It’s Almost Time to Start Naming Names May 23, 2012

It’s Almost Time to Start Naming Names

There seems to be something that everyone is talking about, but no one is actually saying it out loud.  It seems that are a number of “male speakers behaving badly towards women at conferences” and yet they keep getting invited back because they’re big names and conference organizers can’t afford not to invite them.  But it’s the other way around, they have to opt out of inviting them because these speakers are doing real harm to our movement.

Anyone who is making members of our community feel unwelcome at conferences must not be invited to our conferences. One of our core missions is to make our community a welcoming place, a place of landing for non-theists. If we’re catering to speakers who are working against that goal, we are failing. These are not the stories that should be floating through the hallways of our events:

Both female friends and strangers confided in me, telling me stories of speakers that talked only to their chest, groped them against their wishes, followed them to their hotel room, or had goals to bag a young hottie at every speaking gig they did. Once after I had publicly criticized someone on my blog, people made sure to warn me that this person had a skeevy record. I had to request friends attending the con to be extra diligent about making sure I wasn’t alone.

I understand why conference organizers keep inviting these guys. I’ve organized big events before and I know how important a big name is for an event. But that’s a cop out excuse and we can do better than that. As our community has grown, more and more extraordinary voices are popping up everywhere.

I also understand why people who’ve been told about The List aren’t sharing it. Jen summed it up perfectly:

Look at what happened to Rebecca Watson when she simply said “guys, don’t do that” about an anonymous conference attendee. Imagine the shitstorm if there were public accusations of sexual misconduct of some very famous speakers. I’m not ready for the flood of rape and death threats. I’m not ready to be blacklisted and have my atheist “career” ruined by people more powerful and influential than me. I’m not ready to be sued for libel or slander. I’m not ready for the SSA or other organizations I’m affiliated with to also be harmed by association.

So what do we do to fix this? Many great ideas have already been suggested including conferences adopting prominent anti-harassment policies, creating a list of speakers who will not attend events unless there’s a strict anti-harassment policy with them, and committing as individuals to making our spaces safer and welcoming. Those are all important steps. But we also have to confront these men.

We were outraged when the Catholic Church kept predator clergy in the priesthood. We are hypocrites if we continue to invite speakers who go beyond the pale of acceptable behavior and don’t take no for an answer. If what Jen listed is true, we have predators in our midst.  Of course, we have to be skeptical of extraordinary claims like these, but because of their severity, we can’t let these accusations go ignored.

Naming and shaming should certainly not be the first step. Private conversations with these people have to come first. There will be resistance because it’s not easy being called out on doing something wrong. But these are our allies and we have to give them a chance to make amends.

But if none of those efforts work, then we have to start naming names. Not to shame them but to protect women in our community. I’m now in a place where I can help decide which speakers are invited to big events in my area and I don’t want to accidentally invite anyone who will make my community members feel unsafe.

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  • Fsq

    Oh bullshit.

    First iff, you base your attempt at cencoship and oppresion, which is what it is, based on nothing but anecdote and nebulus interpretations of behavior.

    You had damn well have some solid evidence before you start flying the censorship flag. And the secular community is not a default feminist community. Stop trying to co-opt it for your purposes.

  • Gabriel

    Well this bums me out. I want out movement to welcome everyone. I don’t want it to just be men. I want women to feel welcome and safe. I want my daughter to feel like this is a place that she is safe. Same for my wife. I want to attend these conferences someday when I have the money and time and I hope that I don’t have to worry about some ass ruining the event.

  • I think documentation is key to getting the ball rolling on these things. Having conferences instigate strict anti-harassment policies and then following through by keeping records of who has been reported for what behavior in order to establish a pattern, documenting if any witnesses were present, etc. With a record in place we can negate some of the claims of hearsay being inconsequential.

    Part of what’s disturbing me so much are the men coming out of the woodwork to suggest that such a system will lead to women making false reports to edge out speakers that they don’t like. Such a low opinion, bordering on outright distrust and anger, directed toward women is disquieting.

  • I don’t see what’s “bullshit” about ensuring a safe, tolerant environment for women, who are frequently the target of sexism and misogyny. If you want “solid evidence”, open your eyes and ears.

  • AJ

    So we have to wait for these creeps to actually have a police or other *official* record before we can say anything? That’s just wrong. You need to have preventative measures in place First.

  • KAJ

    Her post features link after link after link of women who have had the same experience.  Smoke, fire, etc.  

  • How is it censorship to not want to be groped by some creeper?

  • What is being asked is that standards are imposed that creepy behavior is not to be tolerated. If this was the case, women wouldn’t have to rely on an underground network of warnings and secret lists that run the risk of damning the innocent. 
    I can’t fathom how a request to set standards and to have transparency for those who transgress those standards is construed as censorship.

  • KarlVonMox

    I think Julie is right – without the documentation and the naming names this is going to go nowhere. More evidence needs to be forthcoming before we stop inviting certain speakers to conferences, it cannot simply be based on anecdotes and hearsay.

  • Wow, really disappointed to see this as the first comment on this post. Hopefully this anon FREA SPAECH troll crawls back into his dark, dank hole.

  • Ditto. Perhaps there is some kind of ‘rock star’ mentality that *some* of these guys have?

    As humanists, we can hardly keep calling out misogynistic behaviour in the religious if our own house isn’t in order first.

  • Any time people have to trust an unregulated rumor mill for information, you run the risk of false positives (e.g. AJ was pissed off at Cafeeine for other reasons so she put out the rumor that he’s a creep)

    The way to overcome such false positives is to have an open policy against harassment that, aside from making women’s lives easier, also protects actual good guys from defamation.
    This is not meant to equate this issue with the problems women face. It isn’t equal. I’m just getting it out of the way as an objection.

  • I think the goal we are looking for here is that these big speakers stop their skeezy behavior, and so we can continue to invite them to conferences, since people obviously want to hear what they have to say, otherwise we wouldn’t be asking them to speak in the first place.

    If we set clear standards for behavior at conferences I’d hope that most of these guys would be able to abide by them.  Or won’t come at all if “bagging a hottie” is clearly off the table. That’s OK too.

  • iAmAbigGirlNow

    Really?  Don’t we [women] know how to deal with rascals?  If their advances are unwanted, “Just Say No” – it’s as simple as that.  Be confrontational and make sure they get the message that you are not interested and tell them you think what they’re doing is inappropriate or whatever.  They should quickly comprehend your signals.  If not, call the police.  Nobody has to be “outed”.  It can be enormously difficult for women to understand just how powerful the average man’s sex drive is.  Like it or not, one of the reasons why the human race has survived for hundreds of thousands of years is the fact that nature has ‘programmed’ men to be mad keen on penetrating women.  So ladies…you need to be brave and learn how to confront a man who is pursuing you.  Is this all new to us?  (If all else fails…pick your nose…they’ll go away)

  •  Yup. Some of the suggestions (like Jen’s ‘no sex if you’re a speaker’) are quite possibly sensible, but would be a change in expectations. We also clearly have a problem that behaviour that some people consider to be appallingly sexist is not seen that way by others.  The approach of establishing clear policies, so that everyone is clear what is or is not covered (regardless of their own personal comfort zone), then keeping records of what happens, then potentially using them to ‘blacklist’ certain speakers, seems fair. Using the secret list built through behind-the-scenes whispering, does not.

    Happily, the sensible thing seems to be pretty much what is happening.

  • “It can be enormously difficult for women to understand just how powerful the average man’s sex drive is.”

    Yes, it is a little known fact that our testicles extend to our brain.*groan*
    As amazing  as it may seem, I have managed never to act as a creep to a woman in my life. Excuse me if portraying men as uncontrollable sex-driven creeps is not my idea of a compliment.

  • Nena

    We definitely need to ensure that women have a safe environment at our events. My daughter actually had an incident at Reason Rally where one of the male speakers there was talking to her (in reality, he was coming on to her, but she is too trusting and friendly to have realized it), and when she told him she was 15, he immediately turned and walked away. While I’m glad he didn’t pursue further, I feel like that was a blatant statement that his sole intention for talking to her was to get into her pants. That made me sick and furious, because she was genuinely interested in talking to a well-known and influential fellow atheist.

    That being said, I hope we don’t take this so far as to demonize normal flirting and adult, consensual hook-ups. I find smart people sexy and I’m a big fan of safe, casual sex. Sometimes that might happen at a skeptic or atheist event. I don’t see a problem with that.

    (I’m not accusing anyone of being sexually repressive; I’m only saying that there are fuzzy lines that must be considered.)

  • aproustian

     1. I have a higher opinion of men than you do–they are perfectly capable of curbing their desires to fit a professional setting.
    2. Women shouldn’t *have to* be aggressive in fending guys off–you’re making women responsible for men’s behavior. Stop it.

  • Maybe it’s just my age (57), but my sex drive is nothing to write home about. In fact, my wife pesters me about it. I’ve managed not to go around propositioning every woman I see. In fact, I managed that even when I was young and randy. You aren’t doing men any favors when you suggest we boys just can’t help it. But I agree it would be nice if some women didn’t overreact and clutch the draperies. But if some guys are being complete jerks, by all means name them. I don’t know who they are, but why hasn’t someone named them in this thread?

  • Sware

    I have never attended any events like this but had long wanted to.  However the fact that this is a continued debate gives me tons of pause.  As someone that has been inappropriately treated by men in a variety of settings in my life I am deeply concerned and horrified at the thought of this.  What’s worse are the responses that make it seem like women who complain against inappropriate behavior are just manipulative lying trouble makers.  Can we just stop with the victim blaming bullshit already?  If I am made to feel as though I cannot attend a CONFERENCE without a can of pepper spray or a taser at the ready then that is not what you call a welcoming environment…period…end of story.   I would be more likely to go if some sort of policy was drafted and emblazoned with a symbol that could be advertised with the event.   Sort of like a Better Business Bureau emblem or something…anything, that indicated that the event coordinators give a shit or two about the safety of the attendees.
    And to anyone on the receiving end of mistreatment, make a scene, whatever you have to do to ensure someone else saw it or knows about it because apparently, for all I’ve read on the subject, your complaint cannot be trusted even if it is one in a long list of many.  Manners be damned when someone is being a creep to you.
    I couldn’t agree with this statement more where the whole movement is concerned.  “We were outraged when the Catholic Church kept predator clergy in the priesthood. We are hypocrites if we continue to invite speakers who go beyond the pale of acceptable behavior and don’t take no for an answer. If what Jen listed is true, we have predators in our midst.  Of course, we have to be skeptical of extraordinary claims like these, but because of their severity, we can’t let these accusations go ignored.”
    Perhaps we need only to ask ourselves, what is it that we would have liked to see the Catholic Church do in these instances…and then WE actually do it when this happens in our own midst.

  •  Agreed on the consensual sex issue. I’m uncomfortable with a ban on speaker-attendee hookups. Although there are multiple contributions to my uneasiness, if I’m honest it basically boils down to, “I fuck who I want.”

  • The Captain

    Wow, you compared guys who look at a girls boobs, to priest who use their power to fuck little children! I guess  the nazis comparisons are coming out next.

  • I don’t know who they are, but why hasn’t someone named them in this thread

    Its mentioned in the article:

    I also understand why people who’ve been told about The List aren’t sharing it. Jen summed it up perfectly:

    at what happened to Rebecca Watson when she simply said “guys, don’t do
    that” about an anonymous conference attendee. Imagine the shitstorm if
    there were public accusations of sexual misconduct of some very famous
    speakers. I’m not ready for the flood of rape and death threats. I’m
    not ready to be blacklisted and have my atheist “career” ruined by
    people more powerful and influential than me. I’m not ready to be sued
    for libel or slander. I’m not ready for the SSA or other organizations
    I’m affiliated with to also be harmed by association.

  • Okay, Ericka M. Johnson,
    Jen McReight and R. Wattson have long lost their credibility. The fact that you support them in any way makes me question yours.

    If you make serious accusations like this you bloody damn well better support it with evidence, otherwise it is merely disgusting slander.

    Also, please don’t liken assholes who want to “bag” young women at conferences to pedophile priests and predators.

  • It does seem to me that it’s a bit too big a step to go from unofficial and undocumented reports of staring at chests, wanting to get laid, and groping directly to naming and shaming people. I think it might be more effective to start with collecting all incidents (anonymously) and posting reports within a few days of the end of a conference on the bigger blogs. If behaviors don’t change within, say, six months or several conferences, then start posting both names.

  • Thomas Farrell

    > Naming and shaming should certainly not be the first step. Private conversations with these people have to come first.

    So why are we hearing about it here?

  •  Here’s the thing: If an attendee and a speaker are adults about it, I doubt it would be an issue. Such rules are meant to offset the power differential between a speaker and an attendee or a con empoyee/volunteer.

  • I can’t count how many times I’ve been hit on by women (even men, although I’m straight).

    Thank god I am trained in the ancient arts of no-jutsu. That’s right, I had the extraordinary willpower to turn away the ones I was not interested in (even the scary, drunk ladies). If all else fails turn to others for help.

    I don’t see why we should make this an issue unless the “predators” don’t understand no.

  • The Captain

    ‘Anyone who is making members of our community feel unwelcome at conferences must not be invited to our conferences.” Rebecca Watson turned off most of the female atheist/skeptics that I personally know to the movement last year with her actions. Actions that said to my friend “your kind of people are not welcome here (these are women mind you!). Yet I bet you are not going to suggest we stop inviting her to conferences are you? 

  •  Because the people that need to do the talking (con organizers, secular organizations), aren’haven’t been doing so.

  •  I don’t see your name mentioned, or any name really. On whose behalf are you offended?

  • Brian Pansky

     actually it is your ‘censorship’ reasoning which is bullshit.  if these people were not speakers, but were frequent visitors or contributors, we would still be discussing ways to deal with the problem.  How could it be censorship if the person wasn’t speaking?

  • iAmAbigGirlNow

    1. Men may be capable, but they may not want to reign in their appetite.  Men are as faithful as their options. Me thinks you’re not seeing the reality of male behaviour.  But hey, help a sista out and share the name(s) with us to give us a heads up please.        2.  Women are socialized to believe that they can’t fend for themselves and that it’s up to the men to fix the problem.  Stop it. 

  •  Sware,
    Jen and Rebecca are actually hypocritical idiots. This isn’t about blaming the victims of actual tragedies.

    People who get harrassed (does not equal to getting asked out) at events should make a bloody scene, as you said, instead of making unverifiable claims afterwards.

    Also, don’t equate assholes with pedophile priests, please. That’s a slippery slope.

  • I understand and am aware of the power differential and the potential problems it creates. While most people would consider me an outspoken and even aggressive person, and if asked would probably tell you I’d curb stomp the testicles of any man who touched me inappropriately, I can tell you that I would feel distinctly uncomfortable and hesitant to ward off the advances of a big name speaker.

    However, I have an instinctual gut reaction against any rule in place that would restrict the sexual activity of consenting adults. If it’s not a problem that would deter speaker-attendee pairs who are “adults about it” then that implies that the rule can be subjectively broken under ambiguous and poorly defined circumstances, and would be virtually unenforceable as a result.

  • Vicki Williams

    I think the comparison to clergy pedophile cover-ups is apt. I haven’t read Greta Christina’s book, but in at least one of her “angry” talks, she points out how – in response to stories of child abuse – some will rush to defend the church rather than the child. The same thing seems to happen in atheism. Every time I hear a story of a woman being treated horribly, while I’m thinking how badly I feel for her, I go on to read comments about how we shouldn’t complain because most men aren’t like this and how others haven’t had a problem with it and how women speaking out about this risks damage to the movement. In short, I hear all of the same defenses I’ve heard coming from churches in response to abuse scandals.

  • Women are socialized to believe that they can’t fend for themselves and that it’s up to the men to fix the problem.  Stop it.

    Yet when one woman makes a blog post about fixing the problem you oppose her. Funny that.

  • Hornets + nest + kicked = UHOH!

  • Sunda

    For the record, an established and well known pattern of harassing women and targeting them for sexual objectification is a time honored method of silencing women and discounting them as people with something worthwhile to say, or as intellectuals in their own right.  THAT is censorship and oppression.  While acknowledging that this is a privilege assumed by some men in this, and so many other, contexts, may be uncomfortable if you cling to it as your right, at least have the intellectual integrity to acknowledge the widespread power of this privilege to effect censorship and alienation of women.Also for the record, as regards my last point, it is precisely this type of reaction that members of this community call Christians out on all the time: “You said I can’t pray at this government-sponsered event, therefore you are oppressssssinnngggg meeeeeee!”  Of course, this is not true — we are merely pointing out your privilege, and since you assume it naturally belongs to you, you resent having its unfairness called on the carpet.

    On the upside, I am so very encouraged by the overall response to this in the community, from (most) men and (most) women alike.

  • TheG

    Strongly agreed.  There are two perceptions at stake here: Within the community and within the global population.

    If there is a list and we don’t talk about it, there is a combination of high school secrecy with a mentality of fear to get the men to fall in line.  “Be good, or we will add your name to the list.  No, you can’t see the list.  It is only for us popular people.”

    The larger damage is the public image of the skeptical and/or atheist community that knows there is a serious and dangerous problem, but kept it secret so we could maintain the appearance of a certain high standard.

    Jen is a great young scientist and a wonderful person.  But if she is going to maintain the quality of science, she can’t hide information because it would make her uncomfortable or give her a harder life.  That just isn’t science.

  • CelticWhisper

    I like the idea of naming names and holding people accountable for their actions, but I also understand where Jen is coming from in regards to liability being a problem.  I haven’t kept up on all the precise details of who’s done what to whom, mostly because I myself have not attended the conferences in question, but it’s safe to assume

    For that reason, if we do this, it must (needless to say) be done right.  It must be cold.  It must be factual.  It must be verified by multiple, preferably disinterested, sources.  It wouldn’t hurt to seek legal counsel on potential slander/libel implications.

    I’ve also seen people using the word “creep” or “creeper” a lot.  For reasons that shouldn’t be too difficult to understand, THIS MUST STOP.  We need to break ourselves of the habit of using vague, nebulous words like this.  What’s the definition of “creep?”  How do you quantify creepiness?  How will a court regard accusations of “creeping?”  The problem is that the word means different things to different people and people can twist it to apply to almost anything they find distasteful – that won’t fly in court.

    Make no mistake, it sucks that this degree of CYA is even necessary when we’re talking about trying to guarantee a certain degree of civilised behaviour from attendees at, of all things, rationalist conferences.  It’s almost comical in its absurdity – shouldn’t this be a no-brainer?  However, our situation is what it is and CYA is a fact of life if we’re going to name-and-shame.  If people are going to act discourteously, the last thing we want is for our attempts to quash such discourtesy to end up hurting us in the end.

  • Fsq

    I agree with most of your pst, with the excpetion of women not being guilty of false claims against men.

    There seems to be a clear cut agenda now for women to immediately claim abuse, or that their spawn have been abused by husbands and partners once divorce proceedings begin.

    As a point of fact, many divirce lawyers actually advise female clients to file restraining orders as a tool of getting custody of kids, regardless of if the man actually did anything.

    And now, there is some effect of the same in this arena. It is a bandwagon sort of affect….one person claims such and such happend, then the attention and then others feel they too have to participate. And when this occurs, they look for bad behavior where there isnt bad behavior. It harms everyone involved.

    Also, there is another problem at hand. Feminists scream for equal rights and equal treatment. But this is a clear cut case of asking for more, even special treatment. The claim is that the poor widdle women cant protect themselves from the bug bad men….but wait, i thought uou said you could do everything, just like men. So why do you need special treatment here?

  • Yulaffin

    You sound like a fundie.  

  • iAmAbigGirlNow

    I do not blanket all men as incapable of reigning in their sexual appetites.  No offense to you.  It’s just a fact that there are men out there who are willing to take sexual risks regardless of the consequences.  I bet if a woman involved in the administration of one of these conferences confronted the alledged transgressor re: the rumors, and stated that this is not going to happen here – the dude would be walking on pins & needles during his visit.

  • iAmAbigGirlNow

    Well then, you are not under this law.  Therefore I declare you “Not Guilty”.

  • Fsq

    Yes, yes and yes.

    Finally, a lone voice of reason in an uncharted sea of estrogen!!!

    By the way…..nose picking is not necessarily a deal breaker…..oh yes, and, wanna hump?


  • I can’t believe I’m actually replying to this, but here goes…

    1. I never said it wouldn’t happen. I said it was disturbing how the knee jerk response from some men has been to shriek about how such a system would lead to widespread abuse of the system and evil, man-hating women making false reports left and right.

    2. Who ever said that the system wouldn’t also protect men from harassment?

  • Fsq

    Oh such specious reasoning.

    And how joyishly passive-aggresive techniques….”i have a higher view of men”…. You are so full of poo-poo

  • Fsq

    The same chicka who get up in arms about dudes staring at the sweater bunnies are the same ones who scream at the top of their lungs to have public breastfeeding.

    When i see a public breastfeeding taking place, i make it a point of fun and manners to ask the sucker if she brought enough for everyone…..

  • Colin Day

    Of course, we have to be skeptical of extraordinary claims like these

    How extraordinary is sexual harassment?

  • Victoria

     Would you be quite as cavalier if a man who had a good hundred pounds on you and could easily physically overpower you cornered you and tried to grope you, or made suggestive comments about your genitalia and implied that you ought to come back to his room with him in the midst of an unrelated conversation?

  • Sware

    Well stated.  Thank you.

  • Gus Snarp

    I won’t believe you until you name names and provide evidence. I don’t think any woman (or man) would hit on a douche canoe like you.

    You do realize that it is a far different matter for a woman to be hit on by a man who holds both physical and societal power than for a man to be hit on by a woman? And that just “hitting on” is not the only thing going on?

  • iAmAbigGirlNow

    You make it so easy, don’t you?  Always for waiting for some batMAN to save you…

  • Really? Wow, you’re pretty much a jerk. Not funny, just a jerk. And an idiot, as in this case the sucker would be the kid, whose mammary glands presumably aren’t producing anything.

  • If I would value the opinions of people who make unfounded claims I’d feel offended now when they try to make me believe their unbased claims.

    As others have mentioned before, some ‘skeptics’ and atheists vilify men who attend these cons. If someone can’t take it when someone else eyes him or her up or asks her out then he or she should probably stay home and work on his or her nerves. If there’s serious harrassment going on (what I kinda doubt) then it is their duty to report it, name names and provide evidence.

    Groping someone else against his or her will is disgusting, but should we really equate them to pedophile priests and call them predators?
    Half of this post, and the whole Jen/Rebecca thing offend my intellect and moral sense because it’s full of logical fallacies an injustice.

  • Ibis3

    Also comments doubting that the incident(s) really happened or is really as serious as the victim(s) report(s).

  • Sware

    So all of this is about people who have been merely “asked out” and nothing more what so ever?  Are you absolutely certain of this? 

    I don’t happen to know all of the bloggers (more than 2 actually) that have written about this anymore than they know me.  All I have as a reference point is the horrible ways that I’ve been treated at times so pardon me for fearing the worst and expecting that in awful situations something would be done to prevent it. 

  • Vicki Williams

    Seriously?  I’m surprised (as a woman) that you think womens’ sex drives aren’t that powerful.  If you have a problem with yours, maybe you should see a doctor.  I’m also not clear on how you are failing to see that constantly having to pick your nose might not be every gal’s idea of a fun, welcoming environment. 

  • Byskwik

    “Also, there is another problem at hand. Feminists scream for equal
    rights and equal treatment. But this is a clear cut case of asking for
    more, even special treatment. The claim is that the poor widdle women
    cant protect themselves from the bug bad men….but wait, i thought uou
    said you could do everything, just like men. So why do you need special
    treatment here?”

    Replace women w/ Blacks & men with Whites & reread your statement, applying it to pre civil rights era. Do you sound like a jerk?

    Once equality has been achieved, you have a point. The issue that keeps coming up is that a lot of people don’t feel that this achievement has been unlocked.

  •  wow. I think you’re the exact kind of knuckle-dragger being complained about here.
    Back! Back to your mom’s basement and your autographed copy of “Blackmoor”!

  • Let it become common knowledge that if these little boys can’t keep their hands to themselves, they WILL be outed, and they won’t be invited to come talk to the multitudes anymore. Hit ’em in the pocket and they’ll either learn how to behave outside mom’s basement or they’ll disappear.
    Guys-Look in the mirror. If YOU wouldn’t fuck you, why do you thing Rebecca or Jen would?

  •  Got lost on your way to the “Men’s Rights” message board, Fsq?

  • iAmAbigGirlNow

    I just say, “Ladies – put your big girl panties on and deal with it” ~ Strong women ready to take charge of their own lives!  No reason to feel defenseless or that you have to have a posse to deal with a situation. We [women] need confrontational skills.  Life is unpredictable. We live in a capricious universe we can’t control. But we can control our response to the variety of events, people and challenges that life throws our way. My hope is that we try first to be the agent of change ourself…and if that doesn’t work – the dude needs to be on the National Sex Offender list.

  • Heintje_K

    You know who should do the talking? PZ! If anyone has a very secure position as a speaker in secular events, it’s him – it almost seems that he is on the speakers list on every event lately. After al, who else is more qualified and has more moral imperative to speak out than the most vocal atheist blogger on feminist issues.

    So, please pass him the list and ask him to publish it on his blog. If the culprits are so influential that not even PZ dares to out them, that will surely narrow down the possibilities a lot. 

  • Grainosalt

     “It can be enormously difficult for women to understand just how powerful the average man’s sex drive is.”

    As a man, this is extremely offensive.

  • Jebeck00

    With whom have McReight & Watson lost credibility, exactly? Not in circles I’m in.

  • Pascale Laviolette

    Believe it or not, women do in fact realize that we are on the losing end, on average, in terms of strength and stature. We may be equal in other respects, but the fact is, we are more vulnerable – and we know it.  Not saying a woman can’t learn to defend herself, but men need to understand that preventing sexism/harrassment/rape is THEIR RESPONSIBILTY too.

    Our gender may err on the side of being hyper-vigilant, but rape is anything but uncommon – many of us have terrible personal experiences that we desperately want to avoid, at the risk of offending “good” men. The stakes are higher for us, on average — so until we can get everyone on board in making the “baddies” more obvious – yeah, in some ways, we do need special consideration (as do all marginalized groups looking to achieve equality).

    Both genders have equal capacity for achievement and intelligence – YES, but we can’t pretend that the differences between our brains, hormones and bodies don’t matter.  I’ll be the first to admit, I would SUCK at defending myself, so I need the “good” guys to be on the side of fair treatment so that the bad guys can’t so easily hide in the mix.

  • Ronlawhouston

    I think you should have stuck with your premise in the first paragraph.  Don’t “name names.”  I can see the headlines now when the atheist smack down libel suit gets filed.  Just don’t invite.

    If you do invite, I’d say that it’s a case of caveat emptor.   You knew what you were getting and you more or less assumed the risk.   Complaining later really smacks of whining.

  • Heintje_K

    Of course men’s rights aren’t worth fighting for. Men have rights!? What a preposterous idea!

  • Vicki Williams

    There is also a difference between equal rights and exactly the same.  Men, on AVERAGE, are physically stronger than women.  Clearly, women will not always be capable of fending off physical attacks.  I’m not saying that we are talking about rape cases here.  However, given that rapes do happen, women are going to feel uncomfortable when confronted with a sexually aggressive man.

  • aproustian

     The problem is you’re suggesting an individual solution (each woman needs to just fend for herself) to an institutional problem (our culture supports men harassing women).

  • ortcutt

    Naming names would be valuable because it would lay responsibility where it lies, on the persons responsible, rather than putting suspicion on innocent people or placing blame on “the community”, whatever that is.  (BTW, the Catholic Church is an organization.  Freethinkers are at best a group of people who happen to agree on one thing, not an organization.) Without naming names, how on Earth is “the community” supposed to reject or distance themselves from the sexist persons anyway?  We’re in this disturbing situation now where there are vague allegations of sexism, but no one is willing to stand up and say who the hell they are talking about.  That puts a lot of innocent people under suspicion, and I’m frankly getting sick of it.

  • aproustian

     This is literally the funniest thing I have read all day. I laughed out loud. “poo-poo”!

  • schmavery

    Funny, I only saw a ton of men who had their feelings hurt by a woman doling out some, apparently, much needed advice on why following women into elevators might make them uncomfortable?

  • ortcutt

    The difference is that the Catholic Church knows who the child abusers are and covered it up.  So far, I haven’t heard anyone willing to say who these unnamed wrongdoers are.  Names anyone?  Someone saying that most people aren’t wrongdoers is just pointing out that unless someone is willing to name the persons doing wrong, everyone comes under suspicion, even when they have done nothing wrong.  I want wrongdoers held to account and made pariahs.  However, since I don’t know who these people are, it’s more than a little hard to do that.  That is completely different from the Catholic Church, that knows who the wrongdoers are and seeks to protect them. 

  • Heintje_K

    Are you implying that this has happened? Great, now we have an additional info: the culprit(s) is a big-sized man.

  • Vicki Williams

    Many women have very positive experiences interacting with the atheist community.  Just as most altar-boys aren’t molested by their priests.  What’s at issue is: how we deal with these (hopefully rare) cases when they do arise?

  • ortcutt

    I would be overjoyed with people publicly naming names and people blogging their allegations openly.  Why is there so much reluctance to talk about this if there are problems?  Let the names fly as far as I’m concerned.  The present situation where there are vague unnamed allegations and no one is willing say anything specific is just absurd.  So, let’s hear it.  If anyone has any names to name, they should feel free to put them in a reply to this comment.

  • Reuben Kellen

     “As a point of fact, many divirce lawyers actually advise female clients
    to file restraining orders as a tool of getting custody of kids,
    regardless of if the man actually did anything.”

    That’s one hell of a claim. Got any independent, reliable supporting evidence?

    I ask because I work in family law with a number of lawyers, and I’ve never encountered the behaviour you describe. Indeed, if lawyers were to advise their clients to seek restraining orders without cause, they would almost certainly be breaching their code of professional ethics in a number of different ways, with consequences potentially falling on themselves and their clients.

    I can believe that lawyers will inflate minor infractions and try to minimize any mitigating factors when seeking some form of (strategic) protective relief for their clients, but to suggest that they would pursue that relief “regardless of if the man actually did anything” is something else entirely.

  • langostino

    Kudos to you for being strong enough to take control of your life and your interactions.  Ideally that would be the final answer, and then all would be good.

    Unfortunately, many women (and men) are not raised to be so assertive, whether it was in the family or society in general that led to this state.

    I am not intentionally disrespecting you, not at all, just pointing out that what works for someone with your inner strength may not work for everyone, and everyone needs to be protected.

  • iAmAbigGirlNow

    From the scientific data taken regarding the difference between the male/female sex drives (and from observance in nature and in talking with other females), there is a definite difference in the intensity of the sex drives (it’s all hormonal baby). Even among the same sex there are differences in drive. No need to concern yourself with my sexual health or anyone else’s, sistachild.  Re: nosepick’n – (I can’t believe I’m talking about that) – I bet if the guy was hitting on you in private and you started picking your nose, he’d most likely be turned off – it was just a quick/simple solution. You can wash your finger afterwards.  I once read where a woman combatted her attempted rapist by acting like a lunatic and started pulling up grass and eating it. Threw the perpetrator off and he ran.  Sometimes quick wit mental skills can work.

  • Onamission5

    “Because I’m a sexist dillhole.”

    There, I finished it for you.

  • ErickaMJohnson

    Censoring someone and not inviting them to your party are two very different things. I’m not calling for censorship.

    We do certainly need good evidence before actually naming names, without questions. But we can do work behind the scenes, having conversations with these men to see if we can solve the problem.

    And the secular community IS by default a humanist community. I’m talking about protecting people. This particular post was about protecting women but the stance applies to all members of our community. No one should be harassed, male or female.

  • Bird_of_Space

    “Groping someone else against his or her will is disgusting, but should we really equate them to pedophile priests and call them predators?”
    If they are not predators then what, exactly, are they? And how would YOU define sexual harassment if it’s not that? 

  • Miriamne

    Michael Shermer is the worst offender I’ve heard of and experienced personally, just to name a name. That said, I don’t want to be Monica Lewinskied and be known as the girl who is only a sexual victim rather than a person with useful thoughts on other things. He’s the one with the reputation of trying to sleep with a new to the movement young woman every TAM, and that’s hardly the worst about him.

  • Onamission5

    Aaaand, comments blaming the victim, saying she should have “made a scene” or “just said no” as if that hasn’t been met with violence when it has happened, or as if she would never, ever be called hysterical or attention seeking for doing so.

    If someone doesn’t know what it’s like to be hunted, then someone needs to stfu and listen to those who do instead of defending the predators.

  • ErickaMJohnson

     You’re right, we do have to be very careful because a false positive would be horrible! I very much want to protect the good guys from false accusations. If we are careless in this way, that would be a big fat fail as well.

  • Victoria

    Oh, no, no. I interpreted the previous commenter as saying that this sort of behavior was not a big deal. I was trying to throw out an analogy to illustrate that the power differentials here may not be as blatant as priest/kid, but that there are good reasons why women might feel uncomfortable or threatened in these situations — a woman being approached in a sexually aggressive way by someone who could easily overpower her probably doesn’t feel much different than a man would if approached in a sexually aggressive way by someone who could easily overpower him. It’s just that most men don’t find themselves in that situation.

  • CanadaGoose

    “As a point of fact, many divirce lawyers actually advise female clients to file restraining orders as a tool of getting custody of kids, regardless of if the man actually did anything.”

    Source, please.

  • Vicki Williams

    We don’t have to blaze new trails here.  The power differential is something workplaces have as well.  That is why employers will generally have clear guidelines on sexual harassment – how it is defined and how to deal with it.  If a manager and subordinate want to start a relationship, many employers ask that it be disclosed to HR.  That way, the subordinate can be presented with the opportunity to discuss any potential issues they have with the situation, the company can know that they need to take special measures like having someone else present for performance reviews, and there is a record of the relationship on file to be referenced in case of future problems.

    There is no reason for a speaker sex ban to be absolute.  I mean, I think everyone would already just assume an exception for pre-existing relationships.  It wouldn’t be hard to build exceptions into the guidelines. 

  • Jen

    “make her uncomfortable or give her a harder life”? Did you read what I wrote? I’m dealing with the potential for death and rape threats, career suicide, and having my ass sued off. For things I have no concrete evidence for. If someone behaved badly directly toward me I’d scream it from the rooftops, but it’s not so easy when everything is second hand.

  • What the fuck?  I’m sure that would work well at your place of work, assuming you have one.  It’s not “feminist” it’s about being fucking decent. 

    Unbelievable response.

  • beijingrrl

    For those of you idiots who think groping isn’t a big deal, it’s considered battery in at least some, if not all, states.  You never have the right to touch someone without their consent.  Other forms of harassment brought up here are less clear cut, but there should be no confusion about physical contact.  Personally, that is what I would be concerned with first and foremost.  The idiot who stares at me or says inappropriate things I can deal with.  A groper is going to have to deal with the law.

  •  I think she sounds like a MRA pretending to be a woman.

  • ” Strong women ready to take charge of their own lives!”
    Which is exactly what is being proposed here. The difference is you’r proposing an individualistic approach, while they are proposing a systemic, institutional one. Ironically, given your position that men have uncontrollable sex drives , you should be in favor of a systemic approach.

  • CanadaGoose

    Yes, it’s MUCH worse to be accused of being an abuser than it is to be actually abused.

  • CanadaGoose

    Go away, asshat. 

  • Vicki Williams

    What has Watson said to make women feel unwelcome or turn them off to the movement?

  • Well, you weren’t paying attention then. Right or wrong, she upset plenty of women as well.

  •  Ha! I somehow knew he’d be one of the worst offenders. I’m willing to bet that almost everyone on The List is on the libertarian side of the skeptic movement.

  • Thegoodman

    Has the overall response to Rebecca Watson been negative? Perhaps I live in an atheist blog bubble, but everything I have read about her has been positive and supportive, and I assumed her readership had grown because of it.

    I am not being factious, I am really asking the question.

    Also, what is the actual fear from outing this so-called known perve? Our movement never hesitates to oust and name religious idiots who do despicable things, why should we treat each other any differently? I think this guy needs to be called out and publicly shamed because his behavior is shameful and borderline illegal.

  • Nobody vilified ‘men’. They mentioned (without naming) objectionable behavior by some men that needs to be addressed. I have enough anecdotal evidence from my life to know that such men exist, so that is enough to take the claim, as is seriously. If  anyone involved wanted to vilify anyone, they would actually stir the drama and name names.

    Your claim that this is for something as simple as looking at another person is asinine. However, there is a solution for that as well. If there is a written harassment policy that delineates what is acceptable behavior, then you you can talk about whether eyeing up someone is acceptable behavior, or whether there is groping going on. That you’re objecting to requests for transparency is counter-productive and weird.

  • OverlappingMagisteria

    She wasn’t comparing the actions of the catholic Church to atheist speakers, but the RESPONSE to those actions. Obviously raping kids and creepy sexual advances are on entirely different levels, but the response of ignoring the problem and allowing the priests/speakers to continue just to keep up images is very much the same.

  • Hate to say it, but it sounds like you’re confusing your rationalization of your personal experience with reality.  You sound like a wanton misogynist.

    What’s the matter?  Would such a harassment policy interfere with your MO at conferences?

  • OverlappingMagistera

    Dude. You’re an asshole and you’re embarrassing yourself. Stop it for your own sake.

  • If their advances are unwanted, “Just Say No” – it’s as simple as that.

    Yeah, that’s all it takes.  Glad you cleared that up for everybody… on your planet anyway.  Back here on earth it’s a different story.

  • ortcutt

    I’m glad that someone is willing to say something.  Good.  Anyone else?

  • Onamission5

    I would argue that being decent is the cornerstone of feminism, because that’s the heart of the feminist movement.

  • CanadaGoose

    Yes, and it’s only “natural” to pee and poop wherever you fancy. Got the urge? Do it!

    The idea that men can’t control their powerful “urges” is insulting to men. And it’s why in some parts of the world women are forced to wear obscuring clothing — you don’t want to drive men wild by exposing your slutty slutty hair.  Even very old women can’t expose an ankle because, well …you know how men are.

    What nonsense. All of us control lots of urges and drives EVERY day. We do it because we’re civilized and live among other people. The “men just can’t help themselves” argument won’t fly. Lots of men — even the “average man with a powerful sex drive” — manage to look at women without ogling, groping, or insulting them. Some even manage to see women as fellow human beings. 

    (Granted, we have some notable exceptions displaying their hate and fear in this thread.)

  • schmavery

    I guess I’m just failing to see HOW she upset them by simply relaying her personal experience in a YouTube video?

  • Not the point made, Goose. I wasn’t comparing the two, either in severity or in frequency.
    I would gladly take the chance of being accused of being an abuser if it means actual abusers are also stymied. There are however better ways to go about it. The idea is that rumor mills are by their nature unfalsifiable, and an organized policy benefits both women and men (except any creeps)

  • OverlappingMagisteria

    I agree with a lot of what you say, iAmAbigGirlNow, but we are talking about speakers being overly creepy. I couldn’t help but read you first sentence as “Men may be capable [of not being creeps], but they may not want to [refrain from creepy advances.]”
    To that I say, well that’s too bad. To participate in a civil society you gotta learn to control some behaviors.

  •  Was thinking the same thing.

  • Ronlawhouston

     As an actual divorce lawyer, I’d say you’re correct.  Lawyers don’t invent the facts but will try to inflate the facts.  However, Fsq’s premise has merit.  People all the time try to use family violence allegations as a way to get an advantage in a case.

  • Vicki Williams

    No, it isn’t different.  Ok, we don’t have a central atheist/skeptical pope who reigns supreme – but we do have conference organizers (people in charge of individual conferences) and what we are talking about here is how they should deal with problem speakers.  What you are asking for is analogous to saying abused children need to be willing to step up and call out the priests publicly.

    And yes, I get that there is a difference between children and adults.  If we were talking about the victims and their actions, the comparison would not be a good one.  Ericka is asking how ORGANIZATIONS who put on conferences should deal with the issue.  It is the comparison between our organizations and the organization of the Catholic church that is reasonable.  And no, I’m not saying that our organizations ARE acting like the church – but rather pointing out how we really don’t want to act like the church.

  • Maybe naming names public isn’t prudent but if possibly privately contacting people on the list and letting them know might work.

  • The majority attitude has been supportive; however, a non-negligible minority, not.

    Obvious fears include the potential for slander/libel claims made in
    court, the hazard of retaliation by those with more social prestige
    against those complaing with less, and the vociferous criticism of the
    non-negligible minority. There’s probably others.

  • Heintje_K

    That’s very rational of you to slander an entire group of people based on the alleged actions of one member.

  • CanadaGoose

    Start here. There are links to lots of other stuff. The attacks on Watson were so loathsome .. well, it’s hard to imagine what she was called. Just for casually mentioning that she’d prefer not to be cornered in an elevator late at night.

  • Thegoodman

     I feel like long ago the Catholic church agreed to not “name names” and instead have “Private conversations”. They have continued to do this for the past 50+ yrs.

    How about we stop having pleasant secret educational meetings with sexist individuals who are breaking the law. Instead, we bring lawsuits against them.

    I cannot imagine how keeping their names hidden benefits anyone other than the perpetrators. Maybe the movement could save face, but how has that gone for the Catholic church?

  • Fsq

    Then why are womeand feminists screaming to be allowed as combat troops in the military if they are admittedly not as strong as men.

    Or why do they try and change the rules for longshore work – classic case fromm the 1970s – where it was fully recognized women are physically different, so instead of just allowing for that, they had shipping package weights changed, costing lots of money, so they could get those jobs?

    You simply cannot have the cake and eat it too. It is one or the other. To do otherwise is to give special treatment, not equal treatment.

  • The premise has no merit in this discussion, even if true. It is one thing to make specific claims of abuse in a case where you stand to gain. Making general claims about behavior that is not extraordinary (the existence of men who abuse and harass women is not in question) and requesting general measures is another.

  • I_Claudia

    110 comments on a post about women in the community. I hope I can resist the urge to read all of them, since I really don’t need the heartburn.

    In case no one has mentioned this yet, I would suggest drawing on the expertise of a large feminist organization for advice. I know we have some kick-ass feminist atheists who will likely have suggestions. A good organization will know how one goes about weeding out these behaviors. It’s complicated to deal with behaviors that often occur in private and rely as often on subtle perceptions as anything else. Protecting women atheists from predators and also from vilification when they do speak up while at the same time ensuring safeguards for those wrongly accused is a very difficult balancing act. Why do it alone, when there are professionals whose lifetime dedication is working towards solving these problems?

    It’s a lot to do, especially considering that there is entire section of the community who refuse to believe there is any problem and react with hostility to anyone who does, but it must be done.

  • Begone, pig.  Let the adults talk.

  • ortcutt

    Conference organizers should respond by not inviting those speakers.  And yes, adults should be able to come forward and say that someone is sexist or engaged in intimidating behavior.  Miriamne in the comments below said that Michael Shermer is sexist and treats conferences as a chance to have sex with young women, and furthermore that many people know that.  If that is the case, then it will not be difficult to find other people willing to corroborate those claims.  If true, then people should come forward and say so, because if it is true, then I don’t want to listen to Michael Shermer or lend him any credibility.  The same should hold true for anyone else.  We need people to take responsibility, yes be adults, and name names.

  • Fsq

    This is a good starting point. There are some good links within the article that takes you to some good citations.

  • I say feck them all and name names.  

    I understand the fear of standing alone, which is why we need solidarity here.  One woman accusing Speaker Sleaze may face a libel case, but 8 women all accusing the same guy?  Unlikely.Plus guys need to get over themselves.  We don’t need egos trying to trample on this, nor do we need “right-on” guys trying to dictate or speak for the women in question.  We need to realise we are all human, we are all flawed and we all, together, will not tolerate for any of us to be belittled, abused or treated like an object.

    So name names, for these guys to admit their behaviour is wrong and if they won’t change, then get them out of the community.

    That’s my 2c.

  • I call bullshit.  If you are so daft as to imply sexual harassment isn’t basically commute traffic (it goes mostly in one direction) then you really aren’t qualified to discuss the issue.

  • While trying to mitigate the obviously very real problem, let’s also try to not create new problems.

  • Joe Zamecki

    I attended and worked eight national conventions with American Atheists, and a few with other national and local Atheist groups, and I’d just like to say that this problem is nothing new, and it extends beyond sexual harassment. When I worked those conventions, I had to not only listen to a great many speeches, I also got the opportunity to see the audience reactions from both in the audience, and behind the scenes, which is different. Again and again, I remember being suddenly shocked by jaw-dropping statements coming from the podium. I looked around the room to see that at least half of the audience had the same look on their faces as I did – utter shock and horror. I thought “Did they really say that just now?? Are they crazy??”

    What did they say, we all ask? Racist comments, sexist comments, homophobic comments, pro-war comments,  pro-religion comments, and a variety of comments AGAINST Atheists. True, speakers don’t usually get put on the speaking schedule because they agree with everything the convention group says. But for sure, there are other potential convention speakers who won’t utter such insane things. 

    I could put together a short list of popular speakers who have shown their less ethical sides and their bigotry, right there on stage, and elsewhere. No need to air dirty laundry in such a blatant way, but suffice to say, some of our best and brightest have said some of the most insulting things at the podiums of some of the biggest Atheist group conventions. 

    This is one giant reason why I think more emphasis should be placed on getting new activists on stage more often, and less emphasis should be placed on getting the same old celebrities with the same old opinions, some of which offend the audience. We only agree totally on a couple of things – at best, so I say let’s focus on those things, and leave our side-disagreements at home. And when you hear a speaker say or do something wrong, tell the event organizers, and suggest that the speaker in question not be invited back. Apparently this reporting doesn’t happen often enough, because yes, I too see those bad speakers coming back again and again and again, as if the organizers didn’t even attend the convention! It’s time to improve on that.

  • Ken

    1)  Why are these offensive asshats so important to invite to conferences?  If they are toxic, just don’t invite them, since they pollute the discussion with their behaviors.  It’s not censorship to reject anti-social, or unwanted overly social behaviors.

    2) We really do need to name names here.  Accusations of anonymous behaviors will not change anything, compared to a public call out.  Deliberate boob fixation may not be a felony, but it is certainly rude, and a loud verbal rebuke would put the event on record to surrounding witnesses, which will create the necessary justification for naming the names.  

    3) Self-policing is a necessary evil in any group.  just look at what happens when it is not practiced by churches, politicians, lawyers and banks.  If we maintain we have higher standards of morality, we must walk the walk.  This cuts both ways, and false accusations must be equally publicized.

    Just my opinion, as a man who likes boobs, but knows better than to stare — an invitation is somehow more satisfying than an assault charge.

  • Ronlawhouston

    Well, I didn’t say the premise was relevant or germane.  I think Fsq’s comment was directed to having actual evidence before you start “naming names.”

  • People who get harrassed (does not equal to getting asked out) at events
    should make a bloody scene, as you said, instead of making unverifiable
    claims afterwards.

    You make it sound so easy.  You really have no idea how this sort of shit works, do you?

  • Onamission5

    Not to mention that groping and peeping, at least according to the FBI, are behavioral preludes to raping. In all cases? No. In many? Yes.

    Let us also not forget that– given law enforcement stats on sexual assault– a disproportionally large number of women and girls (compared to men) at conferences are SA survivors. To behave in a manner which makes them feel threatened is to potentially trigger PTSD, it is to make them feel unsafe and unwelcome.

  • So far, I haven’t heard anyone willing to say who these unnamed wrongdoers are.

    Thus the comparison with covering it up?  Hullo?

  • I haven’t read every single link, but I did read Jen’s post, and I think most of the comments so far here and I haven’t seen anything relating to the legal implications of an organizer not taking reasonable steps to protect attendees from harassment.  A business can be liable if they don’t do anything to stop an employee from harassing a customer.  (Actually, it goes further than that- businesses can be liable for the conduct of their customers too).  But if an organizer knows one of their speakers is harassing attendees, and does nothing about it, I can’t see how they can’t be setting themselves up for a lawsuit.

  • Forrest Cahoon

    How about starting a list of “certified well-behaved” speakers?  That wouldn’t involve naming the bad ones.

  • Slander and libel claims would be harder to pull off if there were multiple complaints about the same person. As a community, we need to make clear that the majority of us are not supportive of this sort of behaviour, and that retaliation against people calling it out won’t be tolerated. Social prestige can be a fragile thing, and if people who have it are abusing it, calling them out is the quickest way to strip them of that social prestige.

  • I had a long reply worked out here, but it became ranty.
    So I posted over at my own site.

    My issue here.  We should be better than this. 
    These are the issues that we lambast other groups for and we should not be sexually harassing anyone.  

  • Reuben Kellen

    “Then why are womeand feminists screaming to be allowed as combat troops
    in the military if they are admittedly not as strong as men.”

    You’re sort of all over the place, aren’t you?

    Anyway, regarding women in combat arms of the military, the argument is this: The nature of conflict is such that some women in military support roles will inevitably find themselves in combat. That being the case, women deserve the opportunity to benefit from full combat training, and the cachet that comes with recognized combat experience.

    Read more here:

    There’s also an idea that women may have other physical advantages (endurance, heat tolerance) that can prove useful in combat situations.

  • If names are never named, how are organizers to know who not to invite?

  • ortcutt

    No one is telling them not to make the names public, as the Church did when it asked parents of abused children to stay silent.  If anyone has asked women to not name names I would certainly like to hear about that as well.  On the contrary, many people want the names made public, and it’s the women who have been intimidated have not been willing to make them public.  If people know the names, someone should be able to post them somewhere.  The only name we’ve had go public so far is “Michael Shermer”.  What are the other names?  Why won’t anyone make this list public?

  • I think an easy answer is that conference organizers should hire an HR consultant for their conference to draw up a code of ethics and a harassment policy.  Each organization that runs a conference would keep their own files, but a clause in the policy would make it clear that other conference organizers would have access to HR files if requested.  I’m sure an HR expert and an attorney could come up with a pretty solid procedure and complaint process to protect the conference environment for everyone.

    And hopefully that would preclude having to police adults who decide they do want to hook up for the weekend.  

  • Anon

    Because there is absolutely NO difference between being raped and manual labour.

    I’m pretty strong, stronger than some guys that I know. But that doesn’t mean that if somebody grabbed me and tried to rape me I would be able to effectively use that strength to defend myself. I don’t know since, fortunately, I’ve never been in that position.

  • No argument from me, but the point is that being decent is not uniquely feminist.  We should not consider preventing harassment to be solely feminist, but simply decent.

  • Ronlawhouston

     I think word of mouth.  Apparently the names are known even without being publicly “named.”

  • How about saying she should “make a scene” to attract witnesses, and promising to render whatever aid is welcome and necessary to her? Can we do that? #ijustwanttohelp

  • The Captain

    Yes, because every guy who is awkward or look at at your tits is not a rapist!

  • Mary

    Wow, there was so much offensive content in these comments that I don’t know where to begin. All I know is that if I ever attend one of these conferences (which I am unlikely to do just from reading these comments), I certainly would not trust my atheist community to help me out if I was being harassed. It’s interesting – I arrived in the atheist community via de-conversion, and I was fully convinced that all the stereotypes about atheists being unethical were wrong. These comments…well, wow. If we can’t all agree that people should behave peacefully toward others, then the atheist community is not what I hoped it is.

    I think it’s funny that someone stated in the comments that it’s likely that the offenders are on the “libertarian side” of the movement, or something to that effect. I am also a member of the libertarian community, and there is no doubt in my mind that the people in that community would help me out if someone was coming at me. My libertarian friends are quite big on personal responsibility. Most of them are incredibly ethical when it comes to how they treat people, and those who aren’t are kept in check by the people around them. Ideally, that’s how any community functions. I hope that we can figure out how to be that kind of community.

  •  Good questions, really.  Fear.  It’s all about fear.  Fear of being ostracized, sued, vilified, slandered, or simply not being believed?

  • Travshad

    What laws are being broken? It is not a crime to be sexist. I have not heard of any incident where a lawsuit would any chance in court.  But “naming names” could lead to some defamation lawsuits.

  • I’m going to guess (yeah, I know, that’s not evidence-based, whatever) that his definition of “sexual harassment” is “everyone else’s definition of sexual harassment minus the stuff I like doing”.

    Also, slander is spoken. In print, it’s libel. #jjjameson

  • Tom

    You try to sound like you’re all in favor of this, yet you accuse these women of being reluctant to talk?  Are you kidding me?  This is the bravest post I’ve seen on a major atheism blog, and you’re saying it’s just not good enough?  Plus you call absurd the deference this post gives to men who may want to do some explaining, rather than see it as a gesture of understanding and hope that some men will understand?

    I remember you from previous exchanges, wasn’t surprised your post was a cheap shot…

  •  Well, it would mean reining in the kind of men who think they are entitled to do whatever they want to women, so I can see why they would think it would be bullshit. Can’t see why anyone else would.

  • “You’re sort of all over the place, aren’t you?”

    Yeah, he’s not pissed about this particular proposal, he’s pissed at women generally. Or at the very least, women who advocate for themselves.

  • The Captain

    Well right there is one of the problems… not all women are from/share the same cultural norms as everyone thinks they should.

    First off, my combat boot wearing lesbian friend said she would feel uncomfortable now if she “hit up” the wrong girl. But we both agreed it would be funny as hell to see what that reaction would be like (would it be an inappropriate thing to do for a girl too, or would it be considered “homophobic” to condemn a gay person for doing the same thing?).

    But even the res of my strait women friends I hang out with felt put off. Most  because well how to put this… there the do not take “offense” to things kind of people. They are rough, crude, aggressive, assertive, smart, witty and fun. I’ve watched one of them jump on to an elevator once to make out with a guy she had never meet. And when she heard about what happened she called RW a lot of unpleasant names. 

    The point is they are not the same “type” of people RW and the cool kids blogger club are. They have different cultural norms, and like them. Yet the skeptic movement seem to go out of it’s way to tell them they are not welcome. Sure, people say they are, but only IF they follow the social norms of  one subculture of geeky feminism defined by one clique within the cumunity. And frankly they are too free thinking to do that. 

  • Travshad

    Are you saying that because you are “star-struck” that creates a power differential that needs to be regulated by an outside force?  That doesn’t make any sense.  The speaker has no real power over you, like an employer or even a officer in volunteer group.

  • Mike

    Adults shouldn’t need to be told these things.  The only people who are helped by silence are the ones doing something wrong.  If women feel they need their friends to protect them at conferences, I just really don’t care about the feelings of the people who are making other feel uncomfortable and unwelcome.  Name the names and make it clear that the atheist community cares about a healthy environment for all.

  • The Captain

    Wow, lotta typos in that one!

  • Rebecca Watson actually helped me feel more confident about coming to conferences.  The real problems come when this stuff happens and nobody TALKS ABOUT IT!  Since Elevatorgate I’ve been to two conferences and had zero issues with inappropriate attention.  Thanks to Rebecca, and thanks to Jen for pointing this issue with speakers out last weekend.

  • I probably would, actually, but I’m probably an outlier. But it seems that The Captain missed that this is about comparing one coverup to another coverup. I’m going to hope that that was a reading comprehension failure on his part, or trolling.

  • There’s a difference between asking a woman for coffee during decent hours while around other people and asking a woman for coffee while she’s trapped alone in a corner or elevator at 4 in the morning. One is flirty and the other can be extremely frightening.

    If we want more women in the “movement” there needs to be clear-cut reporting guidelines so women feel safe. If you feel you’ve been harassed, then report it. There should be a designated staff person at the event who collects these reports. These reports should have ALL available information including names of accused and accuser. You can’t make any changes without gathering actual information. If a person gets multiple complaints, then they’re not invited back regardless of their status at the event. Simple.

    And if you (especially men – call out your own) witness such harassment, then you should report it even if the “victim” chooses not to.

    I wish there had been something official we could do when I was at TAM8 and “that creepy guy” interrupted a group conversation to focus his attention on the hot young girl, describe how he shaved his balls, invite her to check them out and hand her his business card with his room number pre-printed on it. I told him point-blank that he was creepy and to move on and I was ignored (I am neither young or hot) while others in our group just sat there shocked and uncomfortable. The young lady and I moved away and watched Creepy move on to the next group to hit on the hot young woman in that group. Socially inept or downright dangerous? Who knows.

    Women are telling each other to avoid events or be prepared for crap like this to happen – with no recourse. I’d feel much safer if I knew there was active reporting guidelines rather than whispers and rumor. We can’t be pro-active until there’s specific guidelines. As far as what to do with the reports, committees can share information but it doesn’t really need to go public unless one person is so bad they need to be publicly called out.

  • *POW*

    When somebody claims he likes dogs I won’t feel the need to demand evidence. When somebody accuses somebody else of a serious crime I’m afraid I’m bound to higher standards and I will demand proof.

    It’s funny I have to explain this in an atheist/skeptic arena.
    Don’t we all know at least one man or woman personally, who has the quote “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” tattoed above his or her pelvic region?

    When I was a child I was scolded by a smart woman when I told her I’d never hit a female. (Now that I think about it I wouldn’t have hit a male either, and I never hit anybody in my life, actually.)
    She was furious and condescending for differentiating between the sexes. And in the following days I realized she was right.
    I was merely being “chivalrious” and “cool”, you know, like the guys who would give up their seats for women on a crowded bus or would open the door for a female, but not for a male. They were merely indoctrinated into these ugly social conventions that aren’t really kind in nature either and sometimes these social norms and customs are actually rather sexual. “I’ll be kind with this woman, so she’ll like me more, so I’ll have a higher chance of fucking her.”

    Now if you excuse me, I must get busy with not caring about your words ‘douche canoe’ and whatnot.

  • Travsad

    I disagree.  My thoughts are more in line with Benjamin Franklin: “That it is better 100 guilty Persons should escape than that one innocent Person should suffer, is a Maxim that has been long and generally approved.”

  • He’s just generally pissed.

  • Tom

    Many religious people I talk to tell me their biggest worry with atheists is that they are immoral.  This is evidenced to me by the “who is least trustworthy” polls that are quite well know, with atheists at the top.

    Does this conversation make anyone more worried these people are on to something?  Personally, I have had many experiences that reinforce this idea after having de-converted almost 8 years ago.  I had to reconcile the realization that I wasn’t a bad person because of my atheism, but that it seemed there were a lot of people I didn’t like in atheist communities I had joined.  I also met people who I despised more than any other people I’d ever encountered.

    This continues to be an issue, but I am proud to be part of a community of nonbelievers here at Hemant’s website where there are people brave enough to challenge the people who claim to be their biggest allies.

    Thank you ladies AND gentlemen, who are supporting one another here.

  • ortcutt

    There is no disputing the fact that women are reluctant to talk.  The fact that people are willing to talk about this generally without being willing to name names proves that.  And yes, there is a bravery deficit here.  If this list exists, then it should be made public and we should deal with the allegations.  There is no reason that men can’t “do some explaining” once the names are out there.  Michael Shermer is the only name that has come out so far.  I’d like to see what he has to say.   Would he deny the claims?  Would he accept them?  I don’t know.  I don’t see what good is done by keeping everything silent.

  • Victoria

    I neither said nor believed they were.

  • Tom

    Sorry for the awkward wording lol, I was more focused on hitting all the points… 🙂

  • Vicki Williams

    Mary, please know that most atheists would be very happy to come to your aid.  I suspect that the percentage of jerks is a bit higher on internet forums than in the general (and atheist) population.  Or maybe people just know better than to be jerks in face-to-face interactions.

  • Hal Tritz

    Tangential to this topic perhaps, but still related: Considering that we’re talking about skeptical community conferences here, I have to question the whole notion of “needing” celebrity names to speak in order to draw attendees. Why this focus on the celebrities in the first place? Why spend big bucks to invite some “name” to come and read to us what he’s read or written a dozen times before? If someone thinks he’s so essential to a conference success that he can behave like a prick and still get asked–well, that tells us something about the skeptical community: we are still too much in need of our “gods.”

  •  Good. Then you are in agreement that the current ad hoc system needs to change towards an organized harassment policy.

  • I’m not a lawyer, but I’ve been through enough mandated anti-sexual harassment training to know that at lot of what has been related is very definitely legal standard sexual harassment.  There’s no law against being sexist, but there are laws against groping people or making repeated and obviously unwelcome sexual advances.

  • Miss_Beara

    Yeah, because all men cannot control their “powerful sexual urges” so much that they can’t treat women like normal human beings. 😛

    Also, saying no in those situations does not always work.

  • Vicki Williams

    great… another example of an atheist copying the BS we call out the religious for…

  • Redd

    The only conference/convention I’ve been to was the Texas Freethought Convention in ’11. I have no complaints in regards to the speakers; in fact, every speaker and everything exceeded my expectations. I socialized with plenty of people those few days and made a couple of friends. When the convention was over and everyone was set to leave, one man in particular, an attendee who I briefly talked to before came up to me. As socially awkward as he already was he became more persistent in getting to know me. A speaker friend of mine heard what was happening and attempted to get me out of the “situation.” The man then offered to pay for an extra stay at the hotel and dinner. Of course I immediately turned him and his offer down and walked away with my friends. Just because I had a creepy experience at a convention it’s not going to be a deterent for future ones. Some people just have a hard time communicating something socially acceptable.

  •  I don’t get star struck. The only way you’ll ever see me struck dumb by a celebrity is if you plop David Tennant or Nathan Fillion in front of me.

    No, it’s more that I don’t like drama. Big, emotional displays make me very uncomfortable. Calling out ANY man on inappropriate behavior always leads to an awkward and not fun conversation. Slap a larger ego on the man involved, some clout and prestige, and you’ve got an even worse situation that many women would be discomfited by. Mostly it comes down to the fact that I hate making a scene and the potential for doing so is much higher when the man I’m rejecting has a higher status.

  • Vicki Williams

    Legally, groping is battery.  

  • And though there’s no law against being sexist, it DOES hurt the “cause” and doesn’t have to be illegal to be stopped.

  • Travshad

    Are you talking about sexual harassment?  Sexual harassment is mostly employment law.  Generally (differing by jurisdiction of course) there must be a business or professional relationship between the parties, the victim must request the behavior to stop (the first sexual advance isn’t illegal), and it must cause tangible hardship for the victim to terminate the encounter/relationship.

    Now if people are committing actual crimes (batter – unwanted sexual touches), than the conference may owe some level of protection.  But I think it would be difficult to hold the conference liable. 

  •  “After all, who else is more qualified and has more moral imperative to
    speak out than the most vocal atheist blogger on feminist issues.”

    PZ may be the most vocal male atheist blogger on feminist issues, but please be careful not to erase all the atheist women blogging on these issues, many of whom are plenty vocal.

  • Vicki Williams

    Yes, organizers should refuse to work with these speakers and should support women going to the police where appropriate.  The problem with naming names (for the organizers) is that  it is hearsay.  There are ethical issues with repeating hearsay, not to mention legal liabilities.  If women want to come forward and name names – they should be supported in doing so.  But the burden for solving this problem should not rest on the victims.

  •  Seriously. “If only everyone would do exactly what I imagine I would do in that situation, there wouldn’t be a problem!” Great, that’s super helpful. Because there are no good reasons why anyone might not do that.

    I would also point out that a claim of harassment or assault isn’t that much more verifiable even if a fuss is kicked up immediately, especially if the harassment or assault took place in private. It’s still going to be a woman’s word against that of a renowned male speaker, and there are too many people who just automatically assume that women are lying about this shit.

  •  It’s not exactly like assuming a zebra when you hear hoofbeats, is it? Sad to say.

  • Vicki Williams

    You still haven’t said what it was that Watson said to make them feel uncomfortable.  She expressed her opinion.  You and your friends are welcome to talk about how they feel when they are hit on.

  • MS

    read the article. says he beleives most of the restraining orders are issued with intent in these cases without offering any real evidence of such. Another source please.

  • “Does this conversation make anyone more worried these people are on to something? ”

    Nah. I don’t think atheists are any worse about this than anyone else. I just think we aren’t enough better.

  • Rieux

    It’s not concern for “the feelings of the people who are making other[s] feel uncomfortable” that is leading people not to disclose The List. It is, among other things, concern for the consequences that will befall to anyone who discloses it. As Jen McCreight explained, quoted in the OP:

    Look at what happened to Rebecca Watson when she simply said “guys, don’t do that” about an anonymous conference attendee. Imagine the shitstorm if there were public accusations of sexual misconduct of some very famous speakers. I’m not ready for the flood of rape and death threats. I’m not ready to be blacklisted and have my atheist “career” ruined by people more powerful and influential than me. I’m not ready to be sued for libel or slander. I’m not ready for the SSA or other organizations I’m affiliated with to also be harmed by association.

  • ortcutt

    It’s true that there are a lot of libertarians that take pride in being sexists.  They see it as a liberal legal and social constraint that they don’t need to follow.  Yes, it’s a generalization, but there is something to it.  That is one of many reasons why I am not a liberatarian.

  • BenZ

    I’m totally on board with the title of this post, except for the “almost”. This conversation seems a bit silly to me without naming names. Let’s give the readers a little credit in their ability to be skeptical and seek out both sides of a story before they reach any conclusions.

    Some people have character, and others are douche-bags. Douche-bags should not be invited to conferences or be leaders in the movement, end of discussion. So, let’s be judicious and skeptical in figuring out whether specific people are or are not worthy of our attention in the future. I actually feel like I’m being denied important and useful information by the people who are passing on stories without naming names. Any story along the lines of “Some member of a large group was a douche-bag” could not be less surprising to me. They exist in every large group.

  •  “The same chicka who get up in arms about dudes staring at the sweater
    bunnies are the same ones who scream at the top of their lungs to have
    public breastfeeding.”

    Yeah, it’s almost like women think that our bodies don’t exist solely for the purpose of male sexual gratification.

  • Rieux

    It’s McCreight, but I wholeheartedly agree with you.

  • Attendees pay a fee for the right to attend talks.  Organizers pay speakers to give talks.  There are contracts all around.  I realize a contract to speak isn’t exactly employment, but it’s also not strangers on the street.  Again, IANAL and I don’t have materials handy to look up specific examples from employment and education, but I’d be surprised if there wasn’t a case, given enough documentation.

    And of course as said upstream, even if something isn’t strictly speaking illegal, that doesn’t mean it has to be tolerated.

  • Pteryxx

    Also consider the converse: military men who have been raped.  Trained soldiers can’t necessarily defend themselves against rapists; neither are civilian men, even strong ones, immune.

    Physical strength really is just one of many tools an aggressor can use, and it doesn’t necessarily help the victim.

  • Dj DeliFi

    uhmm really hard to compare an inappropriate sexual proposition/advance to child abuse.    Not that the issue shouldn’t be dealt with but such a comparison is a bit excessive

  • I_Claudia

    It sounds like a nice idea but it does no good unless it’s basically complete. The only way it would work is if people had the security that everyone who is legit is on the list. Otherwise what you’d get is some people wih a “certified nice” badge and a bunch of people who…you don’t really know. People aren’t going to exclude speakers if they aren’t on the list unless they’re sure the list is exhausitve, because otherwise you’re punishing men who simply haven’t been reviewed. This would include any new speaker, who hasn’t had the chance to prove themselves either way. A trustworthy “good guys” list would be a pain to maintain, since you’d have to include every new speaker proactively, wheras a blacklist requires much less work, since people will only get put there after a process spurred by complaints of misbehavior.

  • Onamission5

    My spouse would adamantly disagree with you that his “sexual urges” make him incapable of behaving in a non threatening manner toward other people who happen to be female.  He would also adamantly disagree that it’s women who are solely responsible for thwarting threatening male behavior. So would my adult son.
    Aparently I have a higher opinion of men than you do, and thus, higher expectations.

  • At my university, maybe since we’re a bunch of isolated Americans in a foreign country, but gossip is even more virulent around here. Which professor is having an affair with which student is the most popular form it takes. I refuse to “name names” based on hearsay for the exact reason that I refuse to participate in the gossip – it has the very real potential to ruin lives based on something that I cannot know to be true.

    If women who have personally experienced something want to speak up, of course they should feel comfortable to do so. But I won’t join in because I only have rumor to go off of, and I won’t engage in something that plays for such high stakes as someone’s career and marriage with only anecdotes.

  • Onamission5

    FWIW, I have encountered by far and away more grossly uncomfortable and/or threatening situations when I was a part of the religious community than I have as part of the secular, so those religious people who are worried about us being immoral have no leg to stand on. It has also been my experience that the culture of coverup, victim blame and denial is more entrenched within religious communities than it is in the secular. However! It does still happen, and that is why it needs to be addressed head on instead of shushed– because that IS the moral and right thing to do.

  • gurudwara

    I’d like to give my two cents on this topic, as someone who’s been there…I have had incidents in varying degrees through my life of mild flirtation through awkward/slightly sinister situations through actual assault.  I can tell you that at the time that the scarier situations are occurring, there is NO WAY, none, contrary to common sense, that I would have the wherewithal to make a scene or scream.  My only thought would be to get as far away as quickly as humanly possible.   I would be far too terrified to stand around and confront the perpetrator, no matter how many potential witnesses or protectors were nearby.Also, as far as outing the person afterwards, there’s a lot of fear there, too.  What if I have to confront them while making my complaint?  What’s going to happen to me when he finds out that I reported him?  Beyond dealing with the person who has terrified the bejeezus out of you, fear of being ostracized after coming forward is very, very real.  I’ve been told by a psychologist (I am definitely not a psychologist), after I was trying to deal with the fact that after coming forward with the information that a family member had repeatedly raped me as a child, that the fact that I was being disinvited to family functions while my abuser was being treated like a king was some sort of normal human coping mechanism.  “It’s the boat-rocker that they tend to have a problem with.”  They didn’t want to deal with me because I had made them think about painful things, no less about someone they loved as much as they loved me.I feel in my bones now that someone is at least thinking, “isn’t it possible that due to your childhood experience, you are oversensitive and see abusive behavior when there is none?”  The only answer I can give to that, not that I *should* have to answer that, is that throughout my teen and adult years I dated more than a few men, without problems (I even married a couple of them).  There is a difference between flirting and being creepy.  It’s not that hard to spot.  And not all mildly creepy behavior would make me run for the hills, but if I were truly concerned for my safety, I would be out of there like a bat out of hell.

  • BruceMcGlory

    Take your misogynistic MRA schtick back to MGTOW, lying bigot.

  • BruceMcGlory

    Actual concerns are worth addressing.  “booga booga scary feminists are out to falsely accuse you!” is not. Its lying, its bigotry, its beneath a real skeptic.

  • BruceMcGlory

    So, in addition to being  bigot, you’re also clueless.  Feminists DO argue and protect for exactly this.  Wake up.

  • Maybe not, but the fact remains that there were upset women as well as upset men. You said you ‘only saw a ton of men’.

  • schmavery

    That is what I’ve seen? I didn’t say there were ‘only’ men upset by Rebecca, just that, on the skeptic blogosphere and within my own circles, I had yet to come across a woman who was offended by her actions.

  • BruceMcGlory

    Don’t bother the fainting couch with reality.  Better to just scream ‘godwin’, rather than listen to the point, after all.

  • Mike

    You are right, I shouldn’t have ignored that dimension of the problem.  But what solution is there to the problem of people feeling so intimidated by the backlash from sexists that they won’t speak up about sexism and harassment?  Silence is not the answer, so the fact that we are at least having this conversation is a start.

    To me, Rebecca is a role model, not a cautionary tale.  Go Rebecca!

  • BruceMcGlory

    Its only bullshit to a misogynstic bigot. 

  • BruceMcGlory

    First, learn to read.  Second, stop being a creepy ass weirdo to women.  Not fucking rocket science.

  • BruceMcGlory

    Lying liar is obvious.

  • OverlappingMagisteria

    The fact that this issue is being talked about and hopefully addressed makes us a lot more moral than those who would prefer to sweep it under the rug for the sake of appearances.

  • Onamission5

    I have never once heard of a rapist being stopped by picking of the nose. Please cease being so flippant and dismissive of real life threats to the safety of women and girls.

  • The Captain

    Ughh,are you trying to not get it? There is no “gotcha” phrase that she said to put them off. It was the whole way the thing was handled that did it. They get the feeling that their kind are not wanted. They feel (I think rightly) that if they show up to these events, and be themselves, offend someone, then RW or whomever can unleash a hoard of internet followers to boo at them on the internet. So they choose not to participate. 

    As I keep saying, to make a bad analogy (that is built of automotive cultural stereotypes) the skeptic movement is currently being run by a bunch of Prius people who keep going out of their way to make the Camaro drivers feel unwelcome. All in the name of being “inclusive” of course.

  •  If the new problems aren’t as bad as the old problems, I say go for it …

  • ErickaMJohnson

     I am a strong woman but the two times I was blatantly sexually harassed (both times involving physical contact), I did nothing to correct the behavior in the moment. Both times I was so shocked and the people who had done these things to me acted like it was the most normal behavior in the world. I was like a deer in the headlights thinking, “Did that just happen? Did that really just happen?” And with the worst of the two, my instinct was to run away, and that’s what I did. I felt so unsafe I just had to get myself out of the situation.

  • Onamission5

    Thank you for being open about your experiences. Hopefully, some *ahem* certain folks here will read this and have a better understanding of the dynamics involved in such situations, and be less quick to point fingers at the victims.

  • The Captain

    And like I said, I know several women who will not come to the conferences because of RW. But one thing I have learned from this is that some women are considered more worthy of having their comfort catered to than others in the skeptic community.

  • ErickaMJohnson

    Sometimes quick wit mental skills can work.

    Yeah, sometimes. And sometimes it doesn’t. And sometimes you just want to attend a conference and enjoy awesome speakers and not worry about someone following you to your hotel room at the end of the night.

  • schmavery

    I don’t think I’m following; ‘their kind’? The only ‘kind’ of people Rebecca was admonishing in her video were those who proposition women in enclosed spaces at three in the morning. If your friends don’t do that, what’s the problem?

  • Nordog6561

     What happens if PZ is on the list?

  • I was going to reply to this, but Greta Christina just put up a post that pretty much says the same as the answer I was going to give.  So I’ll just point you to that:

  • nude0007

    How about conferences offering escorts? Men who volunteer to escort women about, merely for company and protection. They could be screened by the conference staff, and easily fired, removed, blackballed if they fail or transgress themselves. I would offer my services for an entire conference, especially if it meant a free ticket to the conference. A free room (even shared) would help a lot as well. I am also not intimidated by anyone who thinks they are special or better than others, yet not out to pick a fight or make a scene.  I’m from the south and we grew up on defending women’;s honor.

  • amycas

     “And the secular community is not a default feminist community.”

    If you value women and think they should be treated with respect and dignity, then you are a feminist. I would hope those in the secular community would value women and want to treat them with respect and dignity. If this is the case, then the secular community is, by default, a feminist community. Why wouldn’t you want it to be? It’s like saying: the secular community is not by default against racism. Or: The secular community is not by default lgbt friendly.

  • amycas

    On any other topic, FSQ actually has interesting and well-thought out things to say (when he’s not making a joke about something). For some reason, he gets all frothy and hate-filled whenever femenism is brought up.

  •  “the fact remains that there were upset women as well as upset men”

    Liar. Name just ONE …

  • amycas

    Of course it’s not uniquely feminist. The whole point of the feminism movement is to say: women are people and should be treated as such. If you agree with that, then you’re a feminist. People have such a weird aversion to this label though. It’s like my friend who says they don’t believe in any gods, but refuses to call themselves an atheist. Most people fit the label “feminist” they just don’t want to assume that label for one reason or another.

  • amycas

    Well, if he read the post, Ericka specifically said that naming names is a LAST resort. Jesus fucking Christ. The entire post revolves around the importance of helping women feel safe in teh secular community, and it even explicitly says not to name names except as a last resort, and all Fsq wants to talk about is the “naming names” part. 

  • The Captain

    The women I hang out with sometimes actually like that. 

  • amycas

    Did you miss the part of the article where a prominent female blogger said she’s not ready to name names because of all of the rape/death threats that would be hurled her way? Are you honestly saying that you don’t understand why women who have witnessed other women be silenced by threats of violence might not want to name names just yet?

  • Tom

    Do you understand what public claims/lawsuits for sexual harassment do to people?  It ruins their lives.  These women are trying to deal with this issue in a way that won’t ruin the lives of the accused because that’s not what they want.  They want this behavior to stop, and it isn’t necessary to call out these men out publicly if they are able to change their behavior by realizing what they’re doing wrong.  Which is exactly what this post is trying to do, bring about awareness not only to the women who are being harassed but to the harassers themselves.  It’s very possible they’re not fully aware of the pain they are causing, and this effort to bring the issue up may get these men to pause and think before they act wrongly again.

  • Onamission5

    Please stop claiming to speak for women when you are talking to actual women, who are telling you directly what our opinions are.


  • The Captain

    Yea, it’s just like i said, some women are considered more acceptable to be catered too than others.

  • amycas

    Here is a great post by Jt about setting boundaries:

  • amycas

    “Just say no” doesn’t always work. It’s also not as easy as it might sound to outright reject somebody.

    here’s a piece that sheds some light on why the “just say no” campaign doesn’t really work:

  • amycas

    Also, being outright confrontational can be very scary. Many women feel (and have experienced) that being confrontational when rejecting soemone’s advances could or will lead to violence. It can be scary. I used to work with a guy who just wouldn’t get the hint. When I finally did become confrontational with him, I had a friend walk me out to my car every night after work. He was a big guy, and I was terrified that he might lash out at me.

  • Tom

    It’s clear your beef is with the motives of these women.   It’s clear the assumption you use is that this reluctance is the result of cowardice rather than fear of greivious ramifications for the accused.  I find more evidence for the latter.  Like I’ve mentioned elsewhere in this discussion, public accusation of harassment is a major burden for the accused.  These women don’t want these men to suffer that burden if they can realize they are wrong and change.

    That’s called being compassionate.  Give it a try, will you?

  • amycas

     “1. Men may be capable, but they may not want to reign in their
    appetite.  Men are as faithful as their options. Me thinks you’re not
    seeing the reality of male behaviour. ”

    Me thinks you’re not seeing the reality of human behavior. Not reigning in their appetite when appropriate is a direct example of male privilege. Stop giving them excuses to indulge in this. Womens’ sex drives are just as powerful as men’s, so stop acting like men have some sort of sexual disability to overcome and we women have to be confrontational to keep them in line. No, men are capable of understanding an indirect no in all other circumstances of communication, but suddenly when it comes to sex and/or flirting, they can’t understand the cues. I call bullshit on that.

  • Onamission5

    Predators (no scare quotes required) by very definition do not understand the word no.  If they respected women or our boundaries, they wouldn’t be predatory.

    The whole “no means no” thing is just to make a victim more credible in court, by being able to say that yes indeed, she was very clear about not wanting to be raped. It’s not a deterrent.  It’s a matter of getting a conviction after the rape has occurred.

  • Tom

    I see why some were so eager to hear names.  This gives more stones to throw to those who could have beef with the accused.  What cowardice, using a yet unconfirmed accusation to leverage your own pet notions.  Ha!  What a lame post…

  • Now this wasn’t at a confrence and just a stranger on the street, but I was groped and a guy attempted to drag me off. This was on a busy Pittsburg street, downtown, mid-day. I kicked up a fuss, I screamed and thrashed. A cop less than a block away looked at me square in the eye and walked away. No kind stranger helped me. Had I not taken my boot to the guy’s kneecap mid-struggle and ran, I might not be alive today. At the very least I knew what that guy wanted since he was happy to growl it in my ear as he grabbed my breasts and pulled me toward an alley.

    Yes, please, keep pretending that “making a scene” is some magical fix.

  • amycas

    Are you suggesting that you honestly don’t understand normal rejection cues that men and women have to read in everyday conversation? Masking rejection is common in everyday conversation, and everybody understands it perfectly. The only time somebody claims a miscommunication is when it comes to flirting and/or sex:

  •  Again, I don’t disagree, and I don’t have any aversion to the label “feminist.”  I would classify myself as feminist.  My issue is adding fuel to fsq’s fuckwitted nonsense by focusing on the “feminist” aspect of the conversation.  Like it or not, in his twisted mind, if we focus on this being a “feminist” issue, then for him that’s reason to discount the assertions made.

    OTOH, if we remind him that it’s not about feminism or any ism, but rather just being decent people, we can just call him an asshole and have done with it.


  • Tom

    This wasn’t necessary.  There was a reason this post is titled “It’s almost time to start naming names.”  Maybe you should have written a letter to Mr. Shermer himself explaining your feelings and asking for an apology, rather than use this public space to accuse him?

  • dangeroustalk

    Let the witch trial begin.

  • ortcutt

    I have no beef with anyone’s motives other than those of the sexist wrongdoers.  I do think that sometimes a certain amount of bravery is required to get things done.   If you consider the history of Civil Rights leaders, feminist leaders, and gay-rights leaders, you’ll see that’s the case.  I don’t think the generic allegations without naming names have been either productive or responsible.  

  • amycas

    I know what you mean about the awkwardness. I went on a camping trip recently with my local atheist group. A guy  from the group was being blatant about hitting on me or trying to flirt. I called him on it (in a joking, friendly sort of way) and he stalwartly refused to admit he had been doing it (all other witnesses agreed that he was). I wasn’t offended at all by the flirting-that’s why I joked about it. But he made it super awkward.

  • ErickaMJohnson

     Men staring at women’s breasts in not predatory behavior, it’s creepy behavior. Men groping women without their consent and following them to their hotel rooms is predatory behavior.

  • amycas

    There’s a difference between asking to not be constantly be viewed as a sex object and also asking that I be allowed to feed my child in peace without having to go to a dirty public restroom. The fact that you seem to see breastfeeding as some sexual act akin to looking at breasts that are on display for sexual gratification means that you are the problem.

  • Onamission5


  • amycas

    Then he’s a hypocrite and we stop supporting him. It’s an easy solution.

  • Tom

    It’s time that being famous just for being atheist loses it’s novelty.   Attend conferences where the speaker is someone who is championed for their hard work, character, and humanism rather than for their ability to use their mouth.

  • ErickaMJohnson

     I haven’t made serious accusations. I have pointed out that serious accusations have been made and called for action to address them. I’ve also called for skepticism regarding these accusations and to proceed with caution. I’m calling for mediation with the accused offenders rather than an all out “name and shame” campaign.

  • amycas

     Yes, it would be inappropriate for a woman to proposition another women in such a way that the woman being propostitioned felt threatened.

  • Tom

    Every person who starts their post off with ”
    Oh bullshit” should be made to write a paper on the many uses of bull’s shit as fertilizer in today’s sustainable agriculture movements.

  • amycas

     It’s not about catering to a certain subset of women. It’s about making the events safe. If we have a policy that forces people to respect boundaries, then everybody is safe. If you’re friends’ boundaries allow for making out with complete strangers on elevators, then that’s awesome (as long as the stranger’s boundaries allowed for it too). There’s no reason why your friends can’t also respect others’ boundaries too. Nobody is saying whose boundaries are correct, we’re just asking that they be respected.

    Here’s a post by JT that might clear it up:

  • Onamission5

    Promises without follow through are meaningless. Unfortunately, all too often, making a scene in order to attract attention to one’s situation backfires. You don’t know how many times I have been harrassed or assaulted, called the person out, asked for help, had no one help me, and then when I put the bystanders to the question, had them tell me, “Well you looked like you had it handled.” Uh, yeah. I came out alive. Never mind my scars, my tears, or the overwhelming sense that I’m totally alone and can’t count on anybody.

    It’s also very hard to make a scene when you’re alone in an elevator with a lurching groper.

    Besides which, this strategy is ignoring the dynamics that lead to these types of situations happening in the first place. I would rather have policies established which deter predatory behavior than place the responsibility on the victims to constantly do damage control.

  • Peter Dunning

    It absolutely is time to start naming names. If you do not, then people will start imagining the identity of the predators, defaming the innocent.

  • amycas

     “Guys-Look in the mirror. If YOU wouldn’t fuck you, why do you thing Rebecca or Jen would?”

    That’s just wrong and insensitive. There are men who genuinely have self-esteem and other mental health issues involving perception of their own body. Jt Eberhard is very outspoken about his own issues in this area. I suggest you read up on that before you start putting down guys and telling them not to even try. There’s a difference between sexual harassment and flirting. If the guy is respecting boundaries, then it’s not sexual harassment.

  • Tom

    And it seems like many people excusing these harassers use this shock as an opportunity to further muddy the waters.  It’s as if it’s a demonstration of guilt to some, which is seriously flawed in reality.  It’s a moment of violation, a loss of the sense of humanity towards another.  That’s shocking.  To find out that you are not treated as a creature with feelings just like those who perpetrate these acts, is scary.

    Not everyone is this mythical “big girl” with her power-panties on.  Not everyone has the forethought to properly tell off a manipulative person as they’ve never had to deal with one before.  

  • amycas

     ^^^this is why women don’t feel comfortable naming names.

  • amycas

    I really like this idea.

  • Tom

    I think there are a lot of men, some even posting here, who see themselves as some kind of Peppy Le Pew.  Honestly, as if every female out there was secretly wanting them and are just waiting for the boys to swoon her.  It’s so patronizing! 

  •  I read your posted link (and followed your blog, btw) – well done.

  • Tom

    What is?

  • Tom

    That’s not something I’d say to a religious friend (“aren’t enough better”), it’s bridge-burning for sure.

  • Tom

    I’m skeptical being atheist makes “us” so loosely affiliated it doesn’t mean anything

  • Tom

    I appreciate you adding your story, I am glad to hear you have found a refuge from such terrible things!

  • Sunda

    I respect both the calls to name the names of the guilty in order that we might police our own community, and the calls to avoid hasty participation in rumor mills by offering up the names of those who may or may not in fact be guilty according to hearsay.

    Which makes me wonder: is there a way to create a community space dedicated to the specific purpose of allowing those affected by sexual objectification/harassment/assault, or misogyny otherwise, at such events to speak or write their stories in an environment that is created and moderated with intention?

    Obviously, there is no way to eliminate the real risks of speaking out, but perhaps we could at least offer support as a community.

  • CallMeRiverton

    Really? Is there a need for the accusation of misogyny? Simply pointing out that it’s silly to say women don’t put out false reports is not misogynistic, it does happen, most likely WAY less than the anti-feminists think, but it has happened.

  • Patterrssonn

    People often get all reactionary when it comes to their own privilege. I think it becomes kind of a crutch to their identity so they see any attempt to address or even to name this privilege as an attack on themselves, even if they are perfectly rational or reasonable the rest of the time.

  • Tom

    It’s official now, guys.

  • I, like I think like most of us, fuck myself regularly.  I just don’t expect anyone else, even my wife, to.

    (Edit to hopefully fix fucked up and confusing wording)

  • Patterrssonn

    God Fsq you are a total dick

  • The only way to deal with this is specifics and openness.  If there are men treating women in a poor way I would imagine that person would eventually be ostracized by women in the group.  If they are assaulting omen I would hope they would report them to the police. But the only specific claims I saw in the article are the following.
    1. talked only to their chest – the guy is an asshole lacking self-control, say something or don’t to the guy but this isn’t really assault.
    2. groped them against their wishes – kick the guy in the balls and call security and the cops. This is actually against the law. Use it.
    3. followed
    them to their hotel room – go to security and get an escort to your room or ask the guy why he is following you to our room.
    4. had goals to bag a young hottie at every
    speaking gig they did – That is a pretty male goal in general. You could probably replace McDonalds with speaking gig and it would remain the same. I’m not saying its positive or all men but its a lot of them.

    That said if there is a sexual assault problem at these cons then it needs to be addressed with security and anything else that can help.  If it is just that some of the speakers are misogynist assholes who want to screw young women.  There is no reason to create new policies to protect women from dealing with asshole men. As I am pretty sure that is skill that many have to learn at a young age.  Also, this is not the equivalent of covering up a epidemic of raping children, and if it is then people need to come forward and press charges regardless of the fall out. 

  • Patterrssonn

    Don’t take this the wrong way Cap but I’m guessing your totally full of shit

  • Patterrssonn

    Thanks for not making any sense Morva

  • Patterrssonn

    “If I would value the opinions of people who make unfounded claims I’d
    feel offended now when they try to make me believe their unbased claims.”

    You mean like

    “Okay, Ericka M. Johnson,
    Jen McReight and R. Wattson have long lost their credibility.”

  • Cortex_Returns

    You’re missing something important here. And that is that predators pick the time and the prey. They pick on people they expect to get away with picking on, and in situations where they won’t be likely to be seen in a bad light, or where people would be unlikely to take their victim seriously.

    Also, science shows it’s not always as simple as “Just Say No.” Check out the theory of gender and power.

  • Why can’t there be both? I’m not saying we don’t need policies, but we also need to stand up and say “this shit is not going to be tolerated.” I really, truly doubt that I personally was one of those bystanders (that sounds like the sort of thing I’d remember), but on the off chance I was, then I am deeply sorry for my failure to do the right thing.

  •  Me three. It’s just too over the top to be an actual woman.

  • That’s a reasonable view, but there are plenty of total nutjobs who like to label themselves feminists too (see the recent rabid transphobia coming from some ‘radical feminists’), and that causes a problem for people that believe as you do.

    By way of illustration, I think most of us would agree with the simple idea that ‘men have rights’, but that doesn’t mean it would be sensible to go around identifying as MRAs.

  • How is word of mouth not naming names? That also doesn’t cover the people who don’t want to support skeezy people, as well as conventions that don’t have enough organizational overlap to pick up on that word of mouth.

  •  Fear of retaliatory rape…

  • Here have two: Stef McGraw and Abbie Smith.

    You’ll be apologising for calling me a liar now.

  • People piping up saying that names shouldn’t have been named, and things should have been handled quietly, out of sight.

  • Cortex_Returns

    The creeps women are concerned about aren’t awkward. They are confident and they are aggressive.

  • syd

    Allegations like these are career ending, and by keeping the list secret you rob the accused of any chance to defend themselves:

  • The Captain

    Oh I’m sorry. I was speaking for my close friends. People (women) you do not know. But I’ll learn to keep my mouth shut when it come to the opinion of people I spend every day with in lue of your opinion which is apparently much more informed on the subject of my personal friends.

  • The Captain

    Then you guess wrong. But whatever it’s your right.

  • The Captain

    “Nobody is saying whose boundaries are correct” actually yes you are.

  • Nance Confer

    Well said, Ericka. How many chances do those on The List get before everyone gets to know their names so women are able to protect themselves?

  • jenhen


  • Ndonnan

    My neighbours divorce,this is exactly what happened

  • Cortex_Returns

    It’s unfair to label all sexists as libertarians?

  • Ndonnan

    Yeh a feminist telling it like it is,good advice

  •  Bullshit.

    And I say this as someone going in to the legal profession.

  • Heintje_K

    I suggested PZ precisely because he is not a woman, and therefore not one of the victims of the alleged sexual harassment. Publishing the list through him will give those women victims an extra layer of anonymity to shield them from the backlash.

    I didn’t mean to overlook or discount the atheist women blogging on these same issues.

  • ufo

     In Vegas, don’t they have cameras everywhere?  It should be pretty easy to verify any complaints with video evidence.

  • AnalogousGumdropDecoder

    Hey, guys.  You know how annoying it is when we try to raise awareness about how the non-religious are discriminated against in your culture, and the religious people who don’t have to experience that discrimination have knee-jerk reactions about how we’re just trying to stir up trouble and that atheists are really running everything and trying to take their religion away or whatever?

    When females tell us males (who are not usually the targets of sexism, rape, gender inequality, lower pay for same job, etc.) about how they’re being discriminated against, threatened, or abused and we have knee-jerk reactions and deny it’s happening or downplay the severity of the claims, we’re being those closed-minded religious people who frustrate us.

    Let’s try to pay attention to what women have to say, learn something, raise our level of consciousness, and make the situation better for everyone, okay?

  • Heintje_K

    Since we are being generous with hyperboles here, why not add “disembowelment”, too?

  • Heintje_K

    Oh, and you might want to claim the 1-million dollar prize from Randi for having demonstrated premonition

  • ufo

     Right.  The whole “false accusation” thing is a huge red herring.  There are already huge disincentives against false (and true) accusations by women against men who cross the line.  Look what happened with Rebecca Watson’s elevator incident.  Not too many women would bring all that crap on themselves on a whim.

  • ufo

     Exactly.  The most successful guy I know (in terms of getting laid) invariably approaches women he’s interested in with “would you like some company?”   Without any unsolicited pawing or suggestive come-ons. 

  • Tom

    I dunno, I think this has yet to be determined.  I’m open to results if they present themselves.  But I’m waiting…

  • ufo

     Right, also while on average women are smaller and weaker than men, there is considerable overlap in physical capacity between men and women.  As the LGTB movement has amply demonstrated, sex differences exist on a continuum.  Not all men are Rambo and not all women are Miss Daisy.   The point isn’t that all women should be running around the front lines toting a machine-gun, but that they should be given the opportunity if that’s what they want to do.

  • RebeccaSparks

    People make false claims about being abused or raped at the same rate as any other crime, such as arson, robbery, or attempted murder (which is 2%, per the FBI’s annual crime statistics).  It’s only misogyny if you only worry about false reports from women about abuse & rape and not, say,  mugging or armed robbery.

  • Heintje_K

    You see, Ewan, those two don’t count: Stef is a rape-apologist, and Abbie called a woman twat. Naturally their vagina license has been revoked.

  • Heintje_K

    May I presume your question was tongue-in-cheek?


  •  It’s not hyperbole.

  • Heintje_K

    You are right, we all know no individual woman has mental autonomy. All women are part of a hive-mind. If anyone claims to be a woman and disagrees with you, she (he? it?) must be an impostor.

  • Onamission5

    Yes, thank you very much.

  • Onamission5

    Thanks. People who are willing to learn are always appreciated.

  • Heintje_K

    Apparently you are privy to info behind the scene. Great, now we can pare down the possibilities further: the culprits are big-sized men (>50 pounds than a typical woman attending a secular conference), and they are aggressive and confident.

  • Heintje_K

    You mean no woman digs jerks? Hmm, that must be why PUAs succeed.


  • Heintje_K

    Ever heard of “post-hoc ergo propter-hoc” fallacy? You might want to check it out on Wikipedia.

  •  I never claimed to have supernatural premonition. It’s called making an educated guess. Just like I guessed that libertarians would be butthurt by my comment. It’s not because I’m psychic, it’s because that is how they react to almost everything.

  • ErickaMJohnson

    I second what Vicki said. Trolls gravitate to discussions like these and you’re not seeing a balanced view of the average person at a conference when you look at those awful posts.

    So far, at conferences I’ve been to, I’ve met so many wonderful and engaged people, folks that want to make a difference in our community. Please don’t let this who conversation be a deterrent for you attending big events. This is a problem, yes. But what you see in all of these different threads and blogs is people working at fixing this problem. I’m confident that this will be old news in the not too distant future.

  • I would suggest that chaperoning the offending speakers would be more appropriate.  Not sure how to apply that to attendees who don’t do bounties.

    (or hell, all speakers if we’re not ready to name names?)

  • ErickaMJohnson

    The accusations go beyond inappropriate sexual advances; they include cases of sexual groping. But even in cases of less sever harassment, we’re still talking about predatory behavior that’s being covered up. That is why the comparison is appropriate. Abusers are being shielded rather than confronted.

  • RebeccaSparks

    This looks like a good as any place to quote Kelly Anderson

    “Rape and battery are still defined as a woman’s issue, because we are the victims.  All too frequently, the reality of men’s role in this social problem is overlooked-because we hesitate to state the obvious:men rape.

    It’s as if we’re afraid to antagonize the “good guys”-which actually, is one of the ways in which a rape culture accrues benefits to men.  The current system–women living under fear of rape and battery-actually provides some advantages to men in our society.  If nothing else, the fact that some men assault women lowers our standards for acceptable behavior.

    Merely by not raping us or beating us, a man can be considered a “good guy” regardless of whether he ever does housework, cares for his children, shares power with a partner, or expresses an emotion.”

    tl:dr Women aren’t asking men to solve this problem because women think themselves weak, but because men are involved, directly and indirectly.

  • I find the term “creepy” interesting. Whether or not a guy is creepy seems to be largely based on whether he is attractive. Creepy behaviour for an awkward or unattractive guy is often romantic and charming if he’s good-looking.

  • Onamission5

    That has not been my experience. Some women may be willing to overlook creepiness at first if someone is attractive, but that doesn’t last long at all. The creepy (or abusive) always bleeds through, regardless of the wrapping.

  • Heintje_K

    “Retaliatory rape” is not a hyperbole!?
    Nope, totally not. My bad…

  • Downright dangerous? Because he made people feel awkward in a social situation? That’s hyperbole on the level of “all harassment accusations are false.”

  • Because they’re afraid someone might disagree with them?

  • I value people and think they should be treated with respect and dignity. I am not a feminist.

  • How much hate do you really see in his posts? We may disagree with some of his points but it’s hardly hate-speech.

  • Kitkat

     This. THIS! ^

  • Syl

    Why not name the good guys instead? I’d be interested to know who the real gentlemen are (in the best sense of the word – sorry if it sounds old fashioned) and let the omissions speak for themselves.

  • Kitkat

     Ya, I didn’t like that sentence either. ‘extraordinary claims’  Seems like it is happening quite a bit, if the word has been going around for awhile.  And extraordinary?  It’s not extraordinary.

  • schmavery

    It’s not like 1 in 4 four are sexually assaulted in their lifetime or anything. Our fear of rape is totally unfounded!!

  • It wasn’t an accusation.  It was an observation, and I stand by it.  F*** fsq.

  • Onamission5

    No, because of people jumping in to shame them, ostracize them, and blame them for stirring the pot, when all they did was to name a threat.

  • Onamission5

    Assuring a group of people, who overwhelmingly tend to be the victims of sexual assault and discrimination, safety from harassment and predatory behavior is hardly catering. But hey, thanks for the dismissive, patronizing attitude! It’s so helpful!

  • CanadaGoose

    Come on. This is gossip.  The statement was  MANY divorce lawyers, etc. How about something a little more verifiable than “my neighbours divorce.”

  • CanadaGoose

    Thank you. Thank you.

  • I completely disagree.  How is anyone to know how someone that inept and on the prowl will behave.  He’s already off into the realm of the aberrant.  How far does anyone go?

    It certainly is not on the level of hyperbole you claim it to be.

  • ErickaMJohnson

     That’s hard to say. Seems like it would have to be on a case-by-case basis depending on how egregious their actions as well as how willing they seem to be to changing.

  • ErickaMJohnson

     Hemant is pretty awesome. 🙂 And PZ has stood up against misogynists repeatedly.

  • ErickaMJohnson

     And JT sounds pretty cool too. I really appreciate what he has to say here:

  • Heintje_K

    Let me quote you verbatim: “Ha! I somehow knew he’d be one of the worst offenders….”
    You said ‘knew’ – not ‘strongly suspected’ –  despite having no concrete evidence of his guilt. So you must have source of knowledge to which the rest of us don’t have access.

    On top of that, despite the fact that I have never aired my political opinions on the internet, you just know I am a libertarian.

    So, feeling indignant when seeing some people being accused of sexual harassment without incontrovertible evidence is a  typical libertarian reaction? That almost sounds like a normal person’s. I thought libertarians are heartless demons…

    By the way, the correct name for your supernatural power is ‘clairvoyance’, not ‘premonition’. My bad. Either way, you still deserve the 1-million dollar from Randi – and a dunce hat.

  • Redd

    I used the word creepy in regards to his persistance to get me to stay in a hotel located in a city from which I am not from. This man had already tried looking me up on facebook and other media to “find” me. I specifically hide my profile for this reason. Good-looking or not I did not find any bit of that charming.

  • Cortex_Returns

    Have you been paying attention at all? Rebecca Watson gets daily rape threats, and Jessica Ahlquist has gotten a lot, too. And that’s just off the top of my head thinking about women who have actually spoken up about it. 

  • Cortex_Returns

    Just clarifying. The good Rev wasn’t saying all libertarians are offenders, just that all the offenders were libertarians. 

  • Pteryxx

    (content warning for rape)

    Retaliatory rape absolutely exists.  One of the MOs for date-rapists is to pressure or drug a woman into sex, then repeat the rape on a later occasion so the rapist can claim the victim was in an ongoing relationship.  Another MO is to have the rapist’s circle of friends join in raping a semiconscious woman so they can plausibly claim she’s a ‘slut’.  Sometimes they do this specifically to attack the woman’s credibility after she’s filed charges or a complaint about the *initial* rape; the vast majority of rape claims are dismissed, as many as 80%.  The woman who filed the claim may have no way of avoiding her rapist while it’s pending: for instance, if they’re in the same workplace, the same campus, or the same dorm.  

    Retaliatory rape is best known as part of the campus date-rape culture, but it’s also documented in the military.  When a woman files a complaint of rape, but the complaint’s ignored or dismissed, AND she’s forced to continue serving alongside her rapist who’s now been named, what do you THINK is going to happen?

    Example of retaliatory rape in the military, as reported in a current lawsuit:

    One of the women, Ariana Klay, alleged she was raped by a senior Marine Corps officer and his civilian friend in August 2010 at her residence near the Marine barracks in Washington.[…]Klay, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and an Iraq veteran, had complained of harassment and abuse before the attack. She had requested a transfer to Afghanistan to escape it but was turned down, the suit said.”The complicit actions of my superiors was more traumatic than the actual event,” said Klay, who has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.—

  • Sware

    Sandra Fluke comes to mind. 

  • Tim

    “Michael Shermer is sexist and treats conferences as a chance to have sex with young women”

    –  presumably these young women are consenting?

    If so then it is none of your business.
    If not then it is a police matter.

  • Tim

    I am not sure that the comparision with the RC Church is too close.

    The problem with the RCC is that they saw abuse as a sin rather than a crime and therefore something that they ought to deal with .   We need to be careful about erecting our own structure of policies etc around this issue.  Surely the policy should be a s simple as, if a crime is committed call the cops and if there is no crime committed then don’t ask the guy back.

    I know that there is a chicken and egg problem here, but the long term solution is to have more women speakers and audiance members at these event, change the culture and the problem will receed.

  • Heintje_K

    Thanks for the clarification, but I understood that. His unfounded accusation that a single group within the secular community is responsible for all cases of sexual harassment remains just that, unfounded accusation, aka slander.
    You’d expect this sort of demagoguery would come from the likes of Heartland Institute, not from a community that prides itself on respect for evidence and rational thinking.

  • Since we started out talking about speakers and attendees at ‘freethought’ conferences, does the fear of retaliatory rape exist in that context?

  • Heintje_K

    I have no doubt retaliatory rape exists. Even if I take the statistic quoted by schmavery as given, what proportion of rape cases is retaliatory rape?

    For a moment I thought that secular conferences are now held in the lawless tribal regions of Pakistan.

  • Tim

    perhaps you are right.  But it is depressing that we need to do this to regulate the behavior of intelligent adults.

  • Onamission5

    It can exist in any context, from a conference to a school. Rape and death *threats* apparently exist for women who speak out in that context, and people who are willing to threaten in order to shut women up are sometimes willing to act. Tolerating threats of that fashion can seem like implicit approval of the acts which have been threatened, both to the recipient and the doer. I don’t know that it has happened, but I do know that it can happen, because it has happened in so many other contexts. It only takes one.

  • Pteryxx

    IF you take the well-documented stat of 1 in 4 women having been raped as given?  IF?

    If you’re going to disregard THAT level of evidence, then you’re not arguing in good faith.

    Depending on the specific venue, there’s evidence that 50-80% of rapes and sexual assaults go unreported; when reports are made, the majority are disregarded; and that victims often are stalked or pressured by assailants in the same social spaces.  Given all that, plus the obvious and public harassment and rape threats directed at women who speak out *in this community*  I’d say retaliatory rape’s a significant enough possibility not to dismiss out of hand.

    Obviously, we don’t have statistics for atheist conventions specifically, because without a harassment policy, nobody has collected them yet.  Duh.

  • Tim

    Ok, a question to the ladies who attend lots of these conferences (I am a bloke who doesn’t attend these conferences cos i am in the UK were we don;t go into the whole “community” thing as much as you Americans)..

    The male speakers only make up a small proportion of the male attendees.  I would assume that the problem of harrassment was therefore much more likely to be “attendee on attendee” than “speaker on attendee”.  Is that the case?  Or is there something about being a speaker that makes speakers more likely to behave badly?

    Is there not a danger that by focussing on speaker behavour we are ignoring a much bigger problem and what we really need to do is try and make women attendees feel safer from all preditors?  shouldn’t we be saying to EVERYONE at these events – male and female, speaker and audiance – “if you behave badly (in whatever way) you will not be allowed to attend future eventts” rather than focussing on the speakers? 

  • Can, yes, but I’m coming to terms with does.  And the example of Rebecca Watson is a good one, since I think they’re coming from the community we’re talking about.  I guess I’m just feeling like as bad as I thought this was, it’s shit tons worse, and in addition to HR type policies, we also need better physical security.  And I know the threat can happen or be acted on outside of the venue, so I just feel sick.

  • Than you are defining “feminist” differently than the feminists in this thread define it.  It’s not clear why we ought to accept your definition over theirs.

  • Sd

    Because men never get screwed over by the system….you stupid self-hating misandic retard

  • LouisDoench

     I think you are missing a big point raised in Erika’s post.  Atheist/skeptic conferences and other functions act as a “landing pad” for a lot of people who are just getting out of religions, often patriarchal ones wherein they have not recieved the life training to be as assertive as you would like them to be.  For a lot of people a con might be the first time they have ever been surrounded by non-believers. It’s a powerful experience and I see no reason why we should not take assertive proactive steps to prevent women from having that experience ruined by people who are unethical enough to take advantage of them.

  • LouisDoench

     Whoa there… I’d kill for an autographed copy of Blackmoor.

  • Not fully aware of the pain they are causing?  Come on, that’s a cop out.

    I find it hard to believe that the people doing this stuff have no clue what they are doing hurts others. 

    It is one thing if you lack the mental capacity to tell the difference between right and wrong, but we are talking about public speakers, representatives of the community – aka people who have accomplished something significant enough to warrant them being listened to by a group of people.

    The emotional, psychological, and physical pain this harassment can cause can ruin the people they target.  Why should the person being targeted care more about the well being of the harasser then themselves and other potential victims?

  • LouisDoench


  • LouisDoench

     The fact the we are having this conversation is actually a good sign.  Lots of other orgs would put their heads in the sand.

  • LouisDoench

     And that’s another miss… look up and down these comments and you will find the testimony of women who have been sexually harassed and ask them how fucking easy it is to deal with.

  • Erista

    Frank  Clark from Slacktivist says (and I firmly agree)

    “Private conversations with these people have to come first,” Johnson
    writes. “These are our allies and we have to give them a chance to make amends. But if none of those efforts work, then we have to start naming names. Not to shame them but to protect women in our community.”

     I think Johnson has steps 1 and 2 backwards. Protect the vulnerable first and
    foremost. Then — and only then — can you start to worry about protecting the reputation of any person, institution or affiliated movement.

    Protecting the powerful abusers should never come before protecting the vulnerable abused. I am deeply disheartened that we, as a community, are falling right into behavior that we sneered at in others: when we  found out that the Catholic Church tried to handle their abuse scandal with private conversations, we shrieked in fury, and yet now we’re doing the same bloody thing.

    These speakers are adults. They know should know that doing something like groping a woman without her consent is wrong, and as such, a “private conversation” will prove useless with them just as proved useless in the Catholic Church.

    Seriously, how will we explain ourselves to a woman who is sexually harassed or assaulted after this “private conversation?” How will we justify to her that protecting the speaker from scorn was more important than giving her information that she could use to keep herself safe from abuse? How are we going to justify that we knew he had a past history of abuse, but didn’t want to make him look bad by making his actions public even knowing that risked having more women be abused?

  • LouisDoench

     As a member of the Slacktivist community, I present you with a bright shiny new Internet.

  • It’s time to start naming names because when you don’t, it looks like maybe there aren’t really names to name.  When you don’t name a name, you look like you’re trying to shame the entire male atheist community.  Leaving the person unnamed infers an accusation against all the male speakers. 

    Those who are not guilty need this lifted off their shoulders.

  • schmavery

    Yes, as women we have been trained from the time we could walk on How Not To Get Raped. But why is the onus to prevent sexual assault always on the ones being harassed, rather than the one doing the harassing? It speaks to a much larger, and much deeper societal problem that we’ve accepted rape and sexual assault as an inevitability that we, (specifically women, given how often we’re blamed for our own assaults and are expected to devote an exhausting amount of time and effort to making accommodations in every aspect of our lives for potential rapists), have to learn to live with, as opposed to making real concerted attempts to combat a culture that makes excuses for our attackers while accusing us of ‘asking for it’.

  • Hibernia86

    No, they aren’t saying “we shouldn’t complain because most men aren’t like this”. Instead they are saying “We shouldn’t say most Atheist men are like this because most Atheist men aren’t like this”. When people talk about how sexist the Atheist community is, whether they mean it or not, they are implicating all of us in a crime that only a small number committed. I’m tired of the entire community getting blamed because of a few guys who fucked up. Go punish them!

  • Onamission5

    Nobody is saying that most atheist men are like this. What we’re saying is that if we as a whole have consciously or unconsciously created a culture where some men think they can get away with behaving like this, and we’re all part of that culture, then it’s everyone’s job to fix it.


    Those who are not guilty need this lifted off their shoulders.

    Those of us who aren’t guilty shouldn’t be feeling it on their shoulders in the first place. One of the things I’ve seen emphasized in the posts talking about this is that this is ISN’T about ALL men, I wouldn’t even say its a majority of men, but it is a majority large enough to need taking notice of as a whole. The reasonss for not naming names has been explained. I dare say that at some point names will come up, but that is secondary to changing the attitude towards such harassment.

  • Hibernia86

    I think that when an incident happens, it should be  dealt with immediately. Talking with the person accused privately before hand if the victim is okay with it is the first step, but if the issue continues then yes, it would be necessary to have a more public conversation with witnesses of the event to provide evidence for the claim.

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with people having sex with whoever they choose, but harrassment is wrong. I’ve heard of a sticker system that lets people know who is up for flirting and who isn’t. Maybe that would help.

    A point though: Sexual harrassment, while horrible, is not the same as sexism (which the post the day before and many before it have called it). Do we think that these men wouldn’t be acting just the same toward men if they were gay?

  • Hibernia86

    As I mentioned in my other post, I’ve heard of some conferences that have sticker systems which lets people know who is up for flirting with people they just met and who isn’t. That way it is much easier for people who are interested in sexual activity to do so without harassing people who aren’t interested. And people who commit harassment won’t be able to say that they didn’t know.

  • Hibernia86

    All claims should be based on evidence. You shouldn’t let your ideological views decide who you are going to believe. Only evidence is supposed to do that.

  • Hibernia86

    No, I doubt most women would have sexual harassment charges against someone just because they don’t want them to speak at an event. But false claims do happen, so it is important to try to base accusations on evidence. It is wrong to automatically reject claims of sexual harassment aimed at a person, but it is equally wrong to automatically accept them.

  • Hibernia86

    I agree that much of his comment, especially the last paragraph, was out of line. But he is right that false claims of abuse are common in child custody cases. False claims of every kind are common  in child custody cases from both parents and the judges know this. So I feel we should debate someone on the facts rather than just rejecting everything the “other side” says just because they aren’t on our “team”. 

  • Hibernia86

    I agree that we need to take rape accusations seriously and do everything we can to stop rape.

    But it is also important to point out that  if a man is accused of rape, he may or may not be defended by his friends, but most people who see his name in the newspaper (only his name. The accusers name isn’t mentioned) often take any reported story as fact. So even if the courts find him not guilty, the story of him being accused will follow him for the rest of his life, especially now that we have the internet. How is he going to get a good job or a good relationship if everyone thinks that he is a rapist? That is why I think evidence based considerations are so important in these cases, like all cases.

  • Onamission5

    You know that almost sounded good to me for a second until I remembered that what we’re talking about here isn’t the act of flirting, but of menacing and failing to respect clear boundaries. Not to mention that sticker wearing– much like a short skirt– is not an invitation to be non-consensually groped, even if it is an invitation to flirt.

    I would much rather there was an overall culture of interpersonal respect, where all non-consensual actions were actively discouraged and came with penalties, than have to be relegated to wearing stickers.

  • Hibernia86

    If you want to set up clear boundaries, then we should do it and decide about it as a community, making sure that they are boundaries that everyone accepts as reasonable. I’m sure many of the instances talked about are clearly over the line, but many times these incidents refer to things which would be perfectly fine if they were consensual. The point of the sticker system is to increase communication. We don’t have to use stickers. It could be anything, physical or verbal. But the only way to make sure that things are consensual is if there is communication. There has to be a socially acceptable way of talking to strangers about what they consider consensual and what they don’t or else these incidents will continue to happen.   

  • Hibernia86

    I think men should listen to women about these issues, but the final decision should be based on the facts, not on the gender of the person bringing up the complaint.

    It goes for both genders, really. Gender stereotypes can affect men or women and each should listen to each other, but the final decision should be based on evidence, not gender.

  • Onamission5

    I understand what you are saying, but you’re missing the point. The behaviors to which have been referred didn’t happen because the recipient failed to effectively communicate with the perpetrator. They happened because the perpetrator didn’t care what the target had to say, what she wanted, or what her boundaries were.

    Somewhere on here is a link to a study which blows the whole  miscommunication myth out of the water. I will see if I can find it, unless you find it first.

  • Feminism: the radical notion that women are people.
    Feminism is all about making sure women are treated with the same respect and dignity that men get.
    It’s not about giving women better treatment than men, no matter what Rush Limbaugh says.

  • AnalogousGumdropDecoder


  • AnalogousGumdropDecoder

    You are correct but there has definitely been and continues to be a heavier burden placed on women, and many men react negatively (denial) at the mere mention of sexism.  I’m not saying our opinions shouldn’t be based in fact, I’m saying that we have to be able to unstop our ears and listen to someone who is saying something we don’t agree with because they might have something valid to say.

  • I’ve finally had time to read it and its comments thread, and it is indeed an excellent post. Thanks for the pointer.

  •  I couldn’t agree more – it should be unnecessary… and yet, here we are 🙁

  • Pteryxx

    And the potential for retaliation,which may go as far as retaliatory rape, is why “publicizing the identifying details of the victim” should not be conflated with “evidence”.

  • will there be any excommunicating of speakers that make the males uncomfortable? Or just the ones that make females uncomfortable?

  • Pteryxx
  • Onamission5

    Thank you! I was scrolling and scrolling and scrolling, but never found it.

  • Pteryxx

    Look up the book “I Never Called It Rape” and read some of it.

  • Pteryxx

    np/yw.  This excuse comes up so often, unfortunately, that I keep the links handy.

  • Kitkat

    No, she sounds exactly like annoying blogger I found yesterday:
    Just sayin it sounds exactly like her.

  • Hibernia86

    That is called asking for evidence, which all true skeptics should support. Yes we should take rape accusations seriously, but no we should not automatically believe either side right off the bat. Evidence is how you decide.

  • Hibernia86

    And you think the accused person doesn’t face retaliation? There are people out there who would gladly bring vigilanty justice to anyone they think is a rapist. They don’t care about evidence or court cases. They think that if you are accused, then you are automatically guilty.

    The accused face the full brunt of public judgement (this judgement normally based off of just a single newspaper article saying he was arrested) while his accuser gets to be anonymous. It seems that if anyone is going to be attacked, it is the accused, not the accuser.

  • Hibernia86

    Sorry, corrected my last post to make it more relevant to the comment thread.

  • Hibernia86

    What I said in my last post applies to those accused of sexual harassment just as much as rape, though at a lesser scale. You can’t claim that your theory is true and mine isn’t because the evidence doesn’t support that.

  • Durandal4532

    Why in the world is naming not the first step?

  • Pteryxx

    When you come out of this fantasy world where rape victims get believed and trusted by “everyone”and never attacked ever, you may realize that having formal harassment reporting protects everyone involved, including the accused.

  • Pteryxx

    And the evidence is that the rate of false reporting is about 2-6%, while the rate of reports being ignored or dismissed is about 50-80%.  Dispropotionate concern about lying women IS an ideological view.

  • William Brinkman

    I’m glad you came forward too.

  • allisonki

    Oh, the horror! A man who wants to sleep with young women! Clearly he is under the influence of Satan!

  • Hibernia86

    I’ve heard 8%, but the point is that those are cases where there was proven false reporting. The fact is that in most date rape cases are impossible to prove one way or the other: they are he said/she said cases. As for the 50%-80% yes some of those are real cases of rape that were unfortunately ignored. But a large percentage were cases where the woman decided not to press charges. While some of those are cases of real rape where she feels she doesn’t have the support to continue, many of them are cases where the accuser decides that the situation doesn’t warrent pressing charges after all. In other words, there is a much higher percentage of false reports in the 50% to 80% that you mention, which is the reason why many of them didn’t go to court.

    So to sum up, yes most of the cases in the courts concerning rape deal with people who are guilty. But not all of them are. I just feel like too much of the time, instead of looking into the evidence, people just assume guilt. We need to let the court system do its work.

  • William

    As an event organizer, I have no idea who these offenders are and would like to know so I know who NOT to invite. To assume “they keep getting invited back because they’re big names and conference organizers can’t afford not to invite them” is ignoring that many of us have absolutely no clue who these offenders are. We are in our second year and thankfully there was no conflict last year but now I’m paranoid about the speakers we have lined up for this year.

  • Pteryxx

    In other words, there is a much higher percentage of false reports in the 50% to 80% that you mention, which is the reason why many of them didn’t go to court.”

    Wrong.  Most attrition in rape reports between reporting and court is due to hostility of law enforcement towards the victim.  See Stephanie Zvan’s analysis of research here: 

  • Hibernia86

    I think the article you linked to shows quite a double standard. The author is quick to dismiss any accusation of false reporting unless it is 100% proven, assuming that any accusation of false reporting that isn’t successfully prosecuted must not be true, but then goes on to assume than most of the unsuccessful rape cases dealt with real rapists. So she starts out with the assumption that accusers should be believed unless they are completely proven false while the accused should be disbelieved unless they are completely proven innocent. That is why she underestimates false reporting and over estimates cases of rape. This is the kind of bias that I don’t think helps the discussion.

  • Pteryxx

    Except for where you didn’t read the research analysis, or the research itself, that showed THE POLICE dismissing the majority of reported rapes as unfounded by definition, even when doing so contradicted their own departmental guidelines.  The rate of dismissal dwarfs the false reporting rate.  YOU are showing bias, and a circular argument, by arguing that police dismissal of rape reports justifies assuming that a higher level of false reports above baseline must have existed in the first place.

    You should also read Lisak’s research on undetected rapes SELF-REPORTED by the rapists.  The rapist fraction of the surveyed population  admitted to enough rapes to have assaulted 22% of the comparable female population.  How do you explain away a rapist-reported incidence of 22% as due to lying victims?

    Cited in:  Meet the Predators

  • Prolefem

    oh for godsake just stop.  you really need to read the whole comments section again and just step back and listen.  i belong to a long established organization that is only now beginning to look at predatory behavior by mostly men, a few women.  I can tell you, from a woman’s point of view who has been through it all, I would much rather that other women name  names and let me know who to avoid than trying more delicate ways of handling it.  as for defamation suits…let em fly.  I would be intrigued to see how willing a predator is to cry about being called out.  Lets don’t complicate this with “what ifs” and such twaddle about legal issues that are gray at best.  Woman, if you know who is a predator, please oh please let me know!  And I assure you, I do the same.

  • Jiveturkey006

    So after reading most of these comments I am left with a few questions. I see that we went from Sexism straight to Rape. Of course women are raped every single day, of course there is date rape, violent rape, retaliatory rape, etc., etc, I don’t think anyone would argue that fact. However, while reading this I couldn’t help but wonder who in the hell has been raped at a Free thought convention? Trust me I am not saying it hasn’t happened or that it couldn’t happen but by the sound of some of you it makes it sound like it may be rampant.  Is Rape actually a problem at these types of gatherings? If so I haven’t seen it nor have I ever heard of it but if I am just blind I need to keep a better eye on my loved ones the next time we attend an event. 

    As an organizer of a free thought convention myself I have to say that this problem has never entered my mind. Am I too trusting of our community or are the Rape scenarios just being thrown in for effect when we are really dealing with a misogynistic male culture? I understand the feminist view of the world as well as a Male can and quite a bit better than a lot of women I know including my own fiance. So much so that my male friends have pretty much quit griping about their partners to me because I tend to point out their hypocritical view of a women’s role in todays society.

    On another note I must say that I know very little about Michael Shermer but if anyone is suggesting that a preference for younger women is a problem that should keep him from future speaking engagements you are no better than our Religious counterparts. Again I don’t know him nor anything about the man’s personal life, and quite frankly if it is consensual it is none of my business. If there is more to these allegations I am unaware of, I can’t help that, but I would be very careful making accusations against someone because of their preferences. 

    Lastly, consensual sex between two adults is not a crime. In some cases could it be considered innapropriate? Sure, but it is not a crime. Drunken or in bad taste invitations for consensual sex are not crimes either. Are they conducive to an uncomfortable situation? Yes but again they alone are not a crime. The problem with any type of hate be it racism, homophobia, sexism, etc., is that it takes all of us to end it. Even those of us that don’t believe we are affected by it must stand up in defense. Next time you hear the “N” word or the “F” word or the “B” word stand up and let the MORON saying it know that at least one person in the room is not ok with it. 

  • Tapetum

     Not my experience at all. The creepiest dude I ever met was both good-looking and moderately rich. It was the guys who all thought he was fine – he couldn’t get any woman to date him more than twice.

    He made his final effort with me – proposed to me, in fact – while I was standing in the apartment I lived in with my husband, holding our two-month old baby. Not long after that incident he started looking for his first mail-order bride (last I checked his was looking for bride #2, after #1 left his ass as quickly as she could get a job and the right to stay in the US.)

    Looks and money combined can’t make a real creep attractive.

  • Dornier Pfeil

    This sounds very much like a ‘If you don’t have anything to hide, why object’ style argument.  Yeah, there is not any bad history associated with that.

  • I agree those people should be talked too.  If things don’t change then don’t invite them to speak.  I have lived by.  Example:  I started to see this older man (yes I am gay).  I had been going over to house for dinners. Then one time we went out to eat.  He started to grope me in public and I told him to stop but he wont.  I told him this was not going to work and never did see him again.  Sometimes confrontation works and sometimes it doesn’t.  

  •  I was just going to post, this ain’t no freaking woman.

  • Bottomline: Everyone deserves respect, and quite a few women have reported being made to feel uncomfortable at conferences. If private discussions help the offenders be more self-aware of their behavior, great. If not, look around. We have a shortage of women and a surplus of old white men. We can spare a few if it comes to that.

  • Rosemary

    I think a WHITE LIST of suitable conference speakers might help.  Anyone NOT on that list should be considered suspect.  It would also help to have a list of CONSULTANT CONFERENCE REFEREES who have experience of organizing and running atheist conventions and conferences and inviting speakers but who are also committed to ensuring a good and safe atmosphere for speakers, organizers and attendees. 

    If someone is considering inviting a speaker to address the audience of a convention or other atheist function but that person is not listed on the WHITE LIST (which should be made very public, by the way) then they should be able to easily locate and talk to several members of the Consultant Conference Refeeres who could indicate, off the public record, whether the speaker the organizer has in mind has been the butt of numerous complaints of sexually predatory behavior in the past.  This should help keep conferences and conventions safe, friendly and supportive while avoiding accusations of public slander or libel.

    So, guys, we need two different and very public lists:



    It goes without saying that the WHITE LIST could also include suitable opposition speakers.  Predatory sex is not restricted to atheists, of course.  Some of the worst offenders are those people who meet the criteria for high Right Wing Authoritarianism couple with high dominance and exploitation traits.  Tom de Ley, for example.

  • Rosemary

     If Shermer does happen to be one of the “unsafe” people, then his academic background offers him no excuse whatever.  In fact, psychological expertise is known to be of considerable help in a seduction process that makes the victim feel like part of the problem.  I know this from experience – both my own and that of my patients.  The very worst offender was a minister of religion who was also a trained psychologist and counselor:  a truly toxic combination – and almost lethal for one young woman.

    Which brings me to another point.  This type of behavior can cause serious short and long term emotional problems.  It is NOT a minor matter, guys.

  • You have some stats for your claim that false claims of abuse are common in child custody cases?

    Your demands for facts don’t seem to apply to yourself and the “facts” that you cling to in order to promote your side of the argument.

  • Cara

    However. You might NOT remember.  You might not notice.

    Men often don’t notice because it doesn’t happen to them. 

    Or they might see it happen but either it gets retconned in their heads as “no big deal, it’s over now” or “she handled it fine, she laughed it off”.

    We laugh it off, handle it “fine”, ignore it, leave, because, as said above, women are to blame if there’s a scene.  And NOT BELIEVED if they say anything after the fact.

    Again, no need to be sorry.  But if you were to keep an eye out and step up in future, that would be great.

  • Cara

     What do you mean, “I know it can, but does it?”  Are you kidding?

  • Cara

     NO.  YOU step up and do your share, too, since you’re one of the good guys.

    Quit insisting women are lying or “punishing” YOU by daring to speak up.

    Quit identifying with these cretins and start identifying with the good people who don’t want this to happen.

    Doing the whole backing off, hands-up, “not my problem” schtick makes you an enabler.

    Knock it off.  You’re not lumped in with the cretins unless you tell women to shut up about it so you can go back to ignoring the problem.

  • Cara

     So, again, we’re going with “women lie out of boredom or just to ruin men”?


  • Cara

     Calling “huzunga” on this entire post.

  • Cara

     But why point it out?

    Why have the default mindset that it’s this common thing, MUCH more common than men actually harassing women?

    Because the effect of the remark is to indicate that the poster is looking for loopholes, or terrified of being accused falsely because women are out to get him.

  •  Two reasons:

    (1) the danger to the accuser, even if s/he is absolutely correct about being harassed or made to feel uncomfortable and has evidence. Considering the status of the accused, we’re guessing they’re powerful people. And evidence unfortunately is not enough: it can disappear, it can be dismissed, etc. Even if it is presented, there’s no reason these powerful speakers, once accused and knowing who it is, can’t make the lives of the accusers hell. We don’t want to make those who have already been violated to now face further violations.

    (2) the danger of merely being named: think about what happens to people who are just accused of child rape, without evidence. This of course doesn’t stop us from successfully prosecuting and stopping awful people, since of course cases turn out to be true. But we don’t want prominent members who have done good work for the secular community to be tarnished since it could hamper their lives unnecessary: they would be violated.

    I’m not sure how robust those reasons are – I personally think we can get anonymous about this, since the evidence can possibly be presented without accusers’ identity, since I want to know who these speakers are. I do not want to associate with people who treat mistreat people, especially women.

  • Retaliatory rape within the context of freethought conventions.  I know it happens in many places in life, as others have cited.  But in talking about conventions we started with things that some people questioned where even illegal.  Retaliatory rape is most certainly illegal.

  • teetotaler

    One problem is y’all drink too much. Not saying sexism, inappropriate behavior, rape, etc doesn’t or hasn’t happened at your events, but jeez people, learn to drink in extreme moderation. Especially if you got such problems at your conventions. Alcohol makes people do really shitty stuff they wouldn’t otherwise do. It’s scientifically proven y’all.

  • rlwemm

     The examples do not suggest that alcohol is a big, of even a small, factor in this problem.

  • Hibernia86

    If your position is that if a man is accused, he is automatically guilty and should always be assumed to be lying, then yes, your opinion is sexist. That is what I am saying.

  • Hibernia86

    I will speak out against sexual harassment, but what I will NOT do is ignore the basic rules of a trial. In America, it is innocent until proven guilty and I will let the facts decide. Anyone who wants to push forward a public conviction without providing facts to support the accusation is an enemy to the skeptics movement.

  •  There’s no point in telling a witness to shut up unless you were there and saw something different or you were there and have something to hide.  Armchair skepticism (more like dismissal than skepticism) of perfectly plausible stories is stupid.   That doesn’t mean you should assume Shermer is guilty.  Somebody could just be pseudonymously trolling here.  But Tom was totally out of line.

  • Elizabeth Wright

    There was no victim because nothing happened. The only victims are people that have to watch these angry “feminists” frothing at the mouth and trying to create problems where there are none,,, perhaps to legitimize their movment.

  • Rosemary

     And you know this how? 

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