Friday, January 13, 2012

What would you do?

Today on the Pervocracy we're going to play "You Be The Armchair Quarterback," because I don't think I did the right thing in this situation, and yet I don't know what the right thing to do was.



I was at a party that had a hot tub, toweling off after a good soak.  A man and a woman were in the hot tub together.  I don't know their relationship--I knew the guy only as a vague acquaintance, the woman not at all--but they were obviously some kind of intimate.

The man tried to push the woman's head underwater.

It was a laughing, silly thing for him--he wasn't acting aggressive, he was acting like a kid giving his little brother a noogie.  The woman was a little less amused.  She started out gigglingly resisting, but when he tried really hard to drag her underwater, she said "No, I don't want that, stop it."  He kept going.  They were sorta laughing and sorta not; it still had the tickle-fight atmosphere but it looked to me like he was putting a bit of strength in trying to shove her underwater.

The woman never yelled for help, never tried to get out of the hot tub or hit him, never even stopped smiling, and yet it was clear that she for-serious did not want to get dunked.  There was a lot of her saying "ha ha, but no, really, don't do that," and a lot of him responding "haha, nice try, I'm gonna getcha!"

Watching this, I was paralyzed.  Part of me was "oh my god, fucking stop this" and part of me was "they're just messing around, maybe she's a little annoyed, this situation does not call for Feminist Batman."  I ended up deciding that I wasn't going to interrupt them (heroic, I know) but I was also not leaving the room while this was going on.  I sorta gave him stink-eye until he stopped and I stayed in the room until they left the hot tub.



I'm going to toss this one to the audience.  Some factors to keep in mind:
A) There are a lot of people at this party.
B) There are two or three other people in the hot tub room, but as far as you can tell they're ignoring the situation.  None of them are well known to you.
C) The hosts of the party are in some random other room in a large building, and it might take 10-15 minutes to track them down.
D) This party is slightly extra-legal (ahem) and anything that gets the police called there would be extremely upsetting and legally-risky for a lot of people not involved in the Hot Tub Dunking Situation.

What would you have done?

102 comments:

  1. Probably just what you did; but I think it would have been great if someone could have said "Not cool, dude" and for some reason (sexism?) I picture that getting results when said by another man.

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  2. I might have pretended to need a question being answered and address it to the woman. Then I'd be like 'hey, can you stop that, I'm trying to talk' to the man and if he didn't stop, I'd get involved. I'd look like an idiot but then she wouldn't be forcibly dunked

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  3. I would call out to the woman: "Hey, is this ok with you?"

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  4. (keeping my tone light/neutral/slightly concerned)

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  5. Monday Morning Quarterbacking says you did the right thing by staying. Since all you had was body language (which can be difficult to interpret) intervention might not have been worth it.

    However, did you consider asking the women after the fact if she wanted to be dunked/what she was thinking or just told her, that hey! if you don't want to be dunked just say so, I was all ready to step in but couldn't tell what was going on? (which might help boost self esteem for future episodes if she really didn't want to get dunked and help her stand up for herself in future). I can understand, though, not doing that if you didn't know her that well.

    Or while this was going on just saying "Hey guys, everything okay?" might have been what I would have done.
    -Jeremy

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  6. At first I was going to suggest that you could have pointedly asked them to stop splashing. Then I realized that in all likelihood that would just cause HER to stop struggling and "making a scene", meanwhile having no effect on him. I might have playfully offered to protect her (e.g. "Haha, aww, Richard, quit it! Janie, come over to the cool kids' side of the tub!" or, you know, something less ridiculous-sounding), because making the protection seem unnecessary and part of the "game" that was being played might be less likely to cause offense... but I fucking hate pretending that someone isn't being a creep when they really are. It makes me feel personally affected by their creepiness, even if it's not (intentionally) directed at me.

    So I suppose I don't know what I would have done. Probably would have sat there getting uncomfortable and having some small part of my night ruined, like you did. Sorry :(

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  7. Holly, I am a faithful reader and think very highly of you but since you asked:

    Honestly I think you should have called him out and told him firmly to stop. He likely would have gotten indignant and tried to laugh it off as a "joke" but it would have sent a clear message that his behavior was not okay. It would have also reinforced to the woman that she is within her rights to set her own boundaries and someone supports her in that.

    Good on you for staying there but I think it would have been better if he'd been told in no uncertain terms that what he was doing was wrong.

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  8. I suspect I would have done exactly what you did. I really suck at making spur-of-the-moment decisions. Rereading your post, the woman did clearly state that she didn't want that behaviour, even if she was laughing. It would have been reasonable for someone to intervene, though I seriously doubt I would have been the one to do it. :-P

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  9. As far as I can see, what you did wasn't bad for a split-second decision, but I think if I was the woman in that situation I'd've preferred a "hey, stop it".

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  10. My treshhold to talk to random people can be pretty low, I probably would have said something like 'hey, did you hear what she shaid?' or 'could you please stop?'. I don't really have any patience for the 'wait until it gets better on its own' stance.

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  11. I think pointedly looking the guy in the eye so he might realize he's being an asshole is a good first step. But I'd keep my eye on the situation in case it became clearer that the woman might need help. In this case, it didn't come to that.

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  12. I can relate to the situation, as I am scared shitless of being dunked yet I react to uncomfortable situations by laughing hysterically. I think what you did was right, though maybe you could have yelled something like "pick on somebody your own size", something cheesy and in a joking tone. Maybe that way the guy would realise something is off.

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  13. I am torn, because I know I would have done exactly what you did in this situation, but if I were in the woman's situation, I would have liked some help! Even though I am a swimmer and I love water, I cannot handle being forcibly dunked under water - every time without fail I panic then suck a bunch of water into my nose. I lose control.

    And even though I'm usually an assertive person, sometimes I find myself in a social situation where I suddenly lose the ability to firmly tell people to fuck off.

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  14. Huh, I think I would have done exactly what you did. I am pretty non-confrontational, but I have mastered a pretty powerful stink-eye. Some people have that awesome relaxed way of saying, "Hey, knock it off, dude," even to strangers, but I definitely don't. All I can say is that I hope she knows better than to hang with him, assuming it really really bothered her.

    Personally I would have been freaking out if I were her. Maybe it's a small fear of underwater. I can swim and that was only a hot tub, but if I ever feel constrained, or hear about it happening, I get terrified.

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  15. I think I would have turned it into something about me, like, "hey, you're making me a little nervous. Can you stop?"
    That way its not criticizing but it also lets them know that the behavior is not appropriate.
    also I do this anyway around water. Terrified someone might drown in my vicinity.

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  16. Um. I'm very much afraid I would have done exactly the same thing you did. What I would have wanted to do is tell him in a firm but not aggressive voice "Hey! She said she does not want to." even if this would make me seem uptight. The situation would have been resolved one way or another, from there. Assuming no ill intent on his part this would not lead into any kind of conflict.

    Your post resonates with my own feelings quite a lot. I am striving to become the kind of person who can make a judgement and act quickly on potentially hazardous or otherwise "not-ok" situations. The thing is, it's kinda difficult to practice these kinds of skills in the real world without getting into those kinds of situations.

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  17. Without reading the comments, so you get my unadulterated first impression; I actually think you did exactly the right thing. He was doing the wrong thing, but unless she actively asked for your help or was being seriously harrassed it was not your job to actively intervene. I don't just mean that in a "you're off the hook" kind of way, I mean that its important to respect people's privacy and their right to handle their relationships in their own way. I can't think of an active intervention that would have been appropriate or respectful. On the other hand, you could have intervened indirectly, but not providing him an audience that is egging him on. Clearly you did this, by giving him the stink-eye and not leaving until he stopped. So good job.

    I can understand why maybe you feel like you didn't do the right thing. Its unsettling to be in that situation, and based on the other things you have said, it sounds like you have some really, really bad associations with people violating your privacy and boundaries, or blurring the consent line in icky ways. But from where I stand, you handled the situation very well.

    After reading the comments; I like the suggestion to try beginning a conversation with the woman, so he's forced to either stop or be an obvious jerkass to you so you have a right to be assertive back. For the socially gifted, saying, "cut it out" or "come over to the cool side of the pool," works, but doing that in an assertive yet non-fight inducing way is a technique only taught to the social blackbelts by the social competency gods. Also, I'd like to point out, you DID stop it. You stink-eyed, eventually he stopped, and the presence of a disapproving audience rather than an encouraging audience probably had a lot to do with it. You just did it with a technique approved for social yellowish belts, rather than a more satisfying social Jackie Chan combo.

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  18. Hello, I am a professional buzzkill. You are on the right track, but you need to pick it up a notch. Call the guy out right there. Start mentioning stories of sexual assault you may have read about in the news recently, turn it into an emotional story about someone you know who was raped in a jacuzzi, and finish with how relieved you feel to be in a hot tub because it relaxes your bowels. VoilĂ . Mood ruined.

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  19. "Hey, guy, guess what's wet and red and full of human teeth?"
    "What?"
    "That hot tub, if you try that again."

    OK, not really. But I probably would have stopped what I was doing and stood facing them with a raised brow until it was clear that he was getting The Eye. It's worked in the past.

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  20. I don't know if I'd have had the courage to do so, but I think it would have been right to intervene in some way. Now, I'm not saying you needed to jump on the guy and forcibly pull him away, but maybe let the guy know that you don't treat people like that, and help out more if necessary?

    Everything anon @ 1:03 PM said was great.

    I do, though, think it was absolutely right that you stayed. You might have sent the message to the guy that he needed to stop, and you were there just in case things escalated and the woman really needed help.

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  21. I think I would have done what you did. I wish I could state what I'd like to say as well as I can type it.
    Standing right next to the pool" Do you need a life guard you seem to be having trouble getting your head above water?"
    The key to me is the decision of what I'm going to do if he doesn't stop. If he stops then I made the correct decision. If he doesn't then what is my alternative action, and ultimately I can't tell you what I'd do then. I definitely like the ask her a question, and maybe i need to think up a series of good generic questions to interrupt with.

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  22. I don't think you have anything to feel guilty about - sticking around was responsible and you made sure the situation didn't escalate. I think a better option would have been the "hey, everything OK?" question supposedly addressed to both of them, but giving her an opportunity to say something if she wanted support. If she says there's a problem then you could take some further action.

    I think going in full bore with threats or even admonition to the guy would have been a mistake - you don't know their background and maybe this is a game that they play together - it sounds like she wasn't being physically restrained and you said she could have just got out of the pool. If that's the case, stepping in aggressively is just interfering in something they see as private.

    In short, I think I'd order it as:

    1) Asking if she's OK.
    2) Sticking around to keep an eye on things.
    3) Bomb dive into the hot tub to ruin the mood.
    4) Yell at the boy.
    5) Walk away and pretend that nothing's happening.

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  23. I also think that you did the right thing. Without knowing them or their relationship, it would have been hard to judge the severity of the situation. I've been in a couple of similar situations and I usually do the same kind of thing. Keep an eye out, maintain a noticeable presence, and be prepared to say something if the situation gets clearly out of hand. I hate to be too nosy if it really is part of their foreplay or whatever, but I also hate to walk away on an iffy situation.
    I've also been in the woman's position and it's nice to know someone is looking. I knew I could call out "hey, I think he's being a jerk, don't you agree?" if I needed back up or a way out.

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  24. What was the context of the party? I don't move in such circles, but I think the appropriate reaction at a play party where this could have been pre-negotiated, either specifically or as a part of their relationship, is different than at a vanilla party.

    If it's a play party, I'd do exactly what you did, stay there to provide help if she asks for it, but otherwise not interfere.

    At a generic vanilla party, what to do depends on your personal intervene in someone else's problem vs avoid confrontation calculus. I think the suggestions to ask her a question as a first step are good ones, if you decide to do something.

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  25. I probably would have done about what you did. But I think considering your background, it might have given to both an in and some authority: "hey guys, I worked in an emergency room a while ago and seeing people messing around with water and breathing makes me a little nervous, so I need to know you're being safe with this," or something? Maybe?

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    1. This and Mredria's strike me as the best answers. Bringing your discomfort at apparent nonconsensual behavior at a play party to the table gives the woman a graceful out.

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  26. Remember: Holly's impression of the situation was that the woman was really seriously not okay with this for real. Some caution should be used, because the situation could be ambiguous, but ultimately, if someone is possibly being assaulted right in front of you, it's better to do a little too much than too little.

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  27. Assuming it was clear that this was not a play scene, I am deeply impressed with what Mredria said. My first reaction was that saying something would belittle the womans agency. But since they are in some sort of public space communicating your discomfort would be perfectly valid, and whether or not the dunking was okay for the woman, saying this would make clear that what you perceived was not looking okay.

    So this either tells the man that his behavior was not okay and will be commented and the woman that she is not alone and people will notice, or if they were comfortable it reminds them to not play with boundary violations while uninformed people are around them (who could then pick up the idea that unnegotiated boundary violations are okay).

    Sorry for the long sentences. I fail at english:-(
    Steph

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  28. I think you made the right move. Staying there to monitor the situation + stink eye stopped what was going on without too much drama. I agree that, if the opportunity arose, asking the woman how she felt about it would have been a good idea.

    Personally I HATE HATE HATE being tickled. As in, I will bite you if you tickle me. If a dude were tickling me in a hot tub and refusing to stop, I would appreciate someone like you standing by discreetly but would be *mortified* if someone came in strong saying "Hey, leave her alone!" But YMMV.

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  29. Everyone else there was probably thinking "well no-one else is stopping him, so it's probably okay". People do this a lot. It seems like she wasn't in any physical danger, and if she had been you were there to stop it.

    If you had intervened by saying, for example "Hey, I think she really doesn't want to be ducked", I can see it going a few ways.

    1. She corrects you and says she's just playing. Possibly you get admonished for ruining the fun.
    2. She says "Actually, she's right", he stops. Feminist Batman to the rescue!
    3.She agrees with you, he continues. Now everybody in the room knows it's a consent issue, which I think is good, barring physical violence and cop calling.
    4. He tells you off for sticking your nose in. There are other people in the room, but this could still have bad consequences for you if he gets aggressive.

    So you are taking a risk by saying something. In your situation, I would probably have chimed in, but I'm a terrible busybody.

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  30. Oh, man, I feel a little better. Why? Well, because the other day I was in a cafe and saw this man clearly (at least by my read on her body language) getting all up in this other woman's space, and I was all gutsy and actually went up to them and said something like "I know this is absolutely none of my business, but you look like you need space." He looked at her and said "Well, do you?" and she looked at me with big, scared eyes and said "I don't know."

    There was, really, nothing I could do. Nothing I could think of at the time, anyway, nothing short of assuming authority that I just didn't have. I've felt bad, since. So I'm glad it's not just me. Your problem is a teeny bit more clear-cut than mine -- at least you had a verbal "no" that you could theoretically have pointed at -- but it's entirely possible that even if you had tried to gently intervene you'd have struck out the way I did.

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  31. Either check in with her as well or just do what you did.

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  32. I was at a party where a boy (~7 years old) was getting his arms bound in packing tape by his older siblings. He was laughing and wasn't telling them to stop. I was worried that things could turn ugly, but I didn't want to ruin his fun needlessly. So I asked him something like "You okay with this? Do you want this to stop?" He said he was fine. I kept an eye on him and a few minutes later (after the siblings had finished the job and moved elsewhere) asked him if he wanted help getting the tape off, and he said no. I just kindof hung around for if he changed his mind, but didn't keep bugging him.

    So definitely not leaving was the right thing for you to do. My armchair quarterback call, since she kept telling him to stop, is that it would have been better for you to speak up and say to her, "Are you okay with this? Do you want this to stop?" Addressing her directly and asking her what she wants respects her agency. It also gives her an opening to make her wishes 100% clear since you are "outside the game". Your next move then depends on what she says. If she says she wants it to stop and the guy still doesn't stop then you could say very loudly (to draw attention from other the other nearby people) "SHE TOLD YOU TO STOP!" If she says she's okay then you should still hang around, and not leave them alone.

    I agree with the comment that multiple people could fail to intervene in a bad situation, all of them thinking, "No one else is saying anything, so probably I should also pretend everything's okay."

    I think this situation raises troubling issues about rape culture. You either have a man who is ignoring a woman's explicit request that he stop doing something to her body, or (if he knows based on previous relationship that she doesn't mean it) you have a woman saying "No, stop!" when she doesn't mean it--which strengthens the cultural assumption that No doesn't always mean no. So one or both of them are buttressing rape culture.

    Your speaking up as a bystander and explicitly asking her what she wants short-circuits this dynamic. Even if the couple is annoyed that you've interrupted their fun, your speaking up sends important messages to the other people in the room: "If something bad is happening to you other people won't ignore it." "You don't have to play along with games you don't like." "What you want matters." "It's normal for other people to intervene when consent is questionable."

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  33. I would actually intervene, but gently, like this:
    "Excuse me, but I'm having trouble telling if you guys are just playing or if the lady here really is not wanting to be dunked. Apologies if I'm misunderstanding but I was really worried for her safety and couldn't just stand by without at least asking."

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    1. I really like this idea. But I would look at the woman as I said it and wait for her reply - and watch her non-verbal response as well. As other commenters have observed, it seems like she could already be finding it hard to actually tell this guy to stop (if she's not happy being dunked).

      My first instinct would've been to say "Hey, you're freaking her out, stop" to the guy, but I've realised from reading this thread that this walks all over the woman's agency - thanks, Pervocracy commenters!

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    2. This. I actually came up earlier with something less polite:

      "Dude, either one of us is really bad at reading non-verbal communication - either i am wrong in thinking you're doing something she doesn't want, or you're being really aggressive"

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  34. Aw man, I would have done absolutely nothing, because I would have been busy totally freaking out about how much I hate even the idea of someone pushing my face under water. After the age of 7, I grew up in the kind of town in which all of my friends had swimming pools and thus swimming-centric parties. I always sat outside of the pool, because I hate swimming. And occasionally, someone would push me in. And I'm cringing, sitting here thinking of it. (My wonderful significant other knows that he should do his best to keep from splashing my face when we're in the shower together.)

    But actually I think Mredria's solution would be best.

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  35. I've been in a few situations like that, both as the woman in the metaphorical hot tub and as the awkward third person presence. Quite honestly, I think you did pretty much what you could here for being put on the spot. There are a lot of things to consider in a situation like this and not all of them might even present themselves as coherently at the moment as you've listed here. But you noticed something was not right, and you stayed to make sure it didn't escalate.

    We humans are private and territorial people. We dislike to be interfered with, *especially* when in a situation involving an intimate acquaintance. Butting right in with an "Excuse me, but she asked you to STOP" might smoke of righteousness and might be necessary, but it can be more complicated than that. Even we Westerners are steeped in ingrained cultural norms that dictate against making scenes and interfering in other people's bsiness and how we must react when someone does, and it can complicate things to no goddamn end.

    So while Feminist Batman (props to that, btw, that is awesome XD) might have stuck it up that guy's nose that NO this is NOT acceptable don't DO it, it could also have backfired. The woman in the hot tub might have been grateful for outright interference; she might also have become defensive or embarrassed. She might even have felt the need to exonerate herself and her own ability to deal with the situation by turning on you and telling you to mind your business, thus reinforcing to her companion that his actions were acceptable to her (though I doubt they were). Likewise, if she became embarrassed at the interference, you could have faced a similar reaction from him. In both cases, the situation could have diffused with a Mission Accomplished, or possibly have escalated to something needing that undesired outside interference (ie, cops, whatever).

    I have no idea how to tell when that might happen. I am not a confrontational person and I likely would have done exactly what you did: stay in the room to make sure. Sometimes just the presence of another person makes a difference, even if they are not directly interfering. But it sounds like you made it clear you would have interfered if it was really needed, and damn all those other reason why not. Feminist Batman can work from the shadows sometimes; fisticuffs and headbutts might not be right for every situation.

    Did you miss the opportunity to help someone escape from a potentially abusive social relationship, regardless of what that relationship actually was? Maybe? But as you've written in previous posts, someone in that situation is not usually helped by forceful outside interference. However much it may feel like you didn't do enough... you also didn't walk away, and maybe this time that WAS enough. I do think if there is a next time when more direct interference is needed, I doubt you'll walk away then either.

    *Shrug* That's all I can say, really. I would have done the same.

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    1. This, so hard. I've been reading so many "No, you should have told him to stop/asked her if she was okay," and all I keep coming up with are scenarios in which both people become indignant. You said much more eloquently pretty much exactly what I've been thinking.

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  36. In this situation I'd most likely have done what I do whenever I'm not sure if someone's okay: gone up and asked, "Are you okay there?" It's very possible that in a situation like this, if the woman confirmed to an outsider that she was uncomfortable that the man would've realized she wasn't just playing. It's sort of overbearing, but like 3:30 Anon said, it's probably better to risk butting in instead of risking things getting further out of hand.

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  37. Intervening in things is *really* hard, particularly with strangers, even when something clearly not okay is happening. And especially if there are other people around who could step in to say or do something. The Kitty Genovese case is a prime, if perhaps overused and extreme, example of that, the bystander effect. Kudos to you for staying there instead of leaving to avoid the discomfort or any responsibility. Keeping an eye on things was definitely a good thing to do. In a situation like this, it seems to me that an additional step that wouldn't have put anyone in too difficult of a position would be asking them to stop playing around because someone could get hurt. It gives them both a measure of responsibility, but also shows concern for everyone. It's completely reasonable, even if it carries a slight buzzkill stigma. And, well, if they're aware of the possible repercussions of any authorities being called to the party because of even an innocent mishap...

    This really does sound like the guy just got a little too caught up in the play and didn't quite know when to lay off with this kind of joke. Maybe he's a little socially awkward and doesn't get all the cues. I certainly know people like that. Another step that doesn't require saying anything in the moment, though, would be trying to check on the woman after they got out of the tub. Getting a private moment with her would let one find out how she really felt about it, and let her know that she doesn't have to accept that kind of behavior, that it wasn't okay if she wasn't okay with it.

    I'd probably freeze like a deer in the headlights. >.>

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  38. FWIW, I think you did the only thing you could have done under the circumstances, even though it probably didn't feel nearly as good as FEMINIST BATMAN TO THE RESCUE would have.

    I've been the woman in that situation, and I can tell you with certainty that if an outsider had tried to intervene, I would have told them to fuck off. Even if I really was being abused and really could have used the help; my pride wouldn't have let me accept it. Not everybody is the same, obviously, but I think that even (maybe especially) in abusive situations, there's an instinct for people to handle their own business. That doesn't mean that outsiders can't or shouldn't help, but riding in guns blazing doesn't usually seem to have the intended result.

    In some cases, the best thing you can do is just be there.

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  39. It's a tough situation, especially not knowing the dynamics of the couple involved. In that same scenario, I would have done one of two things: either done exactly what you did, or I would have said something like, "Hey, kids, stop playing in the tub."

    Depending on the couple involved, anything else could end up endangering you, her, or the both of you. Unfortunately, I've found in these situations it's best to keep things light. The man involved could have taken offense and decided to get in your face, perhaps even escalating to physical assault. Or, worse case scenario, if he were an abusive fuckwad, he could have waited and taken it out on her when they were alone. My father intervened during a "play fight" (which was basically him bullying her, according to Dad) between one of my best friends and her (former) boyfriend, saying something more aggressive than playful to break up their argument. My friend's boyfriend laughed it off and let it go, while they were still at the bar, but when they got home my friend had her jaw and several ribs broken. My friend, to this day, blames my father for getting involved. Knowing my friend and the guy she was dating at the time, if I had been at the bar that night and had said something, I would have been assaulted. That also illustrates the difference between what a woman can do and what a man can do in the same situation.

    In light of the potential risks involved, you did the right thing. I believe you illustrated to the man involved in your situation that he was not acting in an acceptable manner, and you did not put yourself or her in any undue risk of harm. In an ideal world, we would not need to weigh the risks to ourselves with the risks to another and could speak up, but we live in this one.

    Also, to all the people who've posted before me that suggested a follow up with the woman to make sure she's okay: That's a great idea that I would not have thought of, but will now, if I'm ever in a situation like Holly's. Thanks.

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  40. Heading straight in and 'calling the guy out' or 'rescuing' the woman seems definitely disrespectful to her agency in my eyes, unless you're sure she's unable to rescue herself.

    Asking her if she's OK or needs help is respectful and helpful. It's what I'd recommend planning to do on future occasions. The simple words, "Are you OK there?" can work wonders.

    Standing there to make sure she's OK is a good back-up plan if you're not sure you're able to safely ask her if she's OK. You can at least call for help if you become convinced that she's not able to rescue herself and needs rescuing. I think it's the only responsible thing to do, unless she's confirmed with you that she's happy to be left in the situation.

    It also seems OK, but far too scary for me to think of doing myself, to interrupt and ask the guy to stop ignoring someone's requests for something to stop because they're making you very uncomfortable. You have a right to have a pleasant party. You may have no idea whether the other woman is happy and feels safe and is playing a pre-agreed game, but if someone's disrespect of consent is making you uncomfortable, you have the right to call them on it for that reason.

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  41. Was this at a play party? That's sad, play parties are supposed to be safe places where consent matters. I don't think I'd feel comfortable going back to a group if I saw stuff like this happen. I'm not saying you did the wrong thing - I probably would have done the same thing - just that these situations make me super uncomfortable.

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  42. Ideally:

    To the Woman:

    1.) Are you OK?

    If the response is anything besides a clear and not seemingly forced: "Yes",

    I would try to stay in contact with her moving on potentially to:

    2.) How can I help you?

    3.) I feel uncomfortable - and want to help you however I can,

    4.) I want to respect you and your space and similar

    I think that Intervening with the Man - Without the Approval
    of the Woman - would be disrespectful. Intervening with the Man directly would be totally necessary and important if either the Woman asked you to help with him or if you clearly saw her lacking the Power to Stop being Hurt.

    Giving the Woman - power including options seems most important to me and being there to help or to be a potential help as an active Witness who could become Actively Involved if it was Desired (by her) or Necessary - because of Safety issues.

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  43. Eeeehhhhh... I would have made some kind of remark that didn't really say 'Hey, what the hell are you doing, can't you see she doesn't like that?!', so much as a "Hey, watch what you're doing, you're splashing all the water out of the tub". Call attention that he's doing something stupid and you don't like it, but not totally calling him out on exactly WHAT he is doing. Stops the situation from continuing, isn't too awkward or intruding, and gives the Woman a chance to tell the Man "Hey that's not cool, seriously, stop it."

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  44. It's not difficult for me to approach strangers in public. I've been in your shoes on this one, and my strategy, while not directly confronting/short-circuiting rape culture, works every single time.

    I walk up to the woman, tap her on the shoulder and say "I need you to come to the bathroom with me Right. Now. It's really important."

    The scene has played out in a variety of ways - sometimes she comes with me and says thanks for getting her out of there. Sometimes she looks at me like "wtf" but comes along, because apparently, the conditioning to visit restrooms in packs is deep and, uh, sisterly. Sometimes she'll come along and say I really didn't have to do that.

    Either way, it breaks up and diffuses the situation without potentially spoiling (too much) fun. If the lady in question wants to get back to whatever was making me uncomfortable in the first place, then she has every right and availability to do so, and consent is firmly established.

    My armchair cents.

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  45. Before reading other people's responses, I would like to say that it was good that you stayed. I, having been in a similar situation, would not have done the same thing. I would have stayed, but I would have interrupted him... because I don't care about being a bitch when it comes to shit like that. In my similar situation, a friend of mine was being tickled by a guy she liked, so it was all ha-ha giggle-giggle, until she said no... and he kept on. When he didn't stop and she kept saying 'no, no stop' gasping for breath (from laughing, mind you, she was VERY ticklish) I finally looked at him and said "Stop being a dick, man, she said stop." He gave me a look and kept on, and then I got up. I'm not saying I'm intimidating or anything, but I turned around and called out for some other friends of mine, and as I was getting the first couple names out, he stopped and let her go.

    Now... she scolded me at the time. I got all pissy and went to the other side of the party, but later that week she told me thanks, that she had been really uncomfortable, and didn't know what to do because he wasn't stopping. I was bent out of shape because she was all 'oh he's just kidding around tee hee hee' at the time, but at least she did appreciate it.

    ...that's also just ME. I really hate it when people tickle me, and I tell them to stop and they won't. They tend to get punched, lol.

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  46. Make eye contact with girl, ask "Hey, is this a scene or is he really being that much of a dick?" - gives her the choice to say "a little of both" or similar and laugh it off without disturbing their relationship dynamic.

    Or maybe I'm just a sucker for cheap jokes.

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  47. I think you did a "good enough" thing - I probably wouldn't have done anything significantly different - and I also think that "the right thing" is really hard to know in such a situation. Talking to the woman to see if she needs help can be a good strategy, talking to the guy to tell him that this is not okay can be a good strategy, depending on the circumstances, which are never all of them known to you the observer at the time of the incident. However, there have been a few interactions proposed in this comment thread which (to oversensitive me) seem to be accusing the woman more than the man, such as "Hey, you're splashing" (said to both, but clearly the woman's struggle is contributing more to the splashing) or the joking "You seem to have trouble keeping your head above water" (clearly addressing the woman) if said in a slightly wrong tone? So I want to add that one should not only beware of taking away the woman's agency, but also of saying anything that could be taken as even slightly victim-blamey!

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  48. I'm fairly upfront and like to say what I see is happening so I would just say something like: "Hey, it looks like she doesn't want to be dunked." If he kept going I would then say "I think you should stop." I would get more firm and assertive if he kept going.

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  49. I really appreciate the points about the woman's agency, because I hadn't really considered it that way. I think it would have been possibly appropriate to ask how she was doing, but telling the guy to stop does kinda send her the message "you can't get out of a controlling situation, you can only hope that there are nicer people doing the controlling."

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  50. I probably would have done exactly what you did.

    Another alternative that popped into my head might have been to just say something to the effect of "As a health professional, I'm telling you that NOBODY wants their head under that hot-tub water" or something sorta light like that. But I know that in these situations you just don't always think of something clever and casual to say once your hackles are up.

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  51. Inferring from context that this is the sort of party where there's a lot of hash made about explicit consent because there are things going on that would generally otherwise be considered assault and battery, I think I'd have probably said something along the lines of "We have rules here about continuing activities when people say 'no', bub."

    Yeah, it'd make me the spoilsport, but hey, that's what lets the parties keep happening.

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  52. I have no good advice whatsoever, but the whole thing just reinforces my sense that damn, I hate "horseplay." Violence is never a joke to me. Just ick.

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  53. Hey Holly,

    I think I would have behaved very similarly, and after the fact would have felt like maybe I should have done more. There is no doubt that this was some fucked up behavior (feeling, even a little, like you are in danger of drowning is scary as fuck; also, isn't it unhealthy to have your head submerged in hot water like that?), and I think staying in the hot tub until it was over was definitely the right thing to do. It maybe didn't stop the behavior, but it's a good safety measure to prevent escalation.

    One thing about agency: in this situation it seems like she *was* trying to exercise her agency (saying 'no, stop'), but he wasn't responding. So while she may still have reacted like 'this is none of your business' had you tried to intervene, I think it's OK to show solidarity with someone in this situation by saying something. You could argue that by saying something to either of them, you would be demonstrating that you are hearing and respecting what she is saying about the situation: that she would like it to stop. I'm not sure on this point, but it's one perspective.

    Anyways, I like the suggestions of talking to her to make sure she's ok/take cues from her. I also think addressing him could work. One (less confrontational) thing to say would be 'Excuse me, could you stop. I get very uncomfortable when I'm not sure if someone is in distress in the water.' Personally, I probably would have been tempted to say something slightly joking or off-hand at first, before taking on a more serious tone, because I'm not horribly confrontational.

    I think the first anon commenter was right on the money about the possibly gendered reactions to someone else speaking up. If the men in the room aren't on his side, I think that really undermines his position because it's harder to just dismiss people as uptight feminists as easily. Ignatiev argued in Race Traitor magazine that racism could be undermined as a system if white people deliberately gave up their race privilege - if you can't be sure of who's in the club, the entire project comes apart. Likewise, discovering that his male privilege won't give him any allies could really motivate him to stop.

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  54. I think I would have done what you did unless I was confident that I wasn't going to end up with a big pile of crap from the guy (a small pile, however, would be ok).

    Sometimes I really struggle to express my displeasure and get taken seriously when I'm in similar situations to this woman. Normally I react with (mild) violence to try to make my point across but I've been trying to teach myself not to do that because it doesn't really help.

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  55. Having read through the responses to this piece I think in future I will try to be more proactive about things like this. Fortunately in my circle of acquaintance it's unlikely but I'll watch out.

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  56. As someone who has worked as a lifeguard, I would inform the man that his conduct is unsafe and unacceptable. Don't hold people underwater or put people underwater, that is approximately the least safe kind of rough play/horseplay in the water. If one or both of them then attempted to make the claim that they were sufficiently experienced to safely engage in breathplay in water, I'd probably watch them grumpily until they stopped - to make sure nobody passed out or died or anything.

    What I am doing with this situation irl is being disgusted by this community's behavior. Nobody stopped this asshole? Desire to interact with the Bostony kink scene all gone now, and helped away by this story and by a few other interactions at this weekend's con.

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  57. Quill - I'm sorry to hear that. I think Boston's kink scene has a lot to offer, it just isn't a totally safe place--if that makes sense. There's a ton more good people than bad, but the bad people are not well dealt with. And yet I still think the good people are worth it.

    That's me, though, and I can understand your distaste (especially if people were being gross at the con as well) and I'm sorry this scene can't get its shit together without people getting all "WATCH OUT HERE COMES THE FUN POLICE NO FUN ALLOWED" when we try.

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  58. As far as B goes, the more people that are in a situation, the more responsibility is diffused. Chances are, if you were the only one there, you would've said something. However, there were a bunch of people with you, and they all probably felt the same way you did. But, looking around, everyone else seemed cool with it, so they did nothing.

    They did an experiment where they put people in a waiting room, filling out forms or reading a magazine, and slowly flooded the room with smoke. If someone was alone, they pretty quickly (~1 minute of the smoke getting in) tried to exit the room and contact a researcher to let them know there was a fire. However, if there was another person there, it delayed the response for say a minute. The amount of time exponentially increased with more people added--everyone noticed the smoke, but everyone looked to others for cues how to respond. Since no one was doing anything, they: A) assumed the others knew something they didn't, and so kept quiet and B) were too afraid to look stupid by reacting, since no one else was.

    So it's probable that everyone else in the hot tub was as uncomfortable as you.


    Before learning this, my reaction would've been the same as yours--super uncomfortable, wanting to say something, not wanting to seem weird or interfere in something I didn't understand. However, after learning this knowledge [side note: a lot of times this is why people in disaster situations (like plane crash) just freeze, because they're all looking to others to know what to do, but no one knows what to do], I've started reacting really differently.

    Give the stinkeye, yeah. If it seems to escalate in any way, make an excuse for the girl to be alone with you. Anything you can think of. To avoid feeling embarrassed, lead in with something like "Hey this is embarrassing for me, but this is reminding me of a really bad situation I was in. So, are you okay with this? I just wanna make sure you're comfortable." or something along those lines.

    If it really gets bad, address the guy, with something like--"hey dude, quit horsing around, I'm trying to relax." As above commenters have pointed out, just a general statement to stop splashing puts the onus on her to cut it out, which may lead to her resisting less. Calling out the guy specifically makes it clear that his is the behavior that you want to end.

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  59. ...Actually, now I'm wishing I had the time/connections/ability (and trying to figure out if I *do* have them after all) to organize an official Fun Police for the scene, people who are committed to backing each other up when we have to be no-fun, so we can break that stigma somewhat.

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    1. Holly, if by some chance you don't have the connections for this already, I would be happy - it would be my honor, even - to make it a personal project for 2012 to see that you do.

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  60. addition to the experiment thing: also, when there were like 5 people in the room, it wasn't so much the amount of time that they delayed than the amount of smoke in the room. There was so much smoke you could barely see, and they were still not reacting--so it was obviously not that they didn't notice, it was that they all were looking to each other for cues as to what to do.

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  61. If you just want to stop the behavior in the moment, I would just go up and start having a conversation with them about something totally different. It would interrupt them for a moment, but it would also make it super awkward for him to start dunking her again, because at that point doing so would be interrupting her conversation with you. Then if she really doesn't like the dunking she can get out and keep talking to you or just distance herself in the tub from him.

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  62. You know, I've responded to situations like this with varying levels of aggression and have always been responded to with hyper aggression. It makes me wary to do much more than what you did, and it always leaves a bad taste in my mouth. The biggest problem I see here, though, is that there's no telling what the woman would've said if you intervened. It reinforces his power over her if she tells you that everything's fine, we're just playing, and how likely was she going to be like "please help"?

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  63. You might look into how Burning Man handles this sort of situation as a model for your Fun Police. They are as close to functional anarchy as you can get and still...function, but they do have internal policing and it's about unsafe situations like this. A friend of mine went through their training on the topic and found it really valuable. Maybe there's a writeup on the net somewhere?

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  64. I think what you did was great. You stayed and made sure nothing bad happened.

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  65. Mary: Of course, Burning Man and the Rangers also have Washoe County Sheriffs on call, too.

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  66. Very surprisingly for me, I found this description very triggering (wacky!). I actually would not have minded that kind of play personally--being under water or being surprisedly under water would not be a massively difficult thing for me. But reading that put me *right back* in the headspace of playing with manipulative, boundary-crossing tops, and right back to the reasons that I have largely abandoned the public straight-ish kink scene (i've been tentatively exploring queer kink spaces and so far there doesn't seem to be much of that kind of bad behavior--i don't think it's a straight people thing, i think it's an "acceptability of being in the closet" thing and a "don't upset the applecart thing"...just for the record). I think you *absolutely* should have said something--the worst case scenario then is that you come off like a "party pooper" or less cool (i'm not saying that's what held you back, just that that is the *worst* thing that could have happened if you intervened). You could have been interrupting a scene that was fun for both parties--but people who are playing in semi-public run that risk when playing with consent, and that's a Good Thing, tm. Is the risk of the guy thinking you're ruining his fun really worse than the risk of leaving the lady thinking that can't set her own boundaries? I think this reluctance to call people on behaving badly--or *appearing* to behave badly, which they can do, but communication needs to happen, to distinguish--is a HUGE amount of what's really unhealthy in many kink scenes. We're so proud of ourselves (and should be) that, as a group, we talk about consent and we negotiate our sex. But we have to live up to that, otherwise we're doing ourselves and our partners worse damage.

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  67. My very first thought was an exasperated 'No means no, dude!' Reading the 'support the womans agency' stuff there is a point, but he's the one doing the action, so I think addressing the actor isn't necessarily bad. Tough call though!

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  68. Holly, sometimes there are situations where there is no clear right way to handle things.(I was going to say right or wrong, but there were wrong ways to handle this, none of which you did.)

    I think that you handled it very well; you didn't leave the woman alone with him and you obviously let him know that you didn't like what was going on. If you end up in a dilemma like this again, I would do what you did, but also call upon your job and ask them if they know what they're doing, like Lain suggested.

    It's so hard to know what to do, especially when you want to so desperately be Feminist Batman. I befriended a sweet, bright girl who was brought up in a rather dysfunctional household and had an ex-boyfriend who should have had a restraining order against him; she thought that learned helplessness was an attractive behavior, men were better at everything, and that this was a valid counterpoint to both feminism and reality. She wanted one to completely control her and found herself attracted to the son of the woman her father was currently dating; the guy had raped an underage girl at a local anime convention and was not only creepy as fuck, but encouraged her self-harm habits. Her other friends were terrified of him and the first time I met him, I immediately started looking for exits and thought "Pragmatic pacifist that I am, if I put a bullet in your head, I'd be doing humanity a favor". I couldn't be honest with her because she would have stopped confiding in me and all my efforts to help her with her situation would have been for naught, not to mention that she was a pretty good friend. Despite my best efforts, she was alone with him multiple times and they have now been dating for a year; I am dead certain that he is abusing her. I did blow the whistle and spilled everything to our French teacher, who did the best she could, but it wasn't much. I saw the train wreck coming and there was nothing I could do to stop it. It haunts me now and it will haunt me for the rest of my life.

    Though I resent the fact that I've mostly attracted creepy old men looking for easy prey, at least I learned how to distinguish them and get myself out; not that I would ever thank my forty year old boss for asking for a handjob from a sixteen year old girl with braces, but I learned an important lesson. Even now, it's hard to assert myself, but it's getting easier. I'm lucky that my mother was a second-wave feminist and taught me early on that no means no. I wish that there was a class or some sort of early intervention program so my friend could have learned the same lessons before it was too late.

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  69. I would have done the same as you, but in retrospect, regardless of what was really going on between them, the question of whether her "no" really meant "no" or was part of their consensual play, or whether he was crossing boundaries relying on her not wanting to make a big scene to get away with it, that question is moot to you, as bystander, in the sense that by doing it in public, they are involving you in their scene, and you have no way of knowing. In retrospect, I'd want to go back and tell them precisely that: "I don't know either of you, so I can't know whether 'no means no' or this is just fun, but by doing it in public you're involving me in this scene, and it makes me very unconfortable to see a man ignore a woman saying no." Whether or not they consider their play a scene, the elements of dominance, control, and force are quite strong.

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  70. I really think you did exactly enough given the knowledge you had of the scenario! Once a friend and I went into a shop where a young girl was working and there was a rather tall and imposing 'customer' who kept remarking on how nice and tight her top was. She said an awkward thank-you and laughed, but she didn't seem entirely comfortable so we stayed in the store until he left.
    I felt that was enough in the scenario, the guy could have been a partner and she could have sounded uncomfortable about his remarks because other customers were around (unlikely, pretty sure he was a big old creep, but not one I would have liked to have confronted.)

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  71. Well, I'm a guy. And a teacher. And I spent a long time as a bartender. So maybe those things contribute to my attitude, but I'd have said something. Maybe just something small in the teacher voice like "dude, she said no." Maybe, a half joking "you kids quit screwing around." But, I understand the hesitation. Probably, just BEING there as a witness is the most important firewall to escalation, though.

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  72. Ask her if she's okay. It doesn't have to be super-confrontational or accusatory, you don't have to explain yourself or lead up to it or make excuses, and you don't have to know any of the parties involved. Get her attention with an 'excuse me', make eye contact if possible, and just ask "Are you okay? Is everything alright?"

    This is actually something I do occasionally. Most often in bars where a guy is being a little too insistent with his attention. You get a variety of responses from "Uh, fine. Weirdo. Do you mind?" to "There you are honey! I was just telling this guy about my amazing girlfriend! Let's go somewhere else immediately!" to "Everything is okay, but I should get back to my friends byeeeee!"

    (I've never had somebody say "No, everything is not fine, help" but there have been a lot of hasty exits. Sometimes just breaking up the one-on-one atmoshpere by interjecting is enough.)

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  73. I'd walk up behind him, grab his ear between two fingers and yell "YOUNG MAAAAAAN?! JUST WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING?!" And then say, "Seriously dude, when a woman says no she means no so cut the crap."

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  74. And I'm totally up for signing up for the fun police. I even have an appropriately silly costume for the role if required.

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  75. I just got back from Arisia (sci fi/fantasy con in Boston) where I staffed the Open Source Women Back Each Other Up Project table for a couple hours and attended a Sexual Harrassment in Fandom panel. So I have lots of techniques that I just learned!

    1. "Excuse me, I hate to interrupt if this is a scene or you're both just having fun! But (to the woman) are you ok with this?" Do not do this with someone who you suspect of domestic violence, because she will just pay for it when he gets her alone.

    2. MIME ALLY technique. Get into the woman's line of sight and out of the man's. Using gestures and facial expressions, or just making the words without sound, ask her if she's ok. If not, walk up and say something like, "You don't have her consent. Stop." Only do this if you feel physically safe!

    3. INTERRUPTING COW! technique. Anything to disrupt the scene. Fake a pratfall so they stop to offer you help. Cannonball into the hot tub and start a sea battle between your boobs. Fart really loudly and announce that everyone should get out of the room if they know what's good for them. If the woman was not having fun, she will take the opportunity to skootch away from the man.

    4. TAMPON technique - approach the woman and ask her if you can borrow a tampon. If she wants to loan you one and wants to get out of the situation, she will climb out of the tub. Even if she doesn't have any. If she was enjoying herself, you'll see that she looks sad to leave the tub. Then you can tell her nevermind, you think you have one in your car. You can also ask the person any question or favor that gives them an excuse to leave the situation.

    6. WAS THAT MY PHONE? technique - if you have their number, call them. Say "Hi, it's Holly. If you need an excuse to leave, just say 'Ok, I'll be right there.' Then come meet me on the back porch. Otherwise, you can tell me I have the wrong number."

    7. STINK EYE - what you did - is a perfectly good technique. It tells the aggressor that they are not getting away with it. If they're not really the aggressor, their partner will start giving you the stink eye right back, or flat out ask you what your problem is. Then you can make an apologetic face and leave. :)

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  76. I read most comments and scanned some -- Holly, you have my deepest admiration for reading and processing all of them!

    In the post you say "it was clear that she for-serious did not want to get dunked". Going by your original expression it seems she was clearly uncomfortable. It also seems it was not a scene. It seems to me that the most important way of helping her is to inform both of them and empower her to clearly and forcefully tell him that this is not acceptable behavior. There's an unhealthy dynamic between the two if he keeps going despite her discomfort, and there's not much you can do to affect that in the one encounter you have.

    I highly doubt that in the real world I'd have the courage and presence of mind to follow through with this, but I'd want the ideal me to start by coming up, making eye contact with the woman and saying "hey, are you alright?". If he's an abusive asshole, there's nothing you can do in that one interaction to change the situation, imo. If that's not the case, you're indicating to her with that one question that what he's doing is not alright, in a non-confrontational way. You're not lecturing her or making assumptions.

    If either or both of them get pissed off at you for this minor intervention, you say "sorry, guys", back off, and try to put it in perspective. It's unlikely he's a sociopath who will go after you for this, and you didn't do anything unreasonable. A simple question in a public place doesn't justify such a reaction.

    Either way, I hope you don't feel bad about your reaction. It seems to have had the desired effect, and I really think what you, a semi-stranger, say to them at that one party won't change much in the big scheme of things.

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  77. Arback quarterbacking isn't something I can really do, since I think you handled the situation in a completely valid way.

    If it had been me in the situation, I probably would have asked the man and the woman if everything was okay. I'm a fairly straight forward person and I would rather make sure everything was alright, even if it was interfering.

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  78. This is one situation that, as a lifeguard, I would probably feel fairly comfortable intervening in as I have much experience telling people not to playfully dunk others. I'd probably say something like, "Dude, I know you're just messing around, but people can drown from playful dunking. Knock it off." But pretty much any other situation like this at a party my reaction might have been similar to yours.

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  79. I would have said, "Looks like she really doesn't want to get dunked," with a "you need to stop" look on my face.

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  80. I was in almost this situation the other day. My partner and I were out with a mutual friend and a acquaintance from work. The work friend persistently hit on our (female) friend, until things came to a head (no pun intended) when he attempted this charming, subjugative manoeuvre. We responded by loudly telling him to stop, that that behaviour was making everyone uncomfortable and that it wasn't an okay thing to do. Later in the night I switched seats with our friend, placing her next to my partner instead. I felt confident in our deterrence because I made the effort to check in with her multiple times over the evening, to ascertain her receptiveness to his attentions (not at all) and ask what I could do to help her feel safe and comfortable. We changed the subject and allowed the evening to proceed, but there was no more sleaziness from his end. I know situations like this can be awkward, especially at large parties, but it takes literally 5 mins to quietly ask someone "Hey, I don't want to be rude, but before in the hot tub you seemed really uncomfortable with that guy's behaviour and I just wanted to see how you were feeling". If she admits to feeling uncomfortable, ask what you can do to help. If not, then let her continue with that evening. Too many women are left to deal with unsafe situations like this because we are afraid of seeming presumptive, or breaking some social code of conduct. I don't know about you, but I'd rather seem a bit weird then let a woman be harassed.

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  81. It's funny. We are all afraid of breaking some social code of conduct. But in both Holly's original case and Anonymous 12:26's case, the guy in question was ALSO breaking some social code of conduct. Why is there even a feeling that he should get a pass on his behavior? If it makes him uncomfortable, well, he was making her uncomfortable.

    I have an uneasy feeling it's because he's a guy. Both because we're socialized to think guys get to do these things, and because (some) guys are socialized to escalate when challenged, so the price of intervening could be quite high.

    If I think about the time I let myself be sexually harassed and, to my shame, did nothing about it (and later learned that he'd thereby been encouraged to do worse to someone else)....even though I would cheerfully kiss a woman, if a woman had grabbed me and kissed me by force like that I think I would have been much more up front about my objections. I let him get away with it because he was male, damn it. This is something I want to change about myself.

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  82. I initially felt I would have done about the same.

    I shared this post with a friend, and she found it extremely triggering. She later told me she wished someone had once intervened on her behalf. I felt sick for causing her to revisit something so terrible that I wasn't fully aware of.

    Having that insight, I now feel I would at the very least ask if she was having as much fun as it appeared, then speak to the guy as appropriate to her response.

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  83. I don't think you were out of line to just wait, watch, and be alert. If it had clearly gone too far, you could have jumped in. It's so hard to know how to gauge situations like that, especially in the moment. Which is why I tend to think of potential responses to situations ahead of time. In that kind of situation, I would want to assess the situation, and then potentially say something like "That doesn't (really) look like fun (anymore) - are you okay?" Not in a heavy-serious tone, but neutrally. So it's hopefully not a totally awkward buzzkill if the woman is still considering it to be in the general category of fun and actually everything *is* okay, but so it's immediately clear to her that you're there for back-up if she needs or wants it.

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  84. Ask her, hang on, do you want to play this game with him?

    In saying this, you'll draw both of their attention to the reality of the situation.

    Whether he's playing a game and she doesn't know it, or she's afraid because it's not a game, you're going to know from the reaction to the question: "Do you want to play this game with him?"

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  85. If I had the gut feeling you had I would have told him to take a chill pill. I was involved in a similar situation in a bar years ago. Suffice to say the bouncers didnt like me too much that night.

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  86. I am now Wafflebot. Fuck pancakes, love Kumar,

    Anyway, I wouldn't have let that go on for more than a minute. In fact, despite the fact that I'm a guy with a noted interest in mens' right issues (hopefully, I don't come across as a MRA frothing at the mouth with "manlee raege!"), I don't see any reason for that type of fuckery. Even *with* the acknowledgment that the party was "extra-legal" (I don't know if that means that it was thrown in someone's house without permission, kink-related or just plain "adult"/cross-generational), RACK exists for a reason! If she'd pulled her head back too quickly after one dunk too many and smashed it into the side of the tub, *everyone* is going to get screwed! There's a reason why all but the worst (and by worst, I literally mean crack-smoking/child beating/eternally homeless worst) parents teach their children to avoid "horseplay".

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  87. This kind of dynamic really bothers me, and a big part of why I also can't stand tickling. When the person doing the teasing is physically larger than the other person, there exists an unfair power dynamic that forces the other person into consenting to the 'game' and when they protest, are accused of taking it too seriously, being no fun, etc. It stops being funny/innocent when the game revolves around one person being physically weaker than the other. Tickling is also my personal trigger that I'm pretty sensitive to. I will destroy you if tickled, and the same goes for dunking.

    Having said that, I can't say I would have handled that situation any differently. My threshold for intervention would have been if the girl stopped laughing or indicated more seriousness somehow, but before that happens it's hard to know what you as an observer should do.

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  88. I'm saving review of comments until I respond to your question. I might stay as quiet as you did; that is very likely. But what I would choose to do, if uninfluenced by my own fears, would be to give the guy pressure to stop via humor and threat of potential consequences along the lines of, "oh C'mon MrX, don't make me put you in a time out. Play nice." Sure, it's a little passive aggressive, but gives him an opportunity to knock it off and save face. If he didn't I'd increase pressure as necessary to point of threatening to get hosts/authorities, whatever (which I don't think it would ever come to).

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  89. My priorities would be:

    1. Interrupt the interaction
    2. Stay relatively light in tone to avoid appearing "unreasonable" and/or making her feel like defending the interaction
    3. Foreground her and her experience, ignoring him if possible. This removes his social power.

    In this situation, I think I'd probably just go up and introduce myself to her, maybe with a "Bob didn't introduce us" or "how do you know Bob." Depending on how she reacts, I might then move into a "He can be pretty childish, huh?" or "he's not as funny as he thinks he is" or inviting her to leave the area with you, maybe using the tampon/equivalent technique.

    Then I would go around and gossip about how Bob was being kinda rapey in the hot tub, in order to raise everyone's awareness/guard about it in the future.

    Another technique I often use is being really vocal and loud about my own consent when I'm in big groups. I have many times loudly told drunk guys I don't consent to being hugged by them. This makes everyone more cautious and starts to normalize that discourse.

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  90. Lauren, the gossip part is unnecessary and unethical. Trial by media is a horrendous way of doing things because stories get blown out of proportion. "Bob was dunking Jane without Jane's permission" becomes "Bob was shoving Jane's head down without Jane's permission" becomes "Bob made Jane give him a blowjob."

    I think the correct thing to do is gently interrupt the situation. "Hey is everything ok here? I'm a nurse and seeing play like this in a hottub is a bit scary because I see so many people come into the hospital thanks to horsing around in a hottub or pool." Basically you're saying, "I'm watching something wrong happen." At that point they could reveal that they were M/s and this is perfectly normal for them... or if they're not the guy could realize he was being watched.

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    1. Telling other people in the scene who to watch out for is not "trial by media." It's holding people accountable and it's helping keep each other safe.

      If talking about unsafe acts you've witnessed is taboo, then predators basically get a license to act in secrecy. They shouldn't get that. The right to privacy does not extend to "the right to abuse others in privacy."

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  91. I think what you did was fine and is probably what I would have done if I'd been there.

    With 20/20 hindsight, I might have said something like (addressing her) "Just so you know, this over here is the no-dunking side of the hot tub." If she says "That's OK, I like it here", you know everything's fine. If she moves and he follows and continues trying to dunk her, or she tries to move and he stops her, we have a clearer non-consent situation, where I'd feel less awkward about intervening more directly. And if she moves and he stops trying to dunk her, then you've gotten the message across.

    I suspect that in his head, he's not following the DS script he has from BDSM, which (giving him the benefit of the doubt) includes the negotiation and consent elements. He's following the "roughhousing in the pool" script from when he was 10, which has some very problematic consent elements, but which he has never really examined critically. Responding in terms of the D/S script can lead to him thinking "If I stop now, I've bought into this being an instance of 'creepy guy pushing bounaries' script; so I need to not back down and admit I'm doing something wrong". Responding in terms of the roughhousing script is more likely to have him back down in the way he did when he was 10 and the lifeguard blew the whistle at him.

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  92. i know i laugh when i'm feeling elevated...that goes for when i'm really turned on, really happy, and for when i'm really sad or nervous. laughing is my defense mechanism and there's probably all sorts of weird reasons behind it (wanting to be "cool" or not wanting to "cause a scene", feeling like an imposition if i say no, idk, feminism) but i would have appreciated someone asking if i was ok. i love rough housing so in all likelihood i would have laughed and said "yeah, totally fine! sorry if we're splashing you!" ...but i could also have been relieved. i don't know what i would have done if i saw it, but if i was the girl i would have wanted someone to at least ask.

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  93. It's been mentioned a couple times already, but it is worth repeating: If the man is an abuser, it is possible to make things worse for the woman by intervening, where he will take it out on her later for 'embarassing him' in public.

    He might not be an offender. Calling him out publicly might be good for her, good for him, educate bystanders, and reinforce the importance of consent culture. These are all great things. I know if I did it, I would also probably feel good about myself as a crusader for social justice.

    But if we don't know--and often we CAN'T know--if someone is an offender or not, it's still a roll of the dice as far as this woman's safety is concerned.

    Whether it feels like the right thing or not--and often not stepping in DOESN'T feel like the right choice because we feel like we're betraying our values--I think what you did was the SAFEST choice for the woman involved.

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  94. It's been mentioned a couple times already, but it is worth repeating: If the man is an abuser, it is possible to make things worse for the woman by intervening, where he will take it out on her later for 'embarassing him' in public.

    He might not be an offender. Calling him out publicly might be good for her, good for him, educate bystanders, and reinforce the importance of consent culture. These are all great things. I know if I did it, I would also probably feel good about myself as a crusader for social justice.

    But if we don't know--and often we CAN'T know--if someone is an offender or not, it's still a roll of the dice as far as this woman's safety is concerned.

    Whether it feels like the right thing or not--and often not stepping in DOESN'T feel like the right choice because we feel like we're betraying our values--I think what you did was the SAFEST choice for the woman involved.

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  95. This is an ancient post, but I just figured out what I would *ideally* like to do in this situation. Basically, I think I would own my discomfort. "Hey, Bob, could you stop that? It's making me skeeved out." Yes, I might look like the badguy, but it would probably make it stop, and without a way for him to blame her.

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