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"the existence of greater crimes does not excuse lesser crimes"
July 4, 2011 9:40 AM   Subscribe

"You know, I don't really know how else to explain how this makes me incredibly uncomfortable, but I'll just sort of lay it out that I was a single woman, you know, in a foreign country, at 4 AM, in a hotel elevator, with you, just you, and - don't invite me back to your hotel room right after I finish talking about how it creeps me out and makes me uncomfortable when men sexualize me in that manner..." Rebecca Watson, founder of Skepchick, spoke in Dublin at the World Atheist Convention a month ago (video). Afterwards, in a video post (relevant part starts at about 2:30), she discussed an incident that occurred there. She received some dismissive responses. PZ Myers is supportive. Richard Dawkins is dismissive. Dawkins is called out. PZ Myers weighs in again. Dawkins still doesn't get it.

PZ Myers: "The guy in the elevator was not accused of being a rapist; I got the impression from Rebecca that she wasn't even really worried about serious threat to her safety, but was annoyed that she was being pestered by an insensitive cad. It was "slightly bad," as you put it, and she responded at an appropriate level to the problem. She basically said to the atheist community, 'hey, guys, don't be an insensitive cad,' a suggestion I find remarkably uncontroversial — it's a slightly good suggestion in response to a slightly bad problem. It's darned good advice, even.

Here's exactly what she said... That really should be sufficient to explain to everyone exactly what was 'slightly bad' about this situation.

The response has been to belittle her reasonable suggestion, belittle her, accuse her of hysteria, defend the rudeness of the fellow with the proposition, and mostly act as if utterly obtuse to both the unpleasantness of the elevator faux pas and to disrespect the rational concerns of women. Women aren't so much afraid that unruly mobs of atheist men will rape them at meetings, but that they'll be dolts who trivialize legitimate and common concerns of women…and this incident has definitely shown that to be the case. We aren't just going to see Rebecca Watson diminished as an asset to atheism, but all the other women who seek common cause with atheism will watch how we treat our own and find this community significantly less attractive.

This isn't slightly bad. It's very bad. Atheist men are alienating the people we want to work with us on the very same problems, the oppression of women under religious regimes, that you cited in your comment."
posted by flex (1266 comments total) 68 users marked this as a favorite

 
How does him being an atheist relate to him being insensitive?
posted by Bovine Love at 9:48 AM on July 4, 2011 [23 favorites]


If your beliefs and attachment to a community are based on how many jerks are in a certain community you're not going to have anything to believe in after all is said and done.
posted by Talez at 9:49 AM on July 4, 2011 [28 favorites]


I'm genuinely curious, MeFites from outside the USA, is this fear that women have of being alone at night because they might be raped really just an American thing? I have heard people from European countries like Norway being astounded at how American women have to live in fear like this.

(Also, "Dawkins still doesn't get it" sounds slightly like editorializing to me...)
posted by MattMangels at 9:51 AM on July 4, 2011 [14 favorites]


MattMangels: I'm quoting Dawkins himself on the link there: "No, I obviously don't get it."
posted by flex at 9:54 AM on July 4, 2011 [8 favorites]


"No, I obviously don't get it. I will gladly apologise if somebody will calmly and politely, without using the word fuck in every sentence, explain to me what it is that I am not getting."
posted by flex at 9:55 AM on July 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


As an atheist, feminist and skeptic-podcast fan, I feel so bad for Rebecca, at the same time as I respect her for speaking out. I would have expected this to go down exactly as PZ Myers put it above. This is, after all, a community made up of mostly men, and all people who have elected to place Logic and Reason above the instincts of humanity -- and I'm one of them -- I should know. Of course they're going to label her a Hysterical Female.
posted by Countess Elena at 9:56 AM on July 4, 2011 [28 favorites]


You know, I'm not exactly a Dawkins fan on the best of days, but I was really surprised at how much of a dick he came off as in that first comment. Not just the comparison he was making but the biting way he made it.

Kudos to Myers et al. This is one of the reasons I really enjoy reading his blog and the discussions that appear in the comments. He's willing to talk about problems within the freethinking community as well as critiquing attacks and arguments from those outside of it.

I'm genuinely curious, MeFites from outside the USA, is this fear that women have of being alone at night because they might be raped really just an American thing?

I'm not from outside, but I've lived in (among other places) Austria, Germany and Australia, and I've talked with friends who lived in Britain about this. On the continent, there seems to not only be a lower level of fear (I'm not sure if that corresponds to lower risk or not) regarding sexual violence, but also of other forms of violent crime, muggings and murder, etc. Australia and Britain both seem a lot more similar to the United States, at least in the big cities.
posted by AdamCSnider at 9:56 AM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Look at me! Have you stopped beating your wife being an insensitive cad yet?
posted by CautionToTheWind at 9:57 AM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dawkins:
"If she felt his behaviour was creepy, that was her privilege, just as it was the Catholics' privilege to feel offended and hurt when PZ nailed the cracker. PZ didn't physically strike any Catholics. All he did was nail a wafer, and he was absolutely right to do so because the heightened value of the wafer was a fantasy in the minds of the offended Catholics. Similarly, Rebecca's feeling that the man's proposition was 'creepy' was her own interpretation of his behaviour, presumably not his. She was probably offended to about the same extent as I am offended if a man gets into an elevator with me chewing gum. But he does me no physical damage and I simply grin and bear it until either I or he gets out of the elevator. It would be different if he physically attacked me."


Ugh.

I think he's mixing up "threat" with "offense" here. If she feels threatened being cornered and propositioned against her will, that's not the same as "i was offended that he asked." Dismissing her because she hasn't actually been physically attacked is unbelievably shitty of him.
posted by zarq at 9:57 AM on July 4, 2011 [14 favorites]


Wow. Dawkins comment #75 read like it was lifted from a Rush Limbaugh transcript.
posted by bonobothegreat at 9:59 AM on July 4, 2011


Atheists as a group are hardly all progressive egalitarians, it seems odd to me to expect they would be, or that Dawkins' response would be different, from what I've read of him.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 10:00 AM on July 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm genuinely curious, MeFites from outside the USA, is this fear that women have of being alone at night because they might be raped really just an American thing?

I'm a dude and from New York. When I worked retail in a part of Manhattan practically built for tourists and practically swarming with police, my boss (a woman and former IDF) never, ever let women run the store alone at night. And we closed at 11 and everyone considered it a good, safe move.

On a road trip through Denmark, I was astounded at the fact that a gas station a hour or two outside of Copenhagen, at 4 AM, was being run by a sixteen year old girl, alone. It was inconceivable, and, yet, there it was.
posted by griphus at 10:00 AM on July 4, 2011 [18 favorites]


Here's how you escape from an elevator. You press any one of the buttons conveniently provided. The elevator will obligingly stop at a floor, the door will open and you will no longer be in a confined space but in a well-lit corridor in a crowded hotel in the centre of Dublin.

That's the sort of cluelessness money can't buy. You've just got to be born with it.
posted by gerryblog at 10:01 AM on July 4, 2011 [39 favorites]


I like Dawkins, so it's disappointing to see him being such a dick about this.

(Rebecca Watson is great, by the way.)
posted by brundlefly at 10:01 AM on July 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


MattMangels - I spent a year outside the US and upon return the culture of fear was very striking.
posted by MillMan at 10:02 AM on July 4, 2011 [14 favorites]


I will miss the sense of safety in Helsinki that I can't even say for Singapore, and that's saying a lot.
posted by infini at 10:06 AM on July 4, 2011


Dawkins is a dickhead. You just never noticed it before because he was on the right side of your arguments.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:07 AM on July 4, 2011 [110 favorites]


I wish I could fart directly into the faces of those twerps who say, "It's a double standard! I've had women come on to me and it was no big deal."
posted by bonobothegreat at 10:07 AM on July 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


Actually, after reading this harrowing story I was a bit more paranoid about hotel elevators.
posted by benzenedream at 10:08 AM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm genuinely curious, MeFites from outside the USA, is this fear that women have of being alone at night because they might be raped really just an American thing?

It's both. It's definitely heightened in the US, compared to parts of Europe, say. But I've never lived somewhere without, fairly routinely, being asked to walk a woman home, to the bus stop, etc. And equally, here in the US, I know plenty of women who go around at night alone without fear.
posted by Forktine at 10:09 AM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


On a road trip through Denmark, I was astounded at the fact that a gas station a hour or two outside of Copenhagen, at 4 AM, was being run by a sixteen year old girl, alone. It was inconceivable, and, yet, there it was.

This is a common occurrence in the vast majority of rural America too.
posted by TungstenChef at 10:10 AM on July 4, 2011 [30 favorites]


~On a road trip through Denmark, I was astounded at the fact that a gas station a hour or two outside of Copenhagen, at 4 AM, was being run by a sixteen year old girl, alone. It was inconceivable, and, yet, there it was.

~This is a common occurrence in the vast majority of rural America too.


Yeah...But the girl in America probably also has a shotgun behind the counter.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:14 AM on July 4, 2011 [8 favorites]


Must be hard for these folks to talk about atheism with their heads so far up their asses.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 10:14 AM on July 4, 2011


kittens for breakfast: "Dawkins is a dickhead. You just never noticed it before because he was on the right side of your arguments."

Eh, not really. I agree with him on some things. But I've felt that most of the criticisms aimed at him have been more about tone than anything else. In this case I think he's being a horse's ass, and it's not a matter of tone.
posted by brundlefly at 10:16 AM on July 4, 2011 [7 favorites]


I am not sure if I felt significantly less safe living in the US than I did in Canada -- though in the end I must have, as I stopped doing things like walking 2 blocks to the supermarket at 2 am -- but I heard from lots of people -- women and men -- about how I should not do X because it wasn't safe, where X was something I would do at home. This included discussions about elevators.
posted by jeather at 10:16 AM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think I hate all the people involved in this, so I'll just ask: what exactly is the crime that has been perpetrated here?
posted by eeeeeez at 10:19 AM on July 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm sorry, maybe this makes me a hateful misogynist, but I don't really see what it was about what McGraw did that makes him anything more than someone with a pretty poor sense of social timing. I've said much worse things out of stupidity, but I don't think I ever deserved to be called out by name for it. This is basically just LJdrama with political self-righteousness attached.

Whenever we have gender discussions on MeFi, they seem to take place in a totally unreal world in which all healthy sexual or romantic encounters follow on clear and unambiguous consent (and even consent-to-be-approached-for-consent) given by perfectly rational actors. This is so at odds with how the real world actually works (and not necessarily in that patriarchy-corrupts kind of way) that I wonder what the point is in the first place. For instance, there seems to be unanimous agreement that someone who is drunk (or even, according to some people, mildly tipsy) is unable to give consent of any kind and is therefore unable to have sex without it being counted as rape. Yet count up the number of couples in Britain or the United States whose relationship would not have taken shape without alcohol playing a major role, and I suspect you'd end up with, if not a majority, at least something close to it.

In this case, it's not that difficult to imagine a mutually-satisfying scenario in which the guy's attempt to pick her up would have worked. And there wasn't anything disrespectful about the way he phrased it! "I find you very interesting, and I was wondering if you wanted to come to my hotel room for coffee"? OK, the setting made it seem creepy, but it doesn't seem like he tried to push it after he was turned down, so what's the problem?
posted by nasreddin at 10:19 AM on July 4, 2011 [131 favorites]


And equally, here in the US, I know plenty of women who go around at night alone without fear.


I wouldn't say it's entirely "without fear" so much as this - if I must walk alone at night (and it happens frequently) I can't let that fear take over, because it will show on my face and in my gait. I have to walk confidently and with purpose, and look other pedestrians in the eye and speak to them without betraying that fear. I need to channel that fear into making the best decisions about the actions I need to take to reach my destination safely.


I have concealed that fear for so long that it looks like it isn't there at all, but it is.
posted by louche mustachio at 10:20 AM on July 4, 2011 [30 favorites]


I don't get the rationale behind Dawkins's comment that it's only 'creepy' behaviour in her eyes, not his, and therefore it's not objectively inappropriate behaviour at all. Because... people have an absolute right to make you feel worried or seriously uncomfortable, so long as they're totally oblivious that they're doing it? Because it's somehow impinging on their freedom to point out how their actions came across to you? Because "guys, uh, don't do that" is tantamount to calling for his arrest? What?

I wish I could fart directly into the faces of those twerps who say, "It's a double standard! I've had women come on to me and it was no big deal."

It is saddening how many of said twerps will suddenly get it when you say "Okay, forget women - imagine it's a man who's taller and stronger than you, and he's hitting on you [persistently/aggressively/inappropriately]."
posted by Catseye at 10:21 AM on July 4, 2011 [37 favorites]


I've watched 2 or 3 of the videos, and read several of the comments, and it really does seem strange to me that people want to devote this. much. time and energy to such a minor incident. That Rebecca points out that some guy didn't get it is one thing, and has it's value. If people aren't called out on the the little things, how will we change our ways?. But all the argument about it? Good grief.
But I am not really into video blogs. I have not seen one yet that did not bore me to tears.
posted by SLC Mom at 10:23 AM on July 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


I don't get the rationale behind Dawkins's comment that it's only 'creepy' behaviour in her eyes, not his, and therefore it's not objectively inappropriate behaviour at all. Because... people have an absolute right to make you feel worried or seriously uncomfortable, so long as they're totally oblivious that they're doing it? Because it's somehow impinging on their freedom to point out how their actions came across to you? Because "guys, uh, don't do that" is tantamount to calling for his arrest? What?


Because people, even creepy people, deserve to have the benefit of the doubt, and if everyone always called out everyone that made them uncomfortable it would be impossible to have a functioning society? This is the kind of thinking that makes a suspected pedophile out of every man over the age of fourteen who happens to be in the vicinity of a playground.
posted by nasreddin at 10:27 AM on July 4, 2011 [50 favorites]


Because... people have an absolute right to make you feel worried or seriously uncomfortable

It occurs to me that a fair number of atheists have caught shit for saying things that make mainstream religious folks feel uncomfortable, and there may be a resultant knee-jerk reaction to people in other areas formulating their complaints in terms of "I was made uncomfortable" even when its not related to the atheism-theism debate. Not a justification, but may be a contributing factor.

I've watched 2 or 3 of the videos, and read several of the comments, and it really does seem strange to me that people want to devote this. much. time and energy to such a minor incident.

Welcome to the Internet. Watch out for the cats.
posted by AdamCSnider at 10:28 AM on July 4, 2011 [24 favorites]


Are we going to have to have the Schroedinger's Rapist thread again? Because that's a must-read but it was eight hundred dang old comments.
posted by Countess Elena at 10:30 AM on July 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


So after everyone had been drinking, dude raped her?

Oh wait, no, dude grabbed and fondled her in the elevator?

Oh wait no, dude called her a cunt and demanded she "show us your tits!" in the elevator?

Oh wait no, after everyone had been drinking, dude offered up a polite, respectful, but somewhat clumsy pickup-line? Oh horrors!

Fact is, had she fancied this guy (had he been (like the best coffee) hotter, richer, or smoother), this wouldn't have been an issue. Even if she hadn't accepted, she'd have felt the warm glow of being desirable.

But because this guy was too nervous, too inept, too fat, too geeky, whatever, his polite pick-up line becomes some sort of misogynistic oppression.

The message here has nothing to do with feminism; the message here is that unless you're hot, you're wrong for even politely propositioning a woman.
posted by orthogonality at 10:30 AM on July 4, 2011 [172 favorites]


If the commenter in the "dismissive" link is really Richard Dawkins, I'll convert to Raëlism right here and now.
posted by ixohoxi at 10:32 AM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


There's a guy on that thread who claims that if he finds himself walking behind a woman he will switch to the other side of the road so she doesn't think he's following her. He says if he's taking an elevator and there is a woman alone in it, he will let it pass and take the next one instead in case she gets freaked out by him.

Is this seriously the way we should be living? If all non-rapists do this, we end up with a world where only a rapist gets into an elevator with a woman, where only a rapist will walk behind a woman in the street.

Screw that.

Instead, let's act like we live in the world we want to live in. Talk to that woman, talk to that man, be friendly, be open. If we don't, society becomes shrouded in fear and suspicion.

Let every man who is interested in having coffee with a woman ask her to join him for coffee, and then accept her almost inevitable "no" with only mild disappointment and no complaint. Only by being used does "no" have any power.

Dawkins is usually an ass, but he's not wrong here.
posted by dickasso at 10:34 AM on July 4, 2011 [27 favorites]


But because this guy was too nervous, too inept, too fat, too geeky, whatever, his polite pick-up line becomes some sort of misogynistic oppression.

The message here has nothing to do with feminism; the message here is that unless you're hot, you're wrong for even politely propositioning a woman.


some comments are just dumb but then now and again there are comments which are not only spectacularly, face-shreddingly dumb but also provide a pathos-sodden window into the life of the person making it.

yes, those horrid women.

you'll show them.

one day you'll show them all.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 10:35 AM on July 4, 2011 [153 favorites]


it really does seem strange to me that people want to devote this. much. time and energy to such a minor incident.

There's been a lot of discussion/fighting in the atheist community (by which I mean, here, as that part of it that goes to conferences, gives talks, and has pretty widely read blogs) about women's visibility in that community. Like, when most panels at a conference are all (white) male, what does that mean for a movement that's trying to reach out and expand its reach. There was a post about this a while back, and my friend Greta Christina has done some writing on it. I'll go dig up some links.
posted by rtha at 10:36 AM on July 4, 2011 [8 favorites]


This hang nail is killing me!
posted by Max Power at 10:37 AM on July 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


(I'll note that despite the similarity, I wrote my comment before reading Dawkins's.)
posted by orthogonality at 10:38 AM on July 4, 2011


I think no one is talking about the elephant in the room which is that he offered her a cup of coffee from those lousy hotel room coffee makers.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:39 AM on July 4, 2011 [20 favorites]


I don't know. I see both sides of it. It's not inherently offensive to politely proposition someone. It's not really rude to ask. But sometimes it would just be nice to go about as a person in the world, and interact with other people, and contribute to society, and work on rewarding things, and make friends, and connect with other humans, without this undercurrent of sexual give/take beneath everything. It would be nice to just be treated like another person whose value remains even if they say no to the date. In a world where men still dominate in the public sphere, I don't think they understand how sexualized every single career situation can become and how exhausting that is.
posted by crackingdes at 10:39 AM on July 4, 2011 [80 favorites]


Jesus tap-dancing Christ, orthogonality.
posted by Talez at 10:40 AM on July 4, 2011 [23 favorites]


But sometimes it would just be nice to go about as a person in the world, and interact with other people, and contribute to society, and work on rewarding things, and make friends, and connect with other humans, without this undercurrent of sexual give/take beneath everything

Damn selfish genes!
posted by villanelles at dawn at 10:40 AM on July 4, 2011 [14 favorites]


Because people, even creepy people, deserve to have the benefit of the doubt, and if everyone always called out everyone that made them uncomfortable it would be impossible to have a functioning society?

Okay, try it this way:

I am a woman. I have, in the past, hit on men I found attractive. Didn't expect all of them to find me attractive, but hey, worth a shot.

However. If it turned out I was - totally unintentionally, totally unknowingly - hitting on them in a way that made them feel incredibly uncomfortable, and concerned for their own safety? Then I would have wanted to KNOW that. I would have been quite shocked to hear it, I'm sure, but I would have wanted to know as soon as possible, so I could stop doing it. Because I don't want to make other people feel like that, especially not accidentally. Because that's awful.

I can't comprehend of any possible world in which I would have responded to that information with any variant of "so you're saying we're ALL potential rapists, huh?"
posted by Catseye at 10:42 AM on July 4, 2011 [67 favorites]


Welcome to Raëlism, ixohoxi!
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 10:42 AM on July 4, 2011 [12 favorites]


There's a guy on that thread who claims that if he finds himself walking behind a woman he will switch to the other side of the road so she doesn't think he's following her.

I do this in certain situations (late at night, we're the only two people on the street), and don't see it as some sort of massive concession on my point.

Instead, let's act like we live in the world we want to live in.

Oh, fucking please. I should ignore the TSA guys at the airport too, then? We don't live in the world we all want to live in. Women like Rebecca are making a certain effort to try, in small ways, to make that world happen.
posted by AdamCSnider at 10:42 AM on July 4, 2011 [28 favorites]


I'll assume for the moment that it's possible to use a pickup line without coming off as Schroedinger's Rapist. I'm not really sure about this but whatever.

The guy used the pickup line after she had already told him she didn't like that kind of attention.

"Oh look, a line in the sand. Mind if I cross it? You do? Cool." *steps across* "What? What are you so mad about?"
posted by LogicalDash at 10:42 AM on July 4, 2011 [56 favorites]


Fact is, had she fancied this guy (had he been (like the best coffee) hotter, richer, or smoother), this wouldn't have been an issue. Even if she hadn't accepted, she'd have felt the warm glow of being desirable.

FACT! SCIENCE! Good thing you're here to clear this up for us! Thanks!
posted by rtha at 10:43 AM on July 4, 2011 [17 favorites]



However. If it turned out I was - totally unintentionally, totally unknowingly - hitting on them in a way that made them feel incredibly uncomfortable, and concerned for their own safety? Then I would have wanted to KNOW that. I would have been quite shocked to hear it, I'm sure, but I would have wanted to know as soon as possible, so I could stop doing it. Because I don't want to make other people feel like that, especially not accidentally. Because that's awful.


And I'm sure that your optimal scenario for discovering this fact would be the person in question getting on the mic, pointing the spotlight at you, and going "HER! THERE'S THE CREEP! WHAT'S UP WITH BEING SUCH A CREEP, HUH?"
posted by nasreddin at 10:43 AM on July 4, 2011 [7 favorites]


It would be nice to just be treated like another person whose value remains even if they say no to the date. In a world where men still dominate in the public sphere, I don't think they understand how sexualized every single career situation can become and how exhausting that is.

Agreed, sure. But this was at the tail end of a social event, where liked-minded people were drinking and shooting the shit. It's not as if she was propositioned by someone lined up the Q&A after her talk.

I'll also point out that Ms. Watson has made a name for herself not as just any skeptic, but as the "skepCHICK". Her whole schtick isn't "I'm a skeptical person" it's "I'm a skeptic with a uterus."
posted by orthogonality at 10:44 AM on July 4, 2011 [9 favorites]


Don't the people with good intentions WANT to know if they're behaving in a way that worries or frightens others? Women have to keep making the "is he safe or is he not safe" calculation, because we don't know who is or isn't. It is creepy when some guy you've never spoken to corners you in an enclosed space and asks you to go back to his hotel room at 4am. This is actually really simple. She didn't call him a rapist, she didn't say it should be against the law (also, she did not name the guy, so not sure what nasreddin is talking about). But it is a pretty good example of something people should not do. She's just trying to help a brotha out, and in return there is this backlash which is way out of proportion.

And what does this have to do with who is "hot" or not? What?
posted by Danila at 10:44 AM on July 4, 2011 [25 favorites]


orthogonality: Fact is, had she fancied this guy (had he been (like the best coffee) hotter, richer, or smoother), this wouldn't have been an issue. Even if she hadn't accepted, she'd have felt the warm glow of being desirable.

Isn't this the "She's asking for it because what she really wants is the warm glow of feeling desirable" argument? Because that's what it sounds like. Along with a weird coffee simile that doesn't grok at all.

dickasso: Instead, let's act like we live in the world we want to live in. Talk to that woman, talk to that man, be friendly, be open. If we don't, society becomes shrouded in fear and suspicion.

I tried that with a TSA agent the other day and he just glared impassively at me and pointed at me to walk through the backscatter carcinogenic radiation shower. Is that the society/world you mean?
posted by blucevalo at 10:44 AM on July 4, 2011 [8 favorites]


The problem with some of these "rationalist" movements is that they seem to breed a solipsistic "don't tread on me" kind of thinking that misapprehends our shared humanity and undercuts (if not makes a mockery of) their aspirations towards "community". In so far as there is a right to be left alone, it must be paired with an obligation to put up with one another, or it descends into decadent privilege.
posted by eeeeeez at 10:45 AM on July 4, 2011 [8 favorites]


"I'm genuinely curious, MeFites from outside the USA, is this fear that women have of being alone at night because they might be raped really just an American thing?"

When I studied abroad in college, one of the speakers at orientation pointed out to us that American crime is more likely to be, "OH MY GOD, I'M BEING ROBBED" while European crime is more likely to be, "OH MY GOD, I JUST GOT ROBBED." That is, you're more likely to be actually mugged in the U.S., but in Europe, you're much more likely to be pickpocketed. The level of paranoia about pickpocketing in much of Europe was actually quite foreign to me, down to the snake-stealing-purses-during-the-movie pre-movie advert that was playing at the time. I can leave my purse sitting semi-unattended in my cart at the supermarket without much fear in the U.S. (Not that I do. I'm more paranoid than that.)

I think there are also some differences in how busy and pedestrian many European cities are at night, vs. the U.S. (where it's much more car-centric and you have fewer "good" other pedestrians to rely on if you're walking alone at night).

But a lot of it is contextual -- there are plenty of places I go in the middle of the night (like the supermarket!) without any fear. But I don't really (have the option to) walk to any of them, and there are certain places I would not go. And then some of it is bad risk evaluation skills, in that being accosted by a random rapist is highly unlikely (but walking alone in the dark is kinda scary and random crime is very scary), whereas being date raped is much more likely (but being alone with someone you like, on a date, who seems normal is not that scary).

I have gotten off an elevator because I got a creepy vibe from someone else in it. But dude was an executive in a fancy suit who could have been from anywhere in the world. Maybe I just had too much caffeine that morning, but his manner made me very uncomfortable, so I got off, walked away from the elevators, and then got the next elevator. Out of thousands and thousands of elevator rides, I've only done that once.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:45 AM on July 4, 2011 [10 favorites]


Nasreddin, elevator guy was never named. The person named is another woman who blogged in response to the video blog.
posted by maudlin at 10:46 AM on July 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


Eh, not really. I agree with him on some things. But I've felt that most of the criticisms aimed at him have been more about tone than anything else. In this case I think he's being a horse's ass, and it's not a matter of tone.

Well, being a dickhead isn't like the man is evil or even necessarily wrong -- I think tone is his main problem, and I think that people who have a consistent tone problem have it because they're jerks, and I also think tone is the main problem here. This guy did not rape or assault Ms. Watson, and I don't think that Dawkins would be wrong to try and put what actually did happen into proper perspective; no, what happened to her was not criminal, a non-dickhead might weigh in, but it would be good for more guys to listen to what Watson's saying in the video and try to just basically be cooler in our dealings with members of the opposite sex and learn to pick up on nuance and non-verbal (and verbal!) cues and et cetera. But Dawkins, being a dickhead by nature, turns it into some whole weird oppression Olympics thing because Rebecca Watson is not a victim of female circumcision so how dare she complain that a dude tried to pick her up or...whatever's going there that sounds so disturbingly like something Scott Adams would say.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:46 AM on July 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


The message here has nothing to do with feminism; the message here is that unless you're hot, you're wrong for even politely propositioning a woman.

No it isn't. If you want to takeaway what the most teeth-gnashing internet people say about this, that's your choice, but you can see this interaction through whatever your own lens is [mine is similar to the PZ Meyers quote in the original post or as he said later "she asked for some simple common courtesy, and for that she gets pilloried."] and decide how you want to view the world. Watson viewed it as a small-scale thing and asked for small scale adjustment. Other people went and ran with it, that's on them. You want to take it this way, that's clearly on you.
posted by jessamyn at 10:47 AM on July 4, 2011 [76 favorites]


And I'm sure that your optimal scenario for discovering this fact would be the person in question getting on the mic, pointing the spotlight at you, and going "HER! THERE'S THE CREEP! WHAT'S UP WITH BEING SUCH A CREEP, HUH?"

There are other options.

posted by villanelles at dawn at 10:47 AM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


There's a guy on that thread who claims that if he finds himself walking behind a woman he will switch to the other side of the road so she doesn't think he's following her.

I do this too.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:48 AM on July 4, 2011 [14 favorites]


Fact is, had she fancied this guy (had he been (like the best coffee) hotter, richer, or smoother), this wouldn't have been an issue. Even if she hadn't accepted, she'd have felt the warm glow of being desirable.

That is so utterly and completely bogus. Honestly, when strangers proposition me on the streets or whereever, my "hottie" sensors shut down completely and my fear sensors turn on. I don't know if they are attractive or not since the behavior is a complete turnoff. Just because he is thinking about sex doesn't mean I must be too and am evaluating him on that basis. That thinking is part of the problem.
posted by Danila at 10:48 AM on July 4, 2011 [91 favorites]


There's a guy on that thread who claims that if he finds himself walking behind a woman he will switch to the other side of the road so she doesn't think he's following her.

I do this occasionally, and I'm a lady.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 10:50 AM on July 4, 2011 [12 favorites]


The guy used the pickup line after she had already told him she didn't like that kind of attention.

Really -- can we remember the specific context here? In her panel presentation, she talked about the kinds of responses (negative and positive) she gets as a female atheist and how those are frequently sexualized; how she gets rape threats from religious people and her fan mail is full of graphic descriptions of what her fans want to do to her.

And then she went to the bar with a large group and continued the discussion of misogyny in the atheist community. She never individually spoke with the man who later got in the elevator with her.

So we're talking about several hours of conversation specifically about misogyny and sexualization of interactions involving prominent female atheists. And that's the context in which the man thought it'd be a great idea to ask this total stranger to come back to his room because she's so interesting.

Oy vey.

And nasreddin: she didn't divulge the name of the man in the elevator. She quoted a person by name who made a statement about it later as part of her rebuttal.
posted by FelliniBlank at 10:50 AM on July 4, 2011 [65 favorites]


Nasreddin, elevator guy was never named. The person named is another woman who blogged in response to the video blog.

Thanks, I got confused. I'm not quite as outraged anymore.


Well, being a dickhead isn't like the man is evil or even necessarily wrong -- I think tone is his main problem, and I think that people who have a consistent tone problem have it because they're jerks, and I also think tone is the main problem here.

OK, the above having been said, how do we know he has a "consistent tone problem," and therefore can conclude that he's a jerk?

Also, I don't know if y'all are familiar with conferences, but it's a pretty standard view that one of their main reasons for existing is that they give awkward people with highly-specific interests (e.g. academics) a way to drunkenly hook up without too many consequences. I don't think it was unreasonable of him to assume that was Skepchick's stance on things too.
posted by nasreddin at 10:51 AM on July 4, 2011 [7 favorites]


Welcome to Raëlism, ixohoxi!

Heh. Guess I'd better order my sparkly robes.
posted by ixohoxi at 10:54 AM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


[folks, calling out people from other threads is not going to help this thread go better - please go to MetaTalk or engage that person directly, don't start a callout-by-proxy in this thread if you're not talking about this topic. Thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 10:54 AM on July 4, 2011


Also, I don't know if y'all are familiar with conferences, but it's a pretty standard view that one of their main reasons for existing is that they give awkward people with highly-specific interests (e.g. academics) a way to drunkenly hook up without too many consequences.

No, this is not as "standard" as you think it is.
posted by so_gracefully at 10:54 AM on July 4, 2011 [22 favorites]


OK, the above having been said, how do we know he has a "consistent tone problem," and therefore can conclude that he's a jerk?

I'm talking about Richard Dawkins, who is not the person who propositioned Rebecca Watson. Whether Dawkins is a jerk is a subjective call, but ample material exists that one can use to base an opinion of him on.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:55 AM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


It is saddening how many of said twerps will suddenly get it when you say "Okay, forget women - imagine it's a man who's taller and stronger than you, and he's hitting on you [persistently/aggressively/inappropriately]."

This would be a fine defense, except that this bears only the slightest similarity to what she outlined. Was it persistent? No, not at all; given the dramatization of the situation, I have no doubt we would have heard if he had any follow-up line. Was it aggressive? About as far from as can be. Was it inappropriate? Yes, arguably. Is this really a big issue?

I read Dawkins' dismissive response as not the boohoo-cry-me-a-river that some people seem to be taking away from this as a comment on Watson's quixotic understanding of what constitutes oppression; imagine the response on the blue when some CEO is interviewed in the New Yorker on the sacrifices he has had to make because his bonus this year was only $3.7 million instead of last year's $5.5 million.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:55 AM on July 4, 2011 [9 favorites]


I think some people are missing part of the creep factor, which is that he propositioned her in a small enclosed space where she couldn't walk away. To me, that sets off alarm bells.
posted by annsunny at 10:55 AM on July 4, 2011 [19 favorites]


Ah God, I thought this mess would end up here.

First of all, nasreddin - Stef McGraw was not the clumsy oaf who asked Watson back for coffee. She's a student who blogged a piece suggesting that Watson might have over-reacted a tadge to some rather ill-judged but pretty harmless post-conversation behaviour. Watson then called her out publicly for this - the crime of disagreeing with Watson's take on the situation - and since then the tone from supporters of Watson has been "If you're male and you don't back Watson to the hilt, you're a privileged white male sexist (no, I don't know where the "white" comes from either) and if you're Stef McGraw or female you're not a true scotsman...err, we mean feminist... and you've been duped by white male privilege."

It's gotten pretty ugly, there's some revolting self-righteous over-reaction going on from Watson's gang and frankly I understand Dawkins' sarcasm about that, although he should have been smart enough to realise that this would be leapt on by the many people who instinctively hate him. He's British. He gets impatient with hypersensitivity and displays of what appear to be over-preciousness and entitlement. So do I. There really is a Brit/US disconnect on this stuff. It's why we still laugh at therapy and stuff like that. But I digress.

There are two issues here. One was the guy asking Watson if she'd like to come back to his room. The other is Watson's public shaming of Stef McGraw.

On the first: I've been to these big hotel-held atheist conventions. They're fun, friendly and involve drinking, socialising and deep and meaningless late night conversations between punters and speakers. They involve people ending up in each others' rooms to continue conversations. What they do not generally involve is any sense of menace or serious threatening behaviour. Dickish behaviour, for sure, but the idea that Watson was in any significant danger is a stretch, to put it mildly. She doesn't even seem to suggest she felt endangered, just that the guy's approach was inappropriate. So to see this now being portrayed as comparable to a random stranger aggressively coming on to a vulnerable woman in some anonymous elevator out in the projects somewhere is ridiculous, and offensive.

Was the guy's approach inappropriate? Yes. Did it deserve a public call-out rather than Watson just saying no and letting it go? Maybe, although given that all appearances suggest he took her refusal gracefully and with no further attempt to push it, maybe not, actually.

But Watson's public call-out of McGraw just plain stinks. That smacks of petulant revenge-taking and a desire to humiliate a woman who had dared to suggest Watson might be being a bit over-sensitive. I'm even more inclined to this view since I've been reading the Skepchick blog for years and while I have a lot of admiration for Watson this is not exactly out of character, shall we say.

I would advise those of you who are coming to this without some prior knowledge of the parties involved to go a bit easier on the ready assumptions and knee-jerk condemnations.
posted by Decani at 10:55 AM on July 4, 2011 [72 favorites]


Honestly, when strangers proposition me on the streets or whereever, my "hottie" sensors shut down completely and my fear sensors turn on.

All things being equal, I'm actually more afraid of conventionally attractive men who trip my Gavin-de-Becker sense. It seems more likely that they're used to getting their way, and that they believe themselves to be favoring me with their attention.
posted by Countess Elena at 10:57 AM on July 4, 2011 [27 favorites]


Oh, fucking please. I should ignore the TSA guys at the airport too, then? We don't live in the world we all want to live in. Women like Rebecca are making a certain effort to try, in small ways, to make that world happen.

How is that even close to the same? If you ignore the TSA guys, or the police, or your water bill, bad things might happen. It seems you chose to interpret the argument quite uncharitably. Do you really need to be told that he didn't mean that he thought we could all just do whatever we want force make the world to change for us? There's still things to be said about making, where you can, the same personal choices you hope others will make.
posted by floam at 10:59 AM on July 4, 2011


Never heard of Rebecca Watson before but man, did I hate that vlog entry. The bit at the end about a joke that people didn't get was ridiculously ignorant and condescending. She seems to live in a bubble in which she can't conceive that her listeners/readers could perhaps have encountered someone who would seriously substitute straw person for straw man. Has she never heard anyone say chair instead of chairman, access cover instead of manhole cover, letter carrier instead of mailman? I agree with all of those substitutions and use them in my own conversation and if someone who self-identified as a feminist used the term straw person, I'd think they were serious.

Her comments on the elevator scenario are beyond absurd.

I also pointed out that approaching a single woman in an elevator to invite her back to your hotel room is the definition of “unsolicited sexual comment.”

Actually, no, it's not. And I'm baffled by your use of the word "single" in this sentence. Do you mean single as in one or single as in not-married? If the former, you seem mature enough to understand that most people ask people to have private conversations when alone so as not to alert others of their possible exclusion. This is especially true if the two people were just in a group. If you meant the latter... well, it's mind-boggling if you did.

Further, it's misogynistic or sexist to ask a colleague to converse? It is you, Rebecca, who sexualized the scenario and you who made gender a factor. Your fellow atheist ignored your gender when he asked for your company. Would it have been okay for your fellow elevator-traveller to ask you to conversation and coffee if they were female? Would they have to be a straight female? What if they male, but gay? Or a quadriplegic? What has to be present to remove the threat you feel it necessary to bring? At what point are you willing to respect yourself enough to entertain the idea that someone may actually be interested in conversing with you?
posted by dobbs at 10:59 AM on July 4, 2011 [21 favorites]


What eeeeeez says. Otherwise, my fear sensors turn on just thinking how many neurotic women are floating around.
posted by semmi at 10:59 AM on July 4, 2011


Fact is, had she fancied this guy (had he been (like the best coffee) hotter, richer, or smoother), this wouldn't have been an issue. Even if she hadn't accepted, she'd have felt the warm glow of being desirable.

Collapsing this to "she just didn't fancy him" strikes me as a deliberate level of obtuseness. She had just finished a long conversation about how much it frustrates and angers her, and diminishes her work in the community, to have men consistently, predictably jump to treating her as a sexual prospect when she is trying to engage as a professional/intellectual peer.

And then he waited until she was alone in an elevator with him and propositioned her. He basically supplied the ultimate, punch-line level confirmation of the problem's existence.


I'll also point out that Ms. Watson has made a name for herself not as just any skeptic, but as the "skepCHICK". Her whole schtick isn't "I'm a skeptical person" it's "I'm a skeptic with a uterus."

Man, I hate that too. She says that being treated as a sexual prospect in every interaction is frustrating... BUT she identifies herself as a woman! So, hey! Mixed signals! I mean, anyone who makes being female part of their identity must be openly inviting sexual propositions, right?
posted by verb at 11:00 AM on July 4, 2011 [110 favorites]


[I am very serious, if you are complaining about the site, go to MetaTalk not here. Thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 11:00 AM on July 4, 2011


Have you people never heard of the phrase "honest mistake"?

Possibly. But given the context, it was also a very dumb or deliberately obtuse mistake. As FelliniBlank pointed out, this happened after a long discussion of how Watson, as a female atheist, finds that people's responses to her are often sexualized. And how that makes her uncomfortable.

The guy isn't a sex offender, and in a different context, his words could have been perfectly polite. But it's a little weird to respond to "I'm creeped out by people's sexualized responses" with "so, hey, want to come back to my hotel room?"
posted by evidenceofabsence at 11:01 AM on July 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


The only thing I see that this guy did wrong was ask inside a confined space. That's awkward cornering. If that's the issue, if she felt put upon because she was asked in a spot where she felt she had no escape, then I can see where the basis for this is.

As a man, I don't understand the fear. I have a dim view of how it could be there, but I don't understand it, because there is no common social interaction I deal with regularly that is reasonable in an open situation and yet becomes creepy when faced down in a situation where I can't escape for ten seconds. I don't have that kind of fear, so how could I really understand that?

I see two issues here. One is recognizing the fear. Recognize it as being there and having some level of validity. Being cornered in an elevator by someone who is naturally likely to be stronger and more aggressive than you are who wants something from you just might be a bit unnerving. The other issue is that when a simple proposition like this causes fear, there's a greater social problem at work which hurts women who are trained to fear such situations and men who have no ill intent. Without a culture of fear, without such a social break, it's true. This really just ends up being a guy who's a bit of a cad and doesn't get that he's got bad timing. However, our society is screwed up this way both in perception and action, so we've got genuine fear coming forth in a way one side understands and the other simply does not get because they aren't considering broken societal rules. They're just thinking "Hey. That guy was an idiot but why be afraid of him?"

Ms. Watson wants reasonable courtesy. Trouble is, the screwed up culture we have with regards to dating means even fully reasonable men feel they have to overstep courtesy sometimes because that's how the rules work. To a man, it feels like he's jumping through flaming hoops to figure out how to approach a woman when she isn't approaching him. To a woman, I suspect it feels like plenty of men are doing things right and then this jerk steps over a line and it makes her uncomfortable because it's a much bigger deal to her than it is to him and his lack of understanding that actually makes it worse.

That's what I get out of this, at least. As a guy, my gut reaction really is "What the hell should he have done then? He was a jerk, you refuse him, jerks happen in life, what's next?" and I know it's more than that, it's worse than that. Yet, why it's worse is something we need to address as much as anything else. Why is this culture of fear here, and how can we change that? If we can figure that one out, my personal gut feeling is it would do a lot more for equality in the US than just asking guys to back off a bit.
posted by Saydur at 11:02 AM on July 4, 2011 [11 favorites]


If you ignore the TSA guys, or the police, or your water bill, bad things might happen.

If you ignore the actions of a stranger who's crossing your boundaries, bad things might also happen.
posted by rtha at 11:03 AM on July 4, 2011 [15 favorites]


It is saddening how many of said twerps will suddenly get it when you say "Okay, forget women - imagine it's a man who's taller and stronger than you, and he's hitting on you [persistently/aggressively/inappropriately]."

According to Ms. Watson, he wasn't persistent or aggressive. If he was "inappropriate" it wasn't in his language, it was in making the offer at all.

If I commented here that I was l upset that a big tall gay rugby player hit on me, I strongly suspect that my male heterosexual person would be roundly criticized here for being small-minded and homophobic.

If I further explained that his objectionable hitting on me had consisted in inviting me to his room for coffee, I'd never hear the end of it.
posted by orthogonality at 11:04 AM on July 4, 2011 [21 favorites]


"I'm genuinely curious, MeFites from outside the USA, is this fear that women have of being alone at night because they might be raped really just an American thing?"

That's a really odd question. That fear is central to many human social institutions across many cultures and throughout human history, from an anthropological perspective at least.
posted by fourcheesemac at 11:05 AM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


She had just finished a long conversation about how much it frustrates and angers her, and diminishes her work in the community, to have men consistently, predictably jump to treating her as a sexual prospect when she is trying to engage as a professional/intellectual peer.

And then he waited until she was alone in an elevator with him and propositioned her. He basically supplied the ultimate, punch-line level confirmation of the problem's existence.


She spends a few hours talking about the problem of women in the atheist community being reduced to sexual objects and how she doesn't like that. Then, this guy who had not spoken a word to her, says he finds her "interesting" and wants to know if she will go back to his hotel room with him. He couldn't have found her interesting based on conversation because A. they had none together and B. he clearly didn't know what the discussion was about as evidenced by his actions.

The other issue is that when a simple proposition like this causes fear, there's a greater social problem at work which hurts women who are trained to fear such situations and men who have no ill intent.

Oh no, so the problem is that women are too afraid. I don't think you realize how many other incidents like this go on. She just used this one as an example of the problem she was discussing, and it's a pretty good example actually. It has nothing to do with a culture of fear.
posted by Danila at 11:07 AM on July 4, 2011 [22 favorites]


The only thing I see that this guy did wrong was ask inside a confined space.

Imagine an acquaintance of yours frequently gets asked for loans. Small ones, big ones -- sometimes casually, sometimes by desperate people who are really angry when your friend doesn't supply cash. Imagine that you're at a conference with them, and after hours folks are sitting around drinking and chatting.

"The frustrating thing," he says to you and a couple of other folks, "Is that I can't go anywhere without being treated as a bank on legs. Parties, dinners, work events, whatever. Everything always turns into 'while you're here, we've got a great investment opportunity,' or 'Hey, could you cover drinks for everyone,' or 'Could you float me rent this month.'"

And then you ask him for a loan.
posted by verb at 11:08 AM on July 4, 2011 [110 favorites]


But given the context, it was also a very dumb or deliberately obtuse mistake.

Yup. Of course, there are people who are that socially ignorant. Many of them, in fact, and almost certainly many more such people than there are sexual predators lurking in confined spaces. So the automatic sexualization/predatorization/etc. of the situation bothers me more than a little bit.

Not least because, in the great Venn diagram of our species, profound social ignorance has a large overlap with high intelligence, high (self-declared) rationality and -- dare I say it -- atheism. And (sadly) predictably, it's ended up getting aired in about the least productive manner possible.
posted by ubernostrum at 11:09 AM on July 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


And then you ask him for a loan.

Even better: then you say "Hey, that's really fascinating. You wanna talk about it more over lunch? You're buying!"
posted by KathrynT at 11:10 AM on July 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


And then you ask him for a loan.

And then he says he thought what you said was interesting and wanted to discuss it further.

That's what you meant to write, right verb?
posted by dobbs at 11:10 AM on July 4, 2011 [8 favorites]


If I commented here that I was l upset that a big tall gay rugby player hit on me

Did said big tall gay rugby player just watch you speak on a panel about how you're put off by how regularly you receive sexual emails and other responses from big tall gay rugby players? And was he party to a long, informal discussion of the same topic afterward? And did he hit on you then?

I think if he did, yeah, it'd be a little weird, and you could call him out on it. And should be able to do it without Dawkins getting all kinds of hysterical about women in Islam, or whatever he was on about.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 11:10 AM on July 4, 2011 [6 favorites]




"I'm genuinely curious, MeFites from outside the USA, is this fear that women have of being alone at night because they might be raped really just an American thing?"


Strikes me more as a patriarchy thing. (Or aftermath of patriarchy thing, if you choose to believe that's over and done with - that's a whole other debate.) But after being marginalized for a damn long time, women have been taught that they're victims, and that they're vulnerable. They're taught to defend themselves by running and hiding, and are expected to take the reduced mobility and restrictions as a reasonable price for safety.

Once you create a culture of fear, it's a little bit unreasonable to call women neurotic for being afraid. Even if it does make you want to tear your hair out.
posted by Stagger Lee at 11:11 AM on July 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


If your beliefs and attachment to a community are based on how many jerks are in a certain community you're not going to have anything to believe in after all is said and done.

There are jerks in every community. But some have more jerks than others, and it seems perfectly reasonable to choose to not to be around jerks, because being around them is unpleasant almost by definition.
posted by madcaptenor at 11:11 AM on July 4, 2011


And then you ask him for a loan

Or if they'ed like to join you for a cup of coffee. THE GALL!

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
posted by Max Power at 11:12 AM on July 4, 2011 [10 favorites]


If they had only believed in God in the first place, none of this would have happened.
posted by fourcheesemac at 11:13 AM on July 4, 2011 [16 favorites]


>> And then you ask him for a loan.

And then he says he thought what you said was interesting and wanted to discuss it further. That's what you meant to write, right verb?


I'm confused. Are you writing fan fiction about my comment?
posted by verb at 11:14 AM on July 4, 2011 [33 favorites]


Saydur, have you read this thread? It might help clarify some of what is going on.

So the automatic sexualization/predatorization/etc. of the situation bothers me more than a little bit.

It's 4am, she's just said she's tired and is going to bed, he has never spoken to her before, he asks her back to his hotel room for some "conversation" because she is "interesting". Not sexual?
posted by Danila at 11:14 AM on July 4, 2011 [16 favorites]


Wow... Just wanted to say, as someone normally a fan of Dawkins, and normally not a fan of feminism - I consider Watson in the right here, and Dawkins came off like a complete ass.


blucevalo : Isn't this the "She's asking for it because what she really wants is the warm glow of feeling desirable" argument? Because that's what it sounds like.

Not really, no, it doesn't sound at all like that. It sounds more like "ugly men hitting on hot women counts as harassment". Which whether or not true, every single reply to him so far seems to have skipped right over any sort of, y'know, "response", and into the land of the strawmen. Jus' sayin'.
posted by pla at 11:15 AM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Is his being inappropriate really that big a deal?"

Well, YES, if a stated goal of atheist associations is to increase its proportion of women to men, then it is a very big deal. Behavior that will make women uncomfortable will drive them away.
posted by jfwlucy at 11:16 AM on July 4, 2011 [8 favorites]


It's 4am, she's just said she's tired and is going to bed, he has never spoken to her before, he asks her back to his hotel room for some "conversation" because she is "interesting".

WHO WOULD YOU WANT TO ANSWER THAT PHONE CALL?
posted by fourcheesemac at 11:16 AM on July 4, 2011 [8 favorites]


If you want to argue that verb's analogy isn't analogous, you should argue that, and not just make another similar-looking analogy.
posted by LogicalDash at 11:17 AM on July 4, 2011


Personally, and maybe this is just me being an ass, but my reaction is not to believe her. The guys that I have known who would go to that sort of event would not be "alpha" enough to proposition a woman in an elevator. It just seems too perfect a scenario.
posted by sonic meat machine at 11:17 AM on July 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


That is so utterly and completely bogus. Honestly, when strangers proposition me on the streets or whereever, my "hottie" sensors shut down completely and my fear sensors turn on.

There is a recent paper that might support this:

...an orienting of attention to attractive opposite-sex faces is inhibited as soon as a potential mating partner reciprocates one's romantic feelings.

So this is actually something that happens even when there's no 'fear' element involved. I've heard orthogonality's proposition from a number of sources now, and it just doesn't ring true.
posted by topynate at 11:17 AM on July 4, 2011


Did said big tall gay rugby player just watch you speak on a panel

Yeah, well, the panel was over long before the 4am elevator ride. I'm guessing teh panel closed no later than 10pm -- and likely earlier in the afternoon.

Ah. According to the convention program, the panel ended at 6:30pm. The elevator incident happened at 4am.

So either Rebecca Watson is so obsessively single-minded that she spent the next nine and a half hours reiterating the same point, or more likely, she's a better conversationalist who spoke of many things over a number of drinks after the panel closed.
posted by orthogonality at 11:18 AM on July 4, 2011 [10 favorites]


The division in the thread seems to fall on two sides of the line of whether people thought he was being honest and asking for conversation or being lascivious and asking for sex. I obviously fall into the former category. I'm curious: to those who disagree, what are you basing it on? Is it the gender of the asker and the gender of the askee? Is it the hour? Is it a combination of the two? Is it the confined space? Is it that she'd just talked about being objectified?

If you can accept he was asking for coffee/conversation, all of the other factors are irrelevant when trying to decide if the asker is sexist/misogynist/ignorant. If you can't accept that he was asking for coffee/conversation then yes, there is sexism involved. But it's not on the part of the asker.

Are you writing fan fiction about my comment?

No, I'm pointing out that your biases have affected your characterization of what Rebecca says happened.
posted by dobbs at 11:19 AM on July 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


verb: To be fair, I don't think it was quite that obvious: I think maybe her talk would have to have been about how much she hates getting hit on by guys, or how uncomfortable that kind of situation can make her feel. I think a reasonable person could watch that talk and not realize this is someone you can't hit on clumsily. I wouldn't do what this guy did, but I guess I wouldn't rule a woman out simply because she spoke to me about feminism and the experiences she's had with sexism either.
posted by floam at 11:21 AM on July 4, 2011


Max Power: "Or if they'ed like to join you for a cup of coffee. THE GALL!"

"Euphemism" is just a good scrabble score for you, isn't it? If you are in a conference setting and you want to discuss a presentation with a presenter, you go to the cafe, restaurant or bar (these are places in hotels where coffee is served). You do not retire to your hotel room. The coffee served in a hotel room comes from a tiny carafe of unknown providence on a tiny burner made with bathroom water. Depending on the room, there may not even be a table or two chairs -- coming back to a room that is maybe designed just as a bedroom is not an awesome place to expand on a presenter's dialog.
posted by boo_radley at 11:22 AM on July 4, 2011 [32 favorites]


There's a guy on that thread who claims that if he finds himself walking behind a woman he will switch to the other side of the road so she doesn't think he's following her.

I do this. Maybe I'm the guy in the thread. For the cost of a few extra footsteps, I manage not to terrify someone. I feel like maybe I could save those footfalls, but at the cost of possibly frightening somebody for no reason. I also get scared when I am alone at night -- I've been assaulted and held up. And I can spare the few extra steps.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:22 AM on July 4, 2011 [14 favorites]


Dobbs, the factors you mention are ALL relevant.

Do you not accept that "Give me your wallet" might have some VERY different meanings in different contexts/relationships/places/times? And that the wallet owner might not have VERY different feelings depending on these "irrelevant" factors?
posted by jfwlucy at 11:22 AM on July 4, 2011


I think anyone who asks you to join them in private at 4am is looking for sex, not conversation.

That said, asking you in for coffee is culturally accepted euphemism for sex.

Yeah, I think he was asking for sex. No, I don't think doing that politely, employing an standard and understood euphemism. is bad or aggressive.
posted by orthogonality at 11:23 AM on July 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


The guys that I have known who would go to that sort of event would not be "alpha" enough to proposition a woman in an elevator.

Nah. You don't have to be Mystery to make an ass of yourself.

But it helps!
posted by topynate at 11:25 AM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


It just seems too perfect a scenario

If it's a perfect scenario then how come so many people don't even understand what the problem could be?

The division in the thread seems to fall on two sides of the line of whether people thought he was being honest and asking for conversation or being lascivious and asking for sex.


Well, then there is orthogonality's heavily favored argument: it was sexual and she'd have no problem with it if he was good-looking or rich.

I'm curious: to those who disagree, what are you basing it on? Is it the gender of the asker and the gender of the askee? Is it the hour? Is it a combination of the two? Is it the confined space? Is it that she'd just talked about being objectified?


Actually, number 1 for me is that they had never spoken before. Who asks someone they have never interacted with to go back to their hotel room for coffee? And yes, at 4 in the morning?
posted by Danila at 11:25 AM on July 4, 2011 [11 favorites]


Part of what seems to be ignored here is that what she actually calls this unnamed participant out for is not getting what she had been talking about at the conference and of sexually objectifying her. She did not say she was afraid of being raped or anything else of the sort.

This guy, having heard her announce that she was "done", "exhausted" and "going to bed" followed her onto an elevator to proposition her to a one night stand. I mean seriously, get real about this one: a man follows a woman onto an elevator after hours at a bar and asks her to come to his hotel room for coffee. This is not just an obvious proposition to a one night stand, it is a fucking canonical proposition to a one night stand. Delivered to a stranger who has expressed no interest in any kind of interaction with you at all but who has expressed an unambiguous intention to retire it is the very definition of objectification (if he had been making any attempt to relate to her as an individual he could not possibly have come to the conclusion that a proposition would be welcome: his motivation was his own reaction to her as a perceived sexual object). As such I think the charge of "not getting it" sticks just fine.

Beyond that, I see that old classic "yeah but if a gay guy hit on me" has made the field, I'm just gonna mark my card here and... Yep, that's BINGO! I'll just pick up my ham and get onto celebrating my independence, I think. You heathens try to get along now!
posted by nanojath at 11:26 AM on July 4, 2011 [48 favorites]


As a woman who has been alone in a foreign country at odd hours of the evening, I can understand Watson's position. Your guard is already up in that situation, and whether that's justified or a result of a culture of fear or paranoia or whatever that's how it is. You are especially cautious. And in a perfect world men, especially men from the same culture, would recognize that caution, would recognize that we've been ingrained with some amount of (necessary or unnecessary, grounded or ungrounded) fear from childhood and would respect that enough not to proposition a woman in a foreign country at 4 AM. No, he's not a monster or anything, but his actions show either a lack of understanding or a lack of respect for the position of a woman alone in unfamiliar territory in the middle of the night.
posted by rabbitbookworm at 11:26 AM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Richard Dawkins ≈ Benedict XVI
posted by Sys Rq at 11:26 AM on July 4, 2011


There is a recent paper that might support this:

This one too: "male proposers were perceived (by women) as more dangerous and less likely to provide them sexual satisfaction than women were perceived (by men)."
posted by floam at 11:26 AM on July 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


Saydur, have you read this thread? It might help clarify some of what is going on.
Danila, I have. That's just it.

I can hear what you say. I do not live it. I do not experience it. So what I am saying here is I am not actively going through it, and it does not connect with me the same way.

I'm saying this culture of fear has reasons that it exists and I don't mean to just imply that "women are too afraid". It's that there's a deeper lack of understanding that goes beyond "Don't do this" and into "This social imbalance exists. Because this imbalance exists, X is more bad for a woman than it is for a man. This is why we inform you that X is bad." for X being a creepy behavior a man engages in that impacts a woman more than a man.

If you tell me X is bad, I can hear you say it. I can see why you say it. It's just that until I look at it through the lens of "This is what makes X bad", it doesn't click quite the same way. I'm not saying it's even your responsibility to portray it that way. I'm just saying that is what I believe would be more effective.

Being creepy is more problematic than it looks because of the implications of being creepy. I think that's what I'm grasping for. It's those implications that make it go from an irritation to a rational fear, and without seeing those implications, it's easy to blow this off as an irritation.

I recall saying something about that thread before. I realized things I did not know and I realized things that I was unaware that I did not know. It's that latter part which is the issue that I see. Pardon me if I come off badly there, it's that being unaware is not as bad as being unaware of being unaware, if that sounds right.
posted by Saydur at 11:27 AM on July 4, 2011


Not really, no, it doesn't sound at all like that.

Uh, yeah, it does. Maybe not to you. There are tons of reasons why that argument is fallacious, and some of those have been made in this thread. You're skipping over them and dismissing them as straw men.
posted by blucevalo at 11:29 AM on July 4, 2011


"OK, the setting made it seem creepy, but it doesn't seem like he tried to push it after he was turned down, so what's the problem?"

That it was creepy.

And as far as I can tell, she didn't name and shame the person who solicited her in the elevator, but rather talked about the behavior and why the context made it not OK for her.

That's a totally fine thing to talk about, and something that a normal guy would respond to with, "Oh, sorry. Didn't mean to come across that way." Instead, there are a whole bunch of assholes trying to assert their right to be creepy so long as, what, they're pursuing their selfish genes? It removes her agency and ability to draw her own boundaries, even if you disagree with them, and asserts this default norm of the guy's feelings being the only important thing in the equation.

It's not a huge deal, but rather a small thing that's worth discussion.

I mean, think about dudes yelling, "Hey baby, sure love to fuck your sweet cunt!" on the street at a strange woman — even if they don't try to push it when they get turned down, it's still a problem. (Obviously, that's a bit of hyperbole for illustrative purposes, but it's more a difference in degree than kind.)

"I'll also point out that Ms. Watson has made a name for herself not as just any skeptic, but as the "skepCHICK". Her whole schtick isn't "I'm a skeptical person" it's "I'm a skeptic with a uterus.""

And since we all know that uteruses are public property, it makes sense to not treat her like a human being, but as a transport system for a womb you'd like to be in.
posted by klangklangston at 11:30 AM on July 4, 2011 [30 favorites]


To answer the question about personal safety in the US and Being a Woman Alone, let me tell you that I am known for being totes craaaaaazy to do things like ride my bike on my own through the city at night. Or classmates who found my desire to walk the mile home alone distressing.

I go about my life and do the things I want to do, but let me tell you there is not once place I've lived where my family (and sometimes friends) didn't ask questions about my safety.

But here's the thing, when someone else expresses the sentiment that they wouldn't feel safe/comfortable doing the same things, I don't dismiss their discomfort. And I don't tell them to suck it up and do those things anyway as that would be a total dick move.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 11:30 AM on July 4, 2011 [9 favorites]


> Also, I don't know if y'all are familiar with conferences, but it's a pretty standard view that one of their main reasons for existing is that they give awkward people with highly-specific interests (e.g. academics) a way to drunkenly hook up without too many consequences.
I've been to about eight academic conferences (computational biology and genetics) and never cottoned to any such opportunity. Maybe I'm just not attractive or perceptive enough, or we're too nerdy a group, or the male/female ratio is skewed against me. But I'm dubious of this view. Sounds like a fantasy arising out of comedies like Small World.
posted by Estragon at 11:32 AM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here is what happened and continues to happen everywhere right before your eyes right now.

Programmers/Comic-con/SyFy Fans/Atheists: "Oh, we need to work to make our panels and conferences more women friendly."

Woman: "Well, here is X, an example of the type of behavior seen at these conferences that makes me and many other women very uncomfortable."

Programmers/Comic-con/SyFy Fans/Atheists: "Oh, you're just being too sensitive, sit down and shut up and you shouldn't overreact to something trivial like that. Stupid broad."
posted by jfwlucy at 11:32 AM on July 4, 2011 [108 favorites]


sure is a lot of "no u" in this thread
posted by LogicalDash at 11:32 AM on July 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


Actually, number 1 for me is that they had never spoken before. Who asks someone they have never interacted with to go back to their hotel room for coffee? And yes, at 4 in the morning?

I've actually been at a lot of conventions where this kind of late night conversation stuff is part of the mix. If you want to keep talking with someone, you say, "Hey! Stay!" If you want to talk to someone about something, you ask them a question. If you think they were interesting, you say so and maybe you strike up a conversation. If you're in the middle of a fascinating conversation with someone and the bar is closing, or there is no good place to continue hanging out, you might say, "We could keep talking back at my place if you'd like," or somesuch. That runs the risk of being perceived as flirty or propositiony, but if there's already a good rolling conversation it's generally understood in the spirit it was meant.

But without an existing familiarity, without an existing conversation, asking someone back to your hotel room at a conference at the very least merits a disclaimer: "I'd just like to chat with you about this!" or somesuch.


No, I'm pointing out that your biases have affected your characterization of what Rebecca says happened.

My bias is the belief that if you introduce yourself to a member of the opposite sex, compliment them, and ask them back to your hotel room at 4am to start a conversation, you are almost certainly hitting on them. Perhaps you'd be happier if the 'asking a friend for a loan' example were subtler: after the long conversation, let's imagine you said to your friend, "Yeah, you're really interesting and smart. Can I talk to you about the new business I'm trying to get funding for?"

You might not have meant to sound like someone pitching for a loan, but that would be a problem of profound dense-ness on your part, not touchiness on the friend's part.
posted by verb at 11:34 AM on July 4, 2011 [7 favorites]


So, all those who suggest there was no sexual intent here, or there was and that's okay, or it was an honest mistake and not indicative of systemic anything:

When you explicitly describe one of your boundaries to someone, and they immediately violate that boundary in some trivial manner--perhaps they think it's funny, I don't know--how do you react?
posted by LogicalDash at 11:38 AM on July 4, 2011 [7 favorites]


When you explicitly describe one of your boundaries to someone, and they immediately violate that boundary in some trivial manner--perhaps they think it's funny

He probably thought that her complaining about other dudes meant that he wasn't like all those other dudes. He probably thought this because he was an idiot.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:40 AM on July 4, 2011 [15 favorites]


orthogonality, orthogonality - Where to begin ... :)

You know, if my life experience had been different I would rail upon you mercilessly for what I would be calling your lick of insight and/or sensitivity. I am pretty sure that you will be railed on mercilessly from most female Mefites reading your comments. I am so tempted to do so myself but I understand that you don't get it. I also understand that you honestly don't get that you don't get it. I didn't get it either - at one time. All I can offer you is my own life experience that I hope that you will think about.

As I have said before, I changed sex some 25 years ago. Prior to that time I lived as a guy for over 25 years. During that time I never once, not one single time in that entire period of my life, was ever even remotely afraid of being raped because I was out alone at night. Not once. Quite probably you never have yourself been afraid of such things. Within 6 years of having first transitioned, I had been the victim of two rape attempts and had my pocket book stolen twice , once at gunpoint (btw - fuck you, Los Angeles ) and always, I mean always was ever after conscious of where I was at night and who was around me and what I could use for defense ( the car key trick became second nature) . I was kind of a hottie in my 20's so I got a real edication.

Had I not had the above experience I probably would have never, ever understood why someone making a pass to a woman alone in an elevator at 4 am in the morning would be considered a threat. After two rape attempts starting with "nice passes" , I assure you that I understand fully as likely every other woman on the planet does.

I get that you don't get it. I only ask that you think about it some more. Prior to my transition I never would have understood the concern and annoyance and possibly fear in such a situation. Frankly prior to my transition, I thought the "glass ceiling" was a bunch of nonsense. I understand a lot better than that at this point in my life. orthogonality, when most of the woman here and elsewhere are telling you the same thing about such an experience, I ask that maybe you should consider that your current life experience makes you not the best judge of all the realities that are occurring.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 11:41 AM on July 4, 2011 [147 favorites]


that's lack ... not lick. :(
posted by Poet_Lariat at 11:42 AM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Personally, and maybe this is just me being an ass

Yep.
posted by kmz at 11:43 AM on July 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


The elevator guy is clueless. Can you imagine a more awkward place to ask someone to coffee?

"Coffee?"
"No."
...
...
"How long till we get to the 28th floor?"

And if he was part of the conference, he really should've been able to predict her reaction. I say again, he's clueless.

But I don't get a lot more out of it than that. He's not an ambassador for all heterosexual males, and she's not a stand in for all of womankind. This is two specific people having one specific bad moment together.
posted by gonna get a dog at 11:46 AM on July 4, 2011 [12 favorites]


He asked her to his hotel room, except for the most specific of innocuous circumstances, that is asking for sex. I still don't get what the big deal is though... Ya, I'm sure Bill Gates gets asked for money all the time. I'm supposed to have sympathy for him over that? Hell, maybe I'll even give it the slightest bit of sympathy -- "that driver turned right in front of you, and he didn't even signal, what an ass hole" -- but this is ridiculous.
posted by Chuckles at 11:46 AM on July 4, 2011


I don't get the rationale behind Dawkins's comment that it's only 'creepy' behaviour in her eyes, not his, and therefore it's not objectively inappropriate behaviour at all.

Dan Savage describes the difference between an advance being creepy vs not is often purely whether the women is into the guy - the exact same advance in the exact same conditions can be either creepy or awesome, depending on what is in the head of the recipient. From that perspective (which is not pulled out someone's ass, it can be backed up), it's difficult to maintain that all "creepy" approaches are objectively inappropriate.

Evidence demonstrably shows that in cases like this, a guy's choices and actions don't have a lot of impact over whether his advance is perceived as creepy. Given that, it's questionable whether to assign blame to him.

The only thing that is objectively not creepy is to not make any advances ever. Except that being a 40 year old virgin is kind of creepy :)
posted by anonymisc at 11:47 AM on July 4, 2011 [8 favorites]


Ya, I'm sure Bill Gates gets asked for money all the time. I'm supposed to have sympathy for him over that?

So. Women have as much pussy to give as Bill Gates has money. Is that right?
posted by LogicalDash at 11:47 AM on July 4, 2011 [17 favorites]


orthogonality : I think anyone who asks you to join them in private at 4am is looking for sex, not conversation. That said, asking you in for coffee is culturally accepted euphemism for sex.

Wait... You mean, every time a woman has asked me in for coffee after hanging out until 4am, she actually wanted... And I excused myself saying I can't have caffeine that late, when I could have...

Damn! :(



blucevalo : Uh, yeah, it does. Maybe not to you.

LOL, literally. So my opinion on this one doesn't count because I don't tend to see slings and arrows hidden in every turn of phrase? Beautiful.



Catseye : I don't get the rationale behind Dawkins's comment that it's only 'creepy' behaviour in her eyes, not his, and therefore it's not objectively inappropriate behaviour at all.

Then you don't understand the word "objectively". If two people can look at the same situation and come to different conclusions, that pretty much defines it as "subjective" rather than objective.
posted by pla at 11:50 AM on July 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Evidence demonstrably shows that in cases like this, a guy's choices and actions don't have a lot of impact over whether his advance is perceived as creepy.

In a lift, 4 in the morning, apropos of nothing... I'm sure this guy felt that he had a good chance of success, but he was dead wrong. Being blind to your choices doesn't mean you don't have choices.
posted by topynate at 11:50 AM on July 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Evidence demonstrably shows that in cases like this, a guy's choices and actions don't have a lot of impact over whether his advance is perceived as creepy.

Well argument over I suppose because Evidence demonstrably shows.
Seriously ????

You know what would have not been creepy? If that man had made his private pass at during the six hours at the bar where there were a bunch of people around . Doing it in an elevator at 4 am where the woman is very much alone is, imho, demonstrably creepy
posted by Poet_Lariat at 11:52 AM on July 4, 2011 [14 favorites]


Dan Savage describes the difference between an advance being creepy vs not is often purely whether the women is into the guy

Dan Savage is not an authority on women's feelings.
posted by kmz at 11:52 AM on July 4, 2011 [65 favorites]


But because this guy was too nervous, too inept, too fat, too geeky, whatever, his polite pick-up line becomes some sort of misogynistic oppression.

Women are wired up to be risk averse. They prefer zero pickups per day, over suffering through multiple bad (including dangerous) pickup events, on the off chance of meeting an attractive male.

Men are different. We're fine with encountering several unattractive people before a nice hot one to get in bed with.

There is no hyperfeminism going on here. Pure statistics of social interaction.
posted by polymodus at 11:53 AM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Evidence demonstrably shows that in cases like this,

What evidence would that be, please?
posted by rtha at 11:55 AM on July 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


If two people can look at the same situation and come to different conclusions, that pretty much defines it as "subjective" rather than objective.

Seriously, that is your definition of subjectivity?
posted by nanojath at 11:55 AM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


So. Women have as much pussy to give as Bill Gates has money. Is that right?

There's a Foxy Brown lyric in there somewhere.
posted by Bookhouse at 11:57 AM on July 4, 2011 [8 favorites]


So. Women have as much pussy to give as Bill Gates has money. Is that right?

To be fair, the "asking a friend for a loan" bit was the formulation I offered. The problem isn't the act of asking someone for a loan, or the act of propositioning someone in and of itself.

The problem is the long-term dehumanizing effect of someone consistently being treated as 'potential source of sex/money/fame/etc.' when they are in fact real people who want to engage with other real people as fellow human beings.

Also, it's important to remember that wealth is pretty synonymous with power in our culture. Being a female is not. Bill Gates, to use the poster's tiny-little-violin example, has billions of dollars. A woman? All she needs to get that kind of treatment is a vagina. It's not like the dehumanizing treatment is one annoying the downside of some massive social advantage.
posted by verb at 11:57 AM on July 4, 2011 [8 favorites]


Honest question: can someone please give me clear instructions on when, where, and how it is acceptable for a man to express romantic interest in a woman? It's really hard to know sometimes.
posted by ixohoxi at 12:00 PM on July 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


Do you not accept that "Give me your wallet" might have some VERY different meanings in different contexts/relationships/places/times? And that the wallet owner might not have VERY different feelings depending on these "irrelevant" factors?

Of course I do. Unfortunately in this story, the facts that are supplied are scant. Some MeFites see them one way and some another. She's given no indication that the guy was lascivious or threatening. I have to assume this means he wasn't and that for her "coffee/conversation at 4am" can only mean he's hitting on her.

I have been in many situations where people are at a bar/party and talking with a group and I lose interest and make an excuse and leave. I've been followed by people and asked to continue the conversation and have done so gladly if it's someone who I thought was interesting. I've also been the follower/asker. In fact, the scenario is so bloody common I cannot believe that everyone hasn't done it.

Plenty in this thread are saying he "completely ignored the topics of her talk" when in fact, the complete opposite could have been the case: he heard her decry sexism and agreed and treated her as he would a male colleague. Rather than be given the benefit of the doubt, he's vilified. Again, I don't think Rebecca would have done this if the asker was female even if all the other factors were the same. As a result, I think it is she who behaved sexist in this scenario.

After opening a door and walking through it I often hold it open for the person behind. I don't check their gender first. If you expect me to consider their gender as a factor to whether or not I hold the door open, you're being sexist.

Perhaps you'd be happier if the 'asking a friend for a loan' example were subtler

Subtlety is not the issue. It's that you made the guy in the elevator ask her for sex even though it's not clear that's what he was doing. You're within your right to do that but don't assume everyone agrees with you.

Let me be clear: had he said to her in the elevator that he thought she was hot or something like, "I couldn't help noticing you and I think you were watching me, too", I'd have no problem with Rebecca's complaints. Any of them.

However, by her own account, he didn't. I'm not saying he wasn't socially competent. I'm not saying he was adept at determining her mood or the situation. I'm just saying he wasn't objectifying her or exhibiting sexist or misogynistic behaviour.

And to assume that he must be asking her for sex because he's a man and she's a woman is sexist. To expect him to take their genders and sexual orientations into consideration before asking her to converse is sexist.
posted by dobbs at 12:02 PM on July 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Honest question: can someone please give me clear instructions on when, where, and how it is acceptable for a man to express romantic interest in a woman? It's really hard to know sometimes.

Wear a T-shirt that says "I am available for sex" but avoid interaction or eye contact with anyone
posted by gonna get a dog at 12:03 PM on July 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


ixohoxi : It's NOT at 4 am in an otherwise unoccupied elevator. The ability to figure out the rather obvious answer to your presumably non-rhetorical question is likely a modern evolutionary advantage.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 12:03 PM on July 4, 2011 [9 favorites]


Let's just be glad she wasn't on an elevator with Eddie Murphy and his dog.
posted by ShutterBun at 12:05 PM on July 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Honest question: can someone please give me clear instructions on when, where, and how it is acceptable for a man to express romantic interest in a woman? It's really hard to know sometimes.

When she's made eye contact, touched your arm, played with her hair, and given you her phone number. Or something similar.

It's not like women give no cues at all. If you haven't gotten any signal of interest, you run a real risk of seemng creeepy.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:05 PM on July 4, 2011 [11 favorites]


Honest question: can someone please give me clear instructions on when, where, and how it is acceptable for a man to express romantic interest in a woman? It's really hard to know sometimes.

As usual, John Lennon sung it first: A forty year old virgin is something to be.
I'm very tempted to take a serious crack at this one :)
posted by Chuckles at 12:06 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Doing it in an elevator at 4 am where the woman is very much alone is, imho, demonstrably creepy

To a guy, an elevator encounter is hot, at any hour. To nearly all women, a direct sexual proposition is a turn-off. (hope this helps, ixohoxi)

Maybe this is cultural, maybe it's genetic. But the problem, as this sorry affair shows, is that men and women's mental models of each other are woefully inadequate. So much for respecting the Other.
posted by polymodus at 12:06 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


If I misjudge those cues, does it necessarily follow that I'm a raging misogynist?
posted by ixohoxi at 12:06 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


LET THE BATTLE BEGIN!

Seriously, perfect storm. Holy cow.

I say dude should have known not to ask. And probably could have been a little more coy about it. Do this: "Y'know, I'm really sorry to make what may be and what potentially is on my part a comment that sexualizes you, and that I may be a jerk for doing so, but would you like to continue this conversation in my room over coffee?" Who invites people for coffee?!?!?! I am offended and outraged by the tackiness of it.

If it were me in that situation, and I were interested, I would have put on my most non-creepy face and let her know that I get it might offend her, and leave her space to tell me it does. I really and truly believe that is one of the dividing lines between creepy and not creepy. For dorks who are steeped in this theory all their lives and primed from a night of boozy atheistic proselytizing, it doesn't seem like that would be a hard leap to make. Ideally he wouldn't have asked, given what she was JUST TALKING ABOUT, but an invitation for coffee? Talk about lazy. I think some tact would go a long way toward making an invitation in those far from ideal conditions more palatable.
posted by saysthis at 12:08 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


dobbs you keep saying "continue the conversation" but they were not in a conversation. He was a stranger to her. If you're going to assume he was involved in the conversation and she just didn't realize it, then what about her leaving the discussion by saying she was tired and going to bed? How is that conducive to chatting with him alone in his hotel room? If he was paying attention then he clearly didn't really respect her boundaries or what she said about being tired.
posted by Danila at 12:08 PM on July 4, 2011 [7 favorites]


If I misjudge those cues, does it necessarily follow that I'm a raging misogynist?

Has anybody called the original guy a raging misogynist?

Those getting entirely bent out of shape trying to defend him, on the other hand...
posted by kmz at 12:08 PM on July 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


If I misjudge those cues, does it necessarily follow that I'm a raging misogynist?

From what I can tell, the ones who misjudge cues are creeps. The raging misogynists are the ones who defend said creeps as being better than Hitler.
posted by Chuckles at 12:09 PM on July 4, 2011 [10 favorites]


If I misjudge those cues, does it necessarily follow that I'm a raging misogynist?


No. I missed the part in this thread, and in the original post, where somebody made the case that you are.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:09 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


If I misjudge those cues, does it necessarily follow that I'm a raging misogynist?

You could just be a wishful thinker! Which would be sort of ironic in this particular case, I suppose.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 12:09 PM on July 4, 2011


Ixohoxi, the quick answer is no. No one said this guy was a mysogynist, just completely unaware of social clues/conventions, possibly.
posted by annsunny at 12:10 PM on July 4, 2011



To nearly all women, a direct sexual proposition is a turn-off.


Particularly from a stranger. Some evidence.
posted by Danila at 12:10 PM on July 4, 2011 [9 favorites]


There's this social strategy called "feelers" where you say something mildly provocative in order to see what reaction it gets. You can make feelers out of any subject matter; in this context, I suppose complementing her presentation would have been appropriate.

If the response is unenthusiastic, she's not into you. On any level. Not even casual conversation.

If it is enthusiastic, then you have the opportunity to Level Up. It's usually best to maintain the current degree of enthusiasm for a while and then put out another feeler.

I know how to describe these things because, being on the autistic spectrum, I need instructions like this for ordinary non-sexual interaction. I guess hot girls must have Aura of Induce Autism or something.
posted by LogicalDash at 12:11 PM on July 4, 2011 [30 favorites]


Of course I do. Unfortunately in this story, the facts that are supplied are scant. Some MeFites see them one way and some another. She's given no indication that the guy was lascivious or threatening. I have to assume this means he wasn't and that for her "coffee/conversation at 4am" can only mean he's hitting on her.

FACTS? What the hell are you talking about here? This isn't a court case. There is no impartial judge sitting up on the bench. The whole point is that she IS giving her subjective option on how this event made her feel. Jeez.

And obviously she DID GIVE THE INDICATION that she felt threatened, by, oh, devoting some portion of her FRICKING SPEECH ON THE EVENT THE VERY NEXT DAY!

Ridiculous.

Women: Hey, this makes me feel uncomfortable!

Men: No, it doesn't!! You're wrong and you're too sensitive. Dumb girl.
posted by jfwlucy at 12:11 PM on July 4, 2011 [16 favorites]


He still did something that the majority of women would be uncomfortable with.
posted by annsunny at 12:11 PM on July 4, 2011 [7 favorites]


So, you men in this thread, do you all go around making sexual propositions to women you just met? Who you have not spoken with earlier? That's normal behavior in your eyes?


I didn't think so. So maybe y'all could take this woman's word for it that she found it inappropriate?
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:11 PM on July 4, 2011 [16 favorites]


Just flag it. We shouldn't be dragging in users outside lives in this thread, especially not to mock them.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:11 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


To make it clear, what upsets me way more than the clueless proposition by the elevator man is the continuing problem of men not taking what a woman says seriously. And trust me, it is a problem. A big honking ugly problem.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:13 PM on July 4, 2011 [52 favorites]


I am puzzled that we have a population problem... How does a misanthrope get laid these days?
posted by fistynuts at 12:13 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


To make it clear, what upsets me way more than the clueless proposition by the elevator man is the continuing problem of men not taking what a woman says seriously.

That is the problem in a nutshell.
posted by Danila at 12:15 PM on July 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


The Publix supermarket chain is pretty well known for being making a point of hiring people that might be perceived as having handicaps (most often mental handicaps - it's a physical business, moving groceries). I think that's cool of them.

A few months back, I was walking briskly down the paper products aisle when a stock boy stepped into my path. He was easily six feet six, with a barrel chest and arms that, while adequate for stocking groceries, might have been put to better use lifting cars. He had a semi-angry expression on his face, and his features suggested mild retardation.

There was no one else on the aisle (it was just before closing time), and I felt pretty intimidated as the young man stepped into my 'personal space', craning his head downward to look at me.

"Do you play Yu-Gi-Oh?" he asked loudly.

I damn near pissed myself. "No."

He went back to putting paper towels on the shelves. "You should," he said. "It's cool."

I understand feeling threatened; what I don't understand is the drama.
posted by Mooski at 12:16 PM on July 4, 2011 [9 favorites]


> Honest question: can someone please give me clear instructions on when, where, and how it is acceptable for a man to express romantic interest in a woman? It's really hard to know sometimes.

PZ Myers actually posted some advice about this in response to this brouhaha: The Decent Human Beings' Guide to Getting Laid at Atheist Conferences.
posted by nangar at 12:17 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


nanojath : Seriously, that is your definition of subjectivity?

[suhb-jek-tiv] – adjective
1. existing in the mind; belonging to the thinking subject rather than to the object of thought (opposed to objective).
2. pertaining to or characteristic of an individual; personal; individual: a subjective evaluation.
3. placing excessive emphasis on one's own moods, attitudes, opinions, etc.; unduly egocentric.

With which definition would you like to disagree?
posted by pla at 12:17 PM on July 4, 2011



When she's made eye contact, touched your arm, played with her hair, and given you her phone number. Or something similar.


you must be very good looking, Astro Zombie
posted by fistynuts at 12:17 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


If the unnamed asker was sexually propositioning Watson, his timing was very bad and Watson merely used the anecdote to ward off future such sexual propositions. She says (paraphrasing), "Don’t do this when I just explained at length how I hate when this happens."

If the unnamed asker was not sexually propositioning Watson, Watson distorts his intention, uses the anecdote in the way I’ve already mentioned, and he is a hapless but relatively unharmed (because unnamed) actant.

There is at least one other possibility regarding the asker’s motives worth mentioning: he was not aware he was sexually propositioning Watson but was at least unconsciously doing so.

Considering the late hour, the (presumably) heady conversation, the charismatic personae, the inherent undecidability of human intention, the slippage of the signifier, the use of alcohol, and the butterfly flapping its wings, I think everyone involved comes out looking pretty awful. This includes all of you.

I, on the other hand, come out looking great. Everyone I’ve ever asked out wanted me to ask them out, and I’ve only ever been approached by people whom I wanted to approach me.

The previous three sentences may be contain irony.
posted by mistersquid at 12:17 PM on July 4, 2011 [8 favorites]


The irony, of course, is that if she had gone back to his hotel room, and he had tried to have sex with her, most men would have said that she was being "deliberately obtuse" for not understanding that the invitation was a proposition.

That's the nature of the double-standard that women suffer under in our culture. If they don't assume that everything is sexualized, and they accidentally encourage attention? They were asking for it, or they were teases, or they should have known. If they do assume that "please come back to my hotel room at 4am with me" is a proposition, well -- that's just being uncharitable!
posted by verb at 12:19 PM on July 4, 2011 [91 favorites]


fistynuts : "When she's made eye contact, touched your arm, played with her hair, and given you her phone number. Or something similar."
you must be very good looking, Astro Zombie


I would also point out that the guy central to this discussion did less than that and we've framed it as just three hairs shy of sexual assault.
posted by pla at 12:19 PM on July 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


I think the guy was hitting on her. Or else he's so clueless he's unaware how "come back to my hotel room for coffee" sounds in that context.

If he was hitting on her, it is a problem. Because women aren't ice cream trucks of sex, as soon as you hear the bell, just run up and ask if they'll serve you. If they don't want it, they can just say no, and what's the problem?

That's the problem. There are good times to express romantic or sexual interest in a woman, especially if she has given you reason to believe such an expression would be welcomed. But if you think "good time" equals "anytime," you're contributing to an environment in which women feel like they're seen by men as a walking vagina.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:20 PM on July 4, 2011 [34 favorites]


I would also point out that the guy central to this discussion did less than that and we've framed it as just three hairs shy of sexual assault.

No, "we" haven't. "We" have framed it as someone demonstrating the problem of constant, ceaseless sexualization of women in personal, public, and professional contexts. That is in some ways related to sexual assault, but it's different -- very different. Equating the two is like saying that an oxygen-rich room is a fire.
posted by verb at 12:21 PM on July 4, 2011 [19 favorites]


you must be very good looking, Astro Zombie

If you're an adult man and you haven't experienced one or all of these cues, it may be time to reexamine how you interact with the world.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:22 PM on July 4, 2011 [16 favorites]


I'm sensing a bit of deja vu over this conversation.

1) Woman engages in a conversation about certain forms of behavior at a certain type of convention.
2) Woman uses an anonymous anecdote about a conference experience as a mild form of evidence.
3) Woman is attacked for blowing things out of proportion.
4) Woman is defended for calling out sexist behavior.
5) Both sides dig in their heels.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:25 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Honest question: can someone please give me clear instructions on when, where, and how it is acceptable for a man to express romantic interest in a woman? It's really hard to know sometimes.

I'm not a man, but I've expressed romantic interest in plenty of women in my life. That I'm also a woman does play a role in how threatening/not threatening this can seem.

But here's a story that conference-related: I was once at a conference and heard a panel talk that was pretty great. I found one of the women on the panel particularly attractive, both physically and in terms of what she talked about. At the lunch break, I saw her standing in the hotel lobby (which was swarming with people). She was paging through the conference guide. I went up to her and said "Hi, I'm [name], and I work for [magazine]. I really liked what you said at the panel earlier. Do you think that [some point about what she'd said]?" We talked for a bit. There was flirting. Then later there was coffee in the hotel coffee shop, then drinks at the bar (in both cases, there were people around and we were often part of shifting groups of them). By the next day, at the end of the conference, she had me pinned up against a wall in the hotel lobby, and I decided to take a later flight home. The end.
posted by rtha at 12:26 PM on July 4, 2011 [26 favorites]


I was standing at the cashier at a regular supermarket in a smallish city in a Mediterranean country. I drop something and stoop down to pick it up. The short, paunchy man in his 50s behind me does this leery chuckle. I look backwards with an inquiring glance. He smiles and chuckles again and then pats me on the shoulder.

My normally extroverted, male friend who was with me stops talking. The lady cashier has nothing to say and seems to fixate on handling my groceries and receipts. I wasn't creeped out per se, just confused and unsure how to respond. Was there a threat of violence? No. But I just wanted to get out of there a.s.a.p.

If American women are subjected to this stuff (even without the contact part), I totally sympathize.
posted by polymodus at 12:26 PM on July 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm genuinely curious, MeFites from outside the USA, is this fear that women have of being alone at night because they might be raped really just an American thing? I have heard people from European countries like Norway being astounded at how American women have to live in fear like this.

I'll bring in Japan.

As an American woman in Japan, I constantly feared being attacked by men at night and during the day in crowds. That's because of my own experiences and those of my Japanese, Western and Asian friends.

When I returned to the US from living in Japan, I felt a very distinct sense of relief for months: I did not have to worry about crowds, or about professors and businessmen hiding along the street behind bushes or in toilet stalls in buildings at my college or in other public places.

Compared to Japan, American cities and suburbs feel safe to me. I've never been attacked in the US and I don't personally know any woman who has-- of course I know that women are attacked from my volunteer work, but I do not feel the same sense of fear from strangers that women both foreign and Japanese live with in Japan.
posted by vincele at 12:26 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


*Deletes original post, heads off to reexamine how to interact with the world.*
posted by The Hamms Bear at 12:27 PM on July 4, 2011


The end

Except for the inevitable fan fiction.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:29 PM on July 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


It was a while before I caught on to the deal of asking to visit someone in their apartment or room late at night as being anything other than wanting to talk to someone at length in a more comfortable setting, until my early twenties: "This is the third time a woman has asked to come in late at night and she has started kissing on me. What's up with that?" And then realizing that I had inadvertently spurned someone or had made a come-on when I just wanted to talk.

A lot of this stuff really does come by experience and osmosis. It's a little unfortunate.
posted by adipocere at 12:30 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ditto on Japan to Vincele on the chikans, gropers, flashers, cat-callers, etc.
posted by jfwlucy at 12:30 PM on July 4, 2011


ice cream trucks of sex

This entire miserable thread was worth it just for that one phrase.
posted by fleetmouse at 12:33 PM on July 4, 2011 [15 favorites]


I think the guy was hitting on her. Or else he's so clueless he's unaware how "come back to my hotel room for coffee" sounds in that context.

Especially since the context was the inside of a confined space - an elevator.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:34 PM on July 4, 2011


Astro Zombie:
If you're an adult man and you haven't experienced one or all of these cues...

know your audience... no, but there was a period mainly thru being overyl sensitive to exactly the issues rasied here and none of the cues come for free. As a male you have to work for them

And sometimes when you are at work, you'll hit your thumb with a hammer. And then everybody will name you on the web and you'll be a d* for life ...
posted by fistynuts at 12:35 PM on July 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


I was completely against linking this idiocy to the culture of new atheism until Dawkins helpfully explained that it totally is linked.

Now this is a pickle. Atheist claims typically include an argument of superiority by virtue of founding in reason, not tradition, and claim a place apart from religion by virtue of nonbelief being qualitatively different from belief. But here we have someone widely thought to be a prominent atheist thinker exactly reproducing a creepy position that might otherwise have been blamed on a religio-patriarchal meme with the very elements of this distinction, pretending to reason and skepticism.

There's a teachable moment here that could make atheism better -- as long as nobody takes anything on faith, of course.
posted by mobunited at 12:35 PM on July 4, 2011 [9 favorites]


If you're an adult man and you haven't experienced one or all of these cues, it may be time to reexamine how you interact with the world.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:22 PM on July 4


That may be the most snidely condescending remark I have ever seen on MeFi, and that's saying something. Do you really think that the only reason some guys don't get affection from women is because they're dicks, AZ? Really? You can't envisage other possible scenarios? Wow.
posted by Decani at 12:37 PM on July 4, 2011 [18 favorites]


It was a while before I caught on to the deal of asking to visit someone in their apartment or room late at night as being anything other than wanting to talk to someone at length in a more comfortable setting, until my early twenties: "This is the third time a woman has asked to come in late at night and she has started kissing on me. What's up with that?" And then realizing that I had inadvertently spurned someone or had made a come-on when I just wanted to talk.

I can sympathize. Growing up rather sheltered and nerdy, I was both oblivious to ceertain conventions and dubious that women would find me interesting. It resulted in a number of situations like the ones you describe.

One of the great things about being a guy is that none of them tried to rape me when I realized that a mistake had been made and asked them to stop. They were embarrassed, perhaps even mortified, and on occasion angry ad a result, but they did not treat me like someone who owed them sex on the basis of my accidental encouragement.

Being a guy is pretty awesome.
posted by verb at 12:37 PM on July 4, 2011 [27 favorites]


I've been wondering when next I'd stumble into a MetaFilter post where "First world problem" seemed like the appropriate personal response... Thanks for the opportunity, flex.

The amount of energy that gets poured into every example of this sort of misinterpreted-response-to-clumsy-overture thread is consistently astonishing to me. It really makes me wish the people with all this time, and all this passion, could channel it into doing something for the world that matters...
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 12:38 PM on July 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


Honest question: can someone please give me clear instructions on when, where, and how it is acceptable for a man to express romantic interest in a woman? It's really hard to know sometimes.

Can we all join hands and blame the medias?

Romantic comedies have given both genders really shitty ideas about human relations. The kind of stuff that passes as romantic in movies, like random spontaneous propositions to strangers (like, say, in an elevator late at night), big public gestures, and dogged never-give-up-on-love pursuit rarely work in the real world where people have fully formed personalities and lives that don't follow clean narrative arcs.

So get to know the person /as a person/ before you think of expressing romantic interest. By then, you should have a few clues whether they'd welcome it. When in doubt, if you're about to do something that always works in the movies, just don't.
posted by Freyja at 12:39 PM on July 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


That may be the most snidely condescending remark I have ever seen on MeFi, and that's saying something.

I said you may want to reeamine.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:40 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Then you don't understand the word "objectively". If two people can look at the same situation and come to different conclusions, that pretty much defines it as "subjective" rather than objective.

This is a bit of a mistake. For something to be subjective, that means that its truth (or nature, or whatever) is relative to an individual. Two people can disagree about something that still counts as objective.

Suppose I want to find the vanilla. And I search the pantry, coming to the conclusion that the vanilla is not in the pantry. I then go whine to my SO, that there is no vanilla. He then gets up, searches the pantry, and comes to the conclusion that the vanilla IS in fact in the pantry. This does NOT mean it is subjective whether or not there is vanilla in the pantry, even though we have both come to different conclusions about it. Instead, it means that one of us is right and one of us is wrong about the location of the vanilla. The location of the vanilla is, and always has been, and always will be objective.

So, the mere fact that two different people can come to different conclusions about the same situation does not imply that it's subjective. It is still an open possibility that one of them is simply wrong.
posted by meese at 12:40 PM on July 4, 2011 [7 favorites]


It's 4am, she's just said she's tired and is going to bed, he has never spoken to her before, he asks her back to his hotel room for some "conversation" because she is "interesting". Not sexual?
Maybe, but it strikes me as inept. So tell the guy no. Not "no thanks". Not "I'm sorry, but no". Just no. So what if he feels bad, rejected or thinks you're a bitch? He'll get over it or he won't.
posted by Ideefixe at 12:40 PM on July 4, 2011


orthogonality: “Fact is, had she fancied this guy (had he been (like the best coffee) hotter, richer, or smoother), this wouldn't have been an issue. Even if she hadn't accepted, she'd have felt the warm glow of being desirable. But because this guy was too nervous, too inept, too fat, too geeky, whatever, his polite pick-up line becomes some sort of misogynistic oppression.”

This comment was a while ago, but: I don't see how you can assume that the person who propositioned her wasn't extraordinarily attractive. It sounds to me like you're superimposing what you believe is a likely story onto facts that don't necessarily imply it. Neither women nor men are necessarily always up for it with anyone who is attractive enough. The most attractive man in the world could proposition me in a way or in a context that was not only unattractive but offensive to me. And I'm sure the same thing is true of Skepchick.
posted by koeselitz at 12:43 PM on July 4, 2011 [16 favorites]


Dan Savage describes the difference between an advance being creepy vs not is often purely whether the women is into the guy

Well hey, if Dan Savage says that this is true of women, I'm sure that overrides all the women - here and elsewhere - saying it's bullshit.

Women don't just mean "I didn't find him attractive" when they call an act creepy. Many of us have, indeed, been hit on creepily by men who appearance-wise we'd otherwise have found attractive. It is not only outright incorrect to claim otherwise, but bordering on icky in its assumptions that women don't really mean what they say and/or that we view all men's actions through a 'hot or not?' filter. Somebody hits on me in the same circumstances she was hit on? He could be Brad Pitt and I'd still be annoyed.
posted by Catseye at 12:43 PM on July 4, 2011 [17 favorites]


Much of the underlying issues in this scenario were covered in our epic Shroedinger's Rapist thread, which those of you who want to learn more about not creeping women out could benefit from reading.

There are a number of things at play here, but men who disregard what women are saying or brush off what women feel teeter on the edge of sending off warning signals in my mind. The guy that doesn't listen or blows off your expression of discomfort might be just clueless and socially inept.
Or he might not regard your feelings/thoughts as worthy of taking seriously.
Or he might be that guy who cares much less about your discomfort than his potential satisfaction.
Or he might be the guy who derives satisfaction from your discomfort. (These categories are by no means exhaustive.) The last two categories of guys signal express danger/creepitude.

Bearing in mind that even the geeky clumsy dude can react unpredictably aggressive when "rejected", approaching a girl in an elevator is not cool.

Elevator guy might have been clueless when he approached Rebecca in an elevator with the exact thing she had expressed at length earlier makes her feel uncomfortable, but it would still set off warning signals in my head.
posted by Jezebella at 12:44 PM on July 4, 2011 [7 favorites]


Jeez, people, calm down. He just wanted to show her his etchings.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 12:45 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


>...can someone please give me clear instructions on when, where, and how it is acceptable for a man to express romantic interest in a woman?
Internet dating sites seem to work pretty well. Anywhere with an explicit sexual/romantic context should be pretty safe.

For someone who's supposed to be a rationalist, the surprising thing about this guy is how inefficiently he behaved. I've skimmed The Mystery Method, and even that supposed pickup master (a claim I find dubious, though I don't know anything about manipulating people) talks about befriending women over multiple interactions in situations which will be comfortable and nonthreatening for them. Even if your goal is to have anonymous sex with as many people as possible, propositioning random strangers in random contexts when you have no reason to believe they might be interested sounds like a strategy with a really high failure rate. If your goal is to establish a relationship with this specific person because they sound "interesting," then it would make sense to find out what they want and how they think, in a conversation which avoids triggering their defenses. You might even find out that the person is a drama queen who'll turn you into a blog post if you stumble, and go looking for someone more "interesting..."
posted by Estragon at 12:45 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Maybe, but it strikes me as inept. So tell the guy no. Not "no thanks". Not "I'm sorry, but no". Just no. So what if he feels bad, rejected or thinks you're a bitch? He'll get over it or he won't.

Sure. But that brings us back to the point that she was getting at with the anecdote: when your entire personal and professional life is a parade of moments like that - gently rebuffing strangers and colleagues who treat your presence as an opportunity for sex, or flirtation - it gets exhausting, and demoralizing.

That was what she talked about.

It's like hearing someone say, "the straw that broke the camel's back" and objecting - because a straw is too light to do that!
posted by verb at 12:46 PM on July 4, 2011 [24 favorites]


And obviously she DID GIVE THE INDICATION that she felt threatened,

I didn't say she didn't felt threatened. I said she gave no indication that the man acted threatening. Those are not the same thing. I've felt threatened by the mere presence of some people--people who didn't so much as glance at me or speak to me. I'm mature enough to I recognize that this is my problem and they are not to blame for it.

You're wrong and you're too sensitive. Dumb girl.

Yeah, you got me. After nine years on Mefi my true sexist nature has finally revealed itself.
posted by dobbs at 12:48 PM on July 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


I think Dawkins might really empathize with Watson if he were left alone in a bar with a dozen or so voracious, sex-starved cougars.

Because that's where I see this disconnect coming from, at the end of the day. Its not acceptable to be propositioned but he doesn't understand that because there aren't women who look at him and think, "Aw man, that silver fox is hot. I wonder if he'd let me bang him once over in that closet...". Some might argue that he'd actually like that. I would argue that when you get a handful of women who, like many forward men, just aren't all-that-and-a-bag-of-chips trying to get in your pants it becomes significantly more infuriating.
posted by Slackermagee at 12:48 PM on July 4, 2011


Christ. I used to like Dawkins, but over the years I've realised he's basically the atheist version of the people he so readily dismisses for having a religion. And now this. He comes off like a right ignorant bastard.
posted by New England Cultist at 12:48 PM on July 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


"Come up to my room for coffee" is only not a proposition if your room mysteriously has way more amazing coffee than anywhere else around. I'm no coffee drinker* but given that we're talking about a hotel room, that seems about as likely as you having a real live jackalope in your suitcase.


*It took me a long time to figure out that "Sorry, I don't drink coffee" is a really stupid thing to say most of the time when that comes up. And I still haven't figured out a foolproof substitute for coffee, as the asker, though ice cream works in some situations. If you don't like ice cream it would never work out between us anyways.
posted by mstokes650 at 12:50 PM on July 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


For someone who's supposed to be a rationalist, the surprising thing about this guy is how inefficiently he behaved.

As if rationality even entered into the fabulously complex cocktail of desires and fears that kid was probably contending with at the moment he finally made his mouth open.
posted by Mooski at 12:51 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


meese, I was just about to post something similar. Exactly right.

My charitable interpretation of pla's comment is that pla thinks that in this situation, there wasn't an objective fact about social appropriateness. It's a stretch based on what was actually written, but not crazy, and perhaps the thought behind some of the comments in this thread.
posted by nj554 at 12:51 PM on July 4, 2011


"Except for the inevitable fan fiction."

And telling the wife!
posted by klangklangston at 12:52 PM on July 4, 2011


Instead of Dawkins, I wonder how the Pope would handle this discussion.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:52 PM on July 4, 2011


It was a while before I caught on to the deal of asking to visit someone in their apartment or room late at night as being anything other than wanting to talk to someone at length in a more comfortable setting, until my early twenties

Part of what may cause some confusion is if you've got a lot of early-twenties people who've gone to college, then at least in my generation, we all lived in dorms or dorm-like apartments, where there was like a bed and a beanbag chairs but also usually roommates, so "let's go up to my room" was mostly not sexual and whole floors of differently gendered people hung out in each other's rooms constantly.

So I imagine that young 20s people may think of hotel rooms as more or less dorm rooms, especially at a communal event like this but that older people who have spent a lot of business time in hotels and have larger multi-room homes don't think that way anymore.
posted by FelliniBlank at 12:52 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


mobunited:There's a teachable moment here that could make atheism better -- as long as nobody takes anything on faith, of course.

BINGO!
Dawkins is a man who has made his recent life's work the preemption of faith by reason and demonstrable example. But a man such as Dawkins has most likely never remotely experienced the kind and degree of sexualization and frankly personal fear that most woman take as an unfortunate consequence of just being a woman. You can not easily prove this , you have to accept the stories of the vast majority of women who state this as a personal experience.

And here must (night) be the great paradox for Dawkins. Taking all these millions of stories at face value, isn't that a little bit like taking all the millions of stories of religious experience at face value? I wonder how much of Dawkin's apparent inability to "get it" for this incident is related to his personal position of privilege which he apparently doesn't get either, and how much of it may be related to a kind of rut he may have worn into his thinking that disregards personal feeling for hard scientific evidence?
posted by Poet_Lariat at 12:52 PM on July 4, 2011 [9 favorites]


Women are constantly lectured about situational awareness and are judged for their lack of it if sexually attacked. Yet if we act on that situational awareness, or encourage men to consider being more aware of how their own actions may be received as threatening or simply inappropriate, then the charge conveniently morphs into our being naive, paranoid, or repressed. This is some classic crazy-making shit right here.

I have never hooked up at a conference or meeting, nor do I believe them to be a misfit swingers opportunity as suggested by nasreddin. Occasionally hit on? Yes. Some encounters I found offensive or intimidating; others, easy to dismiss with no hard feelings. After a long conversation, pleasurable discussion, or personal connection, a respectful signal of attraction is usually simple to deflect. Far less simple are instances like Watson describes, where a person you've not spoken two words with makes with the room invites. It's horrible. Compound that with being followed to an isolated area -- being on your own, exhausted, and out of your familiar environment -- and it can get actively scary. In my own worst case, someone not only got handsy but actually called my room to keep pleading his case after I hightailed it the hell out of there. I was aware but still got blindsided.

It gets exhausting, this vigilance. The tone-deafness, too: that some men truly do believe that if only they were more attractive, more alpha, more powerful, that the world they share with women would be free of conflict, rejection, or loneliness. That a pretty face makes an ugly encounter so much easier to bear. It doesn't. It doesn't make having one's hard work and carefully prepared ideas ignored or used as fodder to chase ass any less discouraging. This should not be a radical -- or even difficult -- concept to understand.
posted by melissa may at 12:57 PM on July 4, 2011 [111 favorites]


Time and time again, I've been sorely dismayed that somehow Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens became the figureheads for the modern atheist movement. Two more abrasive, dickish people it's difficult to imagine.

They're brilliant, of course, and generally spot-on right in their arguments. I just wish we had more lovable but equally eloquent and effective proponents of atheist thought like James Randi and Neil deGrasse Tyson out there getting headlines for the rationalist crowd.
posted by darkstar at 12:58 PM on July 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


a man such as Dawkins has most likely never remotely experienced the kind and degree of sexualization and frankly personal fear that most woman take as an unfortunate consequence of just being a woman.


He has probably experienced corollary things - events that could be used as a gateway to understanding, a kickstarter for empathy. Imagine, for example, being an atheist in a large religious family. Every interaction - inevitably! - turns to the question of your eternal salvation. Sometimes it is subtle, sometimes it is aggressive, and each time each person sees it as an isolated incident, baffled at the bristly response that their comments receive.
posted by verb at 12:58 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]



I don't know. I see both sides of it. It's not inherently offensive to politely proposition someone. It's not really rude to ask. But sometimes it would just be nice to go about as a person in the world, and interact with other people, and contribute to society, and work on rewarding things, and make friends, and connect with other humans, without this undercurrent of sexual give/take beneath everything. It would be nice to just be treated like another person whose value remains even if they say no to the date. In a world where men still dominate in the public sphere, I don't think they understand how sexualized every single career situation can become and how exhausting that is.


Just wait 20 years or so. Older women get completely ignored.
posted by Maias at 12:59 PM on July 4, 2011 [11 favorites]


... none of them tried to rape me when I realized that a mistake had been made and asked them to stop. They were embarrassed, perhaps even mortified, and on occasion angry ad a result, but they did not treat me like someone who owed them sex on the basis of my accidental encouragement.

You've been luckier than I was, then.
posted by adipocere at 12:59 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


When she's made eye contact, touched your arm, played with her hair, and given you her phone number.

And how would you react, AZ, if this guy had touched Watson's arm instead of clumsily saying "Hey... I really find you interesting, would you like to come and talk some more over a coffee?"

I hate the smell of double standards in the evening. Or at any time, come to think of it.
posted by Decani at 12:59 PM on July 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


After having followed a few of the links I don't think I'd like to spend very much time in a lift with any of these people.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 12:59 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


*It took me a long time to figure out that "Sorry, I don't drink coffee" is a really stupid thing to say most of the time when that comes up. And I still haven't figured out a foolproof substitute for coffee, as the asker, though ice cream works in some situations. If you don't like ice cream it would never work out between us anyways

do your hotel rooms usually come with decent ice cream? (This is a serious question. Aren't minibars usually just fridges, not freezers? Since I never even look in the minibar I don't know.)
posted by madcaptenor at 1:00 PM on July 4, 2011


Many years ago, I made an ass out of myself with a friend by making a joking remark about what I thought was an innocuous topic, that turned out to be a source of deep emotional pain for my friend. I felt horrible and couldn't apologize enough for causing distress to my friend.

Now, I don't think I was objectively wrong to have made that remark. Even my friend assured me that there was no way I could have known that it was such a sensitive thing for her. But I think we can all agree that I would have been a gigantic fucking asshole to argue that she was being unreasonable to take offense at such a harmless remark, and that she should just settle down and stop being so sensitive.

In that instance, whether what I said was OK or not OK was completely irrelevant. The point was that my friend's feelings were hurt. Whether or not her hurt feelings were "justified" or not was also completely irrelevant. What my words sparked in her mind caused real pain to her. And that pain was completely valid.

Whatever I think about the okay-ness of propositioning a person in an elevator at 4 a.m., I am 100% for the validity of Rebecca Watson's response to that, and against any position that would invalidate her response. If I experienced some emotionally distressing incident, the last thing I'd want is people deciding whether or not I had a right to my distress. I just don't think that's something anyone has any right to decide about someone else.

This situation is so rife with privileged perspectives, it's crazymaking.
posted by Pants McCracky at 1:01 PM on July 4, 2011 [24 favorites]


On a road trip through Denmark, I was astounded at the fact that a gas station a hour or two outside of Copenhagen, at 4 AM, was being run by a sixteen year old girl, alone. It was inconceivable, and, yet, there it was.
posted by griphus at 1:00 PM on July 4 [2 favorites +] [!]


At age 19, I worked the midnight shift alone in a 24-hour donut shop, in a relatively high-crime neighbourhood (my own). I was never threatened. My aunt (who also worked midnights) was once robbed - she almost stopped him by wrestling with him for the cash register, which is impressive considering she's 5' and he was about 6'.

Women are perfectly capable of running shops at night - and no one should stop us if we want to.

I was asked out a lot - donuts and coffee seem to be an aphrodisiac to Canadian men - and some were a bit pushy even when I had said I wasn't interested/they should ask out my mother who was closer to their age. It was annoying, but never threatening.
posted by jb at 1:02 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I didn't say she didn't felt threatened. I said she gave no indication that the man acted threatening. Those are not the same thing.

Again, what are you even talking about? You are talking as if there is some objective JUDGE out there with a magic ruler that measures "threatening" in precise increments. THERE IS NO JUDGE.

And even if the entire population of women just need to "be mature enough to realize that feeling threatened is their problem," what the hell does that mean in terms of the context of this issue, wherein men at male-dominated conferences claim to be interested in making women feel more welcome at the conferences?!

Women: "This behavior X makes many women feel uncomfortable and unwelcome."

Hobbes: "Well, l that is just your problem and you need to be mature and get over it. Men aren't to blame. Oh, and the "threatening" ruler says I'm not threatening, so there!"

Have fun in the all-boys he-man woman-haters clubhouse!
posted by jfwlucy at 1:02 PM on July 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


You know, I am reminded of all the videos we now see of cops behaving badly, and how before cell phone cameras and youtube we didn't see most of this stuff and cops probably got away with more crap by percentage than they do today, maybe.

The thing everyone needs to ask him (or her) self before interacting with anyone else in any substantive way these days is: does s/he have a blog?

Because, like, a hundred years ago the odds of a young skeptic woman at an atheist conference getting hit on in an elevator were probably just as high. Well, ok, if there were atheists, elevators, and conferences back then. But what was she gonna do, tell all her fellow atheist feminist friends? And what were they gonna do, *vote* on it? Ladies, please.

Having a blog is the nerd equivalent of carrying pepper spray.
posted by fourcheesemac at 1:02 PM on July 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


Interesting that this thread has become all about the guy and his clumsy pass and not about Watson's public shaming of another woman who disagreed with her (and agreed with many of the sexist male beasts who suggested Watson was over-reacting). Interesting, yet sadly unsurprising.
posted by Decani at 1:03 PM on July 4, 2011 [7 favorites]


I hate the smell of double standards in the evening. Or at any time, come to think of it.

I'm not sure what you're smelling. I didn't say women should, or get to, touch the arm of somebody they just met in an elevator. In your search for double-standards, please be cautious you don't invent some.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:04 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


the last thing I'd want is people deciding whether or not I had a right to my distress.

Oh my God yes. Do we really have to play this game where things have to be above a certain level of suck in order for people to be allowed to feel bad about them?
posted by madcaptenor at 1:04 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Decani: “Interesting that this thread has become all about the guy and his clumsy pass and not about Watson's public shaming of another woman who disagreed with her (and agreed with many of the sexist male beasts who suggested Watson was over-reacting). Interesting, yet sadly unsurprising.”

"Public shaming?" So now disagreeing with someone is to administer "public shaming?" I guess I'll have to remember that the next time I disagree with you, Decani.
posted by koeselitz at 1:05 PM on July 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


I didn't say women should, or get to, touch the arm of somebody they just met in an elevator.

But just for the record, this is fine with me.
posted by fourcheesemac at 1:05 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Interesting that this thread has become all about the guy and his clumsy pass and not about Watson's public shaming of another woman who disagreed with her (and agreed with many of the sexist male beasts who suggested Watson was over-reacting). Interesting, yet sadly unsurprising.

Why is it unsurprising?
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 1:05 PM on July 4, 2011


urgh. storm in a teacup. NOT a useful feminist teaching moment.
posted by Bwithh at 1:06 PM on July 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure what you're smelling. I didn't say women should, or get to, touch the arm of somebody they just met in an elevator. In your search for double-standards, please be cautious you don't invent some.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:04 PM on July 4


Okay, so if this guy had touched Watson's arm when she was talking in the bar, earlier, would that have been perfectly okay?
posted by Decani at 1:07 PM on July 4, 2011


do your hotel rooms usually come with decent ice cream?

Nah, that bit was a more general aside. "Do you want to go out for coffee some time?" is a sort of general shorthand for "Hey let's have a [specific] short, casual date sometime," and it's tough to find a non-coffee-drinker replacement that works just as well.

Any hotel that does come with ice cream, though, is okay in my book. I feel like those mini-fridges do have freezers though, so there's no reason they couldn't come with ice cream.
posted by mstokes650 at 1:08 PM on July 4, 2011


Depends on the context, doesn't it? I am sure you can invent some scenarios where it would have been okay and some where it wouldn't.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:08 PM on July 4, 2011


I finally found the relevant comment I was looking for.

As far as the argument that everything would have been OK if the guy had been attractive?

No.

A few weeks ago, I was standing at a table at the Turf Club talking to some friends. A young man approached me - he was in his twenties/early thirties, sandy hair, slender but broad shouldered, even featured, objectively attractive, yeah? So this guy who I have never seen before in my life walks up to me ... smiling... and kisses me. He was aiming for my mouth, but I was able to turn so he just got the top of my head.

I don't know why he thought that it would be OK to do that. Maybe he was into some pick-up artist bullshit, or maybe he thought he could get away with it because of his looks, but all witnesses agreed that it was really creepy.
posted by louche mustachio at 1:09 PM on July 4, 2011 [11 favorites]


I wonder if it says anything about progress for the feminist movement that the level of complaints has been lowered to the point that "got propositioned on elevator" is grounds for a call to arms.

The existence of greater crimes, etc. But still, 30 years ago I doubt it would have even been allowed to cause any kind of a stir.
posted by ShutterBun at 1:09 PM on July 4, 2011


jfwlucy, I'm curious... if I posted:
blah blah blah blah
how would you cut and paste it into italics and completely misrepresent it?
posted by dobbs at 1:10 PM on July 4, 2011


"Public shaming?" So now disagreeing with someone is to administer "public shaming?" I guess I'll have to remember that the next time I disagree with you, Decani.
posted by koeselitz at 9:05 PM on July 4


No, using your slot as a speaker at a large public event to specifically single someone out by name and imply they're part of the problem of sexist support of male privilege, is a public shaming.

My first reaction was complete shock. I wasn’t surprised that she had seen my post, but I didn’t think she would choose to address it during her keynote, let alone place it in a category with people advocating for her to be raped. In fact, I was excited to possibly speak with her afterward in order to discuss the matter face-to-face. Instead, all I could do was just sit there and watch myself being berated for supposedly espousing anti-woman views and told that I wouldn’t stand up for women in sticky situations with men, as one hundred of my peers watched on. I found both of those accusations to be completely and utterly incorrect, as anyone who actually knows me could tell you I care deeply about fighting sexist thought. I started thinking, how can I respond? It didn't feel right to have to endure a widely respected keynote speaker's accusations that I was a living example of what was wrong with our movement while I sat there unable to defend my position.

As I said earlier, get yourself familiar with what actually happened and the people involved before you let that jerking knee have its head, eh?
posted by Decani at 1:10 PM on July 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


1980? I knew feminists back then, and the issue of being constantly treated as a sexual object in public was very much a subject of discussion then, and I hather had been since at least the 60s.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:12 PM on July 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


ShutterBun: “I wonder if it says anything about progress for the feminist movement that the level of complaints has been lowered to the point that "got propositioned on elevator" is grounds for a call to arms. The existence of greater crimes, etc. But still, 30 years ago I doubt it would have even been allowed to cause any kind of a stir.”

True. That is a sign of progress. But a greater sign of progress is the fact that men like you and me can completely forget our privileges as males long enough to completely miss the point of what happened here.
posted by koeselitz at 1:13 PM on July 4, 2011


"Public shaming?" So now disagreeing with someone is to administer "public shaming?" I guess I'll have to remember that the next time I disagree with you, Decani.

I think the girl said some things Watson disagreed with on YouTube, as a video response/rebuttal to the video Watson posted about the elevator guy. Watson responded in the comments, disagreeing, but nobody is calling that the shaming. Where it gets a little iffy is that she soon after went to this convention about communication with skeptics/non-skeptics and used the girl's real first and last name and then further ragged on her in a one-way format, bringing some pretty meaningless YouTube crap into real life. I suppose it's what you get for posting stuff on the Internet, but I'd hate to be the college student that's going to have all this crap coming up as the first Google hit on their name for the next decade, just for being wrong about something very many people are also wrong about.
posted by floam at 1:13 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


I often think about this terrific analogy by decathecting in discussions like these.

On preview: Jinx, louche moustachio.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:15 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh wait...the claim is now "was treated as a sexual object"? Oh my. I can see how that would be a problem, but I definitely don't see how this specific episode was anything more than maybe an *extremely* mild version of it.
posted by ShutterBun at 1:16 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


This has persuaded me that Richard Dawkins is an insensitive, socially inept old man, and that therefore God is real
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 1:17 PM on July 4, 2011 [8 favorites]


Okay, so if this guy had touched Watson's arm when she was talking in the bar, earlier, would that have been perfectly okay?

It'd be better, as it implies they're interacting beyond his sexual proposition and she can remove herself from the situation if she wants to.

But best would be dude having actually processed the content of her talk and recognized that this woman, at this conference, just wants to interact as a person without regard to her gender or sexual opportunities.
posted by smirkette at 1:17 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


It'd be better...
posted by smirkette at 9:17 PM on July 4


But would it have been acceptable?
posted by Decani at 1:19 PM on July 4, 2011


Oh wait...the claim is now "was treated as a sexual object"? Oh my. I can see how that would be a problem, but I definitely don't see how this specific episode was anything more than maybe an *extremely* mild version of it.

Straws, camels, etc. That's the point. One person shouting, "YOU ARE A SEXUAL OBJECT!" isn't the problem. A constant stream of people communicating the message in more subtle ways, every day, for years, is.

If you don't care about that, feel free to not care about it. But if you do, this is how it happens.
posted by verb at 1:19 PM on July 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Or he might be that guy who cares much less about your discomfort than his potential satisfaction.
Or he might be the guy who derives satisfaction from your discomfort. (These categories are by no means exhaustive.) The last two categories of guys signal express danger/creepitude.


This woman was actually there in the actual elevator with the guy. She didn't describe any threat. She just analyzed the situation from a feminist perspective and found his actions to be inappropriate. There was no threat. It was "coffee," not "let's fuck."

The point is, you can't generalize "guy and girl in an elevator" into a big world of hypotheticals. If her report had been that "he seemed to derive satisfaction from my discomfort" we'd all be piling on the guy here. But that's not what she implied.

There are truly malicious people in the world. This guy doesn't appear to be one of them. He's an idiot, and nobody should proposition anyone in an elevator, or anywhere, for that matter, without a clear green light. Most people are respectful and know not to do what he did. Let's not blow this out of proportion.

(too late)
posted by gonna get a dog at 1:20 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


How does him being an atheist relate to him being insensitive?

If it didn't relate to him being insensitive, why did he make the relation himself by comparing her taking offense to a time when a religious group took offense to something completely unrelated?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:24 PM on July 4, 2011


I think I hate all the people involved in this, so I'll just ask: what exactly is the crime that has been perpetrated here?

A woman had the temerity to say, "Here's a situation that made me uncomfortable. Please don't do this."

It is, of course, a crime for a woman to make such a statement unless a jury of 12 men agrees that a reasonable person would have been uncomfortable in that situation.
posted by straight at 1:25 PM on July 4, 2011 [40 favorites]


BTW, there's a MeTa on this now.
posted by gerryblog at 1:27 PM on July 4, 2011


This has persuaded me that Richard Dawkins is an insensitive, socially inept old man, and that therefore God is real.

When someone oft accused of being dickish says they have applied the exact same type of rhetoric and thinking to something you perceive to be definitely dickish as something you liked, you may wish to consider that, right or wrong, you were applauding general dickishness in the first place.
posted by mobunited at 1:28 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Given my observations of how internet atheists conduct debates, this fracas surprises me not at all. suppose it was only a matter of time before they started treating each other the same way they do non-atheists.
posted by happyroach at 1:28 PM on July 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


ShutterBun: I wonder if it says anything about progress for the feminist movement that the level of complaints has been lowered to the point that "got propositioned on elevator" is grounds for a call to arms.

Well, I'd say the "call to arms" was made over a year ago when a fair number of people, including P.Z. Meyers, Gretta Christina, and Amanda Marcotte among others, started an ongoing blog conversation about women as participants at atheist conferences and underrepresented in news coverage about atheists.

Which is, before this whole thing blew up, what this anecdote was. An example of one of many instances where geeks at a conference make women feel less than respected and welcome. Those things range from the cumulative subtle and trivial, to actual sexual assault. But then again, it just had to blow up to an indictment of a specific incident with arguably bad behavior all around.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:30 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Fact is, had she fancied this guy (had he been (like the best coffee) hotter, richer, or smoother), this wouldn't have been an issue. Even if she hadn't accepted, she'd have felt the warm glow of being desirable.

Wait, what!?

No, man. Just no. It doesn't actually work this way outside of what men erroneously think women are thinking and/or cheesy porn movies.

Like Poet Lariat expressed above I've experienced similar (but much more limited) cross-gender experiences of what it's like to be male and what it's like to be female in public.

And I tell you what. It's not people pointing and laughing at a dude in a dress that stops me from transitioning or being "feminine" in public. I can deal with that. In fact, I have no mental or physical limitations from kicking their ass while wearing heels and then laughing at them. And this pointing and laughing comes most from men. Women, in my experience, really don't care and are as a whole much more accepting. Because they know what it's like.

No, it's not ridicule I'm afraid of. It's the pervasive threat of physical and sexual violence from men that make me afraid of transitioning. Men who think it's ok to get grabby and feely just because you're presenting as feminine. No other reason. This happens to cisgender women all the time. I know women in their 50s and 60s that still have guys randomly proposing sex to them just because they own a vagina. No real attraction, no connection, no interests, no common ground - no actual interest in them as a person. Just an unoccupied vagina.

It's possibly even worse if you're a transwoman because people assume many wild and often erroneous things about you as a person. Things like you're easy, or hypersexual, or kinky. Or that you're really secretly just gay or that you even like men in the first place. So on one hand you have this instant sexual objectification to deal with.

And then on the other hand you have men who want to kill you for making them question their sexuality, for being a "trap" as though you're only trying to trick them into sex, when you're just trying to be yourself.

My direct, personal experiences with both sides of the gender spectrum have taught me many things, but the biggest lesson of all was about how women really, really get the short end of the stick in society. Still. Even today. They work harder for less money. They're often under constant stress and fear of A) Not being taken seriously B) Being objectified sexually C) being attacked, raped, beaten or even murdered. (Often from childhood onward.)

Women hold up more share of the sky then men do. Yes, now. Today. Everywhere on the planet except maybe one or two of those extremely egalitarian European socialist-democracies, and even then probably not.

Wait, that's still too ambiguous. Let me put it in a bold tag:

It's more dangerous and difficult and personally threatening to be a woman.

If you're a male and you think that this is bullshit - you should seriously reconsider your stance and perspective. I swear on my life that this statement is true. If it helps you take what I'm saying more seriously, feel free to imagine that we're standing around a BBQ drinking cheap beer out of cans, scratching and belching and being "manly" while having this discussion.

We've come a long way - but there's still a long, long way to go.
posted by loquacious at 1:31 PM on July 4, 2011 [84 favorites]


@happyroach They are not all atheists in the world! There are plenty of nice atheists, even on the internet. Gotta remember that!
posted by mobunited at 1:31 PM on July 4, 2011


When someone oft accused of being dickish says they have applied the exact same type of rhetoric and thinking to something you perceive to be definitely dickish as something you liked, you may wish to consider that, right or wrong, you were applauding general dickishness in the first place.

Sorry, run that by me again?
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 1:31 PM on July 4, 2011


Here is what happened and continues to happen everywhere right before your eyes right now.

Programmers/Comic-con/SyFy Fans/Atheists: "Oh, we need to work to make our panels and conferences more women friendly."

Woman: "Well, here is X, an example of the type of behavior seen at these conferences that makes me and many other women very uncomfortable."

Programmers/Comic-con/SyFy Fans/Atheists: "Oh, you're just being too sensitive, sit down and shut up and you shouldn't overreact to something trivial like that. Stupid broad."


A (female) friend of mine works for a lot of conferences in one of these genres and the biggest problem she has assuming she can overcome this initially is when someone actually does complain about improper behavior at those conferences, they get the "Look at these crazy bitches overreacting, geez, she just needs to settle down and quit being so touchy." And that's a sure way to lose them pretty much forever. Most people will accept a bad experience within reason, but being dismissed or, worse, told it's your fault is the dealbreaker.

And when they let this go on for a number of years, they do the "Well, women are just not interested in these fields anyway!" rationalization.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 1:32 PM on July 4, 2011 [29 favorites]


I am pre-regretting jumping into this trainwreck, but I had a thought about this comment:
Women: Hey, this makes me feel uncomfortable!
Men: No, it doesn't!! You're wrong and you're too sensitive. Dumb girl.
I sympathise, but I don't think the uncomfortable feeling is what people are reacting to. Instead, I think the appropriate sarcastic exchange would go like this:
Woman: Hey, this makes me feel uncomfortable!
Man: Oops, sorry. Read the situation wrong there.
Woman: Unacceptable. You are responsible for my unease.
Man: ....
The fight is not so much over the woman's right to feel uncomfortable, as it is the culpability of the man for her feelings.
posted by Popular Ethics at 1:32 PM on July 4, 2011 [14 favorites]


Gonna Get A Dog:

Most people are respectful and know not to do what he did. Let's not blow this out of proportion.


Seriously? Most people? Then why do you suppose that the entire ISSUE of women being a very small proportion of attendees at comic/sci-fi/programming/atheist/etc. conventions is even being discussed and blogged about so much? Why do you think Rebecca Watson brought it up in the first place? Why do you think a site like thiseven exists?
posted by jfwlucy at 1:33 PM on July 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


Thanks Decani! So the situation is actually a lot more subtle and.. well, interesting? Anyway, great point.
posted by Chuckles at 1:34 PM on July 4, 2011


... and more generally, the culpability of the conference participants and men in general.
posted by Popular Ethics at 1:34 PM on July 4, 2011


A woman has a problem.

The woman describes her problem.

The entire conference goes berserk trying to establish who to blame for the woman's problem.

Any efforts to mitigate the problem will have to occur at some other conference.
posted by LogicalDash at 1:37 PM on July 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


A woman had the temerity to say, "Here's a situation that made me uncomfortable. Please don't do this."

It is, of course, a crime for a woman to make such a statement unless a jury of 12 men agrees that a reasonable person would have been uncomfortable in that situation.


Can a situation exist in which a person can feel threatened, but that feeling is unreasonable?

I don't think this is such a situation (elevator at 4am? jeez, guy) but I don't like the opposite notion that anything that makes anyone feel threatened (or just anything that makes a woman feel threatened) should never, ever be permitted to occur, either. If they had been in a crowded lobby at 7pm when all this occurred, and she still felt threatened, my sympathy for her would probably vanish, or at least be drastically less. Circumstances matter.

Whether or not something is legitimately threatening seems like grounds on which reasonable people can disagree. They ought to respect each others' feelings on the subject - but that goes for both sides. "It isn't threatening" isn't more valid than "It is threatening", but the reverse is true too. You don't do anyone any favors when you pretend there's absolutely no room for legitimate disagreement here.
posted by mstokes650 at 1:39 PM on July 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


Sorry, run that by me again?

How's allegory?

A man who regularly pisses off a bridge does not suddenly become a bad man because he hit your buddy, even if, up to that point, the yellow stream of his disdain had only struck people you never liked. He was *pissing off a bridge all along.*
posted by mobunited at 1:39 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Fact is, had she fancied this guy (had he been (like the best coffee) hotter, richer, or smoother), this wouldn't have been an issue. Even if she hadn't accepted, she'd have felt the warm glow of being desirable.

Okay. Story time.

I was at a bar last night, sitting at a table, checking the place out. Glancing around at the other people. And, a guy at the bar was checking me out, and I saw this when I glanced in his direction. I gave a noncommittal, thin smile, and looked away somewhere else, the same way I do when someone is glancing at me but I don't feel any kind of instantaneous "spark". It's my understanding that a guy will take this as evidence that "she's not interested", and most of the time, they do.

But this guy didn't stop staring. Even when I turned away fully. Even when I got up and moved to the far end of the bar to hang around two guys playing skeeball, and even when I told them "there's a guy who's kind of skeeving me out, can you pretend you know me?" and they put on a bit of a show of flirting with me.

And then when I went to leave, the creepy guy got up from his seat and followed me out the door and down the street, hollering "why didn't you talk to me?" Thankfully one of the skeeball guys was keeping an eye on the situation, and when he saw what happened he came out too, and put on more of a show of us knowing each other -- he even offered to hug me so I could send the signal to the creep to "back off the lady". That's what finally sent the creep back inside the bar.

I tell all this to underscore one point --

It is true that I didn't feel any attraction to that guy when I first saw him. But most of the time, when a guy is checking me out and I turn away, they take the hint, and I think nothing of it. What made the guy creepy wasn't my lack of attraction. What made the guy creepy was his unshaken belief that he was entitled to my attention, to the point that he chased after me out of the bar.

If a total stranger chases after you for any reason, their pulchritude is the least of your concerns. Trust me.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:44 PM on July 4, 2011 [41 favorites]


mstokes:
I don't think this is such a situation (elevator at 4am? jeez, guy) but I don't like the opposite notion that anything that makes anyone feel threatened (or just anything that makes a woman feel threatened) should never, ever be permitted to occur, either.

No one is saying that this behavior should NEVER BE PERMITTED TO OCCUR.

Women (and many, many, many women) are saying, "You say we are welcome and should feel safe at predominately male conferences. If you would like us to show up, then you may CHOOSE TO ALTER your behavior so that we don't feel threatened. Here for your information is an example of a behavior on which there is a broad negative consensus that we would like you to CHOOSE TO ALTER. If you CHOOSE to do so, we will probably feel more comfortable among you.:

Nice straw man.

posted by jfwlucy at 1:47 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


When people superimpose their own experiences onto contentious threads, commenters beware: you are no longer just commenting on the post, but on the experiences others have chosen to share. You might not be the one who made it personal, but that hardly matters. I idly wonder how many other people get scared off by this kind of thing, but nobody's saying anything new anyway, so there was never much point in piping up.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 1:59 PM on July 4, 2011


Women (and many, many, many women) are saying, "You say we are welcome and should feel safe at predominately male conferences. If you would like us to show up, then you may CHOOSE TO ALTER your behavior so that we don't feel threatened. Here for your information is an example of a behavior on which there is a broad negative consensus that we would like you to CHOOSE TO ALTER. If you CHOOSE to do so, we will probably feel more comfortable among you.:

Rather than cite damn near every single comment in this thread as a counterpoint, I'm just gonna ask you to cite the comments in this thread that actually say what you're claiming they're saying, particularly the part where everybody is apparently limiting their concerns to what happens at predominantly male conferences. Otherwise I'm pretty sure that's your straw man person, not mine.
posted by mstokes650 at 1:59 PM on July 4, 2011


Say what you will about the creepy elevator guy, but using an invited keynote talk to "call out" a student attendee, the ones the conference is specifically set-up to mentor? So classy.

And she does this because:
For me, this is a question of respect: I have enough respect for the person I am criticizing to not make them guess that I am talking about them or guess at what they said that needs to be defended, and I have enough respect for my audience to allow them the opportunity to double check my work. If I hide the person and the exact words that I am criticizing, how does anyone know whether or not I’m creating a strawman? How can the person in question respond?
So she attacks someone by name at the keynote of at a national conference because she's just being honest, someone whom she is there to teach leadership skills to. Well done, her. Good asymmetric use of authority.
posted by bonehead at 1:59 PM on July 4, 2011 [8 favorites]


I think there are two levels of this incident which have been conflated with each other and need to be separated out:

1) Skepchick publicly expresses her personal strong dislike (it's not just an annoyance, it's personally unacceptable to her) about being propositioned in this way and the video's function is partly about making all potential propositioners in her blogger subculture/atheist-geek community-o-sphere/conference circuit aware of this. I think this is a totally justified expression of her preferences and the people in her conference circuit should of course try to respect her strong preferences. This is not a storm in a teacup in her personal arena. It is an important expression of her individual rights in her atheist-geek conference circuit community-o-sphere.

2) But Skepchick *also* extrapolates her strong personal preferences and her experience her to some kind of universal cookie-cutter social-political-cultural problem about sexual injustice that affects everyone. She (and other commentators) turn asking people to respect her personal boundaries after an awkward social incident into some kind of model horror story about misogyny that seems to try to lay down the rules for everyone. Sexual and social boundaries for women, and for men and not one-size fits. Yes, even amongst atheist feminist activists, personal sexual and social boundaries (including how they feel their experience about power dynamics) may vary wildly and quite reasonably. Yes, the personal is political, but not always with a capital "P".
posted by Bwithh at 2:02 PM on July 4, 2011 [8 favorites]


It's more dangerous and difficult and personally threatening to be a woman.

Bold tags don't make you right.

How many fights have you been in? Because I would bet you a million billion dollars that you are a [completely made up number] more likely to get into a random fight if you are a man than a woman. Of course, you're more likely to get raped if you're a woman. So, what's more dangerous mean, then? Potentially getting killed in a random fight, or potentially getting killed by a rapist's hand? How do you judge? More to the point: why do you judge?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:05 PM on July 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


But Skepchick *also* extrapolates her strong personal preferences and her experience her to some kind of universal cookie-cutter social-political-cultural problem about sexual injustice that affects everyone.

I don't think that you are listening /hearing the multitude of comments form other women here and oh the other various blogs which indicate that this is a problem endemic at all such conferences . Nor do you appear to be grasping the statistics of the smallish number of female attendees at such conferences and the reasons for such as explained by various people in this thread as well as elsewhere.

This is not just a "Skepchick" issue.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 2:08 PM on July 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


mstokes650 : Can a situation exist in which a person can feel threatened, but that feeling is unreasonable?

Of course it can - Anytime you feel "threatened" by a non-threat.

The dark. Walking past an alley that has no muggers in it. The scary-looking dude in the park yelling at the pigeons, who it turns out simply got shit on by one a few seconds earlier. The guy hitting on you in the elevator who respects your answer and lets you get on with your life. That sound downstairs at 2am that the cats made.

All of these might scare you. But you have no "right" to feel scared of them - You just do, and erroneously.


They ought to respect each others' feelings on the subject - but that goes for both sides.

The problem here comes from what Popular Ethics nailed solidly - Yes, real muggers and rapists and burglars and bears exist. But having someone talk to you - Even to hit on you - Not one of those situations. And when someone misreads the situation and backs off, and you still insist on venting your bile? That goes from "righteously offended" to "offensive".
posted by pla at 2:14 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


mstokes650, if you had actually bothered to follow any of the links in the original post, including a couple of 900+ comment threads at Pharyngula, and done any back history perusing in the slightest, you might have a clue. Please go jump in a lake if you can't be bothered with the context and history of this issue.
posted by jfwlucy at 2:15 PM on July 4, 2011


All of these might scare you. But you have no "right" to feel scared of them - You just do, and erroneously.

Can you tell me where I can find the approved list of non-erroneous things to be afraid of, please? I would like to make sure I am compliant.
posted by palomar at 2:16 PM on July 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


How many fights have you been in? Because I would bet you a million billion dollars that you are a [completely made up number] more likely to get into a random fight if you are a man than a woman.

Wait, are you actually trying to argue against the propensity for male violence by using the propensity of male violence as a counter-example?

You're more or less arguing and proving my point through one hell of a Mobius strip of a false equivalency. Sure, male-on-male violence is a huge problem. No arguments there.

But something absolutely insane like 50-75% of women have been raped. Acquaintances, dates, complete strangers.

How many times have you been raped? Which would you personally prefer? A simple ass kicking? Or being raped? (Note that you'll usually get a free beating when raped.)
posted by loquacious at 2:16 PM on July 4, 2011 [10 favorites]


@PoetLariat: I don't think that you are listening /hearing the multitude of comments form other women here and oh the other various blogs which indicate that this is a problem endemic at all such conferences . Nor do you appear to be grasping the statistics of the smallish number of female attendees at such conferences and the reasons for such as explained by various people in this thread as well as elsewhere.

Precisely.
posted by jfwlucy at 2:16 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


> And then you ask him for a loan.

He still has money to loan. To give one person a loan but deny another simply based on the mood of the lender and the context of the asking is a violation of fair lending laws. To shout "lol, this poor guy needs a loan!" is violation of banking privacy laws.
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 2:17 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


nobody should proposition anyone in an elevator, or anywhere, for that matter, without a clear green light.

That's absurd. I don't even own a green light.
posted by amorphatist at 2:17 PM on July 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


All of these might scare you. But you have no "right" to feel scared of them - You just do, and erroneously.

Is arachnophobia erroneous when one is 6'5"? Is big-people-ophobia erroneous when you're a small woman in an elevator with a big man? Knowing the outcome of the situation after the fact doesn't make it 'silly' to be afraid at the time.

Its like saying I shouldn't be terrified of that spider I found when my head dusted a corner free of all the cobwebs because that spider didn't inject venom into my cranium with its hideous little demon fangs. The little bugger.
posted by Slackermagee at 2:26 PM on July 4, 2011


palomar : Can you tell me where I can find the approved list of non-erroneous things to be afraid of, please? I would like to make sure I am compliant.

Way to dodge the point with a sarcastic reply.

If you don't know what you should fear, I can't help you with that. I can reverse each of the scenarios I gave as examples, if it helps - An alley WITH muggers in it; The scary-looking dude in the park slashing a knife around and yelling at God; The guy in the elevator who asks if his hanky smells like chloroform; The cat-burglar banging around downstairs at 2am.

Deeper point, we all fear things that don't really threaten us. It takes a special sort of person to hold their own irrational fears against others.
posted by pla at 2:26 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


The take-home from this, I'm afraid, is that because some men are assholes (and worse), the rest of the male world needs to exercise a higher degree of sensitivity and consideration when dealing with female strangers.

Because some guys are creeps that don't respect women's boundaries (or worse), other guys need to be particularly aware of the potential threat they constitute just by being there in front of a woman. Not that women are especially hypersensitive to incipient threats from male presence, but that there are enough males out there (even if it's not the majority) whose presence does constitute a threat that women are conditioned to have a degree of trepidation when, for example, alone with a male in an elevator late at night.

Probably, both women and men already know all this. But the gender wars being what they are, both sides have to continue the kabuki of "defending their side" so we can't just acknowledge the reality and move on, accordingly.
posted by darkstar at 2:27 PM on July 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'm not an atheist, I don't go to geek conventions, etc etc but I can tell you as a woman of a certain age who also has daughters-this whole thing of not listening to us women when we tell you something, of dismissing our concerns, of telling us how we "ought to feel"...of acting as if you are entitled to our social and or sexual attention whether we wish to give it or not....


I am getting pretty sick of it.

Just so you know, I am not afraid anymore. I am just figuring that quite a few men are just that stupid. I don't want to paint with a broad brush as I know there are many good and decent and sensible men out there, but threads like this make me feel as if they are quite a bit rarer than I would hope.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 2:29 PM on July 4, 2011 [32 favorites]


Deeper point, we all fear things that don't really threaten us. It takes a special sort of person to hold their own irrational fears against others.

You're momentarily trapped in an elevator with a person who very probably wants to bone you. This person is bigger than you and can easily block the sole exit. Irrational, surely.
posted by Slackermagee at 2:29 PM on July 4, 2011 [7 favorites]


As an American woman in Japan, I constantly feared being attacked by men at night and during the day in crowds. .... When I returned to the US from living in Japan, I felt a very distinct sense of relief for months.

Vincele: your comment surprised me and I unearthed the following data:
"The United States has the world's highest rape rates of all countries that publish such statistics. The U.S. rape rate is 4 times higher than Germany, 13 times higher than England and 20 times higher than Japan."

I don't doubt your feeling of fear, but it illustrates that subjective feeling of risk is not necessarily related to the actual probability of risk.
posted by binturong at 2:30 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


A man who regularly pisses off a bridge does not suddenly become a bad man because he hit your buddy, even if, up to that point, the yellow stream of his disdain had only struck people you never liked. He was *pissing off a bridge all along.*

I think you're suggesting that people like me are atheist because Richard Dawkins uses abrasive rhetoric (i.e. pisses off a bridge), or because we enjoy being contrarian, and insulting religious people. In fact I am atheist because of the balance of evidence presented to me. This is a weird sort of ad hominem. A lot of valuable science has been done by awkward, crotchety guys, among whom we can clearly include Dawkins.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 2:31 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


@binturong. There are a lot of behaviors short of rape that can still make one feel threatened.
posted by sweetkid at 2:32 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is arachnophobia erroneous when one is 6'5"? Is big-people-ophobia erroneous when you're a small woman in an elevator with a big man? Knowing the outcome of the situation after the fact doesn't make it 'silly' to be afraid at the time.

Phobias are, by definition, irrational. They are not bases to make pronouncements on the objective appropriateness of the behavior of others, which is something most people are able to understand. The overwhelming majority of men are not rapists, and reacting to every man that approaches you as a presumptive rapist who has to prove their innocuousness before interacting is absurd - it's the behavior of an irrational phobia, not a healthy mind's approach to the world around it.

But Watson's a professional blogger and the artificial controversy she created is getting her a lot of hits, so I guess she wins.
posted by kafziel at 2:32 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


But something absolutely insane like 50-75% of women have been raped. Acquaintances, dates, complete strangers.

Considering the statistics on who commits rapes, she should be glad she was on the elevator with a stranger, who is far less likely to sexually assault her than a boyfriend or family member.
posted by ShutterBun at 2:32 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


"it creeps me out and makes me uncomfortable when men sexualize me in that manner"
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 2:33 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


What's the point Oxdeadc0de?
posted by Danila at 2:35 PM on July 4, 2011


binturong: The US has the highest REPORTED rape rates. REPORTED RAPE RATES. REPORTED.

Given that Japan is a country in which victims of domestic abuse/rape/incest/molestation are shamed, ostracized, doubted, trivialized, ignored, and silenced, your statistics are worse than meaningless.

Look here.

Here.

And here.
posted by jfwlucy at 2:37 PM on July 4, 2011 [14 favorites]


The overwhelming majority of men are not rapists, and reacting to every man that approaches you as a presumptive rapist who has to prove their innocuousness before interacting is absurd - it's the behavior of an irrational phobia, not a healthy mind's approach to the world around it.

One of the major ways a person would "prove their innocuousness" would be to not proposition a person in an enclosed space late at night. Failing to adhere to this basic and obvious courtesy is a major red flag. It's not at all an irrational phobia for a person to be made uncomfortable in this situation.

This thread makes me want to beat my head against the wall.
posted by gerryblog at 2:38 PM on July 4, 2011 [18 favorites]


One of the major ways a person would "prove their innocuousness" would be to not proposition a person in an enclosed space late at night. Failing to adhere to this basic and obvious courtesy is a major red flag. It's not at all an irrational phobia for a person to be made uncomfortable in this situation.

And so we return to the lesson of the Schroedinger's Rapist thread.

Q. How do you, as a man, approach a woman you find attractive?
A. You don't, you sexist shit. How dare you be attracted to someone?

Ridiculous.
posted by kafziel at 2:42 PM on July 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


It's more dangerous and difficult and personally threatening to be a woman. [...] I swear on my life that this statement is true.

I think I can grant the last two without much trouble, but how do you square the "more dangerous" part with the statistical fact that men are far, far more likely to be physically assaulted or murdered?
posted by Justinian at 2:42 PM on July 4, 2011


Phobias are, by definition, irrational.

Okay, but for many women these fears are not, in essence, irrational phobias, but manifestations of PTSD.
posted by elizardbits at 2:43 PM on July 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


Q. How do you, as a man, approach a woman you find attractive?
A. You don't, you sexist shit. How dare you be attracted to someone?


Some people in this thread seem to believe that hitting on any woman any place at any time is an inalienable human right. It isn't! There are right times and wrong times to approach women, just like there are right times and wrong times to do anything else.
posted by gerryblog at 2:44 PM on July 4, 2011 [23 favorites]


To whoever asked, yeah this is a very American thing. It's weird and alien.
posted by fire&wings at 2:44 PM on July 4, 2011


This thread makes me want to beat my head against the wall.

Ain't that the truth.

In my opinion, while merely asking someone back to your hotel room shouldn't be crossing any lines as long as the rejection is taken amicably, doing so in a closed elevator, after a panel in which the woman specifically lamented being seen only as a sex object, is more than a little creepy.

That being said, the woman was never in any physical danger, and she (I believe) should be strong enough to shrug the rudeness off.

The fact that this minor situation is getting everyone's knickers in a twist (male and female) just shows how effed up mainstream gender relations are.

(TL;DR -- Oh, straight people, sometimes you are so, so sad. :p)
posted by lewedswiver at 2:45 PM on July 4, 2011


> What's the point Oxdeadc0de?

Your inability to ascertain my state of mind and understand what I just said is making me uncomfortable. I should shame you on the Internet.
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 2:45 PM on July 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


That's the lesson you got? Man.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:45 PM on July 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


Guys, it is time to turn the tables:
The next time you're at a conference and a woman asks you the time or in which room the panel discussion is or whatever, just respond: "I feel flattered by your proposal, but I have a wife and two kids and a dog ...".

Even better is to leave the men's room rubbing your hands together to pretend you've just washed them and if there are any single women around ask them "Where you peeking? Into the men's room?"
posted by sour cream at 2:48 PM on July 4, 2011



Phobias are, by definition, irrational.

Okay, but for many women these fears are not, in essence, irrational phobias, but manifestations of PTSD.


Or, you know, quite rational responses to a number of environmental and interpersonal factors.
posted by jfwlucy at 2:49 PM on July 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


but how do you square the "more dangerous" part with the statistical fact that men are far, far more likely to be physically assaulted or murdered?

Intentional or not, that is quite the straw man you have put forward. Do you seriously consider the number of men to have been murdered to be of the same degree as to the number of women who have been raped ? Do you seriously equate someone getting a black eye with a woman having been raped?

I have no idea of what your intended point is, and seriously believe that you should check out some real stats here, but your conflating the various stats above seems to me to trivialize the concept of a woman getting assaulted or raped.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 2:50 PM on July 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


What's the point Oxdeadc0de?

He's pointing out the apparent conflict between the speaker lamenting being sexualized and the fact that she publishes a cheesecake pinup calendar.
posted by ShutterBun at 2:50 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


But something absolutely insane like 50-75% of women have been raped.

Whoa, you're really going to lay this one down and go with it? Like everything else in your 2 comments, loquacious, this is waaaaaay over the top. ("Women hold up more than half the sky" was a good one too, taking a phrase that was already propaganda and making it into an absurd image.)

If you are referring to rape statistics in the US (and not, say, Bosnian refugee camps), you're off by a factor of at least 2x and as much as 3x from the highest reasonable and serious estimates, which are already inflated by some questionable assumptions at the margins.
posted by fourcheesemac at 2:51 PM on July 4, 2011 [7 favorites]


I ditto those who commented on the cultural aspect of this exchange. I do believe that there is a culture of fear that varies from nation to nation and time to time (historically.) In my experience, the US does emphasize fear of many things more than, say, Europe and South America. Part of that is being a heavily militarized nation that has been at war for a few generations. Watson makes a point of saying that she was in a foreign country and I think brought her American fears to a place that had a different social calibration.
posted by binturong at 2:53 PM on July 4, 2011


I keep seeing this discussion, in one form or another, and I am so damn tired of it. Just once, I would like to see men hold off on being insulted that someone might mistake their motives for something evil, and instead accept that, okay, this shit really does happen, the ladies are spooked for a reason, and maybe something should be done about it.

Just once. "Okay. That's fucked up and shouldn't be happening. How do we fix this?"

Not gonna hold my breath waiting.
posted by cmyk at 2:53 PM on July 4, 2011 [15 favorites]


If you don't know what you should fear, I can't help you with that.

pla, you seem to be making the point that there's a defined list of things every person everywhere should be afraid of, and that if anyone is afraid of something that doesn't appear on that list, then their fear is irrational and they have no "right" to feel fear.

For instance, some men might have what I consider an irrational fear of being around children in public, or even of looking at children when passing a public park, for fear that they will be incorrectly labeled as a pedophile. It's irrational to me because as a woman I will likely never be erroneously accused of molesting a child, and so simply smiling at a child that I pass on the street is just not a big deal. To someone like you, it might be a bigger deal.

Does that mean that I get to tell you your fear is irrational, and you're a bad person for making anyone else have to deal with your ridiculous little "fear"?
posted by palomar at 2:54 PM on July 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


One of the major ways a person would "prove their innocuousness" would be to not proposition a person in an enclosed space late at night. Failing to adhere to this basic and obvious courtesy is a major red flag. It's not at all an irrational phobia for a person to be made uncomfortable in this situation.

And so we return to the lesson of the Schroedinger's Rapist thread.

Q. How do you, as a man, approach a woman you find attractive?
A. You don't, you sexist shit. How dare you be attracted to someone?


Funny, I read that bit and what I'd get out of it is:

Q. How do you, as a man, approach a woman you find attractive?
A. Not in an enclosed space late at night.
posted by titus n. owl at 2:57 PM on July 4, 2011 [22 favorites]


This isn't just about worrying that you are going to get raped.

I have had good luck in life and I my thoughts rarely go all the way to "Might I get raped in this situation?" But even if I know with 100% certainty that I am not going to get raped, when I'm being hit on by a stranger there's that imposition of mental and emotional energy -- how do I gracefully extricate myself without looking like a bitch, what is the exact amount of attention to give the conversation so that the guy doesn't think I'm either leading him on or ignoring him.

It is like malware in my brain, and suddenly all my processing cycles are being taken up by figuring out what's the appropriate response that will not attract extra attention of either the hostile or overly friendly varieties. Even if the guy's intentions are 100% pure.
posted by Jeanne at 3:00 PM on July 4, 2011 [34 favorites]


This story is a lot less interesting on its face-value. Guy hits on woman in elevator and then ... nothing happens. Colour it however you like; they're your pencil crayons.

Until someone gives me any indication this stranger / misogynist / pseudo-rapist / whatever even existed, I'm just going to run screaming from this thread and try and not let the manic outrage orgy here continue on.
posted by Dark Messiah at 3:03 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


How I wish I could hook up everyone saying this woman is overreacting to a lie detector, then ask them the following:

"A woman agreed to go into the hotel room of a man she'd never met before, at 4 in the morning in a strange town. He raped her. Was it her fault?"

Because I can tell you, most juries? And a lot of those people? Would say yes. I mean, how stupid can she be, being alone with a stranger? Doesn't she know how dangerous that is? She's lucky he didn't kill her as well! Also, she's probably a slut for going with him in the first place, so whatever. Stupid slut.

That's the world we live in, as women. If you don't like it, then do something about it. If you think blaming us for the world being this way is the right thing to do, then you can fuck right off.
posted by emjaybee at 3:03 PM on July 4, 2011 [64 favorites]


*minus "try and not".
posted by Dark Messiah at 3:03 PM on July 4, 2011


Oh good, there's a chunk missing from my comment.

I mean that the problem with the "only certain things are okay to be afraid of" premise is that there will always be things that others are afraid of but that I am not, or vice versa, and to insist that someone's fear is invalid simply because I don't share it is, at best, misguided and needlessly cruel.
posted by palomar at 3:05 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Binturong: In my experience, the US does emphasize fear of many things more than, say, Europe and South America.

Well, it couldn't possibly be that women's fears in the US are a bit more realistic than in countries where rape is often swept under the rug, unprosecuted, unpunished, blamed on the victim, and highly underreported, could it?
posted by jfwlucy at 3:05 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Are men actually unsure about how (and when) to talk to women that they're interested in?
Does anybody think that what this guy did is the appropriate way to talk to a woman he was interested in?

Until someone gives me any indication this stranger / misogynist / pseudo-rapist / whatever even existed, I'm just going to run screaming from this thread and try and not let the manic outrage orgy here continue on.

"Pix or it didn't happen!"
posted by Threeway Handshake at 3:06 PM on July 4, 2011


Are men actually unsure about how (and when) to talk to women that they're interested in?

Lots of men are unsure about how & when to approach women, yes. Does this somehow surprise you?
posted by ShutterBun at 3:08 PM on July 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


"Pix or it didn't happen!"

Yes, because no one ever just makes shit up for the purpose of conversation. I am positive that has never happened on the Internet either.
posted by Dark Messiah at 3:08 PM on July 4, 2011


This thread just makes me want to cry. Seriously. The complete lack of understanding on the part of some people...

Let me just say that I'm tired of going to *academic* conferences where the assumption is that it is fine to proposition female academics in ways that clearly make them feel uncomfortable and that they are not inviting (and, no, it doesn't matter how hot the guy is: skeevy is skeevy, no matter what you look like). The amount of times that I and other female academics have had to get out of uncomfortable situations - where the onus is always on us to get out of them, not for guys to be less skeevy - is uncountable. I don't know about atheist conferences, maybe they're advertised as sexual free for alls and on the invitation is 'prepare to be propositioned in a lift at 4 am!' (though I doubt it), but I do know that as a woman a lot of one's professional life at these events revolves around efforts to avoid situations like this. Because you know that if you ever bring it up a chunk of people will wonder what the big deal is. And then they'll ask you 'what do you expect being at that party/bar/whatever?' Or they'll say 'well nothing happened, did it.'

No, in these situations I don't think I am likely to be raped, but I do know that they are bloody uncomfortable and I wish that they weren't part of so many professional situations. And I'm tired of it being normalised.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 3:09 PM on July 4, 2011 [43 favorites]


So she is sexual in some situations means she doesn't have the right to decide her boundaries anymore? Is that the point of linking the pinup calendar?

Never mind, on preview I see I am completely done here.
posted by Danila at 3:11 PM on July 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Wow, there are a lot of comments in this thread.
posted by goatdog at 3:12 PM on July 4, 2011


I watched Rebecca's vlog post. In her position, even as a tough, burly man, I'd also be squicked out by someone doing that. Following someone to an elevator, then making it clear it's not a coincidence by a (tame) proposition is screwed up.

The bar-to-elevator transition is a classic predatory move. If the guy was just an idiot, and didn't know the script he was following, that doesn't change the fact that Rebecca should have had the red lights and sirens going. I see a bunch of comments debating whether or not she was *actually* in danger or not. Clearly, based on the outcome where there is no question, the answer is "not in danger this time". Given the situation, I would consider her in a decent level of potential danger.

I don't know what actions she took, verbal or physical, to cover herself. As far as the internet is concerned, nothing happened this time.

However, for those debating minutia, consider that someone isolated and cornered her late at night. It wasn't an accident. At best it was an idiot. I'm glad it didn't develop into something more.

As an aside, I've never, ever been propositioned or even threatened in an elevator. Even when taking the same car as straight-up-thugs fresh out of the i-room, everyone seems to be on their best "ignore everyone else" behavior amongst strangers. Is that just me?
posted by graftole at 3:14 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


My comment above RE Dawkins' dickishness vs deGrasse Tyson's more personable style always reminds me of this video of a gentle, yet pointed, rebuke of Dawkins by NdGT.
posted by darkstar at 3:14 PM on July 4, 2011


I was getting confused where to direct my moral outrage after reading this thread, so I came up with this quick bullet point summary:

Is inviting a girl into your hotel room at 4am for coffee after she just finished explaining how she hates being treated like a sexual object tactless and possibly creepy? YES
Is Richard Dawkins an atheist? YES
Are all atheists assholes? NO
Is Richard Dawkins an asshole? most of the time
Are all men rapists? NO
Do women deserve rape ever? NO
Is attempting to publicly ridicule someone who disagrees with you by calling them 'ignorant of feminism 101' appropriate? NOT REALLY
Did I learn anything to better understand feminism or atheism or anything important from this thread? NO

Mortal outrage: depleted, replaced with fatigue.
posted by ryanfou at 3:15 PM on July 4, 2011 [14 favorites]


And it really needs to be said, as strongly as possible:

Some men suffering from the effects of social awkwardness is not equivalent to all women fearing the possibility of rape.

Not even close, fellas. I'm not even getting out my tiny violin for this one. I would gladly, gladly trade problems with you in this case, no matter how socially awkward you are. Except that would be cruel of me, because if you think loneliness from being awkward around women is tough, try never going anywhere or having any relationship without once considering whether you are putting yourself in danger in some way. Because lots of us do. Without even realizing it. Because it's second nature. Because this world is a fucked-up place to be a woman.

And if you think I'm lying or exaggerating, well I'm sure that makes you feel better, but it also makes things harder for those of us trying to change the situation. Because change can't happen when so many people deny there is even a problem.
posted by emjaybee at 3:19 PM on July 4, 2011 [28 favorites]


Lots of men are unsure about how & when to approach women, yes.

Well, here's a helpful hint: don't approach women in a place where they aren't free to instantly leave.
posted by headspace at 3:21 PM on July 4, 2011 [7 favorites]


I think people are entitled to go to sleep at 4am without having to down coffee with strangers.

I think so too. And clearly so did the guy in question, since when she said no, that was the end of it. Until Watson decided to make it outrage fuel on her blog instead.
posted by kafziel at 3:24 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


where the onus is always on us to get out of them, not for guys to be less skeevy - is uncountable. I don't know about atheist conferences, maybe they're advertised as sexual free for alls and on the invitation is 'prepare to be propositioned in a lift at 4 am!'

I'm not saying this is right at all, but I'd imagine it's not as easy as it sounds. Most academic conferences are probably going to be dominated by men. It's difficult for hotel staff or whoever else runs the venue at the conferences to police the majority. In the long term as attitudes change and more women enter academic fields and hence attend academic conferences, it will get better (Easier to keep an eye on less men). In the short term, the only way to prevent this is for people who hold these events to crank up security.
posted by FJT at 3:27 PM on July 4, 2011


I don't see how you can assume that the person who propositioned her wasn't extraordinarily attractive.

Can't statistics help you do this? It was the World Atheist Convention, after all.
posted by floam at 3:30 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I mean that the problem with the "only certain things are okay to be afraid of" premise is that there will always be things that others are afraid of but that I am not, or vice versa, and to insist that someone's fear is invalid simply because I don't share it is, at best, misguided and needlessly cruel.

If we can't insist that any fears are invalid, are we obligated to do something to alleviate every fear, no matter how odd it may be?

I mean, I think people should respect other peoples' emotional states, no matter how irrational that emotional state may seem to be. But respecting it doesn't necessarily mean doing something about it other than maybe being slightly apologetic.

"Don't freak women out by approaching them in an elevator at 4am" is totally reasonable (and kinda obvious actually). But insisting that anything that freaks a woman out is equally valid and a Serious Problem That We All Need To Deal With actually undercuts the position of "Don't freak women out by following them onto an elevator" because it becomes just one more thing on a potentially infinite and unknowable list of things that is all the more likely to get the "aww fuck it, why do I even bother?" responses from guys that we have already seen some of in this thread.

As an aside, I've never, ever been propositioned or even threatened in an elevator. Even when taking the same car as straight-up-thugs fresh out of the i-room, everyone seems to be on their best "ignore everyone else" behavior amongst strangers. Is that just me?

No, definitely not just you. Actually in my experience elevators have basically the same code of conduct as men's restrooms: the only conversations it is acceptable to have are continuations of ones you were having before you came in, with people you already know; and if you talk really loudly on a cellphone in there you are a titanic asshole.
posted by mstokes650 at 3:31 PM on July 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


but your conflating the various stats above seems to me to trivialize the concept of a woman getting assaulted or raped.

Conflating what stats? I asked a question because I was genuinely interested in the personal experience of someone who is quite different than myself and, thus, might have an interesting take. Which is not apparent since you cut the context.

Does it feel good to be some kind of orthodoxy thread cop having to call out every single person who doesn't march in lockstep with you?
posted by Justinian at 3:31 PM on July 4, 2011


I think people are entitled to go to sleep at 4am without having to down coffee with strangers.

I think so too. And clearly so did the guy in question, since when she said no, that was the end of it. Until Watson decided to make it outrage fuel on her blog instead.


The problem being, the guy wanted her to come to his room (not an open cafe or shop) to have coffee after admitting attraction. This, after she had made it clear that she detested that sort of behavior.

Its akin to someone badgering you for five minutes about not leaving dirty dishes in the sink and then you go and make a sandwich, leaving your dirty dish in the sink. There's a disconnect there and it ain't a disconnect from the rational its a disconnect from reality. The kid wanted something and was completely oblivious to everything it seems in order to make his pitch. Then he hit the batter and walked off the field.
posted by Slackermagee at 3:34 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think it's A-OK that Rebecca Watson felt uncomfortable on the elevator, felt as if she should talk about it, and did so on her blog. Frankly, she's 100% right that this sort of objectification is a big problem, especially at cons. She was also in the right when she defended her opinions online, and she would have been in the right no matter how vigorously she did so.

Standing up as a speaker at a conference and publicly shaming a fellow blogger is another story. That was a massive escalation, and over what? The fact that someone didn't agree with her, and commented about it online? Watson knew that McGraw would be present, and would have no ability to reply -- using McGraw's name and words as an example of "the anti-feminist thought that seems so pervasive" was a low blow, and I think others were right to ask her to apologize for it.

"McGraw and stclairose had enough respect for me and/or their audiences to state my name and link to my video when they criticized me, and though I vehemently disagree with their arguments, I appreciate the fact that I at least knew they were addressing me directly. And so, I did the same during my talk, using McGraw’s name and exact words as an example of what I see as a problem in this community" ignores the fact that discussing an issue one-on-one via blogs or youtube is not remotely "the same" as giving a speech in front of an audience. Watson seems very concerned about power imbalance and privilege, yet she's clearly missing some here...
posted by vorfeed at 3:36 PM on July 4, 2011 [15 favorites]


I'm certainly not clueless nor trolling, but using this as an example of sexist is silly.

I'm sorry but being human involves getting asked questions and having people speak with you.


Being human involves getting asked questions and having people speak with you. Reverting back to a base animal involves ignoring everything someone's just told you for five minutes then propositioning them at 4am in a closed off elevator.
posted by Slackermagee at 3:37 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


palomar : pla, you seem to be making the point that there's a defined list of things every person everywhere should be afraid of

Nope, once again, you missed, and again, if you don't get it - you won't. I have no interest in any official list of approved fears, nor do I have any interest in a list of silly fears. But when you have someone with a mostly baseless fear of an entire group of people based on the behavior of an minority of those people, you have some sort of "ism", of the bad sort.

If we rephrase this conversation to refer to "black men" instead of "men", does it still sound kosher to complain that the guys just don't get it when they say hi to a white woman alone in an elevator and she panics?

Or more bluntly...


cmyk : I would like to see men hold off on being insulted that someone might mistake their motives for something evil, and instead accept that, okay, this shit really does happen, the ladies are spooked for a reason, and maybe something should be done about it.

And I would like to see women hold off on acting like every male they meet fully intends to drag them off and rape them, and accept that okay, most men really don't do that, the nice guys don't "get" it for a reason, and maybe something should be done about it.


This discussion doesn't center around insensitivity, it doesn't center around misogyny, it centers aroung bigotry. I, and others trying ever so fucking delicately to make the same point, don't "lack sensitivity" here - The fact that someone would consider me a potential rapist for no better reason than my gender, I find outright offensive.
posted by pla at 3:37 PM on July 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


mstokes650: it becomes just one more thing on a potentially infinite and unknowable list of things that is all the more likely to get the "aww fuck it, why do I even bother?" responses from guys that we have already seen some of in this thread.

Unknowable? Yeah, unless you actually ASK women, and a significant plurality of them actually TELL you a behavior is inappropriate, as they are on this thread and as Rebecca Watson SAID in her speech, and as several anti-harassment sites will tell you.

Oh, but then you'd actually have to LISTEN to what women say and maybe OMG choose to change your behavior!!
posted by jfwlucy at 3:39 PM on July 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


If anyone's still talking about the culture of fear, I've had Australians call me clinically paranoid for being nervous about walking home alone unarmed at 3am (i'm male). Eventually my fear went away.

Dawkins is acting like another oh so haughty mansplaing dick. Keep calling stuff like this out. It's been helpful to me and hopefully other men to know what's not acceptable.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:40 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm sorry but "Hey, baby, wanna come back to my room and discuss sexism." was the line I used to meet my wife.
posted by smithsmith at 3:41 PM on July 4, 2011


pla: But when you have someone with a mostly baseless fear of an entire group of people based on the behavior of an minority of those people, you have some sort of "ism", of the bad sort.

Please explain how the fear of rape is 'mostly baseless.' I've gotta hear this.
posted by cmyk at 3:42 PM on July 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


You may recall that last week I posted this video, in which I describe an unpleasant encounter I had with a fellow atheist that I thought might serve as a good example of what men in our community should strive to avoid – basically, in an elevator in Dublin at 4AM I was invited back to the hotel room of a man I had never spoken to before and who was present to hear me say that I was exhausted and wanted to go to bed.

"was present" is incredibly vague, also considering that she never spoken with him before, was he even part of their "group? Perhaps he didn't hear her? Also who is to say he followed her into the elevator?

All that happened was a man said she was "interesting" and asked her to have coffee. I am not even confident that "interesting" is meant to be taken sexually.
posted by Shit Parade at 3:42 PM on July 4, 2011


If you're looking to get laid, go to the bar. Hitting on someone in the elevator is douchey.

Honestly. Just don't be that douche. It really isn't that difficult to develop a sense of time and place.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:44 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Unknowable? Yeah, unless you actually ASK women, and a significant plurality of them actually TELL you a behavior is inappropriate, as they are on this thread and as Rebecca Watson SAID in her speech, and as several anti-harassment sites will tell you

what a weak and fallacy laden proposition --

Unknowable? Yeah, unless you actually ASK rich people, and a significant plurality of them actually TELL you a behavior is inappropriate, as they are on this thread and as random rich person SAID in a speech, and as several rich people sites will tell you.

What is isn't appropriate behavior isn't decided (thank heaven and hell) by majority opinion, the entire idea between such things as the bill of rights is to protect minority opinion.
posted by Shit Parade at 3:46 PM on July 4, 2011


But best would be dude having actually processed the content of her talk and recognized that this woman, at this conference, just wants to interact as a person without regard to her gender or sexual opportunities.

I think that this is just what happened, though. Asking in an elevator was bad judgment, but I think "I find you interesting, would you like to have coffee with me," is about the most innocuous opening this guy could have used. Asking to have it in his room is again poor judgment-- though at 4 in the morning I doubt the hotel coffee shop, if there was one, was still open. I didn't see where he deliberately followed her into the elevator, but if he only went in to engage her, then it does some skeevier. She doesn' t say she felt physically threatened at any time, so a bit less of the 'She thought he might rape her' red herring would be welcomed. I have felt physically threatened, and so have most women at some time, but that was not what happened here.

I understand SkepChick's frustration with constantly being hit on, insulted and threatened sexually (i.e., 'you should be raped) because she is a woman. I respect her right to address the behavior that bothers her publicly, and to use her position on a panel to speak to the issue.

But when she insulted another woman, calling her out by name as contributing to misogyny and sexism in her keynote address, where the other woman could not even defend herself, because the woman disagreed with her on the elevator issue--an issue that is sparking debate here, to say the least--well, to me that is as harmful to feminism as anything Dawkins said (who, yes, is definitely dickish here).

I don't like that, when another woman says, as is her right, wait
posted by misha at 3:47 PM on July 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


Asking someone for coffee at a conference in an elevator is not a douchey behavior -- she was awake, asking awake people to do something isn't strange and especially not at a conference (where you got to meet people and discuss the conference agenda) and asking them in an elevator isn't all that strange either.
posted by Shit Parade at 3:49 PM on July 4, 2011


Women don't just mean "I didn't find him attractive" when they call an act creepy. Many of us have, indeed, been hit on creepily by men who appearance-wise we'd otherwise have found attractive. It is not only outright incorrect to claim otherwise, but bordering on icky in its assumptions that women don't really mean what they say and/or that we view all men's actions through a 'hot or not?' filter. Somebody hits on me in the same circumstances she was hit on? He could be Brad Pitt and I'd still be annoyed.

You're correct, but about something else. You're missing the point. The observation isn't about whether the guy is hot or not, it's about whether the woman wants to be approached by him or not. He could be hot as hell, but she doesn't care and just wants to be left alone and get out of there. He could be average, or inept, (or hot), or she's secretly had her eye on him for some time, or for whatever reason, being approached by him at that time is great. That's her prerogative, and she's entitled to it.
The issue is that when those advances are unwanted, they are often felt as - and described as - creepy, when the difference was in their unwantedness, rather than a quality of the advance. Of course, there are things a guy can do that are beyond the pale creepy and which ensure creepiness, and conversely if a guy has the opportunity and sufficient social nous, he may be able to put out feelers and be more able to figure out an approach is unwelcome without making one, but a take-home lesson that a lot of guys pick up on, is that it's not actually entirely dependent on their actions whether their actions are perceived as creepy. A lot of it comes from the state of mind of the person being approached. This is "well duh", except the word "creepy" implies that one party was doing something wrong, and so so often, that's just not the case. So sometimes the word is an unfair slur, because it has two different meanings that are sometimes at odds (ie something that made me fell creeped out, vs. something behaving in an inappropriate and disturbing manner)

When out at nightclubs and other meeting spots, let your ears prick up in the conversations whenever the word "creepy" makes an appearance. Note how casually it's sometimes used to describe people, and assess to what extent the person in that incident was acting any differently or giving different vibes from non-creepy advances, and to what extent their approach - or the person themself - was unwanted. There are definitely creepy people doing creepy things, and there are definitely people being creeped out by someone making the same approach that the same person enjoys and encourages and rewards the following week with someone else who isn't so unwelcome.

Life is messy. :-)
(I don't think this thread is going anywhere good, so I think this is all I'll say on the topic.)
posted by anonymisc at 3:50 PM on July 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


Sorry, hit post too soon. Her right to disagree is just as valid, and should be respected, too. Not all feminists are exactly the same. Keep the debate to the real issues, not personal attacks on each other's feminist street cred.
posted by misha at 3:50 PM on July 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Eh, are people still debating whether following someone from a hotel bar into an elevator alone then propositioning that person is fucked up or not?
posted by graftole at 3:51 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


[there's an open meta post on this difficult topic. If you have something to say that might be considered trolling, it would be good if you would take it there. Likewise, please feel free to not respond to people who are making comments likely to be deleted. Thanks.]
posted by jessamyn at 3:52 PM on July 4, 2011


Shit Parade: As I told someone upthread, if you can't be bothered to read the history and links on the ORIGINAL FUCKING POST before you shoot off your mouth, please go jump in the lake.

This entire conversation exists within a context. That context IS and WAS the stated desire of many men at male dominated conferences to INCREASE THE NUMBER OF WOMEN AT THESE CONFERENCES. Given this CONTEXT, for the following to take place:

Men: "Please tell us how we can make women feel more comfortable at our conferences."

Woman: "Well, here is an example of a behavior, X, that made me feel uncomfortable and that many other women have also decried, and about which we have even established blogs and websites on which to dialogue."

Men: "Oh, you are just being too sensitive and you are wrong and no right-thinking person would feel that way!'

is a really IDIOTIC thing to be happening.

Short story: You guys ASKED!!! We're telling you!! So LISTEN!!
posted by jfwlucy at 3:53 PM on July 4, 2011 [7 favorites]


But when you have someone with a mostly baseless fear of an entire group of people based on the behavior of an minority of those people, you have some sort of "ism", of the bad sort.

"Mostly baseless"? More than 1 in 4 women I have known in my life - including me - have been subject to sexual assault. I'm not talking about the guy who catcalls you from across the street - I'm talking about guys (strangers, men you know, men who are related to you by blood or marriage) who have actually put their hands and other body parts on a woman.

I said this in another thread, but I guess it bears repeating: Women did not teach me to be wary of men. Men, with their own actions, have taught me this. So don't get mad at me when I wonder what your (general "your") motives are when you make a pass at me, especially if I don't know you well and we're in a strange place.
posted by rtha at 3:53 PM on July 4, 2011 [20 favorites]


> If you think blaming us for the world being this way is the right thing to do, then you can fuck right off.

I'm not blaming women, I'm ridiculing people like you.

The guy isn't a rapist, and he didn't do or say anything after the rejection that was notable enough for "Skepchick" to relate, so this issue is a tempest in a teapot, and yet you want to frame anyone saying that as a defender of rapists.

That shit makes gender politics worse, not better. So I guess I am blaming you. Just you. Well, and rapists, too. You and rapists. Oh, and those douchebags with the pick-up artist books. Fuck those guys. (But don't really, it encourages them.)
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 3:53 PM on July 4, 2011


The take-home from this, I'm afraid, is that because some men black men are assholes (and worse), the rest of the male black world needs to exercise a higher degree of sensitivity and consideration when dealing with female white strangers.

Because some guys blacks are creeps that don't respect women's whites' boundaries (or worse), other guys need to be particularly aware of the potential threat they constitute just by being there in front of a woman Caucasian. Not that women white people are especially hypersensitive to incipient threats from male black presence, but that there are enough males blacks out there (even if it's not the majority) whose presence does constitute a threat that women whites are conditioned to have a degree of trepidation when, for example, alone with a male in an elevator black man on a street late at night.


Or, on preview, what pla said.
posted by kafziel at 3:54 PM on July 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


The fact that someone would consider me a potential rapist for no better reason than my gender, I find outright offensive.

The statistics prove otherwise.
Deal with it.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 3:54 PM on July 4, 2011 [7 favorites]


Or, on preview, what pla said.

The parallel you just attempted is not even remotely analogous. Could we instead stick to the actual story, rather than swap out the participants for somebody else in order to make our case? It's very easy to try to prove a point by parallel, and that generally deteriorates into people attempting to come up with the most strained comparison they can that fits their viewpoint.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:58 PM on July 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


I laughed at this cartoon about it though.
posted by Countess Elena at 3:59 PM on July 4, 2011


Hehe, statistics.

(have you actually studied those, Poet? They're not exactly making your point very well)
posted by ShutterBun at 4:01 PM on July 4, 2011


That's right. It's all me, America. I'm over here, fucking up gender relations for you all by pointing out the reality of women's lived experience! Fear me.
posted by emjaybee at 4:02 PM on July 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


cmyk : Please explain how the fear of rape is 'mostly baseless.' I've gotta hear this.

Well... Because most men won't rape you. Simple as that.


rtha : "Mostly baseless"? More than 1 in 4 women I have known in my life - including me - have been subject to sexual assault.

Yes, mostly baseless. For the behavior of 25% of a group (and probably much less, since I doubt each rapist stops after his first time), you would damn the whole group.


Poet_Lariat : The statistics ["17.6 % of women in the United States have survived a completed or attempted rape."] prove otherwise. Deal with it.

See my previous sentence.


I feel ashamed for the behavior of those members of my gender that would do such a thing. But I would not, and don't need the constant explicit assumption that I would, underlying just about any social situation.
posted by pla at 4:02 PM on July 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


The take-home from this, I'm afraid, is that because some men black men are assholes (and worse), the rest of the male black world needs to exercise a higher degree of sensitivity and consideration when dealing with female white strangers

wtf? The very definition of a straw man argument.
Black men aren't committing 95%+ of sexual assaults in the world.
Men are doing that. Not black men. Just men.

Appetizing to bring race into it in order to make some sort of straw man /false dichotomy argument that men don't commit rape is ... I just have no good words at the moment.

Men commit the overall majority of rape and sexual assault. Women are afraid of that.
If you can't handle that truth and it's consequences, then continue to stick your fingers in your ears recite ""Lalala I can't HEAR you!" and move to another thread but please don't insult everyone's intelligence and demean your own capacity by creating such nonsense arguments as I cited above.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 4:04 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm never going to rape anybody. I know that about myself.

But, if I were alone in an enclosed space with a woman who has never met me, I would not expect her to assume I am one of the good ones.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:04 PM on July 4, 2011 [25 favorites]


"Mostly baseless"? More than 1 in 4 women I have known in my life - including me - have been subject to sexual assault.

The thing is, the numbers could be even worse, but (and I don't know what the numbers are, I admit), I'd assume the chance that any individual man is going to rape you should still be pretty darn low. While I don't know how I'd do it if I were a victim of something so terrible, I think it would be virtuous to try to keep that in mind with regards to personal experiences. Analogies seem to do no good here, but if that's sounding totally nuts to you, the thing I'm comparing this to in my head are things like someone having a bad experience with an African American and forevermore fearing blacks as criminals. Fearing a group of people just because of the variety of human they are should always be baseless.
posted by floam at 4:04 PM on July 4, 2011


Shit Parade: As I told someone upthread, if you can't be bothered to read the history and links on the ORIGINAL FUCKING POST before you shoot off your mouth, please go jump in the lake.

This entire conversation exists within a context. That context IS and WAS the stated desire of many men at male dominated conferences to INCREASE THE NUMBER OF WOMEN AT THESE CONFERENCES. Given this CONTEXT, for the following to take place:

Men: "Please tell us how we can make women feel more comfortable at our conferences."

Woman: "Well, here is an example of a behavior, X, that made me feel uncomfortable and that many other women have also decried, and about which we have even established blogs and websites on which to dialogue."

Men: "Oh, you are just being too sensitive and you are wrong and no right-thinking person would feel that way!'

is a really IDIOTIC thing to be happening.

Short story: You guys ASKED!!! We're telling you!! So LISTEN!!
posted by jfwlucy at 3:53 PM on July 4 [+] [!]


I did read the through the linked posts and watched the video, so grow up jfwlucy. Also, thanks for rendering the entire discussion to "woman" and "men" I'm sure such simplicities will ensure an actual meaningful discussion is had.

Using the example of being asked for coffee is not how to move forward in the proper treatment of one another. If that is the best example that woman can use to discuss sexism than she has other, more serious, problems.
posted by Shit Parade at 4:05 PM on July 4, 2011


"Mostly baseless"? More than 1 in 4 women I have known in my life - including me - have been subject to sexual assault.

Not the relevant statistic. How many times have you encountered a man and he tried to sexually assault you, versus the number of times you encountered a man and he didn't? I'm guessing the ratio there might be a little less than 1:3.
posted by kafziel at 4:07 PM on July 4, 2011


My comments are being removed and that -- that is sexism (thanks mod)
posted by Shit Parade at 4:07 PM on July 4, 2011


"Help! Help! I'm being repressed!"
posted by Countess Elena at 4:08 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Bloody peasant...
posted by pla at 4:09 PM on July 4, 2011


If that is the best example that woman can use to discuss sexism than she has other, more serious, problems.

It's not the best example; only the most recent. As she makes clear.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:09 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Men commit the overall majority of rape and sexual assault. Women are afraid of that.

I recall a similar argument being made about how Americans fear Muslims because most acts of international terrorism are carried out by Muslims. Oh, Ann Coulter, you so funny!
posted by ShutterBun at 4:10 PM on July 4, 2011


My comments are being removed and that -- that is sexism (thanks mod)

Mods, and it was exactly two comments, the first of which was an awful fucking mini-screed that you should never have posted and the other was you responding to the deletion. There is a metatalk thread, if you want to talk about moderation go there and do it.
posted by cortex at 4:11 PM on July 4, 2011


It isn't even an example of sexism, unless sexism involves people of opposite genders asking each other to coffee. Oh wait, one person felt uncomfortable? Some people feel uncomfortable all the damn time, does that make their life an example of sexism?
posted by Shit Parade at 4:11 PM on July 4, 2011


A 1 in 4 chance is baseless fear? Even when that 1 in 4 chance is spread throughout a lifetime, there's a worse chance of me being killed by a drunk driver on St. Patrick's day and that IS a legitimate fear.
posted by Slackermagee at 4:12 PM on July 4, 2011


I don't want to paint with a broad brush as I know there are many good and decent and sensible men out there, but threads like this make me feel as if they are quite a bit rarer than I would hope.

-- Backstory: Long standing discussion of lack of women academics joining in conferences ....

----> Watson speaks to topic at conference
-------> Man acts in manner totally illustrating problem Watson had just addressed
----------> Watson blogs/vlogs
-------------> Pile-on of attacks on Watson for oversensitivity' etc. (blah, blah, blah)
----------------> Watson uses keynote address at said conference to bring up topic again and show what happens when someone tries to actually address the problem in their own life.



Metafilter veers off into male entitlement, pissing contests and general whining.

I know there are many good and decent and sensible men out there, but threads like this make me feel as if they are quite a bit rarer than I would hope.

Oh yeah.
posted by Surfurrus at 4:13 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


There's a worse chance of me being killed by a drunk driver on St. Patrick's day and that IS a legitimate fear.

Now you're just unfairly lumping all drunk drivers together. Some of them would never kill you!
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:14 PM on July 4, 2011 [7 favorites]


I feel ashamed for the behavior of those members of my gender that would do such a thing. But I would not, and don't need the constant explicit assumption that I would, underlying just about any social situation.

Because your personal feelings are more important than my safety? Do you realize that is what you are saying?

Absent being psychic, women have no way of knowing where you fall in the dangerous/not dangerous spectrum; which is why women have to use things like guesses, red flags, comfort levels, and very often, over-cautious behavior. Because if we aren't cautious enough, more than likely, we'll be blamed if something bad does happen to us.

If you don't know that, you have never paid attention to a rape trial. I suggest you read up on a few accounts of how those generally go, and how many times women are basically told they deserved to get raped because they smiled at a man, had a drink, or wore a too-revealing outfit. Or are simply disbelieved because there was no one to witness the assault.

Yes it makes us a little paranoid, a little jumpy, a little nervous. It would be surprising if it didn't.

If that reality hurts your feelings, again: not womens' fault. Neither is it bigotry. Blaming us for it is neither honorable nor fair. And we are not doing it to make you feel bad. Why can't you understand this? It's not about you. It's about a fucked-up culture that we and you both live in.
posted by emjaybee at 4:20 PM on July 4, 2011 [34 favorites]


All that happened was a man said she was "interesting" and asked her to have coffee. I am not even confident that "interesting" is meant to be taken sexually.

The "have coffee" part was meant to be taken sexually. Seriously. Asking someone back to your hotel room to "have coffee" at four in the morning is just about as close as you can get (short of inviting someone up for "a drink") to asking someone to have sex with you without straight-out saying "hi, would you like to have sex with me now?"

Someone who just wanted to talk might have invited her back to the bar, where plenty of beverages (including, most likely, actual coffee) were to be had. Or they might have asked her if she'd like to meet for coffee in the coffee shop the next morning. Or they might have gone out of their way via dialogue to establish the fact that they meant coffee not "coffee". In the absence of any of these, alone together at four in the morning in an elevator, this was a sexual proposition.

The people who keep going "but... but maybe he just wanted to share a delicious beverage brewed from the roasted berries of coffea arabica with her!" may as well assert that folks are just offering friendly directions when they come up to you in a group and suggest that you are "in the wrong neighborhood".
posted by vorfeed at 4:20 PM on July 4, 2011 [10 favorites]


Astro Zombie: The parallel you just attempted is not even remotely analogous. Could we instead stick to the actual story, rather than swap out the participants for somebody else in order to make our case? It's very easy to try to prove a point by parallel, and that generally deteriorates into people attempting to come up with the most strained comparison they can that fits their viewpoint.
Wait, what the fuck? Yes, of course it's easy to prove a point by parallel, people do it all the time as part of logical and reasoned arguments! Do you just dislike the conclusion, and thus declare the act of "proving a point by parallel" to be null and void today?

The analogy is from what I can tell very crystal clear: you can't reasonably take your irrational fear of a certain class people- even if it's based on real world experience- and distill it into a blanket statement about a whole class- gender, or race, for example- and pretend it's not simple bigotry masquerading under another name. And it's actually offensive to suggest that it is the responsibility of the rest of that class, who didn't do anything wrong, to be somehow kowtow to your irrational fears. If I was a battle-scarred Vietnam vet with an irrational fear of Asians, I shouldn't expect Asian people in my neighborhood to cross the street to avoid being near me, as a courtesy to my racism.

For example, your silly silly story about how you earn brownie points by moving to other parts o the sidewalk... would you ask black men aged 18-29 to do the same, so you don't feel uncomfortable? If black men said they did that just to avoid problems/be good citizens... wouldn't you say they've basically internalized a racism that's not okay?

On preview:
Poet_Lariat: wtf? The very definition of a straw man argument.
Black men aren't committing 95%+ of sexual assaults in the world.
Men are doing that. Not black men. Just men.
That is a stupendous mis-read of the original comment. And also, that is very much not the "definition" of a straw man argument, it was an explicitly stated "analogy" (you clearly don't know what a straw man argument is). The reason being that if you suggested because some small percentage __ of black men do something, we should safely assume 95-100% of black men are likely ___ers, and that all black men should then kowtow by doing ____ so that no one is uncomfortable. Because if you make the class "dark skinned people" you know well enough not to make that argument or be labeled rightly a bigot. But if you make that case about "men" as some Borg-like menace... this is okay?

The point of pla and others is that phobias are something inside YOUR head, and thus something you must learn to control for yourself. I, and other XY cases- or black men, for that matter- are not responsible for your fears. But you will never, ever understand that, and I've wasted a comment even trying to convince you.
posted by hincandenza at 4:21 PM on July 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


Sorry I cussed (was that the problem? yeah i know it wasn't) I'll write my opinion to be mefi kosher:

Rebecca Watson view of sexism is entirely inappropriate, reveals a narcissistic self-entitled view and actually rewinds the discussion on gender.

Also, two of my comments were removed.
posted by Shit Parade at 4:21 PM on July 4, 2011


Yes, mostly baseless. For the behavior of 25% of a group (and probably much less, since I doubt each rapist stops after his first time), you would damn the whole group.

Well, it would be really fucking handy if every guy had a big sign over his head that said "rapist" or "not rapist." Because I sure as hell can't tell by looking which guy is likely going to assault a woman and which one isn't.

I don't assume that every guy I cross paths with is a rapist - this is probably the case for more women than not. I do assume that a man is more likely to be a threat to my physical safety than a woman is. I'm sorry if it offends you that I put my desire to be safe over the desire to not offend the sensibility of some dude I've never met as we get on an elevator together.
posted by rtha at 4:23 PM on July 4, 2011 [14 favorites]


Do you just dislike the conclusion, and thus declare the act of "proving a point by parallel" to be null and void today?

No, I think your parallel is poor. Black people are not analogous to men in the circumstance you constructed. If anything, the parallel might be better as:

Black person trapped in elevator with security guard.
Security guard asks black person if he'd like to come down to the security office.

And even that's piss poor, but at least redresses the inverted power relationship you constructed in your original, nonsensical parallel.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:23 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


That literally made no sense to me.
posted by hincandenza at 4:24 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


your silly silly story about how you earn brownie points by moving to other parts o the sidewalk...

I'm not going to actually answer you if you ascribe nonsensical motivation to behavior I do out of concern for others. It's a poor way to try and engage somebody in discussion. I don't do anything for brownie points. Could you restate your question in a respectful way?
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:25 PM on July 4, 2011


That literally made no sense to me.

Did the previous parallel make sense to you? They all fall apart when you think about them, unless they are near-analogues.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:27 PM on July 4, 2011


You just said I committed the sin of ascribing "nonsensical" motivation to your behavior... literally one comment separating the time you referred to my parallel as "nonsensical". I can't deal with that..

Also, it wasn't even my parallel, I believe it was pla's. I was just trying to explain- futile, I know- that his parallel was perfectly reasonable, since it demonstrated how generalizing your fears to a whole class- race, creed, national origin, or gender- is bigotry when you replace one noun with another. It's inconceivable to me you don't understand this. And I did not understand the security guard metaphor- although I guess the green light is back on for using metaphors, similes, and analogies.
posted by hincandenza at 4:29 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


emjaybee : Because your personal feelings are more important than my safety?

You can control your safety*. I cannot control your prejudices.


Do you realize that is what you are saying?

Do you?


* Seriously, you can - Learn how to defend yourself (and not one of those one-day "armbars 101", but a martial art taken on an ongoing basis), and I can absolutely guarantee you that, with just a few months of weekly training, no one will ever rape you (without killing you first).
posted by pla at 4:29 PM on July 4, 2011


When is it acceptable to initiate conversation with a woman who is a stranger? What is the appropriate level of forwardness? Is there a rulesheet somewhere? I had a lot of trouble with this already and stuff like this isn't helping. Is every unwanted word from a stranger presumptuous and offensive? Should I avoid unsolicited contact with women entirely? How exactly does a sensitive atheist man behave?
posted by tehloki at 4:29 PM on July 4, 2011


hincandenza:The point of pla and others is that phobias are something inside YOUR head,

And what part of the one in SIX women have been rape or have had attempted rape by a man are you refusing to understand? Those are the officially reported stats. Imagine what the numbers would really be like if all the women too afraid to be stigmatized by rape were also included in those figures.

A one in six chance of getting very,very badly hurt by something in your lifetime is not a phobia. It's a reality. You're trivializing it into a phobia makes you not part of the solution.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 4:30 PM on July 4, 2011 [7 favorites]


Well this is a clusterfuck of a conversation.

Some random thoughts:

The men saying - "hey why not come to this conference and talk about sexism in {x}" are probably not the same men who then tell you you're being too sensitive.

You know - I have had unwanted male attention from someone who was physically way superior to me, and I took his hand off my cock and told him that I wasn't interested. Didn't bother me one bit. This is in no way meant to minimise fear that many women feel, but rather is an example of me telling a story which doesn't do anything for the subject at hand. It's not important. The world is way too complicated for little stories that somehow prove a point one way or the other. This goes for the idiots saying "well, how would you like it if.." and the idiots saying "well, this one time a girl hit on me, and therefore..." It's not even a data point, and we cheapen ourselves by asking for and providing these kinds of stories.

Saying that, I know a girl who was date raped at a doctors conference, by a doctor, and my advice to any women is to keep safe at conferences and to listen to the little voice that tells you this is a creepy guy you need to avoid. Athiests can be rapists too.

It strikes me that a lot of this conversation is being had over tiny aspects of sexuality / decorum, and it makes me glad that many big battles (equal pay, don't rape women, your daughter is not your property) have been won. I don't think there's many that would disagree with that. We all agree on so much, and although these smaller details need to be worked out I can't help but wonder why we're all still so angry.

If you're a highly respected member of your community and you tell an "anecdote" about something that happened to you, then people are going to assume that you're making a major political point. Even when you're making a minor political point. Rebecca Watson should have realised that. She may have said "hey guys - but of respect, don't be a prick." but it's not suprising some people heard "ALL MEN ARE RAPISTS. EVEN YOU NON-RAPISTS. YOU RAPISTS"

I think there's a difference between "creepy because I'm embarrassed people might think he likes me" and "creepy because he may rape me." People on both sides of the argument need to start differentiating between the two. It helps both causes to pretend they're the same thing, but it does nothing to foster consensus.

Please stop assuming all men don't get it. Most people don't get it, but they would like to get it. Work from that principle.

Finally - I really wish some of the more stringent liberals on this site would take a chill pill. I know this is really important to you, and you went on that feminism course and it changed your life, but you need to stop shouting angrily at those people who believe in 99% of what you believe in. Honestly, I've come away from more than one of these metafilter threads wondering if there is something to Victorian theories about feminine hysteria. (cue anger and flagging)
posted by seanyboy at 4:30 PM on July 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


You just said I committed the sin of ascribing "nonsensical" motivation to your behavior... literally one comment separating the time you referred to my parallel as "nonsensical"

Yes. You've committed nonsense twice in a tow now. You made a parallel that was nonsense, and you ascribed motivation to me that is nonsense.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:30 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was once stuck on a plane that was delayed on the tarmac for over half an hour and a man of Muslim appearance, who was seated next to me, turned to me and said "Well, this should be an interesting flight!" and then winked, which I perceived as a euphemism for "I'm going to blow up this plane and everyone on it." so I immediately reported him to the cabin crew and he was arrested and removed by a security guard.

Don't do this, Muslims.
posted by smithsmith at 4:31 PM on July 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


Oh yes, I walk on the other side of the road too, if I think that there's a possibility that I might frighten someone. Seriously, if you don't do this, then you should start. There's no reason not to.
posted by seanyboy at 4:32 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


All right. It's all parallels now, and in all of them men are like a despised minority. There might be somewhere useful for this discussion to move, but I've had enough of it.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:32 PM on July 4, 2011


. . . I can absolutely guarantee you that, with just a few months of weekly training, no one will ever rape you (without killing you first).

Hey, ladies! Over here! pla just figured out the secret to not being raped ever! We better get on board the pla train, because we've only got ourselves to blame if we don't!
posted by Countess Elena at 4:33 PM on July 4, 2011 [44 favorites]


what
posted by tehloki at 4:34 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


hincandenza, I'm not clear who made this about "all men" in the first place. This began with a man who cornered a woman in an elevator at 4 AM and propositioned her, after hearing her talk about how she didn't like being propositioned. Watson expanded it into a critique of all unwelcome sexual advances levied at women at professional conferences.

Why in your mind (and pla's, and kafziel's) does this scale to a society-wide prejudice against all men at all times, analogous to the very real history of racism and bigotry in the U.S.? This analogy only makes sense if you believe that it's your right to make an unwelcome sexual advance at any time or place regardless of the feelings of the intended recipient -- that your right to make unwelcome sexual advances is parallel to the right of a black man to be on the street at night at all.

That can't be what you actually think. So what precisely are you advocating for in this thread? On what exactly do you and I, or you and Astro Zombie, disagree? Do you really think that a man cornering a woman in an elevator at 4 AM after hearing her talk about how she didn't like being propositioned is perfectly acceptable behavior, totally unworthy of comment and totally undeserving of criticism?
posted by gerryblog at 4:34 PM on July 4, 2011 [9 favorites]


seanyboy: "it makes me glad that many big battles (equal pay, don't rape women, your daughter is not your property) have been won."

Really?! REALLY?! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!
posted by jfwlucy at 4:34 PM on July 4, 2011 [10 favorites]


* Seriously, you can - Learn how to defend yourself (and not one of those one-day "armbars 101", but a martial art taken on an ongoing basis), and I can absolutely guarantee you that, with just a few months of weekly training, no one will ever rape you (without killing you first).

What about if I'm disabled? Old? Have a child with me that I have to protect? He has a gun? There is more than one assailant? Or I just don't see him before he gets the jump on me?

You are going to guarantee my safety? Seriously? You are living in a fantasy world. I am not a superhero ninja, and even if I were, one day I would be too old for that.

But I'm going to stop now, because this shit is ridiculous.
posted by emjaybee at 4:35 PM on July 4, 2011 [26 favorites]


seanyboy: "it makes me glad that many big battles (equal pay, don't rape women, your daughter is not your property) have been won."

Really?! REALLY?! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!


Well if they haven't, this whole topic is profoundly masturbatory and narcissistic. Because it is monumentally trivial next to the actual problems it's taking attention and energy away from.

When people like Watson define "feminism" as being this? It means it's not something important.
posted by kafziel at 4:37 PM on July 4, 2011


. . . I can absolutely guarantee you that, with just a few months of weekly training, no one will ever rape you

I hate those Charles Atlas ads
posted by Poet_Lariat at 4:37 PM on July 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


I was once stuck on a plane that was delayed on the tarmac for over half an hour and a man of Muslim appearance, who was seated next to me, turned to me and said "Well, this should be an interesting flight!" and then winked, which I perceived as a euphemism for "I'm going to blow up this plane and everyone on it." so I immediately reported him to the cabin crew and he was arrested and removed by a security guard.

Likewise, this one time I went to Japan and every time someone said "konnichiwa" I went "what do you mean?!? Of course 'it is today'!!! BEEP BOOP BOP MY DESIGNATION IS R. DANEEL OLIVAW"
posted by vorfeed at 4:38 PM on July 4, 2011


How exactly does a sensitive atheist man behave?

Not sure, but posts from other attendees and Skepchick's own recounts of past conferences make it sound like drunken hotel room parties are de riguer. She's apparently taken some heat from < ahref="http://skepchick.org/2006/04/a-very-heretical-easter/"> this post from 5 years ago, but at least has the balls to keep it in place.
posted by ShutterBun at 4:38 PM on July 4, 2011


. . . I can absolutely guarantee you that, with just a few months of weekly training, no one will ever rape you (without killing you first).


I know some rape survivors who can prove you wrong on this, pla. And I know there are Metafilter members who are living proof that you are wrong. Maybe some of them will come here and share their stories, but I wouldn't blame them if they didn't choose to do so. They've done it countless times before, and you never listen. You never will.

This thread just makes me want to throw up.
posted by palomar at 4:39 PM on July 4, 2011 [27 favorites]


What about if I'm disabled? Old? Have a child with me that I have to protect? He has a gun? There is more than one assailant? Or I just don't see him before he gets the jump on me?

Not to mention date rape drugs. Good luck doing karate chops when you're ten seconds away from falling unconscious.
posted by ymgve at 4:39 PM on July 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


pla has already put too many nails in the "most men aren't all offensive and rapey" side of the argument's coffin for me to even attempt to continue. I should have read the rest of the thread first.
posted by tehloki at 4:40 PM on July 4, 2011


Christ, I'm glad I'm gay. Because of all the crap I have to deal with as a gay man in America, at least I don't have to be a part of the ongoing melodrama that is gender relations between men and women.

Even many of the intelligent interlocutors are prone to hyperbolic nonsense, insulting patronization and rank gender tribalism. I mean, seriously, this thread is depressing, y'all.
posted by darkstar at 4:41 PM on July 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


* Seriously, you can - Learn how to defend yourself (and not one of those one-day "armbars 101", but a martial art taken on an ongoing basis), and I can absolutely guarantee you that, with just a few months of weekly training, no one will ever rape you (without killing you first).

Seriously, this is an utterly bullshit "guarantee" that you have no business making, unless you're twelve and are imbibing a steady diet of Steven Seagal movies.
posted by rtha at 4:41 PM on July 4, 2011 [13 favorites]


jfwlucy: They haven't been won everywhere, and I phrased that badly. What i meant was it's highly unlikely that anyone on this website could go out with their friends and say something like - "Hey, I punched my girl in the face last night." and get away with it.

Modern, polite, western, civilised (all shudder making words) have a generally held principle of sexual equality. Not that there isn't societal sexism, but the people you and I know are mostly saying the right things.
posted by seanyboy at 4:42 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Poet_Lariat:And what part of the one in SIX women have been rape or have had attempted rape by a man are you refusing to understand? Those are the officially reported stats. Imagine what the numbers would really be like if all the women too afraid to be stigmatized by rape were also included in those figures.

A one in six chance of getting very,very badly hurt by something in your lifetime is not a phobia. It's a reality. You're trivializing it into a phobia makes you not part of the solution
Is it 1 in 6, or 1 in 3, or 50%, or 75%?

I don't believe these numbers any more than I think there actually are 300,000 child prostitutes actively being exploited in the US right now. I think rape happens, in and out of prisons. I think it's tragic, and sad, and mostly avoidable. And I think making up stats is incredibly unhelpful, as is the implication that I, as a non-rapist, have some greater responsibility because of my gender to solve this problem, is offensive to me.

I have come to the conclusion that either there's one incredibly busy guy, raping all rape victims, and for some reason they never figure out it's the same dude... or that n-1 of all men (and I'm the minus man in that equation, I guess) are raping women, presumably in teams to make the math work out. Or it's somewhere in between on the spectrum. If you think the numbers are closer to the "one really busy guy" end, you think fearing all men is irrational. If you think it's closer to the n-1 end, then your fears are grounded... but that's so staggering a possibility it makes me wonder how I'm unaware of which friends of mine are rapists, and why my female friends don't name them, even to each other.
posted by hincandenza at 4:44 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


tehloki: What is the appropriate level of forwardness?

The answer is simple. Zero. Zero "forwardness." The only really appropriate thing to say to a stranger in almost any circumstance is ... "Hi," or "Hello." If said stranger merely nods, or gives a polite smile and turns away, the "conversation" is over.

It is almost always unreasonable to be "forward" with a stranger. Of either sex. It is especially inappropriate to be "forward" in a sexual manner to a stranger at any time, in any place.

And, to echo many, many other comments previously, anyone who doesn't know (or pretends not to know) that "come up for coffee" is a universal euphemism for sex need only look at the controversial episode with the video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, in which players could enable a modification that unlocked a sexual minigame that had been removed from the retail release. The name of that modification? Hot Coffee.
posted by ronofthedead at 4:45 PM on July 4, 2011 [8 favorites]


seanyboy: the people you and I know are mostly saying the right things.

Well, I think that they probably AREN'T because, again, this entire argument came up in the context of "how can men make women feel more welcome at science/atheist/comic/sci-fi/programming conferences?"

If you actually ASK WOMEN and listen to their answers, they will actually TELL YOU that this kind of unpleasant encounter is ACTUALLY RATHER FREQUENT and is a big factor in why they choose not to attend conferences. So, no, the number of clueless men in denial is not nearly as insignificant as you think. They are not outliers. They are not rare. Just because you don't see something doesn't mean it's not true.

posted by jfwlucy at 4:48 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


* Seriously, you can - Learn how to defend yourself (and not one of those one-day "armbars 101", but a martial art taken on an ongoing basis), and I can absolutely guarantee you that, with just a few months of weekly training, no one will ever rape you (without killing you first).

I...I don't even know how to respond to this, so I'll veer off into another direction:

I don't think that all men are potential rapists (though I'll admit that like many women, I have found it wise to be wary), but based on my personal experience and that of other women I have known, I do think that there are a certain subsection of men who imagine that in every social situation women take part in, no matter the context of that social situation, that the women are there to be picked up and should be delighted to be propositioned. You can say 'but how else will I know unless I ask' and I will respond 'my discussion of the failures of the water system in 4th century Rome is not a come on. And I fail to see how it could be interpreted as such.' And I would prefer that you hear what I say and tailor your actions to the situation. It's not that difficult to do. It really isn't! But it involves listening to what I - or other women (or other anybody) - are saying. I honestly don't know anyone who would react positively to a come on in a lift by a total stranger. At 4 am. In fact, I would find it rather scary and threatening, because people don't behave like that in lifts. They just don't. If it took this for that guy to learn that fact, then he learned something very valuable.

But what do I know? I go to conferences because I want to listen to the papers, talk to people who share my interests and network. And at the heart of this discussion I feel there's a very valuable point that should be made (and is being lost) about trying to make conferences of all sorts as comfortable as possible a place to be for all concerned. If that means people learning how to interact in a professional and respectful fashion, then I don't see how this is a negative.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 4:48 PM on July 4, 2011 [14 favorites]


emjaybee : But I'm going to stop now, because this shit is ridiculous.

You tell me who has the more reasonable stance - "I won't bother to take reasonable steps to protect myself, so I'll hold the crimes of 17% of your gender against you", or "shit happens, prepare yourself and deal with it when it does"

Okay, I probably phrased that too strongly, and didn't mean to come off sounding like some sort of tough-guy. But let's not pretend the VAST majority of rapes wouldn't stop dead if most women could break simple holds and put a serious hurting on her attacker if he let his guard down for even a second.


palomar : They've done it countless times before, and you never listen. You never will.

Wow, way to tell me what I have and haven't read, and will or will not listen to. Because these stories you mention, I haven't seen any yet.

Not that I don't believe you - I admitted my error above, too strongly phrased. But choosing bigotry to preserve willful helplessness?

"This thread just makes me want to throw up."
posted by pla at 4:51 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


lesbiassparrow : You can say 'but how else will I know unless I ask' and I will respond 'my discussion of the failures of the water system in 4th century Rome is not a come on. And I fail to see how it could be interpreted as such.'

So the woman always gets to make the first move. That answers that question, bluntly asked (and ignored or outright mocked) several times above.
posted by pla at 4:53 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


jfwlucy: Did I say otherwise? I know what conferences and conventions are like. I've seen the predatory men.

But if I disagree with you over a minor point, this should not make us enemies. There's stuff to address, but minor disagreements about things should not invoke automatic GRAR!

I'm sad that you assume that i don't listen. And I'm sad that I didn't phrase myself well enough for you to make sense of what I actually said.
posted by seanyboy at 4:53 PM on July 4, 2011


jfwlucy, cut it out.
posted by cortex at 4:55 PM on July 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


pla wrote:. . . I can absolutely guarantee you that, with just a few months of weekly training, no one will ever rape you (without killing you first).

Countess Elena replied: Hey, ladies! Over here! pla just figured out the secret to not being raped ever! We better get on board the pla train, because we've only got ourselves to blame if we don't!

To translate Countess Elena's comment, this is another form of victim-blaming. It just escalates violence, too, and is continued failure to actually educate, talk about (and hopefully solve) sexual violence and what "rape culture" actually means, or even what rape itself really is.

And last, frankly, it's just not true. Martial arts don't protect you from guns, weapons, being drugged - or being raped by coercion someone you trusted. While I advocate martial arts for anyone to help build self confidence and reduce fear, you can't actually fight your way out of all threats.

Because sexual violence isn't just a physical attack. Rape can happen and it's silent. The word "no" isn't actually required for it to be rape. Unwanted sexual contact makes it rape. Rape isn't always physicallyviolent. Rape happens from parents, teachers, friends - trusted people. What men don't get is how women can be coerced into silence and submission emotionally, through fear, through retribution, through the potential loss of a job, a parent, of any number of power imbalances. And they're all still rape. This is what women are talking about when they say "SILENCE IS NOT CONSENT".

When a man asks "Why didn't you fight back and kick and scream" and think about all the ways they could fight back against their attacker - it's unthinkable and unfathomable to them to not be in the right to fight back with violence - because men as a whole do not face these power imbalances.

They don't imagine being hit on by, say, their doctors, teachers, students, friends, co-workers. They also don't imagine being threatened with rape by force or coercion by these people.

Sure, many men may have had unwanted sexual advances by women or other men and many say "I still don't see what the big deal is" and still don't take what women are saying seriously, because they haven't experienced nearly as much of it, for so long, from such a young age in a society that was stacked against them and didn't take what they had to say seriously. Because bitches be crazy or some stupid shit.

These power imbalances both physical, emotional and mental. Yes, much of that is based on hormones and our biology. Yes, men and women are different. Yes, the modes of thinking and emotional responses are different between men and women and run along a spectrum.

But just as much of these differences are cultural, and learned.

And in either case it behooves all of us to rise above these biological and social imperatives if only because no one is truly free while others are not.

Yeah, I'm personally involved and pissed. Misogynistic, patriachial attitudes are personally keeping me in a socially constructed prison of gender and expectations, enslaved by standards that I don't wish to meet.

I want to be free.
posted by loquacious at 4:55 PM on July 4, 2011 [38 favorites]


seanyboy: I'm sorry that you don't get to decide what is a "minor point." If hundreds of posts and blogs by women are suggesting that it is a MAJOR POINT, perhaps you need to listen more instead of talking.
posted by jfwlucy at 4:55 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


ronofthedead: The answer is simple. Zero. Zero "forwardness." The only really appropriate thing to say to a stranger in almost any circumstance is ... "Hi," or "Hello." If said stranger merely nods, or gives a polite smile and turns away, the "conversation" is over.

Okay. Thank you, that was informative. So, how do people end up having sex, then? Is it the woman's responsibility to bring up the possibility? This goes against most of what I've heard about the way people go about the whole business, but I guess polite society evolves quickly.
posted by tehloki at 4:56 PM on July 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


pla it sounds like you're arguing that women are at fault for being raped if they don't know basic martial arts, and that men shouldn't be held at all accountable for the fact that apparently 17% of the gender are rapists. This is why you end up with threads about women feeling unsafe in an elevator with men, because they quickly degenerate from people pointing out that it's maybe not insane that a man would approach a woman out of the blue and politely ask her to his room for coffee and degenerate to people saying that if you don't know how to apply an armbar you shouldn't be surprised when you get raped.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 4:58 PM on July 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


So the woman always gets to make the first move. That answers that question, bluntly asked (and ignored or outright mocked) several times above.

That's not what I said at all. I said that in these things context is everything. If we're having a professional discussion, I am not somehow offering you an opening to come on to me. If we're having a different sort of discussion, then that's different. Or, to put it another way, if we're interacting as professionals, I want you to treat me as a professional. Not someone who potentially wants to hop into bed with you. And in such situations I think it inappropriate for you to come on to me; I would say double to that if I'd talked about how much I dislike it when that happens. I don't see why that's so hard to understand.

Different situations require different behaviour.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 4:58 PM on July 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'm a dude and from New York. When I worked retail in a part of Manhattan practically built for tourists and practically swarming with police, my boss (a woman and former IDF) never, ever let women run the store alone at night. And we closed at 11 and everyone considered it a good, safe move.

On a road trip through Denmark, I was astounded at the fact that a gas station a hour or two outside of Copenhagen, at 4 AM, was being run by a sixteen year old girl, alone. It was inconceivable, and, yet, there it was.


I think you may be holding your inconceivable-telescope backwards.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:00 PM on July 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


About ten years ago, I was walking from the store back to my apartment in Manhattan, and the street was fairly empty, but when crossing the street, I noticed that Carrie Anne Moss was crossing at the same time in the opposite direct. Now, the Matrix was still a big damn deal at the time, as was Memento, and I was a film student still starstruck by celebrities in the big bright city. I started to open my mouth but instead just politely nodded.

She mouthed back, "thank you."

Being a guy, I have never, you know, had that experience of being a woman. But I try to think of that little interchange as much as possible. Even if someone is going to be nothing but gushing and complimentary, people want to be able to get to the store, or to work, or to their hotel rooms, without being bothered.

And while I have liked Dawkins before, this is entirely shitty. The first response seems to be coming from a place of defending his flock, so to speak - the atheists are being branded as sexist! Sexist as compared to whom?! The Muslims?! - but later it just comes across as this woman needing to shut her mouth because he said so. Fuck off with that nonsense, Dawkins.
posted by Navelgazer at 5:00 PM on July 4, 2011 [10 favorites]


cortex, I'm repeating myself appropriately precisely because these guys keep saying the same thing over and over and over again. That they have the key/the magic ruler/the objective perception to determine whether women are being "unreasonable," "phobic," "sexist," "irrational," etc.

I'm pointing out their basic, primary fallacy, which is that, within the context of actually asking women what bothers them about conferences, they are dismissing with prejudice what actual women are saying in favor of some mythical standard of objectivity to which only they are privy.
posted by jfwlucy at 5:00 PM on July 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


Now, I'm off to watch the real fireworks.
posted by jfwlucy at 5:02 PM on July 4, 2011


tehloki, a blog post about a study on stranger pickups was linked above, but you might have missed it. It's interesting reading.

I have picked up and been picked up by people I didn't know well at conferences. I didn't just walk up to strangers and propose sex (and neither did the people who were successful at picking me up). There was always at least a few hours of conversation, flirting, and context-building beforehand. We'd get to know each other a little bit, and also get to who the other person knew and who knew them, so neither of us was a complete unknown quantity to the other. It takes effort and thoughtfulness and paying attention, but it's not rocket science.
posted by rtha at 5:02 PM on July 4, 2011 [11 favorites]


Well I'm off to drink beer and watch fireworks

but I I tell you what, I ain't getting i no fricking elevators today
posted by Poet_Lariat at 5:05 PM on July 4, 2011


tehloki: I'm a bit confused. Is it your experience, based on "what (you've) heard about the way people go about the whole business" that the entire "business" of sex is conducted by strangers who happen to bump into each other?

Because, if I had to guess, I'd say that, roughly, 99.9999999 percent of consensual sex does not occur between actual strangers. In other words, I seriously doubt that any significant percentage of consensual sex among humans begins this way:

Guy sees girl. Guy walks up to girl. Guy says "Wanna fuck?"
posted by ronofthedead at 5:05 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


rtha said it way better than I did while I was typing in my response.
posted by ronofthedead at 5:07 PM on July 4, 2011


loquacious : When a man asks "Why didn't you fight back and kick and scream" and think about all the ways they could fight back against their attacker - it's unthinkable and unfathomable to them to not be in the right to fight back with violence - because men as a whole do not face these power imbalances.

I don't intend this as a rebuttal - Excellent post, BTW - But an... Admission?

You have it absolutely right. I cannot imagine letting someone violate my body because I consider it the lesser of two evils. I honestly can't think of any frame of reference that puts me there. Maybe to defend my kids, if I had/wanted any, but as someone upthread accused me of, that situation requires a pretty elaborate dramatic setup to make it such that submitting would actually help in any way. But the rest? I don't know, I just can't relate. So my doctor hits on me. My boss. My hairdresser... So what? Up to the point that they get touchy (at which point I'd respond appropriately), It just... wouldn't bother me. To the point that I probably wouldn't even notice it. And once it does cross the line, I can't imagine just putting up with it instead of fighting to my last breath. No, I don't style myself as some sort of ninja, and I can't even brag that I'd likely win; but I can't see myself ever submitting.

So if I come across as suggesting positive steps one might take to protect themselves, rather than fearing everyone around you, I do so because it just seems like the most rational course of action. I can't control everyone I meet, every situation I encounter.


villanelles at dawn : pla it sounds like you're arguing that women are at fault for being raped if they don't know basic martial arts, and that men shouldn't be held at all accountable for the fact that apparently 17% of the gender are rapists.

No, and ohmyfuckinggodYESforthe50thtime. And on that note, consider me done with this topic.
posted by pla at 5:12 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry that you don't get to decide what is a "minor point."

Yes, because you and I have radically different ideas about which of the following is worst:
- douchey behaviour towards women at conference.
- allowing women into conferences.
- forcing women to wear appropriate clothing at conference.
- making sure women at conference are accompanied at all times by a husband, father or brother.
- allowing women to give talks at conference.
- allowing women to drink at conferences.

Again, I don't really want this to be a fight between us. I'm maybe choosing my words badly, but what I'm trying to say is that we agree over most things, and that should be recognised in the context of this discussion.
posted by seanyboy at 5:13 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Scott Adams sure has a ton of sockpuppet accounts here.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 5:14 PM on July 4, 2011 [12 favorites]


I don't know, I just can't relate.

Try harder. The failing here is not ours. It's yours.
posted by palomar at 5:21 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I cannot imagine letting someone violate my body because I consider it the lesser of two evils. I honestly can't think of any frame of reference that puts me there.

Teresa Butz's partner can.
posted by hades at 5:21 PM on July 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


And on that note, consider me done with this topic.

That's too bad because I'd be interested to hear your reasoning for why an entire gender shouldn't sweat it that 17% is the number of members not who merely think it's okay to rape a woman, but have actually gone and fucking done it. That's a hell of a lot of bad apples to explain away.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 5:23 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow, I've been reading this thread on and off all day, and it just keeps getting longer and longer. And, um, worse and worse.

Can I just say that Astro Zombie, rtha, and Poet_lariat are awesome? I wish I could hang out with you guys with beer and sparklers tonight.

now off to read the meTa
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:27 PM on July 4, 2011 [11 favorites]


Somehow, reading these long threads from end to end gives me the same feeling I used to get from reading Hunter S. Thompson screeds. What a long, strange trip its been....
posted by AdamCSnider at 5:28 PM on July 4, 2011


I wish I could hang out with you guys with beer and sparklers tonight.

What the hell is that supposed to mean? Check out this creep, everyone.
posted by smithsmith at 5:39 PM on July 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


That's too bad because I'd be interested to hear your reasoning for why an entire gender shouldn't sweat it that 17% is the number of members not who merely think it's okay to rape a woman, but have actually gone and fucking done it. That's a hell of a lot of bad apples to explain away.

Fun with statistics:

"17.6 % of women in the United States have survived a completed or attempted rape."

becomes

17% of men are rapists!
posted by the_artificer at 5:41 PM on July 4, 2011 [10 favorites]


Well if they haven't, this whole topic is profoundly masturbatory and narcissistic. Because it is monumentally trivial next to the actual problems it's taking attention and energy away from.

It is not trivial, because an unwelcome advance in an isolated place can very well lead to rape. The point is there is no way for a woman to know if a guy is safe or not except for some cues. If a guy follows a woman into an elevator at 4am to proposition her, that's a strong indication that the guy may be in fact threatening, and that there isn't anything wrong with her fearing for her safety.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:41 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


To put this another way (and I've been studying all day, so please forgive me that I haven't been able to read the entire thread): his woman complained on the internet about a minor incident. Thus began a debate among the skeptics community, with one side taking her side that women should be treated as human beings with the right to say "no" to propositions without being further harrassed, and the other side, and this isn't exaggerating here, saying that she shouldn't have complained.

Whatever else you might take away from this, Dawkins called her out for talking about her reaction to her experiences. And in doing so attempted to discredit or otherwise invalidate her experiences via an attempted derail into a conversation about "fuck Islam," where he is much better acquainted. This to a member of his own community who raised a legitimate concern.

No matter what else, there is that.
posted by Navelgazer at 5:48 PM on July 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


If a guy follows a woman into an elevator at 4am to proposition her, that's a strong indication that the guy may be in fact threatening

If three black guys in gangsterish-looking attire walk up to the otherwise low traffic hotel night window where I'm trying to check in at 1am, that's a strong indication that they may in fact be threatening.

So clearly, the message should be.... if you're black or male and in a group of more than one and it's late at night, please don't walk up to service windows where a solo white man might be waiting, it could make them very nervous and afraid about the possibility of assault.
posted by namespan at 5:49 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


(And yeah, this has all the hallmarks of an LJ-Fail except that Dawkins is a bit more of a household name than the Haydens are.)
posted by Navelgazer at 5:50 PM on July 4, 2011


I'm not vouching for the 17% number; in my original response to pla I said "apparently," but that's the number that he used when complaining about men as a whole having to suffer for the crimes of the few, he considers 17% to be few; I don't. But if it's anywhere even close to 17% I as a man am going to want to ask what's going on with men that a number that high is possible, and going to be very understanding when women are a little wary about strange men approaching them in confined spaces. If 17 or 15 or 5 percent of Muslims were actual terrorists rather than the .00000whatever it actually is, I'd expect Muslims as a group to get a lot of heat for it; and I'd expect them to do some serious soul-searching about why they're proving to be such a problem for the world. I can't believe it's controversial to suggest that men should work a little harder to understand why as a gender they're such a fucking problem for the other gender, but apparently it is.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 5:50 PM on July 4, 2011


You know, I'm going to step back from my disbelief at pla's comments and remember that my husband once told me how he used to think the same way, as a young man, and then he grew past it.

Don't know pla's age, and it doesn't matter. But I did want to extend an olive branch a bit. I get that when women talk about rape culture and being constantly afraid, it sounds incredible. I get that it hurts to be told women might be afraid you're a rapist when you define yourself as someone who would never do such a thing. I really do.

Dealing with the reality of rape as something that really happens, to real people, all the time, is difficult and part of the reason it's so hard to fight is that no one wants to think about something so horribly unpleasant. We want to believe there are easy answers; that women are exaggerating, that if they're not there are simple ways to protect themselves, that if a person just follows the rules and prepares themselves, they have nothing to worry about. But rape doesn't always work that way. It happens in families, between friends, in "safe" places. That's part of what makes it so awful and demoralizing.

But none of that means we can't fight it. And I would rather pla saw himself as part of that fight than as someone being fought against. Any guy who's not a rapist is someone who I want as my ally against rape.

(If all of this is a massive derail from the original post, I apologize to the mods for contributing to that.)
posted by emjaybee at 5:52 PM on July 4, 2011 [17 favorites]


villanelles: I'm not sure you're understanding what the_artificer is saying. 17% of women attacked is not 17% of men attacking.

This isn't to diminish the problem - it means you've got a smaller number of more persistent offenders who are apparently failing to be caught early enough, and regardless of anything else it's a terrifyingly high number. But there's very little foundation upthread for claiming 17% of men commit rape or attempted rape.
posted by edd at 5:53 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


becomes

17% of men are rapists!


It's actually over 25% according to this study:

rtha: More than 1 in 4 women I have known in my life - including me - have been subject to sexual assault.
posted by smithsmith at 5:54 PM on July 4, 2011


Look, Pla, I'm a woman. I have had unpleasant interactions with males to include assault. Not only that, but one of my daughters was slipped a date rape drug years ago and only the grace of God enabled her to fight off the effects, loudly, and not get raped. I won't go into specifics, for her privacy.

Please understand, that if I am not a friend of yours, if I do not KNOW you, I also do NOT know if you are part of the small subset that would assault me, or assault my daughter. All I know is a) attention from strangers is for the most part very unwanted by women and b) I don't know if you are just someone being cluelessly clumsy or if you just happen to be a serial killer or rapist or otherwise scummy individual. And neither would my daughter.


I am so sorry it hurts your feelings (and here I am being genuinely not snarky) that women have these fears and these concerns but I tell you with every fiber in my being that if we women AREN'T aware and careful (and sadly even sometimes if we ARE) we can easily and all too often find ourselves in uncomfortable and/or frankly dangerous situations.

It is way too common for me to give you or any other male I do not know the benefit of the doubt. And for that matter, some of the males I have known in my life have not deserved that benefit of the doubt either. I am very glad my rapist is now dead, but one valuable lesson I learned from him is that even "nice" guys can rape.

So pla, I am sorry, but you are just going to have to suck it up and deal. My safety and my daughters' safety are way more important than your feelings.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:57 PM on July 4, 2011 [33 favorites]


My boss. My hairdresser... So what?

You are a woman, a single parent, and the sole money-earner for your family. For a variety of reasons, your job options are limited, and you definitely live paycheck-to-paycheck. Your boss, or an important client of same, comes on to you and threatens to fire you or get you fired if you don't comply. He's not violent; he doesn't threaten you with a knife or anything like that. But your job is at serious risk, and if you lose it, you probably lose your housing, and you may lose your kids to CPS, if only temporarily.

Are you really so unimaginative that this kind of scenario is inconceivable to you?

What palomar said: your inability to relate to (unbelievably common experiences of women), or to put yourself in our shoes, is not our failing.
posted by rtha at 6:01 PM on July 4, 2011 [10 favorites]


Lisak & Miller have a 6.4% response from men identifying themselves as rapists (or attempted rapists) -- 63% of those reporting multiple instances -- and I remember reading about a study a few years ago which got a huge response to the question "would you rape someone if you could 100% get away with it?" as long as they didn't phrase the question using the word "rape".

But 6.4% is way lower than 17%, so everything's ok. 6.4% is nothing to worry about at all. I mean, that's only 1 in 16. How often do you encounter more than 16 men in a day? Hardly ever, right?
posted by hades at 6:03 PM on July 4, 2011 [9 favorites]


* Seriously, you can - Learn how to defend yourself (and not one of those one-day "armbars 101", but a martial art taken on an ongoing basis), and I can absolutely guarantee you that, with just a few months of weekly training, no one will ever rape you (without killing you first).

Again: no. Just no. I remember seeing a case in which a young woman, expert in martial arts, was raped and beaten by her attacker. The reason she didn't leap to use her martial arts expertise against him? Well, he'd started the attack by punching her in the face and breaking her jaw. He had a knife. And she was reasonably fearful that her classroom expertise in martial arts was not going to save her life here, and she was afraid to chance it.

The guy's defense attorney called her out in the courtroom, asking "why didn't you defend yourself?" Her response, which I will always remember: "I'm still alive. I think I made the right choice."
posted by OolooKitty at 6:07 PM on July 4, 2011 [7 favorites]


Thanks for finding a better number to put on it hades. I'm a stats pedant, but I'm in agreemenet with St Alia et al here - I'll suck it up gladly if their attitude makes them safer.
posted by edd at 6:10 PM on July 4, 2011


Rebecca Watson gave an important talk about the skeptical movement and feminism. She made a number of relevant points that haven't been made enough.

Then some dude makes a mistake and invites Rebecca Watson to his room after she has said she was tired.

Then Rebecca Watson makes a mistake and tries to attach a lesson about this completely unrelated incident to her message about feminism and skepticism.

Then Richard Dawkins parades his crassness around the internet, obscuring what few constructive things could have been said about the way this incident relates (or doesn't) to feminism and skepticism.

Let's don't make more out of this inconsequential silliness than we have to.
posted by nikolayevich_ray at 6:14 PM on July 4, 2011


I'd suspect most of that 17% (if that is the correct number) are not aware that their conduct was considered to be rape by their victim. Rape is tragically under-reported as is and of that number the percentage of violent rapes is probably in the minority.

Men don't think of themselves, individually, as rapists. Moreover, men do not think of themselves as a member of the subset of "Men," in a general sense, much in the way that whites in America don't think about it, it's just not something that they are conscious of except in limited circumstances such as conversations like these.

There is an issue with the way rape, and here I am specifically thinking of date rape, is discussed in society. On the one hand, the label is good and appropriate, as it gives the proper weight to the effect upon the victim. It makes it clear that this is a serious issue.

On the other hand, it disassociates the crime from what an average man who would care to learn about date rape believes he is capable of. And that's a big problem.

Things that happen in college, when you're just "going with it," those times when you might have said, "come on," or its equivalent. I bet a lot of men who would "never do that" can think back upon incidents of gray area, that might not have been so gray to her.

We do a disservice to all of us by brading rapists as monstrous "others" rather than rape as a monstrous act that any of us are capable of, no matter how well-intentioned we believe we are at the time.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:19 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


But 6.4% is way lower than 17%, so everything's ok. 6.4% is nothing to worry about at all. I mean, that's only 1 in 16. How often do you encounter more than 16 men in a day? Hardly ever, right?

The other 15 men, as it were, are generally guarding against rapists. That's why a gentleman will offer to escort a woman to her car or hotel room at appropriate times.
posted by Brian B. at 6:20 PM on July 4, 2011


My main point was that you should avoid quoting statistics if you're unsure of the source. It muddies an already contentious issue and can damage the credibility of you and your viewpoint.
posted by the_artificer at 6:21 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


If three black guys in gangsterish-looking attire walk up to the otherwise low traffic hotel night window where I'm trying to check in at 1am, that's a strong indication that they may in fact be threatening.

Again, this analogy only makes sense if you believe making unwelcome sexual advances is unavoidably essential to being male. You're comparing a man's "right" to make sexual advances to the ability of black males ("gangsterish" or otherwise) to walk the streets at night and use hotels. This is where the analogy completely breaks down.

No one is saying men can't use elevators late at night. What people are saying is that they should try to avoid making unwelcome sexual advances, as a sexual advance to a woman you don't know who is trapped in an elevator with you surely is.
posted by gerryblog at 6:22 PM on July 4, 2011 [9 favorites]


Sorry, I meant to link to my earlier comment here.
posted by gerryblog at 6:24 PM on July 4, 2011


So I read tons of comments and various things but missed whether or not the actual guy who said something to her has spoken up about his actions.

Has he spoken about his behavior?
posted by rakim at 6:26 PM on July 4, 2011


"Would you like to come back to my room"

"No, thanks".

Next.
posted by unSane at 6:32 PM on July 4, 2011


unSane: This is hindsight bias. You already know the man was unthreatening so it seems obvious that he is.
posted by gerryblog at 6:34 PM on July 4, 2011 [7 favorites]


"Would you like to come back to my room"
"No, thanks".
Next.


Then Rebecca Watson makes a mistake and tries to attach a lesson about this completely unrelated incident to her message about feminism and skepticism.


Honestly, I agree with these (separately made) points. I am on the side of a lot of women in this thread and generally as to what constitutes harassment ( being told to smile, getting hit on by a boss) but the initial video post was really incendiary for no reason.

I'm a woman FWIW.
posted by sweetkid at 6:39 PM on July 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


I think you're suggesting that people like me are atheist because Richard Dawkins uses abrasive rhetoric (i.e. pisses off a bridge), or because we enjoy being contrarian, and insulting religious people. In fact I am atheist because of the balance of evidence presented to me. This is a weird sort of ad hominem. A lot of valuable science has been done by awkward, crotchety guys, among whom we can clearly include Dawkins.

I really don't care why you became an atheist. It's entirely irrelevant to the discussion. I don't believe in God myself, though I don't identify as an atheist.

What is relevant is that Richard Dawkins, a community leader among some atheists, used exactly the same style of reasoning to arrive at a disgusting opinion as he uses to promote atheism. He took *pains* to let you know that this was the same kind of reasoning, and that this was consistent with the continuum of his positions.

Richard Dawkins' anti-religious arguments were always terrible. They appealed to non-falsifiable metaphors couched in obfuscatory terminology. They relied on an enthusiastic ignorance of what he criticised, even in the face of well-known scholarship about religion.

So yes indeed, there has been *nothing* in his actions in this incident that are not entirely consistent with his positions on atheism. He is not an "awkward, crochety guy." Outside of his scientific work, he's an intellectual fraud, and in this event has taken pains to let you know it.

But hell dude, you can always call it rain if it makes you feel better.
posted by mobunited at 6:41 PM on July 4, 2011 [8 favorites]


Ok.... So. In the spirit of the olive branch and all, as a man, what would the women in this thread actually like me to do? (That an individual that has to be at work tomorrow at 8:30 am can do ideally. There's an easy solution, right?). I mean reading this is super depressing, and it makes me think that the only effective solution would be to have men wear shock collars and hand out panic buttons to women so that this sort of universal fear would actually be deal-with-able. (I know this sounds like a joke but if you have any other ideas let me know).

And for all the guys in this thread, I mean, we can be self aware about the sheer amount of anger-through-sexual frustration we are airing even in this thread, and how a woman might find this very reasonably frightening and creepy? Particularly when it seems very pointed in a very woman-you-shouldn't-feel-this-way-it-is-your-fault type direction. Even if you "wouldn't rape anybody" do you not see the roots of that behavior in this thought process? I don't know about you but my biological gut level reaction to rejection is fury, really. I suppress it but that is what it is. I haven't ever raped anybody either, but I've had a strong depressing education in understanding that there isn't a very big difference between myself and "bad people." In fact that the whole "bad people" thing is a really poor placeholder in a lot of folks' minds to not deal with unpleasant realities. Even 6.4% is huge really, if you think about that you have to realize that there are an awful lot of rapists who you deal with every day and wouldn't think twice about being in an elevator with.

I can understand male frustration and a little bewilderment at the confidence is attractive thing. And I have to say, feeling confident that you are an attractive person who could find a sexual partner and feeling entitled to sexual intercourse seem so incredibly close together to me that I can hardly understand how you would experience one and not the other. I don't want to blame the television (in fact I'm pretty sure this cliche is older than the television), but there really aren't...any cultural examples I can think of of men being rejected by women and that being considered "normal." That you might have to ask several women and be gracious about rejection and find somebody who wants to be with you, etc etc. The image that I had in my mind for most of my teenage years was that you Focus on One Woman who is The Only One and You Must Prove Yourself and Do Not Get Discouraged. I mean where is the romance story that is not like this, it seems 100% universal. If you are rejected and let that go you have failed, you haven't proved yourself. You need to keep trying until you change her mind.

Dealing with a sexual situation has always been something that has been hard for me to understand. There (seem to me to be) clear cut cases, premeditation with date-rape drugs and direct violence, stuff like that.

Then there seem to be cases where some men are simply incredibly pushy and assertive. Isn't that exactly what movie and music and books and essentially the entire culture has told us to do?

So I can empathize with all the rotten comments from guys in this thread, although it doesn't make me feel proud of myself. You build up plenty of anger getting rejected, and That's Not Ok but you deal with it yourself. And then women come into a thread it looks to you like they think that societal problems like rape are not due to "the jerks," (i.e. the sort of person who would buy date rape drugs), but to awkward human guys you can identify with. And you've got several years of frustration built up that now has a nice internet target that you can mistreat. So maybe we need to find another way to deal with that sort of anger?

I'm not airing my experiences to imply that my experience is worse than the female experience, or anything along those lines. My blunt opinion is that every individual's life contains enough personal pain for them to focus on that for an eternity if they'd like to. I'd just like some of the guys in this thread to show a little more introspection, and to try to explain to some of the women why somebody would say some of the really rotten things that have been said. Not sure if that is useful or not.
posted by SomeOneElse at 6:45 PM on July 4, 2011 [21 favorites]


I don't know if I have much to add except that the apparent lack of situational empathy required to make a proposal to a near or total stranger who is alone in a moving elevator with you just screams "danger danger danger" to me. I'm 6'4 and look mean and I swear if someone did that to me I'd be adrenalized in a heartbeat, ready to defend my very life from whatever might come next from this senseless creature I'd found myself trapped with.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:46 PM on July 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


I don't know about you but my biological gut level reaction to rejection is fury, really.

no, mostly just listening to The Smiths
posted by chinston at 6:47 PM on July 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


After re-reading everything, I have concluded that the girl needs to get the fuck over herself, as do a lot of commenters here. What a ridiculous non-story.
posted by weezy at 6:49 PM on July 4, 2011


Okay, SomeOneElse, how's this....imagine you have a daughter, or think of your daughter if you have one. Or, a sister, or a mom. Now think of someone treating your daughter, or sister, or mom, in a manner similar to the guy in the elevator story.

How do you feel then?

What I would personally like men to do is treat women like they would treat their sisters, or daughters, or moms.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:49 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


What I would personally like men to do is treat women like they would treat their sisters, or daughters, or moms.

Sadly, that's not even a guarantee, given statistics and stories about familial sexual abuse.

I think one of the major disconnects in the quoted "1 in 4" (or 1 in 6, take whatever stat you like) is that too many men in a conversation like that point out "Well look, 75% of us AREN'T RAPISTS, okay?"

Whereas for women, it approaches statistical certainty that both someone (or multiple someones) you know has been a victim of sexual assault, and that someone (or multiple someones) you know has perpetrated sexual assault, especially if you don't actually -call- it rape.
posted by Tknophobia at 6:54 PM on July 4, 2011


And since we all know that uteruses are public property...

Wow, really?!

*Grabs skateboard, heads to the local public uterus to grab some air*
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:57 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ok.... So. In the spirit of the olive branch and all, as a man, what would the women in this thread actually like me to do?

Here are some things:
1) Accept that random women you meet along the street probably don't want to talk to you. This doesn't say anything about you, but about circumstances: they've got their own stuff going on, and they probably aren't looking for a conversation.
2) Pay attention to body language and other social cues. For the most part, women in our society are taught to NOT explicitly state what they want. We're taught to be nice. We're taught to be nice, even when we really, really don't want to be. So, learn about what sorts of cues signal disinterest, distrust, or fear and then pay attention to them.
3) Pay attention to the things men say and do around you. If your friend makes a joke about raping someone he dislikes, say, "Woah, that' seriously not cool, dude." If your friend laughs about spousal abuse, the same. If your friend gets way too drunk at a bar and starts bothering some woman, stop him.
4) If you see something suspicious, be willing to help. So many horrible, terrible predators are able to get away with what they're doing because the woman they're disturbing is too terrified to do anything about it and nobody else does anything. Look through the "Schroedinger's rapist" thread for examples. You don't have to be a hero -- I'm not talking about beating up rapegangs or anything. But a simple, "Hey, why don't you shut up or I call the cops?" to the guy harassing a woman on the subway goes a long way. (Yes, it'd be great if the woman stood up for herself... But she's far more likely to be assaulted in that situation than you are, so she's probably terrified to do so.)

Those are just a couple for starters. Personally, I tend to think #3 is the easiest to implement and incredibly important. Make it clear that standing up to rapists isn't something just women do -- promote, in your words and deeds, the idea that opposing a climate that supports rape and sexism is a manly and good thing to do.
posted by meese at 6:58 PM on July 4, 2011 [17 favorites]


What I would personally like men to do is treat women like they would treat their sisters, or daughters, or moms.

I have a genuine question: have you ever had consensual sex? If so, how did it happen, because healthy people don't have sex with their sisters, daughters or mothers.
posted by smithsmith at 7:02 PM on July 4, 2011


SomeOneElse - I dunno honestly it's not that hard to not be threatening.

It's a little bit different for me, as I'm a gay guy. Men like to respond to unwanted sexual attention from other men with, you know, violence, so gay guys learn lessons about appropriateness in different ways. I'm very happy with my boyfriend and I'd like to grow old with him, but during times when I've been single I have largely restricted my flirting (such as it has been) to avenues where I know men are looking for romantic relationships with other men.

When doing things like chemistry labs in undergrad or working together or sports or whatever, I interact with people on the basis of them being people that are interesting in their own right. Straight and gay, male and female, I talk with people about things we're mutually interested in. Sometimes interest has arisen from that. I've been set up on dates by friends. I've done online dating.

What I haven't done is hit on someone I don't know outside of a context where people are looking for romantic entanglements. Elevators at 4am are good examples of being outside that context. Unless you've already hooked up, "the elevator at 4am" is where you go when you want to go to bed.

BTW, gay guys can of course be inappropriate too - it's just riskier for them. A straight friend worked for a while as a bouncer at a club that had gay nights and guys would hit on him. Don't hit on the damn bouncers. They're working.

Hey weezy, just dropping into a thread to go THIS IS WORTHLESS is actually completely, you know. Worthless. If that's all you have to say you should probably just not say it.

On preview: smith that is a pretty shitty thing to say. Alia is struggling for some sort of way to say "please treat us like humans" by analogy with the most potent emotional bonds she knows: that of family. And your response is to go HAHA I GUESS ALL YOU'VE HAD IS RAPES. What the hell? :/
posted by kavasa at 7:05 PM on July 4, 2011 [22 favorites]


Maybe women who -want- to be approached (not raped, dammit, just, wouldn't mind being hit on) could wear a button or something that says "Hi! I'm looking for romance!" or something, and every woman who doesn't wear said button could be left the hell alone. Of course, the button-wearers would be able to respond to come-ons with, "Hmm, no, thanks anyway" and have that be the end of it.
posted by The otter lady at 7:07 PM on July 4, 2011


So clearly, the message should be.... if you're black or male and in a group of more than one and it's late at night, please don't walk up to service windows where a solo white man might be waiting, it could make them very nervous and afraid about the possibility of assault.

You can choose to ignore the reality and continue to justify your behavior rhetorically, or you can learn from other people how to interact better.
posted by krinklyfig at 7:10 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Alia is struggling for some sort of way to say "please treat us like humans" by analogy with the most potent emotional bonds she knows: that of family. And your response is to go HAHA I GUESS ALL YOU'VE HAD IS RAPES. What the hell?

I think it's pretty offensive that you would interpret my comment like that and I will not dignify it with a response.
posted by smithsmith at 7:10 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


smithsmith, it's more that you should treat women the way you'd want your daughter/sister/mother to be treated. ie, you wouldn't want to tell them it's their responsibility not to get assaulted, you wouldn't call them bitches, you would understand that every time they don't smile appreciatively when they get hit on in the street, it's because they're annoyed/intimidated/distracted/don't care/late for work/dog is sick/etc not because they're making some huge value judgement about whoever it is that hit on them. Ideally you'd think that's how the important women in your life should be treated.

Also, since we're talking about what men can do, I disagree with the person upthread who felt exempt from gender relations because he's a gay man. I don't consider myself exempt from gay rights, despite being straight.
posted by sweetkid at 7:13 PM on July 4, 2011


the otter lady: that's been tried, under the name of "The Open-Source Boob Project". previously on mefi.
posted by madcaptenor at 7:14 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Alia is struggling for some sort of way to say "please treat us like humans" by analogy with the most potent emotional bonds she knows: that of family. And your response is to go HAHA I GUESS ALL YOU'VE HAD IS RAPES. What the hell?

I think it's pretty offensive that you would interpret my comment like that and I will not dignify it with a response.
posted by smithsmith at 7:10 PM on July 4 [+] [!]


Well, I'm pretty offended that you think all women who aren't your daughter or mother or sister are fair game for you to hit on for sex.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:16 PM on July 4, 2011


Well, I'm pretty offended that you think all women who aren't your daughter or mother or sister are fair game for you to hit on for sex.

Wow, this is just obscene hyperbole now. Bye.
posted by smithsmith at 7:17 PM on July 4, 2011


smithsmith: responding to you as a fellow smith, well, maybe you don't know your audience with that comment. Alia generally isn't the one to talk to about how one should attract one-night-stands or the like. And while I'm a hell of a lot more liberal than she is in that regard, I think it's fair to take her comment as saying (at the very least) to treat women you meet as respectfully as you'd treat women in your own family. Can you come up with a way to ask a woman you don't know to fuck you, while you're in the elevator, and make that as respectful to her, as a person, you you'd like someone else to be to a member of your family?

While I don't like to think about details, I know that my brother-in-law gets it on with my sister. I know that my dad and mom have sex. I know that eventually my nieces will as well. Respect in conversation can lead to casual encounters. It happens! The point was to treat women with respect, not to treat possible encounters as incestuous.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:18 PM on July 4, 2011


during times when I've been single I have largely restricted my flirting (such as it has been) to avenues where I know men are looking for romantic relationships with other men.


This would be great for Male/Female pairs. Society sends both genders a lot of mixed messages. Who is in charge of that, or responsible for most of the messages rather. Men. Men create these commercials and movies and scenes that point us in this direction that (from these comments) ignores women's wishes.

Maybe women who -want- to be approached (not raped, dammit, just, wouldn't mind being hit on) could wear a button or something that says "Hi! I'm looking for romance!" or something

Rubber wristbands.

Well, I'm pretty offended that you think all women who aren't your daughter or mother or sister are fair game for you to hit on for sex.

Oh come on. The point of the response was just to say the analogy was faulty. It was lazy and not helpful, but lets not go wild here.
posted by rakim at 7:19 PM on July 4, 2011


Am I the only one who thought that maybe why some people want more women at these conferences is just so they can hit on and sleep with them? Like, thy see them more as walking sources of pussy rather than conference attendees with whom to share ideas and interests. Basically as a resource to be mined.

Not so surprising that such places end up with few women, I guess. And it explains some of why they are treated the way they are.

NOTE: I am well aware that many (most?) who want more female participation do so for respectful reasons and treat women appropriately. But not all of them.
posted by marble at 7:21 PM on July 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Maybe women who -want- to be approached (not raped, dammit, just, wouldn't mind being hit on) could wear a button or something that says "Hi! I'm looking for romance!" or something

The problem with this is that there are places I want to be hit on (or more like, to let it be known that I'm "looking for romance", which is two different things to me), and places I don't. At work, no. Friend's BBQ, sure. In the street walking home at 12:30 am with a ton of stuff, no. On and on and on.
posted by sweetkid at 7:22 PM on July 4, 2011


Hey! No trigger warning on this post.
posted by telstar at 7:24 PM on July 4, 2011


Wow. I just can't get over the idea that if I'm afraid of being alone in an elevator with a man at 4:00 a.m. that makes me sexist.

I've been raped. I don't treat every man I meet as a potential rapist. That guy sitting next to me on the plane who wants to chat about the book I'm reading, I don't mind talking to him. He doesn't scare me. This man standing behind me at the check-put at the grocery store who compliments my scarf, he doesn't scare me and if I wasn't in a solid relationship with someone I might be tempted to flirt with him. But that guy who always brushes past me to get in the classroom and always seems to be right behind me when I am walking to my car in the deserted parking lot...he makes my heart pump a little faster. I really, really don't want to have a conversation with him. Mostly I don't want to be alone with him when he makes a pass at me because I have no clue as to how he will take that. Will he start badgering me and try to guilt me into going out with him? Will he call me a fucking cunt and hit my car door with his fist? Or will he punch me in the face? I don't know, I would rather not find out.

I'm not afraid of all men. I'm just afraid of being alone with strange men in situations where I can't easily walk away. I don't think that makes me sexist. I think that makes me wary. So if you want to date me (or sleep with me), find a way to talk to me in surroundings where I feel safe. It's not that difficult really.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:27 PM on July 4, 2011 [40 favorites]


The problem with this is that there are places I want to be hit on (or more like, to let it be known that I'm "looking for romance", which is two different things to me), and places I don't. At work, no. Friend's BBQ, sure. In the street walking home at 12:30 am with a ton of stuff, no. On and on and on.

That differs for everyone. It would be helpful if the overall message most of us got was "never do anything sexual unless given explicit consent", and then those who wanted to engage could signal one another. All the games - not good. May seem drastic, but reading encounters here and the pain women face on a daily basis - maybe it isn't so drastic after all.
posted by rakim at 7:27 PM on July 4, 2011


Sweetkid: That's why the button would be removable. So you could wear it to the BBQ and take it off for the walk home. Also, customizable, so you could say "looking for hot action tonight!" or "I just want someone to talk to" or "looking for romance!" or whatever.

Of course, it could get awkward, as some guy follows you down the street and into the elevator, trying to glimpse the front of you... to see if you're wearing a button or not. :( Not good.

Maybe Sims-style floaty-things over the head would be better.
posted by The otter lady at 7:29 PM on July 4, 2011


don't invite me back to your hotel room right after I finish talking about how it creeps me out

God does not exist, therefore everything is permitted.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 7:30 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


So to see this now being portrayed as comparable to a random stranger aggressively coming on to a vulnerable woman in some anonymous elevator out in the projects somewhere is ridiculous, and offensive.

I think that the notion that bad things happen to women only at the hands of strangers and in the projects is offensive.
posted by naoko at 7:32 PM on July 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


This entire conversation exists within a context. That context IS and WAS the stated desire of many men at male dominated conferences to INCREASE THE NUMBER OF WOMEN AT THESE CONFERENCES. Given this CONTEXT, for the following to take place…

Attention ladies: when I am in an elevator heading for bed, do not bother hitting on me. Not even for "coffee in your room." By 4AM, it's a bit too damn late. You should have been at the appropriate social event.

Gentlemen with an attraction to fffish (dated Seinfeld reference here), you may assume the same.

Really, social boundaries, people. We're trying to have a civilization here.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:33 PM on July 4, 2011


Maybe women who -want- to be approached (not raped, dammit, just, wouldn't mind being hit on) could wear a button or something that says "Hi! I'm looking for romance!" or something

How about the men who want to be approached by women wear the lapel pins, and just go about their business patiently waiting and not making passes at anybody. The women will come to them if interested.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:37 PM on July 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


pla it sounds like you're arguing that women are at fault for being raped if they don't know basic martial arts

No, it really doesn't. He said something profoundly stupid, but in no way did he turn around and blame the victim. His point was that rape can be prevented through training- since most rape is not the "violent stranger attack" scenario, this is laughably false, even without going into "how are we all supposed to be ninjas, exactly?" thing. He's wrong enough on his own, no reason to make a monster out of him.

men shouldn't be held at all accountable for the fact that apparently 17% of the gender are rapists

Rapists should be held accountable for being rapists. How else should it be? (Also, a percentage of victims does not equal the percentage of perpetrators.)
posted by spaltavian at 7:38 PM on July 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


.... the other problem is, no one would be brave enough to wear a button, or a balloon over their head saying they were "looking for romance" or something, and having to face the risk of having no-one approach them. Too much risk of humiliation and soul-crushing rejection. And because neediness is so unattractive.
posted by The otter lady at 7:39 PM on July 4, 2011


Maybe Sims-style floaty-things over the head would be better.

Gary Shteyngart's Super Sad True Love Story deals with this idea, a bit.
posted by sweetkid at 7:39 PM on July 4, 2011


People should just understand the context in which it's appropriate to hit on someone. It's not that hard. The middle of the night is hardly ever a good time.
posted by sweetkid at 7:40 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


When the context is 'I just said don't do that' it's especially ridiculous. When people blatantly ignore what you say and dismiss your boundaries why is it you're supposed to trust them again?
posted by Space Kitty at 7:46 PM on July 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's not that hard.

It's not that easy, either. There are a lot of mixed messages that get sent and received. Men get message after message telling them that women like dangerous, aggressive men. That if you like someone you should approach them. Look in askme.

To me this constant game is a problem. Figure out some explicit way to engage. It's 2011. We know human beings sometimes like to have sex. It's like having a system of roads with no lights at the intersections. In this day and age people shouldn't still be trying to guess when to stop and when to go. Clearly it is a problem.
posted by rakim at 7:48 PM on July 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


There's a scene in The Lives of Others where the protagonist's wife is raped by a high-ranking diplomat. It's not graphic, but it's disturbing in what little it does show: She waits for him at an appointed place and time; she gets into his car; she doesn't say a word of objection; but this film is set in Eastern Germany under the Weimar Republic, and this man controls much of the Stasi, and her barely repressed hatred for the man is evident in her every movement. He doesn't actually threaten her with anything, but we've seen what the Stasi can do. You can't have a job if you don't do what they say.

It's a pretty extreme example of non-violent rape, which is why I'd recommend it to any male who has trouble understanding the concept. In the modern USA you have to go a bit further out of your way to get into a situation with such a severe power imbalance. Still, if you entrust your spouse with your power of attorney, and custody of such possessions as your children, and that spouse decides that the best use of their newfound negotiating power is to extract sexual favors that they could not otherwise get--it's not much different.

Sure, physically, it would not be difficult to resist. The question is, if you do that, how well will the rest of your life go?
posted by LogicalDash at 7:52 PM on July 4, 2011


I've got a great solution! Maybe women could go out, freely, and men - and this is the key part - men could talk to women and find out if they are single or not, looking or not, interested or not, and then men would KNOW! Right?!

And it could even work both ways! Women could talk to men! I know it sounds crazy, but it could at least happen. It's be like the button idea except even better, because it would encourage communication, and you could learn about shared interests and experiences! Even before fucking!

And the beauty is that it could work almost anywhere: bars, sure, but also conferences, or at a get-together with friends, even at work! Or school!

Fuck it, I'm trying to promote it from here on out. The Talking to People Method™. Sure, it may not work in elevators, but come on, people there are obviously going somewhere. Give the a break.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:54 PM on July 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


And Rakim, I feel for you, but that really is the thing. Talk to people. You can't turn yourself into the sexually-aggressive douche if you aren't already that guy and really, nobody likes that guy anyway. Talk to people. Feel it out. As often as not you'll find that the hot girl doesn't mesh well with you anyway. No matter. Treat people like people - while making yourself clear when it is appropriate - and you'll do fine.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:58 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Gordon Gano's play on this, years ago: Sweet Misery Blues
posted by juiceCake at 7:59 PM on July 4, 2011


The Talking to People Method™. Sure, it may not work in elevators, but

I know you're being jokey, but read the many comments where women are sick and tired and exhausted from men constantly demanding their attention.
posted by rakim at 7:59 PM on July 4, 2011


Demanding their attention while hitting on them, sure. If you are engaging women in conversation about shared interests and experiences, and not actively looking for a way "in" - and I don't know you, so I'm not saying you are or aren't doing anything - than you aren't placing any demands on anyone's attention. You are sharing it.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:02 PM on July 4, 2011


The people saying in AskMe that a guy should approach a girl are responding to questions like, "I don't know if this cute girl in my math class likes me. She made me cookies the other day and I texted her to say thanks and she didn't respond. I am going to see her in class tomorrow. What should I do?" Of course people are going to say approach her, talk to her.

If someone posted a question that was like, "Hey, it's 4 am and I'm at this conference in Dublin. I saw this cute speaker here and never actually spoke to her, but I see that she's heading toward the elevator bank, should I get in the elevator with her and ask her to come up to my room?" Well -- the answer is going to be different.
posted by sweetkid at 8:05 PM on July 4, 2011 [7 favorites]


"I'm sorry, maybe this makes me a hateful misogynist, but I don't really see what it was about what McGraw did that makes him anything more than someone with a pretty poor sense of social timing. I've said much worse things out of stupidity, but I don't think I ever deserved to be called out by name for it. This is basically just LJdrama with political self-righteousness attached."

OK, look, I almost did this in memal — since the thread had scrolled so far past this — but I think it's a pretty good example of where the argument's going wrong.

I really don't think you're a hateful misogynist, but I do think you're missing what annoys me about this in one of those "tyranny of small differences" things.

What the guy did was about a two on the Sexual Harassment Scale of one to ten. It was contextually inappropriate, socially stupid, but not that dangerous on the whole. (And initially, no one was called out by name). It's a social failure on the level of fucking up custom in standing on the subway or telling a stranger about the blood in your stool (also a subway faux pas), and it happened right after the person in question talked extensively about subway etiquette.

But if it had ended there, it'd be cool. Instead, a handful of folks defended the subway fouler, using their SERUZ BIXNEZ voices, which pissed off people who regularly ride the subway. I have to confess an unfortunate tendency toward "You don't get it = you are sub-human epsilon" but there's a rhetorical tendency to answer not taking something seriously (which happens to sexism/racism/homophobia/majoritarian complaints pretty regularly) with THIS IS HOW SERIOUS YOU MUST TAKE ME. That shouting kills nuance and leads folks like you to be baffled and say things like "Maybe this makes me a hateful misogynist."
posted by klangklangston at 8:06 PM on July 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


If someone posted a question that was like, "Hey, it's 4 am and I'm at this conference in Dublin. I saw this cute speaker here and never actually spoke to her, but I see that she's heading toward the elevator bank, should I get in the elevator with her and ask her to come up to my room?" Well -- the answer is going to be different.

For a good example of this, look at questions where guys want help asking their waitress out.
posted by meese at 8:09 PM on July 4, 2011


I'm not very good at starting talking to people. If I had some outward and visible sign, first, that a particular person was eager to be talked to, perhaps I'd be more bold at going up and talking to them. Also, because of my looks, I don't get talked to very often. Maybe a button would help even my odds; maybe someone would be willing to talk to me if they knew I welcomed being talked to. Especially if I was one of the few people in the room with a button; they would not pester all the better-looking girls who don't want to be bothered, and would instead come talk to me.
posted by The otter lady at 8:10 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ok.... So. In the spirit of the olive branch and all, as a man, what would the women in this thread actually like me to do?

It's not really that much. Treat women with respect; try to put yourself in their shoes; pay attention to nonverbal cues. A woman who smiles nervously and then looks away steadfastly doesn't want to talk to you. A woman who smiles and then glances back again, or even asks you a question, probably does. A woman whose shoulders hunch up, who looks down at her feet, who stands close to the door--she's not comfortable. Leave her be.

If you're tall, don't loom over women shorter than you. Respect their personal space (as much as possible) and apologize if you touch them accidentally. Don't touch them first. Don't block an exit with your body.

You probably already do much of this unconsciously, anyway, because a lot of it is just good manners.

The deal is, there are a lot of men who aren't part of the problem. The majority of them, I'd say. I don't feel afraid of the men I see in my office building, or at restaurants, or in other public places. It's only when I'm alone, in secluded places, or in confined spaces, that a given man would feel threatening to me. So if you're with me in those places, go out of your way to appear non-threatening. Don't walk close behind me, or chat me up, in a dark alley. If you want to talk to me, wait till I'm in the bookstore, or in the grocery store, or even the bar. If I don't seem interested, politely move on.
posted by emjaybee at 8:11 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


For a good example of this, look at questions where guys want help asking their waitress out.

Also, the thread where a woman wanted help asking her male financial advisor out, and most responses were like, heck no, not appropriate.
posted by sweetkid at 8:12 PM on July 4, 2011


i want ayn rand to circumcise my atheism
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 8:12 PM on July 4, 2011


Perhaps we can turn some of this conversation around. (I will join the derail)

Perhaps men should demand the kind of respect women are demanding here. Perhaps they should get the same respect women give their fathers, brothers, male friends. Perhaps they should not think the 'shotgun' approach is the way to find a partner. Perhaps they should respect themselves enough to not settle for 'bling' girls who are mean-spirited and hurtful with cold rejection.

For instance, perhaps WOMEN & MEN should:
1) Accept that random People you meet along the street probably don't want to talk to you. This doesn't say anything about you, but about circumstances: they've got their own stuff going on, and they probably aren't looking for a conversation.
2) Study body language and other social cues. For the most part, MEN & WOMEN in our society are taught to NOT explicitly state what they want. Learn about what sorts of cues signal interest, trust, and openness, and ask questions about them before acting.
3) Pay attention to the things MEN & WOMEN say and do around you. If your friend makes a joke about abusing/humiliating/harming ANYONE s/he dislikes, say, "Woah, that' seriously not cool, Friend." If your friend laughs about inappropriate jokes about the opposite sex, the same. If your friend gets way too drunk at a bar and starts bothering ANYONE, stop him/her.

It's about respect. For all.
posted by Surfurrus at 8:16 PM on July 4, 2011 [11 favorites]


I agree that in hindsight, (like a lot of things), this particular act seems like a very obviously stupid thing to do. (Especially if he was at her talk about how why that sort of proposition is unwelcome, then I can't imagine it really). And after reading all these comments I'm understanding a little more I suppose.

But there's a part of me that just sees this as a nightmare feedback loop. I mean the stupid insecurity that leads someone to think that they need to talk to women one on one in situations where you feel like you have a little bit of time to present a case for yourself rather than just a catcall would totally lead me to think something stupid like "The elevator...that's a brilliant idea! Perfect place." So the ornate little plan to prevent being publicly humiliated for propositioning someone becomes a situation where you make somebody feel unsafe and are then called out for it on a website. Granted after reading all this it seems very obvious to me that elevators are not such a good idea... but to be honest with you, before reading this I imagine I would have done exactly the same thing. I can't ever see myself being aggressive to somebody on a subway, I am socially conscious enough not to follow people around/to their cars, but I can totally imagine myself doing something almost exactly like this. Probably not at 4 in the morning, and probably not immediately "come back to my room," more like "would you like to meet again sometime." So the "It is not that hard," is somewhat difficult to hear, because I'm sure there are 10 other situations where my thinking is going to be more or less identical.

Granted, even if you are a "nice guy," even if you wouldn't consider hurting anybody, even if etc etc etc, I mean you chose that place because you felt like it presented opportunities for individual conversation before allowing the other person to make the mutual choice to get into that situation. The elevator choice was always about exerting control over the situation. But that is a lot of my thought process even outside of sexual stuff. "How do I best control this situation" is almost number 1 on my agenda all the time, and it is a little difficult to get out of that mindset.
posted by SomeOneElse at 8:17 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


There seems to be some confusion about this: feminists are working for a world in which a guy will proposition a woman at 3am in an elevator, where the woman rejects him, and where the matter ends there. That is utopia. That is the end point of equality.

The world that many of you are describing in this thread, where the proposition doesn't take place, or is formulated according to your specific and idiosyncratic preferences? That is Fantasyland. I won't bore you with the math, but trust me on this, what you are describing is physically impossible.

It is not possible to have a world where any guy who is attracted to a woman on the elevator always keeps his mouth shut. Where feminism measures progress is in the credibility he places on her rejection. She says, "No," and that's the end of it. He doesn't keep pushing. IT isn't "no means yes." But just as much as she gets to say no, he gets to ask. "No means no" implies that he asked for something that she can say no to.

And by the way, the reason some men do these "elevator pitches?" Because they work on some women.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:19 PM on July 4, 2011 [13 favorites]


SomeOneElse, I think that was the point, that most woment would like men to be more aware of the situation and cues. It's what makes an epic flame war like this actually valuable.
posted by annsunny at 8:21 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Rakim: The title is controversial, and it looks like it's been gone over before on MetaFilter, but there is actually some good advice in the "Schrodinger's Rapist" blog post:

Pay attention to the environment. Look around. Are you in a dark alley? Then probably you ought not approach a woman and try to strike up a conversation. The same applies if you are alone with a woman in most public places. If the public place is a closed area (a subway car, an elevator, a bus), even a crowded one, you may not realize that the woman’s ability to flee in case of threat is limited. Ask yourself, “If I were dangerous, would this woman be safe in this space with me?” If the answer is no, then it isn’t appropriate to approach her.

***

Women are communicating all the time. Learn to understand and respect women’s communication to you.

You want to say Hi to the cute girl on the subway. How will she react? Fortunately, I can tell you with some certainty, because she’s already sending messages to you. Looking out the window, reading a book, working on a computer, arms folded across chest, body away from you = do not disturb. So, y’know, don’t disturb her. Really. Even to say that you like her hair, shoes, or book. A compliment is not always a reason for women to smile and say thank you.

***

If you speak, and she responds in a monosyllabic way without looking at you, she’s saying, “I don’t want to be rude, but please leave me alone.” You don’t know why. It could be “Please leave me alone because I am trying to memorize Beowulf.” It could be “Please leave me alone because you are a scary, scary man with breath like a water buffalo.” It could be “Please leave me alone because I am planning my assassination of a major geopolitical figure and I will have to kill you if you are able to recognize me and blow my cover.”

On the other hand, if she is turned towards you, making eye contact, and she responds in a friendly and talkative manner when you speak to her, you are getting a green light. You can continue the conversation until you start getting signals to back off.


This depends to some degree on being able to read signals (and also to send them), but it's not actually a bad primer... one problem is social pressure to seem friendly, or nice - which I think also feeds into the "how do I ask out my waitress" question. Your waitress is professionally compelled (or at least encouraged) to be polite, friendly, cheerful, look interested - and as a result probably gets hit on a lot.
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:21 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


"The elevator...that's a brilliant idea! Perfect place." So the ornate little plan to prevent being publicly humiliated for propositioning someone becomes a situation where you make somebody feel unsafe and are then called out for it on a website.

If you absolutely, positively HAVE to do it in the elevator at 4 a.m. here's what you do. You go up with her in silence, maybe give her a quick smile and then away. And when the door opens on her floor and her foot is stepping over the threshold, you make your move. This way if she wants to keep walking away from you she can. If she keeps walking away with a shake of her head you can just stay in the elevator and ride to your floor with no one the wiser. If she lingers to chat with you...well you can take it from there.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:24 PM on July 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Thank you for the clips from that post. I think that guides are helpful, but there are too many cultures and behaviors, not to mention individuals, to be able to reasonably know what someone's body language is saying, unless the place you live is pretty homogeneous. I know women who take things completely differently. And if you look at the responses in this thread, you can probably see that is the case. It is similar to how a thumbs up or "okay" sympbol in one culture means one thing, and might mean "screw you" in another.

I am not trying to hopelessly complicate things into inaction. Quite the contrary, I think this guy was dumb and I remain eager to hear what he thinks of his own behavior. Maybe he let his urges rule his mouth and he now realizes how inappropriate and threatening he was. But I want to hear that side of the story and maybe that would short circuit some of the stupidity apparently coming out of Dawkins' mouth.

The "read the signs" thing is also completely complicated by messages from the media. Men's sometimes acceptance of them and women's sometimes acceptance of them.

As Pastabagel says, sometimes that elevator thing may result in those two people having sex. I am sure the nice guys in the thread have plenty of stories of being perfect gentlemen only to get overlooked by the boorish ass that crossed every boundary.

It happens. As much as men need to listen to women and understand what they are saying, it needs to be acknowledged that media messages are affecting men, women and their family members and bad messages are warping the minds of lots of people so that these come-ons that people are screaming over and decrying are being distributed and encouraged by lots and lots of people. That is a complicating factor, and is a problem.

I blame men because by and large, (powerful) men control these messages that are delivered.
posted by rakim at 8:41 PM on July 4, 2011


I sure hope you guys can get the rules all worked out soon because the rest of humanity has stopped propositioning each other and fucking while you argue the nuances.

Oh, wait, they haven't. Have at it.
posted by unSane at 8:45 PM on July 4, 2011



Granted, even if you are a "nice guy," even if you wouldn't consider hurting anybody, even if etc etc etc, I mean you chose that place because you felt like it presented opportunities for individual conversation before allowing the other person to make the mutual choice to get into that situation. The elevator choice was always about exerting control over the situation.


This is a really good point. I mean, some people are going to walk away from this thread and think, man, I should never talk to a woman in an elevator again, and that's really not the point. This attempt to control the situation, this is what often makes women nervous and on edge. Especially at 4 am, and especially when the request is to go to someone's room, which is essentially an attempt to control the situation further.
posted by sweetkid at 8:46 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


There seems to be some confusion about this: feminists are working for a world in which a guy will proposition a woman at 3am in an elevator, where the woman rejects him, and where the matter ends there. That is utopia. That is the end point of equality.

That's also the exact situation that started all this. Until she decided to blog about it, the matter had ended there.
posted by kafziel at 8:54 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


When I'm psyching myself up to ask somebody out I usually run the "what's the worst that can happen? she says 'no'?" dialogue in my head.

So if you're in a situation where 'the worst that can happen' is being outed as a bit of a creepy on the Internet, rethink I guess.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:01 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


And so we return to the lesson of the Schroedinger's Rapist thread.

Q. How do you, as a man, approach a woman you find attractive?
A. You don't, you sexist shit. How dare you be attracted to someone?

Ridiculous.


The only "ridiculous" bit is you thinking that was the lesson of the Schroedinger's Rapist thread.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:07 PM on July 4, 2011 [7 favorites]


Rakim: As Pastabagel says, sometimes that elevator thing may result in those two people having sex.

Pastabagel may be right that men and woman are regularly hooking up in elevators, but it didn't work in this case, and was never going to work in this case. There is possibly a charming, disarming, non-threatening way to proposition a woman you have just followed into an elevator at 4am. However, to master this one may have to be Remington Steele. It's a double black diamond slope. If you aren't Remington Steele, it's probably best avoided.

I am sure the nice guys in the thread have plenty of stories of being perfect gentlemen only to get overlooked by the boorish ass that crossed every boundary.

Certainly, they might have plenty of stories where, from their point of view, they got passed over by women who were making bad decisions about who to get together with. Some of them might get quite angry about that, and start to think that women are only interested in attractive, rich, smooth-talking men. And then they might say things that don't seem very nice at all.
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:08 PM on July 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


Clearly, the solution is for more women to hit on men.
posted by LordSludge at 9:16 PM on July 4, 2011


I feel ashamed for the behavior of those members of my gender that would do such a thing. But I would not, and don't need the constant explicit assumption that I would, underlying just about any social situation.

Until the day when the members of your gender wear placards stating "I'm one of the small minority of men who will rape women", we're going to be on our guard for a little while, because we can't tell whether you are or are not one of that minority otherwise right off, and the stakes on that bet are just too high.

It's like Russian Roulette. Sure, you only have a one in six chance of actually hitting the chamber that fires the bullet and blows your brains out -- but even though you have a five out of six chance of getting off scot-free, are you really going to just cavalierly put the gun to your head anyway?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:16 PM on July 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


Whoa, so now 17 percent of men are rapists? That's right up there with loquacious' bullshit claim that "50 to 75 percent of women" have been raped or will be raped.

This FPP was not about rape at all. Rebecca Watson did not fear being raped, or she certainly doesn't say she did, in that elevator encounter. This was about professional, context-appropriate conduct.

All this rape talk and hand wringing is nothing but posturing and propaganda; everybody wants to get their personal axe ground but good while these subjects are on the table. There was no rape. They elevator guy was not a rapist. Ms. Watson did not say she was afraid of being raped. And most men are not rapists.
posted by fourcheesemac at 9:17 PM on July 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm a feminist, and I have to say, I do not want a world in which it is considered a good thing for any party of any gender or sexual orientation or race or class to be stuck in a metal box with another party of any gender/orientation/race/class who is in the process of propositioning them.

Wait until you're not stuck in a metal box together. It's not that hard. Putting someone into a situation like that where they can't walk away is rude. Always. It's just the same as, say, if you run into someone at their grandmother's funeral. Sometimes it's just not the time. Even if they seem like they might be receptive. The fact that someone in the world might say yes under those circumstances does not excuse egregiously impolite behavior.

If you think you ought to be allowed to do things that force someone else into a potentially uncomfortable position they can't escape just on the grounds that they might like it? You really need to be checking your privilege. But I think most nice guys don't really want to do this. Not doing this doesn't mean "never speak to a woman again unless you know she wants you to". Not doing this just means that maybe sometimes you ask for an email address instead and you get to know someone first. Maybe sometimes you wait until you're no longer stuck on the elevator. There are available options here that are not this, and it's choosing this instead of those options that made this guy a creep.
posted by gracedissolved at 9:18 PM on July 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


What is this "one in six chance" that's become accepted conventional wisdom in this thread?
posted by fourcheesemac at 9:19 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you think you ought to be allowed to do things that force someone else into a potentially uncomfortable position they can't escape just on the grounds that they might like it? You really need to be checking your privilege.

Cram your privilege. If he spent the elevator ride talking about a book he read, would she need to escape that? No. She needs to escape the situation created by his words. But she can "escape" that. She can tell the guy to fuck off. She can tell him he's an insensitive jackass. She can tell him exactly what you wrote. Those are all escapes in exactly the same way his proposition traps her.

Oh, but there's no physical escape, I see. Because any guy asking for a date or asking for sex is a potential rape situation, right? I'm just letting you know, that as long as you implicitly play the "any strange guy on the elevator could be a potential rapist" card, I get to play the "any strange girl on the elevator is a potential Letter to Penthouse" card. Because they are the same card. They are ways to kill the argument in your favor.

He isn't a rapist, he never would have been a rapist. If there was nothing he could have said to her to get her to sleep with him that night, then there is absolutely nothing she could have sad to him that would make him violent or a physical threat. Nothing.

If the trap or the "uncomfortable position" is a verbal/psychological one, then so is the escape. He didn't force her to do anything or feel anything. He simply asked for something he wanted.

What was that thread about ask vs. guess culture?
posted by Pastabagel at 9:35 PM on July 4, 2011 [8 favorites]


What the hell is that supposed to mean? Check out this creep, everyone.

Wow, I missed this the first time. What an awesome thread.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:48 PM on July 4, 2011


If he spent the elevator ride talking about a book he read, would she need to escape that?

Was it the Book of Mormon, or Bhagavad-gita As It Is?

Seriously, though, I'm pretty sure this has come up in other similar discussions. Someone who is making a socially inappropriate advance (such as alone with you in an elevator at 4am after you've declared that you're done for the night and going to bed) has already violated a social convention. If you're evaluating risk, that's a warning sign. You already know that they're willing to violate some social conventions (don't talk to people you don't know in elevators, don't hit on people on their way to bed after a long tiring day); you don't know what other social conventions (don't get angry and call women lesbo bitches when they turn your advances down, don't follow them back to their room to find out where they're staying so you can break in and rape them later) they're willing to break.

He isn't a rapist, he never would have been a rapist.

The only way you know that for sure is if you're that guy.

If there was nothing he could have said to her to get her to sleep with him that night, then there is absolutely nothing she could have sad to him that would make him violent or a physical threat. Nothing.

What?
posted by hades at 9:53 PM on July 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


Just leaving an observation here --

Earlier I told a story about a guy at a bar who chased me down the street when I didn't talk to him. I told that same story to a friend tonight -- a male friend. Who said that something similar happened to him on the subway recently, when a woman came over towards him and sat way inside his personal space and stared at him, and then asked if he could be her friend. And it creeped him out.

And you know, somehow I didn't think to question whether he was "overreacting" or whether she was "really" a potential rapist or whether he had a right to be creeped out. And somehow I managed not to get offended that "not all women are like that." And somehow I managed not to get into some high horse about "ask vs. guess culture".

Instead, we agreed that it was creepy when people of any gender did that, and that was that.

And that is why I continue to consider that man to be one of the best men I have ever known. And the fact that I consider him thus has nothing to do with any attraction we do or don't share (I already rode that ship ten years ago, and it has long since sailed on) -- I consider him thus because he sees all people as individuals rather than generic "men" or "women", because he was willing to admit to experiencing a similar feeling of vulnerability as the one I was saying I'd felt, and he was understanding what I was saying and relating to it in his own way, because I was his friend.

I feel like bringing him in here to give some people lessons in that art.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:55 PM on July 4, 2011 [20 favorites]


Has anybody even considered that the guy was probably joking in the first place?
I mean come one, when somebody that boring and self-obsessed makes a long speech about how horrible it is to be offered sex all the time by losers, you just have to say "Nice speech, wanna shag?" and walk away. It's almost a compulsory joke in that situation.
posted by w0mbat at 10:18 PM on July 4, 2011


I kinda wonder how that dude feels now that the situation has blown up into this massive drama mostly unrelated to him individually. I bet he's never going to talk to a woman alone ever again. But I doubt he really learned anything helpful from it all, about socially-appropriate times and places for these sorts of things. Knee-jerk reactions beget knee-jerk lessons, I guess.
posted by nightchrome at 10:23 PM on July 4, 2011


The same problem still applies: How was she to know that this guy who followed her into the elevator was trying to make a joke? She would have posted if he had indicated so.
posted by annsunny at 10:23 PM on July 4, 2011



The same problem still applies: How was she to know that this guy who followed her into the elevator was trying to make a joke? She would have posted if he had indicated so.


Yeah I kinda jokingly hit on someone this weekend.
In public.
Around her friends.
After I'd been hanging out with her all night.
So the inevitable vague rejection was a laugh, and not an 'oh shit its 4am whats going to happen if i say no nobody is around'.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 10:27 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't know. I see both sides of it. It's not inherently offensive to politely proposition someone. It's not really rude to ask. But sometimes it would just be nice to go about as a person in the world, and interact with other people, and contribute to society, and work on rewarding things, and make friends, and connect with other humans, without this undercurrent of sexual give/take beneath everything. It would be nice to just be treated like another person whose value remains even if they say no to the date. In a world where men still dominate in the public sphere, I don't think they understand how sexualized every single career situation can become and how exhausting that is.

It would be nice. It is nice. It happens often. It happens most of the time. It didn't happen in one elevator ride. As a man it is likely that you will never have sex with a woman, to kiss a woman without being first being deeply uncomfortable and scared of rejection. There will be feelings that because you are attracted to a woman she is the arbitrar of your worth as a human being. You will have to hide that fear from the woman and you will worry that you have done a poor job hiding it.

As a woman you don't really have this problem. You have a different problem, you have to say no. That's no fun either. There's a tension here. There's a tension that I think is pretty much intractable. It's inescapable, I mean I guess a man can more or less escape it by perpetually choosing loneliness. By waiting for a monogramed invitation to love. The same thing. Some guys are good at telling whether they'll hear a yes before they ask the question. Some guys can also run a mile in under 6 minutes. In each case it is better to be able to do than not be able to.

The guy maybe shouldn't have propositioned her, politely though he did, in the elevator. But I think Rebecca, did something worse. She wants the guy to be really sensitive to her feelings of vulnerability. Really concerned about her comfort and her subjective experience. She then does the thing that the guy in the elevator was probably reassuring himself would never happen before he spoke a word. That it isn't like he would be ridiculed or shamed for politely showing interest. The worst thing that can happen is she says "no" he probably told himself.

So yeah, guys, recognize that a woman might feel situationally vulnerable. Maybe late at night in an elevator is not the best place. And women please don't vlog about how stupid we are for hitting on you. That isn't nice either.

Dawkins was sort of rude about the whole thing.
posted by I Foody at 10:45 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


As a man it is likely that you will never have sex with a woman, to kiss a woman without being first being deeply uncomfortable and scared of rejection. There will be feelings that because you are attracted to a woman she is the arbitrar of your worth as a human being. You will have to hide that fear from the woman and you will worry that you have done a poor job hiding it.

As a woman you don't really have this problem.


I'm sorry, but this is categorically untrue. We all have to deal with rejection. The first eighteen years of my life, I was terrified of making the first move for exactly this reason. And I'm a woman.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:47 PM on July 4, 2011 [19 favorites]


And there wasn't anything disrespectful about the way he phrased it! "I find you very interesting, and I was wondering if you wanted to come to my hotel room for coffee"?

Disrespectful is in the eye of the beholder, but if a complete stranger wanted to talk to me and have coffee, asking like so in a sealed elevator, by inviting me to his hotel room instead of the hotel cafe or bar or lobby, smacks of propositioning me for sex and making assumptions about me that are inaccurate and yes, disrespectful.

Fact is, had she fancied this guy (had he been (like the best coffee) hotter, richer, or smoother), this wouldn't have been an issue. Even if she hadn't accepted, she'd have felt the warm glow of being desirable.

Oh please. There's a time and place for everything, and it doesn't matter if it's Brad Pitt doing the asking. I've had some attractive men decide that the best way to ask me out was to follow me from the gym toward my house. I've had another one follow me around in the supermarket before asking me out. Sort of my 'type' too. Neither of those two were in enclosed, sealed spaces with no escape, mind you. That would up the possible factor by a million.

I don't think it was unreasonable of him to assume that was Skepchick's stance on things too.

As a professional woman, I would be highly insulted and offended if someone made that assumption about my attendance and speaking at a conference. Just saying.
posted by cmgonzalez at 10:48 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Cram your privilege. If he spent the elevator ride talking about a book he read, would she need to escape that? No. She needs to escape the situation created by his words. But she can "escape" that. She can tell the guy to fuck off. She can tell him he's an insensitive jackass. She can tell him exactly what you wrote. Those are all escapes in exactly the same way his proposition traps her.

Can you clarify this? I don't see how fighting back with words fits under an escape, i.e. a fleeing response. In fact the elevator tactic works in part by the very cornering of the object of desire, so to speak.

Oh, but there's no physical escape, I see. Because any guy asking for a date or asking for sex is a potential rape situation, right? I'm just letting you know, that as long as you implicitly play the "any strange guy on the elevator could be a potential rapist" card, I get to play the "any strange girl on the elevator is a potential Letter to Penthouse" card. Because they are the same card. They are ways to kill the argument in your favor.

They're not equivalent cards at all, they are opposites. "Some strangers are violent rapists" makes women averse to risk, in elevator situations. "Some strangers are love goddesses" is an incentive for men to take risks in elevators. Maybe I'm misunderstanding a subtle point, but from these lemmas it appears (to me) you are constructing an extremely disingenuous line of reasoning.

He isn't a rapist, he never would have been a rapist.

Right, he's almost surely not violent/a rapist. The proper issue is that women generally don't want to be bothered by sexual propositions. The mere frequency of it in their daily lives (at least in American culture) makes it very stressful for many women. It borders on harrassment, even if not intended as such. Many men don't understand this because they haven't experienced it, directly or indirectly. That is what the others mean when they refer to privilege.

If there was nothing he could have said to her to get her to sleep with him that night, then there is absolutely nothing she could have said to him that would make him violent or a physical threat. Nothing.

A trivial counterexample: some men don't take no for an answer. So I'm not sure what you're really trying to get at.

If the trap or the "uncomfortable position" is a verbal/psychological one, then so is the escape. He didn't force her to do anything or feel anything. He simply asked for something he wanted.

You're employing a sort of first-order logic, whereaslanguage and the relationship between speech and action are much richer and complex, not "simple". See for example the notion of performativity. That is:
a) Words cause emotion. (Anyone watches movies or reads books has experienced this.)
b) Requests are words.
c) Therefore, requests cause emotion.

What was that thread about ask vs. guess culture?
Ask vs guess does not cover the case where the askee is confronted by multiple askers bearing a personal, potentially awkward, and proven to be sometimes dangerous question.

In short, I think I disagree with all aspects of your reasoning. Do let me know where I've gone wrong.
posted by polymodus at 10:56 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


There will be feelings that because you are attracted to a woman she is the arbitrar of your worth as a human being. You will have to hide that fear from the woman and you will worry that you have done a poor job hiding it.

As a woman you don't really have this problem.


This POV horrifies me, it really does. I don't feel that women who reject my advances are arbiters of my worth. Furthermore, I have been the rejecter of advances from women, because actually, women approach men sometimes. I do hope that they didn't feel I was judging them as worthless, but certainly these paired assumptions that men approach and women accept or reject, and that to be rejected is necessarily a mortal blow to self-esteem, are just so so so wrong.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 10:58 PM on July 4, 2011 [15 favorites]


Secret Life of Gravy:If you absolutely, positively HAVE to do it in the elevator at 4 a.m. here's what you do. You go up with her in silence, maybe give her a quick smile and then away. And when the door opens on her floor and her foot is stepping over the threshold, you make your move.

Right . Because a woman will feel ever so much better about being accosted at 4am by an unknown man in a hotel if it's on her floor. I'm guessing you're still single.

Here's a far better strategy. It's 4 am, I don't know you from Adam , we've never talked before and we've known each other for all of a minute and a half. In an elevator. So why not just stfu and go up to your room without accosting me in the first place?
posted by Poet_Lariat at 11:02 PM on July 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


So why not just stfu and go up to your room without accosting me in the first place?

Or even, if you're really moved, "You seem really interesting, but it's late as hell. Is there any way we can talk more tomorrow?"
posted by KathrynT at 11:05 PM on July 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


Richard Feynman was (and still is) notorious for his conquests by being direct—and likely, also smooth—in communicating his desires for getting laid. Judging from today, perhaps he has left behind a wake of destruction, intentional or not.
posted by polymodus at 11:07 PM on July 4, 2011


i am joe's spleen and phoBWanKenobi:
Of course. What you are saying is true. But at the same time, I think that feelings like I described do really go through the mind of most men at some point. They are, of course, not literally true, but they are feelings that arise and need to be dealt with. I also know that it is not purely men asking and women rejecting.

At the same time there is a sexual dimorphism involved the propositioning/accepting/rejecting dynamic is not even close to being symmetrical across the genders. And yes, propositioning someone is/ can be a deeply vulnerable, scary experience. I think some empathy for that experience is appropriate.
posted by I Foody at 11:09 PM on July 4, 2011


Oh man if only dudes had never rejected my advances! I'm not even talking about the ones I didn't realize were gay!
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 11:14 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


At the same time there is a sexual dimorphism involved the propositioning/accepting/rejecting dynamic is not even close to being symmetrical across the genders.

Cite, please. Or at least clarify. Because this doesn't make sense to me. If you're saying that it can be sucky and difficult to face rejection, then sure. But there's nothing markedly gendered about it--and the way you're phrasing it suggests that women are these beautiful creatures to be approached (like exotic birds in the wilderness or something) who must gift men the treasure of their sex and thus bestow social power on poor men. And you seem to be suggesting that women don't know what that's like because--hey! they're women! they can have sex with whoever they want!

But it's just not true in the real world--women get rejected, even attractive women.

I don't think empathy for that experience overwhelms the empathy we need to have for tired solitary women who have stated unequivocably that they don't want to be approached and then are approached in a physically uncomfortable space. I really, really find it difficult to feel terribly bad for the man here, having watching the original video. The call-out was mild, non-specific, and completely appropriate. I hope he learns from his mistake.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:17 PM on July 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


As a guy, it's been my experience that 1). women who are single, and available, and possibly looking to meet someone or hook-up, will generally "notice" the people in their environment, and 2). if they're interested in them, they'll give you some kind of signal, though possibly a quite subtle one. In other words, if the guy had been hanging around the bar for a bit, and hadn't already gotten any kind of interest signals from the woman, the chances that she just hadn't noticed him, but would still be receptive to a proposition by him, would be extremely small. Can anyone confirm or deny this?
posted by decoherence at 11:17 PM on July 4, 2011


How could this guy have handled the situation better, assuming he really did want to talk and drink coffee, as opposed to "have some coffee in his hotel room"?

Well, he could have said something like "I am really interested in what you said in your speech/the bar/debate you were just having and would like to talk to you about it. I know you are exhausted now, but would you have some time to talk tomorrow? Maybe over coffee or between sessions?" This would signal that he saw her as an individual, who was interesting, and that he really did pay attention to and valued what she had said. He's clearly interested in getting to know her better, but left her a sliding scale of responses that would allow her to respond comfortably, ranging from "I am not that tired, let's talk now!" to "I am so sorry, I am booked all day tomorrow." to "how do you feel about jogging 10 miles while we talk!" to "Sure! I am [preferred address]. I am sorry, I didn't catch your name.... [name], it is nice to meet you. I'll see you tomorrow."

Compares that approach to "Hey, do you want to come back to my room to coffee and conversation?" after she's said she is tired and wants to go to bed. Even if she knows this guy through casual conference interactions or online discussions or has read his work and has some context for him other than virtual-stranger that she has seen at the conference, by making that suggestion, he is signalling "I know you don't like being sexually objectified and I know you said you were tired and wanted to go to bed, but I am going to suggest that we ignore at least one of those three things using a generic phrase that could either refer to an earnest hard-hitting discussion that could last hours or a sexual dalliance that isn't reliant on any personal connection we made other than sexual interest."

I would have assumed this was invitation for sex, seeing how I just said downstairs that I was too exhausted to continue any conversations and was going to go to bed. I would have expected these to be clear indicators that I was done debating and discussing and talking for the night. I would assume that an invitation at 4am to a hotel room by someone who had heard my farewells would fall on the dalliance meaning of the phrase as opposed to the more literal reading. In either case (metaphorical or literal), i would not be interested and I would expect the dude to already know this based on my statements at the con. Even though I knew this guy was surely harmless, that little buzz in the back of my head would sound, and I be a little more alert just in case I was wrong and I would have to separate myself from him. Most of the time that buzz just peters out, but you are glad to know where the emergency button is or that you can duck under his arm after you drag your suitcase across his foot when a jerk tries to block the only exit as he pushes his suggestion one more time.
posted by julen at 11:21 PM on July 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Like many in this thread, this story hits a bit close to home, including being cornered in the elevator. I regularly attend conferences of subject matters I really enjoy. And one of them has a very high male/female ratio. At those, if I dare go out and be social with any of the other conference attendees, I am inundated by unwanted male attention. It's exhausting to have to be on your guard all the time for that.

I go to these conferences because I love to hear the speakers and I love to meet like minded people who share the same passion I do. I've met some of the best people I know at these conferences. But it is also a constant battle to beat back men sniffing around, trying to get laid. It's really uncomfortable and it gets really old really fast. There is nothing like talking with someone and thinking "hey, we're talking about really cool, interesting ideas. This person values me for my insights and I theirs. Oh wait, no, they're just listening to me because they think they can get me into bed. Nevermind."

I don't go to these very much anymore, and when I do, I either stay in my room after the talks or only go out with people I've met before and can provide a nice protective barrier. But it really sucks to have to be that anti-social because a small but significant number of assholes can't respect a woman as a person.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 11:25 PM on July 4, 2011 [15 favorites]


hades: Lisak & Miller have a 6.4% response from men identifying themselves as rapists (or attempted rapists) -- 63% of those reporting multiple instances -- and I remember reading about a study a few years ago which got a huge response to the question "would you rape someone if you could 100% get away with it?" as long as they didn't phrase the question using the word "rape".

This is off the top of my head, and I am certain that more recent data exist, but I believe the study you are referring to that worked around the "would you if..." question was by Tavris (and possibly others? Wade?) in the 80s. If, in fact, I am correct, I think that Tavris reported about 60% of college age men answering in the affirmative. If anyone else feels like it, that study would be cool to see (again). I don't know what the figure could possibly add to this discussion (about nothing close to rape or assault) but it is an interesting data point all the same (although I also seem to recall that there were some pretty seriously flawed methods employed in the collection of the data).

Thankfully, I have nothing else to say here. Guess I'm one of the lucky ones.
posted by broadway bill at 11:31 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


What PhoBWanKenobi just said. Decent chaps can have their heart in their mouths talking to someone they fancy. But even if your intentions are pure and you are anxious and gentle, it's still not ok to bail up a lone woman in a lift at 4 AM. There is a vast difference between that and making your pitch in a populated bar at 10 PM.

It does speak to social ineptitude though. Even outside the context of asking someone else if they wanna fuck, invitations are best made when the invitee is relaxed and happy. It should be obvious by now that few women are relaxed and happy when alone and cornered in a lift on their way up to bed.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:00 AM on July 5, 2011


PZ Myers actually posted some advice about this in response to this brouhaha: The Decent Human Beings' Guide to Getting Laid at Atheist Conferences.

errrrrrr??? I think a decent guy (assume some reasonable level of cluelesness) could have followed this guide step by step (yes, including making the judgement about the elevator context; this would not be ideal within the ranges set out by the guide but it is not clearly out of bounds) and still got into the same exact situation (including after apologizing profusely if things get really awkward) of getting publicly denounced by StepChick on the intertubes and so, as kind of bonus side-effect, triggering a July 4th Armageddon on Metafilter.
posted by Bwithh at 12:07 AM on July 5, 2011


So my reading of this is that a lot of people in that community are poorly socialized, hysterical(*) people who need to find better things to do with their time (and I say this as an unbeliever myself - but one who does not go to conventions).

I'm completely sympathetic with not wanting to be hit on, not wanting to be hit on in elevators, and host of other gender issues - it's particularly boorish to hit on a woman in an elevator.

But no one was claiming this guy was a bad guy at all, simply inconsiderate (and remember that everyone was drinking). A fool is definitely not a knave. So why call him out personally in front of his peers - by name? How could that possibly end well? She could have discussed the example in general without humiliating the poor slob in front of his friends.

And why is anyone writing about it? What does it have to do with atheism?

I used to go to science fiction conventions when I was a kid, and there was always endless minor shit happening... person X would get drunk and yell at person Y, person Z would try to kiss person W's girlfriend in the corner, the same shit you get at highschool parties. I could never understand why adults would do this sort of thing, and then I realized that they didn't have anything better to do.

I absolutely defend a woman's right to not have to deal with this shit, but I do not defend a woman's right to write thousands of words about a tedious, annoying incident like this.

There are actual theists to be revealed as hypocrites and the separation of Church and State to be defended. Get on with it, stop the tiny infights!

(* - it is a terrible shame that there's no synonym for this word and yet it has anti-female bias built-in. Please forgive...)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:14 AM on July 5, 2011


Imagine an acquaintance of yours frequently gets asked for loans... ...And then you ask him for a loan.
posted by verb at 2:08 PM on July 4

Imagine, for a moment, that a significant portion of the population believed, based on your looks, that if they encountered you in public, you owed them a dollar.
posted by decathecting at 11:34 AM on March 23, 2010

These are inaccurate and misleading analogies. For one thing, they presuppose the woman's role as that of someone who stands *exclusively* to incur a loss by agreeing to such transactions.

Secondly, it should be added that the individuals approaching others for loans/dollars would, in fact, *welcome* the idea of being approached themselves for loans/dollars.
posted by jeremy b at 12:25 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow, long thread. Probably not too many people will read this, but whatever.

Dawkins did seem kind of dickish in those comments. But on the other hand I'm not sure if the original point was reasonable. People do a lot of hanging out with each other at conventions. People hook up at conventions, especially the kind where there are lots of both women and men. She also never claimed that she felt threatened at all. Just annoyed and offended. (that's something that just kind of metastasized on it's own in this thread, somewhat independently of the original set of events.)

Given the way she flipped out at the other woman who disagreed with her I wonder if she doesn't just have a problem interacting with people in general. Just way to easily wound up and angered. It's entirely possible. Getting mad at another women because she doesn't share the same paranoia and publicly shaming her for being brainwashed by the patriarchy or whatever makes her seem like something of a dick herself.
Men: "Oh, you are just being too sensitive and you are wrong and no right-thinking person would feel that way!'

is a really IDIOTIC thing to be happening.

Short story: You guys ASKED!!! We're telling you!! So LISTEN!!
Except it was a WOMAN and in fact a YOUNG WOMAN who was publicly, berated, by name, for daring to question whether or not she was being oversensitive. She was accused of being brainwashed by the patriarchy. Did you miss that part? Do you think that young woman is going to have a good opinion of feminism going forward?

Which, by the way, makes it so bizarre that Watson's opinions are being held up as the canonical female opinion, And that this is an argument between "Men" and "Women", when in fact it was a disagreement between two women. It seems like most of the posts in this thread are completely ignoring this aspect.

---
On a road trip through Denmark, I was astounded at the fact that a gas station a hour or two outside of Copenhagen, at 4 AM, was being run by a sixteen year old girl, alone. It was inconceivable, and, yet, there it was.
This is a common occurrence in the vast majority of rural America too.
Yeah, I'm from Iowa and it wouldn't surprise me to see a girl running a gas station herself in the middle of the night.

I think part of is just hysterical reporting about crimes in the U.S. The news always talks about them because they get ratings and they create a 'culture of fear'. Are the statistics for attacks that much higher in the U.S then in European countries? What about the UK, where Dawkins is from? I know there has been a lot of paranoia about children there, but I don't know if that extends to adults as well.


---
That may be the most snidely condescending remark I have ever seen on MeFi, and that's saying something. Do you really think that the only reason some guys don't get affection from women is because they're dicks, AZ? Really? You can't envisage other possible scenarios? Wow.
Yeah that was pretty mind boggling. Do you honestly think that if a woman doesn't act like a giggly school girl around you she's not interested? Some women don't act like that even when they are interested in having sex.

Furthermore the idea that you have to "read signals right" or else you're a horrible person just seems ridiculous. We all know lots of guys have trouble picking up on these "signals"
posted by delmoi at 12:33 AM on July 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


So why call him out personally in front of his peers - by name? How could that possibly end well?

When did she do that?
posted by Catseye at 12:38 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Geek Feminism wiki catalogs incidents against women in the geek community. It makes interesting reading. (Though it's unlikely to change your mind on the issues raised here)
posted by seanyboy at 12:40 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Pastabagel may be right that men and woman are regularly hooking up in elevators, but it didn't work in this case, and was never going to work in this case. There is possibly a charming, disarming, non-threatening way to proposition a woman you have just followed into an elevator at 4am. However, to master this one may have to be Remington Steele. It's a double black diamond slope. If you aren't Remington Steele, it's probably best avoided.

From what I understand, most people who hook up in elevators aren't meeting for the first time. The elevator hook up is typically the result of previous flirting which started elsewhere, such as the bar at the hotel. I can't imagine anyone thinking that an elevator at 4am the right context to initiate contact.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:04 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


People hook up at conventions, especially the kind where there are lots of both women and men.

The assumption that an elevator would be the best place for first contact was clearly incorrect - I have not heard one woman claim this would be a good idea. It is just about the worst place to engage in that sort of behavior, no matter how innocent. In fact it pretty much puts your odds close to zero as far as it working out, and it greatly increases the chance that the woman will think you're at best obnoxious and possibly threatening to boot. It doesn't matter what a nice guy you are, or whether other people are looking for sex at the convention. It matters whether you respect someone's boundaries and the context in general.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:08 AM on July 5, 2011


I'm pretty socially inept, and threads like this have basically convinced me to give up. The thing is, that's not a bad thing. I'm not the sort of person who should be approaching random women in elevators. Nobody should.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 1:09 AM on July 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Has Feminism Gone Too Far? is a good parody of Dawkins' attitude.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 1:20 AM on July 5, 2011


Area man makes clumsy pass. Women and minorities hardest hit.
posted by unigolyn at 1:42 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


But something absolutely insane like 50-75% of women have been raped.

Yes, that is absolutely insane, but not for the reasons I think you mean.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:26 AM on July 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


People hook up at conventions, especially the kind where there are lots of both women and men.

Yeah I think that's been established. But still, it might have been annoying but the reaction to another woman disagreeing with her was way over the top, you should at least Stef McGraw's blog post on it, what she did to Stef was probably a lot more traumatizing then the pickup attempt, which sounds like it was mostly a nuisance.
posted by delmoi at 3:27 AM on July 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


Has Feminism Gone Too Far? is a good parody of Dawkins' attitude.

Especially since he brings up stuff from the 1960s and 1940s.
posted by delmoi at 3:27 AM on July 5, 2011


It matters whether you respect someone's boundaries and the context in general.

I think that's probably why he phrased it as a "yes" or "no" proposition.

When "respecting someone's boundaries" suddenly becomes "don't ask anyone, anything, ever" (since, I think most people would agree that "not being asked something" is preferable / more comfortable than "being asked something") then I'd have to say that it is she, not he, who needs to reconsider how she interacts with the world.

A fan asking for an autograph at an inopportune time, a bum asking for change twice in a row from the same stranger, a clumsy guy making a hamfisted pass at someone he has a crush on: worthy of our contempt? No. Just regular people, being human. And yeah, I consider all three of them in the same category. That Rebecca Watson chose to pass judgement on a human being making a human mistake (which, I'd wager, he probably regretted the minute he heard himself crashing and burning) is repugnant. Based on the available information, this is nothing more than her saying "sigh, some guys just don't get the hint. Now let's use this episode to explain what's fundamentally wrong with the world."

Forget about rape statistics (inflated or otherwise) because this isn't about that, at all. She just didn't like being picked up on, and somehow thought this episode was representative enough of some kind of epidemic which somehow became evidence of a global objectification of women, which we somehow know exists, because it does, and anyone who says otherwise is a woman-hating neanderthal.

If the guy in the elevator had opened with "So, how much?" then she'd have a leg to stand on. But as it stands now, it just sounds like "isn't it annoying how often we have to turn guys down? Gawd that sucks, in addition to all the other stuff women have to put up with." In other words, if they add this particular grievance to the collective pile, it assumes an air of genuinely notworthy concern.

Of no particular relevance: the hotel in question was 4 stories tall.

Reserve chute: can't we simply blame the Irish for this (again) and move on?
posted by ShutterBun at 4:21 AM on July 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


So... does she have any advice on how to properly attempt to pick up on an attractive woman, late night at a convention, if you're an atheist male?

I say this, because I am an atheist male who previously has picked up on an attractive woman, late night at a convention. We did, in fact, get a hotel room together... but that was actually her idea. It's not like I would actually invite her back to my room for coffee late at night.

I'm I a misogynist, or should I just feel used?! Because, if that's the case, well... I'm pretty sure we actually used each other.
posted by markkraft at 4:27 AM on July 5, 2011


This may have already been said, there are too many comments to read them all, but one thing that got me about this whole thing was how she was soooo shocked that a guy at an atheist skeptic conference would act like a jerk. After all "Our people" should be above that!
How does this differ from the same thing happening at a religious conference, and the Church Lady being "so shocked" that a good Christian man would behave that way?

Some people will always be jerks, and it has nothing to do with their belief or disbelief in God or any particular ideology. Guys do not act with finesse at 4AM after a few too many...not really so shocking, more like annoying. This has been blown way out of proportion by both sides.
posted by mermayd at 4:28 AM on July 5, 2011


(Actually, if I had a hotel room before booking one late at night with her, I *might* have invited her back to my room... but not with the intent of having coffee, and not without getting to know her a bit better first. We must've hung out / stumbled around drinking a good thirty minutes before a hotel room came into the equation. And that seemed good enough for both of us, really.)
posted by markkraft at 4:31 AM on July 5, 2011


If a stranger asked me to come to his hotel room at 4 a.m. while we were alone in the elevator, I would be pretty freaked out. That's so far outside the boundaries of appropriateness that I would immediately wonder, "if he thinks this is okay, what else does he think is okay?"

If the same guy approached me at a bar with the exact same words, I'd graciously turn him down and not think another thing of it.

The context is really, really important.
posted by ukdanae at 4:33 AM on July 5, 2011 [10 favorites]


"Guys do not act with finesse at 4AM after a few too many..."

That's an absolutist statement that I have to disagree with.

Some of the greatest acts of finesse I have ever witnessed in my wife have been done by guys at 4am, after having too many.
posted by markkraft at 4:36 AM on July 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is still going on?

I have been talked to flirtatiously by women when alone with them in elevators more times than I can remember. It just happened last week in fact ("you smell really good," made my morning). I'm a 6 foot tall, 200 pound, boots and jeans kind of guy, definitely capable of resembling a threat (or maybe I'm just good looking enough to be exempt, as per orthogonality, from the nerdy rapist category? I'd love to think so...)

In no case did I do anything more to instigate the conversation than smile or nod my head or say good morning (it's weird not to greet or leave-take on the elevator in your own building in NYC, even if you don't know the other person, but even at a conference, if I recognize the other person in an elevator by badge or whatever, I'm gonna nod my head and say "long day, huh?" or "enjoyed your panel," or whatever as we ride to the 22d floor together).

In no case did I expect (or want) to get laid because some woman liked my aftershave and said so, or commented on the song playing on my headphones before I could turn them off, that kind of thing that happens *all the time* to this man in elevators. Maybe not nerdy men, but it sure as hell happens to me on a pretty regular basis.

I do know better than to initiate elevator flirtation (certainly any form of direct proposition short of "send me your paper that I missed and I'll give it a look") myself. Even if I know the woman well or find her very attractive, I am conscious of the elevator as an awkwardly intimate space.

But on the other hand I've certainly made small talk with solo women I didn't really know in elevators at academic conferences about the lousy keynote we both just left or how the elevators sure are slow at this hotel, or whatever. A gentleman maintains physical distance and formality, avoids sustained eye contact in this situation, and keeps topics light and appropriate. He doesn't just clam up and slink into a corner and refuse to engage just to avoid being seen as a potential rapist.

Granting that 4am and "want to come by for coffee?" make it a little different, I am just terribly amused by the idea that we men need to put both out hands behind our back and squeeze into the corner, or better yet wait for the next elevator, and certainly never open our mouths if in a metal box with a woman.

But I wish to return to my central assertion here. There was no mention of a fear of "rape" in Ms. Morgan's vlog. There is no reason to believe she feared that. She did not fear him physically. An elevator in a luxury hotel usually has both a security phone and -- often -- video surveillance, and those suckers are fast, so the odds are you have only seconds before the door will open on an unknown hallway vista.

So why the hell is this thread all about rape? That's like making a thread that starts out being about how someone hacked his friend's facebook page into a thread about the danger Wikileaks poses to western democracies. It's pure grandstanding, opportunistic propagandizing, and PC point-scoring.

This entire thread consists of some women (and a few transgender men, whose right to speak "as women" strikes me as fundamentally illogical in this situation; and a few other men who are terribly, terribly concerned to appear progressive) screaming that men just don't get what it's like to have a female body in the world. And some men, mostly with odd self-esteem issues, insisting that it's a mean old world full of women who have all the real power and how can men ever get laid if they can't sometimes seem a little rapey?

And then the rest of us get lumped into one or the other camp for expressing even mild agreement with one or the other perspective.

I have a daughter. I have female friends and students and colleagues I care for, some of whom I know have been sexually assaulted, and no doubt some of whom someday will be. I pride myself (which means I usually manage to achieve it) on gentlemanly conduct in all situations, professional conduct in professional situations (which the elevator at a conference hotel is, even at 4am). I have escorted many a female friend or colleague home to her room late at night out of pure concern for her safety.

But I have some news from the basics of mammalian biology, let alone human psychology. If your goal is to have men "not see you as a sexual object," then you had best put on your burka, and even then you'd best stay home (usually in the role of one man's sexual object). There is no way a straight human male can avoid seeing (potentially) any human female as a sexual object, and (in practice) most human females as such. That is the male brain, and if you don't like it, start building a spaceship or move into a convent. Repression, sublimation, self-control, rational calculation of interest, and (as any experienced man knows) sheer smart reproductive strategy all kick in to keep men from acting bluntly and in the moment on this hardwired perspective. But we will never be able to purge our mind of dirty thoughts about nearly any sexually attractive woman we see. And although the structure is different (and complementary) for women, the same is true for them too. The reproductive drive is more powerful than hunger or thirst or any other form of desire. It's animal, chemical, hard wired, and the weird way our society sometimes pretends it doesn't exist or can be switched off (while simultaneously bombarding us all with messages that say "hotness" matters more than anything, measured in looks, wealth, or whatever) is ridiculous.

That does not give a man the right to proposition a woman alone in an elevator, or catcall at women in the street, or leer, or rape, or anything of the sort. But it does mean that there is a balance of power between the sexes, which some men -- and some women, mind you -- exploit as a regular strategy for success of all kinds, including the ability of a woman to humiliate men (the real source of all the male angst in this thread is men identifying with the humiliation factor here, while the women are identifying with the purported fear factor here). We can all agree that in some ideal world, fear and humiliation would not be risks of everyday living. Rainbow ponies for everyone would be nice too.

But here in the real world, men and women need to figure this stuff out, and we can do it without demonizing entire genders, saying that any man has a "1 in 6" chance of actually being a rapist, or that women don't mind being hit on by good looking guys, or other such complete and total bullshit.

In fact, we can do it without bringing in the edge case scenarios -- elevator rape and public shaming -- entirely. Ms. Morgan never mentioned a fear of being raped. And she never named the man in question. You get the feeling some people in this thread think she should have named him so we could all get our two minute hate on for real. In fact, Ms. Morgan was a real dick (can a feminist blogger be a dick?) to a fellow, younger, less successful female colleague in the post that's at the heart of this FPP, but no one mentions how that's not very admirable professional conduct (except Decani, who gave up trying to inject some truth into this ideology-fest a long while back). And arguably, it's a lot worse than clumsily hitting on someone for 20 seconds in an elevator.

And I am sure glad I live somewhere where people take elevators all the time and have good etiquette and instincts about it. I've had some very pleasant flirty moments in elevators over the years, and I don't believe for one second that at any time any of my interlocutors feared I might rape them, any more than Ms. Morgan feared such a thing here.

Most of this thread is projection, not honest discussion of an actual situation.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:41 AM on July 5, 2011 [15 favorites]


Some of the greatest acts of finesse I have ever witnessed in my wife have been done by guys at 4am,

Now hold on a minute.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:42 AM on July 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


In a post featuring atheism and Richard Dawkins, the religious debate has been remarkably civil! Good job, metafilter!
posted by Dim Siawns at 5:06 AM on July 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


When "respecting someone's boundaries" suddenly becomes "don't ask anyone, anything, ever"

When does that happen? Do you have, like, a standardization board, who says that "don't ask me back to your room in an elevator at 4am" is equivalent to "don't ask anyone, anything, ever"?
posted by LogicalDash at 5:12 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


If the same guy approached me at a bar with the exact same words, I'd graciously turn him down and not think another thing of it

Based on the size of the hotel, and the general layout of such places (i.e. the lobby bar is generally less than 30 steps from the elevator) you don't seem to be cutting the guy much slack.
posted by ShutterBun at 5:14 AM on July 5, 2011


markkraft: So... does she have any advice on how to properly attempt to pick up on an attractive woman, late night at a convention, if you're an atheist male?

I say this, because I am an atheist male who previously has picked up on an attractive woman, late night at a convention.


Sounds like you don't need any advice, slugger! Bada-bing!

Slightly more seriously: yes, she does. If you follow the links, you'll find that the advice is, roughly: not as a conversation starter, not at 4am, not in an elevator, not when you are the only two people around, not when you've just heard her say to a group of people that she is tired and wants to get some sleep.

fourcheesemac:

Granting that 4am and "want to come by for coffee?" make it a little different, I am just terribly amused by the idea that we men need to put both out hands behind our back and squeeze into the corner, or better yet wait for the next elevator, and certainly never open our mouths if in a metal box with a woman.

Come on, man. "So, I can't talk to women ever, anywhere?" is a rhetorical question asked by people who want to proposition women in elevators. This is not a binary proposition.

"It's not cool to proposition a woman in an elevator (as a conversation starter, at 4am, in an elevator, when you are the only two people around, when you've just heard her say to a group of people that she is tired and wants to get some sleep)" is not the same statement as "men need to put both our hands behind our backs and squeeze into the corner, or better yet wait for the next elevator, and certainly never open our mouths if in a metal box with a woman". If you think it is, you haven't been reading the same thread - which might at least explain why you think it's about someone called Morgan, rather than Watson.

So why the hell is this thread all about rape?

I think there was a fairly significant raising of the stakes about here, by Orthogonality. Before that, there had been a question by Mattmangels about whether the fear of rape was universal or specifically American, but that had been largely dealt with, and was not actually particularly relevant to the original post.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:15 AM on July 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sorry, Morgan, Watson, these wasp names are all the same to me.

Yes there are people in this thread who seem to think a man alone in an elevator is by definition a threat to any woman. I'm not making the extreme argument. I'm calling it out just like you are.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:20 AM on July 5, 2011


(And, actually, I think that sort of answers your other question. As soon as the emotional mercury hit that level about part 1 - the ethics of 4am elevator propositions - the chances of part 2 - atheist convention presentation etiquette - was unlikely to get a look-in.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:20 AM on July 5, 2011


This entire thread consists of some women (and a few transgender men, whose right to speak "as women" strikes me as fundamentally illogical in this situation

No transgendered men have commented in this thread, or at least none who have mentioned being trans. There have been a couple transgendered women, and yes they have the right to speak as women because they're, um, women.
posted by randomname25 at 5:21 AM on July 5, 2011 [24 favorites]


Btw, I've read all the comments in his thread and the linked articles. I just happen to know someone named Rebecca Morgan, a simple mistake. Just like the radicals here to say that invalidates anything else I have to say. Next thing you'll be calling me a rapist.


Naah, that never happens.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:23 AM on July 5, 2011


When does that happen? Do you have, like, a standardization board, who says that "don't ask me back to your room in an elevator at 4am" is equivalent to "don't ask anyone, anything, ever"?

It's a long thread. By now, the basic notion has been boiled down (by some) to: it's not OK to ask someone something if it makes them uncomfortable. To "err on the side of caution" would indicate that the only truly correct path would be not to ask anyone anything, lest ye offend them.

And yes, you're right, it is ridiculous. But that's the underlying, perhaps unintended message that's being sent by some.
posted by ShutterBun at 5:23 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes there are people in this thread who seem to think a man alone in an elevator is by definition a threat to any woman. I'm not making the extreme argument.

Cites? Can you show me on the doll where anyone says:

men need to put both our hands behind our back and squeeze into the corner, or better yet wait for the next elevator, and certainly never open our mouths if in a metal box with a woman.

Or makes statements to that effect. Can you further show where anyone says that:

But on the other hand I've certainly made small talk with solo women I didn't really know in elevators at academic conferences about the lousy keynote we both just left or how the elevators sure are slow at this hotel, or whatever.

Is unacceptable behavior? I don't see that, and would like to see where it happens. Links, please.

Also:

Just like the radicals here to say that invalidates anything else I have to say. Next thing you'll be calling me a rapist.

Wow, that is messed up, Seriously. How is this compulsive stake-raising a reasonable or useful way to discuss this? You didn't care enough to read your post back or cross-reference it with the OP. Your inattention doesn't make me a radical.

The effortless segue from you complaining about how this discussion was derailed by PC grandstanders about rape, and then immediately diving for the rape card the moment you looked remotely sloppy did at least lighten the mood, though.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:29 AM on July 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


By now, the basic notion has been boiled down (by some) to: it's not OK to ask someone something if it makes them uncomfortable. To "err on the side of caution" would indicate that the only truly correct path would be not to ask anyone anything, lest ye offend them.

That's a slippery slope argument if I ever saw one. I would say the prevailing sentiment goes something more like, "don't ask women you've never met for sex, especially if you two are alone in an enclosed space, and especially if she's just given a speech on how she doesn't like that sort of attention."

This isn't even an Ask vs. Guess thing. There was no need to ask OR guess her preference; she'd freaking announced it!
posted by randomname25 at 5:34 AM on July 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


men need to put both our hands behind our back and squeeze into the corner, or better yet wait for the next elevator, and certainly never open our mouths if in a metal box with a woman.

Please. I've been alone in an elevator with a woman I didn't know many a time and it didn't cause a problem. And I'm a big, black intense looking dude. It's not that difficult to respect personal space and not say anything or just chat about innocuous stuff (the weather, slow elevator doors etc). This is not not rocket science and attempting to turn into some sort OMG MEN CAN'T DO ANYTHING is just silly. And idiotic.

What's the lesson in all this? Upon first talking to a woman you're interested in, do no ask her to come back to your hotel room, apartment or house, no matter what time of day it is. f you've just been in a group situation with her, do chat her up without trying to monopolize her time. Ask to see her again, while giving her room (both physical and social) to politely decline, then listen and respect what she says.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:38 AM on July 5, 2011 [12 favorites]


If you really want to ask a woman for sex before you ask her name, look up your local swing club.
posted by LogicalDash at 5:46 AM on July 5, 2011


But we will never be able to purge our mind of dirty thoughts about nearly any sexually attractive woman we see. And although the structure is different (and complementary) for women, the same is true for them too. The reproductive drive is more powerful than hunger or thirst or any other form of desire.

I have seen this (or the "men think about sex every 7 minutes" canard) asserted in all sorts of places as an absolutely factual given about human neuro-bio-chemistry, but is there some empirical medical research on this -- with humans rather than bonobos or rats or something? Because it could very well be so, or it could be a case of "lots of people report thinking this way, and therefore it's clearly biological" when actually, it's largely or entirely culturally produced or it's a rationalization produced by confirmation bias.

I mean, if they had just had open-heart surgery and were in considerable pain and disorientation, would most men/women/people honestly catch a whiff of their doctor's cologne and inexorably think, "Mmmmm, Thag wanna fuck"?
posted by FelliniBlank at 5:52 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


There was no need to ask OR guess her preference; she'd freaking announced it!

No, she spoke about graphic sexual emails from supporters, hateful threatening emails from opponents, and hurtful YouTube comments. I didn't see any warnings during her panel speech about "don't clumsily hit on me after closing time."
posted by ShutterBun at 5:53 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


And when the door opens on her floor and her foot is stepping over the threshold, you make your move.

Right . Because a woman will feel ever so much better about being accosted at 4am by an unknown man in a hotel if it's on her floor. I'm guessing you're still single.

Here's a far better strategy. It's 4 am, I don't know you from Adam , we've never talked before and we've known each other for all of a minute and a half. In an elevator. So why not just stfu and go up to your room without accosting me in the first place?

posted by Poet_Lariat at 2:02 AM on July 5

You might want to dial that shit back a bit P.L.
I'm very happily married. I'm a woman. You can't have read this thread too closely because I explained my fear of men in confined spaces where I can't get away is partly because I have actually been raped.

The reason why I offered the advice of how to approach a woman in an elevator is because just prior to my comment somebody had said maybe the elevator is the only place the guy has to try his luck. I offered that if the elevator is the ONLY place, better to wait until she can walk away before propositioning her.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:55 AM on July 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


Ladies, let me mansplain something to you: a lot of the comments you're disagreeing with don't make sense to you because you don't understand that the primary purpose of women is for the sexual pleasure of men. Once you figure that out, many of these arguments -- particularly the ones regarding the basic human right of men to demand sexual favors from total strangers -- suddenly become a whole lot clearer.
posted by Pants McCracky at 5:59 AM on July 5, 2011 [11 favorites]


Helpful note: I think a lot of the folks on one side of this argument tend to believe that there ought to be a difference between "socially awkward guy strikes out" and "misogynist (potential rapist) intimidates woman in a selectively confined space."

If you really think the prima facie case against this guy places him in the latter category, well, I guess that's that. But can't we at least agree that there IS at least a difference between the two?

Otherwise it really sounds an awful lot like "You know how I know you're a misogynist? Because you propositioned a woman and she turned you down."
posted by ShutterBun at 5:59 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


No, she spoke about graphic sexual emails from supporters, hateful threatening emails from opponents, and hurtful YouTube comments. I didn't see any warnings during her panel speech about "don't clumsily hit on me after closing time."

OK, so she didn't actually say "don't clumsily hit on me after closing time." Her point about not liking being sexually objectified in intellectual settings was clear enough that I'd think a person could extrapolate, but maybe I'm too optimistic.
posted by randomname25 at 6:00 AM on July 5, 2011


And to clarify, yes, I do realize that we can't unthink thoughts once we've thought them or individually control the thoughts that spontaneously occur to us. I just wonder about this assertion that human beings do think sexual thoughts about every sexually attractive person in their range of vision. Is a brain even capable of that?
posted by FelliniBlank at 6:00 AM on July 5, 2011


What's the lesson in all this? Upon first talking to a woman you're interested in, do no ask her to come back to your hotel room, apartment or house, no matter what time of day it is.
That just seems ridiculous. It's one thing to say, don't cat call, don't say rude things, etc. But it's a completely different thing to say various innocuous statements should be verboten just because you might freak some random woman out. It's especially problematic when there are women who would be interested in hanging out with you (whether just to chat or to have sex)

And yeah the whole "Rape" thing is something that just bubbled out of this thread and has totally dominated it. All she said was that made her "uncomfortable" Was it uncomfortable because she wasn't in the mood to be hit on and wanted to be seen as an equal, or was it uncomfortable because she thought he might rape her. Yes, it was 4 AM in an elevator, but this guy might have been a part of the conversation and thought that she knew who he was or something.

And it's ignoring her completely inappropriate response to the woman who disagreed with her on her blog, calling her misogynistic and brainwashed by the patriarchy or whatever in public.
posted by delmoi at 6:10 AM on July 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Her point about not liking being sexually objectified in intellectual settings was clear enough

I'm not convinced that closing time at a bar is an intellectual setting, but more importantly, I don't think expressing "I find you interesting and desirable" is objectification. A poor opener, yes. But not objectifying.
posted by ShutterBun at 6:11 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Felliniblank: There's a Lenny Bruce routine pretty much about this - that a man could have lost a leg in an auto accident, and he would still make a pass at the nurses, because they are wearing nurses' uniforms. Of course, that's a comedy routine. I think it might be something that people with high sex drives might experience, or young people in the grip of hormones, and universalize, which is at least familiar enough, or remembered well enough, to raise a laugh.

Fourcheesemac's point seems orthogonal - I don't think at any point anyone has suggested that it's wrong for people to have sexual thoughts or feelings, only that certain ways of acting on them are inappropriate or undesirable.

The insertion of "ladies, most men will be thinking dirty thoughts about you, and some will act on them inappropriately, and if you don't want that to happen you'll have to wear a burqa or be kept at home" is a response to an argument that has largely not taken place in this thread, but has probably happened at other times, about whether women who dress provocatively (i.e. not in a burqa) have to accept the odd bit of harassment and the odd inept pick-up line as the price of emancipation, and that the alternative is a sort of secular Islamic fundamentalism.

It's sort of the strong version what Pastabagel touches on here - that the best feminism can hope for is that inept pick-ups in elevators in the small hours can be declined without harassment or violence ensuing.
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:14 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


(and a few transgender men, whose right to speak "as women" strikes me as fundamentally illogical in this situation;

If you're talking about Poet_Lariat and ArmyofKittens, I have to ask you what the hell you're talking about.

Please explain how it's "illogical" that two people, who have experience in actually being, being seen as, and being treated as male, and also experience in actually being, being seen as, and being treated as female, have a "right" to speak about their experiences as women? Really. I want to know.
posted by rtha at 6:18 AM on July 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


Please explain how it's "illogical" that two people, who have experience in actually being, being seen as, and being treated as male, and also experience in actually being, being seen as, and being treated as female, have a "right" to speak about their experiences as women? Really. I want to know.

Yes, let's investigate that aspect now. We were coming dangerously close to staying on-topic for a dozen or so posts.
posted by ShutterBun at 6:23 AM on July 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


In a long thread that is primarily about perspective - how the woman in the elevator sees things, how the man in the elevator sees them - how is asking fcm to explain his dismissal of the perspectives of two particular women not "on topic"?
posted by rtha at 6:28 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I feel much better about myself after reading this thread. My lack of social skills is so much less than I thought.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:51 AM on July 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


Until the day when the members of your gender wear placards stating "I'm one of the small minority of men who will rape women", we're going to be on our guard for a little while, because we can't tell whether you are or are not one of that minority otherwise right off, and the stakes on that bet are just too high.

Yeah, and because the stakes are high and because that day will never come, people are going to take certain actions. Things like not letting women serve in the frontlines of combat (war rape), or just not letting any women work the graveyard shift (homicide is leading cause of fatalities for women in the workplace, an old study but still releveant), not letting female correspondents go to dangerous areas, or cutting off alcohol to certain men and certain women when it looks like they've had a bit too much (alcohol is involved in in 71% of reported rapes).

And when someone starts to say that these actions are paternalistic or sexist, I think commanding officers, employers, and business owners can say, "Well, it's either this or they will probably get raped."
posted by FJT at 7:03 AM on July 5, 2011


FJT, don't be obtuse.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:05 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


> "The frustrating thing," he says to you and a couple of other folks, "Is that I can't go
> anywhere without being treated as a bank on legs. Parties, dinners, work events,
> whatever. Everything always turns into 'while you're here, we've got a great investment
> opportunity,' or 'Hey, could you cover drinks for everyone,' or 'Could you float me rent this
> month.'"
>
> And then you ask him for a loan.

How could anyone not? If it's someone I like and don't want to annoy I just hope I have a sock that's easier to reach than the ones on my feet inside my shoes. Because I would absolutely have to stuff a sock in my mouth and bite it, hard, to keep from saying "Lend me a quid 'til payday?"
posted by jfuller at 7:09 AM on July 5, 2011


> And then you ask him for a loan.

How could anyone not?


How could anyone do?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:11 AM on July 5, 2011


And when someone starts to say that these actions are paternalistic or sexist, I think commanding officers, employers, and business owners can say, "Well, it's either this or they will probably get raped."

Retaining the right to decide for myself where I'll go and what I'll do for a living is just a little different from other people deciding that, don't you think?

But we could flip your scenario around: since women are at greater risk of getting raped than men, and in certain circumstances that risk may be even greater than usual, I think we should ban men from working the graveyard shift, combat positions, and the like, since according to statistics, they're more likely to perpetrate violent acts.

That is just as paternalistic, sexist, and absurd as your scenario.
posted by rtha at 7:11 AM on July 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


Let's just get to work on those placards then, shall we?
posted by ShutterBun at 7:14 AM on July 5, 2011


Shutterbun: Helpful note: I think a lot of the folks on one side of this argument tend to believe that there ought to be a difference between "socially awkward guy strikes out" and "misogynist (potential rapist) intimidates woman in a selectively confined space."

If you really think the prima facie case against this guy places him in the latter category, well, I guess that's that. But can't we at least agree that there IS at least a difference between the two?


This feels like asking for a concession that nobody is demanding not be made. So, let's happily agree that "socially awkward guy strikes out (in an elevator, at 4am, with his opening line of solo conversation)" is indeed different from "misogynist (potential rapist) intimidates woman in a selectively confined space". Can we further agree that it's sometimes although not always hard to tell that difference in the moment? For example, in this much-favorited post by The Secret Life of Gravy:

This man standing behind me at the check-put at the grocery store who compliments my scarf, he doesn't scare me and if I wasn't in a solid relationship with someone I might be tempted to flirt with him. But that guy who always brushes past me to get in the classroom and always seems to be right behind me when I am walking to my car in the deserted parking lot...he makes my heart pump a little faster. I really, really don't want to have a conversation with him. Mostly I don't want to be alone with him when he makes a pass at me because I have no clue as to how he will take that. Will he start badgering me and try to guilt me into going out with him? Will he call me a fucking cunt and hit my car door with his fist? Or will he punch me in the face? I don't know, I would rather not find out.

I'm not afraid of all men. I'm just afraid of being alone with strange men in situations where I can't easily walk away. I don't think that makes me sexist. I think that makes me wary. So if you want to date me (or sleep with me), find a way to talk to me in surroundings where I feel safe. It's not that difficult really.


I mean, if your objective is to use the available evidence to clear elevator guy's good name, then that's an objective, I guess - although he hasn't been named, and I don't think anyone, including the propositionee herself, has stated that this particular man - elevator guy - gave any impression of planning to or attempting to force the issue. He made an inappropriate advance, he was declined. Watson later used her vlog, anonymously, to use him as a good example of how not to a) encourage women to come to conventions and b) get together with the few women in attendance. So, objective unlocked.

What is being said, fairly consistently, is that if someone propositions someone else - late at night, in an enclosed and secluded space, with their first line of conversation* - in that moment it's hard for the propositionee to be absolutely confident of the reaction they are going to get to their negative response. Thanks to the way of the world, the propositionee is often female, and often has more cause for concern about a possible struggle, but it cuts either way.

* Which I think speaks to delmoi's concern, here - I think the idea that anyone is arguing that after three hours of friendly one-to-one bar conversation an invitation to move the party to someone's home or hotel room is verboten is another phantom.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:16 AM on July 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


Retaining the right to decide for myself where I'll go and what I'll do for a living is just a little different from other people deciding that, don't you think?


Employers will never tell you directly that they think you can't do this or shouldn't do this because you'll get raped. They'll throw up much more polite and reasonable talk then what I've offered here. But, that's always going to be on their minds.

That is just as paternalistic, sexist, and absurd as your scenario.

Unfortunately, that's not absurd. My company (a major manufacturing corporation headquartered in the United States) does not let women work the night shift. Nobody knows why and there's no official stance on it, it just doesn't happen.
posted by FJT at 7:20 AM on July 5, 2011


> Retaining the right to decide for myself where I'll go and what I'll do for a living is just a little different from other people deciding that, don't you think?


Employers will never tell you directly that they think you can't do this or shouldn't do this because you'll get raped. They'll throw up much more polite and reasonable talk then what I've offered here. But, that's always going to be on their minds.


FJT, you didn't answer rtha's question. Which is:
Retaining the right to decide for myself where I'll go and what I'll do for a living is just a little different from other people deciding that, don't you think?

In other words -- do you honestly not get that there's a difference between what happens in a work place and what happens between two people who meet by chance outside work?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:23 AM on July 5, 2011


I need an example, I honestly can't make sense of the question.
posted by FJT at 7:27 AM on July 5, 2011


I need an example, I honestly can't make sense of the question.

Let me rephrase it.

Do you understand that "professional life" and "private life" are two totally different things?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:38 AM on July 5, 2011


But no one was claiming this guy was a bad guy at all, simply inconsiderate (and remember that everyone was drinking). A fool is definitely not a knave. So why call him out personally in front of his peers - by name? How could that possibly end well? She could have discussed the example in general without humiliating the poor slob in front of his friends.

She didn't. She "called out" a young woman who challenged her view of the incident in a blog post. We have no idea who the guy was.
posted by OolooKitty at 7:40 AM on July 5, 2011


Do you understand that "professional life" and "private life" are two totally different things?

Only in the context if you're professional and private lives are at odds with each other. Like, for example, you're an environmental activist in your private life but work at a coal power plant. Is that what you're saying?
posted by FJT at 7:43 AM on July 5, 2011


Like, for example, you're an environmental activist in your private life but work at a coal power plant.

Those two things are both in the "professional life" category.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 7:49 AM on July 5, 2011


Those two things are both in the "professional life" category.

Oh. I guess I don't, since I put in a lot of hours at work.
posted by FJT at 7:57 AM on July 5, 2011


Amanda Marcotte has a post on this subject using a clip from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia as her springboard: Because of the Implication. She also takes on the idea that it was somehow inappropriate for Watson to cite her own critics:
Anyway, this launched Round Two of Silence the Feminist. This time, the theme was, "Sure, you may be right that this dude was a creep but shut up, since you're making people uncomfortable and can't we get back to talking about how religious people are sexists?" This was greased by a political strategy known as Calvinball---one that the right is really good at, by the way---where you make up brand new rules of discourse that were previously unknown and then chastise the target for breaking the rule that didn't exist before because you just made it up. In this particular case, Rebecca broke the previously unknown rule wherein you can't actually quote someone's public words and the name they publish under when disagreeing with them, at least if your blog has more traffic than theirs does. It may also be true that there are exceptions on every other Sunday, but I'm not sure.
Thought people on the thread might find this interesting.
posted by gerryblog at 7:59 AM on July 5, 2011 [16 favorites]


> Do you understand that "professional life" and "private life" are two totally different things?

Only in the context if you're professional and private lives are at odds with each other. Like, for example, you're an environmental activist in your private life but work at a coal power plant. Is that what you're saying?


No.

There's a difference between a woman thinking to herself "this is how much danger I want to put myself in" and a workplace saying "this is how much danger we will let you ladies put yourself in." In the one instance, a woman has made that decision for herself. In the other instance, someone else has made that decision FOR her.

It could be that an individual woman is not worried about working late; she may well know the risks, but decides that she has the wit and the ability to protect her own self. She has chosen for her own self that she will assume that risk. If that is what she wishes, and she decides that the benefits of working late (higher pay, perhaps) outweigh the risk (danger), then that is her choice. A woman who is not willing to assume that risk could simply choose to work during the day. So it is unfair for a workplace to make a blanket decision on behalf of all women.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:03 AM on July 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


Her point about not liking being sexually objectified in intellectual settings was clear enough that I'd think a person could extrapolate, but maybe I'm too optimistic.
posted by randomname25 at 9:00 AM on July


Aren't we talking about Rebecca Watson, the founder of Skepchick, who since 2007 has published the Skepchick pin-up calendar? Isn't this the same person who posted this YouTube video with the description "Brains, Body, Both: the 2007 Skepchick Calendar"? She herself conflated sexual objectification with the intellectual setting of her blog and events associated with it.

This has nothing to do with whether what the guy did in the elevator was okay or not, or whether her calling him out on it was okay or not, but it does suggest that there is a lot of muddled and confused thinking on her part.

So she is sexual in some situations means she doesn't have the right to decide her boundaries anymore? Is that the point of linking the pinup calendar?

Never mind, on preview I see I am completely done here.
posted by Danila at 6:11 PM on July 4


You were done when you wrote the first sentence. The calendar says nothing about her personal boundaries, It speaks volumes about her willingness to conflate sexual objectification and intellectual discourse in the interest of marketing and promotion.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:10 AM on July 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yeah, and because the stakes are high and because that day will never come, people are going to take certain actions. Things like not letting women serve in the frontlines of combat (war rape)

Dishonorable discharges and criminal trial for soldiers convicted of rape. Dishonorable discharge and accessory trial for soldiers covering for soldiers convicted of rape. Court martial and dishonorable discharge for officers concealing or discouraging reports of rape.

The United States already employs women in combat roles in the artillery and air force. Other militaries have female active-combat troops, including Canada.

or just not letting any women work the graveyard shift (homicide is leading cause of fatalities for women in the workplace, an old study but still releveant)

Well, not entirely relevant, since homicide isn't rape and the message of that study is by this logic that men and women alike should be prevented from driving taxis. But OK, sure. Decent security, police taking stalking and threats seriously before they escalate, competent prosecution of offenders.

not letting female correspondents go to dangerous areas

Bodyguards, training, good evacuation procedures - just what you do with male reporters in dangerous areas, really.

or cutting off alcohol to certain men and certain women when it looks like they've had a bit too much (alcohol is involved in in 71% of reported rapes).

And this is just random, but - sure. Bars sometimes cut off patrons who appear to be inebriated. Businesses often have rules about drinking at work.

I'm not sure what your point is. You've laid out a series of situations, and the possible added risks to women, which based on anecdotal evidence of your experience of your employer you think is why women will never be allowed into any any of these situations - even though they demonstrably are allowed into all of these situations.

If what you're saying is that a higher awareness of the risk of women being raped is going to lead to further restriction of women's freedoms, then that's basically the "feminists secretly want everyone wearing burqas" argument in a slightly different color. It's possible to take violence against women and harassment of women seriously without keeping women out of sections of the workforce, and it is somewhat bizarre to suggest that the first will lead to the second.

If your employer keeps women out of certain roles because they think they will be raped, then they probably need to take a look at their HR and staffing policies, because that really is going to cause problems at some point.
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:14 AM on July 5, 2011


There's a difference between a woman thinking to herself "this is how much danger I want to put myself in" and a workplace saying "this is how much danger we will let you ladies put yourself in." In the one instance, a woman has made that decision for herself. In the other instance, someone else has made that decision FOR her.

This, what Empress said. Do you not see a difference?
posted by rtha at 8:17 AM on July 5, 2011


Aren't we talking about Rebecca Watson, the founder of Skepchick, who since 2007 has published the Skepchick pin-up calendar? Isn't this the same person who posted this YouTube video with the description "Brains, Body, Both: the 2007 Skepchick Calendar"? She herself conflated sexual objectification with the intellectual setting of her blog and events associated with it.

*head in hands*

Okay, then, can I turn things around here?

Some guys complain about women who are "golddiggers." If I meet one such guy, would it be acceptable for me to check out what he's wearing, and if he's wearing Armani, can I accuse them of "conflating monetary objectification with the personal presentation they offer the world"? You know -- can I point out "hey, look, he's wearing a fancy suit, so clearly his thinking is muddled about whether it's annoying for him to be approached by golddiggers"?

No? Why not?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:21 AM on July 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


What's more telling to me is not that some guy propositioned someone in an awkward and nervousness-creating way, nor that some people were surprised and uncomfortable at seeing him be called out for it, but the avalanche of responses that intend to have the problem go away by denying her feelings or their importance. I kind of agreed with her bit about "thanks to those misogynists who commented," and consider some of the hullabaloo around her minor callout to fall into the category of "prote

A better response would be "I can see how that might make someone uncomfortable," perhaps accompanied by "you know, I hadn't thought of that, and as a guy who propositions women I find attractive, I might've done that myself. so it's interesting to realize how that might feel to some women," perhaps even followed by, "that actually concerns me. I really would not want to make women feel threatened. It sounds like some of my typical approaches might do that! Now I feel nervous. I apparently don't know how to tell the difference between a good approach and a bad approach. And since the penalty could include being publicly shamed as an oppressive misogynist (high stakes), I feel really on edge about this. I'm not trying to shout you down, but it may take me some time to think this all through, and I'd appreciate any help and forbearance you can offer as I try to adjust my approach here." That person could even say, "I feel angry; it feels like society's rules are being changed on me, and I liked it better the old way," and thereby own their privilege and resistance to losing it.

That would be a much better conversation. That hypothetical male response starts from a position of wanting to meet the female's request not to feel threatened, then from a position of respect, explains his own feelings. The angrily dismissive response, the response that makes meeting the male need (to hit on someone) as a precondition of meeting the female's need (not to feel threatened), is in my view, oppressive. It reflects and reinforces male privilege. I'm not calling out this thread, by the way. I'm glad to see how well this discussion here has gone, by the way.
posted by salvia at 8:22 AM on July 5, 2011 [20 favorites]


> Do you understand that "professional life" and "private life" are two totally different things?

They are abstractions that can be named separately (like "family life" and "economic life") which makes us feel as if the separate names must refer to separate objects like Phobos and Deimos or Victoria and Albert. In fact professional life and private life interpenetrate and shade into each other as thoroughly as the yellows and the whites in a well-scrambled egg.
posted by jfuller at 8:22 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dude, if somebody corners a friggin' porn star in a hotel elevator at 4 in the morning and decides that's a good time to proposition her, that person is a creep. What she does for a living and how she chooses to advertise that doesn't make it okay to violate basic courtesy and standards of behavior at her.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:25 AM on July 5, 2011 [18 favorites]


The next time I'm in an elevator with an off-duty firefighter, I'm just gonna set it on fire.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 8:25 AM on July 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


They are abstractions that can be named separately (like "family life" and "economic life") which makes us feel as if the separate names must refer to separate objects like Phobos and Deimos or Victoria and Albert. In fact professional life and private life interpenetrate and shade into each other as thoroughly as the yellows and the whites in a well-scrambled egg.

the point I was trying to make was this:

We are all talking about "women may be wary at first when you approach them out of the blue because they may be cautious about personal safety". FJT was saying "but if there's a fear of safety, then why do women get upset when they are barred from combat or a workplace restricts women to certain duties?"

Surely you can understand that there's a difference between "a woman deciding for herself how much risk to assume in her private life" and "a company deciding on the woman's behalf how much risk they will allow her to assume", yes? Even if "professional life" and "personal life" are "abstractions"?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:27 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thank you, Salvia!

Suggestions for some BETTER responses (quoted for emphasis):

-- "I can see how that might make someone uncomfortable,"
-- "you know, I hadn't thought of that, and as a guy who propositions women I find attractive, I might've done that myself. so it's interesting to realize how that might feel to some women,"
-- "that actually concerns me. I really would not want to make women feel threatened. It sounds like some of my typical approaches might do that! Now I feel nervous. I apparently don't know how to tell the difference between a good approach and a bad approac And since the penalty could include being publicly shamed as an oppressive misogynist (high stakes), I feel really on edge about this. I'm not trying to shout you down, but it may take me some time to think this all through, and I'd appreciate any help and forbearance you can offer as I try to adjust my approach here."
-- "I feel angry; it feels like society's rules are being changed on me, and I liked it better the old way,"


Is that so hard?
posted by Surfurrus at 8:29 AM on July 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


If what you're saying is that a higher awareness of the risk of women being raped is going to lead to further restriction of women's freedoms, then that's basically the "feminists secretly want everyone wearing burqas" argument in a slightly different color.

I can see how you see I'm saying that, but I'm not saying that, or at least that was not my primary point. My point is that there's a conflict between the want of personal freedom and having a zero rape society. I think either we acknowledge that occurrences of rape will go down, but will always happen, or there's going to be some measures taken to ensure zero rape that may intrude on individual freedoms for both men and women. And yes, if it means sequestering men as well as women out of certain areas or occupations, then so be it. So, yes, I would agree with what rtha said earlier to an extent.

At the same time these are not mutually exclusive. Different societies and organizations will come to different conclusions on how best to handle this, and may gravitate towards one or the other or a balance of the two.

If your employer keeps women out of certain roles because they think they will be raped, then they probably need to take a look at their HR and staffing policies, because that really is going to cause problems at some point.

I don't work for HR, so I can't tell what their reasoning is, or if they've even ever encountered such a situation. I just know from my experience, having worked graveyard shift at my company, I have never heard the voice of or encountered a female ever.
posted by FJT at 8:31 AM on July 5, 2011


kmz: Dan Savage is not an authority on women's feelings.

He would beg to differ with you on that.

pla: So my opinion on this one doesn't count because I don't tend to see slings and arrows hidden in every turn of phrase? Beautiful.

Nobody's telling you that your opinion doesn't count, least of all me, because you've made it clear that you're determined to make sure that your opinion does count, but virtually every comment you've made in this thread contains a shouty insistence that other people's experiences and opinions don't count.
posted by blucevalo at 8:35 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Given what I've read here, I think that the initial statement needs to be reframed slightly, in order for some persons to fully understand. I think the responses will be much more in line with what many are looking for. Here are some hypotheticals:

* A woman got into an elevator, a man followed her into it, and said he's a developer with Apple. He asked, "Want to come back up to my room and we can remove multicam out of Final Cut Pro X?"

* A woman got into an elevator, a man followed her into it, and said he works for Amazon. He asked, "Wanna come up to my room and we can remotely delete e-books off of people's Kindles?"

* A woman got into an elevator, a man followed her into it, and said he works for a law firm. He asked, "Why don't we go back to my room and we can file some software patents, totally ignoring prior art."
posted by Threeway Handshake at 8:36 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


ShutterBun: Helpful note: I think a lot of the folks on one side of this argument tend to believe that there ought to be a difference between "socially awkward guy strikes out" and "misogynist (potential rapist) intimidates woman in a selectively confined space."

If you really think the prima facie case against this guy places him in the latter category, well, I guess that's that. But can't we at least agree that there IS at least a difference between the two?


I've been thinking about why this subject has had such a vitriolic response in here, and trying to understand the viewpoint of the people getting all shouty on the Watson-was-wrong side, and I'd agree that distinction probably does have a lot to do with it. A lot of people can identify with category #1 (the slightly socially awkward) enough to feel hugely, deeply offended that anyone would mistake it for category #2 (the dangerous predator). Even the smoothest and most socially adept of us were teenagers once upon a time, after all. And people are reading this discussion as saying "All men should be treated as rapists, because lots of men are, and to back that up here's an example of a socially awkward man getting turned down!" and getting all (understandably) grar-ish about it.

That said, I don't think that's what anybody's actually claiming here. So maybe it would help to explain why.

First off: Women aren't telepathic. If someone's hitting on us in a way that totally disregards the kind of social conventions built up around the need for safety, personal space, respect, etc., then we don't know what's going on in his head. Maybe he's clueless-but-harmless, and just isn't aware that he's acting like someone who's going to prioritise his desires over our comfort levels. Probably that's the case. But maybe he's someone who actually believes that. How do we tell the difference? All we've got to go on is the knowledge he's trampling over our boundaries.

Nobody is saying that the unnamed man who propositioned Watson at the conference was a dangerous predator. Nobody, including Watson, is saying that. But that doesn't mean that his actions are made retrospectively okay. You trample all over somebody's boundaries in that situation, and it's going to make them feel awkward and incredibly uncomfortable and quite possibly worried, because they don't know what you're thinking or what you might do next.

Second off: Trampling over somebody's boundaries, the kind of boundaries that we've built these social conventions around, is a bad thing in and of itself. People will feel uncomfortable and awkward and worried by that even when they know you're not going to rape them.

Some of the creepiest encounters I've ever had with boundary-trampling men were in situations where I wasn't alone with them. One of them was even in public, albeit in a quiet corner of a pub, where a man decided to come and sit right next to me when I was mid-conversation with a friend, and sat in such a way that I couldn't have got out without climbing over the table. He kept telling me he just wanted to chat, he just thought I was nice, and wouldn't leave even when told repeatedly and directly "I do not want to talk to you. Go away. Leave me alone. Now." It's not like he could have dragged me off into a dark alley - but here I am, a foot shorter than him, and he's leaning in so his face is two inches from mine and I can't pull back further, and he won't leave, and he clearly does not give a damn about my comfort or wishes because they conflict with what he wants. That kind of behaviour is not okay.

Making someone feel uncomfortable and unsafe and awful is a bad thing to do, even if you don't intend to physically harm them. It is, to be sure, the kind of bad thing that it's possible to do without even realising it. Some people are socially awkward enough to do that. But we're not talking 'socially awkward' like 'dear heavens, he wore a neon muumuu to the black-tie party, the shame!' and then damning them because of it - we're talking 'socially awkward' in a sense that's having a real negative effect on others.

In short: even if you're not a rapist, you shouldn't hit on women the way he hit on her.
posted by Catseye at 8:55 AM on July 5, 2011 [15 favorites]


Male and female elevators. Problem solved.
posted by storybored at 9:02 AM on July 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


I've been trying to wrap my head around this argument, and for me it boils down to: creeps are creeps, but was this particular creep an instructive creep? In other words, was sharing this story something we can all learn from, or was it an annoying episode that actually doesn't correspond to any of the larger points that Skepchick would like to make?

Since I wasn't there, I can't say much about what 'really happened'-- but what I can say is that if you believe Skepchick has credibility as a person, and I do, I think we have to take her word for it. Her opinion of what this incident means to her is the only one that ultimately really matters. She was skeeved out and felt the incident was instructive to larger issues. Analyzing the man's technique, social skills, etc. is beyond the point.
posted by chaz at 9:04 AM on July 5, 2011


In my experience the sorts of folks that go to atheist conventions are very smart. Possibly smart enough to be on the autism spectrum. I am not saying that all atheists or even all atheists that attend conferences have AS but I would hazard a guess that they would be overrepresented. One common attribute of folks on the AS is a difficulty picking up on social cues. I think that could have been the problem here. It could also happen often enough to be a problem with these folks attracting a female following.

The rest looks like a tempest in a blog post to me.
posted by The Violet Cypher at 9:13 AM on July 5, 2011


Male and female elevators. Problem solved.

Real men take the stairs.
posted by FJT at 9:14 AM on July 5, 2011


One common attribute of folks on the AS is a difficulty picking up on social cues. I think that could have been the problem here.

And that's why Rebecca's initial response was "I said some women feel uncomfortable by guys who Don't Get It. Here is an example of what I mean by 'Not Getting It,' and here's why." The furor only came in when someone else responded to THAT post by saying she was "overreacting."

If people had reacted to "here's what I mean by Not Getting It" by simply saying, "oh, okay, we understand," then that would have been that. The fact that she was accused of overreacting seems a much bigger problem than just "tempest on a blog post," however.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:21 AM on July 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


FJT: My point is that there's a conflict between the want of personal freedom and having a zero rape society. I think either we acknowledge that occurrences of rape will go down, but will always happen, or there's going to be some measures taken to ensure zero rape that may intrude on individual freedoms for both men and women.

I don't think anyone here is predicting or anticipating a zero-rape society, though. I mean, I think a lot of people would take it, but probably don't feel that it's realistic - like a no-murder society or a no-fraud society, you'd have to change a _lot_ about people, and I think a lot more than where they could work. I think less sexual assault, less harassment, the law and society taking assault and harassment more seriously are all good goals, and can all be achieved while increasing rather than reducing women's freedoms - not just legal freedoms, but practical freedoms.

If you're saying that you'd be happy to make positions with a risk of sexual assault unisex, but you don't mind whether men or women are allowed in each one... well, that is certainly not what I thought you were saying. But I don't think that's realistic across the board - most notably in federal employment. It's a big honking cliché, but the best way to reduce incidences of sexual assaults by men on women is not for women to be kept out of front line combat units or yellow cabs. It's for men to stop sexually assaulting women so much.
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:32 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I agree with you that she pointed out an example of the problem if not the best example of the problem. I do however think the designation of "Guys That Don't Get It" implies a willing obtuseness that may have not existed. I think he may not have simply received what she was signaling. That I think is an important point. In order for him to have objectified her he needs to receive the signal that she is not interested and then decide that it doesn't matter. I am not sure that is the case here.

That having been said Dawkins does come off as a dick. Course that is nothing new.
posted by The Violet Cypher at 9:45 AM on July 5, 2011


This is a good thread. I needed my dwindling faith in humanity eroded further--I had far too nice of a weekend.

* scowl *
posted by everichon at 9:46 AM on July 5, 2011


I wish the guy would just speak up. I want to hear him talk about his behavior. Is he still unknown?
posted by rakim at 9:47 AM on July 5, 2011


I want to hear him talk about his behavior. Is he still unknown?

If they guy in the elevator actually turned out to be Richard Dawkins I would probably start to believe in god again.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 9:50 AM on July 5, 2011 [9 favorites]


The guy maybe shouldn't have propositioned her, politely though he did, in the elevator. But I think Rebecca, did something worse. She wants the guy to be really sensitive to her feelings of vulnerability. Really concerned about her comfort and her subjective experience. She then does the thing that the guy in the elevator was probably reassuring himself would never happen before he spoke a word. That it isn't like he would be ridiculed or shamed for politely showing interest. The worst thing that can happen is she says "no" he probably told himself.

I think this is misguided. Rebecca didn't name this guy so that everyone could point and shame him. She's trying to start a conversation about social norms. She's saying, "If you want more women to participate in these events, the norms of what is socially acceptable should be changed to make women feel more comfortable. Here's an example of behavior that should be considered outside the social norm."

I'm sorry that some guys feel awkward and vulnerable and frustrated about how to meet women. But guys still have to respect social norms, no matter how lonely they feel.

Now the question is whether Rebecca's proposal about social norms is a reasonable one or not. I see a lot of guys saying, "Men should be free to ask women for dates in professional conference settings." I see a lot of women saying, "I wish I could participate in professional conference settings without men asking me for dates." And then there's also a lot of people saying, "I wish more women would participate in these conferences."

You'd have to do some surveys to be sure, but anecdotally, Rebecca seems to be voicing a concern held by a lot of women. So it seems to me that some of the people saying that she's being unreasonable might want to consider whether and how much they value the participation of women like Rebecca in these kinds of events.

Is it worth changing the norms about what kinds of behavior is acceptable to make women like Rebecca more comfortable, more willing to participate in these events? Or is it more important to insist that women be less uptight and less judgmental to the lonely awkward guys who are just trying to get a date, even if that means driving some of those women away entirely?
posted by straight at 10:17 AM on July 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


If you're saying that you'd be happy to make positions with a risk of sexual assault unisex, but you don't mind whether men or women are allowed in each one... well, that is certainly not what I thought you were saying.

The truth is, rtha's point was something I hadn't fully considered. But upon reflection, it made sense. There are definitely social spaces where only men are allowed, that much is obvious. There are also social spaces where the sexes are separated, like restrooms and changing rooms. And there are social spaces where only women are allowed, like some gyms.

But I don't think that's realistic across the board - most notably in federal employment.

And I agree that federal employment is a problem. But, not all societies agree with the American/Western viewpoint that separate is not equal, so don't be surprised if the solutions put forth are not going to agree with our sensibilities.

It's a big honking cliché, but the best way to reduce incidences of sexual assaults by men on women is not for women to be kept out of front line combat units or yellow cabs. It's for men to stop sexually assaulting women so much.

And I'm not discouraging that. Giving a bit more thought on the subject, one half baked idea I had is for certain spaces or units to intentionally keep the gender ratio tipped a little more towards women and have women in command positions too. For example, I think a submarine with 60% women would have less chance of problems, because there's simply less men about and easier to keep an eye on those men. I guess my question is, are there any legal implications to "gender stuffing"?
posted by FJT at 10:20 AM on July 5, 2011


"Aren't we talking about Rebecca Watson, the founder of Skepchick, who since 2007 has published the Skepchick pin-up calendar? Isn't this the same person who posted this YouTube video with the description "Brains, Body, Both: the 2007 Skepchick Calendar"? She herself conflated sexual objectification with the intellectual setting of her blog and events associated with it."

Are you suggesting that Richard Dawkins shouldn't have a beefcake calendar, if he wants to be taken seriously and not objectified?
posted by markkraft at 10:21 AM on July 5, 2011


Richard Dawkins has a beef cake calender?
posted by Max Power at 10:25 AM on July 5, 2011


I posted this in the MeTalk thread too, but PZ Meyers' daughter has some relevant things to say about feminism (and this is from back in February).
posted by MattMangels at 10:36 AM on July 5, 2011


Rebecca didn't name this guy so that everyone could point and shame him.

Why not? Didn't some of the reply posts to "what can I as a guy do?" say specifically to call this sort of thing out and shame the person?

Additionally, the reply posts to "Well generally it's hard to tell what's up in social situations" were responses describing specific interactions, saying a specific context, even 30 feet away from another context, changes everything. Focusing on specific eye movements, body language, speech and posture?

So yes, I think this guy should be named so he can describe his behavior and have that be part of the discussion. This interaction has a number of unique elements that shape how the overall encounter should be viewed and discussed.

There is no way a straight human male can avoid seeing (potentially) any human female as a sexual object, and (in practice) most human females as such. That is the male brain, and if you don't like it, start building a spaceship or move into a convent.

See I think that has a lot to do with the messages(at least in America) that get sent to men and women. Men get taught to pursue. To be alpha. To put your needs in front of everybody else's - including women's. Some men accept this socialization. Some women accept this socialization and act accordingly. It isn't just as simple as "that is the male brain".
posted by rakim at 10:37 AM on July 5, 2011


I posted this in the MeTalk thread too, but PZ Meyers' daughter has some relevant things to say about feminism (and this is from back in February).

That's interesting, but it's not germane to this conversation. This is not a conversation about "feminism". This is a conversation about "both men and women seem unable to accept that women's expressly-stated wishes about personal boundaries are being routinely ignored, and it beats the fuck out of me why that would be the case."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:40 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Science writer and notable skepticism blogger, Brian Dunning, writing in response to this affair, talks about the sometimes awkward free love atmosphere on the skepticism conference circuit:
"After my wife and I attended our first two TAM conferences, we almost considered never coming back. The reason is that we both received an unusual number of unwanted sexual advances — interesting, all from women (some of whom have personally been quite vocal in criticizing what they perceive as sexism pervading skepticism, but we’ll save hypocrisy as a different discussion for a different day).

I’ve put a lot of thought into this. I’ve definitely considered whether sexism is more prevalent in skepticism than should be expected. I don’t think it is. I think what we’ve got here is a large number of atheists and freethinkers. They show up in Vegas, figure “Hey, here’s a thousand other freethinkers and atheists, with no religious inhibitions; that means free sex for all!!” And, consequently, they throw unwanted propositions at my wife and I left and right."

posted by Bwithh at 10:40 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


There is no way a straight human male can avoid seeing (potentially) any human female as a sexual object, and (in practice) most human females as such. That is the male brain, and if you don't like it, start building a spaceship or move into a convent.

A) Can you offer the proof you have for this claim?

B) Can the other straight men in here confirm or deny this hypothesis? I am skeptical of this, I admit.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:41 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, and I have a C):

C) If it is in fact a truism that that is "the male brain," can you explain why so many men seem to be perfectly capable of not acting upon this brain impulse? If this is such a deep-seated part of the male psyche, why is it so easily suppressed for many men?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:46 AM on July 5, 2011


I would like to see men hold off on being insulted that someone might mistake their motives for something evil, and instead accept that, okay, this shit really does happen, the ladies are spooked for a reason, and maybe something should be done about it.
This kind of reaction by women to this kind of issue has been useful feedback for me in the past, because I can be a bit insensitive to people's anxieties and sometimes without realizing it trigger them in very counter-productive ways. I must admit, though, I feel some sympathy for the reactions pla, etc. have regarding the expression of broad anxiety about a general male propensity to sexual violence. If someone wants nothing to do with me in certain contexts purely because I belong to a risk group, that is a deeply alienating and fundamentally unjust experience, no matter how practical the policy is. This analogy of owing everybody a dollar brings it into slightly sharper focus for me. Sometimes, I have literally felt as though I'm surrounded by people who think I owe them money, because I follow a policy of engaging everyone I meet, at least cursorily, and in the past this has meant a lot of conversations with pan handlers. It seems to me that most people in the US just don't respond at all when solicited by a pan handler, so when I acknowledge a request for money, even if it's just with "Sorry, I can't help," it signals a heightened opportunity, which tends to escalate the demand a bit. And for structural socioeconomic and demographic reasons having nothing to do with intrinsic racial characteristics, most pan handlers I encounter are African Americans. I never give pan handlers money, but I ask them what they want the money for and offer to buy it for them. This is unacceptable to some of them, and their responses have been quite loud and acrimonious, at times. One guy even made a grab for my wallet, and when that failed, followed me down the street yelling that he was going to kill me and my family. He only stopped because I walked to a populous area, flagged a car down, and asked them to call the police. (I'd forgotten my own cell phone that night. BTW, it was a woman in the car, and partly because of feedback like in this thread I did all the right things during the interaction to put her at her ease, such as talking to her from the opposite side of the car from where she was seated, etc. [By this time, my would-be murderer had apparently already fled, which simplified matters.])

Anyway, it seems to me that the logic implied by the "you owe me a dollar" analogy would justify me in being frightened by poor black people, but I'm not because that would be racist, alienating and unjust. Actually, if you compare my ongoing response to pan handlers with how most people respond, I think I am actually less frightened of poor black people than most of the people around me, because if I refused to acknowledge someone just because there's a heightened probability that they're going to make a request which will make me uncomfortable, I would consider myself to have committed an injustice. That's just my own feeling, and I'm not trying to say that women are necessarily unjust for applying this reasoning to men, (you should all do what you want, and I'm grateful to understand the needs of the people around me) but I do find the broad appeal of the dollar analogy confusing, alienating and disturbing in a way that I find hard to completely pin down.
posted by Estragon at 10:52 AM on July 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


C) If it is in fact a truism that that is "the male brain," can you explain why so many men seem to be perfectly capable of not acting upon this brain impulse? If this is such a deep-seated part of the male psyche, why is it so easily suppressed for many men?

Clearly, this line of thinking goes, those men are just trying to impress ladies.

Like people who insist that altruism is just a special case of selfishness, this is just a tautological explanation of a difficult topic.
posted by verb at 10:53 AM on July 5, 2011


There is no way a straight human male can avoid seeing (potentially) any human female as a sexual object, and (in practice) most human females as such. That is the male brain, and if you don't like it, start building a spaceship or move into a convent.

I'd say men are socialized this way. But I have many female friends I don't see as sexual objects.

Male friends, on the other hand ...
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:54 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


EmpressCallipygos, I have a D):

D) how can you talk about "the male brain"? Last I checked, there were a few billion male brains.
posted by madcaptenor at 10:54 AM on July 5, 2011


B) Can the other straight men in here confirm or deny this hypothesis? I am skeptical of this, I admit.

Yes and no, age differences play a large part, I'm like old, so anyone under 30 I don't give "measure" they are like kids. Married women, and seniors also do not elicit an evaluation. Although you can say by ruling them out, the evaluation has been made subconsciously.

To answer C: We're all in a hurry here, and most of us have grown up in polite society. And to merely look at a girl and, in your head, deem her "doable" does not imply that it is an effort worth pursuing.

But we love you ladies, don't forget that!
posted by Max Power at 10:55 AM on July 5, 2011


If your goal is to have men "not see you as a sexual object," then you had best put on your burka, and even then you'd best stay home (usually in the role of one man's sexual object). There is no way a straight human male can avoid seeing (potentially) any human female as a sexual object, and (in practice) most human females as such.

What a weird non sequitor. Where did anyone say, "I wish men would stop thinking about sex all the time"? No one cares what you're thinking. It's what you do and say that matters.
posted by straight at 10:55 AM on July 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


The 'male brain' thing came up in the Sheryl Sandberg thread too, and I thought the same: there is no such thing as the 'male brain' or 'female brain'. That postulates some ideal type, which is so very much not how biology works. What you have are males and females with brains, and that implies statistical differences, not absolute differences between each male and each female.

Saying that the 'male (straight) brain' potentially sees any human female as a sexual object is either vacuous, because anyone can 'potentially' see anyone else as such, or simply false, because there's too much variability between individuals for such an absolute difference to be true.
posted by topynate at 10:56 AM on July 5, 2011


There is no way a straight human male can avoid seeing (potentially) any human female as a sexual object

Can the other straight men in here confirm or deny this hypothesis?

I would say this is highly circumstantial.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 10:58 AM on July 5, 2011


@empress

I can confirm that yes, we see the world that way. Not acting upon it is called self-control. Just like not over-eating, exercising, not doing drugs, not running red-lights when no one is around, not stealing...The fact that sex is pretty much the purpose of life, it should be no surprise that we seek it at every opportunity. The way we go about it range from the completely acceptable, in this man's case asking her to join him for a cup of coffee, to the violent. To equate them to each other is actually a rather sexist move on the women's part. She assumes that being am an he has no impulse control, and any form of sexual advance carries at least a hint of violence. That's insanity, and definitely one of those annoying "first world problems" that Dawkins correctly mocked.
posted by karmiolz at 10:58 AM on July 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Possibly smart enough to be on the autism spectrum.

There's been a lot of that in this thread, too.

What are y'all talking about? So far, do we think any of the known participants in this debate, all of whom attend atheism conferences, are "on the autism spectrum?" I love the image of this guy making the proposition that has emerged, as both a monster and a total pencil-neck at the same time.

I think somewhere early in the thread someone asked what atheism had to do with any of this.

And this just occurred to me. Dawkins is missing the correct rationalist counterargument. It is important for atheists to *breed* if they want to prevail. Given that atheist males are apparently such clueless, unattractive, inexperienced, pathetic specimens, and that atheist women are so rarely to be found at the movement's core (this reminds me of the world of computer music, by the way), the only chance of making baby atheists with autism spectrum qualities sufficient to maintain the atheist cultural juggernaut through Rationality In The Future is for atheist women to close their eyes and think of Charles Darwin.

The idea of attracting more women to atheist conferences has been misunderstood. IT'S A COOKBOOK!!
posted by fourcheesemac at 11:00 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Karmiolz, I'm trying to make the point that "men are just like that, and so therefore women should suck it up" is just a piss-poor argument to begin with. Shhh.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:00 AM on July 5, 2011


B) Can the other straight men in here confirm or deny this hypothesis? I am skeptical of this, I admit.

With an ocean of science that will neither be proved nor disproved by anecdotal testimony about men's conscious perceptions of their inner lives. Yes there is a male brain. Billions of males, all with pretty much the same hormonal chemistry, makes it easily generalizable.

Are we going to sacrifice very settled science on the altar of ideology here too, along with any semblance that statistics need to refer to actually attested facts?
posted by fourcheesemac at 11:02 AM on July 5, 2011


@Empress
It is a piss-poor argument, because you're assuming that that the "just like that" implies we are all rapists and sexually violent predators. In reality it implies, "are attracted to women." Not exactly a problem.
posted by karmiolz at 11:04 AM on July 5, 2011


"men are just like that, and so therefore women should suck it up"

Certainly you are not attributing this argument to me, right? We are all "just like" what we are as biological beings. That's the starting point for culture, agency, and meaning in life. Just because we can't not be animals doesn't mean we aren't animals endowed with a unique cognitive capacity to choose how we act on our instincts.
posted by fourcheesemac at 11:05 AM on July 5, 2011


I must admit, though, I feel some sympathy for the reactions pla, etc. have regarding the expression of broad anxiety about a general male propensity to sexual violence.

I don't.

I used to be just as angry about the idea that women might consider me -- me! -- a threat until they got to know me, and understood how cool and chill and enlightened I was. I was angry that women might look at me and think, "Ew, creepy nerd!" and turn a cold shoulder to my interest while responding with interest to some jock, who was probably a jerk, unlike me!

And then, slowly but surely, as the years rolled by, I saw that more and more of my female friends were sexually assaulted, raped, attacked, coerced, harassed, stalked... By the time I hit my early twenties, about half of my close female friends had either been raped or sexually assaulted by someone. And slowly but surely it started clicking: they hadn't been assaulted by random meathead jock assholes that I'd considered my "competition" for "attention."

They had been assaulted, almost universally, by guys who felt that they had gotten a raw deal. Who were owed something, either sex or respect or "a fair shake," and felt -- for whatever reasons -- that it would be okay -- maybe just this once! -- to "take" what they were "owed." And I realized, much to my horror, that I had seen things much in the same way. I believed that when women overlooked me for some other less insightful and sensitive guy, I was getting shafted. I believed that if I was nice enough, it would eventually "pay off." And if it didn't, I nursed resentment. In a nutshell, I was the stereotypical raging fucktard "asshole nice guy."

I'm not suggesting that pla is one of those guys. I'm not suggesting that I am somehow more enlightened because my fortunate mix of friends, late-night conversations, and influences turned on that 'aha' lightbulb for me. I'm not suggesting that people who disagree with me are likely to be rapists.

But if someone hears women explaining that they perceive strange men as potential threats until more information can be known, and the response is to take offense, that is a huge, giant, flaming case of missing the point. If women are supposed to defend themselves by taking martial arts courses and carrying mace and learning to kick ass, the least we brave, strong men can do is try to be a little less whiny while they're using their defense skills to size us up.
posted by verb at 11:06 AM on July 5, 2011 [35 favorites]


Estragon, I believe you have misunderstood the lesson of the "everyone assumes they owe you a dollar" analogy. You were not meant to relate to instances when people actually did believe you owed them a dollar.

Instead, let me try this:

If someone wants nothing to do with me in certain contexts purely because I belong to a risk group, that is a deeply alienating and fundamentally unjust experience, no matter how practical the policy is.

As a woman, I agree with you that it is unjust to treat you this way. However, I disagree with you on who should be blamed for this state of affairs. It seems that you are blaming women for creating a set of circumstances in which you are perceived to be part of a "risk group". However, the people you should be blaming for creating that state of affairs are other men.

Because those other men are themselves making women feel alienated and thrusting women into fundamentally unjust experiences -- because these men are trying to engage with individual women purely because they belong to a certain group (that group being "women").

In other words -- I understand you feel that you are being unfairly judged. However, your ire should be directed at the other men who are screwing things up for the rest of you. The best way to combat this attitude is to take those men aside and tell them to knock it off.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:07 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


"But I have some news from the basics of mammalian biology, let alone human psychology. If your goal is to have men "not see you as a sexual object," then you had best put on your burka, and even then you'd best stay home (usually in the role of one man's sexual object). There is no way a straight human male can avoid seeing (potentially) any human female as a sexual object, and (in practice) most human females as such. That is the male brain, and if you don't like it, start building a spaceship or move into a convent. Repression, sublimation, self-control, rational calculation of interest, and (as any experienced man knows) sheer smart reproductive strategy all kick in to keep men from acting bluntly and in the moment on this hardwired perspective. But we will never be able to purge our mind of dirty thoughts about nearly any sexually attractive woman we see."

I really wish men, especially older men who might not be the most clueful about how gender norms have changed since they were actively in the game, wouldn't repeatedly presume to lecture me on how my male brain is constantly turning women into sexual objects.

It's really not, and it's pretty insulting to make generalizations like that — just because you do it doesn't mean it's normal or something to be lauded or the basis for some appeal to nature.

I worked ancillary to porn, and I can guarantee you that I've seen more pussy than ten gynecologists, and yet I don't go gawping at every woman on the street (or even most). Maybe it's because of all of that, but I'm actually pretty good at dealing with women in a professional manner, until they give me clear signals that they would like me (specifically) to treat them like a sexual object.

But this bullshit about how men are always going to be leering at women is the same bullshit that hack comedians trot out about how men and women can never be friends because the man's always going to want to fuck the woman or some nonsense. Even by trotting out these decaying attitudes, you're already shoving male-female interaction into a fraught context, and one that's unnecessary and reads more like you trying to privilege your hard on over the feelings of people you interact with.

So knock it the fuck off and stop trying to speak for all men.
posted by klangklangston at 11:10 AM on July 5, 2011 [25 favorites]


The fact that sex is pretty much the purpose of life, it should be no surprise that we seek it at every opportunity.

That premise is not a fact. Ironically, isn't it Dawkins himself who helped to debunk this popular misconception? Life, as genes rather than individuals or groups, does act in various ways to perpetuate life. Life also dies. Do we go around saying that "the purpose" of life is to die?
posted by FelliniBlank at 11:10 AM on July 5, 2011


Empress I see this happen frequently in bars, at ballgames, any large gathering. A girl has to repeatedly tell a guy no, very soon plenty of guys are there to kindly escort him the hell out. I can see how the elevator ride, a confined space alone, is not exactly the same. The fact that a simple request for coffee has been passed off as just another example of men treating women as inferior objects to which we are entitled is plain bull and a gross overreaction.
posted by karmiolz at 11:12 AM on July 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Empress, please don't get me wrong. I'm not blaming anyone or experiencing any ire, I'm just confused and disturbed by this way of thinking. As I said, you are entitled to think this way, and I am glad to know how the people around me think, no matter how confused I am by it, because that knowledge makes my own life smoother.
posted by Estragon at 11:13 AM on July 5, 2011


does act in various ways to perpetuate life.

Or rather, it includes certain processes that result in the perpetuation of life. It doesn't do any of it purposefully.
posted by FelliniBlank at 11:14 AM on July 5, 2011


It is a piss-poor argument, because you're assuming that that the "just like that" implies we are all rapists and sexually violent predators. In reality it implies, "are attracted to women." Not exactly a problem.

So tell me, is there some magic tattoo or scarlet letter or something that lets us women know which one of you strangers is a rapist or not?

We have to assume the worst if we don't know you because if we don't and we guess wrong we pay dearly.

And if that hurts your feelings, I am truly sorry. But it's reality.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 11:14 AM on July 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


Certainly you are not attributing this argument to me, right? We are all "just like" what we are as biological beings. That's the starting point for culture, agency, and meaning in life. Just because we can't not be animals doesn't mean we aren't animals endowed with a unique cognitive capacity to choose how we act on our instincts.

Here is what you said:
There is no way a straight human male can avoid seeing (potentially) any human female as a sexual object, and (in practice) most human females as such. That is the male brain, and if you don't like it, start building a spaceship or move into a convent.
If you also hold that men have a "unique cognitive ability to choose how we act on our instincts," and -- if I don't misunderstand you -- you also imply that men have a responsibility to choose to act on those instincts in a responsible manner, then I'm not sure where the admonition that "if you don't like it that guys think this way, move into a convent" enters the conversation. Because if you do hold that men are responsible for trying to act on those instincts responsibly, then why would it matter how women feel about "the male brain"?

By saying "If you don't like it, start building a space ship or move to a convent", you seemed to be implying that women should suck it up because there was nuthin' men could do about their urges. But if you DO think that there's something men can do to control themselves, then I fail to see why the "if you don't like it, move to a convent" had to do with your point.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:14 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


klangklangston: So knock it the fuck off and stop trying to speak for all men.

Amen. Shit like this is a big part of the reason why sometimes I hesitate to identify as male.
posted by madcaptenor at 11:16 AM on July 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Fellini You honestly believe that the sexual impulse is not a main driving factor in life? I have yet to hear that argument made, the Dawkins argument you allude to is unknown to me. To his genes being the driving force over the individual or group, that is far from universally accepted. Also, considering how much effort is put into not dieing, and how much effort is put into reproduction, I would say they are basically complete opposites. The end results aren't all the matters as a judge of what we strive for, it's the striving itself.
posted by karmiolz at 11:16 AM on July 5, 2011


The fact that a simple request for coffee has been passed off as just another example of men treating women as inferior objects to which we are entitled is plain bull and a gross overreaction.

Did you miss the part where the woman had previously given a lecture about why women feel uncomfortable coming to conventions because men see it as a sort of "meat market"?

Or the fact that the woman had previously said she was tired and wanted to go to her room?

Or the fact that it was four o'clock in the morning?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:18 AM on July 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


Empress I'm saying it's a ridiculous way to live your life. I have to assume every middle eastern man on my flight is a terrorist because if I don't I pay dearly. I have to assume every women only wants to trap me and then steal half my money. I have to assume that every police officer is a completely corrupt etc etc. Trust your instincts of course, if a guy gives you a bad feeling, follow that impulse. To say though that men should essentially never approach women is nuts.
posted by karmiolz at 11:18 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not blaming anyone or experiencing any ire, I'm just confused and disturbed by this way of thinking.

And I'm sincerely unclear why you are confused by this way of thinking. What is unclear about it?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:19 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Google Scholar for "the male brain."


But this bullshit about how men are always going to be leering at women

It really is like some people try their hardest to turn what other people say into a caricature that suits their polemic around here when the discussion turns to gender. And this is rich from someone who "works ancillary to porn."

If you don't believe the chemistry of the male mammalian brain is responsible for the persistent sex drive of male mammals, and that it's all socialization such that you as a 32 year old male and I as a 46 year old male are really that different, I'm not going to debate basic biology with you.

I'm not telling you that you leer at every woman on the street; and nor do I. I'm not even referring to the conscious thoughts of men, most of the time. And here you are insinuating that because I'm 14 years older than you, I'm a drooling lecher for daring to cite a veritable mountain of science across a dozen different disciplines, whereas you, an enlightened young man who spends all day staring at naked women (who the hell do you think is paying you for that work?) have transcended hundreds of thousands of years of hominid evolution to arrive at a state of complete freedom from desire.

I assume you also believe homosexuality is purely a choice, not something innate?

But you hear whatever you fucking want to hear, so you can gear up that outrage machine but good.
posted by fourcheesemac at 11:20 AM on July 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


To say though that men should essentially never approach women is nuts.

Nobody has said this.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:20 AM on July 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


This whole thread reads like the Evil Parallel Universe version of the famed Metafilter "Ask Culture vs. Guess Culture" discussion. Let's all hope that "Accost Culture vs. Shut Up Culture" doesn't end up with a hundred thousand Google hits too...
posted by roystgnr at 11:20 AM on July 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


Facts: Organisms that reproduce sexually have sexual impulses/drives and some individuals within every one of those species engage in sexual activity. Some of that results in reproduction.

Non-fact: Sexual activity is the purpose of life.
posted by FelliniBlank at 11:21 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Empress I missed none of those, but "I'm tired, therefor anyone who shows interest in me must be a bastard" is not exactly a logical thought. He may have misread some signals he thought he picked up from her. I for one would have not made a pass at the women who just gave a lecture about the "meat market" atmosphere. However I don't recall him saying or doing anything that would be inappropriate, he didn't say anything lewd or overtly sexual, get physical at all, and took no for a clear answer. There are reasons to be exasperated and shake your head at the unwanted bus respectful attention of a man, and then there are reasons to see it as something far more sinister. I firmly place this specific instance in the former.
posted by karmiolz at 11:24 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you don't believe the chemistry of the male mammalian brain is responsible for the persistent sex drive of male mammals, and that it's all socialization such that you as a 32 year old male and I as a 46 year old male are really that different, I'm not going to debate basic biology with you.

FCMac, I respect you plenty, but where you lose me with this stuff is when you leap from biology into evolutionary psychology. I mean, you're in the social, behavioral, cultural sciences, aren't you? And yet you see gendered thought patterns as primarily biological?
posted by FelliniBlank at 11:24 AM on July 5, 2011


All depends on what you mean by "purpose," FelliniBlank. I can construct (and in fact, Richard Dawkins has constructed) a perfectly good case that your "non-fact" is the fact par excellence that undergirds all modern biological science. Depends if "purpose" means "meaning" or "function."

Denying the biological basis of human sexuality is through the looking glass territory for me, so I leave y'all to it. As Billy C. Wirtz once put it, I guess evolution is still an option around here.

Peace out. I'm going to go ride the elevator up and down the floors.
posted by fourcheesemac at 11:25 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm perfectly willing to buy that for whatever reasons, males of a species have more persistent intrusive sexual thoughts by and large than females. But I bet that there's a HUGE, HUGE amount of variation among males.
posted by FelliniBlank at 11:26 AM on July 5, 2011


If someone wants nothing to do with me in certain contexts purely because I belong to a risk group, that is a deeply alienating and fundamentally unjust experience, no matter how practical the policy is.

Anyone who takes that lesson away from these many, many threads and many, many conversations simply isn't hearing what's being said -- or, they're only listening to the guys who are misrepresenting the words of the actual women participating in the discussions.

The consensus in all of these discussions, the summary of the posts by the women who've participated, has boiled down to a simple set of ideas: "I have been sexually assaulted, or my friends have been sexually assaulted. We have learned that there are no simple and obvious ways to tell an attacker from a safe person, even after we've known them for a while. So when a stranger approaches one of us, interested in a conversation or coffee or sex or some random interaction, we can't simply assume they're one of the good guys. In many cases, assuming that has gotten one of us raped."

There is a world of difference between "Look, we tend to take this carefully" and "We want nothing to do with you."
posted by verb at 11:26 AM on July 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


Fellini Pick apart my hasty diction all you want and you are correct. I was using that word somewhat inappropriately for my point that the sexual impulse is strong and rarely not present. I did not mean to assign any value judgement, just making the same point you define in your "Fact" sentence. I have a feeling you knew what I meant
posted by karmiolz at 11:26 AM on July 5, 2011


However I don't recall him saying or doing anything that would be inappropriate, he didn't say anything lewd or overtly sexual, get physical at all, and took no for a clear answer.

Her larger issue was that she can't go to these things without getting relentlessly hit on. Her comment was a call-out of this one specific fellow, it was a call-out against all fellows who engage in that sort of behavior all the time, and he was simply the most recent, and, by virtue of the fact that he did it right after her discussion on the topic, the most notable.

This point keeps getting lost in the endless wrangling about whether it was okay for awkward guy to do that in the elevator. Not really, but especially no when he's symptom of a larger pattern of behavior that regards women as open to sexual invitations anytime, anywhere.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:26 AM on July 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


I have to assume every middle eastern man on my flight is a terrorist because if I don't I pay dearly. I have to assume every women only wants to trap me and then steal half my money. I have to assume that every police officer is a completely corrupt etc etc.

here's the difference --

Have you personally had experience with terrorists on a flight? I'm guessing no.
Have you personally had experience with a woman who wanted to "entrap you and steal half your money"? I'm also guessing no.
Have you personally had experience with a corrupt cop? I'm guessing no.

Now -- if you ask me whether I have personally had experience with a guy who overstepped his bounds in a threatening manner?

I would say "yes. And not just once, but several times."

And so would just about every woman you know. They would not all claim to have been raped. But they would all claim to have had direct personal experience with such things.

Women are not saying "we are cautious around unfamiliar men becuase they could be dangerous and we might be hurt". We are saying "we are cautious around unfamiliar men because we might be hurt again, like we already have been hurt once before."

Trust your instincts of course, if a guy gives you a bad feeling, follow that impulse. To say though that men should essentially never approach women is nuts.

No one is saying "men should never approach women". The only thing people are saying is "before approaching a woman, men should make sure that woman actually wants to be approached. Even if you do approach a women, keep an eye on the conversation for the first few seconds and be ready to leave her be if she seems like she would rather you left her alone. But if it seems like she's cool with you talking to her, then go ahead."

Basically -- have you ever tried to strike up a conversation with one of your guy friends, but if he seemed distracted or in some other way not in the mood to talk? I'm guessing if you did, you just left him alone after that, right?

Right. Well, just do that with women too, and you're all set.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:28 AM on July 5, 2011 [12 favorites]



FB: yes, I do, of course I do. Just because I am a cultural anthropologist doesn't mean I don't believe in biology. And again, what do you mean by "gendered thought patterns?" I mean "gendered sexual behaviors," which surely have associated cognitive conditions, but I'd describe them more as chemical states than thought patterns.

Your tone surprises me, like I'm a traitor to something (and I'm not at all down with Ev Psych, or most of it). I was trained in linguistics, first and foremost. Linguists accept the common biological basis of all language as a faculty of the mind/brain as a condition for the specific and myriad differences between languages, speakers, and cultures.

But I said I was done, that just deserved a real response. Sorry to let you down, man.

posted by fourcheesemac at 11:29 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I missed none of those, but "I'm tired, therefor anyone who shows interest in me must be a bastard" is not exactly a logical thought.

It wasn't just "I'm tired, therefore anyone who shows interest in me must be a bastard." It was "I'm tired, and I have expressly told people that I am tired, and this guy has ignored my clearly-expressed wishes."

Look at it like this. Her saying "I'm tired" was kind of like the sign on the handicapped parking space saying "this is reserved for handicapped and disabled only." His asking her nevertheless "do you want to come get coffee in my room" is like the guy reading the handicapped parking sign and still parking in the handicapped spot.

The guy who parks in the handicapped spot isn't an asshat because it's the parking spot's fault. The guy who parks in the handicapped spot is an asshat because he read the sign and assumed, "oh, that doesn't count for me, I'm special."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:32 AM on July 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Your tone surprises me, like I'm a traitor to something (and I'm not at all down with Ev Psych, or most of it).

Oh, I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to sound that way. I was just perplexed because I think I was misreading some of what you were saying. I got the idea you were endorsing the "biology is destiny" ev. psych. "all men think about sex all the time; it's hard-wired, and the guys who say they don't are lying or crazy." stuff.

But that was my own confused misinterpretation. Apologies.
posted by FelliniBlank at 11:34 AM on July 5, 2011


Have you personally had experience with terrorists on a flight? I'm guessing no.

Maybe he has, and he can probably be excused for having some twitchy issues about that. Perhaps he has PTSD from surviving a terrorist attack, and people who look like Muslims are a trigger.

If not, well, he's just really bad at math.

It's an opportunity for an interesting statistics game: take out a coin, and flip it. If it hits 'heads', flip it again. If it hits heads a second time, you've been sexually assaulted. Flip it again -- if it hits heads a third time, you were sexually assaulted by someone you knew and trusted.

That's it. That's the game.
posted by verb at 11:35 AM on July 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


Empress I'm saying that this instance is not an appropriate one to make a general statement regarding men's behavior at these conferences. I'm saying that if this seemingly innocuous and awkward approach was enough to evoke such a visceral response as to place it in the same category as what I would assume were disgusting, far too forward and pushy advances we have a bad disconnect between individual situations and general attitudes. She may have been upset by it, but did he do anything that actually deserves the objective label of upsetting? We all get offended by many things, we have to determine if they are actually offensive before extrapolating them out further. I'm not defending the bastards who are pushy, I'm not saying, "O it just happens because men are hard-wired to be like that" I will never defend forcing yourself in any way on someone who doesn't want you. I will however say it's flat on your face wrong to say all advancement can be viewed that way and deserves be judged as such.
posted by karmiolz at 11:36 AM on July 5, 2011


>...simply isn't hearing what's being said...
Is that really how I came across? This confuses me, partly because Empress stipulated almost exactly the portion of my comment that you're responding to here, and partly because I said very explicitly that I accept women's right to feel this way, even if I feel confused and disturbed by it.
posted by Estragon at 11:37 AM on July 5, 2011


Conscious thought patterns are clearly not primarily 'biological', as in evolved responses. That people evaluate attractiveness and without conscious control is proven fact; babies prefer attractive female faces, for instance. This is statistical, some babies and adults don't react this way. If you want to chase "sexual objectification of women" down definitionally as "looking at women as a heterosexual male would", then in this limited sense, men, in the main, unavoidably objectify women. That is not the sense of "sexual objectification" that anyone here is objecting to, so what's the big deal?
posted by topynate at 11:37 AM on July 5, 2011


(I forgot the bonus round: Flip the coin two more times: if you get tails either time, you now have PTSD. You lose the game.)
posted by verb at 11:37 AM on July 5, 2011


The point I was getting at, verb, was more of the "women are sincerely all basing this on some past personal experience rather than just hearsay." Of course I would accept someone who has had personal experience with terrorists, corrupt cops, and Black Widow spouses to have some behavioral modifications as a result.

Which, I was saying, is precisely what is motivating those very same behavioral modifications on the part of women.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:38 AM on July 5, 2011


verb, aren't games supposed to be fun? This game sounds really depressing.
posted by madcaptenor at 11:39 AM on July 5, 2011


I'm saying that this instance is not an appropriate one to make a general statement regarding men's behavior at these conferences. I'm saying that if this seemingly innocuous and awkward approach was enough to evoke such a visceral response as to place it in the same category as what I would assume were disgusting, far too forward and pushy advances we have a bad disconnect between individual situations and general attitudes.

How about all of the other instances that women have offered in here? All of them personal experiences that they have actually had?

We ain't freaked out because we've heard scary stories. We're freaked out because some guys have seriously fucked with our sense of security.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:40 AM on July 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm saying that this instance is not an appropriate one to make a general statement regarding men's behavior at these conferences.

I think it's, to the really mild "here's a sort of everyday example of a not really huge-deal thing that sucks" extent that Watson actually discussed it in her video, a totally appropriate thing. The death-by-a-thousand-cuts nature of a lot of this is just so: if the only thing people talk about is bright line I WAS ATTACKED BY A MAN WITH A KNIFE stuff, as if little things in bulk don't contribute largely to the problem, then those little things never get considered.

Watson said, in decidedly laid-back fashion, "here's something that kind of sucked" about someone she didn't name. It would be harder to much lower-key about discussion of a little thing. The ensuing dramarama escalation of the whole thing is frustrating in all kinds of ways from various directions, but the kernel of it, the seed of the whole kerfluffle, was totally mild and appropriate.
posted by cortex at 11:42 AM on July 5, 2011 [7 favorites]


But cortex, she named him during a speech at the conference according to PZ Meyers, right? He even had a post about it titled "Name names, always name names".
posted by MattMangels at 11:45 AM on July 5, 2011


The point I was getting at, verb, was more of the "women are sincerely all basing this on some past personal experience rather than just hearsay." Of course I would accept someone who has had personal experience with terrorists, corrupt cops, and Black Widow spouses to have some behavioral modifications as a result.

Yeah, and I didn't mean to sound so snarky. The odds of someone being part of a terrorist attack, or being swindled for your life savings by a woman, etc., are diminishingly tiny compared to the odds of a woman being sexually assaulted at some point in her life.

Lots of people have made comments in this thread about how women are "over-reacting" or "not paying attention to the statistics," when in fact they are. They're looking very closely at their own odds of being assaulted and the emotional, physical, and sometimes financial price that they will pay if they are assaulted.

One of the tradeoffs that many women make is not automatically trusting that male strangers who initiate contact are safe. It doesn't offer protection, but if the only downside is that the odd nice guy's feelings are scuffed, it's a worthwhile tradeoff. There is no systemic discrimination against men due to this, unless we consider "being able to chat up a lady on the bus" or "being thought well of by strangers" an inalienable right.
posted by verb at 11:46 AM on July 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


But cortex, she named him during a speech at the conference according to PZ Meyers, right?

No. She named another women who disagreed with her.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:46 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can't figure out who said, in which of the fpp links, that what Elevator Guy did was a "slightly bad" thing. (If it's in one of the videos, I am at work where all vids are blocked.) Watson? Dawkins? The Pharyngula dude? Will someone enlighten me on that? Thanks.
posted by jfuller at 11:46 AM on July 5, 2011


MattMangels, this has been pointrd out many many times in this thread. No. She outed a girl who quoted on her bog by name, and called her out.
posted by annsunny at 11:47 AM on July 5, 2011


But cortex, she named him during a speech at the conference according to PZ Meyers, right? He even had a post about it titled "Name names, always name names".

No. No she did not. She named no HIMs at all during any of this.

The person she named was a fellow female atheist blogger who disagreed with her interpretation of the elevator incident. The names of the people you are disagreeing with in public are the names she is talking about naming.

You will note that nowhere in any of this kerfuffle is Elevator Boy's name revealed. At last so far.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 11:47 AM on July 5, 2011


Agh! pointed.
posted by annsunny at 11:47 AM on July 5, 2011


verb, aren't games supposed to be fun? This game sounds really depressing.

Yeah. Yeah, it is.
posted by verb at 11:47 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Cortex What about "individual situation" and referring to this "instance" in the specific do you not understand? Other examples that involve violence, not baking off when told to, of course they should illicit waryness at the least, kicking him in the balls and running away screaming help has also likely been justified. I like Watson's characterization because it does deal with her specifically. I do not like other people pulling this situation out and saying it is in the absolute inappropriate. For her the argument was very different. She immediately recognized that it did suck precisely because it shouldn't. What has gone on now is people saying that yes, it was a shitty thing for him to do.
posted by karmiolz at 11:47 AM on July 5, 2011


I will however say it's flat on your face wrong to say all advancement can be viewed that way and deserves be judged as such.

One of the underlying points has been that each individual advance doesn't amount to much, but from the perspective of the female, each instance adds up. The set of points is sliced differently depending on which side you view it from.
posted by polymodus at 11:51 AM on July 5, 2011


Polymodus I see that, and I also see that as the motivation for what she said. That the pattern of behavior has created a situation where even the most innocuous advances are perceived with unease. My problem has been with the judgement of the specific incident, as if taken in isolation was one of the cuts.
posted by karmiolz at 11:56 AM on July 5, 2011


where even the most innocuous advances are perceived with unease

It's not even that. It's immediate stress and annoyance. Like picking up the phone and hearing a telemarketer, except that women have to endure entire days of it because this kind of stress has a lasting and chronic effect. It's not a momentary irritation.
posted by polymodus at 12:00 PM on July 5, 2011


Taken in isolation, it's one of the cuts, yes. It's not some horrid deadly cut, but it's not nothing either. That's why it's death by a thousand, not death by a dozen. Every wheat shaft is part of the haystack, every pebble is part of the heap; you can't talk about the gestalt and not the constituents and then expect people to understand how the constituents materially contribute to the problematic gestalt.
posted by cortex at 12:02 PM on July 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


Polymodus That is just needless parsing. I do not disagree with what you're saying, nor do my words indicate that I would.
posted by karmiolz at 12:03 PM on July 5, 2011


"It really is like some people try their hardest to turn what other people say into a caricature that suits their polemic around here when the discussion turns to gender. And this is rich from someone who "works ancillary to porn.""

Worked. I mean, I realize that when you're sloppy, it makes sense to be sloppy about everything, but when you use the quote marks, it's common courtesy to make sure that your quotes are accurate.

But it wasn't a caricature or a polemic — you let fly a simplistic bit of bullshit and I called you on it, and now you're trying to pretend that it's my fault that you're trotting out simplistic bullshit.

If you don't believe the chemistry of the male mammalian brain is responsible for the persistent sex drive of male mammals, and that it's all socialization such that you as a 32 year old male and I as a 46 year old male are really that different, I'm not going to debate basic biology with you.

Well, hey, since that's not what I said at all, maybe it's not just the quote marks you're having trouble with.

This is what you said: "There is no way a straight human male can avoid seeing (potentially) any human female as a sexual object, and (in practice) most human females as such."

That's bullshit. There's no way that I can avoid seeing most human females as sexual objects? Well, since I don't see most human females as sexual objects, that seems to be pretty clearly false. And yes, I pointed out the porn thing because, having worked in one of the most sexually charged professions, one of the very first things you do is rapidly learn what types of objectification are appropriate.

I'm not telling you that you leer at every woman on the street; and nor do I. I'm not even referring to the conscious thoughts of men, most of the time. And here you are insinuating that because I'm 14 years older than you, I'm a drooling lecher for daring to cite a veritable mountain of science across a dozen different disciplines, whereas you, an enlightened young man who spends all day staring at naked women (who the hell do you think is paying you for that work?) have transcended hundreds of thousands of years of hominid evolution to arrive at a state of complete freedom from desire. "

No, I insinuated that because you're older than me, you've got a different generation's norms ingrained and that you're making bullshit pronouncements for them. And now I'm insinuating that you're a pouting prat when you get called out on your bullshit, and that you can't even bother to read my comments accurately because you have a habit of defending your ego over listening to what other people say about their actual lives (see also: Your bullshit over grad students in MeTa).

I assume you also believe homosexuality is purely a choice, not something innate? "

See? This is a pretty profoundly stupid thing to write, since it implies that all gay dudes are sexually objectifying any and most guys they come across (your words). It's attitudes like this that leads to gays being beaten in locker rooms.

But you hear whatever you fucking want to hear, so you can gear up that outrage machine but good."

I read what you wrote, and it was bullshit. I don't know what outrage machine you think I have running, but all I did was to tell you to knock off trying to speak for all men when you make offensive generalizations and fallacious appeals to nature. Stop pretending that you know how I feel or think.
posted by klangklangston at 12:04 PM on July 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


That is just needless parsing. I do not disagree with what you're saying, nor do my words indicate that I would.

Actually, your words do indicate that you do disagree. Because you are arguing why this one incident was such a big deal. People are trying to explain to you that it's that that's one incident amongst many, to which you respond, "I understand that it's one incident amongst many, but I don't understand why this one incident is such a big deal?"

Either you accept that it's one incident amongst many, or you don't.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:05 PM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Cortex Absolutely yes, it's nothing. Being asked for coffee is nothing. If that is one of the cuts then no wonder someone would be traumatized, eye-contact kills you a little inside. I don't think that was what she was saying. I think that misses the point of what she said. The fact is it shouldn't have sucked, and it did. It shouldn't have been a cut, but became one because of other things that have happened.
posted by karmiolz at 12:06 PM on July 5, 2011


I wish the guy would just speak up. I want to hear him talk about his behavior. Is he still unknown?

OK, it was me. It was all part of my social experiment to find an innocuous question that would ignite a furious debate and 700+ comment MeFi thread. Plus I like coffee so, you know, win-win.
posted by pardonyou? at 12:08 PM on July 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Being asked for coffee is nothing.

That's true, but by only representing part of the story, you trivialize it unfairly.

She was asked back to a hotel room for coffee by a stranger in a hotel elevator at 4 a.m. in Dublin after speaking about how she is constantly sexualized at this event.

Perhaps you still think it's nothing, but at least this actually represents what happened, and not an innocuous fragment.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:09 PM on July 5, 2011 [6 favorites]


Empress I do not accept it as an incident which will color others. I say it again, he did absolutely nothing wrong. His actions were completely acceptable even if a bit misguided. There should be nothing traumatic about it at all. I think what she was saying was that a little discussed result of chronic actual inappropriate and even criminally violent behavior is that the little things are stolen from you as well. What should have otherwise been even taken as flattery now is anxiety. What could be pleasant now immediately gets her guard up.
posted by karmiolz at 12:09 PM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Karmiolz, I am dismayed that you persist on leaving out three very crucial details.

He did not simply "ask her for coffee." He asked her for coffee

1. after 4 am,
2. in his room,
3. after she had already expressed discomfort at being perceived as a sexual object.

And you say that you don't accept THIS as an incident that would color others -- but that's not what people are saying. They are saying that OTHER incidents have colored THIS one, and we are not sure why you do not comprehend that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:12 PM on July 5, 2011


karmiolz, almost every woman and a great deal of the men in this thread have stated his behavior was inappropriate,.
posted by annsunny at 12:13 PM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Astro I know the backstory, and I still say his actions are at best worthy of a cocked eye-brow and wondering just exactly if he had listened to what was just discussed at the event. I do think there is a true sadness in not being able to take such an interaction casually, that because of other things that have happened she cannot go through even that exchange without feeling threatened. That's the tragedy, that's the problem. It was an anecdote to explain just how much gets taken away from you. That even in what should be a safe setting, the scars are still there, perhaps exasperated precisely because it should be a place were letting your guard down comes easy. Even then people have abused the event, and now nothing feels safe.
posted by karmiolz at 12:14 PM on July 5, 2011


I know the backstory, and I still say his actions are at best worthy of a cocked eye-brow and wondering just exactly if he had listened to what was just discussed at the event.

Well, essentially, that's all she did.

It was only when another person came in to her blog to say "ugh, I totally think you're making a big deal out of nothing" that the furor started.

I do think there is a true sadness in not being able to take such an interaction casually, that because of other things that have happened she cannot go through even that exchange without feeling threatened. That's the tragedy, that's the problem.

I think what is not clear is who you consider to be the cause of that problem.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:15 PM on July 5, 2011


Being asked for coffee is nothing.

A lot of linguists will tell you the same banal horror story about being a linguist: you go to a party, small talk, "oh and what do you do?" "I'm a linguist..." "Oh! How many languages do you speak?"

Linguists aren't professional translators. They work with language, in all kinds of ways, but their job is almost never Learn Languages, and to the extent that fluency in other languages comes with job it's almost never the interesting part of what they study or the reason they got into linguistics.

Being asked how many languages you speak is nothing. It's such a trivial, tiny, harmless moment of social cluelessness from a probably well-meaning partygoer. But it's also a little something after all, because it's part of a pattern of frustrating behavior, it's a thing that even though it necessarily occurs as one little incident at a time predictably adds up to a whole ongoing way of existing in a social context. It's a thing, it's annoying, it wears on a person.

For a linguist, it's a wearying bit of party conversation, a downside to being in that specific professional or academic field, though. What a whole bunch of women have been talking about, what Rebecca Watson was talking about, is something that's not so much "this is an annoying part of talking about my job" as "this is an annoying part of every social encounter of my life". It's a "this is part of how I have to think about being assumed to be sexual available everywhere I go".

Being asked for coffee is nothing, except that it's not nothing after all in any practical view of daily life. It doesn't get to be nothing, as much as nobody wants to be the guy who meant nothing (or next to nothing) by it. Talking about how it's something, rather than nothing, is important or people will never get on the same page about this stuff.
posted by cortex at 12:17 PM on July 5, 2011 [13 favorites]


karmiolz: I was using that word somewhat inappropriately for my point that the sexual impulse is strong and rarely not present.

Sorry, I wasn't trying to get into a semantic wrangle. I just think there are important distinctions to be made here that do affect the messages we send to people about sexuality. I'll grant you that activities conducive to perpetuating life (which includes a lot of other stuff besides reproduction) are an important part of what life forms do.

But that really is different from "sex is the purpose of life, and so we [individual life forms?, mammals?, male mammals?, human beings?, men?] have a strong drive toward it and constantly seek it out."

First, it's inaccurate. If you happen to experience sexual thoughts a lot and have a strong desire frequently to engage in sex, it's how you are. Many people probably have similar make-ups. BUT MANY OTHERS DON'T, men and women alike. Some might be more sexually driven than you, some less, some not very much at all. Differing cultures undoubtedly engage in sexual activity with less or more frequency than others.

In fact, successfully perpetuating life depends on all or most individuals of a species not having such strong, persistent sex drives that they supplant every other drive and wish and take first priority. Because it'd be an extinct species pretty quickly if they did. A flourishing species needs to have a lot of individuals with medium or low or cyclical ebbing and flowing sex drives.

Human history and natural history across zillions of mammalian and other species are full of examples of male animals who do not seek out sex at every opportunity and females who do, and everything other variation in libido, thought patterns, etc.

If it weren't so hugely stigmatized in our culture, I'd call for a show of hands of men who, in their actual experience, find themselves thinking about sex or wanting to have sex significantly less often than their male friends and other men say they do.
posted by FelliniBlank at 12:19 PM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


For a linguist, it's a wearying bit of party conversation, a downside to being in that specific professional or academic field, though. What a whole bunch of women have been talking about, what Rebecca Watson was talking about, is something that's not so much "this is an annoying part of talking about my job" as "this is an annoying part of every social encounter of my life". It's a "this is part of how I have to think about being assumed to be sexual available everywhere I go".

Also, you can choose to be a linguist or to not be a linguist. You can't choose to be a woman or to not be a woman.1

1. trans people excepted. But I don't think anyone is seriously suggesting "don't like being a woman? get a sex change!" because that would be ridiculous.
posted by madcaptenor at 12:19 PM on July 5, 2011


annsunny I wholeheartedly disagree, I do not thing his behavior is deserving of the intense derision it has received.

Empress The cause of the problem are the bastards who have through what amounts to chronic abuse caused someone to react this way to otherwise innocuous behavior. A problem is characterizing what he did as abusive or inappropriate and in fact amounting to abuse.
posted by karmiolz at 12:19 PM on July 5, 2011


I actually think propositioning someone in a locked room (i.e., an elevator) is wildly inappropriate and would have been were they not at a conference, in Dublin, or were it not 4am.
posted by restless_nomad at 12:26 PM on July 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


A problem is characterizing what he did as abusive or inappropriate and in fact amounting to abuse.

I don't see anyone accusing him of being "abusive".

But I do consider what he did "inappropriate". Not because asking someone for coffee is in itself an inappropriate act, and not because of her past experience.

I keep on coming back to the fact that she had just given a lecture on how women are sexualized at conferences, and how she had just mentioned to the people she was speaking with that she was tired and going to go to sleep. She had clearly expressed her wishes and her feelings to a large group of people. And he did not take those clearly-expressed wishes into consideration when he made his request. THAT is what was inappropriate.

Look at it this way. Suppose you are a college professor. At the beginning of your class, you tell students that your office hours are Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 2-4 and from 4:430-6, but you absolutely will not see anyone from 4:00-4:30. You repeat this rule a few times to your class.

Now suppose one of your students persistently comes to try to see you at 4 on Tuesdays, and wants to stay until 4:30. Do you permit the student to do so? If you do not -- why do you turn down the student's innocent request? If you do -- why are you permitting the student to bend a rule that the rest of the class is adhering to?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:27 PM on July 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


karmiolz, why don't you try looking at it from another point of view? I think it would be ok for him to have asked another male to do the same thing, and even to have asked her, if he hadn't approached her/him in an elevator. I have bot subjected this to intensederision, nor have I seen many comments that do. It was socially inappropriate. I do socially inappropriate things, and so do you.

The problem is that people refuse to believe women when they say that feels threatening to them. Why do you not believe this?
posted by annsunny at 12:27 PM on July 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


sorry about the typos.
posted by annsunny at 12:29 PM on July 5, 2011


Annsunny I do believe she felt threatened. What I'm saying is that had this been an isolated incident, she wouldn't have felt threatened. There is the obvious tragedy of the clear cut cases of abuse, then there is the subtle tragedy of just what that takes away from the rest of your life. Also i am honestly a little confused by the timeline, did she speak from 3:30 till 4 AM?
posted by karmiolz at 12:41 PM on July 5, 2011


What I'm saying is that had this been an isolated incident, she wouldn't have felt threatened.

Okay, this is true.

Similarly, if my aunt had an X chromosome, she'd be my uncle. If pigs had wings, they could fly. If I had a million dollars, I'd buy you a fur coat (but not a real fur coat, that's cruel). If Thomas Edison hated science, Nicolai Tesla would have gotten the electricity patent.

I'm not sure why you're speaking about how "if this had been an isolated incident, she wouldn't have felt threatened," when everyone has been telling you "but the whole point is that this was not an isolated incident."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:44 PM on July 5, 2011 [10 favorites]


OK, I understand your point. Unfortunately, the reality is that this is never an isolated incident.

As for the time line, she was in the bar talking to a large group of people, from 6:30 until 4 am. They guy followed her when she left and got on the elevator with her.
posted by annsunny at 12:50 PM on July 5, 2011


Empress I'm saying that this incident, prior to other actually terribly behavior by others, would not have been something that contributed to her sense of unease in general. I'm not saying a series of incidents like this now leads her to the terrible position of anxiety that she feels when confronted with them. It's only after terrible things happen, that perfectly acceptable things become terrible. Yes, I still believe that asking someone to your for coffee, getting shut down, and making no further attempts is a perfectly acceptable thing to do. Misguided at worst given the circumstances, but certainly not the callus act it is being portrayed as here.
posted by karmiolz at 12:50 PM on July 5, 2011


I'm not sure why you're speaking about how "if this had been an isolated incident, she wouldn't have felt threatened," when everyone has been telling you "but the whole point is that this was not an isolated incident."

It seems, in a lot of ways, like this is the same kind of problem that people who don't understand statistics have when dealing with coin flip problems or the Monty Hall problem. There is a profound difference between a long series of events and an isolated event. In the same way, there's a difference between a pattern and the individual events that make up that pattern. Confusing the two seems to be a big factor in a lot of indignation.

So, what I'm saying is that women are better at math.
posted by verb at 12:54 PM on July 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


I still believe that asking someone to your for coffee, getting shut down, and making no further attempts is a perfectly acceptable thing to do. Misguided at worst given the circumstances, but certainly not the callus act it is being portrayed as here.

Persistent attempts to turn this into nothing more than an etiquette question are a little frustrating. If you're really wanting to zero in on that, it's worth remembering that there was a nice eight hour stretch during which this guy could've tried to strike up a conversation with her. Instead he chose to invite her back to his hotel room at 4am when they were stuck together in an elevator. That's not "sexual assault" by any stretch of the imagination, but it is not simply "asking someone if they want to have coffee," either.
posted by verb at 12:56 PM on July 5, 2011


Yes, I still believe that asking someone to your for coffee, getting shut down, and making no further attempts is a perfectly acceptable thing to do. Misguided at worst given the circumstances, but certainly not the callus act it is being portrayed as here.

Then I don't know what to tell you, because there have been many clarifications in this thread explaining

a) why this was not a "callous" act, but rather a misguided one, and
b) why people are making a big deal out of this event.

If you still do not understand after the copious explanations in this thread, I honestly don't know what to tell you.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:57 PM on July 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Verb Apparently reading comprehension is better in men then? Had situations like this, and only like this, happened continuously, there would be no issue. It's that in light of actual messed up instances that the innocuous ones such as these get lumped it. My point is that this incident does not constitute the pattern of behavior that is to be abhorred. I understand statistics, and I understand that long series of events when deconstructed lose their potency. I'm simply making the case that this is not a rightful member of the long series of instances where men have behaved sexually inappropriately or aggressive.
posted by karmiolz at 12:59 PM on July 5, 2011


No one is saying "men should never approach women". The only thing people are saying is "before approaching a woman, men should make sure that woman actually wants to be approached.

I am saying that is not a good thing to attempt unless you live in a place where you know all the conventions and you are sure that unless it's a leap day and a full moon, you know the deal. Move around, go to different cities, different countries, speak different dialects and interact with people of varying cultures, faiths and beliefs and you will realize that what you think is "go" may not be "go" at all.

I think that there needs to be some explicit system set up for those who want to engage, and that the socialization of males and females needs to get to the point where everyone learns that even if a man or woman walks by you naked, if they aren't showing that explicit symbol of wanting to engage, they are to be left alone.
posted by rakim at 1:03 PM on July 5, 2011


Apparently reading comprehension is better in men then

Seemingly not.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:03 PM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


verb Yes, yes it is still asking someone for coffee. He may have been to shy to approach her earlier, particularly given her position at the conference. Or you are right, and he may have been just waiting to get her alone so as to take advan...o wait that's seriously unlikely since he accepted the shut-down without complaint. I'm saying that the tragedy is in her inability to feel safe, to always have to think of the worst case scenario. I think the point is being lost, because I do not think the point is, "Being repeatedly subjected to idiotic attempts of men to pick me up, I am now scarred and feel uncomfortable and chronically ill at ease." I read it more as, "Due to severely messed up instances of violence, force, and coehrsion perpetrated against me and those closest to me, even the slightly inappropriate is not somethign to be shrugged off, and only deepens my suffering."
posted by karmiolz at 1:04 PM on July 5, 2011


Move around, go to different cities, different countries, speak different dialects and interact with people of varying cultures, faiths and beliefs and you will realize that what you think is "go" may not be "go" at all.

*blink*

rakim, I'm assuming you have friends or at least aquaintances. Have you ever seen one of your acquaintances amd approached them to strike up a conversation, but something about their manner suggested that you were catching them at a bad time? Or, have you started to walk over to talk to them, only to realize that you were catching them at a bad time before you even opened a conversation?

....If you're able to do that, then that's all you need to do with strangers. This seriously is not difficult.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:06 PM on July 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


This would not be appropriate even if nothing like it had ever happened to her before. It is not appropriate to ignore someone's expressed wishes. It is not appropriate to corner strangers in enclosed spaces and proposition them. It is not appropriate to treat professional colleagues like sex objects. It is not appropriate to act like a creep!

It is mentioned because it is part of a pattern of behavior that discourages women from participating in these events, but even if she kept the incident to herself it would not be appropriate. Not appropriate, not innocuous, not any of those other minimizing words you're using karmiolz.

I also do not accept that this was just some shy, socially awkward guy who didn't know what he was doing was inappropriate. That argument has been advanced a lot in this thread (I see rakim just advanced it again). I think it is far more likely that he was more predatory than shy, which is why he picked the location he did and said what he said. Anyway, Amanda Marcotte addressed that better and I'll link her response here. I'm sure she puts it in terms that are too strong (i.e. not handholding enough) but obviously beating around the bush isn't working:

Claiming that men don't really know what's appropriate and what's not because women make it so complicated. (This has been demonstrated untrue with research, though common sense should also apply.) Denying the difference between flirting and cornering women in hopes that the implication of fear will grease the wheels for you getting your dick wet. Claiming that introducing a whiff of coercion and fear into a situation is okay as long as you're willing to take no for an answer at the end of the day.

posted by Danila at 1:13 PM on July 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


to always have to think of the worst case scenario.

You're aware that she didn't do this, right? That she was, at best, sort of tired and annoyed by the exchange but that the blowback from her reporting of the exchange has turned into some crazy internet drama all around. And sure, some people are going to take edge cases and defend them viciously, but the facts of what happened and her reporting of her own feelings were fairly commonplace.

Calling what this guy did "inappropriate" doesn't seem to me damning as much as descriptive. That's clearly an agree-to-disagree point with a lot of people here, but I think it's definitely the case that the appropriate line is one that we all cross at various times for better or worse. And if you're not a creep you sort of readjust your own idea of what is and is not okay in what context and move on, knowing more for the future. End of story.

It's possible to nurse your own personal life story into a framework through which to view this whole kerfuffle in a less favorable or more dramatic light, but the people originally involved were not making a big deal out of it.
posted by jessamyn at 1:15 PM on July 5, 2011 [6 favorites]


If someone wants nothing to do with me in certain contexts purely because I belong to a risk group, that is a deeply alienating and fundamentally unjust experience, no matter how practical the policy is.

Suck it up, you privileged male baby. It isn't always about you.

I hate that my male sex and male sexuality carries the taint of innumerable male assholes who don't know how to behave decently in public.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:16 PM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Danila I don't think we disagree as strongly as you seem to. I'm saying that situations such as this, will be read as instances where men are trying to use coercion and fear even if they are not. The fact that the assumption is justified in light of other events is truly shitty. I do not believe men are bumbling idiots who cannot read signs, or generally altruists who are unfairly colored by the actions of an insignificant minority of actual creeps. I'm saying that due to a pervasive problem, what otherwise might honestly be misguided, honest attempts to merely spend time with someone, has to be viewed in a threatening light, and that is a significant loss of interaction that women are forced to deal with. Which is a damn shame, and should be combated.
posted by karmiolz at 1:19 PM on July 5, 2011


I love how he apparently said "Please don't take this the wrong way", and yet, clusterfuck. Also, I hate sitting through videos for content. So watching her talk about her being at the bar at 4am, which a few people in here have identified as an explicit place where approaches are not inappropriate, then 30 seconds or 30 steps later when someone who had just been with her at the bar approaches her, and then starts with "please don't take this the wrong way"... it doesn't excuse the annoying pickup line, but (a) you were just at a bar until 4am, presumably drinking (b) this isn't auto-scarytime, or shouldn't be, unless every situation at 4am is auto-scarytime.

But I am or could be completely wrong. I personally assume that people that go out to bars are looking to pickup guys or ladies, or get picked up by ladies or guys. But I don't go out drinking or go to bars. I just assumed based on what I know of bars that if you're wearing dressy clothing and going out drinking and dancing - well most adults have been socialized in America that the bar is a place people go to pickup and get picked up, right? Maybe the drinkers in the house can speak to it.

I also do not accept that this was just some shy, socially awkward guy who didn't know what he was doing was inappropriate. That argument has been advanced a lot in this thread

What? I never said that. I keep saying I want to hear from the guy, and that in my view it was inappropriate, though the entire interaction certainly leaves plenty of room for a guy to think that his approach wouldn't be unwelcome, especially when started with "please do not take this the wrong way".

I do want to hear from him. How great would it be if he explained his behavior, and apologized, or talked about what he saw and thought and did.
posted by rakim at 1:20 PM on July 5, 2011


Jessamyn I think the crux of the issue is that when a man does something that is inappropriate in this sense, in the sense that for whatever reason it was wrong place wrong time, that his actions shouldn't immediately be assumed to be predatory. However given that there has been a history of abuse, of course they will be seen as such regardless of his true intentions.

Rakim I agree with you, we also need to be careful to say we are not going down the blame the victim path. There is of course the propensity for people to say, "well she shouldn't have been there, worn that, said this..." Those are all bullshit defenses in light of real abuse and display the type of disdain and objectification women have right to rail against. However if you say, "I'm tired, I just want to go to bed." Then go to a bar till 4AM, why would someone feel out of line to approach you with the open tact that he did?
posted by karmiolz at 1:25 PM on July 5, 2011


verb Yes, yes it is still asking someone for coffee. He may have been to shy to approach her earlier, particularly given her position at the conference. Or you are right, and he may have been just waiting to get her alone so as to take advan...o wait that's seriously unlikely since he accepted the shut-down without complaint.

You know, all other things aside, you're grossly misinterpreting my statement. I never said that he was waiting to get her alone to take advantage of her. I never implied it, and I never said it. Please don't suggest or imply that I said that. I'm guessing it's the cumulative effect of a long thread, and I'm not accusing you of deliberately misrepresenting it, but I was really careful to not imply that.


I'm saying that the tragedy is in her inability to feel safe, to always have to think of the worst case scenario. I think the point is being lost, because I do not think the point is, "Being repeatedly subjected to idiotic attempts of men to pick me up, I am now scarred and feel uncomfortable and chronically ill at ease."

I agree that's a huge tragedy, much bigger than getting propositioned in an elevator. But between 'being assaulted' and 'having someone hit on you' is the cumulative effect of people hitting on you everywhere you go, anywhere you are, no matter what your wishes are, even when it should be obvious from context that you're not looking to hook up. As cortex and many others have noted above, that cumulative problem -- of which this fellow's perhaps awkward and clueless attempt was just one incident -- cannot be grouped with either of the two groups. It's its own problem, and that's what was originally being discussed as a 'conference problem' for a lot of women.

In open source, I know a lot of women who complain of the same thing -- they cannot post a good patch, or figure out a problem, or even make an appearance, without guys turning it into a chorus of "Woooo, hot!" and "Marry me!" and "You're sexy because you're smart!" and "Hey, would you like to..."

Isolated incidents can be handled with aplomb, or awkwardness, or be threatening, or be humorous, but the cumulative effect is one that makes a lot of women decide to simply stop identifying themselves as women. In the OSS community I'm a part of, there's a "Chicks" support group that grapples with some of these issues, and there are lots of guys who still are clueless enough that they refer to it as "The hotties group" and so on. That's a problem.

It sounds like the atheist/freethinkers community has similar kinds of problems. Because the cumulative incidents are often private, or low-key, or generally less dramatic, it takes discussing these kinds of things and asking, "Why is this problematic, even though some guys think it's totally fine?"

That's different than simply noting that women are attacked a lot and thus are afraid of casual encounters. It's a third kind of problem.
posted by verb at 1:28 PM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


But I am or could be completely wrong. I personally assume that people that go out to bars are looking to pickup guys or ladies, or get picked up by ladies or guys.

This assumption is incorrect. Some people do this; some bars explicitly encourage it (by having "ladies' nights"). An awful lot of people go to bars to drink and hang out with their friends. If they meet someone who might become a sexual partner, well, great! But your assumption that that is the main or only reason that people go to bars is wrong. Since you don't go to bars and therefore don't know why people go, or what it's like, you should drop this assumption.
posted by rtha at 1:29 PM on July 5, 2011 [6 favorites]


his actions shouldn't immediately be assumed to be predatory.

Saying someone is inappropriate is not saying they are predatory. You are in agreement with Watson. There are many internet people who disagree with you both, but that's sort of their problem, I think. You can't make everyone interpret a situation the same way, you can just argue for/support your own interpretation. I'm not sure who you are responding to here who thinks the elevator guy was predatory. The read I take is that he missed/ignored some obvious social boundaries, which leads people to question which other ones he is not aware of or planning to adhere to.

if you say, "I'm tired, I just want to go to bed." Then go to a bar till 4AM

She said that at 4 AM, leaving the bar, en route to her room, to do what she said she was going to do. Again I am unclear if you actually know the sequence of events here.
posted by jessamyn at 1:30 PM on July 5, 2011


However if you say, "I'm tired, I just want to go to bed." Then go to a bar till 4AM, why would someone feel out of line to approach you with the open tact that he did?

So don't blame the victim, but if she didn't want to be hit on why was she out there at 4am huh? Christ.
posted by anti social order at 1:30 PM on July 5, 2011


jessamyn I was unclear about the sequence of events, thank you for correcting me.
posted by karmiolz at 1:31 PM on July 5, 2011


I'm assuming you have friends or at least aquaintances. Have you ever seen one of your acquaintances amd approached them to strike up a conversation, but something about their manner suggested that you were catching them at a bad time? Or, have you started to walk over to talk to them, only to realize that you were catching them at a bad time before you even opened a conversation?

....If you're able to do that, then that's all you need to do with strangers. This seriously is not difficult.


It isn't that simple. I am not doing the whole "it's too hard! I gotta throw my hands up and say to hell with it!" I am saying I have some friends and acquaintances that have mannerisms that mean one thing, while others with those same mannerisms have come to tell me mean a completely different thing for them. There are posts in this thread detailing all sorts of eye contact rules. No, that doesn't work. Don't look a woman in the eye - no, I have seen "I don't respect him because he does not look me in the eye". And so on and so on. It is not as simple as you and I would like it to be. Maybe you live someplace where you have all the rules nailed down and you don't encounter people of all different backgrounds and faiths, cultures and norms, but many of us aren't in those environments.

This assumption is incorrect. Some people do this; some bars explicitly encourage it (by having "ladies' nights"). An awful lot of people go to bars to drink and hang out with their friends. If they meet someone who might become a sexual partner, well, great! But your assumption that that is the main or only reason that people go to bars is wrong. Since you don't go to bars and therefore don't know why people go, or what it's like, you should drop this assumption.

Okay. Suffice to say that idea gets pushed through commercials, movies and television. Or am I the only person who has seen infinite instances of bar scenes in movies and television and that is pretty much the focus of the interactions - picking up someone or getting picked up. Just me?
posted by rakim at 1:32 PM on July 5, 2011


anti social I am saying don't go to a bar if you don't want to be hit on, don't go to a rodeo if you don't like bull-riding, don't go sky-diving if you're afraid of heights, and don't go scuba diving if you're not a strong swimmer. When you engage in these activities, someone doing the socially acceptable thing based on the situation should not be demonized. I do not think she was doing that, but a lot of posters on here and in discussions in other places are doing that. There are gay bars in town that I occasionally go to, even though I'm straight. I go because they have great dancing, less assholes trying to pick a fight, and my female friends do feel more comfortable there. I never get offended if a man hits on me, I never feel that it is out of line. I know where I'm going, if I didn't want it to happen I wouldn't go.
posted by karmiolz at 1:35 PM on July 5, 2011


Okay. Suffice to say that idea gets pushed through commercials, movies and television. Or am I the only person who has seen infinite instances of bar scenes in movies and television and that is pretty much the focus of the interactions - picking up someone or getting picked up. Just me?

Maybe. I think I just watched a lot of Cheers when I was younger: the idea of picking people up at a bar seems weird and bizarre, while sitting down and chatting with friends seems like the natural thing to do.

The conference aspect is also worth remembering, too: a looooot of conferences have semi-official meetup/hang-out stuff going on at bars around the actual conference location after the fact. They're places for people to keep hanging out and talking together after the venue closes. It's actually a problem for under-21 types at some events. They're part of the crowd, but the natural "we'll take this conversation somewhere else, because the conference center is closing" location is 21-and-over. But that's another problem.
posted by verb at 1:35 PM on July 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


It isn't that simple. I am not doing the whole "it's too hard! I gotta throw my hands up and say to hell with it!" I am saying I have some friends and acquaintances that have mannerisms that mean one thing, while others with those same mannerisms have come to tell me mean a completely different thing for them.

And yet somehow you figure out that "for Sid, this body language means X, but for Nancy, this body language means Y. that's because Sid and Nancy are different people and I have learned to adapt."

That's all people are asking --

1. Treat women as individual PEOPLE.
2. Treat all people, men and women, with an arm's length of respect. If you are paying attention, usually you can figure out whether a person wants to engage in conversation after you say one innocuous icebreaker thing.
3. Again, treat women as individual people, and proceed with step 2 above.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:36 PM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


When you engage in these activities, someone doing the socially acceptable thing based on the situation should not be demonized.

No one hit on her at the bar. A guy asked her back to his room in a hotel elevator, after the bar. After she had said she was heading to bed and was tired, very late at night.
posted by jessamyn at 1:38 PM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not just you, rakim. But those of us who actually enter the reality of what the movies and ads portray can tell that it's a mostly made-up thing. Lots of things that are portrayed in the media are portrayed in ways that don't reflect at all how things work in Reality. Like how torturing a suspect on 24 always yields results. Or how buying this brand of paper towels will make your life better. Like most of what's on TV, it's fiction designed to make you buy something.
posted by rtha at 1:38 PM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


jessamyn
posted by karmiolz at 1:41 PM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I, too, support jessamyn.
posted by verb at 1:41 PM on July 5, 2011 [7 favorites]


As do I. Jessamyn fo lyfe!
posted by rakim at 1:43 PM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


sorry for the pre-post jessamyn ha. I honestly do not think it necessarily needs to be viewed as sinister in light of the timing and events. The fact is that she immediately errs on the side of extreme caution, with good reason, even if there is only a hint of less than upstanding intentions. That sucks, she shouldn't have to be that guarded. I have said it before many times, I view the problem with this specific instance is the always having to be so ill at ease. The reading of a situation as always worst case scenario, and turning lack of perfect timing into a predatory move.
posted by karmiolz at 1:45 PM on July 5, 2011


Watching the video again, I'm pretty much convinced that it's been blown way out of proportion.

Was it unwelcome? Yes.
Was it the worst thing that Ms. Watson has ever experienced at a conference? Probably not.
Was it an example of the kind of sexist behavior that keeps women away from conferences? Probably.

Of course, everyone wants to do a Nancy Grace on Ms. Watson and/or the unnamed man rather than treat it like it was presented, an uncomfortable anecdote about a conference that supports Ms. Watson's claims that atheists sometimes act in sexist ways.

Perhaps it's just a cultural hangup I have, but I've always gotten the impression that anything other than the lightest of smalltalk in an elevator with strangers is rude because you've got a captive audience in a confined space.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:46 PM on July 5, 2011


Perhaps it's just a cultural hangup I have, but I've always gotten the impression that anything other than the lightest of smalltalk in an elevator with strangers is rude because you've got a captive audience in a confined space.

I've been asked to troubleshoot someone's broken web site. While riding an elevator. It's a perfectly reasonable request, but context is everything...
posted by verb at 1:47 PM on July 5, 2011


So, some time ago, I was going out for a drink with a co-worker who I found very attractive. As we were leaving the office, she asked me if I'd make sure we got her back to her car in the parking garage by 9 or 10 pm, and if I'd walk her back because she didn't want to be creeped on by all the creepers downtown. Of course that was fine, and we started talking about street harassment and how much it sucked, how being hit on all the time sucked, etc.

Many hours and a car move later, we were at another bar. I thought it would be all right to tell her that I found her attractive, because it seemed like she might be receptive to that sort of thing, we were hanging out later than expected, etc. She smiled and thanked me in that "not really interested" sort of way, so I changed the subject posthaste. We carried on talking and drinking for another hour or so, then I saw her off to her car and went home.

Neither I nor she felt like I'd done anything wrong, and we hung out plenty of times after that. That's despite our conversation starting mostly about how she doesn't like getting hit on all the time by strangers, and that's because we weren't strangers. She wasn't interested, fair enough, but there's nothing wrong with checking the boundaries of a relationship so long as you have a relationship in the first place.

So, basically, I think all this "men can never talk to women ever" stuff is bullshit. I'm relatively sure I don't come off as a creeper to anyone, although I will and would happily adjust my behavior if it turns out that I am inadvertently creeping, and I talk to women all the time. Sometimes I don't talk to a woman that I would like to, because she seems like she's in a "no-creeping-on-me" mode and I'd rather be wrong about that sense and pass up an opportunity than ignore that sense and make someone feel bad.

Respecting boundaries does not destroy communication between men and women, it enables it. It is, in fact, the only way that true, equal communication will occur.
posted by Errant at 1:50 PM on July 5, 2011 [14 favorites]


The reading of a situation as always worst case scenario, and turning lack of perfect timing into a predatory move.

I don't really understand at this point who you are talking to our what your general thesis is. I agree that this situation was a shame for all involved. Women err on the side of caution for reasons that have been stated dozens of times in this thread and thousands of times on this and other websites. It's a bummer for everyone, but not something that's just going to change because we want it to be true.
posted by jessamyn at 1:51 PM on July 5, 2011



What I'm not understanding about what you're trying to say, karmiolz, is that on the one hand you say this:

I have said it before many times, I view the problem with this specific instance is the always having to be so ill at ease. The reading of a situation as always worst case scenario, and turning lack of perfect timing into a predatory move.

But on the other hand you say this:

I honestly do not think it necessarily needs to be viewed as sinister in light of the timing and events.

So on the one hand, you say "I understand why she needs to view this situation as unwelcome in light of her history." But then on the other hand you say "I don't understand why everyone thinks this was unwelcome." [I am paraphrasing.]

To me, that appears to be a contradiction. Can you explain why you can simultaneously understand why she has to view this as unwelcome given her history, but you also cannot understand why his actions are being called "unwelcome"?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:53 PM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


In other words, karmiolz, it looks like you're saying, "I understand that what the guy did looks creepy, but I don't understand why what the guy did looks creepy." Can you explain that contradiction?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:55 PM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's one hell of a paraphrase, EmpressCallipygos.
posted by lalex at 1:56 PM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


empress You're correct, it is unclear. What I am saying is that given her history she has every right to view it as such. This I feel is a tragedy because objectively, his moves don't need to be considered sinister. His actions can be certainly be called unwelcome, but I do not list them under the litany of truly predatory behavior that has led her to view the vast majority of advances as being based in predatory behavior. Would she feel this way if what he did was the consistent behavior of men, no. Does she feel this way, and is she justified in doing so, because of far worse trespasses against her, certainly. She shouldn't have needed to feel that unsafe, I doubt she would have without the worse abuse.
posted by karmiolz at 1:57 PM on July 5, 2011


What I am saying is that given her history she has every right to view it as such. This I feel is a tragedy because objectively, his moves don't need to be considered sinister. His actions can be certainly be called unwelcome, but I do not list them under the litany of truly predatory behavior that has led her to view the vast majority of advances as being based in predatory behavior. Would she feel this way if what he did was the consistent behavior of men, no. Does she feel this way, and is she justified in doing so, because of far worse trespasses against her, certainly. She shouldn't have needed to feel that unsafe, I doubt she would have without the worse abuse.

If I may paraphrase what you said one last time in an effort to understand you (that's how I make sure I understand someone's point, is trying to put it into my own words and repeat it back to them):

You can understand that SHE perceived his actions as threatening. But you do not understand why WE perceive his actions as threatening. Is that correct?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:00 PM on July 5, 2011


I think karmiolz is saying that if she didn't live in a world where there was a very real chance something physically harmful would happen to her, the guy's behavior would have been considered innocuous. I don't know that that's true, exactly, because there's a lot of context here - not least that she had just spend a bunch of time talking in public about how she did not like it when people did Thing X, and then this guy promptly went and did Thing X - but it's a coherent, if not an inarguable, point.
posted by restless_nomad at 2:04 PM on July 5, 2011


Empress I can see how ANYONE who has lived through that abuse and predation would see his actions as threatening. I cannot see how people objectively can say that his actions were definitely threatening.
posted by karmiolz at 2:06 PM on July 5, 2011


The Privilege Delusion
posted by brundlefly at 2:07 PM on July 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


I cannot see how people objectively can say that his actions were definitely threatening.

Is anyone here saying that?
posted by jessamyn at 2:07 PM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


restless That is largely what I am saying. I think we read heavier into specific parts of the context than others given our various backgrounds. I'm a white privileged son of immigrants who has had the luxury to never be assaulted that way. When a guy directly addresses that she may feel uncomfortable by his advances, says nothing disgusting, even in an elevator after leaving a bar at 4 AM, I do not view it as truly that sinister. I do see how someone who has been through sexual abuse would. I do not fault her for it, I just bemoan that she has to, and that what otherwise could very easily be passed off becomes another link in a long line of predatory behavior even if unjustified.
posted by karmiolz at 2:09 PM on July 5, 2011


jessamyn Yes, many people have decried his actions as being completely out of line. I do not believe you to be one of them. I just thought the actual article and discussion was more subtle and nuanced than, "Creep corners girl in elevator!"
posted by karmiolz at 2:11 PM on July 5, 2011


I'm not sure that it's helpful to share that as a white, privileged man, you don't find this sort of approach sinister. That's not even remotely related to what we're talking about. (And it's probably worth noting that a very large percentage of people are telling you that trying to pick up women in quite a few combinations of these contexts is a bad plan that will likely not result in your desired outcome. So you may want to adjust your strategies accordingly, unless you're usually trying to pick up other white, privileged men.)

The elevator thing just drives me nuts - in part because there's a definite implied threat in this specific context (request with definite sexual overtones, late at night, man approaching woman) but because it's just rude. Asking people for something when it's awkward for them to refuse (in this case, they don't have the opportunity to walk away or end the conversation) is just obnoxious. There's an Ask vs. Guess divide as to when exactly refusal becomes awkward, but "come up to my room" asked alone in the elevator falls really clearly in the "awkward" camp for me.
posted by restless_nomad at 2:20 PM on July 5, 2011 [7 favorites]


Restless I shared my background because I wanted to make it clear that I have not personally undergone the assaults others from a different background might have. Also, it's worth noting that you know absolutely nothing about how I go about meeting or picking up women and vague ad hominem attacks are pointless. All along I've simply been saying that an underlying tragedy is that what otherwise could be called rude, poor timing, inappropriate, takes on a far more sinister tone in light of other events. Her experiences have given her a heightened response to such situations, anxiety that need not be there. Others have taken his actions as specifically the type that have led her to this heightened response. I don't think that is the case.
posted by karmiolz at 2:26 PM on July 5, 2011


Karmiolz, this is just the same point you and others were trying to make several hundred comments ago. We all get offended by many things, we have to determine if they are actually offensive before extrapolating them out further. and I cannot see how people objectively can say that his actions were definitely threatening.

You are still chasing after a chimera of objectivity that doesn't exist. A magic ruler of incremental measures that allow you to say that this behavior X is okay, and that behavior Y is not okay.

And your problem is this: IN YOUR MIND, ONLY YOU GET TO DEFINE WHAT THE RULER IS.

It doesn't seem to have any effect on you that hundreds and hundreds of women, blogs, etc., are saying that this was a threatening situation. You just can't hear any voice but yours.

Get this: There might, or might not be, a ruler. BUT YOU DON'T GET TO DECIDE WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE. If you ask women, we'll talk to each other, try to form a consensus, and try to explain it and we'll give you the benefit of the doubt in general because we often do. But don't gainsay our answers. Trust us.
posted by jfwlucy at 2:30 PM on July 5, 2011 [6 favorites]


The fact that there's a major flamewar over this says more to me about the issues that women have at atheist conferences than the actual incident.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:32 PM on July 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


I cannot see how people objectively can say that his actions were definitely threatening.

and

I do see how someone who has been through sexual abuse would.


I'm not sure who "people" are in your first sentence, and I also don't know who (here, at least) called his actions definitely threatening.

As to your second sentence, you might keep in mind that an awful lot of us commenting here have been assaulted and harassed. Her history doesn't make her unusual.
posted by rtha at 2:33 PM on July 5, 2011


I've never (knock on wood) been raped, or assaulted, and I would find that scenario just as inappropriate, tiring, and stressful as Skepchick did. As would quite a few of the women who have posted in this thread and elsewhere on the internet. It seems that the experience that causes "anxiety that need not be there" is being female in Western society. So if you can propose a cure for that, I'll listen - otherwise, I'm not sure that you're making a point that's relevant.
posted by restless_nomad at 2:33 PM on July 5, 2011 [14 favorites]


Rtha I didn't say it was unusual, I'm saying that a lot of people are definitively saying that his behavior was the type that does engender feeling anxious in western society. I am stating that I do not believe that to be the case. That his behavior has more than one explanation, and that all advances do not need to seem predatory. It's a small point but one I still think worth stating. It's also unfair to say that all women feel this way and that is is in restless' term's, "being female in Western society." There are plenty of women who would not have reacted as she did, would not have felt as threatened. I'm saying it's not black and white, and that the way one person perceives something doesn't necessarily mean someone else should perceive it that way as well.
posted by karmiolz at 2:49 PM on July 5, 2011


karmiolz: I am stating that I do not believe that to be the case. . . . the way one person perceives something doesn't necessarily mean someone else should perceive it that way as well.

Right. Exactly. Because YOU, Karmiolz, believe that YOU are the absolute arbiter and keeper of the objective, real, serious, unchanging standard of "how women should feel in a given situation."

And it's NOT one person, it's a thousand women and some men telling you this. Are you really so unable to grasp that your opinion might be mistaken? Of course you are entitled to be mistaken.
posted by jfwlucy at 2:56 PM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


jfwlucy I don't understand how you can say that I claim to be sole arbiter because I viewed it differently, but that the other opinion MUST be the correct one. Apply the same restraints your arguments that I have. I said I clearly understand why someone would see it that way, but I believe it is also possible to view it in another light. How is that claiming there is only one interpretation?
posted by karmiolz at 3:09 PM on July 5, 2011


I'm not claiming there is a single interpretation that is correct. I am saying that

a) there is a plurality of women that agree that this kind of event is i) common and ii) ought to be discouraged. You seem to be saying that because you, personally didn't find it to be be threatening, that Rebecca must be mistaken because of her personal experiences.

b) within the entire context of the larger issue that was originally in question, "why do women avoid male-dominated conferences so much," your opinion and desire to impose a "rational" "logical" "objective" standard of whether or not something is harassment is not relevant. You are i) not a member of the class "women" ii) not avoiding conferences because you feel sexually harassed.

c) certainly if you do feel there are issues around men being under-represented at programming/sci-fi/comic/tech/science/atheist conferences, or you feel that a plurality of you are experiencing sexual harassment, I think you should bring it up.
posted by jfwlucy at 3:21 PM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


jfwlucy In post after post I have said she was fully justified in feeling the way she did specifically because of her experiences. That is not a judgement on how she should or shouldn't feel. I think it is an absolute shame that women feel harassed particular at such events. I never claimed that men feel under-represented, in fact more than once I have openly stated that I am very fortunate to be part of the class of "men" specifically because we do not feel that harassment.

Stop pretending I'm making a point that I am not. Stop pretending that I do not believe it to be a problem. Stop pretending that I do not see the tragedy in a women truly becoming fully justified in finding such encounters threatening. I'm bemoaning that situations that are not clear, do not have only one interpretation, are going to fall into the, "makes me feel uncomfortable and preyed upon" category when they needn't exclusively feel so. The loss of safety is to be abhorred, and when it grows because of a pattern of behavior to include interactions that aren't clear-cut it is saddening.
posted by karmiolz at 3:30 PM on July 5, 2011


> Suck it up, you privileged male baby. It isn't always about you.
Oh, I do. Didn't the initial text "This kind of reaction by women to this kind of issue has been useful feedback for me in the past..." make that clear? Or is it that I'm pissing you off just by talking about how confusing and alienating I find this anxiety about my gender, despite making it clear that I accept the practical basis for the anxiety?
I hate that my male sex and male sexuality carries the taint of innumerable male assholes who don't know how to behave decently in public.
Yeah, I hate it too. That was kind of my point.
posted by Estragon at 3:35 PM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have to leave for a presentation, and have truly enjoyed the discussion. It has been overwhelmingly on topic and respectful. Just to clarify because it looks that I have been unclear on my central argument.

1.) There is no "correct" interpretation of his actions, and certainly more than one. Not all are sinister, not all are upstanding.

2.) She was of course fully justified in how it made her feel, I have absolutely no judgement about that.

3.) I hate that given her experiences the interpretation she had of the encounter was as threatening and uncomfortable to her as it was and deeply wish that weren't so.
posted by karmiolz at 3:37 PM on July 5, 2011


Dude, it is not JUST BECAUSE OF HER EXPERIENCES. It is not just A woman. It is hundreds and hundreds.

You have said the following:

I'm saying it's a ridiculous way to live your life. (being wary of men as a default.)

I say it again, he did absolutely nothing wrong. His actions were completely acceptable even if a bit misguided. There should be nothing traumatic about it at all.

A problem is characterizing what he did as abusive or inappropriate and in fact amounting to abuse.

I cannot see how people objectively can say that his actions were definitely threatening.

"Ridiculous"? Not "inappropriate?" "Objectively"? Women are "abusive" for characterizing his behavior as problematic?

Doesn't sound like YOU THOUGHT it was a problem at all. Despite hundreds of posts from sane, rational, thoughtful, intelligent women telling you otherwise.
posted by jfwlucy at 3:41 PM on July 5, 2011


given her experiences the interpretation she had of the encounter was as threatening and uncomfortable to her as it was

I feel like you have not read her own discussion of the events.

She did not feel threatened. She did feel somewhat uncomfortable and explained why, both with her personal feelings and the context in which this interaction happened. Many people have explained that they, too, would feel uncomfortable in such a situation.

I am still not understanding your central argument because most of your comments seem to have fairly large misunderstandings about what actually happened.
posted by jessamyn at 3:42 PM on July 5, 2011


Yes. Leave the "given her experiences" well out of it.
posted by jfwlucy at 3:43 PM on July 5, 2011


I didn't say it was unusual, I'm saying that a lot of people are definitively saying that his behavior was the type that does engender feeling anxious in western society. I am stating that I do not believe that to be the case.

How many people do you need to see say "I would have found his behavior inappropriate; it would have annoyed me and made me feel uncomfortable"? Because this thread and the other one is full of people saying exactly that.

Also, you keep saying she found his behavior "threatening." That is not how she characterized it. Please stop saying that that's what she said.
posted by rtha at 4:00 PM on July 5, 2011


This is really a fascinating discussion. I wonder to what extent Dawkins' opinions are based on his own experiences with sexual advances in the context of speaking engagements. I also wonder whether even the most adamant commentators here who agree with Dawkins will at least think twice now before hitting on someone in an elevator.
posted by The World Famous at 4:36 PM on July 5, 2011


karmiolz:I hate that given her experiences the interpretation she had of the encounter was as threatening and uncomfortable to her as it was and deeply wish that weren't so.

You are so not listening to what people are telling you.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 4:46 PM on July 5, 2011


Can we all stop for a second, take a deep breath, and giggle immaturely at the phrase "the taint of innumerable male assholes"?
posted by evidenceofabsence at 4:48 PM on July 5, 2011 [12 favorites]


giggle
posted by Surfurrus at 4:57 PM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I suppose we need to introduce some sort of "Appropriate Elevator Etiquette" program in our elementary schools.

At the high school level it could be broadened to a "The Times And Places It's Okay To Hit On People" unit. Hint: all the time anywhere is not the correct answer.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:11 PM on July 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


At the high school level it could be broadened to a "The Times And Places It's Okay To Hit On People" unit. Hint: all the time anywhere is not the correct answer.

I think I missed this lesson in high school. Since I don't like making people feel awkward, or feeling awkward myself, I default to thinking that none of the time nowhere is the correct answer. This is better than assuming all of the time everywhere (in that people don't think I'm a creep and start Internet controversies about me) but still suboptimal.
posted by madcaptenor at 5:31 PM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I default to thinking that none of the time nowhere is the correct answer.

Nuke the come-ons from orbit. It's the only way to be sure. Sure it's Demolition Man territory, but I bet if that message started getting around and people acted accordingly, a lot of women would be very very happy to not have to get attention demands nonstop, and there wouldn't be this stupid game of "but I thought it was okay" "but you're a creeper!"
posted by rakim at 5:38 PM on July 5, 2011


It turns out that neither "all" nor "nothing" are usually the correct answers in human relations. There's no real shortcut or quick and dirty equation for this one.
posted by Errant at 5:42 PM on July 5, 2011


So. Woman rejects man's advances. As they do. Woman complains about inept advance. Again, typical. Another woman says, hey maybe it wasn't that inept. Normal. Third party man, in assholish manner, talks about how women are complain-y. The staple of any gender-based stand up routine.

Add Internet - shitfest.

Pretty much what I got out of it?
posted by Tikirific at 5:43 PM on July 5, 2011


I can see how ANYONE who has lived through that abuse and predation would see his actions as threatening. I cannot see how people objectively can say that his actions were definitely threatening.

Okay, "threatening" was a bad choice of words on MY part. (waves to everyone else in the room -- guys, I was the one who said "threatening," and that was a dumb move.)

So let me try again, because I am sincerely stumped as to what you are trying to say. Let's use "inappropriate" instead of "threatening."

So. Are you saying that you understand why SHE felt his behavior was inappropriate, but you do not understand why WE find his behavior inappropriate?

I understand that you wish that her circumstances were such that she did not have the kind of background so that she would be lead to interpret his actions thus, but can you understand that wishing this were so does not MAKE it so, and her circumstances cannot be changed? Can you accept that there is nothing you can do to alter the fact that she has had this set of experiences?

Let's just start there.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:49 PM on July 5, 2011


I said I clearly understand why someone would see it that way, but I believe it is also possible to view it in another light. How is that claiming there is only one interpretation?

I'm not sure what you are hoping to achieve by trying to get us to accept that there is more than one interpretation of events. We are all very much aware that there is more than one way to interpret events; that is not the issue up for debate.

the issue up for debate is this:

* A woman has interpreted a situation to be uncomfortable for her, and she has explained why, at length. It is true that this selfsame situation could be interpreted in a more charitable way. But trying to remind everyone that the fact that it can be interpreted in a more charitable way discounts the valid discomfort that the woman is feeling, and that discounting of her reactions is a reaction to this story which is confusing a lot of people in this thread.

Look at it this way. Say that I had two roommates, and one of them is studying for the bar exam. I like singing to myself, and the third one likes to hear me sing.

Now say that I was singing one day, and the roommate studying for the exam comes out and says, "hey, can you stop singing? It's distracting me from my studying." But my other roommate comes out and says, "don't tell her to stop singing. Listening to her sing is pleasant." And the first roommate says, "it usually is, but right now I am studying and it is breaking my concentration."

The roommate who is complaining is like the woman complaining about the man in the elevator -- she is interpreting the situation from a given perspective, which is "this singing is distracting". The roommate who likes listening to me is interpreting the situation in different way -- "the singing is not distracting". But the fact that the third roommate thinks my singing is nice doesn't change the fact that the first roommate finds it distracting.

And that's why I'd stop singing -- because just because one person likes it, another person says it's bothering her right now, and I want to respect that.

And that is what people are trying to explain to you -- that just because you perceive this situation to be innocent, that the person to whom it happened found it unpleasant. Simple courtesy should dictate that, as much as possible, we respect a person's wishes when they say that they are being confronted with something unpleasant -- even if other people may find it pleasant.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:01 PM on July 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


Copying a comment by EatTheWeak from the other thread, which seems to have gone nuclear:

Anywhere online I see a women's issues discussion begin, I tend to start a mental "WHAT ABOUT TEH MENNNZ?" countdown. It never runs for long.

Some fellas seem to think that the most important thing women must do in securing their own safety is to avoid hurting any dudes' feelings in the process.


To me, this is the crux of the problem. When women speak up about these things, the overwhelming response that we get is this: our sense of security is less important than the chance that we may hurt a man's feelings.

That is a sad fucking state of affairs.

And to quote someone else - I can't remember who said it, in these monster threads - women do not teach each other these things. We don't have secret seminars and conferences about fearing men. We learn this shit the hard way, one epithet, one unwanted sexual advance, one grope, one stalky follower, at a time. It adds up.

Y'all wanna be mad at someone, be mad at the tiny percent of people who perpetuate this and ruin things for the rest of us. Most of us are mad as hell about it too. But don't take it out on us. We have enough shit to deal with already. Don't add to the damn problem.
posted by cmyk at 6:03 PM on July 5, 2011 [16 favorites]


I pointed one of my (liberal, Christian) friends to this debacle to get his take on the whole thing.

He simply smirked, and said "Wow. The atheists are finally starting to act like a real church."


...which is really the best summary I can think of for this mess. Christ, what a bunch of dickwolves.
posted by schmod at 6:12 PM on July 5, 2011 [9 favorites]


You honestly think I'm saying she's the only one to experience such violent events? There are many, hence why I have said "anyone" with those experiences would feel the same, women who have had the same experiences. I never said any of the things you have accused me of, saying it was isolated, singular to her, there is no reason for her to feel that way, the only way to interpret it was innocently...I'm not making these arguments. I'm saying that it sucks she should feel that way in that situation. Pretty much parroting her appraisal of the instance. I'm saying his actions taken in isolation should not have been threatening, it's sad that due to a history of truly coercive and forceful interactions would something like this seem to have the same potential.
posted by karmiolz at 6:30 PM on July 5, 2011


Christ, what a bunch of dickwolves.

hey guys

i wrote a definition of "dickwolf" on urban dictionary to reflect how we use it round these parts

right now it is number two

the one above it is kind of creepy

vote for number two please
posted by LogicalDash at 6:35 PM on July 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


The one above it is from Penny Arcade. Previously (and similarly).
posted by evidenceofabsence at 7:13 PM on July 5, 2011


I'm saying that it sucks she should feel that way in that situation. Pretty much parroting her appraisal of the instance. Feelings may suck, but what sucks is not the feelings. What sucks is the cost to society when many women are subjected to unwanted sexual advances by insensitive men.

I'm saying his actions taken in isolation should not have been threatening.—That an idealized request for coffee is nonthreatening is trivially true. I don't see how this is an instructive line of reasoning. Especially when the hypothetical is impossible—no human can evaluate an action in isolation; in the real world, new encounters are always processed in the context of personal history.—My other objection is that this is an intentional fallacy. It is not of primary importance that the guy's motivations were benign. What matters is the repercussions of his actions, and that is what respect and treading lightly is all about.

it's sad that due to a history of truly coercive and forceful interactions would something like this seem to have the same potential.—It is not a very sad thing if a woman will never experience elevator hookups. Again, I think there are other aspects of this issue that are truly sad. / The hypothesis, that the woman had a negative reaction because she has previously experienced to Very Bad Things, is unwarranted. There is no evidence of that. I think you are making a false inference, because strong reactions do not require strong prior stimuli—weak stimuli is sufficient, and there are plenty of examples of that in psychology.
posted by polymodus at 8:03 PM on July 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


Thinking about it, I might have a somewhat unique perspective. I am a woman, I have picked up and been picked up by women, and I have a social anxiety disorder! This means that I have experienced unwanted come-ons and felt threatened, and also experienced the paralysis of "I want to talk to her, but I can't, because there is no way to do that without maybe coming across wrong, even though I am totally harmless." I should practically be having this argument with myself!

Anyhow, here, and for all posterity, is my abridged take on when and how to talk to a woman.
-The whole "never talk to women" thing is bunk. You can talk to women. Women are people too.
-Try to be aware of the context in which you are speaking, and the content of what you are saying. There are going to be better and worse ways, times, and places to approach people.
-Pay attention to the body language and words of the person to whom you're speaking.
-Most of the time, when you are talking to a woman, you should just treat them like a person. You are not always going to be speaking to a woman as a woman or potential life partner. Usually, it's more important that the woman in question is a co-worker, or a neighbor, or whatnot. Example: If your goal is to order a bagel, and there is a woman behind the deli counter, just say "sesame with cream cheese," or whatever you would normally say. No extra calculation needed!
-When you are talking to a woman you know, do so in the context of the relationship that you have.
-If you are going to talk to a woman you don't know (and speak to her as a potential romantic partner or such), be more cautious about context and content than you normally would. Don't jump in guns blazing. "Want to come to my hotel room" is not a good opening line. A good way to start is to say "Hi" and "what's your name" or "that's a really nice [thing]," and introduce yourself. If she seems amenable, make small talk, and get to know who she is. Do not expect to get near the words "hotel room" by the end of your first conversation.
-Be aware that the woman in question may respond negatively or be uncomfortable. If you do talk to a woman, and she responds negatively, back off. It might mean that there's something off about how you approached her, but it could also be that she wasn't interested in talking to strangers, or is having a bad day, or any number of things. It doesn't make you a rapist by any means. It does mean you should let her be.
-Be aware that people can have different experiences of the same situation. If a lady responds by saying something crappy to you, you're allowed to think that's crappy. She's allowed to think it's crappy that people don't just leave her alone when she's out and about. You're both allowed to have subjective experiences. One does not invalidate the other.
-Faux pas happen. Try to avoid them. That said, they're not the end of the world.
-Be aware that for women, the stakes might be a little higher. You're facing rejection on a regular basis, they're dealing with potentially hostile creeps on a regular basis.
-Not so much with the hooting and hollering and piropos, thanks much. If you're not someone who does this, then great! And thank you.
-Finally, be angry at men who harass and attack women. Because they're the ones that fuck this shit up for all of us.

Personal notes: I tend to do most of my elevator small talk with other women, since I don't want to give guys the wrong idea. I have only approached women for romantic purposes at lady-gay bars, where there is a clear dynamic that women are there to meet other women. I don't approach women on the street for romantic purposes, because let alone whether or not they're single or interested, there's a chance that they're straight, and I don't want to make them uncomfortable. With the exception of one ex-girlfriend, I tend to date people I have known, or who are part of my social circle, meaning there's a built-in context for conversation.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 8:14 PM on July 5, 2011 [7 favorites]


crackingdes: "It's not inherently offensive to politely proposition someone. It's not really rude to ask. But sometimes it would just be nice to go about as a person in the world, and interact with other people, and contribute to society, and work on rewarding things, and make friends, and connect with other humans, without this undercurrent of sexual give/take beneath everything. It would be nice to just be treated like another person whose value remains even if they say no to the date."

Now I'm stuck imagining how awful it would be if Elevator Guy was not merely tactless, but also totally in earnest about just wanting to have an impromptu late-night coffee klatch with an interesting thinker. Sort of like a less sleazy version of this.
"Wow, first a spirited debate about Hegel, and now this! [sips] You weren't kidding, this is good joe!"

"Did you know you're the first person to accept one of my creepy 4 a.m. elevator invitations?"
posted by Rhaomi at 8:46 PM on July 5, 2011 [10 favorites]


Agent Cooper is up for anything.
posted by Iris Gambol at 9:40 PM on July 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


karmioz, I appreciate your being willing to stay here and explain your position without it spiraling into ragefests -- it's easy for that to happen in threads like this. (hell, I think it already has and burned out a couple of times).

I want to preface what I'm about to say with that, because I don't want to sound like I'm attacking you personally, but what you just said is another example of missing the point that many people have been making in the thread. There are a couple of different angles to it, so I'll try to explain what I mean without any loaded language, point by point.

First, there is the fact that much of your discussion on the topic revolves around whether it is legitimate to find a 4am hotel elevator proposition "threatening." Just to make sure that we're on the same page, and that there is no confusion, I'll reiterate: Rebecca Watson did not claim that she found it threatening. She used it as an example of an annoying/uncomfortable/off-putting event that, by virtue of its frequency, discourages many women from attending conferences and other events.

Other people have, since her original post, said that behavior like that (propositioning a stranger in an empty hotel elevator at 4am) is threatening, and you've said that it is not threatening. You've clarified that someone who's been attacked would probably think that it is threatening, or find it threatening, and that that's certainly understandable, but I think a lot of GRAR has grown out of your implication that they are 'subjectively allowed to have their opinion' but 'objectively wrong that such behavior is in any way threatening.'

There is a big difference between behavior intended to intimidate or threaten and behavior that unintentionally intimidates or threatens someone. That difference, though, is purely a matter of intent: to the person who is witnessing the behavior, all they have to go on is the behavior that is interpreted as threatening. In some cases, this is just a matter of unfortunate misunderstandings and cross-cultural miscommunication. In the case of the infamous 4am hotel elevator proposition, what we see is a vast majority of women talking about the topic saying, "Yes. That is at the very least totally inappropriate, and in most cases I'd be worried for my safety."

You can reiterate -- over and over and over and over -- how little you would be threatened by this. All that you have established is that you are not threatened by it. And since you are not a woman being propositioned in the elevator, it is not terribly relevant to the question, "Is propositioning a woman in an empty hotel elevator at 4am after following her home from the pub threatening or inappropriate behavior?" A pretty solid swath of the women in this discussion, and a fair number of men, say "Yes."

This brings us to the next part of the discussion: you've drawn a line between people you believe could legitimately feel threatened by this action, and those who, in your view, have no legitimate reason to feel threatened.


>> You honestly think I'm saying she's the only one to experience such violent events? There are many, hence why I have said "anyone" with those experiences would feel the same, women who have had the same experiences.

This implies that people who have not already been sexually assaulted would be unreasonable for feeling that a 4am hotel elevator proposition was impolite, inappropriate, or potentially dangerous. To use earlier analogies, this would be like saying that you're only allowed to find panhandlers uncomfortable or worrisome if you've actually been mugged.

Temporarily ignoring the fact that Rebecca's original point was about the cumulative effect of propositions being very disheartening -- not the danger of being isolated with a stranger -- this is still offensive for those who have friends or loved ones who have been attacked, or who realize that it is rarely A Dude With A Facemask who is likely to jump out and attack them, rather someone who is friendly and chill and nice but reacts very, very badly to not getting what they want.


>> I'm saying his actions taken in isolation should not have been threatening, it's sad that due to a history of truly coercive and forceful interactions would something like this seem to have the same potential.

karmioz, I understand that you're trying to say, "It is a pity that events have made this such," and you're trying to communicate that you understand there is a complex history behind someone interpreting X as negative when you do not. But please also understand that it is way more than the particular person's past experiences that contribute to the interpretation: Collapsing those things into, "If you were attacked in the past, I'd understand you could misinterpret this as threatening" can very easily come across as a minimizing dismissal to the women who have to live with those realities on a daily basis. While I don't believe it's what you intend to convey, it is obvious that it is what is coming across. And ironically, that kind of message problem is precisely what a lot of the arguments in this thread have revolved around: men trying to send one message and lots of women saying, "No, that is not what [action x] communicates to me at all."

I'm not trying to put words in anyones' mouth, and I'm just a dude, so I'm obviously not in a position to speak for women. I'm just trying to reiterate what I've heard them saying here in this thread, and in other conversations. I totally get arguing a point because you think it's right, but this particular hill is a treacherous one to make your stand on. Think hard about why such a huge number of women say they feel this way, and ask yourself whether they're all simply irrational, or whether there is something you've overlooked. Please?
posted by verb at 10:38 PM on July 5, 2011 [7 favorites]


No one is ever going to know what actually went down. What is depressing though is this is par for the course in the new, new atheism. Reactionary neopuritanism. Its like a Victorian melodrama from the 30's, I can almost see the "I do declare!" followed by a swoon over an outrageous indecency. The most repugnant aspect of all is turning all of this into a public spectacle, and pigeon-holing and microanalysing every minutiae. Enlightened? Freethinkers? Liberal? None of the above. Raging hystericists, moralists and prudes. Get the fuck over it. This is a bad as anything theists can come up with.
posted by felch at 10:43 PM on July 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


felch, you don't know anything about puritanism, enlightenment, or what "hysteria" means. To quote Brandon Lee in The Crow: "Try harder. Try again."
posted by Errant at 10:53 PM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


SomeOneElse: "Then there seem to be cases where some men are simply incredibly pushy and assertive. Isn't that exactly what movie and music and books and essentially the entire culture has told us to do?"

Romantic-Comedy Behavior Gets Real-Life Man Arrested
Marzano was taken into custody after violating a restraining order filed against him by Kellie Hamilton, 25, an attractive, unmarried kindergarten teacher who is new to the L.A. area. According to Hamilton, Marzano has stalked her for the past two months, spying on her, tapping her phone, serenading her with The Carpenters' "Close To You" at her place of employment, and tricking her into boarding Caribbean-bound jets.

Hamilton made the call to police at approximately 7:30 p.m., when she discovered that the bearded cable repairman she had let into her apartment was actually Marzano in disguise.

"Thank God he's in custody, and this nightmarish ordeal is finally over," said Hamilton, a single mother struggling to raise an adorable, towheaded boy all alone in the big city. "I repeatedly told him I wasn't interested, but he just kept resorting to crazier and crazier schemes to make me fall in love with him."

Marzano, who broke his leg last week falling off a ladder leaning against Hamilton's second-story bedroom window, said he was "extremely surprised" that his plan to woo Hamilton had failed.

"She was supposed to hate me at first but gradually be won over by my incredible persistence, telling me that no one has ever gone to such wild lengths to win her love," Marzano said. "But for some reason, her irritation never turned to affection."
posted by Rhaomi at 10:56 PM on July 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


...a lot of people are definitively saying that his behavior was the type that does engender feeling anxious in western society. I am stating that I do not believe that to be the case. That his behavior has more than one explanation, and that all advances do not need to seem predatory. It's a small point but one I still think worth stating. It's also unfair to say that all women feel this way...There are plenty of women who would not have reacted as she did, would not have felt as threatened.

karmiolz, I will grant you that his activities could fall either into the category "made the other rider feel threatened / preyed upon" or "did NOT make the other rider feel threatened / preyed upon." Is that the point you are trying to have heard, that not 100.00% of the women out there would have the same feelings about it?

If so, I'm happy to grant that point, since it appears Watson herself did not feel preyed upon, but (it appeared to me) slightly uncomfortable, but mostly unheard and annoyed. I might debate the percentages with you.

My question back to you is: what does your point matter? Since you agree that "many" women probably feel the same way, would you agree (not trying to corner you here, just testing how far our agreement extends) that her comment is useful feedback? Would you agree that an average man could reasonably be expected to know that many women might feel this way and to avoid causing this kind of discomfort for someone (although perhaps occasionally screwing up)?
posted by salvia at 11:11 PM on July 5, 2011


Social skills are just that: skills. Like most skills (e.g., playing guitar, public speaking, or knitting) you start out bad at 'em, and you improve, by and large, by practicing. The more you practice, the better you get. Socializing with women is no different; men who do it more often are generally better at it. Bartenders, waiters, and salesmen tend to be better with people -- and better with women -- than, say, I.T. workers because they work with people all day, every day rather than computers.

Trouble is, that necessarily implies that there's gonna be a lot of piss-poor socializing with women going on while the guy is still learning, before he achieves some level of proficiency. (Can we agree that creeping a girl out and/or making her even remotely fear for her own safety qualifies as "piss-poor"?? Good.) Even if the guy doesn't consciously realize he's "practicing", every interaction with a woman is indeed practice. And since the practice field is society, the unwitting practice partners are real live people, with real live feelings. Any negative interactions -- which are bound to happen due to lapses in judgement, empathy, timing, etc. -- are necessarily going to leave a bad impression on the subject. (And ego being what it is, it's easier for the guy to blame the other person, the woman, than to admit that he is too ugly, too old, too boorish, too boring, too stinky, or whatever it is that put him outside of her field of interest.)

So there's the dilemma: It takes years to get good at playing guitar, but nobody wants to hear you when you suck. And social skills are, by definition, not possible to practice in private.

This does not excuse bad behavior; I just don't see how it's avoidable.
posted by LordSludge at 11:15 PM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


This does not excuse bad behavior; I just don't see how it's avoidable.
posted by LordSludge


This whole comment on social skills and the lack thereof (plus the attendant creeping people out) is a critical point of debate. At what point do you stop saying 'aw, he's got no social skills so I'll overlook the insult/inappropriate comment/whatever' and say, wtf he's an adult male and a modicum of courtesy can be learnt/faked/acted out in public interactions.
posted by infini at 11:53 PM on July 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


"Drunk Guy Leaving Irish Pub Becomes Metaphor For All Of Society's Ills"
posted by ShutterBun at 12:04 AM on July 6, 2011


I also do not accept that this was just some shy, socially awkward guy who didn't know what he was doing was inappropriate. That argument has been advanced a lot in this thread.

Anecdotal, but some twenty years or so ago now, I had signed up for a workshop with a semi-famous woman who I was much enamored of. After this workshop was over, there was a banquet in another building, and 8x10s of this lady were available to buy and have signed. I bought one, and waited for her to be alone so that I could get it signed.

My thinking was pretty simple: if I approach her while she is talking to other people, I'll be interrupting, appear rude, and at best she'll quickly sign it so I'll get out of her conversation and leave her alone. At some point, she left the main area and was walking to a back room down a fairly dark hallway. It probably seemed like I jumped out of nowhere.

She was polite, and signed my photo, but I sensed she was uncomfortable. I thanked her and left her alone. It's probably illustrative of just how enamored I was that I spent a lot of time afterwards dwelling on the brief encounter, and how it might have gone better. All these years later, and this thread has been very helpful in that regard. So thanks.

But yeah, absolutely -- intelligent, well-meaning, shy and socially awkward guys do approach women inappropriately for innocuous reasons. They may even think they are considering the woman's feelings by doing so. People make mistakes and get it wrong sometimes, these things happen.

Incidentally, I would largely put the 'blame' for that on media; guys desperately want to know how to approach women 'successfully', they watch movies where men hook up with women, and they model their behavior on what they think works. I remind my kids all the time: don't confuse real life with movies, they are *not* the same.

Heck, until I started dating, I really thought the whole 'sure, they may not like it when you kiss them the first time, just kiss them really hard the second time and they'll put their arm around your neck and be into it' thing was real, not just a stupid (and harmful) Hollywood cliche.
posted by stinkycheese at 12:20 AM on July 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Hold your breath people. Sam Harris will be along shortly with an exciting new Science of Elevator Morality to get to the bottom of this. He'll just do his thing with the peaks and valleys, discover some moral "facts about the world" and tell us if Dawkins/elevator creep guy or PZ Myers/Watson are in the right here. Science™ has the answers!
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 12:37 AM on July 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


stinkycheese, did you proposition her for sex? No of course you didn't. That's why I really do not accept the framing that it was just some shy, socially awkward guy. The guy behaved very much like over-confident, creepy guys do. At least as much as he acted like a "shy" person.

Waited till her got her alone, pre-emptively said "don't take this the wrong way" (which is a command by the way), and then invited her to his bedroom. All after being there when she said she was tired and going to bed. Oh, and also after saying she was not a fan of come-ons in a professional setting. He asked this in a situation from which neither he nor she could conveniently escape. Escape from awkward social situations is like the bread and butter of we shy folk. Putting ourselves into an enclosed space that must then travel to another destination, all for the purpose of asking for something that is extremely difficult for us in even the best of circumstances? I just don't think so.

Mainly, I have to reject that because it is not true to my experience (it is usually assertive guys who put me in these type of spots) and also because the framing is only coming up as a way to minimize the situation. In reality, none of us know if he was shy or not, but it should not be hard to see that what he did was inappropriate no matter what his motives All the lady said was that being subject to these kinds of come-ons is "uncomfortable" and may contribute to the lack of women in these spaces. She wasn't hysterical about it, she didn't call the anonymous guy a rapist. It was more of a "Really? Don't do that".

Don't do it if you're shy, don't do it if you think you're Don Juan, don't do it if you really have some interesting thoughts on patriarchy you really genuinely want to share over coffee in the middle of the night. Just don't do that sort of thing if you don't want to discourage women from participating in this particular movement. That's it, that's all, anonymous guy is probably completely unaware of any of this, and for her simple, obvious statement Ms. Watson has been pilloried. Why?
posted by Danila at 12:41 AM on July 6, 2011


But how do you learn social skills?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 12:52 AM on July 6, 2011


At what point do you stop saying 'aw, he's got no social skills so I'll overlook the insult/inappropriate comment/whatever' and say, wtf he's an adult male and a modicum of courtesy can be learnt/faked/acted out in public interactions.

On a personal level, I'd say: "He's got poor social skills, so best to avoid this asshole." He's not your project, not your responsibility, and probably wouldn't respond well to coaching anyhow. (Or if you're creative/evil/desperate enough, you can boost his ego and get him to do your bidding, e.g. pay your rent, buy you nice things, etc.)

On a societal level, hell if I know, but I'll take a stab: Keep on the social pressure to broadly, if incrementally, influence behavior.

The thing is (and this is happening somewhat here), if you make people feel too bad about themselves for their behavior, they'll label YOU the asshole and dismiss your opinions, conveniently absolving themselves of any wrongdoing -- because hey who cares what that total asshole says anyhow! So it's tricky.

People are complicated.
posted by LordSludge at 12:56 AM on July 6, 2011


But how do you learn social skills?

Like any skill: By practicing.

If you're really serious about it, get a job bartending. Force yourself to interact with people, lots of people, on a regular basis.

And give yourself permission to screw up, a lot, especially at the beginning. Mistakes will happen, just try to learn from them. (Hopefully, Elevator Boy will never ever try to proposition a woman in an elevator again!)
posted by LordSludge at 1:07 AM on July 6, 2011


>>But how do you learn social skills?

>Like any skill: By practicing.


This. As someone who was absurdly socially inept as a youth, and now manages to talk with strangers and friends quite comfortably, I can say that practice works.

If you want to be all nerdalicious, think of it as an iterative process, where you try out something low risk, see how it works, make a minor adjustment, try it again, etc. And if even that feels like an insurmountable barrier, there are how-to manuals written for people on the autistic spectrum, which give very clear iterative approaches to both basic and advanced social interactions. (I'm not suggesting you are on the autistic spectrum, just that the same resources that work for them might also work for some non-autistic people with social difficulties.)

And either by reading, or by experience, you need to learn the no-go signals -- don't chase people who keep backing away, for example, or (as in the FPP) don't trap a person in an enclosed space and make a sudden and aggressive verbal overture.

Most people, most of the time, are craving social contact. People will talk about the stupidest and most trivial things, just to have an excuse to talk. That's great news, though, in that it makes it easy. It's not some imposition you are unilaterally demanding; it's a mutual craving as long as you don't behave in ways that worry or scare people.
posted by Forktine at 2:47 AM on July 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


somewhat relevant
First off: Women aren't telepathic. If someone's hitting on us in a way that totally disregards the kind of social conventions built up around the need for safety, personal space, respect, etc., then we don't know what's going on in his head.
Well, I think at the same time you have to appreciate that men aren't telepathic. As others said, in lots of places in the world the pervasive fear of rape isn't as common. We don't know if this guy was an American, or what. The woman who was called out goes to the University of Northern Iowa and probably grew up in a rural/small town setting. She might not have any intuitive idea what it's like to be afraid of strangers.

So that's an important point social conventions differ. The same way women can't know what's going on in a guys head, men can't know what's going on in a woman's head. That's why direct communication is best. And, when she directly communicated her disinterest, he did what she wanted.

One thing that bothers me about this thread is the idea that men need to either translate the 'signals' women are giving off with 100% accuracy, or else they are creepy assholes.

The interesting thing is that a lot of this has to do with the size difference between men and women. Women are afraid to be direct to men because they are afraid of physical violence, and men don't share that concern because if there is a fight you're not likely to see the women win. Maybe we need some technical advance that makes it easier for women to defeat men in hand to hand combat. Guns and Tasers won't work well in a confined setting.

The other thing, though is that 90% of this thread is about "This was inappropriate because she might have been afraid of being raped" when in fact she never actually said that. It could have simply been an issue of being annoyed at the whole thing. Annoyed and frustrated. So I think turning the thread into a huge "asking women out in elevators is scary and should never be done!!!" when in fact it may be a question of "asking women out in elevators is annoying because if you reject them you have to sit there and be awkward for a minute or two! It's annoying!" I think that would be less polarizing and may have been what she was trying to say.
I think this is misguided. Rebecca didn't name this guy so that everyone could point and shame him. She's trying to start a conversation about social norms. She's saying, "If you want more women to participate in these events, the norms of what is socially acceptable should be changed to make women feel more comfortable. Here's an example of behavior that should be considered outside the social norm." -- straight
But if she wanted to "start a conversation" why did she flip out on the girl who disagreed with her? That, in my mind is the real problem here. I realize "professional atheists" tend to be pretty shrill all the time, but if you just jump into a conversation and spout vitriolic stuff it does *not* change anyone's opinion. This is especially a problem when the person you're attacking is another women If women need to stick together in order to change male behavior, attacking other women isn't going to help.
And this just occurred to me. Dawkins is missing the correct rationalist counterargument. It is important for atheists to *breed* if they want to prevail. -- EmpressCallipygos
Okay I do not think that the average person who attends Atheist conventions is very similar to the average person who doesn't believe in god. There are lots of non-religious women out there. There may not be as many women who are "hard core" atheists who want to proselytize disbelief
I keep on coming back to the fact that she had just given a lecture on how women are sexualized at conferences, and how she had just mentioned to the people she was speaking with that she was tired and going to go to sleep.
We don't know if this guy had heard her lecture, or just the conversation she'd been in which might not have been about the topic of her lecture.
I cannot see how people objectively can say that his actions were definitely threatening.
Is anyone here saying that?
-- jessamyn
It was my impression that people were definetly saying that
All along I've simply been saying that an underlying tragedy is that what otherwise could be called rude, poor timing, inappropriate, takes on a far more sinister tone in light of other events. Her experiences have given her a heightened response to such situations -- karmiolz
Except for the fact that she never said anything like that that That's something that people just metastasized thread and it has completely dominated the discussion!

---

Another weird thing. How different the "Consensus" in this thread is then in the DSK thread. Here it's women need to be worried about rape all the time, there it was "There is no way to know if he raped her, so he's not guilty!!!"
posted by delmoi at 3:29 AM on July 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


So I think turning the thread into a huge "asking women out in elevators is scary and should never be done!!!" when in fact it may be a question of "asking women out in elevators is annoying because if you reject them you have to sit there and be awkward for a minute or two! It's annoying!" I think that would be less polarizing and may have been what she was trying to say.

If it was just a matter of it being annoying, there could be some weight to Dawkins et al's "oh you poor little thing having to SUFFER through all this ATTENTION" line of reasoning, but that is pointedly not what she's trying to say.

I'll grant you, she never said she was threatened, that argument arose in response to all the people going "What's the big deal? He asked and she said no quit your hysteria." What you find out by, you know, listening to what she is trying to say, is that this was an example of the kind of interactions that happen over and over to women in male-dominated events like Godless Con, and a reason why there might not be as many women there as we might like.

Obsessing over that particular guy's motives or social proficiency is missing the point in a big way. Who cares about that guy, the problem is that he's part of a Gauntlet of Grabass that many women have to face whenever they attend what should be professional or collegial events.
posted by Freyja at 5:06 AM on July 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wait a minute -- delmoi, you quote me thus --

And this just occurred to me. Dawkins is missing the correct rationalist counterargument. It is important for atheists to *breed* if they want to prevail. -- EmpressCallipygos

I did not say that. fourcheesemac did.

And while we're clarifying things -- Karmiolz did not say that Rebecca watson found the guy "threatening," that was a poor word choice on my part when I was in the midst of trying to understand what karmiolz was trying to say.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:12 AM on July 6, 2011


So I think turning the thread into a huge "asking women out in elevators is scary and should never be done!!!" when in fact it may be a question of "asking women out in elevators is annoying because if you reject them you have to sit there and be awkward for a minute or two! It's annoying!" I think that would be less polarizing and may have been what she was trying to say.

No, actually, she was trying to say it was annoying because "I JUST FINISHED telling a bunch of people that I don't like people seeing me exclusively as a sex object at these things, and I also JUST FINISHED telling a bunch of people that I was tired and I wanted to go to bed, and this guy ignored both of those things I said, and being ignored is annoying as fuck".

I am paraphrasing.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:13 AM on July 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


asking someone to have coffee isn't objectifying them as a sexual object and the numerous suggestions here trivialize actual cases of sexualization.
posted by Shit Parade at 5:16 AM on July 6, 2011


SP, in this case coffee was a euphemism. You know it. I know it. She knew it. And the asker knew it. Don't insult our intelligence.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:21 AM on July 6, 2011 [9 favorites]


No one is ever going to know what actually went down. What is depressing though is this is par for the course in the new, new atheism. Reactionary neopuritanism. Its like a Victorian melodrama from the 30's, I can almost see the "I do declare!" followed by a swoon over an outrageous indecency.

What we're talking about here is respect.

One of the major problems in the Victorian era was an inability to deal with sex on any social level. That type of environment is not conducive to mutual respect and would not have lead to better outcomes. In fact almost certainly any incident like this would not have been mentioned if it took place then. I'm glad we live in a time where at least we're getting to the point we can discuss these matters rather than pretend the feelings and opinions of women didn't matter. It's not anything like the Victorian era now, but we still have a long way to go.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:22 AM on July 6, 2011


I am not insulting your intelligence, the full sentence she quotes is something to the effect of: don't take this the wrong way, but I find you interesting, would like/do you want to come back to my hotel room for a cup of coffee.

How can people be so utterly confident this is a sexual solicitation? Verbally, it isn't, not at all.
posted by Shit Parade at 5:25 AM on July 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think the key part of the interaction is that the unknown elevator lothario respectfully accepted Watson's refusal. Being propositioned can be irritating, definitely, but in my experience it becomes threatening only when the propositioner shows persistence and an inability to respect an initial "no". If all men backed off immediately after being told clearly that their advances were not welcome, I think that would do far more to increase women's overall security than not being propositioned in elevators.

In other words, I think we're fighting the wrong battle here, but of course that's just my opinion (and I've read enough of these threads on MetaFilter to know that my views on these matters don't really match up with accepted gospel). Also, Rebecca Watson lost a lot of my sympathy given her highly public and personal attack on the critical female blogger. There should be room for everyone in feminism.
posted by Go Banana at 5:30 AM on July 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


How can people be so utterly confident this is a sexual solicitation? Verbally, it isn't, not at all.

I really don't know how to have a conversation with someone who refuses to acknowledge this simple mating ritual. Asking someone to come to their room, house, living space, is a pick up line. To make it sound a little less like that sometimes people say, "Don't take this the wrong way ..." What would be much more innocent is if he asked her to go to a coffee shop for a cup of coffee. That would not be misinterpreted as asking for sex.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:31 AM on July 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


I think the key part of the interaction is that the unknown elevator lothario respectfully accepted Watson's refusal.

Watson was saying that the act of propositioning in an elevator made her uncomfortable. I think it's enough that she said it, and plenty of other women have acknowledged similar feelings. I think you have to take them at their word that it makes them uncomfortable, otherwise you're ignoring what the real problem is.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:32 AM on July 6, 2011


Aaaaaaand we are back to square one.

Shit Parade, as a woman I would definitely take that as a sexual solicitation. Once upon a time as a naive young woman, I might have assumed he meant coffee, but I Got a Cue eventually and now I know better. One thing women learn pretty quickly is code for "Hey sexy lady, let's fuck." Why and how we learn this is sad, sad experience.

So you, Shit Parade, feel aggrieved that "Let's have coffee, now at 4:00 a.m. in my hotel room" no longer means "Let's have coffee"? Don't blame us, blame the men who have been using these sorts of come-ons to get us in their rooms and then pounce, "Oh come on! You don't seriously want coffee! At 4:00 a.m.??!! I know what you really want."
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:33 AM on July 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well, I think at the same time you have to appreciate that men aren't telepathic. As others said, in lots of places in the world the pervasive fear of rape isn't as common. We don't know if this guy was an American, or what.

I don't think it's got much to do with being American or not, or being from a small town vs. a city. I'm a non-American who grew up in a small town, and that would be really inappropriate behaviour here, as it would anywhere else I've been. It's not just some eccentric American foible that people would need to be telepathic to know about.

But okay, assuming that the man truly didn't realise this was not an okay thing to do and that it would make her feel really uncomfortable, and assuming that he is but one of many men who don't realise that - why is it so wrong of her to let him them know? She didn't accuse him of being a rapist and she didn't name him, and I truly don't understand why some people in here and elsewhere in the wider blogosphere discussions of this think it was unfair/inappropriate/mean of her to even mention it.

It seems like we're supposed to simultaneously believe that men can't be expected to know this is inappropriate without being told, and that it's unfair of us to tell them. Which makes little sense to me.
posted by Catseye at 5:33 AM on July 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


"Don't blame us, blame men?" really?

How about a thought experiment, suppose this person really did in fact want to have a discussion, how could he have said his intent any more clearly than he did?

asking her for coffee was not inappropriate.
posted by Shit Parade at 5:43 AM on July 6, 2011


How about a thought experiment, suppose this person really did in fact want to have a discussion, how could he have said his intent any more clearly than he did?

He could have asked her to go for a cup of coffee at a coffee shop while they were still at the bar.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:44 AM on July 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


I truly don't understand why some people in here and elsewhere in the wider blogosphere discussions of this think it was unfair/inappropriate/mean of her to even mention it.

Especially given how prominent male skeptics have been asking women what would make them more likely to attend conferences and conventions. Ask a question, get an answer, disagree with the answer and then pretend you never asked and it's rude for the answerer to even speak.
posted by harriet vane at 5:45 AM on July 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


Shit Parade, I'm not sure what battle you believe you're fighting. Are you trying to argue with women who feel uncomfortable about being propositioned by strangers in confined spaces, telling them their feelings are wrong to have? I think that's a losing battle. It shows people a great deal of disrespect to tell them that their feelings aren't valid. The feelings of these women are validated by their past experiences. I'd posit that it's the vast majority of women who feel this way. Are you trying very hard to tell them they don't have the right to feel this way, that their safety is less important than the feelings of some guy who propositions her?
posted by krinklyfig at 5:48 AM on July 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Watson was saying that the act of propositioning in an elevator made her uncomfortable. I think it's enough that she said it, and plenty of other women have acknowledged similar feelings. I think you have to take them at their word that it makes them uncomfortable, otherwise you're ignoring what the real problem is.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:32 AM on July 6 [+] [!]


I do take them at their word, and I'm not sure if anyone throughout this thread or the MeTa thread has said otherwise -- it would certainly be interesting if anyone claims that Rebecca was in fact not uncomfortable by a man asking her to have coffee back at his hotel room.

However, consider this, feeling uncomfortable is not equal to having had something "bad" or "inappropriate" occur. Sometimes I feel uncomfortable for no real reason, sometimes I am subjected to unreasonable fears, sometimes I react very poorly to certain situations because I am tired or cranky or whatever.

How about a thought experiment, suppose this person really did in fact want to have a discussion, how could he have said his intent any more clearly than he did?

He could have asked her to go for a cup of coffee at a coffee shop while they were still at the bar.


Sure, but having asked her a few minutes later in the elevator doesn't seem all that different, nor asking her to his room for coffee all that strange considering it was 4am and they are conference attendees (likely meaning nethier of them would know where to get coffee or where a coffee shop would be in Dublin that is open at 4am) Also it would be a close, convenient location.
posted by Shit Parade at 5:50 AM on July 6, 2011


It was a convention, right? They were both going to be there tomorrow? Why not ask to meet up the next day?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 5:52 AM on July 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


asking her for coffee a woman he had never talked with to his room while she was stuck on the elevator was not inappropriate.

Does that help? The coffee is 100% incidental; like the mythical french etchings or a "drink at my place" it's just there to provide a socially ok reason for the invitation. Everyone involved knows that what is on offer is s-e-x, not coffee.

But people have explained this now like ninety-gazillion times, and pretending to not get it at this point isn't as funny as it maybe feels.
posted by Forktine at 5:52 AM on July 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


How about a thought experiment, suppose this person really did in fact want to have a discussion, how could he have said his intent any more clearly than he did?

He could have invited her anywhere that didn't serve shitty coffee in tiny, single-serve pots poured into paper cups with non-dairy creamer. Or, he could have said, I understand it's late and you're heading to bed, I'd like to talk more when you have time. Would you mind meeting for a cup of coffee tomorrow?

Or, he could have waited and approached her the next day at the conference. Nothing was that pressing that it needed to be addressed at 4 a.m. when a person has just excused herself for the night.
posted by gladly at 5:53 AM on July 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


How can people be so utterly confident this is a sexual solicitation? Verbally, it isn't, not at all.

Here's the rule of thumb, as mentioned earlier in the thread. If Rebecca Watson had gone back to the room with him, and he'd tried to have sex with her, and she complained that it was an unexpected advance... how many people in this thread would accuse her of being stupid, dense, or deliberately obtuse? How many people would say, "Oh, come on! he asked you back to his room at 4am! For coffee!"

Cutting to the chase, if Rebecca Watson had been raped and pressed charges, would the defense attorney have argued that she obviously knew the man wanted to have sex with her before going back to the room? Would a jury believe him? Would they come to the conclusion that she wouldn't have gone back to the hotel room unless she was interested, but perhaps changed her mind midway through, or regretted it later?

Because those are real, legitimate questions -- not rhetorical ones. Women are told that they should understand that they are constantly being sized up by sex-hungry males, then told that they're stuck-up and self-centered when they act as if the statement is the truth.


How about a thought experiment, suppose this person really did in fact want to have a discussion, how could he have said his intent any more clearly than he did?

He could say, "I'm not hitting on you, honest! I'd just really like to talk." It's not that hard. Saying, "Don't take this the wrong way" does not mean that you aren't hitting on someone. It means you don't want them to think it's an insult or a bad idea. Have you ever had a salesman say, "Now, I know, no one wants to see a salesman..." before beginning his pitch? That does not mean he isn't selling anything.

if you use what is generally recognized as a pickup line, and you are not trying to pick someone up, you must be explicit about the fact that you're not trying to pick them up, or they will think you're trying to pick them up. This isn't rocket science. It's possible that this person had some manner of cognitive disorder, or was just totally socially inept. Ockham's Razor doesn't leave a lot of room for that, however, especially given the context.
posted by verb at 5:55 AM on July 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Again, suggesting that it is obvious that the man was asking for sex and not coffee is absurd. I have never held this belief.
posted by Shit Parade at 5:55 AM on July 6, 2011


However, consider this, feeling uncomfortable is not equal to having had something "bad" or "inappropriate" occur.

If it made Watson uncomfortable, it's inappropriate. It's also disrespectful to dismiss her feelings as not quite rising to the level of taking seriously.

Sure, but having asked her a few minutes later in the elevator doesn't seem all that different

Now you know. It's different.

nor asking her to his room for coffee all that strange considering it was 4am and they are conference attendees (likely meaning nethier of them would know where to get coffee or where a coffee shop would be in Dublin that is open at 4am)

Too bad for him. He could have asked to have coffee the next morning. After all, it was late and she said she was tired and wanted to go to bed. She already signaled loud and clear that she was not interested in proposals or even late night conversation as well as the fact that being thought of sexually in these circumstances was keeping women away. His request would not have come across as anything but a proposal by myself and so many other people here, and considering the context it was incredibly disrespectful. Clumsy at best. Well, he can learn. Can you?

Are you claiming that your interpretation is correct despite all the evidence to the contrary? On what basis? The literal one, where his words can only be interpreted in a strict sense but having nothing to do with how people normally interact?
posted by krinklyfig at 5:57 AM on July 6, 2011


Saying "I'm not hitting on you, honest" and then delivering a pickup line older than Moses still has more in common with opening a sentence with "I'm not a racist, but..." than with any actual invitation to intellectual discussion.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 5:59 AM on July 6, 2011 [7 favorites]


Again, suggesting that it is obvious that the man was asking for sex and not coffee is absurd. I have never held this belief.

Watch some movies made anywhere from the 1940s to today. You will see this often. Considering it was 4am and in the elevator of the hotel, and he was asking her to come to his hotel room, I can't imagine what else he might have had in mind. If he meant for his intent to come across differently, he failed at communicating it.

It was not Watson's fault that she felt uncomfortable. She was trying to communicate to people who might attend these conferences that this is the type of behavior which makes women uncomfortable. You want to argue with that. Why? Is she incorrect along with all the other women here? Why do you get to say what women should feel?
posted by krinklyfig at 6:01 AM on July 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


How many conferences have people attended? People are often up late, often don't sleep much and often are there to meet new people and have interesting conversations.



However, consider this, feeling uncomfortable is not equal to having had something "bad" or "inappropriate" occur.

If it made Watson uncomfortable, it's inappropriate. It's also disrespectful to dismiss her feelings as not quite rising to the level of taking seriously.


Please, let's try to be honest and thoughtful. Watson is human, human beings feel all sorts of things for all sorts of reasons, but just assuming or a priori defining watson being uncomfortable as watson experiencing the inappropriate is tyrannical.
posted by Shit Parade at 6:01 AM on July 6, 2011


I think we are getting at something interesting here.
If he said nothing about coffee but instead said,

"I find you very fascinating. Would you like to come to bed with me tonight?"

Does that really change anything?
posted by The Violet Cypher at 6:04 AM on July 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Please, let's try to be honest and thoughtful. Watson is human, human beings feel all sorts of things for all sorts of reasons, but just assuming or a priori defining watson being uncomfortable as watson experiencing the inappropriate is tyrannical.

That is ridiculous. Asking for a bit of respect is not tyranny. You can show people respect without arguing that their feelings are incorrect. It really doesn't matter who is correct. If you don't respect people's boundaries, you are causing them discomfort or worse. Asking for respect of boundaries is not an unreasonable request. Calling it tyranny is juvenile. Note: I'm not saying you're juvenile. Your words are.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:06 AM on July 6, 2011 [1 favorite]



Saying "I'm not hitting on you, honest" and then delivering a pickup line older than Moses still has more in common with opening a sentence with "I'm not a racist, but..." than with any actual invitation to intellectual discussion.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 5:59 AM on July 6 [+] [!]


I am not denying that the coffee offer was in fact an offer for sex. What I am bringing up is the assumption, like it is a fact as easily known as 2+2=4 that is was an offer for sex. It could very reasonable not have been, he said "don't take this the wrong way" he said this in context of a woman who was there to speak about gender relations, and he said he found her "interesting", sure anything can be interpreted with one slant or another, but the most obvious interpretation is often the literal.
posted by Shit Parade at 6:06 AM on July 6, 2011


Again, suggesting that it is obvious that the man was asking for sex and not coffee is absurd. I have never held this belief.

Welcome to the way the western world has functioned since at least the dawn of urbanization; for all I know back in the Neolithic period a guy would invite a woman back to his corner of the cave for reindeer soup and "conversation."

And having said that, of course it gets complicated in real life. I have been invited "up for coffee" more than a couple times where I was all convinced I'd scored... and then was served coffee and provided with conversation, and I still laugh at that dawning moment of recognition that the person really did just want to talk over coffee and no one was getting laid that night.

So there's your contradictory situation: you have to assume that a late night invitation for coffee has a sexual element (as in, don't say yes unless you are at least ok with the idea of some sexualization going on), but at the same time it is no guarantee of it, so don't go acting entitled or expecting it. Totally contradictory, totally ad hoc, and totally confusing would be a good summary, I think, but that's real life. It's not easy for anyone, and it's a guarantee that people will be reading from different play books.
posted by Forktine at 6:08 AM on July 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


It is tyranny when the feelings of one person decide what is and isn't appropriate human behavior -- think about that for a moment, think of what that sort of definition implies and then think about the historic context of when such a definition for the inappropriate was actually observed (such under kings or priests).
posted by Shit Parade at 6:09 AM on July 6, 2011


Shit Parade, I give up. If it's really that difficult for you to show someone respect, I can't make you do it. You'll have to learn. Or not. But if you don't, you're not helping anyone.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:10 AM on July 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


It is tyranny when the feelings of one person decide what is and isn't appropriate human behavior

What one person decides is appropriate is also what so, so many women here are telling you is inappropriate. Is that not enough? It's enough that someone says, this is inappropriate. It may only be for them. You have to respect that, or you disrespect their personal boundaries. You do not have any right to interact with someone and have them respond or feel the way you want. Now that's tyranny, demanding someone's time and attention.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:12 AM on July 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


It is tyranny when the feelings of one person decide what is and isn't appropriate human behavior -- think about that for a moment, think of what that sort of definition implies and then think about the historic context of when such a definition for the inappropriate was actually observed (such under kings or priests).

So, what you're suggesting is that if women are allowed to say, "It's inappropriate to follow a stranger hom from the pub at 4am, get into the elevator with her, and ask her to come back to your hotel room," then they will be exercising tyrannical power over men?

I mean, if that's not what you're saying, bully for you. But if it is? That's pretty much a giant blinking neon sign that says, "I DO NOT UNDERSTAND THE CONCEPT OF CULTURAL PRIVILEGE" hanging around your neck.
posted by verb at 6:14 AM on July 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


I am not denying that the coffee offer was in fact an offer for sex. What I am bringing up is the assumption, like it is a fact as easily known as 2+2=4 that is was an offer for sex.

So, you're saying that even though YOU YOURSELF agree he wanted to get into her pants, we should give him the benefit of the doubt? Even though not even you are doing that any more?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:15 AM on July 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


By the way, we're not taking about rights here. We're talking about human interaction. Women are saying, en masse, this makes us uncomfortable. You are not obligated to act in any particular way. You can choose to acknowledge someone's feelings or not. You can choose to respect someone's request or not. You can choose to respect someone's boundaries or not. There is no tyranny involved. There may be consequences when people are upset you failed to show respect. That's life. Deal with it.

Now, I'm done.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:15 AM on July 6, 2011


I am focusing on the leap from "I am uncomfortable, behavior x or thing y is making me uncomfortable, therefore x or y is inappropriate". Now we can discuss what inappropriate entails, perhaps very little, but that leap from the uncomfortable to the inappropriate is very odd.
posted by Shit Parade at 6:16 AM on July 6, 2011



So, you're saying that even though YOU YOURSELF agree he wanted to get into her pants, we should give him the benefit of the doubt? Even though not even you are doing that any more?

I'll be more precise, he _could_ have been asking for sex implicitly, but I never made that assumption, plenty of people did, but it is an assumption and not necessarily the best one to make.
posted by Shit Parade at 6:18 AM on July 6, 2011


I am focusing on the leap from "I am uncomfortable, behavior x or thing y is making me uncomfortable, therefore x or y is inappropriate". Now we can discuss what inappropriate entails, perhaps very little, but that leap from the uncomfortable to the inappropriate is very odd.

It's inappropriate FOR HER, and for every woman who has told you it makes them uncomfortable. It's inappropriate BECAUSE it makes them uncomfortable. If someone has told you something makes them uncomfortable, and you do it anyway, that's inappropriate. Get it?
posted by krinklyfig at 6:19 AM on July 6, 2011


I'll be more precise, he _could_ have been asking for sex implicitly, but I never made that assumption, plenty of people did, but it is an assumption and not necessarily the best one to make.

IT DOESN'T MATTER!

He could have been sincere.

IT DOESN'T MATTER!

This woman was saying, here's something that makes me uncomfortable. If he wishes to be interpreted differently, there are many ways he could have done so.

Is it that difficult?
posted by krinklyfig at 6:20 AM on July 6, 2011


Damn, this is so frustrating it's unreal ...
posted by krinklyfig at 6:20 AM on July 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


I am focusing on the leap from "I am uncomfortable, behavior x or thing y is making me uncomfortable, therefore x or y is inappropriate". Now we can discuss what inappropriate entails, perhaps very little, but that leap from the uncomfortable to the inappropriate is very odd.

Perhaps the thing that's hanging you up is the matter of what it was he did, so let's swap something else out. Let's go with, "singing in your apartment", the way I did upthread.

I have a roommate who is studying for the bar exam in her room. I start singing "Gimme Shelter" in my room. My roommate comes out and tells me "I'm sorry, but your singing is interrupting my studying right now." However, I roll my eyes and continue singing.

The fact that I continue singing is inappropriate, but it is not inappropriate because singing is itself an inappropriate thing to do. In a different context, in fact, singing is fine. In this time and place, however, my continuing to sing is inappropriate because someone told me that "that thing you are doing is negatively affecting me, and I would like you to cut it out."

It's not the act itself which was inappropriate, it was the fact that he did it after people had said he shouldn't. Doesn't matter what action was in question -- asking someone for coffee, juggling, games of rock-paper-scissors -- he had been given ample warning that "this is not an appropriate time or place to invite someone for coffee," but he did it anyway.

THAT is why it was inappropriate.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:25 AM on July 6, 2011


How many conferences have people attended? People are often up late, often don't sleep much and often are there to meet new people and have interesting conversations.

I've been to a lot of conferences, and been in groups of people that on more than one occasion, shut the hotel bar down. Sometimes we weren't done with the conversation yet, and moved things to the hotel lobby. Sometimes someone would say "You guys [please note plural] wanna come back to my room? We can break into the minibar!" In my experience, if one person invited another person - one-on-one - back to their room, it was to continue the conversation in a horizontal manner.
posted by rtha at 6:28 AM on July 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Let's use a more absurd example, I tell someone on the subway, hey, you are wearing red and it is making me uncomfortable, it is inappropriate for you continue wearing red.
posted by Shit Parade at 6:29 AM on July 6, 2011


Let's use a more absurd example, I tell someone on the subway, hey, you are wearing red and it is making me uncomfortable, it is inappropriate for you continue wearing red.

How is wearing red crossing anyone's personal boundaries? I'd say that's a personal problem.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:31 AM on July 6, 2011


Okay, 4am coffee is obviously a come on. I am always inclined in situations like this, to get more context for the story. She gave the talk sometime during the day - what happened that led up to being in the hotel bar until 4am? What was being talked about, were people drinking, was it a serious discussion? Were there a handful of people? 30 people?

It's unreal that this discussion is happening rapid-fire in two different locations.

There are a lot of comments over three echoing mine, that a good solution (surprise) is for men to stop hitting on women unless there is a pretty explicit sign it is welcome. I like this comment: "In this case, this means if you can't be reasonably sure that you can start a conversation with a woman without making her feel uncomfortable, don't do it at all."

I guess some people want to keep playing the guessing game, but I think it would be great if men just did not hit on women, barring basically a checkered flag wave of acceptance. Women all over the world could go to work in peace and interact without being constantly hit on. Sexual harassment would be more obvious. Not every problem would go away, but it would certainly cut out a lot of this shitty game people want to continue to play. Give the power to women. Women come onto men. Men do not come on to women.
posted by rakim at 6:35 AM on July 6, 2011



Let's use a more absurd example, I tell someone on the subway, hey, you are wearing red and it is making me uncomfortable, it is inappropriate for you continue wearing red.

How is wearing red crossing anyone's personal boundaries? I'd say that's a personal problem.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:31 AM on July 6 [+] [!]


Now we're getting somewhere. Experiencing uncomfort isn't necessarily experiencing the inappropriate. Sometimes (not saying this is one of those times) being uncomfortable is a personal problem -- an easy example might be homophobia or being a racist or being a sexist.
posted by Shit Parade at 6:35 AM on July 6, 2011


Let's use a more absurd example, I tell someone on the subway, hey, you are wearing red and it is making me uncomfortable, it is inappropriate for you continue wearing red.

You realize of course that interacting with another person is different than your choice of clothing colors, right? Like, if I yell at you it's different than wearing a hat? Or if I ask you for money it's not the same as liking pie?

Or if I follow someone from the pub to their hotel at 4am, get into the elevator with them, introduce myself, and ask them back to my hotel room... it's different than wearing the color red? You get that, right?
posted by verb at 6:37 AM on July 6, 2011 [7 favorites]


Let's use a more absurd example, I tell someone on the subway, hey, you are wearing red and it is making me uncomfortable, it is inappropriate for you continue wearing red.

It's closer to, "Don't take this the wrong way, but you look really good in red. I'd love to see you wearing this red sweater I have. Would you like to come back to my hotel room and put it on?"
posted by gladly at 6:38 AM on July 6, 2011


Let's use a more absurd example, I tell someone on the subway, hey, you are wearing red and it is making me uncomfortable, it is inappropriate for you continue wearing red.

You admit yourself, though, that it is an absurd example.

I trusted that you had the sufficient degree of sense to know that there were exceptions to that rule, but if you would like, I can spell it out --

"When a person states that another person's behavior is making them uncomfortable, and has a valid reason for doing so, then it is inappropriate for the second person to continue."

"Your singing is interrupting my studying" is a very valid justification to ask someone to stop singing. "Asking me back to your room for coffee at 4 am makes me uncomfortable because I'm not sure of your true intentions, and besides I already told people I was tired and wanted to go to sleep" is a very valid justification. "Red looks weird" is...not quite as valid, that I can see.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:38 AM on July 6, 2011


Let's use a more absurd example, I tell someone on the subway, hey, you are wearing red and it is making me uncomfortable, it is inappropriate for you continue wearing red.

It's closer to, "Don't take this the wrong way, but you look really good in red. I'd love to see you wearing this red sweater I have. Would you like to come back to my hotel room and put it on?"


Oh, and she'd just spent the bulk of the subway ride telling her seat companion, "You know, I just don't like wearing red. It makes me feel uncomfortable."
posted by gladly at 6:40 AM on July 6, 2011


asking someone to have coffee isn't objectifying them as a sexual object ...

This echoes Dawkins' response exactly. Inviting somebody up to room at night is code for "want to have sex." It's not the same thing as "want to grab some coffee." Anybody with basic cultural literacy knows that. We are not going have a conversation about sexual harassment and what constitutes sexual harassment by pretending it's about coffee. It's a refusal to have a conversation about the topic.

Changing the subject to rape does the same thing. We can all agree that rape is bad, just as we can all agree that inviting somebody for coffee is normal and OK. This isn't about rape or coffee, it's about sexual harassment. Watson's claim was that sexual harassment is a problem at atheist conventions and that this discourages women from participating in the atheist community. She also gave this incident as an example of the kind of behavior she thinks is a problem, and, since it happened right after she gave a presentation on sexism, that some people don't get it.

(I know a lot of people have brought up rape in this conversation as a explanation of why women find some situations uncomfortable that might not bother men. That's different. Not all cases of bringing it up are changing the subject.)

If you think it's OK to catch strange women with whom you've no prior contact when they're by themselves and sexually proposition them when you're at conferences, you need to explain why you think that's the case. If it's clear that this sort of thing happens a lot and a lot of women find this this sort of thing really annoying and don't like attending conferences for that reason, you need to explain why you don't think that's a problem.

(On preview, I see that I'm now participating in pile on. But this refusal to engage conversation has been a problem since before this conversation got to MetaFilter. It's pointless to engage with someone who pointedly refuses to do so. But I think it's worth asking why people refuse to engage.)
posted by nangar at 6:48 AM on July 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I used a absurd example because the issue in the thread is obviously too emotionally charged to clearly see simple distinctions. And an absurd example highlights the simple distinction I am making.

Now, "valid reason for doing so" is a vague and open definition which could be useful. Reaching a consensus on what is and isn't valid is unlikely to happen here, but you never know.
posted by Shit Parade at 6:50 AM on July 6, 2011


Now, "valid reason for doing so" is a vague and open definition which could be useful. Reaching a consensus on what is and isn't valid is unlikely to happen here, but you never know.

If only there were some way for us to determine -- as a group -- whether you mind me pissing on your car. Sadly, we are unlikely to reach consensus here.
posted by verb at 6:56 AM on July 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


I used a absurd example because the issue in the thread is obviously too emotionally charged to clearly see simple distinctions.

I went with "singing while my roommate is trying to study for the bar exam" for that very reason.

And an absurd example highlights the simple distinction I am making.

No, an absurd example was just an effort to be deliberately obtuse.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:59 AM on July 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


When I was three, my family was attacked by wild dogs (bear with me, I swear this is relevant). None of us were hurt - we got into the car in time - but it was a terrifying experience for all of us, and it left me with a phobia of big dogs for a long time. Anything larger and more wolfish than a beagle would make me nervous and jumpy if it got too close. God forbid it started barking. But even as a kid, I didn't resent people for walking their dogs near me. After all, how were they supposed to know?


This is not that situation. You don't have to be especially uptight to get annoyed when you say "I need to go do X" and a complete stranger walks up to you and suggests doing Y instead because that's what he wants to do. You don't need some social phobia to be uncomfortable with being propositioned out of the blue on an elevator. These are normal human reactions that Elevator Guy shouldn't need a cheat sheet to figure out.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 7:01 AM on July 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


When I was three, my family was attacked by wild dogs (bear with me, I swear this is relevant)

I am really sorry that happened. Also, that's a great sentence.
posted by rakim at 7:07 AM on July 6, 2011


Let's use a more absurd example, I tell someone on the subway, hey, you are wearing red and it is making me uncomfortable, it is inappropriate for you continue wearing red.

The really fascinating part is that this kind of shit that you're using as an absurd hypothetical is actually what real women have dealt with in the real world for ages. Womens' attire has been a subject of public interest, justification for shaming, and even a rationalization for physical attacks, many times.

It's ironic that you would use that particular example to demonstrate the absurd and unrealistic.
posted by verb at 7:10 AM on July 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


[folks at the point at which we are calling people trolls or saying they're on the spectrum we need to disengage. I know this is frustrating for a lot of people but turning it into one person's referendum on their beliefs is tiresome and non-constructive. You can take this to MeTa and you probably should.]
posted by jessamyn at 7:11 AM on July 6, 2011


I am not trolling. (I am not trolling) Please stop accusing me of trolling. It does nothing but ignore what I am writing.

I used an absurd example to drive home the point that being uncomfortable is not the same as being effected by inappropriate behavior.

A lot of this thread has been about not understanding how someone feels, or assuming people most know this or that. There is no cultural authority that says asking someone for coffee _must_ mean asking them for sex.
posted by Shit Parade at 7:12 AM on July 6, 2011


Listen, if St. Alia and I got on an elevator together at 4 am (keep in mind that we're both women), and out of the blue she said to me "Want to come to my room for coffee?" I would be all WTF? Who is this strange person, and what does she want from me?

An invitation to coffee, in and of itself, is not weird. When given by a strangers, at 4 am, when you are trapped together in a small moving box, puts the weird-o-meter on high.
posted by rtha at 7:12 AM on July 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


A lot of this thread has been about not understanding how someone feels, or assuming people most know this or that. There is no cultural authority that says asking someone for coffee _must_ mean asking them for sex.

Why does everyone here disagree with you on that? Are you right and the rest of us incorrect? Even if you didn't know, you do now. So, what's the problem?
posted by krinklyfig at 7:15 AM on July 6, 2011


Shit Parade, I gave you an example where asking to go to coffee would not be an invitation for sex. That would be if he asked Watson to go to coffee in a public space while they were still at the bar. If it's inconvenient, well, perhaps it's not the best time to ask for a meeting and not have it be taken a different way. Why not wait until the next day? Why is it necessary that this man's wishes and feelings be honored and not the woman's?
posted by krinklyfig at 7:18 AM on July 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


That would be if he asked Watson to go to coffee in a public space while they were still at the bar

In other words, going to a cafe or coffee shop. If none were open, it's really not important enough to go back to his room. It's an awfully intimate setting for two strangers at 4am. So is an elevator.
posted by krinklyfig at 7:20 AM on July 6, 2011


When I was three, my family was attacked by wild dogs (bear with me, I swear this is relevant).

Thank goodness you had the bear with you, otherwise who knows what would have happened?
posted by Daily Alice at 7:22 AM on July 6, 2011 [14 favorites]


There is no cultural authority that says asking someone for coffee _must_ mean asking them for sex.

The reason it's frustrating for people is that this has already come up and been dealt with in this very thread several times.

Asking someone if they would like to have coffee is not a proposition. It could be mildly flirtatious depending on the context, but a simple coffee-related inquiry is not. But when a stranger follows you back from a bar to your hotel at 4am, gets into the elevator with you, and asks you if you'd like to join them in their room, it is generally understood to be a proposition.

Like the other examples in this thread of people picking at one specific detail of the incident and asking why it's wrong, it fails because it ignores the context. It's like saying, "There's nothing wrong with pushing a car's gas pedal!" after running a red light.
posted by verb at 7:23 AM on July 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


Damn, this is so frustrating it's unreal ...

That's because Shit Parade is asking the exact same questions that were answered 17 times in the thread already. But everyone who asks them seems to think they've come up with the perfect zinger that will convince the rest of us that respecting women's stated intentions is somehow far too difficult for anyone to achieve. Or (if they're particularly original with their zinger) that women's stated intentions aren't really important anyway.

1. Men ask how they can get more women to attend professional conferences.
2. Women say that they'd be more inclined to attend professional conferences if they were treated like professionals rather than walking vaginas.
3. Some men don't believe this, and nitpick the women's statements to death, as if the precise combination of location, time, surroundings, prior events, comparative resumes, quality of coffee, attractiveness of participants, phase of the moon and relative points scored in Angry Birds will somehow make the truth go away.

I'm removing this thread from Recent Activity. If someone wants their questions answered, they can read the fucking thread instead of insisting on special snowflake treatment.
posted by harriet vane at 7:24 AM on July 6, 2011 [22 favorites]


Metafilter: 1 0 days since a discussion about rape.
posted by AzzaMcKazza at 7:51 AM on July 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


1. Men ask how they can get more women to attend professional conferences.
2. Women say that they'd be more inclined to attend professional conferences if they were treated like professionals rather than walking vaginas.
3. Some men don't believe this, and nitpick the women's statements to death ...


The short word for this is stonewalling. 'There is no sexual harassment at conferences. We aren't going change our behavior. This woman did not say what she just said, and further more she's a very bad person for saying what she just didn't not say.'

I'm not part of this community. I don't know how widespread this sort of complete intransigence is. They'll have to fight it out. It's encouraging, though, that she did say what she did, and that some people are having a discussion about it.
posted by nangar at 7:51 AM on July 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


It does nothing but ignore what I am writing.

What have you said that is of substance so far?

It's a general fact that discomfort and impropriety are not correlated. One doesn't need absurd examples of that. There's one staring you in the face—the inept man has probably been enduring quite a bit of discomfort since the woman's complaint, and yet that is not inappropriate at all, even if somewhat pitiable. There is no big deal going on here, and I think your analysis is too naive.

It's also a general fact that there is no absolute interpretation of the "coffee" line, and the reason is that meanings with a given culture are malleable and varying from moment to moment. But it doesn't follow that this particular episode had no interpretation. A close reading of the situation gives us two possibilities: it really was a sexual advance, or it was a tasteless joke about a sensitive subject matter. The fact that many people focus on the first case is not a problem, and I'd argue it is natural and socially necessary. Moreover, both cases are inappropriate and easily relate to SkepChic's original complaints anyways.

In fact one could say it's the ambiguity that gives it that extra meta level of creepiness. "I was just joking!"
posted by polymodus at 8:07 AM on July 6, 2011


Assuming for the moment that the coffee line was intended as a come-on, why is it that we are equating being hit on with "being treated like walking vaginas" or "sexual harassment" or "objectification"? Acknowledging a person's sexuality does not limit them to being nothing but that sexuality. There seems to be a broad assumption here that if someone hits on you, they must see you as having literally no value save as something to fuck, and that assumption seems entirely baseless.
posted by kafziel at 8:07 AM on July 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


why is it that we are equating being hit on with "being treated like walking vaginas" or "sexual harassment" or "objectification"

I don't think people are doing that. It may appear that way in a casual reading, but that's not the equivalence being made. This has been explained by several people throughout the thead.
posted by polymodus at 8:10 AM on July 6, 2011


There seems to be a broad assumption here that if someone hits on you, they must see you as having literally no value save as something to fuck, and that assumption seems entirely baseless.

Okay, here's an analogy I used back in the Schroedinger's Rapist thread.

Say that you've spent weeks working on a presentation for work. You have stayed up late studying and researching, then writing the proposal you want to make, you have come up with a groundbreaking new avenue for your company to take and you have delved deep into how to make it work. Other people from the company hear that you are going to be making this proposal to the Board of directors, and come to support you. On the day of the proposal, you get up and make your presentation, which you have painstakingly crafted and sweat bullets to try to produce.

After that presentation, though, all anyone says to you is that wow, you must have been working out because your pecs looked really good.

Would you wonder whether anyone had paid any attention at all to what you'd said and the proposal itself, or whether they'd all spent the entire half-hour you gave your talk just looking at you? How might that feel, wondering whether they may be ignoring the content of your brain just because they thought you looked hot? Might that not feel devaluing?

Welcome to a common female experience.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:14 AM on July 6, 2011 [8 favorites]


why is it that we are equating being hit on with "being treated like walking vaginas" or "sexual harassment" or "objectification"?

Listen to Watson herself, in her latest post.
And I got messages from women who told me about how they had trouble attending pub gatherings and other events because they felt uncomfortable in a room full of men. They told me about how they were hit on constantly and it drove them away. I didn’t fully get it at the time, because I didn’t mind getting hit on. But I acknowledged their right to feel that way and I started suggesting to the men that maybe they relax a little and not try to get in the pants of every woman who walks through the door. Maybe they could wait for her to make the first move, just in case.

And then, for the past few years as the audience for Skepchick and SGU grew, I’ve had more and more messages from men who tell me what they’d like to do to me, sexually. More and more men touching me without permission at conferences.
I agree with Rebecca and echo what she is saying. Guys should not make the first move. Guys, wait for women to make the first move, just in case.
posted by rakim at 8:21 AM on July 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's a difference between hitting on someone and jumping immediately to "Wanna come up to my place?" One of them can, depending on specifics, indicate a desire for genuine social interaction. The other treats the target as a purely sexual being. No points for guessing which is which.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:23 AM on July 6, 2011


Assuming for the moment that the coffee line was intended as a come-on, why is it that we are equating being hit on with "being treated like walking vaginas" or "sexual harassment" or "objectification"?

What about being hit on when you specifically stated that you don't like it at conferences? And being hit on at 4 a.m. as you've excused yourself to go to bed? When is it appropriate to proposition someone who's stated that she didn't want to be propositioned? Or, is it always appropriate for a man to hit on someone, regardless of her wishes, because he's unsure of her receptiveness and misreads her signals (which is this case were particularly tricky and subtle since she gave a panel about not being hit on).
posted by gladly at 8:31 AM on July 6, 2011


There seems to be a broad assumption here that if someone hits on you, they must see you as having literally no value save as something to fuck, and that assumption seems entirely baseless.

If I go to a conference to discuss x, and most of the people who speak to me hit on me instead, it begins to feel like I can't discuss x in person, because people focus on my sexuality and not on my work. If I talk about x, but the people who speak to me are interested in y, it seems like they value me more for y than x.

I think, in the context of a conference or other networking event, many women would rather be regarded as academics and professionals first, and women second or not at all. When a large number of the people who want to talk to you are doing so for sexual reasons, it can leave you feeling like you aren't being taken seriously. It can also dissuade you from attending events, and making professional connections with people in your field.

There are times when I just want to be a brain on a stick.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 8:37 AM on July 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


Wow. Deliberate obtuseness? Outspoken creeper? Fantastically, irrepairably clueless?

Makes me want to rage-quit humanity.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:42 AM on July 6, 2011


Tags: atheism, sexism, feminism, richarddawkins

Dear lord, this thread never had a chance. If hipsters, parenting, NYTStyles, and malcolmgladwell were somehow included in this post, it would have broken Metafilter.
posted by SouthCNorthNY at 8:45 AM on July 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


kafziel, you might be interested in stclairose's video response (not one of the ones we been talking about). She's mostly talking the way some people were responding to Watson's talk rather than the talk itself, and emphasized that fighting sexual harassment shouldn't be interpreted to mean people should be hooking up at conferences. (And some people seemed to be interpreting it this way.) I haven't gone back and listened to it, but I believe she said something about "not confusing sexuality with sexism," and she did include the line “What effect do you think it has on men to be constantly told how sexist and destructive they are?”

Watson wasn't too happy about this this but she responded:

What I should have added is this: for the men (and women) who are behaving in sexist and destructive ways, I hope that pointing it out to them has the effect of making them consider their actions and stop being sexist and damaging.

and a bit later:

... the difference between sexual attraction and sexual objectification. The former is great – be attracted to people! Flirt, have fun, make friends, have sex, meet the love of your life, whatever floats your boat. But the latter involves dismissing a person’s feelings, desires, and identity, with a complete disinterest in how one’s actions will affect the “object” in question. That’s what we shouldn’t be doing. No, we feminists are not outlawing sexuality.

I think they're both saying about the same thing in different ways. (Though Watson might not agree.)
posted by nangar at 8:49 AM on July 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


There seems to be a broad assumption here that if someone hits on you, they must see you as having literally no value save as something to fuck, and that assumption seems entirely baseless.
If a person I have not previously met asks me to go off and sleep with him as the opener of our first conversation ever I don't think it's out of line to come away with the impression that his primary interest in me is my fuckability.
posted by Karmakaze at 8:50 AM on July 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


It's not the act itself which was inappropriate, it was the fact that he did it after people had said he shouldn't.

I thought I'd watched Ms. Watson's entire panel speech, but I don't recall anything specifically about hitting on someone in public. All I saw mentioned were hateful emails & YouTube comments, as well as sexually explicit emails.

She definitely sent a message that explicit sexual emails and hateful words are a no-no, but there didn't seem to be any suggestion that men were being warned not to proposition women (in general) or her (specifically).

If she had just given a panel discussion called "Don't pick up on women in bars," and the guy propositioned her on the way out of the room, that's one thing. But this was something like 10 hours later, and her speech pretty much just addressed bona fide sicko behavior. (it was not, as she said "right after," and her speech was about explicitly sexualizing her, not simply picking up on her)

Her experience is not an example of misogyny, or symbolic of a greater issue (sexism in the atheist community) or anything more than what it was: a guy making a bad choice about when and where to approach someone.

If she wanted to call him out for something, it should be "how not to successfully pick up women," rather than "this is what's wrong with our community."
posted by ShutterBun at 8:51 AM on July 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


I thought I'd watched Ms. Watson's entire panel speech, but I don't recall anything specifically about hitting on someone in public. All I saw mentioned were hateful emails & YouTube comments, as well as sexually explicit emails.

Shutterbun, had I known that my words were going to be parsed with the exactitude found in most Supreme Court sessions, I would have been more exacting with what I said.

Perhaps that is why so many people in this thread are not understanding this -- we were not all advised of the fact that our words would be subject to such exacting standards. Please let us know in advance whether you expect commentors to be thus discriminating so we have conduct a seance and channel the spirit of Louis Brandeis to write our comments. Thank you.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:56 AM on July 6, 2011


She definitely sent a message that explicit sexual emails and hateful words are a no-no, but there didn't seem to be any suggestion that men were being warned not to proposition women (in general) or her (specifically).

So she should have to give an enumerated list of what behaviors are not okay, and anything not on that list can be assumed to be just fine?

Men - women, too - should not have to be warned specifically that approaching someone who doesn't know you at all at 4 am with an invitation to join them for coffee in their room might be, at minimum, seen as odd, inappropriate, weird.
posted by rtha at 9:03 AM on July 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


I learned about the Recent Activity page from this thread. So, at least there's that. Next time, I get sucked in, I'll be able to waste time even more efficiently!
posted by Estragon at 9:06 AM on July 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm becoming more and more sad that this comic is not as fictional as one might think.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:07 AM on July 6, 2011


> I'm becoming more and more sad that this comic is not as fictional as one might think.

Heh: "Gotcha. Left boob of limits."

Next time he'll remember and try the right one ...
posted by nangar at 9:17 AM on July 6, 2011


If she wanted to call him out for something, it should be "how not to successfully pick up women," rather than "this is what's wrong with our community."

It's two sides of the same coin. A failed pickup fails because she feels uncomfortable. He gets rejected; she feels uncomfortable. Everybody loses.
posted by LordSludge at 9:59 AM on July 6, 2011


So her function at these conventions is to provide dating tips to men?
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:21 AM on July 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'll be more precise, he _could_ have been asking for sex implicitly, but I never made that assumption, plenty of people did, but it is an assumption and not necessarily the best one to make.

No, it's the best one to make.

You may or may not know this, but many late-night muggings begin with "Hey buddy, got a light?" Or something to that effect. The point is to distract the victim long enough to get a weapon out. Now then, imagine I'm walking down the street and a guy comes out of an alley and says "Hey buddy, got a light?" Could he genuinely want to light his cigarette and simply not have his own matches or lighter? Sure. But that's not what I'm going to think when he says that to me. I'm going to think he wants my wallet.

There are contexts where the reasonable interpretation of a given request is its literal meaning. There are other contexts where, due to a certain amount of cultural evolution, a request has come to be understood as an obvious ploy. "Do you want to come alone into my hotel room at the wee hours of the morning after we have been drinking for 'coffee'" is the latter.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 10:29 AM on July 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


Dear Men,

We understand that many of you would like to have sex with us. As it turns out, we women also tend to like to have sex! Some of us may even wish to have sex with you, men!

However, like the vast majority of people, we do not like feeling disrespected or ignored. We most especially do not like feeling disrespected or ignored in professional contexts, because that makes us feel as though you may value our sex appeal more than you value our ability to contribute useful ideas to an intellectual discussion. After all, how would you feel if you worked hard for years to become a respected expert on a particular subject, only to have many of your colleagues and fans treat you as though they were more inte