It's not okay to threaten to rape people you don't like: Why I stand with Rebecca Watson

Every now and then, I am reminded of how lucky I am. I'm lucky that none of my readers has ever responded to a comment I made, which they didn't like, by calling me ugly. I'm lucky that they've never called me a cunt or a whore. I'm lucky that they've never threatened to rape me and then called me a humorless bitch when I pointed out how messed up that was. In general, the worst comments I've ever had directed to me, here, were from people accusing me of being a paid shill for Big Conspiracy, which is just funny.

But that shouldn't be luck, guys. My experience should not represent a minority experience among the female science bloggers I know. (And it is.) I shouldn't have to feel like thanking you, the BoingBoing readers, for being kind enough to not treat me like shit just because I'm a lady person.

Treating people with respect should not be a controversial position. It should not be a mindblowingly crazy idea to point out the fact that women are quite often treated as objects and, thus, have to deal with a lot more potentially threatening situations than men do. It shouldn't be offensive to say, hey, because of that fact, it's generally not a good idea to follow a woman you've never spoken to into an elevator late at night and ask her to come to your hotel room. Chances are good that you will make her feel threatened, rather than complimented.

And, even if you disagree, it's still totally not okay to threaten to rape people you disagree with. Seriously. Other than the specific bit about rape, we should have all learned this in preschool. And the fact that so many of the people engaging in this behavior claim to be rational thinkers and members of a community I strongly identify with ... well, that just makes me want to vomit. I honestly don't know what else to say.

Read Rebecca Watson's full article, Sexism in the Skeptic Community


  1. Dawkin’s response to that situation was so childish and illogical, it’s been hard for me to take him seriously since then. Then again, showing respect for other people has never been his strong suit. 

    1. So you’re saying that just because I don’t live in a third-world country, my problems are NOT magically invalidated? That makes no sense whatsoever.

      (I agree. Dawkin’s ‘Muslima’ post felt incredibly juvenile.)

    2. It was the same for me. I really liked reading his books, but if that was his “rational” response to a person that presents as the same gender as me, for such a small request, it really made me look back on his behavior in the past, and decide to avoid his work in the future. 

    3. Dawkins is part of a community where being technically, factually right is all that matters.  And where often, being right means one gets to make someone else feel stupid, naive, irrational, etc for believing otherwise.  Because after all, he’s right, and they’re wrong.  Dawkins is just telling the truth, and if that upsets anyone, well it’s their problem, isn’t it?

      That kind of community leaves no room for empathy.  It sets the perfect stage for misogyny, racism, and any other kind of bigotry which derives from being unable to understand a life experience that’s different from one’s own.

      1. It also set the stage for Dawkins, a bigwig among those, to waltz right out and sing and dance to the tune of logical fallacy, despite all the stuff about being technically, factually right about everything, cause he’s so smart.

        Dude severely downgraded hisself, not that my pinion matters, afer all, I disagree.

      2. Except that Dawkins’s argument doesn’t work on a purely logical, non-empathic basis either. He was basically saying that women in western nations have no basis for complaint about sexist behavior because women in some unspecified Muslim theocracy have it worse. 

        But atheists living in that same theocratic state no doubt also have it much worse than atheists in the secular west do; does Dawkins therefore argue that atheists in the secular west should shut up on the occasions when we are oppressed? 

        1. Sounds like by his own logic we can wilfully oppress Dawkins, and he would be fine with that.

    4. If you’re religious, and decide you want to be a decent human being, you’ve got a tradition and maybe a book to tell you how to do it, and a community to give you advice about whether you’re doing it right or wrong, and maybe even a supernatural being or some future reward or punishment to help encourage you to try.  And even then lots of people don’t get it right.

      If you’re not religious, you’ve got to do it all on your own, the only reward you get is knowing that you tried, and a bunch of people who don’t believe some of the same things you don’t believe isn’t an inherently deep or cohesive community.  You get more choices about what “being a decent human being” might mean for you, but less likelihood that other people will agree or cooperate.

      So yeah, it’s not surprising that you’ll have people around like Dawkins, who are brilliant about some things but real jerks about others, and some who are real jerks without being brilliant.  (And really, patriarchy is one of those things you don’t get to keep, and you especially don’t get to keep the “all the men own all the women” privilege bits while abandoning the “all the men are responsible for protecting all the women and children” bits or the “being rude to women is sinful” bits.) 

      1. If you’re trying to say that religious people are better at this sort of thing, then I find your viewpoint laughable. I mean, here in the UK, I can’t open a newspaper at the moment without hearing about a priest or minister being respectful of the sexual rights of women, children or minority groups, such as LGBT… oh wait. The other thing.
        Dawkins is a massive jerk for saying what he did, and should apologise. But don’t try to pin it on his religious views.

        1.  I didn’t get that impression from reading BillStewart2012’s comment. I think he was just saying that he/she can see how the atheist/skeptic community is more like herding cats, and thus less cohesive, and with less to fall back on when this sort of thing happens. Religion has this unfortunate strength as a built-in community that’s more difficult (but still possible) to achieve otherwise.It definitely didn’t sound like he/she was suggesting religion is more moral than the rest of us.

    5. I haven’t seen anyone else advance this possibility — is it possible that Dawkins’ response seems so out-of-touch because he *is*? Dawkins is not a young man. He’s 71. And he’s British. Religion isn’t the only source of brainwashing, you know. I’m not excusing him, of COURSE, but simply as an explanation, perhaps Dawkins is letting his outdated perspective show, and he doesn’t even realize it, because he’s old and his sensibilities on these topics are woefully behind the times! You can travel the world being treated like a star for 20-30 years, and you aren’t going to stop being someone who grew up in the 40s and 50s…

      1. I’m ten years older than Dawkins and doubt that my “sensibilities…are woefully behind the times.” We should resist excusing such assholery, especially from a  scientist, and call it what it is when we see it. But the 4,000-strong vitriolic comment thread made me once again appreciate the Mappy Mutant community — and our moderators. 

        1. Oh, yes, as I emphasized in my original comment, I in no way excuse his words or anyone else’s — in fact, they make me nauseous. I just wanted to try to figure out what the specific motivations are. Even misogynists are misogynists for a reason… they aren’t cartoon villains with rootless character flaws. Understanding why people end up like this will better help us to adjust our societies to avoid such crap in the future.

          If we just tell ourselves that each individual misogynist is just a lone asshole with no larger societal cause, then we’re going to be surprised anew each time and never make any progress.

  2. Wow. I didn’t expect to hear that Richard Dawkins was pooh-poohing misogynistic behavior. This is actually something that surprised me. Perhaps it shouldn’t have. From my experience, I know that the engineering and physical science fields tend to be fairly sexist. And most of the skeptic people that I have met have been associated with those fields. You can’t draw a conclusion from just that data, but it is enough to strongly hypothesize. And given the testimony in the linked article, there is reasonable evidence that the same sexist “cancer” that lives in the engineering and physical science fields has been passed on to the skeptics.

    1.  The comment he made, which Watson specifically quotes basically says that since Watson was not being attacked, beaten, kept from driving, genitally mutilated, etc, that she has no real reason to complain about being sexually harrassed online or at conferences. Basically because people elsewhere have it worse, she should be happy about her situation. 

      1. It was such a hypocritical thing of Dawkins to say, to boot.  I mean, does he not have the right to complain about religion or oppression by religious elements if they aren’t jailing, stoning or burning him at the stake for heresy?

        1. Well of course he has the right to complain.  Because penis.  Does it all make sense now? 

          I thought Dawkins was dickish before, now I think he’s a misogynist asshat to boot.

          1. I do a lot of things because penis.  Although never anything rude like that and generally because of other penis rather than self penis.

        1. Technically correct, yet it seems at least as unfair as not allowing that he is most likely aware of the rest of the discussion given that his bit there was written after the threats to her began and thereby her response to those threats began and it all escalated, to the point he thought it warranted his input.

          Dawkins isn’t an idiot, he didn’t likely read the bit about the elevator and whip that off.

          1. I don’t think its really fair to accuse people of condoning online rape threats if there is absolutely no evidence of them actually doing so.  The comment was originally posted on a pz myers piece which was about the elevator incident and its aftermath, and didn’t really refer to the online threats at all.  All that can realistically be inferred his comment is that he does not regard being propositioned in an elevator as a big deal.  Of course, people are free to flame him for that, but not for things which he categorically did not say or imply.

          2. Mindy said that, I didn’t.

            I don’t say he condoned it, but given where it was posted and the various links right there in the piece I can with reason infer that Dawkins was not sitting on an island in the pacific exchanging opinions with only Watson herself using bottles.

            The only thing I’ll grant the guy is that what he did say was beneath reason for reasons repeated often enough that I can infer you have read them.

          3. “The only thing I’ll grant the guy is that what he did say was beneath reason for reasons repeated often enough that I can infer you have read them”.

            Well, I think it’s beneath reason that people who disagree regarding the seriousness of the elevator incident – which is of course their right in any rational debate – seem to be consistently associated with the online rape threats, which are of course a separate and a very different manner.  This seems to be what you are doing with Dawkins – you won’t actually come out and say that he condones those threats, but you are strongly implying it  – or else god alone knows what you mean by this weasely sentence: “I don’t say he condoned it, but given where it was posted and the various links right there in the piece  I can with reason infer that Dawkins was not sitting on an island in the pacific exchanging opinions with only Watson herself using bottles.”

          4. Dude I’m not making that association,

            Dawkins juxtaposed it that way in the negative, that rape etc are not = to her elevator incident, that they were not associated too. But when he did it, it was to dismiss her, thereby dismissing the context of her statement and her intent.

            Maybe he misread or misheard or attributed some commentators ignorance to Watson, but he invented what he dismissed her of. By the time that article was posted, everyone but the butthurts knew damn well that Watson was not comparing her incident to the things Dawkins did compare them to.

            You want to be correct, I’m saying you are, that’s all that’s written there. Good job. My stating that Dawkins isn’t a blind man saying “tree” while feeling up an elephant is NOT a suggestion that he condones threats. His monkeys closed that gap, not him.

    2. For all his merits, Dawkins is undeniably an inveterate asshole, and not much of a feminist either. His dickishness is amusing when it’s turned on a religious person in a debate. It’s distasteful the rest of the time. Would that he had more discretion.

      1. I find it distasteful also when he turns it on religious people in debates.

        A friend of mine directed me to a supposedly masterful takedown of Deepak Chopra.  Basically Dawkins attacks Chopra for using quantum physics terms, Chopra counters that his use of them is metaphoric, and should not be taken to suggest that meditation can actually influence the behaviour of electron orbitals and so on.  Then Dawkins completely fails to move on – he just goes on being a dick about quantum theory, while Chopra repeatedly, and quite courteously, tries to engage in any sort of constructive dialog.

        In the end, the exchange increased my respect for Chopra (not that I put any credence in his teachings), and cemented my impression that Dawkins is nobody a serious person should bother listening to.

        1. I understand Chopra to be saying that, thanks to the discoveries of quantum mechanics and relativity, we now know that the mind has total control over the body. If he now says that he’s merely using those sciences metaphorically, he has been lying.

          1. That may be – I have never bothered listening to Chopra’s lectures or reading his books.  But if so, then Dawkins failed to point it out, when doing so would have made his point stronger, and instead just came off as a badgering jerk.

        2. “In the end, the exchange increased my respect for Chopra”

          If you knew anything about Chopra’s work, it wouldn’t. He speaks out of both sides of his mouth. He is not using metaphor. He only claims to when called on his snake-oil by the less gullible.

    3. I’m not terribly surprised, he’s a tool. As for skeptics being misogynistic, and everything else that can be labeled a human failing, 

      imagine how a group of people who get together to prove others wrong or as shysters or otherwise apply logic or hard science to stuff. They get together in a proud society and call themselves Skeptics.

      Now remember they are human, and that many are male, and that they are often on the internet. Now tell them that among them are human failings, like sociological stuff, stuff they do, stuff that pretty much levels them as just like the rest of us.

      Then watch rage ensue.

      It’s misogyny today, so today you get to watch them engage in misogynistic behaviour in response to being told there are misogynists among them and it’s not okay.

      Skeptics be human? Is unprossible

      1. That seems like a straw man. I’m very much a feminist and a skeptic, and not at all what you describe. Yes, there are douchebags out there who just spend all their time insulting believers of various quackeries to feel more intelligent, but they’re the obvious noise. The rest of us are busy convincing people with appeals to reason and evidence, and trying to create positive change in our lives and where ever else we can.

          1. You seem to have forgotten, this isn’t an issue about women feeing safe in elevators at 4am with strangers, it’s about men feeling insulted when you say “guys, don’t do that”. Duh!

        1. “That seems like a straw man. I’m very much a feminist and a skeptic, and not at all what you describe.”

          Why on earth does your presence prove the opposite? That you’re claiming to be a part of the community but don’t see the MRA rot from within makes me question your ability to see misogyny where it lies. There’s a lot of good people there (I love Pharyngula) but there’s a small but loathsome bunch of “skeptics (against feminism)” that hide under the umbrella and are tolerated far more than they should.

  3. To expand on the subject of women speaking out against inconsiderate and/or aggressive male attention, Kate Beaton of Hark A Vagrant has had some similar experiences, and has created some extremely funny responses:

    Other funny stuff in the same vein are her Strong Female Characters, and Straw Feminists.  However, I’m sure some people don’t bother to read very deeply into exactly what it is that she’s mocking, but I still think her work is very relevant to these discussions.

    1. Off-topic for the post and thread, but Kate Beaton continues to be a genius.

      Oh, and I thought Dawkins was kind of a tool before the “Muslima” comment.  He’s right about evolution and skepticism, obviously, but does he have to be such a dick all the time?

      1. There is a wide swath of dickishness in the skeptic community, not all related to misogyny or inflicted by owners of actual dicks, as there is in many communities, if not most of them. No one should be surprised.

  4. This kind of confirms what I suspected: that Richard Dawkins has a few good ideas but mostly enjoys being a gigantic dick to people.

    I believe it’s possible to argue for a secular society without telling people that their spiritual beliefs amount to make-believe-bullshit. You are entitled to conclude, in the absence of evidence, that there is no God. Others are entitled to their traditional spiritual beliefs. As a semi-agnostic, I’m entitled to not be sure what to believe, exactly, and remain open-minded. 

    We have amazing freedoms in our society: you can basically say whatever you like. But in order to have good debate and discourse, we need RESPECT. Dawkins totally robbed that from a kindred intellect, and he should be ashamed.

    tl;dr – Don’t be a dick. 

    1. Telling people that magic isn’t real isn’t being a dick unless you do it in an asshole manner.  The urgency at which you start screaming is proportional to the amount of harm they are doing.  Telling someone who is doing Reiki healing that their magic is stupid and doesn’t work is being a dick.  Telling someone who has cancer and has stopped chemo in favor of of Reiki healing that their magic is stupid and doesn’t work is not being such a dick.

      If someone is trying to decapitate you with their bible, it is okay to defend yourself by pointing out that there magic isn’t real and that they are dumb for believing in it.

    2. Off-topic, but I keep wondering if we should stop using “dick” as an insult. I know quite a few people who are very fond of dicks, and not just their own. And I don’t know what this particular organ has done to earn such ire that its name is an insult. It also makes me feel bad for anyone named Richard and, for that matter, Philip K. Dick.

      Yes, it is true that a lot of dicks have been used as weapons, but it’s not as though the dicks were separable from the individuals wielding them.

      1. I feel like “dick” is more likely to be acceptable to the mods than the several multi-word alternatives I would propose. Maybe shitbag would be better?

      2. Usually people can tell when you use it in the “possibly smelly thing you use to miss a toilet and generally won’t wave it at your mom” way as opposed to the “boy, I’d sure like that inside me or maybe draw it, hold still and model that for me” way.

  5. I was reading the main article yesterday on slate. And i was aghast, i could not believe that this kind of action and reaction had come out of people that are alledgedly love reason and sciencie. I dont even know the people mentioned in the article itself. But a line delivered by Morgan Freeman in the movie “the Bonfire of the vanities” at the came to my mind. It said:” Justice is the law and the law is the man’s feeble attempt to set down the principle of decency. Decency! And decency is not a deal. It isn’t and angle, or a contract, or a hustle! Decency is what your grandmother taught you. It’s in your bones! Now go home. Go home and be decent people. Be decent.

  6. This is an interesting problem. I think maybe part of the problem here (part of the reason that Watson’s arguments regarding feminism are not taken seriously) is that skeptics like to think of themselves as basing their arguments on objective scientific inquiry… And then there are these fuzzier lines of inquiry (like I’m involved in), the “soft sciences” as it were. Feminist studies of course falls into that category. Those of us who deal in such areas of study are often not seen as doing anything that can be seen as “objective”, especially given the reorientation that goes along with postmodernism. Since often postmodernist engage with language and how it “constructs our reality” (especially Foucault and his intervention into topics such as sexuality and discipline what that says about the power structure of the modern state) it is seen as balancing on air and hence is made up of nothing but opinions, hence fallible. Many historians have moved away from the Marxist attempts to make history a verifiable science.

    I teach a us history survey, and I make them read Zinn, and one thing that kind of frustrates me when we’re discussing the text is that everyone keeps saying that Zinn has “an opinion” about history.  Works of history, literary criticism, and gender/queer and ethnic studies are more often than not viewed by the hard sciences as just that. I think she is attempting to address her treatment by some in the skeptics community via her own experiences, and, especially since she seems to be putting it into terms that use feminist language, some quarters are reacting negatively to that.

    Of course a good bit of it can just be chalked up to good old sexist asshatery.  But maybe I’m being biased? ;-)

    Also, I have to agree with Maggie here, and say that I never feel as if my comments are going to be degraded because I am of the female persuasion. I think much of that has to do with the excellent moderation, as the moderators see no problems with shutting down people who are using offensive language.  But the fact that we are all aware of this online just highlights how much of a problem this can be in other parts of the cyber-world….

    1. everyone keeps saying that Zinn has “an opinion” about history

      But of course so do the “standard” textbooks. It’s just an opinion in which we have been so inculcated that we do not recognize it as such. 

      1.  True enough, but I think “opinion” is kind of the wrong word to use, yeah?  Analysis is what I’m trying to get them to think about.  How do the sources you use inform your view point? How does looking at history via unions, for example, change the story? Do you miss something when you only look at public policy?  Your sources change the story…

        I’m not sure if I’m clear, but my point was not to say that history or the humanities are “sciences” because I don’t think they are… but these things are not built on the hot air of our opinions, as I think some like to suggest. Since she’s moved from discussing skepticism to discussing the skeptics community, address a problem that she’s experienced, I think some people are apt to just dismiss her as expressing an “opinion”, hence you can dismiss it.  Opinions do not carry the same weight as a verifiable in science circles, no?

        1.  Perhaps history and humanities can, in deed, be ‘sciences’ in the sense that science could behave in a manner which was ‘aligned’ with the vision that HG Gadamer had of it. Just sayin’.

        2. With regard to Zinn maybe “perspective” is a more appropriate term than “opinion” but I am not sure why “opinion” is all that offensive.

          That being said, I am not sure that a lack of verifiable scientific data is why people are attacking this woman. After all, the comments themselves are verifiable. Being told you ought to be raped because you believe female genital mutilation is worse than circumcision is not her opinion, it’s a verifiable fact.

          I think these guys may just hate women. That they also self-identify as skeptics may give the illusion of causality when, in fact, they are just men who hate women.

        3. So you would agree that Her objective analysis of “threat” is unavoidably compromised by her gender perspective and the sexism talk.

  7. I have some quite strong views about modern feminism and the ways that it’s thought about and communicated, and they don’t align strongly with Rebecca Watson’s views in a lot of areas. But I can definitely agree that threatening to rape and molest people isn’t ever right. Just look at that tweet from the guy threatening to assault her at the conference, and the conference organiser’s absurd reaction! How is that guy not on a register!?

    In fact, I’d go so far as to say that people acting like that hinder our ability to have a sensible conversation about sexism at all, because those of us who would like to disagree with feminists on some point or other risk associating ourselves with people like that by doing so. If by having the conversation, I might make the person I was talking to feel threatened by association, or be accused of standing with people who threaten to abuse others, then I’d rather not enter into a discussion about feminism at all.

    I suppose what I’m trying to say is that you’re preaching to the choir, Maggie, that I love your work, and that I hope we all continue to get along :)

  8. I’m very disappointed with Richard Dawkins on this point. I hold him in high regard but he is behind the curve in this instance.

  9. I wonder what Rosalind Franklin would have to say about this.  I still think that the Selfish Gene is a pretty great book, but good authors can of course be pinheads about things.  And also, though common decency should be a given and not an achievement, “yea us” for not being that guy.

    1.  Selfish Gene is pretty good, if you like having the Deity-apologizing Watchmaker’s Argument smuggled into a mechanism, thereby implying the existence of a godlike intentionality. Man, Dawkins really scr**ed the pooch on that bit, lol.

  10. There may be some plain ignorance of how to be a decent social citizen reflected in these unsavory behaviors by men of science. I say this not to condone their behavior, but to try to understand what’s behind it.

    For some background on this concept, read the essay “Why nerds are unpopular” by Paul Graham. He says that while most people spend their teen years learning how to interact with other people, nerds spend that time learning stuff about the non-human world. This puts them at a disadvantage when they have to interact with people socially in the adult world, where the stakes are higher.

    I (total electronics geek) personally had no idea how to relate to girls as a teen, and I only started learning when I found myself living in a party house at the age of 25. Someone who’s immersed in study of science may never have the opportunity to learn what’s acceptable social behavior and what isn’t.

    1. I’ve found the guys who spent high school “learning how to interact with girls” impossible to interact with.  They tend to treat interaction as some kind of game where women are the other team or worse where women are the goal.  They may be outwardly polite but on a deeper level the whole thing is still really dehumanizing.

      I say this as someone who never flirts, almost never gets hit on, and who dates established friends.  In my case those friends are nerds or geeks who do understand feminism.

      1. You’ve noticed a rather interesting point of comparison there. Some people spend their time interacting with people like they’re things and not people. Others spend their time interacting with things… and not people.

  11. Yes, but seriously: threatening to torture, murder, and/or rape someone? That’s far outside the realm of “acceptable social behavior,” and into the realm of “actively anti-social behavior.” This isn’t farting at the dinner table we’re talking about here.

    EDIT: Oh dear, my comment seems not to be linked to the one I was replying to. It’s Nixiebunny above.

  12. Those of us non-raping non-assholish non-sexist men need to spend our time outing and shaming the douchebags who give our gender a bad name, not getting our panties in a twist when women point out that some men are assholes.

    In almost all cases, men who get upset when women express outrage at violence or sexism by men are engaging in a widespread form of concern trollery – taking a very serious and scary issue and making it all about them and their widdle hurt feewings.

    It’s pretty easy to be a man in this world (relatively speaking).  I routinely walk dark streets without fear of anything more than wildlife.  I have had many advantages handed to me without even trying (and it took me a long while to realize it).  I never fear strangers (unless they look dangerous or armed) and certainly have nothing to fear at conferences or other public events.

    The idea that a logical response to hearing someone express a fear of assault by assholes is to get offended makes no sense at all (unless one is an asshole).

    1. That’s an excellent point.  Men could be a lot more intolerant of other men behaving badly towards women.  Its precisely because the way our male ancestors tended to view women that there’s a backlash toward any sort of unwelcome male advances…and the women who voice this are completely correct.  I wasn’t sensitive to that in my original post.

      1. I’m trying to find a way to ask this that doesn’t sound sarcastic, but it’s difficult.

        Do you note that you’ve acknowledged the logic of rocketpjs (whom we both assume is male) while arguing almost exclusively with (assumed female) posters above? Do you see a pattern here? Please read rocketpjs again if it helps.

        As we used to say back in the day, there are no non-sexist men, only anti-sexist men. There are no non-racist white folks, only anti-racist white folks. We have all internalized this crap, but we can work against it.

        1. So the argument is that we all have base instincts (objectifying people we find attractive, fear/dislike of “the other”) but that as a enlightened humans, we must act to hide or control those base instincts in ourselves, help correct them correction in others? 

          I think I’d RATHER believe that humans are fundamentally good and that most base behaviors are learned. 

          Maybe the distinction is moot as, reglardless of source, part of being human is knowing that we ALL have negative behaviors and fears that we must continuously work to improve and rationalize (and be open to fair conversations about those fears and behaviors).

          I could go with that.  (obviously this post is pretty much me thinking out loud, but I hit return at the end anyway).

          1. I think I’d RATHER believe that humans are fundamentally good and that most base behaviors are learned.

            Given that other mammals engage in violent behavior against members of their own species, that seems like wishful thinking.

          2. “I think I’d RATHER believe that humans are fundamentally good and that most base behaviors are learned.”

            While that idealism may help one get through the day, I don’t think it’s healthy to pretend that it can’t be nature (with regards to mental illness) and nurture working together against us.

    2. After memorizing the above in its eloquent entirety I will always try to remember to cite you as the source when I repeat it. However should I fail to do so I would like to apologize. Even though it was what I was already thinking you deserve credit for putting my thoughts into words.

    3. Rocketpgs’ opening paragraph, as wysinwyg said, “nailed it.”  I didn’t read the Slate article as saying she thought the guy at the elevator was a rapist, just that he was a douche whose approach was simply moronic, assuming it wasn’t malevolent.  Additionally, considering the elevator guy had not even spoken with her directly at that point also greatly ups the creepiness factor which Ms. Watson had every right to call out without facing the blowback she did (though “blowback” doesn’t do justice to the threat of rape).  

      I must admit that while I identify tremendously with skeptic ideas I’m not a part of the community, at least not to the point of going to conventions or even spending a lot of time in online atheist discussions.  I mention all that to say I was bothered to hear about her experiences in this world.   Any sort of Wall Street or bodybuilding convention (or really almost anything short of a women’s studies convention) that sort of behavior, while unacceptable and insane, wouldn’t be surprising.  I must admit that I am rather pissed to hear about it in the skeptical community, in Ms. Watson’s “safe space.”

      Because we’re talking about the world of skepticism and reason and rationality I do want to point out an issue with Rocketpgs’ post (as well as others) and even Ms. Koerth-Baker’s original write up.  Specifically I’m a little confused with Ms. Koerth-Baker’s statement:

      “It should not be a mindblowingly crazy idea to point out the fact that women are quite often treated as objects and, thus, have to deal with a lot more potentially threatening situations than men do.”

      No argument with the objectification statement, but the data on violent crimes completely contradicts the second half of the sentance:

      For violent sex crimes there is zero doubt that women do have a lot more to fear than men, however for violent crimes overall, and homicide especially, the situation is significantly different.  Rocketpgs’ lack of fear, in paragraph 3 of his post, is much more a function of his testosterone than the data.  

      It is not that women face more potentially threatening situations than men, but rather BOTH men and women face potentially threatening situations from other men.  

      This brings us back to Rocketpgs’ opening paragraph.  If men do a better job of self-policing the predatory tendencies of the “douchebags who give our gender a bad name” then it creates a safer environment for both sexes.  On what planet is this even controversial?

  13. even tho i have lost my temper online at times, my overall thought is that it’s not okay to threaten anyone, male or female. it’s especially not okay to threaten women, but that’s part of how i was raised. the older i get the more i like removing some of the anonymity from the net. i think you would see a lot of hate go away if people were held accountable for their words.

    1. Sadly, this has been examined, and it generally doesn’t work.  It turns out most dumbasses are still dumbasses when you know their name.

    2. That’s a stupid solution.

      1) MRAs and other rape culture supporters will proudly harass under their real names.
      2) Women, minorities, all sorts of people prefer the anonymity and PERSONAL PRIVACY to avoid harassment, on an individual site and throughout their online profile. Avoiding stalkers? Ex-boyfriends? There are dangerous people out there, and you’re damning a lot of people by assuming that a lack of anonymity benefits anyone but those without shame.

    1. I’m astonished that the shitlords haven’t already descended on this post and the quick link earlier. Either they don’t come to boingboing or someone told Antinous to suit up and get the banhammer ready.

      1. I’m sure they’ll be here eventually.  Right now I’m more concerned about the comment thread collapsing under the weight of all the straw men.

        1. I once dressed up as a straw man at Hallowe’en and sat on my front porch without moving. As groups of kids would approach, they’d say stuff like “Is he real?” and once they got close enough I’d suddenly jump up and scare them.

          So I’d appreciate you not making comments about my weight!

          Oh, you meant the other kind of straw men. Carry on.

  14. Though I’m a liberal christian, I am very supportive of the atheist/skeptic community generally.  But it’s worth noting that at least some portion of that community (as in any) are active because of the ego-boo of winning fights.

    I’m also a solid civil libertarian and believe in the importance of anonymity, free speech and even yes, am willing to admit enjoying offensive humor.  But people like this REALLY make me wonder if there shouldn’t be some sort of “not a shithead” test that should be passed before giving those civil liberties to people.

    1. Don’t worry, your libertarian views are safe. Dawkins is entitled to say what even he wants. But we’re equally entitled to throw tons of criticism at him and try to educate him as to why he’s being a dick.

      It’s free market discourse, man. And Dawkin’s stock price has just dropped. 

      1. But Dawkins wasn’t anonymous, so there were repercussions to his words (at least for anyone who didn’t already know that he is a shithead, even if brilliant).

        I meant more like I’m starting to feel that the civil liberties of anonymous and free speech should be limited until one has proven that they can handle it. 

        Unfortunately anonymity protects bullies just as much as it does the weak.  And there is always a non-zero risk that threats from trolls could be real.

        1. “I meant more like I’m starting to feel that the civil liberties of anonymous and free speech should be limited until one has proven that they can handle it. ”

          The ruling class of bullies is pleased with this development.

  15. people are acting like watson believed the guy who approached her was trying to rape her. i didn’t get that at all, she just used that as a mildly amusing example of how not to hit on a woman. that it immediately got turned into a “help rape!” thing shows just how quickly the sexist mind jumps to the notion of a woman as whiny and inconsequential. p.s. why aren’t we all going after dawkins?

    1. a) She didn’t. She got rape threats via e-mail. And her complaint about being approached alone in an elevator was met with a threat of being groped. Both are threats of sexual assault. 

      b) We are going after him. Read my first comment.

    2. “people are acting like watson believed the guy who approached her was trying to rape her”

      If they didn’t lie, they’d have to admit that a woman was right, and they were inferior to her logic.

  16. As a physically small woman who, in my youth, was pretty cute, I would find being alone in an elevator with a strange man at 4 a.m. very uncomfortable.  If he asked me back to HIS room for coffee, as opposed to a bar or a restaurant, especially knowing that he knew I had just said how tired I was, I would feel that he was an idiot for hitting on me and I would feel fearful in case he wasn’t going to take no for answer.
    Men do not understand how many women feel afraid simply because they know that some men do not understand the word “no.”  Men do not understand that some men feel women are all available for sex at all times and if a woman says “no,” it is an insult to that man and he has right to take what he wants.
    How I dress, where I walk, all make me at fault for being attacked, according to a large population.
    In summation, I would be creeped out by the guy in the elevator, too, and would get off ASAP.

  17. >It’s not okay to threaten to rape people you don’t like
    It’s not okay to threaten rape, regardless of whether you dislike them or not.

    1. Lotta that going on is there? Those friendly, trying to impress or please threats of rape?

      I think Xeni was keeping it contextual with the distinction. At least I haven’t seen Watson comment on any jocular, well meaning, you’re the kind of person I like to be around rape threats. Or even the meh, I’d take it or leave it rape threats.

      1. I mean in jokingly threatening to rape someone. You might be joking (for whatever Bizarre reason), they might take it very differently.

        1. Bro-style you mean? 

          I hear what you’re saying but between genders there is little to none of that, but it could be I’ve just never noticed it.

          1. No… rape is thrown around jokinly a lot. In mixed company. Just log into any online gaming and you will see it… a lot. More or less in the same way as “gay” is thrown around as an insult… a lot. Just tune your ears to the word “rape” and you will start hearing it a lot more.

            Rape is not funny, gay is not an insult.

          2. Gaming has seen a steep decline in both gay and rape misuse, I have heard it there but not elsewhere. 
            Lately EVE is the only online game I’ve been playing, it’s there but not too everywhere the way it is with fps & console stuff thank goodness.

            I also forego headset/chat. kik it oldschool wit a keyboard

  18. If she had said, “hey guys, ha ha, don’t publicly urinate on fire hydrants!”, I wonder if the hands down two most popular responses would be:

    A. Hey! That man probably had really good warm and fuzzy intentions inside which were making him urinate in public on fire hydrants. You can’t know what was in his heart!


    B. Hey! I really object to being accused of publicly urinating on fire hydrants. I really resent the insinuation that I do that all the time. I don’t like being put in the same box as those “guys”.

    I just find the popularity of those responses really fascinating. I mean, the first is just arrant nonsense. But a lot of people don’t seem to think so!

    And the second, well, it seems like pretty basic language comprehension. If you look inside yourself and feel like you’re already pretty confident that you’re never going to be tempted to urinate on a fire hydrant, then I think it’s pretty obvious she wasn’t talking to you. 

    Especially when it’s a blog addressing the internet. She doesn’t know you. Everyone knows she doesn’t know you. So it’s kind of understood that she’s not talking to you.  At least, I for one don’t go around thinking what anyone says anywhere on the internet is addressing me individually.

    I’m just saying. There’s something kind of weird about how personal a lot of people took it.

    1. YES. I never could understand how a basic advice on common courtesy was interpreted as ” all men are vicious rapists and should NEVER approach women EVAR!!”

      She wasn’t saying men ought to never approach women they feel interested in, she was giving advice on how to make such approaches more enjoyable (and potentially more successful) for all involved, like sex and romance are supposed to be in the first place. All the idiots who responded with the pathetic hyperbole that “ZOMG that means men could never meet new women for sex!!” ought to have been taking notes (and thanking her) instead of flipping cold out.

      1. Don’t be silly. Having a romantic interaction with a woman as a respected equal isn’t important.

        What’s important is for everyone to understand  that that one guy Rebecca was talking about might possibly have had really good intentions while he was acting like an obnoxious jerk!

        And also that I personally really resent [putting myself] in that box with all those other guys, because we’d never even consider acting like that, but you were definitely talking to us!

        And we’d have really good intentions if we ever did act that way, so there’s no reason to be alarmed!

  19. I’d actually like to hear if there are any theories about why it is that BB has been mercifully free from this sort of thing.

    Every science blog I read blew up with threads on the subject at the time.  Many other female scientists and science readers were also threatened and insulted in the aftermath.  Basically, if you posted about it, you would be attacked by legions of what-about-the-menz responses, even if you were responding to a male science blogger’s post rather than creating your own.  And the women who created their own threads?  Oy vey.

    We’ve lost several excellent bloggers as a result: women who made the decision that the threats were too dangerous and they had to stop writing publicly to protect themselves.  That’s a loss to everyone.

    What is the secret to BB’s success?

    1. I’d say it is pretty well moderated. If it were entirely unmoderated or poorly moderated then the thing it is free of tends to snowball, because shitbags know that their shit opinion will be left up forever in infamy. When they are moderated, or as they might say, censored, then people who want to discuss the subject matter of the post or an interesting offshoot are free to without wading through the AOL excrement.

      1. Good use of “shitbag.” It really works better than “dick” doesn’t it?

        I also believe that the moderation . . . moderates. I don’t tend toward rape threats and misogyny, but I do sometimes use other arguments and words in other fora that I know will just get me deleted here. So I don’t use them here. While I believe that the mods can sometimes be stifling of reasonable discussion, they also make reasonable discussion possible. Stupid, lousy conundrum.

        Also, I cannot imagine reading a science blog and having the urge to threaten rape or use some of the vile terms expressed here. Really. Seriously. I guess I just don’t have enough hatred in my heart.

        1. I sometimes take out comments that may be reasonable in themselves because, in my experience, they’re going to turn the thread into a clusterfuck.

    2. Free hand with the banhammers, not suffering trolls, and judicious use of snark by moderators.  Plus unkind comments are often attacked and belittled by the regulars.  Keeps it civil. 

      1. Theranthrope:
        I don’t believe people get banned/censored here for logic and reason, it usually is being for being offensive and personal.  Everyone’s a concern troll for something, self included, I think it’s more the manner of discourse rather than the opinion that I’ve seen getting banned.  There’s a lot of argument on the internet, and it’s occasionally not based on logic and reason.  I’ve disagreed with Maggie, Antinous and Cory at times, and haven’t been banned or censored for expressing that opinion.  The reason I was censored here, that I recall, was that I was berating someone for being stupid enough to not believe in AGW, and I was expressing it more in a STFU way, rather then logically or reasonably.  My comments were removed, their commnents stayed, though I know Maggie and I agreed on the issue.  When I rephrased my comments in a manner more composed and less unkind, my comments stated up.  Truly uncivil discourse goes away.

  20. I think at first it was a few anonymous bigots. But once she started talking about it and bringing it to everyone’s attention then the trolls got wind of it and went all out. 

  21. “I honestly don’t know what else to say.”
    Well, that’s OK, because I think you pretty much said it all.

  22. I don’t get misogyny.  I don’t understand also how a bunch of guys who claim to be rational thinkers can’t think rationally. 

    This is so ridiculous and such a dark time for us in the skeptical movement.  Anti-female bigotry is right up there with UFOs, astral projections, mental telepathy, ESP, clairvoyance, spirit
    photography, telekinetic movement, full trance mediums, the Loch Ness
    monster and the theory of Atlantis.  It’s so ridiculous.  I can’t even stomach this shit.

    I mean, there’s some legitimate criticism too of Skepchick, and some folks like PZ Myers, but no one’s perfect.  Nor do they have to be.

  23. What saddens me about the whole situation is that anyone even feels the need to take sides, because honestly and objectively, the whole thing got blown way out of proportion last year. Feelings got hurt. People got angry. Stupid things were said and done on all sides. 

    And Internet trolls (or mean and/or crazy people) took advantage of the situation to make anonymous threats to Watson, which is decidedly not OK in any way, but which is also typical behavior on the Internet when these sorts of situations reach a certain level of notoriety. (I say that not to dismiss it, but rather in the same way I’d say that prison life is violent or that kids on a playground are often mean to one another — it sucks, but it’s a reality that isn’t going to change just from wishing it away.)

    This all began when Watson made a strong statement about something that wasn’t really a big deal (the whole “elevator” situation, in which she claimed to have been sexualized by a guy who was really just making an awkward pass at her at 4 in the morning). When she was criticized for overreacting, instead of agreeing to disagree or calling for rational discourse, she doubled down and started rallying people against her critics. Many people perceived that she made herself into much more of a victim than she really was and hid behind cries of sexism and misogyny instead of standing strong and advocating her point of view without letting things wound her so. She also demonized Dawkins rather unfairly, entirely missing the point of his remark and taking offense at the fact that he would dare try to bring perspective to the problem. (She also demonized the JREF’s DJ Groethe, who really had nothing to do with any of this, but who failed to take her side because of his own reservations about her circumstances.)

    Now, Watson DID make some good points during all of this, and it IS sad that events based around science, atheism and skepticism might feel like they’re not safe places for women. This is a real problem that needs to be addressed at every level, and a lot of that involves acknowledging the problem honestly and inviting a lot more women to be a part of the planning and administration of these events.What happened as a result of Watson’s reaction, however, was that a line got drawn in the sand and people felt the need to align themselves. That’s led to a lot of shouting, but very little resolution. It’s important to remember that no one on any side (not even Dawkins) was ever advocating FOR sexism; the disagreement was about what sexism is, and how it should be dealt with. 

    The ensuing escalation leading to the nasty threats towards Watson came not from one side trying to score points on the other, but rather, that people on every side kept finding ways to pour more fuel on the fire, and that sort of activity has a way of attracting the attention of those who have little interest in what started the fire, but plenty of desire to see it continue burning.

    In the end, I’d encourage anyone who still feels the need to stand with anyone in this matter to stand aside and reconsider what the argument is really about. It’d be far better if this fire could burn out and we could reach some point of rational discourse where everyone’s looking for a real solution than to keep looking for more ways to keep those flames ablaze. 

    (Edited to fix spacing issues)

    1. Feelings got hurt. People got angry. Stupid things were said and done on all sides.

      Yeah, Ms. Watson really shouldn’t have threatened to rape and kill those men. What? She didn’t? We must be in some kind of false equivalency universe here.

      This all began when Watson made a strong statement about something that wasn’t really a big deal

      How nice of you to make the determination that it wasn’t a big deal, particularly since you weren’t there. And she was. But that’s irrelevant, of course.

      Many people perceived that she made herself into much more of a victim than she really was and hid behind cries of sexism and misogyny instead of standing strong and advocating her point of view without letting things wound her so.

      Maybe you should focus on your own butthurt around this before telling her to toughen up.

      It’d be far better if this fire could burn out and we could reach some point of rational discourse where everyone’s looking for a real solution than to keep looking for more ways to keep those flames ablaze.

      I don’t really see much upside for women in letting men control the terms of the discussion, and you certainly seem to be (in a passive aggressive sort of way) suggesting that the uppity woman should just pretend that there’s no problem.

      1. Very well said. The problem with posts like the one to which you responded is that they are incredibly discouraging. I hate reading them- one, they piss me off, and then two, they piss me off further when I feel compelled to respond to them and point out the breathtaking flaws in the logic- the stuff that anyone with a lick of sense, an ounce of compassion, or just a measure of self-awareness would recognize as a dumb, pointless, passive-aggressive, derailing argument. And it just makes me want to give up on these discussions, and in a small way, makes me wish I could just give up on humanity as a whole. TL;DR that comment made me wish it were possible to email baked goods. I would send you some awesome brownies for saving me from beating myself to death with my own keyboard.

      2. Thank you. It saddens me that it takes another man to explain this to other men, but I’m so very very happy that we male allies like you and PJ to explain it, and explain why you shouldn’t need to explain it. I tip my hat at you sir.

    2. “in which she claimed to have been sexualized by a guy who was really just making an awkward pass at her at 4 in the morning”

      Putting aside your unsubstantiated claim (her stated response at the time was “don’t do that”, not “I was sexualized”…although, of course, she was), I’d love to hear your explanation for how making a pass at a woman in an elevator at 4am is NOT sexual in any way.

      1. Good Lord, isn’t it obvious?  The man just really wanted some coffee, but didn’t know how to work his hotel room’s coffee maker!  He’d have kicked her out just as soon as the pot was boiling.  Really.

  24. I have to point out that, the only instance where I appreciated a rape ‘declaration’ was when I interviewed Lydia Lunch around 15-16 years ago. In a furious rant about the federal govt. of the US, she declared that a certain president needed to be bent over his desk and you-know. I laughed, because the comment was brutal, but in the context, well…
         This thread is really good, by the way. I’ve showed many friends Rebecca’s site and BB’s pieces about the BS Rebecca’s going through. It’s disgusting, and an indication of the reality of sub groups. I think one of Sturgeon’s laws covered the (lack of) intelligence of a mob. I would extend that law to most ‘banner’ organizations, EG. Skeptics/CSIOP/CSI believers, ‘nuts-and-bolts’ UFO believers, goths, preps, etc. I want to excuse Forteans from the mix, but I’m sure that would be a mistake on my part… LO!

  25. I must admit that I don’t understand what’s so uncomfortable of being invited to an hotel room. I’m a gay person, and this has happened to me some times. Some times I declined – politely – and hadn’t got any problem (it appears she didn’t have any, either). Some times I accepted. But I don’t find it as harsh.

  26. “If you want to feel completely safe, then stay home.  It’s a jungle out there :)”

    Marc, that’s a terrible way to end your comment. Yes, no one is ever completely safe, but people should be able to feel reasonably safe when they speak their minds. If people can’t say what they want for fear of being cornered and groped in an elevator, then we DON’T have free speech. 

    Furthermore, you need to understand that men, by virtues of social placement and physical size/strength, are often speaking to women from a position of power. THAT is why a woman might feel threatened by a man’s advances when they don’t take place in public. If you’re going to politely make a move on a lady, do it in a public space, where she feels safe. 

  27. Yeah, no.

    Suggestions like “guys, don’t do that” do not, in fact, brand whole swathes of innocent men with charges of misogyny or harassment.

    Observations such as “whoa, $#&%, looks like we have a ton of crazy sexist dudes in the skeptic community”, “we’ve got a serious problem in this community”, “blogger X and his/her crazed fans are really putting on a repugnant show” or “we ought to have some better policies in place at conferences” similarly do not indict any “group of men who never did anything threatening toward a woman.”

    And when a dude feels so offended by such statements that he feels the need to jump in and derail the discussion toward his all-important concern for general dudely innocence, than yes, he is part of the problem, and absolutely another example of guys behaving badly.

    (I won’t bother addressing the second paragraph except to say: you’re missing the point. There’ve been a couple billion perfectly good words written on that point over the last year or two in these discussions, so I’m not going to add more to them.)

  28. When you make a general statement about sexism and men as an example, it’s easy to include a whole group of “men” who never did anything threatening toward a woman….If a guy hits on you, it doesn’t mean he’s going to rape you or stalk you or harass you.

    From the woman’s perspective she can’t possibly know that until it’s either too late or not a problem at all.  Even worse, if a woman is sexually assaulted the first round of questions will be stuff like “Well, why were you walking around alone at night? What did you expect?” 

    So women can’t win.  If they’re friendly and outgoing instead of suspicious and wary and they get sexually assaulted it’s their fault for not being careful.  But if they’re suspicious and wary then they’re ice queens perpetuating a “vicious circle” of anti-man hatred.

    I think it makes more sense for men to be aware of the fact that sexual violence is relatively common, that sexual predators make every effort to pass themselves off as “ordinary guys,” and that women should get a certain amount of leeway in being suspicious of males who seem particularly interested in them.  The stakes are much higher for the woman who might get sexually assaulted then for the man who might get called a “creep” or something, don’t you think?

  29. If a guy hits on you, it doesn’t mean he’s going to rape you or stalk you or harass you.

    While this is true in and of itself, it completely ignores the entirely realistic fears of the hittee. There is no way for her – or indeed him, in some cases – to know whether the hitter is nice or nasty or nuclear grade evil. That causes something technically known as ‘fear’ which is not a pleasant emotion to most people.

    Try to imagine a suitably analogous situation for yourself. I dunno, maybe you were bullied at school by a 6’6″ blond muscle-laden football player with halitosis and Celine Dion facial tattoos; now imagine you’re tired, in a quiet, abandoned place with no easy exit routes. Someone looking unnervingly similar to that long-ago bully leaps into the picture and leers at you “nice looking iPhone you got there, want to come to my place to show me how it works?” Can you at least admit that you’d have cause to be nervous even though not all guys that comment on your nice phone are muggers?

  30. If a stranger who’s larger than you asks you for a dollar, are you more comfortable if they do it where other people are around during the day, or alone in a hotel elevator at 4 in the morning?  If you say you left your wallet in your room, would it be ok with you if he went in your room with you while you got it?  He may have every intention of paying you back, with interest, the next time they see you.  He may never have robbed anyone. 
    I’ve never done anything threatening toward a woman, but I know that a huge percentage of women have been threatened, pressured for unwanted contact and raped.  They don’t know that I’m not that guy.  It’s not kind to put them in a position that reminds them of that, and it’s not kind to make them guess if I am that guy or not. 
    It’s much less of a jungle for men then women.  Being a nice guy can make it less of a jungle.

  31. Yeah… no.

    What you just said there is victim blaming, and full of rape-culture entitlement.

    “Rape culture is telling girls and women to be careful about what you wear, how you wear it, how you carry yourself, where you walk, when you walk there, with whom you walk, whom you trust, what you do, where you do it, with whom you do it, what you drink, how much you drink, whether you make eye contact, if you’re alone, if you’re with a stranger, if you’re in a group, if you’re in a group of strangers, if it’s dark, if the area is unfamiliar, if you’re carrying something, how you carry it, what kind of shoes you’re wearing in case you have to run, what kind of purse you carry, what jewelry you wear, what time it is, what street it is, what environment it is, how many people you sleep with, what kind of people you sleep with, who your friends are, to whom you give your number, who’s around when the delivery guy comes, to get an apartment where you can see who’s at the door before they can see you, to check before you open the door to the delivery guy, to own a dog or a dog-sound-making machine, to get a roommate, to take self-defence, to always be alert always pay attention always watch your back always be aware of your surroundings and never let your guard down for a moment lest you be sexually assaulted and if you are and didn’t follow all the rules it’s your fault.”

  32. Well, you’re ignoring the context. Look at it the way you’d look at a job offer. You’re probably pretty happy when someone offers you a job, even if you decide not to take it. But that assumes that the person making the offer knows you and thinks that the job is a good fit for your talents. It’s less flattering if you know she’s offering the same job to anybody with a pulse.

    So if some woman you’ve never met barges into an elevator at 4AM and starts telling you about her Exciting New Job Opportunity, you’re going to be pretty annoyed. And if you tell her “No”, maybe she’ll accept that, but maybe she’ll try to drag you into a long argument: “This isn’t a pyramid scam; it’s shaped more like an parabola. Oh, and also it’s not a scam, honest!” Meanwhile, you just want to get some sleep.

    It’s not a matter of feeling “completely safe”, it’s a matter of not getting constantly pestered. You shouldn’t have to change your lifestyle so that you can avoid all strangers. Annoying people should change their lifestyles by being less annoying.

    And, yes, they have a legal right to be annoying, but the rest of us have the legal right to say, “Stop doing that” or “We should have a formal policy that lets us kick nuisances like that out of our ticketed conventions.”

  33. I read something Rebecca wrote (I think her blog, but I’m sorry I don’t have a link at the moment) about the elevator incident where she was unjustly (in my opinion) harsher on the guy than the Slate article would lead you to believe. However, she wasn’t as harsh as Dawkins was to her and, in any event, nothing she said justifies threats of rape and violence. I think the elevator incident is the wrong thing to be debating. If she was too harsh on the guy, the correct response was to say, “You were too hard on the guy.” There’s no justification for these threats and awful name calling. I had no idea that this type of thing was a problem until she wrote about it. That is so depressing and I’m embarrassed for my gender.

  34. I think the point is more that you could just as easily construe no threat whatsoever in his behaviour. You could just as easily presume that his intentions are good – perhaps he’d been sat listening to her talk in the bar, dazzled, slowly feeling like he was falling in love with her over the hour or two she was there, but felt too embarrassed to speak up in the group of people. When she goes to leave, he realises that this is his one chance to make the move that could change his life before she leaves, never to return. He sucks up his courage and makes the best attempt he can – which is admittedly not great, but at least he’s trying to act on what his heart is telling him – and gets turned down. Crushed, he holds back his tears until she leaves and returns to the bar to toast “the one that got away”.

    Yes, the location might’ve been a poor choice (it sounds like it could’ve been a now-or-never situation, but we don’t really have enough information to judge properly), but it really is true that almost all men aren’t out to threaten you, and you can’t assume bad faith just because you want to. You can just as easily assume good faith if you’d rather, that most men are just trying to get along in this crazy world, just like you. There’s nothing intrinsic in what we’ve been told about the situation that makes his behaviour offensive or the wrong thing to do, even if with hindsight it might’ve been poorly thought out.

  35. No I don’t.  Unless he pressed the issue or touched her or cornered her or did something unreasonable which she didn’t mention.  It was a social situation, he was with the group, he hadn’t had a chance to speak with her and it was a bar after all and that’s how romantic relationships get started.  I can’t fault someone for making their interest clear.  I also think anything more than a (implied) romantic query isn’t appropriate in most situations.

    The thing is that we all have different comfort levels.  If she didn’t feel comfortable, then that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s someone fault and to put the blame on this guy as a proxy for all guys isn’t fair to the rest.

  36. I’m not suggesting what that guy did was a smart move.  That said, there is a difference between ignorance and maliciousness.  Maliciousness is when you get into an elevator and ask a woman to your room thinking that you might be able to intimidate her into it.  Ignorance is when a poorly socialized nerd who is love struck by a really smart and cool woman finally builds up the nerve to talk to blurt out some feelings in the one place where he knows he isn’t going to make a public ass out of himself.

    You can listen to her entire feminist talk and never once realize that what she is saying is supposed to be a signal to you that you shouldn’t ask women out in elevators.  That isn’t to say her feelings are not valid and that nerds don’t need some social education, but that the nerd in this instance probably couldn’t even frame into his head that he did anything wrong.  

    The puppy shat on the floor and doesn’t understand why you are pissed.  The nerds need an education in social interaction, but be empathetic about it.  Poorly socialized nerds generally got that way by being beat on and retreating into nerdom.

  37. I said I wouldn’t, but I’d just add to that that one (one!) of the issues with the elevator situation is that this kind of behavior (ie.g., isolating a woman then asking abruptly for sex, blatantly ignoring previous indications of her wishes [“I’m tired and going to bed”], etc.) is also a common rapist strategy.

    Note carefully: saying “behavior X is a typical strategy of rapists” is NOT the same as “anyone who does X is probably a rapist”. 

    However, it certainly justifies saying — for the benefit of any well-meaning non-rapists out there — “don’t do that.” Especially where X is an entirely unnecessary and, indeed, inconsiderate thing to do to begin with.

  38. jacklecou: Indeed! I didn’t want to come of as sensationalist, but was tempted to point out that you would never ask out a woman by following her down a dark street at night. The visual is overly dramatic, but the circumstances are the same: The woman has no safety net. Regardless of what your intentions as the man are, she won’t feel safe.

  39. Um, isn’t she kind of a well known figure by this point? Does the dude not have internet?  Maybe all this is true, and maybe the dude had the best of intentions. That being said, it is clear the guy gave no thought to how this might seem threatening from her perspective at all.  Late at night, in an elevator, alone….  That doesn’t seem the least bit problematic to you?  This was late after a conference panel, discussing the topic at hand. This was not out at a bar, where she might have been looking to meet someone. I think at best it transgresses bounds of professionalism in that situation. I mean, she just spent the night discussing sexism and how being treated as a sexual object made her feel uncomfortable, right? I think the dude had a huge disconnect there.

  40. I agree with everything you’re saying. What’s most interesting to me about the situation is not whether or not the man’s behavior was appropriate or not, but the BLAZING spotlight that immediately got cast on Rebecca as soon as she dared question the behavior. That, more than anything is indicative of the problem here. Why is the Internet discussing in such minute detail the exact circumstances under which such behavior might or might not be threatening? Why does this behavior warrant such excruciating analysis? The answer is that any time a man is accused of threatening or harassing or raping a woman, excruciating analysis is called for to avoid any possibility of falsely convicting him. Would that such vigor was put into investigation of the purported assault.

  41. You could just as easily presume that his intentions are good

    The point is actually that it makes absolutely no earthly sense to be trying to construe his intentions one way or the other.

    All you’ve got is the dude’s actions. And for Watson, or another woman in a similar situation, there was and is only one response to those actions: politely decline, and then wait (guardedly) to get off the elevator. Which is, you’ll recall, exactly what she did.

    However, after the fact, it’s perfectly reasonable to point out that those initial actions were, regardless of the underlying intentions, very problematic in a variety of ways. So, you know, “guys, don’t do that.”

  42. “You could just as easily presume that his intentions are good” – you know that’s really bad advice to give a woman. Would you tell your daughter to do that if she found herself in similar circumstances? I would tell to presume their intentions are bad and keep a hand on a bottle of mace or a taser. That being said, I do understand your point of view. It sucks to be assumed to be a rapist, especially when you totally aren’t. But she should be able to point out, without naming names, that it made her uncomfortable without getting this insane backlash.

  43. But you can assume bad faith just to be on the safe side. Especially when you’ve been receiving threats related to where and when you are and who you’re with. That should be very obvious. The more vulnerable and threatened you are the more distrusting you should be.
    The problem with saying “almost all men aren’t out to threaten you” is: who cares? It’s totally unrelated to the problem. Almost all men aren’t going to talk to you, so obviously they won’t be threatening. However the minority that are out to threaten you are going to make up a sizable portion of the minority who you end up interacting with, because they will go above and beyond for the sake of being a fuckhead.
    You’re trying so hard to imagine this guy being a good guy and give him the benefit of the doubt. But maybe you could spend some of the empathic genius to imagine what it’s like to be receiving threats of rape and then be cornered in a confined space by a strange man who wants you to come back to his room, and maybe acknowledge that is a scary situation for anyone.

  44. I have never invited anyone to my room for coffee at 4 a.m. in any of the positive ways you are positing. Of course, I have never invited anyone to my room for coffee at 4 a.m. because I am, perhaps, more aware of and honest about my intentions than this man was.

  45. If she didn’t feel comfortable, then that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s someone fault and to put the blame on this guy as a proxy for all guys isn’t fair to the rest.

    That’s not actually what happened.

    It’s pretty obvious you’re not taking into account the fact that women face a lot more risk in this kind of situation than men do.  And that when the worst does happen there’s inevitably questions about what the woman did to encourage it.

  46.  I don’t believe that is what she did.  She said this situation made her uncomfortable and she’d rather it not happen. She talked about specifics, and related that to the larger issue. Nothing wrong with her doing that.  She did not imply the guy was trying to rape her, or that guys who do that are always rapist, as some suggested. She was pointing out that it kind of sucks to not be taken seriously in the midst of a professional situation (yes, it was connected to a conference talk she gave, so it is indeed a professional context).  Conferences aren’t meat markets. They are places for people with common professional interests to get together and discuss the field.

  47. “It was a social situation, he was with the group, he hadn’t had a chance to speak with her and it was a bar after all ” isn’t accurate.  It was AFTER a social situation, a situation in which the dude couldn’t work up the cojones to introduce himself and get into the conversation.  It wasn’t a bar, it was an elevator.  He set off her internal alarms.  She posted, “Guys, don’t do this, it’s gonna set of a gal’s internal alarms and it won’t end well for you.”  She didn’t “put the blame on the guy as a proxy for all guys”, she said, basically, “if you set off someone’s internal alarm, you’re not going to make any friends, much less get laid.”  

  48. “And quit generalizing men as hulking brutes out to rape every woman they come across.”

    You have shown me the error of my ways. So will it be done. 

  49. We can’t. 

    We’re told to be vigilant at all times lest we get attacked. Our base assumption, fed by all media all the time is that every man might be a rapist. We have to watch how we smile, how much, to whom, the size of our skirt, shirt, dress, shoes, where we go, who we talk to, who knows where we live, work, go to school, where we park our car, where we shop, when, and of course who we get in an elevator with. Because the minute we stop being hypervigilant and don’t pay attention to anyone of those and get assaulted, well, it’s all our fault, she was drunk, she was showing cleavage, she was walking alone at night, she was asking for it.

    The only good rape joke out there:

  50. Argh. Fuck. It always, always ends up about poor, tender men and their feelings. 

    I am grown enough to not to get offended because of a generalization that is obviously wrong. 
    But the double standard sucks: She has no right to feel safe, but, poor men should not be offended.

    I feel really comfortable in my pants, no need to switch genders, even if I am gay. But sometimes my gender colleagues make me feel ashamed of being a man.

  51.  I agree. It seems like she was saying, “hey, well meaning dudes who do things like this, such things can at times make us feel uncomfortable, so please think a minute and maybe don’t do it”, and a hellfire of threats rained down from above like she was Valerie Solanis who had just shot Warhol and wrote a play about cutting up men. She said it made her feel uncomfortable and would rather people not do it.

  52.  First of all, it was indeed in a bar – “afterward I spent many hours in the hotel bar”, says the article.

    Secondly, I can see a problem with his behaviour, sure, but hindsight is great and I haven’t just spent four hours slowly becoming smitten in a hotel bar. People who think they’re in love make bold moves and silly mistakes all the time, and this hypothetical guy is no exception. Perhaps he didn’t think through how he might seem threatening, but in the heat of the moment he might not have had much time to think through anything except that this was his one chance and he had to act now to seize it.

    My point is that it’s easy to imagine a benign rather than aggresive motive for his behaviour. If we do that, then his behaviour given his starting point isn’t grossly offensive, just poor crisis management.

  53. To be fair, I didn’t know who she was until yesterday. The dude may not have had a lot of background info on her prior to that evening. Internet celebrities are typically only celebrities in certain circles. Maybe it was his first atheism conference…?

    I’m not making excuses for guys, but the reality is that many of us are oblivious and egocentric. We don’t necessarily make connections. It may not occur to us that something like being alone in an elevator with someone else could be construed as threatening. If you’re not an active part of the problem like the guys who are actually threatening, it may not occur to you that women will perceive you that way too.

    Some people have ADD or Aspergers or any number of other issues that can contribute to social obliviousness. If he didn’t react angrily and threaten her after her rejection, it doesn’t seem fair to conclude that he had bad intentions, just bad intuitions.

  54. “Suggestions like “guys, don’t do that” do not, in fact, brand whole swathes of innocent men with charges of misogyny or harassment.”

    actually, yeah, it kind of does. it implies that “whole swathes of innocent men” aren’t aware that this is inappropriate behavior, and need it explained to them.

    “And when a dude feels so offended by such statements that he feels the need to jump in and derail the discussion toward his all-important concern for general dudely innocence”

    replace “dude” with “chick” and see how that statement sounds to you.

  55. I believe it is.  She used this experience (in which nothing really happened other than she felt uncomfortable) as a point in her essay that “guys” are the group of offenders.
    I’m sorry but I don’t like being put in the same box as those “guys”.

  56. No, she said “guys, don’t do that” in an offhand comment on a vlog.  Then she got the shitstorm that the OP is about.  Then she pointed out that the shitstorm indicates a real problem.  Please try to keep up with the rest of the class.

  57. I am astonished that you are the only hey-wait-but-i’m-nice jackass on this comment thread so far.

  58. Okay, I know this might blow your mind a little, but if you aren’t a guy who does that, then maybe she wasn’t talking to you.

    You are the one putting yourself in the box labeled not “guys,” but “guys who do that.” The fact that you think one box inevitably contains the other does not say good things about you.

    If you’re still trying to figure out why what Elevator Guy did was so rude, please read the following letters. In particular, read the sixth one down that starts “Dear Prof. Dawkins.” It very clearly lays out exactly what was wrong with what the Elevator Guy did.

  59. If you don’t like being in a box with these guys you’d really hate being in an elevator with them.

  60. “I’m sorry but I don’t like being put in the same box as those “guys”.”

    You weren’t.

    Some commentators making similar arguments to yours have definitely put you in that box, by mistakenly or deliberately mistaking Watson, but Watson didn’t box you that way.

  61. “I’m sorry but I don’t like being put in the same box as those “guys”.”

    By protecting those “guys”, you align yourself and make it more difficult for her to separate you from them. If you’re putting off the wrong signals (as this non-“fan” did), you’re fucking up somehow. Stop fucking up.

  62. Assuming good faith in every social encounter with sexual overtones sounds like “poor crisis management” to me as well.

  63. I think I see your point… but I also feel like your dismissing her concerns and apologizing for his behaviour. Sure, he didn’t “mean” anything by it. But it was creepy, she was uncomfortable and she’s allowed to feel and react accordingly.

    Stalkers also often don’t “mean” anything by their stalking and often have great affection for the people they are stalking. So I’m not sure you’re “falling in love” trope has much basis here.

  64.  She just pointed out that it made her uncomfortable, said why it did so, and she got a shit storm for that.  But it was in the hotel the conference was being held at, so I’d argue, especially since they were discussing what she presented on, that was still part of the whole thing. She was clearly there to get work done, not hook up.

  65. I do not understand why you are rationalizing his behaviour and dismissing hers… why is your default position to dismiss her concerns? Why are her concerns not valid and his poor wounded broken heart more valid to you?
    Also, what does it matter if his intentions were pure as the driven snow? What he did was not right, it was wrong, other behaviour would be better.How about talking to her in the bar, not following her alone on the elevator, giving her his email address or card in case she did want to talk to him, pretty much any of these would be better than creeping on a lady who had just spend 12 hours speaking about how creeping on ladies is wrong. 

  66. Why are her concerns not valid and his poor wounded broken heart more valid to you?

    Why are her real-world concerns based on real-world risks not valid and why is his completely hypothetical wounded broken heart more valid?

  67. My point is that it’s easy to imagine a benign rather than aggresive motive for his behaviour.

    I’ll keep that in mind when I ask you for a date as we’re standing at contiguous urinals.

  68. I first thought about this instance in much the same way as Fang, but as I watched the shitstorm I did learn a bit. Really all she was doing in her post was trying to educate men about how women might feel being approached in certain circumstances. It is honestly not something I had given a lot of thought about before. And I thank her for educating me.

    The reaction to her was so far out of proportion and over the top that it exposed a very foul undercurrent of misogyny. 

  69. Of course his motives were benign.   He was not  a rapist.  We have evidence to support that – he did not in fact follow up in a hostile way. She never said he did.  She said “guys, don’t do that, it made me feel uncomfortable and threatened and I’m not going to accept an invitation from someone who makes me feel uncomfortable and threatened.”  She didn’t call the cops, pepper spray the guy, or knee him in the crotch.  She didn’t seem to make any attempt to identify the guy for condemnation in her  followup.  Just “guys, don’t do that”.   And she’s right.  Don’t do that.  Full disclosure – I’ve done stupid shit like elevator guy in the past and thank the gods I’ve learned from them.    I am not a rapist. I have done creepy things.  If enough people had said, loudly enough, “Don’t be a creep” it might have saved me some pain.  So don’t be a creep.

  70. Do you know how many women have been raped?  Probably best to assume anyone female you’re talking to has either survived rape or some other form of sexual assault.  It’s not everyone, but it’s SO INCREDIBLY COMMON that you’re better off assuming it’s true and acting like a considerate person than assuming it’s not and being a douchenozzle.

    Now, starting there, are you *really* going to argue that women ought to give strange men the benefit of the doubt in social situations in which they’re vulnerable?  Think.  Even a little tiny bit.

  71. actually, yeah, it kind of does. it implies that “whole swathes of innocent men” aren’t aware that this is inappropriate behavior, and need it explained to them.

    Which they clearly do. 

    Either that or you’re saying that Elevator Guy himself, and every single person who responded to the elevator guy episode by constructing a multitude of imagined scenarios where, e.g., elevator guy was just an innocent, awkward, horny geek of one kind or another, were not just various degrees of unaware or unthoughtful, but actually deliberately engaging in and defending behavior they know to be inappropriate.

    Which one of us is indicting swathes of innocent men, again?

    replace “dude” with “chick” and see how that statement sounds to you.

    That doesn’t really make as much sense as you seem to think it does.

  72. actually, yeah, it kind of does

    Only if you, personally, interpret it that way.

    Let’s try putting this another way.  You’re saying: “I don’t care if you feel threatened by my behavior.  Deal with it.”

    I don’t care if you feel insulted by the fact that sometimes your sexual overtures will be misinterpreted.  Deal with it.

  73. Bullshit. I am as man as you are. Every single bit. Her comment does not offend me, neither implies anything about me. If you feel so, well, tough. I’d rather have people offended in front of a screen that people threatened in real life.

  74. The toilets at the university I used to go to had a sign: Please Flush After Use. Nobody thought this branded all college students as lacking toilet training, but simply a friendly reminder to do the right thing. 

    “Guys, don’t do that” is about the same. If you already aren’t doing that, then no problem. 

  75. When I watched Rebecca’s video, I thought to myself, “Would I ever do that?  Would I ever approach a woman that way?  Does this apply to me?”  Guess what my answer was?  “I probably wouldn’t have before, and I definitely won’t now.”

    So perhaps I was one of those “innocent men” who needed it explained to them.  But I didn’t feel like she was calling me out personally.  Why?  Because I genuinely don’t want to make women uncomfortable.  Even if her “don’t do that” advice is probably something I would never have done in the first place, I appreciate the reminder.

    So what’s going on in the minds of these random YouTubers?  What kind of person hears an anecdote like that, followed up with, “guys, don’t do that,” and immediately goes into Level 10 Rage Mode, dishing out the most horrific insults they can devise as they defend the honor of 4AM Elevator Coffee Guy?

    To paraphrase the Bard, “The douchebag doth protest too much.”

  76. “actually, yeah, it kind of does. it implies that “whole swathes of innocent men” aren’t aware that this is inappropriate behavior, and need it explained to them.”

    Apparently you’re not aware of this, and thus their post was proven factual.

  77. This is where our difference of opinion is really starting to come out, I think, which is great. You describe his behaviour as “very problematic”, but I think that’s a mischaracterisation. If we start by assuming a good motivation as his starting point – as I described in my previous post – then I don’t think he could really be asked to behave any differently. Time pressures and brain chemicals make fools of us all, and ultimately, a vague sense of unease until a lift door opens isn’t worth worrying about.

    His behaviour – hypothetically – was simply “act boldly, act on what your heart tells you, and at least make an effort, even if it doesn’t work”. This is the sort of thing that romance films teach us all the time. Asking him to stop that behaviour is what you’re really doing, if it turns out that his motives were good.

    Incidentally, I feel a vague sense of unease all the time – say if I’ve parked my car on a darkened street waiting for someone, and a pair of youths in hooded tops with broad accents come by, talking loudly. I feel vaguely uneasy then. But I don’t feel any compunction to tell them to change their behaviour – they’re just walking and talking. It’s not the end of the world.

  78. Right.  And no one accused anyone of any crimes.  She pointed out that he was guilty of bad taste, poor timing, and being mildly obnoxious.  And then came the rape threats.

  79. Well, yeah, either she was showing too much, so it’s ok for creepy guys to hit on her in the elevator,  or else she was too covered up, because she’s a prude who needs to lighten up, or she was dressed somewhere in between, because she’s playing hard to get, and if she’s sending mixed messages like that, what’s a guy to do?  I mean, how are we going to know which women we can hit on in empty elevators without feminists complaining about us, it’s such an annoying double standard!

  80.  Well, since we’re talking in hypotheticals what if the dude was — hypothetically — a rapist?  Would your policy of blanket presumptions of good faith work out well in that scenario?

  81. Asking him to stop that behaviour is what you’re really doing, if it turns out that his motives were good.

    Yes. We are asking him, and all other guys who might be considering ever acting similarly, to stop that behavior.

    Regardless of whether he was feeling all romantic inside, regardless of what he thinks (not-sexist-at-all-no-indeedy) romantic comedy movies have taught him about love, on the OUTSIDE he was demonstrating a complete lack of consideration. Ignoring her stated wishes, following her, waiting to approach her in an uncomfortably isolated place, making an abrupt proposition without even a prior introduction, and, generally, engaging in behaviors which women must unfortunately be somewhat on their guard about lest they be the hallmarks of a rapist.

    Hormones and romantic comedies do not actually justify acting like a jerk, let alone make it impossible for men to control their behavior.

  82. Also, re: the two youths scenario:

    A. There’re good reasons that race/class/age analogies don’t paint a complete picture here.

    B. There’s actually a big difference between just walking down the street, and propositioning someone. If the guy had just gotten on an elevator with Watson and ridden up silently, there’d be no issue. Even a remark about the weather probably would have been fine.(fn.1)

    But he didn’t. He propositioned her. And waited to do that in a confined space. After sitting all night in a bar without introducing himself or interacting with her. While she was talking the whole time about the problem of sexual objectification.

    It’s still not a good analogy, but just to improve it a little: imagine those vague unease-inducing youths proceeded to approach you and try to sell you car insurance (“nice car you have there, shame if something were to happen to it…”). 

    Suppose further that you had reason to think this was actually a pretty common occurrence out in the world. An unfortunate overlap between insurance sales and street thuggery. 

    You don’t think maybe you’d be justified in saying, “hey, insurance agents, you might want to rethink some of these approaches.” You don’t think maybe sensible and considerate insurance agents shouldn’t maybe stop and listen to that suggestion?

    fn1: There is a case to be made for being extra sensitive. If you wanted to be really thoughtful, you could catch the next elevator when the alternative is riding up with a strange woman who is alone. Or at least do your best to actively signal Not A Threat while riding up. 

    But that, particularly the former, is really above and beyond. All anyone’s really asking for is Normal Elevator Behavior With Strangers. For example: no out of the blue sexual propositions in the middle of the night.

  83. A couple things — romance films probably aren’t the best basis for real-life decisions. In the same way that Prometheus doesn’t tell you how to be a scientist very well, most romantic films don’t tell you how to woo people very well.

    Also, “hooded tops?”

  84. Can’t you see how the “non-rapist guys” of the world aren’t really happy with being stereotyped like that?

    Hey, stop generalizing.  I’m a non-rapist guy of the world and I completely understand the point she’s making.

    What’s your solution?  Convince all women everywhere that there’s no such thing as rapists so that no man ever has to go through the awful ordeal of being mistaken for a sexual predator? (Compare to the awful ordeal of being a victim of such.)

  85. i’m not defending anybody who tried to turn this into a different scenario. in fact, in an earlier post that wound up below, i state unequivocally that what the guy did was totally creepy. let’s refrain from making things up, we get enough of that from the political scene.

    your “dudely dude” statement is both condescending and insulting, although for some reason i’m not surprised you don’t see it that way.

    it’s becoming obvious that i’m going to get crucified by a bunch of people itching for a fight here, regardless of what i say, so enjoy the post. i’m out.

  86. If you think a woman pointing out an instance of inappropriate behavior is an insult to all men then I don’t know how else to characterize your statements.  You aren’t being clear about why all men should be insulted by such a statement so I may have had to make a few assumptions.  (I’m a guy who doesn’t feel insulted by such statements; maybe you just haven’t explained your perspective very clearly.)

  87. So what you’re saying is that women, despite not being wanted to be hit on at 4am in an elevator by strangers, should just take it and not mention it ever because there’s no way to know that a lady alone in an elevator at 4am doesn’t want to be hit on?

    (being asked the time by a women =/= being asked by a man back to his hotel room)

  88. No, I’m saying that you shouldn’t make job offers to people in situations where making job offers would generally be considered to be rude, annoying, or creepy. Please pay attention!

  89. I have no compunction whatsoever about being condescending and insulting to people (men) who show up to discussions on issues of concern to women and try to make it all about themselves.

  90. Precisely, vulnerability matters. Also Fang, we’re supposed to imagine it from the stated perspective of the speaker, because what she experienced is what she is trying to relate, not the guy’s intentions from any other perspective, including his.

  91. “guy, don’t do that” after never once implicating, accusing or otherwise suggesting any motive of the guy while relating her own perspective and the feelings the situation invoked in her.

    It doesn’t get much better than that. Yet rape threats.  

  92. Don’t you see the contradiction between the assumptions you’re making about the guy’s intentions (that he’s a love-starved puppy dog) and the point of your argument (that Watson should not have made assumptions about the guy’s intentions)?

    Why do you get to make assumptions about his intentions?

  93. “The nerds need an education in social interaction, but be empathetic about it”

    Apparently, you need to be less of a hostile individual if you think setting off someone’s “danger” alarm is something that requires more sympathy than your malbehavior.

    “Poorly socialized nerds generally got that way by being beat on and retreating into nerdom.”

    Poorly socialized nerds act like nerds, not creeps. Attractive, socially apt people also act creepy, this is independent of social class or stigma.

  94. let’s get something straight here- this is not my behavior. that is the whole reason for my posting on this thread in the first place.

    and since there seems to be a problem with my communicating here, i’ll try to be as clear as possible.

    -following a woman to a secluded space in order to hit on her, no matter the reason, is creepy. totally agree. reprehensible? maybe not, but we’re not parsing the situation here. the guy was being creepy.. and that’s creepy.

    -in response to the original post (please note that i am responding to the original post here on boingboing, above, not the link.): when you say “guys, don’t be super creepy” and then thank said guys for their kindness in not acting like total douchebags because you are a woman in science.. it makes no sense to me. do i do this? no. do men that i know act this way? no. you are painting all men (specifically the men that read boingboing, of all places.. i didn’t realize this was a creepshow) with a pretty broad brush. this is kind of insulting. don’t get me wrong, i’m not crying into my tea here.. maybe it’s just a matter of the wording, but i’ll double down on my comment that kindness has nothing to do with the fact that the majority of men don’t act like misogynists online, it’s just that *gasp* they aren’t misogynists. and yes, you can pick a zillion examples from 4chan or even the rare dip here on boingboing, but you can do the same thing regarding racism, islamophobia, cat-hating, et. al.

    -in response to a different poster, name somewhere on here.. how in the hell can you suggest that a discussion about sexual creepiness-violence-insensitivity is the sole property of women? that men should not have a voice in such a discussion.. or that any input is making the discussion about themselves? this is a problem for everyone, not just women, or do you assume that men just don’t care? 

    now, if anyone -seriously- finds this post offensive enough to flag, i apologize. if you are just looking to have it deleted because it doesn’t fit your narrative, and you need to leave with me thinking whatever crap is in the post above with no rebuttal, fine. i guess we all create our own reality, and yeah, it’s often at the expense of others.

  95. please explain how you came to that conclusion, and in the process
    please explain how the above post is not just blatant trolling on an obviously sensitive topic.

    Sure.  From my perspective, Watson is just saying “guys, don’t do that.”  Not insulting all men, just suggesting that not all men realize that some behaviors can put others in fear for their safety. 

    Since I don’t understand why you’d take such a statement as some horrifically misandrist blanket statement about how all men are sexual predators it looked a lot to me like you were saying that Watson shouldn’t say stuff like that.  That is, you seemed to be saying that Watson shouldn’t be talking about situations where men make women feel uncomfortable, unsafe, or generally creeped out.  Presumably that means that if a woman feels unsafe, uncomfortable, or creeped out she shouldn’t talk about it (because talking about it would be a huge insult to all men everywheres).  It seemed like you were saying that if a man makes a woman feel uncomfortable that should be her problem because otherwise she’s presuming that all men are rapists and that’s an insult to all us nice guys.

    Perhaps you could give an example of what Watson might have said to talk about this that wouldn’t offend you so?

  96. here’s the issue. my response was not directed at watson’s comments, it was directed at maggie’s comments in the OP.. suggesting that men need to go out of the way to appear non-misogynist (word..?) is what i have a problem with. it suggests that all men are closet misogynists. that is far from the case.

    projecting sexism, racism, pick your -ism, on people tends to perpetuate said -ism. this is a bad, bad thing.

    here, it is a matter of wording.. i presume. i’m not sure why maggie would be thanking the readers here for not being assholes, when most of the commenters (at least since i’ve been around) usually seem like decent folks, male or female.

  97. Well, technically speaking she didn’t thank BB readers:

    I shouldn’t have to feel like thanking you, the BoingBoing readers, for being kind enough to not treat me like shit just because I’m a lady person.

    That is, she feels like she should thank BB commenters but also realizes that she shouldn’t feel that way because behaving decently shouldn’t warrant thanks in the first place.

    I took Maggie’s post as a compliment to the BB commentariat — she’s basically just saying that she’s really glad she doesn’t have to deal with this kind of sexist bullshit here but is still bummed out that anyone has to put up with it anywhere.

    So maybe I took your remarks to be about Watson’s statement because I didn’t see anything remotely insulting about the OP while I’ve seen dozens of people say that Watson is accusing all men of being rapists.  Unfortunately, my comment above no longer has an “edit” button or I would edit it to note my misunderstanding.

  98. yes, we interpreted the OP differently. the paragraph begins with “that shouldn’t be luck, guys” which i feel is preaching to the choir here as far as myself and the bb readership is concerned. “that shouldn’t be luck (period)” would have probably been better wording.. it doesn’t lead to the question of what exactly “guys” means.

    perhaps i misinterpreted this as well, it just seemed that in the context of the post, “guys” = “male-types”

    i totally agree with the sentiment, just not the delivery. i feel it is accusatory. given the other interpretation, maybe i’ve jumped to conclusions.

  99. “let’s get something straight here- this is not my behavior. that is the whole reason for my posting on this thread in the first place.”

    People aren’t saying you’re a rapist. They’re stating that you support rape culture.

  100. really? being lectured about why you (guys) shouldn’t threaten to rape people doesn’t bother you at all..? well, that’s great, but i’m in a different boat. it’s projecting “rapist” on all “guys”, which isn’t cool.

    and no, this is not an apology for rapists.

    the latter half of your comment has very little to do with the former, and i tend to agree. threatening anybody in real life is inexcusable.

  101. So maybe her posting on her vlog “your intuitions about this situation were wrong and behaving that way isn’t likely to be successful” would be a helpful and instructive thing.   Oh wait, that’s what she did.

  102. You’re stating that like it’s a gotcha or something. I agree with you that it was good that Watson said that. But I was responding to what Mindy said, not what Watson said.

  103. I remember a few pleasant hotel encounters during conferences, but if you find yourself hitting on a person in an elevator you’re either moving too fast or too slow. And never hit on a feminist; if it’s going to happen, she’ll let you know.

  104. Why it should bother me? Very obviously are people who did not get the memo. My skin is not so thin that I am going to be offended by stuff aimed to others. 
    1) There are way too many reasons, real reasons to get offended with serious stuff going on.
    2) I am not them, I know them exist.
    3) I am a MAN, tough, steady, stoic, etc. Not a crybaby. 

    “he latter half of your comment has very little to do with the former,”
    Make the connection, then, DUH! You can threaten somebody even without wanting! Is that so hard to understand?!

  105. it’s projecting “rapist” on all “guys”, which isn’t cool.

    You’ve confused ‘projection’ with ‘identification’.

  106. Mr. Jones I’m one of the regular posters on here who has a tendency to stir the pot so to speak, and frankly I’m with you.

    For me, as a guy, it doesn’t directly offend me.  Not in the, I can’t believe she’s implying that I’d do something like that, kind of way.  I see it as something broader, something that I’ve seen people do time and time again.  Yes she is making a generalization, which isn’t bad in and of itself, but it carries a certain impression.

    It’s that impression that irritates me.  Men do this.  Men do that.  Men don’t do this.  Don’t get me wrong, men bitch and complain about women all the time as well, so the shit flies both ways.  But in doing so it creates a subconscious impression of whatever is being talked about.  Men are scary/dangerous/violent/sex crazed, ect..  Those little seeds can easily grow into a nice pair of rose colored glasses, and create a world where people are acting more on an implied instinct than real observation.  (I suppose if we were talking about men it would create a misogynist, but I’m not sure if such think exists for women.)

    I don’t say that to minimize what she felt in the elevator, that’s reality, that’s how she felt.  I see it more as a failing of society in general to teach young men and women how to better communicate with each other and be respectful.  Like others have pointed out he could have been a nerdy guy who used what opportunity he saw to make a move, just as easily he could have been “that guy” who was looking for an easy score at the end of the night.

    The reason I rarely comment on “feminist” types of threads has to do with what you are experiencing.  You are a male who has presented a view point that doesn’t fit the narrative, therefore you are wrong.  Just like you, I’d never do something like this and think it was creepy/way inappropriate, but because I agree with your viewpoint I’m also wrong.

  107. You are a male who has presented a view point that doesn’t fit the narrative, therefore you are wrong.

    What a shitty and condescending thing to say.

    If you think people aren’t giving others the benefit of the doubt you could always lead by example instead of assuming everyone taking a particular position is arguing in bad faith.

  108. “projecting sexism, racism, pick your -ism, on people tends to perpetuate said -ism. this is a bad, bad thing.”

    Why do you believe that you harbor no sexist beliefs? It’s pretty obvious that this is something you harbor deep within yourself that makes you feel uncomfortable.

  109. PS Fun fact: I imagine people will misread part of my post and selectively quote it or straw man my arguments. Feel free to use logical fallacies to attack my points.)

    Example of such a straw man:

    But turning to the original situation in the elevator – guys can I just say that rape is rape, and asking someone for coffee can just be asking someone for coffee. Everyone here seems to want to fall over themselves to feel self righteous about how terrible men can be in general and the guy who asked skepchick for coffee in particular.

    Edit: Incidentally I’ve been mugged only once and it was precisely because I made the assumption that the guy had good intentions.

  110.  Just to level the playing field here, let’s try to resize this situation to something that men have good reason to think about.

     Instead of an elevator, it’s the alley behind the building, where you’ve gone for an alone-time smoke. It’s still probably underlit, and it’s still 4 in the morning. You’re out there to mind your own business. A gentleman walks up to you. He’s, say, 5 inches taller than you, and he has, say, 30 pounds on you. He asks you for a cigarette! You’re within arm’s reach of him already, before you’ve had time to visualize your options if he wants more than a smoke. Owing to the geometry of alleys, he’s blocking your exit. There’s no one else in your alley: there are probably hundreds of people within a few dozen yards of you, but you happen to be in a quasi-public, yet isolated space. So it doesn’t matter. Much akin to an elevator door, you can’t just open the door you entered from whenever you want: it locked behind you.

     Does he want to amicably chat? Does he just want a cigarette? Is he sizing up your reactions, sizing up what you have in your pockets from your phrasing, your clothing? Remember, you’re dressed up to attend an event. Nice clothes! Do most robberies and assaults happen in situations physically similar to these?

     What if he actually is going to hurt or rob you? Can you take someone bigger than you, when they’re almost certainly experienced in physical violence and threats? You can’t run. Can you get to your pepper spray or knife in time? Do you even have anything like that? Would you know how to use them?

     Do you feel vulnerable, small, intimidated? Is it an overreaction on your part, or is it his fault for creating this situation?

  111. HEY LOOK, you spectacularly missed the point and misread Rebecca’s post. Where did she (or anyone) say that the elevator incident was like rape, exactly? In her original video, she said, “Guys, don’t do that.” Rape only came up because *people threatened to rape her for saying that*.

  112. He should not have done what he did. It was creepy.

    Aaaaaaand that’s exactly what she expressed.

    Then a bunch of OTHER people interpreted that as her calling the guy in the elevator (as well as all men) a convicted rapist. She never said he was ‘malicious’.

    As for the rest, you clearly feel safe and tough enough to take your chances on ‘creepy situations’ turning out just fine and dandy. Good for you. I’m honestly glad you’re that lucky because the alternative is very frustrating. That said, your situation doesn’t make the suggestion that people make a tiny bit more effort trying not to be ‘creepy’ to other, more vulnerable people unfair.

  113. Well, I’m in broad agreement with you as well. But it’s the price of doing business that making a side point will often make people think one is forgetting the main point.

    It’s difficult for everyone to walk the line between protecting oneself and treating all comers as equals. Mistakes aren’t a victim’s fault, but they are costly nonetheless.

    I mentioned that I’ve seen allusions to sex-party behavior. I think that’s part of the problem. Meaning, there are rules at sex parties that explicitly forbid bad behavior, because the risk is acknowledged, and no one wants everyone’s good time spoiled because common sense isn’t always so common.

    It looks as if in intellectual spaces, the risks go largely unacknowledged. So requests for protections and rules are dismissed as “C’mon..we’re all smart people here. Everyone knows better”.
    Evidently…and if we are a community that holds evidence in esteem…everyone does *not* know better. And an event organizer or community is not going to be insulting everyone’s intelligence by making a stated effort to create a safe space. 

    If the community bands together and says that safe space is important, that lashing out en masse at someone for presenting evidence of a problem is unacceptable…then instances of purely human behavior like making a bad pass or a tasteless joke won’t be that threatening.

  114. You’ve said the same thing half a dozen times now. If you don’t have anything new to add, please exit the elevator in an orderly fashion.

  115. Because my assumption is far more likely to be correct?  

    That said, my post wasn’t in regards to Watson’s assumptions.  It was in response to a post that was more or less “OMG, how could that guy not seen what he did as horrible!”  I don’t think Watson made any assumptions about his intent other than that it was an example of what bothers her about men at these conventions.

    I’ll be honest, if a woman told me a story about how a guy ask her out in an elevator, the last thought on my mind would be “OMFG, he was intimidating you”.  It would be “lol, loser.  I bet he never gets laid.  That will never work.” The idea that it could be anything other than awkward and kind of sad would never cross my mind unless it was pointed out to me that a woman might find it intimidating.  And as far as socially awkward nerds go, I am on the more socialized side.

    People that would intentionally intimidate a woman, I think you have little chance of reaching, but I also think that they make up a small section of the pie.  The larger piece of the pie are men who are thoughtless and fail to be empathetic about how their actions might be effecting others.  How you approach someone who is innocent in intent and how you approach someone who is malicious in intent is very different.  Accusing someone with no malicious intent of being malicious is an excellent way to shut conversation down, and it is a conversation that needs to be had if Watson’s experience are representative (elevator incidents aside).

  116. You are somehow implying I haven’t done something similar.

    I was approached at 2am while getting out of my car on campus (during college) by a middle aged black gentleman (I’m white, but not that it really matters).  I can go into detail as to what all happened, but needless to say I drove him to an ATM, where I removed money and gave it to him and then dropped him off at the bus depot.

    All that transpired between 2 and 3 am, with a person I had never met riding around next to me in my car.  Sure I felt a little uncomfortable and I have a feeling I got scammed, but if I didn’t then I helped a person out in need.

  117. Honestly half of that list is something called common sense.

    I personally find a great deal of men and women lacking in it.  I really think bringing back a course like home economics in high school that was geared toward teaching people how the world works would do wonders to help.

  118. Agreed!

    It’s honestly pretty easy to get to know women that you find attractive without freaking them out, most of the time.  Don’t approach anyone whose body language is closed off.  If you do approach, do so in a populated public space.  Introduce yourself politely. Make sure she can leave – don’t corner her.  Watch her body language, and if she doesn’t want to talk, go away politely.  Start the conversation with some sort of appropriate opener, from small talk to a topical remark based on a shared experience.  Give her a chance to respond, and listen to her response.

    Once you’ve established that you’re talking and she’s talking, you can get to know her a bit.  If you hit it off, you can ask if she’d like to keep in touch / go get a drink / meet up later for more conversation.  She might say yes enthusiastically, she might say something politely not-yes (“pretty booked this weekend, actually”), she might say yes weakly and actually mean no.  She might say “I’m enjoying this conversation, but I feel like I should tell you that I’m gay.”  I’ve said that one a lot.  Mostly before the current haircut, although just last weekend…  sorry, digression.
    Anyway, all of this works quite well if what you want is to talk to someone attractive, get to know her better, and see if you click.  If you just want to get laid, I suggest sticking to venues in which everyone there knows that’s the point.

  119. You should really check out the reddit thread of men talking about the time they sexually assaulted women… its (horrifically) illuminating and might give you insight as to why women’s default position is to assume nefarious intent when dealing with strange men at 4am in an elevator.

  120. Because my assumption is far more likely to be correct?

    Are you presenting this as fact or opinion? Doesn’t matter that much because severity of consequences also has to be factored into estimations of risk, not just probability of occurrence. Rape may be unlikely but if the consequences are much worse than being awkwardly hit on then caution may be warranted (depending, as always, on context). And of course I think women should be allowed to make their own determinations about this rather than having the “proper response” dictated to them by the menfolk.

    How you approach someone who is innocent in intent and how you approach someone who is malicious in intent is very different.

    For all of us non-telepaths, how do we determine innocence of intent in a first-time encounter with a person?

  121. It was in response to a post that was more or less “OMG, how could that guy not seen what he did as horrible!”

    Compare this to what mindysan actually said:

    Do you not see how being asked back to one’s hotel room late at night might be construed as at least vaguely threatening?

    I don’t think your characterization is the least bit fair.  “vaguely threatening” =/= “horrible”.

  122. Please point out the ways in which people are to blame for their sexual assaults, I’m all ears.

    That list is barely scratching the surface of things said to and about victims, of both genders, of sex assaults, That list is what goes on in every woman’s (and some men’s) heads every time they leave the house, go on a date, go to a party, or a pub or a club. “If we die tonight, how can I make sure it’s not my fault”.

    Hint: it is NEVER the victims fault.

  123. So if the guy, who you wrote about a bit above, had assaulted you at the ATM and forced you to draw all the money you could… it would have been common sense not to do that with a stranger, and more or less your own damn fault? What were you expecting? You shouldn’t have done that. Are you sure you didn’t do anything more to draw his attention?  Perhaps you should have worn less expensive looking clothes, driven a more beaten up car. It is common knowledge that people will get mugged in the middle of the night by strangers. Why on earth did you give him a ride??????

  124. “I personally find a great deal of men and women lacking in it.”

    Says the man who believes that women should work to eradicate their ability to distinguish danger.

  125. A male friend of mine suffered a two by four to the head, the loss of the pack of smokes the other guy asked if he could one from, his wallet and a leather jacket in the exact situation you’re describing. All because he assumed the other had good intentions. 

  126. I used that example because I thought it’d be more familiar to men, and most of us have experienced something similar.  It’s rather a mild example of feeling threatened, as losing your wallet is not close to being raped. 

  127. And this is the reason I don’t engage in these types of discussions.

    Where in my original post did I say I was blaming the victims for what happened to them?  I didn’t, you just interrupted it that way.

    Before you go ballistic over that, I didn’t say I blamed victims – if I felt like that I would have told you.  I try my best to be literal, and in this case I stated a fairly straightforward statement.  A lot of that list is common sense, and it is.  I think about what I’m wearing when I go out, where I’m going (and what time of day I’m going to be there), should I wear a watch or ring, should I carry cash/card/id, ect..  I think about why is a person knocking on my door, do I want to open it.  I think about how to exit a situation if the need arises, I try and think through things to see if they seem like a good idea or not.

    As a guy I will 100% agree that any woman thinks about things I don’t.  She shouldn’t have to, but this isn’t fantasy land either.  (Wait you are going to have a problem with that.)  I’m sorry, fantasy is the wrong word…reality happens, if someone is in a mindset to commit rape it’ll probably happen regardless of dress or action.  Now it’s possible those things are triggers, but that is in no way the victims fault.  However shades of gray always exist, and teaching people a little more common sense and respect would never hurt.

    I know you’ll find fault with what I’m saying, you have with anyone else in this thread who hasn’t automatically agreed with you.  My only issue with Hint: it is NEVER the victims fault. is the fact that it automatically makes the blamed party 100% guilty until proven innocent.  (Not saying that +95% of the time that isn’t accurate, but unfortunately people lie about crimes for all kinds of reasons.)

  128. (Not saying that +95% of the time that isn’t accurate, but unfortunately people lie about crimes for all kinds of reasons.)

    Rape and sexual assault are hugely underreported and there is very little evidence for all these fake cases of rape that folks taking your line are so concerned about.

    The “fake rape” line of argument sets up a situation where it becomes easy to blame the victim; if you read accounts from survivors of rape/sexual assault you’ll see it’s distressingly common for the people receiving the report to assume that the woman is lying for the sake of keeping her “innocent good girl” persona intact.  And you seem to have missed the point of the list which is to point out — regardless of whether anything on the list is “common sense” — that if a woman makes one slip-up, departs from “common sense” even slightly she won’t be taken seriously in reporting a sexual assault or rape.  Which is part of why these crimes are so egregiously underreported.

    There’s a real danger in saying “well it’s just common sense” because so many people like to use this “common sense” thing as an excuse to dismiss women reporting real crimes.  It stops being “common sense” when you need a forty-point checklist to make sure you were taking “proper precautions.”

  129. You don’t like engaging in these discussions because people disagree with your blanket statements and ask for clarification?

    Also, I interrupted nothing, I’m a very good conversationalist and always for the other person to finish speaking.

    I would like to point out that when you think about the things you consider common sense I assume it is not because you are worried about what the cops will say when you attempt to report a sexual assault.

    Case in point: I used to date almost exclusively men I met online. Various dating sites, with varying rates of success. One gentleman I met online freaked me out by phoning me at home and demonstrating that he knew my home address when we had yet to even go on a date and I had not given him my home phone number or my address. I told him that he was frightening me and his response was to laugh at me and utter vague threats about coming over. When I called the police to file a report they wouldn’t take my report and lectured me on how “this is why you shouldn’t date online”. 

    Not dating online, to that cop, was “common sense”. 
    This is the issue with “common sense” – it’s not common to everyone. 
    So, because I didn’t follow what that cop felt was “common sense” dating protocol my report was dismissed and not filed and I was left feeling terrified in my own home for months with the knowledge that if anything happened to me it was all my own fault because I dated online.

    This is what dismissing things as “common sense” does. It places the [potential] blame on the victim instead of the aggressor before any crime has even been committed.

    Also, at no point did I say that assault not being the victims fault means the accused is automatically guilty. That’s a very big leap in logic. The only person “guilty” is the person who assaulted the victim. I’m not trying to bypass due process. Full disclosure: my spouse (who I met online!) a defence lawyer, so I know that the accused and the perpetrator are often not the same person. I would never say that the accused is always guilty.

  130. “My only issue with Hint: it is NEVER the victims fault. is the fact that it automatically makes the blamed party 100% guilty until proven innocent.”

    And we’re absolutely disgusted that you hold less sympathy for the victims of rape than you do someone who attempts to teach men how to give off less threatening vibes.

  131. “sometime my gender colleagues make me feel ashamed of being a man”  +1

    Though to be fair we could generalize that to fellow citizens, or even species and focus it to down to the narrowest shared niche and it would still be true.

  132. He was obviously asking for it, I mean, in that car, at that time of the night, in that neighbourhood, what did he think was going to happen? He liked it, he just doesn’t want his wife to find out. 

  133. There’s something particularly bizarre about the people who claim Elevator Guy must have  been madly in love until mean old Rebecca broke his heart – when he hadn’t even exchanged two words with her.

    It’s just incredibly creepy. He didn’t know her at all. Clearly didn’t know or care whether she seemed to like him back. . The only things he did know – the stuff she had been talking about all night, and her wish to call it a night – he completely ignored. Way to go romancecreepitude.

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