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Whedonesque - a community weblog about Joss Whedon
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September 23 2011

"That time I inappropriately touched Joss Whedon in an elevator". A true story by all accounts and the author is so sorry.

It reminds me of when Nathan got felt up at that Booster event. Boundaries? Yes?
She needs a job writing Liz Lemon.
It was Backup, actually. And, yeah, that was no good.
That just isn't funny (as the cartoon tries to make out) and I believe the Nathan groping which was more than a back grab, was also fueled by alcohol.
That's hilarious. I think it could happen to me.
It didn't really read to me like it was supposed to be funny. It seemed more honestly creepy to me. I didn't even notice until now that most of the comments over there are people who think it's hilarious.
Speaking as one who has been inappropriately touched by a complete stranger in a situation I had no control over, trust me, It is definitely creepy.
Link down for anyone else? I guess this might've gotten it more traffic than it was prepared to handle...?
Not funny. Sexual harassment regardless of who is doing it to whom.
The way it was written... I found it to be pretty funny. /kanyeshrug I assumed it was dramatized to take it from creepy into uber-creepy.

ETA: I could see it being described as harassment, not really sure how it's "sexual harassment," though. I didn't read a sexual connotation into it.

[ edited by Emmie on 2011-09-23 23:01 ]
Creepy? Yes. But she presents it as an embarrassed tale. And embarrassing moments are often humorous for the listener. She also seems aware that it was wrong of her so she's apologetic. This story is probably something all her friends bring up for her to tell to new friends and acquaintances as a you'll-never-believe-what-this-girl-did tale. It's a bit of everything: creepy, humorous, embarrassing and apologetic.

But yes, people need to respect others personal space. Like all the time.
It was still up for me, Jobo.

Creepy, yes - but it read to me like the woman was *genuinely* sorry, and was expressing herself as a cartoonist would. I found it also little touching. Some folks - maybe like those in the comments - seem to automatically assume cartoons are only "funny" - though for those people, I would suggest they read "Maus".

One time Mr. QuoterGal was in the men's room with Joss, and I can't tell you how hard he tried to stay out of his way - he even ducked into a stall and waited until Joss left to come back out. He thought, "Joss is going to get approached by someone prolly every step along the way on this little jaunt - I'll give him some privacy here."

Me, I really like to leave Joss and his related peeps some space, too; I've approached Joss only once at events - the ME Day picnic - and Maurissa and Jed once. Oh, and I said "hi" to Jane Espenson at the Writers' Aid event after we'd met earlier at Pencil Dropping Day. When I see the swarms descending on Joss et al. after events, my natural embarrassment makes me want to run in the opposite direction. I can't imagine groping him or anyone else I'm not close with.

ETF: typo

[ edited by QuoterGal on 2011-09-23 23:37 ]
While I think she really is sorry for this sexual harrassment(I think it could count as sexual), I'm not sure she should have presented it this way. I can't imagine how creeped out he must have been and I hope he won't read this. I mean, in a elevator being touched by everyone. Anyone would get freaked out. I would have wondered what more they'd do to me.

Maybe Joss will think it's funny? I mean, if you ignore the other people who might not feel sorry (they couldn't all have been very drunk could they), this could be a story about a bad event turned funny. If Joss is fine with it. I mean, I admit it, I laughed, it was written in a funny way and I can relate to her and see myself doing something just as dumb. Let me explain;

The entire time I was in a fan photo shoot thing with James Marsters I thought "Don't touch him, don't touch him, don't touch him" afraid that the parts of my brain that hates me, deals with stress and controls my impulses would freak out and decide to tickle him and run away. I feared I would do that because I knew it was a bad thing to do(obviously), knew that he would not be suprised if someone did that to him(thus making me very aware of all the things that could go wrong), and that I knew he had already been grabbed that day by someone who probably did it feeling no remorse at all.

Seriously, there are people who get there to grab James, who are either too confident in their sexuality or simly evil. I vaugley recall a friend telling me she heard a bunch of people like that together at a con talking happily about gropping him. In my photo shoot James had to sit down, and I heard it was because he had been gropped earlier. Could explain why he seemed a bit distant. He must have been expecting it when it happened, and at every other photo shoot, because this happens a lot at events to him. No charges are pressed, which is a shame.

For me, that was a "Don't press the self destruct button" story, not really about attraction or about wanting to just touch greatness, but about being tempted and at the same time simply terrified to do something bad, thus thinking I might. I wasn't planning to, I didn't want to do it because I'm a good person, but at the same time, there's this thing inside everyone that tells us to do bad things, simply because we're not suppose to. Usually, or consience or voice of reason stops us.

Unlucky for this woman, her consience and voice of reason was drowned by alcohol or/and or bad judgement.

Rant over. I always rant when it comes to physical harrassment.
Joss seems like a nice, forgiving guy. It's clear she feels bad and has seen the error of her ways. With that settled, I think this is a funny comic strip with good art. :)
The folks who started poking him were more at fault than she, if group behavior theory is correct that people get swept up in antisocial behavior. She had the courage to lay out her shame in this illustration. Bravo to her.
Actually it has always surprised me at how comfortable Joss is with his fans (walking through the crowds at SDCC without bodyguards), and how willing he is to assume that we will all treat him with respect in spite of the fact that he has certainly had the occasional creepy experience. I know that once in Australia he felt free enough to invite local fans to come down to the local bar to drink with him, that seems pretty fearless to me!

I agree w/kungfubear that this is an interest comic with good art which clearly shows the regret and shame of the fan who knew they went beyond the line.
Can someone explain to me how that is sexual harassment?

I'm no laywer, but touching someone like that(and making a "yeah" noise) could probably be interpreted as sexual harassment. I don't think the woman intended it to be, and it could be that Joss didn't feel it was sexual. It's hard to tell from the comic what kind of clawing or noise it was, and as I said, I'm no laywer.
Can someone explain to me how that is sexual harassment?

Yeah - describing this particular incident in such terms would seem like a bit of an over-reaction if you ask me, although it is worth pondering the situation if the genders of the involved parties had been reversed (not to mention what may have happened next if he'd been unable to quickly slip out like that.)

And I laughed - people being honest about their own embarrassing behavior is funny.
With "grrr" sound it is physical assault, but if you make a purring sound, that's sexual harassment. Also, if it gives the judge an erection.

I considered their genders too and how it effected my view of the story. If I heard about this happening to a woman, I would have reacted stronger. It's sexist, but it's usual of people to think "Oh poor woman, she must have been afraid of what would happen next" than it is to think the same for males. Sad but true.
I took the "Yeah" as coming from Joss, as in "Yeah...I'll catch the next one."
I'm part of the cute story about an embarrassing situation with nice illustrations party, don't see it as much more than that.
It would have been nice if someone in that elevator had told everyone to keep their hands to themselves. WTH is wrong with people.
Oh man the panels with the eyes in the crowd. Gold.
I took the "Yeah" as coming from Joss, as in "Yeah...I'll catch the next one."

Huh, I didn't think about that. Makes the event a lot less creepy.
It's sad we live in a world where if the male female roles are reversed, the man doesn't get afforded the same sympathies.
But anyway, while i think what they did was very rude and inappropriate it's probably something a person would look back and laugh at now. I don't think it's that big of a deal.
While I can definitely see the harassment, count me amongst those having trouble seeing a sexual aspect to it.

Though the times that I've been sexually harassed it's always been clear cut (i.e. one woman who repeatedly stroked my butt, and another who too often found ways to push her implants into me), so maybe I'm just used to expecting something more clear cut?
I heard from a friend of a friend who does cons that... they're extremely stressful. She has to take a break after doing them just because she spends the weekend being creepily touched and groped, basically. It sounds pretty disturbing.
But what on earth compelled her to reach out and rake her fingers down his back? Everyone else was just poking or touching him, sort of "I touched God!" moment. She's the only one who (according to her comic, at any rate) used more than one finger and made sustained contact. Drunk or no, fan-rush or no, that was way beyond the bounds of acceptability.

All in all, a very creepy, uncool fan reaction. On everyone's part.

I rode alone in an elevator with Tony Head, and I rode in an elevator with Tony & Danny Strong. At no point did I have an urge to grab or otherwise touch either one of them. I got respectful hugs from Tony, Danny, Andy Hallett and Amber Benson. I didn't hold the hugs longer than was comfortable for both parties involved. You just don't do that to a complete stranger. (Or even to someone you know quite well, unless you're both all right with it.)
After I saw Matthew Fox's and Olivia Williams stage show in London a few months back I went around the back to see the them exit, as per tradition, and seeing Olivia was lovely and nice; although she disappeared almost straight away 'cos of experience that everyone cared about Fox more. And hell did they. People were photographing him (flashes!) and putting arms around him like nobodies business. I somehow got a photo and autograph by waiting at the edge, but it still feels so gross and tainted from these people not respecting this guys boundaries. So much ick!

Uhm. So, yeah. These experiences are awful.
Jaymii, your tale reminds me of that Wil Wheaton blog entry about Comic-Con.
Maybe this is why I've never been to a con or ever tried to get anyone's autograph. There's just something... unnatural about the experience.

I think it's bigger with TV and with actors who are known for one character. We've seen them play X for so long we actually think we know them. Think about it, we've seen Buffy go through more experiences than we've seen our best friends go through.
So when we meet them we think we know them, and subconsciously forget that they do not know us at all. It's like seeing our best friend and them blanking us. (Movie actors far less so. No one thinks Anthony Hopkins wants to eat our liver because we've seen him do a dozen totally different roles)

Joss, for us fans, approaches this level of familiarity. We've watched his shows, listened to his commentaries, read interviews and so on. It is hard to remember that his is, to us, a complete stranger. This person would not have done this to a stranger, but while one part of her brain was thinking "OMG! It's Joss!" another part was thinking "We've known this guy for years."
She'd do this sort of thing to a good friend, she just forgot that Joss has never met her before and has no idea who she is.

Hopefully, if he reads this, he might be reassured that people can overstep the mark but many do actually realise later they did so.

/Come to think of it, me lying on the hood of Joss' car after the Fox picket line, holding on to his windscreen wipers screaming "Joss! Please read my script!", as he drove along the freeway may have been uncalled for.
I wondered why he made so many quick lane changes. And went through a car wash twice.

[ edited by zz9 on 2011-09-24 12:24 ]

First of all, LOL at that last part. Second, I agree with a lot you say. Except that she touched him because she'd do it to a good friend. I think she did that because she was simply amazed by him, and not in a friend way, and too drunk to realize "This is creepy". I mean, I wouldn't do that to a friend, unless I was messing with them.
You people are overreacting a little. I mean, sure it's a little weird people just started tapping his shoulder, but there's always one asshole who does and the rest of the elevator just falls in line. It's not exactly rape.

The girl's particular story was one of those things that you don't mean to happen that way or mean to come across that way, but accidentally do. I'm sure we've all been there in one way or other.

Like yesterday I practically yelled a friend's name in a stranger's ear because I thought it was them and then I proceeded to accidentally walk into their ankles, practically taking their shoe off, while apologising. It's awkward, it's kinda creepy and not fun. But mostly it's just embarrassing and not ill-meant.
I mean, sure it's a little weird people just started tapping his shoulder, but there's always one asshole who does and the rest of the elevator just falls in line. It's not exactly rape.

Let me first state that I think the creator of the comic is genuinely sorry for inappropriate touching and don't necessarily think it was sexual in nature.

That out of the way, it's this sort of reaction that makes people of both genders less likely to report so-called minor assaults, sexual or otherwise. To go for a real life example, when working at a grocery store, I had my butt caressed by a customer, who also said "mmm" as he did so. My reaction was to rationalize it away because it wasn't "as bad" as some things he could have done. I had to see my manager's reaction when I told her what happened to realize that I was playing the role of enabler by doing so. Assault is assault. There are no degrees of rape, there shouldn't be degrees of assault.

steps down off soapbox
sorry, this is an important issue to me.
^That's really a very different thing. The example you gave is effectively sexual assauly. This was a tap on the shoulder. It's about as far away from genitalia as you can get on the human body. As much as sexual assault is an issue not to be treated lightly, there is such a thing as being oversensitive. Which doesn't mean I'm saying you are being oversensitive, just that a tap on the shoulder is hardly assault. Uncomfortable, sure. But no one would ever get arrested or convicted for what happened here.
Aw, I feel sorry for the poor girl. She made a stupid, drunk mistake and is obviously aching with embarrassment, and was guilt-stricken enough to produce and publish a comic strip about it!

I do hope Joss sees it, and though of course he isn't obligated to forgive her, at least he'd know how suuuuuuuper-sorry she is.

I say again: Aw.
Willowy, I agree with everything you said there.

Mitholas, assuming the comic is accurate, it was more than a tap on the shoulder. And I was responding to your dismissal of an action that the person who did it admits is inappropriate. Inappropriate is (obviously, heh) not appropriate, and as such, not the acceptable thing, so to dismiss it opens the door to dismissing other inappropriate things.

But no one would ever get arrested or convicted for what happened here.

And, because of the societal attitude that there are degrees of assault, neither was the man who groped me. I'm not saying cry rape when anyone touches you, but I am just suggesting we as a society not dismiss inappropriate touching just because it's "minor."
This is why (1) hotels with glass elevators are better (2) no one should ever wonder why any star is wary of crowds of fans.

Out in the open, shame might keep people from crowding a star and taking advantage of their superior numbers to touch him or her. The elevator ride temporarily bestows a shield from the community's eyes and an imbalance of power between the crowd of fans and the individual they have temporary, unrestricted access to.

I think the infraction here is Taking Advantage of the Power of Superior Numbers to Violate Someone's Personal Space. It's sometimes an element of sexual harassment and assault, but not identical to either.

The comic is impressive, but it wouldn't be if the writer didn't have a big character arc.

ETA correct spelling.

[ edited by Pointy on 2011-09-24 16:56 ]
In light of you bringing that up, Pointy, I have to wonder why anyone would want to publicize that they did something like this on the 'Net. It is only noteworthy because Joss Whedon was involved. I'm pretty sure he'd rather not remember incidents like that.
Well, it's something she learned from, so others can learn from it and avoid repeating her mistake. Plus, it's proof that what happens in elevators doesn't always stay in elevators. And although it's doubtless an unpleasant memory for him, if people know that in advance of finding themselves on an elevator with him, then there's less chance that he'll get a new unpleasant memory.

ETA And the lesson is generally applicable to a wide variety of situations in which fans outnumber stars: Don't use superior numbers to indulge in bad behavior.

[ edited by Pointy on 2011-09-24 16:51 ]
Joss is lucky in one way though. His admirers tend to think of him as "god" Think of how much worse it is for those celebrities who are considered sex objects!
I couldn't find it, just alink to soem unrelated stories.

CLosest I ever came was Pam Tillis's breasts. I had my arm on the counter, she leaned over to autograph my duaghetr's T-shirt, and hers met mine. I sure didn't intend it and I figure she didn't either. My ex-wife said "I wish you'd still get that excited about mine" and I replied "Hers are more expensive."
Or worse than that, think of the celebrities who are viewed by some to be worse than Hitler! :(
I thought that was a cute and clearly embarrassed story. I'm shocked that the phrase "sexual harassment" came up. This is the Internet, though, where everything is offensive and everyone that says something you don't like is Hitler. Is this really something worth getting angry about?
I thought it was funny and and well drawn. Poor Joss.
Gotta say...I sorta straddle the fence on how I feel about this story. On the one hand, it is about someone touching Joss without either his permission or a pressing need to (i.e. medical or emergency purposes) while he's in an enclosed space. So, not of the good really. I know I'm personally rather iffy about physical contact unless I give consent and I think most people are too.

On the other hand, I can sympathize with saying and doing something horrendously stupid and feeling like go se afterward and apologizing profusely. And just how many comedians have used their own trials and tribulations for their comedy material?

Plus I know personally that contact with celebrities can have odd outcomes. Hell, I once threated to sue the writer-director Kevin Smith...plagued with doubt for days before finally talking to a lawyer about the issue. And no...I didn't get run over or trash-talked by the man who brought the world Dogma. It was over a business transaction that was (it turns out) wrecked due to some bad plumbing. Ask me how!


[ edited by BlueEyedBrigadier on 2011-09-25 06:54 ]
I'm shocked that the phrase "sexual harassment" came up.

Put it this way. A man walks in a elevator. He has a large personal following online and in real life. He's had experience of how his, shall we say, less stable fans act towards him and his cast and crew. He's in a small environment with strangers poking and touching him and all of a sudden he feels nails being slowly dragged down his back. If it was me, I'd think there might be something sexual in that act. I'd think someone might be getting off from touching me.
Think of how much worse it is for those celebrities who are considered sex objects!

Wait - Joss isn't a sex object?
Gosh, the problems of being loved by fans....I'm sure it has happened to Joss before and he took appropriate measures to disfuses the situation at hand.

With that said, I believe Willowy is spot on about this girl's behavior and perhaps, should received some understanding. Afterall, how would you react? Put yourself in the same shoes.

And the cartoon? I thought it was great! The girl certainly has a good storyboard talent, don't you think?
Seems like the act of writing and publishing a cartoon about this is just another weird attempt to get his attention.
Or maybe it's just a made-up story....
Y'know, basically every comedy scene (on stage, on TV, or real) can be seen as creepy or tragic, if the person on the receiving end reacts badly.

In this case, I found the cartoon funny. The set up is good (overly excited plus out of control drunk plus post-incident embarassment). I suspect the actual incident was exaggerated for comedic effect (slow rake?), and if that was a typical dead-pan Whedon response ("ee-yah... I'll catch the next one") then I suspect there was recognition of post-party friskiness rather than malicious intent.
"post-party friskiness rather than malicious intent."

I'm goin' steal that term, OneTeV, sounds almost pausible to allow a quick get-away :)
But the person being groped doesn't know the intent. Nor should they have to give a crap about your intent, right? No one is entitled to someone else's body.

Celebrity doesn't make it different. I read the comic as an embarrassed admission of having done something stupid and thoughtless and feeling like a dick afterwards. Which is great! Everyone does something they're ashamed of from time to time, and I think that's what she's talking about and apologizing for, and some people reading it will remember that if they're in the same sitch before their hands wander. I hope.

Would the reaction of people be different if instead of Joss it was Sarah Michelle Gellar? Unfortunately, no. I mean some people would see it differently, but there'd be just as many people saying that she should just expect to be treated like an inanimate object as the price of fame. Which is untrue. No one should expect that people will just grab, grope, say obscene things, or poke them because of their job. Unless one is a prostitute. Then, you know, you're actually paying for that as a service.

This really bothers me. It's not just that this happens to Joss (or Nathan, or Boreanaz), it happens to random women walking down the street, or in elevators, or on the train on the way to work. People feel entitled to grab and grope. To the person getting the hands on them, it doesn't feel any different.

The intent of the grabber doesn't matter. The feelings of the grabbed does. Who's with me on that?
"The intent of the grabber doesn't matter. The feelings of the grabbed does. Who's with me on that?"

I am.
Allyson, agreed. (Mentioned that in the first paragraph of my earlier post.)
If the "Joss" of the comic said "Stop that!" or "Knock it off!", then it would bother me. (But the character in this strip did not react in that manner.)

The events were almost certainly exaggerated. I highly doubt a real crowd would let out an audible "awww" when the brushing ended. (But a crowd, written for comedic effect, would.) This isn't about saying that celebrities should be abused with impunity. This is about whether a fictional character in a sit-com situation (based on real people and events) should generate outrage.
Please don't have him hurt!
Allyson: The intent of the grabber doesn't matter. The feelings of the grabbed does. Who's with me on that?

Me. I don't care what's in the head of the grabber, the heart of the grabber, or their journal in which they confess their undying admiration and respect for the grabee.

You just don't grab or grope or croon at people you aren't intimate with, and from whom you've received no clear indication that they would welcome such attentions. You don't have to hear "stop" or "knock it off" in order to know that.

OneTev, I think in this case the line between "fictional character" and real live person is pretty damn blurry. Not that it matters, in a sense. Reaction to fictional characters, whether outraged or admiring, is basically what WHEDONesque is all about.

That said, the cartoon clearly had its humorous side - if humor is pain remembered in tranquility.
With you too, Allyson. I also extend that to words.
@ Allyson,

In an ideal world I'd like to be with you on that, and I think that in almost all cases it is much more important to look at the gropee's pov then it is to look to the groper's. The problem though, is that, in rare instances, the victim can be lying or seeing things from a really skewed point of view. It's not at all fair to the vast majority who do have something to be offended about, but at the same time, there are legitimate cases where someone accused of harassment or assault really is completely innocent.
To be clear, raking your hand down a stranger's back in an elevator, or otherwise putting your hands on another human who does not want your hands on them, is not cool.

If you add in the, "OMG but what if there's a burning ambulance filled with zombies carrying chicken pox about to crash through the elevator doors and I'm trying to push you out of the way and you sue me?" I'm going to not ever stop laughing.

Let us not go down this road. Just keep your hands to yourself. I promise, I can also see the zombie ambulance and will get my ownself out of the way.

Don't worry about rare instances. They're rare. Act like you are in ideal world, and in that ideal world, strangers don't want you to grope them.

[ edited by Allyson on 2011-09-26 05:24 ]
Arguably neither the feelings of the grabber or the grabbee matter, since it's basically impossible for anyone, let alone the grabber, to even know the feelings of the grabbee until afterward. And there should never be an afterward because it's basic common human decency TO NOT GRAB AT OTHER PEOPLE JUST BECAUSE YOU WANT TO.
Well, arguably, the reason that it's decent to not grope strangers is because their feelings matter.
I'm still trying to get a picture of this "ideal world".
@ Allyson,

"To be clear, raking your hand down a stranger's back in an elevator, or otherwise putting your hands on another human who does not want your hands on them, is not cool. "

I don;t see anything in my post whatsoever, in any way, shape, or form where I suggested that it was. Please refrain from assuming.

"If you add in the, "OMG but what if there's a burning ambulance filled with zombies carrying chicken pox about to crash through the elevator doors and I'm trying to push you out of the way and you sue me?" I'm going to not ever stop laughing."

No, and I don't at all appreciate your using such an absurd example to make light of my concerns.

"Let us not go down this road."

Why, exactly, not? Because it challenges your black and white view of the world?

"Just keep your hands to yourself."

I don't at all appreciate the implication here. Why don't you worry more about keeping your hands to yourself?

"I promise, I can also see the zombie ambulance and will get my ownself out of the way."

You are the only one who brought up such an example.

"Don't worry about rare instances. They're rare."

This is one of the most offensive ideas I've encountered in quite awhile. Rare instances matter to those who involved in them.

Let me give you an example. I was abused as a child (and yes I'm being 100% honest here). My father broke bones and I went days without medical attention. He placed a gun to my head quite a few times. He sometimes even played a game called Russian Roulette. If you aren't familiar with it, then you can look it up and see how much "fun" it can be.

Now, I can claim that you are attacking me because of the abuse I suffered, and then I can conclude all sorts of really bad things about you. Should my right to make those conclusions supersede all else, including the fact that you are, y'know, actually innocent of such charges?

Your argument says that it would be so rare that you are innocent that it shouldn't matter. Are you sure that you really want to say that the innocent should never matter?

"Act like you are in ideal world, and in that ideal world, strangers don't want you to grope them."

Again, totally not relevant to what I was saying.
@ Madhatter,

An ideal world is one where we actually try to care whether people have done something before condemning them for it. I hear it's something called presumption of innocence. If I claim that someone is a rapist, murderer, etc. then it should matter, at least a little, if they actually did it.
What is it that you are wondering IrrationaliTV?

Allyson seems to be arguing that any accusation of an offense is enough to condemn the accused and I'm trying to explain some of the problems in such thinking.
My WTF wasn't directed at any specific poster or thing, Risch22. Seems presumptuous for you to assume it was. The story itself and the myriad of responses in this thread were more than enough to elicit my response.

Since you ask though, yes, you seem to have jumped to an interpretation of others' comments that seem oddly defensive and guilt ridden. Very odd. Touching someone without their consent is never ever ever ok. Ever. Did I say ever? Ok.
It came right after my post IrrationaliTV, since you hadn't addressed it to anyone else, I assumed that it was directed my way. If you want to call me presumptuous that's fine.

But never once in my life have I been accused of touching anyone without their consent. My problem is having seen people that I knew were innocent take the blame because the truth and what really happened don't always matter (and not on this subject either). If you want to fight for simplicity and convenience over truth then that's your right. If you want to argue that whoever makes a serious claim first is automatically who we should believe (like Casey Anthony she said it so she couldn't be lying, right?). I look at that as wrong, so I'll argue against it for as long as I can.

You did say "ever". You said it more than once, as if you had to remind yourself of it or reinforce it in your mind. Do you struggle with remembering it? Is it something that you feel defensive or guilty about? If you need help, please ask for it.

[ edited by Risch22 on 2011-09-26 09:00 ]
Rich22 & IrrationaliTV, cool it.
"The intent of the grabber doesn't matter. The feelings of the grabbed does. Who's with me on that?"

Absolutely not, and this thread shows why. Some tried to make the poking on the shoulder, and rake of the back into "sexual" assault. Using this forum as a sample, it is reasonable to assume that there could be some victims who would also claim "sexual" assault from being tapped on the shoulder or touched on the back. And that kind of skewing of the definitions by the mind of the victim (away from "assault" and "battery" and into "sexual assault" despite the lack of any sexual contact) cannot be used as an impartial measurement of a crime.
Act like you are in ideal world, and in that ideal world, strangers don't want you to grope them.

Or as Angel might say, "We live as though the world were as it should be, to show it what it can be"
If this incident ever actually happened (which we don't know) then I'm guessing it loomed much larger in the memory of the writer/artist than it did in Joss' memory. I would be surprised if Joss even knows when (or if) this occurred. I'm kind of glad this overwrought discussion is happening here (where hopefully the writer/artist will never read it) instead of at her site.
I have mixed feelings about the comic and some things people are saying about it here and elsewhere, but being in a crowded, close space and having a sort of "omg famous person let's touch" groupthink take hold is downright unsettling.
I think one of the things Allyson was objecting to, Risch22, as did I when I read it, was that in your second post you mentioned people that lie about being improperly touched, which wasn't relevant to what she had posted.

Since she was talking about the feelings of people who perceived that they were improperly touched, someone who doesn't feel that but lies about it doesn't come into it. It was a distracting red herring.

My objection about people who say they "didn't mean anything bad by it" when they harass is always to the kind of folks who grab an ass and say it was "just in fun". And it isn't always a sexual thing - I have a girlfriend who's rather small, and she gets picked up and manhandled because she's little and cute - and when she protests, it's always just part of the fun for the manhandlers, or then they say she just can't take a joke.

(And by the way, she shouldn't have to protest - some people are too embarrassed or taken aback to protest at the time. Let's just take it as read that people shouldn't do stuff like that unless they are intimate enough to know whether or not those kind of attentions and touches will be welcome.)

Obviously, there's a grey area in the World O' Sexual Harassment. My Mr. QuoterGal was accused at college of sexually harassing a professor - and please believe me when I tell you that there is no one less likely to sexually harass anyone than he. Turns out that this professor had a habit of touching and hugging male students with whom she was friendly - and Mr. QG is a huggy guy, and he would hug her back - and although she had at one point suggested they go out (!!!) and he had turned her down, he couldn't find a polite way to stop returning her hugs. Later on, she accused him of sexual harassment.

Though there was an investigation, he was exonerated. Mr. QG found out later from another professor that it wasn't taken too seriously, as this was something like the fourth time she had accused a student under similar circumstances. He thinks she genuinely believed she was harassed, because her psyche needed to turn rejection into something it could (apparently) better handle - being amorously pursued by her students.

What I find shocking is that she was allowed to continue this behavior without official reprimand - but Mr. QG was too embarrassed to make an official complaint himself, and it seems likely that the other men were, too.

So yeah - it isn't always clear-cut. I'd say that at least one good rule of thumb would be: don't grab at strangers in elevators. That at least seems pretty black-and-white.
@ QuoterGal,

I appreciate the time that you've taken to formulate a considerate reply.

The thing is, that imho it absolutely was not a red herring. People lying, or confused, about such things should be a red herring. We should be concentrating on people like your girlfriend. I can name off tons of examples of clear cut harassment or people speaking/acting in a way that has the real potential to make others uncomfortable or offended. To avoid such things people need empathy, they need to be able to put themselves in another's shoes and imagine what it would be like to be afraid or having to hear uncomfortable or disturbing jokes or conversations.

But as you yourself so well articulate, there really is a small percentage out there who, maybe they're delusional, mentally ill, whatever, but they can take anything and twist into something else. But how do we separate them out from everyone that you are talking about if the only judging criteria is to always accept the word of the accuser 100%?

How do we know beforehand that there's not an agenda such as "I know that I owe you money but I'm never going to repay and if you push it I'll claim sexual assault" or it can just be strange, such as one person holding out their hand for a handshake and the other person claiming that it was sexual harassment.

Just last week I saw, on another site, where one person replied strongly to another. There were several reasons that the person being addressed could have replied to state how they were offended, but they claimed that they were attacked because they were female. Which really seemed odd to me as that post and all the previous ones made zero mention of gender or anything associated with it.

Should we really just accept examples like the above on the word of the "victim" alone? If I meet you, and before you've even finished saying hello, I cry sexual harassment, would you happily go to jail or pay a large fine? What if your Mr. QuoterGal was in a lengthy prison term because of the example that you gave?

It sounded like the conversation was meant to be about when people have been harassed, or at least when it's a grey area, as you say. That's how it should be, but it just isn't always that way in the real world as all the groups get mixed in together due to their same claim. If we assume that the person claiming to be the victim is always right, then we will condemn at least a few people who are the victims of scams or mentally unbalanced individuals. If you have some way to separate them from the rest, then I'll absolutely drop my objection, but I don't know of a real way to do that. And until we can, I can't stand the idea of innocent people being condemned for a crime that they in no way, shape or form committed.

And I agree that we shouldn't grab others in an elevator. We should imo avoid touching them at all unless it's clearly okay. We never know who might have a fear of crowds, agoraphobia, etc.
@ Sunfire,

I agree, sadly I don't think that it's anything new. Though I do think that it's very possibly getting worse. A celebrity plays a character or performs or writes or directs or whatever, and in return it gives us the right to buy/watch/consume their works. Maybe throw in a sentence or two if we have reason to meet them in an official capacity, i.e. "Thank you again for your business Mr. Whedon, and may I say that I particularly enjoyed Dr. Horrible".

But anything beyond that? We've never met them. They don't know us. They might like us, but they might also be indifferent or dislike us. If they're doing a celebrity appearance then great, but if not, why would they welcome being touched, talked to, etc. by a random stranger any more than anyone else would?
Risch22: But how do we separate them out from everyone that you are talking about if the only judging criteria is to always accept the word of the accuser 100%?

I don't think that's what Allyson meant, and it wasn't what I was agreeing to, either - that someone saying they were harassed, sexually or otherwise, is all that matters, or that because they said it, it must be true. Obviously, in my case, I don't believe it - but I don't think liars or the deluded are who Allyson was referring to, and that's why I said it was a red herring.

I believe she was saying - and she can correct me if I have it wrong - that it doesn't matter if the grabber or fondler or poker or crooner or sexy-joke-maker doesn't think (or accept) it's an unwanted intrusion - it must be taken seriously as an unwanted intrusion if the recipient says it is. That it's not enough if the perp says, I didn't mean it in a bad way. That's all.

Mr. QG's college took it seriously enough to investigate it - as they should have, and he would agree. He does agree.

Once they looked into it, and found out more about him, and the professor, and her track record, and her likely veracity on the topic, and called in class witnesses, and so on, he was exonerated - as he should have been.

I'd be the last person to say the system always works, but in this case it did. And I do think that it sucks that people lie about harassment, or are twisted or confused, but that doesn't mean that the claims of someone who feels harassed should be disregarded, either. It needs to be looked at, in context.

Since Allyson posted just after the remarks about "post-party friskiness" rather than "malicious intent", and apparently in response to them - that is the kind of remark that prompted her reply - that it really doesn't matter if someone says they were just being frisky or they were kidding or drunk or whatever - that it's the sense of intrusion on the part of the recipient that matters more.

No one, I believe, said that any and all accusers should have the last word on any such incident.

ETF: typo

[ edited by QuoterGal on 2011-09-27 04:27 ]
Insightful comments, QuoterGal, thank you for sharing.

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