“Please stop touching my breasts: and other things I say at cons”

Cross-posted from Carrie Cuinn, June 2013. She breaks her silence about harassment at genre cons, examples of which have been ongoing in her life over the past 20 years. Click through for a powerful, triggering read! The examples of harassment are below – but the post talks about how the pervasive harassment has affected her, and how she’s seen it affect others.

Hi, I’m Carrie, and I’ve been sexually harassed at genre conventions. (Putting this behind a link because triggering. You’ve been warned.)

Examples:

  1. I was asked to hand a Big Name writer a drink at a con party, I assume because I was standing next to the person pouring them, and without the author even knowing who I was, he asked me if I the girl who’d be blowing him later, or was that a different girl? He wasn’t joking, he really didn’t know which young fan would be giving him oral sex on demand, but he knew there’d have to be one.
  2. I was picked up by a man I didn’t know and carried out the room, all while I progressed from “Hey, put me down” to “Let go of me!” to hitting him until he dropped me. His response: “Fuck, you’re no fun.” The response of everyone around me: Nothing. No one tried to help.
  3. Guys have, more than once, walked up to me, put their hands on my breasts, and said the equivalent of “Nice tits, they’re real right?”
  4. Heard, “I can’t help myself, you’re just so hot,” more times than I can count.
  5. Been kissed on the back of the neck by a guy I didn’t know and hadn’t seen walking up behind me.
  6. Had my clothes pulled down, up, or otherwise adjusted so they could see my tattoos.
  7. Had an established writer, after hearing I was a fan of SF, put his arm around my waist and say, “I should show you my appreciation. Or do you want to show me yours?”
  8. Been hugged by men who’d never met me before, and either didn’t know at all or only had a limited online relationship (Twitter/Facebook) with.
  9. Had guys follow me from one panel to the next trying to convince me to go to the bar with them.
  10. Heard multiple variations of “You can’t leave yet, you haven’t tried/heard/tasted/given me a chance to convince you to stay”.
  11. Told, “You said you liked my work, I thought you were flirting with me.”
  12. Had (always older) women tell me:
    1. “What did you expect?”
    2. “That’s just how he is.”
    3. “You’re lucky, he doesn’t go for everyone.”
    4. “I’d be flattered if it was me.”
    5. “You have to get used to that if you want to come to these things.”
    6. “You just have to be clear with him if you really don’t want to. He doesn’t get the hint right away.”

 

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What We Talk About When We Talk About Con Harassment

Cross-posted from “Born of an Atom Bomb”, originally posted July 2013.

 

I’m not sure everyone fully understands con harassment.

There’s been a lot of talk about recently, a great deal of online sharing of experiences from the women who have been on the receiving end of unwanted groping—or worse—in what is supposed to be a safe place for geeks of stripes. Which has been wonderful, for reasons I’ll get into. But I’m seeing so many of the same responses to these discussions that I’m not sure everyone understands what con harassment really is.

And by “everyone” I’m really talking about dudes. Women seem to understand this just fine. So, let’s sit down, guys, and talk this out. Bro to bro.

To start with, con harassment is rarely done by socially awkward men. I see this confusion over and over. Socially awkward men may have uncomfortable conversations. They may spend too much time staring at woman’s cleavage. They may not take a hint that a conversation is done. But if you’ve ever spent some time around socially awkward men (and you probably have, it’s a big world) you may have noticed that they don’t touch people. Touching adds an extra layer of complication to social interaction, one that can easily be avoided by not touching. So they don’t.

Because—and let’s be clear on this guys—while awkward conversations and horrible sexist speech are problems, the big concern in con harassment is physical violation. Groping, inappropriate touching and other, worse forms of invasion of a woman’s personal space. This is rarely done by socially awkward men. Read more

“But He Didn’t Know He Was Hijacking Your Ship: On Conference Creeps

MARIA DAHVANA HEADLEY weighs in on comic-con harassment; sharing 11 stories of her own experiences. Check out the first few below, and head over to her blog to read the rest of her insightful post!

 

1. My first convention. I’m at a party, where I know maybe 2 people. A respected SF writer beelines up to me, kisses – with tongue – up my arm from wrist to shoulder without introducing himself, mutters “stunning” and is gone. Later that night, he googles me, sends me an email through my website informing me of his identity, and telling me that he is the man who left his “spoor” on my arm. I write back. I say, “you know, you should have actually spoken to me. I’m an interesting person, not to mention I’m one of your fellow invited pros, and I’m smart, and a writer.” He writes back to me, having done some more googling. He says, oops, I didn’t know that you had a husband (and, implication mine, are his property, therefore not on the open market). I didn’t mean to disrespect him. (Ital mine.) My soul is yours. I’ll blurb you if you need a blurb. He doesn’t speak to me or acknowledge me professionally ever, though we are at the convention together for days.

2. Same convention, some guy in the dealer’s room with whom I’ve been having a brief conversation about whether or mot my book is stocked picks me up and holds me in his arms, as though I am a toddler. I instruct him to put me down. He looks bewildered. It’s because i’m little, he says, and because I’m wearing green, which is his favorite color and which means we have a connection. I’m 5’3″. I’m not big. I am also not a toddler. And even if I was? I WOULD NOT BE ASKING A STRANGER TO PICK ME UP. EVEN IF THAT STRANGER LIKED GREEN. I DID NOT WEAR MY GREEN DRESS IN ORDER TO BE PICKED UP. My dress is not an invitation, yo. Read more

“Silent All These Years” — Mariah Huehner on comic con harassment

Cross-Posted from Mariah Huehner’s blog, November 18, 2013 — click through to read her full post about the rampant sexual harassment in the comic industry, both professionally, and at comic conventions.

I’ve been working in comics for well over a decade and, unfortunately, I’m one of those women with more than one example of sexualized unpleasantness I can discuss whenever this topic comes up. I have rarely, if ever, talked about them all. Some of them happened at conventions. Some of them happened in offices I have worked in. Some of these examples were perpetuated by “known” creators and some were from fellow editors/professionals.  I truly wish I didn’t have such a broad group to choose from. I’d rather not have any.
Just about all of the more “severe” examples happened before I turned 27, so many of them are nearing a decade old. A lot of people seem to think there’s a time limit on how long events in your life will bother/influence you. There isn’t. I can no more control when one of these experiences will blossom up like a poisonous flower to make me feel sick and embarrassed than I can help when a memory from childhood will get triggered by a familiar smell. While time often helps these things feel less immediately painful, that’s not the same as them having no continued impact on your life. And, for women, since we are reminded pretty much every day that we are at risk, I’d hazard to say that it’s particularly unlikely that, just became something happened a decade, two, three, etc. ago, it will somehow evaporate and no longer have any importance in how we view the world and ourselves within it.
That doesn’t mean these experiences define us, but our lives are a mixed bag of memories, experiences, feelings. It would be pretty weird if they had no impact on us just because time had passed.
I’ve talked about what happened to be me at my first SDCC here. The TLDR version: I was groped by a “name” creator I had worked with for years at the Hyatt my first night. At first I thought I must be mistaken, but when I mentioned it to another creator he said, nope, he definitely did. He’s “known” for that. I want you to take that in. This fellow comics professional (who was also male) was not A. not surprised this other comics professional had groped me B. it was a “known” thing. And yet no one said anything about it.
I have not gone anywhere at SDCC or any other con by myself since, which was in 2006 or so. I don’t drink at conventions unless I am with VERY trusted friends and we are somewhere like a dinner. Never at a party of any kind. I will occasionally buy a drink that I don’t like so it looks like I’m drinking, but I don’t. I never let it out of my sight. If I do have to go someplace alone at a con, which sometimes can’t be avoided, I spend the entire time feeling anxiously keyed up, hyper aware of everything going on around me, and I tend to have a miserable time unless I can find someone I know.

Harassment at NYCC 2012, Black Cat.

Cross-Posted from Mandy Caruso’s tumblr, The Grind Haus, October 2012.
At Comic Con today, I went as Black Cat. This is a shitty picture and there will be better ones of my whole costume coming up but I just want to say something. <br /><br />
Black Cat&#8217;s costume has a fair amount of cleavage (conservative compared to many other female comic characters but a good amount as far as what I&#8217;ve ever shown). I guess I was not surprised to have a couple men ask to pose with me and then do some doofy &#8220;WHOA LOOK AT THOSE KNOCKERS&#8221; poses. I just make a really ugly face when I see they&#8217;re doing it. One guy with the social graces of a lemur said to me &#8220;I was this close to wearing that same outfit. My breasts are large and supple and I think it would have been nice.&#8221; Nope. Stop talking.<br /><br />
But aside from guys being doofy and awkward (but clearly not foul-intentioned), I did have my first truly skeezy experience at Comic Con today. <br /><br />
And my first truly empowering moment as well.<br /><br />
This group of men from some kind of Stan Lee fan club blah blah internet video channel blah blah asked to interview with them on camera about Comic Con, my costume, comics in general, the usual. I said well okay, sure. Camera is rolling. The &#8220;host&#8221; is a middle aged, rotund dude. It&#8217;s an all-male crew and lots of people (mostly guys) were beginning to crowd around. The following is the interview as burned in my mind. Keep in mind that I expected this to be about Comic Con in general.<br /><br />
Him: I&#8217;m here with&#8230;<br /><br />
Me: Mandy, aka Felicia Hardy aka Black Cat<br /><br />
Him: ..And she is HOT. Do you think I&#8217;m hot enough to pull that off?<br /><br />
Me: Uh, I&#8217;m not sure, I&#8217;ve never seen you in drag.<br /><br />
Him: I&#8217;ve got a great ass. Go on, spank me.<br /><br />
Me: (look at his large ass, popped up mere inches away from me then look into the camera like are you kidding me . No thanks. I may hurt you, I&#8217;m a lot stronger than I look.<br /><br />
Him: Aw come on!<br /><br />
Me: No, seriously. Stop.<br /><br />
Him: Damn, alright! Well let me ask you an important question then&#8230;what is your cup size?<br /><br />
Me: (big talk show smile) That is actually none of your fucking business.<br /><br />
Him: Oh! I think that means to say she&#8217;s a C. <br /><br />
Me: I actually have no breasts at all, what you see is just all of the fat from my midsection pulled up to my chest and carefully held in place with this corset. It&#8217;s really uncomfortable, I don&#8217;t know why I do it.<br /><br />
 Him: (to the male crowd) Aw, come on what do you guys think? C cup? <br /><br />
&#8212;a few males start to shout out cup sizes as I stand there looking at this guy like this has to be a fucking joke, then look at the crowd and see that no amount of witty banter or fiestiness will stop making this whole thing fucking dumb. It was clearly a ploy to single out cosplaying women to get them to talk sexual innuendos and flirt with this asshole and let him talk down to them simply because they were in costume and were attractive. Whether I&#8217;m in a skintight catsuit or not, I&#8217;m a fucking professional in everything I do and I don&#8217;t need to play nice for this idiot.<br /><br />
Me: This is not an interview, this is degrading. I&#8217;m done. (I walk away)<br /><br />
Him: (clearly dumbfounded and surprised) ..Come on, it&#8217;s all in good fun!<br /><br />
Me: Being degraded is fun? That was unprofessional and I hope that isn&#8217;t your day job because you can&#8217;t interview for shit, my man.<br /><br />
And the entire crew and the crowd were SILENT. NOTHING. SHOCK, HONEY. It felt like I was in a heated fog, full of rage and pride and I sashayed away feeling like the most badass motherfucker in the whole damn room, but kind of also on the verge of tears. A slow build of applause would have been appropriate, but from the looks on people&#8217;s faces, they were just completely not expecting me to do what I just did- which was really nothing more than speaking up for myself. It wasn&#8217;t something one should feel brave for doing but crazy for not doing when necessary.<br /><br />
It&#8217;s because many people at these cons expect women cosplaying as vixens (or even just wearing particularly flattering costumes) to be open/ welcoming to crude male commentary and lecherous ogling, like our presence comes with subtitles that say &#8220;I represent your fantasy thus you may treat me like a fantasy and not a human in a costume&#8221;. And maybe that will always be how the majority of people see us. But that does not mean we have to put up with shit that crosses the line, it does not mean we owe them a fantasy, it does not mean we dress up to have guys drooling over us and letting us know that we turn them on. It is not all about your dicks, gentlemen. So I encourage cosplaying women everywhere to be blunt and vocal with their rights, their personal boundaries, and their comfort level at conventions. I actually encourage girls to be brashly shameless about these things, to not be afraid to speak up if you feel uncomfortable and to let the person doing it know that they are crossing the line. Don&#8217;t keep quiet because you&#8217;re scared of what they might say or think- because if you say nothing they will continue to see what they&#8217;re doing as OK. 

At Comic Con today, I went as Black Cat. This is a shitty picture and there will be better ones of my whole costume coming up but I just want to say something.

Black Cat’s costume has a fair amount of cleavage (conservative compared to many other female comic characters but a good amount as far as what I’ve ever shown). I guess I was not surprised to have a couple men ask to pose with me and then do some doofy “WHOA LOOK AT THOSE KNOCKERS” poses. I just make a really ugly face when I see they’re doing it. One guy with the social graces of a lemur said to me “I was this close to wearing that same outfit. My breasts are large and supple and I think it would have been nice.” Nope. Stop talking.

But aside from guys being doofy and awkward (but clearly not foul-intentioned), I did have my first truly skeezy experience at Comic Con today.

And my first truly empowering moment as well.  Read more

WARNING: Film Crew Creepers at New York Comic Con UPDATE: They have been IDed!!

Cross-Posted from WriterSyndrome’s Tumblr, October 2013.

writersyndrome:

My New York Comic Con experience has been a memorable and fabulous experience in a lot of ways. I’m going to talk about the positives later on, but for now, I have to report something more serious and disgusting. I’m recording it as I remember it with as much detail as possible because I do NOT know who this group of harassers were nor can I remember any distinguishing aspects that would help report them to the New York Comic Con staff. I am relating this story below, however, in hopes that others who have suffered harassment from this group can offer further information so we can track these people down and properly ID them. At the very least, they should NOT be allowed to perpetuate this behavior toward anyone else, and their actions be reported to convention staff.

On Saturday, October 12th, 2013 at approximately 5:30 PM, I was walking through Artist Alley with my friend A, who was dressed as steampunk-version of Death from The Sandman comics. I was dressed in an Asian steampunk outfit (an image can be seen here, taken earlier that day). As you can see in the photo, I was modestly dressed (steampunk!) and carrying my parasol. We had been stopped numerous times for pictures from attendees and interviewed courtesy by another press crew while in the Artist Alley. This is why I didn’t hesitate when a man dressed in a dark T shirt and dark jeans pulled me aside and hurriedly asked for an interview.

My friend A was busy posing for other photographers at the time. I’m noting this in case any other photographer in the room noticed them and possibly took a photo with them in the background.

The creeper interviewer (which will now be known at TCI) was about 5’ 2” – 5’4” tall (we were eye-level with each other), slightly stocky athletic built, short crew cut dark hair, brown eyes and tanned complexion. He had at least three others with him, dressed all in black. One of them carried a full camera with built in sound boom, and one other had a clip board and looked like a production assistant. There was some sort of logo on the cameraman and on the interviewer’s mic (probably some generic “The_____ show” but I couldn’t see clearly).

The following is the conversation we had:  Read more