Creating a Safe Convention for Attendees

Due to both recent and past events, organizers in the freethought movement are drafting harassment policies to take effect at their events.

Regardless of how serious you think this issue is, these policies are necessary. Not as a punishment or a threat, but as a promise to attendees that the places we gather in are safe spaces for any and all who would like to attend.

There have been many ideas as to what kinds of efforts should take place in order to ensure that each conference does its best to squelch harassment, such as a sticker system akin to that used by MENSA and posters declaring spaces safe.

Is this enough? What kinds of measures would you like conference organizers to take in order to ensure your safety?

About Lauren Lane

Lauren Lane is the co-founder of Skepticon, the Midwest's largest skeptic student-run conference and remains a lead organizer today. She has not one, but TWO fancy art degrees and is not afraid to use them.

  • anon101

    Gnarf. Of course these policies are a threat (threatening to ban
    people for improper behaviour) otherwise they would not work. We
    should at least acknowledge the facts.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=706773338 William Poire
  • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

    “squander harassment”

    Um, what? I’m honestly not sure what word you meant to use there, but I’m pretty sure ‘squander’ makes no sense.

    • Cindy

      squelch, quash?

      • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

        ‘squelch’ was it, apparently. It’s been changed now.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jim-Baerg/100000827478206 Jim Baerg

      Maybe Lauren had her Spellchecker set to autocorrect. That’s an effective way to get nonsense into your writing.

  • John Small Berries

     Make all attendees sign a copy of the anti-harassment policies, upon which the penalties for violation are clearly spelled out.

    That way, there can be no “well, I didn’t know” excuses, and if harassing others is so important to them that they leave in a snit instead of agreeing to abide by the policies, then good riddance.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=740856118 facebook-740856118

    Regardless of the policy, make sure their is a prompt response to any incident.  That doesn’t mean punishment.  It could include warnings, or maybe straightening out a misunderstanding.  My point is don’t let it linger.

  • http://profiles.google.com/julielada Julie Lada

    I hate the sticker system. It feels like it actually creates opportunity for abuse as much as the opposite. It’s hard to explain, but having staffed a few anime conventions in my time, I feel that something like an “Ask Me” or “Hug me” sticker creates an in for some guys that normally wouldn’t have the guts to come on to a woman. And honestly, responding to “can I have a hug?” with, “no” enough times will result in social consequences. How may women will acquiesce to touching that they don’t want simply to avoid being labeled a bitch?

    I like hugs from my friends, people who I am close with, and they certainly don’t have to ask first. But physical contact from people I don’t know makes me cagey and uncomfortable. However, being asked if they can touch me puts me on the spot in a way that I’m not equally comfortable with giving a yes or a no for fear of gaining an unsavory reputation.

    • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

      That sounds like an argument /for/ the sticker system. You’d put on the ‘no hugs for me’ colour and then it should never come up – no need to say no to anyone individually, no social consequences for doing so.

      • http://profiles.google.com/julielada Julie Lada

        Which is disingenuous. And also avoids the question of how many men will use the sticker system as an opportunity to touch women who they are attracted to, and how many women will give in for fear of being labeled a bitch?

        It seems like a oversimplified system where only the extremes (“Yes, hug me!” and “Do not touch me”) receive the full benefits.

        • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

           “Which is disingenuous.”

          Really not seeing how.

          “how many men will use the sticker system as an opportunity to touch women who they are attracted to”

          Well, assuming the women in question have chosen to wear the ‘touch me without asking’ colour then I’m not sure that’s a problem. I suspect that in practice not many women would, but that’s fine.

          “how many women will give in for fear of being labeled a bitch?”

          I think the underlying assumption is that the system means that everyone’s clear where they stand, so awkward interactions are avoided. Unless you think people are just going to go round seeking out anyone wearing “don’t touch me” colours and abusing them, which strikes me as a bit of a stretch. Plus if anyone did do that, that would be so unequivocally bad behaviour that there couldn’t be much argument about dealing with it as such.

          • http://profiles.google.com/julielada Julie Lada

            It’s disingenuous because I am not “no hugs for me.” Context, personal relationships, etc. matter. Creating an environment where human interaction is oversimplified to a binary either/or label with only a single option in between that puts women in an uncomfortable social situation isn’t something that is likely to feel welcoming to women. For that matter, some women might feel pressured to not choose the “no hugs” sticker because that alone could result in unwanted labeling.

            How about we focus instead on a system where abusive behavior can be reported, recorded and dealt with rather than trying to color code what is appropriate behavior?

            • Onamission5

              I should read comments better before I reply! You’s already said pretty much what I said. So, ditto!

              • Onamission5

                *you’d* not you’s

          • http://profiles.google.com/julielada Julie Lada

            It’s disingenuous because I am not “no hugs for me.” Context, personal relationships, etc. matter. Creating an environment where human interaction is oversimplified to a binary either/or label with only a single option in between that puts women in an uncomfortable social situation isn’t something that is likely to feel welcoming to women. For that matter, some women might feel pressured to not choose the “no hugs” sticker because that alone could result in unwanted labeling.

            How about we focus instead on a system where abusive behavior can be reported, recorded and dealt with rather than trying to color code what is appropriate behavior?

        • HughInAz

          ‘[H]ow many women will give in for fear of being labeled a bitch?”
          This attitude really bugs me. Ironically, feminism makes women out to be passive, helpless, agency-less victims with no control over what happens to them. It’s up to men to intuit psychically when “no” means “no” and when it doesn’t.

          Women need to take ownership. Equality applies to responsibilites as well as rights.

          • poliltimmy

             That is exactly why my wife does not care for the feminist movement.

          • Onamission5

            Honestly, people who use anything having to do with making conference attendees feel safe as a launching pad for anti-feminist diatribe really bug me.

            If you don’t know what it’s like to be hunted, or to have to worry about being hunted, it’s prudent to listen to the experiences of those who do.

          • Patterrssonn

            I’m surprised at how long it took for some idiot to start ranting on about feminism.

    • Michael

      The linked sticker system had an option for “Not unless we’re close friends.”

      • http://profiles.google.com/julielada Julie Lada

        I didn’t see that in the list of options:

        “Green = Hug me!
        Yellow = Ask me first
        Red = Don’t touch me
        Blue = Single
        Ring = Atheist”

        • Michael

          Next line down:

          Some people’s badges got fairly intricate (Red over green = hug me if you know me, but not if you don’t, etc).

          • http://profiles.google.com/julielada Julie Lada

             That seems a bit silly and stretching the limits of usefulness. Are we all going to be carrying around an interpretation manual? Pink over blue means taken but in an open relationship, etc.

            • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ORRVVC5R2QWLTXEM6SX5L6BORE Jay Arrrr

               Sounds like they need some kind of “Hanky Code”
              http://www.bootdog.com/hankies.html

              • http://profiles.google.com/julielada Julie Lada

                 This made me laugh really hard. I’ve seen some systems in place at public dungeons and such to make it easier to find play partners with similar interests, but with the kink/fetish lists of some people I know, this would add like 20 lbs in hankies!

            • Michael

              Given that they have stickers for religion, I’d say it’s a way to pick out people you want to talk to out of a crowd. I expect other special interest groups have stickers too.

    • Cortex_Returns

      I think the sticker system is a bad idea because it doesn’t address the real problem, which is harassment, not awkward, but minor social faux pas. 

      The sticker system might be a good solution if the problem were social ineptitude, but that’s not the problem at hand, and that’s not what’s making women feel unwelcome or unsafe at these events. The problem is predatory sexual behavior, which is unacceptable in all circumstances. I suppose if someone *wanted* to be groped, they could wear a sign around their neck or something, but it’s certainly not something we need to create a system around.

      • ErickaMJohnson

        Excellent point.

        Plus, sticker color codes for consent feels rather cheesy… and it encourages people to not bother to talk to each other.

        • http://profiles.google.com/julielada Julie Lada

           That was the other aspect of what bothered me about it. It just feels silly and juvenile.

        • jdm8

          The sticker system sounds bad, but I don’t know if that argument fits.  That suggests the only reason people talk to each other is for physical contact, then we are in trouble as a society.

        • Onamission5

          Not only that, but just because I am wearing a hug me sticker doesn’t mean I want to hug literally everyone, just like if I am okay with my close friend patting my ass doesn’t mean I want a total stranger doing it. I need to have the personal discretion to say no to hugging someone who doesn’t seem right to me, whether I am wearing a sticker or not, without it being an all or nothing thing. It seems like stickers takes that away. If I don’t want to hug, for example, those three creepy people in that corner over there, then I can’t hug anyone, or I am fair game? It seems more limiting to consensual behavior and not so much limiting of non-consensual.

          Adding to that– if predators disregard the word “no” I highly doubt they will respect a sticker.

        • Onamission5

          Someone else made the point elsewhere in thread that a sticker system which relied upon color coding would not take into account people who are colorblind, which made me have to stop for a second and check my able-ist assumptions. So there is that to take into consideration, too.

      • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

        “the real problem, which is harassment, not awkward, but minor social faux pas”

        The problem is that, for any given act, perspectives differ. Taking the original Elevatorgate incident as a case in point, the critical fault line seemed to be between people who thought that a polite invitation for coffee (which may have been literally that and nothing more), coupled with the straightforward taking of ‘No’ for an answer, was completely fine. On the other side, people who think that being asked a question that at least may indicate sexual interest while in a confined space with no easy way out is a problem. We don’t have anything like a universal common understanding of whether that was harassment or a minor faux pas.

        In general we have a mixture of people, some of whom don’t want any advances (even if every one happily takes ‘No’ for an answer, you can imagine it’s going to get wearing after a few), and other people who want to be free to hook up. It’s not clear how you can satisfy both groups without some way of finding out which one a person is in without having to ask. Hence suggestions like sticker systems.

        Personally, I think the sticker systems are a bit silly, and people should just be able to negaciate things like grown-ups, but Julie said above that:

        “being asked if they can touch me puts me on the spot in a way that I’m not equally comfortable with”

        Now, that being the case, how can you set up something so that she never has to be asked, but other people are still free to hug, snuggle, and wind up in bed?

        • http://profiles.google.com/julielada Julie Lada

           Oh for Pete’s sake…

          Apparently part of the problem is also people who cannot differentiate between flirting or being asked out and being approached by a complete stranger who asks for permission to touch you.

          • poliltimmy

            I just watched her video again. The man never asked to touch her.  But don’t let me to point out your dishonesty.

            • http://profiles.google.com/julielada Julie Lada

              I honestly have no clue what you’re talking about. What video?

              • poliltimmy

                 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uKHwduG1Frk

                • http://profiles.google.com/julielada Julie Lada

                   Only we weren’t talking about the RW video in the quote he took from my post, we were talking about the sticker system.

                • poliltimmy

                   If that video was not made this discussion would not be taking place. I’m not a Jew. This is not 1936. I will not be labeled. If she was threatened, why did she not hit the emergency button? Faux to the extreme.

                • http://profiles.google.com/julielada Julie Lada

                   Go grind your pet axe somewhere else. We’re done.

                • poliltimmy

                   Your right we should not even be talking about that drama queen.

                • Onamission5

                  Do you have anything productive to contribute to the conversation about sticker systems, or are you here to try and silence those who do?

                • Patterrssonn

                  “I’m not a Jew. This is not 1936″ what the fuck is wrong with you? “I will not be labelled”. Yes you will. You’re a fucking idiot.

                • poliltimmy

                   And I am too much a gentleman to say what I think of you. How old are you? Are you in Kindergarten?

                • Patterrssonn

                  Man, you’re an idiot.

                • Emptyell

                  Your self image seems to be wildly at odds with how you appear from this side. Do you really not realize what a troll you appear to be?

            • ErickaMJohnson

              The  problem wasn’t that he made a pass. If he had said exactly the same words in a different location where she wasn’t trapped, the whole thing would be a non-issue.

        • Cortex_Returns

          Well, the real root of the problem here is the social power imbalance between men and women, which is further multiplied in the case of popular male speakers and women new to the movement. Men have more power (as very well illustrated by the tendency of many people to remove all relevant context from the coffee invitation of legend, assuming the best of EG, and the worst of RW), and can abuse that power to a certain extent without consequence. 

          I think that a policy of first, warning people not to be creepy, and second, to provide a means for people who’ve been treated badly to hold creeps accountable will help to balance the social power of the genders, and make men who are interested in women consider how those women feel about the way they’re being approached. Basically, it’ll help men to see women as equals, not as dick-stimulating life forms. 

          Setting up specific rules of conduct is always going to favor predatory men, because all they have to do is find a way to technically behave within the rules while finding new ways to coerce, threaten, etc., and appear innocent to anyone who hears about it. We should be working to create an environment that produces actual respect, not a specified set of behaviors.

          • Onamission5

            “We should be working to create an environment that produces actual respect, not a specified set of behaviors.”

            I don’t know if it is possible to agree with someone more.

        • HughInAz


          the critical fault line seemed to be between people who thought that a polite invitation for coffee (which may have been literally that and nothing more), coupled with the straightforward taking of ‘No’ for an answer, was completely fine. On the other side, people who think that being asked a question that at least may indicate sexual interest while in a confined space with no easy way out is a problem.”

          This sort of black and white thinking bugs the shit out of me. What EG did wasn’t “fine”. It was socially inept and clueless. It could reasonably have been foreseen as behavior that might cause discomfort. But it was NOT rape or anything close to it. There is no evidence that EG had any intention of threatening RW with violence. And yet there were thousand of screaming angry comments on Pharyngula and elsewhere to the effect that EG was a rapist and all men are rapists, or at best “Schrödinger’s rapists” – which presumably means that there is no such thing as a man who is a non-rapist. At best he is a quantum superposition of a rapist and a non-rapist, until, being male, he inevitably commits rape – at which point the quantum wavefunction collapses and he becomes a fully-fledged rapist. Screw that shit! And don’t get me started on that stupid story about the husky and the iguana, or the pronouncement that men should cross the street to avoid approaching women, or the implication that a privileged white western woman being on the receiving end of a clumsy pass is a worse atrocity than a Muslim woman being subjected to FGM…

          Anyway, it was really stunning for me to see the level of screeching, mouth-foaming hatred against men – all men – in the Pharyngula comments. Worse still was the realization that the screechers – which included PZ himself and a depressing number of other men – were being cynically manipulated by RW to distract attention from her asshole behavior towards Stef McGraw. Her initial response to the elevator incident – “guys, don’t do that” – was right on target and would have led to the whole thing dying a quick natural death, if she had left it at that. But then there was the McGraw incident, Watson needed a distraction, and Elevatorgate conveniently became a massive shitstorm that continues to divide the freethought community.

          What’s depressing about this whole debacle is that amid all the screeching and hatred, a valuable teaching opportunity was missed. Yes, some men are pigs and should be named and shamed, but some men are just socially awkward and don’t mean to harm anyone – they need education. Tarring all men with the same brush and going into automatic Andrea Dworkin “all men are rapists” mode doesn’t accomplish anything positive.

          • Cortex_Returns

            What Stef McGraw said was stupid. Calling her out for it was in no way out of line.

            • HughInAz

              Stef stated her opinion on her blog, which she had a right to do, whether you think it was stupid or not. Watson responded by publicly humiliating her, in a situation where she had no opportunity to defend herself, and lumping her in with violent extremists of the religious right. Watson also disrespected her audience by abusing her position as keynote speaker to indulge in a personal vendetta. It was the act of an asshole and a coward.

              • Cortex_Returns

                Yeah, that “public humiliation” consisted of quoting something she said in a public forum. I’ll agree that what she wrote was embarrassing, but Watson can hardly be blamed for bringing attention to it. And I fail to see how standing up for oneself is a cowardly act. 

                You can always tell someone’s got no leg to stand on when they resort to the “well, she has the right to free speech” defense. We all have that – me, you, Stef, Rebecca. You have a right to say whatever you want, but once you do, other people have the right to criticize you for it.

            • amycas

               Why are we talking about this? What the hell. The OP had nothing to do with Rebecca Watson. Didn’t even mention her name.

              • Cortex_Returns

                Spreading activation.

          • http://twitter.com/butterflyfish_ Heidi McClure

            Just consider yourself lucky that you do not have to keep it in the back of your mind that any strange man you interact with *might* be a rapist. (Note I said *might* not “eventually will become,” please and thank you.)

            Because I have to do that. You don’t come with labels. If I am not prepared for the possibility, however remote, all the time, then I may end up being grilled on a witness stand about why I wasn’t careful or vigilant enough. Why were you alone there? Why were you wearing that? Why did you talk to him in the first place?  That made him think you were interested.

            What’s depressing is men who don’t get that, and assume there are large numbers of women who think every man *is* a rapist.

            • amycas

               ^^^This. This is why the “No means No” campaign isn’t really about preventing rape or sexual harassment–it’s about ensuring convictions. Because apparently in sexual situations, implied or “soft” no’s which are understood perfectly fine in all other situations, are not understood and/or ignored.

    • http://www.facebook.com/cburschka Christoph Burschka

      As long as the default (no sticker) is “leave me alone unless I know you”, participation is opt-in. That’s an important criterion, of course; in the linked post, Jen mentioned she had to use a red sticker just to avoid random contact, which isn’t how it should work.

      For one thing, a no-contact default makes it safer for people who don’t know or don’t want to bother using stickers, and for another, “no badge” doesn’t stand out and shouldn’t result in the social consequences mentioned.

      • http://profiles.google.com/julielada Julie Lada

         Isn’t no contact default how normal human interaction works? The whole concept of needing a sticker to tell you not to hug a complete stranger seems ridiculous to me.

        • poliltimmy

           Hugs not hate.

  • Still in hiding, sorry

    As an atheist widower, I was honestly thinking about starting to attend reson events with the hope of possibly meeting a likeminded person.  The more I read about these things, the more toxic the atmosphere sounds.

    I have a hard enough time talking to women in the first place without wondering if I’ll be the next hated male in the blogosphere.

    • ErickaMJohnson

      Oh, please don’t think things are toxic. And please don’t let this keep you away! All of this talk is about people who don’t respect boundaries or take context into consideration. Those people represent a small portion of our community. You are very much welcome and I’d hate to see you miss out.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ORRVVC5R2QWLTXEM6SX5L6BORE Jay Arrrr

       I thought I was the only one who thought like that.  I agree, these conventions don’t sound like something I’d want to participate in.
      The sexual tension gets in the way of whatever I’d hope to find at one of these shindigs.
      Maybe if I wore a sticker that said “Relax, I can’t get it up anyway.”

      • ErickaMJohnson

        SIHS and Jay, I really hope all of this doesn’t discourage you! You are part of our community and these conferences are for everyone.

        • poliltimmy

          Actually it does. I will not attend. I do not want to be totally ostracized because I said you smell nice to the wrong person. It has gone way overboard.

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

            …Why would you tell someone you don’t know that they smell nice?
            It really doesn’t seem that difficult. Just talk to people. If you hit it off with someone, just ask if they want to go get coffee or something. No one’s going to consider that harassment, as long as you accept their right to decline.

            • poliltimmy

              Thanks for proving my point. You spend $65.00 on an ounce of expensive perfume and you think a stranger should not notice and compliment you on it.  Congratulations YOU are the problem and female humans like you. And you can bet the last thing I would do is ask a female human is if she wants to get a cup of coffee. We all have seen where that leads. Seldom do I see my wife do a face palm. You succeeded there.

              P.S. Female human is used so not upset anyone.

              Talking to a feminist:
              1. Hi sweetheart. I am not your sweetheart.
              I get it no pet names.
              2. Hi girl. I am not a girl.
              OK, I get it your all grown up now.
              3. Your a lovely woman. You goddamn right I am a woman and don’t forget it.

              All examples we all have seen. Like I said past ridiculous. And my wife of 27 years agrees.

              • MV

                 I’m curious how you function in the workplace.  All of those are not appropriate greetings there so why exactly would they be appropriate with strangers?

                • poliltimmy

                  I would do my work while complimenting the women on how well the hour and a half they spent in the morning wasn’t for naught. I knew damn well someone would call a compliment inappropriate. You did not disappoint.

              • jdm8

                I really don’t buy this.  All this started over a female being asked by a somewhat drunk man to allow her to visit her hotel room at 4am.  Your examples sound more like straw arguments in comparison.

                • poliltimmy

                  It started because some one made a big ado out of next to nothing. None of my arguments are straw men. All have seen them they are real. just as real as the person who stirred this shit up by publicly embarrassing someone for spite.

                • Cortex_Returns

                  Publicly embarrassing whom?

                • poliltimmy

                   Wow I am shocked you do not know. Google elevator guy + atheist. Read and you will see.

                • Cortex_Returns

                  Excuse me, has he been named? Do any of us know who he is? Has he suffered any loss of status at all as a result of this internet shit storm?

                  No no and no. 

                  You’re right. It’s a dangerous world out there for men. You never know when you might have your behaviors disapproved of in the abstract.

                • Patterrssonn

                  And I’m shocked that with all your extensive knowledge of the incident that you seem completely unaware of how threatening it can feel to a woman to be stuck on an elevator at 4am with a stranger hitting on you. It really isn’t all that complicated.

                • poliltimmy

                  Must be tough going through life paranoid.

                • Patterrssonn

                  So basically you’ve given up and are just trolling now.

                • jdm8

                  “just as real as the person who stirred this shit up by publicly embarrassing someone for spite.”

                  I haven’t seen that side of the story.  Citation please.

                • poliltimmy

                  She did it to divide and conquer the community. And her selfishness is working.

                • jdm8

                  Citation please.

                • poliltimmy

                  You want a citation fort my opinion?

                • jdm8

                  You did not make it known before now that it was your opinion.

                  If you have nothing to back it up, then I have nothing to go on.
                  It would also help to name the persion that was allegedly being embarrassed for spite.

                • HughInAz

                  Stef McGraw

                • ErickaMJohnson

                  The “big ado” was over the fact that she got a the waves a rape & death threats over “next to nothing.”

                • poliltimmy

                  There are always assholes. But this guy was not one of them. The people issuing threats are.

                • ErickaMJohnson

                   Yes, exactly.

                • http://freethoughtblogs.com/almostdiamonds Stephanie Zvan

                   Out of nothing? Really? Your response is needed here: http://freethoughtblogs.com/almostdiamonds/2011/10/02/elevatorgate-challenge-1/

                • poliltimmy

                   I read that dribble already.

              • jdm8

                I really don’t buy this.  All this started over a female being asked by a somewhat drunk man to allow her to visit her hotel room at 4am.  Your examples sound more like straw arguments in comparison.

              • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

                Actually, I never wear perfume. So how am I the problem?
                And the rest of what you said is pretty much unintelligible.
                Honestly, you’re not worth my time to talk to. You’re not actually replying to what I said, you’re just using this as a chance to vent your frustrations at women. All you did was laugh at my suggestion of asking to go out for coffee, but you didn’t explain why that’s laughable.
                It’s as simply as talking to women like they’re people. That’s obviously something you don’t know how to do.

                • poliltimmy

                   I do not remember laughing at you. Never did I say it was so ridiculous it was funny. I compliment every lady I meet. Just to make them feel good. I was raised by a single mother. She taught me to respect women, not bullshit.

                • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

                  Well I’m sorry if this is hard for you to hear, but not all compliments are appropriate. If you respect women, you’ll respect how they react to what you say. If you offend one of them, you might want to apologize or rephrase what you said. If you offend women often, you might want to rethink your attitude. Here’s a tip for starters: Don’t treat women as though they’re all superficial. Like I said, treat them like they’re people.

              • amycas

                 What’s wrong the third option? I’ve said that to someone before and they thought it was hilarious and we had a great conversation later.

          • Persephone

             You can come hang out with me then. I’m allergic to perfume, so I don’t wear any. You are in no danger of complimenting me on my smell.

            • poliltimmy

               I don’t know. I am fond of sweaty women now.

              • Persephone

                Tell you what, just show up and look cute. But please keep your mouth shut.

                • poliltimmy

                   Didn’t you start the conversation with me? So I would go to a free thought activity and be asked to be quiet. Sound about right?

                • amycas

                  Persephone merely asked you to keep your mouth shut because it seems like crap spews out every time you open it.

        • Still in hiding, sorry

          I’ll try to keep an oppen mind, but the other responses here are pretty discouraging.

      • Bob Becker

        JA:

           I was thinking the same.  Anyone reading the treads on PZ post ElevatorGuy or now on FA would, it seems to me, be very likely to conclude these meetings are glorified bars on a Saturday night, hunting grounds.  I never got that sense from reading the initial reports from the conventions, meetings, conferences, but reading these threads on PZ and now FA, things do indeed sound pretty toxic.

          I’ve never heard of the sticker idea, but it sounds very junior-high-field trip to me, not something  suited to adults attending a conference of some substance.  And too I wonder if folks are trying to regulate  adult conduct at events at which social hours, post session get-togethers in bars, etc. are not only commonplace, but part of the program, so to speak. [See any PZ pre-conference post about which bars the guys and gals will be meeting at post session.]   People get a slight buzz on, inhibitions tend to erode, and passes will be made [note: not assaults, passes], some of them at men or women would prefer not to be asked.  No regulation or set of guidelines or sticker system or having people sign The Pledge is going to end that.   Provided all involved accept that “No means No” [as apparently ElevatorGuy did], I don’t see it as much of a problem, and trying to prevent it by policy statements looks very much like trying to sweep back the sea.  

          Note again: I said passes, not groping, not assault, not rape, not stalking, not pawing unwelcomed.  

        • ErickaMJohnson

           No one is advocating for policies to get rid of people flirting at bars.

          • Bob Becker

            I hope not, EMJ, but that’s not the impression I got reading the very very long threads post ElevatorGuy on PZ, or some of what appeared in the comments on FA’s earlier post.  Seemed to me that that was precisely what some [by no means all, but some] were suggesting.

            I suspect that part of the problem [mentioned by some others on FA's thread earlier] is that people have very different personal thresholds for what constitutes sexual harassment at conventions, meetings, etc. and other public places, and so, their differing assumptions clear in their own minds, they end up talking past each other.  

            • ErickaMJohnson

               This current conversation is about predatory behavior by invited conference speakers, behavior including groping and following people to their hotel rooms.

              I can’t speak to “what some people are suggesting” but I, for one, want to foster a culture where everyone’s boundaries are respected so that people can relax and get to know each other. A decent portion of conference goers enjoy the opportunity to flirt. JT wrote an excellent post about how to be gregarious while respecting boundaries and having a good time: http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd/2012/05/22/flirting-sex-and-lines/

      • Still in hiding, sorry

        Yeah; maybe they’re make us wear grey triangles.

  • kullervo

    I am a long-time writers conference attendee and now workshop leader. We don’t have similar problems at our conference, but I notice that our conference attendees are probably 60% female. The culture is different. We aren’t “chum.” I think here we’ll go through some awkward years of boy’s club idiocy until the atheist culture itself finds a way to include more women.

    • MV

       I’m curious how you know that you don’t have similar problems?  Do you have a harassment policy and get no reports?  Otherwise, I would suggest that you just have a problem that has not been quantified.  This is a society wide issue.

    • Patterrssonn

      I’m just guessing, as I’ve never been to one of these conferences, but I think part of the issue is that there’s this culture of I’m a rebel, bad boy atheist, and no ones gonna tell me what to do!’

  • ErickaMJohnson

    Having strong common sense anti-harassment policies in place will make a huge difference.

    Organizers also need to define the culture of their Con through there own actions and by good training with their volunteers. Staff set the “norm” at events like this. I would love to see Con’s also develop a strong ambassador program so that 1) attendees feel welcomed, not just processed, 2) staff seem approachable and willing to answer questions, and 3) staff are visible & plentiful so that if something comes up, help will be nearby.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ORRVVC5R2QWLTXEM6SX5L6BORE Jay Arrrr

    How about segregating the conventions by sex? Works  great in some “faith communities”…

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

      I hope you’re kidding.
      Men and women know how to behave around each other. The majority of men know how to talk to women without harassing them. It makes no sense to split everyone up because some men can’t handle seeing a woman and not having sex with her.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ORRVVC5R2QWLTXEM6SX5L6BORE Jay Arrrr

         “Men and women know how to behave around each other.”

        Apparently not, Julie,  or else there wouldn’t be the massive Terabytes of bandwidth expended on this topic like there has been.  A few bad apples evidently DO spoil the whole barrel.

        • badger3k

          It doesn’t take much to create an internet furor.  Just a few blog posts, copied and pasted to others, and you can pretty much get anything going.  It doesn’t help when you get a-holes on both sides (and the sidelines) trolling, or have some of the posters trolling for traffic or attention.  

          I spent many a year in military bars, and from the sound of it, they are nothing like conventions – apparently the conventions are far, far worse.

          I do have to admit surprise that someone had to bring up groping – on criminal.findlaw that falls under sexual harassment, and even in the bars the offender was removed and/or ticketed.  Why that would even need a new rule suggests that the people involved are either clueless or not the sort that I would care to associate with anyway.  If that’s the kind of people involved with/attracted to these conventions, I’m glad I’ve chosen to skip the BS.  You can find local groups all over the US without the melodrama.

        • Persephone

           Get down from your cross. You’re not impressing anyone up there.

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

          They DO know how to behave around each other. The vast majority of them understand. Most guys manage not to harass women. I don’t think we need to separate everyone just because some of them don’t get it.

  • http://northierthanthou.com/ northierthanthou

    So, speaking as someone who knows absolutely NOTHING about the actions that have caused all this talk lately, does anyone have any sense for whether or not the alleged perpetrators have gotten the hint over the past few weeks?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-Henry-Eric-Beck/1698151270 John-Henry Eric Beck

       Considering all the pushback I’m thinking that not many people who need to get the hint have gotten it.

      • http://northierthanthou.com/ northierthanthou

        Well, I can only hope you’re wrong. It;s a damned shame all the way around.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/GCC2UWDJZZPCPMSQAVJBDGEDZY Larry

        99% don’t need a hint. They can conduct themselfs just fine in a social setting. without badges to remind how others should behave. Sounds like the speakers need a direct approach as I understand it.

  • Klimt

    Well thanks, feminists, now I can’t go around sniffing women and calling them by diminutive pet names because all of a sudden that’s “creepy”! Well I AM TURNING IN MY MEMBERSHIP and I hope you all are VERY HAPPY that you have lost my valuable contribution.

  • ortcutt

    Why are badges with “don’t touch me” dots even necessary?  Isn’t “don’t touch me” a social default in this country?  Short of handshakes, I hope no one thinks that touching me is something they should do without asking.  

    • Emptyell

      Do people shake your hand without asking?

  • poliltimmy

    “Do you have anything productive to contribute to the conversation about
    sticker systems, or are you here to try and silence those who do?”

    I do not want to silence anyone. I want the paranoia to stop. Thanks to you guys my wife will never attend. By extension neither will I. Thanks for the hyperbole ladies.

    • Cortex_Returns

      Two down. How many left to go?

      • poliltimmy

         You feminists on here are just as hate filled as any thumper I have ever met.

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

          Disagreeing with you is not the same as being filled with hate.
          On the other hand, you ranted at me about your hatred for feminists and stereotyped me quite rudely when you’ve never even met me and stereotyped all women negatively as well. Who’s filled with hate?

          • poliltimmy

            No You and my wife are leaps and bounds different from what I see. My wife has been beside me all day with this. She thinks your all prudish paranoid snobs with a superiority complex. See I was trying to be nice.

            • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

              I’m very glad your wife is there to support you. It is still quite irrelevant.
              You may think that me and your wife are very different, but that does not mean that your are not stereotyping women.
              “You spend $65.00 on an ounce of expensive perfume…YOU are the problem and female humans like you.”
              “I would do my work while complimenting the women on how well the hour and a half they spent in the morning wasn’t for naught.”
              That’s stereotyping.

              And the only people anyone is trying to ostracize are people who don’t treat women with respect. That’s it. No one said you can’t compliment women, but if you don’t know how to respectfully compliment women, that’s your own problem.

              • poliltimmy

                I have been married 27 years. What she says IS relevant. Or does another womans opinion not as good as yours. Talk about disrespect.

                I do not believe you would accept any compliment from any man. 

                • Patterrssonn

                  Why are you posting? Just as an excuse to insult women?

                • poliltimmy

                   I was not trying to insult any one. If I did I would hope they give me the benefit of the doubt, that it was not intentional. Can you say the same?

                • Onamission5

                  It is as difficult to give someone who uses terms like man hating feminists the benefit of the doubt as it is to give benefit of the doubt to someone who uses language like white peple hating civil rights activists or straight people hating LGBT’ers. Standing up for your own rights does not equal hatred. Calling out someone who disparages you based upon the fact that you stood up for yourself is not hatred.

                  A lot of the anger you are seeing is coming from the fact that just about any time someone mentions (primarily) women not feeling safe in certain situations, it ends up becoming an “explaining feminism 101″ situation, instead of an “acknowledge the problem and find solutions” situation. That is emotionally exhausting, not to mention very frustrating. Imagine if someone was trying to address the issue of able-ism or racism at atheist conferences, and constantly finding themselves being attacked for acting like a victim or for creating problems or for hating able bodied white people. Would you expect them to be the very model of public decorum?    

                • poliltimmy

                   My wife used similar words to yours in a response. But  my name is next to it so I shall take the slack from those that could not make that distinction.

                • Onamission5

                  It doesn’t matter who says it. The point I was trying to make remains the same.

                • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

                  Can you please shut up about your wife? Her opinion as a woman is of course germane to the topic at large, but you don’t get to use her as a shield for whatever bullshit you’re spewing. You’re like that racist who says, “All my black/Latino/Asian friends agree with me.” Sorry, we can judge your statements on their merits, not on whether someone else agrees with them.

                  Also, I really am amazed that you have been married 27 years and still are so seemingly clueless about what constitutes respectful conduct toward women – actually, toward anyone. I mean, getting worked up because someone you don’t know well (forget gender for the moment) doesn’t like you using a pet name with them? This is basic stuff. Maybe instead of getting so worked up over those blasted feminists keeping you from doing such-and-such, you should keep in mind the possible feelings of people who you don’t have an established relationship with. You know, empathy. Try it sometime.

                • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

                  It’s relevant if she’s the one having the conversation. If she gets on here and starts posting, I’ll talk to her. But anyone can say “The person standing next to me agrees with me!” That doesn’t mean you’re right. My minority friend agrees with me! Therefore I can’t be racist!!

                  And I don’t get how you don’t understand the compliment thing. Acceptable compliments completely depend on the relationship. My boyfriend is allowed to compliment my body. That does not mean it’s acceptable for someone I’ve just met to do the same. There are plenty of acceptable compliments you can give to a woman, like complimenting her intellect, talents, work ethic, etc. You know, compliments you’d give to someone regardless of gender.

                • Parse

                  I, and the fifteen people standing here beside me as I write this,  agree with what you’ve written here. 

                  I’d be half-interested in hearing what poliltimmy thinks the difference between “It’s not racist because my black friend agrees with me” and “It’s not misogynistic because my wife agrees with me,” but just in the train-wreck type of interest.

                • poliltimmy

                   Never did I mention anyones body or even elude that I would be so brash.

                • Patterrssonn

                  Did anyone say that about your wife you moronic troll?

                • poliltimmy

                  You call people names and I am the troll?

                • Patterrssonn

                  Yes it’s not complicated. All you’ve done is bait and harrass the women on this site who have simply tr

                • Onamission5

                  The issue of colorblindness is a valid one to the conversation regarding stickers, for sure, and not one which has been brought up before now to the best of my knowledge. I and others have also made the point that predators who can’t take no for an answer and ignore other social cues are probably not going to respect a sticker system. Which is why, in my opinion, a solid policy regarding harassment and an effective ststem for both reporting and dealing with harassment claims is necessary.

                • Onamission5

                  Adding– and denying that harassment takes place in order to keep discussion of system development from occurring is unnecessary.

                • Patterrssonn

                  27 yrs? the woman must be a fucking saint. .

                • poliltimmy

                   No I’m not a saint. I am a woman with opinions. That do not match yours in any way shape or form. You are a man hater. Period. We are both rape victims. I do not look at every man as a potential rapist.  I do not live in fear.

                • Onamission5

                  Poliltimmy, I am going to ask, respectfully, that you consider this. The probable reason you do not live in fear is now that you are no longer a child, you know the risk of that ever happening to you again has decreased significantly to the point that it’s negligible. Consider too that for girls and women, there is no such substantial decrease in risk with age. We are as much (or nearly as much) at risk at the age of 25, or 40 as we were at the age of 6 or 10. There is actually an increase in risk of SA for young women. We’re still targets even as adults. That doesn’t go away. The vast majority of women never get to feel completely safe, because our risk never disappears, but we have to go about our lives anyway.

                • poliltimmy

                   My wife posted what you responded to and answered that already. She does not live in fear either. She knows not all men are to blame and does not view them the way they are portrayed here.

                  I have 3 daughters. I fear for them. But they do not live in fear either. And niether of us understand this Rove style fear mongering. That it looks that way may not be intention, but that is how most men and some women will see it.

                  I have been disrespected and called names by people telling me I need to respect them. I did not do like wise. Since I have more respect for people than that. Do you see a problem with that?

                  Fact is bad things happen all the time and no one is completely safe anywhere regardless.

                  If you respond, please start a fresh block as the format makes it hard to respond in the proper place.

                • Onamission5

                  Before we reach column death, I will say that A. The experiences of one woman do not overrule the experiences of other women, and I will then direct you here–

                  http://kateharding.net/2009/10/08/guest-blogger-starling-schrodinger%E2%80%99s-rapist-or-a-guy%E2%80%99s-guide-to-approaching-strange-women-without-being-maced/

                • Patterrssonn

                  Not sure that pointing out to your husband that he’s a useless fuckwit of a troll makes me a man-hater. But then again I have no idea what a ‘man hater’ is. Perhaps you mistook me for a haberdasher and meant to call me a man hatter? Either way your husband is a troll and unless he has some kind of organic brain syndrome has no excuse harassing and insulting women simply because they have concerns about safety, or for any reason really.

          • poliltimmy

             Counting how many you ostracize is hate.

        • Patterrssonn

          Thumper? What is that exactly. If you mean what I honk you mean you’re a bigger turd than I originally thought.

          • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

             I read that as ‘Bible Thumper’. What did you come up with?

            • poliltimmy

              You are correct and I regret lumping all together. I should have said ‘some feminist’ as that was my intent.

            • Patterrssonn

              Good, I was worried that the idiot was drawing some kind of equivalence between feminists and men who hit women. He’s already claimed victim status equivalent to a Jew in Nazi Germany because of he way some of the women have questioned him.

        • amycas

          @poliltimmy:disqus

          For the record, a feminist is merely somebody who believes that women are people and deserve to be treated as such. If you believe that, then you are by definition a feminist. Kind of like how somebody who lacks a belief in god is by definition an atheist, even if they don’t use that label.

  • The Captain

    So there are people who feel the need to put signs on themselves to tell others how they want to be treated. And they think whenever we all get together we should al have them. 

    All I have to ask of these people is… how the fuck do you get through an average day on the street? Do you break out crying if someone you meet hugs you on the subway? Do you scream “rape” if someone talks to you at the gas station? Do you refuse to take the lift up to your flat if someone else is getting on it?

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

      It’s just a way to clarify what type of behavior they consider acceptable. What’s wrong with that?

      The repeated straw man argument here is that these women are “screaming rape” over every little thing. Actually, no one screamed rape, they just pointed out harassment. We know the difference. The problem here is that many guys do not seem to understand what appropriate behavior is. For example, why do you think it would be silly if I got mad about someone hugging me on the subway? It is absolutely not appropriate to hug someone you don’t know without permission. 

      And just because harassment isn’t rape does not mean it’s acceptable. It’s intimidating, humiliating, and can lead to rape in some situations, so it does need to be stopped.

    • Patterrssonn

      Finally the Caps here, I thought we were missing a troll.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/GCC2UWDJZZPCPMSQAVJBDGEDZY Larry

    I’ve been to all 4 Skepticon conferences, I’ve contributed and supported it since its inception. I’ve never heard of these indiscretions you speak of. Not a single one. All the Atheist I know are 100% supportive of equality for women. So what’s a feminists worth her salt to do? Stand up for herself just like a man does.

    These multi-colored stickers and combinations of them is very juvenile. It degrades the ethics and common sense of attendees. If this is primarily about the speakers, then the organizers and well behaved speakers could end this in a heartbeat. Put it to them straight. Exploitation and intimidation due to their status as speakers will not be tolerated.

    You can’t protect every one’s overly embraced sensitivities.

    As for post conference parties, a perpetrator can be ejected, or one who feels victim can leave or call the police if some law has been broken. I don’t attend those, those are often for the elite of the conferences.

    This is much to-do about nothing….all this bickering about bruised sensitivities within the Atheist community is non-sense, and will cost you supporters, attendees and contributors.

    • Cortex_Returns

      The way you talk about it, I’m surprised no one has confided in you.

    • Onamission5

      The discussion isn’t about overly bruised sensibilities. It is about conference attendees not feeling safe, and why that is, and how to remedy. I question the motivations of anyone who describes a large group of people not feeling safe as much ado about nothing.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

    It’s really disappointing to see so many men opposing this and insisting that we’re just freaking out over compliments.
    For you guys who have obviously never experienced harassment, but are pretending like you know all about it:
    Women know the difference between compliments, harmless flirting, awkward flirting, and sexual harassment. We know the difference because we experience all of these.
    We’re not just talking about some awkward guy who doesn’t know how to talk to women. We’re talking about the type of people who do this all the time and know exactly what to say. 

    I used to babysit for a family and the father was the one who would be around the most. He was always complimenting me, looking me up and down, and telling me how nice I looked, when I was just wearing a t-shirt and jeans. He was constantly asking questions about my boyfriend, my dating habits, and would jokingly lecture me on not having sex before marriage. It was really creepy, especially since I was alone in the house with just him and a baby. But I never felt like I could say anything because if I did, he would say I was overreacting and that he was just trying to compliment me or joke around…Which is EXACTLY what the guys here keeps saying. What you are failing to understand is that we’re NOT talking about those well-meaning awkward guys because we know that’s different. We’re talking about the smart ones that know how to manipulate you so that you have to helplessly stand there and accept their awkward “compliments,” unwanted hugs, and inappropriate comments and questions because the second you try to confront them, they turn it back on you and make you feel stupid and embarrassed for “overreacting.”

    • kullervo

      That is exactly it. It’s not the ordinary awkward approach. It’s that uncomfortable intimacy followed by the “hey, what’s your problem? Why so uptight?” The related non-sexual sexism is the blonde joke or equivalent followed by “hey, it’s only a joke. What, you have no sense of humor? Why so sensitive?”

    • poliltimmy

       OK I had enough. I know all about ‘creepy’ men and being called a liar afterwards. Though it is more common, women do not have a monopoly on it, and neither do you.

      • Patterrssonn

        “I know all about ‘creepy’ men and being called a liar afterwards”

        Why does this not surprise me.

    • Hibernia86

      I agree that there is a difference between awkward flirting and flirting that pushes the bounds into being inappropriate. I do think that awkward or more homely looking guys are much more likely to be called creepy for doing the same things that more socially confident or more handsome guys do, but I think we could solve that problem if we had a general understanding of what is appropriate and what isn’t in flirting, regardless of who does it.

  • poliltimmy

    I have no empathy? I am a male that was raped by another male as a child. My step fathers father. You are a sick person.

    • Onamission5

      Poliltimmy, I am deeply and truly sorry that happened to you. No one, at any age, should have to endure what you did, but for a child to go through it is truly one of the most unfathomably disturbing aspects of our society.

      • poliltimmy

         Thank you. I did not want to mention it. I felt it was necessary to explain why I feel complimenting a lady should not be labeled as threatening if it is of a non-sexual nature. Sadly, some people only see the victim in the mirror. 

        • Onamission5

          Even though we have that shared trauma and I am sympathetic to that on so many levels, I’m still going to disagree with you. It isn’t a matter of seeing a victim in the mirror. It isn’t a matter of not having moved past bad things which have happened to us. It is a matter, for most women, of knowing we’re still at extremely high risk, regardless of our age.  The risk for males decreases significantly with age, giving you the opportunity to heal, and to feel safe again. The risk for females does not, so even if we do manage to heal, many of us have a really hard time ever feeling safe again. I hope you can understand.

          • poliltimmy

             I do understand and hope you and others can find your way past it. I also understand some people are not as strong as others and will never get past it. But the people your afraid of will not let a sticker deter them. The power that is at the core of what they fear will IMO, will be attracted to those that have the most fear. The badges may point them out and make ‘hunting’ them all that much easier. And I will say again I wish that was not true.

            • Onamission5

              It isn’t a matter of strength.  Someone who is affected long term by SA or sexual harassment is no less strong than someone who is affected in the short term. They both lived. They are both strong in different ways. Do you know how much strength it takes to continue to get up every day and face the possibility (or likelihood) of PTSD triggering situations when someone has long term effects from abuse? 

              I will provide you with a correlation. Veterans who come back from war without significant PTSD are no more strong than veterans who come back from war with PTSD. They are both worth equal respect and consideration. In the same vein, I am no more strong for no longer having substantial PTSD from my SA than someone who has it, and faces the day anyway.

              I agree with you on the badges, fwiw, and have said so elsewhere.

              • poliltimmy

                 Since I am PTSD and Bi-polar I do know. Every day is a struggle. I think we agree more than disagree. But I could be wrong. The strength I am talking about is finding a way to function around the fear. To find a balance between being mindful and letting it rule the day or life. Something I fail at, at times.

                • Onamission5

                  Finding a way to function around the fear and finding balance means different thing to different people. For an increasingly large portion of women, it means confronting sexism where we see it, refusing to let it go unchallenged, refusing to allow business as usual, because it isn’t working. If a person doesn’t have it in them to confront sexism, I do not see that as weakness, all I ask is that they not disparage those of us who do have it in us.

          • Hibernia86

            You are right that women face a much higher chance of being raped than men do. The peak age for women being raped is in their 20′s whereas for men it is much younger. 80% of rape victims are under the age of 30. So while the risk of a woman being raped does decrease as she ages, because of the later peak and larger number of victims, it is certainly something we need to focus on. Obviously a large majority of people at Atheist conventions fit that age bracket and so we should have some protections in place.
              
            http://www.rainn.org/get-information/statistics/sexual-assault-victims

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

      I am very sorry for what you went through. I’m sure you do have empathy, but we’re not really talking about rape survivors. We’re talking about women in general who don’t want to become victims.
      It’s like what Onamission was getting at; both men and women can be abused or assaulted, but that risk is much higher for women and that risk stays pretty consistent throughout our lives. There is a one in six chance that I will be raped someday. I don’t like those odds. This does not mean that I think every man is a rapist. I feel quite safe around men during the day or in public areas. However, if I’m in a situation like the one I described above, I do not appreciate the compliments. I don’t like being told how good I look when I’m completely alone and have no way out of the situation. It’s scary. That’s what we’re asking you to have empathy for: women in vulnerable situations. That’s it. I don’t understand why anyone would side with the male’s entitlement to compliment and flirt with whoever he wants, wherever he wants, rather than a woman who just wants to feel safe. 

      • Parse

        There is a one in six chance that I will be raped someday. I don’t like those odds.

        Neither do I, and until those odds change, it’s stupid to act as if they don’t exist.  Which is why, when it’s possible for me to be seen as ‘Schrodinger’s rapist‘ (a complete stranger, who may or may not be a rapist), I’m not hurt or surprised.  I do what I can to avoid or minimize awkwardness, because I know that I’m one of the ‘good guys,’ and the easiest way to show that is to treat others the way they want to be treated.
        My personal guess (for those who side with the men’s entitlement) is that they think “I’m one of the ‘good guys’, so that makes my actions okay.”  Like you said – it’s a matter of a lack of empathy with people who want to avoid becoming victims.

        • Hibernia86

          I can understand the idea of Schrodinger’s rapist and I see how risk can come into play when people decide how to react to men they don’t know. But I think it is important to consider what would happen if we had the same standard for other groups. Should we have Schrodinger’s Criminal? A larger percentage of black Americans have been arrested for crimes than white Americans. Should black Americans be okay with women clutching their purses closer or crossing the street when they walk past black citizens, because of their race? Should we have Schrodinger’s terrorist, where we assume that Muslims are more likely to be terrorists and so Muslims should be understanding if we put them through more airport security? Didn’t we have a discussion about this with Sam Harris recently?

          • Parse

            I’d like to point you to Crommunist’s excellent article Shuffling feet: a black man’s view on Schroedinger’s Rapist.  It’s pretty much what I’d want to say, but much more well-written than I could do.
            His own summary of the article:

            TL/DR: I’ve frequently heard people object to the Schroedinger’s Rapist argument as sexist, with anti-black racism used as a counter-example. I reject this comparison because it neglects two important factors: 1) that the issue under discussion is about whether or not we want women to feel more comfortable; and 2) that black people often make similar behavioural adjustments to accommodate the racism of their white friends. I share some personal stories to illustrate this.

  • Erp

    The sticker system feels a bit like wearing hijab; women who don’t want to be hugged wear red (wear a head scarf).    

    I note the UUA has “Let us remember our Unitarian Universalist commitment to the worth and
    dignity of all people. The UUA affirms its commitment to maintain an
    environment free of discrimination and harassment based on race, color,
    national origin, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, or disability. The Association expects all attendees to conduct themselves in a professional manner with concern and respect for all.”   I think the key words are “professional manner”.     It also includes other concerns that have affected atheists; notably do many atheists of color feel uncomfortable (or worst) at conferences?  The UUA also has a group, the right relationship team,  that people can turn to if things get uncomfortable (or if they want to make sure events are inclusive).  Not sure how well it all works.

  • Wild Rumpus

    I have a better system than the sticker system…

    Let’s create a system to weed out the social people who like to make friends and find sexual innuendo to be a fun part of witty banter.    We could sequester  them in holding cells we’ll call “parties”.  If you are in these “parties” it means you are wide open to be approached by a stranger to start a conversation.  Let’s give people markers to show how approachable they are.  We’ll call these markers “drinks”.  If someone is holding a “drink” it means they are interested in making new friends of the opposite sex and appreciate all forms of conversation including flirtatious ones.

    This way, we can keep all these people safely away from the other conventioneers who are only there to discuss ideas with people they already know and who maybe aren’t very comfortable talking to people of the opposite sex.   These people will never be made uncomfortable in social situations, and they can go to bed early to wake up refreshed in the morning all alone.

  • Wild Rumpus

    Here’s a better idea, at the conventions, we can build a fence, maybe 150 or 100 miles long and we can put all the men behind it.  And have that fence electrified ’til they can’t get out.  In a few years, they’ll die out. Do you
    know why? They’ll all just rape each other, since they’re men, and  eventually they’ll all die out.

  • Hibernia86

    I do think it is good to have a set of standards about what is appropriate flirting and what isn’t. We should make sure that people are comfortable. It should be a standard that most people agree with. There should be general rules for everyone to follow along with the rule that if someone tells you to stop, then you stop. If the person hasn’t broken any of the general rules, then no judgement will be passed on them and it will be assumed that there was just a miscommunication. They would only get in trouble if they continued after being asked to stop.

  • advancedatheist

    Since like about forever, christians have said that atheists enjoy swinging, uninhibited sex because we don’t believe in their god, we don’t believe in the “eternal” consequences of what we do with our boy parts and girl parts, and we want to live as selfishly and hedonistically as possible. 

    So, apparently, a lot of young guys from christian environments have taken this propaganda at face value. They become atheists and then try to figure out how to get their share of the action promised to them, in a backhanded way, by their pastors and Sunday school teachers. “Hey, let’s go to atheist conventions! I bet we can meet a lot of atheist chicks there who will put out for us!”

    They go to these gatherings, try to chat up these chicks in, say, hotel elevators, and then discover that the clergmen and other church authorities in the religions they left behind totally lied to them about atheist women’s easy virtue. No, they discover, it doesn’t that way at all. Instead many of these godless bitches have refused to act according to the porn-like movie script as imagined by christians, and instead they have started to organize against these atheist men for “sexual harassment.” 

    If these atheist guys want someone to blame, they really should complain about the false advertising about atheists’ sex lives they received from the pulpits in their youth.

  • guest

    Springfield, MO is mostly a low crime, safe place, but it’s not safe to hang out around the saloon district in the old town square late at night.


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