Matters of Perspective

I’m peeved. The latest SFWA shitstorm (which appears to be at least in part a continuation of the previous shitstorm – it’s become rather more difficult to distinguish them since SFWA decided they needed to produce more shitstorms in a shorter time period to keep their members happy. At least I think that’s the argument) has, well… It’s shown me that I’ve missed something very important.

For those who are wondering the current shitstorm is centered around an accusation that an editor with a reputation for skeevy behavior harassed an author at a recent convention (not LibertyCon). The author did the procedurally correct thing and reported the incident to the convention authorities and the editor’s employer – and was surprised to learn that there were no complaints on record about the editor despite him having quite the reputation.

A veritable avalanche of “me too, he harassed me too” exploded after the editor’s name was made public, followed by a whole lot of people who should know better opining that the editor in question should be publicly castrated and fed his equipment or something (no, not literally. I haven’t been following the latest outbreak of Feminist Glittery Hoo Haa that closely but I’m quite sure fresh testicles weren’t on the menu. Yet. Compulsory re-education probably was). Authors posted guidelines for conventions wishing to have them as guests. I’m tempted to post mine: they’re pretty basic. Have me on a panel or three and be in driving distance of where I live. None of this harassment policy that basically says if it could possibly offend anyone at all it should be taken out and shot… oh wait. Taken out and re-educated. They don’t believe in shooting, mostly.

The feeding frenzy and hair-raising tales of harassment endured (which, peculiarly, neglected to mention precisely what the harassment consisted of) led me to conclude that I have been gypped. In all the conventions I’ve been to, I’ve never once been harassed. Never. This is why there are no rampaging harassers in the Con vampire books. I had no idea they existed.

I’m tempted to ask if I’m really so repulsive that males who – if one believes these tales – are incapable of keeping their hands and other body parts off anything with an innie find nothing attractive about me, but I know better. Besides, if I did ask one of you sods would say “yes”, just for the fun of it.

Alas, the truth is that the Feminist Glittery Hoo Haa is simultaneously all-powerful and more fragile than a Victorian fainting maiden. The same female who insists that she can do anything a male can do (even if she’s not actually physically capable of it) turns pale and has fits of the vapors if any man should – horror of horrors – actually see her as a female. If he shows any signs of being attracted to her, well, she’s likely to run screaming (usually screaming things like “sexism” and “harassment” and such).

This is not to say that actual harassment does not happen. Of course it does. The world is full of people who will use a position of relative power to get something that would otherwise be refused or to make someone’s life a living hell. Many of those people gravitate to positions of power because power inevitably attracts those who are already corrupt or who are corruptible. Those of us who fear that power would turn us into something we don’t want to be avoid that kind of position – and usually are fairly safe from it because we tend to see it as a responsibility and a bloody heavy one at that.

What the fainting Feminist Glittery Hoo Haa crowd forget is that there are ways a woman can make herself “off-limits” to a man who is basically testing the waters to see if any further advances on his part will be accepted. Most of them also work on the happy huggers who are excessively tactile (as someone who prefers to avoid physical contact, I find the huggy types a bit awkward sometimes – but I also possess this arcane ability to tell whether someone is a tactile type or if they’re taking unwanted liberties. It’s called ‘judgment’), and even to some extent those who practice the literary form of the casting couch. Of course, these options don’t appeal to the fainting Hoo Haas because they you sort of have to acknowledge that yes, you are female and yes, certain aspects of nature do in fact apply. (Males, don’t panic. I’m not talking about the icky female stuff here. I’m talking about things like females being typically smaller, weaker, having different body fat distributions, and having two built in male-attractors sitting on their chests. The things that males react to regardless of what they think about the person (yes, females also have hot buttons, as it were. Ours tend not to stand up and give semaphore signals)).

The big one is – of course – being a lady. Sounds odd, right? But, a certain confident dignity together with not behaving like a red light district streetwalker does a lot to tell the back brain that no, you would not welcome any kind of offer involving horizontal aerobics no matter how nicely it’s phrased (this may be the underlying reason for the storm in a B-cup over Malzberg and Resnick using the term ‘lady’. The Feminist Hoo Haas maintain that it should be possible to dress and act like a street whore and be treated like a lady even if they refuse to use the terminology). I tend to aim for this at cons, so I guess it’s working.

In work environments, I take the opposite tack: I go for “one of the boys”. That means I do my job, I don’t ask for favors – I don’t ask for favors at cons, either. Any kind of favors – and I don’t expect special treatment. Plus I give as good as I get. That works too. Once someone registers as one of the boys they’re off the “potential partner” list no matter how attractive they might be.

Either way, I’ve never had to go drawing lines in the sand. My behavior does it for me.

Now it’s possible that the Fainting Feminist Hoo Haas are such pathetic specimens that they think any kind of compliment is “harassment”. I don’t know. All I can say is that I haven’t been harassed at any cons, and I have it on good authority that I’m not so ugly that would explain the discrepancy.

Oh, and a free and just Independence Day to all our American readers.


  1. I find it hard to believe that I am that different from other men. I deal with people as people and unless I already have some kind of intimate emotional connection with another human being I don’t think about having sex with her or him.

    Yes, I am physically capable of breeding with the female of my species. I am also physically capable of digesting the flesh of mammals, but that doesn’t mean I run around trying to bite pieces off random strangers.

    Are other men really that obsessed with having sex with every woman they meet? Am I the outlier here?

    1. Do you not think about it, or do you not act on it? This is a critical distinction here. If you truly don’t think about it, then yes, you’re different from the vast majority of men. However, if you merely don’t act like you’re unable to keep from trying to get every female you come into contact with into your bed, then you’re like most men, and have this thing we often like to call, “control”.

      1. I usually don’t think about it, honestly. If I am talking to someone, I am usually thinking about the subject we are discussing. Yes, there are times when I see a woman and I am struck by how attractive she is, but that doesn’t lead me to imagine having sex with her, or plan some way to talk her into having sex with me, it just leads me to think, “that’s a good looking woman.” Sex, for me, is about a connection between people, not just bodies.

        1. From what I’ve learned, that puts you in a minority of males. The reason there are so many jokes about men thinking about sex all the time is that there is a seed of truth to it.

          1. Dare one mention how much advertising, fashion, and other energy is devoted to making sure that men think about it? Sometimes I wonder whether they are worried we’re going to forget it if we aren’t reminded frequently enough…

      2. There’s this, too. There’s a big difference between being attracted and *acting* on the attraction. Something the fainting feminista are incapable of understanding.

        1. I’ve seen the distinction made clear with this analogy:

          When you see or smell delicious food, you have instinctive responses (salivation, stomach growling). That doesn’t make it okay to grab the food off a stranger’s plate in a restaurant and start stuffing it down.

          There’s an analogous process when you see a sexually attractive person. You have instinctive responses. That doesn’t make it okay to start groping them.

          It’s basically the difference between a civilized human being and an animal.

    2. I don’t know. From what I gather, males may not be obsessed with having sex with every woman they meet, but most of the ones I’ve spoken with can’t help *noticing* the sexual attractiveness (or otherwise) of every woman they meet. Often to their acute embarrassment, I gather.

      1. Yeah, that’s pretty much the size of it. Even now, in “I wouldn’t have sex with another woman even if she threw herself at me, no matter what she looks like” mode, I still _notice_. 🙂

        Managing the externally-visible effects of noticing (whether autonomic or behavioral) is something most of us master pretty well before finishing high school, though.

  2. Okay, now you have to write a harasser into one of the con novels. Absolutely.

    I’ve been sandwiched in an SCA event once (two guys get the urgent need to hug each other hard just when you happen to be standing between them). Since the guys were both very big and strong getting squished between them was somewhat uncomfortable, especially since I had a laughing fit when there, but frankly it never occurred to me to consider it anything like harassment. A joke in somewhat bad taste, maybe, but not anything serious.

  3. No, she needs to write some guy who keeps getting accused of being an harasser, and he has no clue WHY. 😉
    Misha — you’re like every other male I know. I think in fifty years I’ve met two skivvy ones and even then they weren’t suggesting tit for tat.

    Kate — wonderful take on all of this. I’ve lately been muttering “Neo Victorian candy *sses.” We should start the candy *ss award in which the creature starting the most unwarranted fuss gets sent a chocolate donkey…

    1. Send them chocolate!

      Oh you depraved . . . wait, you’re female. It’s probably OK for you to send . . . What do the fainting feminists (love the term) think of lesbian harras . . . err, friendly gestures? But they know you’re married, so what would they think? Ah, I know. You’re conservative, therefor it was harassment! And chocolate, that makes it sexual harassment. Right?

      Geeze, now I’m as confused as the poor baffled gentlemen.

      And I need some chocolate.

      1. Oddly enough looking up the people in the last kerfluffle introduced me to terms polyamorous lesbian and bisexual activists. Some things are shocking to different people, obviously. Shrug. As long as they don’t frighten the salmon (A reference so obscure I am sure no-one will get it).

        1. I’ve heard it as “not in front of the servants and don’t frighten the horses.” Country house instead of Highland fishing, but same basic idea.

          1. Heh -it’s drawn from that, but it actually comes from ‘Rosy is my Relative’ by Gerald Durrell, where the young man is caught having a naked wash/swim in a country stream, along with Rosy, his elephant by the local land-owner. The scene is perfectly innocent… except in the peception of said landowner, which says more about his mind than anything else.

    2. That, I can do. I probably couldn’t write an actual harasser to save myself, but some poor confused male who’s just trying to be polite? Hell yes.

      The Fainting Feminista need mocking. Lots of mocking.

      1. Well, I didn’t say he has to be an actual predatory type, either, did I? Unless you have anything like the sparkly variety of vampires… (follows somebody around everywhere, including private areas – would that include ladies room? – casting long moody stares, declares his purpose is to protect the victim) 😀

    3. No, she needs to write some guy who keeps getting accused of being an harasser, and he has no clue WHY. 😉

      Or accusations of harassment and oh-the-feminist-drama – purely as a distraction from somebody’s other REAL plot going on…

  4. OK, now I want to go to a Con just so I can get petted, groped, invited, flirted at, and see what all the fuss-and-feathers is about.

    What if there is a bad-guy incubus at Cons who just happens to look a lot like this nice, quiet, celibate Pagan (or Catholic – really go nuts!) guy who has no clue, since he writes tech manuals for mini-gamers, and . . .

    1. Yeah, what’s wrong with those people? I’ve been to Cons and I’ve never been harassed. I feel so excluded! (Perhaps I was oblivious?)

        1. I was once (in a younger and prettier age) at a large anime con. While waiting for a panel to finish so I could get into the room for the next panel, I fell asleep in the hallway. I was mostly covered by a large black leather trenchcoat, but I was wearing a chinese silk dress slit up to here, and when I woke up, at least one leg was sticking out from the high heels almost up to my pretty matching thong.

          Instead of groping or harassment, when I poked a sleepy head out from under the trenchcoat, I discovered someone (several someones?) had lined small cuddly plushies, flowers, pocky, and unopened mountain dew up to match the curve of my body like it was a shrine. Don’t know who, though – despite the hallway being packed with waiting people, I had a six-foot radius to myself.

          Harassment? Whazzat?

  5. Well, never having met you and being relatively unlikely to meet you in the future (unless I gravely misremember the geography, your “reasonable driving distance” and mine don’t intersect at all), I won’t comment on what you look like, but I know I already find one part of you attractive. Of course, it’s the part that provokes me to want to shout “write more awesome novels for me to buy and read!” rather than “have sex with me!”. 🙂 (Nothing personal…being happily married and all, that tends to be my reaction to most lady writers. Other than, of course, the one I’m married to…’cause I don’t have to pay for _her_ novels. To gentleman writers, too, for that matter. The other sorts, I’d prefer just go do something else. 🙂 )

    1. I’m not about to complain over you wanting to shout “Write more awesome novels” 😀

  6. All the anecdata can be true, ours and theirs. Someone pointed out earlier that harasser/predators carefully choose their victims. People who are able and willing to push back exhibit a certain body language predators are very aware of and avoid. I’ve never been harassed, but I know harassment happens. I also know I’m physically large and intimidating (friends say I’m intimidating!) without really trying to be. I don’t act like prey. Knowing how people react to me I try to be careful not to scare people who don’t deserve scaring 😉 While capable of directed violence I prefer to use scathing wit as a weapon. I’d like to point out that even the tiniest writer has a weapon available, as hinted above–whipping out a notebook and saying “you are such a slime! I think I’ll put you in my book! Every one will point and laugh, and I’ll describe you so well you’ll be instantly recognizable even with a different name. Go on, say something slimy!” And whatever they say next, write it down while giggling madly.

    1. Oh, now THAT is hilarious. That’s funny enough it should be staged once, just for the comedic value.

      1. Oh, yeah. Except it would almost have to be done with someone who no-one could possibly believe would be a slime… Er. To the Fainting Feminista, there ain’t no such critter. Pity.

        1. Or someone with no connections, who wouldn’t care what they thought of him. Then they could be seen laughing together later and watch their heads explode.

        2. Do it as a masquerade charade. Be aware, you may not win a prize, but it would be such a great playlet! “The play’s the thing wherein we’ll catch the conscience of the con?”

    2. I have no doubt of that – I learned early on that body language is a very effective way to protect yourself from predators. If you give off “victim” signals, you will be victimized. Yet another reason to disdain the professional victimhood pushers.

      And that’s a lovely idea.

      1. Having been privy to both sides of the debate, I am coming to the conclusion that a large part of this is that we’re talking about two almost exclusive populations of humans here. Each sees their world as the only and real, and doesn’t realise it doesn’t make a whole lot sense to the other. Like the ruling that I can’t have a silencer for my rifle (because to the city people making the rules, that would mean I could shoot lots of people without the authorities knowing. Out where I live there are not lots of people – I’d be hard pressed to find three within 5 square miles, the authorities are almost certain to be blissfully unaware, and all it would do is make a three hour vermin job a half hour one, quicker, easier and kinder, making no other difference at all.) I gather sexual harrassment (you know free lurrve) at the liberal arts events was indeed commonplace. And of course favors were exchanged for advantage in that environment. Which meant those in power were able to assume they’d get, and, of course took advantage of it. Which… um, was pretty rare outside that arena, because you’d get a slap if you tried it on without being very obviously signalled to, and a girl or guy going for sexing their way into advantage would have to be damned subtle about it or her/his peers would lynch them -and anyone who gave them an advantage – not so in the literary arts world (We had a beauty queen enter our Zoology class with ideas like this. She was harrassed all right, all the rather hairy men and the outdoorsy sort of girls who wanted to be zoologists were dead set on sinking her makeup plastered face into anoxic mud on our first field trip). Also the response is different. There is no reward for being a shrinking violet and whining and complaining outside the Liberal Arts world – where that is well pampered and feted. There is considerable reward – in acceptance terms – for giving as good as you get, outside that. So to some extent the ‘I’ve never been harrassed’ is the attitude and body language of the person, and to some extent the company they keep. It’s very unlikely to happen at say Liberty Con, in the company of the Baen Barflies. There are other places, where this is not true. You should be free not to be raped, harrassed, or shot at anywhere. But if you go blundering through the bushes in a fur coat in hunting season, your chances are a lot better of some idiot shooting you than out of season, or in a high-viz jacket, or not in the bushes. That’s reality, not the unreachable ideal.

        1. I think you’ve got it on the nail, Dave. Where assessments kind of have to be subjective (like liberal arts) there’s more power than where there are hard facts that aren’t going to change (like most of the sciences, math, engineering, etc). Power will be abused, and of course, if there’s any subjective judgment there’s room to game the system.

          What I think of those who game it isn’t something that should be repeated in polite (or even impolite) society.

  7. There are some fairly classic con scenarios for taking advantage of people.

    1. The backrub or full body message which the masseur swears is going to be totally sexless. Sometimes combined with drugs or alcohol.

    2. The convention party which turns out to be some kind of participatory snogging-related thing. Usually combined with alcohol or drugs.

    3. Persuading someone young and stupid to acquiesce to alcohol and drugs in a private setting. After they wake up, tell them that they consented.

    And then of course, there’s the whole thing with Marion Zimmer Bradley’s remarkably skeevy pedophile husband. Although that was mostly crimes committed at her house, not at cons. He got banned from cons in the early 70’s for being a convicted pedophile felon, and weren’t there plenty of people who bitched about that.

    1. No, I wasn’t around back then. But the history of science fiction fandom is often very illuminating about geek human nature not being better than any other personality type’s.

  8. When I got on the shuttle back to Chicon7 from the Adler Planetarium trip, I asked if I could sit next to a woman, and after looking me over, she said I looked ‘safe’ and allowed me to sit there. Chatting during the ride back to the hotel, I told her that I was really enjoying my first big con. “It’s like I’m surrounded by friends that I just haven’t met, yet.” was how I described my experience to her. She said “Not everyone is your friend.” I didn’t push her for more info, but I definitely got the impression that she had had trouble of the harassment sort before. I did not have any problems at all at Worldcon last year, except for missing the Saturday night parties because I had tried to cram too many panels into the day and collapsed from exhaustion after the masquerade show. (This probably saved me from con crud, though.)

    I work in a factory with lots of men, and there were only two times that I had any issues of this sort. Once was with a young guy who simply hadn’t realized where the limits were between joking with words, and actual touching. He backed off after a couple of the other men who worked with us explained his error. Another time was when a guy who had just returned from 30 days off work punishment for harassing other women at our workplace asked me, in the break room in front of most of the shift, if I had missed him. My instant response was “I wasn’t aiming for you.” which set the whole room off in gales of laughter. That guy hadn’t really bothered me before, and he never bothered me after that, either.

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