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July 07, 2011

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Even if you don't think that Rebecca Watson's feelings, as she expressed them, are worth taking into consideration when socializing with the opposite sex, or even trying to get laid, you don't have to attack her for expressing those feelings, which is what some people did. There was an ugly over-reaction to some number of reasonably measured and innocuous words she spoke. And I think it's been pretty well demonstrated that the feelings she expressed were not based on some irrational or imaginary fears, given the context of the situation.

Personally, I'd like to know what sort of male behaviors women think are creepy, not that all women will necessarily agree (I hear it's an imperfect world). I'd also like the freedom to take that into account as I see fit, which I don't is something anyone is saying I shouldn't have. I mean, if I'm not doing anything illegal, I can be as creepy as I want, right? But I'd kind of like to be as un-creepy as I possibly can, without putting myself into a complete social straight-jacket - something I think is entirely possible without inviting individual strangers to my hotel room at 4 AM - like, just us, alone, except for each other.

(I've reminded myself of that joke about the guy who was new in some backwater being invited to a party by a co-worker or neighbor, the enticement being the drinking, fighting and fncking that would happen, in that order. The new guy asks how many people would be there, only to find out it would just be the two of them.)

Also, that's an interesting comment, McKinney.

Which one, Ugh?

Phil, I'd be happy to look at the articles you're referring to. Jamie Leigh Jones lost her case because the overwhelming evidence showed she was not raped, period. Sex, yes, not rape. Further, the overwhelming evidence showed that she has been consistently less than honest, to put it mildly. It's not a "hyper-technical defense wins the day" kind of case; it's a case where the allegations just turned out not to be true. Parenthetically, I am not a criminal defense lawyer and wouldn't begin to know how to defend a rape case where the rapist actually was, or even appeared, guilty.

Ms. Jones does have psychological issues that bore directly on her claims, as found by the court-appointed independent psychiatrist. I didn't call any experts other than the court-appointed psychiatrist, nor did I retain any. I didn't put into evidence her history of prior allegations of sexual assault, she and her attorney did. I didn't put into evidence anything that she herself did not raise first, although it is likely that she raised some of these items pre-emptively.

She had a demonstrated history of falsifying events in her life, including other alleged acts of violence, grossly exaggerating them, with a consistent pattern of making herself a victim. All of which fit precisely the pattern of personality disorder found by the independent psychiatrist. Finally, her basic story at trial happened to be significantly different than the story she gave to her first outcry witness, the physician's assistant she next saw, and the army doctor who did the rape kit. She and her lawyer pitched the idea that the initial story was the product of the first outcry witness misunderstanding her and then passing along the misunderstanding to the physician's assistant (Jones claimed to have been too traumatized to speak at that point) who then passed the misinformation on to the army doc. The physician's assistant and army doc denied that, but it was still an open question. That fell apart when the last witness, Jones' father, testified that she told him directly the same story that she and her attorney claim she never told, i.e. the story that matched the one told to the outcry witness, the PA and the doc.

And what I've relayed is only part of the picture. If there is an article out there that includes any of this, I'd like to see it, because I've been looking for it.

I don't think it should necessarily become some kind of a wider social ethic that men shouldn't talk to women in elevators, or invite them to their rooms.

Sapient, I can't imagine a woman viewing a 4 a.m. invitation to a man's room, regardless of venue, being taken as a socially neutral statement. Enclosed in an elevator just makes it that much less so.

A lot of the comments against the man involved and the larger picture seem overblown to me, but the basic point seems more than right.

Put differently:

Question A--Is there any chance, at your convenience, I could follow up with you on your views? When and where is entirely up to you.

Question B--You're a very interesting person. Let's go to my room, have some coffee, and talk some more.

Question B leaves open the option for the responding female to say "Let's skip the coffee and and the chit-chat and get busy." That was, IMO, the conscious not so subtle subtext of the question actually asked. The woman was legitimately offended.

"Sapient, I can't imagine a woman viewing a 4 a.m. invitation to a man's room, regardless of venue, being taken as a socially neutral statement."

It's not unheard of for people (especially young people in college, for example, who have limited space) to hang out in each others' bedrooms to chat. But realizing that sometimes people want to engage in more intimate conduct, I still don't think it's offensive to suggest doing that. I'm a middle-aged person who grew up in an era when grown-ups were allowed to make choices about their behavior, and frequently did so. Maybe things have changed.

But realizing that sometimes people want to engage in more intimate conduct, I still don't think it's offensive to suggest doing that.

I'm 57. I don't ever remember a time when it was good manners to suggest, particularly as the first line in a conversation with a woman to whom you are a perfect stranger, that sex is an option you're making available to her.

" I don't ever remember a time when it was good manners to suggest, particularly as the first line in a conversation with a woman to whom you are a perfect stranger, that sex is an option you're making available to her."

Probably not done at Cotillion. On the other hand, the grounds for a woman being insulted is her potential reaction: "What? I'm not THAT kind of girl!" indicating that a desire in a woman to have a strictly physical relationship with a man makes her a sl*t. My peer group felt that such a sensibility was extremely sexist, in that men are presumed to enjoy sex for its own sake, whereas women are not allowed to do so.

It's not unheard of for people (especially young people in college, for example, who have limited space) to hang out in each others' bedrooms to chat.

I believe this is wrong. When I was in college (let's say within the last decade), people would often hang out in each other's bedrooms, but there were conditions attached: unless two people knew each other well, it was extremely unlikely for them to hang out, alone, in a bedroom together. And that makes sense: women are inculcated from day one to believe that they have to take all sorts of precautions to avoid rape and in my experience, a lot of my female college friends took that to mean "don't bring strange men to hang out with me alone in my bedroom".

Campuses have lots of semi-public spaces for small groups of students to congregate. That's what dorm lounge areas are for. Beyond that, people in college are operating within a social context: students talk about who is sketchy. Men that people know to be sketchy tend not to get invited alone into bedrooms no matter how long you've known them. So I don't think you can infer that lots of young women are perfectly happy having complete strangers sit with them alone in a hotel room in a foreign country.

But realizing that sometimes people want to engage in more intimate conduct, I still don't think it's offensive to suggest doing that.

I think context matters. Having "wanna fuck?" be your opening line to a complete stranger is perfectly acceptable at a meat-market bar but it is not acceptable in any company I've worked at and I really don't think it should be acceptable at most conferences. But what I think doesn't matter: I've heard from many many women that they want to be able to go through life without being constantly sexualized in all sorts of non-sexual contexts, including atheism conferences.

That doesn't mean that no one can ever proposition anyone else, but it does mean that if you want to proposition a complete stranger in a non-sexual context, you should make some tiny effort to verify that your interest is reciprocated. You know, like, have a conversation where you don't mention fucking in the first sentence. Maybe flirt a little and see if you get a response. If you're not competent to interpret those signals, then I don't think you have any business propositioning complete strangers in non-sexual contexts like an office or a conference.


I'm 57. I don't ever remember a time when it was good manners to suggest, particularly as the first line in a conversation with a woman to whom you are a perfect stranger, that sex is an option you're making available to her.

In my experience with the kids these days, this is still true. Even when two people are instantly attracted and in the mood for sex RIGHT NOW, there's some degree of flirting and signaling. Especially in the context of a conference where, by definition, you're interacting with people from far away who may have slightly different social norms.

that a man should not talk to a woman he doesn't know very well in an elevator, and especially never invite her to his room while in an elevator, because sometimes people rape other people in elevators.

sapient-

You seem to be [deliberately?] glossing over or altering some important details. I'm not gonna use the phrase that refers to a homunculus made from a certain dry grassy substance, but it's coming close.

Aside from observing (as you do) that certainly not everyone at a convention is looking to hook up - so don't be obnoxious about it - nobody is objecting to, say, some talking and flirting in the bar or some other safe area, hitting it off, and then maybe working out whose room to go to on the way up together in the elevator.

I'll leave it to you to work out the ways that situation differs from the sort of situation Watson is highlighting. Kind of one of those "spot the differences between these two pictures" games.

The bold part in your quote should give you a hint about one of those things.

"Flirting," "signaling" ? Lots of people misread flirting and signalling. So if you are afraid you misread flirting and signalling, you ask a polite question about "coffee". And when the answer is no, you realize you misread flirting and signalling.

jack lecou, I love your comments on this blog, so sorry to be on the wrong side, but all we have to go on is Watson's perspective. The "guy" was obviously someone in hearing distance of Watson since she stated that she thought he heard that she doesn't like to be "sexualized," whatever that means, however she was explaining it at the time at 4 a.m. to a bunch of drunk people. He was probably (?) part of a larger conversation, and who knows what eye contact, exchanges, etc., took place prior to the alleged act of invitation. I'm not suggesting that Watson in any way meant to send signals. Still, maybe something from his POV seemed that way to him. So why not make sure? Sadly, he was wrong. But very unremarkable and not a threat or an affront.

The problem isn't with what she said, it's that people want to turn her sensibilities into a social norm,

As I don't know how many people -- and women too! /sarcasm -- have said at this point, the "sensibilities" we're talking about are hardly some peculiar idiosyncrasy of Rebecca Watson's.

It's really not that hard. The tactics of rapists and creeps involve ignoring/testing women's boundaries, isolating them, and deliberately trying to make them uneasy or throw them off guard. The habits of self-centered jerks also tend to do this, though arguably not maliciously (if that makes it better).

So it might be better not to do that kind of stuff. Quite aside from any new "social norms", it's been kind of a rotten way to treat people since time began. Even before the invention of the elevator.

Happily, if you're already trying to be a decent person, you're probably already trying to go through life listening to people, paying a little attention to their boundaries and convenience, and trying not to uncomfortably corner people that don't necessarily want to be cornered. And you're probably doing fine, even if you screw up now and then (like we all do).

Hopefully, even if you've talked to someone on an elevator, you did it only because you already had some solid-ish clue about how they felt about it, so you weren't just cornering and demanding the attention of a complete stranger who hadn't given you any indication whatsoever that they would appreciate that.

Of course, if you're not trying to navigate life with a little bit of sensitivity, then, well, you are, in fact, acting like a creep. Deal with it.

"... you are, in fact, acting like a creep. Deal with it."

Thanks for the advice!

"Flirting," "signaling" ? Lots of people misread flirting and signalling. So if you are afraid you misread flirting and signalling, you ask a polite question about "coffee". And when the answer is no, you realize you misread flirting and signalling.

Ah, the "Asperger's gambit", or a variation.

I think this is the time when I point out that if one is the sort that finds social cues a bit baffling - and you have trouble with flirting and signalling - you should probably just take the advice helpfully proffered, and remember not to make your first verbal contact in someplace like a closed in elevator.

If you've talked to someone for a bit, and still haven't figured out what's going on, it's probably fine to ask. Just to do it in safe-ish seeming spot, and try to leave your conversation partner an out. Certainly don't start the conversation in the elevator.

"Certainly don't start the conversation in the elevator."

There was a conversation of some kind at the bar. Then there was a short walk to the elevator. Then there was a polite question. Then there was a no, thanks. Then there was a resolution.

I reject the "scared female in elevator" scenario. Watson's comments didn't even mention that. I haven't read the (apparently) tons of comments on other blogs to determine whether that was what Watson was really saying, but I just don't accept that women should be treated with verbal walking on eggshells depending on the location of where they are scared.

jack lecou, I love your comments on this blog, so sorry to be on the wrong side, but all we have to go on is Watson's perspective.

Thanks. Likewise. Sorry, typing comments rapid fire without stopping to read.

And for the record, I doubt you are a creep - which is why I find defense of creepiness kind of baffling.

He was probably (?) part of a larger conversation, and who knows what eye contact, exchanges, etc., took place prior to the alleged act of invitation. I'm not suggesting that Watson in any way meant to send signals.

I'm not sure of the details either - I think the "sexualized" part was actually part of her talk, which may or may not have been one of the topics at the bar. I believe she did say she'd announced being tired and heading back to her room. And I'm not sure she's said he was actually even part of the bar group.

Regardless, and granting your conjecture about the situation, isn't it kind of obvious why that's still really inappropriate?

It's skipping the whole "one on one in a safe context" step. He's using some ambiguous eye contact in a large group to justify ignoring her stated desire to go to sleep, and then abrogating himself the right to corner her in an elevator and invite her to an even more isolated situation?

Navigating our way through these kind of intimate negotiations is definitely tricky and often ambiguous, but there's still an obligation to make at least an honest effort to figure things out and not just accelerate from zero to making-people-reach-for-the-pepper-spray-(or-maybe-just-say-yes-because-it-will-go-better-for-me) creepy in one bound.

Putting it a different way, I think it's extremely patronizing to create categories of people (the "frightened") and decide that saying certain things to them is going to be too hurtful or upsetting. Rape happens. Women have to be strong, figure out strategies to combat it, and deal with the world. They needn't give up their sexual freedom, or their freedom to consent because the world is "helping" them get over their phobias.

You're free to creep women out all you like, I suppose, short of things that are against the law. And you might ask a woman you don't really know up to your room only to receive an acceptance of your proposal, which might even be followed by a good shagging - fun for all. But it's a hard maneuver to pull off, one fraught with the risk of creeping someone out rather than making her happy and comfortable.

I mean, do you think Watson was lying about being creeped out, or do you just think she's really unusual?

And it's not just about location. It's about the whole context. What time is it? Is anyone else around? Would it be easy to get away if necessary? (What's so hard about this? Are 4AM elevator proposals that necessary to forming relationships?)

"I mean, do you think Watson was lying about being creeped out, or do you just think she's really unusual?"

I assume she wasn't lying. I don't know what "creeped out" means - she didn't mention the fear of rape although other people have. Is she unusual? I guess not - considering the response on this blog, lots of women are afraid to be on elevators. That makes me even more depressed than I already was.

"Thanks. Likewise."

Thanks for the rare affirmation. Anyway, there's an interesting article by old schooler, Erica Jong, in the NYT. I'm not a huge fan of hers and she gets it wrong in some ways, but that's my generation (even though she's quite a bit older than me, but she was a prevailing influence.) Maybe I'm just old.

I'm not gonna use the phrase that refers to a homunculus made from a certain dry grassy substance, but it's coming close.

I'm a middle-aged person who grew up in an era when grown-ups were allowed to make choices about their behavior

So I guess it's that little homunculus who has been talking about what grownups are "allowed" to do. Because I still don't see anyone else here talking about that.

Count on JanieM to be needlessly insulting.

If "anyone else" were talking about it, I wouldn't really need to chime in. As I don't usually when someone else is making my views known.

Count on a conversation with sapient to become a quagmire.

You are misinterpeting my point for a change. My point is:

You keep using words like "allowed" and "control" as though there's someone else here who is trying to make sure people are "not allowed" to do things, who would like to "control" people's behavior somehow.

The "anyone else" that I mentioned relates to the fact that I don't see anyone here who is saying the words you're putting in our mouths ("control" "allowed" etc.), so okay, let me not try to make a joke, I think you're arguing with a straw man.


Believe it or not, JanieM, but I'm not arguing. I think women have the right to have free conversations in elevators, even though some of them are afraid to be there. I don't think it's right for people to self-censor based on the fact that some people are raped in some places. That makes conversation very difficult.

I don't think it's right for people to self-censor based on the fact that some people are raped in some places.

Most people who get along in the world at all self-censor a lot and for all kinds of reasons. Many people on this thread have given reasons -- from both sides of potential interactions -- why someone might want to self-censor, from being careful about other people's boundaries when you don't know what they are, to giving yourself a better chance of getting what you want by taking into account how you might be received.

You don't seem to want to take in or acknowledge the validity of any of that commentary, but okay, you're not arguing, you're just, as George Bernard Shaw once said, repeating your assertion. And (though Shaw didn't say this) saying that you don't agree with things that no one has said.

All kinds of things "make conversation very difficult," including a lot of varieties of failure to self-censor. In fact, the original story that triggered all this is a story of how failure to self-censor possibly squelched a conversation.

Sapient, I think refusing to self-censor your conversation just because the things you are saying are making everyone around you think of you as "that creep" or "that wannabe rapist", will also make conversation very difficult, unless you like talking to yourself. Not that there's anything wrong with that - at least you're talking to someone you love.


"Most people who get along in the world at all self-censor a lot and for all kinds of reasons. "

True enough. And most people who get along in the world blow off "creepiness" (whatever that means to them) or "rudeness" as they perceive it, which happens every single day in a variety of ways, and which, more often than not, wasn't meant as creepiness or rudeness, let alone as a threat.

Sometimes it's generous just to ignore what isn't comfortable.

Sure, Jes. Whatever you're trying to say is surely coherent to someone.

"What's so hard about this? "

Honestly, there are 128 comments here, "What's so hard about this?" was 120 comments ago.

I am nervous if someone follows me onto an elevator at 4am and starts up a conversation, until i know I can get off. Anyone acting confused about this is really at risk of getting mugged or just trolling.

"I am nervous if someone follows me onto an elevator at 4am and starts up a conversation, until i know I can get off. Anyone acting confused about this is really at risk of getting mugged or just trolling.'

I'm so glad I represent the creepy people against ObWi regulars, left and right!

Actually, I must be at risk of getting mugged.

Honestly (with no winks or nods or flirtations or signals), I have been on many elevators, late, even with one other person and not been afraid. I sometimes look at people in elevators, male and female, thinking that being in close contact with other human beings and not making eye contact is rude, and they avert their eyes . Now I know why. [I don't think of myself as a scary looking person. Unremarkable, I'm told. Some people think I look "nice." In a "nice" unthreatening way.] I guess I'm glad that people are communicating to other people that in order to protect the "afraid people", most people should wait for a vacant elevator. That's really the most polite thing to do. Or maybe turn toward the wall.

And ... Do muggers usually initiate conversation? I was mugged once, and the person just tried to punch me and grab stuff. No talk of coffe first.

There was a conversation of some kind at the bar. Then there was a short walk to the elevator. Then there was a polite question. Then there was a no, thanks. Then there was a resolution.

You left out a couple of steps.

Then, there was this statement:

Just a word to wise here, guys, don't do that.

And then she took a heaping ration o' shite.

I'm leaving aside the question of whether "not overtly threatening" counts as "polite".

I'm leaving aside the question of whether "not overtly threatening" counts as "polite".

Except that isn't "politeness" or "threat" the real question? Because the ration o'shite she allegedly "took" (not sure exactly what she experienced, not having delved extensively into the other forums) was all about whether the person who "invited" her was demonstrably a "creep". Whatever "creep" means. (And it means to me: a person with cooties, someone who would be horrible to be around, someone who is unnervingly disgusting and inappropriate, an untouchable...) .

Let me suggest that he "politely" invited her to his room for coffee. Some people think that such an invitation would be an affront under any circumstance (see McKinney). Some people suggest that it's a threat of rape, but maybe only in an elevator. I'm saying that I've been assaulted on a public street, without any words being spoken. It stands to reason that I should be afraid of anyone approaching me as I walk down a street in my town. But I'm not. And I'm not afraid of elevators. When I see a person whose countenance makes me nervous, I try to examine my own prejudices. People have a right to interact. People have a right to interact verbally about matters involving potential intimacy. Sex isn't a secret society whose Inns are only visited by the socially adept. The man asked a polite question and, when rejected, didn't pursue it. Big freaking deal. Move on.

Putting it a different way, I think it's extremely patronizing to create categories of people (the "frightened") and decide that saying certain things to them is going to be too hurtful or upsetting. Rape happens. Women have to be strong, figure out strategies to combat it, and deal with the world. They needn't give up their sexual freedom, or their freedom to consent because the world is "helping" them get over their phobias.

Is THAT what you think is going on?

All I can say is...well. I dunno. There's a lot wrong with that and I dunno where to start. There's about a hundred good reasons to be a little more aware about what other people might be feeling, or to be more careful about who/how/what you ask when you've cornered someone in an elevator.

The rape specter is one of them - but it's hardly the only one. Still, let's go with something in that category.

So, I'm pretty sure women HAVE created strategies to try to avoid getting raped. One of them is to treat unknown men who accost them in elevators with a certain amount of suspicion (or, as the usual advice goes - avoid getting on an elevator with a strange man in the first place; also - avoid standing too close to the doors; but I digress). One of the first lines of defense is basically to be on the lookout for certain signatures of behavior that mark the approach of a rapist. That includes ignoring/testing your boundaries or stated wishes. Trying to get you alone. Asking questions that are probably going to get a "no". Stuff like that.

So, one way you can look at this is just helping out a little bit with that whole rape thing:

For example, just to put some numbers on it, suppose that 1 in 20 men is actually a rapist, and another 1 in 20 some other variety of predatory creep. So 1 in 10 altogether.

And lets say that the other 9 out of 10 men are more or less well meaning, but about 4 of those 9 (so 4/10 of men as a whole) don't really care that much about the whole "boundaries" or "appropriate time and place" thing, and will do things that, in addition to being kind of rude or abrupt, look like the signature behavior of a predator.

The upshot of which is that a woman's "early warning alarm" is going to go off a lot more often than it should. So she's got to dial down the sensitivity to avoid too many false alarms. That is, she'll have to sometimes ignore the early warning signs when there is actual danger.

But what if most or all of those 9/10 "decent" men took some minor pains to make sure they weren't engaging in any of that rude, creepy looking behavior?

Suddenly, it'd be a lot easier to spot a real predator and distinguish him from all the merely annoying creeper act-alikes.

That'd be a win, I think. We might not have to say "rape happens" anymore. At least not as much.

And then there's still at least 99 other reasons to try to respect people's space and boundaries and feelings. That one wouldn't really even be the top of my list...

Dead horse, meet my foot.

Anyway, I think this whole thing is getting blown out of proportion and the original context, as well as can be discerned, has been lost. It's been said several times that no one is assuming control of anyone else's behavior. So there it is, again.

Another thing that seems to have been lost is that the creepiness in question had to do with a man asking a woman he didn't know well at all, and, supposedly, who didn't give any overt signal of sexual or other particlular interest in said man, to go up to his room at 4 AM while the two were alone in an elevator. If they had been hanging out with a bunch of other people at the bar beforehand, it seems there was ample opportunity to broach the question of her plans for the wee hours before they were alone on an elevator.

I suppose it's possible that this woman was a big tease and just flirted up a storm with this guy all night, leaving him with the very reasonable impression that she was somehow interested in him, making his proposal not very creepy. But I don't think that's very likely.

Now, doing what he did doesn't make the guy a creep, necessarily. But it may well have been a creepy thing to do, and he may have just been drunk and clueless. Well, now he shouldn't be so clueless. That should be good for everyone. He didn't get beat up or singled out by name or thrown in jail.

The moral of this story also shouldn't be taken to mean that no man, short of being creepy (that's all!), can ever, under any circumstances, ask a woman to his room. He just better be damned sure for some good reason that said woman is open to such an invitation (again, just to avoid being creepy, nothing more).

Big effin' deal. It sounds like pretty damned good advice. Quit whining.

The man asked a polite question and, when rejected, didn't pursue it. Big freaking deal. Move on.

Leaving aside whether or not the question was a polite one in the full context, a woman simply mentioned that such a question, in the context in which it was asked, made her uncomfortable. Big freaking deal. Move on.

Women have to be strong, figure out strategies to combat it, and deal with the world.

One of those strategies might be informing men of the things that are potentially alarming. That might be one way of dealing with the world.

You are mistaken, sapient. Rebecca responded to various comments at her blog. One of them was the same assumption you made. That there had been conversation with the creepy d00d in the bar. There had not. She stated quite clearly that she had never spoken to him before he followed her from the bar and in to the elevator at 4am and invited her to his room.
People such as yourself have speculated that people were drunk, even though they stop serving alcohol around two.
People have speculated that the d00d had aspergers.
They speculated all manner of things to convince themselves that a strange man following a woman from a bar and in to an elevator at 4am was not creepy stalker behavior.
The speculation was essential because the behavior itself was so obviously creepy stalker dood behavior.

sapient, you till are not listening.
You were assaulted on the street once.
Women are groped and harassed and cat called and propositioned constantly at these conventions, and in their daily life.
Srsly! It happens frequently. That is why it is an issue. This is not an unusual occurrence. That is why it is an issue. That is why she brought it up.

Maybe this will help you understand:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RZwM3GvaTRM

Contemplating some more on why her statements touched a nerve with me, and therefor I must step from the shadows, and TALK to PEOPLE on the INTERNET when I should be SLEEPING, I keep coming back to how my Gender Issues Advisor (who I met at a convention by the way) reacted when I summarized this bruhah for her. She strongly disagreed with the Ms Watson in personally disparaging terms. So, some women may have a very similar knee jerk reaction against SOMETHING in her account, even if its polite to not make people uncomfortable if it can be reasonably avoided.

Things that may have prejudiced my Gender Issues Advisor:

I told the story. I may have glossed over pertainant details, I may have emphasized trivialities, I may well have mistranslated into 'Guy'.

She has had a very similiar convention history to mine, as we met at her first convention, and we have not travelled more than 3 hours to a convention. All of the science fiction conventions that close to us have a lot of overlap in attendees (well, the sort who go to a convention every weekend, which we do not).

Neither of us have much experience with Residential Elevators. Elevators are things at places where we works, malls, and hotels. They are giant glass affairs that everyone can see into, or they are rooms that may be summoned to another floor with at a moments notice, and should never be approached with an expectation of total privacy. Surely that giant red STOP button will summon the fire department or something, and is NOT to be TOUCHED.

She has not travelled to foriegn countries, so she is not mentally on guard for guys who take eye contact as consent.

And probably most importantly, we met at a convention. Our first interaction she remembers involved an elevator (I was outside the elevator, offering advice on how to work around the fact that the evil thing would not leave our current floor, she decided to disregard my advice (to use the stairs to go one floor down and take an elevator there), because she only needed to go down one floor). By the end of that convention we had each spent some time in the other's hotel room. There was no funny stuff that occured in either hotel room. We just talked. Possibly into the wee hours.

So, Ms Watson placed a statement that was not emotionally true for us as part of a request, in the middle of an account that included emotially charged jargon, that read as an attack on 'our tibe' (convention goers in general I would guess, as neither of us are atheists).

So to be clear, even if hotels are creepy places with long hallways with lots of locked doors where people could follow you, and interational financiers harrass the cleaning staff, in our emotional view, during conventions, they are safe places, with lots of open doors and enough people meandering at all hours that most common areas always have a couple of people to talk to.

While elevators may be cramped spaces that induce vertigo, and you can't open the door without at least 30 seconds of lead time for it to get to the next floor, in our emotional view they are part of a well lit, very public space, where on any given ride there is a greater than 50% chance that someone else will pop into the elevator before you reach your destination.

While yes, for buisness travellers in a hotel bar, saying 'Wanna go to my room for coffee and talk?' is probably only a wordier way to say something that would be much simpler if you cocked an eyebrow and said 'Sex?', emotionally for us, it really did mean than we would like to talk more.

Delurker: I keep coming back to how my Gender Issues Advisor (who I met at a convention by the way) reacted when I summarized this bruhah for her. She strongly disagreed with the Ms Watson in personally disparaging terms.

Yay, we've finally got to the I Have A Woman Friend And She Agrees With Me argument. Can this be the end of the line?

thebewilderness: Maybe this will help you understand

No. Fairly sure the Edward Cullens of the Internet are really not capable of understanding how creepy they sound and how great it is when Buffy throws their avatar out of the window. But I found a remix version colour-corrected of the Buffy vs Edward: Twilight Showdown and it seemed worth coming back to share, because wow, that video rocks.

Jes, I didn't say she agreed with me. I said she had a knee jerk negative reaction. I would not be so foolish as to assume my one Female friend had exactly the same response as I did. For instance, I read about this on the internet, so I didn't feel I needed to verbalize what touched a nerve at the time. She was in a conversation about it, so she felt the need to blurted something out when she felt the emotional barb. Which might be why I was left with a much more ill defined feeling of what was 'wrong' with the account.

Blurt, darn you smart phone, Blurt is a word.

I admit to being much more interested in how something can be emotionally keyed to separate people into two groups "how can you reject a simple request to be polite" and "you call that misogyny? This is misogyny!" than how people should approach women at conventions ( I don't know how generalizable my grandparents as babysitter gambit is).

This is going on in politics, and while this blowup may be organic, elsewhere both of the main players are in on the con.

the creepiness in question had to do with a man asking a woman he didn't know well at all, and, supposedly, who didn't give any overt signal of sexual or other particlular interest in said man, to go up to his room at 4 AM while the two were alone in an elevator.

After she had spoken, in a panel discussion, about how she didn't like being harrassed by the fellow members of the atheist/skeptic community.

I dunno following her around all day, listening to every word and knowing the most likely locations for assaults seem pretty creepy to me.

admit to being much more interested in how something can be emotionally keyed to separate people into two groups "how can you reject a simple request to be polite" and "you call that misogyny? This is misogyny!" than how people should approach women at conventions

I note your distinction between "people" and "women".

I note also that this sentence quoted indicates you're really not interested in understanding anything about this, since you're unwilling to advance your understanding from the example provided, or indeed from any explanation provided to you in this thread.

As JanieM already said, very sensibly, if you decide to comment again and don't get a response, it doesn't mean anyone agrees with you: it just means you're on your own.

Women are Soylent Green.

Once, at a Star Trek conference, I witnessed a Mr. Spock imitator get on an elevator and before the door could close, twelve Klingons crowded on after him.

I bet his backpack was stuffed with tribbles, though.

Jes, not that you care, what with everything I say strangely relating to pie for you, but I was actually waving off sapient's mist recent posts.
My distinction between people and women was intended to imply that as a guy, I think that 'sex?' with an eyebrow twitch is all the nuance approaching a guy needs.

Going back over the comments, I notice that I have absolutely no idea what a Gender Issues Advisor could possibly mean. Which shouldn't surprise any of the long-timers, or any of the people-who-don't-comment-here-anymore-but-just-don't-know-how-to-quit-us.

That last part should have some kind of wryly humorous emoticon after it, but I am creaky on my emoticons.

Slarti... I am often humor- and irony- challenged, especially on the internet, where body language cues are not available, so I'm not entirely sure you're not kidding. But just in case you're serious: it took me too a while to understand that Delurker wasn't referring to some sort of college-like advisor/advisee relationship.

But I do believe he means his wife.

Watson has commented further, btw. You know, in case anyone (coughsapientcough) cares what the actual target of the behavior in question thinks.

yes, Richard Dawkins believes I should be a good girl and just shut up about being sexually objectified because it doesn’t bother him. Thanks, wealthy old heterosexual white man!

. . . 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. More and more threats of rape from those who don’t agree with me, even from those who consider themselves skeptics and atheists. More and more people telling me to shut up and go back to talking about Bigfoot and other topics that really matter.

And I said no. I learned more about modern feminism and about how their goals so clearly overlapped those of the humanists and skeptics and secularists, and I wrote and spoke more about the issues within that overlap because so few other skeptics were doing it.

So here we are today. I am a feminist, because skeptics and atheists made me one. Every time I mention, however delicately, a possible issue of misogyny or objectification in our community, the response I get shows me that the problem is much worse than I thought, and so I grow angrier. I knew that eventually I would reach a sort of feminist singularity where I would explode and in my place would rise some kind of Captain Planet-type superhero but for feminists. I believe that day has nearly arrived.

. . . So to have my concerns – and more so the concerns of other women who have survived rape and sexual assault – dismissed thanks to a rich white man comparing them to the plight of women who are mutilated, is insulting to all of us. Feminists in the west have been staunch allies of the women being brutalized elsewhere, and they’ve done a hell of a lot more than Richard Dawkins when it comes to making a difference in their lives.

Yes JanieM, I was stealing a phrase I may have misheard, to indicate that I have someone whose opinion I trust, who tends to be pretty quick to correct me when I am wrong on gender issues. I do not expect anyone else to take my stance of her assumed infallibility on those issues, however.

McTx: Which one, Ugh?

This one:

Nonetheless, people like Jamie Leigh Jones, given the high profile she and her attorneys engineered, will be a further deterrent to women coming forward. That is not my doing and certainly not my client's, who has paid and will continue to pay a very high price for having been singled out by Jones and vilified for years on the internet.

And I guess you're subsequent longer follow up at 5:01pm.

Maybe I'm parsing them too closely, they're just blog comments, not carefully crafted public statements on the case.

Ugh, I guess now I should ask, to follow up on your original statement: interesting in what way?

But I do believe he means his wife.


Oh. *foreheadslap*

Sometimes I'm -3σ WRT uptake-quickness relative to my mean setting (which is itself -3σ relative to the general population).

This may come across as against type, but I mostly agree with the Watson side of the argument. Her initial point was rather limited--that it is creepy to proposition a stranger in an elevator late at night, even if your intentions aren't creepy. She didn't accuse him of being a rapist, or wannabe rapist, or even a general creep. Just said that the proposition was on the creepy side.

I come at this from another side--I'm gay, and started out painfully shy. In my younger years I was the subject of many creepy propositions in weird situations, and I didn't know how to handle them well. I wasn't in serious danger of being raped except once (at least so far as I know), but I didn't know how to gracefully handle it. I internalized it in a weird way--I was determined not to ever be the creepy one, so it took me a lot longer to learn to flirt better. Hmmm, and I think some would argue that I still haven't got the knack of it.

The blow up after her initial comment is really interesting, but I'm not so sure it says anything in particular about the atheist community. It says something about people--we really suck at interacting with each other. That is true in the Christian, and Muslim, and atheist, and don't-care-about-god communities. We are however, really really good at overreacting to each other.

When I read the reactions that this post (and the originals to which it refers) have aroused, I keep flashing on two key texts of Western civilization:


The disciples (after Jesus has said "One of you shall betray me"): "Lord, is it I?"


Travis Bickle: "You talkin' to me?"


IOW, most people are responding less to what happened than to an image (or remembrance) of themselves in a similar situation, and assuming it's all about THEM. ("Delurker" is just more explicit about this than most of us.)

It isn't, really. Except that if you have done, or are about to do, or are considering doing sometime in the indefinite future, certain things in certain contexts, you now know - however much you choose to deny it - that these things may well be regarded as "creepy."

(For "you" read "we," actually - my own first reaction, of course, was to ask "How might this apply to me?")

It really doesn't help to go into a hissy fit and say in effect "No one has the right to try to make me feel bad about myself!," which seems to be the gist of Sapient's numerous forays into the fray.

It's simply an anecdote turned into advice, advice which seems to me reasonably good. (I probably could have benefited from this many decades ago when I was young and horny and clueless, whereas now I am old . . . ) If you project this as an attempt to "ban" certain kinds of behavior that you enjoy, and plan to keep on enjoying, well, that says more about you than the original posting.

"It really doesn't help to go into a hissy fit and say in effect "No one has the right to try to make me feel bad about myself!," which seems to be the gist of Sapient's numerous forays into the fray."

Interesting. In fact, I've never personally invited any strangers to my bedroom, dr ngo. Although I certainly bring personal observations and experience here to ObWi when I post, this is more of a political issue for me. I don't like infantilizing women. I don't like the idea that it's assumed that women can't speak for themselves about whether a behavior is offensive or not. I don't like the idea that some members of a particular category of people claim to speak for all of them. I don't like it that society is moving back toward the concept of "protecting" women, something that I thought we got rid of, something that has often been used as an excuse to deny women their rights. Obviously, I'm not talking about protecting women and men and children of both genders from sexual assault, stalking, or abuse.

Watson had a right to believe the encounter was offensive, creepy, threatening, bothersome, rude or whatever. She has the right to speak about it. But when she says she speaks for all women, she's simply being presumptuous and her view isn't accurate. If I had a friend that I knew felt uncomfortable on elevators with strangers, I'd ride with him/her. Or, I might mention to friends that this person, with this particular fear, needed special treatment. I don't assume all women share all other women's fears.

That's true, dr ngo, but I'm wondering when empathy turns into defense of privilege. Some of the 'are you talking about me' impulse may be (though I'm not an adept enough mind reader to figure it out) a genuine empathy. Like Sebastian points out, the ability to proposition and be propositioned is a skill that some folks don't have. Perhaps it is because I remember that all-encompassing feeling where you see someone who just seems like the person you really want to know, to be with, and you hear them talk, but you don't really pay attention to that, you are just rapt. You hang on the person's every word (but devoid of any recognition of the semantic content) and you finally get up enough courage to ask (there is a reason why you ask people when they aren't with other people, that briefly overhead snatch of conversation of 'who's the creepy one?' followed by a peal of laughter is devastating)

As JanieM points out, this isn't a gender thing, this is a sex thing. And while there is no way in hell I would want to go back to those days just as I was, there would be a lot to be said if I could go back to that time knowing what I know now. As Albert Brooks' character says in Broadcast News "Wouldn't this be a great world if insecurity and desperation made us more attractive? If "needy" were a turn-on?"

But when she says she speaks for all women, she's simply being presumptuous and her view isn't accurate.

I'm not in a position to watch the video. Is there a point when she make the claim specifically that "she speaks for all women?"

If I had a friend that I knew felt uncomfortable on elevators with strangers, I'd ride with him/her. Or, I might mention to friends that this person, with this particular fear, needed special treatment.

You're a funny guy, what with all the leaving out a bunch of stuff and making it sound neurotic.

"You're a funny guy, what with all the leaving out a bunch of stuff and making it sound neurotic."

First of all, why the personal insult? I leave out stuff because I don't want my identity to become a matter of public knowledge. I have reasons for that. Or maybe it's just that protecting my identity is my particular phobia.

Second, Doctor Science's post isn't about Watson's right to speak so much as it is about how wonderful it is that men are banding together to protect women from feeling vulnerable and afraid. I will admit that it's very sweet that they want to do that. But I question whether protecting a class of people from "feeling" vulnerable is really doing anyone any good. For one thing, "feeling vulnerable" and "being vulnerable" are two different things. Even if men are instructed always to be silent and to stare at their feet in an elevator, rape will still happen - just as often as it does now. The only difference is that people will be trained to believe that women, as a class, are easily frightened. And if women, as a class, are easily frightened, why would anyone want to hire one as a news reporter or a police officer or a member of the military, etc. It's NOT helpful to be perceived as being a frail flower needing special treatment. If you're a woman who feels that way in elevators, it's important to take matters into your own hands - take precautions (such as asking a friend to ride with you). Giving the power to some well-meaning men isn't going to help when the well-meaning men aren't around, or someone who is a predator acts like a well-meaning man. Women need to be powerful, not protected (except by laws).

I'd be curious to hear from hairshirt about whether "leaving out a bunch of stuff" referred to sapient's disinclination to reveal personal information about herself (as sapient assumed) or to the way she keeps leaving stuff out of her retellings of the elevator story (as I assumed).

Just trying to check on my interpretive abilities.

Other than that, this...

Second, Doctor Science's post isn't about Watson's right to speak so much as it is about how wonderful it is that men are banding together to protect women from feeling vulnerable and afraid.

... is yet again such an utter distortion of the post that all I can say is ...

Bye.

I don't assume all women share all other women's fears.

Perhaps the women who have spoken on this thread can be assumed to be reliable witnesses to what their fears actually are.

"Perhaps the women who have spoken on this thread can be assumed to be reliable witnesses to what their fears actually are."

I would never dispute that for a minute.

I'd be curious to hear from hairshirt about whether "leaving out a bunch of stuff" referred to sapient's disinclination to reveal personal information about herself (as sapient assumed) or to the way she keeps leaving stuff out of her retellings of the elevator story (as I assumed).

Your assumption was the correct one, Janie. I thought it was obvious enough, myself, and that my comment, while a bit snarky, wasn't personally insulting.

I also have to say that I'm not sure what sapient's real point is anymore. AFAICT, it keeps shifting as the discussion progresses, and sapient blows various aspects of what Watson said out of proportion by ignoring context and specifics. I think it's run its course for me and my continued interest.

sapient,
It has everything to do with treating women as though they are human being who have the right to go about their lives without strange men demanding their time and attention for the purpose of propositioning them.

Strangers treat strangers like strangers. Unless they are women, in which case some men treat them like sex objects.
Generally speaking, women do not like to be treated in that fashion by strange men.

Regarding your last comment, Srsly?

thebewilderness, thanks for your comment. Believe it or not, some women would have seen the behavior in question as amusing and, after declining the invitation, would have laughed. Maybe some women would have accepted; who knows?

Like everyone else, though, I'm tired of talking about this.

Well said, jinlala. And, cool shoes!

It's 4:00 am. This atheist, in full atheist regalia, follows you on to the elevator and stands a little too close and inquires about your noodles.

What do you do?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-14135523

What do you do?

Who hasn't struggled with this very question?

"stands a little too close and inquires about your noodles."

It would be way too easy to get into hot water with a pastafarian.

Believe it or not, some women would have seen the behavior in question as amusing and, after declining the invitation, would have laughed. Maybe some women would have accepted; who knows?

Wow. Really poor reasoning. I hope it's obvious why this isn't at all sufficient justification for ignoring Watson's advice.

Some given fraction of women might either laugh off or appreciate a stranger doing any number of things on an elevator.

That's not actually a good enough reason to do whatever you please to any strange woman on an elevator, because by doing so you're completely (and completely unnecessarily) ignoring all the women that are going to find that behavior annoying, harassing or threatening. Basically, a small chance for you to get laid does not justify annoying or threatening a stranger.

It might be one thing if the latter faction [women who don't appreciate getting cornered and approached by strangers] were tiny, but if you really aren't ignoring what women are saying in all these threads, it should be clear to you that this latter fraction is by no means negligible (or neurotic).

Of course, if you really can reliably judge whether someone might be in the mood for something or not, then that's probably a different story. But that's kind of what the whole point is.

Just have some sensitivity and respect.

Actual conversation heard between two guys I knew in college (at a state university) in the 1960's:

"We should go visit the University of Chicago some weekend. The girls there are all atheists, and they'll have sex with ANYBODY."

Some guys may still be under this impression.

This discussion reminds me of the difficulty some people have in identifying harassment, because the same behavior can be perceived entirely differently depending on who is doing it. I once had a somewhat lecherous boss who was in the habit of coming up behind female staff and kneading their shoulders (think GW Bush and Angela Merkel). It was all you could do to keep from giving him an elbow in the stomach and saying "Get your hands off me!" I later had another boss, a great guy, who would come up and knead your shoulders in a completely friendly fashion (he did this to either males or females). No hackles rose.

The first guy would no doubt use the second guy as a defense to try to prove he didn't mean anything by his actions (or that women are oversensitive), but in fact the two individuals came across completely differently to the recipient, based on their overall behavior, not just this one action of kneading shoulders.

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