Profile

megpie71: Animated "tea" icon popular after London bombing. (Default)
megpie71

October 2014

S M T W T F S
   1234
567 8 9 1011
12131415161718
1920212223 2425
26 27 28 29 30 31 

Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Monday, July 30th, 2012 09:48 am
In the wake of the Readercon incident, and the general rush of convention season in the USA, I feel like addressing the regular refrain which springs up about people who are being accused of sexual harassment at conventions (particularly within the geek community).

This refrain is, of course, that the harasser (particularly a serial harasser) is "socially awkward" or has "poor social skills".

To which I say: bullshit. Absolute and utter crap. I do not believe this in the least.

Why not? Because their behaviour argues otherwise.

It takes a lot of social skill to develop a set of behaviours which are both threatening to the recipients and innocuous to disinterested bystanders. It takes a lot of skill and practice to be able to perform these behaviours in a public setting on a regular basis without drawing attention to oneself. Choosing your victim is a skill which takes practice and social awareness. So does choosing your friends in order to be believed when you tell people you're very, very sorry and it won't happen again (or at least, not until your friends have forgotten the last time).

Serial harassers aren't socially awkward. If they were socially awkward, they wouldn't be the menace they are. On the contrary, they're socially skilled, socially competent, and well practiced in what they're doing. They know where the lines are, and they're adept at walking them. They have enough empathy to figure out what's going to upset their victim, and enough callous self-interest not to care.

Genuine social awkwardness will manifest itself in all environments, in all settings, and around all people. The genuinely socially awkward person won't have many friends, and will have problems fitting into normal social routines under any circumstance. They won't be charming. They won't be popular. They will creep out people of both sexes, and all gender preferences, because they will be obvious. Genuine social awkwardness is rarer than you'd think.
elf: Petalwing, singing (Petalwing Singing)
[personal profile] elf
Monday, July 30th, 2012 01:45 pm (UTC)
I love this post, and I want it copied into the comments of every single post discussing whether or not the harasser was "socially awkward" and why that might be.

You're absolutely right, and a whole swarm of people have missed that. A guy who knows how to hover just far enough away that only his victim feels threatened is not "awkward;" he's a predator.
Monday, July 30th, 2012 02:36 pm (UTC)
*applauds*
Monday, July 30th, 2012 09:31 pm (UTC)
this is brilliant and you win the internets.
Tuesday, July 31st, 2012 03:10 pm (UTC)
Genuine social awkwardness will manifest itself in all environments, in all settings, and around all people. The genuinely socially awkward person won't have many friends, and will have problems fitting into normal social routines under any circumstance. They won't be charming. They won't be popular. They will creep out people of both sexes, and all gender preferences, because they will be obvious. Genuine social awkwardness is rarer than you'd think.

Without arguing what you've said prior to this, I think you're making far too deep a definition of social awkwardness. If a person has moments in which they find themselves bereft of all but the most basic social skills, (this might go along with a deep feeling of anxiety as well) but this doesn't cause them to fail to fit into "normal social routines in (em)any(/em) circumstance", etc., you're saying "that person is not socially awkward."

I think that goes too far for your point.

I think it's more true to say that well meaning, socially awkward people will respond very differently to clearly expressed, angry disapproval. "Socially awkward" doesn't mean "unable to recognize an angry response", and a well meaning person of any type who gets someone angry wants to know why.
Wednesday, August 1st, 2012 03:04 am (UTC)
I'd put it this way: I recognise a very distinct difference between social anxiety (nervous and anxious response to being placed in social situations) and a lack of knowledge of social cues, rules and mores. The first is an emotional and psychological response to the experience of being in social situations. The second is a cognitive gap caused by poor socialisation.


Herm. You know, I'm not sure discussing that would be productive. It touches on personal stuff for me. And I consider myself a bit socially awkward, so it'd feel like I was walking through a minefield that could blow up.

So, instead, I'll say I do agree with you on the important part - serial harassers are not people who can't figure out the rules.

Even the worst social klutz can realize "wow, I did X, and so-and-so didn't like it!" The idea that it could just be awkwardness - it doesn't make any sense at all. Once? Sure. A *small number of times*? Maybe. It keeps happening? That's not clumsiness, that's indifference - that's not caring who gets hurt.

I mean - (to make up a completely different example) a klutz might need to learn to ask before hugging.

But a person who keeps hugging without asking, while fully aware that s/he's messed it up in the past? That's not klutziness any more. The *urge* might be klutziness, the lack of an instinctive understanding of body language that says a hug won't be welcome can be klutziness, but people can learn patterns, and can at least figure out that there are rules they don't quite get, and figure out a way to work around them!

Being awkward socially doesn't mean being unable to figure out that people have gotten pissed off or hurt, after all.

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012 03:18 pm (UTC)
Thank you for explaining at (some) length in a standalone post an idea that I have only had time to summarize in comments here and there.
Tuesday, July 31st, 2012 07:13 pm (UTC)
Bang on.
Tuesday, July 31st, 2012 09:58 pm (UTC)
Here via [livejournal.com profile] browngirl. I completely agree with your main point that the kind of sexual harrassment under discussion requires social skill and should not be excused by social awkwardness (or anything else).

But I quibble with your last paragraph. I don't think it's useful to define social awkwardness as something that manifests in all environments. Some people are socially awkward only in some environments, are socially awkward and still have some friends, and don't always/to everyone come across as creepy.
Tuesday, July 31st, 2012 11:27 pm (UTC)
Meh, I still don't like the definition you're using, because "awkwardness" refers to behavior, not cognition; and "anxiety" refers to feelings and beliefs, not behavior. A person can behave in a socially awkward way not because of ignorance or fear but because of temporary conditions (e.g., a diabetic experiencing low blood sugar). A person can feel social anxiety but do a good job of masking it and behave normally. If you're referring to ignorance of or inability to learn social practices, then I think it would be better to call it that ("social ignorance," "social learning disability" or something).

Not that it matters to your main point, so I'm sorry for getting all terminology-nit-picky on you.
Wednesday, August 1st, 2012 01:39 pm (UTC)
Over here from browngirl.

I do know a guy whose social anxiety (which is worse with women) makes him somewhat awkward. But.. that doesn't change what you're saying.

Truly, completely, socially awkward? Yah... they'd make everyone uncomfortable. And they're rarely actually *dangerous*.... just awkward.

Socially anxious that leads to reading as awkward? Again... sometimes it reads as a little creepy. A guy who's being too hesitant can comes off as "trying to get away with something" when it's really "trying to balance being interested with being respectful." And they often do not make friends easily at all. And if they find out they've made someone uncomfortable? They are usually pretty sorry about it.

But the worst predator I know? He's a gregarious rules lawyer of the worst kind. I don't know that I've heard all of these come out of his mouth in exactly this phrasing, but, this is the general mindset:
"Well you said I couldn't do x, but you never said I couldn't do y."
"You're really tense, why won't you let me give you a backrub? I'm just trying to help."
"She didn't *tell* me to stop -- how was I supposed to know she was uncomfortable?" (Perhaps the fact that she was literally trying to get away from you, asshole.)
"She said yes..." (After having said no multiple times & then giving up after being badgered & kept awake.)
And my "favorite"? "She's just overreacting because she has a sexual abuse history."
Saturday, September 8th, 2012 03:37 am (UTC)
I meant to reply to this earlier, but ... life ... or something.

I completely agree with you. I remember the closest to a triggery moment I had over the Readercon discussion was someone in Scalzi's comments saying something about how it wasn't really bad creepiness. And I was like, no, this is an example of the worst kind of creepiness, the kind no-one else recognises, the kind that everyone else thinks he's a great guy, the kind you know he's been doing for years and is well-practiced at.

Other people's "bad creepiness" is the kind that gets that person chucked out of the social circle in question quite quickly. The fact that everyone else agrees with you that it was creepy helps you get over it quicker. It's the slow-burn stuff that no-one else believes that is really damaging in my opinion.