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Apr 15 2013

Spot the Sexual Language

If you were watching the SkepTech hash tag on Twitter during the conference last weekend, you probably would have seen the usual suspects making the usual whine-plaints about harassment policies, and how they’re ruining all the fun at conferences. Then you would have seen some of those same whiners lose their shit over the fact that there was a whole panel about sex (HEAVENS FOREFEND), populated by feminists (FETCH MY FAINTING COUCH).

An example tweet from a pro-harassment tweeter (I mean, seriously, what else can you make of this?), believes they’ve caught us feminists, and the founders of SkepTech who supported harassment policies, out on some sort of hypocrisy:

[blackbirdpie url="https://twitter.com/iamcuriousblue/status/322614556880949249"]

@iamcuriousblue #SkepTech policy:”Sexual language & imagery not appropriate for any conference venue, including talks.” In practice: [link to Youtube video]


The panel in question was fantastic. It was thoughtful, thorough, answered questions from the audience with aplomb, and every panelist was very obviously pro-sex. And yet, the whole panel was also very, very anti-harassment.

I strongly recommend you watch it all. And while you’re watching, have a pen and paper handy to write down all the instances of sexual language used.

And then, once you’re done, scratch out any that doesn’t involve actively mistreating someone else, present or otherwise, or otherwise treating someone as a sexual object with or without their consent, because that’s how everyone else seems to understand the term (pdf).

Once you’re done this tally and come up with the great big goose-egg that I got, then try to argue that the pro-harassment crowd is losing their shit repeatedly over anything but a phantasm. Perhaps they should keep their fears grounded in reality, and engage us on our actual arguments, our actual words, the actual effects of real harassment policies, et cetera. You know, obtain real and valid data and examine it critically.

Like skeptics do.

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  1. 1
    Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

    This is so annoying. We’ve all been in elementary school with that one kid who’s like OOOOOOOOOO YOU SAID A BAD WORD I’M GONNA TELL THE TEACHER when you, say, used “sex” to refer to gender or “dam” to refer to the Hoover Dam or “hell” because you were talking about religion. (Was I the only one who talked about religion in elementary school? Maybe.)

    Protip: nobody likes that kid. You should grow up and stop being that kid.

  2. 2
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    These are the sort of folks who claimed that anti-harassment policies would require signed permission slips in order to hug your friends…

  3. 3
    Aratina Cage

    A reminder that iamcuriousblue thinks there is a communist takeover plot underway in the atheist movement:
    http://www.michaelnugent.com/2013/03/26/structure-and-dedicated-website-for-the-atheist-skeptic-dialogue/comment-page-1/#comment-208990
    and
    http://www.michaelnugent.com/2013/03/26/structure-and-dedicated-website-for-the-atheist-skeptic-dialogue/comment-page-2/#comment-210082

    Do ad-hominems count when they portray someone as a conspiracy theorist–especially in an ironic conspiracy theory like that with an atheist saying that about other atheists? I think they do.

  4. 4
    Jason Thibeault

    Ad hominems are very significantly different from pattern recognition. “Bear this character trait in mind when dealing with this particular person” is different from “this person’s argument is wrong because he thinks X unrelated thing”.

    But yeah. Iamcuriousblue ran out my personal patience for nonsense fairly quickly. If they ever try commenting again (and they haven’t, not since the thread I linked), it would take something very worth discussing before I let them through moderation. Too much noise, not enough signal.

  5. 5
    Jason Thibeault

    Speaking of, they just dropped a comment in moderation linking a guest post at a blog network that’s made a cottage industry of disdaining Freethought Blogs, and I happen to think there’s hardly an argument to be made in defense of their postulate there. I read it — I don’t think it’s particularly worth linking, but it’s easily findable via Google — and I can only summarize their position that it’s both hypocrisy and censorship to make sexist remarks cost via harassment policies, while allowing discussions of sex. Take that core, then expand it across roughly a thousand words with roughly a thousand specious examples of such.

    Signal to noise. You don’t has it.

  6. 6
    Iamcuriousblue

    So, Jason, perhaps you’d like to give your explanation as to why it was OK for Ada Initiative to censor Violet Blue’s talk in the name of the kind of policies you advocate?

  7. 7
    Jason Thibeault

    Violet Blue agreed to cancel the talk herself.

    Ergo, you’re wrong on the facts and therefore most of your argument.

    Not to mention completely and totally off-topic here.

  8. 8
    Wowbagger, Designated Snarker

    LOL. Why aren’t they trying to get the cops to arrest people in boxing matches and MMA bouts for assault and battery? According to their ‘argument’ they should be, ’cause there’s no such thing as context.

  9. 9
    Xanthë, Amy of my threads

    I’d be more impressed if IACB would actually address the point, and perhaps shed some light on why he feels it’s worth his while doing a third-rate imitation of a second-rate troll like Justin Vacula by attempting to play a ‘Gotcha!’ with respect to the policies of a conference which he didn’t even attend. However… I can see from his Twitter feed that he’s more interested in being his usual uncivil self. Last 5 tweets in re-ordered into older to newest chronological order:

    iamcuriousblue ‏@iamcuriousblue
    [‏1.] @lousycanuck “Pro-harassment” eh? Fuck you, Jason – your misrepresentations say more about you than they do about me.
    [2.] @NotungSchwert Yes, checked it out. Not just from a “Freethought blog”, but a confirmed dickhead.
    [3.] @NotungSchwert Apparently because I said a mean thing to “Lord Setar” on his own blog. >
    [4.] @NotungSchwert No mention of harassment *by* Setar, who I’ve seen videos of harassing opponents at demos in Vancouver.
    [5.] @NotungSchwert http://atheismplus.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=413, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Jz63_lGuSE

    Nice tu quoque you have going there in [4]… so are we to infer that Setàr was deserving of you dropping into his private blog to write comments there? Is that not bullying and harassment?

  10. 10
    Iamcuriousblue

    So, won’t post my response because you want to get the last word in? I guess I shouldn’t have expected any less of you, being the kind of person that you are – of the Freethoughblogs crowd, you’re certainly among the most petty. But, whatever, dude – if you feel that gives you some kind of power that’s sadly missing from your actual life, who am I to deny you?

  11. 11
    Stacy

    So Jason, perhaps you’d like to give your explanation as to why some other people somewhere did something because of something that was probably kind of like something you approve of?

    Then you would have seen some of those same whiners lose their shit over the fact that there was a whole panel about sex (HEAVENS FOREFEND), populated by feminists (FETCH MY FAINTING COUCH).

    I bet they just hate it when their little “brave heroes vs. prudes” narrative gets kicked to the curb. Tee hee.

  12. 12
    haitied

    It blows my mind that people are actually up in arms about harassment policies. . I’m actually so shocked that any conventions were operating without them. Everything from schools, businesses, arenas , and most events held at them, have these policies in place and have had them for a while, even if just for liability concerns. WTF are these assholes still whining about?

  13. 13
    Jason Thibeault

    No IACB, I’m not approving anything about your ridiculously off-topic tangent derail attempt. Signal to noise.

  14. 14
    oolon

    I saw the post by IACB and skimmed it when it was posted, things like assertions that Rebecca Watson and Anita Sarkeesian pull out the rape threat card then produce no evidence was enough to convince me it was not worth reading. Of course things like the page-o-hate and the “game” made of Anita being beaten up was also covered by dismissive references to “the usual band of 4chan idiots” … Strange that statements this “side” of “the usual band of Slymepit idiots” ends up with howls of outrage at grouping them all in together, they are individualz!

    But this post peaked my interest a little more and found the usual “reasoning” from the pit crowd…

    I should also mention that last year, I pointed out in comments on “sex-positive” feminist Greta Christina’s blog just what was wrong with the inclusion of this kind of language in anti-harassment policies. For this, I was hounded mercilessly by the usual Freethoughtblogs gang of flying monkeys, called a “troll”, and booted from the forum by Christina herself. Unfortunately for everyone, however, my predictions have turned out to be right on the money.

    Argumentum ad butthurt seems to always be fallacious so maybe should be a formal fallacy, if not already. Looking on the thread where the “flying monkeys” took poor IACB apart there are the usual calls from the evil Greta to be more civil and not out and out insult IACB. Extremely amusing is that “troll” was mentioned by IACB and in fact used by him to try and shut up Emburii and Julian by calling *them* trolls. No one called IACB a troll! Emburii asked politely for an apology for being called one by IACB in that thread, didn’t see it though.

    The bit about being “right on the money” is bizarre. So his contention that having harassment policies that prohibit sexual objectification will prudify the conference and exclude pro-sex worker and sex positive feminists was shown to be false. There was a successful panel on sex, but because that doesn’t fit his limited interpretation of the policy this is somehow “proving” him right. About what? The waffle that follows this statement is not even applicable…

  15. 15
    Stephanie Zvan

    IACB managed to get himself stuck in moderation on a number of FtB blogs by making accusations about things FtB bloggers and commenters were supposedly saying about harassment policies, then failing to give any examples when asked. Anyone surprised that his answer when challenged on the content of this panel is to point somewhere else?

  16. 16
    Stephanie Zvan

    Also, there is an interesting conversation to be had about the Violet Blue talk and the ways that the abuse of sex as a means to exclude (generally) women from the public sphere affects our ability to talk out the issues around sex that we should talk out. I don’t believe IACB is capable of having that discussion in any sort of adult way, however.

  17. 17
    Jason Thibeault

    Not here though Stephanie — nattering nabobs are already hitting my moderation wall demanding the right to hash through the finer points of the Violet Blue talk. Either way, even if it’s tangentially related to the topic as a whole, it’s decidedly off-topic here, a derail attempt by IACB that will not happen as long as I’m watching.

  18. 18
    Jason Thibeault

    That’s not to say there won’t be a post about it later though.

  19. 19
    previously-chrisj

    Is there a transcript of that panel somewhere? I’m finding the sound unusually difficult to follow for some reason.

  20. 20
    Stephanie Zvan

    Oh, goodness, no. Not here. It isn’t a discussion you can have without trust or while people are treating the subject like a political football.

  21. 21
    leftwingfox

    There seems to be a chunk of the talk missing in there at the 5 minute mark. It jumps from greta starting to make a point about pre-internet personal ads, to Miri finishing something about lying.

    Excellent talk though. :)

  22. 22
    CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain

    Is there a transcript of that panel somewhere?
    I’m finding the sound unusually difficult to follow for some reason.

    Google’s automatic closed-captioning… won’t help with that.
     
    Greta 9:40:
    lawrence’s sex / uh… best / but also very heady hustle
     
    Stephanie 29:25:
    prepared formica enemies six inches long disinterest inscribed

  23. 23
    Stacy

    IACB managed to get himself stuck in moderation on a number of FtB blogs by making accusations about things FtB bloggers and commenters were supposedly saying about harassment policies, then failing to give any examples when asked.

    I think it would be interesting to do an exercise–maybe as part of Nugent’s dialogue?–where we ask them to make our argument, and we make theirs.

    I think we could make theirs with our hands tied behind our backs. And I don’t think they could make ours. I don’t. They haven’t been listening carefully enough to “get” what we’re saying.

    Of course I could be wrong.

  24. 24
    Jason Thibeault

    Someone evidently told Violet Blue to correct me. She has tweeted at me thusly:

    Clarification @lousycanuck I didn’t want to cancel my talk. BSides told me Ada/Valerie would not tolerate it in any capacity at the event.

    a) I said she “agreed to cancel the talk”, which could very well just mean she assented to being squashed. I’ll accept the clarification but it doesn’t change how I said what I said, unless she fought to have her talk against the wishes of the Ada Initiative.

    b) Still completely off topic here. Completely unsure how or why her talk is at all relevant to the fact that people think talk about sex is sexual language or imagery. Is it because the word “sexual” is being intentionally deprived of context and interpreted by people who really want feminism to be about being anti-sex?

    No, I will not publish anyone speculating on the Violet Blue / Ada Initiative matter here. It is IRRELEVENT.

    If you want to be published, answer the core of this post. I want to know why people don’t recognize “sexual language and imagery” as being, say, telling others to suck your cock, or that they’re only good for being fucked, or photoshopping them into porn pictures, for instance.

  25. 25
    Stacy

    According to the Ada Initiative:

    We believe that both Ian Fung and Violet Blue acted in good faith, but that through a combination of stress, time pressure, misunderstanding, and imperfect memory, Violet Blue’s report of Ian Fung’s report of what Valerie said differs from Valerie’s recollection (think: the Telephone game). We’re glad to have an opportunity to share our recommendations on how sex-related topics can be discussed in open tech/culture in ways that are women-friendly.

    Whatever. Don’t see how that disagreement is relevant here.

  26. 26
    Jason Thibeault

    Dammit. Still off-topic. :/

  27. 27
    k

    I posted a comment raising several issues, including interpretation of “sexual language and imagery”. If it’s still there, please consider publishing it and deleting this one.

    Otherwise, I would like to repeat that the authors of the policy in question note that it includes a blanket ban on sexual content in talks and other parts of the conference and provide an optional addendum to allow exceptions.
    As this addendum is not currently being used by SkepTech, the panel in question was clearly in violation of their anti-harassment policy.
    http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Conference_anti-harassment/Policy

    Conferences in which sex, pornography, racism, etc. are on-topic

    Some conferences are both welcoming to women and include discussion on topics which are blanket prohibited in the example anti-harassment policy…

    http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Conference_anti-harassment/Example_exception_to_policy

  28. 28
    CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain

    Transcript: SkepTech Panel – Sex in Cyberspace: Porn, Ok Cupid, and the Internet

  29. 29
    Jason Thibeault

    Niiiice. Did you do that, CA? Can I post it here, rather than at Pastebin?

  30. 30
    Jason Thibeault

    It’s still in moderation, k, because it spirals out into a dozen and a half other topics and derails that I recognize will turn this comment thread into a battleground on topics that are not this post’s topic. I will have an answer to THIS POST, dammit. Just one of you will actually answer the question raised.

    The only reason I approved this one, k, is because you came close. However, where your point fails is that you still have to assume that “sexual language” == “talk about sex”, rather than “mistreating someone by objectifying them or slurring them”.

  31. 31
    Feminace, formerly Qurikythrope

    However, where your point fails is that you still have to assume that “sexual language” == “talk about sex”, rather than “mistreating someone by objectifying them or slurring them”.

    Why do I have a funny feeling this assertion is never going to get explained in any straightforward way? It would just fly in the face of all of the other assertions of “feminism == anti-sex” and “harassment policy == no fun ever”.

    And frankly, those assertions coming from people who don’t make it a point to attend these events (even the free ones) with their evil “harassment policies” to see how evil and no fun they are all come off sounding like choking on sour grapes.

  32. 32
    CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain

    @Jason Thibeault #29:

    Niiiice. Did you do that, CA?

    Yep.
    There were a few “???” places I couldn’t make out. Nothing major.

    Can I post it here, rather than at Pastebin?

    Sure.

  33. 33
    Setár, Elvenkitty

    They’re also apparently trying to say we’re bad or not feminist because of anti-sex work ‘feminists’. It’s all just to try and make us look bad, and get people to oppose us. end of story =/

    Aratina #3:

    A reminder that iamcuriousblue thinks there is a communist takeover plot underway in the atheist movement:

    Can we just fucking acknowledge that libertarianism is a red flag for shitty behaviour and say bye to the libertarians already?

  34. 34
    Verbose Stoic

    I want to know why people don’t recognize “sexual language and imagery” as being, say, telling others to suck your cock, or that they’re only good for being fucked, or photoshopping them into porn pictures, for instance.

    Because, in general and in the world at large, that’s not what the terms mean. If you are browsing through, say, movies or video games and the rating system says that it contains “sexual language and imagery”, surely you don’t expect it to contain that necessarily, as opposed to there being language that talks about sex and/or images of a sexual nature (male or female, since that’s how the rating systems work). So outside of feminist analysis, sexual language and imagery really just means images and language that references sex. So arguing that sexual language and imagery really just means the objectifying or “bad” stuff seems like using a private definition and then wondering why no one else understands what you mean when it’s so clear by your own private definition.

    Even your own source has hints of this, because it has this quote:

    “Because of the inequality and coercion with which it is so frequently associated in theminds of women, the appearance of sexuality in an unexpected context or a setting of ostensible equality can be an anguishing experience.” – Kathryn Abrams, 42 Vand. L. Rev. 1183, at 1205 (1989).

    Even though the examples in the rest of the article tend towards the worse cases, there isn’t really a clear statement that sexual language doesn’t include simply talking about sex, while that quote seems to argue that even talking about sex can be a problem due to social factors.

  35. 35
    k

    Alright, have a few more quotes from one of the authors of this policy as to why any and all discussion of sex is problematic:
    http://adainitiative.org/2013/02/keeping-it-on-topic-the-problem-with-discussing-sex-at-technical-conferences/

    Keeping it on-topic: the problem with discussing sex at technical conferences

    The Ada Initiative continues to advocate against all off-topic sexual material at technical conferences because of its tendency to disproportionately harm women attendees, regardless of how or by whom it is presented. … The Ada Initiative explicitly supports discussion of sex when it is on-topic for the conference and done in a woman-positive way, and has published specific guidelines on how to achieve this.

    This paragraph makes it quite clear that the anti-harassment policy they wrote is intended as a blanket ban on the discussion of sex, with optional guidelines for how to allow discussion of sex in a woman-friendly way when it is necessary and on-topic. SkepTech uses the former, but not the latter.

    Their reasoning looks like this:

    Why off-topic sexual talks can harm women at technical conferences

    The Ada Initiative has, since its founding, recommended strongly against including off-topic sexual content at technical conferences. This is because sexual content is likely to make the event off-putting, unwelcoming, and even unsafe for women attendees. Sexual content affects women disproportionately for several reasons. Here are a few:

    Women are far more likely to be raped, sexually assaulted, pressured for sex, or otherwise have bad sexual experiences. Sexual content, particularly in unexpected situations like a technical conference, can bring up memories and associations of prior bad sexual experiences in ways that are frightening or sometimes disabling. Many women have PTSD triggered by certain sexual topics (this is why the concept of a “trigger warning” was created).

    Discussing sex creates a “sexualized environment” which many people take as a signal to treat women as sexual objects rather than as fellow conference attendees, resulting in a higher incidence of harassment and assault of women. Too many women have been raped at technical conferences; we should do everything we can to prevent future rapes.

    Sex in many societies is strongly tied to the objectification and humiliation of women. Many people are unable to separate “talking about sex” and “saying derogatory things about women,” and take the introduction of one for permission to do the other. While many pro-woman, sex-positive people and communities exist, most technical conferences are not safe spaces for discussion of sex.

    Simply put, even the world’s most pro-woman, sex-positive, pro-consent talk about sex is likely to have negative effects on women at a technical conference.

  36. 36
    scenario

    The idea that having a harassment policy is somehow wrong is ludicrous. Complaining about the wording of the policy is legitimate. I get nervous when someone says everyone knows what that means. How many lawsuits over contracts have happened over the years because all of the parties involved believed that everyone knows what that clause meant but in reality, they had very different ideas what it meant? Overly vague policies can be misused or misapplied. There is no indication that this has happened but if there is a potential problem it is better to fix it beforehand.

  37. 37
    John Horstman

    @30: “Sexual language” is an extremely poor choice of words. “Sexualizing language” would make the intent much clearer and head-off the swarm of disingenuous, context-blind concern trolls. The problem with sexual harassment isn’t so much that sex is a matter of discussion, but that it’s harassing because it non-consensually sexualizes another person. It’s a good idea, when crafting impact-based or impact-focused policies, like harassment policies (harassment is bad because it causes harm, so the focus is on the impact, and can be summarized more or less as “don’t do things that harm others”), to use language that reflects how the problematic behaviors function instead of language that addresses an abstracted, decontextualized characteristic of the problematic behavior.

    That said, one must be willfully ignorant to to miss the point that a harassment policy is specifically addressing harassment, and any behaviors that are experienced as harassing by exactly no one really fall outside the scope of the policy.

  38. 38
    Stacy

    “Sexual language” is an extremely poor choice of words. “Sexualizing language” would make the intent much clearer and head-off the swarm of disingenuous, context-blind concern trolls. The problem with sexual harassment isn’t so much that sex is a matter of discussion, but that it’s harassing because it non-consensually sexualizes another person.

    Agreed. “Sexual language” is a bad choice of words there. They should have been more specific, or adopted the addendum.

    Good thing harassment policies can be modified in order to make them clearer and more in line with what they’re actually designed to do–which is to discourage unwanted, demeaning sexual attention, not demonize human sexuality or forbid any mention of sex.

  39. 39
    Aranjedeath

    It’s interesting to see this comment chain develop. The Ada Initiatives’ feminism literature speaks at length about those who use (usually unknown to them) privilege to deny others a voice, and it’s rather interesting to see quite a bit of that going on here.

    I think perhaps you have a good point in here somewhere, but you’ve couched it in language which seeks to subjugate those who disagree with you. That seems somewhat counterproductive. You’re not likely to show anyone the beautiful sunny meadow of feminism if you continuously frame everyone who disagrees with you (or more optimistically, doesn’t yet agree with you) as the enemy. Do think carefully about what you say, before you say it. It would be better to have silence than unthoughtful reactionary word vomit.

  40. 40
    axelblaster

    Behavioral Economics has some interesting things to say about contracts. Regulations like the Sexual Harrasment policies are to be interpret by the “spirit of the law” or the “letter of the law”. This distinction is what drives so many that feel strongly, one way or the other, to these kinds of arguments.

  41. 41
    Nomad

    So wait. When this post is titled “spot the sexual language”, what is really meant is “spot the nasty anti woman language”?

    Perhaps that’s what you should title it in the future? I mean it completely ruins the pretense for this post, but… looks like the video you reference has a point, and you’re adrift in a sea of hypocrisy.

    Good thing harassment policies can be modified in order to make them clearer and more in line with what they’re actually designed to do–which is to discourage unwanted, demeaning sexual attention, not demonize human sexuality or forbid any mention of sex.

    They can be, but… I don’t think this one is going to be. If it was, then this post would be basically saying “oh yeah, this was a very poorly worded policy statement, it should be changed for next time”. But that’s not the message being sent here. This is all about tribal loyalty and submission to the power structure.

  42. 42
    Nomad

    That said, one must be willfully ignorant to to miss the point that a harassment policy is specifically addressing harassment, and any behaviors that are experienced as harassing by exactly no one really fall outside the scope of the policy.

    So the actual wording of the harassment policy is irrelevant. All that matters is that we accept that it’s supposed to mean certain pure concepts, and if it clearly forbids certain behaviors that are so clearly innocent that the organizers sanction it then it’s all okay and to attempt to criticize it denotes someone as an odious “MRA” who must have scorn heaped upon him?

  43. 43
    Jason Thibeault

    So wait. When this post is titled “spot the sexual language”, what is really meant is “spot the nasty anti woman language”?

    No. “Spot the sexual language” means “spot the language that violates the spirit of the harassment policy.” I’ll accept that a better wording would be “sexualizing language”, but guess what? Many laws still understand “sexual language” in exactly the sense meant by the harassment policy.

    In this way, there is absolutely no hypocrisy in pointing out that nobody is slandered or targeted or objectified or harassed by the language used, despite this “sea” of discussion about sex.

  44. 44
    SallyStrange

    As I said on Twitter, the existence of an anti-harassment policy at American Atheists’ Convention 2013 in no way impeded the knocking of boots, nor rampant jokes about butts and sex and buttsex.

  45. 45
    Nomad

    Hypothetical situation: I am hosting a convention in which the harassment policy forbids any and all physical contact, because of the potential for such contact to harm others. However one of the official panels at the convention involves a group of people meeting together and giving each other high fives for some inexplicable reason. Someone points out that I should modify the harassment policy because it clearly forbids something that I’m officially sanctioning, and if I can’t abide by my own policy how can I expect others to.

    I lash out at them, calling them pro manslaughter advocates and insist that they point out where on that high five panel anybody was knifed repeatedly. The spirit of the policy, I insist, was clearly to prevent grievous bodily harm to the attendees. The fact that it’s worded so loosely as to forbid a wide range of entirely socially acceptable behaviors is irrelevant. What matters is that when I say physical contact, what I mean is beating someone up or killing them.

    In that hypothetical situation, who exactly is losing their shit?

  46. 46
    Jason Thibeault

    May I point out instead where your hypothetical breaks down, Nomad? Because it breaks down rather quickly when compared to the actual — and I know hypotheticals are not identicals, but they should damn well be close enough to serve as an example of what you’re trying to say.

    Let’s say we’re actually talking about a convention where harassment policies forbid any physical contact under any circumstances. Let’s say one of the panels talks about rugby. Would they be hypocrites for talking about rugby, which involves physical contact?

    Let’s say, instead, that the policy forbids specifically punching. Is talking about hugging in contradiction of this policy, because hugging and punching are both physical actions?

    If you want to argue that the wording should be such that people reading it under “commonsensical” definitions instead of actually looking at the legal ones understand what’s allowed and what’s forbidden, either different wordings or added example behaviours that are frowned upon might help clarify the spirit of the policy. When the spirit of the policy is to prevent people from, say, calling one another sluts or whores, to stop them from showing photos of one another in pornographic positions, or telling one another to kiss some area of their various genitalia, without their consent… talking about sex (during which some part of those scenarios might actually play out for real in a consentual situation) is not violating either the spirit or the letter of the policies.

    You’re right that if this policy forbade any talk about sex, it would be hypocritical of the organizers to host a panel (well-advertised in advance!) on sex. But since that’s not what the policy forbade, how about you stop complaining that people forbade physical contact and there was a panel with high-fives, when the policy actually forbade stabbings.

  47. 47
    Jason Thibeault

    I think axelblaster @40 has it exactly right. The people losing their shit over this “hypocrisy” are misinterpreting the letter of the law because they’re trying to read “sexual language” as “language related to sex”. Perhaps that request for clarification instead of all this ridiculous hyperbole might have helped refine the harassment policy so people who want to play rules-lawyer (or rather, people who’d rather there be no rules at all *coughlibertarianscough*) stop spinning their wheels and generating so much internecine acrimony on these perfectly sensible precautions for public events.

  48. 48
    Marcus Ranum

    These are the sort of folks who claimed that anti-harassment policies would require signed permission slips in order to hug your friends…

    OMG. I asked for (and got!) a very nice hug from JT – a complete stranger until several minutes before. Did I harrass him? O NOES!

  49. 49
    previously-chrisj

    Thanks for the transcript, Sky Captain!

  50. 50
    SallyStrange

    in which the harassment policy forbids any and all physical contact

    That’s a really dumb policy. Sounds like a policy a Pitter would write in an attempt to discredit the idea of harassment policies. You wouldn’t have such a policy in the first place, and if you did it would be unenforceable, and if you did try to enforce it, people would get very angry and leave and stop coming to your event.

    That hasn’t happened with sexual harassment policies. Gee, I wonder why.

    Seriously, that was amazingly stupid, Nomad. If you have more than two brain cells to rub together, you’ll be feeling embarrassed about it.

  1. 51
    How to Critique Harassment Policies — And How Really, Really Not To » Greta Christina's Blog

    [...] been some recent conversation about sexual harassment policies/ codes of conduct at atheist/ skeptical conferences. (Yes, still. [...]

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