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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Dire Bare

Legend
There's a curious facet of this discussion that I'm not entirely sure how to process.

First off, I don't agree that incidents of sexual harassment are evidence that current harassment policies are inadequate. Yes, Fannon's comments about the Gamers Giving event and his description of men who give offense without meaning to and perhaps even without understanding how offense could be taken can be interpreted as a somewhat sophisticated defense of his behavior, but the point is that Fannon is now 'on notice'. It becomes harder and harder to justify harassing behavior as 'not understanding how the behavior could offend' the more times Fannon must be informed that his behavior does in fact offend. In this sense, harassment policies are working -- the goal may be to eliminate harassment, but this isn't achieved in a sudden reduction of harassing behavior to zero, but in a gradual realization that harassing behavior, even if unintentional, is intolerable, and those who would engage in that behavior find it harder and harder to justify until they either stop behaving that way or are forced to remain apart from the community.

But for me, the real head-scratcher is that it's hard to really understand how far along that process of disincentivizing harassing behavior is coming along when we only ever hear about famous harassers, famous targets of harassment, or both. The middle-aged guy nobody's ever heard of hitting on the twenty-something catgirl who hasn't yet made a name for herself in the cosplay community -- how prevalent is that sort of harassment? I'm wiling to accept that, given the rise of harassment policies in fan conventions of all sorts that this sort of behavior is significantly reduced from the 'bad old days', but do we know for sure? Or have we simply pushed that behavior into the shadows, where only the isolated and vulnerable are subject to it? In this sense, even though I don't agree that harassment policies are currently ineffective, I admit I have no way of knowing if the policies are actually making the situation better, or simply restricting the number of people involved in this unwelcome behavior at conventions to those most able to rationalize it, and against those for whom that behavior would be most damaging.

Most importantly, is the prominent focus on harassment policy as enforced by convention organizers excusing the obligation of the community to aid in policing its own ranks? It's comforting to blame incomplete policies or inconsistent enforcement of those policies by organizers, but is it too comforting? Do we not let ourselves off the hook by assuming this is a problem that needs to be solved by 'the folks in charge' and that we're best off by not getting involved?

Confirmed cases of individual harassment don't really speak towards the success of any given event's policies, but that isn't what this article is about, although some of Helton's past articles tackle this. And you are right, it's hard to gauge progress on this issue from reports of famous folks bad actions and the consequences. Sorry, but life ain't always easy! Should we not report on well-known bad actors? Why would we report on unknown bad actors, as individuals? Would you read an article describing ENWorld poster Dire Bare's history of harassing women? I'm nobody, the article would likely not do much to raise awareness of the issue.

And this article IS the community policing its ranks. Helton is a gaming columnist on one of the bigger community websites, discussing allegations against an industry professional and part of this very community! Many of us reading this thread are likely weighing whether or not to continue supporting Fannon's work in the industry, and/or attending events with Fannon as a guest of honor.

I'm completely comfortable with Helton's articles, this one and his earlier ones on the issue, and Morrus' decision to publish them.
 

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Obryn

Hero
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
I hope you can read this from all the way up there on that cross.

Also - this is life. Allegations are pretty much what we get. But apparently here there's multiple, unconnected allegations from multiple people who don't know each other, over many years, and some of those people have kept the receipts.

So.
 

jimmifett

Banned
Banned
What's your evidence for this accusation?

Lets see, the frothing fanatics that got the tongue in cheek make fun of everyone involved card game based on gamergate removed from rpgnow for wrongthink.


Then there were more frothing fanatics that tried everything they could to get that villains to defeat supplement for a heroic game axed from rpg now even tho it was properly rated adult.

Apparently, some believe you cant vote with your own dollar.

There was the ludicrous teardown of the new vampire beta by frothing fanatics misconstruing it.

And, apparently now, some person that has a personal vendetta against Fannon.

Thats just the hobby game insustry.

In IT, you have a group that organized a plot to get linus torvalds alone so they could claim he sexually harassed.

In Comics, there was recently a group of industry insiders that plotted in a facebook group to corner an idealogical opponent of theres at a con and harass him in an attempt to make him get violent so they could have him arrested and labeled as having dangerous ptsd from his military service. The convo was leaked to him, he revealed it and they backed down and tried to cover tracks.

How’s that as a sample?
 

Dire Bare

Legend
In Response to the EN World Piece Against Me

You've had some serious allegations leveled against you, and you certainly have a right to respond. You probably SHOULD respond. But you probably should have taken longer to think about HOW you respond.

It's easier for me to believe that you are refusing to take responsibility for your actions, than it is for me to believe that the multiple allegations in Helton's article represent a conspiracy of people who have inexplicable grudges against you.

Especially when you go on the attack against Helton (and by extension, Morrus) and the women who are making the allegations. You reference that others in the thread have brought up Helton's lack of "journalistic integrity", but the only one I read was a poorly worded, ranted screed that also went on the attack from a poster who created their account today and has a post count of "1". Granted, some folks on my ignore list might have also chimed in on your defense, although if so, they are on my ignore list because of past posts supporting this type of behavior or other bad actions.

Even if you turn up innocent of the allegations against you, I am not impressed with your post today, and I am not inclined to take your word on the conspiracy of allegations against you. If you are truly innocent, I hope you can clear the air and come through this intact. But you have yet to convince me. Not that I'm anyone important, just one representative of the community here on ENWorld.
 

Obryn

Hero
Lets see, the frothing fanatics that got the tongue in cheek make fun of everyone involved card game based on gamergate removed from rpgnow for wrongthink.
Probably best not to host a game glorifying a hate group.

Then there were more frothing fanatics that tried everything they could to get that villains to defeat supplement for a heroic game axed from rpg now even tho it was properly rated adult.
You mean Tournament of Rapists? That one?

Apparently, some believe you cant vote with your own dollar.

There was the ludicrous teardown of the new vampire beta by frothing fanatics misconstruing it.
On the contrary, you can indeed vote with your dollar. I know I've done it.

And, apparently now, some person that has a personal vendetta against Fannon.
Why do you think this is a personal vendetta?

Thats just the hobby game insustry.
Cool, how many women have been harassed at cons and how many cosplayers have been groped?
 

S

Sunseeker

Guest
Why aren't these threads locked from the get-go?

Is there really anything to discuss? If Sean did something bad, there isn't a whole lot we can do about it, and history shows us these discussions provide little help. Several one-post accounts have registered just to post in this thread. From my experience on other forums, this is not a positive sign.

Sean himself has posted in this thread, for good or ill I do not know because quite frankly HOLY HANDGRENADES that is a big post and I didn't read it all.

If the Site Administration want to let this thread run on and on for another thousand pages, yeah okay I guess that's their call. But I don't see the gain in it.
 


As someone who tries to treat everyone with respect, I am happy to see the jerks of the world get called out for their behavior. A lot of people will simply do whatever they can get away with because they have no inner moral or ethical compass.
 

jimmifett

Banned
Banned
Probably best not to host a game glorifying a hate group.

There you have it, gamergate is not a hate group, but because it opposes the ideals and yellow "journalism" that has been demonstrably proven to organize together across sites to determine narrative, they are attacked, maligned, and every effort made to ruin supporters.

Yes, ToR as I will refer to it as.

You may frequently vote with your dollar, and that is fantastic. But those that seek to prevent others from even having that choice is a cancer to any industry. As i've said before, they are just the 21st century Jack Chicks.

Why personal vendetta? Read Fannon's quite lengthy response and take from it what you will.

Your last point is a meaningless strawman, I wont bother to address.

Have a pleasant day.
 

Doug McCrae

Legend
Lets see, the frothing fanatics that got the tongue in cheek make fun of everyone involved card game based on gamergate removed from rpgnow for wrongthink.

Then there were more frothing fanatics that tried everything they could to get that villains to defeat supplement for a heroic game axed from rpg now even tho it was properly rated adult.

Apparently, some believe you cant vote with your own dollar.

There was the ludicrous teardown of the new vampire beta by frothing fanatics misconstruing it.
But these are products, not people. If someone regards a product as offensive, in poor taste, or even harmful then it's perfectly legitimate to try to persuade a company not to sell it. That's the kind of thing that happens all the time. Your last example, as far as I can tell, merely references criticism of a product. These are not instances of attempts "to take down what they consider cultural or ideological opponents by any means necessary in their eyes."

"By any means necessary" suggests immoral or even illegal behaviour and these examples, again afaict, seem to be merely efforts to persuade.

And, apparently now, some person that has a personal vendetta against Fannon.

But how do you know this? You yourself, upthread, called for us to always seek high standards of evidence before making serious accusations. It seems to me that you're not following your own advice.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
At least in the good old USA, you have the right to confront your accusers, they don't get to hide behind a shield of anonymity and lob grenades with impunity, so I discount any remarks of theirs outright.

They're being hidden from *you* (the global you) for fear of online harassment. That does not mean they were anonymous.
 
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R

RevTurkey

Guest
I don’t like this direction Enworld is taking...posting judgemental articles about people’s personal lives. It’s a minefield of finger pointing and encourages stupid comments from the ill-informed and could be very damaging to those involved. I think positive articles about treating fellow gamers respectfully would be better than all this naming and shaming. It lacks class. If somebody has alleged to have commited a crime then take it to the authorities and them investigate properly.
 

jimmifett

Banned
Banned
But how do you know this? You yourself, upthread, called for us to always seek high standards of evidence before making serious accusations. It seems to me that you're not following your own advice.

You have me confused with someone else, I said listen and investigate, not high standards of evidence. And yes, this is a counter allegation by Fannon. Should it prove to be true, there you have it. If someone wishes to follow up and investigate with the board she seems to be on to see if this occurred, that might just put the issue to rest of a vengeful person.
 

Obryn

Hero
There you have it, gamergate is not a hate group, but because it opposes the ideals and yellow "journalism" that has been demonstrably proven to organize together across sites to determine narrative, they are attacked, maligned, and every effort made to ruin supporters.
lol

Yes, ToR as I will refer to it as.
Why? Because you don't feel great about going to bat for a product called Tournament of Rapists?

You may frequently vote with your dollar, and that is fantastic. But those that seek to prevent others from even having that choice is a cancer to any industry. As i've said before, they are just the 21st century Jack Chicks.
That is uh ... not how anything works. At all.

You vote with your dollar by patronizing/not patronizing DTRPG. I do the same. Knowing this, DTRPG responded by contacting the author, who subsequently took it off of the site.

DTRPG is under no obligation to sell anything. We decide whether or not to buy books from DTRPG.

Your last point is a meaningless strawman, I wont bother to address.
Why not?
 

jimmifett

Banned
Banned
They're being hidden from *you* for fear of online harassment. That does not mean they were anonymous.

I do hope that you are not inferring that *I* am someone that goes around harassing people.

I will therefore take it as the *you* to instead mean *general public*, as a writing faux pas and we can all have a nice day.
 

zen_hydra

First Post
WT actual F!? It boggles the mind to see all these, let's generously call them "people," coming out of the woodwork in support of misogyny. I just... I'm really disappointed.
 


Doug McCrae

Legend
You have me confused with someone else, I said listen and investigate, not high standards of evidence.
Isn't that what investigate means? To gather more evidence? We already have a certain amount of evidence. You deem it to be insufficient to change our attitude or behaviour towards Fannon, and thus before we can do so we need to gather more.

so far this article seems like tar and feathering. Especially when accusers are not identified. That is the high point of false allegations. At least in the good old USA, you have the right to confront your accusers, they don't get to hide behind a shield of anonymity and lob grenades with impunity, so I discount any remarks of theirs outright.
What is this other than a call for higher standards of evidence? Namely the identities of the accusers.

You have been saying that these are merely allegations, that we need to investigate, and that accusers need to be identified. I would summarise all that as a call for higher standards of evidence.

And if such evidence is forthcoming, evidence that does substantially increase the likelihood Fannon has sexually harrassed women, then I'm sure you will change your opinion of him.
 
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Discussion point:

Assuming the rate of vindictive "false reporting" for harassment runs at about 5% (which is a little lower than the average rate of criminal false accusation, but is a nice round number).

Is it better for 19 honest women who feel harassed to be harmed by having their stories disbelieved, or for 1 honest man to be destroyed by false accusations?

Apocryphal Benjamin Franklin and Rene Descarte quotes aside, that should be easy math for us nerds. "The needs of the many..."
 

If multiple unrelated people told you someone had beaten them up at a convention, would you feel the same way?
If several individuals told you that someone in the industry had stolen from them at a Con, would you also want that person freely invited back to other Cons? Would you want to attend a Convention with them?
If numerous people reported that a individual flagrantly cheated at a game, would you want them at your table?

Think on that.
Seriously.
If I told you that while at GenCon 2014 I met Morrus at the Marriott bar and he was drunk, belligerent, and kicked the every living :):):):) out of me in a hallway. Would you respond with “allegedly”? Would you question the accusation?

(For the record, the above is totally not true.)

The article's name is "Harassment Policies: New Allegations Show More Work To Be Done". The article uses the word "alleges". That's my beef. The article is playing both sides. It's skirting legal necessities, while casting judgement upon Fannon.

I don't know if Sean is guilty. I don't assume the victims were not harassed.

If you told me you were punched at a con in a conversation, I would most likely believe you. If I read it on the internet, I would only have the fact you presented to me. That is the issue here. Apparently, the goal of this article was to say Fannon's work would no longer appear here and several victims came forward with claims against him.

If you read on the internet that President Obama alleged raped a woman, would you want more than that?

I assume ENWorld holds some type of "journalistic integrity" for our hobby. We were presented with victims accounts and a lecture on being better behaved and given the announcement that ENWorld would no longer be a venue for Fannon--which easily appears like a judgement against him.

Part of the reason we have a real court system is that a second hand conversation or a blog post isn't full proof of a crime.

Look at it this way: I run games at my store. If I have a complaint, I investigate it and take quick action. I do not post on my store's FB page or website. I answer any questions from within the community.

ENWorld has every right to part ways with anyone they want. But I'm not sure that this warning about harassment in our community and treatment of Fannon won't leave them open to some form of libel from Fannon.
 

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