Oh, But This Is Different

By now, you may well have seen that Ashley Paramore put up a video describing a sexual assault she was subject to at TAM last year. I’m very happy to provide a spoiler now and tell you that things were handled well when she reported the assault. Her video:

Me being me, I dug into the comments, wondering what Ashley was dealing with in the immediate aftermath of posting the video. I found something interesting. I present this screen shot because it entertained me that these comments were right next to each other.

Screen shot of two comments. Text provided in the post.

illuminator83: Contrary to some other harrassment accusations (like ‘elevator gate’) this is actually a real one. I don’t think you will see any negative feedback …

zarkoff45: You’re not going to get a backlash on this because saying “he touched the no-no parts on the doll” is clear enough — it’s not like you said “he asked up for coffee while we were alone on an elevator.”

Anyone want to take bets on this? No? Y’all are no fun anymore.*

For clarity’s sake, I’ll state the hypothesis that those comments represent: Rebecca Watson received backlash/negative feedback as a direct result of saying, “Guys, don’t do that”, referring to propositioning someone in an enclosed space after that someone has just announced they need sleep. Ashley will not receive backlash/negative feedback as a result of filing an effective formal complaint against someone who physically assaulted her. All good?

Now, for the other comments. Because I’m mean that way, I’ll start with the comments that were already on the video when those two were posted.

We have the “Wait, now, let’s be all concerned for the guy who assaulted you” responses:

tigerclaw1000: I see ok, i would maybe have an explanation why it dose attract more creeps, i think it might be because like creeps, atheist, skeptics are the underdogs/outsiders of the society and they are more likely to deny the culture that in America is well nuts and thus is more likely asocial.

It is also possible that guy simply misunderstood Ashley and though she night like it.

Not saying its ok, just that it we should not villefy the guy, it might be a misunderstanding.

happyjesus123: Jim-Bob has a problem that is in need of treatment. Banning him from the conference is good for TAM (particularly from a liability perspective) and good for TAM participants. But, it does not help Jim-Bob learn to behave correctly. Is there away to help Jim-Bob or should he be isolated from human interaction?

We have “Guys just can’t be expected to understand, so it’s up to you personally to manage the situation”:

BloodRedLegend: Sometimes men confuse friendliness with flirtation. We can think that, just because a woman is being nice to us or seems to enjoy our company, she “wants the D”. Then, when the woman rejects his advances, he may take it as some sort of silly game of “playing hard to get”. Throw alcohol in the mix and things can escalate very quickly. Hands go where they’re not supposed to. After that, whether the woman is raped or not may all depend on who’s around. Don’t ever agree to go to a creeper’s room.

Martyj2009: You need a conference buddy. Someone who will have your back.

AtheistCitizen: your only failing, and it is probably hard to overcome, is not being more assertive.

We have several “Just keep this a personal matter between you two” responses:

bjohnson55555: You needed to make a big stink the instant he tried to slide his hand up your skirt, and you should have smacked the shit out of him when he pushed you down and went for it again.

MikaelDryden: Dear women.

If we men ever start acting like Jim Bob, you have my permission to knee-kick us in the groin.

TiteProducts: I often think some claims of harassment are exaggerated but this is beyond something that simple. Should have just kicked him in the balls, I’m sure he would have gotten the message.

We have “Oh, thank God you’re not like those feminist women!”:

moestietabarnak: Glad you reported this, as it should be.

But the only other instance I heard of these situation was elevatorgate, and this instance was WAY overreaction about someone just hitting, no idle hands. Yet I don’t think many deny these happen. Just keeping proper perspective.

ThaTroothHurts: I agree a lot of people are in denial about this happening.

But all I have seen feminists do about it is attempt to create a rule that is already there.

Someone sexually assaulted you, you had 10 people in the room and people handled it well. I don’t think there is much else you can do to improve that situation absent of the knowledge that your assault was going to happen…

eagleeye1975: I’d like to applaud you for the way you approached this.

1) You didn’t commit the cardinal sin of blaming ALL men for being creeps.

2) You didn’t try to make it out to be the fault of anyone BUT the perpetrator (ie: TAM, the hotel, etc)

3) You didn’t claim harassment until after you had VERBALLY said “stop” and he didn’t.

I think, honestly, it’s understandable to “not take the hint” when you did the “non-verbal” stuff (turning away), which could have been seen as mere “flirty”/Hard-to-get.

eagleeye1975: That said… grabbing your ass, and other grabby stuff after that, wasn’t okay either… just because you haven’t said “no” doesn’t mean you have said “yes”.

So all in all, I think you showed an abundance of tolerance, and let him cross WAY over the line before crying foul.

We have “Geez, lady, why you gotta take things so far?”:

xTurquoiseGlazex: Was expecting edgy shit from the intro, instead got a tame Atheism+ beat up about a minor harassment that sounds like any normal friday night in the city! Bad call, you should’ve taken it in your stride and let jimbob to hus own devices. The world has ways of catching up on people like him even though he was drunk and chasing tail like 99% of us.

We have “You should do/have done more”:

Gábor Koszper: PS. You’re saying this is an intimate and personal video. Which is interesting, because I think you shouldn’t feel that this is an intimate, personal occurence. I think the proper answer to what happened would be you screaming to everyone what happened. Because being silent about it only defends Jimbob. I mean, his name should be public. I think that publicity of the case protects you. At least that’s my experience.

SimplyHerpes: healthyaddict, my only criticism is your timing. Your involvement with the community should never have been a deterrent. It would have been better to assume the consequences and potential rifts which is why it feels good for you to finally get this out.

joe mama: shoulda called police that dude is going to end up raping someone.

We have “Excuse me, but if I understand this detail correctly, which I must have because I always do because I’m so rational, there’s a problem with your story that throws everything into doubt”:

Barry Gormley: I don’t want to seem insensitive, but the one part of this video that I can’t help but question is where you say you’ve experienced some form of harassment at every convention you have attended. To me this seems like an extraordinary claim. Especially given that some women who’ve been to many conferences claim never to have experienced this problem.

Barry Gormley: 1) I question one of her claims, therefore I’m insensitive?

2) About forty seconds in she claims to have experienced some form of harassment at “literally every” convention she’s been to.

3) If she people to do anything about it, even something as minor as helping to spread awareness, then she is in fact obligated to prove to prove that this problem exists. Are you suggesting that we should just take her word without question? You know what scepticism is right?

We have “Hey, now, don’t be talking shit about my community”:

tigerclaw1000: You have my support, they was not cool what that guy did.

How ever is it really because the conferences them self’s or just jerks and weirdos who happen to go there?

thesparitan: Why are conference so dangerous? I am somewhat skeptical about these conference assaults. But it’s completely possible. I want to know more about why or even if they are happening at a high rate

We even have “What were you wearing?/How dare you be attractive?”:

davidthecook: That must have been a short skirt for him to get under it so easily. It is a shame he couldn’t admire without touching. There’s got to be a Jim-Bob on YouTube; it would have been entertaining(mildly, but worth it) the owner of that channel commented. I feel there was room for humor, as you are still in good spirits(no supernature intended in that cause). I am also glad you handled it the right way, and that you are not in some ditch…we need your support in our secular endeavors.

Noktelfa Rootcreeper: I’ve heard some controversy about sexual advances and stuff at cons, but this doesn’t sound at all like a grey area. He had no business touching you like that, and went way too far in front of witnesses. I’ll bet you wish you were hideously ugly, now. (almost) No one ever forces himself onto people like me.

All that happened before those two comments telling Ashley she won’t see backlash/negative feedback because what happened to her is the sort of assault that people take seriously, not like what happened to Rebecca. That’s what we could see publicly in the first four hours of comments, and Ashley hasn’t even been arguing with these people.

As it turns out, I’m going to stop there with reproducing the comments, because I don’t think anything more is needed to demonstrate that the feedback Ashley is receiving is already worse than what Rebecca received in the earliest hours after saying, “Guys, don’t do that.” If she continues to talk about this and continues to stand up for herself, I don’t see any good reason to think she won’t get more and worse, if she isn’t already getting the ugly stuff privately.

So, next bet: Who thinks those two optimistic commenters will learn something from this before the next person steps up to say they were harassed at a skeptical or atheist conference? Anyone?

*I lie. I’m just bored with the same “arguments” (i.e., assertions composed of gut feelings based solely in ignorance) over and over and over again.

Oh, But This Is Different

17 thoughts on “Oh, But This Is Different

  1. 1

    This reminded me of this article on slate: I Was Raped at 55. Here’s How I Responded.

    In it, Beverly Donofrio details having her home invaded by a serial rapist and choosing not to fight back because he had a knife and had heard stories from women who’d been raped by the same man before, who chose to fight back and were severely beaten as well as raped because of it.

    Guess what? The comments, going for days now, are absolutely chock full of the exact same sentiments we’re seeing here in response to Ashley’s experience with harassment and assault. She should have fought back. She should have locked her windows. She should have had a gun or a dog. Et cetera, et fucking cetera.

    How much evidence is enough evidence? How many times does it happen before men will come out of their bubble of denial?

  2. 2

    There is, and only ever will be, one and only one thing in common to all people who are harassed: the presence of the harasser. Trying to make any other case only lays blame on the victim, the one person who shouldn’t be.

    Does anyone else ever feel like what we’re facing is just too big? That we’ll never wear it away? Or is that my depression talking?

  3. 3

    CaitieCat @2:

    Does anyone else ever feel like what we’re facing is just too big? That we’ll never wear it away? Or is that my depression talking?

    I’m on the optimistic side. I remember reading about the dress codes of ancient Roman cities. Every class had their own distinctive dress, except for the slaves; the idea was that slaves could never get a sense for how many of them there were, never realize they were the biggest class of citizen, and never use those numbers to rise up against their masters.

    I think we’re seeing a similar effect here. If women remain silent about the harassment they received, other women have no way to gauge if what they experience is typical, and everyone will dismiss personal examples as “just the internet in action” or “there are just a few assholes that ruin things for everyone.” If women begin speaking out about their experiences, outside observers will see an uptick in both tales of woe, and assholes dismissing or minimizing those tales of woe. The internet has both dramatically lowered the cost of communication and made it much easier to share your story without repercussion, and as a result has made this sharing process orders of magnitude easier. To an outside observer, this will look like things are rapidly going to shit.

    But the slaves are spotting one another. We’re all seeing the true extent of the problem. We are (I think) starting to plan, plot, and act together against a problem we were blind to before. As individuals, we could do nothing; as a collective, no matter how loose or informal it is, we can make a difference.

    And as a society, we can effectively wipe it out.

    PS. I’m a depressive, too. My case is mild enough to self-control, but I know what the black veil feels like. Hugs if ya want ’em.

  4. 4

    I certainly feel that way from time to time, CaitieCat, and I’m not depressive. It’s a problem that’s been dogging us for the better part of 15,000 years I suppose. But given how long it’s persisted, it’s also encouraging to think of the tremendous strides we’ve made in the past century or so.

    It’s global warming that really freaks me out.

  5. 5

    While illuminator and zarkoff were chuckling to themselves a out how very smart they were to figure out that Rebecca’s experience was different than Ashley’s, they forgot to notice that their responses were also different. Almost commensurate.

    Jesus fuck, what a couple of useless losers.

  6. 6

    Thanks, hjhornbeck and SallyStrange. Knowing I’m not alone with it helps. It may also be a function of the simple number of years I’ve been at it, in one way and another. I joined the Free Nelson Mandela movement when I was 15, and I’m now coming up on my 32nd year of activism – first anti-apartheid and pro-choice, then sex-positive and AIDS charities, then queer rights (in 1994, at the provincial level – we lost, but only barely, in trying to get Ontario’s laws changed to include same-sex civil unions, and all the benefits thereof). Then feminism predominated, until recently when I’ve been doing more and more atheist work from a feminist standpoint.

    Feeling like we’re making progress – even slowly – helps, though, and I appreciate your encouragement very much, thanks. 🙂


  7. 7

    I like her approach and actually think there will not be as big a backlash, dangerous prediction I know! Psychologically important that she has laid out all her contacts on the video including her home address, bit like the honesty boxes on roadsides, get your produce and we trust you not to be an asshole and nick it. It says I trust you to be reasonable and I think people will respond with trust a lot more, reach saturation point and the social cost of being an asshole is enough to keep them in check. YT comments are the worst and while there are gits on there for it to escalate it will need to move to response videos having a go, Twitter, blogs etc within the community… I can’t see it, but I’m usually overly optimistic about these things.

    Downside to this is why the everloving fuck should anyone have to frame their calling out of harassment so well? Wait over a year before even mentioning it so she cannot be seen to be “attacking” the current TAM. Be able to post all her contacts like that when I’m sure the thought of it probably triggers anxiety in some people watching her video. She still likes TAM and gives them props, but what if there is an incident that is badly handled by TAM? No one will want to be the one making that video or blog post. All of which leads to a climate where no one wants to report or talk out about harassment and be that person under attack. Best case is this goes well and smooths the way for others, once its normal to talk about harassment and people respond well then it can be a process of improvement.

  8. 8

    I am a bit unsure about some of the interpretations given by Zvan. Consider the following Youtube comment:

    MikaelDryden: Dear women.

    If we men ever start acting like Jim Bob, you have my permission to knee-kick us in the groin.

    Zvan thinks this qualifies as “Just keep this a personal matter between you two”, suggesting that the commenter thought that reporting it was a bad idea.

    However, in the context of the video, Paramore stated that she did not want to make a scene. Thus, a reasonable interpretation of the comment is that the commenter thought that it would have been completely justified to make a scene (such as knee-kick Jim Bob in the groin), because what Jim Bob did was clearly, without a doubt, a case of sexual assault and completely hideous and that Jim Bob clearly deserved such a knee-kick.

    That said, many of the Youtube comments that Zvan posts were absolutely horrible and unacceptable towards Paramore.

  9. 9

    I’m always so disappointed that almost no one calls out the asshole/coward/clueless “friends” who observe this bad behavior, then do exactly jack shit to address it. How do we know they observed it? She says that when questioned, they confirmed her complaints. At the next con I attend, I’m going to make a paper pledge for people to sign that says something like:

    “There have been harrassers in our community. I won’t stand for that. I will call out and take action against any harasser I observe.”

    Or maybe buttons saying “I don’t tolerate creeps” or something like that. Damn, good people need to know that they can’t claim to be good if they just stand by and avert their eyes. As the Australian Chief of Army stated: “The standard you walk past is the standard you accept”.

  10. 10

    Emil: I think a couple of the quote-boxes got switched around, actually. All of the ones with the one you mentioned seemed more appropriate to the ‘why didn’t you do more’ category.

    That said, ALL of the comments listed clearly fall into one objectionable category or another, so I don’t see much need for being too precise about which particular offenses each commits.

  11. 11

    Here’s what I’m getting from the harassers “supporting” Ashley. They are, as far as I can reckon, saying that what Ashley experienced was ACTUALLY harassment, and nothing that anyone else ever complains about rises to that level and the complainers are just feminazi bitches.

    What’s interesting about this is that what Ashley experienced was actually assault.

    So nothing but assault is harassment.


  12. 13

    There’s a case in Georgia of a woman who, in junior high, signed an unpopular classmate’s yearbook, and he’s stalked and harassed her and her family ever since. He even moved from Maine to Georgia to better stalk her. Eventually his actions were so egregious that law enforcement had to step in…and now his mother and a shocking number of internet posters are blaming *her* for it all. If only she (fill in the blank), he wouldn’t have had to stalk her, and it’s all her fault he’s in jail.

  13. 15

    illuminator83: Contrary to some other harrassment accusations (like ‘elevator gate’) this is actually a real one. I don’t think you will see any negative feedback …

    zarkoff45: You’re not going to get a backlash on this because saying “he touched the no-no parts on the doll” is clear enough — it’s not like you said “he asked up for coffee while we were alone on an elevator.”

    Stephanie Zvan: Anyone want to take bets on this? No? Y’all are no fun anymore.*

    Have you read the comments on that video recently? Because it turns out that, gee, Stephanie Zvan was right one the money, who would have thought it*…

    *I thought it.

  14. 17

    Ashley Paramore follows up her video (warning, it verbalizes some of the more hateful comments she’s received):

    Ashley Paramore ‏@healthyaddict

    Why don’t people talk about harassment/assault, let alone report it? Hmm. I wonder: [youtube link] … Thx @JustinRYoung!

    Twitter link

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