Harlan-gate, and roads not taken

Okay. Here’s what I want to know about Harlan’s inappropriateness: Why didn’t any of us do anything in that moment? I’m asking sincerely, because I get furious with myself, after the fact, for actions I fail to take. When the groping happened, I was horrified; I leaned over and asked the person next to me if he thought it was staged; I was uncomfortable and shocked.

But I didn’t do a damn thing. I didn’t stand up and boo Harlan off the stage, or shout that it was inappropriate.

Peer pressure is enormous: we see it when someone gets a standing ovation, in when people stand up and when they sit down; either action is started by one person. If one of us had had the guts to stand up in that auditorium and say Harlan’s behavior was wrong–in that moment, as it should have been–I think many people would have followed suit.

And I get mad at myself because there have been too many situations in my life where I would swear, in the hypothetical, that I would react one way, and yet when the actual situation presents itself I’m so…shocked or surprised or hurt that I react in another way entirely. (I’ve been the object of plenty of inappropriate behavior, and I’m willing to bet that Connie would have sworn she’d react differently, too.) I don’t believe that we know what we’d do in a given situation until we’re actually in it, despite what we might say. A week ago, if someone had asked you what you would do if you were in a Hugo audience and Harlan grabbed Connie’s breast onstage while receiving an award, what would you have said your immediate response would be? Do you honestly believe it would have been “nothing” or “I would have leaned over and whispered about it” or “I’d have blogged about it when I got back to my computer”? If not, why didn’t we do what we think we should have?

Because that’s not what I envision myself doing, and it frustrates me.

44 thoughts on “Harlan-gate, and roads not taken”

  1. It’s an interesting topic to examine, just generally.

    I find that often I will think about a imminent situation, one that I am not “surprised” is about to happen, and rehearse the event in my mind. I don’t think it’s EVER gone anything like my imagination. Maybe that’s a sign that I’m a faulty writer?

    But the point is the element of surprise is just a part of things. Everything is a part of things… the temperature, the air quality, what you had for lunch.

    We are, by nature, social. And our social norms require us to behave in a particular way in certain situations. We don’t disrupt award ceremonies. That just isn’t done. And really, how could it have been disrupted? Just booing? Some sort of chant? Would it have made sense to the rest of the crowd that perhaps turned away at that moment or were out of the room when it happened?

    There’s a lot to this. The fact that you were stunned in the moment started it. That you weren’t sure if it was staged was a part of it. And the fact that the guy was being celebrated at that moment… to spin a standing ovation into a derisive shout-down? I don’t think I’ve ever heard of that happening. I guess it has… but it would be an extreme case. Even Roman Polanski gets applause for winning an Oscar.

    It’s not that we aren’t going to behave in the way we envision when we get into a situation, it’s that the situation we get into doesn’t match the vision we had.

    This is the other issue. We don’t “do,” we “choose.” So, we will choose based on the situation. I think that can’t be discounted.

  2. Yeah, but it’s “just not done” to grab someone’s breast during an awards ceremony either. When I think about what should have happened, I think we should have booed him down, yes, or shouted out that it was wrong. I doubt anyone in the room didn’t know what had happened within five seconds of the grope, even if they somehow missed it.

  3. Whoa. Wait. What now? I’ve been prepping for D*C for the past few weeks and I’m admittedly out of the loop, but are we talking about Harlan Ellison here?!

    If so, I find it ironic (in a sad and tragic kind of way), because it was he who I remember shouting so loudly at the injustice done to Kitty Genovese. He was the one who taught me that great Aristotle quote: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

    Geez, I hope I’m wrong about this.

  4. By all accounts it was bad, but I didn’t see it. I think – I hope – I would have booed him, but it’s impossible to know.

  5. Basically it amounts to sexual abuse or assault- it doesn’t matter about the circumstances or how ‘famous’ (notorious?) the perpetrator is- it’s wrong in any context. As I read on Janni’s journal, he seems to have been getting away with these things because of who he is and how he has acted/reacted in the past. So this is his ‘expected norm’ even though it’s outside of society’s expected standards. I believe being in the public eye doesn’t give you carte blanche to misbehave or be obnoxious. I hope one day he gets his just rewards for his revolting behaviour!!

  6. Frank: I’m glad I’m not the only one who thought of “The Whimper of Whipped Dogs” in response to Deanna’s question.

    Deanna: It’s called diffusion of responsibility. If it had been only you, Harlan, and Connie in that room, you would have said something. But in a large crowd of people, it’s hard to be the first one to speak up. There is a lot of cognitive programming in the way.

    I’m a safety pro, and it’s the sort of thing we have to build into our emergency plans. There are people in this building who I have assigned the task of saying to their coworkers, “Yes! You’re right! That’s the fire alarm! And now we’re all going outside! See you there!” That is an assigned task. They go to a training to learn that, their names are on a list. Because however much you think everyone knows what a fire alarm is, and what they’re supposed to do when it goes off, the fact is that everyone will stand there looking at each other, hoping that someone else goes first.

    When I’m in someone else’s building and the fire alarm goes off, I see everyone looking at each other for cues, then I realize I’m looking at all of them for cues, and then I realize that I’m a safety professional. And it’s MY job to proceed calmly to the exit. By the time I’m halfway there, everyone else is gathering their things to leave, too.

    It’s the way people are wired. It’s not a character flaw.

    That said, it’s being a hard-wired tendency doesn’t make it destiny. It can be overcome, but you almost have to decide in advance that you’re the one who’s going to be responsible for responding to certain things.

    Sounds to me like this blog post is that decision. You’ve just designated yourself as the booing-marshal when someone next tries to pull some public crap like that, no?

  7. It was shocking to see. A number of things went through my mind.

    “Did Harlan just grab Connie’s breast?” “Was that part of the act?” “Did they rehearse that?” “Is she mad?” “Is that anger on her face?”

    Connie handled it so smoothly that it all dissolved away as the ceremony moved on. The community outrage has risen afterwards.

    I don’t think anyone there could have done anything in the moment, except for Connie. Her cues told us it was just a part of their act, and that if it wasn’t, she was going to pretend it was. We’ve only learned afterwards how angry she was (and that secondhand.)

  8. I wasn’t there, so I don’t know. But I’d guess it’s a combination of what Sanguinity talks about above, and the fact that Ellison is elderly. There’s a pretty strong social pressure not to boo the elderly.

  9. Sanguinity has it just right. When something unexpected happens in a social setting, we look for cues as to how to interpret it. The most normal place to look in this case was Connie. How she reacted, or didn’t gave the cue.

    Had she slapped him down right then and there, I have little doubt but that everyone would have reacted differently.

    Since she didn’t, the ambiguity of the situation gave enough reasonable doubt that no one wanted to be seen to over react.

    Harlan Ellison is one of those for whom I have to separate my feelings: I like him as a writer, but he’s also someone with whom I wouldn’t want to spend minute one in a social situation.

    And I base this only on hearimg him speak and be a member of panels….

    And on anecdotes like this….

  10. Green Knight: If you’d asked me a week ago, I’d have thought I would boo him, too.

    Fee: This was my first experience with the guy. I haven’t ever read him, and I can guarantee you I now never will.

    Sanguinity: I hadn’t heard that term before. I still find the lack of action in the moment irritating, though.

    Paul and Frank: I’m sure Connie was more shocked than anyone, and the fact is that even if the act had been planned, it was still inappropriate and boo-worthy. No matter how we think we might react, we don’t know, and I don’t in any way blame her for not reacting in another manner immediately.

    E Myquest: I’m sure there were plenty of WisCon attendees in the audience, though.

  11. There’s been one suggestion I’ve heard (not where I can quote) that his natural… irrascability… may be being augmented by physiological conditions that decrease judgment. (E.g., Alzheimer’s.) If so… that might also change the “appropriate” reactions. Complex.

  12. Deanna, I must admit I’m more surprised by your never having read Harlan Ellison than by his repugnant and offensive public behavior. “When Auld’s Aquaintance Is Forgot” and “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman” figured prominently in my earliest readings of science fiction some 25 years ago, and I have consumed a steady diet of his works since. I couldn’t imagine avoiding him – almost every SF anthology I own has at least one of his stories, OMNI magazine had something by him every few months, and we’ve all probably seen “The City on the Edge of Forever.” Heck, I’m currently re-reading “Dangerous Visions”, which features commentary by him on every story. Nothing I’ve just read about this incident really seems out of character for him, based on what I have read by and about him. That is not to forgive or excuse his actions. Perhaps it is to suggest that if you had read his stuff, your response would have most likely been to turn to the person next to you and say “What a dick.”

    Having said that, I think he is still worth reading.

  13. Beth: I don’t think we would need to alter our response based on any probable Alzheimer’s.

    Harold: I will not contribute to people I can’t stand. I don’t watch their shows, and I don’t read their books. It’s possible I’ve read some short story of his in the past and don’t remember it, but I haven’t seen “City on the Edge of Forever.” (I’ve never been much for TV, and apparently I’ve never seen a book of his I was drawn to.) I can say right now, with certainty, that I would not buy an anthology that featured the man. I don’t really understand the notion that I would react differently had I read his work: inappropriate is inappropriate.

  14. Deanna

    I don’t in any way blame her for not reacting in another manner immediately

    I’m not blaming her either. Had she done what I suggested, things would have got ugly fast, methinks.

    Whether intentional or not, she subverted that result by being classy.

    That’s a plus in my book.

    OTOH, I wasn’t there so I don’t know anything.

  15. Wow, this is the first I have heard of it. Apparently having been entirely out of the loop for days. To add my two cents, like you, I would have wanted to do or say something, but would have been restrained by that whatever that keeps people in social tandem. And probably is the same thing responsible for the mob mentality. Why it’s difficult to react in the moment I think is that it is so shocking to our sensibilities that we try to talk ourselves out of its really happening, or talk ourselves out of it being as bad as we think it is. I think fundamentally we want people to be worthy of our admiration and support and will try to make it work somehow. By the time you’re done processing your reactions, the moment is gone.

    Like you, I really don’t like contributing to people who I find so repugnant. I had to deprive myself of a good read, but then again, there are a fair amount of good reads out there without having to read something by such a person.

  16. Frank: I feel bad that she may have felt she had to endure that to be “classy.”

    Diana: I agree. There are so many great reads out there, and no one has time for them all. I don’t see anything wrong with using your like or dislike of the author as one criterion in deciding which to choose.

  17. I was there, and the way Ms Willis handled it I thought it was part of the act… especially with the goofing off her and Mr Silverberg had been doing all evening. Especially with the duct tape and hammer she’d brought out many minutes before in the plastic bag behind the podium seemingly in preparation for his appearance on stage.

    This being my first ever SF convention, and first ever exposure to any of the players involved, I could only go by the way she reacted at the time, I don’t know if it was pure class on her behalf, organised beforehand, or total and utter shock. If it was partially scripted and they are old friends, perhaps it got out of hand in the heat of the moment, as these things can sometimes do.

    Various new(to me) authors that I discovered over the five days of worldcon have made me want to read their books just by the sheer delightfulness of their panel work and their general behaviour. Harlan Ellison was not one of those, even despite being recommended by my all-time favourite author Anne McCaffrey as a friend of hers during ‘An Hour With Anne McCaffrey.

    Even I as an Aussie, (generally speaking we tend to be less uptight about displays of public affection or groping between friends,) found his behaviour off-putting (especially at such a time and place) and in no way made me want to pick up one of his books. Which may be a shame since I could be missing out on some classic works of writing… but reading his words will just keep me hearing his voice in my head, something I have no wish to do. It kind of reminded me of that kiss between Britney and Madonna, or Janet and Justin’s boobscapade… blatant attention grabbing of the most juvenile sort. (and he’s getting it too.)

    It’s a shame that the man’s last public appearance at a worldcon was so marred, {shrugs} then again, this may be what he best wants to be remembered for. I sincerely hope it was scripted. I’d passed off Harlan’s performance as an irascible old man’s swansong to a life which was apparently renowned for its inappropriate behaviour, (by his peers if no one else due to the joke of the hammer and tape) and with his general bitterness at a long successful life nearing its close. My own grandmother has her moment’s of bitter morbidity.

    But, from what you’ve said here though, it appears it wasn’t scripted and that he stepped over the bounds of both familiarity and decency. Not part of the script? Then I applaud Connie for the aplomb with which she reacted, and then continued on with the show. Why let one man’s ego and inappropriateness ruin the evening for the other winners and guests?

    To be honest I had completely forgotten the incident due to my thorough enjoyment of the rest of the awards ceremony. Kudos to Connie for being such a classy woman and carrying off such a wonderful and truly enjoyable Hugo Awards. I wanna be like her ‘when I grow up’!

  18. Kada: I have no idea whether it was scripted or not. My guess, from the expression on Connie’s face, was that she did not expect him to grab her breast, but I don’t know. It’s a pity that anyone might possibly have thought that she would have ruined the evening had she objected; that’s a sad comment on our society.

    I agree with you about author behavior affecting reading choices; I’ve picked up quite a few books simply because I was impressed with the author.

  19. Isn’t it quite often the retaliator that gets blamed? What he did was beneath disgusting, but if she’d retaliated in any other way it no doubt would have ended up reflecting badly on her with people clamouring for her to apologise to him. It’s a sad fact that there are people out there like that. As there are already people who are excusing his behaviour, and no doubt will continue to in perpetuity.

    I honestly believe she handled it the best way possible. She’s a consummate professional there for the hugo awards and was coolheaded enough and smart enough to act appropriately, for that particular time and place, even if he was not. Kneeing someone in the nuts, or breaking their finger, or punching them in the face, even a verbal put down is fine in other situtations, but there on stage the BEST reaction she could have had was the one she did. Ignored him completely as beneath her notice. How she chooses to react after the ceremony is a whole other kettle of fish. From what I saw of the man he would have LOVED for her to react in some way and allow more attention on him. Perhaps even give him more ammunition for the bile he was already spewing at the audience.

  20. Kada, I’ve said elsewhere in the thread that I am in no way saying how she should or should not have behaved. I’ve been in situations where a man was being inappropriate with me and I laughed it off, despite that I would never have thought I’d do that beforehand; you don’t know what you’ll do till it happens. I personally would in no way have blamed her for sticking up for herself, though, and I don’t think anyone else should, either; I don’t in any way believe that doing so would have been “inappropriate.”

  21. I’ve read quite a bit of Harlan’s works over the years, including pretty much all of his non-fiction collections of rants starting with “The Glass Teat” and moving on from there.

    It’s very clear that Harlan has always striven to shock people. He thrives on shock, it is his lifeblood. And a core part of his “shockiness” is relatively highbrow disgust at people who are lesser than him (and, really, everyone is less than him in his own evaluation) — people who don’t open their eyes, who can’t follow a basic argument, who just don’t “get it”.

    Poot guy. It’s like, as he has aged, he’s lost that ability for the “high-brow” shock. He’s had to resort to low class puns and pranks. And groping an unwilling woman in order to say “ooh, look how shocking and relevant I am” is truly sad, because it shows that he’s not, truly not. He’s sunk to the bottom and become a prime example of what he used to rail against. He’s just scrabbling to hold on the ghost of a past that’s long dead and passed on to another plane.


  22. (I too have been inappropriately man(and woman)handled and having reacted both wyas at different times, I still can’t say which is the better, it really does depend on the situation and the people involved at the time.)

    Perhaps appropriate was the incorrect word to use.

    I wasn’t meaning to say that if she had reacted in any of those ways that it would be have been inappropriate.
    I was trying to say that it would have given others leave to attack her response and by not reacting she’s defused any negativity that may well have been construed from any more overt reaction than what she actually displayed. (Does that make any better sense, or am I just digging deeper and should shut up now?)

    But then I guess some will say she ‘condoned’ his behaviour by not reacting immediately. Just like we all ‘condoned’ it by not reacting ‘in case’ it was just part of the show? Damned if she did, and damned if she don’t.

    The whole situation is just yechy.

  23. Shocked and in disbelief, I came via the livejournal of Di Pharoah Francis to find out more about the discussion on Connie Willis, and stayed for the blog.

    I’ve learned a fair bit this evening from reading back through some of the blog entries. Am too tired to read any more now, but will definitely be back.
    Thanks, Deanna, for such an informative and easy-to-understand series of articles.

  24. Deanna, I’ve had the same problem you had–being too shocked in the moment to do what I absolutely would have thought I’d do. I’m guessing it was the same for Connie. You’re so unprepared for people to grope you or grab you–especially at an event like that, amid polite society–and then a second later it’s over, and your brain is still asking, “Wait a minute–did that just happen?” By then the moment is gone, and you’re just plowing ahead, waiting for the time when you can stop and process what just went on.

    I love Sanguinity’s analysis of our group-think in stress situations. I can’t believe what a great solution that is to designate someone to be the person who says, “Yes, that was the fire alarm.” I think mentally rehearsing an emergency gives the brain some advance notice that it will be okay to flee, to believe something is going wrong, to say, “Hey, you perv, what are you doing??” if the need arises.

    So now we know that award shows are not immune from this kind of behavior. Fine. File that away. You can be a presenter or an audience member when it happens. Pick out your phrase now–“Stop it!” or “What are you doing?” or “Creep!” or whatever–and mumble it under your breath a few times. Then go about your business knowing you’re once again wiser for your experiences, no matter how bizarre they are.

  25. Mentalwasteland: He has since apologized. I don’t understand why he only saw the need to apologize after he realized people were upset. Taking a look through the board where the apology is located is just disturbing, as many of his fans are defending the action, and one woman is even saying she would have laughed her ass off if an old friend had done that to her. :-P (Not all his fans are defending the action, though, which is heartening.)

    Kada: I’m glad you enjoy the blog and hope to see you back.

    Robin: Sanguinity’s analysis was great. I guess we just have to get to a point as a society where we do tell ourselves we won’t tolerate that behavior when we see it, and that we’ll be the first to speak out if need be.

  26. Everyone, please check out the comments in Greg Frost’s link I posted above. I’m speechless at Ellison’s latest reply. (And yes, you can verify it on his forum if you’d like, but I won’t link there.)

  27. You’re speechless because you’re a bubble-brained fool who cant differentiate a “playful touch”(albeit inappropiate) between supposed friends and a sexually motivated grope! HE apologized, case closed.

  28. Joe is a perfect example of the dittoheads Ellison has collected around himself over the years, the sort of fanboys who’ve encouraged this sort of behavior by honoring him for “telling it like it is” and “not holding back.” So now we’re in a position where Ellison can post that Connie Willis has been asking to be groped ever since she roasted him at the Nebula Awards, and that it’s Connie’s fault he’s felt bad all week because she won’t accept his I’m-sorry-but-only-if-you-feel-bad excuses. And let’s not forget the I-have-a-get-out-of-jail-free-card-on-sexual-harassment-because-I-supported-the-ERA gambit.

    It’s become pretty clear to me recently that a significant chunk of the Ellison fan base is just a slightly more intellectualized version of the old Andrew Dice Clay fan base: an adolescent admiration for people who “tell it like it is” with all sorts of fancy obscenities and rude gestures, fueled by a wish that they had the nerve to express themselves that way.

  29. If you really believe that, then you didn’t click the link, because he’s effectively taken back his initial apology. (And if Ms. Hoak is bubble-brained, I’d really hate to meet any intelligent women–talk about intimidation!)

  30. “Bubble-brained”? My, “Joe.” Your misogynistic streak is showing before you even attempt an argument, since that term would never be applied to even the stupidest man.

    Because I was one of the lucky few who attended the pre-Hugo function, I was in the reserved seating right up front and had quite a good view. What I saw was most definitely not a “playful touch”–it was a hand-spread grab and squeeze. (Edit: Yes, I’ve seen the video, and I’ve seen people saying it doesn’t look “that bad.” That’s not what it looked like from the angle I was watching, and that anyone could think it was okay regardless just stuns me.)

  31. hi i was in the front, too and had a good view of it. and it was my first con, too, aussie. :-)

    anyway, thanks for all these great relevant comments, everyone. imho it’s good to discuss in first person terms and keep thinking about our own responsibilities as an dience, a community, and as individuals. these discussions will help us all grow and determine how to be the best we can be in not-best situations. thanks to this blog owner and others for giving us all this opty. which otherwise would not be feasible.

    i remember that i followed connie’s “it’s ok” cue, as i took it, and kept still. we were sitting down at the time, not in the middle of an ovation. i didn’t know if it was staged or not.

    afterwards when people clapped for him, i didn’t clap cuz simply i couldn’t support the image that i had just seen. then when people gave a standing ovation later, i couldn’t do that either. i kept my head down so people would not tihnk i was trying to get attention myself, and just waited for the whole thing to be over.

    i’m glad i did what i did. i think i would do the same thing again.

    again, thanks everyone for helping me to figure that out. yikes it’s not always easy.

    bless you

  32. Okay. I ask the following by way of hoping to find clarity in the thousands of words I’ve read on this subject so far: different people seem to have been at the same thing, but seen different things, or had different interpretations of what took place.

    One comment, on nightshade books forum,seems to me the most telling, by Ellen Datlow. Apparently she also posted the following on Ellison’s website:

    “I was offline for a day or two after the con and then when I got back I discovered this whole brouhaha over Harlan’s baby schtick -and that’s what it was. A schtick of Harlan acting like a baby. Thus, he went up to the mike when Connie called him up–he put the mike (a round one) into his mouth, swallowing it like a lollipop, Connie took it gently out of his mouth and wiped it off. He gurgled –like a baby– and then grabbed her breast like a baby and she smacked his hand off. A few seconds later she kissed him….Cmon people. Please put this into perspective. It was NOT sexual assault. It was a joke/schtick gone a bit over the top. I was not offended as a woman watching this. I thought it was silly (but yes, I admit I personally thoughth the schtick funny). I also know that Connie and Harlan have a history of ribbing each other. I’ve seen it in the past. So please keep the incident in context and calm down.”

    I don’t have an opinion on any of this yet, because I wasn’t there, I haven’t seen any video (or rather haven’t found it) of the event. But given you were there, how does Datlow’s comment compare with what you yourself witnessed?

  33. Well, first, Gary, that account isn’t accurate, as you can see by the video. (I’ll e-mail you the link, but I’m not going to post it here.) She did not smack his hand off; she ducked down behind the podium. (It looked to me like she was trying to hide.) Even when she ducked down, he did not let go immediately.

    Second, if Harlan was doing a “baby shtick,” I didn’t get it. I didn’t get that at all. I was utterly confused by him putting the microphone in his mouth, and horrified when he grabbed Connie’s breast. If he wanted to get across “baby.” he could have done it far more clearly through something else. He could have sucked his thumb, for instance. Because, you know what? I have two kids–both of whom were breastfed as babies, even–and they didn’t grab my breasts like that.

    Ellen wasn’t offended as a woman; I was. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m pretty easygoing about touch–I regularly hug people, and I don’t think anything about putting my arm around someone for a photo. But there is no way in HELL that I would ever consider anyone touching my breast in any way at an awards ceremony in front of hundreds of people as a “playful touch.” It would not be appropriate for my husband of more than a decade to do that.

  34. I was in the front row, and I can give a better explanation than “diffusion of responsibility” or cowardice or social pressure to not boo the elderly, and we don’t need an “analysis of our group-think in stress situations.”

    I didn’t see it. I was looking right at them at the time and I did not see it.

    Why? it was a subtle action.

    I know now that he did it, but I had to watch the Google Video clip seven times before I realized that the actions I saw were a breast pat/grab and not just a very short man trying to put his hand on the shoulder of a very tall woman.

    Someone else from the front row e-mailed me to ask if I had seen it happen, because that person had not seen it either. Neither had the two lesbian feminists who were sitting beside me. And trust me, if they had seen it, they would have walked out of the arena.

    Now I know someone’s going to say that this is simply society brainwashing making me not see something that was plainly in front of me. However, I will counter that argument right now by saying that I’ve seen lascivious breast-grabs and I’ve seen brutal breast-grabs and I’ve seen fondling and molesting and, frankly, that action was not adequately described by those words. So I worry that this may have been–and don’t take this the wrong way–blown out of proportion on some websites.

    Now, I’m not saying that what he did was right. But some some people here are trying to paint the spectators in a light that I don’t find becoming and that I don’t find fair or warranted. We were not complicit in some great crime. Most of us were innocent and some made a choice.

    Finally, here are my thoughts on Harlan Ellison’s act: His actions, then and throughout the evening, were not appropriate. He apologized. I have lost some respect for the man. If Ms. Willis would like to press charges, I and 99% of fandom will be there to support her. We will submit our photographs and video to the police or prosecutors. And we will stand by her in a way no other group would when a woman says “stop.”

    I also hope, as a woman, that Ms. Willis knows that we will be there for her, and that we do not think one iota less of her for what was done.

    It’s sad to have to say that, but in today’s society you can’t always be sure the support will be there.

  35. Deanna,

    This is way old news by now, but I just ran across it. I was there, and I was bothered…but reacting at the time wouldn’t have been appropriate, IMHO, for two reasons, which have been more or less covered here.

    1) It’s not my breast. Connie is a grownup and it’s her call as to how to react. For us to do so preemptively on her behalf would be presumptuous.

    2) We weren’t there. We were in the audience, not on the stage, and our distance from the event, being some feet away and on the other side of the “fourth wall,” which is to say, they were the players and we the audience. It’s not out place to disrupt the production, other than to get up and leave.

    I’ve no doubt that Connie knows she wasn’t alone in the auditorium, and that a thousand or so of her closest friends stood ready to answer her call for assistance…which we did, when she chose to let it pass and go on with the show. She made her choice and we backed her up. That was her right, and I’d not take it from her.

    Ernest Lilley
    Sr. Editor, SFRevu

  36. Ernest, I do not in any way believe that we “answered her call for assistance” by doing nothing.

    We’re perfectly allowed to be offended at something inappropriate even if the person being offended doesn’t outwardly express it. We would not in any way have “taken” her choice from her by expressing our offense.

  37. I’ve been reading over the many comments about Harlan Ellison’s unfortunate conduct towards Connie Willis, and I thought this would be as good a place as any to throw in my 2 1/2 cents. First, I’m saddned that Harlan’s behavior should cause so many people to denigrate his entire body of work, to mock him because he hasn’t written any masterpieces lately and had the bad taste to get old. All of that is irrelevant to his recent behavior and simply allows mediocrities the chance to put down someone who actually accomplished something. Second, Deanna’s observation about why nobody did anything at the time of the incident reminds me of how stunned and confused I was, lo those many years ago, when I was groped by an old Arab guy at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem; I was so shocked that I pretended it hadn’t happened! Which just led him to make a second grope and then invite me to his place for lunch. At that point I was out of there, but I remember the feeling of being so startled and humiliated that I was afraid to show my honest reaction — even worried that I might upset the guy. I’m sure this situation is not uncommon, to both the victim and even observers of the victimization. Imagine how many creeps get away with harrassment due to precisely such fears. Having said that, I have to admit I still Harlan, but I wouldn’t want him to grope me, either.

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