Based on yesterday's post about the Project, some of the originating members have asked me to clarify the details of what actually happened, since a lot of folks were making assumptions. This isn’t an attempt to make what we did all right – that’s either cool with you or it’s not, and I suspect more detail won’t suddenly cause anyone pro or con to reverse course – but rather, to set the record straight about the nature of it.
But before I continue, let me say something straight off: The reason I didn’t explore the female reaction more thoroughly in my original post was because, frankly, I didn’t want to speak for women. For all of those who complained about my male perspective and how I was acting from male power – and I can’t debate that, since I’m the fish swimming in water who may not see – it would have been even worse if I’d gone on in detail about all how the women clearly loved it. I was skimpy on details not because I wanted to dehumanize the women, but rather because I was extremely uncomfortable putting words of pleasure in their mouth.
(And if I’d let them speak for themselves in the post, as others suggested? Well, then they would have been insulted personally to be told how they were clearly needy, ugly, and broken by males, as my wife was. Unfortunately, I have a lot of experience in anticipating the unique styles of dickery people tend to unleash, so I avoided dragging my friends before a crowd of angry trolls… But I did so at the cost of leaving other issues open, which was bad.)
Likewise, the originators of the Open-Source Project were clearly women, and it was mostly women who were participating… But I also didn’t hammer that point because again, if the impression I gave was, “WOMEN ARE DOING IT, SO EVERYTHING’S COOL HERE, FOLKS!” then again, that would be even worse. I’d be holding women up as a shield for my actions, instead of taking responsibility for what I did.
Could I have written it better? Absolutely. (For one thing, if I’d known the vehemence of some people’s reactions, I would have worked much harder to set the all the facts down correctly from the beginning – and I would have hammered home much clearer that this wasn’t the Official Viewpoint, but rather One Man’s Possibly Flawed Perspective.) But there are some approaches that would have failed, and failed harder.
That said, since I screwed up, let’s set the facts straight now.
The original group was pretty firmly mixed: three women, four men. The originators of the Project were women, who asked first, and received first, with the men asking afterwards. In fact, it started out as women exploring each other.
(I should note that the men were also touched, but frankly, feeling my man-boobs and Ferrett-butt is a thrill few people appreciate. And rightfully so! Though other, more attractive males apparently got a lot more interest, both at the first and the second con.)
As it turns out, the first woman we asked was someone who one of the originators knew, making it a little more okay to ask, and her boyfriend was standing right next to her when we asked. Admittedly, some of the folks we asked later we did not know – but again, it’s not like we asked everyone in sight. Some folks we could tell clearly didn’t want to from their body language. We did use some discretion in who we thought might be amenable… And even so, we moved to the opt-in program of the button simply because we thought asking in the hallways carried a high risk of hurting/triggering someone’s feelings, and we wanted to avoid that.
Most of the folks coming down the hallway to be asked were couples. The people asking were nearly always female. And the activity itself was a tangential part of the con – it was something done while we were wandering, not a roving pirate horde with the intent of grabbing breast.
As for the “peer pressure” at the second con when we finally moved to buttons, well…. The total number of buttons given out was somewhere in the thirty to forty range, and that includes people who lost their buttons and had to get new ones.
Those buttons were given out by one woman only, who only gave them to people she could vouch for or who had been vouched… Because she had to trust that the people involved would be cool with it. If you didn’t wear a button and didn’t ask what was going on, nobody ever asked to touch you. The default was thoroughly opt-in.
And more so, nobody went around proselytizing. We didn’t ask anyone to join. If you wanted to know because you’d heard about it, then we’d talk about it. (I myself told a handful of people in the course of the con if I thought they’d find it interesting, but I don’t think a single person I spoke to actually signed up – though two of them opted to touch me.)
So, you ask. If it was such an opt-in program, why did you have red buttons? It was actually our attempt to make people feel more comfortable. We knew that some people wouldn’t even want to have the embarrassment of dealing with it more than once – so even though the default was “Don’t ask,” we wanted to let people to have a very clear way of saying that they thought the project was Not For Them. For these folks, even being asked if they’d heard of it would be so embarrassing that we wanted to give them an out to avoid Those sorts of conversations.
(Which was fine. If you said you didn’t like it, we didn’t try to talk you into it… Though we listened to what you had to say about it.)
And the fact is that even women who wore the green button said “No.” If you were sufficiently creepy, you could be – and were – turned down on at least a few occasions. Some women were fine with friends asking, but didn’t want to deal with total strangers. The difference here is that it was a simple “No,” not “Oh my God, how could you be so sick as to want that, you’re a freak, get out of here.” The idea that a) people (not men, “people”) might want to touch breasts and b) that having them touched wasn’t the highest expression of intimacy for the people who participated was the core issue at stake.
And again, mostly it was women-on-women touching, because it was pretty darned hard to vet a guy stranger properly. (These were, to use a wording of my original post that caused confusion, the “loutish men and women who just Don’t Get It.”)
Also, the men wore buttons. I didn’t stress this enough, mainly because nobody was really interested in the Open-Source Ferrett’s Buns Project…. But I did put myself up for grabs as well, as did several of the guys. And I did grab a few men’s butts while I was there, because that was part of the project, from the beginning. There was no reason to exclude men from the idea that we don't know what other men's bodies are like, for the most part.
Contrary to popular belief, it was all clothed touching. Going under the shirt was verboten, and everyone kept to that unless they were involved with the person in question. And you didn’t, generally speaking, go for the nipple, though it certainly came up a few times.
The Project was not sanctioned by the con, and given there were about a thousand attendees that weekend, it was approximately 4% of the con, mostly people who knew each other. I’m sure it was notable to some folks who wondered what the hell was going on, but it wasn’t an overwhelming majority by any means; I doubt that people were feeling pressured into it by the force of numbers. We didn’t hold a meeting to announce it – we merely told our friends and acquaintances. (Honestly, I spent way more time touting my Bear Vs. Shark ribbons.)
I’m not saying it didn’t make anyone uncomfortable, but certainly it wasn’t so prevalent that you couldn’t walk down a hall without seeing a woman being felt up.
That should be the facts. I’m closing comments on this entry, but only because I don’t want to carry on two debates simultaneously – if you have comments, kindly leave them in the original post. There have been a lot of people who liked the idea of the project, and a lot of people who absolutely hated it. Either attitude is fine with me as long it’s civil.
The one criticism I think is the most valid is that, perhaps, the project is something that worked at the time due to good personalities, but runs the serious risk of blowing up if taken out of that culture. I can’t say that I disagree with that.