Ashley speaks out

Ashley Paramore reveals an absolutely horrible event that happened to her at a con, dealing with it with aplomb.

TAM handled it well, and the youtube commentariat seem mostly stunned — they don’t seem to be able to marshal their usual denials and whines, although there are a few hyperskeptics lurking there. But the person dealing with it best is Ashley herself, making the effort to speak out for everyone who has been put in these ugly situations.

(via Jen.)


  1. Jim Vernon says

    Glad that bird-friend was there to offer his support, as this seemed like a very difficult thing for her to talk about.

  2. Uncle Ebeneezer says

    Sorry she had that experience, but very happy that she is raising awareness about it with this video.

  3. entropistanon says

    And already the comparisons with RW’s situation begin. I mean, really, this massive butthurt over Rebecca’s discomfort over being cornered in an elevator needs to stop. SHE didn’t even say it was harrassment, so why, after over 2 years, is the internet STILL trying to tear her down?

    Anyway, good on Ashley. I’m glad she came out and spoke about it, because, like she said, there are an awful lot of people who question that these things happen. Still more people who think that demanding evidence for EVERYTHING is all there is to being skeptical.

  4. ragarth says

    What I find curious is that she felt that, under a literal physical assault, she was socially constrained from reacting by physically pushing him away or bending his wrist back till he squealed like the pig he is. This isn’t her fault; my immediate assumption is that she didn’t do this due to sex-biased cultural conditioning: Physical counter reactions to physical assault are encouraged in males but discouraged in females, and is just another way that western culture (pretty much all 1st world cultures) subjugates women and trains them to be victims. I’ll be the first to admit to not being very socially adept, however, and therefore my gut reaction is easily suspect.

    Do y’all think this assessment is correct, or am I missing some detail to the scenario that’s important?

  5. says

    I’m glad she made this video too, and I hope it helps makes things better for others.

    Of course, its extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Harassment, unfortunately, is not extraordinary. So her claim doesn’t need to be treated like a UFO sighting, as Entropistanon pointed out. While the majority of attendees at TAM are decent people, there will be a few bad apples that get in. I’m glad this guy got thrown out for life.

  6. otrame says

    Two things struck me:

    1. She continued to talk with him even after he was groping her. I am NOT blaming her. I understand exactly how that happened. Young women in particular are trained, not deliberately but very strongly, to avoid “causing a scene”. These days, I would shove him away and yell, “Get your hands off me, you fucking pervert! Hey, people, can we PLEASE throw this asshole out of here?” When I was her age, no. No point in pretending I would have.

    2. 10 people in the room, and after she managed to shove him off her, no one did anything to support her. Those who saw what was happening also probably didn’t want to make a scene. It was not until she got to the other room and specifically asked for assistance that she got some help.

    Moral of the story? MAKE A FUCKING SCENE.

  7. says

    ragarth – Women are generally very careful about physically retaliating against a male attacker unless they feel very safe that he won’t be able to seriously harm her before someone else steps in. Face it, most women can get in a good smack or kick or gouge or punch or whatever, but are not willing to have their teeth knocked out or arm broken over a grope.

    And, all women are different. I once backhanded a guy I worked with for resting his hand on my leg as he talked to someone else. This was in a breakroom at a job where I was the only woman employee. But, I knew the guy was basically being a smartass and testing my reaction. He jumped a foot when I hit him and every guy at the table burst out laughing at him. I felt safe in defending myself.

  8. Wayah Doc says

    Thanks Ashley for the excellent tutorial. I had my 13yo daughter watch this.

  9. imthegenieicandoanything says

    Ms. Paramore has all my support for her making this video, and my admiration for showing remarkable strength and restraint while telling her story.

    I’d say more, but it would sound very bitter if I got started talking about the attitudes of WAY too many other men, and incoherent if I brought in the MRA goons.

    [takes a deep breath & counts to ten)

    Thanks, Ashley, for doing this. I hope things will change, somewhat, for the better.

    And it’s great to hear her praise to TAM as well, since this is something still without proven policies of success, but she considered their efforts very positive and open.

  10. ragarth says

    @boskerbonzer: I don’t really feel that goes beyond the culture training theory. The idea of women being weaker is a cultural artifact that seems to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Mtf transexuals report this exact phenomenon post transition: they become more dependent on men to do lifting, and ‘feel’ weaker. Ftm transexuals report the opposite effect, they’re expected to move furniture and do heavy lifting.

    Working from memory (and I have a horrible memory), I think “Do Workplace Gender Transitions Make Gender Trouble?” by Kristin Schilt and Catherine Connell is a decent look at how cultural expectations of gender become self-fulfilling prophecies.

    As for a fear of losing teeth and other such cosmetic things; this, to me, is indicative of the inequality in gender expectations for managing personal experience. Why should women have to fear the product of a physical confrontation when men do not? Why are women held to a higher standard than men for personal beauty and why are women expected to have lower standards for personal beauty in men?

    To me, this all points to an unequal and broken culture that needs to be fixed.

  11. anuran says

    My wife and I taught women’s self defense for something over ten years. It wasn’t hard to get women to hit, even hit hard. Getting them to break the “sound barrier” and speak up without sounding apologetic was much more difficult.

  12. Feats of Cats says

    This isn’t directly related to Ashley (I can’t currently watch the video), but a couple weekends ago at a party a creepy guy tried to pull me into a hug and I said in a loud and firm voice that everyone around heard, “NO. Do NOT touch me.”

    This wouldn’t have happened a few years ago and my ability to clearly (and effectively) enforce my boundaries by making a scene was a direct result of reading this blog and Skepchick and watching videos (presumably) like this one. Talking about this stuff helps people. So thanks to all of you.

  13. says

    ragarth – We’re on two different wavelengths here. As a woman who is self confident to the point of cocky, and who has always been in good physical condition, your statement that, “The idea of women being weaker is a cultural artifact that seems to become a self-fulfilling prophecy,” gives me pause. Given that testosterone and estrogen produce different levels of muscle mass and strength it seems a little disingenuous to claim that most women are only weaker than most men because of cultural training. Like it or not, most women are not as strong as most men. There are exceptions, but they are just that – exceptions.

    That also should serve to explain why women are more likely to fear physical confrontation with men than the men are (since that’s what we’re talking about here) — they’re more likely to get the shit beaten out of them than the man is.

  14. says

    I understand exactly how that happened. Young women in particular are trained, not deliberately but very strongly, to avoid “causing a scene”.

    I agree that the social training we get to avoid making a fuss or causing trouble, especially for men, especially especially for men who’ve been friendly toward us or who have some kind of status, probably contributed to it. I would also suspect that there may have been something of a “boiling frog” effect going on. She greeted the guy with a warm hug. He was in the category of buddy, friend, someone she felt comfortable with. When he started being too touchy, she probably thought “he’s just a bit drunk; if I move over here, he’ll get the message/stop touching me and we can still be friendly”. Also, she probably wasn’t expecting that he’d ignore that message to the point of pinning her to the bed and putting his hand where he did in the midst of all those other people. It took until the following day that the shock discomfort wore off enough that she could evaluate what had happened and make the decision to report it.

  15. gjpetch says

    Freezing up can happen to dudes too *puts up hand*. The shock of having a friend (in my case mildly) sexually assault you… it was so sudden and out of place, it was just easier to treat it as a joke than to cause a scene.
    Also, just want to say that violence isn’t any kind of solution. There was a recent case of a Melbourne woman Jill Meagher who slapped a man who felt her up on the street, and he then went on to rape and murder her.

  16. vaiyt says


    Given that testosterone and estrogen produce different levels of muscle mass and strength

    If I sit on my ass and eat Cheetos all day, will I be stronger than the average woman just by virtue of my hormones?

  17. says

    Oof, that was… I mean, unfortunately a recitation of a common experience, right down to the terror of MRA terrorist fuckwits continuing the trauma of her assault by doubling down on her for daring to talk openly about it… but, more… sorry, words.

    Not to make it about me, but many of you already know my personal answer to her last question is yes. Yes, I was raped at a conference, in the middle of a panel, surrounded by people who couldn’t/didn’t help. Luckily I wasn’t raped at every conference I have ever gone to, which… fuck… but yeah. And I guess I’m a little raw for the empathizing, because I recently went back to the same conference recently this summer for the first time since I really started processing it, including sitting in some other panels because there was cool shit I wanted to see (I brought a friend to help pull me out if I started flashbacking, luckily I didn’t have any at the conference, though I had one later back at a friend’s house we were staying at).

    And this shit happens too much, with too little support, with too many rape culture supporters willing to bring the hammer down, and too many rapists feeling so confident in their social support that they absolutely do not fear conducting their rapes in rooms full of people. I think to just my closest circle, me, my partner, my girlfriend, and my partner’s girlfriend and we’ve all been raped in a public space where there was at least one other person around who did nothing, failed to intervene in any meaningful way, and who had no inclination to report or even respond negatively to the rapist.

    And she’s being far braver, far more on the ball, far more guarded than she should have to be about it all. It shouldn’t be more hellish on the rape survivors to talk about the horrible things done against them than it is to be a rapist in our society, it’s…

    Sorry. Usually I’m more coherent, but I’m kinda typing through a triggered space at the moment to try and I dunno, capture something, maybe.

    All the HUGS for her and her birdy too. And sorry for not being more coherent.

  18. says

    gjpetch @18

    I was definitely assumed to be male by my rapist and certainly had “raised male privilege” when my assault took place. My words might be, but I think freezing up is a natural thing when social and bodily boundaries are violated to that degree. Your body, I dunno, almost doesn’t want to be there and so flees into disassociation, complete shutdown, or just panic mode or stuff.


    boskerbonzer @16

    The muscle distribution differences are certainly not as dramatic as we see in culture. Biologically speaking, there should only be the standard negligible difference, but, words, the culture dramatically increases the gap. Largely by socializing muscles as “masculine” and non-muscled “smoothness” as “feminine”. I know personally, I actually started exercising more when I started hormones, but I also ran into… blocks where I didn’t want to go to practice because I wanted to retain the “feminine” shape more from the skipped weeks. In fact, a large amount of this more healthy turn has been accepting the “butchness” that comes with it and finding my own sources of strength within it. I guess… I dunno. Sorry.

  19. Cyranothe2nd, ladyporn afficianado says

    Ugh, the comments are the source start with “BUT WHAT ABOUT TEH MENZ???” and continue for a hundred wanky comments.

    Cerberus–I’m so sorry that happened to you! (((Jedi hugs if you want them)))

  20. blondeintokyo says

    Let’s not forget that it’s not just women who go out of their way to avoid physical confrontations. I know a lot of men who would do their best to avoid a conflict escalating into a physical fight. How you react is going to depend on how body confident you are, how aggressive you are, and how much you actually fear pain. Considering that a lot of guys play rough sports, they tend to be more physically confident in their strength and are used to being knocked around, so generally speaking, they aren’t as afraid of getting punched or shoved. Additionally, testosterone, endorphins, and pain tolerance would play a part in how well one handles pain. If someone is a boxer, for example, whether male or female they are going to be more physically sure of themselves and won’t shy away from experiencing pain than a male or female who has never been in a fight before in their life.

    As an example, I was born on a farm and had four brothers I wrestled around with rather roughly, so I’m not intimidated by men’s physical presence and I’m not afraid of experiencing pain. As a result, I don’t shy away from confrontations. I am pretty sure of my ability to at least get a guy off me and hold him off until someone steps in to help. If a guy put his hand up my skirt, I wouldn’t hesitate in the slightest to grab his wrist and twist it hard enough to make him yelp. Once when a guy groped me on the beach I actually chased after him and tackled him hard enough to bring him down. Unfortunately, he was faster and got away, but you get the idea. He’s lucky he got away, actually. I was pumped up and would have hurt him if I could have.

    I know *I* can physically handle myself, but it really is unfair when ALL women are expected to react that way and are criticized for not yelling out or physically defending themselves. Many woman have zero experience in physical confrontations, know they are smaller and weaker and so don’t have body confidence, and aren’t aggressive enough. Instead of getting mad and adrenaline taking over, they become terrified and their instinct is to run instead of fight. Ashley said herself that she was shaking and scared.

    That is what makes me the most angry when I read posts critical of the way women handle themselves when they are harassed. People keep saying, “Why didn’t she just tell him to stop? Why didn’t she yell at him? Why didn’t she slap him?’ These people suggest that women are actually infantilizing themselves by not being as aggressive as men often are, and therefore are at fault for the situation escalating to the point of assault. In Ashley’s situation for example, the guy escalated because she was too afraid to do anything. These guys actively seek out women who seem less confident and sure of themselves precisely because they know they can get away with it. That is what really INFURIATES me- blaming women and criticizing them for being a product of their environment and upbringing. It’s utterly illogical and those people shouldn’t be allowed to call themselves “skeptics” or “reasonable.”

  21. Tethys says

    Good on Ashley for the excellent video. I am glad that TAM responded swiftly and appropriately despite all their previous complaining about the need for clear harassment policies.

    The freezing up during assault is called tonic immobility. It is a common, but not well studied defense mechanism.

    The abuse Ashley suffered has a pattern of progressively more blatant violations of her boundaries.
    Its a common behavior used by rapists to choose their victims.

  22. positivevorticityadvection says

    Grrr. Yes, of course, culture plays a role in how women respond. My father taught me from an early age that saying “no” would get me a beating in addition to being sexually abused. I’m not a child anymore but my experience has been that men often respond to “no” by getting angry. Often that anger manifests as verbal if not physical violence.

    Grrr. But why is violence a better response for women? Remember, the assailants are people the women know and the assault takes place in social situations. It is preferable to resolve the conflict without damaging those relationships, if possible. And, it’s not unreasonable for the woman to assume that there are good intentions all around. So, it is a GOOD thing if the woman doesn’t immediately respond with a punch in the nose. Even when the situation escalates, violence still isn’t necessarily the answer. When I was groped by a colleague at work, I told him, “please don’t touch me”. Four times. Then I said, “If you touch me again, I will go to HR.” He left me alone after that. Should I have hit him instead? Would the outcome have been better or worse? For whom?

    But regardless of culture, size still matters. I’m barely 5 ft tall. In my prime, I was strong for my size. I took pride in demonstrating that I could carry my boyfriends on my back. But even a cheeto eating couch potato could hold me down, pummel me, and rape me. Most men can do that to most women. That fact has nothing to do with any cultural conditioning.

    And finally, some women fight back physically, some run away, some seek help, some try not to antagonize the assailant. The responses are as varied as the women and the situations. And the same woman will react differently in different situations. Just because YOU think you would have reacted differently doesn’t mean that’s right for any one else (or, frankly, that you actually would react that way if you actually found yourself in that situation.)

  23. Angela Freeman says

    Ugh. I read some of the youtube comments. I never learn.
    And I also noticed, @entropistanon, that assholes are comparing it to Rebecca’s situation. What makes me mad it that some people think that Ashley physically moving away was not enough. She should’ve said something.
    I don’t understand why suddenly it’s open season on women’s body parts. If she’s not asking for you to touch her, don’t touch her. It’s such an easy thing to learn! I don’t go to parties and randomly grab the junk of the men there, sheesh.
    He is so obviously (now, in light of repeat offenses) a creep. Ick.

  24. Azuma Hazuki says

    The other thread about the elevator ad had someone quote that about 8% of men are essentially serial rapists. That’s horrible. And seeing this, it may also be true.

    Why does this happen? I can’t believe men are “innately wired” for this; billions of men are perfectly decent and would never do this. What particular toxic combination of nurture and nature causes this, and how much of each?

  25. says

    To the people saying or thinking “She should have done this or that!” “I would have screamed my head off!” “I would have kicked the guy in the balls!” “Why didn’t she do X, Y,Z, it can’t have been that bad?” – you’re not her, you don’t know. You have no idea how you would *actually* respond until you’re in that situation yourself, and I’m sure all of us know how sometimes things don’t go to plan. How many times have I walked away from a difficult situation and thought “damn, wish I’d said blah blah”, or done something different? And I bet you have too, whether it’s a confrontation at work, in traffic, or something more serious.

    The ONLY person who should have done something different in this situation is the man who assaulted her. How someone else reacts to being assaulted is entirely up to them, and depends on the person, the situation and a whole host of things. Please can we move away from blaming victims of assault for not behaving in the “right” way, and focus on the fact that the person who has not behaved in the “right” way is the one who started it?

    And also, everyone – men and women – who fails to stand up and say that behaviour like this is terrible and unacceptable shames us all.

  26. vaiyt says


    People keep saying, “Why didn’t she just tell him to stop? Why didn’t she yell at him? Why didn’t she slap him?’ These people suggest that women are actually infantilizing themselves by not being as aggressive as men often are, and therefore are at fault for the situation escalating to the point of assault.

    But when they do react before things go out of control, they’re “overreacting” and “hysterical” and how dare they.

  27. groschen says

    It was really hard getting through the video, not because it was a bad video, men because the emotions she emitting with her body language and her voice, was almost heartbreaking.

    I get so ANGRY when I hear about these things. I have been in many situations like hers over the years, where afterwards your are shaking and tearing up from just trying to recall the situation. But it is just in the last few years that I have gotten my eyes open to the fact that these experiences is not my fault. It was not because I reacted wrong, wore something wrong, wasn’t cautious enough etc. It is the person that makes you feel this way by being an idiot towards you that is wrong, and should never have initiated it. Being a woman does not mean that if I don’t take every precaution possible, then assaults or gropings or attempts at physical contact, is basically youer fault, because you could, if you had been more cautious, have prevented it.

    You should not need to do anything out of the ordinary to prevent this type of thing…(Sorry but this really have been something I have worked hard with my self these last years trying to get my head to understand)

    About the whole thing with causing a scene:
    I think that sometimes I don’t cause a scene, because I have to weigh in the consequenses. Are there any chance that people will not react? If I believe there are, then I will never make a scene. Why? Because then the only thing I have achieved, is to alert my assailant to the fact that I know what he is up to, and I don’t like it, possibly escalating his attempt…
    Sometimes it is as simple as that – If you are not certain people will react, then trying to pretend that this is not a big issue might seem, in the situation, to be your best bet of getting away…

  28. says

    I was once groped by a gay male acquaintance (a friend of a friend, whose house I was staying at), who followed me back to my room. Up to that point it had been a fairly ordinary, blokey conversation about football and cars and stuff, and then he just reached over, put his hand on the inside of my thigh and told me that he really wanted to fuck me. We were alone, so there wasn’t any point to being loud about it, but if it had been a party I probably wouldn’t have been any louder in stating my opinion that I didn’t think it was a good idea. As it was, I said this from the doorway that I had seemingly teleported to the moment after he had touched me up.

    I went up to my room, and started doing something involving on the computer there. After a few minutes, he came in, without knocking as I recall, and started talking about how it didn’t have to be a deep meaningful experience, it could be “just a fuck”. I concentrated on what I was doing, giving minimal responses, and he eventually went back to his own room, in a bit of a huff.

    It was a very uncomfortable experience, but afterwards I chose to make light of it. My friend, when he heard of it later in the week, was scandalised and quite upset on my behalf. After watching the video above, I think this is the first time I’ve ever consciously wondered if I was physically in danger. With hind-sight, probably not; I was physically taller than him, and he was just trying it on, I think, because of an argument he’d had with his partner. Maybe, being used to interactions with men, he didn’t feel he could do more socially than grope and nudge me into bed.

    Umm, this isn’t meant to be a “what about the menz” bit, so apologies if it reads that way. It’s more of an expression of empathy towards Paramore’s experience, and a bit of commentary on the social conditioning idea. It’s not a very coherent commentary; I think I may have to do some more thinking about it now.

  29. Anri says


    Umm, this isn’t meant to be a “what about the menz” bit, so apologies if it reads that way. It’s more of an expression of empathy towards Paramore’s experience, and a bit of commentary on the social conditioning idea. It’s not a very coherent commentary; I think I may have to do some more thinking about it now.

    FWIW, it doesn’t read ‘what about the MENZ?’ to me. Nor does it scan like ‘what about ME?’ either, it reads like what you said – an expression of sympathy.

    It also might have a bit of bearing on the ongoing discussion about reactions to this kind of thing, as it was clearly a confusing and not-thinking-straight experience for you, as it probably is for most people. As such, it’s hard to know how you’ll react when not actually in the situation itself.
    I certainly don’t know about myself – I’m very violence-adverse. And have been fortunate (and privileged) never to have been put in this situation.

    I do agree with those who think this was a difficult video to watch, and good on her for her courage and perseverance. Also good to hear about TAM doing something right.

  30. David Marjanović says

    As for a fear of losing teeth and other such cosmetic things

    That’s a rather sick attitude that hurts everyone. I, for one, use my teeth.

    If I sit on my ass and eat Cheetos all day, will I be stronger than the average woman just by virtue of my hormones?

    You’ll be stronger than a women who sits on her ass and eats Cheetos all day, on average.


    Pssst… ad means “to”. You’re probably looking for a, the form of ab that comes before consonants, meaning “away from”.

  31. David Marjanović says

    Yessssssssssss. I wrote “a women”. I’ve gone native in English. *performs toothy grin and makes weird noises of joy*

  32. says

    I’m also pretty sure that testosterone means any exercise you DO do will have a greater strength-increasing effect that exercise a woman does. Conjecturing about how strong you’ll be if you do no exercise at all is kind of missing the point. Though I know plenty of men who don’t exercise and are still a lot stronger than me after two years of going to the gym three times a week.

  33. Holms says

    If I sit on my ass and eat Cheetos all day, will I be stronger than the average woman just by virtue of my hormones?

    All other things being equal, yes, a male unfit slob will be stronger than a female unfit slob the majority of a time. Comparing a male of below average strength to a female of average strength however is not an equal comparison.