Harassment Policies: New Allegations Show More Work To Be Done
  • Harassment Policies: New Allegations Show More Work To Be Done


    The specter of sexual harassment has once again risen up in tabletop gaming circles. Conventions are supposed to be places where gamers and geeks can be themselves and embrace their loves. Conventions need clear and well formulated harassment policies, and they need to enforce them. In this instance the allegations from multiple women have taken place at gaming conventions and gathering in different locations around the country. In one case, the harassment was took place over the course of years and spilled over into electronic formats.


    The alleged harasser in these cases was Sean Patrick Fannon, President of Evil Beagle Games, Brand Manager for Savage Rifts at Pinnacle Entertainment Group, as well as being a game designer and developer with a long history in the tabletop role-playing industry.

    There is a long and untenable policy of harassment at conventions that stretches back to science fiction and fantasy fandom in the 1960s. Atlanta's Dragon*Con has been a lightning rod in the discussions about safety at geeky conventions after one of the convention's founders was arrested and pled guilty to three charges of molestation. We have also covered reports of harassment at conventions such as Paizo Con, and inappropriate or harassing behavior by notable industry figures. It is clear that clear harassment policies and firm enforcement of them is needed in spaces where members of our community gather, in order that attendees feel safe to go about their hobby. Some companies, such as Pelgrane Press, now refuse to attend conventions where a clear harassment policy is not available.

    Several women have approached me to tell me about encounters with Fannon. Some of them asked not to be named, or to use their reports for background verification only. We also reached out to Sean Patrick Fannon for his comments, and he was willing to address the allegations.

    The women that I spoke with had encounters with Fannon that went back to 2013 and 2014 but also happened as recently as the summer of 2017. Each of the locations were in different parts of the country, but all of them occurred when Fannon was a guest of the event.

    The worse of the two incidents related to me happened at a convention in the Eastern part of the United States. In going back over texts and messages stretching back years the woman said that it "is frustrating [now] to read these things" because of the cajoling and almost bullying approach that Fannon would use in the messages. She said that Fannon approached her at the con suite of the convention, and after speaking with her for a bit and playing a game with a group in the suite he showed her explicit photos on his cellphone of him engaged in sex acts with a woman.

    Fannon's ongoing harassment of this woman would occur both electronically and in person, when they would both be at the same event, and over the course of years he would continue to suggest that she should engage in sexual acts, either with him alone, or with another woman.

    Fannon denies the nature of the event, saying "I will assert with confidence that at no time would such a sharing have occurred without my understanding explicit consent on the part of all parties. It may be that, somehow, a miscommunication or misunderstanding occurred; the chaos of a party or social gathering may have created a circumstance of all parties not understanding the same thing within such a discourse. Regardless, I would not have opened such a file and shared it without believing, sincerely, it was a welcome part of the discussion (and in pursuit of further, mutually-expressed intimate interest)."

    The second woman, at a different gaming-related event in another part of the country, told of how Fannon, over the course of a day at the event, asked her on four different occasions for hugs, or physical contact with her. Each time she clearly said no to him. The first time she qualified her answer with a "I don't even know you," which prompted Fannon after he saw her for a second time to say "Well, you know me now." She said that because of the multiple attempts in a short period of time that Fannon's behavior felt predatory to her. Afterwards he also attempted to connect with her via Facebook.

    Afterwards, this second woman contacted the group that organized the event to share what happened and they reached out to Fannon with their concerns towards his behavior. According to sources within the organization at the time, Fannon - as with the first example - described it to the organizers as a misunderstanding on the woman's part. When asked, he later clarified to us that the misunderstanding was on his own side, saying "Honestly, I should have gotten over myself right at the start, simply owned that I misunderstood, and apologized. In the end, that's what happened, and I walked away from that with a pretty profound sense of how to go forward with my thinking about the personal space of those I don't know or know only in passing."

    Both women faced ongoing pressure from Fannon, with one woman the experiences going on for a number of years after the initial convention meeting. In both cases he attempted to continue contact via electronic means with varying degrees of success. A number of screen shots from electronic conversations with Fannon were shared with me by both women.

    Diane Bulkeley was willing to come forward and speak on the record of her incidents with Fannon. Fannon made seemingly innocent, and yet inappropriate comments about her body and what he wanted to do with her. She is part of a charity organization that had Fannon as a guest. What happened to her was witnessed by another woman with whom I spoke about that weekend. As Bulkeley heard some things, and her witness others, their experiences are interwoven to describe what happened. Bulkeley described this first encounter at the hotel's elevators: "We were on the floor where our rooms were to go downstairs to the convention floor. I was wearing a tank top and shirt over it that showed my cleavage. He was staring at my chest and said how much he loved my shirt and that I should wear it more often as it makes him hot. For the record I can't help my cleavage is there." Bulkeley went on to describe her mental state towards this "Paying a lady a compliment is one thing, but when you make a direct comment about their chest we have a problem."

    Later on in the same day, while unloading some boxes for the convention there was another incident with Fannon. Bulkeley described this: "Well, [the witness and her husband] had to move their stuff from a friends airplane hangar (we all use as storage for cars and stuff) to a storage until next to their house. Apparently Sean, while at the hanger, made grunt noises about my tank top (it was 80 outside) while Tammy was in the truck. I did not see it. But she told me about it. Then as we were unloading the truck at the new facility Sean kept looking down my shirt and saying I have a great view etc. Her husband said to him to knock it off. I rolled my eyes, gave him a glare and continued to work. I did go and put on my event day jacket (light weight jacket) to cover up a little."

    The witness, who was in the truck with Fannon, said that he "kept leering down at Diane, glancing down her shirt and making suggestive sounds." The witness said that Fannon commented "'I'm liking the view from up here.'"

    Bulkeley talked about how Fannon continued his behavior later on in a restaurant, having dinner with some of the guests of the event. Fannon made inappropriate comments about her body and embarrassed her in front of the other, making her feel uncomfortable throughout the dinner.

    Bulkeley said that Fannon also at one point touched her hair without asking, and smelled it as well. "[Fannon] even would smell my long hair. He begged me to not cut it off at a charity function that was part of the weekend's event." She said that he also pressed his pelvis tightly against her body while hugging her. These incidents occurred at a convention during the summer of 2017.

    Fannon denies these events. "The comments and actions attributed to me simply did not happen; I categorically and absolutely deny them in their entirety."

    When asked for comment, and being informed that this story was being compiled Fannon commented "I do not recall any such circumstance in which the aftermath included a discourse whereby I was informed of distress, anger, or discomfort." He went on to say "The only time I recall having ever been counseled or otherwise spoken to about my behavior in such matters is the Gamers Giving/Total Escape Games situation discussed above. The leader of the organization at that time spoke to me specifically, asked me to be aware that it had been an issue, and requested I be aware of it in the future. It was then formally dropped, and that was the end of it until this time."

    There were further reports; however, we have respected the wishes of those women who asked to remain anonymous for fear of online harassment. In researching this article, I talked to multiple women and other witnesses.

    About future actions against the alleged behaviors he also said "It is easy, after all, to directly attack and excise obviously predatory and harassing behavior. It is much more difficult to point out and correct behavior that falls within more subtle presentations, and it's more difficult to get folks to see their actions as harmful when they had no intention to cause harm, based on their assumptions of what is and isn't appropriate. It's good for us to look at the core assumptions that lead to those behaviors and continue to challenge them. That's how real and lasting change within society is achieved."

    Fannon's weekly column will no longer be running on E.N. World.

    Have you suffered harassment at the hands of someone, industry insider or otherwise, at a gaming convention? If you would like to tell your story, you can reach out to me via social media about any alleged incidents. We can speak confidentially, but I will have to know the identity of anyone that I speak with.

    This does open up the question of: At what point do conventions become responsible for the actions of their guest, when they are not more closely scrutinizing the backgrounds of those guests? One woman, who is a convention organizer, with whom I spoke for the background of this story told me that word gets around, in the world of comic conventions, when guests and creators cause problems. Apparently this is not yet the case in the world of tabletop role-playing game conventions, because there are a growing number of publishers and designers who have been outed for various types of harassing behavior, but are still being invited to be guest, and in some cases even guests of honor, at gaming conventions around the country. The message that this sends to women who game is pretty clear.

    More conventions are rolling out harassment policies for guests and attendees of their conventions. Not only does this help to protect attendees from bad behavior, but it can also help to protect conventions from bad actors within the various communities that gather at our conventions. As incidents of physical and sexual harassment are becoming more visible, it becomes more and more clear that something needs to be done.

    additional editorial contributions by Morrus
    Comments 1329 Comments
    1. pogre's Avatar
      pogre -
      On a somewhat positive note - I do now notice when a convention does not have a clearly stated harassment policy. Awareness is a positive step - not enough for sure, but beyond where we were a short time ago.
    1. Paraxis -
      Doesn't sound like harassment to me but a player being a player, if these girls thought he was more attractive they wouldn't call it harassment.

      You have to be assertive, you have to put yourself out there, you have to be take as many swings at bat as you can and most of the time you strike out but you won't ever get anywhere if you don't try.

      The world is going to hell with all this political correctness and third wave feminism.

      [This is almost the exact same comment you made last time you were threadbanned for defending harassment at conventions. This time it's not just a threadban. - Morrus]
    1. pogre's Avatar
      pogre -
      Paraxis, you are dead wrong. Assumptions like these are a big part of the problem.
    1. Imaculata's Avatar
      Imaculata -
      Quote Originally Posted by Paraxis View Post
      The world is going to hell with all this political correctness and third wave feminism.
      Well.... that didn't take long.
    1. Doug McCrae's Avatar
      Doug McCrae -
      Quote Originally Posted by Paraxis View Post
      Doesn't sound like harassment to me but a player being a player, if these girls thought he was more attractive they wouldn't call it harassment.
      The key element you're missing here is consent. Being attractive may increase the likelihood of consent but it by no means guarantees it.

      You have to be assertive, you have to put yourself out there, you have to be take as many swings at bat as you can and most of the time you strike out but you won't ever get anywhere if you don't try.
      No, I don't think you have to be any of these things.

      The world is going to hell with all this political correctness and third wave feminism.
      Good!
    1. Bryan Quintero's Avatar
      Bryan Quintero -
      Well said paraxis!
    1. Particle_Man -
      There are ways of being a player that do not demean women. Also, repeated "grunting noises" at the same woman is not being a player, it is being an .
    1. Wiseblood's Avatar
      Wiseblood -
      Since I do not know either party involved or the circumstances, I will not judge. As for the policy, yeah that is a good one.

      If I dress as the Highlander I expect too keep my head. If I dress as Black Widow I expect you to keep your hands to yourself.
    1. EthanSental's Avatar
      EthanSental -
      Frustrating to hear of another issue. Hopefully this comes to a resolution and the truth come soon out either way the show the harassment did or didn't happen.
    1. Seule's Avatar
      Seule -
      I have a Chrome plugin that changes 'political correctness' to 'treating people with respect'. It seems particularly appropriate in this thread.
    1. shidaku's Avatar
      shidaku -
      And this is only what a well-recognizable company face is doing...
    1. CleverNickName's Avatar
      CleverNickName -
      Quote Originally Posted by Paraxis View Post
      if these girls thought he was more attractive they wouldn't call it harassment.
      Citation needed.

      Quote Originally Posted by Paraxis View Post
      You have to be assertive, you have to put yourself out there, you have to be take as many swings at bat as you can and most of the time you strike out but you won't ever get anywhere if you don't try.
      Citation needed.

      Quote Originally Posted by Paraxis View Post
      The world is going to hell with all this political correctness and third wave feminism.
      Citation needed.
    1. pming's Avatar
      pming -
      Hiya!

      ALLEGATIONS.

      Just figured I'd toss that out for those to digest it a bit.



      I've only been to one Con (in Calgary, Alberta...about 20 years ago). Suffice it to say I won't be going to any more of them anytime soon (I'm basically a straight white male who likes the President, overall, so I'm automatically evil, a sexual predator, guilty, misogynistic, racist, neo-Nazi, and a liar). Better safe than sorry, I say!.

      ^_^

      Paul L. Ming
    1. damned's Avatar
      damned -
      If you approach another person and express some form of interest in them and they dont express a reciprocal interest then continuing with it is probably unwelcome. Sure thats not always true but if your continued approaches do any of the following then its very likely to be unwelcome at the least:
      * isolating the individual
      * using sexual innuendo or explicit sexual references
      * behaving in a way that wouldnt be tolerated in a classroom
      * touching
      * leering
      * talking sexually or negatively about them to others
      and Im sure there are many more.

      Men outnumber women significantly at many Conventions and that alone creates a situation where women can feel less safe. Dont let your behavior or the behavior of others at your table add further stress or discomfort to others.
    1. Guang's Avatar
      Guang -
      Which weekly column was written by Fannon? I read the columns as they come out, but rarely pay attention to who wrote them.
    1. jdrakeh's Avatar
      jdrakeh -
      I just wanted to say "Thank you" for reporting on this and, also, for making the decision to discontinue Mr. Fannon's column in light of the serious nature of these accusations.
    1. lyle.spade's Avatar
      lyle.spade -
      Accusations.

      Allegations.

      All someone needs to do is make the right accusation, and the court of public opinion screams "guilty!" and punishment is handed down. What a clean and efficient form of 'justice.'

      Think on that.
    1. jimmifett's Avatar
      jimmifett -
      Allegations. Maybe true, maybe not. But much like the IT side of conventions where false attempts were made at Linus Torvalds and others to implicate and tear them down, NEVER let yourself be alone as an industry figure, always keep a wingman/woman or three around you. They can be witnesses to prevent false allegations by those with an agenda (as with Torvalds), or keep you from making an ass of yourself when you're drunk. If you find yourself alone with someone you barely know of the opposite gender, beat feet post haste. MeToo culture has gotten completely insane lately, where a mere allegation of impropriety from actual miscommunication can destroy you. Don't leave yourself open. Stay in a group. There are people who in this hobby and others will attempt to take down what they consider cultural or ideological opponents by any means necessary in their eyes.

      Stay alert, don't be an ass, keep wingmen/women around. Flirting just isn't worth it anymore.
    1. Ralif Redhammer's Avatar
      Ralif Redhammer -
      One thing a local (only partially gaming-related) con does that I liked is that on the back of every badge are multiple “in case of harassment” contacts. Phone number, email, etc. And that’s in addition to multiple large posters of the anti-harassment policy hanging up around the venue (something Origins had last year, too, I might add).
    1. Mark Craddock's Avatar
      Mark Craddock -
      Here is the disconnect for me. You say Fannon has "allegedly" harassed people. But you have, essentially, tried him in the court of public opinion for allegations and banned him from the site. Were his posts, that were merely compilations of his daily blog that popular? Until the situations are sorted out in their appropriate places, didn't this article create bias against Fannon?
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