I recently read an article posted on Kotaku regarding inappropriate behavior by people towards female professionals at gaming conventions or industry events.
Tina Amini wrote an interesting and disturbing post collating some statements from various women who experienced first hand harassment and unwanted advances.
Inappropriate is putting it lightly, personally I found every part of this article to be quite sickening and worrying. We're not just talking about demeaning looks or taunts, which are in themselves terrible, but also sexual assault.
Let's look at what the term covers:
"Sexual assault is any involuntary sexual act in which a person is threatened, coerced, or forced to engage against their will, or any sexual touching of a person who has not consented. This includes rape (such as forced vaginal, anal or oral penetration), inappropriate touching, forced kissing, child sexual abuse, or the torture of the victim in a sexual manner."
The title for each occurrence lets you know what is ahead, but actually reading the accounts is a whole different game. I think that for me personally, I found that the emotions and senses that the victims felt were as harrowing as the acts themselves. Four Groping Hands in particular made me shiver and feel just so sad for the individual that had to go through that.
"A second guy started rubbing my shoulders and kissing the side of my neck. I freaked out." "I felt paralyzed. Like I couldn't move."
These are feelings no one should ever have to go through, but sadly it is a common issue in many different scenarios. Yet you would think that at gaming conventions and events where professionals are meeting and business is being attended to, that such horrible acts weren't as rampant. Booth babes gets glares and comments, a few guys with low self esteem and issues will make snide remarks about women playing video games ect and that's all just not on, but when it comes to make someone feel emotions such as fear, panic and unease then something has to be done. Eyes have to be wide open and people should not have to fear speaking up.
Amini ends her article talking about how she's glad that she spoke out and posted these events, but was worried about potential backlash and that's another irritating and stomach churning issue with sexual assault, in any scenario. People are scared to speak up because they may not be believed or that nothing will come off it. That age-old ridiculous notion that "some people ask for it" depending on how they dress or if they smile at someone, which you know is simply politeness.
One unnamed women mentions how she wondered if she'd been subjected to the sexism and trauma she went through if she hadn't of worn a dress. Again the cloth someone wears or even doesn't wear never gives any other human the right to lay their hands on them or to make any assumptions.
Smiling and waving at someone does not mean you are open to them sexually invading you, especially when it's an accident like what occurred in the first entry The Touchy Security Guard, or the Sleezy Security Scum. If you think someone wants you in a sexual manner because they are polite, then you have some serious issues. If you're someone who's role it is is to ensure the safety of public members and then abuse that by continuously touching someone and making lewd gestures to them, then there is a problem in many varied facets.
Thankfully in the case of the Sleezy Security Guard, he was promptly fired. But while any action taken is never a negative, it still doesn't ever erase what has already transpired.
Now I don't know if this is an issue primarily with US based conventions, perhaps it happens in any convention, anywhere in the world. I personally haven't heard or encounter such despicable stories at any UK based gaming events, such as Rezzed, Eurogamer or MCM Expo. Groping occurs at the latter, but that's a different semi-consensual story.
Hearing about such disgusting behavior people, primarily women have to put up with in seemingly friendly work environments is deeply worrying and makes you wonder if you're safe anywhere.
These are issues that exist, continue all the time and need to be quashed. And if it's impossible to completely eradicate perverts and lowlifes from the picture, then we should at least not be blind to these facts and support those that endure harassment in any form, no matter who they are.