"This should be a better world," a friend of mine said. "A more honest one, where sex isn't shameful or degrading. I wish this was the kind of world where say, 'Wow, I'd like to touch your breasts,' and people would understand that it's not a way of reducing you to a set of nipples and ignoring the rest of you, but rather a way of saying that I may not yet know your mind, but your body is beautiful."And then, his livejournal comment section EXPLODED, with over 1,300 comments on the original entry before he froze any comments, and then first issued clarifications, followed later by a complete denuncation and several retractions (perhaps with a soupçon of martyrdom and not before both himself and his wife engaged in vigorous defense of the idea).
We were standing in the hallway of ConFusion, about nine of us, and we all nodded. Then another friend spoke up.
"You can touch my boobs," she said to all of us in the hallway. "It's no big deal."
At Penguicon, we had buttons to give away. There were two small buttons, one for each camp: A green button that said, "YES, you may" and a red button that said "NO, you may not." And anyone who had those buttons on, whether you knew them or not, was someone you could approach and ask:
"Excuse me, but may I touch your breasts?"
It was a raging success at Penguicon.... And there haven't been any hookups that I know of thanks to the Open-Source Boob Project. It is, as I said, a very special thing. (Though I wouldn't rule it out if two single people exchanged a moment.) And we'll probably do it at other cons, because it's strangely wholesome and sexual at the same time.
Award winning and best-selling science fiction author John Scalzi was at Penguincon, and while he didn't witness the Open Source Boob Project, he did have something to say about the matter:
...if I had known about the Open Source Boob project while I was still at the convention, I still wouldn’t have partaken, because in general I’m not a huge fan of touching people I don’t particularly know very well, even if they have a button on that tells me I’m free to do so (or at least ask to do so). This is less about breasts than it is about more prosaic physical comfort zones. I’m not neurotic about it — I understand some people are huggers, and you have to go with that, and a couple of years ago at the ConFusion science fiction convention, when one of the Guests of Honor told everyone to kiss the top of my head by the end of the con, my response was to be amused, not to Purell the top of my scalp every five minutes...In short, Open Source Boobs: an interesting idea, deeply context specific, and generally not for me.
Many people had critical reactions to theferret proposeal. Some of them, like livejournal user misia (the nome de electronique of dutch author Hanna Blank) were outright visceral parody, in her counter-proposal of an Open Source Swift Kick To The Balls Project.
Kate Nepveu talked about how the Open Source Boobs Project could never, ever work in the real world.
springheel_jack thinks the fact that such a tin-ear for personal decency or ignorance of male privelidge or being genuinely shocked that someone might have seen the situatiuon in a manner that was completely different from his own shows that there are just some fundamental problems with the insular nature of geek culture and sexuality:
Maybe the comparison is... with little kids playing Cowboys and Indians. Because the little kids are not trying to root out a culture of which they are cognizant; they're simply insensible of the extent to which the culture - often the very evil culture - they've already imbibed is controlling every aspect of their "game", which they think is sui generis. [...]What do I think?
Too many geek guys never got the message. The game is one of gender politics and they stayed home with their computers - those shadow-boxes of projective fantasizing - rather than go out and have experiences of, well, gender, with people unlike themselves. They kept with their in-clique at school, which was either homosocial, fumblingly chaste, or already a version of the sexual Walden Two they would be re-enacting in their college dorm rooms and in the hot tubs in the hotels at cons; they never got schooled. They never had relationships with many (especially non-geek) adult women, in other words, and got to know them as humans, as subjects in their own right. They never had their fantasies reality-checked. Instead they masturbated and imagined how things could be different - a world without all the preliminaries and subtexts and baggage of the adult world. A world in which, sexually, it would be perfectly okay to go up to any desirable woman and say, "me cowboy, you indian, bang bang you're dead."
There is this awful immaturity in the condition of geekdom. The singleminded obsessions; the valorization of social inexperience and awkwardness; the love of blinking lights. Look, I know what it felt like to grow up like that, smart, shy, and stigmatized, and I can understand wanting to feel good about being a geek and to believe that we rule the world now. [...] But when it's an excuse to refuse to be an adult and to deal with adult complexity, to avoid the sometimes bitter lessons of adulthood, to dodge the recognition of how weak we are in the face of the accumulated mass of history, to deny the genuine difficulty of navigating this world, with all the iron constraints and fragile supports that make up our prospects...well, okay, it's understandable, nobody wants to live in a tragedy, but that's where we live[...]the alternative is to stay a child. Blind inside an unbroken egg.
Well, from a purely married man's perspective, I admit that I like breasts. I'm alright with a group of other adults deciding that they're okay with touching each other and being touched by each other. I honestly don't really know whether I personally would have participated, though I do know that it is somethng I would have first talked about with my wife.
theferrett's "experiment" in groping shouldn't ever, EVER be repeated at a convention. Why? My
1) Sci-fi cons (or anime cons, or RPG cons) do NOT exist in a vacuum. Open boob-graabing in a public shared space is a bad idea because of everything from the fact that it can be a trigger for those who were assaulted or abused, to the fact that if you're not at an adults-only convention you could make someone (say a parent with kids in tow) and their family uncomfortable, to the fact that conventions taking place at hotels also have a fairly large percentage of "mundanes" to the fact that you may be giving Mr. Off-Duty Cop With No Sense of Humor A Reason To Bust You.
2) You can't wear a "no you may not button" without knowing what the damned buttons are about in the first place. In other words, to know that you can put on a button and state 'I do not want to be asked,' you must first be introduced to the subject. Now, this can happen because you ask what people are doing, or ask about the buttons, but it's more likely to happen when someone asks you, and suggests you go and get a button. THis also means someone who declines to participate has no means of being identified, which in turn means they might be solicited by several different well meaning people.
So, you pick a "no you may not" button, right? But now by buying in to the whole button label, you have engaged in implicit condoning of the behavior, and itself becomes an invitation to discuss their decision. If someone is publicly wearing a red 'No' button, after all,somoene might go and ask you why? So, what, to be on the safe side, would you then make more buttons covering the range of "I don't want to talk about iT. LEAVE ME BE"?
3) Mix this button system with underage convention attendees, and you might end up in prison. For real. Can you 100% identify people under the age of consent on sight? Of both sexes? What happens when a 13, 14, 15 who "looks 18" gets a "yes, you may" button and her dad or mom comes across her being felt up by a bunch of 20 or thirty year old guys? In some states, this will get you placed on a sexual offender list for the rest of your life, plus mandatory jail time.
4)Your right to swing your first ends where my nose begins. What happens if a dude or lady says "Hey, this is sorta awkward, but... well, I'm a parent, and my kids are at this convention, and while I sure don't want to tell you how to live your lives, would you mind keeping the touching behind closed doors?"
Seriously, what could you say without sounding like a self-entitled, self-absorbed tollbox?? "Durr, nuh-uhn the point of the experiment is to get you to get over all of your hangups, and restricting it to private rooms breaks that?"
5) The potential for hurt feelings on all sides is off the charts.
Hell, what about the people at the convention will put on a green button... and no one will want to grope them? They'll be the kid at the junior high prom standing near the wall. "I feel like a total loser on a suck sandwich; I can't even give it away."
6) The cpn can be held liable for what happens, even if they don't officially condone it. If someone finds it offensive, believes they've been harassed as a result, feels their children have been subjected to inappropriate activity or lots of other potential (bad) situations, the convention can be held accountable and liable for it, and the legal defense "hey, it's at a convention, man" is not bloody likely to stand in court for more than three seconds. Since the project becomes something very very different if it only takes place at closed room parties, there isn't a good way to ensure that only the participants are liable.
As if this whole idea (Uptopia is where I can be a cad and get rewarded) wasn't base or riducolous enough, then let me conclude with boobs, tits, breasts, funbags, melons, hooters, tomatoes, knockers, rack, honkers, lady pillows, breasticles.