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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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Flexor the Mighty!

18/100 Strength!
Alas, the gross misunderstanding (or intentional misconstruing) continues.

I am suggesting the poster may have racist/sexist/paternalistic beliefs that he may not even realize he has.

Do you understand the distinction?

And again, I'm not saying his words are proof this; they are evidence. Red flags. It's possible that he wasn't thinking of a specific race/culture when he mentioned absent fathers. It's possible he meant "smack upside the head" purely metaphorically. It's possible he meant "teach kids to respect each other" and not "teach boys to think ladies need their protection".

But I suspect not. I sense a pattern. I could be wrong.

Look, I'm not condemning him as an evil person. Heck, my dad could have written that post. It's a pretty common attitude from white males who aren't aware of their unearned privilege. It's an awareness issue, not a malice issue.
So thinking a stable mother + father family unit is best for a child, which from pretty much everything I've read is true when you track financial and criminal status of kids as they grow up, is a sign of latent racism?
 

lowkey13

Exterminate all rational thought
So thinking a stable mother + father family unit is best for a child, which from pretty much everything I've read is true when you track financial and criminal status of kids as they grow up, is a sign of latent racism?
So I don't want to threadjack, but to respond to your question-

With regards to the facts, it is trivially easy to say that a two-parent (remember SSM?) household will do better than a single parent household in most circumstances. There isn't much magic about this; because of the way that our tax code is set up,* and because of the way that partners can structure their lives, childcare and child rearing is much easier.

To put it another way- when there are two people, they have fewer expenses and a greater income, and they can more easily divide their time in terms of child care, going to school events, helping with homework, etc.

For that reason, the things that you have read are more ambiguous than you might think; it is exceptionally difficult to tease out the many advantages that accrue from growing up in a two-parent household and make a comparison to determine what, exactly, is the "pure benefit" of growing up with two parents. It's not like a separated twins study, which tends to be a lot easier to draw conclusions from.

But that's slightly different than the question you have about "latent racism." This is more complicated; as @Elfcrusher wrote, it doesn't mean that that person is racist, or even necessarily has latent racism. It's more .... a red flag. Think of it this way- it's the type of language that is strongly correlated with other beliefs, and is often used for particular purposes (either discussing, from a certain point of view, black families in America, or espousing a belief, for example, that women in abusive relationships should suck it up for the kids).

It's sort of like when I see someone complaining about "thugs." The person might be talking about followers of the goddess Kali. Or maybe they really don't like the foot-soldiers of the Italian mob. Or maybe they are just using that phrase innocently (like we do in TTRPGS!). Unfortunately, I have come to realize that the vast majority of the time I see that particular word, I am about to see a release of other words I am not a big fan of.


*Yes, even with the "marriage penalty."

EDIT- to be clear, I am not saying that people shouldn't use words, and discuss topics. But, perhaps if you are of a different political persuasion, think of it in terms of seeing the word "privilege." I am sure that there are those who see that term and believe that they are likely to see a constellation of related terms, even though that particular word can be used in all sorts of contexts (privileges and immunities, right not a privilege**, etc.).

**Which is meaningless, but still a go-to for parents!
 
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Flexor the Mighty!

18/100 Strength!
So I don't want to threadjack, but to respond to your question-

With regards to the facts, it is trivially easy to say that a two-parent (remember SSM?) household will do better than a single parent household in most circumstances. There isn't much magic about this; because of the way that our tax code is set up,* and because of the way that partners can structure their lives, childcare and child rearing is much easier.

To put it another way- when there are two people, they have fewer expenses and a greater income, and they can more easily divide their time in terms of child care, going to school events, helping with homework, etc.

For that reason, the things that you have read are more ambiguous than you might think; it is exceptionally difficult to tease out the many advantages that accrue from growing up in a two-parent household and make a comparison to determine what, exactly, is the "pure benefit" of growing up with two parents. It's not like a separated twins study, which tends to be a lot easier to draw conclusions from.

But that's slightly different than the question you have about "latent racism." This is more complicated; as @Elfcrusher wrote, it doesn't mean that that person is racist, or even necessarily has latent racism. It's more .... a red flag. Think of it this way- it's the type of language that is strongly correlated with other beliefs, and is often used for particular purposes (either discussing, from a certain point of view, black families in America, or espousing a belief, for example, that women in abusive relationships should suck it up for the kids).

It's sort of like when I see someone complaining about "thugs." The person might be talking about followers of the goddess Kali. Or maybe they really don't like the foot-soldiers of the Italian mob. Or maybe they are just using that phrase innocently (like we do in TTRPGS!). Unfortunately, I have come to realize that the vast majority of the time I see that particular word, I am about to see a release of other words I am not a big fan of.


*Yes, even with the "marriage penalty."

EDIT- to be clear, I am not saying that people shouldn't use words, and discuss topics. But, perhaps if you are of a different political persuasion, think of it in terms of seeing the word "privilege." I am sure that there are those who see that term and believe that they are likely to see a constellation of related terms, even though that particular word can be used in all sorts of contexts (privileges and immunities, right not a privilege**, etc.).

**Which is meaningless, but still a go-to for parents!
Thanks for a good faith reply.
 

Particle_Man

Villager
One thing I noticed on links given earlier in this forum thread on how to do this stuff is there should be an option for anonymous reporting. This means that the follow up can't report back to the anonymous reporter, though. Maybe as an option ("you can report harassment anonymously (and it will be investigated) or you can leave enough email for us to submit to you a follow up report of the investigation within 24 hours; your call")?
 

Afrodyte

Villager
This is, admittedly, a slight derail, but for anyone interested in a bit of personal reflection, has anyone else noticed how the quality of conversation has been much better over the past three to five pages or so, and how we're now actually talking about solutions to the problem? Why do you think that is?

Hint: it ain't because the women learned how to behave ourselves.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
One thing I noticed on links given earlier in this forum thread on how to do this stuff is there should be an option for anonymous reporting. This means that the follow up can't report back to the anonymous reporter, though. Maybe as an option ("you can report harassment anonymously (and it will be investigated) or you can leave enough email for us to submit to you a follow up report of the investigation within 24 hours; your call")?
Or, the convention can give some generic reporting to the community in general. "We had X reports of Y incidents. Of those, Z were found to be actionable. N people were given warnings or reprimands, M were found to be so severe that they will not be joining us in future years."

Note that publicly reporting the names of the accused is a thorny area, and most conventions won't do it. Since Conventions are not courts of law, their findings, while good enough for their own uses, may not be considered solid enough for public announcement. The attendee typically has no recourse if the con decides they must be removed form the current or future cons, but actions that reach into the accused's private life put the Convention organizaton at risk. If the Convention is wrong about their assessment, and the anouncement impacts the busienss or home life of the accused (say, they are a vendor and go under, or their marriage breaks up over it), the convention organization might be subject to lawsuit.
 

Jeanneliza

Villager
This is, admittedly, a slight derail, but for anyone interested in a bit of personal reflection, has anyone else noticed how the quality of conversation has been much better over the past three to five pages or so, and how we're now actually talking about solutions to the problem? Why do you think that is?

Hint: it ain't because the women learned how to behave ourselves.
But WE PERSISTED.
 

Caliban

Rules Monkey
This is, admittedly, a slight derail, but for anyone interested in a bit of personal reflection, has anyone else noticed how the quality of conversation has been much better over the past three to five pages or so, and how we're now actually talking about solutions to the problem? Why do you think that is?

Hint: it ain't because the women learned how to behave ourselves.
<cynicism>Banhammer for the win. Silence all the dissenters and solutions will just write themselves. </cynicism>

<condescending>Members of the "Men's Rights" crowd simply don't have the endurance for prolonged debate. They complain loudly, pat themselves on the back for a job well done, then move on to the next debate that needs their input. </condescending>
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member

Okay, now I have to do this publicly...

If a conflict needed a moderator to resolve it, we ask that afterwards, both sides drop it. We are sorry if it gets in the way of you making a point, but we ask you to not take potshots at people after the conflict is over.
 

lowkey13

Exterminate all rational thought
<cynicism>Banhammer for the win. Silence all the dissenters and solutions will just write themselves. </cynicism>

<condescending>Members of the "Men's Rights" crowd simply don't have the endurance for prolonged debate. They complain loudly, pat themselves on the back for a job well done, then move on to the next debate that needs their input. </condescending>
I'ma big fan of good moderation, a tolerant community, and a judicious use of the ignore feature, myself.
 

TheCosmicKid

Villager
EDIT- to be clear, I am not saying that people shouldn't use words, and discuss topics.
Wait, don't be too hasty. Not using words and discussing topics would avoid a lot of these issues. So let's give this suggestion some real thought. But not discuss it, of course. :)
 

Shasarak

Villager
There are so many examples. One would be alcoholism; if you go back, alcoholics were always portrayed as creatures of comedy. W.C. Fields, Dean Martin, etc. Even as late as, arguably, Arthur (and even that had some less pleasant undertones) an alcoholic would be the "comedic" character. Now? Heck no.
There is a famous alcoholic cartoon character that is more well known around the world then the President of the US of A.
 

Riley37

Villager
This is, admittedly, a slight derail, but for anyone interested in a bit of personal reflection, has anyone else noticed how the quality of conversation has been much better over the past three to five pages or so, and how we're now actually talking about solutions to the problem? Why do you think that is?

Hint: it ain't because the women learned how to behave ourselves.
That question was bubbling towards articulation in my mind, as I scrolled through new-to-me posts, when reached this post in which you zoom out to observe the shift. I agree that the factor you name, is not the tipping point.

I rule out the factor of "someone asked for specific methods", because a man raised a set of four question back around page 60, and then the difficult question of what people would *give up* to make change possible. At most a handful of people posted direct answers to his questions. I did so at length and no one pointed out the flaws in my answers to the question (nor any merits, if my answer had any merits). I was surprised and disappointed by the lack of follow-up.

(By the way, what I would give up, boils down to "I would give up behaviors associated with rape culture"; even a person who denies that rape culture exists, or is uncomfortable with the phrase, could still waive that set of behaviors, as defined by those examples.)

I don't *see* anyone trying the radical move of asking "Hey, women in this conversation, what might make you safer and feel safer?" If someone did ask that question, *directing it explicitly towards women*, then I missed it and I'm sorry I missed it. (Also: there are a few people outside the Big Two categories, and I'm interested in their safety too.)

(And no, I haven't asked that question, not directly, but I make some effort to offer my answers to questions from any participant flagged as a women, such as the question I am trying to answer in this post.)

A participant posted a specific con policy statement - maybe that helped - and that person posted in their participant role, but they're also known as a mod, which might also have helped.

There's been attrition over time. The ratio of those still in the game, to those with "skin in the game", may have changed. We can rule out "the Boys Will Be Boys crowd all left", because that hasn't happened, not as of your post raising the question. Though I kinda hope it helped when some of us, including myself, raised the question of "is this a conversation which includes pro-change and anti-change voices, or is it only for pro-change and how to change".

What am I missing?
 

Hussar

Legend
One thing I noticed on links given earlier in this forum thread on how to do this stuff is there should be an option for anonymous reporting. This means that the follow up can't report back to the anonymous reporter, though. Maybe as an option ("you can report harassment anonymously (and it will be investigated) or you can leave enough email for us to submit to you a follow up report of the investigation within 24 hours; your call")?
How would anonymous reporting work at a con or store though? You send an email to someone about someone else's behavior? But, then, the email can be tracked back to you. I had thought that anonymous meant that while the con organizers would know who you are, because you talked to them to make the complaint, you privacy would be respected and no one else would be told.

I'm not sure how that would actually work in practice to have harassment complaints be totally anonymous.

This is, admittedly, a slight derail, but for anyone interested in a bit of personal reflection, has anyone else noticed how the quality of conversation has been much better over the past three to five pages or so, and how we're now actually talking about solutions to the problem? Why do you think that is?

Hint: it ain't because the women learned how to behave ourselves.
Well, OTOH, people stopping complaining about how their mistaken examples are being fact checked has helped the tone of the thread considerably as well. Personally, if your point requires faulty facts, then your point isn't as strong as you think it is. I welcome people to fact check my points and certainly wouldn't get all annoyed when I was shown to be mistaken on a specific point.
 

Anselyn

Explorer
I quite like this take on the issue "accountable environment" - I hope it's not too tangential but this is the training being looked to by my university in ensuring we have safe spaces on campus.

"However, there are many steps that festivals can take in advance to create an accountable environment where:

– potential perpetrators will think twice before committing a crime
– lower level issues are more likely to be reported to you early, so you can deal with them prior to further escalation
– patrons feel more secure in the knowledge that your procedures will kick in something happens

Training on responding to disclosures of sexual harassment can often fall by the wayside for temporary festival staff and volunteers, or be limited to a vague ‘tell security.’ You wouldn’t dream of approaching your fire safety and evacuation protocols this way, both of which you’re much less likely to need – so don’t leave it to chance!"

See: http://www.goodnightoutcampaign.org/get-involved-festivals/
 
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