I knew I shouldn’t have, but I listened to the N.Y.P.D. recording of Harvey Weinstein admitting to a woman that he had previously sexually assaulted her. I knew that it would be uncomfortable to hear, certainly not even remotely as disturbing to me as it must have been to his victim, but I wasn’t prepared for the rapid sinking feeling, the gut punch.
Should you choose to hit play, be warned that it is very difficult to listen to.
There is a rabid desperation from both parties, his insistent pleading over and over and over to have her come into his room for ‘just one minute’ is vile. Her constantly telling him no, only to have each no make him beg more, accelerate his manipulation, is gut wrenching. I felt helpless listening to it. Then, realized my feelings paled in comparison to the agony she must have endured during the exchange.
As a woman I have been met with unwanted sexual advances, touching, harassing words and leering looks. As has every woman I know. We are judged for our looks, how we dress, if we say no, say yes, say nothing. We can never be right. We are uptight bitches if we decline offers, sluts if we accept them. But no matter what, we always had it coming.
The blog I wrote prior to this one was my first serious attempt at writing. I mused on most any encounter I had in life, social issues, minor grievances, peculiar happenstances. The common thread that ran through most every post was humor and sometimes scathing sarcasm.
When you’re the new kid on the block, be it in school or work, a new town, a new URL, you want to find a group to settle into. The role of outlier is never an easy one to fill. As bloggers tend to do, I found a circle to join, other forward thinking odd ducks that appreciated dark humor.
One blogger in this circle stood out. He had a large and devoted following. His words were clever and deep, often leaving you wanting more. His wife blogged as well, a charming and highly intelligent woman with an irreverent sense of humor. They both espoused the benefits of inclusion, acceptance, and feminism and I lapped it up. We became fast friends, supporting each other’s work and collaborating a time or two. I genuinely adored this blogger and his wife, supported the causes they appeared to be fighting for, and found creative inspiration in reading their work.
One day, when logging into my WordPress reader, I was hit by a bombshell. Another blogger, one that I had never read, wrote a blog post accusing my friend of horrifying acts of sexual harassment. Most everyone I followed was sharing this post or writing one of their own about it. I was in shock. How was this even possible? My friend, a mentor of sorts, was alleged to have been engaging in the exact same behaviors he and his wife had admonished in post after post. How was this happening?
I called him to hear his side of the story. I listened to him cry, never exactly denying the accusations, and wisely never admitting to them either. As I remember that call I grow more and more enraged at my inability to see beyond my desperate need for this to not be true. I believed him. I believed what was most comfortable for me. I believed my friend was who I wanted him to be, needed him to be. I consoled him. I feel a certain amount of shame in admitting that, but it is the truth. I readily gave a predator my shoulder to cry on.
The blog post heard round the world essentially ran my friend out of town. His blogs disappeared, his wife’s was suddenly made private. I had never experienced this type of behavior from him, he’d never once been inappropriate with me. So I remained friends with both of them on Facebook, still not entirely sure what I believed about all this. I closed down my blog, something I had planned on doing before all this happened, and shut out the WordPress community. I closed the door on all the accusations and comments. I was stunned. I was also silent.
I quietly observed his behavior online for a few weeks afterward while I pondered all that had just unfolded. As my shock wore away I began to see him with a new set of eyes. Actions that I once found cheeky now seemed aggressive. Conversations that used to feel intellectually provocative now felt manipulative. I would occasionally go back to that original blog post and root through the comments, finally beginning to accept what I had denied for too long. That rapid sinking feeling. The gut punch. This man had done exactly what he was accused of by so many. My friend was a predator.
I confronted him and urged him to get help, explained that I no longer felt safe having any connection to him. At first he was agreeable. He knew he needed help. He was seeking that now. He felt terrible for all that had happened. He understood why I would want to walk away. No hard feelings.
Then, it turned, in the blink of an eye. Later that day, and in the days following, message after message after message, email after email. Why would I turn my back on him in his darkest hour? How could I confront him when he was so emotionally fragile? He offered me his wife’s phone number, convinced that if I could just talk to her I would see that he wasn’t a bad guy. Rabid desperation, pleading, insistence, manipulation.
I was finally able to end his obsessive messaging with a threat to call the police and by using his own words against him. He had once commented on a blog post of mine that he learned quickly ‘never to fuck with’ me. I found it odd at the time, I was perplexed by it, but now it made sense. Now I needed to let him know he was right. Don’t ever contact me again. You know better than to fuck with me.
I was immediately blocked by both him and his wife on Facebook and I never heard from either of them again. My life after that became filled up with a recurrence of my tumor and years of treatment. I had all but forgotten about my blogger friend, the predator, and his wife.
One day years later, while on Instagram, they both popped up in my “explore” page. She was now touting her gardening prowess. His feed was full of selfies, still playing the part of brooding deep thinker with a heart. They were both begging for money via a Go Fund Me page. They are grifters, you see, always a con. They want your money, your attention, your sympathy, and they will tell you anything to get you to comply. It worked then and now. Their monetary goal had been met, exceeded even.
When I heard that police recording, when I heard Harvey Weinstein’s desperate pleas, when I had read all the articles my stomach could handle I thought of my blogger friend, the predator. The game is the same whether you are a big time Hollywood executive or a small time blogger, coercion and control. Friendship and kindness are just a means to an end. They are grifters, you see. Everything is a con. Everyone a mark.
My blogger friend, the predator, always painted himself as the victim. His ex-wife, he would write, was cruelly trying to keep his son from him. He laid down a foundation of a history with mental health issues, so that was always an available excuse whenever he was confronted by anything he didn’t want to deal with. I’m feeling so vulnerable now, I can’t. I must take care of myself and avoid stress.
When that didn’t work he would turn aggressive, attacking a person’s character all under the guise of defeating exclusion, racism, misogyny. He was never being mean, just outing wrongdoings. He was the superhero. He was never to blame. There was always an excuse, an out.
The sinking feeling I had listening to the Weinstein tape, the gut punch, was a reminder of a time I was silent when I shouldn’t have been. I wish that I had joined the chorus of women telling the truth, or at the very least voiced my support for the women that did. I was supposed to have been the one that he shouldn’t fuck with, but I withered on the vine.
Instead, it was a woman, someone that he felt he could manipulate and control, that brought down his brick facade. She is the superhero. To her and all the women like her, the ones that stand up and shout out, thank you. From the bottom of my heart, I offer my gratitude and praise. I promise to stand up and shout out with you next time because, unfortunately, there will be a next time.
*Featured image courtesy of Pixabay.