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PenguiCon Hosts “Open Source” Boob Grabbing Cadre

PenguiCon is an “Annual combined science fiction and fantasy convention with Linux and open source programming expo.” Also it is a place that if you wear a button, you can be groped by anonymous strangers at any time. Usually a person can get paid for being the subject of anonymous groping but at PenguiCon, you give it away for free. Win!

I was thinking that RT was the only convention out there where you needed to take a shower every two hours. Maybe at PenguiCon, there are washing stations for gropers and gropees like they have at my local zoo outside the petting station.

It was so successful at PenguiCon that the group plans to take their show on the road. “And we’ll probably do it at other cons, because it’s strangely wholesome and sexual at the same time.” Wow, I can’t wait to avoid those.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Kim
    Apr 22, 2008 @ 15:15:31

    “Touch the magic” Are you kidding me??? If you grab my boob, I will eff your “magic” up dude.

    Maybe because I was raised in the south, where it’s even considered bad etiquette for a man to offer his hand to shake a womans hand first, that this seems creepy. The whole “sexual healing concept” I don’t buy either.

  2. kirsten saell
    Apr 22, 2008 @ 15:30:15

    That has to be one of the freakiest things I have ever read. And I’ve read some freaky crap.

  3. Imogen Howson
    Apr 22, 2008 @ 15:30:52

    Good heavens.
    So your options are either to get groped or to stand there looking like the nasty prudish goody-two-shoes who doesn’t appreciate the whole open-source vibe.
    And how nice that they initially mostly ‘…didn’t just ask anyone, but rather the ones who’d dressed to impress…’. Because if I’m dressed up, it’s giving the signal that it’s okay for complete strangers to ask if they can feel my breasts?
    *puts PenguiCon on my list of conventions to avoid*

  4. Kristen
    Apr 22, 2008 @ 15:41:59

    I love when a guy tries to touch my boobs. It’s the perfect excuse to pop him right in the babymaker. Yes, I have a violent side, but I only let it out at the appropriate times. Nothing empowers my inner feminist like cold cocking a strange, handsy man. Ask my husband. He’s seen me do it.

  5. Erastes
    Apr 22, 2008 @ 15:43:57

    “May I touch your boobs?”

    “Certainly, may I break your face?”

    I would like to see the first court case where those buttons come into evidence. *sits and waits*

  6. Shiloh Walker
    Apr 22, 2008 @ 15:46:06

    Oh, great public service announcement… now I know where not to go.


  7. Kendra
    Apr 22, 2008 @ 15:50:59

    How do you guys find this stuff? I wonder what would happen if the Cover Models at RT has Yes and No buttons. *snicker* Watch out for the video bloggers!

    I was actually more disturbed by the Disney heroes in the their underwear over on the SBTB blog today. You really shouldn’t see Milo from Atlantis in his underwear. *shivers*

  8. Lleeo
    Apr 22, 2008 @ 16:36:37

    By the end of the evening, women were coming up to us. “My breasts,” they asked shyly, having heard about the project. “Are they… are they good enough to be touched?” And lo, we showed them how beautiful their bodies were without turning it into something tawdry.

    Oh, ugh. No thank you.

    Love the picture you used for the post, by the way! ^_~

  9. Maria
    Apr 22, 2008 @ 16:54:25

    Oh, brother! Like we need any more reasons for people to act stupid.

    I don’t know what’s worse, the people who thought this up or the ones who allowed themselves to be groped.

  10. Shannon C.
    Apr 22, 2008 @ 17:38:41

    Wow. Uh… OK then.

    Makes me want to reconsider that thought of going to an SF convention anytime soon.

  11. Jana Oliver
    Apr 22, 2008 @ 18:22:11

    Luckily most SF cons aren’t that way. They can be freaky, but the fen understand that grabbing someone’s body parts without an invitation is not kosher and could result in injury to the grabbee.

    However, there are always a few idiots (male and female) who just don’t understand the rules. Like a certain actress who went around flipping up the guys kilts to see if they were regimental. There’s always one…

  12. JLFerg
    Apr 22, 2008 @ 18:23:50

    John Scalzi’s blog Whatever has an interesting conversation on this topic. I ignored Julie at #20, but was pleased to learn that the experiment is over from Randy at #51.


  13. Tracey
    Apr 22, 2008 @ 19:50:58

    I like what John Scalzi had to say about it.

    The Open Source Boob Project does sound skeevy. My instant reaction was “Oh, ICK!” I have serious issues with anyone touches my boobs. I would be freaked if anyone even asked if they could touch them, and would probably flee back to my hotel room and triple-lock the door.

    I mention this because one of the things that people keep saying about the OSBP is that it was purely voluntary. People were being asked if they minded if strangers touched their boobs (or, in the case of the guys, their nuts).

    But if you’re in that situation–if you’re a woman, and there’s an entire corridor full of people watching you, and someone walks up to you and says, “May I touch your breasts?”–I think that you might feel pressured. It’s a sci-fi convention, after all. For the few days it exists, a con is a strange little extra-dimensional world of its own.

    There is a lot of drinking.

    There are a lot of drugs.

    There are a lot of public displays of affection. (Convention-goers can be very huggy and kissy, for example.)

    The unwritten rule is that even if you’re a convention-goer who doesn’t drink, do drugs, or do PDAs (and many, like me, don’t), thou shalt be okay with all this. You will be accepting and trusting and forget about the rules of Mundania.

    That is the message. That’s the atmosphere.

    Given that, can I picture an unattractive girl/young woman being asked “Can I touch your breasts?”, and feeling, for the first time in her life, as if someone sees her as pretty? And thinking that maybe using her body this way might be a good thing?

    Can I picture a girl or woman being asked this question, knowing that typical rules have been suspended for the convention, and being scared of what the questioner would do if the answer was “Hell, no!”?

    Can I picture someone walking down a crowded corridor, being asked this question by another person…and suddenly realizing that everyone in the corridor was listening to what you had to say? Would you wonder what the crowd would do if you said no? Would you be afraid of violence? Worse, would you be afraid of being laughed at for being a prude or a child?

    Keep in mind, most of the people here would be considered geeks–sci-fi geeks, fantasy geeks, computer geeks. Outsiders, in the eyes of many. What do you think? Is there any pressure involved in not wanting to be rejected or mocked by one’s own kind?

    I think there is.

    I know it’s been presented as harmless and beautiful and sharing. But all I can think is that people generally have a lot of different reasons for doing something. And it troubles me.

    I don’t think that it was intended to be troubling. But there’s too much potential for threats, triggering, harassment, sexual exploitation and pressure to do something some people may not want to do to fit in and to avoid criticism or mockery.

    So I really hope that no one takes the OSBP on the road. Honestly, there are better ways of relating to people–and to women in general–than this.

  14. Jane
    Apr 23, 2008 @ 00:06:39

    Wow – I had no idea that conventions were like this (fan conventions, that is). I guess the romance conventions are so relentlessly single sex that unless you are a lesbian, it’s not very fertile ground for groping. (Although I totally copped a feel of Candy’s rack without even asking. Pretty sure she liked it.)

  15. stephanie feagan
    Apr 23, 2008 @ 00:14:05

    LOLOL! Thanks, Jane. It’s late, I’m beat, and man, I needed that laugh!
    Candy is indeed, uh, blessed. I hate her.
    No one’s ever attempted to cop a feel of mine. Dang it.

    Stef, chronic sufferer of Boob Envy

  16. stephanie feagan
    Apr 23, 2008 @ 00:17:37

    Forgot to say, it would be weird times a thousand to have more than a few token males at romance conferences. I’m bringing my husband to RWA this summer. I’ll have to tell him groping is frowned upon. He’s stuck with me and mine. Bless his heart.

  17. Lleeo
    Apr 23, 2008 @ 00:50:44

    I think it just complicates things when you bring men into the picture because as much as it’s consensual and the men are praising the women they fondle and it’s sexual liberation and all that, it’s still objectifying women to a certain extent. Especially since there’s no male equivalent to breasts. And what about the women who wear the green ‘yes’ badge but don’t get asked to be fondled?

    And seriously? “My breasts,” they asked shyly, having heard about the project. “Are they… are they good enough to be touched?” And lo, we showed them how beautiful their bodies were without turning it into something tawdry. That’s just so degrading. Even the last part with the biblical allusions. Did this guy not get the memo that, no, women don’t want to be viewed as sluts or saints?

    I don’t know. I just find the whole concept in a fairly big social setting like this really offensive and sexist. I’m fine with group sex but this kind of thing just seems to cross the line. At least for me. :/

    Jane, do you ever see Teddy Pig at any romance industry gatherings? ;) He seems to be the only male romance reader I see on a fairly regular basis in the romance blogland.

  18. Jules Jones
    Apr 23, 2008 @ 04:10:01

    No, asking to touch a guy’s nuts was specifically not allowed. If you want to touch a guy, you have to touch his backside. Because apparently that’s completely equivalent to a guy touching a woman’s breasts, whereas touching a guy’s nuts is too sexual.

    This idiocy is actually not standard practice at sf cons, and there has been a great deal of commentary in the sf blogosphere explaining very clearly that a lot of people feel that it should not become standard practice. A small selection:

    Satirical responses:

    More serious responses:

  19. Sheryl Nantus
    Apr 23, 2008 @ 09:16:30

    as if the sci-fi community didn’t have enough to worry about generating bad press…

    *rolls eyes*

    sounds like a great invention by a bunch of adolescent boys who want to get their ya-yas off using some faux excuse to do so…

    and then they wonder why female attendance is so low or why they can’t sell to the female audience.


  20. janicu
    Apr 23, 2008 @ 11:18:29

    There was a post about this in another blog I read – Feminist SF, which made me feel better:

  21. Throwmearope
    Apr 23, 2008 @ 13:19:14

    At Scalzi’s blog, commenter Nylter @90 said that women groping men happens all the time at RWA conventions. I’m hoping she’s confusing RT with RWA. Never attended either, but after the costume kerfuffle at last year’s RWA, I would hate to think that nekkid men were part of the conference.

  22. (Jān)
    Apr 23, 2008 @ 13:54:15

    Anime cons have a similar problem with something called glomping. Those who do it are generally teenage girls (fangirls), and they run up and forcefully hug you. That doesn’t sound bad until you consider that they do it to anyone they want without permission and have injured people, including those with physical handicaps. At the very least they’re intimidating and attacking you.

    Luckily, many cons have outlawed this, but not all. I would absolutely never go to a con where that sort of behavior, or the behavior above was allowed.

  23. Alma Alexander
    Apr 23, 2008 @ 15:20:08

    Others have already given links to blogosphere responses to this.

    Can I just add that whatever goes on between (oh the triteness of that phrase) consenting adults can continue to go on between those people with my blessing – if the original group had kept it to themselves and had fun doing it, well, hey, whatever floats your boat, as it were.

    Two things stuck in MY craw really badly.

    One was that the whole incident, far from being contained in a in-group having fun with each other, was escalated into a “movement”. And a movement which disingenuously tried to pull the wool over people’s eyes. Calling something an “open source boob project” stopped being “non-sexual” in nature the moment you used the word “boob” in there – and in any event it was never even contemplated as an open source elbow project which means that the sexual angle was basically built in from the beginning.

    The second was the so-called “opt in” thing. You know what would be an opt in? Put a sign on a closed door, explaining what goes on within. Anyone who crosses that threshhold is opting in. Having to wear a button to opt out is not “not optin in”, it’s crossing over into defensive behaviour. How about everybody out there – unless that person has good and openly affirmed reason to think otherwise – simply assumes that the default position is simply no – a woman’s body is not available to be touched fondled or groped by passers by no matter how much those passers by might profess to admire individual attributes of that body or the body as a whole. You want fondling privileges, at least buy me a fricking bouquet of roses first.

    The whole thing could blow up in people’s faces in so many ways that it isn’t even funny.

    I go to lots of cons. My husband’s response to this whole affair was that if anyone ever offered gropage to me I should say, “sure, if I can rearange your family jewels afterwards.”

  24. Sheryl Nantus
    Apr 23, 2008 @ 17:11:11

    “You want fondling privileges, at least buy me a fricking bouquet of roses first.”

    Best. Line. Evah!


    I like the Open-Source-Kick-you-in-the-Balls-Project, myself…

  25. Julia Sullivan
    Apr 23, 2008 @ 18:41:00

    Would this guy think it was okay if I went up to him and said, “Hi! I find you sexually unappealing! May I squeeze your waistflab?”

    Because–newsflash–I don’t want detailed feedback about my attractiveness and touch requests from strangers at public gatherings. I bet he doesn’t, either.

  26. Nonny
    Apr 24, 2008 @ 00:52:06

    I’m a bit torn in my feelings on this. I hang out with a very open, touchy-feely group of people that this sort of thing has happened at. People that aren’t comfortable being touched are respected, and if somebody were to cross those boundaries, they’d be lucky if they weren’t missing body parts by the time we got done with them. :P

    So, I see what happened at the con as probably a relatively harmless and inclusive thing. It’s probably something you’d have to be there or been in that sort of atmosphere to truly understand. I don’t think there was anything wrong with it, though whether or not I would personally participate would depend on how comfortable I felt with the group of people as a whole. (A whole con? Uh. No. A group of about 20-30 people that I am acquainted, at the very least, with everyone? That may be a different story.)

    Turning it into a “movement”? That bothers me. I’m concerned that it will impact the public view of SF/F conventions (I’ve been to a good few and never seen anything like this going on, btw). I’m concerned that women at these cons will feel pressured or ostracized. I’m afraid that someone may get hurt, because once something like this reaches a certain “mass”, there will be people who abuse it. I don’t think that the supposed overall “good” (which I don’t really buy) is worth even one person being emotionally or physically hurt and degraded.

    The people for this sort of “movement” seem to believe that abuse will not happen or if it does, the offender will be punished. Mere punishment will not take away the fact that the abuse happened. Depending on several factors, including the extremity of the offense and the victim’s past, it could be severe. To deny that this is even a possibility is extreme naivety, and to dismiss concerns of womens’ well-being and safety is insensitive and negligent at best.

  27. Julia Sullivan
    Apr 24, 2008 @ 11:02:09

    I see what happened at the con as probably a relatively harmless and inclusive thing.

    No, because they engaged passing strangers in it, according to posts on the original thread. If people want to get a room and have a group grope, more power to them! But doing this in public settings is inappropriate.

    It's probably something you'd have to be there or been in that sort of atmosphere to truly understand

    I’ve been in “that sort of atmosphere” pretty much every day of my life for the past 30 years, if by “that sort of atmosphere” you mean “strangers asking if they can touch my breasts or other body parts.” I call it “walking down the street” or “going to the grocery store” myself–no button needed.

  28. SandyW
    Apr 24, 2008 @ 12:06:15

    It's taken me a while to think I can speak semi-rationally about this nonsense.

    My kids are all gamers. My daughter and daughter-in-law have a short list of comic shops and game stores where they will buy things and a much longer list where they will not. It's all about how invisible they are. Quite often staff (always male) will not wait on them or will stare/leer from a distance. My daughter has literally stood at the cash register, item in one hand and money in the other, shouting, ‘Hey, can I buy this?'

    Baby girl came out of the game store at the mall Sunday afternoon empty handed. I asked her if she found the game she was looking for and she said, ‘No. The guy at the counter said he liked my Legend of Zelda t-shirt, but I was getting a creepy vibe from him so I just left.' I told her to trust that vibe.

    For a significant portion of gamer/geek males, ‘girls' are invisible when they want to buy a manga or check out a game, but the minute some pinhead emerges from his momma's basement and wants to cop a feel, women are suddenly valuable members of the sub-culture. Only worth noticing if one can help them ‘feel good about themselves.'

    And they wonder why women all over the internet are upset?

  29. Jules Jones
    Apr 24, 2008 @ 12:30:32

    And a brilliant post here from someone who’s sex-positive herself, analysing the difference between “sex positive” and “getting-laid positive”, and why that post got the reaction it did from so many people:

  30. Treva Harte
    Apr 25, 2008 @ 20:09:36

    Perhaps they misunderstood who the boob would be in this project?

  31. limecello
    Apr 26, 2008 @ 23:42:57

    This… scares me. And I’m not quite sure how I’m feeling – but envious fits for the first few comments. I’m apparently not that bad ass. (And I like to think I have some of that quality… but I’ve been groped at random more than my fair share while out and about. Nobody’s ever groped my boobs- I would end them – but too many people have grabbed my butt. Which is so unfair because you can’t see them coming. This is just beyond creepy.

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