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Xiphias Gladius

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Pulling out to the top level a few more thoughts on the sexual harassment Readercon situation [Jul. 29th, 2012|11:09 pm]
Xiphias Gladius
I've been expressing some thoughts in the comments of the previous post which I kind of want to pull out to the top-level. So I'm doing so.

A bunch of what I'm going to be saying is either stuff I've said before, or is implicit in stuff I've said before, so I'm probably repeating myself. But I'm trying to stack it up in a slightly more illuminating, I hope, manner.

Again, I'm cut-tagging this, so people who don't want to see it don't have to.

Some people are suggesting that the Board of Readercon went easy on Rene Walling because he's a Big Name Fan.

I don't think that's it. I think the Board went easy on him because he's their friend.

And I don't mean that in a "the Board gives their cronies a pass, because they're corrupt" sort of way. Rather, I mean that "the Board made the absolutely human error of thinking that Bad Things Are Done By Bad People."

And a bunch of other absolutely human errors that follow on to that.

Here's my brief definition of what "harassment" is, as I see it. "Harassment" is when a person prioritizes their own DESIRE to have an interaction with another person over that person's RIGHT to avoid such interaction. In the general case, allowing for exceptions, edge cases, and so forth, one has no RIGHT to interaction with another person; in the general case, allowing for exceptions, edge cases, and so forth, one has the absolute RIGHT to AVOID interactions with another person.

Sexually-charged interactions are an Even More So situation, because sexuality is very much tied to the Self -- both in terms of a person's control of his or her own body, and his or her own emotional state -- and therefore, sexuality is EXTREMELY closely tied to self-determination. Which is why sexual harassment is a heightened form of harassment.

All harassment is about the harasser trying to exert control the victim, which thereby abrogates the victim's right to self-determination, which is, I think, the most fundamental right.

So, let me go over my understanding of what transpired:

At the con, Rene Walling instigated an interaction with Genevieve Valentine which she soon found uncomfortable and unwelcome, and which soon became verbally inappropriate. She walked away from said interaction.

That night, outside a room party, Mr Walling started another unwelcome interaction, which included him putting an arm around her. She felt EXTREMELY uncomfortable, and shut down the interaction as clearly as she could.

Over the course of the next day, Mr Walling attempted to instigate other interactions, presumably to attempt to tender an apology. Said interactions were equally as unwelcome as the previous ones.

Now, here's the thing.

The Board perceives Mr Walling's attempts at tendering an apology to be a mitigating circumstance. But they're not. They're an AGGRAVATING circumstance.

The later interactions were JUST as unwelcome, and JUST as much an abrogation of Ms Valentine's rights as the prior ones.

I believe that Mr Walling had a genuine intent to apologize. I believe that he had a genuine desire to apologize.

And so he prioritized his DESIRE to apologize over Ms Valentine's RIGHT to avoid interaction. That is, the attempts to apologize were harassment in their own right, compounding the harassment in the previous two interactions.

Were Mr Walling's attempts sincere? Did he actually want to tender an apology and make amends? Well, I think probably yes. But one doesn't get to unilaterally DECIDE that. To make that unilateral decision IS to harass.

The Board didn't recognize that. They didn't recognize that harassers aren't mustache-twirling villains who wake up and say, "Hmm! I think I shall go and harass someone today!"

Rather, they are people who pursue their own desires over the discomfort of other people, in ways which infringe on those people's rights. In their own mind, their motives are harmless, ordinary, or even admirable. "Tendering an apology." What could be more appropriate, and socially acceptable?

The Board therefore was lenient on Mr Walling, because he wasn't INTENDING to be bad. He was just clueless. So they didn't feel like they had to punish him that severely.

That was ANOTHER significant mistake. Because a lifetime ban for sexual harassment isn't ABOUT punishment. It's about not having sexual harassers.

Do I think Rene Walling is a bad person? No, not really. Do I think he's a harasser? Yes, absolutely. Why? Because he prioritized his desire to flirt, or whatever, with Ms Valentine, over her right to NOT flirt with him; and then he prioritized his desire to apologize to her over her right to not interact with him.

Do I think he should be harshly punished? No, not particularly. But a lifetime ban from Readercon isn't a punishment. It's simply a way to avoid having people there who prioritize their desires for interaction above other people's rights to avoid such interaction.

[User Picture]From: paper_crystals
2012-07-30 03:17 am (UTC)
This reminds me of Jay Smooth's video "How to Tell Someone They Sound Racist." Except with more consequences.

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[User Picture]From: kythiaranos
2012-07-30 03:23 am (UTC)
Because a lifetime ban for sexual harassment isn't ABOUT punishment. It's about not having sexual harassers

This. Thank you for saying this. The point isn't made often enough.
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[User Picture]From: teddywolf
2012-07-30 05:30 am (UTC)
I am sorry, but for all that we agree on the lifetime ban, and agree that Mr. Walling definitely behaved inappropriately (to say the least), he is also being put between a rock and a hard place in expectations.

I know Ms. Valentine wanted him to walk away. I know she stated that this would be the only acceptable form of apology. And yet... here's the point that makes me unsure. While I will not state that it is always definitively the case, in my own experience, when somebody who has harassed me or somebody I know walks away without a word, I do not consider that to be an apology. I am not sure if I know anybody who considers it to be an apology, barring Ms. Valentine.

When I was little and got beat up, if the kids beating me up moved away without a word, I worried that they were going to do it again when the circumstances were ripe to do so. The only way I was set at ease is if they themselves told me that they wouldn't do it again.
When I was older and got harassed, if the people harassing me moved away without a word, I was (again) worried that they would do that again when the time and circumstances were right-- and that they'd bash me behind my back when I had no chance to rebut, but that's a separate worry.

In most cases, somebody perpetrating harm suddenly moving away without saying a word does not calm fears. It can easily heighten fears in the short to medium term, maybe even the long term. The usual expectation is, They'll be back, and they may be worse.

Tendering an apology is more than saying I'm Sorry. A proper apology is meant to admit wrong, to abase yourself in a way, and is also meant to calm fears of a recurrence of harassing and violent events. Now, there can be all sorts of wrong times to tender an apology, and all sorts of wrong ways. It needs to be appropriate to the person being apologized to.

It's not magic, but it has strong potential to ease social interaction. I believe (possibly erroneously) that there are cultures in Asia which consider proper apologies to be an art-form.

Clearly it was the wrong time and place for Mr. Walling to attempt an apology. That is at the discretion of the person being apologized to. However, as the stated means of apology (leaving her alone without saying a word) is usually something which heightens fear and nervousness, and she expected him to know this counterintuitive means of apology as the right means for her despite it going counter to general societal expectations... well, I nearly think she was expecting him to read her mind, as she refused to at least tell him that much.

I presume (though do not state definitively) that he is therefore stuck. If he does not give some sort of formal, language-based apology, she may well continue to be worried that he will continue to be a problem for her whenever she sees him; he might feel that this kind of fear is unacceptable generally, as well as making him unhappy that he is viewed so poorly--yes, that part is about him, it doesn't have to be all of one or all of the other. On the other hand, if he does give her such an apology, he might reduce her worries that he will be a lurking threat, but in the short term he is violating her boundaries.

Ae there ever legitimate circumstances where violating a boundary is acceptable? Or is it never acceptable, even if a small violation might prevent much greater harm?

Her belief that she was harassed, and that she should not be harassed, was and is entirely reasonable. What she stated as an acceptable means of apology I consider fine for her, and thus reasonable. The means by which she expected him to divine this... that is what I have to call up for question.

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[User Picture]From: teddywolf
2012-07-30 05:30 am (UTC)
I also am not certain of your notion that there is no right to expect social interaction with a person. In certain circumstances, there are considerable expectations for social interaction, and not interacting is considered to be rude and counter to social expectations. It can even be illegal.

Let me back up. There is not any reasonable expectation that you can expect a response from everybody you interact with. However, there is a social expectation of interaction, regardless of it being quiet or voluble. There is also the general social expectation that this interaction will be socially acceptable. Humans are social animals, and we live in societies, communities. Humans who do not interact with others much, or avoid it nearly entirely, are considered to be loners. They are called antisocial, even aberrant. They are loosely connected to society, if at all. There is clearly an expectation of social interaction generally, though you cannot reasonably expect it to always be on your own terms--meaning, people will not always behave the way you want them to.

In certain circumstances, I have reasonable expectations that I will be interacted with. If I work a job where people call me, I expect them to talk to me, and they expect me to talk to them. If I am at a business attempting to make a purchase, it's reasonable for me to expect service. If I do not talk when on the phone with people who call me, they will consider me rude. If the person does not serve me at the business, I will consider them rude. If I feel I am being discriminated against for no reason, I may have standing for a lawsuit. Remember, the Civil Rights Act codifies that there are areas where I must be interacted with, so long as it is reasonable.

People who interact poorly with society may be shunned as rude, freaks, or just generally socially unacceptable. What defines poor interaction varies by societal expectations. These expectations can change over time. However, people who interact against expectations of a given community will be avoided. Changing the perception of poor behavior takes time, if there is a chance to do so at all. Changing societal behavioral expectations, that takes longer.

In a strictly social setting, I have no reasonable expectation that any given person will get into a long and meaningful conversation with me. I do not have the inherent right to make someone interact with me. Yet, civil interaction is not supposed to be illegal. "The right of the people peaceably to assemble" comes to mind.

What is considered civil, of course, is subject to debate.

Do I believe there is a right to avoid any social interaction with anybody I choose? Well, yes, but I believe it requires slightly more active effort than passive sentiment--at the very least, telling someone "I don't want to talk with you" will set a reasonable expectation. After that, they break a formal expectation, and do so at their social peril. This is one reason why we have words, to help people understand concepts and intentions more easily than they would otherwise.

Edited at 2012-07-30 05:30 am (UTC)
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From: legionseagle.dreamwidth.org
2012-07-30 07:32 am (UTC)
I don't think glvalentine's account reflects your claim here:

I know Ms. Valentine wanted him to walk away. I know she stated that this would be the only acceptable form of apology. And yet... here's the point that makes me unsure. While I will not state that it is always definitively the case, in my own experience, when somebody who has harassed me or somebody I know walks away without a word, I do not consider that to be an apology. I am not sure if I know anybody who considers it to be an apology, barring Ms. Valentine.

She has stated at some length (http://glvalentine.livejournal.com/340623.html#comments) that she did NOT want an apology, she wanted NOTHING MORE TO DO WITH HIM, not only in her initial and subsequent posts, but the time:
Sunday morning, I fell in with some friends and was chatting near the entrance to the book room, when I saw him, again hovering nearby. My friends, up to speed on the issue, eventually tried to walk me to the table, at which point he cut in with us and started apologizing. I said, "Don't want to talk about this, don't worry about it, goodbye," and kept walking.

Later, he stopped by the Clarkesworld table again and hovered for so long that a friend stepped in while I went elsewhere....My boundaries were violated physically, verbally, and in terms of my right to feel personally secure. In addition, within minutes of meeting him, I was told to stop saying things, because it made him somehow unable to control his thoughts, which is bog-standard thought policing. And I was subjected to not one, not two, but THREE instances of the man in question hovering near me because he wanted to apologize,. and he wasn't going to stop until he had had his say. (If this sounds like stalking, I want you to think about that.)

How much mind-reading is needed to parse an explicit statement "I don't want to talk about this" as an indication that the person in question doesn't want to talk about the subject in question?

I differ from the OP as to whether "sincere desire to make amends" featured in Walling's thinking. Carrying out the initial stalking by other means seems nearer the mark.

Suppose a man knows a particular woman is violently allergic to the smell of roses. Being handed a bouquet of roses will lead, at the very least, to days of sneezing misery, puffy eyes and feeling like shit. And, to make this clear, she's actually said, "I really can't stand roses" directly to him in public on several prior occasions. If he hands her a bunch of twelve roses the bystanders may think "What a sweet romantic gesture" because they don't know the backstory, that he's making use of privileged information to cause her direct harm in a way that it makes him look generous and her mean-spirited.

That, in my view, is yet another thing Rene Walling has done wrong by expressing contrition to the Board; he's used them as his instrument to deliver an apology which she has already said she does not wish to receive. And that reads like a creepy power play in my boo

*I'm a lawyer, though not qualified in the relevant jurisdiction. I'm using "assault" in its technical legal meaning. The Board of Readercon have expressly stated "The information we collected and reviewed was consistent, consequently, we feel the facts of the incident are not in dispute." Those facts include repeated unwanted touching accompanied by salacious comments calculated to make her feel unsafe.
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[User Picture]From: teddywolf
2012-07-30 07:56 am (UTC)
I am not arguing that Mr. Walling should not get the banning that he is entitled to under the rules of Readercon's concom, and have never argued such. I should point out, though, that she did in fact explicitly call walking away an apology. To quote:

If a woman has indicated you are unwelcome (see above, but also including but not limited to: lack of eye contact, moving away from you, looking for other people around you, trying to wrap up the conversation), and especially if a woman has told you in any way, to any degree, that you are unwelcome, your apology is YOU, VANISHING.

Another point: I decided to double-check her statements. All of them did indicate a need for him to stop invading her space and/or stop talking with her at the time. All quite reasonable and delivered reasonably as could be, given the circumstances. I do not like how he assumed he could touch her without consent!

I am in full sympathy with her. I would like him banned and the board members who voted to ignore the policy to step down. At the same time, I do not want to read extra sins into an event that might not exist.

I'd be fine with her bringing him to court on charges of assault as well, though not being a lawyer I have no idea if it would qualify as simple or aggravated--I'd appreciate if you'd tell me which would be more appropriate. A man needs to be able to accept the consequences of his actions.

That said, none of the statements she describes actually said that she wanted him to have, as you said, "nothing more to do with her." Go back and look. If you can prove me wrong you will have my apology for the error, and my thoughts on the matter will be revised.
It's easy to read her intent after the fact, with her narrating her inner thoughts, but her actual stated outward statements to him lacked the full intensity of her inner intent.

(I'm no lawyer, but I know legal-form of assault and can follow along fine)
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[User Picture]From: browngirl
2012-07-30 12:31 pm (UTC)
Oh roommate, you know I adore you, but I also really disagree with you on this.

There are people who use 'apologies' for bad behavior as a way of continuing the behavior. So it can actually be dangerous to allow someone to apologize, because they might see it as implicit permission to continue the interactions one wants to not continue.

Also, the insistence on apologizing can be used as a way to continue controlling the interaction. When I've been where Ms. Valentine was, what I wanted was for the unpleasant interaction to not have happened, for it to stop, and for my control over my interactions to resume, for the other people to stop trying to control and continue those interactions.

It seems awful to think that one can do something and not even be allowed to apologize for it, but sometimes the only apology possible is to go away. Pressing on with trying to claim more of the aggrieved party's time and attention by trying to apologize is often not about making amends to aggrieved party but about the wrongdoer getting to feel better. I think at that point in the situation the appropriate emphasis should be on the aggrieved party's needs and wants: put simply, if someone wants to be left alone instead of an apology, trying to push an apology on them is just prolonging the behavior that warranted the apology in the first place, by flouting their desire to be left alone.

I know you mean well here, but I do disagree with you on this, and I think what you're advocating for can be actively dangerous. As a society we tend to require the aggrieved parties in certain kinds of wrongdoing, often sexual, to continue giving of themselves to those who have wronged them, and I think we need to stop requiring that.
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[User Picture]From: ron_newman
2012-07-30 12:41 pm (UTC)
Could/should the offender have tried to apologize in writing instead of in person, to avoid aggravating the original offense?
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[User Picture]From: teddywolf
2012-07-30 01:03 pm (UTC)
No, I know what you're talking about regarding apologies. It's something I am trying to drum into a couple of redheads, with to date a notable dearth of success: an apology is not simply saying I'm Sorry, an apology is saying I'm Sorry and then demonstrating your remorse by not doing the offending action again. I'm hoping they learn this before I go completely bald, but not hopeful.

I consider an insincere apology to be a very bad and socially dangerous lie. The word without the will is a dangerous thing. Then again, I don't consider a spoken apology to be a real apology unless it is backed up by actions that demonstrate good faith over a prolonged period--call it Parole, if you will.

I will ask you this: if someone was harassing you somewhere, and they then simply disappeared after you told them to go away because they were bothering you, would you still feel as safe in that space as before? And would you trust that, without a word of honest apology (I stress honest), you would still be safe from that person? Or... would you engage in some over-the-shoulder looking?

To answer this on my own part, I do not deny the short-term relief of being left alone, but the space would not feel as safe to me without what I perceive as an honest apology.

I will agree that if you do get a word of apology, and you feel it is not a sincere expression of apology, you should not be forced to accept it and forced to give parole. Your life, you choose who you believe.
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[User Picture]From: quietann
2012-07-30 03:48 pm (UTC)
There are people who use 'apologies' for bad behavior as a way of continuing the behavior. So it can actually be dangerous to allow someone to apologize, because they might see it as implicit permission to continue the interactions one wants to not continue.

Ohhhh yes. BTDT (actually on both sides, not something I am proud of... but me-as-perpetrator was not in a sexual context.)

Apologies are very tricky things.
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[User Picture]From: wordweaverlynn
2012-07-31 10:41 am (UTC)
Thanks for a very cogent statement of the issues.

Moreover, why should the harassee trust the harasser's apology? I'm a word-based life-form myself, but in similar situations I don't want an apology, I want a change in behavior. In this case the actions don't match the words. In fact, they contradict them.

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[User Picture]From: navrins
2012-07-30 01:15 pm (UTC)
I know about this situation only what I have read on xiphias's LJ, but since when does delivering an apology for being in someone's presence require getting in their presence again?

A (looking upset): I don't want you to talk to me.
B (backing away): Sorry to bother you. (Turns and leaves.)

Interaction complete. No need to return and cause further distress unless A initiates it. No need to violate any boundaries further.
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[User Picture]From: teddywolf
2012-07-30 02:42 pm (UTC)
The argument being made by xiphias and others is that any attempt to apologize is a form of interaction, and since A does not want any further interaction of any sort with B, then B's attempt to apologize is intruding on A's desire to not be interacted with. This would cover a short written note to be handed over later as well as a short spoken apology while backing away.
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[User Picture]From: xiphias
2012-07-30 02:43 pm (UTC)
A note is interaction.
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[User Picture]From: xiphias
2012-07-30 02:52 pm (UTC)
Look. You're still doing it. You're still prioritizing the desire to apologize over the right to be left alone. You're still prioritizing the harasser over the victim, which is PRECISELY the attitude which causes the harassment in the first place. Which is PRECISELY the harassment in the first place.

Why are you trying to figure out how the harasser can get what he wants from the victim?
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[User Picture]From: navrins
2012-07-30 03:06 pm (UTC)
Are you trying to address actual things that happen in the real world and the effects they have on actual people's feelings, or having a philosophical conversation about the definition of "apologize" and "interaction?"

Because it *sounds* like you're trying to make excuses for Walling by saying, "But he HAD to violate her boundaries and harass her in order to apologize!" I want to call that out clearly as FALSE. (I'm reacting here to your initial sentences: "Mr. Walling... is also being put between a rock and a hard place in expectations. I know Ms. Valentine wanted him to walk away. I know she stated that this would be the only acceptable form of apology. And yet... when somebody who has harassed me or somebody I know walks away without a word, I do not consider that to be an apology.")

I understand you to be implying that he had only two options: "Walk away without a word," or violate her boundaries again (multiple times, as I understand it) to offer a formal apology. He had (at least) a third choice: He could have walked away while briefly apologizing. I think most people, in that situation, would do that. If he wasn't thinking quickly enough to do that in the moment, well... oops.

Furthermore, and more importantly, she has made her desire to be left alone clearly known. The best - and I suspect the only - way to show respect for her wishes was for him to do what she clearly told him she wanted him to do. Not what you think you would want if you were her, not what he thought she SHOULD want... what she TOLD him she wants. Anything else says he doesn't respect her desires and boundaries, and inherently undermines any apology he may be trying to make.
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[User Picture]From: elynne
2012-07-30 05:11 pm (UTC)
From the original post: [to the harasser] your apology is YOU, VANISHING.

That seems really very clear and unambiguous to me. The point is not to let the harasser apologize so he can feel better about himself. The point is to stop the harassment. Stopping the harassment means removing the harasser so that the harassee has the opportunity to enjoy the event safely. It's nothing to do with apologizing.
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[User Picture]From: xiphias
2012-07-30 01:50 pm (UTC)
Nobody is claiming that Mr Walling woke up on Sunday morning and thought, "Boy, harassing Ms Valentine was fun; let's do it again."

Nobody is claiming that Mr Walling was aware that his actions were harassment.

But they were.

That's the thing. You're assuming that, well, he didn't know; so it doesn't count. You're assuming that, well, it's possible for a reasonable person to reach the conclusion he did.

Sure. That's not in question.

The point is that his conclusion was wrong.

Why did it happen? Because he didn't understand enough about harassment to understand that it was harassment.

But that doesn't matter. He can, and should, learn more and learn that it was harassment -- and do so on his own time.

Nobody says that Mr Walling intended to do wrong. Nobody says that he acted maliciously. But it's not ABOUT him.
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[User Picture]From: daharyn
2012-07-30 05:52 pm (UTC)
xiphias, I have to say, you've valiantly wielded your clue bat and your logical reasoning skills in the comments, but most of the people you're engaging don't seem to be able to understand you, somehow. I've been trying to figure out a different way to articulate it--but it may not be a question of restating the idea. I don't know.
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[User Picture]From: linenoise
2012-07-31 06:55 pm (UTC)
I don't think that it's possible to rearticulate the position any more than it's already been done. It's an axioms problem, at this point. When people are starting from two different sets of axioms, at some point reasonable discourse becomes impossible. You can *try* to restart the conversation by going back and attempting to make your axioms explicit, to see where the disconnect is, but.... that's *hard*, and not always even entirely possible. Because the whole point of axioms is that they're self-evident, and thus not subject to proof or argument. Except, of course, that not everyone has the same set.

Personally, I feel that the controlling axiom in this particular case *should* have been "your right to swing your fist ends at the tip of my nose". But not everyone thinks that statement is axiomatic. Or even *true* in some cases.
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[User Picture]From: vvalkyri
2012-07-31 10:21 pm (UTC)
Hm. I haven't seen anybody arguing such that "your right to swing your fist ends at the tip of my nose" is in question.

I think there is disagreement as to what are shared assumptions and what are not shared assumptions - essentially what does everybody agree is indeed a fist, and what does everybody agree is a nose.

I wrote the following elsewhere; hopefully it makes a bit of sense:
In all of these threads I'm seeing a lot of people insisting that any generality must be brought back to the original Person A and Person B.

I'm also seeing a lot of people insisting that they know motivations - that the only reason anybody would ever try to get near someone to apologize is that they are asserting will.

Even if that is indeed the case, not everybody has the emotional vocabulary to even realize that is what they might be doing. Or they don't imagine that a delivery of contrition and intent to not further transgress could be anything but welcome.

It's obvious that is not the case, here. Person B was sufficiently upset by Person A's out of line behavior that any interaction at all, even were it "I was way out of line and I'll do my best to avoid you in the future" was unwelcome.

Not all of us have an easy time grokking that. We imagine that we would rather hear the other person knows he's done us wrong and will stay away. Presumably some subset of people who upset other people by contacting them in attempted apology (as above) make that assumption as well.

(I had started to write that I'd been lucky enough to not have any analogous experiences, but no, the one where the former coworker was suddenly looming over me in the armchair in his basement professing love and wanting a kiss probably qualifies. Fortunately he saw my terror and backed away, saying OMG he was so sorry, and I said I probably should leave, and did. I really have no idea how I would have reacted to get email from him trying to more formally apologize; most likely I wouldn't have responded [b/c, really, what could I say?]. We've not been at all in touch since then.)

The other bit that I think people are running into is that any attempt to move into Meta - into "ok, the misperception is here" is seen as an attempt to defend PersonA.

My reason for being interested in "what non-malevolent motivation can you have to do X" is that I am well aware people quite often have no idea how their actions are experienced by others. So probably some percentage of harrassment is deliberate and some percentage isn't.

Does it make a difference in the moment that the big guy coming on to me in the elevator at 2am never thought I might feel threatened? No, not at all. But if we decide that one will only do that if one wants me to feel threatened we don't have an opportunity to tell all the other guys, "hey, dude. guys your size might not seem threatening to you, and you may have only the most honorable intentions, but no gal alone in an elevator can assume that."

Or bringing it back to the original topic, "Hey, dude. Great that you realized you were way out of line. If she's been avoiding you and keeps avoiding you, Do Not Attempt To Engage. Yes, Mama always said you apologize when you know you're wrong. This is an exception."

I'm not saying that's what was happening. I have no idea. But if it's possible to keep someone else from taking bad situation into geometrically worse, it seems worth dissecting all possible methods of getting there.

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[User Picture]From: xiphias
2012-08-01 12:32 am (UTC)
I'm also seeing a lot of people insisting that they know motivations - that the only reason anybody would ever try to get near someone to apologize is that they are asserting will.

The important point is that, in this, motivation doesn't matter. It doesn't MATTER whether they're INTENDING to assert will -- it doesn't MATTER whether that's their motivation. Rather, whether they intend it or not -- that's what they're doing regardless of intent.

Even if that is indeed the case, not everybody has the emotional vocabulary to even realize that is what they might be doing. Or they don't imagine that a delivery of contrition and intent to not further transgress could be anything but welcome.

And that's why the community needs education in these matters, so that people can learn that. But, again, the "education" part has to be done elsewhere and elsewhen, and not as part of the protecting people from sexual harassment.

I don't think that one needs to assume malice here. Malice is irrelevant.
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[User Picture]From: linenoise
2012-08-01 06:00 pm (UTC)
It also occurs to me, especially in this subthread, that there are many different conversations to be had about this. The situation itself, Readercon's reaction, reactions to Readercon's reaction, and all the various metas. And each of those conversations probably has different controlling axioms.

Part of what got the upthread in such a bind is that half of the conversation wanted to be purely meta, while the "opponents" (for lack of a better word) were too grounded in the specifics of the situation.

Because a conversation about how someone who has inadvertently transgressed can best "make amends" for that might actually be an interesting conversation, but in this specific instance, with a clearly stated "I don't want to talk about it, go away", then we get back around to fists and noses, and there's no space left to move around in to *have* the meta discussion, anything at all that isn't *going away* is transgressive.

But the thing about people assuming they know motivation is kinda a red herring. Road to hell and all that. Motivation isn't the problem. I haven't seen many claims that RW was *evil*. It's clear (to me, from a distance) that he was probably just misguided. But that doesn't really matter. *Behavior* is what matters. (And now I really want to embed Jay Smooth here, because it really should be required viewing for something like this..... http://www.illdoctrine.com/2008/07/how_to_tell_people_they_sound.html)

Trying to get close to someone to offer an apology *is* an assertion of will. They're doing a deliberate thing, in order to obtain a specific result. They might have the noblest intentions in all of that, but... if the recipient has already expressed that *any* further interaction is unwelcome, then that assertion of will is transgressive, regardless of the motivations of the giver.

Unfortunately, I've been on RW's end of all of this more than once in my life, at least up through the first half of the deal. Asperger's is like that. But the difference is what happens *after* one is informed that one's actions were transgressive (which I clearly prefer over harrassment, in as much as the words carry different weights. One can transgress accidentally, but harrassment feels deliberate, to me. Just noting definitions.) Which is why I love Jay Smooth so much. "Hey, that thing you did was not cool." "Oh, shit, I'm sorry!" vs. "Hey, that thing you did was not cool." "But here's all the reasons I'm totally not a horrible person, I can't possibly have done that evil thing you just accused me of." One thing about dealing with Asperger's in a sane manner, I've had to get *really* comfortable with "that thing you did wasn't cool." That's where it went from a simple human error to a problem that needed to be dealt with. Because regardless of his intentions, what he *did* was continue to press someone who had clearly said "I don't want to interact with you".

It's a *really* hard thing, to just swallow all that and walk away. I've had to do it before. But some errors can't be mended. That's what the apology is, really. An attempt to mend the broken thing. Sometimes, you can't mend it, and the only thing you can do is leave so you don't break more things.
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[User Picture]From: wordweaverlynn
2012-07-31 10:27 am (UTC)
YES. This.

Also, harassment isn't just something weird people do. Anyone can do it, male or female. And we all need to take a long look at our behavior to make sure we're not pushing others' boundaries.
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[User Picture]From: ron_newman
2012-07-31 01:37 pm (UTC)
I though this was very well stated:

Zero Tolerance Policies (And Con Harassment)
What I want to see at cons are anti-harassment policies that are thoughtful, and I want to see thoughtful people (who are clueful on a variety of diversity issues) conducting the investigations. I want actual harassers held accountable, in ways that are appropriate (in some cases, a talking to or a warning, in other cases, a ban). I do not want a one-size-fits-all response, because then after an incident I'll say to myself, "though this makes me uncomfortable/angry/hurt, this doesn't rise to the level of banning, so I won't report it and risk the consequences".

Edited at 2012-07-31 01:38 pm (UTC)
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