When Men Defend a Sexual Harasser

The techblogger Dave Winer has a piece up on Scripting News defending Bora Zivkovic, a prominent science blogger at Scientific American and conference organizer who appears to be a serial sexual harasser of younger women he meets in a professional capacity.

In recent days three women have come forward with first-hand accounts of how Zivkovic treated them: Monica Byrne, Hannah Waters and Kathleen Raven. They allege that he had a skeevy habit of steering conversations to sexual subjects without prompting and volunteered that his wife wasn't having sex with him. The womens' stories are long, plausible and sad. A quote Raven offers from one of his emails captures the creepiness quite nicely:

... for you probably everything physical is sexual and in a negative way. Both last year and before/after, if I kissed your lips or grabbed your ass, you'd have freaked out! I'd mean it in a totally friendly nonchalant kind of way --  as a non-sexual act even at the time when I wanted you  --  but you'd understand it very differently.

Obviously we're only getting part of the story here. But if you're telling a woman you want to bang that it bothers you when your ass grabs aren't viewed "as a non-sexual act," you're extremely committed to a manipulative game where you fish for attractive young sex partners while maintaining plausible deniability in case they take offense. Either that, or you get your jollies making women uncomfortable with sexually inappropriate conduct while getting away with it. (Hey, Anita, is that a pubic hair on my Coke can?)

When Byrne named Zivkovic as her harasser recently -- she'd originally blogged about the experience last year without identifying him -- he responded, to his credit, that her accusations were true. "I am very ashamed of this incident which happened more than a year ago," he blogged. "It was a difficult time for me personally and I made a mistake -– I should not have shared my personal issues with her. It is not behavior that I have engaged in before or since."

But to his discredit, it doesn't appear to be isolated behavior at all.

I avoid blogging about Winer these days, since nobody needs to hear what I think about the tool who once threatened to sue me, but I thought there ought to be some pushback to his piece, which expresses copious sympathy for Zivkovic while showing none for his accusers. "[A]ll his actions could be clearly seen as desperate cries for help," Winer writes. "Something really bad happened in Bora's life, and he hasn't dealt with it, so it's coming out in destructive and confusing ways."

As people misguidedly sprang to Zivkovic's defense, the claim he never did it to anyone else made the other accusers angry enough to come forward. In a spectacular example of misplaced priorities, the science writer and professor Andrew Maynard, despite not knowing Zivkovic personally, sent Byrne an email urging her to stop naming him as her sexual harasser. Noting that Zivkovic is "highly respected within his community," Maynard asked her to show him "consideration and compassion."

The people deserving of our compassion are the women he was creeping on. As more came to light, Maynard recognized that he'd made a huge mistake in pestering one of them to salvage Zivkovic's reputation. He updated his blog entry with this comment: "If I had the smallest fraction of the information I now have on Monday, I would never have emailed Monica."

I don't understand why any man would find more common ground with a professionally successful sexual harasser than with the younger, less powerful women he allegedly mistreated. Something really bad happened in these women's lives, too, and he's not the sympathetic figure in this sordid little tale.


HOw about when women falsely accuse?

Bora Zivkovic has admitted that the women are telling the truth, so that's not germane to this discussion.

If someone makes a false accusation and others have first-hand knowledge that would cast doubt on it, I have no problem with them speaking out.

But what I'm talking about in this post is when men close ranks around another man, apparently out of gender solidarity, when he's accused of sexual impropriety. Dave Winer and Andrew Maynard both said in defending Zivkovic that they didn't know him well personally and couldn't speak to whether the allegations were factual or not.

Yet they defended him anyway. Why?

Ever since Dave Winer was lambasted about why there are so few women programmers he's seen himself as the 'voice' for gender problems from a man's view. He sees criticism of his opinions as simply people that can't handle his enlightenment of the topic. He sees himself as a brave voice fighting the good fight.

As usual, he's deluded, and because he's blocked or pissed off so many people, he's left only with those that enable him, or are too scared to disagree with him. And still, with even the mildest of criticism, he mentions his "comment guidelines".

Winer has totally marginalized himself, and yet it still pissed me off that he presents himself as the voice of the 'male gender'. Dave Winer being the voice of the male in gender discussions is like Tommy Lee being the voice for child care. He'd just a bitter old man with a loud voice. The more he's ignored the better.

I missed the earlier controversy when Dave Winer theorized that programming is man's work. Winer mansplaining on the subject of women is a equal measures appalling and hilarious.

Here's the metafilter thread on the topic:


Winer is an entertaining idiot, but imagine the burden of being cast when he was just a baby as the living embodiment of Charles Winer, the protagonist of a book called The Egghead Republic, by his insane German uncle Arno Schmidt.

Charles was an intrepid soul who made mad love, expertly, to female centaurs with luscious breasts.

Poor Dave never had a chance.

Add a Comment

All comments are moderated before publication. These HTML tags are permitted: <p>, <b>, <i>, <a>, and <blockquote>. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA (for which the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply).