*Please read the full post before commenting and TW: sexual assault*
Since I was a toddler, I was used to sexual harassment and assault. I knew it felt wrong, but I didn’t know it was wrong for a good long time. I’ve been molested, raped, assaulted by friends of the family, and still to this day, I’ve had men attempt to take advantage of me.
I want to start this off with an experience I recently had before going into the very serious issue that is predators in the writing community. Grab a cup of Joe or whatever your favorite beverage is because this is a long one:
Most recently, a writer, whom I assumed was reaching out for friendship or networking purposes, trapped me in a call where I felt my survival instincts kick in: play along until I can escape.
After the call ended, I felt like I had just dodged another narcissist. Used and manipulated, just like after every moment of abuse in my life. Between the family friends, my main abuser of years who now pretends he has a brain injury and doesn’t remember anything, and feeling like my sanctuary of like-minded friends has been infiltrated by the monsters and villains we write about, I feel defeated.
I know that sexual harassment happens everywhere. Believe me, I feel like I’ve had a target on my head since birth and every sick, twisted man sees it, saying, “Oh there’s my prey,”. But when it comes to the writing community, a community I’ve felt so safe in until recently, it’s disparaging to say the least.
This man, who we’ll call Michael (that’s not his name, mind you), saw me and my very open tweets about sex and my experiences, and thought he’d shoot his shot. Except I didn’t know that’s what he was doing (the initial conversation was seemingly platonic) until halfway through our friendly call, when he turned the conversation sexual and my instinct kicked in.
That instinct is literally for my survival and has been for the past couple decades. The one time I remember fighting someone off (who I thought was a friend) was the most traumatic moment of my life and just in the last couple of years, I stopped having nightmares about it.
The next day, I had already muted him so when I went into my app and saw his unopened messages, I almost didn’t want to open them, but I knew I had to bite the bullet. I told him bluntly that I was not interested. I knew he would do that narcissistic shit that so many men have done in the past to try and guilt trip me, and he did. So I blocked him, then I went to Twitter and blocked him there too.
Just yesterday something in me told me to check his page (I blame mercury retrograde), and I saw he was preying on another girl, younger than me. With Evan Rachel Wood coming out with her abuser’s name (Brian Warner, aka Marilyn Manson) and sharing the public stories of his four other victims, I have to wonder if my own experience with Michael isn’t a case of social responsibility.
But that’s also where my victim guilt weighs me down. Throughout my life, and until just last year, I always thought: this is my fault, I put myself in this position. With my eyes opening more and more to the language being used by predators, especially those who try to slowly cage their victims, I feel less like its my fault and more like they knew what they were doing all along. No one blames a four-year old for being sexually assaulted, do they? At four years old, I didn’t put myself in that position. It’s no different when at 22 years old, my friend tried to rape me while I was drunk and could barely fight him off.
Not just that, but I’ve gotten DMs since then with men reaching out (despite me tweeting about not being interested, being picky, don’t shoot your shot with me). I’m so used to the manipulation that I’ve gotten familiar with the linguistics of it.
In terms of this being a community problem: it absolutely is. If you look into the alt-lit genre, there are plenty of cases of misconduct, even rape: Janey Smith, Tao Lin, Stephen Tully Diercks, and even Steven Michael McDowell is a self-admitted predator.
This type of behavior doesn’t often see the public (and women are still afraid to come forward, understandably so), since so many of these writers, in my experience, reach out in private DMs, sometimes with the ploy of networking and other times under the guise of lending a supportive shoulder. When opportunity or vulnerability strikes, they pounce.
This isn’t an “all men are predators” post either, and if you’re a man reading this feeling personally attacked, either you aren’t reading or you’re doing exactly what I’m talking about.
To the men who wear their armor in defense of those of us that often times feel like prey, thank you.