As I wrote on Wednesday, I don’t see how there is anything controversial about events having or enforcing policies about harassment. We’ve even started building a list of existing harassment policies at conferences as a resource for event organizers, attendees, and speakers. Unfortunately it does seem like a lot of people do think these policies are a bad idea for our events.

One reason I’ve seen given in opposition to harassment policies is that they are prudish and they inhibit the ability for adults to express their sexuality. Basically they say that these policies have a “chilling”  effect on skeptics and atheists meeting and having sex at conferences. Others argue that not having and enforcing these policies have a “chilling” effect on women attending in large numbers.

Do policies regarding appropriate behavior at events inhibit anyone’s ability for consensual sex at these events? Is it the responsibility for skeptic and atheist event organizers to facilitate or even take in to account the ability of attendees to have sex at their events?

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ologiesJune 1, 2012 11:34 am

Will this prohibit some people from getting sex? Yes.

Objectively, it would be dishonest to say that it would have zero effect on sexual activity everywhere, but what we need to be looking at is to what extent, and to examine if the benefits outweigh the downsides.

The thing is, most workplaces have an anti-harassment policy, and it’s typically quite a bit more strict than the policies being suggested for convention-goers. Work policies say no dating, no fucking, no tolerance. You can lose your job over it. COWORKERS STILL FUCK. It has not forcibly erased the sexuality of adults who are under the rules, so we can safely rule out the assertion that an anti-harassment policy is necessarily sex-negative.

If fewer people are fucking because of said anti-harassment policy because we have forced those who are seeking sex to more strongly consider the context in which they proposition people, then I have a hard time seeing this as a negative. This is the crux of what an anti-harassment policy IS. Nowhere in the rules does it say NO SEX FOR ANYONE EVER. The point is to force people to more carefully think about how they approach others and to be more considerate of the way they might come off. Again: The benefits are quite evident.

On top of all of this, why are we overblowing the sexual aspects to begin with? TAM isn’t a club, bar, or brothel. I would wager most people are there to learn, listen to speakers, and feel a sense of community. Sex is secondary to any of that, and so it only makes sense that if being propositioned for sex (or other harassment) is driving people away from engaging in the three main points of the whole event, your desire to fuck can take a back seat.

elyseJune 1, 2012 11:41 am

Not Harassment: Hey, can I buy you a drink?
No thanks.
Ok, sorry to have bothered you, but if you change your mind, I’ll be around.

Harassment: Hey, can I buy you a drink?
No, thanks.
Come on, it’s just a drink.
No thanks.
I just really want to talk to you.
Really, no, I’m good, thanks.
Come on, what are you drinking?
Um… wine, but really I’m good.
here, I got you a wine.
I really didn’t want that, and I’d appreciate it if you left me alone.

seelix June 01 2012 14:13 pm


Why do more people not understand this?

Mark HallJune 1, 2012 11:53 am

I think it’s safe to say it will have an initial chilling effect… but it’s not going to KILL ALL TEH BONERS! You will have some people who step back from making a move because of the harassment policy. You have some who will get kicked out because of the harassment policy. But you’ll also have people hooking up. They may know each other from before (perhaps through a message board, or meeting at a previous conference). They may click through friends, or because someone took a wide stance in the bathroom. But, the real impact will be on the extremes… the people who won’t because they’re afraid of being taken as a harasser for even a relatively tame line (El Mofo’s “Can I buy you a drink?”), and the folks who should be removed anyway because they’re making the conference worse for everyone.

And, though it’s a bit prognosticatory, I bet the long run will see more sex at conferences. Why? Because more women will feel comfortable showing up, knowing they’re not going to be running the boner-gauntlet*, and willing to have fun in many and various fashions. And so long as the population remains majority heterosexual, better gender balance = better chance at con nookie for the currently over-represented sex.

*A particularly horrifying weapon removed with the latest patch of WoW.

Sasha June 01 2012 12:00 pm

Mark, I <3 you for "boner gauntlet" and so much more.

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