Psychology Today Blogger Marty Klein: Your Facts Are Irrelevant, Woman

[At the end of this article, you will find a number of updates regarding the current content of Dr. Klein’s article which now contains a number of stealth edits on the PT site. The original article is quoted in it’s entirety (with comments) in this post. I’ve attempted to document all changes he has since made to the article.]

According to Dr. Marty Klein at Psychology Today, I am what’s wrong with women these days. And he wrote a whole skewering article about how I am a whiny attention whore. Now, to be fair, he doesn’t name me, so it could be another particular blogger in her mid-30s who was handed a swingers card at a conference. I’m sure there are hundreds of us around.

And you know, at this point, I get it; plenty of emotionally delayed people do not understand why the incident was upsetting to me. But in this case, Klein “tweaked” the story to make me sound like an entitled prude who uses even the mere mention of sex at a conference to smear organizations. (And by “tweaked” I mean “changed relevant facts to fit a narrative that makes ‘a woman’ who is very obviously me sound like an entitled prude.”)

I recently attended the national conference of a large progressive organization. It was well-organized, stimulating, and fun. The people were mostly energetic, interesting, and friendly; it was a good mix of ages, sexual orientations, and divided almost 50/50 male-female.

I was eventually asked, as a sex therapist, what I thought about Sexual Harassment. Apparently a couple at last year’s conference had gotten friendly with a particular woman in her mid-30s. Eventually “Mary & John” handed the woman their card—suggesting quite clearly that they were “open” to “adult activities.”


Klein starts off with one tiny change in the details of my experience, one tiny change that alters the entire context of the situation. In Klein’s version of my story, “John” and “Mary” have reason to believe I might be interested in joining them to socialize our genitals. Now, if by “gotten friendly” he means “accepted Facebook friend request” and “stood in front of a room while the couple was present and delivered a talk about how everyone needs to get Tdap”, then yes, I concede, we “got friendly”. But I doubt that’s what he meant. What I think he means is that I was asking for it.

I’m not the one with the PhD in psychology, but I’m fairly certain that if this couple thought that my statement that most children catch pertussis from unvaccinated adults was me secretly dropping subliminal messages that I’d like to get tight and shiny under the stairs with them, then the problem with this interaction does not begin or end with me.

The couple were strangers. The extent of our conversations included a couple of comments he made on my Facebook wall, a question of how much Hug Me! I’m Vaccinated teddy bears cost, and whether I’d take a picture with them after the event… and then them handing me The Card. Which I made clear in my account.

Fact checking I guess isn’t a big deal for Marty Klein.


The woman didn’t want to share this kind of fun, which is perfectly fine. But she was somehow “offended,” which is not. In fact, the woman felt that this invitation constituted Sexual Harassment, and she complained. Even worse, this previously loyal movement member then blogged and blogged and blogged about it, urging her female readers to stay away from the organization. Now the word is out to younger progressive women—don’t go to this group’s conferences.

No. I don’t share in this kind of fun. And yes, that’s fine… but now, Dr Klein, a licensed therapist, is now telling me how I am allowed to feel about things that happen to me. Feeling offended is okay. A psychologist telling people he’s never met what they should feel about their experiences that he hasn’t even bothered to fact check is not okay.

I felt that the incident was inappropriate and violated the conference’s harassment policy, so I informed the conference organizers. Then I blogged about it. Once. (I guess twice, technically, if you count this post.)

But the point that really irritates me here is that I supposedly “[urged] female readers to stay away from the organization. Now the word is out to younger progressive women—don’t go to this group’s conferences.” Nothing could be further from the truth. I commend the way that Carl Tracy, head of Ohio Skeptics and the conference’s co-organizer, handled the situation. I said I was proud to have been a part of that community that weekend:

I want to thank Carl and Sarah Moglia for putting together a harassment policy to ensure a respectful environment and Carl for diligently enforcing it. I am proud to have taken part in an event that was so dedicated to the safety and comfort of all its attendees.

I encourage everyone, especially women and minorities, to get involved with this outstanding group. They will make sure you are comfortable. They will make sure you know your voice matters. You are an important part of their community and if anyone belittles your contribution based on your gender or appearance or ability, that other person is not welcome. If anyone got the mistaken impression that I am somehow anti-Ohio Skeptics, let me say this in super caps: I LOVE OHIO SKEPTICS. I HOPE TO ATTEND MORE OF THEIR EVENTS. YOU SHOULD, TOO.


So the leadership of said organization is scurrying around, trying to figure out what to do. “About what?” I asked.


The leadership was left scurrying around not because I am a whiny complainer, but because the couple acted inappropriately and then immediately left the premises to avoid any consequences. They left before I could respond. They left before I even looked at the card. The leadership did not immediately know how they were going to handle the situation because they felt that it needed handling. In fact, I said that I understood if they did nothing… because, really, the conference is over and the couple was gone, off to another state. But Carl felt that this was a big deal. The couple not only violated my boundaries, but they also broke conference rules, and that they did so to their keynote speaker was unacceptable and disrespectful to the entire conference and its organizers.


* Some people want a policy on Sexual Harassment


Yes, I do. And the conference had one in place.


* Some people want a zero-tolerance policy on Sexual Harassment—one COMPLAINT and you’re out


Zero-tolerance, yes. One complaint and you’re out? No. Zero tolerance means that each complaint is acted on appropriately. The event I attended did have a zero tolerance policy in place. One man suggestively heckled a speaker during her talk. Carl approached the man, and told him that was not appropriate, asked him not to do it again. Was he ejected immediately? Nope. Was his behavior tolerated? Nope. That’s what zero-tolerance is. Inappropriate behavior will not be tolerated. This is really only a problem if you are incapable of ever behaving appropriately.


* Some people want to issue a statement about the organization’s policy on Sexual Harassment


Yes. Because if you have a policy, people should be able to find it… so that they know what the damn rules are.

“Sir, you have to leave, you broke several of the conference’s rules.”

“What rules?”

“The ones we didn’t issue to everyone so you cannot know that we made them.”

“Wait, what? Why wouldn’t you tell me what the rules are?”

“Some guy on Psychology Today rolled his eyes at us issuing a statement that we had a policy so we didn’t do it. We figured he’s right. He’s a doctor and wrote books and stuff.”

“Oh, right. yeah. That makes sense. Can I whip my penis out as we leave? Or is there a rule about that?”

“I’m sorry, I cannot disclose that information to you in any kind of statement.”


* Some people want to persuade this woman to attend next year’s conference


No… I don’t need persuading. Unless you’re talking about TAM, in which case you might be talking about Rebecca, not me. I’m not attending TAM either, but that’s mostly because of cancer. And not like euphemistically calling assholes “cancers of our community”. I mean like actual cancer. And no one is trying to convince me otherwise. Because, you know, fucking cancer and shit. So I’m pretty sure you’re talking about Rebecca. And she never got a card. But whatever, details… women all sound the same when we’re complaining about nonsense, amirite?


* Some people want to persuade this woman to stop trashing the organization


Now I don’t know who you’re talking about. Because I’m not trashing any organizations. Maybe organizations like Generation Rescue or Age of Autism… but no one here is asking me to stop trashing them. And Rebecca isn’t trashing any organizations. But who needs facts? This is about silly women and their hysteria over learning that sex exists.


For someone who didn’t want one kind of attention, this woman has certainly managed to get plenty of another kind of attention.


All attention is equal. Klein is a psychiatrist psychologist, so he knows this is true for all adults. You either want no attention or all the attention, and you don’t get to choose which ones you want. Oh, you don’t like getting questioned by the cops every time you go out? Well you sure like all that attention every time you sing karaoke. It’s the same thing, you know. It’s just attention. You either like it all or you don’t. It’s true because a psychologist said so. Quit complaining that you got attention. If you blog, you deserve ALL the attention you get. Because you want it. Because you’re an attention whore.


This woman—and the more intimidated members of the organization—need a history lesson. In the Bad Old Days, people—men—with institutional power (professors, bosses, doctors) used sex as a bargaining chip. “Sleep with me and you’ll get ahead,” some of them told the women who reported to them. “Refuse me and you won’t.” It was ugly. It was How Things Are Done. You can see it in the show Mad Men.

In the 1970s, women began to sue their employers under the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Women demanded an end to the discrimination (“put out or get out”), and to the maintenance of hostile work or learning environments created by continuous sexual pressure. Nowadays, both kinds of pressure are considered unacceptable in most American institutions, and both employees and employers (and students and professors, etc.) have some sense of this.

But Sexual Harassment law was never designed to protect women from merely feeling uncomfortable. In a typical workday, men and women alike face many sources of discomfort: atheists face clerks wearing crosses; able-bodied people face colleagues in wheelchairs; Fundamentalist Muslims and Jews face professors dressed with arms and legs uncovered; the infertile face coworkers’ desks with photos of their kids, and parents are given time off for parenting events such as piano recitals.

No, the law is designed to simply create a level playing field of opportunity—not of emotional experience. It doesn’t require anyone to be a mind-reader, it doesn’t undo the normal uncertainties of social interaction, and it doesn’t require anyone’s social skills to be smooth as silk. Occasionally feeling offended is still considered part of the cost of being out in the world.


Oh, sweet sweet naive, Dr. Klein, I think it’s adorable that you think that sexual harassment ended by 1980. But I hate to tell you, it didn’t.

What’s less cute and rather disturbing is that a sex therapist wouldn’t understand that a person’s personal boundaries regarding their sexuality and discomfort with being forced into a sexually charged situation without a say is not the same as having to face the reality that some people need wheelchairs. Do boundaries not matter to your clients? Do you counsel them to do whatever they want and if their partner(s)/recipient(s) don’t like it that’s their problem? That’s terrible advice. If that’s what you’re telling people, please stop doing that. That’s how people end up raped. And I think that’s pretty awful. And probably unethical.

And you know, even if we take your argument that women are just too fragile to understand that they sometimes are going to be made to feel uncomfortable by people who have different thoughts than theirs, this isn’t about sexual harassment law. This is about event policies. And sure, you can let everyone feel incredibly uncomfortable, if that’s what you want. Or, you can create a space where people are comfortable. Event organizers generally opt for the latter because usually comfortable people are more likely to return. So if women are feeling like they’re being treated disrespectfully by event organizers or attendees (regardless of your professional recommendation that they start feeling the way that you want them to) and nothing is going to be done about it, those women are unlikely to return.

I assume you’re familiar with the libertarian principle of the free market? That’s how it works. You give people a product that they want to buy, and they buy it. You give them a product that makes them uncomfortable, and they won’t. Sometimes that product is a conference. And your customers are the attendees. If a customer is nice enough to give you feedback on how you can change your product to ensure their return, it should be considered.

Or, if you don’t want women to attend your event, then call them sniveling attention whores and they won’t come back. I guess it just depends on whether you care about putting out a shitty product that no one wants.



So what did that young woman experience? Not Sexual Harassment, but Unwanted Sexual Attention. And when the woman made it clear it was unwanted, the attention went away. That should have been the end of the story. But if the recipient of a friendly, non-pressuring, non-institutional sexual invitation isn’t grown up enough, she (or he) will feel assaulted. And with today’s heightened consciousness—and internet access—she will have the option of describing herself as victimized to a large number of people.

And yet why do we privilege unwanted attention that happens to involve sexuality? Again, we’re not talking about coercion or even pressure—we’re talking about attention, invitation, or suggestion that has no connection with real-world consequences like job evaluation. Adults are the recipients of unwanted attention every single day: stories from strangers on airplanes, awkward compliments from co-workers, grocery clerks sympathetically inquiring about the brace on your wrist or that cold medicine you’re buying, Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormon missionaries asking if they can talk with you for a just a moment about their Invisible Friend In The Sky.

Unwanted attention—whether sexual or non-sexual—is part of the cost of stepping outside your front door. With Jehovah’s Witnesses, you don’t even have to go out—you get the attention by just opening the door. When American society privileges our discomfort if the unwanted attention is sexual, that’s more about our cultural values than about any inherent hierarchy of discomfort.


See, this is where that tiny change in context at the beginning of the story changes a lot of things. Dr Klein portrays this as some poor couple inviting me to have sex with them after misreading what they thought were signals that I might be interested. And after they propositioned me, I ran straight to conference organizers and my blog and started screaming ZOMG ALMOST RAPED IN OHIO! HELP! HEEEEEEELP! RAAAAAAPPPPPPEEEEE!!!!

I was handed a sex card, while I was working, that was in no way welcome, and the couple had no reason to believe that attention was welcome. They ran off before I even looked at the card. They violated my boundaries, belittled my professionalism and offered me no way to respond to them. I was mad. And I blogged about why it was inappropriate.

I never said I was a victim. I said I was offended. Because I was. Because that’s valid. Because my sexuality is not up for grabs. Because I shouldn’t have to defend that. Because women are often dismissed based on their fuckability (which must lie in perfect balance… must not be too fuckable but must not be unfuckable). Because there was a rule in place against such attention. Because I didn’t want the attention. Because it’s the IRL equivalent of trolling, essentially declaring that they’d fap to my talk.

Maybe you think that cultural context doesn’t matter and you can pretend that surprise sex is just what polite people do to strangers if we just step outside our silly Puritanical society, and maybe it is in Klein’s world where sex isn’t a thing that should hold any emotional weight, but that’s not my world. In my world, surprise sex is a hostile gesture. And that cultural context is important. That couple approached me within that context, it’s why they didn’t stick around to see my reaction. Because they knew it wasn’t a nice thing to do.


The whole “Eek! An unwanted sexual invitation—gross! My day/week/year is ruined!” is a bit precious. The whole idea that women need to be protected from discomfort, or from men, or from sex, is a giant step backwards. Obviously, sexual violence and coercion are horrible and unacceptable realities in contemporary society. But if we need special rules to comfort or protect anyone reminded of this reality, modern life will come to a screeching halt. And it will be women who will suffer most from this “protection.” 1970s feminism was completely clear on the dangers of such traditional “protections,” and labored continuously—and successfully—to undo most of them.

The topic is particularly poignant when the people involved are progressive political activists. If we expect to go out and communicate effectively in a world that is often hostile to our ideas, we need to have the emotional skills to tolerate a wide range of responses. If we can’t even handle a friendly sexual invitation in a genuinely safe environment without losing our composure, how can we tolerate the rough-and-tumble of the world out there? Learning to say things like “that feels bad, please stop,” “I don’t like that you said that,” “You have obviously misread me completely,” and “I don’t think anyone would like what you just did” involves a fundamental skill that every grownup needs.


Back to me being silly and just not knowing how to communicate as a grown up. It’s not the couple who thinks that their physical desires come above my comfort. No, they’re normal and I’m whiny. They have no respect for my boundaries, and that’s my problem. Because I’m the one silly enough to expect that people be aware that I (and everyone, really) have sexual boundaries. And when those boundaries are violated in a sexual hit and run, I should still respond, I guess to the ether, that it wasn’t appreciated. I should respond politely, and decline their “invitation”, explaining nicely that it’s not my thing — not my thing to have sex cards thrown at me while I’m at work by people who I only know because they wanted to know the price of my merchandise — and hope they hear it as I call out into the night.

How about this: grownups learn that there is a time and a place for sexual propositions. Much like there is a time and a place to ask people if they love Jesus, and a time and a place to tell someone you’re concerned about their health. Rather than making it the responsibility of everyone who doesn’t want attention to list the kind of attention we may or may not want, why don’t we just put into place some social rules about how we approach certain topics and then live by the assumption that decent people understand those rules and that there are consequences for breaking them. So, let’s say you throw your come-fuck-us card at a stranger, you understand that the stranger very well might think you’re a giant asshole who she would not want to fuck. And if you do this within the context of an ongoing discussion within a community already fed up with it’s women leaders being sexualized, it may come up as part of the conversation. Especially if the woman you’re throwing cards at writes for one of the most prominent blogs leading the discussion.


This has NOTHING to do with the number of women who are sexually coerced, trafficked, raped, murdered, or otherwise maltreated around the globe. This is not about porn films, prostitution, clitoridectomies, or forced child-rearing.


That’s true. It also has nothing to do with Dr. Marty Klein. It has nothing to do with children starving in Africa. It has nothing to do with the economy. It has nothing to do with the fact that the earth will eventually be swallowed up by the sun. Why are we not taking a look at these bigger issues? Why are we not focusing on the Really Important Things™ as deemed important by Important People™? Why should I, as a leader in the community, have any say in how I expect to be treated? Why should I, as a member of the community, want this community to grow? Why should I expect that this community be held to a higher standard on behavior when it already holds itself to a higher standard for everything else? Why am I doing this when I should be thinking about Dear Muslima…


This is simply about the need for people to acquire and express a little bit of sexual intelligence. Congressmember Larry Craig, repulsive political creature that he is, did not deserve to suffer for (allegedly) inviting a stranger to have sex in the Minneapolis airport men’s room a few years back. Similarly, “John & Mary,” and every other polite person, deserves a simply reply when they issue an unwanted sexual (or non-sexual) invitation:

“No thank you.”


“John and Mary” are the Larry Craig of skepticism? Larry Craig was repulsive because he was a liar and a hypocrite and a coward who politely and semi-publicly tried to solicit sex.

John and Mary are just assholes and cowards who impolitely and mostly publicly attempted to shock and humiliate me in an attempt to get me to have sex with them then ran off. It’s barely comparable.


Walking away—or catching a flight—is optional, and certainly acceptable.


And that’s exactly what “John and Mary” did.

I should note that on Dr Klein’s personal blog, he added the following edit that does not appear in the Psychology Today article:

If you’re interested in sex, consider the following recurring situation. This is a composite of several actual events—similar to how I write about clinical cases.

This disclaimer was not in the original blog post yet the edit is not labeled as an edit, which is standard procedure for most bloggers, and makes it look like I was complaining about something that was always clearly labeled as “I bet you think this blog is about you, don’t you?”

The statement was added after I sent a tweet to Dr Klein stating that his version of what happened to me was incorrect and asking him where he got his facts. He has not responded to me.

I reject that this is a composite based on the description of the woman in question as “a particular woman in her mid-30s.” And I reject that this is a recurring situation. I do believe that he may have confused me and Rebecca as the same person, however I don’t believe he ever thought he was considering the experiences of several women while writing this article.

If this article is, indeed, a composite, then it’s even more distressing that he considers the complaints of all women who are being harassed at conferences to be silly, childish and irrelevant of discussion. And that all women who speak out against harassment are getting the attention they deserve.

So either Marty Klein is lazy and would rather spout off opinions without considering any facts, or he’s researched this intensely and based on all of our collective complaints, he has deliberately decided that we’re all stupid and socially inept.

Also, I believe that “this is a composite” is the new psych blogger version of “what? it was just a joke!”

Shitty doctor meme courtesy of Rebecca Watson.

6/18/12 12:35EDT ETA: Dr Klein has edited his Psychology Today article to state:

If you’re interested in sexuality, consider the following scenario. It’s a COMPOSITE of various situations that recur at conferences and other large gatherings. It’s particularly important that people interested in progressive politics and gender relations work this out. Again, this is a COMPOSITE–the way therapists write about cases, changing some details and adding others.

Again,  with no note that it’s an edit (you know, like the one I provided at the beginning of this edit), and essentially admitting that he is setting up a strawman to attack women who are complaining about harassment… I suppose if you write “COMPOSITE” in super caps, you don’t have to be held accountable for your actions. And if you leave the edit disclaimer out, you can make complaints about you look like they’re coming from uptight, self-absorbed women looking for things to complain about.

6/18/12 3:40pmEDT ETA: Dr Klein has added another stealth edit to his COMPOSITE: (emphasis mine)

Apparently a couple at last year’s conference had approached a particular woman in her mid-30s. Eventually “Mary & John” handed the woman their card—suggesting quite clearly that they were “open” to “adult activities.”


Apparently a couple at last year’s conference had gotten friendly with a particular woman in her mid-30s. Eventually “Mary & John” handed the woman their card—suggesting quite clearly that they were “open” to “adult activities.”

If this is indeed a COMPOSITE, I don’t understand why a change in details was necessary. Dr Klein, are you talking about me or not? Is “composite” cover for “sloppy journalism” and “trying to get attention for covering a topic I’m ignorant of” or are there several cases that are actually similar enough to my experience that readers shouldn’t assume it’s me? Because right now, it still looks like you took my story, and twisted the details because you didn’t care enough to find sources beyond petty gossip (if I’m being generous)… and now you’re changing details in an attempt to CYA.

6/18/12 4:31EDT ETA:

SteveD over at Mad Art Lab compared the current Psychology Today post and the original from earlier this morning, and it seems that Dr Klein has made a number of edits to his post, despite the fact that there was not reason to edit them all because it was a COMPOSITE of several cases and not about me…. but still he changed them to better fit my story. Despite this not being about me. Here is Steve’s email, in it’s entirety, outlining the changes… with the exception of one — that Klein also change “blogged and blogged and blogged” to “blogged”. Because I, and the fictional composite character, only blogged about it once:

Looks like Marty Klein made quite a few edits to his article.

Here’s the cached, pre-edit article:

Google says the cached article is a snapshot from Jun 18, 2012
05:37:04 GMT.

Here’s the pair of articles, run through a diff app. Key differences:
– first couple of paragraphs
– the mysterious disappearance of “gotten friendly”
– the anonymization of Larry Craig
– Elyse – sorry, this COMPOSITE woman – is no longer “catching a

1  If you’re interested in sexuality, consider the following
scenario. It’s a COMPOSITE of various situations that recur at
conferences and other large gatherings. It’s particularly important
that people interested in progressive politics and gender relations
work this out. Again, this is a COMPOSITE–the way therapists write
about cases, changing some details and adding others.
3     I recently attended the national conference of a large
progressive organization. It was well-organized, stimulating, and fun.
The people were mostly energetic, interesting, and friendly; it was a
good mix of ages, sexual orientations, and divided almost 50/50 male-
3  A while back I attended the national conference of a large
progressive organization. It was well-organized, stimulating, and fun.
The people were mostly energetic, interesting, and friendly; it was a
good mix of ages, sexual orientations, and divided almost 50/50 male-
5     I was eventually asked, as a sex therapist, what I thought about
Sexual Harassment. Apparently a couple at last year’s conference had
gotten friendly with a particular woman in her mid-30s. Eventually
“Mary & John” handed the woman their card—suggesting quite clearly
that they were “open” to “adult activities.”
5  I was eventually asked, as a sex therapist, what I thought about
Sexual Harassment. Apparently a couple at last year’s conference had
approached a particular woman in her mid-30s. Eventually “Mary & John”
handed the woman their card—suggesting quite clearly that they were
“open” to “adult activities.”
7     The woman didn’t want to share this kind of fun, which is
perfectly fine. But she was somehow “offended,” which is not. In fact,
the woman felt that this invitation constituted Sexual Harassment, and
she complained. Even worse, this previously loyal movement member then
blogged and blogged and blogged about it, urging her female readers to
stay away from the organization. Now the word is out to younger
progressive women—don’t go to this group’s conferences.
7  The woman didn’t want to share this kind of fun, which of course
is perfectly fine. But she was somehow “offended,” which is
unfortunate. In fact, the woman felt that this invitation constituted
Sexual Harassment, and she complained. Dissatisfied and emotionally
distressed, this previously loyal movement member blogged about it,
urging her female readers to stay away from the organization. Now the
word is out to younger progressive women—don’t go to this group’s
28    So what did that young woman experience? Not Sexual Harassment,
but Unwanted Sexual Attention. And when the woman made it clear it was
unwanted, the attention went away. That should have been the end of
the story. But if the recipient of a friendly, non-pressuring, non-
institutional sexual invitation isn’t grown up enough, she (or he)
will feel assaulted. And with today’s heightened consciousness—and
internet access—she will have the option of describing herself as
victimized to a large number of people.
28 So what did that young woman experience? Not Sexual Harassment,
but Unwanted Sexual Attention. And when the woman made it clear it was
unwanted, the attention went away. That should have been the end of
the story. But if the recipient of a friendly, non-pressuring, non-
institutional (and OK, let’s say clumsy or even stupid) sexual
invitation isn’t grown up enough, she (or he) will feel assaulted. And
with today’s heightened consciousness—and internet access—she will
have the option of describing herself as victimized to a large number
of people.
38    This has NOTHING to do with the number of women who are sexually
coerced, trafficked, raped, murdered, or otherwise maltreated around
the globe. This is not about porn films, prostitution,
clitoridectomies, or forced child-rearing.
38 This has NOTHING to do with the number of women who are sexually
coerced, trafficked, raped, murdered, or otherwise maltreated around
the globe. This is not about porn films, prostitution,
clitoridectomies, or forced child-rearing. Bringing these very real
issues into this discussion just obscures what we’re talking about:
dealing with being uncomfortable, dealing with people who may be
clueless–but harmless.
40    This is simply about the need for people to acquire and express
a little bit of sexual intelligence. Congressmember Larry Craig,
repulsive political creature that he is, did not deserve to suffer for
(allegedly) inviting a stranger to have sex in the Minneapolis airport
men’s room a few years back. Similarly, “John & Mary,” and every other
polite person, deserves a simply reply when they issue an unwanted
sexual (or non-sexual) invitation:
40 This is simply about the need for people to acquire and express
a little bit of sexual intelligence. Gay men who are arrested and
prosecuted for inviting undercover cops to have casual, anonymous sex
don’t deserve to suffer. Similarly, “John & Mary,” and every other non-
dangerous person, deserves a simple reply when they issue an unwanted
sexual (or non-sexual) invitation:
44    Walking away—or catching a flight—is optional, and certainly
44 Walking away is optional, and certainly acceptable.


Elyse MoFo Anders is the bad ass behind forming the Women Thinking, inc and the superhero who launched the Hug Me! I'm Vaccinated campaign as well as podcaster emeritus, writer, slacktivist extraordinaire, cancer survivor and sometimes runs marathons for charity. You probably think she's awesome so you follow her on twitter.

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  1. There’s one other thing that I think is an important detail in this story that he left out. The photograph of the couple in a naked embrace on the card. In all the arguments over whether this constituted harassment, a lot of people seem to have left that out of the discussion. It is illegal to open your coat and expose your naked body to someone. But it doesn’t even merit a complaint when you surreptitiously hand them a card with a photo of you and another person naked in a erotic embrace? Seems to me that photo made it harassment in the least, and possibly a crime. Had they simply exposed themselves and ran off they could face jail time and a permanent ban on living within 1,000 feet of a school, but since it was a photo, they should just be embraced for their alternative lifestyle and not accused of harassment?

  2. I’ve been called a troll before here, so if that’s how you’ll see my questions, so be it, but a few things I’d like to get some clarifications on.

    – is getting approached and asked if sexual activity is on the table harassment

    if so, what needs to change for it not to be harassment?

    – is it possible for one scenario to be offensive to one person, not offensive to someone else

    if so, how would one know beforehand if someone is ok with you creating that scenario?

    – about one of the posters someone, perhaps you, made and added to this article, the “it’s not sexual harassment, it’s unwanted sexual attention”

    are those two things the same, or is he supposed to be saying that when a couple hands another person a card with an offer about sexual activity and then leaves, is unwanted sexual attention, when it is in fact sexual harassment?

    because personally, handing someone a card with such an offer and then leaving (guessing some way to contact them was on the card, or was there another reason for them leaving right away before you had a chance to respond?), seems to me the most passive way to get the inquiry across.

    with hopes of a response

    1. Yes, it’s harassment. Especially when it’s delivered in a way that is most probably going to make that person uncomfortable and delivered in a place where the propositioner knows that the recipient cannot realistically respond to the request on their own terms… like when they’re working in a public space, officially representing a number of organizations.

      Why is it so hard for someone to wait until they’ve gauged the other person’s interest before asking them for sex?

      Yes, its obviously not offensive to everyone. Because you seem to think it’s totally polite. So… I don’t really know what you’re asking? Are you asking if I understand that my feelings aren’t universal? I think I realize that… because if they were, people wouldn’t be handing me fuck cards while I’m at work.

      Is it possible that not everyone is going to be offended my you making Chinky Chinaman jokes as you order Chinese food? How do you know beoforehand if the company you’re with is going to find your joke hilarious? By talking to them? Maybe? It’s novel… but it might work.

      Dr. Klein is saying that I didn’t want the card, and that the couple was politely asking me to join them later. Because he is twisting the story so he can shame me. What he is saying is irrelevant and wrong.

      1. I’ve been trying to imagine a scenario where person A could talk to person B to gauge person B’s amenability to “swinging” without making comments that themselves would constitute inappropriate sexual harassment or inappropriate sexual attention.

        It seems to me that to determine if person B is interested in swinging, one must at bottom ask how they feel about swinging. And, I fail to see how handing a card is more intrusive than that.

        One operative fact here cited by many people and yourself was that you were “at work” when this happened. If that is one of the big problems, then it stands to reason that there is no way for them to have broached the subject without it being harassment. They would have had to find a way to get you in a non-work environment first. And, if they asked you to meet them in the hotel bar, wouldn’t that, to some folks, be itself unwanted sexual attention?

        1. Wow.

          There is this novel, amazing idea called GETTING TO KNOW PEOPLE before talking about sex stuff.

          OR, how about, I don’t know, going to places where swingers hang out? There are events and meetups and online communities for this kind of stuff. There are even Fetish Balls! I know, I’ve been to one!

          Or fuck, just go to OkCupid. Bam! Swingers everywhere.

          It is SERIOUSLY not hard to be a nice person. I have lived my entire adult life getting lots and lots of sex without being inappropriate to anyone.

          If you are unable to see why this is highly inappropriate, quite frankly I can’t help you.

          And something tells me you’re just trollin’ trollin’ trollin’.

          We answered all of these questions the last time around. Please go back and read the comments. STOP DERAILING!

        2. Or you can also accept that sometimes you just don’t get an opportunity to proposition everyone you’d like to stick things in.

          I think, magnet, your best strategy is just not to talk to adults until you learn more about how we typically interact.

        3. It’s called “paying attention” and “not jumping the gun.”

          That is, you don’t just walk up to someone whom you don’t have any connection with, in a situation in which sex is the furthest thing from anyone’s mind, and ask, “Would you be interested in sex with me and mine?”

          Instead, you need to gently swing the situation around to one where sex might be a valid topic of conversation. That means you need to leave the work environment. Sexual solicitations are social requests, not business ones. You’ll have to put out a generic social invitation first, “Would you like to go somewhere for a drink/cup of coffee?”

          And even then, you need to tread carefully. That social invitation is still connected to work and thus the other person may think that you’re trying to get more information about the work subject. It’s only after you have manage to sever all ties to work that you might bring up other, social subjects and only after it has been established that your interlocutor is comfortable with discussing relationships and their personal lives do you even begin to test the waters about their interest.

          That means you can’t do it in half a second by handing someone a card. You’re not paying attention to the situation in which you find yourself and you’re jumping the gun.

          In some sense, you’re absolutely right: There is no way for them to have broached the subject. If they had no way to get their intended away from the scenario of work, then they are going to have to, as the Man in Black would warn, “get used to disappointment.”

          Just because you would like to have sex with someone doesn’t mean you get to ask for it. I am truly wondering whence cometh this sense of entitlement that people think they can just demand things of people without any concern for the person they are engaging.

        4. I think asking someone out for a drink in and of itself is harmless. If the request is denied and you continue to pursue it, then it becomes harassment.

          1. Even then, context is key. Would you, as a cashier at Safeway (grocery), ask out your boss? Would you ask your kid’s teacher out at a P/T meeting? Would you ask the judge out that is handing out your DUI conviction?

            It’s not always appropriate to ask someone out. That said, I think most people are more than capable of determining what is and isn’t appropriate when it comes to asking people out.

        5. No. One can assume that you won’t know for sure before you ask BUT (and I’ve heard this argument many time) you can’t go and ask anybody about sexual attention. Places like streets and work are inappropriate because you have to assume that the persons are there to 1. mind their own business 2. live their life (which implies going out and seeing other persons).

          So, where do you go and ask these people ? In places that are designed for social interactions and meetings, such as a bar or a concert.
          And do you straight-forward ask for sex ? It depends, but ask it on a light tone, make sure the other can say yes/no/maybe freely and back off immediately in case of a ‘no’.

          In short : not in public places that are designed not designed specifically for meeting and flirting. Certainly not a work.

        6. I don’t know if you have an actual job but the defenition of harassment sexual harassment is anything that makes someone else uncomfortable. Volunteers etc may not have exactly the same rights everywhere but if it’s a conference it’s assumed there’s to be some level of professionalism.

          What you don’t seem to get is that if you hand a sex card to a stranger, you’re assuming they’re so open to sex with strangers that they’re not going to be offended. That’s a pretty arrogant and childish assumption. Some people really need to grow up.

      2. Good post, Elycca. I salute you and Rebyse for addressing this issue. Real progress is being made towards making the conference experience more positive for all women, and their composites.

        If I ignore all the gross distortions of fact and disingenuous ass-covering, I’m left with one or two sentences where Klein is actually attempting to make a point. He may be defining true sexual harassment as something necessarily involving at least one of the following:

        Force, threat, exploitation of a power imbalance, or repetition of unwanted behavior after being told to stop.

        Okay, fair enough. By that definition Elyse wasn’t harassed. But then Klein concludes that if it wasn’t harassment, then it must be mere unwanted sexual attention. FALSE DICHOTOMY, DR. KLEIN. If you want to define harassment as above, and I actually think this might be a good definition, then you’re forced to add a third category – INAPPROPRIATE sexual attention. I’ll toss it out for debate, but I find this third category useful. Elyse quite obviously received inappropriate sexual attention, not mere unwanted sexual attention. It’s no longer defined as harassment, the highest level of deliberate nastiness short of rape, but it’s DEFINITELY NOT OKAY.


        If you encounter Sexual Harassment – Yell. Call the police. Get a restraining order. Notify your boss in writing. Kick testicles as needed.

        If you encounter Unwanted Sexual Attention – Oh, grow up. Quit whining. Politely say no thanks.

        If you encounter Inappropriate Sexual Attention – Do exactly what Elyse did.

        If you encounter Dr. Klein – Facepalm.

    2. Approaching a complete stranger and saying you want to have sex with them – and nothing else, in a professional setting, whether through a card or not, is inappropriate. That may be cultural, but that is the culture we live in and should be readily apparent to anyone.

      Also, there was a naked picture of the couple on the card. Naked picture. Definitely not cool.

    3. Did we not go through this last time? How many times do we have to answer the same questions?

      1. Yeah, if this is a clueless person who is just going to keep asking the same questions and forcing people to waste their time explaining basic comments to them, I’m going to ban them.

        1. I don’t see them getting a clue any time soon. I wonder if this is a sock puppet account. It sounds all too familiar.

    4. Your hypothetical questions are irrelevant because the very first one posits a situation at variance with the facts. Don’t expect anyone to discuss or answer the remainder of your questions, since they are all merely an attempt to derail.

    5. CONTEXT. Goodness, is this really so difficult? Everything depends on context.

      Not sure if your joke about X is going to be well-received?
      Consider the context. Where are you? Who is your audience? What is their background? Is the joke at their expense?

      Not sure if you should proposition a woman?
      Consider the context. Where are you? Have you said more than “hello” to her? Have you made an attempt to gauge her interest in you? Have you tried to flirt or otherwise test the waters? Is she in a position where she may feel cornered or pressured?

      All of your repeated questions can be summed up with CONTEXT, CONTEXT, CONTEXT. Pay attention to it. Show a little empathy. It really doesn’t require a lot of effort and if you’re not sure or feel doubtful? ASK the person. “Hey, how do you feel about X?” “Would you be alright with Y?” “Can I Z?”

      Most people pay attention to context in literally every other situation, but for some reason think it doens’t apply to sex. You pay attention to context when telling dirty jokes – are there children present? You pay attention to context when deciding whether or not a certain topic of conversation is appropriate. Is it okay to discuss religion/politics at work?

      Monday, brought to you by the letter CONTEXT.

      1. “CONTEXT. Goodness, is this really so difficult?”

        I realize I’m way late in joining the conversation, but I’d still like to make an observation.

        In my (anecdotal) experience, asshats are big into “context denialism”. They’re frequently language lawyers who want to pin you down on some letter-of-the-law technicality. They‘ll agree to any rule you want to lay down, as long as it’s applied blindly. Then, they find as many corner cases as they can.

        The goal appears to be either pointing these corner-cases out to get the opponent to admit that the rules are unrealistic, or finding a loophole that lets them walk as close to the line as possible, and then whining when called out on their behavior.

        1. “Language lawyers” – I like this term.

          I guess I just don’t know why it’s so hard to answer any of those tiresome questions with “examine the context – if you don’t know, ask the person in question about their feels” approach.

          Not sure if the person you’re talking to would appreciate a dirty joke?

          – Examine context. Are you standing in the middle of a playground? Are you in a bar?

          – Ask the person about their feels. “Are you comfortable hearing dirty jokes?”

          BOOM. Problem solved.

          I feel like I need to take to my design skillz soon and make a flow chart for this shit.

  3. What would be the point of writing an essay about “a composite of several actual events”? He’s pinning an argument on something he says didn’t really happen that way? That is, fabricating a straw man in order to attack it?
    No, it does not make him look any better for him to justify his misreading of the original event by claiming that he made up the whole event out of separate incidences.
    I’m sorry the original incident happened, Elyse, and even more sorry that Marty Klein thinks you don’t even get to say it bothered you.

    1. The point is that he wants to gossip without taking responsibility of his words. That’s all this amounts to: shitty gossip.

  4. He is an actual Psychologist? With a real degree? Man, they are handing those out to just anyone these days, aren’t they?

    Also… it’s not you being an attention whore, but a certain “doctor” sure is. Gross.

    1. He’s an egotistical gasbag and a probable liar.

      I don’t mind insults directed toward people who are acting like fools, but let’s stay away from slur territory with the whole “whore” nonsense. Just because they often go there, doesn’t mean we have to.

      1. Errrr, did you read Elyse’s post?

        My use of “attention whore” was directly connected to HER use.

        See, this guy talked a lot about Elyse just wanting attention. She used the term “attention whore” because the snide insult is often implied when certain men (and women, for that matter) talk about women wanting/getting attention.

        Thus, the irony, considering he’s really just trolling for attention (screaming “COMPOSITE!”). You don’t have to be comfortable with my use of it, but while I was indeed insulting him, I was utilizing irony to point out his really stupid hypocrisy.

        1. I didn’t have a problem with Elyse’s usage, because it was essentially a statement of fact as to what she (and others) have been called.

          Your use, and I think Buzz’s way down in the thread somewhere, were actually re-applying it to someone else. That’s different.

          1. LOL what. I was not re-applying it. I wasn’t calling him an attention whore. Not really. I was saying that it’s ironic that he is implying that Elyse is an attention whore, because it’s quite clear *HE* is the one making shit up for the sole purpose of getting attention (and page hits).

            I was turning her application of the word on its head by utilizing irony.

          2. Just to set the context, when I wrote the comment pointing out his hypocrisy, DataJack’s 1st brief comment was the ONLY one. So I’m claiming prior art over Marilove. (BTW, when I clicked submit, about 15 more comments jumped in front of me. That’ll teach me to spend time checking facts, grammar and spelling before hitting submit.)

  5. If this is a “recurring situation” or a “composite of several actual events”, then it’s a much more serious problem. Either there are an unusual number of people handing out sex cards at conferences, or there’s one couple that is bordering on pathological in their need to hand out sex cards with naked pictures of themselves. They’re bordering on predation and need treatment. More likely, Klein is a liar.

  6. Oh my fucking god.

    Psychology Today has a couple good bloggers, but that doesn’t make up for the sheer amount of crap there (recalling, of course, that they hosted Satoshi Kanazawa). At least part of what’s disturbing about that is how many of them hold advanced degrees and are ‘professionals’ in their field.

    I cannot believe this dude is a clinician.

  7. The quote that really shows where this “doctor” has his head is The woman didn’t want to share this kind of fun, which is perfectly fine. But she was somehow “offended,” which is not.


    What kind of doctor, hell what kind of human says that you are not allowed to feel offended?

    I have been of the opinion that PT has long been a cesspool of justification backed up by half-asses evo-phych for some time but Mr. Klein (that’s right, fuck you Marty!) didn’t even bother to back his steaming pile with a whiff of anything that approached fact, even bullshit fact.

    I don’t believe that Mr. Klein should be allowed to be offended by anything that I have said here, he has lost the right. See Marty? Hurts doesn’t it?

  8. According to Dr. Marty Klein at Psychology Today, I am what’s wrong with women these days.

    Ah yes, and Mr. Klein is what’s wrong with <Psychology Today, in more than one way.

  9. @mrmisconception

    Check out Gad Saad. Same deal.

    I like “Between the Lines” and “The Skeptical Sleuth”, but otherwise I think most of them are more misleading than useful interfaces between scientists and the public.

      1. I think at a certain point, if the majority of your content is a complete waste of time, then the entire thing is a waste of time. After a while, the bad stuff completely buries the good stuff and it’s no longer worth it.

  10. The part he glosses over which I found interesting:

    “Unwanted attention—whether sexual or non-sexual—is part of the cost of stepping outside your front door. .. When American society privileges our discomfort if the unwanted attention is sexual, that’s more about our cultural values than about any inherent hierarchy of discomfort.”

    Does it not occur to him that if women were not objectified all the time in our society then harassment when we leave our houses WOULDN’T be the default? If women are harassed more often than men in public, I feel like we have a right to continue to be upset about it as a symbol of the unfairness in our society. Yeah, maybe one case isn’t a ‘big deal’ but when it happens all the time, let’s pay attention to it and see if we can fix it.

    We should never have to deny feeling uncomfortable and/or offended when being propositioned when we don’t want to be.

  11. – is getting approached and asked if sexual activity is on the table harassment

    if so, what needs to change for it not to be harassment?

    – is it possible for one scenario to be offensive to one person, not offensive to someone else

    if so, how would one know beforehand if someone is ok with you creating that scenario?

    Same answer to both questions. Approach this person as a human first and gauge their interest in you. Gauging their interest is not trivial, but you have a responsibility to treat others with dignity.

    Do not approach a stranger and open with “wanna fuck?”; this should be obvious. What this couple is essentially no different.

    1. And you know, there is a time and place for everything! If you cannot understand that when someone is WORKING, and doing their JOB, that is *not* the time nor the place to ask, “Wanna fuck?”, especially without any other kind of communication.

      Elyse wasn’t at a swingers club! SHE WAS AT WORK!


      1. Let me finish my thought: “If you cannot understand…” — You’re either a complete idiot, or you’re trying to pretend you don’t understand just because you like to argue. Either way, just stop it!

    2. Well one would have thought it was obvious, but then I thought that not asking someone for sex in a lift a 4am was obvious as well, and I was wrong about that. It seems totally unobvious to too many people.

  12. I had trouble picking out the line in his article I found most disturbing, which is why I made several versions of the meme, but I think it’s this one:

    Learning to say things like “that feels bad, please stop,” . . . involves a fundamental skill that every grownup needs.

    I think I find it so disturbing because he’s outright saying that sexual assault – not harassment, but actual assault that is physical instead of verbal – happens because women aren’t “grown-up” enough to simply say “stop,” and not “STOP!” but “please stop.” Men would stop grabbing us, stop raping us, if only we nicely ask them to not do it.

    I find it absolutely infuriating. Psychology Today should be embarrassed to host Marty Klein’s misogynist bullshit.

    1. And I’ll just mention that it’s possible he meant something like “your words make me feel bad” but that doesn’t jibe with what he actually wrote, which would go something like this:

      “Hey, do you want to fuck my wife and me?”

      “That feels bad, please stop.”


      1. STOP!
        DON’T DO THAT!
        INSIDE OF ME!

        Then run and tell a grown up.

          1. Well actually from what I gather since most women would react that way. You should run and tell a man because clearly they are the only grown ups to be found.

          2. No edit button so posting again. I find it absolutely infuriating that he pretty much is calling you and any woman who would react similarly (so pretty much every woman) a child.

    2. When I was raped (although I had people tell me it’s not real rape when they put a finger up your anus without consent, the law here disagrees, but whatever) on the underground in London I couldn’t speak. I was paralyzed out of fear and shock. I went into the “zone” I created when I first was sexually assaulted as a child. The whole time I was unable to do or say anything. I just had so many thoughts run through my heads, so much hate and disgust for myself.

      For this man to tell me it’s my fault because I am not grown up enough to say Stop…

      Sorry, this stuff is just so triggering. :(

  13. Context is so important.

    Being handed a condom with a phone number on it by a woman you have been talking to for a couple of hours at the bar? OK

    Being handed the same thing by your child’s teacher at the PTO bake sale? Not so much.

    The world is not a vacuum, I have to wonder if Mr. Klein would feel offended or uncomfortable if someone were to hand him a card after he gave a speech and he later saw that it had a swastika on it? We are made uncomfortable every day right? Somehow I doubt he would think it was no big deal.

    1. Exactly. What’s happened here (the swinger card) and what some people want to defend, because it supports their desire, is to be able to skip context, to ‘jump to the head of the line’ re: sexuality. They have more relaxed views of social norms and sexuality and they want others to allow them to act on those views without complaining.

      So instead of ‘wasting time’ discerning if someone might share their views and therefore might be open to sexual advances, they want to skip right to the advances and blame the recipient if they’re too, in their view, prudish.

      Well, tough. That’s not the world they currently live in. The end.

    2. You’ve illustrated precisely how subjective this issue is. YOU may think it’s o.k. to be handed a condom and a phone number after speaking to a person for a couple of hours, but there are many people who do not think that is o.k. And, you may also think it inappropriate for that same condom to be handed within the first 10 minutes. However, the gamut of opinions on those two extremes and every factual scenario in between is very wide.

      People are always going to do stuff other people are bothered by. Like when you’re in a tourist town, and all the street vendors approach you trying to get you to go to their t-shirt store with unsolicited invitations — people offering things is just pretty much allowed. As long as they don’t block your path or continue to bother you after you say no, then it’s not really a big deal.

      1. I never knew people handed out condoms with phone numbers. That’s … new.

        I think it’d depend on context and place, that one. I’m not sure I’d like it. I don’t think it’d be HIGHLY inappropriate in a bar setting, but I would think it a bit weird and forward.

        Maybe if we had been chatting for a while and there was some serious sexual tension going on. I could see it then. But not just out of the blue. That’d be weird.


        Are you ignoring the fact that Eleyse was at work, on purpose, or something?

      2. I didn’t say you couldn’t be offended by the first scenario, after all I don’t have a PhD in psychology, just that it would be contextually appropriate.

        @marilove – I meant written on the condom package and I have heard of it.

        1. Man, I’m getting old. I can see that working in a college setting really well. It’s clever and could be kind of cute in some situations, like if I was 23 and at a college party. But maybe not so much now at 30, and at the local pub. LOL

          1. Well, from what I’ve heard it is a device used by women in an open invitation with the safe sex built in.

            I actually see it as a clever idea, after all he can’t say he doesn’t have protection, but I can see how it could become an issue if the sceario went south.

            You’re honor, I submit exhibit A. She wanted it.

            Not pretty.

          2. Ahh, I was envisioning mostly men doing that. I could see it being cute if a woman did that. But like you said… What if she changed her mind? Yikes.

  14. My comment over there:

    I am shocked and disgusted that Psychology Today would even publish such an article. If nothing else it’s poor journalism on the part of the magazine, as the full account of what transpired is here: and there was clearly no fact checking before Dr. Klein misrepresented it however he wished. He then proceeds to victim blame and gas-light women who are asking for basic respect in public forums.

    APA has clear ethics codes about discrimination and equality based on gender, race, sexual orientation, etc. Either Dr. Klein is not a member, has no tolerance for issues of social justice, or has no regard for the terms of the membership whose benefits he enjoys.

    It’s another article shaming, victim-blaming, and bullying women into silence and to allow the status quo and rape culture.

    The conference clearly had a zero-tolerance policy, the invitation was unsolicited and by strangers, and done in a microaggressive fashion of hit-and-run – dropping off the card and leaving.

    I am a clinical psychologist, and have long acknowledged that Psychology Today does nothing but promote pseudoscientific pop psycho-babble and now, I recognize that it hurts the profession.

    1. Exactly, this is what he completely missed. There was a policy, he clearly wasn’t even aware of it. Yet more proof that conferences need clear and unambiqous guidlines that every attend is made aware of before the conference. Some people are just not going to get it without it.

      1. Well, as we’ve learned, it’s really easy to miss important facts when you don’t even bother doing any fact checking.

  15. Wow! He wrote so many words without doing any actual research? That blows away my first hypothesis: He is a lazy slob who got all his “facts”* from some lying, idiotic MRA activist’s blog and didn’t bother looking up any of the original posts. The shear length and number of made-up facts in his post belies that. But if it is true, it begs the question of how much actual research he did in any of his published papers or how much he bases the therapy he provides to his patients on research versus something he read on a blog somewhere. (I’m assuming he is either a clinical or research psychologist. If he’s just some guy Psychology Today hired off the street, they need to look at their employment policies and their subscribers need to look at their magazine subscription policies.)

    My second hypothesis is that Dr Klein is just an idiot, incapable of understanding your situation, or that there are multiple writers at Skepchick, multiple conferences, multiple situations and many other people such as Stephanie Zvan, Jen McCreight, Greta Christina and more who have posted blogs about these situations (and made up the “composite” bit later when someone pointed this out to him.) This calls into question what ever university granted him a degree and PT for hiring him.

    The third hypothesis is that he is a lying sack of shit who makes up whatever crap he wants to push whatever agenda he has. Based on the principle that these people always engage in projection, his agenda is probably that he is an attention whore. After all, he is a blogger, and according to him, that is the motivation of all bloggers.

    (I was informed of the Psychology Today article a couple of days ago, but wasn’t aware of how bad it was. I figured it was just the typical dismissive, get over it blather. I didn’t know he had made up his own set of facts to suit his argument or that he had conflated so many different people and events.)

    PS. Looking over some of his blog posts, I think the lazy slob hypothesis holds. I think he didn’t actually read Elyse’s original post, just some summary of it someplace else.

    [*] Is there an HTML code for scare quotes?

  16. I wonder if he would have responded the same way if it had been a man instead of Elyse. Would he still call them “precious” and suggest that they were just overreacting and that the context has no bearing on the situation?

    1. Good question.

      I think that if a man were approached by a couple at a conference and handed a swinger’s card, and then went to report it as an incident of harassment, that man would not be taken seriously at all. I think the general reaction would be, “so? What’s the big deal?”

      I was once approached by a man in an overt come-on. I’m not attracted to men sexually, and he had no reason to think I did, but I think I would be overreacting if being hit on by a guy (who went away after I said, “I’m sorry, but I’m not interested”) caused me to report the guy to the authorities at a conference.

      1. Several commenters on the original post, and now on this (man, they came QUICK) probably believe that we’re prudes, Elyse, because we are not okay with the way this couple behaved. It’s been implied (and even said) more than once, particularly by this “psychiatrist”.

        I’d be appalled and offended, too. But you know what? I”m not a prude, and I’d really like it people would stop making assumptions about my sex life just because I have boundaries outside of the bedroom.

        I have many friends in the kink world. Hell, I went to the fetish ball last year! I also have many poly friends. I’ve been in open relationships. I used to sleep with my best friends who are now in a poly triad, and we’re still the best of buds. I am REALLY comfortable with sexuality, identify as bisexual, and am seriously far from a prude. Sex is awesome and I have lots of it.

        BUT I ALSO HAVE BOUNDARIES! Many (most) people do. And our boundaries are not always going to be the same.

        I don’t like being propositioned by strangers; most of my fun involves close friends. This is because it’s safer, and just makes for less drama.

        I’ve been propositioned at work before, by strangers. It sucks. It’s uncomfortable. It’s usually not appropriate, unless there is some sort of appropriate context to go on. And quite frankly, if you’re unsure, just keep your mouth shut and stop whining about it. There are other ways to meet people. Grow up.

        The worst kind of person is the kind of person who assumes everyone has the same boundaries. Or should have the same boundaries. We call these people assholes.

      2. That attitude is part of the problem. The incident was harassment, plain and simple. It should not be dismissed simply because you might feel like it’s no biggie. Saying, “So? What’s the big deal?” belittles the person who was harassed.

  17. I sent an email to the CEO in complaint. I’m sure it won’t do a damn thing, but it made me feel a little better.

    Seriously, PhD in sexual intelligence? That’s fucked up.

    1. What is the email? I couldn’t find any kind of editorial board when I searched the website to complain.

    2. I find it unsettling that some of his customers/patients might be in a boundary violating / abusive relationship: According to his bio he works on

      > issues of anger, guilt, shame,
      > and power, as well as orgasm,
      > erection, fantasies, desire, S-&-M,
      > pornography, and sexual orientation.

      1. The doctor himself aside, what about this makes you think that it’s abusive? Consent is at the heart of most BDSM practices.

        1. You’re 100% correct of course, but I think they probably made the connection because he’s a psychiatrist/sex therapist, and therapists often deal with that sort of stuff. You don’t usually see a therapist because things are going *well* in your life.

          So it is probably true that if he is actually a psychiatrist and he does indeed deal with this sort of stuff, he has at least one client that has been abused, or is seeing him because of some sort of abuse. Or whatever.

          Honestly though I think the commenter you are replying to was just picking up on the creepy factor about a sex therapist who clearly has issues with boundaries.

          1. Yeah, there’s a big problem with a sex therapist who specializes in BDSM relationships and doesn’t feel that boundaries are important or that people violating those boundaries are only doing so because the recipient of “unwanted sexual attention” hasn’t asked politely enough to make it stop.

          2. This also makes me wonder how sincere he’s being. I imagine if he was this bad at understanding boundaries, he’d be a pretty big failure as a sex therapist that specializes in BDSDM. This *also* makes me wonder how many clients he actually gets/how successful he is.

            I mentioned that this seemed very gossipy, below. And it does. It’s almost like he’s just saying shit to be heard, and hasn’t really thought much of this through. Clearly he did no research.

            He wanted a controversial, hot topic to discuss. What other reason does some random psychiatrist no one had ever heard of before for writing about this?

            Which is ironic, considering he’s calling other people attention whores.

            And it still doesn’t make this guy a good person OR a great psychiatrist.

          3. And it still doesn’t make this guy a good person OR a great psychiatrist.

            @marilove – Not to pick nits, but I’m going to. :P

            This dude is a sex therapist and psychotherapist with a PhD in psychology. Let’s not give him a doctorate he didn’t earn. Just a small peeve of mine. :)

          4. Thanks. :) I’ll just call him Dr. Nitwit from now on to make it easier!

        2. I know that

          > Consent is at the heart of most
          > BDSM practices

          and I didn’t call it abusive. People in a happy and fulfilling relationship probably wouldn’t come for counselling. I’m thinking of people in a problematic relationship that are looking for help because there is a problem with respect of boundaries or outright abuse (though they may not be aware of it), regardless of their kind of sexuality. In this case I don’t trust this doctor’s personal concept of boundary and fear that he may make things worse for at least one of his clients.

          This goes for all kinds of relationships and while there is much emphasis on consent and boundaries in BDSM (to come back to your point) I would be surprised if there would only be happy and fulfilling BDSM relationships. And I suspect that bad advice can be more dangerous in this case just because it can get close to whatever the limits in an normal BDSM relationship are.

      2. He gives me the heebee-jeebees. He does not seem to understand boundaries. The fact that he’s a sex therapist or whatever just … ugh. No. I can’t. LALALALALALALA.

  18. I don’t even… what?!

    Him: “This has NOTHING to do with the number of women who are sexually coerced, trafficked, raped, murdered, or otherwise maltreated around the globe. ”

    You: “Why am I doing this when I should be thinking about Dear Muslima…”

    I’m glad you made that connection, too, Elyse. Isn’t it amazing how these clueless guys think alike?

  19. I’m seldom propositioned, so when it happens, I’m usually flattered. However, during the sole occasion that I have been propositioned at work — apropos of nothing, with no titillating conversation that could have been interpreted as flirtation — I wasn’t flattered, I promise.

    Whatever credentials Dr. Klein might possess, he certainly lacks empathy.

  20. I read his bio on the page and it reads like some pop therapist that you would see on Oprah, which is funny since it also mentions something he refers to as “the Oprah-ization of therapy.”

    Also he appears to be of the same mind as “John and Mary” very free about sexuality, which is fine if that’s their lifestyles but someone with that much education in that field should understand that not everyone is of the same mind. Maybe I’m reaching as I do know several “educated” people that have no footing in reality at all.

    Near as I can guess the “John and Mary” and Marty too, probably really developed their approach from watching Fast Times at Ridgmont High Where this exchange took place.

    Damone: I mean don’t just walk in. You move across the room. And you don’t talk to her. You use your face. You use your body. You use everything. That’s what I do. I mean I just send out this vibe and I have personally found that women do respond. I mean, something happens.

    Mark: Well, naturally something happens. I mean, you put the vibe out to 30 million chicks, something is gonna happen.

  21. The events Elyse describes do not seem like a big deal to me. She was handed a swingers card and offered sex (a threesome?) when she didn’t want it.

    She’s entitled to feel any way she feels about it. We all have feelings about things that others wouldn’t have under the same circumstances, from time to time.

    What I wonder is what someone reporting that incident would want done to the swinger couple. Should they be cautioned not to hand anyone else a card? Why? People at conferences often socialize – it’s part of the fun of going to conferences – and some of that socialization involves getting together with other folks, sometimes sexually. There are bound to be many overtures toward other people men to women, women to men, women to women and men to men.

    I don’t see it as a requirement that Elyse communicate to the swingers that she is interested first. Either way, someone is making the first move, overture or suggestion.

    Elyse is free to think what she describes happening is a big deal, and blog all she wants about it. But, others are free to disagree that those described circumstances are a big deal. It doesn’t make either “side” bad or good. It’s just a difference of opinion on a subject that is very subjective.

    1. Jesus fucking christ. We went through ALL OF THIS the first time around.

      How is it at all appropriate to walk up to someone when they are *busy working*, slap down a card on the table, then run away — and that card ends up being the couple NAKED, asking for sex.

      If someone can’t understand why this is inappropriate and why it may make someone (A LOT of people) uncomfortable, I just don’t even know what else to fucking say! At all!

      What the fuck world do you live in where it’s appropriate to leave PORN on someone’s desk while they are working?????????


          Gods, I hope so. At least then the trolling would be worth it.

    2. Um. Perhaps you missed the whole context part of the equation. If this had been in a private setting where Elyse was not working in a professional capacity and there had been some indication that maybe she might be up for some free lovin’, that’s one thing.

      But that’s not how it happened. It was public, Elyse was acting in a professional capacity at the time, and there was no already-established personal connection. It was people she doesn’t know giving her nudie pics of them on a card inviting her to make like horny rabbits. Given the context, that was inappropriate and it did constitute harassment.

      1. Skepchickmagnet*** has a history of ignoring context.

        Also, this username is creepy. A skepchickmagnet, really? I didn’t like the username when I first saw it, but I thought I’d wait to get to know the person (via comments) a bit before I made any judgements. I gotta say, my feelings on the username have not improved.

        1. I’ve just come to the conclusion that people like this are predators getting their jollies. That’s the only reason I can see for either 1) honestly having the opinion that nobody’s perceptions or feelings matter except for the perp 2) repeatedly harassing people on a feminist blog. These commenters aren’t just trolls, they’re dangerous in the depth of their entitlement. They feel justified in hurting, worrying, and demeaning other people just because they want to.

          And since they’ve deliberately chosen feminists to harass, I think I’m safe in assuming they mostly want to abuse women in whatever way, large or small, that they can get away with. Hatefulness under a transparent veneer of soft language.

          1. Perfectly put. This magnet guy was a little too similar to a few other recent commenters. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

    3. In addition to context, the couple was also violating the stated rules of the conference, which means that in the framework of the event, it was entirely appropriate to report the behavior as harassment.

      I am no swinger but I have known or been around people who are. In most cases it is understood that everything goes most smoothly when sexual activity is pursued and acted on in a space where it is expected and consented to and that specific and easily understood rules are in place to make sure that everything that happens is by consent. Most people I’ve met who are into this lifestyle understand that the whole thing works better when approached in a way where everyone feels comfortable and safe. It is clear to me that the whole sexually free lifestyle thing can work out extremely well without having to approach total strangers with naked cards and dropping it on them unexpectedly. I am not sure why so many people seem to feel this kind of thing is a necessary component of finding sexual activity to participate in, because it’s neither necessary nor effective (they have done studies!)

      1. There seems to be a certain sort of person that seems to think everyone should have the same sexual boundaries and desires as they do. They are always jerkholes, and they exist outside of the kink universe. But they also tend to make kinky people look bad, which is a shame.

      1. I thought maybe this was so, considering he has been so quiet.

        Am I the only one who was creeped out by the username combined with all his “but but buuut if I’m horny I should totally be able to hand you porn and proposition you for sex, no matter what and you just have to be okay with that!” comments?!

    4. Can I take this one?
      As I posted over psyco-social today.

      The story related by Skepchick is that she “knew” these people from a couple of facebook messages passed back and forth. She “knew” them like I know the attendants at the local car wash. And tellingly, they vacated the premises immediately after passing the card. That, to me, sounds like stalking, not an invitation. That they have not come forward to tell their side of the story, since it’s not like they’re completely anonymous, confirms Skepchick’s story. All of the prevaricating I’m reading here makes ya’ll sound like a bunch sleazy losers.

      Let me make this simple for you, this was a conference not a house party. Skepchick was there in a professional capacity. Call it a convention. At conventions it has been known for people to be obnoxiously drunk, engage with prostitutes, and generally make an ass of themselves. But, this happens in the privacy of outlying areas among people who generally agree to associate, not the convention floor.

      If I discovered that one of my employees did something similar to a speaker walking off the podium at an affair where they were representing MY business, they would quickly be an ex-employee, without un-employment benefits, because any court or arbiter will agree with me that the action was unprofessional and detrimental to the business.

      Convention ? House Party

      It’s called having class, look it up.

      1. Googleuser3 is The Pale Scot,

        I logged in with an ID I’ve only used once to interact with, well never mind, keep the zombies sleeping. I’ll try to figure out how to correct it.

      2. Actually, I believe they did end up apologizing. I don’t remember the specifics and I can’t go to the original post at the moment as I need to be somewhere.

        But, considering they apologized, even they admitted their behavior was Not Cool.

  22. He’s got such a nice smile.

    I thought for sure I left a comment over there when it first came out, but I don’t see it now. I’m being repressed!

    Well, at least his stupid commentary was not published anyplace respectable.

  23. There’s a particular blogger at a major psychological publication with the initials M.K. who likes to masturbate while watching videos of livestock and then invite unsuspecting women into his office to “accidentally” catch him in the act, and then he assuages his guilt and shame by making up lies about women who face sexual harassment to make them look foolish.**

    **This is a composite of several bloggers with the initials M.K. who write for major psychology publications, adding some details and subtracting others… you know, SCIENCE!

          1. Double plus plus.

            And now I’m sad that Bruce Hood has decided to blog at Psychology Today. Perhaps he hoped to raise the bar, but I doubt he knows how low it has dropped.

  24. There’s a word used to describe composite stories that alter and omit key relevant facts: Fiction.

    For books and movies they say “Based on a true story” which means “You can’t trust that anything portrayed here is actually factual”.

    Also, I don’t know how enlightened you have to be to consider it highly inappropriate to hand an explicit photo to a stranger inviting sex. I think it would be not too difficult to make the case for inappropriate if the card had no photo and just had the word “for a good time call…” on the back, but the photo is a no brainier.

  25. I must admit I’m rather disappointed by the reactions here. With skepchick being such a powerful force in both feminism and skepticism, I would hope that open discussion would be welcomed. Apparently it is not welcome as it seems anyone asking legitimate questions or politely voicing their opinion is being either put down or even banned for doing so. I am a rational person and by definition clearly a feminist and a skeptic, but I cannot stand behind such irrational behavior as this.

    1. Asking questions is fine.

      Asking the same questions over and over and refusing to listen to the answer and explaining that everyone at this site should feel the same as you, and repeating that behavior in multiple comment threads, is not.

    2. These “legitimate questions” have been asked a thousand times. We went through the *exact same discussion* last time. You are more than welcome to go back to that discussion to look at our responses.

      We should not have to respond to the same questions over and over and over again.

      Not to mention a good majority of this shit should be obvious.

      I also don’t know how a BLATANT TROLL (did you even look at his username?) can be considered to be asking “legitimate questions”.

      1. Marilove, isn’t part of open discussion the ability for people to ask questions, as long as they are not doing so in an inappropriate way? I’m not sure what you mean by “last time” so maybe they were not appropriate in a previous discussion. I don’t know, but I will gladly read the responses if you will let me know to what previous discussion you are referring.

        While it’s true that many things are obvious to many people, I would say a majority of topics are not obvious to all people.

        Someone choosing a seemingly unclassy username hardly defines them as a troll, let alone a “BLATANT TROLL” as you say.

        1. Let me guess: They sent you here. Either that or this is a sock puppet. You’re responding with the same damn circular logic.

        2. “While it’s true that many things are obvious to many people, I would say a majority of topics are not obvious to all people.”

          And, please. We are all adults that live among other adults. We all go to work. We all go to the damn grocery store. We are not toddlers.

          If you do not think it is inappropriate to walk up to a woman you don’t really know, while she is working, and place a porn displaying your nakedness, while also blatantly propositioning you for sex, and then running away, I JUST DO NOT KNOW WHAT TO SAY!

          Honestly. Trying to make the claim that this is at all appropriate on any level is fucking bullshit.

          1. I really hate this tiny little box and no edit button. I’m going to repeat myself, but with far better grammar, because I don’t know if this is quite clear enough:

            If you do not think it is inappropriate to walk up to a person (gender is irrelevant!) you don’t really know, while they are working, and place a card displaying your nakedness and a blatant propositioned for sex, on their desk, and then run away, I JUST DO NOT KNOW WHAT TO SAY TO YOU!

            Honestly. We are adults. Not children. This is not okay. To act confused that someone just might very well be offended about this, and to act confused why this behavior might be a problem, is just plain ridiculous. It is not sincere. If you truly do not think there is something wrong with this behavior, I seriously do not want to spend time with you. You are creepy. And an asshole who cannot respect basic boundaries in a public, professional environment.

            I would be surprised that someone who thinks this is totally acceptable could even hold down a job.

            Fucking christ on a jumping cookie. Yes, some shit IS just obvious, if you do expect to live in a civilized society among people who have (perfectly acceptable) sexual boundaries. Or boundaries in general.

        3. Huh, actually yah, being a troll does equate with not having class, among other things.

          You see Nigel, it really doesn’t go up eleven, no matter what you think.

  26. I don’t see how skepchickmagnet did any of that in the comments on this post, but they were banned, apparently. Hence my observation that open discussion is not welcome here.

    It’s just that Skepchick is a group that has so much potential to start open discussions and make a difference in the world with so many issues, but instead it seems like they are nitpicking anyone that voices a differing opinion. All that does is incite online battles which distract from the underlying issues.

    1. The above comment was meant as a reply to Elyse on my first comment. :/ Sorry, I’m new here.

    2. Well, you clearly are being rational about this. You looked at the comments on one post and decided you didn’t see the pattern that we’ve been tolerating over the last month. Clearly you have a much better grasp of what’s been going on… and you didn’t come here just to nitpick and criticize us.

      1. “You looked at the comments on one post and decided you didn’t see the pattern that we’ve been tolerating over the last month.”

        Yes, exactly.

        “Clearly you have a much better grasp of what’s been going on… and you didn’t come here just to nitpick and criticize us.”

        I’m honestly not sure if this is sarcasm or not. If it is, you may notice I never indicated in any way that I have a better grasp of “what’s been going on.”

        I am thoroughly confused as to how anyone would consider my comments to be of a nitpicky nature, if that’s what you’re saying, Elyse. As far as being critical, yes, I am being critical in the most basic and respectful way, as that is one of the tenets of skepticism. If respectful criticism (which isn’t exactly the norm on the internet) is not welcome here then I will respectfully not post anything else.

        1. It is not at all our job to educate anyone on basic stuff. This is feminism 101. If you don’t know, use google. Just type out “feminism 101”.

          Additionally, all of these questions can be answered by taking a basic sociology 101 class. Any local community college will have these courses.

          Or, just by utilizing common sense when it comes to dealing with the general public on a day-to-day basis. That works too. But I admit not everyone is always equipped with even the basic idea of how society works. If that’s the case, by all means, educate yourself.

          Then come back here and have a real, adult conversation with us. Because quite frankly, we’re tired of having to teach people basic shit they should have learned just by living among other humans.

          1. It seems as though I am unwelcome here, along with the concepts of being respectful, logical, or having an open discussion. Honestly, that rather defeats the purpose of even mentioning “real, adult conversations.”

          2. rationalmind, if you expect us to treat you like a child new to the world, then no, you are not welcome here.

            You are always welcome to go elsewhere.

            I’d rather not talk with anyone who thinks that how Elyse was treated, OR that this Dr. Nit Wit’s response, was at all appropriate. To me, that signifies a basic inability to respect other people, and quite frankly, you’re not worth our time.

            You’ll always use circle arguments. You’ll always act dumb, like all these new concepts are somehow new to you.

            I do not trust you or people like you, on more than one level. Either you’re a troll, in which case, fuck off, or you’re seriously this clueless, in which case, not much better, so kindly continue to fuck off.

        2. Sometimes it’s tough to jump in mid-stream and be able to speak intelligently about an on-going issue.

          Go to any forum or message board dedicated to, say, debunking conspiracy theories and you will see the same dynamic:

          1) Someone starts a post saying, “9-11 was an inside job because building 7 fell like a controlled demolition.”
          2) People begin explaining all the things that are wrong with that statement with a neutral, factual tone.
          3) Person responds to the facts by moving on to some other nonsense, “molten steel…blah, blah.”
          4) People begin debunking the new set of nonsense.
          5) This process continues for 1000 posts until someone says, “9-11 was an inside job because building 7 fell like a controlled demolition.”
          6) The people now respond with, “Jesus *%&$*# mother*%&&$#, what the &%*#( is (#*$(*&@ wrong with you?”

          You are jumping in at step 5 and thinking it’s a rational question when in actuality it’s the most pure voicing of insane stupidity that you’ll read. People’s patience wears out after explaining the same thing 2,345,896 times.

    3. Read what Elyse replied to you. He’s been saying the same things in several posts. He’s a stealth troll. He looks very reasonable to you, who hasn’t had to deal with his derailing shit for a couple weeks now. Also, tut tutting and shaking your head sadly because you’d have thought we were better than that has been used a lot to. It’s called concern trolling. If you’re interested in discussing posts and such with us, fine. If you’re here to defend people we ban for own good reasons, don’t bother.

    4. Open discussion doesn’t mean you get to say anything you want without consequence. Websites (in general) are not, actually, a public space. They’re privately owned. Please consider this the equivalent of a business open to the public. The shop owner has the right to throw you out at any time, for any reason.

      Complaining about how other people are treated without having any specific criticism and ignoring the information presented to you is behavior indistinguishable from concern trolling. That happens around here a lot already, so understandably few people have much tolerance left for it.

  27. Wow, that composite bullshit is the worst. He’s basically trying to come up with an excuse to create a strawfeminist to bash. He can’t find real world evidence of the hysterical, sex-hating feminists who freak out at when someone politely goes through the proper channels to investigate if someone’s into you, so he’ll just make one up and call it a composite.

  28. First off, Elyse, excellent response.

    Second, like everyone else here, I remain baffled by how a doctor in the social sciences can be so fucking tone deaf to context. To wit:

    I am not opposed to masturbation. Actually, I am absolutely pro-masturbation. Pick your toy or magazine or vegetable and get going! We should all be free to masturbate as much as they want so long as they pay the rent and get out and vote (Purell first, please). Yay, masturbation! Two thumbs up…something.

    Except for the guy on the #39 Bus. You, sir, should have stopped masturbating. Correction: during rush hour on a bus on Huntington Avenue you should not have even started masturbating.

    Am I condemning a good wank? Never. I am not even condemning one on a bus, so long as you are the only person on the bus and are not actually driving. And you clean up. Lots. Am I an uptight prude, offended by penises and stuff? I like penises in general, in my own apartment or the occasional back seat of a Dodge Dart way back when; that is to say, I like penises in some locations which do not include the open air on an MBTA bus.

    Do I really need to explain why I might be offended at a stranger jerking off on a bus? If I must, I can enumerate the aesthetic, hygienic, and privacy issues but I’m pretty sure most of us understand that without me spelling it out. Is the person who tells the bus driver being intolerant and prudish? Should he or she have to defend themselves when the problem is obvious?

    Dr. Klein, this is context. If you do not understand it, return your PhD, no matter how lame your field is.

    1. Woah. This is the second time I’ve read about the Dodge Dart today — the first being in the new book in Stephen King’s Dark Tower Series (The Wind Through the KEyhole).

      Trippy, dude.


      1. st pass that along to my partner, who has a ’73 Dart & is a King fan!

        The only car I owned in my life, which I bought for $500 with summer job money sometime around 1983, was a ’69 Dart. I drove it five years and sold it for $100 to my younger brother, who also drove it about five years and then sold it again. That car was amazing. As they say on Car Talk (RIP), Darts last forever because they only have about 9 moving parts.

        1. Apparently I can’t type. I thought I wrote “I MUST pass that along….” Sorry!

        2. It was a VERY passing reference but it stuck out to me because I’ve never even heard of a Dodge Dart. I thought King was making it up (he tends to do that sometimes, especially in that particular universe).

          So when you mentioned it, it caught my attention.

          It’s a real car! With an awesome name!

  29. The people in this thread pretending that a cold proposition of sex to a total stranger isn’t weird, harassing or rude are arguing in bad faith, I guarantee it. I’m sorry, but unless you’re an alien visiting from earth, you know to say please and thank you and not to say to perfect strangers, “Hey, wanna fuck?” or any obvious variation of that. The only guys who pretend that this stuff is acceptable are guys who are trying to collect evidence for their theory that women are heartless rejecting bitches, because they don’t want to do the hard work of being attractive enough to have a woman be interested in a conversation with them that lasts over 60 miserable seconds of trying to find an escape route.

    1. And with all the supporting evidence these guys have for their theory I always find it amazing when their first line of defense is indignation and hubris when their inability to get laid is a much more convincing data set.

    2. This sounds like a dickish thing to say, but every time one of these little issues blows up in “the community,” I am curious what role autism-spectrum conditions play. As others have said, there really shouldn’t be a need to explain why that’s inappropriate and offensive.

      It would be weird and likely terrifying to be handed a card like that at a 5am bar in Chicago. Many people, especially speakers, view these conferences as professional settings, making the incident all the more jarring. Imagine Ted, the office douche-nozzle, handing a card like that to a female co-worker. It’s pretty clear how that would be handled.

      In fact, maybe part of the problem is that people view these conferences as singles events or summer camps for the socially awkward–If conference time were more clearly described as professional or close to professional events, the reason for a harassment policy would be more clear.

      1. “This sounds like a dickish thing to say…”

        … the for the love of fuck why did you go ahead and say it anyway? I mean, the rest of your comment doesn’t paint you as an idiot, so why did you fail to police your comment knowing that you were on the wrong path? Do you usually think “I know I’m going to fuck up” and then fuck up, or just today?

        Autism spectrum and “socially awkward” has nothing to do with what anyone here is talking about. The behavior we’re talking about isn’t clumsy or awkward or the result of well-meaning but poorly-executed attempts at social interaction. They are bold and aggressive and often designed to stay just on this side of the line of plausible deniability, “Oh, no! I’m socially awkward and she misunderstood because she’s an overly sensitive emotional feminist!”

        1. Some contingent of the people defending (is that the right word? Supporting, promoting?) that type of behavior are just fucking glib. Perhaps the people on this thread fall into that category.

          But having been involved in tons of these conversations since “Elvatorgate,” there are a certain number of people that I’ve interacted with that give off a strong sensation of not computing–like when you read about people not able to read basic expressions, like smiles.

          Again, maybe the folks here, specifically, are just being disingenuous dicks, but you reach a certain point when you’re arguing basic, basic things that the alternatives are either stupid, lying, or not computing. I don’t know exactly where the percentages fall, but I’d bet it’s heavy on the first two.

          And I wasn’t trying to offer cover (I don’t think saying, “I’m autistic,” necessarily immunizes behavior from criticism), merely pointing out that when your arguments are indistinguishable from the confusion experienced by someone struggling with a condition that seriously impairs social interaction and communication, you’re probably not making strong points.

          But I do see how my comment could be viewed as derogatory to people with autism, so I’d go back and edit that if I could. Sorry.

          1. Just don’t do it again. You knew it was a bad move, right? Next time, trust that instinct and you’ll be fine.

            The liars and creeps use those things as an excuse, and unfairly malign people who have various issues in order to get away with being liars and creeps. My brother has Asperger’s and my nephew is autistic, and it isn’t remotely OK to invoke that to explain creepy or criminal behavior.

          2. Thank you for apologizing.

            It’s just maddening because your points come up in EVERY discussion involving assholes like these. It’s getting ridiculous.

        1. to finish:

          Except to be used to exploit a disability to provide cover to people who just don’t give a damn about the people around them.

      2. I’m on the spectrum, my son’s on the spectrum – it was an insulting thing to say. Thank you for apologizing.

      3. We just went through this recently. Being on the autism spectrum does not in any way give you any kind of excuse to be a jack ass.

        Not to mention, most people are not on the spectrum. Yes, even in geeky cultures.

        I’m tired of people blaming this bullshit on autism. It’s not about autism. That’s a fucking ridiculous excuse.

        Not to mention, the people I know who actually ARE on the spectrum would likely be too shy to do something like this, or to think this is okay. They are already painfully aware that they may not always understand every social cue — why would they be this confrontational, or think being this confrontational is okay? If they have made it as an adult in the real world, and are perfectly able to communicate here with us, then they are certainly aware that that kind of behavior is not okay — even if they are on the spectrum.

        And, finally, I highly imagine that people who actually are on the spectrum will find it rather insulting to claim every asshole is on the spectrum.

        What a load of CRAP.

        1. I just wanted to point out what I thought was the very dumbest part of Klein’s post (which, given the whole composite thing, is saying something):

          “So what did that young woman experience? Not Sexual Harassment, but Unwanted Sexual Attention.”

          What, pray tell, is the legal definition of sexual harassment?

          “Courts and employers generally use the definition of sexual harassment contained in the guidelines of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). This language has also formed the basis for most state laws prohibiting sexual harassment. The guidelines state:

          Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when

          1. submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment,
          2. submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individuals, or
          3. such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment. (29 C.F.R. § 1604.11 [1980])”

          Legally the card was harassment if it was an unwelcome sexual advance that unreasonably interfered with work performance or created a hostile/offensive work environment. Again, these conferences need to make it very clear that at least during active hours at the conference site, this is a professional atmosphere.

          But yeah, that’s not murder, that’s intentional homicide!!

      4. Look, the people doing this stuff aren’t “socially awkward”. They read the rules of society very, very well, which is why they flout them in strategic ways. Socially awkward people don’t cold proposition people. On the contrary, they are so terrified of giving offense that they tend to err on the other side, being so cautious that they don’t even feel qualified to flirt through the non-offensive means.

  30. Do any of you remember Mike Daisy? He’s the guy who sold tickets based on his claims that a bunch of shit happened to him in China. Turns out he made some of it up. One of the things that Daisy admitted was that the translator he frequently quoted was a composite.

    The facts weren’t awful enough for Daisy so he had to make shit up. To make a better, more compelling story.

    The shit hit the fan on This American Life, the radio show that ran his story – a retraction was issued.

    The theatre world was also in an uproar over the ethical issue. It was generally agreed that this kind of thing was an abuse of “artistic license.”

    Clearly standards are much looser at Psychology Today than they are in the theatre.

    1. I imagine there is a real use for “composite” when it comes to writing research articles.

      Something tells me it’s not supposed to be used in quite this way, however.

      1. Right, it’s not research, it’s drama in the cause of politics – Klein took a story and embellished it in order to create a cautionary tale about how these Puritanical prudes are running amok.

        Brought to you by Psychology Today.

  31. Dr Klein has added another stealth edit to his COMPOSITE

    I… buh… seriously?! A clinical psychologist is trying to gaslight someone? I really have no words to express how angry that makes me. At least not any I feel comfortable typing here.

  32. I wrote to PT to complain about the piece, too. Who knows if it will make any difference.

    Also, I love conversations that go like this:

    A: Chihuahuas can fly!
    B: You are incorrect. Chihuahuas cannot fly.
    A: You aren’t listening to my arguments! I thought you were a rational skeptic who took everyone’s arguments into account! But apparently, you are just an irrational woman! Therefore, I am right!
    B: Arg.

    And so on. :)

  33. Why do I get the feeling that this Marty Klein guy carries around sex cards to hand out at conferences? He seems way too defensive about what you experienced, Elyse.

    1. Maybe it’s a sideline for him? He produces cards on demand as part of a small printing business.

  34. So what did that young woman experience? Not Sexual Harassment, but Unwanted Sexual Attention. And when the woman made it clear it was unwanted, the attention went away. That should have been the end of the story.

    I’m not sure if anyone has mentioned this in the comments (I didn’t see you comment on this in your post, Elyse, but I could have missed it), but this is another lie, isn’t it? You didn’t make it clear the attention was unwanted and then it went away — the couple scurried off. This wouldn’t be worth noting, but if Klein actually noted this fact, it would further undercut his narrative where you’re whiny and oversensitive, and the couple were just making a reasonable overture.

    1. But it’s a composite, you see. That means it doesn’t have to be true! Oh, joyous days, joyous days.

      I’ll downgrade my previous assessment of Klein from “probable” liar to definite liar. This number of edits and subtle retractions is no coincidence.

  35. Here’s what I’d like to see:

    A message from JREF that Dr. Klein is barred from attending TAM due to his outrageous stance on the topic of sexual harassment. His statement clearly indicate that he is out of step with the environment the promoters of TAM wish to encourage and, in fact, he is a threat to the safety of the participants due to his dismissal of egregious behaviour as mere “unwanted attention.” Since JREF cannot trust Dr. Klein to respond appropriately should an incident occur, he is not welcome.

    1. Eh. I get the feeling he will not be attending any skeptical events. Something tells me he’s not all that skeptical.

      1. Klein’s behavior leaves me with a lot of questions. I’m going through this all, I’m pretty mad, and I don’t know how far I should go in my conclusions. I’ll lay out some of the things I’m thinking about, even though they’re all swirled together so it might not be as clear as I’d like.

        Klein recently spoke on “Sex, Porn, Public Policy, Humanism—and Sex” at the American Humanist Association conference in June (the “national conference of a large progressive organization” he mentions in the article, I believe), at the American Atheists convention that followed the Reason Rally in March, and at CFI–Los Angeles:

        Until I read this recent article (or “articles”), based on the little information I had, I thought he was likely one of the “good guys”—a sex-positive sex therapist, psychologist, humanist. His most recent blog post before this piece seemed in line with progressive values:

        Then this happened.

        It’s jerky. He smushed together several important events, things that happened to people I know personally. He moved the facts around and added a heaping dose of fabrication-that-better-fits-the-invented-narrative so that he can make a point. I don’t know why he did that. Is he full of it? A jerk at the core? Is it ego? What’s going on?

        For him to make his point, he had to falsely paint a friend—actually, friends—of mine as prudes, as fragile, as not-adult-enough when it comes to matters of grown-up sexuality. He does that with his new invented story.

        If I were Elyse, I’d also be hurt and furious. Because Elyse is my friend and someone I respect, and I know more than he wrote about what actually happened (as the other people here do), I’m mad. And I wonder why the hell he felt he had the right to do this.

        Who is his intended audience? What point is he trying to make with his mish-mash story—that those in the fictional account who would complain of harassment should see it differently? (Should they?) Should his non-skeptic-movement readers draw that conclusion from that hypothetical account (not knowing the actual details)? If he relayed the actual details, would he still have come to the same conclusion in his post?

        Is this behavior unethical? (I say yes, as Elyse’s original post is public so he’s smearing her.) Does it violate a professional ethics code too? (I don’t know how that works.)

        I could conclude that his behavior and his conclusion are wrong in this instance, or that he’s a jerk whose core motivations are awful so he’s probably wrong on a lot of things.

        Do those actions (the fabrications and conflations) reveal his true underlying values, values that I disagree with? Misogynist values? Is he a misogynist? Did he just write a BS story so that he could advance his version of sex-positivity to a broader audience? Or is his version of “sex-positivity” misogynist?

        (And did he think members of the skeptical blogosphere wouldn’t read the article? Seriously?)

        I know that’s a billion questions. I have answers to many of them already in my head and in my gut, and I feel like I’m right, but I’d surely benefit from having them teased out more by people here if you wanted to address them. Sometimes we get stuck on issues because we disagree on the nitty-gritty which makes these things so complex, so I tried to break my issues down into a bunch of pieces…

        1. Personally I think he did a very lazy job of writing an article to back a conclusion he had already reached, something that is unconscionable in a scientist. I do not know if he did it intentionally or if it was just an example of really awful and lazy journalism, in fact it does not matter. What does matter is when he was called out on the wrongness of his article he sought to change the language of the article hoping that no one would notice.

          If the usual pattern we have seen when skeptics are called out on doing/saying/writing stupid shit repeats I would give him about two days before he doubles down on his idiocy. I guess we’ll see.

      2. Eh. I get the feeling he will not be attending any skeptical events. Something tells me he’s not all that skeptical.

        Oddly enough, Marty Klein gave a rather enjoyable talk at CFI-Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago. To say I’m very surprised at this article wouldn’t be overstating the case, but when it comes to issues of this nature, I really should stop being surprised. SMH sadly.

  36. So does Elyse consider the original incident sexual harassment, or just inappropriate behavior? (this is an actual question, not a rhetorical question)

    And she and others have made note that the act of making the proposition (by giving her the card) and then immediately leaving somehow made the proposition worse.

    Would it have been better if they had stayed? Then Elyse would have had to either

    a. conceal her discomfort to remain “professional”
    b. react to the proposition, hampered by her own admission that it was unexpected, so she’d have little time to mentally process it, while at the same time dealing with the emotional discomfort, and pressure to remain professional?

    Please be clear that I am not suggesting that one outcome or another would have made this incident more appropriate. I’m just curious how she thinks that the “propositioners” staying around after giving her the card would have been “better”?


    1. Yes, I consider it harassment. In the same way I would consider it harassment if you dropped a picture of your dick on your coworker’s desk.

      The fact that they left, indicates that they knew they were doing something unacceptable. It wasn’t an honest act. They didn’t care about my feelings. They didn’t care how I reacted. They didn’t want to know my answer. There was no consideration for my part in this proposition whatsoever. They got to laugh about how they dropped their tits card on me and never had to face any consequences for doing it.

      Analogy: You are walking down the street and you are struck down by a car. Are you less injured if the person sticks around or drives off? No, but its still worse if they drive off, refusing to take responsibility for their actions or taking any consideration for your well-being.

      1. Really, you’re wasting time responding to these schmucks, just direct them here for an explanation of their issues.
        “Schmuck or shmuck in American English is a pejorative meaning an obnoxious, contemptible or detestable person, or one who is stupid or foolish. The word entered English from Yiddish”

        Or from the other side of the neighborhood;


  37. The following was sent to Kaja Perina, editor in chief of PT:

    Your blogger, Dr. Marty Klein, has posted an entry which manages to be both offensive in its content and seriously unethical in its journalism. I strongly request that you read Dr. Klein’s posting ( and then the response of the woman he is semi-covertly attacking ( He’s fully entitled to his opinion about how people should react to stealth propositions for group sex (yes, that’s the topic) but his behavior, as documented, also includes simple and straightforward dishonesty. This is simply never acceptable in a publication like yours.

    1. As a Psychology Major it may sound weird for me to say that I purposely avoid reading Psychology Today, regarding Psychology Today as some kind of high-quality and well regarded magazine, here’s what the actual larger professional psychological community has to think about it.

      “The primary popular magazine whose title contains the word psychology, “Psychology Today, has a readership of more than 3 million people. Initiated in 1967, its early issues featured scientifically grounded and entertaining articles by eminent research psychologists, including Stanley Milgram, Philip Zimbardo, Nathan Azrin, Hans Eysenck, and David Lykken. Yet beginning in the 1970s and extending into the 1980s, Psychology Today shifted in content and style to appeal to a more general audience, featuring articles on such pop psychology topics as love, relationships, work, and happiness, most of them written by NON-EXPERTS from a largely NON-SCIENTIFIC perspective (Benjamin & Bryant, 1997). Despite a brief and ill-fated attempt by the APA to rehabilitate the magazine in 1983, Psychology Today’s LACK OF SCIENTIFIC RIGOR PERSISTS TODAY.”
      – Scott O. Lilienfeld. American Psychologist, Volume 67, No.2, “Public Skepticism of Psychology: Why Many People Perceive the Study of Human Behavior as Unscientific”, pg. 119.

      As you can see we aren’t too thrilled by Psychology Today, if you want to read a really good High Quality public magazine specifically for Psychology get Scientific American MIND. It’s WAY more rigorous, scientific, and entertaining.

      (also Citations if you’re interested;
      – Benjamin, L.T., Jr., & Bryant, W.H.M. (1997). A history of popular psychology magazines in America.In W.G. Bringmann, H.E. Luck, R. Miller, & C.E. Early (Eds.), “A pictorial history of psychology” (pp. 585-593). Carol Stream, IL: Quintessence.)

      1. Well given the editor of PT has no qualifications in psychology (other that as she puts it undergoing therapy) it is little wonder that the magazine has such poor quality content. She has no way of knowing whether the articles that are submitted are supported by science based evidence or a load of crap.

  38. I don’t understand why it is so hard to convince people that in the matter of sexual interactions, the onus is on the person wanting that interaction to obtain consent, NOT on the other person to have to refuse the attention.

    Why is that so hard? Unless you don’t really care about consent of course.

    1. I think you answered your own question. It is only “confusing” for people who have a stake in pretending that they don’t really understand what’s happening.

  39. (I skipped about 50 comments.)

    At a minimum, a person (or couple) with a naked calling card should say “Hi, would you like a naked picture?” This creates an easier opportunity for a simple demurral (or an enthusiastic yes, for the photo collector).

    I saw people on other threads making the claim that unsolicited pictures weren’t harassment, and am wondering why the tiny courtesy of asking isn’t even considered.(Also, yeah, I realize that some people won’t even like being hit with the question.)

    If pressing one’s naked card-sized picture upon people becomes a thing, then not picking up cards from desks is going to become a thing and then the people hurt by this consequence are the perfectly reasonable people that wanted to follow up a question about skepticism or vaccines by email.

  40. Quite frankly, I’m appalled. This man is licensed to practice as a therapist??? I wouldn’t leave him with my dog.
    Maybe he should consider a change of career.
    A sex-card collector or something.

  41. I mainly just lurk, but this? Oy.

    So if I’m understanding this correctly, “It’s a *composite*!” is the therapist’s version of, “It was only a *joke*!”? I get the impression that the “good” doctor would interpret someone leaving a flaming bag of dog shit at someone’s door as them offering a traditional gift of light and a bonus gift of fertilizer for his rose bushes. Or, perhaps, the bag isn’t the only thing full of shit…

  42. What is really annoying as well is that Elyse’s original post was overall positive when it came to the conference. She had a poor experience with an attendee, and even though the conference was over, someone representing the organization that had put on the conference still wanted to set things right and enforce the rules of the conference if even retroactively. She pointed out not only the problem but the solution. Elyse shared her anger with the situation but also her pleasure that the way it was handled. For me that fact that the situation was handled so well, that rules were enforced is very encouraging when considering attending a conference. Rather than a warning away, it shows me this is the conference to attend, because if something inappropriate happens to me, my complaints will be taken seriously.

    I don’t know why some people feel the need to ignore the positive aspects, and use it as an opportunity to shame women and feminist.

  43. Creating a composite to further illustrate a point or protect the anonymity of a patient is perfectly acceptable. Creating a composite that entirely misrepresents a situation’s key points while obviously pointing to a very public and not at all anonymous event is unethical and runs counter to the whole point of creating hypothetical composites.
    Klein’s stance on this is so stupid that I wish it didn’t even merit discussion, but then there’s an internet full of stupidity out there.

  44. Klein couldn’t find any issue better than this to blog about. Okay. And he refers to swinging as “fun.” I just have to wonder about this guy.

    1. Well, it is fun. Saying or thinking so is not a problem.

      He’s creepy, though, for other reasons.

  45. I had never heard of creating a composite as in “the way therapists write about cases, changing some details and adding others.” I had always been under the assumption that the only change(s) made were to, as waldakind pointed out, “to protect the anonymity of a patient”.

    Just in reading his (secretly updated) opening paragraph I became afraid of Klein-as-a-psychotherapist. This was the reaction before he goes on to outright fabricate a scenario; possibly conflating, merging, and mixing Elyse with Rebecca like some mercury-poisoned mad alchemist looking to create the perfect encounter for him to deconstruct and reshape into a golden strawperson.

    One of the most important traits that I would look for in a sex therapist would be a high degree of empathy. Reading Klein’s article and knowing that he was presenting fiction simply so he could say, what…not to tell us how to better understand our sexuality, how to understand others’ sexuality, no, all so he could simply and ignorantly say; it’s wrong to feel the way you do because I say so. I read no empathy from his words, only a self-centered smugness. Ack! And then I go to look for some example of self-centered smugness in his article from which to quote, the page being refreshed, and he no long says it’s not fine to feel offended, he now says it’s just “unfortunate” to feel offended. It’s unfortunate he should think he’s qualified to make such statements, let alone write whole articles about it.

  46. Interestingly, his personal blog is blocking comments too. It’s interesting how many people who criticize the posts about sexual harassment feel the need to distort facts. I must admit I first heard of “elevator-gate” from secondary sources and thought Rebecca Watson was completely wrong and excessive. When I actually heard the actual video that created all this kerfuffle, I found a completely rational, sensible and balanced statement. I think the same is happening here.
    Interesting how Mr. Klein now describes this as a composite. Plugging Person A event with Person B reaction to a different event doesn’t make much sense.
    The weirdest part is how you are accused of being overly emotional and excessive in your response when clearly many (not all) people reacting negatively to your post are so emotionally entangled in this that they feel the need to translate “hey, let’s make the community more appealing to women and treat them like intelligent beings above all and not value them solely on their f*ckability scale, that would improve the community” as “If you compliment a woman at a conference you must be sent to a gulag in Alaska without chance of appeal! Zero tolerance means that even if you’re innocent, you wil be condemned and will have to wear a dunce hat with the word “rapist” tattooed on your forehead! Talking about measures to make women feel more welcome=feminist authoritarian dystopia!”
    I don’t agree with all that’s been said by you, Rebecca, Jen McCreight, Stephanie Svan or PZ, but it seems like you are all open to a rational discussion. The blatant mischaracterization of your statement from critics have made this impossible, unfortunately. One would think that atheists and skeptics value empirical facts. I am saddened by the level of dishonesty that I’ve read so far. What saddens me most is the women’s response who write that because they themselves love being hit on, their experience summarizes all of womankind and all should just suck it up.

    1. I love being hit on. It doesn’t happen much but even I have plenty of experience with the kinds of sexual advances that sound more like threats. I have a difficult time believing these women hold those opinions honestly.

  47. potatoe – tomatoe
    recently – awhileback
    rebecca – elyse
    sex card – elevator

    way to kick some doctor marty ass – ELYSE !
    please do the same to that cancer –

  48. “Learning to say things like “that feels bad, PLEASE stop,” . . . involves a fundamental skill that every grownup needs.”

    (emphasis, mine)

    Oh shit! Did Dr. Klein just remind every sexual assault victim of the power of “the magic word?”

  49. I’m wondering if he didn’t just get his information from several of the many male skeptics out there that love misrepresenting this sort of thing. I can easily imagine that the naked picture wasn’t a part of any of the accounts he heard. It’s a huge problem. I would guess that most men get their information about feminism from entirely non-feminist sources.

    This whole incident makes more sense that way. It’s still not a good thing, but it makes it much more plausible that he has a practice.

  50. Holy crap. Someone revoke this guy’s degree. The LEGAL DEFENITION of sexual harassment is something that makes someone else uncomfortable.

    This was the only glaring factual error in the piece because the rest was pure opinionated drivel from what sounds like a bitter dude who’s been burned by one too many propositions gone bad.

    Here’s what I learned from the article:

    Sexual harassment is no longer a problem.

    The defenition of sexual harassment should never change with the times.

    Women are giant, demanding pains in the asses.

    The incident was your fault, Elyse, and yours too Rebecca RebeccaElyse (see, you’re not human beings, you’re composites).

    He wasn’t talking about anyone in particular i.e. please please don’t sue me

    (And now getting serious)……

    Psychology Today is a rag. But we already knew that.

  51. “… But Sexual Harassment law was never designed to protect women from merely feeling uncomfortable. In a typical workday, men and women alike face many sources of discomfort: atheists face clerks wearing crosses; able-bodied people face colleagues in wheelchairs…”

    o.O seriously? I can’t even begin to articulate what is wrong with that.

    Anyway, an excellent rebuttal to a truckload of privilege-dripping ridiculousness. The mind boggles that these types of “Dear Muslima” conversations still continue.

  52. It appears that only on the Psychology Today site does the claim that the essay is a “COMPOSITE” still appear. On his other two sites, that assertion has been removed. Perhaps Psychology Today is insisting he keep the (deceitful) claim so as to avoid any direct legal challenge from the one and only person it really is talking about? Otherwise, why does it remain there and not on the other two versions of this same essay.

    But the fact that Klein has removed it from the others in one of his multitudinous after-the-fact edits shows that he admits it’s about Elyse and no one else.

    And yes, I’m including those links in the hopes that search engines will take note of them. He’s getting off easy and Psychology Today is ignoring this unprofessional conduct and self-serving revisionism.

    1. I still see the composite disclaimer at

      If you’re interested in sexuality, consider the following recurring situation. It’s particularly important that people interested in progressive politics and gender relations find a way to deal with situations like this. Remember, this is a composite of several actual events—similar to how I write about clinical cases.

  53. Klein was interviewed on the Humanist Hour podcast by Todd Steifel and Jes Constantine:

    Apparently, the interview was made before Klein’s article went live, so they didn’t ask about it. Instead, there was just a quick reference to it after the interview was over.

    The interview has more of the “It’s not harassment, it’s unwanted attention, and we should just be grown up enough to say no” arguments.

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