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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.)


theweaselking

2008-04-22 02:21 pm (UTC) (Link)

fandom seems to include a lot of creepy guys.

Uh, of course. It's the only group association that carries no social skill requirements for membership AND actively discourages exclusion, avoidance, or even the mildest correction.

It's the catchall for the people who can't find anyone else to talk to them, because everyone else has standards and fandoms, famously, notoriously, do not.

jacquez

2008-04-22 03:04 pm (UTC) (Link)

I find that circulating Geek Social Fallacies often helps people feel better about saying "fuck along now" to some of the creepier people.

It does not, however, offer any education to the creepier people, because of course it does not mean them. It just helps the not-totally-inept breathe a sigh of relief and impose some normal human order for their own sanity.

(Why, yes, it did make me feel better about cutting those creepozoids who skeeved me out and kept being inappropriate to me out of my life, why do you ask?)

theweaselking

2008-04-22 03:30 pm (UTC) (Link)

That article, and this one, explain every problem I've had with the inadequate socialisation of fans, and they do it better than I do.

I've never been a carrier of the Geek Social Fallacies, but I've certainly been on the receiving end of "Ostracisers are evil" once or twice. And I'm okay with that, really - my desire to avoid the losers outweighs my desire to hang out with the reasonable people who insist on hanging out with the losers.

But I get the impression I'm relatively rare, among geeks.

jacquez

2008-04-22 03:51 pm (UTC) (Link)

I spent about, hm, three years of undergrad trying to negotiate the waters of Geek Social Fallacies, and then my now-husband and I looked at each other, said "do we even LIKE these people?", and started behaving in ways that made us a lot happier.

For example, our social circles liked to have "commutative coolness" parties, where if you were invited, you were cool, so anyone YOU invited was cool, because coolness is commutative. We decided we just weren't going to go to any parties operating on the commutative coolness principle anymore -- we were going to be "busy". That alone cut about 90% of the highly obnoxious/highly scented/highly inappropriate people out of our lives. It had the unfortunate side effect of cutting some nice people mostly-out, too, but...it was worth it, and I'd do it again, a hundred times over.

Also, I just realized I'm wittering about this because I am so...*something* about the original post that my brain, she is going in circles, so I'll quiet down now. But damn.

dlganger

2008-04-22 08:08 pm (UTC) (Link)

Unfortunately so. This is a large part of the reason why Steph and I stopped going to cons, even though that's how we met.

theweaselking

2008-04-22 10:06 pm (UTC) (Link)

People kept telling me cons weren't as bad as I remembered. At this point, I've been through the doors of ten conventions, been staff on one[1], and actually paid to attend two, and all those people were liars.

Conventions are full of sad, pathetic people, who are relying on the fact that they've paid for membership to make the con runners reluctant to throw them out. There are exceptions, and they're all busily trying to avoid the majority of the congoers. It's like White Wolf LARPing, done large. While I love the people I went to actually see at the con I paid to go to, I'm never planning to attend, ever again. I'll go town to that city and hang with people on a weekend that is NOT the convention, just to avoid the convention people.

[1]: Volunteered to help a friend with security on an art show at a furry convention. NEVER AGAIN. Dirty! Dirty! Yach! It's been, like, 5 years, and I need to go shower now. Nothing to do with the art content, since that was all PG, everything to do with that patrons.

dlganger

2008-04-22 10:09 pm (UTC) (Link)

Ah. Yes, I can understand that.

Unfortunately, the majority of cons in Seattle have been taken over by the in-your-face fetish crowd and aren't really about SF at all.

countess_baltar

2008-04-23 09:13 am (UTC) (Link)

Wow, it's nice to know I wasn't imagining things when I noticed the change...

Strangely enough I was just flamed because I found the last episode of Battlestar Galactica (2003) offensive because I didn't appreciate the back-to-back scenes which suggested women felt they needed to be physically abused to feel loved.

lirrin

2008-04-23 03:36 pm (UTC) (Link)

I noticed that too. I haven't actively attended a Con in Seattle in a while now, but I popped in to NorWes two years ago, and was dismayed.

leighdb

2008-04-22 08:25 pm (UTC) (Link)

God, I forgot about that article. Cat Piss Man!

My non-geek friends do not believe me, sometimes, when I tell them about the version of him I met. *shudder*

theweaselking

2008-04-22 09:56 pm (UTC) (Link)

There's a "Wizard's Tower" - a gaming and comic store - near my new house. I haven't been in yet, although I mean to go[1]. torrain stopped in once, on a Sunday, during "gaming time", and immediately turned around and left again, because the place was full of screeching 30-something doughboys who *stunk*.

[1]: Mostly to either confirm that the place stinks all the time, or to tell the owner that the Sunday Stank is driving off paying customers.

leighdb

2008-04-22 10:04 pm (UTC) (Link)

This is why I only peruse the comics at the Barnes & Noble or Borders. Even though to date I've only ever bought Neil Gaiman graphic novels anyway.

Seriously, what is it with certain substrata of society and the aversion to smelling nice? I don't get it. If I have to go for more than a day without bathing I feel disgusting. How do you stand yourself if you stink all the time?

cmdr_zoom

2008-04-23 05:17 am (UTC) (Link)

The human mind is remarkably good at filtering out constant low-level stimuli/noise. Consider, for example, how hard it is to smell what your house smells like. I'm not talking about unusual odors, like a recent growth of mold, or strong smells like an open trash can or cleaning solution. If you've been to other peoples' houses, you know that every dwelling has a scent... except yours. Because you don't notice it. You subconsciously filter it out. (If you really want to know what your own house smells like, go away for a weekend, or a week, and pay attention when you first open the door - before your brain has a chance to adapt to "the new normal" and edit it from your perceptions again.)

Likewise, people who live in noisy environments learn to ignore the noise, and may even feel disturbed (consciously or not) without it. Experiments were done with glasses fitted with prisms that inverted the view of subjects; their brains eventually adapted to the flipped visual input and they were able to function normally, until the glasses were removed and they had to learn how to see the "right" way all over again.

So that's the "how do you stand it" part answered - they honestly don't notice. As to why?

Hygiene and personal grooming takes time and effort, even for males (qualifier added because, in my experience, the level of "acceptable/minimal" required maintenance is much higher in this society for females). If you're feeling lazy, and you don't think anyone's going to notice (because YOU don't notice, see above), and/or you just don't care or think such things are important (along with fashion and social graces), you might be tempted to skip bathing every other day, or not brush your teeth EVERY morning, or whatever.

I wish I could say I don't speak from personal experience here, but we all have things in our pasts we regret, yes?

leighdb

2008-04-23 02:17 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you for your very cogent explanation.

It makes sense to me, up to a point. I mean, you're completely right about the human nose adapting to constantly-present smells after a while - which is my theory of why anyone is able to be a forensics pathologist.

I just - I mean, damn. I'm talking about those folks who don't so much have body odor as they have a blast radius. And it's not just geeks, either; I met some dreadlocked hippie-granola I Believe In Only All Natural Baking Soda Deodorant potheads in Austin who could knock out a cow at twenty paces.

It's harder to smell yourself than others, true, but I've been in situations where I've been forced to do without bathing for a few days at a stretch (camping trips and the like), and while I got used to the smell, I still was definitely aware of it. I guess maybe the difference was that I cared?

(Also, apologies to Kate for hijacking her comment thread to discuss B.O. I'll shut up if we're, uh, stinking up the joint.)

kate_nepveu

2008-04-23 02:20 pm (UTC) (Link)

No worries. I'm finding it interesting too.

ms_daisy_cutter

2008-04-24 06:23 pm (UTC) (Link)

Want some trainwreck reading?

yep_i_smell

I can't read more than a post on that comm without retching.

(Anonymous)

2008-04-24 09:14 pm (UTC) (Link)

It's not even subconscious: it's lower-level than that. It's *neurological*. Sensory neurons habituate fast and stop firing much if a stimulus persists. (This is why you don't feel your clothing all the time.)

(Speaking as someone who, hygiene-wise, had entirely too many similarities to Cat Piss Man until four or five years ago, the largest effect of acquiring personal hygiene skills from my POV has been that I now notice all the *other* buggers who smell like the back end of a horse. I suppose people probably don't try to avoid me anymore, either, but I'm shy enough that this is a slight *disadvantage* from my perspective. Unfortunately I'm not enough of a bastard to say OK, let's stink again to drive them off... ;} )

threeringedmoon

2008-04-23 12:24 am (UTC) (Link)

GSF4 just explained some classic WTF reactions I've had over the years, when I have wondered why on earth a particular person would expect me to do THAT for them. Great essay.

jacquez

2008-04-23 12:30 am (UTC) (Link)

I went to a very geeky university; the GSF essay came years too late for me, but I made sure my younger sibs got copies. Because DAMN.

holyschist

2008-04-23 12:28 am (UTC) (Link)

There's the SCA, too. There's some overlap, but not complete.

"Oooh, we must be WELCOMING, even of clearly sleazy people!"

ladypeyton

2008-04-23 02:32 pm (UTC) (Link)

The SCA has changed. It's motto is no longer "Oooh, we must be WELCOMING, even of clearly sleazy people!" due to recent legal actions taken against it.

kate_nepveu

2008-04-23 02:34 pm (UTC) (Link)

As a lawyer, I approve of this change of motto. =>

holyschist

2008-04-23 03:34 pm (UTC) (Link)

I have to disagree--the SCA is somewhat more careful now about certain types of sleazy (the blatantly illegal types), but still much more welcoming of the everyday creeps than most social groups.

I'm very active in the SCA and I like it, but it is a more-than-average-tolerance place.

ladypeyton

2008-04-23 03:43 pm (UTC) (Link)

Well, if active is defined by being a Peer and having been a member since 1991, then color me active. I think our definition of "tolerant of creeps" must differ.

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