Home » Big Publishing, Legal Stuff » On Sexual Harassment at Conventions — Elise Mattheson speaks out

On Sexual Harassment at Conventions — Elise Mattheson speaks out

29 June 2013

From author Elise Mattheson via Mary Robinette Kowal:

At this year’s Writing Excuses Retreat, we had several evenings where we just answered questions about how to have a career as an SF writer. One night, I said, “We should probably talk about how to handle sexual harassment at a convention.”

The room had been quiet before. It became still.

. . . .

Back in 2010, while I was still VP of SFWA, I served as a conduit for a woman who had been sexually harassed by an editor to anonymously contact his employer. She didn’t feel safe doing so directly because she was afraid it would affect her career. You see that, right? The power that concern gave the editor over her? The publisher took it very seriously, and due to that the woman felt safe in speaking to a representative directly.

Apparently, that doesn’t count as a formal complaint because it wasn’t to Human Resources or to the Legal Department. So, here we are in 2013 and Elise Matheson was harassed by the same man at a convention. When she made a report, she was told it was the first one.

She’s written up an account of her reaction and how to go about making a formal report of sexual harassment.

. . . .

[T]his year at WisCon I learned firsthand how to report sexual harassment.  In case you ever need or want to know, here’s what I learned and how it went.

Two editors I knew were throwing a book release party on Friday night at the convention. I was there, standing around with a drink talking about Babylon 5, the work of China Mieville, and Marxist theories of labor (like you do) when an editor from a different house joined the conversation briefly and decided to do the thing that I reported. A minute or two after he left, one of the hosts came over to check on me. I was lucky: my host was alert and aware. On hearing what had happened, he gave me the name of a mandated reporter at the company the harasser was representing at the convention.

The mandated reporter was respectful and professional. Even though I knew them, reporting this stuff is scary, especially about someone who’s been with a company for a long time, so I was really glad to be listened to. Since the incident happened during Memorial Day weekend, I was told Human Resources would follow up with me on Tuesday.

There was most of a convention between then and Tuesday, and I didn’t like the thought of more of this nonsense (there’s a polite word for it!) happening, so I went and found a convention Safety staffer. He asked me right away whether I was okay and whether I wanted someone with me while we talked or would rather speak privately. A friend was nearby, a previous Guest of Honor at the convention, and I asked her to stay for the conversation. The Safety person asked whether I’d like to make a formal report.  I told him, “I’d just like to tell you what happened informally, I guess, while I figure out what I want to do.”

. . . .

Someone told me that since it was the first report, the editor would not be asked to leave the convention. I was surprised it was the first report, but hey, if it was and if that’s the process, follow the process. They told me they had instructed him to keep away from me for the rest of the convention.

Link to the rest at Mary Robinette Kowal and thanks to Joe for the tip.

PG is not familiar with any of the individuals involved here, but from prior experience representing juveniles who had been sexually mistreated, a harasser/predator almost never targets a single victim exclusively. There are always more.


Big Publishing, Legal Stuff

83 Comments to “On Sexual Harassment at Conventions — Elise Mattheson speaks out”

  1. P.G. (Others)

    Isn’t sexual harrassment an offence against the law?

    Is it possible for the victim to call for the intervention of a police officer and report it directly?

    Surely there’s no exception for the fact of it taking place in a private place? (The definition of a public place is a fearsome pig of a definition in UK law.)

    I’m referring to this place as private, because it is (presumably) accessible to those who have either been invited or paid for a ticket to attend.

    I suppose it depends on what the circumstances were, but whatever they were, allegations of sexual harrassment are very serious, they ought to be dealt with in a professional manner.

    By which I mean, hook a few of these loudmouths up to handcuffs and march ’em off to the brig to face the black hat of a be-robed judge, and I suspect it would bring instances of butt grabbing and salacious inappropriate comments to reducible few.

    Hanging a few might well make an impression on wandering hands and loose lips.


    • Brendan – I’m definitely not an expert on the subject and and am happy to be corrected by others who are.

      My understanding is that US laws generally cover harassment only in certain circumstances. It depends upon the context of the harassment. There are also First Amendment considerations that come into play.

      If a boss harasses a subordinate, that’s a violation of laws against employment discrimination. If one college student harasses another, that could be grounds for expulsion from the college even if it wasn’t a violation of the law for which the student could be prosecuted.

      If a stranger makes a lewd proposition in a bar, that’s probably not illegal, although the bar could certainly eject the propositioner.

      In this case, the proposition (or whatever it was) may not have been strictly illegal in and of itself absent some prior relationship between the parties. However, it was probably a violation of the business and employment policies of the propositioner’s employer and likely grounds for termination of employment.

      Again, I am not an expert.

      • “However, it was probably a violation of the business and employment policies of the propositioner’s employer and likely grounds for termination of employment.”


        Thanks, more of an expert than me.

        Tricky biz.


      • Not an expert either, but can add a little information.

        Sexual harassment is not a “criminal” act. Sexual assault is. Some acts can be both. Assault generally covers physical touch–anything from grabbing a breast to completed rape. Some things that corporations would like to call harassment are indeed assault.

        Harassment is more like what PG described above, and can also include touching that doesn’t involve “intimate” parts of the anatomy, gender based insults, and so forth.

        It becomes even more pronounced when the harasser is “well respected” for his/her contributions to the field.

        If you’re on Twitter, and are interested, check out the hashtag #sffragette for more info and links to other experiences.

        • Seems to me that some types of sexual harrassment — specifically involving grabbing body parts, or grabbing someone and forcing a kiss on them — could be charged and prosecuted as assault and battery without requiring any additional proof of sexual harrassment.

          Can anyone more knowledgeable than I provide their take on this?

          • James,

            I’m not certain of the law in each and every jurisdiction, but common law holds that there are two elements to assault.

            1. Just threatening an assault, (and having the apparent ability to carry it out,) is enough for assault to be complete. Example, “I’m going to kick you in the nuts, grab your bum/t*ts.) This doesn’t work if it’s a five year old who’s 3 foot tall addressing a 25 year old pro linebacker.

            2. The second part of an assault is the battery. Kicking someone in the nuts, grabbing them by the bum/t*ts. TOUCH being the vital element. Touch is all that is required, no threat, the touch IS the battery. A gentle caress, in inappropriate circumstances could very easily be an assault and battery. I was extremely wary of even comforting touch as a police officer with strangers. You don’t know how another person feels and you should not assume you do, as heartless as this might sometimes appear. Not everyone is tactile.

            I can’t imagine any jurisdiction where those matters don’t have a power of arrest. If you’ve got a complainant, and they say, “S/he hit me,” pretty much whatever the circumstances an arrest is good. They can all argue about it later, and that’s fine, but the nick is good.

            The subject of harassment is a much more complex affair and I would not pretend that I know. ‘Cos I don’t. You’d think simple politesse would suffice, but I know with changes of culture and generation, they don’t always.

            Be careful out there:)


            *Common Law and Christie V Leachinski, 1947 and several QBD cases stated since.

        • Yes, quite a discussion at #SFFragette and also on their Facebook community page at https://www.facebook.com/SFFragette.

      • I am not an expert either, but my understanding is completely congruent with PG’s. There have been a few cases where particularly creepy propositioners have been charged under various assault laws, and they always fail unless there was more to it than just a creepy proposition. “There is no harm in asking,” while not perhaps entirely accurate in the broadest sense, is the position of the US courts.

        Continuing to proposition/harass someone when they have clearly stated that they do not wish to communicate with you is a different case, and in such circumstances an assault charge of some kind might very well stick. Refusing to disengage after clear rejection, even in a public place, has been found to be a reasonable basis for such a charge.

        What the world needs is for a few of those Game nitwits to spend a few months in jail on such a charge. That might cool down some of their enthusiasm. You say “kino,” I say “battery.”

  2. The good old ‘HR shuffle’, eh! Can’t remember how many times I have heard that line in workplaces over the years as a union steward. That is: no complaint made unless ‘formally’ done so to HR in writing. What a load of cobblers’ rot … if faced with that just start talking about the duty of care, and negligence, and health and safety requirements. You will find health and safety policies often render the ‘HR shuffle’ worthless, and they know it too. Ask them, HR, directly whether or not they feel their decision would withstand third-party scrutiny, such as via a lawyer. Ask them if they are familiar with the golden rule of legal interpretation, and with their own health and safety policy. Advise them that they may become liable for damages for not acting on information directly related to your health and safety in the work place, should the event happen again. Funny how their position changes quickly. Oh, be sure to read the health and safety policy before spouting off! Lastly, I find increasing numbers of people actually just go directly to the police rather than being subject to either an HR shuffle, or an HR massage to sweep important issues under the carpet.

  3. To understand this issue properly, it would be helpful to know what “this thing that I reported” was. What actually happened?

    • Actually, no, because the post is about how to report sexual harassment, not the incident itself.

      As to why details of the incident aren’t included… Once they are disclosed, it’s quite common for the victim’s reaction–rather than the harasser’s behavior–to become the focus of all discussion. “She misunderstood, she overreacted, she should have just put up with it, she shouldn’t have embarrassed him, she asked for it, she had it coming.”

      I know that’s not where you are taking the conversation. 🙂 But it’s where the conversation ends up.

      Harassment at cons–by and of fans and pros–has been “just the way it is” for a long time, in part due to indulging the above strategies that minimize and dismiss the behavior. The editor mentioned above, and outed by name in comments, has a long and known history. There is a big push right now to stop treating harassment as something one must accept and start treating it as the bad behavior it is.

      • You don’t KNOW it was bad behaviour, that’s the point. You are aware of the whole determining guilt thing that they do in courts? They do it on a lot more than ‘she said so’.

        If you’re going to name the criminal, you have to give the crime. In fact, you should have given the crime in the first place.

        Or are you saying that it’s unimportant whether he actually committed this crime, but that he conveniently fits an important narrative you want pushed? The fact that I’m wondering if I have to explain how that’s wrong, to you, is quite frankly, troubling to me. I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you understand.

        You’re worried that if people actually know what happened, they might think it’s trivial? Well guess, what, it might be trivial! You’re going to object because you’re concerned not everyone shares *your* judgment of the situation? So we only allow certain types of people or views to be considered in the court? We only allow white people, or black people, to sit on the jury of white vs black violence?

        You do NOT accept the accuser as an absolute authority. That’s ridiculously idiotic, and I have the feeling people are just starting to get embarrassed because they realise they just uncritically accepted her claim on the face of it without even knowing what she was claiming, let alone the evidence and the context. It may just be occurring to people that they could look exactly like the mob people are accusing them of being.

        What if all he said was ‘I like your haircut, miss’? A woman can (and apparently does) take offense at such a statement (because ‘miss’ is misogynistic, of course), but would that justify a claim of sexual harrassment?

        This is almost quite literally lynch-mob behaviour, there’s not even a semblance of justice being practised here. If he sexually harassed her, it should be a simple matter of exposing it. She knows exactly what happened and she had witnesses.

        Or are you telling me that it’s simply the expressed opinion that matters in these cases to determine guilt? Could I be sexually harassed by a coy wink if I decided to say so?

        Suggesting that it’s somehow UNFAIR to know what ACTUALLY HAPPENED, is just such a devastating indictment of the kind of people so ready to string up this guy. You’re already assuming the guilt, and you’re moving to make an example of him.

        You remember that famous photo of the two black dudes that were lynched right? They were falsely accused of rape.

        Please demonstrate that society has improved since then. Demand some facts before you pass judgment on a situation you can’t even describe, let alone have any evidence for. (And I am very glad there are some rational souls here doing just that.)

        It’s entirely *possible* the man is guilty. But you do not ASSUME a person’s guilt. It’s dishonest.

        (P.S. I’m not actually raising my internet voice. I just can’t be bothered figuring out italics.)

    • “To understand this issue properly, it would be helpful to know what “this thing that I reported” was. What actually happened?”

      According to a poster on Whatever (one of the sites where Mattheson’s piece has been hosted) who self-identifies as a litigator who handles sexual harassment lawsuits:

      “If someone’s concern is an effective investigation and a good result, then doing what Ms. Mattheson has done here — talk about the process, but not the details of what happened — is the best practice.”

      (And the self-identification seems to be valid, since when I clicked on it, I found a post by him on a legal blog contributed to by attorneys.)

      • I would agree with that – and while I can’t prove it either, I am a corporate attorney and I have written sexual harassment policies (in concert with very able HR experts.)

        It should be noted that Ms. Mattheson did NOT name the alleged harasser. Someone else did. That person has just made themselves potentially liable for a pretty solid defamation claim if what actually happened does not warrant the accusations Ms. Mattheson has made. I have no reason to doubt her, but I wasn’t there. I hope the “namer” is sure of their actions.

        In any event, since Ms. Mattheson was trying to use her experience to educate, as has been pointed out, it is perfectly reasonable that she did not describe the harassment in question. IMO the namer should have done so if they were going to publish the alleged harasser’s name, because accusing someone of unspecified but odious acts is a very cowardly thing to do. If they have done so in some other forum, then I withdraw my objection.

  4. I have the same reaction as Patricia Sierra. Writers don’t get away with such vague language. The offender was not her editor. What could he do to her? Was this a proposition at a party or something more physical? Was it accompanied by a threat? Coercion? I’m still puzzled by the whole event.

    • What really puzzles me is this: there were several witnesses. Who harasses in front of an audience? Wouldn’t that person be fairly brainless?

      Blair mentioned the details of the harassment weren’t the subject of the post, but I see it differently. If the author had meant merely to inform people how to report harassment, there’s no need to include the mysterious incident. I think she made it very much a part of her piece.

      • It may be difficult to understand this part of the issue outside the context of the ongoing conversation within the SFF Con-going community.

        As I stated:
        Many incidents of harassment–by this person, and by others–have been brushed off over the years. When the name finally came out, NO ONE was surprised.

        This conversation has been expanding for many months, so most within the community are well aware of the sort of behavior considered harassment

        In past incidents, the disclosure of specifics have led directly and immediately to victim-blaming, allowing the harasser to escape all consequences.

        Lastly, this has now become a legal matter. She may not be able to give specifics.

        Add in the fact women were afraid to say the name in a public space, even if they’d been a target of harassment and been made to feel unsafe. Why? Because Jim Frenkel is well known, works for TOR, and has decades of experience in the field.

        As for who harasses in front of witnesses? People who believe there will be no consequences. People who have gotten away with it for a long time. People who think such behavior is “no big deal” because it’s “just a joke” and the woman ought to “lighten up.”

        To fully understand, I highly recommend taking a look at links that can easily be found via Twitter at the hashtag #sffregette, or through the comments and such at Scalzi’s blog linked in comments above.

        • I understand that this man may have a history of harassment, but that does nothing to help me understand the incident in question.

          Women of a certain age (yes, me) came up in an age when what is now called sexual harassment was just part of an ordinary working day. What rattled the author might well be something that wouldn’t even register with me on the off chance that someone decided to harass me. That doesn’t mean I would blame the victim, if victim is the correct word in this instance (knowing what was said/done would help me decide if I consider her a victim). It just means I’d like to know what passes for harassment in today’s environment — especially in what looks to me like a social environment, not a work environment if the author was in no way under that fellow’s control or supervision.

          • Ashe Elton Parker

            You say “. . . was in no way under that fellow’s control or supervision.”

            The fact of the matter is, he’s got a position at a company which allows him to determine a writer’s prospects for publishing, which, imho, is, in fact, “control or supervision.” It doens’t matter if he wasn’t her editor; he’s clearly in a position of authority and if she’d been a woman he did have a direct relationship with, she may have felt intimidated by his status/position and not reported it. And with regards to the person who did report it officially, he could have influence with people who do have some relation to her career and cause them to treat her or her writing a certain way if they’re more inclined to “side” with him.

          • I’m very familiar with how harassment can be deemed ordinary. That’s part of the current issue.

            Conventions are working environments for those in publishing. It’s an extended office party, with fans involved.

            To understand what would be considered harassment today, I again highly recommend you follow the links outward. Using a single incident, sans context, would be like asking the blind man to describe the elephant. Every answer will be right, and every answer will be wrong.

            And, again, what happened in this incident would have no bearing whatsoever on how someone would go about reporting sexual harassment at a convention, committed by a person with influence in the field.

            • Suppose the gentleman had never been viewed as a harasser. Would the incident in question still have been considered harassment, or was there an expectation of such behavior or words from him, producing an overreaction? The other cases that people discuss have no bearing on what has made me curious about the author’s situation. I want to know what happened without considering previous “bad acts” if they exist, trial-style where what matters is what happened on that one day in that one place.

              I see how the event is a combination of work and socializing, but in the author’s situation it appears that it was social, not work, since she doesn’t work for or with him.

              I might be totally in agreement with the author re the seriousness of what happened, but I can’t know that until/unless I know what happened. One woman’s harassment might well be another woman’s flirtation.

              • I agree with you, Patricia. I’ve read some of the stuff on the other sites and it’s impossible to tell if this is about a clumsy flirtatious remark, a sexual threat, or a grab-and-grope assault.

                They ARE different. A critique of a bad pick-up line shouldn’t be treated the same as a report of a criminal assault.

                I’m a long-time feminist who grew up in the era when workplace harassment was toxic and ubiquitous. But when we equate a clunky flirtatious remark between peers with a threat of losing your job or physical sexual assault, we diminish the victims of real assault and trivialize the concept of “harassment”.

              • See, the problem is that if the actual actions are described, then people start lining up, as you seem to be, wanting to “vote” on whether the victim was justified in complaining, or whether she was just overreacting. Someone who felt strongly enough to put herself into the spotlight, to hang a target on her own back by making a formal complaint, doesn’t need people lining up to explain to her why she was wrong, why she overreacted, why she was too sensitive, why “in my day” this was just business as usual and therefore she should be able to brush it off.

                As a data point, I’m 49, and personally have no problem with a lot of old-fashioned behavior that was considered courtly or gentlemanly when I was a kid, such as “Sweetie” and “Honey” and “Babe,” and superfluous compliments. They don’t bug me unless there’s a clear intention (obvious in tone of voice or facial expression or body language or whatever) to insult or demean. That doesn’t mean a younger woman, or a woman my age or older who is offended by these things, has no right to be offended. My personal reaction to the action taken by the man has nothing whatsoever to do with the reaction of the woman involved. I have no vote in whether or not she should be upset or offended. Neither do you.

                If you want to know what, in general, is considered sexual harassment these days, Blair has suggested some good places to start. If you want to vote on whether Ms. Matheson in particular was justified in her reaction or action, nobody who’s trying to fight sexual harassment within the SFF community is interested in helping you.


                • ^This.

                • Patricia Sierra

                  Angie, I have no interest in “voting” on the validity of the author’s complaint. I have no dog in this race. However, I do have an interest in reading the rest of the story. If I were to read the details, I might find myself agreeing that it was sexual harassment — or not. Or I might consider it to be something ambiguous. Whatever my reaction, it wouldn’t be called voting. It would be called thinking.

                • 1) What was done isn’t the point of Ms. Mattheson’s essay. The point is to spread the word about how to effectively report sexual harassment.

                  2) History (and very recent history) shows that if the harassing actions are made public, people will line up to argue whether the complaining person was or was not justified in making a complaint. The conversation is derailed and becomes a slug-fest with a lot of vile accusations hurled at the victim. If Ms. Mattheson doesn’t want that to happen to her in this instance, I for one don’t blame her.

                  The point of Ms. Mattheson’s actions, which she wrote about so that others can benefit from her difficult experience, is to get the incident officially brought to the notice of proper authorities. This has been done. The harasser’s guilt or innocence, and any consequences, will be decided by proper authorities. Tor isn’t going to fire the guy just because a bunch of people on the internet are being mean. And because of her essay, it’s possible that other people who have been or will be harassed will know what actions to take, how to bring their own incident to the notice of the proper authorities.

                  A third person named the harasser. Ms. Mattheson doesn’t owe you or me or anyone else anything further, based on the actions of a third person. That third person was a witness; if she decides to talk further about exactly what happened, then she might do so. Whether she does or doesn’t is not on Ms. Mattheson.

                  Bottom line, whatever was done it was serious enough that Ms. Mattheson took action bring it to the attention of this man’s superiors and the organizers of the convention. And then she chose to make the process public, to help other victims of harassment. The suspicion and side-eyeing she’s getting right here, the people who want to judge her, the people who are lining up to second-guess her? She knew all that was going to happen, because it’s happened before, every time a woman goes public with sexual harassment. Every single time. Nobody signs up for this on a whim. I don’t know exactly what happened, but I’ll be extremely surprised if it turns out to have been something as trivial as a ham-handed compliment.

                  Also, see Laura Resnick’s comments about a lawyer with experience in sexual harassment suits advising that Ms. Mattheson should not talk about the specific actions which occurred.

                  I get being curious; I’m curious too. I’d love to know exactly what happened. But Ms. Mattheson has chosen not to say, as is her right. The third party who named the harasser has so far chosen not to say. And there’s a good chance Ms. Mattheson has gotten legal advice not to say. So there you go — we can wonder, but we’re not going to know, until and unless this becomes public through a trial or some such thing, which would frankly surprise me.

                  And again, the whole point of the essay is to publicize the reporting process, not talk about what happened in this specific instance.


                • Angie, thanks for your rational views on this. Appreciate that you understood the topic of the post was about reporting, not asking ‘disinterested’ commenters to want the content of what happened so they can decide whether they think it meets their own bar or not.

                  I’d add too, from the inside of publishing, that there are WELL KNOWN men and women in big publishing who have over the years been cornered more and more for misrepresenting their companies by their unsavory behaviors in public when they are in fact representatives of their companies. Business or social doesnt matter. I saw heads roll over an author’s party years ago when one prominent publishing person situated themselves in a door frame and all women passing through had to turn sideways to avoid touching his body. He was pulled up short by the new woman boss.

                  Personally, sexual harrassment has nothing to do with age anyone grew up in. If youre female and you’re in your 50s or 60s, you knew the harrassment was wrong back then, but you had no quarter. None. You were literally trained to try to ignore or be cute about it. Prob is, the older the woman became,the less ‘cute’ she could be. NO win game.

                  Today, much of the world has moved on to more consciousness about many things, gender, race, class and more. The evolution continues. There will always be slimy people who try to touch, bring absolutely unwelcome and vulgar commentary, grope, pretend to fall into, slobber all over another, grab the inner upper arm that converges with the breast, wont let go of your hand, tries to crush your hand and then wants to kiss it, makes vulgar unsolicited invitations with their unwanted and repulsive attentions, but that has nothing to do with the talents of success: gallantry, being circumspect, wise instead of being an a**.

                  I’ve three daughters. I would never be teaching them that because their grandmother had to put up withbeing overwhelmed in words or bodily by some jackass who cant keep their hands to themselves, that in our time or hers, that that is or was alright. It wasnt. It isnt.

              • “Suppose the gentleman had never been viewed as a harasser.”

                I don’t know any more about this incident than what has been posted on public blogs in the past couple of days, but it certainly seems to me that supposing this editor had never been viewed as a harasser is to completely miss the point here.

                As I pointed out in another post here (link included), a sexual harassment complaint was made to the editor’s employer in 2010, facilitated by the SFWA VP… and yet, according to Mattheson’s 2013 complaint, the same individual is still engaging in sexual harassment.

                Given that one of the sites hosting Mattheson’s blog belongs to the SFWA then-officer who dealt with the 2010 incident, my impression is that there is certainly a possible corollary between the editor already being viewed as a harasser (the 2010 complaint) and Mattheson posting publicly about this. Precisely becase discretion in 2010, after all, can be interpreted as completely failing to solve the problem.

        • I was surprised.

          And if people are going to name names publicly, I do think that there’s a responsibility to at least delineate the nature of the harassment, both to hold his behavior to account and to keep people from assuming that he’s done things that he actually hasn’t. For better or worse, this is now in the court of public opinion, and that makes this more than just a “how to report sexual harassment” issue.

          • Again, as mentioned above, a seemingly-legitimate attorney who handles sexual harassment cases has commented on this on Whatever by saying that Ms. Mattheson has handled it correctly, as he would advise a client, in not going into details about the incident in public.


            Please note that Mattheson did not use the editor’s name. Her essay did indeed stayed focus on the process of reporting harassment and why it’s a good idea to do so (such as her conversation with HR, which is an indication of how long a possible problem can go unaddressed if there are no official reports filed in the formal manner).

            As near as I can tell, the person who identified the editor in question was a witness to the incident, someone who hosted the gathering where it occurred.

            And once the name was out there, it was out there. There are no do-overs once something like that goes live online.

      • “Who harasses in front of an audience? Wouldn’t that person be fairly brainless?”

        Who harasses in front of an audience: Someone accustomed to getting away with it. Someone in a position of power or perceived position of power in the given scenario. For example, a senior acquiring editor for the biggest program in sf/f at an event full of writers and aspiring writers who’d really like to get a contract with a program like that.

        Wouldn’t that person be fairly brainless: Well… YES. Being an acquiring editor for a major sf/f program doesn’t mean someone isn’t a raging idiot. In fact, if you ask around among writers who’ve dealt with them, a fair few acquiring editors are raging idiots.

      • Wouldn’t that person be fairly brainless?

        The ability of even gifted people to do things which are fairly brainless surpasseth all understanding. And while I’m sorry this happened, as an attorney, I can’t say that I’m entirely sorry that the general proposition is true.

    • “The offender was not her editor. What could he do to her?”

      If we were her editor, the likelihood of sexual harassment would probably reduced rather than augmented. If she were a successful writer in-house, the likelihood would be reduced further. The more power a writer has (good sales, high profile name, fiscal value or prestige value to the publisher), the less likely she is to be sexually harassed by her editor. Sexual harassment is most common where there’s a power IMbalanace. Where power is balanced–where the writer is important enough that sexually harassing her will lead to problems for the editor–it’s less likely to happen, not more so.

      A newly-contracted writer with no value to the house yet is much more vulnerable than an established writer.

      Far more likely to be targeted, though, are those for whom the sexual predator sees an immense imbalance of power, someone so without “value” to his employer they’re not under contract there. Perhaps he assumes they really want something he’s in a position to grant–a publishing contract, or at least a shuffle to the top of a reading stack. People who don’t report harassment in this specific situation not only fear being ridiculed, negated, doubted, dismissed, and humiliated, but also that the editor can get them “blacklisted” by the house–possibly the biggest program in the genre, possibly the program they most WANT to sell a book to someday. They may well fear that he can get them “blacklisted” more broadly than that, hurting them with agents, short fiction editors, convention committees, etc.

      Whether or not the fears are realistic, they are part of the perceived power imbalance.

      • do you have factual links to back up your claims? If you are better known you will be treated better? What planet?

      • Incidentally, this has been my experience. When I was 20 years old, I was sexually harassed at my place of employment on multiple occasions by a co-worker. I wasn’t sure what to do about it; I was a new employee and afraid of losing my job if I reported him. I began to consult with a friend at another company who was more experienced with this kind of thing. She advised me to report it.

        Then our group went through a reorganization and I was unexpectedly promoted into management. I outranked my harasser. And the harassment immediately ceased.

        • Not incidental, Amy–fundamental. Harassment typically occurs in the context of a power imbalance or perceived power imbalance. Your experience is classic. YOU were the exact same person in both scenarios, and so was your harasser. The only change which occurred was the shift of power and status your both exprienced in your mutual workplace.

  5. I’ve actually experienced both verbal and sexual harassment at conventions. The most extreme case of sexual harassment was not by someone who I cared about impressing, but I found that the authorities did not take it seriously. And worse, my friends did not, especially my male friends. The harasser is someone most of my friends know. They either told me I was lying, overreacting, or that I was just mean to turn down a “nice” guy. Nice guys don’t grope you.

    Several of the witnesses refused to speak up, not wanting to cause trouble. The guy in question got my real name off my badge, looked it up, and found my phone number, after I refused to give it to him. He called me repeatedly for months. My attempts to get him to stop did not work, and several people called me slanderous.

    That same guy was doing the same thing at other conventions. I got a group of women together, and one man, who started to keep an eye on the women he targeted. More than a few times we caught him cornering a woman. The convention didn’t do anything with our reports, and there’s been an increasing number of other incidents posted over the past few years.

    Harassment is serious, and nobody should have to go through it. Both men and women can be harassers. There are some other things you can do not listed in this article. First, my friends and I started using removable white tape on our names on badges at conventions. It can be peeled back if a staffer wants to confirm your identity. I have video on my phone, and I turn it on if I feel like there might be a problem. Also, some bigger conventions have what’s called “backup” groups, such as The Backup Project and Cosplay is Not Consent. http://backupribbonproject.wordpress.com/ has links to both.

    I’m not in favor of public outing. But I think that harassment in this situations happens a lot more than we think, and it should be confronted. People need to talk about it, or it just keeps happening.

  6. I don’t believe that this was ever a “how to report sexual harrassment” issue. The lady felt offended and decided to retaliate. Possibly this is justified. I don’t know. But it is, as others have said, wrong to accuse anyone without explaining what he has done.

    • Reporting is NOT the same as retaliation. And as Jacintha put it so well below, the details of the actual offense are not necessary, as we are just rubber necking. The thrust of the article is meant to inform folks that they don’t have to silently endure percieved harrassment and that there are mechanisms for properly REPORTING it, so that it can be sorted out by the proper authorities (which would not be us).

    • “The lady felt offended and decided to retaliate.”

      I’ve seen a number of comments like this, and I think they overlook that the editor was at this even in a professional capacity, representing his company. If his behavior to attendees was unprofessional, why shouldn’t there be consequences?

    • The person who reported the harassment did not accuse the alleged harasser publicly. Someone else who was allegedly there did that. IMO that was not a good thing to do, in any sense of the word.

  7. I believe she has explained what was done to the relevant parties. I do not believe the relevant parties are necessarily us — at this stage, we are rubberneckers.

  8. I went to a convention where he was a guest once and he was so vile I refused to go into a panel if he was on it. From openly berating fellow panelists to screaming at the audience he was consistently angry, loud and abusive.
    I think perhaps, they aren’t outlining too much of the behavior because about anyone who’s come in contact with him probably knows exactly what he’s like.
    The comments on the quoted blog seem to be a lot of: oh, its him, well yeah…
    which is a lot of the problem with the con harassment I think. Nobody is surprised by it, but then why didn’t anyone do anything?

    • Patricia Sierra

      Your encounter with him is interesting. I watched a video of him today — he was on a panel. I got most of the way through it and he seemed fine, but that was only one video. One moment in time. If he goes so out of control, I wonder how he’ll respond (if at all) to his name surfacing now in an unsavory context.

      Doesn’t it seem likely that his employer is aware of his antics if his usual convention behavior is so questionable? Seems like it would surface in his day to day dealings in his workplace as well.

      • Just as an added data point, here’s a link to a post from Jim Hines on the topic. It was originally a repost of the article already linked above. Hines added information at the top about past experiences regarding the individual and reports made.


      • As was described in the post, no one before Ms. Matheson had filed a formal report. Even if the man’s behavior was known through informal reports to HR and hearsay, companies can’t act without a formal report.

        Getting the word out on how to file a complaint is a good thing.

        I can’t help noticing that it’s your third post suggesting that Matheson overreacted, misunderstood or should have just brushed the incident off. Or at the very least supplied you with enough details that you may judge, by your standards, whether she had cause or not.

        You are missing the point. She is not the one whose conduct is in question.

        • Patricia Sierra

          I am in no way suggesting that the author overreacted, or was misunderstood, or should have brushed off the incident. But, yes, I would like to know the details. And, of course, I would form an opinion if I saw the details. Who wouldn’t? And whose opinion would not be based on one’s own life experiences? My curiosity is not born out of a desire to campaign for or against the woman making the complaint.

        • I don’t usually comment here, but a bunch of you keep insisting that Matheson is a victim and doesn’t need to explain what happened. You stated that she is not the one whose conduct is in question. To be blunt, Yes she is. Both the accused harasser AND the accussee should have their conduct questioned. One of them is wrong either the guy harassed her and he is wrong and should get in trouble for it, or she accused him of harassing her when he didn’t, in which case she should get in trouble for it.

          I totally understand Laura’s point that very likely Matheson has been advised NOT to describe events, in case of legal action. This makes good legal sense, but it is also VERY common for women to accuse men of sexual harassment simply to slander the man and get him in trouble, whether this is in retialation for something, attempted blackmail, simply because they don’t like him, or are attempting to excuse or divert attention from something they did. I am not saying this is what Matheson did, but then again we don’t know, because we have no idea what happened. As is they are being judged in the court of public opinion simply on a he said/she said level, without even knowing what he said/she said, he/she did.

          It borders on ridiculous to decide which one is guilty and which one is innocent in such circumstances.

          • it is also VERY common for women to accuse men of sexual harassment simply to slander the man and get him in trouble, whether this is in retialation for something, attempted blackmail, simply because they don’t like him, or are attempting to excuse or divert attention from something they did

            No, it’s not.

            In this study, data was collected by law enforcement personnel who’d been given training on how to effectively collect such data for a scientific study (as opposed to just saying, “I believe her,” or “Looks to me like she’s lying” based on some investigator’s gut feeling, which was based on who-knows-what.) This deals with reports of sexual assault rather than sexual harassment, but considering where and how these “Women are always lying about this stuff!” claims occur, I think we can probably call it close enough.

            There’s some discussion of how percentages of false claims for the above-mentioned random-gut-feeling articles, of which there are many, are all over the map, then it says:

            In contrast, when more methodologically rigorous research has been conducted, estimates for the percentage of false reports begin to converge around 2-8%.

            For example, in a multi-site study of eight U.S. communities involved in the “Making a Difference” (or “MAD”) Project, data were collected by law enforcement agencies for all sexual assault reports received in an 18- 24 month period. Of the 2,059 cases that were included in the study, 140 (7%) were classified as false. This is particularly note-worthy because a number of measures were taken to protect the reliability and validity of the research. First, all participating law enforcement agencies were provided training and technical assistance in an ongoing way to ensure that they were applying consistent definitions for a false report. In addition, a random sample of cases was checked for data entry errors. More information on the MAD Project is available at http://www.evawintl.org.

            To date, the MAD study is the only research conducted in the U.S. to evaluate the percentage of false reports made to law enforcement. The remaining evidence is therefore based on research conducted outside the U.S., but it all converges within the same range of 2-8%.

            False Reports: Moving Beyond the Issue to Successfully Investigate and Prosecute Non-Stranger Sexual Assault — a PDF article on the National Sexual Violence Resource Center site.

            Here’s an interesting reference. It’s a bit out of date, and focuses on workplace harassment and stalking in Canadian companies, but there’s a point to be made here, I think.

            The questionnaire defined “sexual harassment,” “stalking,” and “false victimization.” The latter refers to false allegations of sexual harassment and/or stalking. Of the 46 company respondents, 20 (43.5 percent) had reported sexual harassment incidents in their firms from January 1995 through January 2000. There were 53 reported cases. The majority of the reported sexual harassment cases involved male perpetrators and female targets (91.7 percent). Most of the incidents involved boss-subordinate incidents. Incidents were reported to human resource representatives in 58.3 percent of the cases. A complaint was filed with the Human Rights Commission in 6.3 percent of the cases. Inside assistance involved rehabilitation measures for the harasser in 39.6 percent of the cases, and existing company policy was relied upon in 25 percent of the cases. The indications are that when credible evidence existed to support a sexual harassment claim, organizational action was taken in the form of remedies, discipline, or dismissal. Eight companies reported stalking incidents that totaled 19 cases over this period. The majority of the stalking cases involved male perpetrators and female targets (89.5 percent). Just over half of the cases involved a coworker as the stalker, and 26.3 percent involved spouses. Outside assistance included police warnings to the stalker and restraining orders. Inside assistance included increased security measures, changing shifts, and warnings to the stalker by a management representative. Six companies reported a total of 14 cases of FVS. The majority of cases involved alleged male perpetrators and female targets. In most cases, the FVS was detected through an investigation and resolution of the problem. These study findings may be useful in helping companies reduce their liability risks by formulating stalking, sexual harassment, and FVS policies and by educating employees about the risk of the three constructs and ways of protecting themselves. 29 references

            Abstract from a paper published by the National Criminal Justice Reference Service (US)

            The incidence of false reports here looks a lot higher if you consider the total stats — 14 out of 53 cases, or 26%. But ALL the false reports came from just 6 companies; the other 40 companies reported NO false accusations during this period. It looks to me like those 6 companies have particularly toxic work environments, possibly focused in one department or area or program or some such, where the men and the women are striking out at one another.

            It makes sense that there could be islands of toxicity within the larger environment, where there are some significant number of false accusations made for whatever malicious reason among a concentrated group of people. Someone who works (or lives or drinks or goes to school or whatever) in one of those islands of toxicity might well believe that it’s “very common” for women to make false accusations, when in actuality they’re standing in an outlier battlezone. It’s like standing in the middle of the Sahara and deciding that Earth is obviously a desert planet.

            Although note that even in this study, the false claims are nowhere near a majority.


            • “No, it’s not.”


              I’m retired now since 1991, so my history is a getting a bit lacking in currency.

              However, my experience of these matters is that it is a vanishingly small sub-set of women alleging misconduct on the part of a man to be malicious.

              On the contrary, they were more the sort of the camels back breaking, pimple burst, no other way out type of situation. No surprise on that, it can be hard to prove in court.

              In my experience, it’s almost ALL male on female.


              • In my experience, it’s almost ALL male on female.

                Brendan — that’s what the data I saw shows too, although my gut feel 🙂 tells me that at chunk of that difference is a matter of reporting. I think if every case of sexual harassment were reported, the large majority would still be male on female, but the female on male would probably be larger than it currently shows. There’s a lot of social pressure against men who report this sort of thing; it’s similar to the much smaller percentage of male rape victims reporting, compared with the already small percentage of females. For a man to admit that he was out of control in that way, that he was victimized in that way, compounds the injury in our culture, particularly if the harasser (or rapist) wsa a woman.

                But yes, the vast majority of the perpetrators, whether the victims are women or other men, are male.


          • She did describe what happened when she made her formal report. She doesn’t need to explain herself to us or anybody else not directly involved.

            • @ Cora – exactly. She gave the details when she filed the report.

              Angie – thanks, that was excellent.

              C.L. Frey – yes research shows that sexual assualt and harrassmentv are under-reported. This is especially true when the victim is male. (Brendan, actually males can be and are victims of this much more than you might think).

              TL – you said her conduct should be questioned as much as his. This is back to the old standard “if she was raped, she was asking for it”. Sexual harassment has a definition by law. If his actions meet that definition, her actions are not relevant.

              As for your comment here: “it is also VERY common for women to accuse men of sexual harassment simply to slander the man and get him in trouble”

              I’d appreciate if you could provide some data to back that up.

          • I can add a small piece of anecdotal evidence. I recently completed some work for a local non-profit that counsels sexual assault victims through the hospital and police reporting process. At one point the topic of false accusations came up and the counsellor said that just the process of reporting and going through the legal system is so stressful, it’s not something they have to deal with. It’s so much harder to provide an environment supportive enough to get real victims to step forward.

      • “Doesn’t it seem likely that his employer is aware of his antics if his usual convention behavior is so questionable? Seems like it would surface in his day to day dealings in his workplace as well.”

        I’ve looked up some of his co-workers on Twitter. One of them has specifically stated that they cannot comment directly on this matter for legal reasons, which one would expect. But a number of them are making their opinions known by posting links to Elise Matthesen’s essay about reporting the incident, posting links to blogs criticizing sexual harassment in sf/f, posting links to blogs that name their colleague as the accused harasser, and reTweeting comments that criticize editors who use their position to get away with sexual harassment, comments that say sexual harassment at sf/c cons must end, comments that say this harasser has been known about for some time, etc. I’m also seeing comments from these colleagues which specifically compliment the bloggers who’ve brought the incident to light, and Tweeting directly to those bloggers to compliment them for this.

    • Recovering Writer

      I once wrote for this editor. I was not sexually harassed, but the whole experience was the most unprofessional, idiotic mess of my entire working life. I could not BELIEVE this person didn’t get fired. But he didn’t. He’s still there now. And it’s certainly not as if his employer didn’t know what was going on.

      I soon decided I’d rather never write again than keep working with him. For real. That’s how bad it was. (Fortunately, there are a lot of other fish in the sea, and things worked out fine.)

  9. suburbanbanshee

    Re: conventions and other fannish activities, it is of course true that some persons take the relaxed fannish atmosphere (particularly at parties, particularly with the drink taken) as an excuse for saying and doing inexcusable things, and for getting away with them. (Generally by cognitive dissonance ploys — ie, if you can’t believe somebody just did that, they’re more prone to get away with it or get further along with it).

    I find it particularly interesting that this incident happened at Wiscon, which is allegedly feminist, liberal, safe, etc. And indeed, I’ve found that the places which loudly claim to be “safe” are the places where you have to watch your purse and your step. (Which, no insult to anybody’s ideology, is bound to be the case — anywhere people let down their guard, predators will look for prey.) One recalls that the late Marion Zimmer Bradley’s house was also supposed to be feminist and safe, but actually had her then-husband molesting children who lived or visited there, giving them drugs, etc. People couldn’t believe he was doing anything bad, even after he went to prison. Because he was a fan, and fans are all friends.

    Fandom is full of wonderful people, but it’s also full of human beings, some of whom are not really your friends. Be friendly, but be alert — and keep an eye on your fellow fans so that they stay safe too.

    • Wiscon occasionally gets a bad rap because these stories come from there. But that’s because Wiscon is doing it RIGHT. Wiscon had a procedure in place for harassment, Wiscon pro-actively researches issues in the SFF community and confronts them head-on. And, on the very rare occasion that they get it wrong, they work hard to fix it.

      I’ve been going to Wiscon for 13 years. It, honestly, is one of the places I feel safest in the world.

      (Middle-aged white female, no one of consequence in the SFF community)

      • Well, it’s great that there’s a known formal process for reporting at Wiscon, but it would also seem that the formal process worked just about as well as other known formal processes at conventions. Which is to say that it takes a lot of pushing to get anything done.

        What would have been impressive was if the sexual harassment had resulted in the guilty person being stopped in his tracks at the party, or if that person had never dared to start anything. (You know, like in most of normal life with normal people, which is why predators have to look around to find a place to prey on people.)

        Having a reporting process is a backup plan. It’s important to have a backup plan, and I’m glad there is one. But the first plan is prevention and mutual security, and that’s what makes a convention safe.

        I also fail to understand why this person was never banned for life from conventions, either openly or tacitly (if everyone was determined to be so “discreet”). I realize that traditional publishing has become a culture of fear, but most SMOFs aren’t submitting novels, nor running cons that are exclusively or primarily around books. If this person was an editor, who cares? Editors usually only guest close to New York anyway. What would you lose but an annoying liability? Why wouldn’t this have been a widely known thing? Certainly other people have gotten banned for a lot less….

  10. Two comments.

    1) Sadly, the Legal & HR departments for the company where this guy works* may not result in a satisfactory result: the goal of both departments is not to act fairly but to act in the best interests of the company. And the best thing for this company may be anything from doing absolutely nothing to firing him & making sure his career in the publishing world is over. Then again, I figure this person will never be invited to another SF convention ever again.

    2) Don’t try to fix problems like this by editing a person’s Wikipedia article. There’s a policy concerning the biographies of living people that will lead to this information being deleted from that article. (Yeah, it sucks, but there’s a lot of ways Wikipedia operates I think either sucks or is implemented in a way that sucks, & I’ve been volunteering there for over 10 years. I gotta stop one of these days.)

    * I know a name has been attached to this person. It may be an accurate identification. However, until it’s legally proven that this person was the one who sexually harassed Elise Matthesen, it’s best we not name names, due to the law concerning slander & libel. And the only thing worse than a slime bag getting away with something is being sued for telling others what happened.

    • This brings up an alternate question: What do you do if you are falsely accused of sexual harassment?

      I think the false accusation would tarnish an individual’s reputation irreperably(particularly if the individual is male). So is there any way to avoid or overcome false accusations?

      • Much as we’d might think that false accusations would tarnish someone forever… Consider how true accusations are treated, and exactly how much furor has to be raised to “tarnish” someone’s rep for even a year or two.

        Even if one gets to a point where “she (or, less frequently, he) just misunderstooooood” is not automatically tacked onto the person making the complaint (I bet there’s still a few decades to go, minimum), there is still the option of witnesses. Don’t put yourself into a situation where it’s just you and someone whose moral compass you aren’t sure of. Stay in a public or semi-public place. Maintain at least an arm’s length of distance when possible. Keep your hands away from the other person’s body — perhaps by holding a glass (at a party, say), a book, or a tablet. Be polite, but not intimate: don’t lean in to talk to them quietly, don’t go into personal topics.

        If someone appears to be throwing themselves at you in an unwanted way, then report that as harassment, and make double-sure to have both some friends around to intercept, and to try to have only public interactions with the person if you do get cornered.

        (And if all this seems onerous… Well, that’s how it works when Real Harassers/Assaulters get their actions brushed off, and are permitted to continue their bad behavior — their targets have to find ways to get around the “missing stair.”* Consider how many people have probably endured being harassed, but aren’t talking about it, and consider how behaving in the above fashion will give them some relief. Easing the hidden pains of our fellow humans is worth a little trouble, no?)

        * Missing Stair analogy: pervocracy.blogspot.com/2012/06/missing-stair.html

        • So one must go through a large checklist, making certain to contemplate every possible way someone could get upset and avoid any and all of those situations… because someone just might? That seems a little oversensitive.

          Now before someone cries that I cannot possibly understand… I am someone who endured months of sexual harassment in high school. I dealt with much worse than ‘leaning in’ or a lewd comment during a one off conversation and I did it in an environment where I really could not escape. Even with my history, I still don’t see why it is necessary to overhaul social gatherings on the off chance that one person might, maybe, possibly offend another.

          We still haven’t answered the question: Is there away to overcome false accusations? I think we can all agree that a false accusation of sexual harassment can significantly damage someone’s life while the one who made the false accusation has little, if any, consequences.

          As for this: “Much as we’d might think that false accusations would tarnish someone forever… Consider how true accusations are treated, and exactly how much furor has to be raised to “tarnish” someone’s rep for even a year or two.”

          If you work in a corporate environment today you know how wildly inaccurate that statement is. The slightest hint of sexual harassment starts a lengthy process and the furor is focused on the accused, never the accuser.

          • Well, here’s a guy who posted on Whatever about the current debate who says that a report being made is what preserved his reputation.

            Two women at an sf/f con were molested (he has no details; that was the word used in the complaint). The man they reported had a similar name and was physically similar to this guy, who was approached and questioned by the Safety person about the accusation. In this process, they asked the two women to identify him–and the women said, nope, this wasn’t the guy.

            So he was cleared, thanks to the process that followed the official report. Whereas if the accosted women has instead just warned other women quietly… rumors would circulate, unbeknownst to this man, that would implicate him, since he fit that description and answered to that name. And he’d become known as “that guy who they say molested two women,” and would probably never know why people treated him like he was creepy–and, if he found out, wouldn’t have had any real way to eliminate the damaging rumor.


          • What Dela said. The process of reporting cleared the guy’s name, because apparently the real creep was hiding his identity.

            If you are deliberately falsely accused, chances are that someone will slip up. If you are concerned that you are going to be deliberately falsely accused, then you basically need witnesses.

            As long as you have creepy people who are going to try to do things — either physically, or as a set-up for a frame — then you’re basically going to need witnesses who are unwilling to look the other way (whether the truth is “yeah, she totally grabbed his groin, in front of his wife and everything” or “no, she was over in the other corner all night, talking to some other guy; he couldn’t have been ambushed by her in the restroom”).

            If the scales tip so that false reporting is more common than true reporting, then I’m sure that there will at least be some kind of “first report” discussion, that gives the target the opportunity to set up defenses — such as keeping the doors open, etc., etc.

            I’d say that first, though, we need reporting that is taken seriously instead of brushed under the rug. No one should have to suffer harassment and get poopooed about it — and this includes making darn sure that none of us have a “Well, crap happened to me, so other people should just toughen up and deal with it like I had to” attitude lurking in our subconsciouses. (Something I’ve seen hints of in some of the posts in the Whatever thread — which have been called out as Missing The Point, happily.)

          • So one must go through a large checklist, making certain to contemplate every possible way someone could get upset and avoid any and all of those situations… because someone just might? That seems a little oversensitive.

            It may be oversensitive, but those are the rules. You must assume that any and all words, looks, or actions that might be interpreted as sexual in nature will be unwelcome, and never, ever do any of those things under any circumstances. There is no place or time in which such behaviour is acceptable or permissible. None. In particular, if you are a man, you must remember that women are not to be touched, they are not to be flirted with, they are not to be looked at with lascivious intent, they are not to be propositioned or asked out on dates or even complimented on their appearance. Ever.

            Remember, the only thing required for behaviour to be classified as harassment is that it must be unwelcome. And you must always assume that your advances to a member of the opposite sex (or the same sex, if you’re so inclined) ARE unwelcome.


            • I suspect that this is more than a little satirical and/or hyperbolic.

              However, from a legal standpoint, it’s not bad advice.

              That’s sad. But it’s true. Although I might not say “ever,” I might limit it to “other than in environments where people have made it clear that they are looking for prospective romantic partners, as long as you immediately disengage once rejected.” So it’s probably safe to politely ask a person you find attractive at a singles bar (do they still have those) if you can buy them a drink. If they say no turn around and walk away.

              Notice also that I have used gender-neutral pronouns. While it’s true that it’s less common for men to seek redress for this kind of thing, it’s becoming less uncommon. And people of both sexes deserve the respect to which our society has decided they are entitled.

        • Don’t put yourself into a situation where it’s just you and someone whose moral compass you aren’t sure of. Stay in a public or semi-public place. Maintain at least an arm’s length of distance when possible. Keep your hands away from the other person’s body — perhaps by holding a glass (at a party, say), a book, or a tablet. Be polite, but not intimate: don’t lean in to talk to them quietly, don’t go into personal topics.

          This is the same advice given to women who want to avoid getting unwanted attention from someone they have no sexual interest in. Odd how it’s seen as burdensome and oversensitive when given to men.

      • I know of one case of an allegedly false accusation of sexual harassment, which happened in 1997 at Simon Frazier University, in Canada. (The account on Wikipedia should not be trusted for reasons apparent if one looks at the people involved.) It was a mess for all involved–although the woman who made the original complaint seems to have done well for herself.

        I’ll refrain from writing anything more about this incident; it’s too easy to say things that will just generate lots of heat & little light.

  11. Once upon a time (before the days of self-pubbing) I attended a week-long writing retreat – lit fic. I observed multiple problems– what you think and not quite what you think.

    One issue involved blatant plagiarism. During a public reading a well-known author read an excerpt from her supposed WIP. The problem was she’d lifted the chapter word for word from a work submitted by a conference participant– a work submitted as part of the admissions process for the retreat.

    Another issue involved authors/faculty skipping scheduled lectures or presentations,(paid for by our tuition), because they were either drunk and incoherent or too hungover and thus incoherent.

    A third involved faculty members- authors- hitting on young, hopeful conference participants. Reminded me of a casting couch.

    One faculty member, who did take his responsibilities very seriously, commented, “Some authors come here for three reasons- first because of the money. Second to borrow new ideas and inspiration from creative unknowns. Third, to hook up with groupies.”

    Needless to say the entire process left a bad taste in my mouth.

  12. I can understand why some of us are acting with automatic suspicion; at least here in the US, we’ve become a society ready to run to a lawyer the second we get the idea there could be a cash payment involved (no offense to PG or other lawyers). However, something as serious as this can’t be brushed off.

    A woman felt threatened enough to go through a process she described as “scary.” That should earn her some sympathy, at least. If it all comes out that there was no harm done, and this lady was trying to take advantage of the man somehow by putting him in this kind of position, I imagine we’ll be hearing about a lawsuit against her. Until then I think we should take her at her word.

    Cons are definitely big office parties, sometimes more like frat parties. On the one hand I can see how that would (and should) relax the standards we use to judge behavior. On the other hand, if a woman felt wronged, well, that’s never right.

  13. So, a couple of things.

    First, I’m not a legal expert, but I am in management and we have a yearly sexual harassment training. They make it very clear that per law if the employer is aware of sexual harrassment, it is the employer’s job to bring it to a halt, regardless of whether complaints have been filed. The company is liable; it is their responsiblity to provide a harrassment free workplace.

    If this guy harassed both employees and writers for years, which seems highly likely, the HR department is in very hot water.

    As to Elise giving details, that would be very unwise and could result in opening herself to a lawsuit. For those who are worried this guy may be being unjustly accused, I’m sure HR will conduct an extremely thorough investigation (no doubt in hopes they can clear his name, and get themselves off the hook).

    On a larger scale, I think it is absolutely terrific that Elise complained. I also think it’s a sign of the emancipation of the writer that she did.

    I have to wonder how many writers were harrassed over the years but never spoke up because they were afraid of being blacklisted.

    I suspect that is how this particular editor allegedly got away with it for so long. Writers were probably afraid to speak up, and if they did, they were probably met with resistance, possibly intense resistance.

    I am so glad that times are changing!

  14. Agreed, Dan.

  15. Well said, Dan!

    The vast majority of men I’ve encountered in my life have NOT sexually harassed me or sexually assaulted me, nor threatened to do so either overtly or implicitly. My interactions, social and professional, with the vast majority of men I’ve encountered in my life, have been completely comfortable reasonable in that sense.

    I include in that group men who I wasn’t interested in who showed interest in me or asked me out–but who did it courteously (rather than expressing interest by following me around after I asked to be left alone, or grabbing my breast, or making lewd remarks, or ignoring my requests to go away) and who accepted no for an answer like reasonable, sane adults (rather than by calling me a b****, a cunt, a whore, insulting my physical appearance, telling me I “really needed” genitals inserted in my various orifices, threatening me, grabbing my thigh, etc.).

    Equating “don’t sexually harass a woman” with “never show interest or express any sort of attraction to a woman” is as obtuse and idiotic as equating “don’t beat your dog” with “never play with your dog.”

    • Oh, I wasn’t speaking of breast grabbing. That’s pretty much like shaking hands for me. 😀

      Seriously, though, I haven’t dated for a long time, but I seem to remember one thing: If a woman is interested in a man’s romantic/sexual attention, SHE’LL LET HIM KNOW.

  16. FYI, in case anyone checks in:
    Patrick Nielsen Hayden, editor at Tor, has reported via Twitter that Jim Frenkel is no longer with Tor, his current projects will be handled by other editors, and anyone with work on submission to Frenkel should submit to another Tor editor.

  17. Bravo, Patrick. That sends a pretty clear signal to anyone feeling privileged enough by their position to harass at conventions. A good step in the right direction.

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