The Open-Source Boob Project

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"This should be a better world," a friend of mine said. "A more honest one, where sex isn't shameful or degrading. I wish this was the kind of world where say, 'Wow, I'd like to touch your breasts,' and people would understand that it's not a way of reducing you to a set of nipples and ignoring the rest of you, but rather a way of saying that I may not yet know your mind, but your body is beautiful."


Thus began the original livejournal post made by theferrett on April 21, 2008, introducing The Open-Source Boob Project, otherwise known as the OSBP. Apparently originally conceived during the above quoted conversation at the 2008 ConFusion convention, it involved what was described as an "opt-in" program where women who were open to having their breasts touched by others (men and women) could be approached and asked "May I touch your breasts?" Whereupon they could answer yes or no. At PenguinCon in April of 2008, this evolved into the actual production of both green "YES, you may" and red "No, you may not" buttons where attendees could indicate if they were open to being asked if their breasts could be touched.[1]

theferrett's original post on the subject after PenguinCon presented the events in a wholly positive and encouraging manner, and hopeful that the project would continue at other conventions in the future. "The first girl touched respectfully. And reported that they were glorious. Then we all asked in turn, and she nodded happily and put them out, and lo, even with strangers and not acquaintances, the magic of the Boob Project continued. It wasn't that she was a piece of meat to be felt up, but rather that a living person that we did not know had voluntarily lowered the barriers that separate us and allowed us in... And we were so grateful that we were showering her in pure adoration."[2]

Reaction from fandom

The first page of comments on theferrett's livejournal posting were largely positive, although there were questions right from the start as to whether there was enthusiasm at the con for touching of male body parts in an act of equality, or to satisfy the curiosity of those who wanted to explore the male physique.[3]. theferrett replied: "There was not. But there's a lot of reasons for that, not the least of which is that it's a lot harder to keep it distant when Little Elvis is bucking and twisting in your hands." This response led some to point out the inherent inequality of the project, and the idea that women's breasts could somehow be separated from her sexuality the way a man's body parts could not.

The OSBP quickly became the subject of much negative discussion, both in the original posting's comments and in separate reaction posts which soon followed (See section below in External links: Reaction posts) Some felt that open fondling of breasts removed the proper level of intimacy such touching should involve.[4],[5] Some felt the language used in theferrett's post was disturbing in the way it took what he was claiming was a "non-sexual" event and describing it in highly sexual language and being very objectifying of the women involved.[6],[7] Some felt that it was poor judgment to make this an event in open convention spaces where the potential for sexual harassment and involvement of those with no knowledge of the project could be a problem, that it would be better confined to closed parties at conventions.[8]

Some questioned why the women to be groped should be the ones wearing buttons, and why the situation should not be reversed so that those who wanted to "grope" breasts wore buttons stating their interest.[9] theferrett responded that " it's not the worst idea, except that a bunch of judgmental folks would probably try to make us feel bad, and would call us out as sex-crazed idiots with no self-esteem", and also that "I doubt a passive system like this would get as many hits as an active system".

Some reacted by proposing more gender-neutral or male-revenge specific projects in response to the OSBP, such as the The Open-Source Knuckle Sandwich Project[10] or the Open Source Swift Kick to the Balls Project[11]. More seriously, the Open Source Women Back Each Other Up Program was proposed by vito_excalibur on April 23 as a response to encourage women to look out for each other at conventions, to intervene in or at least question the willingness of participants in any events where it may appear that a woman is being coerced into doing something she is not comfortable with, such as being touched in an apparently sexual manner.[12]

Comments on theferrett's original post were eventually locked after 1,300 comments made, and he posted several edits/clarifications on his point of view on what happened. He stated that the OSBP would not continue at future conventions, and that he would not attend ConFusion nor PenguinCon the following year. "[The OSBP] was highly context-specific. What happened to us, even if it was good, is not what will happen to you. The danger of it getting out of hand is too great – and already, people worry that they’re going to be press-ganged into a groping area if they don’t have a button, despite the fact that I (and others) have said that’s not what happened at all. But honestly? That easily could happen without proper supervision, male power being what it is…And the fear is something that can be triggering in itself. I do get that. And nobody should be triggered."[13]

After the initial wave of confusion, upset and outrage throughout fandom, some fans began posting responses along the lines of "A Straight Geek Male's Guide to Interaction with Females"[14] -- that is, ways for men to interact with women at conventions in an unthreatening, polite way. Others expressed displeasure that such basic ideas as common courtesy, cleanliness, and respect needed to be explained to men attending conventions.[15],[16]

External Links

Original posting

Reaction posts

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