« Your highly intrusive social engineering Friday open thread | Main | Confidence or Customers »

July 07, 2011

Comments

Dr. Science, allow me to applaud you for your concise account of the relevant facts of the recent fracas, as well as what I think is a fair, honest, and courageous interpretation of the meanings of those facts. I think you hit all the needed notes...I particularly thought the "off-hand" riff on 1-in-6 victims, v 1-in-20 perps was a telling touch. Nice work...

Myers.

[Good, managed to wait till I wasn't **F*I*R*S*T**!!!!!1!] [No offense, obviously, to Walled, who did no such thing.]

Ol' PZ outdid himself in that posting; not an easy feat. I also note his participation in the thread, which looks more active than usual; not hard to understand in light of the preceding thread(s).

And thanks for this posting; trust somone with a nym like "Science" to give us the actual information. (Would that we could so trust as a rule.)

In a couple of earlier interminable nasty threads on this flap, I never saw exactly the terrible, terrible thing that Watson said that got everyone so up in arms; one might have conjectured that there could have been something wrong there, which made it almost surprising how measured her language was.

Yes, many men are cluelessly creepy about this stuff.

The elevator incident was inappropriate and the cad, while probably a run-of-the-mill cad and not a predator, displayed zero sensitivity and common sense.

4:00am? What did he think .... her "I'm exhausted. I'm going to bed," was a mating call?

If by some evolutionary quirk of fate those two declarations WERE a mating call, why didn't all of the men in the bar crowd on to the elevator with her?

Dawkins requires a few more millenia to evolve and probably a kick in the nuts.

Jeez, a woman can't take the elevator at an atheist conference, she can't take the stairwell because she'd be tripping over the cads of faith who are taking a horndog break from the religious conference down the hall, and she can't head for the lobby because there's probably a male Supreme Court Justice lounge lizard casting significant looks and proffering a Pepsi with a roofie kicker.

I think most men in their heart of heart wish women would pick THEM up, but that's as far as it goes.

That all said, I've never, in many decades of sitting around with assorted bohunks, self-regarding charmers, and a few outright cads, had anyone wink and cast a sidelong nod at a female who happened to be on her fifth cocktail and pull a "bros before hos" on me with whatever secret handshake goes along with the "Pact".

No rape jokes either.

I've always thought the best pick-up line was the Hunchback of Notre Dame's: "Do you find me repulsive?" and then a shy, sickly smile.

It showed modesty, appropriately low expectations, a recognition of limitations, and a readiness to except No for an answer (in this case, yes, she did find him repulsive and fainted dead away from pure fright).


Setting aside how creepy it is for some d00d to follow you from the bar into the elevator, the bottom line is that he didn't care what she said she wanted. He wanted something else so he followed her from the bar into the elevator.
Then the d00dz in the comment threads were shocked that Rebecca failed to empathize with the (assumed to be socially inept) d00d who followed her from the bar into the elevator.

Women who have been slammed up against the wall or knocked to the floor and raped in an elevator could probably explain how difficult it is to reach the buttons. But yanno, these are people who present themselves as rational thinkers. So I am left to conclude that Rebecca offended their religious beliefs.

It's depressing how really really stupid some really really smart people can be.

I'm no fan of Dawkins's public persona, no matter how good a scientist he is. (Is he?) But this story takes the cake.

PZ is a mensch for sure, but aaiiee, he has some horrific commenters, who still do not get it. Even with him wielding the banhammer of righteous dignity, there is still some heinous stupidity and disordered thinking over there.

I can understand how this approach feels intimidating. However, I am not quite ready to label a badly-behaving male a cad, especially not in an Atheist conference. Instead, I would like to note that there may be a rational, medical explanation for such behaviour.

People with low levels of autism have often difficulty interpreting body language, difficulty in empathizing with their fellow beings and a very literal way of interpreting language. I'd like to posit that quite a few males in the conference have Asperger's syndrome at some level.

If the man in question had Asperger's syndrome, it is possible that he did not realize that the situation was threathening to the woman. It is even possible that the words were meant to be taken literally, not involving sex at all. (You know, I've been sitting in a woman's hotel room after midnight, discussing world views for hours without any sex being involved. However, it was the woman who invited me to her room. I thought at the time she did not have sex in mind either, but a fruitful discusson. I still think so. And I also think I have a low-level of Asperger's syndrome.)

Of course, as people, we have the duty to act towards each other in the spirit of humanity, Menschlichkeit. Having Asperger's is only a mitigating factor, not an absolving one. If one cannot understand body language and subtleties of language by instinct, one has the duty to educate oneself to understand them by intellect so that one can act with the same level of empathy and humanity as all the other people. The man in this story has a lot of work to do in that.

Of course, as people, we have the duty to act towards each other in the spirit of humanity, Menschlichkeit. Having Asperger's is only a mitigating factor, not an absolving one. If one cannot understand body language and subtleties of language by instinct, one has the duty to educate oneself to understand them by intellect so that one can act with the same level of empathy and humanity as all the other people. The man in this story has a lot of work to do in that.

Then I think he should be told that he engaged in creepy behavior and made someone feel intimidated. There might be some social embarrassment at that, but on the other hand, he DID cause some distress.

People with low levels of autism have often difficulty interpreting body language, difficulty in empathizing with their fellow beings and a very literal way of interpreting language. I'd like to posit that quite a few males in the conference have Asperger's syndrome at some level.

This may be true. Still the most important factor in this discussion, is not what happened in the elevator. It's the response to the woman saying that perhaps men should not do that. That a woman should state that she's uncomfortable when people do this has kicked off a storm of self indulged prats objecting to her. Of course woman are raped by men, but she should be able to mind read to realise that they're not the rapist.

Some of the comments to Myers' posts and at Laden's blog are enough to fill one with despair. Fortunately there are reasonable commenting there as well.

I agree with 90% of what you wrote, but this line - "And you need to be aware that it doesn't matter how great a guy seems when he's with you, if a bunch of women think he's a creep he's not actually that great a guy" - seems a bit over the top. Are you saying that women's judgment of character is infallible? That their evaluations of people are never influenced by superficial factors, like shyness, social awkwardness, physical appearance, etc? I don't know about you, but in my experience I've heard plenty of people casually dismissed as "creeps" for what seemed to me to be somewhat biased and unfair impressions. I'm sure I've been guilty of it myself. I don't think your otherwise spot-on defense of Skepchick depends on such an overly broad claim.

"I agree with 90% of what you wrote, but this line - "And you need to be aware that it doesn't matter how great a guy seems when he's with you, if a bunch of women think he's a creep he's not actually that great a guy" - seems a bit over the top. Are you saying that women's judgment of character is infallible?"

I general I might agree with this objection, but in context I must vigorously defend the Doc. By creepy, in this context, a bunch of women find him threatening then he probably is. The reality is the signals of that kind of creepiness are standing a little too close, asking questions that are awkwardly a little too personal or looking for a little too much information, staring a little too long at the wrong and inappropriate times, or lingering too long at the end of a conversation.

The signs of that kind of creepiness are NOT to be dismissed by shyness or awkwardness, but should be shared and taken seriously, and women, particularly several agreeing, are usually worth noting.

Are you saying that women's judgment of character is infallible?

Not at all. He's saying that if a statistically non-trivial number of women all perceive similar things about a guy -- things you yourself wouldn't see because of the different nature of your interactions -- then that adds up to something. In other words, womens' judgment hardly has to be "infallible" in order to be more than valueless.

Put another way: if a bunch of your friends had all eaten at a particular restaurant you hadn't yet been to, and they all tell you it's terrible, would you think you had zero information on which to form at least a preliminary impression? Sure, it's theoretically possible that they're all crazy, but is that the most likely explanation? Would you bet your next anniversary dinner with your wife on it? Afterall, your friends aren't omniscient, so there's no information there, right?

And while I'm here, just a couple of random thoughts.

It would be nice if the human mind worked in such a way that the mere act of conceptualizing the idea of pressing an elevator button instantaneously teleported you out of one. And "X isn't bad because Y is worse" is about the stupidest piece of sophistry imaginable. Dawkins' misogyny is apparently so powerful that it makes a brilliant guy like him make such idiotic statements.

And this isn't in response to anyone on this thread, but just in general: If a guy thinks "I'm exhausted, I'm going to bed" is the opening move in a chess game, then he's a lout. And if a guy pisses and moans about the slightest amount of very mild criticism in response to loutish behavior, then he's a douchebag. Louts are annoying, but douchebaggery just gives all of us guys a black eye.

PZ Myers is a Minnesota zoologist who studies squid professionally

Just a minor correction, but I believe his professional work centers mostly on studying development in zebrafish. The enthusiasm for cephalopods is more of a hobby.

(Also: while his bachelor's is in zoology, his doctorate, teaching post and research are all in straight up biology, or maybe "evolutionary developmental biology.")

That Myers thread is loaded with poor behavior on all sides.

That Myers thread is loaded with poor behavior on all sides.

Having read and participated in those threads, I have to say that the actual misbehavior (e.g., strawmanning) was pretty darned one sided.

Note that swearing, insulting the clueless, and offering up decayed porcupines for use in self-sodomy are par for the course at Pharyngula, so they don't automatically count as "poor behavior" in context.

@Lurker:

It may be that many of the people at the conference have some degree of Aspergers, but I doubt that's what was going on in this case. If people with Aspergers tend to interpret things overly literally, wouldn't they be willing to accept when somebody says they're tired and want to go to bed? And the part about wanting her to go back to his place for some coffee seems like a [thinks he's a] smooth guy's pickup line, not something from a socially awkward person who has trouble relating to others.

And even if Aspergers is the explanation, the responses to the original complaint are misguided. If the original creep was socially aware enough to realize how creepy he was being, he deserves to be told off for being a big enough jerk to keep it up. If he wasn't socially aware enough to realize what a creep he was being, he needs to be educated so he doesn't do it again. In neither case is "stop complaining" a viable response.

This seems to be the key point:

"Sorry, people, but that sends a very clear signal to women that calm requests for respect will be met with jeers..."

Hey, for all we know, guy-in-elevator might learn something from Ms. Watson's advice... perhaps even appreciate it! ;)

"Having read and participated in those threads, I have to say that the actual misbehavior (e.g., strawmanning) was pretty darned one sided."

That's odd; this wasn't my perception. To be clear, which side is it you refer to?

For clarification: in my view neither Elevator Guy nor Rebecca Watson win any prizes here. Stef McGraw, small maturity prize maybe.

Roger.

p.s. if this double posts, my apologies

Geeze. I like a good argument, probably more than I should, but calling a perfectly polite proposition of this sort "creepy" is so over the top I just can't get interested.

"And the part about wanting her to go back to his place for some coffee seems like a [thinks he's a] smooth guy's pickup line, not something from a socially awkward person who has trouble relating to others."

To me, it seems like a line from someone totally socially awkward. Sorry, I can't get upset about this situation. I don't think it has anything to do with "rape culture". I think that it has to do with people who are attracted to other people not really knowing how to express it, other than what they see in movies and on tv. People are expected to conduct their sexual overtures privately, so don't really have much social guidance. Some people, even if they did, would fail miserably. Nobody was hurt - who really cares? Some people get a charge out of announcing the fact that unattractive people have hit on them. I think that's much creepier than the hit itself.

And, I forgot to mention, this blog used to be about political issues. The country is falling apart, and we talk about whether some ridiculous social misfit doesn't know how to make a successful sexual overture, and whether his fumbled attempt is somehow emblematic of rape culture. Considering the country is near doom, I guess I shouldn't be surprised that we've reached the dark ages here on ObWi. Still, I am.

Brett, propositioning someone in an elevator does have a certain element of creepiness to it. If you don't see that, well, you might just come across as creepy to some women.

I've been staying out of this entire discussion because I can see it from both sides: she's got a perfectly legitimate reason for feeling uneasy, but nothing bad actually happened to her. It was fear, and even though it's not pleasant to be subject to fear, having that happen is in no way the same as actually being attacked or molested.

But, again, if there were a book of rules for men, that book would be to never proposition a woman in a place where she can't make a quick exit. It's courtesy. You don't get on an elevator with someone and then fart; you're both trapped with the stench, and at least one of you is not enjoying it one bit.

But I think Dawkins went too far.

The claim that stalker behavior is either caused by socially inept syndrome, or there is nothing wrong with stalker behavior such as following a woman out of a bar and into an elevator at 4am is pretty much how the clueless divided in most comment threads on this subject.

Lots of people tried to pretend that it was all about something besides the simple fact of saying out loud that stalkerish behavior makes women very uncomfortable so if you don't want to make women extremely uncomfortable don't do this.
That seemed weird to me. Then I realized that fictional representations of human interaction are full of these kinds of myth based scenarios. So it was good to have a discussion for the benefit of those who were capable of stepping into the reality based community and grasping the simple fact that Rebecca offered up.

I gotta partly agree with you, sapient. I'm doing most of the blogging here, and the fact is that political & economic analysis is NOT my area of expertise. Also, every time I think about it I get depressed, but not particularly *knowledgeable*.

The things I do know about seem to me, too, to be a bit ... less crucial. If one of my learned co-bloggers would like to step up to the plate on such issues more regularly, that would be nice. Or you could suggest someone we could invite for a guest-blogging spot.

thebewilderness:

So I am left to conclude that Rebecca offended their religious beliefs.

Pretty much. But which ones?

The amazing depth and spread of over-reaction to Rebecca's pretty mild statement, coupled with Dawkins' comments, suggests that either:

a) there is something about the way "atheism" and "skepticism" are being defined that attracts men who are mired in their own POV -- possibly because it validates their feeling of being smarter than everyone around them, I dunno. In which case there is a fundamental problem with atheism *as a worldview*, and an argument in favor of religion -- it may be fictional and authoritarian, but at least a request for some small courtesy might not turn people into raging dicks.

b) there's something about Dawkins and the other de facto leaders of the movement, aka "The Four Horsemen" -- Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Victor Stenger, along with Dawkins -- that attracks or brings this out in people. I'm not familiar with Stenger's writing, but I'm certainly comfortable with saying that Hitchens and Harris are jerks, though Harris doesn't seem to be an anti-feminist jerk (aka "douchebag").

Anyway, possibly the atheist/skeptical community that has coalesced around the Four Horsemen reflects the shortcomings of Dawkins & Hitchens, and it has nothing to do with atheism per se.

"a) there is something about the way "atheism" and "skepticism" are being defined that attracts men who are mired in their own POV -- possibly because it validates their feeling of being smarter than everyone around them, I dunno."

I've got to agree with you there. There's something about an evangelical atheist that seems even less attractive than an evangelical Christian. It seems to bring out a rejection of others' points of view that is argumentative and absolutist, which is one thing their reactions to Christians and to Skepchick have in common. As an agnostic, this absolutism seems almost religious to me (if you really want to set off a firestorm, try that line on them.)

There may not be a God-shaped hole in the human mind, but there certainly is a religion-shaped hole in human cultures. Even those that have tried to do without religion soon find themselves with belief systems, dogmas, and some version of Savonarola. In keeping with this, Dawkins did not respond to what Skepchick said, so much as to the evils of the Muslim religion, thereby bringing what had been a discussion of what social behavior was appropriate into the realm of political and religious beliefs, an area where he wields authority as a Great Saint of the Atheist...excuse me, but isn't that a firebomb coming in my window?

I tried to post a comment and received a pop up message that the data could not be accepted. So this is a test.

It was definition of religion #2 that I was thinking of.
2. Details of belief as taught or discussed.

Their POV is just as authoritarian as any God botherer organization with regard to the other half of the population. Their position was that she had no right to object.
They are operating on the basis of cultural myths that they do not question but simply accept as the way things are. How exactly do you go about claiming to be rational skeptics while perpetuating myths regarding human interaction? The same way the God botherers do. By slurping from the delicious chum bucket of outrage when someone points out that when you act like a creepy stalker d00d women are going to think you are a creepy stalker d00d.

You can see the myth in this thread as well.
Half the population puts up with this sort of obnoxious behavior almost ever time they go out the door, but that is of no political interest. It doesn't effect the way we govern or the laws we write. Indeed it does. Embracing myth over reality affects all aspects of society.

thebewilderness,
the comment thing happens when you've had the page open for a while, and your log in isn't 'fresh'. Don't know what the exact time out is, but that's what is doing it.

"And, I forgot to mention, this blog used to be about political issues."

Got that right. I keep waiting for this, or several other liberal blogs I visit, to even acknowledge the existence of the huge Obama administration scandal that's been breaking over the last month or two, and there's been nada.

It's got it all, right down to the DOJ responding to Congressional subpoenas with hundreds of blank sheets, department heads singing like canaries, perjury, death... Can you name it?

Mr. Bellmore, do you have a link for that story?

The ATF gunrunning scandal.

Which side did you wanna take on this one, Brett?

I'll be happy to take the side of more guns of heavy caliber for everyone on both sides of the border and abolishing the ATF.

My only regret is that patriotic leftist revolutionary groups on this side of the border whose mission it is to liquidate the Republican Party haven't been taking advantage of the easy access to AK-47s and other heavy weaponry available to everyone else along the border and elsewhere.

But I could also argue that the gun purveyors along the border should have been shut down completely by a well-funded ATF to staunch the flow of weaponry flowing to the drug gangs (who, after all, are a slightly more vicious version of libertarian businessmen) on both sides of the border.

Hey, I'm flexible.

Or, are you talking about the Obama Administration scandal involving their cozying up to Wall Street and the lack of prosecutions in the housing and mortgage collapse?

Coyness doesn't become you.

I'd prefer that the Republican base be liquidated by more affectionate methods, but even kissing them is counted as assault.

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504083_162-20075850-504083.html

See, if the merchants of death selling guns along the border (where the market is, they noticed innocently) had been selling stolen kisses instead of AK-47s, Eric Holder would be in even more trouble at the hands of filth like Darrell Issa.

Upthread:

"PZ Myers is a Minnesota biologist who studies squid professionally".

Yeah, that's what he tells the squid on the elevator.

Jack Lecou: "The enthusiasm for cephalopods is more of a hobby."

I have a very close female friend who recounted this encounter at a lunch break while she was attending graduate school in her late 40's, early 50's.

During an otherwise aimless conversation, the guy she was lunching with said apropos of nothing but with significant eye contact: "I could use a hobby." To which she answered, thinking he was referring to stamp-collecting, "Really, what sort of hobby." To which he doubled down with "I'm just saying I could use a hobby."

On reflection during the drive home, she decided he wasn't talking about stamp collecting or the higher class of mollusk.

The amazing depth and spread of over-reaction to Rebecca's pretty mild statement, coupled with Dawkins' comments, suggests that either:

Do you think the atheist/skeptic community is responding any worse than, say, any demographically similar community of people in the US would? While I agree that the reaction has been horrific, I'd be a bit surprised to see any better reaction if Rebecca had made her remarks while addressing the lack of women in Open Source projects and recounted an incident of creepy 4am elevator propositioning from OSCon.

I'll probably blog about it later, because I've been talking to myself about this for four days now, and it's like nailing jello to a tree, but this is it as far as I've got.

I have to look at elevator guy first:

1. He's a completely nice, possibly not very clearly thinking person, as who might not be at 4 a.m. He manages to catch up with the object of his admiration at the last minute before the elevators close and bubbles up with his admiration and a lame request for a coffee nightcap. She understandably refuses and he, disappointed, goes on his way, blushing hotly from the moment she voices her rejection, and blaming himself.

Our argument is not that he messed up, per se, but look at it the other way.

2. A smooth-operater figures he'd like to choose someone to have his way with (forgive my prudish choice of phrase), and decides to approach the girl who is walking alone, getting into an elevator alone, and he knows, because he heard her say so, going to bed alone. He follows her at a distance, noticing that she's not looking around. She's tired and no longer focused. She's off guard. As she turns around in the elevator to choose her floor, he's in front of her. He flatters her, offers her an innocent-sounding diversion. She, not flattered, refuses him flatly. Ah, too bad. The prey has become wary. He moves on, preserving his well-behaved facade.

The problem that women are pointing to is that those two scenarios could be exactly the same scenario. The woman in the elevator does not know. And here's the kicker: If she says yes to either man #1 or man #2, in the eyes of American society, she is consenting to sex with him. She has gone alone, willingly, to a man's hotel room in the middle of the night. What does she think she's there for?

If you don't want to be called out for ungentlemanly behavior, we're going to need to differentiate between a gentleman and a cad. We can't really expect the cad to change, so we're asking the gentleman to.

scyllacat:

Unfortunately, your analysis has a faulty premise. You describe Elevator Guy as "completely nice", but the object (good word!) of his admiration is *specifically* a woman who had been talking about not liking being sexually pursued at these cons. And who had *specifically* said she was tired and going to bed.

So his pursuit and proposition were directly against her explicitly stated wishes. This was NOT "completely nice" at all, this proved he was the kind of man who doesn't take a woman's expressed wishes seriously if they conflict with what he wants. He is the smooth operator's cousin, not an intrinsically different creature.

Indeed, @Doctor Science, the point of the exercise is to expose the faulty premise, and iterate that such "benefit of the doubt" is useless as a defense.

People are expected to conduct their sexual overtures privately, so don't really have much social guidance.

If you're attend a conference panel and the panelist says 'I'm tired of having men I don't know at this conference try to get in my pants, please stop doing that', isn't that 'social guidance'? How much clearer and explicit can a woman be?

Nobody was hurt - who really cares?

I think the fact that many American woman have to constantly worry about sexual assault while American men are mostly clueless about this everpresent background of fear is a problem. This case illustrates that problem. But it also highlights the fact that the whole idea that many American women have to live in fear of sexual assault all the time is rejected by lots of people who should really know better. That's an important fact: it helps me calibrate expectations because I want to assume that most people just get this. The fact that they don't means that I, as a man, need to be addressing the issue more than I am when conversation veers near it. That's useful to me.

Some people get a charge out of announcing the fact that unattractive people have hit on them. I think that's much creepier than the hit itself.

This seems...profoundly wrong. Does Watson really seem like she's telling this story and enduring public mockery from important people like Dawkins because she 'gets a charge out of it'? Really?

this blog used to be about political issues.

Sexism and rape culture aren't 'political issues'? Fascinating.

Beyond that, this blog has always been about many things, not just a very narrow vision of 'political issues'. It is summertime and there's less wonkiness all over the blogosphere.

But if you want to talk politics, maybe we can head over to an open thread and you can explain how awesome it is that the US State Dept worked like crazy to impoverish Haitian textile workers. I'm very curious to hear why this glorious work was kept secret from mere voters like myself. Can you imagine a world where the US government fears to do things like this because it will eventually be publicized? The horror, the horror!

I guess this proves one thing: there is literally no one in the western hemisphere so destitute and fscked over that the US government won't work tirelessly to impoverish and fsck them over even harder.

Mr. Bellmore, do you have a link for that story?

I'm not Mr. Bellmore, but I'd play him for a venti decaf latte. I'm going to give you a whole lot of links and you can decide for yourself which to read, and how much of it you want to take as presented.

Blood On Their Hands: Giving Guns to Criminals Was the Plan All Along

The Definitive Scandal: ‘Gunwalker’ Much Worse Than ‘Iran-Contra’

The Department of Justice’s Operation Fast and Furious:
Accounts of ATF Agents

In Secret Testimony ATF Chief Tells Congress about Controversial Gun Program

That should get you started.

[Moving from the other thread]

he was the kind of man who doesn't take a woman's expressed wishes seriously if they conflict with what he wants

I'm tempted to say, "What other kind of man is there?" By which I mean, "What other kind of human is there?"

As far as I can tell, this is closer to being the human condition than to being a special case of atheist conference elevator encounters potentially having to do with sex. (Not that the possibility of sex being involved doesn't make it more fraught a lot of the time.)

I'm oversimplifying, but I don't have time to write a tome, nor do I mean to say that the whole mess Doc is describing isn't worth commenting on.

IGMFU: people's incessant jockeying to get what they want regardless of what anyone else wants, or what harm is done to anyone else, and all the self-serving rationalization thereof -- how much of the news every day could be boiled down to this principle?

[Ditto]

Also, what johnw said. People who are so cocksure of their rightness in the face of other people's alleged wrongness are looking in a mirror. Thus the "it sounds religious" aspect of this story.

Have any of these militant atheists provided a proof of the non-existence of god that would meet the same standards they would look for in a proof of the existence of god? I haven't seen one; I can't imagine there's one that would satisfy my (essential) agnosticism.

There were two reasons I wanted to make the point that this kind of behavior -- failing to understand that other human beings are both truly real and truly other, instead of being merely characters in the movies playing in our heads -- isn't confined to atheists, or men, or late-night elevators, or sex:

1) The same kind of behavior happens in relation to many other things people want from/with each other.

2) Even if we confine ourselves to talking about sex, I can testify that the same kind of behavior (i.e. the elevator story) happens in same-sex situations where no men are in sight (and no atheists, either!). I will even confess that by any strict standard, I've been on both sides of such encounters at one time or another. Okay, it was a long time ago, but still...

It isn't helpful, in understanding how people behave, to imagine that any particular behavior is perpetrated by only one kind of human. I once participated in a series of workshops on conflict resolution centered around gender relationships, where I was usually the only gay person. It was amazing how many things the people in these workshops ascribed to gender, because the only people they had ever been in relationships with were people of the opposite gender. All the same sh!t happens in same-sex relationships, so it seems to me that if we only think it has to do with gender, that we're going to make some serious mistakes in understanding what it is and what we might do about it.

The multi-thousands (8500 by some accounts) of weapons purveyors (many in private homes) along the southern border required no help from the ATF to arm the drug cartels. Many been doing it for years, long before Eric Holder.

link

Even al Qaeda knows purchasing weapons at Arizona gun bazaars (weaspons likely imported to the United States from Bulgaria and other foreign countries, and reworked to enhance their killing power by the vast American population of gun entrepreneurs and Second Amendment "enthusiasts" who have intimidated Congress into silence on gun control) is an easy mark.

Fine. Abolish the ATF for its stupidity in this fiasco and then kick it up a notch and begin impeachment against Holder and Obama for some thrilling dreamland right-wing conspiratorial orgasm that thinks the Administration is plotting to take away someone's Second Amendment hunting rifle or self-defense shotgun in the Great Smoky Mountains.

Then its big honking weapons with big honking clips for everyone.

The line forms behind me.

Count, you're saying that having the US government expedite movement of guns to south of the border, it's an improvement, maybe?

The amazing depth and spread of over-reaction to Rebecca's pretty mild statement, coupled with Dawkins' comments, suggests that either:

I don't know that it requires any deep explanation. Basically, lots of men have problems getting called on privilege - or even understanding what it is. Male atheists are also...men. And unfortunately, there's nothing inherent about atheism qua atheism that predisposes men to be more apt to "get it". (Similar logic applies to the [I think smaller number of] women who "didn't get it".)

Of course, there are many atheists who do get it - especially those with a commitment to humanism and liberalism as well as simply atheism. But there are also many others who are atheists, but also have might have simplistic or ignorant views on other matters. I think some of the dismay being displayed in this affair is the realization that maybe the former group isn't as dominant within "the community" as we might prefer.

And with that out of the way, may I present the TL:DR version:

a) there is something about the way "atheism" and "skepticism" are being defined that attracts men who are mired in their own POV -- possibly because it validates their feeling of being smarter than everyone around them, I dunno.

I think there's something to that - but I also think that lots of things will attract men who are mired in their own POV. They are not, alas, in short supply.

Anyway, it has been frequently observed, and reiterated in this, err, debate, that the atheist/skeptical community often seems to fall out on a distinct fault line:

On the one hand, there's a lot of people - P.Z. being a high profile example - who have a strongly humanist, liberal, scientific-minded, aware-of-the-world's-complexitites, "reality based" outlook.

On the other hand, there's another set. One which is nominally atheist, but whose members tend to have a very different, more reductive, "rational"-with quotes- world view. A lot of them might have some kind of libertarian-ish affiliation. Some of them will espouse simplistic evo-psych junk - anathema to the first group. Depending on the degree of libertarianish bent, and on how much they've chosen to identify with the more evidence and science based side of the community, they may even be "skeptical" of things like global warming. Stereotyping, I'd say they're also more likely to have engineering-type backgrounds than scientific ones, and to be very predominantly male - which the first group isn't necessarily.

This is obviously a simplistic characterization, especially in lumping that second group all together, but it's a narrative that works pretty well.

In the latest kerfuffle, I'd say in the broad strokes that the first group "got it" pretty quickly. The problem was more with members from the second group.

In which case there is a fundamental problem with atheism *as a worldview*,

I'm not sure how that follows, and I'm surprised to hear you say it. I'd say it's pretty evident that religions attract more than their fair share of dogmatic, vocally self-satisfied people as well. And there's not really a contest when it comes to encouraging and institutionalizing misogyny.

I guess you might mean "worldview" in the sense of someone who adopts atheism as a quasi-religious identity in an unhealthy way - as opposed to someone who is atheist, but in a more, lowkey incidental sort of way. But I don't know that the former is really a fair characterization of anyone, even the more vocal atheists.

b) there's something about Dawkins and the other de facto leaders of the movement, aka "The Four Horsemen" -- Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Victor Stenger, along with Dawkins -- that attracks or brings this out in people.

There might be something to that - but I would not say it "brings this out in people" so much as that there are certain people who are going to use almost any excuse to display those traits. We're talking about the same crowd of people that read something like The Fountainhead, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, or The Bell Curve and take it all a little too seriously as well.

In general, the dynamic is not one where fans of the "Four Horsemen" adopt atheism - or some 'sect' of it - because of their readings and then follow along. The "Horsemen" are not "leaders" in any meaningful sense. It's more a situation where the high profile authors are helping to generate popular awareness and create a space where people are increasingly comfortable and empowered to step up, talk to each other, and express their own views.

Incidentally, note that the flame wars were on in force well before Dawkins' comment. His participation might have raised the profile of the whole affair, but from inside, it was more or less a footnote. (As in: "Wow. Dawkins weighed in on the side of stupid too? And with such a weak argument? Disappointing, dude. I hope he figures out why he's wrong. Maybe I'll write him a letter and stop buying his books for a while.")

Count, that's the bogus story that Obama may just have been trying to manufacture evidence to confirm.

"If you're attend a conference panel "

you're presumed to have witnessed 100% of every last presentation?

you're presumed to have witnessed 100% of every last presentation?

You're presumed to have witnessed a panelist's presentation if you approach her and compliment her on it.

In fairness, it isn't clear if the guy in question was at the panel per se or was at the bar where she was talking about...the same exact thing. I don't think it makes much difference though.

JanieM: "All the same sh!t happens in same-sex relationships, so it seems to me that if we only think it has to do with gender, that we're going to make some serious mistakes in understanding what it is and what we might do about it."

I agree with all that JanieM has said on this topic, including the above. Except maybe that I happen to be of the mind that "we" shouldn't do anything about it. People make social mistakes with other individuals, for which they say "Excuse me." People's preferences regarding sexual overtures and reciprocation are hugely personal. Individual interactions, as long as they don't involve coercion aren't something to "do" about. Lots of people would rather have a passion-based rapturous encounter without a lot of talk; lots of people would rather set boundaries very clearly with lots of words. It might be a problem figuring out how to read signals in certain circumstances and there are clearly cases where the rapturous people shouldn't have been hitting on the talk people. But the elevator encounter was a request, a denial, and an ending. Seems perfectly okay to me - even if the recipient of the request had written several books and made a career out of saying she didn't like questions.

Have any of these militant atheists provided a proof of the non-existence of god that would meet the same standards they would look for in a proof of the existence of god?

Sentence does not compute.

"But the elevator encounter was a request, a denial, and an ending. Seems perfectly okay to me - even if the recipient of the request had written several books and made a career out of saying she didn't like questions."


You are not the first to leave out the context of having been followed by a stranger out of a bar at 4am and focus exclusively on the q&a in the elevator.

As you are probably perfectly aware, things that may be appropriate in one setting are inappropriate in another. In human relations context matters.
In this situation the context must be dismissed in order to argue that the behavior "seems perfectly ok".

"having been followed by a stranger out of a bar at 4am"

Honestly, I'm not a person who thinks that because "she dresses that way" she "asked for it". But being in a bar with a lot of other people who have been at a bar until 4 a.m. presupposes that everyone at the bar has been drinking quite a lot. "Rape" would be unforgivable under that circumstance. "Following," and a question about coffee? Not unforgivable. Not at all.

This is from someone who has been at bars until 4 a.m.

Except maybe that I happen to be of the mind that "we" shouldn't do anything about it.

At the risk of ending up where I don't want to be, which is the quagmire that usually happens when sapient and I interact, I'll try to respond to this, because there's a weird way in which I agree with sapient, and another way in which I don't.

In general, in the deepest part of my nature and beliefs, I think there's very little that "we" can or should do about a lot of things. There's a very long list of things that people are constantly saying "we" should do something about, and my usual private response to these rabble-rousing activist assertions is, "Who is this 'we' of whom you speak?" Maybe I've told this story here before, but I have a vivid memory of someone standing up in the UU church I was trying out in the early nineties and saying, "We have to do something about Bosnia." My response was that I couldn't even figure out how to get my kids to stop squabbling, wtf did she expect me to "do" about Bosnia?

But the reason that "someone" might (and I originally said "might" and not "should"; I was very careful about that) want to "do something" about the topic at hand is that I don't think we're talking about "social mistakes." At least I wasn't. I was talking about one person marginalizing or ignoring the reality of another, because what the person of the first part wants is so much more important and vivid than the reality and otherness of the party of the second part. Or, the phenomenon of all of us making each other characters in our own movies, and some of us not only refusing to acknowledge that that's what we're doing, but going ballistic when someone suggests it.

And this behavior falls on a spectrum, of which "social mistakes" -- if they're on it at all -- are at the end we could consider "too harmless to bother about." Or: just grow up and roll with it; no one's perfect.

But there are other parts of that spectrum that are a big problem.

Can conversations like this help raise awareness of the problem, so that little by little people learn to treat each other better? I don't know. But I'm pretty sure that never talking about it will ensure that the status remains quo.

Slart:

No, I believe the ATF screwed up, probably with good intentions. They should present the truth forthwith, but as with just about any organization of more than two people in this society, public or private, all of the incentives are to dig in and deny.

Heads will roll. Eventually. For all of the wrong reasons.

However, given the resistance of fanatics to any rational gun control in this country, I'd say any further proliferation of lethal weapons beyond what a certain dumb-a*s guitar player needs to keep his family in squirrel meat is a win-win for the fanatics whether the ATF exists or not.

If the ATF program had interdicted the flow of weapons to drug cartels from the conveniently located gun purveyors along the border, Darrell Issa, at the behest and of the NRA, the Gun Owners of America, and the 8500 gun and munitions suppliers along the border, would still seek impeachment, which is where this going, if only to further the Republican Party's determination to default and destroy the social safety net.

Americans love their guns and their drugs.

Why shouldn't Mexicans?

Brett: "That's the bogus story that Obama may have just been manufacturing evidence to confirm."

That's just drunken and flirtatious elevator talk. What kind of a girl do you think I am?

And speaking of elevator talk, it occurs to me that elevator man could have stopped weary woman before she exited the bar and said: "I'm really interested in your point of view on various topics. How bout we meet back down here, gosh, in a few hours for a little coffee and maybe brunch. I'll try to remember to wear pants."

I do expect lower level heads to roll at the ATF, but the congresscritters who had oversight were purportedly advised of the Fast and Furious scam and signed off on it. So there is likely going to be a lot of effort expended on political damage control.

Count on the Count to cut through the crap.

Yes. In fact, why not just wait til the next day?

-- not just after she'd said she was tired
-- not alone in an elevator
-- not "come to my room...."

Why not? If my own experience is any guide, because his want was so much bigger than his sense of her separate and autonomous personhood.

"Following," and a question about coffee? Not unforgivable. Not at all.

It's this kind of comment that leads me to believe a lot of people are still really missing the point.

I don't think anybody is saying it was really "unforgivable." Or at least they don't care much. That's a total red herring. Watson didn't even seem especially upset with the guy. So unforgivable? Probably not. And not really relevant in any case.

And was it probably just some clueless guy who'd had a little too much too drink and was just kinda nervous and excited and not thinking so well? Yes.

But was it also uncool? Yes. Unnecessary? Yes. Disrespectful? YES.

Indistinguishable -- from Watson's perspective, and at least up until the elevators actually closed with the guy on the other side -- from a potential rape-maybe-about-to-happen situation? Just like they constantly warn women to watch out for in all those how-not-to-get-raped chain emails? YES.

And thus mildly--and I add again, completely unnecessarily--distressing and annoying? Yes.

In a way that someone who was paying an iota of consideration to Watson's feelings and boundaries would be able to anticipate with a reasonable degree of confidence? Yes.

To this day indistinguishable from the typical behavior of some scumbag who was thinking about maybe not taking no for an answer and testing the boundaries, or trying to "run the implication"? Yes.

...

So. Unforgivable? No. Something that maybe a blogger might want to make a video about to warn decent guys from repeating? Yeah.

What's the objection to that again?

And speaking of elevator talk, it occurs to me that elevator man could have stopped weary woman before she exited the bar and said: "I'm really interested in your point of view on various topics. How bout we meet back down here, gosh, in a few hours for a little coffee and maybe brunch. I'll try to remember to wear pants."

QFT.

Since we are talking about various scenarios, ranging from Elevator Man wants sex politely, to elevator man wants sex even if he has to bends some rules to get it, lets try a third scenario.

Elevator Man is at an atheist convention, he rarely sees this many athiests, so he is having a lot of fun staying up too late and talking with people that largely share his views. He is at a bar having a conversation with the people there. The conversation dies down so he gets up to head to an area of the convention that may still be active, such as a convention suite on a higher floor (they frequently have food and drinks, and a relatively populated until the very early in the morning). On the way upstairs, since there is only one way up, he runs into someone from the other end of the conversation who left a little before him, but he didn't catch her reasoning. He didn't catch everything she had talked about today, not having attended her panel where she shifted the topic from communication of atheism to 'how to provide the weapons to combat misogyny' but had heard some of what she was talking about in the bar, and her ideas are appealing to him. She says something about feeling 'so tired' and an idea occurs to him as the elevator goes up, perhaps the free coffee in his room could allow longer conversations, but wait, coffee in my room could be a euphamism for sex... I know I will tell her there are two ways to take what I am saying, and warn her that I mean the milder one 'Don't take this the wrong way...' Hmm guess she wants to go to bed.

One neat facet of this scenario is it actually ascribes 'good' motivations to everone in the elevator, and uses the words people actually said and assumes they have meaning beyond 'window dressing for come to my room, because surely, we all know what a guy wants at 4am in a hotel, convention or no convention'.

Please, explain to me why this scenario should be dismissed out of hand.

Please, explain to me why this scenario should be dismissed out of hand.

It's possible that the guy in the elevator in the original story really did just intend coffee. But his true motivations aren't relevant -- and that's the whole point. (Or one of the points.)

The trigger for this discussion was a woman describing a scenario in which she herself was one of the participants (i.e. not an imaginary scenario), and saying, in effect:

Look guys, as the woman in the elevator, I can't tell what your true motivations are, and the hard experience of many women (among other factors) informs my discomfort with it and my feeling that it's creepy. So hey all you nice guys out there, I'm giving you a hint, in case you don't happen to be well-informed about this topic: it would be nice if you didn't do this kind of thing, because the woman in the elevator has no way to tell whether you're one of the nice guys, or the other kind.

The fact that a lot of self-defined "nice guys" went ballistic over this bit of advice suggests that maybe they're not quite as nice as they think. At least, to me it isn't exactly "nice" to say that a woman's framing of her own experience of a situation she participated in should be dismissed in favor of theirs.

Other scenarios that have been proposed (e.g. invite her for coffee tomorrow, and don't do it in the elevabor) were intended to suggest ways that a nice guy could honor her request.

What's the point of yours?

At the risk being the only reply to to my comment, I will attempt to answer my own question.

The reason people don't like this explaination is it assumes she is wrong, and assuming that peoples argument is wrong from the begining touches a very powerful nerve.

I don't think this rule should apply in this case, as we are not speculating what was in her head (which is very bad form) we are attempting to understand the motives of a third party, where additional perspectives helps, and accusing someone of being an imperfect mind reader is not quite as bad as assuming someone accidently consented to sex (by wearing that shade of toe nail polish, or forgeting to plant anti-personel mines around the perimeter when camping).

"we are attempting to understand the motives of a third party"

You might be, but I don't see that anyone else is, because Guy In Elevator's (GIE) motivations are not the point.

If we credit GIE with exactly the motivation you suggest, GIE's objective was to ask the woman he'd just met to meet him for coffee/conversation - a perfectly harmless objective.

But in order to accomplish this objective, it matters only what SkepChick (or any other woman atheist this GIE might approach in the future) thinks of this GIE and his elevator tactics.

The message of SkepChick and others commenting on this, was that if he wanted to accomplish his objective (coffee/conversation with atheist woman!), he absolutely should not have followed her into the elevator and asked her back to his room for coffee while they were both in the elevator.

Reading this thread I see this has been explained to you already multiple times, and you're apparently really not able to take it in: when a man approaches a woman in an elevator, (assuming that he doesn't actually have the intent of raping her) it actually matters more what the woman thinks of this kind of approach than what the man's motivatons actually are.

Because, for all men not rapists, the point is not to get to approach any woman you feel like and demand interaction with her regardless of what she wants - the point is for the woman to want to interact with you.

Why is it so impossible for you to understand that?

(Relurking.)

To indulge in some SIWOTI for the moment, "Sapient," you don't sound like you understand the point for a minute. A man, at 4 a.m., approaches a woman, alone, where she can't get away, and presents her with an offer that she CAN ONLY REFUSE.

Most women would have a reason to feel nervous if not outright threatened if they had to say no to a man who was between her and the exit when he made a personal request.

The fact that you repeatedly fail to understand this tells me that you're probably male, although you could just be very young, naive, and not allowed to be up at 4 a.m.

Yes, I'm being pissy. @Jes, @jack lecou, @Dr. Science, thank you for eloquent expressions. For those of you unnamed who keep ON going on about people's intent and motivation, even though that's not what it's about at all, Check Your Privilege.

Now, I'm gonna go Calm Down.

--Scyllacat

Please move the ATF discussion onto the most recent open thread.

Everyone keys off of different words in the account, so I don't think we are really arguing. If she had just said "asking a woman to come to your room at 4am is not cool" I don't think that would be a controversial statement.

She didn't say that though. She said "don't 't invite me back to your hotel room right after I finish talking about how it creeps me out and makes me uncomfortable when men sexualize me in that manner." So yes, it matters whether he sexualized her or vice versa.

She also didn't say he followed her either, she just said that he joined her in the elevator. Following does seem pretty stalkerish, residing in the same elevator does not.

When considering the creep factor does it matter whether the doors are closed or not? Her accounting implies this was an early interaction, so they might not have closed.

So depending on how you read her account, and depending on how you the read in to these details, we probably aren't talking about the same thing. This doesn't even get into whether she implies that sexualizing her in that manner is misogyny, and whether a pedanticly inclined individual might argue that, without dismissing concerns about being alone with men.

One of the many things you do not appear to grasp, delurker, is that "Don't take this the wrong way..." communicates that elevator d00d is perfectly aware that he is exhibiting creepy stalker d00d behavior. And yet he does it anyway.

so I don't think we are really arguing.

I do.

So yes, it matters whether he sexualized her or vice versa.

No, it doesn't.

She can't read his mind. So for her own safety she has to treat it as if it's sexualized. A potential rapist would say the same thing this guy did. That's the message from women on this thread to men: "We can't tell. Therefore, you're not helping your own cause by behaving in this way, and you may well be causing discomfort (or worse) to other people by persisting in it, and persisting in not hearing this message about it."

Since you don't seem to want to hear this message no matter how many times it's explained, this is the last time I'm going to bother. That doesn't mean that if no one answers your next comment within half an hour, we're not still disagreeing.

This doesn't even get into whether she implies that sexualizing her in that manner is misogyny

Whether he sexualized her and whether that's misogyny don't change the basic shape of the elevator encounter, her options in the face of it, or the message being offered to guys who might be tempted to make elevator offers.

Beyond that, I have no idea what your assertion that I just quoted is supposed to convey, beyond the fact that right at this moment you're not carrying the quibbling and misdirection any further.

*****

Since I'm done here, I also want to go back for a moment to this:

The reason people don't like this explaination is it assumes she is wrong, and assuming that peoples argument is wrong from the begining touches a very powerful nerve.

A feeling isn't an argument.

People can't be wrong about their own feelings.

Period.

(People can make assumptions that lead to feelings, and the assumptions can be wrong, but as has been explained 77 times already here, the assumptions that many if not most women would make in the elevator encounter are for their own safety, and are justified by hard experience, so it makes no difference whether they're accurate or not.)

So the general consensus is "dont take this the wrong way" makes people on edge hear "not that I will react violently if you say no or anything" rather than some sort of magic incantation to dismiss alternate interpretations?

People can't be wrong about their own feelings

True. But they can be wrong in their assessment of the degree to which their feelings connect with reality, no?

Feelings are only real to the person experiencing them. The reality is what it is, independent of what feelings occur.

Janiem, thank you for your specific response. I understand that I am coming off as a troll who is pretending ignorance, but I am trying to understand other peoples perspectives. It is very easy to accidentally shove a hand in the middle of a very long standing argument, but if I can keep all my fingers at least I can understand why a statement or a response was a big deal.


Have you ever been put in an uncomfortable position? Have you ever been put "on the spot"?
If the answer is yes, then you understand her perspective. She described specific behavior that made her uncomfortable and advised that if men did not want to make women uncomfortable they would not do this thing.
I don't know how to make it any clearer for those who are oblivious to the simple fact that women are put in these kinds of uncomfortable positions on a regular basis and that they too often result in violence.

"The fact that you repeatedly fail to understand this tells me that you're probably male, although you could just be very young, naive, and not allowed to be up at 4 a.m."

Well, as I mentioned, I've actually been at conferences, in elevators, late into the night after being at bars. I don't care to disclose my gender. I'm experienced enough to know that people's reaction to alcohol varies dramatically, and that some people aren't in their most dignified, controlled state at 4 a.m. after many, many drinks. If I were afraid of hearing something I objected to, I'd probably seek more sober company, or only drink with trusted friends.

Some people enjoy close encounters with strangers. Some women might even accept such an invitation, even though doing so is not necessarily safe. People are different. Adult women shouldn't be presumed to need chaperones or babysitters, nor should they be deprived of the opportunity to engage in a social interaction after a polite invitation.

Women absolutely have the right not to be raped, or intimidated. But just because some women are afraid of rape doesn't meant that people shouldn't be allowed to politely ask a question in a public elevator. It's very easy to get off of an elevator, by the way.

Women absolutely have the right not to be raped, or intimidated.

----------

Sapient, I think the other side of the argument is that she felt intimidated.

"Sapient, I think the other side of the argument is that she felt intimidated."

I don't think subjective feelings of intimidation trump the fact that in a free society, people should be able to politely encounter other people. I've felt intimidated many times. Being alone with a large muscle-bound stranger with lots of tatoos, a shaved head, and jack boots, for example, makes me feel uncomfortable. Should we ban all such people from being in the company of all other people just because I have that discomfort? No. Should we politely suggest that all such people ride in elevators alone? Of course not. My prejudices or worries or fears shouldn't determine anything about other people's behavior. Not all women are afraid of questions by men.

I think it's fair to tell men that some women find such behavior incredibly creepy, or threatening. That's fine. Drawing the conclusion that such such behavior is, then, objectively creepy or threatening is a bit problematic. Do we judge behavior by the reaction of the most phobic among us? I think it's fair to say that people are allowed to ask a polite question, receive a negative reply, then back off.

"Drawing the conclusion that such such behavior is, then, objectively creepy or threatening is a bit problematic."

Because obviously, only men can ever judge whether a person's behavior is objectively creepy / threatening. Women just don't have that kind of objective judgment, especially not of male behaviour. Oh, Sapient, how I have not missed you.

That your own prejudices, worries, and fears tell you that it's not really creepy or threatening for a large muscle-bound stranger with lots of tattoos, a shaved head, and jack boots, who followed you into an elevator in a strange city at 4am, to ask you back to his room because, he says, you seem like an interesting person, does not mean that your prejudices, worries, and fears telling you that this is really OK are any kind of objective analysis of the situation.

Other people more experienced than you in that kind of analysis have outlined why it is a creepy / threatening thing for a strange man to do, and your ignorance in dismissing this as "phobic" is really breathtaking.

I noticed JanieM had commented, and as usual she is talking sense.

People can make assumptions that lead to feelings, and the assumptions can be wrong, but as has been explained 77 times already here, the assumptions that many if not most women would make in the elevator encounter are for their own safety, and are justified by hard experience, so it makes no difference whether they're accurate or not.

Most of the time you can ride in a car quite safely without wearing a seatbelt. If, as Slartibartfast apparently thinks, that means people who feel that all passengers and the driver should always wear seatbelts are "wrong in their assessment of the degree to which their feelings connect with reality" well, the people who have hard experience of that kind of risk assessment disagree with him: safer to wear a seatbelt, even if it's unnecessary on most car trips. Safer to treat a strange man who propositions a woman when they're alone in an elevator as a potential rapist, even if most of the time he won't be.

Since you don't seem to want to hear this message no matter how many times it's explained, this is the last time I'm going to bother.

Fair point. Me too.

This man scores higher on the threat level scale than Man with the Cockroach Tattoos. (Who, after all, is guilty of nothing more than terrifying bad taste.) You see, Mr. E-mail has made it clear that he ignores what I say when he wants something from me. Now, I don’t know if he is an actual rapist, and I sincerely hope he’s not. But he is certainly Schrödinger’s Rapist, and this particular Schrödinger’s Rapist has a probability ratio greater than one in sixty. Because a man who ignores a woman’s NO in a non-sexual setting is more likely to ignore NO in a sexual setting, as well.

So if you speak to a woman who is otherwise occupied, you’re sending a subtle message. It is that your desire to interact trumps her right to be left alone. If you pursue a conversation when she’s tried to cut it off, you send a message. It is that your desire to speak trumps her right to be left alone. And each of those messages indicates that you believe your desires are a legitimate reason to override her rights.

For women, who are watching you very closely to determine how much of a threat you are, this is an important piece of data. Schrödinger’s Rapist

Jesurgislac, Juan Williams is scared of people in "Muslim garb" getting on an airplane with him. Of course "hard experience" would justify his fear that Muslims have been known to blow up planes, and that someone might blow up his. Yet, we don't accept his fear as a reason to control the behavior of the "scary" person. "Hard experience" would teach us that it's risky for children to have fathers or father-figures in a household, since 60% of child abuse is by a father or father figure. Yet we promote the idea that fathers should reside with families. Even two fathers. Because even though it happens, it doesn't usually happen. We don't cater to the fears of people who might, very wisely, suspect the worst.

There are lots of bad things that happen in the world, and caution is advised. But some people, at certain stages in their lives (maybe when they're at a conference at 4 a.m.), welcome human contact, even with a stranger. Sometimes women do. When these invitations come, they usually come in a private setting. Some women would prefer to avoid the risk entirely by staying in their room. Some, when invited, just say no thanks. Some women find the invitation creepy, then say no thanks. Some of the men may actually be creepy. Some of the women might be kind of creepy. Some of the situations are creepy. Some turn into relationships. And marriage. Risky? Yes, and not worth it for a lot of people. But there's nothing wrong with the invitation, or the fact that some people wish to have the opportunity to take the risk.

"It is that your desire to interact trumps her right to be left alone. " Sure, but there would rarely be any social interaction if people weren't sometimes interrupted. If, after the interruption, the initiator won't take no for an answer, then there's a problem.

"It is that your desire to interact trumps her right to be left alone. " Sure, but there would rarely be any social interaction if people weren't sometimes interrupted. If, after the interruption, the initiator won't take no for an answer, then there's a problem.


Quite true, sapient. Some people do find it necessary to be rude in order to force another person to give them their attention.
However, I do not think that doing without the sometimes interruptions would result in rarely any social interaction, except for those who find it necessary to be rude in order to force another person to give them their attention.

sapient:

I thought for a minute there you were Getting It, and then:

It's very easy to get off of an elevator, by the way.

*facepalm*

That is *exactly* what Dawkins said, to which I replied:

it is possible to prevent someone from pressing an elevator button. Especially if you are larger and stronger than they are.
Did you not read that part, or did you not understand?

The fact that you -- and Dr. Dawkins -- have no negative associations with being in elevators with people you don't know is not generalizable. Women have been raped in elevators; *many, many* women have been groped or harrassed. This is not a one-in-a-million occurrence, this is a regular problem that women are explicitly taught to be aware of and have strategies to deal with.

What I would appreciate hearing from you, actually, is your opinion of why Watson's comments got so very far under so many people's skin. Because to me she seemed to be making a really diffident request for simple courtesy, but many people seem to have gone *ballistic* at the prospect.

What I would appreciate hearing from you, actually, is your opinion of why Watson's comments got so very far under so many people's skin. Because to me she seemed to be making a really diffident request for simple courtesy, but many people seem to have gone *ballistic* at the prospect.

While this was directed at Sapient, I have been giving some thought in this area.

I think it is safe to assume that the reason Dawkins went ballistic is because what he heard her saying was 'Misogyny is pretty bad amongst atheism activists'. I am neither a feminist activist nor a an atheism activist, but just from his response I get the impression that to Dawkins, feminism is a cludgle to use against organized religions, so as long as Atheism looks better than them, he feels any criticism in this area is an Attack on Atheism. His impression of her stance may also be slightly different from the internet at large, because he heard what she said at the Communicating Atheism panel, which she just summarized in her recounting, and exact phrasing can be important when key words have set someone off.

As I mentioned up above, if her wording was 'Some people at atheism conventions act in ways that make women uncomfortable, which could probably drive some people off. Why at the last convention I was at, at 4AM a guy asked me to come to his room for coffee in an elevator. Don't do that, it made me feel really uncomfortable' I don't know that it would have touched nerves that it did.

During the convention, she spoke at a panel. According to a transcript written up over at Ta Nehisi's blog she describes how she handled the panel as follows.

"The panel itself was on communicating atheism and they kind of left it open for us to talk about whatever we wanted really within that realm. I was going to talk about blogging and podcasting, but a few hours prior that panel there was another panel on women atheist activists, and I disagreed with a lot of what happened on that panel, uh, particularly with something that Paula Kirby had said. Paula Kirby doesn't have a problem with sexism in the atheist community and because of that she thinks there is no sexism.

So I thought that I would during my panel, discuss what it's like to communicate athesim as me, um, as a woman but from a different perspective from Paula. I don't assume that every woman will have the same experience that I've had, but I think it's worthwhile to publicize the fact that some women will go through this, and, um that way we can warn women ahead of time as to what they might expect, give them the tools they need to fight back, and also give them the support structure they need to, uh, to, to keep going in the face of blatant misogyny.
"

So, when she later says don't invite me back to your hotel room right after I finish talking about how it creeps me out and makes me uncomfortable when men sexualize me in that manner. it reads like she is saying that this is the blatant misogyny that women need to fight against.

When you layer on top of that the fact that this is a hotel where everyone is wearing nametags, rooms have to be booked with credit cards, people are using the elevator at 4AM, there are still plenty of people downstairs, rooms may not be particularly private (room sharing is pretty common at conventions, as are room parties where the doors are left wide open to the hall, and people can be wandering the halls until after the sun comes up) and you come up with the impression that while its fine she said 'No' and its good that he dropped it, I doubt he meant anything other than talking and coffee.

I have not been to any Atheism Conventions, I am basing my impression on a small science fiction convention that is more local to me than this convention is to her, but honestly at least half of the people there know me, my sister, may know three of my brothers, my wife (whom I met there). So I have a hard time envisioning at convention where people would get away with attacks. Which isn't to say some folks there aren't creepy, but in my experience they still took 'No' for an answer.

When you layer on top of that the fact that this is a hotel where everyone is wearing nametags, rooms have to be booked with credit cards, people are using the elevator at 4AM,

Not all of them are hotel guests.

I'm thinking that you aren't sufficiently imaginative about these sort if things.

it reads like she is saying that this is the blatant misogyny that women need to fight against.

And look. She was right. It is.

So I have a hard time envisioning at convention where people would get away with attacks

And that incomprehension from male science-fiction fans about sexual assault at conventions is why women started the The Open Source Women Back Each Other Up Project (though bless their hearts, it appears the men who are mensches have started a "Gentlemen's Auxiliary", too) - Jim C. Hines rocks)

From one recent example:

"The results were absolutely horrifying. I couldn't find a single woman who hadn't been followed, groped, or harassed. I couldn't find one woman who hadn't been followed, groped, or harassed for even one day at the convention. Many of my friends who go have been raped attending the con, and I myself was raped after being at the con for approximately eight hours. The rape was never prosecuted, because I couldn't find anyone who didn't treat it as a joke and took me seriously. The defense was, 'That's just what happens at Keycon.'"

The results were absolutely horrifying. I couldn't find a single woman who hadn't been followed, groped, or harassed.

Obviously, these are lies. I mean, people at a convention hotel have to use a credit card to pay. And when you use a credit card, that magically makes it impossible to rape or grope or harass anyone because...well just because. Don't you understand? People *know* Delurker's family and he *feels* certain that no one would rape anyone at a scifi convention, and that proves that any alleged woman who claims to have allegedly been raped must be confused.

Jes, I warn you -- any more delurking and I will clutch at your ankles in a mutually embarrassing fashion when you try to walk out again.♥

I'll content myself with a respectfully distant plea to hang out and talk a while, so as to maximize my nonthreatingness.

Asking a woman you've never met, or even one you know well, to your room at 4 a.m. while alone in an elevator seems off-putting, at a minimum, and with a fairly obvious subtext that any woman would find alarming and threatening to one degree or another. Entrees like this are subject to benign interpretations, which is why they are used.

However, this seems a bit over the top:

I couldn't find a single woman who hadn't been followed, groped, or harassed. I couldn't find one woman who hadn't been followed, groped, or harassed for even one day at the convention. Many of my friends who go have been raped attending the con, and I myself was raped after being at the con for approximately eight hours.

Assuming the truth of this statement, why would any sane woman attend one of these things and why were there, apparently, no prosecutions? Other questions: is this common at sci-fi conventions or is Winnipeg an outlier? If so, what kind of all world bastard plagues a genre I had always thought was kind of nerdy (I'm a sci-fi fan)?

I wish I knew how to quit you.

I'm in good company, anyhow.

*****

Slarti: Feelings are only real to the person experiencing them. The reality is what it is, independent of what feelings occur.

I acknowledged something like that along with what I said about feelings.

But now that you mention it, you could probably get rich if you would patent and sell your secret decoder ring that allows you to know what "reality" is while the rest of us move around in the miasma of our emotions. ;)

My point has to do with the many hundreds of instances I've experienced in my life where someone says to me, "You shouldn't feel that way," often when there is no dispute whatsoever about the "reality" we've both experienced. The reaction to this elevator story is a lot like that.

But this is potentially a threadjack so I won't say more.

McT, I had the same thought. I spent my youth reading science fiction in a small southern town and wondering how one got to the bright lights, big city to go to an actual convention, (and almost all my reading was used books and magazines, so I was like the guy who finds 'Europe on $5 a day' and starts planning his travel budget') so I'm a bit taken aback that when they are described in this way, thinking 'gee, why did I ever want to go to one of those?'. While I have taught at a few boys high schools, and realize how easy it is for immature males to end up egging each other on to do things that would, with a minimal amount of thought, be self-evidently sexist and, more importantly, absolutely stupid, but "followed, groped, harassed", and "raped", that seems to be taking it to a level that makes me embarrassed that I ever wanted to attend one.

"You shouldn't feel that way,"

I just want to respond to that by disavowing any intention at all to instruct others what to feel, or what not to feel.

Nor do I claim to be able to divine the reality of any given encounter. Knowing what is in the mind of other people; I'm not sure that I could take that.

/threadjack

Assuming the truth of this statement, why would any sane woman attend one of these things and why were there, apparently, no prosecutions?

My sense is that KeyCon is particularly bad in this regard. In other words, bad things happen at many cons, but not necessarily at the same rate.

Also, the issue might not be prosecutions per se; I mean, anyone can go to the police at any time. The issue is more about the culture of the community that makes up the con and what the con committee does as an institution to make the event safe. So, while anyone can go to the police, if doing so will bring tons of shaming and insults from the rest of the con, then people will be less likely to go. Some of this is just simple norm enforcement, like having the organizers make a public statement that, say, groping is unacceptable and that if you do it, you'll be kicked out.

And since I'm here, I want to throw a spotlight on a repeated motif of sapient's. These are taken from a bunch of different comments:

-- Adult women shouldn't be presumed to need chaperones or babysitters, nor should they be deprived of the opportunity to engage in a social interaction after a polite invitation.

-- I don't think subjective feelings of intimidation trump the fact that in a free society, people should be able to politely encounter other people.

-- Should we ban all such people from being in the company of all other people just because I have that discomfort?

-- My prejudices or worries or fears shouldn't determine anything about other people's behavior.

-- I think it's fair to tell men that some women find such behavior incredibly creepy, or threatening. That's fine. Drawing the conclusion that such such behavior is, then, objectively creepy or threatening is a bit problematic.

-- Yet, we don't accept his fear as a reason to control the behavior of the "scary" person.

This stuff makes it pretty hard not to think that sapient is either a careless reader or a manipulative writer. Because I don't see anything in this thread that suggests banning people or controlling people or depriving them (by outside force or rules) of opportunities, or anything whatsoever along those lines.

And I don't see anyone but the people who don't see what the problem is talking about "objective" reality and "objective" creepiness.

Doctor Science has explained more than once that it's about this: "a ... request for simple courtesy."

So another question for sapient is: Who are you actually arguing with?

And: Can you point to all those comments where people have suggested "controlling" people, and depriving them of things? Or where someone has asserted that the guy in the elevator was "objectively creepy," or where someone is making an issue of "objective reality"?

[Okay, Turb posted while I was writing this, but that can't account for sapient's earlier misrepresentations of what people are saying. And I assume even sapient might agree that it's okay to try to enforce a community norm that says that "groping" isn't acceptable.]

Assuming the truth of this statement, why would any sane woman attend one of these things and why were there, apparently, no prosecutions?

Perhaps the womennwho experienced these things were afraid that reporting to the police would ultimately result in some upper-tier law firm accusing them of being promiscuous blackout drunks with histories of mental problems. I've heard that that happens.

Jes, in response to your assertion that the act is misogyny, as English is a living language, any speaker or group of speakers are free to define any word however they choose. Something to keep in mind when communicating outside of the group is how much the in group definition differs from the out group definition, and how much the in group classification of actions differ from the out group's. Using in group jargon when talking to people outside the group will lead to miscommunication, and when the terms used are emotionally charged, you may receive a lot of counter productive semantic arguments.

some upper-tier law firm accusing them of being promiscuous blackout drunks with histories of mental problems. I've heard that that happens.

In a week or so, when I've put out all the fires, I'll be happy to address the trial and the jury's verdict in detail. If you're relying on the general take exemplified by Feminsta or Sparky or Jezebel, you are not getting any of the actual evidence and certainly no inkling of how the case was defended or what the evidence was.

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.

I don't think subjective feelings of intimidation trump the fact that in a free society, people should be able to politely encounter other people.

I don't really want to wade back in on this, but I will just say that there is some dispute as to whether this incident (and the many others like it) constitute "people politely encountering other people". In fact, Rebecca Watson's plea was for more politeness, not less.

In my book, politely encountering other people involves taking some consideration of their own boundaries, feelings, and convenience, not merely my own. That is usually going to rule out demanding their attention in an enclosed elevator at dark o'clock in a manner that is utterly indistinguishable from the approach of a rapist or other variety of sexual predator.

YMMV.

(PS: It should go without saying that asking other people to be polite, or telling them that some of the things some of them are currently doing aren't, doesn't suddenly make this an unfree society. Gynofascist invasion of the manosphere notwithstanding.)

Believe it or not, McK, I can read news sources that aren't blogs by silly girls who aren't smart enough to understand the groundbreaking rape defense, "She was a crazy slut."

There is this report on some of the inconsistencies with Jones claims and the evidence from the trial.

Also, that's an interesting comment, McKinney.

And this longer report from Mother Jones, which is also linked in the post I link to in my prior comment.

The fact that Watson was made uncomfortable by the situation and chose to let others know she felt that way is fine with me. The problem isn't with what she said, it's that people want to turn her sensibilities into a social norm, 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.

My experience with conventions is very much as described by Delurker at 12:50 a.m. I've attended many. Late at night (and at the wee hours) there are typically lots of people in hotel bars drinking and laughing, and getting to know one another, apparently sometimes (consensually, later) very intimately. The particular conventions I've attended are not known for rape or groping. Most of the people attending do so for reasons of professional or personal development, so are not necessarily looking for romance or sexual intimacy. But there are people who are, and what's wrong with that?

Although Watson has every right to her own sensibilities, and to let others know that she was, 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.

Groping and raping are very different circumstances than talking in an elevator. (And despite the difficulty in prosecuting those behaviors, they are crimes and torts.) Groping and raping happen in many places, not just elevators, but that doesn't mean that people need to quit inviting other people to have more intimate encounters, or that they should always do so over a loudspeaker or within proximity to a chaperone or police officer.

Anyway, these kinds of discussions are as addictive as soap operas, and about as substantive. People have different sensibilities about such things.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad