Public Service Announcement

Well, something like this could always do with more publicity.

EDIT: the link doesn't seem to work right for at least me and one other reader, but it's definitely the right link: I think there's something wrong on Noirin's end, sorry about that. If it doesn't work for you - if it takes you to the About Me page instead of a blog entry - go to the front page of her site and you can see the entry, for now at least.

So, here's the thing. Here are the circumstances under which you - whoever you are - are allowed to make sexual contact with another person:

  • When that person has explicitly granted you permission to do so

That's it. There are no others. 'S/he is wearing revealing clothing' does not qualify. 'I kind of thought s/he was up for it based on ways I interpreted his/her behaviour' does not cut it either. 'S/he is drunk' (and/or 'I am drunk') DEFINITELY do not cut it. Sexual touching in any circumstance but the above is both deeply morally reprehensible and also a crime just about everywhere, and no, you don't get to complain if you get named in public. Or arrested.

If you think you're going to have trouble with the above rules, you may want to consider not drinking, not attending conferences, and/or patching yourself to be less of a scummy human being.

While I think it's deeply messed up that conferences would need to have an explicit 'hey, don't sexually assault other conference members, kay?' guideline, naturally I support the idea of having one at all community conferences 100%, since it seems like it's actually needed. Who's organizing FUDCon Tempe? Can we get this on the agenda, if it's not there already?

Message ends.


jspaleta wrote on 2010-11-08 19:32:
I'm not sure an explicit conference policy would have prevented this. It may have a political effect as a denunciation of this behaviour but I really don't think it will be a deterrent or will lower the risks of an assault happening. Just like an explicit fraternity policy would not have prevented this at a college party. Sure a policy like that put additional punitive pressure on someone retroactively, but I'm not sure its going to stop someone who is cognitively impaired by alcohol from making bad choices and engaging in what is already generally considered criminal activity. Take the "conference" aspect of this particular situation out and just describe it as a "party" and you've probably pretty much described a very generally applicable set of parameters that are high risk for some sort of sexual assault across many many subcultures in our society. To think that geek culture is going to somehow be immune to these problems is a bit naive, when in fact there is a systemic problem in society at large. This is not meant as an excuse to the behaviour, but at the same time we can't just assume our little subculture is inherently more enlightened than the mainstream. The hard reality is any time you throw people together to socialize with drugs (such as alcohol) you raise the risk of a violent assault (including but not limited to sexual assault) It's not a guaranteed outcome, but it raises the risks significantly. Nor does that say the risks are zero when alcohol is not involved. But there's no getting around the fact that from a risk management point of view.. relying on alcohol to jump start social activities has some downsides. If you seriously want to reduce the risk of this happening as part of an conference activities, then official conference activities need to be alcohol-free social events. No Fudpub this year. Put something else in its place as a healthy social event that people can have fun at. Everyone gives up the crutch that alcohol is as a social lubricant as a strong statement about the entire group's commitment to provide as safe a social environment as can reasonably be obtained. -jef
mcepl wrote on 2010-11-09 07:52:
I think that you both are doing too much of this. I don’t think you need to change any policy just because somebody behaves like an idiot. If appropriate, then violator should be punished by law (sexual assaults are punishable anywhere in the world) and that’s it. These things happen (although of course they shouldn’t) and I don’t want to spent on them more time than they deserve.