Lately several science fiction and fantasy authors have been discussing the ongoing problem of sexual harassment at science fiction conventions. A lot of women authors and fans have experienced harassment of varying levels of disturbance, from annoying to creepy to chilling; at least one male author has suffered harassment as well. (And as bad as it is for female attendees to be taken seriously when they complain of sexual harassment, it may be even worse for men, although obviously fewer men are victims.)
I would like to add one more suggestion.
I call upon con committees to take on sexual harassment in a proactive way by clarifying what it is and that it will NOT be tolerated at their conventions. They can communicate this on their websites and in their programs, which often have rules of behavior anyway. Yes, this is a bummer. A convention is supposed to be a great time for fans and authors, and nobody wants to think about this stuff. On the other hand, no one needs to be intruded upon, harassed, made to feel uncomfortable, or actively threatened at a convention. Since it’s such an issue, it needs to be addressed.
These episodes are not rare occurrences. They happen often enough that a lot of authors and fans have the same story. There are repeat offenders. And while the stereotype of the congoer is of the socially maladjusted male, I cry bullshit on that. Harassers and predators know exactly what they are doing.
So if cons make it explicitly clear that harassment will not be tolerated and offenders will not be given a second chance but will be removed immediately, I think it will go a long way to making sure that cons are fun and welcome for everyone.
Yes, there are going to be gray areas. Where human intersects with human, there always are. I trust that we can work through the gray areas to come to the truth of a situation.
I love cons. I love fans. I love how smart attendees are, how interesting, and how funny. I just want everyone to enjoy their experience without weird sexual power-tripping going on.