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May 24, 2011 6:52 AM   Subscribe

Starting from a proposal by vito_excalibur, the Back Up Project tries to intervene in sexual harassment at fan conferences.

From the forum:
A success story (letter from a conchair)

Sometimes not so successful

A post cited as a beginning how-to guide

Tips for guys

Two stories about taking back up into everyday life
posted by nangar (85 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
I've been a huge supporter, though sort of silent, of this project. We had a BIG issue with this at DragonCon last year, and the year before. Con security has beefed up big time this year, however, and with the Back Up folks actually issuing their own con ribbons to identify themselves, I think this year will be substantially better.

I myself have never really had an issue at cons, but that's because I tend to travel in a pack of 5-10 guys, most of us wearing shit kicking boots and too much leather.
posted by strixus at 7:06 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Rather than some sort of vigilante effort, some organization needs to contact the con promoters and get people in green shirts or something with some kind of training to be a resource for those who feel sexually harassed. That would cut down on the behavior rapidly.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:10 AM on May 24, 2011


in response to an proposal from some guy on the Internet (who will remain nameless) to promote a breast-groping-friendly atmosphere at SF conventions.
Wait, what???
posted by smackfu at 7:13 AM on May 24, 2011


Wait, what???

Previously on Metafilter.
posted by jedicus at 7:17 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh yeah, that was the totally well thought-out and not at all misogynistic Open Source Boobs Project. And no, I never understood why he called it "open source" either.
posted by kmz at 7:19 AM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


I never understood why he called it "open source" either.

That was so that neckbeards would support it.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 7:20 AM on May 24, 2011


I'm glad Arisia behaved such that it is being highlighted as a success story. (I'm an occasional volunteer/staffer/participant, there.)
posted by rmd1023 at 7:22 AM on May 24, 2011


Rather than some sort of vigilante effort, some organization needs to contact the con promoters and get people in green shirts or something with some kind of training to be a resource for those who feel sexually harassed.

Obviously the con security is a big part of dealing with these sorts of problems, but I don't think this project is really trying to establish some sort of vigilante alternative. It's really just about everyone looking out for other people and making sure that there's a safe environment for women. If someone at a con started punching someone in the face, you could bet everyone around would immediately react to try to help, whereas if someone at a con gropes someone or otherwise acting in an uncool creepy manner, a lot of times no one steps up to help.

On a side note I actually find the whole "Gentlemen's Auxiliary" part of the FAQ somewhat condescending, and the assumption that I would somehow be more able to engage with the creepy guy rather than the victim based on the fact that I'm male is off base in my opinion, but I understand that the main point is simply for women to look out for each other in situations where abuse can happen.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:25 AM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


in response to an proposal from some guy on the Internet (who will remain nameless) to promote a breast-groping-friendly atmosphere at SF conventions.

I'm just impressed that he found the time to go to conventions, what with his responsibilities at the IMF and all.
posted by atrazine at 7:30 AM on May 24, 2011 [6 favorites]


That was so that neckbeards would support it.

*eyeroll*
posted by kmz at 7:32 AM on May 24, 2011




Is this a real problem? Is sexual harassment happening to 'normally dressed women', or is it limited to the slave Leia-bikini set?

I know I'm going to come off as a total ignorant jackass here. I know almost nothing of sci-fi and fantasy cons. I went to some comic cons, like, 20 years ago. So, maybe you can help me out.
posted by The Giant Squid at 7:33 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Giant Squid: "Is this a real problem? Is sexual harassment happening to 'normally dressed women', or is it limited to the slave Leia-bikini set?

I know I'm going to come off as a total ignorant jackass here. I know almost nothing of sci-fi and fantasy cons. I went to some comic cons, like, 20 years ago. So, maybe you can help me out.
"

I can help you out by pointing out the should-be obvious: it doesn't matter how they choose to dress. They should be able to have fun at the con however they choose without fear of assault.
posted by gilrain at 7:36 AM on May 24, 2011 [34 favorites]


I also wanted to ask: is groping more common at fan conferences than general day to day life? Genuine inquiry; I haven't been to a fan conference. Is it worse than, say, a night club?
posted by surenoproblem at 7:36 AM on May 24, 2011


Yeah, like most LiveJournal drama, it relies on tons of backstory. I guess.
posted by smackfu at 7:36 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can help you out by pointing out the should-be obvious: it doesn't matter how they choose to dress. They should be able to have fun at the con however they choose without fear of assault.

Sure, but, some of these LJ entries come off as: "I was wearing a corset and this guy kept standing too close to me"

That? Meh.

Rape, something else entirely.
posted by The Giant Squid at 7:38 AM on May 24, 2011


I also wanted to ask: is groping more common at fan conferences than general day to day life? Genuine inquiry; I haven't been to a fan conference. Is it worse than, say, a night club?

My question as well.
posted by The Giant Squid at 7:38 AM on May 24, 2011


From this post regarding KeyCon: I was asked to talk to both women and men and get a general idea of what the situation was at Keycon, and how safe it was for women. The results were absolutely horrifying. I couldn't find a single woman who hadn't been followed, groped, or harassed. I couldn't find one woman who hadn't been followed, groped, or harassed for even one day at the convention. Many of my friends who go have been raped attending the con, and I myself was raped after being at the con for approximately eight hours. The rape was never prosecuted, because I couldn't find anyone who didn't treat it as a joke and took me seriously. The defense was, "That's just what happens at Keycon."

That was a post from March of this year, and it looks like the discussion went through late April. KeyCon 2011 just happened last weekend, have their been reports of how things went? I read through the letter from the KeyCon organizers, which I found bizarrely dry. If someone told me that there were widespread reports of sexual harassment and attacks at a conference I was in charge of, my response would be HOLY FUCKBALLS, SHUT IT THE FUCK DOWN. NO I DON'T CARE THAT EVERYONE BOUGHT NEW COSTUMES AND PAID HOTEL DEPOSITS. SHUT. IT. DOWN.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:38 AM on May 24, 2011 [8 favorites]


Sure, but, some of these LJ entries come off as: "I was wearing a corset and this guy kept standing too close to me"

That? Meh.

Rape, something else entirely.


It occurs to me that the primary focus here is probably things that fall between "standing too close to me" and "rape." There's rather a large spectrum there of inappropriate, unacceptable behavior, which could use stopping.
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:42 AM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Does anyone else find it odd how they are using "rape" and "harassment" as synonyms?
posted by smackfu at 7:43 AM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Oh, they are backing each other up. I thought they were like, going in reverse. Like "whoa, back up there, buddy".
posted by DU at 7:44 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Giant Squid: ""I was wearing a corset and this guy kept standing too close to me"

That? Meh.
"

Making somebody uncomfortable by invading their personal space is "meh"? I would expect this only creeped out the person in question after attempting to create some space and being stymied. That's subtle, manipulative behavior and it deserves to be called out.
posted by gilrain at 7:45 AM on May 24, 2011 [10 favorites]


I mean, harassment seems like something you would go to the conference organizers about, but why aren't you going to the police if: "many of my friends who go have been raped attending the con, and I myself was raped after being at the con for approximately eight hours."
posted by smackfu at 7:47 AM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sure, but, some of these LJ entries come off as: "I was wearing a corset and this guy kept standing too close to me"

That? Meh.

Rape, something else entirely.


If someone keeps invading your space after you tell them to back off/step away from them, that's intimidation, isn't it? If a big sweaty dude kept sidling close to you even after you kept stepping away, how would that make you feel? Would you not wonder what his deal was, and whether he was going to escalate things in some way?
posted by emjaybee at 7:55 AM on May 24, 2011 [11 favorites]


If someone keeps invading your space after you tell them to back off/step away from them, that's intimidation, isn't it? If a big sweaty dude kept sidling close to you even after you kept stepping away, how would that make you feel? Would you not wonder what his deal was, and whether he was going to escalate things in some way?

Are cons really like this? Gobs of nerdy neanderthals chasing after scantily clad women with lots of free-flowing booze?

Fuck. Avoid those places!
posted by The Giant Squid at 7:57 AM on May 24, 2011


The Giant Squid: "Are cons really like this? Gobs of nerdy neanderthals chasing after scantily clad women with lots of free-flowing booze?

Fuck. Avoid those places!
"

Or, folks could try to counter the hostility and make the cons a safer place for women. Like the group in the OP!

A lot of women share the interests that cons cater to and would like to be able to safely attend. My girlfriend has recently embraced a lot of geeky interests and is really eager to attend a con sometime in the future. I shouldn't have to tell her that it's boys only, or that she'll have to put up with invasive behavior because the other attendees can't be expected to maintain basic decency.
posted by gilrain at 8:01 AM on May 24, 2011 [12 favorites]


Ah, the OSBP. What a garment-rending thread that was.

As someone who enjoys going to cons, I'd say this is a far more important use of security than encouraging them to kick out the idiots who wander around yelling "butt-scratchah!" or "Marco! Polo!" and related meme spouting.

Fuck. Avoid those places!

Fuck no. Female anime/gaming/comic books fans should be able to attend a con knowing that should a guy get grabby or stalky, security will handle him. "Stay home, ladies" is not a solution; it's fuel to the problem.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:01 AM on May 24, 2011 [15 favorites]


Fuck. Avoid those places!

Yes, the answer is for women to diminish their rights to travel to public spaces, in fact, spaces that are basically defined by being a geek or a nerd, after all, we know that those people are like, and if you go into those spaces you should totally go with men to escort you.

I don't understand why people keep imagining the solution to protecting women is to tell them to live more and more like medieval women kept in women's quarters, rather than, say, the people doing the harassing.

Oh, wait, yes I do. And it has nothing to do with protecting women or equal rights.
posted by yeloson at 8:05 AM on May 24, 2011 [20 favorites]



I don't understand why people keep imagining the solution to protecting women is to tell them to live more and more like medieval women kept in women's quarters, rather than, say, the people doing the harassing.


I started my line of commentary stating that I know precisely nothing of con-culture. From the LJ threads that I've suffered through, they sound like poorly-run, boozy, neanderthal-infested shitholes.

I don't get the redeeming value.

As for the people doing the harassing. Hire cops. Hire better security. Prosecute the holy hell out of them.
posted by The Giant Squid at 8:10 AM on May 24, 2011


Does anyone else find it odd how they are using "rape" and "harassment" as synonyms?

Yes, and it took me a while to catch on, so I started off thinking these conventions were like, I dunno, American prisons.

I assume it's meant to emphasise that groping and verbal harassment are traumatic experiences and not to be laughed off, but I'm not sure redefining the word rape is the best way to do that.
posted by jack_mo at 8:11 AM on May 24, 2011


The idea that this sort of strange disorganized boob-grabbing is happening at cons really encapsulates for me the problems I'm starting to have with the idea that there is or should be such a thing as a "nerd culture." There was a time, certainly, when science fiction or Japanese animation or comic books weren't part of the mainstream culture, and liking those things required an alternative setting in the same way punk culture did in the early 90s or something. For all intensive purposes, that time is gone, both because the idea of one mainstream culture might exist is tenuous now, and because there's 50 bajillion cable channels and people from all walks of life can and do enjoy elements of what we once called "nerd culture."

In the modern context, then, calling yourself a nerd seems to be about something other than the things you're interested in. It seems to also be about giving yourself permission to act a certain way, regardless of the circumstances. Groping women at public events where women-groping is not clearly their purpose is among the darker manifestations of that impulse.

There's nothing wrong with liking comic books and liking sex, or even liking public sex. But we have a separate comic book get together and a public sex get together so that people can choose which of those they want to participate in and which they don't. It's best, I think, to define and be honest about what you're into, but be willing to separate that into appropriate spheres.
posted by Apropos of Something at 8:12 AM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


For all intensive purposes

ಠ_ಠ
posted by adamdschneider at 8:15 AM on May 24, 2011 [24 favorites]


I'm pleasantly surprised to hear the backup project stuff didn't fizzle. Good for them for keeping it up. That Keycon shit was a "it's 2011 and we still have to argue about this stuff?!?" moment and I'm glad Keycon was pressured into at least planning to do the right thing, since someone said upthread we don't know how it came off.

I never have gone to nerd-interest cons (other than Amber gaming cons, which are tiny and have a large female population and most of the people know each other, which is a different situation). I wouldn't say fear of rape and harassment is why I don't go--it has more to do with limited time and money and a lot of competing interests for said time and money--but it is a reason why cons consistently end up as a low priority for me.
posted by immlass at 8:17 AM on May 24, 2011


Ahh, damnit. It's a hayday for the Freudian malaprops.
posted by Apropos of Something at 8:20 AM on May 24, 2011


The Giant Squid: "I started my line of commentary stating that I know precisely nothing of con-culture. From the LJ threads that I've suffered through, they sound like poorly-run, boozy, neanderthal-infested shitholes.

I don't get the redeeming value.

As for the people doing the harassing. Hire cops. Hire better security. Prosecute the holy hell out of them.
"

Most people reacted negatively to you because your first question was whether this was happening to "normally dressed women" or only to Slave Leias. I'll drop that line, since you don't seem to really believe what you implied there.

As to the second point, cons can be and are a lot of fun! And for males attending, there are few negatives to attending. And there is evidence that cons can be run well and made enjoyable for both sexes. For instance, PAX, the Penny Arcade con, is significantly cleaner and friendlier than most, in large part due to their policies and expectations of their attendees.
posted by gilrain at 8:20 AM on May 24, 2011


Harassment at cons is a problem, sometimes, but it's a problem that can't easily be solved by throwing people out and prosecuting people. Because the place to hit it isn't when it gets legally actionable but before that. And changing the expectations of crowd behavior is a great place to do that. Knowing that there are people to back you up if you're getting uncomfortable and someone is being That Creepy Guy or something, that's good. And if the creepy guy begins to get the idea that the public reaction of folks - even other guys - is going to be "uh, hey, knock that shit off, it's not cool", that's going to help, too.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:25 AM on May 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


I enforced at the first PAX East and there was definitely a mandate that if you saw or heard of something creepy or jerky, to address it immediately. Which made the following year's Dickwolves thing so weird.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:35 AM on May 24, 2011


why aren't you going to the police if: "many of my friends who go have been raped attending the con, and I myself was raped after being at the con for approximately eight hours."

Because, as they say:
Pushing survivors to file police reports is re-victimizing, forcing them to relieve what happened and justify their actions.
Also:
Asking someone reeling from her assault to spend what can literally be hours hunting down one person to report is cruel and inhumane.
So as far as I can see all they really want is the power to declare someone a rapist, have no one learn the facts of the situation, have no police report made, have no formal identification made, and just have an instant beatdown of whoever they decide to point to (if they point to anyone at all, otherwise just beat down everyone matching the description given, if any, and if none is given, have all rape stopped instantly by a snap of the fingers).

That, and apparently they also want to redefine the word "rape" to also include things like following someone or grazing a boob in passing.

You know, I'm all for jailing rapists and reporting stalker creeps and everything, but redefining the word "rape" and insisting on not reporting the crime really hurts their case, and I don't support them in that.
posted by splice at 8:38 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I know, we could merge with the gun shows! who would fondle breasts witha .38 in your waistband.
posted by clavdivs at 8:43 AM on May 24, 2011


I always start these threads thinking "is this really a problem that people actually have?" and end them wanting to burn down civilization. "Does this happen to 'normally dressed women'"? Seriously? YOU are the problem.
posted by DU at 8:44 AM on May 24, 2011 [12 favorites]


As for the people doing the harassing. Hire cops. Hire better security. Prosecute the holy hell out of them.

As you say, you started your line of commentary stating that you know precisely nothing of con-culture. But you're remarkably confident that you know what an effective response to this problem would be. Well, in this environment or any other, law enforcement can do NOTHING on behalf a woman when the culture itself does not defend her and no-one will step forward to support her version of events. This initiative appears to be directed at solving that problem, by admitting the problem exists and preparing people to deal with it when it happens. And I am absolutely mystified that anyone would have a problem with it.

On preview... wow, splice. I don't even know where to begin. I'm getting a kind of "what civil rights activists REALLY want is to criminalize being white!!!1!one" equivalent vibe from that.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:45 AM on May 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


In re: Avoiding places that you want to go where there might be folks who are unfriendly to you.

No. Not ever. There is no negotiating here.

People who are doing the right thing, having fun, being 'nerds' (or whatever) should not have to avoid the places they want to go because of people who are not doing the right thing.

As a society, we need to ditch the idea of tolerating persistent harassers (and all other species of jerks) because they are 'nerds,' 'lack social skills,' or are 'just being 'guys.'' Women must be treated as equal. This includes everything that goes with it. Everything.

If a male was being followed around a convention by another male, staring at every part of him but the face, he wouldn't tolerate it no matter how he was dressed. It is absurd and insulting for anyone to assume that women should tolerate it.
posted by Fuka at 8:49 AM on May 24, 2011 [9 favorites]


Is KeyCon one of those things were people get dressed up as Anime characters etc?

What actually happens at those? Do people just stand around in their crazy costumes?
posted by mary8nne at 8:55 AM on May 24, 2011


I was at one con - which I'll probably never go back to - where the response to a foot-fetishist harassing women (for over a decade) was not to ban the guy, but to ban anyone, anywhere (like in the dance) taking off their shoes. This was like dealing with up-skirt photographers by banning skirts.

This particular man had also written porn about other convention goers and put it online - and the women in question were 15 or 16 years old at the time. But still not banned.
posted by jb at 8:57 AM on May 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


Is this a real problem? Is sexual harassment happening to 'normally dressed women', or is it limited to the slave Leia-bikini set?

I was sexually-harassed and propositioned at a con when I was a pimply, over-weight teenager wearing an over-size volunteer t-shirt and a pair of jeans. My friend was a pimply teenager in a t-shirt and ankle-length skirt. We didn't report it because we were relatively young teenagers and "creepy dude" just seemed like one of those unpleasant facts of life, not something that authorities would care about.

Not every con is as bad as this Keycon sounds; the con we were at was actively seeking to be seen as a family-friendly con. But it's still a problem - the same man has since been harrasing other women and under-age girls; it's so widely known that when you mention sexual harrassment at that con, everyone says "oh, you mean ____?" And yet he's never been asked to leave.
posted by jb at 9:09 AM on May 24, 2011 [6 favorites]


I was sexually-harassed and propositioned at a con when I was a pimply, over-weight teenager wearing an over-size volunteer t-shirt and a pair of jeans. My friend was a pimply teenager in a t-shirt and ankle-length skirt. We didn't report it because we were relatively young teenagers and "creepy dude" just seemed like one of those unpleasant facts of life, not something that authorities would care about.

Thanks for answering the question! So, is the groper/stalker culture pretty much omnipresent at these things? To what do you attribute it?

it's so widely known that when you mention sexual harrassment at that con, everyone says "oh, you mean ____?" And yet he's never been asked to leave.

Is this from a mafia-esque 'protect the regulars' thing? Are ticket sales/bottom-line the driving factors?
posted by The Giant Squid at 9:17 AM on May 24, 2011


"In re: Avoiding places that you want to go where there might be folks who are unfriendly to you.

No. Not ever. There is no negotiating here."

If there’s some place where assholes make my friends feel unwelcome because of their gender or race or how they’re dressed, I’d absolutely have my friends’ backs, and assert our right to be there.

But, if there were a night club or bar where “many of my friends who go have been raped”, honestly, I’d have to start thinking about whether I really wanted to go to that bar enough to risk any more of my friends getting raped. I mean, imagine if three of my friends all got raped in the same venue; I’d be calling the cops and media, and warning everyone I knew, male and female, not to go there.
posted by surenoproblem at 9:20 AM on May 24, 2011


where the response to a foot-fetishist harassing women (for over a decade) was not to ban the guy, but to ban anyone, anywhere (like in the dance) taking off their shoes.

It's always important to control the behavior of the victims and not the behavior of the victimizer. After all, the comfort of the privileged matter more than anyone else's!

I mean, telling him to leave would be like reverse sexism, right?

(Excuse me, I must go perform headdesk taiko now)
posted by yeloson at 9:24 AM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


I really had no idea cons were such hives of scum & villainy.

Eeewwwww.
posted by aramaic at 9:26 AM on May 24, 2011


wow, splice. I don't even know where to begin. I'm getting a kind of "what civil rights activists REALLY want is to criminalize being white!!!1!one" equivalent vibe from that.

Yes, because being against having people redefine an extreme term to include incredibly mild offenses and insisting there should be no police report or fact-finding done at all is EXACTLY THE SAME as saying that behaviour should be condoned and that I have no problem with it.

Just in case you're too fucking thick to comprehend, how about this: all harassing behaviour, from the mildest to the strongest, is absolutely fucking unacceptable, and should be dealt with all appropriate speed, force, and seriousness. Redefining "rape" to include stalkish behaviour and goosing while saying there should be no need for police reports or fact-finding, however, is completely ridiculous. The behaviour should be addressed the same damn way as if it occurred on a street corner or in an office, not through some clique-ish geek squad with no power except that of inviting mob justice on people still supposed to be presumed innocent.
posted by splice at 9:27 AM on May 24, 2011


jb: "the con we were at was actively seeking to be seen as a family-friendly con"

The idea that anyone has to create that kind of perception is a big part of what makes me sad. Unless the con in question is about porno or guns (etc), every con should be a family friendly con.

I was in Seattle Easter weekend, and there was a well-attended anime con at the convention center, which is located fairly accessibly downtown. Besides the ads on the bus, there was a pretty steady stream of people, many dressed in fun costumes, coming in and out on Saturday night, mingling around the stores, eating in restaurants, the whole nine. Several of them were not only women, but young-ish teenagers. I got all sorts of warm fuzzy feelings from the idea of a bunch of people going whole hog into the thing they really like and identify with and I'd like to think that, if I had a daughter, I'd feel comfortable letting her go somewhere like that with her friends without having to worry about her being groped.

If public space is going to be friendly to nerds, in other words, nerds have to be friendly to public space.
posted by Apropos of Something at 9:32 AM on May 24, 2011


Yes, because being against having people redefine an extreme term to include incredibly mild offenses and insisting there should be no police report or fact-finding done at all

Please show me where it says this in the project description. I saw a random comment from somebody which might be twisted to this interpretation if you wanted to, but nothing actually associated with the project that does.

As for the rest of it, the supposed consequential anti-men vigilantism and the institutional demonization of men for the kind of innocent following and boob-grazing you describe (hey, who knows how these things happen, right?), there is this, from the "proposal" link itself:
And I say this knowing that the first thing that is going to happen is that someone is going to start talking about how if everyone did this then women could just lie about men and get them kicked out of places. Well, obviously I don't want that to happen. I realize that this is open to abuse. You know what else is open to abuse? THE FUCKING STATUS QUO. If the choice is between the possibility of men worrying that if they offend a woman she can easily get them kicked out of a con, and the actuality of women quietly staying home from cons in droves because they don't want men to harass them; quietly saying nothing about their harassment because they know people will tell them it's no big deal, or it's never happened to them and so frankly they don't believe in it; I am going to deal with the problem that actually exists first. Should we somehow get to the point where the stereotype of a SF con is wall-to-wall women in razorwire bras, and men don't show their faces because they're afraid of being arrested; we can go ahead and work on that problem then.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:43 AM on May 24, 2011 [8 favorites]


Yes, because being against having people redefine an extreme term to include incredibly mild offenses and insisting there should be no police report or fact-finding done at all

I think it was in reference to this, linked from the post: "No woman, upon reporting her rape, should have to go through questioning to determine whether it is "legitimate"."
posted by smackfu at 9:45 AM on May 24, 2011


really had no idea cons were such hives of scum & villainy.

I don't think that they are - I think there has been a culture shift. Based on what my mom's told me about late 70s/early 80s SF cons in our area, they were a kind of adult-party event. Along with costuming and talking SF&F, there was a lot of drinking and a fair bit of hooking up. She went to a couple as a single mother, purposely leaving us kids (3 and 6) at home, because she wanted a weekend away from kids. I've been at a con where the after-hours hospitality suite turned into a mild almost-orgy one evening; it was all consensual, but the participants were kicked out on the grounds it wasn't appropriate (which they disputed).

That's not to say that harassment should acceptable even at adult events - but propositioning and other sexual attention isn't surprising in that context, given that it was a place where people met to date. What's changed, though, is that in the late 80s, ST:TNG brought a lot of kids and young teenagers into the con-scene, and people who had been dating in the early 80s wanted to keep coming to cons with their partners and now their children. And Anime has its own, much younger, fan-base. That said, I haven't heard of systematic problems at our local anime con - and I know my friends say that they have really enjoyed it partly because it had a much younger, less "hook-up" culture than some of the older SF cons. Also, the music at the dance was way better than the 80s soft rock the other con DJs were enamoured of.
posted by jb at 9:54 AM on May 24, 2011


Nice to see more of this kind of idea in action. This isn't vigilantism or taking over the job of security or police; it's simply rethinking the concept of the bystander. It has come up in previous MeFi threads on harassment: if you you see someone who seems to be getting unwanted attention from someone else, you can go up and ask the person on the receiving end, "Is everything OK here?"

This is similar to anti-bullying programs aimed at encouraging the bystander kids who are neither bullies nor bullied to step up -- apparently, a simple "Hey, not cool" defuses things a lot of the time, especially as part of a pattern of bystander involvement.
posted by FelliniBlank at 9:55 AM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hmm....

Stop requiring peace-bonding of women's weapons and this problem could solve itself...
posted by mikelieman at 10:11 AM on May 24, 2011


Stop requiring peace-bonding of women's weapons

I've never heard a bra described that way before.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:36 AM on May 24, 2011


sorry
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:37 AM on May 24, 2011


From a link in one of the original links: A Modest Proposal about Sexual Consent

(Short version -- if there's some ambiguity in your mind about whether she was giving you unreserved and enthusiastic consent, yer doin' it wrong.)
posted by straight at 10:54 AM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


The behaviour should be addressed the same damn way as if it occurred on a street corner or in an office, not through some clique-ish geek squad with no power except that of inviting mob justice on people still supposed to be presumed innocent.

I think you're completely misreading the point of the proposal. This isn't about hunting down "accused" harassers. It's about people paying attention to what's going on around you and creating a climate where anyone would be instantly called out, embarrassed, and shamed for harassing someone in a public place.

Creeping on a woman (stalking her, standing too close, staring at her) or grabbing her without her consent should get the same kind of reaction as you'd get if you dropped your pants and started masturbating in public.
posted by straight at 11:00 AM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Somewhere, at some time, I read a thing that had a theory about really fringe nerd behavior that might help explain why people don't get banned. The idea was that the really super fringe nerds have gone pretty much their entire lives being rejected by almost everyone. When they find a place where they can be expected, that sense of sanctuary can feel sacrosanct, as if anyone sanctioning any behavior ever will open the floodgates of normative teasing and they'll have to throw away the collection of action figures or whatever.

I've sort of experienced this feeling, when someone's being weird or shows up to hang out wearing sweatpants and a nasty t-shirt or something and like... I just don't want to make people uncomfortable.

I think it's possible that a variety of that might be at work at the cons where there's a known problem attendant that is somehow never banned.

From looking at the keycon organizer's responses to that LJ post, it seems like they are responding to the poster's concerns. It also seems like there's nothing they could say that would make the poster happy. I don't have a dog in the fight, not having attended any sort of con since a couple gaming cons in high school, but I don't think third parties can easily or accurately say that they know that keycon is a haven for rapists.

Re: "stay away," with a venture like a con it's a tricky balancing act. On the one hand, women should of course feel free to attend any con they want to. On the other hand, boycotts are a pretty effective way to force change: if you don't like the way a con is conducting some aspect of its business and enough people choose not to attend and let the organizers know why, that lost income is going to exert a powerful pull.
posted by kavasa at 11:02 AM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Is this from a mafia-esque 'protect the regulars' thing? Are ticket sales/bottom-line the driving factors?

I don't think it's about the money. I think it's about the confrontation. Say a woman comes up to you (as con staff, and very likely a volunteer) and says she's been harassed. Can you take it upon yourself to throw the guy out? When you didn't see what happened? If he gets in your face to argue about how you don't know what actually happened, what then? At what point does the "somebody else's problem" filter assert itself? Add in that a lot of guys minimize the frequency or the seriousness of harassment and it gets really easy to look the other way.

And I agree with kavasa, too; there's a "geek social fallacies" thing where you don't want to punish someone just for being awkward, you don't want to punish someone for having bad social skills, and... you don't mean to completely dismiss the women's concerns, but that's what you end up doing!

Last year I had a minor situation with a young foot fetishist who started emailing me and visiting my workplace, and even though he was definitely a creeper there was a part of me that said "I don't want to shame a 15-year-old kid who just lacks the appropriate social skills to deal with his fetish in a more positive way." And a male friend of mine -- who is no longer a friend of mine! -- brought out every imaginable excuse about teenage boys not knowing appropriate ways to express their desires. So. I do think it's not totally abnormal for geeky guys to read harassers as being in some ways the underdogs.
posted by Jeanne at 11:09 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


kavasa: Are you talking about the 5 geek social fallacies?

#1: "Ostracizers Are Evil" would explain why what seems like obviously unacceptable behavior doesn't result in offenders being asked to leave or not come back.
posted by dragoon at 11:13 AM on May 24, 2011


dragoon/Jeanne - yes! Thank you. "Ostracizers are evil" is a much more pithy way of saying it.

Also, "a place where they can be accepted", gah.
posted by kavasa at 11:15 AM on May 24, 2011


What actually happens at those? Do people just stand around in their crazy costumes?

There are generally a lot of activities and planned events that keep everyone busy. Some are open all day (like a room filled with classic video games, or a big hall filled with various vendors selling things) and others are scheduled events (like cosplay contests or guest speakers). Normally there are all sorts of things going on at the same time, so people move from place to place throughout the day based on what events they are interested in attending. A lot of people wear their cosplay outfits the whole day, even if they aren't going to be in an official contest, and while wandering around other people might stop them to take photos of them in their costumes.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:15 AM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


The behaviour should be addressed the same damn way as if it occurred on a street corner or in an office, not through some clique-ish geek squad with no power except that of inviting mob justice on people still supposed to be presumed innocent.

In my office people don't call the cops when they are being harassed. And the mandatory harassment training everyone has to complete makes it pretty explicitly clear that doing anything that a coworker would consider to be unwelcome behavior could very likely result in you getting fired, presumed innocent or not.

At cons this sort of expectation does not exist, and as people have said above the con organizers are not always vigilant about stopping this sort of behavior. So in my opinion con attendees creating a set of norms around how this behavior will be dealt with in a con setting is a completely appropriate reaction. And really this project is not telling people to do anything that a normal person wouldn't do to help someone who being harassed, it's just an explicit and visible declaration of the fact that harassment will not be tolerated.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:36 AM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Just wanted to add my con observations as a geeky/nerdy woman who frequents Anime North up here in Toronto each year for over a decade now (...now I feel old...), and occasionally other cons as well (yay origami!). While I have no doubt unsavoury behaviour crops up, personally the worst affront I have experienced has been poor manners, nothing more.

If people choose to boycott a con that is of course their choice, but saddens me to think that women might not attend out of fear of harassment or worse. I just wanted to add my two cents that I have found such occurrences to be rare, and while of course every person has different risk tolerances I haven't found them to be...well. At least any worse than other large social gatherings in our society. *rueful grin* It seems a shame not to attend on that basis alone. Cons can be a hell of a lot of fun (assuming you're interested in the subject matter and events), and I always appreciate the enthusiasm people bring. Usually you're there because some subject matter draws you together, and that feeling of being among others with a shared interest is pretty wonderful.
posted by dendritejungle at 11:50 AM on May 24, 2011


I have never been to a con, but I think that this pledge is something that all people (men and women) should incorporate into our daily lives. Nobody has the right to threaten, intimidate or violate anyone, and we each have a personal responsibility to help each other out. I really think the Back Up Project is basically an affirmation not to be part of the bystander effect.
posted by radioamy at 12:13 PM on May 24, 2011 [6 favorites]


con = convention, != conference (with exceptions). FYI.

Also, as I've said elsewhere: SF/F Fandom should be for all people who are at least minimally moral, somewhat socially able and interested in science fiction or fantasy. It should not be an instrument for people with privilege to find yet another area of life in which they can exclude and oppress people.
posted by jiawen at 12:41 PM on May 24, 2011


Fuck. Avoid those places!

I don't think that women should have to avoid places. I don't think that's the answer.

But, as a man, I do plan to avoid places where women are treated like this.
posted by rebent at 4:09 PM on May 24, 2011


I think this is a great initiative. I also think that interchanging sexual assault with the word rape is deeply problematic.
posted by smoke at 4:15 PM on May 24, 2011


I also think this sounds like a great initiative. In reading the links, though, the majority of them seem to be dated 2008 - has there been a change (for better or worse) in behaviour since then?

However, I have a query form the 'Sometimes not so' link: Pushing survivors to file police reports is re-victimizing, forcing them to relieve what happened and justify their actions.

This I don't get. I agree that 'survivors' should have their word taken at face value, and that action should be taken to safeguard. But if someone has been raped why would they not also report it to police? Surely society as a whole would be better off if rapists were behind bars? (Or possibly whipped, drawn, and quartered).
posted by coriolisdave at 6:53 PM on May 24, 2011


If you're going to dress as Slave Girl Leia, don't forget the only remotely empowering accessory of that outfit: the chain. When Jabba inches along, choke the hell out of him.
posted by maryr at 6:59 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Does anyone else find it odd how they are using "rape" and "harassment" as synonyms?

When I finally got back to this thread, I had a "wait, what?" moment about that. But that certainly makes more sense of the Keycon brouhaha. The idea that there was a convention at which women were regularly raped was horrifying. It's not great to hear that what's actually going on was a con where there was a lot of harassment and groping and so on, but that's less horrible than one where those things had progressed to coerced sex.
posted by immlass at 9:20 PM on May 24, 2011


Okay I looked and looked and I don't see it - where do they say that harassment = rape? I've been reading this page where the lady talks about being raped at Keycon and it seems obvious that she makes a distinction and she's talking about "rape rape". But so many people here have said they equate the two that I feel like I am missing something.
posted by Danila at 10:50 PM on May 24, 2011


Does anyone else find it odd how they are using "rape" and "harassment" as synonyms?

cite? I didn't notice them doing that.

The only discussion of rape I remember in the Back Up Project forum was in the Keycon threads, and I took 'rape' here as referring to rape. It seems clear in the discussion that people responding to the post are taking it the same way. They're talking about prosecution in this case which wouldn't make any sense in regards to the annoying but not illegal stuff Back Up usually deals with. (They also make it pretty clear that Keycon is an outlier.)
posted by nangar at 11:46 PM on May 24, 2011


con = convention, != conference (with exceptions). FYI.

Ack! Yeah, I did it three times, once in the post, twice in the tags. I added 'convention' to the tags. Thanks for the correction.
posted by nangar at 11:52 PM on May 24, 2011


Quoting from the original post in the Keycon thread on Back Up Project's Live Journal forum:

I was asked to talk to both women and men and get a general idea of what the situation was at Keycon, and how safe it was for women ... I couldn't find a single woman who hadn't been followed, groped, or harassed ... Many of my friends who go have been raped attending the con, and I myself was raped ...

My understanding of this report is that most women who go to this convention have been harassed (everyone she talked to) and some women attending have been raped, including her ("Many of my friends ... and I myself"). I really don't get how some people are reading this.


About prosecution:

The rape was never prosecuted, because I couldn't find anyone who didn't treat it as a joke ...

Pushing survivors to file police reports is re-victimizing, forcing them to relieve what happened and justify their actions. (Because Keycon is a convention at which alcohol flows freely, there is a large amount of victim-blaming directed at women who have the misfortune of not having rapist-dar.)

No woman, upon reporting her rape, should have to go through questioning to determine whether it is "legitimate" ... there is absolutely no reason to force a traumatized woman to relive her rape to prove its veracity to a group of voyeuristic onlookers.


This isn't as clear, and she didn't go a lot detail about what happened to her specifically, but my reading of this is she did try to report her own rape (which I assume was actual rape) and gave up because security at the conference refused to take it seriously.

I'm not reading this as a global 'women shouldn't report rapes' statement, but 'the way Keycon's security handles this sort of thing (based on personal experience) is fucking terrible.' If you go to security after being raped at a convention and they refuse to contact the police, make fun of you, call you a slut, and tell you "that's just what happens at Keycon," that would count as revictimization. And that's what she seems to describing.

Yes, sure, she could have reported being raped directly to the local police, and they could force the convention organizers via subpoena to provide information identifying the alleged rapist and possible witnesses. But most people's inclination would be to to go to the convention's security first and expect them to deal with the local police. If they refuse to do so, taunt you about what happened, and make it clear that they won't cooperate in any investigation, I can understand why someone wouldn't pursue it.

As she describes it, "Instead of having a Code of Conduct, they basically have a Code of "What You Should Do When You Get Assaulted (You Dirty Slut, You're Probably Lying)"."

Once again, I don't get how some people are reading this.
posted by nangar at 3:54 AM on May 25, 2011


Okay I looked and looked and I don't see it - where do they say that harassment = rape?

Just my initial reading of it. But it's probably correct that it is coerced sex under the influence of alcohol that is being referred to as rape in this case. All speculation without details though.
posted by smackfu at 6:17 AM on May 25, 2011


My understanding of this report is that most women who go to this convention have been harassed (everyone she talked to) and some women attending have been raped, including her ("Many of my friends ... and I myself").

That was what I assumed on first read, but not having waded through all the (livejournal) comments, I thought I must have missed something.
posted by immlass at 11:22 AM on May 25, 2011


I don't think you missed anything, immlass. I waded though a lot of the Live Journal comments about this project before making this post (like about three years worth) and extracted a few posts I thought were especially notable. I haven't seen any pattern of Back Up Project people equating harassment with rape.

Mostly they're to trying deal with situations where somebody is getting 'hassled' (to use the colloquial term) or being followed. They refer to this as 'harassment' and try to deal with this in a really non-confrontational way, offering women who look like they're uncomfortable and might be being harassed a way to extract themselves from the situation without confronting or antagonizing the guy, while at the same time trying not not break up voluntary flirtation - after all conventions are supposed to be fun, and flirting is part of the fun. (If that sounds contradictory, see this link). Or, simply being present with identifying ribbons and fliers explaining why they're there, so people can go to them if they're being followed around or otherwise have problems with people being creepy.

They're not for the most part dealing with rape, and it's pretty clear that Keycon, where this is reported to be a problem. is an exception.

I'm a guy, and this is my first time starting a post about this topic, but I find myself agreeing with DU.
posted by nangar at 1:21 PM on May 25, 2011


I thought 'rape' was being used as a synonym for 'harrassment' in this linked post because I just never thought for a second that there were multiple rapes happening at these conventions, or that it was even within the bounds of possibility that a convention organiser would respond to a rape report by treating it as a joke and saying "That's just what happens at Keycon". Rather than, you know, dialling 911 immediately.

That and the fact that the author kept flitting back and forth between the terms 'harassment', 'groping' and 'rape'. And the tepid response from the organisers, "We share your concern over the issues you have raised in your email" - that's how they open their reply to a report of multiple rapes at their convention?!

Plus, I suppose I unconsciously thought the alternative - that a large number of women were raped at the conference, and this was dismissed as a joke - is so flat out horrifying that my brain did a backflip and thought 'they must be using the word rape in some new general sense'.

If rape does indeed mean rape here, and the organisers have deliberately sought to cover up multiple incidents of rape... I don't know what to say. Seems like it would be national news played out in lurid tabloid headlines, the convention organisers would be facing civil or criminal proceedings and the convention venues would have a 'no conventions like this ever again' policy in place faster than you could say 'lawsuit'.

Not to mention the response. Some sort of vague campaign to have nice men nip potential sexual harassment in the bud - seems insane if the problem is rape. Ogling and groping, sure, that might work, but if this woman and many of her friends were raped? Surely the reaction would be much stronger?

All that incredulity doesn't in any way imply that I doubt the women reporting being raped, of course. It's just that the response, from all quarters, seems so bizarrely out of kilter to events that I can't get my head around it.
posted by jack_mo at 4:42 PM on May 25, 2011


Okay, I'm just gonna say it as clearly as possible: they are talking about rape and/or sexual assault. They are not conflating harassment with rape. I agree that the response of the organizers is appalling under these circumstances.....but that's the whole point of the outrage and calling it "rapecon". Even in that tepid email, the Keycon person makes a distinction between harassment (let us know) and rape (go to cops and if your case is legitimate we care). So none of them are confused. It just distresses me for people to be dismissed as frivolous over a misunderstanding like that. I guess we can just dismiss them for their outfits or something, but not that.

Anyway, what she wanted was for Keycon to implement a thorough policy addressing sexual misconduct and that's what they did, so she was successful.
posted by Danila at 6:43 PM on May 25, 2011


they are talking about rape and/or sexual assault. They are not conflating harassment with rape.

I'm glad to have that clarified. I'm not dismissing anyone's claims; I sincerely thought I had missed something in the discussion when I came back to this thread.
posted by immlass at 9:38 PM on May 25, 2011


It just distresses me for people to be dismissed as frivolous over a misunderstanding like that.

I wasn't trying to dismiss anyone as frivolous, at all - apologies if my comments came across that way. And thanks for clarifying. Shocking situation.
posted by jack_mo at 1:03 AM on May 26, 2011


I don't understand why people keep imagining the solution to protecting women is to tell them to live more and more like medieval women kept in women's quarters, rather than, say, the people doing the harassing.

Oh, wait, yes I do. And it has nothing to do with protecting women or equal rights.


Yeah, sadly it is yet another example of a wider, baffling, dynamic where women are supposed to take responsibility for creeps' behaviour. There's a TV show in Australia that had a good point on this dynamic regarding a PSA on sexting.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 4:23 AM on May 26, 2011


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