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)