To The Woman Who Groped Me at FandomFest
I suppose it was my own fault.
I considered it a kindness to ignore you as you whined about how drunk you were and preemptively apologized to anyone you might puke on. As you leaned on your friend and began to swear at people for having the audacity to stop you from reaching your floor, as if they somehow believed they had a right to use the elevator too.
It was my fault for tuning you out as your verbal diarrhea grew even nastier. For not realizing when your mumbled “fuck it!” devolved into “faggot,” a slur you apparently directed at anyone getting off of the elevator. Including me.
It’s my fault for not catching what you were spewing until I was squeezing toward the doors, at which point you apparently took my annoyance as reason to announce my gayness to the world and grab my ass.
My fault for those few seconds of what-the-hell-just-happened shock, during which time the elevator doors closed, robbing me of any chance to respond.
There are many things I could have said and done, had I reacted faster. I could have shouted, “What the hell is wrong with you?” I could have called you out on your bigotry. I could have responded physically, taking your wrist and refusing to give it back until you apologized. I could have snapped a picture or jotted down your badge name and reported you to security.
I didn’t do any of those things. I don’t know your name. I couldn’t tell security what you looked like. Given how wasted you were, I don’t know if you even remember what you did.
Of course, the thing is, it’s not my fault. I’m not the one who decided to grope a stranger in an elevator as some sort of petty, drunken game. I’m not the friend who stood by and did nothing while it happened.
To be fair, I don’t know what happened after those elevator doors closed. It’s possible your friend told you exactly how much of an asshole you were being, but nothing I observed up to that point makes me think anything happened, aside from maybe a little nervous laughter.
In the silver lining department, it was … educational. I have a better understanding of the self-blame; of the way people replay the situation again and again, imagining what you could have done differently; of some of the ways others respond when you talk about it, the jokes and the advice about what you should have done, all offered with love and the best of intentions.
One person commented, “Welcome to the world of women.” While it’s not just women who get treated this way – I was talking to another author this weekend about his experience with a woman who refused to respect the word “no” – it’s certainly far more common for men to target and harass women.
And you know what? It’s bullshit. It’s harassment, and it’s assault.
We focus on what the victims should do. How they should fight back and report it and take responsibility for making sure the other person doesn’t do this to anyone else.
I don’t need to be told what I should have done. Believe me, I played that scenario out again and again in my head, and I guarantee I’ve already come up with pretty much every possibility you’re going to suggest.
None of which helps.
A part of me wants to insist it wasn’t a big deal. I was never in physical danger. It was only a second or two of physical/sexual contact. But it was unwanted sexual contact. It was, however brief, a deliberate violation. And it is a big deal.
I had to keep reminding myself, even though I knew it, that it’s not my fault. That the responsibility belongs with the bigoted asshole who did this. I don’t care that she was drunk. If you’re the kind of person who does this shit when you get drunk, then you’ve forfeited the right to get drunk around people. Because alcohol doesn’t excuse it or make it okay, and if you can’t control yourself when you’re drunk, then you damn well need to stay sober.
And if you’ve watched a friend pull this kind of shit and said nothing – if you stood there and let it happen, and didn’t confront them afterward – then you’re also part of the problem. Because silence speaks too, and your silence tells your friend that his or her behavior is okay. That you’re cool with them harassing people.
Overall, I had a great time at FandomFest, but this pissed me off. It pissed me off that it happens, and it pisses me off that it keeps happening.
July 10, 2012 @ 9:40 am
Jim – I’m so sorry there are drunken idiots in the world. They come in all shapes, sizes, and genders. It isn’t your fault. You didn’t give her permission to touch. You didn’t invite the contact. You did nothing wrong. I’m sorry you had to go through this.
July 10, 2012 @ 9:46 am
I totally agree with you about such behavior; it’s wrong, it’s inexcusable, and if you act like a jerk while drunk, either don’t drink or stay home and don’t inflict yourself on the general public. (Actually, then I pity the drink’s family or housemates…) I won’t give you any advice – as you say, you’ve thought of it all – I’ll just say, I’m sorry Fandom Fest was tarnished for you by that one incident, and I hope the rest of your memories of it are pleasant.
Jim C. Hines
July 10, 2012 @ 9:54 am
The rest of the con was a blast, thank you 🙂
July 10, 2012 @ 10:19 am
I’m glad you didn’t respond to her. I’d have said something nasty, then spent the next several days regretting it. The thought “what would the Dalai Lama do?” sometimes occurs to me… but always about two minutes too late. Any response would have just fed her vitriol. Odds are she hated herself in the morning.
July 10, 2012 @ 10:22 am
Ugh, that sucks. A lot. Her behavior is completely unacceptable.
July 10, 2012 @ 10:25 am
I’m glad I limited my drunken outburst at Peguicon to yelling “HEY ! LOOK, ITS JIM C. HINES!!!!!” Just as you were rounding the corner and my elevator doors were closing. You looked like a deer caught in headlights. I felt like an ass.
Jim C. Hines
July 10, 2012 @ 10:30 am
Deer in headlights is my default look at certain points in the con, depending on what I’ve been doing or how wiped I am. Nothing to feel like an ass about.
Thank you for not grabbing my ass, though 🙂
Jim C. Hines
July 10, 2012 @ 10:33 am
Hm … I’m not sure I agree. I don’t necessarily think I needed to say something nasty, but I do think this sort of behavior should be confronted. Loudly and publicly, when it’s safe to do so. And not necessarily or just by the victim.
I don’t know about the self-hate the next day. She was pretty gone, and I don’t know if she was likely to even remember.
July 10, 2012 @ 10:40 am
I know you know this, but to reiterate–it is absolutely and completely not your fault. And please don’t beat yourself up for having a deer in the headlights reaction to this kind of violation.
I’m sorry that this happened to you, but thank you for speaking up about it.
Jim C. Hines
July 10, 2012 @ 10:44 am
I know it’s not my fault. Not being annoyed with myself for the deer-in-headlights bit is taking a little longer, but I’ll get there. Thanks 🙂
July 10, 2012 @ 10:50 am
I’ve definitely been grabbed without permission before (once in Vegas, in a casino I was walking through while working) – I generally don’t have much of a reaction to it, except to note that I have the luxury of not giving a damn, because of my gender, my size/strength, and even my relative lack of negative history of traumatic experiences.
I don’t know how I would have reacted in your position, but I do promise you that I have and will again speak up loudly for someone else in that circumstance.
If it ends up being you, we might have to talk about the length of your skirt. 😉
July 10, 2012 @ 11:07 am
Sometimes, all you can do is get away from the situation, because what just happened is so outside of normal expectations. Women (I can’t speak for dudes) are constantly fed a stream of self-defense advice, but when you’re in the moment, brain-freeze and “Did that really just happen???” can kick in. You removed yourself from the assaulter’s presence and thus denied her the opportunity to continue her attack.
July 10, 2012 @ 11:21 am
Jim, I’m not sure I understand what you think that drunken gesture could have possibly led to in a crowded elevator but I know how you feel. As a kilt wearer I’m continually reminding women of all ages; “hey, my eyes are up here”
Jim C. Hines
July 10, 2012 @ 11:24 am
In this case, it’s not about what it could or couldn’t have led to.
Jim C. Hines
July 10, 2012 @ 11:25 am
“I don’t know how I would have reacted in your position, but I do promise you that I have and will again speak up loudly for someone else in that circumstance.”
Thanks for that, Scott!
July 10, 2012 @ 11:26 am
You did what you could, and the first instinct is typically to get away. Sadly, it doesn’t stop the replay in your mind of all the things you should have done. As has been said several times, this was not your fault.
I appreciate you talking about this and other issues, many of which women are subjected to way more than men. It means a lot when someone I respect stands up for me.
July 10, 2012 @ 11:39 am
All things have to be equal. That’s not acceptable behavior drunk or sober, whatever the gender of the person spewing it out, whatever the gender of the person on the receiving end of the assault.
I’m sorry you had to go through that. It sucked.
July 10, 2012 @ 12:07 pm
No excuse for such behavior as that woman’s. She apparently had a brother, who latched a deathgrip on one my “charms” at the same convention late one afternoon. My handling of the situation was different from yours, but the fact I’ve had practice dealing with such things well and truly sucks.
July 10, 2012 @ 12:14 pm
Yup, her behaviour was completely unacceptable. She is a complete and total dick. Someone who does that, in my eyes, pretty much gives up their humanity, if they had any to begin with.
July 10, 2012 @ 12:16 pm
there is little I can add to what has been said before, but I wanted to say I’m sorry you had to go through this. And I want to thank you for having the guts to talk about it on your blog.
I was groped by an old man when I was a teenager. I froze and was unable to defend myself, or even move away. So I totally know what you were feeling. It’s sad these things are still happening. Maybe when more people share their thoughts about them, it will happen less often.
So thank you again for being brave enough to share this with the world.
July 10, 2012 @ 12:26 pm
Don’t be an ass, Ken. This is not a post to talk about how maligned you and your kilt are.
What you are doing is called ‘derailing’ and it’s something that happens in every single discussion of assault. It’s not about what ‘could have happened.’ It’s about someone touching another human being without consent. Which, unless my memory is wrong is the definition of assault.
You, big strong, strapping man, are doing nothing to help the discussion. You are telling all of us how very often women are oogling you. If you wish to talk about the time one of them grabbed your dick, we’ll talk. Otherwise, no.
Jim, I’m sorry someone was a drunken jerk to you. It sucks.
July 10, 2012 @ 1:08 pm
As I’ve said before, I’m always baffled by how someone of either sex, durnk or sober, reaches the decision, “Hey, I know! I’ll sexually grab part of a total stranger’s body (or make sexual propositions or comments to a total stranger), and then I’ll get angry if they don’t treat this assault as a flattering and welcome overture.”
July 10, 2012 @ 1:23 pm
I’m sorry that this happened to you. It does highlight a point that I have been making for years, male or female, unwanted contact is not appropriate. I had a guy friend that was quite dear to me and he had a similar experience. Back then a lot of people didn’t seem to get why it was wrong. I explained to our friends why it was and realized that as a society we expect Guys to tough it out and endure for more then they should. You sharing what happened was very brave and helps other people learn, that it is not just girls getting groped and manhandled inappropriately. What you are doing right now is far better then telling off a drunk in an elevator. She wouldn’t even remember what you would have said. Reaching out now helps teach other people something valuable. Something that should be common sense but isn’t. Thank you for Sharing what happened and helping others learn that it doesn’t matter if you are a girl or boy unwanted Touch is wrong.
July 10, 2012 @ 2:08 pm
Everyone else here has said everything already. What I do want to say is that my respect for you continues to grow with every post you do on this subject. I’m sorry you had to experience this crap first-hand, but I, too, applaud your courage for speaking out about it.
July 10, 2012 @ 3:33 pm
It’s good to see how supportive all the comments are.
I haven’t heard a single one about how Jim is an ugly man-whore dickhead who obviously hates women and just wants to cut their breasts off for the “supposed crime” of suggesting sex. Or any suggestions that he should be beaten until he listens to the women’s side of the argument. Lord forbid someone make a video game where someone gets to beat him up until he listens (This is what sometimes happens to women when they complain).
I also haven’t heard any suggestions he was unmanly to reject her drunken advance(?) because men are supposed to boink anything that doesn’t violently resist while having no emotions other than rage and lust.
Both of those tend to happen when someone complains about unwanted sexual behavior.
What you do drunk is your responsibility because you decided to get drunk. What happened to Jim is wrong and it is wrong when it happens to anyone.
July 10, 2012 @ 5:26 pm
Oy. I’m so sorry that this happened to you. No one, regardless of gender, ever wants to be on the receiving end of this kind of behavior. Thank you for speaking up and saying what happened, and for giving details. Maybe the offending party will recognize themselves and feel a modicum of shame for their behavior, and not just the wildly inappropriate touching, but also the hate speech.
I hope this particular tape loop stops playing in your brain fairly soon and I’m sorry you had to experience it.
Jim C. Hines
July 10, 2012 @ 7:37 pm
Grumble. I get even angrier when I hear about this stuff happening to my friends. Having read your post on Facebook, I’m glad you dealt with him in an appropriate manner.
But yeah, the fact that you’ve had practice at this is just Wrong on so many levels.
July 10, 2012 @ 8:05 pm
No argument, but I look at it this way. First, better me than someone with less mobility or practice. Second, being dealt with by someone he obviously considered an easy target was apparently enough of a shock as to get through even an alcohol-befuddled brain.
July 11, 2012 @ 6:53 pm
Perhaps this might help… The elevator door closes. The people remaining in the elevator glare at the drunk. “What?”she says aggressively. “You just acted like a total asshole,” her friend tells her. “That guy is probably calling security as soon as he gets into his room, and you’re going to get us thrown out of the con!” “I didn’t do any…” “You groped a total stranger – who wasn’t doing a damned thing to warrant it,” another woman snaps at her. “And did you know who that was? I was going to ask him about his new book, but then you started acting like a total jerk. It was Jim Hines, you idiot.” “I’m never coming to another con with you again. You’re lucky I’m letting you back into our room,” her friend tells her as they get off the elevator. “You’re so damned embarassing when you get drunk!”
Maybe it went that way after you got off the elevator – the rest of the people might have been just as shocked as you at what the woman did, but since they were still on the elevator, they had a chance to respond… It was a nasty thing to have happen, and I’m sorry it did. And the first time something like that happens to someone, your response is normal – shock. So don’t feel that your reaction was inadequate.
July 11, 2012 @ 10:43 pm
Yeah, this was my thought, too. It may not even have happened right away, but I simply can’t imagine that the friend wouldn’t have called her out on it the next day (when she was hung over after spending the night puking her guts out). But maybe I’m just being naive and they’re total gits who go around doing this stuff all the time without any remorse. Sigh. Sorry, Jim.
July 12, 2012 @ 10:40 pm
Wow. I’m so sorry that both you and Lee had such a thing happen. Guess that’s one repercussion from the number of bars the Galt House had set up. And maybe the mashing together of three different fan bases didn’t help, either. Other than the groping, I’m glad you had a good time. I enjoyed talking with you.
Jim C. Hines
July 13, 2012 @ 7:44 pm
Thanks. Overall, it was a great weekend, marred by this one unfortunate individual.
July 13, 2012 @ 11:33 pm
I concur with Jim; other than my one incident, it was a fine weekend.
July 17, 2012 @ 6:29 am
Nothing you could’ve said would’ve penetrated her forcefield of alcohol-fueled arrogance. But thanks for speaking up here.
John G. Hartness
July 18, 2012 @ 12:16 am
Jim & Lee –
So sorry this happened to you guys, that’s friggin’ awful. I don’t get how some people in fandom (and society in general) think it’s just okay to touch people when they don’t want to be touched, or where they don’t get touched except by folks who they’re very close to.
It baffles me and makes me angry. I love cons, and I love hanging with fans, but I hate it when people I like are made to feel uncomfortable, at any time. It makes me angry, and as a few people have said over the years, folks don’t want to see me angry.
I’m glad the rest of the weekend went well for you, I really enjoyed meeting you, and hope to see you again soon. Lee, I’ll see you this weekend at LibertyCon!