Sunday, December 17, 2006

Where Does Normal End and Crazy Begin?

Stewart over at House of Sternberg has put out another writing assignment. I admit, I look forward to these. I used to write a lot more than I do now and I like the kick in the behind the assignments give me. This weeks assignment is on "Weird Addictions." Before you tune out let me reassure you this post is not my writing assignment. No, the assignment just got me to thinking. I like to ponder the assignment for a bit before I actually write it. Luckily, the assignments are only about 1000 words in length, so I usually have plenty of time to work out in my head what I plan on writing. In fact, I usually plan the whole thing out in my head and spend about 15 minutes actually writing the thing. But this week has been a little different. I wanted to write about a subject I had heard about but had no real knowledge of. So I did what I always do and googled the subject. And an interesting thing happened while I was looking up various fetishes. Star Trek conventions were listed under fetishes. Huh? For clarification I went to and looked up fetish. fet·ish –noun 1. an object regarded with awe as being the embodiment or habitation of a potent spirit or as having magical potency. 2. any object, idea, etc., eliciting unquestioning reverence, respect, or devotion: to make a fetish of high grades. 3. Psychology. any object or nongenital part of the body that causes a habitual erotic response or fixation. Ok, I get the first two definitions, those make sense when applied to Star Trek. It's the third application that I have a hard time with. According to this article, Star Trek conventions appear to be a popular stomping ground for pedophiles. I must admit, this really threw me. I've always liked pretty much anything that deals with sci-fi and fantasy, but I think I've always been able to make a pretty clear distinction between reality and fantasy. That said, I never really thought anything of people who liked to go to various sci-fi/fantasy conventions. I would certainly never label someone who does as kinky or assume they have a sexual fixation of any sort. But there seems to be a common attitude that sci-fi conventions of most sorts have some sort of erotic undertone to them. Honestly, I never thought this. But I found some sites that seem to underscore this sentiment. This one offers advice to newbie convention goers. It explains that many of the costumes may be scanty and the etiquette for dealing with some sexually charged behavior. Ok then. So I'm wondering if I have stumbled onto a couple of sites that offer a very limited view of conventions. I know there are some people who post here who have gone to conventions in the past and have had very fun, positive experiences. So why do you think these kinds of articles pop up on the subject? Do you think sci-fi fandom is mostly misunderstood or do you think there is an element of truth to what they are saying? I haven't been to a sci-fi convention, but I already have an opinion on the subject. I think conventions are like anything else and cover the whole spectrum. I bet if I went to one, I would be able to meet a ton of people just like me; someone who doesn't dress up in costume and doesn't know every line of Star Wars by heart. I also bet I could find the rabid sci-fi fan who knows every trivial tidbit of information on Spock. I bet I could also find people who speak fluent Klingon or Ferenghi. Maybe William Shatner was right when he told a group of trekkies on Saturday Night Live to "Get a life." Whatever. But I also think most of those people can distinguish fantasy from fiction. At least I hope so. But at what point does the fantasy go to far? When have we crossed the line into the crazy zone? Personally, I think if no one is harmed in the process, then who cares? But am I being too liberal? Or maybe I am naive. Should society look at conventions as a potential breeding ground of deviants? Should I keep my children far far away? Really, what do you think?


Crunchy Carpets said...

Hmmmmmm...I have been to quite a few conventions. I have always been boggled by the 'energy' of some expended on their fave 'thing.'

Mind you..we have mostly attended con's as 'Professionals.' Dh was either there as a reporter or as a panelist.

So we were always sort of on the outside looking in.

I have to admit that sci fi cons do tend to attract a certain 'kind' of person.

Most are not just fans of Star Trek or Star Wars. These were people who no doubt had a rough time in high school. Were perhaps considered 'nerdy'...geeks...people who did not really fit in with the 'in' crowd.

Being a fan of these shows allows these people to not only find people with common interests but allow them an avenue to freely express themselves with NO judgement.

Therefore a lot of really out of shape Starfleet members and chubby Klingons.

The comic and film fans are much the same. You should meet some of the guys that write the movie web sites. Fun guys but guys that no doubt came into their own AFTER high school.

It is the same as the gamer crowd.

And yes.. I know all these types so I CAN talk about them and mean no ill will.

These are my friends I am discussing here!

Dragon Con is awe inspiring in the wealth of fandom enthusiasm.

The costumes are amazing. The passion these people have for their faves is incredible. And with that obviously breeds confidence as these people are warm and welcoming and fun.

Stewart has talked about the 'furries' too. THEY are an interesting crowd.

I think there is some sort of psychology going on. I am sure there is a larger gathering of asperger types at these cons.

Also a smidgen of Obsessive Compulsive behaviors. People who are not into collecting or really into things would be boggled at the energy devoted to things like knowing every single episode name and detail of whatever generation of Trek for example.

I think it is ok for this stuff to weird people out.

I love it.
Dragon Con was amazing and I would love to go again.

Thousands of people....and all really fun and excited. AND SO MUCH TO SEE AND DO!

If you don't mind a bit of sweat and rubbing shoulders with Ewoks and Clone Troopers.

ShadowFalcon said...

Well I never would have guessed the phedophile thing in a million years.

I've always wanted to go to a star trek convention cos then I wouldn't be the only geek in the room and I could yap about star trek with other people without feel different.

mist1 said...

I can hardly tell the difference between fantasy and fiction. It turns out that I am single. I made that whole wonderful boyfriend up. Still, those were the best years of my life.

deslily said...

Wow.. well, Crunchy covered most everything concerning sci fi conventions lol!

I've been to more cons then I can count. (most due to DeForest Kelley and when there I'd have a blast while promoting De's Fan Club and the actor himself)

The closest I ever came to "dressing up" would be to wear a "McCoy t-shirt"..

The arguement over "obsessive and non-obsessive" showed it's ugly head during the original Star Trek cons in the guise of "Trekkie/ Trekkor" debates that cropped up because news coverage thought those that dressed up were "over the edge".

But I saw most of that as pure "escapism". Be it from the mother getting a day away from caring for her kids, or a man getting away from the job he hates but has to keep to pay the bills.

Most have one reason or another to wish they lived in the time of a particular television series like Trek. It seemed that all anyone wanted in those series was to "be accepted as you are". And Trek did alot of that. Always trying to be friendly with a Klingon or a Ferrengi.

I guess what I am saying is it seemed to me that most wanted a better life. To be accepted. To be happy... and in their own ways, they found it at those conventions.. even if it did only last a few days.

I did meet many friends at them, some of which i still have 20 years later.

The long lines one stood in turned into getting to know many people in that same line. Nothing to do while waiting but to talk. .. and everyone..EVERYONE, has stories to tell. It may well have been the best part of the cons!

The Curmudgeon said...

I wouldn't go and haven't gone -- but do I have a hard time figuring out fantasy from reality?

How many hours a day am I spending on line?

SQT said...

I wouldn't go and haven't gone -- but do I have a hard time figuring out fantasy from reality?

How many hours a day am I spending on line?

You mean this isn't real? Uh oh.

I have become a tad addicted to blogging, though I am getting better at walking away from the computer for awhile.

Thanks CC and Deslily for talking about your convention experiences. I think it's fascinating in a way. I never thought much about them other than as a focal point for a lot of geeks.

I remember the kids in high school who played D & D and figured those were the ones who ended up going to the conventions. I seriously doubt most of them ended up pedophiles though.

I kind of wonder about that article. I think they may be drawing a spurious connection. Kind of like saying that all psychos carry around a copy of "Catcher in the Rye." That doesn't mean that everyone who owns a copy is psycho, but that a lot of unstable people identify with Holden Caulfield's alienation.

I think of the conventions in the same way. Its a place where pretty much anyone can belong. It doesn't mean everyone is a deviant, but it's safe to say that a deviant or two might blend in.

Crunchy Carpets said...

Yeah.. I don't get the pedophile thing either.

Dragon Con was filled with families!
Proof that geeks breed!

They are not all loners and misfits!

The saddest thing at a con?
The actors out shilling their photos for money.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

A fetish? Paedophiles?

Oh dear.

SQT said...

I think blogs like this are proof that not all sci-fi lovers are geeks or loners.

I was the kind of person who got along with everyone in high school. The popular kids and jocks didn't shun me. But I was also friends with the kids others would label geeks.


I like sci-fi and don't think there's anything wrong with it if some people like to live out their fantasies to some extent.

But the pedophile thing has me a bit baffled.

I know pedophiles will often cultivate a persona that allows them to get into close proximity with their intended victims. I know not all will agree, but I think Michael Jackson is a classic example.

I just don't see where the Star Trek stuff fits in. I seriously doubt the Star Trek obsession is actually much of an indicator. I bet there are several things the group of pedophiles looked at had in common and the Star Trek fixation was one among many.

Just telling it like it is said...

So this is the matter what kind of convention, event you go to you are always going to find "odd" is just the fact of life...I went to a party that a Dr. from work held...ummmmm let's just say at work....he is completely normal the party he is making out with everyone...EVERYONE Had a swing in one of the bedrooms…hello (not expected, shocked dismayed)
Point in is like a box of chocolates you never know what your going to get...really weather someone talks in Klingon or dresses in all rubber...I think everyone just wants to be accepted for who they are… that’s really the secret to life...if I don’t like what is going on I leave simple as judgment...cause well sometimes I might just want to peak in just for fun even if it is not for me...I mean really I can even understand klingon

Just telling it like it is said...

I'm just saying...what do I know anyway...My family is from Arkansas..I like to blame everything on that anyway...and I like to say cheesy saying too...hence box of chocolate..cheese I tell you...

Jon the Intergalactic Gladiator said...

I would never have thought that pedophiles would hang in a convention like that, though it does makes some sense to me when I think about it.

I've only been to a few conventions and I didn't see anything like that going on as far as I could tell. I brought my wife to one and she sure did enjoy the people watching.

SQT said...

Just telling-- I'm thinking finding out that much about someone I work with would be slightly awkward. Too much information!

Jon-- The people watching aspect would be fun. The mall's got nothing on the conventions!

Just telling it like it is said...

Imagine how I felt when he ummmmmm grabbed my face and planted one on me...I was like wow...Do we really have to work together...after that I needed a cigarette and I don't even smoke

Stewart Sternberg said...

I don't think pedophiles hang out around a convention. That doesn't fit the profile of a pedophile, unless the the implication is that the convention themselves attract many unhealthy people, several of whom are pedaphiles.

One of the thing that struck me about the last convention I attended was how many parents were in evidence to look after their kids.

What I did see at the convention was a preponderance of BDSM types. Several Goths present were BDSM wannabes. Just my observation. Of course that observation was helped by the panel: corsets v. bustierres (sp?). I wish I could have told you about that panel, but I didn't get to the convention until the day afterward.

Finally..ya wanna talk crazy..let's talk about another fetish. Sports. Let's talk about sporting cards and souvenir shows. Let's talk about how three hundred pound men paint their bodies and jiggle in the stands shirtless in zero degree weather.

deslily said...

be it painted bodies at sports games or convention costumes.. I think people just want to believe there's more to life then just working and paying bills... they are all outlets and a great way to de-stress!!

SQT said...

Just telling-- Um, yeah, I think I'd gag.

Stewart--Frankly I get the desire to dress up as a klingon a heck of a lot more than I get wanting to paint myself the colors of my favorite team.

Yeah, the sports arena has definitely come into it's own fetish category, with the card and the fantasy sports. I guess all the guys who couldn't play football in school get to fantasize that they do now.

Ormondroyd's Encyclopedia Esoterica said...

Look at the millions spent on sports entertainment and the hours spent on radio and TV slavering about it and tell me THAT'S not a fetish?
Sure, there are social misfits and Apsberger types in any gathering, but I think a lot of the geek/nerd bashing that goes on in the media is part of the anti-intellectualism that goes on in this culture.
The amount of time and money Americans spend on watching other American's chase a ball, and then talking about how they chased the ball compared to the amount of time spent discussing science, or history, or politics, or the humanities? While the band plays on, I salute you from the deck of the Titanic...
Give me a sci-fi/comics convention any day.

Stewart Sternberg said...

Noam Chomsky talks a good deal about sports and television used by the corporate system as a bread and circus diversion for the masses.

I think that Mike, another name for ormondryod's encyclopedia, is right. But lemme tell you something, and I say this with my butt clenched...if the Lions were to suddenly go 16-0, my shirt's coming off and I'm painting myself honolulu blue and silver.

Fire Millen.

Crunchy Carpets said...

Totally! Why is a sci fi con weird but going mental in a bar for your sports team is ok?

SQT said...

There is a strange acceptance for sports hysteria. In other countries it's soccer they have riots over and that's somehow accepted as the norm.

I'd much rather spend my time with some sci-fi geeks thankyouverymuch.

Oh and Stewart, let me know if you break out the paint. ;)

SQT said...


I also think it's a great way to feel like you belong to something. Isn't that what we all want at some level?

Stewart Sternberg said...

SQT...with the Lions, I don't think you will ever have to worry about fans reaching that stage of eurphoria.

And you are right. The need to belong is enormous. But there is also the need to belong and at the same time judge others who do not belong to our group.

This happens in sports, religion, politics, etc. Persecution is a pastime. Listen to any talk radio show.

In sci is a conversation you might here:

A: "What are you reading?"
B: "Vampire book. Buffy clone."
A: "Cool. Did you see that guy earlier?"
B: "The splatter punk freak? What a buffoon."
A: "Yeah. Freak. You know what I've been getting into? Cyber Punk. I love it. Anarchy."
B: "I thought you were still Goth."
A: "As if."
B: "Good. Goth stuff is for the real freakazoids. Posers."
A: "Wannabes."
B: "Roll the dice."
A: "Which one?"
B: "Twenty sided"

deslily said...

Sqt: I don't see myself much as a "joiner".. but it is a relief to feel you aren't alone !

SQT said...

The world I live in is all about belonging to the middle-class mommies club. It's not so bad where I'm at now, but the town I lived in before was brutal.

You weren't allowed in the club if you didn't drive a certain car or live in a certain area. God forbid you did your own hair or bought your clothes at Target.

Mostly I try to ignore that stuff, but it's hard when it impacts the kids. If certain moms don't feel the family is "good enough" then they don't allow certain kids over for playdates. It's incredibly shallow.

Crunchy Carpets said...

sqt...I don't fit around here with the local mommies either.

I feel like a paria at the pre school and the local one's don't like me because I am not a blue collar rocker and taking my kids to hockey and so on.

I try to make sure the kids get to hang with lots of kids...but I HATE play groups and so on.

Angela/SciFiChick said...

Too funny. I've been to quite a few scifi conventions, and if anything the tone is the opposite of anything erotic or sexual. LOL
But maybe that's just me.
I only go to meet my favorite actors.

Mother Jones RN said...

Phedophiles? I'm setting my phaser on kill.

I've never been to a Star Trek convention, but they look like a lot of fun.