I first became aware of the group A Voice for Men (AVfM) because of an article by its founder, Paul Elam, entitled “Study Reveals Female Rape Victims Enjoyed the Experience.” After reading other remarkable works such as “When Is It Okay to Punch Your Wife?” and “I’ll decide If You Were Raped, Not You,” I decided to take a closer look at this legendary apologist of the men’s rights movement (MRM).
The MRM is best known for vitriolic attacks on feminists and the issues they hold dear. The manosphere is the haven where men’s rights activists (MRAs) gather, because it is a safe place to confide their suffering anonymously, discuss strategy, and express disdain for women’s empowerment. The leaders of this movement, like Paul Elam and Tom Ball, have caused barely a ripple in the media despite the ostentatious attention-getting antics of the former and the public self-immolation and suicide note of the latter. On top of near-pariah status in media, the movement, as well as Elam personally, have been criticized by the Southern Poverty Law Center because of their frightening threats, cyber-bullying, and expressions of hate.
After my engagement with the users of AVfM, it wasn’t long before I was hatefully slandered, as well!
Engaging MRAs as a Male Feminist
I made three posts on the forums of AVfM asking general questions about the MRM and specifically about the group’s radical anti-feminism, generating around 200 replies and a dozen private messages. I confided that I was molested by a preacher at 18 and that I had once been sexually exploited while unconscious. I also identified myself as a feminist and explained how my wife’s experience of gangrape as a teenager had cemented my convictions against sexual violence and the failures of the justice system.
There was plenty of incendiary comments from both sides, as is the rule on the internet in general and among men’s rights activists (MRAs) in particular. Many bristled at the insensitivity of my comments, but after some interaction we both managed to mellow out enough to have a constructive discussion. I exchanged private messages with a man who was raped and later stalked for two years by a woman as well as a guy who sought my advice because he was in a relationship with a rape victim. I also interacted with a woman who had worked as a counselor to rape victims that had cautiously infiltrated the group to offer support to the more receptive among them. These were the exceptions, however, most of them included long lines of slurs directed at me and referred to youtube videos and blogs to corroborate their arguments, while fastidiously reminding me to rely on “peer-reviewed” journals for my research.
When I asked why MRAs excoriate anyone who promotes women’s rights, they suggested that gender equality was achieved in the past and that it is, actually, men who are being victimized on a far greater scale, because of homelessness, unemployment, and suicide, because of custody battles where mothers are disproportionately awarded care of the children, and because of men falsely accused of rape or raped by women but never acknowledged as victims. Fair enough.
The links above confirm that there is something to these claims, although I have a problem with the false accusation issue that I will address below.
I began to feel sorry for the users on AVfM, in spite of their their misguided hatred of feminism and the dearth of research supporting their claims. I realized that I had discounted how sexual assault affects men and began to analyze the trajectory of my own life after the adverse experiences I buried in the past.
However, my sympathy stopped cold at the point where MRAs promoted the idea that feminism is a groundless hoax and that patriarchy doesn’t exist, an epiphany users on AVfM refer to as “taking the red pill,” which opens the eyes of the initiate to our anti-male society where feminists engineer the laws and structure government funding to serve women’s interests, at the expense of men.
Despite the fact that taking away fathers’ rights in custody battles has never been a goal of feminism and that leading feminists recognize and support rape victims regardless of gender, the MRM refuses accept that patriarchy, not feminism, is the original cause of their suffering with the age-old litanies that “fathers are breadwinners; mothers raise children” and “men must have a stiff upper lip and cannot be victims.”
Furthermore, the MRM is overwhelmingly right-wing, while it is plain to see that most of the people on AVfM are in desperate need of the counseling services and therapy that are in the crosshairs of the Tea-Party budget hawks they support. Thus duped by their true ideological foes, the mocking, sadistic attacks of MRAs on feminists only weaken their credibility in the public discourse and make them seem gullible, ignorant, and dangerously unhinged.
The MRA Revenge
Just when I began to comprehend the misplaced rage of the MRM, Paul Elam and Diana Davison, his Canadian crony, kept it classy by publishing an article full of ad hominem attacks on me and my wife, entitled “Tim Tolka: Badass or Complete Ass”, where, among other things, they called my wife a hick and a coward for waiting 12 years to accuse her rapists and flatteringly compared me to Don Quijote, the deranged crusader and my favorite literary personage. They used the partial account of our activism available from media outlets which was already incomplete and written by journalists afraid to make the police look bad. So, together with their personal biases and their axe to grind, the post is complete bullshit, as they probably intended.
Apart from their demented criticism of our actions, which by publicizing the mishandling of the case by a local hillbilly Sheriff led to the intervention of the Attorney General’s Office, Elam and Davison advised that we “let the authorities handle it,” in other words the status quo, exemplified in my wife’s case, of official neglect and victim-blaming. This is sad, especially considering that these two entwined roots of injustice were probably also instrumental in silencing many victims among the users of AVfM.
Ironically, I felt complimented by the diligence of their spite, although both writers’ and their chorus of uncritical acolytes’ evident glee in lampooning a victim of gang rape shows their lack of empathy and their extreme misogyny… which is why the criticism AVfM received from SPLC is merited and why there needs to be “self-criticism” on the part of many MRA’s and Paul Elam in particular.
However, according to a blog post by Davison, there is no reason to even worry about whether rape is prosecuted, because false accusations comprise 40-60% of reported rapes. She even claims that false accusations lead to PTSD. Yeah. But ultimately, like most of the material written by MRA’s, much of the post relies on anecdote from another blog, although one pseudo-academic source is cited, a paper originally published in 2000 and collected by the National Coalition for Men.
Upon reading Davison’s sole source, I discovered that it presents no original research or statistical methodology in order to argue unconvincingly that the large consensus, already emergent by 2000, that as little as 2% of reported rapes are unfounded is not accurate. The writer, Edward Greer, points in all directions to locate holes in the statistics gathered by police and academic papers by feminist social scientists, but fails to even define what is and what is not a false claim, defined in detail here.
I’m not a fan of the FBI, but it is finally their statistics which everyone relies on to talk about crime in America, and they say unfounded reports constitute between 2-8% of cases. I don’t have a PhD in statistics, but that leaves a huge margin of error, because “unfounded” just means there wasn’t enough evidence, or that alcohol was involved. In fact, the FBI’s definition of rape didn’t even include the possibility of men as victims, and recently, as I wrote about here, the statistics of the FBI were found to have a massive discrepancy, because police have been quietly removing rape reports, which suggests that 2-8% is actually way above the actual statistical percentage. Greer couldn’t locate the holes which made the 2% figure a “myth” because he was looking in the wrong place. Instead of looking for false accusations, he should have looked for police misconduct and the “unfounding” of rape reports.
However, you can bet that Elam and Davison don’t know about and don’t care about such issues. They know what they believe, and it isn’t found in books! At least, not any books published by governments around the world, Pew, Gallup, the UN, World Bank, Amnesty International, the ACLU, Human Rights Watch, Harvard, Yale, or any other feminist-dominated institution!
It’s a shame, too, because many of the users of AVfM regard Elam as an almost Christ-like prophet and loyally accept his delusional vision of the world, despite the fact that he actually scores more points for feminism and disembowels his own movement by making threats and indulging in bizarre fantasies of violence against women:
The quote above is taken out of a “satirical” article written by Elam in response to a Jezebel post which seemed to belittle the seriousness of violence by women against men. Elam manages to snag readers with these ploys, but I seriously doubt whether this satire goes down well with most people, which probably illustrates Elam’s point. It is worth noting that Jezebel’s article did not, however, use slurs or such violent language. Ultimately, many MRA’s are obviously furious at women and at the society which they believe caters too much to them, but they have very little to corroborate their gut feeling that women’s empowerment results in their demise.
For me, the saddest thing about the men’s rights movement is that by sadistically black-balling feminists and droning on about false rape accusations, they distract attention away from the legitimate points they make about how divorce courts, custody battles, unemployment, homelessness, and suicide adversely affect men, although none of those are the fault or goal of feminism. Feminism is just a convenient scapegoat to avoid looking at a more complicated picture where the causes of injustice are harder to isolate, which is a problem for many people trying to make sense of a system which seems stacked against them.
Perhaps, MRA’s can be forgiven for being confused about the causes of their unhappiness, but they definitely need to get better spokespersons, if they are ever going to be famous for anything other than their explosive misogyny and hatred.