Putting your (thunder)foot in it

I haz a sad.

Look I’ll make it simple, the point of a bar isn’t to make everyone maximally safe (indeed if it were, they would ban bars, as it would be far safer if everyone just stayed at home and did nothing), it’s to let everyone have the most amount of fun.  The reason people don’t go to bars that are maximally safe, is because they are DULL, with folks always living in fear of crossing some random rule written by  some hypersensitive pencil-necked PC jockey.

Thus does my new blog-neighbour thunderf00t button his argument that sexual harassment policies at conferences are onerous and unnecessary. Apparently TF thinks that asking conferences to put in place clear policies about how sexual harassment and assault will be handled will deprive him of his favourite bar-night activity: eating the calves of strangers.

A picture of thunderf00t biting someone's leg

I wish I was making this up. I’m not.

So I want to quickly get one thing out of the way. Different blogs and bloggers have different styles, and I am not at all insensitive to the fact that there is the need to grant some artistic license even to bloggers. That being said, if you format your post like it’s a Mabus spam e-mail (with random caps, senseless bolding, inconsistent colour changes), you should have to sit in the DUNCE corner for a little while and think about what you did. Thus ends the snobbery.

So yeah, TF evidently thinks that a) bars exist to maximize fun, and b) sexual harassment policies make it impossible (or at least more difficult) to have fun. I suppose embedded in that assumption is the idea that there isn’t a problem worth addressing in the first place, which is frankly very stupid. To that end, TF points out the above picture as an example of a time when he was having fun at a bar with another person without requiring the arduous task of first establishing whether or not she was okay with that kind of spontaneous physical contact. To wit:



Nor do I see why everyone who is happy with such bars should have to comply to your dull set of rules that would SPECIFICALLY PROHIBIT EXACTLY THE SORT OF FUN GOING ON IN THIS PICTURE.

Here’s the thing… if you’re going to go on a long ranty post about the evils of strawmanning people, you might want to avoid doing so yourself. What everyone has been talking about literally this entire time is enforcing harassment policies – not exchanging sexual behaviour contracts. Amazingly, some people don’t find it fun when they are groped, pestered, and otherwise ogled by people who believe it’s their right to maximize their own fun at someone else’s expense. For some reason, the fun of the people in that first group doesn’t really seem to make its way into the utilitarian calculus that TF claims is so clearly obvious.

Of course, what TF doesn’t know (and probably couldn’t know) is that I was a bouncer at a bar (a few bars, actually) for a number of years. Here’s a weird factoid factlet (Matt Penfold has rightly pointed out that I am using the word ‘factoid’ incorrectly) that might blow TF’s mind: bars actually do have sexual harassment policies. However, when they (we) enforce those policies, they often take the form of punches in the face and getting your ass dragged outside by a bunch of ‘roid-swollen malcontents who’ve been watching your drunk ass try to inappropriately touch that woman under her dress for the last half hour and are really excited to fight.

Despite TF’s assertions to the contrary, having security at bars that enforce sexual harassment policies doesn’t actually spoil the fun for anybody except the total sleazebuckets that break them. Here’s another fun factlet: those same sleazebuckets often come back to the same bars, hopefully sufficiently chastened that they don’t do that shit again. If not, then you’d better believe they get tossed and banned. The reason why bars have those policies in the first place is because (drumroll) they want women to come to the bars. I’ve known a few places that had really lax security, and they were nowhere near the most popular establishments. Weird how that works, eh? Almost as if having a reputation as a pit of iniquity kept people from wanting to spend their money there.

This isn’t difficult: if you want women to be part of your conference, you have to listen to them when they tell you that X is a problem. You can whine all you want about how you don’t personally think it’s a problem, or that their having a problem is spoiling your good time, or that you (and not they) are the grand arbiter of what is reasonable behaviour. But you can’t do that and then turn around and express dismay that female attendance is down.

So thunderf00t, if your position is seriously “I should be allowed to chew on people’s legs without making sure they’re comfortable with it first” then yeah – you’re the problem. Sure, you personally might be a real limb-chompin’ Don Juan. Not everyone is blessed with your suaveness and ability to seamlessly establish consent through what I guess is some combination of telepathy and pheromones. A lot of people do creepy shit at conferences, and when the response is “oh well, creepers gonna creep”, you can’t act all shocked and dismayed when people avoid your crappy club for jerks.

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P.S. There is apparently a conspiracy theory out there that the FTBorg co-ordinates these things on the back channel. I guess you’ll just have to decide how trustworthy I am when I tell you that this isn’t true.


  1. Gnumann, quisling of the MRA nation says

    Thus ends the snobbery.

    And the People saw the Snobbery and all agreed that the Snobbery was good.

    I’m a tolerant person, but there are limits to my patience about crimes against readability. Especially when the content is crap.

    And the rest of this excellent post demonstrates that (and I am in no way paid to say that by the secret FtB cabal).

  2. says

    The woman in the picture posted a comment in Thunderf00t’s first post saying that she was also having a good time and she proceeded to join in the strawmanning about outlawing good times being had by all.

    Which shows that the action in the photo was consensual. That being so, reasonable people would expect that they either knew each other previously, or they had some level of discussion that included all sorts of social cues before he started devouring her leg.

    However, what she did not do is give every man at the bar permission to then come up, grab a leg, and have a nosh. That’s what harassment policies are about.

  3. MichaelD says

    Still enthusiastically agrees with this post! ^.^

    off topic: My account messages seem to be getting gobbled up 0.0

  4. 'Tis Himself says

    Apparently sexual harassment isn’t a problem for Thunderfoot and so it isn’t a problem for anyone.

  5. Rory says

    I was pretty disappointed by how solidly wrong he was on this one, and sadly it seems like he’s only doubled down on it.

  6. Beauzeaux says

    In general, most of us are not as smart (or funny) as we think we are. But this Thunderbucket breaks new ground in that area.

    The inability to put yourself in another person’s shoes is part of the problem. Also the serious reluctance to consider even briefly that he might be wrong.

    Feminists are often accused of being anti-male. Honestly, with guys like this it requires iron self-discipline not to hate men. I’ve been a feminist since the 1970s and it’s so depressing that this discussion is still going on. It’s not that I’m surprised that some men don’t “get it” — hell, they can learn. It’s those who happily wallow in neck-deep misogyny and can’t wait to tell the world about it.

  7. Matt Penfold says

    Great post, but please, factoid is not a “mini-fact”, it is an untrue fact, or something posing as a fact but in fact is not one.

  8. DaveL says


    Once again we see the trope, usually advanced by rape apologists, that consent is tricky. Consent, it is argued, is either a stiff bureaucratic legal formalism, or else a minefield of nebulous mixed signals. While certainly instances of each can be found, the bare facts are that most of the time consent is easy. Consent arises and is understood, verbally and nonverbally, between friends or between strangers, just about every minute of our waking lives. I’m sure TF is aware of this as well, at least on some level, otherwise he’d walk into a bar and randomly chomp on someone’s leg.

  9. Matt Penfold says

    It one of the two things I am pedantic about, language-wise.

    The other is the use of “momentarily” to mean “in a moment” rather than “for a moment”.

  10. says

    most of us are not as smart (or funny) as we think we are

    I have no idea what you’re talking about. My self-aggrandizement is entirely commensurate with my objective brilliance and hilarity. True story.

    it’s so depressing that this discussion is still going on

    So I’ve alluded to this a few times before, but I used to be a guy who would probably agree 100% with TF. This wasn’t ages ago either; this was maybe a handful of years ago. The conversation was new to me, and because I hadn’t spent any real time thinking about systematic misogyny (in the same way that I had made a careful study of systematic racism), I thought it was all just a bunch of silly whining. I’m only in this conversation very recently. So yeah – the fact that ‘we’ are ‘still’ having this conversation is perhaps a reflection of the fact that a bunch of the ‘we’ have never really talked about this stuff before.

  11. J. J. Ramsey says

    What’s interesting is that contrary to his claims, a sexual harassment policy wouldn’t necessarily have gotten in the way of his consensual good time. Take, for example, this bit from the OpenSF policy:

    No touching other people without asking! (Or unless you already have that sort of relationship with them.)

    In this case, he apparently already had that sort of relationship, as “MyLegMYCHOICE” indicated when she said “this was nothing more than HARMLESS HORSEPLAY BETWEEN FRIENDS.” Thunderf00t is acting as if he expects harassment policies to be written by Vogons or Puritans, rather than be codifications of fair play and good sense, when that doesn’t have to be the case.

  12. julian says

    And that’s what annoys me about the “chill girls” who get involved in these arguments. It’s as if they think these policies are all about removing the ability to consent to this sort of behavior. Which would be something worth fighting over (in most cases) but so not even close to what anti-harassment policies are even about.

    Consent is the key word.

  13. Gen, Uppity Ingrate. says

    So yeah – the fact that ‘we’ are ‘still’ having this conversation is perhaps a reflection of the fact that a bunch of the ‘we’ have never really talked about this stuff before.

    And that’s sad. 🙁

    Not in a “blame and shame” kind of way, in a weary, “but-hey-maybe-by-the-next-generation-this-will-be-a-staple?” kind of way.

    Thanks for a great post.

  14. Pierce R. Butler says

    … eating the calves of strangers.

    Pedantically: he seems to prefer shins.

  15. says

    I don’t know that I’d use the word ‘sad’ so much as ‘frustrating’. Nobody can convince me that America, on the whole, is worse for women now than it was in the 1970s. The progress is never as quick as we’d like it to be (or that it ought to be), but I don’t think that the persistence of the need for conversation in indicative of a complete lack of meaningful forward motion.

  16. Utakata says

    Actually, I was at a house party over the weekend where the venue’s security did remove somebody for harrassing his girlfriend. So yeah…they have policies. And suppose if Thunderf00l was gnawing on someone’s leg without consent at the same, he would of likely been removed too.

  17. Gen, Uppity Ingrate. says

    I don’t know that I’d use the word ‘sad’ so much as ‘frustrating’. Nobody can convince me that America, on the whole, is worse for women now than it was in the 1970s. The progress is never as quick as we’d like it to be (or that it ought to be), but I don’t think that the persistence of the need for conversation in indicative of a complete lack of meaningful forward motion.

    This is true.

  18. Matt Penfold says

    I once used to work at a community theatre that held marriages and receptions.

    At one reception where I was FOHMing I threw out the boyfriend of the bride’s best friend for harassing other guests. I had intended to ask him to tone down his behaviour, but he wanted to fight me. So the bouncers unceremoniously ejected him. No one, not even his girlfriend seemed very upset.

  19. Utakata says

    Oh sorry…I should of qualified: An one-off event that hosted house music dj’s (not the Grothe kind). There where two large rooms. It was packed to the rafters. Either the event organizers or the venue had a large security detail present. They obviously had an anti-harrassment policy implace.

    …but my apologies for not being clearer. 🙁

  20. says

    Isn’t it possible for people with so much in common to disagree over an issue without being a-holes about it. You are all a bunch of sanctimonious navel gazers. I can’t believe anyone goes to these conferences in the first place.

  21. anonatheist says

    Hi Crommunist,

    since you are a (former) bouncer you can probably answer that question. Say you are a bouncer in a bar and a woman comes up to you and says she was harassed. And you ask her what happened. And she says during the evening ten guys (the guys did not know each other) hit on her one after the other and every time the guys were not overly obnoxious but she told each of them to go away and they went away without any further ado. Now objectively she has been sexually harassed. I think there is not much arguing about that. Would you throw out the ten guys? Or what would you do?

  22. says

    I see the parallel case you think you’re drawing here, and if the problem was that some guys make flirtatious advances at conferences, you’d have a point. But that’s not the problem and never has been the problem.

  23. KT says

    I am seriously weirded out about how much pushback there is on this issue.

    (1) If it’s not an important issue, then why keep responding to it? Before DJ Grothe said “Hey guyz you’re ruining thangs stop talking,” from my perspective it was a group of interested parties having a discussion and seeing if they could get conferences interested in helping out. It wasn’t anything huge or intrusive at all. Seems to me if you think it’s not important, then you could just stay out of the discussion. If not enough people are interested, it won’t go anywhere. Now it’s a really high profile issue, mostly made so by all the people who are desperate for everyone to stop talking about it. Personally, I think that’s a good thing, so thanks for making this famous, haters! But if you don’t think it’s worth talking about, complaining about it non-stop sure won’t make it go away.

    (2) For all the talk about how the problem of harassment is overblown by the people who are pro-policy, I am of the opinion that the fear of negative effects based on having a policy are what is overblown. Tons of places have codes of conduct, as Crom illustrated. People don’t tend to report things as violations when they are a-ok with them happening. If I were single and having a great time flirting with someone back and forth and some stuff naturally happened, I’m not going to report it, because duh, I was into it! If someone else tries to “white knight” me by reporting it, I would simply explain that it was totally consensual, move on please. I also doubt that having a policy also comes with prude-bots that scan the premises for any flirting to be shut down immediately. Security tends to look for serious situations that need immediate attention or address complaints made directly to them.

  24. Jay says

    If she told them to go away and they did I don’t know if that is harassment. That sounds like two reasonable adults behaving well.

    If what they said was lewd or offensive in the judgement of the woman or the establishment, then yes it was.

  25. daviddurant says

    Does seem rather weird that someone with a PoV on the, sadly, main topic being discussed on FtB these days that is so opposed to the other folks on here was added very recently.

    I’m very surprised he wasn’t asked his opinion on such things before being asked to join. It’d be very interesting to know what the joining procedure is.

    Then again, for some completely unknown reason, FtB also hosts Physioprof who only ever seems to rant incoherent rubbish so… *shrug*

  26. daviddurant says

    Heh – fair enough.

    Just to clarify I said “sadly” in the parent post as apart from Ed’s posts and the SA blogothon this topic seems to be sucking up almost everyone’s time when there are lots of other issues out there that people could be reporting on.

    Yes, it’s a real issue. Yes, it’s important. But it’s not the only thing our community is doing at the moment.

  27. Pandademic says

    But KT, you wouldn’t need people to actively scan for sexual harassment to report! As Thunderfoot pointed out, if harassment happens, everyone in the room will know about it! Especially if it happens in a loud and crowded bar!


    It seems that the people who are so concerned about the tiniest risk of their innocent behavior being deemed against the rules, are perfectly comfortable with the risk of women being harassed and having no support without those rules. It’s funny how that works.

    And by “funny,” I mean “ggyyyyaaaaagggghh.”

  28. says

    In the last month, I think I’ve written about this maybe twice? It’s not as though we have a finite number of things we can care about.

    Sexual harassment is not the only thing our community is doing at the moment. It is also not the only thing FTB is talking about at the moment.

  29. KT says

    Well yeah, cause if a professional organization dings you for doing something against the rules it will ruin your reputation forever, obviously.

    I mean what if there had been a policy in that bar where Thunderfoot had bit the lady’s leg? He probably would have had to sign on for the sex offender registry, been banned from every bar, and had to wear a special mouthpiece from now on. All because there was a policy.

    It’s just like that one time at that high school government event where I drank alcohol even though it wasn’t allowed and I got in trouble. Now I can never run for public office.

    The stakes are high, here.

  30. SuperMental says

    Good point daviddurant. These guys sure like to go at it.
    I occasionally end up learning something.
    Sad though are the times when one person becomes completely uncivilized… Although in the example that comes to my mind, that person apologized and deleted their entire post.

    As for FTB, I like JT’s approach. He keeps any mistakes up there for the world to see. Takes guts to do that. One of the many reasons I respect and like him.

  31. says

    These guys sure like to go at it. I occasionally end up learning something.

    I’m glad to hear it. That’s why we do it. Well, it’s why I do it, anyway.

    in the example that comes to my mind, that person apologized and deleted their entire post.

    I have honestly never seen that before. Given that this blog is, for me, a way of measuring my progress on things, it would do me very little good to delete my mistakes. In fact, I try to draw attention to them whenever possible.

  32. Annie says

    Thank you, Ian! I’m a Southerner so I haven’t been to the conferences (none appear to be comin’ too near me anytime soon – *tear*) but if the opportunity finally does present itself – and I’m hopeful that it will – the last thing I want to encounter is some of those game culture douchebro tits-or-gtfo guys flourishing in the crowd. What a way to shit up my day. That would definitely not play out well.

  33. says

    Well I have good/bad news for you, which is that those douchebros are pretty much everywhere, not just atheist conferences. We’re just the ones trying to do something about it.

  34. Robert B. says

    If you did coordinate these responses on the back channel, it would be pretty dumb of you. How would that go, exactly? “Okay, guys, first PZ’s gonna say X, and then Greta will say X too, and then Ian will say X, and then JT will say the exact same X…” “Hey, wait, wouldn’t it be easier to just write the post once and all sign it?” “… SILENCE, MINION!”

    Honestly, some people. FTB is, among other things, a political project. So, colleagues on a political project often have similar opinions on issues? Did anyone really have such a low prior probability for that, that they need to posit conspiracy theories?

  35. Mike N says

    Well said – I think that’s the best rebuttal I’ve read to date, and has helped me get things straight in my own head.

    I confess, when I read TF’s first post I thought, “what an arse”. Then I thought about it and thought “maybe he’s got a bit of a point there, and it’s not coming across well because of the way he writes”. I figured that, yes, people (of all genders) tend to go to bars to have fun, and in doing so accept certain behaviours in others that may not be acceptable outside the confines of the bar. Many people would not attempt to hit on another person “in real life”, as in many cases it just doesn’t seem appropriate, but would feel comfortable approaching somebody (respectfully, I might add!) in a bar.

    You’ve helped put it into perspective, and I return to my original “what an arse” standpoint, so thank you! 🙂

    (P.S. Nothing wrong with a little snobbery now and then …)

  36. embertine says

    If this has anything to do with Elevatorgate, you should perhaps amend the analogy to the guys following her to the toilets and blocking her into a cubicle after already hearing that she was on her way home to bed because she had work in the morning.

  37. Utakata says

    No. It’s just that Occam’s Razor gets conveniently shelved anytime ERV slimepitte…I mean certain contrarians, starts debating about the working mechanics of FtB.

  38. says


    ….except from my POV, a bunch of people around these parts *are* “the next generation”. And we’re still having arguments that I settled in my own mind 30 years ago.

    OK, that was depressing. Sorry.

  39. A Hermit says

    There’s a terrific analogy at Alethian Worldview…just replace “harassment” with “panhandling” and imagine how the conversation would play out…here’s a taste: http://freethoughtblogs.com/alethianworldview/2012/06/27/sexual-panhandling/

    “…the complaint I think I’m hearing is not coming from women who expect the crowds to part and everyone to bow as they walk past in pristine purity. The complaint I hear is that the panhandling is getting out of hand. It’s not that they can’t or won’t respond appropriately to the rare, isolated incident, it’s that the frequency, severity, and persistence of the incidents is raising the nuisance level above acceptable limits…

    …Women shouldn’t have to put up with that sexually any more than any of us should have to put up with it monetarily. And all it takes is for people to agree that, yes, that’s unacceptable, and we have policies against it, and we actively enforce those policies. We shouldn’t need to call in the police and have anyone arrested (except in rare cases), we just need to take a firm stand.

    I thought that summed up the situation nicely.

  40. says

    For the past two days, I’ve been quietly watching the comments on TF’s two posts and rapidly losing hope for humanity. Thanks for your perspective. It renews a little of that waning hope.

    As I’ve said to others and I’ll say here, it’s not greta or rebecca or pz or greg or you who are making me worried about going to skeptic events. Mentioning there is a problem and talking about addressing it seems like a good thing and makes me feel optimistic that my experiences will be positive. What scares the ever loving bejebus out of me is the idea that if I mention that someone harassed me, I’ll be opening myself up to a review of my sexual history, an assessment of my physical worthiness of harassment/assault (which, jeeze, really? I do not want to be “worthy” of either, thank you) and a constant barrage of physical and sexual threats, all of which will be presented as a legitimate skeptical response to my concern. I’ll be told that if I didn’t go to the FBI or file a formal complaint, then my concern is just anecdote and doesn’t count. I have no issue with the fact that the world is full of various risks that I have to weigh. I’ve never felt entitled to a risk free life, anywhere. But I do expect that if I pay to go to a privately run event that I can expect the owners, operators and leaders in the community to have a unanimous consensus that they do not want their customers, speakers and panelists to feel their safety concerns will be dismissed or worse. Events can’t fully prevent bad things from happening but they be prepared and openly willing to address concerns that come up. The people who think their “fun” trumps other people’s safety should be laughed out of town.

    And it’s not gender specific. As a relatively small individual, I have no more right to harass someone than a more physically substantial person does. No one should have to feel like a confrontation is necessary to establish a boundary. The logistics of who would win a physical fight are irrelevant. A good harassment policy would mean that everyone would feel they had the conference’s and communities support if someone is not taking an obvious “no” for an answer.

  41. ischemgeek says

    I know. It’s like, “OMFG! People who work for the ACLU often have similar opinions on gay marriage and voters rights! Conspiracy!”

    Or, maybe, they wouldn’t be working for the ACLU if they didn’t agree with the message? Stuff like this doesn’t tend to pay well, so I doubt they’re in it for the money.

  42. says

    So the thing that often gets lost in the shouting is that many conferences immediately saw the value of establishing these guidelines.

    Desiree Schell from Skeptically Speaking said something about the fight for women’s civil rights that really stuck with me:

    It was loud, it was messy, but hey, now I can vote

    There will always be loud and obnoxious retrograde stupidity raging at the leading edge of any social justice movement. There will be the depressing litany of camp followers who wring their hands and admonish ‘both sides’ to ‘tone it down’ and focus on where they agree. There will be those who think that the whole exercise is a ‘waste of time’ and that we have ‘better things to do’. And after all of those people have shut the hell up, the world will have become a slightly more just place because of the people who refused to stop fighting.

    We’re getting better. It’s happening. You just have to figure out a way to hear over the din of argument.

  43. ischemgeek says

    This. I’ve ranted in other places about why ‘just fight back’ makes no sense. I tend to avoid talking about why it sends a bad message because I find people usually respond with “but it works” so then I have to go into why it makes no sense anyway, but this is a more eloquent explanation to why it’s wrong than I think I could manage anyway.

    This is the 21st century. People shouldn’t have to use physical force in order to have their boundaries and rights as a person respected. And, yes, I get that it happens but that doesn’t mean it’s okay.

  44. says

    I think you are right and even DJ who has made a few major missteps with the conversation, seems to genuinely want to make TAM events welcoming and safe. I love that quote from Desiree, btw 🙂

  45. says

    @ischemgeek yah, I’m a bit tired of hearing how I should take self defense courses and/or carry a gun and then I’ll never have to feel uncertain again.

    There are two problems, the first being the assumption that I would somehow be happy to have to get into a physical altercation with someone simply because I feel I can win the fight. Definitely not true. I also don’t like to get into screaming matches even if I feel I am able to properly defend my argument. Neither approach comes naturally to more nor do I find them ideal outcomes. What I want is to avoid those situations. If I have a problem at a store, I don’t want to have to out-shout the owner I want to be know I can reasonably express my concern and those concerns will be reasonably responded to. The same is true of harassment. If someone oversteps a boundary, I want to be able to stop it from progressing before it escalates not vanquish a foe in a battle to the death.

    But the other problem with the idea is that it assumes that you’ve overcome the size/strength disparity by having a weapon or martial arts training but neither of those things are awarded only to frail, and/or diminutive people. There isn’t a grand life-handicapper making sure that someone who is small gets the biggest gun or the most natural ability at martial arts. I might have a knife or a green belt in karate. The other person might have a bigger knife or a black belt. It’s this whole idea that the onus is on the potential victim to have the tactical advantage over any possible aggressor that seems really unrealistic at its core.

  46. SuperMental says

    The deletion happened once. In my view it was to indicate that the matter was being laid to rest, and apologies were accepted.
    I know you would never delete anything. I also enjoyed your response to TF.

  47. says

    What bugs me to death about this is that, as a person who is not comfortable being touched, period, by anyone who does not fall under the category of a) someone with whom I am having sex/involved in a relationship or b) someone to whom I gave birth, I am constantly expected to abandon my personal boundaries in order to avoid being the rude bitch who doesn’t want to be hugged/kissed/fucking calf-bitten/whatever. It’s a buzzkill, after all, to decide who touches you when and where; I find this to be true both with members of my family, who completely ignore my frequent statements about touch (down to one recently saying, “I know that you don’t like this, but,” and then hugging me anyway), and complete strangers, who have been taught for unfathomable reasons that everyone is equally fond of being touched and personal boundaries ain’t a thang. If I have been talking to this asshat in a bar and he decided that it was a good time to gnaw on my leg, I would probably laugh nervously but put on a convincing performance of consent because I have learned that to do otherwise is to be the buzzkilling bitch who just hates a good time. It makes me think of when JT (whose gawdawful mansplaining condescension to me resulted in my departing his readership) said that he’s just such a hugger, and he will probably hug you! Because, you know, you don’t need consent to hug people, or to gnaw on their legs.

    Just, why is “don’t touch the people unless you have established boundaries” such a hard rule? And what the hell is with the infestation of misogynist assholes on FTB lately? Most of you are great bloggers, but man, you’ve got some special on here, too.

  48. says

    So as far as I can see you’re running into a couple of issues. The first of these is that some forms of physical contact are considered ‘okay’ in our society even in the absence of consent. They are socially normative, and vary widely by country. The second is how we react when people behave in ways that aren’t socially normative. Do we accommodate or do we punish?

    I am not super-keen on certain forms of socially-acceptable physical contact, but like you point out sometimes it becomes necessary to prioritize your own comfort below that of others in order to facilitate group interactions. However, when someone has made the clear statement “I am not okay with this”, then it is also socially normative to acquiesce to that statement. Anyone who tells me they don’t like getting hugged isn’t fucking very well getting hugged by me! I don’t really understand anyone who says “fuck your discomfort, I’ma just do what I feel”.

    Actually, that’s not true. I understand saying it if your position is “I don’t care whether or not you feel comfortable here”. If a theist tells me that my religious blogging makes hir feel uncomfortable, then I am fairly likely to say “well that’s too bad, because I’ma just do what I feel”. I feel justified in this response because I have no interest in making the necessary adjustments to accommodate theism in this very anti-theist blog.

    It comes back to this, as far as I’m concerned: if you care enough to want certain people (or groups of people) to be involved, then you have to make some accommodation. Most people in minority positions are already making accommodations, but need to be met part of the way. If you don’t care, then you don’t have to make any adjustment at all. But you can’t bloody well turn around and say “Gee, why isn’t Jennifer coming to this thing?” It’s because you made it obvious that you didn’t want her there badly enough to make a space for her.

  49. drbunsen le savant fou says

    And that is for me the most disturbing recurrent theme in these discussions. Yo out there people, if you have trouble understanding that consent is kind of the whole deal here, or even what consent is, do us all a favor and stay home.

  50. drbunsen le savant fou says

    And hearing her say at least twice that she unequivocally does not come to bars to be hit on and does not appreciate it.

  51. drbunsen le savant fou says

    I’m not so sure that analogy works, Crom. Your blog is your house; it’s an extension of your space, so to speak, and the putative religionist coming here to whine about your blogging first has to come here. In the case that they are whining here, you are within your rights to show them the door.

    You have established what is and is not acceptable in your space, and so has Jennifer. Neither of you should be expected to accomodate others against your wishes in your own space. Disregarding either of those stated boundaries is just plain rude.

    Meanwhile, your top post is full of win and ponies 🙂

  52. smhll says

    She could sit nearer to the bouncer and he could stare disconcertingly at the persons who came near to her?

  53. smhll says

    You have established what is and is not acceptable in your space, and so has Jennifer. Neither of you should be expected to accomodate others against your wishes in your own space. Disregarding either of those stated boundaries is just plain rude.

    This is definitely a valuable point. I think Thunderf00t, and others, are acting as if women’s bodies that are in fairly public spaces (hotels and bars) are publicly available, rather than owned by the woman herself.

  54. says

    I don’t think that’s a fair representation of TF’s position. His point, as far as I can tell, is that the problem is capable of policing itself without the need for explicit guidelines. He’s still wrong, but let’s be accurate about why.

  55. Atheist Powerlifter says

    Ian thanks for this post (and your follow up comment about how a few years ago you would have agreed with ThunderFoot). You write with clarity that speaks to your intelligence.

    I too would have agreed with ThunderFoot until recently…been learning lots. I still like ThunderFoot – I’m not gonna throw the baby out with the bath water – but this whole series of posts is…unfortunate.

    The same reason I can’t read any of the comments on PZ’s blog anymore…too much insanity on both sides.

    Cheers man,


  56. says

    Since Thunderf00t has explicitly informed us all that he favors shin nibbling without prior consultation or permission, I suppose we can assume he’ll have no complaint if, at his next con, a few boys follow his example and suddenly nom his leg.

  57. Cipher, OM, Fighting Fucktoy says

    The same reason I can’t read any of the comments on PZ’s blog anymore…too much insanity on both sides.

    You’re not helping.
    This “insanity on both sides” nonsense is just that. It’s not “insanity” to be vehement about the importance of respecting your boundaries and rights as a human being.

  58. says

    I use different tones for different spaces and, in the brief time that I commented on Pharyngula (haven’t got the time) and threw in on the fight over at another blog here, I used a very different tone from what I use here because different tones are appropriate in different spaces. It does not make me less reasonable if I talk to somebody who thinks that I am less than human as if they are deserving of the most vulgar of castigation. It simply means that we haven’t (always) got time for this Mickey Mouse bullshet! Sometimes, instead of politely responding to every JAQing troll who thinks that playing with the marginalized people until they lose their minds is a great way to spend their time, we want a space where we can go and scream it to the fucking sky because this shit. Gets. Old. This is not “both sides” being irrational. This is one side, which has endless amounts of people on its side and the tirelessness of privilege backing it, poking at the other side until they howl with frustration, and then people like you being shocked, as only a tone troll can be, that “both sides” are just so darn uncivil! Please, have your basic humanity questioned day in and day out as if it were an academic exercise, and then get back to me.

  59. says

    Not exactly… T-footie sort of had permission, and is for some almost unfathomable reason denying that he got permission in the first place, in order to strawman the position of just about everyone worth listening to in the discussion. You can see it in his claim that it should be either a free-for-all or written-consent-in-triplicate nonsense.

    This is standard for this conversation, in case no one else noticed. Almost everyone on the wrong side of the issue is conflating a person’s right to say “no” with rules that no one can say “yes”. They act like people can’t flirt, because no one is allowed to be overly aggressive. They pretend that saying “hello” is harassment, when what they want to do is hand out pictures of their junk. It is dishonest arguing from start to finish.

  60. says

    Amazingly, some people don’t find it fun when they are groped, pestered, and otherwise ogled by people who believe it’s their right to maximize their own fun at someone else’s expense.


    Despite TF’s assertions to the contrary, having security at bars that enforce sexual harassment policies doesn’t actually spoil the fun for anybody except the total sleazebuckets that break them.

    Thank you. Apparently, so few men understand that – especially at conferences. I enjoy meeting people, getting to know people, etc, but I don’t enjoy being treated like a sex object or followed or touched by randoms. I was really disappointed when Tfoot took that stance, it’s completely inconsiderate of the people who do go to conferences and have their fun ruined because someone wants to be an assertive dick and doesn’t know his bounds.

    It’s not like the guidelines are saying, “You can’t have fun”. If you don’t know someone well enough and you don’t know their zones, make sure they’re okay with that “fun” first. Other people don’t exist for your pleasure – and that’s the point of the policy.

  61. Atheist Powerlifter says

    I understand what you are saying. I guess I just don’t understand (…yet – as I admitted in my comment I am learning more and more…) the anger behind many of the comments. But I am starting to figure it out. Obviously male privlege can blunt perceptions.

    As an example one of the commenters on PZ’s site made an angry post along these lines: “…all cis men should shut up about bullying…and need to stop using ‘come out of the closet’ as it relates to coming out atheist, as this is insulting to LBGT persons who are truly taking their life into their hands by coming out, they should fuck off etc…” I understand the point, and even mostly agree [forgetting that open atheists in some countries also can be in extreme jeopardy] but I guess I don’t see much rationality in such exchanges. This is admittedly my problem.

    But if those forums are a place to vent because – as you said – the shit gets old, far be it for me to pass judgement. And apologies. I will say though – that I learned more from Ians post than reading 400 comments on PZ’s blog.

    I also have no idea what a “tone troll” is.


  62. Atheist Powerlifter says

    Hi Jennifer,

    You said “This is one side, which has endless amounts of people on its side and the tirelessness of privilege backing it, poking at the other side until they howl with frustration, and then people like you being shocked, as only a tone troll can be, that “both sides” are just so darn uncivil!”

    I actually don’t mind the mocking and incivility…I was dragged kicking and screaming from Christianity through relentless mocking from my peers, and will be forever grateful for it. However they would always add some point of correction after the insult, and eventually I got it. What I meant by ‘insanity’ (I agree this is a stupid word to use) was the idiots on one side saying stupid things and someone from the other side saying something like – stick a porcupine up your ass and fuck off.

    Anyways, yours and Ciphers comment had me thinking for a long time last night and I agree. I should do a lot of reading and try to understand before I make half assed comments. I understand now how this doesn’t help.



  63. says

    I submit, Atheist Powerlifter, that you should consider precisely what kind of continuous harassment can get people to the point where they will tell you that you should stick a porcupine up your ass and fuck off. Of course it’s ridiculous. That’s the point. So is the unremitting bile that bigots spew constantly.

  64. Maruku says

    Everyone realizes that the woman in that picture was having fun with Thunderf00t and wasn’t being harassed in any way, right? They realize that men and women can have fun together and not be conservatively contractualized into relationships and such before having such fun and flirting/hitting on people, right?

  65. F. Bacon says

    I left the church for their arbitrary rules they imposed on everyone. I sure have no intention of joining any more groups who do it. If it’s immoral to sit next to a girl after dark, sit next to any girl at service who is not my sister, or take a girl home after meeting without chaperones, I think I will pass on that membership.

    Now, the supposed “freethought” groups are imposing their arbitrary standards on members. It is not enough that there are already laws against personal violation on the books of every municipality, state and the Fed…they have to impose more.

  66. F. Bacon says

    I think it all began when a guy asked a girl up to his room for coffee, in an elevator. Easy enough to say “no”, but she royally freaked out.

  67. says

    Since all of the proposed policies permit consent, your problem must be with the requirement that they consent, which tells me that you are either incapable of finding a consenting partner or unwilling to do so; either way, that must be quite a strain on you. Pardon me while I pull out the world’s tiniest violin; I hear that Ian may be able to play it. We bit…pardon; women, are very, very sorry to use our basic humanity in order to inconvenience your genitalia so. We will try not to be people next time.

  68. julian says

    I think it all began when a guy asked a girl up to his room for coffee, in an elevator. Easy enough to say “no”, but she royally freaked out.

    By saying “Guys, please don’t do that?”

    You have a strange threshold for what constitutes freaking out.

  69. says

    It is not enough that there are already laws against personal violation on the books of every municipality, state and the Fed…they have to impose more.

    OMG, right? I mean if there are laws about cyber bullying and identity theft then sites shouldn’t have anything in their terms of service or privacy policy addressing those issues. And if there’s a local fire department, hotels shouldn’t have evacuation plans, fire drills and such. That stuff is totally taken care of. And let’s all remember that your right to do whatever you want is a blanket right that extends to all situations and times. Taking your partner out for a nice anniversary dinner? Great, but dude over at table 7 wants to eat his dinner in only a thong. It’s fine on the beach, it’s gotta be fine everywhere else, right? Private establishments shouldn’t be able to set any expectations for how people behave at their venue as long as it’s legal.

  70. Sheesh says

    Now, the supposed “freethought” groups are imposing their arbitrary standards on members.

    Also: not arbitrary.

    Think harder. Be moral.

  71. leni says

    Two things have struck me as incredibly myopic about some of the responses to the policy.

    First- the “What, am I supposed to get a signed consent form” attitude (and I say attitude because it’s more than just a tone-deaf response). It’s like even considering the idea of asking is offensive to them, or an insult to their mad pick-up skillz.

    Yet I’ve had guys do this while flirting and and it wasn’t even remotely awkward. In fact it’s a cue to me that the person at least has decent social skills. +1! When they do it in order- when “Can I sit closer to you” comes before “Hey let’s go back to your place”- they get more +1’s.

    It’s not like there’s a checklist or it has to work out that way, but there’s no reason it can’t. I know that not everyone is great with stuff like this, but it’s like they couldn’t even imagine the possibility of just asking first. Telepathy and pheromones indeed.

    Second, so many of the people criticizing the policy don’t even consider the point that it might be a good thing to let potential victims of any kind of harassment know that they will have support from the organizers should anything happen. It may not be that anyone can do much to remedy the situation, but that hardly makes the policy useless. It lets people know that the organizers care and that they will do what they can. How exactly is this bad?

    It is, at least to me, the single most important aspect of the policies and it just floors me that some people are so intent on arguing bullshit technicalities or grandiose crap about self-policing that they can’t even consider this as a benefit. Or if they have, don’t consider it to be worthwhile.

    And they do this while claiming to care about potential victims, who are apparently also supposed to glean this from telepathy and pheromones as well.

  72. leni says


    By “having guys do this”, I mean ask before moving in, touching me, etc. Not getting a signed consent form.

    Cause that really would have been weird.

  73. John D says

    Haha. FtB had a chance to save itself from becoming a laughing stock by inviting a well established blogger who was skeptical of “patriarchy” theory. Now that Thunderf00t has been given the boot after less than two weeks we all know how lame this place is. Congrats!

  74. says

    I know it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference, but “skeptical” and “belligerently dismissive” aren’t the same thing. Also, I assure you that despite the raucous chorus of troglodytes who see everything as a vindication of their hatred for any number of the bloggers here, FTB is far from a ‘laughing stock’ except among those who think that rape jokes are funny (and their qualifications to determine the humour in things is obviously suspect).

    Also, your claim is easily measured. We know what kind of traffic we were bringing in a) before, b) during, and c) after Thunderf00t’s flameout. If “we all” know how “lame” this place is, how much do you think our numbers are going to dip? Give me an estimate, and I’ll let you know a month from now exactly how far off you were.

  75. Rich Woods says


    Some thirty inches from my nose
    The frontier of my person goes,
    And all the untilled air between
    Is private pagus or demesne.

    Stranger, unless with bedroom eyes
    I beckon you to fraternise,
    Beware of rudely crossing it:
    I have no gun but I can spit.

    This is the one poem I learnt at school which I can still remember thirty-odd years later, because I empathised with it so completely.

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