A Not At All Relevant to Elevatorgate Post

I first saw this on Google+ and, given the flame wars that have roiled atheism lately, I thought it was worth sharing. Who knows but that it may help some people to see these issues presented in a different context.

You may have heard of Wil Wheaton (and if you don’t, and you consider yourself a geek, you have some explaining to do). Well, the other day, he posted this:

When I was a Teen Idol, and I traveled to New York for publicity all the time, it was fairly common for a handful of super weird people to hang out all day in front of my hotel, or in the lobby of my hotel, so they could pounce on me whenever I tried to enter or leave, and demand as many autographs as they could. It was really creepy and awful, and I always hated it. It was more than a little scary. I mean, who in the world spends an entire day sitting in one place waiting for someone? Oh, I know: crazy people.

…When we walked out of the SyFy party on Saturday night, a pack of people — probably 12 or 15, I’d guess — appeared out of nowhere, and surrounded me. They shoved pictures into my face, thrust pens at me, and made it so that I couldn’t even move. They separated me from my friends and my son, and, quite frankly, terrified me.

Let’s stop for a second and think about this: in what kind of world is it acceptable to surround a person you do not know, separate them from the people they are with, and essentially trap them? Maybe in crazy entitled psycho world, but not the world I live in.

I certainly hope the parallels are sufficiently clear. Stalking a person and waiting until they’re in a semi-private or private setting, rather than approaching them during the public event they were just attending? Check. Trapping them in a situation they can’t easily escape so that you can force your attention on them, regardless of what they may think about it? Check. And acting like a pack of braying, entitled jackasses when that person responds poorly? Yep, we’ve got that too:

A woman stormed up next to me and said, “If you don’t sign these things for me, I’m going to tell Twitter what an asshole you really are.”

Do you think we’ll hear the usual excuses in this situation? “Hey, those people couldn’t have known their idol wouldn’t like them stalking him and waiting for him outside his hotel to demand autographs. Some stars would probably have welcomed it! They had the absolute right to talk to him, and if he didn’t want to interact with them, all he had to do was say so. How would ordinary people ever meet their favorite celebrities if we declare in advance that they’re never allowed to talk to them under any circumstances?” Do these rationalizations still sound plausible when transplanted to a different context? Would anyone care to defend the behavior of the people Wheaton talks about in his post?

What this shows is that the problem of That Guy-ism isn’t restricted to sexual situations, or even to men. (Turns out people of every stripe don’t like being stalked, cornered and harassed by creepy strangers! Who would have guessed?) But in a group like the atheist community, which has a significant imbalance of men over women, most manifestations of this problem are inevitably going to be gender-based.

If we’re ever going to correct this situation, we need to make sure every atheist knows some basic rules of etiquette: don’t treat others in ways that display a sense of entitlement, don’t stalk or harass them, don’t corner them and force your attention on them in situations where it’s not likely to be welcomed, and above all, when people make reasonable requests not to be treated a certain way, don’t make excuses, don’t argue, just listen to them! This message really shouldn’t be difficult, much less inspire the amount of resistance it has, but I intend to keep repeating it until it sinks in.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    Perfect analogy.

  • bassmanpete

    I don’t agree that it is a perfect analogy. Whatever else Elevator Guy’s faults were, at least he accepted no for an answer. These people acted more like a real rapist in that they demanded what they wanted whether Mr. Wheaton liked it or not. If there’d been a big enough crowd of them they’d probably have been quite happy to tear him to pieces and sell his parts on ebay.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    The mad, raving horde who would have been happy to tear WW to pieces isn’t Elevator Guy.

    They’re the mad, raving, misogynistic online horde who wanted to tear RW (as well as the so-called online feminist wing who denounced their mad, misogynistic ravings) to pieces for suggesting that EG’s behavior wasn’t cool.

  • http://reedbraden.com Reed Braden

    Why are you still on this issue? The pertinent discussion is of sexism, not if Elevatorman “stalked” and “trapped” Rebecca and should or should not be tarred, feathered, and lynched. Wil’s post has nothing to do with Elevatorgate… you’re just obsessed.

  • keddaw

    I don’t get why this issue is an issue – people get naturally, but irrationally, anxious by being propositioned in enclosed or remote places.

    Both sides have a point, but while people in general do feel anxious by something surely the best thing to do is try to avoid making others feel that way – it’s manners, it’s empathy and it’s not that much of an imposition on you.

    Heck, if it means that much to ask while alone (fear of rejection etc.) then why not have the preliminary in the elevator (“I enjoyed your talk…”) then when the doors open and one of you is leaving mention that you’d like to discuss it further, give them your room number and say you’d be happy for them to come along later – that allows a non-rejection rejection which keeps everyone happy. Except for the fact you’ve gone against RW’s wishes, but at least you’ve not come across as (all that) creepy to her.

    Regardless, many people on both sides of this thing need to take a time out. When you are so polarised that you attack relatively reasonable people in the middle of this debate the same way you attack the people calling for physical ‘retaliation’ against RW then you’ve lost the plot. If you call for physical harm to RW then you should expect a visit from the local police.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    I’m really over all of the calls to just stop talking about this issue, which minimize and marginalize the issue of sexism in the atheist community. (Again, for the millionth time — the issue was never the behavior of EG; it was the overwhelming misogynistic reaction of the online atheist community to the suggestion that EG’s behavior wasn’t cool.)

    When do we ever hear calls to just stop talking about any other issue?

    This is a very serious issue, and if people need to talk about it, then they need to talk about it.

    If someone is sick of the discussion, then don’t participate.

    Personally, I think anyone who bows out of the conversation is doing him/herself a disservice, but so be it.

  • Scotlyn

    Rebecca’s original plea “don’t do this, guys,” had an implied target audience – people who are interested in attracting more women to atheist and sceptical events.

    It apparently attracted a lot of attention from a different audience of unintended bystanders – people who couldn’t care less whether women feel comfortable in the company of their fellow atheists and sceptics.

    Rebecca was accused of assuming the worst in men, whereas, I thought she assumed the best in her implied target audience of men – that those men listening, by and large, WOULD care and be interested in the concerns of atheist and sceptic women.

    Ironic, eh?

  • keddaw

    Scotlyn, I agree (and hope) that if Rebecca had simply said that if you want more women to go to sceptic’s conferences then people have to treat them in a way that they will find comfortable and friendly, regardless of your own opinions on what women should find comfortable or not. That was almost definitely what she meant and I have the utmost sympathy for that view.

    Unfortunately that’s not what she said. And that kicked off the whole “I’m not a misogynist and I’ll punch any bitch who says that I am right in the tit” crowd. Who, it would appear, are a very real and not insubstantial portion of the atheist society. Which then got a whole bunch of people on the other side saying that men, in general, are the problem. Neither of which are reasonable positions but once these things get started it quickly becomes a “you’re either with us or you’re against us” situation. Something the pro-reason crowd should really be above, but here we are nonetheless.

    Sarah, I think you’re right that there is a serious issue here that needs addressing, but it very much appears few people can address it seriously, dispassionately or rationally. And even those that attempt to will be immediately shot down, often by both sides, as a feminazi or a misogynist. Which is always conducive to productive discussion.

  • Emburii

    Why drop this? I’m personally annoyed at the false equivalence being thrown around; Rebecca Watson says, ‘this sequence of events was kind of creepy. Please consider whether or not it’s appropriate’. People then accuse her of being a misandrist, being hysterical, or being a *t**tson. Other people go, ‘she just asked people to think about this’ and then get upset as the recriminations are then turned on them. For this, for pointing out that her critics are overreacting, we’re being told we should just shut up and that we’re being just as irrational.

    I for one am proud to be an atheist specifically because of people like Adam and PZ and Greta Christina, who are thinking less about who they might annoy and more about whether or not the root issue is still there (and it is). I like how Adam is looking at this from many different angles, presenting different situations to his readers and asking them to compare. Go pretend it isn’t happening on your own terms, stick your head in the sand if you want. The rest of us would like to have an actual conversation about what’s going on.

  • http://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com (Ani) Sharmin

    It’s interesting, because in the aftermath of the whole Elevatorgate situation, this type of thing was one of the thoughts that occurred to me (though I was thinking of boy bands). I’ve always felt a bit bad for people who get followed around by fans, because even though there’s no physical threat to them (or very little chance of it), it must still be annoying.

    @Scotlyn (#7): Good point.

    @Emburii (#9): Excellent comment.

  • 2-D Man

    These people acted more like a real rapist in that they demanded what they wanted whether Mr. Wheaton liked it or not.

    Gah! No! That’s not the issue! In isolating Watson, Elevator guy’s behaviour was creepy and weird. In isolating Wheaton, this mob’s behaviour was creepy and weird. If you’re going to defend Elevator guy’s creepy and weird behaviour as acceptable at an atheist conference, then you are, by extension, defending the mob’s creepy and weird behaviour at an atheist conference.

    To put it another way: if Wheaton knows that he will be isolated (and have requests made of him) when he comes to a conference, it’s pretty understandable that he wouldn’t want to go. The same holds true for women.

    (To stray a bit off-topic, it’s important to note that the label “rapist” is binary. The phrase “more like a real rapist” doesn’t mean anything.)

  • Mrnaglfar

    I honestly hope we never stop discussing this, because I find the topic amusing as hell. More bad analogies with new events that bear no connection to the topic of what happened? I’m so on board with this idea.

    I’ve been guilty of waiting around after a concert at one point or two to meet a band, thank them for what they do, and, on one occasion, get signatures. As a general rule, I don’t. I’ve never camped out to meet someone or to see a movie though, so I’ll say people who do something like that are a bit strange to overly enthusiastic.

    I also don’t think what they’re doing is wrong or causing any genuine harm. It’s not bad to just ask for a signature. That there were dozens of people clamoring for his attention could wear on one, certainly, but it’s not because any one of them is doing something wrong; it’s just because there were too many of them, each just trying and hoping to get noticed. In the process of trying to get noticed in a crowd, I’m sure some of them acted rudely by accident. That a person would have to deal with relatively constant demands like that sounds irritating, but strictly because of their volume, not because any individual fan is doing something wrong.

    When I find myself walking down the street and someone asks me for change, tries to get me to donate money, or hands me a flier, it’s not wrong. If dozens of people tried to do it, it would probably get irritating sure, but that wouldn’t make it wrong.

    The woman who made threats of trying to tarnish his reputation stepped over that line. She demanded and threatened; she didn’t politely ask. Of course, nothing like this happened in the elevator incident. Good try, though.

    And for everyone who thinks the atheist community pounced on poor, innocent Rebecca for no reason at all, consider this: she first used her speaking platform to publicly call out someone who disagreed with her with no warning. Second, both Rebecca and her supporters have been very adamant about name-calling and general viciousness to anyone who disagreed with them, essentially labeling them clueless idiots who hate women and aid in their abuse, and then get confused when people don’t take such accusations with a smile.

  • Cheryl

    I think this is completely relevant to other discussions. We’re talking about a continuum of human interactions — some appropriate, some not and those in between. We can discuss the various ways to meet your favorite star, ask someone out on a date or practice one’s faith. On their face, these can be benign endeavors when people keep it polite and respect everyone involved. But move away from this end of the continuum and things can get creepy. And go far enough, and things can get pathological. When they get pathological, we’ve gone from the realm of ‘consenting human interactions with the possibility of meaningful moments for all involved’ to a dangerous area of ‘control over others, threats, entitlement and ‘do as I say or else.’” Probably the most important place to focus, then, is going to be the creepy.

    The hardest part of the discussion is to determine’s one’s own place on the continuum for any given interaction. For me, I find that when something spurs my anger, there’s usually something else going on, and, more likely than not, the anger is coming from fear. Here’s a simple example: when the teen had the car and was late coming home, I would get angry. It wasn’t because my authority had been defied as much as it was because I was scared of all the bad things that could be befalling said teen. Believe it or not, the teen heard it when I said ‘hey, look, I’m terrified not knowing. How about you call, no matter how close to curfew, to let me know what’s going on. In return, no matter what, I promise not to get upset.’ I took my anger, saw the fear and then was able to communicate from a truer, more respectful place.

    I think the discussion wrt to fandom and Elevatorgate is that things crossed over into creepy. And creepy scares us because we don’t know when it’ll get pathological. In the realm of religion, though, I think as skeptics we want to tackle the pathology because, frankly, we seem to be the small minority that grasps the bigger picture. I don’t know about you all, but that bigger picture of religion gone amok scares the heck out of me — thus, making me angry :O)

    This blog is a good analolgy for me, because it’s easy to see why the screaming fan was out of line. But it can be much harder to see when it’s one’s mating instincts kicking in or one’s firmly held beliefs that take hold. Those are very, very difficult to look at from on high. I think Wil’s story helps make it more accessible.

  • Emburii

    Mrnaglfar, funny how not one of the people on ‘Rebecca’s side’ has said anything about Elevator Man. Funny how we haven’t accused anyone of being abusers or rapists in this thread. Now, Reed Braden up there said something about Elevatorman “stalked” and “trapped” Rebecca and should or should not be tarred, feathered, and lynched, and then called Adam obsessed, which is kind of violent and vicious, but…that’s the worst rhetoric in the thread so far and he’s on ‘your’ side, not ‘ours’. And that’s kind of problem with this entire kerfluffle, somehow the mildest comment turns into some kind of call for mandatory castration whenever recounted by our detractors. I promise you, ‘can you please think about the situation next time you proposition someone’ is not code for ‘thought rapist! murderer! eater of women’s spleens!’ or whatever.

    As for ‘calling someone out’? Stef made a public comment; that it is written and not verbalized is only a technical difference, and Rebecca responded as she would to someone whose ideas she found interesting or relevant even though she didn’t agree; she noted the ‘speaker’ and addressed the opinion as part of ongoing commentary. Do you criticize, say, Richard Dawkins for discussing other people and their viewpoints in his speeches? If so, well, at least you’re consistent. If not, then why is what Rebecca did that much different?

  • Mark V

    Mrnaglfar:

    Unlike you, I consider that people asking for signatures, passing out fliers or asking for money are being rude. They are imposing on others. As a result they are wrong and doing harm. Of course what is rude on a public street would be perfectly acceptable in another environment. But this really isn’t too hard to figure out. I find it hard to believe that people don’t realize when they are imposing on others; I find it easy to believe that they don’t care.

    I also find it interesting that you don’t understand the concept of conferences and communication. It’s perfectly acceptable to say person x is wrong for reasons x, y, and z. It’s done all the time at academic and scientific meetings and in writing. In this case, she responded at a conference to writing posted on the internet. That’s how it works.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Funny how we haven’t accused anyone of being abusers or rapists in this thread.

    Sure, when you strip out the context of all the other debates surrounding it and focus only on this thread, you’d be correct. Let’s just not pretend that wasn’t an unacceptably large part of the debate, or that people aren’t actually of the mindset that all Watson did was politely suggest that such behavior is rude and then got jumped on for no good reason.

    It wasn’t her suggestion that drew so much controversy; it was the way it was framed that brought down the firestorm (anyone won’t doesn’t agree with me is a sexist, a misogynist, etc). If she had left it as a simple “I find it annoying when…” no one would have given a shit because it’s a non-issue.

    Unlike you, I consider that people asking for signatures, passing out fliers or asking for money are being rude.

    I find it annoying, while believing those people are perfectly within their rights to do so and aren’t doing me any actual harm. I don’t say that people who do that to me are dismissing my identity and objectifying (oh no!) me. I just shrug it off an move on with my day. The exact same way I treat unwanted sexual advances, actually.

  • Scotlyn

    Power imbalances are built in to many of our interactions every day. Boss/employee, therapist/client, doctor/patient, policeman/motorist, adult/child, bank manager/loan applicant, etc etc. The same person may go from being the more powerful partner to the less powerful partner several times a day, depending on the situation. But whenever there is a power imbalance present, the ethical thing for the more powerful partner to do is to ensure the enthusiastic consent of the weaker partner, otherwise the risk that an abuse of power may take place will be high. (And please note, I am not addressing myself here to people who do not concern themselves with ethics or who are just fine with abuses of power).

    The elements that made both Rebecca and Wil the weaker partners in their respective interactions were named by Wil – isolation, separation from other humans, powerlessness (or lack of freedom) to be physically elsewhere despite wishing it. The elements that made the other partner the more powerful one in these interactions – EG and the fans, respectively – may have been only temporary and situational – by virtue of occupying all available exits, for example. It may be that none of these people felt themselves to be powerful people in ordinary terms or in their actual lives. But in situational terms, as described, they were – and this placed the onus on them to seek not just assent – but enthusiastic consent – from the other person in this interaction, or RISK abusing their power.

    I think Rebecca was right to point this out, and also right to place it in a greater context – a context in which there remain in our society and collective life structural elements – ie not just a matter of personal choice or intent – which make men consistently more powerful than women in the vast majority of our interactions. Men may not wish to have the onus of seeking enthusiastic consent placed upon them. But if they do not wish this onus to exist, then their way out is to strive to remove such structural power imbalances as exist, and bring us all onto an even playing field.

    I do know how shocking it is to have discovered, through the discussions on this issue that many atheists have left behind the faith of their fathers, but not their faith in father-right, as it were. A faith which is defended not with rationality, but with venom.

  • Kacy Ray

    Ebon,

    What were the intended anaolgies drawn by this situation? Because it sure looked to me like you were drawing an analogy between Elevator Guy and the rabid mob surrounding WW.

    But Sarah says that isn’t it. She’s saying that the analogy is between RW’s detractors and the WW mob.

    Could you clarify?

  • Jim Baerg

    Scotlyn #17:

    Thanks for bringing up the point of power imbalances.
    I’d been thinking, what if the female propositioned in the elevator by the male was significantly larger than the male (or someone known for her martial arts skills http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gina_Carano). It would still be socially awkward at best, but she would probably not feel threatened.

  • Polly

    Off-topic:
    I hate the British spelling of “sceptic.” By any modern orthography that word, as spelled, would be pronounced “septic” (MS Word suggests as much) a troubling association I’m sure anyone here would agree. I propose that the Brits change to the American spelling using a “k” in place of the “c.” This isn’t based on personal bias I assure you since I don’t think American orthography is superior in any other case. In fact, I’m fond of those cute little surplus u’s and trailing e’s that are randomly inserted in or appended onto British words. The “c/k divergence” – as I like to call it – could be the subject of a future post, perhaps.

  • RiddleOfSteel

    Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy wrote: (Again, for the millionth time — the issue was never the behavior of EG; it was the overwhelming misogynistic reaction of the online atheist community to the suggestion that EG’s behavior wasn’t cool.)

    Although, in some previous posts related to EG, you speculated on assault and battery, gross negligence and criminal recklessness, civil and criminal proceedings. Quite a few posts actually – you ran with it like a lot of people. So it was not simply about the “overwhelming misogynistic reaction of the online atheist community” (leaving aside the accuracy of your characterization of the reaction).

    This EG thing became a proxy or vehicle on which to hitch various things, some legitimate and some not so legitimate. The problem of using this method, is it can end up cheapening and diminishing some legitimate points that are worth discussing. Some people have just gone too far making use of the EG thing in this way, as to become kind of a farce.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    What were the intended anaolgies drawn by this situation?

    Sarah had it exactly right in #3. The raving mob who insulted and threatened Wil Wheaton for denying that they had a right to corner him and demand autographs at any time and any place they choose are analogous to the raving mob who insulted and threatened Rebecca Watson for denying that men had a right to hit on her at any time and any place they choose. In both cases, an initial faux pas was made far worse by the angry, entitled people who defended the unacceptable behavior.

    Just to be perfectly clear, this is not about, and for a long time has not been about, the behavior of one particular person who made an impolite and ill-timed pass. This is about the broader context that that incident revealed: an aggressively misogynistic streak in the atheist community, made up of people who continue to insist that it doesn’t matter whether or not women feel comfortable or welcome at our gatherings. (Or at least, it doesn’t matter enough to warrant any change of behavior on their part.) This casual disregard for the feelings of women is what I refer to as misogyny.

    Although, in some previous posts related to EG, you speculated on assault and battery, gross negligence and criminal recklessness, civil and criminal proceedings.

    No, she didn’t.

  • Alex Weaver

    I hate the British spelling of “sceptic.” By any modern orthography that word, as spelled, would be pronounced “septic” (MS Word suggests as much) a troubling association I’m sure anyone here would agree. I propose that the Brits change to the American spelling using a “k” in place of the “c.” This isn’t based on personal bias I assure you since I don’t think American orthography is superior in any other case. In fact, I’m fond of those cute little surplus u’s and trailing e’s that are randomly inserted in or appended onto British words. The “c/k divergence” – as I like to call it – could be the subject of a future post, perhaps.

    Having been so amused by a few specific instances of entirely baseless cultural chauvinism re: British spelling and customs in the past that I’m *still* snickering around about them, I’m inclined to demur. Sourry, “I’m inclinde tou daemru.” And possibly to ask pointedly whether “colour” is pronounced so as to rhyme with “flour” in British usage.

    But that’s a bit beside the point.

    I’m tempted to try to argue with Mrnaglfar. Before I do that, though, do I remember correctly that he is one of the people who tries to dismiss real-world examples of sexist behavior and patterns of behavior as “anecdotal?”

  • Emburii

    “Sure, when you strip out the context of all the other debates surrounding it and focus only on this thread…”

    Mrnaglfar, funny how you want to keep the context behind your own arguments, and yet every time we try to point out all the context behind our own words it’s just us being ‘very adamant about name-calling’.

    Also, can you please provide links to some of these man-hating and abuse-laden comments? I’ve never seen them directly, though I concede they could exist and I’m willing to admit I’m wrong if you can provide the evidence.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy
  • Mrnaglfar

    This is about the broader context that that incident revealed: an aggressively misogynistic streak in the atheist community, made up of people who continue to insist that it doesn’t matter whether or not women feel comfortable or welcome at our gatherings. (Or at least, it doesn’t matter enough to warrant any change of behavior on their part.) This casual disregard for the feelings of women is what I refer to as misogyny.

    It’s hardly misogyny if it’s a feeling that’s not limited to women specifically. I happen to think people have a right to approach other people in public and talk to them, regardless of their gender. It’s nice to know you’re still backing the idea that anyone who disagreed hates women; at least you’re consistent.

    The raving mob who insulted and threatened Wil Wheaton for denying that they had a right to corner him and demand autographs at any time and any place they choose are analogous to the raving mob who insulted and threatened Rebecca Watson for denying that men had a right to hit on her at any time and any place they choose.

    There are a few separate issues here: is it their right to ask for signatures in a public setting? Does it cause any distress to the person in question? If it does, why does it cause that distress? Did anyone do anything wrong?

    -Did fans have a right to wait in a public setting for someone and then ask for a signature? I’d say they most certainly do, even if I find it personally an odd thing to do.
    -Did it cause distress to Wil? It certainly seemed to.
    -Why did it cause distress? This is a trickier one because it has a few potential answers. My best guess is that he was caused distress (in the largest part) by being overwhelmed by the requests; one fan waiting outside is not a big deal, whereas a dozen or more people can be. In some cases that distress seemed to be caused by the behavior of that crowd as well, but that behavior itself may have only been what it was because of the number of people there.
    -Did anyone do anything wrong? Threats certainly would cross that line; not accepting a ‘no’ from Wil and continuing to push would have been wrong. Simply trying to get noticed by holding out a pen or picture or whatever among a crowd of other people doesn’t strike me as wrong, even if a little rude or overwhelming when a larger crowd is doing it in unison.

    As for Rebecca’s case: Yes, people have the right to talk to her in a public space, even hit on her. It made her uncomfortable because she felt it was creepy or threatening or degrading or whatever it was she felt. No, he didn’t do anything wrong by continuing to push or making threats or behaving physically threatening or anything; all he did was ask (rather politely), which is not wrong on its own, or even in a elevator (gasp).

    @24

    I never said man-hating; I said anyone who disagreed was labeled as a sexist or a misogynist quite often. You can see examples of those posts here on DA, or the various messes that popped up on PZ’s site, or (if I remember correctly) Watson’s site.

  • Alex Weaver

    What exactly do you mean when you say people have a “right” to talk to or hit on her?

  • Mrnaglfar

    People have a right to talk to other people in that people don’t have a right to not be talked to and people have a right to free speech, at least in the US.

  • Alex Weaver

    I repeat: what do you mean when you say they have a “right” to?

  • Mrnaglfar

    How about you just read my answer again if you’re going to ask the same question?

    If you have a point to make, then make it. I’m not playing some silly game with you.

  • Scotlyn

    Mrnaglfar

    People have a right to talk to other people in that people don’t have a right to not be talked to and people have a right to free speech, at least in the US.

    Do you agree that the right to privacy IS a right that people have? And, if so, that the defense of that privacy right might just include a requirement to respect a person’s “personal space” which we all carry with us even into public places, and yes, to refrain from “hitting on” (a term whose violent intent is fairly explicit) someone or speaking at them (or crowding them, or otherwise entering their “private personal space) without their consent?

  • keddaw

    Scotlyn, privacy itself is an implicit right, it is not established in the Constitution or Amendments, but is assumed to be a right and has been upheld by the courts as a right. However, someone talking to you in a public place, even against your express wishes, is not invading your privacy. They may be, in your opinion, invading your private space, but as long as they are not impeding your progress in any way they are not actually doing anything legally wrong.

    The idea that “hitting on” has a violent intent is fundamentally flawed. If someone “requested another’s presence for a mutually consensual and enjoyable physical congress” would that be any less violent? Would it be different?

    Also, an elevator is NOT personal private space and there is no suggestion from Rebecca that EG was in any way physically crowding or intimidating her, but simply that being in an enclosed, restricted space while propositioning her was enough to make her feel uncomfortable – as should be understandable by anyone of moderate awareness and empathy.

  • bassmanpete

    Sarah had it exactly right in #3. The raving mob who insulted and threatened Wil Wheaton for denying that they had a right to corner him and demand autographs at any time and any place they choose are analogous to the raving mob who insulted and threatened Rebecca Watson for denying that men had a right to hit on her at any time and any place they choose.

    Excuse me for being confused then in comment #2. I based my comment on this paragraph from your OP:

    I certainly hope the parallels are sufficiently clear. Stalking a person and waiting until they’re in a semi-private or private setting, rather than approaching them during the public event they were just attending? Check. Trapping them in a situation they can’t easily escape so that you can force your attention on them, regardless of what they may think about it? Check. And acting like a pack of braying, entitled jackasses when that person responds poorly?

    To me it looked like points 1 & 2 (ie “Stalking a person…” and “Trapping them…”) referred specifically to EG and thus were not a “perfect analogy”. My apologies for the misunderstanding.

    As for Wil Wheaton’s experience, I can relate to it. Back in the mid ’60s I played full time in a rock group (or band in today’s terminology), hence my internet id. Never had any record released but we were quite popular on the dancehall circuit in the UK. Many times we were approached for autographs, which we were happy to provide, but on a couple of occasions we were actually mobbed. Nowhere near to the extent of The Beatles or Rolling Stones but it was still quite scary to have my hair pulled, lose a tie and have the breast pocket ripped off my shirt! Fortunately this all happened within the confines of the dancehall and there were bouncers (security men) on hand to help us out.

  • keddaw

    Ebonmuse:

    I certainly hope the parallels are sufficiently clear. Stalking a person and waiting until they’re in a semi-private or private setting, rather than approaching them during the public event they were just attending? Check. Trapping them in a situation they can’t easily escape so that you can force your attention on them, regardless of what they may think about it? Check. And acting like a pack of braying, entitled jackasses when that person responds poorly?

    Now, EG didn’t do the last one and the “mad, raving horde” didn’t do any except the last one. Your claim that this is a parallel for the “mad, raving horde” is obviously flawed.

    Which is to defend no-one, it is simply to point out the logical flaw in a supposedly “perfect analogy”. (The parts in quotes are from Sarah.)

  • Ritchie

    I hate the British spelling of “sceptic.” By any modern orthography that word, as spelled, would be pronounced “septic” (MS Word suggests as much) a troubling association I’m sure anyone here would agree. I propose that the Brits change to the American spelling using a “k” in place of the “c.”

    NOOOOO!!!RAWWWRRRRRR!!!
    *turns green. Smashes everything*

  • Scotlyn

    Stalking a person and waiting until they’re in a semi-private or private setting, rather than approaching them during the public event they were just attending? Check. Trapping them in a situation they can’t easily escape so that you can force your attention on them, regardless of what they may think about it? Check. And acting like a pack of braying, entitled jackasses when that person responds poorly?

    Now, EG didn’t do the last one and the “mad, raving horde” didn’t do any except the last one. Your claim that this is a parallel for the “mad, raving horde” is obviously flawed.

    Now, if you take out all the words that impute motives to others where none are in evidence, and are, in any case, usually unknowable, and stick to the facts of observable behaviour, then yes, both EG and the fans (I will not call them a “raving pack” or use words that impute motives which are only assumed and not in evidence) DID, observably, do the following:
    1) wait until the approachee was in a semi-private or private setting, having had a prior opportunity to approach them during the public event they were just attending.
    2) approached the person in a way that effectively or structurally trapped them (not imputing any motives or intent) leaving no alternative option to the approachee other than to give the approacher their attention.

    To me, those two items make the parallel between EG and Wil’s fans a pretty good one.

    The third item:
    3) manifesting a hateful, ugly, and disproportionate reaction to an approachee rejecting such situational entrapment in whatever way they choose to.

    This last item makes the second parallel between the “shut up about sexism already” crowd and the “I’ll tell everyone what a bastard you are” crowd pretty close.

    However, someone talking to you in a public place, even against your express wishes, is not invading your privacy.

    Really?
    My body, my mind, my attention are my own. The personal space I carry with me belongs to me.* Just as you would knock on the door of my house to request an invite inside, which I am free to refuse, there are ways of verbally, with eye contact and facial expression, “knocking” to gain someone’s attention and check if an approach into their personal space is invited, which the approachee is entitled to refuse. I can’t think of any situation in which this does not apply.

    The issue here is about people staking a claim of ownership on something that doesn’t belong to them. And the right to private property IS a guaranteed right under the US constitution.

    *”Personal space” may seem to be an amorphous term, but for most people it works out at some approximation of the available space divided by the number of people occupying it. For eg. in a crowded bus, I am happy for someone to sit next to me, and if a lurch throws their body barrelling into mine, I can tolerate this (so long as there is no evidence of someone taking advantage of this situation to have a grope). If the bus is empty, apart from myself, then someone sitting beside me would be an intolerable invasion of my privacy. I would expect them to take a seat somewhere in the other “half” of the bus. If our two facial expressions, body language, etc both manifested an interest in conversation, then a move closer that divides the bus space in three might be ok. But an uninvited move to sit in the seat right beside me – especially if this blocks my exit, is an invasion.

  • http://indiscriminatedust.blogspot.com Philboyd

    Scotlyn (@36) is right that pestering someone in a public space is invading their privacy. You know what’s not invading someone’s privacy? Politely saying hi. Making small talk. The right people have to talk to others in a public space is the right to initiate conversation. They’ve got an accompanying duty to stop conversation when it’s clear the other person feels uncomfortable (and a duty to start conversation slowly enough so that they can reliably tell if they’re making the other person uncomfortable.)

    —-

    Edited to say oh lord, Sarah, that link is priceless (http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/response-to-chris-hedges/).

  • bassmanpete

    I hate the British spelling of “sceptic.”

    Polly, as with most Americans (I’m assuming you’re American?) you’re missing the whole point. English was designed to make it difficult for foreigners to learn the language thus making it possible to easily identify who was a native and who wasn’t. Thus we have schedule pronounced shedule not skedule (even though everything else is skool (school), skeem (scheme), etc.)and sceptic pronounced skeptic not septic (where everything else is sience (science), seen (scene), etc.).

    From the late ’60s the education ‘experts’ in the UK decided to teach the kids to spell phonetically believing that they would later learn to spell the words correctly. This has led (not lead) to the younger generation not knowing the difference between there, their, and they’re (to mention just three instances) and to a situation where the foreigners now know the language better than the natives.

    To avoid any misunderstanding (which seems to have happened a lot recently), please note that this comment is made with tongue firmly in cheek.

  • keddaw

    Scotlyn, you miss the point. Sarah’s “mad, raving horde” was the (section of the) atheist community blowing up at a perceived slight by Rebecca, not Wil’s fans. Re-read it with this interpretation and see if you agree with it.

    If the bus is empty, apart from myself, then someone sitting beside me would be an intolerable invasion of my privacy.

    Intolerable to you, unsettling to most. Also, most definitely NOT illegal. And definitely NOT and invasion of your privacy. At this point it should be pointed out that in a public place our reasonable expectations of privacy (not being disturbed in this case) are much reduced due to the fact we are sharing a space with people with competing and colliding rights.

    The issue here is about people staking a claim of ownership on something that doesn’t belong to them. And the right to private property IS a guaranteed right under the US constitution.

    What private property? I am confused by this sentiment, it makes no sense. Unless you are claiming that your assumed personal space in the public sphere is actually your private property. Which it isn’t. As the phrase goes, your right to swing your fist ends at the point it reaches my face.

    Philboyd:

    The right people have to talk to others in a public space is the right to initiate conversation.

    No, the right is to freedom of speech. The duty they have to stop when another is uncomfortable is a social duty not a legal one. However stopping someone leaving or constantly following them to pester them is illegal.

    NB. Sceptic comes from Latin, skeptic comes from Greek.

  • Scotlyn

    As the phrase goes, your right to swing your fist ends at the point it reaches my face.

    I understand what you are saying, but I disagree. Your right to swing your fist may, in fact, depending on context, end somewhere much shorter in range than my actual face. Threats of force may abrogate someone else’s freedom as much as actual force, if the fear of invoking that threat sets limits on the choices available to the fist shakee.

    At this point it should be pointed out that in a public place our reasonable expectations of privacy (not being disturbed in this case) are much reduced due to the fact we are sharing a space with people with competing and colliding rights.

    And I think I illustrated this point perfectly with my bus example. One’s right to privacy, and to the private ownership and disposition of one’s body, one’s mind and one’s attention ARE rights, ie – they cannot be abrogated. The difference between my position and yours is that I say that in crowded public spaces, where our rights increasingly compete and collide with the rights of others, the VOLUME OF SPACE within which one’s expectation of enjoying one’s privacy/property rights is reduced in proportion to the crowdedness of the space. The rights themselves are not abrogated.

  • Scotlyn

    And I might add that the bus example is a poignant one for me. When I was a child, people were much less paranoid about children spending long hours unsupervised by adults. I had to use three public bus routes on each daily journey to and from school and I did this alone from about age 9 or so. I had to quickly learn how to defend myself from regular invasions of my space in the circumstances – and here I mean what everyone here would agree are “real” invasions – ie gropings of parts of my body, naked erections “flashed” at me, numerous suggestive comments made at me, in front of me, etc. These were not every day occurences – lots of days included interesting conversations with a variety of people, lots of them allowed for plenty of plain, uninterrupted daydreaming opportunities, but learning to protect myself from such privacy invasions was an every day study in learning the terrain, and the people inhabiting that terrain, from a defensive point of view. And learning the lesson that, in no uncertain terms, my body, my mind, my attention, and the space I carry around me ARE MINE. Defending myself involved first learning the fact of my ownership of these things, and then learning to assert my claim to this ownership in the face of others who would, illegitimately, claim them off me.

  • keddaw

    But Scotlyn, someone sitting next to you, not doing anything apart from sitting, is not invading your privacy. You can ask to get up and go to a different seat – if they try to stop you or follow you to that seat then they are either falsely imprisoning you or stalking/harassing you which is illegal.

    The swinging your fist one was not meant as an actual example, obviously threatening or intimidating behaviour is somewhat different to simply exercising one’s rights. But if you are claiming some sort of ownership of personal space in a legal context then you are right out of luck. If you feel threatened then you can leave, if you can’t leave then you can use reasonable force to reassert your space limits – but those spacial limits themselves have to be reasonable otherwise you may have committed an assault.

  • http://indiscriminatedust.blogspot.com Philboyd

    Uh, keddaw, I’m talking about moral duty; not legal or social duty. Maybe legal and social duty overlaps with moral duty, maybe it doesn’t. Either way people ought to back off if they’re making someone else uncomfortable (as, for instance, sitting right next to someone on an empty bus might).

  • Emburii

    “I never said man-hating; I said anyone who disagreed was labeled as a sexist or a misogynist quite often. You can see examples of those posts here on DA, or the various messes that popped up on PZ’s site, or (if I remember correctly) Watson’s site.”

    Citation needed. Links or footnotes, please.

  • Scotlyn

    But Scotlyn, someone sitting next to you, not doing anything apart from sitting, is not invading your privacy.

    But, Keddaw…given a certain context, yes they are. Given a different context, they aren’t.

    The context is how much other space is generally available and how well two people know one another. If a stranger chooses the seat right next to me, when there happen to be a huge number of other seats available, then they are placing themselves much closer to me than is warranted by the situation, and certainly much closer than is consistent with respect for my privacy, especially if the two of us are the only people present. In so doing they have entered the bounds of my body’s “home” without knocking. This is an invasion of privacy.

    Taking this back to the elevator situation, I think that EG’s comment, in that time and place, COULD be seen as a KNOCK, or a polite request for permission to approach, as would be proper when wishing to initiate a conversation with a stranger (and lots of men would greatly prefer it to be seen in this way, as, otherwise, they might have to re-assess some of their own actions and assumptions), but to me it is the kind of knock you might give after placing your foot firmly in the door of someone else’s house that you happened to find slightly ajar. You may not intend a home invasion, but, in a technical sense, you have already committed one.

    But if you are claiming some sort of ownership of personal space in a legal context then you are right out of luck.

    Perhaps this is not a strictly legally defined right, in that no one has yet legislated for or adjudicated on such a situation (I’d love to hear differently, though), but all the rape laws that exist certainly grant me ownership of my body. I am just asserting here and now that my ownership of my body extends out a wee bit further than my skin – how much further is a moveable feast that depends very much on context. And perhaps, that is where our battle for ownership of our bodies, as women, must take us – to assert that the right to defend our ownership of our bodies requires us to assert ownership of sufficient body-surrounding space to make such a defense practical and feasible. I’m up for that campaign, for sure.

    But, Keddaw, are you claiming that everything that isn’t strictly illegal is right. (Just like one of the bishops in the recent Cloyne report who decided that there was no abuse to report – in the legalistic sense – in a situation involving the “nakedness” of a child and “a bit of fondling”, but no “actual rape.”)

    If that is the case this discussion (my part of it anyway) is not for or about you – I am addressing myself to such people as wish to act in an ethical way and who are concerned about ending power imbalances between people and their corrosive effects on our society.

    In relation to other people, who do not share such concerns, we’ll just have to see what happens when “fist approaches face” – eh?

  • keddaw

    Scotlyn, I actually agree with a majority of what you, and Ebonmuse etc. say. All I am trying to do is ensure that when people talk about rights, the Constitution, duty etc. that they don’t imbue what’s socially incorrect with what’s legally wrong.

    EG was socially wrong, at this moment in our culture (perhaps one day an honest offer of mutually enjoyable sexual activity will be acceptable anywhere but that, unfortunately, isn’t today), likewise someone sitting next to you on an empty bus has made a currently unacceptable social statement. However, I will always stand up for their right to enjoy their Constitutional freedoms while socially damning them for it and wishing they wouldn’t, e.g. when the Phelps go to military funerals.

    Conversations like this often end up with people taking their personal views on social conduct (no matter how popular, sensible or sophisticated) as law and anyone who disagrees as lawbreakers. Such as your claim that you somehow own your personal space, that it is “private property” and unnecessarily entering it would then be trespass and hence illegal, which I fundamentally disagree with. That is all I seek to avoid, or at least honest about, hence my engagement with you. I also don’t like the way it is assumed men and women should be treated differently. If I was in a lift at 4am and a guy propositioned me I would be uncomfortable too. Perhaps not so much if it was a woman I found attractive, but still…

  • Warren

    Ebonmuse

    Although, in some previous posts related to EG, you speculated on assault and battery, gross negligence and criminal recklessness, civil and criminal proceedings.

    No, she didn’t.

    I think what RiddleOfSteel meant by ‘posts related to EG’ was ‘in posts where EG was discussed’ not ‘posts that were about EG directly’, because Sarah (even though she doesn’t say Elevator Guy should be charged etc) did did bring them up. Which I THINK is what Riddle’s main point in that:

    This EG thing became a proxy or vehicle on which to hitch various things, some legitimate and some not so legitimate. The problem of using this method, is it can end up cheapening and diminishing some legitimate points that are worth discussing. Some people have just gone too far making use of the EG thing in this way, as to become kind of a farce.

    And just so I’m making myself clear, Sarah makes some critically important points about women’s legal rights etc in court that we should pay attention to, because you only need to do a little bit of searching to see it ain’t all rosey for women in court. (Interesting history of rape laws in Australia if anyone’s interested… can’t believe the UK had a “it’s not rape if it’s done by your husband” law as recently as 1991.)

    IMO, there’s two issues that are at the core of the ElevatorGate hoohar:

    1: Raising awareness of the concerns that women have on a daily basis due to factors that are out of their control simply because they are women. Know this and do your best not to add to it which EG did not do. BY EXTENSION, this also applies to any situation where you are in the position of power.

    2: What justification did RW have in feeling physically threatened in that situation to make it an issue. Was it at all rational? Do women get sexually assaulted in elevators? Yes. Does it happen all the time? No. But that’s not the point. The point is what is the likely hood of it happening and if the probability is low is it rational to continue to think that even after nothing happened? BY EXTENSION, this also applies to any situation where you may be a victim.

    Both, I think, are valid points to hold. Both, I think, are important to talk about, but we don’t need to dismiss one for the other… they are not mutually exclusive.

  • Scotlyn

    Hi, Keddaw –

    All I am trying to do is ensure that when people talk about rights, the Constitution, duty etc. that they don’t imbue what’s socially incorrect with what’s legally wrong.

    Laws and rights are not immutable, they develop and change precisely because of processes such as we are currently engaged in, where people contend and forge new concepts. There was a time when kings must have gotten quite upset to discover that they did not have, in fact, the divine right to do what they saw fit, and that instead they might have to grant some rights to lowly serfs and peasants.

    The assertion of a right has to start somewhere, even if it takes quite a long time for it to gain general recognition, and let it be known that I have just asserted the existence of a right that you disagree with:

    Such as your claim that you somehow own your personal space, that it is “private property” and unnecessarily entering it would then be trespass and hence illegal, which I fundamentally disagree with.

    (I would would just amend your summation of that claim to say “entering it without consent” instead of “unnecessarily.” Necessity is neither here nor there in relation to my assertion. And since, by and large, you do manifest a willingness to engage with an intellectual challenge, may I invite you to explain why you disagree with this assertion of mine. And, if you are feeling really adventurous, may I further invite you to say something about any emotional resistance that might inform your thinking on the matter.

    Thanks.

  • Scotlyn

    I also don’t like the way it is assumed men and women should be treated differently.

    I, for one, don’t assume that. I certainly don’t assert any right for myself that I do not, by the same token, grant to all others equally.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Taking this back to the elevator situation, I think that EG’s comment, in that time and place, COULD be seen as a KNOCK, or a polite request for permission to approach, as would be proper when wishing to initiate a conversation with a stranger (and lots of men would greatly prefer it to be seen in this way, as, otherwise, they might have to re-assess some of their own actions and assumptions), but to me it is the kind of knock you might give after placing your foot firmly in the door of someone else’s house that you happened to find slightly ajar. You may not intend a home invasion, but, in a technical sense, you have already committed one.

    That’s actually a fine analogy, I think, except for the part about placing his foot in the door. An elevator is not a semi-private (except in the loose sense of not having anyone around at the moment) or private space like a house; it’s a public space. That elevator space no more belonged to Rebecca than it did to EG in that moment.

    Do you agree that the right to privacy IS a right that people have? And, if so, that the defense of that privacy right might just include a requirement to respect a person’s “personal space” which we all carry with us even into public places, and yes, to refrain from “hitting on” (a term whose violent intent is fairly explicit) someone or speaking at them (or crowding them, or otherwise entering their “private personal space) without their consent?

    There is no privacy issue here; what is being described there is the right to be left alone and not talked to in a public space, which does not exist. It’s ridiculous to suggest you can’t talk to someone without their consent, irrespective of what you’re talking to them about, because that effectively stops anyone from talking to anyone (how else is one to obtain consent?). There was also no invasion of personal space (that extends beyond the body, which there seems to be no agreed upon definition of) physically from any description of the event.

    There’s also no violent intent in the term hitting on. It’s a synonym for flirting.

    So that leaves us with no privacy issue and no private space issue. Why can’t people just say “While I find EG’s proposal to be one I would likely not accept and find it off-putting, poorly timed, and rude to even suggest that a woman might be interested in sex with a stranger, he was perfectly within his rights to do so and didn’t do anything wrong, even if someone felt uncomfortable”?

  • Scotlyn

    That elevator space no more belonged to Rebecca

    No, the elevator didn’t, but the body-surrounding space around Rebecca belonged to her, just as the body-surrounding space around EG belonged to him.

    what is being described there is the right to be left alone and not talked to in a public space

    No, the right being described here is the right to have your ownership of your body and your personal body-surrounding space respected, and your full permission and consent to enter therein actively sought prior to actually doing so.

    that effectively stops anyone from talking to anyone (how else is one to obtain consent?).

    How you obtain consent, is you find a form of speech, eye contact, body language, etc (and there are a multitude of options here for any human being with the rudiments of a language and the use of most of their senses) that you use as a “knock,” and you then wait for an answer, just as if you were at the door of someone’s house. Personally, I talk to people – some of them strangers – all the time – and in lots of different places. It’s not hard to find ways to start with a verbal “knock” wait for an invitation, and continue checking to see if we’re still in mutually consenting territory.

    So that leaves us with no privacy issue and no private space issue.

    I assert that, despite your claim to the contrary, there is a privacy issue, and there is an ownership of private body-surrounding space issue.

  • Scotlyn

    There’s also no violent intent in the term hitting on. It’s a synonym for flirting.

    May I invite you to consider the semantic difference between the term “hitting on” and the term “flirting with” and ask yourself which accords more with an “enthusiastic consent” model of interaction, and which accords more with a “buyer/seller” model of interaction.

    The verb “to hit” certainly does describe a violent act.

  • Mrnaglfar

    the body-surrounding space around Rebecca belonged to her, just as the body-surrounding space around EG belonged to him…the right to have your ownership of your body and your personal body-surrounding space respected

    Granting for a moment that such a space beyond the body exists, however undefined (the interesting cases of how many violations occur in a crowded bar or train, for instance, unconsidered), it was not violated in the example by any account, so it’s a moot point. (He didn’t touch her, attempt to touch her, or even stand too close from what we know)

    That is, unless you count merely talking to someone politely and backing off the moment they tell you ‘no’ as a violation of that space. From the elevator incident, that is, in fact, the only thing you can use as an example.

    Let’s try and be honest with each other and ourselves for a minute. The problem was not being in the elevator together (people are in elevators together all the time without incident); the problem was not an invasion of personal space (he wasn’t standing too close or touching her); the problem was not a matter of privacy (it wasn’t a private space); the problem wasn’t even that he talked to her (talking is perfectly acceptable). If EG had said “I found your talk very interesting” or “Thanks for coming to this event, Rebecca” and left it at that, this wouldn’t have been a problem either.

    The problem was that he was flirting with her and she wasn’t interested in the causal sex. That’s where all this offense is coming from. Every single issue surrounding this goes away when you subtract the “do you want to come back to my room?” part from what EG said.

    The verb “to hit” certainly does describe a violent act.

    Flirting and hitting on mean precisely the same thing. There’s no need to reach like this.

  • http://kagerato.net kagerato

    That’s an interesting analogy to make, Ebon, though it has a few differences from the elevator scenario:

    (1) It’s on the public street, instead of in a enclosed and private elevator.
    (2) Wheaton was surrounded to the point of being physically trapped by people, instead of the space available.
    (3) Wheaton hadn’t just finished explaining how he hates when people try to jump him on the street for autographs, to a super-set of the very same group of people that caught him.

    In regards to #1, Scotlyn is on the right track in that people need a certain amount of space in public in order to feel secure and be able to defend themselves. If a flash mob suddenly overtakes someone, that’s definitely some kind of infringement on their security. I don’t think it has much to do with privacy when in public view, though.

    The distinction in #2 largely works against the mob. In an elevator, no one has a choice about the reduced volume. Additionally, people don’t need to surround anyone for trivial reasons on the street. They can control that, whereas the elevator will not expand or move any faster through the powers of the mind. What this shows, if anything, is that socially impulsive group behavior can create the same sort of careless infringements that it only takes a single person to generate in a different context. A good lesson to take from that would be not to make any unnecessary requests in elevators, since you have roughly the same power as a mob of a dozen people on a public street.

    Of all the important differences that are revealed by points one and two, though, I think the greatest is that you can’t call or receive help easily in an elevator compared to the street. If Wheaton wasn’t being such a polite guy about it, he could very probably have dispersed that mob pretty quick through a combination of yelling and flailing. He obviously didn’t want to create such a scene, but because it occurred in a public space that kind of option does exist. In an elevator, no amount of yelling and flailing is likely to do anything at all.

    As to the third point, it’s at least a little plausible that autograph mob didn’t realize that this is a regular problem for Wheaton. They would have been able to figure that out if they thought about it, but clearly weren’t thinking. The media regularly goes paparazzi on well known figures, so fans are likely to think that this is somehow acceptable behavior. Those excuses explain the behavior, but they don’t justify anything.

    I find it interesting — in a disturbing way — that people continue to defend socially incompetent behavior on the basis of its legality or their own personal misunderstanding of the harm done. Lack of understanding and relevant experience doesn’t validate a viewpoint; it’s grasping at straws and utter desperation.

  • keddaw

    @Scotlyn #48, I shan’t quote you as it’d take up too much space, I’ll simply respond in general terms.

    I am a small-L libertarian, this means I have massive respect for individuals, their security, their autonomy, their freedom, their rights and their ownership of property(don’t focus on this part, please). The space round your body in a public place is not yours any more than it is anyone else’s. Should people use that space to limit your mobility or to harass you then they have ceded their right to that space and may pay for it in jail. How do we define what the space you wish is? Should it be like a Muslim woman without her niqab on and be anywhere within sight? Should it be like you want and some fraction of available space and the number of people present? If someone walks alongside you on the street , 18 inches from you is that different from someone walking past you at the same distance? Laws should be specific. they should relate to harm, and they should be consistent. What you are proposing is none of these things.

    Bringing up Kings, who are above the law of the common man and are, by definition, not equal, is a red herring.

    So, I guess I disagree with your assertion because the behaviour you mention is not necessarily a harm, it is not a precursor to a harm and it is not statistically significant enough to make a rational person fear a harm. I agree that, at present, it should be socially unacceptable but that, if anything, makes it all the more obvious that the slow moving legal system should not outlaw the social inadequacies of citizens. Unless you think men should obtain a woman’s father’s permission before speaking to her?

    My emotional resistance to this is a sense of not wishing to enforce current social norms into law. And a fear that if we start to criminalise social inadequacy it will, at some point, come to bite us all in the ass.

    I’m sure I could have written this better, but I was on a work’s night out :)

  • Billy Kwan

    For Wil Wheaton, it is very similar to protest. Which is more important? The protestor’s right to protest? Or a public figure’s right to feel comfortable? The usual boundary is whether it is public space.
    In elevatorgate, it is unclear from the first video if she is followed or cornered. The guy did not thrust or shove any object to her. He is only politely asking her to have a conversation over coffee in his room. He also takes no for an answer.
    Now suppose Wil Wheaton is politely asked for an autograph in an elevator in a Dublin hotel (not his apartment). He said no, and the fans leave it at that. Is that really so offensive?
    As a Chinese, I am confused. Hotel elevator is a public space. It is confined whether you are in Dublin or China, at 7:00am or 4:00am. Is it offensive for a man to share such an elevator alone with a woman? Or is it the asking? If it is the talking, do people who intend to do violence have a tendency to ask? If it is me sharing an elevator with a tall white male with a gangster-like tattoo, the fact he is talking to me politely would actually make me more comfortable. I will feel creepy if he remains silent.
    —–
    It is unclear from the first video the build of the guy. He can be from Tu tribe in Chinese and is not imposing. The woman is not outnumbered (like the fans) or out gunned. This is important because any act of violence from the man involves a risk that the woman has taken self defense courses (Beside the fact that the elevator door can open at any moment to let yet a stranger to intervene, or the possibility of surveillance camera).
    Besides, we do not know his cultural background and the norm for his place. We do know that he prudent enough to start by saying “Don’t get me wrong” though.
    ——-
    No one so far seems to show empathy to the guy. Here is a bit of information from video I find interesting.
    It is in a hotel after a conference. The guy may also be in a foreign country. It is 4am in the morning (Sleep deprivation is taking a toll on the mind?). People tend to leave after conference. For example, he returns to China and her to USA. Other than stalking and following her around the next morning, it may be the last chance he has to have a conversation with her.
    If you are him, assuming you are shy enough not to ask in a group, how exactly would you have ask (instead of telling how not to ask)?

  • Scotlyn

    MrNaglfar:

    Granting for a moment that such a space beyond the body exists, however undefined (the interesting cases of how many violations occur in a crowded bar or train, for instance, unconsidered), it was not violated in the example by any account, so it’s a moot point. (He didn’t touch her, attempt to touch her, or even stand too close from what we know)

    Whether he did, or didn’t is not in evidence, so I’ll grant you the benefit of the doubt here.

    That is, unless you count merely talking to someone politely and backing off the moment they tell you ; as a violation of that space. From the elevator incident, that is, in fact, the only thing you can use as an example.

    There is a kind of wilful blindness (tone deafness) here. One crucial point of the story, as told by Rebecca, is that she had been saying “no” all night. He came on anyway. He did not listen to any of the “no’s” contained in the general conversation about this type of “hitting on” behaviour, and he did not listen to the “no, not interested,” contained in her statement of intent to go to bed and sleep. What Rebecca said to him after he came on anyway, having ignored her previous “no’s” and whether he backed off at the next “no” or the next but one “no” or the third “no” is not in evidence. We can presume he backed off at some stage because she does not relate the need to call the police or anything like that. But the story, as told, does not show evidence that he “backed off the moment he was told “no.”

    Let’s try and be honest with each other and ourselves for a minute.

    never mind anyone else. I would very much appreciate if you would regard every I have said and will say as being said with the utmost of honesty. Thank you.

    The problem was not being in the elevator together (people are in elevators together all the time without incident);

    People generally acknowledge the peculiar nature of elevators and the constraints they impose on the possibility of free movement and they respond by observing good elevator ettiquette – standing as far away as possible from any stranger, refraining from speaking or making eye contact, etc. You cannot simply dismiss the elevator – it’s peculiar enclosed nature is an essential part of the story – and the problem being illustrated.

    the problem was not an invasion of personal space (he wasn’t standing too close or touching her);

    Whether he stood too close or touched her is not in evidence.

    the problem was not a matter of privacy (it wasn’t a private space)

    her body, her mind, her attention and her body surrounding space belonged to her, not to him.

    the problem wasn’t even that he talked to her (talking is perfectly acceptable). If EG had said “I found your talk very interesting” or “Thanks for coming to this event, Rebecca” and left it at that, this wouldn’t have been a problem either.

    in fact, this is likely true, innocent small talk would have been appropriate given that they HAD spent time in the same room during the prior period, and his face would have been familiar enough. Possibly, though, ANY talk from a total stranger at 4 in the morning in an elevator would have been “a problem”

    The problem was that he was flirting with her and she wasn’t interested in the causal sex. That’s where all this offense is coming from.

    There was no way he was flirting with her, for the simple reason that she was not flirting with him. “Flirting with,” as I invited you to consider earlier, is a term denoting mutual participation – like dancing. “A is flirting with B” implies that “B is flirting with A” in the same way that “A is dancing with B” implies that “B is dancing with A” – the subjects and the objects of such terms are mutually interchangeable – in other words they are activities carried out by two mutually participating subjects. Now, compare: “A hits on B” implies “B is hit on by A.” There is no way of stating this in which A is not the subject and B is not the object.

    The right that is being asserted here, if it helps to spell it out for you, is the right to be the “subject” of one’s own life and destiny, and NOT the “object” to someone else’s.

    Every single issue surrounding this goes away when you subtract the “do you want to come back to my room?” part from what EG said.

    Nope, none of these issues have magically “gone away.” Sorry.

  • Scotlyn

    Hi Keddaw
    I thank for thinking through the issue in a considered way, even late and when you are tired. Let’s unpack a little.
    1) you are concerned with distinguishing between laws and social mores – that’s fine. But are you making this distinction because you wish to put some part of this discussion out of bounds?
    2) you say:

    I have massive respect for individuals, their security, their autonomy, their freedom, their rights and their ownership of property

    Thank you. Regardless of law, respect for my rights is what I am asking for, in fact what I am insisting on.
    3) but you continue:

    (don’t focus on this part, please). The space round your body in a public place is not yours any more than it is anyone else’s.

    I was involved in a legal case regarding disputed ownership of a piece of property. The solicitor in the case made it clear that ownership has to be asserted – although that assertion does not have to be written – it could be a matter of caring for the property, talking to others about your ownership of it, etc. Therefore it strikes me that the ownership issue, which I really do want to focus on (sorry), is crucial to assert if we are to make any progress in terms of gaining the kind of respect you offer above. The task, as I now see it, is to convince someone like you that my body, my mind, my attention, my autonomy are my personal property, and – given what you have said above – it becomes likely that you, and others like you, might become an ally in helping me to defend my property in future.
    4.

    Laws should be specific. they should relate to harm, and they should be consistent. What you are proposing is none of these things. So, I guess I disagree with your assertion because the behaviour you mention is not necessarily a harm, it is not a precursor to a harm and it is not statistically significant enough to make a rational person fear a harm.

    Let’s take the specific case mentioned – someone, a stranger, on an empty bus or in an empty auditorium, choosing to sit beside me, the one person in the room. I haven’t asked that a law be passed to outlaw this, what I have asked is for it to be acknowledged that this act is disrespectful of me and my privacy. Is there harm? Such an act is not generally made by most people, therefore someone who does this is making a communication already. Their “statement” is that they want my company, my proximity, and (since the presumption is that they haven’t asked my permission), they do not rate my desires or wishes to be significant. It may not have harmed my body, so far, but it has harmed my autonomy, it has impinged on my attention, and it is “in my face,” as it were. Is it a precursor to harm? Individuals who display a disregard of other’s wishes ARE dangerous, and anyone who ignores such a danger signal is foolish.

    So, no, I would probably not seek to outlaw this particular type of action as such, but I would certainly wish it taken into account in a court of law should further harm result – it should be given full weight as evidence that this is a person who disrespects the privacy and autonomy of others.

    There is more, but no more time just now. Thanks again.

  • Scotlyn

    Keddaw

    it is not a precursor to a harm and it is not statistically significant enough to make a rational person fear a harm

    The “sitting too close even when there are lots of other seats available” manoeuvre – which is the specific action under discussion here – is a crucial part of the Dublin Bus Pervert’s” MO. (Although not all his attacks occurred on relatively empty buses. The attack described in the link depended heavily on the fear of speaking out of a young girl even when surrounded by people who could have helped.
    Fortunately, he was eventually caught.

    PS, in googling for this item, I have had to make the really disgusting discovery of the ready online availability of pornographic depictions of “stranger groping on buses.” It actually seems to be a theme – even more reason to be wary of a stranger (and may I emphasise the part you seem to have repeatedly missed) WITHOUT ASKING PERMISSION, choosing the seat beside me when plenty of others are available.

  • keddaw

    Hi Scotlyn,

    [Y]ou are concerned with distinguishing between laws and social mores – that’s fine. But are you making this distinction because you wish to put some part of this discussion out of bounds?

    I understand why you might think I have a personal, ulterior motive, but honestly, it is simply that I do not wish to make things illegal that are not harm or at high risk of harm, which is not the case when people talk of rights. I am completely with you that EG’s actions were socially unacceptable and RW’s reaction (to be creeped out) was perfectly natural. I think it should be made more widely known that propositioning (see, I got rid of the violent connotation of “hitting on”) someone in a situation that is already tense is socially unacceptable. e.g. A car park, a dark alley, an elevator etc. etc.

    You then go on to talk about a piece of land and I agree with you – my land ownership philosophy notwithstanding. However to then follow up with:

    The task, as I now see it, is to convince someone like you that my body, my mind, my attention, my autonomy are my personal property

    Your body, autonomy and mind are absolutely yours and short of you placing yourself or others in harm’s way should not be violated in any sense. Your attention is none of my concern, indeed the philosopher in me says that it doesn’t actually exist in any meaningful sense! You cannot limit other’s freedoms in that way for that reason. If I am in a public square and two people are having a loud conversation they have my attention and I’d rather they didn’t – what can/should I do about it and should they care? I can leave or ask them to quieten down, but they don’t have to as it’s my problem, not theirs. If someone wears a high visibility jacket then they have taken my attention, but so what? Sorry, can’t get on board with your wish for attention to be treated as a possession or something that must be protected by law. Still, good luck trying.

    And here we get to the part where many people lost the plot on other threads:

    Individuals who display a disregard of other’s wishes ARE dangerous … The “sitting too close even when there are lots of other seats available” manoeuvre – which is the specific action under discussion here – is a crucial part of the Dublin Bus Pervert’s” MO. … It actually seems to be a theme – even more reason to be wary of a stranger (and may I emphasise the part you seem to have repeatedly missed) WITHOUT ASKING PERMISSION, choosing the seat beside me when plenty of others are available.

    There are actually to points here
    1. They are taking a free seat that they have paid for, you have a seat and no claim on the one next to you. Incidentally, sit on the aisle side of the seat rather than against the window to make it much more difficult, and obvious to the driver, when someone tries to sit next to you on an empty bus. And so we get to the meat of this point…
    2. Is it [bus sitting position] actually a statistically significant issue? I don’t know. Likewise, when someone mentioned that perhaps an elevator at a conference is actually a statistically safe place and perhaps we should get some data on it and decide whether feeling creeped out was a rational or irrational reaction people went nuts. I know that people feel awkward, stressed etc. in certain situations but surely we, as rationalists, should look into whether those feelings are justified or not?

    So, while the Dublin Bus Pervert’s MO might make people wary of that behaviour we should actually check the statistical likelihood of a stranger sitting next to you on a bus (showing bad manners by not asking your permission) actually being a threat. Just throwing some numbers around we have 1 bus pervert, 600,000 men, perhaps 0.5% of them would sit next to a woman on her own = 1 in 3,000 chance that the man sitting next to you is the DBP. Obviously completely made up but to put that into real life perspective the odds of dying in a car accident this year is 1 in 6,500. We don’t panic in cars yet according to these made up stats it is only twice as likely that the DBP is sitting next to you than you will die in a car this year.

    We are terribly bad at rationally judging risks, so we over-react to certain situations and under-react to others (e.g. the most likely place to be raped is actually in your own home, yet that is where we feel safest). We should be challenging these false perceptions, or at least finding out whether they are false, certainly before introducing laws. In the mean time we should use social pressure to enforce societal norms (and empathy/understanding of our natural, irrational reactions) to avoid feel-bad situations in the first place.

    PS. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Upul0tHqQlU

  • Mrnaglfar

    One crucial point of the story, as told by Rebecca, is that she had been saying “no” all night. He came on anyway.

    From what I gathered, she seemed bothered by atheists sending her emails describing in graphic detail how they wanted to fuck her (which she describes as misogyny and sexism, I might add; while rude and unwelcome, I’d hardly call sending a sexual fantasy either of those things). She talked about emails that detailed a threat a rape (now we’re into the territory of misogynistic behavior and trolling). At least that’s all she mentioned in her panel discussion. The guy may or may not have been there when Watson was talking; I’ll assume that he was if he finds her interesting.

    At the end of the bar night, she said she was tired and was going to go to bed. The guy may or may not have heard that either, but I won’t assume that either way.

    When EG spoke to her, he began with “don’t take this the wrong way”, meaning he understood what he was saying could present the wrong message. Maybe he was just interested in talking over coffee. I’d assume he had more than coffee on his mind, but I can’t definitely say he did.

    Unless you’re referring to something else she said, she hadn’t been saying ‘no’ all night, much less been saying ‘no’ to the kind of offer that EG extended. In her youtube video about it the next day, she seemed rather unsure of how she should phrase the fact that she felt uncomfortable being flirted with, so I’m not assuming that she had just been talking at length about that topic.

    Now you’re left with two big alternatives to pick from: Rebecca has been saying “no” all night to this kind of thing, but EG was a malicious person who decided to come on to her just to get a reaction and be a total ass that didn’t care about women’s feelings (and then backed off at a simple no, instead of continuing to push), or Rebecca really hadn’t been talking about what EG did at all, he felt it was a shot in the dark but worth a go, and then didn’t press the matter anymore when he got turned down.

    The first alternative seems ludicrous, where the second one seems reasonable. Do you have another alternative?

    People generally acknowledge the peculiar nature of elevators and the constraints they impose on the possibility of free movement and they respond by observing good elevator ettiquette – standing as far away as possible from any stranger, refraining from speaking or making eye contact, etc.

    What elevators do you ride in? Because I don’t get people huddling in the corners not looking at each other or speaking (if they don’t speak, it’s probably more the case that strangers don’t start up conversations with someone they’re about to be around for a few seconds).

    her body, her mind, her attention and her body surrounding space belonged to her, not to him.

    He didn’t interfere with her body or her mind or her surrounding space. That people have a right to not have their attention distracted in public is absurd. This is a complete non-sequitor

    Possibly, though, ANY talk from a total stranger at 4 in the morning in an elevator would have been “a problem”

    That’s beyond reasonable. Far beyond reasonable. If that’s a problem for someone, they better find themselves a helmet, because life is going to be hard for them.

    The right that is being asserted here, if it helps to spell it out for you, is the right to be the “subject” of one’s own life and destiny, and NOT the “object” to someone else’s.

    Was that supposed to be some kind of serious point, because it just sounds like nonsense? What is that even supposed to mean – that people have a right to never be involved in anything they don’t want to be in, no matter how trivial, like a five-second conversation?

  • monkeymind

    Scotlyn: Let’s take the specific case mentioned – someone, a stranger, on an empty bus or in an empty auditorium, choosing to sit beside me, the one person in the room. I haven’t asked that a law be passed to outlaw this, what I have asked is for it to be acknowledged that this act is disrespectful of me and my privacy.

    Keddaw: …honestly, it is simply that I do not wish to make things illegal that are not harm or at high risk of harm…

    Sigh.

    Keddaw, if you are a primate I think you are capable of understanding why this is an encroachment and why it would make someone uncomfortable.

    “Acknowledging that this act is disrespectful of me and my privacy” does not mean outlawing. It means that when I say “don’t do that” you don’t howl with rage and call me sexist epithets. It means you don’t ignore those who are howling with rage and hurling sexist epithets, and try to convince me that invasions of my personal space aren’t likely to lead to real harm, and I shouldn’t be so irrational.

  • Tacroy

    I was kinda under the impression that most of the vitriol directed at Rebecca Watson from certain corners was because she called out Stef McGraw (who disagreed with her about EG), while Stef was not in a position to respond, during a speech which was supposed to be about something else.

    I mean, I’m really not qualified to comment on the EG incident; I wouldn’t do it myself, but as a fat hairy man it wouldn’t happen to me and if it did I wouldn’t feel particularly threatened. If Rebecca Watson wants to say that’s creepy, that’s fine, and if Stef McGraw wants to say it doesn’t sound so creepy, that’s also fine – this isn’t a field in which I am qualified to comment.

    But calling out another blogger (and one who is significantly less “Internet famous” than you are, at that) while giving a speech, when the speech isn’t really about that conversation? That’s just mean and petty. That’s why ERV is on the anti-Watson side.

    Basically what Hemant says, really.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    OK, folks – This thread got a little out of hand earlier today. Sorry for that. I’ve removed a derailment and reopened comments so discussion can resume, but please bear in mind two things:

    (1) When I close a comment thread, it’s because I feel that that discussion has come to an end and is no longer productive. Refighting the same argument in a new thread is therefore something I frown upon, particularly when it includes comments stuffed with links to the earlier, closed thread.

    (2) The principle of interpretive charity is an essential part of having a civil discussion. Basically, it says that if there are two ways to interpret a statement, one of them reasonable and one unreasonable, you should start with the assumption of the reasonable one. If you think another person’s comment might be saying something that you find absurd or offensive, it’s much better to ask, “Did you really mean to say X…?” rather than assert, “You believe X, you terrible, ignorant person!”

    Unfortunately, that principle tends to get tossed out the window early in debates like these. As difficult as it may be, I ask that you make an extra effort to keep it in mind. A little conscientiousness in this regard goes a long way toward averting flame wars, which makes your friendly moderator happy. Thanks.

  • keddaw

    monkeymind, please, please, please read my previous posts. I have repeatedly shown empathy, I have repeatedly said that making people comfortable is important, why must you jump on my last comment to try to make me seem like I don’t get it? I obviously get it, I agree with 95% of it and you are part of the problem if you think that I have taken sides (hint: there are no sides on this – people are irrational at present, people should be aware of this and treat them so that their (natural) irrational dislike of a situation doesn’t come up!) That’s enough – show me any statement where I show anything other than empathy for people or stop spreading nonsense.

    (You wanna lose me, mention Schrodinger’s rapist! I actually agree with 80% of it, but the other 20% MAKES ME SOMEWHAT DISMAYED.)

  • keddaw

    Caps unintentional…

  • Alex Weaver

    How about you just read my answer again if you’re going to ask the same question?

    If you have a point to make, then make it. I’m not playing some silly game with you.

    It’s not a silly game. I’m trying to establish what you’re asserting by “have a right to.” Because if what you’re saying is that talking to or propositioning a person (above the age of consent) under ordinary circumstances is not and should not be made grounds for arrest then what you’re asserting is trivially true and irrelevant – the category of morally and socially unacceptable actions is not restricted to those which provide grounds for arrest. On the other hand, if you’re asserting some sort of moral justification for it, you need to support that assertion.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Rights, social acceptability, and harm are three separate matters that need not line up, which I’m sure we’d agree on.

    EG certainly had the right to what he did, in the legal sense (we’d agree).

    I imagine such propositions (assuming he was actually propositioning her for causal sex and not coffee and a chat) are generally frowned upon by society at large, largely because women aren’t likely to accept them and they take offense at the mere notion of being asked by someone they don’t desire (we’d probably agree here as well).

    I also feel he did Rebecca no harm, because I don’t automatically file offense or feeling uncomfortable under the category of harm (I’m sure you’d agree with the latter part of that thought as well). This would be where I part company with those arguing that what happened was wrong, or a defense of it is indicative of misogyny, being a rape apologist, or sexism. Of course, those same people would agree in other cases (PZ didn’t actually hurt anyone by acting within his rights and nailing the wafer, despite it being generally socially unacceptable to go out of your way to offend and mock someone else’s cherish beliefs), but people are not evolved for logical consistency. Since EG appeared to bear no ill-intentions, his behavior may have been socially clumsy, but not harmful.

    Considering the analogy from the OP, I think the fans who were just waiting around for autographs weren’t doing anything wrong – at least not individually. They were within their rights to wait in the public space and they were within their rights to ask for an autograph. While socially this might seem weird to some, asking for an autograph on its own does no harm. That there were so many of them causes problems and headaches for Wil, and behavior perceived as rude in the hopes of being noticed, no doubt, but it was a byproduct of the number of them; one or two people waiting for an autograph would not have been a problem. I drew the line at threats and insisting or continuing to push for an autograph after being told ‘no’.

    So to recap: The heart of this matter is that EG was flirting and Rebecca didn’t want to be flirted with – at least by him, at that time. If EG simply said “Thanks for coming”, or “I really liked your talk”, or “hey, nice shirt” and left it at that, this would have never been an issue. However, flirting falls within the realm of what I would consider “normal and acceptable” human behavior, as a subset of talking; it’s just not a smart bomb. Sometimes people will be flirted with and they won’t appreciate it; EG didn’t know Watson would reject his offer for sure, since I doubt he’d ask if he did. To those people who will receive offers they don’t like, I say “put on your big boy/girl pants and move on with you day, because it’s not a big deal; you weren’t wronged and you’re not a victim“.

    Now if you have a moral justification for why it’s wrong that doesn’t start and end with “Rebecca felt icky about it”, I’m all ears.

  • Emburii

    “…largely because women aren’t likely to accept them and they take offense at the mere notion of being asked by someone they don’t desire (we’d probably agree here as well)…”

    That’s definitely not the whole situation. For most of my friends and I and many women I’ve heard from, being propositioned by someone we’re not interested in is not an insult. It’s not ‘offensive’, why should it be? They won’t know unless they (politely) ask or pursue the idea (in a considerate fashion, please).

    And it’s that last one that is relevant here. The question or the act of interest is not necessarily offensive. The pursuit, even when other factors that do not make the advances welcome have been made clear, certainly can be. If I’m in a committed relationship and have repeatedly stated that I take it seriously and am not interested in outside contact, then it is insulting and offensive for someone to press their suit. If I say I’m not interested in anyone right now and would not welcome the interest, then it’s callous at best to keep pushing. They are prioritizing their wishes over my clear principles as if I don’t even know my own mind.

    Rebecca Watson had just been giving a talk on how she didn’t want to be seen as a sex object. She gave verbal notice that she was leaving the gathering to get some rest. It was late at night in a foreign country where, if Elevator Guy had been malicious rather than not entirely sensitive, she might have had some trouble. This puts his behavior in the realm of ‘inconsiderate’. It is not an offense that she was asked. It is a situation that was not thought through by the asking party, and that’s the relevant issue. It is not that he asked. It is he either didn’t know how poor the conditions were or didn’t stop to think about whether or not he should pursue his interests with everything in the way, including her stated desire to get some rest.

    You say, ‘what he did wasn’t wrong, you need to give me a reason other than feeling icky’. I don’t keep up exhaustively with these comment threads, so I don’t know if her displeasure specifically because of his insensitivity has been brought up to you and am similarly unaware of your response if so. So please forgive me if this is redundant, but her displeasure was a direct result of his poor situation assessment. She didn’t call him a rapist and she didn’t call on her supporters to knee all men in the groin for the insult. She did outline how this was insensitive and how he was directly ignoring her stated intentions by propositioning her. On some level that can easily mean that his desires and the chance to pursue them were more important than her priorities, and that rather than a human being going to get some sleep she was an opportunity for sex. From the situation at hand she had no way of telling between obliviousness or callousness as his personality trait. How, then, is her discomfort not valid considering what his behavior could have meant? Why do you think she’s not allowed to get a little upset when her wishes were (hopefully) accidentally stepped on? Morally, Elevator Guy imposed against her stated desires. He is not necessarily a monster or a misogynist or a rapist, but he was insensitive. In the sense that his behavior could have been more considerate but and instead he chose more intrusive measures, he made the wrong moral choice.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Rebecca Watson had just been giving a talk on how she didn’t want to be seen as a sex object. She gave verbal notice that she was leaving the gathering to get some rest…Morally, Elevator Guy imposed against her stated desires.

    Both of which I already covered in 61. What Watson appeared to be talking about had nothing to do with the type of offer EG extended, unless there’s something I missed.

    Why do you think she’s not allowed to get a little upset when her wishes were (hopefully) accidentally stepped on?

    She’s completely allowed to get upset or feel uneasy; I’ve been in many similar situations were I’ve felt uneasy. I also don’t think she was wronged in anyway and what happened to her was zero bad.

  • monkeymind

    “She’s completely allowed to get upset or feel uneasy;”

    … as long as she doesn’t talk about it afterward; or admonish men not to corner a woman in an elevator at 4 am and cold-proposition her, after she has indicated that her social interactions are over for the night. Apparently some people feel that was wrong – it seems “zero bad” to me.

    Also, do most people consider cold-propositioning to be “flirting”? Flirting is something you do with someone. Cold-propositioning is treating a person the way some people used to treat the coin return slot on a pay phone, back in the dark ages of pay phones; sticking your finger into every one you run across, on the off chance there might be some coins in there.

  • Mrnaglfar

    I said before if all that happened was that she said “I find it annoying” and that was the end of that, it’s a non-issue; that’s her preference and I won’t debate it. I’ll also say that she was in no way harmed or wronged.

    However, the debates have involved (in large part) people saying that anyone who thinks “that was zero bad” doesn’t get it, is a clueless privileged ass, is a sexist, is a misogynist, is a rape apologist, dismisses the awful things that actually hurt women, is part of the problem, and/or owes the community an apology. Oh, and we should boycott their books too.

    Also, what definition of “flirting” are you using that requires it to be mutual? I can’t find one.

    I don’t see the problem with sticking your fingers into pay phones on the off chance there’s change inside. I don’t even see the problem with asking people for change (annoying as that can be). Those two things are zero bad. Now if you keep asking after being told no, or reach into someone’s pocket for change, that’s a different story entirely.

  • monkeymind

    Mrnaglfar, I didn’t say there was anything wrong with sticking your fingers in the pay phone coin return slot. I said it was wrong to treat people that way. Do you not think it is wrong to treat people as objects?

    I don’t think cold propositioning in a confined space at 4 am after the object of your proposition has said she is through with social interactions is “flirting”. I don’t think anyone would be harmed if this were more generally accepted. Yet a lot of people seem to think that social opprobrium toward cold propositioning women who have indicated their unwillingness to engage in further social interaction, in a confined space, spells the end of liberty. Why?

    I said flirting took the proposition “with”, and so it does. Flirting with someone is way more fun than flirting at someone, isn’t it? Or is it?

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    I think this can be summed up as, in a non-gendered and non-racist way:

    Don’t place persons with whom you share a power differential, defined as unequal access to legal protections/rights, in situations in which there exists a lack of transparency.

    If you do this, then you should be aware that you may be provoking fear of imminent harm in the other person.

    This doesn’t mean that we should criminalize this behavior (but it also doesn’t mean that it won’t rise to the level of criminality), but it just means: Not cool, guys. Don’t do that.

    Now, if you’re the sort of person, male or female, who doesn’t give a shit one way or another about provoking fear of imminent harm in other persons, of whichever race or gender, then you’re an asshole.

    It’s not illegal to be an asshole. But, being an asshole can rise to the level of criminality.

    It can rise to the level of criminality even if you weren’t aware that you were provoking fear of imminent serious bodily harm, as long as you should have been aware. As long as a reasonable person would have been aware.

    But, the onus is on the perpetrator to be aware.

    The onus is not on the victim to not be afraid.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    I like the bus example.

    But, if you’re asking if someone sitting by herself on an almost empty bus has the right to be afraid when a strange man sits next to her when there are fifty other empty seats available, then you are asking the WRONG question.

    The RIGHT question is: should that man sitting next to that girl when he could have chosen any one of fifty other seats be aware that he may be provoking fear of imminent harm in that girl. Would a reasonable person have been aware?

    And, I think the answer is yes. This makes him an asshole. An asshole doesn’t care if he/she makes someone else afraid.

    Is it criminal? That would be for a court of law to decide, but I can imagine scenarios in which his behavior might be construed as physically menacing.

    But, the court of law is not going to ask if she had a right to be afraid of imminent serious bodily harm.

    The court is only going to ask if the man should have been aware that he was provoking fear of imminent serious bodily harm and whether his behavior was a gross deviation from what a reasonable person would have done.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Do you not think it is wrong to treat people as objects?

    I fail to see the relevance, but it depends on the specifics of the case and what precisely one means by treating someone like an object. If you mean do I think there’s anything wrong with propositioning random strangers (or inviting them for a date, in this case) in the hope that one will say yes, than no, I don’t think that’s wrong, provided that we’re only talking about asking.

    I don’t think cold propositioning in a confined space at 4 am after the object of your proposition has said she is through with social interactions is “flirting”

    It’s an assumption he heard her say she was going to bed; don’t just assume it for the point of making your argument. That aside, time and place are irrelevant to the definition of flirting. You can call it poorly timed (fine) or clumsy (fine), but it’s still flirting. One is perfectly capable of flirting with someone (expressing that interest) without it being returned. If saying flirting at makes you feel better, that’s fine.

    Yet a lot of people seem to think that social opprobrium toward cold propositioning women who have indicated their unwillingness to engage in further social interaction, in a confined space, spells the end of liberty.

    It’s not a question of liberty. It’s a question of saying “I have a personal preference” vs “anyone who disagrees that my preference is grounded in a cold, hard reality about being morally wronged or hurt is a [insert invective here; let's use the OP's 'braying, entitled jackass']“.

    By all means, you can tell men that flirting with women in such a fashion isn’t likely to work, because it isn’t; Clark and Hatfield demonstrated that quite decisively. You can point out that it was a clumsy attempt and some reasons why, because it was. You can even point out that many women will feel uncomfortable with such offers, because they probably will.

    However, there was no harm here, Rebecca was not victimized even if she felt some discomfort, and EG acted completely within his rights and he certainly wasn’t ‘harassing’ or ‘stalking’ her by any stretch of the definition of the words. This was, still, a case of ‘zero bad’.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    Mrnaglfar,

    You are still asking the wrong question.

    And, do you care about living in a highly functioning, cohesive society with a high degree of trust?

    (Maybe you don’t, which is what I’m gleaning from your comments. I think you should, even if only for purely self-serving reasons.)

    But, if you do, then it’s not zero bad.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    Imagine a society of only assholes, where no one cares how they make anyone else feel, as long as they aren’t breaking any laws.

    Go ahead. It’s actually not that much of a stretch of the imagination.

    As you also might imagine, societies like this don’t function very well.

    We don’t have to imagine — we already know this to be the case.

    http://pewresearch.org/pubs/799/global-social-trust-crime-corruption

    “Over the last two decades, social scientists have repeatedly suggested that good things tend to happen in societies where people tend to trust each other — they have stronger democracies, richer economies, better health, and they suffer less often from any number of social ills.”

    (The study actually suggest a much stronger correlation between trust and low crime and low corruption rather than a correlation with democracy/a good economy, but the point remains.)

  • keddaw

    Sarah, if everyone trusted each other then there would be absolutely no problem with what EG did.

    You also make two telling comments:

    “As long as a reasonable person would have been aware.”

    A great point, and entirely what a lot of people would like to know – is the negative reaction people have in those situations reasonable? The only way to discover that is to do some science. Except when people have suggested that they are called insensitive jackasses, or worse.

    “The onus is not on the victim to not be afraid.”

    Victim? Victim: -noun, a person who suffers from a destructive or injurious action or agency.

    Wow, talk about pre-judging. How can we be sure there is a victim if we haven’t worked out if there is any harm? Also the terminology of victim and perpetrator is very strongly related to crime.

    Perhaps the language could be dialed back a bit and EG’s actions treated as (currently) socially wrong rather than legally or, heaven forfend, objectively wrong.

  • monkeymind

    “That aside, time and place are irrelevant to the definition of flirting.”

    If your lead-in is “Would you like to go back to my hotel room”, it’s not flirting. It’s propositioning. Secondly, time and place have everything to do with the definition of flirting.

    You can even point out that many women will feel uncomfortable with such offers, because they probably will.

    OK, so you’re insisting on your right to do something you admit makes most women uncomfortable. That’s what makes you an entitled, braying jackass.

    And a side note:

    I don’t even see the problem with asking people for change (annoying as that can be).

    I don’t either. If you think asking for spare change is equivalent to asking a stranger back to your hotel room, you’re just wrong. Putting some coins into a cup on a busy street corner is zero risk for me, whereas going back to a stranger’s hotel room is a risk.

    I know most of the regular spare-changers in the downtown area where I work. Most of them seem to understand how time, place, and social context can turn a simple request into an implied threat. Don’t walk up to someone and ask for money when they are stuffing their ATM cash into their wallet, for example.

    You know what? I have had many quite pleasant interactions with street people in my town. They are human beings, and most are quite capable of treating other people as fully human persons with needs, desires, and fears of their own. Not one of them has ever asked me back to his campsite or requested anything from me that would put me at risk. From which I conclude that the average street person in my town has better manners than you or Elevator Guy.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    keddaw,

    Still asking the wrong question. Notice how you switched right back to the reasonableness of the reaction of the person being imposed upon, not the one doing the imposing.

    Also, yes, I have already stated more times than I care to remember that I am talking about using the criminal law paradigm as a GUIDE and REMOVING the result from the criminal law context in order to apply it to our EVERYDAY interpersonal interactions without criminalizing that behavior. Just as a common sense guide to let us know when we are being assholes or no.

    I’m not sure what is confusing about this. Seriously. What is it that you find confusing about this? I’m not trying to be cute. I’m asking.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    The reason why the criminal law paradigm is important is because we have tons and tons and tons of case law to tell us what the reasonable person standard is.

    In civil law jurisprudence as well.

    But, assault is defined in the criminal law context typically.

    And, when we are using the guide of not placing persons with whom we share power differentials in situations wherein there exists a lack of transparency, we are talking about unequal access to legal protections/rights.

    That is why the law can give us a guide to our everyday behavior with other human beings in the public space.

    Seriously.

  • monkeymind

    keddaw – I didn’t mean to imply that you are one of the people howling with rage, and sorry if it came across that way.

    Hypothetical situation. I’m walking home alone at night, a woman alone. A car pulls up next to me and the lone man inside offers me a ride. Or maybe he asks me back to his hotel room. I say “no” and he drives off. Zero bad?

    Also, in the spirit of interpretive charity, maybe what Scotlyn meant by saying that no one else has the right to her attention, was that she has the right to ignore anyone who tries to gain her attention. A surprising number of public accosters do not cede this right to the people they accost.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    The harm is the diminishment in legal protections/rights.

    This is not something that a man has to worry about when propositioned by a woman for sex in the public space, even in broad daylight in the middle of a busy town square.

    This IS something that a woman has to worry about when propositioned by a man for sex in the public space, even in broad daylight in the middle of a busy town square.

    Even if nothing happens. Even if she declines his offer. Even if he is the nicest guy in the world.

    Her legal protections/rights have still taken a hit.

    But, his have not.

    Feminists aren’t asking men to stop asking women out. Feminists aren’t asking that asking women out be criminalized.

    Feminists are just asking that you keep this in mind the next time you approach a woman in the public space to ask her out.

    If that is too much to ask, if that provokes an outrageous misogynistic response, then there’s no hope for humanity.

  • Billy Kwan

    By power differential, does it include a white male towards a Chinese male like me? Or black male to me?

    What about a rich person to an average person like me?

    Am I a “victim” if a male rich male like Richard Dawkins shares an elevator with me (not transparent)? What if he said I am interesting and wish to have coffee and chat in his room?

    I am confuse. Or does it only apply between male towards female?
    I mean, even a white or black female will be much taller and stronger than me. We surely have a power differential. If we are in Ireland, and I am a atheist, would that not make a super power imbalance?

    Or am I asking the wrong question?

  • Mrnaglfar

    If your lead-in is “Would you like to go back to my hotel room”, it’s not flirting. It’s propositioning. Secondly, time and place have everything to do with the definition of flirting.

    Maybe that’s what flirting means to you, but that’s not what it officially means; seriously, look up the official definition and tell me if it has anything to do with time or place. What he did can also be considered propositioning. In any case, it doesn’t matter, because I don’t think it’s wrong whether you want to call it flirting or propositioning.

    OK, so you’re insisting on your right to do something you admit makes most women uncomfortable. That’s what makes you an entitled, braying jackass.

    I see you skipped over the discussion about rights, social acceptance, and harm. It is, in fact, a right we all have to do what EG did. Making people uncomfortable does not mean you’ve harmed them or done something wrong. That’s not to say you couldn’t do it better or in a more socially accepted way, but it doesn’t mean you hurt them. I’m sure you’d insist PZ had the right to put the nail through the wafer and blog about it, and even though it made many religious people uncomfortable and offended them, he didn’t do them any real harm. I suppose that makes PZ an entitled, braying jackass as well. In fact, what PZ did was far worse (even if still ‘not bad’), since he did it with the actual intent to offend and make people uncomfortable, whereas EG made someone uncomfortable unintentionally. People have a right to express their homosexuality publicly (in the form of man on man kissing, let’s say), and even though it makes some people uncomfortable, they aren’t being harmed and no one is doing anything wrong. There are countless examples we could think up.

    As I hope you realize, just because an act makes many, or even most, people uncomfortable, it doesn’t make it wrong. Or is it totally a different thing when someone you agree with does something that makes other people uncomfortable?

    If you think asking for spare change is equivalent to asking a stranger back to your hotel room, you’re just wrong. Putting some coins into a cup on a busy street corner is zero risk for me, whereas going back to a stranger’s hotel room is a risk.

    They’re both zero risk provided everyone plays by the rules. You could take our wallet and the homeless man attacks you and steals it.

    From which I conclude that the average street person in my town has better manners than you or Elevator Guy.

    And here comes the guilt by association. You know, it’s your right to make assumptions about how I behave. It’s generally not socially acceptable to insult people, and insults can cause actual, real reputational harm. Of course, it doesn’t matter to you that you make me uncomfortable by saying something like that or that you might cause harm to my reputation as a person here. You’ve asserted your right to do it anyway. You’ve acted in a worse fashion than EG did by intending to make my uncomfortable and harm my reputation publicly, which would make you an entitled, braying jackass. Welcome to the club.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    Of course, it doesn’t matter to you that you make me uncomfortable by saying something like that or that you might cause harm to my reputation as a person here. You’ve asserted your right to do it anyway. You’ve acted in a worse fashion than EG did, which would make you an entitled, braying jackass. Welcome to the club.

    This is pretty much the same argument as the racists who think it’s very clever to say, “Oh yeah? Well if you’re so tolerant, why won’t you tolerate my intolerance?”

  • Kacy Ray

    If that is too much to ask, if that provokes an outrageous misogynistic response, then there’s no hope for humanity.

    Sarah, you fling around the “mysogynist” accusation so frivilously that it is impossible to take it seriously.

    “Misogynist” means someone who feels a deep-seated hatred or resentment toward women. You seem to use it to label someone you yourself don’t like.

    This style of rhetoric reminds me of Christians who label atheists as “god haters”. This is a manfestly narcissistic approach – the idea that your ideas are not *merely your ideas*, but rather are a set of axiomatic features of reality that one either nobly recognizes or deliberately rejects (because they hate god, or women, or blacks, or whatever).

    I’ve asked you about power imbalance issues in the previous thread. You evaded those questions long enough to buy time until Ebon closed the thread. Now you’ll say things like: “Don’t place persons with whom you share a power differential, defined as unequal access to legal protections/rights, in situations in which there exists a lack of transparency.” without ever having addressed my point that no such principle of behavior is either possible or practical. Not in the real world.

    So I guess you’ve never been alone with a small child in a non-trasnparent situation?

    So there should be a camera in every bedroom?

    So there should be a camera in the office when I’m counseling a young Marine?

    There is no way – even in theory – to have a world in which power-balances don’t exist in non-transparent situations. I fully expect you to evade this point or ask me to google everything you’ve ever written (not going to happen), but I thought I’d at least make it known that the whole reason I’ve stayed out of this particular thread is that few endeavors are more useless than trying to engage someone in an exchange of ideas who either evades or resorts to ad homs.

    Just because someone doeesn’t agree with your point doesn’t mean they have failed to understand it.

    Signed, your friendly neighborhood god hating commie pinko misogynist supremicist sarcastic misanthrop.

    P.S. I don’t believe you really speak for feminists.

  • monkeymind

    Mrnaglfar, nice try. Why is it an insult to be told that a street person has better manners than you? Is it because you think you have such exquisite manners? Or because you think it is impossible for street people to have good manners? People who don’t have homes or showers or clean clothes are still capable of treating other humans decently. How classist of you to assume otherwise!

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    Billy Kwan,

    I would hope that people would always do their utmost to avoid placing any persons with whom they share power differentials in situations that lack transparency.

    That is my suggestion.

    So, yes, all of the above.

    It doesn’t mean that we should criminalize this behavior. It is a guide to interacting with human beings in the public space and creating a highly functioning, cohesive society wherein there exists a high degree of trust. (I’ll point out again that this benefits everyone, even the assholes, even if only for purely self-serving reasons.)

    That is exactly what I am suggesting.

    I am also suggesting that we should do our utmost to eliminate those power differentials (which I have defined as unequal access to legal protections/rights).

  • monkeymind

    “They’re both zero risk provided everyone plays by the rules. You could take our wallet and the homeless man attacks you and steals it.”

    Nope, not comparable. We’re talking about a busy pedestrian downtown where the regular spare changers are on a first name basis with cops and shopkeepers, and I’m on a first name basis with all of them. We’re talking people with known habits and hangouts. The homeless man has more to lose by making a grab for my wallet than I do, since I don’t keep much cash in there anyway. In Elevator Guy’s hotel room though, if he decides to get violent or pressure me, it’s a different story. He’s asking for my trust in a way he’s not entitled to.

  • Mrnaglfar

    This is pretty much the same argument as the racists who think it’s very clever to say, “Oh yeah? Well if you’re so tolerant, why won’t you tolerate my intolerance?”

    I’m glad we agree that someone’s discomfort is insufficient for determining the harm or morality of an act. It’s also good to know that it’s totally a different thing when someone you agree with does it to someone you don’t agree with (You see, he may have assumed something about a person he’s never met, but that person is kind of like a racist in this poor analogy, you see, so…). Stay loyal to that in-ground, my friend.

    As for you, monkeymind:

    Why is it an insult to be told that a street person has better manners than you?

    It’s an insult to be called a “braying, entitled jackass”. It’s also an insult to say that someone – who you have never met or interacted with – has worse manners than someone else, because it assumes, at the get go, a lot about me that you don’t have the slightest insight to. After you assume everything, you then make a comparison where I come out looking worse than someone else. That would make you an arrogant, braying, entitled jackass.

    We’re talking about a busy pedestrian downtown where the regular spare changers are on a first name basis with cops and shopkeepers, and I’m on a first name basis with all of them. We’re talking people with known habits and hangouts.

    Because muggings and assaults never happen in public. Nope. Never. It’s zero risk…

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    There is a world of difference between making someone uncomfortable and making someone afraid of imminent bodily harm.

    There is also a world of difference between making someone uncomfortable and causing someone to lose legal protections/rights.

    PZ made Catholics uncomfortable, but he didn’t place their legal protections / rights in jeopardy.

    PZ made Catholics uncomfortable, but he didn’t make them afraid of imminent bodily harm.

  • keddaw

    Sarah:

    Still asking the wrong question. Notice how you switched right back to the reasonableness of the reaction of the person being imposed upon, not the one doing the imposing.

    The reasonableness of the reaction determines whether there is any imposition or not. Seriously, I have covered this, the reaction is natural but we should work out whether it’s rational or not before deciding on social norms or rules around it. Or should the fact that seeing two guys going at it in public makes me feel uncomfortable and icky mean we should ban that (socially or legally) too?

    And, when we are using the guide of not placing persons with whom we share power differentials in situations wherein there exists a lack of transparency, we are talking about unequal access to legal protections/rights.

    Where to begin…
    1. There is always a perceived power differential*, the whole point of law is to ensure that the power differential cannot be used to the detriment of the person with the perceived lack of power.
    2. Anyone denying another equal access to legal protection or rights is breaking the law.
    The law, as it stands, is intended to stop people using a power differential in a way that puts undue pressure on the less powerful person to accede to the wishes of the more powerful person against their will e.g. an employee being propositioned for sex with the underlying notion that they will be fired if they refuse. The law exists to stop EG using his assumed power differential from making RW accede to his request against her will so I fail to see how we can use the law as a guide into how EG’s behaviour was assholish. It was, but the law isn’t the guide here.

    Feminists are just asking that you keep this in mind the next time you approach a woman in the public space to ask her out.

    If that is too much to ask, if that provokes an outrageous misogynistic response, then there’s no hope for humanity.

    Okay, who’s being sexist here? Your assumption seems to be that women are weak and frightened and big strong men (who are never fearful) have to be more mindful when approaching a woman. I have repeatedly said that people should be aware of the expected, likely irrational, reactions of other people especially in a sexual context but, for some weird reason, you appear to think this common decency should only be applied to women.

    I thought feminists wanted equal treatment? Did I miss a meeting or something? It very much appears that what you are asking for is special treatment.

    And I invite you to read through all of my comments and pick out a single sentence that betrays any kind of misogyny on my part.

    Finally, I wish someone would answer Billy’s points. – EDIT after posting this I just noticed Sarah has.

    * It’s not always in the direction we think.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    Law informs culture and culture informs law. It’s a two way street. We can absolutely take our social cues from the law without criminalizing behavior. We do it all the time. We’ve also already figured out what the reasonable person would do. It’s in the tomes and tomes and volumes and volumes of case law — both civil and criminal.

    And, I have repeatedly said — I am trying to shape a non-gendered and non-racist approach to this issue.

    I think using the law as a guide and defining power differentials as unequal access to legal protections/rights is a good way to go.

    So, a decent guide is — try not to place anyone with whom you share a power differential in a situation wherein there exists a lack of transparency.

    Because all reasonable persons should be aware that this would provoke fear in all reasonable persons, as well as place their legal protections/rights in jeopardy.

    Even when I’m in a male doctor’s office, and I have to disrobe, I request someone else to be in the room with me. It makes me feel safer and lessens my fear.

    I’ve never had a doctor refuse my request.

    Because they were nice guys who took my desires into account.

    Or, they were doing it to protect themselves legally.

    Either way, works for me.

    No, I don’t think we should criminalize male doctors being in offices alone with their female patients.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    I also just want to make extra clear.

    I am defining power differential as unequal access to legal rights and protections.

    I understand that there can be other forms of power differentials.

    Differences in intelligence. Differences in strength. Differences in health. Differences in size.

    I have also suggested considerations of context/strength/size for determining a non-gendered and non-racist guide to interacting with human beings in the public space.

    But, now I feel myself moving away from that position and wanting to stick more closing to only defining power differentials as unequal access to legal protections / rights and coupling that definition with the contextual consideration of transparency of the lack thereof.

    I’m thinking that this is the best approach. But, I’m still shaping it.

    So, a reasonable person should be aware that he/she would provoke fear of harm in a reasonable person with whom he/she shares a power differential when in a situation wherein there exists a lack of transparency.

    I like it. It doesn’t mean we criminalize this behavior.

    But, we should be aware of trying to avoid this circumstance or to do our utmost to be considerate of the other person.

  • Mrnaglfar

    PZ made Catholics uncomfortable, but he didn’t place their legal protections / rights in jeopardy.

    PZ made Catholics uncomfortable, but he didn’t make them afraid of imminent bodily harm.

    This is insane and reason I generally avoid responding. EG did not violate anyone’s rights or legal protections or place them in jeopardy. The worst you could say is that Rebecca couldn’t know for sure if he would, but you can say that about literally everyone. If his behavior makes someone fear bodily harm, that someone should, as I have said, find themselves a helmet because life is just going to be hard for them. That they fear it has no bearing on the situation in question because she was subjected to no threats or physical intimidation of any kind by EG.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    I know that the use of the word feminist is loaded for a lot of people, but I claim it proudly.

    A feminist, in my book, is someone who advocates for women’s rights as universal human rights without compromise. Absolute equality. I adhere to this principle. I have not abandoned it.

    Anyone who has followed this website for some time knows that I have resisted Ebon’s calls for “special treatment” or accommodations for women at atheist conventions and in the atheist community for the reason that this always stinks of paternalistic protections that inherently imply a lesser status for women.

    This is why I am trying to shape a non-gendered and non-racist approach to interacting with other human beings in the public space.

    The problem I am having with a lot of the male response to this issue is that they say that they want equal treatment for all — that women should not be treated any differently than men (which I agree with), but the men claim the right to determine what that treatment should be. And, shockingly, the equal treatment the men want is the treatment that allows them to proposition any woman for sex in any context.

    Why don’t we define the equal treatment as — we don’t place persons with whom we share power differentials in situations wherein there exists a lack of transparency, instead of we can approach anyone in any context as we so desire, without any regard for the other person’s feelings?

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    Mrnaglfar,

    I can tell you, without hesitation, that women’s rights/legal protections take a hit the moment a man approaches them in public to proposition them.

    Especially if she consents to interact with him in any way, shape, or form.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    Not all human beings/persons have full access to legal protections/rights.

    Everyone realizes this? Right?

    My good buddy Antonin Scalia realizes this. It’s maybe the one thing we agree on.

    He loves to point out that the US Constitution does NOT guarantee personhood to women residing in the US.

    Unfortunately, he’s right. Which is why we so desperately need the ERA.

    Women are legally sub-human and second (or third) class citizens in the US.

    And, if the Republican Christianists get there way — this will only get worse.

  • keddaw

    And, I have repeatedly said — I am trying to shape a non-gendered and non-racist approach to this issue.

    No, you are categorically not. You are assuming a power differential between men and women based on traditional physical strength which the law already covers quite comprehensively – anyone (note anyone, not any man) using their physical strength to overpower another is breaking the law (with a few caveats.) You are then using this legal principle to apply to social situations in spite of the fact the law was created to nullify the differential in the first place and allow social interactions to proceed on an equal footing. And the way you have used the term misogynist (apparently against me!) tends to show this is a male vs female issue for you. And it turns out you didn’t really answer Billy’s point after all.

    What you are actually doing is rationalising backwards from a feeling you have.

    Edit – I note that your last comment changes your position slightly, but I had already written this so it stays :)

    Because all reasonable persons should be aware that this would provoke fear in all reasonable persons

    And many people have asked if that reasonable person’s fear is reasonable. Common or natural does not equal reasonable. If that fear is unreasonable then RWs reaction becomes the same as the Catholic’s reaction to PZ’s host desecration. Her point about how women should be treated in order to get more women to conferences would still stand though – as would the claim of underlying sexism which this conversation stands in the way of!

    Let’s do a thought experiment. EG is from Ilda, a small island where they are open and honest and sexuality is open and free. There has never been a rape on Ilda. Given that, has EG done anything wrong in propositioning RW in an elevator? Would it matter if RW knew EG was from Ilda? If RW was from Ilda but EG not? If both were from Ilda?

    The point of this is that rational expectations matter. If it turns out that the EG/RW situation is statistically safer than most then the natural reaction of RW becomes irrational and we should address that much the way we try to address many of our natural, irrational and counter-productive reactions. If the situation turns out to be a little bit rapey then we have stats to show people that their actions are bad as opposed to now when we simply have allegations, insults and feelings. Telling people not to do something has a lot more force if you have something more concrete than feelings to back it up.

  • monkeymind

    Sarah Jane, I would put it much more simply – be wary of asking people to put themselves at risk by trusting you when you have done nothing to earn their trust. The more aggressive you are in demanding an unearned level of trust, the more threatening you will appear. Anyone who does not understand how a request to be alone with a woman in a hotel room, is an entirely different kind of request than asking for spare change or making a conversational gambit about the weather, doesn’t seem to me to be thinking very clearly.

    I don’t think power differential has to come into it at all. I would be wary if one of my students asked for my home address, even though supposedly I have more power in that relationship. It’s just not something I entrust to people I don’t know well. The request itself might or might not be something I would share with administration, but it would send up a red flag for me.

    Keddaw: Do you think the risk of being raped is equal for men and for women? I believe most of the data indicates that women are at greater risk of being raped by men than men are at risk of being raped by women. Is that not a good thing to be mindful of when inviting a woman you don’t know well to your hotel room?

    And I believe the science shows that people who are not respectful of others’ personal boundaries are likely to continue testing others’ personal boundaries. Can you show me any studies that would show that someone who ignores commonly accepted personal boundaries, is not more likely to be dangerous than a person who observes them?

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    Correction — And, if the Republican Christianists get THEIR way, this will only get worse.

    In fact, a woman who is pregnant and married is pretty much at a nadir for legal rights / protections in the US.

    Which is why I will never marry and I will never have children.

    I am also exceedingly cautious about entering into a sexual/romantic relationship with a man.

    Because, for a woman, entering into a sexual/romantic relationship with a man is the most dangerous (in terms of interpersonal violence) thing that she does in her lifetime in the US.

    I stand by my claim. Because she will no longer be protected in the same way by our laws.

    She is less human and less a citizen.

    And, this has nothing to with a physical power differential in terms of strength.

    This is about the legalized status of one’s humanity and one’s citizenship.

    And, I’m just not willing to place my legal rights/protections in jeopardy.

    I’m just not willing to give up what little humanity / citizenship status I have.

    If this makes it hard for men to get laid, well, that’s just too bad, so sad.

    So, if men want women to feel comfortable being hit on in the public space, then roll up your sleeves guys, because we’ve got some work to do legalizing the fully human and fully citizen status of women in the US.

  • monkeymind

    Let’s do a thought experiment. EG is from Ilda, a small island where they are open and honest and sexuality is open and free. There has never been a rape on Ilda. Given that, has EG done anything wrong in propositioning RW in an elevator? Would it matter if RW knew EG was from Ilda? If RW was from Ilda but EG not? If both were from Ilda?

    If usual patterns hold, the Ildan would probably know more about our customs than we would about theirs. And s/he would probably find the idea of negotiating a sexual encounter with a non-Ildan to be terrifying. Useful thought experiment though. How do you think we get to Ilda?

  • keddaw

    monkeymind, the level of female rape is an horrific indictment on our society. A cogent point may be that the majority of rapes happen in the victims home and/or are done by someone known to them. And no, the ratio of m-f vs f-m rapes is not relevant to anything.

    But again, this gets away from the idea of reasonable expectations.

    Was EG an asshole? Yes.
    Did EG ignore RW’s express intent? Yes – see above.
    Was RW creeped out? Yes.
    Was EG creepy? Depends on a whole bunch of factors, but probably.
    Did EG objectify RW? No.
    Did EG respect RW’s right to say no? Yes.
    Did EG interfere with RW’s access to legal protections / rights? No, but if he did he should go to prison.
    Was RW right to be creeped out? We would like to see some facts so that we can ensure that people, but guys especially, get the message that this behaviour rightly puts people in a sense of danger and is therefore wrong, or that the reaction is irrational and we can work on making people less fearful of those situations.

    Ilda is an idealised place that is a useful place to think about when shaping laws around social norms. Would an Ildan fall foul of a law (or social norm) then there is almost definitely something wrong with the law – although the social norm may be sensible given our society is quite a way behind Ilda. It’s also a mostly libertarian state, but that’s a whole other discussion!

    Sarah, I’m sorry you’re not a real person in the eyes of your laws (are black people still 3/5ths?) If I was in your country I’d be fighting like mad for equal protection under the law for you. But that’s no reason to bring that fight into this discussion. The EG/RW situation happened in Dublin where women are equal with men under the law. I am in neither country but women are, finally, equal here too – although Catholics aren’t! As a side note, be very careful about the ERA, the right wing Christians may sneak fetuses in as people too, denying women the right to abortions.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    Keddaw,

    I don’t think I ever called you a misogynist. I referred to the overwhelming misogynistic online reaction to RW’s totally reasonable suggestion. I will read back thru my comments to be sure. If you don’t think the overwhelming reaction to RW’s totally reasonable suggestion was outrageously misogynistic, then just keep reading the different blogs, as I have done. Eventually, it will occur to you.

    Also, Billy asked — do you mean for all of these power differentials too? And, I answered, “Yes. All of them.”

    I’m not quite sure how that is not responding to his question.

    Also, I think I’ve been more than clear in defining power differential as unequal access to legal protections / rights, but I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to type that phrase one more time, so, thank you. (oh, I think Billy might have included strength, so, in that case, not that one.)

    I have considered and rejected, as I mentioned, the idea of creating a guide based on other power differentials.

    I think that was everything.

    Oh, your example about the island of Ilda.

    Yeah, this is why using the law as a guide is such a good idea.

    This is also why I have repeatedly used the expression “in the US”.

    And, I’ll just repeat my statement about not criminalizing this behavior, because, what the hell, I’m sure it will be ignored, but it can’t hurt.

    I’m not going to get into a debate about immigration or cultural relativism or integration/assimilation and different cultural mores.

    But, my legal status as a human being doesn’t change based upon the cultural mores of the man approaching me. My legal status doesn’t increase/decrease based upon the cultural mores of the man approaching me.

    My legal status as a human being is decreased based on my being a woman and having a man approach me in the public space.

    Any man. Of any race. Of any nationality. Of any age.

    Are there other legal power differentials? Yeah, sure.

    Are there people who can claim not to have access to rights based upon multiple identities?

    Yeah, sure. Maybe they have greater access for some reasons and lesser access for others?

    Yeah, sure.

    But, we’re talking about women being hit upon by men in the public space.

    I think it behooves us to stay on point.

    And, yet again, I am not suggesting we criminalize this behavior.

    But, I think we can create a non-gendered and non-racist guide to interacting with other human beings in the public space.

    I think we can and should take our social cues from the law.

    And, I’ve defined how I think we should proceed.

    But, I’m still shaping my approach.

    We’re good?

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    Whoa, keddaw.

    I have never been to Ireland, and have only studied Ireland’s domestic law in the context of studying European Union law and European Human Rights law, but I took both my EU law class and my Euro Human Rights Law class from a female law professor who also happens to be both an Irish citizen and an EU citizen.

    So, I can tell you, regarding your assertions about gender equality under Irish law, that you are seriously mistaken.

    The ERA, which simply says that there shall be no differences in legal protections based upon sex, would protect abortion rights.

  • Mrnaglfar

    The more aggressive you are in demanding an unearned level of trust, the more threatening you will appear. Anyone who does not understand how a request to be alone with a woman in a hotel room, is an entirely different kind of request than asking for spare change or making a conversational gambit about the weather, doesn’t seem to me to be thinking very clearly.

    Demanding? Who demanded anything? EG certainly didn’t demand a single thing, so you must be talking about something else entirely.

    And I believe the science shows that people who are not respectful of others’ personal boundaries are likely to continue testing others’ personal boundaries.

    Not respecting boundaries? Who did that? EG certainly didn’t; he wasn’t standing too close, he wasn’t pushy, he didn’t continue to press the point, and he didn’t attempt to intimidate her. In fact, he accepted her ‘no’, so you must be talking about something else again.

    Here’s the funny thing about moral dumbfounding. If you ask people whether a brother and sister of legal age, having consensual sex while both used birth control that both of them enjoyed and kept their secret, did anything wrong, most will say ‘yes’. When you ask those same people to justify their responses, they give the standard list: it hurt them emotionally, they could suffer socially, or if one got pregnant, the baby might suffer from inbreeding depression. When you point out that pregnancy was not a possibly, there was no emotional damage (the opposite effect, actually), and no one ever found out about it, people don’t change their answers. They still insist that the brother and sister did something wrong, even if they can’t think of why.

    This entire discussion reminds me of that.
    http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.com/2006/03/eating-your-dog-and-having-sex-with.html

  • monkeymind

    Mrnaglfar, I didn’t say he was demanding. But what I said still holds true for a simple request, given the context. The more trust you are requesting, the more unearned the trust is, the more aggressive the request. Why do you insist that a request to be alone with a stranger in a hotel room is on a par with a request for spare change or a conversational gambit about the weather? The first would require a level of trust that is not prudent for me to give. That is asking me to cross a boundary that is not prudent for me to cross. Why are you pushing on this boundary so aggressively?

  • keddaw

    Sarah, I thought Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights ensured equal rights for women, but I shall bow to your superior legal knowledge.

    Billy’s point, which you never covered, was about victimhood. You claim a change in your legal protections due to your gender, which I am dubious about but regardless, Billy is male, in a situation with a power differential, is he a victim?

    Could you perhaps elucidate why the RW/EG situation constitutes “unequal access to legal protections / rights”?

    As for your “in the US claim”, you didn’t mention that until #100.

    I was perhaps ungenerously inferring that you were calling me misogynistic, but if your point was simply that the backlash against RW was then I am in agreement and embarrassed for the human race and the atheistic community in particular.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    The Euro Ct of Human Rights, while hugely influential, lacks enforcement powers, except for naming and shaming.

    Also, in their jurisprudence, they have a policy of deference to domestic law, called the margin of appreciation, which has, unfortunately, been applied repeatedly to justify the lesser status of women, in particular.

    I think I just covered your Billy issue. People have different levels of access to legal protections / rights for reasons other than gender.

    A woman’s rights/legal protections take a hit when she is approached by a man in public, especially if she consents to respond to him/interact with him in any way, even if he is the nicest guy in the world, and nothing happens, and it’s broad daylight in the middle of a busy town square, and she is surrounded by her nearest and dearest, and she’s wearing a burqa.

    So, this would occur in an EG/RW type situation too.

    Sorry that I didn’t mention “in the US” before comment no. 100.

    I’m glad that you agree about my statement about the overwhelming and outrageous online misogynistic response to RW’s reasonable suggestion.

    There’s hope for you yet.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Why do you insist that a request to be alone with a stranger in a hotel room is on a par with a request for spare change or a conversational gambit about the weather?

    Because asking someone if they want to come to your room or asking if someone has spare change is just asking. It’s nothing more than a request.

    I’d certainly grant that there are different levels of possible risk involved, but I’m of the mind that, in both cases, there’s nothing inherently wrong with the just asking part. Hell, EG took the risk of inviting someone he didn’t know back to his room; he could have been robbed; he could have been trying to initiate sexual intercourse with someone that had some sexually transmitted infection. Of course I’m not saying Watson would have robbed him or does have an STI – I remain entirely ignorant of that information and I don’t assume she would or does – but EG didn’t know this either.

    Now if people are overwhelmingly less likely to accept or make one offer or another because of what they think might happen if they do, that’s fine; people have different levels of risk acceptance and they’re under no obligation to respond in the affirmative to either. Which is another reason I will continue to conflate asking for change and asking for coffee. They’re both simply questions that can easily be declined. They both can make people uncomfortable in various contexts. And, on their own, I don’t think just asking and accepting the answer in either case is wrong.

  • keddaw

    I was referring to the Convention rather than the court, the Convention has to be signed into law in each member state. But regardless…

    I want to know how a “woman’s rights/legal protections take a hit when she is approached by a man in public”. If possible could you also tell me how it is female specific and if it applies only when a man approaches.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    Mrnaglfar,

    So, you just don’t care about the other person at all then?

    You only care about your right to ask a question, no matter what the question is, no matter who the other person is in relation to you, no matter the context?

    As long as it is only speech, and you aren’t violating the law, you will assert your right to ask another person a question no matter what, come hell or high water?

    You won’t hesitate for one moment. Even if it’s the middle of the night, in a dark alley, and the woman is completely alone, in a “bad” neighborhood, and there’s no one else around, and she is weighed down with heavy parcels, and she’s on crutches, and she’s wearing thick, coke bottle glasses, and she looks confused and lost and scared, and she seems drunk, and, whatever else you can think of.

    To bloody hell with the other person.

    If you feel attracted to her and want to have sex with her, you will march right up to her and ask her to go back to your hotel room with you. Because, it’s just a question. She can simply say no.

    Hmmm. Interesting. Really? Really? You think this is ok? I’m not saying it’s illegal, but really? You don’t think there’s anything untoward about this encounter. Really?

    You don’t think that that would scare the bejeezus out of her? You don’t think that that would make her uncomfortable? You don’t think she would have a right to be afraid for her personal safety? Because it’s just a question. It’s only speech. She can just say no.

    And, what kind of society do you think would result, if everyone thought the way you do? With complete disregard for anyone else’s comfort or safety or wellbeing?

  • Mrnaglfar

    If you don’t think the overwhelming reaction to RW’s totally reasonable suggestion was outrageously misogynistic, then just keep reading the different blogs, as I have done.

    The problem, I will repeat one last, final, exasperated time, has nothing to do with a suggestion to not try to hit on strange women in elevators at four in the morning. It’s unlikely to work and many women will probably find it unsettling.

    The problem has everything to do with the response leveled against people who think, despite someone feeling creeped out, nothing morally wrong happened, like Dawkins. That they’re sexists, misogynists, privileged (and accordingly, “don’t get it”), entitled jackasses that are complicit in some form in crimes perpetrated against women. That people like Dawkins dare suggest that Rebecca wasn’t victimized or wronged grates against people’s emotional reaction that they might not like to be propositioned (or that they see other people are having that reaction and don’t want to appear insensitive or be socially shunned, so they just agree and high-five each other for being the ones that ‘totally get it’. I’d wager there are a non-trivial number of guys who hope to be considered the ones who ‘get it’ in the hopes that women will like them more for it and put out, but I digress). So with that emotional reaction in mind, people scramble for any possible justification for it – and there are no lack of those, I assure you.

    It’s the crucifying anyone who disagrees with Watson that’s the problem.

    And one last thought; I’m shocked you’re brave enough to come out here and talk to men on a public forum, given what it will do to your legal rights and protections:

    A woman’s rights/legal protections take a hit when she is approached by a man in public, especially if she consents to respond to him/interact with him in any way, even if he is the nicest guy in the world, and nothing happens, and it’s broad daylight in the middle of a busy town square, and she is surrounded by her nearest and dearest, and she’s wearing a burqa.

    Here’s what this sounds like to me:
    Women: If you see a man coming, no matter the situation, run if you enjoy having rights and freedoms. If a man talks to you, you’re in trouble. Heaven forbid you talk back to him; you may as well pull the trigger yourself.

    Men: It you don’t want to hurt women and you respect their rights, don’t ever talk to them. Never try to initiate mutual encounters, short- or long-term, because that’s the most dangerous thing you can do to a woman.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    Mrnaglfar,

    I just want you to realize that it is no small matter for women.

    I’m not being hyperbolic.

    No one is saying that men can’t hit on women in public. But, think about the fact that you are asking a woman to accept a legal liability, so that you can hit on her in public, if she consents to talk to you in any way, shape, or form.

    Think about that.

    And, maybe you’ll be a little more considerate the next time you do approach a woman in public.

    I sure hope so.

    And, personally, because I do understand how it places my rights/legal protections in jeopardy to consent to interact with a man who is approaching me in public to hit on me, my standard response is: Fuck off!

    This is the way I retain the greatest portion of my rights/legal protections.

    I interact with men all day long, every day, in the public space.

    I am talking specifically about being hit on.

    But, no one is saying that you have to stop talking to women in public.

    No one is saying that we should criminalize flirting in public between the sexes.

    Just be cognizant of the concerns of women.

    Concerns that you don’t have to think about as a man.

    Is that really so much to ask? Does that really require this much conversation, pleading, hand wringing?

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    Mrnaglfar,

    The last thing I want to point out, and then I need a break, is this:

    (Sorry, Ebon, I’m going to refer to a different thread, but I have a good point.)

    I remember very clearly a certain thread on this site about a different uproar over the use of the word bitch. And, Ophelia Benson, was involved.

    And, I actually argued with Ophelia. Because I didn’t like the tenor of the discussion.

    I felt like there was an assertion being made that because men are men that they have no right to even be a part of the discussion about the use of the word bitch. That they simply had to stop using the word at the command of women, because women said so.

    That is not what is happening here.

    I just spent several hours discussing this issue with you guys, and I want desperately for you guys to be a part of the conversation.

    And, in my opinion, and I have read extensively many, many of the various blog posts and comment threads on this subject, no one is name calling the guys who want to have a real, serious discussion about this issue and how to resolve it.

    I don’t think that is happening. Feel free to disagree.

    But, there is a shocking, to me anyway, online misogynistic response.

    But, I think most women want to have a real, serious discussion about this, with men.

    And, I like to think that we are having that discussion.

    And, no one called me a bitch. At least not on this thread.

    At least not yet. (Nobody needs to be cute now.)

    Sleepy. Good night everybody.

  • Billy Kwan

    Please don’t get me wrong, I am just asking, not making any point.

    I am seriously curious because I frequently travel among Mainland China in a rural village where my wife’s family is, HK where I live, and Canada where I also live. (Mind you, the inequality between man and woman in the village is a real issue, I have a hard time making my wife understand she and I are equal.)

    I personally did not notice white male 2-times my size tendering to my feeling in Canada. I do not expect it. The fear is there, sometimes, opposite to EG, it is when people remain silent. I guess it is just different for different people, eh? And I learn something new every day.

    Have a nice day everyone.

  • Scotlyn

    Keddaw – I think you are, in the main, in agreement with me on basic respect for rights, etc, but with a blind spot shared by many who have engaged with Rebecca’s story (for which I do not attach blame or labels, I hope you appreciate). Instead, your responses have made me want to try harder to tease this matter out in some way that actually communicates rather than alienates – with the suspicion that you might actually be someone who might be able to open your mind in this way.
    Let’s tease out a couple of terms.
    “Comfort”. You keep stressing the fact that Rebecca was made “uncomfortable” and that it is important to find out whether it is reasonable for her to feel this way. And in our discussion on the nature of privacy rights in the public space, you keep returning to the use of the word “comfort.” What if someone walks 18 inches beside you? What if someone argues loudly with someone else in your hearing? What if someone wears an unforgiveably loud shirt? What about the discomfort felt by homophobes when witnessing a same-sex couple kissing? So, I thought about it, and I realised that “comfort” is not at all at issue here – not for me, anyway.

    Like I said in my bus example, if the bus is very crowded, such that someone’s body barrels into me on a turn, of course I am uncomfortable, but my rights have not been damaged. In fact none of these examples is at all similar to what we are talking about, and therefore irrelevant. If you want to be relevant, you should start to give serious consideration to the type of example that start with someone deliberately targeting ME in a claim of ownership on my attention, not someone incidentally finding themselves in my vicinity, comfort-level or no.

    Mrnaglfar insists that this is everyone’s right. He states, plain out, that people “have the right to hit on someone else” – he cares not what that someone else thinks about the matter. In your concern that people not mix up rights and social concerns, you have not expressed a problem with his assertion. But you have expressed a problem with my assertion that I have the right not to be hit on, if I don’t want to. If we could get away from trying to figure out the literal measurements and nature of “body-space” (perhaps my thoughts on this theme have been a sideways distraction)and try a more metaphorical illustration:
    1) Mrnaglfar is insisting that he has the right to walk on to my stage, whether I want him to or not.
    2) I am insisting I own my stage and should be able to decide who walks onto it or not.
    Which of our assertions do you think is likeliest to cause harm?
    Which of them most closely allies with your concept of rights?

    I am really interested in your considered answer. Thanks.

    PS please don’t get distracted by whether something should be legal or not, lets talk more generally, for now, about the definition of a person who is human (whether male or female) and their human rights.

  • Scotlyn

    One more question, Keddaw. Implicit in some of your replies is the idea that there are no male-female power differentials at this moment in time in the modern world. And you discount the fact that the vast majority of rapes are committed by men on the persons of women and children, for example, as evidence that such a power differential between men and women might exist. (It’s not clear what you think this fact does attest to).

    Because one thing that may be skewing this interaction, is that I (and several other commenters) assume that a power differential between men and women is the pre-existing condition which I am trying to correct – that what this is about is aiming FOR an equality not yet achieved between women and men, by applying the basic measure of my equal entitlement to human rights to my perception and experience of where my rights are most likely to be violated as a woman.

    But if you assume that men and women are equal already, then I can see how some of the arguments made by me and others might appear as special pleading for a differential treatment for men and women.

    The thing is, we have not yet achieved this equality, although we have come a long way. One of the battlegrounds for our equality is currently being played out in this very conversation – if we were equal already, there would be no need for this conversation, nor would there be such an emotional investment by all sides in their positions.

    This is why I said that rights evolve, and used the illustration of the divine rights of kings. In fact, rights are what we get in exchange for personal power. At some historic, but undefined, point in time, most of us (well, our ancestors) ended up stripped of our power in stratified societies, where we lived and died at the whim of the entitled.

    At various times, people fought for rights as a way of staking a claim on a part of the personal power they no longer enjoyed – part of that fight being to define those rights, and enable others to “see” what they had previously been blind to. Slaves are people? Serfs have feelings? Who knew?

    Rape laws as contained in the Old Testament, for example, are framed in such a way that it is clear that every vagina belongs to a man – any harm done is done to that man, it is a crime by one man against another man’s honour, and what the woman felt about it is neither here nor there as such laws were written.

    Granted, for the most part, we now agree that women’s vaginas actually belong to them and that therefore the harm done in a rape is done to the woman herself. Nevertheless there is still some way to go for men and women to be able to enjoy a free, open, honest, mutually participating, mutually enjoyable sexual arena with one another. There is still profound inequality in this sexual arena.

    That’s why Mrnaglfar’s insistence that all external context can be stripped away from Rebecca’s story is nonsense. (Which story, by the way, I take as I think it was meant – as a modern fable – a story told to illustrate something, the shape of which we women can see, but which many men cannot yet see, and which we would very much like them to be able to see – neither she, nor any commenter that I’ve been aware of is suggesting, for example, that EG did anything illegal, or that he deserves censure or prison or anything similar – this is a story that is trying to illustrate a lesson “to any with the ears to hear.”)

    It is precisely in the sexual arena that we are still profoundly unequal. Granted, there is a continuum. On one end is the highly delightful mutual-enthusiasm-mutual-pleasure-mutual-participation-sex, which I think we all agree is good (in my case – very good!), and which, thankfully, more and more of us are enjoying. On the other end is rape, in which one partner withholds consent, but is forced anyway, which we all agree is bad. But somewhere along that continuum is something that I might call (please forgive my crudeness, but I would like to open some people’s eyes here) masturbation-in-close-proximity-to-a-consenting-but-otherwise-uninvolved-partner-sex.

    It seems to me that this grey area is the source of many of our communication difficulties. Firstly, this is a real phenomenon. The consenting but otherwise uninvolved partner may be a prostitute, with a different trade off for being involved in this encounter (money), or may be a woman who values motherhood, and will go along with the sex that gets her to her goal, or perhaps even the eponymous “gold digger” much caricatured. Perhaps it is someone who suffered sexual abuse and never found out there was any other kind of sex, or perhaps is simply one of the many, many women who have never woken up to the fact that sex is its own reward, that nothing other than pleasure need be traded for pleasure, that when two people are deeply focussed on pleasuring one another, it can light up the whole world and make it a better place. But who are the men who are engaging with these women? Why is a woman’s mere consent, unaccompanied by the least bit of enthusiastic reciprocal desire and pleasure, enough for them?

    And what happens when, due to her gendered training, such a woman is too afraid, or feels it would be too rude or unfeminine to hold up a red flag, and starts waving a yellow one? What happens when due to his gendered training, such a man reads a yellow flag as if it were a green one, especially if her yellow was meant as a polite red? Ever heard of “date rape”? Could date rape ever happen if men decided that they would only actually masturbate when alone, but if in the company of another they wished to have sex with, they would always seek enthusiastic mutual participation, and settle for nothing less?

    I think Rebecca, and those who listened to her story with understanding, would categorise masturbation-with-a-willing-but-uninvolved-partner sex to be part of the problematic and unequal relations of the male-female sexual arena which have their ultimate expression in rape. I think that those who have listened and listened again to all the comments about it, and don’t get it, would categorise masturbation-with-a-willing-but-uninvolved-partner sex with mutually-enthusiastic sex, and, so long as there is consent, simply do not see any difference.

    This is a rights and an equality battle we women cannot win until eyes blinded by culture, upbringing, and other factors, have been opened.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Scotlyn, maybe I’m missing something here. I think we all agree the vast majority of rapists are men. I think we all agree that rape is a bad thing. But rape has nothing to do with what happened in the Rebecca/EG situation. It’s a red herring. Let’s stick to the actual issue.

    If you want to be relevant, you should start to give serious consideration to the type of example that start with someone deliberately targeting ME in a claim of ownership on my attention, not someone incidentally finding themselves in my vicinity, comfort-level or no.

    Mrnaglfar insists that this is everyone’s right. He states, plain out, that people “have the right to hit on someone else” – he cares not what that someone else thinks about the matter.

    I do, in fact, feel people have a right to talk to other people (freedom of speech), even about topics of sex and sexuality. Surely, you don’t disagree, do you?

    I am unsure what you mean about someone targeting your ownership of your attention. That sounds hopelessly vague to me. A right to not be talked to or interacted with does not appear in any set of rights known to me, especially not in the public sphere.

    PS please don’t get distracted by whether something should be legal or not, lets talk more generally, for now, about the definition of a person who is human (whether male or female) and their human rights.

    Violations of rights are (near) the definition of illegal.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    keddaw,

    Who do you think interprets the Convention? The Court. Also, it’s one thing to sign an international legal instrument. It’s another thing to ratify it. And, it’s another thing still to promulgate domestic implementing legislation. All nation states vary.

    (Also, I’m just noticing the convo above. Human rights are established by law. There are no natural human rights. So, when you’re talking about human rights, you’re talking about legal rights.)

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    keddaw,

    Let’s just start with the insane power differential that exists between me and any man even before a guy has decided to approach me in public to hit on me.

    My impression is that you are not convinced that this exists. If you don’t believe me, perhaps you will believe my good buddy Antonin Scalia. Rest assured, Antonin is convinced. He knows that I am legally sub-human and a third class citizen in the US.

    Also, persons experience both facial (explicit) legal inequalities and substantive (application, effects) legal inequalities. Someone such as yourself might read the US Constitution and see that it says (paraphrase) all persons are equal, etc.. Now, you might assume that since women are persons that that phrase protects women. But, oh, no, Antonin says. Only men get the privilege of such an assumption. Only men do not require an explicit provision, which enshrines their personhood in the Constitution. (This really shouldn’t be so hard to understand – just read anything about the Civil Rights Era and substitute the word gender for race.)

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    keddaw,

    The moment a woman consents to interact with a man in public, in any way, shape, or form, a man who has approached her to ask her out, she places her legal rights/protections in jeopardy. And, in fact, her rights have diminished, even if she totally rebuffs him.

    Under statutory law, case law, and customary law, he can use this interaction as evidence of consent. She has less of a right to retract her consent to interact with him, sexually or otherwise. Per the law, it is as if he has claimed part ownership of her.

    One way in which this manifests in statutory law is in our rape shield laws. Men can use any past sexual encounters with a woman as evidence of her consent. Basically — you broke it; you bought it applied to women’s bodies. Yes, men can be raped and women can rape, but this is overwhelmingly applied to women to legalize their status as sexual and reproductive property.

    I know that the initial interaction may not be a sexual, physical encounter (but it could be construed as such, and it most definitely will be, if at all possible, by any competent rape defense), but it will still be used as evidence to increase the plausibility of any asserted sexual encounter, which doesn’t have to be actual sexual intercourse. It’s not like she can say that she has never even spoken to him or doesn’t know him at all.

    This is why rebuffing a man’s proposition is the best possible response for a woman. No matter what. Legally speaking. She retains the greatest portion of her rights if she tells him to fuck off.

    The state criminal case law is replete with aspersions cast upon women victims for varying degrees of response / consent to interact with men in public in any way, as justifications for all kinds of crimes, and not just sexual assaults/sexual batteries/rapes. It is as if women are being punished for entering the public space and conducting their own lives in the public sphere and interacting with strange men. (You were assaulted, mugged, defrauded, etc., etc.. Well, what did you expect? The world is a big, bad place full of scary men ready to take advantage of you, you, little, delicate flower. Now, you get yourself back home to your daddy’s or husband’s house where you belong. Leave the public space to the men.)

    (I also just read something really interesting about how our whole notion of self defense penalizes women and rewards men for committing crimes in the name of defending themselves and their property. Because women don’t have the right to defend themselves against men or to defend their property, because they are property themselves. How this applies to men hitting on women in the public space – she doesn’t have a right to defend herself; she doesn’t have a right to refuse him. Because she is a piece of property, and she has presented herself in the public space, so she is ripe for the picking. So, in the eyes of the law, when he hits on her, she becomes his property; he has planted his flag.)

    Rape shield laws are actually meant to help do away with some of this, but they don’t go nearly far enough. They only protect women in the instance of stranger rapes. But, the vast majority of women are raped by someone whom they know.

    The way that this manifests in customary law – the sexual harassment of women in the public space is gender punishment for women entering the public space and conducting public lives and having control over their own lives and their own choices.

    Every time a woman is hit on in public, it legitimizes and furthers this practice, diminishing women’s access to the public space and further establishing women’s status as sexual and reproductive property.

    So, knowing that this is the case, it shouldn’t be surprising that a lot of women don’t like being hit on in public. (And, I know that some women don’t mind it, but even if you can find a woman who only wants to be hit on in dark alleys in the middle of the night by much bigger, stronger men, when she’s completely alone and drunk, her legal rights/protections still take a hit.)

    The bigger surprise, to my mind, is why any woman would ever say anything to a man approaching her in public to hit on her besides “Fuck Off!”

    I just want to make clear, one final time, that I interact with men all day long, every day, in the public space. I am talking about being hit on. I am talking about men pursuing romantic/sexual encounters with women in the public space.

    Also, I’ll just say, unlike Greta Christina, and some other more charitable feminists who have weighed in on this issue, I am NOT trying to help you get laid. I don’t care if you never get laid ever again. In fact, I think our overpopulation is one of the greatest threats facing humanity. The only thing I care about is attaining full access to humanity and citizenship for women in the US and around the globe (which immediately brings the birth rate down).

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    I was also just thinking about the recent landmark Walmart Supreme Court case.

    Wherein the Court said that women don’t have a right to band together to pursue class action lawsuits against their employers for sex discrimination. Again, my good buddy, Antonin, led the way on this one.

    Think about what that means. This is in the employment context, not the public space context, but still.

    Think about the message that this sends regarding sexual harassment in the workplace.

    Think about the message that this sends about the legal status of women in the US period.

    It is yet another attack on the legal status of the humanity and citizenship of women in the US.

  • Billy Kwan

    To Sarah,

    Maybe the news in Asia is different. I thought the Walmart case said that the women complainting do not have enough “in common” to bring a “class” action? It just say being “common” as woman is not enough?

    So as I intepret it, it will not be good enough if what is common is just “man”, or maybe “atheist”? If anything, it sends a message of what constitute a “class” in a “class action”?

    Or am I just wrong (since you are in USA I assume, you will have better information?)

  • Mrnaglfar

    The moment a woman consents to interact with a man in public, in any way, shape, or form, a man who has approached her to ask her out, she places her legal rights/protections in jeopardy. And, in fact, her rights have diminished, even if she totally rebuffs him.

    No one is saying that men can’t hit on women in public. But, think about the fact that you are asking a woman to accept a legal liability, so that you can hit on her in public, if she consents to talk to you in any way, shape, or form.

    PZ made Catholics uncomfortable, but he didn’t place their legal protections / rights in jeopardy.
    PZ made Catholics uncomfortable, but he didn’t make them afraid of imminent bodily harm.

    A woman’s rights/legal protections take a hit when she is approached by a man in public, especially if she consents to respond to him/interact with him in any way, even if he is the nicest guy in the world, and nothing happens, and it’s broad daylight in the middle of a busy town square, and she is surrounded by her nearest and dearest, and she’s wearing a burqa.

    Sarah, here’s what I can gather from your opinion: what EG did is not just harmful to Rebecca, but every time any man approaches any women, in any context, with the prospect of possible future sex on his mind, he is committing the same wrong, and that wrong is magnified if the woman consents. The only way to not cause harm is to remove the male sex drive entirely or have men stop talking to women altogether; maybe rewire the brains of anyone involved in the justice system so as to apply all laws without bias as well. Sure, you’re not saying men don’t have the right to approach a woman for sex, just that every time they do they cause harm by asking women to cede their human rights.

    I credit that opinion with being absolutely insane. Have fun with it. I’m not going to debate it any further.

    Frankly, the rest of what you’re talking about (rape, human fallibility in the legal system, biases of a judge, etc) are all a red herring that have nothing to do with the EG situation.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    This sentence of yours, Mrnaglfar, is correct:

    “Sure, you’re not saying men don’t have the right to approach a woman for sex, just that every time they do they cause harm by asking women to cede their human rights.”

    That is correct.

    You may not want to believe it. You may think it’s insane. But, that doesn’t change the fact that it’s true.

    That’s the problem with reality. It often doesn’t correspond to our wishes. But, I would rather know the truth.

    Wouldn’t you?

    Instead of denying reality, maybe a better option would be to work to alleviate the problem.

    Why don’t we work together to make it so it is not the case that women place their legal rights/protections in jeopardy when they consent to interact with a man in the public space who is approaching them for a romantic / sexual encounter?

    Have you given this option any thought?

    Try it. You might like it.

    Don’t you want women to feel comfortable being hit on in public?

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    Billy,

    You should read Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dissent.

    She’s awesome.

    The issue will be how the opinion is construed in the future by the SC and lesser courts.

    I’m just going to take a wild stab in the dark here and augur that the ruling will be construed narrowly — to only apply to women — and will not hinder the ability for people to pursue class actions based upon racial or religious discrimination.

    Ginsburg points out in her dissent the mental gymnastics that were applied in the ruling to legally justify saying that women don’t have enough in common with one another to form a class to attack sex discrimination in the employment context. She points out the abundant evidence that existed that exactly that was happening — women were being grossly discriminated against BECAUSE THEY WERE WOMEN. That is what they had in common.

    Scalia also basically said that as long as companies have printed policies against sex discrimination, that screw the evidence, the presumption is on the side of the corporation.

    It remains to be seen how this will affect women in the future.

    But, I am not hopeful. This was NOT a women’s rights ruling. That’s for damn sure.

    Yeah, I actually did notice the widely disparate angles that were taken by the international press from nation-state to nation-state.

    Some really stressed the women’s rights component. Some ignored it.

  • keddaw

    Scotlyn, quite a lot to get through… :)

    If you want to be relevant, you should start to give serious consideration to the type of example that start with someone deliberately targeting ME in a claim of ownership on my attention, not someone incidentally finding themselves in my vicinity, comfort-level or no.
    When this was tried earlier (panhandler targeting someone because they look rich) it was dismissed as not being in the same ballpark. So let’s try a different example: Person A gets the train a few times and notices Person B getting the same train. Person A then starts making the same train to see Person B each day with the hope of some kind of recognition to enable the start of a conversation. This could be seen as creepy or romantic. Or neither. Depending on the proximity, how busy the train is, receptivity to attention seeking, the outcome, societal norms, etc. this story has many endings so it is impossible to say objectively whether there is anything wrong with this.

    1) Mrnaglfar is insisting that he has the right to walk on to my stage, whether I want him to or not.
    2) I am insisting I own my stage and should be able to decide who walks onto it or not.
    Which of our assertions do you think is likeliest to cause harm?
    Which of them most closely allies with your concept of rights?

    PS please don’t get distracted by whether something should be legal or not, lets talk more generally, for now, about the definition of a person who is human (whether male or female) and their human rights.

    Unfortunately human rights only exist within a legal context so it is hard not to be distracted by whether something is legal or not. e.g. it is legal for the Phelps to go to military funerals and cause a fuss and upset the mourners, they have that right. The mourners do NOT have the right to not be further upset, they don’t have the right not to have their attention taken from the matter at hand. The fact that it causes them harm, in a reasonably objective way, and even reasonably expected and intentional way, doesn’t matter, the Phelps’ rights massively outweigh the mourners wishes or minor harm. To deny the Phelps’ rights would inflict a much greater harm than to protect the mourners – not just to the Phelps, but to the everyone who enjoys that right. If the mourners do not wish to experience harm caused by the Phelps’ enjoying their rights in the public sphere then they should refrain from coming into the public sphere. So, to answer your question:
    Mrnaglfar’s assertion is most likely to lead to physical harm but your assertion would cause a much greater harm by denying EVERYONE their rights. That some people (appear to) misuse those rights does not mean you should go around abolishing them. Socially ostracise them, call them out on it, shun them, do whatever you want to people who abuse their rights in inappropriate situations, but don’t deny everyone their rights because of a few assholes.

  • keddaw

    Scotlyn, as to your final point I think it might tease out why many people (esp. men) are upset by this, you say

    But if you assume that men and women are equal already…

    Indeed. The law, Sarah’s comments notwithstanding, means that any power differential between a man and a woman (or any two, or more, people) cannot be used without breaking the law. As a, mostly, law abiding man I feel that there is no power differential when I deal with another human adult – heck, when I deal with a larger man I am fully aware of the protection of law I have in reigning in/mitigating his physical superiority.

    we have not yet achieved this equality

    I know, and I fully support all moves towards equality of all people, of all genders, of all races, of all sexualities, of all political views and, yes, even of all religions.

    It is precisely in the sexual arena that we are still profoundly unequal.

    Possibly, but I think you go too far. What consenting adults get up to is their business. If a woman wants to exchange sex for jewellery then it is her body and her choice, likewise the man can exchange jewellery for sex if he so chooses – that you, or I, think this is a less enjoyable way for a couple to behave around sex is entirely irrelevant. It’s not that there is no difference, it is simply that it’s not my business and nor is it yours. You simply cannot put your own values on what constitutes a valid sexual relationship and enforce that on others. I know that’s not exactly what you were doing but that’s where it was heading.

    The problem you have is that, no matter how much it is denied, it always seems to get back to the idea that EG’s behaviour was a bit rapey. That women have been so conditioned that all interactions with men must be viewed as potential rape is a terrible thing – albeit not as terrible as the number of actual rapes or the number of men that get away with it, but that’s off-topic. Our relationships are all messed up because men are viewed with suspicion. Yes it’s real, yes it’s scary and yes it’s an horrific thing when it happens, but it’s not as common as all that. It’s not as common as less serious things, like robbery, yet when we meet new people we don’t immediately treat people as potential robbers and let it affect everything about that situation. We can be cautious without being freaked out, sensible without being defensive and rational without being a victim.

  • keddaw

    Sarah:

    My impression is that you are not convinced that this [Power differential] exists.

    Correct, in the main, but I stand to be enlightened, outraged and moved to action in that order.

    Obviously I am aware of Scalia, the guy is a moron with selective reading of the Constitution – on this he is actually correct, the document and subsequent Amendments make it clear that only males can vote or be President, the use of the words ‘Person’ and ‘citizen’ is ambiguous. I am hopeful an ERA can be passed, but case law seems to have established it in practice although any case going to the Supreme Court could overturn all that. (Actually, race doesn’t work since the Constitution has no race-based words, whereas it does have gender specific words! So things are, in legal terms, worse for a woman than a non-white male.)

    However, it simply seems that you are retrospectively justifying a natural reaction. That you have found what may be a very good reason doesn’t change the fact that the reaction came first and the reason came after. I presume.

    The problem I have with this kind of reaction/justification is that you are aware of it due to your experience in law, but most people don’t have that so you can’t blame people for not being aware of it. You also can’t blame men for reducing your rights when they approach you in public, it is the law you have a problem with, not the man approaching you. And I think that your assertion that any response apart from “fuck off” results in a mitigation of any harm is false. I hope it is anyway…

    The state criminal case law is replete with aspersions cast upon women victims for varying degrees of response / consent to interact with men in public in any way, as justifications for all kinds of crimes…

    Indeed, just as it was when blacks were beaten up for drinking out of white-only fountains. We have become a more sensible society since then and the law has altered itself since. We also don’t pay attention to the (irrationally) hurt feelings of whites who have to share a fountain with blacks.

    the sexual harassment of women in the public space is gender punishment for women entering the public space and conducting public lives and having control over their own lives and their own choices.

    Yes it is. And it should stop. Be wary of using harassment though, that is actually a crime in most places so society already has done something to stop it. The less illegal behaviour that penalises women is something we should actively work to stop by social pressure: social shunning and shaming.

    Every time a woman is hit on in public, it legitimizes and furthers this practice…

    No it doesn’t. You are heading towards hyperbole here. Engaging with someone in public, even with the explicit intention of having consensual sex, is not sexual harassment or punishment for her appearing in public.

    The only thing I care about is attaining full access to humanity and citizenship for women in the US and around the globe

    I also care about a great many other things, but I fully support this and support any initiative that can progress this as long as it doesn’t reduce anyone else’s rights as a result. (One of the benefits of a quasi-libertarian worldview is that it treats all adults as equals and disregards gender, race, religion etc.)

  • keddaw

    Edit: The 19th Amendment obviously gave women the right to vote, but not necessarily to stand for office or President – at least that’s my reading of it.

  • keddaw

    Scotlyn, just to clarify #130, I know no-one has been calling for EG’s actions to be illegal, but you say you want to have the right to decide who walks onto your stage (what’s a stage? All the world’s a stage according to Shakespeare, I digress…) but since your stage happens to be part of the public sphere the only way to restrict it is to limit other people’s rights which entails the use of the force of the state. Right now what EG did is socially wrong, but perhaps in 100 years, or on Ilda, it won’t be.

    And, just to clarify, the only problem I had with RW’s comments was that she said “Guys, don’t do that. It’s creepy.” It’s not been shown to be objectively creepy and, at a sceptic’s conference especially, unproven claims should be called out. She also makes a bold statement about what guys should do based on her own subjective view of what makes her uncomfortable. While I happen to agree I don’t like people making blanket statements like this when there is no non-anecdotal evidence why. I think I know exactly what she meant and I agree 100% with it, but unfortunately she didn’t say that.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    keddaw,

    I just want to say that I appreciate the way you are conducting yourself in this discussion. Thank you.

    You seem to contradict yourself. You say that you understand that men and women are not equal and do not have equal access to rights. And, that you support changing this state of affairs. You say that you understand that the US Constitution does not protect the full personhood of women in the US, and you support changing this state of affairs.

    But, you don’t think most Americans are aware of this? Really? And, then you state that men and women have equal access to legal protections / rights.

    So which is it? Do men and women have equal access to legal protections / rights or don’t they?

    With all due respect, I think you are the one performing mental gymnastics to justify your Libertarian position, and you have backed yourself into that pesky old metaphorical corner. I actually think you are torn. I think you are experiencing what we like to call cognitive dissonance. You want to be a good guy and support equal rights, but you want to maintain your Libertarian position. I’m not sure that is possible. I am increasingly finding the Libertarian position to be contrary to a secular, liberal, constitutional democratic republic. And, contrary to rule of law and individual human rights, which, along with secularism, are the fundamental pillars of democracy.

    Even before law school, I was perfectly aware of my sub-human and second class citizenship status in the US. I was bombarded with those messages constantly, as is everyone else in the US, so how could I not have been aware of it. Women in particular are bombarded with messages of their culpability if they should enter the public space or entertain the attentions of men. Women and men are bombarded with messages of the status of women as sexual and reproductive property. Surely, you must be aware of this, no?

    People are absolutely aware of the law. We take a good part of our social cues from the law. Have you heard of the expression, “Ignorance of the law is no defense.”?

    I think it’s a little disingenuous to pretend that the vast majority of people are not fully aware of this.

  • monkeymind

    Keddaw-
    We can talk about “rights” in an informal way. People do it all the time. I can acknowledge that my neighbor has the right to use noisy power tools outside, and that I have the right to enjoy my garden. We can more easily come to a working agreement if neither of us demands the surrender of the other’s right.
    I would like women to have more freedom to access public space, without giving the police more excuse to hassle people. I think this is possible. I think law enforcement is only a small fraction of what goes into making public space safe and accessible for all.

    Re: the Phelps fuckwittage. There was widespread recognition of the families’ informal “right” to grieve without the visual and verbal assault of the Phelps protesters. Hence the huge outpouring of community support, and really creative, non-violent ways that people thought up to shield the families from the protesters. The community had their back.

    I’m really doubtful you would have my back in the same way. You keep insisting on an absolute right that men have to hit on women, but you’ve ignored a couple of requests to clarify if that extends to a situation that most women will find unambiguously threatening.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    Be moved, be outraged by that outrageous online misogynistic reaction to RW’s simple suggestion that guys please not isolate women in elevators at 4 am to hit on them, especially when women have already clearly expressed their total and unequivocal disapprobation of this behavior. (RW made it very clear on bloggingheads recently that EG heard every word she said to this effect in the bar before she left to go to bed, alone in her own hotel room.)

    Why do you think so many men were outraged by her simple and reasonable suggestion?

    Why do you think so many men punished her and any other woman online who supported her with a slew, a torrent of threats and remarks about rape and misogynistic epithets?

    This is gender punishment for her daring to assert her right to control her own life and her own choices in the public space, to have control over her own personhood, her own body.

    Why do you think these men feel so strongly about this?

    Because they are bombarded constantly with messages that this is ok. They are constantly bombarded with messages that women are sexual and reproductive property and sub-human and third class citizens of the US.

    Even from the Supreme Court of the United States of America.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    monkeymind,

    And, everyone, actually,

    I just wanted to point out the existence of customary law.

    Customary law, which is not positive law, is still law.

    We don’t rely upon it, or even discuss it that much, in the US, because we have so many other forms of law, including statutory law, constitutional law, and case law.

    But, it still exists in the US. And, sometimes, I think we do ourselves a disfavor by pretending that it doesn’t exist, when, of course, it does, and it can have a huge impact on persons’ lives.

    In some parts of the world, customary law is the predominant form of law.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    I think the awareness of how women’s rights / legal protections diminish the second she consents to interact in any way with a man who has approached her in the public space to hit on her can be summed up in the oft used expression,

    “She was asking for it.”

    Men and women are fully aware of the prevailing social and legal attitudes regarding women’s culpability if they should enter the public space or entertain the attentions of men.

  • monkeymind

    Keddaw: “The problem you have is that, no matter how much it is denied, it always seems to get back to the idea that EG’s behaviour was a bit rapey. That women have been so conditioned that all interactions with men must be viewed as potential rape is a terrible thing – albeit not as terrible as the number of actual rapes or the number of men that get away with it, but that’s off-topic. Our relationships are all messed up because men are viewed with suspicion.”

    The issue RW raised with the elevator proposition is not rapiness or creepiness but sexual objectification. That EG was not considering her as an individual when he made his proposition. I think a cold-proposition for sex will always lend itself to that interpretation, and in this case he apparently had ample opportunity to discover how such a proposition would affect her as an individual. That meets the definition of sexual objectification – ignoring or discounting the other person’s desires in order to treat her as a sexual object.

    I certainly don’t regard every expression of sexual attraction as potential rape or view every man who talks with me in public with suspicion. If he starts out with “Let’s go back to my hotel room for uh, coffee” I do find that suspicious. He could have said “I look forward to discussing this on your blog” or “Can we discuss this over breakfast tomorrow?” He’s asking me to do something that is much more risky for me than other venues he could have suggested. It is perfectly rational for me to fear an encounter in his hotel room more than an encounter in a cafe or online. So don’t be condescending about how to get over my irrational fear of men. I don’t have an irrational fear of men. I have a rational desire to avoid men who exhibit certain behaviors.

  • Billy Kwan

    This is strange. I read the ruling (at least part of it) from http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/10pdf/10-277.pdf

    All I understand of it is that they are saying that there is not enough evidence.

    The dissent is mostly on whether delegating the company’s hiring power is making it “similiar”, or “disimilar” to make it a “class”

    It is clear from the concuring opinon that it will be a stronger case if there are more woman to file the case as it will be much a stronger case.

    In reflection, I wonder what will happen if the dissent opinion is correct? Will company than require to hire according to statistic (over merit)? Will company lose the right to delegate its power to hire to its subordinate for the fear that they will be sue for discrimination (if their subordinates are different statistically significantly from the average?)

    It is still possible for these women to sue Walmart as individual seperately, just not a nation-wide class. I think it may even be possible to sue them as a class perhaps in city-wise if there are enough cases. What exactly is the man-women equality issue here?

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    Will company than require to hire according to statistic (over merit)?

    What makes you believe that hiring people according to merit will produce a workforce that has different race/gender statistics than the population at large?

  • Billy Kwan

    To Ebon,

    There can be many reason I can think of. Importantly, I think relation does not immedeiately eqaute causation.

    1) Historical/societal. If the population is just rising to power, it will take some time for it to be qualified for certain task. Walmart, according to some newpaper, is actually getting more “equal” statistically after this case happen. (From 80+% men to 40+% men) In HK, for a counter example, according to newspaper today, the woman on quasi-median is earning more than man.

    2) Natural. Man and woman are differnt physically. It is natural for some to be more incline to do some task, and other to do other task. Perhaps the woman are more interested in family, is that not a valid choice for woman?

    3) Sample size (compare to population size). The sample size in Walmart case is very small. Even the expert in Walmart case is uncertain as to how much inequality play into the difference. It ranges from 0.5% to 95%.

    At least one of the point should be, can Walmart be single out to be punished for a social wrong where everyone is guilty? To be contructive, what is the alternative solution?

  • Billy Kwan

    Sorry to have missed something.

    When hiring according to merit, it is only process equality. It does not equate result equality.

    Just because everyone is given equal chance to success, it will still be a fact that some will suceed, others will not. It is because we are diverse population that are born different, we are a dynamic population that change with time, and we inherit a world instead of starting it from a blank slate.

    Given a equal chance in being in a job with great requirement for social skill, if graded by merit, I would suspect woman will have a much better statistical result than man. The opposite will be true if what is required is brute strength.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    Billy,

    If you read Ginsburg’s dissent and you still don’t understand what the gender inequality problem is in the Walmart case, then I don’t really know what to say.

    There was abundant evidence, in my and Ginsburg’s opinion, to show that Walmart was systematically discriminating against women. Ginsburg also showed how the majority flouted the Rules of Evidence.

    So, there were no gender equal hiring practices.

    Think about this for one second — everything, everything that you are arguing to justify gender inequality has already been argued since time immemorial to justify race inequality.

    Everything.

    And, if you want to correct social inequalities en masse, as you seem to indicate, then you should be in support of class actions.

    That’s the whole point.

    Walmart is not some mom and pop outfit.

    Walmart is a multi-national mega-corporation with millions of employees.

    http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/global500/2011/snapshots/2255.html

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    Sorry. I didn’t mean the Rules of Evidence.

    I meant the Rules of Civil Procedure.

    (I’m working on my hate crimes legislation piece, so I have the Rules of Evidence on the brain.)

  • Billy Kwan

    The thing is, court usually rule on evidence. Should we not also read the majority opinion?

    I know it is a large corporation. It is exactly where the evidence works the opossite because the sample size is too small. If all three women is pointing to the same store and the class consist of that single store, the case wold be more solid. If the statistic can be more conclusive, the case may be different. The majoriy opinion has already pointed that out.

    What exactly is the practice you are referring to? The fact that Walmart delegate some of their hiring power to their managers (with an explicit prohibition on sexual inequality enforced with penalty)?

    From what I read, it is not the practice, it is the “culture” fostered. Whether there is such “culture” or if it is “foster” should be a fact that is supported by evidence, right? Is there enough evidence (the major one propose is the statistical one, that the majority find fall short)? I am not there hearing, so I just take it as is from the judge’s rationale that the evidence is not convincing.

    ————-
    The justification? The professional basketball teams is under-representing Tu tribe in China, is that due to some kind of discrimination? Or does that have to do with the average height of the tribe being so low? Forget about basketball.

    What about flight attendent requiring them to be 170cm tall (in order to lift the luggage to the bin) Is that discrimination because it will bound to have a statistically averse effect on Southern Chinese like me compare to Northern Chinese?

  • Billy Kwan

    What will be discrimintion is if I am 170cm tall and they refuse to let me be flight attendent because I am a Chinese. Or, if NBA refuse to let Yau Ming in because he is a Chinese.

    If it is because I am short, and it is just a natural fact that Chinese tends to be short, resulting in “unfair” looking STATISTICS.

    If you do not see the difference between them, I will rest my case here. We can agree to disagree.

    ———
    By the way, Walmart source from China. It has tried to enter the HK market and failed. I travel between China, HK, and Canada. Does not any of these form an indication that I know about Walmart? You are “objectifying” me here. :P (Oh, and HK has free press, we read your news just like you read ours.)

    Am I right to exclaim discrimination and feel hurt now?

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    Ginsburg points out how the judiciary has repeatedly allowed class actions based upon facially neutral policies that resulted in disparate impacts, particularly for race discrimination cases.

    What did the members of these classes have in common? The fact that they were being discriminated against on account of their race. That’s it. That’s what they had in common. And, that’s all that that rule of civil procedure requires. There are other requirements for forming a class, but that’s all that that rule requires.

    The majority opinion is flouting that rule of the Rules of Civil Procedure.

    From Ginsburg’s dissent:

    “The plaintiffs’ allegations state claims of gender discrimination in the form of biased decisionmaking in both pay and promotions. The evidence reviewed by the District Court adequately demonstrated that resolving those claims would necessitate examination of particular policies and practices alleged to affect, adversely and globally,women employed at Wal-Mart’s stores. Rule 23(a)(2), setting a necessary but not a sufficient criterion for class-action certification, demands nothing further.”

  • keddaw

    Sarah:

    I just want to say that I appreciate the way you are conducting yourself in this discussion. Thank you.

    You seem to contradict yourself. You say that you understand that men and women are not equal and do not have equal access to rights. And, that you support changing this state of affairs. You say that you understand that the US Constitution does not protect the full personhood of women in the US, and you support changing this state of affairs.
    But, you don’t think most Americans are aware of this? Really? And, then you state that men and women have equal access to legal protections / rights.

    Thank you, if I receive civil treatment then I try to respond with it.

    The Constitution can be read as having a male bias (Scalia’s historical social reading of it seems to me to be special pleading – he didn’t do that for citizen’s united, did he?) possibly due to the fact that the English language has a tendency to default to the male personal pronoun, possibly because that was the intent. This could be remedied with an ERA, but regardless, it is mostly a theoretical problem – unless you have specific evidence of it being used in a discriminatory fashion…

    The equality in the law is that you are protected, just as much as a man, from robbery, assault, murder etc. As I said previously, laws are in place to allow people of different physical, financial, social etc. statuses to interact as equals in the public sphere. I cannot, normally, be intimidated into being quiet or not interacting with certain people due to someone’s size because I know there is a law that means the state will retaliate on my behalf should that person attempt to use their strength against me. This is the protection we have in equal measure. Obviously some people violate that and we have to be sensible about how far we push on this but I think the Phelps are the perfect example of this, they are very good at pushing people’s buttons yet very rarely receive violence in response.

    Sarah, most Christians can’t quote the Ten Commandments so I’d be shocked if more than half of Americans could quote the First Amendment, let alone (accurately) explain how women might be viewed differently under law. I stand to be corrected, but there is no limit to how dumb I think the US population can be.

    People are absolutely aware of the law. … Have you heard of the expression, “Ignorance of the law is no defense.”?

    Indeed, it comes from people being ignorant of the law and still being punished for breaking it.

    We won’t go for an are, aren’t argument, we’ll do some research and come back with an answer as to whether people are ignorant of the law or women’s position within it (but since I already know most Americans think the law is based on the Ten Commandments I think I’m on to a winner here…)

    [Terrible reaction to RW's comments] Why do you think these men feel so strongly about this?

    No idea. I’d like to know, but if I was guessing I’d say it’s because they don’t like being told what to do. Or that it’s special pleading because she’s a woman. Or that it, in some interpretations, implies that every guy that propositions a woman is a potential rapist. Or that it’s an order rather than a request. Or that it makes claims with no non-anecdotal evidence. Or that it asks for special treatment based on a (personal) subjective feeling rather than actual harm. Or because once one person starts others want to join in like a pack of hyenas.

    While the reaction to RW has been savage, the reaction to men who agreed with her has also bee quite bad. I don’t know if that makes it better or worse.

    Whatever else it is, it is unacceptable. It is uncivil, and, perhaps most importantly for the reason crowd, it is irrational. If you disagree with what you said, or are dubious about it then there are ways of engaging,disagreeing and learning that don’t involve abuse, let alone threats of rape!

  • keddaw

    monkeymind:

    The issue RW raised with the elevator proposition is not rapiness or creepiness but sexual objectification

    Only EG knows this for sure. And I’d have to disagree that it’s RW’s only problem here – she said “it’s creepy” which implies something more than some guy sexually objectifying her.

    I’m really doubtful you would have my back in the same way [community supporting mourners vs Phelps]. You keep insisting on an absolute right that men have to hit on women, but you’ve ignored a couple of requests to clarify if that extends to a situation that most women will find unambiguously threatening.

    I would, but I’d switch sides in a second if you tried to use the power of the state to remove people’s rights.
    I actually keep insisting on the right of people to be assholes but still… You make it gender specific, I see no reason to do that but it doesn’t change anything, people have the right to proposition someone in ANY public situation. If people find it threatening then that’s bad, but what would you have done about it? Short of using the law we’re stuck with using social pressure to try to stop people acting in a way that is asshole-ish. But before we ostracize EG, shouldn’t we figure out if the action he did was harmful? If the action is objectively threatening then we should act to stop people doing it – if not then we should act to moderate people’s responses to such situations. I’m on board either way. But we don’t alter the law to limit EG’s rights because that is a much bigger harm than any harm caused by EG propositioning people in inappropriate places.

    In terms of free speech, and going back to the Phelps, it is good to remember that the same laws that protect the Phelps homophobic speech are the same laws that allowed the first people to ask for gay rights.

    Speaking of which, wtf was Scalia doing dissenting in that case? Apart from grandstanding from the highest court in the land, which, in my mind, makes him an inappropriate person to be on the bench. Sorry, that was OT.

  • Mrnaglfar

    While the reaction to RW has been savage, the reaction to men who agreed with her has also bee quite bad.

    It’s worth pointing something out, I feel. I have no problem with a woman saying she doesn’t like being hit on; I have no problem with telling men that such a situation will make many women uncomfortable; I have no problem with telling men that in such a context, it’s unlikely to yield any positive results. I’ve been very explicit about that. I’ve not once encouraged men to do it or said it was a good thing.

    I just said that there was no harm caused and Rebecca wasn’t wronged; it wasn’t a good thing, but it wasn’t a bad one either. There was no victim in the situation. The very negative reaction I’ve seen, as I have said, is that the behavior of EG has been strung up as a piñata, and everyone who thinks it’s wrong has tossed on their blindfolds and come out swinging (across different websites, as well as here). That it is comparable to public masturbation, rape, and many other non-consensual sexual encounters; that anytime a man talks to a woman and hopes for sex at some point, he’s doing something wrong; that EG was stalking and harassing Rebecca; that anyone who thinks what happened is OK is a misogynist and a sexist; that Dawkins was telling women to shut up about real problems and that his work should be boycotted; that Rebecca only made a simple suggestion and nothing else.

    I got involved because I felt all that insanity could use a sane counter-point. That, and it’s fun.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    I’m going to say one last thing, and then I’m going to move on with my life.

    But, I think this entire episode has made one thing very clear:

    We need to educate people about and work towards a non-gendered and non-racist approach to interacting with other human beings in the public space, an approach which recognizes that persons do not all have the same access to legal rights/protections and humanity and citizenship. We also need to work towards ending these legal inequalities.

    I’ve said how I suggest we approach this issue, and I won’t repeat myself for the millionth time.

    But, I’m really happy that this has all played out as it has, because I learned so much from the experience, and it caused me to look at gender inequality and how to combat it in an entirely new way.

    I think we should probably try to move away from the acrimony now and move towards a solution.

    Thanks everybody who contributed to this thread.

    Night.

  • Billy Kwan

    Ginsburg points out how the judiciary has repeatedly allowed class actions based upon facially neutral policies that resulted in disparate impacts, particularly for race discrimination cases.

    So do the majority. P15-18 of the opinion from majority is addressing that.

    What did the members of these classes have in common? The fact that they were being discriminated against on account of their race. That’s it. That’s what they had in common. And, that’s all that that rule of civil procedure requires. There are other requirements for forming a class, but that’s all that that rule requires.

    This is where they differ. The majority even claim the dissent misunderstand their difference from p18-19

    We quite agree that for purposes of Rule 23(a)(2) “‘[e]ven a single [common] question’” will do
    We consider dissimilarities not in order to determine (as Rule 23(b)(3)requires) whether common questions predominate, but in order to determine (as Rule 23(a)(2) requires) whetherthere is “[e]ven a single [common] question.” And there is not here. Because respondents provide no convincing proof of a companywide discriminatory pay and promotion policy, we have concluded that they have not established the existence of any common question.10

  • Warren

    Sarah Said:
    PZ made Catholics uncomfortable, but he didn’t make them afraid of imminent bodily harm.

    But it’s not for you to say whether or not a christian should be feeling fear. It’s enough that they potentially WOULD feel fear of bodily harm that would make what PZ did wrong, or even illegal (gross negligence, emotional distress). It doesn’t matter that it may not be PZ who does the physical threatening, only that by his actions the fear of imminent bodily harm arose.

    You’re not christian. You cannot possibly know what it’s like to walk around every day knowing that God will punish you, not only for what you do as an individual, but by written, historical examples will also punish everyone in a society for what a member of that society does. Every time someone does something that is known to anger God, it brings everyone that step closer to being on the wrong end of his justice.

    This is no small thing you are asking a christian to accept.

    ——————————————————————————–

    Laws can guide us to shape out social interactions… just as society can shape our laws. If we have a society that conducts itself through fear, then laws will follow. We are already faced with such a situation in the blasphemy laws. While it may appear to be a case of a religion trying to not be criticised, I can easily see the fear angle being brought forth. Sarah said it herself:

    It can rise to the level of criminality even if you weren’t aware that you were provoking fear of imminent serious bodily harm, as long as you should have been aware. As long as a reasonable person would have been aware.
    But, the onus is on the perpetrator to be aware.
    The onus is not on the victim to not be afraid.

    Damn, we may as well pack up our New Atheist movement right now then.

    The only defense we have against such laws is that of rationality. That is why I still have an issue with what is being proposed here; how much of it is based on a rational standpoint?

    At what point is ‘legal status/rights are put at risk’ a rational argument for imminent bodily harm?

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    A power differential coupled with a lack of transparency is an almost fool-proof recipe for human rights abuses.

    I have defined power differential as unequal access to legal protections / rights.

    Any rational person should be wary of power differentials coupled with a lack of transparency.

    This is anything but irrational.

    Your Catholic example is irrelevant and analogous to the false racism analogy.

    If Catholics were second class citizens in the US and atheists were the majority and PZ isolated a Catholic in an elevator, took a communion wafer and a rusty nail out of his pocket, got in the face of the Catholic, and impaled the communion wafer with the nail, then you might have a point.

    Not everyone has the same access to legal protections / rights.

    It is rational to be concerned about this.

    And, anyway, I never suggested we criminalize this behavior.

    I am suggesting a guide for not being an asshole while interacting with other human beings in the public space.

    I’m just going to suggest something here, not just for Warren, but for everyone who is fighting so hard against the suggestion that we have a problem and we should find a solution.

    If you think everything is peachy keen, then bully for you.

    But, if a good part of our society is voicing their concerns and saying, “There’s a problem here. I’m not ok with this,” then why would you fight tooth and nail to reject their concerns?

    Why?

    How does that benefit anyone? Do you think that makes for a highly functioning society?

    Why wouldn’t you be open and receptive to discussing the problem and trying to find a solution?

    Why are you so threatened?

    And, if anyone was still confused about the definition of privilege, this is it.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    Do you want to know what’s irrational?

    It’s irrational to deny the reality of a social problem.

    It’s irrational to deny the reality of legal and social inequalities.

    Let’s talk about blasphemy laws.

    Let’s assume that instead of ElevatorGate, we’re talking about blasphemy and the fear it strikes in the hearts of Muslims, say.

    First of all — I am not asserting that we criminalize blasphemy.

    Now, let’s consider my guide for not being an asshole in the public space.

    I am saying that reasonable persons should be aware that they will provoke fear of imminent harm in reasonable persons with whom they share a power differential and whom they are placing in a situation that lacks transparency.

    So, let’s just assume, for argument’s sake, that Muslims are the second class citizens. So, Muslims do not have full access to their citizenship and humanity.

    So, okay, so let’s assume that a white, Christian man blasphemes against Islam in front of a Muslim.

    Did I suggest that we criminalize this activity? No.

    Does the Christian place the rights/legal protections of the Muslim in jeopardy when he blasphemes against Islam in front of him? No. (We are assuming that they have unequal access to legal rights, but the Xtian does not jeopardize what rights the Muslim does have by blaspheming against Islam in front of the Muslim.)

    Is this a situation that lacks transparency?

    Depends on the situation.

    Now, in the middle of a busy town square in the middle of the day? No.

    But, if a Xtian isolates a Muslim in an elevator, gets in his face, and blasphemes against Islam, then I would say that it is rational for the Muslim to be concerned for his safety.

    And, even then, I’m not suggesting that we criminalize this behavior.

    I’m suggesting that someone who would do something like that is an asshole.

    I am suggesting that Christian proselytizers who go to the homes of known atheists to spread their gospel of hatred are assholes. They aren’t doing anything illegal, but they’re assholes.

    I am suggesting that we try to avoid placing persons with whom we share power differentials in situations in which there exists a lack of transparency.

    I am suggesting that we avoid being assholes.

    Not so hard, is it?

  • Warren

    Sarah, where in my example did i allude to privilege? Regardless of whether the christian is in the majority or not (eg replace christian with muslim and wafer with torah and the point still stands) but PZ did do something that, if we remove rational skepticiism, could cause someone to feel iimmediate fear of bodily harm, which you yourself stated can be a criminal offense.

    I understand what you’re saying… i think… which is that the fear of potential legal status/rights will be present (for any woman who is aware of it) in a situation where something bad could happen, but cant you see that the fear over WHEN something happens is different to IF something happens. The two can be discussed seperately. Removing one does not mean we remove the other. However, removing the fear IF, the fear of immediate bodily harm, renders the fear of WHEN irrelevant to THAT situation. It’s still relevant to the overall discusion of gender interactions however.

    If people want to use the situation of the elevator as evidence for rationality over the fear of immidiate bodily harm, then i see nothing wrong with using the same situation for arguing the about the rationality of that fear in the first place.

    As for why people would fight tooth and nail over this issue? Aside from the obvious sexism (as an aside ill also point out there were plenty of women in ‘your opposition’) it may be because people, particularly atheists, are afraid that if we deny ourselves the chance to use rational skepticism to question the fundmental rationality of RW’s fear, then we deny our reason for, the most of us, being atheists in the first place. We allow the possibility of allowing irrational arguments to hold court without question. There’s also the risk that any sort of fear COULD be used to to justify any sort of law… yes I KNOW you have never said what EG did should be illegal, but there is the risk… again i say : laws can shape society but society will shape laws. And if what YOU have said is true that it is not onus of the victim to not be afriad but that it is the legal reponsibility of every one to know the potential fear you may cause, then that does raise some pretty worrying scnearios if left unquestioned.

  • Warren

    And please Sarah, I made my opinion about the legal status of womens in post #47, so please dont assume that im suggesting we do nothing about the inequalities of the legal system. What i am saying is that there are two topics at work here which bothcan be discussed without impacting the importance of the other.

    Also, i think you are still missing the point about the christian. The christians fear is not about legal status or physical harm from the blasphemer, but from GOD and the fear of God’s justice both towrds the blasphemer and the society that allows the blasphemy… not mention eternal damnation. That is a VERY REAL fear, both emotionally and physically. The only defense we have is rational arguments targeting the premise of the fear. If you do not allow arguments about the rationality of RWs fear, then it would be hypocritical of us to then use it against thiests.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    Warren,

    Ok. This is getting out of hand. First of all, we live (in the US) in a secular state. So, God’s participation in the public space of our secular state is irrelevant.

    Second of all — the whole reason, the entire reason that I discussed the definitions of assault and criminal negligence in the Model Penal Code is this — the MPC asks if an alleged perpetrator should have been aware that what he / she was doing (physically menacing behavior) would provoke fear of imminent serious bodily harm; it asks if the alleged perpetrator was deviating, in a gross fashion, from what a reasonable person would have done.

    I was trying to show that those who were suggesting that the right question to ask was whether or not the alleged victim has a right to be afraid were in fact asking the wrong question.

    I was trying to show that the right question is whether or not the alleged perpetrator behaved as a reasonable person would have done or deviated grossly from that behavior, and even if they weren’t aware, that they should have been aware.

    Then, I suggested that we can remove this question from the criminal law context and apply it to our everyday interactions with others in the public space.

    So, because the law still asks if they behaved reasonably, the law is not saying that it’s a free for all.

    The law is not saying that as long as someone is afraid the person who made them afraid goes to prison.

    The law is not saying that at all.

    I’m not sure where people are getting that from or why or if I am just doing the worst job in the world of explaining myself.

    I know that, initially, my effort of going thru this exercise was rather clumsy, because I was working it out for myself while I was doing it, but I feel like I have a real handle on it now, so I am seriously asking for people to tell me what it is that I have said that has mislead them, because I want to rectify that.

    And, also, a woman’s rights are diminished when she consents to interact in any way with a man who has approached her in the public space to hit on her, whether she enjoys his attention or no, whether she is aware that her rights have been affected or no.

    The consideration of rationality comes into play when we ask whether or not the alleged perpetrator behaved reasonably, deviated from reasonable behavior, deviated in a gross fashion, and should have been aware of this deviation, even if they were not aware.

    And, we don’t care whether or not this person is behaving the way God wants him or her to behave, because we don’t live in a theocracy, in theory anyway, at least not yet.

    Then, I suggested that a good guide to our behavior might be that a reasonable person should be aware that he/she would provoke fear of harm in another reasonable person with whom he/she shares a power differential (unequal access to legal rights/protections) when placing that other person in a situation that lacks transparency.

    That’s it. That’s all.

    I’m not suggesting we criminalize this behavior. I’m suggesting that we avoid these scenarios.

    I’m suggesting that we be considerate of others in the public space.

    Especially when we are in positions of power (privilege) with respect to others.

    That’s all, folks.

    I don’t really know what else to say.

    I guess I don’t really want to keep repeating myself ad nauseum and ad infinitum.

    People are either going to get it or they’re not going to get it.

    Thanks so much to everyone who participated in this thread.

    Take care all.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    I just thought of a really great example:

    PZ.

    Let’s just assume that there was a Catholic in Texas who was deathly afraid of imminent serious bodily harm from PZ, because PZ nailed the wafer. Because, let’s say, that the Catholic thought, well, if he could kill Christ, by nailing the wafer, then he is going to come and kill me. Maybe, even, this is a Catholic who has commented on Pharyngula, let’s say.

    We are not going to ask whether or not this person has a right to be afraid.

    We are going to ask if PZ should have been aware, as a reasonable person would have been, that he would provoke fear of imminent serious bodily harm in this Catholic in Texas.

    (The criminal question actually requires for the behavior of the alleged perpetrator to be physically menacing, but we’re not concerned with the criminality of PZ’s behavior; we’re just asking if he was an asshole or no.)

    I could probably find case law to back me up, but I’m not going to.

    I’m just going to make an assertion that people can either accept or reject.

    But, I am going to say that a reasonable person would not have been aware that he/she would provoke fear of imminent serious bodily harm in someone in Texas for nailing a wafer in northern MN.

    I’m just going to assume that they are both white men — and that there is little, if any difference between them, in terms of their access to legal rights/protections.

    And, there is obviously nothing opaque or oblique about posting pics of an impaled cookie on your blog.

    You’re not exactly placing someone in a situation that lacks transparency when you are in the frozen tundra of northern MN and someone else, whom you’ve never met, is in Texas.

    So, I’m just going to make the assertion that, in my opinion, PZ was NOT an asshole for nailing the wafer.

    Now, like I said, if he met a Catholic at an atheist conference, followed that lone Catholic into an elevator at 4 am, got in his face, and took a wafer and a rusty nail out of his pocket, and impaled the wafer right in front of the Catholic, I might reconsider my stance.

    But, even then, if they are both white middle aged men, I would have a hard time believing that there is a serious discrepancy in legal rights/protections, and, in fact, I might be inclined to believe that PZ has less access to rights, because he’s the atheist.

    But, it certainly is a situation with a lack of transparency, and I can imagine how that could be construed as physically menacing. So, that second example in the elevator is actually an example that could, theoretically, be criminal, but, which I wouldn’t consider asshole behavior, because I’m not really concerned with criminal activity; I’m just trying to make a guide for how not to be an asshole in the public space.

    Anyhoo. I thought it was a good example.

    I hope it helps.

  • keddaw

    Sarah:

    …a good guide to our behavior might be that a reasonable person should be aware that he/she would provoke fear of harm in another reasonable person with whom he/she shares a power differential…

    The key point here is that some people have been asking if the alleged victim’s reaction was rational, therefore whether they count as a reasonable person. This has not been shown empirically.

    You happily, and correctly, ignore the Catholic harm/fear when PZ desecrates a Host because we know the reaction is not reasonable, but apparently feel no compunction to declare that RW’s fear is reasonable (even though some say it wasn’t fear but objectification that was the problem.) This is a double standard until we get some details regarding whether what EG did is a statistically significant pre-cursor for harm. As far as I can tell you try to justify this apparent double standard by declaring that a woman’s rights are impinged when approached by a man, but this smacks of post hoc reasoning and is something that both RW and EG would surely be ignorant of. You haven’t clearly shown how a woman’s rights are diminished on being approached by a man, to me at least. Since this is one of your main reasons why guys shouldn’t do what EG did it might be worth explaining it to me like I’m an idiot (as you have probably been doing all along anyway :) )

    Now, because a majority of people would have this reaction, rational or not, means that what EG did was asshole-ish. I am glad no-one appears to be going down the legal remedy route, but there is a ridiculous amount of talk about ‘rights’, which only actually exist in a legal context, and that is why I like to try to keep the conversation honest.

    People have the right to behave like an asshole.

    People have the right to call people who behave like assholes assholes.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    keddaw,

    I actually shouldn’t have used reasonable the second time in that sentence. Ugh for being fallible. At least when I do it on a blog, I can rest assured that my myriad mistakes will be pointed out to me.

    I didn’t ignore the Catholic person’s fear. They were afraid. Period. Fine. I didn’t question their fear at all.

    I didn’t ask whether or not their fear was rational.

    I only asked whether or not PZ should have been aware that he would have provoked such fear, because a reasonable person would have been aware.

    That was my only consideration.

  • Brett

    My earlier comments have been removed apparently because, like Ebon in comment 22 in this thread, I referred back to a thread with closed comments and did not sufficiently focus on the radically different arguments of this one. Fair enough.

    But to repeat a query from a deleted comment, I just wanted to make sure I understand this post: Is “Stalking a person?…Check” in this analogy referring to Elevator Guy (as it would seem from any normal reading of the post), or to the “online hordes” (as in the post-rationalizing acceptance of the version given by Sarah Etc in Comment #3). Who stalked Rebecca: Elevator Guy, or elements of the online atheist community?

    It’s very hard to keep track of these analogies and arguments. Who is represented by taxi masturbator, and who by the stalkers? When do we take a “non-gendered” approach, and when do we act differently with people of different genders? When do Elevator Guy’s “crimes” rise to a prosecutable level, and when not? When is it appropriate to refer to closed threads, and when is it not? It all changes so quickly. The mind boggles.

  • keddaw

    Sarah, are you saying a reasonable person should have to take into account unreasonable reactions? (As a general point rather than re-hashing whether RW’s reaction was.)

    This sounds remarkably similar to the logic applied in blaming the victim.

    Because, however you twist it, you are always going to come up against a group of people who do fear imminent harm from a distant event. Remember we are talking about the US where the governor of Texas had a prayer meeting to pray for rain!!! And they’re towards the sane side of that group. Heck, you saw the people sell everything thinking the end was nigh. There is no belief too strange that some people will not follow it, hence a reasonable person doing anything controversial must expect that it will cause fear of imminent harm in some people. Which is why I thought your use of the second reasonable was intentional and sensible.

  • Warren

    Kiddaw, not to try to speak for Sarah, but lets see if i get it:

    The reason why a womans legal status rights take a hit etc is that, at least in the usa and in particular in cases involving rape, the question of consent will be raised by the defense. In particular where the victim is female, her history of interactions with men will be used against her to try and show that the defendant had a justified expectation that the female gave prior consent, therefore it is not rape.

    It is even worse in cases of spousal rape because the fact that she has frequently given consent in the past that it is assumed that consent is automatically given. Combine that with statistics showing your more likely o be sexually assaulted by someone either close to you or who you are in a commited relationship with.

    So everytime a woman is hit on and she either shrugsit off or responds in a positive way, it can and will be used against her in the event of something happening.

    The issue is arround consent, the hsitory of a womans consent, and her right over having ownership of her consent. At least i think it is.

    I think Sarah posted some relevant links in the previous post in this blog about this RW/EG situation.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Warren, let’s try to not steer the discussion off track. Rape is a red herring to this debate because it no way involved rape or attempted rape.

  • Brett

    Also, Warren, the problems that arise due to a rape charge are inherent to the crime of rape and have to be considered if we are to have any kind of just society. It’s a tiny part of why that crime is so monstrous.

    But Mrnaglfar (what kind of name is that) is right in that the rape issue is a red herring here, just like Ebon’s analogies to stalkers and sex offenders. It’s drawing very inappropriate parallels to the actual incident and brings nothing to the table in terms of rational discussion. In the case of Sarah Etc’s points, she’s asking us to consider the historical socio-economic backgrounds of the various classes of people we come into contact with every day, and that to ignore that is risking criminal prosecution, regardless of intent. That’s one way to run a society, but is it the best? I guess that’s the question.

  • Scotlyn

    But rape has nothing to do with what happened in the Rebecca/EG situation.

    (Apologies, Keddaw if I’ve missed something important later on in the thread, as I haven’t taken the time to catch up on all of the rest of it yet).

    OK – this is the nub of it. This is why we are having this discussion. Because, to me, rape has everything to do with what was disturbing in the Rebecca/EG situation. This is it. The faultline. The gulf – no, the veritable abyss – between those who heard this story, and said to themselves – “yeah, echoes of rape, that’s exactly how it can start to go bad” and those who heard this story and said to themselves – “so what/free speech/no harm done” is the significant fact that jumps out at me throughout.

    And it’s clearly such a huge gulf in communication, perception, etc. that some sort of extraordinary imaginative leap may be required in order to help the other side “see” what is so plain to my eyes.

    So here is what I’ve got. Yesterday, I helped my husband to gather sheep. And as we did so, I became aware that this very activity was providing me with the exact framework in which to express what I, and many others, have been struggling upstream to communicate while dodging the rocks of words of multiple and contentious nuance and meaning like “rights,” and “laws.” So please bear with me as I relate this parable, for those who have ears to hear.

    When you want sheep to move from the place where they are to the place where you want to be, you must impose your will on them. Do you need to beat them with sticks? This is absolutely not necessary. Do they frequently struggle? Seldom, once they’ve realised what a pointless and energy-wasting exercise that is. What you do is – you herd them. You simply, and systematically, block their access one by one to all the directions in which they might move other than the one along the path you’ve selected for them to follow. Does their docile movement in the direction you’ve chosen indicate consent? No, because we, the shepherds, are imposing our will on them, and there is only one possible way this can go, regardless of how they feel about it.

    (For the animal rights defenders here, I will now state that I am morally ok with this because when we impose our will on them in this way, it is for the purpose of them gaining some benefit which they themselves could not plan on and which would not be available to them without intervention – a pasture greener than the one they’ve just exhausted, fresh supplies of water, a foot health check, summer liberation from winter’s heavy wool, etc. And, in the context of this thread, I will not follow that line of argument any further than that).

    However, THIS is what connects EG’s actions, Mrnaglfar’s “right to hit on” (plus his passing assertion that mailing your sexual fantasy to some stranger is perfectly ok), some guy placing himself right next to me in a bus or an auditorium full of empty seats, the guys who grabbed and groped my youthful body on the bus, and rape. Rape as it is actually experienced by most women – as you correctly point out, by known people, people who are nice to you, buy you drinks, get you drunk and don’t bother with gaining your consent, or use your unwillingness to be rude to undermine your will, who insist you must fight back or be emphatic in your “no” for them to desist, but indicate that, yes, they might just be mean enough to make you pay for that. Rape, which will never, ever, be believed, never result in a conviction (because most rapists avoid the actual use of violence and avoid targetting strangers in specifically in order to avoid prosecution which is likeliest in such cases), but which effectively renders a woman feel guilt for somehow bringing it on herself, while rendering her unable to ever feel confidence in the assertion of her own will, ever again. Is this statistically likely? Around 1 in 4 women are “actually” raped (I am not one of them – my groping experiences, thankfully, never resulted in the absolute inescapable prostration of my will, and never involved people I trusted). And, the preliminary research shows, around 1 in 20 men admit to “rapey” actions in the link cited above.

    What do all these things (especially EG, I hear you say) have in common? And, it is Herding Behaviour. Behaviour designed to systematically remove available choices and narrow the range of available choices down to where acquiescence (or submission) is the only rational response the target can make. Here are the herding (ie “rapey”) behaviours engaged in by EG – each of them calculated to limit her options as a free human being to exercise her own will:
    1) cutting the target out of the herd – ok Rebecca left the general company on her own, but EG was quick to capitalise on this opportunity – Rebecca has now lost the option of gaining witnesses or helpers should she need them.
    2) limiting the possibility for free movement – again, this role was passively provided by the elevator (and in herding sheep we take full advantage of aids naturally provided by the environment, hedges, fences, etc), but EG was quick to capitalise on this opportunity – Rebecca has now lost (at least temporarily) the option of leaving EG’s company.
    3) Drink had been taken – again, Rebecca had taken it herself, but EG was willing to make full use of the likelihood that her defenses, or self-preservation might be lowered.
    4) single-minded focus on the goal to be achieved – it was a 0-60mph straight to the chase. It took EG approx 20 words to go from perfect stranger to “I’d like to have sex with you” – he had not taken even a second to ask himself whether this proposal would be an acceptable one (because it would have taken far less than a second to take in what Rebecca had said previously and decide all by himself that she would be highly unlikely to – perhaps he had even reached this conclusion “don’t take this the wrong way,” but her wishes were not terribly important to him.
    5) OK – at some point, he stopped.

    Us, that believe that Herding a woman the way a shepherd herds sheep, tramples on her free will, think he should never have started. Perhaps, had he performed some more herding behaviour, including more persuasion, making use of her weaknesses, threats of force, actual force, and actually succeeded (as many, many have in situations that started just like this) in having sexual intercourse with her, some of you who have no problem with EG would eventually accept that she was raped. OR maybe not – lots of juries fail to convict in just these circumstances.

    But, where the bad behaviour starts, is where I, or any person, starts to be herded. It doesn’t always end in “textbook” rape. But it always diminishes a person’s will, subjects it to the will of another.

    Where someone deliberately and systematically sets out to remove one or many of my options. The person sitting beside me on an empty bus has removed from me the option of enjoying my own company in peace. They force me to make a decision I didn’t even have to make a moment before. Move? Be rude? Make a ruckus and insist they move? Endure their company. So I politely suggest they move to somewhere there is more space. They don’t. They have now limited my option to politely compromise. I have to be rude in order to re-assert my will (Obama, take note!). Where it ends is not what defines the character of this encounter. It is the fact that it has STARTED with an attack on my will, which is accomplished by herding me in the desired direction, in accordance with the will of another, by the systematic shutdown of other available options.

    So, to those who doubt that EG’s actions were “rapey” don’t just use your imagination. Use your eyes. Around one in 20 men admit to using just this kind of herding behaviour in pursuit of sex, with a willingness to disregard the will of the other. A nightclub or bar will have many more than 20 men in it, so lots of opportunities to observe this behaviour in action. Watch the men, and then watch the women. How eager, how reluctant is their body language. Are they being herded along a path they would not choose. Watch closely. Then come back and tell me about it.

    So, what is the alternative – no sex ever again? Of course not. Lots of you men manage to have plenty of sex without having to do any herding at all. Imagine! You go out, you meet people, you put yourself out there, and your conversation, your attitude, your sense of humour, your care for the sensibilities of others gets you noticed. Women realise you appreciate them individually for who they are (every one of us happens to be equipped with tits and ass, so no, noticing those doesn’t count as being individually appreciated – although, when one IS fully appreciated, in the round, as it were, then it can be lovely to have one’s tits and ass fully appreciated, as a finishing touch – just saying). That’s attractive. You talk appreciatively about women you’ve known, and remember how they’ve touched and influenced your life or impressed you or taught you things. You manifest great respect and love for the many women, of all ages, you’ve been fortunate to know – they might be your family members, your teachers, your heroes, your role models, your friends. That’s attractive. You get to know an individual woman who shines for you, you shine for her. It happens all the time! It could even happen to you!

  • Scotlyn

    And this is the perfect illustration:
    The implication

    Hattip.

  • Scotlyn

    And here is the crucial question:
    Why does his free speech trump her free will? Please discuss.

  • monkeymind

    Turns out that when a woman senses just a few specific behaviors in a man, she will instantly categorize him (often subconsciously!) as a potential sexual partner.

    And that’s then she starts to feel that excitement.

    And that FEAR.

    She feels this way because of the RISK that meeting a potential new mate instantly creates.

    It makes a woman imagine a new world of new possibilities about what she might soon get to experience in her life…

    …and with HER BODY.

    It’s called a “sexual threat” — the kind of man who makes a woman nervous that she might lose control, both physically and emotionally.

    And the really AMAZING thing is, coming across as a “sexual threat” is like a SHORT CUT… a DIRECT ROUTE to making a woman feel intense physical desire for the man that’s making her feel so “nervous”!

    You can learn more about how (and why) YOU need to become a “Sexual Threat” right NOW by clicking here: link removed because I wasn’t sure Ebon would want it on his blog

  • Mrnaglfar

    Scotlyn, I appreciate that you’re putting so much effort into this red herring of rape, but it’s still just a distraction.

    The person sitting beside me on an empty bus has removed from me the option of enjoying my own company in peace. They force me to make a decision I didn’t even have to make a moment before.

    With you so far. Likewise, any person who ever interacts with you in any way is forcing you to make a decision you didn’t previously have to moments before.

    Move? Be rude? Make a ruckus and insist they move? Endure their company. So I politely suggest they move to somewhere there is more space. They don’t.

    They did have a right to the unoccupied seat, as much as you had a right to yours. It’s inconsiderate, granted, if the entire bus is open, though they don’t have to move because you told them so, polite as it would be for them to do so.

    So my suggestion would be telling them something and moving to another seat if they don’t oblige your request (or just moving, if you’re not keen on talking). If you tell them “I don’t want to sit next to you”, or “please leave me alone”, get up and move to another seat and they follow you and persist, then you have a case for them doing something wrong/inconsiderate in my eyes.

    They have now limited my option to politely compromise. I have to be rude in order to re-assert my will.

    If they weren’t breaking any laws or infringing on your rights, you don’t have the right to assert your will (or rather, assert some right of yours) over them in the form of making them move because you’re uncomfortable.

    Same way that were I at a bar, and someone comes up to start a conversation with me, I can ask them to go away from where I am standing, but they hardly need to do it if they decide that’s where they want to stand. Just because you’re not comfortable, doesn’t mean you get to tell people what to do.

    I’d also hardly consider requesting them to move and/or moving yourself rude.

    Why does his free speech trump her free will?

    For starters, because ‘free will’ in a generally vague and nebulous term. Granting that we all kind of know what you refer to when you say ‘free will’, he didn’t interfere with her ability to choose to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in anyway, nor did he push the question when she said ‘no’. Trumping her free will would be forcing her back to his room, which didn’t happen. Also, people do have a right to free speech, even in an elevator, even at 4 am.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    keddaw,

    The reason why the reasonable person standard works well in my yet to be conceived guide to not being an asshole in the public space when interacting with other human beings is because

    we can’t control the reactions of others. They may be rational or irrational. Justified or unjustified.

    We can only control our own behavior. As a libertarian, I thought you would appreciate that. ;)

    So, as long as I’m behaving as a reasonable person would, I’m ok. Even if the person with whom I’m interacting goes off the deep end and thinks I’ve just made them afraid for their lives.

    I think that’s the point with the law as well. The reason why it is structured as it is.

    Because when I’m walking around in the public space, I can’t be held responsible for every Tom, Dick, and Harry’s reaction to me, for God knows what reason.

    But, I can be held responsible for my own behavior, if I deviate, in a gross fashion, from what a reasonable person would do.

    We don’t victim blame, but we also don’t apply a strict liability concept of mens rea (mental intent).

    It’s a win-win situation.

    So, in my guide to not being an asshole, I am trying to say that we should take responsibility for our own behavior in the public space. This doesn’t make us responsible for everyone’s reactions to our behavior. But, it does make us responsible for our own behavior. Of course, not criminally responsible, because I am not suggesting that we criminalize this behavior (being an asshole); I am just suggesting that we not be assholes.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    Scotlyn,

    I really appreciated your comment #169.

    I thought you explained yourself beautifully.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    Where someone deliberately and systematically sets out to remove one or many of my options. The person sitting beside me on an empty bus has removed from me the option of enjoying my own company in peace. They force me to make a decision I didn’t even have to make a moment before. Move? Be rude? Make a ruckus and insist they move? Endure their company. So I politely suggest they move to somewhere there is more space. They don’t. They have now limited my option to politely compromise. I have to be rude in order to re-assert my will (Obama, take note!). Where it ends is not what defines the character of this encounter. It is the fact that it has STARTED with an attack on my will, which is accomplished by herding me in the desired direction, in accordance with the will of another, by the systematic shutdown of other available options.

    That’s a brilliant analogy, Scotlyn! I never thought of it in quite that way, but that really sums up the difference between conversational techniques very well. Normal flirting behavior is the kind that preserves a person’s options and leaves them plenty of opportunity for a graceful exit if they’d rather not interact with you. Creepy behavior is the kind that limits a person’s options and pushes them in the direction you want.

    So my suggestion would be telling them something and moving to another seat if they don’t oblige your request (or just moving, if you’re not keen on talking). If you tell them “I don’t want to sit next to you”, or “please leave me alone”, get up and move to another seat and they follow you and persist, then you have a case for them doing something wrong/inconsiderate in my eyes.

    That may work for you, Mrnaglfar, since you’re clearly a person who has no trouble speaking his mind. However, most people find it extremely difficult to be so blunt with a total stranger, and this is especially true of women, who from early ages are the targets of a constant drumbeat of messages urging them to be polite, demure and pleasing toward men. There are genuine predators who know this very well and capitalize on it by doing just what Scotlyn described, approaching a woman with increasingly high-pressure come-ons and pretending not to understand when she responds in a way that an ordinary person would realize is a face-saving refusal (“I’d love to see you Friday, but…”). I knew several people in college who did exactly this toward women I knew. Sometimes it worked, sorry to say.

    Another good post about this:

    Women are socialized to make men feel good. We’re socialized to “let you down easy.” We’re not socialized to say a clear and direct “no.” We’re socialized to speak in hints and boost egos and let people save face. People who don’t respect the social contract (rapists, predators, assholes, pickup artists) are good at taking advantage of this.

    This works because women who do take a stand and respond to unwanted offers with a clear, direct “no” are all too often treated as nasty, man-hating bitches for violating the social expectations placed on their gender:

    Creepy guy near eL station: “Those groceries look heavy, can I carry them home for you?”

    You: “No thanks.”

    Creepy guy near eL station: “Well, you don’t have to be such a bitch about it. I was just OFFERING to HELP.”

  • Warren

    1) cutting the target out of the herd – ok Rebecca left the general company on her own, but EG was quick to capitalise on this opportunity – Rebecca has now lost the option of gaining witnesses or helpers should she need them.

    By your own sheep analogy, he didn’t impose his will on her to remove her from the flock. Also, most modern elevators have cameras in them, so she was not totally without witnesses. Also, almost every elevator has an emergency button that will call the support desk… this is a two way communication, so she wouldn’t have to press any further buttons to raise an alarm. Also, an elevator, by it’s very nature, offers the potential that it will stop at any floor to let new people in, or being at a hotel where many(?) people were still up and around at 4am, the potential that there was someone on the floor that she was going to get off at.

    2) limiting the possibility for free movement – again, this role was passively provided by the elevator (and in herding sheep we take full advantage of aids naturally provided by the environment, hedges, fences, etc), but EG was quick to capitalise on this opportunity – Rebecca has now lost (at least temporarily) the option of leaving EG’s company.

    Key word ‘temporarily’. Also see above.

    3) Drink had been taken – again, Rebecca had taken it herself, but EG was willing to make full use of the likelihood that her defenses, or self-preservation might be lowered.

    If you want to put EG’s behaviour in the worse possible light, true. But if we’re talking about something happening being illegal, then the state of a person’s mind via the effects of alcohol is relevant evidence in any criminal proceedings, not just rape.

    4) single-minded focus on the goal to be achieved – it was a 0-60mph straight to the chase. It took EG approx 20 words to go from perfect stranger to “I’d like to have sex with you” – he had not taken even a second to ask himself whether this proposal would be an acceptable one (because it would have taken far less than a second to take in what Rebecca had said previously and decide all by himself that she would be highly unlikely to – perhaps he had even reached this conclusion “don’t take this the wrong way,” but her wishes were not terribly important to him.

    Did he say he wanted to have sex? Or was it just that he wanted to have coffee. Maybe his starting statement of “don’t take this the wrong way”, he DID actually mean, “don’t take my offer for coffee as being about sex”.

    5) OK – at some point, he stopped.

    Indeed. This is also not an important point to you? Respecting someone’s right to say no is not at all relevant? That maybe by respecting her wishes, it negates most of the negativity you’ve associated with EG and unjustified?

    Also:

    Don’t place persons with whom you share a power differential, defined as unequal access to legal protections/rights, in situations in which there exists a lack of transparency.

    Then what you are effectively saying is that EG should never have gotten into the elevator in the first place. That because women, by the fact they are women, will have unequal legal/rights protections, NO MAN, by the fact that they are a man, should enter an elevator alone with a woman. Let’s pretend, and hope, that you get your wish that gender inequalities no longer exist in laws and proceedings. That fear no longer exists. But there will ALWAYS (as much as we would wish otherwise) be a fear in the situation of a woman and a man alone in an elevator by the very fact that woman are more likely to be the victim in rape cases. That is the underlying power differential.

  • Mrnaglfar

    However, most people find it extremely difficult to be so blunt with a total stranger, and this is especially true of women, who from early ages are the targets of a constant drumbeat of messages urging them to be polite, demure and pleasing toward men. There are genuine predators who know this very well and capitalize on it by doing just what Scotlyn described, approaching a woman with increasingly high-pressure come-ons and pretending not to understand when she responds in a way that an ordinary person would realize is a face-saving refusal (“I’d love to see you Friday, but…”).

    I can appreciate that some people have a hard time saying no, believe me; I know and have known many of them. I’ve been in situations myself where the awkwardness of doing so has been near painful. I also appreciate that there are some pushy bastards out there, having to have dealt with a few myself (I have had a man attempt to physically have sex with me after I told him ‘no’; grant, he was so drunk that he soon passed out on a bathroom floor, but it’s not like that’s an excuse anymore than bring drunk excuses one from thinking driving is a good idea). There are wide ranges of behavior I’d deem unacceptable – like the example you posted at the end – where someone becomes aggressive or pushy when they don’t get what they want, even when they are perfectly within their rights.

    Those are parts of marvelous reasons that such behavior can make people uncomfortable.

    They are also completely separate issues to the question of whether EG specifically did anything wrong.

  • monkeymind

    That was a great analogy, Scotlyn. I was going to write a long analogy involving pickup trucks, but I’ve run out of time/interest today. Suffice to say if someone I had never talked to walked up to me and asked me for the keys to my pickup, no one would try to argue me out of thinking that person was being really weird and pushy, and probably not someone we would want on our team. If I had just talked for an hour about how I hate it when people act like they are entitled to borrow my pickup whenever they feel like it, and then said, “Well, later, gotta hit the sack ’cause I need to get up early to haul stuff in my pickup” and then some dude followed me into the elevator and said “Hey can I have the keys to your pickup?” everyone would say, what a weird, clueless, entitled, pushy person, that is not somebody who is going to help people feel comfortable joining our group. The reaction would not be “What’s so wrong about that” or “ZOMG, if we start disapproving of pushy elevator pickup borrowers, how will us guys without pickups ever be able to move our stuff ever again?????!!!!eleventy!!!” (Clue: offer to help load and unload my stuff, and then maybe I can help you with your hauling job, if it’s not too far out of my way.)

    But somehow when it’s the keys to my vagina we’re talking about it, somehow everything changes for some people. Weird. Whatever.

    In other news:

    The only religious behavior that increased among women in the last 20 years was becoming unchurched. That rose a startling 17 percentage points – among the largest drops in church attachment identified in the research.

    http://www.barna.org/faith-spirituality/508-20-years-of-surveys-show-key-differences-in-the-faith-of-americas-men-and-women

    The Barna group is a religious research organization, but since this is the data that they plan their marketing around, I see no reason to discount it on that basis. Of course most of the detailed stuff is behind a pay wall.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    monkeymind,

    Your analogy is brilliant too.

    And, you made me laugh my ass off.

    Thank you.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Suffice to say if someone I had never talked to walked up to me and asked me for the keys to my pickup, no one would try to argue me out of thinking that person was being really weird and pushy, and probably not someone we would want on our team.

    That analogy fails badly on the grounds that people don’t routinely “give up their pickup trucks” to others, or the fact that sex doesn’t entail giving something up, or the fact that men are far more eager to “give up their pickups” than women are to strangers, on average. EG would, presumably, have been quite eager to give up his pickup truck, while Rebecca in turn surrendered hers.

    Since everyone loves to talk about bad analogies, how about a more plausible one:

    Let’s say a woman sees a man at a bar in a group of his friends, chatting over some drinks. Not wanting to butt into the conversation of several strangers, but interested in talking to the man, she waits for the man to make his leave of the bar alone and board the bus right outside. She boards along with him and approaches him; she says she finds him quite attractive, then asks if he’d like to go back to her place to talk over some coffee. The man says no, she sits quietly across the aisle from him for about 10 seconds, then gets off the bus at the next stop.

    This was quite clearly unacceptable sexual objectification and an attack on his attention and his free will, all of which is completely uncalled for. She cornered him in a position that he couldn’t immediately escape from, which is predatory behavior, not to mention that he had just been drinking. She completely disregarded his person-hood and his feelings.

    Or let’s say a woman boards a bus, largely empty, and sits down across the aisle from a man. She leans in and tells him that she likes his shirt, and asks what book he’s reading.

    Can’t she see that such behavior is kind of “rapey”? Again, we see that she was attacking his attention and his free will, causing him to have to make a decision he didn’t previously have to. She just assumed it was OK to talk to him, entitled jackass that she is. Does he tell her he’s not interested in talking or sex? Get up and move to another seat? It’s not like he can just exit the bus, you know; it’s a confined space.

  • Scotlyn

    Thank you to those who thought my analogy was a good one. To me it is not an analogy, it is naming the behaviour. Herding, stalking, is not the same as talking, conversing, flirting. We need to name it in order to call it out, shame it, stop accepting it.

    There are genuine predators who know this very well and capitalize on it by doing just what Scotlyn described, approaching a woman with increasingly high-pressure come-ons and pretending not to understand when she responds in a way that an ordinary person would realize is a face-saving refusal (“I’d love to see you Friday, but…”). I knew several people in college who did exactly this toward women I knew. Sometimes it worked, sorry to say.

    Thanks Ebon, for “getting it.” The thing is, there are things you can do, other than simply watch and say to yourself (as so many here are) – this is normal, this is just what happens. It may be statistically normal. But it isn’t right, it doesn’t benefit anyone female or male. So, when men like you, who get it, and women like me, who have worked hard to develop “I’m not here to be herded by anyone else” responses actually move in and start interrupting such herding behaviour as we see. So take a good look at a woman being approached by someone who looks as if he is herding, if she appears to be seeking a distraction that allows her to get back to her friends, provide one. If you overhear her say “no” in lots of subtle, socially acceptable ways, but the guy trying to herd her into a sexual encounter won’t “hear” them, bring a wider circle of people around her so she can join the more general conversation. Distract the guy who is herding with another drink and some manly conversation about sports or something, providing an opportunity for her to leave if she desires it. You don’t have to confront it head on. Just interrupt. Open any doors he has closed. But don’t stand idly by just letting it happen. Evil succeeds when the good do nothing. Thanks.

  • Scotlyn

    Me:

    5) OK – at some point, he stopped.

    Warren:

    Indeed. This is also not an important point to you? Respecting someone’s right to say no is not at all relevant? That maybe by respecting her wishes, it negates most of the negativity you’ve associated with EG and unjustified?

    The fact that the reason he stopped was out of respect for Rebecca’s wishes, is not at all in evidence. I don’t even know what part of the story would lead you to that conclusion. There are many, many reasons why he might have stopped. Did someone else come by in the corridor when the elevator opened, eroding his isolating advantage? Did he realise that, in fact, he was tired himself, and worse for a few drinks, and should probably go to bed? Did he make a tactical decision that this particular pursuit was just going to waste far too much energy and decide to cut his losses? We don’t know. But, since his disrespect for Rebecca’s wishes IS clearly in evidence from the start, respect for her wishes was manifestly NOT the reason for him stopping.

    The fact that he did not herd her ALL the way down the path he would have chosen, subjecting her will to his, but only part of the way, before abandoning the effort, does not negate “the negativity” of his herding behaviour, or the fact that he had already attacked her free will.

    And, please, do not reduce the whole of a woman’s free will to the mere “right to say no.” Which becomes an obligation to say “no”, and only “no” – because no other hint, conversation topic, statement, expression of your free will, will stop a man intent on herding a woman into sex. And, the fact that most of the non-rapist men he knows can be depended on not to count his herding behaviour as “rapey,” (ie they can be relied on not to even “see” the initial attack on her will, which often does happen in the plain view of many, as important) they help him hide in plain view, and help him rape, when he does, with impunity.

  • keddaw

    Nope, you guys have lost me.

    People are not like sheep. People can assert their will, people have the protection of law to allow them to assert their will and prevent others from trying to stop them.

    If women in the US have been brought up to be demure, yielding etc. then that is an issue and it allows unscrupulous men to take advantage but, at the end of the day, they’re adults and should grow up.

    Your unsaid assertion is that a woman being ‘herded’ has 3 options:
    1. Be rude and refuse
    2. Play along and have semi-consensual sex
    3. Get raped

    This is, at best, a strawman argument. It degrades men and women.

    And, in spite of Sarah’s repeated claims of legal rights/protections, this all comes down to men being predators and women being prey – I have more respect for people than that.

    In my country, women are very self-assured and know fine well they have the majority of the power in most scenarios. When a man approaches a woman she has the power to decide what happens next, the man has already placed his cards on the table and shown what he wants to happen. Maybe your country is different, maybe it’s the religiosity, maybe it’s the university scene, maybe it’s the 21+ drinking age, who knows, but it sure seems different to the UK.

    The only part I agree with, and have since my first comment is this:

    To me it is not an analogy, it is naming the behaviour. Herding, stalking, is not the same as talking, conversing, flirting. We need to name it in order to call it out, shame it, stop accepting it.

  • Scotlyn

    Monkeymind #172 – that’s creepy – and there are lots of “How-to” woman-herding websites and books to tell men exactly how to bring about a woman’s acquiescence/submission into doing what you want. Some of them rely heavily on suggestion and mirroring techniques used by hypnotists. #179 Also brilliant – I guess it says something about something that we’ve gained full use of the keys to our pickup trucks, but not to our bodies, eh?

    Mrnaglfar:

    Scotlyn, I appreciate that you’re putting so much effort into this red herring of rape, but it’s still just a distraction.

    It would be very useful to hear what your definition of rape is, since you are so clear on what it isn’t.

    Warren:

    Then what you are effectively saying is that EG should never have gotten into the elevator in the first place. That because women, by the fact they are women, will have unequal legal/rights protections, NO MAN, by the fact that they are a man, should enter an elevator alone with a woman.

    Ok, Warren, the reason we are having this conversation is that some men are wilfully blind to the actual shape and colour and texture of a woman’s free will, too uninterested in expending the energy required to actually talk to women, engage with them intelligently, get to know them, what interests them, what moves them, what puts them off, or to have the lovely and mutually satisfying sex that naturally arises in those circumstances, when two people dance WITH, flirt WITH, converse WITH, engage WITH and finally, now and again, have sex WITH one another.

    Therefore, maybe we need useful and memorable algorithms for the willing but still blind, sort of like advertising jingles, to help bridge the time between the bad old times when only the free will of men counted for anything (and then, not even all men), to the future we wish to gain, where everyone’s free will is equally defended and equally valued. “Don’t get into elevators with strange women whom you do not wish to frighten” could be a useful algorithm of that nature. It would certainly help us distinguish the people who are inclined to try, from those who are not.

    But, the thing is, IF you are genuinely not a person who wishes to impose your will on another, IF you do not believe your only sexual options require someone else to be pushed off her chosen path onto one chosen by you, IF you value and respect the free will of others, including women, THEN, by all means, you can freely get into elevators with women, freely converse with them, etc – you are unlikely to try any attacks on their free will.

    But, until you CAN pick up on the basic, underlying principle involved (which seems simple to me, but which appears to tax the brains of some men to the very utmost) then, please, by all means, do remember, and follow such algorithms as you are shown. And try, in the meantime, meeting women on their terms, and on their chosen ground, and allow yourself to get drawn into intelligent discussions of their chosen topics. Learn all about women by paying close attention to what they say, and what they don’t, by their body language, and what they say to others. You could be very surprised – and delighted – by what happens when your interest in women is genuine.

  • Scotlyn

    Keddaw – my last crossed yours, so I didn’t see it.

    People are not like sheep.

    Then it is wrong to treat them that way.

    Your unsaid assertion is that a woman being ‘herded’ has 3 options:
    1. Be rude and refuse
    2. Play along and have semi-consensual sex
    3. Get raped

    This is, at best, a strawman argument. It degrades men and women.

    These may not be all the options – the signal feature is the steady and deliberate reduction of one person’s options by another person.

    It is emphatically not calling attention to the behaviour, but the behaviour itself, together with the toleration of that behaviour implied by your resistance to it being called attention to, that degrades both men and women.

    it sure seems different to the UK.

    I don’t think so.

  • Scotlyn

    this all comes down to men being predators and women being prey

    I would amend this to NOT ALL men are predators – research suggests somewhere between 1 in 10 and 1 in 20 – quite a small number but still a significant enough number to cause rational fear in most potential prey (whether youthful, female or male) especially since those men who are predators refuse to wear labels or other identifying features, and so many other men who are not themselves predators often prove to be strangely unwilling to identify predatorial behaviour as problematic.

    But certainly, almost all women (and children of both sexes, and some men) can become prey from time to time – some for a more sustained time, others, fortunately, only very occasionally. And there is no doubt that all women fear becoming prey.

    I have more respect for people than that.

    I’m not sure I believe you anymore. Or, why aren’t you working to end predator/prey relationships between women and men? Why are you obtusely objecting to others trying to stop it? Is there something that you personally would lose if this predator threat (posed, I don’t doubt, by OTHER men, not you), which keeps all women at a certain level of fearfulness all the time, was ended?

  • keddaw

    Scotlyn:

    why aren’t you working to end predator/prey relationships between women and men?

    Because I think it should be a societal pressure rather than a legal remedy. If it is a truly predatory relationship (unlike the EG/RW one) then it should have a legal remedy.

    Rape is a real problem in our societies and we need to do something about it. What we don’t need to do about it is get stupidly bogged down in a non event like elvatorgate – which is about sexism in the atheist community NOT rape – because some people think EG’s actions were a little rape-y. They clearly weren’t. He asked an inappropriate question, got rebuffed and moved on. He was an asshole, not a potential or almost-rapist.

    By engaging in this type of rhetoric you are ignoring why, or even if, what EG did should be considered wrong, what the appropriate reaction should be from RW and/or the rest of us and, most importantly, trivialising the very real and very serious rape problem by conflating it, however slightly, with the EG/RW situation.

  • Scotlyn

    Me:

    why aren’t you working to end predator/prey relationships between women and men?

    Keddaw:

    Because I think it should be a societal pressure rather than a legal remedy.

    Ok, so why are you not exerting societal pressure against it? Why are you resisting my efforts to exert societal pressure against it? (by, among other things, teaching people – like yourself – to “see” it when they’re looking straight at it, for a start)?

    Please explain how one can distinguish between EG’s actions and those of a predator, so that I can understand what you do see, and, hopefully, why you don’t see what I see.

  • keddaw

    Because people like you are remarkably unwilling to see if what EG did is, in fact, what a sexual predator would do or, as it actually turned out, a clumsy, embarrassing and inappropriate way to try to get some mutually enjoyable company with RW.

    And, if you don’t think repeatedly calling EG an asshole is social pressure then give me a minute to go get my pitch fork. What, exactly, do you want to happen here? Public lynching, perhaps he should lose his job, go on the sex offender’s register?

    Real sexual predators should go to jail, idiots like EG should be laughed at. If you can’t find a way to tell between them then stop calling all inappropriate behaviour potential rape and allow the scientists and sceptics to maybe examine some evidence and let you know what constitutes relatively safe and completely unsafe behaviour.

  • Scotlyn

    most importantly, trivialising the very real and very serious rape problem by conflating it, however slightly, with the EG/RW situation.

    So now, YOU are really, truly, seriously, telling ME that I’m trivialising rape! (Can I shout “Bingo” now? I think the scoresheet is just about full).

    Well, at first I believed – I believed your small L – libertarian values were genuinely held, and would form a bridge with which you might be able to cross over to a genuine support for my rights, then I began to doubt. Now, I think I have lost all faith in your bona fides. You are not interested in defending my free will, or in my rights. You are not even interested in the “serious” problem of rape – because, your argument confirms you know nothing about it. Something about this discussion threatens you, and you are being consistent in responding to that threat. But you are not honestly engaging with me or with the topic at all.

  • Scotlyn

    as it actually turned out, a clumsy, embarrassing and inappropriate way to try to get some mutually enjoyable company with RW.

    So, when was this confirmed? I must have missed out on that part of the story – for a start the part where “mutually” came into it at all.

    I know, for a fact, that what EG did IS what sexual predators do.

    There IS no other evidence that I’m aware of – apart from wishful thinking on your part, and the part of many others – that his actions weren’t EXACTLY how numerous encounters that will end in rape, begin.

    What I want to happen is for you to be able to see and distinguish between herding or predatory behaviour and flirting. For you to laugh with your mates about the vagaries of the second, while being openly disapproving of the former. For you to defend any women around you who seem to wish to fend off the attentions of your mates. When you’re discussing rape cases that are in the news, you challenge people who say, things like – “that wasn’t really rape” “she could have/should have fought harder, said “no” more loudly.” etc. Create a different set of assumptions in “what everyone knows” to replace the current assumptions. Raise your own consciousness, and those of others. Listen to me, and to other women. Hear our concerns. Do not deny us the truth of our perceptions. That’s what I want to happen.

  • Warren

    but the thing is, IF you are genuinely not a person…

    But the thing is, even IF i was that guy, i would still be ‘at fault’ for any fear she felt. Consider your bus example and the idea of free will. You say that aguy sitting beside you in an empty bus is adversely effecting your free will. Regardless of what the guy does after that. He didn’t need to say anything, just being in the seat beside you is enough. OK, lets go with that. Proximity matters. Now lets take the elevator. In most elevators the space between any two people is not that mush more than the space between two people on the same seat on a bus. So a guy walking into an elevator where the only other occupant is a female, is by your bus analogy, adversely affecting her free will. Regardless of what the guy does next. He didn’t need to say anything. Proximity matters. Now, just as you’ve said that the guy on bus should know better and sit further away from you, so too the guy in the elevator should know better and not enter the lift but catch the next lift…. or the stairs.

    Not being an asshole. I get that. Said as much before. But what I’m not accepting is that I’m being asked to take the blame for the actions of a third party based purely on the fact i share the same gender… guilty be association so to speak. I’m being asked, or told in some instances, to accept that guilt, change whatever behaviour it is i am meant to be having despite there being any evidence there may or may not be that i have that behaviour in the first place, and that im not allowed to defend myself or question the rationality of the offense at all. And i don’t much care if this seems like it’s from a position of privilege… an argument is not necessarily invalid simply because of the person who is saying it.

    Can you not see why some people would have a problem with that? I’m surprised that you, as a woman who has no doubt been the target of much the same simply because you are a woman, would not see this.

    But please explain why i may be wrong.

  • Scotlyn

    allow the scientists and sceptics to maybe examine some evidence and let you know what constitutes relatively safe and completely unsafe behaviour

    I think the evidence is in my favour on this one.

  • Scotlyn

    From the link above:

    There are significant differences between the stereotypical rape incident involving a stranger who uses force against the victim and acquaintance rape incidents, which most often occur in either the victim’s or the perpetrator’s home and rarely involve weapons or result in physical injuries (Fisher et al., 2003). With stereotypical rape incidents, there are multiple opportunities
    for medical, emergency, and legal workers to become involved with the victim after the attack. Victims of acquaintance rape incidents are much less likely to seek similar assistance (Abbey, 1987). As a result, men who use substances against their victims and attack acquaintances rarely have their rape incidents detected and prosecuted within the legal system.

    And you are perpetuating this cycle by carefully distinguishing between “serious” rape (stereotypical rape) and trivialising what mostly actually happens, mostly goes undetected and unpunished, but continues to harm and poison us all. Rape, as it is actually practiced.

  • Scotlyn

    Warren, its not that they should know better, its that they do know better and don’t care. Crowding a person is not “doing nothing” it is “doing something” – knowing you have a wonderful alibi – “I’m just sitting here, doing nothing,” is part of what makes your actions pernicious and difficult to resist. That’s also why it’s NOT about proximity – except for people who refuse to hear this truth – my truth. Your taking it in that direction signifies that you are likely one of those people – you are not grasping the underlying principle, which is that a person genuinely not attempting in any way to undermine my will, won’t. And I’ll know.

    The reason Rebecca was creeped out by EG, was that he was taking definite will-undermining steps. He knew what he wanted. He didn’t care what she wanted. He knew that she knew that. He gave up that chase, but could very well be embarking on another one right now as we speak. Are you willing to stop your friends becoming that guy?

  • Scotlyn

    Warren, PS – your “guilt by association” is not because of your gender, but because of your unwillingness to hear my truth – your willingness to cast doubt on my perceptions. Plenty of men are willing to hear it. Plenty of men don’t victimise, herd or hunt women like prey. I don’t blame them for the actions of others. But if good men do nothing, evil ones will flourish. We NEED good men, who WILL do something. Are you one of those, Warren?

  • Mrnaglfar

    It would be very useful to hear what your definition of rape is, since you are so clear on what it isn’t.

    Accepting someone’s ‘no’ and not engaging in non-consensual sex with that person (in fact, never even physically touching that person in anyway) is most obviously not rape, and rape is most definitely still a red herring to this discussion. Thanks for wasting another few new comments discussing it.

    Let’s look back to comment number 14:

    Mrnaglfar, funny how not one of the people on ‘Rebecca’s side’ has said anything about Elevator Man. Funny how we haven’t accused anyone of being abusers or rapists in this thread.

    There IS no other evidence that I’m aware of – apart from wishful thinking on your part, and the part of many others – that his actions weren’t EXACTLY how numerous encounters that will end in rape, begin.

    It is pretty funny, isn’t it?

  • http://kagerato.net kagerato

    Scotlyn’s comment #169 won the thread a while ago.

    I’m amused that Mrnaglfar and keddaw still think that others believe they’re arguing in good faith. We already know nothing will convince you, okay? It’s no secret.

  • Mrnaglfar

    I’m amused that Mrnaglfar and keddaw still think that others believe they’re arguing in good faith. We already know nothing will convince you, okay? It’s no secret.

    As opposed to you, of course, who has carefully examined all the evidence before forming an opinion with an open mind, no biases, and is totally open to changing their mind. It also just so happens you found the right answer to an opinion question. I hope you enjoy your self-congratulatory pat on the back.

    (Tip: saying “won the thread” makes you sound like you’re twelve)

  • RiddleOfSteel

    Warren wrote: I think what RiddleOfSteel meant by ‘posts related to EG’ was ‘in posts where EG was discussed’ not ‘posts that were about EG directly’, because Sarah (even though she doesn’t say Elevator Guy should be charged etc) did did bring them up.”

    Yes that is what I meant, and it applies to my point as you further quoted, namely that this EG situation has become a vehicle to hitch various things, some having little if any resemblance to the actual “incident”. Going from a rather banal and rejected offer for coffee (and admittedly a possible ill timed feeler to see if there was some other interest) – to speculating on extended elevator scenarios which could entail assault and battery, gross negligence and criminal recklessness, civil and criminal proceedings – borders on making a farce of the situation. Along with the portrayals put forth of women operating as the “penetrated sex” ever mindful of the “power differential” in their encounters with men and scanning for the next male threat, it has provided an interesting view into how a subset of atheists perceive female/male relations.

  • XPK

    So, what I’m hearing is that until a woman is actually raped, she cannot request people to think about how their perceived right to hit on them could be construed as threatening. A woman is only allowed to feel unsafe when someone is in the process of attacking her, not during any of the incremental, creepy moments leading up to the attack. Fear for one’s safety at any point other than the act of rape is irrational because she is not actually being raped.

    Is this what we are claiming? I sure hope not.

  • keddaw

    So now, YOU are really, truly, seriously, telling ME that I’m trivialising rape! (Can I shout “Bingo” now? I think the scoresheet is just about full).

    View it however you wish, but conflating what RW held up as an example of sexism at a sceptic’s conference as something related to rape seems to me to be trivialising a serious physical and psychological attack on someone.

    Well, at first I believed – I believed your small L – libertarian values were genuinely held, and would form a bridge with which you might be able to cross over to a genuine support for my rights, then I began to doubt.

    The issue here is what you are claiming as a right. Your rights extend as far as they can go until they come into conflict with someone else’s rights. At that point a test of reasonableness has to be made.

    You appear to be claiming the right to enter an elevator alone and not be followed in by a man. Perhaps that’s too far, maybe you simply want to remain undisturbed my a man alone in an elevator? But that won’t fly – if he simply asks you which floor then we get on to the same thread that Mrnaglfar was on and I have no wish to repeat that 100 comments later. I think Mrnaglfar minimised the natural feelings of a person in that situation but in general he was correct.

    I must have missed out on that part of the story – for a start the part where “mutually” came into it at all.

    I know, for a fact, that what EG did IS what sexual predators do.

    “Mutually” came in at exactly the point where he deviated from what sexual predators actually do by leaving when RW refused to accede to his request.

    There IS no other evidence that I’m aware of – apart from wishful thinking on your part, and the part of many others – that his actions weren’t EXACTLY how numerous encounters that will end in rape, begin.

    Quite, but most actual rapes begin with the victim trusting and being friendly with their future rapist since, as you noted, the majority of rapes are date rapes, spousal rapes or by close friends/acquaintances. So perhaps we should be very careful about where we draw lines about what is actually dangerous and what is not.

    @kagerato, convince me of what? What truth do you hold that you think I have been wilfully or ignorantly arguing against?

    @XPK, People are allowed to have any feelings they want. They can feel safe in a dangerous situation or threatened in a safe one. This thread has been filled with people saying EG was wrong but the point was not that fear is irrational until harm happens but simply that perhaps the fear is disproportionate to the situation – or perhaps not. Either way, no-one has called for EG to be arrested but if the claims made in the last few posts have been accurate then maybe he should be. Or maybe the last few posts have gone overboard?

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    keddaw,

    “Quite, but most actual rapes begin with the victim trusting and being friendly with their future rapist since, as you noted, the majority of rapes are date rapes, spousal rapes or by close friends/acquaintances. So perhaps we should be very careful about where we draw lines about what is actually dangerous and what is not.”

    Regardless of whether or not that act of being friendly towards a man in an elevator ends up being dangerous or no, the woman in such a situation is immediately less protected by our laws (in the US). She has placed her legal status in jeopardy. And, this has been made abundantly clear to women in the US — that if they should be friendly to a man, alone, on an elevator, and he should end up raping her, that she was culpable. In the eyes of society. In the eyes of the law.

    This is why any woman approached by a strange man in the public space for a sexual / romantic encounter leaves herself in the best possible, but still not whole, position, if she tells him to fuck off.

    EG shouldn’t be arrested, but he should be called out for his behavior.

    He should be told that placing someone with whom he shares a power differential (unequal access to legal protections / rights) in a situation in which there exists a lack of transparency is an asshole move.

    I won’t even go so far as to call him an asshole. But, he needs to be told that, if he doesn’t want to be an asshole, then he shouldn’t do that.

    And, that is exactly what he was told.

    But, apparently, that was more than could be borne for a lot of men in the atheist community.

    Including Richard Dawkins.

    It was that stunning disregard for the real concerns of women that boggles the mind.

  • Scotlyn

    Quite, but most actual rapes begin with the victim trusting and being friendly with their future rapist since, as you noted, the majority of rapes are date rapes, spousal rapes or by close friends/acquaintances.

    Thank you! This is EXACTLY what I’ve been trying to say. It sounded for a while like you were only willing to use the word “rape” in the context of visible brutality (bruises, broken bones, for eg) – ie your references to “serious rape,” but unwilling to examine the nature of “mere” predatorial behaviour – which EG manifested in a fairly textbook way.

    (As an aside, may I state clearly an important point that people seem to be missing. EG’s “real intentions” are a) not in evidence b) possibly not knowable c) not relevant in any case. We cannot impute motives where none are known – to do so is subjective projection. Also, Rebecca’s feelings/fear is LARGELY an unknown – she used the word “creepy,” but apart from that her feelings are largely unknowable as well. Again, referring to what a victim feels, or might feel in such a situation is also a)subjective projection and b) irrelevant. What is relevant is the nature and character of actual, objectively observable, behaviour.)

    So perhaps we should be very careful about where we draw lines about what is actually dangerous and what is not.

    So, yes, let’s do just that. Perhaps one point left out of my sheep analogy is this one. As shepherd intent on imposing our will on our sheep it is not in our interest to have them resist. That would require us to physically pick them up, one by one, and carry them from one field to another. Lots of work, and trouble. So why do it that way, when there are ways to recruit them to work on behalf of our goals? How do we do that? Again, by systematically and deliberately removing all other available options. We show them the path we wish them to take, we show them the uselessness of going anywhere else and 999 times out of 1000, they go that way. (That 1000th time is the time you physically have to use force if you still want them to move – ie physically pick them up and take them with you).

    So, imagine a slave. This slave works for fairly enlightened masters. They do not use beatings, they provide plenty of nourishging food, good quality clothing and footwear, and plenty of rest breaks. Their life may be objectively fairly comfortable. But can it be said they consent to their slavery? How could it? Think of the laws that heavily penalise them from leaving their situation voluntarily. Think of the neighbouring slave owners who would have no compunction in shooting them on sight if they were thought to be running away. So, the logical, reasonable thing, if your slavery is relatively comfortable, is not run away. The logical, reasonable thing is to co-operate daily with your own subjection. What can you ACTUALLY REASONABLY say “no” to? Does this make you complicit in your own slavery? Objectively, no. All of the responsibility for that institution is in the hands of those who maintain it to suit themselves. NEVERTHELESS, the logically reasonable, but non-consenting, acquiescence of slaves totally messes with their heads, and with the heads of their enslavers, to the point where the slaves may spend their lives feeling vaguely guilty every time they say “yes, massa” and the slaveholders can happily say, “they’re better off here, sure they wouldn’t last a day in freedom.”

    I think something like this is at work here. The research I linked to above, along with reams of experience gathered by volunteers at rape crisis centres, indicates that rape is often the end result of dozens or hundreds of tiny little steps – like the lobster in the pot that is slowly warming up, the temperature can be comfortably warm until suddenly its too hot already and there is no way out. At each of those tiny steps, rape perpetrators deliberately block an escape route, while pretending nothing much has happened – “look your friends are just over there, everything’s ok”, while rape victims who relate their stories asked themselves at each tiny step – is there harm in this? “No, he’s my neighbour,” “No, it’s JUST a drink” “No, it’s JUST a dance,” “No, it’s JUST a ride home,” “No, it’s JUST….” and each time the rape victim hasn’t fought off the shutting down of her options, she has acquiesced. And then, for the final act, the rapist may even turn the tables “Look what you’ve made me do now? With your gorgeous dress, your come on eyes, DON’T say no, cause I can get very UPSET!” (Display of force sufficient to convince her of the uselessness of resistance AT THIS POINT, and gain her acquiescence, but not enough to convince a jury, now that she has taken all those mini-steps without audible protest…) That, folks, is how it’s done. There really is no need for all the “dragging into the bushes” nonsense – who wants the hassle.

    So when I say that EG’s behaviour is predatorial, I mean he is doing what predator’s do. Why did he do it? Why did he stop? Why does a lion call off the chase of a particular gazelle? Who knows. But it is identifiable behaviour – (no not just “talking to a woman” or “talking about sex to a woman” or “flirting with a woman” or “getting into an elevator with a woman” – not any of those things, but the systematic and deliberate removal of options that constitutes herding or predator behaviour. That is what he observably did, and that is why we are still having this conversation, and why this conversation is still about rape.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Again, by systematically and deliberately removing all other available options. We show them the path we wish them to take, we show them the uselessness of going anywhere else and 999 times out of 1000, they go that way…That is what he observably did, and that is why we are still having this conversation, and why this conversation is still about rape.

    Except EG did not observably do that, or even come close to doing it. The way you talk about it, you make it sound like someone behaving like EG could, 999 times out of 1000, land the person they’re propositioning because there’s just no way to “escape”, (i.e. say ‘no’ and walk away) which is patently untrue.

    This is also not, and never has been, about rape. Just let that red herring die.

    So when I say that EG’s behaviour is predatorial, I mean he is doing what predator’s do. Why did he do it? Why did he stop? Why does a lion call off the chase of a particular gazelle? Who knows…As an aside, may I state clearly an important point that people seem to be missing. EG’s “real intentions” are a) not in evidence b) possibly not knowable c) not relevant in any case. We cannot impute motives where none are known – to do so is subjective projection.

    So you don’t know or care about his intentions or motives, but you know what he was planning with his behavior(systematically removing all escape, somehow, by asking a single question in an elevator)and in fact know he was asking about sex and not coffee? OK; that’s kind of odd. Perhaps you are just projecting your ideas about men and women onto EG’s behavior. Seems possible to me.

    You can’t even think of why EG might not have pushed Rebecca’s ‘no’? Is it really inconceivable to you that he was respecting her answer and wasn’t attempting to coerce her?

  • Scotlyn

    Just two more small points:
    1) Libertarians make great play about people making choices, which must always be respected. But the reality is that what a person may logically, reasonably choose to do in specific circumstances, is not necessarily what they WOULD do if their will was unencumbered. If you want to talk about free choice, first work to remove anything which encumbers a person’s free will.

    2) It is possible, and indeed, it quite usual in such rape cases as have been studied, to impose your will upon that of another without any visible display of force. In fact, if you can dispense with displays of force (by making tactical use of every other environmental aid you can think of – isolation, restriction of movement, the target’s disinclination to disagree or be discourteous, the target’s manners, cultural traits, their fear or their naivete, their drunkenness or drug addiction, the appearance in oneself of ostensibly non-threatening traits like charm, gawkiness, etc), you have already won your case with any jury in the land.

  • http://kagerato.net kagerato

    [Mrnaglfar]: As opposed to you, of course, who has carefully examined all the evidence before forming an opinion with an open mind, no biases, and is totally open to changing their mind. It also just so happens you found the right answer to an opinion question. I hope you enjoy your self-congratulatory pat on the back.

    You’re not too bright, are you? That was bait. It was a designed test. You failed.

    In case you still can’t figure it out, you were supposed to show what possible evidence or line of reasoning would convince you to change your mind. There isn’t any; that was my point. You couldn’t have proven it any more soundly.

    There have been countless facts and evidence presented in the thread and you haven’t contested, let alone countered, many of them. You’re unable to address premises and yet reject the conclusions thereof.

    [keddaw]: Convince me of what? What truth do you hold that you think I have been wilfully or ignorantly arguing against?

    I didn’t think it was feasible, but this response is even worse. You don’t even accept that there is a conclusion to be seen.

    How and why would you talk to someone who doesn’t see a purpose after 200+ posts? Is there anything more you would like to do to prove that you entire purpose here is to distract and dismiss people?

  • Scotlyn

    but you know what he was planning with his behavior(systematically removing all escape, somehow, by asking a single question in an elevator)

    No I don’t know what he was planning, I only know what it could clearly and objectively be seen that he was DOING.

  • Scotlyn

    You can’t even think of why EG might not have pushed Rebecca’s ‘no’? Is it really inconceivable to you that he was respecting her answer and wasn’t attempting to coerce her?

    The point is that neither you nor I can KNOW why EG did what he did, or didn’t do what he didn’t do. All we can do is search the evidence for consistency. EG’s earlier actions did not show evidence of respect for her wishes, desires or her will. It would be inconsistent, therefore, to imagine that he stopped out of a sudden respect for her, which was not in evidence in his earlier actions.

    If I have to guess (although I much, much prefer to restrict my discussion to observable behaviour) I would guess that he was probing her boundaries on a sort automatic track that kicks in when opportunity presents, and that her immediate “no” signalled the metaphorical presence of a nut that would be rather more work to crack than he was prepared to invest at that moment in time. So, yes, I can certainly “even think why” – but I don’t think that my making such guesses is of much value, as his motives, reasoning, etc are not in evidence, other than as manifested by his behaviour.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Kagerato,

    In case you still can’t figure it out, you were supposed to show what possible evidence or line of reasoning would convince you to change your mind.

    It’s an opinion question about a specific set of circumstances, first off, so asking about evidence is kind of an odd request. However, I had said what different set of circumstances would have made me think “it was wrong” (EG continued to push after the ‘no’, behaved in an aggressive or threatening manner, etc). It’s even on this thread. Read my other responses; it’s already there.

    Scotlyn,

    but I don’t think that my making such guesses is of much value, as his motives, reasoning, etc are not in evidence, other than as manifested by his behaviour.

    I disagree, but in a different sense. They do not offer much insight into what actually happened in EG or Rebecca’s head, but they offer great insight into your mind and judgments taking place there. It’s important to know the biases of the person you’re talking to.

    EG’s earlier actions did not show evidence of respect for her wishes, desires or her will.

    Pure supposition, especially because before the elevator incident, he didn’t appear to have acted at all. If he didn’t have any respect for her wishes, he would have continued to push, or maybe even insulted her. That he stopped demonstrates a respect for what she told him.

    It would be inconsistent, therefore, to imagine that he stopped out of a sudden respect for her, which was not in evidence in his earlier actions.

    It would be inconsistent to imagine first that he was a predator with no regard for her will, and then be faced with a situation where he appeared to immediately show regard for her will. Of course, if you strike the first part about him being a predator who doesn’t care about her feelings, the inconsistency vanishes. Or you can go the other route:

    I would guess that he was probing her boundaries on a sort automatic track that kicks in when opportunity presents, and that her immediate “no” signalled the metaphorical presence of a nut that would be rather more work to crack than he was prepared to invest at that moment in time.

    Where you assume that he’s still a predator who’d normally be perfectly content with pushing boundaries and coercing women, but this time was some kind of exception. EG has been socially convicted before any kind of trial; he’s a predator in essence, and any inconsistent behavior where he seems respectful can be written off.

    I’m quite fond of Riddleofsteel’s take.

  • monkeymind

    Did anyone think Mrnaglfar was arguing in good faith after this prim little lecture:

    It’s an assumption he heard her say she was going to bed; don’t just assume it for the point of making your argument.

    RW said that he was there to hear her say it. Mrnaglfar finds that convenient to ignore for the sake of his argument.

    His definition of flirting includes walking up to a woman and asking her for sex. Time and place are irrelevant. Driving up next to a woman walking alone on a dark, deserted street and asking her for sex is innocent flirting in his book, we must assume, since he repeatedly failed to clarify that it wasn’t.
    There’s a limit to how much fuckwittage a person can display and still be taken seriously.

  • Mrnaglfar

    RW said that he was there to hear her say it. Mrnaglfar finds that convenient to ignore for the sake of his argument.

    Was I that careless? Let’s see what I said. If I may quote myself:

    At the end of the bar night, she said she was tired and was going to go to bed. The guy may or may not have heard that either, but I won’t assume that either way.

    “Being there (around) to hear it” does not mean “heard it”. Bars can be loud, conversations can be going on, someone might not be speaking loudly. Maybe RW just assumed he heard it. Maybe he actually did. At the very least, I’m not ignoring it, just expressing ignorance about the reality.

    But let’s assume that EG did hear her say “I’m tired and going to bed”, or whatever it was she said. Let’s even assume that’s why he offered her coffee over the talk, because he knew she was tired. That doesn’t actually change my opinion about whether he did something wrong or harmed her, so I find it irrelevant. It’s still a polite, if ill-timed, question he was perfectly willing to accept a ‘no’ for.

    Also, when you have nothing left to offer to the discussion but insults along with a hearty “c’mon guys, it’s obvious that he’s just wrong and closed-minded and our side is obviously right and serious and open-minded”, it might be better for you to just stick out of it. You just look childish.

  • monkeymind

    Let’s even assume that’s why he offered her coffee over the talk, because he knew she was tired.

    Bwahahhahahahahaha! What a considerate guy.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    On bloggingheads recently, RW said that EG definitely not only heard her say that she was going to her room to go to sleep, because she was tired, but that he also definitely was there in her group for hours at the bar, listening to her wax poetic about how she hates being sexualized and objectified.

    And, during those hours at the bar, he never made any attempt to speak to her, not for any reason, not on any subject matter, sexual or otherwise.

    He waited until he had isolated her in an elevator at 4 am, and then he started his oh, so polite question with,

    “Don’t take this the wrong way, but . . .”

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    I was actually amazed at RW’s restraint.

    I would have started screaming and yelling at him, telling him that I know self defense and to stay the fuck away from me, until I could get off the elevator.

    On bloggingheads, RW talks about how so many women told her that they would have been more circumspect and that they never would have entered an elevator alone with this guy.

    RW admitted that she isn’t as circumspect as she probably should be in those types of situations.

    So, contrary to how she has been publicly vilified, RW is in the habit of giving strange men in public the benefit of the doubt.

    She does NOT walk around thinking that every man is about to rape her.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    Having traveled by myself in other parts of the world, as a woman, but this has happened in the US as well, I was just thinking of being followed by men while walking around doing whatever.

    Does a man have a “right” to follow me? I mean, we’re both just two people in the public space. He isn’t touching me. Fuck, he isn’t even speaking to me, at least not yet.

    Am I irrational to be concerned? Am I irrational to approach a group of people and ask them to talk to me as if they know me until he loses hope/interest and goes away? Am I irrational to confront him and tell him to fuck off and leave me alone? Am I irrational to walk to a police station?

    I have done all of these things, both in the US and abroad, to stop men from following me in the public space.

    I don’t believe that I’ve ever been mistaken that I was being followed.

    And, without fail, on instances when I have confronted the man following me, I’ve been called a bitch, etc.

    But, he stopped. And, I wasn’t raped or attacked.

    Because I didn’t let him get me into a situation that lacked transparency.

    I confronted him while still in public, with other people around.

  • Mrnaglfar

    And, during those hours at the bar, he never made any attempt to speak to her, not for any reason, not on any subject matter, sexual or otherwise.

    He waited until he had isolated her in an elevator at 4 am, and then he started his oh, so polite question with,

    “Don’t take this the wrong way, but . . .”

    So you’re left with the inconsistency if we’re going with that story. Apparently, he had been listening all night to Rebecca talk about how she hates what he was about to do, knew full well his advances were not going to be accepted or welcomed, and that Rebecca would be uncomfortable. He then made a completely malicious offer after deliberating isolating her with the hopes of coercing her into sex, hoping she’d accept once she was trapped and drunk. He didn’t care one bit for her feelings or what she said. He was only out to hurt her to satisfy his own desires.

    Then he stopped immediately after she said ‘no’. Huh; he hung around her all night (until four in the morning), waiting and watching for his moment, then when he had her right where he wanted her, he stopped. If Scotlyn’s suggestion was correct, he only stopped because it was inconvenient for him at the time, yet hanging around all night apparently was not. If Rebecca had been talking all night about this kind of thing, he’d of known she was “too tough to bother trying to crack”, yet he tried anyway. That sounds kind of odd. After being rebuffed, he didn’t push; he didn’t insult; he didn’t physically touch her or attempt to block her. He just let her go on her way without so much as another word.

    Here’s another possibility: EG had been hanging around Rebecca and the group all night (in the group, or was he just at the bar around their same general area? I don’t know). Rebecca had been talking intermittently about stories about people sending her mail describing their sexual fantasies, bad come ons, or threats of rape (as she did in her panel discussion), but not specifically about what EG would later do (this would explain why she was unsure about how to phrase – her words, paraphrased – that what EG did made her uncomfortable in her video following the incident. Another glaring inconsistency). EG was too timid to speak to her in front of a group of people for fear of public rejection or he saw Rebecca was involved in conversation with other people and didn’t want to interject. Rebecca described him as assertive, but he apparently wasn’t assertive enough to approach her in public. It could also be if he wanted to talk to her privately – or even fuck her – asking her to leave the bar with him while she’s involved with other people is not bound to yield positive results. When he sees she’s leaving and away from other people, he extends his offer, she rejects, and they both go their separate ways.

    With the latter scenario, there is no inconsistency. Of course, all the details might not be correct, but it at least sounds more plausible than the first.

    I would have started screaming and yelling at him, telling him that I know self defense and to stay the fuck away from me, until I could get off the elevator.

    How totally level-headed of you. I take back anything I may have said that could possibly imply otherwise. In fact, if you were in that situation and had a gun, it probably would have been a good idea to pull it out and point it at EG’s face to ensure he didn’t try anything funny.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    What’s the matter, Mrnaglfar?

    It’s just speech. It’s not like I would have touched him.

    He asked. I answered.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    I have actually, when I’ve been in a position where I had to walk around by myself at night, and I realized that a man was following me, but not “following me”, turned around and said politely to the man,

    “Please if you would be so kind as to either go ahead or drop behind, because it makes me nervous to be followed so closely by a man at length, when I am walking by myself at night.”

    I’ve often just stopped or dawdled or slowed my pace, to let him pass. Sometimes they notice what I am doing. Sometimes they don’t. When they slow their pace too, that’s when you really should start to worry.

    I have even sometimes added, “Just for future note — try not to do that, because you could frighten a woman.”

    I have had a range of responses. Some very polite and thoughtful. Some not so polite and thoughtful.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    I have also worked the Friday, Saturday overnight front desk shift at a boutique hotel in Times Square in New York City.

    And, it’s amazing the difference in men’s demeanor when they think I’m alone and they try to hit on me and when they realize that the enormous overnight security guard is sitting in the front office, right behind me.

    He could hear and see everything. And, if some guy was giving me a hard time or being inappropriate, he would just silently come out to the front desk and stand behind me. That always seemed to inspire a whole new attitude.

    But, women shouldn’t have to live in a world where they need body guards.

    I want to be protected by my laws and my Constitution and my courts and, if necessary, my police forces.

    Not by other men.

  • Mrnaglfar

    It’s just speech. It’s not like I would have touched him.

    I never said it was wrong; I said it wasn’t level-headed. Difference.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    Mrnaglfar,

    I’m really just sooo interested in your reaction to what would have been my reaction to EG.

    So, a man has the “right” to ask me anything he likes at anytime for any reason in the public space.

    But, I don’t have this same “right” to answer however I like?

    I didn’t touch him. It was just speech.

    And, this, ladies and gentlemen, is a perfect real world example of the legal manifestation I was discussing like a million comments ago, about how our whole concept of self defense penalizes women and rewards men for defending themselves, because women do not have the “right” to defend themselves, because they are property. But, men have the “right” to claim women as property in the public space, because the women have, per the law, “consented” by being in the public space.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    Hmmm. Well, that’s even more interesting.

    So, it’s ok for you to be critical of what would have been my reaction to EG?

    But, it’s not ok for me to be critical of what we understand to have been EG’s actions/speech?

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    If EG’s actions/speech were zero bad

    then why wouldn’t my actions/speech be zero bad?

  • Mrnaglfar

    But, I don’t have this same “right” to answer however I like?

    I didn’t touch him. It was just speech.

    Huh? I literally just said the response wouldn’t be wrong; of course you’d be perfectly within your rights there. Did I miss myself saying something else?

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    I’m just sooo intrigued by your vitriol even when the many women commenting here have made it ever so clear that they’re not saying that EG should have been arrested, or that he wasn’t perfectly within his “rights”, but that what he did/said could be considered an asshole move, and suggesting that we should try not to be assholes.

    Are you trying to tell me that you think what would have been my reaction to EG would have been an asshole move, and we should try not to be assholes?

    Could it be?

    Is this something you think we need to discuss? Have a serious conversation about? Do you think we need to talk about how best to interact with other human beings in the public space without being assholes?

    Or, should I spew a tirade against you about my “rights” and how you’re crazy for even suggesting that it was inappropriate for me to have reacted the way that I would have done?

    I’m just oh, so curious.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    I’m just wondering, too, is it a red herring

    if you compare what would have been my reaction to EG to aggravated assault with a deadly weapon?

    Since, you know, you compared what would have been my reaction to EG to me pulling a gun on him and pointing it in his face?

    Is that anything like the red herring you’ve described repeatedly regarding comparing EG’s actions/speech to rape?

    I’m just curious how that works out.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Are you trying to tell me that you think what would have been my reaction to EG would have been an asshole move, and we should try not to be assholes?

    No to the first part; yes to the second. Seriously, am I missing something I said here? Quote me, if I am, by all means, because if you’re trying to lead me into some kind of contradiction it’s not going well.

    I never said people shouldn’t be assholes. I also never said people should emulate EG’s behavior or said it was good (I just said it wasn’t bad); in fact, I believe I went so far as to say that there’s nothing wrong with simply suggesting that men not do that because it can make people uncomfortable. Likewise, I wouldn’t suggest emulating your behavior, but I wouldn’t say you harmed him or it’s wrong. Not level-headed, but not wrong.

    if you compare what would have been my reaction to EG to aggravated assault with a deadly weapon?

    I didn’t compare it? I didn’t say your behavior was like the behavior of people who pulled out a gun, or that you were planning to, or anything along those lines. It was a sarcastic point about over-reacting to a fear of assault and threatening self-defense to a non-threatening question.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    I mean, Mrnaglfar, I am more than willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. I know that you’re not suggesting that I should have been arrested or that I would have done anything illegal.

    But, you must feel pretty strongly about what would have been my reaction to EG to compare it to a violent crime.

    I wouldn’t want to suggest that that says anything about how levelheaded you are.

    But, it seems like it’s something you feel like we should talk about.

    And, I’m here for you. I want to address your concerns sincerely.

    I care about how that makes you feel.

    So, let’s talk about how best to interact with one another in the public space.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    What would have been my reaction to EG was a threat?

    Saying that I know self defense is a threat of violence? Why shouldn’t I say that I know self defense?

    Telling someone to stay the fuck away from me is a threat of violence? Why shouldn’t I be able to tell someone to stay the fuck away from me?

    Is interpreting that reaction as a threat an overreaction?

    Threats of violence are often illegal.

    If I interpret your reaction to my alleged overreaction as an overreaction, should I compare your overreaction to a violent crime?

    Or, is that a red herring?

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    Ok. I’m done.

    I think Mrnaglfar made my point, and everyone else’s on this thread, crystal clear.

    Thank you.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Saying that I know self defense is a threat of violence? Why shouldn’t I say that I know self defense?

    Here’s an official definition of threatening (behavior): Showing an intention to cause bodily harm.

    You’d be perfectly within your rights to assure him you could defend yourself (threatening that you would attack him if he attacked you; the very definition of threatening self-defense) and yell and be offended. I wouldn’t call it wrong and I wouldn’t call it level-headed.

    Talking to you is quite unproductive. I’m not going to engage your silliness any further.

  • XPK

    @keddaw – “the point was not that fear is irrational until harm happens but simply that perhaps the fear is disproportionate to the situation – or perhaps not. Either way, no-one has called for EG to be arrested but if the claims made in the last few posts have been accurate then maybe he should be. Or maybe the last few posts have gone overboard?”

    Well, I’m fairly certain you have heard from multiple women, multiple times, stating that the fear was NOT disproportionate to the situation. RW has not called for him to be arrested. Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy, Scotlyn, and monkeymind have also not called for him to be arrested.

    What are you still debating?

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    I can’t stop reading #229 by Mrnaglfar.

    It’s the funniest comment in the whole thread.

    Oh, for unintentional humor.

  • keddaw

    Scotlyn, I appreciate there have been multiple commentators and multiple discussions going along on this thread, but I must take strong objection to you when you say

    ie your references to “serious rape,”

    I have never made any references to serious or non-serious rape. At no point have I differentiated between a violent rape and a non-violent rape. I actually don’t think I said anything about either, but I certainly made no value judgements about the relative harm in any form of rape.

    Plus, this was never about rape, at worst it was about the inherent fear of rape (and the relative merits of that fear) and at best it was about alleged* sexism in the sceptic community – which I don’t think manifests itself in rape at conferences.

    You then proceed to make what I can only conclude are Freudian metaphors, you compare women to: prey, slaves and sheep. I kind of appreciate what you are alluding to (someone making their way the easy way) but this kind of language does no favours to anyone.

    But the reality is that what a person may logically, reasonably choose to do in specific circumstances, is not necessarily what they WOULD do if their will was unencumbered. If you want to talk about free choice, first work to remove anything which encumbers a person’s free will.

    Sorry, but there is no such thing as “unencumbered” free will. We all have desires, preferences and limits and these inform our will and, to all intents and purposes, are our will. They are shaped by nature and environment and even when shaped by our conscious thinking we have to be aware that our conscious thinking is equally shaped by the very same things.

    So when someone puts on designer clothes, or nice perfume, or works out at the gym, or drives a nice car, or tells some good jokes, or compliments someone, they are altering other people’s perceptions and perhaps changing what that person might otherwise have done and, according to your logic, encumbering their free will.

    The way round this, from my perspective, is that we only criticise (criminalise the egregious cases) the occasions where a person’s situation is made worse by refusing, e.g. a boss threatening to sack an employee; a person threatening physical violence; a person threatening to take someone’s car/valuables etc. What we don’t, or shouldn’t, criticise is someone offering financial gain/security; protecting someone against physical violence etc. Thus people can make an informed decision and be no worse off than they currently are by refusing.

    I appreciate your point about how each step from 1-10 being only a small increment, but surely that is improved by making women more assertive rather than making men doubt every move they made (should I offer to buy her a drink – maybe she thinks I’m trying to slip something into it; should I offer to walk her home – maybe she thinks I’ll try to force my way into her home or simply to find out where she lives etc. etc.). Not that many men couldn’t do with doing this, but it seems like an uneven burden on men to generate social harmony whereas more assertive women is simpler and more beneficial to all. Yes, Sarah, equal protection under law would be a good start!

    * Which, judging by many of the responses, is not just alleged.

  • keddaw

    NB. When I said “protecting someone against physical violence” I simply meant when a women chooses a man because he’s big, strong, tough or respected. I didn’t mean to imply anything else but on reading it back I should have made that explicit.

  • Hibernia86

    Can I interest you people in a light-hearted song to pass the time? Everyone together now!

    This is the thread that never ends!
    Yes, it goes on and on, my friends!
    Some people started commenting, not knowing what it was
    And they’ll continue commenting forever just because…

    This is the thread that never ends!
    Yes, it goes on and on, my friends!
    Some people started commenting, not knowing what it was
    And they’ll continue commenting forever just because…

    This is the thread that never ends!
    Yes, it goes on and on, my friends…

    [continue singing until you pass out from exhaustion]

  • ildi

    Not that many men couldn’t do with doing this, but it seems like an uneven burden on men to generate social harmony whereas more assertive women is simpler and more beneficial to all.

    Yeah, if women just acted more like men, life would be so much easier! Whereas asking men to act a bit more like women is such a burden…

  • XPK

    @keddaw – “Not that many men couldn’t do with doing this, but it seems like an uneven burden on men to generate social harmony whereas more assertive women is simpler and more beneficial to all.”

    In what possible universe is men being more respectful of women’s experiences in the social space “an uneven burden on men”?

  • monkeymind

    More assertive? You mean like saying “Don’t do that”?

  • Scotlyn

    Keddaw @ #188

    importantly, trivialising the very real and very serious rape problem by conflating it, however slightly, with the EG/RW situation

    Keddaw @ #236

    I have never made any references to serious or non-serious rape. At no point have I differentiated between a violent rape and a non-violent rape. I actually don’t think I said anything about either, but I certainly made no value judgements about the relative harm in any form of rape.

  • Scotlyn

    Keddaw:

    You then proceed to make what I can only conclude are Freudian metaphors, you compare women to: prey, slaves and sheep. I kind of appreciate what you are alluding to (someone making their way the easy way) but this kind of language does no favours to anyone.

    Actually my comparison, whether Freudian or not, was between sheep herders and predators/rapists. Obviously, women/human beings are NOT sheep, therefore herding behaviour is not appropriate for use between men and women (or between any human predator and any other human target).

    I further compared non-violent slaveholders with non-violent rapists – specifically the ease with which non-violent slaveholders, embedded in a slave-holding economy, are able to exert their will over their slaves without themselves putting on visible displays of violence with the non-violent trajectory of most rapes – rapists take full advantage make use of the generally coercive background in which women exist and can introduce the “whiff” of coercion by judicious use of environmental aids (such as elevators, for example). None of my comparisons were drawn for purposes of understanding targets, but rather for understanding those who target.

    Language is there for us to make use of as best we can to convey ideas – unfamiliar ideas often require metaphor to help bridge our understanding. Surely you can grasp that there is an important reality that requires communication, and that I am struggling to provide that communication with any tool I can find that comes to hand.

    The reality is that rape is a huge unsolved problem and it causes great and daily harm – its perpetrators go largely undetected and unpunished, because they are given such a huge benefit of the doubt, and because

    it seems like an uneven burden on men to generate social harmony whereas more assertive women is simpler and more beneficial to all.

    The point about steps 1-10 or 1-100 of the tiny “yes’s” that can render any subsequent “no” meaningless or useless or far too late, is that at each step a woman is weighing the precise question you’ve been asking all along. “He’s just followed me out of the room. Is it rational to fear this man” (But, he’s at an atheist conference with me and atheists are rational people, although sometimes they’re geeky and awkward – so not rational to be afraid) – “is it rational to get into an elevator with him” (it’s not like he’s crowding me or touching me or anything – so, not yet rational to be afraid) “ok now he’s asking me to his room “for coffee” (it’s just coffee after all – not yet rational to be afraid), etc etc. Until it is rational to be afraid, because he is hurting me, and I no longer have any escape route.

    We tell ourselves all the time not to be silly, there’s nothing to be afraid of. We worry ALL THE TIME, that our irrational fears are putting an unfair burden on any nice guys we might meet. But we get raped in huge numbers, and our rapists know all this, and manage to dodge round all of it, recruiting us to “be rational” when we should be afraid, to be “nice” when we should be rude, to say “yes” when we should be saying “no,” and then to spend a lifetime blaming ourselves for their actions.

    I have said that EG’s actions are not rape (he stopped), but they are “rapey” – that is to say they follow the early trajectory along which many encounters that ended in rape started. I really don’t care if you grasp this, to be honest, because I no longer believe in your bona fides, as I said. But I do care if other women pay attention to a careful description of what kind of behaviour may constitute a threat (and its where you start to find your exits blocked, among others).

    I am using language to name something that needs naming, specifically because people like you, who resist such naming, provide camouflage and protective covering for those who would hurt us. Please stop.

  • Scotlyn

    that is improved by making women more assertive rather than making men doubt every move they made (should I offer to buy her a drink – maybe she thinks I’m trying to slip something into it; should I offer to walk her home – maybe she thinks I’ll try to force my way into her home or simply to find out where she lives etc. etc.)

    Here’s a novel suggestion – stop trying to second-guess her. Just don’t ever block her exits, limit her choices, or make any suggestion to which there isn’t a valid alternative. Treat her as if she is a free person, and like it matters that she can do what SHE WILLS. If you do that, you cannot go too far wrong. OK?

  • keddaw

    Comment #242 by: Scotlyn

    Okay, that about does it for me. Scotlyn, if this comment is serious then there is no way forward.

    Monkeymind – yes! But how about to the guy, at the time, rather than the day after to a conference.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    I just wanted to point out that I described how I would have responded to EG.

    In an assertive and (male, I guess?) manner.

    And, notice how Mrnaglfar responded.

    Even when I was acting “male” I was a raving and hysterical female.

    I mean, I might as well have pulled a gun on the guy.

    So, men have every right to be assertive in their pursuit of sex with women, and completely indifferent to the concerns/feelings of women, but women do not have this same right to be assertive in their rejections of these men, because we are expected to be attentive to the concerns/feelings of men.

    Is that about right?

    And, notice how, as I mentioned, this attitude manifests in the law, which penalizes women and rewards men for defending themselves.

    That’s what we call unequal access to legal rights/protections.

    This is also an example of how a woman loses rights the moment a man approaches her for sex in the public space, especially if she consents to interact with him in any way.

    This is why, as a man, if you isolate a woman, or anyone with whom you share a power differential (unequal access to legal rights/protections), in a situation in which there exists a lack of transparency, you have behaved as an asshole.

    If you don’t want to be an asshole, then “Don’t do that.”

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    And, think about it:

    Why would a man be allowed to not care whether or not a woman feels threatened, but a woman is supposed to care whether or not a man actually intends to be threatening?

    What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

    So, either we can live in a world in which we all act like assholes and expect everyone else to be an asshole, which will make the world a lovely place in which to live, OR

    We can all take a time out and talk about whether or not it might not be better to live in a world in which we are considerate of other human beings in the public space.

    I’m just going to take a wild stab in the dark here and say that it might be better.

    But, one section of society does not get to assert its own right to act like assholes while imposing expectations on all other sections of society to be concerned with and considerate of their feelings.

    It’s nice when you get to have your cake and eat it too, but, unfortunately for you, this pisses me off, and I’m not going to tolerate it anymore.

  • Scotlyn

    Keddaw: yes you are quite right. It appears we have irreconcilable differences on this issue – the issue of women’s rights and how they intersect with the threat of rape. And I see that I am unlikely to be able to persuade you to become a defender of women’s rights. Because, in common with other men who have, from time immemorial, considered the problem of rape – your preferred solution is the same as theirs – such men have always preferred that women change THEIR behaviour rather than that men should even have to examine theirs. Among other proposed female behavioural changes over the centuries:
    1) Dress modestly – up to and including wearing a burka (this one, in various forms has an enduring popularity)
    2) Stay in at night – or perhaps even by day, or always have an escort when going out. (The famous quip of Golda Meir’s on hearing that a curfew of women was proposed in order to keep them safe, said “why not curfew the men instead?”
    3) Don’t drink, don’t behave in a “forward” way, don’t act as if you have any sexual desires.

    Granted, this has evolved somewhat, but the basic prescription you recommend is exactly the same:

    Not that many men couldn’t do with doing this, but it seems like an uneven burden on men to generate social harmony whereas more assertive women is simpler and more beneficial to all.

    ie – don’t ask men to make any changes or to take full responsibility for their own sexuality – only women need to make any necessary changes, and thus take responsibility for both male and female sexuality on themselves.

    This is where rape goes beyond being the dark side of a purely individual encounter between the two involved parties, and evolves to become a tool for social control, which has ramifications for the relationships between all men and all women. (Please note I am not saying all men rape!) So long as men express (and vociferously as is happening here), the preference that women do ALL the running in terms of making women safe from rape, and liberating men from the consequences of their actions (according to complicated sets of contradictory rules laid down by men – the main rule being “you must lose, you can’t win”), then women’s lives will remain circumscribed by the threat of rape.

    A threat that may prevent us being as fully powerful in our societies as we should be.

    The thing is, I think there are many men who will grasp this (but probably not you, Keddaw, although I did hold out hope for you for much longer than for Mrnaglfar in the context of this thread). So to you silently lurking men who grasp this – your help in changing this will be much appreciated. I do believe we need one another to make any useful changes – we need to really know that we’ve got one another’s backs. And thanks to all of those who have already got our backs!

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    Scotlyn,

    I really appreciate your point about contradictory rules.

    Because I was just thinking of how convenient it is for rapists that the law burdens women and imposes upon them the expectation to not defend themselves,

    right up to the point of actual rape (penetration against her will).

    Then, if the woman doesn’t fight back, it wasn’t rape (manifested as the frenzied orgy of forcible rape legislation moving thru state legislatures as we speak).

    So, the law is saying, don’t fight back, but if you don’t fight back, then you weren’t raped.

  • monkeymind

    Monkeymind – yes! But how about to the guy, at the time, rather than the day after to a conference.

    Why not the day after, also? Is there a statute of limitations on discussing acts of chutzpah and fuckwittage? Or is this a gag rule imposed only on women, when discussing men’s behavior toward them?

  • Scotlyn

    Sarah –

    (manifested as the frenzied orgy of forcible rape legislation moving thru state legislatures as we speak).

    I take it these are of a piece with other religious right wing legislative pushes to, for eg., limit abortion availability, and “teach the controversy” in science classrooms, etc, etc? Originating from the same think tanks and fundie hotbeds?

  • Scotlyn

    Keddaw:

    Comment #242 by: Scotlyn
    Okay, that about does it for me. Scotlyn, if this comment is serious then there is no way forward.

    This is actually very funny. Cause I went back to comment #242 and discovered that I made no comment at all!

    I simply lined up two contradictory statements of yours, and allowed them to speak for themselves.

  • Mrnaglfar

    I see having exhausted any real arguments, this is going to end in red herrings and just plain making shit up (“Clearly, my debate opponent believes rape is a good thing and seeks to oppress women”).

    I’m sure you’ll think I’m totally wrong and you’re all totally reasonable without a pause to even consider the alternative (“C’mon, we were pinning opinions on you reasonably. High five, everyone!”). I’m aware that when forced to choose between changing their mind and finding reasons not to, people immediately start making a list of the latter. I’m also aware that when moral dumbfounding takes place, people don’t tend to change their minds; they just continue to seek justifications for what they feel, regardless of how unconnected they are. I hope you examine some of these cognitive biases yourself, in the same way I’m certain you’d tell other people to examine their privilege. I doubt you will, but I hope you do.

    And before signing off on this, since we all know it won’t go any further, I’d like to make one suggestion, again. When responding to someone on a thread, it looks better and is easier to manage when you reply to someone in one post, not two or three back to back before they respond once. I say that because it looks like you’re just sitting down and hammering out a response without thinking it over first.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    Yeah, nice try, Mrnaglfar.

    I think I’ve been pretty clear in pointing out actual, real deficits in the legal protections / rights of women. Neither a red herring nor making shit up.

    Nothing better to say, so you go with style comments and claims of close-mindedness and bias.

    Pretty weak and pathetic.

    I hope you use this opportunity to take some time and really consider what we’ve been trying to say to you.

  • Mrnaglfar

    I’ll also break my just offered suggestion, because I found this especially insightful:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QqU9JFbtucU

  • http://kagerato.net kagerato

    Having accomplished their task of completely disrupting the thread to eliminate all discussion of what to do about the problem, the trolls hastily turn tail and run away. What a shock.

    Oh, wait. This is how every thread about women’s rights goes. (-_-)

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    Yeah, I actually just watched that video you posted, Mrnaglfar.

    I’m not sure why the dude needed 15 minutes though.

    His entire video can be summed up in just one quote: “Who could conceivably give a fuck about a girl being hit on in an elevator?” and “Who fucking cares if you were uncomfortable in an elevator?”

    Yeah, I think that was pretty clear. I’m not sure what was so especially insightful about that particular insight.

    Must have been that cognitive bias at work. Seeking justifications for what you feel?

    The thing that amazed me about the “Amazing Atheist” is that he doesn’t realize that no one is saying that EG’s behavior is evidence of rampant sexism in the atheist community.

    His video is.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    The one good thing about the outrageously and egregiously misogynistic online response to RW’s reasonable suggestion:

    They have provided us with all the evidence we’ll ever need to illustrate the problem of sexism in the atheist community. Tomes and tomes and volumes and volumes of evidence. Expletive and epithet filled evidence. Rape apologia replete evidence. Reality-based, factual evidence. The kind of evidence, overwhelming torrents of evidence, that even the most hard core skeptic would be hard pressed to deny.

    Even Richard Dawkins pitched in.

    We should really thank them.

  • XPK

    @Mrnaglfar – “I see having exhausted any real arguments, this is going to end in red herrings and just plain making shit up (“Clearly, my debate opponent believes rape is a good thing and seeks to oppress women”).”

    Now, I can understand being offended that Sarah wrote what is in the above parentheses about you, because I don’t think you actually believe this. However, responding with that video makes it look like you have given up any chance at a reasonable dialogue, especially if you categorize that video as “insightful”.

    Now here are some of the things I learned during this conversation:

    1.) Men don’t like the word misogyny. I wish there was another word that more accurately described a lack of being able to understand a woman’s experience. I feel that this more accurately describes men’s thought process on these subjects.
    2.) How incredibly sexist general society is. Women are responsible for keeping their burqas on and if they don’t they are responsible for what happens to them for enticing a man. Any sexual encounter a woman has had in the past will be used against her by her rapist (or rapist’s attorney) at trial, and how those play into the many legal situations Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy describes above. The sexes are incredibly unequal in terms of the laws of the land. I feel a majority, but not all of this, stems from religious doctrine. This is all incredibly depressing.
    3.) Men have a tendency to say we want women to be more assertive, but when they do speak up they are either a “stupid bitch” (quote from the video you posted), overreacting, sexist or all of the above. I will also point out that when men act more like women that is “gay” (in the pejorative sense) and therefore less socially desirable. Yet lesbians are awesome because that turns guys on…again the emphasis being on men and not women (my sister actually told me she has made out with female friends at a bar so they could interest men). I think I digressed a bit far on this one…my apologies.

    Other random thoughts that also relate to this discussion:

    4.) I grew up with three sisters and one brother and I work in an office with 25 women and one other guy. This conversation interests me for many reasons.
    5.) I was just at a pride parade last month to support an organization that is trying to defeat a constitutional marriage amendment banning same-sex marriage in the state of MN. While I was handing out stickers I was sexually harassed multiple times by several men. In response to the guy in that video who argued that if this had been two guys in an elevator we wouldn’t even be talking about this, I have to say bullshit. I’m like 160 pounds soaking wet, and I would have been creeped-out by EG.
    6.) Have straight men ever stopped to wonder why straight women love hanging out with gay men, and that perhaps it might go beyond shoe shopping?

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    Without wishing to imply anything beyond the following facial statement:

    The quote above referenced by XPK isn’t mine.

  • XPK

    @Sarah – I assumed Mrnaglfar was quoting you directly. I see now that he was not. My apologies.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    No worries.

    I wasn’t sure if someone had actually typed that or no.

    Or, if Mrnaglfar was putting quotes around his paraphrase/interpretation of my or someone else’s argument.

    And, I didn’t feel like reading 250 comments to determine one way or another.

    But, anyhoo.

  • keddaw

    Scotlyn: #242 – This is exactly the conflation I was trying to show that you are making. #252 – This is exactly why I am bowing out.

    Sarah: We agree on most of the substantive issues. Please keep writing about any gender differences in the law as I will stand shoulder to shoulder with you to remove them.

    monkeymind: To do it at the time is assertive, to do it the day after may be beneficial to the community but not so much for you.

    kagerato: I have seen some keen comments by you on other topics so I know you’re not a troll, but on this thread I am hard pressed to see that.

  • Scotlyn

    Fair enough.
    I think we’ve all made it extremely clear where we stand, it’s just a pity that it turned out that’s not beside one another. This is as good a place as any to wind up, I guess.

  • http://kagerato.net kagerato

    keddaw, have you ever wondered whether the kind of response you get has something to do with what you said?

    Just a thought, there. I’d be glad to discuss the issue when you make it clear you are ready to listen. You apparently have no genuine interest in the topic, though, and therefore are more than ready to leave. That’s a little bit offensive, maybe, to some people, possibly…?

    The next time you decide to chime in, start by admitting the people you are talking to have a conclusion, evidence, and minds of their own.

  • http://kagerato.net kagerato

    I feel there’s plenty left to be said here, even though there may be no audience. I hate to see threads simply die off into insignificance merely because people become exhausted. This topic is important; the conclusion is important (contrary to what I’ve been told).

    Keddaw’s lack of understanding had begun by comment #55. Indeed, apparent lack of intent to understand. Confusion of metaphor and reality. A metaphor is meant to illustrate (in this case, a power difference). It is not to be taken at face value alone, and doing so is gross misunderstanding. Misunderstanding which would not be expected from someone reading carefully and making a genuine attempt to reason about the situation. This confusion happened not once but several times throughout the thread (notably with the sheep/shepherd analogy).

    [Mrnaglfar]: As opposed to you, of course, who has carefully examined all the evidence before forming an opinion with an open mind, no biases, and is totally open to changing their mind. It also just so happens you found the right answer to an opinion question. I hope you enjoy your self-congratulatory pat on the back.

    (Tip: saying “won the thread” makes you sound like you’re twelve)

    There’s a few points about this I didn’t mention before.

    (1) I didn’t claim to not have biases.

    (2) I wasn’t trying to take some kind of high ground road of the grand philosopher. My point was, indeed, that Mr. M here (for lack of possible pronunciation) was playing that gambit. Drawing special lines in the sand where none exist in reality. Denying any possible transition from scenario to scenario, even though they happen that way on a regular basis. It is the refusal to address context and broader evidence that cordons off the discussion into a tiny fixed room from which no progress can escape. It’s my conclusion that this was intentional.

    (3) I am open to changing my mind, but only on the basis of evidence. There is no amount of purely logical contortions you can do to move my position, so it’s pointless to make attempts on that front. Why anyone thought this was something other than a matter of reality and actual experiences is the question here.

    (4) Not all opinions are equally valid. This concept that an opinion is an ideal entity, like some kind of relic in a sacred realm watching over us, is an exercise in disengagement with reality. Opinions have consequences. Opinions intersect with facts. Opinions influence behavior. Only an opinion supported by evidence has independent worth. If you cannot bring any such support to your opinion, you have no reason to argue that you are correct.

    (5) I’m not the one who trivialized this important discussion into a game. That was your mindset, made pretty obvious by the fact that this literal interpretation of my words is the very first to come to your mind. The phrase “won the thread” is a metaphor for assignment of credit. It’s shorthand. Taking a compliment of someone else and turning that on its head into an insult of the speaker is worse than uncharitable. That you think the people arguing with you are less than adults with proper minds and values of their own is interesting, though. It’s rhetorical maneuvering to dominate the discussion and look tough.

    It’s an opinion question about a specific set of circumstances, first off, so asking about evidence is kind of an odd request. However, I had said what different set of circumstances would have made me think “it was wrong” (EG continued to push after the ‘no’, behaved in an aggressive or threatening manner, etc). It’s even on this thread. Read my other responses; it’s already there.

    It’s not the slightest bit odd. Evidence is the only aspect which can differentiate the validity of opinions. The reason you do not argue in good faith is that you do not accept or acknowledge the underlying values presented. Many of us laid several premises out as steps toward a conclusion:

    [1] Women are people with their own thoughts, feelings, and rights.
    [2] Harming women would be bad.
    [3] One form of harm to women is loss of control of their body, immediate environment, or reasonable guarantee of safety.
    [4] Approaching a woman from a position of power in an enclosed space infringes upon that sense of control and safety.
    [5] Infringing a person’s sense of control and safety creates at a minimum unnecessary mental anxiety, even if nothing further occurs.
    [6] There are many different ways to interact and communicate with women that do not involve any notable invasion of personal space and safety.

    I leave it as an exercise to you, Mr. M, to fill in what the conclusion is. Keddaw says there isn’t one.

  • Warren

    kagerato:

    [1] Women are people with their own thoughts, feelings, and rights.
    [2] Harming women would be bad.
    [3] One form of harm to women is loss of control of their body, immediate environment, or reasonable guarantee of safety.
    [4] Approaching a woman from a position of power in an enclosed space infringes upon that sense of control and safety.
    [5] Infringing a person’s sense of control and safety creates at a minimum unnecessary mental anxiety, even if nothing further occurs.
    [6] There are many different ways to interact and communicate with women that do not involve any notable invasion of personal space and safety.

    And the conclusion I imagine you are alluding to is “don’t be an asshole”? Let’s see if keddaw or Mrnaglfar disagrees with your conclusion:

    keddaw:

    Both sides have a point, but while people in general do feel anxious by something surely the best thing to do is try to avoid making others feel that way – it’s manners, it’s empathy and it’s not that much of an imposition on you.

    I am completely with you that EG’s actions were socially unacceptable and RW’s reaction (to be creeped out) was perfectly natural. I think it should be made more widely known that propositioning (see, I got rid of the violent connotation of “hitting on”) someone in a situation that is already tense is socially unacceptable. e.g. A car park, a dark alley, an elevator etc. etc.

    I think he made his stance perfectly clear with this comment:

    My emotional resistance to this is a sense of not wishing to enforce current social norms into law. And a fear that if we start to criminalise social inadequacy it will, at some point, come to bite us all in the ass.

    Mrnaglfar:

    By all means, you can tell men that flirting with women in such a fashion isn’t likely to work, because it isn’t; Clark and Hatfield demonstrated that quite decisively. You can point out that it was a clumsy attempt and some reasons why, because it was. You can even point out that many women will feel uncomfortable with such offers, because they probably will.

    That’s not to say you couldn’t do it better or in a more socially accepted way, but it doesn’t mean you hurt them.

    The problem, I will repeat one last, final, exasperated time, has nothing to do with a suggestion to not try to hit on strange women in elevators at four in the morning. It’s unlikely to work and many women will probably find it unsettling.

    Or are you saying that since these premises have been laid down that they should just accept them without question, that they MUST accept those 6 premises as being true? Premises are evidence or opinion? Aside from the links Scotlyn posted, there hasn’t been much provided in the way of evidence, only assertions that there IS evidence. But just because someone doesn’t agree with an argument or an analogy doesn’t mean they don’t agree with your conclusion.

    For example, your 6 points, I can agree with them in principle, but they could do with a bit of expanding to avoid confusion. IE:

    Point 1: Define ‘rights’. Also, women DON’T have the same rights (as in right protected by law). Yes, IMO, this MUST change immediately.

    Point 2: Define ‘harm’. It’s kind of like ‘wellbeing’… not really defined but used a lot. Also, are you defining them in relation to consent? If not, how will you avoid the argument that not everyone’s notion of harm is the same ( the argument of relativism ).

  • http://kagerato.net kagerato

    @Warren:

    Sure, that’s one of several conclusions in the same vein. A little blunt, but appropriately concise.

    monkeymind had corrected keddaw’s misconception way back in #62. In short, no one had proposed changing the law in response. That didn’t prevent this from being repeatedly presented as the mainstream position here (and once again, now).

    So, yeah, sure. I agree, let’s not write current social norms into law. Why am I having to say this?

    No, I do not expect anyone to just blindly agree to premises, whether implicit or explicit. I do expect that when they disagree, they make it clear exactly what premises are supposed incorrect and present evidence that they are.

    You appear to be stating for keddaw and Mrnaglfar that they agree no one should act the way EG did. The quotes you presented don’t actually say that; they do not imply that EG’s actions were morally or legally wrong in any sense. Yes, they say it is socially unacceptable. There’s an undercurrent of an implication, not all that thinly veiled, that this activity should not be socially unacceptable because there is nothing actually wrong with it.

    If either they, or you, or anyone else actually thought EG’s actions were morally wrong and indefensible, what was all the noise about? Why the contest, complaints, and squabbling?

    I don’t feel a need to play semantic games with ‘rights’ and ‘harm’, as my usage was typical. Most of the thread was talking more about social privilege than legal rights; the latter was only presented to explain the context in which bad social behavior was occurring in. It was attempt to create understanding, but summarily dismissed as irrelevant.

    As to the last point, you inverted the burden of proof. It’s not I who took the position that people should be treated differently based on preferences unknown ahead of time. That’s quite the opposite. It was stated several times that this kind of subjective decision making, based on either the requester’s preferences or the assumption of the requestee’s, doesn’t work and can’t work generally. The expected response was supposed to show how the requester could avoid infringing the safety and comfort of someone who:

    (1) was approached in an elevator,
    (2) late at night,
    (3) by a stranger who never spoke to the requestee before,
    (4) makes an intimate request that rarely ever would be granted voluntarily,
    (5) after the requestee had finished multiple explanations of how these kinds of requests are a real burden.

    This is what was meant by evidence and experience. Show it; show how that could in any way be reasonable morally, socially, or otherwise.

    Mrnaglfar admitted there’s nothing that would convince him, other than changing the facts of the case. Changing the scenario is obviously disallowed; that is not a good faith attempt allowing for precise discussion. The situation was what it was; imposing doubts on the accuracy and truth of the one telling the story shows hostility to that person’s point of view from the outset.

    Not so many in this thread, but many before and elsewhere, essentially said “I don’t mind that behavior, therefore it’s fine”. That’s about as subjective as one could possibly get. It’s a very large error to treat other people as you wish to be treated; their experiences and desires are often not the same. Assuming so before you know anything about them, and then falling back on the law for the defense of your infringement, is asinine and selfish.

    Now, people reflexively and repeatedly defending asinine and selfish behavior, especially to the point of threats and intimidation, that’s where the misogyny came in. Ignoring asshole-level behavior only when it benefits one sex over the other may as well be the definition of gender bias.

  • keddaw

    So, yeah, sure. I agree, let’s not write current social norms into law. Why am I having to say this?

    Because you talk about rights, harm and many other things that, if true, should be against the law!

    You appear to be stating for keddaw and Mrnaglfar that they agree no one should act the way EG did.

    Yes, I think I have certainly made that abundantly clear, for today’s society.

    The quotes you presented don’t actually say that; they do not imply that EG’s actions were morally or legally wrong in any sense.

    Because they’re not. That’s kind of the point. If they’re legally wrong then EG should be charged; if they’re morally wrong the law should be altered. The reality is that EG’s actions were neither legally nor morally wrong in an absolute sense. The fact you cannot understand this is why you are missing key points about how we can criticise behaviours without being sure they are objectively wrong.

    If either they, or you, or anyone else actually thought EG’s actions were morally wrong and indefensible…

    They are entirely defensible in any number of circumstances. I recognise that this one was probably not particularly defensible but your insistence that it definitely caused a harm and that that harm was foreseeable and reasonable is what we are trying to discuss.

    Most of the thread was talking more about social privilege than legal rights

    There I must disagree – I am 95% onboard with Sarah and think that any gender difference in law should be removed forthwith. However, this thread started with linking someone’s perception of other’s behaviour as threatening, linking that to a situation that the person herself has simply described as an example of sexism within a given group and then been linked to rape. When anyone then challenges the original thinking behind it they become defenders of rape. That is unfair.

    So, kagerato, if you are not concerned with turning current social norms into law than please explain why your premise is that women have their own rights and that interfering with them is harm. If that is not something that should be defended by law then what is law for?

    And as for your final question, if RW’s point 5 is false then the other 4 points are irrelevant. I’m not saying that’s the case currently, but you ask how it could be otherwise and I’m just showing you.

    Misogyny came in with the response to RW’s slightly misworded request. Sexism actually came in with the idea that women have to be treated differently to men and that men can never be subject to the same type of mistreatment as women. NB. That’s not trying to paint men as the victim, far from it, it’s simply pointing out that correct behavior towards fellow humans should be agnostic with regards to gender.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    Sexism actually came in with the idea that women have to be treated differently to men and that men can never be subject to the same type of mistreatment as women.

    I’m aware that long-running discussions tend to experience topic drift, but this is a particularly egregious example of someone who has apparently forgotten (or never read) the original post at the top of all this lengthy debate.

  • Mrnaglfar

    [1] Women are people with their own thoughts, feelings, and rights.
    [2] Harming women would be bad.
    [3] One form of harm to women is loss of control of their body, immediate environment, or reasonable guarantee of safety.
    [4] Approaching a woman from a position of power in an enclosed space infringes upon that sense of control and safety.
    [5] Infringing a person’s sense of control and safety creates at a minimum unnecessary mental anxiety, even if nothing further occurs.
    [6] There are many different ways to interact and communicate with women that do not involve any notable invasion of personal space and safety.

    I agree with each of those. I still think Rebecca wasn’t harmed, because thinking a guy is ‘creepy’ because of an ill-timed invitation does not count as harm in my book. But that’s really besides the point because your entire analysis is actually irrelevant to what Rebecca said were her complaints: sexual objectification, sexism, and misogyny. To my knowledge, Rebecca never once claimed she worried for her safety. If she did, by all means, link me to it.

    It certainly wasn’t a sexist request. Nothing about what happened fits the definition of sexism even in the slightest. Likewise with misogyny; there was no evidence of misogyny in the interaction. So we can just ignore those.

    As for sexual objectification and sexualization, I don’t think it’s wrong. I’m sure plenty of people don’t like it and find it annoying, but wanting to just have sex with someone isn’t grounds for getting one’s moral panties in a twist in my book, even if they put that desire out there. In any case, there’s no direct evidence of sexual objectification. For all we know, the people in the bar chatting with Rebecca before she left were sexually objectifying her as much or more than EG, but I don’t see anyone trying to make that case. Unless it’s OK to sexualize someone as long as you make sure to never tell them, because that might offend their poor sensibilities.

    Rebecca made a huge issue out of nothing; a personal annoyance; a fleeting moment where she felt uncomfortable that a man probably wanted to have sex with her and dared ask her for coffee. A few blogs joined in to help make it an even bigger issue out of nothing. There’s no moral or legal question here; someone felt uncomfortable, and they should really get over it.

  • monkeymind

    Misogyny came in with the response to RW’s slightly misworded request.

    Yes, the imperative mood is so unbecoming to a woman.

    The elevator proposal clearly meets the definition of sexual objectification. Sexual objectification is not the same as sexual attraction, contra Mrnaglfar.

  • XPK

    @Mr. M – “Rebecca made a huge issue out of nothing; a personal annoyance; a fleeting moment where she felt uncomfortable that a man probably wanted to have sex with her and dared ask her for coffee. A few blogs joined in to help make it an even bigger issue out of nothing. There’s no moral or legal question here; someone felt uncomfortable, and they should really get over it.”

    Have you looked up the definition of the word “creepy” by any chance? Here is the first definition for you, sir, since you claim “Rebecca never once claimed she worried for her safety”:

    “having or causing a creeping sensation of the skin, as from horror or fear”

    Any words jump out at you, Mr. M? Or do I need to bold, italicize, underline, and all caps them for you?

    @keddaw – “they become defenders of rape” – OR they become unable to empathize with a woman in this situation feeling uncomfortable in regards to her physical safety.

    I fail to understand why you both seem so dead set on making this about writing laws when the parties involved are simply saying, “Please don’t do that, it has a tendency to make some women feel uncomfortable.”

  • Mrnaglfar

    The elevator proposal clearly meets the definition of sexual objectification. Sexual objectification is not the same as sexual attraction, contra Mrnaglfar.

    I don’t give a shit whether the two are different because I don’t think either are wrong. If a person sees another person and doesn’t care at all about who they are and just wants to fuck them, that’s fine by me.

    The elevator proposal clearly meets the definition of sexual objectification

    Really? How?

    Have you looked up the definition of the word “creepy” by any chance?

    And here’s the second definition for you: 2. Annoyingly unpleasant; repulsive

    I bolded and italicized the important parts for you, just in case you can’t find them, since you apparently can’t be bothered to check out the next definition in an entry.

  • keddaw

    XPK:

    I fail to understand why you both seem so dead set on making this about writing laws when the parties involved are simply saying, “Please don’t do that, it has a tendency to make some women feel uncomfortable.”

    Because:
    1. Perhaps it shouldn’t make women feel uncomfortable.

    2. It should have nothing to do with being a woman*, I’m sure we all agree that any legal differential between men and women should be removed as quickly as possible therefore the situation becomes about people in general.

    3. If there is a genuine harm, as kagerato, Sarah and Scotlyn appear to be saying, then perhaps we really should be looking at whether or not this type of behaviour should be criminalised. The idea that this behaviour is a common precursor to rape and therefore places people, but especially women, in a state of genuine and rational fear of rape/physical violence sounds to me like the sort of thing I’d outlaw – and I’m against most laws.

    So I, and I presume Mrnaglfar, are entirely at ease with the statement I quoted you making, there are others who conflate what EG did with rape, who make this a women’s rights issue and rights only exist in a legal framework, who say this is a genuine, foreseeable and rational harm imposed on women, then I can’t see how, in a civilised society, we don’t outlaw something like that. Or perhaps those people have exaggerated their claims since they apparently don’t want this behaviour criminalised?

    * You missed out the fact is was “Guys, don’t do that” which reinforces the idea that the situation was about men’s treatment of women rather than simply a harmful behaviour by one human to another.

    @Ebonmuse, I feel your comment #270 is a total mischaracterisation of where the discussion has gone. We have moved from a general fear of physical safety to a specific fear of rape. I dare say that wasn’t Wil’s primary concern, but does appear to be foremost in many people’s minds here. I think you’ll find that in all the comments here I am the one most trying to push this as a non-gender issue, but that might not be your reading of it.

  • http://kagerato.net kagerato

    [keddaw]: Because you talk about rights, harm and many other things that, if true, should be against the law!

    I disagree about that, though at least now I know where your thought process was. Not everything that is wrong should be illegal, because society only has limited resources (especially in labor and time) to prosecute violations. We have to keep the law down to a reasonable size focused on the most significant harms, or eventually the bulk of our activity will be involuntarily consumed in addressing each case in which one person has a claim against another.

    Beyond that, even when behavior is wrong, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it an appropriate punishment for it would be monetary transfers or imprisonment. There’s a lot of cases where that doesn’t quite make sense. It seems far more rational to me to address bad social behavior through counter-socializing processes, and also more efficient at actually solving the problem at large.

    If they’re legally wrong then EG should be charged; if they’re morally wrong the law should be altered. The reality is that EG’s actions were neither legally nor morally wrong in an absolute sense. The fact you cannot understand this is why you are missing key points about how we can criticise behaviours without being sure they are objectively wrong.

    I don’t talk about absolutes in morality, or even in law. This truly gets at the root of what I was trying to explain earlier; that the context of the situation is discarded in favor of absolute rules applied to situations before dealing with any of their details.

    It is probably obvious that I am not a moral relativist, since I believe in common standards of behavior. However, the basis of those standards is in shared values which we communicate and establish among one another. Prior society developed the rules, and we shape their future course as we mature. I don’t think you can declare something “objectively” wrong without the use of baseline shared values. Some people will say even that is not objective, because there will be people who disregard those values or have other priorities. They have a point, but the semantic distinction breaks down once you accept that empirical endeavors like science also have fundamental values taken as premises.

    I recognise that this one was probably not particularly defensible but your insistence that it definitely caused a harm and that that harm was foreseeable and reasonable is what we are trying to discuss.

    I didn’t declare the harm or its size myself. Rather, I listened to what others have told me and drew conclusions based upon the impacts it had on psychological and social interaction.

    Before, I couldn’t understand why you defend something you don’t think is defensible. Now I know that you think we intend to encode morality into the law, and it all makes sense. That’s pretty much the last thing I want, considering that most people take their moral code from ancient books.

    However, this thread started with linking someone’s perception of other’s behaviour as threatening, linking that to a situation that the person herself has simply described as an example of sexism within a given group and then been linked to rape. When anyone then challenges the original thinking behind it they become defenders of rape. That is unfair.

    I didn’t say you (or anyone, for that matter) was defending rape. Who said that, and where? I’ve read essentially the whole thread and yet missed this one. Most likely, this is another case where you took a metaphor literally as those it were a declaration.

    It was said that certain threatening behaviors are more likely to come from dangerous individuals, and so the reaction has a basis. That doesn’t mean statistically most situations that look threatening result in violence, merely that people are extremely wary of getting anywhere near a situation that might do so. We ask that others don’t create situations that look similar as a general rule.

    So, kagerato, if you are not concerned with turning current social norms into law than please explain why your premise is that women have their own rights and that interfering with them is harm. If that is not something that should be defended by law then what is law for?

    The law has a threshold of harm to meet, an essential ‘quantum’ of harm, if you will, as well as standards of evidence. This one didn’t meet the threshold of harm nor the standard of evidence to actually result in prosecution for harassment. That doesn’t mean no harm was done.

    Note that the legal system also addresses harm after the fact. This is a very different dynamic from social structures and their enforcement mechanisms, which are meant to prevent harm from occurring in the first place.

    Sexism actually came in with the idea that women have to be treated differently to men and that men can never be subject to the same type of mistreatment as women. NB. That’s not trying to paint men as the victim, far from it, it’s simply pointing out that correct behavior towards fellow humans should be agnostic with regards to gender.

    ????

    (1) It’s one standard of behavior. No one is saying it would be proper or morally correct for a woman to adopt EG’s behavior.

    (2) No one claimed men cannot be subject to mistreatment, whether it be objectification or any other sort.

    (3) Some have claimed men are taking a mantle of victimhood. OK, so not every man did that. A certain segment did, however, claim to be the victims by asserting that in any way changing their behavior would be an undue and unjustified burden. That’s an accurate description, then.

    (4) Behavior can’t ignore gender so long as society doesn’t. It’s impossible to correct actions considered invisible.

    [Mrnaglfar]: I still think Rebecca wasn’t harmed, because thinking a guy is ‘creepy’ because of an ill-timed invitation does not count as harm in my book. But that’s really besides the point because your entire analysis is actually irrelevant to what Rebecca said were her complaints: sexual objectification, sexism, and misogyny. To my knowledge, Rebecca never once claimed she worried for her safety. If she did, by all means, link me to it.

    It certainly wasn’t a sexist request. Nothing about what happened fits the definition of sexism even in the slightest. Likewise with misogyny; there was no evidence of misogyny in the interaction. So we can just ignore those.

    As for sexual objectification and sexualization, I don’t think it’s wrong.

    I italicized the mistaken premises you would need to show to convince me. Stating them so bluntly helps me understand the big gap here. However, I don’t see the particulars of what you want to be demonstrated and how it could be shown.

    As to the point about infringement of safety, it is implicit. (Except in cases, of course, where it’s already too late.) That’s what all those analogies you discarded were about; to explain the context.

    If there was no greater risk to women in society in these entrapped situations we wouldn’t have much of a discussion. The different threat levels and different socialized behaviors between the sexes is the heaviest, most fundamental part. That’s why it comes up again and again regardless of how many times you bat it down.

  • Mrnaglfar

    I italicized the mistaken premises you would need to show to convince me.

    They’re opinions, not premises. They’re also not mistaken, since they’re personal views, not references to objective fact (barring the sexism one).

    It’s not like ill-timed invitations – which of course depends entirely on the people and context in question – are sexist (how?), cause harm (feeling offended or uncomfortable is not harm on its own), and sexualization is wrong (see the previous) de facto and I need to convince you otherwise.

    As to the point about infringement of safety, it is implicit.

    By which you mean Rebecca never mentioned she was afraid of being raped or assaulted, but she did mention feeling icky about being flirted with, so the entire discussion about safety here is a red herring (and has been from the very first post by Ebon on the subject), right?