On Cons Screening For Sex Offenders

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 6.03% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

I’ll be presenting on polyamory at the Geeky Kink Event New England this year (come visit! It’s fun!) , and was finalizing my schedule with the organizers when they said this:

There will be a charge…. to run a check against the sex offender registry.

“Huh,” I said.  “They’re going to check to see if I’m a sex offender?”  And sure enough, I checked their website, and found this stunning little number under “Registrant Screening“:

When you register for GKE:NE, we will do two things to help ensure a safe, secure atmosphere for all of our guests.
  1. We will run the registrant’s name against a shared list of people banned from various kink and alternative lifestyle events on the Eastern Seaboard.  Reasons someone might be banned include forms of severe misconduct, such as consent violation.

  2. We will run the registrant’s legal name through the sex offender registry of either their home state or, by default, New Jersey.

And I thought, “How insanely great is that?”
Admittedly, the Geeky Kink Event is a kink event (the TARDIS bondage box and the sensory deprivation Companion Cube might be your clue as to the sexy here), so screening for sex offenders is a little more vital than it might be at your average filker con.
But I really like what this says about their commitment to their attendees: We’re going to try our damndest to keep the creepers out, and you safe.
Now, is the sex offender registry a particularly great method of filtering people?  Sadly, no.  The sex offender registry has a distressing amount of false positives, particularly from teenagers in consensual acts who got caught by angry parents.  There are people who plea bargain down to sex offender status not because they were guilty, but because they had 100% chance of walking free if they took the label or some not-zero percentage of jail time if they didn’t.  The sex offender list is imperfect and broken in an America that really dislikes sex.
Worse, the sex offender list isn’t near-comprehensive, either.  There’s a lot of rapists and molesters who didn’t get their much-deserved day in court, so “Not being on the list” is not proof that this is an upstanding citizen.  (Which is why GKNE backs it up by checking with their sister cons, sharing their ban-list.)
That said, holy fuck you guys go for making the attempt.
Screening for creepers is a tough job, in real life.  A really tough job.  The court system is incomplete, the word-of-mouth is ephemeral, the drama high, the legal hassles are tricksy, the defenders multitudinous, the creepers insidious.  People don’t like accusing other people, because it feels bad and often it puts a victim in a spotlight when they’d rather just forget this happened, so sometimes getting evidence would involve making a victim’s life infinitely worse.
And – never forget this – some of the consent violators are really nice guys.  Which is why I encourage you to question me, question your friends, question everybody, because “a nice guy” can often mean “has leveraged sympathy to get better traction for despicable acts.”
But make no mistake: despite its flaws, there’s a lot of dangerous fucking people on the sex offender list, too.  And rather than throwing up their hands and saying, “Wow, this is complicated, who the heck knows?”, the Geeky Kink Event is at least attempting to enforce some standard that – though I’m sure they’d readily admit has some flaws – is still much, much better than leaving it open to whatever creepazoids hand them their money.
I’m glad they’re screening.  I’m glad they’re asking about me.  I do not want to ruin someone’s convention experience, and if they check me out and think that I’d hassle people, I support their right to kick my ass to the curb.  (I doubt they will, as they vetted me last year before I emergency-cancelled thanks to Rebecca’s sudden illness, but who knows?)
Every convention is its own society and its own set of morals.  That society is shaped by what behaviors are judged acceptable – and, by proxy, what people you allow in to act.  Shaping that society is not wrong – in fact, it’s part of what makes the really good cons great – and finding ways to keep the away people who’d ruin the experience of the good people you want to attract to your gatherings?
I support that.  And in the absence of ideal solutions, I’m glad to see GKNE working towards imperfect ones.

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