My Encounter with a Creeper at a Con

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This creeper is cute. The other kind is not.

I encountered a creeper at Phoenix Comicon this weekend. I wish it had been the cute, boxy green kind that goes, “Ssssss…BOOM!” But it wasn’t. It was the other kind.

Even as I type this I’m not sure I want to post this. But there has been a lot of talk recently about conventions and harassment policies, so I keep thinking maybe my story belongs in that dialogue somehow? I don’t know. I’m just going to keep typing and see what happens.

So, this weekend was Phoenix Comicon, which is an awesome convention that you should totally check out if you haven’t already. This year had an incredible lineup, record turnouts of attendees and was just overall a really amazing time.

Phoenix Comicon has an anti-harassment policy that is easy to find on its website. One of the items listed is “Unwanted touching without permission of the individual such as glomping, hugging, etc.” Which, when I think about it, is just common decency. Common sense. Or at least should be.

You have to take two escalators to get from the main floor of the Phoenix Convention Center downstairs to the exhibit hall. Sunday, the last day of the con, I stepped onto the first escalator and put my hand on the rail. The man behind me put his hand on the rail, too, in such a manner that it rested against my arm. My reaction (which all happened in a fraction of a second) went something like this:

“What the heck? Why is he doing that? Does he have freakishly long arms? Eww. He’s touching me.” And I took my hand off the rail. His stayed.

It felt a little like the wrestle over the armrest at the movie theater or protecting your leg space on a cramped subway seat.

When I came to the end of the first escalator and walked the few feet to the next escalator, I noticed the guy behind me do this sort of wide turn to try to position himself next to me. There was no way I was about to share a step with the guy, so I made myself bigger than I am and guarded my space. Problem solved.

Or so I thought.

He stood behind me, slightly to my right, and leaned against me. I looked down and saw that his feet were hanging–literally–half way over the step he was on.  

Now I was pissed.

I turned my face toward his direction (because of the incline I couldn’t see his face) and very loudly said, “Back. Up. NOW.”

I wish I could describe the giggly laugh noise he made. High pitched. Kind of squeaky.

He knew what he was doing. And he knew he’d been caught.

At the end of the escalator, I stepped off and got as much distance from him as I could. (I’m a ninja when it comes to crowd surfing.) Half a minute later, he couldn’t have caught up to me if he’d tried. I entered the exhibit hall and went on my way, albeit a little wiser.

This was the first time something like this had happened to me. Well, at a con. There have been other incidents in my life (that I’m not going to divulge here) that taught me early on that it’s almost disgustingly inevitable as a female to experience unwanted physical contact with creepers; and also that it can be very difficult to be taken seriously when you share what’s happened. That’s been my experience at least.

So I went into the exhibit hall. And I didn’t say anything.

To be honest, I didn’t really think to. I’d handled the situation pretty well, I thought. Given his position behind me and my recent training in karate, I could have done some damage to his nether regions with an outside block or an elbow jab. But instead I used my voice, and that–thankfully–did the trick.

Today I’ve been reliving all the incredible events from the con as I go about my re-entry into normal life. Meeting amazing people, having incredible conversations with some authors that I’ve long admired, all the sights and sounds that make a convention the thing we all love. But then the memory of the escalator creeper popped up and I realized again what had happened. It made me wonder if it had happened to other women over the course of those four days. I bet it did.

I wish now I’d said something to one of the security staff.

It would have been difficult, given the size of the crowd coming off that escalator and not having a really good idea what he looked like. (Light blue t-shirt, dark hair, maybe a mustache.)

Still. I should have tried.

So, I’m glad I’m posting this here at least. That I’m using my voice and sharing what happened. The thing about an encounter like that is it brings up all the ickiness from previous encounters and becomes a thing that you have to deal with again, even years later. And that SUCKS.

It makes me angry that I have to make myself bigger than I am and bark orders at someone to keep myself from having a full-body lean on by some strange guy.

Like, think about that for a second.

And my story is nothing compared to what some women go through.

So, #yesALLwomen because, while I love what I’m learning in karate, I hate that my motivation to learn it at all was because I need to know I can defend myself in any situation.

And #yesALLwomen because I have a daughter and I hate thinking of her having to go through some of the stuff I have in the past with unwanted encounters and domineering men.

And #yesALLwomen because damn it, I should able to go to a con in my home town and not have to deal with that kind of crap.

Next time, I’m using the well-placed elbow jab.


16 thoughts on “My Encounter with a Creeper at a Con

    R.C. Lewis said:
    June 9, 2014 at 6:22 pm

    Amy, there are no words except that it sucks, and that I’m so sorry you had to deal with that, and that I’m so sick of this crap. (Okay, that’s a lot of words.)

    Over the weekend, a good friend tweeted about the unbelievable (yet all-too-believable) comments she endured on the subway platform.

    I’ve had to tell some male students to back up out of my space. Their response: “Why you mad?” or “Calm down.” Yeah. Wasn’t mad and WAS calm … until they said that.

    So tired, but keep speaking up. Let’s hope by the time your daughter is alone on an escalator, we’ll have gotten the message through. :-\

      Amy K. Nichols said:
      June 9, 2014 at 6:41 pm

      Ugh. RC, all of that is so awful. Especially with your students.

      I will keep speaking up, and you do, too. God, please don’t let my daughter have to deal with this crap.

      Nicole Maggi said:
      June 9, 2014 at 7:25 pm

      This is the problem – these boys don’t even know they’re doing something wrong. Like we should be FLATTERED by their creepiness. UGH!

    Michael Bradley said:
    June 9, 2014 at 7:10 pm

    We definitely need to include rules of etiquette as a separate sheet in the con guides, and train security to watch for creepers. We had a creeper approach a few people at my booth, including one that was hitting on my friend that has just graduated eighth grade and was in a modest outfit. Also, since we have known each other for fifteen years and I offered a dinner with both our spouses, I hope my shoulder hug was within policy guidelines. 🙂

      Amy K. Nichols said:
      June 9, 2014 at 8:29 pm

      That’s a good idea, Michael. I think the guidelines are printed in the schedule book, too, aren’t they? If they aren’t, I think I’ll contact them with that suggestion. And no worries, the shoulder hug was fine.

      Amy K. Nichols said:
      June 9, 2014 at 8:54 pm

      You know, a written policy can only go so far. The fact is, you can’t make people read it. And some of these people are Neanderthals who probably can’t read anyway. So it comes down to, I think, making sure people are aware of what’s going on around them, and confident enough to respond in a proactive manner.

    Nicole Maggi said:
    June 9, 2014 at 7:24 pm

    Ugh, Amy. I’m so sorry you had to deal with that. I think you handled it extremely well, and bravo to you for speaking up about it now. The harassment I’ve had to deal with all my life – especially when I lived in NYC – makes my blood boil. I, too, have a daughter and can only hope that when she’s older, it won’t be as constant as it’s been in my life. In the meantime, I’m teaching her to use her voice and speak up when something isn’t right…just like you did.

      Amy K. Nichols said:
      June 9, 2014 at 8:27 pm

      I’m sorry, Nicole! Sheesh, I can’t think of any female friends who haven’t dealt with something like this. I’m teaching my daughter the same. And she’s been doing karate longer than me. 😉

    Lisa/SyncopatedMama said:
    June 10, 2014 at 5:50 am

    Ugh. I had a figure skating judge give me a kiss ON THE LIPS once a few years ago, when I said hello to him after he judged one of my students. It took me forever to get past the EwEwEw factor on that one. I remember my mom telling me there were just some creepy old men out there. YuckYuckYuck and sorry you had to encounter a creeper, too!

    Anthony Ryan said:
    June 10, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    Between being a father of three daughters and everything I see at the university level regarding girls and women, I am pretty hopeless this stuff will stop. My girls, our girls are just going to have to be tougher. So they can speak up and get physical when they need. That being said, my girls are petite and all I need is some creeper getting out of control once they have been told they are not being respectful. I lose sleep over this stuff and I am glad they are are still at home. AND I am glad my son knows what is acceptable and what is not.

      Amy K. Nichols said:
      June 12, 2014 at 8:20 am

      I feel that way about my daughter, too, Anthony. It’s one reason she’s taking karate. One of the sensei’s at our dojo is a high school girl who’s been a black belt for years. I love the idea of my kids being black belts in high school and being able to hold their own in a confrontation. In our training, we’re taught to never give up. Even the smallest in our class learn that giving in and getting beat up or taken isn’t an option. It really builds up your confidence. Just something to consider. 🙂

    dex said:
    June 11, 2014 at 1:54 pm

    I’m so sorry to hear you had to deal with that. That sounds just awful.

    Rissa Watkins said:
    June 26, 2014 at 5:04 pm

    What a creep! Like you said, posting more rules about it probably won’t matter to someone like that because they won’t care anyway. And don’t beat yourself up for not elbowing him (which would have been awesome to see) because he would have just cried that he did nothing wrong and you attacked him.

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