We Expect Christians to Have Thick Skins...


…but the feminist wing of the atheist movement has just had a “skin ulcer moment.” And it’s by no means the first time.

A month ago, I was surprised and dismayed at what transpired after I made a comment on Greta Christina’s Facebook page questioning her position about the David Eller flap. I’ve always had a great deal of respect for Greta, and I think her writings on sexuality are unparalleled. I thought we were on the same team, and could therefore survive an honest disagreement. She ended up calling me a “flouncing troll” after 100-odd comments in which her Facebook friends ripped me apart like dogs for suggesting that maybe, just maybe, it was true that a pretty and intelligent atheist would make a good spokesperson for our movement on video. David Eller was forced to apologize for saying just that.

Now comes Skepchick (Rebecca Watson) complaining (and making a big deal about it) that some guy got into the elevator with her, and asked her to his room for coffee at 4 am at an atheist conference, and this was “creepy.” She turned him down, and, as Hemant Mehta so eloquently said, this should have been the end of the matter.

But, I’m discovering feminism in the atheist community is something like nitroglycerine. Say the wrong thing, express a different opinion, and you’re toast. Now, apparently, so is Richard Dawkins. And this is where I say emphatically this shit is totally out of hand. Most of us men fall somewhere in between the feminist ideal and raping, knuckle-dragging, mouth breathing misogynists. Yet from the comments of the offended woman and her defenders, which include PZ Myers, it would seem that anything other than full-throated condemnation of the elevator interloper is unacceptable. This is a form of intellectual fascism and I won’t be bullied by it. It makes me want to have nothing whatsoever to do with these particular women or their wing of the atheist movement.

Which is a shame, because we agree on far more than we disagree. But today they have completely lost my respect.

It’s worth reading the spot-on sarcastic comments of Richard Dawkins who–it seems–is also headed for troll status with the feminatheists:

Dear Muslima

Stop whining, will you. Yes, yes, I know you had your genitals mutilated with a razor blade, and . . . yawn . . . don’t tell me yet again, I know you aren’t allowed to drive a car, and you can’t leave the house without a male relative, and your husband is allowed to beat you, and you’ll be stoned to death if you commit adultery. But stop whining, will you. Think of the suffering your poor American sisters have to put up with.

Only this week I heard of one, she calls herself Skep”chick”, and do you know what happened to her? A man in a hotel elevator invited her back to his room for coffee. I am not exaggerating. He really did. He invited her back to his room for coffee. Of course she said no, and of course he didn’t lay a finger on her, but even so . . .

And you, Muslima, think you have misogyny to complain about! For goodness sake grow up, or at least grow a thicker skin.


The “feminist” response to Dawkins follows:

Did you just make the argument that, since worse things are happening somewhere else, we have no right to try to fix things closer to home?

At which point Dawkins just nails it:

No I wasn’t making that argument. Here’s the argument I was making. The man in the elevator didn’t physically touch her, didn’t attempt to bar her way out of the elevator, didn’t even use foul language at her. He spoke some words to her. Just words. She no doubt replied with words. That was that. Words. Only words, and apparently quite polite words at that.

If she felt his behaviour was creepy, that was her privilege, just as it was the Catholics’ privilege to feel offended and hurt when PZ nailed the cracker. PZ didn’t physically strike any Catholics. All he did was nail a wafer, and he was absolutely right to do so because the heightened value of the wafer was a fantasy in the minds of the offended Catholics. Similarly, Rebecca’s feeling that the man’s proposition was ‘creepy’ was her own interpretation of his behaviour, presumably not his. She was probably offended to about the same extent as I am offended if a man gets into an elevator with me chewing gum. But he does me no physical damage and I simply grin and bear it until either I or he gets out of the elevator. It would be different if he physically attacked me.

Muslim women suffer physically from misogyny, their lives are substantially damaged by religiously inspired misogyny. Not just words, real deeds, painful, physical deeds, physical privations, legally sanctioned demeanings. The equivalent would be if PZ had nailed not a cracker but a Catholic. Then they’d have had good reason to complain.


Absolutely!!!! If agreeing with Dawkins makes me misogynist, then hate me and bring it on. The feminists have a right to their opinion, but if they are honest they must admit their view is totally subjective. In fact, it goes pretty far toward the demonization of men by calling them “creepy.” There are certainly guys who are “creepy.” There are certainly guys who engage in obnoxious and brazen come-ons. But in this case, all “creepy” means is “made an unwanted verbal advance.”

Men are at a distinct disadvantage in this game since they always have to deal with the high likelihood of rejection, something women have far less experience with. This is not a moral or progressive issue, or one of respect. This is an issue of equality. It’s an issue of recognizing (for once and for all) that women have the goods men want.

In that sense there will never be equality. Women will always to a certain extent be objects–because they have vaginas. Sex is a commodity that is bartered for in a number of ways, and yes–tragically stolen by men at times.

But the fact that some men range from creeps to full-blown monsters does not mean that other men are not completely within their rights to attempt to negotiate and strike whatever bargain they can to keep their penises happy. And that also means women get to say “no” and as long as the guy is polite and leaves the woman alone, he has done nothing wrong or anti-feminist. He may have been clumsy, or simply not attractive, but that should not be a crime.

Nor even an offense.

I’ve heard the arguments about safety, and how we men don’t realize that women are afraid in public spaces. Of course men realize that. Unless we’re black belts or body builders and/or have a permit to carry a concealed weapon, men are one thug away from being mugged, stabbed or shot in the city. The world is a dangerous place.

But it is up to every individual to determine when a situation is or is not threatening. By Skepchick’s own admission, the situation was non-threatening. So the safety argument does not apply. Saying it does in absence of threatening behavior is misandry, and it is collective punishment.

Unfortunately, this does call for the phrase “grow up.” If women want to be equals–instead of just demanding equality–then they should start by recognizing there are evolutionary imperatives at play. Sure, men need to work at improving their pitch. Some who may not be violent or threatening are nonetheless woefully rude, and tone-deaf to the shortcomings of their flirtations. But every woman also has to gain the maturity to handle and deflect unwanted come-ons with good humor. It’s part of being a self-aware human being with a vagina–and therefore a part of gender equality.

I think this brouhaha is a terrible tragedy for the atheist movement. I think Skepchick just made a colossal fool of herself. And, frankly, shame on those who doubled down on the foolishness.

Now bring on the nitroglycerine.

Comments (37 comments)

Nitroglycerine / July 3rd, 2011, 10:36 pm / #1

What you say sounds perfectly reasonable… but that's no fun. So instead I'll go with "You just don't get it, you woman-hating misogynist." There. I feel better now.

Dean / July 3rd, 2011, 11:11 pm / #2

I agree 100% with this article. The man may have been unflattering and her intuition may have flagged him as a possible threat, but it didn't happen. All this seems to have been was a poor drunken man who was attracted to this woman and with only perhaps half or less of his brain functioning made a wrong move. Next thing we know the feminist war drums are sounding and another round of male bashing ensues. To take a line out of the Australian vernacular, SkepChick and her followers need to harden the fuck up and tone down the hysterics to something resembling a dull roar.

The Nerd / July 4th, 2011, 12:13 am / #3

"Women will always to a certain extent be objects–because they have vaginas." HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Michael Hawkins / July 4th, 2011, 1:41 am / #4

What gets me is the focus on where this all took place: an enclosed space with no immediate escape. Okay, so let's go with that. She couldn't leave right away and she didn't know the guy. That makes it scary, right? If so, then why does it matter what he said? If the problem is the situation – and that is the argument feminists have been putting forth – then it it irrelevant that he said anything. The mere fact that he was a person with a penis has put him at fault for these feminists. That he said something is being used as an excuse.

BlackSun / July 4th, 2011, 1:49 am / #5

Michael, totally right on. I think where this is headed is separate elevators for men and women.

Glenn / July 5th, 2011, 5:12 am / #6

Would it be inappropriate to have the female-only lift have a glass ceiling?

ikonografer / July 4th, 2011, 10:48 am / #7

exactly! one other thing though: if instead of a rude jerk trying to get some womanly attention, it had been a brown man asking what time it was, and watson had responded similarly, we'd be excoriating her for being a racist. fact is, i first saw watson on AronRa's channel, and was somewhat impressed by her. Now, i have no choice but to conclude that she's essentially a misandrist. i posted to that effect, so i won't retype the argument, but it's here if it's ok to post a link (i apologize if it's not)

The Elevator Guy / July 4th, 2011, 10:49 am / #8

So there was this girl on the elevator the other week at this atheist conference I went to. She seemed really smart and cool, and though I am usually a really shy person, I took a chance and asked her if she wanted to go have some coffee back at my room. She turned me down. Figures. Why would she even bother talking to me. I'm so lame. That's what I get for putting myself out there.

Bailey / July 4th, 2011, 11:19 am / #9

I was with you until you said that women will always be objects because they have vaginas (to whatever extent you choose to objectify vagina-having people). Nope. Sorry. Huh-uh. You can want to have sex with me all you want, but the minute you reduce me to being no more than the portion of my body you'd like to place your penis in, you lose all of your points. Out on your backside, immediately. THAT, my friend, IS sexist.

And comparing rape to theft is sort of sick. Those are two completely different things. My right to bodily autonomy is not a good, it is not a commodity – it is a right. Violation of that right is in no way comparable to someone stealing my iPod, for example.

I agree that this whole situation has been blown completely out of proportion and everyone is acting ridiculously childish – and after reading that sentence, unfortunately that includes you. And me, for commenting, but really, those two brief examples undercut the rest of your very valid points.

BlackSun / July 4th, 2011, 1:43 pm / #10

Bailey, no one is *reducing* anyone to anything. It is not either-or, but AND. To deny the monumental evolutionary power inherent in the female of the species is just silly. Whatever else a woman may achieve, she still has a vagina. However refined a man may be, he still has a penis. Both sexes are fully responsible for their actions. We don't have to deny the forces involved to say so.

Bodily sovereignty is a right because human society has made it so. The ev-psych books say women have been defining their methods of fending off the greater physical strength of men for about the past 200,000 years. To me they've been highly successful. That doesn't mean there isn't a ways to go. But the goal should not be compete emasculation. The goal should be mutual respect and balance. That is what I'm calling for here.

Still, people trade their bodies like commodities, and it's not just sex workers. When you spend eight hours on the job, you have bargained away a portion of your life, and gotten something in return. Sex may be for pleasure, self-transcendence, procreation, whatever, but it is also a highly-sought-after commodity. And it is used as a medium of exchange.

Bailey / July 4th, 2011, 2:07 pm / #11

"In that sense there will never be equality. Women will always to a certain extent be objects–because they have vaginas."

Can you explain to me how that is not a reduction of a woman to an object? I'm not saying it's not either/or, I'm saying that the "AND" is the problem. You can appreciate a woman as sexually desirable without objectifying her, and saying a woman is an object because she has a vagina is objectification.

I never claimed that emasculating anyone was my goal. That's a total straw man. I said that calling a woman an object because you want to stick your penis in her is sexist. I have no problem with sex, sex is awesome. I have a problem with you saying that "because vagina, therefore objectification." It certainly does work that way in daily life, but that doesn't make it acceptable. It doesn't mean there will never be equality.

Some people do trade their time, work and effort or sex like commodities, yes, but that all implies consent, contracts or employment, and, like you said, exchange. That has absolutely nothing to do with rape. Bodily sovereignty is a right because human society decided it is, yeah. What does that have to do with anything I said? That doesn't make the comparison of rape and theft any less disgusting. It's like that classy old canard – if a man rapes a hooker, isn't it really just theft? No, it's rape. I'm also calling for mutual respect and balance, and part of that mutual respect and balance in this case involves a deeper understanding of what rape entails – it's not about sex or the temporary theft of a woman's vagina for sex, which is what your comparison implies. It's about power, and saying rape is equivalent to theft is terrifyingly off-base. Prostitutes still have the right to say no. Do you see what I'm saying?

Your whole series of arguments here is a set of straw men that don't do much to address my points. Yes, I have a vagina. Yes, men objectify me. That does not make me an object, that makes some men people who sometimes objectify me based on a part of my body. Telling women they'll always be objects because of their genitalia is sexist, just as it would be equally sexist for me to say that all men are going to rape and objectify women. That would be a ridiculous statement for which I would rightly be mocked, but how is it different from saying if you have a vagina, you're an object?

BlackSun / July 4th, 2011, 2:33 pm / #12

Bailey, I know this is a *huge* sticking point for feminists. But I just don't understand how "objectification" is such a big deal. It is acknowledging the obvious. Which that all people are both objectified and instrumental to others in a number of ways, not just sexually. Everyone has endless designs on other people. Politicians use their followers. Businessmen use their workers, people use other people to get information, or favors. Hopefully there's a fair exchange. Problems arise when there is not.

Life is a continuous power exchange. Everything is transactional. So when you say rape is a crime of power, absolutely. I couldn't agree more. But so is theft, in the sense that stealing money or goods from someone reduces their power to act in the world.

And I fully acknowledge that rape is one of the most heinous crimes humans can commit. But it can still be seen as theft–not of a vagina–but as theft of dignity and autonomy. The canard about the hooker is something I would never say. It is not theft of services, because in order for it to be so, the hooker still would have to have consented to the service. I suppose it could be theft of services if she consented and the man refused to pay afterward.

But we're way off target from the original discussion, which was that there needs to be an acknowledgement that to have a vagina is to have something extraordinarily desirable, which men will do all sorts of crazy things to get access to. They will filrt, decieve, cajole, stalk, beg, and even use force. So when a man simply asks once and politely leaves, it's huge progress in an evolutionary and political sense, and something which deserves praise and not scorn. And how would this have gone down differently if Skepchick was actually attracted to the guy? Was he supposed to read her mind?

Final question: Do women really want men to be even more afraid to approach them than some of us already are? I don't think that serves anyone.

Bailey / July 4th, 2011, 2:59 pm / #13

We're going to have to agree to disagree on the objectification thing, then. When I see a man and think that I'd like to have sex with him, I don't reduce him to his penis. I want to have sex with someone on equal terms – I want to have sex with another person whose body is only one part of the attraction. I don't think I could have sex with a guy if my whole goal was his penis. That's my issue – I am more than my vagina, but objectifying me as my vagina denies me as a person. Make sense?

On the rest, we're pretty much in agreement, but the initial wording of rape as equivalent to theft still just creeps me out. Rape is a heinous crime that has lifelong effects on women, children and men – the loss of control of one's own body is completely separate from the loss of an object, which can be replaced.

A penis is a pretty desirable thing too. I find the focus on men's pursuit of women to be interesting, because women do the same sorts of things for sex. I'm a big fan of sex, so posing men as the aggressive ones and women as the passive possessors of the almighty vagina feels a little off-target, but that might just be me. I like guys, and I like sex, but that's not an excuse for objectifying men, poor behavior or crime. Flirting is fun! Cajoling, depending on the circumstances. Deceiving, stalking, begging and forcing I think we'd both agree are not good methods.

And as I said in my initial post, I agree with everything else you said. I think approaching someone in an elevator after she's clearly stated her intention is to go to bed and sleep is on shaky grounds, but I think the discussion of it (and ESPECIALLY the subsequent handling of it) could have been handled in a completely productive manner. Alas, they were not. I am so on board with a guy who responds well to "no." That is such an important part of even casual conversation. But a sense of timing also helps, and acknowledging expressly stated wishes helps too. I think that's what the initial point was supposed to be, but it got lost in a lot of noise and silliness and unnecessary drama.

I don't want men to be afraid to approach women, no. In fact, I left an extremely irritable comment on a different blog that was suggesting that men are so afraid of teh ladeez that women need to resort to trickery and mind-games to assuage men's egos and keep them interested. Both of these scenarios are problematic. Men and women should not be afraid of approaching men and women, according to their preference, but everybody needs a sense of timing, which is something that comes with practice.

BlackSun / July 4th, 2011, 3:36 pm / #14

Bailey, first of all I want to say thank you for an extremely balanced conversation. And thank you also for bringing up the point that women pursue sex, too. Of course they do, and that's something which doesn't receive enough attention in all the noise.

Perhaps this is a semantic argument about the word "objectify." To me, there's just no way to look at a woman without seeing the complete package. And I don't think I'm alone. Both men and women are constantly evaluating each other, sizing up their chances. Genitalia are only a part of the attraction. But they're an important part. I think you are saying you agree.

My act of looking at a woman and thinking about how great it would be to get a her in bed might involve fantasies about her breasts, lips, vagina, ass, and everything else. Which doesn't distract me from the intelligent conversation we would hopefully be having. Nor would I hope her thinking about my penis or other attributes would distract her from what I was saying. I would hope there would be a lot of learning about the other person, a lot of brain connection. Because the brain is the sexiest organ of them all. But still that the chemistry and bodily sexual tension would just add to the deliciousness of the conversation.

When I hear the word "objectification" in feminist usage, it makes me think a woman wants people to look at them and completely forget there's any physical attraction or potential sex involved. Which I think is just a killjoy attitude. As a man, I say, think about my body, objectify me, please!

And I agree totally with your point about timing and skill.

Bailey / July 4th, 2011, 4:08 pm / #15

You're welcome! I really enjoyed it. I am a very sex-positive person, which is why issues of semantics matter to me – language and the way we use it makes a difference (of course, I'm a language dork, so I'm biased). Objectification, to me, is the issue of seeing another person only as a physical object, not as the complete package, so I can see where we were saying the same thing and talking at cross-purposes.

Fantasizing about another person is definitely not something I would have a problem with, that's healthy. The problem is when we relegate people to being only useful for the purposes of fantasy or sex. Those are both great things, but not the only things. I'm glad we cleared that confusion up. :)

Angel / July 5th, 2011, 12:11 pm / #16

This entire conversation is exactly how I wish more people handled disagreements and confusion. Thank you to you both for setting a great example of how adults should be able to conduct themselves.

Angel / July 4th, 2011, 11:57 am / #17

Both myself, and my vagina, couldn't agree more.

LasraelLarson / July 4th, 2011, 1:14 pm / #18

Jebezuz Sean! You know interwebz drama shortens your day by at least an hour! Thanx for that. :P

Anyway, I've waded in a bit.

somehow, "I find you interesting, lets have coffee." just doesn't read like, "if you aren't going to make me a sandwich, at least show me your tits!"

regardless, topic vetted… flushing is always an option. ;)

Tim / July 4th, 2011, 3:19 pm / #19

"And how would this have gone down differently if Skepchick was actually attracted to the guy?"


Also, Chloe's comment on (one of) Hemant's posts. I'm sure she is not the voice for the minority of women, even in the atheist "movement".

BlackSun / July 4th, 2011, 3:39 pm / #20

Yes, well said Chloe.

Angel / July 4th, 2011, 4:41 pm / #21

In the same post, Dubliner also laid it out well.

Angel / July 4th, 2011, 4:44 pm / #22

Rather than mashing this into a previous response, where it had no business as it wasn't related to the comment…

I don't consider myself an apologist, nor do I hate my own gender, and so it is extremely frustrating/disgusting to me that simple disagreement is seen as both from many individuals I respect (and in some cases, past tense). I clearly have a fundamental problem with the notion that the atheist community is supposed to be this giant block party with individuals of all stripe, and we bill ourselves as such, but when it comes right down to it….those that are supposed to be setting the example are the ones who are ridiculing and demeaning their peers for simple disagreement.

As I said in one of the giant comment-parties on Hemant's blog… That so many people, including Watson, absolutely refuse to separate “the issue” into their distinct parts (namely: actual incident in elevator, blog conversation and counterpoint, and then conference speech) and are instead mushing it into this giant OMGIFYOUDONOTAGREEWITHMEYOUAREAMISOGYNIST flounce session, speaks volumes.

BlackSun / July 5th, 2011, 12:52 pm / #23

Angel. Yes it does. Thanks for your reasoned comments.

mirandaceleste / July 4th, 2011, 6:14 pm / #24

Great post, Sean. This is especially spot-on:

"But, I’m discovering feminism in the atheist community is something like nitroglycerine. Say the wrong thing, express a different opinion, and you’re toast."

Yep. And that's depressing as hell. & It's why I felt the need to post this yesterday:

Scotty Roberts / July 5th, 2011, 3:31 am / #25

Eloquent and spot on.

Glenn / July 5th, 2011, 4:45 am / #26

I agree with Scotty Roberts, who had a comment so nice he posted it twice.

BlackSun / July 5th, 2011, 2:11 pm / #27

More shaming and war-drumming from the feminatheist police. And a little "get in line" medicine for the girls who don't agree. Backed and linked by PZ Myers, of course:

annajohnstone / July 5th, 2011, 7:53 pm / #28

the feminatheist police can kiss my bum!

Angel / July 6th, 2011, 3:52 pm / #29

Well said. Both your comment here and your blog :)

annajohnstone / July 7th, 2011, 5:08 am / #30


Nick (Pudding) / November 15th, 2011, 2:19 pm / #31

Bravo. Somehow I think the feminatheist police would be only too happy to oblige …

ChristopherTK / July 8th, 2011, 6:09 pm / #32

I wish we could get this kind of response from the atheist community for political issues!

MJ Barnes / July 11th, 2011, 6:07 pm / #33

You should have interactions with a rad-fem-les controlled goverment apparatus, of which we have many in Canada, but if you are a divorced man ( a synonym in Canada for mysoginist, raping, chick-punching, sub-human; in short, the worst human since Hitler…) you can look forward to 20 years of no-reacharound sodomy, in endless quantity, totaly devoid of reason and resonability- after all,it is state approved and funded, so its okay! Its not discriminatory when its leveled at a man ('cause we're all filth..) My thanks to FMEP BC for de-programming me of the previous 30 years of caring, respect, equality and enlightenment; essentaly the upbringing given to me by my parents- enlightened, lawfull, egalitarian folks that they were, and well meaning too, these values have no more place in our society than a bicycle in an aquariaum. Let suspision, bigotry and intolerance reign! And remember; its only racist or sexist when the purpetrator is a caucasiod male.
Great blog! been following it for some time!

Agnes / August 1st, 2011, 7:08 pm / #34

Hell ay, i want indite something like this moreover didnt have particular period, may i repost this hellish Sun Journal » We await Christians to Have friendly Skins…

duryodana / August 15th, 2011, 6:48 pm / #35

my question is, and it applies to every interaction of such kind:

would the guy in the elevator have been "creepy" if she had been attracted to him?

of course not. the guy just had the temerity to make the suggestion when he was probably pot-bellied and bald.

the… sheer… gall… of such a guy!

man, Dawkins rocks!

warmvinyl / October 29th, 2011, 2:50 pm / #36

Even Atheist women have the right to proclaim that sex is nasty and dirty; not just just hung up Christians. Sounds like the kind of girl talk in the ladies room of the club when woman are trying to decide which lucky guy gets to kiss their feet that night. Sorry ladies you are still offended by sex for the sake of sex. Not everyone is interested in a long term committment just to have a go at your vagina. We have bigger issues facing us and these side diversions do not help. Proud to be Athesist and fremale

warmvinyl / October 29th, 2011, 2:53 pm / #37

Sorry about the typo's. Atheist and female. 8o)

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