What Kyle Payne Reflects

In the ever-widening discussion of the predatory actions of Kyle Payne (see Ren Ev for a roundup listing of many, many blogs that have written on the subject), there has been some discussion of whether certain groups – in particular, radical anti-porn feminists and male feminists – should have to defend themselves from all being tarred with the Kyle Payne brush. Ren (again, since she’s been most tirelessly beating this drum ever since it was brought to her attention, even despite those *horrifying* burns she’s dealing with) has a post responding to the defensiveness from some radical feminist bloggers (who had previously linked to Payne, or included him in a Carnival), in which she makes the most important point there is on the issue: Kyle Payne’s actions reflect Kyle Payne, and only Kyle Payne. They don’t reflect on anyone who believed him and trusted him, confided in him, or shared certain elements of his opinions.

I know I made a bit of a mistake in the way I expressed myself on GallingGalla’s post on this, and as I said in follow-up there, I do get that there’s a victim-blaming tone to what I said. What I was trying to get at, and I still think it’s important, is that one of the things this story (again) brings to light, is that it’s not okay – and not possible – to assume that all members of Category A are good (and by extension, non-members of Category A are less good, possibly even bad) and trustworthy on all things in all ways at all times. Kyle Payne may or may not actually be against pornography – much as many of us have been psychoanalyzing the guy, there’s only one person living in his head, and thankfully, it ain’t me. But logic 101 says that it’s pretty much irrelevant. Accepting the premises “Kyle Payne is anti-porn” and “Kyle Payne is a rapist” does not lead to the conclusion that “anti-porn activists are all rapists”. Not sure if the “not rocket scientist” in me needs to point out that if the premise is switched to “Kyle Payne is pro-porn”, the applicability of the conclusion remains the same (ie. non-existent), but…

Male feminists, same deal. Part of the point I was trying to make at GallingGalla’s place is much better elucidated by belledame and Betacandy in comments over at Feministe:

belle: but yeah, there -are- some red flags. it’s not foolproof though. I do also think that sometimes, stuff like “dick=bad, estrogen=safe” actually makes it -harder- to identify predators, because honestly that’s not what it’s about.

Beta: It’s really not easy to identify predators, and yet our culture makes victims feel bad for not recognizing them. “Didn’t you know there was something off about him?” and so on.

Post “Prince Charming as Abusive Control Freak”, yeah, I’m pretty wary of the kind of guy who dresses everything up in terms of just how completely he is going to save me, the one who seems just far too good to be true, the one who always knows exactly the right words and turns of phrase like maybe it’s actually kind of practiced…but “male feminists” categorically? Not the same thing. Because you know, the thing with predators is, if the red-flag-warning-sign for potential predator becomes “identifies as feminist” then real predator will shift identifiers, will find a new one, will adapt to the given situation.

Sometimes, as was raised in that Feministe thread I’ve linked, I worry that the more I unpack this stuff, the more I come to the conclusion that there’s no way to trust anybody, ever. And the thing is…there isn’t. Not for real, not with absolute certainty, not completely. Not on sight, real or virtual. There’s no quick answer, no quick solution, no marker that will make all of this easy and simple and protect us, forever and for always, from ever being hurt or victimized again. Hell, my grandmother is still coming to terms with the very real and very personal reality that ordination to the Catholic priesthood does not automatically make a person trustworthy and safe. My dad, a high school principal post-Columbine, was subject to demands from angry parents that he ban trench coats, with the justification that they could be used to hide weapons. His response was “And if socks can be used to ban weapons, should we also ban socks?” The delusion that we’ll find the marker, that we’ll be the ones to know, is only hurting us and making us more vulnerable to the one who doesn’t fit our assumptions.

This isn’t new. Kyle Payne reflects exactly what predatory behaviour has always reflected – predatory behaviour. Adaptation. Manipulation and deception. Showing people what they want to see. Not radical feminism, not pornography, not male feminism, not men in general, not feminism in general

(*ETA: Just to be clear, I do stand by the original reason I made that comment on GallingGalla’s post, which is that she’s right to express anger at her own categorical exclusion from radfem conversation because of who she is and what she believes, and then to get extra angry when others don’t seem to understand why she’s pointing out the multiple problems with this logic, including the fact that this exclusion doesn’t prevent predators from getting in anyway, and never can)

10 thoughts on “What Kyle Payne Reflects

  1. Brown Shoes says:

    Exactly my thoughts (well, not exactly so much – I probably would’ve used different words and phrases, but anyway). It’s just really weird and not a little eyebrow-raising the amount of protest coming from guys like Jeff (who’s normally OK, at least to me) and Hugo about how badly this will reflect on them – well no, not really, unless you’re protesting vocally against your own inner turmoil.

  2. purtek says:

    Jeff’s post, imo, was better than Hugo’s. I agree with the criticism that he got for re-centering, because yeah, dude, this is exactly the not-point of ally work. Reading Hugo, on the other hand, really does feel like reading his protests against his own inner turmoil – like he’s actually trying to convince himself more than you that he’s an exception to the rule (where the rule has somehow become “Kyle Payne”).

  3. Mike says:

    I made the point on Hugo’s thread that it’s the broken finger problem; while KP’s actions should be discussed predominantly in terms of how he fucked over his victims, it’s also legit to discuss how he fucked over men who identify as feminists, especially given the kind of reactions we’ve been seeing since then.

    To be a male feminist is to be minimised and treated with blanket suspicion by feminists and non-feminists alike at the best of times. Following KP, it’s tempting to jack it all in; not like I was some kind of big time activist, I just try to live my life according to the right principles.

    It’s not like I would abandon those principles now, because that would just be inconceivably wrong. But I think that being an ally or whatever isn’t a one-way street — support has to go one way, or it’s just one group using another.

    Sorry to go on like this…

  4. Mike says:

    Gah. I meant support has to go more than one way.

  5. Sarah J says:

    I see the monsterizing at work again with Kyle Payne. Because yeah, he’s the one responsible for his actions, and it’s not necessarily right to blame his anti-porn stance and all of that for his actions, but I think entirely separating him from both male feminists and anti-porn feminists is not helpful–his context IS important, because it’s what made everyone jump on this story to begin with.

    Of course all male feminists aren’t closet rapists. But I think it may be important to look at how this guy’s supposed feminism led him to act like this–and of course, to wonder whether he was always just manipulative or whether he’s genuinely screwed up enough to believe both anti-porn rhetoric and his own actions are A-OK.

  6. […] detracting from the main issue or turning it into a pissing contest. That being said, some people have maintained an admirable and inclusive stance, and they need to be saluted for […]

  7. purtek says:

    Mike, I can see your point in some ways, but at the same time, feminists of all kinds always have to battle first against public perception/assumptions based on straw arguments and faux-feminists, prove themselves exceptions to the ‘rule’, and only *then* discuss the original *issue* (beyond the “Feminist” label). Granted, this example is more hideous than those that women tend to have to face among their exemplars, but believe me, I frequently get the “fuck it, not worth it” feeling from various events like this one, too. And I guess I’d make the point that if alliance needs to be a two-way street, the discussion can’t start on a note of defensiveness, it has to start on what’s shared. I think what’s shared is a sense of betrayal, and what male feminists participating in the conversation want to do is discuss their particular angle on that community betrayal, in the spirit of *sharing* – rather than recentering, refocusing, derailing, or making it overly personal, which honestly is what grates about Hugo’s post – then I’m in.

    But as always, whose job is it to open the street?

    Sarah J – I really think the relevant thing about the context is how it just feels like a big, extra betrayal. It made him easier to trust, this makes feminists (male, female, radical, whatever) *less* easy to trust, when maybe some of us were categorically more inclined towards trusting feminists in the past. It certainly makes rape crisis counselors harder to trust, and that’s *huge*.

    Personally, although I strongly disagree with tenets of his “feminism”, I really don’t think it “led him to act like this”. As I said in my first post on the subject, I think feminism was a tool for him, one that he used for power and control, one that he used to gain trust. Hence the reference to the Catholic Church, which has long been exactly this kind of instinctively trusted institution, and to the sense of betrayal that comes from finding out that your automatic reflex assumption that it’s okay to leave your kids with the priest was desperately, tragically wrong.

    Now, I think it’s worth asking what structures, both philosophical and practical, exist that help to allow predators to hide within these kinds of environments. But a causal relationship? I can’t argue that.

  8. Mike says:

    Granted, this example is more hideous than those that women tend to have to face among their exemplars, but believe me, I frequently get the “fuck it, not worth it” feeling from various events like this one, too.

    Yeah, it’s just frustrating. You constantly see or hear things which question or belittle something you consider important, and it takes a toll.

    And I guess I’d make the point that if alliance needs to be a two-way street, the discussion can’t start on a note of defensiveness, it has to start on what’s shared.

    Sure. In defence of any defensiveness (ha!), male feminists do constantly exist in an environment almost tailor-made to cause it; it’s an understandable reaction, if not a laudable one.

    I think what’s shared is a sense of betrayal, and what male feminists participating in the conversation want to do is discuss their particular angle on that community betrayal, in the spirit of *sharing* – rather than recentering, refocusing, derailing, or making it overly personal, which honestly is what grates about Hugo’s post – then I’m in.

    As I said, I don’t think that discussing it in personal terms and discussing the greater issues of the assault on the student and the betrayal of the ideals are mutually exclusive. I think they can and should be discussed together, albeit with a greater focus on the betrayal issue.

    As feminist men, we’re always being told that our part in the movement is to engage with other men – that men and their behaviour are per se our issue; so why should we not discuss KP? He is a prime example of predatory male behaviour; does it not fall to us to use this situation as a springboard to analyse our methods and so on?

    Please let me make absolutely clear, though, that I am not in any sense arguing that this be the main focus of the debate generally; that would be recentring etc. However, as with any marginalised group in feminism, our issues will be more…. marginalised and can perhaps be discussed away from the main focus.

    Oh, and regarding Hugo… I have to say that generally, I rather dislike him. He’s holier-than-thou, prone to moralising, frequently just gets on my nervese with his self-absorption and sometimes demonstrates an astonishing lack of self-awareness. That being said, I don’t think he deserved the pile on he’s had elsewhere, and I think that there is at least a glimmer of legitimacy in his post about navel gazing etc.

    But as always, whose job is it to open the street?

    Well, that’s the beauty of a two-way street – you walk up it from either end.

  9. Brown Shoes says:

    Well, it’s possible I went a little overboard, I just find that kind of behavior a major pet peeve of mine – like, he’s compelled to champion every cause that’s important and he’ll anoint himself if he has to, but it seems like his self-image is so tied up in being accepted as being central to whatever it is he’s advocating that any rejection of that causes some strange reactions. In any case, it seems like he suspects his motives aren’t entirely pure but the external approval of the people he needs to champion won’t assuage that, and what bothers me is that he doesn’t seem to be aware.

    But you know, I’m probably mainly talking out my ass here, so if this seems way off base, feel free to disregard as you will.

  10. Mike says:

    It does sometimes feel like every conversation is Schwyzer for Dummies. I have also wondered before how someone who spends so much time rediscovering his belly button can be so spectacularly clueless about himself with such fascinating regularity.

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