Monday, July 20, 2020

Male Writers: Do Better


Over the last month or so, three different men in the horror community – authors Matt Hayward and Tim Miller and Borderlands Books owner Alan Beatts – were revealed to have sexually harassed or assaulted a number of women. They were exposed by brave women who came forward with their stories of harassment and abuse, and the horror community rallied around these women and supported them. If you want more background on these men and what they did, you can follow these links:



(Scroll down a bit. It’s news item number three.)


Matt Hayward had a mini-interview (along with many other writers) in my forthcoming book on writing horror Writing in the Dark. You can read my statement regarding Hayward’s contribution to my book here: http://writinginthedarktw.blogspot.com/2020/06/statement-regarding-matt-hayward.html

Brian Keene discussed Hayward, Beatts, and the mental and emotional toll of reporting sexual misconduct in the horror industry on his podcast, The Horror Show with Brian Keene here: http://thehorrorshowbk.projectentertainment.libsynpro.com/kaitlyn-booth-and-nick-hanover-the-horror-show-with-brian-keene-ep-271

I believe women and I stand with them against harassers, abusers, and assaulters of all types. Full stop.

After these incidents there was a great deal of discussion on social media about the sexual harassment women in SF/F/H face. Many women came forward with their own stories, some regarding online sexual harassment, others about harassment they’ve faced at writing conventions and conferences. Some men posted variations on “Does this mean I’m not allowed to flirt with women anymore?” and “Now I can never talk to women again without being labeled a sexual predator!” A lot of people offered advice for male writers on how to behave professionally and respectfully toward women at cons and in online interactions, and that’s what I’d like to talk about in this post. So while I’m happy to have anyone read this, my main audience this time is men – especially men of good will who are confused as how to avoid accidentally sexually harassing women and/or are afraid their attempts to interact with women will be construed as harassment. And if you’re a predatory bastard who doesn’t give a shit how your actions affect women, but you do give a shit about not imploding your career, hopefully you’ll learn some tips on how to at least pretend to be a decent human being.

Keep in mind that I’m writing this based on my own experiences and observations (including what I’ve learned from women speaking about sexual harassment and abuse), as well as my own struggles trying to do better in my interactions with women in my day-to-day life, at the college where I teach, and as a literary citizen. Also know that I approach this topic as a cishet demisexual monogamous male who’s primarily attracted to intelligent, imaginative women (so maybe I’m sapiosexual as well?). I experience sexual attraction toward woman in general all the time (although it’s nowhere near as intense in my fifties as it was in my teens and twenties). As a demisexual, I’m only interested in entering into a sexual relationship with a woman with whom I’ve established an emotional bond. I grew up in a culture that told me real men pursued all women all the time, and I thought something was wrong with me because, while I felt sexual urges, I experienced no compulsion to act on them with whatever random woman I happened to be near. Because of this, I haven’t had a lot of, shall we say, short-term relationships in my life. I was with my first wife for twenty years before our marriage ended, and I’ve been with my second wife for twelve years.

After my first wife and I divorced, I realized I’d never really dated in my life and I had no practical experience in how to go about it. I signed up for various online dating services and began, at the age of forty-three, learning how to meet and get to know women in what felt to me like awkward and artificial set-ups. I met some very nice women during this time, and I also met my share of psychos. I also tried being more outgoing and meeting women at cons. I’m sure my efforts were clumsy, and I hope I didn’t make anyone feel uncomfortable at those cons, but I probably did. If you were one of those people, I sincerely apologize.

So now that you know where I’m coming from in terms of this topic, let’s get started in earnest.

Men, you are responsible for your own emotions, choices, and actions.

She’s so hot, she makes me crazy! Every say something like this? Newsflash. She didn’t make you do, think, or feel anything. You are in charge of your own mind. I have a five-year-old male dachshund named Bentley. He’s not neutered, and sometimes – I don’t know what sets him off – he goes through periods when he wants to hump our two cats (one female, one male, so I guess Bentley is bi). I have to stop him and try to train him not to go after the cats, but I don’t get angry with him (frustrated, sure, but not angry) because he’s innocent. He’s a simple creature who responds to stimuli. He’s like a computer program. You are a grown-ass man who should’ve learned how to deal with your emotions a long time ago. Granted, our culture is terrible at teaching men how to do this, but that’s no excuse. If you feel that you just have to pursue a woman online or at a professional event, you really don’t. It’s a choice. Choose to do and be better. Do some soul-searching. Talk to your partner. Talk to friends. See a therapist. Do whatever is necessary to take responsibility for and ownership of your emotions. Or to put it more simply, get your damn shit together.


Bentley says, "You're writing about me in your blog, aren't you?"

Writers don’t do social media or go to cons to get laid (in other words, in professional situations, act professionally).

Sure, maybe some are perfectly happy if they happen to meet someone they can connect with romantically and/or sexually through professional activities. My wife and I met each other when she took one of my creative writing classes. (Yes, I know this makes us a cliché – the professor and student who eventually fell in love and got married – but we’ve been together twelve years, so even if we are a cliché, we’re a good example of that cliché working well.) But people who participate in professional activities want to be viewed as professionals and treated like professionals. They want to be treated with respect, as equals. Whenever you hit on a woman in a professional situation (and social media interactions count as professional if someone’s online presence is in support of their writing career) you’re saying that you only view her as a sexual target and that being a sexual target is her only value. It’s a horribly unprofessional and just plain shitty attitude to take toward another human being. So if you’re in a professional situation (and again, online interactions count) assume the other person wants to be treated as a professional and behave accordingly.

The power differential is a real thing.

And men know this and use it to their advantage. Older and more experienced? Have more professional contacts? Possess the ability to help advance a woman’s career? Have the time to mentor her and help her become a better writer? Have the power to damage or completely ruin her career if she doesn’t give you want you want? All of these things can be used as bait, threat, or a combination, and by doing so, you’re attempting to force a woman to do what you want. Don’t tell yourself it’s okay because “She made her own choice.” A choice someone is pressured into making is not a real choice because it’s not a free choice. You’re still attempting to manipulate a situation to your advantage. That’s not treating someone as an equal. Even if you don’t consciously exert your power with the intention of manipulating someone, that power in and of itself can cause manipulation to occur, and if you accept the result of that unconscious manipulation and benefit from it, you’re still exploiting another person for your gain. As a professional, you need to be aware of your power and use it responsibly.

Don’t send women pictures of your genitals (or videos of you doing anything with your genitals).

You’d think this would be common sense and basic decency, and for most of us, I hope it is. But men do this to women a lot. Don’t. Ever. Unless you’re explicitly and clearly asked to do so. If both people involved like swapping pics of their sex organs, that’s their business. Who am I to judge? My personal theory is that men send unsolicited dick pics for two reasons. One is that they are hunting for a sexual partner and they think this is a good way to find one. Back in the eighties, one comedian (I think it was Eddie Murphy, maybe) told a joke about how men could approach women for sex. “Go up to each woman you see and ask her if she’d like to fuck. You’re going to get your face slapped nine out of ten times, but that tenth time is magic.” This joke demonstrates a couple toxic behaviors men are taught when it comes to pursuing women. 1) Be bold and be persistent. 2) It doesn’t matter how your approach affects women. In the joke, the man doesn’t care about how the nine women feel about the way he approached them. He only cares that the tenth responded the way he wanted. Men are taught to be sexually aggressive in ways that skirt (and too often lead to) violence. I’m including mental and emotional violence as well as physical violence here. We’re also not taught to consider women’s feelings when pursuing them, to value their feelings, value them as people. It’s all about us and what we can eventually get from women. We’re taught it’s a sign of weakness to consider others’ feelings.

The second reason I think men send dick pics is because it’s a form of assault and they get off on hurting women. Mental and emotional attacks are still attacks. They’re still violence. Men are taught that as long as you don’t physically hit someone, it doesn’t count as violence, but that’s not true.

When it comes to dick pics and the like, it’s easy to know what the kind, respectful, and professional thing to do is. Don’t take them and don’t send them. Even if you’re asked to take and send them, do you really want pictures of your junk floating around on the Internet? Who knows where they may ultimately end up and what harm they might do to your reputation and career?

Keep your hands to yourself.

They teach you this shit in preschool, so why some men seem to find this so difficult to understand baffles me. Don’t touch someone unless you are asked to touch them. The two toxic behaviors I mentioned above – Be aggressive and don’t consider the other person’s feelings – come in to play here as well.

It should be common sense not to put your hand on a woman’s leg when sitting next to her at a table on a panel or at an awards banquet, not to grab her ass when the two of you are alone in a hallway, etc. Keep your goddamned hands to yourself.

I came from a family that wasn’t physically demonstrative, and when I was in high school band and drama club, boys and girls did a lot of hugging. Part of it was cultural – We’re all so close, we’re all so artistic and free spirited – but a lot of it was horny teenagers looking for a socially acceptable excuse to touch each other. When I started going to SF/F/H cons in my late twenties, I encountered a culture where people hugged a lot. Part of this was because they’re friends and colleagues who rarely see one another face to face, and part was the same thing I experienced in high school: We’re all so close, we’re all so artistic and free-spirited. Whether I should respond to an offered hug was an easy decision for me. I tend to meet people wherever they’re at, and if they want to hug me, great. But when and if I should offer a hug was another matter. I tried offering hugs for several years, until I came to understand that people won’t say no to a hug generally, which means that you basically force physical contact on them. (I learned this from women.) Now I wait for women to offer a hug first before I give one.

A hotel bar at a con isn’t a meat market.

One of the most common bits of wisdom passed around at cons is that all the important connections are made at the hotel bar and all the real business is done there. In my experience, this isn’t true, but then again, I’m not a big bar guy. Whenever I’ve hung out at the bar – especially later in the evenings – it’s crowded and noisy and I can barely hear the person I’m sitting next to talk, let alone anyone else nearby. Hallway and lobby discussions tend to work better. People – sometimes publishers, sometimes individuals – have room parties at cons, and if they don’t get too crowded you might be able to have a decent conversation there (but they usually are too crowded). Regardless of whether or not much business is getting done at parties or the bar, you’re still in a professional situation. Once you arrive at a con, it’s a professional situation until you leave, morning, noon, and night. Sure, you might hang out with friends or make new friends, and it doesn’t have to be a stuffy, uptight kind of professionalism, but (as a rule) people do not go to the bar or parties at cons to hook up with someone and get laid. Who the hell would pay the con registration fee and travel expenses to do that when they could just go to a bar in their hometown and find someone if sex was all they wanted? As I said earlier, in professional situations act professionally, and at a con, you are always in a professional situation.

Ask a woman if she thinks you should say or do a thing (whatever that thing may be).

Contemplating pursuing a woman at a con or online? Or maybe you’re just unsure whether to offer a hug (as I discussed earlier)? When in doubt about how to approach and interact with a woman, ask a woman friend or relative if want you intend is a good idea. If once you tell them they look at you like you’re out of your goddamned mind, then you have your answer. Not only will they be able to tell you want not to do, they can tell you want you should do instead. And if you don’t have at least one woman in your life that you can talk to about stuff like this, that probably says something profound, and more than a little sad, about your relationships with and attitudes toward women in general. (And if you’re woman friend says, “Hell yeah, you should send her some dic pics! Send her a thousand of those fuckers! The more dicks, the better! Dicks, dicks, DICKS!” maybe you should ask someone else for guidance.)

You’re not giving up your freedom or your power. You’re helping to balance the scales.

Men (white men especially) have sat comfortably atop the power structure for a hell of a long time, and they can get pissy when asked to change their behaviors when it comes to interacting with women. But my fellow men, we aren’t losing freedom by coming to understand all humans should be equal and treating them as such. We’re helping to balance scales that have been tilted in our favor for far too long. And if you’re not an idealist and don’t give a shit about rebalancing scales and making the world a better and more just place, consider this: If women are equal to men in the writing profession and they feel comfortable interacting with us, if they feel they can trust us, that they’re safe with us, all of us – men and women alike – can do more business overall. And that’s a win-win in my book.

DEPARTMENT OF SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION

LIMITED TIME SALE ON THE FOREVER HOUSE



From Tuesday the 21st July 2020 until Sunday the 26th 2020 the Kindle version of my novel The Forever House will be available on Amazon for $0.99 (and the equivalent in the UK, Australia and Canada). This will be a great time to snag a copy if you haven’t already! Here’s some linkage:





NEW NOVELLA COMING NEXT MONTH



I’ve got a new novella coming from Apex Publishing on August 25th! It’s called Some Kind of Monster. Here’s the synopsis:

Throughout her life, Angie has lost loved ones to stupid, meaningless deaths. As an adult she begins researching urban legends, hoping to find proof that something exists beyond our mundane world. Is there magic? Is there an existence beyond this life? Is there any kind of meaning to it all even if that meaning is a dark one? In the end, Angie will get her answer, and she'll learn that reality isn't just darker than she thinks: It's some kind of monster.

Preorder Links for Some Kind of Monster

Apex Book Company

Special sale price on preorders!



Amazon


Barnes and Noble


B&N Paperback: Link still to come.

LIBRARIAN LOVE FOR WRITING IN THE DARK (THE BOOK)



Librarian and tireless champion for horror fiction Becky Spratford mentioned my forthcoming how-to-write book Writing in the Dark in an article for Library Journal called “Rise of the Monsters: Top Horror Titles and Trends Coming This Season”: “Critically acclaimed horror writer Tim Waggoner offers a unique and helpful guide to the craft in Writing in the Dark, which explores the genre’s history and appeal, providing practical writing advice and wisdom from respected and popular practitioners like Joe Hill and Ellen Datlow.” Very cool!

Writing in the Dark will be out from Raw Dog Screaming Press’s nonfiction imprint Guide Dog Books on September 16th, but it’s available for preorder now. Only the print version is up at the moment, but eventually the ebook will be available as well. I’ll post an update when it is.

Preorder Links for Writing in the Dark




YOUR TURN TO SUFFER AVAILABLE FOR PREORDER



My next book from Flame Tree Press, Your Turn to Suffer, is now available for preorder at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. My editor Don D’Auria sent me an image of the cover on Sunday. He said they wanted to go with a “a bit more mainstream and visually striking” look.  I think they did a great job! The book’s due out March 23, 2021. Here’s the synopsis:

Lorelei Palumbo is harassed by a sinister group calling themselves The Cabal. They accuse her of having committed unspeakable crimes in the past, and now she must pay. The Cabal begins taking her life apart one piece at a time – her job, her health, the people she loves – and she must try to figure out what The Cabal thinks she’s done if she’s to have any hope of answering their charges and salvaging her life.

This book takes place in the same town at The Mouth of the Dark, although it’s not a direct sequel, and it’s the second appearance of the Nightway, an extradimensional highway that first appeared in my novel The Harmony Society way back in 2003! It was a lot of fun to write, and I hope you’ll check it out.

Preorder Links for Your Turn to Suffer

Amazon




Barnes and Noble




THE HORROR ZINE’S BOOK OF GHOST STORIES

My story “The White Road” appears in The Horror Zine’s Books of Ghost stories, which was recently released by Hellbound Books. So if you want to read a really weird ghost story (really, would I write any other kind?) from me, check it out!

Amazon



Barnes and Noble


B&N Paperback link still to come.

BONE WHISPERS RE-RELEASED

My third short story collection Bone Whispers was published in 2013 by Post Mortem Press. PMP has since closed its doors, and my collection has found a new home (and new cover) with Crossroad Press (only as an ebook, I’m afraid.) If you haven’t read this one, you can grab a copy here:



NEWSLETTER

If you haven’t already signed up for my newsletter – which not only includes all the Tim Waggoner news you crave but also presents writing and publishing tips and behind-the-scene glimpses (content which is often exclusive to my newsletter) – you can subscribe here: http://timwaggoner.com/contact.htm


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