GMP article about male survivors

A week late and completely unlinked to the Good Men Project’s series on sexual violence and rape, GMP posted an article written by Marcus Williams. Marcus recounts his abuse and the impact it had on his ability to initiate sexual encounters or even ask a girl out. From his article:

If you’re expecting to hear how getting molested transformed me from a “good” 13-yr old into a rebellious, substance-abusing juvenile delinquent, you’re out of luck. Outwardly, I stayed pretty much the same kid: good grades, rule follower, got along fine with my parents, etc. The main difference in behavior was one that was easily attributed, even by me, to teenage shyness and awkwardness: my social circle shrank to almost nothing, and I was painfully shy when it came to dating. It would be a long time before I realized that a lot of my social awkwardness probably had something to do with being molested. Making that connection didn’t make anything easier, but it at least made sense.

Getting molested did not stunt my sex drive at all. Between the usual urges that accompany puberty and being a bookworm who read a lot about sex even before the Internet made it easy, I had no shortage of sexual desire. What it did stunt was my willingness and ability to make a move. Deep down, I was so afraid of violating a girl’s space by making an unwanted advance, that I refrained from making moves even at times when any “normal” guy would be seeing nothing but green light.

The more sexual or physical the move, the harder it was to make, but the really insidious thing about this fear was that it was inhibiting even at the point where potential sex gets started, like flirting or asking a girl on a date. I was not incapable of interacting with girls, but I’d always be so “nice” and asexual that I was one of those guys who ended up with plenty of platonic girl friends who infuriatingly told me time and again how lucky some girl would be to have me.

It is definitely worth a read, and most unfortunate that it was not included in GMP’s series about sexual violence.


6 thoughts on “GMP article about male survivors

  1. What he writes is true of many people who experience sexual and other kinds of abuse and that list includes emotional as well. Many people thought that I was “painfully shy” and some people may have suggested that I was socially awkward to boot. I didn’t feel I was either, but I do feel I had a natural reaction to want to protect myself from the hurtful behaviors of others who did not understand and in their lack of understanding proceeded to label, judge and try to fix me.

    It was not that I didn’t try to reach out to others for help, but that help was lacking. It also made me more vulnerable to abuse.

    Abuse destroys confidence and it is isolating in burdening innocent people with shame. I never saw myself as other people saw me. I was just a teenager, like any other whose experiences stripped me of feeling good or confident and all I was trying to do was/is cope to the best of my ability.

  2. Thanks for linking to that. The thing that jumped out at me (and I can’t believe something like this didn’t occur to me long ago) when I read his self-description was this: Until he met women who were sexually and romantically interested interested in him and willing to take the initiator role- which was a matter of sheer chance- Williams was the archetypal example of the hated “Nice Guy TM” who’s always getting villified in so many places online. If it were not for that stroke of luck, it seems likely he still would be- and if he actually gave a sign of feeling sorrow or regret or displeasure about it he’d be demonized as a misogynistic, entitled, sleazy, and perhaps secretly predatory monster.

    Which makes me wonder how many of the anti “-Nice Guys TM” crowd’s preferred targets are not only victims of sexual abuse, but are effectively being chosen as hate-objects by many feminists precisely BECAUSE they have been victims of abuse.

  3. Good catch, there TS.

    However, I do have something I want to say about this story.

    I was not sexually abused as a child (unless you consider light-hearted, consensual “Playing Doctor” with a child my own age as abuse – which I do not).

    But I can relate to all of that penetrating fear of initiation that man mentioned. So perhaps it wasn’t the sexual abuse that triggered it?

    The reason I’m bringing this up here touches on what John Markley said above me.

    If we accept that sexual abuse can create “Nice GuysTM” and we give those NGs a free pass, what about the ones who weren’t abused?

  4. EasilyEnthused,

    I definitely didn’t mean to suggest that men put in the “Nice Guy TM” category who weren’t abused have some sort of moral failing on that account. I apologize if my post gave that impression.

    I don’t think “Nice Guys TM” should be given a free pass, because I don’t think most men so designated are doing anything that would need to be excused or forgiven in the first place. In most actual usage “Nice Guy TM” simply means a shy, awkward, unmasculine, or non-neurotypical heterosexual man who indicates being unhappy or frustarted about being sexually and romantically isolated, and is used to demonize these men.

    (Most likely because a lot of femists don’t actually disagree with traditional beliefs about gender nearly as much as advertised, but that’s conjecture.)

    As actually used, the term has little or nothing to do with the sort of person supposedly referred to by “Nice Guy TM”– the jerk who isn’t actually nice, manipulates women, thinks women “owe” him sex, whose lack of sexual or romantic contact is actually the result of women being able to tell what a dirtbag he is, etc.- that features so prominently in online feminist mythology. It occasionally gets applied someone who may actually resemble the people it supposedly refers to because it gets indiscriminately applied to any man who’s sexually unsuccessful and unhappy about it. (Fire a gun into crowds at random long enough, and sooner or later you’ll probably hit someone who actually deserved to die.)

    So I don’t mean to bring it up as a mitigating factor for men who behave in objectionable ways. Rather, the realization amplified my revulsion at the abuse directed towards men who aren’t doing anything wrong, since some of them may have come into the anti-“Nice Guys” contingent’s line of fire specifically because of traits caused by being abused, despite those traits having no relationship to the supposed moral failings they are being accused of and villified for.

    Additionally, some of the “Nice Guy TM” rhetoric accuses its targets as being not only contemptible but sexually predatory- he supposedly feigns being nice or desiring friendship so that he can manipulate and sexually exploit women he doesn’t really respect or care about. The accusations of a supposed feeling of “entitlement” to sex with women also mirrors some common feminist claims about the motivations and mindsets of men who rape women, so the “Nice Guy TM” is often being painted as the spiiritual kinsman of rapists. If the men being painted that way are disproportionately likely to be survivors of sexual violence themselves, and in some cases are targets of it because of harmless but unpopular personality traits that developed because of that fact, that’s pretty horrifying, especially in light of all the “Male abuse victims are future monsters to be feared” messages already common in our culture.

    I don’t think sexual trauma is the only way to become fearful of initiating, or inevitably causes such fear. But it seems like a plausible contributing factor in many cases, and if so it means that typical “Nice Guy TM” bashing is- among all the other reasons it’s objectionable- yet another way of attacking male abuse survivors..

  5. John, you don’t need to apologize – I’m not offended or angered by the idea (any more than general discussion about Nice GuysTM do normally, anyway) – I only wish to discuss what it might mean and how we might best work to change the notion.

    First of all – can we all agree on the different degrees of Nice Guyism?

    I was under the impression that you have “Nice GuyTM” as the worst of the worst – a genuinely angry, not-nice person who pretends to be nice to get sex from women and is angry when that fails. He attempts, actively, to brand himself (hence the Trademark) as a nice guy in his group to attract women.

    Next, you have “Nice Guy” who is a genuinely nice guy who becomes frustrated when his niceness fails to help him find sex. (Note, a “Nice Guy” could become a “Nice GuyTM” if his lack of sexual attraction either causes him to try to be a jerk to attract women or if he becomes so bitter that he is no longer able to be nice to people in general.)

    Lastly, you have a nice guy, who is just a nice …. guy who doesn’t have any preconceptions about his niceness and his abilty to attract women.

    Can we agree on that here?

    I was able to trace my own former Nice Guy-ism to psychological sexual abuse by my mother, a second wave feminist who completely bought into the entire all sex is rape narrative. (She did have a caveat that sex for procreation in marriage was OK, but that was due to her catholic roots, I think.)

    Generally speaking, I don’t hate the term “Nice GuyTM,” I don’t hate “Nice GuysTM” and don’t even have a major problem with the way “Nice GuyTM” is used. My problem is the lack of effort being put into how “Nice Guys” are formed and what we can do about it …and I don’t think the answer is “More Feminism.”

    If everyone embraced the term “Nice Guy” as many Feminists do – we would get no where. For example – even if we agree that “Nice Guys” are actively hurting women by attempting to manipulate them into sex – then what?

    Ok, so they’re evilbad – what do you want to do about it?

    My guess is that Feminists would say “We must tell men that being nice doesn’t entitle them to sex.”
    To which, I’d have to respond “Yes, individually they eventually figure that out – become bitter and misogynistic. Now you have a sexually frustrated angry misogynist on your hands. Now what?”

    And the Feminist would probably say “Well blame for misogyny lies directly with the misogynist or society (patriarchy.)”

    And I have to sum that up as “Well, we’re back at step one again, aren’t we? So we can either fight the patriarchy, or we can line the “Nice GuysTM” up against a wall and shoot them in the back of the head. But that will do nothing to help “Nice Guys” who haven’t gotten their Trademark yet.”

    That’s why, John, I think you have hit on a narrative on the creation of Nice GuysTM that will make many gynocentric Feminists very, very uncomfortable. If Nice GuysTM are being created by abuse – and you are unable to see men as victims of abuse (or Men as victims of childhood abuse) then you’re put in a very uncomfortable spot, aren’t you?

  6. @ EE

    “But I can relate to all of that penetrating fear of initiation that man mentioned. So perhaps it wasn’t the sexual abuse that triggered it?”

    The other possible explanation is that whatever is happening to socialize ‘Nice Guys’, it’s mimicking the effects of sexual violence.

    I would say that other survivors of this socialization process might, like other survivors of sexual violence, turn to compulsive promiscuity as a coping strategy.

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