If you happen to be at involved at all in the organized skepticism community, then you likely know about “elevatorgate.” Basically it’s a rather unfortunate series of events involving Rebecca Watson, Richard Dawkins and others. I’m intentionally not linking to the quotes (you can find them easily on Google if you so choose) but I will paraphrase the situation:
Watson was at a hotel for some conference she spoke at. She stayed out late, going to the bar or whatever. Then, at 4 AM she went back to her room, taking an elevator. Some guy from the conference was on the elevator. He tried to strike up a conversation. He said he found her interesting and suggested she might want to come back to her room for a cup of coffee. She declined. They exited the elevator and that was that.
Now according to Watson this made her very uncomfortable. It was an elevator, which is the quintessential (if not factually supported) place for rape to occur. She was a woman and he a man and our society is one in which women are most often the victim of sexual assault and men most often the aggressors. It was forward and the act of inviting a woman back to your room in a hotel has some obvious undertones (even if it didn’t necessarily mean anything other than he actually wanted to have some coffee.)
Richard Dawkins took Watson to task on this with some rather sarcastic comments which seem to be intended to point out that she really wasn’t a victim of anything and in a world where women are having their genitals cut in Africa, can’t drive cars in much of the Middle East, are sold into slavery in the Middle East and Southeast Asia and where many places still operate in a near-feudal manner, Watson is not really in that bad of shape and should just get over the fact that someone asked her an awkward question in an elevator, which probably was not the best venue.
What followed was a lot of really far-out feminists coming to Watson’s defense and attacking Dawkins. They said he didn’t understand because he was a heterosexual Caucasian male from a privilege background, while Watson is a … heterosexual Caucasian female from a privilege background. They repeatedly said how men “Just don’t get it” – that women live in a world of terror where every guy they encounter is a potential rapist and where the very act of making a social invitation means they must fear that you are planning on assaulting them. Some either didn’t get Dawkin’s sarcasm and disgust for the culture of victim-hood that has permeated western society or thought he was somehow putting down women who actually do suffer horrible acts of violence by asking those who were asked to coffee to grow some thicker skin.
Of course, I’m a man so I can’t ever understand this. Somehow others can know what I can understand but I can’t understand what they can. Somehow they know what my background is and my life experiences but I don’t know there experiences. And also, apparently every woman knows “what it’s like to be a woman” because there is only one single experience of being a woman, it’s not like, they are all different or anything, or like there is no one ‘anywoman’ who can tell you what the experience is for all XX chromosome members of humanity.
Oh and if you see a paradox here, that just proves you’re already a bigot and a rapist.
But before going into this any further, there’s a question nobody seems to have asked: DO RAPES ACTUALLY HAPPEN IN HOTEL ELEVATORS?
Sure, they have happened. In the history of human race and the billions of hotel stays that have been made, they have happened. But lets get something straight: people have also been struck by meteors on at least two occasions.
As Wattson suggested, if you Google “Hotel Elevator Assault,” you will find plenty of pages, but then take a closer look. Many of them are about how to avoid it, some of them are about her and others simply have all three words together in the same page, such as “Kobe’s accuser said after the assault, she went to the hotel elevator” or “The alleged attacker was seen on a security camera exiting the elevator on the 11th floor.”
But what about actual occurrences of women being raped or assaulted in hotel elevators. Is it common? Sure, it’s commonly feared. People fear dying because of nuclear power plant accidents too. People fear having their throat slit by an intruder in their bed at night. Yet these are pretty small risks.