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On harassment policies requiring signed consent forms in triplicate

They don’t.

Okay, that joke’s not going to get old for me.

So some folks who’ve little or no interest in discussing harassment policies rationally, who just want to stop them from happening because feminists (*gasp in horror*) are the ones pushing for them, have been suggesting that any convention implementing strong harassment policies that demand consent before touching would open you to a whole raft of legal issues and would curtail all the fun that can be had at a convention.

I don’t even have to strawman or play that up. That’s what people are actually saying about the “make sure you have consent before touching” clause. That it would require you to get lawyer-notarized consent forms for every handshake or hug.

This is for a code of conduct that attempts to respect every person’s bodily autonomy, in a social setting where people might have zero clue that some folks get all squeamish about being randomly hugged by strangers. Or worse, that some people might not like having their breasts groped randomly by strangers — yes, that’s apparently an issue, given the existence of PenguinCon’s Open Source Boob Project back in 2008.

That “project” involved people wearing red or green stickers — red means you’re not allowed to even ask for consent to grope them, green means you can ask and the person can choose to consent or not. You’d think this might be a good idea for people who have no idea how to obtain consent for actions like that, but really, it’s a horrible way of doing this whole consent thing — it makes the convention very grope-focused, which has ripple effects on people who weren’t wearing stickers at all.

People generally obtain consent by conversing with people, discovering if there’s common ground, learning whether there’s mutual interest, flirting, then escalating by inches (centimetres?), and backing off if there’s any indication that both parties aren’t enthusiastic about it. This is how flirting works for the neurotypical. It is how our society’s “romance narrative” is built, where people obtain consent through non-verbal means. This can be a fun game for those who can play it, but for those who can’t, for those who aren’t adept at or don’t like this romance narrative, consent can be obtained through other means. Like, asking.

There is something absolutely hot about asking someone if you can kiss them, and them saying yes. It can be done sexily. It can be done without spoiling the mood. And even if it’s done clumsily because you’re clumsy at asking, it can still be awesome. The end result is, you know that person is definitely into you if they’re consenting despite your clumsiness. And if you ask someone “can I kiss you” and they respond by diving lip-first at your face, you’ve got your answer and your kiss. No forms needed. No legal notary on hand.

So when Thunderf00t among others complained that getting consent for touching is a bad thing, it’s obvious that they don’t realize how often we ask for consent to various social transactions in day to day activities without ever making a noise. And if you can manage to get consent without words for transactions with a person that are intimate or sexual, that means you probably either know that person well enough to be able to make that judgment, or you’re not actually getting consent at all.

If there’s ever any doubt, asking is not a bad strategy. The alternative is risking engaging in an assault. Given the decision matrix of “ruining the mood” being the downside for asking for consent, and “committing assault” being the downside for not, which one actually maximizes your potential for sexy fun times? Do factor in that sexy fun times are sexier and more fun when the other person is enthusiastic about participating.

And this respect for bodily sexual autonomy must absolutely extend to people who have hang-ups about touching. If you’re running around hugging random people and you hug someone who doesn’t want to be hugged, sure, you might not be doing any physical damage, but you’re doing psychological damage that could have been mitigated by being a decent human being and asking for permission. Even if you know the person’s likely to accept (e.g. JT Eberhard, who loves hugs), you should damn well ask anyway. Maybe he’s not feeling it right then. Maybe he’s sick. Maybe he’s holding a hot coffee. Maybe he’s in a rush. Maybe you’ve already given him twenty hugs in the past half hour and he’s already begged off once, and he’s now little creeped out. Consent once, or to someone else, doesn’t mean consent always or to everyone.

Or grabbing someone’s leg and biting it. That’s fine and great and grand if you know the person and know they consent because you’ve already crossed those physical barriers. But if you don’t know it, you risk getting kicked out of the bar or convention or whatever, because you skipped the whole consent thing. Why would you skip the consent part of any negotiation? Isn’t that how stealing is wrong, because you didn’t get consent (or didn’t care about consent) to take something from someone before taking it? Physical transactions work the same way.

If you don’t know for certain, don’t take the chance and do something without their explicit consent. How is this totalitarian or controlling, by saying that people have different tolerances for touching and that we should respect those by requiring consent?

I suspect most of the pushback from this is about privilege — the privilege that people think they have to make any pass at any person they want under any circumstances, even if those passes disregard the nature of the transaction they’re making and the familiarity between the actors involved. Any curtailing of their “right” to Hunt The Wild Vagina (and yes, it’s mostly men breaching these contracts of consent, and mostly in pursuit of women), is seen as an attack on them personally. There are, of course, women who argue that it’s controlling of behaviour to demand that people know they have consent before they do things, but for the most part, these women are engaging in System Justification. I would be surprised to learn that there are any women who believe obtaining consent is too constrictive to their own privileges, frankly. But either way, the only reason to put pursuit of your personal gratification over someone else’s right to bodily autonomy is a disregard for that person’s bodily autonomy; e.g., an argument for your privilege to do what you want to others, be damned the consequences.

It’s not like any of these intimate activities are ruled out by having to obtain consent, and it’s not like obtaining consent is an onerous requirement in any other social context. How is it so controversial in context of conventions that are about things OTHER THAN sex? How is it controversial, knowing that the language for the American Atheists’ policy that people have pushed back against was directly lifted from the OpenSF polyamory convention, where finding consenting partners for sex is, in fact, a large component of the convention itself?

Why is this hard?

Comments

  1. says

    It isn’t difficult, people are pretending it is difficult for any number of bad/hateful/dishonest reasons. On one end are the people who actually want the freedom to violate other people’s autonomy, and on the other are people who have tribal loyalty/animosity issues more than actually caring about the issue either way, and a mile of bullshit in between.

  2. says

    That “project” involved people wearing red or green stickers — red means you’re not allowed to even ask for consent to grope them, green means you can ask and the person can choose to consent or not. You’d think this might be a good idea for people who have no idea how to obtain consent for actions like that, but really, it’s a horrible way of doing this whole consent thing — it makes the convention very grope-focused, which has ripple effects on people who weren’t wearing stickers at all.

    Yeah, they do that in many Muslim countries: A burqua, chador, abaya or veil means you want to be treated respectfully, anything less means you consent (in advance, sight-unseen) to whatever any guy wants to do to you. Great for the rapists, but a pretty horrible idea for everyone else.

  3. says

    Opponents to the anti-harassment policies don’t seem to understand: if you only engage in consensual behavior, you’ll have nothing to worry about. It isn’t like there’s going to be rules lawyers following everyone around asking for signed consent forms for each interaction. (And apparently, pointing this out is not hyperbole). Anti-harassment policies are meant to function as a PSA: some people don’t like to be touched, so don’t assume. If you don’t know, easiest way to find out is to just ask.

  4. A Hermit says

    I’m still gobsmacked that this actually has to be explained to people…especially people who make being rational, critical thinkers such a big part of their identity.

    But thanks for doing it again, and so well.

  5. says

    I’d like to play devil’s-advocate for a bit here, and offer this ramble on anti-harassment policies: the fact that an organization is even seriously discussing the adoption of such codes of conduct can be seen as a sign of weakness: it implies (rightly or wrongly) that a certain group of people don’t already agree on basic rules of manners, and therefore have to codify something basic that others already understand. And that gives assholes of all stripes an excuse to think “They don’t have rules, therefore I can do what I want and no one has a right to impose any rules on me!”

    As a counter-example, imagine a pub — any sort of pub, yuppie, biker, singles, honky-tonk, go-go, nudie, whatever. On the one hand, they serve alcohol, and promise to be places where people can relax and cut loose, so there’s always a chance of people getting drunk and out of hand — starting fights over dates, groping, spilled beer, loud and thoughtless words, sports-team rivalries, personal hurt, and gods know what else. So you’d think pubs would have detailed codes of conduct posted all over so all their drunk customers can stay apprised of the rules.

    On the other hand, they don’t actually have any such codes posted. If a bartender or waiter sees a sign of trouble (raised hostile voices, jostling, a female voice saying “get OFF me, you creep!” whatever), they signal a bouncer or three, and the bouncer(s) deal with the situation as they judge appropriate on the spot. No forms, no confirmation from management, no citation of chapter-and-verse, no debate about freedom vs. conformity; it’s just taken care of. And NO ONE questions the fairness of enforcing such non-specific unwritten rules, not even most of the people who get tossed out for breaking them. Why? Because everyone already has a pretty clear idea of how they’re supposed to act — it’s all just basic manners, which they got hammered into their heads starting in childhood, and even the assholes at least know there’ll be consequences for acting out of line, and tend to respect the visible enforcement of rules.

    No, I’m not saying conventions like TAM should (or can) be run exactly like a pub. And no, I’m not saying they shouldn’t have explicit rules of conduct. In all honestly, I’m really not saying much of anything, just offering a perspective on how people enforce rules of conduct on their premises, and how such efforts may be seen and interpreted (or misinterpreted) by outsiders. Everyone knows you can get thrown out of a pub for acting in certain ways, so no one feels any need to make detailed lists of what’s right and wrong behavior; and anyone who tries to defend bad behavior by saying “You don’t have a specific rule against the particular thing I did, therefore you can’t throw me out for it” is simply laughed out of town.

    I think what I’m saying is that, while conventions like TAM should make and enforce rules of conduct, they maybe shouldn’t make it look like a tough decision — because it really ISN’T a tough decision, it’s mostly basic manners, not some newfangled liberal/feminist speech code that has to be discussed because no one’s seen the like of it before; like be polite to others, don’t make rude comments about other people’s bodies or sex lives, don’t get nosey about private matters, don’t stare too overtly at a woman’s chest, don’t flash your dick at a stranger, that sort of thing.

    People are social (and slightly hierarchical) creatures. We have social instincts, and I think that some forms of enforcement work because we understand and respect them on the instinctual level, without having to do a lot of reasoning about it. And I suspect that too much wordy deliberation over rules of conduct imply, on the social-animal-instinctual level, that a particular event doesn’t “really” have rules, and/or that whatever rules you see posted are open to question and debate. And thus we get a lot of assholes questioning and debating basic and necessary rules (which I’m sure they weren’t doing in their parents’ homes), and pretending they’re being “skeptical” and rules are “tyranny.”

    This concludes my unorganized ramble…I guess…

  6. ImaginesABeach says

    Around 10 years ago, a legislator in the Minnesota legislature proposed a “People’s Right to Know Act”, which would have required written consent prior to any act of coitus. It didn’t pass – they passed the “woman’s right to get bad information about abortion” instead.

  7. penn says

    The whole bad faith argument also assumes that the policies are enforced by zero-tolerance robots of some sort. If some awkward guy (the most vulnerable people in the world apparently) thinks he’s flirting with someone and goes in for an unwelcome kiss, and it gets reported to the staff (very unlikely), they aren’t going to castrate him or anything. They wouldn’t even throw him out, if that was his only infraction. They’d make a note of it, and tell him not to do that in the future. The same is true for the awkward guy who offers a single unwelcome proposition. He’d at worst be told not to do that anymore. That’s not a huge deal (well if you followed Elevatorgate, it is I guess). The people interpreting these policies should be reasonable people that can tell a real harasser who needs to be removed from a awkward person making a mistake who needs to be corrected. Could there be borderline instances that people of good faith will disagree about? Sure, but that’s the case with every rule ever implemented in the history of humanity.

  8. says

    I think you all need to read Paula Kirby’s open letter on this topic. “The Sisterhood of the Oppressed”.
    And now I shall be subjected to the usual insults and vitriol.

    Okay, I’m mustering my best vitriol:

    Would you care to distill which of the points from Kirby’s 11-page letter which you think are relevant?

    Are you feeling properly hated and vitrioled now? I wouldn’t want to disappoint you.

  9. dysomniak, darwinian socialist says

    Comment by sc_35c267c004a51913836810b8c78b76cb blocked. [unkill]​[show comment]

    *yawn*

  10. says

    Shorter Paula Kirby:

    1. Feminazis!
    2. Sexy times happen at all conferences.
    3. You are tearing us apart!
    4. Women are oppressing themselves.
    5. If you are an activist you should be used to all the abuse by now.
    6. Stop being hysterical!

  11. says

    They’re not even trying anymore, are they?

    “I’m going to post a link to someone insulting you, add no content myself, and then ask you to call me names. Begin!”

    *yawn*

  12. becca says

    Yes, but the important thing is, can I bite your leg?

    “How is it controversial, knowing that the language for the American Atheists’ policy that people have pushed back against was directly lifted from the OpenSF polyamory convention, where finding consenting partners for sex is, in fact, a large component of the convention itself?”
    1) HA!
    2) Duh. We all know whether someone is ethical is 100% based on whether they fit with the patriarchal norms of Our Christian Nation, and that all sluts are inherently unethical. You just aren’t thinking about this right, Jason. The question isn’t “who asks for consent?” but “how would Jesus grope?” (HINT: Thunderfoot knows Jesus wouldn’t ask for consent!!!)

  13. kingjing says

    As a guy, I would be very uncomfortable if a complete stranger initiated physical contact with me without my permission. It’s an invasion of personal space, an inconvenience and a super goddamn weird thing to do, even if that person is internet famous and you love their work.

    Is this… Is this hard for people to grasp?

  14. Suido says

    @ Raging Bee’s devil’s advocate #5

    So you’d think pubs would have detailed codes of conduct posted all over so all their drunk customers can stay apprised of the rules.

    On the other hand, they don’t actually have any such codes posted.

    On the other hand, many do. Not necessarily a full code of conduct, but certainly reserving the right to kick people out.

    The problem with this system (of knowing what gets you kicked out because Dave got kicked out for it last week) is that it is not preventative. Bars rely on security because they’re admitting they can’t prevent problems, and don’t mind kicking people out after they’ve spent money.

    Conventions can’t work like that, therefore preventative measures such as codes of conduct are used. Since codes of conduct are pretty ubiquitous in workplaces, I think it takes a special kind of dickhead to think that is a sign of weakness, as in your first paragraph.

    I think you raise a good point regarding the lengthiness/wordiness of a policy potentially reducing its effectiveness, but the ones I’ve read don’t seem too long or complex. Anyone parsing those policies for ways to beat the system would be a special kind of dickhead, and along with missing the point, they will likely end up missing the rest of the convention after they attempt to exploit any loopholes.

  15. says

    I was thinking of writing a blog post myself on this issue, but I’ll just touch on what I want to say here. I’m pretty floored at this whole “You mean I have to ask? Well that’s no better than having the Taliban running things” reaction. It’s so preposterous it’s sickening.

    The religious community that I no longer belong to is the Pagan community. If you think atheists are generally sex-positive sans religious puritanism, well multiply that by factors of a quijillion to account for a religion that not only permits sex but celebrates it. It’s not uncommon for Pagan gatherings (usually festivals rather than conferences) to involve people walking around naked. Dancing naked. Drinking (lots) and doing drugs (pot & ‘shrooms etc.) (sometimes). There were often parties following religious rituals and some of them got quite, shall we use the term “fun”. Even casual greetings between acquaintances tended to be more physical than is the norm in regular society.

    And you know what? They fucking have sexual harassment policies. Stronger policies than even what I’ve seen proposed for secular conferences in the past couple of weeks.

    Here’s a recent sample:

    While the Kaleidoscope Gathering does not presume to prohibit mutually accepted, affectionate gestures nor to govern the acts of consenting adults in private: SEXUAL HARASSMENT HAS NO PLACE AT THE KALEIDOSCOPE GATHERING AND IS NOT TOLERATED!

    Peace of mind regarding physical safety is important for women, men and (particularly) children.

    UNACCEPTABLE BEHAVIOUR

    persistent staring, stalking or following;
    voyeuristic positioning;
    crowding of personal space;
    masturbation, other sexual acts or displays;
    any aggressive acts or threatening body language;
    unauthorised photography; and/or
    any videography.

    UNWELCOME COMMUNICATIONS

    any unwanted advances, remarks, suggestions, solicitations, propositions, gestures, threats, ridicule, innuendo or comments of a crude, racial, homophobic or sexual nature;
    persistent attempts to engage another person in clearly undesired conversation; and/or
    unsolicited comments about a person’s body or genitalia.

    UNPERMITTED TOUCHING

    any presumptuous touching of another persons’ body without their consent (including hugs, massages or other familiarities);
    any intentional touching of a minor without parental consent; and/or
    ANY public fondling of a sexual nature or public sexual act.

    The Kaleidoscope Gathering staff and guests are urged to help maintain our relaxed, family-friendly atmosphere by reacting, in a timely manner, to any situation they feel is unacceptable by the above definitions. If possible, make your disapproval or unease known as soon as possible to the person who offended you, in an attempt to resolve the situation. If the behaviour persists or if you do not wish to speak with that person, bring it to the attention of one of the executive organizers … or the head of the festival’s security team. Complaints will be responded to and investigated without delay. Confidentiality is always respected (except where it cannot be due to criminal prosecution or other legal requirements).

    Sexual harassment, as defined above, can result in immediate expulsion from the Kaleidoscope Gathering, revocation of memberships and/or the privilege of attending this (or, at the discretion of other festival organizers, other festivals) and, where warranted, could lead to criminal prosecution.

    The safety and security of festival goers is of prime importance to the Kaleidoscope Gathering.

    When I was involved over the course of about ten years (almost a decade ago!), we ousted three people from all events (all organised by different people without official bureaucracies in place) in the community in the province. It’s not that hard folks, and it won’t stop enthusiastic sex from happening.

  16. says

    Of course I mean *consensual* enthusiastic sex.

    Oh, and Raging Bee? The informal Pub Type Harassment Policy might work out okay in small groups or where some individual’s property rights come into play (i.e. this is my business/home/vehicle and I don’t like what you’re doing so you have to leave or I’m calling the cops). However, you’re now talking about gatherings that can have a few hundred people in attendance congregating in different venues, some more private than others. You’re also talking about a mixed purpose event–some people are there mainly to hear speakers, others to socialise, and others to have more intimate fun. The trick is to make all these people feel welcome and safe. At a certain point, the informal method doesn’t work anymore. You need something that sets clear guidelines for attendees, and a means of reporting people who aren’t acting like decent human beings so they can be removed. Consequently, people who don’t want to be removed will be more likely to act like decent human beings. And people contemplating whether to go or not will know that decent behaviour is expected and bad behaviour isn’t condoned, tolerated, or met with baffled confusion on the part of organisers.

  17. NoNeedForAName says

    RE : “Opponents to the anti-harassment policies don’t seem to understand: if you only engage in consensual behavior, you’ll have nothing to worry about.”

    I actually feel kind of the exact opposite. I feel it kind of insulting that I have to prove/agree that I’m not a creep.

    Bottom line is – there are assholes in the world, we come in contact with them every day. Some of those assholes are going to be at conventions simply by the law of big numbers and averages. Maybe it’s just me, but as an adult, i’ve learned how to deal with those assholes. If somebody touches me in a way i’m not comfortable with – they’re going to get an earful. If it escalates – i’m going to go to someone (such as security at a conference, a bouncer at a bar, police in the general public, etc) to deal with it. That’s how grown ups act.

    So I fail to see why I should be looked at as a potential creep simply because some people seem to fail to grasp these basic concepts of how to function in society. Your logic of “if you only engage in consensual behavior, you have nothing to worry about” is along the same lines as the police performing an illegal search and saying “if you’re not doing anything illegal you have nothing to hide”. Well – no, F that.

    Take that one step further and throw in the talk about vast male conspiracies that are patting eachother on the back for keeping women down and promoting harassment, and it’s enough to make my eyes roll and turn me off to this entire community entirely. This whole thing is so blown up and over-dramatized it’s ridiculous, and is getting to the point i’m getting embarrassed to even admit I follow some of these blogs.

  18. NoNeedForAName says

    Ibi3 : I can see your point, but I would disagree a bit. What you’re talking about is along the lines of the same thinking that says passing laws prevents crime. People who are are decent and are going to follow the rules, don’t need to be told the rules in the first place. People who aren’t decent aren’t going to follow them anyways.
    The rules we’re talking about are basic human decency. Basically decent people don’t need to be told not to grab asses that don’t want to be grabbed. People who are totally socially inept and have no game so to speak, don’t realize they’re doing anything wrong in the first place. People who are dirtbags that are just trying to hookup, and are completely disrespectful – oftentimes also don’t think they’re doing anything wrong. So what’s the point of all this? People are going to do what they’re going to do regardless. If somebody acts like a creep, throw their asses out – call security, whatever. No need for all the dramatics involved. Again, we all deal with these same issues on a daily basis in society. Why are conferences suddenly different?

    Not to sound like a dick, but some people just need to grow the hell up and take care of themselves, and stop looking to everyone else to do it for ‘em.

  19. says

    Bars rely on security because they’re admitting they can’t prevent problems, and don’t mind kicking people out after they’ve spent money.

    Actually, they can and do prevent problems (not ALL problems of course) to the extent that everyone knows, or at least can strongly trust, that the bars will take action against misbehavior, and that everyone involved already understands and respects the same set of rules of behavior. Given that drinking in bars is a LOT more common than disorderly conduct in bars, it’s safe to say that there is some sort of preventive force at work there.

    Since codes of conduct are pretty ubiquitous in workplaces, I think it takes a special kind of dickhead to think that is a sign of weakness, as in your first paragraph.

    Well, there are all kinds of dickheads in this world, general and special — including imature asshats who think, or pretend to think, that “freethought” means no rules, rules mean fascism, and rules that make it harder for them to try to get laid are especially evil. Note all the whinery and bullshit going on here about anti-harassment policies.

    Anyone parsing those policies for ways to beat the system would be a special kind of dickhead…

    Like I said…

  20. says

    I feel it kind of insulting that I have to prove/agree that I’m not a creep.

    It’s insulting to expect you not to act creepy? Because not acting creepy is the standard way of proving (or at least trying to show) that you’re not a creep.

  21. quentinlong says

    sez noneedforaname: “I feel it kind of insulting that I have to prove/agree that I’m not a creep.”
    Yeah, I feel for you, bro. It really is annoying that these harrassment policies demand that everyone who attends a conference has to read and sign an official, notarized statement that they won’t be a creep…
    Oh.
    Wait.
    The harrassment policies don’t demand that anyone who attends a conference has to read and sign an official, notarized statement that they won’t be a creep. As best I can tell from the harrassment policies I’ve read, they don’t even mention any particular form of proving that one isn’t going to be a creep. In fact, it looks to me like the only form of ain’t-a-creep ‘proof’ which is being asked for, even by unwritten implication, is…
    [wait for it]
    not acting like a creep. How awful! How draconian! How horribly much of an unjust imposition, how heinously much of an unendurable burden it is, to, you know, not engage in creepy behavior!
    [shakes head] Dude whines about “how awful I gotta prove I’m not a creep” in the comment-thread of a post which explicitly denies that there’s any such thing as “harrassment policies requiring signed contsent forms in triplicate”? [shakes head again] Reading Comprehension: UR DOING IT RONG, NoNeedForAName.

  22. says

    The trick is to make all these people feel welcome and safe. At a certain point, the informal method doesn’t work anymore. You need something that sets clear guidelines for attendees, and a means of reporting people who aren’t acting like decent human beings so they can be removed.

    Understood. I guess the point I’m trying to get to is that when making rules of conduct, organizers should try to emphasize that the rules are nothing really new, but based on rules of conduct that are already common knowledge, and no one has any excuse to act like a new and alien set of rules is being imposed from the planet Vulcan or something.

  23. noneedforaname says

    Re: Bee & quentinlong –

    actually, if you bothered to read what I was saying, the bigger point is that all of this discussion and drama is frankly silly and not just a little embarrassing. It’s sad that such supposedly intellectual people have to have this big weeks long discussion about basic personal interactions.

    Maybe I should have been a bit more clear on my comment about proving/agreeing about being creepy. I find it offensive that some feel the need to even have to post policies or a public notice about it, or that it’s even a serious topic of discussion.
    The implication being that I have to be told how to act in public. I’ve managed to act right for over 30 years without some meaningless event organizer or group telling me what to do – I think I can handle a few days in their presence.

    While this post might not recommend policies requiring people to sign an acknowledgement – it has actually been mentioned elsewhere (i’m not going to bother digging up the links, but if you poke around it’s not hard to find). That to me is super BS – and from the sound of things people around here seem to agree. So what’s the problem?

  24. noneedforaname says

    re: “Understood. I guess the point I’m trying to get to is that when making rules of conduct, organizers should try to emphasize that the rules are nothing really new, but based on rules of conduct that are already common knowledge, and no one has any excuse to act like a new and alien set of rules is being imposed from the planet Vulcan or something.”

    And that’s kind of the heart of what I find slightly insulting. As if somehow I’ve been stumbling along in life all this time. Thank god for someone telling me the “rules of conduct” or I wouldn’t know WHAT to do with myself.

  25. says

    Does passing a law against theft make you feel insulted or make you think you have to go around proving to everyone that you’re not a thief?

    I suspect not. Nor do you feel insulted by rules against keeping slaves or beating people up, right? Do you feel that traffic lights are an affront to your dignity?

    So, apparently, if you’re not a bank robber, the laws against robbery are irrelevant to you and damage your ego not a whit. In the same way, if you’re not a creep, the rules about sexual harassment are not meant for you. They ought to be irrelevant, not offensive.

    Again, if you can ward off most sexual harassers by your magical powers and deal with the remainder by means of your golden voice or access to whatever security personnel that may be nearby, then that’s fantastic. The reporting procedures aren’t meant for you. Again, they ought to be irrelevant to you, not offensive.

    Carry on and leave the rest of us to make these events safer for us by means that work towards that end on a daily basis in society.

  26. throwaway says

    @NNfAN @27: It’s not totally for your benefit (or the benefit of would-be harassers) to know what is reasonably expected so that you don’t mess up. It’s mainly for people who have a vested interest in not being harassed by those whose concept of harassment is not congruent with what you or I would consider the ‘norm.’ It won’t prevent harassment, but it is a sign that the organisers will take proactive steps to address complaints of harassment. Having their definition of harassment, and the groups it can apply to, prevents ambiguity when enforcing these decisions.

  27. says

    I find it offensive that some feel the need to even have to post policies or a public notice about it, or that it’s even a serious topic of discussion.

    I don’t find the feelings of the people who need such policies offensive. I find it offensive that not everyone seems to be able to act decently without such policies. You’re blaming the wrong people, in other words. We have laws and rules and such because some people are creeps and assholes and assaulters and rapists. They need to be told how to behave and how not to behave. We need to have people to handle them when they don’t behave well. Why are you putting down the people who want to be able to participate just as free of care as you instead of the assholes who can’t seem to act with a minimum of respect for others?

  28. noneedforaname says

    Passing a law against stealing isn’t offensive. If I walk into a steakhouse however, and the waitress tells me if I steal anything they’re going to call the police -i’m probably going to turn around and leave. I’m not a thief – but the fact that I’m automatically cast in that light for no reason, is kind of annoying.

    It’s the implication that everyone is a potential offender, and must be reminded to keep themselves inline. It’s a nanny-state mentality and i reject it entirely.

  29. noneedforaname says

    I’m not putting anybody down. Yes, there are those assholes out there. Yes, they need to be dealt with. “Don’t be creepy” should go without saying. Having someone come give you a talking to or kick your ass out for being creepy also goes without saying. I don’t need that reminder. The vast mast majority of people don’t need to be told. I just find it annoying that some people find it necessary to have to remind the entire male population not to rape or harass.

  30. says

    If the server singles you and only you out, yeah, I could see where that might be insulting. But that’s not what’s happening. It’s more like a sign on the door saying “No Smoking”. No one’s assuming that anyone decent like you would be so crass as to smoke while other people are trying to eat. But the restaurant sometimes attracts people who aren’t like you and would think nothing of blowing smoke in the direction of the asthmatic child at the next table. That is, if there weren’t such a sign. And, hey, there’s an added bonus. If someone does light up, the parent of that kid can point to the sign and say “There’s no smoking in here, thanks.” and if that doesn’t do the trick, they can report to the management who can kick the offender out.

    But you know, the more you whinge about how offensive and embarrassing anti-harassment policies are, the more I think that you’re exactly the kind of asshole they’re directed at.

  31. throwaway says

    I just find it annoying that some people find it necessary to have to remind the entire male population not to rape or harass.

    Because clearly only straight white cisgendered men can harass, therefore it’s all a conspiracy against the dick-having white bros. You do know that “harassment based on gender” applies both ways right? That “sexual preference” is a neutral term that applies equally in both directions? That if you were harassed by a bunch of people for being a straight white male, then you would be protected by the same policies you think we have no need for?

  32. says

    NNFN:

    It’s not all about you.

    I just find it annoying that some people find it necessary to have to remind the entire male population not to rape or harass.

    First, no one thinks it necessary to have to remind the entire male population not to harass. But we don’t know who needs the reminder and who doesn’t, so we remind everyone. In the same breath, organisers indicate that they actually care and will do something when harassers do their thing. That’s a big deal since there’s such a problem for victims of harassment to be taken seriously. (And no one thinks that all rapists or harassers are male, by the way–you’re strawmanning.)

    Second, why don’t you direct your annoyance at the harassers and rapists instead of the people who don’t want to be harassed or the people who inform everyone that people don’t want to be harassed?

  33. noneedforaname says

    So just out of curiosity. What do people do when they go to a movie theater? The grocery store? Any large public place where people might gather? I’m not aware of any movie theaters or grocery stores that have posted sexual harassment policies. Are those place somehow unsafe?

    As far as the no smoking sign – the no smoking sign makes sense (or did at one point) since smoking was the national past time in this country for so long, and in some places smoking is still a generally accepted thing to do, even at dinner.

    Shoplifters will be prosecuted – if you’re at a store, where the entire purpose of the establishment is for people to buy things, it at least makes sense given the context of the environment.

    I just find this whole issue completely over the top. The drama, the accusations,the endless discussion. It’s simple – if there’s a problem, handle it. People shouldn’t need a policy to know how to act right, and inversely people shouldn’t need policies to know how to handle someone who’s not acting right.

  34. noneedforaname says

    Iis3 – if we want to be PC about it – you’re right. It’s not only men who harass. In the context of this discussion, and who’s brought the issue up and what those concerns are – we can drop the PC act and be honest about it. I mean hell, people are even talking about how women’s participation to TAM is down in part due to harassment. If that’s not a condemnation I don’t know what is. If you want to be PC and say it applies to everybody – great, you’re right, it applies to everybody – but again, let’s be honest who’s in mind in the birth of these discussions.

    Second, I have, and do. I’ve had more than a few conversations with overly aggressive idiots over the years, and didn’t need any policy or established protocol to know to do so.

    Third – no, it’s not all about me. I know that. For me it’s about a certain mentality that’s persistent in society these days. The idea that everyone is potentially a _______. Fill in the blank depending on context. That just kind of irks me, and this, I feel, is an example of that.

  35. throwaway says

    People shouldn’t need a policy to know how to act right, and inversely people shouldn’t need policies to know how to handle someone who’s not acting right.

    I’d like to live in that perfect world too. But since we don’t, I’ll settle for a policy as a measure of confidence that if I were to be harassed the situation would be handled in a fair and ecumenical manner.

  36. noneedforaname says

    And who says the policy does a damn bit of good? I’m not aware of policies at conferences having any legally binding authority, or there’s any requirement that those policies even be enforced. Hell – look at comment #7 – seems like all it’s going to do is provide a gentle reminder in most cases anyways.

  37. says

    noneedforaname #39:

    …if we want to be PC…

    …we can drop the PC act and be honest…

    If you want to be PC…

    Appealing to “political correctness” is a form of false balance, which is an indicator of dishonesty. Please don’t do it if you want to remain credible.

    noneedforaname #41:

    …or there’s any requirement that those policies even be enforced.

    The lack of a visible, much less trustworthy, enforcement mechanism for TAM’s harassment policy was one of the criticisms levied when DJ Grothe attempted to cite said policy during that blowup.

    And even without that, it doesn’t take too much thought to realize that an unenforced policy, or a policy that no one can be trusted to enforce, is no better than no policy at all.

    You don’t seem to be taking your opponents terribly seriously. I suggest dropping that if you want to be taken seriously.

  38. throwaway says

    And who says the policy does a damn bit of good?

    The people who feel encouraged by the policy that they will not have to endure harassment. It’s not a placebo policy. I looked at #7. Penn is right – the enforcement of rules throughout history have been dealt with based on severity and number of occurrences. This doesn’t mean the policies are ineffective.

  39. noneedforaname says

    @#42 : In this case, I don’t think a PC claim is out of line. It’s the most appropriate term I could think of. This entire discussion revolves around women who have been sexually harassed by men, and feel that policies need to be put in place to protect them. Coming back and claiming that it’s not about men after the fact is completely dishonest. Claiming it applies to everyone so nobody gets offended is the very definition of PC.
    If you’re okay with that level of dishonesty – don’t come at me trying to give me a talk on credibility. If it’s targeted at men, it’s targeted at men. Fine, whatever. Just be honest about it was my point.

    To be honest – I have a hard time taking some of you seriously. You seem to think that some words on a piece of paper hold any meaning whatsoever. let me give you an example. Murder is illegal. However, if I have to drive through a shitty neighborhood late at night, i’m still going to fear for my safety. I know if something happens the police will investigate it and deal with it – but I’ve been around the block enough to know that someone that kill me doesn’t give a shit about the law. What you’re saying is that because somebody puts something on paper – all is right in the world. That’s simply not the case.

    To me – part of this whole “free thinking” movement is not just about thinking for yourself, but acting for yourself. If you have a problem, handle it. If somebody threatens you, go to the proper authorities (which news flash, is exactly what TAM organizers are going to do if someone needs to be removed – go to venue security)
    Now I can already picture the “blame the victim” or “attacking the victim” responses i’m going to get – but I disagree. I think it’s empowering the victim to know that they don’t have to rely on someone else. Knowing that one is capable of affecting their own safety without having to run to a middle man. I think it’s kind of belitting to talk to people like “oh – don’t worry, we’ll take care of it for you”. I think there should be a lot more encouragement for people to stand up for themselves, and take their own safety and security into their own hands, instead of turning that responsibility over to a legally powerless 3rd party.

    But hey – that’s just me.

  40. Campbell says

    “The implication that everyone is a potential offender,” “The idea that everyone is a ____”: They are. Can’t know ’til we open the box…

    As others have said, why doesn’t NN4N direct his anger where it can actually matter–run along and go fix that ostensible minority of “creeps” who are giving NN4Ns and his non-creepy ilk a bad name?

    But really? The whinging about PC and drama and why we need rules since most people are decent donchaknow is just a smokescreen for what’s really the issue: the barely (if even) obscured assumption in NN4ANs comments that harassment isn’t a problem. Doesn’t really happen and when lightning strikes and it does happen a “victim” ought to just man up and handle it herself. Jesus, aren’t we done with that shitty argument and attitude?

  41. noneedforaname says

    Campbell – I never said it’s not a problem. In fact I’ve said quite the opposite a number of times.

    I just find it utterly confusing that people rally against someone thinking for them (such as in the case of religion) – yet when it comes to physical safety, they look to others for protection.

  42. noneedforaname says

    And not just others – but a body that is legally powerless, and frankly useless when it comes to providing any type of real physical security.

  43. noneedforaname says

    Look at it this way:

    You go out to dinner. You come out of the restaurant and find somebody broke into your car.

    Do you:
    a) go back into the restaurant and demand the manager track down the thief and do something.

    b) call the police.

    Event organizers are not law enforcement. They have zero legal authority to do anything. If they want someone physically removed from the venue, legally they have to go to a licensed security agent to do so. If some big guy just grabs the offender and throws him out – even if it’s at the direction of event organizers, it’s assault. So what is their purpose actually? They are not law enforcement, They are not licensed security professionals. They have ZERO authority whatsoever to do anything. So why not deal with it by going straight to someone who DOES have some authority and CAN deal with it appropriately?

    Frankly, letting such a powerless body deal with issues like this lets offenders off easily. Go to someone with real legal authority, and there might be real legal consequences for the offenders.

    That’s not saying there’s not a problem – that’s saying it IS a problem, and should be addressed a bit more seriously than a stupid freakin piece of paper that isn’t worth using it to wipe.

  44. dysomniak, darwinian socialist says

    yet when it comes to physical safety, they look to others for protection.

    It’s called living in society you nitwit. You fucking “self reliant” libertarian types are ridiculous.

  45. noneedforaname says

    No – if I was being a self reliant libertarian type – I’d suggest a nice glock to deal with the problem. I’m saying when people do something borderline (or sometimes even outright) illegal – they should be held accountable. Event organizers lack the power to provide that accountability, and have a vested interest in avoiding the PR nightmare that calling the police might create.

    Event Coordinators are trying to create an event. That’s their job.

    Police are there to “protect and serve” the public. That’s their job.

    Let them both do what they’re best at.

  46. dysomniak, darwinian socialist says

    Event Coordinators are trying to create an event. That’s their job.

    And having policies helps them do their job.

  47. Campbell says

    @NN4Ns: Apologies if I misconstrued the extent to which you consider sexual harassment a problem. Comments such as “as an adult, I’ve learned how to deal with,” “that’s how grown ups act,” “some people just need to grow the hell up and take care of themselves,” “the whole issue completely over the top,” “blown up and over-dramatized,” “talk about vast male conspiracies” and especially “If there’s a problem” suggested to me otherwise.

    The impression those language choices give me is that the entire issue for you is best characterized as merely a lack of maturity and manners (which I think is a rather naive view, ignoring deeply held socio-cultural assumptions about sexuality and what it is to be “a man” and “a woman”) and–more troubling to me–seems to draw an equivalence that victims who support anti-SH policies are as childish and unwilling to act like grown-ups as the “socially inept” “dirtbags” who have “no game.”

    Codes of conduct or other policies regarding behavior may or may not be backed with State enforcement power, they may identify a climate to which they hope their members will positively contribute, they function as normative statements, they can specify (and enforce) expectations to which guests to their convention should adhere. That a recalcitrant attendee might need to be escorted out by hotel security isn’t the point. What is the disadvantage (beyond you feeling insulted because you’re so mature, your game’s so good, that you don’t need to be told not to harass)?

    You describe perpetrators as those who “don’t think” and/or “don’t realize they’re doing anything wrong.” What’s the downside to a statement that might educate them? Just reading comments on various FtBs in the past few weeks, there are plenty of anecdotes from folks admitting to having learned over time and in many cases thanks to workplace anti-harassment policies about what counts as sexual harassment and having moderated their behavior accordingly.

  48. noneedforaname says

    To some extent, for me personally – it is a matter of lack of maturity. I was taught at a very VERY early age to stand up for myself, and that if someone does something to me – I go to an authority figure that can help. (Event Organizers are not authority figures, since they have no real authority) To me it’s a matter of empowerment and looking out for yourself first and foremost.

    Later in life, as my mother helped victims of rape and abuse – those same concepts of victim empowerment were a pretty central theme. If your friend’s husband is beating the crap out of her, you don’t tell her “don’t worry, we’ll try to get some policies put in place for you” – you empower her and support her so that she goes to the freakin police.
    It’s kind of central to how I view problems like this. To me – it seems kind of counter intuitive that when discussion issues of sexual harassment, or potentially even cases of outright assault – that we’re talking about looking at adopting policies when those very simple concepts of victim empowerment not only achieve the same end result, but would likely result in harsher penalties for offenders.

    At this point – all of this discussion feels like it’s crossing into the territory of intellectual analysis for analysis’ sake. That it’s become a blown up and over-dramatized exercise in mental masturbation versus seeking real solutions. There are options for people who are harassed or threatened regardless of an event organizers policies – yet it seems discussing those options takes all of the fun out of arguing about it on the internet. Sorry – but I reject that. If event organizers are reluctant to adopt certain policies, then… oh well. Venue security is going to have a protocol for dealing with these issues, and the legal authority to really do something about it. People should feel empowered and capable of taking care of themselves regardless of whether some meaningless policies are in place or not. I don’t see what the big horror of that concept is.

    If harassment and abuse are the problem – then we should be educating victims (and potential victims) what their options are. Not arguing over the meaning of “unwanted sexual attention” on the internet.

  49. noneedforaname says

    and as for : “You describe perpetrators as those who “don’t think” and/or “don’t realize they’re doing anything wrong.”

    What I mean by that -is someone who is socially inept and doesn’t understand the nuances of flirting (aka “has no game”) – they are highly unlikely to realize what they’re doing is harassment, even if you talk about “unwanted sexual attention”.

    People who are just creeps and scumbags just don’t give a shit no matter how you explain it to them. That’s what makes them creepy scumbags in the first place.

    What it comes down to in the end, is how you view the purpose of rules/laws. Some people view laws as preventative in nature. They are not. They provide a framework for punishment after the fact. If someone is a decent person, you don’t have to tell them not to rape/steal/murder others. If they’re not – it doesn’t matter how many times you say it – they just might rape/steal/murder anyways. This policy debate to me is the same thing. If you have to explain to people not to grab someone’s ass or make completely rude statements to others – your words are likely going to fall on deaf ears, and given the right opportunity they’ll do it anyways. Since a lot of these organizations really have no authority to do anything – what’s the point? It would be much more useful to simply say “if you are being harassed, threatened, etc etc etc – here’s how to get ahold of venue security…” Problem completely solved.

    Then again – we wouldn’t be able to argue about it on the internet, and debate the meaning of “unwanted sexual attention”.

  50. noneedforaname says

    Also – my previous question still stands. What do you do in public spaces where no harassment policy exists? What do you do if somebody makes repeated unwanted advances at the movies, or at the grocery store? Why is a public conference a unique venue with a specific set of rules different from other public spaces?

  51. Campbell says

    I guess we see the function of rules/laws somewhat differently, as I wouldn’t ignore their normative value, in this specific instance the value of policies for creating a climate that empowers victims and potential victims and which also at least has a better than zero chance of educating potential perpetrators. (You seem to have a pretty negative view of men if you think that perpetrators are merely dirtbags incapable of change. Having taught gender studies to college-aged males, it’s been my personal experience that guys aren’t like that at all. Rather, I’ve observed that education can make a big difference in attitudes and conduct with regard to sexual behavior.)

    I guess I’m also at a loss to understand why the reliance on State power–what you call “real” Authority. Often an instance of SH may not rise to a particular state’s legal definition of sexual assault, for example, or be considered relatively trivial by uninformed or uneducated officers or security staff. Even when it’s a clear call, I’m sure your mother has probably told you that one of the biggest issues (even today) with rape and domestic violence prevention is that “The Authorities” often deny, trivialize, or relegate to “family” or “private” realms reports of abuse.

    One reason organizations develop codes of conduct is to try to create a climate that a) empowers potential victims to recognize and feel safe in reporting incidents; and b) educates potential perpetrators regarding what sorts of behavior are and are not acceptable. If an organization’s policy can prevent some behavior from happening–make it possible that “The Authority” doesn’t have to even get involved—isn’t that a good thing? The specific proposed and exemplar policies recently provided on various blogs function as empowering statements–they are in part the equivalent of the neighbors in your example taking the battered woman aside and saying, “Hey, what he’s doing isn’t right, you don’t have to put up with it and we can help you.”

    So how is it that the specific posted proposals aren’t “real solutions”? They function to educate potential victims AND potential perpetrators about their options. How is that not apparent just by reading the proposed policies provided on various blogs?

    It’s not either/or: the specific proposals don’t replace “Real Authority.” They empower members to recognize and respond to specific conduct. I don’t see “what the real horror of that concept is,” to echo your words. Again, what the hell is the disadvantage? Nothing you’ve said so far suggests the policies dis-empower anyone or make SH MORE likely. A victim still has to recognize, object to, and take action regarding the offensive behavior. No policy that I’ve seen requires a victim to squeal “help me, Nanny!” and wait for someone else to step in. The policies merely set a standard and ensure that when the victim recognizes and resonds, she can know the larger community to which she belongs has her back. There’s nothing disempowering about that. Ultimately, for me, if the only downside to the policies is that a few people (based on comments on blogs, mostly guys) are “insulted” then I guess I don’t give a crap. Is their being insulted going to turn them into harassers? Will it make them not be pissed off if they observe “dirtbag” behavior? Will it make them less empathetic to victims? No? Then who cares?

  52. Campbell says

    Re your 56:
    You really aren’t seriously suggesting that the presence of a policy in one context makes it LESS likely that a victim would recognize, object to, and respond to an instance of sexual harassment in another?? That’s just goofy. There’s no evidence (if there is I’d love to see cites) that conduct statements have that effect. Plus? something about rising tide seems relevant here…

  53. noneedforaname says

    It’s not a deference to state power. However, I have hosted events at a variety of venues before, and I can speak from personal experience when I say that when you get between a problem and the established security mechanism – it can cause some major problems. Event organizers are not trained security staff, they should not be acting in that capacity. Any time I’ve had problems at one of my events, my response is a very simple “come with me,let’s take care of this”. I find a security guard, and let them deal with it.

    Nevermind that let’s say some guy is acting out of line with a woman. You think it’s a matter of give him a stern warning and keep an eye on him. Fine – that’s what you do – but now he goes across the hall and starts harassing someone at an unrelated event. Clearly this guy is a problem. If you’re going through the established venue security there’s a greater chance they’ll see the pattern and recognize the problem. There’s virtually no chance that someone from an unrelated event is going to come to you to complain, so nobody puts two and two together. Even if you put two and two together -you have no authority to eject them from the venue, only your specific event. Even then you’ll have to get security involved to do so – at which case it’s now turning in a clusterfuck explaining this guy did this here, and this other thing over there, and etc etc etc. Let security do that. That’s their job. That’s what they’re trained to do.

    It’s not that i’m saying policies SHOULDN’T be in place. I’ve never said I’m flat out against them. I have some mild annoyance with being treated like i’m not capable of acting reasonable – but it’s more annoyance that it needs to be said in the first place.

    My real issue is this whole “rah rah we NEED a policy! the policy will solve EVERYTHING! Policies make us SAFE.” There seems to be a mentality on the part of the proponents that events are unsafe if they lack an explicit policy – but are naturally more safe if they do. And I’m sorry, but that’s just wrong.

    Also – I don’t think all men are pigs or whatever. I think people who are socially inept are exactly that, socially inept. In most cases they don’t realize their advances are unwanted because they lack the understanding of subtle social cues that would indicate those advances are unwanted. They simply don’t get that when a woman says “oh, no, thanks i’m just waiting on a friend” when you offer to buy a drink – that it’s a subtle way of saying “whoa, not gonna happen guy, try somebody else”. No amount of policy making is going to change that.

    I do however think there is an element that is outright predatory, and for those – no amount of “no means no” talk is going to change their behavior. You could plaster a harassment policy on every flat surface of a venue – and if the right opportunity presents it’s self, they’ll do it anyways.

    as far as the nanny-ish comments – this was posted on another blog (i’m sure you can figure out which one) :

    “And I am baffled at this idea that a code of conduct at a conference gives the impression that the attendees are not adults, or that their every action will be vigilantly vetted. I have been to lots of events with codes of conduct, from conferences to concerts to sex parties, and I have never gotten this impression. The impression I have gotten is that:

    a) the organizers recognize that most of its attendees are civil, honest, respectable folks… but if the event is big enough and/or open to the public, there’s probably going to be a handful of uncivil, skeezy, irresponsible jerks — so the organizers are letting these jerks know that their behavior won’t be tolerated;

    b) the organizers recognize that social expectations vary in different situations, and even civil, honest, respectable folks may not know what’s expected in this particular setting — so the organizers are letting attendees know what the guidelines are here.”

    In point a) to me there is no but. You either think people are capable of handling themselves, or you do not. It’s like the innocent until proven guilty concept. Treat people as though they’re decent people until you have reason to believe otherwise. At that point, you deal with them. You don’t have to cast a suspicious eye at everyone right out of the gate, which is what that is. Point b is downright puzzling. As I’ve asked numerous times now – what is so unique about a convention that completely different social norms would apply? It goes completely against the concept that “most people are reasonable people who will act reasonably”. If that’s the case, then you don’t need to tell people how to act reasonably. It’s nanny-ish because it’s assuming out of the gate that people need to be told how to act in a basic social gathering.

  54. noneedforaname says

    re : “You really aren’t seriously suggesting that the presence of a policy in one context makes it LESS likely that a victim would recognize, object to, and respond to an instance of sexual harassment in another?? That’s just goofy. There’s no evidence (if there is I’d love to see cites) that conduct statements have that effect. Plus? something about rising tide seems relevant here…”

    No, it’s more getting at – why would a conference somehow have a different set of social conduct requirements than anywhere else? Why would the existence of a public policy make a conference more or less safe (which seems to be the prevailing argument) than say a grocery store or a movie theater? My point isn’t that one is less safe than the other -quite the opposite. It’s that it is exactly the same.

  55. noneedforaname says

    That – “it’s exactly the same” sentiment also applies to how one would respond. If you’re at the mall, and someone is harassing you – what do you do? Do you curl up in the corner in utter confusion because there’s publicly posted harassment policy to follow? Probably not. So why is a conference any different?

  56. Ysanne says

    Jason,
    I totally agree with you on statements like this
    “for those who aren’t adept at or don’t like this romance narrative, consent can be obtained through other means. Like, asking.”
    and that it’s a good idea to spell out the total no-no behaviours so no one can pretend they didn’t know.
    Then again, often enough I read comments that see “asking” already as assuming too much entitlement, as an unwelcome sexual advance, a form of objectification, or plain creepy. (And there exist a situations and ways of asking for which this view is entirely accurate.)
    My guess is that a good proportion of those complaining about too-restrictive rules have this kind of grey area in mind: They’re trying to be nice and ask for consent, and the asked person sees this as an unwelcome attention and sexual harassment. Which of them is wrong?
    (My personal opinion: Both, but it’s no biggie and they should be able to work it out in about 20 seconds tops.)
    Anyway, “just ask” is not all that simple.

    NB: This is not meant as an argument against having a harassment policy. Just to apply it with common sense.

  57. noneedforaname says

    Ysane – “just ask” is not all that simple because we’re talking about creating policies that dictate how people interact with eachother. Since everyone’s different with different personalities and different styles of interacting with one another – this is kind of a futile exercise.

  58. Campbell says

    Final inning with NNrNs:

    Maybe I’m just tired, but I think your latest few posts are one hot mess of straw-manning and hypothetical “problems” that aren’t remotely unique to a meeting with a conduct statement.

    –You’ve still yet to identify a disadvantage to policies, other than the regret that it’s a shame we need them and the bizarre and still unsubstantiated notion that a policy in one place paralyzes a person’s ability to react in another venue without a policy.

    –None of the proposed policies conflate event staff with trained security staff. All of the proposed policies specify a relationship and proposed pattern of expected communication with venue security and law enforcement. That’s an improvement over a no-policy situation. Under a condition of no policy you’d still have your hypothetical problem of a perpetrator slithering down the hall to another bar or meeting space if he gets told off. Where’s your evidence that the “clusterfuck” is MORE likely in a policy- rather than no-policy context?

    –I really do suspect that the real, bottom-line issue for you is the insult thang—that you’re pissed some people have to be told not to be harassers and some people have to be empowered to recognize and object to it. Yup. It’s a fucked up society. Try fixing it.

    –Irritation that things aren’t better than they are hardly constitutes sufficient reason not to have policies in place. Especially since there’s no downside to attempting to foster a better climate, which hopefully will eventually down the line make such policies unnecessary. And? To repeat: go fix the dirtbags that are ruining it for you decent guys. You and I have been yammering at each other for hours; have you spent anywhere close to that time on other threads attempting to persuade folks that there IS a problem with harassment (you said you think there is)?

    –Re: “The policy will solve EVERYTHING! Policies make us SAFE.” What the fuck? Who the hell ever said that??? No one ever said with a policy in place harassment disappears. No one ever said a policy would change the behavior of a hard-core predator. (Remember, though, you granted the value of empowering potential victims to recognize and learn ways to respond to incidents in a context in which there’s a wider community of support. That alone makes the policies useful.)

    –I wish you’d consider that harassers aren’t all merely socially inept. Some are. Some are sociopaths. It exists on a continuum and you’re committing an attribution error by reducing the behavior to individualized psychological characteristics and ignoring the significant role socio-cultural rules and expectations regarding gender and sexuality play in forming assumptions, including those about “cues” and how to read them. As I pointed out early on, plenty of folks have talked on various blog threads about how their own attitudes and behaviors regarding SH have been positively affected by being educated, often through exposure to conduct statements. I’ve seen it in my own efforts in diversity training and the classroom.

    –Again, it’s your burden to demonstrate that a policy in place in one venue would produce paralysis in potential victims in another.

    –As for “what is so unique…that completely different social norms would apply” Huh? No. A person is entitled to expect not to be harassed everywhere. Harassment bad. Full stop. Where has anyone said otherwise?

    Gotta run. Take it easy.

  59. noneedforaname says

    “None of the proposed policies conflate event staff with trained security staff. All of the proposed policies specify a relationship and proposed pattern of expected communication with venue security and law enforcement. ”

    Er – I haven’t kept up on every single proposed policy – but the couple i’ve read are the exact opposite of what you say here. That event staff should actually handle keeping track of problems and addressing them when/where they can. That’s a horrible horrible idea from my experience, unless “staff” includes people who are specifically trained to do this.
    If the policy simply outlines what’s acceptable and what’s not – fine, okay. So now what happens when that policy is broken? The victim reports it? To who? If not to the event staff – then I can only assume to the venue security? Is the venue’s security informed/trained about this event’s specific policies? If the victim is reporting it to the event staff – then again, unless that staff is immediately turning it over to security, it’s going to cause problems at some point. You can’t just say “this is acceptable and this is not” without also providing a course of action to take. Clearly i’m of the opinion that action should only involve event organizers on an informational basis only.

    “You’ve still yet to identify a disadvantage to policies, other than the regret that it’s a shame we need them and the bizarre and still unsubstantiated notion that a policy in one place paralyzes a person’s ability to react in another venue without a policy.

    I really do suspect that the real, bottom-line issue for you is the insult thang—that you’re pissed some people have to be told not to be harassers and some people have to be empowered to recognize and object to it. Yup. It’s a fucked up society. Try fixing it.”

    The disadvantage to me, is that you’re trying to dictate basic social behavior by speaking to the lowest common denominator. Some of the suggestions I’ve seen thrown around talk about no physical contact without explicit permission. Sorry – but overboard much?

    The insult thing is probably a bit bigger to me than I’ve let on, I can admit that. I’m of the opinion that if you’re going to create rules or guidelines dictating behavior, in any capacity – it better be for a pretty damn good reason. Creating those guidelines for the whole based on the actions of a very small few to me is not a terribly convincing argument. It’s like banning alcohol because a few people are alcoholics. I can also tell you that in social situations like that – i’m a very outgoing person. I buy people drinks at the bar, I laugh, I joke – and sometimes there’s even some innocent physical contact. Some people have gone so far as to mistake my personality for flirting (which gets awkward when there’s other guys around, let me tell you). I can tell you now that if I went to an event that had policies like some of what has been proposed in various places – I would be a little put off and probably be a bit nervous I might offend someone and get “reported”. I’d probably completely change how I interact with people as a result. I know for a fact i’m not the only one. That sucks, as it changes the entire dynamic of how people interact for no real good reason other than “there might be a few bad apples out there”.

    “Irritation that things aren’t better than they are hardly constitutes sufficient reason not to have policies in place. Especially since there’s no downside to attempting to foster a better climate”

    Again – I think perhaps we see things differently on how/why we create and enforce rules. On this I am a bit more libertarian leaning. I think we SHOULD be able to interact without having a set of rules to tell us how to do it. If the goal is to make things better to the point we don’t need the rules to be spelled out, then let’s start acting it rather than going backwards. I think the bigger problem a lot of people have had in the past is that when situations arise, they are not handled properly. So to me it seems that is what we should be focusing on. Policies telling participants what they can and can’t do – do not solve that problem. If we’re going to address the actual problems – then the focus of a stated policy should be primarily about how situations will be handled.

    “Re: “The policy will solve EVERYTHING! Policies make us SAFE.” What the fuck? Who the hell ever said that??? No one ever said with a policy in place harassment disappears. No one ever said a policy would change the behavior of a hard-core predator. (Remember, though, you granted the value of empowering potential victims to recognize and learn ways to respond to incidents in a context in which there’s a wider community of support. That alone makes the policies useful.)”

    Clearly i’m over-stressing certain points – but I have generally gotten the impression from a lot of people that creating a policy defining harassment will somehow give them the response they’re looking for, the same response that has apparently been lacking in the past. I fail to see how that response in guaranteed, or even more likely. I think the thinking here is that by forcing the adoption of a policy, it’s forcing organizers to think about the issue and take it more seriously. That’s fine but it seems a bit round-a-bout to me, versus just addressing the real issue at hand – which is lack of appropriate response. As far as recognizing harassment – do people really need to be told something makes them uncomfortable or not? I think the fact that some have felt harassed despite the lack of an established policy/definition kind of answers that question.

    “I wish you’d consider that harassers aren’t all merely socially inept. Some are. Some are sociopaths. It exists on a continuum and you’re committing an attribution error by reducing the behavior to individualized psychological characteristics and ignoring the significant role socio-cultural rules and expectations regarding gender and sexuality play in forming assumptions, including those about “cues” and how to read them. As I pointed out early on, plenty of folks have talked on various blog threads about how their own attitudes and behaviors regarding SH have been positively affected by being educated, often through exposure to conduct statements. I’ve seen it in my own efforts in diversity training and the classroom.”

    I am very much aware that not all are socially inept. That’s why I’ve made a very clear distinction between them, and flat out predators. In the cases I’ve seen, offenders tend to fall into one of those two groups – that’s why I’ve used those two examples, as they seem to be the most common. I personally have never seen someone read a conduct statement and say to themselves “oh gee – I’ve been a total dick all these years! who knew!”. I have however seen guys learn their lesson by coming across someone who’s a little more assertive and firm about how they respond. The harder slap of reality knocks some sense into them so to speak and their attitude changes (this generally happens earlier on in life, which is why i think it’s so sad that we have to have this conversation as adults.)

    “Again, it’s your burden to demonstrate that a policy in place in one venue would produce paralysis in potential victims in another.”

    I’m not – in fact quite the opposite. I’m saying that people are generally going to have the same response regardless of whether a public policy is in place or not. Again, from what i’ve gathered, the thing that has people up in arms isn’t so much the policy (or lack thereof) but rather the response (or lack thereof). Just as some are outraged that reported harassment was not taken seriously at a conference in the past, I imagine they would be equally as outraged if they were harassed at the mall, and after reporting it the response was indifference. And again, the individual conduct policy doesn’t really guarantee that the response they’re looking for will happen.

    “As for “what is so unique…that completely different social norms would apply” Huh? No. A person is entitled to expect not to be harassed everywhere. Harassment bad. Full stop. Where has anyone said otherwise?”

    Kind of my point. Harassment is bad everywhere. A person is entitled to expect not to be harassed everywhere they go. So why is lack of a public policy such a huge problem in conferences, but not the movie theater or shopping mall? I was asking the question to demonstrate a point, not to say there is a difference.
    If someone is harassed in another public space – they wouldn’t be paralyzed with fear, they would do something to address it, policy or not. So why is there seemingly a difference in how some view conferences? Is it not just another public space? Again, I don’t think it’s the conduct guidelines, it’s the response guidelines that are the issue.

  60. says

    Policies telling participants what they can and can’t do – do not solve that problem. If we’re going to address the actual problems – then the focus of a stated policy should be primarily about how situations will be handled.

    This is absolutely right. And it’s something that’s been getting lost in the discussion of harassment policies. Thankfully, this actually is a major part of all the policies that have been suggested.

    The “posted rules” are usually a short set of guidelines posted in the program or around the hall, and I suspect that many people would treat them like the legal disclaimer you get when you install new software, or the FBI warning at the beginning of a DVD. However, much like that legal disclaimer, the person who violates it doesn’t really have a leg to stand on in terms of claiming ignorance.

    Sidebar: I understand your discomfort at being assumed to be a creeper until proven otherwise. I have the same discomfort (and outright anger) when a DVD that I bought and paid for starts with a long, unskippable movie about how bad piracy is. Unfortunately, just as creepers don’t wear handy signs to identify themselves, the movie companies can’t only put those videos onto pirated DVDs.

    Anyway, the real meat and teeth of the harassment policies are the internal versions, which contain instructions (and hopefully training) on how staff and volunteers should handle complaints and reports. You can see an example here, and guidelines here. As important as it is to make the public guidelines public–to remove “I didn’t know” as a viable excuse, to show harassers that their behavior will not be tolerated, to show harassees that they’ll be taken seriously and that the conference is on their side–it’s far more important (as the TAM/DJ Grothe fiasco has shown) that the conference staff knows how to handle a complaint when they receive one. It’s important that complaints be recorded immediately, investigated as much as possible, and so forth, and the staff needs to know how to do that.

    The TAM situation arose because, apparently, whatever training or guidelines there were for staff were seriously lacking. Complaints were not recorded or investigated at the time, and as a result the organization’s president was able to make false statements that made him and his organization look foolish. If the staff and volunteers had had proper training, that wouldn’t have happened, and neither would the month or so of terrible PR for the organization.

  61. Cheron says

    “If someone is harassed in another public space – they wouldn’t be paralyzed with fear, they would do something to address it, policy or not”

    If only those stupid women would start doing something about getting harassed…like maybe demanding the places they want to go to create anti-harassment policies.

  62. smhll says

    Creating those guidelines for the whole based on the actions of a very small few to me is not a terribly convincing argument.

    Guidelines or policies about “wrongdoing” really only apply to wrongdoers. I don’t see any way in which they affect you. (No, you aren’t going to be stopped and frisked.

  63. noneedforaname says

    Tom – I agree with a big part of what you say – but I would argue that the most important part isn’t having the policy – it’s actually doing something.

    This is 2012. We shouldn’t still be talking about “oh they just need better training”. If this were a matter of religious intolerance by someone in a position of power – this wouldn’t even be a discussion.

    We want people to act according to a higher standard. At what point do we stop making excuses, and start simply holding people to those standards?

    You say : “The TAM situation arose because, apparently, whatever training or guidelines there were for staff were seriously lacking. Complaints were not recorded or investigated at the time, and as a result the organization’s president was able to make false statements that made him and his organization look foolish. If the staff and volunteers had had proper training, that wouldn’t have happened, and neither would the month or so of terrible PR for the organization.”

    What I hear is “These people lack the fundamental leadership skills required to hold a leadership position”.

    At some point we need to cut the cord, stop coddling people with a backwards line of thinking – and let a dose of reality do the “training” that seems to be lacking.

  64. smhll says

    Sorry, think I posted too soon, as I had not read all of your post before bursting with the urge to reply to one part. I at least half retract what I said since you explained your own personal bar personality.

  65. noneedforaname says

    smhll – actually, you’re wrong – I live in NYC and have regularly been stopped and searched simply for picking the wrong subway station to go through. But – since I have nothing to hide, it shouldn’t be a problem, right??

  66. throwaway says

    I live in NYC and have regularly been stopped and searched simply for picking the wrong subway station to go through. But – since I have nothing to hide, it shouldn’t be a problem, right??

    Would you mind pontificating also on the subtle similarities of apples and oranges?

  67. noneedforaname says

    throwaway – it’s not apples and oranges. It’s the idea that “if you’re not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about” as a justification for ridiculous policies.

    In the case of random searching, I’d certainly like to think the point is obvious.

    In the case of the current discussion – as I’ve previously stated at some point we need to put our foot down and say “this type of behavior is simply not tolerated anymore”. Worrying about written policy, training, etc etc shouldn’t even be an issue. Rules that only “apply” to a small segment of people shouldn’t be an issue. The actions of the people who those rules apply to should simply not be tolerated.

  68. says

    throwaway – it’s not apples and oranges. It’s the idea that “if you’re not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about” as a justification for ridiculous policies.

    In the case of random searching, I’d certainly like to think the point is obvious.

    Fucking bullshit
    In case of harassment policies the argument is “if you’re a decent fellow who respects other people, everything will be for you as if no harassment policy existed (unless you’re harassed”
    That’s about the opposite of “we’ll invade your privacy and violate your bodily autonomy so you have to prove you’re innocent.
    It’s either fucking dense to claim such a thing or dishonest.
    You know, it’s like those laws about stealing:
    They don’t bother you if you already think that stealing is wrong, unless you’re mugged.

  69. throwaway says

    It’s a good thing all the organisers will have you on staff so you can kindly explain The Rules to anyone who may be in doubt, and settle any disputes about what constitutes egregious behaviour, then consult with them about the proper course of action. Or maybe you’d just say sod it, hand everyone a .45 at the door and say “Fend for yourselves.”

    Erstwhile, since I don’t see you being that deeply involved to set us straight and be our shining beacon of hope and cohesion, we’ll have a policy which serves all of those functions. Except setting loose total anarchy and having victims fend for themselves.

  70. smhll says

    noneed -

    From context, I thought you could get that I was saying no one is suggesting a conference policy that has consequences, like frisking, for bystanders. A policy is more like a piece of paper than it is like a police state.

    I haven’t taken an airplane in a long time, but I can kind of understand being philosophically opposed to pre-boarding searches of the innocent and guilty alike. We’re not suggesting frisking everyone in the bar, nor are we suggesting anything like banning alcohol. Better analogies would improve the discussion.

    A policy advocating decent behavior and potential staff intervention (like talking to the guy or asking him to leave) is truly not consequential for people who are behaving appropriately. Kind of like the highway patrol doesn’t give speeding tickets to people who aren’t speeding.

  71. noneedforaname says

    @77 : Let me ask a question. In both cases (the random searching and rules) do the rules actually solve the problem – or just make people feel a little better about it?

    Along the same lines – the laws regarding stealing don’t prevent stealing. They simply provide a legal basis for punishing people after the fact. The laws don’t solve the problem though.

    throwaway – who says anything about total anarchy? I’m saying the bar should be set higher than some useless piece of paper. Kind of the exact opposite of anarchy?

  72. says

    @NoNeed:

    Tom – I agree with a big part of what you say – but I would argue that the most important part isn’t having the policy – it’s actually doing something.

    I agree, but what form that “something” takes needs to be specific. DJ Grothe and the staff at TAM did “something” to respond to Ashley Miller’s complaints about harassment, and they similarly did “something” about Monopod Guy. The “something” they did was disorganized and ultimately forgotten (apparently) until DJ denied that it happened. The “something” that was done was inadequate; defining the guidelines and including training on how to “do something” would hopefully curb that.

    I’ve worked at lots of different places. Some have had harassment policies and training; all have had safety policies and training. If it helps, think of it like “safety rules.” It’s all well and good to think that the important part of responding to an injury or crisis is “actually doing something,” but if you don’t know what “something” to “do,” then it may lead to further problems.

    Moreover, having specific guidelines on how to “do something” gives staff a procedure to fall back on in a crisis situation (which, admittedly, is a bigger issue for safety than harassment, in all likelihood), and offers legal protection for the organization.

    We want people to act according to a higher standard. At what point do we stop making excuses, and start simply holding people to those standards?

    I don’t know, I think this is holding people to higher standards. And part of that is saying “here are some standards that we’re going to hold you to.”

    But you’re being awfully vague. Who are we holding to the higher standard? The harassers? The targets? The staff? The leadership? The community at large? I don’t think one size of standard-holding-to fits all of those groups.

    What I hear is “These people lack the fundamental leadership skills required to hold a leadership position”.

    And in the case of DJ Grothe, I think I agree. He’s said and done some things that make me seriously question his leadership skills, not least of which is refusing to take any responsibility for the organization’s failings. With DJ, it seems the buck stops anywhere but here, but specifically with several well-meaning female bloggers.

    At some point we need to cut the cord, stop coddling people with a backwards line of thinking – and let a dose of reality do the “training” that seems to be lacking.

    That’s all well and good to say, but it sounds like a bunch of buzz-phrases with no actual application to reality. What does “cut the cord; stop coddling people” look like? How is it implemented? How does it help protect people from harassment?

  73. says

    Noneed: in all that, I’ve still no idea what you’re actually advocating FOR, as opposed to AGAINST. Could you kindly (and succinctly, please) explain what exactly you’d like to see, rather than what you would NOT like to see?

    Otherwise, we’ll keep the harassment policies that have been implemented, and like you said about that bar with the rules on the wall, you can walk back out the door and neither of us will be the worse for it.

  74. dysomniak, darwinian socialist says

    the laws regarding stealing don’t prevent stealing.

    *snortle* Really? Citation needed.

  75. says

    Regarding random searches, that does seem quite apples and oranges. The baseline here is that before any staff/organizer steps into a situation, there has to be a complaint. If you’re not doing anything wrong just walking down the street, then the police might just stop and frisk you. And that’s a serious problem that (in part) results from poor enforcement of publicly-stated guidelines (i.e., the Fourth Amendment).

    But there’s another step involved in the harassment policy, which is the complaint. For another similar situation, think of a movie theater. If you’re just enjoying the film along with everyone else, chances are fairly low that anyone’s going to complain to management about you. If, however, you’re talking loudly on your cell phone or kicking the seat, the chances that an usher is going to take action rise considerably.

    And even though a fairly small minority of people engage in those activities, they still preface every single film with the rules about using cell phones and talking during the movie, to everyone in the theater.

    It could be argued that the ads don’t actually stop people from using their cell phones or talking during the movie, but they certainly don’t hurt. And they give the ushers a leg to stand on when reprimanding people who break those rules.

  76. noneedforaname says

    “But you’re being awfully vague. Who are we holding to the higher standard? The harassers? The targets? The staff? The leadership? The community at large? I don’t think one size of standard-holding-to fits all of those groups.”

    No? Why not? If we were discussing racism instead of sexual harassment – would there still be different levels of acceptability?

    If some crazy zealot shows up at a conference and starts harassing people, calling them names, telling them they’re going to hell or acting like this : http://freethoughtblogs.com/dispatches/2012/07/04/mikey-gets-email-2/

    would we be having discussions about the levels of acceptability and how to handle it? Or would everyone within earshot pretty much immediately stand up and say “hey wait a minute – that’s not cool…” why is there a difference?

    As far as standards – let me rephrase it.
    You’re saying that not only did certain people in power mis-handle a fairly important situation, but they did so repeatedly, failed to learn from their mistakes, failed to correct the problems in their approach, and seemingly resisted calls to do better in the future? If I did that at my job – I wouldn’t have a job very long.

    “That’s all well and good to say, but it sounds like a bunch of buzz-phrases with no actual application to reality. What does “cut the cord; stop coddling people” look like? How is it implemented? How does it help protect people from harassment?”

    As you said – certain people have questionable leadership skills. When those questions directly impact the potential safety of others – it shouldn’t be tolerated, at least not more than once at the very least.
    People who act in a dangerous manner (threatening, harassing, etc) should not be tolerated. Their presence should not be welcome. Example : If I know the guy down the street is a violent criminal who regularly gets arrested for beating people, even if he seems like a really cool guy – i’m not inviting him over for beers any time soon.

    How does it protect people from harassment? It doesn’t. You can’t protect people from the actions of others. If someone chooses to be a dick, there’s not a damn thing anyone can do about it. The best you can hope for is to handle it after the fact in a way that corrects the situation. Again, in this day and age do we really need to still be treating something like sexual harassment as a minor social misunderstanding, that it’s something a good stern talking to can fix and prevent in the future? That maybe by spelling it out just a little more clearly it’ll get better some day?

  77. hieropants says

    … the bigger point is that all of this discussion and drama is frankly silly and not just a little embarrassing. It’s sad that such supposedly intellectual people have to have this big weeks long discussion about basic personal interactions.

    Well good thing you’re not wasting your time on pointless drama and irrelevant nit-picking!

  78. noneedforaname says

    dysomniak – if laws against stealing actually prevented stealing, then wouldn’t logic say that theft should never happen?

    Perhaps one could make the argument that the threat of punishment is a deterrent, but only to the point that the risk outweighs the reward. Perhaps for those people stealing a $1 pack of gum isn’t worth the risk, but if the opportunity came by swipe $10,000 when nobody is looking – the threat of punishment is no longer such a deterrent.

  79. smhll says

    would we be having discussions about the levels of acceptability and how to handle it? Or would everyone within earshot pretty much immediately stand up and say “hey wait a minute – that’s not cool…” why is there a difference?

    I think the huge difference is the dozens of people posting on atheist/skeptic themed message boards that sexual harassment isn’t a problem. (And the cluelessness of some of the men who figure any problem that doesn’t happen to them or bother them isn’t a problem worth dealing with.)

    This issue has a lot of history. People are pissed. The community is very divided on this issue, hence the super long discussion threads (which are mighty numerous).

  80. dysomniak, darwinian socialist says

    And harassment policies won’t deter a sociopathic predator, but they may have an effect (at least once people see them enforced) on the everyday inconsiderate jerks.

  81. noneedforaname says

    smhll – so there’s no history in religious fanaticism , and everybody within “the community” sees eye to eye on the issue? Good to know.

  82. says

    No? Why not? If we were discussing racism instead of sexual harassment – would there still be different levels of acceptability?

    It’s not “different levels of acceptability,” it’s “different things.” We expect different actions and responses from conference organizers than we do from staff; we expect different actions and responses from staff than we do from attendees. This is because these different groups have different responsibilities and different privileges. I expect, for instance, the leader of an organization to stand up and take responsibility for mistakes made by the organization; that’s not something I expect of any random staff member. I expect staff members to step in and handle situations when they’re made aware of them; I don’t expect that of random attendees. We hold these different groups to different standards because they have different roles. Now, one of those standards may be “treat women like people” (or in your example, “treat people equally regardless of race”), but the form taken by that treatment is going to look different for those different groups.

    And groups with different responsibilities may require different levels of training regarding what’s expected of them. Conference organizers may have to speak with lawyers and experts to set up a rules framework. Staff members may have to listen to a lecture or watch a video. Attendees may have to sign a statement saying they read the rules in the pamphlet or on the ticket application. And the general public? Well, they have to listen to this conversation and experience social pressure from the community, as we strengthen our mores regarding how we treat people.

    If some crazy zealot shows up at a conference and starts harassing people, calling them names, telling them they’re going to hell or acting like this : http://freethoughtblogs.com/dispatches/2012/07/04/mikey-gets-email-2/

    would we be having discussions about the levels of acceptability and how to handle it? Or would everyone within earshot pretty much immediately stand up and say “hey wait a minute – that’s not cool…” why is there a difference?

    A few posts ago, you were talking about “doing something.” Standing up and saying “hey, that’s not cool” isn’t “doing something.” It’s “saying something.” What should be done about the mad zealot? Should he be reprimanded? Have his badge taken away? Removed physically from the premises? Reported to the police? Depending on the severity of his ranting, any of those steps might be taken, but which ones would be up to a set procedure–whether that procedure is set by the conference, the venue, or the legislature.

    I agree that it’s silly to be having this discussion, because it should be transparently obvious that you need a person’s consent before touching them, that you should get to know someone before propositioning them, that women deserve to be treated like people, that reports of harassment should be taken seriously and handled then and there, but it clearly isn’t. And so until everyone is as aware of those obvious things as you and I are, we need rules and people who know how to enforce them.

    You’re saying that not only did certain people in power mis-handle a fairly important situation, but they did so repeatedly, failed to learn from their mistakes, failed to correct the problems in their approach, and seemingly resisted calls to do better in the future? If I did that at my job – I wouldn’t have a job very long.

    Unless you were a politician.

    But yeah, it sure would be nice if we saw some change at the top in the JREF. We haven’t, and so it’s my hope that other conferences, who are learning from their mistakes and the mistakes of others, eventually eclipse TAM or make them realize through their wallets/ticket sales that they need to shape up.

    Then again, you can’t ethically fire someone for not doing something they weren’t told/trained/informed how to do. Which is part of why I have training every year on sexual harassment and handling bloodborne pathogens and so forth.

    As you said – certain people have questionable leadership skills. When those questions directly impact the potential safety of others – it shouldn’t be tolerated, at least not more than once at the very least.

    Which is why various people have called for DJ Grothe’s resignation. And yet, there’s a chorus of supporters who think that’s way over the line. But I don’t see what any of us can do about it aside from withdrawing our memberships, donations, and attendance from the JREF.

    Example : If I know the guy down the street is a violent criminal who regularly gets arrested for beating people, even if he seems like a really cool guy – i’m not inviting him over for beers any time soon.

    You may not invite him over, but what if you’re having a party outdoors and he just shows up? What do you do? How do you handle it?

    This is the issue: conferences are public; anyone can sign up and attend, and we can’t discriminate against them on the basis that they might cause trouble. We also can’t count on them to wear signs identifying themselves as troublemakers, or just stay at home so they won’t cause trouble. Some of them probably will eventually cause trouble. There should be guidelines in place regarding how to handle that trouble, so the trouble-handling is done in a legal and safe way that limits disruption to the non-troublemakers.

    If someone chooses to be a dick, there’s not a damn thing anyone can do about it. The best you can hope for is to handle it after the fact in a way that corrects the situation.

    How is that not what we’re doing? By creating clear policies, we give the handlers a clear way to handle things. By creating a culture that doesn’t tolerate bad behavior, I’d argue that we do help to prevent it from happening and protect people. Heck, part of protecting people from harassment is making it clear to the targets of that harassment that they will be taken seriously, and that the staff is on their side.

    Again, in this day and age do we really need to still be treating something like sexual harassment as a minor social misunderstanding, that it’s something a good stern talking to can fix and prevent in the future? That maybe by spelling it out just a little more clearly it’ll get better some day?

    No one is saying this, though it does seem like you have difficulty understanding degrees of behavior. Your examples, for instance, are all mad zealots and overzealous police officers. What about the anti-policy folks’ favorite example, the socially awkward guy who just doesn’t know any better? Some guy is a close-talker who’s coming on too strong to a number of women; maybe he’s had too much to drink, maybe he’s just socially inept. That kind of guy doesn’t necessarily need to be muscled out by burly bouncers. That’s the kind of guy who might benefit from a “sir, we’ve had some complaints about your hitting on women in the bar.” Better to assume incompetence than malice, right? And if that kind of guy reacts badly, well, step it up to the next level and remove him from the premises. If he continues, call the police, etc.

    There are different degrees of this kind of behavior. Some people deserve to be tossed out on their ear, some people do just need a stern talking to, and some people should probably be indicted. Identifying the proper response to each person is part of the purview of a good policy.

  83. says

    dysomniak – if laws against stealing actually prevented stealing, then wouldn’t logic say that theft should never happen?

    Are you a computer that you can only understand 0 and 1?
    Some shit will always happen.
    But discussing what’s acceptable and what not actually sets a tone

    Also, suppose your car was stolen, would you be glad that there was a law, a procedure and a police station to go to?

  84. says

    No – if I was being a self reliant libertarian type – I’d suggest a nice glock to deal with the problem.

    I have nothing but undiluted contempt for libertarians; but I know damn well they have more imagination than that, at least when it comes to private parties running their own premises.

    Event organizers lack the power to provide that accountability…

    They can hire bouncers to throw out troublemakers. The above quotes just show that “noneedforaname” has absolutely zero common sense.

  85. noneedforaname says

    Gileill – knowing there’s a law against Auto Theft is little comfort when you go out to a parking lot and your car’s gone. Don’t think I know anybody who’s had that happen and said “whew! thank god for the laws! I don’t know what I’d do if stealing cars wasn’t illegal!”

    “I have nothing but undiluted contempt for libertarians; but I know damn well they have more imagination than that, at least when it comes to private parties running their own premises.”

    It was an over-simplification to make a point.

    “They can hire bouncers to throw out troublemakers. The above quotes just show that “noneedforaname” has absolutely zero common sense.”

    and i’m pretty sure that’s why earlier on I said I thought it was a bad idea for event organizers to act in a security role. Virtually every venue worth their salt is going to have a staff security team (especially in Vegas in the case of TAM), and for insurance/licensing purposes – those security professionals are going to be trained to handle issues like this.

    In an above example – somebody gave an example of someone who was socially awkward and had a little too much to drink. So is it now the organizer’s role to monitor everyone’s alcohol consumption too? If that is the case and somebody needs to be cut off and talked to – is it the organizer’s job to go around to all the bars in the venue and make sure the guy’s cut off? (cause that’s essentially what security would do)

  86. says

    Gileill – knowing there’s a law against Auto Theft is little comfort when you go out to a parking lot and your car’s gone. Don’t think I know anybody who’s had that happen and said “whew! thank god for the laws! I don’t know what I’d do if stealing cars wasn’t illegal!”

    That’s because you take it for granted that since this was illegal you can go to the police, file a report and hopefully have something done about it.
    Where would you rather be when your car is stolen: The States or Somalia?

  87. says

    and i’m pretty sure that’s why earlier on I said I thought it was a bad idea for event organizers to act in a security role. Virtually every venue worth their salt is going to have a staff security team (especially in Vegas in the case of TAM), and for insurance/licensing purposes – those security professionals are going to be trained to handle issues like this.

    And that means what? Organizers don’t get to make the rules the security staff are supposed to enforce?

    In an above example – somebody gave an example of someone who was socially awkward and had a little too much to drink. So is it now the organizer’s role to monitor everyone’s alcohol consumption too?

    Who here (or anywhere else) has said anything remotely like that?

    Your non-sequiturs are getting boring. Try throwing in something about hedgehogs or crop-circles for a change.

  88. says

    Don’t think I know anybody who’s had that happen and said “whew! thank god for the laws! I don’t know what I’d do if stealing cars wasn’t illegal!”

    Yeah, I don’t think anyone has said that either. And yet, I bet a whole bunch of those people will go to the police and report the theft, and will expect that something will be done about it, because it is against the law. Contrast that with, say, stalking. The first law against stalking in the United States was passed in 1990; it didn’t stop stalking entirely, but I imagine it allowed a lot of people to breath sighs of relief when they knew they could go to the police and have something done about it, rather than hear “we can’t do anything until/unless the person does something illegal. Come back when you’ve been assaulted.”

    Laws against some action may not stop that action from occurring (though I think that’s transparently false), but at least they notify victims of crime that they have recourse if they’re victimized.

    That said, Kohlberg’s stages of moral development are a good place to start in thinking about how laws impact actions.

    and i’m pretty sure that’s why earlier on I said I thought it was a bad idea for event organizers to act in a security role. Virtually every venue worth their salt is going to have a staff security team (especially in Vegas in the case of TAM), and for insurance/licensing purposes – those security professionals are going to be trained to handle issues like this.

    They’re also going to be focusing on issues other than the convention/conference. Heck, even if you let them handle the security end of things (I’m not convinced that all reports of harassment qualify, however) it’s still worthwhile to involve the organizers in documenting the reports so they have data on which to base further decisions. And so they don’t come out and say something so stupid as “there has never been a report of harassment at our conference.”

    In an above example – somebody gave an example of someone who was socially awkward and had a little too much to drink. So is it now the organizer’s role to monitor everyone’s alcohol consumption too?

    I’ve been trying throughout to give you the benefit of the doubt, but this bears so little resemblance to what I wrote and the point I made that I’m beginning to suspect a great deal of intellectual dishonesty on your part. I suppose you can go back and actually read what I wrote, responding to your binary examples and arguments from personal incredulity above, or I’m going to conclude that you came in with a “RULES BAD” conclusion and are not interested in the slightest in doing anything beyond misrepresenting people’s positions and providing ludicrous examples to support it.

  89. eric says

    NN4N, my question is why you are so vociferously arguing about what, to me, is a very low-regret action? If adopting a policy turns out ineeffective or somehow backfires, the organization can always change it or just remove it. But empirically, you must acknowledge that the chances of adoption resulting in some truly awful event have to be extremely low, given that a very wide variety and large number of conferences have already adopted such policies, and so such badness has never been observed.

    Will the policy work as advertised? I don’t know. But I do know you seem extremely agigated at the thought of an organization merely trying this solution. Why? Why such resistance to even trying it? Do you think its going to consume huge resources? Radically change the con-going experience?

    Its not like getting married or buying a house, dude. If the organization doesn’t like the results, they can change it for next meeting without much trouble. As I said, low-regret.

    In short, I get that you don’t think the experiment will work. I don’t get why you are so upset at the thought of trying it.

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