No you are right, I cannot fanthom that anybody could feel threatened by a geek who talks to her in an elevator, no matter the time.
Stranger rape (as opposed to date rape) is so extreemly rare that it makes the news when it does happen -- and it will almost certainly not happen in a conference elevator. Especially when there is a lot of males around -- who are glamoring for a chance to be the hero.
Stranger rape is not especially uncommon, unfortunately. Something like 1 in 5 women, possibly even more, are sexually assaulted at least once in a lifetime.
Are you suggesting that geeks can't rape people? Seriously? I'm sure it's not because of their inherent gentleness or sunny dispositions. It's not because geeks aren't frequently sexually frustrated – so frustrated that they resort to asking women out to drinks at four in the goddamned morning just because they were unlucky enough to board the same elevator. Is it because geeks are weak or something? Because brother, I know more geeks who own knives and switchblades than people of any other social substratum, and knives make it pretty easy to overpower somebody in, say, a small cramped space.
If you think rape never happens on elevators, or in public places, or amidst other "males" who are "glamoring for a chance to be the hero" – well, buddy, you're starting to sound a little silly. I'm not saying you should be kicked out of a conference for asking a girl out in such a stupid, oblivious way, but Rebecca didn't have him kicked out. She just said that it "bothered" her and that she felt it was "creepy". And for that she received a lot of harassment from people just like you.
It really makes me sad to see on HN arguments of the form, "I cannot understand/perceive X, therefore it is unimportant."
I get that you can't fathom it. But so what? Nobody put you in charge of deciding when people should feel unsafe. Or whether I should have sympathy for those who do. Or whether we, as a community, are willing to let a lot of otherwise useful contributors walk away because they don't feel safe.
I don't want to be a hero. Heroes need villains. I want a good conference, where everybody feels safe and welcome and we can all focus on learning. And this seems like a step in the right direction.
Homer Simpson isn't a role model. He's apathetic, stupid, and constantly convinced that he's more important of a man than he is. In fact, he's more a critique of that kind of man than an endorsement.
It's telling that Homer's redemptive characteristics are that he's capable of loving his wife and his children, and through his love, he's willing to realize that his opinions on things, his actions, are not perfect just because they're his. He can admit to being wrong; he can start caring; he can grow, ever-so-slowly, as a man.
I'm not suggesting that a person model their behavior after Homer.
The point I'm making in quoting him is that caring and understanding are distinct axes. You can care/understand, not care/not understand, not care/understand (Homer), and care/not understand. Each of these ways of being tends to bring different results.
I'll echo what I said elsewhere in this thread. When it comes to this topic, reality is irrelevant. FBI crime statistics are entirely unimportant in this discussion.
What is important is that you understand, accept, and modify your behavior to be more amenable to, the fear and emotional fragility that other people hold about the topic. It is not their responsibility to become more educated about actual risks - it is yours to behave as if these perceived threats are as likely as they think they are.
Look, we can quibble about how many women are actually raped over the course of their lifetimes. Can we agree that it is "a scary amount"? As in, enough that there's reason for women to be rationally nervous about people they don't know making sexual advances on them? At four in the morning? In a context that doesn't even remotely suggest "I want to go get a beer with you and then maybe have sex?"
As a guy, it bugs me that I am, in a lot of situations, seen as a threat. Walking down a quiet city street at night in my favorite hoodie, women have a hard time recognizing that I am a pretty good guy. They avoid eye contact, and a few cross the street to avoid walking near me. Sometimes it gives me a sad!
But honestly, my minor butthurtness goes away when I think what their experience is like. I'm just not at the same kind of risk they are. An order of magnitude less for sexual assault, and substantially lower for a lot of other crime. So I do everything I can to appear as unthreatening as possible: leaving plenty of room, trying to stay in the light, not boxing people in, changing my pace so it doesn't seem like I'm following anybody. Small things, but it's what I've got.
It's a little unfair that as a guy I have to deal with the fear caused by a relatively small number of total jerks. But having to live with that fear is much more unfair. So I'm entirely in favor of the community shouldering the (minuscule) burden these polices represent.