Let’s hear it for the boys…

There have been some truly terrible stories emerging over the past few weeks about some male behaviour at various conventions in the genre. For anyone -especially women – reading them who doesn’t go to cons, or is considering going to cons, they must think, God, all these men are awful. I’m never attending anything like that. And that would be a shame, because there are some wonderful gents working in the field. Maybe it’s time to share a story or two about them, and big up the brilliant boys a little?

Personally, I can easily think of a few occasions when gents have come to my rescue at cons. At world Fantasy one year I was in a room party talking the the master of splatterpunk John Skipp. We sat down on the bed, and as I did so (this could only happen to me), the strap of my summer dress broke. I was not wearing a bra. Skipp’s eyes did not even glance downwards as my right boob made an appearance but as I grabbed the strap and held it up, he quietly said, ‘wait there,’ vanished for a second, and then came back with two (very cool) badges and repaired my clothes. No fuss, not mention of it to anyone else, and he’s never mentioned it since. 

Second, I give you Graham Joyce. I have two tales of his valour. First, in San Jose, when my room became a crowded party room, and someone spilt a whole bottle of red wine on my cream carpet, and then scarpered. I’d tried to clean it up but there was still a massive stain. Over dinner Graham could see I was quiet and said, ‘you’re worrying about that carpet, aren’t you?’ I nodded. He then spent about 3 hours on his hands and knees scrubbing it with me, and tracked down an industrial carpet cleaner at 1am and cleaned it with that so I didn’t get charged.

Another time in San Diego, when a man went mental at me during the awards ceremony for smoking my e-cig (the awards stopped as he screamed at me in a room of 500 people) Graham got up and very firmly told him to ‘sit the fuck down’ (Got to be heard in his gravelly Coventry accent for full effect) and then spent 15 minutes after the dinner explaining to him why he owed me an apology. Props to Pete Atkins and Myke Cole on that one too.

There are others too – the men who keep an eye out for when you’ve been cornered and are feeling uncomfortable. I remember being at a con in the states – can’t remember which – and a ‘fan’ would not leave me alone. One huge american, who I never got the name of, came over and ‘said, ‘hey man, why don’t we go and track down some more beer? They’ve nearly run out.’ When the weirdo refused and got shitty because ‘I want to talk to Sarah!’ two more men came over and joined the first, and eventually they shuffled him away while I was guarded by Paul Kane and Marie. The next day, he was evicted from the con for unsavoury behaviour towards several women.

I guess my point is that the stories that have emerged are appalling and these men need to be dealt with. But most of the men who go to cons are just lovely and hate the idea of women feeling uncomfortable or sexually threatened. I know that however drunk or ridiculous I get, there will always be someone to walk me back to my hotel (even if they have to do paper, rock, scissors to see who gets the unlucky straw – yes I’m looking at you lot, Kernick, Wignall, Wood and Cleave;-)), and I never get to my hotel room door and think, ‘Oh now this is going to get awkward.’ Because they are gents. And friends. And lovely people.

Let’s not let the few tarnish the many. Got a good story of a gent at a con? Leave it in the comments. 

Let’s big up the boys.

SP x

About sarah

Writer of supernatural and crime fiction for Gollancz in the UK. I've written six horror novels and my first thriller, A Matter of Blood, wa View all posts by sarah

33 responses to “Let’s hear it for the boys…

  • grimachu

    Reblogged this on Postmortem Studios and commented:
    May Glob bless Sarah Pinborough.

  • grimachu

    At gaming cons we always try to create a comfortable atmosphere and to ‘shuffle away’ the belligerent drunks (as in your example). They’re usually mortified the morning after though.

    I can’t say I’ve ever really seen any examples of harassment at events that I’ve been to and I wonder if part of it is a transatlantic split (or whether yanks are just more uptight about it).

    An impressions seems to be being created across lots of hobbies that hold cons that they’re somehow unsafe for women which puts female attendees off, then those same events are blamed for not having more female attendees.

    It’s ‘whack’. :(

    • Gabe

      It’s great that you’re shuffling them away, and while they’re drunk, that’s probably all that’s useful to do.

      But I ask you to make sure that they are absolutely and honestly mortified the next morning, *and* apologise (forthrightly and ideally publicly, and in the active voice) *and* take positive steps to better themselves. Even if this involves getting less drunk in that kind of environment. Otherwise, “usually mortified” is indistinguishable from “I’m sorry that offence was caused” – to the victim of the unwanted attention, it’s useless, especially because she doesn’t know if the perpetrator is one of the “unusual” cases (what happens with those?), and can reasonably expect her next afternoon and/or evening spoilt by him, or someone similar, as well.

  • Anne Lyle

    Have to say I’ve never had any problem with sexist arseholes at cons. Which is not to belittle the very real distress caused on occasion by a minority of arseholes. Point being – they’re a minority. Most of the time, most women have an untroubled time at conventions – but it behoves us all, especially men, to make that as near “all the time” as possible.

  • Misa Buckley

    I posted about one of my positive convention encounters last month.

    http://www.misabuckley.com/a-counterpoint/

    Sexism and boorish behaviour needs to be highlighted and stamped out, but I do think we should remember not every guy is a letch, and that these morons are actually the minority. Just a loud and unpleasant one…

  • Susan Scofield

    Thank you for drawing some of the attention back to the Good Guys at the Cons – of which there are many! Here is one of my stories…

    I was a guest artist at Anthocon in New Hampshire (USA), traveling with a female author friend. We ended up not being able to make the 8 hour drive home the last day as planned, but had not booked a hotel room for that night. A lovely British fellow I had only met that weekend offered to share his room with us. Naturally I was skeptical, but was assured by others that he was a good fellow. He gave his bed to my friend and I, and slept – quite uncomfortably, I’m sure – on the arm chair there in the room. I was amazed that he would do that for two people he barely knew. This lovely fellow is author Richard Wright, and our friendship has continued long after the Con ended. He is one of the true gents out there.

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  • Feuerzeug

    Funny how almost every story still has a creepy guy in it.

  • blogblogettyblog

    Thank you, I needed a reminder of the good in the world today. I have never personally gone to a convention but I know many very sweet respectful guys who frequent them. We shouldn’t judge the many on the actions a few.

  • David Niall WIlson

    I sure am glad you wrote this. Honestly, the recent atmosphere on subjects like this has been disconcerting, to say the least. There have always been jerks. They aren’t limited to conventions. There have also, always, been gentlemen. I can with almost certainty say that – for instance – had I written this blog post, I’d have been attacked for my lack of sympathy, etc… a lack that does not exist. Generalizations do no one any good.

  • blogblogettyblog

    Thank you, I needed a reminder of the good in the world today. I’ve never personally been to a convention but I know many sweet, respectful guys who frequent them. The many shouldn’t be judged by the actions if the few.

  • Rebecca

    Fully agree, I’ve never had a bad experience at a con, they’ve all been friendly, charming and willing to lend a hand if ever one is needed.

  • Rachel Cotterill

    In any walk of life, there are some idiots. I think it’s a shame when people allow the minority to dictate their attitude to a whole gender / fandom / career / whatever… and I’m very pleased to hear of your good experiences :)

  • Lizzie Lou

    Been to cons, going to cons, geezers are no worse than girls. I always have fun and never feel uncomfortable. Nicely put Sarah.

  • theladywillow

    It’s not just cons that guys can be jerks at but the number of gallant chaps usually out number them, thankfully!

  • Mhairi Simpson

    I must admit, I’ve never had an uncomfortable experience at a con. Was starting to think I was going to different cons! You’re absolutely right, most guys out there are lovely. As is often the case, the atrocious behaviour of a few is given a lot more attention than the perfectly savoury actions of the many.

  • John Skipp

    THANKS, SARAH! An honor and a pleasure. The bottom line is: if we watch out for her other, and care about each other, predators and fucksticks will have a much harder time getting away with their ugly dogshit. A community without awesome women in it — and which does not respect those awesome women — is a community I’d want nothing to do with. Which is to say: THE ASSHOLES CAN’T HAVE IT.

  • Helen Marshall

    Wonderful post. Really wonderful.

  • John Skipp

    I’m really, really glad this discussion is not only finally taking place, but going wide. And I really appreciate your taking the time to note the guys who you know are on your side. WE LOVE YOU, TOO!

  • John Skipp

    Would like to give an extra nod to Jeff Burk of Deadite/Eraserhead Press: one of the hosts of the party, and the dreadlocked man whose punked-out jean jacket was festooned with awesome pins, two of which wound up pulling that wardrobe save for you! GOOD MAN, JEFF BURK!!!

  • Zagrobelny (@Zagrobelny)

    It’s good to hear stories like this so trolls can’t say that complaining about the negative behavior of some men towards women is a “men versus women” or “man-hating” issue, it’s an issue of people versus assholes.

  • Michael Eriksson

    Thank you: It is a delight to see a woman take a stand for the (more or less) innocent majority of men, when so many others in the blogosphere focus on a small minority of idiots as allegedly representative of men in general.

    (Of course, these “many others” are in turn a small minority of women—but they sure can be loud.)

  • rmridley

    I have only been to two cons in my life, but as a male in his mid thirties(then) and forties (now), I tried my hardest to be friendly and ambialbe without once forgetting that every single one of the women attending, may very well be there absolutly alone, and thus, in a possibly very uncomfortable postion should they feel isolated (even in a room full of people).
    Everyone deserves to enjoy a con, without feeling unease. It is hard to attend these things without knowing anyone – how much harder if the only attention you get is from someone who makes you uncomfortable.
    I think people have the right to simply enjoy themselves but the obligatipon to always be looking out for those who are not. I have had numerouse strangers invite me to join them in conversations, lunch, or to move on to the next party. I have always been gratefully for the inclusion, but one must always rememeber the circumstance surrounding any such invitation.

  • thinkbannedthoughts

    Well done – thanks.
    So tired of “boys will be boys” meaning “boys/men are inherently jerks” The truth is that the majority of men are basically good.
    Long version, with a link back to you is here – http://thinkbannedthoughts.wordpress.com/2013/07/16/all-the-good-men/

  • Vernon Taylor

    It is really nice to know there are plenty of good gentlemen out there. I myself try to be one as I work with public clients and have learnt to be subtle and understanding and especially patience. Now the only thing that I can’t understand or come to terms with are some woman that just don’t apreceate that. I was involved with a woman that absolutely just took advantage of every situation and if she didn’t get her way she would call the police and have me falseley arrested for family violence. I sat in prison 3 times and on the 3rd time a month and then decided to just quit and run away. Its time for us gentlemen to stand up to this and be heard, I believe there are lots of men going thru the same thrash as me for nothing.

  • Peter

    I have never been to a con, yet! That said I am going to the WFC in Brighton in October and was hoping to meet Miss Pinborough. But this is all a bit sad and, being, I hope, a gentleman myself I had never really considered this type of stuff. Please believe me although there are always going to be few arses out there help should always be close at hand. Just shout Peter, Dave, Ian or FPW and you WILL be rescued!

  • Tony Morris

    Never seen any bad behaviour at any con I’ve been to. And I’m always on my best. Never let the minority tarnish the behaviour of the many, ‘cos we really are the good guys here.

    Hopefully, NYCC in October!

  • twixraider

    Question: What do you expect from guys which played Tomb Raider instead of practicing romance? Which own photo memories labeled with “Me and the Bajonetta booth babe” instead of “Me and my Mallorca holiday fling”? “Nerds/Geeks” is just a synonym for Bratz, one can’t learn social interaction in a fantasy world. I avoid their company, I rather have a tea party with Troglodytes. Get one as a bodyguard.

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  • Peter

    On Twitter? Oh, I don’t do that. Ignore them. In fact if you believe what you write (and I believe you do) ignore all and any hostile reactions!

    But thank you for pointing out to me where they were. Still, ignore them. You’re right they’re wrong. No problem :)

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