The Misogyny Wars are a series of controversies related to misogyny and feminism which we have to deal with in atheist and skeptic communities. This page tries to track this ongoing military campaign. [1] [2]

Harassment in the skeptic community[]

We know there are men connected with the skeptical community who aren't respectful of women, here's PZ on one amazing character. The not-so-Amazing Atheist self-immolates. Sadly there are other men who make problems for women online, [3] The MRA even decided to make fake rape claims. [4] The evidence is clear to anyone who looks at various unpleasant websites.

  1. So what should we assume?
  2. Should we assume when those skeptical community rogues and other rogues meet women offline they stop unpleasantness, then behave with total respect and consideration?
  3. Should we assume none of the difficult men or other likeminded men ever attend atheist conferences?
  4. Should we assume everybody at atheist conferences desists from any bad behaviour that may have happened online?
  5. Should we assume even after spending a long time at a bar no man at any atheist conference ever says anything inept, nerdish or malicious to any woman?
  6. If you really imagine all that what planet have you been living on?

We can't always tell definitively which complaints are true but overall there are too many complaints and it's likely that a high proportion are true.

Non tolerance[]

Women aren't by any means the only group that can face harassment. Therefore the American Atheists have decided on a policy aimed at protecting all participants and specifically several minorities are mentioned.


American Atheists does not tolerate harassment of or by conference participants in any form. Prohibited conduct may include but is not limited to harassment related to gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, age, religion, sexual images in public spaces (not related to convention sessions or materials), deliberate intimidation, stalking, harassing photography or recording, sustained disruption of talks or other events, inappropriate physical contact, and unwelcome sexual attention. Racist, sexist, homophobic, or transphobic conduct will not be tolerated.

PZ feels these rules are reasonable and consistent with civilized behavior.


June 2010[]

The Woman Problem, a thread on Pharyngula in which women were asked to contribute suggestions to increase participation in atheist/skeptic movement activities. (Note: This post currently lacks comments due to the Natgeo switch, so the most important part of the thread has been lost.)


June 2011[]

The beginning of Elevatorgate, the controversy centered on Rebecca Watson. 'Deep Rifts' Or 'The Humanity Of It All'... Part 1 is a post by blogger Suirauqa exhaustively documenting the major incidents of Elevatorgate.


May 2012[]

The controversy over harassment policies begins, in the wake of comments by Jen McCreight about an informal network of women who communicate about harassment incidents involving male speakers.

DJ Grothe, president of JREF, weighs in, and TAM spins off into its own controversy.

In Medias Res: how to find the plot if you’re just tuning in is a post by Jason Thibeault at Lousy Canuck, advising people who are not fully informed about the controversy over harassment policies on how to get informed without irritating people who have been involved from the beginning. The comments contain further useful advice and links.

Harassment policies campaign – timeline of major events from Lousy Canuck contains links to major blog posts in the controversy about the enactment of harassment policies at atheist/skeptic conferences.

June-July 2012[]

Thunderf00t joined FTB, and almost immediately, he vehemently argued that harassment policies at conventions are unnecessary. He got banned from FTB, but he later got access to some FTB-admin e-mails, provoking further controversy.


August 2013[]

Michael Shermer[]

Did Michael Shermer rape anyone? We don't know. [6] Statistically roughly 90% of rape allegations are true [7] and PZ Myers supports the complainant. Rape allegations that appear false are sometimes the result of pressure from authorities to deny a rape that actually happened [8] or other psychological pressure on vulnerable rape victims. [9][10]

It's probably obvious but trigger warnings for dealing with sexual assault and rape.

First a quote from PZ:

What do you do when someone pulls the pin and hands you a grenade? by PZ Myers

(...) She doesn’t want this to happen to anyone else, so she’d like to get the word out there. So she hands the information to me. Oh, thanks.

Now I’ve been sitting here trying to resolve my dilemma — to reveal it or not — and goddamn it, what’s dominating my head isn’t the consequences, but the question of what is the right thing to do. Do I stand up for the one who has no recourse, no way out, no other option to help others, or do I shelter the powerful big name guy? (...) I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do, I can do no other. I will again emphasize, though, that I have no personal, direct evidence that the event occurred as described; all I can say is that the author is known to me, and she has also been vouched for by one other person I trust.

Another woman complained that Shermer kept her drink glass full, a common rape tactic. Richard Carrier works out how refilling a glass could have happened.


You finally get to meet a big celebrity, for the first time, someone you really love and admire, and you’re at a party having drinks together, sitting at a table. He shows a lot of interest in you, asks you lots of questions, listens intently. Your conversation is so animated, in fact, his focus on you so engaging, that you don’t even notice that he keeps filling your wine glass, and you don’t realize how much you’ve had.

At least since the Myers grenade exploded women know they should not focus only on how much they admire Shermer but also on what he may do with their glass. Remember this could have happened, we don't know for certain if Shermer did it.

  1. What would the misogynist blogosphere have done if a female blogger has taken this up rather than PZ? Sarah Jones suggested that rape accusations should be taken seriously and got death threats for that. [12]
  2. What would the misogynist blogosphere have done if the complaining women themselves had taken this up? [13] Are we surprised the complaining women would rather not be named?

Jason Thibeault is strongly critical of those who think PZ should have kept silent.

Jason Thibeault [14]

Only, somewhere that script got flipped: it’s more grievously harmful to name the person [alleged rapist] on the off chance that they fall into the ~6% of false claims than it is [beneficial] to screw up that person’s chances at harassing or raping even more people. The cries of “innocent until proven guilty”, which are appropriate in a courtroom or when facing jailtime, are brought up — which are never brought up when someone tells you to watch out for that person who picked your pocket. The cries for physical evidence drown out the testimonial and corroborative evidence that are brought forward.

Stephanie Zvan noted Carrie Poppy and PZ Myers both trust the unnamed woman and both know her name.

Stephanie Zvan [15]

A woman PZ has met and finds trustworthy asked Carrie Poppy for a reintroduction by email to PZ. Carrie did that and bowed out. Then this woman, whose identity is being shielded by PZ (from someone who, as we can see, doesn’t have the strongest dedication to getting the details right) told PZ her story of being raped by Michael Shermer. PZ published the story as is. (...) Updated to add a second bit of musing: How hard is it, really, to say “I’ve never done any such thing and I resent the living hell out of the accusation”?

Greta Christina comments that an unnamed informant is different from an anonymous source and cites the informant, unnamed till years later, Deep Throat who provided reliable evidence about the Watergate scandal. [16] Christina notes a series of complaints from women, some giving their names, some unnamed against Michael Shermer. Protests range from sexual assault through to sexual advances which though legal were unpleasant and unwanted and Christina suspects a pattern to this. Incidentally 90% or more of sexual assault allegations are also true. [17]

Greta Christina PZ Myers’ Grenade, and Anonymous Accusations vs. Unnamed Sources: The “Deep Throat” Analogy

This idea that we should completely ignore these accusations (...) simply and entirely because they come from unnamed sources? It’s ridiculous. We don’t apply that standard to any other reporting, on any other topic. There are reasons that unnamed sources stay unnamed. Especially when they’re making accusations against powerful people.

Ashley Miller also supports PZ.


I happen to find myself on the opposite side, having heard and experienced too much behind the scenes to believe in Shermer’s innocence, but I don’t begrudge those without that knowledge for wanting fair legal representation of Shermer.

Ashley Miller notes that those opposing Michael Shermer have a record of working to help the skeptic movement and fight misogyny in order "to make skepticism better."

—Ashley F. Miller [18]

Ah, so donating to this is not, in fact, an attempt to help Shermer get decent representation, but rather a way to condemn unnamed victims who come forward with their stories. Got it. Out of curiosity, what is the appropriate way for a reporter to deal with a story from an unnamed source who is known and trusted, whose story and reputation is vouched for by multiple others?

Brian Thompson formerly of the James Randi Educational Foundation agrees there is a problem with Shermer.


I know enough women who have been harassed by @BTRadford and @michaelshermer to know it's not "gossip". These men are garbage people. Refering to Shermer specifically, Thompson adds in another tweet: @CounterApologis @lousycanuck I know two women who have been generally creeped at by him, one woman who was groped by him. .

Richard Carrier thinks Shermer is selfish and has a thoroughly low opinion of the f***er very nice guy.

[11] by Richard Carrier

Several people online claim to have witnessed his skirt-chasing in general (even propositioning a married woman while her husband was elsewhere in the same room) and evidence of his propensity to have multiple simultaneous ongoing affairs (some of which one source claims his wife eventually became aware.

What happens if a husband finds out and unfairly blames his wife? Blaming the victim is too frequent whether a woman is attacked [20] or merely propositioned. All this if true suggests Shermer was thinking primarily about his own sexual gratification and wasn't too concerned about the possible effects on the women he targeted.

Michael Shermer: Rapist or Sleaze? by Richard Carrier

What he did is sleazy. Even in what I think is the best case scenario, [that what he did was less serious than rape] given the preponderance of evidence so far. To me it doesn’t seem like he cares (now or then) about how he may have harmed this woman, or that whatever he did to harm her might be something he should apologize for and make right and stop doing in general so as to ensure he doesn’t harm anyone else (and it does sound like there are already other victims).
  1. Has Shermer done "nothing wrong--legally or morally" as he himself states in the webpage that asked for donations to his legal fund? [21] [22]
  2. Can Shermer explain to us why he contradicts what Carrier and Christina both write about him?
  3. Alternatively can Shermer explain what his personal moral standards are? Can he explain why feels the unpleasant behavior Carrier and Christina both accuse him of was not morally wrong?
Shermer's moral standards[]

In Feb 2013 Michael Shermer published a long text about science and morality, this was close on six months before PZ Myers' grenade exploded. The text shows what Shermer wanted readers to believe were major elements in his moral philosophy. All this was before Shermer knew he would be accused of several acts that he himself earlier wrote are decidedly immoral.

  1. What do you do when someone pulls the pin and hands you a grenade?
  2. PZ Myers’ Grenade, and Anonymous Accusations vs. Unnamed Sources: The “Deep Throat” Analogy
  3. Michael Shermer: Rapist or Sleaze?

Before the PZ Myers grenade exploded Shermer understood the harm rape does to the victim and understood that adultery harms the partner who is betrayed. Below is what he wrote in Feb 2013.

—Michael Shermer [23]

How do we know that rape and adultery are wrong? We don’t need to ask God. We need to ask the affected moral agent—the rape victim in question, or our spouse or romantic partner who is being cuckolded. They will let you know instantly and forcefully precisely how they feel morally about that behavior.

Err well!

Before Shermer was accused of propositioning a married woman in an unwelcome way he understood women frequently dislike such attention. Shermer wrote the quote below in 2010.

—Michael Shermer[24]

Most men are much more receptive toward unsolicited offers of sex than are women. Most men, then, in considering whether to approach a woman with an offer of unsolicited sex, should not ask themselves how they would feel as a test (“Let’s see, how would I feel if she asked me for sex? Terrific! So she’ll probably feel the same”), they should ask female friends.

Does a man really need to ask if a married woman likes to be propositioned while her husband is in the same room? Most people would know without asking that such propositioning is neither pleasant nor polite. Shermer suggested asking first, keeping quiet looks like a better idea.

If Michael Shermer doesn't deny all the above accusations from Myers, Carrier and Christina many readers will wonder what type of a person Shermer really is.

The law[]

Shermer threatened legal action and tried to silence PZ [25] but that didn't work.

I also think that Shermer needs to be reminded of a little online phenomenon called the the Streisand effect – when you try to muzzle the internet, it has a tendency to bite…[26]

Shermer didn't ask for legal funds but got them. [27] The fundraser included a nasty rape joke where generous contributors were offered a bottomless glass of wine, with Emery “who will not be drinking but keeping your glass full.” This was a reminder how one woman complained about Shermer repeatedly refilling her glass. [13] Emery who started the fund doesn't understand the difference between harassment and flirtation. He said,

They [feminists] conflate sexual harassment and flirtation. [28]

There's some confusion over flirtation and harassment since different individuals and different cultures have different standards. There shouldn't be too much confusion though. If someone doesn't stop flirtatious behaviour when it becomes clear the other person dislikes it that's harassment. There are too many people, (mostly men) who think they have the right to decide how much flirtation should be acceptable and other people (mostly women) should put up with what those selfish characters personally enjoy without complaining.

Anyway PZ also got legal help, Popehat who is experienced with online libel trouble offered to advise Myers. [29]

So will there be legal fireworks? At least if this comes to court there's a chance we'll find out more one way or the other what really happened. Still after more than 2 years a lawsuit looks very unlikely.

Shermer suddenly claimed he knows who the accuser is though later he tried to backtrack.


In a personal email to me Shermer categorically denies these accusations. If what he said about his accuser gets out, it will be apparent to most all reasonable people that PZ Myers published a bold-faced lie. He recklessly tried to destroy another person’s reputation without regard for fact-checking.
  1. So was the allegation a total shock to Shermer as he claimed in the 'Cease and desist' letter? [32]
  2. Alternatively does Shermer know his accuser as suggested in the Loftus blog?

All this could be the undoing of any legal action. If the court accepts that Shermer knows an accuser the court will also accept PZ Myers reported truthfully that someone accused Shermer of this heinous act.


Shermer seems to be admitting that he knows someone really did accuse him and PZ didn’t just make it up. That goes against the narrative in his cease-and-desist letters and that most of Shermer’s defenders are using. If he admits PZ was repeating an accusation that was was actually made and acted in good faith, his whole case falls apart without PZ naming anyone.
  1. If there are legal fireworks the story will almost certainly get more coverage. Newspapers and other news outlets are not now publishing this material but will be far less reluctant to publish details over court proceedings. Shermer may well come to regret any legal action against PZ Myers that he takes.
  2. If there are no legal fireworks those who contributed to Shermer's legal fund and perhaps wanted to hurt PZ could be deeply disappointed.
What should we do?[]

What do you do when someone pulls the pin and hands you a grenade?
Well one thing you don't do is try to brush rape allegations under the carpet, serious accusations merit thorough investigation. We need to make it clear that the skeptical community isn't a safe place for those who abuse women. PZ Myers claims others in the skeptical movement are guilty of denial and cover up over sexual exploitation of women. [34] Greta Christina plans action when she knows more. [35]

We should be better than those who do wrong in the name of religion.
We should learn from the Roman Catholic child abuse scandal. Covering up the problem just made it worse, priests tempted to harm children had little incentive to exercise self control and men tempted to harm children had little incentive to avoid the priesthood. Then when finally the scandal couldn't be contained a great many high ranking Roman Catholics who weren't themselves child molesters were blamed (rightly) for allowing abuse to continue.

We shouldn't allow abuse of adult women, in the same way the Roman Catholics shouldn't have allowed child abuse.

  1. We can't prevent it that there are allegations about serious abuse of women in our organisations though we don't yet know what proportion of allegations are true.
  2. We can avoid being complicit in abuse and can avoid sweeping allegations of serious abuse under the carpet. Suggestions that the story was made up don't look likely. [36] PZ Myers had a case for bringing this up, potential victims of someone who may be a serial rapist have been warned in a way that strives to safeguard the anonymity and safety of the woman who trusted him.

Now let's not forget nothing has been proved against Shermer to the standards of criminal courts. Let's not forget either this article focuses on what PZ Myers and his supporters, especially at FreethoughtBlogs write. Readers looking for the other side should search elsewhere.

Convicted sex offender[]

A convicted sex offender called Cecil Fuson caused problems for Rebecca Watson, this time we know because he's on the sex offenders, register. [37][38] Ophelia Benson supports Rebecca. [39] We're getting to know the murkier parts of the Internet.

September 2013[]

After late August there were few new developments over Michael Shermer and neither side said very much new. Still Shermer's legal fund was getting donations. The fund closed on September 19th 2013. [21]

Drunken fantasies and more[]

There's an accusation that after drinking DJ Grothe said Skepchicks, 'want pussy' and went on to fantasize about drugging and gang raping a man. [40][41] There is also an allegation that Grothe is holding up publication of potentially life-saving research on vaccine outreach because he is sensitive about the bad joke allegation. [42] For the time being readers will have to make do with a summary of the vaccine survey. [43] How does PZ feel about all this? One thing we do know, PZ is is pleased he won't have to attend a lecture by Grothe on of all subjects, Secular ethics. [44]

Accusations were also made against Lawrence Krauss but as of September 2013 there is no clear evidence. [45]

October 2013[]

Several women accused Bora Zivkovic of pressuring them to talk about sex when they would have preferred to talk about other subjects. Since Zivkovic had power to advance or possibly to break the women's careers this was seen as abuse of power as well as harassment. PZ said he was pleased that the science community dealt with the matter and acted to protect women, he hopes the atheist community will learn from this and do more to protect women in future. [46] [47]

A close friend has written that Bora has been diagnosed with Asperger. [48] He may not have understood the distress he was causing or realised the women didn't like the conversation if this diaghnosis is correct. By contrast "Martin Robbins, who writes about science and other interesting things for The Guardian, Vice and New Statesman." suspects Zivkovic is cunning and manipulative. [49] Zivkovic has lost his job and suffered a great deal. Zivkovic's Aspergers makes him vulnerable in some ways if he has the condition and it's hard for outsiders to decide whose right and whose wrong.

People with better social skills than those with Asperger frequently have get away with far more than Zivkovic did, it's an unjust world.

November 2013[]

A man, possibly Michael Shermer tried to assault Dr. Pamela Gay sexually, the perpetrator and location are (so far) unnamed. [50] PZ is concerned about the frequency of these events and the harm they cause women. [51]

So yet another accusation has surfaced against Michael Shermer. Does he still insist he's done nothing wrong.

Carrie Poppy[52]

Hi everyone. I just spoke to a lawyer about sharing this information with you, and feel comfortable telling you this one thing (though it is one of several): D.J. Grothe told me and others, repeatedly, that he (DJ) had personally witnessed Michael Shermer groping a female TAM speaker’s breast, unprovoked and against her protestations. She has confirmed this, since. D.J. continued to invite that speaker to TAM in subsequent years. D.J. has stated this much over and over. So please, do feel free to ask him yourselves.


February/March 2014[]

PZ drew our attention to a problem but later Karen Stollznow who faces a complicated legal situation (see below) asked him to remove the post. The chupacabra beat must be a valuable and difficult one The critics respondeded unkindly, Oh, lord, the stupid.

It's starting to pan out.

There have been accusations against an unnamed man referred to only as Mr. Bicycle Shorts.

Well, a female friend of mine told me [Brian Thompson] she didn’t like it very much when he [Mr. Bicycle Shorts] locked eyes with her from across a room and pointed to his dick. When I [Brian Thompson] started working for the JREF, my boss described this same guy as an “old school misogynist”. Then a friend told me this same skeptical celebrity had groped another speaker at a conference. Grabbed her breast without invitation. Sexually assaulted her. Then my boss told me that not only did this assault happen, but that he witnessed it and intervened. The woman who was assaulted won’t name names for fear of being dragged through the mud. Another woman I know has told me that this same guy assaulted her. Others have confirmed her story to me. I [Brian Thompson] believe her. But she’s remained anonymous for much the same reasons. (...) I’m tired of hearing things like what I’ve heard from [redacted]. That my old boss grabbed his junk in a car and said he would be “presidentially displeased” if [redacted] didn’t give my old boss a kiss.[53][54]

Who are Mr. Bicycle Shorts and Mr. Junk Grabber? We don't know for sure but Jason Thibeault has a suggestion.


(...) then Thompson removed it from his wall — I’m not sure if under legal threat, or simply because he was distracting from the issue by implicating DJ Grothe and Michael Shermer (without naming either) in other misdeeds.

Isn't it remarkable how some names just keep on coming up in this page?

Ben Radford[]

The Ben Radford affair has been going on since well before 2014 and as early as 2013 Karen Stollznow complained she wasn't protected when Radford harassed her. [55]

[56] Joe Anderson who works with aeroplanes and is a long standing friend of Karen Stollznow witnessed harassing emails, text messages and phone calls over far too long a period.

— Joe Anderson [57]

Certainly though, never a week went by without her receiving something. Though often thinly veiled, it was definitely inappropriate and over the long-term, constituted harassment. In two multi-hour phone interviews and in about a dozen emails, this is exactly what I told the investigator that had been hired to investigate the matter. I also told them how it was so bad that I offered on numerous occasions to fly to the person’s home town and have a talk with him. To tell him that what he was doing was wrong and that he needed to stop it. She asked me not to because she thought he would just deny it and she hoped it would soon end. I think that since she is such a private person, having her personal dirty laundry aired would have been horribly embarrassing to her. Sadly, this is one of the reasons that this kind of behavior often goes unreported.

In 2013 Rebecca Watson and Jen McCreight quoted Karen Stollznow.


Then, he saw me at conferences and took every opportunity to place me in a vulnerable position. This is where the psychological abuse turned physical and he sexually assaulted me on several occasions.

Ronald A. Lindsay, president and CEO of the CFI pressured the Scientific American to withdraw Karen Stollzman's open letter but readers can (still as of April 2014) access it at
"I’m Sick of Talking about Sexual Harassment!” By Karen Stollznow, August 6, 2013.
Stephanie Zvan claims she resisted similar pressure from Lindsay to change something she'd written.


Having been on the receiving end of one of Lindsay’s letters demanding “correction”, I’m not overly impressed by SciAm’s response. I simply told him that if facts were in dispute, I wasn’t going to just publish his account. I gave him a choice between getting together with the person who supplied the information he didn’t want to have published and come to an agreement about what had happened and having both sides of the story posted. He opted to do nothing.

Watson alleges other prominent skeptics campaign against protecting women from harassment online and harass women offline. Watson is reluctant to give names as she was told off record but hopes more women will have the courage to go public with complaints. Public complaints help protect other women. [58]

According to Stollzman an independent investigator found some of Stollznow's complaints proved and the harasser, widely named as Radford was suspended. This possibly coincided with a vacation, the affair is a bit mysterious since the independent investigaror's report was kept confidential. [61] Stephanie Zvan thinks Stollznow may not have known when the suspension happened [60] and Adam Lee agrees, he wrote,

—Adam Lee [62]

However, even if it’s true, [that Stollznow mistakenly claimed the suspension was during a vacation] it’s hard to see how Stollznow can be blamed, since by her account she wasn’t allowed to see CFI’s final, official report about the harassment she reported, and had to rely on hearsay about what action was taken. But although outsiders may not know exactly how the harasser was punished, if it was indeed Benjamin Radford (as was widely reported and not denied by Lindsay), then one thing we do know is that he wasn’t fired. (...) [There follows an account by a CFI representative, Lindsay writing someone was fired from CFI for merely bringing a male stripper into the office.] Lindsay cites this as though it makes his position better; but actually, it makes it much, much worse. I say this because of what it reveals about what CFI’s leadership sees as the more serious offense: one instance of bringing a stripper into the office during work hours (admittedly a display of poor judgment) was punished by firing, whereas years of aggressive, unwanted, harassing conduct against one employee by another employee – contact which, in Stollznow’s telling, eventually escalated to direct job-related retaliation and even physical assault – was not deemed to merit ending the harasser’s employment.

Another element of mystery is uncertainty over the dates of a few important emails, Jason Thibeault claims the CFI changed its email provider at a critical time and the dates when those cashed emails were transferred to the new provider may have been mistaken for the dates they were sent. A competent investigator wouldn't have overlooked anything so obvious. [63] The investigator's findings didn't depend only on the emails, we know Joe Anderson also gave significant evidence to the investigator [57] as did Karen herself.

In February 2014 Lindsay wrote:


Here’s the bottom line. All accusations of sexual assault should be treated seriously and investigated thoroughly. There is no a priori justification for treating the accuser with suspicion instead of compassion. The determination of whether a sexual assault actually occurred should be based on the evidence uncovered during the investigation of that case, not on generalizations about the behavior of people derived from other, distinct cases — however prominent or obscure.

Err well???

  1. Was Karen Stollznow treated compassionately? She says the CFI were compassionate at first but later treated her "like a nuisance" and refused to show her the report. [65]
  2. Were Karen Stollznow's accusations investigated thoroughly? Since the report has been kept under wraps we have no means of knowing. Perhaps Lindsay might consider publishing the controversial report so we can see how far he kept to his own standards.

The Ben Radford affair resurfaced in February/March 2014 and continues into April. We don't know yet how it will end but it merits its own section. Radford is suing Karen Stollznow for defamation over her claims that Ben Radford messed with her.

Ben Radford February/March 2014[]

In February 2014 Ben Radford published an article about false accusations of sexual misconduct generally, PZ despises that article and Ronald A. Lindsay, CEO of the CFI criticised the blog of his subordinate. [66] Notably even Ratford admits most accusations are true.

—Ben Radford (February 26, 2014) [67]

Of course, most reports of sexual assault, abduction, and other serious crimes are true. The vast majority of the time when a man says he was carjacked, or a woman says she was assaulted, it really did happen. No one doubts or denies that, and that is part of the reason that victims are believed-as they should be, unless further evidence and investigation reveals that it did not happen.

Ronald A. Lindsay, confirms that false accusations of this nature aren't widespread.


(...) the evidence seems to indicate it is not a widespread problem. For example, a British study last year indicated that there were 35 prosecutions for false accusations of rape during a 17-month period while there were 5,681 prosecutions for rape in the same period of time. The suggestion that false accusations of rape are commonplace does not appear to be supported by the evidence. Moreover, this suggestion can be very harmful if it persuades people that reports of rape should be treated with special suspicion.

In March 2014 Rebecca Watson wrote about Radford trying to bully Karen Stollznow into retracting her accusations.


Last week, [The week before March 27, 2014] Radford posted an unsigned apology and retraction from Stollznow on his Facebook, which Stollznow claims she never agreed to. Now, [March 27, 2014] Stollznow has resolved to fight the defamation suit: she says that Radford attempted to bully her into signing the retraction and settling out of court because she couldn’t afford legal counsel, but now she’s raising money via IndieGoGo. As of this writing, she’s raised more than $23,000 of her $30,000 goal and the page has only been up for a few hours.

Karen Stollzman claimed

—Karen Stollzman [69][70]

I didn't write it, I never agreed to it, I never signed it, and I'm not the liar here.

Matthew Baxter, Karen Stollzman's husband confirms that Stollzman didn't write an apology.

—Matthew Baxter [71][70]

I wrote a joint statement, they morphed it into an apology, said that I worked on it with them, and claimed that @karenstollznow agreed.

PZ Myers was equally scathing.


Radford omits some important points. 1. He wrote the “apology”, not Stollznow. 2. Stollznow did not sign it, but he posted it anyway.

So in February 2014 Radford wrote an article describing false accusations of sexual misconduct as, "chilling and repellent" and continued along similar lines for paragraph after paragraph. [67] (False accusations are indefensible but that says nothing about true accusations.) Then in March 2014 Rebecca Watson claims Ratford tried to pretend Karen Stollznow had retracted her accusations. Did Ratford want people to believe Karen Stollznow.s complaints were, "chilling and repellent" false accusations? How could Karen Stollznow not fight such a serious threat to her reputation? Stollznow had to find the money to fight a court case. [73] One blogger commented


I can’t stand litigious gits who attempt to use the courts to silence those with legitimate complaints against them but who lack sufficient financial standing to defend themselves in court.

Below is Brian Thompson's take on the harassment allegations.

—Former James Randi Educational Foundation Outreach Coordinator Brian Thompson [53][54]

Karen says Radford continually harassed and abused her. She brought the situation to CFI, which found Radford guilty of some of Karen’s charges. Then they let him off with a slap on the wrist. Karen blogged about this. Radford sued her for defamation. Based on the evidence I’ve seen, my own experience with Radford’s dishonest and creepy behavior, and the assurances from friends of mine who know more about this situation than I [Brian Thompson] do, I’m willing to believe Karen. And more than that, I’m willing to put my money behind her efforts to fight back in court. Because she deserves the chance to make her case instead of having to fold under insurmountable financial pressure. Defending yourself in court isn’t cheap.

This is part of what Karen Stollznow writes asking for financial support for her legal defense fund,


I never lied about the harassment I endured and I have evidence and witnesses to attest to my experiences. The only crime I have committed is not being rich enough to defend myself. If you believe in justice and in protecting victims who are bullied into silence, please dig deep and help support this legal fund. I must raise $30,000 in the next two weeks in order to find legal counsel to fight these allegations and clear my own name. If my harasser succeeds in bullying me into silence, it will only serve to embolden harassers, and teach victims that they should never speak up, lest it ruin their lives.

For the full text of the quote above you can go to
Give a Voice to Harassment Victims, A legal fund for sexual harassment victim Karen Stollznow.
Any money raised through this campaign that is not spent on legal expenses will be donated to Colorado's Sexual Assault Victim Advocate Center.[73] So donated money will certainly go to a good cause.

Ben Radford April 2014[]

The two once has a relationship which Karen Stollznow freely admits. He treated her badly and she doesn't want more of his attention. The quote below is useful background to events in April 2014. In August 6, 2013 Karen Stollznow wrote,

—Karen Stollznow[65][59][60]

This man [widely believed to be Radford] is a predator who collects girls of a certain “type”. His targets are chubby, shy, lonely, and insecure, just like I used to be. In the early days I looked up to him and was flattered that he seemed to respect my work. I quickly spotted some red flags but I disregarded them. These became too big to ignore, so I called it all off. (...) [Unwanted attention from the man continued apparently for years] Then came the quid pro quo harassment. He would find opportunities for me within the company and recommend me to television producers, but only if I was nicer to him. One day the company offered me an honorary position that I’d worked hard for, but he warned me that he had the power to thwart that offer. I threatened to complain to his employer, but he bragged that another woman had accused him of sexual harassment previously and her complaints were ignored. According to him, she had been declared “batshit crazy”.

PZ writes other women also knew enough about Radford to know who the accused man was. [75] Radford Ratford harassed Karen Stollznow notably once, he photographed her (or a woman he now claims was her) against that woman's will and published the photo online claiming it is of Karen Stollznow. [76] Since the photo has been online there is confirmation of this harassment. If the photo is of Stollznow this confirms her 2013 account that there were red flags she finally couldn't ignore. [65] If the photo is of a different woman it shows Ratford has form. Regardless of whether the woman is Karen Stollznow the photo shows Ben Ratford abused a woman at least once during a relationship. Abusive relationships can happen to anyone. [77] Establishing precisely when the relationship ended is therefore less significant for establishing harassment or abuse. We know Ben Ratford can behave abusively during a relationship. Is anyone surprised Karen Stollznow no longer consents to any relationship with him? [78]

—Anonymous post at Pharyngula[79]

As others have pointed out, sending details of your relationship to third parties, and posting details of the relationship when you have clearly been asked to stop, seems to me only to be continuing to harass, only in a MUCH more public and therefore less defensible way. He clearly does not understand that asking someone to stop a behaviour is not in anyway negated by the fact that they may have previously been ok with that behaviour. That it doesn’t matter if she engaged with him a minute ago, if she has since indicated she no longer wishes to. Given that she has made that clear, it seems obvious to me that his behaviour continues to be harassment.

—Anonymous post at Pharyngula[80]

Oh, fucking hell. (...) something more sinister still may be at work here. Does Radford have more pictures? We now know (if we didn’t before) that he violates boundaries AND that he likes to take photographic trophies. If he has more, then publishing this one really is sending the message he can still hurt his victim. It could be an outright threat that more are forthcoming if Ms Stollznow doesn’t yield to his intimidation. Fuck.

Jason Thibeault has published his take on the affair, it's a well reasoned analysis periodically updated. See
Radford / Stollznow defamation case: What we know and what we can infer or extrapolate reasonably.

Ben Radford knows quite a bit about people acting without thinking through consequences of their actions.

—Ben Radford (February 26, 2014) [67]

What these cases have in common is that the person making the false report did not think through the consequences of their accusations. In fact this is a recurring theme in false claims of many serious crimes, (...) Of course, this is nothing new; people routinely do things without thinking about their consequences. (...) People routinely make decisions about whether to do countless things, from moving to a new state to dating someone new to running a red light, without thinking about the consequences.
  1. Did Ben Radford think through the consequences of photographing a woman in bed with him against her will? She trusted him and agreed to share a bed with him, he abused that trust. She felt violated the way a victim of sexual assault feels violated, the photo clearly showed her discomfort before it was taken down. Ben Radford looked smug. "My god. What a revolting narcissistic scumbag." (PZ) [76]
  2. Did Ben Radford think through the consequences for Karen Stollznow of publishing the photo claiming it was of her? The woman faces the near certainty of slut shaming while people typically feel the man, 'made a conquest' and 'is successful with women'. The notorious double standard means a woman faces far more serious consequences if a sexually compromising photo of her is published. [81] Or one appearing to be of her.
  3. Did Ben Radford think through the consequences for himself of publishing that photo? That publication was clearly abusive as is the photo. Now few doubt he's at least partly to blame.

Ben Radford should understand about not thinking through the consequences of actions. He does it himself.

On April 9, 2014 Ben Radford formally started legal proceedings against Karen Stollznow. [82]

As of April 2014 there were a great many accusations and counter accusations on both sides, Jason Thibeault didn't and doesn't think it's all cut and dried and won't assume without evidence that Karen is a saint. [63]

  1. At the start it appeared Karen Stollznow wouldn't have the finance to defend herself effectively.
  2. Later thanks to generous support Karen could fight this on more equal terms.

In March 2014 premature publication of an alleged statement from Karen Stollznow broke off negotiations.

The case was formally ended in 2015 and is unlikely to resurface. Those who contributed to Karen's defence fund have done a huge service freeing Karen from the nightmare of an unequal court battle with with a better funded opponent or at least reducing the threat to her. [83]

  1. We know Ratford harassed Karen Stollznow at least once. People have seen and commented on the photograph taken of (Stollznow/another woman) against her will and published as a photo of Stollznow. I saw the photo before it was taken down, I agree with PZ and others that taking the photo and publishing it were both harassing.
  2. We know there are other witnesses, some willing to give their names who confirmed harassment. The photo makes the testimony of those witnesses more credible whether testimony is given in court or online.
  3. We know an independent investigator hired by the CFI claims he found evidence of harassment.
  4. We don't know what proportion of Karen Stollznow's accusations could have been proved.

Karen Stollznow's legal defense fund collected just over $60,000. [73]

May 2014[]

Astronomers aren't always shining examples of down to earth social skills and social consideration. PZ Myers highlights complaints of long standing sexual harassment in one astronomy department, the complaints involve very many astronomy men from the professor downwards. [84] There are more nauseating allegations in Fed Up with Sexual Harassment: Guest Post By Dara Norman.

September 2014[]

James Randi admitted a problem with Michael Shermer.

Shermer has been a bad boy on occasion — I do know that, I have told him that if I get many more complaints from people I have reason to believe, that I am going to have to limit his attendance at the conference. His [Shermer's]] reply is he had a bit too much to drink and he doesn’t remember. I don’t know — I’ve never been drunk in my life. It’s an unfortunate thing… I haven’t seen him doing that. But I get the word from people in the organization that he has to be under better control. If he had gotten violent, I’d have him out of there immediately. I’ve just heard that he misbehaved himself with the women, which I guess is what men do when they are drunk. (James Randi [85][86]

Adam Lee wonders why Randi did not act after multiple complaints.

This isn’t some innocent misunderstanding of the situation; Randi had been told by multiple people that Shermer had done something blameworthy, and he believed them. (He warned about what would happen if he got “more” complaints from “people I have reason to believe” – implying that he already had some.) He doesn’t even have the slender reed of an excuse that he didn’t think the complaints were credible. But because he didn’t have reports that Shermer had done anything “violent”, he dismisses it with a “ho ho ho, boys will be boys, what do you expect when people are drinking” attitude. [85]

Lee also accuses many in the skeptical community including Jerry Coyne and Richard Dawkins failing to speak out. Coyne is further accused of banning those who tried to raise the issue from his discussion forum. [85] These accusations against people many in the skeptical community respect are saddening.

What I’m most incredulous about is how many prominent atheist figures are still clueless and oblivious when it comes to feminism (...). Just the other day, Sam Harris became the latest atheist personality to explain the gender imbalance in skepticism by suggesting that it’s “to some degree intrinsically male” (just like when, oh yeah, Michael Shermer said that skepticism was “a guy thing“). Guys, the answer you’re looking for is right in front of your faces. If atheism has a gender imbalance, it’s not for mysterious reasons involving the effects of testosterone on the neocortex. It’s because the atheist community is treating women badly – because you are treating them badly – and they’re making the rational and understandable decision to walk away in response. (Adam Lee) [86]

Shermer tried to defend himself against the rape charge but contradicted himself so much PZ has no confidence in what he wrote.

It’s always the changing story that gives the liar away. We have a couple of accounts of the night in question, when Michael Shermer is accused of taking advantage of a young woman at a conference, and both of them come straight from Shermer himself. [87]


Ben Radford posted a joint statement with Karen Stollznow on twitter, and said that his antidefamation suit has been resolved.

PZ commented:

I don’t apologize for being correct in characterizing Radford as a terrible human being, and the fact that he spent, by one estimate, over $100K on an attack dog lawyer to browbeat Stollznow and her husband into signing a piece of paper on pain of ruining her life further does not suddenly make him a good person, but only confirms that, as I stated, he’s a world-class asshole. Really, on what planet does compelling a woman to sign a legal document denying previous accusations on the day she’s scheduled to go into a clinic for induced labor somehow affirm that I was mistaken in all of my previous impressions of the guy? It makes him a small-minded cartoon villain on top of all the unpleasant things about him. That he’s smart enough to work the legal system does not change the fact that he’s a leaky sack of shit. [88]

Jason Thibeau commented:

Never mind that this is effectively a claim that Radford took pictures of himself and Stollznow while having sex, evidently with Stollznow being less than willing to participate in the photography, and that he’s now holding that over her to threaten to show it to the courts. (...) Even without any other context around this, that’s incredibly fucked up and probably illegal, since I’m sure that among his evidence he doesn’t also have a modelling release form allowing him to show these pictures publicly.[63]

Stephanie Zvan commented;

[I] do, in fact, think that Ben Radford did quite an adequate job after the accusation was made of demonstrating that he has serious issues with how he is willing to treat people. [89]

Thibeau again:

Stollznow signing a retraction means she signed a retraction — it doesn’t actually speak to the truth or falsity of the original claim, which we will frankly never know. (...) It means that the joint statement was a term for their out of court settlement, and the exact wording was negotiated, and its signature was Radford’s price for making the whole thing go away, but that’s about all it means. It is also odd in its timing, because it apparently came out on the exact same day that Karen was scheduled to have her labor induced and/or C-section done. It implies to me that she just wanted to get this over with so she could move on. (...) Why would anyone use the construction of “it would be wrong for anyone to believe” rather than “he did not”? [63]

Adam Lee:

The legal system is, at best, an imperfect tool for finding truth. When Stollznow asked for help for her legal fund, the secular community came through magnificently, but even the large sum she raised was only enough to begin putting together a defense. Prolonged court cases can easily run into the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, and if the two sides have unequal resources, one person can wear the other down through the sheer expense and exhaustion of protracted litigation. I don’t have any inside information, but I’d bet something like this is what happened (in fact, I predicted as much). This is especially true since, as Stollznow has said on social media, she was in the midst of a high-risk pregnancy. That’s an extremely stressful situation where any person would be tempted just to sign a piece of paper and make the case go away so as to have one less thing to worry about. [90]

I'm a small bit player in all this but when a great deal was happening I provided frequent updates. Nothing happened for over a year and frankly This new development escaped my radar for a long time. I was busy with other things.


Ronald Lindsay of the CFI who has been Accused of trying to silence allegations of sexual harassment is retiring and Robyn Blumner is replacing him as head of a larger merged organisation. [91] In February 2016 PZ Myers who isn't consistently noted for his Tact set about Criticising her. Please give Robyn a chance to work at sorting out problems in Lindsay's former organisation. If she faces criticism regardless of what she does that could just lead to defensiveness.

What to do?[]

We should be better than those who do wrong in the name of religion.
We should learn from the Roman Catholic child abuse scandal. Covering up the problem just made it worse, priests tempted to harm children had little incentive to exercise self control and men tempted to harm children had little incentive to avoid the priesthood. Then when finally the scandal couldn't be contained a great many high ranking Roman Catholics who weren't themselves child molesters were blamed (rightly) for allowing abuse to continue.

We shouldn't allow abuse of adult women, in the same way the Roman Catholics shouldn't have allowed child abuse.

  1. We can't prevent it that there are allegations about serious abuse of women in our organisations though we don't yet know what proportion of allegations are true.
  2. We can avoid being complicit in abuse and can avoid sweeping allegations of serious abuse under the carpet.


A note to those who say they oppose sexism and misogyny in the atheist-skeptical movement, by Pharyngula regular SC (Salty Current), summarizes some common responses to the discussion of sexism and misogyny.


  1. Massimo Piglucci, a parliamentarian within the URE, named these affairs the Misogyny Wars. Piglucci believes some but not all in the atheist-skeptic movement have difficulties over women. Piglucci called for fair and objective policies, that complaints should be investigated rationally without assuming one side or the other is automatically correct. Piglucci believes conference organizers have a responisbility to do the necessary work that thorough investigation involves. Piglucci condemned clear harassment but claims it's sometimes hard to tell borderline harassment from acceptable flirtation. Piglucci hoped for sensible middle of the road policies which neither forced women to put up with unpleasantness nor left men continually fearful about breaking vauge and ever shifting rules. The misogyny wars
  2. Conferences are venues where people from different communities, and different cultural standards get together. At international conferences people from different national cultures interact as well. Inevitably the participants at conferences have different standards over acceptable behavior/behaviour. Conference participants typically have to negotiate these differences when their judgement is impaired after drinking. There is no clear way of dealing with borderline harassment, for example a case was cited where plain clothed security personnel intervened after a man glanced at a woman's cleavage and she indicated she didn't like it. The woman felt well able to deal with the situation herself and found the security intervention intrusive. [1] In a similar situation the woman may be, for example a recent atheist convert from a Bible Belt Christian community. She may be unfamiliar with bars and bar culture and may welcome protection by security personnel after even minor pushing against her boundaries. Security personnel must negotiate difficult social situations and try to avoid overreacting or failing to protect vulnerable people. A man who does nothing worse than glance briefly at a woman's cleavage should get a sensitive explanation from security that not all women like that sort of thing and that if he wants to stay at the conference he shouldn't continue. A man who does nothing worse shouldn't be treated like a brute unless there have been previous complaints against him at the current conference or at previous conferences. We don't know if there had been previous complaints in the example cited. There will be times when there is no perfect solution and fallible human beings can only try to minisise harm.
  3. Goodbye for now
  4. Fools fail, f*ck their own sh*t up
  5. Atheists should have good rules for behavior
  6. What can I do over the Shermer issue? I know even less than PZ does about these allegations. I can't say what happened one way or the other, I'm just reporting what I've read notably from Pharyngula and other FreethoughtBlogs.
  7. Please note that 73.6% of all stats are made up. Fake rape? False Rape Allegations Rare, But 'Damaging Myths' Harm Real Rape Victims, Says CPS' Keir StarmerHow Often Do Women Falsely Cry Rape?
  8. I Am a False Rape Allegation Statistic
  9. One Reason Why False Rape Allegation Statistics Are So High
  10. Taxi sex attacks: John Worboys' victims win payout bid This is unconnected with Michael Shermer but it shows the unnecessary stress police can put onto rape victims.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Michael Shermer: Rapist or Sleaze?
  12. Opting Out
  13. 13.0 13.1 Rape jokes and Reputations
  14. The web of trust: Why I believe Shermer’s accusers
  15. Shermer Speaks
  16. Mark Felt a.k.a "Deep Throat"
  17. False Allegations of Sexual Assualt: An Analysis of Ten Years of Reported Cases
  18. 18.0 18.1 Michael Shermer Legal Fund
  19. Michael Shermer accused of sexual harassment against women by Brian Thompson, former employee of the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF)
  20. Blaming the Victim
  21. 21.0 21.1 Michael Shermer Legal Fund
  22. Michael Shermer’s Note on the Legal Fund
  23. Towards a Science of Morality
  24. The Ask-First Principle: How to Tell Right from Wrong
  25. Shermer Sends Cease and Desist Letter to PZ
  26. Gregory Greenwood
  27. I’m Just a Member of the Community
  28. Will Misogyny Bring Down The Atheist Movement?
  29. Last word for now
  30. John W. Loftus
  31. 31.0 31.1 More foot-gunning in the Shermer debacle
  32. Demand for Cease and Desist and for Retraction
  33. Ace of Sevens
  34. Painfully close to the truth
  35. Processing: The Sexual Harassment And Abuse Floodgates In General… And CFI In Particular (UPDATED AND CORRECTED)
  36. PZ Myers and false rape accusations
  37. He clearly has a legitimate, vested interest
  38. Getting to Know My Critics: Cecil Fuson, Sex Offender
  39. Against – against against against
  40. The sexual harassment floodgate has opened, and I add my own trickle
  41. DJ and Me
  42. D.J. Grothe threatening legal action against WTinc
  43. A vaccination survey
  44. Oh, those secular ethics
  45. More names are named.
  46. Do better. Please just do better.
  47. Gossip & scandal galore in science blogging
  48. Roots and bitters
  49. Missteps on the road back
  50. [2]
  51. The assault always happens twice
  52. Carrie Poppy and the Nay-Sayers
  53. 53.0 53.1 When will this situation improve?From former JREF Outreach Coordinator Brian Thompson
  54. 54.0 54.1 54.2 Radford / Stollznow defamation case: What we know and what we can infer or extrapolate reasonably
  55. Here the focus is on what PZ Myers, the Pharyngulites and other supporters write, readers wanting the other side should look elsewhere.
  56. Carrie Poppy tells all
  57. 57.0 57.1 Shame on you Ben
  58. 58.0 58.1 Ben Radford Accused of Sexual Harassment
  59. 59.0 59.1 Two prominent skeptic women share stories of sexual harassment and assault
  60. 60.0 60.1 60.2 What Is Not in Dispute
  61. Ben Radford and CFI: A point of contention
  62. That Was the Wrong Answer, CFI
  63. 63.0 63.1 63.2 63.3 Radford / Stollznow defamation case: What we know and what we can infer or extrapolate reasonably
  64. 64.0 64.1 Evidence-Based Reasoning: Comments on a Blog Post This is a comment on Radford's blog post (February 26, 2014)
  65. 65.0 65.1 65.2 I’m Sick of Talking about Sexual Harassment
  66. The chupacabra beat must be a valuable and difficult one
  67. 67.0 67.1 67.2 The Anatomy of False Accusations: A Skeptical Case Study
  68. He Said, She Said, He Sues: The Ongoing Saga of Ben Radford & Karen Stollznow
  69. Stollznow
  70. 70.0 70.1 “I didn’t write it, I never agreed to it, I never signed it”: The Supposed Karen Stollznow Apology
  71. Baxter
  72. Blogpost by PZ
  73. 73.0 73.1 73.2 73.3 Give a Voice to Harassment Victims, A legal fund for sexual harassment victim Karen Stollznow.
  74. blog on life, laughs, science, progressive politics and foiling diabolical masterminds
  75. No, it could never happen to her!
  76. 76.0 76.1 Jesus F. Christ.
  77. What is relationship abuse?
  78. Someone else called him, "Radscum". [3]
  79. [4]
  80. [5]
  81. This is how slut-shaming works
  82. Radford v. Stollznow
  83. “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.” Confucius said.
  84. Women in…
  85. 85.0 85.1 85.2 The Wall of Silence Around Michael Shermer
  86. 86.0 86.1 The Shermer Affair Erupts
  87. The crooked, twisted story of the wanton kid
  88. I sincerely concede that Ben Radford is a litigious jerk
  89. For the Record
  90. If You Promote a Story That Turns Out to Be False, Don’t You Have an Obligation to Correct It?
  91. Richard Dawkins Foundation to Merge with Center For Inquiry; RDF President Robyn Blumner Named CEO

Adapted from Pharyngula Wiki where I wrote a large part but not all