Tuesday, 24 March 2009

More on Kyle Payne

I have been hesitant to post any more on this affair because I wondered whether it would serve any useful purpose. Certain things have moved forward - Kyle has posted this disclaimer on all feminism-related posts:

DISCLAIMER: This post is rooted in a feminist/pro-feminist analysis, and as a result, it may lead readers to assume certain things about me politically and personally (e.g. that I am living, have lived, and will continue to live a responsible, pro-feminist lifestyle). The fact is, I committed a crime in January 2007, sexually violating a woman who was under my care as a resident advisor in college. I ask that you keep this information in mind when evaluating my comments in this post, as well as if you engage me in dialogue. Please read this post (listed as “Because you deserve to know” on the “All Posts” page) for more information.

So. This does go some way towards minimising the possibility that any naive person coming across his blog would assume that he is someone to be trusted. He has made a public statement that he is a sexual offender. I commend him at least for this But I am still puzzled as to why he feels his posts are valuable enough to be reposted. Sure, they were fairly well written but did not really offer any fresh insights into feminist theory. They were simply restatements of what had been said before. What made them remotely special was that they were written by a man. Here, they claimed, was a man who had seen the light and was aware enough of patriarchal conditioning to transcend it. He could, in support of his sisters, oppose the rape culture in which we live. He presented himself as living proof of the ability of awareness to change behaviour.

And yet, even while writing the original posts, he was aware that he was himself a sexual predator. He was a campaigner against pornography who sneaked into at least one student's room in order to molest her and carry away a short video which he used for sexual gratification. I do not condemn him in any way for desiring to look at women - what is deeply troubling is that he felt it right to campaign against consensual display while secretly enjoying the photograph he had sneaked from an unconscious woman. Why, if he desired so much to look at the bodies of naked women, could he not simply buy a copy of Hustler, or if that is too extreme, Playboy?

This, I feel, is where Kyle could, if he so chooses, begin to make a real and honest contribution. There were reasons he chose the public path he did as an ally of radical feminists, a rape counsellor and anti-porn campaigner. There were also reasons he chose to molest and photograph an unconscious woman. There is a real dissonance here. Kyle is certainly not unintelligent and has revealed that he can think analytically - albeit in the derivative way one would expect of an undergraduate. Now, however, he has seen in his own life a disconnect between theory and practice. He has seen how understanding of one cannot affect the other. There are other, deeper, motivations. Demons, if you will, inhabit the human psyche and no amount of analysis can rid us of them.

Thus, I can, at times, feel an urge to dominate and even to cause pain. I can feel my old wounds calling for revenge - on any woman who is in the way. I can feel my need for human touch to be so great that it seems that it would overwhelm me. I can be fully aware of the historical sources of these desires but this does not, in fact, negate them. They are still there. And they are powerful.

And here is where it all gets horribly messy. Because it is hard to acknowledge such feelings. For not only are they acknowledgements of weakness, they are also politically dubious. If I have a desire to dominate a woman sexually, albeit only in play, then there is a strong part of me that wants to censor that - because it reeks of patriarchal privilege. There are times when I yearn to be dominated and yet i can suspect that to be equally a product of patriarchy. Which it well may be but that knowledge does not make it go away - it simply manifests itself in shame and denial as I refuse to own that part of me and, guess what, it then grows and festers and manifests in anger. Against women? Against myself? Both or neither, it does not really matter - the anger remains. It was not until I began to see, and accept, te desire for both domination and submission as parts of my make-up that the anger began to diminish. And the desires began to lose any power they may have had to rule my actions. Or inaction would perhaps be a more appropriate word, for that was the result.

I cannot fit my desires into a box. i am aware that they are not pure. I wish to penetrate - to enter - to be enfolded. However it is defined it is a real and ineradicable desire (so far, although i get older every day so who knows what tomorrow will bring?) I cannot guarantee that my desires will be "safe" or free from the taint of privilege. All I can do is to ensure consent - being able to recognise the "no", however it is expressed. Reluctance is a "no". Hesitation is, perhaps, a "maybe" but is never "yes". And "no" can come at any time and is an absolute. To ignore the "no" or to ensure that it cannot be expressed is to rape.

Somehow, Kyle decided to override that possibility of "no". It is in his act - or acts, for we can never know the truth - that Kyle's contribution to discourse has the potential to be unique and valuable. He is a perpetrator who is also fluent in feminist theory. Did he feel the dissonance? If so, how did he reconcile theory with his personal practice. More to the point, what did he feel when he had that woman, or women, in his power - unconscious before his gaze. I am not talking about a theoretical, intellectual, analysis here - simply an account of how it felt. What emotions were there? How dd he feel in his body? What emotions were there when the incident was replayed on his computer? Was he aroused? How did feminist theory and the reality of those emotions sit inside the psyche of an intelligent man in his very early 20s? Where did arousal fit into the pattern of his thought? How now does he feel about arousal? It is in these questions that he can begin to make a contribution to feminist discourse - albeit as perhaps a cautionary tale. The self-congratulatory stuff he has reposted to his blog - even with the disclaimer, is in fact empty and totally meaningless as it had no grounding in practice.

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