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Back July 30th, 2012 Forward
On Being "Socially Awkward"

In the wake of the Readercon incident, and the general rush of convention season in the USA, I feel like addressing the regular refrain which springs up about people who are being accused of sexual harassment at conventions (particularly within the geek community).

This refrain is, of course, that the harasser (particularly a serial harasser) is "socially awkward" or has "poor social skills".

To which I say: bullshit. Absolute and utter crap. I do not believe this in the least.

Why not? Because their behaviour argues otherwise.

It takes a lot of social skill to develop a set of behaviours which are both threatening to the recipients and innocuous to disinterested bystanders. It takes a lot of skill and practice to be able to perform these behaviours in a public setting on a regular basis without drawing attention to oneself. Choosing your victim is a skill which takes practice and social awareness. So does choosing your friends in order to be believed when you tell people you're very, very sorry and it won't happen again (or at least, not until your friends have forgotten the last time).

Serial harassers aren't socially awkward. If they were socially awkward, they wouldn't be the menace they are. On the contrary, they're socially skilled, socially competent, and well practiced in what they're doing. They know where the lines are, and they're adept at walking them. They have enough empathy to figure out what's going to upset their victim, and enough callous self-interest not to care.

Genuine social awkwardness will manifest itself in all environments, in all settings, and around all people. The genuinely socially awkward person won't have many friends, and will have problems fitting into normal social routines under any circumstance. They won't be charming. They won't be popular. They will creep out people of both sexes, and all gender preferences, because they will be obvious. Genuine social awkwardness is rarer than you'd think.

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Back July 30th, 2012 Forward