Very recently Readercon had a case of sexual harassment brought in front of its board. They had a sexual harassment policy of zero tolerance which had previously been used, they interviewed witnesses as well as the target and the perpetrator. But instead of a permanent ban demanded by their policy, the board decided to suspend the perp for two years because the man in question is well-placed within the community (though the board flatly denies this having been a factor) and whhen contacted he said he was very, very sorry. The thing about predators though is that they’re always very, very sorry when they get caught. The only thing the readercon board has established with this incident is that the con is not a safe space. Since I advocated for people to go to cons by themselves if no one is coming I feel it’s only fair that I also share the means of how to avoid the predators while there if you happen to find yourself in a con that doesn’t take sexual harassment seriously.
How to recognize a predator
(Content warning for the links, they’re all text and what little images there are, are SFW but the text itself is at times heinous.)
The sad thing is that it’s impossible to recognize a predator by looks alone. They come from all walks of life and most of them know exactly how to be charming and likable to everyone who isn’t a target and often even to their targets right up until the point their intentions conflict with their target’s wants and needs. There is more than plenty of evidence that sexual harassment and rape do not happen by accident or because of a miscommunication. The socially adept sexual predators, those who generally don’t get caught, create miscommunication in order to confuse their target as well as anyone they talk to, sometimes even themselves.
There are some almost universal traits about predators:
- They tend to hate and distrust women. That guy making jokes about women dressed a certain way “wanting it”? Might not be kidding.
- They’re good at finding likely victims and testing their boundaries. They will keep pushing even after their target says no, gauging their response.
- They often plan their attacks beforehand.
- They use violence only to the degree that it serves them and then only to scare their target.
- They manipulate, abuse any power they have over their target and generally use psychological weapons against their target.
- They use alcohol and other normal societal excuses for sexual harassment and rape to their advantage so that even if they are caught society will make their excuses for them.
What to do?
- You have the right to say NO
If someone makes you uncomfortable and does not respect your boundaries even after you have politely told them to back off they have already broken the social contract you have every right to use any and all means necessary to get away up to and including screaming bloody murder. Predators consciously target women who are less likely to scream so don’t be one of those women. Even people with Aspergers can be taught/can teach themselves to respect other people’s boundaries.
- Give someone a way out
If you see someone cornering a lone man or woman who seems uncomfortable go ask the cornered person if they want to join you and your party. They might not take it, but most likely they will
What not to do?
- Don’t minimize
You know what doesn’t help with harassment? Making excuses for the harasser. In fact that only enables and emboldens harassers. There are literally thousands of stories where people have been harrassed or assaulted where the people they told about the harassment dismissed it with “Oh, that’s just him, he’s clueless”. Like I said before, adults operating alone in society know the meaning of other people saying “No”, clueless or not. Cluelessness does not an acceptable excuse for harassment make.
- Don’t assume
Just because someone’s been nice to you does not mean that they cannot and will not do horrible things to other people and even enjoy doing them for the effect it has on their target. In fact some 90% of rapists are people who are charming to the people who aren’t their targets.
And if you think you’re just a nice guy/gal who deserves someone elses time/attention; you don’t. You have to respect other people’s boundaries. Otherwise you become a creep at best and a predator at worst. As an adult you take responsibility for your own actions. The best way to not lose your face is to not act like a creep or a predator.