Sexual Harassment at SFF Conventions, or “Here We Go Again”

It seems every couple of years we have an event where somebody’s true colors emerge.  Once again, we have a recurring theme of sexual harassment and to some extent even sexual assault. This time it happened at World Fantasy Convention this past weekend in San Diego.

A summary of events can be found here, on Jaym Gates blog.  I do not know the identity of the person in question, nor does it really matter. What matters more to me is what we can do about this problem.  This is a hot-button issue for me, one of few things that will send me into a passive-aggressive rage.

I’m not going to mince words here, instead, I will be direct and blunt.  SFF conventions are professional events for writers, and serious fan events for the other attendees.  Behavior should be the same as it would be in the office.  If you wouldn’t want HR to know about it at work, you have no business doing it at a convention.

Bottom line is this.  No woman should be subjected to comments, “accidental” touches, groping, leering, and worse.   It doesn’t matter if you are a social misfit, drunk, or just kidding.  Don’t do it. There is no legitimate excuse.

Outspoken women call these sorts of things to our attention, but more cases happen where the woman is not willing to report or say anything about it.  Huzzah when a woman lets us know, because things can happen when we know, but just because something is kept quiet doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

Unfortunately, and I’m sure I will get heated disagreement to this statement, but women cannot solve this problem.  It has to be the men who confront this and change the behavior.  Guys, you know what I mean.  You know how we talk to each other away from women, when a man feels safe confiding in another man things he would not be caught dead uttering in front of a woman.

But believe it or not, your reaction to guy talk can influence behavior.   Comments like “Some b!tch got a bee in her bonnet” can be used to influence the man’s future behavior if you respond in such a way to turn it back on him.  Let him know it is not acceptable. Take away his man card. A real man does not  laugh it off or simply nod and hope the jerk goes away.

See, if we men disapprove of crossing the line when the women aren’t around, then chances improve greatly that  line will actually be honored when the women are.  It is up to us to police ourselves, gentlemen. This is not white knight behavior to impress anyone, we have an obligation.


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