Bars Aren’t Brothels

“Common sense is not so common.” -Voltaire

For someone who has neveronce attended a skeptic conference, I’m really infuriated by the attitudes and behavior of some of the attendees. I think this sums up my opinion towards the whole TAM-sexual-harassment-policy discussion.

Here’s a summary of the discussion, if you’re interested. If you’re not, just keep reading because I start yelling at people.

PZ Myers has now gotten into a debate with another Freethought blogger, Thunderf00t, over his take on the harassment policy. (Links here, here, here, and here.)

This has gone way beyond a discussion of the validity of harassment policies and into some completely insane debate over bar behavior.

From Thunderf00t’s original post:

“But like I say, IT’S A BAR!! and those are the rules of engagement in bars, as the old saying goes, if you are gonna eat tuna, you gotta expect some bones!”

Could someone point me to the universal rules of bar engagement?

I’ve been to bars with a dress code and bars where people dressed are out of place. I’ve been to bars with extensive wine lists and those with extensive beer lists. I’ve been to bars with no seats and ones where standing was prohibited. I’ve been to bars that only accept cash and only accept credit.

From a comment on the PZ Myer’s post:


No, asshole, the onus is on you to not be an asshole. I realize this might be shocking but you, as a man, do not have any right to hit on me, as a woman. This isn’t covered by the Bill of Rights or The Universal Declaration of Human Rights because it isn’t a fucking right. Period. End of discussion. It doesn’t matter where I am or where you are or what I am wearing or how much I’ve had to drink or how attractive you think I am or how attractive you think you are or how badly you want to get laid.

People go to bars for all sorts of reason. I go to bars to watch sports. I go to bars to try different beers. I got to bars to get piss drunk because I’ve had a shitty day. I go to bars to get piss drunk because I’ve had a great day. I go to bars because I work from home and I’m tired of staring at the same four walls. I go to bars to write because I enjoy the white noise. I go to bars because I want a fucking glass of wine and the goddamn grocery store is closed.

If you’re under the impression that simply because a person is in an establishment that serves alcohol, they are interested in some hanky panky, stop. Because you are both wrong and an asshole.


  1. Matt Penfold

     I think you will find that is very much what is says. Since the commentator has since gone on to say “However, innuendo and horseplay is the historical appropriate behavior in a bar” there can be very little room for doubt.

    No doubt you will offer your apologies forthwith.

  2. The comment assumes that horseplay and innuendo are the default at bars and anyone who isn’t into those things shouldn’t be at a bar because it amounts to asking everyone to change their behavior, which is false….as this post just got done pointing out.

  3. Sure they’re acceptable. No, that doesn’t mean everybody should be considered open to them. It’s a basic concept, really.

  4. In the highlighted comment you seem to be talking about 2 people flirting together… with the implication that people around you should not be offended, because it’s a bar.

    However the author has read this as “people sometimes flirt in bars, it’s a bar, therefore you are fair game”.

    That’s how i read it anyway.

  5. Matt Penfold

    Try reading what he actually said. And the read what he has subsequently said.

    It is quite clear from what he has said that situsinversus thinks women who go into bars and get hit on only have themselves to blame if they do not appreciate it.

  6. texasaggie

    Not if the person being attacked doesn’t want to play, they’re not.  Read the article.  It makes it very clear that innuendo and horseplay are only acceptable if both parties agree, otherwise, not.

  7. Hellbound Alleee

    Sure, it sounds like a great argument when you substitute “grabbing a woman’s crotch” with “horseplay.” “Horseplay sounds so childlike and innocent! So does “flirting.” But for cripe’s sake, you can’t go grabbing women because they’re in a bar. Why is the denial that this is what happens so … thick?

  8. Why is there denial that “this is what happens”? Because examples are always crystal clear, and real life is wall-to-wall gray areas.

    True story. I was young and stationed in Hawaii and in a bar in Honolulu with a bunch of other guys from base. Packed crowd, standing-room-only, about four beers in. I feel a tap on my shoulder. I turn to look, see an attractive young lady, and immediately receive a serious hard slap to the face. ???

    My “buddies” are assholes. They goosed the girl behind me (we were facing away from each other) and tapped me on the shoulder at the same time. So she turned to see who it was, saw me turning to look at her, and cracked me one for being a masher.

    Now, who should I have blamed? Should I really have held her completely unresponsible, for assaulting a stranger on the mere suspicion that he had touched her butt? Granted, my buddies were at fault, but did they make her hit me without even a moment’s hesitation?

    I’m not saying this story has any bearing on the points that have been discussed over the last few days. Its just a funny story. But there does come a point when everyone is being so adult-like and serious that everyone ends up with their head up their ass. And whatever your policies end up being, they’re going to have to take into account in at least some small way the varying levels of tolerance, fear, and paranoia that various women have about being approached.

    I don’t think a conference with rules designed to prevent people from trying to get laid is going to be very popular, regardless of the intentions behind it.

  9. Ricardo Divali

    Have just read some of his later comments. He is being deliberately obtuse and most likely trolling. And hopefully i’ll never be in a bar with him, as according to his logic i’d have to flirt with him….

  10. cynicalbrit

    As a man not best placed to say anything, but I did have sexual harrasment when I did go into a gay pub (long story!). Don’t know Thunderf00ts sexuality but if he’s on the recieving end he might change (it did for me)

  11. I waited before I posted this to see if they were going to clarify or apologize. They just doubled down. 

    Or at least they hadn’t the last time I checked the thread. Maybe they have had an epiphany. 

  12. craigore

    Hitting on someone (verbally) is technically freedom of speech. It’s only after you’ve made it clear that it’s unwanted that it becomes harrasment and legally indefensible. We’re not psychic after all, and within the bar scene some might find it flattering while others don’t, and thus may make it worth a try -you can’t blame a guy for trying, only for persisting in spite of rejection. Of course we all do have to remember, no means no, and to accept rejection and move on or be shown the door, but also expect that in that kind of atmosphere you may actually have to say “no” (my thoughts anyway). 

  13. mAtt

    Hopefully someone beat me to this: If by freedom of speech you mean first amendment rights, that only applies to the government, you have no ‘free speech’ in a private establishment.  Why do so many people not understand this?  Otherwise I partially agree.  There are plenty of times it’s obvious (to me) when a woman wants no interaction, so saying something might not be harassment, but it can make you a dick (as molly pointed out in this article.) 

  14. craigore

    Indeed, private establishments are free to establish whatever codes they want. But what, pray-tell, are the kind of private establishments we’re talking about? We’re talking about BARS, which with very few exceptions are not keen on censorship (it’s bad for business). They almost without exception allow free speech and that may mean potentially putting with the occasional obscene comment from drunk people who are looking to hook-up regardless if they are thought of as dicks, but I agree whole heartedly that one should not have to choose between putting up with actual harassment and having to leave an establishment (it’s not enough to complain that someone made a comment that your butt was booty-licious or wanted to know if you’d like to pet his one-eyed trouser snake, but rather something like you told this creep to f*ck off and he still wont leave you alone that you should get the full sympathy of the establishment).  If it comes to a point where you feel you need to involve the police (government), then you had better be able to make a case for harassment otherwise expect to be SOL. Savvy?

    (Oh and, sorry Molly, it’s just that when you say we have ‘absolutely no right,’ that brings out the tedious bastard in me.)

  15. “it’s not enough to complain that someone made a comment that your butt was booty-licious or wanted to know if you’d like to pet his one-eyed trouser snake”

    What the fuck? On what goddamn planet to do live where it’s ok for you to walk up to a person in a bar and say “Do you want to pet my one-eyed trouser snake?” and have that not be considered harassment?

    Who the fuck declared you king of decided what is and what isn’t harassment? 

    Don’t apologize for being a bastard, apologize for being an entitled asshole who is under the impression that they get to decide what is harassment. 

  16. craigore

    LOL, I got news for you sweety, it’s a fucking bar. It may not be a brothel, but it’s still a fucking bar.  We’re not talking about a guy whippin’ it out and trying to stick his junk in your hand, just a lewd comment. Did you tell him to fuck off? No? You just rush to claim sexual harassment over one comment? And you were expecting something more than a raucus of laughter? How realistic are you? Obviously not to be taken seriously on this issue.  Quite frankly, I apologize for nothing.  With that said, I wish you luck in all your travels, princess.

  17. craigore

    Yeah, you go ahead and pull that card ’cause clearly you got nothing else. Take care.

  18. haaaaahahahahahhahahaha, omagod, who let the 1950s out. 

    Sweety. Princess. It’s like you read a manual on how to be the most condescending and entitled, shit-brained woman hater before coming back here. Oh man, what’s next!? Can you tell us all how great it was back when “men were men”!? Oh, oh, I know! Tell someone to get back in the kitchen! That’s always a great thrownback to the good ol’ days when women knew there place and how to defer to a man’s needs because he’s A MAN! AMIRITE??

  19. guest

    “I realize this might be shocking but you, as a man, do not have any right to hit on me, as a woman. This isn’t covered by the Bill of Rights or The Universal Declaration of Human Rights because it isn’t a fucking right”
    Why do you think you have the right not to be hit on? I know we are given this right in the workplace, which is specifically spelled out.  But what gives you the right not to be approached, talked to, hit on in public places?

  20. guest

    I don’t agree with the OP here so much. If I were to go to golf courses specifically to get a tan and a bit of a walk in, I shouln’t be surprised if someone requested a game of golf. Bars are notorious meat markets, and when I was going to them the proper response to gross douchebags was to tell them to bugger off. Yes,there is behavior that is so offensive it is not acceptable, but please, getting hit on is offensive in a bar? Really?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *