A meditation on the expectation of trust.

Jan 05 2014 Published by under Blogospheric science, Personal

You should trust me.

Sure, when the first public word of my bad behavior came out, I claimed the account used theatrical language to make it sound worse than it was and flat-out lied to you that I had never ever engaged in any such bad behavior with anyone else.

But you should trust me.

Yes, I used the cover of friendship, your loyalty and my apparent track record of not-misbehaving with hundreds of women (including you!), of being a good guy except for one single lapse of judgment (which I swore was not as bad as it sounded, because that woman who you didn't know was trying to take me down), to ask you privately to convince a couple other people that I was still a good guy. I guess it was awkward when you discovered I'd split up the list of people who needed convincing and asked other people to do this too? And when you discovered that I described the task with one of the people I assigned to you as "getting her to put down the pitchfork". In retrospect, that probably seemed kind of manipulative of me.

But you should trust me, I totally get how what I did was wrong, and I won't do it again.

Sure, I haven't actually acknowledged that lying to you and trying to manipulate you to protect my reputation and relationships was a bad thing to do. I haven't acknowledged that it harmed you. I haven't said sorry.

But you should trust that I am sorry and that I won't do it again. I shouldn't need to say it.

Yes, it turns out I was also actively putting out disinformation about just how much of the diversity at meetings and workshops in these circles was a direct result of my intervention. OK, I guess I should have suspected that after some of my lies to you started unraveling you'd do the legwork to uncover these lies, too. But I really am a champion of diversity, and the community really would do worse with diversity without my active involvement in it.

You should trust me on that.

And sure, after an extremely brief hiatus from the spaces where I damaged relationships and burned trust, I never clearly and publicly acknowledged the harms I did beyond to those three named women. But trust me, even though I haven't pointed to these injuries, I accept that I caused them, I regret that harm, and I won't do it again.

You shouldn't need an explicit apology to trust me on that.

Trust that I am listening and learning, and that if any of my trusted friends had told me I was messing up and hurting people or community -- even if they had told me it was too soon to try to come back, or that I hadn't done enough to repair the harms I had done or to communicate that I really comprehend those harms -- even if what they told me didn't match what I wanted to hear, trust that I would take their advice very seriously rather than rushing forward, centering my own redemption narrative, and doing further harm.

You should trust me.

And really, how can you question that I understand the size and shape of the harm I've done? Sure, I've let commenters on my blog post characterize distrust of me as wrong, as cruelly refusing to let me move on, as a public flogging, a hanging, a witch-hunt. Sure, I haven't challenged those characterizations at all. But still, you should trust that I understand that I can't demand anyone's forgiveness -- that I'm not entitled to anyone's trust.

Because I really am listening. I really do get it. I really am a good guy.

You should trust me.

13 responses so far

  • Yes, the endless drizzle of "small" harassments and belittlements that consume women's energy & stamina even while they struggle with larger, glaring inequities.

  • This is bad, even by the dismal expectations set so far. If anyone is in any doubt as to the kind of person we're dealing with, this should end the debate.

    • Seelix says:

      Seconding Robbins' comment. The patterns. The calling allies to action. The manipulation, of both information and emotions. Prolonged and systematic harassment of women is bad enough by itself... Using your friends to try to cover it up, and putting their reputations on the line as much as yours? That's creepy, predatory behavior of a whole new level.

  • amy charles says:

    @Janet: Jesus fucking christ. It's like a goddamn paint-by-numbers. I've seen enough, I don't need to know what else is left in the box.

    @Athena: Well, this is part of the disrespect, is it not? What else could be as important as Guy X's project/career/self-image/etc? Certainly not our time, obligations to other people, wellbeing. And when this is pointed out it's "oh shut up just do it this once and don't be a selfish bitch". Questions about how many instances of "this once" are supposed to be tolerated go unanswered, because it's all about keeping the advantage in this moment (so shut up).

    In case you (reader) are unfamiliar, this is part of what women deal with all.the.time. It's genius, really: go along with it or you're a heartless bitch open to vilification, and if the guy suffers later because you wouldn't do this one little thing to help him out, be on his side, it's your fault. (Oh, and you hate men. Used to be you'd be a lesbian, too, but it's no longer cool to use that as an insult. Except sometimes.) I've wondered how often other men come in for the same treatment from these guys, but won't speculate.

    You'll notice that I'm talking generally and not about a particular guy. That's on purpose. I'm sure this isn't the last time we're going to deal with sexual harassment, or gendered ugliness or whatever you'd like to call it, in what's been one of the most open, fun, interesting, and *nicest* communities I've known. I don't mean to step on whatever people still need to deal with from this event, but would like to start moving, also, to a more general conversation about these things.

  • Anon says:

    This happened to me, also in this context. It really sucks being asked to vouch for character (and doing so), and having your word proven false.

  • My sense (from personal experience) is that selfishness, fear, and shame are close cousins to lying and enlisting others to lie. Lurking underneath this bad behavior likely is a sense of entitlement, or addiction, or a lack of confidence—or all three.

    I personally think liars are cowards—and that includes people who would perpetuate the lies.

    Unfortunately, there is a culture of lying that is rampant in corporate America (I can’t speak to academia or other work environments). As time goes on, I believe, “good” people compromise their values rather than making waves (or compromising sales) with the truth. That erosion of character bleeds into one’s personal life, and also out into the world; individuals find themselves doing heinous things they would have thought unthinkable at one time.

    What to do about the culture of lying? Refuse to play in that sandbox. Forgive. Coach confidence. Challenge colleagues to treat men and women fairly and with respect. Treat addition—alcohol, drug, kink fetish, gambling… (Addicts are notorious for lying to cover up their addiction.) Build awareness that even the small lies worm their way into one’s life, eating away at core values, eating away at oneself, your friends, and your family—and the liar becomes imprisoned by fear of whom to trust. Only the truth can set one free.

  • Michael says:

    There's also the insistence: "You will forgive me, I deserve forgiveness and you're a big meanie if you don't forgive me." Some transgressors will acknowledge their wrongdoing, apologize for it and that's supposed to be the end of the affair. They ignore the idea that forgiveness is the victim's prerogative and doesn't happen automatically.

  • Bam294 says:

    Vomiting in my mouth a bit knowing good hearted trusting influential people - scratch that - WOMEN who came to his defense. Yet I have no fingers to point, except at Bora, as I am utterly guilble. My heart breaks for those who continue to entertain the promises of a sociopath.

  • Peter Lund says:

    You should look into Bora's attitudes about the Yugoslavian war(s), some day...

    It was all a conspiracy by Outside Powers from The West, you know? Lying about known events? No, for sure, he never did that. The West and the Media did.

    PS: the Serbs were good guys who never did anybody any harm.

  • amy charles says:

    A lot of Serbs were good guys who never did any harm. I knew some of them. Milosevic wasn't very keen on them, and it was no small trick convincing anybody at State that there was such a thing as a good Serb who might need help once across the border.

    Their government, another story.

  • TBruce says:

    I was asked by a friend to help a guy in my profession whose career crashed and burned as a result of a "breakdown". I put in a word or two, eventually he picked up a plum job and all appeared to be well. A few months later, he was sacked for an incident of sexual harassment (witnessed, fortunately). Turns out this guy has a major mental illness which he won't take responsibility for. I feel duped and angry, I also feel my reputation has been damaged to a small extent by my association with this fiasco. I am also very wary now of putting in a good word for someone unless I know them well.

    I realize from the Bora situation that reports of sexual harassment are the tip of the iceberg, rather than exaggeration. For those who would excuse it as "normal male-female courting behavior" - you're in a workplace, not a singles bar.