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Survey of YC female founders on sexual harassment, coercion by angels and VCs (ycombinator.com)
540 points by coloneltcb 57 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 437 comments



The details are stunning. Nearly 20% of responders reported sexual coercion or quid-pro-quo.

Given that there are responses which declined to report anyone, the actual number is obviously higher. This is happening at the top startup accelerator in the world, where there is likely to be more scrutiny than elsewhere. (The problem is likely worse in other places.)

Kudos on publishing this research, great work.


> The details are stunning. Nearly 20% of responders reported sexual coercion or quid-pro-quo.

Doesn't surprise me. A couple years ago my co-founder and I were at a startup event, and an investor came up to another founder next to us and made a comment like, "Oh, you're way too hot to be a startup founder, what are you doing here?"

It's a tricky problem to really make sense of though just because investors are so diverse. You've got things like:

- People who got an MBA and for whom investing is their actual career.

- Founders who exited their own startup and now it's their hobby or second career.

- People who made a couple million dollars as doctors or lawyers and are now taking it up as a hobby in their 50s.

- People who made tens or hundreds of millions of dollars from crypto or whatever in their early 20s and have now lost all touch with reality.

- People who quietly manage family offices who occasionally add a startup to their portfolio.

Not that it necessarily matters from the founder's perspective. But it's just a very different problem than addressing sexual harassment in tech companies, because you have a mix of people doing it as a career and people doing it for completely different reasons.


>It's a tricky problem to really make sense of though just because investors are so diverse.

Are they? I think it could be argued that investors are one of the least diverse groups.

Analysis of 1,500 investors:

==70% are white

==40% of venture investors have attended Stanford or Harvard

==One percent of venture capitalists are Latinx and only three percent are black.

-https://blog.usejournal.com/where-did-you-go-to-school-bde54...


For what it's worth, something like 75% of the US is phenotypically white (including white Americans with Hispanic or Latin heritage), so perhaps that one metric is tracking more favorably than you're giving it credit for.


70% are white

Assuming these are American numbers, wouldn't you expect it? Wikipedia says 60% of Americans are White, and the number is higher if you include Hispanic people - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Americans

So it would make sense for white people to be the majority in any group, isn't it? Maybe there are exceptions, like certain sports.

Just to be clear, I am not white. I am only wondering about the numbers, not about any group's behavior.


I'm not sure why this is getting downvoted; it's entirely relevant. Sexual harassment is abuse of power. Power is disproportionately in the hands of certain historically favored groups, so a) people in those groups will be able to get away with more, and b) people growing up in those groups will be used to getting away with more.


It's getting downvoted because people don't like it when other people point out that the groups they belong to contain abusive people. It's typical tribal behavior.


Please don't break the guidelines by going on about downvoting. Instead, if you see an unfairly downvoted comment, simply give it a compensatory upvote and move on. Other users will typically do so too, leaving comments like this one orphaned and inaccurate.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


Or maybe it's getting downvoted because it's trying to counter an argument about diversity of past life experiences with an argument about diversity of class membership, which is quite reductionist.

Class membership can be useful as a proxy for e.g. power structures, but if you're already looking at investors, the most important factor influencing power structures is that they have a lot of money. Maybe there are differences in the ways white and black people with lots of money abuse their power, but that'd surprise me.


Nobody made an argument about class membership. I simply presented some demographic data of VC investors.

Meanwhile, you completely ignore the data about investors being heavily skewed towards two specific universities. Isn’t that a past life experience? Isn’t VC investor a “class” in itself?


I doubt many VC angels are reading and voting on HN.


Many people include aspirational targets (wildly successful tech folks who went on to be VCs/angels) in their mental notion of "tribe".

See also the quote about the American poor viewing themselves as temporarily embarrassed millionaires, and voting to support the interest of actual millionaires.


Did you really need to bring race into the topic? The word 'diversity' has an actual meaning, you know.

The comment you're replying to was very clear in that they were talking about career and background diversity -- as in, VCs have their money for diverse reasons.

There were like 5 bullet points about it, making it crystal clear what kind of diversity was being discussed.


One person's diverse group is another's monoculture.


I also brought educational background into the argument (40% from Harvard or Stanford). Why didn’t you comment on that data point and instead focus on the race data?

It’s understandable that you want to focus on the diversity of outcomes, just know that others might be interested in the inputs that led to those outcomes.


The only people who don’t like race bring “brought into” a topic are white.

For the rest of us, race is already here.


Bullshit. My large extended family is mostly "the rest of us" and doesn't like race being brought into a topic.


> The only people

There is at least one exception in me.


The way I see it, your metrics and your parent's metrics for diversity are different. I guess your point is that the 70% white investors think as a block and can be generalized?


==I guess your point is that the 70% white investors think as a block and can be generalized?==

I’m not sure how you arrived at that assumption. The point is that this is the data (as pulled by one person), you have chosen to take the giant leap that somehow those people “think as a block and can be generalized.” Why no mention of the other data points and focus solely on this one?


Don't forget ==82% are male


And, apparently, women are in a position to change that if they want to.

https://www.businessinsider.com/infographic-women-control-th...


I guarantee if you follow the links they cite as 'sources', they will just cite other infographics or news articles.


It's not that, they're just not explaining the reasons.

For example, women control a majority of assets in large part because they statistically live longer than men. This makes them a higher percentage of the population in general, but a much higher percentage of the population of retirees with retirement savings. And they do most consumer spending because they're typically the ones who do the shopping for the family, even if on average half or more of the money is from the husband. The numbers are largely accurate.

Though it's not clear how many 80 year old widows are inclined to invest their nest egg in a startup.


> "Oh, you're way too hot to be a startup founder, what are you doing here?"

People who are having trouble understanding why this kind of thing is harassment should try changing gender to something else. For example, imagine if you heard:

"Whoa, listen to that Southern accent! Surprised to hear that here."

"You're a Christian? Didn't know anyone who believed in that stuff would be in engineering..."

"Sure you want to start a startup? You look like you need to lose some weight and sitting in a chair all day coding's not going to help..."

... and so on.

I actually heard a version of the Southern accent example once. Classism and place-ism are things too. It wasn't long ago that students in some universities were advised to lose their Southern accent if they wanted to get work as engineers.


In regards to southern accents, there's a reason that southerners make-up the largest percentage (can't remember where I saw this, though) of students in accent reduction classes.

And there's some studies on this form of discrimination.

http://sites.middlebury.edu/lngt101fall2015/files/2015/11/ar...

https://web.stanford.edu/group/journal/cgi-bin/wordpress/wp-...


I specifically lost my southern accent to work in tech. Started work in 2010.


It takes a lot of effort to unlearn an accent, but it's not terribly hard to learn a fake one to speak in different contexts. My mom does this. Her work accent is usually not very southern, unless she's exclusively around other southerners with accents, but even then her "public southern" accent is nothing like her accent with our family in appalachia. I'm glad my resting accent is relatively neutral. Even in the south, having a thick accent can make you a bully magnet.


> "You're a Christian? Didn't know anyone who believed in that stuff would be in engineering..."

My wife works in biotech (has been in both ag and pharma, with the same experience) and seems to get exactly this (often verbatim except that “engineering” is replaced with “science”) almost as much as gender-based harassment and microaggressions.


I'm not sure Christians are unusual amongst engineers - graduates of engineering degrees (other than chemical engineering) are more likely to hold creationist beliefs than graduates of any other degree programme. Engineers and priests both like a well-designed system after all.


> "You're a Christian? Didn't know anyone who believed in that stuff would be in engineering..."

Religion is a funny one in Silicon Valley because it's outright religious discrimination of Judeo-Christian traditions, while embracing Islam. It makes no rational sense at all for anyone with even the most superficial understanding of religion or history.

With race I can see the logic of "well, people that looked like your ancestors were really good at empire-building a while ago, so we're going to favour everyone else instead of you to try to make up for that" and gender "well, women in the workplace is a relatively new phenomena and they're 50% of the population, so we're going to favour them in order to hasten their representation in the workplace and make up for recent transgressions". But the religious one is truly baffling.


> Religion is a funny one in Silicon Valley because it's outright religious discrimination of Judeo-Christian traditions, while embracing Islam

It's only mistaken for this by people who both confuse Christianity (and often particularly Evangelical/Fundamentalist Protestantism, and often strains of those traditions that are particularly anti-Semitic) for some broader Judeo-Christian whole and confuse being prevented from imposing adherence to their system of ritual and values on others with discrimination against them, and who further confuse not actively discriminating against the Muslim community with “embrace of Islam”.


>Religion is a funny one in Silicon Valley because it's outright religious discrimination of Judeo-Christian traditions, while embracing Islam. It makes no rational sense at all for anyone with even the most superficial understanding of religion or history.

This is absolute nonsense. What you characterize as a wholesale embracing of a religion is actually the recognition that there is systematic discrimination against a religious minority in this country and an attempt to fix it. Islamic traditions are rejected just as much as Judeo-Christian ones.


And you know what- religion is worth of rejection - any kind of in the public plaza.

You shall keep thy relgion tho thy self.

That minority stones people to death if it has the majority. Female people. So what does the PC-Catalog suggest, when one minority wants to end tolerance and other minoritys, once it is the majority?


>So what does the PC-Catalog suggest, when one minority wants to end tolerance and other minoritys, once it is the majority?

Is that an honest question? Because it sounds like trolling.

In what way does protecting a minority promote them to a majority? In what way does it condone their belief systems? Why do people have such a ridiculously hard time not conflating the adherents of t religion with the religion itself?


Religion, dogmatic, and enforced, self-encapsulating is actually capable to survive the onslaught of a liberal society. Take the amish, there self-contained believe system, has allowed them to expand, peacefully and all, but they definatly have outgrown - within local communities any liberal alternative.

https://www.citylab.com/equity/2012/08/exploding-amish-popul...

Now take a dogmatic religion, that is not peacefull- and watch wherever it comes to power- minorities beeing routed and pluralism and democracy falter.

As examples may i cite the Arab spring countries, turkey, syrias sunnites, indonesia - http://sp2010.bps.go.id/index.php/site/tabel?tid=321&wid=0

Im pretty sure, i can take your standardized reply from here. First of all its not one religion, its many variants - so nobody is responsible by the virtues of distribution of failure into the privat sector of the individual choice. To which i reply:

Yes, and no. Its one species of humans, planetwide, and religions are particular lousy to limit those human emotions in times of crisis. While christianity is tamed, well behaved or even in decline in the west- one religion-group then, has a track record for not working with democracy. There are not many islamic democratic countries, which are not sliding into toletarian directions.

Having to flee from ones self created social catastrophe, does not make one a virtue-angel by the grace of weakness.

If evangelicals would try to escape a trump ruled Gilead- does theire religion and culture warrant a special treatment?

No compromises, no colonialization of the public mind sphere, with illegtime power structures and moral concepts. Keep religion private.


I'm not sure what point you expect these examples to make. The second two are straightforward insults - which describing someone as "hot" is not - and the first one would be seen as completely harmless by many (perhaps most) people.


Describing someone as 'hot' or generally commenting on their appearance when it isn't relevant is a form of objectification. A woman (or man) is at an event to discuss ideas or their company and the first thing someone says to them is about their physical appearance. This is very discouraging to people who have it happen to them very frequently.

Assuming you are a man, imagine being at an event and someone coming up and saying something like, "Woah get a load of Fabio over here". Being compared to Fabio might be a compliment in an objective physical sense, but I'm sure that isn't what you want to talk about when you are trying to get funding or make connections.


I'm not sure what any of this has to do with my comment that you're replying to. Nothing in it defends commenting on people's appearance or implies that I disagree with anything you've said here.


> The second two are straightforward insults

That's exactly the point: if you can switch some group labels around and make an insult, then don't use the version involving gender.


The difference between the "hot" example and the "fat" example is not just switching some group labels around! The "hot" example is complimenting the recipient's appearance and expressing (presumably pleasant) surprise at their presence. The "fat" example is insulting the recipient and explicitly advising them against being there.

We can imagine examples of weird and uncomfortable compliments that are in some way related to the demographics of the recipient - like someone attempting to flirt by telling a French man "Your voice is way too sexy for you to be a founder" or a well-built black man "You look way too athletic to be a founder". These seem about as socially inept as the "way too hot" example and strike me as reasonable analogues. But the examples in the post I replied to higher in this chain are nothing like this.


You're missing some important context then. "Hot" is not a compliment when an investor says this about you, because that's not a trait that matters as a startup founder, and because of the boys club atmosphere that pervades some parts of the VC world, it carries the strong implication that an irrelevant trait is getting in the way of your purpose for being there.

If you look at the example the parent poster gave, that's exactly the implication. "Oh, you're way too hot to be a startup founder, what are you doing here?"


If you consider the difference between your two examples, the French man and the black man, I think you may see how one would be more put off than the other by the uncomfortable compliment. Specifically, within the United States (and other countries as well) the black man has been historically disenfrachised and therefore any comment/compliment that they do not belong there will not be well received.

The 'too xyz to be here' comment is typically made by people that aren't in a position to judge, possibly for a number of reasons.


It's not actually a complement though. They're basically saying "I value your presence here because of your appearance, not because of your ideas".

Let's give another example of a complement that really isn't:

"Wow, it's nice to see some black people at this event for once". It's a positive statement, sure, but it's not an appropriate comment to make.

Can you understand how this belittles people?


Or when the CEO (petite woman) and co-founder (old man) go to VC meetings and everyone thinks the the co-founder is in charge and the CEO is his secretary. Shit like this is rampant.


Well without even knowing or looking at the person, I can say he sounds too dumb to be an investor, what was he doing there?


Ah, the "no true Scotsman" fallacy. Smart people can be assholes. Indeed, their smarts can make them much more effective abusers, as they're better able to escape notice and/or talk their way out of trouble when caught.


lol, seems like you missed the point, just like how hot women can be founders too, dumb people can also be investors. I was merely making a counter comment to his comment.


> It's a tricky problem to really make sense of though just because investors are so diverse

Are you suggesting that traditional VCs and traditional tech leaders are less rapey than the list above? That seems like wishful thinking!

Meta: these downvotes are wild. -4 at present. Someone makes a bullshit, hand wringing, concern trolling comment about how this is a "tricky problem" and that it cannot be pinned on VCs and tech leaders because of schlocky retired doctors and bitcoin barons. The statistics don't back that up as cited by a sibling commenter. What's funny about downvotes like this is that it's not even a social deterrent. I can get +4 for a one word comment as long as it's funny, but if I callout someone for getting the vapors and saying "not all men" I get wild downvotes


I think they might mean nailing specific people down to a tech company specifically. I could be wrong, though.


You're using 'reported' in two different contexts, and drawing an odd conclusion as a result

From your comment:

> Nearly 20% of responders reported sexual coercion or quid-pro-quo

From the survey:

>> 88 YC female founders completed the survey

>> 19 founders experienced one or more inappropriate incidents by angels or VCs:

Yes, 19/88 of founders surveyed stated they had been harassed to YC as part of the survey.

From your comment:

> Given that there are responses which declined to report anyone

The reporting here is between the founder and authorities, other founders, other VCs, in context of the incident and not the survey.

From the survey:

>> When founders did report, their main reason was to protect others: “I wanted to make sure that other founders funded by this VC would NOT be in contact with this person, so I shared.”

I'm not assuming any malice on your part, just a misreading of the survey results.


Legit catch. I did struggle a bit with the wording of the post. I think it's still fair (based on my read and yours) to say that the survey results represent a lower bound, which is the broader conclusion I drew. I don't think anyone is suggesting that 100% of instances of bad behavior were surfaced by this survey, so the actual number will be higher.


> I don't think anyone is suggesting that 100% of instances of bad behavior were surfaced by this survey, so the actual number will be higher.

In absolute terms it is clear that it's a lower bound. In percentage we cannot say because as stated in the footnote:

> Callisto chose to send the survey to the 125 founders [of 384] who signed up for the YC female founder email list.

It can be argued that being harassed and subscribing to that list may be correlated. Hence, the percentage of harassed women on that list may be higher than in the general population of female founders.

Also, someone may argue that women who were actually harassed are probably more involved in these matters, and hence more likely to respond to such surveys. They got 88 responses out of 125 reach-outs (70%) so there's also the possibility most of that other 30% were not harassed.

Therefore, the true lower-bound in percentage terms would be 19 (that we know were harassed) of 384 (total population), around 5%. As the name implies, this is just a lower bound.

The equivalent upper bound would be 69 (that we know were not harassed) of 384 (total), setting it at 82%. The real number lies somewhere inbetween. Extrapolating "40% of respondents" to "40% of the population" is debatable, and claiming that is a lower bound would be just wrong.


> Also, someone may argue that women who were actually harassed are probably more involved in these matters, and hence more likely to respond to such surveys.

You may argue this, but I wouldn’t say it’s a given. For one thing, especially at the higher end of the scale (“unwanted sexual contact”, or hypothetically even rape), people who have had traumatic experiences may have a strong desire to avoid recalling them – especially for something as (relatively) unimportant as a survey – potentially producing the opposite effect.


>> the true lower-bound in percentage terms would be 19 (that we know were harassed) of 384 (total population), around 5%.

You're mixing a population about which you can make an inference (survey participants) with a population about which you cannot (people who were not even contacted about the survey). The resulting percentage is essentially meaningless.


It is meaningless, if you want an accurate estimate, or even, say, a 95%-confidence lower bound.

But since we like to be pedantic on this forum, I’ll defend the parent: if you want a true, 100%-confidence lower bound (ignoring the possibility of false reports), then that would be 5%. It’s a completely useless statistic, and you shouldn’t use it for anything, but it’s correct for the strictest possible interpretation of “lower bound”.


And if you want a 99.99% confidence upper bound, it's (384-88+19)/384 == 82%. (the .01% is the probability of false negatives in the survey data). Again, pedantic, true, and useless, but cited for balance.


I'd prefer to see a bit more of a break up at the low-end of the scale.

> "18 experienced unwanted sexual overtures or sexual badgering"

Badgering is beyond the pale, "unwanted sexual overtures" are unwelcome but I don't see how they are ever going away; if men don't make a first sexual overture there aren't going to be a lot of men who end up having sex. Some of those overtures are going to be unwanted, but the men basically have to try to find out.

Things like Tinder where you can filter for "interested only" are pretty much a new phenomenon and havn't really had time to influence the culture of anyone aged over 30.

Anyway, I'd like to know how persistent these "unwanted sexual overture" is before it is reported in the survey as harassment. Minor point in a larger picture.


Ummmn, you appear to have missed the bit where this "unwanted sexual overture" was put in context i.e. "one or more inappropriate incidents by angels or VCs"

Here's an amazingly novel idea: maybe angels and VCs who are lonely should have social lives where they can make sexual overtures? Making sexual overtures in a professional context where you hold a position of power (i.e. you are a angel/VC and you're making overtures to a female founder) is grossly unprofessional regardless of whether they are persistent.


> Ummmn, you appear to have missed the bit where this "unwanted sexual overture" was put in context i.e. "one or more inappropriate incidents by angels or VCs"

I think you're missing the point here. How did the survey define which unwanted sexual overtures are inappropriate? You write that this was put in the context of harassment, but how this context was presented to the respondents has a big impact on what their responses really mean. At face value, it seems like the study considers all romantic advances to be inappropriate. This seems like an overly simplistic definition, as per my example here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18225474

Asking for further context is entirely warranted. Studies like these can often be made (intentionally or unintentionally) to seem alarmist due to poorly defining categories of harassment. For instance, I was counted as a victim of sexual assault in one of my university's surveys because I answered yes to the question "have you received unwanted sexual advances in the last year?". Yes I had, but all of them were from people who ceased their advances after being denied and generally acted with respect. While there's always some element of discomfort in being put on the spot like that, I would absolutely not consider any of these instances harassment in any way shape or form. Asking someone out on a date or inviting them over for intimate contact, and ceasing all advances after being denied was considered an act of sexual harassment by this survey. I'm not kidding, if someone asked a person out respectfully, they got told no, and both parties walked away with no further contact this was considered sexual harassment. This also disturbed me because it not-so-subtly implied that I had harassed literally every person I had asked out on a date and was denied, even though I've never continued pursuing someone after being told no.


[flagged]


It was explicit from the results that responding "yes" to this question was considered sexual assault. After the results were published they provided the breakdowns of responses. They included "yes" responses of this question as part of the student population that had been subject to sexual assault. I had talked to other students about it, and while many told me that they interpreted the question along the lines of "have you ever received unwanted advances after being told to stop" that emphasis was not part of the original question. If someone truthfully answered the question that was asked, they would have to answer "yes" even if they declined a respectful invitation to go out.


OK, my commment was a bit rude and flip (esp. for HN). But I'm finding your approach wearying, which may or may not be your intention (maybe you're not sea-lioning, but you're doing a good impression).

First of all, a survey about unwanted sexual advances in a professional setting is set against a background that's completely different than a campus survey; only if the campus survey was talking about "unwanted sexual advances from teachers or someone with a power imbalance e.g. TAs, coaches, etc." would the analogy be interesting. Was it?

Obviously the YC survey could be better worded and/or explained (perhaps the summary is less precise than it should be). However, it's pretty weird that your takeaway is to try to parse out these numbers, with no actual knowledge of anything involved, to try to make them seem smaller.

Second of all, you are going out of your way elsewhere in the thread to conjure up corner cases and thought bubbles where a VC/angel might have asked someone on a date ("an unwanted sexual advance" - maybe) without it being a conflict of interest. It's a maybe, but that's a real reach to imagine - first, it would imply that these people met up again after a clean 'sorry, we're not interested in your business'. It's not logically impossible, but it seems more likely that the "first order" effect was "a group of entitled VC/angel dudes acted like assholes as per usual".


Or if they had accepted the invitation, but would have preferred not to. It wasn't "have you ever turned down an unwanted sexual advance?"


Here's a novel idea. Most founders work long hours. Their work is their life (for the most part). I wasn't aware you had to take a vow of celibacy to start a company...

Also 'inappropriate incidents' is completely undefined.


Are you suggesting founders are required to treat professional events as places of business as well as the sole venue for finding a potential partner/lover because they'll have no chance otherwise? That's silly.

Working long hours doesn't immediately excuse you from adhering to social contexts, especially when there are obvious power structures present which evidently is rampantly abusive across industries.

'Innappropriate incidents' is entirely subjective and can't be defined beyond a personal context. If one party believes the manner in which someone else operates in a context is inappropriate, that's enough of a definition, especially in the context of such a survey.


> 'Innappropriate incidents' is entirely subjective and can't be defined beyond a personal context.

That's unacceptable. If there are no firm, objective rules then anyone can be guilty of anything and "inappropriateness" loses all meaning.

I could consider the fact that you don't pray before eating something inappropriate in a work dinner context.


The post in question refers to harassment of female founders by VCs. Thus, your wibbling on about how founders work long hours is a non sequitur at two different levels (both the fact that you're attempting to excuse the wrong population and that you're attempting to excuse people for doing the ethically wrong thing 'because busy').

The "inappropriate incidents" bit is not "completely undefined" - it refers to the things in the list that follows. I think for a survey the response was surely detailed enough?


i'm not entirely unsympathetic to this argument, but i don't think it only applies to busy executives. there's a certain cruelty in expecting people to spend so much of their lives in a setting where it is prohibited (or at least very taboo) to look for love. especially so for engineer types who may not have the skills or energy to maintain a social life outside of work. unfortunately, i don't think our society is healthy enough to do this in a safe way.


That seems like a problem with the culture that women shouldn't have to bear the consequences of.


Interestingly, when my company proposed banning all workplace relationships (as opposed to only those between team members and superiors in the reporting chain) the biggest pushback was from women.


That's likely because banning consensual relationships is a incredibly poor attempt at fighting sexual harassment.


Allowing workplace romances inherently entails romantic advances between coworkers (some, or all of which constitute harassment depending on your views on the acceptability of asking out coworkers). If women are put off by these advances (as stated in the original comment to which I replied) one would expect that women would be more interested in halting this. But interestingly, women at my company seem to value the chance at making relationships with coworkers more than stopping advances from coworkers.


> if men don't make a first sexual overture there aren't going to be a lot of men who end up having sex

There are plenty of contexts in which men can make first sexual overtures other than investor/founder business (or similar economic power relations.)

> Things like Tinder where you can filter for "interested only" are pretty much a new phenomenon

Things like a brain where you can filter for “am I in an economic or other power relationship where a sexual overture is inherently implicitly coercive even if it is not explicitly coercive” are, however, not new, though apparently vastly underused.

Well, maybe not underused. Misused is probably more accurate; leverage rather than ignorance of the power dynamic seems common.


Do you understand how repugnant you sound implying that some men need to use businesswomen as captive audience for their sex drives or they won't get sex?

Let me remind you that a work setting is nothing like Tinder, nothing like a bar, nothing like any place where trying to get laid is considered OK.

You wouldn't ask someone if they wanted to shag at a funeral, would you?


> Do you understand how repugnant you sound implying that some men need to use businesswomen as captive audience for their sex drives or they won't get sex?

No, I'm implying there is a very high background rate of men asking women for sex, and I havn't compared this instance to the background but I assume women get propositioned at a very high rate _wherever_ they are.

> Let me remind you that a work setting is nothing like Tinder, nothing like a bar, nothing like any place where trying to get laid is considered OK.

My parents met in the workplace. I have a friends who have too. I havn't looked up the statistics but I assume it is double-digit percentages of marriages start as workplace relations. It is unfortunate if you think that isn't acceptable, because it clearly is.

> You wouldn't ask someone if they wanted to shag at a funeral, would you?

I wouldn't, but I don't see why it would be unacceptable. There are a lot of people at funerals who are't particularly committed to grieving but making a statement of social support, and they'd just be there doing what they do at any social event.


> My parents met in the workplace. I have a friends who have too. I havn't looked up the statistics but I assume it is double-digit percentages of marriages start as workplace relations. It is unfortunate if you think that isn't acceptable, because it clearly is.

Conflating financial power relationship dynamics with garden variety workplace romance is some serious moving of goalposts.

Seriously, one of the major reforms in venture capital in the last 25 years has been to reduce the amount of power tripping that goes on between VCs and founders. That's the idea that YC is founded on. This is another example, and an incredibly shitty one. Why defend it?


It seems like you're writing as though the survey result was "experienced unwanted sexual overtures or sexual badgering, in the course of seeking funding." (Emphasis mine). That italicized portion wasn't actually written, though. Absent that portion, it seem like the survey considers advances harassment even when no power dynamic exists. See this example (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18225474) for a situation where this is not the case, as well as my other post (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18225907) to see an example of why explicit wording of question like this can profoundly change the actual meaning of responses to question like this.


> Why defend it?

Because "unwelcome sexual advances" is a spectrum from acceptable to unacceptable.

The acceptable part of that spectrum is very small (being a guy awkwardly asks a girl for sex, she says no, and that is the end if it) and the unacceptable part is very large (fondling, using pressure from corporate power, etc).

However, despite the fact it is small, the acceptable part of that spectrum is important to protect because there are a lot of men who are not very socially adept, but want to have sexual relation with women and don't know many outside the workplace. They should be able to seek out relationships in their comfort zone without risk of formal censure. I assume there are a lot of women in a similar position.

In this particular instance "unwanted sexual overtures or sexual badgering" is probably more of the badgering end that we don't want, but the language here is important - there needs to be /some/ tolerance of unwanted sexual overtures that do not lead to badgering. Being awkward, being wrong and misunderstanding a situation isn't a punishable offense. Being persistent, using threats or getting physical is.

And so I'd like to see a little more clarity on what the low-end standard being used here is. It is important to the conversation. In a minor way.


Because "unwelcome sexual advances" is a spectrum from acceptable to unacceptable.

In a situation where there is a lot at stake, socially savvy people generally want to know the answer will be "yes" before the question is asked.

Historically, when men were the primary breadwinners and women were expected to be homemakers, a man asking for a date from a woman he had determined was single was not likely to be causing big problems for anyone. If she said "No" and he dropped it, no drama would ensue.

This is not true where they are business colleagues and she has career aspirations.

I had an entry level job at a Fortune 500 company for over 5 years. I wanted to get a better paying job more in line with my education in the IT department.

One day, a senior programmer asked me for a date. I'm sure he had stopped to consider if he was in the clear and determined he was. He wasn't doing anything wrong and he wasn't going to get in trouble.

I'm equally sure he didn't stop to wonder how it impacted my career aspirations. It basically killed any hope I had of getting a job in his department. Simply asking me out closed doors for me.

I left the company shortly thereafter. I left for largely unrelated reasons, but that incident made it clear to me I could basically give up all hope of ever escaping the Pink Collar Ghetto I was trapped in because some powerful man at the company saw me as date material and never stopped to ponder how that framing might impact me.

In over 5 years, he was the only person I ever met at the company who knew what GIS was without me having to explain it. He never once wondered what my career goals were, nor what my unusual skills might do for the company. Nope. He just got all excited about the possibility of getting a date. Full stop.

This is the essence of why we are seeing studies like this one about the impact on women in specific, even though anyone can be a victim of sexual harassment.


> socially savvy people generally want to know the answer will be "yes" before the question is asked

If you need a trillion dollar idea: teach socially unsavvy people how to recognize a yes before they have to ask the question.

I know you can make boatloads of money, because I am one of those unsavvy people and every bit of information about dating basically comes down to:

"Here are 10 hints that tell you she might be interested. If you want to know for sure, ask. Oh and she might be too polite to actually turn you down, so here are 5 more tips to recognize when a yes actually means no."


If you aren't talented at figuring that out, then don't ask for dates in high stakes situations. Only ask in low stakes situations where a no isn't a big problem.

This means don't ask colleagues for a date. Instead, ask social acquaintances from other parts of your life.

Whether you are socially savvy or not, you should treat all business associates first and foremost as people looking to benefit professionally from their relationship with you. Treating women like their professional life is irrelevant because you find them hot is fundamentally not going to go good places. It tends to undermine them professionally. This isn't a way to "win friends and influence people."


It is truly scary the number of men in this thread who apparently do not understand what you're saying, as basic and obvious as it is.


When cultures go through radical changes, it is inevitable that some percentage of people will continue to operate under "the old rules" long after that has become problematic. If it isn't a problem for them in specific, they may honestly not realize it is A Problem.

Operating under the old rules is frequently not (apparently) problematic for well established people who belong to a privileged class. For purposes of this discussion, that would be men who make good money and see themselves as "catches" because of it -- edit: which describes a large number of HN commenters -- sometimes while being quite bitter about all the gold digging whores in the world and failing to see that if you bait your hook with money, you shouldn't be surprised if that is the type of fish you attract.

Additionally, some blind spots are genuinely rooted in personal disability. Lack of social savvy can be due to Autism Spectrum Disorder.

I have two sons who likely qualify as ASD. I find it very effective to give them helpful tools for navigating the social landscape and avoiding the worst errors they could make due to their personal handicaps. I find it quite counterproductive to blame them as if they are being troublesome on purpose.

I try to keep that in mind when framing comments of mine. I'm human and I don't always get it right by any stretch of the imagination. But that's where I'm generally coming from.


> In a situation where there is a lot at stake, socially savvy people generally want to know the answer will be "yes" before the question is asked.

There's a gap between an overture which gets a “yes” and one which is unwelcome, within which an overture is acceptable and will not adversely impact a relationship even though it is declined; how wide this gap is varies by individual and context (it tends to be particularly narrow, and sometimes of negative width such that there are unwelcome advances that will be met with grudging acquiescence, where the recipient is on the downward side of a power imbalance) and, I suspect, is on average in our present society much narrower for women than men (becaus of, at least, general social power dynamics rather than necessarily any inherent gender feature.)

While obviously one will prefer that the answer be yes to any overture (even an implicit one), I think that—particularly with the kind of subtle, implicit, preliminary overtures that are used to gauge interest before an explicit overture is made—the thing a savvy individual will want to be certain of is that the overture will be within the permissible range irrespective of whether it will elicit a positive response.

I think a lot of the problem (other than active malice) comes from people not recognizing the effects of context and lacking empathy and thus projecting their own broader range or permissible-even-if-not-interested onto the recipient of their advances.


I'm really not sure how to engage you. Your framing is alien to the way I think about such things. Additionally, your framing suggests you are "rebutting" my statement, which makes me feel like perhaps you missed the detail that I included a proviso. The word generally makes it explicit that, of course, there are going to be exceptions.


> They should be able to seek out relationships in their comfort zone without risk of formal censure. I assume there are a lot of women in a similar position.

People should not seek out relationships with those over whom they wield significant power professionally. That's a pretty decent and obvious rule most people live by.

While there are exceptions, if someone doesn't intuitively understand the reasons for the rule they should seriously consider dating outside of their professional environment.

This is especially true for people who are likely to make such advances to those under them through sheer ignorance of social norms. The set of people who make advances and badger others usually do so in bad faith and have practiced ways to hedge, mislead, and leverage the people around them to remain safely tolerated. That leaves the decent, socially inept people wide open to be made examples of by HR because they never thought to use their power or influence to threaten others. (Or, out of desperation they start to use that influence to save face.)

That may sound unfair to the socially inept. But the point is that there is no way to separate the wheat from the chaff-- people acting in bad faith who get caught almost always claim social ignorance, or harmless intentions, mis-communication, etc. There is no credible way to signal to an underling that a sexual advance comes without the threat of badgering or other more subtle repercussions. (And esp. no way to explain one's actions as harmless after the fact.)

And that's not even to mention situations where an underling says yes to an ostensibly "non-badgering" advance because a) they confused the wheat with the chaff and b) the power imbalance makes them think they have little choice. If the person making the advance is not particularly socially aware then it greatly increases the chances that they take the lack of error reporting as consent. Meanwhile, the underling is convinced that reporting an error would result in immediate or eventual termination. Not a particularly sound system for exploring romance IMO.

Anyway, those are just a few reasons why most people believe strongly in the rule I stated above. It's a field of social land mines. If one is socially inept then an entire class of problems vanishes simply by following the rule. (Besides, widely-available web dating services do exist.)


Great, just what more women need - a man telling them how they should feel about being sexually assaulted. "Come on baby, I only touched you a little bit, it's no big deal".

Being asked by a VC about sex, going on a date, or grabbing a drink while trying to secure money from them is far worse than being fondled by some random guy in a nightclub.


> The acceptable part of that spectrum is very small (being a guy awkwardly asks a girl for sex, she says no, and that is the end if it)

This is actually really inappropriate IMO. Who the heck thinks it's okay to "awkwardly ask for sex"? No. You awkwardly ask for a date or some such, and -- if that is accepted -- then within that context the rest can be opened up. Maybe we're just in extremely different cultures.


>I wouldn't, but I don't see why it would be unacceptable.

If you don't see why it would be unacceptable, then why wouldn't you do it? You're admitting, whether you intended to or not, that you do in fact recognise that such behaviour would be inappropriate given the context – just like offering unwanted sexual advances to a subordinate in the workplace is clearly inappropriate.


I feel pretty certain that you do not personally do everything you consider "acceptable behavior".

I have a friend who has expressed to me that she thinks prostitution should be legal. By this logic, she would be a prostitute if it were.

Do you really think that's true?


> You wouldn't ask someone if they wanted to shag at a funeral, would you?

https://observer.com/2015/08/better-bed-than-dead-why-mouner...


What if all your life is work? Where should all the other stuff fit in?


> Some of those overtures are going to be unwanted, but the men basically have to try to find out.

Sexual overtures at a bar: okay.

Sexual overtures at a sex party: very okay.

Sexual overtures at a house party: prob okay.

Sexual overtures at a grocery store: eeeeh maybe if you're really hot and she gives you the look.

Sexual overtures at the office: very not okay

Sexual overtures at a VC event: way not cool.

Sexual overtures at an office party: not good.

Sexual overtures at an official after-party of a business event: nope.

Sexual overtures at the after after party with those 10 people who wanted to party some more after a business event after party: depends, read the room.

It's about context. Don't be a creep.


I'm really glad someone has identified that it's about context and each instance should be judged on a case-by-case basis. I'm equally surprised that at the same time, it comes with a list of pre-judged decisions where you have removed the context in favour of just the title of the event.

There are absolutely situations in bars and house parties where one should not make any kind of move. Likewise, there are office parties where one could.

Before I get to the next bit, it's important to realise and understand that "no" really does mean no. With that in mind, it's also true that there are men and women who say "no", but still mean yes. This is one small facet of that whole debate, but the point is subtleties matter. People saying "no" when they mean yes is still a real thing, like it or not, and some people have a hard time differentiating when this is the case. There are also people who of course don't care, but they are far less controversial. What we need to do is all pull together to work to clarify how we communicate interest in each other. And that means all people, of all sexes and genders and orientations and class.


> I'm equally surprised that at the same time, it comes with a list of pre-judged decisions where you have removed the context in favour of just the title of the event.

I believe some situations require more assurance of “it’s okay” than others. In the office, I’d have to be super very absolutely certain it’s okay before saying anything. At a singles event in a bar I might lead with a sexual overtone and see what happens.

And no always means no. Once you say no I say sorry and move on.

Although I do like the policy of a sex club I was at once: If you do anything you have to apologize for, you are banned from the club for forever.

More venues should adopt that policy.


Absolutely, the setting can set the general tone, but I'm simply pointing out that the numerous people saying "making a pass in situation X is always wrong", because it's really not as clean cut as that.

I was especially surprised to see someone get that and say that context matters, but then still start reeling off "yes"s and "no"s to settings without context.


> Sexual overtures at an office party: not good.

Interesting. Multiple women I know started dating co-workers (in entirely different parts of the company) at work parties, and did not think it was bad or unusual. Perhaps interpretations of statements like "don't be a creep" are a lot more diverse than you think.


It all depends on how attractive you are as a male. If a woman is repulsed by you physically, then even being in the same vicinity will be construed as harassment. But if a woman is physically attracted to you, anything you say is fair game and even welcomed. So in the end “don’t be a creep” doesn’t mean anything.


While "even being in the same vicinity will be construed as harassment" is hyperbolic, there definitely is a sense that women expect men to divine whether or not they want to be asked out beforehand. The reality is that the only way to know if someone is interested is to ask them. Saying things like "read the signs" often just either discourages men from making any move at all, or emboldeneds men to make more socially unacceptable advances because they think they've read the signs.

I think this is a big part of why online dating is growing in prevalence. Why take the social risk of being labeled a "creep" when you can go to places where whether or not women are interested is determined upfront?


Rule #1: be attractive

Rule #2: don't be unattractive


'office party' is an oxymoron, but then I've never lived in California


Anecdotally, I've been hit on by women at after-parties of business events almost to the point where it was cringe worthy. But I guess these rules should only apply to men?


I am floored at how you can miss how the context of these advances make it abhorrent.


How could they make that judgement when no context about the advances were provided?

Say I sought VC funding, and met a single investor. In the end, I decide to accept funding from another firm. Afterwards said single investor congratulates me on getting funded and asks me out on a date now that we no longer have a conflict of interest. I decline because I'm not interested in this investor.

Did I receive an unwanted romantic advance from an investor? Absolutely. I was asked out on a date when I didn't want one.

But was I harassed? It seems dubious to say so. At the time of the advance I had no business relationship with this investor. If the questionnaire specifically said unwanted advances _during_ the search for funding that would be a different situation. But that context isn't given, hence the confusion.


All of the reported incidents were "unwanted sexual contact" or "sexual coercion" or "sexual badgering." I would propose that asking someone on a date should be considered none of those things, unless you're doing it wrong.


The exact phrase was, "experienced unwanted sexual overtures", not "unwanted sexual contact". If we consider asking someone out on a date to be a sexual overture, then asking someone out on a date and they decline is indeed an instance of "unwanted sexual overtures". Someone made a sexual overture, and it was not wanted.

Since YC has not provided how these terms were defined in the questionnaire, we're left to speculate - hence the confusion and contention exhibited in this thread.


The fact that a legalistic definition is required for you to understand how an unprofessional gesture is perceived by women is striking.

Do you think it would be helpful to have a rule book for men that exactly stipulates what kind of interactions with women are professional, respectful, and friendly?

Are men that stupid? (I’m saying this as a man myself).


In no way is asking for greater clarification about how this question was asked in the survey indicative of an inability to recognize harassment. Not-so-subtly accusing other comments of being incapable of distinguishing between acceptable and unacceptable advances and denigrating half the population in response to someone asking for this clarification about the survey is absolutely uncalled for, and it makes me question whether you're interested in a good faith discussion.

With that out of the way, the important thing is that injecting one's own assumptions into a survey question risks making vast misinterpretations of the results. The survey merely listed "unwanted sexual overtures". You seem to assume that every reader of this question shares your interpretation as "unwanted and unprofessional sexual overtures" or "unwanted sexual overtures received while seeking funding from an investor" or similar. In practice, many people actually try to answer survey questions honestly. The result of relying on unstated assumptions about the interpretation of survey questions is highly dubious survey results, as I illustrate in this comment: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18225907. And not to mention it risks trivializing the impact of sexual harassment, because plenty of people may look at broad definitions like this and think that the majority of cases of harassment identified by studies like these aren't harassment at all.


Looks like we have a category mismatch.

You seem to care about the classification and definitions of questions present in the survey.

I care about finding ways for men (myself included) to understand and think about their blind spots regarding sexual harassment.

I am not saying that you are wrong within your chosen frame of what you care about. I am saying is that your frame is not very relevant to my frame.

I am also saying that focusing on the survey question is indicative of how you rank the importance about these issues.

It’s like the house is on fire, half of the residents of the house are saying “let’s get outside right now”, and you’re saying “hold on, let’s stay inside and figure out whether the fire’s origin is an electrical fire or a wood fire?”


This is childish argument. Just because some people put their energy in one topic or issue does not imply that they don't care about others. Case in point, "you're debating strangers on the internet while the Rohingya are being subject to genocide - clearly you think people debating studies is more important that an entire culture getting eradicated." It is unwarranted to say that people asking for greater clarifications of these terms don't care about reducing sexual harassment.

Regardless, I wasn't even the original commenter that pointed out the ambiguity of this item in the survey. I only responded after roenxi asked for greater context, and other commenters replied with the unqualified assumption that this item was universally interpreted by respondents as only referring to coercive advances. I merely pointed out the fact that, as it was worded in the original document, it was not exclusive to coercive advances and potentially included non-harassment examples that would fit under the terms used (and provided an example).

Also, if my frame of discussion isn't relevant to you then why did you respond in the first place?


> Also, if my frame of discussion isn't relevant to you then why did you respond in the first place?

You know, you’re so right. Why waste my time with someone who clearly doesn’t care about the core issue at hand?


I'm starting to think maybe we should collectively subject the men who are using the correct wording/behavior to positive reinforcement. Such as if someone tells you "The intern is really hot, but I would never ask out an intern" you would smile and go "Great guy, Bart! I also would never ask out an intern, nor would any other guy I know.". A number of men on the intellectual side of things seem to have what comes across as out-of-proportion anxiety that everything they think, do, or are is somehow sexually harassing, even when they don't even smile at women. Maybe the men that have the anxiety issue had inadequate reinforcement as children or something.


I'm not sure how calling an intern hot (even if subsequently followed by stating that one wouldn't pursue the intern romantically) is supposed to be used as a positive example of socially acceptable workplace interaction.


Neither "men" or "women" form a homogenous group with complete agreement on these issues, and further, not everyone in either group will even be able to read the social cues that govern such social interactions.

If anything, our industry has more of of these sorts of people, so yes, some people actually do need a rule book. A survey providing meaningful data on what is and isn't wanted would thus be incredibly useful not only to help these people navigate the workplace, but to women who have to suffer social ineptitude.

Considering your interest seems to be in reducing women's suffering in this regard, I honestly don't know why you're being so difficult about clarifying the meaning of the data.


This is such a bizarre request.

What you're basically saying is, because 5% of people don't understand the common norms that are blindingly obvious to everyone, the 95% must go out of their way to explain and accommodate the minority.

Why is the onus on the 95% to do that, as opposed to the 5% to have the recognition that their lack of grace in this context is an issue and instead choose to find a different playground?

I'm going to be cold about this: if you do not have the ability to navigate the social norms within a professional working environment, you ethically should not be allowed to pursue romantic interests there. Bottom line. Accommodating to that inability should never come at the cost of someone else's discomfort, nor are you entitled to pursue any possible interest just because you happen to work there.


> What you're basically saying is, because 5% of people don't understand the common norms that are blindingly obvious to everyone, the 95% must go out of their way to explain and accommodate the minority.

Yes. Why is that bizarre? Do you think we should accommodate blind people? Should we install ramps in buildings so the physically disabled can access them?

> Accommodating to that inability should never come at the cost of someone else's discomfort

There's no such thing as a right to comfort. I could just as easily turn it around and say that someone's comfort should never come at the expense of another's ability to work so they can put food on the table. Ideally, we should endeavour to support both goals, not sneer at people because we think we're better than them.

> I'm going to be cold about this: if you do not have the ability to navigate the social norms within a professional working environment, you ethically should not be allowed to pursue romantic interests there.

Let's rephrase: "I'm going to be cold about this: if you do not have the ability to navigate the physical spaces of a professional environment, you should not be allowed to work there."


Just so I'm 100% clear: you believe that being blind, and being unable to read social cues to such an extent that you are considered a sexual harasser for pursuing a relationship are equivalent disabilities?

"Stop being such a creep" and "stop being blind" don't really feel all that equivalent to me.


> "Stop being such a creep" and "stop being blind" don't really feel all that equivalent to me.

A creep doesn't understand what makes him creepy, that's the whole point. So it seems like the "advice" is both cases is equally unhelpful.


His whole point is that the survey doesn't provide any context on the advances. Thus it's impossible to tell what fraction of those advances were actually abhorent.


> if men don't make a first sexual overture there aren't going to be a lot of men who end up having sex

This line of thinking makes it more difficult for actually decent guys to get a first date. By the way, women like sex too and will make those overtures.

If you haven't had a first date with a person, keep the overtures off.


Also, as far as successful mating/reproduction strategy goes, an attractive female partner who is also a founder of a tech startup would be pretty high on the list. I wonder if we flipped this survey on it's head and asked how many women would be interested in being with a partner who has founded a successful tech startup what the results would be?


Even if I did agree with your core argument (I don't) how is a VC meeting the appropriate time and place for that?


Making sexual overtures, in a bar, or on a Tinder date is one thing. In the workplace? From someone who can make or break your company?


the power asymmetry makes this a non-starter, not even romantic overtures are okay (which are the overtures that typical mortals usually make)


Indeed. What I find shocking is how many people still delude themselves that this stuff isn't ubiquitous across the industry. 20% experienced sexual coercion. Think about how many more experience "just" sexual harassment, misogyny, mistreatment, etc. How many instances of being mistreated does it take to affect your career growth? How many instances does it take to impact your perception of the industry as a whole and your desire to stay working in it? To what degree you keep a list of safe and unsafe places to work, safe and unsafe opportunities for you, and how much that curtails your growth potential? How many stories from other coworkers about worse abuses (like sexual coercion) does it take to erode any belief in the goodness of your industry whatsoever and make you feel like you are walking around with a target on your back just waiting until it happens to you? This is why the industry finds retention and promotion of women so difficult, because it treats them horribly and like all rational people they have a tendency to leave situations that are harmful to them. It doesn't take a huge number of bad actors for these things to affect lots (or even most) women, but it does require organizations (HR, management, etc.) consistently looking the other way and failing to take action, it does require the majority of guys just bumbling around thinking these problems are super rare instead of universal.


> Given that there are responses which declined to report anyone, the actual number is obviously higher.

I don't think you can assume that. I think it's very likely that the number is higher, but it's also possible that it's lower - that women who have experienced harassment are more likely to complete a survey on the topic than women who have not.


Are they? The results state that fear of retaliation is a big driver in non-reporting, even in this context.


But this survey is anonymous no? How does fear of retaliation affect results in anonymous survey?


"I was working on (unique, highly identifiable thing) when (world's foremost expert that all insiders can immediately identify) suggested (fetish most insiders know he has)" turns into "Um, no comment."

The survey is of 88 YC female founders from a pool of 125 people on a particular list. This already makes the list fairly small and on the world stage and in the public eye.

If you really need it to remain quiet, your policy of saying nothing needs to be absolute.


They didn't publish the questions for this survey but I would imagine this survey did not require answer detail enough to be identifiable at any level.

Do you disagree that an anonymous survey with yes/no answer is sufficiently anonymous? Perhaps folks from Callisto can comment further.


What I'm telling you is a person running in elite circles can have reasonable concerns that it is not sufficient. I'm also telling you the VC/angel funding crowd in a specific location is likely to be a small community where most folks know each other.


Ah. So we are not talking about the same thing then.


If you look up a couple of levels, you'll see yourself specifically referring to "this survey".


Right, exactly. Are you saying "this survey" is not anonymous?

-edit- Clarification: I don't believe an anonymous survey with yes/no question is the same as a survey that ask for detailed answers that can potentially be identifiable. Hence this survey is not the same as what Doreen is alleging. (it's not the small elite circle part that I was disagreeing.)


I did not assert that they were, only that it is possible.


The scale at which this happens and yet I feel like I've never seen it is pretty shocking to me. To be clear I'm not denying it, it's just amazing to me that this behavior is that frequent or common and presumably because I'm a guy, i'm not exposed to it.


I was coming out of the subway with my GF and some guy came up to her and threatened a pretty violent act. I said "What did you just say?" and the guy, realizing she was with someone, turned a bolted.

I was angry but my GF just shrugged and said, "this happens all the time in Yorkville".

You don't see it because predators don't act out if there are other men around.


20% is roughly the same percentage of women that report being sexually assaulted during their four years of undergraduate college from similar self reporting surveys of a much larger slice of America.


If it is only one or two incidents per person, and only 20% of women experience it, I don't think it is very surprising that you wouldn't see it.


Yeah I guess the number of total "events" can be pretty small.

Just amazing that to me something that would seem totally out of place at work or seem "crazy" to have happen... a lot of people experience in the same workplaces I'm in.


and then you carry the possibility of more possible events with you into every interaction. You have to become hyper-vigilant for even average workdays.

The 'event' is more than the time it takes to happen, it colors the rest of your interactions with a company. (Do the other people know? do they condone? Who is safe? if the initial event was minor, will that person escalate?)

exhausting.


this is both a reason for and against working at the same company as your spouse/partner, you get to hear all the fucked up shit going on in another part of the organization


You're exposed to it all the time, but it's so common that we just don't notice. And that's kind of the whole problem.


Doesn't surprise me at all. The company I work for had a similar survey internally and over 20% of the respondents indicated some level of harassment or coercion (fewer than 20% reported coercion or quid-pro-quo). This is a company that works hard at not having that sort of thing, being inclusive and diverse, etc. and has a reputation in the community as being one of the better places to work as far as gender and racial diversity is concerned.


I think just about any woman knows, 20% is very low (and unlikely). From my own personal experience I'd be shocked if it wasn't clover to 60%.


> Given that there are responses which declined to report anyone, the actual number is obviously higher.

I don't see any specifics on the number reported vs the number that experienced harassment, just the number of respondents who experienced it. Where is that in the article?


Slight misread of the post, see my response to @nailer in a sibling comment. The broad conclusion is unchanged.


This is one of the real values of #metoo. A lot of people just don't know how incredibly common this sort of thing is. Catcalling, harassment, sexual demands for career advancement, rape. It is all really really widespread and it is very likely that almost every adult woman you know has experience some form of sexual degradation.


Certainly was the case for me.

I was completely blown away at how often women around me were harassed. I didn't see a reason for #metoo to be as loud as it was, until these stories started coming out.

My assumptions about most men having respect for women's basic rights was really misplaced.


I'd be careful about assumptions. Just because most women may have experienced harassment or otherwise unwelcome advances doesn't mean most men are harassers.

It only takes one abusive man to make every woman in an office miserable. If he also happens to be the boss, then what is anyone, man or woman, to do to stop him?


I'd be careful about assumptions. Just because it only takes one abusive man to make every woman in an office miserable doesn't mean that the problem is always so easy to confine. Consider how that person got hired or promoted. Consider which men might have known about this behavior but done/said nothing to fix it. Perhaps more salient to this particular discussion, consider how social mores in the entrepreneurial community, where power relations are generally not as formalized as they are in a workplace, might stop or permit such behavior.


Oh I agree, I just think it's absurd to cast a pall over all men. As if to say that all men are equally guilty and all men need to take equal responsibility for solving the problem. It doesn't work that way. Some men have far more power than others. Some men do far more harm than others.

It's just as difficult for a man to stand up and oppose his boss as it is for a woman. More so, in fact, if he only heard about the harassment but never witnessed it. When people's jobs are on the line, it's not hard to see why we have a culture of silence.


If you are in a relatively high position of power/OK with potentially losing your job, publicly calling someone out, even your boss, for something like this is risky but the right thing to do.

Even small stuff like calling BS on the sort of comments that happen when only guys are around (we've all heard them).

The implicit consent of everyone around these kinds of people is what lets this stuff continue (along with everything else of course).


If you are in a relatively high position of power/OK with potentially losing your job, publicly calling someone out, even your boss, for something like this is risky but the right thing to do.

I don't really think so. I think there are better ways to handle this.


To be fair, for every egregious abuser there are usually quite a few people helping cover it up.


The biggest one for me was when I realized that it isn't just that it happens to lots of women. It happens to lots of women a lot of times. I know people who have been harassed by professionals (teachers, doctors, etc) a dozen times.


> My assumptions about most men having respect for women's basic rights was really misplaced

Are you saying that from most women having been harassed it follows that most men have been harassing women?


> most women having been harassed

This one.

Most men are great people. But, the amount of damage that the minority can cause is what astounded me.

Also noticed that some perfectly normal people, have a couple of very weird ideas about romance, sex and women that cause them to act in a way that to a 3rd person and the woman herself to rightly consider it harassment.

Personally, I feel the rules around acceptable behavior when drunk/high need to be taught in school and a few solid lines need to drawn to let in most cases men and in a few cases women, know what constitutes consent.


While that statement isn't necessarily true, I would argue that most men do act inappropriately towards women. The problem is most men don't see what they are doing as wrong. What they consider flirting is often harassment. So most men aren't rapists, most men most likely do act inappropriately towards women.


Now that’s a claim for which I would like to see more proof.

Because if most men would do this (and most implies: a majority of them), then even the current deluge of reports would be nothing compared to what you’d expect it to be.

I’ve have asked female colleagues about this and while they did complain about sexism, it was always isolated cases. Not most men.


The current volume of reports is almost certainly a small fraction of the actual occcurrences.


Would the volume be much higher than the numbers that are reported by surveys like this one, in which women are asked about it explicitly? If so, why?

Of all the respondents, 20% report sexual harassment of some sort. That’s a very high number. There is no reason to doubt its veracity.

But if 50%+ of all men were like that, you’d expect this number to be way higher.


Studies show that something like 50% of men are like that when they know they won’t be caught. And the number goes way up for men who have consumed alcohol.


That's a start. I'd be most interested to see a reference to one of those studies.

Google is letting me down on that.


This is an extraordinary claim to make without any extraordinary evidence being provided. How do you know?


Even if 90% of men never do it, it's possible for 10% of the men to harass (say) 80% of women. So "not all men", but "yes, all women" is accurate. That's just how statistics work.


Most of my friends are female and something most male persons don't realize, is how incredibly common certain types of behaviour is.

The thing is, if somebody gives you inappropriate remarks on your appearance once a year on average it is something completely different, than if this thing happens to you multiple times a week, and sometimes even multiple times a day.

If you get robbed once, bad luck. If you get robbed multiple times a month, you will develop your ways of dealing with it.


Not to belittle the situation for women, and I'm very well aware that it's worse for them than men, but it's not exclusive to women. It's just incredibly common in general.

I've been sexually harassed as a man, and I'm not even a particularly attractive bloke. Obviously it's different, I didn't have to worry about being followed home and pinned down by someone that's a foot taller and 50 lb heavier than me. If someone's being inappropriate with me, I can tell them to fuck off with little fear of repercussions, I don't have to be polite and worry about them retaliating, meanwhile I have a friend who was punched in the face at a nightclub because she rejected some guy's advances.


It makes me wonder how the men who have the focus and discipline to get in to those positions of power have not learned the discipline of controlling their sexual urges.

Those that are doing the harassing are at fault of course, but something is also wrong if men are acting on potentially career destroying impulses. Is the education system failing at teaching discipline? or philosophy? I've gone through the public education system in the U.S. and neither were taught to me, I had to seek them out myself. Maybe sexual harassment seminars should be less about defining and identifying sexual harassment and more about the type of person you can become when you stop letting pleasure and impulse define your life.


The sad answer is these behaviors just aren’t all that high risk, despite what “#himtoo” would have you believe. Take the most extreme form of sexual assault: rape. The best statistics we have(1) say that only 31% of all rape is even reported at all. Out of 1000 rape occurrences 994 (!) times the perpetrator will see ZERO jail time. It’s hard to find equivalent statistics for murder, but compare that to a murder “close” rate of 56% in the US, as reported by the FBI.

There are obviously a hundred shades of gray between rape and an unwanted compliment. So if rape is the most extreme, and the most risky, and you have a 70% chance of literally nothing happening and the chance of seeing actual jail time is statistically zero... this whole category of behaviors is definitely not “high risk”.

1. Statistics compiled by the RAINN institute which uses the US Justice Department’s reporting for its main data sources. More info here: https://www.rainn.org/statistics/criminal-justice-system


There is a known relationship between power and sexuality. Many businessmen are in control all day, so in their spare time they like beeing dominated. This is common enough to be a wide spread trope throughout art and literature.

But for some it is the other way round. They have to dominate in order to get sexually excited. Then, if you are in a position of power, and you feel there is a seemingly consequence-free¹ area in which to abuse it, many of these otherwise mostly rational and educated men give in to the temptation.

It is not that we suddenly have a problem with some men sexualy abusing their positions of power. It is just getting a bit more visible than it was before, now that it has become a topic. This certainly feels like illuminating a dark corner with light, to find it filled with bugs fleeing in all directions.

That is why "lets just switch off the light" is not a rational option here.

¹ in legal- and job-related terms that is. These actions still have real consequences for their co-workers and subordinates


I agree "Let's just switch off the light" is the opposite direction in which we should be going.

How do we get from having men avoid these urges and situations at work (which is what is sort of the standard sexual harassment education) to having men want to better themselves and create a work space free of sexual context.

A lot of men I know already do this, but not all of them. And for the ones that somehow missed the "don't give in to your sexual urges because it will make you less than what you can be" part of becoming an adult, looking back at my own education there was very little to actually teach that other than life itself.


> something is also wrong if men are acting on potentially career destroying impulses

I think the lesson here is that empirically, it's not potentially career destroying - in fact, it's highly likely to have pretty much no consequence.

I'm pretty confident once these actions do become at least plausibly career destroying, that men as a whole will find ways of being able to rein it in. "Consent", as an example, is a straightforward concept.


It makes me wonder how the men who have the focus and discipline to get in to those positions of power have not learned the discipline of controlling their sexual urges.

I will suggest that a lot of powerful men are only just now in recent years beginning to see women "in their league." It's highly problematic for them to respond to that with propositioning these women, but it's possibly not entirely fair to say they simply haven't learned to control themselves.

In some cases, they may control themselves just fine most of the time. Then they meet some very happening lady who blows them away under circumstances where they aren't used to seeing women at all and they find themselves in new territory they aren't entirely prepared for.

FWIW, I happen to be a woman. No, this is not an "apologist" position. This is my framing for how to navigate the social/business landscape without stuff blowing up in my face.


> It makes me wonder how the men who have the focus and discipline to get in to those positions of power have not learned the discipline of controlling their sexual urges.

I have nothing to back this up, but I think it's one of two things.

1.) It's the culture of their day. This is applicable to older CEOs where it was the norm. They never grew out of it, because they never needed to grow out of it.

2.) They're powerful enough that it doesn't matter. Of course, if tens or hundreds of women come forward accusing a CEO of sexual misconduct, then it's going to be a problem. But in the day-to-day, it's only going to be a problem if the culture in the company allows it to be a problem.

Either of those cases has nothing to do with the inability to control urges. The problem is that those men are being overly aggressive with their sexual misconduct because they can.


I've observed some behavior from older male teachers toward young female students that seemed inappropriate and clearly unpleasant to the recipient from a sideline (male) pov. My belief is that these guys somehow convince themselves that their attentions are welcome. Alcohol seems to help them do it. The same fellows did it again and again, it was often reported, but repercussions were a mild slap on the wrist at best, nothing at worst. I believe this dynamic increases with the position of power (and imbalance).


> It makes me wonder how the men who have the focus and discipline to get in to those positions of power have not learned the discipline of controlling their sexual urges.

I think there might be (at least) two kinds of discipline: the discipline of doing and the discipline of not-doing. Does getting up early and putting in long hours running a business really use the same mental skills as not throwing your trash on the sidewalk or coming to a complete stop on the white line next to the red octagon? We might call these initiative discipline and reactive discipline: in one case, you go out and find the situation where you're supposed to do something, but in the second, the mountain comes to Muhammad, so to speak.


On the contrary, the sort of attitude where you see others as disposable, as means to get what you want, and generally doing anything you think you can get away with, is precisely the sort of profile that rises to the top


It seems there are a few explanations, with the truth probably being some combination of these.

* The harassers genuinely believe they aren't doing something wrong / think their victims want it * The harassers can't control their urges in the moment / over long times * The harassers don't care that they are doing something wrong / think they have the right to do wrong.

I'm not sure which is worse. And again, it is probably a mix of the above where cognitive dissonance nudges the harassers into after the fact justifications.


It seems more like the rules of the business world would aid and abet the same kinds of people who would commit sexual harassment. There are a lot of parallels between rape culture and business culture:

- Never take no for an answer

- Don't ask for permission, ask for forgiveness

- Break the law as long as you get away with it

- The bottom line is about the benefits I can extract from any given situation

A quick search will surface evidence that corporations as a whole are psychopathic and that CEOs skew heavily psychopathic (1 out of 5, similar to prison populations, according to a study - though I can't find the original paper).


This is like suggesting obesity and inactive lifestyle can be eliminated by "education. That reptile brain can simply be dominated and put in it's place by rational educated part of the brain.


"Catcalling, harassment, sexual demands for career advancement, rape" - those are not nearly in the same category. And it is presumably offers of career advancement in exchange for sex, not sexual demands.

I'm sorry - I don't approve of sexual harassment, but with all the hysteria, I am still not sure how often women simply consider sexual interest to be harassment. It seems to me sexual interest is a normal aspect of human life. And being attractive also has advantages, that the #metoo crowd never mentions. We don't really know how many women actually benefited from being attractive. Weinstein claimed many women took him up on his offer, after all.


Not very often at all. We know the difference. We know, or learn quite quickly, as do the vast majority of men, how to politely say no, to those who wish to be polite.

Stop assuming this is hysteria, it's not. It's a collective, we're just tired of this. And let me also offer some quick and dirty math to support that it's not a majority of men. Let's assume 1% of men don't know how to be polite and in fact enjoy being abusive. They do this on average 1/week to a randomly chosen woman. Within a relatively short time every woman will have had at least one unpleasant experience.

For the most part these individuals pick on people they presume to be easy targets, so some women get treated much worse than others, just as men who are perceived to be easy targets equally have problems - probably with the same guys. That's also why the power dynamics play into it, the definition of easy target depends on that. And at some point, everybody just gives up, deals with their situation as best they can, and tries to never go upstairs ever again in Yale frat houses.


It clearly is hysteria. Maybe it's uncovering a real problem (I am inclined to believe data like from this article), but it's most definitely, obviously a hysteria. The media is very happy to pounce on accusations, and many of the most widely publicised ones have turned out to be either completely false (A Rape on Campus, mattress girl, Oxford Union, Duke Lacrosse, Jian Gomeshi) or extremely overblown (Tim Hunt, Rosetta guy). We cannot talk about this problem clearly and rationally and devise sensible and effective solutions until people stop being hysterical.


This isn't just about the most widely publicised events (in which just as many and more as the ones you listed were spot on) but about something that impacts women at every level of society. Try talking to your female friends about it.


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You don't think there's another reason why women are not telling you about their experiences?


No. I never bring up the topic with them not do I express any opinions about the veracity of such stories in front of them.

But hey thanks for the ad-hominem that suggests my friends don't trust me despite knowing nothing about me DanBC. I can easily do the same in reverse - did it ever occur that perhaps women tell you about "experiences" because they think you're an easy mark?


You don't think you're guilty of adhom yourself, with your "they're all lying" claim?

And, really,it doesn't matter what they tell me or you. It matters what they tell crime survey statisticians. Have you _ever_ bothered to look up your country's crime survey stats?


Ad hominem would be if I tried to dismiss an argument with an unrelated attack on someone's personality. In this case I'm not even talking about their personalities or making unrelated accusations, just reporting what happened. Reporting their stories in their own words can't possibly be ad hominem and I'm not even accusing them of lying - they clearly told me what really happened, that's how I'm so sure they were never in danger.

I'm well aware of what self reported crime stats say but my entire thesis in this thread is that women routinely make wildly exaggerated claims so why would surveys of what they think change my mind? A huge disparity between self reports and actual criminal cases is exactly what I'd expect to see


I really wish your post above wasn't flagged. I tried "vouching" for it but I don't think it worked.


Thanks anyway. HN readers can't handle the idea of a woman lying at all, really.


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Wow, (regarding that video you reference) this is the first time I've seen someone use an obvious mentally ill person to push their strawman representation of a perceived ideological opponent.

>Sorry, I am not yet convinced. And the women I see around me don't seem that stressed out. I'd expect them to be nervous wrecks who never leave the house if everything was as horrible as feminists claim.

"Never mind the cacophony of stories being told elsewhere, nobody has told me directly so they must all be lying!"

Gee, I wonder why no women have talked to you about their experiences with men. Can't say I'd ever be having that sort of conversation with someone that spends their time doubting the experiences of women for no reason, with no justification.

>I also know women who are unhappy if they don't receive any attention anymore.

"I know women that want attention so women must not have it bad or experience casual, common harassment.". How is any of this real?

>I'd expect them to be nervous wrecks who never leave the house if everything was as horrible as feminists claim.

What does this mean? "As feminists claim". What feminist literature are you reading and referencing? How are you measuring the pulse of feminism right now? Could you please clarify if you are simply stating that you don't believe the number of women that have discussed their own personal experiences with harassment? They're all in on some ploy to punk men? I really am curious what the thought is here.


You're both right here, but also remember that the 'hysterical' ones are a tiny slice of the people who are upset about this. We'll never get to a place where there aren't at least a handful of manic twitter addicts being crazy about the issue.

Waiting "until people stop talking crazy" just means no action, ever.


Do you understand that if you perceive non-harassment as harassment, you're perceiving it as harassment, so of course you think you're not misperceiving it? Like, you get that reality is sometimes different from your perception of it?

If someone suggests you're misperceiving something and your only reply is "I'm not because I know I'm not," you have an obvious epistemological problem.


If it's one woman who stands out in complaining about harassment, then maybe you have an argument. But you have to believe that a giant chunk of the female population are oversensitive and have siege mentalities in order to actually make a counterpoint to the study.

Do you actually believe that many women are oversensitive to harassment?


Not really a giant chunk, just a very vocal chunk which might well just be a minority.

Besides, I believe that women are often the target of sexual interest. I just don't believe that it is such a horrible thing as some of them proclaim. At the very least, many don't really have the comparison to what it is like to be unattractive, which is not very pleasant, either.

Many people expend a lot of money and time to become more physical attractive. Few people expend effort to become less attractive.

What's more, if you complain about being "sexually harassed", at the same time you signal "social proof" of you being attractive. So telling such stories is a double whammy: you can show proof that you are attractive, and get some pity points and protection, too.


> Besides, I believe that women are often the target of sexual interest. I just don't believe that it is such a horrible thing as some of them proclaim.

Harassment isn't the same as interest.

Heck, expressions of interest aren't the same as interest.

You are insulting men by equating male sexual interest with harassment.

> What's more, if you complain about being "sexually harassed", at the same time you signal "social proof" of you being attractive.

No, you don't.

Because the people who actually take accusations of sexual harassment seriously don't associate it with attractiveness (people who habitually defend harassers or who are serial harassers themselves like to associate them, at least rhetorically, as part of a defense against harassment claims by arguing that the accuser isn't attractive enough to harass, but that's about as far as the association goes.)


>What's more, if you complain about being "sexually harassed", at the same time you signal "social proof" of you being attractive.

I'm more surprised than I probably should be about how much this misses the mark. You don't actually believe only "attractive" women are sexually harassed do you?


That's the thing about personal experiences - they tend to transcend epistemology - but fortunately, at least in my case, not basic self-defence techniques.


Here is the thing: my personal boundary is my perceptions. I won't believe something you tell me, which I perceive otherwise.

That would be the ultimate goal of the power game feminism is playing. Political correctness is another tool for that, censoring my thoughts.

If you want to convince me, show me things I can perceive and factor into my estimate of the situation. Don't ask me to simply believe stuff. That would be mind control and power games, and I am not playing.


Here is the thing: my personal boundary is my perceptions. I won't believe something you tell me, which I perceive otherwise.

What? You're just saying in a roundabout way that the truth is whatever you think it is. That doesn't make any sense.

What would it take for you to accept the conclusion of the posted study at face value?

Usually when I encounter someone claiming a great feminist agenda, their minds were made up beforehand and they never even tried to entertain the possibility that they might be wrong. Maybe you're the exception, but that would be counter to my perceptions.


Let’s I do something to you and you really don’t like it, but I think it’s okay.

Imagine I say, “Why are you misperceiving my actions as harassment? You seem to have an epistemological problem.”

What’s your response?


> I'm sorry - I don't approve of sexual harassment, but with all the hysteria, I am still not sure how often women simply consider sexual interest to be harassment.

Here's the thing, business interactions are not the appropriate venue for expressing sexual interest. If someone is giving a pitch to VC's to secure funding for their company, it should be about business, not about someone trying to satisfy their sexual desires.

> It seems to me sexual interest is a normal aspect of human life.

Lots of things are a normal part of the human experience, but are not appropriate in a professional setting.

> And being attractive also has advantages, that the #metoo crowd never mentions. We don't really know how many women actually benefited from being attractive.

No, no, no, this is wildly misguided. Full stop, #metoo is about sexual misconduct and the culture that allows it. Even if some women are given preferential treatment due to their looks, it in no way justifies sexual abuse/misconduct. It does not justify abusing power to suit sexual whims, even if some women acquiesce to it.


> Lots of things are a normal part of the human experience, but are not appropriate in a professional setting.

That's true, but I've given this a lot of thought, and I've come to the conclusion that it's simply impractical and inhumane to forbid romantic/sexual interest in a professional setting. Let's face it, most new people you meet in your adult life, you meet through your job, and many people start relationships and even marriages with their coworkers.

I think we should encourage emotional maturity and sensible behaviour instead. Although this too is difficult, because most people can't achieve the former, and the latter is extremely elusive especially in the current climate.


Its about the balance of power. Expressing interest in someone you have authority over is inappropriate, and definitely should be forbidden. We mustn't just revert to 'boys will be boys', that hasn't worked out well at all.


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I'm sure that's just trolling, but I'll try one more time.

Do men have bosses that extort sex from them for normal business rights? Routinely? E.g. Do men get promotion withheld because the VP's spouse doesn't want the VP alone in the same room with another man?

Its easy to dismiss the constant, exhausting pressure women endure that men don't. Its not about simple pressure; its about endless harassment, constant digs and criticism, routine assumption that a women doesn't deserve her success or position.


> That's true, but I've given this a lot of thought, and I've come to the conclusion that it's simply impractical and inhumane to forbid romantic/sexual interest in a professional setting. Let's face it, most new people you meet in your adult life, you meet through your job, and many people start relationships and even marriages with their coworkers.

Romance in the workplace shouldn't be forbidden under any and all circumstances but there should be a number of definite parameters:

I don't think there is anything wrong with politely inviting someone to hang out after work to see if the interest is mutual. If the answer is no, that's it, you don't ask again.

Expressing 'sexual interest' at work to me means communicating that you want to have sex with someone, which I don't think is appropriate at work. That would be along the lines of inviting someone to spend the night, sexual innuendos, or other forms of flirting. All of that is problematic in the workplace.

Some people will argue, "What if the interest is mutual?" Sure, but many people don't/won't perceive when it is not, and work is not for finding sexual partners.

'Romantic interest' is more along the lines of communicating you'd want to date someone. Even that is not something that should be going on at work. If two coworkers establish a connection and pursue that outside of work, ok.

Even then, a superior should never date subordinates. And in a sales or investment situation, it should be off limits to proposition someone seeking the sale/investment. Someone pitching their startup shouldn't feel pressure to reciprocate someone else's advances in order to preserve a chance for funding.

> I think we should encourage emotional maturity and sensible behaviour instead. Although this too is difficult, because most people can't achieve the former, and the latter is extremely elusive especially in the current climate.

I would agree, but what does 'sensible' mean? I think many times the offender didn't think they were doing anything wrong. I think people need to speak directly to what is ok and what is not ok so that there's a shared understanding.


> I would agree, but what does 'sensible' mean? I think many times the offender didn't think they were doing anything wrong. I think people need to speak directly to what is ok and what is not ok so that there's a shared understanding.

Ah, yeah, that's exactly what I meant. The "rules" need to be clarified and spelled out as much as possible. It's just that I'm not smart enough to decide on what they should be (in part also because I'm very adaptable and extremely tolerant to behaviour others consider inappropriate).


"business interactions are not the appropriate venue for expressing sexual interest."

That is bullshit feminist invented to support their victim narrative. It used to be 30% or more of couples met at work. It is normal to fall in love or get interested in people you are surrounded with.

This "professional environment" feminists love to talk about doesn't exist, because people are not robots. People have relations with each other. Even among men, there will be colleagues that bother you, or some that you like and become friends.

There are maybe some rare cases of companies aiming for that "professional appearance", but it is all fake. If that is your thing, go seek out such companies. But don't ask other people to change their work environment.


> "Catcalling, harassment, sexual demands for career advancement, rape" - those are not nearly in the same category.

Yes, they are in the same category of “unwanted sexual conduct”.

Now, sure, there are narrower categories each could also be put in which exclude some others.

> I am still not sure how often women simply consider sexual interest to be harassment.

Interest is an internal state; women may not want you to have interest, but short of some outward act they are unlikely to have anything to consider harassment.

If you are expressing unwanted interest in the workplace, or particularly in a context where you exercise economic power over the subject of that interest, they aren't wrong to view it as harassment.


"I am still not sure how often women simply consider sexual interest to be harassment"

There are lots of ways to address this, but I'll limit myself to probably the biggest issue involved: Power dynamics. If your boss expresses sexual interest in you, it puts you in a very difficult situation if the interest is not mutual. See result #4 in the article, and read through some of the comments here for examples.


Right, what they have in common is the idea that the situation gives the woman less rights. Either she owes the man sex in exchange for promotion at work, or the man can take sex because his position outranks hers. Once the determination is made that she can't say no (or not without a fight), something has gone seriously wrong whether it progresses to rape or not. And yeah there's a spectrum and yeah there are other axes we can judge the situation on, but there's a litmus test here and it's not asking a lot to pass it.


Of course they aren't in the same category. I wrote them in increasing intensity. But all of them happen more frequently than a lot of men think.

This has nothing to do with being attractive. Ask a bunch of your female friends how many of them started getting catcalls at age 12. You might be surprised.


In my local non-software community, a key figure in the local Renaissance Festival was brought down by rape charges, which led to a plethora of #metoo among female friends who dealt with him.

I brought this up to my daughter, who is 24. She said "Yeah, I was warned not to be alone with him when I was 10".

And I, as a devoted father who has a very close relationship with his daughter (she's one of my closest friends, honestly) had no idea about this. This should give all men pause. What else do you not know about, that happens to your spouses, your sisters, your daughters, your mothers, your friends?


Also worth asking: what have you said to or around those women that made them believe they can’t trust you with those stories?


That's a good question, something all men need to ask themselves (after they get over the stupid idea that it isn't happening or women are making it up)...

Here's the thing. It's so common for women that they don't detail every little incident in their lives to every man in their lives, because it's too much to track. Do you remember every driver who cut you off in traffic? That's kind of the level of the low-grade sexual harassment women deal with. It's just about every day.

So no, I'm not told everything. And hopefully, most of the time, it's not that the women in my life are afraid to speak up to me about it. It's not that my then ten year old daughter was afraid or ashamed to talk to me about being warned about a lecherous, creepy man in a position of power. It's that even then, she knew it was part of life as a woman.

By age 10, I had already asked a few female friends to be her "bad aunties". Their job was to be adult women she could talk to who weren't in her chain of command - not parents, or teachers, or officials of any sort. They were there to listen and advise when she needed it. And they were specifically asked to keep her confidence no matter what - even from me, and her mother. And she knew this. She knew she had adult women her life she could turn to when she didn't have anyone else she felt safe with, knowing that her parents trusted them with her.

I recommend this to every father.


If you're not sure of the difference between interest and harassment, you're probably part of the problem. And I'll note that guys who say that rarely have trouble telling the difference when it's another guy expressing sexual interest in them.


im honestly not sure what your point is here about guys hitting on guys, but in my experience being hit on by women it is a genuinely blurry line.

in general, it makes me very uncomfortable to be touched by someone without giving explicit consent, and over the years this has happened quite a few times (ranging from touching my hair at a bar to forcibly trying to restrain me from leaving after i decline sex). but if someone who i already consider attractive grabs me and starts talking to me, i don't necessarily mind and i might even like it. a whole range of behavior goes from uncomfortable to enjoyable in proportion to how much i am attracted to the person. on the flip side, knowing how uncomfortable it makes me, i will basically never touch anyone (other than to shake hands), unless they have explicitly told me it's okay. i think people perceive me as being kind of cold because of this.

my point isn't that the ambiguity condones bad behavior in any way, but rather that you shouldn't make such sweeping statements to shut people down who might be trying to have a good faith discussion. this stuff is complicated and we need to talk about it.


Yes, as a fellow human being living in this culture, I also understand sexual dynamics are asymmetrical and complicated. Thanks.

That said, I don't think there's much reason to think that a person who created a throwaway account to undermine the legitimacy of #metoo is really trying to have a good-faith discussion.

The point about my comment on men not understanding consent and boundaries is that it is very often a convenient lack of understanding. The claim that women are just too darned mysterious is used to justify violation of consent and boundaries. However, if those same straight men are hit on by other men, they suddenly develop a very clear idea of boundaries and consent.

This suggests to me that the lack of understanding is not just convenient but willful. As Upton Sinclair says, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!" The same goes, I think, for horny dudes. Especially horny dudes living in a patriarchal culture where women used to be effectively property of one man or another, and where that patriarchy is still being slowly unwound.


I'm sorry, why do you think how these things are categorized matters in this context? In the workplace all of these things can be inappropriate, and should not be taken lightly.

Catcalling is an inappropriate way to show sexual interest, especially in the workplace. Sexual harassment is a legally defined term in most places, and is not just showing an interest, it is harassment. I hope we can agree that sexual demands for career advancement is not just sexual interest, and neither is rape.

A person's sexual interest is theirs. When they chose to share that interest with another person in the workplace they better carefully gauge their position of power, and the appropriateness of the context. They should also respond in a mature and appropriate way if the interest is not appreciated or reciprocated.

You should also be careful how you throw around the term "hysteria" https://www.mcgill.ca/oss/article/history-quackery/history-h... as it is a loaded phrase


My understanding is sexual harassment is aggressive, in a way that goes beyond confidence or assertiveness. I suppose it feels like being in a fight in a way. Most fights don't have lasting consequences, most fights occur in environments or cultures where they're almost excused in a way, but if somebody wants to fight you, and even if somebody wants to fight you in an environment that's normally very sober, such as your office, you tend to know it. (And depending on your relative sizes and prior levels of acquaintance, it will make you uneasy).


> I am still not sure how often women simply consider sexual interest to be harassment.

In this setting it's at a minimum incredibly unprofessional, especially between people who don't know each other well and are potentially customer/client or investor/investee.

Imagine doing this stuff in a sales meeting.


Which of catcalling, harassment, sexual demands for career advancement, or rape do you consider acceptable expressions of sexual interest?


"All the hysteria".

You might want to look at the etymology of the word "hysteria", and think about it in this context.


I'm curious why they're not all in the same category, what categorization system are we using?


If we're using a system that puts catcalling in the same bucket as actual rape, that's a little bit of a problem. Catcalling is offensive, tasteless, and disgusting, but it's not the same as forcing someone to have sex with you.

I support laws against catcalling, or enforcing existing harassment laws to include catcalling. But you really lose me when you try to put saying anything--no matter how offensive or even illegal--in the same bucket as doing physical violence to another person.

I think this is where the #metoo movement and other groups that promote women's safety and well-being lose a lot of support from people who would otherwise be in agreement with them. I can go really far supporting laws to protect women from all kinds of awful things. But I can't really stretch reality far enough to say that saying something is the same as raping someone.


I wasn't suggesting catcalling is the same as rape; I was suggesting they're both in the same category. To use an analogy, a Ford Fiesta and a Ferrari FXX aren't going to compete in a race together but they're both cars.


If we're using a system that puts catcalling in the same bucket as actual rape, that's a little bit of a problem. Catcalling is offensive, tasteless, and disgusting, but it's not the same as forcing someone to have sex with you.

No one is suggesting catcalling is the same as rape; people are suggesting they're both in the same category. To use an analogy, a Ford Fiesta and a Ferrari FXX aren't going to compete in a race together but they're both cars.


To use an analogy, a Ford Fiesta and a Ferrari FXX aren't going to compete in a race together but they're both cars.

To use an analogy, public urination and murder aren't doing to result in the same penalties but they're both crimes.


Sure, but in the context of workplace harassment catcalling and rape would be in the same category, fireable offenses, no?


Sure, but in the context of criminal law, public urination and murder would be in the same category, offenses that can get you arrested, no?

There is an unsavory political/propaganda purpose to putting catcalling and rape in the same category. The eliding of crimes of vastly differing degrees of severity is another warping of law enforcement and the judiciary which totalitarian states have used to oppress individuals. To do the constant work against this, we need to be careful about distinctions.


> There is an unsavory political/propaganda purpose to putting catcalling and rape in the same category

Unless one views combatting unwanted sexual conduct to which people are subjected without consent as an unsavory purposes, no, there isn't.

> The eliding of crimes of vastly differing degrees of severity is another warping of law enforcement and the judiciary which totalitarian states have used to oppress individuals.

True, but irrelevant, for several reasons: first, this isn't a law enforcement issue; second, while the category of discussion overlaps with criminal conduct, it is not a discussion of crime as such, but of a category united by shared features not incliding criminality; third, no one is suggesting equivalency or arguing for ignoring the distinctions between acts within the category while discussing the broad category.


Unless one views combatting unwanted sexual conduct to which people are subjected without consent as an unsavory purposes, no, there isn't.

But if one views the efforts towards combating unwanted sexual conduct as a pretext used by certain people who want power as an end, then it becomes an especially unsavory purpose, no?

True, but irrelevant, for several reasons: first, this isn't a law enforcement issue

The classic strategy of non-governmental authoritarians, since they do not have a monopoly on violence, is to do what they can with the same effect. If you don't have the state monopoly on violence, then dress in uniformed hoods and do violence and vandalism under the cover of anonymous crowds. If you don't have the state function of the judiciary, then use kangaroo courts, "trial in the media," and extralegal means to make accusations with the presumption of guilt. All of the above is very relevant today.

third, no one is suggesting equivalency or arguing for ignoring the distinctions between acts within the category while discussing the broad category.

False. Exactly that is happening in order to turn the tables on current power structures, and to let one group intimidate another.


That's a fine perspective. While I do think catcalling should be illegal, I don't think it should carry the same punishment. Never the less, we're still talking about workspace harassment here.


If we lose such distinctions in the workplace, then there will just be context-specific oppression in the workplace. Livelihood is a major part of life. The spirit of such principles should be in force everywhere of importance in a free society. A free, liberal society accomplishes by convincing and by choice what an oppressive society accomplishes by heavy-handed imposition and coercion. Pay attention to what you're really asking for. It may well be around long enough to be used against you.


I'm well aware of what I'm wishing for. No need to be condenseding. I certainly don't presume you and I would see eye to eye on the society I'd build.


I'm well aware of what I'm wishing for. No need to be condenseding.

What would happen if your tools were used against you?

I certainly don't presume you and I would see eye to eye on the society I'd build.

Do you imagine your faction would be in charge? It certainly sounds like you do. "Revolutions are often initiated by idealists, carried out by fanatics and hijacked by scoundrels." -- Thomas Carlylse


Then I would defend myself, and if I lost, that's fine, it's the cost of progress, even if I spent the rest of my life in jail.


It sounds as if you're already doing things that could land you in jail.


Offers of career advancement in exchange for sexual favors are really really bad, regardless of whether or not someone took them up on it, and regardless of whether they benefited from it later. Not just from the victim's perspective- the person who made the offer of a quid pro quo is just literally a shitty manager or investor and I would question every other aspect of their leadership ability and character. If they can't figure out the blindingly obvious, simple stuff, who knows what other blind spots they have. It's a huge red flag about someone's judgement.

For an investor, their main professional task is to determine if someone is a good risk for investment (possibly with other people's money, who are trusting this person to make good decisions). If their criteria is a quid pro quo for sexual favors rather than whether or not someone's startup is a good place to invest, they're not doing their job. They're doing the opposite of their job.

Likewise, a manager who promises advancement in exchange for sexual favors is advancing someone based on their willingness to sleep with them rather than whether or not the person is a good candidate for advancement. Again, not only is that manager doing a shitty job at being a manager, they're almost doing the worst possible job at being a manager. It's akin to promoting someone based on their personal loyalty to the manager rather than their ability to do the job. It happens all the time but that doesn't make it any better.

TL;DR, even ignoring whether or not someone is a victim in this situation, and not caring about any of the moral or ethical aspects, the harasser has still shown themselves to not be worthy of their job. The most selfish, amoral interpretation of the situation still demands getting rid of the harasser, even if all you care about is business success and are willing to overlook everything else.


> It's akin to promoting someone based on their personal loyalty to the manager rather than their ability to do the job.

Nah, it's way worse. Promoting based on trust can be good, trust is a very important commodity (and hard to come by). In contrast to sexual availability or whatever.


I agree, although I would distinguish between trust and personal loyalty. Trust is collegial, but loyalty is a submissive relationship, at least in the sense that I mean it here. I trust decisions based purely on trust, but I distrust decisions based purely on loyalty, which is unquestioning.


Makes sense, I didn't consider that small but important distinction!


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I for one prefer a world where 'hysteria' is a gender-neutral term rather than one where we shift it back to gendered for the sake of taking offense. That would be going backwards.

There's plenty to object to in the parent comment without going there.


You can't shift it "back"; the accusation of excess emotionalism has always been gendered in English. Look at Shakespeare talking about "womanish", for example.

The comment from the throwaway account is already heavily gendered. Pointing out one of the gendered tropes used in service of that is entirely on topic. There's no reason to sweep it under the rug.


Except we've had about 75 years of it being increasingly ungendered, to the point where I'm pretty sure most people don't even KNOW the etymology you're referring to.

The outrage junkies are the only ones keeping the gendered definition alive at this point. Great job everyone.


If you are making the claim that the use has recently become entirely ungendered, then let's see your evidence. Note that there are two aspects: one would have to be that it's applied equally to the genders, and the other is that it no longer draws upon gender stereotypes. (As an example of latter, saying that somebody "hits like a girl" is highly gendered but is said mainly to boys.)


I'd prefer that world too, but it's tough to change hundreds of years of culture.

The point is that it's not going back to gendered. It always is. The sexism in that word is much more subtle now, but it has not gone away.


That’s not how language works. These things have a history of usage which informs their meaning. The dictionary is the cliffs notes. The true meaning is how it has been used throughout time.


You should ask your wife how she feels about your presumption that women are exaggerating benign sexual interest into sexual harassment, and how you actually think Weinstein's casting couch was a good thing for women.


I think you mean a lot of men just didn't care to realize. Women knew.


That's not even remotely true. Loads of women think that it only happens to them that it's something they are doing. Other women reporting and coming forward was as much for other victims to know they aren't alone as it was for men to wake up to what's happening.

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