More on sexual harassment. (Case 2)

If this is your first time visiting my blog, please go read my previous post before you start on this one. Otherwise not much of it will make sense. Also, locusts will eat your brain while you sleep.

Now, assuming you’ve all read it, I want to start off by clarifying a few things regarding the incident I described last time. I will do that by responding to a couple of your comments.

echidna says:

It seems clear that the woman’s approach was unwelcome and sexually explicit. If you asked her to stop, or to leave, and she continued regardless of your expressed wishes, then it would be harassment.(…) Did AJ make it clear the advances were unwelcome?

To be completely honest, I don’t recall if AJ made it clear VERBALLY that the young woman’s proposals were unwelcome. I don’t think I verbally expressed that either. The situation was very awkward overall. I do remember that we both used the kind of body language which in normal circumstances would have been obvious: ignoring her, turning away from her while she was talking, not responding in any way. It’s possible that the woman was so drunk that she didn’t notice all this.

Btw, from the way I phrased myself last time, it may have appeared like AJ bailed on me by leaving the table. She didn’t. Her plan was to go say “Hi!” to someone at another table and then come back, hoping that the woman would take the hint and leave her alone. AJ didn’t anticipate that she would start bothering me after that. The entire thing happened really fast – probably in the span of a few minutes.


Timid Atheist says:

1. Was this girl or her boyfriend a part of TAM? Would that have been something obvious that you could tell?

I can’t know for sure, but my guess would be that they weren’t there for the conference. Neither of them had a badge and she never mentioned the conference (common ground comes in handy when you’re hitting on someone, so I think she would have mentioned if they were there for TAM).


Also, a few of you were wondering why do I have to ask YOU whether an incident which  involved myself and my friend was sexual harassment or not.

You need to understand my attitude and initial reaction in the context of some significant cultural differences between Eastern Europe (where I was born, grew up and lived all my life) and what we call “The West”. So let me tell you about my experience with sexual harassment.

When I was 18 years old I got hired as bartender’s help. The club in question was pretty much known as a “singles” type of place, where people came to dance, drink and hook-up. Apparently, for some people this meant they can also hit on ME all night long. It was a given. If I were to guesstimate, I’d say that at least 40% of all the guys who bought a drink at the bar felt entitled to grossly “flirt” with me and the other girl who was also a bartender help.

Besides her and myself, the rest of the staff was all-men : four waiters, a DJ, a bartender and a bouncer. That’s because the owner of the bar was a cheap-ass, in reality we probably needed at least twice as many employees. This meant that everybody was over-worked and didn’t have time for anything else besides their own job. Which in turn, meant that I couldn’t bother the waiters every time someone was being a jerk to me, because the waiters hardly had time to take bathroom breaks. The bouncer was also overwhelmed in handling the people who would try to leave without paying, or would start a fight and so on. The bartender was the busiest of all of us and the DJ was just a kid.

The harassment I experienced in that place was not limited to unwelcome verbal advances … some men would grab my hand when I served them their drink, in an attempt to keep me there talking to them. Sometimes they would send me to fetch them more ice or napkins when they didn’t need them, just so they’d have an excuse to make slimy attempts at (what they probably considered to be) flirting. They didn’t care that I was working and I didn’t want their attention, they didn’t care how uncomfortable and frustrated they made me feel.

The worst was when I was sent to clear off a table. Being behind the bar at least gave me some protection, but having to go into the crowd and find my way through all the drunks was a nightmare. Every time. In fact, each night (morning really) when the club would close, me and the other bartender help would share stories about all the assholes who bothered us during the night.

Later when I started working as a waitress (at another place which was not so much a club, but a pub), things were not very different. Here it was a bit quieter, but all the employees were women and we had no bouncer, so again we had to deal on our own with the customers who crossed the line.

During all this time (about 2 years of waitressing or bar-tending), only twice I asked someone to help me out when I was harassed. And on both occasions I asked for help only when I literally feared that “this person might try to hurt me”.

When I first started looking for more “serious jobs” (to me that meant working a 9 to 5 job in an office) I learned fast that employers sometimes feel within their right to hit on you during the job interview. Sometimes they are perfectly professional during the interview, but not so much once you’re hired. Once I had to quit my job at a very respectable shipping agency (the second biggest in my city) because one of my superiors kept pressuring me to go out with him. Yes, I told other people about it. No, no one did anything. Because I was replaceable and he was not.

There are many more stories I can share, but I think you get the picture. In all this time, I had to not only remain silent when someone harassed me, but to also smile while it happened. Because my job depended on me being nice and polite to people. Because “the customer is always right”. Because “the employer is always right”. Because “my superior is always right”.

In the spirit of fairness, I have to mention that I also worked in places where I was never harassed and I was treated as a valued employee. But from my personal experience with harassment, you may understand why right now I have a thicker skin – and maybe sometimes I am even unable to recognize *mild* sexual harassment when it happens.

To give my personal criteria, I would identify  as “sexual harassment” any type of sexual advances which don’t stop when you make it clear you want them to stop.

Also, I find flirting to be inappropriate when there is any type of power imbalance (either obvious or implicit) which favors the person making the advances. Like when someone is being hit on by their employer, or by a co-worker who is also their superior, or by a teacher, etc.

Another example more in the context of the TAM meeting,  is when someone is trying to collect money for one cause or another, and they’re being hit on by the people they’re supposed to collect money from.

To quote Rebecca here : “Guys? Don’t do that!”.  No matter how sexually attracted you are to someone, refrain yourself from making a move if you hold power over them. The kind of power that would make them obliged to be nice to you. The kind of power that would make them fear the consequences of *not* being nice to you. Oh btw ….being physically stronger is also a power imbalance when the other person has no means to escape if they wish to. (e.g. a closed space, like, say, an elevator?)

In the example I gave on my first post, my *personal criteria* of sexual harassment was not met (not to the point of reporting it anyway) not only because the woman did not have any power over me (there would be no consequences to me rejecting her proposals), but also because she was about half my size. I simply did not regard her as threatening. But what if instead of her there would have been a very buff, very drunk dude acting in the exact same way? Probably neither I nor AJ would have felt as safe.

I’ve also come to understand that even if I personally didn’t perceive that situation as threatening, someone else might .

I really don’t want to see sexual harassment policies become so strict that they begin to interfere with normal, healthy interactions and flirting. But you know what ? I don’t think ANYONE who chimed in on this subject wants that. This is not a case of “fun OR safety”. We can easily have both!

If a while ago someone asked me if I think it’s necessary for the TAM organizers to implement sexual harassment policies, I might have said “no” – and if I did, I would have been dead wrong. Just because I always felt safe at TAM, it doesn’t mean that everybody else did, and it also doesn’t mean that I always will. These policies are not meant to take the fun out of the event, but to ensure that if someone needs help, help is available.

I want to end this topic by showing you another case, this time it’s a fictional one. The clip below is from one of my favorite romantic movies  : “A Room With A View ” (1986) starring Helena Bonham Carter as “Lucy” and Julian Sands as “George”:


To give a little context for this, there has been very minimal interaction between Lucy and George before this point. I want to follow the clip with an excerpt from Roger Ebert’s review of the film :

Lucy meets George and his father in their pensione. A few days later, while standing in the middle of a waving field of grass, the sun bathing the landscape in a yellow joy, she is kissed by George, most unexpectedly. He does not ask her permission. He does not begin with small talk. He takes her and kisses her, and, for him, something “great and important” has happened between them.

Lucy is not so sure. She catches her breath, and Miss Bartlett appears on top of a hill and summons her back to tea.

To this day, this kiss appears listed among the most romantic scenes in a movie. And I have to say I always loved the scene too.

But what we need to fully understand is that this scene is romantic BECAUSE we have an insight into how Lucy is feeling. We KNOW what she really wants. We KNOW what she thinks. We feel this kiss is romantic and implicitly consensual BECAUSE in a movie, the characters and their intentions and desires are revealed to us in ways we’d never have access to in real life.

In real life, you will NEVER have this insight into the other person’s mind. You DON’T KNOW how they really feel and think. In my opinion, this is the most important thing to keep in mind when you feel the urge to do something that (to you) may seem “fun” , or “romantic”, or “sexy”: the other person may feel the exact opposite of what you’re assuming.


  1. Kilian Hekhuis says

    I’d say what happens in that scene is clearly harassment, and very disturbing. It’s obvious from her body language she is overwhelmed and doesn’t know how to respond, but she’s certainly not really into it. You’d almost get the feeling he’d’ve proceeded to rape her if it wasn’t for the elderly woman calling her.

    • julian says


      It reminded me of Saturday Night Fever and how romanticized sexual assault and rape can get in our culture.

      • desertphile says

        Regarding “Saturday Night Fever” and “romanticized rape,” a better example is in “Gone With the Wind,” book and movie. When I saw the movie, I was horrified when Rhett *RAPED* Scarlett— yet this part of the movie is considered “romantic” by some reviewers. *SHUDDER!*

      • says

        I haven’t seen the movie either.

        Without that context, it’s pretty disturbing really.

        It’s not alone though, there are plenty of scenes in films where the male lead forces a kiss and the women fights back for a while only to melt into his arms compliantly.

        It really upsets me when it happens – and it was all the rage for a very long time.

  2. rq says

    What you said about Eastern Europe. I’m so glad I have never had to work in a social place (like a bar or a club), because even though I’ve only been living here for 6 years or so, and by happy coincidence work in a job that currently employs mostly women, the feeling of male entitlement in this country is at a level I never encountered previously (Canada). From male friends refusing to shake my hand, to our ‘vice-boss’ never being promoted to ‘boss’ (despite being capable) and having to suffer through a rotation of male ‘bosses’ of various capabilities, to comments in the media that women who choose to work are at fault for the poor demographics of the country… I don’t know if it’s anything similar where you are (Romania?), but any remote discussion of harassment policies of any kind (never mind things like atheism, women’s rights, hosting a gay pride parade…) creates a shit-storm of epic proportions because somehow all those straight, white males are being discriminated and ignored.
    I hope that once these things get settled in places that this country looks to for guidance, it will get a bit easier here, as well (of course, with a lot of added work and effort, but it helps if we’re ‘following’ instead of ‘leading’, because being first in anything positive would be just… unthinkable, right?).
    In the meantime, I look forward to your perspective on these issues in this corner of the world. 🙂

    • Hooloovoo says

      From male friends refusing to shake my hand

      Oh God, yes. The day I realized that it was weird that men went around shaking everyone’s hands in a group but ignoring the women. I thought it was a piece of harmless sexism, but, that once you make them aware of it, they’d stop because no one’s really invested in it, they’re just being clueless. Nope. As these things always seem to go, they doubled down 🙁

      • Onamission5 says

        OT, but I can’t tell you how many times I have gotten strange looks when I’ve offered my hand to a guy, and then once they find out I have a firm grip, had my hand go from being shaken gently to being crushed painfully in return. Like a one-up of the firm handshake, or something?

    • bitphr3ak says

      I’m Canadian, and I’m male, and I don’t interact with women in the way you describe, and neither do my male friends.

      I can’t imagine any of them not shaking a woman’s hand, and many of them have women as bosses.

      I’m not going to argue that you haven’t experienced this from Canadian men…but I would suggest that many Canadian men are not like your generalization seems to suggest.

      Just my humble 2 cents worth!

      • Joshua says

        The way I read it, rq used to live in Canada where men would shake her hand, but now lives in Romania where many men don’t shake her hand.

  3. ImaginesABeach says

    Just because I always felt safe at TAM, it doesn’t mean that everybody else did, and it also doesn’t mean that I always will. These policies are not meant to take the fun out of the event, but to ensure that if someone needs help, help is available.


    Just because it hasn’t happened to me (yet), doesn’t mean that it is not important. If it has happened to other people, it is important.

  4. machintelligence says

    Just because it hasn’t happened to me (yet), doesn’t mean that it is not important. If it has happened to other people, it is important.

    Experience is a cruel teacher, but a fool will have no other.

  5. says

    I really don’t want to see sexual harassment policies become so strict that they begin to interfere with normal, healthy interactions and flirting. But you know what ? I don’t think ANYONE who chimed in on this subject wants that. This is not a case of “fun OR safety”. We can easily have both!

    Yes! This! We can so have both. And, in my opinion, it will be a safer place where everyone can enjoy themselves and not worry about putting up an extra shield of wariness.

    For myself, when I go to a place that I don’t know well and know nothing about and there is no guarantee that the organization or establishment will have my back if something happens, I’m less likely to be open to talking or interacting with other people, let alone flirting or hooking up.

    Thank you for these posts, Christina. They’re an opportunity to discuss things that need to be talked about.

    • Vipermagi says

      I have to stop reading posts, I keep being required to play devils advocate, I swear this is my last one (There are other posts further down, but earlier in time).

      A safer environment can be a more fun environment, but while safe and fun aren’t mutually exclusive, they are not mutually inclusive either. I.E. wearing a straight jacket in a rubber room inside a tempest inside a bomb shelter 5 miles underneath a mountain is safe… and exactly not fun.

      Rules and regulations help limit destructive behaviors, but they can also limit normal, healthy activities that are fun. The challenging part is coming up with a system that both adequately protects the individual, but still allows all parties to have fun. Depending on the issue and the context, this can be excruciatingly difficult, and sometimes impossible to 100% avoid an overlap of the two.

      Just like government, neither big government nor small government is correct, but in the right places and the right amounts, it can be a dream.

      Again, sorry for all the posts, I swear this is the last one (in chronological order)

  6. Onamission5 says

    I admit that when I saw your first post on SH, I was worried that it might be another attempt to dismiss concerns and experiences of those who have been harrassed rather than an act of genuine reaching out to gather information in order to be better informed. Thanks for proving me wrong!

    As an aside, my experience waiting tables at two different breakfast places was more like your experiences working at bars than my (oh so brief) experience working at a strip club. At least at the club, there were very strict procedures and laws in place to keep decorum civil, respectful, and safe. When I served eggs and pancakes, fully dressed in basic day to day clothes, even my bosses thought it was perfectly fine to stuff my tips in my pocket for me, copping a squeeze when they did, customers patted my ass, or would do that hand holding thing to keep me from doing my job. When I complained, I got fired.

    My point is that attitude is everything, and even a non-sexually charged environment can be unsafe if the bodily and emotional autonomy of those present isn’t respected.

    As far as the movie clip, that is grey area to me on its own. That said, I am often quite bothered by the Hollywood stereotype of “romance” being something which is imposed upon the unsuspecting female by the male, the whole sweeping off her feet, stalking is teh sexy, she doesn’t know what she wants until a guy gives it to her trope. I think that scene in particular buys into such mentality part and parcel, and while in isolation a single clip like this one may be harmless, added up with all the other films which also subscribe to the “sweeping off feet” trope as part of a continuum, it both reflects and adds to an unrealistic, unhealthy view of female sexuality.

    • Hooloovoo says

      I agree wholeheartedly about the movie clip and the more general context of romance as depicted in popular culture. My main problem here is that we, the viewers/readers might know what goes through the heroine’s head, but the hero doesn’t. Bare mind reading and given how little they’ve interacted, he is acting without her consent, but we are pushed towards the interpretation that he knows what she wants implicitly b/c True Soul Mates Never Have to Ask. (Also notice how this doesn’t work for female characters as well. A woman who stalked a man around like this would be labelled either pushy/desperate/pathetic or a slut.)

      • bluharmony says

        Where in this scene do you see him stalking her, exactly? His back is turned at the start, as she begins to walk towards him. When he notices, he comes to meet her halfway and then kisses her (yes, passionately, without asking; and yes, I agree, it’s a common romantic trope that appeals to a majority of women, though probably not here on Freethought). Did you see something different?

        • Hooloovoo says

          Sorry, I wasn’t clear. I wasn’t talking about the movie clip anymore, but thinking of the general trope (women being pursued etc.) which made me use “stalking”. It was a bad choice of words. I didn’t mean to imply that that was what’s happening in this video or bash it beyond the “implicit consent” problem. (FWIW, I haven’t seen the movie, but I read the book, and it wasn’t a particularly bad example of damaging tropes either.)

          • bluharmony says

            I look at that film as a period piece and I’m quite fond of it. You’re right about the tropes, but in historical context I don’t find them offensive, as Lucy was portrayed mostly as a strong-willed and independent character. I do agree that if a man were to do that in real life, without the music and the romantic setting, it could easily be construed as criminal sexual assault.

  7. Erista (aka Eris) says

    But from my personal experience with harassment, you may understand why right now I have a thicker skin – and maybe sometimes I am even unable to recognize *mild* sexual harassment when it happens.

    I’m going to second this, and expand a bit.

    I was sexually abused by my father. Not everything he did to me was sexual abuse, but a chunk of it was. Because his abuse was all I knew, it was normal (albeit harmful). I didn’t know what I should be able to refuse and what I should accept, because he would not allow me to refuse anything without being severely punished. Whatever he was doing, normal or abnormal, abusive or non-abusive, I had to acquiesce. This lead me to a situation where I have a tendency to “shut off” if someone does something to me that I find violating. Rather than getting upset and asserting my boundaries, I freeze and remain passive until/unless the behavior becomes extremely egregious or the behavior stops. This has resulted in more than one situation where someone will do something to me that I don’t want, and only after I have gotten away from them do I start to be able to experience my emotions. For example, if I was on a date with a guy and he acted inappropriately, I might feel nothing while I was with him; it was only after we parted that I would sit in my car and shake, and even then I had trouble figuring out WHY I was on the verge of hyperventilating.

    This is only one of the ways that my sexual abuse fucked up my ability to recognize my boundaries, but I think it’s more common then one might think. If a woman is punished enough for asserting her boundaries, she can be desensitized by the repeated violation. She can go numb. She can lose the ability to recognize when she is being harmed by what she is experiencing. That’s a terrible thing, and that’s part of what makes me so upset about all this brouhaha; there has been so much punishing of women for experiencing their emotions that I worry about more women learning to NOT experience their emotions.

  8. karla says

    I completely relate to your experience. I grew up in a Latin American country and the flirting and innuendo are everywhere. As a woman you learn to either turn stone-faced or flirt right back as the situation requires. Yes, the male entitlement is always present too and we learn to be smart about it and pretty much go with the flow and try to turn the tables in our favor with wit and humor instead of making a fuss. Actually, that can land you in a dangerous situation in no time flat.

    Unfair? you bet. But you have to be smart. Culture doesn’t change overnight. American women have it way easier, which is great, but sometimes I think they take themselves too seriously. I’m not talking about Elevatorgate of course, I agree with Rebecca, that she was in a potentially dangerous, even life-threatening situation there. I’m talking about sueing men for being stupid.

    My own husband is a pretty enlightened guy and even he doesn’t get it sometimes. It’s taken me 20 years, but now, whenever we travel home, he can see the sexism everywhere and doesn’t like it.

  9. John says

    “Because I was replaceable and he was not.” That is a striking statement. I wonder if this is a fallacy even if that person is the owner? Could this be one of the reasons that we accept this power differential because we believe it so and not because it is true? In this sense I think this almost universal point of view of entitlement of “power people” allows a mitigating factor in abuse of any kind that does not hold up to scrutiny and only prolongs the struggle for human rights (Yes, I believe sexual harassment is part of the HR discussion).

    • Vipermagi says

      The power void doesn’t have to be real, only the “victim” has to perceive it for it to be fully effective.

    • says

      in some places jobs are hard to come by and no matter where you go, the power structure looks the same, so you take it. You have to put up with whatever comes, if you are male, then it doesn’t usually involve sexual harassment but it starts at having to laugh at stupid jokes and ends with you lending your apartment so he can visit his mistress (boss is always a he). I’ve seen a secretary get in trouble for using pant suits instead of skirts and a guy that was always “hiring” secretaries, but the second interview was on Friday at a restaurant (job seekers used to warn each other about him); and in the country where this happened it was legal to place an add looking for unmarried females of a certain age with the excuse that 1-you can pay women less and it’s your right and 2-that a mother might take more days off due to a kid’s sickness, etc.

  10. Stevarious says

    No matter how sexually attracted you are to someone, refrain yourself from making a move if you hold power over them. The kind of power that would make them obliged to be nice to you. The kind of power that would make them fear the consequences of *not* being nice to you. Oh btw ….being physically stronger is also a power imbalance when the other person has no means to escape if they wish to. (e.g. a closed space, like, say, an elevator?)

    Yes! This! I don’t understand why this is so hard to understand!

    • Vipermagi says

      A small counter argument to this thinking is that not always because (there is something horrible with that grammar) the person coming from power wants to use that power, it is entirely possible for a human being to like another human being outside of any power struggle. This in no way means you have to take it, far from it. If the individual fits the other criteria for harassment, by all means the power imbalance is an issue.

      The only reason I bring this up is if you follow the logical extreme so that only people of equal power can interact with each other on this level, you will literally breed a social ladder.

      Basically, can’t I like my boss or my employee without the power frame? If they say no, it’s the same as if they aren’t.

      • Vipermagi says

        “If they say no, it’s the same as if they aren’t.”

        Meant to say “If they say no, it’s the same as if there was no power structure.”

  11. Amphigorey says

    Not only do we not have to choose between safety and fun, more safety actually equals more fun. If I’m in a safe environment, I can relax and have more fun. If I’m in a place where I have to be on my guard, then it’s harder to relax and I have less fun.

    The fact that some people (Thunderf00t, for instance) think that safety ruins fun is completely counter to my lived experience.

  12. EveryMan says

    You are all collectively avoiding the real issue here.

    Nobody doubts sexual harassment happens or is a serious social issue. Particularly in other parts of the world that are less liberal than the US.

    The question I have (and yet to get a solid answer on) is to what degree this is an issue at our conferences. Particularly for ones I’ve attended in the past, like TAM. I find statements like this particularly dangerous:

    “Over the past several years, I’ve been groped, grabbed, touched in other nonconsensual ways, told I can expect to be raped, told I’m a whore, a slut, a bitch, a prude, a dyke, a cunt, a twat, told I should watch my back at conferences, told I’m too ugly to be raped, told I don’t have a say in my own treatment because I’ve posed for sexy photos, told I should get a better headshot because that one doesn’t convey how sexy I am in person, told I deserve to be raped – by skeptics and atheists. All by skeptics and atheists. Constantly.”

    The reason being is that I’ve never witnessed anything like this personally at a con. Neither have any of the women I know and trust that still go to these things.

    What I think happened is that RW has conflated comments from anonymous ‘Net trolls with actually real people in meat space that she actually might interact with. So far the only other person that seems to have noticed this besides myself is ThunderF00t. And has mentioned, this is the height of naivete and irresponsibility. I also have no idea whether this is an act of extreme cynicism/manipulation or simple incompetence.

    Anyway, Cristina asked if we have any questions. Well, I have one:

    Have you personally ever experienced sexual harassment at an Amazing Meeting by a conference attendee or presenter? No need to name names. Just describe what happened.


    • C Rowan says

      1) You & your friends haven’t seen/experienced harassment. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen. I understand having a bit of skepticism regarding the size of the problem… to a point. Having clear rules as well protocols for reporting & enforcing those rules is a good plan. Even if only a handful of people have suffered harassment, it’s good to set up a way to help people in the future.

      2)Having a policy in place will help with data collection. Perhaps only 5 or 6 people get harassed per conference. Maybe more. Maybe less. Having a good policy & methods for documenting incidents will likely get the information you are currently asking for.

      3) For those who have been harassed, in person & online, this is a huge deal. It is important. It is triggering. Your attitude of “It’s not real to me, so it’s not real,” frustrates many people with first-hand experience on the matter.

      • EveryMan says

        Uh, in case you missed it, Greg Laden posted my personal info (name, gmail and IP address) for having the temerity to ask him to remove a libelous comment from his blog.

        So yeah, I know all about online harassment. I’m just mature enough to handle it like an adult.

        Here in meat space, I got groped by a very drunk, very gay man in my neighborhood recently. Meh. I suppose I could do a YouTube video about it; but again the whole mature adult thing is holding me back. The point is, I have first-hand experience with that stuff too. And from my experience, the various cons are an order-of-magnitude safer than my neighborhood.

        Btw, your various “triggering” and minimizing of my own experiences is, again, at its worst mildly irritating. Hence my consistent lack of empathy.

        • johngreg says

          “Greg Laden posted my personal info (name, gmail and IP address) for having the temerity to ask him to remove a libelous comment from his blog.”

          Ugh. Laden is, well, I can’t help but get overwrought when it comes to that slanderous liar.

          Did you know that at Stefunny InZvanity’s blog, Almost Carbon, where she posted a ludicrous article on so-called cyberstalking, Laden actually, though I am sure without realizing it, admitted to real world, meat and cyberspace stalking of Abbie Smith with the willful intent to damage her blog, her education, her potential future career, and her professional and personal reputation? The guys is just beyond vile.

          Link 1:

          Link 2:

        • C Rowan says

          I did not mean to diminish your experiences. I didn’t know about them. I apologize for that.

          It was your decision how to handle these incidents. I respect that. However, your solution is not the only correct course of action. Somebody else who has been through what you have may wish to report such transgressions.

          A well applied policy will prevent some incidents and will help those who need it. You mentioned being interested in learning about harassment at skeptic cons specifically. I think having protocols for reporting, remedying, & documenting harassment will provide data over time.

          Incidentally, I don’t have a smart phone/phone with video. Taking pics/shooting video of egregious offenses sounds like a good idea, though. Something to think about.

        • Anat says

          That you chose a certain reaction does not mean that people who reacted otherwise to harassment were acting wrongly or immaturely. People are calling out and making a big deal of harassment because they want the community to stand up to the harassers and the harassers to learn their conduct is unacceptable and unaccepted – so the harassers can either change their behaviors or not show up. This will make things better for everyone who is not a harasser.

        • julian says

          Unlike others I’m not going to pretend I find any fault with what’s happened to you. You deserve every bit of it. Why you’re allowed to attend TAM and other conferences despite your known history of harassing behavior is beyond me.

          • EveryMan says

            I really, really hope that wasn’t directed towards me.

            I’m not Mr. X. I’m not even defending what was clearly bad behavior on his part. He is obviously socially incompetent.

            But he’s not a criminal.

            For the record, I don’t attend TAM anymore precisely because there are too many weirdos.

          • Hooloovoo says

            This sounded like you said you didn’t care that xe was assaulted IRL and that xe deserved it. My apologies if I misunderstood you, but if I didn’t, please don’t do that. Abuse is abuse even when it happens to assholes.

        • Leo says

          I’m just mature enough to handle it like an adult.

          I’m sorry for your experiences with harassment, but that comment is very condescending. It would seem to fall well in line with slogans like “man up.” If you don’t understand what’s wrong with that slogan…well, then I’m not yet sure how to explain how wrong your comment is. But Anat has at least covered a bit of the problem — just because that’s how you handled your situations doesn’t mean that’s either the correct way to have done it or that’s how other people should handle their situations.

    • Hooloovoo says

      First of all, see that thing you do when you refuse to believe what a woman says about being harassed, but you don’t actually present evidence that she’s (intentionally or not) not telling the truth? (And no, it never happened to me or anyone I know is not good evidence. It is not good evidence for something not happening to someone else, and it is not good evidence against the magnitude of a phenomenon either.) That is not okay. Please stop doing it.

      Secondly, it is clear Rebecca talks of at least some people that are part of the online atheist community. (She is talking about the whole community in that quote.) She also says they told her to watch her back at conferences. Would you say that this counts as a reason for or against having clear guidelines as to what to do with offenders at a conference? But even ignoring that, people on the internet are real people. Why is it farfetched to assume that the people who threatened you with rape might also attend the same conference as you?

      Because that was the topic: harassment policies. And if harassment itself is not such a big deal and it hardly happens, so much the better. We will have an useless piece of paper telling you what to do in the unlikely case that it does happen and otherwise having no effect on behaviors, given that everyone’s already doing the right thing. Why do people object so strongly to this idea?

      • EveryMan says

        That Rebecca Watson is a woman is irrelevant as far as I’m concerned. Don’t project your own gender-centric worldview on me. All I see is people behaving badly.

        Everyone is an individual. And I’ve been exposed to RW’s hysterics for too long to take anything she does or says at face value. That bridge has been burned.

        • says

          That Rebecca Watson is a woman is irrelevant as far as I’m concerned.

          “I don’t see race! I literally cannot tell if a person is white or black! If you tell me I’m white, I’ll just take your word for it because race is totally irrelevant to me, to the point that I can’t even tell anymore!”

          Too bad the rest of the world isn’t similarly indifferent to Rebecca Watson’s gender. Pretending to be “gender-blind” just makes you look like a fool invested in maintaining your ignorance of the world.

          • bluharmony says

            Gender matters. But guess what? So does conduct. The world is not blind to either. Had Watson never attacked McGraw, and had Myers not written about it to his thousands of readers while grossly misrepresenting the situation, and had his blood-thirsty commentariat (and later, most of FTB) not attacked every woman who tried to stand up for herself and express a slightly differing opinion, then none of this would have happened. So place the blame squarely where it belongs — with Myers and those who mindlessly ape his words, while earning him a nice supplemental income from ad revenue such controversy produces (approximately $3,000 per month, according to John Luftus).

            Thanks to Dawkins — though I fully understand that his comments on the situation were insensitive — marginalized atheist women who feel differently about sexual harassment have ground to stand on. Myers, on the other hand, clearly stated that Dawkins wasn’t a misogynist (why bite a potentially feeding hand?) while throwing the rest of us under the bus.

            Try to think for yourself, even if occasionally. It comes in handy sometimes. And notice that there’s no pushback to what Cristina is suggesting. The above is an explanation why.

            When you’re being threatened with real life consequences as Abbie and others, for example, has been, it’s brave to stand up to those in power. It’s not brave to kiss up to them.

    • says

      No, that’s not the real issue.

      Let me create a decision-making scheme:

      1) IF RW is telling the truth – even if “constantly” is a rhetorical exaggeration or she has not verified that every single incident was an “atheist or skeptic” – that these things have happened to her over the last several YEARS; THAN it is inappropriate to assert it is untruthful or irresponsible to say that it happened.

      2) IF RW is a drama-queen that does inappropriate things for attention and is exaggerating these claims for that end or to bolster blog-hits or other such sundry things; THAN to continue to discuss the issue several months after it occurred and to continue to make her the center of attention is just playing into her game.

      3) IF RW is actually an alien from Titan who has come to Earth to observe humanity and is pressing our buttons as a type of experiment due to the Titans not having a solid culture of ethical standards needed for IRB approval; THAN it would still make sense to discuss anti-harassment policies, harassment in general, and sexism.

      If it helps, take what Cristina Rad said about elevators and physical intimidation as a hypothetical.

      In completely other news:

      If a blogger publicized your personal information – that is really uncool. I know I keep my personal information reasonably under-wraps and I don’t go by my full name – for a reason. That is simply not okay – regardless of the circumstances.

    • says

      In other words, I strongly disagree with TF that knowing the scope of the problem is important for the discussion.

      It’s irrelevant.


      The amount and types of harassment or extremely inappropriate behavior that have happened in the past do not matter when having discussions about what a solid, non-problematic, anti-harassment policy should look like or how a clear code-of-conduct may assist a conference to go smoothly and be more enjoyable for the majority of con-goers.

      Even if a particular conference had NEVER happened before, a reasonable discussion could happen in regards to policy and best-practice.

      • Hairy Chris, blah blah blah etc says

        The amount and types of harassment or extremely inappropriate behavior that have happened in the past do not matter when having discussions about what a solid, non-problematic, anti-harassment policy should look like or how a clear code-of-conduct may assist a conference to go smoothly and be more enjoyable for the majority of con-goers.

        Even if a particular conference had NEVER happened before, a reasonable discussion could happen in regards to policy and best-practice.

        Precisely… Any business or organisation with an eye on potential legal (and PR) problems should have one in place. Especially when dealing with members of the public.

        Obviously whether it gets acted on is a different issue, but by having something relatively simple in place most, if not all, of this nonsense would have been avoided.

  13. Amphigorey says

    From the quote you pulled:

    Over the past several years, I’ve been groped, grabbed, touched in other nonconsensual ways,

    And then you said:

    What I think happened is that RW has conflated comments from anonymous ‘Net trolls with actually real people in meat space that she actually might interact with.

    Uh huh. You wanna explain how Rebecca was groped and grabbed by anonymous internet trolls?

    • EveryMan says

      I don’t believe she was groped.

      She has a history of misrepresenting things and as such I’m not going to take her claims at face value at this point. Especially given she hasn’t provided any details.

      • Amphigorey says

        Ah, so you’re flat out calling her a liar.

        You are not worth engaging if that’s the kind of shit you like to fling.

        • EveryMan says

          You said it, not me.

          My observation is that someone that is going to conflate threats from anonymous ‘net trolls with a known community loses the benefit of the doubt in my eyes. She absolutely does not know the identity of her harassers.

          If you want to accept everything she says at 100% gospel truth, that’s your business. Just don’t say we didn’t warn you.

          • julian says

            She made it up. Of course. Why take sexual assault and harassment seriously anywhere if you can just claim the victims made it all up.

          • says

            She absolutely does not know the identity of her harassers.

            And you find this reassuring how, exactly? And we should take your word on this…because why again?

          • EveryMan says

            I’ve already asked for details for what incidents escalated to the point that conference staff had to get involved.

            I managed to get two data points. The first one was a drunk non-american (british maybe) that had to be kicked out of an after-hours reception.

            The second was a claim that an individual was taking ‘upskirt’ shots, based on the observation that he was apparently ‘creepy’ and carrying a camera attached to a monopole.

            There turned out to be a couple of problems with this.

            One, taking upskirt photos is illegal per federal law.

            Two, turns out the guy wasn’t actually doing this. Oops.

            Much of the sordid details are documented here:


            Again, when I asked Greg Laden to remove this libel from the comments off his blog, he published all my personal info and perma-banned me.

            So yeah, you folk lose the benefit of the doubt at this point.

          • Hooloovoo says

            And you say your female friends told you everything that happened to them at conferences (i.e. absolutely nothing) and you are reliably reporting it to us now? I see.

          • echidna says

            I don’t think you have any idea of how much groping and touching goes on in ordinary life, with the gropers just thinking they are having a bit of fun; the gropees not so much. Why are you distracting from Christina Rad’s excellent post? With the attitude that you are displaying, if I were a female friend of yours, I wouldn’t tell you anything either. You’ve made it quite clear that you are not going to show any empathy whatsoever.

        • julian says

          Thank you, Grothe, for standing up for harassers like this tool. We honestly needed more people who pretend there’s no problem and that everyone who comes forward is immediately suspect.

          *golf clap*

          btw, if anyone is interested in Mr. X’s history of harassing behavior (at TAM and elsewhere) feel free to ask around. It isn’t exactly a secret. Walking around with a camera around people’s ankles is probably one of his not so bad offenses.

        • Erista (aka Eris) says

          How exactly did you determine that no upskirt photos were taken? Because it seems to me that no one actually looked at the contents of the camera. Because if a man had a camera near the floor and pointed upwards and no one actually looked at the camera to see if there were pictures or not, it is not the woman’s failing for assuming he was doing what it looked like he was doing, it was a failure by the staff to care enough to investigate.

          • EveryMan says

            I’m reasonably certain no “upskirt” photos were taken for the same reaon I’m reasonably certain you are not a serial killer.

            There is simply no evidence for either case.

            Do you really not understand that “innocent until proven guilty” is a fundamental tenet of our legal system?

            Do you really think that owning one of these:


            …is probable cause to force someone to surrender their personal photos?

            Do you also not understand that these sorts of continual false alarms and crying wolf makes prosecuting real incidents more difficult?

          • Erista (aka Eris) says

            Of course there is evidence in favor of it. A man had a camera on a poll on the floor, pointed upwards. If someone was trying to get upskirt photos, this would be a prime way of doing it. If said person didn’t mean to take upskirt photos, I have to wonder why he had the camera on the floor; note that I’m not asking why he had the camera on a poll, but why he had it on the floor. I’ve had a chunk of electronic equipment over the course of my life, and the floor (where it can get dirty or kicked) is not a good place to have it. And yes, if you have one of those Xshots on the floor and pointed upwards, I think this is probable cause to assume that the person may very well be taking upskirt photos and either A) Check the photos B) Assume the person has taken said photos. If you’re going to insist that a camera on the floor pointed upwards such that it could get upskirt photos cannot be checked for upskirt photos and cannot be assumed to have taken upskirt photos, I have no idea how you intend for anyone to provide evidence that photos were taken.

            So perhaps you can enlighten men. A man has a camera aimed in a direction that would allow him to take upskirt photos. Some people believe he has taken upskirt photos and/or are concerned that he has. How do you intend to determine whether or not he has take upskirt photos? Or are we all just supposed to declare that we should do nothing to determine if he has done this?

            And you have no idea if there was a wolf or not, as NO ONE CHECKED.

            Lastly, while you may be eager to apply the “innocent until proven guilty” to the alleged upskirt photos, you seem to have no compunction about declaring women guilty of lying. I, on the other hand, think that an investigation should take place before anyone is declared innocent or guilty. Declaring that someone is innocent because you won’t gather evidence is not a reasonable use of “innocent until proven guilty.”

          • Erista (aka Eris) says

            Excuse me, that should have been “enlighten me” and not “enlighten men.”

          • EveryMan says

            The camera wasn’t “lying on the floor”. The individual in question was just holding it in a downwards position, like you would hold a broom or mop.

            Please issue a retraction.

          • John says

            The camera wasn’t “lying on the floor”. The individual in question was just holding it in a downwards position, like you would hold a broom or mop.

            Oh, well, In that case… </sarcasm>

            Please issue a retraction

            It is customary to only issue a retraction when a mistake has been made.

      • Erista (aka Eris) says

        She has a history of misrepresenting things and as such I’m not going to take her claims at face value at this point.

        Like . . . ?

        Especially given she hasn’t provided any details.

        This is actually kind of funny; you’re claiming you don’t believe her because “she has a history of misrepresenting things,” but you don’t provide any details.

        • bluharmony says

          1. The recent incident with Tony Ryan on Twitter, where she told a lie, then told a bigger lie to cover up, even making up a false quote. Skepticlawyer weighed to advise that this likely amounted to libel in England if damages were proven.
          2. Lying during and about the circumstances leading to her ban from the JREF forum.

          There are lots of other incidents of “untruths,” but those could, if you really, really squint your eyes, be considered opinions or mistakes.

          • Amphigorey says

            Yeah, she got one asshole on Twitter who called her a cunt confused with Tony Ryan, who actually called her a feminazi. OH NOEZ THE HORROR THE OUTRAGE HOW CAN WE EVER FORGIVE HER?

          • EveryMan says

            I’ve known (of) RW for 8+ years, since the time she was just a forum member @JREF.

            Indeed she has a history of distorting the facts to suit her own personal reality, as well as abusing positions of power.

            It’s still a free country for the time being and its well within my rights to not personally trust someone whom has displayed a pathological abuse of trust in the past.

            And I hope its clear that there is a difference between saying you don’t trust someone vs. outright calling them a liar.

          • Erista (aka Eris) says

            EveryMan, you aren’t just saying that you personally don’t trust her, you are (at the very least) implying that she is untrustworthy, and as such, we should not trust her either. And believe it or not, if you want us to reject her statements, you have to do more than just say, “I personally don’t trust her.” What some random person on the internet feels is not germane.

        • Erista (aka Eris) says

          I have no idea what either of these circumstances are. You say she lied, but not what she said and what was actually the case. Could you elaborate or link to what this is about? Because I am not wildly familiar with Watson; I know a bit about her, but I don’t follow her, so I am not aware of most of what she says or does.

          • bluharmony says

            Here’s a link to the Tony Ryan drama: Be sure to read her actual tweets and follow the links in the comment thread, not just the blog entry itself.

            I don’t have a handy link for the other matter, but she admits to it in her own blog and says it was funny. Maybe someone else can provide it or a screencap quicker than I can. I know there’s one in Justicar’s blog.

            Also, if you have the time, watch her Don’t Be A Dick speech on YouTube where she abuses and lies to her female handler (she thinks it’s funny). And see the first 10 or so minutes of her video called The Republican War on Women Everywhere (just the portion about herself and her YouTube rape threats, but please don’t think I support or approve of the rape threats in any way).

            I’ll let you form your own opinion beyond that, but it’s constant incidents of a similar nature that make people distrust and dislike her. Then, when she called herself the voice of feminism in her post criticizing Dawkins, we got what is now known as Elevatorgate and a huge rift in the skeptic/atheist community, but not actually based on attitudes about women; based on attitudes about personalities within the “community,” though granted there’s also a strong disagreement about elements of modern feminist theory (but not necessarily women’s rights).

          • Erista (aka Eris) says

            1) It does seem to be the case that, as Amphigorey said, Tony Ryan called her a feminazi rather than a cunt (he admits it in the comments). This does not seem to be an improvement, nor does it seem to be a stretch to me that one might forget and/or mistake the derogatory term that a person called you.

            2) If she admits whatever it is you say she did to get banned at JREF, then she isn’t lying about it. I am aware of the general circumstances, and I think what she did was very immature, but she doesn’t seem to be lying about it.

            3) I am vaguely aware of what she did to her female handler (although I don’t remember the details), and barring some complaint by the female handler, I don’t really care about it, given that it was clearly meant to be humorous in nature. I would be mad if she did it to ME, but it is well established that I don’t think things are funny when other people do. For example, I don’t think videos of people getting hit are funny, yet you need only watch something like America’s Funniest Home Videos to see that my view is not representative.

          • bluharmony says

            I’m just going to make two rhetorical points: first, admitting to something years after you’ve been caught simply because people are already aware of it is obviously not the same thing as not taking those actions in the first place: sockpuppeting, pretending to be others then praising herself, banning people she didn’t like without reason or *authority.* (Similarly, she admitted to the objectification of other women only after she had been caught.) But if you interpret her conduct as decent then fine, I’m just explaining why I, personally, do not trust her. You’re welcome to come to a different conclusion based on the same evidence, but look at the actual evidence and not her story because, in my opinion, her confession is neither an apology nor a full admission. Second, abusing your power as an employer/celebrity for days to make your subordinate, who surely wants to please and keep her job, do unreasonable things can only be funny to someone who can’t empathize with other person. Ironically, it is the lack of exactly the same sort of compassion that she is demanding from men. The difference with the stupid videos you mention is that usually the conduct isn’t intentional and doesn’t entail deceiving someone, but I don’t find them funny either. So maybe I simply lack a sense of humor when it comes to that kind of thing. I don’t like seeing people being hurt, and doubly so when they did nothing to deserve it. I understand others do find someone else’s pain funny, and if so, there’s nothing I can do about it, even if I find it extremely disappointing and sad.

            Basically, I’m explaining why I don’t trust RW. I’m not calling her a liar, but simply stating that in my opinion her conduct does not comport with standards of basic human decency and frequently appears to be abuse of power and privilege.

          • Erista (aka Eris) says

            But if you interpret her conduct as decent then fine, I’m just explaining why I, personally, do not trust her.

            First, this is not at all what I said. I said that I was going to allow the female handler to determine if Rebecca’s conduct was objectionable or not, given that she was the one on the receiving end. If you don’t like my comparison, I’ll come up with another one: I do not find videos of one person scaring another to be funny and enjoyable. And yet there are many people who enjoy getting into contests of “who can scare each other the most” kind of thing. Do I want to get involved in this kind of behavior? No. But neither am I interested in rushing up to the people involved and declaring, “I don’t care if you are enjoying it or not, you have to STOP!” So, for me, the question comes down to what did the female handler think of the situation. If she was fine with it, then I don’t care. If she was bothered by it, I think everyone involved owes her an apology. But I don’t know this woman or anything about her; I don’t know if she’s the kind of person who is inclined to enjoy and participate in this kind of behavior. Without that information, I reserve judgement.

            Second, I asked where Rebecca had misrepresented/lied because it was being claimed that she could not be trusted to tell the truth because she had a history of lying. If Rebecca has a history of acting poorly and then fessing up to it, that isn’t an argument that she is so prone to lying that she can’t be trusted to tell the truth, it is an argument that she has a history of acting poorly (which I do not have enough data to say is true or not true in general) and thus cannot be trusted to act well.

            Simply, it’s a different argument to say “she’s a liar” than it is to argue that “she’s mean, immature, and irresponsible.”

            Third, I don’t know about most of what you are accusing her of, so I don’t have much to say about it.

          • Erista (aka Eris) says

            Also, I find this whole, “If someone has ever done anything wrong/bad/untruthful, I will refuse to believe them when they claim anything, including a claim that something happened to them when we know this kind of thing happens with some degree of frequency.” If that kind of thing happened, we’d never convict anyone of anything. “Yes, Mr Jones may claim that he saw Mister Anderson smash Mr. Jones’ car windshield with a rock, but did you know, your honor, that Mr. Jones made a sockpuppet, sometimes plays mean jokes, and once abused internet banning capabilities on an online forum? Given this evidence, we should refuse to grant Mr. Jones any remedy at all and should simply conclude that he is lying.”

            One doesn’t have to like Rebecca in order to acknowledge that women do get groped, and she may very well have been a woman who was groped. Hell, I’ve been groped, and I’ve also done things over the course of my life that are/were bad. In fact, I’m going to admit that I am not one of those people who claims to have made it through her or his life without ever lying, and I’d be shocked if anyone on this board had. Because I admit that I’ve lied, will I be called a liar when I say that I’ve been groped by strangers (twice)?

          • bluharmony says

            Sorry for the un-threaded response, but here’s my final attempt at rebuttal: Since Ms. Watson’s handler was (I’m assuming) a stranger to her, and Watson didn’t ask if it was OK to make her run around town fetching needless things that were impossible to find, there was no way she could have known whether the handler was OK with the situation. And, in fact, both you and I admit we wouldn’t have been if we were in the handler’s place. As for whether Rebecca is a liar — I can’t know for sure; she could merely be mistaken or misremembering some details of particular situations. But a stream of immature behavior, falsehoods, accusations, slurs (including female-gendered slurs), and factual errors that are never corrected make me, personally, feel that she’s not someone to trust. For example, something like messing with someone’s online account (after inappropriately banning them) and changing their publicly visible information when you have no authority to do so is absolutely unacceptable to me, as it was to JREF. While I easily believe and trust far too many people, Ms. Watson isn’t one of them. But I’m not saying that anyone else has to feel the way I do; I’m just saying that I can’t help feeling what I feel. But that’s not to say I want to see her or anyone else harmed — physically, financially, or in any other way. But I can’t help thinking that there are many more mature and responsible women to represent the movement. Peace.

          • bluharmony says

            For the record, I did say that I believe she’s been groped elsewhere in this thread. I’m not going to dismiss that kind of complaint without knowing more about it, because as I said elsewhere, groping is something that probably occurs to most women. But I fear that part of the reason other people dismiss it so quickly is her pattern of immature conduct.

          • Erista (aka Eris) says

            Sorry for the un-threaded response, but here’s my final attempt at rebuttal: Since Ms. Watson’s handler was (I’m assuming) a stranger to her, and Watson didn’t ask if it was OK to make her run around town fetching needless things that were impossible to find, there was no way she could have known whether the handler was OK with the situation. And, in fact, both you and I admit we wouldn’t have been if we were in the handler’s place.

            I’m just going to respond to this part of the comment, because for the rest of the comment, we seem to be dealing with different things (believing Rebecca Watson when she says she’s been groped v deciding if Rebecca Watson is a good spokesperson).

            I have no idea if Rebecca knew her handler. Maybe, maybe not. But if we assume she didn’t know her handler, she could have been in contact with someone who did (i.e. “Oh, so and so is always playing these kinds of jokes, would you help me play one back at her?”). The simple fact is that I have absolutely no idea of the context. Would it make me cautious if I was going to be her handler? Yes. Would I make it very clear to everyone involved that I was not going to be okay with that behavior? Yes. But when I’m faced with situations like these, I try to withhold judgement. Humanity is rife with examples of two people enjoying things that I would be very upset if I was subject to. It’s why I can’t bear to watch shows like “Punked.”

          • John-Henry Beck says

            In case anyone is still reading this thread, I felt the need to chime in. I was there for Skepticon 3 with that situation with the handler. The handler is a friend of mine, and so is JT Eberhard.

            If you actually watch that video, Rebecca spells out the entire thing. (You can find the whole video at the Skepticon site, and that’s the beginning of Rebecca’s talk. I believe elsewhere on the Internet are some clips that may be misleading.)

            Anyway, Rebecca specifically points out that she never actually did those things to her handler. The pair of them merely pretended she had for the weekend as a prank on JT.

            So, the only lying involved was pretending to be a cruel ‘diva’ for a couple of days.
            And I’m quite confident the handler enjoyed herself immensely, partly for the prank but mostly for getting to hang around with Rebecca all weekend.

            I think the only way to use that video against Rebecca is by not paying attention to what was said. (Or, possibly, only viewing an edited clip that distorts what happened.)

          • Erista (aka Eris) says

            Ah, John-Henry Beck, thank you for the clarification of the context. That certainly does change things.

          • EveryMan says

            I’m not saying RW wasn’t groped or this isn’t something that happens to women too frequently in various environments.

            Rather, I’m suggesting that based on her previous history of overreacting to various social interactions I’ve made a personal decision to no longer give her the benefit of the doubt on this topic.

            Note that this happens in legal situations all the time. If you have a history of making false reports to the police, they can make note of that (and even prosecute you for it). Depending on the circumstances it can even be considered when testifying before a jury.

          • bluharmony says

            @EveryMan: Well, once in court, character evidence is typically inadmissible, with some exceptions, of course. I believe the groping allegation simply because for an attractive female public figure who has frequented lots of conferences and events with large crowds, statistically, the chances of being groped are high; not necessarily because of what she said in her attack post re: Grothe. In other words, I would believe it probably happened to her at some point even if she never said anything at all. But I wouldn’t necessarily believe a specific allegation merely based on her words.

        • EveryMan says

          You must be new to this stuff. One can’t prove a negative.

          Meaning more specifically, I can’t prove RW doesn’t know the identity of her harassers. The burden of proof is on her.

          The time has come to put up or shut up. To name names.

          • Erista (aka Eris) says

            Oh for the love of God.

            Do you remember one of the big things that people frothed about after Elevatorgate? That she had HUMILIATED this guy by mentioning what he did, even though no one had any idea who he was and have not, to this day, identified him. But now she’s supposed to name names? That’s a catch 22; people will shriek at her if she names names, people will shriek if she does not.

            Also, you’ve made it clear that you don’t care what the name is, that you won’t believe her regardless. So I don’t know why you are asking for names.

          • EveryMan says

            I don’t care about ElevatorGuy’s feelings.

            As Justicar has documented, in detail, there really isn’t even any evidence he exists at this point. Watson claims she has a mental disorder and can’t remember peoples faces, so she can’t identify him.

            Irregardless, hitting on people in this context isn’t illegal. It was just inappropriate in this case (assuming it happened as described).
            Communicating a threat, however, *is* illegal. Ergo Miss Watson needs to name names or at least go to the authorities if she is serious.

            I’m assuming she is not, given she hasn’t.

          • Erista (aka Eris) says

            1) If some random guy whom I did not know groped me at an atheist conference, I too, might not be able to identify him. I am not great with faces, and this would be especially true for someone I had not encountered before.

            2) how would one go to the authorities and say, “Someone groped me, but I don’t know who?” Women face enough backlash when they say, “That guy over there groped me.” For example, people will demand EVIDENCE that she was groped, and will declare that we should all assume she’s lying until proven otherwise. Why would reporting to the authorities go any better when you don’t know who did it? I mean, here we are with Watson making a claim that is incredibly ordinary and not at all hard to believe, but you are nevertheless going on about how there is no evidence Elevator guy existed. So, I have a question for you: How do you expect her to prove it? Even if she named names (which people would flip out at her for), people could (and would) insist that because there were no witnesses, she couldn’t prove he had done what she said he had done.

            3) I repeat my assertion that given that you have declared that you don’t believe anything she says, I do not understand why you want her to name names, given that you have already established that you don’t trust anything she says. You have proactively asserted that if she named names, you won’t believe her. So why are you asking for something you are asserting you won’t believe?

            4) How do you know she didn’t report? Did she say she hadn’t reported?

          • Silvia says

            And how exactly this has become about Rebecca watson? i don’t care if she is telling the truth. what I care is about the reaction it elicited. Her story about elevatorguy only said guys, dont do that. And whether it is a lie or not it is still a good advise for guys not doing that. The response it got from the atheistic cmmunity, including Richard Dawkins was preposterous, and that is quite independent of who Rebecca Watson is.

          • EveryMan says

            I don’t care about the “ElevatorGate” drama.

            My concern is re: the more recent comments in the media that certain communities are not reasonably safe and/or accommodating to women.

            The US is one of the most progressive nations in the world re: gender equality. And attacking a very small subset of the progressive community for being “sexist”, without concrete evidence, is in extremely poor taste. Especially given that if anything, there is a policy of affirmative action in place to give a podium to non-professionals like RW.

            Dawkins was spot-on in his criticism of Watson. Given the amount of legitimate misogyny in world; her hysterics strike one as excessively tin-eared. Especially from someone as white, western and privileged as her.

      • bluharmony says

        In all fairness, she probably has, and I say that only because I think it’s happened to almost every woman at some point in her life. (It’s probably happened to every man, too, but likely wasn’t interpreted as negative behavior.) In other words, I’m not disagreeing with you because I trust Rebecca; I’m disagreeing with you because too many people (probably including me) are grabby. Anyway, the difference is how much weight each individual assigns to these types of incidents, and personally, I assign almost none.

        That’s my problem, I guess. I tend to disagree with everyone on one point or another. And if I ever found a single person I agreed with completely, I’d start questioning my objectivity right away. Because then I wouldn’t be thinking for myself and questioning everything; because then it wouldn’t be my best attempt at thinking freely. And so, I’m left without a clique.

        Sorry for so many posts. I’m finding the recent discussions in these blogs to be a fascinating glimpse into human nature. Plus, I think this blog in particular merits all the hits in the world.

        • Data Jack says

          Everyman – you illustrate your argument’s inherent dishonesty when you claim Rebecca responded with “hysterics”. She absolutely did not. Dawkins’ reply was completely out of line, and also highly irrational.

          • bluharmony says

            Dawkins at the hotel; you weren’t. It was light, early in the morning, and Watson’s room was on the first floor. No assault or harassment (as defined by any of the proposed policies or under the law) occurred. We don’t even know if the guy was stronger or bigger than Watson, although we’re all assuming that that was the case. Anyway, at worst, it was a breach of manners or dating etiquette and certainly didn’t merit boycotting Dawkins’ books or lashing out with vitriol at anyone who didn’t see it as an OBVIOUS RAPE THREAT. Dawkins asked for a polite explanation, and Rebecca could have claimed the moral high ground had she provided one, just like Cristina did in this post. Being in an elevator with people is a part of life and sometimes a man might ask you something. Sorry if I fail to see the big deal. What Cristina described as happening to her when she worked in bars is a much better example of actual harassment that is almost impossible to prove and not adequately addressed by law. Chances of elevator rape, even in dangerous settings, are small enough to be insignificant, so yeah, Watson’s response was a perfect example of overreaction and hysterics. Because nothing actually happened to her. And as a woman, I am so grateful that she confirmed the negative stereotype that some men have of women.

          • EveryMan says

            Rebecca’s response to Dawkins (see “The Privilege Delusion”) was hysterical.

  14. Stevarious says

    The question I have (and yet to get a solid answer on) is to what degree this is an issue at our conferences.

    Considering the absolutely fevered resistance to these anti-harassment policies, I would not be surprised if it happens a lot more than anyone knows, and certain people would like to keep it that way.
    That said (and even if that’s completely wrong), if it happens at all, then shouldn’t a couple of rules to prevent it be put it place? It doesn’t matter to me if it happened twice or twenty times or two hundred – all of those numbers are unacceptable. We can do better than that.

    • johngreg says

      Stevarious said:

      “Considering the absolutely fevered resistance to these anti-harassment policies, I would not be surprised if it happens a lot more than anyone knows, and certain people would like to keep it that way.” (my emphasis.)

      Which leads me to repeat the question I asked on Cristina’s first post on this matter.

      One of the ongoing claims here at FfTB is that there are (specifically in regard to TAM and other atheist / skeptic / feminist conferences), lots and lots of people who (apparently, now feverishly):

      “want to harrass. They want to sexually intimidate. They want to do stuff they think is fun, but are perfectly aware is offensive to others. They want to make women and other marginalised groups uncomfortable. They want to get their jollies this way.”

      And, apparently, these pro-harrassment people are supposedly stating publically that they are strongly opposed to any sort of harrassment policy.

      So, my question is, where are all these pro-harrassment, anti-harrassment-policy people?

      I think there is one person stating some anti-harrassment policy opinions on the ERV blog, but that’s about it, and anyway their point seems to be more about the general issues of the difficulty involved in policing such policies, and the risk of being too Victorian, too socially constraining, as in the “ask permission to touch at all” item).

      I’ve seen several people on several different blogs, and tweets criticising certain specific aspects of proposed anti-harrassment policies, but that is not the same thing as being anti-harrassment policy.

      And with all these claims about all these anti-harrassment policy people, I cannot recall anyone ever linking to any of them, or citing specifics, or providing specific quotes.

      • Erista (aka Eris) says

        If you want someone who has gone on record as opposing anti-harassment policies, one need only look to Thunderf00t’s Blog. I’m not going to post his whole discussion (that would be waaaay too long), but I will quote a relevant section:

        As for the actionable items, I see writing down policies then policing them as essentially unfit for intended purpose and an inefficient deployment of resources.

        It would be very difficult for someone to be more clear that they oppose anti-harassment policies, no matter what those policies say.

        And this is just one extremely public and visible example, to say nothing of all the various anonymous individuals who have left comments to this effect.

        • kevinkirkpatrick says

          DAMMIT Erista, this is exactly what people are complaining about. Cut it out. John presented this question rhetorically and condescendingly to make a point:
          “So, my question is, where are all these pro-harrassment, anti-harrassment-policy people?”
          Let me repeat, he was a man taking the time to make a point so things would be clarified for all the confused women who are just too emotional to think clearly about this.

          And look at you. You attacked him for it. You went so far as to cruelly bullly him with a direct answer to his rhetorical question that exactly undercuts the point he was trying to make. Can you imagine how that makes him feel? Especially coming from a woman, it’s got to feel like salt in a wound. You big meanie.

          I guess what I’m trying to say is that if people like John keep getting attacked and bullied by people on FTB pointing out the flaws in their reasoning, eventually they might feel like FTB isn’t the safe space for them that they want it to be. Is that what we want?

          • johngreg says

            Would you care to actually address the question?

            After several days and several posts on the FfTB network with several blog hosts and commenters claiming that there were almost endlesss numbers (at TAM and other like-minded conferences) of people who were pro-harrassment and publically opposed to any sort of anti-harrassment policy, where are all these pro-harrassment, anti-harrassment-policy people?

  15. Mobius says

    You said:

    To give my personal criteria, I would identify as “sexual harassment” any type of sexual advances which don’t stop when you make it clear you want them to stop.

    For the most part, I agree with this definition. We humans are, after all, sexual beings. The vast majority of us have interest in sex. Where it crosses the line into sexual harassment is when a clear statement that the other person is NOT interested and one continues to express their interest.


    Also, I find flirting to be inappropriate when there is any type of power imbalance (either obvious or implicit) which favors the person making the advances. Like when someone is being hit on by their employer, or by a co-worker who is also their superior, or by a teacher, etc.

    Again, I agree with this. When one has a position of authority over another there is always the possibility, from the viewpoint of the one not in authority, that there is an implicit threat. It may or may not actually be there, but the mere possibility it is skews the interpersonal relationship from one of equality.

    So I don’t really have anything to add to your points, just to state that I agree. Yes, flirting can be fun…but needs to stop when the other person say “NO”.

  16. says

    I’m really loving your blog so far. I think for this second case it could go either way. If she pushed him off and he tried again, it would definitely be abuse. But maybe he was really good at reading her body language (which appears to be the case in this scene). In that case it would be romantic. It’s just not cut and dry. Just my opinion.

  17. johngreg says

    Cristina, perhaps it is a language issue, but you seem to be to some degree asking the impossible.

    Cristina said:

    “To give my personal criteria, I would identify as ‘sexual harassment’ any type of sexual advances which don’t stop when you make it clear you want them to stop.”

    Although it leaves myriad other potential sexual harrassment actions out of the loop, that is, in itself, quite sensible.

    You go on to say:

    “Also, I find flirting to be inappropriate when there is any type of power imbalance (either obvious or implicit) which favors the person making the advances. Like when someone is being hit on by their employer, or by a co-worker who is also their superior, or by a teacher, etc.”

    You place some degree of not very specific definition on power blance by saying “Like when someone is being hit on by their employer, or by a co-worker who is also their superior, or by a teacher, etc.”, but that is somewhat indirect and insufficient.

    However, your phrase, “any type of power imbalance (either obvious or implicit)”, is far too vague and all-encompassing (“implicit” could be almost anything one can imagine), especially when combined with your later phrase “being physically stronger is also a power imbalance”, covers virtually any and all interactions between men and women. It is an unavoidable genetic fact that a majority of men are bigger and stronger than most women. There isn’t anything we can do about that. So, in effect, your statement is implying that men should never under any circumstances flirt with women.

    I suspect that that is not your intent, and as I say, it may be a language issue, or perhaps you accidentally overlooked your own rather odd limitations to acceptable flirting.

    A question for you Cristina: What is an acceptable for flirting power / situational / circumstantial balance?

    And to expand on the strength / power imbalance, issue you bring up the magic elevator:

    “… being physically stronger is also a power imbalance when the other person has no means to escape if they wish to. (e.g. a closed space, like, say, an elevator?)”

    So, yes, here we go again with Schrödinger’s magic elevator; the magic elevator that once Schrödinger’s magic rapist boarded it no longer stops at any floors, the magic elevator that doesn’t have an alarm button; the magic elevator that somehow forced some drunk to get on and did not allow said drunk to get off immediately when Schrödinger’s magic threat boarded it.

    • Laura-Ray says

      Allow me to interject: You realize that the power imbalance between a man and a woman being inherent coupled with the fact that they are in a confined space with no real escape (maybe I’m ignorant, but I’m pretty sure that, in the case of a rape, reaching for the call button would be shut down pretty soon, leaving the woman totally helpless… But we don’t like to hear how our magical arguments are magically bullshit, do we?) is fucking scary, right? Do you know what it’s like to be scared like that? Picture this- I have no clue what gender or race you are, but am assuming you are male due to your handle, and guessing you’re white mostly from statistical likelihood- you are a young, white male in a predominantly African American community. This community has repeatedly used race to demean you with slurs and threats of violence. You feel very much that you have been dehumanized in the eyes of your community, but you’re doing your best to be involved for the sake of all the nice people, both black and white, in your community. You are going to a meeting to discuss how to help the community, which is in a public building. You haven’t been there before, so you’re at least a little nervous. Then, a large, muscled, black man boards the elevator with you. You shrink back to the corner of the elevator, knowing this guy could easily kick your ass, knowing that most non-white people in your community don’t believe you are anything but a piece of meat, and he has a gun visibly protruding from his pocket. Would you be scared? Would you ever want to return to that place again? Now pretend like all the instances of white are replaced by female, and all the instances of non-white or black are replaced by male.

      PS: In case you don’t know, not all, but a significant amount of women live with fear like that their entire lives. Soul crushing, agonizing fear of rape or violence against them. This discussion started because DJ Grothe said fear of sexual harassment caused women to stop coming to TAM because of people like Greta Christina and Rebecca Watson. Women aren’t stupid, and most of them are aware that sexual harassment, while rare, can happen to them at any point in time. The drop in female attendance at TAM is most likely due to them having better shit to do (Richard Carrier mentions that he has had a few female friends mention, before this incident, that they didn’t sign up for TAM because the speaker lineup looked boring and they didn’t want to waste their money), but that’s besides the point. Women just want to hear that they WILL NOT be harassed and WILL NOT ignored, patronized, or slut-shamed for reporting it; instead of hearing “Well there’s a 99% chance that you won’t be harassed, but if you do, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll also be ignored, patronized, or slut-shamed for reporting it”. Is that really too hard of a thing to get?

      PS: Some women don’t give a shit about whether or not you flirt with them. A lot would prefer you treat them like human beings first, however. And when you are in a position of power at a convention, it is generally because there is no policy determining when enough is enough. When a woman has the option to say no and be listened to, either by the guy bothering her or the guy who can get rid of the guy bothering her, then there is no longer a power difference. If you had reading comprehension enough, you’d probably deduce this from Cristina’s post- seeing as she specifically mentioned that she had no recourse in either of the places where she was repeatedly harassed because people either didn’t care or couldn’t do anything to stop it. But some people need things spelled out for them, so I’ll help a brother out: if there is no harassment policy in place, don’t flirt with women, because they often do not have the luxury of being able to say no. If there is a policy, then flirt with women, and if they tell you politely to go fuck yourself, then do so. Pretty easy, right?

      • johngreg says

        Laura-Ray, I do not dispute the facts of your somewhat extremist statement, but I do dispute its validity in this conversation, in part, because I am fairly certain that Cristina was making a not very vieled comment regarding Rebecca Watson’s infamous elevator experience, in which case, if I am right, my elevator rebuttal was valid.

        In other instances, where rape actually, occurs, then yes there is validity in your hypothetical elevator example — though you did ignore the very really possibility of your putative victim smashing one of the other floor buttons.

        And yes, as a matter of fact, I do know what it’s like to be scared like that. For a period of about three years, several years ago, I lived and worked in an environment where the possibility of a severe physical attack leading to a hospital stay, possible disfigurement and crippling injuries, even death, was a daily reality.

        You said:

        “… a significant amount of women live with fear like that their entire lives. Soul crushing, agonizing fear of rape or violence against them.”

        Yes, I know that. But in Irish elevators? At a skeptic / feminist / ahteist conference? I think probably not. Let’s at least stick to the focus of the discussion and not slip into the dangerous waters of extremist hypotheticals.

        “Women just want to hear that they WILL NOT be harassed and WILL NOT ignored, patronized, or slut-shamed for reporting it; instead of hearing “Well there’s a 99% chance that you won’t be harassed, but if you do, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll also be ignored, patronized, or slut-shamed for reporting it”. Is that really too hard of a thing to get?”

        No, of course it’s not hard to get; I get it; I got it a long time ago. And I have never anywhere stated that I support such a hostile approach.

      • bluharmony says

        Are you seriously suggesting that men must first ascertain that there’s an anti-harassment policy in place before flirting? Ever? On crowded beaches? In bars? In dog parks in broad daylight on a sunny day where people typically go to meet others?

        Also, Cristina has experience with harassment; what she put forth was only personal opinion, but I believe that so far she’s one of the few people who’s shown true maturity and compassion in this debate, making her uniquely qualified to suggest ideas on the matter. But the actual policy should be drafted by the event organizers, preferably with the help of an attorney.

          • bluharmony says

            Yes, and there are probably specific policies in bars as well(especially in a Vegas casino). But an additional layer of protection and record-keeping specific to the conference can’t hurt. Also, some feel the law doesn’t go far enough in addressing certain concerns, since most sexual harassment cases require patterns of conduct and intimidation rather than single incidents. Further, because things like groping and unwanted advances occur so frequently and are almost impossible to prove, most women wouldn’t bother reporting them to law enforcement, anyway. While I find the legal system and hotel security to be sufficient protection, if some don’t, I don’t see a reason not to accommodate them. Hopefully it will at least allow us to properly assess the extent of the problem, and stop some of the in-fighting.

          • echidna says

            The law is not sufficient. Just think of the harassment that people going to abortion clinics undergo from the protesters outside. The law has very little to say about harassment in most circumstances.

      • EveryMan says

        If anyone in a reasonably safe environment is living with…

        “Soul crushing, agonizing fear of rape or violence against them.”

        …then they are suffering from some sort generalized anxiety disorder and/or paranoia and need to be treated by a mental health professional. Full stop.

        The world can be a bad place, but its getting safer, particularly in America.

        • Teresa says

          1/4 women, 1/6 men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime…not “just” groped or harrassed. and groping and harassment are often used just to see if someone will stand up for themselves’ and to guage whT will happen if they do. Unfortunately, women who stand up for themselves usually see sentiment go against them “hysterical” “attention whore” etc.

          People who don’t take “no” for an answer seem to feel like THEY are the ones who will be backed up by society, and they have every reason to believe that they will be.

          It hardly requires a mental illness to be affected by something that is that prevalent, especially if you know a few people who have experienced it first hand, or have witnessed it, or already experienced it.

          Beyond that, every time a woman reports something, we can see what happens to her played out in the media. We know how many sexual partners she has, if she’s ever had an STD, if any of her boyfriends ever said she was “crazy” if she was ever accused of lying about anything….and men who report get even worse treatment due to disgust that they are somehow now “feminized” from their abuse. (what’s worse than a woman in misogyny? Apparently a man who has “lost his man-card” – yes misogyny is bad for men too)

          Even the most squeaky-clean girl next door starts to look like a mental case. You don’t have to be mentally Ill to do the math and realize that you are on your own unless there is a specific policy of support for you, a specific statement that your community values and places priority on your safety.

          • Bluharmony says

            Rape shield laws prevent that from happening in most cases. TV drama and courtroom drama are two different things.

          • Teresa says

            Bluharmony says:

            July 23, 2012 at 3:44 PM
            Bule harmony says:

            “Rape shield laws prevent that from happening in most cases. TV drama and courtroom drama are two different things.”

            Yeah…those “rape sheild laws” (what are they?) sure help all those cases we see whwere the sexually assaulted person’s character is dragged through the dirt. Where the cops decide that the woman wasn’t “really raped”, and so don’t investigate, where the prosecuter decides that the victim isn’t sympathetic, or there isn’t enough evidence to overcome the status of the perpetrator, and so dose not prosecute, where there jury decides that the victim isn’t sympathetic enough to not convict, and then the MRA’s put the victim up on a website with a picture accusing her of being a “false accuser”…yeah. “Rape sheild laws” prevent that from happening. That’s why you can never see it happening.

            And anyone who thinks that happens because they see it happen is for sure a mental case like “Every Man” implies, right?

          • bluharmony says

            Rape shield laws vary from state to state, but most states do not permit any evidence relating to the past sexual behavior of the victim. This includes evidence of specific instances of the victim’s prior or subsequent sexual conduct, including opinion evidence or reputation evidence. Thus, the prosecutor will not be considering such evidence in his or her decision to prosecute, and will not prosecute unless he or she reasonably believes there is sufficient evidence to convict. Would you rather have frivolous prosecutions? The world is neither black nor white; sometimes compromises must be reached. Personally, I wouldn’t want to live in a world where one woman’s word is all that’s necessary to convict a man of rape. Would you?

    • EveryMan says

      Looks decent enough. I would suggest adding a dedicated email address as well.

      I hope everyone understands that burden of responsibility is now on them to report harassment. And if they don’t report it, it didn’t happen. Sorry.

      And for FFS, if its something egregious, shoot some video. Everybody has smart phones these days.

      I suspect I’m going to be disappointed and we are going to hear more claims that the policy isn’t adequate; harassment can’t be reported for fear of retribution; the groper was wearing a flying spaghetti monster costume, etc.

      I’m also very concerned at this point that the policy might be abused by a few bad apples with an ideological axe to grind. I’m hoping this is paranoia on my part.

        • julian says

          Don’t bother. As far as any from that group is concerned if it isn’t reported it never happened. It’s why they outright lied about what Miller had to say about TAM. They had to delegitimize her criticism and what she had to say. So they re wrote history and her shared account to make it easier.

          • johngreg says

            julian, I’ve got a proposal for you. Now, I know you were really pissed off at me, and perhaps justifiably so, for bringing up the kerfuffle at B&W from long ago. And you certainly clearly stated so over at Justin Griffith’s now memory-holed post comment thread.

            So, here’s the proposal. I promise to you, here and now, to never, ever bring that up again, if you promise to stop just reflexively throwing irrelevant, misrepresentative insults at me just to see if anything sticks, whenever I post.

            How does that sound? Does that strike you as a fair deal?

            If you disagree with some post I make, that’s just fine. But how about you make an effort to actually respond to the post and to not just open up your angry bag of invective and throw out whatever you find inside. And, as I say, I am promising upfront, before you even agree to your side of the deal or show some follow-through, to no longer bring up that past moment up again.

      • Hooloovoo says

        The taking a video suggestion coupled with this:

        I’m also very concerned at this point that the policy might be abused by a few bad apples with an ideological axe to grind. I’m hoping this is paranoia on my part.

        tell me all I need to know about you.

  18. Moira says

    A truly excellent post.

    I’ll add that the sort of daily sexual harassment you received on the job from customers is often the norm in America as well, although sexual harassment from employers is relatively rare thanks to fear of lawsuits. I’ve experienced very similar harassment to the harassment you described from your bar job, but I worked in retail. There is immense pressure on the employee to accommodate the customer, to the point where many women (and men I’m sure) will let themselves be abused. When I worked retail management it was very important to me that the employees I was responsible for knew that they didn’t have to accept harassment from customers; I always told them that while they have a duty to be polite and helpful to customers that duty ends as soon as the customer stops being a customer and starts being a douche. I was always surprised at how grateful a lot of people were to hear this, because they’d felt that prior bosses didn’t have their back and worried that if a customer complained (even if the customer was in the wrong) that they’d lose their job or get written up.

    Anyway, thanks again for the excellent post.

    • bluharmony says

      Considering the honest, logical, and personal nature of this post, I highly doubt it. Besides, people are mellower after they listen to Puccini.

      • says

        I agree. I think this goes to prove that simply saying “Guys, don’t do that” wasn’t the primary reason for the ‘brouhaha’…

        • bluharmony says

          Exactly. Hell, I’ll even repeat it: Guys, if you’re in an elevator, it’s usually not a good idea to ask someone you don’t know back to your room, even if you just want to chat and there’s no real danger. The other person may perceive danger, even if unreasonably. Personally, I was not aware that this might scare some people, but the evidence clearly shows that it does. And, just to be fair, gals, it’s probably not a good idea to ask someone you don’t know either. You may not physically pose as much of a threat as a man, but you might still make the other person uncomfortable.

          Do you have a legal right to do ask? Absolutely. Should you? Not unless you want to embarrass yourself. Also, there’s always the odd chance you might get blogged about later. Seems unlikely, but it’s happened before.

  19. says

    I may not agree with everything you say (although I think I agree much more than I disagree), but I find your tone and your approach to be very refreshing.

    • Laura-Ray says

      I agree. I think it was a very mature addition to the complex conversation that has been going on here. I’d mostly only fault it for some minor vagaries, however, I’m fairly sure that Cristina is remarking on her own personal philosophy rather than suggesting a set of rules to go on. Which I think is wise without a decent framework made by people who deal with harassment a lot.

  20. jenniferphillips says

    Thanks so much for contributing your perspective to the discussion, Christina. I agree with what you way and I deeply appreciate the reasoned, articulate way you’ve presented your opinions.

    My experiences as a young woman ran the gamut from a low ‘baseline’ of flirtatious/saucy/salacious banter—->touching—–>groping—–>full-on assault. All but the last item occurred regularly in my various workplaces. These things all occurred at a time and place where there was very little support or recourse for such occurrences. These were the occupational hazards for young attractive women. So it went, and so it still goes with alarming regularity.

    It’s regrettable that so little has changed in the 30 or so years since I began navigating these waters, but adding your voice to the chorus that is trying to shift the culture in a more equitable direction is commendable. Thank you!

  21. bluharmony says

    Perfect post — from a fellow Eastern European who has also gone through endless harassment and abuse. I agree with every beautiful word. I have to say that for the longest time, I didn’t recognize harassment when it happened to me either, and now, I would respond to the TAM incident exactly as you did. The elevator incident wouldn’t bother me, but I realize it would bother lots of others. Thanks for clearly explaining why.

  22. Vipermagi says

    I made a post in your first comment not realizing you had a second one, so if you haven’t I invite you to take a look at it. I think you and are are pointed in a similar general direction, though I’m assuming we’ll disagree on more than a small number of the “finer” points.

    In your examples you tend to highlight my power issue to what is malicious harassment and what is someone being stupid. But I also want to highlight that it isn’t always the person being rude who has to do all the work to minimizing sexual harassment, in the massive struggle to find our high ground in the moral landscape, we have to accept that we are all dealing with people who are also struggling to find their peek on the moral landscape.

    In a more broad stroke with your bar room incident (only very loosely tied to TAM), yes it was harassment, yes it was sexual in nature, but it wasn’t specifically malicious. In all probability, this woman was drunk (and we all know where that leads), horny, and was looking to liven up her evening. I am sorry you and your friend were the target of her attentions, she was definitely harassing you, and while I wasn’t there to witness it personally, based on your account I would say there wasn’t a perceived level of malicious intent.

    I made this sound like your some over-sensitive femanazi out to squash the evil man, which you very clearly aren’t, I apologize for that, this entire debacle with Thunderf00t and P.Z. Myers just reeks of of people struggling to find a perfect fit and not understanding were all imperfect.

  23. NateHevens says

    Thanks for this, Cristina. I have to admit that I was lightly worried about what your position might be after reading your first post on the issue, but now I see I was wrong to worry. So thank you!

    I do have a question, though…

    Also, I find flirting to be inappropriate when there is any type of power imbalance (either obvious or implicit) which favors the person making the advances. Like when someone is being hit on by their employer, or by a co-worker who is also their superior, or by a teacher, etc.

    I agree for the most part, but I have to ask… let’s create a hypothetical example, here:

    What if a male CEO genuinely likes one of his female employees?

    He’s single, has no previous marriages, no kids, and in his early 30’s. He’s popular with his staff; not only do they like working for him, but they consider him a friend outside of work. He’s a fair employer. He watches payroll carefully to ensure there is no wage-gap, he has zero history of harassment, reported or otherwise… basically, he’s the kind of CEO many probably dream about working for.

    How does this CEO approach to find out if the particular employee would return those feelings if they knew?

    For the record, this hypothetical CEO would accept it if she did not return the feelings, and he’d let his feelings go, out of respect for her and so as to minimize awkward work atmospheres…

    • bluharmony says

      I think it would be wiser for him to let her make the approach. Or to work on building a strong friendship that is not sexual first. Rejection in this case would be awkward for both parties.

      • cassmorrison says

        A strong friendship is a better way to start any relationship but especially one that might affect the workplace. If the person is a direct report it may just end up being a longer initial friendship or waiting until that person moves to another company because if the relationship is successful, there will always be gossip about unfair advancement.

        You can’t always get what you want.

    • NateHevens says

      bluharmony and cassmorrison, thank you. You both answered my question quite well.

      I did think of an actual (though fictional) example: Tony Stark and Pepper Pots. How would y’all (or anyone) feel about that dynamic? I think it’s an example (at least in the movies) of the way it maybe should be done, but I could be wrong about that.

    • Andre says

      I would say he should forget about her. Assuming he has any control over her pay or job it would simply be to unprofessional to pursue a relationship.

  24. Egbert says

    “Sexual harassment” has become a tool used by anti-feminists and even some feminists to place targets on people. Once they are targeted, they are then turned into scapegoats, or worse, a witch hunt manifests where the scapegoat’s reputation or status is viciously attacked. This is about a struggle for power and status, and it’s not about being ethical and raising awareness.

    There is a genuine problem of sexism, homophobia and racism in society, but people who believe that labeling themselves as feminist or liberal or progressive suddenly makes them immune from evil, are sadly deluded. Hypocrisy is everywhere, whether theist or atheist.

    • Sethra says

      “Sexual harassment” has become a tool used by anti-feminists and even some feminists to place targets on people.

      Nice scare quotes. You’re off to a good start – for some definitions of ‘good’ that include “Has their head so firmly lodged up inside their own rectum that they can see daylight from above.”

      Once they are targeted, they are then turned into scapegoats, or worse, a witch hunt manifests where the scapegoat’s reputation or status is viciously attacked.

      Uh…sure. Where are the atheist bloggers who’ve named harassers rather than state that it’s a nuanced issue requiring varying methods of addressing people who harass others? And who do those bloggers think they are, telling people that it’s not just women being harassed and that harassment policies must be inclusive and protect all members of the community?

      This is about a struggle for power and status, and it’s not about being ethical and raising awareness.

      And the people whining about power are those who don’t regard women as equals. Funny, that.

      • Justicar says

        Yes, that’s a great question. Where, oh where I wonder aloud to myself, is the parade of offenders? After all, this isn’t The Get Along Gang; this is the ‘always name names’ gang. So, let’s do see some naming of names . . . it should be a trivial matter to produce the list of offenders and victims of those offenders.

        And yet any request for such a list is met with a big old non-production of it. I wonder why it is that evidence can’t be handily cited when asked for.

        • Data Jack says

          “Naming names” is the same thing as publically accusing – and some people (many people, actually) do not feel comfortable doing that. As Criss said, harassment often occurs because of a power imbalance. That imbalance doesn’t (necessarily) go away simply because the harassment is no longer occurring. The victim may still feel intimidated by the harasser – afraid to go public.

          • bluharmony says

            I, on the other hand, wonder why claims of harassment started to pop up only after Watson withdrew. After all, there was an anti-harassment policy in place, and harassment-related questionnaires to fill out at the end of the meeting, and that could have been done ANONYMOUSLY. Thought-provoking, isn’t it?

          • EveryMan says

            Here is a great example how to “name names”:


            …and the result:


            Holding bad people accountable for their bad behavior proves to be a simple and effective tactic.

  25. Silvia says

    Excellent post! And it reminds us how our culture is harrassment friendly. I would add a case 3 that deeply troubled me when it happened
    It was a awards ceremony and the guy who would give the award wa twice the size of the one who received it. The big one grabbed the small one and kissed him and only let it go after the small one obliged. I was totally upset because it seemed that if Radcliffe said no he would be a spoilsport, but what is the messsage it sends to his young fans. Nobody seemed to understand my feeling s then, but would you guys think of this as sexual harrassment? Even if it was a joke?

    • bluharmony says

      No, for four reasons:
      1. Staged,
      2. Done in support of LGBT rights,
      3. Non-coercive, and
      4. No harm to either party.

  26. MarkB says

    I think what has occurred in this video is not sexual harrassment but Battery.
    I’m not 100% sure, but this is what I’m getting from wikipedia;

    “At common law, simple battery is a misdemeanor. The prosecutor must prove all three elements beyond a reasonable doubt: unlawful application of force the person of another
    3.resulting in either bodily injury or an
    offensive touching.

    this is US law, according to the article.

      • bluharmony says

        No, unless there was implicit consent (and the film leads us to believe there was), it’s sexual assault, according to this US attorney. Besides, criminal definitions differ from state to state, unless we’re talking about federal offenses.

    • bluharmony says

      As far as I know, every state has adopted a criminal code (usually at least somewhat based on the MPC). The common law is only useful as an aid in interpreting those definitions.

      • MarkB says

        Yeah, I’m on shaky ground when it comes to the law, I just thought that the point was not that this is something that gets you talked to or kicked out of a bar/event but a real criminal action.

        • bluharmony says

          Sexual harassment is criminal and codified as well. The issue is that some people want a more restrictive anti-harassment policy. In other words, they want to redefine harassment as something individual to each woman, which is fine, as long as it’s within reason. Basically, such policies would amount to restrictions on speech and policing procedures, since everything else (intentional unwanted touching) is already prohibited by law. But sometimes, simply restating the law and letting people know who to notify is useful.

          • EveryMan says

            Sexual harassment is only criminal under certain circumstances. Like in the workplace and educational environments.

            A great example of this is the sort of harassment that women in customer service roles (especially bar tending) often receive. This is completely legal at the moment.

            It’s also not that big of a problem, as bartenders have the right to refuse service to anyone. They also have the legal right to kick people out. So there is your ‘power differential’ if you are really looking for one.

  27. says

    This is a thought provoking post. Thank you for approaching this with a level head. It’s nice to see people genuinely trying to come to an understanding about the subject instead of just going with their gut feeling, one way or the other.

    The scene from the movie and your analysis of it was a fantastic addition that got me thinking. Thanks again. 🙂

  28. smhll says

    What I think happened is that RW has conflated comments from anonymous ‘Net trolls with actually real people in meat space that she actually might interact with.

    Trolls are human beings, my friend. (Unlike corporations.) At this point in time, troll posts are written by people, not by some kind of spam bot.

    I want to clarify where the conflating starts. I think it starts with D. J. Grothe. When asked what statements of Rebecca’s he thought were irresponsible messaging , he referenced her quote from the USA Today interview. In that interview she says she thought the freethought community was a “safe space” and found out it was not. I think the freethought community can be interpreted to include the blogosphere, like FtB, etc. It was DJ who reacted as if Rebecca had specifically said that TAM was dangerous. That’s not exactly what she said.

    • EveryMan says

      I’ve tried to write about this before, but my post was deleted. I’ll try again and leave out the potentially offensive link.

      IRL I’m a computer security expert with an interest in cyberlaw and the “anonymous” hacker/troll collective.

      I’m well aware that the “anonymous” trolls are racist, sexist and homophobic. Misanthropic would be a more apropos description given that they are basically “anti-human”. I also agree that they are collectively enough of a problem to be considered a social issue.

      They are also a separate and distinct community from the various online secular communities described here. And it is the height of dishonesty and irresponsibility to conflate them.

      • Smhlle says

        How is anyone to separate the for real anti-feminists from the just trolling antifeminists? Or separate the people who just hate R. Watson from the people who hate lots of women? I do not have a guidebook for spotting a true atheist/Skeptic. The difference between a troll and an asshole is hard to spot. IMO there are some very loud assholes who are name atheists.

        • EveryMan says

          Here’s a hint:

          If someone is “anonymous”, you don’t know who they are. Or even their affiliations and/or motivations.

          So don’t count them.

        • davidross says

          As for how to “separate the people who just hate R. Watson from the people who hate lots of women”, generally the people who do the former will tell you about it. They’ll say that she’s not credible, that she’s got a history, that she’s not a good spokesperson for the issue. Other women will be treated courteously. So I read here, anyway.

          I personally have no opinion on RW one way or the other at this point. I haven’t studied this issue. I was just illustrating, if I did “hate” her – which I don’t – how I’d express that. If I were a misogynist instead – which I’m not – I’d be attacking all women and *not* singling out this one as one of the baddies.

  29. Wtfbits says

    It will be interesting to see where this blog goes from this point on. In light of recent events, it’s obvious that if this blog does not reach the same conclusions as others on this network, it will slowly, but surely be attacked and booted out.

    I think Christina is a great example & role model for young women. But from her funny, clear thinking, and insightful videos it is evident that her views on some issues are different from, and not in line with that of FTB. I hope those views don’t suddenly change and she doesn’t become just another FTBer indistinguishable from the rest.

  30. koliedrus says

    I’ve never been sexually abused. Neither have I inflicted that heinous act upon another. I can’t help but wonder if the lack of abuse is my life might not exclude my perceptions as being invalid for lack of objective experience.

    I’ll give them a shot.

    I’m socially withdrawn. I don’t do bars or clubs. I rarely even attend family gatherings. Sometimes, however, I will put something together where bunches of people will attend and behave themselves reasonably. When all parties know in advance that alcohol will be present, it becomes a logistical problem in regards to keeping ex-spouses from meeting up and screwing up Christmas for the rampaging offspring.

    Yay, logistics! It went GREAT, btw.


    Different people have gone through different things.
    I’ve never been raped. Friends of mine have. We’ve had long discussions about it and they trust me with those thoughts.

    When I see this debate, I recall the images that were shared with me and the tears they invoked.

    When I look at another person, I do NOT assume that their life has been like mine.

    When the alcohol starts to flow, my brain is just as susceptible to its effects as the person sitting next to me. Sometimes that person will open up.

    Perhaps this is less about normal behavior than it is about psychoactive substances.

    I suggest hiring Official Bouncers who will escort chemically-altered individuals to their designated Temporary Residence.

    Curb, Hotel, Hotel Room, Police Station, Gigantic Expanse in the Desert…

    I see that my friends who have been abused would rather use fists and feet than have to experience that horror again.

    When under the influence, we use Designated Drivers.

    How about Designated Atheists?

  31. says


    I love your vlogs and it’s great to see you blogging but please stay clear of this futile debate.

    Advocacy for atheism/secularism and against sexism are both important, but the intersection of the two is a no-win situation.

    Looking forward to future posts.

        • gsenski says

          Agree, run away Cristina and grab AronRa on your way out of ‘feminist thought blogs’. For it is a silly place.

          • bluharmony says

            While I largely agree with that, there are many bloggers here who are able to walk the fine line and benefit from the exposure and the pay. I wouldn’t want to deny Cristina that opportunity. It looks like she’s capable of walking the fine line and offending no one. That takes intelligence, style, and class. And it looks like her blog isn’t attracting the “slime,” except for me, of course.

    • bluharmony says

      And the first. Only to immediately be called privileged and ignorant by Watson. Aside from the Nazi hyperbole, she is the voice of reason.

    • bluharmony says

      Yes, but that would establish that you were aware that some sort of problem existed, possibly resulting in an increased duty of care. In a legal sense (only), I fail to see how such a policy would be of any benefit to the conference organizer, especially, since no problem beyond ordinary social interactions has been shown. As an organizer, you would want to disclaim any contractual liability to the attendees rather than assume it. Simple as that. Of course, this is a different issue as to whether it would make some women more comfortable or not to have a policy, although, quite obviously such a policy wouldn’t prevent those who want to act badly from doing so. In other words, and as I’ve said elsewhere, while I support a policy because of the unique sensitivities of some of the women attending these conferences, as an attorney, I would not, especially given no legal precedent for such policies, advise a client to adopt one except as a disclaimer. I think there are better ways to address harassment, such as reserving the right to confiscate attendance privileges at any time, for any reason, and without refund. I also see nothing fundamentally wrong with the CFI policy, although there’s no way to know how such a policy would be viewed in court since, again, no precedent for a policy in this setting exists. I’d say that advertising anti-harassment policies is also bad marketing, but under the circumstances, the damage has already been done.

      • EveryMan says

        I guess my take is that its their party and they can run it how they see fit.

        I also agree with you that they are probably creating unnecessary legal risk for themselves by assuming said liability. But again, its their choice and their problem if it backfires on them.

        • bluharmony says

          All true, although you’ll be demonized if you do or if you don’t as soon as someone with influence decides you’ve crossed them. The JREF adopted a policy before anyone else, and look at what happened to them.

      • fredsalvador says

        “that would establish that you were aware that some sort of problem existed”

        Now, I ain’t no fancy pants big city lawyer *B-KWAUK!!*, but it seems to me that conference organisers are already plenty aware that a problem exists; specifically, a section of the atheist community feels the abject lack of a unified approach to tackling sexual harrassment at conferences constitutes a myopic dismissal of male chauvinism within the movement.

        It could also be conjectured that certain organisers are aware of specific cases of harrassment and threatening/ deviant behaviour happening on their watch at their conferences, including incidents that were either not dealt with in a manner deemed satisfactory, or simply not dealt with at all. No hard evidence exists to back up this claim and the organisers concerned deny all knowledge of any incidents when pressed, so unfortunately conjecture it remains.

        “I fail to see how such a policy would be of any benefit to the conference organizer”

        It could be argued that fulfilling a reasonable request made by sections of your prospective audience might make people more inclined to come to your event, but that’s by and by. The relevant point is that such policies are not about benefit to the organiser, but benefit to the attendees.

        “especially, since no problem beyond ordinary social interactions has been shown”

        I don’t class “creepy dude with suspiciously positioned camera”, “pushy girl chasing women for a threesome” or “nasty-ass couple handing out their swinger’s card to random volunteers” as ordinary social interactions – but who knows? Maybe I’m just going to the wrong parties.

        Or, the right ones, as the case may be.

        “As an organizer, you would want to disclaim any contractual liability to the attendees rather than assume it”

        Unless, y’know, you actually give a shit about the attendees, the movement, and the community surrounding it. In which case you might see additional contractual obligations as a small price to pay for an event which is an inclusive, welcoming and friendly as possible.

        The extra measures needed to effectively police your newly assumed contractual obligations might cut into the top line a little, I suppose; but hey, if you want to make money off an important social movement, open a CafePress shop and sell fucking t-shirts.

        “while I support a policy because of the unique sensitivities of some of the women attending these conferences, as an attorney”

        Those sensibilities are not unique to women. I daresay a lot of men would find it incredibly uncomfortable to have me pestering them for sex – or “coffee”, or “a bite to eat”, or a few quid for the one-armed bandits, or anything else, really – while they’re trying to take in a conference with their friends.

        I’m fairly certain men would find that most disquieting, considering I’m a very manly man. Perhaps more men should start pestering other men at these events, so men can see how aggravating it is and women can take a turn telling men to grow a spine and get over themselves.

        “I think there are better ways to address harassment, such as reserving the right to confiscate attendance privileges at any time, for any reason, and without refund”

        They can do that by default, and it doesn’t prevent them adopting a code of practise for dealing with harassment. The only thing stopping them doing that is the “whiny demographic”, who are a far greater impediment to the excoriation of male chauvinism from the atheist community than any number of assertive swingers, nymphomaniac stalkers, or pocket pool players with upskirt cameras.

        • bluharmony says

          I’m fine with that position and fully support the policy as proposed (with slight concern over the no presumption of innocence part). It doesn’t harm me in any way. If it makes people feel safer, good. This discussion is basically at a meta-level, after we’ve all agreed that anti-harassment policies would be fine at conferences, if an organization is willing to adopt such. (And I’m not a big-city lawyer either.) My main concern is not the policies, but the fact that TF got booted for disagreeing. Even though I realize his approach was less than tactful, and his arguments were somewhat poorly presented, he made valid points that should’nt have been ignored. So I tried to restate them here in a slightly different tone.

  32. bluharmony says

    Disclaimer: The above is not intended as legal advice to anyone, but only as a preliminary analysis of a hypothetical situation.

  33. Marlo Rocci says

    There’s one point in this article that makes an important point.

    Men aren’t mind readers.

    That shouldn’t sound controversial, but it is. We’re required by social custom to make the first move in any interpersonal situation, with increasing penalties if we guess wrong.

    And we really can’t tell if you’re just being friendly, polite or are interested in sex. This is because each woman has different behaviors for each of those states. But it seems increasingly that all women expect that they are transmitting the proper tone, and “a man should just know”.

    So I don’t think it’s beyond reason for women to say “no” and for men to accept “no” and have the matter end at that point. Neither side should carry the matter beyond that point.

    • EveryMan says

      The world would be a better place if men were less pushy about sex, in general.

      The world would be a better place if women were more receptive about polite indicators of interest, in general.

      This is what “ElevatorGate” was about, btw. The Root Cause. Everybody was wrong.

      Anyway, I’m not optimistic this will ever change. Men have been naturally selected to be penis pushers and women as cock blockers. This is as natural as gravity.

      • bluharmony says

        Once I grew up (and that took a while), I realized this, and changed my behavior accordingly. I want to say something that no one’s been saying. Thank you, guys, for usually taking the initiative. While other women may not want you to do it, or may want it to be done “just right and at just the right moment for them,” I don’t. Rejection is hard on all of us. Of course, when I say this, I’m not speaking for everyone, and I’m not excusing sexual harassment (as properly defined), abuse of any kind, rape threats, or rape. Those are criminal behaviors, even if unreported, and we should do everything we can to prevent them and to make the world just a little bit safer and better for everyone. Also, thank you for giving me the freedom to approach you in any way I like and not complaining if my approach is clumsy or wrong. Taking the initiative isn’t always fun, but I’m also happy to do so when interested. 😉

        • fredsalvador says

          What about women who don’t want you to “do it” at all? Where do they fit into all this? Women do sometimes leave the house for reasons that don’t involve making themselves available for flirting.

          • bluharmony says

            I respect and understand that. I think how you present yourself has much to do with whether guys will think you’re up to flirting or not. For instance, when Watson wears (I don’t think she wears it anymore) a “Let’s coevolve in my pants” tee shirt, that suggests flirting (not more) is OK. Nonverbal signals, such as looking down, looking away, or moving away work outside of real harassment situations. At least they’ve always worked for me. But I welcome being approached because occasionally, I just might be interested. Other women are different, of course. I just don’t envy guys the impossible task of finding out which is which. But I don’t think anyone will disagree with this: I always prefer to be approached non-sexually and for conversation first. Perhaps that’s not a bad guideline in general? Your thoughts are welcome, because I think this is a tough problem for well-meaning men as well.

  34. says

    Reminds me of the restaurant where i work, we have a couple girls who work up front and I work in the back and theres a group of old men who come in. I recently learned they make comments about checking out the girls butts to them and take pictures on their phones when they bend over to get supplies out of one of the cabinets thats visible to the customers. Cant really do too much about it though since they are regulars and bring in good money, additionally they seem to only do it when me and the other guys who work there are in the kitchen. (guess they know its wrong after all but do it anyways)

  35. Rick says

    A growing sense of worry is growing for me about this. There have been numerous posts, blogs, and videos dedicated to the behavior at conferences. While this is a topic worthy of discussion, it is also a very predictable outcome.

    I ask that everyone involved try to step back and look at historical movements – the labor movement, the civil rights movement, the feminist movement, and recent efforts like Wikileaks and others to push for more transparency. Think about how the leaders of these movements have been portrayed. Don’t take my word – do your homework. But I am sure you will concede that anyone who has ever challenged power has met with a similar fate.
    There are a few common tools that have been used, historically, to discredit leaders of such social movements. Sexual allegations are such an easy one because we are sexual beings. Men and women have sex. Sometimes signals will get crossed. Sometimes men (and women I must say) can be clumsy or outright creepy.
    Hang around just about any conference of any sort and you will find such behavior. The difference is that the vast majority of those other conferences are esoteric and dedicated to an industry or interest group. The freethinker, atheist and other related conferences, I would posit, are much more important. We are at the forefront of a growing global movement to take back Humanism.

    Please remember this as you attend conferences. This is not a frat party. You can do that whenever you like and sure, you can act in any way that suits you. But do NOT ever forget that there are many, MANY people who would like to demonize you, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Christina Rad and Thunderfoot and others who would dare to push back. Please never forget that this is a new movement and very vulnerable to such attacks. To give the other side the ammunition so willingly is very scary and sad and predictable.

    Remember too that allegations like this will continue. They will line up women, men, and anyone else who can claim that Atheists abused them in some way. They will post child porn on your machines. They will come after the more prominent players with threats of extradition for charges of rape if the threat is significant. Think about Elliot Spitzer – he was challenging Wall Street right before the collapse. Look what he did. It is too easy to get a man in this way. Too easy. But that is the weapon of choice.
    If the threat is truly significant, the prominent figure will be executed. Never forget what happened to Che Guevara once he left Fidel’s protection. Or MLK, or JFK. Forget conspiracies. Just look at the threat they represent, to whom the threat was directed, and what the outcome was. Do the math on your own, then drop it. Who cares who killed JFK or MLK? They are dead now. The most important thing is that you do not feed into the predictable patterns that have taken down leaders of movements in the past.

    If you are not a leader or a speaker or a blogger, you are still important. Some people will lurk around waiting to get video footage of you engaging in all sorts of bacchanalia in order to use it as “proof” of how we are a bunch of _____ (insert insult here). Do not feed trolls and do not feed lurkers – or anyone else for that matter.

    As long as this debate continues, the real debate is put on hold. This is exactly what they want. The divide and conquer trick is one of the oldest in the book and I expect more from my fellow freethinkers, atheists and humanists. Have fun, get wild, and do what you will. But always remember that there are literally millions of people praying that we will fail and they are all too happy to facilitate the demise of this movement.
    United we stand. Divided we fall.

    • fredsalvador says

      You mean the typos, or the logical flatus?

      You can’t tell people what they should and should not deem acceptable behaviour in others – which is what you’re doing when you suggest people can act in any way that suits them.

      The reason you can’t is not because that leads to demonisation and schisms in “the community”; it’s because when you behave like a twat, other people feel violated, intimidated, pressured, uncomfortable, or any combination thereof.

      You’re also trying to paint the desire for sensitivity and consideration as some kind of false flag attack on “the community”. Don’t be silly. The community is not divided on this issue because Rebecca Watson is secretly a Westboro sleeper agent, but because male chauvinism is a big deal and yet people are determined to have us all behave as though it is irrelevant. That’s bad. Male chauvinism is harmful to women, wether you want to see it or not, and it manifests itself in myriad ways – some obvious, some subtle. Telling women their objections to being harrassed are born of emotional immaturity, or that their desire for harrasment policies at atheist events are hysterical overreactions – those are manifestations of male chauvinism. Don’t want to have people pestering you for sex? Tough shit; shut up and like it.

      tl;dr – If “the community” isn’t interested in affording all of it’s members the same level of courtesy and respect regardless of differences, then “the community” deserves to be fractured.

        • fredsalvador says

          … and with that ad hominem, you lose the argument. Go and join Rick Dawkins on the “Irrelevant Step”.

          (FYI: This post here = ad hom attacks and pointless barracking = trolling. Previous post = contrary opinion addressing points you raise in your original reply = not trolling. The Moar You Know!)

          • Rick says

            Thank you for replying Fred. I wish I were intelligent enough to understand what you’re trying to say. But alas I am a mere mortal.

            My advice stands. For those who attend such events, I hope this is taken in the spirit that was intended.

  36. Andre says

    “To give my personal criteria, I would identify as “sexual harassment” any type of sexual advances which don’t stop when you make it clear you want them to stop.

    Also, I find flirting to be inappropriate when there is any type of power imbalance (either obvious or implicit) which favors the person making the advances. Like when someone is being hit on by their employer, or by a co-worker who is also their superior, or by a teacher, etc.”

    This looks right to me. However I think it has to be looked at case by case, and sadly in many cases can only be known after the fact.

    • bluharmony says

      Agreed. I also appreciate that it was presented as “personal criteria.” Cristina is as smart as can be.

    • Rick says

      The notion that men of higher status or power should never approach women is a good one. I so wish that I could convince men to really listen to this and adhere to it.

      This would mean that any man or higher rank, status, income, education, or social class should stay within those confines. I SO agree with this. In fact, I feel so strongly in support of it that perhaps we should make it a law.

      I used to think this was ludicrous, but now I get it. Women and men would be forced to stick with partners of similar station and this would immediately alleviate all of this type of harassment.


  37. Alvin says

    As a man, I’ve experienced sexual harassment in the workplace all too often – it is usually office jobs – the women don’t seem to understand constant advances, sexually provocative talk, turning up to my house after hours, threatening my girlfriend, etc – is completely wrong. I’ve quit 3 jobs in the past to avoid further harassment. When complaining all i get is ‘wow, I wish that was happening to me, she’s hot!’ type crap from upper managers.

    I’m a fat, semi-repulsive, middle aged jerk with no dress sense – so if its happening to me its happening to everyone – or I’m just unlucky.

    Sexual harassment is a tricky subject – some people live their entire lives on innuendo and soak it up like sponges, becoming intensely angry if you refuse to acknowledge them. I’ve seen both men and women throw hissy fits because their advances have been dismissed.

    Since a lot of this conversation is focussed on men intimidating women – even small stature women can intimidate the hell out of a large man.

    Weirdly in bars men usually hit on me – since i’m straight, i don’t like it (although its good to know i have options 😛 ) – they are usually much easier to reject, they tend to just move along and avoid eye contact next time. Drunk women – completely grab and feel and become violent once I try and walk away.

    Now it sounds like everyone ‘wants me’ but it is rare i’m even noticed – i just attract crazies.

  38. Andre says

    Having just got caught up on all of this elevator stuff and I have to say this is kinda screwed up. Somehow I am just now finding out that every women looks at men as potential rapist, and that women are victims? This make me feel very ill, I just can’t buy into this.

    Honestly how many of you think a guy should cross the street when approaching a women at night?

    And how many of you think it is insulting to the women and degrading to the man?

    • bluharmony says

      The only thing I’m scared of in the elevator of a downtown hotel (going up one floor) is that it will get stuck. I don’t look at men as potential rapists, murderers, or anything of the sort. And I certainly don’t expect them to cross the street when they see me because a) I’m not that easily spooked; b) Stranger danger is largely a myth; and c) In case of real danger I’d be better off with the “nice” guy on my side. And yes, I’ve been raped, since that seems to be a credential you need to have an opinion on this matter, but it won’t stop me from being attacked. Just watch.

      • Andre says

        Mostly I am just finding people saying how dumb this is with a few people arguing in comments sections. I think it is safe to assume that this attitude is not shared by the community at large and was just the nonsense of one guy?

        • bluharmony says

          It’s shared by much of the FTB crowd and by third wave academic feminists (a school of thought that’s largely at odds with science and reason), hence all the problems. The rest of us are too busy living life to give a damn, really.

  39. Rick says

    I have participated in several discussions on sexual harassment. From a legal perspective, in the workplace, there are two types (at least the last time I checked) 1- Quid pro quo; and 2 – Hostile environment.
    At work, if one asks for sexual favors in return for something else (a raise, job, not get fired, etc) then this is classis quid pro quo (this for that). Hostile environment is a trickier concept because it is often subjective, but the words “egregious, repeated and sustained” are often used to identify these behaviors. Sexual harassment in a bar or at a conference is a different matter. Clearly there are legal guidelines (of which I am not aware) but since the power is assumed to be relatively equal in a bar (one is not a teacher or boss, for example) then the woman can always say “go away” without repercussions.
    How could one legislate such behavior? How does one enforce a policy instituted by event organizers? Who is the “judge” of such things? By what criteria are such things measured?
    I would imagine that this would be especially difficult in a room full of freethinkers who do not accept the stricter norms one might find in other contexts.

    At the end of the day, it seems, we are left with our good judgment and sense of decorum on one hand, and the freewill to walk away or respond appropriately on the other hand.

      • Rick says

        Right. I am aware of Thunderf00t’s mistreatment. You can expect more of this. It is to be expected as I suggested above. I have yet to start a blog, so I cannot easily be banned. Thunderf00t will continue. S ometimes such things actuall create more publicity than intended.

      • Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

        maybe if you repeat this lie 7,000 more time, it will magically become true!

        • Rick says

          Where is the lie?

          I am pretty sure blueharmony was talking about Thunderfoot being banned. If I am wrong about it being Thunderfoot, then I beg your pardon. But it is not an intentional lie.

          That future allegations of sexual harrassment are likely to occur? I am willing to bet on it. That is no lie, just conjecture/speculation on my part.Take that as you will. You have been warned. There are consequences to such occurences. These consequences reflect on all atheists. Please keep that in mind.

          That there are literally millions of people who hate atheists/freethinkers/humanists, and would use such news (sexual harrassment) to “prove” their point about how immoral and crazy we are; well that too perhaps is conjecture on my part – but I will not cite sources here as I assume the people to whom my comments are directed already know this. I am content with what I have read as sufficient evidence to support my conclusions. You too can test my assumptions by doing your own homework.

          But to say that I am presenting a lie is innacurate. This appears to be trolling to me. And I just fed you. Congrats on that. It won’t happen again.

  40. Andre says

    “Oh btw ….being physically stronger is also a power imbalance when the other person has no means to escape if they wish to. (e.g. a closed space, like, say, an elevator?)”

    This is a minor issue but this kinda rules out sex on a boat… or in a locked room or really any private place with someone who is stronger then you. I would assume maybe adding something like “when dealing with someone I don’t know?” is implied… but if so why?

  41. Rick says

    I have three children – two boys and a girl. The way I explain such things to them is this: If someone tells you that you are bothering/teasing/harassing them, then you probably are. So if someone says “stop” you stop. Period. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t mean to do it, or if everyone else is doing it, or if that person is being unfair or overly sensitive.

    If my kids are on the receiving end of harassment, they should tell the person to stop – forcefully and calmly (and one-on-one if possible – audiences make things worse sometimes). They can be as forceful as necessary to defend themselves – I do not tell them to refrain from being mean, rude or even physical when it comes to defending themselves in school or the playground

    What I hope they take away is a sense that harassment is almost impossible to define from the perspective of the offender, but requires no definition from the perspective of the receiver/victim. No means “no” every time. Period. The maile/female dichotmoy is virtually irrelevant here as this applies to all unwanted behavior and not just sexual harrassment.

    The challenge is that the harasser may continue this behavior, but it is not my child’s job to straighten out people who are struggling with social skills. Just walk away and stay away from trouble makers (on the web, trolls are the equivalent).

    No advice is perfect for every sitation – so how can I make this advice even better?

  42. Anthrogirl says

    This post really hit home with me. I haven’t attended TAM yet (next year though), but I have attended other Atheist and Skeptic events. I was also a member of CFI and other groups when I lived in Tampa. Oh..and Im a young woman also.
    In every meeting and get together, the men were always polite. Yes, I did get asked out sometimes, but always in a respectful manner and the men always gracefully took no for an answer. I started thinking that sexual harassment was rare in the Atheist community. Then, I attended a dinner hosted by…well, I won’t say by whom but it was a well known Atheist organization. During dinner an older woman kept staring at me. I didn’t pay it too much attention because I was sitting next to two well known Atheists whoose books I loved and I was happy to be talking with them.
    After dinner , I got up to use the restroom. This woman followed me into the public restroom and stopped me to tell me that she was sorry if she was staring but that I had “such a beautiful face” that she couldn’t help it (WTF?!) I thanked her and just shrugged it off. I am not homosexual and I was very young at the time; I didn’t realize that this was a come on.
    Well, after dinner as I was getting into my car she came up behind me and before I could stop her, she slid her hand up my skirt. When I said no, she pushed me against my car really hard and tried to kiss me. When I got upset and pushed her away she muttered an apology and walked quickly away. I never told anyone about it and I never went to another of those dinners ever again. It wasn’t the organization’s fault, but I just didn’t want to possibly run into her again. I don’t know why I didn’t report it. I was only 19 and it was another woman who was very popular in the local Atheist community. I was really confused and felt like it was my fault somehow. Anyway, just wanted to share my story with you. Harassers aren’t always male. I apologize for any typos or grammatical errors, I am typing this on my IPhone.

  43. Anthrogirl says

    Anyway, if you would have asked me at the time if I had been sexually harassed, I would have probably said no. I know that for me, there is a lot of denialism that goes on (not just with that incident but with others as well).

  44. bluharmony says

    That’s not sexual harassment, that’s sexual assault (and a criminal act that most don’t bother reporting).

  45. michaelpowers says

    In my youth, I once did something similar to the movie clip, although much more slowly. It’s an intricate dance, requiring one to be fully aware. I gave her time to observe my body language, while observing hers. It was, I think, enough time to pull away, or find some handy blunt object. She didn’t. We kissed, then ended up dating for a few months. I wasn’t the one for her, nor her me. For me, that was years away. In those years, I met many more women. Some I dated, but most were friends and aquaintences (some are still). It was during that time that I found out that there are actually some women who would have kissed me that day, simply in order not to hurt my feelings. The thought horrified me on a number of levels. I began to wonder if there were times I failed to communicate who I really was.

    I guess the point I’m trying to make, is that when a man makes a woman feel uncomfortable, it’s generally out of ignorance, or malice. It’s my hope that the former can be forgiven, provided one is willing to learn.

    • Rick says

      On more than one occasion I have grabbed a woman and pulled her in for a kiss. It has never been rebuffed or rejected.

      Men just need to be able to ‘read the tea leaves’ better than they do. Being strong and bold is a good thing as long as it is backed up by real confidence, honest intentions, and reciprocal feelings.

  46. Rick says

    There is a clear and undeniable reality in all of this. The definition of harassment ultimately resides completely in the mind of the aggrieved. I wish all men knew better how to conduct themselves, but they do not unfortunately.

    Let me be clear that most men understand what constitutes inappropriate behavior. I have worked with and around scrillions of people in my life (NYC & lots of world travel) and such things are quite rare actually – at least in my experience. When I say rare, I want to put that in the context of billions of people and daily life. They sure get a lot of press though. Maybe I just work with awesome people and am isolated from the worst of it. But I no longer buy the stats that have been sold to me.

    I think that some women, for reasons I cannot easily imagine, are harassed more than others. I wish I had data on this, but I think it is worthy of discussion. Is it their looks? Is is her demeanor or some contextual thing?

    Some men’s rights advocates suggest that if the man is attractive it is called flirting, when he is old or ugly it is harassment. While I see the challenge with this statement, there is a nugget of truth there.

    If a woman adopts a strong feminist perspective, then she will likely adhere to the norms of that group and belief system. It makes perfect sense that she would be more likely to categorize a wider array of behaviors as harassment than an average woman. I have no data on this, just a hunch, which seems to be supported by the very existence of this thread.

    That is not to say that all feminists think the same, just a pattern of expectations that should be expected.

    Men are being raised with very conflicting messages coupled with very strong biological urges. This is bad combination. I get the sense that men are sort of quitting the conversation these days. We are allowing the few sacrificial offenders to pay the price for their own poor upbringing. What else is there to do?

    If a man adopts a feminist perspective this works out great if and only if he has a very centered and connected woman. Otherwise he is doomed. You can find supporting perspectives elsewhere.

    In the same way that women have been pushing for more reasonable treatment by society, so too are men stepping forward and demanding the same.

    I can only hope that this does not fall on deaf ears. Men are not bad.

  47. A. Greebler says

    Oh come off it. You can’t get your hair and skin looking the way it does from just getting up in the morning. So much for casual.

    If 40% of the guys hadn’t hit on you in the bar you would have wondered, “what is this? a gay bar?” In orther words, how conld they not hit on you. It was like the singer Jewel who was wondering why Bob Dylan didn’t hit on her…”I mean, look at me” she said.
    What a load.

  48. Data Jack says

    So, people only dress nicely because they expect to get hit on? They never do so just to feel good, or for their loved ones? And you said, “how conld (sic) they not hit on you”. So straight men MUST hit on attractive women? They have to? what happens if they don’t? I have never hit on Cristina, and as far as I know, none of our mutual acquaintances have either. Are we breaking some kind of rule by not hitting on an attractive woman just because we share the same room?

    • A. Greebler says

      Of course you only dress nicely for yourself. And if you went a whole day without someone talking about how you looked it wouldn’t matter right? I was on a street once and the guys were making the comments at the girls walked by. Finally one girl stopped in her tracks, turned to the guy and said, “Hey you, what are you looking at:”
      And the guys said, “I’m looking at you. You must be the best looking girl I’ve seen all day” And amazingly she didn’t have a come back….it was just expected. Please answer: if no one hit on you at that job wouldn’t you think you were in a gay bar? Please be honest.

  49. Data Jack says

    Your reading comprehension seems to be a little off. I never said I dress nicely for myself. I don’t dress nicely for anyone. And I do go many days without people complimenting me on my looks – with the exception of my wife, who, often compliments me 🙂 So, if these guys you speak of did hit on me, then I would think it’s a gay bar. Since I am a guy, and married 23 years at that.

    I was talking about Criss. She does indeed dress up and pretty up because it makes her feel good. She is not doing it for attention, and she is certainly not doing it so guys will hit on her.

    And no woman I know – none of them – appreciates being cat-called from the street. It is vulgar and rude, in every circumstance. And none of the guy friends I know do that. If they did, they would quickly be my friends no longer.

    You asserted “how could guys not hit on you” if you are an attractive woman. That is crude, and betrays a gross misunderstanding of the behavior of men and women. Here is an idea. The next time you see a pretty girl, and you feel compelled to hit on her, just don’t do it. That is how you can not hit on a girl. By not hitting on her. I don’t hit on pretty girls all the time. I don’t even hit on Criss when she is around. It’s easy not to hit on pretty girls. Try it.

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