An Open Letter to Kyle Payne

There are a number of things I wanted to write about this week. There are a number of new things that have happened that weren’t on my original list, and I wish I could be writing about them, too. Instead, I’m writing about Kyle Payne. Why? Because Kyle Payne wants me to be writing about Kyle Payne, essentially. And because if I don’t write about this, I will likely continue to feel unable to write about anything at all for several weeks, continue to avoid the internet, continue to only skim my RSS reader because any mention of Kyle Payne just makes my skin crawl right off my body.

So, without further ado, addressing young Mr. Payne:

I know, somehow, that all this increased attention is actually satisfying to you. I know it feeds into your self-image as a persecuted martyr, the victim of a “smear campaign” perpetrated by a pro-pornography blogger. I know that there is not one brain cell in your entire narcissistic skull that is devoted to anything that is not you, what these nebulous “events” say about you, what people think of you, how your reputation and your friendships have been affected. I know that your main goal is assuring all of us, not least yourself, that your deep down in your soul, you are a True Feminist Spirit, a Good Person, and that the most important question on your mind is how, how, HOW such a thing could have happened to such a man as you.

But despite all that, I can’t let it go. You win this round, it will, in fact, be about you.

I can’t imagine it would ever occur to you how it would feel for any of us to get that email you sent, to see the name of a confessed sex offender in the sent line. I’ll be perfectly honest and admit that it fucking freaked me out, and I spent some time assuring myself that no, my real name isn’t actually on this blog, being again thankful that I remain a tiny, tiny fish in this big enormous virtual pond, and therefore not likely worth more of your time than that form letter took, but I did have to take that time. Because the fact that you sent that nice personal email and wrote that oh-so-revealing post says to me that you’re one crazy fuck, and I do have to step back and think rationally about just how fucking crazy you might be.

And then, because I deserve to know – we, as a collective, deserve to know, and I, personally, as one of many recipients of that email, deserve to hear what you have to say for yourself. I deserve to read your description of what that woman looked like, the vulnerable position that she was in, the urges that you felt, the actions that you took in violating her and the confusion that you felt at the time. It has to have occurred to you just how many rape survivors you sent that email to. It has to have occurred to you that many of us were raped by people we trusted, after we had been drinking, by people with some degree of authority over us. It has to have occurred to you that this story is all too familiar.

The thing about “making amends” is first that you have to have actually changed in order for it to matter, at least enough for you to recognize when your so-called amends are causing harm. One of the first questions male “allies” to feminism ask – and here I mean real allies, which you can tell because I identify them as the ones who ask – is what they can do as men to help women. To help women deal with male violence, with pressure and double-standards and past traumas and current fears, to help end “rape culture” and the ubiquity of sexual violence. In your case, there’s a really simple answer to this question: stop violating women.

You say you were unprepared to deal with these feelings because of your personal feminist politics. I consider myself a pacifist – I still get the urge to punch people in the face every so often, but somehow I’ve managed to avoid getting myself arrested for assault and having my pacifist hypocrisy laid out for all the internet to see. I also have a pretty solid grasp on the fact that pacifist or no, my desire to punch somebody in the face generally comes when I’m feeling pissed off because they’re not doing what I would want them to and I want some way to assert my power/control/dominance over the situation. Make of that what you will.

You’re telling me that I “deserve” to listen to what you have to say, that I “deserve” to think about the impact that has had on you, that I “deserve” to see your name in my email box, and you know what, no. I don’t. I deserve to live my life not having to think about what goes on in the minds of narcissistic predators – I’ve damn well spent enough of my time thinking about that, and I’d really like to be free of it from here on in.

I hope you deal with the abuse in your past. No one deserves to have that shit in their head. I hope you get free from it, so that you can stop using it to tie up others. For what it’s worth, I genuinely hope, from the bottom of my heart, that you recover from what you dealt with, and that you come to a place of peace and comfort with who you are, what has happened to you, and how you can truly amend what you’ve done. But I have absolutely no desire to hear about it, not at destination point and not at any point on the journey along the way.

I think I speak for many when I say that if you were to disappear and remove yourself from all of our blog-lives, that is the only possible favour you could ever do for us.

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40 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Kyle Payne

  1. Kristin says:

    “You’re telling me that I “deserve” to listen to what you have to say, that I “deserve” to think about the impact that has had on you, that I “deserve” to see your name in my email box, and you know what, no. I don’t. I deserve to live my life not having to think about what goes on in the minds of narcissistic predators”

    YES, exactly. This is a brilliant post.

  2. belledame222 says:

    I’m okay with feeding the attention jones if it means more outraged letters to the people who have the power to increase his sentence.

  3. purtek says:

    Thanks, Kristin. And belledame, yeah, I’m gonna work on that letter tomorrow. I initially didn’t think I had anything worthwhile to say about it, but y’know, I think I might have been selling myself short on that one.

  4. tanaudel says:

    I do like the pacifist analogy.

  5. Hugo says:

    I like the pacifist bit too — an excellent reminder that good people will have impulses that conflict with their politics, and we need to make a decision to honor our politics more than our worst impulses. And Kyle Payne made a decision, a horrible one, whether he’s aware of it or not.

  6. queenemily says:

    “good people will have impulses that conflict with their politics, and we need to make a decision to honor our politics more than our worst impulses”

    You appear to be identifying with Kyle Payne here.

    “Good people?”

    “desires conflict with politics?”

    FOR FUCK’S SAKE WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?

  7. queenemily says:

    My point, as it exits Sweary Town, is that not we’re not talking about Good People here.

    Or Nice Young Men or whatever the fuck.

    Sexually assaulting a woman is not a desire that conflicts with politics. It’s just plain fucking immoral.

    I guess I didn’t leave Sweary Town after all. Whatevs.

  8. purtek says:

    Yeah, I have to admit, the point of the analogy has little to do with the hypocrisy inherent in these actions. The point of the analogy was to make the ridiculousness of that assertion absolutely apparent – as you so aptly put it, queen emily, it’s just plain fucking immoral. Residents of Sweary Town are glad to have you.

    (Hi Tanaudel! Long time no see. Welcome back 🙂 )

  9. Rebecca says:

    Yes, this. I couldn’t have put it better.

  10. Kristin says:

    Yeah, seriously, what Queen Emily said.

    Now, Hugo, do correct me if I’m reading your comment incorrectly, but you seem to be suggesting that Kyle Payne may well be a good person who merely failed to “honor [his] politics more than [his] worst impulses.”

    Hugo, I’ve been following you for a bit now, and I sometimes find the enjoyment that you take in recounting your past predatory behavior to be *extremely* creepy. I don’t get the sense that your proclivity for fetishizing younger women has changed one bit, and I was deeply disgusted by your recent post about the “erotics of teaching” (As a woman in academia, I really fucking hope that most of my male advisers don’t believe that I want to fuck them. Women get enough of this shit in academia, as you ought to bloody well know.).

    Um, sorry… I begin to derail, but I don’t think this is totally off-topic. If you consider yourself to be someone who *merely* learned how to control his worst impulses for fucking *political reasons,* if in fact you *still* have predatory impulses wrt women, if you really see this as a matter of *politics* rather than of being a predatory piece of shit: Might I suggest that you–like Kyle Payne–have no business *anywhere near* feminism, and the best thing you could do for us is to leave us the fuck alone?

    And, yeah, for fuck’s sake, you’ll get nowhere by identifying with Kyle Payne. That particular comment just set off even more alarm bells than your oh-so-self-serving claim that many of your female students want to have sex with you, and ten years ago, you might’ve given in, but now you are Reformed and Christian.

    And please don’t reply to me with a sanctimonious fucking response. I’m not interested in assisting with your recovery or Kyle Payne’s. Oh, and since I’ve been wanting to say it for a long time now: Fuck off.

  11. Kristin says:

    Eh… Sorry if that was too much there, Purtek. I’m not always very good with subtlety as such.

  12. purtek says:

    I can deal. I will delete comments if it starts being nothing but insult-flinging, but that right there was full of substantive commentary, if you ask me . FWIW, I pretty much agree with everything you’ve said, and I’ve kept my mouth shut on the topic for the most part only because I didn’t think anything would be accomplished by saying it.

    If the conversation goes too far afield from the topic, I’ll start a new thread. Lack of subtlety, however, is always welcome in my world.

  13. purtek says:

    And speaking of lack of subtlety, to make my own original point absolutely clear:

    It’s not a radical, politically oriented decision to *not* rape somebody or *not* punch them in the face. Politics schmolitics. That’s basic human decency. That’s kindergarten.

  14. belledame222 says:

    It’s not a radical, politically oriented decision to *not* rape somebody or *not* punch them in the face. Politics schmolitics. That’s basic human decency. That’s kindergarten.

    all kinds of WORD.

    Seriously, I couldn’t put my finger on why that icked me out so badly, but this sums it up. It suggests at minimum that the real problem with Kyle was that he -didn’t try hard enough- to root out all the Badness and cure it with his political hooha. Which: no. Politics =! therapy, okay?

    I mean, if -politics- is really the only thing keeping one from succumbing to The Dark Side, well…I mean, if it works, it works, I -guess;- better that than nothing at all; but at -minimum,- this is not the sort of person I want fighting my corner, or around me at all. It’s like–at minimum, even if there’s no actual crime committed (which is a plus, don’t get me wrong), you can’t get away from the fucking solipsism, and it bores the TITS off of me.

    Seriously, sometimes the best thing someone who really wants to be an -ally- can do is just. shut. UP. no, REALLY. Save the introspective hooha for the therapist; that is what they are there for.

    And, if you still insist: You want to support other peoples’ struggles? Great: chop wood, carry water. Do what’s asked of you. and: shut UP. And no, I don’t say that for every male ally or whatever other equivalent; but -sometimes-…

  15. belledame222 says:

    (countdown till the next tl:dr Deeply Introspective Post that nominally addresses all this and winds up being yet another excuse for enjoyable public self-flagellation and “there there’s” from the fanbase without actually changing a fucking thing: ten…nine..eight… )

  16. belledame222 says:

    i hate automatic winkies.

  17. purtek says:

    winky edited out, but just for you, belledame.

  18. PhysioProf says:

    Payne is either a lying shit, or a delusional fuck. As I pointed out, Payne’s insinuation of himself into women’s spaces and activities should be viewed by the judge not as mitigating factors in his sentencing, but as worsening factors that demonstrate the depth of his depravity and the need for a harsh sentence.

  19. purtek says:

    Yeah, I saw that post – I thought that part was particularly well put, because it gets at what I was trying to say about how there’s a sense of invasion in his sending these emails and writing these posts to get our damn attention in the first place. “Deserve”, my ass.

  20. QoT says:

    The pacifist analogy is brilliant, purtek. No bloody judge would buy, “But I’m a pacifist, I just felt an urge and it confoozed me so I acted on it, without thinking about it or questioning my actions, but I’m a pacifist, honest, and now I actually have spent two minutes considering what I did, I’m all better!” So it shouldn’t work for our dear, fucked-up Mr Payne.

  21. Ravenmn says:

    I love this response.

    Only one quibble:

    “I consider myself a pacifist – I still get the urge to punch people in the face every so often, but somehow I’ve managed to avoid getting myself arrested for assault and having my pacifist hypocrisy laid out for all the internet to see.”

    See, this is where I think folks like Hugo and Kyle get confused. I think they identify with your sentence here, Purtek. I read it as sarcasm because I’ve read you before. I know that you don’t find it difficult to be a decent human being.

    They read this sentence and assume that it took an enormous amount of energy and self-denial for you to restrain your irresistible urge to physically attack other human beings. They want to honor that enormous effort of self discipline you had to dredge up from the depths of your soul. In fact, that struggle is just about the most important thing in the world to them.

    Which is OK by me. If you’ve got that problem, then work on it and stay the fuck away from me, from feminism, from political activism.

    Being a decent human being is not something you learn after years of being an activist. You have to START OUT being a decent human being before you start trying to help others. Or as belle keeps saying, it ain’t therapy so don’t confuse the two.

  22. hysperia says:

    Wonderful post. I don’t think Kyle Payne has “won” anything as a result of you and so many feminists writing “to” him or about him. What he seems to have thought he was doing was making a confession. I think he believed he would be forgiven because of his “honesty” and “openness”. In his mind, that would be the victory because it would truly be evidence of his continuing ability to control women and feminists in particular. Every word he says in his post is geared towards manipulating his readers into feeling sorry for him and accepting him back into the fold. His abject failure and the brilliant responses to him by feminists such as you must be galling to him. It would be great if he’d been woken up. I doubt it, but lots of other people have been jolted out of sleep.

    Thanks.

  23. hysperia says:

    And I agree with Ravenm about your pacifism analogy. I think you made a good point and I get the sarcasm too. But since the issue is raised, having a desire to punch someone who’s pissing you off is VERY different from having a desire to become sexually aroused by exposing and photographing the breast of an unconscious woman. If I ever once had a desire to do anything remotely similar to what Payne did, I’d be off to a psych for some help. If I thought there was any chance I was going to act on it, I’d ask to be prevented from doing that.

    But this all assumes that I’m in control of myself while also assuming that I have the impulses of a predator – they don’t go together and even as I say it, I know you know that.

    Everything Paynes doing is absolutely in line with the profile of a predator who hasn’t even begun to plumb the depths of his “problem”. Treatment takes time and isn’t always successful, so I hope to heaven that he gets some conditions on his release that require him to stay the fuck out of women’s centers, women’s groups, advocacy work, adult education or any other work that could put such an untrustworthy person in a position of trust.

    I hope the judge in his case comes to some kind of understanding about just how critical this issue really is – the danger that Payne and people like him pose to women everywhere.

  24. purtek says:

    Ravenmn, I just had an “Oh God, really?” moment reading your comment, but I think you’re right – that is what others are thinking when they read the analogy. I think I sometimes shield my brain from that reality, because the head explosions are just getting too frequent.

    hysperia, your expansion clarifies a lot, as well. I’ve never had anything resembling a genuine desire to commit such a predatory act, and yeah, if I started feeling that for serious, I should think I’d be in therapy – but then, if I started feeling that for serious, I don’t know if I’d be capable of getting to therapy. So yeah, I know that, but at the same time…yeah, I think it needed to be said.

    Sarcasm is a protective device on *so* many levels.

  25. purtek says:

    Okay, so, slightly more awake now, it occurs to me that I might actually have to spell out that the point of the pacifist analogy is that whenever I get that thought that maybe I’d really like to hit somebody, pacifist theory is *not* the thought that pops into my head, nor is a philosophy of non-violence the reason I choose not to do the hittin’.

    What pops into my head and prevents me from hitting people is that hitting people hurts people.

    Just so’s we’re all clear on that.

  26. Ravenmn says:

    Yeah, it seems amazingly simple, doesn’t it? Oddly, my ability to understand the mind of psychopaths is not all that valuable in life!

    Hysperia wrote: ” I think he believed he would be forgiven because of his “honesty” and “openness”.”

    Yup. And you are awesome for pointing out how many people didn’t fall for that brand of crap. That fact, in itself, gives me hope for humanity.

  27. Jay says:

    I have only one thing to say, re: the whole pacifism analogy.

    As someone who’s not a pacifist, I think the analogy’s not very apt because violence is, IMO, situational…there might be a time when (IMO, again) it might be the right thing to do to punch someone in the face…for instance, if that someone is attempting to rape a young girl (or boy).

    So to me, refraining from violence under all circumstances IS a political choice…refraining from rape and sexual assault is not. There is no situation where such a thing is necessary or even acceptable (unlike violence, to me). So while choosing not to punch someone in the face (when they might in fact need or deserve a punch) is a political decision…in a way that choosing to treat other human beings like human beings is not. That’s called “civilization”. That’s called being a step above savages and animals. If you can use a cell phone and wear clothes, you should be able to figure this out.

    Apologies to any pacifists, you can believe how you like.

  28. belledame222 says:

    “So while choosing not to punch someone in the face (when they might in fact need or deserve a punch) is a political decision…in a way that choosing to treat other human beings like human beings is not. That’s called “civilization”. That’s called being a step above savages and animals.”

    I think that was the bottom line here.

    “Shooting” might’ve been a better analogy than “punch” for what Vile Kyle did anyway. (water torture, something).

  29. belledame222 says:

    …actually, well…eh, skip it, I had some quibbles, but what the hell.

    for me it comes down to empathy, however that plays into “civilization” as such. Morality, ethics, something…one does get the impression that Kyle knows the words but not the tune; and that getting even -more- words and reciting them even more dutifully isn’t going to help in this case.

  30. belledame222 says:

    “What pops into my head and prevents me from hitting people is that hitting people hurts people. ”

    …right, so, that would be the “empathy” part.

    Now, if one is angry empathy tends to go out the window; and if, say, someone punched one first, did something really egregious, according to one’s probably not really elaborately articulated moral code, one might punch the person; or not. But it would be understandable in a way that what Kyle did is not, putting even charges of “hypocrisy” aside (okay, you could point and snicker if someone who was a really vocal supra-pacifist lost their shit and got into a bar fight or something, but that’s really not on the same level).

    What Kyle did -clearly- had nothing whatsoever to do with anything but his own icky internal process; as such, it…just doesn’t wash, any way you slice it. He got an urge, he didn’t understand it he sez, he acted on it, he got -caught-…um, oops, his bad? I Will Work Harder? Uh, nnnnno.

  31. Sunflower says:

    Beautiful rant, Kristin.

    Self-flagellation in the public square is not a feminist act; it’s the act of a person who thinks he (or she; the delusion isn’t gendered, though gender has relevance w/r/t the instances here) can break the connection between hir but-I’m-a-Good-Person(tm) self and hir actions by jumping through the right hoops.

    Sunflower

  32. Kristin says:

    Sunflower–Yes, EXACTLY.

    And thanks. 🙂

  33. purtek says:

    The key thing about self-flagellation is that it’s still about SELF (in other words: word, Sunflower).

    And Jay – yeah, okay, valid point, there are flaws to the analogy, but like belledame was kinda saying, really, the first thing that comes into my mind when I’m struck by the urge to punch somebody in the face is “this would qualify as a Bad Thing to do” and I better be able to articulate some damn good reason that supercedes its Bad Thingness before I do any hitting.

    Kyle Payne’s description is a lot more like he thought “I know this is a bad thing to do, and it conflicts with my personal politics” (like THAT’S such a noteworthy and laudable political position to hold in the first place)…SYSTEM OVERLOAD. DOES NOT COMPUTE. DEFAULT TO DOING ACTION. Or…I don’t know, “this conflicts, so I should do it anyway to…see what it all means, since it will inevitably lead to much worthwhile discussion on the feminist blogosphere, and we’ll all sit around and evaluate how this possibly could have happened, making me a test case for feminist maledom for generations to come”?

    No, now I’m thinking I *might* actually punch someone.

  34. Brown Shoes says:

    I seem to remember BD including some explanation of narcissistic behavior, somewhere, and one part of it really jumped out at me – they don’t understand context. They still believe, at the end of the day, that just parroting words that they think are right is enough for atonement because they can’t understand the context, or the situation in its totality, and I think that’s what we’re seeing here in why some weak apology is expected to make all the amends.

    Man, he emailed me too! Amazing.

  35. belledame222 says:

    Oh yeah, the Joanna Ashmun page, I keep going back to it:

    http://www.halcyon.com/jmashmun/npd/traits.html#cruel

    “Lacking empathy is a profound disturbance to the narcissist’s thinking (cognition) and feeling (affectivity). Even when very intelligent, narcissists can’t reason well. One I’ve worked with closely does something I characterize as “analysis by eggbeater.” They don’t understand the meaning of what people say and they don’t grasp the meaning of the written word either — because so much of the meaning of anything we say depends on context and affect, narcissists (lacking empathy and thus lacking both context and affect) hear only the words. (Discussions with narcissists can be really weird and disconcerting; they seem to think that using some of the same words means that they are following a line of conversation or reasoning. Thus, they will go off on tangents and irrelevancies, apparently in the blithe delusion that they understand what others are talking about.) And, frankly, they don’t hear all the words, either. They can pay attention only to stuff that has them in it. This is not merely a bad habit — it’s a cognitive deficiency. Narcissists pay attention only to themselves and stuff that affects them personally. However, since they don’t know what other people are doing, narcissists can’t judge what will affect them personally and seem never to learn that when they cause trouble they will get trouble back. They won’t take other people’s feelings into consideration and so they overlook the fact that other people will react with feeling when abused or exploited and that most people get really pissed off by being lied to or lied about.”

  36. Kristin says:

    “And, frankly, they don’t hear all the words, either. They can pay attention only to stuff that has them in it. This is not merely a bad habit — it’s a cognitive deficiency. Narcissists pay attention only to themselves and stuff that affects them personally.”

    Why, oh why, does this sound so familiar? Oh, right, Hugo and his tendency to chime in with, “That reminds me of ME!”

  37. Darren Johnson says:

    I ecourage everyone to call write or email the judge in this case and ask him to sentence Kyle Payne to prison. I would also ask all to call the Buena Vista County Attorney he is the one who aggreed to the plea bargin. He is also the the one that will be arguing for the state as to what punishiment he thinks Payne should get. The ball is in the County Attorneys Court as to what will happen to Kyle Payne. He was elected to do the will of the people. I believe the majority would say Kyle Payne needs to go to prison for the heinous crime he committed. Please call, write or email: Dave Patton
    County Attorney
    606 Geneseo Street
    Storm Lake, Iowa 50588
    (712) 732-1933
    (712) 732-2009 FAX
    dave@bvcountyattorney.org

    Mr. Patton needs to know the nation is watching.

    DRD

  38. Sunflower says:

    And on rereading tonight, what smacked me was the “stuck on the ninth step” angle. A friend, years back, once attempted to fulfil that step by apologizing to me for stuff he’d done that hadn’t even registered at the time, with no mention at all of things that actually had been a problem – fortunately, in my case there’d never been any real harm done, but it doesn’t take much imagination to see how someone who had been damaged by a loved one’s addicted behavior could be further damaged by false/misplaced amends.

    Sunflower

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