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Sep 23 2012

Another familiar story

I’ve heard variations on this theme so many times now. When will we wise up?

In 2010 I went to a prestigious invite only conference in the tech world. I was, at this point, widely welcome in those rooms I’d dreamed of going in. I counted. My heart soared — it really felt like we’d turned a corner. It wasn’t just that there were more women. There were, but also they were talking. It was like pushing on a giant stone for all my life, then one day feeling it finally shift underneath my fingers.

On Saturday night I was sexually assaulted. Specifically, I was groped. I hit my aggressor in the chin and knocked him back. Despite having probably 100lbs on me, he stumbled drunkenly and barely kept his footing. “Touch me again and I’ll break your nose,” I told him. He laughed lightly, still finding his feet, and said “I like this one!” I looked at him, to catch his eye, and replied calmly, matter-of-factly “No. If you touch me again, I will break your nose.” He laughed again, but wandered away from me, looking to grope easier prey.

This is how I’d felt all my life, like my job was to not be easy prey. But this was a professional field, not the fucking Serengeti. I walked a little later with the conference organizer, a woman older then me, and of much stature in tech. I told her I was so happy to finally see women in my field. “But,” I said, “I think these incidents will be more common for a while. These guys don’t know how to behave around women.” To myself, I added bitterly, or other human beings at all.

In part, the tech community had allowed in women, but in part it had also only failed to keep them out.

I think her reaction was spot on. Fewer antelopes, more lionesses.

157 comments

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  1. 1
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    Bravo.

    Unfortunately, he probably learned the wrong lesson. He (probably) did not learn, ‘Don’t be an asshole.’ He (probably) learned to assault women who are/appear to be less likely to retaliate.

  2. 2
    ck

    He may have also failed to learn any lesson at all if he was that drunk.

  3. 3
    joed

    @2 ckitching

    sorry, can’t use drugs as an excuse.
    Hard to say what if any lesson was learned.
    Defending ones’ self physically has its limitations.
    Must be careful in self defence.

  4. 4
    anthonyrosa

    We will never get rid of bad people completely. The unfortunate thing about the human race is, terrible people are here to stay, and no matter what safeguards are in place, things like this -and worse- will always happen, as long as we as a species exist.

    But.

    We can do better. A lot better. We can make clear and effective harassment policies; no tolerance policies towards people who do these things; vocal and vehement support of women and other marginalized groups in the face of abuse; making it clear that we do and should take things like this seriously; banding together against those who would reply with hate.

    It can be better. And though we can never fully get rid of terrible people, maybe one day it will be they who feel unwelcome in public, they who feel that it isn’t safe to do as they wish… and not the women and others who feel unsafe in what should be professional places.

    Or so I tell myself, and anyone else who can hear, because despair would mean they win…

  5. 5
    Menyambal

    Good for her!

    I am glad she and other women were there, and I am glad she stood up to the jerk, and tried to teach him something.

    Threatening to break his nose was entirely appropriate, and I’d have been glad if she’d broken it in her immediate response. He may have been warned by other women before, and he certainly should have known better.

  6. 6
    eddyline

    I’m glad she fought back. He didn’t learn anything—”I like this one” sounds so dehumanizing: she’s not a person, she’s a *thing* to be conquered. It’s too bad that we as a civilization can’t learn to treat every human as a human.

    I hope future generations are more civilized; my generation is not there yet, nor do I think the majority of males in my generation will ever be. Hopefully we’re teaching the younger ones better, without as much prejudice and selfishness.

  7. 7
    anthonyrosa

    Eh. “I like this one” isn’t really that bad… in some contexts. I could see the line being used, to pick a random example, in a film about dogfigthing airplane pilots, with the hero or his rival expressing admiration for their opposite number by using the term.

    But “a context where it’s appropriate” isn’t this context, that’s absolutely true, and I agree it shows that the guy learned nothing.

  8. 8
    ck

    @joed

    sorry, can’t use drugs as an excuse.

    As someone who completely blacksout when consuming even moderate amounts of alcohol, I can assure you that “drugs as an excuse” for not learning something is valid.

    On the other hand, him being drunk is not an excuse for groping someone. Very different things.

  9. 9
    nesetalis

    Honestly, this is the Serengetti… Doesn’t matter where you are, doesn’t matter how many levels of abstraction you apply over our baser instincts, we are still beasts trying to claw our way up from the mud.

    Maybe some day we might finally be “enlightened beings” or some bullshit, but not for a long long time. Not while we still go to war for such trivial things. Not while we still spout religious garbage and use it as an excuse to oppress others.

  10. 10
    Anthony K

    Honestly, this is the Serengetti… Doesn’t matter where you are, doesn’t matter how many levels of abstraction you apply over our baser instincts, we are still beasts trying to claw our way up from the mud.

    Maybe some day we might finally be “enlightened beings” or some bullshit, but not for a long long time. Not while we still go to war for such trivial things. Not while we still spout religious garbage and use it as an excuse to oppress others.

    It is not the case that women must expect to be groped because we haven’t eliminated war or religion.

  11. 11
    chigau (違う)

    Douglas Adams once noted that the reason New Years Resolutions don’t work very well is because they are often made while Drunk and one remembers them only while in a similar state.
    Maybe the drunken person in this narrative will remember it the next time.
    ___

    we are still beasts trying to claw our way up from the mud.

    *sigh*

  12. 12
    Xanthë, Amy of my threads

    The last time this happened to me, the douchebag was already well out of range by the time I wheeled round to face him. (I couldn’t do so quickly; I was holding a full-ish glass of wine.)

    People wanting to engage in ‘Yes, but…’ bullshitte on this thread had better fuck off right now. If you want to grope my ass without my consent, be warned there are consequences.

  13. 13
    nesetalis

    You got it backwards Brownian.
    Men still molest rape and humiliate women, thus they also molest rape and humiliate societies, nations, and so forth.
    One acts with violence towards one, many act with violence towards many. It is the same thing, just a question of scale.

    Until the average person chooses kindness and respect in their dealings with others, we will not eliminate war.

  14. 14
    SallyStrange

    Noses are hard with lots of bony bits in the immediate vicinity; I advocate going directly for the throat. It really takes the wind out of a guy’s sails when he can’t quite breathe for a moment. Plus, less chance of hurting your hand. I do this for the FIRST reaction; since adopting this policy I haven’t been groped. I don’t know if this is because of the company I keep or because I give of a “I will punch you in the throat if you fuck with me” vibe, but either way I’m happy.

  15. 15
    Anthony K

    I’m just going to repeat myself, because it appears that you’ve mistaken this thread as an invitation to write awful seventh-grade essays. In fact, this thread is about women getting groped at conferences. War has nothing to do with it.

    It is not the case that women must expect to get groped at conferences because we have not eliminated war or religion.

    No one is interested in reading your pretentious hand wringing about how everyone but you just cannot seem to learn.

    Unless of course, you grope women at conferences.

  16. 16
    echidna

    I’ve inherited an intimidating gaze, which I work hard to keep in check except for situations like these. It does seem to be effective on gropers, or for guys who are “trying it on” to see what you will put up with. Or for other engineers who can’t quite get that women are not subservient. The less I say, the more effective it is – just something like “You aren’t going to do that again”.

    There are too many blokes for whom a physical punch puts things back on their territory, where they will win, so I don’t go there.

  17. 17
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    Men still molest rape and humiliate women, thus they also molest rape and humiliate societies, nations, and so forth.
    One acts with violence towards one, many act with violence towards many. It is the same thing, just a question of scale.

    Does this mean that, as long as there is war and terrorism, we cannot/should not address men treating women and children like objects? I really hope this is not what you are trying to say.

  18. 18
    chigau (違う)

    SallyStrange #14
    I respectfully disagree.
    Going-for-the-throat has a lot of merit but a sharp blow to the nose is immediately distracting.
    (over 25 years of karate speaking)
    When hit in the throat, I have 5 or 6 seconds before gagging and stopping.
    A sharp blow to the nose causes immediate pain and eye-watering.
    and the nose is really very fragile.
    (I know mine is.)

  19. 19
    anuran

    Brava! She got an excellent result

  20. 20
    No One

    Something is bothering me about this. Why didn’t everyone in the room turn on this guy? That’s what’s needed to stop this, the whole “village”.

  21. 21
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    As someone who completely blacksout when consuming even moderate amounts of alcohol, I can assure you that “drugs as an excuse” for not learning something is valid.

    I assume you mean “drugs as a causal mechanism.”

  22. 22
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    Why didn’t everyone in the room turn on this guy?

    Two years ago, I would have remained silent. I would have remained silent when someone dropped a sexist joke. Or a racist joke. Or referred to a transexual person as ‘it’. Why? Socialization, fear, an unwillingness to risk an adverse response, and, most of all, a personal lack of awareness with regards to the effects of misogyny, sexism, racism, homophobia, and other dehumanizing, objectifying, and silencing tactics. Most of us have no clue. We (and I include myself in this) know the behaviour is inappropriate but do not fully grok the damage it can do to the individual person and to society. The me of two years ago would have remained silent. The me of today would, I hope, speak up and explain to this asshole, in terms that he would, hopefully, understand, just how wrong he was and, more important, why he was wrong.

    I suspect that most people in that bar were me from two years ago.

  23. 23
    chigau (違う)

    No One

    Why didn’t everyone in the room turn on this guy?

    Because no one else saw it.
    These people scumbags are sneaky.

  24. 24
    Usernames are smart

    WTF?!

    Can this behavior be attributed to the lack of home training? I would never think of fondling someone uninvited, and I’m not sure I understand how someone could ever think this would be acceptable.

    Maybe many (enough) people were never taught boundaries. No excuse, of course.

    I have mixed feelings about going 0 → 10 in one go. Does responding to a violation (groping) with violence (chin-shot) solve the problem? I understand (somewhat) how an unwanted touch can be infuriating. Maybe if I had to deal with a constant barrage of violations I’d feel differently. Is that what happens?

    As best I can relate (apples/oranges, but I’m trying!) a few weeks ago, I’m standing in a long line at a crowded hole-in-the-wall. Lady behind me has a much smaller comfort zone, because she’s right up my ass. Then she’s holding the menu in front of her so that it is resting on my back. A few minutes go by (every time we move she moves right up my ass) with her menu touching me; I’m not liking it. So, I turn around and say, as pleasently as possible, “Excuse me, please.” She mumbles something about my back being the perfect resting spot, but she backs off. Less than a minute later she’s doing it again!

    I count to ten and then turn around and stare at her with my death rays until she meets my eyes. “Lady,” I growl, “Stop. Touching. Me. With. Your. Menu.”

    “Oh, but I can’t tell if I’m touching you,” she whines.

    “Then back up!” I yell.

    The rest of the time in line, she’s making remarks about “the sensitive guy in front of her” to her companion; I ignore her as she’s no longer up my ass.

    Ahh, ok. If she’d grabbed my ass, I’d really, really feel like popping her on her chin.

    Sorry, and thanks.

  25. 25
    Ing

    Why didn’t everyone in the room turn on this guy?

    Geek Friendship Fallacies

  26. 26
    mythbri

    Geek Friendship Fallacies

    See also:

    Geek Sexytime Back-pay Fallacies

    Geek Persecution Complex Fallacies

    The Default of Geek is “Male” Fallacies

    As a member of the subculture, I can vouch for the popularity of these.

  27. 27
    Old At Heart

    In sarcasm (as detectors should not be assumed to work):

    “Oh, PZ, of course, THIS is how it should be done. A creepy nerd subculture deviant of the norm assaulting a proud and noble successful woman. She successfully prevented it. Clearly, the others weren’t trying hard enough.”

    While in sarcasm, still: No. She was lucky. Others are not. Do not hold this as an example. “I like this one” often precedes intense violence, which was avoided here not because of a stiff glare (a drunk wouldn’t recognize it), but because of luck that his utterance was more a drunken slur than a prelude. Truly drunken people have very high pain tolerance, I’ve seen enough bar fights to attest to that. A broken nose would not have effected the short run overmuch, though might prevent future attacks by that person when they remember it (after all, humans can select for behaviors too).

    Most importantly: It sounds as if she is well. That is good, and the key takeaway.

  28. 28
    Rey Fox

    Not while we still spout religious garbage and use it as an excuse to oppress others.

    “Never mind sexual assault, look over there! Religion!”

    Step your game up, skeptics.

  29. 29
    katansi

    Always go with the broken nose. It might not stop someone whose really determined to rape you but to someone who’s only half into their terrible behavior it will be a game changer. Even the raised fist can be enough sometimes.

  30. 30
    SallyStrange

    Okay, I guess I’ll try the nose. Either way I’m not going to hesitate.

  31. 31
    SallyStrange

    And if more women do this then fewer people will be able to claim it’s invisible.

    Not that it OUGHT to be incumbent on us to step up our self-defense techniques in order to fully participate in public intellectual life, but it seems that it fucking is.

  32. 32
    aweraw

    @20

    I once made a similar suggestion here about the time Ophelia pulled out of TAM because she was receiveing threats from crazies.

    I said that the only way to beat these kinds of situations is to be there in numbers and respond in public to anyone who tries these kinds of stunts, not to instead react with fear and withdraw from the public space, as many people seem to see as a good course of action.

    Got told I was in support of those who habitually grope women, amoung other choice insults. Commenter got a molly for it. Good times.

  33. 33
    Alethea Kuiper-Belt

    “I like this one” is always nasty. If you’re in a relatively safe and public space, it’s dismissive yet face saving (much like Upchuck’s “feisty!”, Daria fans). Your reaction is treated as entertaining rather than serious, but at least there’s no great threat. If you’re on your own and outnumbered, it’s frankly terrifying.

  34. 34
    Alethea Kuiper-Belt

    aweraw, your victim blaming is ugly. Stop it.

  35. 35
    chigau (違う)

    aweraw #32
    [citation needed]

  36. 36
    JAL: Snark, Sarcasm & Bitterness

    I once made a similar suggestion here about the time Ophelia pulled out of TAM because she was receiveing threats from crazies.

    I said that the only way to beat these kinds of situations is to be there in numbers and respond in public to anyone who tries these kinds of stunts, not to instead react with fear and withdraw from the public space, as many people seem to see as a good course of action.

    Got told I was in support of those who habitually grope women, amoung other choice insults. Commenter got a molly for it. Good times.

    Ophelia’s decision to stay out of a conference where even the leaders of the organization are stupid and unhelpful regarding sexism due to threats against her safety and shaming her for that decision is different than supporting a woman’s decision to defend herself physically when an attack happens and asking bystanders to not support the attacker.
    Idiot.

  37. 37
    osmosis

    It’s all your fault. You knew full well before attending the conference that you’re female. You was obviously asking for it.
    Seriously though, a guy like that probably has more date rapes under his belt than I have normal sex.

  38. 38
    bad Jim

    Folks, though I share the sentiment, I’m pretty sure this is the wrong approach. Not everyone who is groped is going to be able to go for the throat. Self-defense is all kinds of wonderful, but making it the general expectation verges on blaming the victim. Expecting the room to side against the aggressor would also be wonderful but it probably isn’t the way to bet.

    What will work? Stories like this help, especially naming times and places, and perhaps naming names. Denial is a big part of the problem.

    Just getting more women to conferences would help. They won’t have an easy time, so long as this sort of behavior keeps up, but putting more eyeballs on a problem makes it harder to ignore.

  39. 39
    chigau (違う)

    If a Man™ was ‘groped’ by another Man™ would anyone blink at a physical reaction?

  40. 40
    aweraw

    @38

    Just getting more women to conferences would help.

    Woah there, buddy. You’re not suggesting that having a like minded support network present in places where there’s a potential for harrassment might somehow improve the situation? What kind of radical notions are you trying to sell here, pal?

    I mean, Ms SurlyAmy would not have in any way been better off having other like minded individuals stand with her against the othering she experienced at TAM, would she?

    Patently ridiculous.

  41. 41
    chigau (違う)

    aweraw #40
    Irony cannot really be conveyed in text-only but YES.

  42. 42
    Amphiox

    While in sarcasm, still: No. She was lucky. Others are not.

    Precisely so. Remember, he had 100 pounds on her. She hit him once, catching him off guard, and threatened to hit him again. And he backed down.

    But the second threat was a bluff. If he had not backed down and had come at her again, the physical disparity between them, and with him expecting and prepared for physical retaliation, would be such that her chances of escaping unscathed would have been slim to none.

    This example does NOT represent a viable strategy for deterring sexual assault except as a last ditch last resort.

    The number of cases where attempting to fight back only escalated the violence is beyond counting. How many women have been killed for daring to physically resist?

  43. 43
    Alethea Kuiper-Belt

    In case you are genuinely missing the point, aweraw, Ophelia did not have the choice to “be there in numbers”. She is one person. No matter how awesome a clone army of Ophelias might be, there still isn’t one. Attempting to shame her for her choice is purest victim blaming. Stop it.

  44. 44
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    As someone who completely blacksout when consuming even moderate amounts of alcohol, I can assure you that “drugs as an excuse” for not learning something is valid.

    If you haven’t learned by now that you should stay the fuck away from alcohol the problem is not alcohol, it’s you.
    I’ve been in the company of people drinking alcohol all my life. My personal close observation is that people don’t become completely different people when drunk. They are the very same people they are while sober minus the self-control plus disturbed risk-assesment.
    People who think that driving while intoxicated is wrong actually don’t do so when they’re drunk. People who think that those annoying rules about drunk-driving are for lesser beings who are not the wonderful drivers they themselves are but who don’t want to risk their driving license after 2 beers end up being drunk drivers.
    I guess that’s the very same thing with sexual assault.

    I don’t like the whole discussion about where and how to punch. Apart from not always being able to do so (as Xanthe remarked above, you’re not even always in reach) it still puts the onus on her. It’s good for you personally if you give off “don’t mess with me or youR’e going to be a mess” vibes, it will not solve the problem. It just means that somebody else will be the victim.
    And you can’t tell what will happen.
    When I read “I like this one” I was fearing for worse to come. It’s often a prelude to more violence because she needs to be broken in. You know, they’re playing hard to get, she’s totally not a victim but an opponent.
    If there were other people they didn’t react when this was happening. And I have the bad feeling that if he’d ended up with a broken nose she would have been the one held responsible.
    As she says herself: It probably didn’t stop sexual assault happening, it only meant it happened to other women.

  45. 45
    bad Jim

    Let’s suppose that P.Z. has a point with “more lionesses”. At a conference with a history of misbehavior a show of force might get the point across. Props like whistles or flashlights or even toy razors might prompt a little consciousness-raising and possibly even discourage abuse.

    Something even more practical, perhaps: using phones to take photos of guys being jerks and sharing the pix. Pillory one high-profile asshole and a dozen wannabes might decide not to emulate that aspect of his behavior.

    But mostly just having more women around makes it less of a boy’s club and gives women more say as to what’s acceptable. It would also lead to more dancing, which is good for everyone.

  46. 46
    unclefrogy

    while I am not a woman nor have I ever been a woman. I have been in situations where I have been threatened and bothered the easiest thing to do is be loud at least loud enough to be heard 40 feet away you can even speak politely but you can use a “stage voice” to draw attention.

    What I am really amazed at is there was no reaction from the crowd? I can understand in a elevator but in a crowed room no one noticed.
    I told a young girl I met this summer after she jumped at me, I had touch her in the course of working, that I was sorry that she had to learn to do that but was glad she learned.

    some times it just seems to be too sucky
    uncle frogy

  47. 47
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    Fewer antelopes, more lionesses.

    It might just be my spectacularly bad mood, but I’m not liking this. It sounds to me very much like “don’t be such a victim”.

    I agree with bad Jim, Amphiox and Giliell.

  48. 48
    osmosis

    How about a volunteer network of witnesses and a security liasion, all of whom have been instructed on what’s not cool and what to do about it.

  49. 49
    eleutheria

    Why didn’t she call the police and report this incident?

    At the very least she should’ve struck/kicked him after she’d initially repelled him.

    I’d really like to know the circumstances of what happened. At the conference, at the hotel, in a street? He said “I like this one!”– so he was talking to a bystander/witness? I just don’t understand how this is a “tech-influenced assault” as opposed to an “assault”– that we normally process by calling the police.

  50. 50
    osmosis

    what gets me about this is how long has this guy been pulling these stunts? He’s NEVER experienced unpleasant consequences for his actions? Noone’s EVER called him on it before now? I find that hard to believe.

  51. 51
    laurentweppe

    But the second threat was a bluff. If he had not backed down and had come at her again, the physical disparity between them, and with him expecting and prepared for physical retaliation, would be such that her chances of escaping unscathed would have been slim to none.

    On the other hand, it’s not that easy to talk your way out of trouble after beating someone a hundred pound lighter in public.

  52. 52
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    eleutheria,

    She should have gone after him when he was leaving to punch him? Yeah, that sounds like a brilliant idea and not like something that would end up with her accused of assault. (hint: that was sarcasm)

    ___
    osmosis,

    She called him on it. You noticed how bad that made him feel.

  53. 53
    bad Jim

    laurentweppe, it’s scant compensation for being beaten that your assailant got into trouble.

  54. 54
    bad Jim

    The discussion seems to be about the best way to comport yourself in a dangerous part of town, when the topic was actually a convocation of like-minded people. The point shouldn’t be about how to defend yourself against assault, but how to convince and assure your fellow attendees that it will be worth coming back next year…

    and probably not because you’ve had a year to improve your weapons and armor.

    With any luck, things like this will get more boring as time goes on, just like growing up. Women will no longer be excited by the prospect of being pinched or groped or squeezed by random strangers. We will miss that, just like we miss starving all winter when there was no fresh food to be found, and every other ill we’ve ever fixed.

  55. 55
    Maureen Brian

    For all those above who have clearly not been keeping up – have we taken delivery of a new consignment of slugs? – I once again present Ms Greta Christina’s classic essay entitled Why “Yes, But” is the Wrong Response to Misogyny.

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2011/12/29/why-yes-but-is-the-wrong-response-to-misogyny/

    osmosis, you seem to me to be perfectly sane but you do need to catch up. Lots of things have been happening – we have had successes but we have also met organised and organisational resistance to the very things I believe you would regard as sensible.

    Sadly no-one has had time to write the book yet but you’ll find good stuff here at FtB and also in the excellent Skepchicks series on Men Speaking Out. Sadly, I cannot “protect” you from the horror stories and the dross you’ll meet along the way.

    http://skepchick.org/2012/09/speaking-out-against-hate-directed-at-women-eran-segev/

  56. 56
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    Maybe many (enough) people were never taught boundaries. No excuse, of course.

    99.9% of these people know they’re crossing boundaries. That’s the POINT. They’re crossing boundaries, they’re exerting power over you, they are communicating that “you’re not a person, you’re a thing, and you’re there for their amusement and/or as a focus of their fellow predators’ approval, not for any worth or value of your own, because you have none. And what are you gonna DO about it, huh?”

    This ain’t fuckin’ rocket science and people who stupidly pretend not to understand it and blame ignorance or awkwardness are a HUGE part of the problem.

    I have mixed feelings about going 0 → 10 in one go. Does responding to a violation (groping) with violence (chin-shot) solve the problem?

    Sure sounds like it did to me.

  57. 57
    Koshka

    Usernames are smart #24

    Did you just tell us ‘women do it to men as well!”?

    Some people have no idea.

  58. 58
    oolon

    @Chigau,

    Because no one else saw it.
    These scumbags are sneaky.

    Frankly that is no excuse, I’m one of the most oblivious idiots in company than most. I don’t see what is going on around me as it does not apply to me – it is edited out. Most of the memes such as SR and talking out about harassment have been from women (That I’ve seen), very interesting and opened my eyes a little but I can still think it does not apply to me. Sasha Pixlee started a talk out against misogyny against women meme which although it was promoted on skepchick did not catch as much as I hoped. http://www.morethanmen.org/2012/08/03/ordinary-men-speaking-out-against-misogyny/

    Where is the male view on this issue with a practical stance of what ordinary oblivious peeps like myself can do, every day? Speak out and don’t be put off by the ‘white-knighting’ rubbish would be a good start. (Probably not written using emotive terms like oblivious idiot, which hurt our egos)
    I should disclose this was pointed out to me given where I am commenting -> http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/07/03/the-decent-human-beings-guide/
    But it doesn’t apply again as my wife would object and it is only conferences. How about a campaign or thing to sign up to organised by atheism+? Empower blokes to speak out in public if they see any harassment – how do you tackle the example in the tube where that nut-case was screaming at a women who wouldn’t acknowledge him? I travel on the tube in London but I think I’d be too scared of being stabbed in that case.

  59. 59
    DLC

    I applaud the woman who was groped for her reaction. She said no, and eventually he got it. At the same time I deplore that it was necessary for her to do so. No, it is not “the nature of man” to grab at women. It’s in the nature of spoiled brat children to run up and grab things they fancy without asking, and people are not toys to be grabbed on a whim.

  60. 60
    Koshka

    but I can still think it does not apply to me

    That is because you are special.

  61. 61
    Koshka

    Where is the male view on this issue with a practical stance of what ordinary oblivious peeps like myself can do, every day?

    Presumably the female view is no good because women cannot be practical?

  62. 62
    bad Jim

    I suggested whistles, which are a warning when worn as a pendant – don’t fuck with me – as well as a deterrent and a summons for help. This is nothing new; do they work?

    The ubiquity of cameras and the effortless spread of images ought to extinguish the most egregious sort of behavior. It hasn’t yet, maybe because upskirts and A pinching B are still generally approved. We still need more female eyeballs. And maybe so much not lionesses who leap to the attack as those who vocally growl in disapproval.

  63. 63
    jefrir

    Bad Jim

    Women will no longer be excited by the prospect of being pinched or groped or squeezed by random strangers.

    what the fuck do you mean by “excited”?

    Oolon

    Most of the memes such as SR and talking out about harassment have been from women (That I’ve seen), very interesting and opened my eyes a little but I can still think it does not apply to me.

    You know Schroedinger’s Rapist was specifically written as a guide for men, right? It is a description of what women already do, not a “how to note be raped” guide. If you are incapable of absorbing information simply because it is written by a woman, that is your own problem.

  64. 64
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    jefrir,

    Considering the sentence after that one, I think bad Jim was going for sarcasm. Unfortunately, it wasn’t very clear. I did a double take after reading that sentence too.

  65. 65
    carlie

    Daer god, this thread is depressing.

    This was a professional conference. You know, one of those things we’ve been talking about for over a year? How about if people who administer conferences actively have and enforce harassment policies, so if someone acts like an ass, they get kicked out and not allowed back in, and if it adversely affects their career to be kicked out of a professional conference, then good? And then maybe that attitude starts bleeding over into the wild west of regular life too, but even if it doesn’t, then women at least have the ability to participate in their own jobs without receiving Friday midnight downtown levels of harassment while networking for said jobs.

  66. 66
    carlie

    Because honestly, talking about how effective punching someone in the face at a professional conference you have to be at for your job is kind of missing the larger point.

  67. 67
    Mak, acolyte to Farore

    If a Man™ was ‘groped’ by another Man™ would anyone blink at a physical reaction?

    Gay Panic?

  68. 68
    oursally

    After several decades of karate, and teaching self-defence to women, I can come up with some useful advice:

    Stay away from the throat, you can kill the guy and end up in prison. Best response is a good, loud, full handed slap on the ear. It makes their eyes water too. At the same time say very loudly, “NO”, “get away from me” and such like. If he (or whatever) has got you in a bear hug, a finger in the eye will work miracles without doing any damage. You can topple a drunk backwards by putting your hand on his chin and pushing firmly. I have tried all these and they work. Don’t punch unless you have learned how, you will damage your wrist.

    (The ladies I used to teach were very keen on not hurting anyone, despite everything I said.)

  69. 69
    jose

    I hear all the time that women should take self-defense classes. Probably comes from the “personal responsibility” crowd.

    I’m not sure how useful or reliable this is against sexual assault. Sure, this man walked away so it makes for a good inspiring story (that’s why “success cases” are so used in advertising), but every time I’ve seen someone punch someone else in the face, what followed was a full on fight… something every self-defense method out there insists you should try to avoid. I for one would not risk picking a fist fight with another man if he was groping me. I’ve never fought anyone in my life and that’s the case for most people.

    As a whole, it just feels to me like the poor man’s version of power. When you have real power you can change the rules, instead of having to spend many hours of valuable time learning how to defend yourself against “how-things-just-are”. Changing the rules (for instance, putting in place harassment policies or, at a higher level, writing legislation) has the additional advantage that you’re protecting the rest of the group too instead of only yourself.

  70. 70
    carlie

    As a whole, it just feels to me like the poor man’s version of power. When you have real power you can change the rules, instead of having to spend many hours of valuable time learning how to defend yourself against “how-things-just-are”. Changing the rules (for instance, putting in place harassment policies or, at a higher level, writing legislation) has the additional advantage that you’re protecting the rest of the group too instead of only yourself.

    Quoted for all the fucking truth.

  71. 71
    Marc Abian

    but every time I’ve seen someone punch someone else in the face, what followed was a full on fight

    How likely is a man to hit a woman in this setting though?

  72. 72
    rq

    Changing the rules is what needs to happen, but seeing as there is usually some sort of lapse between their implementation and people actually getting the fact that You Can’t Do That (Anymore), self-defense might be a useful tool during the transition – at least knowing how to indicate strong discouragement, just in case.
    How that is different from the whole ‘personal responsibility’ issue, I’m not sure, but I know I took self-defense for self-esteem. Also I suck at punching, and the palm-to-chin move was a good alternative for me, and made me less afraid and more capable (at least in my mind).
    BUT THIS IS ME. Back when I thought that it was ordinary for women to take self-defense because that was the way things were. Has it been useful? Yes, in many different ways. Should it be necessary? I certainly hope not. I don’t want it to be necessary. I would rather it was just another activity women could partake in because it is interesting and increases general knowledge. Not as a necessity against real-life situations, like professional conferences where one would expect (naively?) that other attendees would be on more-or-less professional behaviour in relation to one another.
    Yes, the rules need to change.

  73. 73
    echidna

    How likely is a man to hit a woman in this setting though?

    You would be surprised how often. She’s fair game after she has punched him.

  74. 74
    echidna

    I should have put “fair game” in quotes. That’s not my view.

  75. 75
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Could we please stop that whole self-defense stuff?
    Some women will never be able to “fight back”, for physical and emotional reasons and if we don’t stop the predators they will still become their victims.

  76. 76
    pentatomid

    Seconding Giliell @75

  77. 77
    Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle

    Some women will never be able to “fight back”, for physical and emotional reasons and if we don’t stop the predators they will still become their victims.

    THANK YOU.

    If someone is physcially incapable of taking self defense classes or carrying out the moves, are they at fault for being attacked? how about if they can’t afford it?

    The “learn to defend yourself!” thing is just another way to desperately search for a reason to blame the victim, and to consider yourself superior because you totally would defend yourself.

    Then everyone in the room will lift you up on their shoulders and carry your around to thundering cheers. Nothing bad would happen at all.

    To be very clear: take self defense clases if you can and want to. Don’t tell other people to do so, because you have no idea what the situation is.

  78. 78
    megs226

    Finally some voices of reason. The conversation should be about how to stop this behavior and change the culture that says it’s OK to grope women, not how to react to it. I think it’s a dangerous road to go down because eventually, the conversation becomes “well it’s easier to punch a guy than to actually change people’s attitudes”. Then we’re right back where we started.

    Sure, we have to react to it in the short-term, but the proper reaction shouldn’t be the long-term goal.

  79. 79
    echidna

    I second every comment that Giliell has made. Absolutely spot on.

    Do people making the self-defence comments realise that they are advocating self-defense techniques at a professional conference against your own peers? Seriously?

    Self-defense is for situations where you have no other option, and even then it may not do any good. It does not reduce violence, it just may shift it to another victim. Or escalate the situation.

  80. 80
    jose

    Tangentially related, what do you think of the phone app Circle of 6?

  81. 81
    viajera

    Fewer antelopes, more lionesses.

    It might just be my spectacularly bad mood, but I’m not liking this. It sounds to me very much like “don’t be such a victim”.

    I agree with bad Jim, Amphiox and Giliell.

    I agree with Beatrice. This sounds like classic victim-blaming – which I’m surprised at. I expect better from PZ.

    It’s not on women to be lionesses rather than antelopes. It’s on men to stop being a@@holes. Especially when dealing with colleagues at a professional conference.

  82. 82
    BinaAssault

    you have much more control than I do. The last time that I was groped, I really did break his nose. The time before that, I slapped the guy so hard that it left a fantastic red hand print on his face. The one before that was hit with an umbrella (which became bent)….. Jeez how many men have actually tried to pull that crap with me? >:(

  83. 83
    Kengi

    What? Is this some sort of experiment where Ed Brayton and PZ advocate violence just to see how many of their readers are lemmings who will blindly support any view they put forth?

  84. 84
    skeptifem

    Could we please stop that whole self-defense stuff?
    Some women will never be able to “fight back”, for physical and emotional reasons and if we don’t stop the predators they will still become their victims.

    Not to mention it just isn’t wise to advocate a one size fits all solution to personal safety problems. In a different situation fighting back may have caused more problems for a woman being assaulted.

    People who are in situations of potential danger should trust their intuition; it tends to be the best guide for action in times of intense fear. I am fairly sure that is what the woman in the OP did, actually.

  85. 85
    sonofrojblake

    Her reaction was appropriate. PZ’s summary was not.

    Fewer antelopes, more lionesses

    How about just fewer fucking hyenas?

  86. 86
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    How about just fewer fucking hyenas?

    This

  87. 87
    SallyStrange

    Yeah, like I said, it OUGHT NOT be incumbent on women to brush up on self-defense techniques just to attend a professional conference, BUT FOR THE MOMENT IT FUCKING IS.

  88. 88
    Kengi

    Well, as long as we are having some fun with this concept of violence being a proper reaction, let’s take it to the next logical level.

    As has been pointed out, some women will be incapable of getting proper training in dealing out violence with just their fists and feet. This is why handguns were invented!

    Based on Ed Brayton’s post this morning advocating violence, a three day hospital stay is about the correct amount of physical damage to inflict, so I suggest a gun shot to the kneecap as a proper level of response. This would put the perp down so he couldn’t easily retaliate.

    And, of course, any woman who failed to properly defend herself in such a manner obviously wanted to be groped. If that groping led to rape, we wouldn’t even need to wait for the pregnancy test to find out if the rape was legitimate or not!

  89. 89
    vaiyt

    We do not need more lionesses. We need less assholes.

  90. 90
    sonofrojblake

    How likely is a man to hit a woman in this setting though?

    How likely is a man to grope a woman in this setting? Pretty unlikely, one would hope.

    How likely is a man who has already crossed that boundary to cross another one if he is subjected to retaliation that he perceives as a violent and entirely disproportionate (he might even consider unprovoked) attack from someone he is confident he can knock unconscious with a single blow? If you think this unlikely, I have a list of pubs in northern England I’d advise you to avoid.

  91. 91
    redwood

    Women being groped on crowded trains is Japan is commonplace. Just about every adult Japanese woman I’ve asked has said it happened to her at some point, often when she was a high school student. The current recommended response is for the woman to grab the offending hand, hold it up in the air and ask “Whose hand is this?” Everyone knows that it belongs to a groper and the response that often occurs is he is escorted off the train at the next stop by a few riders who turn him over to the station authorities. Even if that doesn’t happen the man is embarrassed and in a shame culture like Japan, this works well. Don’t know how it would work in the US, but at least it’s not violent.

  92. 92
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    The current recommended response is for the woman to grab the offending hand, hold it up in the air and ask “Whose hand is this?” Everyone knows that it belongs to a groper and the response that often occurs is he is escorted off the train at the next stop by a few riders who turn him over to the station authorities.

    This is fucking brilliant. I want this to become a custom everywhere.

    The only problem I can see is in cases where you can’t say for sure who groped you in all the jostling during the mass exodus in/out of the train (tram in my part of the world). A lot of gropers use that as a cover.

  93. 93
    frog

    I am struck by the questions regarding the observers. Where were they? What were they doing?

    It’s one thing when a woman is assaulted in a secluded area. Self-defense is, alas, all she’s got. (And screaming/whistle. Maybe someone within earshot will help.)

    But in a conference space, when there are other people nearby?

    Shame on this asshole for groping her, and shame on anyone who witnessed it and didn’t speak up. Even one other man saying, “Dude, don’t be an asshole,” would probably have done more to teach the lesson than the single shot to the nose.

  94. 94
    No One

    There is the is the carrot and there is the stick. These are transient solutions. The third, more permanent option, is to shift “attitude”.

  95. 95
    penguinninja

    I had a flashback to high school. I was in study hall and my yellow highlighter had rolled off my desk. I leaned over to retrieve it and a young man groped my backside.

    I popped right out of my seat, marched down the hall to the office, and reported the incident to the principal. The young man was called to the office, as was the male teacher from the lone class the young man and I shared. I found this odd.

    See, during the brief, closed-door meeting with the principal, the young groper explained that we teased each other during Mr. Teacher’s class and the goosing I received was merely a part of that. Mr. Teacher agreed that Groper and I “bantered.”

    The “teasing” consisted of the groper relentlessly mocking me and calling me ugly. My part in this delightful give-and-take was to eventually demand he stop. Ultimately, it was decided by the three men in the principal’s office that I needed to lighten up. Yeah.

    That happened twenty years ago and it still gives me the cold sweats. It’s amazing how easy it is to create a sexual harasser and how little has changed in two decades.

  96. 96
    chigau (違う)

    penguinninja #95
    What a charming™ story.
    “Leave me alone!” is banter.
    yuck

  97. 97
    Stevarious, Public Health Problem

    @aweraw

    I once made a similar suggestion here about the time Ophelia pulled out of TAM because she was receiveing threats from crazies.

    I said that the only way to beat these kinds of situations is to be there in numbers and respond in public to anyone who tries these kinds of stunts, not to instead react with fear and withdraw from the public space, as many people seem to see as a good course of action.

    Got told I was in support of those who habitually grope women, amoung other choice insults. Commenter got a molly for it. Good times.

    The difference would be, here we are talking about self-defense. You were advocating mob violence.

    We can have (and are having!) a discussion on whether it’s appropriate or effective for a woman to react to groping with violence. We are not having a discussion on whether it’s appropriate for her to ask someone else to come over and break his nose FOR her. And the reason is that one of these things is self-defense, and the other thing is assault.

    And maureenbrian didn’t receive a Molly for insulting you. She got a Molly for (correctly) pointing out that some people who fight back against misogyny end up dead in a ditch, so it’s not your place to judge the person who is faced with the choice for not being ‘brave’ enough for you.

  98. 98
    No One

    frog says:

    Even one other man saying, “Dude, don’t be an asshole,” would probably have done more to teach the lesson than the single shot to the nose.

    Imagine the whole room saying it in “one voice”. The”One Room Strategy”.

  99. 99
    jose

    @87 SallyStrange,
    but is it?

    in most domestic violence help counseling, guide, hotline, etc. people are advised not to punch back and report instead. Kids on the playground are told not to punch back either. Self defense guides for adults in general always tell you to avoid conflict. People never tell you to fight fire with fire in any other context…

    Punching in response to sexual assault is escalating the violence and I’m not sure I could handle the situation if the guy I punched escalated it further up. Isn’t there a way to get the guy away from me by defusing the situation instead? This is why I mentioned the phone app earlier.

  100. 100
    Nick Gotts

    Is this some sort of experiment where Ed Brayton and PZ advocate violence just to see how many of their readers are lemmings who will blindly support any view they put forth? – Kengi

    There’s a difference between this case and that of the Iranian Ali Beheshti. In the current case, the groper was the initiator of violence whereas, as far as we know, Beheshti had been insulting and oppressive but had not actually assaulted the women who turned on him. (To be clear, I’m not condemning the response in that case, but it is quite different from one where violence is used in retaliation for violence.)

  101. 101
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    The observations made about the crowd are puzzling. This was a professional conference where this woman was groped. Those people criticizing the crowd for not speaking up seem to think plenty of people saw it happen. Why anyone would think multiple people just happened to be looking at this woman the exact moment she was groped is beyond me.

  102. 102
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    Tony,

    Maybe they think that other people should have reacted when they heard her arguing with the groper. That would be understandable.

    I wouldn’t expect people to notice the grope as it happened.

  103. 103
    sonofrojblake

    it OUGHT NOT be incumbent on women to brush up on self-defense techniques

    True. A problem I have with here is that in this context “self defense techniques” seems to elide into “how to hit a guy”.

    Any self defense instructor or internet keyboard warrior will be irresponsibly and actively harming your safety if they don’t explain to you right from the outset and again at every opportunity that some ways of hitting a guy (a) are more difficult than you think and require training and practice and (b) even if you’re capable of doing them effectively, have a good chance of making things worse, even in your cosy professional conference environment.

    A punch is a very powerful signal that boys learn very early in life from other boys, but it does not say “back off”. A punch says “bring it on”. Responsible advisers on self defence will advise anyone, male or female, NOT to punch, for reasons of psychology as much as effectiveness.

  104. 104
    evilisgood

    I’m so tired of this. It’s not the responsibility of the person being assaulted at a professional conference to defend herself with physical violence or the threat thereof. If I’m an antelope and not a lioness, I still have every right to be there without being groped.

    GAH!

  105. 105
    silomowbray, sans frottage pour la douche

    A punch is a very powerful signal that boys learn very early in life from other boys, but it does not say “back off”. A punch says “bring it on”. Responsible advisers on self defence will advise anyone, male or female, NOT to punch, for reasons of psychology as much as effectiveness.

    This. Very much this. If I receive a punch intended to harm it sets off some of my emotional wiring and I get very, very angry. So the message there is, if you intend to punch, punch effectively enough to utterly drop the guy. He can’t be permitted to get back up for several minutes, or at least long enough for you to get away. If you can’t do that confidently, don’t punch.

    I can’t add much else to this discussion, other than echoing that I’m really glad that the woman in the story was not harmed further, and I’m disgusted at the behaviour of the drunken dudebro.

    Oh wait…anecdote. Friend of mine had her crotch groped by some fuckhead, so she pivoted and drove her stiletto heel into the top of his foot. He was wearing sandals.

  106. 106
    evilisgood

    What if the person is so shocked / bewildered / terrified she doesn’t have time to react? Or she doesn’t even know how to react? What if the person used up every ounce of lioness-ness that she had simply getting out of the house and going to a place where people are?

    I just can’t even.

  107. 107
    No One

    @ 101

    The exchange after the grope.

  108. 108
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    evilisgood,

    She’s obviously choosing to be easy prey.

    Bah. The more I think about that analogy, the more I hate it.

  109. 109
    Anthony K

    Got told I was in support of those who habitually grope women, amoung other choice insults. Commenter got a molly for it. Good times.

    For the record, this is the comment by maureenbrian aweraw is talking about:

    To aidanwilliams and other apologists -

    How dare you come here with so poor a grasp of what has been happening, such a complete blank in your brains? How dare you suggest that we are failing to change the culture because we are too passive? Some of us do have enough grasp of what is happening to know that sometimes in this fight the opposite of “passive” is “dead” – dead in a ditch like Emmett Till in an earlier struggle because he wasn’t quite passive enough, dead under the King’s horse at Epsom like Emily Davidson, dead like Brandy Martell just last month in Oakland CA but then you probably never heard of her.

    Besides, guys, we are not on a martyrdom kick. We are trying to persuade a bunch of entitled buffoons that the culture is changing, it is going to keep changing and, no, they can’t halt the change. They can only drag it out a little, make it a little more messy. To achieve that we have to be focussed and rational. The delayers and disparagers can afford to be emotional and self-indulgent – as they have been of late.

    What exactly is it that you want us to do? All sell our houses and fly to Vegas so that we can wrap James Randi and his beard in Scotch tape? Yes, that would be assault and you can be sure that by the time we finished the first roll every cop within 20 miles would be on hand to protect him.

    People are getting away with behaviour on the ill-mannered to criminal scale because they are getting cover from both the arrogant and the dim. They are getting encouragement. They are being cheered on as they heap verbal abuse on those who have already been abused. They are putting on stunts like the Great Penis Debate in the midst of all this and still claiming that it’s all a big joke.

    There are two sets of people here – the ones who suggest that with some effort we could improve this, that or the other and the other set who say, “Naw, my grandpappy used to get away with groping all the women in his workplace and I want my share, too.” Not difficult to see which set you lot jumped into bed with!

    Now listen up, children. I was 70 last week and I have been on to this since I was 12. In my lifetime and in just one country I have seen changes to the teaching of maths and science, the professions opened to women, the banking system woken up so that it no longer demands a male countersignature, individual taxation for couples, women’s refuges and rape crisis centres, clarification of what rape is and stalking on the books as a criminal offence plus other changes to the law. And so on and so forth. And marched and wrote and spoke and supported comrades in the fight.

    In the course of that I have met an amazing number of totally impressive people, people I have been so proud to know. Not a few of them on this very blog where I come for the very clarity of thought, effective communication, depth of commitment and experience which has always proved to be far more effective than any amount of mealy-mouthed wanking.

    We are not there yet and sometimes that get a bit frustrating. Some of us, though, know exactly what we are aiming for and it is still eyes on the prize.

    You don’t like that? Tough!

    That’s telling someone they’re “in support of those who habitually grope women, amoung other choice insults”?

    I think aweraw’s good times are about to get better.

    Now PZ, would you care to clarify your lioness vs. antelope comment?

  110. 110
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    Well, as long as we are having some fun with this concept of violence being a proper reaction, let’s take it to the next logical level.

    I’m positive you’re not arguing that self-defense is not legitimate because it’s “violence too.”

    That’s…like…

    Fuck, that IS the “obviously stone-fucking-stupid” example people usually simile to when they want to point out an idiotic false equivalence. I can’t even…

  111. 111
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    Kids on the playground are told not to punch back either.

    Of course they are. That’s because the adults on the playgrounds are overwhelmingly either explicitly on the side of the kids who start the punching, or want to pretend it didn’t happen so they can ignore it.

  112. 112
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    I just saw the movie In a Day. I would have skipped right past it had I first read the “charming romantic comedy” description, but it happened to be on when I turned on the television, I’d only missed the first few minutes, and it sucked me in. I’m glad of this because it turned out to be quite sweet and enjoyable. The early scene (at the busstop) that was on when I first started watching should be seen by everyone. It captures so well that experience of when a man’s hitting on you and starts to get hostile when you don’t respond positively, and you realize that no response – ignoring, polite refusal, sarcasm, lying, threats, walking away – is likely to bring it to a good conclusion. The woman’s feelings about it later are so typical, too. Really – everyone should see it, and especially men.

  113. 113
    laurentweppe

    it’s scant compensation for being beaten that your assailant got into trouble.

    It’s not a matter of “compensation”: it’s about creating a situation where the assaulter capacity for risk-assesment will work in your favor.
    Someone asked why would someone be advocating “self-defenseat a professional conference against your own peers?“: but one should ask first why would someone be groping a colleague at a professional conference? Because the gropper thought that it was a risk-free move, that no bad consequences were to be feared. Now once his target fought back, it does change the situation: wanton groping stops being a risk-free behavior, and even if deep down he wants to put the woman fighting “back in her place”, he knows that beating her up in public is definitely not a risk-free action: in any case, he’s now forced to reassess the risks linked of groping a woman.

  114. 114
    Crissa

    Size is not all that important in actual scrapes, unless you know how to use it as leverage and the other doesn’t. I think it’s over-rated. Tho at 5’10″, I am not shorter or weaker than the average geek, so I don’t get the same treatment… Still been groped, tho.

    His response is immaterial, unless it was an honest apology. It really can’t be more or less inappropriate – although if it could be, there are far many things commonly said that’d be far more inappropriate.

    And yes, it does take a village… But who wants to get into a fight you didn’t see? Most likely, no one really did see what he was doing.

    But it probably is true, we need a reaction short of calling the cops, something that can be applied then and there.

    At no point should it be necessary for someone to have to use violence to prove their body autonomy, to say no. And we should be vocal about it.

  115. 115
    Amphiox

    PZ’s antelope vs lioness analogy is ill chosen in a variety of ways.

    Antelopes, after all, don’t stand around waiting to be eaten.

    Antelopes gather in groups for protection. Antelopes run away. Antelopes stot, demonstrating that they are not easy prey.

    In short, antelopes do lots of things to keep themselves safe and deter attacks, without violence.

    And if cornered, antelopes have hooves and horns and will fight back.

  116. 116
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    PZ,
    I hope you can clarify the antelopes vs lioness comment. Do you think conferences should have more of one type of woman and less of another? How does it help increase the participation of women at conventions?

  117. 117
    chigau (違う)

    Antelope run away, leaving the old, weak, lame to be eaten.
    Lionesses eat antelope.
    I don’t know where I’m going with this…

  118. 118
    Amphiox

    Actually, lions don’t hunt antelope that often. On the whole antelope are too quick and nimble and too small to be worth the effort. Lions generally prefer bigger prey and will leave the antelope and gazelle to the cheetahs and other mid-sized predators.

    When they do eat antelope, it is usually as scavengers, or by stealing a carcass from the cheetah that actually killed it.

  119. 119
    chigau (違う)

    This analogy is disintegrating.

  120. 120
    skeptifem

    in most domestic violence help counseling, guide, hotline, etc. people are advised not to punch back and report instead. Kids on the playground are told not to punch back either. Self defense guides for adults in general always tell you to avoid conflict. People never tell you to fight fire with fire in any other context…

    I’ve been reading extensively about DV for awhile now and I haven’t actually ran across deciding to hit back or not as being an issue that victims needed help with. Most of the information I have come across is about escaping effectively, period. There are also lots of people who automatically tell victims to get restraining orders, which can escalate things (and increase contact). There are many pieces of contradictory advice available for DV victims.

    Kids on the playground are told all kinds of shit, too. As we have witnessed with accusations of Bullying on FTB, nearly everyone claims to have *the* solution to bullying. Usually it is either ignoring the attack or ‘standing up to the bully’.

    What is important here isn’t the approach groups advocate when facing potential violence. What is important is if they are advocating the plan for a good reason. I personally cannot understand advocating a single approach for dangerous situations- there are so many variables, and the best person to judge is someone in it, not someone writing a check list without any details whatsoever.

    Punching in response to sexual assault is escalating the violence and I’m not sure I could handle the situation if the guy I punched escalated it further up. Isn’t there a way to get the guy away from me by defusing the situation instead? This is why I mentioned the phone app earlier.

    Maybe there is, maybe there isn’t. There are violent people who select victims based on informal social tests, like getting them to do harmless things that they declined (testing the targets willingness to ignore their own “no”). If a person of that sort has started to grope fighting back may be the best option- less confrontational approaches might make them empowered to go further since they are selecting victims based on how passive they seem. Other kinds of perpetrators might respond best to other approaches. You cannot say what is best without the full context, and the person experiencing it is the only one with the best information for making a decision.

  121. 121
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    he knows that beating her up in public is definitely not a risk-free action

    Yes, especially for her.
    And especially if he’s smart enough not to do it there and then but to wait until she’s alone.

    +++
    Self defense is a solution to sexual assault the same way locking your door is against theft: it might make things a bit better for you, but it doesn’t prevent the crime. And it doesn’t prevent them from breaking in via the window.

    There’s two instances of assault I experienced that come to my mind that show that this isn’t a solution at all.
    In one instance I was walking with two female friends to or from the off-licence in college. We passed about half a dozen guys in the street and one of them decided that he has entitled to grope my butt.
    Use of self-defense: zero
    If I had broken his nose there would have been a good chance that the three of us would have ended up seriously injured. Oh, and I would have started it.

    Second instance I was walking home with my flatmate (female, of course) and a guy groped me while he was passing me on his bicycle. I shouted something and as a result people looked funny at me. Yeah, I can imagine what would have happend if I’d chased him.

    Again, self-defense would have been 100% useless.

    Oh, and the advice I got from a self-defense trainer: use violence when you’re really in danger. use lots of it. Don’t hit him and try to run away. Hit him and hit him and kick him and then you kick him again. Because if he can still run after you, he’ll get you and then he’ll be a raging bag of adrenaline.

    That’s definetly not something you’re going to try at a conference…

  122. 122
    Amphiox

    It is just like war. Once you commit to violence, there is only one way that you can unilaterally end it, and that is by total victory. Everything else is dependent on the other side voluntarily disengaging.

    So if you commit to violence you have to really commit. You have to put him DOWN, until he can’t retaliate. You have to be prepared to kill him if necessary.

    And the corollary to that is that you should not commit to violence unless the situation is so serious that you think taking another human being’s life is a justifiable option.

    This applies to all situations of using force in self defence, regardless of gender or situation. Once you unbottle the force genie, escalation is beyond your own direct control, so you better consider the possibility of the ultimate escalation before you pull that stopper. You either must be prepared to kill, or you must accept the possibility of being killed yourself.

  123. 123
    skeptifem

    @122

    ridiculous. You can use violence to incapacitate someone until you can get away- that isn’t the other person voluntarily giving up at all. if I kick a menacing dude in the balls and run away it isn’t “just like war” and I don’t have to be committed to kill someone for it to be a workable plan. Punching someone in the nose or throat is a very similar plan because most people are stunned momentarily when they sustain a strike to those areas.

  124. 124
    andybutula

    @ Amphiox: Maybe a little melodramatic there. I’ve seen quite a few bar fights in my day and none of them ended in death. I do agree with the sentiment though.

    I hate to say it, but PZ kind of missed the point. On an emotional level I applaud Quinn Norton’s reaction, but it should never have been necessary in the first place. The takeaway is that such assaults should be met with the immediate ejection of the assailant as well as a ban from future events. Any other reaction on the part of the event’s organizers provides an implicit stamp of approval for the assailant’s behavior. Women shouldn’t need to be lionesses in order to be safe.

  125. 125
    Alethea Kuiper-Belt

    PZ has goofed but it’s an easy one to do. Most of us think something like “Rah! Rah! You Go Girl!” and want to cheer that woman on. We want to see gropers not get away with it. So yeah! We want more of this! Brilliant! Fight the Power!

    It’s tricky to say that without also implicit blaming of the ones who can’t fight in that same way (and that really is most of us).

  126. 126
    Anthony K

    ridiculous. You can use violence to incapacitate someone until you can get away- that isn’t the other person voluntarily giving up at all. if I kick a menacing dude in the balls and run away it isn’t “just like war” and I don’t have to be committed to kill someone for it to be a workable plan. Punching someone in the nose or throat is a very similar plan because most people are stunned momentarily when they sustain a strike to those areas.

    From my experience studying gongfu, Amphiox is right, skeptifem. For five years they drummed it into our heads that violence, even by skilled people, can lead to accidental death or serious injury.

    Hell, I’ve punched one person in my adult life, and he stumbled back, hit his head, and sustained a minor concussion due to the secondary hit to the back of his head, which was far worse than the punch.

    And a punch to the throat, regardless of what Sally Strange says, is being okay with potentially killing your assailant.

    Hell, just knocking someone out for a short period of time carries a real risk of permanent brain damage.

    Not that one should never ever do these things, but the film and television fantasy of the perfectly temporarily incapacitating punch is just that.

  127. 127
    Anthony K

    Having said that, a quick strike to the groin (no need to even hit the testicles: close enough can be enough to get someone to let go enough to escape a grip) may be life-saving if you can escape or call on others for help.

    So this “if I kick a menacing dude in the balls and run away” isn’t necessarily a bad plan (much better than the throat, anyway.)

    Again, having said all of that, I agree with your comments 84 and 120. There’s no one-size-fits all solution, and everyone has to consider these things for themselves. There’s no reason that violence should be completely off the table, but it’s obviously going to be effective in some situations and not in others.

  128. 128
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    It’s tricky to say that without also implicit blaming of the ones who can’t fight in that same way (and that really is most of us).

    Easy. You say “Go girl!” and don’t follow it up with “More women should be like this, weak ones can stay at home”.

  129. 129
    evilisgood

    Been thinking about this for several hours now. I really hope that PZ did not mean his antelope/lioness analogy the way I’m taking it, because the way I’m taking it is uncharitable.

    Basically, you can be among the most competent people in your field. You can work hard and make it to the very top tier of your profession. But if you are a woman, you’d better also be Gina Carano or don’t bother going to the conference. Your kind isn’t wanted. Why’d you even leave the house at all, frankly?

    It’s just another stupid standard that lady-persons are supposed to live up to. Another bullshit way for women to feel inferior. So tiresome.

  130. 130
    Hairhead, whose head is entirely filled with Too Much Stuff

    When my younger brother, a typical macho doofus, took karate lessons, the instructor began the first lesson this way:

    “Now you guys want to take care of yourself in fights; I’m going to show you the best muscles you can use in a fight. (Instructor slaps his legs) These will get you out of most trouble.”

    The point (my brother said) that the instructor was making was that EVERY fight is dangerous, and NO fight is predictable, and even the “best” martial artist can be crippled by one good punch in the right place.

    Sorry for the partial derail, but getting back to the topic: the best defense against this type of assault is awareness by all persons in the environment, and a willingness to call the perpetrator out for his actions (including words), and a commitment to believe and value a woman’s report of such harassment.

  131. 131
    Amphiox

    re 123;

    You cannot guarantee incapacitation without accepting the possibility of killing. Any injury capable of incapacitating can also sometimes kill. And the only certain incapacitation is death. And once you attempt incapacitating force you automatically put the other person in fear for his own life, and HE may respond by escalating to potentially lethal force. If you’re going to use incapacitating force in self defense you have to be prepared to kill, or accept the possibility that if you attempt to incapacitate and fail, you might yourself be killed.

    If you kick that guy in the balls and run away, it is HIS choice whether or not, after recovering his breath, to let you go or run after you. You have no control over what he chooses. And if you inflict an injury so severe that he CANNOT come after you even if he wants to, well all injuries that severe are potentially fatal. Either way you have to be prepared to either kill him, or accept the risk that he might recover from your attempt to incapacitate and kill you.

    (And even a kick to the balls can potentially kill.)

    re 124;

    Those bar fights did not end in death but they could have, and neither individual involved had unilateral control over that. The fight can only end if both individuals choose to stop escalating. Whoever started the bar fight put his own life at risk, and the life of the person he fought, and it was only luck that prevented anyone from being killed. That’s why bar fights are stupid.

  132. 132
    chigau (違う)

    For me, running away is not possible.
    I have other plans.

  133. 133
    sonofrojblake

    122: “You have to put him DOWN, until he can’t retaliate”

    123: “You can use violence to incapacitate someone ”

    They seem to be saying the same thing.

    most people are stunned momentarily when they sustain a strike to those areas

    Wanna bet? Wanna bet your life? Also, “most people” don’t grope women. What applies to “most people” may not apply equally to most gropers.

    If the assailant is some college professor too obtuse to acknowledge that feeling up colleagues is douche behaviour, then yeah, a smack in the hooter will probably rock him back long enough to get out of the room, assuming you get out of the room immediately and don’t hang around to justify yourself.

    If your man is some misogynistic rugby player who spends his evenings and weekends sprinting face first into crowds of other men intending him violence, then your attempt at a punch or kick will probably be about as effective as blowing cigarette smoke at him, except it’ll piss him off a LOT more. Have you forgotten that quite a lot of men engage in what you’d consider violence for fun? And that given the macho culture of such pursuits, people who do that will be disproportionately represented among those who sexually assault women?

  134. 134
    Amphiox

    A strike to the throat can crush the tracheal cartilage and that kills within minutes if not seconds. A kick to the groin can rupture a testicle and that can sometimes be lethal. A blow to the chest can set off a cardiac arrhythmia and that can kill in under a minute. A punch to the abdomen can tear the diaphragm or rupture a spleen or liver or intestine and all of those can result in death. Just knocking an adult down from standing height is enough force to fracture a skull, cause an intracranial hematoma, and kill, if he is unlucky and lands just wrong.

    About the “safest” maneuver is to clap your attacker across both ears with your cupped hands. This will be highly unlikely to kill but will severely disorient, if done properly. But, upon recovery from that disorientation, the assailant is free to pursue you if he chooses to. You give yourself a few tens of seconds to run away, and often that is more than enough, but it is not guaranteed.

    This is not to say that force should be off the table, only that when you choose force you must accept that you are choosing the possibility of lethality. There is no level of force simultaneously low enough to guarantee non lethality and high enough to guarantee deterrence.

  135. 135
    Xanthë, Amy of my threads

    May I third Giliell’s comment at #75, which I’ll quote for truth:

    Could we please stop that whole self-defense stuff?
    Some women will never be able to “fight back”, for physical and emotional reasons and if we don’t stop the predators they will still become their victims.

    The derail into discussion of self-defense is becoming a “Yes, but…”

    This particular lioness’ main defences consist only of having a sharp tongue and the ability to look really pissed off if she’s mistreated. I am going to be outclassed in most physical confrontations, even if I’m not hampered like my comment #12, where retaliation would have literally caused ‘splash damage’.

    Yes, more lionesses in the crowd might deter some assholes. After my harassment I recruited some friends to help watch my back. But the real solution is in getting to the point where there are less assholes. Your suggestions on deterrence and elimination please, not the self-defense? Overall strategies, not one-off tactical manœvres.

  136. 136
    joed

    the great majority of women must be careful when trying to physically harm a man. Physical self-defence is the extreme last act most women should comsider. Now pepper spray works very well for defence against just about everyone.
    If I was a female and someone groped me in public I would scream really scream and fall to the floor. In public that might be the best defence. If I was a woman I would really have to be prepared if on my own and not in public.
    If you punch the wrong guy you may end up in a very bad place, in public or otherwise.
    this isn’t a lecture as women understand this better than I do.

  137. 137
    Xanthë, Amy of my threads

    *looks at #136*

    *looks at #135*

    *looks really long and hard at #136*

    *epic facepalm*

  138. 138
    mikmik

    @113:

    laurentweppe says:

    24 September 2012 at 12:25 pm

    it’s scant compensation for being beaten that your assailant got into trouble.

    It’s not a matter of “compensation”: it’s about creating a situation where the assaulter capacity for risk-assesment will work in your favor.
    Someone asked why would someone be advocating “self-defenseat a professional conference against your own peers?“: but one should ask first why would someone be groping a colleague at a professional conference? Because the gropper thought that it was a risk-free move, that no bad consequences were to be feared. Now once his target fought back, it does change the situation: wanton groping stops being a risk-free behavior, and even if deep down he wants to put the woman fighting “back in her place”, he knows that beating her up in public is definitely not a risk-free action: in any case, he’s now forced to reassess the risks linked of groping a woman.

    Yes. Calling attention to behavior serves to embarrass the ‘perp,’ and humiliation is far more effective at stopping behavior than physical pain. Proclaiming very loudly something like, “Hey fuckhead, did you just grope me? You immature little fuck, we don’t act like excited 13 year old’s while amongst the grown ups, you hear me?!”
    I’m sure someone can come up with a far better choice of words to use than that, but drawing attention to him while shaming him will send a message to everyone there, and I doubt he’s willing to risk that again.
    FWIW

  139. 139
    chigau (違う)

    Xanthë
    Did you understand #136?
    Can you explain it to me?

  140. 140
    laurentweppe

    Calling attention to behavior serves to embarrass the ‘perp,’ and humiliation is far more effective at stopping behavior than physical pain. Proclaiming very loudly something like, “Hey fuckhead, did you just grope me? You immature little fuck, we don’t act like excited 13 year old’s while amongst the grown ups, you hear me?!”

    That’s the thing: that’s precisely what Quinn Norton did: Following the first hit, she said:

    Touch me again and I’ll break your nose

    making sure that no one within hearing will not get what’s happenening, using a lot less words than you, i might add.

  141. 141
    Xanthë, Amy of my threads

    Chigau
    No, I’m afraid I didn’t understand it.
    I think in physics parlance, this is what we usually describe as, “not even wrong”. It’s too far out of whack to even be wrong.

  142. 142
    Xanthë, Amy of my threads

    Okay, I tried, I really tried very hard to understand #136, but I failed. I failed appallingly badly. This is the best I could come up with:

    the great majority of women must be careful when trying to physically harm a man.

    Because men are sharp and pointy, so you might catch tetanus if you cut yourself on one?

    Physical self-defence is the extreme last act most women should comsider.

    I agree: my first act, of preemptively retaliating with a flame thrower when no one had even touched me yet, didn’t go quite as smoothly as I planned. So I will now in future wait to be attacked before I think of self-defence. It will be my last act. And it will be… extreme.

    Now pepper spray works very well for defence against just about everyone.

    Well, the capsicum sets my hay fever off something chronic, so it’s certainly effective against me. The problem is, I don’t want to be hoist by my own petard. So, all things considered, I think I’ll just nuke the site from orbit.

    If I was a female and someone groped me in public I would scream really scream and fall to the floor.

    And when I see mouse in public, I jump onto the nearest chair or table and scream, really scream. I don’t get invited to parties very often any more, either.

    In public that might be the best defence.

    No, I’m still thinking of the tactical nuke from orbit, or if we have to be up close and personal, the flame thrower.

    If I was a woman I would really have to be prepared if on my own and not in public.

    Be prepared! that’s the boy scout’s marching song,
    Be prepared! as through life you march along.
    Be prepared to hold your liquor pretty well,
    Don’t write naughty words on walls if you can’t spell.

    I think there’s something in that for all of us, don’t you?…

    If you punch the wrong guy you may end up in a very bad place, in public or otherwise.

    Yes, not having eyes in the back of my head, when my arse is groped I’m frequently confused about this. There are so many guys with so many hands, how will I ever know which is the right one? And yes, getting wrong otherwise is a very bad place. Especially in public.

    this isn’t a lecture as women understand this better than I do.

    Holy helpful non-mansplaination, Batman!

    Apologies for the off-topic derail, but #136 was rather… special. Now can we get back to rational, sensible comments, please?

  143. 143
    chigau (違う)

    Xanthë
    That looks about right.
    The bits about “eyes in the back of the head” and “so many hands” will not help me sleep tonight ;)

  144. 144
    A. R

    chigau: I know a specialist who does some excellent work interpreting stupid comments. They might be able to tell us what Joed was trying to say.

  145. 145
    spyro

    If I was a female and someone groped me in public I would scream really scream and fall to the floor.

    I have joked with friends about the ‘Penelope Pitstop Defence’, but never thought I’d see it seriously advocated.

    On the plus side, I was feeling a bit down and this made my night. So, thanks for your hayulp.

  146. 146
    ck

    @Giliell (#121)

    Self defense is a solution to sexual assault the same way locking your door is against theft: it might make things a bit better for you, but it doesn’t prevent the crime.

    That’s not entirely true. A lot of crimes are crimes of opportunity. Without the opportunity, the crime never takes place. Breaking a window or checking multiple homes can greatly increase the chances of being caught. Preventing 100% of a particular crime is probably impossible, but stopping the casual spur-of-the-moment stuff is a lot easier.

    I think possibly the biggest problem is that there is no cost to the attacker for getting caught. A small chance of getting smacked around might help a bit, but enforcement of rules against this type of behaviour would help a lot more. A social stigma against being known as someone who does things like that would help even more. It might never be eliminated, but there is a huge amount of room for improvement. Putting the onus on solely on women to learn self defence is obviously not helpful, however.

  147. 147
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Yes. Calling attention to behavior serves to embarrass the ‘perp,’ and humiliation is far more effective at stopping behavior than physical pain.

    There’s a problem here:
    Most people who have been groped and called attention to it have benn told to stop being so hysterical, they flirted, they played, they wore that skirt so STFU.

    Again on the violence thingy:
    As others have said: you cannot tell what the other person will do. You cannot count on him backing off because it’s a totally public place.
    A little story that happened here about 2 years ago. 2 guys got into a dispute over a parking situation at a supermarket. Really stupid thing to begin with. Guy A got agressive and menacing, so guy B punched him. Guy A left. If you think that this punch solved the problem, here’s the rest of the story:
    Guy A went to his car, took out a knofe, went back and stabbed guy B to death.
    Then guy A went to his car and left.
    Then guy A went to the police to report guy B for punching him.
    You don’t know whom you’re dealing with. You cannot assume that the guy will then even slightly think rationally about the course of action.
    The fact that the law may be on your side doesn’t help you one bit when you’re dead

  148. 148
    laurentweppe

    The fact that the law may be on your side doesn’t help you one bit when you’re dead

    And that’s also what bullies say to cower people into submission: “the law cannot hurt me as much as I can hurt you”. But it’s either a bluff, in which case a noisy, agressive response is an efficient way to call out the bluff (Exactly what happened here), or the guy is fully capable of becoming lethaly violent, in which case trying subtle ways to fight back without escalating violence is pointless since violent people are good are making up excuses to escalate on their own.

  149. 149
    sonofrojblake

    Still with the anecdotes and the on-the-spot tactics.

    Overall strategies, not one-off tactical manœvres

    This.

    “Fewer antelopes more lionesses” appears to be endorsing particular tactics, and specifically tactics few are capable of or comfortable with. Worse, it implicitly devalues those incapable of or uncomfortable with those tactics – it’s hard to read “antelopes” in this context as anything other than derogatory.

    “Fewer hyenas” is the strategy, and you get there slowly with education, attitudes, policies and enforcement.


    I’d be interested to know what the response would have been if anyone other than PZ had come up with the antelope/lionesses formulation below the line. I speculate they’d have been told to go fuck themselves with a rotting porcupine corpse or similar for being a victim-blaming douche. I further speculate that if they’d made any attempt to defend or rationalise their use of it, or done anything other than shut up and meekly apologise, they’d have rapidly been threatened with the banhammer. Perhaps that’s why PZ has made no response to the several requests for clarification.

  150. 150
    Maureen Brian

    We seem to be doing two things here. First, attacking PZ for an infelicitous way of expressing one thing. Second, telling women what they must do to be saved – that phrase chosen deliberately ‘cos that’s what it amounts to!

    If someone gropes a woman, she is not at fault. He is! Useful discussion would, therefore, be about how we can change his behaviour. All else is hot air and willy waving.

    (I exempt Amphiox from abuse because he actually knows what he’s talking about, even if no-one has the sense to listen.)

  151. 151
    sonofrojblake

    “infelicitous way of expressing one thing”

    PZ’s feelings were certainly not elegantly stated. Good for you for defending that.

    And who is this “we”, doing the telling to women about how to be saved? In the immediately prior post, I said “education, attitudes, policies and enforcement”, things it should be obvious are aimed at ALL OF US.

  152. 152
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    Color me confused, but one of the problems with PZ’s statement was that he was telling women what they must do to be saved.

  153. 153
    sonofrojblake

    Sorry, should have more clearly tagged my first paragraph in post 151 as sarcasm.

  154. 154
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    No, I should have been clearer in that my confusion was caused by maureenbrian.

  155. 155
    nichrome

    Here’s a real world example of what Amphiox is warning about: Winnipeg bouncer pleads not guilty to manslaughter in one-punch death

  156. 156
    joed

    @144 A. R
    “chigau: I know a specialist who does some excellent work interpreting stupid comments. They might be able to tell us what Joed was trying to say.”

    I was saying that, in 99.5%(huge majority) of the time, it would be possibly very dangerous for a woman to try to physically attack a man. If a woman is trained in physical selfdefence, I mean really trained and has the proper mindset then she may be able to “beat-up” a man. the best thing for a woman to do in public it to draw attention to the attacker by screaming, or some other way. But if a woman hits a man she must be prepared to be hurt, physically hurt really bad. Or worse. I think most women know this.
    How does society stop the groping behavior?!
    A. R that’s the best I can do. sorry if you are not able to decipher my scrawl.

  157. 157
    Alethea Kuiper-Belt

    @Beatrice: I don’t mean that it’s tricky to say right. Obviously it’s easy, if you think about it. What’s tricky is to *always* think about it – when we’re all raised in a culture that is chock full of misogynist victim blaming. It’s easy to goof and not think when you’re excited and cheering.

    Speaking of victim blaming, here’s some more examples (not direct, embedded in a feminist discussion). Nobody knows what has happened to this woman, but that doesn’t matter. Out crawl the misogynists to say that it’s all her fault. They don’t even know what it is, but it’s still her fault.

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