un-muddy the waters.

  177. Greta Christina says

    If an unwanted invite to coffee is considered harassment (and it can be)…

    WeWanttheFunk @ #196: And once again, I’m going to quote Stephanie Zvan’s excellent piece, Elisions, on how discussions of sexist or harassing incidents often leave out the very details that make the incident problematic:

    “It’s always fascinating to watch a tale be retold and see what gets left out. It says almost as much about the storyteller as what is left in.

    “In the case of the infamous elevator, sometimes all that has been left in is the coffee. Even the elevator itself is sometimes elided. The hours of opportunity for a single word of conversation generally disappear. Certainly all the hours of discussion of being tired of being hit on are gone. So is the expressed desire for sleep. That one never makes it into the story.”

  178. WeWanttheFunk says

    Thank you for your reply, Greta. Indeed, set and setting play an important part in making a coffee-invite harassment rather than non-harassment.
    And I get that. I totally get that. But I’m not sure that my 19-22 year old self did. I do think that he would have welcomed having it explained to him, and would possibly have been a better person for it.

  179. doubtthat says

    @julian 128

    “But I think your implication that it’s only assholes rationalizing away their misbehavior is wrong. The promiscuous and always open for sex woman is a powerful meme in across Western culture. Some men are going to think along those memes because that’s all they’ve ever been taught or been exposed to.”

    This got a little buried, but I wanted to reply, anyway.

    I don’t want to dismiss that dynamic, it’s very real, but I don’t think it applies to the nude calendar. I would be shocked (which I have been before in this discussion, so not impossible) if there were actual men involved in this conversation that saw the nude calendar first, then decided atheist women were easy, then got pissed when they were rebuffed.

    I think the dynamic you’re describing is obviously present in Thunderf00t’s understanding of what it means for a woman to enter a bar. I think he’s sincere in his barbarism: women, enter at your own risk. Your mere presence makes you available.

    But the calendar I think works entirely as an after-the-fact rationalization + an element of calling women dirty whores. I recall when the calendar came up during Elavatorgate, and it took a while for the slime-lords to dig around for something that they could use to attack Rebecca. There was no earnest, “hey, but you were naked that one time, I thought…oops, my bad.” Just venom.

  180. James Pearson says

    I agree with nearly everything that you said. I also think that, as a group (important), woman who pose nude are more likely to want to hook up than women who do not. I agree that a man who assumes that a woman would be interested in hooking up just because she has posed nude would be an idiot. I also agree that the best way to determine the situation is to jusk ask, but many men, for various reasons, are reluctant to do that. Instead, they rely on many, many factors to determine a woman’s intentions, one of those factors (a very unimportant one) being whether she has posed nude.
    Whether a woman has posed nude is thus legally relevant, i.e., it has some tendency, however slight, to prove or disprove a material fact (hoohupability). You probably disagree that posing nude has any relevance whatsoever to one’s willingness to hook up. However, I feel, although I have no evidence, that many men would agree with me. Perhaps, this is yet another way in which men and women view reality through similar, but slightly different, prisms.

  181. says

    This AA statement places the burden on the person doing the touching.

    and that’s precisely how it should be. what sort of…”interesting”… thought processes would lead one to believe they have the right to do things to another person’s body without figuring out if they’re allowed to, first?

  182. says

    But that’s about reading signs and understanding a rather subtle language that us guys are well known to have trouble with,

    it may be “well known”, but it isn’t actually true: http://yesmeansyesblog.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/mythcommunication-its-not-that-they-dont-understand-they-just-dont-like-the-answer/

    attended only by professionals and trust-fund kids.

    I’m shocked to find out that my $10 000/year income makes me a trust fund kid

    also, your attempt at erasing one axis of oppression by trying to shift the conversation to another, off-topic one has been duly noted and will be dismissed appropriately

  183. says

    I also think that, as a group (important), woman who pose nude are more likely to want to hook up than women who do not.

    I don’t know why we’d assume that, in the context of modern atheism. In the general population, maybe, because religious beliefs tend to correlate with considering both the pictures and the hooking up bad to similar degrees, thus making these two things correlate. But we’re talking about atheism, where religion is removed as a variable (and it’s a strong and possibly causative variable), so why assume that the correlation between wanting hookups and wanting to be photographed in the nude still exists?

    After all, nude photography doesn’t exclude asexual, lesbian, monogamous (both in the sense of being in a monogamous relationship, and in the sense of preferring one’s sex to happen in an exclusive relationship), etc. women, while women who do hook up might not want to be publicly nude, for reasons ranging from personal preference in self-expression to not wanting to risk getting fired.

    IOW, do we have any reason to believe that liking posing nude and liking hooking up correlate positively once the religion variable is removed?

  184. says

    Wow, just wow, at this entire conversation and the fact it keeps happening.

    My NO is far more important than your BUT PLEASE, or your, I REALLY WANT TO.

    And how are you going to know that I am saying YES rather than NO unless you ask me? Look, if you touch me without my permission, that is all on you. It doesn’t matter what I am wearing, what I have done in the past or what kind of girl you think I look like, my NO is still more important than your YES.

    By the way, since people keep telling women that we need to do more to prevent ourselves being seen as sexual if we don’t want sexual come ons, or, you know, rapes, then you, Mister, had better bloody protect yourself too. How? ASSUME that my choice is NO. Do NOT touch me unless you already have explicit permission. And how do you get that? Fucking talk to me. Although, the fact that we’ve just had this hypothetical chat suggests you’re not my type. Goodbye.

    You know, this made me so angry that even at 20 to 2 in the morning when my internet just died (probably from the same rage I’m feeling) I fiddled about and fixed it just so I could comment here, and blog about my take on it too. Thanks again, Greta, for being insightful and succinct about an issue that really should not be that complex.

  185. FangTheCat says

    Hmmm…just a quick thought, perhaps too late in the conversation. Let’s use “person’s” body rather than use a gender? Because, even ugly ol’ me has been sexually harassed. It seems that there’s a meme that all straight men are always horny, and willing to do it with any female that offers. Refusals may be greeted very harshly.

    And perhaps this is unnecessary, but let us keep in mind that the majority of men are not harassers or potential rapists, and that all men should not be lumped together.

    Thanks.

  186. Ross says

    A. Noyd: You ought to note the irony in your response. Whether you realize it or not, you effectively denigrate the voice of an entire gender by dismissing it as “mansplaining”. What would your gut tell you if a guy dismisses a woman’s opinions as “womansplaining?”

    Your name-calling delegitimizes the voices of men, a crucial part of the very feminist movement that you want to see succeed.

    Azkyroth: Que? I don’t think I said that. Are you sure you were reading my post?

    echidna: I like to think I listen. But I’m wondering if you believe I’m allowed to listen, but politely disagree without being dismissed by virtue of holding to a different position. For example, your interesting social experiment regarding gender-based-interruption- I hear it, understand it, and think I know where you are going with it.

    But am I allowed to disagree with your conclusion that “since men interrupt women therefore men oppress women” while still having my voice and position respected and treated with intellectual honesty?

    I’m asking you this because your response comes across as unusually thoughtful. You don’t seem like the kind of person to glibly dismiss intuitions that don’t propagate the black-and-white notion that women are perpetual victims and men are perpetual oppressors.

    Rilian: Rather than assume misandry or anything else, I’d just like to think we need to sit down and honestly think about the other side of the coin, because the other side is equally important. When we’re talking about protecting women, we shouldn’t be afraid to honestly and seriously consider the chilling effect it has on ordinary behavior. Asking permission for a handshake? Consider an innocent touch on the arm or shoulder while conversing forbidden? The nuanced use of bold physical contact in legitimate, implied-consent romantic/flirtatious conduct?

    I find nobody talking about the other side here, and how many babies get thrown out with the bath-water. Worse, people who bring up the problem of throwing babies out with the bathwater are literally bullied into obeisance to a position that cannot be honestly and fairly challenged by opposing viewpoints.

    Somehow, any consideration of such a position is automatically construed to be evil or wrong. How free-thinking of us.

    Marnie: Stop setting up straw women and read my actual position. It was a response to the alarmist claptrap that “men see sexual behavior as implying entitlement over their bodies”.

    Most don’t. The fraction that do actually feel this way have much more serious problems, ie serious mental illness or crippling antisocial personality traits. Such an idea is getting much more attention than it’s worth and to perpetuate such overreactions have chilling effects such as described above, and falsely promote an image of fear and perpetual victimhood in women and obsessive, personality-and-freedom-stifling guilt in men which serves no purpose except to cater to those who like to revel in hysteria, dysfunction and those who like to see gender relations break down. Ie the counseling-industrial-complex. :O

    Maybe all that irrational contempt and seething hate you have for my difference in opinion is getting in the way of your comprehension of what I’m actually saying. Ever consider that?

  187. says

    @Ross

    Most don’t. The fraction that do actually feel this way have much more serious problems, ie serious mental illness or crippling antisocial personality traits. Such an idea is getting much more attention than it’s worth and to perpetuate such overreactions have chilling effects such as described above, and falsely promote an image of fear and perpetual victimhood in women and obsessive, personality-and-freedom-stifling guilt in men which serves no purpose except to cater to those who like to revel in hysteria, dysfunction and those who like to see gender relations break down. Ie the counseling-industrial-complex. :O

    I have no flippin’ idea what you are talking about. It’s like being on a conspiracy theory site and reading a description of the illuminati and how it is behind the 911 attacks.

  188. Greta Christina says

    Note from the host: A lot of the things Ross is saying are very classic trolling, and in particular are very classic anti-feminist trolling. The accusation of hysteria; the denial of a problem, even when presented with specific examples of the problematic behavior; the generalized claims that feminists are “going overboard,” without any specific examples of this overboard behavior; the “I just want to express disagreement” tone trolling, coupled with the notion that other people’s passionate disagreement somehow equals suppression of free expression; the false equivalencies; the “Yes, but” changing of the subject from the issue of sexism to whatever axe the commenter wants to grind; the generally patronizing manner. I know where this type of behavior leads, and I’m not okay with it in my blog.

    Here’s the thing. I’m away at the SSA conference for the next few days, and I will not be able to check in and moderate the blog as regularly as I usually do. I may not be able to step in at a moment’s notice if the conversation starts to get seriously ugly, or of the trolling becomes worse.

    So I am putting Ross into comment moderation. Any comments from Ross will need to be approved by me before they go up. Ross, if you want to participate in the conversation here, stop the behaviors described above. I welcome dissent and disagreement in this blog, as anyone who is familiar with the conversations here knows. But I will not let my blog be hijacked by this type of behavior. Thank you.

  189. Brandi says

    So by this logic, any porn star or celebrity/supermodel that has posed nude is down to have sex with these dummies? Does anyone buy that?

  190. smhll says

    When we’re talking about protecting women, we shouldn’t be afraid to honestly and seriously consider the chilling effect it has on ordinary behavior. Asking permission for a handshake? Consider an innocent touch on the arm or shoulder while conversing forbidden?

    Seriously, we are not just talking about women here, and not specifically about men being the only ones dispensing unwanted attention. Careful reading round the blogs would show that two of the incidents of unwelcome sexual attention were couples approaching women for threesomes, and in both of those cases the women of the couple was the one approaching the other woman for sexual actions.

    Not all conference harassment policies are sexual and not all parts of the policies are designed solely to be protective of women. One or two policies that I have seen specify that they limit the wearing of fragrances or strong fragrances at their conventions. This seems intended to benefit the “fraction of a fraction” of the population with allergies. (I have a friend whose migraines are triggered by many fragrances.) This is an example of a convention attempting to be more considerate of the needs of some of their attendees, more considerate than average social norms. (Fraction of a fraction is still quite a few people in a very large convention.)

    I think the handshaking and shoulder touching came about in the same way. Consider that people with arthritis in their hands might want to duck a hearty handshake. Someone who feels socially very shy might not enjoy a shoulder pat from a stranger, or even from a friend. (The needs of the social awkward have been mentioned a few times when discussing this topic. Some of the policies mentioned have been from fun, geeky conventions. Let me gratuitously mention that some nerds are have issues with social interactions and this is not limited to outbound social interactions.) The policies for large conventions suggest to me that one is going to meet a lot of strangers. It may not always be valid to assume that a stranger is happy to shake a lot or be shoulder touched by many people over the course of the weekend.

    I doubt very strongly that anyone will be summarily tossed out of a convention or sharply scolded for a first hand grabbing and shaking or for a first undesired backpatting. However, if the person one is trying to shake or pat is backing away, or cringing, or shaking their head in the negative, or or saying “don’t”, then I support the idea that it would be wrong to press them for hand or shoulder contact.

    Adjusting ordinary behavior to suit the preferences of the person you are interacting with is, in my opinion, considerate. I don’t equate the word considerate with “chilling”. In fact many people, especially those who often aren’t met with consideration, may consider it warming.

  191. says

    This. All of this. Greta, thanks so much for writing.

    But this sends a mixed message to some ignorant young men now doesn’t it?

    The important word in that sentence, to me, is ignorant. It’s the ignorance of the people who don’t understand this that’s the problem, not the women posing for a calendar.

    The message I am trying to convey, hopefully now unmixed, is this: Some people, of all genders, like to hook up at conferences. Some do not. If you want to know which ones are which, consult (after an appropriate introductory interlude) the people in question. Do not consult the question of whether atheist bloggers of any gender are posing nude for calendars. It is not relevant. Thank you.

    Even with my limited — okay, non-existent — experience in this area, I was able to figure this out. It baffles me when people act like this is some extremely difficult concept to grasp. Yes, it’s difficult to figure out what other people’s personal preferences are (and I’m shy myself, so I understand the feeling of not knowing how to approach conversation with a stranger) but that’s not an excuse for a person’s first sentence to be an invitation for sex, unless there’s some reason why the person knows that’s what the other person is there for (in certain settings, etc.)

  192. A. Noyd says

    Ross (#206)

    You ought to note the irony in your response.

    Yeahhhh. See, unlike you, I actually know irony from a hole in the ground. Which is why I pointed out how you’re inflating the danger of feminist extremists while downplaying the problem of men who feel entitled to women’s bodies. Maybe you could address that?

    Whether you realize it or not, you effectively denigrate the voice of an entire gender by dismissing it as “mansplaining”.

    “Mansplaining” is a term that reflects how you measure the importance of your opinion in relation to gender. I’m not the one who thinks you speak for all men, but it’s quite revealing that you would say I “denigrate the voice of an entire gender” by calling you out.

    Your name-calling…

    I didn’t call you any names.

    …delegitimizes the voices of men…

    You are not “men.”

    …a crucial part of the very feminist movement that you want to see succeed.

    Voices like yours are in no way crucial; rather, they work against progress with their continual demand for a shift in focus to whatever trivialities they find important. And you are not owed respect for the things you say simply because you imagine them to be invaluable.

    Somehow, any consideration of such a position is automatically construed to be evil or wrong.

    If you could temper your raging narcissism for half a second, you might realize you’re about the eleventy billionth person to raise these ridiculous concerns. Refusing to humor your misapprehension that you’re saying anything novel is not a failing on our part.

  193. John Phillips, FCD says

    A Noyd #212

    If you could temper your raging narcissism for half a second, you might realize you’re about the eleventy billionth person to raise these ridiculous concerns. Refusing to humor your misapprehension that you’re saying anything novel is not a failing on our part.

    QFFT

  194. LTFT says

    “If I were to permit myself a tangent, I might write a brief discourse here on the notion that nudity automatically implies sex.”

    James Pearson@200 and Jadehawk@203 already hit on this, but I think a long discourse would be a really useful bit to have handy for future linking.

    As I read Loftus’ comments, I thought he was saying something along the lines of, ‘Some guys see a girl who makes references to quickies or poses nude as someone who is more receptive than average to a hookup, so therefore they will focus attention on them for all the wrong reasons in all the wrong ways.’

  195. ben says

    Timid Atheist:

    “Just for the sake of argument… So what? So what if the woman you proposition “freaks out” on you?

    Let’s say for the sake of argument that this hypothetical woman who as just “freaked out” on you is the victim of rape or serial harassment or has a stalker she is currently dealing with. Is it acceptable now?”

    No, and this is not a reasonable example. If I wear mismatched socks, that could be very much not okay with someone who was raped by someone wearing mismatched socks. But that is not my problem. Sure, if I learn about it I may try to respect that, but if I don’t I’ll follow some basic rules that work well for interacting with most people most of the time–I’ll make assumptions. If I smile at someone whose family was murdered by someone who smiled at him first, that doesn’t give him license to shoot me–or even to tazer me. It is simply not reasonable to expect people to behave in a way that will never offend anyone or make anyone uncomfortable.

    Key in all this is that “asking politely” will set some people off because different people have different definitions of “asking politely”. In Thailand you’re rude if you point your feet at someone. In some Arab cultures you’re offensive if you’re a woman showing hair. It’s not my job to take wild guesses at what arbitrary thing is considered rude–only to (1) start “slow” for a value of “slow” that is defined by the dominant culture, and (2) back off when asked.

    “Calling someone not sane a.k.a. crazy, is fucked up in the extreme. Just because someone doesn’t react the way you want them to doesn’t mean they are mentally ill. And you’re putting a black mark on people who are mentally ill.”

    Strangely, this argument works perfectly well the other way around. But I discount it–there are standards for communication in society that, if they are not followed, result in recognised and provable problems. For example, if someone wants to communicate by shouting in my ear or by tapping morse code on my balls or blow cigarette smoke near me, I’m going to respect that desire, but I’m going to ask her not to. Only if she doesn’t cease am I going to escalate my response.

    “Posing nude in a calendar has nothing to do with what that woman will do when propositioned for sex.”

    I suspect you’re wrong, for reasons given in my post. You seem to be looking for a 1-to-1 correspondence, which of course you won’t find. But I’m pretty sure there’s a correlation. After all, people have personalities and opinions.

    “Let’s not make assumptions about people because we see them do things that could be sexual.”

    We make assumptions about people based on what they say and do. That’s part of being intelligent (in the loosest not-an-amoeba sense): we recognise patterns, and generalise. I hope you don’t start from complete ignorance every time you see a human-shaped pile of meat–even the fact that you can recognise as human a person whom you haven’t seen before indicates that you are making assumptions about things based on their appearance.

    So how do you find out more? See Greta’s O.P. Here’s a recap: you ask.

  196. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    I suspect you’re wrong, for reasons given in my post. You seem to be looking for a 1-to-1 correspondence, which of course you won’t find. But I’m pretty sure there’s a correlation. After all, people have personalities and opinions.

    Translation: I pulled it directly from my ass, but because I really, really WANT it to be true, it is.

  197. NateHevens says

    Honestly, I think there’s a much quicker way to say all this:

    It doesn’t matter if she’s in a bar, lying on top of the bar completely naked, masturbating herself with a beer bottle while others look on/take pictures/record video/whatever else. If you approach, and she says “NO”, then guess what?

    (Hint: back the fuck off, because she said “no”, and there is no situation in existence for which “no” will ever mean anything other than “no”.)

  198. Sensemaker says

    I’ve seen similar arguments so many times that I shouln’t be surprised by the sheer stupidity, but I am. Really, is it so hard to understand that there is a world of difference between being exposed to somehting against your will, such as sexual harassment, and doing something of your own free will such as posing nude? People are travelling by taxi, does that send a message that kidnapping is all right? People undergo surgery voluntarily, does that send a message that cutting up people is acceptable? That people leave out a lot of personal information on Facebook, does that send a message that stalking is all right? People donate money, does that send a message that it is acceptable to steal? Suicide is the leading cause of death among young people (depending on how you count of course), does that mean murder is allowed?

    Sensemaker

  199. male voice says

    In contrast to John Loftus other examples the “hug me I’m vaccinated” campaign actually sends a mixed message to people. Clearly you should not offer free hugs or any other intimate services as a reward for anything if you want to be taken seriously concerning unwanted touching.

  200. says

    Clearly you should not offer free hugs or any other intimate services as a reward for anything if you want to be taken seriously concerning unwanted touching.

    The operative word here is offer. Not force on or hug without asking. If you offer a hug that means you don’t hug someone without permission. The people running the “Hug Me, I’m Vaccinated” group always tell people the hugs are not mandatory and only offer them after the vaccine if the vaccinated person wants one.

  201. male voice says

    For the people running the group the hugs are quasi mandatory. If they don’t want to hug somebody they have to decline them to get vaccinated.

  202. says

    For the people running the group the hugs are quasi mandatory. If they don’t want to hug somebody they have to decline them to get vaccinated.

    No. The vaccines are given and then the person is asked if they want a hug afterwards. The point is to offer comfort, if wanted, for those who were just hurt by the needle. There is no requirement to decline the hug before getting vaccinated, though I’m sure if they say up front they dont’ want a hug whomever gives them the shot won’t push the point.

  203. Sili (I have no penis and I must jizz) says

    If some atheist women pose nude for a calendar, does this have implications for the question of sexual conduct at atheist conferences?

    Has Phil Plait been harassed, groped or propositioned?

Trackbacks

  1. […] this binary attitude and possessiveness about women’s bodies. Fortunately, we’ve got Greta Christina on our side, and she has just blown Loftus and his cluster of toadies away. Go read that. Maybe it will help some people realize that the inconsistencies they’re […]

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