There’s been a lot of talk about people being inappropriate at conventions lately, in large part because of an incident at ReaderCon last month with author Genevieve Valentine. (Here’s a very long list of all the posts/responses/reaction.) It’s a disturbing story, in large part because it’s by no means uncommon, and thus something I felt I had to address in this series.
Yes, a lot of the things under the cut are ‘common sense’ about treating people respectfully and acting like a functional adult in public. But not common enough, sadly.
There was one incident at the last Celebration that was widely publicized. Was it the only one? Was it even the most extreme? I can’t say. I do know I’ve seen at least one woman talk about being made to felt uncomfortable by other attendees at CV, and that’s more than enough reason to write this.
- Don’t be a creeper. Seriously, just don’t. If you’re confused by what this means, I’m going to point you towards a great guide on creeping written by John Scalzi a couple weeks ago. In fact, this is REQUIRED READING. If you follow one link in this post, make it that one. Go read it. I’ll wait.
Because it bears repeating:
- A skimpy costume is never consent. A girl dressed up like Slave Leia or in an otherwise tight/skimpy costume does not mean you get to grope her. Or touch her at all. Treat her like any other costumer, and ask permission to take a photo with her and let her give you posing cues. She may be dressed like Slave Leia, but that doesn’t mean you – or anyone – gets to be Jabba.
- Just being at the con not consent, either. In short: NO GROPING. NO TOUCHING ANYONE WITHOUT THEIR PERMISSION. Period.
- No one wants to know that you would ‘hit that.’ Really, just don’t. Keep the sexual comments to yourself/your partner. I’m not saying don’t flirt, just be a gentleperson about it with strangers.
- If someone is bothering you, be direct. Tell them, in no uncertain terms, that they are making you uncomfortable and to leave you alone. Tell them no. Don’t leave any room for doubt.
- If someone tells you ‘No, I don’t like that, leave me alone,’ you leave them alone. Why? Because “you don’t get to define other people’s comfort level with you.” If that concept confuses you, go read the Scalzi post again. Twice. I’ll wait.
- If you see someone creeping or not taking hints, say something. If it’s your pal doing it, tell them to stop. If you see it happening to someone you don’t know, don’t hesitate to step in. Paula: “Even if you don’t know the person, jumping in with some innocuous question like, ‘Where did you find that outfit?’ might give them the chance to break free. If you’re not comfortable doing it yourself, ask one of the volunteers to get security to make sure they’re okay.”
Supplementary reading: Another fantastic post on creeping from Captain Awkward. This is written from the perspective of more prolonged contact than just a con, but I suspect we’ve all known guys like this. Also: Reporting Sexual Harassment in SF/F, The Con Anti-Harassment Project, the Backup Ribbon Project and Why It’s Important To Cut That Creeper Guy From Your Social Group.