How safe is burning man?

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How safe is burning man?

Postby Smenkare » Sat Sep 22, 2012 12:51 am

2011 was my first burn, but it wasn't my first festival. There are some things that I see at burning man that make me cringe sometimes, but everyone burns their own way. That said, there are predators at burning man. I met one this year in 2012. He was in my camp. He actually is a member of E-Playa and he'll probably read this. I'm not going to name him because that's how witch hunts start, but I am going to tell the story of how his presence in my camp affected me:

There was a man in my camp this year that made me uncomfortable. He was polite to my face, but I didn't like the way he looked at me, it made me feel like a pair of tits and ass attached to a vagina and that's it. Body parts. Not a person.
When he came by my tent and said, "Oh, so this is where you are." I felt a cold shudder go up my back. I couldn't tell you why, other than the fact that he made me feel uncomfortable.
I avoided interacting with this person alone as much as possible. When we were in groups, his language was always polite, but again, the way he looked at me always left me unsettled.
When he was drunk that little veneer of politeness went away and he became a sexual harassment machine.
He went from one woman to another, trying to grope them, fondle them and kiss them.
When they told him NO his response was,
"Oh come on!"
or, "What, don't you like me?"
When they pushed him away, he smiled or laughed and pushed back harder.
He pressed his size and strength advantage to the point where I wasn't comfortable in my own camp, so I left for the night. I figured he'd pass out drunk at some point. It was no use trying to reason with him when he was this wasted because he didn't respect me, or any woman apparently. He made some mention as I left the party, as to whether or not I was going to bed and that maybe he'd come join me later.
That pissed me off. What an entitled prick!
I left camp. I don't know if he did go by my tent at some point, but I wasn't in it. I wouldn't be for most of the night.
When I came back to camp around 4am, he was sleeping it off somewhere, but I didn't feel comfortable that he knew where my tent was, and that I was in it ALONE. I didn't sleep with my ear plugs in and I kept my hammer--yea, the sledge I'd used to pound my stakes in--at arms reach. If anyone came through that tent flap I was going to give them a crack.
Because that's what being afraid does to you.
That's what happens when you don't feel safe at the burn, in your own camp, in your own tent.
The next morning I felt silly. I told myself I was all wound up from the night before and some bad social interactions. He wouldn't try to rape me...
The next morning, I was stopped by another woman in our camp who had a similar bad interaction with him the previous night. She was pretty shaken by it. I had been second guessing myself earlier. I didn't want to believe what happened had happened, not in my camp. And my trying to gloss it over was my self defense mechanism so that I could actually get some sleep. But the fact that she was standing right there and telling me, "Hey, this happened to me too, it's bad, someone needs to talk to that guy because his behavior is not OK," made it real. After all, if I didn't interact with this guy, I wouldn't have to remember his grip as he tried to force me onto the bulge in his lap. I wouldn't have to remember waking up every couple of minutes as someone walked by my tent, reaching for my hammer like a teddy bear to chase the monsters away.
So that morning she and I both talked to him about it. And his excuse was "I was drunk last night."
That was his "Get-out-of-personal-responsibility-free-card."
Is that all it takes? "I'm sorry officer, I didn't mean to crash the art car into that scaffolding and kill that guy, but you see, I was drunk so it's not my fault!" Yea, bet that works wonders when you're sitting in Pershing county jail.
This guy made me and several other women in our camp come to the realization that one of us might have to violently defend our bodies from him at some point that night. He took our sense of safety away.
Sexual harassment and sexual assault don't just harm the immediate victims, it harms the whole community because it robs everyone of their sense of safety. If you live in a situation where you don't feel safe, there really isn't a 100% fix unless you remove the unsafe element. If that unsafe element is a person, then you can potentially move. But what does that mean for a camp? What does that mean for burning man? Do they side with the guy since he's not done anything too "illegal?" or do they side with the women who don't feel safe so long as he is there? Should we all sleep with hammers in hand and knives under our pillows?
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Re: How safe is burning man?

Postby jkisha » Sat Sep 22, 2012 7:31 am

Did you tell the camp organizer or a ranger or anyone in authority about this person? If not, I'd direct you to your signature.
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Re: How safe is burning man?

Postby ygmir » Sat Sep 22, 2012 8:06 am

thanks Smenkare, for this, and how you present it.
you're points, fears, and thoughts seem totally spot on, and, well communicated.
And yes, as JK asks, did you report to the camp organizers?
At bare minimum, it needs to be communicated to this person that it is "NOT OK"...........and in no uncertain terms.
it's sad, to think anyone has to feel unsafe.
and, I don't feel you are one of those who would say or write this, just for attention, or retribution (but I do think that happens at times, too).

and, please, please, reach out if you feel that way, out there, again.
I, personally will help, in anyway. I may be a slight, frail deputy in Mayberry, in real life, but in this case, I can be very convincing.

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Re: How safe is burning man?

Postby moonrise » Sat Sep 22, 2012 8:31 am

Bummer.

IMO, it isn't unreasonable to evict an asshole from your camp. In 2010 I was in a camp that evicted a doctor couple for much, much less of an offense. If that sorta bull shit was going on in Dread Pirate Barbie Camp/BDVillage you can bet your arse he'd have been booted out. :evil:
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Re: How safe is burning man?

Postby jerroc » Sat Sep 22, 2012 8:43 am

I think calling this guy a predator might be a little much. Pervey and inappropriate for sure. Never the less there is enough concern to be careful. After confronting him and getting a negative result the camp organizers should have been brought in and it should been explained VERY clearly (in private) that anymore of this behavior would get him evicted and a police report filed.
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Re: How safe is burning man?

Postby wh..sh » Sat Sep 22, 2012 8:52 am

My question is, how many of these assholes will we hand pick and evict? I am not taking his side. He should be sent out of the camp, pronto.
What he did is absolutely NOT OK! But, there are far too many people who are very nice during day and at night, they turn into clueless, forceful morons. Yes, there is probably one in every block.

Situations like these needs immediacy. Not a meek reaction and a "hint" that you are not interested. It does not work.
Stand tall, make eye contact, and demand him to "stop" his behavior... right then and there!
If required, get others involved, get authorities involved... right then and there!

Taking about it in the morning or a month later is hardly effective. That moment is gone and what you are really expecting now is "remorse".
Don't be a victim! Use all the resources that is at your disposal to not be a victim.

Smenkare wrote:Should we all sleep with hammers in hand and knives under our pillows?

Why not?
I see nothing wrong with being equipped with some sort of self-defense.
It would be delusional to think that there is some "safe" place. Be prepared to save yourself.
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Re: How safe is burning man?

Postby CornMan » Sat Sep 22, 2012 9:03 am

It would be smart for camps to have some sort of eviction policy. It might even be good to have an eviction kit with a minimum supply of spare water, granola bars/cans of pork and beans/opener/spoon, and a dome tent in case somebody has to be evicted, and they try to fight it.
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Re: How safe is burning man?

Postby jerroc » Sat Sep 22, 2012 9:10 am

Evection kit... Any object used to incapacatate such persons. Wrap in warm blanket and dispose at trash fence.
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Re: How safe is burning man?

Postby theCryptofishist » Sat Sep 22, 2012 9:36 am

And I wonder what might have happened if Smenkare had talked to the other women while it was happening. This is very good stuff to get out in front of...
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Re: How safe is burning man?

Postby Bob » Sat Sep 22, 2012 9:37 am

Wild guess -- not really knowing and having a history with the rest of the people you chose to camp with may have contributed to your anxiety.
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Re: How safe is burning man?

Postby FIGJAM » Sat Sep 22, 2012 9:39 am

I'm with Whoosh on this one.

Evil hateith the light!!!

Loud and proud the moment it happens so that everyone in camp and 3 camps away can hear you.

That shit will stop or someone will stop it.
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Re: How safe is burning man?

Postby inthecolumbiagorge » Sat Sep 22, 2012 11:04 am

One of our campmates was drugged when someone on an art car filled her water bottle on the open playa. She really does not know what happened to her between then and when some wonderful guys at a theme camp along the esplanade found her stumbling around and brought her to medical where she had to be taken to the hospital and was in serious condition for a day or so. She was able to come back to the burn luckily and she buddied up with at least one of us in our camp for the rest of the burn because she was afraid to be alone after that. Unfortunately she should not have trusted someone to fill her water bottle but that is flipping shitty that it comes to that. Not really the same thing at all but it does show that there is serious danger for a female on playa, that you always have to be vigilant, and that is a bummer all around:-(
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Re: How safe is burning man?

Postby danibel » Sat Sep 22, 2012 11:28 am

I am all for talking to the camp organizer and letting them know what happened. They may decide to not invite that guy back in 2013, they may not. If they don't kick him out, find another camp. Preferably with people you know in defaultia that you know are cool.

My first year my sister and I camped with some friends from San Fran. I was by myself in my van, but I knew that very safe people were all around me. The night of the man burn we had sat by the fire pit and drank. I wondered off to find my man friend at center camp and my sister stayed behind to chill the man fellows still at the fire. About an hour after I had left a young girl (18ish) stumbled through camp, clearly drunk and out of it, with no idea where she was camped or even her camp name. My sister took her in, put her on the napping futon int he north pole with a gallon of water and bucket. Told her to sleep it off, she would keep watch. My sister didn't want this young pretty thing wondering around, and I shudder to think what could have happened if she had bumped into a guy like the one you described above.

All in all, I have had nothing untoward happen to me personally, and I feel very safe in the city. I know there are people out there that will be watching for incidents, and I for one will always stand up and speak out if I see a girl in danger. No means no. We have to watch out for each other.
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Re: How safe is burning man?

Postby Smenkare » Sat Sep 22, 2012 12:03 pm

The camp organizers were informed, not by me, but by two of the other women who were bothered by this guy because at the time I really didn't trust my judgement in the matter. I keep looking back on it and hind sight. That which bothers me the most is that I was so quick to dismiss my original feelings of fear because the next morning he was sober and sort of polite again and I could have a normal conversation with him. I come from a family of problem drinkers and a my dad lives small rural town where alcoholism is a serious issue, they're big babies at best and monsters at worst when they're drunk, but I just had to go away and let them dry out and their human again in the morning. It took another woman stopping me and saying: "Hey, that guy's behavior is a problem."
I look at things now, and I do believe he would have turned from Pushy Sexually aggressive jerk to a predator if the circumstances were right. An intoxicated woman on an art car?--A woman passed out drunk alone in her tent? A lost drunk woman who stumbled into camp?
He wasn't stopping when the women he was harassing told him no and shoved him away. What if they couldn't shove him away? What if they'd been too wasted? Dehydrated? High?
Taking advantage of a person when they're drunk or high or sick is still a sexual assault.
But the other problem is that we all respond to people differently and that night Burning Man turned into my default home, so I went into default response mode.
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Re: How safe is burning man?

Postby Bob » Sat Sep 22, 2012 12:24 pm

Not trying to lay blame, just curious -- are your camp members people you have some history with outside of the event, or did some of you opt in to this group solely for a 2012 camp space?
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Re: How safe is burning man?

Postby lucky420 » Sat Sep 22, 2012 12:43 pm

Call the douchebag out on his bad behaviour. Call him out loudly while he is doing this. It might be a little embarrassing for you at the time but I bet it would be a helluva lot more embarrassing for him. And if he tries to laugh it off or get defensive you say in a very loud voice "HEY, I told YOU I don't like what you are attempting to do to ME. Knock it the fuck off right NOW"

As I said it may be a little embarrassing for you at the time to call attention to his boorishness, but do it because he will probably leave you alone from there on out and put every other woman on alert.

fuck him and his fucking creeper status :evil:
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Re: How safe is burning man?

Postby theCryptofishist » Sat Sep 22, 2012 3:06 pm

I do know that not wanting to speak up thing. It's hard to overwrite that programming. I suppose that a reasonable man would--well, not be cool with it--at least understand that


fuck.

I'm trying to get at, go ahead and make a mistake. If the guy is truly not a jerk, he will accept an apology. You might even learn something about his character in how he responds. Although, you're going to have to allow that his first response is likely to be unsettling...
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Re: How safe is burning man?

Postby Savannah » Sat Sep 22, 2012 3:38 pm

Any camp of size should strongly consider having a (publicly-introduced) crisis resolution team, composed of seasoned male and female Burners.
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Re: How safe is burning man?

Postby theCryptofishist » Sat Sep 22, 2012 3:58 pm

I suppose I better find the bed theme camp challenge...
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Re: How safe is burning man?

Postby AntiM » Sat Sep 22, 2012 5:24 pm

FIGJAM wrote:I'm with Whoosh on this one.

Evil hateith the light!!!

Loud and proud the moment it happens so that everyone in camp and 3 camps away can hear you.

That shit will stop or someone will stop it.





As Fishy noted, it is hard to overcome the programming, nice girls don't make a fuss. But you can practice making a fuss... get a few good friends and role play. Many adult women have never had occasion to scream or to even say "no" loudly and forcefully. Self-defense classes often start with this simple step.

Better than learning how to do it in real life. Better if you feel safe in your own camp, without a creeper.

Best is for the guy to be evicted. All the way off the playa if warranted.
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Re: How safe is burning man?

Postby Savannah » Sat Sep 22, 2012 5:57 pm

I have determined through experience (off-playa) is that the thing I am most comfortable yelling if I am really uncomfortable is

BACK OFF.

(Repeat as necessary, escalate to other stuff if necessary.)

It's simple and uncomplicated, and it doesn't make an accusation (if committing to an accusation is a concern, which it often is for shy folks) . . . but it says what the hell you want right then in the moment, which is SPACE.

If you focus your energy and project it loudly, it will startle virtually anyone sufficiently to back away from you whether they are
1) clueless or 2) an active creeper, and it will also of course probably attract the attention you need.

(And accept that if you must say BACK OFF--you probably do need some attention and light shed upon your situation, and that's okay. You can get more specific later.)
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Re: How safe is burning man?

Postby Major Krash » Sat Sep 22, 2012 6:27 pm

lucky420 wrote:Call the douchebag out on his bad behaviour. Call him out loudly while he is doing this. It might be a little embarrassing for you at the time but I bet it would be a helluva lot more embarrassing for him. And if he tries to laugh it off or get defensive you say in a very loud voice "HEY, I told YOU I don't like what you are attempting to do to ME. Knock it the fuck off right NOW"

As I said it may be a little embarrassing for you at the time to call attention to his boorishness, but do it because he will probably leave you alone from there on out and put every other woman on alert.

fuck him and his fucking creeper status :evil:


plus, many guys hate this behavior, especially from people in their own camp (but also respect a woman's choice to date douche bags if that is what they want). If you do not publicly reject the advances, it is very hard to tell if we should intervene or not (a couple of big guys having an "intervention" with the douche bag can be effective, but under different circumstances THAT behavior can be almost as offensive).
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Re: How safe is burning man?

Postby theCryptofishist » Sat Sep 22, 2012 6:32 pm

Major Krash wrote:
lucky420 wrote:Call the douchebag out on his bad behaviour. Call him out loudly while he is doing this. It might be a little embarrassing for you at the time but I bet it would be a helluva lot more embarrassing for him. And if he tries to laugh it off or get defensive you say in a very loud voice "HEY, I told YOU I don't like what you are attempting to do to ME. Knock it the fuck off right NOW"

As I said it may be a little embarrassing for you at the time to call attention to his boorishness, but do it because he will probably leave you alone from there on out and put every other woman on alert.

fuck him and his fucking creeper status :evil:


plus, many guys hate this behavior, especially from people in their own camp (but also respect a woman's choice to date douche bags if that is what they want). If you do not publicly reject the advances, it is very hard to tell if we should intervene or not (a couple of big guys having an "intervention" with the douche bag can be effective, but under different circumstances THAT behavior can be almost as offensive).

(wow, never thought of it like that.)
Last edited by theCryptofishist on Sat Sep 22, 2012 6:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How safe is burning man?

Postby theCryptofishist » Sat Sep 22, 2012 6:35 pm

Simon's real sig line?

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Re: How safe is burning man?

Postby Savannah » Sat Sep 22, 2012 7:00 pm

Major Krash wrote:plus, many guys hate this behavior, especially from people in their own camp (but also respect a woman's choice to date douche bags if that is what they want). If you do not publicly reject the advances, it is very hard to tell if we should intervene or not (a couple of big guys having an "intervention" with the douche bag can be effective, but under different circumstances THAT behavior can be almost as offensive).


This is true. I have seen a guy hang back a bit in terms of defending me because he was gambling that 1) I could handle it myself, and 2) that I wanted the bozo to learn to respect a woman's "no", rather than have me subject to men tussling over me like dogs fighting over hamburger.

In the end, my friend was correct in his judgment--because he knew me pretty well. I relished the opportunity to tell the guy to get stuffed.

If my friend hadn't known me well, or been sort of an uncertain dude, he might have needed me to signal and/or ask for some assistance. Nothing wrong with that.

So it's good to alert folks to the fact that you need help. Most people really want to.
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Re: How safe is burning man?

Postby jkisha » Sat Sep 22, 2012 9:06 pm

A bit off topic, but being a member of a primarily gay camp, we usually attract several virgin female attendees each year. I guess they know they won't be assaulted by any camp members, so they tend to feel safe in camp, knowing its a safe haven.
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Re: How safe is burning man?

Postby theCryptofishist » Sat Sep 22, 2012 9:08 pm

Either that, or they're hoping for fashion advice.


(didn't know I could go so low and cliched, did ya?)
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Re: How safe is burning man?

Postby jkisha » Sat Sep 22, 2012 9:45 pm

LOL you always keep me on my toes.
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Re: How safe is burning man?

Postby Zhust » Sun Sep 23, 2012 6:01 am

Smenkare wrote:And his excuse was "I was drunk last night."


In response, perhaps getting together with a few other women in the camp, snapping a pair of poultry shears and saying, "sometimes when I get drunk, I snip rapists balls off."

(Ok, so that was just cathartic and not really useful.)

Smenkare wrote:I look at things now, and I do believe he would have turned from Pushy Sexually aggressive jerk to a predator if the circumstances were right. An intoxicated woman on an art car?--A woman passed out drunk alone in her tent? A lost drunk woman who stumbled into camp?
He wasn't stopping when the women he was harassing told him no and shoved him away. What if they couldn't shove him away? What if they'd been too wasted? Dehydrated? High?


I do have a nagging regret from 2012: it was early in the week and I was just beginning to meet my new campmates. (I was invited to stay with them after camping solo across the street. I don't think I had even moved my tent yet, so it was probably Monday.) This woman with an Australian accent was obviously obliviously wasted, and fondling all over me. She said I was the "one she was looking for" or something like that. I knew she was out of it and (despite wanting to get laid, of course) I wouldn't consent to her advances. (Starved for attention, I did permit and enjoy the pawing.) She eventually left camp.

I regret that I didn't have the good sense to bring her straight to the rangers or the medical tent. Obviously she was only a few more "you are the one"-ing guys from someone fucking her. If she even remembered in the morning, I'm positive that was not her preferred behavior.

I'm going to e-mail my new adopting camp organizers and bring up a formal plan for dangerous predators — and to talk about that blotto woman and what to do. We try to exist without formal rules, but it would be nice to have a structure. Something like getting the responsible men in the camp to back-up a threatened woman (or man, perhaps) to allow her (him) to confront a predator.
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Re: How safe is burning man?

Postby AntiM » Sun Sep 23, 2012 6:22 am

I woke up this morning, and this thread popped into my head, along with a clear memory of saying no only no, but hell no.

I don't know if a shared story would be appropriate here, or just a drift.
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