8 Men Admit to #MeToo and Tell Their Stories

 

I read this New York Times piece, word-for-word. 

On a Friday afternoon, September 21st, The New York Times invited male readers to tell us about their high school experiences. Had you, we asked, ever behaved toward girls or women in ways you now regret? By Monday morning, we had more than 750 responses.

The stories covered a wide spectrum of sexual misconduct, some of it deeply disturbing: There were multiple submissions that discussed participating in gang rapes. In others, men looked back and thought differently on activities that might be considered the everyday realm of high school boys: “I would walk up to girls in my school and undo their bras. I thought it was funny but they thought it was horrible,” one wrote. “I felt like I had a right to touch them or undo their bras as a joke and honestly thought it was O.K.” Above all, the submissions were striking for their candor: They or at least seemed to be, submitted by men genuinely questioning why they had once conducted themselves in ways of which they now felt ashamed.

I knew that what I was doing was wrong, but I didn’t realize how wrong it was until I saw the young woman’s reaction, and I’ve regretted it ever since.

A man who forced a woman to expose her breasts in order to give her a ride home said: “But what stayed with me about this was somehow both the innocence of youth and the giddy power I felt over this girl.”

A man who groped a woman against her will said: “I knew that what I was doing was wrong, but I didn’t realize how wrong it was until I saw the young woman’s reaction, and I’ve regretted it ever since.”

A man who verbally threatened a woman in a car about having sex with him said: “My point is that I believe it is entirely possible for people to mature and be good citizens and to leave behind youthful bad behavior. But to do so requires admitting to wrongdoing.”

A man who watched a group of his friends lead an unwilling woman to a secluded pantry said: “I felt it was something bigger than me that I couldn’t control, and that I didn’t have a place in reprimanding them.”

These are all harrowing, real-life tales of regret and I think the full stories do them far better justice than the snippets I’m sharing here. 

There were three other stories of verbal coercion – men pressuring their dates for sex and oral sex – that are interesting because they are not sexual assault, per se, but because the men still feel remorseful about their actions to this day.

Your thoughts, as always, are greatly appreciated in the comments below.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Celia

    I’ve been reading your website and you constantly repeat that what men really want are to make women happy.   These men obviously don’t.  So where do thee men into your thesis, and why should we believe them when they claim to be remorseful?  And even if they are genuinely remorseful why should women care?

    1. 1.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      Celia,

      Your devoted boyfriend signs up for the job of making you happy. If you’re not happy, he runs the risk of losing you. A man who sexually assaults a woman is not thinking of her happiness, only his own power/goal/sexual pleasure at the time. I trust it’s easy to see the difference between the two types of situations. The way you framed the question suggests that you don’t – that if men do selfish/thoughtless things, they are therefore selfish and thoughtless in all situations with all people at all times. I invite you to consider the idea that people are wildly inconsistent and that good people do bad things, and that bad people aren’t all bad.

      1. 1.1.1
        Celia

        Evan,

        Every convict who appears before a parole board knows that he/she is expected to express remorse as a way of getting out of jail.  Some are surely sincere in their remorse but the process is inadvertently designed to encourage lying.  So we are to assume these men are genuinely remorseful just because “good people do bad things”?  And if “good people do bad things” does that mean that the good boyfriends that you claim want to make women happy and the sexual assailants in these stories are the same men in different circumstances?

         

         

        1. Evan Marc Katz

          Not sure I want to get into a back and forth, Celia. But, in short, there are probably good men who have committed sexual harassment or assault. However, if you feel that committing sexual harassment or assault instantly precludes the possibility of a man being “good,” it would be impossible for me to argue with you. There’s no defending indefensible behavior. I do think, however, that it’s obvious that the men who volunteered their stories for the NYT are not lying about their remorse. They have nothing to gain and everything to lose by putting their real names in this article. Finally, if I were you, I’d circle back to your original comment where you either don’t believe or can’t understand that good boyfriends want to make you happy AND will not always make you happy AND can make mistakes AND can be clueless AND can be selfish. It’s the human condition and it equally applies to women as well.

    2. 1.2
      Clare

      Celia,

      Your post portrays a very black-and-white type of thinking which, for all I know, you might consider to be the right way to view other people and the world.

      My experience is that people and the world are not black and white. They are very complex and nuanced, and the consideration we give to each of them is as well. If you don’t believe me, think about whether you have ever forgiven someone that you loved for hurting you really deeply. Or whether you have ever wanted to be forgiven for doing something awful, perhaps even committing a crime, because you had your reasons and you know that’s not who you really are as a person. My point is, forgiveness and understanding are nuanced, and anyone who refuses to consider the point of view of someone who has done something wrong is living a double standard.

      And yes, I have been sexually assaulted. When I was just out of university, I was date raped by a guy I’d gone to university with and whom I’d kissed on a couple of occasions. I was over at his house and he went too far and he forced himself on me despite me saying no multiple times. Afterwards, I broke down crying and got in my car and left. It was very confusing and upsetting, but I don’t hate him. I’m not going to whitewash what he did or ever make it ok, but that does not preclude me realising that he was a stupid 21 year old who did a stupid and selfish thing, but I could see he was not evil.

      I don’t know what personal growth he has or has not undergone since then because we have not spoken since that night, but I do know he is married now and is practicing as a successful lawyer. I met someone a few years ago who is friends with him and says he is a good guy. For me, it is absolutely within my power to comprehend that he might have really regretted what he did and grown up and matured and gone on to do some good things and maybe become a decent partner. I don’t know, but I’d certainly hear him out if he was one of the guys who wanted to express remorse.

      Good people do sometimes do bad things, and generally, good people express sadness and deep regret when they do something which hurts someone else. And people do have the capacity for change. That does not mean you have to forgive, but anyone who refuses to even entertain that notion or hear them out at all is, as I say, living a double standard.

      1. 1.2.1
        S.

        I am very sorry that happened to you and am impressed with your compassion.  I just wish things like this didn’t happen in the first place.

        Sometimes, a lot of times, violence like this absolutely destroys a woman’s life and it is incredibly difficult for her to come back from, if she ever can.  I have anger on those women’s behalf.  That the guy can go on and be good and have a good life, but not take responsibility for the potential destruction left in his wake.

        If if I hit a person by accident with my car, if I injure them I have to take responsibility and make amends.  Doesn’t mean I’m a terrible person, but I’m not allowed to walk away, and just say it terrible mistake, and go on with my life.

        That’s what #metoo and this article are about to me.  Having men take full responsibility for harm they have caused.  It’s not all that needs to be done, but it’s a start.

        1. XXX

          S, when you talk hurting someone with your car, you are talking about physical harm and injury. Unless the rape involved physical force or threat of physical injury, the amount of justice to be extracted is very very grey. Also, the idea of consent must be one recognised under the law. Feminist are trying to recategorized silence as non consent, but this is going down a very slippery slope. Women who have reached the age of consent should be adult and mature enough to walk away from a compromising situation, and not be pressured or guilted into doing anything they don’t want to. If they can’t do this and be accountable for their decisions as adult women, then they should remain under the control and authority of their parents. Sorry.

      2. 1.2.2
        Marika

        So sorry to hear that, Clare. Did you go to the Police or get some therapy at all? You seem fine, but just checking in ☺

        1. Clare

          Marika,

          Thank you 🙂

          The worst of it is, I had no idea this was date rape until several years later. I was 21 – so this was about 14 years ago – and I had no idea what date rape was. At the time, there was no #metoo movement, very little talk of sexual harassment or date rape. And in South Africa, rape statistics being what they are, I assumed rape happened where a woman was accosted by a man against her will and dragged into a dark alley. I had never thought of rape as something that could happen with a guy you actually liked and had some kind of romantic or sexual contact with. The experience was deeply upsetting for a long time, but I had no idea it was rape until I read about date rape numerous times and then put two and two together. The long period of time since it had happened also meant that I never went to the police, although, truth be told, I probably wouldn’t have done it at the time either because I felt partly responsible for what happened (though I know now I had no culpability for it at all).

          I have had intermittent counselling over the years, but funnily enough, this was never one of the things that I talked about. It was deeply upsetting, it was a violation, but I don’t feel it scarred me. I was angry with him, and that anger helped me to move past it. In hindsight, though, I should have talked to someone. It would have helped. And maybe I will now 🙂

      3. 1.2.3
        Marika

        I would’ve been the same, Clare. When I think back, there are quite a few situations in my early 20s and even high school which would fit into the sexual assault category. But I was too naive to realize (eg that if you keep pushing a guy’s hand away over and over, and he keeps going, that’s not okay). I’m a bit of a people pleaser, so I doubt I ever clearly said an emphatic no (as you did).

        Strangely, I hold no ill-will towards these guys – well apart from one- and truly believe they most likely went on to be decent people and partners. We were confused and horny. And (for me) with suspect sex ed.

        That’s why #metoo is important. And I would feel differently if it was actual rape. It’s one thing to have a guy make you feel uncomfortable and push your boundaries…rape is another level of violation. I can’t even imagine.

        It’s good you’re talking about it☺ I hope at the time you got some support.

      4. 1.2.4
        Clare

        I wanted to re-link to this article that Evan shared a few years ago that has stayed with me ever since:

        Is Rape the Worst Thing That Can Happen to a Woman?

        I particularly find it fascinating to notice the societal discourse around women’s strength, or lack of strength. Apparently we think that women can run for president, train to become a police officer or a firefighter, or go to war, but when it comes to questions of our sexuality, one act of disrespect from a man must devastate us for life.

        Rape is a horrible thing. Sexual assault is a horrible thing. But I’d love to see us focused more on empowering women to be strong in the face of such possibilities rather than treating women with kid gloves. I’d love to see us teaching women about what they can do in a potentially threatening situation, rather than succumb to victim (or survivor) status. Or teaching women how to move past a traumatic event when it happens so that they can go on to live full, happy and satisfying lives rather than reliving and being forever defined by what happened to them.

        I know this is maybe a bit of a controversial viewpoint, but I felt it had to be said.

        1. Karl R

          Clare,

          You’re not kidding about the earlier blog post being controversial.  I thought I was taking reasonable, non-controversial positions (i.e. “Let’s let each woman decide for herself how bad her own experience was.”) and a few people  were strongly objecting to that idea.

           

          Clare said: (#1.2.2.1)

          “I had never thought of rape as something that could happen with a guy you actually liked and had some kind of romantic or sexual contact with. The experience was deeply upsetting for a long time, but I had no idea it was rape until I read about date rape numerous times and then put two and two together.”

          I understand what you’re saying.  I think there’s this society-wide assumption that girls/boys/women/men will automatically understand what rape, date rape, sexual assault, etc. are … even if nobody ever provides them with the information.

          I remember sitting in class (I’m not sure at what age … whenever they belatedly got around to teaching us about sexual assault) and being surprised to learn that grabbing a woman’s breast or someone’s buttocks qualified as sexual assault.  Fortunately I’d never done either of those, but I’m sure some of the kids in class already had.

           

          Before anyone blows up and me and asks “How could you not realize those actions were wrong?” … let me explain the perspective of the kids my age.

          As kids, we did lots of things that we knew were wrong: using profanity, punching each other, dropping food on someone’s chair so they’d sit in it….  So it wasn’t surprising that it was “wrong.”  It was surprising that it was “you get thrown in prison” wrong, rather than “the teacher gives you detention” wrong.

          I think we’re doing girls and boys a grave disservice by not educating them earlier and better, which increases the odds that they’ll become victims and/or victimizers.

  2. 2
    S.

    This is an informative read.  From the blog title, I thought it was about men who had been also been harmed and coming forward with their #metoo stories.  Then I read the actual article and was sad.  And puzzled.  Puzzled why young men who genuinely liked the young women would treat them this way. One guy said he didn’t know how wrong it was until he saw her face, until after he had done it.

    Adolescence and young adulthood is a confusing time.  Culturally, we don’t give young people enough tools to navigate this without a lot of confusion and subsequently, hurt.  Maybe my original read is somewhat (not totally) true.  That the men are harmed by this behavior too.  Not in the same way but two of these men are in their 80s.  They may have put the memories aside, but clearly never forgot what they did.

    Men and women both can be clueless and selfish.  It’s about degree and what you want to handle.  These men were not good boyfriends then, even though they liked the women, but we don’t know what sort of husbands they made, what men they grew into.  Only in one case do we know how the woman felt about this. One man asked his ex-girlfriend before he was published in the Times.  She didn’t remember it.  That’s worrisome too.  That his bad behavior was maybe normalized so that she didn’t even remember.

    Some of these things become normalized, snapping bra straps, someone rubbing against a woman on a crowded subway because they can, pressure from boyfriend to do sexual things before the woman is ready.  I want to say it all stops when you are an adult, but it can or not.  I’m not really sure what further comment to make.  I would like these behaviors to cease but have no idea how we as a culture make that happen.

  3. 3
    Rhonda

    I agree that there are good men who may have committed some degree of sexual harassment or coercion at one point in their lives. I believe in redemption for the most part and totally get that people can be ashamed of their shitty behavior. However, my compassion ends at the admissions of gang rape. There are some things in this world that are truly unforgivable, and I don’t believe it is possible for anyone with even a shred of decency in their souls to knowingly commit rape. There’s just no way that somebody with a conscience at all could purposely do that.

  4. 4
    Nissa

    Kudos to these men for being brave enough to admit having done things that were wrong. As someone who has experienced sexual assault, so much of the pain of those events comes from the experience of the other person’s complete obliviousness to our pain, our lack of consent, our side of that same experience. If my abuser had recognized how he had hurt and harmed me, it would have helped me in validating, accepting and moving past my pain. For me (and I assume others), my greatest pain was my own disbelief, confusion, sadness, inability to understand why I felt so violated by someone who told me I had no reason to feel violated and that any feelings of that sort were a mental problem on my end, and the powerlessness that came from not knowing if I had in some way created or caused those events to happen (or how to prevent them from happening again).  If my abuser had expressed remorse, validated my lack of consent, and recognized the violation of his actions, it would have been very healing for me. It’s hard for all of us to recognize when we have done wrong, no matter how large or small our action may have been. But it is encouraging that these men learned from their wrongdoing and resolved to become better people.

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