I have read a disturbing number of reports recently about women who have been subject to unobservant approaches, creepy behavior, harassment, or downright sexual assault. Sometimes it’s in the context of a large gathering (like a gaming convention), and other times it’s just been on the train, but it feels almost like there’s something in the water these days.
So, in the interest of the public good, let me share a few pointers with my friends:
-If a woman makes any indication that she is not okay with your company, do your best to leave her alone.
This one should go without saying, but it’s going to be said anyway. Sometimes people don’t want to be approached. Sometimes, they especially don’t want to be approached for more-than-friendly purposes.
-No one owes you a conversation, an explanation, or absolution.
If anyone (male or female) says that they’re busy, or reading, or don’t want to talk—or even just flat ignores you—leave it alone and walk away. If someone tells you something you did made them uncomfortable, apologize, and then leave it alone and walk away. If you are in an enclosed space, and absolutely cannot walk away (a crowded train, for example) try to lean away, avoid both eye contact and physical contact. Don’t stare. Don’t look for an opening to explain yourself. Don’t hope for an explanation about what you did wrong. And don’t wait for someone to tell you that what you did was okay.
-Never, ever, put your hands (or face, or any other body part) on someone that you’ve just met that isn’t making an overture to do the same.
This covers ranges of behavior, from strokes of the arm to hugs to shoulder rubs (“everybody likes their shoulders rubbed, right?” Wrong.) to outright sexual advances. No. You don’t get to make the first move.
-The world is not a meet-cute.
Look, a lot of people I know are writers, or would-be writers, or gamers, or otherwise engage in more enjoyment of literature, movies, and fantasy than some members of the population. I know that we’re all writing our own stories in our heads. But most of the time, the pretty girl that you’re sitting next to on the plane is just hoping to make her connection in Chicago on time. She’s not available, or doesn’t want to be available, until and unless she indicates otherwise. Please keep your hands on your side of the arm rest, thanks.
-A woman sitting alone very likely doesn’t want your company or your protection.
If a woman has found herself alone in a bar, or at a party or club, it’s very likely that she’s not looking to be approached. If she’s buried in her phone, or looking at the front or bathroom door, or checking her watch, she’s not looking for conversation.
Conversely, if you see a creeper, just standing nearby—within earshot, but not getting involved—is usually enough to scare them off. Unless someone makes eye contact with you and some indication to come over and get involved, or there's an obvious threat of imminent violence, don’t approach. Because then the creeper is you.
-Just because someone is talking politely with you does not mean they are romantically interested in you.
Posted without comment.
-Welcome to ConCon 2012: The Wrath of Cons
A note about conventions. While it’s true that it’s fairly likely that someone to whom you are attracted at a convention shares some of your interests, that’s not an invitation to ‘cold call’ approach a woman. And it’s not an excuse to keep pressing the issue if she makes an indication that she’s not interested in talking to you.
If you are at a convention and you do see someone you might be interested in, don’t follow that person around. If you strike up a conversation and she’s cagey about what events or games she’s interested in, or what hotel she’s staying in, or where her friends are meeting her, she’s not interested in talking to you. If she says “see you at the Sculpey Panel,” then you might have made an acquaintance. Maybe you should sit where you can see her at the next panel, but not right behind or next to her (no, I don’t care how good she smells…). If you’re interested in chatting with her later, maybe walk up and say that you’d like to chat later on in the convention, if she has some free time, offer your number, and walk away. If she doesn’t call or text, well, at least you had a brief but enjoyable acquaintance talking about miniatures sculpting. If she does, maybe you’ll chat later—but don’t be surprised if the conversation is all about miniatures sculpting. Conventions might be short experiences, but that’s not an excuse to behave in overdrive.
In short: Be polite. Be courteous. But most of all, be attentive to the signals (verbal and nonverbal) that you’re being given. Think about how you sit on the bus or train or airplane when you want to indicate that you’d like to be left alone. Is this person sitting that way? Maybe she would like to be left alone.