Helpful.

This is going to sound like it’s all about me, but it isn’t. I’m not that special.

I have Seasonal Affective Disorder, aka SAD, aka “the winter blues”. ’tis the most socially acceptable of mood disorders, I wager; the vast majority of the time when I tell someone about it, the response I get is a friendly “oh, yeeeeaaaaah, winter suuucks, I geeet it.”

No, you don’t.

Spend the next four months sleeping 3 hours a day max, while having crushing PMS, while frantically – no, that’s not right: no energy to spare for that – while sluggishly trying not to fuck up your life because you know you’re not firing on all cylinders but there’s fuck-all you can do about it bar watch yourself fuck shit up. Then come back to me and we can talk about how well you’re getting it.

I should not bitch about this: the bottom line is that I can talk about my SAD and expect people not to freak out. They mostly don’t freak out because they don’t have a clue what they’re talking about, but it is a subject I can bring up without fear of  a major backlash. Friends of mine who have other, less media-friendly mood disorders can’t do that. They absolutely can “out” themselves, if they so wish, but they have to be prepared for people’s panicked, uninformed, bigoted, or just plain mean reactions. If you don’t believe me, go out and tell ten people in your life that you have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and see what kind of response you get. Pick people who can have an actual impact on your life – your boss, partner, closest friends, club leaders – otherwise it’s cheating. If you’re unwilling to do that, then I’m willing to bet that you already know what kind of reaction you’d get.

Anyhoo: I have a mood disorder I can talk about. That simple fact helps me manage it, because I can make the people around me aware that I am experiencing A Problem. Some may cut me some slack, some may not, but at least I can make them aware that something is going on, that there is a reason for my (mis)behavior, that I’m not being weird at them.

Outing myself that way can backfire, normally in three ways. Some people just tell me that either I don’t have SAD or there’s no such thing as SAD. I’m confused, misinformed, exaggerating, or straight-up making shit up. Whatever their reasoning is, it amounts to the fact that my problem isn’t there and I’m talking trash. Our interactions from then on will be marred by the fact that they don’t trust my reality and I don’t appreciate their invalidation of my experience.

Most commonly, as soon as I tell people that I have a problem, a proportion of them comes charging up at me with their solutions. That would be just fucking lovely if any of those solutions were new to me and/or implementable. Alas, 99.9999% of the times they are not. This should surprise nobody thinking rationally about the issue. I’m not a masochist, I can read, and I have access to the internet. If a simple, commonly-known, implementable solution could make my problem go away, I would no longer have that problem. Give me some credit, hey?

Dealing with a barrage of unsolicited, useless advice may sound like a non-issue if you’ve never been at the receiving end of it. Believe me: it’s exhausting. Aside from the time and energy it takes (which is an issue when I’m already running woefully short), people who push advice on you are generally not very good at accepting that you won’t follow it, or hearing how it doesn’t help. Rather than accepting that their advice is a poor fit, they tend to argue for it, which hugely increases the energy and time they are taking from you, which really doesn’t help. For the longest time I couldn’t begin to comprehend the phenomenon: why are so many people so attached to the advice they’re spewing? I mean, this is usually shit they picked up from random articles, not the summation of their live’s work. Then a friend explained to me that people aren’t really trying to help me; they’re trying to be helpful. It’s not about me and my problem: it’s about their ego, their role in our “community”, and our respective status. By rejecting their advice I’m lowering their status or some suchlike shit. I can’t even, frankly, and I can even less around January (ha ha ha; but no, really). Whatever causes the phenomenon, unsolicited, dud advice and the resulting fallout are pretty much guaranteed if any sniff of a problem ever gets out.

The third way in which outing myself can backfire is probably the worst one. I’ve had plenty of conversations where everything I said got brushed off by my interlocutor because “it’s not me speaking, it’s my SAD.”

Yes, that can be a thing. Mood disorders do affect your mood. However, it so happens that I can have SAD and also have actual problems in my life that are causing me distress. I can have SAD and be sad because I am not getting on with my partner and I might have to break up with them. I can have SAD and be scared shitless because I broke my damn back and I struggle to use the toilet on my own. I can have SAD and be lonely, upset by political events, worried about friends whose lives are imploding, stressed about work, and so on and so forth. My SAD is not the root cause of all the negative emotions I have from October to March, and does not invalidate them. In some people’s eyes, however, it does, and that is infinitely draining. It’s exponentially draining when I have to navigate that roadblock while I’m experiencing the symptoms of my SAD… which, if I mention it to those people, is taken to prove their point… so I might as well headbutt a wall instead of talking.

It’s a dilemma. If I don’t out myself and my behavior is affected by my SAD, people think I’m wilfully misbehaving and get pissed off. If I do out myself, I’m going to have to deal with umpteenth people pissed off at me because why won’t I just try yoooooga, and with a fair few people discounting anything I do or say from then on. Picking which possible problem to choose can be a great way to spend the winter.

An alternative solution I’ve used with relatively decent results is to bypass any mention of my actual problem and just discuss the symptoms. People don’t necessarily need to know why I’m so sleep deprived I can barely parse language; they just need to know that I’m sleep deprived. That still gets me the unsolicited advice, but it doesn’t make everyfuckingthing I do and say get put down to my SAD. It also avoids any risk of people acting like assholes because I have a mental health issue hence I am clearly cray-cray and a danger to people and property.

Why am I talking about this crap in the context of a self-defence blog? It turns out that people can expect very similar responses if they out themselves as the survivors of violence or abuse.

If you are a survivor and you’re still dealing with the aftermath, that may show in your behavior. If you don’t tell people about your experience, they won’t know why you’re “being weird” and won’t cut you any slack. If you tell people about it, some will freak out, some will deny it, some will pummel you with useless advice, and some will assume that everything you say or do henceforth is a reflection of your trauma. Let’s not even get into the victim blaming side of things, which is totally a thing, doesn’t just affect women or sexual assault victims, and is not going away just because so many self-defence instructors are determined to ignore that it’s still an issue.

The best course of action will depend on the people you’re dealing with, but it’s hard to know beforehand how people will react to an entirely new stimuli. And that’s assuming you have the option to decide whether to go “public” or not; if you end up in the media, that decision will be taken away from you. Discussing the symptoms you are experiencing rather than the cause may help in some cases, but not always.

What’s the point of this incredibly depressing piece? There are two, actually. Maybe we can’t do anything to stop people behaving unhelpfully towards us when we are working through difficulties, but we can:

  1. Remind ourselves that it’s not about us. It’s a thing people do. People default to their standard response script regardless of what they are responding to. Deniers deny, compulsive advice-givers will give advice, judgemental people will judge, and the assholes will be assholes. They’ll do that whether you go to them with a health issue, a broken down car, a sexual assault, or a hangnail. We just tend to notice it more for serious stuff because it impacts us more. If it’s happening to us a lot it’s because people are people all the damn time, warts and all. It’s annoying as all hell, but it doesn’t say anything about us, our lives, our worth, etc.
  2. Try not to behave that way ourselves. If being at the receiving end of that sucks, we can stop handing it out. If we don’t know what to say, we can say that. If we don’t know what people need, we can ask them. If we think we know what people need, we can still ask them what they actually want and respect their right to steer their own lives.
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PSA

Y’all better stop the press for this one, because I’ve got a shocker for you:

People who are selfish and inconsiderate while trying to get you into bed are going to be selfish and inconsiderate in bed, and not much fun to play with.

People who are pushy during their “courtship”, imposing their attentions on you when they are clearly unwelcome; people who pressure you to do things when you’re not ready or in the mood, or things you just do not want to do; people who consistently put themselves first, prioritising their own needs, wants, and feelings over yours; those people are unlikely to morph into considerate, empathetic lovers the moment you get nekkid and start doing the nasty. People just don’t work like that. I’m not saying it’s unicorn-level impossible, but it’s pretty damn unlikely.

So what? So if a person is using any kind of underhanded means to get you into bed, that is not only a warning sign that they’re either hazy as to the true meaning of “consent” or underinvested in securing it, which is fucking dangerous, but also that they’re most likely piss-poor lovers. People who don’t care about whether you enjoy something or not will only ever tickle your fancy by accident. Unless being treated like a living sex-toy is your kink (in which case hey, have fun), you’re unlikely to be in for a great time.

Am I saying that dominant people are inherently crap lovers? Nope. I’m saying that sex, including sex involving power imbalances, requires a solid understanding and respect of the principles of consent first not because feminism tells us so, but simply in order not to suck. I am not going to attempt to disentangle the difference between “a real dom” and “a pushy asshole” because that’s firmly outside my bailiwick, but if you want to get into that kind of thing I’d advise you to do your research. And if you believe that the rando in a bar who’s coming at you with a handful of third-rate pick-up techniques is going to be the sexbomb who finally knocks your socks off, then I wish you the best of luck, but I will be genuinely shocked if things work out well for you.

 

Conversely:

If you’re willing to behave in a selfish and inconsiderate manner in order to get people into bed, then you’re probably a crap lover, as well as a crap human being.

This sounds just straight-up mean, doesn’t it? Too bad, because it’s true.

If you are pushy during your “courtship”, imposing your attentions on those who clearly do not welcome them; if you pressure your partners to do things they are not ready for or things they do not want to do either in that moment or ever; if you consistently put yourself first, because you believe that your own needs, wants, and feelings trump those of the people around you; if you’re just sheer oblivious as to other people’s emotions; then you probably suck in bed, and not in the fun, recreational sense of the word. You might get lucky, find someone who enjoys receiving what you’re handing out, and go on to have a mutually satisfactory sex life together; but as to the majority of people, they’d probably have more fun at home, alone, with or without battery-operated implements or some drying paint to watch.

So what? So if you consistently find yourself using underhanded means to get people into bed, that’s not only a warning sign that you really, really need to read up on what “consent” involves before you make yourself a rapist, but also suggests that you’re a piss-poor lover. Even better, your behavior is literally broadcasting that fact to anyone who knows what to look out for. I’m one of those people. We’re all watching you, and we’re painfully unimpressed.

 

And for those who missed the memo:

“50 Shades of Cack” sold a gazillion squillion copies, causing some folk to believe it to be indicative of What Women Reeeeelly Want (as well as causing second-hand shops to beg their customers NOT to donate their copies because there was such a flood of them… but nobody cares to mention that. Hmm.). I would like to bring to those folk’s attention the fact that the Harry Potter books sold 400 million copies, yet nobody’s suggesting that most people aspire to be emotionally abused orphans consistently neglected by their assigned carers and hounded by a psychopathic serial killer.

 

NSFW moral of the story: DO NOT BE THIS PERSON. EITHER OF THEM.

 

[This PSA is brought to you by the umpteenth young woman who came to me with a story of how a guy got her to have sex with him when she didn’t really want to by the simple means of being physically insistent regardless of her clearly-articulated nos (which is, by the way, straight-up sexual assault – no ifs, no buts) until she gave up telling him to stop, and who was then surprised and disappointed when he pumped thrice, squirted once, rolled over, and went to sleep, without any consideration as to her side of things. I am genuinely sorry about every person to which this happens, but we collectively and individually need to fit it into our heads that it is A Thing, a common phenomenon, the way this kind of thing goes because how else could it possibly go? It is not a freak occurrence. And it’s about time that we stop playing our part in it.]

Strictly business: talks

I am getting enquiries about doing talks in various places. The answer is: yes, but.

Things I can do:

  1. Drag my ass to various locations, particularly if they are not hellishly far away.
  2. Give presentations, kinda. There’s a reason I communicate mostly in writing.

Things I cannot do:

  1. Contact people and organisations in your town so I can plan a presentation for you to attend.
  2. Be out of pocket for travel costs, no matter how eager people are to hear me.
  3. Provide discount copies of my books. This isn’t because I want to get alllll the money I get from Amazon sales ($o.oo4 per page on ebooks, last time I checked) but simply because I do not in fact get cheap copies of the books given to me, so I don’t have anything to hand out.
  4. Speak coherently in any language other than English. Even English is touch and go.

Moral of the story: if you want me to descend upon you and talk at people; if you can organise all the details of said talk (venue, tickets, whatever); if you can cover my travel costs upfront (I spent over 6 months chasing my last cheque); if you can find me a floor to sleep on; if you accept the fact that not all writers are in fact speakers; then I may be able to do it. This applies only to Nov-Feb, because from March to October I am normally hellishly busy with my actual job.

Quirks.

I have a friend who is very clever. He is way cleverer than the average person and has all kinds of certificates to prove that. He doesn’t rub that in people’s faces, though, because he is not that kind of person. He gets really angry, however, when people won’t listen to him. He sees people struggle with all kinds of problems to which he has clear, obvious solutions, but the vast majority of the time his solutions are rejected. He knows his friends aren’t as smart, but he knows that they are smart enough. It logically follows that they must be rejecting his solutions out of some kind of stubbornness, a deliberate decision to ignore what he’s saying for their own petty purposes.

I’ve seen this dynamic unfold a number of times and I’ve come to a different conclusion. The problem isn’t that they are not listening to him, but that he is not listening to them. He’s so focused on solving their problems that he barely listens to them, jumps to conclusions based on incomplete information, and tries to plug stock solutions that are doubtlessly very good where they fit, but simply don’t fit there. He’s constantly going around frantically insisting that people should try to shove square pegs into round holes, and getting angry about the fact that they won’t even try.

His quirk used frustrate me, particularly when it was aimed at me. In fact, I felt insulted: why would anyone believe that they have a better handle on my life than I do? Why would they assume that a problem I’m struggling with could be gotten rid of by an obvious, simple solution? What am I, stupid? Then I got to wondering: why does he believe that it’s his job to fix everyone’s life, anyway? I understand how he’d develop the belief that he’s more intellectually capable than anyone else, but that doesn’t explain his urge to put right other people’s business. Are his “gifts” a bonus to him, or a burden? When and how did other people’s lives become his responsibility?

I have a friend who is extremely good at working out the hidden motivations behind people’s behaviors, even when they’re subconscious and the people in question don’t have a clue. He’s good like that: he can reverse-engineer what goes on in people’s minds easy as anything. That only works if he can understand those motivations, though. If he can’t, he still draws a conclusion, but it’s always the same one: those people are doing whatever they are doing purely for attention. It’s a clear binary split: either he can explain a behavior, or it must be just attention seeking. What exactly they are doing doesn’t matter, and neither does what they have to say on the subject.

His attitude used to vex the hell out of me because it seemed incredibly dismissive. Way to trivialise people’s motivations! Way to disregard the mere possibility of them being self-aware and honest! Then something occurred to me: how many times would a parent need to tell a child off for “attention seeking” before that child internalises that accusation? How many times would that child need to be dismissed for wanting something the parents do not understand or do not agree with before not only he gives up asking, but he convinces himself that he must have been in the wrong, and his parents must have been in the right, and that that’s the right way for the world to be?

I have a friend who reacts to each and every serious event, of any scale, by running around and urging everybody to ignore it and just hold on tight to their nearests and dearests. The whole thing used to enrage me: aside from the fact that some of these events ARE affecting my nearest and dearest, way to check right out of society. Way to give up rights, duties, and agency in one quick step.

Then I wondered: how many times does a kid have to wake up in the morning and put the house back together because mom and dad had a “disagreement” before they start to hold inner-tribe peace as the main priority? How hopeless and disenfranchised does someone have to feel before they decide that putting any effort into affecting the world at large is perfectly futile?

I have friends who have quirks, and I am a quirky friend. I have a number of non-standard reactions to common stimuli. Sometimes that gives me an edge over “normies”, particularly in emergency situations. In everyday life, though, I often just end up zigging where other people zag, sometimes bumping into them and causing a lot of unnecessary chaos. Sometimes I can look at the chain of events that brought me my quirks; where they come from, why they were adaptive back then, how I’ve been maintaining them out of context, and how they are maladaptive now. Sometimes I don’t have a clue; all I know is that everyone else does X when I do Y, but why the hell they do X is beyond me. I have to get right into my mechanisms, take them apart, look at their origins (often buried under seemingly minor events from the olden days), and then try damn hard to stop myself falling into them next time that kind of situation pops up. If I don’t control my quirks, my quirks control me. They are part of my automatic piloting system.

I know that some people are proud of anything that makes them different from the norm, but I’m not so sure. Maybe it’s because I don’t think the norm is so bad, after all. Maybe it’s because I’d like to bump into fewer solid objects, or because I’m not so attached to every part of myself that I’d like to keep everything, even the bits that suck. It seems to me that if something isn’t useful to me here and now, putting it on a pedestal under the guise of individualism, self-expression, or anything else isn’t going to change that. It doesn’t matter to me how baked into my identity it is: I want to do better, and if that means that I have to change myself, so be it.

Sometimes I wonder if the best we can all expect is to work out which Peanuts character we are and make the necessary adjustments. If we are Pig-Pen, we can make ourselves take a bath even when we don’t feel like it. If we are Linus, we can accept that nobody else is going to believe in the Great Pumpkin, and talk about something else instead. If we are Charlie Brown, we can remind ourselves that our anxieties have anxieties. Wanting to be better than we are is all very well, but ignoring that right here and now we’re kinda fucked doesn’t seem terribly helpful.

Survival.

Rory Miller has written a lot of seriously good stuff about the application of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to violence and conflict, and to people’s mental states in general. I firmly believe that if you’re reading my stuff and haven’t read his then your priorities are badly messed up, so I’m not going to even try and summarise it all here.

I’ve been looking at Maslow’s pyramid from another angle lately. There are a lot of adaptations we can make to our lives to give us a greater degree of safety and security, and that’s where a lot of self-defence comes in. Some of those adaptations, however, operate in such a way that they prevent us from moving up the pyramid. For an extreme example, if our solution to hunger is cannibalism, we might quickly find ourselves short of friends and associate, so our social needs may end up going unmet. Unless we find ourselves a group of friendly cannibals, that is.

Less extreme examples abound. Had your heart broken yesterday? Turn into a total asshole today, and it won’t happen again tomorrow! Proactively making adjustments to prevent potential future damage can stop us getting hurt – physically, psychologically, or emotionally. The problem with this kind of strategies is that, although they may work well at solving our problems at a certain level, they can keep us at that level. (I wonder if that’s where I draw the line between “solutions” and “coping strategies”. If not, I wonder whether I should start doing that post haste.)

I find this particularly painful when we’re not even actually operating at that level; when we are anticipating a certain need or stuck in an outdated operating mode, and using these strategies to meet requirements that are not in fact there. How much of an impact this has on our lives will depend on how the strategies in question. Two world wars taught my grandma not to throw out any old item of clothing or part thereof, and she managed to have a relatively normal life regardless. Someone who decides that nuclear war is coming and shuts himself in a bunker may not do as well.

Survival strategies can guarantee our continued survival, not just in the sense that they keep us alive, but also that they keep us surviving instead of living. They are incredibly useful in the right time and place, but the proportion of our lives when they are not actively anti-useful is thankfully minimal. They often don’t get sold like that, though; they are often marketed as aspirational, as some kind of higher way of living. If you take a “worst case scenario” approach to life, it kinda makes sense: we might as well give up everything that we can’t give ourselves, because we’ll only lose it, anyway. Societies fall apart. Machinery breaks down. People leave us. Dogs die. Cats plot our deaths. Everything is going to go to shit eventually, so we must not fall for the allure of what is easy, what is comfortable, what is directly in front of us and oh-so-very-tempting. We must constantly focus on the problems we are going to be facing when it all goes to shit, or continue to focus on the problems we had when it did go to shit. We must stay strong and remember that when it finally all does go to shit, we’ll be the one laughing. We will survive. Hell, if you look carefully, a whole bunch of us are doing that right now.

I am absolutely not an expert on functional adulthood, but I wager that real living happens higher up the pyramid.

Curves.

Last week I attended VioDy in Minnesota. As per always, even though much of the material is familiar to me because I’ve attended before, I either manage to pick up something I previously missed or to apply something I knew to a different setting. I’ve been thinking about creeps a lot lately (shameless book plug) so that’s what I’ve been picking up the most.

The first thought bomb came from Randy King’s presentation of the logic of violence. Randy put up a graph of the comparative speed of the adrenaline dump for men and women. I knew about the differences from Rory’s books and others, but I’d never seen it in pictorial form. My take home was that, if being creeped at caused us an adrenaline dump, the time we spend frantically trying to work out whether someone is a real creep or “just” socially awkward, trying to work out what the he’ll is happening and what our response should be, is time that decreases our cognitive and physical abilities. Meanwhile, the creepo can stay as cool as a cucumber because no part of what’s going on is a shock or even a concern to him. This is issue one: by delaying in our response until we’re absofuckinglutely sure of what’s going on, we’re allowing our physiology to work against us.

If our final response is to do nothing, that response is going to be filed in our brain in the special little folder it saves for experiences acquired under adrenaline, i.e. as super duper important. The next time we have to deal with this kind of situation, we will have an adrenaline-ingrained go-to response as another hurdle to overcome.

Practice dealing with creeps successfully (for our own measure of what success is) can reduce both issue. We’re ingraining useful responses while building the familiarity with the issue that will make us less likely to get badly adrenalised.

Moral of the story: we need to work with our physiology or accept that it will work against us, and we need to get over the fact that getting the shakes or the weepies after we’ve dealt with a creep means that somehow he retroactively won.

Another few thought grenades came from Tammy Yard-McCracken’s presentation of ConCom (my 7th time listening to the program, 4th presenter, and every time I pick up something different). Tammy mentioned the differences between social conditioning, which is slow, and operant conditioning, which is much faster. Our social conditioning schools us towards non-reaction against creeps, and the fact that we come out of our creep encounters alive, if not always unharmed, confirms non-reaction as the “right” response. The response can become our go-to response, and very hard to shift. Operant conditioning can overlay/replace/underlay (I need to ask someone who knows such things) a different response that better suits us, and with much fewer reps. But until we do the thing, actually engage in behaviors that fly in the face of our social conditioning and the multiple reps of our ingrained response, it doesn’t have a damn chance to. It can be done, though, and it can be done fast. We can shed a ton of limiting behaviors in minutes or moments. We have to do the thing, though, whatever our thing is going to be. Thinking about it won’t cut it.

Them.

One of the issues I’ve tried to push in the Creepology book is that some conflicts have a middle ground, some don’t. If you want taxes at 10% and I want them at 30%, we can agree to disagree at 20%. Sexual assault and consent violations can’t be negotiated on in that manner. “Just the tip” is not an acceptable solution.

Another issue is that when it comes to social problems, there’s no such thing as neutrality. Inaction is support for whoever has the upper hand in that given moment. Whatever reasons (or excuses) we give ourselves for not taking action, it doesn’t matter: if we do not take action (and that includes speaking out – anything that influences the world around us IS AN ACTION) then we are supporting whoever has the upper hand.

Those aren’t just theories. The world provides us almost daily with living examples of these principles.

 

Kaja Sadowski of Valkyrie Western Martial Arts Assembly wrote this post following the Harvey Weinstein scandal:

“There’s a lot of men in my feed posting their outrage about Harvey Weinstein, and wondering how to make things better.

I’d like you all to do something for me: read (or re-read) Zoe Brock’s account of getting “Weinsteined”. But this time, ignore Weinstein himself, and set aside Brock as well for the moment. Instead, I want you to pay attention to the sheer number of people who enabled this incident. The personal assistants and agents who delivered Brock to him; the friends who disappeared when it was time for him to have his fun; the guy who had a novelty word for what he did and who’s “trying to warn” Brock didn’t include actually pulling her aside and telling her he was dangerous. The list is very, very long.

The list is always long, with men like this. Not every predator is a billionaire with staff and sycophants to cover his ass, but they’re very rarely alone. Every creep has the friend who’ll reluctantly play wingman while hoping his buddy goes home alone that night; the roommate who’ll call a cab for a crying girl at 3am and gently usher her out of the house; the colleague who’ll write him referrals and send him work because he’s really good at what he does even though he can’t keep his hands off the clients; the student who looks up to him and who’ll close his ears to a friend’s complaint about what happened at a workshop because he can’t afford to lose a hero; the squad that’ll shout down any inquiry as a “witch hunt” that might hurt their friend who’s “just not great with girls”.

When a predator like Weinstein is unmasked, women often call for introspection from the men in their lives. And those men look at the predator, and they see nothing of themselves. They’re good people, and genuinely have little in common with the naked, desperate, monstrous figure on the hotel room bed. I’m asking you now to look at the bystanders and the enablers, and see if you recognize something of yourself in them. In their discomfort, and quiet disgust, and fear, and silence.

You want to help? Shut down the system that gives the predators power. Look again at the number of people helping Weinstein in that story. What would’ve happened if they didn’t leave the room? If they warned Brock of what was coming? If they refused to send her off alone with Weinstein? If they believed her when she told them what happened?

That’s your singular power in all of this. Victims can say “no”, and they can speak out after the fact, but the cost is high and their odds of success are depressingly low. Even if they do succeed, they’ll only take down one predator. You? You can take down the system.

Take responsibility for you sketchy friend, your pick up artist brother, and that creepy guy in your training group. Talk to them if you think it’ll help, just cockblock them if it won’t. Don’t help them access targets. Don’t cover for them afterwards. Don’t help. And when something happens, stop it if you see it, and believe the victim if you only hear about it after the fact. Let there be consequences for what they do.

If you’ve got guys like this in your circle, it won’t be fun. It’ll be uncomfortable to call them out, or to intervene. You may lose friends. You may have a fight. If you really want to make the world safer, though? This is what it’ll take. Clean your house. Sort out your people. Stop making excuses for the creeps and monsters, and leave them to fend for themselves.”

 

Facebook kindly reminded me that it’s a year this week since the “Grab them by the pussy” trainwreck. I lost a whole bunch of “friends” in that incident. I was upset about it at the time. Looking back now, I think maybe I should have lost more. Maybe I should have demanded more of the fence-sitters, of the “yeah that’s sad but that’s just the way things are” people, not because of the need for ideological purity in my social group but because over the last twelve months those are the people who brought creeps into my life. What a shocker, hey? Who woulda thunk that people who tolerate creeps tolerate creeps?

In the last twelve months, none of the creeps I met hurt me. They upset me, they made me despair, they sucked time and resources I would have preferred to put into more rewarding activities, but they didn’t actually hurt me. I don’t know whether they hurt anyone else, though. I flushed them through my life and now they’re gone, but the support group that enabled them to get close to me is still there. Their friends still back them. Their families still support them. They still have their jobs and their hobbies. I’ve lost more social capital out of these incidents than they have – though, by my metric, said capital was worthless to begin with. I have no use for people who won’t have my back.

I thought back then that I understood the issue, but I didn’t. What I failed to see is that “when you’re a star, they let you do it, you can do anything…” is absolutely true, but the “they” isn’t, as I thought back then, the women in question. The “they” is a whole constellation of people who aid and abet the creeping (and worse) by actions and omissions, by prioritising the wants of the perpetrators over the needs of the targets, by preferring to pretend that everything is okey-dokey instead of working to make it so. I failed to see that every time I could act and I don’t I’m one of them, and the thought repulses me. Dunno about you, but I just don’t want to be one of them anymore.

Asocial

I was talking to Dillon about the Creepology manuscript  (currently available on paperback only, because I did things backwards, but hey if you wait until the 12th you’ll be able to get it cheaper on the Kindle). He pointed out something I’d missed. My classification of creeps distinguishes between what I call “malignant creeps” – who creep on purpose because they enjoy the rush they get from creating fear and distress – and “negligent creeps” – who are so focused on seducing people that they don’t care that they’re creeping the heck out of them. Both groups know they’re creeping people out, but for the malignant lot that’s the goal, while for the negligent lot it’s just the fallout of their courting behaviors. If you ask me, they both suck, but they are definitely different beasts and they present different dangers, particularly if the circumstances allow their behaviors to escalate.

Dillon pointed out something I’d missed. The classification aligns neatly to Rory Miller’s breakdown of resource vs. process predators. Process predators hurt people cos they want to. Hurting people is their goal. Resource predators, on the other hand, hurt people if they need to in order to get access to the resource they want. The resource is their goal, not the hurting. How badly they’re willing to hurt us will depend on how badly they want the resource. Are they after our phone because it’s the latest model and it’d be cool to have it, or do they need money right this second because they’re undergoing drug withdrawal and they need to get a fix? Are they after the latest Justin Bieber CD (are CDs still a thing? Is Justin Bieber?) or are they after food because they haven’t eaten in three days?

How far a resource predator is willing to go will depend on a variety of factors, but it’s generally the result of a cost-benefit analysis and – this is important – it will have little to do with us as people. At the moment that decision is made, we are nothing but a living cash box. If they need to dent us a bit to get the cash out, too bad.

Rory has talked in details about the difference between social and asocial behavior in the context of violence. What about seduction, though? At which point does someone’s sexual attraction turn our interactions asocial? Is it something that happens on a sliding scale, or is it an either/or thing?

I believe that if someone sees me as a walking vagina, then I’m inherently in an asocial situation. Whether me and said person are part of the same social group doesn’t matter to me. Whether they are willing to hurt me or not in order to access said vagina doesn’t matter to me. The only thing that matters to me is that in their eyes I am no longer a person; if I still feature as an individual, it will be mostly as a gatekeeper of my genitalia. Personally, I find that repugnant, regardless of how it manifests or how much it impacts on my life. I just don’t like that kind of “relationship”: it makes me feel icky.

I know that there are plenty of people out there who believe that this attitude is the inevitable result of male sexuality, but I don’t buy that. I’ve met plenty of guys who can see women as actual people – and no, they’re not all gay. If you don’t believe such a beast exists, try and find a guy who has a mixed gender friend group – not a group of his male friends and their spouses, but a group composed of individuals of all genders. There’s a huge difference between the two. Guys who can see women as people tend to be able to interact with them in all kinds of fields and situations without causing chaos and botheration, so they have actual female friends. And no, they’re not all cucks, and sometimes they do get laid.

That’s one of the modern narratives, though: that if a man treats women with respect he’s never, ever gonna give his end away, and if he does he’ll regret it because women will inevitably fail to respect him, will exploit him, and eventually will dump him for a superior specimen of maleness. This narrative is actively and openly sold to men; if you don’t believe me, google “red pill” sites. Bring your own sick bucket.

(A similar narrative is sold to women. It might be delivered in a less overt manner, but it seems to me that half of women’s mags are about how shitty men are, and the other half about how we can get them to bang/marry us. But then I only read that kind of thing at the dentist, so my sample size is limited.)

Thing is, there is a market of guys for which that narrative will work: the guys for whom “treating women with respect” is A Thing, an effort, a process they have to actively embrace, perhaps purely a trick to get close to women or an imposed behavioral code of this crazy world we live in. Guys for whom the world is split by gender, and for whom the other gender is practically another species. Guys who “other” women, whether by instinct or because that’s how they’ve been raised.

Those guys who look at women and see a bunch of walking vaginas will struggle to retain women in their lives, in any role, because their attitude inevitably colors their behavior. Those are the guys for whom being Nice© is loansharking for sex: they are not nice to women because they want to, but as a series of down payments for a fuck. When that fuck does not materialise, they feel aggrieved. Those are the guys who bitch about being “friendzoned”, not because they are upset that their love is unrequited (that genuinely sucks) but because their investment didn’t bring a return. Those are the guys who treat all interactions with women as a possible step bedward, and are eternally surprised if women don’t like that. Those are the guys whose attitude towards women is like a defrosting fish: it may start off relatively inoffensive, but as time goes on it ends up getting stinkier, until it’s so disgusting that it can’t be ignored and it drives people away.

This is my theory, and it’s worth precisely what you paid for it: men whose interactions with women are fundamentally asocial will have problems retaining women in their lives. If they do manage to get women in their lives, they will inevitably treat their relationship as an exchange of goods or services, sex being one of the items on the menu. The creepiness inherent in that kind of relationship is the fount of all their problems. Eventually, it becomes the fount of women’s problems when it manifests itself as a gazillion of shoddy behaviors, from pick-up artistry to date rape.

I wonder if I’m right, and I wonder it if matters. Would telling those guys that their problem is that they dehumanize women bring an actual change? As I’m writing this, I’m not optimistic. I don’t know if there are words that can turn that concept into a shape that will fit their brains. The fact that prominent, ‘successful’ male experts continue to defend that attitude as inherently manly can’t help, either.

 

Put it away, put it away, put it away now.

Yet again, a self-defence conversation sparked by a video of a woman doing a self-defence thing went off the rails. Yet again, part of what pushed it off the rails was a person of the male persuasion making sexual comments about said woman’s physical attributes. Yet again, instead of that person being reprimanded for their behavior, the whole thread was pulled down. Yet again, a post went up after the fact to lament not the inappropriateness of said person’s behavior, but the rise of intolerance and the decline of civil discourse at large. And yet a-fucking-gain, some bright spark used that clean-up post to sweep the entire thing under the carpet because Women Do It Too.

That was the moment when I realised that some people REALLY don’t get it. They actually, for real and no shit, do not comprehend why their actions continue to bring forth a certain reaction, because they don’t get what the problem is. I’m hereby going to try and simplify a complex issue as much as I can (so I’ll miss lots of bits out, sorry ’bout that) in the hope that I can get it across.

 

Dear Johnny,

I understand that you don’t get it. You liked the pretty lady, you said you liked the pretty lady, and everyone yelled at you. That wasn’t nice. You weren’t trying to be mean to the pretty lady: you really like her! You wouldn’t do that! You were just trying to express how you feel, and everybody turned on you, and if that happened to me I’d feel bad.

I know that your friends also like pretty ladies. I am sure that you have lots of talks about how and why some ladies are pretty, and what you’d like to do about it. I understand that you believe that “all men do it”, and I can’t comment on that, because I don’t know all men. I’m not entirely sure that you do, either, but that’s beside the point. The prettiness of ladies is a common topic for conversation; we can agree on that.

I like looking at pretty people too, regardless of their gender, and so do many of my friends. Sometimes we have conversations about the people we like and why, though because we’re incurable nerds we tend to come up with things like “look at her posture in that longsword class” or “he looks so joyous when he’s playing the accordion” or “I just want to crawl inside their brains and never come out again”, rather than “look at the rack on that”. But that could be just a matter of taste and style. The bottom line is that we do precisely what you did and got yelled for. The thing is, that’s not the point.

You didn’t get yelled at for finding a pretty lady attractive. You got yelled at because you barged in on a conversation that wasn’t about the attractiveness of pretty ladies – a conversation about that lady’s ability to do a thing, and the value of the thing she was doing – and shoved in some comments about your sexual attraction. That wasn’t the right place for that kind of comment. Other men may have been thinking the same thing, but they didn’t make those comments. Other men may have made those comments, but they did so in private. Other women may have been thinking the same thing and been making those comments about that one lady, or about other men and women and sundry others, but they also didn’t do it there and then.

You didn’t get yelled at because you are a man. You didn’t get yelled at because you find pretty ladies attractive. You got yelled at because you behaved inappropriately in a public place.

Let me try and draw a parallel. My favourite person in the whole world has a pee-pee. I don’t. It’s just one of those things. Sometimes he whips his pee-pee out in front of people and fun times happen. He only does at special times and in special places, though, when he knows for sure that said people want to see his pee-pee and maybe even play with it. If he whipped his pee-pee out on a bus, he’d get into terrible trouble. It wouldn’t matter that he whips his pee-pee out in private all the time and it’s ok. It wouldn’t matter that other men whip their pee-pees out too. It wouldn’t matter that women whip their coochies out. Most people take out their genitals at some point, but that’s not the issue. The issue is that if my friend took his pee-pee and whipped it out in a public place at some random strangers who’d not asked to see it, he’d be doing something inappropriate. That’s what he’d get into trouble for.

If I whipped my coochie out on the bus, I’d get in trouble too. I would probably  get into a different kind of trouble, because other things matter beside the fact that he has an outie and I have an innie. He is tall and big and strong and I am tiny and not very scary, so people treat us different. Maybe he’d get people in blue uniforms putting him in cuffs and taking him away and I’d get people in white uniforms putting me in a padded jacket and taking me to a different away, but – this is the important thing – we’d both get into trouble because we did a naughty thing in public.

In that conversation, you metaphorically took your pee-pee out and waved it about. Problem is, that wasn’t the right kind of place for pee-pee-waving. Nobody had asked to see yours. Hell, if anyone did, that would have been inappropriate too, because pee-pees really weren’t part of that deal. Because people found your behavior icky, they yelled at you.

Of course, talking about how your pee-pee feels about something and waving it around are not equivalent. Both things tend to piss people off, though, and those people may yell at you. You might think it’s all unfair: that you should have a right to let your pee-pee do the talking everywhere and anywhere, regardless of the topic of the conversation. If you want to campaign for that, you have the right to give it a go. If you want to ignore societal conventions because you think they’re crappy, you can give that a go too. Chances are, however, that for the time being you’ll keep getting yelled at.

I have to say, I will be one of the people doing the yelling. I don’t want to see your pee-pee, real or metaphorical. But – and it’s very important to me that you understand this, even if nothing else I’ve said made a lick of sense – I’d yell at you just as much if you were shoving your coochie in my face. It’s not about your plumbing. I want to be able to have conversations about men and women doing non-sexual things and leave sex totally out of the equation, not because sex is dirty but because there are other things beside it and I’m interested in those things, too. I want to be able to do a thing and have a conversation about the thing I’m doing that doesn’t revolve around my body’s ability to make people think about sex.

You are not being punished for having a sexuality, or for what your sexuality is. You’re being punished because you’re shoving that sexuality in people’s faces when they’re busy doing their thing and without asking them first. There’s a time and place for everything. That wasn’t it.