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.