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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.)

(Deleted comment)
I have always wondered why this is. I've been to cons, I've been to fan activities for over a decade, and while it's true there are some really odd, and somewhat disturbing fangirls, most of them are really fun and cool to hang out with, the type you'd want to be friends with and socialise with.

But the fun/weird divide with the fanboys (in my personal experience) is heavy on the weird and sometimes on the disturbing side. And of coures the fanboys who are cool are married or in a committed relationship.

But the fun/weird divide with the fanboys (in my personal experience) is heavy on the weird and sometimes on the disturbing side.

Basic sexual politics, I'd say. Being a societal reject doesn't negate the male sense of entitlement to women's bodies. In fact, it often intensifies same, because such losers feel that the world owes them sex with a "hawt chik" to heal their high-school wounds (theferrett alluded to this openly in his post), while not feeling obliged at all to cultivate enough social skills to make a woman even want to talk to them. And I'm talking pretty basic skills, like how to use soap, let alone ever-so-slightly less-basic ones like looking women in the eyes instead of the tits. And male geek culture reinforces this sense of entitlement.

The flip side of it, of course, is contempt for women as people, which is honed as they continue to strike out with women — it can't be their fault, can it? No, all women are just stuck-up bitches like the cheerleaders who snubbed them in high school! (Naturally, it wouldn't occur to a great many of these sad sacks to seek out average-looking women, even though such women are still probably out of their leagues.) Said contempt is on display across the internet (Fark.com, *chan, etc.), on World of Warcraft, etc.

Such men comprise a classic subtype of Nice Guy™. If you've never read divalion's post on same, I highly recommend it.

Thanks for the link; I'm adding it to my collection: http://del.icio.us/katenepveu/nice.guy-ism

You're welcome. You might also want to add Heartless Bitches International's rant on the subject here. There's additional commentary on that rant linked here.

Thanks, I'll take a look.

Well said.

One might think that after spending years stereotyped as socially retarded losers incapable of relating to other people, especially women, in any kind of healthy fashion, there'd be a tendency in geekdom to overcome those tendencies, to rise above the stereotypes and not only take the best revenge by living well and honorably, but to police our own and hold each other to the same high standards.

(Written less floridly, that means treating women as human beings rather than Mean Mean Pussy-Access Preventers. It means finally leaving middle school, emotionally. It means growing the fuck up.)

But no, various memetic defects in our makeup apparently mean that it's cool to wear social retardation like a badge of honor, it's cool to point carefully-tended well-aged adolescent frustrations at women because they're easy targets, because it's a socially-approved outlet, and because it provides some kind of cheap limbic-region satisfaction. Examining your own privilege, especially when you're so drunk on your own sense of moral outrage, is such a downer.

The next time someone starts waxing rhapsodic about how morally superior geeks are to mundanes, I'm going to spit blood.

Re: Well said.


One might think...

Yeah, one might think. Then again, one would be giving humanity too much credit.

I won't argue that geek culture encourages nerdy males to wallow in their privilege while affecting to be the most oppressed people on earth (though so does mundane mainstream culture; e.g., MRAs, Limbots, etc.). But it's a mistake to assume any kind of oppression necessarily makes one a better person. Empathy with those who are not like you takes work, maturity, a basically good heart. Displacement is much easier.

As a more general point, I think that while suffering things that may be unavoidable and/or impersonal (the death of a parent when you're young, a serious illness or injury, non-man-made famine, etc.) can build character, suffering at the hands of others is more likely to warp character. How others treat you affects how you treat them.

Edited at 2008-04-26 09:54 am (UTC)

Re: Well said.

drunk on your own sense of moral outrage

Tangent: a sadly widespread phenomenon; this comment immediately reminded me of some white feminists who fail to understand that being feminists does not give them a get-out-of-racism-free card (one example).

Anyway, yes, what you said.

Re: Well said.

That entire situation is deeply sad, and it was so unnecessary.

I find Amanda Marcotte's writing invigorating and intriguing, and I will probably continue to read her blog. But it will be with a huge grain of salt. I've been appalled at how she's behaved throughout this, and in some ways even more appalled at the behavior of her defenders. I have my own shortcomings when it comes to being sensitive to all the nuances of other people's issues, but it's blown my mind just how insensitive they've all been, ladling out the same condescending and dismissive treatment they rightfully call out when men dish it out to feminists. One of her regulars, a white man who states that he is not a feminist, made a snide comment about how the feminist blogosphere thrives on "outrage." Yes, I guess if none of your own oxen are being gored, it's easy to write off other people's anger as self-righteous temper tantrums, isn't it?

Nor was I that impressed by her mea culpa the other day, which dealt only with the illustrations in her book, not with her appropriation from BFP and other bloggers — and she sneered at criticism of those illustrations at least as early as last summer.

I sympathize with Pam Spaulding, who's tried to bridge the two sides diplomatically and insightfully but who must really feel caught in the middle.


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