Friday, 28 January 2011 21:00

LCA 2011: Keynote speaker censured over sexual images

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One of the keynote speakers at the 12th Australian national Linux conference has been censured over the use of some sexual images in his presentation.


Mark Pesce used some images in his keynote this morning which do not appear to have gone down too well with some members of the audience.

There was one image of a pig indulging in sexual activity with a goose; a second (NSFW) was of two women who were indulging in bondage. A third image (corrected) showed a man being spanked by a woman, both in gear that is used for BDSM activity. The latter two images did not show any nudity.

Update, Jan 29, 1.45pm: Chief conference organiser Shaun Nykvist was asked for his take on the issue; he deferred to Linux Australia president John Ferlito, saying he had been told not to comment.

Ferlito told iTWire that some people, of both sexes, had complained both to him and the conference organisers.  "There were some complaints on Twitter and one or two came to Shaun and me and said this infringed on our policy," he said.

"I don't want to go into detail about any of the images. Mark's talk was amazing but those images violated our policy and we had to enforce it.  He has apologised to the community."

Asked if he would have reacted if there had been no complaint, Ferlito said he did not want to go into hypotheticals. But he said that the complaints did not make him think that people had become hyper-sensitive.

"There is no formal process for dealing with such a complaint. Shaun, I and some other Linux Australia council members discussed it and came to a decision. The responsibility lis with Linux Australia as we are the sponsors of the conference."

Ferlito said the anti-harassment policy was not set in stone. "We may refine it if needed - things like this are not black and white, there are many shades of grey."

Pesce made it abundantly clear before he began his keynote that he would use both profane language and also imagery that would not be suitable for children.



The LCA organisers had drafted a detailed anti-harassment policy at the beginning of December and Nykvist himself brought it to the attention of iTWire in order that it would be publicised.

Pesce was contacted for comment but has not responded.

The drafting of the policy by the Brisbane organisers followed an incident at the ApacheCon last year when one of the Apache staffers, Noirin Shirley, was allegedly sexually assaulted. Shirley chose to name her alleged assailant in a blog post.

Following this, kernel developer Valerie Aurora wrote an article for the Linux Weekly News wherein she called for an anti-harassment policy at open source conferences. She said she had made a draft of an anti-harassment policy due to the constant sexual harassment at open source conferences.

The LCA 2011 anti-harassment policy used Aurora's policy as a template.

The policy says, in part: "We do not tolerate harassment of conference participants in any form. Offensive sexual language and imagery is not appropriate for any conference venue.

"Harassment includes offensive verbal comments related to gender, sexual orientation or other personal characteristics; sexual images in public spaces; deliberate intimidation, stalking, following, harassing photography or recording; inappropriate physical contact; and unwelcome sexual attention.

"If a participant engages in harassing behavior, the conference organizers may try various remedies such as warnings or requests to desist if appropriate; with the final recourse being expulsion from the conference with no refund."

 

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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