I returned this evening from my annual trek to the science fiction/fantasy convention known as CONvergence. As usual, I am physically exhausted. Think about it, four days (Thursday through Sunday) of being immersed in a large group of people not too different than myself. And just to point out to those who like to think that geeks, nerds, freaks and weirdos are a minority of the population, this convention has been going on since 1999, and has grown in leaps and bounds. This year, registrations were above 7,000. I know that’s not comparable to the West Coast’s Comic-Con (which, let’s face it is essentially shopping with discussion panels), or Dragon Con (which is the gold standard, at least for me – 2015 attendance for them topped at 10x as much. In other words, they topped 70,000 attendees). And, maybe we don’t attract the kind of high-end names that Dragon Con does. But I can tell you this much, most of the guests that come to our con end up partying with us, because the fan base for them is polite – and no matter how much squeeing is going on, the reality is that famous people are human too and deserve their own space.
As usual, just like any place that has a larger group of people around, there are always going to be the small minority who are narcissistic, self-absorbed assholes who think they are “God’s Gift” (note, not just “….to women” – there are just as many females pulling that shit as there are males). And just because CONvergence is the absolutely safest place I have ever had the pleasure to be involved in, doesn’t mean that boundary violations never happen.
Do you know how absolutely WONDERFUL that can be to a person who finds it hard to trust people? To know that the overwhelming majority of people around me would actually jump in if someone was harassing me or worse.
But, as I said, even the safest of places cannot protect you from everything. Sadly, Saturday night was the exact opposite of what I have come to know as the norm at CONvergence. I was in a somewhat risque costume, but that isn’t what was the problem. And, sadly, MOST of the perpetrators were WOMEN.
And, as I am sitting here thinking about the rage that was building that night (I ended up going up to the room about 1am – when usually I am around most of the night on Saturday night occasionally even past dawn), I realize it is the absolute lack of personal control of my own space and my own body that was enraging me.
You would think I’m talking about being sexually harassed. No, but it was STILL a violation of my ability to set boundaries.
The costume I was wearing was inspired by P!nk’s song “Trouble.” So, I also wanted to do something similar with my hair (which was essentially her normal short hair pouffed out, with a french braid that transitions into a ponytail). Involved in that was a portion of a wig that the lovely and talented Tiffany was kind enough to put together for me (not only doing my hair, but my makeup too).
You’d think that a somewhat risque saloon girl outfit would elicit sexual harassment boundary issues (although, I suppose by now, most people congregated in the Smoker’s Paradise who have gone to at least one convention at the same time as me, know that if I witness active sexual harassment, the perpetrator will end up heavily embarrassed). I do have a policy that if it is obvious that I have put my breasts on display, that it is acceptable for others to look at my breasts (as long as they don’t talk to them, or do something else creepy or harassing – which will often get them confronted about their actions). Hell, I have even consented to have my breasts fondled in public (usually around 2-3 a.m. so there are absolutely NO kids and usually it is mutually joking, rather than any kind of intent)
No, this was constantly being petted, having the tail pulled, repeatedly fucking with the entire hair (with only the occasional compliment involved). Since when did it become acceptable – even when drunk off your ass – for a WOMAN to destroy someone else’s control over their own bodies? Especially at a convention where damned near every 2 feet there is a reminder that “Costumes are NOT Consent?”
Unfortunately, I could do nothing about it. Sometimes I didn’t even SEE who did it, and of those that I saw, by the time I identified a security person, the perpetrator had disappeared into the crowd.
Just because I allow my friends (or lovers) to fondle my hair or head, does not mean that anyone else is welcome to do so. And the more it happened, the more violated (and enraged) that I felt.
THIS is why it is the responsibility of anyone with a functioning brain to point out to their friends when their actions and/or activities are inappropriate, and give them consequences if such activities do not stop. It is the “silence means acceptance” issue. If you do not make it clear to your so-called friends that their behavior is not acceptable, you are culpable for the continuation of the negative behavior.
All it would have taken was ONE friend pointing out that it is inappropriate to touch someone without their consent.
And I’m a person who is willing to confront an issue head-on. What about those people who are NOT comfortable with confrontation? Who fear the other person, primarily from a physical point of view?
And what about the hypocrisy of someone who calls themselves a feminist, yet STILL actually destroys another person’s control over their own body?
Please understand, I have been attending CONvergence since 2000. I have only missed 2 CONvergences – 1999 and 2015. I will admit, I did ghost a couple of those years, but only because I rarely go anywhere else other than the Smoker’s Paradise (a place set aside for smokers, that is further than the legal limit away from the doors (the local municipal government has made it illegal to smoke within 25 feet of an entrance to anything). If you wish to attend, and if you intend on attempting to be part of the convention, you MUST buy a membership. Public areas are places non-members can be, but nothing that is convention-specific. Ghosting is, honestly, stealing – and yes, I consider myself a thief for having done so in previous years, even if I stayed in public areas.
I have NEVER felt unsafe or without support until Saturday night. And the lack of support cannot be blamed on CONvergence staff (who are there and on top of things as much as is physically possible). The lack of support comes from the attendees themselves. Too many people who are so self-involved and self-absorbed that those around them are seen as 2-dimensional.
What I am saying is that, in this particular case, I am disgusted at the human race. Disgusted that people cannot seem to understand basic courtesy.