About Mythbusters, Robot Eyes, Feminism, and Jokes

About Mythbusters, Robot Eyes, Feminism, and Jokes

New video! I’m going to be doing more of these again, I promise. Here’s AronRa’s and DPR Jones‘ channels, and if you like that shirt I’m wearing you can but it at Skeptical Robot!

Avatar of Rebecca Watson
Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org and appears on the weekly Skeptics' Guide to the Universe podcast. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

112 Comments

  1. Avatar of gregladen

    Thanks for the video.

    The straw person issue is obviously a strawman.

    Can’t wait to see you in a few weeks. We’ll get coffee in some public place!

  2. Avatar of scribe999

    can’t…sleep…robot eyes…haunting me…

  3. Avatar of Quaap

    Not sure the guy in the elevator thing was an instance of sexualizing you, just an example of a bad way to approach someone.

    • Avatar of Rebecca Watson

      There is a small chance that this man meant nothing sexual in his comment, despite the fact that I had clearly indicated my wish to go to bed (alone) and the fact that the bar had coffee and therefore there was absolutely zero reason to go to anyone’s hotel room to have it. Sure. There’s a chance.

      But regardless, the point I was making was that people need to be aware of how their comments might make someone feel extraordinarily uncomfortable and even feel as though they are in danger. This person failed to recognize that even though I had been speaking about little else all day long.

      • Avatar of Quaap

        Certainly it made you uncomfortable: as I said, it’s a bad way to approach someone (especially a lone person on an elevator). I wasn’t there and so didn’t see body language etc, but I was just noting it’s very difficult to say he meant more than wanting to talk one-on-one to an interesting and important person in the skeptical world. You’re assuming he wanted to hit on you or was propositioning you (and that might in fact be a reasonable assumption), but an assumption is still an assumption. Perhaps he’d do the same awkward approach with PZ? Dunno.

        I’m not defending him, just muddying the water as to motives.

        • Avatar of Anne S

          One assumption I am perfectly comfortable making is that, despite Rebecca’s prior assertions to the group that she wanted to go to bed, this individual thought that it would be a good idea to try to change her mind. Even if we decide that he had the best intentions in mind, this decision shows a disregard for Rebecca’s expressed desires.

          I imagine that he decided to make his offer in the elevator, alone with her, so that if she rejected the invitation, he could keep his embarrassment to himself. However, it’s also a situation where, if she rejected his invitation and he reacted badly to that rejection, she could not get away. If you have to turn someone down–for anything–would you rather do it in a space where you can easily make your exit, or where you’re then trapped with that person for an indeterminate amount of time?

          • Avatar of bellingman

            Wow. Thanks aynsavoy. Since hearing about Elevator Gate on SGU, and reading hundreds of comments on a half-dozen sites, until now none did anything but reinforce my position solidly in the anti-Rebecca (so to speak) camp on this issue.

            Your explanation somehow succeeded where others failed in helping me visualize how powerless and fearful I might have felt in the same situation, and why Rebecca was so totally justified in making the statements she did. I am now firmly in the Pro-Rebecca camp on this issue. (Hurray for open minds!)

            The fallout was blown all out of proportion, I’m sure everyone would agree, including Dawkins response, Rebecca’s response to that, and so on (ad nauseum.)

            I would also like to comment that, as uncomfortable as Rebecca is in “being sexualized”, it is just a fact that she is something of a sex symbol in the skeptical community. Men will continue to hit on women they find attractive–clumsily or not, successful or not–as long as males and females coexist. Perhaps all we can hope to do, as Rebecca did (and in a pretty off-handed way), is to try to steer men (and women) back on course from time to time.

            My last comment is that Dawkins dickish condescension may take the cake, but Ms. Watson sounds rather condescending herself much of the time, I’m afraid. This seems to be a quite common affliction among Skeptics, myself included. I think it may simply come with the territory.

        • Avatar of avto

          “I’m not defending him, just muddying the water as to motives”

          It doesn’t actually matter what his motives were…the impact of his actions are the same…which, as previously mentioned, were creepy and threatening. To focus on his hypothetical motives serves only to discredit and disregard Ms. Watson’s accounts of the interaction. His motives could have also been to purposefully isolate her in an elevator, knowing there would be no bystanders and no way for her to leave. His motives could have been following her off the elevator or trying to find out what room she was in, or blocking her from leaving.

          All of those are very real possibilities that women face all the time. There is no way to know what any man’s intentions are, unless they make it clear. It shouldn’t be up to Ms Watson or any other woman to anticipate, plan for, prepare for, or be hyper vigilant for every possible threatening interaction that may be encountered by men. It is up to men to make choices…choices that show their intentions are not harmful or threatening to others.

          I also disagree that Ms. Watson made any problematic assumptions. Saying that she was “assuming” implies that Ms. Watson was not drawing on any information that led her to the conclusion of the guy being creepy. I would argue that women have a whole lifetime of experiences (sexism, threatening come on’s, men’s anger, sexual objectification, vulnerability) that serve as critical information to draw upon in these exact situations. I’d be willing to bet there were lots of small, yet meaningful cues and details from this guy or the situation, that all led up to Ms Watson feeling uncomfortable and creeped out…her panel speech and this guys disregard for the content of that speech being just one of those cues. So to say Ms. Watson is assuming the guy was sexualizing her and could have just wanted to talk, is dismissive of her experience.

        • Avatar of mandatorychaos

          http://pophangover.com/photos/oblivious-rhino-7.jpg

          Coffee before bed means one thing.

      • Avatar of tiberious

        You felt in danger, justifiably, because you were in a very vulnerable position. What the guy said is completely irrelevant. Don’t get on elevators with strange men at 4 am, period. Practice situational awareness.

        • Avatar of BeardofPants

          1) It sounded like he *followed* her into the elevator. 2) That’s the equivalent of saying don’t wear short skirts because it might get you raped.

          • Avatar of tiberious

            Situational awareness means looking back over your shoulder. I do it all the time since I was robbed in a suburban Home Depot parking lot (and I’m a 220 pounds and all muscle ).

            But by all means, twist it into a feminist issue.

        • Avatar of halfwayman

          You’re 220lb of muscle and you still got robbed? How many were there?!

          Joking aside, situational awareness is more important than most people would believe. I’m quite often worried by people’s lack of vigilance. It is something I nag people about, and you do right to draw attention to it.

        • Avatar of cordy

          There’s no need to “twist it” into a feminist issue. It already is.

      • Avatar of mlowry

        Dear Ms. Watson:

        I posted this in another thread, but thought you deserved to see it here.

        There are two ways to read your statement “Don’t do that.”:?
        1 A kind word of advice to men considering talking to you, limited to that particular situation in the elevator at 4am or ones very much like it.?
        or
        2. A demand not only of how to treat you specifically and limited to that situation, but also a broader statement of what is right and wrong when talking to women in general.

        If one interprets your words in the first way, it’s hard to find any fault with them. Every woman has a right to communicate her wishes and preferences to those around her.

        However, I can understand why some might have interpreted your words in the second way. Many people go quite easily from “this makes me uncomfortable” to “this is wrong, not just for me but for everyone.” Religious people do this a lot! E.g., “You must show respect for my religious ideas; if you don’t, it will greatly offend me and my god!”

        If your comments were intended as a broader commentary regarding not just that particular situation late at night in an elevator, but also on how men should talk to women in general, then this would probably explain some of the push-back you have gotten.

        Each man is different. Each woman is different. Every situation is unique, and general rules are blunt tools applied to delicate tasks. I can understand men who might have been perplexed or even taken aback by your words. I think you might better have expressed yourself by starting from a position of empathy and understanding for those you wished to inform. Here’s and example of how you might have communicated your advice to men more effectively:

        “The situation in the elevator made me very uncomfortable. I felt trapped, and intimidated by the stranger. Of course I don’t know what his actual intentions were—perhaps he really only wanted to invite me for coffee and conversation—but the situation felt sexually threatening to me. If he was trying to pick me up after hearing my talk earlier in the evening, then he was being disrespectful, and was way out of line. In any event, it seemed to me that he was ignoring my statement that I was tired and wanted to sleep. Perhaps I should have countered by inviting him for a coffee the next morning in the hotel bar. I mean maybe I really had nothing to fear! But the fact is, I was so uncomfortable with the situation that I was just glad to get away from him.”

        “Men, please try to show some understanding of what it’s like to be a woman. Even if you’re a true gentleman, remember that there are a lot of assholes out there. We women have to deal with them all the time. You’ll go a long way toward showing that you’re not one of the assholes if you show a little consideration. This means sometimes forgoing making an invitation if it might make the woman uncomfortable. Your intentions are surely important, but they’re not the only thing that’s important. The situation—and the other person of course—are also very important. If the man had invited me for a coffee the next morning in the hotel bar, I would have been much less like to have taken it as a sexual overture. This alone would have made me more comfortable. Just use a bit of common sense, and do your best to read the other person and the situation before acting. Women everywhere thank you in advance!”

        Men clearly need to be conscious of how the communicate with women. I think women could improve how they communicate with men too. Remember that unlike in a debate, the goal should not be to prove the other person wrong. The goal should be to communicate your thoughts and wishes in a way that the other person will understand.

        Sincerely,
        Michael A. Lowry

        Adapted from my blog post, “Effective communication between men & women”: http://blog.michael-lowry.com/2011/07/effective-communication-between-men.html

    • Avatar of Kaloikagathoi

      A) It seems blindingly obvious to me that a man inviting a woman to his hotel room at 4:00 AM implies that he is thinking of her in terms of sexual attraction.
      B) After hearing her talk about how she would like to be seen as a thinking human rather than a sexual being, the man’s attempt to suggest a hotel room tryst is at best a sign of contempt for anything she has to say.
      C) Asking her while the two of them are alone in an elevator at 4:00 AM is not just insulting (given her recent talk), but predatory. And if he convinces himself that, because he knows he would never assault anyone, no woman should presume he would, then he is dangerously stupid.

      • Avatar of Quaap

        A & B) Glad you got that mind reading thing all figured out.

        C) Certainly unintelligent and awkward. Possibly creepy. Maybe even an awkward pickup line. But “predatory”?

        Everyone should take whatever precautions seem warranted in any given situation: I wouldn’t have gone to his room either. But without more information, everything you’ve tried to pin on him is based on supposition.

        • Avatar of punchdrunk

          Are you really so disconnected from reality and common sense? A strange man asking you to his hotel room at 4am for ‘coffee’ is a direct come-on. You don’t think it’s ‘fair’ to see sexual interest unless he says ‘wanna fuck?’ Perhaps if he’d mentioned his etchings?

          I don’t know an adult human being who would see the situation differently, unless they were cognitively impaired.

          • Avatar of robinj

            Way to use “cognitively impaired” to mean “thoughtless misogynist,” you insensitive asshole. Why not just say, “LOL YOU RETARD?” Why not make the differently abled as a whole your own personal rhetorical punching bag? Not like they’re good for anything else, right? Your lack of empathy is absolutely sickening.

    • Avatar of scribe999

      Sexual come-on AND bad way to approach someone.

  4. Avatar of Melissa

    I love the “Don’t take this the wrong way” preface. Translation: after whatever comes out of my mouth, please sleep with me.
    BTW, looking forward to seeing you at SkepchickCON here in MN!

    • Avatar of mrmisconception

      I love the “Don’t take this the wrong way” preface.
      .
      Yeah, that’s right up there with “I’m not a racist but…” on the list of signals. This guy knew that he was hitting on you or at least that it may come across that way. Rathar than using this prefix it would be better to not say it in the first place.
      .
      It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt. Benjamin Fran Oscar Wil Abraham Lin Mark Twai Some such smart dude.

  5. Avatar of Elyse

    Someone on FB actually used the strawperson comment as evidence that women are forcing our society to be too PC… and called you a “rad fem”. Which, BTW, you totally are.

  6. Avatar of chewingwax

    Your use of irony is hilarious. And, to quote Syd Barrett, “what exactly is a joke?”

  7. Avatar of Lissie

    This is my first time posting on here, I’ve been reading for a while, quietly happy to absorb all the interesting articles and replies, but the comments on YouTube on your talk are depressing and I needed to say it out loud (or at least via commenting on the internet anyway). I find it very disturbing that people can’t see the sexism in blatantly sexist actions, particularly a group of people who are meant to be able to use rational thought to be able to find the truth. Your points and examples were clear, easy to understand, the simplest people should have been able to grasp it. The man in the elevator was bordering on slapping you on the ass and saying good work toots. Yes he was ‘appreciating and being positive of you’ in the only way he knows how, by hitting on you. Which again completely proves the whole point.
    The comments about how you need to be either a feminist or an Atheist, were a bit null and void really. Its obviously a problem in the community and maybe if individual community’s through out the world had their own Skepchick equivalent, the feminist movement would make far greater strides as a whole. Anyway its a problem, someone needs to be addressing it. You Skepchicks are doing such a great job, I am a little bewildered that every single person cannot see that.

  8. Avatar of andiis

    Good to see you back Rebecca.
    My sister works in the Rural Health Dept of an Australian University. She co-heads the Sexual Health Dept and give talks to Doctors and other Health Professionals on sensitivities surrounding collecting data and reporting of infection uptakes to patients, especially young people.
    Guess what????
    She has had similar stories/complaints of unwanted advances from Conference attendees in lifts ( elevators ) late at night. She jokes that she is going to add a ” WARNING ” to her name tag.
    I will never know the tedium of those experiences, or the discomfort you feel, but as a brother I do feel very pissed off at the men who create it.

  9. Avatar of riotboi

    For anyone who’s never been sexually assaulted (I’ve had more than one near miss, here): being cornered by some creepball with a glimmer of fuck in their eyes is a horrible feeling. Everyone with a Y-chromosome, just chill. Think about how you’re coming across. If they’re into you, they’ll let you know BEFORE the time comes to embarrass yourself.
    PS- You aren’t a radical feminist, Rebecca, you’re THE Radical Feminist!

  10. Avatar of weatherwax

    I had several aquaintences in college who were certain that “Women like men who are mysterious”, but couldn’t grasp the difference between mysterious and downright creepy. Since I was old (30′s), they didn’t want to hear any advice from me.

  11. Avatar of

    It certainly is interesting to see how easily something can be perceived as something else. Our intentions do not always come across as clearly as we would like them to.

  12. Avatar of Improbable Joe

    Wow… I have a log-in here. Why wasn’t this site in my RSS feed?

    Anyhoo, re: elevator guy. Ignore the sexism aspect of it (unfortunately, it may be necessary to divorce to issue from feminism for some people to even consider the point). Assume his motives were 110% pure. Assume that he’s a great guy, loves his mom, has a puppy, feeds the homeless, and once gave bone marrow to a complete stranger. It is STILL creepy to follow a women who doesn’t know you from a bar to an elevator at 4AM to invite her to your room. That is NEVER appropriate, and guys can’t be self-centered enough to pretend that people can read your minds and know that you aren’t an evil scumbag.

    … especially since you’re kind of already acting like a scumbag. Good people don’t put other people into awkward, uncomfortable, and potentially panic-inducing situations. You don’t have to be a rapist to be an insensitive asshat. You don’t have to be a feminist to know that cornering strangers in elevators at 4AM is pretty effing creepy.

  13. Avatar of davidh

    I’ve been getting quite depressed at a general mood among ignorant male ‘skeptics’ in recent months when these issues come up, and this one is a great example. Guys, if you’re upset because you don’t understand women, why not appreciate the fact that Rebecca has taken the time to educate you. No matter what you thought before watching this video, now you know better. It doesn’t matter if something seems ‘OK’, or ‘only offensive to someone who is hyper sensitive’ – if Rebecca is saying something made her uncomfortable, that’s just how it is.
    Your impression of how the world ‘should be’ is no more realistic than astrologists making up charts based on how something ‘should be’.

    • Avatar of Improbable Joe

      I don’t know if it is even ignorance, as much as very sexist brand of narcissism. I seems to me to be more of a problem of some boys/men not being able to address in this case the specific situation Rebecca describes without turning it into somehow being about them. THEY would never be creepy, THEY are smoove mofos who get the chicks, and therefore Rebecca’s specific concerns over a specific event are meaningless.

      You can see it over on the YouTube comments. Guys are up and down claiming “Rebecca hates men, she thinks guys can’t talk to gals without being creepy rapists!” They cannot see Rebecca’s position, because they so strongly identify with the guy in the situation and respond as though she’s talking about them personally. There’s a sexist dismissal of a woman’s legitimate concern, twisted up in an “it’s all about me” attitude. And I’m not sure how you give a speech about that, that will change people’s minds about a fundamental personality defect.

      • Avatar of godsawayonbusiness

        Narcissism indeed. I have been in a situation where I buzz-sexualized a friend in a creepy way, that made her feel threatened and of course ended our friendship. The next couple weeks I spent trying to find arguments, or “spin” arguments to defend my behavior… desperately seek ways to exonerate myself.. and then find absolution. Joe is very right. It was all about me. I was on that tack for quite some time when I stumbled on this “elevator-gate” situation and read through it. I’ve come to realize that, as males, we don’t consider the consequences of what we are doing or what we say or how we act. We don’t think about how our creepy come-ons, can cause all manner of discomforts and even fear. I’m a fairly big and physical guy, I’ve spent time in the military in a combat specialty, I grew up thinking fighting is good. I fought a lot and both kicked and got my butt kicked plenty of times. Physicality (if that’s even a word) is good and approved in our society, and we’re raised on it through sports and what-not. This is how males are supposed to act in a militant Empire culture like we have going here in America. It’s the New Rome… or Rome Hasn’t Quite Ended… Yet. We’re in power and we get what we want. And we’re angry and full of self-righteousness and entitlement and it seems like that goes up the whiter the skin gets. Also. We get (or are supposed to get) what objects we desire and those objects should feel good about that. We’re a “Stepford-ized” version of Dawkins’ very myopic view of Muslim culture… but don’t let the details and subtle differences fool you.

        I terrorized my friend w/ my disgusting sense of male entitlement. I’m thinking she felt disgusted, confused and probably somewhat sad at the complete betrayal of her trust in me as a friend. I’m a brutal animal. There isn’t much more to say there.

        So to all the males commenting on this, if you read what I’m writing, pull your heads out of the dark holes of entitlement that they’re in. You may have physical power. You’re scary to some people. Sometimes women. When you scare a woman w/ your sexualizing, wasted or not, your being abusive. You’re thinking of only yourself and your needs. You’re making a woman feel like a slave-object, if even for a moment that’s as bad as what Dawkins’ “Muslima” has to go through every goddamn wretched day. You need to start thinking ALL THE time about how others may view you, in ever situation w/ an eye toward their comfort levels. You aren’t owed anything and you have no birth-rights. Size and physical prowess is not something to bring to a relationship. Friendship and trust. That’s all there is our brief march towards personal oblivion. Friendship through giving and kindness.

  14. Avatar of Dustin Williams

    I can certainly see that his timing was disrespectful and the location for his advance was down right creepy. Those two factors alone would justify anyone in feeling uncomfortable.

    Would it still have been a problem if he had hit on you in the bar at 2:00 AM and not suggested going back to his room?

    • Avatar of Rebecca Watson

      In that situation it would have been merely pathetic as opposed to threatening. And before a bunch of sad sacks start whining that I’m saying it’s always pathetic when a man hits on a woman: no. It’s pathetic when someone hits on a person (who has been talking nonstop about how much she loathes the sexual advances she’s subjected to at conferences) by saying absolutely nothing to her before inviting her to his hotel room.

      • Avatar of Dustin Williams

        Very well put. Thanks for clearing that up for me.

      • Avatar of Shadowin

        Pathetic? It’s all about numbers. If you’re at a conference with a massive amount of members of the opposite sex, someone will make an advance. It doesn’t matter what you were talking about. You can loathe it all day long, but it will continue to happen until there is equilibrium at the conferences you attend.

        Despite the location, this person made the most indirect attempt possible to determine if there was interest. He asked if you wanted to get coffee in private. This gave you an easy out without him being embarrassed by rejection, and without you feeling on the spot. The reason he would have asked on the elevator was because he didn’t want to ask something like that in front of a group of people.

        The only folly I see in this whole episode is the assumption that a male is a predator (ref Quaap) because he expressed interest in you in private. In addition to the odd redefining of sexism as “men are interested in me when they have been drinking and there are few options.”

        • Avatar of keithdok

          Did you miss the part where the guy (apparently) didn’t say a single word to her the whole evening apart from propositioning her? THAT’S the sexism: despite his professed desire to “talk” in his hotel room, not only did he apparently NOT listen (or understand) what she was speaking about earlier at the conference, but then wasn’t even interested in her enough to even have a normal conversation with her at the bar, to see her as more than something he’d like to fuck.

          • Avatar of hplvp

            I’m a bisexual male that has been to lots some really cool gay events in the past and I’ve been hit on lots of times by men that didn’t say anything to me before. So it might not be as sexist as you think.

        • Avatar of mrcheese

          Ok, now it makes more sense. The video above doesn’t give all this information, which is essential to form a proper opinion on the situation.

          If there is a video of the talk referred to in this video, I want to see it. I have a whole bunch of questions that I need answered before I can have an opinion.

          Too many people seem to be jumping to conclusions on either side.

  15. Avatar of ad_astra

    I came across a re-post of this video on reddit about the unwanted advance and posted that I agreed with the sentiment. I posted this:

    “It may be my own sexism but when a guy I barely know asks me to accompany him to an isolated locale, I immediately start sizing up his potential for violence/rape/stuff. I feel slightly guilty for foisting this assumption on the guy but I can’t stop thinking about how vulnerable I would be if I said “Sure, coffee in your room at 4 am. Great idea.” :/

    The responding post asked me if this reaction is the same as “clutching (my) purse when a black man walked by.” I hope not…and I know the guy who is offering to hang out alone is often not a creeper with bad intentions. I don’t know if I am hypersensitive to these things or not and if I am is it legitimate or is it because society foists fear and anxiety on women about being raped and then loads them with victim-blame and guilt if they are victimized. I don’t want to be sexist. The drive to feel safe vs. the obligation to be fair is certainly something I wrestle with internally.

    • Avatar of Improbable Joe

      “Hypersensitive”? Not remotely. From a man’s perspective, the drive to feel safe trumps the drive to be fair, especially in what are obviously potentially dangerous circumstances. If someone follows me into a dark parking lot in the middle of the night, I’m going to be worried whatever their skin color might be, and possibly whether it is a man or a woman.

      From that same man’s perspective, I’m empathetic enough to understand that 4AM in an elevator is not the place for me to corner a woman and ask her to come to my hotel room. Also, I distrust the motives of an man who lacks the empathy required to avoid that creepy situation, and I wouldn’t trust any guy who says otherwise.

    • Avatar of surgoshan

      You’re not remotely sexist. That’s an entirely rational approach to the world. You should read about this study: http://yesmeansyesblog.wordpress.com/2011/03/03/gender-differences-and-casual-sex-the-new-research/ .

      TLDR: When approached by random people of the opposite sex and propositioned, women said no, men said yes. Study concluded “Men are sluts, women prudes” and everyone rolled their eyes. A much better study came out that, on analysis, concluded that women say no because they see high risk and low reward, and for men it’s just the opposite.

    • Avatar of madmachine

      To be blunt, the person who compared “clutching (my) purse when a black man walked by” to being cautious around male strangers did not know what they were talking about. Sexual assault and violence against women is not some myth or exaggeration rooted in sexism against men – it is a reality for women, rooted in a culture of misogyny and rape. Your wariness of strange men is completely valid.

      You should check this out: Schrödinger’s Rapist: or a guy’s guide to approaching strange women without being maced

  16. Avatar of Buzz Parsec

    Most likely this guy was just clueless and totally lacking in empathy, but you can never be sure.
    .
    Seriously, if he really just wanted to talk over coffee, there are lots of better places and times to suggest, such as next morning (noonish) by the pool or a booth in the coffee shop, or the comfortable couches in the lobby by the potted palms and so forth; places that are public but semi-private, where you can have an uninterrupted conversation but not be trapped. It wouldn’t be up to you to suggest this, he’s the one making the proposal. Even someone as socially inept as me can think of this, if they just put themselves in the other person’s position for a second. This complete lack of empathy is mind-bogglingly stupid.
    .
    Douglas Adams nailed it as usual: “… the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mind-boggling stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you — daft as a brush, but very, very ravenous)“. I hope you had a towel.

  17. Avatar of

    It seems to me that this thread of comments is a pretty good example of a lot of otherwise thoughtful, evidence-seeking skeptics jumping on the assumptions and anecdote-as-evidence bandwagon.
    .
    I am certainly not saying Rebecca is a liar, or is fabricating stuff to make a point; however, I am pointing out that it is nonetheless just an anecdote.
    .
    I am under the impression that skeptics are more or less devoted to witholding assumptions and uncritical agreement (or disagreement) with anecdotal, so-called, evidence, whether it come from Rebecca Watson, Michael Shermer, Sarah Palin, or me.
    .
    I am also under the impression that such ponderings as mine, and a few others in this thread, are not only valid and allowed, but are a critical aspect of skeptical methodology. No?
    .
    I’m not saying that Rebecca’s wrong, but neither am I saying that she is right. I wasn’t there, I don’t know.
    .
    I would argue that there is some supportable probability that her assumptions are more right than they are wrong, but the degree of those assumptions I find rather extreme and I feel those assumptions, and many of the comments in this thread, fall into that growing but tenuous argument that anyone, especially any man, who disagrees with a feminist’s (male or female) circumstantial claims of sexism and/or oppression is therefore, ipso facto a sexist; that the simple act of disagreement expresses ignorance, blindness, sexism, and the evil of white male privelege.
    .
    Buzz Parsec says:
    .
    “Most likely this guy was just clueless and totally lacking in empathy…”
    .
    Which assumption I would think should hold an equal degree of possibilty to Rebecca’s assumptions. Not all men are on predator mode all the time.
    .
    He also adds:
    .
    “… but you can never be sure.”
    .
    Which is of course a valid point. But we, as non-participant watchers of the tale can never be sure either way unless we want to assume that all men who ask women to their hotel rooms for coffee, whatever the hour, are always predatorially sexalising all women to whom they ask the question. I can’t buy that. Change either Rebeccas gender, or the guy’s gender, and we have a very different set of assumptions.
    .
    Now of course it is probable that even being tired, and feeling threatened, Rebecca’s observations of body language, eye contact, etc., provided her with evidence to support her claims and assumptions about the guy’s intent. But we don’t know that do we. We weren’t there.
    .
    While showing support for Rebecca’s argument, and certainly for her point that the guy’s invite came just after a talk that should clearly have let him know how in the wrong he was, is fine and fair, to conclude that the guys is inarguably a predator, sexist, mendacious pick-up artist is stretching things.
    .
    I think

    • Avatar of Improbable Joe

      Wow, that’s pretty impressively not getting it.

      There’s no absolute accusation of misdeeds on part of Elevator Guy. What there is, is a recognition that he gave the appearance of potentially being capable of misdeeds. That put Rebecca is a negative mindset, which means he did harm to her whether he intended to or not.

      It wasn’t a major harm. She didn’t feel the need to call the police or anything. But it WAS a harm done to her, and it is a harm that she has spoken over and over about having been done to her and other women attending similar events.

      And as I said earlier, it isn’t enough to not actively assault people in order to qualify as a good person. You must also avoid putting people in situations which will very obviously put them in the uncomfortable position of suspecting that something bad might happen to them. There’s a whole hell of a lot of grey area as to what those positions might be, but “strange man corners woman away from home, who doesn’t know him, in an elevator at 4AM, inviting her to his room to talk” is obviously one of those positions.

      It isn’t about what he would have done; he might have been completely noble in his intent. It is about what he could have done, and how he put Rebecca in a situation where a sexual assault was a reasonable possibility. Not a probability, not a certainty, but enough of a possibility that he should have known how creepy he would seem when he did it. If you’re honest, you will admit how it looks and admit to the possibility even if you hold onto rejecting the probability and certainty.

      • Avatar of

        Your assumptions and presumptions are burdened by a lack of evidence, and an understanding of nuance and the vagaries of human behaviour.

        They are also predicated upon some degree of precognition, mind reading, and paranoia.

        • Avatar of BeardofPants

          *whoosh* That’s the sound of the fail swooping right over your head. Nobody’s calling the dude a rapist. This is about how he made Rebecca feel (e.g. vulnerable & alone). It’s a thing. Some dude following me into an elevator at night, and saying similar things would make me feel vulnerable as well.

          • Avatar of

            “That’s the sound of the fail swooping right over your head.”
            .
            I don’t think so. I think you may have missed my primary points, which are mainly a. being critical of folks making rather extreme assumptions based on what might be called cliche or stereotyping and b. about uncritically accepting anecdote as evidence.
            .
            “Nobody’s calling the dude a rapist.”
            .
            I guess overamped on that; nonetheless, there seems to me to be an all too easy assumption of bad / hostile / potentially predatorial motive without much evidence to support it.
            .
            This is about how he made Rebecca feel (e.g. vulnerable & alone).
            .
            I got that, and I think that is implicitly expressed in my post to some degree — though perhaps I should have made it explicit.
            .
            “It’s a thing.”
            .
            Huh? What is “thing”. I don’t understand “thing”.
            .
            “Some dude following me into an elevator at night, and saying similar things would make me feel vulnerable as well.”
            .
            And, again, I don’t think I disagree with that; however, your statement leaves out too much for me, as observer of the anecdote, to make any kind of judgement or assumption whatever — which, again, is my primary point in my post. I mean, “Some dude following me into an elevator at night” is pretty darned thin. Was he a threatening looking Hell’s Angel; or a simpering milquetoasty bookworm; was he tall, short, swarthy, mean looking, foreign, clean, dirty, smelly, and so on and so forth? Or are ALL men assumed to be predators and we men should simply understand and accept that ALL men getting on to elevators at night when the other passenger is a woman are doing something wrong, and should wait for the next ride?
            .
            I think the degree to which people are so easily and seemingly comfortable with assuming the worst with little or no question reflects what was written of in Skeptic magazine a couple of years ago as, I think, cultural panic, i.,e., over-reaction based upon the exaggerated politics of fear, stereotyping, and an overabundance of inaccurate assumptions.

          • Avatar of Buzz Parsec

            (This is a reply to John Greg…)
            .
            Yikes!
            .
            Where did Rebecca say anything about Elevator Guy’s stereotypical appearance? Cause we all know that clean-shaven white guys never turn out to be Ted Bundy.
            .
            It was his behavior that was creepy, not his appearance, as far as we know.
            .
            You seem to be treating this as some sort of abstract situation amenable to experiment. You also make much of my saying he was probably harmless, and that it “should hold an equal degree of possibilty to Rebecca’s assumptions.” Like there is a 50/50 chance he was a dangerous predator? Or just a sexist pig on the make? I was thinking more like 1 in 10 or 1 in 100 for the former and 1 in 3 (considering the context) for the latter. Hello? This sounds like a good anti-vax argument. Hey, if I don’t get a flu shot, there’s only a 1 in 10 chance I’ll get the flu, and I probably won’t die from it. Do you think she should be doing controlled experiments in being demeaned, degraded and possibly raped?
            .
            I really think you need to step back and re-examine your biases.

          • Avatar of BeardofPants

            This is to John Greg: yes, FAIL. This isn’t a science experiment where there is a requirement to get the methodology right, it’s about an emotional response to a situation. You shouldn’t be trying to convert Rebecca’s emotional response to the situation to a scientific experiment, you should be TRYING to understand or empathise with it.

          • Avatar of BeardofPants

            Um, so basically what Buzz said.

        • Avatar of susanstanko

          What assumptions are being made exactly? Rebecca has explained WHY she was uncomfortable and other women have experienced similar situations.

        • Avatar of halfwayman

          Even if we were to examine the fellow from the elevator, we may never truly discern his intentions.

          I think what we need to take from this is that the fellows behaviour made Rebecca feel uncomfortable. Whether there was a justified reason for such feeling is irrelevant.

          Whether her or our assumptions regarding the fellow are correct or not does not really have any impact on how Rebecca felt at the time – which is the important issue and the lesson we need to take from this.

          • Avatar of hplvp

            There is a slight problem with this. If her reason for feeling weren’t justified. A big if, but one none the less than aren’t we putting a somewhat unfair burden on men to be hyper vigilant in order to not put her and presumably other women in a similar situation in that position?

    • Avatar of Dustin Williams

      It’s pretty easy to understand the risk of a situation like that:

      1. It’s a reasonable assumption that any one who wants to “talk” to you in private in their hotel room after a night of drinking in their hotel room is hoping to score.
      2. Drunk people (a fair assumption considering the 4:00 am bar departure) have lowered inhibitions that increase the risk of violent or aggressive behavior.
      3. Those two factors alone could easily lead to a flight or fight response.
      4. While trapped in an elevator the flight response isn’t an option.
      5. Considering the average size and strength difference between men and women, odds are pretty good that the fight response wasn’t a legitimacy option either.

      Fear doesn’t require skeptical analysis in a situation like that with a high possible, albeit improbable, risk. Combine the survival instinct with an inability to act on it, and that would leave someone feeling quite uncomfortable, even from a physiological stand point.

      I’m 6’1″ and 210 lbs so it’s quite rare for me to fear for my safety, but on the rare occasions where I find myself alone with a woman in an elevator I do try to be empathetic of what she may be feeling.

      • Avatar of

        Ditto to my previous.

        • Avatar of GeekGirlsRule

          I’m sorry that happened, Rebecca. And I’m equally sorry that so many people just don’t get why behavior like that isn’t ok.

          Ok, I’m just going to stop there before the angry comes out.

          Ok, maybe a little angry: So, how many of you who are accusing Rebecca of being irrational for how she reacted to the guy in the elevator would have blamed her if she had “given him a chance” and he’d raped her in his room? Don’t bother answering, I’m pretty sure I can guess.

        • Avatar of chirez

          This experience made Rebecca uncomfortable. This is a fact.

          Rebecca has previously explained in detail that such experiences make her uncomfortable. She is not the only person to have done so. This is a fact.

          The man in question may or may not have heard these explanations. This is unknown.

          If he had heard these explanations, and still behaved in such a way as to make her uncomfortable, then he either failed to understand, or dismissed the explanation.

          If he had not heard these explanations, we have a cultural problem where men are not educated in behaviours which make women uncomfortable.

          Please indicate any faults in my reasoning.

  18. Avatar of foolish-rain

    To those who are arguing that this wasn’t a sexual advance: Do you think this guy would have said exactly the same thing, making an identical offer to, say, PZ Meyers (lovely though he is).

  19. Avatar of

    Well, I am going to go out on a risky limb and repeat myself, to some degree, and say: I think the degree to which people are so easily and seemingly comfortable with assuming the worst with little or no question reflects what was written of in Skeptic magazine a couple of years ago as, I think, cultural panic, i.e., over-reaction based upon the exaggerated politics of fear, stereotyping, and an overabundance of inaccurate assumptions.
    .
    And furthermore, I’ll repeat that I think it would be a valid experiment, so to speak, to reverse the genders, and play with the changes in response and assumption that that would endow.
    .
    Frankly, I am baffled by the kneejerk reactionary responses.
    .
    Beard of Pants, I am not trying to convert Rebecca’s emotional response to the situation to a scientific experiment, I am simply trying to highlight the plain and obvious fact that too many assumptions are being made without any evidence. Many commentors who were not in the elevator, and who have absolutely no idea whatsoever as to what really went down are making angry, hostile, misanthropic judgement calls without sufficient evidence to base those calls on. And that is the basis of my argument.
    .
    In a sense, foolish-rain, to some degree, makes my point for me, or at least part of it. Some posters are making a blanket assumption that because the person who asked Rebecca to join them for coffee was a male, the simple fact that it was a man, means it was a sexual advance, whereas if it had been a woman it would almost certainly not have been a sexual advance.
    .
    Huh?
    .
    What kind of paranoid fear factor do you base that on? Are all men predators? Are all men doing nothing but making sexual advances on women? Are all men nothing more than penises on consumptive conquest hyperdrive? Gah! Give me a break. What kind of fear do you people live with? Where comes this plethora of assumptive stereotypes? When did Skepchick.org become Pharyngula?

    Jeebles folks, chill a bit.

    • Avatar of GeekGirlsRule

      As women in this society (not a theoretical one, but THIS ACTUAL SOCIETY RIGHT HERE) we are raised to be on guard against sexual assault ALL the time. As women we walk with our car keys through our fingers so we can use them as weapons, try to avoid being alone with strange men, go places in pairs, check the backseats of our cars before we get in, only park in well lit places, try to pee while balancing a drink and our purse in the bathroom so no one can say we “asked to be drugged” by leaving our drink unattended, etc… etc… ad nauseum…

      If we do not do any of these things and more, and even if we do and get assaulted anyway, then the victim-blaming starts (of which you have already had a small sampling with the guy who wanted to know why Rebecca was alone in the elevator with the guy in the first place). Every thing a woman does, says, wears and EVER DID BEFORE EVER IN HER LIFE will come under examination.

      This is not hypothetical, this is what happens every stinking time a woman is sexually assaulted. If you’re so very logical and rational look at the evidence that surrounds you every day. Follow the media coverage of rape cases, read trial transcripts, even though defense lawyers aren’t supposed to use a victim’s sexual history against her in trials, they find ways to sneak it in and even if the judge instructs the jury to ignore it, you can’t unhear that.

      ALL of that baggage and evidence is what Rebecca was operating with the night some guy who hadn’t spoken to her the entire time they and other people were hanging out, cornered her alone in an elevator and asked her back to his room.

      Does this mean he WOULD have assaulted her? No.

      But it also doesn’t mean that he wouldn’t have either. Sadly, rapists do not all wear handy nametags stating, “Hi, I’m Ted! I’ll be your rapist this evening!” They look just like everyone else. So, in the interest of not being assaulted and in NOT having to go through the ordeal of reporting a rape, Rebecca very rationally and logically opted to get away from that guy as soon as she could, and to TELL YOU that this behavior is not OK. So that those of you who are constantly demanding women tell you what to do to approach them can know that this is not how you do it.

      I’d recommend looking up the Schroedinger’s Rapist article on KateHarding.net (http://kateharding.net/2009/10/08/guest-blogger-starling-schrodinger%E2%80%99s-rapist-or-a-guy%E2%80%99s-guide-to-approaching-strange-women-without-being-maced/).

    • Avatar of susanstanko

      No, nobody is saying that all men are predators. It is you who is making the blanket statement. You are accusing others of making assumptions bu, it is you who is assuming that this encounter is is the result of “culture panic”. I would rather assume that a guy asking me to his room at 4 in the morning after a night of drinking is interested in more than just talking and not get myself into a bad situation. I am sorry that you cannot get how a woman would feel uncomfortable in those situations. You are proof that skeptics are not always empathetic.

    • Avatar of Feats of Cats

      “Are all men predators? Are all men doing nothing but making sexual advances on women? Are all men nothing more than penises on consumptive conquest hyperdrive?”

      Nope. But some of them are. And we don’t know which ones are which. It is so much better to risk hurting a dude who is acting in a creepy way’s feelings than getting assaulted or raped.

      That article about Schroedinger’s Rapist is really good, btw.

  20. Avatar of Ramji

    About the guy in the elevator …. definitely creepy.
    I apologize on behalf of all men. Sorry.
    Some of us are really stupid.

  21. Avatar of katelouise

    Hi Rebecca, this is my first time posting, but this is such an interesting topic, I couldn’t resist.

    I think what many people are missing about this issue is that the intentions of the gentleman who approached you does not change the sexism inherent in what he did. He did what he did because sexism exists in our society, which allows males the privilege of not having to think about the sexual nature of their behaviour, whilst women have to be constantly aware of it because of the huge negative affects it can possibly have on our lives.

    Let’s take gender out of this for a moment. I enjoy doing something called poi, if you haven’t heard of it, it involves swinging weighted strings (the most basic can be made with a tennis ball in the end of a tube sock) around your body in patterns, its quite beautiful and completely harmless. Here is an example http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZLWyXZMPyyM
    My favourite practice set, however, looks quite dangerous, as it is made out of chains, leather and tennis balls. They could easily be mistaken for a weapon. I have no intention of harming anyone with poi, in fact my intention is just the opposite, I want people to enjoy my art, but I recognize that it would be inappropriate to walk around swinging them about down the street as I tend to do with my other more colourful, cuddly looking poi, because I would needlessly be making other people feel uncomfortable and even scared, something I do not want to do, especially if not using that practice set makes no real difference to me.

    I experience this same concern in my personal life, in the same context as the guy in the elevator. As a gay woman I have to constantly make judgements about how appropriate any sexual advances might be in certain situations. Both because I am aware of how uncomfortable unwanted sexual advances are from men because I too am a woman, but also because of the homophobic nature of our society as well, and that some women would be even more offended by advances than they would a man’s regardless of the situation. As I do not want to value my chance of maybe “gettin’ some” over another human beings feels/well being, I try to be considerate at all times.

    So I know inherently that it would be inappropriate to approach a woman at 4 in the morning in an elevator after she has said she wants to go to bed, even if all I did want to do was have a chat, because society has conditioned me to constantly be aware of my sexuality (both as a female and as a lesbian).

    Because of our sexist society, men are free from this conditioning. They are allowed to separate their personality and their daily lives from their sexuality. They have a choice, a privilege. Women do not.

    So either this gentleman who Rebecca encountered is simply a product of our sexist society by being unaware of how uncomfortable his remarks might make her (which seems unbelievable since she’d spent a good deal of time talking about that very thing), or he was aware of how inappropriate his behaviour was and decided that the chance that she might say yes and he would get his way was more important than Rebecca’s feelings, in which case he has personal and sexist issues he needs to work on. Either way, the event she described IS inherently sexist.

    And let’s face it, if that guy really did just want to have a conversation, he could have offered to swap email addresses or something.

  22. Avatar of Egillvs

    I can only imagine how uncomfortable that short (or not too short) interaction was for you Rebecca and glad it only ended in you feeling a little uneasy and the guy at the very least knows you are not interested in him, so he shouldn’t try again at any other skeptic conventions.

    Me being me, I have to ask, but you were at the bar till 4am and told the people at the table that you were tired and were gonna go to your room and sleep. Was the guy in question at that table or able to hear you say that.
    I am for the sake of that single (i hope) male skeptic, going to go on a limb for him and imagine what he was going through, starting with the most benign version I can think of first.

    He has seen you on youtube and perhaps other skeptic conventions, and finds Rebecca attractive, assertive, funny and interesting.
    He waiting to muster up courage to ask her, can’t bring himself to do so in front of strangers so he is going to wait until she leaves the bar and then ask her.
    She gets up and goes to the elevator and he quickly pays for his drink/s and walks quickly after Rebecca.
    Not sure how long their time there will last, he only remembers that asking for coffee is the “plausible deniability” version of do you want to have sex.
    Rebecca being tired and annoyed that some guy who’s been ogling her all evening and not listening to what she had spent a better portion of the night talking about says “no thanks” and leaves the elevator.
    The guy hits himself in the head repeatedly saying “what the heck, sex ?!?!, I should have just asked for her phone number or better yet given her mine, or just an e-mail, great, I blew it”, and further down his confidence with women goes, but since he has never had a woman hit on him, he tries to forget about it and voes to not be so stupid next time.

    now given, this leaves the door open 100 % for Rebecca’s current version of this little story, and in no way excuses his behavior for choosing an elevator and not outside the elevator before she got in for example as the venue for this, but imagine if it had ended another way.

    Rebecca had seen the guy staring before, smiling a bit awkwardly and she is sure he blushed a little when she gave him that famed Rebecca look with one eyebrow lifted a bit up, he seemed reasonable attractive.
    But since she really was tired, she asked him to just give her his e-mail and she’d be in touch, later on they got married and lived happily ever after, he working with kids at a local kindergarten, she as a high-powered CEO of a multimillion dollar company.

    • Avatar of mrmisconception

      That’s a nice story; you should write for television.
      I would suggest Entourage; there are a lot of douchebags on that show that you could give voice to.

    • Avatar of susanstanko

      Except, Rebecca is married.

  23. Avatar of seaside681

    Rebecca,
    It seems to me that you are very much in the right about the elevator incident. It also seems to me that you were wrong to criticize Stef McGraw in the particular manner that you did. It also seems that, although there are obvious and important differences between them, the fact remains that both behaviors were wrong for *the same basic sort of reason*. In each case, one person in some way wields more social power than another, in a setting that is different from everyday life (a fair initial presumption of greater physical strength, or greater access to an extended speaking role). The first person disregards the existence of the power differential and of the setting that creates or exacerbates it, even though it has an negative effect on the other person, to pursue a legitimate goal in an unfortunate way.

    I am sure you had good intentions, but you might reflect on the parallel a bit. I would just add, for context, that you weren’t using this power differential to criticize someone about something impersonal and abstract, which wouldn’t tend to bother me. This was a more personally sensitive criticism, and it seems to me it could be better handled on more power-balanced terrain like an in-person discussion or online. Incidentally, as the logic of my position would imply, I am going to post a similar appreciation-and-criticism of Stef McGraw’s position at her blog, highlighting what I think you’ve gotten right as well as what I think she has.

  24. Avatar of Crip Dyke

    Ugh.

    I mean, I’m sorry, I know it’s selfish, but YOU went through the a$$ cornering you, but now I’ve had to endure the MANSPLAINING.

    If you find yourself needing to mansplain to Rebecca (and all of us here) about how she makes terrible, terrible assumptions that someone is dangerous without screaming down that person who advocated situational awareness then you don’t really believe your own cr@p. Why should we?

    Rebecca’s TLDR: when I talk all night about not wanting to be hit on, then you follow me to the one place where you can be sure that I can’t get away and have no support to give a line that either IS or is way too easily mistaken for a comeon, You’reDoingItWrong ™.

    If you really feel compelled to respond to that, first visit, read & digest:
    http://derailingfordummies.com/

    Then if you still have to mansplain here, we will be happy to hand your a$$ back to you in a hat.

    PS -I just LOVE d4d. If you agree w/ Rebecca you might ALSO visit d4d…just for fun.

  25. Avatar of kruss007

    You know, I think it’s clear the man in the lift did fancy you and did quite like the idea of having sex with you. But if you had been sexually attracted to him, would you have found his advances as inappropriate? How are men to advertise their interest in women if they don’t do what this guy did? I imagine a lot of people have got it together in very similar ways. I put it to you than had he been more attractive to you this would not have been an issue at all.
    (Were you sending mixed messages? Were you wearing a short skirt or even some make up because these are all clear signs you want to have sex with anyone, you know.) = )

    • Avatar of BeardofPants

      Oh. My. Googles. Are you for real? This has to be trolling. In any case…

      /slaps upside the head

      • Avatar of stooshie

        Although I disagree with the short skirt statement the above post made, in a society where men are (STILL) expected to make the first move, there isn’t really any other way for a man to indicate sexual interest other than asking or to actually make a physical move (and that WOULD have been inappropriate, to say the least).

        There is nothing wrong with wanting to sleep with someone purely because you are attracted to them physically (regardless of their intelligence).

        Many, many people have met in lifts, suggested having coffee, and ended up just having sex purely for the unadulterated pleasure of it. Perhaps, women had responded positively in the past.

        Please, the man did nothing wrong. There is no blame on anyone here. He asked to have sex with you (at the most extreme reading of the situation), you said no and he took it no further.

        That’s how people, quite often end up having sex. At 4 am in the morning, in a lift, in a strange hotel. Sometimes people say no, sometimes they don’t.

        My reading is that he probably was wanting to have sex, and didn’t want the public embarrassment if you said no (a big consideration for most guys).

        • Avatar of danno

          (First time posting here)

          No, you are right. There is nothing wrong with wanting to have sex with someone.

          But remember that sex is an activity that takes two willing partners, and the woman is far less likely to just jump at the chance. She requires some assurances first, usually. First for her safety, but also of the quality of the guy’s character, AND (far from the least consideration) of his willingness to take no for an answer — before she gets into a private setting where “no” might prove to be a moot concept to him.

          This elevator guy was a pure stranger who hadn’t said a word to her all evening long (yes, I understand that this can be a symptom of shy attraction, but even so, he DIDN’T speak up), therefore she knew very little about him.

          And that’s the main problem with guys these days. They don’t WANT to KNOW more, or to spend their time and energy finding out what women want, because they feel that this knowledge would “ruin the magic” for them. Their passion is all and enough, to them. It even trumps their (and the woman’s) need for information.

          Guys hold immature views of what sex is. Sure, they can do it, but it’s the on-the-way-to-it part that they all have difficulty with (yeahmetoo).

          Men all seem to assume that a woman will have no problem with the idea of swooning into the arms of an utter stranger. Remember, the MAN is the one with the magic in his head first. The woman only finds out about that (and it’s nearly always a huge surprise) when he finally pulls out his cork.

          Picture the moment, guys. Two friendly people alone together in an elevator. The guy suddenly spills his guts, and the woman’s brain goes (BOIIIINNG!) “Oh no, not THIS! What do I do now?” as her mind starts to try to begin to wrap itself around the idea of a sexual relationship with this guy — a guy she’s likely never thought of in that way before. He’s barreling along toward what he thinks will be the imminent consummation of his desires, and she’s trying to tread water in this new ocean she’s been unceremoniously dumped into. He’s heading toward deep water, and she’s trying to find the beach.

          And all the time, of course, she’s still alone in the elevator with him, he having just proved to her that he’s unpredictable at the least, and likely enough getting more and more passionate in his proposals.

          I don’t have the “answer” to this mismatch, but remember: HE’S (almost) always the one who wants it first, but the woman MUST be the one who decides whether an alliance will work or not — based typically on so many factors that the man would likely be shocked to find out the depth of thought she gives the idea in those few minutes, while he’s emotionally writhing on his spit.

          I would simply suggest giving up the “elevator moment” approach completely — it’s far too much of a surprise, for a woman to make an informed decision (which she NEEDS to make), and when she therefore turns you down, she’ll likely never reconsider you again (women rarely do; after all, there’s a line a mile long, and man in each place in it, every one of them similar to the next).

          And when she does turn him down, quite likely on perfectly sensible grounds, it destroys him because he wasn’t using sense at all, so he can’t understand it in that way. He put his whole heart and soul into his push, and when she “rejects” him, it’s the end of the world. I’d be surprised if some rapes don’t get their impetus in that moment of utter rejection, as the man rebels (as men are supposed to do, remember?) against the outcome.

          • Avatar of Ramji

            Just because you’re immature about sex doesn’t mean all men are (you said it). Thanks for joining in on the gender profiling.

        • Avatar of lilithe

          What part of she spent all day telling the entire conference about how she disliked such encounters, and he did it anyway are you not getting? The message was out there before they even got to the elevator.

  26. Avatar of Crip Dyke

    @Kruss007 who said: How are men to advertise their interest in women if they don’t do what this guy did?

    RU Serious? When a woman spends 12+ hours talking more on than off about hating the constant, disrespectful comeons U **already have your answer**. I’m another woman & even if, as it appears from Skepchick’s telling (I wasn’t at this con) those 12 hours were spent talking about unwanted comeons from guys, I would have known not to hit on her & my gender wasn’t even directly implicated. If the dyke in the crowd can get the message, I don’t think it’s demanding too much for the bi/straight guys the comments are aimed at to actually hear the words a woman has said. At that point asking the question advertises a Darwinian lack of fitness far more than affection. Context matters, duh.

    Even when she hasn’t said No for 12 hours straight, DecentPeople(tm) don’t corner others where there is nowhere to escape. There are specific behaviors being critiqued here. It’s not about every man or every pick-up line used in every situation. Also, in this particular situation, **it’s not about the guy!!!!** Making it about teh Menz is derailing (see above). Even if she completely misremembered what he said and how he said it, even if she was so drunk she remembered it happening in the elevator when it actually happened 2 hours earlier in a much more appropriate venue, none of that would change the fact that Skepchick is trying to give you a message about which comeons are and aren’t appropriate.

    Let me try it again: She’s actually **answering your question**. If you weren’t so busy crying “what about teh Menz?1??!one!?” you would have your answer already.

    Seperately:
    I **think** that you are joking with the “mixed messages” lingo, and I won’t speak for others directly, but maybe this isn’t the thread for your “HuhHuh – victim blaming is funny!” jokes. Or, rather, what makes it unfunny is that the rest of your post is spent defending the tactics of ignoring clearly expressed wishes of women and then cornering them in places of no support and no escape. The appropriate post for that joke is when you are eviscerating victim blamers, b/c then we will trust those words to say, “These words here? Yeah, this is the cr@p you don’t say unless you’re a je3errrrrk.” Then I will happily laugh with you at the je33rrrrks who say such things b/c I can be 100% sure that you are not one of them. The lack of 100% certainty created by the bulk of your victim blaming post makes it impossible to laugh with you here.

  27. Avatar of dsmccoy

    I haven’t been a commenter here before, but I heard tell of this kerfuffle and felt I just had to pipe up in support.
    I’m a guy and I find what you say in the video completely reasonable.
    I mean, if you had been obviously flirting with him or something, maybe he wouldn’t have been out of line, but without any such context, asking a woman you are not acquainted with back to your room, when you are alone in a hotel elevator at 4am sounds creepy and insensitive.

    I’ve actually had an experience which helps me relate to how a woman might feel in the situation. Getting on a train late at night in Europe, all of the compartments had their lights off and curtains drawn, except for one. That one compartment was occupied by a young gay german fellow. I’m straight, but not particularly homophobic. If I get attention from a gay guy, I just let him know I’m not interested and we’re usually fine. But this guy kept pleading, (in german, which I have only an elementary grasp of. That night I learned some cognates which hadn’t been in the high school german textbook). I was traveling, tired, and just wanted to sleep, but he would not take no for an answer. No physical threat, he never touched me, I didn’t feel in danger at all, but the guy just could not get his mind off of how great it would be to have sex right now and wouldn’t leave the subject alone.
    It being a train rather than an elevator, this went on for quite a while and I finally got off the train in Bologna at 3am to set off walking toward Florence.
    For that short time in the train compartment, I got a first-hand glimpse of what it was like to be someone else’s sex object.
    Guys, it is not as fun on the receiving end as it is in your imagination.

  28. Avatar of BeardofPants

    Cross-posted on Friendly Atheist:

    There are several things at play here, so maybe that’s why this has all blown sky high.

    1) Rebecca had never spoken to the guy prior to the incident.

    2) She had spent all night talking about the problem of men objectifying & scaring away women from atheist conventions.

    3) She expressed quite clearly that she was tired & going to bed.

    4) She was alone.  Because she was alone, she would have been doing what every woman has to do.  Be situationally aware.  Women are constantly assessing their surroundings to ensure that they don’t get into trouble.  

    5) It was 4am.  There are usually not a lot of people around in a hotel at 4am.  See above: situational awareness.

    6) She get onto the elevator, which is an enclosed space. Regardless of what some people say, it is very easy to get assaulted in an elevator (I have been assaulted on a train, hell I’ve been assaulted in a fucking parade with thousands of people).

    7) Despite all her cues to the contrary, EG chose to ignore what Rebecca’s body language & words to the room before she left (modification: i.e. she had already said “no” to him prior to the elevator), to satisfy his own needs (and this is what is so disrespectful).

    8) Rebecca makes a video to try and make this an educating point.  She doesn’t scream rape.  She doesn’t interpolate what might have been going on in EG’s head.  She just says, bit creepy dude.

    Can’t we all just take this teaching point for what it is and move on?

  29. Avatar of khendar

    I’m curious, what would have happened if it had not been 4am in an elevator (lets say it was 2pm in the lobby) and he had not mentioned his room (lets say he asked to go to a cafe or pub). Would that still have been considered creepy ? If he were not alone, or if Rebecca were not alone, would that have been less creepy ? What if Rebecca was actually George Hrab, or PZ Myers, or Phil Plait ?

    There are a number of prominent members of the skeptic/atheist community with whom I would love to sit down with a coffee/beer and talk about various issues, both male and female. There’s no intent there, other than a genuine desire for meaningful conversation. It seems that some people are suggesting that to approach a female and initiate conversation or invite for coffee is an automatic indicator of nefarious intent.

    I think the guys biggest mistakes are timing (4am in an elevator == bad idea), location (hotel room reeks of creep) and context (after a day of “don’t creep on the skepchicks” talks). Perhaps had the circumstances been different it wouldn’t have come across as creepy, but I really don’t know anymore.

  30. Avatar of 4tun8

    Clearly, the line of being sexist is a subjective one. RW simply expressed one real-world example as to where that line is drawn for her. I found her perspective to be interesting. It appears that people have taken the ridiculous position that her expression of her perspective was a statement as to what all good feminists should feel under the same circumstances. What a silly mess.

    You are the BEST RW!

  31. Avatar of lucian

    Disclaimer: I really appreciate, respect and admire you, Rebecca. You’re awesome.

    I’m confused by this elevator anecdote. I’m friendly to everyone, but I don’t understand flirting, and I couldn’t tell you if I was doing it. I can’t tell if I’m being creepy.

    I agree that he was not tactful, but I feel a little insulted at the suggestion that a man’s mere presence in an elevator alone with a woman is threatening.

    I also don’t understand men apologising for the evil things other people do, just because they also happen to be male.

    • Avatar of danno

      “I agree that he was not tactful, but I feel a little insulted at the suggestion that a man’s mere presence in an elevator alone with a woman is threatening.”

      The woman’s discomfort, alone in a small, closed room with a strange man, is not about you as a person, first of all; so don’t be insulted by it. It’s about her own comfort level in that situation; which likely has little to do with just WHICH strange man she happens to be with.

      You might be the most highly-evolved strange man in the world, and she would still be reviewing her options for escape.

  32. Avatar of dacy_ebd

    I think Rebecca might have a better idea if she was being sexualised than all the commenters on this blog. You know, with her being there and all.

  33. Avatar of BayAreaGuy

    I have a suggestion for all of the women who are involved in the Skeptic “movement.” How about you all stop taking part in things like “BoobQuake” and stop posting for sexually suggestive “Sexy Skeptic” calendars and all that? You can’t engage in such things and then turn around and get all scared and offended when men think of you in a sexual way.

    I find it childish and tedious how much sexualizing goes on at these conventions (especially TAM), and I can’t really take seriously the complaints by women on panels about sexual harassment and differential treatment of women in Skepticism. You can’t have it both ways, ladies.

    • Avatar of calia

      What, so now it’s okay to sexually harass women who have posed suggestively? This sounds a lot like rape apologetics. I guess you think she was asking for it.

      • Avatar of danno

        Exactly. Guys commonly feel that:

        1) a woman is “leading them on” when she celebrates her own sexuality somehow. They see it as a deliberate tease, as begging for sex.

        2) they also therefore feel cheated, when those “offered favors” are “withdrawn” (meaning that they didn’t go as far as the guy wanted them to go).

        Girls posing suggestively, to a guy, seems like an invitation, and leaving them to bang their own gong instead, seems like you cheated them out of something you had first offered.

        Sorry, but that’s how the majority of modern guys “think” of women. Sex is EVERYTHING, and when it’s not, it is too.

  34. Avatar of nancy

    You all know that Dawkins has a legion of fanboys in the atheist world, right? And there’s nothing Dawkins could ever do that will turn them off.

    The fact that someone telling a story about being uncomfortable in an elevator could make Dawkins have such an extreme obnoxious response tells you all you need to know about Dawkins. How DARE you have a express a personal negative feeling to a situation in which the Richard Dawkins believes you should NOT have had a negative feeling? Just who the hell do you think you are, little lady?

    Douchebag. He’s a flaming douchebag.

    And there’s BayAreaGuy here to tell you – if you ever express anything remotely sexual you have no right to complain about sexual harassment.

    Un-fucking-believable.

  35. Avatar of dsmccoy

    “I feel a little insulted at the suggestion that a man’s mere presence in an elevator alone with a woman is threatening.”

    Have you led a sheltered life or something?

    Try googling the two word combination “elevator rape”.
    You don’t have to read all of the nearly 5 million hits, but scan through a few pages of summaries and you might start to get an idea why a young woman alone with a strange man paying her unsolicited attention in an elevator at 4 am might not be entirely at ease.

    And by that, don’t jump to conclusions, it doesn’t necessarily mean the woman is ready to call 911, but she’s probably not in the best of moods for invitations, however well intentioned, back to some strange guy’s room.

  36. Avatar of fens

    This is crazy. It’s insane how much energy has been spent on Rebecca’s reasonable, measured response, and how little attention the REAL controversy of the 6/20 vlog is getting, that being the incomprehensible, dare I say criminal, lack of praise and fawning given in the video to Yau-Man Chan. C’mon!

    The guy broke Survivor. He rolled the high score back to all-zeros.

    Dropping the box on its corner! Winning all the physical challenges! Finding the HII and replacing it with a phony! Wheeling and dealing wih punk-ass Dreamz. He personifies :Science, FTW”. I am beyond fanboy for Yau-Man.

  37. Avatar of skepchris

    In my opinion Rebecca was justified in feeling uncomfortable. A man that follows a woman into an elevator in order to make sexual advances to her is not merely acting inappropriately. He is acting in a threatening manner, and he knows it. He has a young attractive women alone in a highly vunerable situation. His advances may result in;

    1 Positive response = “fun and games”
    2 Negative response = giving his “victim” a fright

    He knows his actions are wrong but feels that the situation is such that he will suffer no comeback. He can claim his remarks were innocent if he is later faced with an irate boyfriend, husband or hotel management at a later date.

    The idea that the above is a of little import as other women suffer a great deal more is a bit silly.

    Should I accept the theft of £5 because others get robbed of a great deal more?

    Should I accept being punched in the face because others get beaten to death?

    Rebbeca’s response was measured, appropriate and has surely given many (including myself) pause for thought.

  38. Avatar of victorj

    First I’d like to say that I do have sympathy for women receiving unwanted attention and that it should be met with the annoyance it deserves. As far as the man involved, are you sure he was an attendee and not just another hotel guest? I just find it hard to think that someone who heard you speak on precisely that subject would come to that conclusion. Either way it’s hardly a proper way to act, even without the context. What bothers me equally though is your reaction to the whole thing. You objectified him based on his objectification of you. This is a man who, as far as you’ve divulged, made no physical approach or persisted in asking, yet you felt threatened by him. Why?

    The story reminds me of another one. A friend of mine was walking home from the supermarket late at night, one bag of groceries in each hand. In front of him walks a girl, alone. How do event unfold? She stops in the road, lets him catch up to her and then proceeds to pepper-spray him in his face. This without any provocation. Why? Because she thought he was going to rape her. How do we know this? Apparently she felt safe enough to stick around and tell him this. Based solely on a vague possibility, she perceived the threat real enough to assault someone.

    I just find it odd that time and time again those who supposedly fight for equality retain a view of men that I can’t find a better word for than archaic. I wonder if you would have the same reaction if a woman propositioned you? Just like he should not have expected a yes, you should not have expected him to behave like a caveman. There is no reason to feel anything but annoyance at an attempt like this. In my mind, the sensation of danger you felt reveals your dormant sexism and if you truly believe in equality you should do some soul searching on the subject. Stop looking down on men like animals that will bite you if they aren’t given a toy to play with.

    On a side note; As far as your commentators opinions, I don’t necessarily believe that the man was sexist. Having different views on relationships and the value of sex does not make one sexist. Promiscuity (or desire to be) does not necessarily make on misogynistic. It does rely on objectification, but done right it is mutual objectification where both of the parties value the experience and the other the same.

  39. Avatar of nikoel

    To victorj:

    The problem with fighting for equality as part of the oppressed class in a patriarchy that fosters rape culture is that we are told to do everything in our power to protect ourselves from being raped, molested, harassed, etc. and if we still get attacked, it’s our fault for not doing something more.

    Rape culture protects men who rape/molest/attack while condemning the victim for inviting it somehow. We DO fight for equality, we’re not asking for a world where women dominate and oppress men, but without men being willing to acknowledge the privilege they receive and fight for the same equality with us, there’s only so much we can accomplish and in the interim, we have to protect ourselves from unwanted advances. One of the ways of doing that is like Rebecca did, by telling her fans about her experience and explaining why it made her uncomfortable.

    “I wonder if you would have the same reaction if a woman propositioned you?”

    Women don’t have a long history of being attacked/harassed/raped by other women, we have that history with men.

    “Stop looking down on men like animals that will bite you if they aren’t given a toy to play with.”

    We HAVE to assume that every man is a potential rapist. If we don’t and we get raped, we’re at fault. I hope I’ve explained this thoroughly enough for you. If not, there is a lot of internet reading you can do including this: http://kateharding.net/2009/10/08/guest-blogger-starling-schrodinger%E2%80%99s-rapist-or-a-guy%E2%80%99s-guide-to-approaching-strange-women-without-being-maced/

    As for your last paragraph, it doesn’t matter whether you think what the man in the elevator did was sexist or not. What matters is how it made Rebecca feel. Please read the above link.

    • Avatar of victorj

      Woman who are subjected to rape or rape attempts: 1/6
      http://www.rainn.org/get-information/statistics/sexual-assault-victims

      Numbers of rapes commited by the average rapist: 10
      http://kateharding.net/2009/10/08/guest-blogger-starling-schrodinger%E2%80%99s-rapist-or-a-guy%E2%80%99s-guide-to-approaching-strange-women-without-being-maced/

      Times that it’s a stranger that is the culprit vs. someone known: 1/7
      http://yesmeansyesblog.wordpress.com/2009/11/12/meet-the-predators/

      Frequency of force use instead of intoxication: 3/10
      http://yesmeansyesblog.wordpress.com/2009/11/12/meet-the-predators/

      Risk involved in the elevator incident: 1/1400

      I’m going to leave out the number of women in his life or ones he meets (which is probably much more than 10) since he actually expressed sexual interest. Even if he was a rapist, it wouldn’t necessarily mean he’d rape her. Still, if I could come over statistics for on more factor that was less than 1/3, the chance would be less than that of successfully navigating an asteroid field.

      As for the link you provided, I think it’s irrelevant and quite insulting to send a person to “the dummies guide to not be a stalker”. This event was a guy that acted stupid and asked one question and then let it be, and to justify the respons several articles focusing on long term interaction are referenced. The article expresses the same paranoid sexism that will keep the gender debate at a standstill as long as it prevails. Just how are you not supporting the rape culture when every action you take when communicating with a man are motivated by keeping in line with it’s ideals. A big reason why it prevails is probably because so few will challenge it. How can you say that you stand for equality when constantly holding one side at arms length? How can you stand there and say “Change the world into what we want it to be and then maybe we’ll treat you like human beings”? [Note: You did not refute that you look down on men like savage animals]. Does letting your guard down mean taking a risk? Yes. Nothing worth anything ever comes for free. Does that mean you have to be stupid about it and completely inviting to every single guy? In no way. The issue here is not so much what you do as why you do it.

      “One of the ways of doing that is like Rebecca did, by telling her fans about her experience and explaining why it made her uncomfortable.” As I see it, the reason Rebecca felt like she did was that despite the low chance of anything actually happening she (like many others) has been programmed by patriarchal dinosaurs, the media and other feminists to have a Pavlovian reaction to certain situations.

      “We HAVE to assume that every man is a potential rapist. If we don’t and we get raped, we’re at fault.” You’re at fault? No, you’re not. I’m going to assume that you mean that you’d get blaimed. What you’re doing right there is persecuting men via the rape culture you so dispise. “Society is going to blaim you if you do not blaim the men”. If you truly wish it to go away, you yourself have to stop using the rape culture as a tool and an excuse.

      As for women raping women: http://www.ourbodiesourselves.org/book/companion.asp?id=8&compID=95
      The chances of it happening are significantly lower, but people around here don’t seem to care about things being unlikely, just that there is a possibility.

      P.S. I’m a tad bit tired (litteraly) and grumpy, so what I’ve written might come of as somewhat aggressive and inconsistent. For that I apologize, but I felt like I needed to post it before the conversation gets completely burried.

  40. Avatar of davidleach

    The ‘male-orientated’ nature of English with “man” as an affix or in set phrases and the like is seen as sexist these days by some. But this has been an issue only recently in history.

    In fact, the very word “man” can either mean ‘adult male’ or ‘person’. It is this second meaning which is used exclusively when forming an affix or in set phrases. [From this you may guess, correctly, that the second meaning is in fact the original meaning and the first meaning is in fact only recent-ish (circa 1100 or something).]

    A look at the history of English reveals this very clearly. For example, the word “woman” was actually formed as a shortening of “wife-man” (literally female-person) and the word “man”, though possibly ambiguous pushed out the previously common “wer” (preserved only in the archaism “werewolf”, ie. (male) man-wolf). So previously it was “wer and wiif” whereas now it is “man and woman”. German, which is descended from a dialect of basically the same language as English (the english language migrated from the north of germany at about 500 AD), differentiates the two possible meanings of “man” in it’s spelling. “Man” means ‘one, a person, they, etc.’, whereas “Mann” means ‘adult male person (man)’.

    In light of this, recent constructions such as “policewoman” are a case of hypercorrection based on a flawed analysis of “police-man”, and it is only the former term that is gendered (hence possibly sexist). There is also no reason for terms like “humankind” since we already have the more succinct “mankind”.

    Stretching back even further into they history of English beyond a Common Germanic to Proto-Indo-European (the common ancestor of slavic, latin, indo-iranian, greek, armenian etc etc as well), we find that it is in fact the feminine gender that was first marked (although there was earlier an animacy distinction). So the origins of gender in the indo-european languages are in fact for exclusively identifying feminine forms and only later was the gender system expanded to include a masculine and neuter forms. [To be more involved there was an animate-inanimate distinction. Then the feminine arose within the animate class, so that later we find that the inanimate which became the neuter was usually used for general or indeterminant gender, but there is a latent tendency for the masculine to serve that purpose in the daughter languages (since originally it was animate but not marked for femininity and continued that use in some ways)].

  41. Avatar of writebastard

    I want to echo dsmccoy’s experience. I’m a man who primarily dates women but also pursues men from time to time. I recently spent most of an evening getting hit on by an Ecuadorian fellow. Later that night, I called a female friend of mine and said, “I don’t know how the *fuck* women put up with this all the time.”

    Granted: that night I was in the mood to be a little objectified (yes, people do that, men and women alike), but there did come a point where I’d decided that no, I wasn’t going to have sex with this guy, and then it got a little tedious. What was fascinating was watching his approach: first the compliments–lots of them–then the innuendo, then a couple of negative jabs (one of them so crassly unimaginative that I was rendered momentarily speechless), then, finally, the overt, obscene descriptions. Desperation moves, abandoning all pretense. He progressed through every trick in his book, each one of which made it less and less likely that he’d get what we was after.

    And it was just RELENTLESS.

    Directed male desire is a powerful and occasionally unnerving thing. If wielded skillfully and intelligently, it’s seduction. In clumsy hands, it’s creepy. In malicious hands, it’s dangerous. I can certainly rule out Elevator Guy from the first case, and probably from the third (I would’ve expected more persistence, otherwise). But creepiness causes discomfort, because it’s, well, *creepy*, and subjectively it’s closer to malice than not. Someone who either does not understand or does not care about the creepiness factor is exhibiting the behavioral equivalent of the uncanny valley.

    Dawkins is an asshole, and I’ve always thought so. In terms of reactions to Rebecca’s tale, that’s one extreme.

    The other extreme is exemplified by nikoel, above: “We HAVE to assume that every man is a potential rapist.”

    Men who pay attention to such things will pick up on that. And I, for one, wouldn’t proposition a woman who makes that assumption, in an elevator or anywhere else. In fact, I’d be unlikely to engage in much of a conversation with such a woman at all. I’m not a potential rapist. Being treated like one is unpleasant, and doesn’t make me particularly inclined to get to know someone who thinks of me that way.

    When I’m regarded as a potential rapist, I’ve been objectified. And not in the I’m-going-out-and-cruising kind of way. In the I-have-no-agency-or-self-determination kind of way.

    I don’t treat people I meet as members of a group, I treat them as individuals. It takes effort and mindfulness to do so. If more people would work on that, we’d all be a lot better off.

  42. Avatar of myrdrahl

    I’m sorry. I’m sorry on behalf of all men who treat women the wrong way. This guy probably didn’t want to come of as a creap, but he did a good job doing so. He might be the kindest guy you’d ever meet, but following someone into an elevator like that, it’s kind of – creepy.

    I’m not much of a feminist myself, since much feminism is routed to give women special care. However, one should treat women as humans – and don’t screw them over because they are women.

    It’s really quite simple – if this guy had “good intentions”, he would have asked if you would be interested in having coffee in the morning.

    You come of as an intelligent and easy going woman – rather than a snarky, overreacting, ultra feminist. Keep doing what you are doing and being who you are. Also keep in mind: not all men are senseless cavemen and creeps. :)

  43. Avatar of joerandin

    I just want to say first that I agree with what Ms. Watson is saying. I would like to point out just a few things though, in the interest of being a gentleman and understanding how to properly avoid making women feel uncomfortable.

    1) One reason there might be more hitting on/propositioning at skeptic/atheist events (at least not blatant propositioning but just hitting on in general) is that its a place to meet like-minded members of the opposite sex. This can be very desirable to some people; being a bit of a nerd, I’m on the lookout for women to talk to at scifi convenvtions because they’re obviously into the same things as I am.

    2) Please please don’t take this as “blaming the victim”, but I’d be interesting (for intellectual reasons concerning this topic) whether Ms. Watson found this man “attractive” at all. It just seems from personal experience (being a guy of admittedly average looks) that, despite the situation, women have a lot higher tolerance for whats acceptable when dealing with someone they’re actually attracted to rather than not. I’ve missed many opportunities for relationships because I didn’t make a move out of fear not just of rejection but a greater fear of making the woman uncomfortable, leading to the last point…

    3) There is a decent solution to much of this, and it deals with LITERAL equality among sexes. And that is…it should be socially acceptable for women to “hit on” men or at least express interest in no uncertain terms. Many times men blindly hit on women because they know that they’re expected to make the first move. I can not tell you how relieved I am whenever the woman makes the first move…

    Again, I’d like to close by saying Ms. Watson had every right to feel uncomfortable in that situation. Honestly, if she really gets as much as many threats/propositions as she indicates, a taser or pepperspray might be a good investment.

    Oh, and keep in mind that even a perfect gentlemen is going to mess up one way or another (innocently ofc if the gentleman attribution is accurate).

    Thank you for all your work,

    Joseph Giorandino
    University of Central Florida

  44. Avatar of jo5ef

    Have been following this for days now, just want to say: Good for you Rebecca; I have been a long time follower of SGU, I really admire your work and think you are cool. This doesn’t seem to be just a trivial argument but a discussion that needs to be had. The current “too many dicks on the dancefloor” (sorry cant figure out how to insert hyperlink)state of global atheism needs to change and you are leading the way. Maybe it is really about respect and fairness – I sort of would feel more in common with a religious person who understands your position than an atheist who doesn’t.

  45. Avatar of silencio

    Okay, Rebecca is complaining that guys are hitting on her all the time at conferences.

    Well, okay but what does she mean by that?

    Does that mean guys are flirting with her and that annoys her because flirting is sexualizing? Or does she mean that men are straight out constantly propositioning her for sex?

    If it’s the first case then I think she’s a hypocrite because she does that to men. (as has been noted by previous bloggers) If it’s the second case then maybe she’s just interpreting men as propositioning her? I mean based on her knee jerk assessment of a guy asking her out for coffee, it sounds like she kind of projects sexual intentions on to men. Am I naive for thinking that way?

    Care to explain for me?

  46. Avatar of silencio

    Okay folks, this is what is going on.

    Rebecca Watson insists that she explicitly told guys not to sexualize her on the panel discussion with Richard Dawkins.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uKHwduG1Frk&feature=player_embedded#at=242

    However the actual panel discussion which was uploaded by AronRa she never talks about being sexualized in the kind of way that she purports elevator guy is doing to her.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W014KhaRtik

    She doesn’t talk about being hit on at all she talks about getting crude emails.

    Rebecca Watson distorts things and does not know how to distinguish between her feelings and reality.

    That doesn’t make her a good feminist or a good skeptic.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W014KhaRtik

    So this is what people are referring to when they talk about how Rebecca had already told others that she didn’t like being “hit on” at conferences. Sadly that’s not what she said at all and the so called skeptics never bothered to check their sources.

    • Avatar of euthyphro

      You see a lot, Doctor.
      But are you strong enough to point that high-powered perception at yourself?
      What about it? Why don’t you look at yourself and write down what you see?
      Or maybe you’re afraid to.

  47. Avatar of joelx

    I don’t know if this will add anything to the debate. I ummed and arred over posting, but I thought I’d throw it in and see what people thought…

    I share an office with a guy; he’s a really nice bloke, physically very big, but warm and friendly — and that’s where the problem lies. Due to the nature of my work I often have guests drop into the office to see me — mostly women (specifically dancers and dance students). Quite often I’ll return to the room having fetched the traditional cup of coffee, to find my office mate has engaged my guest in conversation, often asking very curious questions like “have you come far?, where do you live?”

    I have to explain to my female guests (once my office mate is not around) that he’s actually just a very very friendly sort of guy, and means nothing by his questions. I know this, because I’ve met his husband.

    I’ve often wondered whether I should talk to him about his behaviour — he means nothing by it (he’s just as inquisitive of male visitors). For some reason he either assumes every woman has really good gay-dar, and somehow *know* he’s not a threat, or his sexuality has just left him totally naive about where some of the key boundaries lie when it comes to male/female interactions (he doesn’t even realise the potential hidden subtexts of certain lines of enquiry in a male/female context).

    Anyway, the moral of the story is, not all men are misogynistic bastards, out to sexualise women. :) <== Note the smiley.

  48. Avatar of joelx

    Oh, and incidentally, I believe I’m right in saying the word “man” for in ancient times could mean either male or female (“woman” always meant female). I assume the convention of adding “man” to words was therefore intended in Old English as gender neutral(?) If this is true then the apparent male bias in English may be a recent ‘re-interpretation’, based in modern usage.

  49. Avatar of ashadowboxer

    Have it out: The reason Dawkins was so mad is that he was the man in the elevator and very sore that you said No.

    I am so disappointed in his behavior.

  50. Avatar of drejr1983

    I have a problem with the logic here. I’ve been black a long time, grew up in NYC. I can’t recall how many times I’ve gotten on to an elevator only to have white woman constantly clutch their purses making the assumption somehow I am going to do them harm. I’ve said nothing to them, made no gestures other than press the button to select my desired floor. So I am having a hard time buying this “fear” argument, certainly not buying the justification because the one of the persons during the experience is female. I’ve been on the receiving end of people making snap judgments about what I might do having not uttered a single solitary word. But somehow the behavior is excused because perhaps they saw a news story the night before about black men in elevators? There is not one person here that wouldn’t suggest that’s a BS argument. Or rather, when cops come to a predominately black neighborhood for any reason why many of the residents do not speak to them, or are highly uncooperative. And yet people often times criticize that community for not coming forward with information. All of this just breeds to me as an excuse for being sexist. Whose to say the man did not listen? He asked her to chat for coffee. Yes it was in an enclosed space, at 4 am. Which seems to the issue here. If this had been at say 3pm, same scenario does that somehow make the comment less threatening? Motives don’t change just because it’s at sometime during the day. If we really wish to get into issues of safety, him speaking, asking her, time of day….is all completely irrelevant if he had malice on the mind. I am so sick and tired of people making snap judgments before hearing a person out. It just seems contrived and self delusional to think this man wanted anything other than a conversation at 4am. I’m not saying don’t keep up one’s guard. But as a man, I don’t like to be presumed a potential rapist, or mugger, or thief which I deal with daily due to my skin color. This issue of his behavior being creepy, again what does that mean? Any experience in which a stranger talks to you can be seen as “creepy”. If she wants to talk about feeling under threat in a hostile environment be black for a bit, walk around stores where you are constantly followed, checked up and down by police, have people look at you differently when you’ve done nothing. And that is my point, he did nothing. And being black in America, our history confirms being black and doing nothing has been fuel for a lynching if not worse all because of what people perceive you may do.

  51. Avatar of saintlennybruce

    Interesting, Rebecca, thank you for giving some perspective on the incident. It was completely inappropriate given the context.

    However, the strains of misandry in many of the comments are unfortunate, particularly the perpetuation of the monopoly on being a target for sexual assault myth. As terrible as the position is for female sexual assault survivors in our society: blame-the-victim rape trials, double standards and the like, at least they have a position. Male survivors of sexual assault are almost always silent, and when they do speak up, their experience is either denied by calling them players (if it was a woman), or reversed by calling them a bitch (if it was a man or implement). They still experience the effects of severe trauma like anyone else, but rarely generalize the responsibility for their experience to an entire sex. Sadly, this is par for the course in feminist fora, and has been for near 50 years.

  52. Avatar of chaos

    Since your injunction of “don’t do that” is perfectly reasonable and it makes sense that doing what you describe would be a bad idea, I will keep it in mind and refrain from doing that. Cheers!

  53. Avatar of johnnyrock

    Maybe he should have just asked if she would like to grab a coffee with him for lunch or something the next day when she is not tired. Inviting to your room is a little *cough* really forward and a bit of an aggressive approach. Take for instance another scenario where she could be taking subway home late at night and no one is around.. “Oh hey I see you on this subway alot wanna come back to my place for coffee?” If a woman came up to me at 3:00 a.m. no one around and asked me if I wanted to go to her place for a coffee.My thought process would probably go something like this.. IS SHE HOT? If Not Answer – NO
    If Yes – Why is she asking me? Where did she come from? This is probably some kinda sting operation isn’t it? Is she a hooker? am I going to wake up without any money? I don’t wanna get in trouble with any pimps or boyfriends. WAIT, Is she a murderer!? I’d probably get murdered if I go, – Answer – Nah..I’m good..Super tired.

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