Girl Geeks Bust Creeps For Sexual Harassment at DEFCON

by Amy Bucknam


DEFCON is a tech conference held annually in Las Vegas that allows thousands of hackers to learn about the latest ways to crack into any and all types of online security systems. Sounds fun, right? But over the past few years, many women who’ve attended DEFCON have reported that they’ve been victims of sexual harassment.

Along with the typical techy stuff, a large part of the convention consists of recreational events for the hackers, like hacking contests, DJ sets, and parties with tons of booze, where much of the harassment takes place. 

The Ada Initiative is a non-profit focused on “supporting women in open technology and culture,” and has been publicizing these DEFCON sexual-harassment allegations. They’ve challenged hacker conferences to include anti-harassment policies as a result. In a post on The Ada Initiative site, Valerie Aurora published an editorial about experiences with harassment at DEFCON, like when a man standing behind her licked her shoulder tattoo, or when a man groped one of her friend’s crotches while she was sitting at a party. Aurora writes, “When you say, ‘Women shouldn’t go to DEFCON if they don’t like it,’ you are saying that women shouldn’t have all of the opportunities that come with attending DEFCON: jobs, education, networking, book contracts, speaking opportunities – or else should be willing to undergo sexual harassment and assault to get access to them. Is that really what you believe?” 

To combat the sexual harassment, a female journalist and student from San Francisco, who goes by KC, created a set of three cards for women to hand out when someone is creeping on them. The red card reads, “Creeper Move! If you have received this card, you have done something wildly inappropriate or otherwise harassed the person who handed this to you. You should be happy you got a card and not a punch in the face. Check yourself – you might not be this lucky twice!” The yellow card is a warning for someone who’s being “mildly inappropriate” and reminds them to be “respectful and mindful of peoples’ boundaries.”  And of course, the green card applauds respectful, non-feely behavior. 

Apparently, DEFCON founder Jeff Moss supports these cards, and responded to a tweet from KC’s Twitter (@TheDarkTangent) about the cost of having the cards printed: “@KdotCdot Don’t sweat the price, as long as it is reasonable I will pay for it. Love the idea.” Are there any female DEFCON attendees with stories they’d like to share?

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