Do not ask me to perform sexual acts on you (it’s still harassment)

To begin with, I think it’s clear to most people that emailing random strangers to offer them money (or anything else) in exchange for sexual favors is a very bad idea. It is just as bad as sending unsolicited nude photos. It is just as bad as contacting people to threaten, insult, or otherwise make them feel unsafe, for any reason. In fact, all of those things fall under the category of “do not do this for any fucking reason, okay?”

It’s safe to say that I’ve gotten my fair share of the last type of emails and comments. Though I don’t seek to antagonize anyone, there are issues for which I will stand up and make my opinion clear. Doing so has occasionally gotten me the unwanted attention of trolls, sexists, white supremacists, and other folks whose desperately-insecure need to control everyone around them is bigger than their IQs. That isn’t my fault, since I’ve never gone out of my way to contact anyone and force my opinion on them. I’ve never searched our anyone’s email address and sent them threatening messages. I’ve never done anything which might cause someone to fear for their life, to contact the police, or removed themselves from the Internet or other public spaces out of fear of me.

But others have done so to me. I’ve kept the smaller, occasional stuff to myself, and shared only when the burden of it got to be too large for me to handle. I think that’s how most folks deal with harassment. We hear about it when there’s a surge in attacks against them, but there are little aggressions they carry alone. It gets tiring to talk about this stuff, after a while.

The last few weeks, I’ve gotten harassment of the other sort. Someone I don’t know and have never interacted with has been sending unsolicited emails describing his* sexual fantasies and asking that I join him. He’s offered money, dinner; he’s been polite, then apologized for contacting me, then emailed again, describing his kink in greater detail (classic obsessive behavior). He isn’t sending these to my private email accounts – he’s sending them to my professional, editing email account. He’s sending them to my work space.

I haven’t, not once, responded. He hasn’t stopped.

I share everything he’s sent with another person, so there’s record of the messages and escalation, and another human I know in real life to share what I’m dealing with. But other than that, I’ve been too uncomfortable to even go into my email. (If I owe you emails, I’m so sorry. I’m not ignoring you, I promise.) This person is reading my blog and Twitter; he’s mentioned going back through several month’s worth. He’s asked me to meet him in person, so he has a good sense of where I live, and has made it clear he can get to me.

All because he thinks I seem approachable.

And the truth is, I want my fans to appreciate my work. I love to hear what people think of my writing. As a freelancer, I’m always open to new work, and have to be accessible to clients. As a person who needs support to get through college and keep writing, I know I have to share a little more of my life then maybe other people do, in order to give something back to everyone who’s helping me. I am an introvert who rarely talks about her child, boyfriend, or personal life online because I want as much privacy as possible, but I accept that I have to let the world in more than I’d like.

I accept all of this. THAT DOES NOT MEAN YOU CAN INSERT YOURSELF INTO MY LIFE WITHOUT MY PERMISSION, OR TAKE SOMETHING AWAY FROM ME. That’s what harassment does. All forms of it. Even the most politely worded requests for something you weren’t permitted to have invade the other person’s space, comfort zone.

This person who’s emailed me… I didn’t publicly share their contact info and particulars of their admittedly-unusual kink because I don’t want to get into a conversation about what’s too weird, as if more vanilla forms of solicitation are somehow okay. (They’re not.) It isn’t the kink that’s the issue. And I’m hoping this person will realize what they did wrong, never contact me again. I’ve already spent so much more time on them than I should have been forced to give up.

And in time – time I couldn’t afford to lose and potential work I couldn’t afford to miss – I’ll get over being afraid to check my email. I’ll get back to work. I’ll move on from what this person took from me.

It won’t be today.

* They identified themselves as “a guy” so that’s what I’m going with.

#YesAllWomen, Because

When the UCSB shooting happened on May 23, and it became clear that the Elliot Roger acted not because of racism, or political terrorism, but out of misogyny and hate which no one else successfully cured him of, people began to use the #YesAllWomen hashtag on Twitter to talk about why not all men are awful, but yes, all women experience some form of sexual harassment.

I didn’t join in, not at first, even though it’s a subject we should all talk about. I have talked about it, a bit, in posts like this one, but that’s not enough. As long as there are still big groups of people, men and women* both, who think a woman owes something to the men around her simply because she’s female, this is a conversation that we need to have.

And, it is dangerous to have this conversation, when you’re in a female body. For the last week, men have stood up and said, “No more”, and whether the people around them agreed or not, they generally were insulted but not threatened. When women have said, “No more, and here’s my experience,” they have often been not only insulted, but threatened with violence, and with rape. Because, how dare they, some men think. We should be so flattered, so lucky to have men find us attractive, that complaining is offensive to them. When I posted last year about sexual harassment at cons, some of the reactions included people talking online about how I must have invented my experiences, because (those men thought) I wasn’t nearly attractive enough to be the kind of girl who got sexually harassed. My friend Mercedes wrote this post about the reaction threats she got after using the hashtag to make two comments on Twitter last week.

Two comments. Two.

I won’t link to everyone else who’s written eloquently about their own experiences. You should go find them, and read them, and see a little more clearly how our world works. This post is about sharing mine, because I respect the others who have spoken up, and I don’t want them to be standing up alone.

I’m putting the next part behind a cut, and warn you that it’s triggering, for all the things you can imagine might be next. 

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Sexual Harassment at Cons, Part 2: How to Stop It (and other thoughts)

On Sunday, I wrote about sexual harassment at genre conventions. By the time I sat down to write this, Tuesday morning, that post has had over 5,400 views. I expected a few hundred. Instead, everywhere I go online, there it is. I’ve spent the almost 48 hours since dealing with the reactions to it–good, supportive, confused, and trolling. It’s been pointed out to me that it’s the most personal thing I’ve ever said in public, and that’s true.

It’s probably for the best that I didn’t expect such a big response. I’m not sure if I would have lost my nerve. I often point out that I’m an introvert, because online you can’t really tell, but when I say important things, personal things, I always have to hold my breath before I hit the button that makes it visible everyone else. I rarely do it. The more my writing and other work gets known, the more I have to take a deep breath and push forward, though my natural tendency is to hide under the covers until everyone goes away. I love the majority of the interaction I have with people, it just takes energy that is only replenished by quiet time, without the majority of the interaction I have with people.

But this needed to be said. And it’s telling, to me, that I honestly didn’t think me sharing those moments would be a big deal. There are a couple of examples from that list which are unusual, horrible, and clearly harassment, obvious to pretty much everyone (including me, at the time) but most of it is the little things, the everywhere-you-go, background radiation of attending a genre convention. It’s there, and we all see it, we all experience it, and we’re so used to it that it’s the accepted price we pay for being women in genre. I stopped going to cons for several years, put my nascent career as a writer on hold, just to get away from it all. I came back because I love writing. I love writing science fiction specifically… and going to cons is part of the work we do as writers to get our stories out there. I wonder how many women leave genre, never to return, because of incidents like these. How many fans do we lose? How many go to a convention and never come back?

We can’t let that stand. Fixing it, though, seems so hard. As I said in my quick update this morning, “The power needed to break free from the gravity of this mess is astounding.” It is exhausting. But there are ways to stop it, and that’s what we need to do next. Continue reading

Well. That Happened.

A few days ago I posted (here) a list of things I’ve experienced over 20 years of attending conventions–a few “big ticket” items that were obviously horrible, and several “smaller” things that are still definitely harassment, but only sometimes get considered that (and, as always, context is key, but we’re talking about things done by strangers who usually hadn’t even introduced themselves first). I expected it to be read by my usual readers, and thought it was a good way to lend support to the other women doing the same thing right now; instead it’s been spread around the Internet and I’ve spent the almost 48 hours since dealing with the reactions–good, supportive, confused, and trolling–to it. I’m introverted by nature, and the whole thing has been a bit overwhelming.

Almost everyone said they’d only seen one or two of the big bad things, or maybe not seen any, but at the same time, the smaller things? Everyone’s seen or experienced those. I’ve heard things ranging from “oh I thought it was just me” to “well, I’ve seen guys pick up women they didn’t know and carry them out of the room, and no, no one even tried to help those women even if they were protesting, but is that really harassment?” to “you should be grateful a guy wants your attention”. I realized that not saying anything sooner was an example of the problem: we’re so used to it that we notice, enough to roll our eyes and mumble, “Jerk,” when it’s over, but don’t do anything about it.

We’re worn down. Tired. I’m exhausted just from talking about it, and having my experiences talked about, for less than 2 days. Imagine how hard it is to speak up when you’re a regular con attendee and you’ve been convinced that this is an inescapable something that happens. The power needed to break free from the gravity of this mess is astounding.

I’m writing up a post now about how to deal with harassment at cons. UPDATE: Part 2, Stopping Harassment, is here.

Please stop touching my breasts, and other things I say at cons

UPDATE: Part 2, Stopping Harassment, is here.

I wasn’t going to post this today, because I have a lot of other things going on, and another post I need to make this afternoon, but I’ve put it off long enough. Not only do we–as writers, and women–have to deal with sexism, and the agressive insistence from some men that we all just settle down, but we also have to deal with being harassed at conventions where we’re supposed to be fans, writers, editors, and publishers. (Those links go to other writers saying the same thing.) Worse, because so often it goes unreported, many people’s response has been, “I didn’t know that happened.” How can you stop something we don’t talk about? So, okay, let’s talk about the details.

Hi, I’m Carrie, and I’ve been sexually harassed at genre conventions. (Putting this behind a link because triggering. You’ve been warned.)

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