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Controversy Over Violet Blue's Harm Reduction Talk 562

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the thinking-not-allowed dept.
Weezul writes "The Ada Initiative's Valerie Aurora got Violet Blue's Hackers As A High-Risk Population (29c3 abstract) talk on harm reduction methodology pulled from the Security BSides meeting in San Francisco by claiming it contained rape triggers [ed note: you might not want to visit the main page of the weblog as it contains a few pictures that might be considered NSFW in more conservative places]. It's frankly asinine to object to work around hacker ethics as 'off topic' at such broad hacker conference. Is Appelbaum's 29c3 keynote 'off topic' for asking hackers to work for the 'good guys' rather than military, police, their contractors, Facebook, etc.? Yes, obviously harm reduction is a psychological hack that need not involve a computer, but this holds for 'social engineering' as well. It's simply that hacking isn't nearly as specialized or inaccessible as say theoretical physics. Worse, there is no shortage of terrible technology laws like the CFAA, DMCA, etc. that exist partially because early hackers failed to communicate an ethics that seemed coherent and reasoned to outsiders." The Ada Initiative responds that such talks do more harm than good. It could also be argued that "not working for the bad guys" type talks aren't off-topic, since the hacker community has traditionally cared about things like information freedom.
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Controversy Over Violet Blue's Harm Reduction Talk

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  • Re:Rape trigger? (Score:4, Informative)

    by crazyjj (2598719) * on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @12:05PM (#43024993)

    Apparently a bunch of feminists in San Fransisco (but of course) are concerned that any *mention* of rape ("rape trigger") in a speech or presentation will send any former rape victims in the audience into flashbacks and convulsions, thus re-victimizing them.

    Of course, the term "rape trigger" is *itself* a rape trigger. Which leads to an interesting loop.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @12:09PM (#43025027)

    So, AFAICT from the summary and blogs, this was some hippie slap-fight between a bunch of feminists over "rape triggers" (a term so silly that it could only have meaning in San Fran, Austin, and Portland) in some presentation?

    And isn't the term "rape trigger" ITSELF a rape trigger?

    In Sweden, you will get jailed for mentioning a rape trigger, if you are a man.

    Just look at what happened to Julian Assange. Two feminist groupies threw themselves at him, but when they found out he had sex with them both in two days, they went to the police and reported him for rape because his condom had burst open.

    And yes, Sweden loves San Fran and the gay community especially. Remember, in Sweden, you will get a state-sponsored sex change if you want, and the Royal Princess herself hands out awards at the QX Gay Galas.

  • Re:What? (Score:5, Informative)

    by jjohnson (62583) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @12:14PM (#43025089) Homepage

    People who survive rape sometimes have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which includes an extreme sensitivity to anything reminding them of their experience (like a rape victim who later sees a rape scene in a movie). There's a growing consensus that, in some circumstances, warning people of potential triggers is considered polite, at least, to give them a chance to avoid it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @12:18PM (#43025131)

    You should read the link under "The Ada Initiative responds that such talks do more harm than good." It's SFW and it contains the counterpoint to this biased/revisionist submission.

    Here's the text of TFA:

    "
    What happened with my Security BSides talk

    It had been decided months ago that I would give a talk at Security BSides San Francisco. The subject of my talk was up in the air until just before the conference started, and the organizers were okay with that, but to not inconvenience or surprise the organizers, I decided to present the same talk I had given at Security BSides Las Vegas in 2012. I submitted the talk description just before the conference began, and it went on the website immediately.

    This is the talk name and description:

    sex +/- drugs: known vulns and exploits

    What drugs do to sexual performance, physiological reaction and pleasure is rarely discussed in - or out of - clinical or academic settings. Yet most people have sex under the influence of something (or many somethings) at some point in their lives.

    In this underground talk, Violet Blue shares what sex-positive doctors, nurses, MFT’s, clinic workers and crisis counselors have learned and compiled about the interactions of drugs and sex from over three decades of unofficial curriculum for use in peer-to-peer (and emergency) counseling. Whether you’re curious about the effects of caffeine or street drugs on sex, or are the kind of person that keeps your fuzzy handcuffs next to a copy of The Pocket Pharmacopeia, this overview will help you engineer your sex life in our chemical soaked world. Or, it’ll at least give you great party conversation fodder.

    I put this talk together for BSides LV knowing it would be seen at the same time as Defcon, which is reputed to be a con with lots of parties and wild behavior. The talk is structured with harm reduction methodology, the act of giving the talk is an act of harm reduction for the community, and also gives me another opportunity to tell the hacking/security communities about what harm reduction is.

    I have presented talks about sexuality at tech conferences all over the world, and I make it clear each time that my talks are not technical and that they are about issues that affect the culture to which I am presenting.

    This is the third slide in my sex +/- drugs talk:

    I arrived at the Security BSides venue half an hour before my talk was set to begin, and I tracked down the main organizer to get connected with the speaker wrangler. I found him next door at DNA Pizza, where he was talking with this person. I apologized for the interruption, the organizer told me where to wait, and the woman he was talking to smiled at me. I smiled back.

    The organizer came into the LockSport Lounge around 10 minutes later and asked if he could speak with me. I asked Eric Michaud to join me.

    The organizer said, “So, I need to ask you: is there any rape in your talk?”

    I said, “Is there any WHAT in my talk?” I was shocked.

    “Well, there’s been a complaint about your talk.” He continued, “It’s from someone who is a rape survivor and they said they will be triggered by your talk if there’s any rape in it.”

    “No, no, there’s no rape in my talk. I talk about human sexual systems and the effects drugs, including caffeine and alcohol, affect the performance of these systems and the dangers of mixing different things. What’s going on here?”

    He replied, “Someone has said they will be triggered by your talk, and they’re a rape survivor.”

    “Okay. In the talk I do cover ‘date rape’ drugs, and I explain their actions and how they’re dangerous.”

    Then he said, “Do you describe how to use date rape drugs? They said that if you are going to tell people how to use date rape drugs then it

  • Re:rape trigger? etc (Score:3, Informative)

    by quietwalker (969769) <pdughi@gmail.com> on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @12:18PM (#43025139)

    Disclaimer: I think it's silly, but I'll try to keep my personal opinions restricted to parens.

    A rape trigger is apparently anything that could cause negative feelings in a person based on their experiences with rape, or sympathy with those who have been raped. (as opposed to the norm, I guess, which is everyone is pro-rape?)

    So, talking about rape is an obvious rape trigger. Talking about being powerless is a rape trigger. Talking about sex is a rape trigger. (even loving, consensual, romantic sex.). Talking about drugs, or the role of women in society, human rights violations - all rape triggers.

    Like the warnings before TV shows, some groups prefix their discussions (usually men-and-sex-are-pure-evil feminist blog entries) with a list of potential rape triggers (the list, by-the-by, is also a rape trigger). In this way, the person who is sensitive to these triggers (and more likely, those who are attention whoring and overly-sensitive to those who are sensitive) may avoid the discussions.

    (This post is also a rape trigger, due to it's content)

  • Re:Rape trigger? (Score:5, Informative)

    by pavon (30274) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @12:33PM (#43025347)

    Yeah, this is a horrible summary especially considering all the useful links in the original submission are blocked at my work. However, the Ada Initiative link that the editors added explains the situation well.

    The gist of it is that people attending this conference were expecting it be about computer security. One of the invited speakers decided to make their talk about drug use during sex, and didn't let anyone know about this until a few hours before they were scheduled to present. The conference organizers *asked* the Ada Initiative what they thought about this, and they told them it would make the women at the conference uncomfortable, so the conference organizers canceled the talk.

    Looking past all the sociology/feminist terms, this is what it boils down to. The woman there just wanted to go to a technical conference and talk about technical things, and be treated like professionals. Putting sex on people's mind takes the focus off technical things, and onto sexual things. It does so regardless of whether the talk is pro-women or not. It will make interactions between the men and women at the conference more awkward at best. It will take what should be a comfortable professional environment, and make it less enjoyable and welcoming.

    There was nothing wrong with Violet Blue's talk in general, if it was given in an appropriate setting, and people attending knew the subject of the conference. But springing it on people when they are trying to avoid people thinking of them sexually isn't cool.

  • Original Article (Score:4, Informative)

    by wisnoskij (1206448) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @12:54PM (#43025663) Homepage

    So basically the presenter said she would hold the talk in a separate room in the after party, so that only the people who knew what the content would be and consented to see it would see it.

    This was the response: “No, they’re here and they’re not leaving. They told me they’ll make it into a bigger problem if you do your talk.”

  • Re:Rape trigger? (Score:5, Informative)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @12:55PM (#43025675) Journal
    One woman was giving a talk, and other women were upset because it was about sex. Now they are discussing, blaming, and working through emotional issues. This sort of stuff is annoying.
  • Re:What? (Score:5, Informative)

    by cayenne8 (626475) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @02:23PM (#43026659) Homepage Journal

    They aren't arguing for any of those things. Merely that technical conferences should not gratuitously include sexual or rape-related references when they aren't on-topic to the actual purpose of the conference. If you've been to any technical conferences, you'd realize this is a pervasive problem in a rather male-dominated, frattish industry, though it's been getting somewhat better lately (perhaps with the exception of game-industry conferences).

    How about some common sense, and rather than cater to a very small minority of people that might be offended and ban the talk altogether, to allow the talk and have a sign warning people that might be offended to NOT attend the talk and look for some other forum for entertainment.

    Why censor based on the lowest common denominator of who might possibly attend the show?

    And, as it turns out in this story, there was NO woman that was traumatized in this fashion, it was just a story this Ada organization was using to threaten the conference presenters into banning this talk.

    I would take that action as much more despicable than possible offending someone...using a rape victim concern as a false pretense for furthering the Ada agenda, and controlling speech they way THEY seem to think it needs to be controlled.

  • Re:Rape trigger? (Score:5, Informative)

    by ceoyoyo (59147) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @09:11PM (#43030119)

    You're being an idiot. You're not being sensitive, you're being patronizing, and you're contributing to real harm being done.

    At no point did I say date rape was okay. Quite the opposite. Now, if you're not so stuck in your self righteousness that you can't engage in rational thought:

    Discussion of date rape drugs is not more likely to be a PTSD trigger than discussion, or the existence, of any number of other things including rape, violence, drunk idiots or sex in general. Just to be clear for people (like you) who like to put words in other peoples' mouths, that doesn't make date rape, non-date rape, drugging people or violence against anybody in any way okay.

    The Ada Initiative seems to agree with me. Their complaint wasn't actually about the discussion of date rape drugs, it was about the discussion of sex in general. Lots of other people have posted the quote here. They may have a point - perhaps Violet Blue's talk was off topic at the conference she was at. However, since she was invited, it seems the organizers didn't think so. While I suspect the AI was actually using rape as an excuse to get a speaker they dislike banned (which I find abhorrent), their claim is that discussion of sex can trigger flashbacks in women suffering from rape related PTSD. This is certainly true. Their solution was to demand the talk be pulled. That's not a good solution.

    PTSD flashbacks (and not just with rape-related PTSD) can be triggered by literally anything. A random sampling of some I've heard: loud noises, dogs, baseball, churches, classrooms, street lights, motorcycles, men with dark hair, etc. Some of those ARE from rape victims. Probably not the ones you think.

    As with many mental illnesses, an important criterion for the diagnosis of PTSD is that it interferes significantly with normal life (http://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/pages/dsm-iv-tr-ptsd.asp). So guess how you recover from such a mental illness? It isn't by sterilizing the world. It's by developing strategies to deal with your illness and get back as close as possible to living normally. In fact, guess what the recommended treatments are for PTSD? Counselling and support groups (i.e. talking about it) and, in extreme cases, desensitization therapy (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001923/). To refer back to your post, the only way to recover from a mental illness is to develop strategies to cope with it. Those might involve drug therapy (to reference your silly cancer simile) but far preferable, especially for disorders like PTSD, are non-drug therapies like counselling, support groups, etc. Avoidance is often a symptom of, and may even contribute to a mental illness. It does not treat it.

    Having said that, it's quite understandable that someone with PTSD might prefer not to be exposed to easily avoided triggers in public. It seems that Blue knows that, and suggested moving her talk to one of several more restricted venues, but those suggestions were refused.

    Violet Blue, by the way, is a trained crisis counsellor (as am I). As far as I can tell, Valerie Aurora is not.

    It looks to me very much like Valerie Aurora and the Ada Initiative used (and I chose that word specifically, with all the disgusting connotations it has in this context) rape victims generally to further a political agenda and specifically to muzzle a speaker whom they dislike.

    On a personal note, one of the most rewarding interactions I had as a crisis counsellor was with a woman the night before she was scheduled to testify against her rapist. She was dreading facing him and was in crisis at the thought. We talked about her experience, her feelings about testifying and not, and what she was likely to gain or lose from either decision. When we finished she had come to the conclusion that she was a hero, both for facing her fear and helping make sure her attacker didn't get a chance to hurt anyone else. She knew it would be difficult, but she was sure she was capable of doing it.

"The vast majority of successful major crimes against property are perpetrated by individuals abusing positions of trust." -- Lawrence Dalzell

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