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Why aren't we doing this topic well?
June 19, 2012 7:35 AM   Subscribe

Jessamyn: [Folks we're sort of done with the "what crayz thinks about this post" angle. Please email crayz directly if you want more of crayz's opinions, otherwise this is getting to the "Take it to MeTa" point. Put another way, everyone who continues to hyperrespond is also part of the problem here, please consider that.] So, okay. Let's take it to Meta. As a community, we keep having the same conversation about sexual harassment, unwanted sexual advances and other related issues. Sometimes, with positive results. Sometimes, not. Personal attacks fly back and forth, fueling anger and frustration. Why are so many of us talking past each other? Is there no possibility of finding common ground, or gaining further understanding and empathy from such incidents?
posted by zarq to Etiquette/Policy at 7:35 AM (683 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

Reprinting this thing I said, as it was kind of a personal epiphany:

I think the crux of the argument is: we all are in agreement that "different people look at the world differently." However, some of us seem to be using that fact as justification for "therefore, I shouldn't be held accountable for doing something someone else objects to," while other people are using that fact as justification for "therefore, it is my responsibility to ascertain what other people's comfort level is before I act."

I think that's why so many are talking past each other - because you have the people who think "everyone's different, so OTHER PEOPLE should accomodate MY difference," and you have the people think "eveyrone's different, so it's MY responsibility to work with OTHER PEOPLE'S difference."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:38 AM on June 19, 2012 [73 favorites]


I don't generally participate in those threads, but I definitely benefit from reading them. Even the less successful ones help me articulate my feelings in my own mind and expose me to different perspectives that I would never get in meatspace.

So, while it may seem like we are constantly reviewing feminism 101, please know that for every dense commenter, there are probably 10 willing-to-learn readers.
posted by Think_Long at 7:40 AM on June 19, 2012 [28 favorites]


I honestly think that "Some drama happened on the internet" posts tend to be bad posts for MetaFilter. They tend to come pre-outraged and then people who don't share in whatever the outrage is feel pre-attacked and dig in to their own positions. Some people troll. Other people can not stop talking to the people who are trolling despite our repeated requests for them to do that. Other people turn the conversation to the thing they actually want to talk about and then start a microconversation of "You didn't understand what I was saying, what I MEANT was..." and get stuck in a conversational whirlpool of misunderstanding.

We gave Ardiril the day off yesterday and crayz the day off today but I can list about five other people who should have flagged and moved on in that thread significantly earlier than they did. The righteousness of your position does not make it okay to go interrogating other people and you're just making the thread awful for everyone.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:40 AM on June 19, 2012 [22 favorites]


What I strongly object to when we talk about these kinds of human interactions moreso than the ad hominems is the SILENCING. Stuff like "That's disingenuous and you know it." and other similar tactics attempting to invalidate each other's points. We are here for talking with each other, definitively NOT for shutting each other down.

Later if/when someone else in the world reads these threads where we are so dismissive of each other, guess who ends up looking like the butt elephant? Answer: ALL OF US.
posted by kalessin at 7:44 AM on June 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm not silencing anyone when I point out that someone is not arguing in good faith. When a clear case like the one in that thread gets lost in a sea of tiny derails what else can one assume? Their statements still stand in the thread. Disagreeing is not silencing.
posted by peacheater at 7:47 AM on June 19, 2012


Why are so many of us talking past each other?

I think it is because some people won't tolerate any nuanced discussion that they feel undermines their broader (IMO, correct) position that these types of incidences are indicative of larger systemic problems. Other people want to discuss the nuances of the specific incidence which, more often than not has some interesting facets to it since it has generated hundreds of comments in different forums and eventually shown up here.
posted by stp123 at 7:47 AM on June 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


Kalessin, I have a feeling that maybe some of the "that's obtuse/disingenuous and you know it" may be more of a reaction to what's looking like an argument in bad faith; some of the comments that provoke such reactions look like the other person is taking an argument to an extreme in order to make others look ridiculous:
Person A: It's just plain not polite to flash someone when they're in the middle of a business meeting.

Person B: Fine, I guess I will never gesture at all during a business meeting. Or, maybe I should just quit my job altogether. Or maybe we should all go live as hermits so we never interrupt anyone in the middle of business meetings....
Granted, that kind of sarcastic, "okay, maybe I should just do this extreme thing, then" tactic gets used on both sides. But that's the kind of thing that I think gets the "don't be obtuse" argument -- it's a calling out that "you don't really believe that, you're just trying to make me look foolish by exaggerating things to a nonsensical extreme and I don't appreciate that."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:49 AM on June 19, 2012 [11 favorites]


Why are so many of us talking past each other? Is there no possibility of finding common ground, or gaining further understanding and empathy from such incidents?

Of course there is. I can only speak for myself, but I know that my opinions on these types of things have changed over the last couple of years thanks in part to MeFi threads.

But new users keep signing up, or users who missed the last round of sexism threads decide to speak up, and it only takes one or two people with backwards opinions to turn those threads into an argument.

Sexism will be solved on MetaFilter when it is solved everywhere else, or when the mods ban those types of threads.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 7:50 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


jessamyn: "We gave Ardiril the day off yesterday and crayz the day off today"

Shit. I didn't realize that.

crayz, if you're reading this, I apologize for creating a meta that literally names you three times, where you're now going to be unable to respond for 24 hours.
posted by zarq at 7:50 AM on June 19, 2012 [9 favorites]


Yeah that's true. It does seem a bit unfortunate that crayz can't respond here.
posted by peacheater at 7:51 AM on June 19, 2012


Why are so many of us talking past each other?

Actually, it seemed liked the majority of people agreed that the topic in question constituted sexual harassment. A vocal minority (that was eventually whittled down to one person) disagreed.

I think the reaction is natural, by the way, and I don't know why MetaFilter has to put up with people who for all intents and purposes do not believe there is a such thing as sexual harassment.

That's the real problem.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:52 AM on June 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


"We gave... crayz the day off today"

I take it back: MetaFilter doesn't put up with it.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:53 AM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sometimes people are just unshakably wrong. Indeed, whether they're trolling or just a stubborn ass, shaking just makes them wronger.

With those people, you can't really engage with them directly. But you can argue around them. Use their wrongness as a jumping-off point and put forth your position without ever even acknowledging theirs. Do not quote them. Do not mention their name. Do not give any indication that their position is a position.

In other words, (pretend to) ignore the wrongies and just be right.

(Admittedly, this is not how I do it. I am a habitual quoter/gloater. But this is how I should do it!)
posted by Sys Rq at 7:54 AM on June 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


As sexual harassment was defined by the conference, there was sexual harassment. I still don't see why some people have trouble accepting that. In a different context, maybe it wouldn't have been. In the context where it happened, it was.
posted by rtha at 7:54 AM on June 19, 2012


I don't know why MetaFilter has to put up with people who for all intents and purposes do not believe there is a such thing as sexual harassment.

Actually, it strikes me that the fact that everyone is in such an uproar is a sign that Metafilter does not "put up with people who do not believe there is such a thing as sexual harrassment."

Mind you, the not-putting-up-with does not take the form of a banning, it instead takes the form of everyone feeling free to ask them, "what the shit are you thinking?"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:54 AM on June 19, 2012


....And the fact that I've commented so much is a sign I'm having a REALLY slow day at work, and I'm going to go sit in the corner and shut up now for a while.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:55 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think that part of the problem is actually defining "what is unwanted sexual attention/sexual harassment." It's really easy to define sexual harassment when someone continues after being told to stop, but what about initial crummy pick-ups?

If I was being honest about the times in my life I've received unwanted sexual attention, I'd have to break it into three categories.

1) Dude is coming on way too strong.
2) Dude is coming at me in an enclosed space I can't escape from.
3) Dude is someone I view as much less attractive, so that I find their request offensive, because they are devaluing my view in my own sexual value
4) Dude has attempted multiple times
5) Dude is propositioning in an unprofessional manner.

All of those, by virtue of being unwanted sexual attention, are technically sexual harassment. But they are not all equal.

And I think some people may have concern when they all receive the same response, which is generally: "That bastard!" I mean, often I welcome that response (1, 4, 5) but sometimes I feel it's a little unfair (2,3)

I'm not finished reading that thread, so it's totally possible my reading is wrong on the overall reason why we can't do this well, but I certainly do think it's one of the factors.
posted by corb at 7:56 AM on June 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


And by three, I clearly mean five. I thought there'd be three, but then remembered two others. Woe. Unwelcome attention, why do you keep expanding!
posted by corb at 7:56 AM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I am out of favorites because so many people were so awesome in that thread.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:57 AM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I honestly think that "Some drama happened on the internet" posts tend to be bad posts for MetaFilter.

I could not agree more.
posted by entropicamericana at 7:57 AM on June 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


But new users keep signing up, or users who missed the last round of sexism threads decide to speak up, and it only takes one or two people with backwards opinions to turn those threads into an argument.

Disagreement does not equal "backwards".

and I don't know why MetaFilter has to put up with people who for all intents and purposes do not believe there is a such thing as sexual harassment.

That's the real problem.


I didn't see anyone say that sexual harrassment doesn't exist.

So, people who disagree with the consensus view are backwards and at least one person doesn't see why the site should have to "put up" with such people at all.

It is hardly surprising that these discussions go poorly if the above quotes are at all respresentative of the site as a whole.
posted by Reggie Knoble at 7:57 AM on June 19, 2012 [24 favorites]


I honestly think that "Some drama happened on the internet" posts tend to be bad posts for MetaFilter.

Yeah, that was kinda predestined to be "Here's a line in the sand. This person stands on one side, that person stands on the other. Line up, MeFites, and choose your side of the line."

Not my favorite kind of post, since all the facts are filtered through the two opposing parties, and we're all left to try to expound on those, as we filter their versions of reality through ours. It does not always bring out the best in us, as a group, especially when 90% of us end up on one side of the line, even if we're right.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:57 AM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


KokuRyu: " Actually, it seemed liked the majority of people agreed that the topic in question constituted sexual harassment. A vocal minority (that was eventually whittled down to one person) disagreed."

Yes, but the minority and the majority still seem to be talking past each other. They're not finding any sort of common ground, no one in the minority seems to be changing their mind to agree with the majority, or vice versa. It's a conversation that isn't resolving itself -- folks in the minority just eventually stop talking.
posted by zarq at 7:57 AM on June 19, 2012


And I think some people may have concern when they all receive the same response, which is generally: "That bastard!" I mean, often I welcome that response (1, 4, 5) but sometimes I feel it's a little unfair (2,3)

Funny, corb, because I would think that 2 is at least as bad as 1, maybe more (depending on how strong is way too strong).
posted by jeather at 8:00 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


folks in the minority just eventually stop talking.
posted by zarq at 3:57 PM on June 19 [+] [!]


Zarq. To most of the people who engage in these discussions what you just said is a feature, not a bug.
posted by Reggie Knoble at 8:00 AM on June 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think a lot of these times you can't actually hope to change the minds of people who you're directly arguing with. You can certainly try, but I think the real benefit is people who are lurking or following along who might have their opinions changed a tiny bit this way or that.
posted by peacheater at 8:02 AM on June 19, 2012 [10 favorites]


Funny, corb, because I would think that 2 is at least as bad as 1, maybe more (depending on how strong is way too strong).

Oh, no doubt 2 is way worse for me, but I acknowledge that there's a ton of men out there who genuinely and sincerely have no idea why it's wrong to proposition a woman on an elevator, or a subway car, or what have you. They're just not conscious of space and threat in the same way, so while I am bothered during the experience, I tend to cut them a pass afterwards.
posted by corb at 8:02 AM on June 19, 2012


This thread is not a space for argument-by-proxy of what is going on in the still-open thread.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:04 AM on June 19, 2012


Was reading that thread earlier today and decided it wasn't worth the blood pressure hit so closed it. I don't think it's necessarily a question of metafilter not doing this topic well, but a reflection of a broader and somewhat disappointing .... something of western culture not doing it well. It's like there's some basic awareness missing where people don't realise that it's not so much fun to be getting that kind of attention all the time or even reasonable often (for your particular value of often). Or the implications it might have for how you understand how other people relate to you.

I'm not saying I know what it's like, though I have copped it in very limited doses, and it skeeved me right off even then. Can't imagine what it is like to put up with when say, you've just given a keynote presentation on something completely unrelated. Shit people, just stop agreeing with you gonads for half a second.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 8:06 AM on June 19, 2012


Oh, no doubt 2 is way worse for me, but I acknowledge that there's a ton of men out there who genuinely and sincerely have no idea why it's wrong to proposition a woman on an elevator, or a subway car, or what have you. They're just not conscious of space and threat in the same way, so while I am bothered during the experience, I tend to cut them a pass afterwards.

Well, there's also men out there who watch movies and tv shows that show that if the man just keeps trying to convince the woman, eventually her "No, I won't date you" turns into "Yes and hot sex!" At least I can realistically understand that "coming on too strong" is significantly mediated by where you live and the culture you are in, while "hey, here we are in an elevator so you can't escape and I could theoretically trap you in here" isn't.

(I have never been propositioned on an elevator. I have been propositioned on subway cars, which is annoying but way less obnoxious, personally, because it's more escapable and larger.)

I guess I argue that it's willful lack of knowledge, not a misunderstanding. But this is getting a bit nitpicky, and also off the point.
posted by jeather at 8:09 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I honestly think that "Some drama happened on the internet" posts tend to be bad posts for MetaFilter.

They definitely have a tendency to go poorly for the reasons outlined above, but in a strictly theory-level way they could be some of the best posts, given that everything about the story has a link as primary source.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:09 AM on June 19, 2012


Jessamyn, looking over the thread, I'd like to ask: why, specifically, was crayz asked to take a 24-hour break? I don't think he said anything particularly offensive, unless there are deleted comments I'm not seeing. Isn't the blue a place where more spirited discussions about contentious topics are generally okay?
posted by corb at 8:11 AM on June 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


Well, there's also men out there who watch movies and tv shows that show that if the man just keeps trying to convince the woman, eventually her "No, I won't date you" turns into "Yes and hot sex!"

That's that whole Onion thing of Romantic Comedy Behavior Gets Real-Life Man Arrested.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:11 AM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Me vs everyone" threads aren't okay.
posted by empath at 8:11 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think a major issue is Scope.

The micro-examples extrapolated to macro-trends and vice-verse lead to a lot of circular arguments. Without any constraints on scope people tend to argue the point they are most comfortable/focused on and this can make even civil debates turn nasty quickly; as people feel they are being grossly or deliberately misinterpreted.
posted by French Fry at 8:13 AM on June 19, 2012


corb: unless there are deleted comments I'm not seeing

Towards the end, the mods were watching that thread very closely. I was keeping a close eye on it myself, and noticed several deletions that happened before I could even read the posts deleted. (I could tell because the "new comments" prompt comes up, but if the post is deleted then clicking "show" fails to show anything.) I assume a few of those were crayz going over a line. And I'd flagged one from Ardiril earlier in the thread that was pretty bad, too, which wound up being deleted quickly.
posted by gilrain at 8:14 AM on June 19, 2012


"Me vs everyone" threads aren't okay.

The problem is that MeFi is just above the level of an echo chamber when it comes to certain subjects.

There are just enough users to provide some dissent but not enough that you will see the same revolving door of characters as you will on the other side.

And when it does come down to one person on one side having a discussion with several people on the other side the minority is the one which is shut down because they are "making it all about them".
posted by Reggie Knoble at 8:15 AM on June 19, 2012 [21 favorites]


I'm relatively new to MeFi, so help me out here. I'm genuinely curious: Has there ever been a sexual harassment-related post that has "gone well" by the community's standards? Please link if you can. I'd like to see it/them.

The sexual harassment-related threads that I've seen — or maybe it's just the few that are sticking out in my mind — didn't go well at all. And I think that the disagreements in those threads are some of the more heated I have ever seen on MeFi.

It gets to the point where I see a sexual harassment-related thread and am hesitant to click on it, because I know that it is going to end up being 300+ comments of people feeling shitty.

I really do wish we could have constructive posts about sexual harassment because I think it's an important topic. It sucks that MeFi doesn't do it well.
posted by hypotheticole at 8:16 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


why, specifically, was crayz asked to take a 24-hour break?

He wasn't asked. What was asked was for the thread to not become a "crayz vs. everyone" thread. What was also asked was for people to make more of an effort to make their comments clearly distinguishable from trolling. It's our assertion that if you are not trolling but maybe just caught up in a heated exchange, that it's acceptable to ask you to be more clear that you are not trolling. We left several comments in that thread to that effect and crayz was still showing up with comments like the one ending with "I would assume you'd also recommend women in sexually conservative countries wear hijabs/etc, so as to not receive societal scorn?" which is not, to our mind, making any sort of effort whatsoever to work within the "This is a difficult topic, please acknowledge that in some way as you make your comments" request that we had made. It looks more like trolling than not-trolling and after several requests to not do that [look like trolling, I have no idea if he was actually trolling or not] we were at the end of what we felt like we could reasonably do within the thread with polite requests.

At the point at which we've left multiple mod comments in a thread to ask people to manage it better, someone who is still not only hyperresponding but also snarking at other commenters [and no he was not the only offender] that late in the game is not, as we see it, making a good faith effort to not tank the thread.

I am not totally happy with the "Everyone's being bad at this but you seem to be the center of the bad-at-this tornado and so we're going to need you to step away involuntarily if you won't do it voluntarily" situation, but we have a limited toolkit and one of the things that is necessary here is that people be able to moderate their own behavior. If they can't do that, we need to do it for them. There were other people who seemed to share his perspective on the issue but were not engaging in so much problematic behavior and we did not feel that we had to step in and do anything.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:20 AM on June 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Thanks, gilrain.

Having now finished the entire thread, I have to say that I think sometimes these things tend to happen when there is a very small minority with one opinion, and a large majority with the other opinion. I've experienced it myself on a few hot-button topics. I think in some ways it's because people do love Metafilter so much, and Metafilter norms are so very different than outside norms. So maybe people feel that if they just convince those few people, they can have a Perfect Metafilter, where it's safe from the opinions of those outsiders.

I think you mostly see this around politically charged subjects, because so many people here seem to share the same rough opinions.

Also, in some ways, I think it /is/ because people know there are a lot of lurkers, so people aren't always talking to the people they're talking to anymore, they're talking for their perceived broader audience. Minority people don't want to give up their position, because they don't want to leave the dominant voice on the thread unchallenged. Majority people don't want to give up their position, because they don't want those minority voices to be the last word on the subject, or for anyone to think the minority voice speaks for all. And it goes downhill from there.
posted by corb at 8:20 AM on June 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


The problem is that MeFi is just above the level of an echo chamber when it comes to certain subjects.

There are just enough users to provide some dissent but not enough that you will see the same revolving door of characters as you will on the other side.


This is true, of course, but on some issues I think a minimum of dissent is probably best. 'No no, everyone, I think you've misunderstood Jeffrey Dahmer! He's a performance artist!'
posted by shakespeherian at 8:22 AM on June 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


Why aren't we doing this topic well?

Because it's a hot-button issue for a lot of people.

It's really not much more complicated than that.

Is there no possibility of finding common ground

In the heat of the thread? No. The best you can do is present your position in a calm and respectful way, in such a way that perhaps the reader will remember your words at a quieter time, and then walk away. The sooner everyone gets their blood cooled, the sooner they can actually think about the topic.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:23 AM on June 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Reggie Knoble: " Zarq. To most of the people who engage in these discussions what you just said is a feature, not a bug."

Yeah, but then we wind up having the same conversation when the next incident pops up.

corb: "unless there are deleted comments I'm not seeing. Isn"

I saw one from him which was deleted. It was in response to koeselitz. A complaint that people were accusing him of defending rape.
posted by zarq at 8:24 AM on June 19, 2012


stp123: “I think it is because some people won't tolerate any nuanced discussion that they feel undermines their broader (IMO, correct) position that these types of incidences are indicative of larger systemic problems. Other people want to discuss the nuances of the specific incidence which, more often than not has some interesting facets to it since it has generated hundreds of comments in different forums and eventually shown up here.”

There are times when that happens, yes, and I can imagine it happening here. That's not really what happened in this instance, though. What happened in this instance is one person just took the stance of "it's okay to have a nuanced position" to the extreme of "if your nuanced position isn't exactly like mine, you hate sex."
posted by koeselitz at 8:24 AM on June 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


[and no he was not the only offender]

But he was the only one timed out (today). Seems unfair. Surely the number of other offenders couldn't have been that large.

Is issuing a time out a lengthy/difficult enough process that it wouldn't have been practical to add another couple to the list?
posted by Reggie Knoble at 8:24 AM on June 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Well that thread gave me the enjoyable thought that some women are too cowed by society's norms to talk to other women, so they must put naked pictures of themselves on cards with their identifying information and ask their husband to hand them out. So they don't have to commit the huge social faux pas that is talking to other women! Totally hilarious to me.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:26 AM on June 19, 2012 [13 favorites]


Generally a single user pounding away at the same point over and over again does not make for a good thread. We'd all be better off if we followed immlass's three comment rule. (Repeat the same point three times, After that give up.) You're not going to convince the world by constant repetition even if you're right.
posted by nangar at 8:26 AM on June 19, 2012


corb: people feel that if they just convince those few people, they can have a Perfect Metafilter, where it's safe from the opinions of those outsiders

This is very perceptive, and I freely admit that this is true for me. Metafilter is dearly important to me, and to some degree I treat it as a precious refuge from... not necessarily Bad Thought, but certainly from Poor Thinking. If the thinking is very poor indeed, it can feel like a slap in the face.
posted by gilrain at 8:26 AM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Honestly, I think the mods should consider just declaring MetaFilter a "safe space" and be done with this. There's no reason to keep having the same ugly arguments over and over, and the prevailing winds (both with respect to the membership and with the mods) say "misogyny is not okay."

If people want to try and figure out precisely how much sexual harassment and/or assault someone has to endure before it "counts," they can do it elsewhere. The site doesn't have to be all things to all people, and as far as I can tell nobody is benefiting from the endless repetition of threads that always go the same way.
posted by gerryblog at 8:27 AM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Why are so many of us talking past each other?

Because it's big, complicated, messy, seriously charged topic with lots of angles and one where everyone's perspective of and investment in the issues is heavily informed by their own experiences and personal history and concern. The most important part of the conversation for Alice isn't the same as for Bob or for Charlize or Drew or so on; even the presentation of the topic itself isn't so much "this one thing happened" as it is "this one thing happened, and then this other thing happened in response, and then this third thing, and then this fourth thing, and also there were these previous related things that also happened", which means different people are going to hook in on different thing from the word go.

And it's fine in principle for folks to have different angles of a post to discuss, but it's different when it's something where people are discussing something vs. getting in an argument about it. And to the extent that there is a lot of common ground underlying the arguments—even the folks who most disagree with each other in there are probably pretty much 95% in line with each other in terms of how they would act/interact in a real-world situation—what we end up seeing is people getting heated over the small bits where folks don't agree, or don't think they agree. And because it's messy and charged, that can get out of hand in a way that has almost nothing to do with the original subject of the post and everything to do with people's lived experiences of and anxieties about how this stuff extrapolates to their own lives.

It's really easy for two people who would pretty much agree about what's okay or not in practice to end up arguing angrily with each other about what if's or the idea that one or the other of them should be thought of badly for some notional future behavior, etc. There's often no really great anchor in a discussion like this.

I think it's great when folks can come from different positions on something and make from that a civil, mutually-rewarding conversation about their different experiences and perspectives on stuff. But that's hard, and it's harder when folks are starting from different hooks on an event and harder still when there's a lot of social and emotional and pyschological and sexual baggage inherently tied up in the topic.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:32 AM on June 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


i made a bunch of comments in that thread and i probably should have kept my trap shut. i was reacting to what i believed to be bad faith argumentation/trolling from a couple of people. i don't know what the best thing is to do in those situations. probably just not post, or at least not react to perceived trolling.
posted by facetious at 8:33 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


The problem is that MeFi is just above the level of an echo chamber when it comes to certain subjects. ... And when it does come down to one person on one side having a discussion with several people on the other side the minority is the one which is shut down because they are "making it all about them".

You know, being in the minority on a particular position doesn't automatically make someone some sort of oppressed iconoclast fighting the "echo chamber". Sometimes they're just wrong. And the reason why everyone's arguing with them is because they do as crayz did - wilfully mischaracterize what others are saying. This isn't one man engaging in a good faith "discussion" from a minority viewpoint; it's blatant shit-stirring. If they can't even grant the courtesy of representing the arguments being made against them fairly, then what are they doing, really, if not making the thread about all about them? So let's stop pretending this is the oppressive Metafilter hivemind shouting down those thoughtful minority viewpoints. What was going on in that thread wasn't anything close to that.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:34 AM on June 19, 2012 [48 favorites]


If people want to try and figure out precisely how much sexual harassment and/or assault someone has to endure before it "counts," they can do it elsewhere. The site doesn't have to be all things to all people, and as far as I can tell nobody is benefiting from the endless repetition of threads that always go the same way.

*emerging from corner*

As much as having these conversations frustrates me, knowing that I'm being protected from them would actually make me feel a hell of a lot worse.

I'm a grownup. I can handle it.

* goes back into corner and shuts up again *
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:34 AM on June 19, 2012 [10 favorites]


Actually, I think this sort of thing (sexism, harassment, etc) is something that MetaFilter does much better than most other places online. It's not just the lack of cock shots in my memail box, either.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:36 AM on June 19, 2012 [9 favorites]


Marissa: I'll not pretend all that stuff you just suggested I was pretending if you don't pretend that Crazy was the only person stirring some shit. Deal?
posted by Reggie Knoble at 8:40 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


But he was the only one timed out (today).

He was the also the one driving the "let's keep this argument going, loud and fast and about me" bus down the center of the thread even after we'd asked several times for that to stop. It's not remotely great for folks to keep responding to someone who seems to be doing that come-and-get-me thing and I wish other folks had just walked past his comments after a while as well, but the equivalence in behavior isn't there.

Seems unfair.

If this place were perfectly fair it'd be a ghost town. There's no perfect justice, there's no making sure the last word is distributed correctly, there's no removing tricky asymmetries from arguments or conflicts. About the best we can hope for is to keep things from actually melting down and to ask folks to cool it on stuff that's getting out of hand and hope they'll do it themselves so we don't have to do it for them. I'd rather never give anyone a timeout, and as it is we do it pretty infrequently, but we have a limited toolkit when it comes to user behavior and when repeatedly asking nicely isn't working that's the next step.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:42 AM on June 19, 2012


Is there no possibility of finding common ground, or gaining further understanding and empathy from such incidents?

Some people are always going to disagree. But some of us, maybe a lot of us even, can gain some understanding and empathy from these discussions. (I think I have.)
posted by nangar at 8:42 AM on June 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


From my perspective, and doing my best here not to argue the thread by proxy per Jessamyn's request, I thought it was a bad topic for Metafilter if only because the right and wrong of the situation was so clearly obvious as to be the equivalent of a "This guy kills puppies for fun and I think that's wrong" thread, where the only possible response was "Yeah, that's a shitty thing to do", which doesn't exactly produce the most enlightening discussion.

Even in comparison to last year's Skepchick "guy hits on a woman in an elevator at 3AM" kerfuffle, where I could see, if you gave the guy the absolute most generous benefit of the doubt reading possible, there may have been some room to discuss "the other side of the argument" in good faith, on this topic I just could not see any reasonable argument to defend this couple's behavior, which is why I found it kind of shocking that there were folks so stridently defending that position.

I'm generally strongly against Metafilter as echo chamber and hate the idea of people with minority viewpoints being shouted down or accused of making a thread all about them for simply engaging in the same behavior others are doing (repeatedly defending their position in a thread, just with a more noticable viewpoint), but in this particular case, the "minority" viewpoint being argued is just so ridiculous that I can't defend it at all.
posted by The Gooch at 8:45 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is issuing a time out a lengthy/difficult enough process that it wouldn't have been practical to add another couple to the list?

It's literally pressing a button, but it comes with a lot of baggage on our side and for the person timed out so we take it pretty seriously. A lot of people were continuing to argue in less decorous fashion but crayz was the only person who was taking it to an extreme "I am not listening..." extent and continuing to refer the argument back to his own personal perspective. We deleted a bunch of comments from people who continued to make their comments personal, but crayz was the only one who was continuing to do the "I am distorting your position to make a point and I am doing it over and over and over again"

We really prefer to use the time out mechanism as a last resort sort of thing and not just to make threads more convenient for us or the community.

Honestly, I think the mods should consider just declaring MetaFilter a "safe space" and be done with this.

Won't happen. We may be a little speedier on deleting not-that-flagged posts about internet drama however, because they suck up all of our time seemingly for the benefit of about ten people who just want to yell at each other.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:45 AM on June 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


Agree with rmd1023. I thought most of the people in the thread were arguing in good faith, even when we were arguing past each other. "This doesn't meet the definitions of sexual harassment I'm familiar with" seemed to be the most common argument against Elyse's position, and although I disagreed (and found it moot, since the conference organizers agreed it was a violation of their policies) it was still nowhere near the "she must be lying" nonsense I've seen on the topic elsewhere.

The weird strawmanning from a very few thread participants I didn't love so much, but compared to most Internet discussions on the topic it was civil if angry. Why I love MeFi and MeFites and the mods and the moderation policies.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:46 AM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Marissa: I'll not pretend all that stuff you just suggested I was pretending if you don't pretend that Crazy was the only person stirring some shit. Deal?

I'm not seeing where I "pretended" any of this. People certainly could have flagged instead of responding. But what I was addressing your frankly tiresome complaint that the Metafilter "echo chamber" silences minority viewpoints, and that that's why crayz was given a time out, because that's just straight-up bullshit.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:47 AM on June 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


I remember a sexual harassment thread (about "Hey, whatcha reading?" and Jezebel if I remember correctly) where a couple of really stubborn folks (arguing the pro-personal freedom aspect of this type of debate) were eventually swayed by a very dedicated group of volunteers just sort of talking about their own related experiences and making some concise clarifications.

It wasn't like it stopped being a circus of ego and bruises around them but it seemed like the core of folks who were really trying to build a bridge did. It seemed like that thread ended up working really well even though if you'd have asked me earlier in-thread how I thought it would go, it seemed like it was heading for the same ditches this one is/did/might have.
posted by kalessin at 8:47 AM on June 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


corb: “Having now finished the entire thread, I have to say that I think sometimes these things tend to happen when there is a very small minority with one opinion, and a large majority with the other opinion. I've experienced it myself on a few hot-button topics. I think in some ways it's because people do love Metafilter so much, and Metafilter norms are so very different than outside norms. So maybe people feel that if they just convince those few people, they can have a Perfect Metafilter, where it's safe from the opinions of those outsiders.”

Hrm. I'm kind of trying to put myself in crayz's head honestly and understand all of this a little better. I feel like one of the major problems here is that both sides feel like the minority, and both sides feel like what they have to say is not likely to be welcome. And the interesting thing in this case is that both sides seem to think that the other side is arguing for the ability to force themselves on the other.

That makes personalizing the argument very easy. Sexual things are already very personal, but when we're talking about someone else imposing sexual categories on us, it generally gets our blood up. So when I tried to break things down by just asking a question that I hoped would start to simplify things, it was easy for crayz to see something pretty insulting and hurtful in what I'd said. And – more to the point, I guess – when crayz repeatedly insisted that these complaints were coming from a position of sexual conservatism and comprised an attempt to impose that sexual conservatism on other people, it was much easier, because of the subject, for me and for others to take it as a personal affront.

I am not getting into which side was right in all this, of course; it's just interesting that everybody in that thread seems to have felt the same way: that other people were arguing for the imposition of sexual stuff on them.
posted by koeselitz at 8:47 AM on June 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


We may be a little speedier on deleting not-that-flagged posts about internet drama however, because they suck up all of our time seemingly for the benefit of about ten people who just want to yell at each other.

I accept your counter-offer.
posted by gerryblog at 8:48 AM on June 19, 2012


facetious: "i made a bunch of comments in that thread and i probably should have kept my trap shut. i was reacting to what i believed to be bad faith argumentation/trolling from a couple of people. i don't know what the best thing is to do in those situations. probably just not post, or at least not react to perceived trolling."

I thought this comment of yours was rather good.


rmd1023: " It's not just the lack of cock shots in my memail box, either."

See, this is actually what I was hoping to see when I opened the main post:

Gagglezoomer asks a question:
This sort of propositioning doesn't happen to me as a man at all, whereas every woman I know gets sent pictures of people's cocks. A lot.

Women of Metafilter, is this really true?
posted by gagglezoomer at 10:50 AM on June 19 [+] [!] [quote]
And immediately receives responses from five or six women who say, "Yes, it's true. This is what it's like for us."

And his response was:
Wow is all I can say.
posted by gagglezoomer at 11:21 AM on June 19 [1 favorite +] [!] [quote]
And there's no drama. None! He asks a question, people relate their own personal experiences. Question answered. He accepts the answer.
posted by zarq at 8:49 AM on June 19, 2012 [18 favorites]


In somebody's thread about this very topic, I think at Pharyngula, several people said that the discussions there had led them to re-examine their attitudes. Some people offered apologies for specific past rudenesses.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:50 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I honestly think that "Some drama happened on the internet" posts tend to be bad posts for MetaFilter.

I didn't get far into that thread because... wow was it a train wreck. The thing is, thinking back very few of the "Bob wrote an article about his toe. Patty responded saying that his toe's not all that with melted bubbly cheese on top. Bob responds saying not only is his toe all that with melted bubbly cheese on top, but Patty wouldn't know a great toe if it came up and lodged itself in her nose," (feel free to replace toe with any combination of the following: economic theory, grammar arcana, web-comic about toes) type posts have as interesting of discussions as they could. I agree that this is in large part due to the fact that that sort of framing comes prepackaged with "There are two sides, pick one."

So, how could you frame this post without that?
posted by Gygesringtone at 8:50 AM on June 19, 2012


Honestly, I think the mods should consider just declaring MetaFilter a "safe space" and be done with this. There's no reason to keep having the same ugly arguments over and over, and the prevailing winds (both with respect to the membership and with the mods) say "misogyny is not okay."

I think that'd be the worst thing, actually. I really value these discussions, and particularly their moderation, so that we can have these discussions without it devolving into pure shit.
An echo chamber is valueless.

From my perspective, and doing my best here not to argue the thread by proxy per Jessamyn's request, I thought it was a bad topic for Metafilter if only because the right and wrong of the situation was so clearly obvious as to be the equivalent of a "This guy kills puppies for fun and I think that's wrong" thread, where the only possible response was "Yeah, that's a shitty thing to do", which doesn't exactly produce the most enlightening discussion.

But obviously, it wasn't so clear-cut. There were differing opinions, even if there weren't very many of them. I think above commentary about how the people probably agree 95 percent, but are arguing over the other 5, is probably accurate. Everyone seemed to agree that it wasn't the best choice, but people were arguing about whether the poster was right to post, whether the incident itself was sexual harassment, etc.
posted by corb at 8:51 AM on June 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


He asks a question, people relate their own personal experiences. Question answered. He accepts the answer.

* muffled shout from corner *

"And that's why I'm glad these conversations still happen!"

* EC claps hands over mouth again *
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:51 AM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


* EC claps hands over mouth again *

With respect, your continuing to engage crayz in that thread when we had specifically asked people not to do that was one of the problematic things I referred to obliquely earlier. I think you may have a problem knowing when to walk away. I'd like to politely ask you to consider that.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:53 AM on June 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


Well Marissa I didn't see where I was pretending either but thought maybe we could both be a little bit charitable, but I suppose we can accuse eachother of bullshitting instead if you like.
posted by Reggie Knoble at 8:53 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I flounced from the thread early because - and this is a pretty highschool drama thing to say - I felt kind of betrayed by it.

I know MeFi is a broader kind of site. I know! But some part of me keeps thinking we're past the point where people would show up and leave turds like "Much ado about nothing." Or the people making the same "the things that you say have happened to you didn't actually happen or weren't really a big deal" kinds of statements. Just all the thoughtless, minimizing, awful things that I'm so sick of seeing and hearing.

I can't really think of any sort of constructive conclusions to be gleaned from that thought, either.
posted by kavasa at 8:59 AM on June 19, 2012 [12 favorites]


Going back to my thing about silencing and dismissiveness, I guess I tend to approach debates from the point of view that not everyone is trying to be obtuse, not everyone I disagree with is trolling me, not everyone who's be hyperbolic is doing it rhetorically.

Granted, this has proven to be an Achilles' heel for me time and again, but it's also allowed me to build bridges with really surprising people, because I gave them the time of day, assumed they were arguing a point genuinely even when it seemed totally gratuitous and hyperbolic.

It's rarely worked out for me, though, in bridge building to, at any time, use the term "disingenuous". I think that this phrase, which is really popular on Metafilter, is not really about building bridges, but about cutting people off. We use some other tropes in the same sort of way. The comparison to "the n word", the Godwinning, "come down from the cross, we need the wood" and other methods all force another person's rhetoric into a place where we cannot be fair and cannot give the benefit of the doubt.

I guess I'm arguing for more good faith efforts, especially at taking arguments that don't seem to be in good faith, as if they were, in effort to build more bridges.

For what it's worth, I'm not arguing this from the perspective of trying to give crayz more rope. I think folks who make it "all about me" are not helping the discourse either. I'm actually making these arguments as being more from Empress Callipygos' corner and having been silenced or had it attempted against me. A LOT.
posted by kalessin at 8:59 AM on June 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


We may be a little speedier on deleting not-that-flagged posts about internet drama however, because they suck up all of our time seemingly for the benefit of about ten people who just want to yell at each other.

I thought it was an interesting thread at first, and the thread benefited way more than ten people at that point. Yes, eventually it devolved into what you describe.
posted by grouse at 8:59 AM on June 19, 2012


And I must apologize to the Academy for my overuse of and poor editing of commas. :)
posted by kalessin at 9:00 AM on June 19, 2012


think that'd be the worst thing, actually. I really value these discussions, and particularly their moderation, so that we can have these discussions without it devolving into pure shit. An echo chamber is valueless.

Well, look, they already said no, but there's a pretty wide gap between "safe space" and "eco chamber." This place isn't 4chan or reddit, but all the same every post with about rape culture and sexual harassment leads to "commenting that is indistinguishable from trolling" with respect to basic societal norms. Reasonable people can disagree, but refusing outlier positions like "There's nothing wrong with handing out naked business cards at professional conferences, you prude!" is not going to turn this place into an echo chamber.
posted by gerryblog at 9:01 AM on June 19, 2012


I think a big part of the problem is the vast difference in the experiences of the commenters. It's just hard to wrap your mind around a world that isn't happening for you.

Ex: ...I always thought my father's back pain was made up/exaggerated and dismissed it for years until my back went out.
posted by nile_red at 9:03 AM on June 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


I feel the community standards should focus on & emphasize individual responsibility more, so that these types of threads aren't automatically "things MeFi doesn't do well" - I don't mean the mods should do something different, or we should have different rules - it's more of a subtle shift in realizing that, yes, you're just one person but what you contribute has an effect in the aggregate; so it's a little hard, and nearly-invisible, to restrain yourself from digging in, especially if you see others doing it; but you have to be the change.

i get the feeling we're relying on the mods too much to delete impulsive comments over-the-line, or try to re-rail a thread, or so on. It's not going to work if it isn't a conscious standard from the membership, that every time you're choosing not to make just one more comment, or dig in just a little harder, because after all you're right, or to revise before posting something attacking or dismissive to make sure it's more about your point than it is about your anger, that's your little part in making MeFi a good place to be.
posted by flex at 9:04 AM on June 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


that every time you're choosing not to make just one more comment,

That's a tough one. When threads get heated I often struggle with "just one more". I did it again this morning in the thread we're talking about even though last night I decided to "walk" away from this conversation. I guess I have a propensity towards physically abusing deceased equines.
posted by MikeMc at 9:12 AM on June 19, 2012


Reasonable people can disagree, but refusing outlier positions like "There's nothing wrong with handing out naked business cards at professional conferences, you prude!" is not going to turn this place into an echo chamber.

Jessamyn has asked that the argument not be re-fought here, but I read most of that thread and didn't see people saying that. I saw lots of people saying, "This was weird and inappropriate but seems like a pretty minor transgression (especially considering that the couple walked away after handing her the card) and I'm not sure it deserved the level of upset it's getting."

This conversation here in MetaTalk is making me wonder if I should re-think my tendency to just stay out of threads like that. Because I read the first few comments crayz made, and I agreed with them. That was my perspective on the situation as well. And I'm not some stupid benighted turd-dropper; I've been involved in feminism and the lesbian community and queer community since the 80s; I majored in Women's Studies in college and have a master's degree in Women & Politics.

Not that I mean to say "see my credentials; everything I say is therefore right." Only that I mean to say that I have been thinking, talking, reading, and writing about issues like harassment for almost 30 years now, and I don't share the perspective on this incident that some people in this conversation take as so very much a given, so very much the only right way to think, that it has been seriously proposed here that people who disagree with it should not allowed to comment. Well, that would include me.

Had I commented in that thread, I wouldn't have ended up in crayz's position because of my "two and out" rule for internet commentary: if I comment once and people respond in a way that suggests I was badly misunderstood, or I think they are arguing in bad faith or deliberately mis-reading me, I will try one more time to clarify my point. After that, I don't believe there's anything to be gained from staying in the argument, and so I won't. This is both because people who will not listen to you in good faith the first time you say it won't do it the hundredth time, either, but also because staying in leads to increasing frustration and a greater likelihood that I'll start arguing badly. And then (hypothetically) I'm crayz toward the end of the thread and I've been given a time out. So I don't do that.

But if I had done my two-and-out (and maybe some other folks had, as well), the thread might not have seemed so much like all-against-one, and it maybe wouldn't seem to clear to people that crayz or anyone else was holding such an extreme opinion.

Back when I worked on security at the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, we got a lot of requests from women to ban certain behaviors other women were engaging in, from sitting around the fire pit drinking at night to having BDSM sex deep in the woods to walking around with nipple piercings showing. These requests were almost always framed in the context of creating "safe space." But what I came to feel over some years of dealing with this was that we were guilty of conflating "safe" and "comfortable."

If your parents were alcoholics, hearing women drinking beer and getting raucous can certainly be uncomfortable. But unless those women are engaging in threatening behavior or otherwise have some kind of power over you, you're not unsafe. Likewise, just because the pierced nipple, with its implication of a needle having been pushed through flesh, makes your skin crawl, that doesn't mean the woman with the pierced nipple is threatening you. You're safe. You're just uncomfortable.

And it seems to me that sometimes a behavior can have something in common with truly threatening behavior, but not be the same as that behavior. Being handed a tasteless "pleasure card" by people who then walk away may be upsetting, but it's not a threat. And just because it lies somewhere on the same spectrum of creepy-to-threatening behavior that flashing or workplace harassment does, doesn't make it de facto harassment.

I get it that people want to take seriously the idea that individual behaviors that aren't necessarily in and of themselves threats to safety can be part of an environment that makes threatening behavior more likely. I share this idea. But I also think we are in danger of perceiving ourselves and each other as exceptionally fragile if we think that being uncomfortable or emotionally upset is the same as being "unsafe."

And we are in danger of not recognizing when we are engaging in reductio ad absurdum--when we put in place policies (such as some that I have seen at colleges) that every new sexual step, from kissing to touching a breast to running your hand down to your partner's butt needs to be preceded by explicit verbal consent. Or when we think that an act that is somewhere in a gray area between "unwelcome come-on" and "mild harassment" is in fact so firmly in the realm of harassment that no reasonable people can disagree on that point.

People's emotional reactions are their emotional reactions. As a very emotionally labile strong-reactor myself I would never call the Skepchik's emotional reaction "too much." It's hers; she gets to have it. But I do think it's reasonable that people could disagree about whether what she experienced was harrassment.
posted by not that girl at 9:22 AM on June 19, 2012 [115 favorites]


I know it is - especially if you really want to say something, if you're invested in the topic or the discussion; I think it's easier to do something (that other people will see and possibly agree with) than to not do it, which no one will see, and no one's going to give you a pat on the back for that either, so there's no immediate - I guess "reward" is the word, though that doesn't seem to quite fit? - for restraint. And also I think maybe knowing the mods will delete it if it's too much might actually be a little more encouraging in giving vent to impulsive comments rather than less encouraging. But I don't mean "stop participating" or "feel bad about participating" by this at all - more like "be judicious in your participation"; better participation all around will invite more and better participation from others - lurkers, those you disagree with, etc.
posted by flex at 9:23 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


For me, it's really hard to walk away when someone keeps shifting the goalposts and/or mischaracterizing what other people are saying.

Like, when people keep saying "that's not harassment! [This] is harassment!" and refuse to acknowledge that in the context of the links - a conference with its own rules and definitions - it was harassment.
posted by rtha at 9:25 AM on June 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


I think the person best placed to determine what constitutes sexual harassment is the subject, so in the end I disagree with crayz. But I also think it was unfortunate that what looked to me like a minority view of "this is not sexual harassment" eventually came to be interpreted as mysogyny and a sweeping attack on the victims of all sexual harassment. I don't think that is a fair representation at all.
posted by londonmark at 9:25 AM on June 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


There were definitely attacks on Elyse personally in that thread.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:29 AM on June 19, 2012


Agree so hard, rtha! "This wouldn't be sexual harassment to my HR department" is so entirely moot, because the conference organizers agreed it violated the conference's policies.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:31 AM on June 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


And nobody said, when that was brought up, "I think the conference policies were too broad" or whatever--it kept being about Elyse and her response.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:33 AM on June 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


On Metafilter, as in society at large, there is a small minority-- tiny, in the case of Metafilter-- of men who refuse to internalize or accept consensual limits to the ability of men in general to solicit women for sex.

In society, the time-honored approach to this problem has been for other men to gang up and beat that minority into submission, which is a remedy worse than the malady.

Metafilter can't do that of course, so we're forced to resort to the solution which is also the best resort available to society, in my opinion, of making those incorrigible men pariahs, and then finally excluding them altogether.
posted by jamjam at 9:34 AM on June 19, 2012


I don't share the perspective on this incident that some people in this conversation take as so very much a given, so very much the only right way to think, that it has been seriously proposed here that people who disagree with it should not allowed to comment.

This. What you're describing is exactly why I hate these Metafilter/Metatalk blowups.
posted by Hoopo at 9:34 AM on June 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


The thread reads like a double. I had to check the dates. I'm sure there was one like it not too long ago. Same story, same tone of thread.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:36 AM on June 19, 2012


not that girl: " People's emotional reactions are their emotional reactions. As a very emotionally labile strong-reactor myself I would never call the Skepchik's emotional reaction "too much." It's hers; she gets to have it. But I do think it's reasonable that people could disagree about whether what she experienced was harrassment."

Skepticamp has an anti-harassment policy, which clearly classifies what the couple did as harassment. From vorfeed's comment in the main thread:
"...here is the official definition of Sexual Harassment, from the conference at which this incident occurred:

Harassment includes offensive verbal comments related to gender, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, religion, sexual images in public spaces, deliberate intimidation, stalking, following, harassing photography or recording, sustained disruption of talks or other events, inappropriate physical contact, and unwelcome sexual attention."
Whether you or anyone else agrees or disagrees that this fits the dictionary definition of harassment, the couple's actions firmly fit the policies of the event they are attending. Ms. Anders' characterization of their actions as harassment is based on those guidelines, which also mention that: "Explicit sexual language and imagery is not appropriate for any conference venue."

Please note that vorfeed's comment was posted quite early in the thread. Early enough that the most of the argument about whether their behavior was being described accurately by Anders happened afterwards.
posted by zarq at 9:36 AM on June 19, 2012 [14 favorites]


not that girl - your post makes it pretty difficult to not argue the issue here. I honestly think it would have gone better in the blue thread - maybe re-post it there? I also think that a comment phrased as yours was here would have been infinitely better-received than anything that was actually posted in the thread.

For example: the most recent crusader to take a tilt at the thread declared the reaction "histrionic." I mean, what kind of good response is there at that point?

Your post here: thoughtful, reasoned, not dismissive.

Posts in the thread: lazy, dismissive, and demeaning.
posted by kavasa at 9:40 AM on June 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Sidhedevil: I know that I commented on the conference policy so at least one person did. I never said it was too broad just that "unwanted sexual attention" was something that couldn't necessarily be identified before hand and therefore had to be offered first before being deemed unwelcome.

So at least one person did what you said they didn't.
posted by Reggie Knoble at 9:40 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Matt's in Italy. Italy!
posted by fixedgear at 9:42 AM on June 19, 2012


Sorry I missed your comment, Reggie Knoble. I think that's a reasonable point, though I disagree.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:42 AM on June 19, 2012


Whether you or anyone else agrees or disagrees that this fits the dictionary definition of harassment, the couple's actions firmly fit the policies of the event they are attending. Ms. Anders' characterization of their actions as harassment is based on those guidelines, which also mention that: "Explicit sexual language and imagery is not appropriate for any conference venue."

I included a response in that thread about what precisely explicit sexual language and imagery might mean to different people. I'm not trying to rehash here, but pointing out that it's in no way as clear and obvious as it might seem to some.
posted by corb at 9:44 AM on June 19, 2012


people with backwards opinions

some people are just unshakably wrong

Here, this. If you are so completely sure that your position is the one correct way to think about an issue, and others must be made to conform or cast out as pariahs, then you are part of the problem.

We are all finite and fallible humans! Please remember this! Don't be too sure that your way is the one way. This is how we end up with camps and ovens and people less human than us - even if we are just arguing about the one true best ice cream flavour, but especially so with more complex issues of sexuality and human relations. Someone who is absolutely sure they are right is more scary to me than someone with a (subjectively, for me) shitty / wrong opinion.

Beware the man of one book.
posted by Meatbomb at 9:50 AM on June 19, 2012 [16 favorites]


Please note that vorfeed's comment was posted quite early in the thread. Early enough that the most of the argument about whether their behavior was being described accurately by Anders happened afterwards

The entire discussion of the subject, or the incident, doesn't need to be framed exclusively in terms of the conference's policy.
posted by Hoopo at 9:55 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


not that girl - your post makes it pretty difficult to not argue the issue here.

Do not argue the issue here. Thanks.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:56 AM on June 19, 2012


corb: "I included a response in that thread about what precisely explicit sexual language and imagery might mean to different people. I'm not trying to rehash here, but pointing out that it's in no way as clear and obvious as it might seem to some."

I disagree. I also take a much less charitable view of the way they handled it than you do. But I agree we shouldn't rehash that here.
posted by zarq at 9:57 AM on June 19, 2012


Speaking of tools: was this tool ever added to the kit?
posted by de at 10:03 AM on June 19, 2012


If you are so completely sure that your position is the one correct way to think about an issue, and others must be made to conform or cast out as pariahs, then you are part of the problem.

I appreciate your general point that we all need to listen to each other, and not assume that we are 100% right about a particular issue. But sometimes people are, yes, completely wrong. It's how people are approached in light of this that makes all the difference, though.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:06 AM on June 19, 2012


See now, that Troll tool grates at the very center of my being because I've often been (for variously right and wrong reasons) identified as a troll (not here in MetaFilter that I know of, but elsewhere). And it's usually because of some event or mood or frogginess that passes.

And the idea of having a black mark you can never remove pretty much sucks. I mean what if you're just having a bad night/day/week? I don't even act like this generally, but the idea of doing this to a person just kind of sucks.
posted by kalessin at 10:06 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Do not argue the issue here. Thanks.
I mean, I didn't? I made that remark for ntg and also suggested that her comment would work really well in the original thread.
posted by kavasa at 10:06 AM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Camps and ovens! That's not overwrought at all.
posted by gerryblog at 10:07 AM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Why are so many of us talking past each other?

Because we're human and disagree and don't want to think we're wrong. The other person? They can be wrong, but not us.

Is there no possibility of finding common ground, or gaining further understanding and empathy from such incidents?

It's not a straight road or binary choice. Sometimes the contentious topics have a bit of learning in them, sometimes not.

At this point, my personal wish is that if people choose to wage into these arguments, they try to check their personal baggage and outrage at the door and deal with things on a more cool and logical level where they try to learn why other people think the way they do, as opposed to wading in with the idea that the other person is wrong, even when they are.. "You don't think she should be offended? Ok, then what should do? Why that particular route? Do you think the person is wrong?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:07 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Speaking of tools: was this tool ever added to the kit?

No, we don't have that. That comment from Matt was made 12 years ago, and we haven't discussed adding that at all since I've been here.
posted by pb (staff) at 10:08 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Speaking of tools: was this tool ever added to the kit?

No - that's what's often called a "hellban" and we've got no intention at this point of implementing it here. There are some real problems with transparency and honesty with that sort of tool. I can tell one story of when it was used effectively, but it's a serious edge case.

(We do have user notes, which are handy, but we just use them for reference.)
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 10:09 AM on June 19, 2012


Speaking of tools: was this tool ever added to the kit?

We will never, ever implement that, no.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:11 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


pb: "No, we don't have that."

Hellbans. Wow. Matt wasn't the first person to think of it, was he?
posted by zarq at 10:12 AM on June 19, 2012


Speaking of tools: was this tool ever added to the kit?

We will never, ever implement that, no.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:11 PM on June 19 [+]


Am I the only one seeing this comment?
posted by benito.strauss at 10:15 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


zarq: “Hellbans. Wow. Matt wasn't the first person to think of it, was he?”

Not according to Matt himself, no. See this highly interesting ask.metafilter question on the subject.
posted by koeselitz at 10:16 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Speaking of tools: was this tool ever added to the kit?

Yes actually I'm using it right now. I wonder why no other mods chimed in on this?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:17 AM on June 19, 2012 [29 favorites]


Hey, does anyone remember benito.strauss? I liked that guy! What ever happened to him?

Sorry. Couldn't resist.


koeselitz, thanks. I had forgotten about that thread!
posted by zarq at 10:18 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wasn't involved in the original thread -- many just don't seem fruitful for review/contribution, even on subjects that interest me a lot. But I do want to add just a few words here in support of MetaFilter and the way it works . . .

I am a lifelong feminist and I do tend to see this issue in black and white terms, because frankly I'm sick of sexism, being harassed, and having to explain that being attracted does not justify treating another person with anything less than respect and consideration.

Having said that, MetaFilter has been very enlightening about the many reasons that sexism and sexist attitudes persist, many of which do not have to do with the people who express them actually being sexist or anti-female, and what tools can help them go away. One really helpful tool, I've noticed, is the painful personal stories that MeFis sometimes share, for example in the amazing Whacha Reading/Schrodinger's Cat thread to which zarq linked in his post here. And participating or reading those discussions on this site has made it clear to me that there is an ongoing tension between encouraging respectful, considerate behavior/language, and freedome of speech and thought.

I'd add that one of the joys of this site is that we keep talking to each other, trying to be rational, attempting to articulate our reasoning, debating, and at times losing our temper and arguing. Also that the mods are here to drag us and our comments away when we get to frothing at the mouth.

This is a good place and these discussions are enlightening, at times profoundly persuasive and attitude-reversing.
posted by bearwife at 10:22 AM on June 19, 2012 [15 favorites]


"2 and out". Man, I love that. Thank you not that girl!
posted by Jofus at 10:24 AM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Think_Long: "I don't generally participate in those threads, but I definitely benefit from reading them. Even the less successful ones help me articulate my feelings in my own mind and expose me to different perspectives that I would never get in meatspace.

So, while it may seem like we are constantly reviewing feminism 101, please know that for every dense commenter, there are probably 10 willing-to-learn readers.
"

Damn, oh, damn, yes.

"This is Feminism 101! We shouldn't have to explain this every time!"

Too bad. You were ineffective last time. The class is bigger than you thought. Too many students were missing. You do realize that Feminism 101 isn't required to graduate in some states? Or, outside chance, you aren't 100% right about this particular situation - nah, that's crazy; scratch that.

It doesn't matter how obvious something is to you; when you are engaged in a dialog you should either explain your point-of-view, or ask for a better explanation of why the other side(s) don't agree. Insulting the other side is not engaging in dialog.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:32 AM on June 19, 2012 [10 favorites]


Camps and ovens! That's not overwrought at all.

gerryblog, rather than picking at a small element of my phrasing or rhetoric, I wonder if you have any thoughts on the larger point I was trying to make? The substance of what I was trying to communicate?
posted by Meatbomb at 10:32 AM on June 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ditto on the "Two-And-Out" idea, it's a good personal policy and I think it'd go a long way towards restoring civility to ugly threads. One thing I've learned here is when it's not important for me to have the last word. (Hint: Never)

As an aside, it'd be nice to have a more stringent "no rape comparisons" rule. It seems to be happening more often and it just super-duper nastifies the discussion.
posted by waraw at 10:33 AM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


It does a pretty serious disservice to the substance of your argument to duct-tape a holocaust reference to it, honestly. Maybe just skip that in the first place next time.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:34 AM on June 19, 2012 [12 favorites]


some people in this conversation take as so very much a given, so very much the only right way to think, that it has been seriously proposed here that people who disagree with it should not allowed to comment.

I'm so glad you said this, not that girl.

What I think a lot of people in these threads don't realize is that even if you manage to disallow someone from giving their viewpoint, or force them to keep it quiet, that doesn't make the viewpoint go away. It just means that the viewpoint won't be given in front of you, or with you in the room. And then it's so easy to just sit there in your own room where you feel totally comfortable, and feel safe like all is right with the world.

And then you get absolutely broadsided when you go out in the real world and find out, you didn't make all those opinions go *poof* after all. They didn't go ANYWHERE. They are still here. Maybe they're even more widespread and stronger.

You get broadsided when we get this absolute backlash like the War on Women this year, when you think.. what??? Who are all these people who didn't get the memo??? I thought we dealt with all these issues 30 years ago and all agreed on what was best!

No, clearly we didn't all agree.

Shutting people up is self-delusion, it allows you to think everyone agrees with you and everyone has come to a consensus, when the reality is the people who don't agree and aren't part of the consensus have just left and aren't listening anymore.

People need to be allowed to say what they are to say because that is the only way to get a real consensus going.
posted by cairdeas at 10:44 AM on June 19, 2012 [9 favorites]


And that is why, by the way, I absolutely hate it and cringe when men who aren't going with the status quo in feminist threads are told they're making it ALL ABOUT THEM. That is so insanely counterproductive. It's one thing to really and truly ask men not to make things all about them and that is something most reasonable people can think about and upset. It's not helpful at all to tell men that ANY time they are affected by something and want to talk about it the slightest bit, they are oppressively making it ALL about them.

What do you guys seriously think will happen for feminism when the average man doesn't feel like he can say ANYTHING about how these things affect him without being labeled as a self-centered oppressor? Do you guys really think that is the way that people with differing viewpoints come to a consensus? No, it's not. Not in any way. It's self-deluding.
posted by cairdeas at 10:53 AM on June 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


People need to be allowed to say what they are to say because that is the only way to get a real consensus going.

Up to a point, yeah. Where that falls down in practical terms is when people fail to recognize the point past which neither side is going to change the other's mind, and so they keep using broader and broader examples, more heated analogies, and less-civil language to try to hammer through. That's where it becomes a moderation problem, and it'd be great if more folks were able to back off a bit and recognize when they've hit that point with a particular line of discussion or conversational partner.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 10:55 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


What do you guys seriously think will happen for feminism when the average man doesn't feel like he can say ANYTHING about how these things affect him without being labeled as a self-centered oppressor?

I don't really feel like this is an actual possibility.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:56 AM on June 19, 2012 [10 favorites]


I don't really feel like this is an actual possibility.

I'm talking about spaces where liberals discuss feminism, shakespeherian. Of course the average man feels like he can comment on how things affect him everywhere else - in places where nobody gives a shit about feminism. Do we really want to drive the average man out from the spaces where feminism is being seriously discussed?
posted by cairdeas at 10:58 AM on June 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


kalessin: moreso than the ad hominems is the SILENCING. Stuff like "That's disingenuous and you know it." and other similar tactics attempting to invalidate each other's points. We are here for talking with each other, definitively NOT for shutting each other down.

Attribution of motive is hard to get right.

People who say "that's disingenuous and you know it" are pretty sure they're figured out their interlocutor's motives. I think these two scenarios are common: (1) Person A says something, person B thinks it's so absurd or outrageous a statement that person A cannot possibly believe what they actually said, so person B concludes that person A is trolling. (2) Person A says something, person B thinks it's absurd or outrageous and responds hyperbolically out of frustration or offendedness, person A thinks the hyperbole is a deliberate attempt to tar person A with a ridiculous point of view and cries "disingenuous!".

And, kalessin, when you say that people who cry "disingenuous" are using it as a "tactic" and deliberately trying to silence their interlocutors — well, you are assuming bad faith in much the same way. How do you know that they don't honestly believe their interlocutors are being disingenuous? Why don't you assume good faith on their part?

peacheater: I'm not silencing anyone when I point out that someone is not arguing in good faith. When a clear case like the one in that thread gets lost in a sea of tiny derails what else can one assume?

One can assume good faith anyway. Sometimes your impression of bad faith was wrong. And even if it was right, one can even turn the other cheek. The arguments for such policies are well known.

...

I am reminded of a remark from the article in a recent FPP:
Increasingly, for American readers, there are no mistakes, only covert ideologies.
posted by stebulus at 11:03 AM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Where that falls down in practical terms is when people fail to recognize the point past which neither side is going to change the other's mind, and so they keep using broader and broader examples, more heated analogies, and less-civil language to try to hammer through.

I completely agree, restless_nomad, at least about the less-civil language. (Not so sure "broad examples" are a good point where discussion should be cut off if they are used. "Heated analogies" -- I agree if it's Godwinning. Less so for some other things.)

But I'm not talking about scenarios where that is going on. I'm talking about scenarios where people are acting like it is bad and wrong for men to talk about how things affect them AT ALL if they are disagreeing with the feminist conventional wisdom.
posted by cairdeas at 11:04 AM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm sorry: I understood the context of your comment, and I still don't think it's a possibility. I mean, maybe I'm not getting exactly what you mean by 'average man,' but I know plenty of men on Metafilter who participate in feminism-related threads without getting told that they're making it all about them, including times when those men raise concerns about the implications for men of a given topic. The problem that I often see is men coming into such threads and, rather than disagreeing with a specific point or thread of thought in the topic, say something that tars All Of Feminism-- a vast and diverse field of theory-- as wrong or bad or oppressive to men or unrealistic or somesuch. It is, in my experience, perfectly acceptable for anyone, regardless of sex or gender, to disagree with specific things said in the name of feminism, because 'feminism' is a broad conversation which contains many disagreements within itself.

But men (or women!) who pop into a thread about sexual harassment in public, say, and say things like 'I would be flattered if a woman did this to me!' and then continue to harp on this same notion of What If We Turned The Tables, Don't You See How Sexist You Feminists Really Are, are, in fact, making it all about them, because there is not attempted empathy or understanding on their part, which is inherently selfish.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:09 AM on June 19, 2012 [13 favorites]


I wonder if you have any thoughts on the larger point I was trying to make? The substance of what I was trying to communicate?

Exactly what substance were you trying to communicate? I read your comment as just another "Meatbomb delivers platitudes in his hot-tub guru-mode" remark
posted by octobersurprise at 11:10 AM on June 19, 2012


I'm talking about scenarios where people are acting like it is bad and wrong for men to talk about how things affect them AT ALL if they are disagreeing with the feminist conventional wisdom.

I don't think that's nearly as common as when men come into a thread like that and talk about how they think things really affect women, despite the expressed opinions of various actual women. That's where their opinions are not so helpful or welcome, and are likely to get shouted down with the vigor of long-practiced and sharp-honed frustration.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 11:12 AM on June 19, 2012 [19 favorites]


i'm glad i stepped away from that thread. it was actually the back and forth with crayz that had me step away - "what if it was an invitation for hiking! what if it were an innocent black man! what if it were a fisting unicorn?!"

re: dick pics - constantly getting unsolicited cock in my inbox. i have a folder of them just because i guess i figured the best i could is laugh. also, some of the people who have sent them to me were people i believed to not be the random cock shot guys and i keep it as a reminder that you never know who they are. i will say that i'm nearly positive i've never gotten one from a mefite, so that's pretty cool.
posted by nadawi at 11:16 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Okay. It looks like we differ on that. To me it is helpful and welcome. Very helpful and very welcome. There may be a .01 percent chance of that person's opinion changing at all by a back-and-forth with people in the thread. There's a 0% chance of his opinion changing because of the thread if he doesn't participate in it or read it. I find that a lot more helpful than the people who already agree, having another thread to agree with each other.
posted by cairdeas at 11:18 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


scenarios where people are acting like it is bad and wrong for men to talk about how things affect them AT ALL if they are disagreeing with the feminist conventional wisdom.

I feel like I don't actually see this very often here. I think what I see happening with far greater frequency is people extrapolating from their experience to general principles (which has a tendency to create problems whatever position you're arguing from). "This is my experience, therefore everything you are saying is WRONG WRONG WRONG" rather than "this is my experience, so this is why I think this idea can cause problems."
posted by EvaDestruction at 11:24 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm talking about scenarios where people are acting like it is bad and wrong for men to talk about how things affect them AT ALL if they are disagreeing with the feminist conventional wisdom.

Could I trouble you to point out an instance where this happened in the main thread? Maybe it's just me, but I feel like you're arguing a hypothetical scenario here, and it's hard to respond to it without some sort of context.

I don't see much of what you're describing here on mefi. At most, I see exasperated complaints like the one IAmBroom mentions upthread: "Why Are We Still Talking About This?" To which the answer usually boils down to: "Because we need to."

There are situations in which we truly need to defer to the way minority groups about language and events that directly affect them. As a Jew, I really wouldn't like it if someone tried to dictate to me how I "should feel" about my family dying in the Holocaust, without also respecting and taking my perspectives and lived experiences into account. I would think that most African-Americans wouldn't take kindly to being told how they should feel about the enslavement of their ancestors by non-African-Americans. Similarly, I don't think a man telling a woman how they should feel about sexually harassment would be a good idea. I think it should be perfectly okay to point out that if someone hasn't walked a mile in someone else's shoes, they probably aren't qualified to tell people how they should feel about it.

I participate in threads here about feminism and sexual abuse issues. I do not believe I have ever felt stifled, or shut down. Snapped at, sure. Told I'm white knighting on occasion. But I would like to think that my opinion is not being entirely discounted by other mefites because I'm a guy. And I don't think it would be reasonable for me to assume that.

But I do not live a female experience. I don't know what it's like to be a woman in modern-day America except second-hand. So I recognize that there is value in asking questions and listening to the answers on those topics, rather than blundering in and assuming that I know better. Or worse, misguidedly defending male honor.
posted by zarq at 11:25 AM on June 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


This sort of thing happens any place where truth is measured by who can tell a personal story in the most heartfelt tone at great length.
posted by michaelh at 11:25 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Shutting people up is self-delusion, it allows you to think everyone agrees with you and everyone has come to a consensus, when the reality is the people who don't agree and aren't part of the consensus have just left and aren't listening anymore.

This is the impression I leave almost all of these threads with, and get so frustrated with the "GUYS WE JUST HAD A META ABOUT THIS" comments like everything was solved. Glad to know I'm not alone.
posted by Hoopo at 11:29 AM on June 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm talking about scenarios where people are acting like it is bad and wrong for men to talk about how things affect them AT ALL if they are disagreeing with the feminist conventional wisdom.

Can you link to an example?....I acknowledge it may take you a while, but I'm not sure I can recall having seen something like what you're describing.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:29 AM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


some of the people who have sent them to me were people i believed to not be the random cock shot guys and i keep it as a reminder that you never know who they are

That just made my soul deflate a little bit more. Not much left in there to begin with. Way to go, random cock shot guys!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:29 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


This sort of thing happens any place where truth is measured by who can tell a personal story in the most heartfelt tone at great length.

I think when the conversation is about what women's day-to-day life experience is like, then yes, listening to women's stories about their day-to-day life experience is probably more valuable than someone trying to explain to those women how they should feel.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:31 AM on June 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


cairdeas: “What do you guys seriously think will happen for feminism when the average man doesn't feel like he can say ANYTHING about how these things affect him without being labeled as a self-centered oppressor?”

shakespeherian: “I don't really feel like this is an actual possibility.”

cairdeas: “I'm talking about spaces where liberals discuss feminism, shakespeherian. Of course the average man feels like he can comment on how things affect him everywhere else - in places where nobody gives a shit about feminism.”

Hey, check out what we just learned, shakespeherian! We're not "average guys!" Apparently we're weird non-guys who are not friendly with "average guys," who alienate "average guys," who may as well be women for how much we go on and on about feminism. Maybe we ought to tone it down if we don't want to alienate actual men.

“Do we really want to drive the average man out from the spaces where feminism is being seriously discussed?”

In cases where "the average man" (who is actually anything but) is engaging in the somewhat mocking accusation that men like me are prudes and a sexual puritans who want to dissociate themselves from sex? Well, I guess I don't necessarily want those "average men" driven out, but it'd be awesome if I didn't have to put up with having that crap slung at me, yeah.
posted by koeselitz at 11:31 AM on June 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


Lots of opinions are "likely to get shouted down" on MetaFilter, from men opining about how women really think, to espousing a pro-life position, to opposing gay marriage, and so on. For the most part, moderators do a decent job of telling the opiners and the shouters both to cool it. But when timeouts become necessary, it seems like they land on the opiners most often.

And I'm sympathetic to the opiners in that equation. Because while it's easy to tell them, "Don't make this thread about you," they are usually also fielding replies from six or ten different people simultaneously. If the community doesn't want that dynamic to emerge, then the community has some responsibility to not pile-on. Put another way, if John has a responsibility to curb his opinions somewhat in terms of rhetoric and volume, then I think Tom and Sally and Bill also have some responsibility to hang back and let John answer the first couple rebuttals and see where the thread goes from there, before immediately jumping in with all their respective two cents.
posted by cribcage at 11:34 AM on June 19, 2012 [11 favorites]


Hey, check out what we just learned, shakespeherian! We're not "average guys!"

To be fair apparently a lot of people on this site think I'm a woman.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:35 AM on June 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


To be fair apparently a lot of people on this site think I'm a woman.

I regularly think you are cortex's wife, which is really confusing.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 11:37 AM on June 19, 2012 [11 favorites]


I do not think there is actually a way to control a pile on. If you look at it, the comments often appear seconds apart, and were probably being typed at the same moment. Only forcing people to use the preview function is going to do that, and we have no mechanism for having a group of people collectively decide which one of them is going to soley be responsible for tackling the one outlier position.

To be fair apparently a lot of people on this site think I'm a woman.

That seems to be true of me as well. Under my previous persona, I got a lot of accusations of "white knighting" and trying to score points, but now that many people assume somebody named Bunny must necessarily be female, those accusations don't show up quite so often.

But Bunny isn't an inherently feminine name! Bunny Breckinridge! Bunny Colvin!
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:39 AM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Bunny Lebowski!
posted by shakespeherian at 11:40 AM on June 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'd agree with zarq: not here, but in many other forums (and decent forums, not dreck) my experience as a male in feminist threads is that I am far more likely to be silenced and ridiculed by other men, usually with the accusation of white knighting, than I am by women. In fact, the only times I've been attacked or silenced in this type of thread, it's been by men.

I realize that genuine white knighting is annoying, but it'd be great if more men on the other side of the argument realized that many of the feminists here are men.
posted by gilrain at 11:40 AM on June 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


Fawn Knudson!
posted by shakespeherian at 11:41 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think when the conversation is about what women's day-to-day life experience is like, then yes, listening to women's stories about their day-to-day life experience is probably more valuable than someone trying to explain to those women how they should feel.

That is not the choice. Even if it was, there is still the problem of being unduly swayed by people who know how to hit all the right notes you like.
posted by michaelh at 11:42 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


cairdeas: I'm talking about scenarios where people are acting like it is bad and wrong for men to talk about how things affect them AT ALL if they are disagreeing with the feminist conventional wisdom.

zarq: Could I trouble you to point out an instance where this happened in the main thread?

and

EmpressCallipygos: Can you link to an example?....I acknowledge it may take you a while, but I'm not sure I can recall having seen something like what you're describing.

I am really really loath to make specific "callouts" about this, because it's not about any one person, and it's not about any one thread. However, I could link to examples all day. Here's one.

I think the reaction is natural, by the way, and I don't know why MetaFilter has to put up with people who for all intents and purposes do not believe there is a such thing as sexual harassment.

That's the real problem.

posted by cairdeas at 11:43 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


One thing that can hinder even-handedness in this sort of discussion is when someone decides in advance what is and is not a "positive result".
posted by Decani at 11:45 AM on June 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm actually glad we have these conversations arguments verbal brawls, and I think I've figured out why: Even if you're right, it's still worth finding out something about those people who are wrong.

Sometimes you can actually change their minds, but other times you get an insight into how they came to their positions. While the points are argued with rights and logic and rules, the core positions are often based in a lifetime of experiences, experiences that are jaw-droppingly different from yours. That's really valuable to me.

/I guess I'm just re-stating bearwife's excellent comment.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:46 AM on June 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Also ...

As a Jew, I really wouldn't like it if someone tried to dictate to me how I "should feel" about my family dying in the Holocaust, without also respecting and taking my perspectives and lived experiences into account ... Similarly, I don't think a man telling a woman how they should feel about sexually harassment would be a good idea.

Okay, but there's an irony here. You don't think a man telling a woman how they should feel about sexual harassment would be a good idea. But I'm a woman who disagrees with you on that and I think it's a perfectly fine idea.
posted by cairdeas at 11:47 AM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Has anyone ever done any polling on what percentage of guys have exposed themselves to women or have sent pictures of their penis to women online? I really want to believe that it's a small percentage of very prolific perverts.
posted by empath at 11:47 AM on June 19, 2012


I really want to believe that it's a small percentage of very prolific perverts

LOL I totally read that wrong the first time
posted by Hoopo at 11:48 AM on June 19, 2012


I'm actually glad we have these conversations arguments verbal brawls, and I think I've figured out why: Even if you're right, it's still worth finding out something about those people who are wrong.

Well, there are two ways to view an argument online -- one is as a one-on-one conversation with a person that you are trying to convince that they are wrong. Another is as a public debate, where your goal is to make the other side look like an asshole in front of an audience.
posted by empath at 11:49 AM on June 19, 2012


empath, that may not be the complete set of possibilities for arguing on the internet.
posted by kavasa at 11:50 AM on June 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


And, kalessin, when you say that people who cry "disingenuous" are using it as a "tactic" and deliberately trying to silence their interlocutors — well, you are assuming bad faith in much the same way. How do you know that they don't honestly believe their interlocutors are being disingenuous? Why don't you assume good faith on their part?


It's turtles all the way down, isn't it? The way that I've seen jessamyn handle this sort of thing (which reads as smart-assedness, but I'll take as good faith on your part) is to ask "What is it about the point you are trying to make that doesn't seem to you like it's trollishness? Because that's the way it reads to me."

Like I said, I think "disingenuous", as apt as it seems to be to us to use in some cases is almost always alienating. When you deploy the term, you are generally not interested in building a bridge in that precise moment. I am assuming good faith in that I am assuming that the folk using "disingenuous" aren't in a discussion always to shut other people down and assuming they instead want to build bridges in general, even if they're really pissed off or exasperated in the moment they use that term. I'm just here to tell you that using that term isn't working well to build bridges.
posted by kalessin at 11:51 AM on June 19, 2012


What you're quoting, cairdeas, doesn't seem to be what you are arguing against. Arguing against the existence of sexual harassment isn't the same thing as talking about how the discussion affects men.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:51 AM on June 19, 2012


Has anyone ever done any polling on what percentage of guys have exposed themselves to women or have sent pictures of their penis to women online? I really want to believe that it's a small percentage of very prolific perverts.

If you've never had the experience of dick pics and you'd like to get a small taste of what women on the internet experience, try this:

Make a fake personal ad on a site that allows respondents to attach photos to email. The ad copy should be relatively benign. Nothing salacious or even especially interesting. Find a photo of an attractive woman (a good way to do this is to pick a relatively believable shot of a woman who's a celebrity in a foreign country so that creepsters don't TinEye whoever you picked and start harassing her).

The messages you will get - dick pics or not - will rip the scales from your eyes in a way you may or may not have wanted to experience.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 11:52 AM on June 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


cairdeas: " Okay, but there's an irony here. You don't think a man telling a woman how they should feel about sexual harassment would be a good idea. But I'm a woman who disagrees with you on that and I think it's a perfectly fine idea."

I don't see this as ironic. I see it as a disagreement. How I feel governs my actions. Not yours. I'm not dictating to you.

However, I think that if someone decides to "mansplain" to women how they should be feeling about sexual harassment and gets blowback for it, that's entirely predictable.
posted by zarq at 11:52 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


And I'm sympathetic to the opiners in that equation. Because while it's easy to tell them, "Don't make this thread about you," they are usually also fielding replies from six or ten different people simultaneously. If the community doesn't want that dynamic to emerge, then the community has some responsibility to not pile-on. Put another way, if John has a responsibility to curb his opinions somewhat in terms of rhetoric and volume, then I think Tom and Sally and Bill also have some responsibility to hang back and let John answer the first couple rebuttals and see where the thread goes from there, before immediately jumping in with all their respective two cents.

This times a thousand. I think that is in fact generally responsible for the "all about me" appearance - they're being addressed simultaneously by a ton of other people, which means either they respond to each one, or other people get to be all "I noticed you didn't respond to this charge I laid against you! Ha-ha!"

To be fair apparently a lot of people on this site think I'm a woman.

A lot of people think I'm a man! Hilarity ensues.
posted by corb at 11:52 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


empath, that may not be the complete set of possibilities for arguing on the internet.

oh fine, now i'm the asshole
posted by empath at 11:54 AM on June 19, 2012


it's been my experience that a lot of guys who harass women in elevators, send unsolicited dick pics, etc think that it's a brand new idea - like, they think even if it's a little uncomfortable the woman will like their forwardness and it will make them stick out in her mind as someone willing to take a chance. what i think they often fail to realize is that they aren't the first ones to try to plant that particular flag and that it's normal and mundane to be harassed by men who think they're clever.

and then there are the ones who are so lonely/desperate/jaded that they think getting their dick wet is they only thing they have to be concerned about and if someone objects to the methods chosen that's they're problem and it's a free country so let the balls fly.
posted by nadawi at 11:55 AM on June 19, 2012


oh fuck me. their problem. obviously not they're problem.
posted by nadawi at 11:56 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


The messages you will get - dick pics or not - will rip the scales from your eyes in a way you may or may not have wanted to experience.

Oh, i believe that the volume is huge. I just wonder if it's a small percentage of people that send the vast numbers of emails out.
posted by empath at 11:56 AM on June 19, 2012


This times a thousand. I think that is in fact generally responsible for the "all about me" appearance - they're being addressed simultaneously by a ton of other people, which means either they respond to each one, or other people get to be all "I noticed you didn't respond to this charge I laid against you! Ha-ha!"

Having been on in this situation on Mefi, I just leave a comment saying "Look, there's way more responses here that I can individually answer. I'll answer a few of the bigger points and we can go from there, no offense intended if your particular comment/question wasn't addressed."

Just because you're facing a mob doesn't mean you have cater to said mob.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:57 AM on June 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


I mean not like I'm some paragon of sexual virtue or something but I don't even get what the idea is behind the dick picture. What is the thought process? I honestly don't understand what about that sounds like a good idea to anyone.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:58 AM on June 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


I suspect it is a small number of men who send out dick pics. But, then, I think I want to believe that. If I found out that, say, 20 percent of all men have sent out unsolicited images of their genitalia to woman, I would be discouraged beyond my ability to endure.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:59 AM on June 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


If it helps, I only send solicited pictures of my genitalia to people (not just women).
posted by kalessin at 12:00 PM on June 19, 2012


Surely flashing via email is a crime just like flashing in public? I know it's an aside to the thread at hand, but I'm now wondering about this. Sure, you expect it in Craigslist Casual Encounters, or so I've heard, but when someone emails you a dick-pic out of the blue, are they not breaking actual laws?

I hope so, anyway.
posted by Devils Rancher at 12:01 PM on June 19, 2012


I wholly endorse solicited photos, even if, in my opinion, it is a little like sending out photos of terrifying, curly-headed gnolls.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:02 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


It is here that I am tempted to start trading epithets for genitals, but this is not the appropriate time.
posted by kalessin at 12:04 PM on June 19, 2012


I suppose that while it's possible that 20% of all men have sent out unsolicited images of a genitalia to a woman (or man), I'd guess that only 2% sent out unsolicited images of their genitalia. I just can't believe that 20% of all men who obviously have such shit perspective have nonetheless mastered the art of photographic perspective.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:05 PM on June 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


if the composition and lighting is an indicator, i think a lot of these dick pics are taken and sent drunk (pro tip guys, take the picture sober so you're not just sending close up, blurry, fisted hand and overhanging belly, basically obscuring the reason you seem to be sending this). a fair number of them claim "i've never done this before..." which is a lie, i'm sure, but there are certainly men who send them who don't seem to view themselves as "that guy who sends dick pictures all over the internet."

to me, i'm never really bugged by the complete stranger cocks, it's the "we've been conversing in a shared space for years, but never personally, and now i have a picture of your penis." more infuriating than those are the ones from the same situation, talked to for years but never sexually/personally, who set up an anon account to send the dick pic - because now i just know that someone from a certain place thinks it's funny/hot/whatever to show me their dick, but i have no idea who, so then i get suspicious of all the guys and only talk about cooking and knitting for a while (once in response to a knitting post elsewhere i did have a guy send a pic and say "wanna knit a sock for this??" which i admit made me laugh in its absurdity).
posted by nadawi at 12:06 PM on June 19, 2012


Devils Rancher: I don't think so. A photograph of a naked person is not the same as the physical reality of having someone naked in front of you & the law does make a strong distinction between the two.

Sending unsolicited naked pictures to someone would almost certainly count as harassment, but it wouldn't be indecent exposure.
posted by pharm at 12:07 PM on June 19, 2012


mean not like I'm some paragon of sexual virtue or something but I don't even get what the idea is behind the dick picture. What is the thought process? I honestly don't understand what about that sounds like a good idea to anyone.

I have actually been the recipient of naked pictures from women on my phone and have pondered the possibility of sending a dick picture back, but then i think -- who would want to see that? No one, that's who.

Also, I think that these are the kinds of pictures that women might want to look at, if you're sending unsolicited ones. Notice, not a bare penis among them, but lots of abs, puppies and kittens.

Now that I think about it, I think my new tactic on okcupid will be to send unsolicited pictures of me with a puppy. And I don't even own a puppy.
posted by empath at 12:08 PM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've been on the side of trying to explain my (apparently or obviously) minority position against a bunch of people who seemed very worked up in proving to me how wrong I am and/or very willing to dismiss my POV. It's unpleasant to be in that position & it's made me a lot more careful in not trying to do that myself to others no matter how wrong I think they are: if I want a fruitful & useful discussion, if I want people to listen to me and think about my opinion, I should present it in a way that they might do so. I get angry & I get pissed off but going on the attack is only going to make other people defensive and that isn't productive. (Also I am kind of overly-aware that my comments on MeFi are going to stick around a long time so I don't want to be any more embarrassed by anything I've said years from now than I already might be.)
posted by flex at 12:13 PM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


You don't think a man telling a woman how they should feel about sexual harassment would be a good idea. But I'm a woman who disagrees with you on that and I think it's a perfectly fine idea.

Can I ask why you disagree?

I don't think "No man[woman] can ever tell a woman[man] how they should feel!" Context is, as always, important.

But barring a situation where the person saying "You shouldn't feel X, you should feel Z" is your mom or dad or friend who knows you really well, when does saying something like that actually accomplish what what the "you should" person wants it to? Does a random internet person going "You shouldn't feel offended - you should feel flattered!" actually cause the offended person to reconsider? Does being told "That's not a big deal, why are you making such a big deal out of it" by someone who doesn't know you succeed?
posted by rtha at 12:14 PM on June 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


it's possible that 20% of all men have sent out unsolicited images of a genitalia

All men? You think there are over seven hundred million men in the world who get their jollies from anonymously distributing photos of penises?
posted by Grangousier at 12:14 PM on June 19, 2012


I long ago learned that 'should' is a stupid word to apply to emotions.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:18 PM on June 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


Well, I do think we have to preclude most men who are older than 70, who don't really know how to attach a photo to an email, and so simply rely on forwarding pre-existing photos of penises under the mistaken assumption that the penis belongs to Rush Limbaugh and has something important to say about our Obamanation.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:19 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


All men? You think there are over seven hundred million men in the world who get their jollies from anonymously distributing photos of penises?

No. I don't. That was an absurd number picked out of the air by Bunny Ultramod. I reflected that comment in my own. The truth is, I don't think that there are over seven hundred million men in the world with the means to anonymously distribute photos of penises. Otherwiese, yes - they probably would. But then, I don't have a very high opinion of people, so your mileage may vary. Maybe the number would be considerably lower. Can we agree on 18%?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:20 PM on June 19, 2012


Sending unsolicited naked pictures to someone would almost certainly count as harassment, but it wouldn't be indecent exposure.

I s'pose that's correct, but the mind boggles that there are guys who think that kind of harassment is okay, or that might not even realize it's harassment. Even if I were skeevy enough to ponder doing such a thing, I'd still be held in check by the thought that the recipient would take my email to the police & put me in a world of hurt.
posted by Devils Rancher at 12:20 PM on June 19, 2012


View a gathering of people lacking drama, danger, or any general negative perturbation as a sort of base energy state for a group. There are small fluctuations up and down, a gauche comment here or a terribly funny story there but all in all the attitudes and feelings never wander much from that basal existence of "Oh, hey, awesome, we're all here and talking about things we enjoy or find tolerable".

If you are going to do something that wildly perturbs that base state for any single or number of people, you ought to think very carefully. It doesn't seem untowards, selfish, or needy to call someone out for messing with the basic, respectful vibe of a gathering.
posted by Slackermagee at 12:21 PM on June 19, 2012


I mean not like I'm some paragon of sexual virtue or something but I don't even get what the idea is behind the dick picture. What is the thought process? I honestly don't understand what about that sounds like a good idea to anyone.

"Single chicks are horny. If I show them my dick they'll know I'm horny too. And they will have sex with me."
or
"I've got a fantastic dick. If I show this girl my dick and how big it is she will want to have sex with me."

....Not a male myself, and don't know any male personally who has sent dick pics. But I've received enough, and enough similar come-ons, to know that that is the extent of the "thought process" involved.

Actually, "thought process" is giving it too much of the benefit of the doubt. I think it's more like "dick = sex."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:21 PM on June 19, 2012


rtha:

-Because it gives me a chance to interact with that person
-Because maybe I can tell them something they didn't know.
-Because maybe they can tell ME something that I didn't know.
-Because we have a chance to understand each other better.
-Because I have the opportunity to humanize the issue in their mind by being a real person explaining about how it affects me.
-Because I enjoy it.
-Because it lets me know that opinion is out there and how prevalent it is
-Because it keeps me aware of how much progress has been made, or not, in the wider world.
-Because I'm curious regardless about what other people think.
-Because I just don't think these opinions are going to go away just because people can't say them to me.
-Because I'm okay with the fact the people have different opinions than I do even if I find them to be loathsome and I think it's okay for us each to say what we think.
-Because the people who hold these opinions still vote, regardless of whether they can say their opinions to me or not.
-Because I don't think telling people who disagree with you that they shouldn't say anything is the way to consensus.
posted by cairdeas at 12:24 PM on June 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


cairdeas: " I am really really loath to make specific "callouts" about this, because it's not about any one person, and it's not about any one thread. However, I could link to examples all day. Here's one.:
" Actually, it seemed liked the majority of people agreed that the topic in question constituted sexual harassment. A vocal minority (that was eventually whittled down to one person) disagreed.

I think the reaction is natural, by the way, and I don't know why MetaFilter has to put up with people who for all intents and purposes do not believe there is a such thing as sexual harassment.

That's the real problem."
I added the first line of that comment back in so we have a fuller sense of its meaning.

You said: "I'm talking about scenarios where people are acting like it is bad and wrong for men to talk about how things affect them AT ALL if they are disagreeing with the feminist conventional wisdom."

I assume you're not arguing that sexual harassment does not exist except as a feminist convention.

I think KR's wrong. I don't think the minority in that thread were arguing that there is no such thing as sexual harassment. I think they disagreed that this incident fit the definition. Also don't think he should be trying to shut down discussion with an hyperbolic argument.

But yes, I still think we should be deferring to the feelings of the group who is being directly affected by it.
posted by zarq at 12:25 PM on June 19, 2012


Has there ever been a sexual harassment-related post that has "gone well" by the community's standards? Please link if you can. I'd like to see it/them.

The sexual harassment-related threads that I've seen — or maybe it's just the few that are sticking out in my mind — didn't go well at all. And I think that the disagreements in those threads are some of the more heated I have ever seen on MeFi.


It's not that they don't 'go well,' it is that the standard for 'going well' has improved greatly. Look for threads in the 2003-2005 range that have more than 100 comments.

Or any thread with 'Palin' in it - I know, not sexual harassment, but still hotter than hot - hot HOT HOT!
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:25 PM on June 19, 2012


Because it gives me a chance to interact with that person
-Because maybe I can tell them something they didn't know.
-Because maybe they can tell ME something that I didn't know.
-Because we have a chance to understand each other better.
-Because I have the opportunity to humanize the issue in their mind by being a real person explaining about how it affects me.
-Because I enjoy it.
-Because it lets me know that opinion is out there and how prevalent it is
-Because it keeps me aware of how much progress has been made, or not, in the wider world.
-Because I'm curious regardless about what other people think.
-Because I just don't think these opinions are going to go away just because people can't say them to me.
-Because I'm okay with the fact the people have different opinions than I do even if I find them to be loathsome and I think it's okay for us each to say what we think.
-Because the people who hold these opinions still vote, regardless of whether they can say their opinions to me or not.
-Because I don't think telling people who disagree with you that they shouldn't say anything is the way to consensus.


The juxtaposition of this with EmpressCallipygos comment is just making interpret all of these as reasons why a person would send an unsolicited picture of their dick to someone. Most of them work, at least on some level.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:28 PM on June 19, 2012 [16 favorites]


Can we agree on 18%?

No, it's completely ins...

Uh, let's just say that it's an extraordinary claim, which would require extraordinary evidence. Or, y'know, something.
posted by Grangousier at 12:28 PM on June 19, 2012


I think it's more like "dick = sex."

I think there is something else as well -- a certain percentage of men think their dicks are punchlines. George Clooney used to take photos of his penis whenever he found a camera that had been left behind. The whole Puppetry of the Penis show is based on the idea that there is something hilarious about the penis (not wrongly). Some cultures of men have males constantly exposing themselves to each other as a joke. And so I think some men just think it's not a big deal to photograph their junk and send it along. At best, maybe it will be met with approval. At worst they can claim it's just a joke.

And there are contexts in which the whole "dick is hilarious" thing is fine. The trouble is that it's a bit like any other edgy comedy, in that, out of the context of similarly minded people, it may not play as well. And then, as I mentioned, there are people who try to hide behind comedy, and get away with questionable behavior because they can always claim it was meant as a joke.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:29 PM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


If every guy who ever sent me a photo of his junk would have instead offered to come over to do my dishes or clean my ceiling fans...
posted by heyho at 12:30 PM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't really feel like this is an actual possibility.
posted by shakespeherian


Can you link to an example?....I acknowledge it may take you a while, but I'm not sure I can recall having seen something like what you're describing.
posted by EmpressCallipygos


Too easy: This post, nice easy conversation

Starting with this comment, let the shadowboxing begin!
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:30 PM on June 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


You know, I personally don't agree with that, the man of twists and turns. I think that's an example of disagreement. Not an example of saying that people who disagree shouldn't post or should go away or we shouldn't have to deal with them.
posted by cairdeas at 12:32 PM on June 19, 2012


On top of that, I am not seeing that comment as igniting a rash of outrage. But for a few people saying that this isn't a feminist vs. anti-feminist thing, the comment seems mostly just contained withing the larger discussion, and doesn't seem to go off like the time bomb you suggest it does.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:34 PM on June 19, 2012


This is the pic I send to women on okCupid. Shit works bro.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:35 PM on June 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


I think it's more like "dick = sex."

I think it's meant to humiliate the recipient. Like cat calling.
posted by marimeko at 12:36 PM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Bulgaroktonos, if you think that works well then I'll bring the post with me to read to the judge if I ever find myself arrested for that.
posted by cairdeas at 12:37 PM on June 19, 2012


I think it's meant to humiliate the recipient. Like cat calling.

That assumes they know that women often find that kind of treatment humiliating and scary.

And based on how many umpty-squillion guys think that women should just "not take it so seriously" if we complain about harrassment, or doubt that it happens as much as we claim, I don't think many guys do understand that women find that humiliating.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:42 PM on June 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's Raining Florence Henderson: "Can we agree on 18%?"

Can we agree that pulling numbers out of our ass is pointless? And even counterproductive, as some in this thread (including you, IIRC) are pointing out?
posted by IAmBroom at 12:43 PM on June 19, 2012


On the cock shot thing...that kind of shit works once in a blue moon. I was at a party once having a totally forgettable conversation with a woman and my friend walked up, pulled out his junk and said "Hi, I'm Dan and this is my penis, how 'bout it?" and she said "OK" got and left with him. To this day I'm still amazed at that. I mean, I didn't think his penis was all that impressive. I must have been doing some seriously tedious drunken rambling...
posted by MikeMc at 12:43 PM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Not an example of saying that people who disagree shouldn't post or should go away or we shouldn't have to deal with them

I read it as: this topic is not important, stop talking about it.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:44 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


....Okay, I gotta ask: MikeMc, have you asked your friend how often that works, and how often it hasn't?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:47 PM on June 19, 2012


MikeMc: "On the cock shot thing...that kind of shit works once in a blue moon. I was at a party once having a totally forgettable conversation with a woman and my friend walked up, pulled out his junk and said "Hi, I'm Dan and this is my penis, how 'bout it?" and she said "OK" got and left with him."

She must have been the one born that minute.

And you dodged the bullet, because, really, both of them, euw.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:48 PM on June 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


She must have been the one born that minute.

Because no woman could ever be genuinely interested in some no-strings-attached casual sex.
posted by Aquaman at 12:51 PM on June 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


I read it as: this topic is not important, stop talking about it.

Well, that sort of behavior is a recurring problem on this site on all sides, and I always flag posts that say the equivalent of "who cares! Not a big deal!" I encourage others to do likewise.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:54 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Maybe you misunderstood what sort of party it was.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:55 PM on June 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


Hi, I'm Dan and this is my penis, how 'bout it?

Bully for Dan, but he sounds like a creep.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:57 PM on June 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


This: She must have been the one born that minute.
Versus this: Because no woman could ever be genuinely interested in some no-strings-attached casual sex.

It really is non-trivial to disengage our egos from the way we interpret things. I tend to fall on the latter side of interpretation of this event. That sometimes people choose things for motives that are not at all similar to our own reasons and it's hard not to judge that off-the-cuff in comparison to our own reasons.

So I see you, IAmBroom, here, as having applied your own morality as a filter to the event described and adding quite a bit of spin to a situation you didn't actually participate in.
posted by kalessin at 12:59 PM on June 19, 2012


Because no woman could ever be genuinely interested in some no-strings-attached casual sex.

Because any woman who would want no-strings-attached casual sex must also be completely available to any such offers of same regardless of who their partner is or what he's capable of.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:00 PM on June 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


If he was waving a sparkling hot dog, I might have been okay with it.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:00 PM on June 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Maybe you misunderstood what sort of party it was.

Protip: Skip the mashed potatoes.
posted by waraw at 1:01 PM on June 19, 2012 [14 favorites]


If he was waving a sparkling hot dog, I might have been okay with it.

And now we're in the Cosmo's sex tips thread.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:02 PM on June 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Can we agree that pulling numbers out of our ass is pointless? And even counterproductive, as some in this thread (including you, IIRC) are pointing out?

To the extent that you are misinterpreting obvious hyperbole as an attempt to represent real-world data, yes, I agree that is pointless.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:05 PM on June 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


i've seen this brought up a lot in these sorts of conversations - "well, some women go for it." as if that's justification for men to continue this behavior. to me, if you're going to jump the line in accepted mating procedures - "getting to know, gauging interest, allowing an out" then it's your responsibility if it's not received well. it doesn't matter if harassment and indecent exposure ever result in panty dropping - it's still an unacceptable way to treat people. and, there's a way to do all the getting to know/gauging interest stuff and still have NSA casual sex, you just speed up the time frame.
posted by nadawi at 1:06 PM on June 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


....Okay, I gotta ask: MikeMc, have you asked your friend how often that works, and how often it hasn't?

I never did ask. I was dumbstruck by that whole thing to be honest (this was a long time ago, I haven't talked to the guy in years). As for him being a creep, well, upon his return he did toss me the key to their motel room and say "Your turn!" (I didn't). The related FPP dredged that memory up and that's the only time I'm aware of something like that actually working.
posted by MikeMc at 1:19 PM on June 19, 2012


For some definitions of "working".
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:21 PM on June 19, 2012


I don't think many guys do understand that women find that humiliating.

I can tell you for a fact lot of men think catcalling is a compliment. I have no idea about the pics though.
posted by Hoopo at 1:22 PM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


upon his return he did toss me the key to their motel room and say "Your turn!"

My first response to this is to wonder if she was okay in there, or even conscious.

I guess I'm saying I don't find this story very charming. /prude!
posted by gerryblog at 1:25 PM on June 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


Because no woman could ever be genuinely interested in some no-strings-attached casual sex

Hi! I'm a lady who once upon a time engaged in casual sex.

If a guy walked up to me and flopped their penis out at a gathering that was not specifically for penis-flopping, I would have taken it as a request to kick or hit him on it.

Thinking that's not cool does not take away the agency of women to have sex.
posted by corb at 1:40 PM on June 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


"I guess I'm saying I don't find this story very charming. /prude!"

If memory serves she was passed out when he gave me the key. The whole story is rather long but let's say "charming" isn't a word I would use to describe anything related to that road trip/party. Booze, porn, sex, broken glass, an alcohol related traffic accident, some minor property damage etc... I actually ended up attempting to sleep in the bed of a friend's truck. Things had moved past weird and onto "I'll be out in the truck if anyone's looking for me."
posted by MikeMc at 1:40 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yup Elmore, this is a land you don't want to walk. Yup, back home with ye now.
posted by Elmore at 1:41 PM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


You introduced the photo story with "that kind of shit works once in a blue moon," but I hope you can see that it actually sounds much more like a rape than a seduction.

So I wouldn't say it "worked" at all; it's actually pretty horrifying.
posted by gerryblog at 1:45 PM on June 19, 2012 [12 favorites]


"some of the people who have sent them to me were people i believed to not be the random cock shot guys and i keep it as a reminder that you never know who they are"

I've never sent one to a random person, or a woman, but my friends and I used to take cock shots any time a cell phone was left around. I can see sending it to a woman on the condition that it was explicitly clear that there was no sexual motive and that I knew she'd find it hilarious.

(I've had a lot more women send me naked pictures of themselves, but I learned that mentioning my girlfriend every ten minutes tends to cut down on the assumption of nudes precipitating sexy times instead of a, "Your lighting makes you look like you're at the bottom of a pool, and that angle makes your legs look like a Rob Liefield drawing.")
posted by klangklangston at 1:48 PM on June 19, 2012


If memory serves she was passed out when he gave me the key.

What the holy fuck what I cannot even.

Someone take this for me, I'm too incoherent to say anything rational.
posted by corb at 1:49 PM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think maybe leaving it where it lies?
posted by kalessin at 1:50 PM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


cairdeas: “I'm talking about scenarios where people are acting like it is bad and wrong for men to talk about how things affect them AT ALL if they are disagreeing with the feminist conventional wisdom.”

zarq: “Could I trouble you to point out an instance where this happened in the main thread?”

EmpressCallipygos: “Can you link to an example?....I acknowledge it may take you a while, but I'm not sure I can recall having seen something like what you're describing.”

cairdeas: “I am really really loath to make specific "callouts" about this, because it's not about any one person, and it's not about any one thread. However, I could link to examples all day. Here's one.”

KokuRu: “I think the reaction is natural, by the way, and I don't know why MetaFilter has to put up with people who for all intents and purposes do not believe there is a such thing as sexual harassment. That's the real problem.”

But that isn't an example of what you said it was. You said that men were being told they couldn't talk about "how things affect them" when their opinions disagreed with "feminist conventional wisdom." But if I say "there is no such thing as sexual harassment," then I'm really not just talking about how things affect me. I'm talking about how things affect other people.

And you should note that this was a consistent problem in the thread we're talking about; that's one reason it went south. I appreciate that there are lots of men who worry that accusations of harassment will be leveled against them even in situations where they are innocent. But as far as I can tell, that wasn't a major issue in that thread. The people in that thread who believed this wasn't harassment didn't focus on enforcement, they didn't spend a lot of time talking about how it could get out of hand if accusations like this start flying around. They talked about how her experience wasn't really that bad, about how she could have just walked away, and, most egregiously, how she's just a sex-hating prude trying to censor the whole world. In short, they were presuming to tell a whole bunch of other people how those people were wrong for thinking they've experienced something really problematic. Telling other people how they should feel, and telling them they're prudish and should lighten up, is very different from 'talking about how things affect you.'

Seriously, we could have had a conversation there about what it means to be a man and worry that you're going to get accused of harassment, and how one goes about being sex-positive when you also have to be careful not to offend people who might not want to be exposed to your sex-positivity. That is a really worthwhile subject for discussion. This was not that discussion.
posted by koeselitz at 1:53 PM on June 19, 2012 [14 favorites]


There is an ONTD internets famous pic of Paris Hilton's close-up unshaven armpit framed in such a way that it looks like upskirt ladyparts. I enjoy sending that as a reply to unsolicited weenpix.
posted by elizardbits at 1:53 PM on June 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


You introduced the photo story with "that kind of shit works once in a blue moon," but I hope you can see that it actually sounds much more like a rape than a seduction.

There are reasons I eventually ended up in the bed of the truck. I won't go into further detail as I've already derailed this conversation enough.
posted by MikeMc at 1:56 PM on June 19, 2012


klangklangston - yeah, i've gotten the funny cock shots before - but those were always "hey, i know this person and sometimes we randomly flash each other or they have reasons to believe i will think this is funny and they make it clear it's funny" - what i'm talking about is being co-community members for years and with no personal one on one conversations, they send me a cock shot and say something like "i really liked those socks you were talking about."
posted by nadawi at 2:02 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


"klangklangston - yeah, i've gotten the funny cock shots before - but those were always "hey, i know this person and sometimes we randomly flash each other or they have reasons to believe i will think this is funny and they make it clear it's funny" - what i'm talking about is being co-community members for years and with no personal one on one conversations, they send me a cock shot and say something like "i really liked those socks you were talking about.""

Yeah, there's a whole lot of negotiated relationship that has to occur before you should be comfortable enough with a person to essentially engage in sustained, low-grade sexual harassment, like I do with (some) of my pals (others of whom will no doubt read this and wonder why they've never gotten the cock shots). And I don't think that I've added anyone to the dick pics coterie in years — maybe since college?

My girlfriend also doesn't really understand this, or why I think it's funny, which helps me remember that there are different aesthetics at work in some of my relationships — "Haha, transgressive" is only a thing for some people (and I'm one).

(Socks v. cocks is why you always read the file name before you hit send.)
posted by klangklangston at 2:21 PM on June 19, 2012


The last time I was internet dating, I got a cock shot from someone I had actually slept with before who didn't recognize me from my profile. The picture was of someone else's dick, which he obviously didn't mention in the accompanying hey-baby message, and I never messaged back because my policy was to delete cock shots without replying but also, man, how embarrassing!

nadawi, you are not the only knitter on the Internet who's been solicited for knitting a cock sock. Maybe we should knit lopi ones, like little hair shirts for dicks, and distribute them to creeps. :/
posted by bewilderbeast at 2:54 PM on June 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


he picture was of someone else's dick, which he obviously didn't mention in the accompanying hey-baby message,

I'm trying to imagine what that mention would look like. 'Hey sweet thang, what's say you hit me up later! BTW here is a picture of a penis I found online'
posted by shakespeherian at 2:57 PM on June 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


klangklangston: " like I do with (some) of my pals (others of whom will no doubt read this and wonder why they've never gotten the cock shots)."

We don't know each other very well, but just in case we become close buddies down the road and I forget to ask (or... you know... it gets awkward,) can I be pre-emptively added to your "DO NOT SEND COCK SHOTS" list? :D
posted by zarq at 3:00 PM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Back in my earlier internet days, I trawled the Lord of the Rings AOL chatroom that was mostly full of other nerdy kids who weren't good enough at the internet to go more exciting places on the internet for chatting. I can't tell you how many people sent me - at the time, a 12-year-old girl - penis pictures, either through AIM or directly to my AOL account. It was sort of horrifying.
posted by ChuraChura at 3:13 PM on June 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


oh yeah! i'd almost say i got more cock shots when i was underage. i certainly got less unsolicited "if you're looking for an older man to train you in the ways of sensual love making" emails after i turned 20.
posted by nadawi at 3:18 PM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Once again, I, as a guy, ask other guys, "Guys, what the actual fuck?"
posted by kalessin at 3:22 PM on June 19, 2012 [12 favorites]


I've even gotten penis pictures (though not here, thankfully).

I can't conceive who would think that someone with my internets persona would welcome blurry photos of cock, but it has still happened. Truly, it is a strange world.
posted by winna at 3:24 PM on June 19, 2012


Kids nowadays! When I was a young man, we had to mail our actual penises to uninterested women.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:27 PM on June 19, 2012 [27 favorites]


nadawi: " i certainly got less unsolicited "if you're looking for an older man to train you in the ways of sensual love making" emails after i turned 20."

*completely fucking speechless*
posted by zarq at 3:36 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


When I was a young man, we had to mail our actual penises to uninterested women.

You must be really old. There were fax machines in the 19th century.
posted by Jestocost at 3:42 PM on June 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


There is an ONTD internets famous pic of Paris Hilton's close-up unshaven armpit framed in such a way that it looks like upskirt ladyparts.

With the help of some ONTD commenters, I tracked it down (they swear it's a Christina thing, not Paris).
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:44 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


oh yeah, totally xtina. i love that picture. friends and i had amazing fun over a series of many nights taking elbow pussy pictures.
posted by nadawi at 3:47 PM on June 19, 2012


YES THIS
posted by elizardbits at 3:49 PM on June 19, 2012


Kids nowadays! When I was a young man, we had to mail our actual penises to uninterested women.

Pssssh, sounds like poverty to me. If you were well to do you would hire a portraitist to come to your estate and over the course of a week long sitting (2 weeks if you're particularly well endowed) the artist would make a display worthy rendition of your manhood in all its glory. Then for real class, you use a gilded frame, then have your man servant deliver the work to its intended recipient.
posted by Chekhovian at 3:50 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

nadawi, you are not the only knitter on the Internet who's been solicited for knitting a cock sock. Maybe we should knit lopi ones, like little hair shirts for dicks, and distribute them to creeps. :/
Heeeee!

This seriously made me guffaw aloud at work.

Little known fact regarding hair shirts for dicks: after Saint Thomas Dickett was martyred, the Caphallic church recovered a hair shirt from his stiffening corpse. As soon as he was canonized, the shirt became a holy relic and was taken on a tour of every bishoprick of Christendom.
posted by kavasa at 3:54 PM on June 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Once again, I, as a guy, ask other guys, "Guys, what the actual fuck?"

There is no answer. There was a temp in our factory who apparently thought it would be hilarious if he took another guy's phone, took a picture of his junk with said phone, texted it to everyone in the owner's contacts and then replaced the phone with the victim being none the wiser. Hilarity did not ensue, however, unemployment did.
posted by MikeMc at 4:08 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


So your bosses were kinda dicks, huh?
posted by Jestocost at 4:11 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Coincidentally, I ran across a report of Jenny McCarthy sending a nude photo of herself to her son's dentist.

So, yeah, unsolicited genitalia pictures aren't just for guys.
posted by straw at 4:15 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]



Back in my earlier internet days, I trawled the Lord of the Rings AOL chatroom that was mostly full of other nerdy kids who weren't good enough at the internet to go more exciting places on the internet for chatting.


Heh, that reminds me of my utter joy at discovering geocities chat circa 1995. In hindsight, the 'girl' I was having a private chat with was quite obviously wanting to cyber, what with the bikinis she kept mentioning and all. Naive fifteen year old me only thought of roleplaying in RPG sense, so kept dragging the conversation back to Star Wars mythos and the situations into more "light sabers and androids" than "saunas and shenanigans". She must have found it unbelievably frustratingly weird after a week of meeting up for private chats. Then again, she was in the sci-fi room, so I dunno what she expected.
posted by smoke at 4:19 PM on June 19, 2012



I put on my robe and wizard hat
posted by klangklangston at 4:24 PM on June 19, 2012 [9 favorites]


"We don't know each other very well, but just in case we become close buddies down the road and I forget to ask (or... you know... it gets awkward,) can I be pre-emptively added to your "DO NOT SEND COCK SHOTS" list? :D"

moar like :::::::::::::::::D
posted by klangklangston at 4:28 PM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wait, have we discovered the metafilter cock shot?

::::::::::::::::::D
OO

Amazing!
posted by Chekhovian at 4:31 PM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Dude. I think you used too many eyes on your smiley.
posted by kalessin at 4:31 PM on June 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Now I've thinking of those Dirty Drawing sketches Horatio Sanz used to do on SNL. But my google fu has failed me in finding one.
posted by Chekhovian at 4:38 PM on June 19, 2012


I'll go ahead and close this up.
posted by gerryblog at 4:39 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow, googling searching ascii penis art yields QUITE a lot of hits. Seriously, how many hours have men spent trying to transcribe their johnsons into slashes and parenthesis? I am fearful of a new wave of memail ascii pensis now.
posted by Chekhovian at 4:45 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


"I am fearful of a new wave of memail ascii pensis now."

New wave? Have there been previous waves of unsolicited ascii genitalia? Check your inbox. Just kidding. Maybe...
posted by MikeMc at 4:51 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


On a wave of genitalia/
Wave of genitalia
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 4:53 PM on June 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Coincidentally, I ran across a report of Jenny McCarthy sending a nude photo of herself to her son's dentist.

RTFA - she did so accidentally. She was trying to send him a picture of her kid's tooth so she could ask "should we come in?"

Unless you're saying that all the guys who randomly email women pictures of their dicks were instead trying to send them "hey, wanna see a picture of my kitten?"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:11 PM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's a manx.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:14 PM on June 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Is this where I admit that I feel like a gender traitor because I've never gotten an unsolicited cock picture? (THAT IS NOT A SOLICITATION. Thank you for considering me but no thank you I don't wish to see your parts.) I read all the way through that thread and kept wondering, "Should I tell them? Am I denying their experiences if I note I haven't shared them? Or am I devaluing the importance of the narrative more by failing to note I'm an exception?"

The beans. They haunt me.
posted by gingerest at 5:37 PM on June 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


If McCarthy even did it, and it wasn't a PR agent's fabrication.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:41 PM on June 19, 2012


OMG guys I think I have an idea for the new MeFiMag
posted by Hoopo at 5:45 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's a manx.

More like a Sphynx I bet.
posted by rtha at 5:47 PM on June 19, 2012


We bring you into our little club, gingerest, by counting the ASCII penii in this thread!

Unfortunately you cannot save them in a file, hoping against the day you can ruin someone's political career, but then again your executors will not wonder exceedingly at what they find on your hard drive, either! One must take some smooths with a rough, as Anatole once said.
posted by winna at 5:55 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


"On the cock shot thing..."

Qualification: I can only speak for myself; I honestly have no good idea whether I'm representative of other men. And this is embarrassing to talk about. But, you know — it might help someone understand some of this stuff.

When I was an adolescent male, my typically male adolescent hyper-libido channeled into some slightly unusual directions. I'm (I believe) even more strongly visually aroused by female sexual anatomy, particularly primary sexual anatomy, than the average heterosexual male and I think this sort of became associated in my psychosexuality with a combined desire/fantasy/wish that adolescent girls would be similarly visually aroused by (my) primary sexual anatomy. That is, my dick.

So, pretty much all through high-school, I wore very tight jeans (people did in those days, but mine were more tight than usual) that were very revealing. In the summer, I'd occasionally wear extremely short cut-offs and no underwear.

I'm not an exhibitionist, weirdly enough. That is to say, as I got older and became more and more diversely sexually active, I found that I am much less interested than my partners have been in anything that's exhibitionism. So, it wasn't the exposure per se that I found attractive — the violation of normal social boundaries that gives some kinds of sex an extra appeal, which I think is pretty commonly manifested in many different respects and exhibitionism is one of them.

No, in my case, it was simply that I had naively (though I knew better — I just wanted the truth to be otherwise) mapped my own sexual response onto females and really really really hoped that if a girl saw my junk, she'd be all turned-on and would want to have sex with me. And that possibility was itself arousing — so it was a combination of trying to make myself available and hope for a response along with a kind of libido-heightening masturbatory thing.

It didn't work that way, of course. Ironically, I found out years later that I had created the attention and attraction that I had aimed for in high-school...among at least some of the gay guys. But, alas, not the girls I had the hots for.

I really feel embarrassed about this now, as I realize that I was being harassing to some or many of the girls in my environment. And by the time I hit, oh, eighteen or nineteen years old, I was pretty clear that this was a sort of hyper-libidinized fantasy that was being a jerk to other people and that the hopes upon which it were founded were never going to become true.

(But, you know...I'd still like it to be true, particularly in the case of my ideal sex partner. It would be awesome to have a partner who was as turned on by the sight of my stuff as much as I am by hers. I've not really had that partner, yet, but I'd like to.)

So, anyway, that's sort of what I think about some portion of these men who are sending these cock-shots: they're basically grown male versions of my adolescent male self. I don't think that's all of them and, given my knowledge and history with feminism and working against sexual violence, I think that a sorry portion of them are just actually being intentionally sexually violent. That is, they're getting off on transgressing, on violating a woman's boundaries. It's sexual violence. But some others probably honestly think, or hope, that this might be arousing to the recipient and, in thinking this, they're aroused at the possibility. It's adolescent and inconsiderate and irresponsible, but then that's true of a great deal of male sexual privilege.

And, really, this has a lot to do with the harassment discussion because somewhere in there one thing turns into the other and some people try to defend the former as being not the latter while others, rightly, point out that part of what makes the latter so widespread and hard to combat is not recognizing the connection that exists between the two and, also, the willful making excuses for the latter on the basis of it being really the former. Or, put another way, intent only matters so much, it's not determinative. My adolescent exhibitionism wasn't intended to be violating and a portion of those cock-shots are probably not, either. But there's a important context involved in this and that context includes the fact that a lot of this sort of thing truly is violating in intent, and makes people feel violated, and creates a larger culture of oppression. That context matters. A lot.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:00 PM on June 19, 2012 [18 favorites]


gingerest, you are not alone. I have never been sent a cock shot either, and I've had an internet presence under this handle for about 15 years now. I've never done online dating, though. Having said that, while I don't know that my mother has ever been sent a cock shot, while she was still working (she retired about 10 years ago), she got an email from her boss with an animated GIF showing a woman and a horse engaged in sexual activity. It was sent to her by her then-boss because he thought it would be funny (!).

On the thread that inspired this MeTa: I've read it but chose not to participate because anything I said was rapidly going to get into the three strikes rule, which would send me out of there anyhow.
posted by immlass at 6:16 PM on June 19, 2012


Thanks for sharing that, Ivan. Thoughtfully and sensitively told, and an interesting new insight for me into what can inspire that sort of behavior. Naturally, no judgment for owning up to past mistakes.

Incidentally, and not to tantalize you... but the type of partner you describe does exist. My partner is, well... very sensitive to the sight of me in just the way you desired back then. My partner is off limits, but I doubt she's the only one out there.
posted by gilrain at 6:18 PM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Dude. I think you used too many eyes on your smiley.

I was just really happy to see you.

*BOOM!!!*
posted by Chekhovian at 6:38 PM on June 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


I got one years ago. With googly eyes. And a top hat. And a scarf.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:42 PM on June 19, 2012


I read the first 50 or so comments in that thread back when it was new, said to myself "nothing new to see here, but it'll probably be on MeTa tomorrow," and decided to move on rather than get invested in the same old tedious crapfest as last time. Metafilter is depressingly predictable at times.

FWIW I am solidly in the "women (and everyone) should not have to endure creepy and unwanted propositions from strangers (or anyone)" camp, despite the fact that I myself (a male) am comfortable with simply deflecting such proposals and moving on with my life. I totally feel like the onus is on the propositioner to avoid creeping out the propositionee. However I have no desire to get all shouty about it and face off against people who feel differently, even though I think the world would be a much better place if everyone was a bit more careful to target their attentions only at interesting parties rather than openly hitting on every attractive stranger they meet.

That thread was clearly garbage pretty much from Comment Zero and I think maybe the best thing that could've happened would have been an early delete and a reposting with better, less contentious framing. It's totally OK to not participate in that stuff, but I know that people being people it's going to happen every time until either one side shouts out the other and drives dissent from the site, or the mods take a more aggressive strategy in reining in that kind of unfortunate post framing and discussion pattern.
posted by Scientist at 7:03 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


That thread was clearly garbage pretty much from Comment Zero and I think maybe the best thing that could've happened would have been an early delete and a reposting with better, less contentious framing.

I posted this Meta right around the time when one specific commenter was given the day off. I then posted a comment in this thread telling people this post had been made.

And lo and behold, for the rest of the day the thread went smoothly. I don't know if any comments have been deleted since then, but I'm pretty sure none were. After 300-350 comments the thread suddenly re-railed itself.

Why?

1) Two people who the mods felt were being overly disruptive were given a day off because of the thread. They couldn't comment. One is now back and participating, I believe. The other is still in "time out."

2) A Meta post was created, which could function as a bit of a steam valve. I tried to frame this post so it wouldn't just drag the argument over here. I wanted to see if we could talk about why the arguments keep happening.

3) Comments in the thread from the mods probably helped calm people down.

4) People calmed down.

One or more of these factors seem to have changed the thread from being "garbage" to something else. I suspect the two time outs had the most influence on changing the mood of the thread, but I could be wrong.

There is a lesson here, I think. No matter the topic, a flamewar is not necessarily inevitable. At the start of this post I asked, "Is there no possibility of finding common ground, or gaining further understanding and empathy from such incidents?" Seeing the way people calmed down in that thread, I think it possible that the worst arguments, featuring personal attacks and disingenuous tactics, can perhaps turn out okay if people can adjust how they are responding to each other.
posted by zarq at 7:42 PM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah just FYI we didn't delete another comment in that thread after this post was opened.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:49 PM on June 19, 2012


Wait, have we discovered the metafilter cock shot?

Here I go on a tangent again. The officially-sanctioned ANSI-Unicode cockshot is as follows:

8=====D

Start with an 8, followed by a number of equals-signs, proportion to the length of cock with which you are representing, ending with a capital D. There are MANY variations on this, but the characters in the cock are always the same. Here is a fine variation, of a skilled sorcerer firing a magic cock-missile:

(f-_-)f . . . . . 8======D
posted by braksandwich at 7:53 PM on June 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


I think it possible that the worst arguments, featuring personal attacks and disingenuous tactics, can perhaps turn out okay if people can adjust how they are responding to each other.

Isn't the lesson actually that things got better once the mods decided some behaviors aren't okay and threw out the bad apples? It's obvious we're desperate for a strong mod to brutalize criminals and rule us like a king.
posted by gerryblog at 7:56 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Cocks in the flesh? Lovely. Cocks divorced from their bodies, as in these lonely snaps = crime scene photos.
posted by Iris Gambol at 7:59 PM on June 19, 2012


Isn't the lesson actually that things got better once the mods decided some behaviors aren't okay and threw out the bad apples?

Could be! :)

It's obvious we're desperate for a strong mod to brutalize criminals and rule us like a king.

Cortex is Batman? Cooooool.
posted by zarq at 8:04 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Never visit spacedicks.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:04 PM on June 19, 2012


So when you get a MeFi timeout, do you get an email telling you that you've been bad, or does the comment box just stop working for 24 hours?
posted by braksandwich at 8:18 PM on June 19, 2012


If we think someone isn't going to understand what's up and they have an email in their profile, we'll send them a "you've got the night off" note. If they're being abusive and awful and/or if they're just flipping out in a thread or ignoring repeated mod requests to tone it down, we sometimes don't. It's become a thing lately with a few posters, to be abusive in a thread [especially if they've gotten comments removed] and then to transfer that abusiveness to whichever mod emails them. Not okay. Since a lot of that takes place around US night time that's often me, or restless_nomad if it's a weekend. I'd say 75% of the people who get time-outed know the drill because it's happened before. If they email us asking about it we'll talk to them about it. If they email us harassing us or continuing the shit talking we either say "talk to Matt" or, more usually just freeze them out until they've had a chance to sleep it off.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:36 PM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


-Because I don't think telling people who disagree with you that they shouldn't say anything is the way to consensus.

Knowing when to silence yourself for the good of the overall conversation instead of continuing to comment on principle is an extremely valuable talent, one which many (myself included) are really slow to learn. But that's sort of moot, since you listed this first:

-Because I enjoy it.

Yeah, we know.
posted by hermitosis at 8:51 PM on June 19, 2012


I'd think someone who is concerned with "the good of the overall conversation" would try to avoid little personal digs.
posted by cairdeas at 9:20 PM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Good" has different meanings at different times, depending on what color the page background is. Anyhow, if you make everything in your comments personal from the very start, then pretty much any refutation of them is going to seem personal as well.
posted by hermitosis at 9:23 PM on June 19, 2012


I'd think someone who is concerned with "the good of the overall conversation" would try to avoid little personal digs.

None of this are great at this. The moment I find myself irritated that somebody is policing a thread, I go to another thread and police it. Whenever I chastise somebody for a poor conversational gambit, it is three comments after I have committed the same sin.

That seems to be how it goes. I am blind to every injustice except those I commit myself, and then it is only when others commit them that I speak out. I wish I was better. I try to be understanding when others share my failings, but not being understanding about this is one of my failings.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:27 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


....Not a male myself, and don't know any male personally who has sent dick pics.

it's probably a power distribution, i.e. 10% of men send 90% of dick picks, or something like that.
posted by cupcake1337 at 9:45 PM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I guess I just don't get it when the majority of women (on any website whatsoever) all agree that yes, they get sexually harassed all the fucking time, certain men can still be all, "No, you don't" or whatever about it. I guess if you don't have the penis, your opinion--along with everyone else's--just doesn't matter?

Man, I hate being a girl.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:58 PM on June 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


If it helps, I've been trying to put particularly egregious examples of this dynamic, jenfullmoon, in my MetaFilter profile.
posted by kalessin at 10:22 PM on June 19, 2012


"Good" has different meanings at different times, depending on what color the page background is.

Making little personal digs towards other community members - yes, even the ones saying things you don't agree with, and even the ones who are talking when you personally don't think they should be - is not good at any time. Even on MeTa, there's nothing good about it. It is not productive in any way. The only thing it does is create ill will and an environment that's just that little bit nastier.

I know you say it depends on what color the page is, but I've seen you do this on all the pages, most recently a really over the line, personal and nasty one on the blue that was deleted. That's your choice to do, but I'd really rather that it not be directed at me personally.
posted by cairdeas at 12:41 AM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


kalessin: "What is it about the point you are trying to make that doesn't seem to you like it's trollishness? Because that's the way it reads to me."

Wait, are you asking me this? If so, the point I was trying to make is: I agree with the argument you're making, and for that exact reason, I don't think it's productive to describe people crying "disingenuous" as acting tactically. That's all. I just got a bit tangled up in the self-referential turtles-unto-turtles thing.

I am assuming good faith in that I am assuming that the folk using "disingenuous" aren't in a discussion always to shut other people down and assuming they instead want to build bridges in general, even if they're really pissed off or exasperated in the moment they use that term

Hm. I think maybe you have a more stringent idea of the term "good faith" than I have. It seems here like good faith as you understand it requires reaching out in a spirit of cooperation, while I would accept as good faith pretty much any attitude toward the conversation, provided only that it is presented honestly and forthrightly. A person who feels attacked, for example, and responds with honest defensiveness, is to me acting in good faith, though they are not reaching out in cooperation. (Their reaction may be counterproductive or otherwise objectionable, but it doesn't lack honesty.)

this sort of thing (which reads as smart-assedness, but I'll take as good faith on your part)

I'm always in good faith, never more so than when I'm being a smart-ass.

(That sentence is an example of what it asserts. If you know what I mean.)
posted by stebulus at 1:55 AM on June 20, 2012


I guess I just don't get it when the majority of women (on any website whatsoever) all agree that yes, they get sexually harassed all the fucking time, certain men can still be all, "No, you don't" or whatever about it. I guess if you don't have the penis, your opinion--along with everyone else's--just doesn't matter?

In some cases, there will be guys who dismiss stories of sexual harassment as "not really harassment", and that is frustrating. But in my naive, perhaps pollyannic, take on threads like that, I can see a quantitative demographic: the lion's share of guys commenting that said harassment was harassment, while a couple of very vocal and tenacious guys insisting that said harassment was not harassment. It's shitty what happens to threads like that qualitatively, but I at least take comfort in the sheer numbers of men who do, in those threads, see harassment for what it is. And this is apart from the notion that sometimes, minds are changed. Just my two cents, bearing in mind that I had a reeeally nice dose of B-12 earlier this morning and am still beaming from it.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:17 AM on June 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Did you bring enough for everyone, Marisa?
posted by rtha at 6:21 AM on June 20, 2012


not that girl said "... my 'two and out' rule for internet commentary: if I comment once and people respond in a way that suggests I was badly misunderstood, or I think they are arguing in bad faith or deliberately mis-reading me, I will try one more time to clarify my point. After that, I don't believe there's anything to be gained from staying in the argument, and so I won't."

Copied and pasted because this is sage advise that should be in the wiki, FAQ, guidelines, posting page, above the comments box, etc, etc, etc.
posted by terrapin at 7:05 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


stebulus, I may read like some long hair hippy dippy "enlightened" intellectual therapist-counselor to you (and the reason I think this is that that's what you're choosing to challenge in your responses), but know that I have very high standards and you're not quite meeting them enough to get away with pulling off the collegial smart-ass bro or gal in this discussion with me.

That sort of wonderful, collaborative mix of smart-ass and philosophical is something I can really only do with someone I trust and have shared a drink with and whose body language I know at least as well as their metalanguage and paralanguage.

Otherwise, yes I do agree that it's clear that our definitions of "good faith" are different. If you want to discuss more, please let's go out for drinks first.

P.S. If you choose to take the "What?" response approach, we're done.
posted by kalessin at 7:11 AM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


I guess I just don't get it when the majority of women (on any website whatsoever) all agree that yes, they get sexually harassed all the fucking time, certain men can still be all, "No, you don't" or whatever about it.

I think about this a lot. I agree with the people above that it's not very many people, at least here on MetaFilter, but they are often very vocal and very defensive. And conversation can stop while people argue with them which is ungood. I feel like there are a couple things at work here if I'm dismissing the "Some people are just total assholes" option which I do because I really don't think nearly anyone here is a total asshole.

- Some people aren't that good at getting outside their own frame of reference so they think "How would I feel if that happened to me?" and with certain things [catcalling, naked pix, whatever] there just wouldn't be as much of a problem and so ascertaining the level of problem can be tough
- Some people have a difficult time dealing with the enormity of Very Bad Things. It's tough to talk about rape, for example, for a number of reasons but one of the reasons is realizing that, given the statistics, realizing that many people you know in real life (and here) have been sexually assaulted is a tough pill to swallow. And so sometimes the mind makes its own ways, if untrue, for that information to be more palatable. Mitigating factors that your mind makes up (we're all familiar with them, I won't make myself all Rrrr by mentioning them)
- the old "Well I know one example where...." canard. Similar to the example above, you maybe know a woman who went home with a guy who gave her a cock pic, or someone who liked being catcalled and you haven't heard a lot of stories for whatever reason (see above) in the other direction so you overgeneralize. It happens.
- People here are two dimensional and realistically we often don't know much about them. Sometimes people here feel that people are maybe dramatizing an event or a pattern of harassment to make a point.
- People feel attacked by the way the narrative is framed "People like you do bad things to people like me" and see it as a chance for a spirited debate and don't realize that some people react quite strongly and negatively to having a "debate" about the facts of their lives and their emotional responses to things.

The other Jessamyn West has a quote "We want the facts to fit the preconceptions. When they don't it is easier to ignore the facts than to change the preconceptions." over time, these things in combination can help solidify people's feelings in one direction and without what they see as "credible" opposing viewpoints people just get dug in with their own worldview. I also think that people hear defensiveness and attacking sometimes when there is actual clumsy good faith questioning going on, but that's a separate problem. These are tough conversations, but it is important to try to give people the benefit of the doubt until they've basically removed it through their own actions.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:16 AM on June 20, 2012 [38 favorites]


I guess I just don't get it when the majority of women (on any website whatsoever) all agree that yes, they get sexually harassed all the fucking time, certain men can still be all, "No, you don't" or whatever about it.

This might tie into what jessamyn said, but I also think that whether it's this, or other topics that have divided opinions, there's sometimes a fear that if experiences aren't parsed correctly, there's a power differential created that has the potential for abuse in the future, so part of it is keeping people in their place. So, some people see it as their job to make sure that everyone is defining their terms correctly. Sometimes this is based on evidence in the pattern of discussion thus far (e.g., how one should understand being propositioned in an elevator), but sometimes it's based in a distrust in other people to explain their own personal experiences without harming, either intentionally or unintentionally, other people (e.g., men at large who may be misunderstood or something).
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:13 AM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


cairdeas, I really don't think you want to drag in stuff from other threads, especially stuff that was deleted, and especially stuff that has nothing to do with you.

Hard as it may be to believe at times, I do try to keep a civil tongue in my head. Thankfully I have gotten much better at backing out of a thread and trusting that other people will (more coolly) make the point that I'd like to make. And someone almost always does.

Or I guess I could just return again and again to blather on and keep rephrasing the same point of view over and over, taking it really personally when that doesn't magically change people's minds and feeling personally bullied and silenced when people finally urge me to give it a rest, but I am sort of always trying to make sure those days are behind me.
posted by hermitosis at 9:28 AM on June 20, 2012


I think one of my big challenges with understanding sexual harassment of the "handed a naked picture of a couple" or "emailed a penis picture" sort is that having heard "I felt uncomfortable, so I gave him a blow job to get rid of him" and known that the person who was saying that didn't consider that rape(!!), and knowing people intimately who have experienced violent anal rape, there's a level of interaction that I understand is uncomfortable, and that, because I'm male and have never really experienced the power dynamic from that side I'm willing to accept can be very disconcerting and demeaning, and yet acknowledging that as the huge blog-post-that-attracts-hundreds-of-comments-worthy kerfluffle seems to trivialize... well... "real" abuse.

And I know it's completely unreasonable for me to say "oh, you saw a picture of naughty bits and that made you uncomfortable, how nice for you, let me now give attention to the person who's trying to rebuild her ability to be intimate after being held down and gang raped in all of her orifices", because the first is an issue primarily because the second happens, more often than we'd care to admit, but...

On another front...

Mrs. Straw and I have, as a couple, been hit on a few times recently. We've been out at musical events and been approached by women. One of those approaches involved the woman coming up and leaning against us while the music was playing. I understand that there are completely different power dynamics to being a single lady approached by a couple, but from my privileged male perspective "hey, we're interested, call us if you are" and disappearing, even when accompanied by a naked picture, seems kinda trivial compared to a full-court physical... uh... "press" and "Hi! I saw you guys interacting and found your energy hugely arousing, let's have a conversation about this while I'm way inside your personal space and stroking your shirt!"

Because I don't have the empathy of the difference in power dynamic. When this stuff happens to me, to us, it's "well, okay, this is kinda weird" and "thanks, we have had conversations about non-monogamy but we're really just into each other", but it's not "I feel threatened".

Discussions like this thread are good at helping me get outside of that power dynamic. It is very helpful to my perspective to hear about all of the unwelcome dick shots. So if you're writing to and audience of me, trying to help me to understand, those two things are why I tend to roll my eyes at some of the more shrill "I got hit on and felt uncomfortable" writing I run into on the net (and dead trees).

I will try to be empathetic to your frame of reference, that's mine.
posted by straw at 9:59 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Straw: Good points, and I think a lot of us are in agreement that getting raped is a far cry worse than getting handed an unsolicited naked pic.

However, a number of women have also had encounters where rolling our eyes at the naked pic, or telling a guy trying to hit on us to "fuck off", caused the guy to go apeshit bugfuck screaming shouting threatening angry aggressive, to the point that we feared that we were about to also be raped. My own example - at a local bar last year, a guy was rather creepily staring at me, to the point that I first moved down the bar, then down the bar further away, then went up to a couple guys and asked if I could pretend we all knew each other because the guy might back off. And even so, when I finally left on my own, the creepy guy got up and chased me down the street a half block hollering "why didn't you come talk to me, bitch?" One of the guys I hung out with came out to my rescue and the creep finally went away.

These are rare occasions, yes. But the thing is, that we women just plain don't know which guys are going to go bugfuck on us and which aren't. So we have a temporary reaction each time we get hit with this of "okay, he did this, what more is he capable of?" (I mean, there's also the whole issue of "god-damn, does this guy see me as nothing more than a cunt on legs?", but there's that initial unease on top of that as well.) It's like - say you get brought into a room with 100 people playing with guns, and you are told that only one of them is loaded. Even though you know only one's loaded, you're still gonna flinch any time you see anyone pulling their trigger.

Hence the women reacting as strongly to the harrassment as they do. On the face of it, and all things being equal, you're correct that "here's a cock pic" is very different from a gang rape. But there are times when all things aren't equal.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:18 AM on June 20, 2012 [32 favorites]


straw, this kind of stuff is really so difficult to engage with ethically that I strongly considered not responding at all. But let me try, and please assume good intent here - my intent here is to build a bridge with you, not to alienate or insult you, though I worry I will because this kind of discussion is so rife with pitfalls and anxiety and potential for misinterpretation.

In both parts of your comment, you are communicating about something that I've always called "Misery Calculus". You are talking about relative amounts of harm and suffering. Truly, I think, everyone who feels like they do or might have some stake in or personal responsibility for any bad situation tends to do a little misery calculus. We take stock of what issues we and our friends are having and we take new input and demands for more sympathy from others and we do a little calculus, algebra or triage and we see whether the new demands are worthy of our time, or we determine whether we have the spare cycles to deal with it.

I like to think that I help out all comers and that I will help out anyone I can who expresses the need, but then I don't give money to panhandlers generally and I don't always stop to help everyone in my sight who needs even the slightest bit of assistance. Because I'm not made of time, money or boundless, endless energy.

But I do like to think that after taking care of myself and my loved ones, I do all I can to reduce suffering and misery in the world, including taking it seriously when someone who does not share my experience of the worlds says "Hey! That hurts!" or "Hey! That's fucked up!" or "Hey! Don't do that!". To me, that is sort of a binary situation that I try not to apply further filters of my own personal judgement to. So I stop triage, after making sure I have the cycles and resources to spare at, "Does this person hurt/suffer/need help?" And I don't say, "Does this person need help more than this other one? Does this person's need seem to me to be urgent enough to warrant attention?"

I think my approach keeps me from doing misery calculus too much, and it also helps me avoid the trap of being dismissive of others' concerns simply because I haven't experienced life that way and don't understand what the big deal is. It's a big deal because the other person says it is. And that should be more than enough for me.

If over time I find out that that person's just been playing stuff up to get a rise out of me, that's a different issue best taken care of one on one. It's not really something I have to be cautious of from the get go.
posted by kalessin at 10:27 AM on June 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


having heard "I felt uncomfortable, so I gave him a blow job to get rid of him" and known that the person who was saying that didn't consider that rape(!!)

Many people who've been through experiences that would cause impartial outside observers to say "Yes, that was sexual assault" will still refuse/choose not to use the terms "rape" or "sexual assault" to describe what happened to them. This happens for many reasons; for one, many women have internalized the cultural message that being raped is shameful and only happens to sluts and bad girls. For another, there's a very different psychological weight to saying "My boyfriend pushed a little harder than I was comfortable with, and I didn't really want to have sex right then" compared to "My boyfriend raped me."
posted by Lexica at 11:11 AM on June 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos, thank you, what I need is the regular reminder that in my experience of a woman coming on to me inappropriately (okay, that hasn't happened much, but "...coming on to us..."), some combination of culture and physical strength combine to make it a shrug and move on thing, and that's my "playing on the lowest difficulty setting" experience of it. I mean, heck, even when I'm hanging out in The Castro and have been hit on by drunk guys, it's still a completely different dynamic.

kalessin, one of my problems with navigating "misery calculus" is the other axis, which is: When am I becoming an enabler? Because I do have more energy and resources than many people in my world, and I have found any number of times when my energies put in to trying to change a person's circumstance have resulted in discovering that the person just creates additional needs. And, again, I realize that I'm playing the game on "easy", and that things like the studies on the efficacy of "Head Start" type programs suggest that many of the differences between me and those in need happened before they hit kindergarten, and I've no bloody idea how I can make a positive change when we're all well into adult-hood.

So when I listen to someone's tale of victim-hood I'm trying to ride the balance between hearing the victim and gathering information to try to change my own perceptions of the situation so that I can make the world better, and enabling the victim's sense of self-righteousness in a way that just perpetuates the problem. I realize that sounds arrogant as hell, but I have been the person wallowing in victimhood who was not helped by being patronized in my sense of it.

To both of you: Thank you, this is the sort of conversation that I want to foster more of, especially in those potentially contentious threads.

Some day I'll try to start the meta discussion about attitudes towards poverty on MeFi.
posted by straw at 11:18 AM on June 20, 2012

... sexual harassment of the "handed a naked picture of a couple" or "emailed a penis picture" sort is that ... there's a level of interaction that I understand is uncomfortable, and that, because I'm male and have never really experienced the power dynamic from that side I'm willing to accept can be very disconcerting and demeaning, and yet acknowledging that as the huge blog-post-that-attracts-hundreds-of-comments-worthy kerfluffle seems to trivialize... well... "real" abuse.
Well, for one thing, it's possible for someone who receives an unsolicited penis to also be someone who was raped who then spends the rest of the day feeling shitty about everything. For another thing, it's just not fun to be told metaphorically that as a female, your role in society is PENIS RECEPTACLE, and that people will often look past all your other roles (6th grader, conference speaker, person selling furniture on craigslist, potential date) to remind you that that is, in fact, what they think you should be for them.
posted by SockMarionette at 11:24 AM on June 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


I have a friend who likens unsolicited penis pics to the way some gang members will lift their shirts and show you their gun nestled in their waistband (it's something we've both seen a fair amount of, and there's a sexy/teasing look that usually accompanies the action).

I laughed when I first heard that, then I got thinking about it, and yeah... very similar dynamic at play. Both can either be threatening or not, depending on a hundred other factors. Usually I'm quite sure the guy is just flirting, but I don't stick around to find out if I'm right. The risks outweigh the rewards, even if it is a very, very attractive gun.
posted by heyho at 11:53 AM on June 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


i can't come at this from any other direction than victim/survivor of (ugh) "real" abuse. i speak only for me and i'm not looking to offend (or trigger, i'm speaking bluntly here) - there's something about me, something that abusers can see on me, something that makes me a good target. i like to think i've fixed whatever that was, that i've learned to be more of a survivor and less of a victim. i also try to not "wallow in my victimhood," but in these big threads it seems important to say, "yes, similar things have happened to me." i know this is important because my memail is full of people saying "i needed to hear that today" or "thank you for speaking so openly" or whatever - because while abusers can see something on me, so can other victim/survivors.

maybe i'm unique (or maybe this is how it is for everyone in similar shoes) but my first (ugh) "real" abuse involved a lot of sexual harassment. it would be months of comments about my body and needling me touch him or show him a little peek or whatever until he built up enough of a case for me to "get in trouble" and then go for the big thing. i totally admit this makes me more sensitive to the topic because sometimes creeps coming on too strong can trigger me. as a younger woman i would sometimes get too drunk to stand and have sex with them just so i could "choose" it instead of them potentially raping me later. i started to figure that it was easier to get over my own drunken, slutty choices than to get over being raped, again.

as someone who has spent basically my whole life putting my life back together (a concept i don't understand, since i was first made a victim around the age of 7), when someone shows they have a very poor sense of boundaries, when a man has that "i'm going to get from you what i want no matter what you say" look in his eyes, when they show that they can't or don't care to gauge interest from other people - i view those people as dangerous.

so i guess what i'm saying is that i don't find a big bright line between harassment and abuse. they often feed into each other. assault usually starts with harassment. if we can get all the non-rape-y guys to stop casually harassing women, it would be easier to see the difference between potential rapists and clueless dude-bros. as it is, women with my history just basically have to assume that any clueless dude-bro has the capacity for taking it too far, because we've been wrong too many times before.
posted by nadawi at 11:57 AM on June 20, 2012 [37 favorites]


enabling the victim's sense of self-righteousness in a way that just perpetuates the problem.

I think this is one of the points where our conversations derail. I can understand the idea that an individual's sense of powerlessness might be exacerbated by others. However, in my understanding of systemic injustices (racial, sexual, gender, class, and others), I just don't see patronizing someone's sense of victimhood as much of a contributing factor to social injustice.

People should be encouraged to take action, but they also have to understand the limits of individual agency in the face of cultural phenomena that no one individual (or even groups of organized individuals) has the power to change. There is a tricky balance here between what an individual can and should do and what action will come through concerted efforts at a time scale longer than any one person's life. I linked to some of this bigger picture perspective in the thread on the blue.

Why do our conversations rupture and derail at this individual/social divide? I think one reason is that any argument in favor of the individual agency perspective can be misconstrued as blaming the victim (even when the person making the argument in no way intends to blame the victim). This misperception tends to arise more easily in sexual harassment threads, I think, because there is a lot of actual victim blaming that goes on in sexual harassment discussions.

What one person sees as wrongly indulging a sense of victimhood, another sees as rightly understanding the scope of the problem. The "shrill" writing you mention is responding to behavior based no less in sexism and misogyny than what you might consider more serious narratives. My position is that I think it worth our while to pay attention and try to fight sexism, whether the instigating event is the swingers card, a physical assault or any other instantiation of our cultural sexism.
posted by audi alteram partem at 12:33 PM on June 20, 2012 [8 favorites]


straw: “... the huge blog-post-that-attracts-hundreds-of-comments-worthy kerfluffle seems to trivialize... well... ‘real‘ abuse.”

It was labeled "sexual harassment," and that's what it was – saying so doesn't "trivialize" more egregious forms of sexual harassment, because, as we all should acknowledge, there are better and worse kinds of harassment. In the same way, calling Earth a planet doesn't "trivialize" the fact that Jupiter is a planet. Jupiter is much larger than the Earth, but they're both planets. And it's okay to say so.

The problem with the "trivializing" claim is that it can be made any time one category is applied to two things. It is clearly true that both rape and milder forms of sexual harassment are both kinds of sexual misconduct. Is calling them both "sexual misconduct" trivializing rape? No, because there are clearly different kinds of sexual misconduct, and it's acceptable to say so.
posted by koeselitz at 12:59 PM on June 20, 2012 [11 favorites]


one of my problems with navigating "misery calculus" is the other axis, which is: When am I becoming an enabler? Because I do have more energy and resources than many people in my world, and I have found any number of times when my energies put in to trying to change a person's circumstance have resulted in discovering that the person just creates additional needs.

In my experience, it's much more worth it to assume the person asking for help actually needs it. Worst case scenario, you're providing a temporary cushion for them to rest on rather than continuously work on emotional progress; in the best case, you might be saving someone's life.

Yes, there are people who will take the help given and turn it into more complications. But that's not the case most of the time, I reckon, and you can always walk away if it becomes clear your energy is better spent elsewhere.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:34 PM on June 20, 2012 [10 favorites]


I just want to know where all of those dudes supporting women's feelings about their harassment or assault are in the Julian Assange FPP where folks are talking about how it'd be a real shame to try him for rape just because some ladies said he did.
posted by corb at 3:00 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, I was avoiding that thread because I couldn't give a rat's ass about Julian Assange. Sorry to hear that's the way the thread is playing out.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:06 PM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


folks are talking about how it'd be a real shame to try him for rape just because some ladies said he did.

I think this is a mischaracterization of most of the discussion in that thread. I'm not saying it's going super well but I think there are very few people who are espousing that particular position.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:06 PM on June 20, 2012


I apologize for diverting the subject slightly, but I want to bring up the subject of the two Mefites who got "timed-out." I think it's really important to use time-outs as sparingly as possible, for the reasons below.

When I first got onto Metafilter, I said some pretty dumb stuff, and had a certain "Me vs. Everyone" view on some things, similar to Krayz. (And in his defense, it's very easy to get a martyr complex when you're on the receiving end of a pile-on.) But over time, I learned the rules and protocols, and more importantly, learned to respect Metafilter as a forum that was better than the others, with a higher level of discourse.

I think part of what helped me achieve this understanding is that I never got given a "time out" - instead, comments I made that violated the rules were simply flagged and deleted. In retrospect, I feel that if I had been given a time-out, it would have probably have take me a lot longer to adapt to Metafilter protocol because I would simply have felt more marginalized. What Jessamyn did with me (and I have a lot of respect for her for this) was to rapidly take down my flagged comments that bordered on inappropriate. That was a lot more effective as a teaching tool than a time-out would have been since I got immediate feedback on what behavior was inappropriate, rather than having to wait 24 hours.

When a puppy pees in the corner, it's a much more effective training tool to rub it's nose in the pee immediately, so it sees exactly what it did wrong. You don't put it in another room for 24 hours and then bring it out and rub it's nose in the pee - that's just an ineffective teaching tool.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 3:07 PM on June 20, 2012


I think this is a mischaracterization of most of the discussion in that thread. I'm not saying it's going super well but I think there are very few people who are espousing that particular position.

Yeah, sorry if I gave an incorrect impression. Most people are not saying that precisely, but the whole "it'd be a shame to try him for rape because he's so important" made me think about this thread. I wonder if one of the reasons that it was so easy to take sides in the sexual harassment thread is that the harassers themselves were kind of socially unacceptable to many - overweight, swingers, looking for /group sex/ of all things. Whereas I see this thing where when situations happen with powerful, charismatic men, there is a lot more defense or minimization of their actions.
posted by corb at 3:19 PM on June 20, 2012


I, too, am all Assanged out.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:23 PM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


corb: “I just want to know where all of those dudes supporting women's feelings about their harassment or assault are in the Julian Assange FPP where folks are talking about how it'd be a real shame to try him for rape just because some ladies said he did.”

Yeah, I pretty much just avoid Julian Assange threads at this point. The only thing I found interesting there was the stories of people who've spent years in embassies, and nobody really seemed to want to talk about those.
posted by koeselitz at 3:24 PM on June 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


When a puppy pees in the corner, it's a much more effective training tool to rub it's nose in the pee immediately, so it sees exactly what it did wrong.

I know this is irrelevant to your point, but it's a terrible training tool to rub the puppy's nose in the pee. It then associates that spot with pee, making it even more likely to pee there. It's better to reward the puppy for doing the right thing (going outside or telling someone she needs to go) or to put the puppy in a situation where she can't do the wrong thing (watching the puppy and taking her out when it's about time for her to pee).

Come to think of it, that is relevant to the point, after all.
posted by winna at 3:31 PM on June 20, 2012 [8 favorites]


What Jessamyn did with me (and I have a lot of respect for her for this) was to rapidly take down my flagged comments that bordered on inappropriate.

This is sort of the ideal, but it required a) a significant amount of work on our side and b) ultimately some indication of cooperation on the other. When one of those elements is missing, we have to resort to less-ideal methods so the overall experience isn't degraded for everyone else.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 3:46 PM on June 20, 2012


Sweet, there's a new drama-in-the-blogosphere outrage post on the FPP! Never gets old!
posted by entropicamericana at 3:55 PM on June 20, 2012


Once we figure out how to harness outrage as an energy source we will totally take over the galaxy.

I say this as a proud member of the all outrage all the time club. I have a card, and a book of stamps that I will be able to redeem once I have filled it for valuable outrage-related prizes. I have my eye on the bullhorn that has 'DOWN WITH THIS SORT OF THING' printed in bright shiny red on the side!
posted by winna at 3:57 PM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


I just want to know where all of those dudes supporting women's feelings about their harassment or assault are in the Julian Assange FPP where folks are talking about how it'd be a real shame to try him for rape just because some ladies said he did.

Ordinarily I wouldn't question accusations like that, but when the guy is enemy #1 of the largest intelligence organization the world has ever seen, one which has not shown any limits to what it is willing to do, including frame-ups and assassinations -- i think one needs to be just slightly more skeptical than usual of anything untoward that happens to him. That's a rather unique situation, though.
posted by empath at 4:00 PM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sweet, there's a new drama-in-the-blogosphere outrage post on the FPP!

At the risk of prompting a repeat of the heartbreak and confusion that happened back on April 1st, could you explain what "FPP" stands for in this sentence? The commonly accepted meaning is "front page post", as in a single post made on the front page, but I'm guessing that's not your meaning for it since it doesn't really parse.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:01 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Front page... page.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:08 PM on June 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


I just want to know where all of those dudes supporting women's feelings about their harassment or assault are in the Julian Assange FPP where folks are talking about how it'd be a real shame to try him for rape just because some ladies said he did.

While I don't in any way think Jessamyn is wrong in characterizing that as an over-harsh read on the comments, I came away from reading the comments feeling much the same way.
posted by immlass at 4:12 PM on June 20, 2012


That was a lot more effective as a teaching tool than a time-out would have been since I got immediate feedback on what behavior was inappropriate, rather than having to wait 24 hours.

Except feedback was given, in the form of multiple requests from mods to take it to email. It's not like there was radio silence from the mods and then they just lowered the boom out of nowhere.

I can see that a 24 hour break may appear to be a blunt tool, but I can live with the occasional time-out if it means that the conversation can progress without anyone dropping a turd in the punchbowl.
posted by ambrosia at 4:18 PM on June 20, 2012


The only thing I found interesting there was the stories of people who've spent years in embassies, and nobody really seemed to want to talk about those.

Yeah the first bit of that thread was fun and interesting, then the shouters showed up and I removed it from Recent Activity.
posted by shakespeherian at 4:19 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


heartbreak and confusion that happened back on April 1st

Oh, that thread was a doozy. Can we do it again?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 4:24 PM on June 20, 2012


The living in embassies angle reminded me of the sad story of Mehran Karimi Nasseri.
posted by winna at 4:31 PM on June 20, 2012


I can live with the occasional time-out

Somehow I've never had one. But they could be useful from the GTD standpoint. I really don't want to finish this numerical integration and nonlinear fitting code right now. But if a mod were to maybe 3 day ban me right now, it would probably push me to get the damn thing done and stop fucking around.

Though I guess I might just start reading Fark instead. *Shudders*
posted by Chekhovian at 4:32 PM on June 20, 2012


And I hope that when you get banned, the next time you log in it just says "BANNED" and plays the sound trombone sound. That would amuse the hell out of me, even if it happened to me.
posted by Chekhovian at 4:37 PM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


You can actually just close your account voluntarily for a few days and ping us when you want to come back in. I'm not suggesting you do that as any sort of sideways dig, but really it's a totally okay thing to do for whatever reasons you have and people do it all the time.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:37 PM on June 20, 2012


That sounds like work. Whereas making an ass of myself is so easy its no harder than breathing.
posted by Chekhovian at 4:41 PM on June 20, 2012


And I would be really saddened if it had been just a sideways dig. From you I'd hope for some kind of up-then-down-then-from-the-left dig, or somehow-coming-from-the-fifth-dimension-dig. Like the the elite pitcher spit ball dig equivalent.

Alright I'll do my work. Fucking Mathematica.
posted by Chekhovian at 4:48 PM on June 20, 2012


In the fifth dimension, The Seagull was written by Dan Brown.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:58 PM on June 20, 2012


Seconding shakespeherian. I commented when I thought the Assange thread was interesting at first but removed it from recent activity when the conversation became tedious.

Corb, I also think there's value in choosing one's battles.
posted by zarq at 5:30 PM on June 20, 2012


Yeah, the Assange thread started out fascinatingly and then devolved into the same old stuff from the usual suspects. But what can you do?
posted by lalex at 5:43 PM on June 20, 2012


At the risk of prompting a repeat of the heartbreak and confusion that happened back on April 1st, could you explain what "FPP" stands for in this sentence?

Front page. It's a typo. I make them. A lot.
posted by entropicamericana at 5:46 PM on June 20, 2012


What entropicamericana said. And zarq, that is a really good point.
posted by corb at 5:55 PM on June 20, 2012


So I had a really fucked up experience about an hour ago. It's the first day of summer, and it's absolutely gorgeous here in Seattle. I'm in a sundress that covers all of my breasts and comes down to my knees, and a cardigan that covers up my shoulders and upper arms since the dress is a little strappy. For six blocks, I was followed by an average looking guy who was singing a little song about sluts in short dresses that get him hard and need to suck his dick or else. It went on, and on, and on, using tons of different words for penis and how it needs to be in a bitch's mouth, maybe this bitch right in front of him in her whore dress.

I was that bitch, I'm guessing, because there weren't any other female-bodied individuals in whore dresses around.

He stopped when I stopped to very conspicuously talk to a cop on a bicycle.

When I posted about it on Facebook, a female friend asked where I was and if I was safe. A male friend commented, "LOL, that guy stole my line!"

I want off this fucking planet now.
posted by palomar at 6:51 PM on June 20, 2012 [24 favorites]


Oh, palomar. Scary and super-gross, and sad that the first day of summer has been tainted that way.
posted by gingerest at 6:54 PM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


That is so horrible. I'm so sorry.
posted by winna at 7:00 PM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


I want off this fucking planet now.

Hmm, I'm not normally in favor of reducing gun laws, but we could make it legal or even mandatory for all women to carry guns. A .38 in an under shoulder holster would have nicely complemented the outfit.
posted by Chekhovian at 7:02 PM on June 20, 2012


What would having a gun have done for me?
posted by palomar at 7:05 PM on June 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


I can only guess at how those assholes think, but might they be just a little more deferential if they knew that all women everywhere were armed and dangerous?
posted by Chekhovian at 7:11 PM on June 20, 2012


I'm genuinely asking, by the way -- I'm baffled as to how having a gun on me would help in a situation like that. Do you think it would be a swell idea to flash my piece while standing in a crowd of people? Because we were surrounded by people. It was around 5 in the evening in the main shopping district, full of tourists and people getting off work. I'm pretty sure if I'd had a gun on me and decided I should whip it out and show it to this jackhole, I'd be in custody for at least a short time while they figured out if I had all the proper permits.
posted by palomar at 7:13 PM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


ack, sorry, didn't preview and we crossed the streams
posted by palomar at 7:14 PM on June 20, 2012


"God made man, but Samuel Colt made them equal"

Plus isn't it an amusing little mental picture, the Republican reaction to getting gun laws nuked, but only for women? Maybe an effective logic bomb even.
posted by Chekhovian at 7:19 PM on June 20, 2012


Honestly? No. No, it makes me sadder than ever to think that the solution to this problem isn't educating people on how not to be total assholes, but that I need to carry a fucking gun to wave around and threaten people with when they treat me like shit.
posted by palomar at 7:23 PM on June 20, 2012 [22 favorites]


A friend of mine writes a column about women and fighting, and one of the recent entries talks specifically about the difference between the way men and women end up having to fight that might be instructive. It doesn't precisely argue for or against women carrying guns, but it does talk about the difference in posturing and threatening in man vs. man and man vs. woman violent situations.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 7:26 PM on June 20, 2012 [8 favorites]


Awesome link, thanks, restless_nomad! I'm going to share that around, it's unfortunate but more than one female friend has a creeper creeping around being creepy and they're all worried about personal safety (but unwilling to keep guns in the house, as they also all have small children at home too). This might help.
posted by palomar at 7:35 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


(Frankly, I have no problem going all fists and elbows on someone if I have to... I know how to fight, and I fight dirty as hell. I just am not comfortable at all with the idea that I need to be carrying a gun, or even that I need to own a gun. I am strong, but I am not a golden god. I could very easily be overpowered and killed with my own weapon, which seems like something I don't want to happen.)
posted by palomar at 7:37 PM on June 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


I can only guess at how those assholes think, but might they be just a little more deferential if they knew that all women everywhere were armed and dangerous?

If they don't have basic fucking respect for UN-armed women, what makes you think they're going to have respect for ARMED women?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:37 PM on June 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


palomar, I'm so sorry that happened to you. Disgusting. :( :(
posted by zarq at 7:39 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, palomar, that sounds horrible. I'm so sorry that guy shat on your day (at best!)
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:42 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


palomar, I'm sending non-invasive internet hugs.
posted by ChuraChura at 7:42 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can only guess at how those assholes think, but might they be just a little more deferential if they knew that all women everywhere were armed and dangerous?

There have been reports that harassment of women is rampant in both the UK and US armed forces.

Being armed might change the dynamic. But there's no guarantee it would be an improvement to have women openly armed. And as restless_nomad's link suggests, many men would see it as a challenge, since their subconscious intention is probably to intimidate and elicit fearful reactions, rather than directly challenge women to a fight.

I think guns tend to escalate conflicts, rather than pacifying them.
posted by zarq at 7:47 PM on June 20, 2012 [7 favorites]


I believe in women carrying guns for self-defense, but I don't think it helps with street harassment. It might prevent a rape or an assault, but you can't pull out your weapon just because someone's using vile language.

I'm sorry you had to deal with his shittiness, though.
posted by corb at 7:52 PM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Marissa Alexander got 20 years for firing a gun into the ceiling to warn off her abusive ex.

One weird thing about flashing a gun in a bad situation is that's your trump card - that's about as final as it gets. If you fire, you better hope you have a good lawyer. If you shoot to kill, you better hope you have a good lawyer. If you don't fire, you better hope you have a good lawyer. Any way you cut it, the person with the gun may walk out of the situation physically unscathed, but the legal consequences are a whole other entanglement.
posted by zennish at 7:58 PM on June 20, 2012 [9 favorites]


Oh, fine, modest proposal retracted then. Always being sensible is so boring though.
posted by Chekhovian at 8:11 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Justin Bieber
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:17 PM on June 20, 2012


hey you guys... thanks for the support, and for letting me vent. i had to go sit in my bathtub and eat some thai food and look at pictures of bunnies, but i feel better. i may also have gotten a little tipsy and made up a song about needing tweezers and a microscope to help that guy out with his request, which also made me feel better.
posted by palomar at 10:28 PM on June 20, 2012 [17 favorites]


ugh, I've been harassed so many times but one of the very scariest was when I was about twenty-three and this guy started following me and whispering in Spanish ( I don't know Spanish but it seemed very aggressive, whatever he was saying). I didn't go home directly since I was on a quiet street so i went and sat in a Starbucks. The guy stood outside the Starbucks watching me (if you know the Starbucks in Central Square in Cambridge Mass, it does/did have all glass windows.) I just sat there crying. Eventually he left, I ran home and didn't wear makeup or do my hair and wore baggy clothes for two weeks. Like heavy sweat pants to work. In summer.

This stuff really messes you up.
posted by sweetkid at 10:38 PM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


'Tweezers and A Microscope'

Oh woooah, oh woooooah, oh wooooah, oh
You know I hate you, look at me glare
just shut up now and never share.
You're a rude bastard, you aren't that smart
so get going, I'll give you a head start
No way in hell, dude, I'd rather be crocheting
there's no 'we', I am not playing
Said I don't like you, look right in my eyes,
leave me alone, your bugging me is a crime
And I was like…

GO AWAY YOU BAG OF DICKS whooaaaa

sung to Justin Bieber's 'Baby'. I hope that was some really good Thai food palomar! I wanted to work in 'microscope' but my rhyming skills are not that good
posted by zennish at 11:15 PM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yuck. What a horrible experience Palomar.
posted by pharm at 1:57 AM on June 21, 2012


Seeing as the mods have given someone a timeout and then mentioned users being personally abusive afterwards, perhaps they'd like to make clear if this applies in this case as that appears to be what's being insinuated.

Seeing as the user isn't here to defend themselves, it's worth clearing up.

What a strange thread, where we're not allowed to discuss the original topic, but deeply inappropriate and unfunny pic jokes are let through without comment.
posted by sgt.serenity at 4:39 AM on June 21, 2012


I'm still trying to parse that first sentence, but where are these "deeply inappropriate and unfunny pic jokes"?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:14 AM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hey, sgt.serenity, if you're going to complain that the mods are being clear, could you provide specific links for your gripes?
posted by kalessin at 7:20 AM on June 21, 2012


Seeing as the mods have given someone a timeout and then mentioned users being personally abusive afterwards, perhaps they'd like to make clear if this applies in this case as that appears to be what's being insinuated.

I'm not totally sure if I understand what you're asking but neither user that was given a day off as a result of this thread was at all abusive or problematic to us now or at any point in the past that I can recall.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:23 AM on June 21, 2012


"deeply inappropriate and unfunny pic jokes"?

A Glaswegian stops before a graveyard in a Gorbals cemetery, and notices a carved tombstone declaring: "Here lies a lawyer and an honest man"
"Ach, who'd ever think," he murmered, "there'd be enough room fer two men in that one wee grave."
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:41 AM on June 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


I don't know if this counts as an official thread flameout or not, but Jestocost's account has been disabled.
posted by bakerina at 7:44 AM on June 21, 2012


I don't know if this counts as an official thread flameout or not, but Jestocost's account has been disabled.

Wait, whoa - by a mod?
posted by corb at 7:47 AM on June 21, 2012


I believe Jestocost had at least one comment deleted in this thread, so it may be a reaction to that?
posted by shakespeherian at 7:53 AM on June 21, 2012


Wait, whoa - by a mod?

Yes. Without getting too into it it was a Brand New Day situation that wasn't working. People can email us if they need details; we're not going to discuss them in this thread.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:55 AM on June 21, 2012


You know, sgt., however justified it may or may not be, you will feel amazingly unburdened and relieved if you are ever able to lay down the grudge you are so evidently carrying.
posted by jamjam at 8:07 AM on June 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


Ah. I wondered. (But I don't need to know more. Thanks, Jessamyn.)
posted by bakerina at 8:47 AM on June 21, 2012


In retrospect that was really obvious.
posted by elizardbits at 9:34 AM on June 21, 2012


I don't know if this counts as an official thread flameout or not, but Jestocost's account has been disabled.

That's a shame, he seemed like a quality contributor to me.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:35 AM on June 21, 2012


Yeah, I had a gut feeling that was that guy, but then thought "nah, couldn't be".

On preview: furiousxgeorge for the redux win!
posted by Burhanistan at 9:36 AM on June 21, 2012


"We gave Ardiril the day off yesterday"

Dammit, I went to bed early and missed all the drama. I guess I better turn MeMail back on.
posted by Ardiril at 11:38 AM on June 21, 2012


I think I will probably just want to say this:
not that girl's comment is what I would have/should have wrote, if I had the personal history and eloquence to. However, I went into the thread as someone who has very unconventional views on human sexuality, trying both to understand Elyse's perspective as well as the swingers. I said from the beginning I didn't condone or recommend what they did, but I thought it was worth trying to see the thing from their viewpoint, and that if one did so you'd realize they almost certainly did not intend any malice (e.g. all the people in the thread thinking they got a rush out of offending her) and would not have anticipated Elyse being as upset about it as she was

And that given this, Elyse's reaction, while not invalid under conference rules/norms of society was in fact not helpful in bringing about the sort of world we'd all like to live in, nor was the use of a very loaded word, that tends to be used to describe far more serious situations. Because if she had just contacted the guy and said "hey, I understand this probably seem to you like a cool thing to do, but it really upset and offended me, and you should understand it would probably offend most people, so I'd really recommend not using this tactic any more. It probably doesn't even work very often, does it?" - that seems like it would have been far better than this public shaming

But instead, what everyone wanted was to pile on someone who seemed to have few redeeming qualities - no positive details about the couple, an aesthetically poor card design, their unattractiveness. We got the entire story from Elyse's perspective and it seemed everyone wanted to have a "this disgusts me/why do men do this?/[story about how men suck]" catharsis. That's fine, but when someone chimes in to try to offer a little light on a different perspective and gets nothing but heat back, yes I eventually started responding back with more heat. I thought many comments were very honest and helpful, e.g. nadawi's, and could have been a way to try to find some sort of common ground on how one could react to this situation without assuming total bad faith on the part of the swingers

But I frankly think the mods, based on comments here and elsewhere, started with zero tolerance for anyone outside a very narrow range of opinions on this, and therefore allowed all sorts of "that line of argument means you are pro-rape" type comments, which I find indescribably hurtful having been very personally, emotionally involved in situations with women who were being/had been assaulted, and then anything but the most zen responses back were seen as unilateral escalation (excepting "part of the problem", because it seems most of those comments and all of those users were left as-is)

I was not clear reading jessamyn's comment that "we're sort of done with the 'what crayz thinks about this post'" meant for me to simply shutup, but between the lack of any direct message/notification from the mods (bannination = you just get logged out, which happened when I tried to post a first reply in the MeTa, btw), the fact that the only people banned were the ones who disagreed with the mob, the happiness of jessamyn and others here that after expelling the dissidents they could all just calm down and express their outrage over various anecdotes of horrible things men have done, and the astonishing lack of tolerance for any dissent (almost everything I said that wasn't deleted has been favorited by one or a few users, but there's constant statements by the mob here and in the FPP about how pointless, trollish and invalid the comments are and the talk of "how can we educate them?"), I found the reaction of the mods and much of the community immensely close-minded, condescending and just fucking disappointing

Q: How can anyone still disagree with me?
A: Because you aren't listening

For everything, ever
posted by crayz at 11:51 AM on June 21, 2012 [8 favorites]


oh, my god, you have to be kidding me.
posted by palomar at 11:54 AM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


* retreats back into corner, applying duct tape over mouth as she goes *
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:56 AM on June 21, 2012


That is not very safe if you're alone, EC. Rethink it!

Seriously though, I do have some empathy for the people in the situation with the card, being of alternate sexuality myself, but I also think that they come from a culture that really needs a wakeup call about how inappropriate and gross shit like this is and people arguing "in their subculture it makes sense" are sort of missing the point in a serious way.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:58 AM on June 21, 2012 [7 favorites]


I think what really needs to be remembered, crayz, is that more than a few people have posted comments in that thread and this one stating that they also are outside the sexual mainstream and this couple's actions were STILL unacceptable to them, and in fact would get the couple booted from a great majority of kink or swinger related events. I know for damn sure that would get them booted from the kinky groups around here. What mystifies me is your continued insistence that anyone who disagrees with this couple's actions is somehow a sex-negative prude, when the evidence keeps stacking up that proves you wrong.
posted by palomar at 12:02 PM on June 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm pretty sure that every comment I've ever made and then immediately regretted has gotten favorites from people one way or another. It isn't a reasonable metric for anything.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:03 PM on June 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


oh god yes. there are one or two near the top of my most favorited comments that i'd take back in an instant.
posted by nadawi at 12:06 PM on June 21, 2012


One of the guiding principles about kink, as I understand it, is that involving people in your kink without their explicit consent is Just Not Okay. So, if your kink is exhibitionism, it's cool if you want to fuck in front of people who know what's up and want to watch you fuck. It's not cool if you fuck in a public park on a Sunday afternoon when it's full of people who didn't ask to see you fucking and don't particularly want to see it.

Basically, if you're forcing other people to participate in your kink without their explicit consent or even their awareness that they are in fact participating in a sexual act of some kind with you, you are totally doing it wrong. Would anyone disagree with this?
posted by palomar at 12:06 PM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


what everyone wanted was to pile on someone who seemed to have few redeeming qualities

outrage over various anecdotes of horrible things men have done

This seems to be another example of the conflict between individual & systemic frameworks where our conversation can break down. From my perspective, I thought the thread was talking about the effects of sexism and misogyny, not "horrible things men have done." Sexism can lead men to do horrible things, but sexism (and its critique) is more complicated than saying men do bad things.

The concern in the thread was not wanting to pile on a scapegoat but to address pervasive sexist attitudes.
posted by audi alteram partem at 12:09 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


"in fact would get the couple booted from a great majority of kink or swinger related events"

Not any of the groups of which I knew, and that pretty much hits all the main cities from Atlanta to Las Vegas. Ideas for soliciting new couples is one of most discussed administrative topics.
posted by Ardiril at 12:09 PM on June 21, 2012


Which group is that, Ardiril? I want to make sure I avoid it, if their idea of drumming up new membership is to act like this couple.
posted by palomar at 12:10 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


"in fact would get the couple booted from a great majority of kink or swinger related events"

Not any of the groups of which I knew, and that pretty much hits all the main cities from Atlanta to Las Vegas. Ideas for soliciting new couples is one of most discussed administrative topics.


This is exactly what I mean about the subculture (in this case, swinger subculture) having a lot of serious problems.

There is also a significant difference between kink and swinging, and swinging and polyamory, and the cultures surrounding them. This couple are swingers, period, and this kind of shit is a reflection of the sexism that I find endemic in swinger-oriented spaces and communities.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:12 PM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


yes I eventually started responding back with more heat.

But I frankly think the mods, based on comments here and elsewhere, started with zero tolerance for anyone outside a very narrow range of opinions on this


Zero tolerance would have meant we deleted your earlier comments espousing your position which didn't have the "more heat" that you put into later comments, the thing that made them unacceptable. You've spoken here in this thread with significantly more eloquence and awareness of context than you did in the MeFi thread. Your assessment of my "happiness" at having to even deal with any of this is off base. Many people in the MeFi thread are still participating who seem to hold views similar to your own. This has nothing to do with your opinions and everything to do with how you chose to express them.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:13 PM on June 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


the astonishing lack of tolerance for any dissent

Lest we forget ...
posted by octobersurprise at 12:16 PM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


"This couple are swingers, period, and this kind of shit is a reflection of the sexism that I find endemic in swinger-oriented spaces and communities."

This reads rather strangely to me, since swinger groups are run by the women, absolutely. They don't work otherwise.

Single men are not allowed, and generally, if a couple divorces, the man is automatically kicked out. The commercial sex clubs are run a bit more conservatively, but even those restrict male membership to those who are married or meet strict rules defining a long-term relationship.
posted by Ardiril at 12:48 PM on June 21, 2012


women can be sexist too and the swinger groups i've seen are mostly run by one or two dominate couples, not by just women.
posted by nadawi at 12:55 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


"women can be sexist too"

On that, we will just have to agree to disagree.
posted by Ardiril at 12:58 PM on June 21, 2012


Are men incapable of being feminists, then?

A lot of sexist crap I have heard men spout was unfortunately learned from their mothers.
posted by ambrosia at 1:03 PM on June 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


Single men are not allowed, and generally, if a couple divorces, the man is automatically kicked out. The commercial sex clubs are run a bit more conservatively, but even those restrict male membership to those who are married or meet strict rules defining a long-term relationship.

This is super sexist. Single women = hot sexy times unicorn, single men = OMG NO SCARY THREAT TO COUPLES
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:08 PM on June 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


This is super sexist. Single women = hot sexy times unicorn, single men = OMG NO SCARY THREAT TO COUPLES

Absolutely. Where are our equal rites?!

NO SEX ROOM, NO PEACE.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:12 PM on June 21, 2012


If you are part of a sexual subculture that doesn't respect or attempt to understand that others have different comfort levels than you, and you engage in practices that force your comfort level on them, you are also not creating this enlighted sexual future that we all presumably want to live in.

The first rule of civility is, when asking for something, always be sure that you ask in a way that is comfortable to the person you are asking. Do you know for sure that they will be okay with you handing them a face-down card of you groping the naked body of your lover? No?

Then that's not the best card to start out with.

Do you know that they will be comfortable being approached with a sexual solicitation by strangers in an environment that has been defined for them as being professional and free of unwanted sexual attention? No?

Then that's not the best place to approach them sexually.

It does not seem that we are discussing a respectful way to approach people with what is, at its core, a request for sex. Instead, apparently, to push forward into this brave new sexual future that I guess we all want, we instead get to push our own sexual ideas on strangers in whatever environment we want, in whatever way we want, and, if they are not okay with that, they're just prudes who don't get it and are holding humanity back, man.

You really can't see how problematic this is? How bullying? If your approach to asking somebody for sex is to not respect their boundaries, then why should they trust you will respect any other boundaries? And my experience in the kink community is that it STARTS with establishing clear boundaries, so that there is no confusion. This couple rode roughshod over that.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:19 PM on June 21, 2012 [10 favorites]


how is that helpful, octobersurprise? That is kind of the point that not that girl was making above, and then cairdeas. crayz responded in measured tones- even jessamyn acknowledged the tone was fine in his comment- and you... call him crazy, "off his rocker".

This is the thing that people like myself (and after my frustrated, but wholly unnecessary and surely deleted snark against jessamyn, I left that thread and never went back- uh, you're welcome?) find frustrating about these threads, where basically we have to adopt not that girl's strategy of simply leaving. There is no dialogue allowed, insults or personal attacks and aspersions against people who aren't in lock step are tolerated, and anyone who isn't echoing a certain line is assumed to be a) a misogynist, b) acting in "bad faith" or outright trolling, and c) "causing problems" just by participating. And of course, the easiest way to fix the problem is to gang up on the minority, insulting them while their responses are deleted, until they either blow themselves up and get deleted/timed-out, or simply leave in frustration.

Usually, the minority viewpoint in those threads is rarely a pro-harassment viewpoint, but often just a nuance such as "Well... so she got a card from a swinger couple. Weird, but just throw it away when they leave- did this need a blog post and an angry internet outrage cycle?" as opposed to "Clearly, there is no such thing as harassment, ever, hurf durf!". Yet the responses essentially strawman the latter argument, and justify pile-ons with the justification that the knuckle-draggers had it coming. When- and this will shock you- I'd hazard that even the "usual suspects" of alleged Metafilter misogynists would be considered paragons of virtue and enlightenment by the larger population. I mean- my female friends say that about me, so... what would you think of the guys I know who actually are kind of douchy?

And it's not even necessarily a male/female thing; I can't find it now, but there was a thread a couple of years ago about workplace sexual harassment where a younger (mid-20s?) female commenter from the Seattle area mentioned how she worked at Microsoft, and found it free from harassment, and actually all her co-workers bent over backwards to be respectful and even-handed and watch for their biases... and the other commenters in that thread angrily shouted her down because clearly her experiences weren't valid, or meaningful, or sufficiently angry and righteous. Or because simply telling her own story, her own anecdotes, was seen as somehow diminishing the polemics of other commenters. Which is usually an accusation made of minority commenters in such threads: that we seek to diminish or invalidate the experiences of other people. How... surprising.
"women can be sexist too"
Ardiril: On that, we will just have to agree to disagree.
You're objectively wrong here. Of course women can both be biased/prejudiced based on gender, as well as embrace sexist viewpoints- behind the bible-beating bigots is often a glassy-eyed docile wife who completely believes in all of those gender roles and "traditional" structures.
posted by hincandenza at 1:19 PM on June 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


this woman thinks that women shouldn't hold government office and that she wishes it were still the 1950s. she's dumb as a bag of bricks, but she's also very sexist. you can also find sexism in the bachmann's and palin's of the world. growing up mormon, the women were at least as sexist as the men. it was the women that told me i was "pushing the boundaries" for wanting our teenage women's group to learn basic car repair (checking oil, changing a tire, etc).
posted by nadawi at 1:27 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


crayz: "And that given this, Elyse's reaction, while not invalid under conference rules/norms of society was in fact not helpful in bringing about the sort of world we'd all like to live in,

This seems like a rather broad assumption on your part. (That her actions aren't helpful to bringing about the sort of world some of us would like to live in.)

Sexual harassment is a serious problem which is systemic to our culture. We've discussed why that is, in this thread, the other one and in past threads. Whether you personally believe that this specific incident was not harassment is beside the point: by the rules of the conference Ms. Anders was attending, it was. It is therefore appropriate for her to say it was, and she did so with a certain amount of nuance that took into account that this was not a more severe incident.

...nor was the use of a very loaded word, that tends to be used to describe far more serious situations.

Sexual harassment is a word that covers a wide range of behaviors. In many settings, it's used as a bit of a catch-all term for "unwanted sexual attention." If you don't think that's fair, that's fine. You're entitled. But it seems futile to argue when the accepted definition includes both severe and not-severe situations.

Because if she had just contacted the guy and said "hey, I understand this probably seem to you like a cool thing to do, but it really upset and offended me, and you should understand it would probably offend most people, so I'd really recommend not using this tactic any more. It probably doesn't even work very often, does it?" - that seems like it would have been far better than this public shaming

a) She should not be required to confront an harasser directly.

b) This was not a "public shaming." The couple was not outed publicly. They were not mentioned by name. Their contact information and identity was not revealed to the public. It was a public discussion of an incident involving an anonymous couple.

b) There is value in publicly speaking out about such incidents. In fact, I think it is very important to do so. By saying, "this happened, and it's not okay," her blog post has reportedly prompted other groups to initiate or pay closer attention to their own anti-harassment policies. She has raised awareness that certain behaviors can have unwanted results. A good thing. Perhaps in the future, people like that couple will act in a more thoughtful manner.

But instead, what everyone wanted was to pile on someone who seemed to have few redeeming qualities - no positive details about the couple, an aesthetically poor card design, their unattractiveness. We got the entire story from Elyse's perspective and it seemed everyone wanted to have a "this disgusts me/why do men do this?/[story about how men suck]" catharsis. That's fine, but when someone chimes in to try to offer a little light on a different perspective and gets nothing but heat back, yes I eventually started responding back with more heat.

My impression was, (and I admit I could be wrong here,) you spent a great deal of time in that thread trying to attack everyone as closed-minded (and perhaps some of us were) but very little time listening to what they had to say. This is different from simple disagreement. Disagreement would have been fine. Many people in that thread disagreed, but your contributions were different than that. You changed the conversational goal posts several times. You used hyperbolic examples and language. You kept accusing people of saying you were some sort of rape apologist, even after they had carefully clarified in their responses that they were not.

I agree that it looked like people were piling on you in the thread. But then why didn't they also do so to Reggie Knoble and MikeMc, who took positions similar to yours? (Perhaps they did, and I didn't notice?)

I thought many comments were very honest and helpful, e.g. nadawi's, and could have been a way to try to find some sort of common ground on how one could react to this situation without assuming total bad faith on the part of the swingers

I agree with you that it's great not to assume bad faith. However, after they were confronted by the organizers and been told they had done something that had offended Ms. Anders, I thought their apology seemed pretty flip and insincere. That made me a lot less likely to give them the benefit of the doubt.
posted by zarq at 1:32 PM on June 21, 2012 [11 favorites]


Once again, the proper order of the letters of the alphabet elude me. *sigh* That should be (a), (b), (c)....
posted by zarq at 1:33 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


zarq remind me later to teach you the Alphabet song,, it's quite helpful.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:34 PM on June 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


The commercial sex clubs are run a bit more conservatively, but even those restrict male membership to those who are married or meet strict rules defining a long-term relationship.

Basically, the men are valued solely because they are bringing wives to swap.
posted by empath at 1:35 PM on June 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


and you... call him crazy

I just call him by his name, man. I just call him by his name.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:36 PM on June 21, 2012


shakespeherian: "zarq remind me later to teach you the Alphabet song,, it's quite helpful."

LOL. My kids are apparently better at it than I am. :D
posted by zarq at 1:39 PM on June 21, 2012


I could never find that ellemeno letter, though.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:44 PM on June 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


Also, "sexual harassment" is two words, not one.

OH GAWD NOW I CAN'T COUNT.
posted by zarq at 1:54 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


On that, we will just have to agree to disagree.

Women can't be sexist? How do you explain Phyllis Schafly, Anne Coulter, Michelle Malkin, and their ilk?
posted by palomar at 2:01 PM on June 21, 2012 [8 favorites]


Perhaps women just aren't allowed to be sexist in some places. Wouldn't surprise me.
posted by heyho at 2:06 PM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sexism, the horrifying ouroborous that keeps on giving!
posted by palomar at 2:07 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


"i'm sorry miss, but you'll have to go to the free sexism zone before you talk about how only promiscuous girls want progressive family planning."
posted by nadawi at 2:08 PM on June 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


Free sexism? What are you people, socialists? It should be $20, SAIT!
posted by rtha at 2:10 PM on June 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


OBAMACARE PROVIDES FREE SEXISM YOU GUYTH
posted by palomar at 2:11 PM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


wtf, iphone, your autocorrect settings are really weird today
posted by palomar at 2:11 PM on June 21, 2012


Virginia Isms: You've come a long way, baby.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:13 PM on June 21, 2012


palomar, I think you have the lisping keyboard on.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:14 PM on June 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


well that exthplains tho much.
posted by palomar at 2:17 PM on June 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


One group of women calls another group of women sexist. That other group of women calls the first group of women sexist. Which one is correct?

BTW, my comment that was deleted in that thread was "VAGINA!" That's right, I was banned from commenting on Metafilter for using the word 'vagina'.
posted by Ardiril at 2:36 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


One group of women calls another group of women sexist. That other group of women calls the first group of women sexist. Which one is correct?

This could be easily determined by seeing which group was exhibiting sexist behavior.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:39 PM on June 21, 2012 [7 favorites]


I was silenced for yelling Figaro! in an opera house.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:39 PM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Which one is correct?

The group that is not sexist?

Do you really think sexism is just a matter of opinion?
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:40 PM on June 21, 2012 [6 favorites]


"Do you really think sexism is just a matter of opinion?"

No, consensus.
posted by Ardiril at 2:42 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's Raining Florence Henderson: "Can we agree that pulling numbers out of our ass is pointless? And even counterproductive, as some in this thread (including you, IIRC) are pointing out?

To the extent that you are misinterpreting obvious hyperbole as an attempt to represent real-world data, yes, I agree that is pointless.
"

If it was obvious, it wouldn't have been misinterpreted.

You are on the internet. Your sarcastic tone does not carry in ASCII. Get off your high horse.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:42 PM on June 21, 2012


No, consensus.

That makes no sense.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:43 PM on June 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


Aquaman: "She must have been the one born that minute.

Because no woman could ever be genuinely interested in some no-strings-attached casual sex.
"

Has nothing to do with it, but thanks for spinning it as misogynistically as you can!

I think it's a pretty disgusting introduction. Has nothing to do with gender, or wanting sex - tactless is tactless (and I've met women exactly that tactless, and... euw...).
posted by IAmBroom at 2:44 PM on June 21, 2012


nadawi: "i've seen this brought up a lot in these sorts of conversations - "well, some women go for it." as if that's justification for men to continue this behavior. to me, if you're going to jump the line in accepted mating procedures - "getting to know, gauging interest, allowing an out" then it's your responsibility if it's not received well. it doesn't matter if harassment and indecent exposure ever result in panty dropping - it's still an unacceptable way to treat people. and, there's a way to do all the getting to know/gauging interest stuff and still have NSA casual sex, you just speed up the time frame."

Or, what nadawi said.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:45 PM on June 21, 2012


BTW, my comment that was deleted in that thread was "VAGINA!" That's right, I was banned from commenting on Metafilter for using the word 'vagina'.

Your actual comment was: "VAGINA!!! Oh, sorry, wrong thread." and then you made a few other now-deleted comments one of which was directed personally at another commenter after we had specifically asked people to not make things personal and that was when we gave you the night off. You were not given the night off for saying the word vagina.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:48 PM on June 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


OK I cannot quit thinking about all the cock pics the internet women are getting unsolicited and although I appreciated Ivan Fyodorich's comment above about male exhibitionism and what it entails there is one aspect which is still bugging the hell out of me and I got to get this out.

I have known through the years a small number of dudes who really enjoyed showing everybody their organ, or implicitly showing everybody their organ (like wearing a speedo at a company picnic volleyball game, for example.) So this is anecdotal data; 7 < N < 12. It seems to me these guys have very large dicks in every case. This has been true from instance one when I was in eighth grade and the exhibitor was a guy in gym class whose favorite part of the day was apparently the group shower after class up until the last time I saw it which was a rock musician aquaintance of mine wearing tights on stage.

Does anybody look at the cock pics close enough to tell if they are all very large?
Anybody recall seeing one where the guy had it next to a ruler or yardstick?
Perhaps this particular subset of guys has had positive conditioning toward this behavior which all the rest of us who do not possess really large dicks consider unruly?

Also I have known more than 12 dudes with very large dicks who did not make a habit of making a scene about the fact; don't want to imply any bigotry against guys with very large dicks here. It's an "only-if" relation, not "if-and-only-if" relation in my experience.
posted by bukvich at 2:50 PM on June 21, 2012


"You were not given the night off for saying the word vagina."

That's what that other bunch said, too.
posted by Ardiril at 2:51 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Good lord. You really think snarky "gotcha" bullshit takes the place of reasoned discussion, don't you?
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:54 PM on June 21, 2012


No, just pointing how circular the logic is on both sides of this issue.
posted by Ardiril at 2:55 PM on June 21, 2012


Anybody recall seeing one where the guy had it next to a ruler or yardstick?

Damn, good idea, lets start manufacturing novelty cock rulers, where 3/4" actual equals 1" printed or something. It would be a cock measuring standards spoofing arms race between manufacturers.
posted by Chekhovian at 2:56 PM on June 21, 2012


What? What if you said whatever it is you're hinting at with oblique comments because right now I can't figure it out due to my own ineptitude, probably, but yeah it would really help okay thanks.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:56 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


bukvich - no. they absolutely aren't all well endowed. some of them are, some of them are under the mistaken impression that shooting up between their legs makes it look bigger, or pushing back at your stomach so it juts more. some guys barely manage to shoot the actual penis at all because of all the back composition and fisted hand and, i assume, inebriation.
posted by nadawi at 2:57 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Anybody recall seeing one where the guy had it next to a ruler or yardstick?

Yep. And water bottles, and beer cans, and graph paper, and paperback books, and hairbrushes, and — my personal favorite — one beanie baby elephant.
posted by heyho at 2:59 PM on June 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


heyho: "I have a friend who likens unsolicited penis pics to the way some gang members will lift their shirts and show you their gun nestled in their waistband (it's something we've both seen a fair amount of, and there's a sexy/teasing look that usually accompanies the action).

I laughed when I first heard that, then I got thinking about it, and yeah... very similar dynamic at play. Both can either be threatening or not, depending on a hundred other factors. Usually I'm quite sure the guy is just flirting, but I don't stick around to find out if I'm right. The risks outweigh the rewards, even if it is a very, very attractive gun.
"

A fucking brilliant analogy. Thanks. (serious)
posted by IAmBroom at 2:59 PM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


That's right, I was banned from commenting on Metafilter for using the word 'vagina'.

Perhaps you could ask for a refund?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:00 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's what that other bunch said, too.

I think you were trolling in that thread. I think you're trolling here. I think you've been here long enough that you can appear to not be trolling if you want to. We are not the government and participation here is entirely voluntary but subject to a short list of guidelines and a few simple rules. People can decide what they want to do with that information.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:00 PM on June 21, 2012 [6 favorites]


oh but yes, absolutely some of them are the same type of guys in the tight spandex or the really open swim trunks or what have and a lot of those are "here's a unit of measure and here's my sizable cock."
posted by nadawi at 3:01 PM on June 21, 2012



"You were not given the night off for saying the word vagina."

That's what that other bunch said, too.


The difference is that there was a whole discussion that centered around the word "vagina" here the other day, and nobody got banned as a result, I'd say that in this case it's probably the Truth.

Maybe you're right, maybe the whole thing is a brilliant set up so that they could give one person the night off for typing vagina., but from an outside vantage that seems pretty unlikely.
posted by Gygesringtone at 3:02 PM on June 21, 2012


I am so calling bullshit on swinger culture not being sexist. Let me know if we need to have a pissing contest about who has fucked more strangers at swing clubs and parties to see who gets to say they're right, because I feel good about my odds here.

But of course I am a giant prude because I think these people were inappropriate and in violation of conference policy.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:06 PM on June 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


No, just pointing how circular the logic is on both sides of this issue.

You do know that the Michigan State legislature isn't one side of the issue and Jessamyn is the other, don't you?

I stopped responding to you in the other thread because I did not think you were participating in good faith, and you have provided nothing here to change my mind. There's one of two things happening -- either you're actually trolling, or you're spectacularly bad at this.

There's not a complicated narrative that plays out here. If you're trolling, you will waste a lot of time with mods contacting you, telling you to rethink how you're doing things, and eventually banning you. The other side, if you're bad at this, is that the same thing will play out, but with equal frustration on both sides, and eventually you may choose to leave, or eventually you will learn the norms of conversation here and go on to be a good member.

If you're not trolling, I wish you the best, and hope you pick up on this sooner rather than later. Because if you really feel you have something to contribute to the discussion, the sooner you can figure out how to contribute it without sounding like a snarky, disingenuous ass who is not out to make a point but instead to mock other people's points through bad argument and vague comments, the better it will be.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 3:06 PM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Get off your high horse.

It's not all that high. It's just lacking in perspective.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:09 PM on June 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


In a previous life, Bunny, I was mischief. 'nuff said. ;-P
posted by Ardiril at 3:10 PM on June 21, 2012


Do you really think sexism is just a matter of opinion?

Since women can't be sexist, if you can find a single woman who agrees with your opinion, by definition, that opinion isn't sexist.
posted by empath at 3:11 PM on June 21, 2012


I'm sorry I took you seriously.
posted by shakespeherian at 3:11 PM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Heyho, did he think you'd mistake it for the real uh... Babar, as it were?

"Look at his trunk. Now back to mine..."
posted by zarq at 3:14 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Admissions of trolling, complete with snotty emoticons! According to your profile, you're a grown man. Can't you act like one?
posted by palomar at 3:14 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


In a previous life, Bunny, I was mischief. 'nuff said. ;-P

Is this something I would have to have been a member in 2006 to know about?
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 3:16 PM on June 21, 2012


heheh
posted by Ardiril at 3:17 PM on June 21, 2012


... except your paraphrase ends with a dangling preposition.
posted by Ardiril at 3:17 PM on June 21, 2012


... except your paraphrase ends with a dangling preposition.

That's the sort of nonsense up with which we will not put.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:19 PM on June 21, 2012


We need to have a pissing contest about who has fucked more strangers at swing clubs and parties.

Just put some plastic down first.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:27 PM on June 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


Ardiril profile seems to indicate that he doesn't give a shit how his words are perceived. I suggest not giving a shit about what he says, since it's only a website, man.

I guess it's funny that on the one hand, you can be all huffy about getting comments deleted, and on the other hand, be all "it's just a website."
posted by rtha at 3:28 PM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


That wasn't huffy. I thought it was funny.
posted by Ardiril at 3:35 PM on June 21, 2012


Didn't you hear? Humor is subjective, just like sexism. ;P
posted by palomar at 3:37 PM on June 21, 2012


Consensus.
posted by Ardiril at 3:39 PM on June 21, 2012


it is just too goddamn hot out for this shit.
posted by elizardbits at 4:13 PM on June 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


In a previous life, Bunny, I was mischief. 'nuff said. ;-P

You still aren't witty.
posted by octobersurprise at 4:22 PM on June 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


Subjective, consensus... in this instance it doesn't really matter, does it? The consensus seems to be that your antics are tiresome and not remarkably funny.
posted by palomar at 4:28 PM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wait, let me check my address bar ...

Nope, I'm not on 4chan. Just wanted to be sure.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:58 PM on June 21, 2012


I play to our thousands of daily lurkers. I may even start a cooking show.
posted by Ardiril at 5:40 PM on June 21, 2012


"OK I cannot quit thinking about all the cock pics the internet women are getting unsolicited and although I appreciated Ivan Fyodorich's comment above about male exhibitionism and what it entails there is one aspect which is still bugging the hell out of me and I got to get this out."

I'm near-certain that my own adolescent experience is not representative of all such male exhibitionism. I offered my own experience as an example of what some of such exhibitionism might be about. Much of it is simply a form of sexual violence — it's about violation. But I imagine there are grown men out there who think the way I thought as an adolescent: a fervent hope that a woman would be turned on by seeing my sexual anatomy. That's got to account for some men who send cock-shots and/or are otherwise exhibitionist with regard to their dicks. But I'm sure it's not all, or even most of them. Probably a big portion fall somewhere in the middle and combine that with some desire to violate and intimidate. And, you know, sexuality is extremely diverse and so there's bound to be all sorts of other things going on, too.

So please no one think that I was any in sense speaking for all men who do this. Besides that it's certainly not true, I'm also more than a bit uncomfortable with now being associated with men who send cock-shots. I guess I knew that would happen to some degree, but I spoke up anyway because I felt I had a perspective that others didn't have, or that others who did wouldn't be willing to share, and so I wanted to be helpful. I guess I can live with that. It's not as if I've not revealed all sorts of weird and embarrassing things about myself here and elsewhere over the years. Sigh.

At the risk of compounding the issue, to answer bukvich's question, my motivation then had nothing to do with size — which is sort of funny because I learned later that the gay boys got that particular message. But size is funny and all I'll say is that I had no sense of that about myself and to this day I have no real sense of it — which is to say, I think most men who are in the average range don't have much of a clue about size. Well, unless they're gay and have lots of experience. I've had experience with exactly two other erect penises besides my own and all the rest I've seen are in porn. Which, as a partner told me a couple of years ago, is definitely not representative. Anyway, there's all this weird psychology with men about dick size and I don't doubt for a second that some portion of men who are extra large are exhibitionist about it.

Anyway, bottom line: you can probably safely assume that at least half, and probably more than half, of cock-shots and similar aggressive exhibitionism is a kind of sexual violence. It's a sexual violence that has much more of the "sexual" part than most of what we think of as "sexual violence" (that is, there's a big component of actual libido), but it's strongly centered around a violation of the other person, not arousing the other person, and it is about aggression and violation. Women are right to be freaked out by it. It's an implicit threat. (Or explicit, I don't know.) Again, given my adolescent psychology and assuming there are grown men who act that way, I can believe that some of it is a naive idea of what might arouse a woman. But most of it? I doubt it. It's about violation.

"On that, we will just have to agree to disagree."

This is just another variation of the argument about so-called "reverse racism". Which is ironic, because Ardriil in taking this exact position is sort of right in the middle in a place which almost no one is: he's accepting that discrimination on the basis of sex isn't the definition of "sexism", but he's weirdly attempting to assert that it's whatever women decide it is.

I say this is a variation of that other argument because either you understand that these injustices we're talking about are objectively real and institutionalized, or you don't. If you question both of those things, then you'll be inclined to see it as simply identity politics, about advocating for power for some group.

What happens sometimes to men, or white people, is that a) they're told that their opinion on this isn't valid because they're not female/non-white; and then b) the opinion of dissenting female/non-white persons is wrong. (They'll hear the latter as "invalid" and not "wrong", or they'll hear the former as "wrong" and not "invalid". Either way, it confuses them. Or whoever tells them this doesn't distinguish between validity and truth.)

It doesn't confuse me, as an anti-sexist, feminist white man, but it does occasionally frustrate me because whenever I encounter a female or non-white who has a dissenting opinion about racism or sexism, usually that "it's not that big of a deal", they usually expect their opinion expressed to me to be the last word on the matter. From their perspective, because they're female, or non-white, that means they are so authoritative that they cannot be questioned. At least not by a white person or a male.

These sorts of disagreements are extremely difficult to navigate because of course the non-white person, or female, is authoritative in a way that I cannot be. But that doesn't make them necessarily right and me wrong, or that I cannot be relevantly authoritative in other respects.

But I've spent much of my adult life trying to navigate this terrain. To learn stuff. And I'm strongly aligned with affirming that sexism and racism are serious problems.

For men or whites coming at this from the other direction, this is much more confusing and sends messages they are not really equipped to comprehend. I don't want to excuse them, really. And I certainly will not excuse them when they've been long active in places like here where they've had ample opportunity to get a better grasp of things. At some point, it's a kind of willful inability to comprehend.

But, short of that, I think we can sort of see why someone like Ardriil would think that women can't be sexist and only women get to decide what sexism is. Because that's a message he's heard, or thinks he's heard, many times.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:53 PM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'd say that's incredibly charitable of you, Ivan, and a damn shame given the blatant display of banana-smearing trolling that Adiril's treated us to in this portion of the thread.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:00 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


And, just to be clear, at the point at which we-as-mods point out someone who we think is trolling (something that if you hang out here in MeTa you'll know we almost never do) it comes along with a small "So if you're not trolling, it's sort of on you to make that clear otherwise we'll treat more of your 'I'm not sure what they're going for here' comments as trolls and deal with them accordingly." shift on our part.

It's our general assertion that being able to seem like not-a-troll is actually pretty simple and straightforward and that if this is something that concerns you--being wrongly accused of trolling --just drop us a note and we'll be glad to help you. Otherwise we appreciate everyone patience as we let this sort of play itself out.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:20 PM on June 21, 2012


"I'd say that's incredibly charitable of you, Ivan, and a damn shame given the blatant display of banana-smearing trolling that Adiril's treated us to in this portion of the thread."

Well, yeah. Unlike Bunny Ultramod, I'm very familiar with him from the old days, too. And I've never been able to discern whether he trolls, or he's in-earnest-but-unintentionally-trollish. Or just slightly intentionally trollish, but without malice, just slight...mischief. I dunno.

Also, I met him at a meetup and he was among the nicest, easiest-to-get-along-with there. And there were a lot of nice, easy-to-get-along-with people at that particular meetup. Though, honestly, I'd forgotten who Ardiril was until he mentioned it here (though I knew he had a previous incarnation) and I'd independently developed this uncertain can't-quite-figure-out-intentions sense of him here, all over again.

On Preview:

"It's our general assertion that being able to seem like not-a-troll is actually pretty simple and straightforward..."

I think that it is and isn't. In general, I think it's not. I think a lot of people have personalities where either they definitely aren't intending to troll, and/or their trollish-behavior is borderline, regardless of their intentions.

But in this specific context, where it's repeated behavior in an specific thread? Then I think that narrows the context so much that whether or not the initial behavior was trollish, it's pretty unambiguous how one who has been warned can change their behavior to be not-trollish. So, with what you're specifically talking about here, I very strongly agree and I think that it's a convincing indictment of crayz that he didn't change his behavior.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:31 PM on June 21, 2012


I realize I'm late to this party; ashtrays are being emptied and beer bottles collected. But I want to add to the love for Not That Girl's comment.

To me it's a model for nuanced discussion and polite disagreement in heated topics in general and sexual harassment topics in particular. I hope she follows up on her musings and does add at least her two-and-out comments to these discussions in the future.
posted by msalt at 7:18 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Either way, it confuses them."

Not at all. Few concepts are binary in nature. The model of this issue is as much a multi-dimensional continuum as any other, and each individual's experience maps as blobs of data. Only after a plethora of abstractions, some faulty and others ill-advised, will it fit that point on the one-dimensional spectrum presented by the original blogger.

The solution to this, as well as most other social problems, is compromise. However, rather than acknowledging the full perspective, the status quo is to polarize along that proffered single dimension and not budge an inch at the risk of appearing to have been wrong all along, all the while painting the other side as evil.

Thus, with so many broken links in the various chains of logic, we get grist for the outrage theatre that evolved from the original thread.
posted by Ardiril at 7:20 PM on June 21, 2012


The solution to this, as well as most other social problems, is compromise

You state that as though it were a fact. I assure you, it is not. The solution to Jim Crow was not compromise. The solution to gays being excluded from marriage is not compromise.

The solution, in part, is to recognize injustice on an institutional level and redress it on an institutional level.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 7:24 PM on June 21, 2012 [16 favorites]


>>the "hellban": mathowie remembers discussion of "the bozo filter" at SxSW in 2002.

"bozofilter" was a standard feature on The WELL, which was sort of the Metafilter of the 1990s. (I joined in 1991 and it was several years old then.) But as I recall, each individual got to bozofilter any particular user they wanted, and that person's comments would be invisible to them. But it was not universal.

The fly in the ointment was that other people would respond to (and not uncommonly quote) the bozo, so you would often see their comments indirectly.
posted by msalt at 12:48 AM on June 22, 2012


I'm near-certain that my own adolescent experience is not representative of all such male exhibitionism.

On the contrary - I'm near-certain that it absolutely defines a great deal of such male exhibitionism. I think it's telling that you mention that this was an adolescent thought of yours, because I think it explains a lot; the sheer number of guys who do this simply don't match the number of guys who would be capable of blowing their stacks if we turned them down, so I doubt "the majority of men who send cock pics are doing it to intimidate" is a valid explanation. However, "the majority of men who send cock pics never moved beyond the adolescent stage of sexuality" makes a hell of a lot more sense.

I would wager that most men who send cock pics are still at the stage of thinking "seeing my junk is going to make them want to have sex with me", and so your adolescent experience is representative of, not all, but at least most of these guys.

And I can even follow it up with at least one experience of witnessing live male exhibitionism -- a guy who wandered over to me on a subway platform and stood looking at me, coat draped over his front, and hand moving under his coat in a very distinctive manner. I quickly moved to a different area of the platform, but not without registering the look on his face -- it wasn't anger, and it wasn't aggression. It was simple lust. The "look at my cock" stage of sexual expression was all he knew.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:38 AM on June 22, 2012


At which point, it seems appropriate to cite the case of the New York Subway wanker (NYMag.com link) - who was photographed exposing himself to a female commuter on the New York subway system, and whose response demonstrated that he definitely felt that it was "prudish" to disapprove of him masturbating on a subway train, and that the woman who photographed him (a) should get over herself (he wasn't masturbating at or over her, he was just masturbating) and (b) if she got over herself, would find him attractive:
Not surprisingly, Hoyt himself disapproves of such tactics [photographing flashers and posting their pictures on the Internet]. In his account, the perpetrator is Nguyen, who misread his intentions (he claims he was already mid-masturbation when she stepped onto the train) and then humiliated him by posting his picture on the Web. He says he didn’t even realize he’d been photographed. “Even so, I wouldn’t imagine somebody throwing it up on the Internet for millions of people and destroying your life like that,” he says. “It’s one thing to take it to the police. But on the Internet, I read a lot of people saying, ‘That was not too cool of her. That was really screwed up.’ ”

Hoyt believes that if he and Nguyen had only met under different circumstances, she might really like him. “You know, she’d go, ‘That guy’s pretty cool. He’s got this restaurant, and he’s fun,’ ” Hoyt says. “She’d probably want to go out with me.”
I think it's perfectly reasonable to say that many people who send photographs of their genitals are dumb and inexperienced enough to think that's how you attract a mate, just as many men who badger women on the street think that's how you get a date.

(In fact, whenever we have that conversation on MetaFilter, we get people saying "well (sc. since I am not going to abandon a behavior which I think will lead to romance), how do I winnow out the women who don't want to be approached on the street by men, so I can only approach the ones who are likely to respond positively, or at least appreciate my approach as a compliment?".)

The effect is probably much the same, though, regardless of motivation. Hoyt was unlikely to move from self-exposure to physical assault, but Nguyen had no way of knowing that... and I think it's OK to be creeped out (and to discuss that creeped-outness) by people whose boundaries are messy enough to think handing somebody a sex card at a place where they are working is appropriate, because who knows what else they may think is acceptable conduct?
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:30 AM on June 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


Yes, handing someone a sex card and then walking away is a clear sign that they might do something.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:45 AM on June 22, 2012


If I'm reading that right, and the message there is "LOL silly there is no way to interact with people unless you are right next to them", it's strange that it is being communicated to a message board on the web, using the Internet.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:19 AM on June 22, 2012


(Stranger still if the message is that the only people who actually interact in the world are the givers of this particular card and the recipient of this particular card.

It's OK, I think, to say "I was creeped out by this, and I would like other people not to be creeped out in the same way, by the same or similar action performed by the same or other people in the future". Which was what Elyse was doing by contacting the conference organizers and blogging about it, I think.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:21 AM on June 22, 2012


We're again wandering deeply into "let's discuss the Mefi post over here instead of over there" territory. If there's more to talk about in this thread, let's stick to the meta issues.
posted by taz (staff) at 5:25 AM on June 22, 2012


Sorry, taz - should probably have left that last sentence off - was seeing it as an aside rather than a conversation-starter.
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:36 AM on June 22, 2012


I wasn't reacting only to you, running order. It's easy to slip back into having the central conversation instead of the conversation about the conversation, but it also splits the discussion, so we end up with problems like people on the blue referencing comments in Meta that are actually more pertinent to the original thread, etc. We need to keep our corn separated from our peas, or the whole meal will be ruined!
posted by taz (staff) at 7:04 AM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


It all gets mashed together in the digestive tract of the mind.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:25 AM on June 22, 2012


"I would wager that most men who send cock pics are still at the stage of thinking 'seeing my junk is going to make them want to have sex with me', and so your adolescent experience is representative of, not all, but at least most of these guys."

I'd be inclined to agree with you except that I have a hard time believing that most of these men aren't aware that this is a pretty egregious violation of social norms. Even fueled by high-test adolescent male hormones, I was careful to keep my exhibitionism within boundaries. As an adolescent male. Under the influence.

Anyway, for the majority I don't think it's either/or, but that it's both in some ratio. That most won't move into worse behavior upon rejection doesn't indicate anything about intent — it's not as if one must be capable of the greater forms of sexual violence to be capable of the lesser forms. And it's not necessarily the case that being thwarted in committing sexual violence results in rage. Sexual violence is like other kinds of violence in that people do it for many different reasons, they do it in different ways, to different degrees, and they rationalize (or not) differently. That's not to say that there aren't common threads running through all sexual violence, because there pretty much are. But I guess my point is that it's not like it's a binary.

I agree that women have little or nothing to fear from most such exhibitionists; but not because there's no violent intent at all, but that for most of them that's as much violence as they intended and wanted and they already accomplished it.

But not all of them, you can't tell one from the other. And it just doesn't matter, anyway, because it is a violation, it does cause anxiety and fear, it is an aspect of rape culture and perpetuates it.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:55 AM on June 22, 2012


I'd be inclined to agree with you except that I have a hard time believing that most of these men aren't aware that this is a pretty egregious violation of social norms.

Oh, I wouldn't have a hard time believing that in the slightest.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:02 AM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm with EC. If you're older or socially well adjusted, it's hard to imagine how isolated a 15-25 year old can be from the other gender. Imagine an obnoxious, poorly raised, often drunk 20 year old frat boy who has no female friends, reads Tucker Max and his favorite web sites, hangs out with his dude friend, etc. "Dude, she wants you so bad."

Where along the line is he going get clued in? OK, he gets older, works in construction, listens to Rush Limbaugh. Now when?
posted by msalt at 9:19 AM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Huh.

Well, there's not much point in speculating. We don't even really know what proportion of men behave like this, much less their particular demographics. The motivations for their behavior vary. It's wrong, regardless.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:25 AM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: started out fascinatingly and then devolved into the same old stuff from the usual suspects. But what can you do?
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 9:44 AM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


"I'd be inclined to agree with you except that I have a hard time believing that most of these men aren't aware that this is a pretty egregious violation of social norms."

You're not thinking this through: Most people view Internet communication with strangers as fairly anonymous. It's hard to envision for those of us who've been online for several decades and know that online identities have value. So there's no downside to honesty.

The message is "Hey, I'm looking for someone who's turned on by pictures of my dick, so I'm asking for that".

And one of my concerns with the tone of the Elyse's complaint (acknowledging that there are many shades here, per my previous messages and more), is that when we suppress honest communication we create "no means maybe" situations.
posted by straw at 10:44 AM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


wait - the tone of elyse's complaint that this was absolutely beyond the pale and against the conference's policies creates "no means maybe" situations?
posted by nadawi at 11:32 AM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Louis C.K. has a skit about having a woman come on to him and really having them both be into it, and then she moves his hand away like she's done. So he backs off. And the next time he sees her, she says she was really into it and why didn't he come on stronger. And in the skit he says, "Well of course, I was feeling a little rapey, so I thought I'd try to rape you." (sarcastically)

To me, it's pretty obvious that there are times when maybe means no and no means maybe and the ethical dating partner decides, "Do I want to risk being a little rapey here, or do I want to hold out for a little more communication before making any moves I might regret later?"

I personally tend to go conservative and figure a few missed opportunities to play out the forceful sex role plays that my partner or potential partner might be into is okay in the grander scheme of things where I don't want to create any more harm and misery in the world.
posted by kalessin at 11:47 AM on June 22, 2012


The card guy could have behaved in a more appropriate manner and the card-receiver has the right to find it icky and inappropriate. Beyond that, I really cannot grasp what the big deal is with the original post or this post in the grey.

But the fact that this Metatalk post is here gives me a useful place to callout the blatant abuse of the term "professional" as it relates to this event.

This camp thing self-identifies as: "informal, community-organized conferences borne from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment." Why on earth people are using the term "professional" to describe such a thing is mystery. Whether it is a professional meeting or not does not effect the propriety of the sex card usage, so the term "professional" is being abused without any up-side.
posted by dios at 11:48 AM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why on earth people are using the term "professional" to describe such a thing is mystery

to keep out the riff-raff.
posted by Golden Eternity at 12:22 PM on June 22, 2012


all of these poor abused words. maybe people kept talking about professional because elyse was working. informal, professional, whatever, she was giving a talk on childhood vaccinations in her own professional capacity. it honestly doesn't seem like a big deal or a gross mischaracterization.
posted by nadawi at 12:30 PM on June 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


dios: " Why on earth people are using the term "professional" to describe such a thing is mystery. "

It was originally raised in the context that she was there in a professional capacity as keynote speaker, and therefore she should have had a reasonable expectation to be treated professionally. Whether or not the event was formal or informal. Which was also an argument Ms. Anders herself made in her blog post. See her first boldfaced point:
It’s not okay to assume that any woman (or non-woman) is at a conference to be your plaything. But to reduce your keynote speaker to a thing you want to fuck, and not respect that she’s there as a professional is so much more than offensive to her personally. It’s disrespectful to the conference and its organizers.

It was later claimed (by crayz and perhaps others) that such an expectation on her part was unreasonable, given the informal nature of the event.
posted by zarq at 12:34 PM on June 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


she was giving a talk on childhood vaccinations in her own professional capacity

And what profession is that?
posted by dios at 12:37 PM on June 22, 2012


Her expectation is entirely reasonable, but that language that you quote is, I dunno, hyperbolic and sex-negative and something I can't quite put my finger on. Isn't it possible to respect and honor someone and also want to fuck them? Some people find intelligence and professional competence sexy.
posted by msalt at 12:38 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Did you read the blog post? Seriously. This info is in there:

She is the founder of an organization called "Hug Me! I'm Vaccinated," which was apparently established to counter misinformation from anti-vaccination groups, and to raise awareness of the importance and safety of vaccinations to the general public. She gave a keynote talk about childhood vaccinations, in which she also spoke about her experiences as a parent and how they led her to found "Hug Me."
posted by zarq at 12:44 PM on June 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


yep, you can totally respect and honor someone and want to fuck them. one great way of showing that is to gauge their interest in receiving naked pictures of you before you hand them over.

dios - writer, blogger, president of the women thinking free foundation, the person behind "hug me, i'm vaccinated" and the keynote speaker.
posted by nadawi at 12:44 PM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Dios, does it matter whether she was there professionally or casually? She didn't deserve to be treated this way no matter what capacity she was there under, and it's looking like you're bringing up kind of a shitty excuse for it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:46 PM on June 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


msalt: "Her expectation is entirely reasonable, but that language that you quote is, I dunno, hyperbolic and sex-negative and something I can't quite put my finger on.

Again with the "prude" canard. What about it is sex negative, please?

Isn't it possible to respect and honor someone and also want to fuck them?

Yes. Was what they did at all respectful? Was what they did "honoring" her? Why or why not?

Some people find intelligence and professional competence sexy."

And some folks are actually capable of doing so without handing out "please fuck me/us" cards to people while they're working.
posted by zarq at 12:52 PM on June 22, 2012 [8 favorites]


Nothing like an after-the-fact chiming in based on a cursory skimming of an FPP to breathe life back into a MeTa thread.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:59 PM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


that language that you quote is, I dunno, hyperbolic and sex-negative and something I can't quite put my finger on.

Why is it that when women complain about boorish or sexist behavior every word choice is up for challenge? Ashley Judd should have been funnier. Shanley Kane was rude! Elyse Anders is sex-negative!

Give me a break.
posted by ambrosia at 1:02 PM on June 22, 2012 [18 favorites]


It's worth noting that feminists have been called "sex negative prudes" for decades, just because they chose to try and exert some control over their own bodies, autonomy and personal space in a paternalistic society that traditionally had little to no respect for such things. It's the opposite side of the spectrum from slut-shaming. Women who don't conform get called man-hating, sex-negative prudes.

Can you believe that it's 2012? Some days, I can't.
posted by zarq at 1:07 PM on June 22, 2012 [12 favorites]


And some folks are actually capable of doing so without handing out "please fuck me/us" cards to people while they're working.

More than once I've had flirtations with women I didn't know who were panelists at conferences (and once it lead to a year-long relationship). It's completely possible to do this without being offensive or weird or threatening or ending up as the subject of someone's blog post I am not All That and I am not super-smooth. I used my words to try to figure out if the women I thought were hot might think I was too, and I was perfectly fine with backing off if signals pointed to "no." And I waited to do so until it was clearly a social situation and not a time when they were answering questions after a panel or something otherwise work-like.
posted by rtha at 1:11 PM on June 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


*pounds on thread's chest*

"Stay alive, damn it, STAY ALIVE"
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:28 PM on June 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


DON'T YOU 404 ON ME!
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:29 PM on June 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


But msalt's comments illustrate what this post was asking about: Why do we talk past each other. Because we're different people with different backgrounds.

To some people, getting handed a sex card would be amusing or a whatever moment. Others take it as harassment. Bridging the divide between those two is fairly impossible, IMO, in a website on a thread. People differ and often don't want to understand each other. In a lot of ways, that's ok. It's the fight to convince others (whatever side you're on) and validate your view of the world that causes the true problems.

*Gives thread mouth to mouth*
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:40 PM on June 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


We have one of those defibrillator machines here at work - you guys want I should go get it? I should apply it to my computer, right? That's how this works, I think.
posted by rtha at 2:00 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Jesus rtha, what the hell?! Don't approach me with your kinky crap!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:08 PM on June 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Brandon, she's wearing a crinkly cap.
Glasses, babe, or contacts. Pants optional, of course.
posted by likeso at 2:34 PM on June 22, 2012


dios - writer, blogger, president of the women thinking free foundation, the person behind "hug me, i'm vaccinated" and the keynote speaker.

And which one of those things is vocation founded upon specialized training that would make her a professional? (As opposed to hobbyist, worker, or aficionado). The idea that this was a "professional" conference exhibits either a lack of understanding as to when it is appropriate to use that adjective or an attempt to give credence by borrowing the phrase in an exaggeration and aggrandizement of this particular gathering.

Surely we are all not professional writers because we post at Metafilter? When we go to meet-ups, is that a professional meeting?

My only point is that the term "professional" is rendered meaningless as a result of deflationary usage in examples like this. The pontificating drunks at the bar are not professional political consultants. The 16 year old that babysits my daughter for $15/hour is not a professional childcare specialist. The founder of the Hunger Games fan club is not a professional chief executive. The guy who tags my the local highway in spray paint is not a professional marketer. The word "professional" actually means something... presumably.

Dios, does it matter whether she was there professionally or casually?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:46 PM on June 22


I assumed I perhaps answered that in the very comment to which you were responding wherein I stated: "Why on earth people are using the term "professional" to describe such a thing is mystery. Whether it is a professional meeting or not does not effect the propriety of the sex card usage, so the term "professional" is being abused without any up-side."

But in case that was not clear enough to you: no, it doesn't matter. As I said, this guy acted inappropriately. I thought after 1,000 comments had been spilled on this topic thoroughly making that point plain, it might not be too distracting to comment on the characterization of this event as "professional."
posted by dios at 2:40 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


My only point is that the term "professional" is rendered meaningless as a result of deflationary usage in examples like this.

Oh, the poor professionals, whose hard work and lives are so denigrated by the improper usage of the word!

I thought after 1,000 comments had been spilled on this topic thoroughly making that point plain, it might not be too distracting to comment on the characterization of this event as "professional."

Come on. You've been in meTas before. You have more than a passing familiarity with how this works.
posted by rtha at 2:43 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I don't get the point of showing up this late in the thread to split hairs about semantics. Seems like an odd & quixotic mis-direction.

*Gives thread mouth to mouth*

Consensual?
posted by Devils Rancher at 2:47 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


It’s not okay to assume that any woman (or non-woman) is at a conference to be your plaything. But to reduce your keynote speaker to a thing you want to fuck, and not respect that she’s there as a professional is so much more than offensive to her personally. It’s disrespectful to the conference and its organizers.
zarq: It was later claimed (by crayz and perhaps others) that such an expectation on her part was unreasonable, given the informal nature of the event.
Neither crayz nor anyone else on Metafilter ever, in any way, stated what you claim. Never.

These are what are known as "logical fallacies" including 'strawmen attacks' and 'false dichotomies'. No one said this woman or anyone woman exists to be a plaything- no one said that. No one hinted at that. No one alluded to that. No one paraphrased that. So sure, you seem like a paragon of virtue racking up your brownie points of post-gender enlightment buxx by attacking that awful bogeyman of these misogynist quasi-rapists, wanting all women as sex slaves, forever....

Except- again- no one said that on Metafilter. From my chair, all I saw as a disagreement was "When something happens to you that's an inconvenience and/or uncomfortable... what do you do?". And maybe it's an age thing, but at a certain point you learn to just accept that some people are assholes, and some people are just awkward, but I can tell the difference between genuine threats and just weird people, and not take it personally or let it monopolize my day. It's almost like a real-life "flag it and move one", really.

And the stock response here is probably "but PATRIARCHY and HISTORY", to which I can only say that nevertheless, not every single miniscule unpleasant interaction in our twitter-booked lives is worthy of sharing with the world, nor is it a critical beachhead in the War Against Oppression. There's no indication the swinger couple (although, an aside: the fact that this was a couple keeps getting glossed over so this whole story can be framed as "Things Creepy Men Do to Women") were threatening or intimidating or anything other than, okay, a little weird. There's a world of difference between the blogged experience and say what palomar described earlier being followed down the streets of Seattle.

And that thing you were doing in that thread and this one, zarq, of demonizing your "opponents"- who actually agree with you by and large on most every topic- is incredibly, incredibly counterproductive. Creating fake stances- such as "Clearly the people on Metafilter I see as disgreeing with me must believe all women exist solely as playthings"- and then arguing against them is useless. It'll make people angry, frustrated, defensive, and turn things divisive... but as not that girl and cairdeas noted, you won't get anyone to agree with you, or make any real meaningful change in anyone's mind.

So why do it? Why paint your "enemy" on Metafilter in the worst possible fictional light? Actual, honest-to-god misogynists are out there in droves, harassing employees or following women down the street, or abusing their wives/girlfriends... and you pour your energy into picking fights with a group of guys who probably share upwards of 98% of your ethical and cultural DNA?!?

That's just not productive.
posted by hincandenza at 3:04 PM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


"So sure, you seem like a paragon of virtue racking up your brownie points of post-gender enlightment buxx by attacking that awful bogeyman of these misogynist quasi-rapists, wanting all women as sex slaves, forever.... "

It's fucking amazing that you're lecturing zarq on mischaracterizing your opponent.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:11 PM on June 22, 2012 [21 favorites]


Neither crayz nor anyone else on Metafilter ever, in any way, stated what you claim. Never.

This is not a statement I would make with confidence about any topic, and certainly not this one. Nobody on Metafilter ever, in any way, stated that her expectations were unreasonable? We must not have been reading the same thread.

Actual, honest-to-god misogynists are out there in droves, harassing employees or following women down the street, or abusing their wives/girlfriends...

So tired of this idea that if somebody else is doing something worse, then hey, this is totally fine and you're being unreasonable for bringing it up! It's possible to be concerned about multiple issues and about multiple levels of an issue. Somebody fighting against (say) mountaintop-removal mining isn't wasting their time if they also pick up litter on the side of the road. One's a massive problem. One's a smaller one. They're both worth working to fix.

and you pour your energy into picking fights with a group of guys who probably share upwards of 98% of your ethical and cultural DNA?!?

What does this mean? "Ethical and cultural DNA"? Culture isn't inherent, it's learned.
posted by Lexica at 3:26 PM on June 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


Yikes. Totally thought this had reached the goofiness stage when I commented. I was wrong, sorry for the bad pun and off color joke.
posted by likeso at 3:30 PM on June 22, 2012


I feel like hincandenza should write a guide book for women to tell them what sorts of unwanted sexual advances they should be offended by and how they should respond to them.

I think that would be super helpful. Maybe he should add it to his profile page.
posted by empath at 3:34 PM on June 22, 2012 [18 favorites]


Also:

"Neither crayz nor anyone else on Metafilter ever, in any way, stated what you claim. Never." [bolding mine]

This is only true if you're asserting that no one in the thread ever said that it was okay for her to be seen as a plaything. Which, it's true, no one (that I recall) did. But her blog post, its use of playing and reduce to a [...] thing you want to fuck is a normal case of hyperbole. Given that you engage yourself in hyperbole in the very comment in which the above quote appears, it's hard to believe that you don't understand this, or that you don't hypocritically hold her to a standard to which you don't apply to yourself.

So it seems you're being hypocritical in willfully misreading Elyse and zarq while expecting no one to similarly misread your hyperbole, and, worse, you're willfully misrepresenting Elyse and zarq while you lambast zarq for willfully misrepresenting the people with which he's arguing.

Is this performance art?
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:36 PM on June 22, 2012 [8 favorites]


zarq: yes, I did read the blog post, multiple times. Have you read my comments? I've repeatedly described the swinger couple's behavior as wrong and boorish &c. I certainly don't, as brandon blatcher implied, think their overture would be amusing or anything. I think the conference probably should have given them the banhammer on the spot, given the history of the event and their lame excuse &c.

What I was referring to was the Skepchik blogger's statement assuming that someone who made pass at her was assuming "that any woman (or non-woman) is at a conference to be your plaything." &c. That's hyperbolic and yes, sex-negative. Because it is taking the fact that someone makes a sexual overture as proof that they does not respect her as a person or as a professional. Sexual interest is not a negative thing, or a sign of not valuing someone as a person.
posted by msalt at 3:39 PM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


So sure, you seem like a paragon of virtue racking up your brownie points of post-gender enlightment buxx by attacking that awful bogeyman of these misogynist quasi-rapists, wanting all women as sex slaves, forever....

You know, you did this to me once too, and it was hilarious. I would like to express to you, directly and plainly, that sometimes when someone disagrees with you about something related to feminism or anything else sociopolitical in nature, and you think that they are wrong, that does not mean that the only explanation is that that person is adopting a pose of enlightenment in order to look really great in front of other people.
posted by shakespeherian at 3:40 PM on June 22, 2012 [22 favorites]


It's fucking amazing that you're lecturing zarq on mischaracterizing your opponent.

I was going to and started to write the same thing hincandenza does after the latest round of comments, but decided I'd already tried to say it and obviously it wasn't going to work. But yes, reading from the sidelines it seems to me like the mob here is still taking every comment outside a tiny sandbox as being part of the Mad Men boot-stamping-on-a-feminist-neck, forever patriarchy. This is how you shut down an argument: the original act itself is seen as boorish/sexist/patriarchal/[insert evil here] and therefore beyond the bounds of reasonable discussion, and therefore every comment that's not "on our team" gets Price is Right plinko'ed into the category of asshole that that commenter is:

* just like all those assholes who criticized Ashley Judd
* just like all those assholes who call all women who want control over their bodies sex-negative prudes
* just like all those assholes who challenge women anytime they criticize boorish or sexist behavior
* just like all those assholes who send dick pics
* just like all those assholes who paternalistically tell women how to think

And so no specific ever gets discussed or budged on, because bad-faith is immediately assumed on the part of anyone seen as questioning the orthodoxy, and the people who'd like to have a broader discussion eventually just get frustrated and leave because their words are constantly being mischaracterized in the most prejudiced, negative way possible
posted by crayz at 3:42 PM on June 22, 2012


"What does this mean?"

You should have written what does this even mean. My five-year-old nephew used even in that way the other day and I had to suppress my impulse to query my sister about his frequency of that usage and whether he learned it at home. I realized that had I done so, it would have been one of those moments she might have rolled her eyes at me because I was being myself.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:43 PM on June 22, 2012


Strawmen, strawmen everywhere. Good lord.
posted by palomar at 3:43 PM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


*gets out matches*
posted by rtha at 3:44 PM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Unwanted sexual interest is indeed a negative thing. And if you're leaving a naked picture for someone and then scuttling away, it kind of implies that you don't know them well enough to know if the interest is wanted or not.

It would be enormously diverting if all of these gentlemen who are championing the right of people to press their sexual desires on women at all times had experience of what that is like to live with from prepubescence onward. Hint: it is not as jolly as one might think.
posted by winna at 3:45 PM on June 22, 2012 [13 favorites]


therefore every comment that's not "on our team" gets Price is Right plinko'ed into the category of asshole that that commenter is:

I'm going to go with 'all of the above'.
posted by empath at 3:49 PM on June 22, 2012


because their words are constantly being mischaracterized in the most prejudiced, negative way possible

The funniest part of your entire comment is that you do this to other commenters.
posted by palomar at 3:51 PM on June 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


Unwanted sexual interest is indeed a negative thing

Unwanted anything is indeed a negative thing, for the person who unwants it. In the same way that the swingers should have had enough empathy for Elyse to understand it was unlikely she would want their card, Elyse should have had enough empathy for the swingers to understand it was unlikely that they thought poorly of her or were objectifying her, and that her extremely negative reaction simply escalated a situation she could have instead chosen to defuse more positively
posted by crayz at 3:53 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Consensual?

CPR is an aid.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:55 PM on June 22, 2012


Look. This did not happen in a vaccum. It's not simply an unfortunate, clumsy faux pas. In a time when females as young as 4 are being sexualized (Toddlers + Tiaras et al), is it too much to ask to refrain from sexualizing women in all contexts?
posted by likeso at 3:58 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Anyone who wants to debate the original topic go to the original still open thread to do it, please. Thank you.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:58 PM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


You're still blaming Elyse for having any kind of reaction that deviates from what YOU want, and that's wrong and fucked up, dude.
posted by palomar at 3:59 PM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


sorry, jessamyn, didn't see that on preview.
posted by palomar at 3:59 PM on June 22, 2012


If you read through that thread - or any thread here on sexual harassment - you get a lot people going

- What's the big deal, it was just a card/cup of coffee/wolf-whistle, what is she complaining about?

- She should've slapped the guy/kicked him/pretended to be crazy, that's what I do and they always leave me alone

- She should have reported it to the police/conference organizers/hotel security instead of just writing about it on the internets

- She should just let it go already

- She should have done something other than what she did

So tell me, you collective of experts on the proper way to respond to incidents of sexual harassment/unwanted sexual attention/creepy behavior from creeps: Which of these should we always or never do, in order that we may attain your approval and not bother you with our stories of what it can be like to be a woman in this society?
posted by rtha at 4:00 PM on June 22, 2012 [16 favorites]


"...and the people who'd like to have a broader discussion eventually just get frustrated and leave because their words are constantly being mischaracterized in the most prejudiced, negative way possible"

I think you might have a limited imagination about what is the "most prejudiced, negative way possible".

Also, if you're sincerely interested in reducing this, and not just reducing it when it's directed against you, you might back off your repeated characterization of your opponents as being essentially sex-negative prudes.

I don't agree that there's a predominance of people comparing you to sexists and harassers. But I will grant that there's likely some people who are doing some of that; and I will ask you to consider that perhaps they are doing so for pretty much exactly the same kinds of reasons that you're comparing those you're arguing with to puritanical, sex-negative prudes. And that's because there's some relationship in there somewhere, at least in your mind, and reasonably arguably so if one is careful with "relationship" and "like" and looking at all the various factors and so on.

Because, yeah, I think Andrea Dworkin was sex-negative, for example. I think there was a strain of sex-negative puritanism in feminism that was influential (though never dominant, although anti-feminists like to think so) for a time. And, yeah, I think that part of a sexist, patriarchal culture is to reflexively defend the right of men (and their surrogates) to sexually proposition any women, anywhere. Does that make all such defenders themselves sexist in the worse sense, motivated by sexism? No, it does not. Do women experience such defenses as sexism? Yes, they do.

You have some difficulty differentiating between setting boundaries and sex-negativism, thinking many examples of the former are examples of the latter. Okay, I can understand that. Other people have some difficulty differentiating between defending ambiguously sexually provocative behavior expressed toward women and defending sexism, thinking that examples of the former are examples of the latter. I can understand that, too. This is because there are subtle relationships between these things and people have strong emotional investments in them and its hard to avoid being somewhat paranoid about other people intentions when they take opposing positions.

But if you want other people to treat you better in this conversation, then you'd first ought to start treating them better. Because it was you who first made the "you're all sex-negative puritans" accusation and it was you who harped on it and harped on it through the entire thread.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:03 PM on June 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


If you read through that thread - or any thread here on sexual harassment - you get a lot people going ...

So tell me, you collective of experts on the proper way to respond to incidents of sexual harassment/unwanted sexual attention/creepy behavior from creeps


No, this is exactly the problem. Over and over again, generalizing this "us" back to some group who you already know and hate. We are not a "collection of experts". Many of "us" disagree with each other, because their is no "us" except in the minds of you, the mob who cannot see this specific situation as anything but black-and-white, case-closed

Go back through "our" various posting histories and link together the vast conspiracy of this collection of experts who constantly minimizes sexual harassment claims, or stop claiming that "we" are, and start treating us as individual human beings sharing our honest, good-faith, and individual thoughts about a specific situation, not as members of some other, some group of bigots whose voices are without value
posted by crayz at 4:10 PM on June 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


I completely agree that there is a serious danger in criticizing the words of someone complaining about what they see as sexual harassment, and I for one am trying to be careful about how I engage in this discussion.

But Elyse from Skepchik is a professional writer building her career by writing about this incident. By her own account, her personal situation was handled very well by the conference leaders at the time, many months ago. Do you really think that her hyperbolic writing about this is not fair game for discussion?
posted by msalt at 4:12 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


At this point I'm just waiting for a glorious flameout. It's been building for ever so long.
posted by palomar at 4:16 PM on June 22, 2012


Be careful what you wish for. With all the strawmen running around this thread, the whole of MetaFilter could go up in flames!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:18 PM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


FOOMP

oh dear
posted by palomar at 4:20 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Do you really think that her hyperbolic writing about this is not fair game for discussion?"

Yes and no. Ideally, yes. As long as that discussion is not conflated with the discussion about the acceptability of the incidence itself.

In practice, though, that almost never happens. Because, in practice, such discussions are intentional or unintentional tactical diversions. Perhaps usually unintentional.

You can see this if you think about it in the context of partisan politics (and not of any particular variety). When we disagree with someone's position, we very often will attack all sorts of things incidental to it, such as their choice of words, how they look, the people they know, etc. Sometimes it's a deliberate tactic, a way to divert the conversation away from the ctual point of contention (where perhaps one doesn't have a strong counterargument). More often, I think, it's just a instinctive or habitual rhetorical tic — when we argue with someone/something, we throw a lot of mud and see what sticks.

But this is especially pernicious in some cases where this peripheral, irrelevant stuff is generally very sticky. In politics, especially in the context of certain kinds of politicians, redirecting the discussion to one of these things will almost always entirely divert it away from the actual point in contention and to this other stuff. Where it's that effective, it's in my opinion to be more likely used intentionally as a tactic. But, regardless, with these things, the conversation becomes immediately All About That.

In those cases, there's good reason to both try to keep that stuff off the table and to be suspicious of those who desperately want it to be on the table.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:23 PM on June 22, 2012


Go back through "our" various posting histories and link together the vast conspiracy of this collection of experts who constantly minimizes sexual harassment claims, or stop claiming that "we" are, and start treating us as individual human beings sharing our honest, good-faith, and individual thoughts about a specific situation, not as members of some other, some group of bigots whose voices are without value

You know that you can be a group of sexists even if you don't know each other. Most sexists don't know each other, nor do they conspire together to oppress women in secret societies of sexual harassers. They are individuals who make individual decisions, which in aggregate create a culture where the sort of behavior you are defending (and worse) is acceptable.
posted by empath at 4:24 PM on June 22, 2012 [8 favorites]


crayz - but, aren't you doing the same thing - lumping all of "us" together as how we respond? do you think everyone in "the mob" who disagreed with you insinuated "you all" were pro-rape or whatever? isn't that the real problem - that from both sides there's a tendency to lump people? it seems strange to me that you only seem to recognize this in your opponents.

and that going back into the history thing - i know a couple people in this thread who you've said you agree with where that narrative would be super easy to build. some of the loudest voices in this thread are often the loudest voices critiquing tone or being inflammatory or minimizing or being overly critical of all things feminist (or that they view as being feminist). i'm not saying there's a conspiracy, but there is certainly a pattern that some users seem to follow.
posted by nadawi at 4:32 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I considered responding to you at length, hincandenza.

"So sure, you seem like a paragon of virtue racking up your brownie points of post-gender enlightment buxx by attacking that awful bogeyman of these misogynist quasi-rapists, wanting all women as sex slaves, forever...."

But we obviously have no common ground for discussion here. The sentence quoted above would seem to be ample evidence that you have no interest in discussing this either respectfully or in good faith.

For the record, I'm not playing for an audience. Merely speaking my mind. I know you accused Astro Zombie of the same thing once. (On preview, and Shakespeherian? I must have missed that one.) Is this is a common rhetorical tactic for you? Something I'll keep in mind for the future.

Anyway, my comments are hopefully different enough from your mischaracterizations that people without axes to grind will probably understand their meaning.

If not, c'est la vie.
posted by zarq at 4:35 PM on June 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


"You know that you can be a group of sexists even if you don't know each other. Most sexists don't know each other, nor do they conspire together to oppress women in secret societies of sexual harassers. They are individuals who make individual decisions, which in aggregate create a culture where the sort of behavior you are defending (and worse) is acceptable."

That's very true and a good point. But I think that abstracting individual people into a group in this way (that is, what crayz is rightly being sensitive to) is a bad thing, both in discourse but more importantly as a (admittedly almost universal) widespread cognitive habit. When we do this, we start arguing with individual people as mere representatives of the group we insist they are a part of, not recognizing their individuality and not recognizing the distinction between the things they actually say and do and the things that we ascribe to the group as universally shared characteristics. And in abstracting an individual to merely being a member of a group, it becomes much easier to dehumanize them in many important respects and much bad follows from that.

Ironically, I feel certain that crayz has similarly abstracted everyone here with whom he's argued into "the mob", as he calls us.

Anyway, that all sounds like obvious platitudes. But one of the most common and most pernicious examples of what this habit encourages is the charge of collective hypocrisy — an almost never reasonable accusation that takes two individual members of a group, shows how those two individuals have said incompatible things, and declares all members of the group to be hypocrites. Or, worse, someone will take a position attributed to all members of the group and another, incompatible position stated by an individual member of that group, and declare the entire group hypocrites. This sort of argument accounts for a large portion of partisan political blogging. And I see it all the time here — just the other day I saw Bunny Ultramod correct someone who did this, pointing out that it was neither true nor fair.

We can't help but stereotype and generalize to some extent. It's fundamental to human cognition. But at the very least we can try to avoid doing so to people that are right in front of us (including metaphorically).
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:38 PM on June 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Me: Do you really think that her hyperbolic writing about this is not fair game for discussion?
Ivan: Yes and no. Ideally, yes. As long as that discussion is not conflated with the discussion about the acceptability of the incidence itself. In practice, though, that almost never happens.

Do you have a list then of subjects that are not OK to discuss? I'm pretty sure I'm not discussing the acceptability of the incident itself. I've consistently said the couple were wrong and should be banned from the conference.

But several people here seem to be arguing that any disagreement with any part of Elyse's writing is part of a sexist/patriarchal whatever, or just wrong. I have a real problem with that. The writing of every published writer should be open to criticism, IMHO.

And to follow your line of thought, perhaps you and/or other people are perceiving things in inaccurately partisan terms and shoehorning people into preconceived categories. I think that is a fairly common phenomeon in Metafilter, particularly in pile-ons.
posted by msalt at 4:39 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Msalt, my "did you read the blog post"comment was a response to dips, not you.
posted by zarq at 4:54 PM on June 22, 2012


Dios.
posted by zarq at 4:58 PM on June 22, 2012


From here on out, I shall think of him as dips.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 5:00 PM on June 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


From my chair, all I saw as a disagreement was "When something happens to you that's an inconvenience and/or uncomfortable... what do you do?". And maybe it's an age thing, but at a certain point you learn to just accept that some people are assholes, and some people are just awkward, but I can tell the difference between genuine threats and just weird people, and not take it personally or let it monopolize my day. It's almost like a real-life "flag it and move one", really.

A few people have expressed variations of this "I agree that what happened to her was not a good thing, but I don't understand why she has to yack about it" opinion, which I'm not really understanding.

It was a blog post. People write about all sorts of topics on their blogs that aren't exactly worthy of stopping the presses at the NY Times over. If writing about incompetent Taco Bell drive-thru employees is fair game for a blog post (not-hypothetical, I read this) why should writing about receiving bizarre, unsolicited invitations to three-ways via nudie sex cards be off-limits?
posted by The Gooch at 5:03 PM on June 22, 2012 [17 favorites]


It's always interesting to me which issues people want to see as just some isolated incidents, nothing to see here, move along - and which issues they choose to see as part of a culturally activated or endorsed pattern of behavior.

Also, I find the characterization of people who think Elyse did the right thing by reporting it and writing about it as sex negative hilarious. Or do we not also deserve to be treated as individuals?
posted by rtha at 5:08 PM on June 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


Msalt, my "did you read the blog post"comment was a response to dips, not you.

Oopie! Never mind.
posted by msalt at 5:09 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, I find the characterization of people who think Elyse did the right thing by reporting it and writing about it as sex negative hilarious.

You brush is very broad. I think she did the right thing by reporting it and writing about it. I happen to think that some parts of her writing were unfortunately hyperbolic and yes, in places sex-negative. And this bothers me in part precisely because it muddies the issue.

She doesn't know if this weirdo couple valued her as a professional and a person or not. And it doesn't matter. They violated the rules of the conference and deserved to be called out (and I think, banned), whether they respected or cherished or despised her.
posted by msalt at 5:15 PM on June 22, 2012


But yes, reading from the sidelines it seems to me like the mob here is still taking every comment outside a tiny sandbox as being part of the Mad Men boot-stamping-on-a-feminist-neck, forever patriarchy.

Does it not strike you as at least slightly ironic that you're literally characterizing everyone who disagrees with you as a same-thinking homogeneous "mob"? Are you simply unable to engage with people who disagree with you without resorting to this level of hyperbole? Do you think it helps further anything remotely resembling discussion or understanding?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:19 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


And which one of those things is vocation founded upon specialized training that would make her a professional?

Won't someone think of the lawyers?
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:20 PM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think there is actually some serious sex-negativity going on here, though, in terms of how people are addressing "proposition to crazy group sex!" as very different than "proposition for a date!"

So many people are focusing on how it's super creepy that a couple would dare to think that she might be interested in group sex, and I think that this is actually approaching levels that someone would not use in terms of asking someone out on a date. People would be less likely to say, "How dare that guy ask to take her to coffee?"

So there's this implication in the words that an invitation to group sex is devaluing, because everybody knows only dirty sluts or creeps have group sex, y'know, and how dare you think I'm one of those? Whereas if someone had simply asked her out - which might have still been unwanted - I don't think there would have been this level of indignation or shaming on the blog.
posted by corb at 5:27 PM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Ivan Fyodorovich: This is only true if you're asserting that no one in the thread ever said that it was okay for her to be seen as a plaything. Which, it's true, no one (that I recall) did [...] Given that you engage yourself in hyperbole in the very comment in which the above quote appears, it's hard to believe that you don't understand this, or that you don't hypocritically hold her to a standard to which you don't apply to yourself.(emphasis mine)
Wait, so you agreed that in fact, no one on Metafilter in that thread or this one said that she should only be seen as a plaything... and yet claim that- after agreeing with me- my saying "no one ever" is 'hyperbole', that retroactively justifies the hyperbole of painting the swingers in such a light? It wasn't hyperbole- you even agreed to that. What then was your point? Or are your comments just performance art?
The Gooch: It was a blog post. People write about all sorts of topics on their blogs that aren't exactly worthy of stopping the presses at the NY Times over. If writing about incompetent Taco Bell drive-thru employees is fair game for a blog post (not-hypothetical, I read this) why should writing about receiving bizarre, unsolicited invitations to three-ways via nudie sex cards be off-limits?
Well, in the sense that Elyse personally might benefit in life from not sweating the small stuff- but yes of course people can blog about all sorts of things, even small things, and then have thousand-comment discussions about those things. That doesn't mean that the event in question was noteworthy or traumatic or worthy of much discussion, and it also doesn't mean that, once the discussion starts on the blue, that everyone who has an alternate take is a troll, operating in bad faith, to vent about their hatred of uppity women who don't know their place as sexual playthings.
Lexica: What does this mean? "Ethical and cultural DNA"? Culture isn't inherent, it's learned.
I know what DNA is, it was a turn of phrase- kind of like "We share 98% of the same DNA with chimpanzees!". The idea being, the people being ostracized as misogynists here on Metafilter are probably not misogynists, or even bad people. Further, if you were to sample a wide array of topics- including, I suspect, those relating to gender- you'd find that we probably agree on a ridiculously high percentage of these things. And yet- here are where your energies lie, convinced that those of us you disagree with are really just terrible, terrible people. This is like a microcosm of the failures of the Democratic party, or left-wingers: so determined to pounce on birds of a feather you don't even notice the approaching fox.

And yeah, I also know that was a shit metaphor. Deal with it.
empath: I feel like hincandenza should write a guide book for women to tell them what sorts of unwanted sexual advances they should be offended by and how they should respond to them.

I think that would be super helpful. Maybe he should add it to his profile page.
posted by empath
Awesome! And I mean "zing!!!". That was a real humdinger. Shazam!

Okay, good, awesome, great work team!!! So... now that you've said that, how do you expect me to react?
a) hincandenza should shut up and go away, he's a big poopypants
b) hincandenza should fall to his knees, lift his tear-streaked face to the sky, and wail "HOW COULD I HAVE BEEN SO WRONG!?!?!?"
c) hincandenza should write a guide book for women to tell them how to be offended and post it in his profile.
d) hincandenza might think you're insulting him, and shut down from even wanting to listen to you
e) When I imagine talking to hincandenza, I think "It'd be best if he was bound and gagged in a chair, unable to move or speak, so he'd just have to LISTEN to the brilliant wisdom I have to offer, goddamit!"
f) Other ________

What reaction did you expect me to have, then, that doesn't say quite a bit about you?
shakespeherian: You know, you did this to me once too, and it was hilarious. I would like to express to you, directly and plainly, that sometimes when someone disagrees with you about something related to feminism or anything else sociopolitical in nature, and you think that they are wrong, that does not mean that the only explanation is that that person is adopting a pose of enlightenment in order to look really great in front of other people. a knuckle-dragging anti-woman troglodyte.
You make an interesting point, indeed!

Again, not that girl expressed it so well above, but you aren't winning converts here, among people who already agree with you. The people you're insulting as misogynists, as women-hating, as "oppressors" are probably far more likely than the average man/citizen to:
a) support birth control and reproductive rights for women- generally as a plank of universal health care
b) be angrily opposed to attempts to legislate women's bodies
c) strongly believe that rape and assault should be taken seriously as crimes (for all genders as victims, as an aside)
d) supporters of improvements in handling workplace harassment over the last few decades
e) against the often hyper-sexual messages sent to young men and women, and the stealth-conservatism these rigid gender roles enforce.
f) cheerleaders of efforts to bring about gender equality in the workplace, in universities, and our daily lives
g) etc

Oh, but disagree about whether something might just be a "bad attempt at a pass", or whether a self-promoting blogger might have simply chosen to toss a business card with a "naughty" picture into the trash, and forget about it... and you'd think you were waging a Just War against a group of less enlightened Limbaugh or Santorums.

Nice work, crew. Way to find common ground.
posted by hincandenza at 5:30 PM on June 22, 2012


f) Other ________

hincandenza should learn to dial it back a little and he will probably find that conversations about touchy topics that he is also interested in discussing will go significantly better.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:33 PM on June 22, 2012 [15 favorites]


corb: that's sort of hilarious considering how many people with strong reactions against the couple are now or have been swingers and/or poly and/or members of a kink community.

if he had asked her out for coffee in the same manner with a naked picture, it would be just as creepy and weird and boundary invading. you also can't divorce the method or the context from the event. sure, at some point of reasoning we'll reach if he had asked her respectfully out for a non-naked event at a different time or in a different way it could have not been creepy. but that's just not what happened. it's not sex negative or prudish to say that was the wrong method and the wrong context.
posted by nadawi at 5:34 PM on June 22, 2012 [10 favorites]


"and yet claim that- after agreeing with me- my saying "no one ever" is 'hyperbole'"

If you think that "no one ever" was the part of your comment that I thought was hyperbole, then you're a very confused person lacking in self-criticism. Or something.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:35 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sigh.

Once again, a discussion about sexism and harrassment as experienced by a woman devolves into making it all about a specific couple of (male) users, one of whom seems to always make it all about them.

Why am I not surprised.
posted by palomar at 5:39 PM on June 22, 2012 [13 favorites]


"if he had asked her out for coffee in the same manner with a naked picture, it would be just as creepy and weird and boundary invading. you also can't divorce the method or the context from the event."

Right. If this were a very gentle, indirect proposition, were it from one man or a couple, I'd be sympathetic to a complaint about being hit-on in the context that women are hit-on everywhere, all the time, but I still would be much more inclined to defend the person making the proposition. Handing someone that card? Not really.

I'm not saying that someone here, or elsewhere, might be provoked into outrage specifically because it's non-traditional sexuality, but I'm pretty much not seeing that explicitly in these threads, nor really implicitly, either. And, as nadawi points out, there are some very outspoken critics of the couple who are, or have been, enthusiastically involved frequently in such sexual activities.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:40 PM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


if he had asked her out for coffee in the same manner with a naked picture, it would be just as creepy and weird and boundary invading.

Except this wasn't a naked picture. People have been saying that a lot, but neither the male or the female on the card are exposed in any way whatsoever. People have said the male is "fondling" the woman, but the picture looks less sexual and more "zany hijinks!"

What if the hypothetical dude asking for coffee had included a shot of him topless at the beach? Would that have been viewed as equally creepy?

(Also, is it really weird to ask someone out by giving them a business or social card? I used to do that all the time! This way they don't lose the scrap of paper you wrote the number on!)
posted by corb at 5:51 PM on June 22, 2012


So many people are focusing on how it's super creepy that a couple would dare to think that she might be interested in group sex

Are you seeing that here? I am not seeing that here. I do think that if you are trying to be practical, asking a random someone out for coffee is more likely to have the desired result [i.e. someone goes out with you for coffee] than asking a random someone out for group sex or, more accurately, swinging, purely on a number basis.

everybody knows only dirty sluts or creeps have group sex

I have literally not seen a single person espousing this belief and I have read every comment in both threads. I don't think that people thought these folks were creeps, if they thought they were creeps, because they were swingers or group sex aficionados. I think they thought they were creeps because, in their opinions, they were acting creepily. MetaFilter may possibly have some sex-negative aspects [see other MeTa thread for discussion] but people here are pretty pro-consensual-anything for the most part.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:52 PM on June 22, 2012 [11 favorites]


start treating us as individual human beings sharing our honest, good-faith, and individual thoughts about a specific situation, not as members of some other, some group of bigots whose voices are without value

There's a false binary here than can contribute to these discussions going off the rails. A point of view can both be offered in good faith and reinforce inequitable cultural structures (such as patriarchy). Being asked to consider whether one's positions participate in systemic inequality isn't being othered or being told one's position has no value.

For what it's worth, I don't hate people who participate in misogyny or racism or homophobia or any other systemic injustice. For one, because I participate in them myself, in some cases unconsciously and in others by virtue of holding a position of privilege I cannot simply choose to relinquish. For another, because anyone who participates does so due to enculturation.

When addressing behaviors and attitudes woven into our culture, it can be easy to personalize arguments, but no one person is ever sexism personified, even if he or she participates in systems of sexism.
posted by audi alteram partem at 5:55 PM on June 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

jessamyn: f) Other ________

hincandenza should learn to dial it back a little and he will probably find that conversations about touchy topics that he is also interested in discussing will go significantly better
hincandenza would be more agreeable if there was acknowledgment that hincandenza isn't the only one who sometimes needs to "dial it back".

Ugh, this thread is not edifying- I don't need to be here, even knowing that some people will be gleeful that I left.
posted by hincandenza at 5:56 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


What if the hypothetical dude asking for coffee had included a shot of him topless at the beach? Would that have been viewed as equally creepy?

I would have found it a little creepy, yes. You're asking me out for coffee. Why are you showing me a picture of yourself when you're standing right in front of me, for one thing? For another, why is it important to you to show me a photo of yourself less than fully clothed while you're asking me out on a date? Do you not think that your face or your personality are enough to entice me?
posted by palomar at 5:56 PM on June 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


(See how changing one tiny bit of the situation and turning it into a weird hypothetical really doesn't make anything any better, or clearer, or easier?)
posted by palomar at 6:00 PM on June 22, 2012


Except this wasn't a naked picture. People have been saying that a lot, but neither the male or the female on the card are exposed in any way whatsoever. People have said the male is "fondling" the woman, but the picture looks less sexual and more "zany hijinks!"

Huh. Has this been officially debunked somewhere that I missed? Because Elyse describes the card as "a card with a naked photo of the two of them, with their information on how to contact them should I want to fuck."
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:01 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I thought the card featured the woman topless and the man holding her breasts. If that's the case, I'm not sure how you can call that not exposed in any way whatsoever.
posted by palomar at 6:02 PM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


There was a link to the card in the original thread.
posted by gerryblog at 6:04 PM on June 22, 2012


Except this wasn't a naked picture. People have been saying that a lot, but neither the male or the female on the card are exposed in any way whatsoever. People have said the male is "fondling" the woman, but the picture looks less sexual and more "zany hijinks!"

What if the hypothetical dude asking for coffee had included a shot of him topless at the beach? Would that have been viewed as equally creepy?


In fairness, the photo on the card is of the husband squeezing his wife's bare boobs.

Comparing this to a hypothetical man including a photo of himself in situationally appropriate clothing at a beach doesn't really work as an analogy
posted by The Gooch at 6:05 PM on June 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


NSFW, obviously.
posted by gerryblog at 6:05 PM on June 22, 2012


I have literally not seen a single person espousing this belief and I have read every comment in both threads. I don't think that people thought these folks were creeps, if they thought they were creeps, because they were swingers or group sex aficionados. I think they thought they were creeps because, in their opinions, they were acting creepily. MetaFilter may possibly have some sex-negative aspects [see other MeTa thread for discussion] but people here are pretty pro-consensual-anything for the most part.

Jessamyn: to clarify, I don't think that level of talk was coming from MeFites - that degree was coming more from other people on the internet and I think some implications in the blog itself. I think that some MeFites did express that the propositioning for group sex was more uncool because it skipped straight to the implicit sexual invitation rather than leading up to it, though - which does imply that there is a difference between asking someone for coffee and asking someone for group sex.

I thought the card featured the woman topless and the man holding her breasts. If that's the case, I'm not sure how you can call that not exposed in any way whatsoever.

Well, no more exposed than a bikini, anyway. To be honest, I remembered it as purely covering rather than squeezing, but this picture doesn't seem to me to be sexually explicit. I know others disagree.
posted by corb at 6:13 PM on June 22, 2012


NSFW (but safe for Walmart)
posted by crayz at 6:16 PM on June 22, 2012


You can't really argue simultaneously that the card isn't self-evidently sexual and that they were swingers and that's what people are upset about.

Okay, I suppose you can, if you are arguing that people are incorrectly assuming the couple are swingers. But if you reasonably would have interpreted that card as being a sexual come-on, then you must have reasonably seen that card as sexualized. Which it was.

Per the previous discussion, one of the many weird things about sexuality is that things associated with sexuality become themselves sexual, and speech about sex becomes to some degree a sex act. We can argue all we want about whether this should be the case in a perfect universe, but then it's worth mentioning that if it were the case, then the sexual banter which turns most everyone on, in one context or another, wouldn't. Because, again, sex isn't confined exclusively to what we do with our naughty-bits.

And because this is the case, and because there's a big ambiguous area where speech is concerned, then there's inevitably and naturally a bunch of people who engage sexually on a verbal/written basis with other people who have not consented.

In my opinion, this is the larger of the two things this couple did which are objectionable. That's why the subject turned to cock-shots. One part of the argument is against women being expected to be receptive to sexual proposals basically everywhere. And that's a reasonable objection. But the other part is how often that expectation manifests as women being forced to be part of a sexual interaction that they never agreed to — which, from the aspect of certain kinds of aggressors, is a win-win scenario for them. Either they find someone who will accept their proposal, or at the very least they get a thrill out of making the proposal because the proposal is explicitly and aggressively sexualized. And I think that the sum is greater than the parts — that it's both beyond the bounds of normal propositions and that it occurred in an environment where she rightly expected not to be subject to propositions (both because arguably the world should work that way and because the organizers had an explicit policy against it) makes it more obnoxious, and more egregious, than either would have been alone.

Couples like the one we're discussing could proposition other people without utilizing sexualized imagery of themselves. A card without a photo but saying merely "if you're interested in getting together, call us" would suffice. But I have a very strong suspicion that the unnecessarily sexualized nature of the card is an important part of their sexual activity. It's part of the sex for them, just as a lot of people talk about how seduction is an important part of sex for them. They're being more sexual than they need to be on purpose. The card was not functional exclusively with regard to propositioning; it was also functional as a sex act itself, albeit a very minor one. But minor ones are major when they're unwelcome.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:18 PM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


I can see indentations around the man's fingers in the photo on the card. He's squeezing, or it appears so. And the only area he's covering is her nipples and areolas, the rest of her breasts are exposed.

Nope. Not seeing how that's not sexual. The photo plus the text inviting you to check out their swingstyle.com page... come on. Not sexual?
posted by palomar at 6:19 PM on June 22, 2012


of course there's a difference between asking someone to coffee and asking someone for sex. the number of partners doesn't actually have to be considered for there to be a difference. there's also a difference between asking someone for coffee and asking them to spend the weekend with you or go to your parents for christmas or hold your hair back when you're puking or to come take care of you when you're sick. it's not sex negative to say more intimate invitations should have some sort of common ground established.
posted by nadawi at 6:20 PM on June 22, 2012 [8 favorites]


And yet- here are where your energies lie, convinced that those of us you disagree with are really just terrible, terrible people.

hincandenza, I sincerely hope this is not taken as a personal attack, but the sole reason I recognize your name on MetaFilter is from this previous over-the-top MetaTalk rant about a parallel thread in which you expressed "So. Much. Hate." for all the people who disagree with you about gender issues. Your excess emotional investment in these questions, in that thread and now in this one, causes you to transform whatever discussion is happening into a debate about whether or not you deserve to be unhappy. You're taking conversations about general, systemic issues and making them EXTREMELY personal, into referendums on the state of your own soul. But that's you, doing that to yourself; it's no one else.

When jessamyn says "hincandenza should learn to dial it back a little and he will probably find that conversations about touchy topics that he is also interested in discussing will go significantly better" she is trying to help you, and being almost heroically generous about it.

I've flagged this myself in case the mods don't want it here, but I've typed it three times and wanted to go ahead and say it.
posted by gerryblog at 6:20 PM on June 22, 2012 [20 favorites]


On the question of the photo: the idea that there's some debate to be had about whether this card is "sexually explicit" strikes me as totally preposterous. What would they have to be doing in the photograph to cross that threshold, in your opinion?
posted by gerryblog at 6:23 PM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


that picture actually isn't safe for walmart - at least not their portrait studios. in a very similar store with the exact same policies, i wouldn't have been allowed to photograph that at risk of losing my job. also, i'm not actually positive he is covering the entirety of her areola and he's totally squeezing. even if those things didn't appear to be true - you still can't divorce context from it - that card propositioning coffee would have been weird enough (and still probably would have had a blog post about it) but that was obviously an invitation for sex.
posted by nadawi at 6:26 PM on June 22, 2012


terrible, terrible people.

hincandenza, I think you AND crayz and maybe Ivan Fyodorovich could stand to dial it back a bit (I'm including more than just you so you don't feel singled out). Among this discussion's problems is quite a lot of hyperbole. We use it tactically to make each other's arguments look bad, but as I've said repeatedly in this thread and in others, debate is not what I come to MetaFilter for. It's discussion, exploration of new and old ideas and to build common ground that I'm interested in.

Your kind of hyperbole is not something that seems to me to be helping me build bridges. I never called anyone terrible, and when I was discussing part of this with straw, I went out of my way to frame what I said with a statement about NOT trying to alienate or offend straw.

So, I object to your characterization of me, even though we are on different sides of this fence. Let me be the nth to say it: I'd appreciate it if you'd dial it back a little.
posted by kalessin at 6:26 PM on June 22, 2012


And to clarify, before anyone jumps up my ass and calls me a sex-negative prude (LOL FOREVER YOU GUYS)... yeah, that picture is sexual as hell. (If you're questioning that, ask yourself if you and your partner would be comfortable posing like that for your holiday card photos and mailing them to your parents and your dentist and your children's teachers. If you don't think it's sexual, but you wouldn't do that... you have some self-examination to do, my friend.)

That doesn't mean I think they're bad people, or dirty people, or what the fuck ever. It means I think the picture is sexual, and that it probably wouldn't be wise to put it on a business card advertising that you're looking for sex and then handing it out indiscriminately at conventions where there's a publicized policy in place about unwanted sexual gestures, because COME ON.
posted by palomar at 6:27 PM on June 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


Sigh. That should be "and then start handing it out". Durn fingers and their habit of not typing all the words...
posted by palomar at 6:30 PM on June 22, 2012


Jeez, I had forgotten about that thread you linked to. But thanks for reminding me of this:

I'm the perfect man, absolutely perfect- perhaps even more so than our intrepid hero of the gender wars, Astro Zombie.

That was just straight-up dickish, and you're still doing it. Please stop.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:39 PM on June 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


Who is the 'you' in that comment, Bunny?
posted by Sys Rq at 6:46 PM on June 22, 2012


hincandenza. This pattern of accusing men of having feminist opinions just for the sake of scoring points is longstanding and quite unwelcome.

Of course, he's not alone in doing it. But it's a piss-poor replacement for honest disagreement.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:49 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


But if you reasonably would have interpreted that card as being a sexual come-on, then you must have reasonably seen that card as sexualized. Which it was.

I assumed that primarily because of the language about swinger lifestyle on the bottom of the card. I actually would not have assumed it from the picture alone.

it's not sex negative to say more intimate invitations should have some sort of common ground established.

I think it is, actually. It implies that sex, by its very nature, must be something that is a huge and intimate deal - which is something that I think is a leftover from a lot of our cultural hangups. Mind you, I'm not saying that people who require intimacy before sex are suffering from cultural hangups - I am this way myself. But assuming that it must be that way, and that everyone must treat it this way, is saying that there can only be one interpretation of sex.

Per the previous discussion, one of the many weird things about sexuality is that things associated with sexuality become themselves sexual, and speech about sex becomes to some degree a sex act. We can argue all we want about whether this should be the case in a perfect universe, but then it's worth mentioning that if it were the case, then the sexual banter which turns most everyone on, in one context or another, wouldn't. Because, again, sex isn't confined exclusively to what we do with our naughty-bits.

I think perhaps this is the kernel of my issue here, and I really do appreciate your framing of it in that way. I think perhaps I draw a brighter line between talk about sex - and pictures of people in partial stages of nudity - and actual sexual interaction, sexy talk, or people in actual nudity or sexual nudity. So for me, if someone handed me that card, with that picture, and the implied invitation, I don't think I would have viewed it as them involving me in a sexual act. In fact - and this is maybe awful - I think I would have been almost grateful, that they were so unobtrusive, and so inoffensive. That I could simply toss the card, instead of having to stand in front of people and explain /why/ I didn't want to have sex with them, or have to listen to explicit sexual come-ons.

Other people's mileage may vary, and I certainly support the right of people to be offended, but I do wonder if at least some people's outrage comes more from the character of the invitation rather than the pure facts of it. I don't think you're one of them, but I do wonder about the broad outrage. Because the plain fact is that people engaging in much more persistent harassment, or aggravated harassment, do not generally get supported like this. They may on Metafilter - maybe - but I don't think they do elsewhere quite so much.

On the question of the photo: the idea that there's some debate to be had about whether this card is "sexually explicit" strikes me as totally preposterous. What would they have to be doing in the photograph to cross that threshold, in your opinion?

yeah, that picture is sexual as hell. (If you're questioning that, ask yourself if you and your partner would be comfortable posing like that for your holiday card photos and mailing them to your parents and your dentist and your children's teachers. If you don't think it's sexual, but you wouldn't do that... you have some self-examination to do, my friend.)

For me? In my opinion? Either full breast, breast with nipple, ass, genitalia, or actual sexual act.
I wouldn't personally take a picture with that pose and send it as a holiday photo because I think that pose (and holiday photos) are tacky, but I would totally be fine with taking a playful picture with my partner from the waist up where sides of breast were shown but nipple area were artfully concealed, and including it in a photo album, where anyone who happened to want to could come across it.

Your mileage may vary.
posted by corb at 7:04 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


So what makes the picture tacky, corb?
posted by palomar at 7:08 PM on June 22, 2012


Oh, never mind, I see that you're saying the pose itself is tacky. I'm still not really getting how the pose itself is tacky, unless it's because he's fondling her, but okay.
posted by palomar at 7:10 PM on June 22, 2012


And personally, I see the idea that more intimate invitations require more common ground to be extremely sex-positive, in that it's allowing me to make my own goddamn decisions about who I fuck instead of assuming that because I have a vagina, I am open for business for anyone who wants a piece.
posted by palomar at 7:13 PM on June 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


Part of the weirdness of this couple is that apparently, they didn't say anything or raise their eyebrows or smirk or anything, just hand her the card (face down). So when someone asked "what if you asked someone to coffee with that card," they didn't even do that. Or conceivably (but very unlikelily) they were.

Perhaps they thought they were being discrete or somehow not making an unwanted sexual advance by doing so, but it's so obtuse and odd. Just, wow.
posted by msalt at 7:18 PM on June 22, 2012


It implies that sex, by its very nature, must be something that is a huge and intimate deal - which is something that I think is a leftover from a lot of our cultural hangups.

Yes. It has a lot to do with 2,000 years of sexism and a lot of sexual violence. There is nothing sex negative about recognizing an area of human behavior that has historically been fraught and being a little careful about it.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 7:24 PM on June 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


Except this wasn't a naked picture.

Well, they aren't wearing clothes. That's what naked means.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:30 PM on June 22, 2012 [8 favorites]


It has a lot to do with 2,000 years of sexism and a lot of sexual violence.

OK here's a bullshit theory of human history: culture/society is a naturally selected set of ideas that lead to people being as productive as possible, because eventually the people who are less productive will become jealous of or conquered by the more productive ones, so cultures either optimize for productivity or lose in the medium/long-run

So, the main way that's done is by preventing people from having things they need and want unless everyone competes with each other to produce as much as possible, and the main way that's done is by tying production to human wants and needs (i.e. whether or not a society would be able to clothe/feed/shelter/provide contemporary medical care, social/romantic contact for everyone, the ones that expand and prevail are the ones which limit access to these things based on strict rules of competition). Of which romance is pretty high on most peoples lists of wants/needs

So, I'd argue the sexism and violence and the repression and negativity are caught in a causal loop, and you're not going to disentangle it attacking only one end. All this "allowing me to make my own goddamn decisions about who I fuck instead of assuming that because I have a vagina, I am open for business for anyone who wants a piece" is to me a far more vulgar, explicit, and objectifying attitude towards sex than the card ever was

And I think that's the perspective coming from society, not from the Cardguy couple
posted by crayz at 7:50 PM on June 22, 2012


By controlling my own sexuality, instead of letting someone else control it, I'm being vulgar, explicit, and objectifying myself?

You are out of your mind, pal.
posted by palomar at 7:55 PM on June 22, 2012 [13 favorites]


Well, you're entitled to your bullshit theories, but it you're going to use them to dictate who is and who is not a square about sex and is holding the advancement of humanity back, don't be surprised if people want something more than what you have dreamed up on your lonesome.

I hear all sorts of bullshit theories, and, you know, I'm pretty generous. The world is a big place, and people can live in it how they want, and interpret it how they want, and it's no skin off my nose if they think something I disagree with.

Until it is skin off my nose. Until suddenly their theories are interacting with my world in a way that we have not mutually agreed on. And a way that I would not have agreed on. Then it's no longer theory, but practice. And then it becomes a bigger deal, and I want something more than some amateur anthropology theory from an autodidact to support it.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 7:58 PM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Isn't it time to stop arguing about this and start arguing about the Sandusky verdict?
posted by Burhanistan at 7:58 PM on June 22, 2012


Oh, never mind, I see that you're saying the pose itself is tacky. I'm still not really getting how the pose itself is tacky, unless it's because he's fondling her, but okay.

I don't know how to say this, really, other than...it looks like a terrible Myspace photo? And it doesn't look sexual, but it looks like maybe he's "honking" her breasts, which is the most juvenile thing I think it's possible to /do/ to a woman? And there's no background, and everything's so terribly close up and... it looks like a combination of a driver's license photo and a pulp cover. But not a good pulp cover.

Perhaps they thought they were being discrete or somehow not making an unwanted sexual advance by doing so, but it's so obtuse and odd. Just, wow.

I think I would have found it discrete. But I seem to be in the minority in this position, and it's entirely possible that it's just that my Overton window has been moved so far by godawful behavior that everything less than that seems jim-dandy to me.
posted by corb at 8:05 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Discreet, rather.
posted by corb at 8:05 PM on June 22, 2012


Isn't it time to stop arguing about this and start arguing about the Sandusky verdict?

Someone I know is close to the case, said that there was no way the guy was innocent. So. What did you expect? There was SO MUCH pointing towards guilt.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:34 PM on June 22, 2012


"All this "allowing me to make my own goddamn decisions about who I fuck instead of assuming that because I have a vagina, I am open for business for anyone who wants a piece" is to me a far more vulgar, explicit, and objectifying attitude towards sex than the card ever was"

Wait, what?

That makes no fucking sense.

Unless you're complaining about the language and missing the substance of the complaint, which would be the very definition of niggling idiocy.
posted by klangklangston at 9:01 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


culture/society is a naturally selected set of ideas that lead to people being as productive as possible

The starting assumption is what I would call a "just-so" story and any theory that relies on it as a starting point is inevitably going to be structurally unsound.
posted by immlass at 9:24 PM on June 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


I have no idea what crayz was trying to say with that. But I think it is problematic to assume that simply propositioning a woman "reduces her to a vagina" and Elyse from Skepchick makes this leap repeatedly.
posted by msalt at 9:44 PM on June 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


But I think it is problematic to assume that simply propositioning a woman "reduces her to a vagina" and Elyse from Skepchick makes this leap repeatedly.

Yes. It jumps from a description of behavior to mind-reading the persons beliefs. Using sexually explicit ("who I want to fuck") objectifying ("wants a piece") language to describe the motivations of the other person when you actually don't know those motivations is simply reinforcing to everyone listening that this is the framework through which to discuss sex. Without noticing that in the opinions of others, there's nothing objectifying or disgusting in what has occured
posted by crayz at 9:54 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


.
posted by heyho at 10:01 PM on June 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


Again, not that girl expressed it so well above, but you aren't winning converts here, among people who already agree with you. The people you're insulting as misogynists, as women-hating, as "oppressors"

I'm not 100% sure this is addressed specifically to me but it did follow my name in bold so I'd like to point out that I'm not trying to win converts at all, in any fashion; I also am pretty sure I haven't said 'misogynist' or 'women-hating' or 'oppressors' in this thread whatsoever.

If this bit wasn't addressed to me, then please disregard, but it was kind of a confusing comment you made.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:03 PM on June 22, 2012


Hilarious, crayz. You just keep slinging the same crap, assigning thoughts and motives to everyone whose opinion you disagree with, misreading and ignoring context. It's actually laughable at this point.
posted by palomar at 10:19 PM on June 22, 2012


"Yes. It jumps from a description of behavior to mind-reading the persons beliefs. Using sexually explicit ("who I want to fuck") objectifying ("wants a piece") language to describe the motivations of the other person when you actually don't know those motivations is simply reinforcing to everyone listening that this is the framework through which to discuss sex. Without noticing that in the opinions of others, there's nothing objectifying or disgusting in what has occured"

yes what could the sex card possibly mean because surely they didn't want to fuck her

we may never know they truths
posted by klangklangston at 10:26 PM on June 22, 2012 [10 favorites]


"I have no idea what crayz was trying to say with that. But I think it is problematic to assume that simply propositioning a woman "reduces her to a vagina" and Elyse from Skepchick makes this leap repeatedly."

I understand what you're saying, but with the context of having just been handed a sex card, it's hard not to draw that conclusion. So while in general I might agree with you, you don't give someone a card with a naked snap of you on it because you'd like to find more stamp enthusiasts.
posted by klangklangston at 10:28 PM on June 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


So while in general I might agree with you, you don't give someone a card with a naked snap of you on it because you'd like to find more stamp enthusiasts.

So given this logic handing her a "would you like to collect stamps with me?" card would demean her work and reduce her to some sort of stamp collecting object. But when someone tries to point that out, the retort is "of course he wanted to collect stamps with her!"
posted by crayz at 10:40 PM on June 22, 2012


Again with false equivalences! Haven't you learned not to use those yet?
posted by palomar at 10:43 PM on June 22, 2012


klangklangston: I may not be making myself clear. I think it's obvious that the card-proffering couple were interested in sex (unless you go with Nangar's interesting conjecture in the other topic that it was a fuck-you response to Skepchick's advocacy of the no-harassment policy, which is a much nastier motive IMHO, but Elyse seems to think it was sexual).

But being interested in sex does not mean you are ONLY interested in sex, or reducing someone to an orifice and dehumanizing them. That's the leap that bothers me in Elyse's blog posts.
posted by msalt at 10:58 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


So if someone were to walk up to me at a conference, hand me a business card with a naked photo of them and their partner and an invitation to check out their swinger website profile if I'm interested in having sex with them, and walks away, what conclusion should I draw? Should I conclude that they are interested in going hiking with me, or learning about what I was like as a child, or what I think about the current state of things in Sri Lanka? Because all they've done is approach me with a sexual offer and walk away. How am I to draw conclusions about every possible intention they have involving me if all that they're talking about or referring to is sexual in nature?
posted by palomar at 11:09 PM on June 22, 2012


Look. This really shouldn't be hard to grasp, if you approach someone with a sexual come-on, they're going to think you want to fuck them. If that's ALL you bring to the table when you talk to them, what other assumption can be made about you?
posted by palomar at 11:11 PM on June 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


Oh, yeah, I understand that it doesn't mean that someone's only interested in sex — skepticism also, and for all I know they have rich inner lives.

It does mean that they're valuing their sexual expression over her discomfort, which is against the rules of the conference and also something that it's OK to feel creeped out about.

They creeped her out, she called them out, the system works.
posted by klangklangston at 11:12 PM on June 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


I said: "It’s not okay to assume that any woman (or non-woman) is at a conference to be your plaything. But to reduce your keynote speaker to a thing you want to fuck, and not respect that she’s there as a professional is so much more than offensive to her personally. It’s disrespectful to the conference and its organizers."

It was later claimed (by crayz and perhaps others) that such an expectation on her part was unreasonable, given the informal nature of the event.


Hincandenza said:
Neither crayz nor anyone else on Metafilter ever, in any way, stated what you claim. Never.

You know what? Fuck it.

crayz did indeed specifically argue that her expectation that she should not be approached with a sexual proposition while she was working was unreasonable because this was an informal event. He did it here:
crayz: "I mean, honestly, it seems like way too many people here value the right to show their genitalia to whomever they want, whenever they want, over any other individual's expectation that maybe in a professional setting they might not be seen solely as a sexual object.

She was Facebook friends with a guy with a similar set of beliefs/interests, who went to a free Meetup event called Skepticamp, where she gave a talk but "everyone contributes in some way", at a meeting hall at Ohio State University, with a promotion tagline "How often do you get to meet and party with skeptics from all over the state?" A few of the organizers hanging out looked like this, and the event page had a picture of our blogger, "Ready to Kick Irrational Butt"

Are we really going to keep pretending she was presenting TPS reports to her boss when he pulled out his dick? Context matters
"
He's arguing that she's not there as a professional, and therefore
"This is a woman who wants sex to be sequestered far far away from much of her life"
hincandenza: No one said this woman or anyone woman exists to be a plaything- no one said that. No one hinted at that. No one alluded to that. No one paraphrased that.

This is a deliberate, wild misinterpretation of my comment, which ignores the context in which is was made. You pulled this same exact bullshit on me in the other thread.

You're arguing disingenuously.

You're also engaging in a nasty personal attack against me.

Please take note that I am refraining from reacting in kind.

hincandenza: And that thing you were doing in that thread and this one, zarq, of demonizing your "opponents"- who actually agree with you by and large on most every topic- is incredibly, incredibly counterproductive.

Where did I demonize a specific mefite in the other thread?

Where did I demonize a specific mefite in this thread?

For that matter, let's have some proof that the people I'm allegedly demonizing "agree with me by and large on most every topic."

These three statements really need to be backed up with proof. So let's see some links, please. They should not be hard for you to find if I'm really being "incredibly, incredibly counterproductive."

Creating fake stances- such as "Clearly the people on Metafilter I see as disgreeing with me must believe all women exist solely as playthings"- and then arguing against them is useless.

I didn't do that.

It'll make people angry, frustrated, defensive, and turn things divisive

I'm all three right now. Held my tongue earlier. Took an ambien and changed my mind.

So why do it? Why paint your "enemy" on Metafilter in the worst possible fictional light? Actual, honest-to-god misogynists are out there in droves, harassing employees or following women down the street, or abusing their wives/girlfriends... and you pour your energy into picking fights with a group of guys who probably share upwards of 98% of your ethical and cultural DNA?!?

I certainly hope you're not classifying yourself with that "group of guys," hincandenza. I'[ve certainly seen no evidence of it from your comments here over the years.
posted by zarq at 11:17 PM on June 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


at the very least, they certainly appear to care about sex, and her fulfilling their fantasy, first and most. they didn't follow the rules of the conference, didn't care about the ongoing conversation about women and harassment in the skeptics community, didn't care that she had just had her stomach resected, and didn't make any effort to gauge her interest before handing her a wanna fuck card.
posted by nadawi at 11:17 PM on June 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


But being interested in sex does not mean you are ONLY interested in sex, or reducing someone to an orifice and dehumanizing them. That's the leap that bothers me in Elyse's blog posts.

The card made that leap. It was explicitly sexual (nekkid photo, "swingers" URL) and made no other reference to any common denominator the couple might have had with the blogger.

I mean, COME ON. If it wasn't about "reducing someone to an orifice," then why just hand her the naughty card and buzz off? Why not write a brief note mentioning something in her talk that resonated? Why not make the least fucking effort to connect to what she said?
posted by dogrose at 11:18 PM on June 22, 2012 [10 favorites]


klang: They creeped her out, she called them out, the system works.

Sure. As I've said, I thought they should have been flat out banned from the conference (based on its rules) and that they deserve public ridicule, such as a blog post.

But Elyse's statement appears to go beyond this one situation to a general statement than any sexual proposition is reducing someone to a vagina (or whatever). And others have made similar statements. There's also an implication that swingers are incapable of any non-sexual thoughts, as corb noted. I think that's problematic, that's all I'm trying to say.
posted by msalt at 11:33 PM on June 22, 2012


But Elyse's statement appears to go beyond this one situation to a general statement than any sexual proposition is reducing someone to a vagina (or whatever).

Could you actually post that statement here, msalt? Because I read Elyse's blog posts, but I don't recall her making any sweeping blanket statements about all sexual interactions everywhere for all time. Just this one sexual interaction that she did not want.

Since you're evidently very familiar with her words, it shouldn't take you much time.
posted by palomar at 11:36 PM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


> So given this logic handing her a "would you like to collect stamps with me?" card would demean her work and reduce her to some sort of stamp collecting object. But when someone tries to point that out, the retort is "of course he wanted to collect stamps with her!"

Not exactly. But people harassing me about the pyramid schemes they're trying to promote does make me think they see me as a pile of money they can get access to. That doesn't mean I'm anti-business or opposed to doing business with people. A lot of organizations do have 'no solicitation' policies to prevent this kind of thing.
posted by nangar at 12:04 AM on June 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


Wow. If anyone would like to actually talk about how we discuss topics like this, and how we can do it better, let me know, because this has pretty much turned into a bifurcation of the MeFi thread, rehashing exactly the same arguments, except with a lot more personal attacks here.

I'll be closing this up unless anyone wants to talk about the site issues brought up in this post.
posted by taz (staff) at 12:05 AM on June 23, 2012


OK. I'll try to make a few on topic comments before this gets closed up:

> I honestly think that "Some drama happened on the internet" posts tend to be bad posts for MetaFilter. They tend to come pre-outraged and then people who don't share in whatever the outrage is feel pre-attacked and dig in to their own positions.

I agree. And in this case there was a lot of missing context. There's been an ongoing and vitriolic debate about feminism and sexual harassment in the Skeptic Community, in the context of which the participants' reactions and rhetoric make a lot more sense. What's been going on in that community is interesting, but taken out of context, this exchange doesn't make a lot sense.


Discussions about sexual harassment and similar topics seems to bring out a lot of ego-centrism. A lot of the problem with sexual harassment in the first place is a failure to recognize that other people are in fact other people, with their own thoughts, desires and agency. The same people who have trouble with this in real life are outraged by the idea that other people have boundaries they should respect and have trouble seeing why they should respect other MeFites or the site's boundaries.

This is a low-level problem anyway, but threads on this particular topic bring a lot of these people together all in one place.
posted by nangar at 1:42 AM on June 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was starting to notice that actually, taz. Though it might be interesting in terms of an example on how this topic is so enormously inflammatory that it invades even the MeTa. Because it's not really about this card, or this incident of sexual harassment. It's about bigger stuff.

It's about -

- what makes one situation sexual harassment and another not? Is the barometer the attempt itself, or is the barometer how the attempt is received?

- how emotionally invested are we in propagating our answer?

Because the answer is enormously complex, sometimes.

My own personal feel is that we've developed a culture which delineates when something is sexual harassment and when something is charming based on the result, not the method. So when a guy is persistent and attractive and it ultimately goes well, it becomes romantic. Movies get made about it. When a guy is persistent and shleppy, and it doesn't go well, it becomes creepy. It becomes harassment - even though if you mirrored the interactions on a point by point scale, there'd be just as much disinterest - until the point of divergence.

And so our definition of sexual harassment is "unwanted sexual advances."

And that's really, really hard. Because it's something that's impossible to ascertain in advance. There's no way of knowing for certain whether someone will return your feelings.

And this makes things complicated. Because sexual harassment is really, really shitty. And women face it every single day. And we want it to stop. We really, really fucking want it to stop. And everyone who gives a damn about us wants it to stop. And everyone who gives a damn about being a decent human being wants us to stop.

But it's not as simple as saying, "Stop propositioning us, everyone." Because some of us, at least, enjoy being propositioned, for a coffee or a kayaking adventure or even a wild night - if it's the right person. And some of us don't want to make rules that will keep those people away from us. We want to be desired, and have good times, and yes, maybe even find love.

And it's not as simple for men, either. Because they're not always really great at figuring out when women are interested. And they're still working on just getting the persistence bug worked out - figuring out that they're supposed to take no for no and not persist. And that's really hard, when they're seeing it work out for a ton of other guys. And man, are we working on this so hard, because this is the most egregious behavior.

And they are also not always awesome at reading interest. So a lot of them are confused. They genuinely don't know what to do. And I imagine it has got to be hard and maybe even scary for guys, who don't know if their interest is going to be read as harassment, or as a simple attempt.


When you combine those needs together, that's when things get ugly. Women need not to be harassed, because harassment makes life intensely shitty. Men need to be able to make overtures, because if women are the only ones who can make overtures, you're just flipping the script, and if no one can make overtures, then the human race dies out.

So how do you align those needs? It's really hard, with a lot of jagged edges. And no one knows the answers, so sometimes people tend to prioritize one or the other.
posted by corb at 1:47 AM on June 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Metafilter can tend toward piling on when most people share a point of view, and in sexual harassment discussions this seems to be amplified by a tendency by the majority to think that there is no valid disagreement on any particular points, or even that disagreement should not be tolerated or allowed to stand (as Ivan suggested in this topic.) This leads to defensiveness and, on both sides, lots of stereotyping and false grouping of individuals, and unusually personal attacks.

I have no idea how to make it any better though. The comment by Not That Girl was the rarest of Metafilter comments -- a disagreement with the local feminist orthodoxy that was actually listened to (and in fact much favorited). It's a shame she needed several paragraphs of qualifications (decades of study, multiple degrees in womens' studies, etc.) to be accepted as having something valid to say. It's hard to escape the conclusion that no male could say the same thing without being attacked.
posted by msalt at 2:24 AM on June 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was writing something about this just now which maybe I'll get a chance to finish later, but in my view the most corrosive and damaging aspect of these discussions are the toxic rhetorical devices that kill any chance of real communication. Metafilter, generally, can deal with actual disagreement of varying levels a lot better than we can tolerate certain styles of argumentation. Being super sarcastic, hyperbolic, contemptuous, etc. are some of the worst discussion-assassins. (And throwing around terms like "the local feminist orthodoxy" is a pretty good example of the sort of thing that cuts off those lines of communication. Is this actually an effort to reach out at all?)

In thread after thread I notice that once anyone in the conversation starts with these sorts of sneering rhetorical methods, the battle for intelligent discussion is pretty much lost.
posted by taz (staff) at 2:47 AM on June 23, 2012 [10 favorites]


Yeah, there's a conversation to be had about where to draw lines and what behavior should and shouldn't be acceptable. How do we make sure that people can flirt and hook up with people at conventions without repercussions, for instance, while simultaneously banning behavior most people would consider harassment (or otherwise out line), assuming most people want to allow the former (and maybe want to meet people at conventions) and want to put a stop to the latter?

That's not the conversation we're having here, unfortunately. Though it would be good if we could talk about that.

And so our definition of sexual harassment is "unwanted sexual advances."

And that's really, really hard. Because it's something that's impossible to ascertain in advance. There's no way of knowing for certain whether someone will return your feelings.


I commented on this issue in the original thread. You can respond over there if you'd like.
posted by nangar at 2:56 AM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


The comment by Not That Girl was the rarest of Metafilter comments -- a disagreement with the local feminist orthodoxy that was actually listened to (and in fact much favorited). It's a shame she needed several paragraphs of qualifications (decades of study, multiple degrees in womens' studies, etc.) to be accepted as having something valid to say. It's hard to escape the conclusion that no male could say the same thing without being attacked.

Aside from what taz says above, this resort to a claim of victimized oppression also doesn't reflect very well the way MetaFilter works -- because on MetaFilter we know nothing about people except how they present themselves. Not That Girl seems like maybe she's a girl, from the name, but then so might you, Ms. Alt. A gender-essentializing guesser would be right in the one case but wrong in the other.

What people are responding to in Not That Girl's comment is not her gender but the careful and considered way she expresses her disagreement, as distinct from the knee-jerk contempt or self-pitying defensiveness of other posters. My personal departure from the Local Orthodoxy is my continued feeling that we're still much too tolerant of the latter categories. If a person insists on making a thread all about their issues -- or worse, does this with a whole category of threads, over and over and over again -- I really think we'd be better off just saying no.

And I think this could be particularly true of threads about feminism, rape culture, and sexual harassment, where for whatever reason the form of disagreement tends to replicate in miniature precisely the negative social forces that spurred the discussion in the first place. It's just not good for the site or its users. If I ran the zoo...
posted by gerryblog at 3:39 AM on June 23, 2012


And throwing around terms like "the local feminist orthodoxy" is a pretty good example of the sort of thing that cuts off those lines of communication. Is this actually an effort to reach out at all?)

It's interesting that taz selected that phrase, because when I read it my immediate response, internally, was "oh, OK. No interest in dissenting views. Good to know." What's weird, though, or problematic, is that I think everyone sincerely believes that they are interested in dialog, and it's just that everyone around them is so irrational (or, in this case, so subordinated to the "local feminist orthodoxy") as to make that impossible. The problem is always the other person. Hardly revolutionary as an inight, but what can one do about it?

So, in terms of why this particular topic isn't doing well, and thus the thread topic - well, it's partly about simple disagreement, but I think it's also about investment. If you're invested in something, viewpoints that seek to deprive you of that something are going to look inherently weak, and the effort to get past that instinct is going to seem like it's not worth making. You'd be working to weaken the fortification around your own desires, right?

So, in terms of the order of events, msalt's citing of the feminist orthodoxy and statement that men couldn't avoid being attacked even if they put as much care into their statements as Not That Girl, who is being read as a woman by him:
It's a shame she needed several paragraphs of qualifications (decades of study, multiple degrees in womens' studies, etc.) to be accepted as having something valid to say. It's hard to escape the conclusion that no male could say the same thing without being attacked.
Is in response to Palomar's request:
Could you actually post that statement here, msalt?
To his statement:
But Elyse's statement appears to go beyond this one situation to a general statement than any sexual proposition is reducing someone to a vagina (or whatever). And others have made similar statements.
This is kind of a derail - instead of supporting the statement, it's saying that asking people to support their statements is, or can be identified as, an act of misandry - that, in the face of the "feminist orthodoxy", women have to show their working at length, and men could not even escape being attacked if they were to do that. Which is being used here - I think not intentionally - as a direct reply to precisely a request to show his working - in this case, the working that led to the conclusion that Elyse's statement appears to go beyond this one situation to a general statement than any sexual proposition is reducing someone to a vagina (or whatever).

So, we've got the stakes raised. This is no longer a request to support a statement with quotation - it's a case of men on MetaFilter being held to an impossible standard of evidence. Note the use of language: "it's hard to escape the conclusion". Which I think is probably true - it is hard to escape the conclusion that no male could say the same thing without being attacked. But I think it's hard, specifically, for msalt, rather than necessarily hard in absolute terms. We all have conclusions we find hard to escape, but I don't know if that means they are universal laws, or whether they just look like them from where we are standing.

Which then creates a circularity - the "feminist orthodoxy" will attack men no matter how well-argued their position - so why take the time to argue a position well? Why respond to a request for further detail or textual support, when it's so hard to escape the conclusion that the feminist orthodoxy won't accept your male opinion, no matter how well-argued it is?

Which is kind of comforting - it takes the weight off you to argue well, and it means that failing to convince people of the rightness of your cause is about their orthodoxy, not the justice or competence of your argument. And it means that opposing that orthodoxy, regardless of the time or care invested in making the opposing argument, has merit in itself - it's an act of resistance. By a kind of situational judo, dismissing a woman's response to an inappropriate sexual advance as prudish or sex-negative has become a kind of speaking truth to power. And, of course, everyone has their own hot zones.

I think this is tempting for people all over - there's a point where you might find yourself thinking "screw it, these christian/atheist/homophobic/gay/sexist/racist/naive/feminist/anti-immigration/pro-immigration/pro-life/pro-choice assholes aren't going to be swayed by reasoned argument. Someone just has to stand up and say that they are wrong". And it's hard to resist that - and to feel entitled to reach for the rhetorical bazooka when you're doing it, because you've already abandoned the idea that there can be a conversation or a dialog - you will ever be able to express his reasoned, compelling arguments and get a fair hearing, because of the [x]ist orthodoxy.

So, you've got speech acts, from that perspective, but not a conversation - and the speech acts aren't exactly intended to form a conversation. You can't have a conversation if you start out by saying "I do not believe you are capable of interacting with me in a fair manner" - because then the other part is on notice that as soon as they disagree with you you get to pull that ripcord.

So, long story short (too late) - it feels like one reasons these things don't go well is not emnity but anxiety - specifically, anxiety that one might find oneself unable to argue convincingly for what one knows to be true. So, the idea of the "orthodoxy", or the "groupthink", or the "pile-on" becomes a kind of prophylactic. You put it on at the start, to make sure that you are protected from having to deal with confronting the possibility that you are failing to win the day because of the quality of your argumentation, or the justice of your cause.

I don't think it's possible to get away from this anxiety completely - and I think that in most cases, where the stakes or the emotional temperature are pretty low, it's unnoticeable. It's someone thinking "well, he would think that about Mega Man - he's got no critical distance when it comes to classic CapCom arcade games*". But in situations like this, where the underlying issues are big and contentious, and often touch on people's own traumatic experiences, it's counter-productive, I think. Not least because it creates a feedback loop where people who don't agree with you are less than you (you are an individual, they are tools of an orthodoxy), which justifies greater vehemence or less reasoned argument, which makes them respond with greater hostility, which justifies greater hostility, and so on.

I don't know if there's a way around that - but it feels like not pre-emptively dismissing the possibility that one might have one's beliefs refuted in good faith and by superior knowledge (in this case, textual knowledge of what Elyse actually said) or argumentation is a scary but necessary first step.


*It took me a long time to think of something that wouldn't be heated somewhere on the Internet. I failed.
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:45 AM on June 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


You're damn right you failed. Those Mega Man games were great. On this, there can be no debate.
posted by gerryblog at 4:59 AM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


So given this logic handing her a "would you like to collect stamps with me?" card would demean her work and reduce her to some sort of stamp collecting object. But when someone tries to point that out, the retort is "of course he wanted to collect stamps with her!"

Okay, y'all remember upthread I was talking about the "overexaggeration to make the other person's argument look stupid" rhetorical device these things take?

This is precisely the kind of thing I was talking about, because honestly, when has anyone ever come up with a dippy little business card in order to solicit stamp collecting and randomly handed it to someone out of nowhere? Never. People find stamp-collecting buddies only after finding out in the course of regular conversation that the person you're talking to is interested in stamps. Same to with cooking or sewing or knitting or hang gliding or any other human activity. And it should be the way things go with sex too, except some people want the right to hand out random business cards unprovoked or what the fuck ever.

This handing someone a stamp-collecting business card has never happened, and it's a false example thought up deliberately and specifically in order to make our complaints look ridiculous.

It's because -- as I theorized above -- people are so hung up on having their own self-centered adolescent perspective of sexuality to be the norm that they don't even want to acknowledge logic, much less other people's comfort.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:15 AM on June 23, 2012 [7 favorites]


In thread after thread I notice that once anyone in the conversation starts with these sorts of sneering rhetorical methods, the battle for intelligent discussion is pretty much lost.

This, pretty much. In addition, if you can't even represent the arguments made against you accurately, we can pretty much draw the curtain on the whole idea that any headway's going to be made where honest discussion is concerned.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:27 AM on June 23, 2012


It's a shame she needed several paragraphs of qualifications (decades of study, multiple degrees in womens' studies, etc.) to be accepted as having something valid to say.

It's not a shame, because these issues are complex and they require qualified and contextualized discussion if that discussion is to be productive. As nangar notes, a lot of that context is missing.

If anyone thinks that their position hasn't been fairly represented, it is best if they stick to concrete evidence--quote exactly where another misprepresents their positions and explain the mispresentation--instead of relying on generalizations such as the claim that it is nearly impossible for any male to offer arguments that dissent from a supposed orthodoxy.
posted by audi alteram partem at 6:32 AM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


See... okay, again, talking about people's "self-centered adolescent perspective" just sort of closes things down and feeds into the war of escalation.

It's really hard to moderate your remarks when you think someone else's argument or arguing style is unfair or wrong, but it's not effective to keep pursuing the same bone of contention once you've made your calm and reasonable response once or twice – even if they continue to mischaracterize what you've said or what the situation is as you see it, or persist in what you see as completely illogical, baiting arguments. People digging in and escalating on both sides of the divide force the discussion to pivot constantly around the most over-emotional statements, the most insulting assumptions, the most extreme positions, wild exaggerations, and ridiculous analogies – for the sake of winning points in the debate, at the expense of actual meaningful or enlightening discussion. And that makes for an extremely poor discussion.
posted by taz (staff) at 6:48 AM on June 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


Brandon Blatcher: "Consensual?

CPR is an aid.
"

Spoken like a nonsensual ambulance worker.

/Not misambulancist.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:34 AM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

hincandenza: "hincandenza would be more agreeable if there was acknowledgment that hincandenza isn't the only one who sometimes needs to "dial it back"."
Ah, you're at the "I will when you will!" level of development.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:38 AM on June 23, 2012


With all due respect, taz: I'm not the only person who's "pursuing the same bone of contention," so I'm not sure why I'm the one being singled out right now.

But I should probably leave this particular discussion anyway.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:31 AM on June 23, 2012


I think this is tempting for people all over - there's a point where you might find yourself thinking "screw it, these christian/atheist/homophobic/gay/sexist/racist/naive/feminist/anti-immigration/pro-immigration/pro-life/pro-choice assholes aren't going to be swayed by reasoned argument. Someone just has to stand up and say that they are wrong". And it's hard to resist that - and to feel entitled to reach for the rhetorical bazooka when you're doing it, because you've already abandoned the idea that there can be a conversation or a dialog - you will ever be able to express his reasoned, compelling arguments and get a fair hearing, because of the [x]ist orthodoxy.

This. Absolutely, one hundred percent this. And I don't even think it comes from a bad place, even - I think it comes from a place where true belief means something - and where if you win, you are /saving people/. Christians really, truly believe that people are going to hell if they don't believe. Atheists really, truly believe that religious people are a danger to other people. Homophobic people truly believe that homosexuality destroys families. Gay people truly believe that homophobia destroys real people that they know. Anti-illegal-immigration people truly believe that unchecked and unregulated immigration is destroying the America they love. Pro-immigration people truly believe that it's immoral to stand inside a bakery and lock other people out. Pro-life people really, truly believe that they are saving babies. Pro-choice people, really, truly believe that they are saving people's lives.

And so they feel that they have to be loud and proud, they have to use every rhetorical trick at their disposal, because they have to stop anyone, anyone, from believing the opposing viewpoint. They have to stop the Overton window from moving. They have to stop the silent bystanders from ever thinking that the opposing side might be right - because if they don't, people will be hurt.

So how can we fix /that/? How can we fix the sense of desperation? Particularly, on Metafilter? How can we fix this absolute need to hammer the viewpoint in?
posted by corb at 9:01 AM on June 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


In defense of msalt (referring mainly to running order squabble fest's comment), I think it needs to be noted that palomar's "request for citation" was far more aggressive than the portion pulled out for a quote. Palomar and I are definitely arguing from the same "side" here, but msalt is correct, at least from my reading, to believe that this was not a good faith request for information as much as it was a "I believe you are full of shit, the onus is on you prove otherwise" statement, which is another discussion tactic that doesn't exactly make these topics go very well.

Discussions about sexual harassment and similar topics seems to bring out a lot of ego-centrism.

This is true. One way I've noticed this plays out in these sort of threads and almost immediately derails them is when people internalize a general topic to the degree where they seem to believe a thread is specifically about them, personally, and comments are seen as personal attacks.

For example, in these sort of sexual harassment discussions, you have some people who read the comments and the only take away they seem to have is, "*I* don't sexually harass women personally, therefore comments discussing the extreme prevalence of sexual harassing behavior is a personal attack against me who is innocent of these crimes and dammit I'm going to defend myself against these accusations!!".

(This is the problem I see hincandenza having in these threads with a good deal of frequency. Not to pick on him, as if I'm being honest I have the same reaction to certain topics, in my case it's generally the "We're ALL racists, man, you included, you're just to wrapped up in privilege to realize it". If I'm doing something better than hincandenza it's just having the self-control to roll my eyes and move on rather than viewing these sort of generalized comments as personal accusations against me)
posted by The Gooch at 9:09 AM on June 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


It's awesome to be categorized as being "far more aggressive" simply by asking someone to back up what they're saying by posting a link to the statement they're referring to. I genuinely cannot remember anything in Elyse's blog posts that could be characterised the way msalt says, so if Elyse did in fact make sweeping generalizations about the intentions of anyone who makes a pass at someone else, I'd like to see that statement. Since I've read her blogs and couldn't see it, I'm assuming that msalt has information I do not.

But thanks. After being told that wanting to control my own sexual decisions means that I'm a vulgarian who is destroying society, this is tasty icing on a shit cake.
posted by palomar at 9:42 AM on June 23, 2012


palomar, my apologies, I should have included a "from my reading" or similar disclaimer in my comment since I'm obviously not a mind reader and can only guess at motivation.

As an explanation of where I was coming from, it was the "Since you're evidently very familiar with her words, it shouldn't take you much time." portion of your comment that read to me as sarcastic/upping the GRAR as opposed to a genuine request for information.
posted by The Gooch at 9:51 AM on June 23, 2012


running order squabble fest: Thanks for a long and thoughtful comment which I think offers a lot of real insight into this situation.

There are a couple of details in regard to me that you have wrong, unfortunately. First, I was not replying to Palomar at all. Taz had asked discussion of the topic to go back to the blue, which I have been trying to do, I was just following up Taz' invitation for Meta discussion. (Palomar's sarcasm was also a factor; "Oh yeah if you know all her words so well then show us, it should be easy for you" and this attitude are part of the problem with these topics.) Also, I have agreed with the majority from the beginning that the card-couple's behavior was creepy and boundary-crossing, deserved a public callout and in fact IMHO deserved an immediate ban from the conference according to its rules.

I'm sorry my wording came off as having no interest in dissenting views. On the contrary, I'm fascinated with these discussions. I wouldn't be commenting otherwise. ("Acts of resistance" as you describe are not interesting to me.) I think they're very important and that the particular individuals on Metafilter are generally excellent at hashing out exactly these sorts of knotty and emotional problems. We can (and many times have) collectively reached insights that I can't find in any book.

When I used the phrase "local feminist orthodoxy" I did not mean to be inflammatory. I guess we're all "subvert the paradigm" here and being orthodox sounds old and rich and official and crabby or something. My point is that there is a group of Mefites who share a particular point of view and IMHO react to anything that differs quickly and harshly (with the sarcasm, hyperbole, etc. that Taz noted.)

I have a hot button about bullying and piling on; I'm a contrarian and am inclined to jump in when I see a valid point appearing to be shouted down. A couple of comments here, including Ivan's earlier in this topic, have flat out said that certain points of view should not be allowed to stand, and I don't think that's OK.

Even Not That Girl's comment, after 100 favorites, was quickly ignored by people who went back to insisting this behavior was sexual harassment, without acknowledging or refuting her points. (I assume Not That Girl is a woman because s/he describes volunteering at the Michigan Womyn's Festival for many years. I guess it's possible s/he could have transitioned to another gender after that point.) I wish Not That Woman would contribute more, but I completely understand why. I suspect a lot of people in this topic are not on the receiving end of MeFi pile-ons; it's not fun.
posted by msalt at 11:01 AM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


My point is that there is a group of Mefites who share a particular point of view and IMHO react to anything that differs quickly and harshly (with the sarcasm, hyperbole, etc. that Taz noted.)


Taz did not note this. Taz did not specify that there is a group of MeFites who share an opinion and shout down anyone who disagrees. This is not an accurate representation of her comment.

There has been plenty of sarcasm and hyperbole on both sides. And the two people who were given time outs in the thread were not part of this supposed orthodoxy, and were given time-outs specifically because their approach to discussion was so hyperbolic as to be indistinguishable from trolling.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:12 AM on June 23, 2012


Again, it was a genuine request for you to point out the phrasing from Elyse that you've mentioned, because I did not see any thing like that in her blog post. You've called it out specifically, so it's something that you obviously can see. I have said more than once now that I can't find what you're talking about despite going back to the source material, so maybe you could do me the solid of showing me what you're talking about when you make those accusations about her meaning.

Can you? Or do you just want to call me sarcastic and unhelpful some more when I'm GENUINELY ASKING YOU TO SHOW ME WHAT YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT.

For fuck's sake, why can you not do that.
posted by palomar at 11:27 AM on June 23, 2012


Seriously can you guys maybe mosey back to the original thread or keep this on the topic of this thread?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:32 AM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


palomar: Can you really not see all the attitude you're throwing around? As for your request, Taz and other mods have asked that discussion of the subject itself stay in the original topic in the blue. I'm honoring that request. Meet me there if you want to continue.

Bunny Ultramod: I did not mean to imply that Taz shared my views about the orthodoxy, I was quoting Taz on the sarcasm and hyperbole. Yes, there's sarcasm and hyperbole and other intemperate behavior on all sides, and I don't like any of it. I've been doing my best not to do that myself. Feel free to point out where I've fallen short if you like.
posted by msalt at 11:36 AM on June 23, 2012


Here's a helpful link back to the original topic in the blue. Palomar, I've adding the quotes from Elyse that you requested there.
posted by msalt at 12:21 PM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


corb here really hit on something I've been thinking about since the thread Can we stop with bullshit, hateful mental illness accusations? It seemed like a lot of the resistance was from people who wanted to condemn their ideological opponents in the strongest possible language. And it is a never ending escalation, especially when so much of how we communicate (gesture, tone, body language) is lost in this format.

(resigned sigh) Perhaps we should communicate like the Elcor.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:36 PM on June 23, 2012


When I used the phrase "local feminist orthodoxy" I did not mean to be inflammatory.

Well, sure. That's what I meant to say, I think. You didn't _mean_ to be inflammatory. You believe that this is a totally reasonable statement, and a perfectly reasonable way to characterize people who disagree with you, to the point where you appear to believe that Taz was agreeing with you about it, rather than picking it out as a phrase destined to raise the emotional temperature and make it harder to have a dialog.

But it's an attempt to control the terminology and the discourse. As is your ongoing seeding of your narrative with the concepts of "bullying" and "piling-on" - you're constructing a narrative where you are the hero, going against the grain.

Who wouldn't want to be the contrarian who stands up against the bullies? Who defends the victim of the pile-on? Who tweaks the nose of orthodoxy? Who jumps in when they see a valid point being shouted down? It's not exactly a shameful admission. It's a heroic narrative.

Don't get me wrong - I don't think you're doing this consciously, or as a tactic - I think that people who are aware that they are doing this kind of thing are usually pretty clever about it, and tend to be quite calculated and less ... visible, I guess? Personally, I'm pretty clearly invested in looking thoughtful and reasonable, and that affects the way I phrase things, or choose not to phrase things, but how much of that I am aware of and how much is just hardwired in would be really hard for anyone to answer, self included.

So, if I read this right, this often makes it hard for people to have discussions, because interlocutors have to either tackle these bundled value judgements (that is, argue that they are not a bully, that what they are doing is not piling on, that there is not a feminist orthodoxy even in general, much less on MetaFilter) before getting back to the actual point), or come back in at a tone as emotionally heated as that language of bullying, shouting down, piling on and so on. It's a lose/lose, from the point of view of the discussion.

And being aware of this stuff is actually quite dangerous, because it means that people who are not interested in dialog - trolls, ideologs and so on - can start using these narratives, purposefully if more or less ably, to mess with other people and the discussion.

But I'm an optimist. I think that most people don't want to make discussions actively more aggressive and entrenched - they just don't realise that they are insisting on a narrative where they are representing the forces of good. Nobody's going to demand that they be identified as an oversensitive, shouting, screaming groupthinker, right?
posted by running order squabble fest at 1:51 PM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


(And, if it isn't clear, I think everyone does that to a greater or lesser extent - I don't mean to pick you out; it's just that you were holding the ball when Jessamyn told everyone to get back to the topic and away from the specifics of the case of Elyse...)
posted by running order squabble fest at 1:56 PM on June 23, 2012


corb here really hit on something I've been thinking about since the thread Can we stop with bullshit, hateful mental illness accusations? It seemed like a lot of the resistance was from people who wanted to condemn their ideological opponents in the strongest possible language. And it is a never ending escalation, especially when so much of how we communicate (gesture, tone, body language) is lost in this format.

Yeah, I'd really appreciate it if we could have discussions without calling people names for having different opinions.

So, if I read this right, this often makes it hard for people to have discussions, because interlocutors have to either tackle these bundled value judgements (that is, argue that they are not a bully, that what they are doing is not piling on, that there is not a feminist orthodoxy even in general, much less on MetaFilter) before getting back to the actual point), or come back in at a tone as emotionally heated as that language of bullying, shouting down, piling on and so on. It's a lose/lose, from the point of view of the discussion.

I see your point, but I wonder if maybe we shouldn't actually have those conversations. Because I think in many ways, the fact that the majority of Metafilter holds opinions that, in the outside world, are minority opinions, makes them feel like they can't possibly be piling on, they can't possibly be bullies. Because they're the bullied. It's the old "POC can't be racist, because racism requires the person to be in power" thing. Because there is a feminist orthodoxy, if by feminist orthodoxy we mean a body of belief. And there's no room for thought outside of it. There's no room for "I'm a feminist, but not an intersectional feminist." Or, "I'm a feminist, but I disagree with this flag we're all supposed to be waving."
posted by corb at 2:05 PM on June 23, 2012


Interesting - so is the local feminist orthodoxy the same as the feminist orthodoxy you're describing? Because I would assume that an orthodoxy has certain tenets held in common, and probably also certain texts held to be authoritative. Only, I'm struggling to think of what this feminist orthodoxy is. There's radical feminism, which probably most closely both holds to a set of tenets and texts and excludes viewpoints and texts outside of it, but I would really hesitate to call that "feminist orthodoxy": it's a minority within feminism, and an increasingly marginalized one, I think...

Whereas it seems more that feminism is a plurality - within and without MetaFilter - and that things about one set of feminism can be annoying or seem unfeminist or even anti-feminist to others. Marxist feminists might find some of the concerns of black feminism distracting, and vice versa. And of course there is also a plurality of opinion within those feminisms...

I get what you're saying - it's one of the geek social fallacies, basically, right? That geeks cannot admit to being exclusive or cliquish, even when they are, because they have such bad experiences of exclusion and cliques... but what you're doing here is slightly different. You're saying:
Because I think in many ways, the fact that the majority of Metafilter holds opinions that, in the outside world, are minority opinions, makes them feel like they can't possibly be piling on, they can't possibly be bullies.
But then you've got a big excluded middle, where you are expecting the reader to infer that in case [x] this - piling on, bullying - is what's happening. Which brings us back to msalt, in a way. Without some sort of context, "pile on" and "bullying" are just emotion words - they inspire a sense of horror in those who feel themselves to be generally the victims, rather than the perpetrators, of same.
posted by running order squabble fest at 2:17 PM on June 23, 2012


And thus, is it even useful to employ those terminologies, except to generate emotion? What's the actual benefit to the discussion? It's like... the tea in a cup is a liquid, right? You may also say "this cup of tea is delicious", but that statement is manifestly different in character. So, a number of people disagree with someone. At what point is that piling on? At what ratio of statement to disagreement is someone on a message board being shouted down? I think that's like delicious, not like liquid.
posted by running order squabble fest at 2:25 PM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Because I think in many ways, the fact that the majority of Metafilter holds opinions that, in the outside world, are minority opinions,

I would suggest you not try to make a back-of-the-envelope surveys of what the majority of MeFites believe and then address individuals as part of this group. You probably have gotten your facts wrong -- we are not very good at intuiting meaningful statistics. And it seems to be contributing to a problematic internal narrative where there is a minority opinion that is sarcasmed out of existence, when, if fact, in the thread in question, it was the so-called minority opinion that was given time-off for what came off as deliberately hyperbolic arguing.

As to whether a minority view is expected to argue more carefully and support their points to a larger amount than a majority voice -- yes. That goes with the territory. Is it fair? I actually think it is. When you're taking a contrarian viewpoint, you're going to be expected to show your work more, especially when you're in a thread about somebody from a historically oppressed group, who experienced something that the supposed majority feels reflects that historic oppression, and was in violation of the rules of the event, and you're arguing against this viewpoint. If you do not phrase yourself carefully, and really show the logic behind what you're saying, and back up your assertions with real-world links and whatnot, you're at great risk of seeming like you are supporting oppression, at the worst, or not especially concerned about it, at best.

In those circumstances, out of respect for the reality of oppression, whether you feel it applies in this case, it is important to be extremely clear and careful in how you communicate. Just as a way of showing respect for the history leading up to this discussion.

If you do not show respect for it, people who have been hurt by this oppression, and people who take issue with the oppression, are going to get pretty heated, because it is going to feel like you are supporting something that hurts people, or at least don't think it's a very big deal.

Maybe they shouldn't get heated. But, then, if you aren't coming at them with respect for their experiences, why expect them to respect your opinion?
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 3:18 PM on June 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Can you really not see all the attitude you're throwing around?"

Cut her some slack — she's probably pretty pissed off about the way the conversation has gone, and is expressing that frustration through being short with you. Sometimes — and God, I know I struggle with this — the responsibility has to be on you to ignore an acrimonious tone if you're really invested in having a conversation.
posted by klangklangston at 3:26 PM on June 23, 2012


(Oops - didn't preview, so missed this. Sorry! You (msalt) didn't think taz was agreeing with you about the local feminist orthodoxy. Sorry!)
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:30 PM on June 23, 2012


Interesting - so is the local feminist orthodoxy the same as the feminist orthodoxy you're describing? Because I would assume that an orthodoxy has certain tenets held in common, and probably also certain texts held to be authoritative. Only, I'm struggling to think of what this feminist orthodoxy is. There's radical feminism, which probably most closely both holds to a set of tenets and texts and excludes viewpoints and texts outside of it, but I would really hesitate to call that "feminist orthodoxy": it's a minority within feminism, and an increasingly marginalized one, I think...

I should clarify. It's not that I think everyone here ascribes to a particular brand of feminism. And this isn't really about feminism just by itself. By orthodoxy, again, I mean a core set of beliefs that must be adhered to and where deviation from the norm brings condemnation. My rough guess at orthodoxy here at Metafilter would be : intersectional, somewhat sex-pos but not sex-worker pos. Anti-financial elite, but pro-intellectual elite. Pro-immigration, anti-war. Oppression-fetishizing.

As to whether a minority view is expected to argue more carefully and support their points to a larger amount than a majority voice -- yes. That goes with the territory. Is it fair? I actually think it is.

Here's the thing - would you support that anywhere but here? Would you support it, if, say, a minority race, sexuality, or gender expression was expected to argue more carefully and support their points to a larger amount than majority ones? And if it's not your view, than what is that belief resting on, if not for a strong belief that the majority of Metafilter is in fact more likely to be correct than the minority?
posted by corb at 4:15 PM on June 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Here's the thing - would you support that anywhere but here?

The thing is, that's not a moral imperative. That's a matter of practicality in a discussion forum. If you are one of many people holding a position, there are many voices to expound on it in a variety of different ways. If you're the only person holding a position, then you don't have that backup - and that means that unless you take extra care, your position is going to look poorly supported in comparison. It doesn't have anything to do with fairness or correctness, it's just logic.

Does this mean it's a pain to try to defend a minority position in a discussion? Yes, totally. Is that fixable? Not really, not within the bounds of Metafilter as it currently stands. As moderators, we try to keep discourse within certain basic bounds, but this is a well-established community with a particular political, social, and class makeup and that's going to shape things no matter what we do.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 4:24 PM on June 23, 2012


My rough guess at orthodoxy here at Metafilter would be : intersectional, somewhat sex-pos but not sex-worker pos. Anti-financial elite, but pro-intellectual elite. Pro-immigration, anti-war. Oppression-fetishizing.

I fell like, when I wrote:

And thus, is it even useful to employ those terminologies, except to generate emotion? What's the actual benefit to the discussion?

I didn't think there would be an example as good, so soon after, as "oppression-fetishizing". But, yeah.

I have to say, I find your "must adhere to" to be an curious phrasing. Clearly, lots of people on MetaFilter don't adhere to those positions, or don't identify as such. I don't imagine many people here identify as "oppression fetishists". If you're saying that lots of people on MetaFilter fall somewhere in the middle of a spectrum of viewpoints on a number of issues - well, sure. That's how psephological distribution usually works.

I don't think that's an orthodoxy, though - if you're making rough guesses about what an orthodoxy is, you probably aren't describing an orthodoxy. And I don't know if "condemnation" is the same as "not being agreed with by as large a number of people as agree with other positions".
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:34 PM on June 23, 2012


Maybe it's just me, but the conversation that's occurred in this thread since I was last here looks heated, but mostly civil and productive.

EC was reprimanded by a mod for a very provocative comment, and I suppose I can agree that with stuff this volatile, such comments are always unacceptable. However, while I see numerous people taking the minority, or some minority, position, I see basically only two people who are consistently provocative and mischaracterize others and generally arguing in extremely counterproductive ways, repeatedly. One of them did it in the original thread and now here and has never changed his behavior at all.

All that is to say, and it's what we know already, but it only takes two or three people to totally disrupt a thread on a volatile topic. Their incendiary comments set everyone else on fire. Without those bomb-throwers, people will get heated and have occasional outbursts that are unacceptable and unproductive, but they usually self-correct because most people want to have a civil conversation and, just maybe, learn from each other. It'd difficult, and feathers will be ruffled, as they have been in the last eighteen hours here. But the discussion has been mostly civil, and it's not because the mods kept telling people to not rehash the blue's discussion here — the meta-discussion here was just as contentious and heated. No, it's because people like msalt, though with a strong minority opinion, are making an effort. Certain other people don't seem to know how to do that. I don't know how to solve that problem, really. I guess that's why we have mods.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:12 PM on June 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


The thing is, that's not a moral imperative. That's a matter of practicality in a discussion forum. If you are one of many people holding a position, there are many voices to expound on it in a variety of different ways. If you're the only person holding a position, then you don't have that backup - and that means that unless you take extra care, your position is going to look poorly supported in comparison. It doesn't have anything to do with fairness or correctness, it's just logic.

As a practicality, I can completely accept that that is a legitimate point. I understood Bunny Ultramod to be talking about morality, which is a different story. From a practical point, yeah, being a minority anything is always harder. But from a moral point, arguing that it /should/ be seems to me to be not so awesome.

I have to say, I find your "must adhere to" to be an curious phrasing. Clearly, lots of people on MetaFilter don't adhere to those positions, or don't identify as such. I don't imagine many people here identify as "oppression fetishists". If you're saying that lots of people on MetaFilter fall somewhere in the middle of a spectrum of viewpoints on a number of issues - well, sure.

I don't imagine many people identify as oppression fetishists, but that doesn't mean that they're not. I see more of it here than anywhere except activist circles. You appear not to be fond of the term, but do you have a better way to describe it? The, "X is right, because they're oppressed, Y is right because they're more oppressed than X?" If I had to guess, I'd say that a good portion of the people on Metafilter fit into a very specific socioeconomic bracket, and so ideas that are popular in that bracket tend to also be popular here.

Ivan: I mostly agree with you, but wish the majority would also spend more time making an effort as well.
posted by corb at 5:52 PM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Ivan: I mostly agree with you, but wish the majority would also spend more time making an effort as well."

With topics this volatile, we all have to make an effort.

I really think it's much easier for the majority to make the needed effort when there aren't bomb-throwing minority members carrying a grudge around.

The sexism/feminism/harassment threads don't just have trouble because there's a majority who can't tolerate discussion with a minority. That kind of imbalance does make things difficult, I totally agree. And I don't think that it's even that there's always a few bomb-throwers in the minority, per se. In a way, we all sort of expect that there will always be one or two people who behave this way, especially with very sensitive topics. No, my sense, my own self-observation about what does and does not make it difficult for me to resist escalating things, is the presence of the same few minority bomb-throwers with a grudge in every damn one of these threads. I am totally fucking sick of it.

With them, I think it's totally what is described so well above: that it's not at all about having any sort of discussion, it's about representing a strongly-held viewpoint against a resented majority. Well, I've been there. There's some places and topics where that describes me. But insofar as that describes me, my participation is almost never going to be productive and it's almost always going to make the whole conversation worse, for everyone.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:11 PM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't imagine many people identify as oppression fetishists, but that doesn't mean that they're not. I see more of it here than anywhere except activist circles. You appear not to be fond of the term, but do you have a better way to describe it? The, "X is right, because they're oppressed, Y is right because they're more oppressed than X?" If I had to guess, I'd say that a good portion of the people on Metafilter fit into a very specific socioeconomic bracket, and so ideas that are popular in that bracket tend to also be popular here.

I don't think my fondness is an issue. I'm simply stating the fact that you are using a derogatory and dismissive term to characterize what you see as the MetaFilter orthodoxy (although "rough MetaFilter sociopolitical consensus" seems closer to the mark).

The problem is, we're kind of writing MetaFilter fanfiction at this point - you've got an idea about what the MetaFilter [Orthodoxy/Rough Consensus] is, and the socioecononic factors that drive it, and I'm sure it doesn't come from nowhere, but it doesn't really have any quants, and what you think are the consequences of violating that [orthodoxy/rough consensus] isn't really clear - you get fewer peope agreeing with you? You get fewer favorites? You are more likely to be suspended or banned by the mods?

I think I get where you're going - that MetaFilter, in your opinion, skews white, upper middle-class, thirtysomething North American, something like that? And there are (incomplete) demographic data sets that can respond to that opinion, I believe. However, I think that has its own dangers - if you're thinking that MetaFilter is represented by this particular tranche, I think there's a consequent risk of smoothing out voices or perspectives that don't fit that model...
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:19 PM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


From my perspective, these get vicious kind of quickly because the arguments are so personal. Sharing personal experiences of {oppressive thing} in the same thread as people are saying {Oppressive thing} didn't occur, or isn't as prevalent as people make it out to be, or isn't serious, or isn't as serious as something else, or any number of things, is personally very difficult to disengage from. I've made a concerted effort to try not to bring my personal experiences into threads where disagreement or dissent might feel like an attack on me and my behaviors because I got tired of feeling personally defensive.

I suspect that some of the vocal disagreement from what I guess is the majority here (?) is because, in fact, these are things that happen and we're not just arguing about abstractions or people on the internet. We're arguing about personal experiences and it's hard to do that dispassionately.
posted by ChuraChura at 6:50 PM on June 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


I should note - I think that personal stories are really valuable and I've shared them here through sockpuppetry and anonymity and I really respect people who can own things and share them and use their own experiences as teaching moments.
posted by ChuraChura at 6:52 PM on June 23, 2012


That's a really good point.

I'm not sure what I think of it because a) I have very strong beliefs about the general vs. the personal and b) I recognize that my very strong beliefs are unusual, idiosyncratic and I can't expect others to work within the same framework.

Specifically, I feel and think very strongly that we should almost always combine the particular with the general, the personal with the abstract. I think a lot of thinking about everything from social issues to ethics goes awry when it's abstracted without an anchor to the personal and individual, and, similarly, I think a lot of thinking about these things go awry when people can't or wont' move outside the boundaries of the particular and personal. I always insert generalized thoughts into serious discussions which are predominantly personal, and I always insert the personal/anecdotal into serious discussions which are predominantly generalized and abstract.

But the dynamic you've just point out is very real. I mean, that's actually why I feel the way I do about this stuff. When we generalize it becomes too easy to forget about actual people, their needs and desires and fears and hopes. When we are mostly personalize, we can be trapped in a perspective that's limited by those needs and desires and fears and hopes. Both need to inform the other. But the flip side of this is that, as you say, people's personal experiences are where things, well, personal. A generalized position in the same conversation as a personal anecdote from the opposing larger viewpoint can feel to the person expressing their own experience as an attack on themselves. Similarly, an anecdote offered can be experienced by someone on the opposite side as a sort of implicit accusation that by having the opposing general position, you're attacking someone personally.

So it's tempting to say that these conversations should be, to be productive, strictly segregate the general from the personal.

But I think that's throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Indeed, I think that's what we (in our culture, anyway) typically do and that's part of why some of these persistent divisions exist. Those who always discuss these things in the abstract can very comfortably hold to their position while being insulated from what it means to actual people, personally. Similarly, those who always discuss these things in the personal can very comfortably hold to their position without grappling with the larger context. And, functionally, the segregation plays an important role in segregating viewpoints, because very often certain positions on these sorts of issues correlate to whether one's experience with one of these issues is as an abstract intellectual exercise, or something lived. Note that I'm not privileging those with personal experience. They know something others do not. But that can also be limiting. We can learn best from each other and we can learn best by working hard at thinking about these sorts of things from the perspective that we normally don't view them from — if we usually think abstractly, then it's very productive to think particularly and personally. If we usually think particularly and personally, then it's very productive to think abstractly. And those who have long experience from the other side have a lot to teach us about what it looks like from that perspective.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:09 PM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I really think it's much easier for the majority to make the needed effort when there aren't bomb-throwing minority members carrying a grudge around....

No, my sense, my own self-observation about what does and does not make it difficult for me to resist escalating things, is the presence of the same few minority bomb-throwers with a grudge in every damn one of these threads. I am totally fucking sick of it.

With them, I think it's totally what is described so well above: that it's not at all about having any sort of discussion, it's about representing a strongly-held viewpoint against a resented majority.


Ivan, just so I can be sure that I'm reading you right, are you saying that minority bomb-throwers representing a strongly-held viewpoint against a resented majority are worse than majority bomb-throwers representing a strongly-held viewpoint against a resented minority?

The problem is, we're kind of writing MetaFilter fanfiction at this point - you've got an idea about what the MetaFilter [Orthodoxy/Rough Consensus] is, and the socioecononic factors that drive it, and I'm sure it doesn't come from nowhere, but it doesn't really have any quants, and what you think are the consequences of violating that [orthodoxy/rough consensus] isn't really clear - you get fewer peope agreeing with you? You get fewer favorites? You are more likely to be suspended or banned by the mods?

I'm intensely amused by the concept of MetaFilter fanfic. But yes, it is hard to quantify actual numbers, because there's no way to really gather data. In terms of what the consequences of violating the consensus are, I would argue: you get less helpful (and more argumentative) AskMe answers, you are more likely to have vitriol directed in your general direction, your statements are more likely to be flagged and deleted.

I remember very clearly one statement in the recent thread about a nine year old girl caring for her mother with multiple sclerosis. I was following it closely, so I was able to see it pop up - it was a comment from someone about how she wished that MeFites who were rich and had a lot of trust in authority figures would stop gawking at the poor and wondering why they make the choices they make. And it was an intensely powerful comment and one I thought was really interesting - but it didn't stand, and I wonder why. Why was it more offensive for someone to say, (effectively) "You rich people are all just making noises and can't understand" than it for people to call others sexist or racist? Except that, perhaps, the person violated the collective pretense that MetaFilter doesn't skew upper-middle class.

I think I get where you're going - that MetaFilter, in your opinion, skews white, upper middle-class, thirtysomething North American, something like that? And there are (incomplete) demographic data sets that can respond to that opinion, I believe.

Yeah. That is pretty much exactly what I was thinking, but I'd add "liberal, urban" to that.
posted by corb at 9:08 PM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


And it was an intensely powerful comment and one I thought was really interesting - but it didn't stand, and I wonder why.

If it was in Ask Metafilter, it was probably because that doesn't sound like an answer to the question at all, and we delete those. It's a pretty hard and fast rule.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 9:51 PM on June 23, 2012


Yeah. That is pretty much exactly what I was thinking, but I'd add "liberal, urban" to that.

I fit some of those categories, but not others. If you're basing opinions about MetaFilter based on some assumption of demographics, and then also presuming that this demographic shares a lot of opinions, it sounds to me like you're created a false model of the site. You cannot know what people's background, experiences, or even, in many cases, gender is, and the best way to address them is to assume they have come to their opinions honestly, not based on some socioeconomic background, and address them individually.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:37 PM on June 23, 2012


That sounds exactly the sort of thing you bunnies would say.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:55 AM on June 24, 2012


DAMMIT
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:04 AM on June 24, 2012


I remember very clearly one statement in the recent thread about a nine year old girl caring for her mother with multiple sclerosis. I was following it closely, so I was able to see it pop up - it was a comment from someone about how she wished that MeFites who were rich and had a lot of trust in authority figures would stop gawking at the poor and wondering why they make the choices they make. And it was an intensely powerful comment and one I thought was really interesting - but it didn't stand, and I wonder why. Why was it more offensive for someone to say, (effectively) "You rich people are all just making noises and can't understand" than it for people to call others sexist or racist? Except that, perhaps, the person violated the collective pretense that MetaFilter doesn't skew upper-middle class.

I remember that comment - I thought it stayed. I don't understand why it was deleted.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:40 AM on June 24, 2012


I thought was really interesting - but it didn't stand, and I wonder why. Why was it more offensive for someone to say, (effectively) "You rich people are all just making noises and can't understand" than it for people to call others sexist or racist? Except that, perhaps, the person violated the collective pretense that MetaFilter doesn't skew upper-middle class.

If you have or had questions about individual comments we'll be happy to answer them but hitting us up at the contact form will get better results than at the end of a nearly 700 comment thread. We don't delete comments for violating the pretense that MeFi doesn't skew upper middle class and I find it to be a pretty problematic assertion that we'd do that.

The comment started out pulling out two other users' comments and then saying "Fucking rich people, with their nothing-to-lose lives. Jesus. Just...go away, and stop gawking at us...." and was directly calling out thoser commenters which isn't okay. It was a pre-packaged derail not minding the "Help maintain a healthy, respectful discussion by focusing comments on the issues, topics, and facts at hand—not at other members of the site." request that we make of every user.

I know it's difficult when people have opinions that are minority opinions but that are also framed in a problematic way people would like them to stick around just to be a voice of underrepresented folks. However, there is a basic "You've got to be decent to other people" requirement here that we want people to adhere to so that we can keep this community running and not devolving into angry hollering matches. Sometimes it's tough to tell when a discussion that is already bumpy has turned a corner into an angry fighting mess, but this wasn't difficult. The person who posted that comment is more than welcome to post their opinions without calling out other people, but that wasn't that comment.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:55 AM on June 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


If you're basing opinions about MetaFilter based on some assumption of demographics, and then also presuming that this demographic shares a lot of opinions, it sounds to me like you're created a false model of the site.

One thing I always remember about my mental model of the site is that a tiny minority of signed-up readers participate heavily, and I know people read along for years without signing up (I did). So any Mefite consensus based on the same old folks doesn't necessarily represent either Metafilter or those reading along.
posted by immlass at 7:56 AM on June 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


If you have or had questions about individual comments we'll be happy to answer them but hitting us up at the contact form will get better results than at the end of a nearly 700 comment thread. We don't delete comments for violating the pretense that MeFi doesn't skew upper middle class and I find it to be a pretty problematic assertion that we'd do that.

Yeah, I wasn't concerned enough to mail, I just thought of it as an illustrative incident here.

The comment started out pulling out two other users' comments and then saying "Fucking rich people, with their nothing-to-lose lives. Jesus. Just...go away, and stop gawking at us...." and was directly calling out thoser commenters which isn't okay. It was a pre-packaged derail not minding the "Help maintain a healthy, respectful discussion by focusing comments on the issues, topics, and facts at hand—not at other members of the site." request that we make of every user.

See, the thing is...I don't think that "healthy, respectful discussion" is really evenly enforced. I did contact mods last night to get more clarification on what that skews as, and was told that Metafilter is actually pretty rough and tumble, and there's a really high standard for deletion. I've had people telling me that they hope I don't kill any babies, and that's stood, even after contacting mods and asking them to take a look at those threads. So yeah, I don't see how the comment calling out commenters about perceived gawking at the poor is worse than people saying that someone's political preferences make them likely to kill babies, or make them a racist, or what have you - unless it has to do with calling people out on economic grounds for making commentary on others.
posted by corb at 8:03 AM on June 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


was told that Metafilter is actually pretty rough and tumble, and there's a really high standard for deletion.

I'm not sure if you had continued discussion with restless_nomad or taz after the exchange that I saw, but what I saw her say was

"The simplest and most often true answer is that when people are being egregious assholes and we haven't done anything about it, it's because we haven't seen it. Particularly on the blue, where the volume is vastly too high for us to monitor with any sort of thoroughness without relying on flags, and doubly so when there are a bunch of contentious metas that are sucking up our attention. "

and then followed up encouraging you to flag stuff and also said she'd take a look at the thread.

I am not sure what you are referring to in the Zimmerman thread about baby-killing at all. If you need to have an in-depth conversation about specifics, I suggest that you send us an email or link here to specific things you are concerned about because I feel that the way you are paraphrasing what people have said is not allowing me to speak any more specifically about that thread or the general issue.

I feel that you've been on the site for two months and you seem to have a lot of concerns about the way the site works while at the same time not having a lot of familiarity with how we do things here. That's no big deal, everyone is new sometimes, but I'm finding that you're making a lot of assumptions about our motivations and the motivations of others that are making your time here bumpier than it needs to be.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:21 AM on June 24, 2012


> The comment started out pulling out two other users' comments and then saying "Fucking rich people, with their nothing-to-lose lives. Jesus. Just...go away, and stop gawking at us...."

Yup, that's gonna get deleted. You can have contentious opinions without directly being an asshole to other MeFites. And I say this as someone who loves contentious opinions.
posted by languagehat at 9:01 AM on June 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure if you had continued discussion with restless_nomad or taz after the exchange that I saw,

Conversation was continued, yes. The precise quote was, "Contentious threads in Metafilter tend to get a little rough-and-tumble, and the bar for deletion is relatively high."

I am not sure what you are referring to in the Zimmerman thread

Well, I feel like I've already gone through this, what with the email to the mods last night and all, so don't really want to pore through it again, but sure, I'll throw up a couple examples that contained language I think was at least on par with that deleted comment, if maybe less succinct, and the thread itself contained a lot of people finding new ways to say or suggest I was a racist.

I feel that you've been on the site for two months and you seem to have a lot of concerns about the way the site works while at the same time not having a lot of familiarity with how we do things here. That's no big deal, everyone is new sometimes, but I'm finding that you're making a lot of assumptions about our motivations and the motivations of others that are making your time here bumpier than it needs to be.

I've actually been on the site (and commenting) for over a year, while lurking before that - I've just only been very active in the last few months because I've had more free time, and expressing concerns because I'm seeing more examples of what appear to be unevenly applied standards.
posted by corb at 9:44 AM on June 24, 2012


Everything that you linked to yesterday, corb, was at least a week old. We are not going to delete stuff that far after the fact. That's just the way it works.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 10:04 AM on June 24, 2012


Well, sure, no, but I specifically wasn't asking for deletion, but more to get an idea of what sort of treatment was acceptable and what sort wasn't. "Yes, this was assholish, but it's old, so we wouldn't delete it." is a very different response than "No problem to see here."

I stress, if it's asshole on, full steam ahead as community standard, that is /fine/, I'm just trying to understand why it seems fine in some places and not fine other places.
posted by corb at 10:07 AM on June 24, 2012


People disagreeing with you, even vehemently, isn't inherently assholish, and is not at all equivalent to an "all you people..." rant. I'm not seeing the equivalence here, sorry.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 10:15 AM on June 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


So, to clarify: "You're a racist" - not assholish
"You're rich and insensitive" - assholish.

Repeatedly calling someone despicable - not assholish
Saying some people should "stop gawking" - assholish.

Please help me here, because again, I'm trying to understand. I can accept a standard that makes the comments in the Zimmerman thread as not assholish, but I have difficulty with one that makes those not assholish, and comments such as the one in the 9 year old thread assholish.
posted by corb at 10:28 AM on June 24, 2012


You are conflating a heated debate between a few people with a single "you are all wrong and here's why" comment. The effects are wildly different. The latter can only really be done here if it's done thoughtfully, because otherwise it starts a pile on.

You are also conflating "You are defending a position that racists defend" and "you are racist," which is super common but not actually the truth. They are not the same thing, and we're not going to treat them the same way. The despicable stuff is borderline, and in context it's a good sign that the conversation has devolved to the point where no one is going to get any satisfaction out of it and it's time for the participants to step away. What's kind of amazing, actually, is that it's taken three weeks to get there. Usually three days is enough.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 10:35 AM on June 24, 2012 [9 favorites]


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