This week, Sarah Silverman struggled to come to terms with her conflicted feelings in the wake of the Louis C.K. revelations. “Revelation” is perhaps too strong a word, for a man who openly jokes about such things. Regardless – I can relate, because I’ve had a similar problem. Even wrote about it. But all that’s happened since is a string of pathetic messages from the guy who I unceremoniously cut from my social life.
My rationale regarding social trees has long been, when you realize you have a bad branch, “lop it off.” It’s social pruning. Because with a busy calendar, there isn’t enough time in the day for everyone who wants a piece. Especially when accounting for other priorities: family, employment, creative hobbies, community service and self-care. So it’s always been easiest (never easy) to just eliminate a bad person, like a rotten branch, in order to let the rest of the tree thrive.
That was my M.O. for a former long-time platonic friend who I learned was a sexual predator. It was about a year ago, when he brought a woman out, who I’d never met before. She texted me the next day.
“Great meeting you. Wish I could say the same for the rest of my night with ____.”
Took some digging to get it out of her, and the details don’t matter at this point. What matters is, I believe her. And I’ve known that guy for more than a decade! Plenty long enough to have seen him turn into a monster when he’s drunk, numerous times. He becomes a different person. It’s not a stretch for me to think, he’s a person who would date-rape.
Flash forward to last month, when I’m hanging out with another male co-hort who I’ve known for 10+ years. In some ways, he’s had a positive impact on my life. Like with the dude above, I’ve considered him a brother. The difference is, while the first guy is fine pretending he doesn’t know me, the second guy keeps reaching out. He’s smart enough to know there’s a problem, but I doubt he has any idea what the problem is. His last two messages were asking if I’m still alive, and letting me know he’s changed his phone number. It’s only a matter of time before he shows up at my door.
Even if I ignored the knocks, this guy isn’t the only one. Just this week, another “friend” popped up, saying he missed me. He sent a GIF of a sad kitten face, with teary eyes and quivering bottom lip. I cut him off a few months ago, after my one of my gal-pals told me he’d sexually assaulted her during one of our long party nights. I was so disgusted, I never spoke to him again. But is that enough?
What person hasn’t done something they’re ashamed of? We spend our lives operating within abstract boundaries. Some people have to learn the hard way, by crossing the line. I’ve done things that I regret, more than a few times. We either get in trouble, get hurt, and/or experience some level of social shaming. This teaches us, and hopefully anyone who happens to witness or hear the story, why certain actions and behaviors are off-limits. By saying nothing to these men, I may be creating a teeny void in their social lives. Big fucking deal! I have to admit, my silence is – at least – insulating the problem, by failing to make the guys aware of the issue. At worst, it’s helping to exacerbate it. Because they aren’t just sitting at home while I’m not hanging out with them, they could be out date-raping and sexually assaulting other women. Their disregard and disrespect for women is an example of Toxic Masculinity, the worst cultural epidemic of our time.
What’s the solution? Well, on a micro-scale, the easy way out (the dreaded Silent Treatment) isn’t enough. I have to send them a message. Because outside the formal halls of justice, social condemnation can be an effective form of behavior modification. And if I don’t have the strength to tell these guys, there’s a good chance few others will. So here it is, to the three dudes who used to ride my coattails to all the parties:
Intoxicated women are not fuck-dolls. And I’m not willing to expose my friends to sexual predators, ever again. When you are ready to own your mistakes and change accordingly, maybe we can talk. In the meantime, psychotherapy isn’t fun, nor is it my job; You should get help.