Thankfully I've found a rather fun topic to blog about at this point.
I don't really like people.
I just don't. Perhaps its being socially burnt out after enough ugly encounters. Maybe it's an unchecked ego. It could be just my general lack of patience. Is it that I just don't want to play by typical rules of social engagement? I suppose there's even a chance I really am just that much smarter than almost everyone else I might come into contact with.
Note that this general statement does have a number of notable exceptions, so if you're reading this (hey I know this place gets like no traffic) not only do I probably already know who you are, you probably don't have anything to worry about here.
On the other hand I am not that interested in fully excising parts of me that are human. I like looking at women. I do it quite regularly. I look at women in various states of undress, as well as depictions thereof. I also enjoy complimenting women. And yes, there's even a small urge, even though I have a wonderful girlfriend, to flirt with some of them, if only in the same way as a dog chases cars.
So as a socially awkward guy who likes complimenting women, I'd side with the dude who made a seemingly innocent request toward a well-known female in the freethinker community? I mean, I just plain adore smart/academic/witty chicks, after all, and have complimented some of them in similar-ish ways in the past!
But you read the blogs out there discussing it and I'd understand why you might think that. A ton of guys have come down against her. I lack any better way of describing it all than to describe it as "the imbecilic floodgates opening". But rather than curse the darkness, let's shine some drearily insufficient light on the issues.
That means it's going to be play-by-play time.
What's the setting? It's a conference. Rebecca Watson, an author on the blog Skepchick, is one of the speakers there. She's given a talk and spent a long day socializing with people. It's probably been a good day, extrapolating from similar comments about these meetings.
But now it's 4 A.M. That's late. I, for one, would definitely want to be in bed by that point. Probably all that talking and socializing would leave me insanely drained.
So another person is in the elevator with her. Maybe feeling a bit awkward about the silence and being interested in her opinion (I'm trying to be as charitable as I can here, and given nothing came of it, thankfully, I find this sort of conclusion more likely), he asks to talk with her.
This is maybe a little less great. As others have noted (too many blogs to list here), it's private and enclosed enough to be a problem. If something goes wrong and the other person starts to feel uncomfortable, there's not really anywhere to go. Asking the question in general, in a public area with maybe some other people around? Not so bad, at least because if the other person feels awkward, they can get out; there's less pressure.
Even so, in this situation it might show a potential lack of understanding; again, if it's 4AM I'm not going to be so interested in carrying on conversations any more -- it's generally my latest limit on bedtime. This could show general ignorance or signify a more general a lack of empathy, suggesting that he won't have any consideration for your personal boundaries. The latter is not simply gauche or a matter of different personal boundaries -- it's dangerous.
And then, he invites her to his room to do so. This is bad, for the same reasons; too private. Implications of sexual advances are obviously much stronger at this point -- don't forget that hotel rooms are generally mostly just bedrooms with a desk and TV.
Does she feel pressured? No doubt. How will she refuse? Again, if we assume this guy isn't going to respect her personal space at all, he won't be willing to listen to her say "no". This is very bad.
So as it stands I entirely agree with her on the point of, "Hey, guys? Don't do this." Not necessarily because it's a horrible thing to do stripped of its context (this argument is rather odd but I've heard it in a few different places) or that the guy was a rapist (just as she says), but because the world we live is in not ideal and the fewer misunderstandings that can happen the better.
Do I feel sorry for the guy? I feel sorry for the guys who think that sort of thing is OK, at least because in some sense most have been misinformed or lied to.
I'm upset that there are messages to young boys boys that being a man involves not allowing for any consideration of emotions -- those of themselves or of other people -- and at that age, perhaps because they (or at least their parents) wouldn't be ready to talk about it in the sort of detail like this. These messages of course also end up stunting their empathy, making it harder for them to actually learn why all this is wrong. It seems to me that they have, in some sense, been brainwashed.
There's also this issue of paranoia and lack of confidence, which I also think stem from many of these same messages -- if you have doubts, you're a coward! If you're unconfident, you're not a real man! Obviously these don't help at all and are counter-productive to improving a person's self image. (Seriously, who thought something that boils down to "You should feel bad for having a negative self-image!" was helpful?) Obviously, women have this issue too -- making people feel inadequate sells any product that could be used to "improve your life", for example -- though with different messages, making a bit frustrating that there aren't as many people who , because I think it is toxic, and I think it is a factor in these issues.
So we get plenty of commenters with stunted empathy who might project more onto this guy than they probably ought to; I think distancing ones self from the issue definitely does make it harder to deal with -- I think the discussion for a lot of people has dealt with what was being said more than where it was being said. An empty elevator. At least in an abandoned alleyway you can try to run. That has more to do with why it was creepy.
I also get frustrated by that sort of viewpoint because it ruins it for anyone who doesn't agree with it, if only due to slightly different personal boundaries (that may themselves have been formed out of naivety) get equated with rapists. Obviously if rape didn't happen, we wouldn't need to worry about this stuff as much and could just say no and feel -- well, maybe less pressured or uncomfortable, if only because it wouldn't turn ugly. But that's obviously a pipe dream.
Either way, it seems to me that making the object of your affection feel uncomfortable is counter-productive.
In a couple days I'll probably post up some more elaborated idea of my thoughts on such issues of quasi-romantic social engagement. Likely in the form of a list of rules, because I like lists. This entry's already too long anyway.
I should also note that while I'm frustrated with the guys who have a problem with her viewpoint, I'm also extremely frustrated with how she chose to deal with it. I agree with this article from erv that this is bad form. She may have in many peoples' eyes conflated a person who had a concern with what she said with people who send rape and death threats, in a talk where it wasn't really appropriate, and gave her detractor no way to defend herself. I agree with what she originally said, but I generally am not a fan of such shutting down of dissent; seems a bit against the principles of skepticism that I'm familiar with.
Well, that's my take on it anyway. I guess y'all can go ahead and chew me out in the comments if you've even read this crap.