We all want to think of ourselves as good people. Even when we are imperfect, and have done wrong, and been ‘pushy’ or ‘handsy’ with women. Or we used to drink too much, and maybe some of our memories of the way things went down differ from the other people involved. And, you know, times are changing. Even two or three years ago, before #metoo really picked up momentum, things were different between men and women. Never mind how things were back at the millenium’s turn, or, god help us all, the ’80s and ’90s, when rape culture was, well, culture.
But here we are.
Now, before I go any further, I want you to know that I believe you when you say #metoo has opened your eyes, and that you’re trying to do better, trying to make changes internally while also making noise to help make changes in the external world. I think it’s good you’re engaging, and I hope you find a good way to continue.
But I also believe the women in this KUOW article. And I think you should, too.
I know your memories don’t jibe. And some of them have stayed ‘friends’ with you since. Which must seem weird to you, since I’m sure if someone did to you what you did to them, you probably wouldn’t have anything to do with that person ever again. I’m also betting no one ever has done something like that to you. So maybe you wouldn’t do what you think you would do. I didn’t. But, you know, it’s not really that weird you might misremember or have forgotten something, considering the way alcohol flows through most of these stories, and how tricky memory is even when everything’s working the way it should. And staying friendly (or even actual, like, friends) with people who’ve assaulted you or even just been really shady about sex stuff is something women have been doing for, like, ever. Especially when it involves someone with your footprint. Even if it’s just going along to get along instead of, say, abject fear you might use your significant influence and power to quash them. For my own part, when I first starting coming to terms with this gender relations sea change we’re in, I wrote this confession (Serious Trigger Warning for Survivors of Sexual Assault). About a year after, a friend from college — a close friend, who I hooked up with once — asked if she was one of the people I was writing about. To my deep shame and chagrin, she was not. And we actually were (and, I believe, still are) friends.
But that’s not the real reason I think you should take these five women at their word, whatever your memories, or the stories you’ve told yourself about yourself, or them.
You know, it’s, not funny, but ironic that what set all this in motion (aside from the actual incidents) was your facebook post about how seriously you took the #metoo movement. Which I read (hell, I may even have been one of your 200-odd likes) and which seems to have pissed off at least one or two of the women you damaged. You admitted you are a deeply flawed man, and committed to taking #metoo seriously, and to trying to make the world a better place to be a woman in. Which is all very laudable as far as it goes.
But you didn’t really own up, did you? You copped to being flawed and in need of improvement, but you were shocked when your business acquaintance told you her version of what happened between you, which wasn’t the first time someone had told you you raped them. And, sure, the prosecutor declined to charge in ’07. But you treat that like an exoneration, when the woman on the other side of the equation ended up with night terrors, and panic attacks, and lost her career over it. And attempted suicide.
And that’s the thing, man. Even now, you’re so much more concerned with yourself, and your image, than you are with the damage you’ve done. However you choose to define what happened, whatever you can live with calling it, you haven’t owned up to the fact that you caused damage to other human beings, in an intimate, trust-destroying way. I mean, shit, man, you texted your business acquaintance and asked her to meet you, her attacker, so that you could sort shit out and, I don’t know, ask forgiveness? Make amends? And look, making amends is great. If she wants it. If she can handle it.
If she consents to it.
If she doesn’t, actively and ongoing-ly, for all you know you’re just traumatizing her all over again. It’s like the old intent vs impact thing: you step on someone’s toe. You didn’t mean to do it. But it still fucking hurts, and you still fucking did it.
And look. There’s no moral high horse here. I also was raised in the miasma of rape culture. I too have done wrong (again, trigger warning for survivors). But I also copped to it. I accepted, as best as I was able, the impact of what I chose to do. That’s why I’m writing this open letter. Because I know that secrets and guilt and telling lies to yourself about who you are and what you’ve done carries a cost. It weighs you down. It prevents you from having a genuinely authentic relationship with the women in your life. It prevents you from having an authentic relationship with yourself. Worse, it makes it likelier you will hurt people again, because you yourself are hurting, and misery begets cruelty as sure as the sun sets in the west.
I’m still finding my way forward. Still figuring out how to live and act without thinking of myself as a good person. Mostly I have given up trying to be good, and just work on trying to do good. I believe women when they tell their stories. I back them up when they need it. I let them take the lead.
And I do shit like this, where I use my masculinity and privilege to try and make the world a better place. You know, just like you say you want to.