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My turn in the can 'o worms...

Okay, are we all tired of hearing about the Open Source Boob Project yet? Yes? Thought so.

For those who have blissfully avoided this discussion lately, the OSBP was a thingy that somebody dreamed up, presumably in a post-Heinleinian daze, about how it would be lovely if women at conventions would let you touch their breasts. And they were discussing this and some chick in the group said "Okay, feel free," and it was lovely and there were boobs and boobs are good things, as everybody knows, and somebody dreamed up an opt-in option whereby women who were cool with you asking if you could touch their boobs would wear little buttons at conventions, and there would be free range boobage for all (or at least those who had bathed recently) and life would be glorious. (There are links to this all over LJ--somebody might be so kind as to post a link to the original in the comments, I'm not gonna go digging.)

This idea got shot down about as quickly as you'd expect it would, for all the reasons of sanity, i.e. "Do you know how friggin' creepy that would be in practice?!" and "We have minors at conventions and do you REALLY want to spend the rest of your life on a sex offender's list when the captain of the local vice squad strolls in and sees you groping his fifteen-year-old daughter?" but it also opened the large and ugly can of worms that can only be handled with words like "privilege" and "consent" and "harassment", as if the words are very long tongs that we are handling some very toxic stuff with.

Now, I am not skilled with this kind of language. I can make words into a story or a joke or an aesthetically pleasing phrase--I am very poor at making words into a biohazard suit. You have to build that sort of thing very cautiously. You have to lay down each word to carefully exclude what you DON'T mean instead of singing paeans to what you DO mean, so that nobody gets offended, or more importantly, so that when they DO get offended, they're actually getting offended at what you meant, instead of at the thing that they instinctively get offended about, which wasn't what you meant at all, but you didn't build the biohazard suit carefully enough to exclude it.

I'm bad at that shit. I got through my feminist post-modernist perspectives in anthropology class by the skin of my teeth and the grace of a prof who gave me a C because I kinda needed the class and I can't imagine she wanted to see my frustrated bafflement at 8 in the morning for two semesters running. I like words too much. I can't DO that sort of thing to them. It's cruel. (It's the opposite trouble with clay. Clay, to my mind and my fingers, wants to be utilitarian. I cannot make abstract sculptures out of it, no matter how much the prof wants them. Clay  is alive, and it wishes to be useful.)

Maybe it's the difference between being an artist and an architect--artists just sling the stuff around and then hang it on the wall when it looks about right. Architectural words have to be meticulous and load-bearing and convey the meaning with precision and clarity and not fall down when you poke the clauses with a stick. Artist words just have to ding something in the subbasement of the soul, and the reader will generally cut you some slack while they fill in the rest of the space.

...man, I totally got off on a tangent there, didn't I? Never mind. Ignore the last few paragraphs. (See, I told you I was bad at that shit.) Back to boobs. Just keep in mind what I said about me and words. I cannot build a biohazard suit, and I am not good at joining these kinds of intense conversations. I'm glad somebody's having them--christ, am I glad!--but I just gotta muddle through by the skin of my teeth. My apologies in advance if I say something stupid and put my foot in it (or in arrears, if I've done it already, for that matter.)

I think the project was a laughably bad idea. Probably well-intentioned, in a doofy "I just read Stranger in a Strange Land, and boy, it would be cool if we didn't have all these hang-ups," kinda way (and hey, we were ALL that age once) but obviously you just can't do that kinda crap because when it goes wrong, it will go Very Very VERY Wrong, with the explosions and the screaming and the PTSD. Our social conventions may be weird, complicated, ridiculous things, and god knows, I dispense with a lot of them, but plenty of them are in place for a reason, and the simple fact is that if you come up to a majority of women and ask if you can touch their boobs, they will get A) pissed, B) terrified, or C) all of the above, and the number who will instead opt for D) flattered and amused will be a definite minority.

But I'll say that the intentions were probably pure, in the sense that I've known a fair number of men in my time, and "I like boobs!" really is a pure emotion in many straight members of the species, entirely devoid of extraneous thought or emotional baggage, in much the same was that some women like chocolate or shoes, and I personally like socks and Balinese demon masks. Love of boobs may be hardwired. (Okay, I'm SURE it's probably hardwired.) In most cases, I don't think it's got a damn thing to do with the objectification of women or anything else--I think they just plain like boobs. Sometimes the human psyche is just that straightforward.

Me, I like men. But I can't see an Open Source Cock Project getting off the ground worth a damn. And before guys leap to the "Hey, that'd be AWESOME!" conclusion, I want you to think about how you'd feel if the average chick at a con--not the supermodel, honey, but the one with acne and a few extra pounds and the great personality--came up and started pawing your junk. In public. Maybe this is a straight male fantasy, but even with a woman that might be considered attractive, in actual REALITY, as opposed to the porno flick playing 24-7 behind the eyes,* a lot of the guys I know would be backing away going "WHOA! Ah--uh--heh--really not interested--thanks--" and making a dash for the men's restroom and the whole situation would be awkward beyond measure.

Now think about the LEAST attractive women at a con.

Now compare the low end of female attractiveness at a con with the low end of male attractiveness at a con, 'cos trust me, you've generally got us beat hands down on that one. If you can honestly say that you would take part in a project that might involve one of the unwashed guys in a stinking undersized Sailor Moon costume asking to feel your naughty bits, then you, sir, are a better man than I and I will make no bones about the fact. You get a free pass on the rest of the conversation, go get a cookie and feel free to sit the rest out. (This all assumes you're a straight male--think how it would be for gay men. If empathy fails, please picture unwashed Sailor Moon guy again. There we go.)

And if all that hasn't dissuaded you, please ALSO consider the fact that we're going to talk to each other about the size of the junk thus pawed, and compare notes, and the phrase "Damn, he was hot, pity he's hung like a church mouse," will likely come up. (Yes. If you didn't realize that women do discuss these things amongst themselves, I'm sorry to have to be the one to enlighten you. There, there. Size really doesn't matter after a certain point, honest, but if all we're doing is the grope test, you don't exactly have the chance to prove what a tender/sensitive/manually dexterous/no, really, dude can fuck like a rutting wildebeest lover you are, now do you?)

...and once again I got off topic. Well, I warned you.

Okay, back to boobs, and the open source boob thing. I can't say how anybody should feel about this. I can't say how the execution should or could be handled well, or if it's inherently flawed down to the bone, or if there is a subrace of enlightened souls--possibly the same folks who can handle polyamory gracefully without it turning into a raging monkey clusterfuck--who could pull it off so that everybody was happy and there were boobs for all.

I can tell you that I have a really nice rack, and there are exactly two men who get to touch it, and one of them is my gynecologist, and that there is no future, however enlightened, where that is likely to change.**

And I can also tell you that if I were at a con, and some guy came up to me, and said "Can I please touch your boobs?" I would stare at him for a second and then I would break into hysterical soul-crushing laughter and say "What? Can you what? NO! Of course not!" and depending on how well-lubricated I was at that point, might or might not follow it up with further braying laughter and "What the hell are you thinking?" and furthermore, I'd spend the rest of that con telling everybody and their brother about this nasty little troglydyte with no grasp of the social graces. Shit, I'd be trotting THAT story out for years, along with the one about the guy with the alien implant in his head, whenever the booze started flowing.

This would definitely not be very nice of me, but...well...I know myself, and that's what I'd do. I'd be so completely dumbfounded that anybody would have the complete social gracelessness to say such a thing that hysterical amusement would be my only refuge.

I'd have to admit that I was creeped out and freaked out and maybe even felt rather degraded by the notion, (Do I? I don't know. It's squishy and scary and maybe the assumption that I SHOULD feel flattered is part of what's degrading. Shit, I don't know, and I don't want to play anymore.) and nobody likes admitting they're scared, and we're somewhat past the era when I could say "What!? What kind of trollop do you think I am!? My seconds shall call upon you at dawn, sir!"*** and smooth the whole thing over with bullets.

Hence the laughing. Because--well--I HAVE to turn something like that, at least in my head, into "harmless little worm with no social intelligence" because otherwise it turns into "fuck, I'm in a situation where strange men think they can touch me," and that sets off all the alarm bells. There's a particular set of hairs on the back of my neck, and when they stand up, I  know to bloody well listen, and I can guarantee that the minute that actually happened to me in real life (or whatever value of real life a convention is) those hairs would start doing a samba.

As a commenter on this whole fiasco said, very succinctly and with rather cruel accuracy, "Men are afraid women will laugh at them. Women are afraid men will kill them."

And the only thing I see coming of something like the open source boob project is that men WILL get laughed at, and women WILL get scared, and at the end of the day, the situation's just much more unpleasant for everybody.

(See, this is why I like furry cons. Never. Comes. Up.)

ETA: I should just mention, for the irony of it all, that I made this post topless, not because of any erotic reason but because my bloody sunburn hurts. *snort*

*I will not say all men have this, but I am told a great many of them do. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. We are as we are made, and you're talking to a woman who once had an orgasm at a stop-light while thinking about...well, we won't get into what I was thinking about, but anyway, I will not be casting stones from THIS side, trust me.

**We'll make exception for the fitters of various bodice-like clothing, who get the same professional free pass as the OB/GYN.

***Okay, definitely gotta stop with those Regency romances...


This is the best explanation I've yet seen about why the whole doomed idea was never, ever, going to fly. Thank you.

Oh yes. Can you just imagine the reaction from a certain quarter were anyone to walk up to me and ask that? Now imagine the reaction were someone to say that to K.

This is, actually, only the second time the concept has crossed my radar - and the first time it's been explained enough to make any sense whatsoever, insofar as this could ever make sense.

On a tangent... my walking stick has a name now - it is "Cluebat". I think it needs a nail in it.

Well said. Very well said, and all your worrying about assembling the right words together should be laid aside, because really, this is the best post I've read on the subject, and you really covered a lot of what I was just muddily thinking. Thank you.

"Men are afraid women will laugh at them. Women are afraid men will kill them."

That one's from an absolutely excellent book called The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker.

I think everyone should be required to read that book. I have bought copies to give to friends because I think the message is so important. Basically, listen to your damn instincts 'cause they're there for a reason. I love that book.


That's plain enough.

This is one of the better commentaries I've read on the subject.

I guess some people don't really get (and I'm willing to believe that the overriding emotion of "I like breasts!" can cloud the judgment on this one) that most of our social restrictions exist so that we can all go out in public without feeling the need to carry weapons. I saw a lot of that "you're just a dumb unenlightened Puritan prude!" in that debate, and certainly we've all got some baggage related to propriety and moral standards and whatnot, but it's also just a good idea not to encourage behavior that requires people to suspect one another of intent to grope.

And yes, all of this would work much better if we were characters in Heinlein novels, since then we'd all be well-endowed and perpetually randy, and free-range pawing would probably replace the handshake as a matter of course.

Well noted about the social rules existing so we "can all go out in public without feeling the need to carry weapons". Seriously, I would start carring a mace. Not the eye-spray, the crazy-spiked kind. On a chain. With bats all over it.

I think you're better at crafting those biohazard suits than you realize.

I agree that there probably wasn't any evil intentions behind all of this. I'm just dismayed by the inability to think of the many, many possible consequences.

I think perhaps it's more that she's got an audience that's rather attuned to her wavelenght, although I would be hard put to say what, in that post, could be misunderstood.

I... I'd never heard about this. I can't imagine what kind of people would even consider doing this in real life. Do you really NEED to explain why it's a bad idea ? Call me naive, but I thought it was obvious.

There is a certain amount of non-reality that goes on at conventions. It's one of the few environments where people feel that they can dress up/act out/etc that is much different than they would in "regular life".

With this feeling of increased freedom, people are forever pushing the boundaries. Mostly it's benign, sometimes it's pretty darn good. Occasionally it just .. wrong.

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"Men are afraid women will laugh at them. Women are afraid men will kill them."


It's incredibly happy (well, happy isn't the word, probably, but good?) to see this mess talked about in a non-screaming, non-"men are all pigs" manner. I'm a woman, and the whole thing has left a bad taste in my mouth, but that's only partly due to the idiocy of the project, and partly due to the idiocy of some of the responders.

By the way, the original post is here: http://theferrett.livejournal.com/1087686.html

Where, interestingly enough, the author has essentially done a 180 and now condemns the idea, essentially for the same reasons Ursula expressed.

You nailed it, if rambling as you did can be said to nail anything. Being asked would make me feel unsafe. Period. Knowing there were people around who were asking would potentially make me feel unsafe.

And, newsflash to anyone who thought it was a good idea: people who feel unsafe? They don't come back to the con the following year, or any other year. If the con is an unsafe place to be - whether that lack of safety is a physical reality or a mental/emotional one makes no difference at all - then eventually it will fold.

Being asked would make me feel unsafe. Period. Knowing there were people around who were asking would potentially make me feel unsafe.

Agreed. At which point... do you report the individuals for harassment to the convention? If you're asked multiple times by multiple individuals, do you report each of them? How should the con deal with it? It is suppression of free speech to ban it? Is it condoning sexual harassment to do otherwise?

Hear hear!

As a fellow female considering getting back into the convention scene I'm finding this OSBP brouhaha rather disturbing. I'm not sure really how wide spread this is...I've not muddled through the 'original' post about it...but my main fear is that, should I go to a con and be confronted in this way, there's going to be some poor twit pinned down in a nikkyo, possibly suffering a sprained or broken wrist, because he thought it was OK to make a grab at me. And, in reality, people are going to frown much more upon me busting up some schmuck rather than any claim I make that it was my auto-self defense system kicking in.

We'd probably be sitting side by side in a jail cell. I'm the type who kicks like a mule when scared.

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that a woman who refused to allow strange men to fondle her breasts would be asked upwards of fifteen times until she consented and that women who take that many requests to consent should be 'taken into an alleyway and beaten'.

... where did THAT come up? I missed that part.

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I think another good reason that this got shot down is that con organizers (at least successful ones) always have to consider the "worst case scenario".

This whole OSBP idea, while intended to be fun and might be possibly workable among a small group of already-vetted friends; the reality is that there are so many ways it can and in many ways will go horribly horribly horribly wrong it just had to be shut down as soon as it came up.

Fair doesn't even enter into it, it's just not going to work.

Indeed; one accusation over being raped and the liability lawsuit can kill a convention faster then just about anything I can think of.

The conventions that I've been involved with either didn't make money, or used what money they made as seed money for the next year's run.

I think the main mistake in the OSBP was writing a novella-length post about it. Boobs are good, and I do like having mine fondled - in certain situations, like, say, a small circle of people who have a boob-groping thing going at a con. But not in the normal world. Not even from random-con-goer.

And as someone who has been on both sides of the gender fence, I can agree quite definitely with the "laugh/kill" thing. I am a lot more afraid of random men than I was before I started presenting a female face to the world.

Now THAT's interesting. I should have know you'd...err...know both sides of the fence as it were, but I find it interesting that the fear kicks in...well, I'll assume automatically...when one is lookin' like a chick.

Here from friend's friends. Applause indeed.