Wednesday, October 30, 2019

The Female Sexual Predator

As the current #MeToo narrative unfolds, you will have noticed that it is a morality play. Men are the essence of evil while women are essentially good. Men are at fault and women are blameless. If you think otherwise you are a bigot and a sexist. And you are condoning rape.

While those of us who are non-women believe that women embody all forms of moral virtue, the truth might be slightly more nuanced. A recent study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior suggests that women are manipulative and even coercive when dealing with men. And perhaps not just with men, I know you will find this shocking, but research is research.

Eric Dolan summarizes the study on Psypost:

The researchers anonymously surveyed 142 women (aged 16–53 years) regarding sexual coercion, pornography use, and personality disorder traits.

About 35% of the women admitted to engaging in nonverbal forms of sexual coercion, including persistent kissing and touching, or taking off their own or their target’s clothes despite them refusing sex. Nearly 16% of women also admitted to emotional manipulation and deception, such as repeatedly asking, using lies, questioning the target’s sexuality, or threatening to break up.

As I was pondering this great revelation, I ran across the latest Ethicist column by Kwame Anthony Appiah in the New York Times. It does not bear comparison to some of the columns I report on here, because Appiah, being a philosopher, is so much more thoughtful than most of the other advice columnists. His analysis is impressively cogent and correct. He has apparently remained untouched by today’s ambient psychobabble. To his great credit.

Anyway, Appiah prints a long, detailed letter about a woman predator preying on another woman. The predator's will to destroy the victim is palpable and frightening. The victim, a married mother was induced to walk out on her marriage. Now, she has broken all connections with her predator and has managed to remarry the man she divorced. Ostensibly, she wants to know whether or not to tell her adult children about why their parents got divorced:

I am a middle-aged woman. Several decades ago I had an affair with a woman I met in a writing class at a prestigious university’s continuing-education program. I was at a very fragile and vulnerable point in my life. My husband and I and our young children had recently moved to a new town where I knew no one. My children were both in school — I’d quit my job to raise a family — and I was lost, insecure, unhappy in my marriage and deeply depressed. (I was later put on antidepressants, which I continue to take to this day.) Not only did this woman think I was special and build my ego up as no one had ever done, but she also thought my writing was amazing. She had impressive credentials (she was published; she was enrolled as a graduate student in another program at the university and so on) so her support and encouragement made me feel as though I could accomplish anything.

The affair, however, was tumultuous and abusive — she had a Svengali-like hold over me. I can remember spending hours of my time, to all hours of the night, on the phone or instant messaging with her because she insisted she needed me and that if I hung up on her, she wasn’t sure what she would do to herself. She made up illnesses. She kept talking about suicide. She told me her fiancĂ© had recently died. She insisted many other women were interested in her and she would move on if I couldn’t commit to her. She infiltrated my family life: buying expensive gifts for my children, dropping in on special events and much more. She also wheedled her way into my sibling’s good graces and began turning my sibling against my husband. She pushed me to seek a divorce; she told me my husband wasn’t good enough for me, that I deserved someone who would encourage my writing, encourage my independence and encourage me to be me. And I fell for it completely.

My husband and I began divorce proceedings. He kept trying to tell me that she was controlling me, that I needed to “wake up” and see what she was doing to me, to him and to our children. I admit I had some doubts, but with the divorce proceedings snowballing, I felt I had to continue on the course I had set. She insisted I sue for sole custody, which meant there was no chance my husband and I could settle our divorce agreement out of court.

During the trial, my husband’s lawyer called her a sociopath. I had no idea what that really meant but soon learned that she was a serial predator and had been lying about virtually everything she had told me about herself. I was humiliated in court. My instant messages and my writings were blown up and printed on large whiteboards. I heard testimony from various people refuting all her claims about herself. One of the deans from the university testified that she had been recently reprimanded for stalking someone. Her claims about the advanced degree she was studying for and the dead fiancĂ© were also false.

I collapsed (physically and emotionally) and accepted a shared-custody deal that stipulated that our children would never have contact with her.

I saw her only a couple of times after the trial. The first time, my sibling stayed close by. (In court, my sibling realized that this woman had bamboozled all of us.) I called her out on her lies. She apologized profusely and told me she was manic-depressive and would be honest from then on. I told her that I didn’t care, didn’t believe her and that I never wanted to see her again. She tried to restart our relationship with more empty promises, but I refused. She eventually left me alone.

I slowly began to rebuild my life. I went back to work, started therapy, began the hard work of repairing the relationships I’d trashed and embarked on some deep soul-searching.

Fast-forward a number of years: After many years of self-reflection and therapy, my husband and I got back together and ultimately remarried. Our relationship is different from before — more grown up and respectful, and I cherish what we have. I went back to work full time, gained the self-confidence that I had been lacking and just plain grew up. I feel as though the experience happened to someone else in a very distant past. I still blame myself for what I allowed to happen to my life but now look back with a much better understanding of how depressed and vulnerable I was, and I’m able to cut myself some slack.

My children are now wonderful, well-adjusted, successful adults. I have one nagging reminder of that dark period, however. We never told the children exactly why we divorced. Because they were so young, we were counseled to keep it as generic as possible, and we did. Should my husband and I come clean to the children?

I used to write all the time, but since the trial, I haven’t written anything. Just lately, though, I have had the itch to begin writing again, and I enrolled in a weeklong, memoir-writing workshop.

I am cautiously looking forward to exploring this dark period of my life. Who knows if I’ll be published, and I’m not sure I care. I want to write my story and get it down on paper, for myself. Maybe I will finally be able to put some demons to bed.
But I also feel as if there is something so real about doing that, so wouldn’t it be better for me to tell my children? I worry that they will find out about the affair someday. Yet, I am terrified of the effects of telling them. I love my relationships with them. I am so worried that I’ll ruin these precious relationships and everything will change.

Name Withheld

Appiah correctly notes that the children are, by now, old enough to hear the truth. But that she must discuss the matter with her husband before exposing the family dirty linen. He also notes that the chances are good that they know the story already and do not want to hear more about it.

At the least, Appiah notes, she should question her intentions:

But you might be driven by other considerations, and if you decide to go forward, you should first get clear in your mind why you’re doing this. Is it to pre-empt their finding out some other way from a source less interested than you are in framing the story to your advantage? Is it because you want to write about the episode and realize that they may well end up seeing what you write? Is it simply because you think they’re entitled to know why their childhood was disrupted? Each of these motives suggests a different focus for your conversation with them. And honesty with yourself about what you’re doing will be a good preparation for honesty with them.

Bear in mind too that honesty with yourself involves an acknowledgment of your own agency here; this episode wasn’t simply something that was done to you. This isn’t a matter of blame. It’s a matter of coming to terms with decisions you made, the role you played in a turn of events that you now deeply regret. The story of your life can’t be written in the passive voice.

Be prepared to learn that your children may not want to hear all or, indeed, any of the details. You might just offer to tell them about what happened and fill in the details as they ask you about them. You should also be prepared to learn they know more than you and your husband realize. Your divorce involved a trial, and so some of the proceedings may have been public; there were a variety of people involved whom your children could have contacted, if they were curious.

All these points are very well taken. 

Surely, if the children wanted to know the details they could have found out. In truth, they probably know already what happened. I suspect, with Appiah, that they do not want to know anything else. So, it is good to respect their feelings and not to imagine that exposing her moral dereliction will be cathartic.

Appiah is also correct to read between the lines and discover that the woman might be thinking about writing it all up as a magazine story or even a book. Her lengthy account suggests as much.  If she is looking to write a memoir, it would necessarily contain the story of how she was seduced by a sexual predator and induced to throw away her marriage and damage her children.

For my part I would recommend that she try her writing talent on another story. Sometimes it’s best to let the past remain past.


sestamibi said...

Similar story by Quarterflash, 1981:

Anonymous said...

Since they are remarried I don't see why she would dredge this up.

Sam L. said...

Leave the past behind. Build a wall between you and the past.

tommy mc donnell said...

the behavior the "me-too" movement condemns is the same behavior liberal America promoted for all of my 76 years. where all those people that promoted that behavior? why in the "me-too" movement.

Anonymous said...

She's still blaming someone else for her ripping up her marriage, her children's lives, and taking years to face up to it. Her self pity sickens me. Her blatant disregard for her husband and children is nauseating. Who can deny our society is in decline? A healthy society would politely tell her to put a sock in it. Instead, she's a victim and of course that makes her special and grants her status. Maybe she should focus on being the best wife, mother, grandmother she can be and quit with the navel gazing pity party.