June 29, 2013

Sexual harrassment at science fiction conventions

Yesterday Elise Matheson - someone whom I have never met - posted online about her experience reporting sexual harassment at Wiscon, an American science fiction convention. It's incredibly bold and powerful reading, and anyone who attends science fiction conventions should go and read it. In response to Elise's post, Alisa Krasnostein - somebody I have met and for whom I have an enormous amount of respect - posted about her own experiences with this sort of awful behaviour. I applaud and support both women for speaking out about this. I needs to be spoken about.

I love science fiction conventions, one annual convention in particular, and will probably keep attending them for the rest of my life. They're not just an event to me, or a gathering of friends. To a large extent it feels like family; people I may only see that one weekend for the entire year, but with whom I immediately pick up where we left off as if time wasn't an issue. They mean a lot to me, these conventions. They have a big problem, however, and we all need to fix it.

It is not okay to harrass, stalk, grope, incessantly chat up, romantically badger, touch inappropriately, touch without permission, or in any other way make another fan feel sleazed onto, uncomfortable, upset or threatened. (Yes this is not a science fiction convention issue - sexism and sexual harrassment happens everywhere. I am choosing to fight the battles here, other people can fight them in other places.) I have friends - good, close, wonderful friends - who have been inappropriately touched at science fiction conventions, or harrassed, or stalked from room to room, or just constantly chatted up as if saying "no, go away" for the fifteenth time didn't mean what my friends said it meant.

Once or twice I've seen this go on and I've actively intervened. Too many other times I have turned a blind eye, or politely tried to avoid the situation, or delicately try to dismantle the problem without offending the harrasser. Sometimes they've been sleazy people I've never liked. Sometimes I've known them. A few times they've been exceedingly close friends. I want to apologise for that, and I'm promising here and now that I'm not going to do that again.

If you're ever at a science fiction convention, and you feel that someone is stalking you, acting inappropriately towards you, being creepy at you, or making you uncomfortable in any way, please always feel free to come and find me. If you just want to vent, I'll listen. If you need a second opinion, I'll tell you what I think. If you need someone to back you up, support you, give you a hug, intervene with the person annoying you, anything, please always feel that it's okay to hunt me down wherever I am at the convention and talk to me. Even if I'm in mid-conversation. Even if I'm on a panel discussion. Even if you don't know me too well. Even if we've never met. I'm sick of this stuff going on, and I want to be able to do what I can to help stop it. (If you're not sure what I look like, I've attached a pretty unflattering photograph of myself to the top of this post. I look kind of like that, and my name is Grant Watson.)

I'm sure if you've reached this far some of you might find this a horrendously self-indulgent post. Screw you - it's my blog and I'll write about what I like. Some of you might roll your eyes and think "oh for fuck's sake, are we talking in circles about this again?". Screw you double - yes, we're going to talk about this in circles and circles until it fucking well stops. If you're reading this thinking "he has friends who've been seen acting inappropriately? Shit, does he mean me?', then sadly yes, there's a reasonable chance that I do. You should probably stop doing that crap.


  1. VERY well said, and kudos for standing up to be counted. It makes me incredibly sad that you need to be counted at all, but as you say - it needs to be talked about until it stops.

  2. Truly great post, thank you for not only acknowledging a problem but actually making a stand against it as well. Honestly, there are many times I have passed on opportunities to attend events I would otherwise enjoy due to this very problem. Sadly most of my male friends do not understand and just think I'm being standoffish. Most don't realize the level of discomfort caused by behavior like such. And I don't blame them, it is a hard situation to relate to. It really does mean something for someone like you to recognize this problem. So, again, thank you.

  3. Thank you Grant. I'm considering attending my first con in years...and have stayed away for this very reason. I'm so glad to hear from you and others who take the time to speak out that things are changing.

  4. Thanks for an upfront post.

    One of the reasons I never go to conventions anymore is the kind of behaviour you're describing. I have never, as a woman, been exposed to this kind of treatment anywhere else.

    My first - and last - SF con was in Vancouver, where I lived at the time, some decades ago. I saw writers I respected drunk and disorderly. I didn't have to guess what went on in their rooms - it could be heard in the corridors. Many of the "fans" were no better.

    That said, all conventions seem to bring out the worst in some people, no matter who hosts it. It seems to be assumed that everyone can behave however they wish, because what goes on in a con, stays in a con. But it doesn't end there. It leaves a slimy scum over what should be a fond memory.

    The friendship angle, while very special, can't override the rest of it, at least for me. I'm not a prude, far from it, but to have to witness this kind of thing spoils the magic of what should be a wonderful experience in a field one loves. It's inexcusable, in every sense.

    Sorry, but I don't expect it to change. It's an attitude thing, and there are far too many people who like the status quo - indeed, it's probably why they attend a con. Everyone is supposed to turn a blind eye to it.

  5. If the offenders genuinely feel that the con community and con culture entitles them to make awful comments, it seems to me that they will also feel entitled to ignore challenges to their behavior. If called out they will get defensive rather than owning their behavior.

    But that's just a general observation – I don't have much convention experience myself. Have you seen successful interventions, whether public or private? How did they work?

  6. I don't know whether this is a very serious problem because this is just an imagination and that's all http://bigessaywriter.com/blog/sexual-harassment-essay-how-to-get-over


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