[Because this issue has already been addressed elsewhere, all names in the following story have been replaced with names from Saturday morning cartoons. DO NOT discuss details of the original issue in comments on this post. DO NOT name the group or event or use the legal names, scene names, or usernames of anyone involved.]
There's been a problem recently in a BDSM group I belong to, the Thundercats, with a particular member, Captain Planet, inappropriately touching or creepily hitting on people at Thundercats meetings and events. This had been ongoing for more than a year, had scared me and other people away from attending certain Thundercats meetings, and several people had talked to Captain Planet with the only result being that after several talking-tos he would switch targets. The Thundercats has had a couple other creeper incidents, but he was one of the most persistent, although relatively less severe--he was more inclined to creepily stroke women's hair or backs than to go for the "swimsuit area."
Then a couple days ago I heard that he had been creeping on my friend April O'Neil to the point of triggering PTSD symptoms, and I just snapped. We'd talked before in the Thundercats about having trouble with "some people" violating "some boundaries" and it always just ended in the conclusion that tsk, tsk, that was very naughty of "some people." I was fucking sick of this culture of silence, of sheltering someone just for being "one of ours" and of throwing women to the wolves of "personal responsibility" if they were too intimidated to confront him or too new to know who to watch out for.
In short, I was sick of worrying myself too damn much about his feelings.
So I posted basically what I wrote above to the Thundercats website, only with his (scene) name and a lot more details on specific incidents. It was a rehash of a lot of the "some people" posts, but I went ahead and said "no, not 'some people.' THIS DUDE."
A lot of people, Thundercats and bystanders, were very supportive of this. Three other women came forward to say they had also had problems with Captain Planet. And Captain Planet himself came on, took it with relatively good grace considering that I was pointedly not gentle in my writing, fessed up and promised to change his behavior. I have to say I'm impressed by that, hope he stands by it, and it makes me feel that I might have actually accomplished something.
But then something weird happened. Even though the person accused had already confessed and apologized, third parties took it on themselves to explain why I, and the other women complaining, were in the wrong. I got a mountain of hostile comments and emails. These fell into three broad categories:
1. "Are we supposed to take the word of a woman?"
There wasn't a ton of this, but I got a few. Funny thing was, Captain Planet had already confessed. (God only knows where things would have gone if he'd denied it.) But I still got people speculating that I was making things up, that I was blowing innocent casual touch out of proportion, and that perhaps people should watch out for me since clearly I'm the sort of person who's dangerously prone to going around accusing men of... um, things they did and admit to doing.
2. "Whatever happend to personal responsibility? For you, I mean. Not him."
Quite a bit of this. People noted that he'd picked on women who didn't seem "strong-willed," which is not entirely true anyway--I'm a noted marshmallow rollover, but some of the other women complaining were pretty tough. Or they said that we were just responsible for setting our own boundaries and dealing with our own problems. But the problem here is threefold:
a. If I'm having to exert a strong will, there's already a problem. Not having to defend myself is vastly preferable to getting good at self-defense.
b. Some women are, because of past events or simply by nature, "weak-willed." They still don't deserve to be creeped on.
c. By making this all about the women, Captain Planet and his actions kind of... disappear. He becomes this weird force of nature, like a pressured fluid naturally rupturing weak spots, instead of a person making choices. That isn't the case. He's much more able to control himself than anyone else is able to control him.
3. "Okay, that's bad, but how dare you talk about it."
This was a really, REALLY depressingly common opinion. I was accused a bizillion times on the thread and in private emails of acting "childish," because apparently an adult shuts up and takes it. I was also told that because the accusations weren't "that bad," weren't sexual assault or anything, I shouldn't be making them.
Note that I and other people had talked to Captain Planet in private previously, and it hadn't worked. Here are some other justifications for naming names:
a. Not everyone can be assumed to be "in the loop." New people or people not in the rumor mill deserve to know who to watch out for.
b. People who thought it was just their own problem with Captain Planet are helped by knowing it's not just them.
c. If you don't have the right to violate people's boundaries, you sure as hell don't have the right to violate them in private. We avoid "outing" because being outed as kinky could hurt you even though it isn't a bad thing. Being outed as creepy doesn't meet the "isn't a bad thing" criterion.
d. All I did was say what had happened and what I thought of it. If people want to do this with my actions ("She sat in a chair and talked to some people. I was pretty okay with this."), they're welcome to.
e. As consequences for bad behavior go, simply having people know about it is a pretty mild and natural one.
f. People who are tempted to violate boundaries should have something to be afraid of. Being politely talked to in private isn't very scary. Hopefully, being publicly shamed is.
So for everyone saying that victim-blaming doesn't happen, that it isn't that bad, or that the victims deserved to be blamed (whoa), there's my little story about what happens when a woman speaks out about a relatively minor and non-criminal issue.