The Lower Brain: Surprise Monsters


I don’t know why this Chris Hardwick thing has hit me so much harder than Jeffrey Tambor, Louis CK, etc. It’s not like I liked them any less than I did Chris. But it has really thrown me. When I’m a fan of something or someone, I’m really dedicated and enthusiastic. By way of context, if it matters, I’m gay and in my thirties. Now I’m struggling with the question of how I can continue to like things (made by men) and people (who are men) when so many of them seem to be surprise monsters. And how can I trust the men I think I know in my personal life to be the kind of people with whom I wish to surround myself? Are they all secret predators? 

– Suddenly Freaked Out By Dudes 

Dear SFOBD:

Indeed, there are plenty of #MeToo-era men accused of abuse. But maybe you identified with Hardwick more than the others because you’re into geek stuff, or you’re sort of around the same age (I believe he’s in his late forties). And I’m not here to make assumptions about the veracity of the claims against him. I’m here to acknowledge that even reading allegations (rather than criminal charges, or a lawsuit) against a favorite creator is rough.

I think there are three reasons for this. One: if the allegations turn out to be true, it means a powerful man used that power to hurt people. Two: if the allegations turn out to be true, it means we devoted time, energy, and even money to supporting somebody who sucks. And three: whether or not the allegations are true, these moments remind us that we don’t really know these people.

I’m not a guy, but I imagine that if you are, and if most of your role models are famous guys, and if many of those famous guys are revealed to be dicks or at least are accused of being dicks, it’s probably pretty disheartening. And in my experience – what I’ve personally lived and what I’ve witnessed – we gals don’t typically speak up about this shit unless it’s true.

Now, there are indeed some people who lie about this stuff for attention or money. And that enrages me, because every one of those rare but shitty instances serves to detract from the real-deal cases of women who’ve been terribly hurt.

When it comes to this stuff, I tend to believe other women, or at least be open to what they have to say and look at the context and wait to hear more information before jumping to a conclusion. I don’t often dismiss a woman’s claim outright.

Here’s why: we aren’t often rewarded for speaking up about abuse. In fact, quite the opposite. We lose money, we lose jobs, we lose friends, or we lose faith in those we consider to be pals. The people on the Internet who say “You’re so brave” and “Thank you” and “You helped me face my fears?” They’re great. The occasional kindly press coverage? Very nice. Helpful to others, surely. But those people aren’t generally in a hiring position. So we appreciate the accolades and approval for being forthright about tough stuff. But that doesn’t enhance our economic situation. And being open about this stuff can hurt our social life, our family life, and more.

I’ve never publicly identified the guy who hit me when we were dating. One reason is he’s the co-host of a hugely popular podcast and I don’t want to deal with his fans losing their shit on me. I get enough rape and death threats just for being a woman on the Internet who expresses her opinions. For now, it’s enough to have dealt with that abuse in therapy, to have written about it without using his name, and to speak about it privately to friends. Trust me, any mutual friends we had stayed his friends, because most guys don’t actually give a fuck and wouldn’t inconvenience themselves over a woman’s pain. A couple of them looked at me sympathetically and said, “Yeah, he’s really fucked up, I’m so sorry he did that to you.” And then they went and got drunk with him whenever they felt like it. I’m sure some of them introduced him to women he’d go on to fuck or date. Fun times.

A friend reached out to me late last year to ask if I believed abuse allegations she’d heard against him. I said I did, and I told her why. She hadn’t known about what he did to me. I also explained another reason I’ve never publicly identified him: I kept dating him after the fact. I was embarrassed that I “let” him hit me, I was ashamed, I figured it only happened once so why make a big deal of it, and I really wanted him to like me. The grossest part is that this guy, who was never my boyfriend and refused to commit, grew enraged during a drunken blackout because he found out I’d slept with somebody who wasn’t white. He smacked me and then wouldn’t let me leave. I feel lucky nothing worse happened.

A lot of women stick with assholes like that because we are conditioned to think it’s our fault. I wasn’t benefiting in any way from dating this guy – I was buying dinners. I was buying drinks. He didn’t have any money at the time. But I thought he was very handsome and kind of funny, and that I was lucky he paid any attention to me. He would say things like, “If you were the same weight and just five inches taller, you’d be perfect.” You know, cute stuff like that.

Anyway, I really admire women who come forward about the physical abuse, emotional abuse, and sexual assault they’ve experienced. I’ve undergone a fraction of what some of these women are talking about, and I am mightily impressed by their strength and openness. And I really understand how disheartening it is to find out that one of your role models might be a piece of shit. Or even to contemplate it.

You’re just going to have to trust that your friends are good people, I guess. You won’t know a guy does this unless a woman tells you or he tells you. And he probably ain’t gonna tell you.

Most men who abuse women don’t do it in front of other men. They especially don’t do it in front of good men. A lot of abusers seem to desperately crave the approval of other men. I don’t know why. In addition, many of them talk a good game about caring about women, respecting women, and all that stuff.  That’s easier for me to understand – they want to hide behind a “good guy” façade.

Let’s remember this is a spectrum – a Weinstein type is not the exact same man as a Cosby who is not the exact same man as a Tambor and so on and so forth. There is room for nuance here. There is room for context. There is also room – plenty of it – for justice of the legal and moral sort.

What I’m trying to do here is to illuminate why this recent media coverage may have bothered you more – as well as what it’s like to actually be a woman in an abusive relationship with a man. You’re a man who dates men, and there is plenty of abuse in that community as well, and I really hope you never have to deal with any of it personally.

Thanks for reaching out. I know I rambled a bit in this one, but this is particularly tough subject matter, and while I’ve written a lot on various topics, this one is still a little tender for me. I hope it helped.

 

 

If you have a question and need some advice, email Sara at prettydecentadvice@gmail.com



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