Recently a friend told me this story. She had given a presentation at a conference and soon after started receiving messages from a guy that wanted to talk more about the topic. He was very insistent that she was the only person that would understand his situation. Not wanting to be rude, she offered they continue in email but he wanted to meet in person. His requests became more and more demanding over time. It became obvious that he wasn't looking for mentoring or advice. He wanted a date.
She had no interest in that.
Unsure what to do, she asked a few other female attendees for advice. What a surprise to discover that the same guy had also contacted them and was playing the same game. In fact, she later found out 5 women that had attended the conference were receiving the same treatment.
Wait... it gets worse.
This is the third conference I've seen this happen. This isn't just a problem with one particular conference or even one kind of conference.
So, it isn't a coincidence, this is an M.O.
I call this pattern "playing the odds". You approach every woman that attends a conference assuming that odds are in favor that at least one will say "yes".
I'm not sure what is more insulting: the assumption that any female speaker is automatically available or interested in dating, or that the women wouldn't see right through him.
The good news in all three cases is that the conference organizers handled the situation really well once they were aware of the situation.
So, guys, if you ever think you are the first person to think of doing this, I have some sad news for you. First, you aren't the first. Second, it won't work.
To the women that speak at conferences, now that you know this is a thing, I hope it is easier to spot.
The problem is that there is no transparency in the system. It isn't obvious if the guy is doing this to a lot of women because sharing such information is difficult. It would be uncomfortable to share this information. There are many privacy concerns, in particular if the guy was contacting the women for legitimate reasons, a false-positive being publicly announced would be... bad.
If only there was a confidential service where people could register "so-and-so is contacting me saying x-y-z". If multiple people reported the same thing, it would let all parties know.
I was considering offering such a service. The implementation would be quite simple. I would set up an email inbox. Women would send messages with a subject line that contained the person's email address, name, and whether their approach was "maybe" or "very" creepy. I would check the inbox daily. For example my inbox might look like this:
Subject: [email protected] Joe Baker maybe Subject: [email protected] Mark Jones maybe Subject: [email protected] Ken Art maybe Subject: [email protected] Mark Jones maybe Subject: [email protected] Ryan Example very Subject: [email protected] Mark Jones maybe Subject: [email protected] Mark Jones maybe
If I saw those Subject lines, I would alert the parties involved that Mark Jones seems to be on the prowl. The service wouldn't be entirely confidential, but I would do the best I could.
Then I realized I could build a system that would require zero human interaction and only be slightly less accurate. It would be a website called "did-he-just-hit-on-me.com" and it would be a static web page that displays the word "yes". True, it wouldn't be 100 percent accurate but exactly how less accurate is difficult to determine. If you have to ask, the answer is probably "yes".
Jokes aside, maybe someone with better programming skills could come up with an automated system that protects everyone's privacy, is secure, and strikes the right balance between transparency, privacy, and accuracy.
I'm not one of the people who is directly affected by this sort of thing, so if my thinking on these solutions is off base, I'm eager to hear it.
In the meanwhile, I'm holding on to that domain.