Con Harassment: Survey Results

Sarah Darkmagic - Posted on 22 October 2013

Back in August, I asked people to complete a non-scientific survey on their experiences with harassment at conventions and conferences. Since I go to both gaming conventions and tech conferences and personally feel there are a lot of overlaps with the issues, I didn't restrict this to one community or the other. I also knew that given my history and the people likely to hear of it, there was a good chance of there being a polarizing response. But I thought it still might be useful nonetheless.

By the time I pulled the answers on August 8th, I had 319 people respond to the 10 questions. I put seven of those questions into an infographic. All of the questions along with the responses can be found in this spreadsheet.

I had expected this to be at least slightly polarizing however I actually didn't get more than a few responses that seemed more intent at attacking me than discussing the issue. I also think the data shows some interesting information for the group who responded. For the respondents, anti-harassment policies were important or very important (228 out of 319 responded this way) and since 229 of the respondents identify "male/man" as their primary gender, this isn't just a gender issue. Of the respondents, 64 out of 210 experienced something that made them wish there was an anti-harassment policy in place. That's 20% of the respondents. Fifteen percent felt something happened to them personally, either harassment or assault. Finally, fewer than half of the people responded that they have never witnessed or been the target of unacceptable behavior to the question about reporting unacceptable behavior to con staff. Of those who did report, 72 percent found the response from the convention acceptable at least some of the time, although 56% also reported it was unacceptable at times and 18 percent didn't have the data to respond one way or another.

Now clearly this isn't a scientific study. I didn't do a random sample of all con goers, I advertised this using my social networks which means that it's likely to be polarized. Many of the people who read what I write care about this issue in an affirmative manner, they would like to see more anti-harassment policies at conventions, and a few will be very against them. This mixing of groups is evident in the freeform responses to the question, "Do you have any questions about anti-harassment policies at cons?" Here are some of the responses:

  • Is there any evidence, other than ancecdotal, of draconian anti-harassment policies actually ever existing?
  • Has there ever been a problem with having one that not having one would have prevented/stopped?
  • Only "Why would any con choose to not have an anti-harassment policy?"
  • Why don't all cons have anti-harassment policies?
  • I find objections to anti-harassment policies on "free speech" grounds to be dishonest and loathesome. This is not a question, but I wanted to say it anyway.
  • I want to know why cons are hesitant to implement them
  • Are they really required?
  • Shouldn't you start suing these conventions until they shut down?
  • Why won't organizers protect fans? I can't think of a good reason
  • How do you ensure the accused is treated fairly? They're expecting to enjoy their time at the Con too
  • Jesus, stop trying to make a story where there ISN'T one.
  • Why are they not as plentiful as the "soap is your friend" snarks in con policies?
  • Why doesn't evey con already have one?
  • No. Why are you creating a new class of victims? That's so American....
  • I think harassment should be handled by law-enforcement, not con staff .

So what does this mean to me? Well, I think it says that in some groups, a significant number of people have personally witnessed or experienced harassing and/or assaulting behavior and that a significant number of people would like to see cons do something about those who are perpetrating these offenses. I think there's also a small, but vocal community of people who are dead set against anything that might address these problems. In the end, I hope this points to the need for better and more widely distributed surveys, perhaps with the backing of some conventions.


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