Wednesday, 18 March 2009

A road no one should travel..

Strip clubs, along with the sex industry as a whole, support a system in which women’s bodies are literally bought and sold. For many women working in the sex industry, their participation is not by choice, or it is based on unjust circumstances. For a woman whose livelihood is based on playing into men’s sexual fantasies, that means internalizing the message that men have the right to control her body and that she has the duty to serve them.

So why would SAVE protest at a strip club? Because we don’t support the buying and selling of women’s bodies. We don’t support a system of patriarchal oppression in which women are deemed commodities to be controlled by men. Whether the outcome of such a system is domestic violence, date rape, or any other act of hatred committed against women, SAVE wants to make the message clear that we do not support it, especially at a time when pop culture seems to celebrate sexism.

The above comes from a blog posting dated March 11 2009. It is reprinted from a letter to a magazine in April 2006.

One day I’ll write a book. Well, hopefully several. But this book in particular will be a compilation of all the stories shared with me by survivors. Women (of a variety of different backgrounds) raped, beaten, groped, stalked, threatened, drugged, coerced, tortured, pissed on, and emotionally abused by men (of a variety of different backgrounds). It always strikes me, when listing these abuses, that the words are almost meaningless out of context. Maybe that’s part of the problem. Why would we take men’s violence seriously if we cannot begin to understand, on an emotional level, its effects on the lived experiences of women?

And that from a post on the same blog dated May 6 2008

A good feminist man and an ally of exploited women, one might think. And this is what he would have us believe. But there is a slight problem with that picture. Because, you see, on August 25 2008 Kyle Payne, the owner of the blog, The Road Less Travelled, was sentenced to six months for entering the room of a drunken and unconscious student to whom he was counsellor, exposing her breast and videoing it. He pleaded guilty to having done this in order to obtain sexual gratification. He said it was a passing impulse. So passing that he uploaded it onto his computer?

He has now served his time and his blog is active again where he still poses as a radical, anti-pornography feminist man. That may be so, Kyle, but can you expect to be trusted so soon after the event? You choose to become a rape counsellor and you choose to listen to the intimate secrets of women. You fantasise about writing a book based on such secrets. You then choose to molest an unconscious woman and keep a trophy for your later pleasure. It seems to me that you are a voyeur, Kyle. Accept it. Live with it. It is not so bad. Enjoy pornography - for that is clearly your thing. The video proves it. The women who were stripping at the club you were so proud you had picketed had chosen to do it - however restricted and conditioned you may say their choices have been. The woman you molested, the women you are so proud of counselling, did not have such choices. If you want to hear about being pissed on, beaten etc, then there are, I am sure, phone lines you can ring, books you can read - or even willing partners to meet your fantasies. You might well find a happy and fulfilled life.

I cannot pretend that my own sexual conduct over the years has always been as good as I would like but it has always been consensual. What Kyle did cannot be called that, The fact that the young woman was unconscious means that no-one - particularly the woman he molested - can be sure that photography was all that he did. Neither can anyone be sure that it was the only such occasion. He speaks in his statement, which is, to be fair, on the blog, of his bewilderment at what he did. A while in the wilderness reflecting on his actions and motivations is far more appropriate than his current attempts to re-establish himself in the environment he so blatantly took advantage of not so long ago..

I do not normally take part in campaigns against private individuals. I think this is the first and I hope it is the last. If he had remained private, or simply started a blog without trumpeting his own, now severely tattered, radical feminist credentials, I would certainly have left him alone. But this is not what he has done. He does not seem, therefore, to have taken on board that he was well out of order and that trust, if it ever returns, will take a long time to come.


Anonymous said...

The part of the May 6, 2008, post you ignored in your quotation/interpretation:

Update: Included in this post is a reference to writing a book detailing the stories survivors have shared with me about their experiences of men’s violence. Specifically I say, “One day I’ll write a book… a compilation of all the stories shared with me by survivors. Women (of a variety of different backgrounds) raped, beaten, groped, stalked, threatened, drugged, coerced, tortured, pissed on, and emotionally abused by men (of a variety of different backgrounds).” As I state further on in the same paragraph, “I would never try to publish this book - these are not my stories to tell,” I want to make clear that I have no intention of publishing or in any way sharing that which has been shared with me under strict confidentiality.

My suggestion that I would write a book about the stories shared with me was a very unfortunate and irresponsible example of “thinking out loud” on my part. Such an action would be an extreme breach of ethics, and I would never seriously consider it. The thought arose because I was reflecting upon the schism of having such intimate knowledge of the pervasiveness and horrifying effects of men’s violence, yet living in a society that seems utterly unaware (or in denial?). Faced with such a conflict, it seems altogether natural that one would feel compelled to somehow make the issue real (whether it be men’s violence, environmental degradation, economic injustice, etc.). Obviously, though, there are ethical and unethical ways to raise awareness.

I am very sorry for the misunderstanding, especially to anyone who has confided in me. I did not consider fully the implications of what I was writing in this post. In the future, however, I will be much more careful and respectful.

Brian Charles said...

Come on Kyle, if it is you, I have heard of disingenuousness but this is taking it almost to an art form. Whether you published such a book or not is irrelevant.

You have already pleaded guilty to an "extreme breach of ethics". Nobody but you can know whether this was the first occasion or whether the breach was limited to what you admitted.

What you confessed to was, among other things, an act of voyeurism. I quoted the reference to your writing the book - not because you may have published it but because, given your confessed predilection for looking at the bodies of trusting women, it revealed that you had listened to their intimate secrets as well. And had retained those secrets and ruminated upon them.

Such is indeed what counsellors do - and there may well be an element of voyeurism in the make-up of some fine and ethical counsellors - we are none without flaws. But your criminal act gives rise to the strong suspicion that your voyeurism is far greater than an "element" but is perhaps the strongest motivation in your chosen life path.

It was in that light that I suggested a healthier way of dealing with your voyeurism than attempting to gain the trust of vulnerable women again. Of course, I may well have totally misunderstood your actions.

But I do not think so.

Please, if you are Kyle Payne, have the courage to realise that your armour, if it ever shone, is now severely rusted. Take it off. Damsels in distress can do without your help - your motivations cannot be trusted.

They do not need to be raped twice.