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Harassment Policies: New Allegations Show More Work To Be Done

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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
 

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Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
I'm not sure exactly what you mean by a "evidentiary standard",
Which is part of what I’m talking about. To be used in court, testimony has to be evaluated by a third party- usually a judge- to see if the jury will ever hear it. That third party must consider probative value, risk of prejudice, hearsay rules for admission or exclusion, privacy rules, privilege rules, pattern exceptions, rules against self-incrimination, and so much more.

If it is heard and subsequently disallowed, that person can then order that the testimony may not be considered in evaluating guilt or innocence. If it is used against the judge’s order, the sentence may be vacated and a mistrial declared.

Now, to a certain extent, that judicial function is performed in journalism by editors. But they’re not held to the same standard for neutrality as judges, and because their job is ultimately to sell newspapers, magazines or clicks, their profit motive could be seen as a form of bias. And they have no real power to remove info from consideration, once presented.

Which is why people who are insisting on trial-level verification and veracity tests- as well as an utterly ridiculous “trial first before reporting” standard- are essentially asking for the highly improbable, if not outright impossible.
 
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Jeanneliza

Villager
Wow, all of you left SJW wannabes need to 'check your white privilege' and take your own advice.
I'm a former musician who has banged well over 200 good looking women, and most of the time, they were trying to get all up in MY pants. NOT the other way around.
Hell, women take one look at my bike and want to try taking me home all night long.
PS, please, get smart with me because I'M A BIKER, DUDE. 1%er for LIFE. Dont say anything on here you wouldn't say to me or my brothers faces, keyboard warriors.
Wow so you need to be intimidating mr. tough guy, with implied threats? Also you first post here ever, bragging how cool you are with all those women, making some of these guys here feel even more inadequate? I hope you feel better about yourself but the need to brag tells me maybe not so much. And yes I would say this to you and any number of biker buddies faces why not? You all going to "beat me up". Laugh at me? What exactly do you think you have the power to do precisely? And SJW seriously? That the best you got? In my day we called the social activism, and it changed things, :):):) will again. It is also being called a decent human being. But I'll be gracious and trust none of those 200 women passed you and STD.
But then you have clearly identified yourself as the problem. Anyone who speaks out on behalf of victims you want to sit down and shut up. Won't happen here, bigger and better guys than you have tried, and yet we "SJW' fight on.
 

Jeanneliza

Villager
Lol that's fine woman, we got 1%er Biker Women too, and trust me, you ain't as mean and bad ass as they are, I've seen biker club women stomp sjws at rallys like it was nothing. Try talking :):):):) to the outlaws or hells angels women, see how bad you all are, keyboard Xena.

Til then shouldn't you be in the kitchen?

I probably have slept with all your female friends and you are just jealous, clearly.
Still playing the tough guy keyboard warrior yourself. And as I thought, you think if I spoke to your face you would do me violence, or your "tough female biker friends" would. And why would I trust you on any level since again, you have made it clear you wish to control through the threat of or actual violence. Do you seriously think you have made any point here except to hold yourself up as a clear illustration of the problem, and what women deal with every day? Thank you for that. Folks I point out here to you exhibit L, and those still wanting to argue the problem is women, get back to me after you go visit mr tough guy here.
 

kenmarable

Explorer
Still playing the tough guy keyboard warrior yourself. And as I thought, you think if I spoke to your face you would do me violence, or your "tough female biker friends" would. And why would I trust you on any level since again, you have made it clear you wish to control through the threat of or actual violence. Do you seriously think you have made any point here except to hold yourself up as a clear illustration of the problem, and what women deal with every day? Thank you for that. Folks I point out here to you exhibit L, and those still wanting to argue the problem is women, get back to me after you go visit mr tough guy here.
As lowkey13 said, best to just not engage. He's so far beyond the rules of the forum that when Morrus gets a chance, he'll likely clean it out. Some trolls aren't worth engaging. They aren't trying to discuss in good faith, they are just crapping all over the thread hoping to get people to argue with them so they can get their jollies. Moderators will take care of it.
 

Nikosandros

Golden Procrastinator
As lowkey13 said, best to just not engage. He's so far beyond the rules of the forum that when Morrus gets a chance, he'll likely clean it out. Some trolls aren't worth engaging. They aren't trying to discuss in good faith, they are just crapping all over the thread hoping to get people to argue with them so they can get their jollies. Moderators will take care of it.
He's so over the top, that it looks like a parody. Unfortunately, I'm afraid it's real.
 

kenmarable

Explorer
He's so over the top, that it looks like a parody. Unfortunately, I'm afraid it's real.
Yeah, normally parodies are actually funny.


Oh, and, Morrus (or other mod), when you do get a chance to clean this up, I'm fine if you delete my responses about this as well to further remove this troll's digital record.
 
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HawaiiSteveO

Explorer
deleted - washed my hands and face and am never posting again unless talking about D&D!​
 
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Jeanneliza

Villager
Lol that's fine woman, we got 1%er Biker Women too, and trust me, you ain't as mean and bad ass as they are, I've seen biker club women stomp sjws at rallys like it was nothing. Try talking :):):):) to the outlaws or hells angels women, see how bad you all are, keyboard Xena.

Til then shouldn't you be in the kitchen?

I probably have slept with all your female friends and you are just jealous, clearly.
As lowkey13 said, best to just not engage. He's so far beyond the rules of the forum that when Morrus gets a chance, he'll likely clean it out. Some trolls aren't worth engaging. They aren't trying to discuss in good faith, they are just crapping all over the thread hoping to get people to argue with them so they can get their jollies. Moderators will take care of it.
Advice seen, noted and acted on. Sorry just nothing gets me going like wannabe tough guys trying to drive people out, shut them up or shut them down. And I as a grandmother do know that at some point they need to be told their tactics don't work everywhere. He mentioned dinner, I should have invited him, should I mention I keep my Writer's Guide to Poisons next to my cookbooks?
 

LazarusKane

Villager
This is not a courtroom. Accusations do not need to be proven for Enworld to take action against a person who has been accused by multiple individuals of inappropriate conduct.

This was already illustrated earlier in this thread with the example of a babysitter who is accused of inappropriate conduct towards children. You don't wait for evidence, you get your children away from that person as soon as the accusations come in.
See, that´s the problem: The "innocent until proven" gets reversed, the babysitter has to prove (to you) that the accusations against her/him are wrong.
 

kenmarable

Explorer
Advice seen, noted and acted on. Sorry just nothing gets me going like wannabe tough guys trying to drive people out, shut them up or shut them down. And I as a grandmother do know that at some point they need to be told their tactics don't work everywhere. He mentioned dinner, I should have invited him, should I mention I keep my Writer's Guide to Poisons next to my cookbooks?
No worries. There's definitely places to engage and shut them down, but thankfully here the moderators handle it very thoroughly. So the thread will stink for a little while, but pretty soon it will be back to how it was, possibly with little sign it ever even happened.
 

HawaiiSteveO

Explorer
I did edit, I was referring to posts on site making $, not people. I don't see why this thread is still live, please please please kill it and I'm done with it.
 
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lowkey13

Exterminate all rational thought
I did edit, I was referring to posts on site making $, not people. I don't see why this thread is still live, please please please kill it and I'm done with it.
No worries- I edited my post so it doesn't quote your edited post. All good. :)
 

kenmarable

Explorer
See, that´s the problem: The "innocent until proven" gets reversed, the babysitter has to prove (to you) that the accusations against her/him are wrong.
The way I see it is basic error theory. You aren't going to be 100% perfect in determining exactly what happened (sure, we need to try to do our best and get it as close as possible to that, but it's an asymptote we will never achieve). So which is worse: a false positive or a false negative?

With the babysitter example, that's really, really easy. Leaving the kids with a babysitter that you incorrectly believed is safe is FAR worse than a babysitter falsely being out of that job.

Sexual harassment and especially in regards to conventions can be quite similar. Which is worse incorrectly letting a serial harasser continue to attend and sexually harass many, many women, or having someone not be able to attend a convention for false reasons? In both cases, people are harmed, but most of us would say the harm of not being able to attend a convention is far less than the harm of many women being sexually harassed.

(Yes, yes, I'm not saying we always believe no matter what, that some due diligence goes a long way to sorting out the false accusations - just look at when someone tried to trick the Washington Post with a false accusation back in November - but the point is that sometimes we will be wrong, and it's important to take seriously which way we would rather be wrong. With the babysitter, too bad - the risks are too high, many parents might not even bother letting them try to prove their innocence. With sexual harassment, especially at large gatherings like conventions, the potential harm is high enough that "innocent until proven guilty" isn't safe enough, and putting at least some burden on the accused to prove their innocence is a very rational response. Besides, we aren't talking prison here, where the standards should be very different.)
 

DM Magic

Explorer
I ain't trolling dude, Ive got the core book and every add on to the Nascar Tabletop RPG ever made, including the Skoal Special Limited Edition Dice Kit and the 20th Anniversary Supplement for bringing in new sponsors like Trojans, Viagra and Miller Lite.
Piratecat?
 

Advilaar

Villager
Thing is, they already have regulations you agree to when you go to the con. Not sure what else you want them to do/ they can do.

- Do they create a ban list of everyone that has ever been even accused of harassing someone? Who decides? ENworld? Kataku?
- Is this ban retroactive? Can someone decide they were harassed at a convention 3 months ago and still get someone banned when they could have told show management??
- Can the convention be responsible if this happened in a room party in someone's hotel room and not the event?
- Are we applying the same standards for VIPs as well as the common con-goer? Could a Gary Gygax get away with stuff while Joe Obnoxious McFeely gets thrown out and ostracized?

Already if you are being obnoxious, they will ask you nicely to leave. If you go off about that or you are really causing drama, they kick you out and do not refund your money.

They have in BIG ALL CAPS already not to mess with the cosplay girls. Don't.

What else can they really, realistically do? They are a trade convention. Not baby sitters.
 

Catulle

Villager
I don't see why this thread is still live, please please please kill it and I'm done with it.
If you're not seeing it, that might demonstrate a need for it to stay, despite the desperate, transparent and utterly predictable attempts to get it shut down.
 
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