As the Globe Falls

I was so conscious of my deliberation the first time I used “swear” words that I have an indelible memory of it.  I was likely about six-years old.  Someone had given me one of those wonderful globes with a scene inside.  When you held the globe (made of glass in those days) upside down, snow filled it and covered the delicious little house and garden inside.

I loved that little globe.  One day, while watching the snow fall,  I dropped the globe and it smashed on the floor, leaving a pool of water filled with gloppy white stuff and a shattered, imaginary world.

I had no one to blame.  No one but god who, I thought in that moment, was the only “person” who could have saved the globe.  And didn’t.  The problem of theodicy, right there in my little-girl bedroom.  All my childlike anger at the injustices of the world  became concentrated on that mucky pool of liquid.

In some ways, only in some ways, I had led a remarkably sheltered life.  My mother occasionally said “damn” and always apologized.  I knew there were “bad words” but I knew very few of them.  I had been taught that both my anger itself and expressions of it were “bad”.  And I was a little Catholic girl, sent off to catechism classes regularly.  I knew my ten commandments and was imaginative to boot.  I believed god fully capable of striking blasphemers dead on the spot.

Through some unclear collision of all those factors, I was quite sure that the absolute most rebellious and risky expression of my anger was to swear at god. 

“Shit bugger damn you, god,” is what I said to my empty bedroom.  Empty but for my god.

Then I waited to be struck dead, half in fear, but with a good deal of curiosity. Clearly, the seeds of doubt had already been sown.  Nothing happened, of course, nothing but the thrill of having transgressed in a way that was both almost unthinkable and absolutely private.

I never confessed to having taken the name of the lord in vain and I had my first experiece of doubting his existence because of his failure to take his revenge.

Ironic, isn’t it?  My faith was threatened because of the failure of this vengeful, not-very-Xian god to exert control over a member of his flock.  Some years later, when trying to reconcile all the lies I’d been told by my religion and about my religion, it occurred to me for the first time that god may have forgiven me for my pretty harmless outburst of anger, even though I’d asked for no forgiveness.  Or maybe even that god didn’t consider expressions of anger with no victim worth his notice.

My theories of life and the universe don’t now include the conversations that god might be having with himself.  I’m sure all the theologians out there are greatly relieved.

Still, perhaps because of the ways my brain was washed, perhaps for reasons that I know not of, I still think of myself as having been the recipient of “grace” that day.  I expressed my anger and no harm came of it.  Not even to me.  Or maybe no harm came because of the way I expressed it.  That experience did contribute to the formation of either superego or conscience, depending on how you choose to see it.

I’ve been wondering lately about the anger that gets tossed around by bloggers all over the sphere, including myself.  I’ve been wondering that perhaps especially since Jim David Adkisson killed two people and wounded others at TVUUC, quite possibly after reading and listening to people such as Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter.

I wonder it when I think about how I want to respond to the now famous “pro-feminist” blogger, Kyle Payne, who recently said, among other things, this:

While caring for the female student, I felt a sudden impulse to expose her breast. Not knowing how to deal with this feeling at the time – and to put it more clearly, not knowing how to make sense of such an urge, given my personal values and my politics – I acted upon it. With a digital camera I kept with me regularly, I briefly photographed and took a few seconds of video of the woman’s breast. She did not consent to this act, nor did she have any knowledge of it at the time. This event ended as quickly as it began, leaving me in a state of disbelief at what I had done.

Something that Hugo Schwyzer said in response to the TVUUC shootings comes to mind as I try to decide on my response:

Those of us who speak publicly or prophetically have a moral obligation to think about how the least balanced of our students, the least well-equipped of our followers, the least stable of our adherents might respond to what it is we say in anger. That doesn’t mean never speaking out against what we regard as sinful or destructive. I’m still going to lament the grave harm done by vivisection, factory farming, and the adult entertainiment industry. But I’m reminded by this incident of the challenge to be grace-filled, and of the challenge to avoid causing others to stumble. Someone — or a whole lot of someones — convinced Jim Adkisson that liberal Unitarians were deserving not only of his wrath, but of destruction. Though the legal punishment should fall on Adkisson alone, the moral culpability for his action is, I think, far more widely shared.

These comments moved me and I thought, with some guilt, of the instances on this blog when I’ve indulged my anger in not very constructive ways.  I think of these words now, when I examine my response to Kyle Payne.  I want to write an adult version of “shit bugger damn you, god”, whatever that might be.  Yet I think that’s unhelpful.  Not with respect to Payne, whose well-being is not in my hands.  It doesn’t help me.  And it doesn’t help anyone who reads what I write.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe that Payne needs to be called out and held accountable, not only for what he’s done, but for what he continues to do by writing this self-serving crap.  Many people have called Payne out on their blogs and I trust they’ll continue to do so as long as he’s around.  Pretty clear he’s dangerous.

But there’s an awful lot of ad hominem stuff too.  It might seem rather odd that I’d make that point about someone who has done so much to attract that kind of attention.  But it does us no harm to step back and look at the issues for at least a tiny moment.

I’m not going to cover the issue of men being “feminists” because I actually think it’s the least important of all. 

I want to try to respond to this:

As I have undergone a full psychological evaluation and begun a treatment program for various mental health issues, I am learning more and more each day about what factors led me to commit the act I have described. My experiences of child sexual abuse have produced a great deal of unresolved anger, primarily because I was unable to obtain necessary support during that period and have since worked very hard to repress those memories. That unresolved anger at the injustice and violation done to me is what led me initially to anti-rape work as a rape crisis advocate when I started college. I felt that helping others might allow me to find some sort of peace with what happened to me. Being an advocate did help me to better understand the socio-political context of my experiences of abuse, particularly as I began reading feminist theory. However, because I concentrated my energy solely on an advocacy role for others, rather than addressing my own experiences of abuse, nothing got better. In fact, things got much worse.

Where to start?  Let’s try this:  it’s very difficult to believe Payne at this point.  He has, in the recent past, denied the charges against him.  Apart from that, the man lived a lie in professing to be an advocate for women when he was using women and his self-description as a feminist to further his own predatory desires.  It’s always really hard for me to believe that the only criminal activity a person has engaged in is that for which he’s been charged.  I am fairly sure that only the tip of Payne’s iceberg is being dealt with.

And he was so focussed on advocating for others that he forgot about his own pain?  Gimme a break.  While therapists who don’t attend to themselves often burn out, they don’t sexually assault their clients while they’re doing it.  What a wonderful excuse.  I was so busy looking after that woman, I accidentally assaulted her.

But, putting my suspicions aside just for a moment, how ought Payne to be dealt with if he is telling the truth about his sexual abuse as a child?  He wonders how he might be re-admitted to the hallowed halls of feminism and even to work as a counsellor.  Here’s how one blogger responds:

Listen, you fucking moron asshole, YOU VIOLATED that woman. Period. End game. Who is to blame? YOU! Got it, jerk? YOU. I hope to ALL that is sane or holy YOU pay for it. You have NO place in feminist spaces, no place where victimized women might be, no place speaking for or with us, you stain. YOU are a predator, got it?

To that I can only say, right on.  Why?  Because Kyle Payne doesn’t get it.  And, since he still doesn’t seem able to truly contemplate the damage he has done and focuses only on himself and the ways in which his own predatory behaviour is related to sexual violence done to him, I’d have to say he hasn’t even begun.

In any case, no one who has abused the trust of vulnerable women by abusing their position ought ever to be placed in that position again, no matter what, and no matter the success of his “treatment”.  That conclusion is not based upon my wish to impose punishment on Mr. Payne, that decision is based on an absolute need for commitment to prevent this particular perpetrator from abusing the trust of someone else, based on his position. 

It’s also based on empirical data [pdf].  For instance: 

On average, sexual offenders who received treatment were less likely to reoffend than offenders who did not receive treatment. Not all treatments were equally effective. Treatments provided prior to 1980 appeared to have little effect. In contrast, current treatments were associated with a significant reduction in both sexual recidivism (from 17% to 10%) and general recidivism (51% to 32%).

That’s a reduction in recidivism.  As long as there exists a possibility that a person such as Payne will re-offend, such a person should never be placed in a position of trust with respect to women or children.  Period.  Absolutely period.  To do so would be criminally negligent.

Contrary to popular opinion, rates of recidivism  [pfd] for sexual offenders are lower than for other crimes (at least, rates of those charged and convicted).  But some people, like me, think that may mean that the most effective “treament” is catching offenders and punishing them according to law.  The reason I think that may work is because it interferes with the belief, common to sex offenders, that they are above or beyond the law, that they are acting in some private realm of shame and shaming.  Once they become aware that their actions may be subject to public exposure and reproach, they quit, as the results are unsatisfactory.  The power and control are gone.  And it’s the power and control that are really in play.  Kyle Payne is still trying to exert power and control through his blog writings.

 

There’s your answer Kyle.  You can’t ever come back.  That’s the price you pay.  It’s an awfully small price, compared from the one you’ve extracted from the woman (women?) you’ve criminally abused.  But even if it weren’t, I wouldn’t care.  A high price is called for. 
That Payne doesn’t know that is proof of the extremely early and limited state of his own counselling.  Anyone aware of the damage done to them by sexual abuse and assault would know this.  Anyone treating Payne from within a “feminist framework” would know this too.

Go do your work in treatment, Kyle.  Pay the price you are asked to pay at law.  And stop asking for the misty eyes of the women whose community you’ve hurt. 

Just one more thing before I end this excessively lengthy rumination.  The “abuse excuse”. 

There is surely no question that male (and some female – but we’re talking about a man here) victims of childhood sexual abuse very often go on to become predators.  That doesn’t make them insane adults who are neither morally nor criminally responsible:

Statistics involving men in New Jersey prisons convicted of sexual abuse, found that over 95% of the men, were in fact abused themselves. And we don’t know, but it could be that the 5% of non-abused men in that case don’t remember being abused as children; they may have amnesia or a traumatic dissociation.. Some abuse may be the attempt to relive one’s own abuse, with power roles reversed. Another reason may be these people have learned that abuse is a way of feeling in control. Fundamentally, in all cases of abuse, it certainly is about power and control.    […]  It’s a complex and still unclear set of issues that drives childhood sexual abuse. However, it is up to adults to control their own behaviors.

Once again, here’s how Payne describes what he did:

While caring for the female student, I felt a sudden impulse to expose her breast. Not knowing how to deal with this feeling at the time – and to put it more clearly, not knowing how to make sense of such an urge, given my personal values and my politics – I acted upon it. With a digital camera I kept with me regularly, I briefly photographed and took a few seconds of video of the woman’s breast. She did not consent to this act, nor did she have any knowledge of it at the time. This event ended as quickly as it began, leaving me in a state of disbelief at what I had done.

That’s the excuse of a child with his hand in a cookie jar:  woops, my hand slipped.  Give that one a rest, Kyle.  You say you didn’t know what to do with the urge?  That suggests you thought about what to do with it.  You know what the answer ought to have been.  You had time to think about it.  You had time to erase the photographs you took.  You had time to find treatment and confess what you’d done.  Apparently, you did none of that until, thankfully, you were caught and stopped.  I hope your therapist tells you what to do with that urge the next time you have it.  If not, check back here.

Or, you know Kyle, read your own fucking blog:

When faced with a message that challenges men’s violence, rather than reacting defensively […] we can call into question our own attitudes and behaviors about gender, sexuality, and power.

Shit bugger damn you, Kyle Payne.

 

Cara did a great job on this, with links and A#1 comments.

UPDATE:  Check Ren’s blog for a list of feminist and pro-feminist posts on Payne.

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14 thoughts on “As the Globe Falls

  1. That was an amazing post, Hysperia. Have you thought about submitting it to Liss @ Shakesville? I’m sure she’d put it up as a guest post without hesitation. (assuming that’s something you’d want, of course :P)

  2. Simply amazing. Thanks so much for this post, Hysperia. I’ve been questioning my own anger that I express through my blog at times lately, and you (and Hugo) really gave me some things to think about. That said, this was an excellent post.

  3. Thanks mattt. I wasn’t sure anyone would read that one. It twists and turns a bit, like my brain! I’d love to give it to Liss, whether she posted it or not, but I don’t know how. Several times, I’ve wanted to e-mail her or others at Shakes, but I can’t get to any addresses due to a peculiarity of my computer. If you’d like to alert her to it or wev, I’d like that.

  4. Wonderful post. I love the snowglobe anecdote, that’s spot on.

    Contrary to popular opinion, rates of recidivism [pfd] for sexual offenders are lower than for other crimes (at least, rates of those charged and convicted). But some people, like me, think that may mean that the most effective “treament” is catching offenders and punishing them according to law. The reason I think that may work is because it interferes with the belief, common to sex offenders, that they are above or beyond the law, that they are acting in some private realm of shame and shaming. Once they become aware that their actions may be subject to public exposure and reproach, they quit, as the results are unsatisfactory. The power and control are gone. And it’s the power and control that are really in play. Kyle Payne is still trying to exert power and control through his blog writings.

    There’s your answer Kyle. You can’t ever come back. That’s the price you pay. It’s an awfully small price, compared from the one you’ve extracted from the woman (women?) you’ve criminally abused. But even if it weren’t, I wouldn’t care.

    Perfect.

  5. Pingback: Noli Irritare Leones » Blog Archive » A blessing for the Tsar? Of course …

  6. Pingback: Update on “feminist” dude, Kyle Payne « Editorializing the Editors

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