Yes, for anyone who remembers the outrage in the “atheist community” over last year’s Elevatorgate, prepare yourself for this year’s version. This time, Elyse, another member of the SkepChick crew, was inappropriately propositioned at the Ohio Skepticamp. She was handed, from what I understand, a business-type card that included a proposition and some x-rated pictures, inviting her to a night of group sex.
Let me make this clear. I’m not defending the losers who handed her the card in any way, shape or form. They are among the lowest form of sleaze I can imagine. Elyse certainly didn’t deserve that kind of treatment and I regret that it happened. That said though, let’s get a few things straight.
This is nothing that doesn’t happen in every bar in America every night. Yes, it’s sexist. Yes, it sucks, but you have to understand that when you have a strongly male-dominated activity, and like it or not, that’s what atheist activism is in America right now, this is what you have to expect. I’m not trying to excuse it, I’m trying to be realistic. Yes, in Elyse’s case, it was a man and woman who wanted a threesome, but I’m sure that’s not all that rare either.
I’m sure this is the first real experience most of these women, or most of the men for that matter, have had with this kind of activity. Most of them strike me as relatively young and don’t seem to be hardcore fanboys. See, I grew up going to conventions and doing fan-related activities. I’ve seen this kind of male-dominated nonsense for decades. I went to conventions that were almost entirely male-oriented. If someone female showed up, they were swarmed. I also ran a very large anime fan-group that was 99+% male and if a female ever came through the door, she was mobbed by horny guys vying for her attention. Heck, my wife, before she was my wife, even showed up at a couple of the meetings and she got all kinds of unwanted attention. Yes, as an organizer, you can try to make it more comfortable for everyone and at least stop the more overt, obnoxious and certainly illegal activities, but you can’t stop everything and it’s foolish to pretend otherwise.
Today, sci-fi and comic cons are a bit more even, I’d say that at Wondercon a couple of months ago, it was about 60%/40% male to female, which absolutely was not the case back in the day. If you went in the 80s, it was probably 95%/5%. You had, and probably still have, young single guys out trolling for sex, hitting on any unattached female they come across. Now, you actually see a bit of the opposite, with young single females out looking to get laid as well. I have a friend who runs the catering division at a major U.S. convention center and she says there are problems no matter what kind of show is going on. Trade shows. Conventions. You name it. There are always complaints, even about guys in suits, doing things that make women uncomfortable. I’m absolutely not condoning it, I’m just being realistic. Atheist conventions are nothing special, no matter what some atheists might like to think. Atheist guys are going to act like guys, not because they’re atheists, but because they’re human.
Like it or not, atheist conventions are going to draw the same kind of people, people who are socially inept, people who are looking to score, people who just want to get close to others and really have no clue how to do it in real life. You may not like it, but that’s the way it is. Either you accept this simple fact of reality or you go hide your head and pretend it’s not happening, but it still will be.
Or, you could just stay home, like it seems women will be from The Amazing Meeting. That’s a shame because TAM is a great place to go. This is an example of what not to do. You can’t give in to the fear. You also can’t be oversensitive. Last year’s Elevatorgate is a good example of that IMO. Rebecca Watson did say she didn’t want to be hit on. Okay. That and $5 will get you a cup of coffee. In fact, from all accounts, that’s all the guy asked her about. She wasn’t flashed in the halls, she wasn’t raped under the stairs, she was asked out for a cup of coffee. Holy shit, the world is ending! Did it make her uncomfortable? Maybe, but if that’s the worst thing that happened to her that week, I’ll trade her lives in a heartbeat. Oh no, someone found you attractive enough to ask you out! The horror! You didn’t want to? Fine. You said no? Cool. The guy didn’t press it? Fantastic. So where’s the problem?
I can see where Elyse might have been offended by that gesture, but when you get young people, especially young liberals, together, I can understand it happening. Again, not condoning, just understanding. Did they do anything wrong? Depends on your views. I can see where it might be illegal, if passing out “pornography” is illegal in that area. Certainly, she could report it to the police in that case. Was it in bad taste? I think so. It’s certainly better than walking up to her in bondage gear and offering to leash her and take her home. Trust me, I’ve seen that happen at conventions. I don’t know if some of these atheist convention attendees think that everyone else around them has no other interests in life but atheism but they’re wrong.
If you put yourself into a position to be in contact with people who may have little to no tact, may have interests in things that you find offensive, and then something bad happens, who do you have to blame? We laugh when this stuff happens to the religious, why can we find no humor or understanding when it happens to us?