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incidents and accidents, hints and allegations

wood cat
Kate kate_nepveu
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On asking to touch the breasts of a stranger

If you are a stranger, especially a man, perhaps especially in a group of other strangers who are men, and you come up to me and say, "You're very beautiful. I'd like to touch your breasts. Would you mind if I did?":

You will put me in fear.

Because you could be someone who will go away quietly if I say no (which I will). You could be the exiled gay prince of Farlandia, cursed to wander this Earth looking for the key to his return that can only be revealed by touching the breast of a willing stranger, and who isn't enjoying this at all. You could, in short, not be a danger to me.

But how am I supposed to know that?

How am I supposed to distinguish you from the person who says he's really just whatever, but is actually going to put emotional pressure on me, or make a scene, or stalk me, or rape me?

I can't. Because that would require a level of discernment and of trust that is not possible, by definition, in my dealings with a stranger.

And therefore, if you ask to touch my breasts, you will frighten me.

If your goal is actually to make a better world, I suggest that you use a method that doesn't involve putting women in fear.

(Also, I find it hard to believe you can create "the kind of world where [people can] say, 'Wow, I'd like to touch your breasts,' and people would understand that it's not a way of reducing you to a set of nipples and ignoring the rest of you, but rather a way of saying that I may not yet know your mind, but your body is beautiful," by going up to women, touching their breasts, and then going away. Among many, many other problems that are noted in the comments to the original. But that's secondary to my main point here.)

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Well...err...I mean, you are attractive and all that (for all that we only met once several years ago).

But I have to say that the only way I'd ask to do that to someone would be in a medical or romantic context. Since I'm not a doctor and don't play one on TV and our romantic involvement is nonexistent...

OTOH, I might well ask if I can hug you, because I'm a huggy type of person

I might well ask if I can hug you, because I'm a huggy type of person

I'd say the same, and that applies to filkerdave as much as to kate_nepveu. But "might" is definitely a key word there; if I have doubts about the answer I'll probably never even ask.

OTOH, I don't mind online friends greeting me with a hug (without asking) on first meeting in person, even if there haven't been any e-hugs going back and forth beforehand.

You are articulate. That post makes me so angry I can't speak.

My body is not an open source universal shared resource, thank you.

I think that's one of the things that was irking me, and I think you've succinctly summed it up. It's taken me AGES to eradicate the notion that I'm here to appease other people.

(no subject) - kate_nepveu, 2008-04-22 01:44 pm (UTC)(Expand)
Ferrett, while entertaining, is often a complete moron.

A friendly grope from a cherished friend is not going to do much more than make me laugh ( viz. Kenneth in Vegas or PRK in Indy), a request from a total stranger may well prompt me to punch him in the mouth for assuming that level of familiarity.

I think anyone who has the idea that making everyone's bodies "open source" will make the world a better place has more than a couple screws loose.

I don't know him. Do you? I entertained the possibility that he wasn't being serious about the reasons offered for doing this, but enough people seemed to be taking him seriously that I thought this was worth saying.

(no subject) - scifantasy, 2008-04-22 02:01 pm (UTC)(Expand)
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(no subject) - pecunium, 2008-04-27 06:26 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - neverjaunty, 2008-04-28 04:26 am (UTC)(Expand)
Having clicked on that link, may I just say, thanks you, because all I can find to type is Eeeeeeeeewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww.

Wow, I'd like to touch that guy's face. With a hammer. It's a very loving and respectful hammer.


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(no subject) - veejane, 2008-04-22 01:05 pm (UTC)(Expand)
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I really have to use this icon - gehayi, 2008-04-24 05:47 am (UTC)(Expand)
Been at that convention. Extremely uncomfortable that this was afoot. Oddly, didn't see a lot of female takers wearing the "yes you may" buttons, though I admit to being tired enough to miss them. Funny, that. Also, a counter "no you may not" button was circulating.

:reads link: Ah, okay, I missed things. I just...the way our culture is right now makes me uncomfortable with this idea. I'm not saying sex or bodies are bad. At some point, without having much noticed, I got over that enough that it surprises me when other people are guilty or ashamed of sex or their bodies. Nonetheless, there is still enough power dynamic between men and women even in America that it doesn't feel like an open safe choice in general. Still thinking on this.

(no subject) - kate_nepveu, 2008-04-22 01:48 pm (UTC)(Expand)
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(no subject) - sparkymonster, 2008-04-22 08:22 pm (UTC)(Expand)
unwanted touch by women - pir_anha, 2008-04-23 01:26 am (UTC)(Expand)
Re: unwanted touch by women - sparkymonster, 2008-04-23 01:40 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - kate_nepveu, 2008-04-22 10:17 pm (UTC)(Expand)
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If you mean ShoreCon in NJ? - theotherbaldwin, 2008-04-23 05:16 am (UTC)(Expand)
Re: If you mean ShoreCon in NJ? - caorann, 2008-04-23 05:25 am (UTC)(Expand)
Re: If you mean ShoreCon in NJ? - wizardru, 2008-04-24 03:37 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - geoviki, 2008-04-24 12:00 am (UTC)(Expand)
Strangers be darned, I wouldn't let most of my friends explore my chest for no good reason. And I'm a man. In Scandinavia. While I normally don't use the phrase WTF, this comes really close. I surmise it was a "you had to be there" thing (which normally involves mind-altering substances of prolonged sleep deprivation, in my observation.)

"You could be the exiled gay prince of Farlandia, cursed to wander this Earth looking for the key to his return that can only be revealed by touching the breast of a willing stranger, and who isn't enjoying this at all." -- Now THAT was fucking funny.

Ok. I admit I've grabbed a breast in my time. I swear I wasn't enjoying it at all.

Thank you! I was proud of that. =>

Fandom seems to include a lot of people whose utopian schemes make no allowance for path-dependence. There's no thought given to how the world got this way except for a general idea that terrible repressed people were ashamed of human bodies.

More to the point, fandom seems to include a lot of creepy guys.

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(no subject) - kate_nepveu, 2008-04-26 02:14 pm (UTC)(Expand)
Well said. - grendelkhan, 2008-04-26 04:11 am (UTC)(Expand)
Re: Well said. - ms_daisy_cutter, 2008-04-26 09:52 am (UTC)(Expand)
Re: Well said. - kate_nepveu, 2008-04-26 02:23 pm (UTC)(Expand)
Re: Well said. - ms_daisy_cutter, 2008-04-27 07:18 pm (UTC)(Expand)
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(no subject) - kate_nepveu, 2008-04-25 05:14 pm (UTC)(Expand)
God, this makes me ill.

There is also the assumption that women's bodies should be physically available to others. And that in a perfect world they would be.

Making up buttons adds a certain anonymous creepiness to it that I can't articulate.

And honestly, I'm generally OK with people I'm not emotionally intimate with, but that I know casually, touching my body if they ask. In context. A stranger walking up to me and asking that is not OK

Edited at 2008-04-22 01:22 pm (UTC)

That too!

I've read the post and several dozen of the hundreds of comments to it. My only comment there was to the person who thinks that this is morally wrong:
What seems to be missing from your comment here--and from many of the others I read, is an acknowledgment that intimacy is expressed in different ways by different people and in different relationships. I once knew someone who wouldn't hug people, even good friends after long separation, because hugging should "mean something," and to this person that "something" was clearly sexual. On the other hand, there are people for whom sexual intercourse is not necessarily "intimate."

If your objection is truly a moral one, then it seems that either (1) it should apply only to those people for whom breast-touching has the intimacy-value that you place on it or (2) it should apply universally to all actions on which anyone places the intimacy-value that you place on breast-touching.

Other than that, I have very mixed feelings. I generally prefer situations in which everyone is free to ask for what they want and everyone is free to give it or not. I do not think there is anything "wrong" in wanting anything at all; I think the only wrong is pressuring (for wide values of "pressure") or forcing someone else to give it to you.

OTOH, I recognize that many women (actually, many people, but I think the relevant situations invovle women) feel "pressure" (again, for wide values) in situations where I feel none. The scenario you describe,
If you are a stranger, especially a man, perhaps especially in a group of other strangers who are men, and you come up to me and say, "You're very beautiful. I'd like to touch your breasts. Would you mind if I did?"
strikes me as different from the one the post describes in two significant ways: (1) the limited venue of a con, and (2) women in the group of touchers. In that situation, I would feel no fear at all.

One thing that strikes me is that it reminds me of something I have never understood: women who complain that a man is interested only in her body, but who does not care if a man is interested in her only for her mind (let's say, for example, a gay male work colleague). I feel that "I" am both body and mind. For myself, I see no difference between "I'd like to get to know your body better" and "I'd like to get to know your mind better."

(1) the limited venue of a con, and (2) women in the group of touchers. In that situation, I would feel no fear at all.

In my experience, people at a con are still likely to have poor boundaries, pressure women sexually, not take "no" as an answer, etc. etc. I know a lot of women are much more comfortable being physically affectionate and/or wearing sexy cleavagey clothing at cons. I think that there is a false sense of safety/security there.

I mean yes at a con there is likely to be a higher percentage of people who are clueful about reading the buttons and paying attention, than in a random sampling of people. But that the percentage isn't high enough for me to say "yes pls grab my boobs kthx"

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(no subject) - cakmpls, 2008-04-24 05:20 pm (UTC)(Expand)
Also, I can't figure out why the concept of "just asking" is such a revolutionary one. People ask other people all the time if they can touch their boobs. IN PRIVATE. Where they can graciously decline or enthusiastically accept without wondering what this will mean to so-and-so's utopian touch movement.

To be more clear: I do not think asking people publically if you can touch parts that most people consider to be intimate is kosher.

(no subject) - badgerbag, 2008-04-23 04:54 pm (UTC)(Expand)
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I have never been hit on or sexually harassed at a con. Not all cons are like this. Not all people at cons are like this.

(But OH JOHN RINGO NO clearly needs to be said in those comments!)

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(no subject) - vvalkyri, 2008-04-24 03:58 am (UTC)(Expand)
Thank you for this post!

(I was linked here by coffeeandink's post).

You're welcome.

My body. That's it. Period. Don't even try to argue.

Unless I'm confident that we both know the rules of engagement under which we are both operating, you don't get to touch it, and it's rude to ask about something so intimate.

Honestly, I've seen people whose hair I'd love to stroke - including little kids - and I wouldn't ask about that, either!

Why do people seem to think there's something desirable about collapsing all the possible levels of intimacy? Don't they want to have something special to save for those closest to them? It's a big deal that my friend Kat and my sis-in-law E. feel comfy enough with me that I can reach over and rub their shoulders or play with their hair, and have them do the same. And it should be - they're special people to me. Random guys at a con aren't in the same category - they haven't earned it.

Honestly, I've seen people whose hair I'd love to stroke - including little kids - and I wouldn't ask about that, either!

Heh. People pet my hair all the time. Usually little kids and old people, but occasionally squeeing teenagers. It's very long (down to my thighs) and very purple, and I think that people sort of forget their manners when they see it.

In the case of my hair, I'm a little more lenient about strangers touching it. Context is everything. The little kids petting it and asking if I'm a fairy are adorable. The little old lady absently fiddling with it on the bus while she talks wistfully of when her daughter wore her hair long is very sweet. Even the squeeing teenagers are rather charming.

The creepy guy or the scary girl or anyone who makes me feel uncomfortable, though? Get yelled at every time. Because it really does come down to "My body. You can not has."

(no subject) - chomiji, 2008-04-22 03:24 pm (UTC)(Expand)
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You are concise!

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I find this deeply creepy, too, for more reasons than I think I can articulate.

Including, you know, if you're a guy, and the first thing you think when you look at a woman is "man, I really want to touch her boobs"--well, even if I were single, I wouldn't want to know you as either a partner or a friend.

Very much seconded.

If your goal is actually to make a better world, I suggest that you use a method that doesn't involve putting women in fear.

Yes, this, thank you. I couldn't articulate exactly what it was that was so wrong about this last night, and that point didn't to come up in any of the comments (at least by the time I went to bed). But you've pinpointed it exactly.

You're welcome.

As much as it pains me to do so, I have to agree with Weasel Boy (that's montoya for those of you who don't know). The whole fandom scene is full of people I'd rather not hang out with in general.

As for the original post...what you have there is a Nice Guy who'll one day be pissing and moaning about all the women who are too stupid to realize the greatness of his vision and won't let him fondle them. At least, that's what it looks like from here, but what do I know, I'm just some guy who's actually gone out with real women and even found one who liked me enough to marry me.

Yeah. I was previously unaware that my two options were (1) I am ashamed of and/or selfish about my body, and (2) I am A-OK with having a big group of strangers grope my body.

I like emmycantbemeeko's comment that " think "men have insufficient chances to touch boobs" is about the lowest possible priority sexual problem facing our society. "Men feel overly entitled to access to women's bodies" is pretty close to the top." That about sums up my feelings. The presence of women in the boob-touching group, offered as a defense of why emmycantbemeeko must be totally off-base, doesn't move me in the slightest. There are, and have been throughout time, plenty of women who are willing to participate in the objectification of women for the delectation of men. It tends to get them plenty of favorable male attention, after all.

Some of theferrett's comments are creeping me the fuck out. "your response seems to come from a personal mindset of, "My body is something so special to me that only people I have firmly vetted and talked to and invested in should be allowed to touch those areas." Which is fine. [...] But that also involves an interview process, and the attitude that your body is a vested space that is, by nature, exclusive. That's fine. But that doesn't mean it's the only way to be, or that it's always healthy."

On my Top 10 list of things I don't need: a crowd of roving fanboys expressing their concern about whether my interest in preserving my own bodily integrity is "healthy."

But I guess I'm all about "scarcity."

Do you and glvalentine know each other? Because you should. *points upthread*

Anyway. I read the top-level comments to see if anyone had obviously made the point about, hello, threatening! Fear! But did not read the OP's responses because I didn't have time. And now I think I'm not going to because either he's a troll or someone who will make me want to scrub my brains out and then bar from my presence.

Regardless (and I know you know this, but just to reiterate): one's attitude towards one's body is IRRELEVANT to the fact that this is a bad idea for the reasons I stated above.

(no subject) - pecunium, 2008-04-29 07:34 pm (UTC)(Expand)
Oh, and in case it wasn't clear: the idea of people just randomly going up and fondling other people is, despite my occasional ironic forays into boob-grabbing in the past, rather Iew.

Heh - off-topic, but I read that quickly and thought it said "rather Jew," to which I thought, "Hey, my people aren't fondlers!"

...and then I read more closely.

(no subject) - publius1, 2008-04-22 09:34 pm (UTC)(Expand)
I wasn't at Penguicon this year, but I'm reminded of something I said in my con report for last year's:

"One or two of the women I talked with had some interesting stories (such as, from one woman, the guy she knows who will run into her at a con or the like, say hello and grope her breasts, and then not see her again for six months--at which time the process repeats)"

She talked about it, and him, as if they were just minor annoyances, but it was pretty damn creepy.

I can't see any circumstances where I'd go up to a stranger and ask a question like that. Hell, I can't even see myself doing it if she was wearing a "yes, you may ask" button.

At the same time, FKO, which I went to earlier this month, had a hug contest with stickers--green for "hug away," yellow for "ask first," and red for "no touching," no sticker the same as red, best hugger gets a prize. I wasn't bothered by that at all. Yet wouldn't that be similarly fear-inducing? (Or is it less so because the hug can be friendly and nonsexual--and, as I recall, it was made clear that that was how the hugs should be given--in ways breast-touching can't?) So my own radar may be mis-calibrated.

I'm trying not to rush into arguments with jsbowden, montoya, and theweaselking on the nature of conventions...they're not exactly wrong, but at the same time, as you say, not all people, not all cons.

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(no subject) - scifantasy, 2008-04-22 08:47 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - kate_nepveu, 2008-04-22 10:21 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - kate_nepveu, 2008-04-22 04:27 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - desdenova, 2008-04-22 04:28 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - desdenova, 2008-04-22 06:21 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - lexica510, 2008-04-22 08:18 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - kaitiana, 2008-04-22 09:51 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - msagara, 2008-04-22 07:08 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - kate_nepveu, 2008-04-22 07:13 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - msagara, 2008-04-22 07:18 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - msagara, 2008-04-22 08:34 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - kate_nepveu, 2008-04-22 10:23 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - badgerbag, 2008-04-23 05:16 pm (UTC)(Expand)
That is just... *gropes at thesaurus, to which I do have open access*

One interesting approach (I'm not saying I would have done this, but) would have been to wear the green button and say "no" to everyone who asked, and see what happened. In any case, I don't buy the no-pressure arguments at all.

Yeuch! And only lunchtime I was wishing that my trip to Ann Arbor next month had coincided with Penguicon....

I knew US cons were different from the ones on our side of the Atlantic, but that's just wrong.

I should note that I am not convinced that this is an inevitable feature of cons, American or otherwise. I certainly have never experienced such behavior, or even the random shoulder-rubbers, myself.

(no subject) - akicif, 2008-04-22 03:25 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - jenfullmoon, 2008-04-22 08:30 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - ckd, 2008-04-22 03:31 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - akicif, 2008-04-22 03:41 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - jer_, 2008-04-23 01:49 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - akicif, 2008-04-23 02:10 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - jer_, 2008-04-23 02:13 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - ms_daisy_cutter, 2008-04-25 09:13 am (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - jer_, 2008-04-25 10:38 am (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - ms_daisy_cutter, 2008-04-25 11:24 am (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - jer_, 2008-04-25 11:25 am (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - ms_daisy_cutter, 2008-04-25 11:28 am (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - jer_, 2008-04-25 11:31 am (UTC)(Expand)
THREAD FROZEN - kate_nepveu, 2008-04-25 04:54 pm (UTC)(Expand)
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