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Is Sexual Harassment Part of Hacker Culture? 1127

owenferguson writes "Valerie Aurora, Linux kernel file systems expert, takes DEFCON to task for poor sexual harassment policing. A nice followup piece to the recent Readercon fiasco."
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Is Sexual Harassment Part of Hacker Culture?

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  • Re:Yes. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Dunbal ( 464142 ) * on Sunday August 12, 2012 @07:02PM (#40967517)
    Yes it is assault. It would only be harassment if said female was told "let me grab your crotch, otherwise I won't promote you/keep you hired/give you a raise like all your co-workers", etc. Of course I've mentioned this before, and immediately was modded to oblivion because in kindergar^H^H^H USA sexual harassment means staring too long/at all at a female coworker or speaking to her.
  • It's not just DEFCON (Score:5, Interesting)

    by subreality ( 157447 ) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @07:08PM (#40967557)

    ... and it's not "sexual harassment". It's "sexual assault". I've been seeing considerably more of people being inappropriately aggressive, and not just in hacker cons. It's happening in sci fi cons too, and tech business cons, and plenty of other places. Sales conferences have always been bad, but it's new to see so much of this in geek culture.

    I'm pretty sexually liberated (OK, I'm a fucking slut), but that doesn't mean free for all. No matter how much you think they want it, never assume they're interested unless they respond positively to some gentle verbal flirting... And if they don't, they're not interested, so please fuck off.

    I know this sounds obvious to many, but I keep seeing rather horrifying examples of geeks completely failing to follow that basic protocol.

  • by K. S. Kyosuke ( 729550 ) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @07:12PM (#40967597)

    There is a strong association between hardcore anything (geek, programmer, whatever) towards being maladjusted to societal norms

    I'd put in in other words: There's a distinct tendency for geeks to form a society with different and distinct social norms. You make it almost sound that there is only one set of social norms shared by all societies over the globe. There isn't one. It's almost as nonsensical as all those people complaining that other people's writing is "ungrammatical". Obviously, they don't even know what the word means.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 12, 2012 @07:24PM (#40967701)

    Pics or never happened.

  • Re:One incident.. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by fm6 ( 162816 ) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @07:33PM (#40967763) Homepage Journal

    Did we read the same article? It wasn't just one incident. Aurora tells how she left one DEFCON after a "barrage" of harassing incidents. The crotch grabbing episode was something she cited as an extreme case.

  • by ZPO ( 465615 ) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @07:34PM (#40967773)

    Isn't part of the hacker ethos that the code rules? Who cares the age, sex, color, national origin, or creed of the writer? Do any of these factors make for better or worse code? If not, then differentiators based on those factors have no place in the hacker culture.

    Any type of harassment needs to be dealt with rapidly, firmly, and appropriately. At the hacker cons I've attended, I've been fortunate to attend sessions with female presenters. I've also had the opportunity to interact with female attendees and found them to be logical, intelligent, and well spoken. I go to such cons to learn, network, and have some fun. Playing grabass just isn't on the menu. Such things are the province of small minds with no social skills. I'm all for harassers getting a swift kick - or several. I have a feeling though that the goons wouldn't be enamored with that idea.

    I'm old enough to have been in the military before, during, and after the 1991 Tailhook incident. Hopefully the pendulum won't swing so far in the other direction that personnel are tossed and/or banned based on unsubstantiated allegations. There are very real incidents that need to be dealt with firmly. There are also invented incidents that should result in sanctions against the person making the false allegations.


  • It's Obvious (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 12, 2012 @07:44PM (#40967873)

    Let's see....

    Con is catering to those who feel they are hip, cool, edgy, and underground, many of whom feel they are outside the law. Check.

    Con held in Las Vegas, also known as Sin City, "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas", America's ultimate party town. Check.

    Con-goers who have poor social skills, feel elite, hyper-competitive, and desperately want to appear manly and impressive. Check.

    Its a recipe for disaster as bad as if they held it in the middle of a frat party. There is no mystery to any of it. They already have big corporations, the NSA and other agencies and such attending the con looking for talent among a group of people who exist for a large part outside normal society. This is condoning their behavior. ALL of it. And likely this conference will become another dead-boring con and die out in a couple of years if they change it. Its a very select and special breeding ground for just the types of persons that Security organizations are looking for. That doesn't hold up to these other standards. These women decided to play in a different culture. And that is biting them in the ass now. Cause its a group of naturally anti-authoritarian males that make up said culture and trying to tell them no, tell them they have to do things exactly thus and so when they already know they get around all that with either money or power, just isn't gonna fly.

    They're the new jocks. They feel they can get away with anything. Go to jail for grabbing some titty at a con? Okay but the NSA wants me so I'll just chill until they get me out.

    Realistic outlook? No. But its as likely an explanation as any, and better than most I would bet.

  • by eldepeche ( 854916 ) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @07:53PM (#40967941)

    Using illegality as a standard is stupid if your goal is to protect women from harassment. (If your goal is to allow creepers to get away with this kind of crap, it might serve as a good standard.)

    Some of the rest might be rude but not illegal a guy asking a woman to show him her tits.

    Sexual harassment,

    A man the grabbed a woman's hips in a crowded party seems very situation dependent.

    Definitely sexual harassment, possibly sexual assault.

    I drunkard attempting to lick a shoulder is in base taste but when have drunkards been in good taste.

    Sexual assault.

    The only thing listed that fell outside of bounds would be the inappropriate touching.

    Sexual assault.

    Is it all juvenile behavioral sure, but none of it was sexual harassment that's specifically for workplaces and education that takes federal money.

    It may not be legally actionable, but it's sure as shit sexual harassment.

    Seems like your putting a lot of socially inept people together people are going to fail miserably at expressing themselves. But requiring a con the standard of the workplace you saying that at neither at work or in social settings may somebody make an unwelcome sexual advance. Do we need special sexual advance zones with trained technical staff and therapists standing by so that one personal can express a desire commit an act that predates our species? Lets face it go to a crowded pickup bar either gender expects some might even hope to have sexual advances made. The unwanted groping is over the line go talk to the cops not the con same as you would do at a bar, mall, or grocery store. Want a horror story's talk to the booth babes at your average trade show, and that is sexual harassment at the workplace.

    Why should a woman who wants to go to a hacker convention expect to be subjected to sexual advances? Or, more to the point, why would a man at a hacker convention feel entitled to make sexual advances? After the fact, why do you feel the need to defend men who make sexual advances at a computer hacker convention?

  • by Sabriel ( 134364 ) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @08:26PM (#40968195)

    Historically, in what periods do increasing 'sexual aggressiveness' and 'toleration of lawlessness' typically occur?

  • by ldobehardcore ( 1738858 ) <steven.dubois@gE ... m minus math_god> on Sunday August 12, 2012 @08:35PM (#40968265)

    Exactly this.
    I was a "social retard" my whole high school career. I was very good at being put in the friendzone whenever I spoke with women in a social way.
    It was so frustrating to see so many guys just be friendly like I was, and two weeks later they'd be going out with girls who were originally friends.
    The protocol is always unevenly applied. I'd be friendly, and it would always end there. I tried gentle flirting, standard fare, essentially emulating every approach I'd seen before, and it would never work. I'm not autistic. I'm not disgusting. I eventually gave up. It always seemed that I was just not attractive, or just friend material.

    These days, I don't even try anymore. I treat women as asexual most of the time, and thanks to prozac prescribed for depression, it's not too hard (in whichever mixture of senses you'd like to take it)

    It just might be bad luck. Get back on the horse and all that. But four years seems unreasonable. I tried the "Being a Dick" technique, it does work. For about a day. And it can't lead to any healthy interaction, or meaningful relationship. Plus being a dick in a specific way is a lot of work, and just not fun for anyone.

    Anyone care to sympathize? Spend a very long time considered as if you were never someone who could be related to as fully human?

  • by amiga3D ( 567632 ) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @08:55PM (#40968435)

    I apologize. No one should be allowed to grope or physically molest anyone. I'm a little tired and misunderstood what had occurred. Again I do apologize for the language and tone of my response.

  • by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @08:56PM (#40968439)

    Exactly. The stupid sociopaths wind up in prison usually, because they'll do illegal things but they're too dumb to avoid getting caught. The really smart sociopaths become tycoons and run corporations like Apple and Microsoft, while the ones either not quite as intelligent (but still smart) or more motivated by power than money become President or go into other high-up political positions.

  • by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @09:03PM (#40968493)

    Not likely. There's two kinds of men who treat women like shit; there's the extroverts who are really skilled at reading body language and figuring out which women actually like their treatment, and which don't. These men do indeed get lots of pussy; it's pretty sad really, for the women, but IMO the fault lies with their parents for not clueing them into this and warning them about these men.

    The other kind is men who think they're like group 1 above, but they're not, they're introverted losers (note: I'm not saying all introverts are losers, just these men), and they can't read womens' body language at all, don't know what they can get away with and what's over the line (group 1 above knows the difference), so they make pathetic attempts at emulating group #1, but fail miserably. These men are pathetic, lonely, and despicable creatures. These are the men that apparently are very numerous at hacker conventions.

    Seriously, what kind of moron thinks he's going to get into a woman's pants by grabbing her crotch at a bar, then disappearing into the crowd before she can do anything about it? It shows a seriously juvenile mentality.

  • Re:No (Score:5, Interesting)

    by demonlapin ( 527802 ) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @09:47PM (#40968777) Homepage Journal
    If your point is that being an intellectually brilliant woman is a cruel fork between being a mother and being a careerist of some kind, with most people choosing to muddle along halfway between and ill-satisfied with either part. then yes, you're right. But that doesn't change reality, and I'd be willing to bet there were more groupies (especially, given the stereotype of the clientele, the professional ladies) than female hackers at most of these.

    I'm not a hacker. However, I'm a doctor married to a doctor, so I've got a very good idea of the difficulties of women trying to get recognized and respected without becoming professionally male.
  • by spiffmastercow ( 1001386 ) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @09:57PM (#40968849)
    I notice a lot more followers of the geek cult in IT than in software development or engineering. Kinda interesting how the people who live a much 'geekier' life tend to downplay it, while the people managing the Outlook server feel the need to profess their geek cred every chance they get..
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 12, 2012 @11:10PM (#40969311)

    Trust me, quality women don't respond to dickheads with the attitude you seem to think is a winning one.

    No, I don't think it's "a winning one" at all. What I think is how sad it is that so many women seem magnetically attracted to shallow, insecure guys who are losers. Or guys who verbally, or emotionally, or even physically abuse them.

    The biggest single weakness women have is ego. They are used to always being sought after and persued and it corrupts all but the best of them. Just like most men most women don't consider it important to develop their character. A woman's ego can get so bad that it's like "God made Man in His Image, so I will re-make this loser in My Image". I call them fixer-uppers, like how youd' describe a house in need of repair that you can buy cheaply. Except a man never, ever changes when someone will give him everything he wants just the way he unhealthily is. So it never works. Nothing other than being really terribly lonely would change these losers. They don't know they are losers because they can get a girlfriend, even hot ones, anytime they want.

    Basically I am in my mid 20s. I am physically attractive and take good care of myself. Women over 40 think I'm a great guy and really like who I am, universally. Unfortunately I want a woman more my age. Can't say I want to be with a retiree when I turn 40 ya know? Women my age want a guy who's "got game" which is a weird way of saying a guy who's good at bullshitting and lying to them and using them for his own ends. They seem to like shallow, flashy guys who just want to fuck them, like it's a challenge to them to "domesticate" such a guy. A guy who already wants a real lady means nothing for them to do.

    I think it would be better for me to migrate out of America. American culture is all about being loud, superficial, and not very intelligent. It's some kind of ideal around here.

  • Re:No (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SB9876 ( 723368 ) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @11:30PM (#40969427)

    OK, so wow. Just wow.

    I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt since you seem to mean well but that post was seriously fucked up on many levels. I kind of want to tear you a new one but I'm going to try and refrain since you seem to at least have your heart in sort of the right place.

    First, social engineering skills != social skills. Not even close. Actual social skills that actual healthy adults have are a combination of understanding the motivations of others and having respect for them as individuals. People are not a set of walking stimulus/response sets for someone to manipulate. A failure to distinguish between the two is very common amongst intelligent, socially awkward types. Hacker types *are* socially awkward on average. The thing is that most people in hacker circles manage to learn actual social skills at some point. Sadly a portion of them never grow out of the mindset that crude, non-consensual manipulation of others for entertainment or gain is somehow indicative that they have learned to interact with other people on a meaningful level. Also, the ability to trick an over-trusting secretary out of a password on the phone hardly makes one the next Machiavelli, just FYI.

    Second, yes poor social skills *are* the heart of the matter. I've been around plenty of social settings (including many hacker/geek social settings) where there were drugs, alcohol, hot women (sometimes hot men and women in states of undress and sometimes having sex) where people managed to not be immature douchebags and treated each other with respect. This is a cultural problem and needs to be treated as such. Yes, it's sometimes kind of annoying when a girl acts all slutty and shows off her body because she wants attention but that in no way entitles everyone in eyesight to groping her uninvited any more than a guy wearing an expensive watch or driving an ostentatious car deserves to be mugged/carjacked for doing so. And it *DEFINITELY* does not excuse other people from degrading and intimidating women as a group because a few of them chose to act a certain way any more than I should feel entitled to walk down the street, punching random guys in the face for the actions of a few sexist idiots.

    Third, I definitely agree that everyone at such an event should feel safe and it's heartening that you bring this up. However you kind of fall flat on your face in the next sentence. You think people should feel safe so that the 'most attractive females' will keep showing up? Excuse me? I thought Defcon was about hacking and computer skills, not so that you can eye hot girls. There is a whole internet full of naked, hot girls you can ogle to your heart's content and plenty of hot girls in Vegas you can go out and hit on and lots of hot prostitutes in the greater state of Nevada you can pay to sleep with if that's what you are interested in. Also note how your rationale is conspicuously missing any reference to making female computer hackers feel welcome or any indication that women can be something other than 'attractive young fangirl/cheerleaders'.

    Lastly, the community definitely needs to shoulder some of the blame. Yes, Defcon should implement some sort of comprehensive policy towards harassment that is clear and well enforced. But that is only half the solution. Human culture is *not* a clean set of equations that a few rule changes can reform like tweaking the code for The Sims. Rule changes are pretty useless - ultimately, they have to find an impossible sweet spot between being toothless and draconian and rules by themselves will never change the minds of people any more than all those DARE ads convinced us all that drugs are bad. That you seem to think so is not surprising given your attitude towards social engineering.

    However, you need to get through your head that the larger Defcon community is partially at fault for tolerating a hostile environment and that a broader, self-initiated social shift is required if any meaningful change is going to happen. When a woman h

  • by Havenwar ( 867124 ) on Monday August 13, 2012 @03:32AM (#40970667)

    It could be argued that it's also required. After all it comes down to the old psychological quiz... a train is out of control. You're standing right next to a lever that will change it's path. Down the path it is currently going ten men are working on the tracks, and will be killed if you don't throw the switch. However if you do throw the switch, the train will barrel down the next tracks, where a child is playing.

    A high ranking politician has to be able to weigh those things dispassionately, calculate the loss to society as a whole from ten men (how old are they, how much do they benefit/cost the society?) versus one child (what can that child achieve, does it have a good or bad start in life, how much bad publicity will be caused by its death? - and yes, the last one matters, because bad publicity will affect the politicians possibilities to save ten more men the next day.)

    Psychologists have found that when given a choice like that, many of us rather do nothing. We don't want blood on our hands by our own action, we feel less bad if it's by inaction. That's because these are people with empathy who will think of the first as a murder committed by us and the second as a tragic accident. The fact that we could have cut suffering from ten families to one by the throw of a switch... well, that doesn't carry into it for us.

    Empathy is not always a good thing. High military command and high political command are two places where, for better or worse, it's a drawback. Those places need cold objectivity and goal oriented thinking... Of course then we come down to what goals someone is actually pursuing, but that's a whole other argument...

    Note that I personally am against centralized government, partially because of this reason. Positions of power attracts, feeds, and needs exactly the kind of people in them that we wouldn't want there. Doesn't matter if it's a democracy or a dictatorship, when you're looking for someone to lead millions of people, then normal people won't step up to the plate. And if they try, they get run over by those that are better at it... the sociopaths, amongst others.

  • by Curunir_wolf ( 588405 ) on Monday August 13, 2012 @10:57AM (#40973123) Homepage Journal

    Of course I don't believe such a system exists.

    Interesting analysis. The way I see it, the US system was initially built to function that way, and it certainly can function that way (whether it ever actually has, I leave as an exercise for historians.

    What it would take is a fully engaged and educated electorate. Activists approach the system with the assumption that politicians do not have souls, and react strictly based on negative and positive reinforcement. And for a politician, the stimulus is very predictable, and is based on publicity and money. With enough people educated and engaged, they politician's environment can be closely controlled, ensuring that their behavior is correct. And note that with democratically elected representatives, an engaged electorate will always be more effective than moneyed interests. Politicians do respond to lobbyists with money, of course, but in when constituents are paying attention, that money gets trumped every time.

COMPASS [for the CDC-6000 series] is the sort of assembler one expects from a corporation whose president codes in octal. -- J.N. Gray