This week, the feminist blogosphere has been abuzz with news of a blogger named Kyle Payne, an “activist” and so-called champion of survivors of sexual violence who was arrested for invading the privacy of an unconscious woman and apparently asked to leave his university for having child porn on his computer (Gabriel in the comments points out that the child pornography thing isn’t at all clear).
The darkest irony in all of this is that Kyle Payne is apparently one of those male crusaders against pornography as well.
You know, I’ve never met Kyle Payne, but I’m pretty sure I’ve met dudes like him: a little too earnest, a little too eager, a little too “the lady doth protest too much” going on behind those sparkling eyes of theirs. They scare me. As a survivor of sexual violence and abuse, and hell, as a human being, I get this whole spider-crawling-down-my-spine sensation from being around them, and even thinking about them. What do they want from people like me? What do they want from feminists? From women? I don’t know if I want an answer to those questions either.
I don’t think that Kyle Payne’s crimes are an illustration of the fact that male feminists cannot exist. I’ve known many male feminists, though most of them don’t call themselves feminists. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, it’s just a thing. Sometimes I wish more men called themselves feminists. Sometimes I think otherwise.
I think we need guys on our side regardless of what they call themselves, ultimately.
As for Kyle Payne’s specific case – what he did is a special kind of betrayal, terrible enough even for someone like me to feel the need to say something.
So here’s my ultimate pronouncement on this particular bit of bad news:
This “let’s examine our sexualities, fee-fees, and underwear choices until we are pure enough for a stockbroker to snort” feminism is something one must eventually grow out of. There, I said it. I’m tired of this “let’s examine” feminism because it makes for a nice, warm nest for guys like Kyle Payne. The guy who told me to examine my short dress the other day? Same breed (doubt he’s a criminal, but the skeeve factor’s off the charts).
Hell, I can no longer take sweetly pious women who spout this stuff. Why? Because it takes away my agency. Because it places me in the same damn box that Kyle Payne placed his victim before he did what he did. It says that I cannot make choices, that choices must be made for me, for my own good.
Now, I think “let’s examine” feminism can be an important stepping stone for people. But it’s not a destination. It can be helpful to wonder why you shave your legs or watch porn. But once you’ve wondered, and made your decisions, you need to move on, soldier. Sail the high seas of adventure and doubt. Live a little.
I’ve said it before and I’ve said it again: human sexuality and desire in particular can be dangerous things. And you can’t examine and unpackage them to the point of rendering them completely harmless. Doesn’t mean we should give up the good fight against human trafficking, rape, harrassment, etc., but it does mean that laborious navel-gazing is just not going to get the job done in the long run.
This little tirade of mine isn’t meant as a jibe at (most) anti-porn folks, some of whom have put up great posts reacting to the mess that is Kyle Payne. I may not agree with them, but I don’t wish to discount their efforts of the last few days. Rather, it is meant toward a general, across-the-board trend that I am getting mighty tired of. Kyle Payne is but an element of it – but he was certainly the tipping point.
Finally, I am sorry to the people that Kyle Payne has hurt. I hope Kyle Payne himself can reflect on the damage he’s done and maybe even truly regret it – not because he got caught, and not on the surface, but in his heart of hearts, in the dark place that’s inside all of us.
I’m not going to lie to you, folks, the idea of coming across a guy like that during the years I spent trying to heal and set my life straight, in the places where I sought help, well, it’s terrifying on an elemental level, like a giant spider, or cockroach. Maybe my words here will be twisted into a needy victim wank fantasy (guys like Kyle Payne do seem to have them), but I don’t care about that. I do care about highlighting the need for all of us to be in contact with people we can genuinely trust, and how hard that can be, with the Kyle Paynes of the world on the loose and knowing all the right words and making all the right ideological gestures.
But ideology or not, I’d take my free-wheeling cousin, the guy who thinks feminism is an exotic disease, the guy who’s busy teaching his son that he must never lay a finger on a woman against her will or tell a woman how to think, over Kyle Payne any day.
Seriously, screw you, asshole.