The Open Source Boob Project: We Finally Weigh In

Yes, we know it’s a bit late to weigh in on the Open Source Boob Project. If you don’t know what it’s about, John Scalzi has a very concise summary and a more measured take on things than most anyone else I’ve read, and you can read the posts by the originator of the idea here, though you’ll need to scroll past a bunch of confusing apologies first.

The idea in and of itself, while ill-advised in some ways, didn’t strike me as especially controversial at first—hey, if somebody wants to opt-in for some boob groping at a science fiction convention, go team Boob Grope, and may the Force be with you. The ensuing comment wars and trainwreck, however, made this into a bona fide Internet Kerfuffle, and the more I thought about it, the more problematic the idea became. Check out the link round-up on Unfunny Business, which is incredibly comprehensive. I, personally, was e-mailed several links not just by a whole bunch of Smart Bitch readers, but several personal friends of mine who were all “Holy shit, dude, check this nuttiness out.” Apparently, when boob-groping by nerds comes up, I’m one of the first people to pop to mind. I would’ve written and responded to it faster, but finals, man, and the being eaten alive by my textbooks—it ain’t pretty. Then Jane of Dear Author and I got into an extended conversation about this, and I ended up writing pretty much everything I wanted to say as a consequence. The ensuing exchange is below, and we ended up going all over the place, from demystifying breasts to objectification to The Open Source Butt Project.

Keep a few things in mind:

1. Jane is strictly playing devil’s advocate. She doesn’t really believe most of the arguments she’s making to counter my points.

2. I’m not necessarily commenting on The Ferret’s original idea—I’m often talking about my reaction to the reactions to his idea, and sometimes, my reaction to the reactions to the reactions. Oh the delicious, crunchy meta-commentary of it all!

Jane: Let me preface that I am a product of a Methodist and then fundamentalist upbringing.  The teaching is that my body is a temple to be used to worship God and nothing else.  I’ve strayed from that belief quite a bit but I can’t help but wonder if 18 years of strong religious upbringing doesn’t play a part. Also, I have experienced quite a bit of sexual harassment during the course of my work so maybe I am uber sensitive, but this all seems so wrong to me.

Mostly I find the idea of strangers touching my breasts in a fondling manner a bit gross.  But I did grope Candy.  I don’t mind breasts and I don’t mind if girlfriends of mine touch my breasts but I find something awful about them being exposed to strangers, particularly male strangers who are getting aroused by the random grope.

Sarah: Oh yeah, that discussion made me ill.

It was me you groped, by the way. We have a photo.

I can see the argument for electing to participate but the concept is a big skin crawler to me.

Jane: OMG – it was you, Sarah?  All this time I dreamed I had groped Candy.  Will you please wear a button, Candy?

Shoot, we should wear big green t-shirts that says “Grope Me” on the front and “I’ll Kick Your Ass” on the back.

Candy: On one hand, I can see the good-natured intention behind it. And hey, if you’re the sort of person who’s OK with having your breasts groped by total strangers, have a motherfucking ball.

On the other hand, it frustrates me that the originator of this idea didn’t really get WHY it speaks volumes that an explicit opt-out button is necessary, and why being randomly propositioned can feel violative even if you have the green button on.

And people on all sides (not just the pro-Open Source Boobs faction) don’t seem to recognize that there’s a difference between “Hey, can I grope your bazongas?” vs. “Hello. I think you’re pretty. Would you like to get coffee some time?”

I also don’t like the heavy implication (not necessarily in The Ferret’s original post, but in the ensuing comments) that if you don’t like the idea of the Open Source Boob Project or if you don’t want to opt in, you’re some sort of anti-sex prude. My attitude towards my breasts and who gets to touch them is dependent on all sorts of things, from my mood to the context to the company I’m in. Some days and in some situations, I’m OK with strangers touching my breasts. Other times, only lovers and very good friends get the privilege. Sometimes I don’t want them to be touched at all. It has to do with my intimacy boundaries. That sometimes means that yes, I’m being prudish, but most of the time, it just means I don’t want the girls to be touched.

These two articles by The Ferret ultimately make me want to smack his head: and

Good commentary on those two articles here.

Placing a disproportionately large burden on the woman to say no, instead of on the man to not act like a jackass in the first place, seems to be a popular cultural attitude, and I find that fascinating—there seems to be a lot of anger towards women regarding the “no means no” movement, and it’s been co-opted in interesting new ways to reinforce the existing madonna/whore dichotomy.

Jane: I think what I struggle with is this:

a) a woman dresses provocatively to be attractive
b) this necessarily means she wants attention
c) aren’t we actually giving this woman what she wants by paying attention to her?

Do guys deserve to be cut a break on this?  (Even beyond The Ferret’s complete idiotic explanation)

Candy: I’d argue that the leap between a) and b) is too big, and makes all sorts of unwarranted assumptions; it also blurs the difference between the various types of attention—under this rubric, anything between “Hi, I think your dress looks great on you” to “You have an amazing body, and the dress makes it look really sexy” to “Hi, can I grab your tits?” to “Hey, I want to fuck you” are treated equally. I’m not even going into the different types of gaze and touch that can accompany the words. These types of attention do not have parity, and some types of attention are violative.

This is not to say that some women don’t deliberately engage in cockteasing or solicit aggressive sexual attention. Context can add a lot—a swinger’s party is different from a dance club is different from a costume party at a friend’s. So can the body language of the person. The thing is, why should the assumption fall to the woman-want-sexual-attention default? Why is acting by the socially acceptable standards of the situation seen as somehow a burden by these guys? Because you can practically smell the resentment from the men who think this way.

Jane: Okay, let me play devil’s advocate (better than The Ferret, I hope).  I’m just trying to see if there is a defensible position.

Men are trained to view women sexually in a certain matter.  This is reinforced when women themselves dress in provocative manner such as really short skirts or see through tops.  A project like Open Source allows men to actually deconstruct the myth of women as simply sexual creatures.  By demystifying the breast, we take away the sexual implication of the breast and see it nothing more as another body part, much like an elbow or a hand.

Like Seinfeld once said, it is simply because the breast is so often hidden that it has such allure.  In the past ages, ankles were deemed provocative.  We are simply trying to help empower women, reduce sexualization between the sexes by normalizing body parts.

Candy: That would be an excellent premise, except the Open Source Boob Project is explicitly sexual by nature and aim. It actually encourages men to see women as sexual creatures—as sexual body parts, actually. A less kindly interpretation of the project basically tells people two things, depending on gender:

It tells guys, “Hey, you guys like tits, and you want to grab them. Here’s blanket permission to ask for a grope.”

It tells women, “Hey, guys like your tits, and they want to grab them. Deal with it.”

Even with a more charitable interpretation, I think it’s pretty clear that the aim is to normalize and make explicit a certain sort of sexualization and reductionism. I’d argue that we sexualize women in that way plenty as it is; we don’t necessarily need something like this.

As some commenters on theweaselking noted, the underlying premise is kind of insulting to both men AND women.

Here’s something to ponder:

I don’t like how one-sided the project is. I love the idea of demystifying the human body and allowing people to start separating nudity from sex, and separating sex from prurience. But why focus on women, and why breasts? Why no reciprocity? Critics of this idea were talking about the Open Source Ball Project, but I’d say that’s not truly analogous to breasts. Why not the Open Source Butt Project for both men and women? (Side note: Open Source Butt Project sounds like it’s about something else entirely. Woo damn.)

I don’t think the Open Source Boob Project is a bad idea, necessarily. I just think it’s a bad idea at this point in history. Once people have calmed down a little about our fiddly bits and have gotten their heads around sex and sexuality a bit more, I imagine it’d be less skeezy in tone and execution. But arguably, once that point in history has arrived, hopefully something like the Open Source Boob Project wouldn’t be necessary.

Jane: I would argue that if you are to demystify the human body, you don’t start with the collarbone or the elbow or the knee.  You start with a part of the body that is deemed forbidden else the mystic element is not ever going to be ameliorated.  We’ll be stuck groping the calloused elbow and any growth or understanding is halted halfway to the heart of the endeavor.  (If you don’t mind the body metaphor).  The breast is a protrudence and therefore because it exists away from the body it is less offensive to touch it as opposed to say a thigh part.  A thigh is so close to the clitoris which is a sexual entity that even the most careful of touches might impinge upon someone’s sexual boundaries.  The breast, though, is out there.  It’s almost invading space of another’s.  In the way that it is created, it virtually asks, as much as an inanimate object can, to be touched.  Thus because the breast is a mystical part of the female body and because it is virtually existential, it is the right part with which to begin such a demystification product.

There is no corollary for men.  In part because there is very little of the male body that is not out there.  Men routinely walk around without shirts or shirts unbuttoned.  Their legs, knees, ankles and feet are also regularly exposed.  If there is any mystique to the male body it is centered around their sex organ.  Further, I would argue that in our patriarchical society, the male sex organ has no mystique.  It is discussed at great length in books, in popular culture.  There are a host of jokes about it.  Men are so intimate with their organ that it is frequently named, like a pet.

The problem with waiting until there is less hysteria about the woman’s body is a chicken/egg argument.  How does one reduce hysteria without first de-sexualizing nudity? Nudity and sexuality are so intertwined at this point that even the casual brush of an arm across the breast is deemed a come-on or an assault.  If there is no starting point at which we become more accepting of nudity and separating it from sexuality there will be no enlightenment.  There will be no progress in the demystification of the woman’s body and thus, no progress in reducing objectification.  If not now, when?  If not the breast, what?

Candy: Actually, if you’re talking about demystifying the human body, you DO start with the collarbone, elbow and knee. That’s what the flappers did in the 20s. In fact, that’s how we’ve progressed—small and medium-sized steps followed by the occasional big lunge.

Female breasts are almost definitely going to be the next body part to be demystified—it already has been in huge parts of Europe. In America, public breastfeeding brought a lot of attention to this issue, as did Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction.

I’m not arguing against demystifying the boob; I’m just saying the Open Source Boob Project is a pretty silly way to do it. Groping a boob is different from demystifying a breast as another body part to be accepted and loved. The Open Source Boob Project’s explicit aim and intent was sexual and reductionist. That tends to raise a lot of people’s hackles up in the wrong way. If you want to raise hackles the right way, try organizing a topless march or a topless bike ride—thumb your nose at nonsensical and unjust public obscenity laws that make it OK for men to be shirtless in public but not women. That sort of gesture doesn’t just avoid the peer pressures and weirdness of the Open Source Boob Project, it also pinpoints existing inequities instead of reinforcing them, and it’s not explicitly sexual in intent even as it brings attention to the inappropriate sexualization of a body part.

But maybe I’m just a bitch for civil disobedience.

And frankly, I think the Open Source Butt Project is a viable alternative to the Boob Project. Men and women can both participate and the butt is every bit as sexualized for men as it is women. Now if only we can get enough gay and bisexual men to attend these cons to make the table-turning worthwhile….

Jane:If the flappers began demystifying the body with collarbone, elbow and knee, we women in the 21st Century need to move beyond that. It is interesting that you returned to the statements and position of The Ferret.  Would your response to the OSBP be different if it had not been presented in the sexualized manner it was?

Candy I’m not necessarily opposed to the Open Source Boob Project, per se. Mostly, I think it was poorly implemented in some ways, and I wish the organizers had been more honest about their intent—they tried hard to sell the “We want to demystify breasts! And be sex-positive! And be feminist! If you don’t support it, you must be some kind of sex-negative freak!” angle, but mostly, the vibe I got was “Holy shit, dudes! Boobs! We can haz them!” “Hey, let’s demystify the human body and reclaim sex as clean and healthy” seemed like more of a side-effect.

I was also exasperated by their inability to see how certain types of sexual attention and objectification, even without spilling over into insistence or harassment, can constitute a violation. I was also tired of how the other side—a very shrill feminist side—was attempting to insist that ALL types of unsolicited sexual attention are necessarily violative. Plenty of stupidity cakes to go around for everybuddy!

My Open Source Butt Project was suggested as a less gender-biased alternative to the Open Source Boob Project. It still suffers from many of the same issues (reductionism, objectification), but I think that by opening these gung-ho “sex positive” men to the same sort of potentially unwelcome and unwanted sexual attention, they’d finally get why this sort of idea skeeves some of us out thoroughly (which is why I think it’d work only if the gay/bi male population for that experiment were roughly equal to the straight male population, and that the men knew it).

Sarah: As I fall solidly under the IANAL camp, I only have the following rebuttal (HA! BUTT!)

Jane said: “I would argue that in our patriarchical society, the male sex organ has no mystique.  It is discussed at great length in books, in popular culture.  There are a host of jokes about it.  Men are so intimate with their organ that it is frequently named, like a pet.  “

I disagree. First, the male sex organ’s appearance in popular media has, until now, been the unofficial border for an NC-17/hard core rating. Playboy Channel? Boobs and shaved vaginas. Skinemax After Dark? Boobs. Maybe a stray vag. But the erect or even flaccid penis? Porn city, folks. The penis is objectified almost into celebrity status, in a way that boobs and vaginas are not. For something that’s “hanging out there,” the penis is often the last remaining sex organ hiding under the fig leaf when everyone else in the soft-core movie has played bad hands of strip poker.

Which is part of what makes the newest Apatow movie reviews so interesting: Apatow goes for full frontal male nudity as a humor device, shocking in it’s full flaccid humiliating glory in much the same way as “There’s Something About Mary” and the zipper scene. And that wasn’t even a full penis. That was just parts of one (painful parts, I might add).

Consider, also, the weight given to the “big reveal” when the hero finally drops trou in a romance novel sex scene – most authors take deliberate steps to acknowledge The Mighty Wang with as much aplomb as my GPS when it announces, “You have Arrived!” So there’s mighty flaw in your argument that the penis has no mystique. In my opinion, it has the most mystique of all the sex organs.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    rebyj says:

    At one point I had 5 windows open because every article had ” for further clarification go here ” click click click.. Finally in clear terms I found the original description .

    The Open-Source Boob Project.

    At Penguicon, we had buttons to give away. There were two small buttons, one for each camp: A green button that said, “YES, you may” and a red button that said “NO, you may not.” And anyone who had those buttons on, whether you knew them or not, was someone you could approach and ask:

    “Excuse me, but may I touch your breasts?”

    I hadn’t heard anything about it till I read the post here today. I think it’s an inappropriate way for adults to behave.  I consider myself pretty liberal, I think there should be topless beaches, that women should be able to breast feed in public and if you want to lay out topless in your own back yard you should be able to without feeling indecent. But an organized grope fest sounds like a seminar on HBO’s Real Sex to give men a boner that they don’t have to work for. 

    Buttons are too easy, I say make them work for it!

  2. 2
    Robin says:

    Well, one of the basic questions for me is whether there would even be an Open Source Book Project if breasts were desexualized and demystified.  I don’t think so.

    Here’s the thing that bothers me about this:  women, for all that we say that our bodies are our own and that no means no still feel, by and large, that we have to defend ourselves in a myriad of ways.  We are still fighting the rape, not consent battle in courts all across the country.  We still feel physically unsafe in numerous contexts and scenarios.  We are primarily in the *defensive* rather than *offensive* or *affirmative* position, in other words, vis a vis our bodies and our sense of sexuality and security.  Part of that is related to the taboos this project claims its aiming to dismantle, but a lot of it is related to the very structure of this project—that women are, once again, in a defensive position, reacting, allowing or denying, justifying, explaining.  And that, IMO, reflects very concrete power differentials that are not going to be reversed or mitigated by anything that forces women to maintain a defensive posture, even if it’s no more than wearing a button and saying “no” to an inquiry.

  3. 3
    lijakaca says:

    I’d much rather have an Open Source Butt Project, it would be more equitable. I’m not going to go and look at what sounds like a total flamefest, but this sounds like another lame attempt at making women who DON’T want their personal space violated by whichever random male feels like it, feel like prudes. 

    And why is it the men who get to choose who they grope?  Here’s an interesting idea.  Whomever you talk to, you HAVE to either pat their ass or their boob (male or female) at the end of the conversation.  I think that would do more to desexualize both those body parts than this one-sided idea.

  4. 4
    Miri says:

    So question: Those women who wanted nothing to do with the “project” what did they wear?  How did the men relate to women who wore neither a red nor a green button?

  5. 5
    Carrie Lofty says:

    Jane said: The breast, though, is out there.  It’s almost invading space of another’s.

    I wish I had that problem.

    But small as they are, my breasts are my own. By permission only, I should think. I shared them with my children; I share them with my husband. Everyone else has to ask pretty damn nicely…

  6. 6
    Miri says:

    Oh hey! I just had another thought or rather thought I’d share a personal (maybe too personal) pov.
    My husband has been privy to my boobs since he was 16.  In every way sexual and non (ie: feeding our children)
    and he assures me that for guys who love them (boobs) there is no way to de sexualize them.  ever. never. ever.

  7. 7
    hajen says:

    When he got to the part about how being able to freely grope breasts healed his high school trauma, or something, I totally rolled my eyes. The whole thing was icky with the “AND LO WE COULD TOUCH TEH BEWBS AND COMPARE THEM” and “I may not know you but that’s sure a fine rack you got there, I just wanna admire it!” sort of leeringness to it. Icky. He obviously just Doesn’t Get It – the implications that are so great for him aren’t necessarily so for the women involved.

    I am all for legal, widespread public toplessness – like men get to do. I really do feel if it were all out there like it is for men, eventually (sooner than you think) everyone would get over this “mystique” of the breast. And then no one would get all squirmy or weird or disapproving over breastfeeding in public. That’d be awesome. As well if we all got to see real breasts, all the time, non-sexually, maybe everyone wouldn’t be so hung up on too big/too small/too droopy/etc. which is very hard to do now when the most breasts you see are photoshopped to pr0n “perfection”. Society in general has very unrealistic expectations of how women are supposed to look in order to be considered attractive – not to mention your worth as a women is wrapped up in this attractiveness, as if you have any control over how your breasts look, aside from plastic surgery… yeah I could go on a while here, I’ll stop now.

    btw my captcha is “but26”. snortle.

  8. 8

    The only thing I remember after reading this whole post is…Jane groped Candy?! 

    I am a waste of carbon.

  9. 9
    Marianne McA says:

    I’d be interested to know if it did demystify breasts for anyone.  And, in a way, even if it did – would that be a good thing? (I don’t know, I’m not turned on by breasts. But if I was, I can’t imagine wanting to lose that simple pleasure.)
    I’d sort of agree with Lijakaca, the beautiful purity of the idea is underminded by men being allowed to choose who they ask to grope. If the men wore badges saying ‘I’m prepared to grope’ and allowed the women to do the asking, it might make more sense. If the man then had to grope them whether their breasts were flat or full, young or elderly, perky, droopy, or leaking milk –  that’d be more demystifying.
    (Not that I’d advocate that either.)

  10. 10
    Jean says:

    As far as demystifying breasts goes, I think Jordan Matter’s Uncovered project is much more effective than the male-controlled boobie-groping proposed by the ferrett.

  11. 11
    Gennita Low says:

    I have the perfect solution to the the Open Source Boob Project.  Really, I do.

    ;-) Plan23—Perfect!

  12. 12
    SonomaLass says:

    Gennita, that is freakin’ HILARIOUS!  I laughed, I cried.  Oh my.

    You’ve also got an excellent point.

  13. 13
    kelly says:

    I think that what bothers me about the whole thing is the initial comment that started the whole “project.” 

    “I wish this was the kind of world where say, ‘Wow, I’d like to touch your breasts,’ and people would understand that it’s not a way of reducing you to a set of nipples and ignoring the rest of you, but rather a way of saying that I may not yet know your mind, but your body is beautiful.”

    Sure, he’s kind enough to be aware of the objectification, and is kind enough to say he doesn’t “yet” know her mind, but that has the same feeling of token sensitivity found in advice articles that claim the best way to get a woman to sleep with you is to make her feel like she’s being listened to rather than actually advocating listening to a woman.  It is reductionist, and they seem to think that access should be granted simply because they are aware enough to remember that women have personalities. 

    I do think this could be a really positive experience in the right context, but that context probably doesn’t involve a large group of anonymous people because there are a lot of people with sexual issues and this is not a safe way to address that.  While it’s great that some women are open with their body, recognizing that millions of women are raped and molested before they reach the age of 18, so there’s a pretty good chance there are one or more in any large gathering, and that they have some very legitimate reasons for not wanting to be subjected to being asked to be touched by strangers.  This is in fact a huge cultural issue rooted in some very unequal power dynamics that allow men to feel that an openness with sex that titillates them is as good as an openness about sex that demands discussion and mutual building of safe space prior to a grope-a-thon.

    That said I’m all about the Open Source Butt Project, just cause giving women the pass to grope men would level the playing field.

  14. 14
    Ruth says:

    I would be in the “Yes, you can” camp. I have days where I would reeeeeeeeeally love to walk up to some off the buff Marines that I see and grope their biceps and pecs. Those areas are a HUGE turn on for me. I love to look at them and it’s nice to touch a really beautiful part of the male body. I wouldn’t have a problem with a man feeling the same about my boobs. I tend to look at the human body as a work of art, though, so I can see why others wouldn’t be comfortable.

    My problem with all of the ranting and fallout in the comments is that there seems to be a group of women who refuse to accept the fact that for some women this isn’t problematic, doesn’t set feminism back three decades and doesn’t denigrate or devalue them.

    spamword didnt97. Well, actually, I did get groped a lot in 97. By a really hot ex.

  15. 15
    Ruth says:

    Sorry, I meant all the ranting and fallout in the comments on OTHER sites, not here.

  16. 16
    snarkhunter says:

    I have ever, ever so many thoughts on this. I’ll try to be concise and coherent here, and not just b/c I’m supposed to be working on something else. I followed this really closely, and I’m still formulating a post in my own LJ about it.

    First, a correction. While the original project was all about breasts, in its button-wearing mutation (which was slightly different from the original inception of the project), men could and did wear the buttons, and their asses were up for gropage. This does not mitigate the project for me, for reasons I will explain momentarily.

    Second, for all of The Ferrett’s high-minded idealism (which is hard to see through the haze of “BOOBIES,” but it’s there) in his post, this project is really all about getting to touch boobies. That’s it. It’s about getting guys to be able to ask. How do I know this? This comment thread in the original post. I actually love her suggestion—it accomplishes what the project was trying to accomplish, AND it puts women in the empowered position by encouraging them to be the ones to ask.

    Which leads me to my third point. After spending the better part of a week reading all the posts that came out of this, obsessing about it, and generally ensuring that my therapist will continue to make a lot of money off of me, I realized why the two sides of the issue just could not hear each other.

    The feminist side, which was predominantly female, lives in a world where men already feel entitled to ask to touch our bodies—or not even to ask. Most of us have been propositioned, groped, or worse at some point in our lives. That’s just a basic fact of life in modern society. Now, someone proposes that at cons, a place where female geeks already have to fight to be seen as more than just OMG WALKING BOOBS, this sort of behavior should be made even more explicit. Cue massive wave of panic.

    On the other hand, the pro-project group, which was largely made up of geeky men (and some women), could not understand why women were so upset. And why? Because they do NOT live in a world where they feel entitled to ask. The majority of them are nice guys, or think they are, and asking to touch someone’s chest is really Not On. Plus, they feel disenfranchised. In their minds (and I read many posts on this), women have the power in a relationship. Women reject them. Women have the goods, and might be willing to share, but these guys don’t live in a world where they can ask. Enter the Project. Angel choirs; WE CAN ASK! WE CAN TOUCH! BOOBIEZ!!!!

    Neither side can hear the other because there’s this fundamental disconnect in terms of the worlds we inhabit.

    Two more things, and then I swear I’ll shut up. First, the assumption that a woman in costume at a con is there to attract male attention is really fucking offensive. Candy wonderfully detailed the differences in the kinds of compliments that are acceptable and those that are not, but a con is a particularly important environment for those differences to emphasised. People like to dress up at cons! It’s part of the culture. And if I want to be Aeryn Sun for a day, then you’d better get it through your fat fanboy head that I’m not wearing leather pants to please *you*. On a day-to-day basis, I don’t mind being told that my outfit looks good, or even that it looks good on me. I DO mind the assumption (which, by the way, The Ferrett outright argued in an earlier post) that I dress the way I do to attract anyone’s attention. Maybe if I’m going out clubbing, but even then, I dress so that *I* feel sexy. Not so that someone else can find me sexy.

    Second, the utter failure on so many people’s parts to comprehend the idea of social pressure to conform, *especially* at geek-friendly events, where the desire to be accepted is even stronger, is just EPIC FAIL. Maybe I just have issues (I do), but the fact that people just blithely announce that “oh, but anyone can say no!” without a clear recognition of all the ways that the whole project puts an expectation on women to say yes (and on men to be willing to be grabby), just really frustrates me.

    Anyway. I’ve written half of that LJ entry here already. My confimration word is stop76, which is clearly a sign.

  17. 17
    snarkhunter says:

    OH, holy shit.

    I’m so sorry. I did NOT realize how long that was going to be.

  18. 18
    Lynne says:

    The whole thing just screams “Loser!” to me. Yeah, I’d be much more in favor of an Open Source BUTT project than one that focuses entirely on women and appeals to the lowest common denominator. Their rationalizations are pure bullshit, and it’s SO typical that people who don’t agree with their position are painted as a bunch of prudes. Couldn’t they have come up with something even slightly more original?

    When I go to cons, I deliberately dress down, even like someone’s MOM, because I don’t like being gawked at. I’m there to have fun, buy stuff, play roleplaying games, and hang out with friends, not to have my tits or ass photographed by weirdos. At some cons, you can barely get through the hallways because of all the guys taking T&A;pix.

  19. 19
    liz says:

    I was all up in this when it hit. And his wife Zoethe has said elsewhere that this was (to her view) mostly started by the women. And that she and the other women involved thought it was freeing of their sexuality, bla bla bla. Most important thing she said, and I wish she’d said it in the outset, was to call BS on the whole ‘worthy’ section and creepy tone he chose to write it up in. Look, I’m strongly opposed in a public space, could care less in a private one and really think this just blew up in their faces overall. The women involved are saying all the attention is hurting them, so I hope it dies down soon.

    Alla that said, I wish he’d just jump into the swinger pond already and get over it. The tightrope walking of the wanna swings always leads to drama and mess and lack of understanding why people who don’t wanna find your Healthful Exploration personally or politically problematic. And they don’t get peer pressure as a negative because they’re hoping peers will pressure them into what they already want but can’t ask for. Older than old to me and so over it. So. But along comes the next wave of “Dare we?‘s” and so it goes.

    Minors attend cons. Many posted on how these young girls explore their sexuality in ‘safe space’. Allow me to call BS on THAT one with frothing crazy eyed rage. Appropriately enough, my spamword is “members21” Indeed.

  20. 20
    Jackie says:

    Touching a breast is a sexual thing. Downplay it all you want in coy terms, but no matter how you say it, it’s sexual. (Talking adults here, obviously; this doesn’t count a baby’s touch during breast feeding.) It’s sexual. Period. Just like I would not be okay with a stranger saying to me, “Excuse me, I’d like to tongue-kiss you,” I most certainly would not be okay with a stranger asking to cop a feel. And I sure as hell wouldn’t want to be the one on the defense, either, by being forced to say “no.” “Empowerment,” my ass. It’s not empowerment. It’s sexual harassment. It’s not okay.

  21. 21
    Claudia says:

    My first thought when I first learned of OSBP was that it would mostly be people that no one would otherwise want to grope or be groped by. The second was that only a man would come up with something like this and the be surprised/hurt/offended/etc by most women’s rejection of said idea (and him!)  and the inevitable fallout.

    It’s a shame OSBP tarnished the reputation of a venerable Convention. Ultimately, the most unsavory part of this affair for me is learning of Teh FERRET, his views awomen and his wife’s support of his “ideas.”

  22. 22
    Jen says:

    Emotionally, I can’t understand why people would get so upset.  Part of this is because I’m rather comfortable with my body, part of it is because I’m an idealist, and part of it is probably my removal from the situation.

    Logically, I can understand why people would get upset either way, because people do that.  People have other life experiences which change they way the perceive their reality.  I can intellectually understand, even if my initial reaction to people getting upset is bafflement.

    I do have to say that I sometimes resent that people who are less comfortable with their bodies (rightly or wrongly) for being the ones that we have to protect, so that we err on the side of caution.  While being in Europe I saw many a woman breast-feeding quite openly in public,  and some women who would sunbathing topless in their backyard.  It makes me sad sometimes that I am made to feel like my love for being nude is wrong… but I can accept that it will come with time.  And really, I have a nature that really doesn’t get that upset about that sort of thing… I accept that more than likely, in a few generations or so, women being topless will be a non issue.


    Not really well articulated, but my thoughts regardless.

    Confirm word? Church68

    How do these words get chosen?

  23. 23
    Stacia says:

    Those 2 posts that make you want to smack his head are the ones I linked to in comments on Scalzi’s blog.  I was getting pretty tired of people acting like theferrett just misspoke and didn’t mean to be a jerk, but then I realized *I* had been linked to some of his “greatest hits” for the last 3-4 years, but most others who heard about the “project” didn’t have the same experience.  That’s why I shared them. 

    I should have gone back to Scalzi’s blog to find out what happened after I posted those links, though.  Oops.

    As far as the project goes, I’m just numb to it anymore.  All it does is make me sad.

  24. 24
    Candy says:

    Snarkhunter: your comment actually articulated an essential disconnect that I felt but wasn’t able to articulate. (Your comment in general was awesome. Shit, dude, haven’t you seen some of the monsters I’ve generated in the past? Or Robin? Be ye not afraid of lengthiness. We’re a buncha long-winded motherfuckers up in this piece.)

    Anyway. Back to the disconnect you talked about. I like that you mentioned a geek dude’s feeling that he can’t even ask because of his outcast status/feelings of shyness/feelings of inadequacy/social conditioning/ whatever. It goes to the resentment some men feel towards “No means no,” I think, and this attitude seems to form as part of a 2-step process:

    1. The men have had the fact that they’re sexually undesirable driven home to them in ways that have left scars.

    2. They then develop a strong sense of entitlement—dammit, they’re men, and they’re deserving of pussy. What’s wrong with women who can’t see how awesome they are?

    To stray a little from the main point: A lot of these men, strangely enough, are often the first to call themselves “nice guys.” Heartless Bitches and mightygodking have written some excellent deconstructions of these sorts of nice guys, so I won’t go into it here. I do find it interesting that these types of self-labeled nice guys focus so intensely on physicality and sex; they’re not necessarily seeking love, they’re often seeking pretty girls or pretty body parts. A lot of these guys end up (I shit you not) seeking Russian or Chinese brides because American or European women are far too mannish or unfeminine or unaccommodating.

    (Man. I sure did spend a lot of time carrying on Internet debates on all sorts of forums back in the day. As opposed to focusing most of my energies on this particular forum, heh.)

    I’m not making any judgment as to whether The Ferret falls into this category, though some of his rants tread close to the edge. He seems somewhat smarter and somewhat more self-aware. He genuinely appears to think his idea is a great way to demystify boobies and advance the cause of sex positivity and feminism while retaining huge blind spots about the problems.

    I really enjoyed the thread you linked to, by the way. I like the idea of turning it around by having people wear the “I wish to grope!” button.

    Idle question: how would you feel if you wore the button and nobody asked you for a grope—or if you are, you’re approached only by the people who seem to asking EVERYBODY for a grope? (“You” being a universal, impersonal you, not a specific you.) And what does that say about the reasons why somebody would participate in this project?

  25. 25
    Poison Ivy says:

    This whole idea is pitiful. Snarkhunter, you did a great wrap up; I agree with you that there are two groups not hearing each other, talking past each other, etc.

  26. 26
    Poison Ivy says:

    And there are subsets of the groups that aren’t listening, either.

    I am comfortable with my body. I know it well. I am not interested in the rest of the world knowing it well.

    I think it is insensitive of people who don’t mind a stranger copping a feel to make light of the standards or feelings of people who do.

  27. 27
    Jackie says:

    Emotionally, I can’t understand why people would get so upset.  Part of this is because I’m rather comfortable with my body, part of it is because I’m an idealist, and part of it is probably my removal from the situation.

    I’m comfortable with my body. I’m comfortable with being sexual. I’m not comfortable with strangers asking to touch me sexually.

    I do have to say that I sometimes resent that people who are less comfortable with their bodies (rightly or wrongly) for being the ones that we have to protect, so that we err on the side of caution.  While being in Europe I saw many a woman breast-feeding quite openly in public, and some women who would sunbathing topless in their backyard.  It makes me sad sometimes that I am made to feel like my love for being nude is wrong… but I can accept that it will come with time.

    Being nude, or topless, or breast feeding, in public is absolutely not the same thing as having a stranger touch your breasts.

  28. 28

    The boob Project was an incredibly badly thought out idea on participants’ part.  Incredibly.

    I have written a bunch of posts about it everywhere, so I’m not going to repeat all that.  In a nutshell, if these guys have issues with breasts, it is neither my job, nor my duty, to demystify it for them.  I don’t want to be asked by a total stranger whether I want my breasts touched, simply because I have no clue if that stranger is going to take off quietly after being told no or if I will have to scream for security.  I don’t want to be asked repeatedly.  I am not a “body” evaluated by the size of my boobs.  I’m a writer.  If I want to be a body, I will go to a con where sexual behavior is part of the program.

    When I attend a convention, it is a business venture for me.  I expect to sign books, fan girl over writers, and meet my buddies.  I don’t want to see people groping each other in the hallways.  I don’t want to be pressured, called a prude if I do decline and I don’t want to be called a slut if I don’t decline.  This is a lose/lose situation for me.  Epic Fail on all counts.

    If I know that this sort of event is on the program, then I won’t attend.  Neither will a lot of other female authors. 

    We struggle hard enough as is to be evaluated on the basis of our writing rather than our looks, but no, these guys are determined to drag us back to the fact that our boobies are special.

    And the idea of trying to continue and expand it was a catastrophic blunder, because this sort of thing will inevitably attract perverts – and has already, and it will inevitably result in a sexual assault if permitted to continue. 

    So, to sum up, this crew wrecked Penguicon.  It is now permanently off a lot of female writers’ lists and will remain so.  Just the controversy alone is enough to scare some people away.

    Was there a better way for them to fill up boobs?  And let’s not mince words, I know what he said they were doing but when it came down to it, he boasted about groping 15 sets of breasts.  He didn’t say, “I met 15 lovely women.”  He said he touched several pairs of boobs.  Was there a better way?  Yes.  Reserve a room.  Put a big sign on the door.  Have a table blocking the entrance and have the entrants explain what this is all about.  You don’t want your breasts touched?  don’t enter the room.  Simple.  Better yet, do it away from the con grounds.  Start a swingers club.

  29. 29
    Eva Lynn says:

    Snarkhunter, I love your comment—great insights, well-expressed.  And that comment-thread you linked to was (a) genius and (b) beautifully illustrative.

  30. 30
    Robin says:

    I did NOT realize how long that was going to be.

    I thought it was great—a fabulously balanced examination of both sides, and FWIW, I think you’re absolutely right.

    I do have to say that I sometimes resent that people who are less comfortable with their bodies (rightly or wrongly) for being the ones that we have to protect, so that we err on the side of caution.

    But being comfortable with your body doesn’t equate to being touched when you don’t want to, right?  I mean, that’s not an invitation to sexual harassment or rape or intimacy that you do not explicitly want. 

    Which, I think, is the point that some are trying to make.  That this isn’t simply about *individual* women being comfortable enough to be touched in a certain way by strangers; in some ways it’s not even about women’s bodies, per se, or at least not their personal comfort level.  I think one objection comes from the assumption of power isn’t the woman’s—that the choice to say yes or no is illusory because there is an expectation that they should comply or be seen as sexually dysfunctional, somehow.  When it may just be that they don’t want to be put in a position where they have any burden at all to refuse or accept the touch of a stranger. 

    It’s sort of like the objection some people have to breast feeding but in reverse.  A lot of women have to fight to be able to breast feed in public because of cultural assumptions about what is and isn’t proper.  In the same way that they shouldn’t have to fight these attitudes to breastfeed in public, women also shouldn’t have to resist an expectation that their bodies are available to be touched in public.  I know a number of women who are comfortable in their skin but would never want to be in a position where they had to think about being casually touched on their breasts by strangers.

    Now, if the touching were unisex, I don’t think the dynamics would be the same at all because the expectations—and therefore the power—would be distributed across the genders equally.

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