Lots of talking online today about [harassment at cons]. I did some tweeting but thought I might be more coherent with paragraphs.
I have been creeped on at cons and at parties. Guys (offhand I can’t think of any that weren’t presenting male) who got into my personal space, made inappropriate comments, hugged for too long, or just treated me like less of a person with less of a mind. I’ve never had an incident that I consider reportable, but (at least for the past few years) I’m comfortable pointing out this behavior and the people in question to my friends.
People with that pattern of behavior tend to 1. escalate, test boundaries, escalate more, get away with wrong things before moving on to escalate to horrific things and 2. carefully present themselves in a really personable way to non-targets. The behavior is a system and it increases their social standing to give them more credibility. Listening and believing and reporting help identify creepers who always do this so that action can be taken against them.
In the past when people have told me their stories about harassment, I haven’t always responded the way I wish: listening, believing, evaluating how I can help. Sometimes I’ve been good, others not so much. The right course of action is to always believe someone who reports being a target of abuse, but I will be honest and say there have been times I haven’t done that.
Now I will be more honest: I’ve been the bad guy. At a party once, I outrageously violated someone’s physical consent. It horrifies me that I did that. I’ve also made people uncomfortable with my jokes, my words, and sometimes my revealing outfits. I don’t want to make people uncomfortable. I want to learn how to do better, how to be a good part of fandom, building and enjoying safe spaces.
Many of us have done incorrect things, made other people uncomfortable and so on. For me, taking a hard look at what I’ve done to other people and trying to learn from it helps me when listening to other people’s experiences. To put that backwards: being in denial about doing bad shit can mean trying to justify the same bad shit when someone else does it.
I want to be a safe and caring person to report to, even if the bad guy is my friend. I want to know when I screw up. I want people who aren’t serially, escalatingly abusive to not act they are, because not everyone who fucks up is that way, but to someone on the receiving end of some harassment or assault it doesn’t make a fucking bit of difference if this is everyday behavior or an isolated incident, it still feels horrible.
I don’t have good answers to the problem of convention harassment other than, hey, let’s keep speaking up, always listen, and work like hell to make safe spaces.