twistpeach - Q and A: Who are you now?
Q and A: Who are you now?|
I have changed. I answer questions differently. This was made apparent to me by an experience this weekend at Arisia, a sci-fi and fandom convention in Boston, MA.
I attended a private party called Rocket Fuel, where they make a legendary drink with dry ice. I happened to be there when they were "cooking," and eagerly sat on the floor near the plastic tub that was to be the mixing bucket. Someone politely asked me to move over as they were saving a seat for someone, so I moved into the open space next to the one where I was sitting. The person arrived and sat down next to me. And kind of on me. They rested their own thigh on mine and leaned on me. I was annoyed. I had thought there was plenty of space, and I really wanted to be near to watch. But I had some space on my right and so I gave them a little more room. The person spread themselves out and actually leaned even harder on me. I didn't know this person and I did NOT like this. Thus began a series of questions that my former self seemed to ask my current self:
Can't you just move away if you are uncomfortable with being someone's pillow?
NO. I have every right to be right here and enjoy the party like anyone else. I don't have to give up my place or my enjoyment because someone else is being rude and invading my personal space. I thought about men taking up too much space on the train and noticed that he was sprawled quite comfortably while I was pinched. This was unfair. And if I didn't like it, I could damn well speak up.
"Dude. Could you please stop leaning on me. It's kinda freaking me out." He looked at me like I'd just been VERY rude myself, said "jeeze" and grudgingly removed his weight from my person. He gave me the hairy eyeball for the entire event, as he timed the concoction with his watch, blew on the dry ice vapors, and gave feedback to the hosts. He acted like I was made of snakes.
Aren't you embarrassed now?
No. I really wasn't. Fuck him.
Later that night, my boyfriend, his buddy and I were all dancing to one of our favorite songs when my boyfriend suddenly clutched his chest and said he felt like his heart was racing. Alarmed, I led him to an empty row of chairs in the ballroom and ran to get him a glass of water. When I returned with it, a couple of people were sitting near him: his buddy and someone else. I assumed everybody was rather concerned. I handed him the water and knelt in front of him to talk to him about how he was feeling. I barely noticed someone repeatedly stroking my arm. I flicked them off, but they came right back and started doing it again. It was a distinctly sexual stroking, not any comforting pat. Annoyed, I went to pick the hand off of me. I was BUSY, for crying out loud. And there he was again! The same guy was leaning over my sick boyfriend's shoulder to rub my arm up and down like he was trying to seduce me.
"YOU again! What are you, following me around trying to touch me without my consent? That's really fucking creepy!" He looked like I'd slapped him and moved one seat away to sulk. My boyfriend, who was alarmed enough at my outraged tone to forget about the fact that he was in physical distress, asked what was wrong. I complained loud enough for CreeperDude to hear that this guy was bugging me and wouldn't leave. My boyfriend's buddy helpfully, moved around us to plunk himself between me and this guy. I thanked him and turned my attention back to my boyfriend. We had to leave the ballroom and have one of the EMT's make sure it wasn't anything serious. Probably just an anxiety attack or a pulled muscle.
Why don't we let all this blow over now? No harm done.
There was harm done. This is the second time this guy has invaded my personal space. He wasn't there when my boyfriend sat down. He came over there to get to me. I was easily recognizable in my costume. He knew who I was, and he'd already been directly told, just hours before, that unwelcome touching freaks me out. This was NOT innocent or bumbling. The man leaned over my sick boyfriend to deliberately tell me he could touch me whenever he damn well pleased. He did it to punish me for presuming I had a right to space or to be consulted. That is harm. I have been told that enough and know very clearly exactly how harmful that message is.
So I made a detailed report to the con staff. They asked for my badge number.
Oh no! Are they going to ID you as a crazy victim-lady who makes hysterical accusations and is a wretched party pooper?
No. Because I know Arisia has a great harassment policy. I know from my friends that they follow through on it. I know they understand how victim-blaming and slut-shaming works. They will not put me in line for retribution or bug me if I don't want to talk to them further. They won't ask questions that will make me feel like I did something wrong by being at a party, being a woman, or wanting a night unpunctured by non-consensual groping.
Well, for god's sakes, put a shirt on before you talk to them.
No. This is Arisia. They know how many hours it takes to sew 24 feet of EL wire into a bra, cover it with fur, and program it to blink. I expect them to know that my costume is not consent and that whatever way I was dancing with my friends doesn't make me public property. And if they are not aware of these things, I will tell them in a very loud voice.
They were very kind, apologized that this happened to me and asked if there was anything I wanted. I asked that someone sweep the ballroom, kick this guy out, and send him home or to his hotel room. I didn't want to be worrying about whether or not he was going to approach me again.
Oh, come on now! You're gonna get the guy kicked out of the big party at a once-a-year event?
Yes. Because that's HIS problem. I don't need to be the one to shoulder fear and defensiveness. I'm the one who earned the right to a comfortable night of fun. And this is indeed a question of who gets priority. Does this drunk fuck who follows people around to get a revenge grope deserve an unmolested night of fun? No. Do I deserve to jump every time a friend taps my shoulder or need to take a sharp look around before I sit down or approach a group? No. So I don't have to feel guilty that I want him gone. I get to have fun. He doesn't.
At the end of the night, I returned to my hotel room and told my roommates what had happened. They'd been at the rocket fuel party too and when I described the creeper, my Boston-based roommate covered he eyes "Aaah, fucking Dustin*!" Because apparently this guy has an M.O. And my other roommate asked if this was the same acquaintance who had tried to put his hands down my pants the previous year when I was kissing my boyfriend. It was indeed. I had asked my Boston-based roommate to have a talk with the guy last year. Obviously, it hadn't worked.
I was livid.
I wanted to nail this guy to the wall. I have sworn that this shit ends with me, and if this jerk is really a missing stair, then I would personally take him out. I demanded his last name. As soon as I woke up the next morning, I marched down to ops and told them everything I had learned about dear ol' Dustin Hennessey*. Again, they were very nice, apologized that this had happened to me, and told me that they would be bringing my complaint to the Con Chair and the Division Head. All of security would be on the lookout for him. He would be thrown out of the convention and possibly banned in future years. They asked me if there was anything else they could do for me. "Just tell me anything that I can do for you to exacerbate the consequences this guy will face."
Wow. Vindictive much?
On the one hand: no. I'm concerned much. I would have had a different reaction if people who knew this guy said this was highly out of character for him and/or he was going through a nasty breakup/bout of mental health issues/death in the family. But that was not the case. The info I got was that this guy was consistently creepy and showed signs of being a proto-rapist. So somebody needed to get to him before he did more or worse. Somebody has to let him know that this is a big deal. I don't do him (or certainly his future victims) any favors by letting him continue to think his behavior is ok.
On the other hand. Yes. So? I get to be fine with the fact that people who do shitty things face consequences. I get to say GOOD, without embarrassment or remorse. I'm glad he'll be kicked out. I hope he goes home and cries. I hope he shakes in his boots about losing something else that's valuable to him the next time he's tempted to grope a chick without consent. I hope he walks in that fear the rest of his life. Because that is exactly where fear belongs. It does not belong with me. GOOD.
As I enjoyed my last two days at Arisia, my old self had a brief and strangling spate of
Is he here? Is he there? Will he confront me? Will he try to give me that awful message louder and more clearly?
With a hard think and with great joy. I told my former self to calm down. Dustin Hennessey would be thrown out as soon as he showed his face, if he hadn't gone home by himself already. I was confident that I was in a safe place, surrounded by people who I could rely upon to back me up. No one will fail to support my right to exist unmolested in space and time, displacing the room for entitled jerks to have free reign. So I don't have to be afraid. I am not alone. And yes. I have a right to be here.
I have these things because of activists against rape culture, movements against harassment at conventions in general, Arisia's policy and personnel particularly, feminism, supportive friends, and a culture that has been significantly altered by them. I am so grateful that somebody told me that I have a right to be here. My community supports that right and it is because of them that I have the conviction to stand up for myself. Thank you to all of you who have made me strong enough to be a warrior.
Update: The Con Chair of Arisia commented below to update me about Dustin Hennessey, who was apparently never a guest at Arisia and snuck into the ballroom that night where he wasn't allowed. Since Arisia will likely have a difficult time banning a person who is already a sneak and a mooch, I am more willing to out this guy to make sure his actions are public or have consequences. So I posted his contact information below.
*His name is Dustin Hennessey, he lives in Massachusettes, is an alum of Emerson College, and is an affiliate editor at NBC Sports. He used to work for ConnectiCon. Since he locked down his facebook because of all the attention this post is getting, here is his picture so you know what he looks like.
a) if you have received harassment or assault from Dustin, please report it wherever you see fit. He is now identified as a problem-person at Arisia and has connections to ConnectiCon.
b) if you know Dustin Hennessey already, please be a good friend and community member and make sure he knows this behavior is completely unacceptable for a human being, let alone a friend of yours. Be a good ally to your female friends and make sure they are warned and that Dustin has no access to them.
c) if you go to conventions and want to make sure a known and consistent CreeperDude gets extra scrutiny, notify your favorite con of this blog.
d) if you wish to tell Dustin Hennessey he is a shit on social media, please do something more useful and donate here.
There are people who deserve an avalanche of internet hate. While I believe Dustin behaved in a truly disgusting manner, there is still room for the best case scenario. Perhaps he made a (series of) horrible mistake(s), will wise up, and will be a better person after humbly accepting the consequences of his actions, which he richly deserves. I do not believe that will be facilitated by a lot of strangers calling him a fuckhead on facebook.
Update: I have received an anonymous request to take down Dustin's identifying information from my blog because it puts him in danger of more retribution than I intended and even some which might be out of proportion to his actions. Because of the virality of this post, I now wield considerable power in keeping or deleting Dustin's information, and with great power comes great responsibility. Ultimately, Dustin is not the star of this post, which is primarily about my internal monologue and Arisia's excellent response. I listed four objectives in posting his information:
a) to encourage any other victims to report
b) to enlist help from Dustin's immediate community in convincing him his behavior is unacceptable and needs to change
c) to give con-goers the option of asking their cons to exclude Dustin because of his actions
and I discouraged people from just being mean to him because that's actually counter to the objectives.
There are more people than I thought there would be who would like to disinvite Dustin from their cons, parties, and volunteer roles (objective c). I can't say whether they're trying to punish him, jumping on a popular bandwagon, or just don't want him around. I think that's a decision they have a right to make, but I don't need to facilitate it beyond my original objectives, and so I considered taking his info down. Then I remembered this: http://k1ttycat.livejournal.com/160255.html
This is a public post from someone who alleges Dustin assaulted her THAT SAME NIGHT. She came forward because she saw her assailant publicly called out on this blog and it gave her courage (objective a). I know because she messaged me to tell me that. And her account is worse than mine. HER account, not mine, is the reason I will keep Dustin's information up here and why I update this entry with a link to her entry. Because there may be more. And what is reported so far is enough to warrant keeping it here. It is worth the damage to his reputation. It is worth his embarrassment. And I support folks who hold these accounts credible and serious enough to want an opportunity to NOT have this guy around.
Let me be perfectly clear. If mine was the only account, I would take his identifying information down from my blog because my objectives would be complete. Dustin was rude and gross to me, but I wouldn't characterize it as criminal. I am leaving his info up on behalf of people who came forward because of this blog. From those accounts, it looks like my objectives may not be complete. I take responsibility for saying this information deserves to remain public.
Tags: arisia, consent, dustin hennessey, harrassment
I am so, so proud of you for how you handled this. This is how the story should go, and I am so glad to hear that the Arisia staff and everyone involved did the right thing to make you feel safe and loudly state that kind of behavior was not welcome at our con.
What fairylogic says! Well done to you and to the Arisia staff.
I haven't been to Arisia in 10 years, and I regret nothing. Every time I went I was groped, harassed and manhandled by different creepy guys.
My favorite was one time a complete stranger came up behind me and started giving me a back rub while I was having a conversation with someone, and I decided to entirely ignore him, which worked well, he left after about a minute, meanwhile the person I was talking to was incredulous that it had happened and that I had been so calm. But really the choice was freaking out and curling up in a crying ball or ignoring him, and ignoring him seemed more productive, he would lose because I didn't give him any attention. (Which is not to suggest that this is the way everyone should act, or even I, but at 22, lost and alone, it was the right thing to do for me at that time)
I'm so sorry you had your ability to enjoy cons destroyed by these fuckers. I'm so glad we have the means to retaliate, but merely the fact that they feel entitled to act this way in the first place is really infuriating.
Thank you for posting about this. I'm so sorry it happened, and I'm glad you felt safe speaking up and reporting it and that security seemed to have handled it properly.
(Sorry about that, the tablet did something odd.)
The woman behind the desk who spoke to you that morning? That was me, and I am the conchair. So you can be sure I heard about it.
We found that your assailant--and I can call him nothing else--was not legally a member. We have not only flagged him in our database, but will be talking to another con he works for, and action will be taken. I assure you he will not be happy with the result.
The era of this sort of stuff is so over. I can forgive, almost, someone getting a bit too drunk and then making a pass at someone, but if they've been told no, it should be the end and I don't care how drunk they were. And that pass should never involve unwanted touching. What a jerk. I'm sorry this happened, but we will fix it.
Thanks for proactively getting back to me. Please feel free to direct people to this blog for reference. Knowing that he was essentially a sneak and a mooch at Arisia, I am less and less inclined to be mindful of his reputation. Let me know if I can be of any assistance in making sure he faces some consequences.
|Date:||January 23rd, 2014 03:01 am (UTC)|| |
a) Thank you so much for reporting it, and posting about it. Doing those things improves the con, and the culture, for lots of other people. Which you clearly know; I just want to acknowledge it.
b) Whoah, I apparently missed that post about two years ago (you posted it on the first day of my two week trip to Korea), but I will definitely find some time to read it.
c) d'oh, you were at Arisia and I missed you and didn't think to ask if you were coming :(
d) Were you at the panel on Saturday afternoon about "Addressing Sexual Harassment in Our Communities"? (I was, but it was well attended so I could easily have missed familiar people in the room)
e) I think your post tags accidentally all got combined into one long tag.
|Date:||January 24th, 2014 03:11 am (UTC)|| |
I realize I don't know you*, but I wanted to note that your LJ entry was made known to me by a mutual friend of ours (who I'd be more than happy to relay to you in a slightly less public medium) who has had experience with him not handling himself well in the past, mostly because I've been on the receiving end of (thankfully non-physical, much less sexual) aggression from him in the past. Friends of mine were aware of it, and at the time it was mostly chalked up to, "Eh, arguments happen," but it really felt like more than that. The way he made a complete 180 as soon as I said anything critical to him shocked me, and the way his capslock keyboardsmash proceeded left me with the feeling of someone who has anger management issues and at least some very bad enculturing of how to treat both people and women in specific.
I tried to tell people. I didn't try hard, because I felt like I was getting Not A Big Deal vibes from people around me . . . except for a couple who had known him even longer than that and had seen his antics before.
I wish I'd been louder. Even if people would have thought I was horrible. Maybe I could have kept this, and other things, from happening.
* - Although, your costume makes it clear to me that I saw you at one party, at least, to which I say . . . good show on the EL! It was one of the cooler things I'd seen all evening.
Please don't beat yourself up about this. It's very, VERY hard to stand alone when folks do not back you up, and there are many good reasons anyone may decide to NOT to wade into the fray. You are not responsible for Dustin's actions or his (apparently continued) failure to make himself into a human being.
Moreover, thank you for coming forward to back me up today. That makes a difference to me and gives me courage. :)
|Date:||January 25th, 2014 03:16 pm (UTC)|| |
Allo allo - I'm swashbucklr
's ex from Boston. We've met a couple of times, and waved at each other through elevator doors at this latest Arisia. I just wanted to say that you're totally badass for posting this and for outing him as a predator. We need more social consequences for this shit.
Also, you're awesome. Always thought so.
Hi, I'm Captain Awkward, and you are a goddamn superhero. <3
Captain Awkward wrote on my blog!
CAPTAIN AWKWARD WROTE ON MY BLOG!!!
*dies of starstruck*
*revives self so as not to miss this opportunity to TALK TO CAPTAIN AWKWARD*
You are a huge reason for my courage and conviction. I read your blog religiously and you have taught me so many replicable lessons about healthy social interaction. I <3 you and the Awkward Army.
*dies once more of starstruck*
|Date:||January 25th, 2014 07:21 pm (UTC)|| |
Hi -- as a fellow con-goer, I wanted to say Thank You, as well, for taking no shit.
This is all indicative of future awesome, from the individual event and how it was handled by you, your friends, and constaff to the precedent it sets, the example it shows, and the indicator of the tenor surrounding incidents like this and how we as a community want to deal with them in the future. My days at cons like this are largely behind me, but I'm delighted that the dirty corners are getting cleaned out. And the cherry on top is that last paragraph that says "He has behaved abominably and should face consequences. But do not pretend that dogpiling on a single person is a solution to the problem."
The divine in me honors the divine in you.
You are brave, and amazing.
I'm glad I know you. You have always been inspirational, and I'm impressed that you handled this they way you have.
Oh, huh. I know this person. Not remotely well, but I know him. (Tripped here via 'Song, but we have a bunch of friends in common, it looks like.)
I'm wicked sorry this happened. I think I'll go mention this to a couple people, as I happen to share a couple activities with him.
|Date:||January 27th, 2014 05:13 pm (UTC)|| |
I am sorry you were harassed. I want to thank you for not only having the courage to report this, but also sharing your experience. And it sounds like the staff at Arisia did all the right things, so praise to them as well.
Did you or the con report the incident to the police? Private event or not (and trespassing to boot), there are laws that (should) have better teeth than con policy.
I do not wish to report to the police as I believe my case would be difficult to proscecute. I believe communities and people have a fair amount of teeth when mobilized, however.
|Date:||January 27th, 2014 05:49 pm (UTC)|| |
I mean, I'm male, so I bet I'd never have a problem with him. But about half my friends are female, and would therefore be potential targets for Mr Hennessey, and I'd REALLY like Arisia to be a place where they don't have to deal with this shit.
Thank you for making Arisia a better con.
|Date:||January 27th, 2014 05:51 pm (UTC)|| |
Also, besides making the con better for my friends who would be potential targets, thank you for making the con better for me personally. Cons where people like that are tolerated are much, much worse than cons where people like that are excluded.
|Date:||January 27th, 2014 05:57 pm (UTC)|| |
Well done, both you and Arisia.
(I notice his current FB profile pic obscures his face, and the rest of his FB profile pictures seem to have become non-public. If that's because he's worried about people knowing what he looks like after reading this post, GOOD.)
Having seen his page earlier, he did go on lockdown after this became more well-known.
|Date:||January 27th, 2014 06:05 pm (UTC)|| |
Thank you so much for writing this. Thank you for modelling a healthy interior monologue which I can use next time this happens to me. Thank you thank you.
|Date:||January 27th, 2014 08:32 pm (UTC)|| |
for describing this as a "healthy interior monologue", because I was trying to come up with just that description so I could link friends to it as an example. twistpeach
, if I may, I will link to this for just that reason, hopefully it will encourage people to report.
*cheers you on*
I used to work for Arisia, went away while I worked for a school, keep trying to come back and keep running into the same Creepy Dude (not this one) over and over again. Whom I know far too well.
Anyway, it helps to know that you had a good reaction from the con staff. Thank you for reporting him to the con, and your experience here.
I just wanted to stop and say ROCK ON. You are awesome for speaking out.
I have avoided Arisia for more than a decade because of the creepy feel it had when I first attended. I will more seriously consider revisiting now that I know their anti-harassment policy has teeth.
"You're gonna get the guy kicked out ..."
This is one I think about when I think about how I'd handle being harassed. I'm sorry to say that I actually consider that it's a more serious response than is called for. But it's not. Your report of his behavior isn't what gets him kicked out. His behavior gets him kicked out. If he didn't behave in an unacceptable fashion, there would be nothing to report and no reason for the con to kick him out.
I agree completely that it's his problem. You shouldn't--no one should--have to put up with his behavior and the way it makes the convention unpleasant and just not fun. Thank you for your post.
If he didn't behave in an unacceptable fashion, there would be nothing to report and no reason for the con to kick him out.
So much this.
(Here via shadesong
*applauds* I just wanted to say BRAVO for speaking up and not letting this creep get away with being a, well, creep. I always feel that it's pathetic that it has to be done in the first place (ideally, we'd all practice basic rules of respect) but I am encouraged and inspired by your strength to call this guy out on his poor behavior.
Here via 'song's post.
Thank you for helping make con-space a better space for everyone.
Hi. Here via shadesong
via Jim Hines' twitter feed. I've approached the recent implementation of harassment policies at cons with cautious optimism. I was curious if such policies would be fairly and consistently enforced. Glad to see at this is the case for at least one con! :)