Do atheists have a sexual harassment problem?

From Here:

As skeptics, atheists and humanists prepare to gather for their largest meeting in Las Vegas this weekend, attendance by women is expected to be down significantly.


But in the weeks preceding TAM, another possible explanation has roiled the nontheist community. Online forums have crackled with charges of sexism in TAM’s leadership and calls for the ouster of D.J. Grothe, the male president of the James Randi Educational Foundation, TAM’s organizer. In June, Rebecca Watson, a skeptic blogger and speaker, canceled her TAM appearance because, she said on her blog, she does “not feel welcome or safe.”

Other nontheists — both male and female — have shared stories of unwanted sexual attention at nontheist gatherings, including propositions for sex and unwelcome touching. Chatter has ranged from calls for more women to attend nontheist events to personal attacks on prominent female skeptics for discussing harassment. Meanwhile, two more skeptic/feminist bloggers announced they will not attend TAM.


Last year, at another skeptic conference, Watson said she was approached late at night in an elevator by a man she believed was seeking sex. When she blogged about it, the “atheosphere” erupted in comments, both supportive and negative. British biologist Richard Dawkins, the best-selling author of “The God Delusion,” wrote that Watson should “stop whining” and “grow a thicker skin.”


“We are a small movement, so it might be very important for some men and women to find a partner who shares their beliefs,” said Maggie Ardiente, director of development for the American Humanist Association, which recently adopted a sexual harassment policy. “That does not mean sexual attention, when it is clearly rejected, is allowed. We need to be clear that these events are a great way to meet people, but there are appropriate ways to conduct yourselves. There are common-sense ways to address this for both men and women.”



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12 Responses to Do atheists have a sexual harassment problem?

  1. Crude says:

    I wonder if it’s just a straight up sexual harassment problem, as opposed to “an inordinate concentration of women who are really high strung about this sort of thing” and “an inordinate concentration of guys who come off as creepy weirdos especially around women”.

  2. Bilbo says:

    So are we talking Howard Wolowitz type sexual harrassment?

  3. Bilbo says:

    Or Barry Kripke type sexual harrassment?

  4. Bilbo says:

    Or is it as bad as Raj Kuthrapali type sexual harrassment? (Raj can’t speak in front of women without alcohol, which is probably a good thing).

  5. Bilbo says:

    Excuse me, that’s “Koothrappali.”

  6. Bilbo says:

    I can’t describe my embarrassment
    over my misspelling of harassment.

  7. I don’t know if the majority of readers here follow Game blogs, but my speculation is as follows:
    1. The gnu atheist movement is actually more left-liberal than just “atheist” and “skeptic”.
    2. This enabled them to be hijacked by feminist atheists, who redirected the overall bent of the movement more towards feminist ideas and concerns, as manifested in Elevatorgate and the more recent Thunderfoot explusion scandal.
    3. A disproportionate amount of males in the gnu atheist movement are sexual gammas and omegas who have little experience in approaching women (people who would normally be classified as “dorks”, “nerds” and “geeks” – which explains why the movement’s main presence is in the internet).
    4. If you are a sexual gamma/omega with no Game, often even innocent (but clumsy) attempts to approach women will be construed as creepy and even dangerous. Sexual alpha males will get away with a lot of things which would normally be considered sexual harassment. But if they are done by someone with the look of Paul Myers, women will just feel threatened. Undesirable men stimulate adverse biological reactions.
    5. Most of the (few) females in the movement are nitpicky serious feminists who have the widest definition of “sexual harassment” and “rape” possible. This exacerbates the perceived problem.

  8. Crude says:

    Sexual alpha males will get away with a lot of things which would normally be considered sexual harassment. But if they are done by someone with the look of Paul Myers, women will just feel threatened.

    I know the whole ‘game’ thing is controversial all over, but this has me laughing out loud. 😀

  9. Bilbo says:

    Which is why I immediately thought of Howard, Barry, and Raj.

  10. Michael says:

    But if they are done by someone with the look of Paul Myers, women will just feel threatened.

    Not so sure about that one –

  11. Ryan Matthew says:

    Let’s compare the number of cases claiming sexual abuse from atheists to the cases from just the Catholic Church alone!

  12. stcordova says:


    I know Maggie Ardiente personally!

    Maggie and I were mentioned in a newspaper article:

    We actually worked together on a project. Her bio is here:

    Notice she is a JMU alum. The project we worked on in 2005 is mentioned here:

    Wow. Small world!

    Back to the topic. There was one incident I’m aware of where one atheist/agnostic at Maggie’s freethinkers conducted himself in a not-so-appropriate way. That said, seven of them – about 4 girls and 3 guys lived in the same house one year. So the boys had to be well-behaved while living with females!

    Harrassment was not a common thing in those circles. A few incidents, but nothing one wouldn’t find perhaps in the general population. In all the years I’ve known her, only one mention of a certain individual…

    I suppose one reason for the low incidence of problems was if a member misbehaved, they’d become an outcast. That was often incentive enough.

    Yeah, there were some girls in the freethinkers ( a mix of atheists and agnostics and small minority of Christians) that I was attracted to. This was when I was training at a nearby flight school. A couple of the Christian girls from the freethinkers went out to dinner with me, and one I took flying and to dinner. 🙂 There was one non-Christian freethinker girl who wanted to go flying with me. I never got around to taking her up to the skies. I liked her, but It would have been scandalous, and I’m sorry I couldn’t grant her wish. My personal policy is a girl has to show rather overt interest (like her suggesting a get together) before trying to spend any time with her. This avoids a lot of problems.

    Any way, man that brings back some nice memories. What I’d give to relive that year…

    Salvador Cordova

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