There is a terrible rising trend in the gaming/nerd community; unwarranted sexually charged comments, passes, and at the worst end of the spectrum, actual assault and rape attempts against the women of our community. I have no doubt for every problem at a convention that has been dealt with, many more undocumented ones spring up to replace them, like a monstrous Hydra. But when you read about what is occurring to strangers, several thousand miles away, you begin to become desensitized to the occurrences. You think,” There’s tons of security. There will be thousands of people. I’m surrounded by my friends. I can fight. I’ll be safe.”
Until it happens to you.
The following events did not happen at a convention, and perhaps that’s one of the most worrying things of all, that didn’t happen with thousands of like-minded people in their midst. This could happen to almost any woman, at almost any time. It started off simple enough. I found myself on the island of Putin Bay, Ohio, located square on beautiful Lake Erie, for their annual Christmas in July celebration, with friends and significant other. I was in the company of many new people, but it was a very Spring Break-esque holiday. Most of them probably did not have the same “nerdy” interests I did, and I was fine with this; nerdiness doesn’t define my personality, just enhances it.
On Friday, I was pleased to meet someone who also had similar interests as I did, and we had a lengthy discussion about things like Star Wars, Mario Kart and the Dreamcast, but I stood by my significant other and made it clear that I was not interested multiple times. I was not attracted to this person, named Jim, in the slightest and there was no flirtatiousness from my end at all. Jim was beyond smitten with me – even going so far as to call me by a different name (Angelica – apparently I’m “heavenly”.) I corrected him multiple times as my name is nowhere near Angelica, but he kept calling me Angelica. I thought that was harmless or perhaps due to intoxication, even up to the point in which we were far from the group and he initiated and captured me into a hug. I hugged back… and then I realized he wasn’t letting go. At that moment I pushed away and he rammed his mouth into my head and kissed me on the mouth.
But this wasn’t enough. Not nearly enough.
I immediately telling my significant other and we had decided that in the interest of hospitality, not to break his jaw. We decided to retire in another cabin shortly after. It was fairly cold, but we didn’t want to trouble anyone for a blanket, so we both fell asleep shivering. Jim had followed us to the other cabin and I was woken up by Jim sitting on the floor, at the foot of the couch, caressing my legs. He then extended an invitation to come and “get a blanket in his room.” I flat-out refused, and asked him if I could have a blanket anyway. He then said I could only get a blanket if I came with him. At one point he grabbed my hand, and it was at that point that I threatened to break all of his fingers.
If I wasn’t sickened to my stomach before, now I felt absolutely violated, and I was scared. I was stunned to the point where I couldn’t speak; I could only try to wake up my significant other as fast and as subtly as possible. Thankfully, we left shortly after. The next day my significant other had interacted with him alone, and he tried to flirt with HER! But he was massively unsuccessful. He still referred to me as Angelica. I have no doubt that his behavior is something more than mere social ineptness, but that is certainly not an excuse.
But through the entire weekend, I couldn’t stop replaying the events in my head, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that this was somehow, in some strange twisted way, that this was my entire fault. Did he misconstrue my passion for playing as Princess Peach in Mario Kart as some strange declaration of love? I’ve been passionate about video games and other nerd things since I was very young, so young that I was made fun of for having those interests. I still don’t understand “mainstream geek culture.”
And at the end of it all, I honestly don’t care to understand. I don’t have these interests for the benefit of anyone else but myself, and to have those interests used as a simple leverage board for creepy sociopath behavior absolutely floored me. It’s heartbreaking to have the interests that I have loved so dearly, for so many years, used as cheap tactics in order to entice me into a bed. But what I do understand about geek culture is that as it marches its’ banner to the front of the page, that this behavior is absolutely unacceptable.
One of the other things to remember is this hasn’t “all of a sudden become unacceptable;” it was also unacceptable when geek culture was a fringe interest. Having the same interests, nerdy in nature or not, is not a justification for unwanted sexual advances, ever. The basic tenants of respecting others have not changed simply because geek culture has suddenly become popular in mainstream media. We just happen to hear about it more often now. We are women, and women are not mythical unicorns. There have been women in geek culture since it’s’ inception, and we deserve to feel like we aren’t going to be accosted or even worse, raped by our peers. And as more men and women join the ranks of geek culture, and we shape entire future generations of geeks to come, we need to nip this deplorable habit in the bud, before it blooms into a poisonous flower.
I’d like to revisit the example of the Lernaean Hydra in Greek Mythology – a fearsome creature that had multiple heads – as you’d cut one off, two more would spring up in its’ place. It was originally up to Hercules was originally given the task to slay this creature, but now it is up to us. Our Hydra heads are the marks of sexual violence against the women of the geek community. And like Hercules, we must burn the heads of the Hydra clear off so that no other heads can grow back.