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July 04, 2013

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It's depressing to see how little this discussion has progressed over the years.

Bear with me, try a little provocative experiment. Replace instances of man/men in the above text with "black men". I can hear the howls of protest already, blacks are oppressed, men aren't! But never mind that for a moment, and look at how stuff like this comes out:

a woman doesn't just evaluate a black man on his attractiveness, but also on whether he's likely to be dangerous.

You're entitled to your feelings. You're entitled to be afraid, and take precautions. Yes, there are understandable reasons for women to be afraid of men, just like there are understandable reasons for white people to be afraid of black people. Fear isn't something you can help. But what you demand, and expect of others due to that fear, that's another matter. If he isn't a rapist, or he isn't a scary black criminal he isn't necessarily an asshole just because he didn't do enough to allay your fear that he was.

Yes, men don't know women's experiences very well. But the converse is true also. A fact that is obvious to any man with half an eye, but amazingly some women will deny, is that attractiveness, physical and otherwise, has a dramatic effect on what the boundaries are for "acceptable sexual discourse". If you're unattractive enough, you don't even have to do so much as look back to be judged a creep. Like some sort of Puck figure, some goat-legged freak, you seem to provoke sexualized disgust by your very existence. The only way to allay women's fears of you at this extreme, is to not exist in their world at all.

If you express any hint of frustration at this, may God have mercy on your soul! If you thought sexualized disgust and scorn couldn't get worse, you were wrong.

Then its "better" to live up to people's expectations of you as a creep. Attractiveness for men is a lot about confidence too, so maybe you'll get some positive attention back at the cost of confirming a lot of prejudices.

Whenever there's persistent prejudice, such as black men being threatening or ugly men being creeps, or ugly women being bossy, or a dozen other things, there's usually some "consolation prize" associated with living up to the stereotype. It may not be much, but if you're getting the punishment anyway, why not do the crime?

There's a long way to go in gender equality, no argument from me there. But the part of the way that's possible to go by admonishing and educating men on women's perspectives, that part has pretty much been walked already in our cultures. It's time to look critically at what you can learn, and what you are doing to sustain the status quo.

I'm not saying there are easy solutions, nor that there's much you can change on your own. But really, blaming and shaming an entire gender, and portraying the female gender as the one that has the full picture, that has to stop.

"It may not be much, but if you're getting the punishment anyway, why not do the crime?"

There are no words...there really really aren't.

Annamal, what's the problem? Do you think I'm endorsing being a creep, or being a gangster? I'm just trying to help you understand why people live out negative stereotypes.

Our male/female interactions would be a lot easier if our social rules required an extensive period of getting acquainted with the other party's mind before working one's way into the other party's bed.

Instead there's this weird silence, or this period of code-talking through body language wherein two strangers or relative strangers indicate whether the attraction is mutual or not.

There's also the assumption, still hanging around, that the man is supposed to be the actor and the woman waits to be acted upon. That puts the man in the position of having to do all that signalling often to women who do not want to be signalled to. It also makes for a potentially predator/ prey relationship.

Those are aome of the pit falls of regular guy-hoping-to-meet-gal (for possible sex and maybe relationship).

I think what Dr. Science is referring to is a different dynamtic than the regular old optimism about possibilities. Setting counts. Single guy gettting gradualy closer and closer to a woman after the second beer together in a tav is a differet senario altogether than people in a professional setting or convention. After all bars are places for flirting, but conventions are supposed to be places to share an interest in a subject other than flirting.

It's supposed to be a setting for the meeting of the minds on a topic of shared interest. And, sure, conventions are supposed to be fun, too, but not fun because one is on the loose, free to act like an asshole.

So the context is wrong for flirting. Which means the guys who cruise around sidling up to lots of women as a sort of weird hobby are acting inappropriately for the setting.

Part of the rudeness of it is the indication that, from the guys point of view, women are not there because they have something to offer on the topic of the convention; women are, from the masher's POV, only there to be hit on for the entertainment of the masher.

Can't really contribute much to this specific subject, I dropped out of the convention scene back in the '90's, what I know is probably dated. But it does seem to me Harald has a point. I'm watching the gradual formation of a matriarchal society, here in the US, and part of what's driving it is that the majority, women, can't seem to face that a lot of what they're asking for, demanding, these days, is not equality. It's superiority.

Men and women have long had an asymmetric relationship, in many ways. Some of these asymmetries were to the benefit of men, some to the benefit of women. What I see is only the former falling, while the latter get preserved.

We're gradually becoming a matriarchal society, as a result. But the matriarchs will never admit it.

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/06/the-guileless-accidental-racism-of-paula-deen/277153/

There's a pattern here. It goes like this: once upon a time there was a hierarchial relationship that gave most of the power to one group over another. However, over time the less powerful group fought to equalize the relationship, with some success, even a lot of success. As a result, some of the members of the more powerful group (which now still has power, but has to share) perceive themselves as having less, so they white-wash past relationships and perceive themselves as at least somewhat victimized in the present.

Brett, I don't think that's a good description. I don't think "feminism has gone too far" or anything like that. And anyway I really tried to avoid steering this discussion to any generalized discussion on feminism and its merits, believe it or not.

I share a very specific concern with Dr. Science - I want to see the dynamics of dating changed to something more healthy. Not for me personally as I'm old enough to say good riddance to all that, But for my children and potential grandchildren. I don't want them either to live in fear of men, or be labeled creeps and socially isolated.

I'd like to see the dynamics changed, too, for my son's sake. The current system still demands that the man make the first move, it simply has ramped up the penalties for making that move wrong, but without magically gifting men with the telepathic powers which would be needed to know when an advance would be appreciated.

I'm just pointing out that fandom is not unique in this respect, it's a problem throughout society. You can see it in the drugging of young boys in schools for not acting like girls, the high suicide rate among men after divorce, many ways.

If men and women magically reversed places, there is much feminists see no problem with which would suddenly become an outrage.

Brett, American dating rituals are wretched, miserable, awkward things, but they don't require telepathy on the part of men. Patience, frankness, empathy, and an ability to gracefully accept rejection are more-than-adequate substitutes. Or do those attributes all fall within the loathsome realm of "acting like a girl"?

I have no idea why people think there is this danger of being labelled a rapist if you make the wrong move. Here is the right move, which will immediately distinguish you from a rapist: ask.

The issue with people like Mr. Frenkel and other creepers isn't honest miscommunication and attempts to strike up a romantic relationship (or in fact get a one-night stand). These people aren't innocently misreading women's signals and stumbling across a gender-based communication divide.

They're predators who consciously seek out women who are unlikely to protest or challenge their actions. Did you miss the definition referring to "maintaining plausible deniability"? These guys know exactly what they're doing and how offensive it is: that's the point. They get off on making women uncomfortable, embarrassed, or pissed off. Like Sandusky, they find a victim who they can take advantage of, but who won't make a fuss: they are very good at reading social cues and knowing just how far they can push the situation.

Jim Frenkel had multiple people speak to him within the last few years about his inappropriate behavior, explaining how inappropriate it was. But since his behavior wasn't unintentional or accidental, he kept going with it until one of his victims finally reported it formally.

This isn't a mating strategy, or not primarily: it's a power-play.

And the more that their peers cover for them by claiming that these are innocent accidents resulting from women being oversensitive (or "feminism run amuck"), the more these people will get away with.

"Yes, there are understandable reasons for women to be afraid of men, just like there are understandable reasons for white people to be afraid of black people."

Do go on.

Ok...there are understandable reasons for black people to be afraid of white people."

Did you miss the definition referring to "maintaining plausible deniability"? These guys know exactly what they're doing and how offensive it is: that's the point.

This is flat out wrong. Most men (and women) who are trying to maintain plausible deniability aren't doing so because they know what they're doing is offensive. They're doing so in order to avoid the embarrassment of being directly rejected.

Julian: There absolutely are "understandable reasons for white people to be afraid of black people." And for men to be afraid of women. In each case the dominant group know they have been consistently mistreating the other group and they understandably fear that members of the mistreated group may take their (justifiable, as they know) revenge.

I don't feel too awfully sorry for the poor white folks, the poor menfolks, since reasonable members of each group have demonstrably been able to get along peacefully with "the others", but I do understand why they may be afraid.

We're gradually becoming a matriarchal society, as a result.

I'd say we're slowly becoming less patriarchal, at least in some ways. But I don't know that it equates to women taking over and subjugating men, slowly but surely. Perhaps we're achieving a better balance, no?

All of which is to say, see Laura Koerbeer | July 04, 2013 at 09:35 AM, I suppose.

Julian, maybe you should go on? I don't see what you're offended at. Just as there are statistics that "justify" women being afraid of men, there are statistics that "justify" certain ethnic groups being afraid of others. (Such statistics of either case are rarely as clear cut as they seem, but that's another matter).

But I think people deserve to be treated as individuals. No matter how afraid you are of my race, my class, my sex, if your fear isn't justified with respect to me personally, then I shouldn't have to accommodate your fear.

Yeah, there may be parts of your town where a black man walking behind you may seem like "Schrödingers mugger" to you. But in fact there is no superposition of states. Either he's a mugger, or he's a perfectly honest black man you have no reason to fear. No matter how bad the crime statistics are in that neighbourhood, no matter how bad other black men are, if he's not a mugger then it's not his fault that you are afraid. And you are frankly a racist if you blame him for your fear.

And instead of trying to shame and blame all black men for making you afraid, ("These black people don't understand how scared they make me as a white person!") maybe you should ask the question why there is so much crime in that neighbourhood - with the assumption that under the same circumstances, no race is superior to another, morally or otherwise

Translated to the category of sex: if you're convinced women have reason to fear men, when you ask why it is so, you should look for explanations that don't assume one sex is deficient compared to the other. Explanations having to do with circumstances.

The "explanations" here and elsewhere fail impressively at this. They assume the problem is that men lack empathy and understanding, and act like assholes because they just don't know how women have it. They seem to assume women judge "creepiness" according to a consistent and justifiable standard, too. As long as you see women as superior in this way, and refuse to acknowledge women's - yes, progressive women too! - role in sustaining the harmful norms of dating, then nothing is going to improve for very long.

Harald K:

Yes, there are understandable reasons for women to be afraid of men, just like there are understandable reasons for white people to be afraid of black people.

No, these two cases are not "just like".

The crucial difference, as Laura K points out, is the issue of *power*.

Women are afraid of men because men are, on average, larger, stronger, and used to getting their way, and because the people you'd have to report male misbehavior to are mostly other men.

In an interracial confrontation, even if the black person is larger & stronger than the white person, they're *not* used to getting their way, and they definitely cannot expect everyone in the reporting or authority structure to be black and on their side.

AFAIK, every young black man in the US can expect to get "The Talk" from his parents, in which they explain to him that he's more apt to be stopped by the police, and how he has to act when that happens.

When white people are afraid of black people, rightly or wrongly, it puts black people in danger, it constrains *them*. For instance, here's Levar Burton talking about how he acts when he's pulled over by the police. They may be afraid of him, but he's the one in great danger.

Do go on.

I took that comment to have the words "some" and "sometimes" implied in a number of places.

cofax:

Did you miss the definition referring to "maintaining plausible deniability"? These guys know exactly what they're doing and how offensive it is: that's the point.

DBN said:

This is flat out wrong. Most men (and women) who are trying to maintain plausible deniability aren't doing so because they know what they're doing is offensive. They're doing so in order to avoid the embarrassment of being directly rejected.

I realize I don't actually think either of this explanations is right.

I think guys like Frenkel are creeping because they *like* making women uncomfortable, but they don't think that's "offensive" in the sense of "always wrong". They really don't think that what they're doing is objectively wrong.

But I think DBN is wrong about the motive for their plausible deniability. It's not IMHO to spare themselves the embarrassment of being rejected, it's because they think social standards ("don't creep") are stupid and shouldn't apply to them.

Oh, OK cofax, let's talk about plausible deniability. Assume two people meet, and they want to find out if they share some common interest. One or the other has to volunteer the information first, otherwise they'll never find out.

It's commonly said this dating game that we all love to hate, it's men who have the burden of initiating. That is a truth with modifications. Because (here's a shocker to people who implicitly assume women are superior) women sometimes are interested enough to initiate too, and women most certainly use "plausible deniability" approaches as well. Sometimes in reasonable ways - my guess is most relationships start with several careful and technically deniable rounds back and forth of expressing interest - but also sometimes in ways that are just as scummy as any PUA's.

But let's assume Mr. Frenkel is a scumbag. Let's assume you're right - he's not merely awkward, he's not merely unattractive, but he actually gets off on women being uncomfortable and disgusted. I have no problem with such an assumption, bad guys exist. Just as race-based gangs who thrive on people's fear exist.

(if you read this and it's wrong Mr. Frenkel, I'm sorry, but it's hypothetical. You're just an example).

Now the question is, how did he develop such a harmful fetish?

Please explain that to me, in a way that doesn't assume men are deficient compared to women. I could tell you my own theories, but I think it's more useful to hear yours.

"AFAIK, every young black man in the US can expect to get "The Talk" from his parents, in which they explain to him that he's more apt to be stopped by the police, and how he has to act when that happens."

I don't doubt it, but I'm white and follow what I'm guessing is the advice without hearing it. Cops have guns. I was pulled over by state troopers in Kentucky once. I was boxed in by two police cars and they then they flashed their lights. (I'm guessing it had something to do with my out-of state license plates because I wasn't speeding or doing anything reckless.) Sunglasses on, tough guy act. Asked me to step out of the car. I did. I did what they said, asked no questions. This was out in the middle of the country and I was acutely aware that if I was smart alecky with them and they got mad, it would be my word against theirs. Plus, of course, who did they imagine I might be? They let me go.

Of course I have no idea if these guys would have abused their authority--still, I've always heard that law enforcement sometimes attracts a few people with the wrong attitude.

Which, of course, has nothing to do with the main topic here. Nevermind.

I expected that argument, Dr. Science. Then I suppose it comes down to what I wanted to avoid, the merits of feministic idea structures in general (or at least that particular one).

You are not nearly as powerless as you think. Power is conditional and situational. As a white person (man or woman) walking in that troubled neighbourhood alone at night, your race's advantages in society at large will probably not reassure you.

One thing that women have a little of, that men have almost nothing of, is that old Marxist beast of class consciousness. If you, the woman, tell the big male policeman, "This person threatened me, sir!" then justified or not, it's not going to help that person AT ALL that he shares a gender with the policeman. Men don't have an identity fellowship with other men just for being men. Both men and women display more sympathy for women, in just about any situation. Both men and women are more willing to use violence against men, than against women.

Even if you wanted to dumb it down, ignore situation totally and boil privilege down to a single number, you are not remotely in the league that a black person is vs. a white. Can you imagine what the world would look like if every white person had one black parent? If half of all your children were born black? If you were through force of biology compelled to seek love, intimacy and admiration from a person of the opposite race? Racism would be a very different beast!

Between black and white, it's only in very rare situations that the black is the powerful one (like, in certain neighbourhoods late at night). Between men and women, I reckon the woman is the powerful one in about half. Because we don't live in a society where violence is very important, Dr. Science (the more it is, the more women get a raw deal from traditional gender roles I'd say). Even if we did, we have weapons. Weapons that work just as well in women's hands as in men's.

Your fear due to my statistically somewhat better upper body strength is hardly more justified than a fear of black people's statistically somewhat greater strength. The variation is also big enough that any kind of generalized fear of men would scarcely be justified (this Mr. Frenkel guy, is he especially big and powerful? I suspect not).

Frankly, the physical strength argument is transparently poor. Yet it gets brought up again and again. That suggests to me your ideology really isn't good at incorporating critical input!

"The crucial difference, as Laura K points out, is the issue of *power*. "

I just love the way this matter of "power" gets assigned to people based on race and gender, instead of being based on individual cases.

50 plus out of shape desk jockey here, and yet, in a confrontation with some younger black dude who's been working out, I'm assigned the power. Not the sort of power that would do me a bit of good if he decided to bust me up and leave me bleeding to death, but still, "power" of some theoretical sort. Might be that we're in a black run inner city, where the whole power structure is run by blacks, but I still get assigned the power based on my skin color. This is fantasy, that's all.

And in any confrontation, women have a power all their own: The fact that, if they later make an accusation, it will essentially automatically be believed. Maybe you'll luck out, and get some measure of the presumption of innocence should it go to court, but even acquitted you'll still have your reputation ruined.

Yup, I just LOVE the practice of assigning "power" relations this way.

Donald Johnson, about "the talk", one thing I think is important to mention, is that a lot of the things we think of as discrimination of black people is in fact discrimination of black men. Now I'm no expert, but do black women get the same "talk"? Do black women get pulled over and treated with fear and suspicion like black men do?

I don't know. What I do know, is that if you're innocent and accused of a crime in the US, you'd much rather want to be a black woman than a white man. The sentencing disparity between blacks and whites is there and it's a problem, but there sentencing disparity between men and women is considerably bigger!

Court is one of those situations where being a man is NOT being powerful - even though you likely share a gender with more people in the courtroom, that just doesn't translate into an advantage. There's no solidarity, no class consciousness - the numbers say that clearly.

The current system still demands that the man make the first move, it simply has ramped up the penalties for making that move wrong, but without magically gifting men with the telepathic powers which would be needed to know when an advance would be appreciated.

I find this analysis more than a little mystifying. I simply cannot conceive of my (or my brothers) having this kind of problem, just because of how we were raised. All that is required are two things: 1) don't push. You can ask, but make it polite -- and make it clear that No is an entirely acceptable answer.

And 2) at the first hint (even a subtle one) that you are pushing, STOP. And, preferably, apologize for pushing. If the lady is interested, she can let you know. Otherwise, step back.

In my experience, that kind of paradigm does not result in any lack of female companionship. In fact, you can find yourself with a surfeit, as women let their friends know that they have found someone who is not a problem.

It really isn't that hard to behave as a gentleman. But it appears that an awful lot of men somehow never got the word.

I was initially confused by the title of this page, since Dr. Science really only followed up on the first half in her post. After reading this far, I realize that she actually left the second part as an exercise for the commenters. Well done, all!

Classy, wrp.

wj, I don't think you are helping anyone. Those who would take your advice won't need it, and vice versa.

You also don't have any explanation why so many men "somehow never got the word" about how to be a fine successful man with the ladies like you and your brothers. It's not as if there's a shortage of people like you, men and women, who tell us how easy it is. Nor a shortage of people, men and women, who tell us how disgusting and pathetic men are (other men, for the men).

I'd love to hear your theory - as long as there isn't an assumption of women's (or any particular group's) inherent moral superiority buried it it.

I have a suspicion (and it is only that) that what happened to a lot of these men was that they lacked a good role model. Which is to say, that in the families in which they were raised, women were not respected. Loved, perhaps, but not respected. (I don't think that say anything about anybody's moral superiority, necessarily. Just about how their families functioned.)

Thus they had no model of how a man should treat a women except as a chatel. That is, women's whole purpose was defined, in their early experience, strictly in relation to the men in their lives. As a result, the only real way to deal with the problem is to figure out how to communicate to these men that their model is not the only one, and is not the preferred one. I don't have a magic solution for doing that, unfortunately. But it seems ot me that that is where the solution lies.

When I wrote about power, I wasn't thinking of physical stregnth. I was thinking of institutional power: economic, legal, traditional.

We are well into a transitional period both in terms of race relations and gender relations. I watch "Mad Men" sometimes, and it still shocks me.

But transition periods are when issues become confused and subtle. Some of the things Dr. Science listed as examples of creeping behavior were things that would not register with me at all, but obviously seem problematic to someone.

Sex is often not about sex. The classic example is rape, which is about power, the physical power to dominate and the emotional power to terrorize. To me, a man's behavior is creepy if the intent is to marginalize the woman, to make her uncomfortable, to diminish her contributions, to give him a feeling of being in control making her nervous by sexualizing a situation where flirting isn't appropriate, or by being too persistant or too vulgar.

I don't think men run into this kind of treatment asw much as women, but, as I said this is a transitional period. I hope the transition is to one where no one gets marginalized by inappropriate sexual behavior, rather than a transistion to "equallity" of both sides doing it.

Harald, I have a theory based on observation. A lot of the men I've seen who whine incessantly about how women don't accept their advances fall into two categories:

(1) Some are just assholes. They're genuinely awful human beings who are, for example, needlessly cruel. Shockingly, people don't want to be vulnerable around them.

(2) The rest seem to have an odd kind of blindness. They are correct that women reject all their advances. But they've also systematically redefined the word "women" to include on a tiny subset of actual women. So after all the 20 year old swedish volleyball players reject their 40 year old asses, they don't even notice the existence of women who might be a little older, a little heavier, or not entirely white. It is amazing how invisible women can be when they don't fit the societal ideal.

I suppose the same problem afflicts women, but women have the decency to not whine about it so incessantly and so pathetically.

I just love the way this matter of "power" gets assigned to people based on race and gender, instead of being based on individual cases.

In this particular case, we have a person who has been labelled a "sexual predator" based on an incident reported by one person of which the details have not been mentioned and rumor of previous incidents. If he has not already, he will probably lose his job, since he will be unable to function in the sf community, and he is unlikely to be able to apply for another one without a prospective employer Googling the details of this case. he has not had the right to reply, but has been tried and convicted through mob action on social media.

Personally, I think he actually did do something that would fall under an objective standard of "sexual harassment". If this occurred, it is disgusting behavior. But I am also disgusted with how individuals in the sf community has jumped on the chance to polish their badges by publicly joining in the witch-hunt.

he has not had the right to reply

Um, did someone revoke his internet access so that he can't post messages on the internet? Because while it was totally awesome when they did that to Jerry Pournelle, unfortunately, we don't do that sort of thing any more.

Yeah, while I had a happy time being involved in SF fandom, I'm certainly not going to encourage my son to get into it, based on some of the things I've heard lately. It's not the carefree refuge from the mundane world it used to be.

"In this particular case, we have a person who has been labelled a "sexual predator" based on an incident reported by one person of which the details have not been mentioned and rumor of previous incidents."

Did you read the links? I only read two,and neither mentions the man in question getting labelled a sex predator. The articles don't say what happened to him. Also, according to the same accounts, the "gossip" didn't count. One of Ms. Matthesen's points is that undocumented unoffical accounts don't matter. So she lodged two formal written accounts which included witnesses, one with the con Safety committee, and one with the HR dept of the man's employer.

I don't see anything wrong with that. It's standard procedure. It's hardly the matriarchy or whatever. As she points out, if she was twenty and looking to get a first manuscript published, she would have been too frightened to use the standard procdure. It worked for her because she had already established herself.

Men don't have an identity fellowship with other men just for being men.

Speaking as someone just coming off a term of Active Duty service in the Army, I must say I find this statement outright laughable. I mean, seriously. As you say, women can certainly be "class conscious" about gender, but by the same token, men can get just as tribal about being men (or not being women). Your unsupported assertion runs flatly counter my own experiences; your anecdotal evidence is not greater than my anecdotal evidence.

Nombrilisme Vide, male soldiers certainly have class consciousness, and quite possibly you even draw a strong identity line vs. female soldiers. This happens in smaller classes. Notice I argued women have little class consciousness, but more than men, the reason I said that is that I think almost all more specific groups (such as professional groups) have more self-consciousness as a class and in-group solidarity.

In-group solidarity can be measured to some degree, and men just as men (as opposed to men sharing something more specific, e.g. men as soldiers) just don't seem to have much.

Dr. Science,

I am simply not willing to assume malice where incompetence is an equally valid explanation. "Creeper" in the context of "creepy man" came into the English language through its use by teenaged girls. This is not likely a coincidence; teenaged girls have to deal every day with teenaged boys who are desperate to get laid, but through inexperience, lack the requisite social skills. Immaturity on the part of men, even persisting into nominal adulthood, is part of the issue here.

The other half of the problem is more subtle. Where I live in Italy, the concept of a "creeper" is alien, as it seems to be in France. This is not to say that Italian and Gallic men take every "no" that comes out of a woman's mouth as the word of God; rather the opposite, actually. Persistance in the face of initial rejection is the cultural expectation (as it is in Latin America), and is a way of indicating seriousness, not malice. The difference is, as Harold K pointed out, power is conditional, and when it comes to seduction, women here grasp that they are empowered in ways that American women fail to understand or appreciate. I am simply not sure that American women understand masculinity anymore, or how to control it. In a few hours, when the sun begins to dim, the streets here will fill with lithe, sun-browned teenagers wrapped around one another, the boys whining like hungry puppies, the girls laughing, accepting this touch, rejecting that one, permitting a kiss - but for this long, no longer. They know who has the power; American women seem to have forgotten.

The result, in the modern US is a kind of perfect storm, where a man who doesn't know how to interpret rejection encounters a woman whose only tools for controlling her encounter with a man are the words "yes" and "no".

I don't go to scifi cons so I'm not completely sure I am understanding the phenomenon described by Dr. Science, but I don't think the issue is just regular old flirting like teens do at the beach or the mall, or older people do at a bar.

What she is describing looks to me like the vestiges of the Mad Men culture. Once upon a time men outside the home were the players and women where the decorations. Men went to conferences and women were the stewardesses they seduced on the way or the cocktail servers after the meetings or something like that. A woman who was part of the convention, a speaker or organizer, was an aberrition, hard to comprehend.

What to do with that uppity woman who didn't fit in where she was supposed to be? Well some guys didn't have a problem, but others did. One way to deal with the uppity woman was to sexualize the situation as a seems of putting her in her place: on the margins, as a person who is not to be taken seriously.

That's the old Mad Men culture, fortunately mostly gone, but seems to be lingering on in the situation described by Ms. Mattesen. Note that the masher said, "You look lovely when yhou are mad" when she objected to his behavior. Classic marginalizing, the flip side of describing assertiveness as "being demanding" or "wearing".

So the behavior described makes sense if viewed as based on the Mad Men premise: only guys are particpants here, and female pretensions to full particlpation (being demanding, for example) are to be squashed since this con is supposed to be fun for guys and the girls are supposed to watch with admiration, not play.

I realize that many of the scifi participants are too young for Mad Men culture, so this isn't a complete explanation. However, Ms Mattesen is in her fifties and the man she reported is in his sixties. There are still men in that age group who just don't know how to relate to women without oscillating between using flirting as a put down or using terms like "too demanding" or "bitch" or "shrill", that sort of thing.

[M]ale soldiers certainly have class consciousness, and quite possibly you even draw a strong identity line vs. female soldiers. [...] In-group solidarity can be measured to some degree, and men just as men (as opposed to men sharing something more specific, e.g. men as soldiers) just don't seem to have much.

Yeah, no. If you want to argue I'm confusedly referring to something that's "only" a male Soldier vs. female Soldier thing, allow me to clarify: I saw multiple, specific instances of male Soldier vs. female people clannishness. And rather more to the point, I saw it arise very specifically in the context of dismissing female claims of sexual harassment/assault. And if you might want to argue that this is the only place where such a - hmm, let's be very novel, coin a brand new phrase, and call it an "old boys' club" - might possibly exist, I will return to my prior verbiage and decry said argument as laughable.

If you concede that male professionals can cleave to highly gendered professional identity in the military, I'm rather curious how you can flatly refuse to believe they could do so in, say, law enforcement.

I think there is a tendency for any subset of humanity that has tradtionally occupied a certain niche to develop a group identity and to unite against "outsiders". This is particularly true if the group has more power or prestige because in that case the outsiders will want to join. If the group exists because its members are marginalized or ghettoized by the more powerful groups, then of course people don't want to join; the members either want to escape or want to empower their group.

So does part of the dynamic with scifi cons come from scifi traditionally being a guy thing?

Nombrilisme Vide, I'm not saying old boys' clubs don't exist, or even that they don't exist in law enforcement. But if so, then they don't give any advantage to men for just being men. The reason I can say that is that I've seen a bit of statistics on sentencing (and on sympathy).

Members of a given "old boy's club" certainly circle the wagons for their members - from women, but also from non-old boy men. They don't have an identity fellowship with men in general, although being a man may be a prerequisite of being in their identity fellowship.

Frankly, I also think the problems of old boy's club are overrated, and often projection from women who assume men must have similar levels of solidarity to each other as they do.

Laura Koerbeer, SF cons are certainly a traditionally guy thing, and it's also a traditionally low-status thing. I've heard male SF fans say outright that they don't accept women as full-worthy members of their community because in their eyes, the women haven't paid the traditional price of social exclusion, and they only want to get in on it now that it's mainstream etc. This is of course very sad.

Also, for many socially excluded and socially awkward men, fandoms are a way to get away from the burden of performing socially in front of women. Being social can be hard enough with people who are similar to you, something I'm not sure many women empathise with.

I don't know how to change this. Time will change it on its own, I suppose. Once it reaches that 60% percent treshold that I believe Dr. Science has written on before (once the gender balance reaches a certain point in a group, your gender stops being the lens your actions are interpreted through).

But I can tell you that being a woman and promoting social exclusion, by stereotyping these men as losers, "neckbeards", "creepers", smearing a lot of men who don't do the bad stuff etc. is not the way to hasten it.

And in any confrontation, women have a power all their own: The fact that, if they later make an accusation, it will essentially automatically be believed. Maybe you'll luck out, and get some measure of the presumption of innocence should it go to court, but even acquitted you'll still have your reputation ruined.

I just had to see that again, because it's mind-bogglingly stupid.

How many women who report any kind of sexual harassment or rape are actually believed, and not blamed for it in one way or another? How many people automatically assume that she's lying, exaggerating, delusional, was "asking for it" by dress, reputation, or existing as a female? By daring to come into a place that is traditionally male, like, oh, a sci-fi con?

There must be instances of a guy dressed as a Klingon showing up at the Marriott for the Professional Star Trek Reenactors Convention and somehow finding his way by accident into the wrong ballroom and mingling with the American Association of Amateur Swingers.

Context would rule, the signal receptors would overheat as the Klingon words for "yes", "no", and "you want me to do what?" got mistranslated, and interventions by qualified staff would be required to accommodate extra-terrestrial modes of flirting and rejection.

What would happen if women showed up at a convention sponsored by the Midwestern Men's Chapter of the Professional Creepers Union? Would the women act professional in the context of that organization' definition of professional behavior, or would the creepers' professional chops break down and the members go all shy and withdrawn, and huddle in small groups near the buffet table with their eyes averted, since being unprofessional in a professional context is really their thing.

I expect the trouble with Creepers is not only their unprofessional behavior in professional contexts, but the fact that they think they are professionals in unprofessional contexts, such as bed.


"How many women who report any kind of sexual harassment or rape are actually believed, and not blamed for it in one way or another?"

The tendency to believe is strong enough that Tawana Brawley managed to get believed.

The reason I can say that is that I've seen a bit of statistics on sentencing (and on sympathy).

Well. I will concede that if credible studies contradict my experiences, I'll side with the studies. However, I may not have underscored a small part of what I said thoroughly enough.

One thing that women have a little of, that men have almost nothing of, is that old Marxist beast of class consciousness. If you, the woman, tell the big male policeman, "This person threatened me, sir!" then justified or not, it's not going to help that person AT ALL that he shares a gender with the policeman. Men don't have an identity fellowship with other men just for being men. Both men and women display more sympathy for women, in just about any situation.

This assumes that the important dynamic is "men vs. other men", and that a man will quickly cleave to it. I'm not sure I'd agree. There's also very often a different dynamic at work: "men vs. women", or more pointedly, "men vs. (those) women". It may be that your "big male policeman" will not sympathize with the accused assailant for being a man, but he very well may do so for him being accused by a "certain" sort of woman. You know the type: one who was being a slut (look at how she dressed!)... or a lush (she's been drinking!)... or a fickle bitch (they were on a DATE, for God's sake!)... or any other convenient stereotype which prevails in this culture for why men should a priori question female claims of sexual harassment/assault.

It's not all that hard. The basic rule is, "keep your hands off people without invitation." There are other, common-sense rules, like, "don't invade other people's personal spaces," and "Don't strike up sexualized conversations in places like elevators, where the other party can't get away from you," and even "don't hit on people who are not giving off clear signals that they are interested in you," and "don't use work as the occasion to try to get laid."

As a gay man, I shudder to think what would likely happen to me if I started invading the personal space of some cute guy I saw in an elevator.

I think the Doc's points are valid and she is quite correct: many men have no clue of this subset of their gender. Women receive unwanted, often persistent advances and if a reasonable way of calling out creeps like this can be fashioned, I'm all for it. My only quibble lies here: However, I was never unaware of the need to be *constantly* on one's guard against inappropriate male behavior in public-ish places, because it's part of the price of being in public while female in our culture.

I strongly suspect that piggishness is a universal phenomena, and is hardly unique to *our* culture. Not that universality mitigates anything--just the opposite.

OT:
when will "conservatives" apologize for manufacturing a panic over the IRS? never? probably never.

never? probably never.

Why would they? They manufactured this "scandal" as they do all scandals, in order to deceive people who aren't paying close enough attention. Sadly, it works pretty well for them.

Nombrilisme Vide, yes you have a point. Even though there's no solidarity at play, there may be advantages to having the policeman (or whatever) of the same gender as you. E.g. shared preferences, or shared prejudices as in your example. Class consciousness isn't everything, it isn't our class consciousness as non-handicapped people that's the reason a house lacks wheelchair access, for instance.

But generally, it seems to me there are a lot more people willing to side with a female accuser of misconduct than with the accused. Men have all sorts of noble and not-so-noble reasons to do that, and not really very many to side with a man deemed a creep.

Insofar as "other cultures" have not been discussed wrt this subject, I would tend to defer judgment as to universality*, but otherwise I would agree with Tex above @ 12:38. As men, we are clueless, just as many of us don't really understand the rapists among us.

*Not that it does not seem unreasonable.

The tendency to believe is strong enough that Tawana Brawley managed to get believed.

As were George W. Bush and Bernie Madoff. Your point being?

cleek - thanks for the link. Here's the NYTimes story.

Apparently, some people have forgotten what it is like to be adolescents. (And post-adolescents, for those whose learning curve is not steep.) How utterly confusing it is. Not just because of the hormones - though those don't help - but because we've realized our parents don't know everything, and thus cannot be trusted on anything, and neither can our church or our coach or anyone else. We have to Figure It Out Ourselves, with the "help" of our peers and popular media and whatever else. And we make mistakes. ("We" here definitely includes me; if among the readers there are those who skated through these years error-free, you may move on to the next question.)

And it - especially social-sexual relations - is complicated. If you think it's easy, you've really forgotten what it's like to be an adolescent. "Don't hit on people who are not giving off clear signals that they are interested in you"? WTF?? If you could recognize "clear signals" you wouldn't be a flipping adolescent! You'd be a grown-up, and a fairly sensitive one at that. (Move on to the next question.)

Arguably it is just as hard for girls/women as for boys/men. If you (men) don't know that, you probably don't have sisters, or daughters. But if the confusion is comparable, the consequences are not. For a male, the major risk is embarrassment. For a female, it's sexual assault. (Those who seriously believe that the risk of being falsely accused of sexual assault is remotely comparable to that of being assaulted -- please return to the remedial section and come back only when you've caught up to reality.)

But it's still tough, and we muddle our way through as best we can, and we make mistakes, and some of these may be seriously hurtful to others, even if we didn't intend that. I don't think we're ever going to change that fact.

Yet there is one important element we can affect, to which this post is a useful contributor. Make it clear - in personal relationships, in blog posts, in every other way possible - that certain behaviors are NOT acceptable. And spokesmen for sexual aggression, of the type described, are NOT to be encouraged, or even condoned. Media depictions of sexual predators as somehow heroic (if misunderstood) are NOT insightful art. Men need to know that "creeping" is NOT cool, even if they may not learn this all at once.

Back in the day - i.e., many decades ago - I did some "creepy" things, which I heartily regret. Even at the time I recognized that I had crossed some (fuzzy) line, and I grew up more, and learned more, and clarified the line, and eventually stopped crossing it. It helped that I wasn't cheered on (even in my fantasies) by my peers; no one was telling me how manly I was.

We won't stop the confusion, the awkwardness, the mistakes on both sides. (I don't know just what lessons adolescent females need to learn, but I'm sure there are some.) But we need to do what we can to curtail it, to limit the damage - and toward this cause, IMHO, Doctor Science has been of use. Those who carp at her: not so much.

What rea said. It's not that hard not to be a creep. Hell, I'm a raving asshole, and I manage to avoid it. So could they if they cared.

Um, dr. ngo, you do realize that the creeper that Dr Science is discussing is over the age of 60, right? And that multiple people over the years have talked to him about his...issues, to no good affect? We're not talking about an ignorant teenage boy here.

when will "conservatives" apologize for manufacturing a panic over the IRS?

Someone panicked?

I wonder what that looked like.

The second half of the post talks about 'most men' (after the picture), so it seems like she has moved from the specific to the general.

I also thought we were talking about behavior at cons. I'm not sure what the demographics of these cons are, but I don't think that they are havens for AARP members.

Turb, you're right about the First Creeper mentioned, who sounds like a complete sleazebag and whom - if I read it right - no one here is defending. He's old enough to know better and he doesn't; shame on him.

I was responding more to the general tenor of the rest of the OP plus many of the comments, which dealt not with Frenkel but with the difficulties of dating and even approaching the topic of dating, which sounded more to me like problems associated with youth, or at least social immaturity. Even if we assume Frenkel is irredeemable, coming down on him hard (*) should help send a message to those of more impressionable years. This is Jim. See Jim creep. See Jim get called out. See Jim suffer. You don't want to be like Jim, do you?

Sorry for the lack of clarity.

(*) for various values of "coming down on him hard," including, but not limited to, public shaming. I haven't paid enough attention to know what else is possible or appropriate, and for purposes of this argument, I don't particularly care. If Frenkel doesn't float your boat, insert the Well-Known Creeper Of Your Choice.

It would seem that a creeper would be pretty nervy or completely clueless to show and do his thing at a convention that bills itself as the world's leading feminist science fiction convention.

After all, he might inadvertently make a move on Klingon disguised as a human.

"As a gay man, I shudder to think what would likely happen to me if I started invading the personal space of some cute guy I saw in an elevator."

Yes one way of thinking about creepy behavior is "would this have risked getting a gay man killed in the south fifteen years ago if he drunkenly tried it on someone who turned out to be straight..."

It's always tempting for men to find the "but it's hard to approach women and these people being accused of creeping are probably just innocently misunderstanding what's going on" line plausible. It isn't hard to understand why, either. Approaching someone else is always a bit scary, since it involves (usually) being in a vulnerable position, and being misunderstood or rejected is painful and humiliating. And I'm a not-entirely-socially-adept man, so I get that fear.

But look, that's just not what is going on here. There is a distinct set of the (male) population that gets off on harassing women, mostly as the same sort of power play that rapists get off on. (The overlap between the two populations is unlikely to be low.) And just like with rapists, they exploit precisely those same general fears, along with a very slight amount of plausible deniability to get away with this behavior. Getting away with it is, of course, a large part of what gets them off in the first place: there's nothing more powerful feeling than harassing someone and watching their entirely legitimate complaints getting dismissed by everyone else.

And look, even socially inept men recognize that groping strangers in elevators, or persistently making physical advances on women who are not interested in them is bad behavior. The problem is figuring out which women you're interacting with are interested, not which ones are trying to say no! There's nothing especially complicated about recognizing when someone is saying 'no', even when it doesn't take the form of an explicit verbal 'no'. We even have psychology studies demonstrating this!

http://yesmeansyesblog.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/mythcommunication-its-not-that-they-dont-understand-they-just-dont-like-the-answer/

Now, any number of creepers are also socially inept, which is hardly surprising. But people don't do this sort of thing because they don't know they're doing it. They do it because they think it's ok to do this, or they know it isn't and enjoy it because of that. Usually they rationalize this by claiming that 'all men do this' or something like that. But it's just not true.

The reason most women will not say no forcefully is that it is usually followed by an insult spoken loudly enough to be heard by as many people as possible sort of shouting.

So your THAT kind. What are you, a dyke. She's just frigid.

I'm having trouble with the creeper as well intentioned but socially inept guy, too.

Signs of social ineptitude: shyness, silence, clumsiness due to nervousness, nervous chatter, maybe blurting things out,maybe bragging.

But someone who is just socially inept isn't goig to blurt dirty words orvoice a sudden desire for intercourse with a woman they barely know. A shy guy is't going to back a woman into a tight space, pat her butt or brush her bereast with his hand. A socially inept guy might try to build himself up by exaggerating his scif-fi book sales or something like that but he isn't goig to talk about his penis size.

If a guy's problem is social ineptitude and nothing else, then he's goig to have a sense of decent values, and decent behavbior--he just isn't goig to be suave or confident. And it is unlikely that he wil move too fast.

At least that's the kind of behavior I associate with the phrase "socially inept".

Shy, not preverted.
Unassuming, not aggressive.
Unconfident or inexperienced, not Mr. Thinks-he's-god's-gift.

Gross, pushy, vulgar, and/or sexually aggressive behavior relfects character which is a different thing that social ineptitude.

I am socially inept. I am particularly socially inept when it comes to speaking with women I find to be attractive.

This social ineptness, fortunately, manifests only as crippling shyness rather than groping or other inappropriate behavior.

Harald said:

"Also, for many socially excluded and socially awkward men, fandoms are a way to get away from the burden of performing socially in front of women. Being social can be hard enough with people who are similar to you, something I'm not sure many women empathise with."

Sooo.... In your universe there are no socially awkward women. Women are some monolith that are socially performed in front of, but are not also socially performing? Oy, give me a break.

When ever this conversation starts on a blog, some men quickly try to turn the conversation to talking about the poor socially awkward men's feelings.

If you don't want to "perform socially", stay home and read a book or watch a video. Conventions are social spaces. But here is a radical thought: you can go to the con and not perform for women! You can just enjoy yourself!

And I'm in my late forties, and a woman, and was asking out the boys I found cute in high school (and being told no sometimes) so this whole image of women/girls with power to say yes/no while men have to put it out there just seems so amazingly dated. Who are these people who live in worlds where women (and high school girls) are not expressing their own agency? I asked out guys, got told yes and told no and i presume most people are now living in that normal universe of people expressing interest to other people without weird 1950 rules. but like every woman I have stories of creepers. Creepers are a different thing. A creeper is your friend's husband saying his pregnant wife won't sleep with him, so wont you? That is a creeper.
Socially awkward is different.

"This social ineptness, fortunately, manifests only as crippling shyness rather than groping or other inappropriate behavior."

I hear you, that's why I married so late, and had my first child when I was 50: Crippling shyness.

Here in Japan, they say that someone is KY, which means 'kuki yomenai', which means can't read (yomenai') the atmosphere (kuki). That seems a lot closer to socially awkward at least to me than someone who doesn't say anything.

I've also noticed that there have been a spate of TV shows which have leading characters who, thru some character flaw, end up telling people exactly what they think (House, Lie to me, Sherlock) Of course, they are in positions where the truth is worth a lot more than concern about people's feelings (as House says, would you rather have a doctor be nice to you, or do you want to be told the truth). In addition, they always have compelling back stories that 'explain' their attitude. Tout comprendre c'est tout pardonner. But it has the effect of valorizing social ineptitude.

I'd also point out that I'm in my early 50's and I never got asked out by a female, though there were the points where I was told that someone liked me and I had no idea.

It also seems that a lot of today's youth seem to have problems with hooking up with others, as this Salon article suggests:

In the book, you talk about how the students are really drawn to binge drinking by the idea of the “shit show” — that anything, from throwing up in a corner to hooking up with a stranger, can happen when they’re extremely drunk. What do you mean by that?

Talking to my respondents, one of the things that struck me was how many students talk about being shy or feeling unprepared for social situations and that alcohol is a resource for them to let their guard down. One of my respondents told me that “alcohol takes a few bricks out of the wall.” Mine is not a nationally representative survey, and a lot of my findings should generate hypothesis for larger-scale research, but if you take my informants at their word, there are a lot of shy people with some social phobias, and alcohol helps them to, as some of them describe it, let “the real me come out.”

I have no idea about the convention scene, but the traditional portrayal is of people who are still in 'college mode' (I'd also point out that most people, like me, who end up teaching, are in some sense, still in 'college mode')

I realise that this is yet another example on a blog of a man defending socially awkward men's feelings, which I really don't want to do if it is taken as defending 'creepers'. But this notion that socially inept is just being shy and retiring doesn't really seem to cover the bases.

4:45 If you don't want to "perform socially", stay home and read a book or watch a video.

Consider it done. Went hikikomori and otaku years ago.

Whether or not you consider it hostile or pathetic really isn't my problem anymore.

At 10:53 on July 5, Harald K. wrote:

for many socially excluded and socially awkward men, fandoms are a way to get away from the burden of performing socially in front of women.

I think one of the elephants in the room has to do with the word "awkward" here. For some, not all but by no means a negligible number of these people (not just men) the word autistic applies better then awkward. Few people in the autism spectrum behave in the predatory manner recommended by Ken Hoinsky, not least because autistic people tend to find physical contact seriously uncomfortable. Still, many people raised with Western cultural expectations find autistic behaviour patterns disconcerting.

Maria Dahvana Headley, who claims to support neuro-diversity, writes the following guidelines to avoid the label of "creeper":

You do not transgress against the boundaries and personal space of other people by ignoring signs, information, and basic courtesies. You do not touch inappropriately, loom inappropriately, lurk, follow, stalk, and otherwise harass.

This list conflates genuinely bad behaviour with merely disconcerting behaviour. Actions such as invading personal space and touching inappropriately raise hackles and red flags because they have a known link to extreme violations such as rape. But what do "signs" mean? If that means social cues, not all people can read social cues, and the meaning of common social signals differs between cultures.

The ultimate problem with words like "creep" or "creeper" lies with our complex attitude to the emotions behind these words. Specifically, too many people act and write as though they believed emotion or intuition provided a magical guide to dangerous behaviour. They don't, and the illusion they do harms endangers everyone.

Part of this is a cultural clash, I suspect, in which the supposed 'creepers' are those who belong to this culture, which in my experience used to be dominant in fandom, for many conventions. Culture wars can be the worst.

Brett, that link is easily the dumbest thing I've read online all week.

I say this as someone who knows JCB (the author) socially and likes him.

One problem is that the scifi cons are full of nerds. The people complaining of creep behavior are themselves nerdes. So that thesis doesn't work.

I'm certain that the problem of social ineptness exists and that people of both genders suffer from it.I do not need to be convinced that socially inept people are hurt by rejection from people who want a more socially adept date or lover.

But I'm not sure why there's an effort to understand creep behavior as social ineptitude. Ot rather to understand the perception of creep behavior as a misunderstanding social ineptness.

Creep behavior is aggressive.

I'm not buying the idea that lots ans lots of women at scifi cons are rejectig as creepy the shy or clumsy overtures of essentially friendly but socailly inept nerds. After all, the women themselves are scifi fans, and, according to Ms Matthesen, also tend tt be nerds. And a certain porportion will be socially inept themselves.

Cleek introduced an off-topic topic up thread. This link is for those interested in the off-topic:

http://prospect.org/article/what-happened-obama-scandals

Coincidentally, I am taking harassment-free workplace training, and came across the following (paraphrasing):

Leaders should not offer promotion opportunities in exchange for sexual favors.

Why people still need to be told this is an ongoing mystery, but they do.

But Slart, I bet your training didn't have

Employees should not offer sexual favors in exchange for promotion opportunities

So the whole thing is grossly unfair to those leaders who have to fend off advances like that all the time!!!

/sarcasm

Such offers should be allowed as long as they are posted on the bulletin board. :)

Related:

A U.S. consular official posted in Guyana has been sacked following allegations he had been selling visas for sex and money in what was believed to be a massive human trafficking operation. The U.S. State Department has confirmed it is now currently investigating the claims.

Someone needs to write 500 times on the blackboard: I will not trade my power for sex.

at 9:07 on July 8, Laura Koerbeer wrote:

...I'm not sure why there's an effort.... to understand the perception of creep behavior as a misunderstanding social ineptness... Creep behavior is aggressive.

Simply put, what Laura terms an effort to understand the perception of creep behaviour, I would call an effort to correct a misperception of dangerous behaviour. As for why some of us make an effort to clarify these distinctions: first, because mistaking comfort for safety can have disastrous consequences. If you interpret discomfort with a person as a signal from an effective mechanism for detecting dangerous behaviour, you risk mistaking comfort for safety. It appears that many people want to believe the premise behind this, that emotions can substitute for knowledge, but experience strongly suggests they cannot. The converse of this theory, of course, hold that we ought to have diversity without discomfort: again, an appealing notion, but which experience refutes.

As for the notion of creep behaviour as aggressive: if "creep" behaviour means behaviour that sends out actual danger signals, I agree, no question. Aggressive, manipulative, boundary pushing and dehumanizing behaviour does signal danger. And if a consensus existed on that point, I suggest few of us would have any concerns. But the very word "creep" belies this: a "creep", by definition, gives you the "creeps"; in other words, a "creep" means someone who elicits a particular set of emotions. That those emotions do not reliably signal danger or safety, huge numbers of survivors can attest. But the effort, often an aggressive effort, to link the emotion with the reality goes on. And neurally and culturally diverse people who don't want to get "comfort zoned" out of existence will continue to push back.

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