Rape, condemnation, and literature: Alt Lit’s most shameful episode (by Luna Miguel)

electric-cereal:

—Your friend’s name is Stephen Tully Dierks, right?
—Yea, why?
—Because on Gawker he’s being accused of raping a young female writer.

This morning my husband woke me up with a piece of news that’s been terrible for our community. News that made my heart beat so fast, first out of confusion, then embarrassment, and later sadness.

Sophia Katz, a young Canadian poet, published an essay last Sunday on Medium in which she describes—in a calm, honest, and brilliant manner—her unpleasant sexual encounter with the American writer and editor Stephen Tully Dierks. The essay was widely shared through social media, and from the semi-private forums of Alt Lit Gossip to certain circles on Twitter, people began to express their statements of anger.

In her essay, Sophia Katz not only describes how Dierks raped her, but also publicly questions how this situation is so unfortunately common in our society, this situation that the rest of us can so rarely bring ourselves to denounce with such strength. In We Don’t Have to Do Anything, Katz recounts the days she spent visiting New York some months ago, and how from the very first day, she felt pressured to have sex with Dierks. The account of every incident is precise and detailed: first the rejection, then the psychological struggle, the pressure, and much later the resignation.

Katz had gone to “the capital of Alt Lit” with the hope of meeting the writers she admired, and to find herself among them talking about books, making friends, and feeling like she belonged to one of the most inspiring literary movements of our time. She had accepted an offer from Dierks to stay at his apartment, but once she got there, she began to feel that his intentions were about more than just giving her a place to stay.

‘No’ Always Means ‘No’

A situation like this is not rare. Our lives are filled with complicated moments and misunderstood signals. The problem in this incident is not merely that Dierks had the wrong expectations about this young woman in his apartment, but that throughout her stay, the pressure he continued to exert on her was brutal, until finally she gave in.

Months later, out of a desire to keep other woman from being subjected to similar abuse by men who take advantage of their positions of power, Katz wrote this essay.

And now Katz’s honesty has inspired other female writers to speak about their own unpleasant sexual encounters with Dierks, about sexist remarks he has made, and the sexist way he has treated women in the past. In the Alt Lit Gossip Facebook group, a young woman, who was in a relationship with Dierks until recently, expressed her solidarity with the women who were hurt by Dierks and denounced his reprehensible actions.

Alt Lit’s most shameful episode

I can’t believe what I am reading, I said to my husband. I first met Stephen Tully Dierks in 2010 when I started to read the authors that he promoted on his Pop Serial Tumblr. And when I first started to publish my poems in English, he was always there to help. He was one of the critics who most widely recommended my first book published in the United States. Last February, I walked with him on the snowy streets of New York while we laughed and joked, and I went to a party at his apartment where we danced to Lorde with so many other intoxicated people.

This past summer I invited him to participate in Strange Fiction for PlayGround, and we were working together on various projects related to young literary writers, anthologies, and a thousand other things. I can’t say I regret any of this because I always had the impression that he was a good writer, and that his method of promoting other writers had been crucial in the last four years. Nevertheless I am saddened, it angers me to the point of tears to confront some of the things that Sophia Katz points out in her essay. For example, the idea that he feels that we, female writers, should feel indebted to him for his support. Or the attitude that he doesn’t know how to keep his pants up or his hands to himself, even if given a decisive and unequivocal ‘no’.

Young female writers spend their whole lives confronting accusations and misogynistic remarks: who did she sleep with to get here? who did she blow to get her first book published, to win her first prize, or to get a good review? All these despicable accusations are thrown at women while the men are always free to exploit their fame and privilege to chase a good fuck as if it were some trophy.

What bothers me the most is not just losing my trust in a friend, but the realization that behind the banner of Alt Lit—where there are brilliant publishing houses like Boost House and Civil Coping Mechanisms, and swaggering feminist works by Gabby Bess and Bunny Rogers, and great critiques of gender by Joshua Jennifer Espinoza, and insightful political novels by Noah Cicero and Juliet Escoria—there are still many towering barriers of gender and class to break down.

Alt Lit is synonymous with youth, respect, and hope, and we should not allow these things to be contradicted. The response to Katz’s initiative has been great, and it’s put on the table an interesting debate about gender, power, and creativity. The path that this Canadian poet has shown us is important for everyone, and I am confident that it will help us to get things to where we want them to go and not repeat past dynamics. Literature is meant to help us fight for liberty, not destroy it.

 

Regarding We’re Fucked

Nine months ago I wrote a review of peterbd’s book We’re Fucked for HTMLGiant. I now regret writing that review and want to apologise for it.

When I first read Janey Smith/Steven Trull’s ‘Fuck List’ (which inspired the book) I perceived it as humorous due to the number of people included in it. At that time it seemed to me that Smith/Trull was using ‘I want to fuck this person’ as a metaphor for ‘I admire this person’s art’. I was happy to see my name on the list because I perceived my inclusion as recognition for my writing. I thought that the length of the list was a positive because it showed Smith/Trull was being inclusive in his support of writers.

My reading of the list was entrenched in privilege. Even if it was a metaphor that did not stop it from being harmful. Sure, the list was inclusive but I didn’t consider that what it was including people in was something that they wouldn’t/didn’t want to be included in. I was unaware of Smith/Trull’s history as a sexual abuser and rapist. That knowledge changes my perspective on the list, and the book inspired by it. What’s more, even if Smith/Trull was not an abuser people would be completely justified in not wanting to be included in these documents.

I believe that everyone should have been asked for consent and shown proofs before being included in this book. I was aware that I was being included. I didn’t realise that many of the subjects were not aware of their inclusion. If I had been more vigilant I would have realised. I should have been more vigilant and I should have realised.

In my review I wrote the phrase “Everybody cums” as a way of praising Smith/Trull’s inclusiveness. I am now disgusted by that sentence. I also wrote the sentence “This book is good.” I was wrong. This book is not good. I regret that I promoted it. I am glad that it has been pulled by Plain Wrap. I apologise to the people that my review was insensitive towards and I stand behind the victims of Smith/Trull and others’ abuse.

Currently I am focused on educating myself by reading as much as I can about these issues. I am doing my best to help by being supportive towards the victims of abuse who have come forward and signal boosting their posts.

 

altcrit:

Chatlogs with rapist Stephen Tully Dierks (see previous post for firsthand accounts) reposted with permission from from a post made by Isabel Sanhueza in the Alt Lit Gossip facebook group.

As some of you already know, Stephen Tully Dierks and I were in a relationship from July 2014 until yesterday when he was publicly outed as a rapist and an abuser. After I found out, Stephen repeatedly sent me increasingly manipulative and disturbing facebook messages until I felt that I had no other choice than to block him for the sake of my safety and sanity. I’m choosing to share these messages because I think they serve as complete and total proof of the fact that Stephen either can’t or won’t take accountability for his actions and how they have affected the lives of others. Honestly, I feel scared to keep these messages to myself, on both a personal level and because not sharing them might mean that he could potentially get away with hurting more people. This is frustratingly difficult for me to do; as someone who has seen a very different side of Stephen, it has been so hard to admit that someone I loved and trusted is also a rapist and a predator. That being said, I think that because I was so easily fooled, it’s all the more important for me to share these messages. I want to add that I am posting these with the explicit consent and encouragement of Tiffany, who has been so brave, as have Sophia and all other women involved.
 
belishabeacons:

The rape culture continues because you let it
When I went to trial against my ex boyfriend, I lost on a technicality. Not because he didn’t admit to: being physically and psychologically abusive to me, harassing me, stalking me, or violating police orders not to talk to me. He did admit to those things- to the police- in his statement after he was arrested. No, the reason I lost was because, when I was forced to hand over all contact I’d had between us, I failed to share a conversation we had had on gchat with the police. One in which I explicitly stated that I felt he had sometimes coerced me into sex; he denied this repeatedly, stating we had an ‘insanely good’ sex life.I didn’t hand this conversation over because I thought that the law wanted examples of his abuse, his harassment.  I was wrong.The law wanted me to point out, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he had done wrong by me and I had never taken any agency to counter him.
And so I lost. I went home for Christmas and I tried not to think about it. I tried to stop labelling what happened to me, I tried to stop reading blogs that illuminated my struggle, I tried to put it behind me.Every now and then, though, I’d come across something that reminded me. An ad for Mallorca- and I’m transported to a vacation we took together where he had sex with me without a condom (which I didn’t know about) and then ejaculated inside me without my consent. When I asked him why, he smiled- I was stuck on an island that did not offer the morning after pill over the counter, and he knew that. At the time, I knew that felt wrong. Now I know that was something called reproductive abuse.But I move on, ignoring other memories that come to the surface. “Grey sex” only makes me think of this time, when I was 19 years old, and he cajoled me into making a sex video with him, even though I protested (although not strongly) against it. At one point, he switched me into a position that exposed my body more to the camera. “No,” I said softly. “Come on,” he said. “No,” I said more forcefully. “It’s my birthday video,” he muttered. I relented.He would play that video sometimes when we had sex with the volume turned up high. I could just about hear myself saying “no, no, no.”Rainy mornings with a drier chill remind me of a nebulous number of times, how many I can’t tell you because I don’t remember them, where we were lying in his bed. He poked at me, calling me fat- his favorite abuse was appearance-based- and asked me to have sex with him. No, I’d ask. No, I’d plead. More ‘you’re fat’ would come at me until I said yes. Then, on top of me:
"Why aren’t you enjoying this? God dammnit, why aren’t you enjoying this?"All of these instances are examples of what the law would not hold up as rape. I sometimes even doubt myself labelling them as such; I feel guilty, lesser than someone who has been forcefully assaulted against their will. This isn’t rape. What happened to me wasn’t rape.What happened to me wasn’t abuse, I say. In the middle of the night, I wake up and feel the overwhelming urge to email him, asking him for forgiveness for taking him to trial. It was my fault- if I had shared that gchat conversation, it would have never gone to trial, and he would just have been arrested, released, and he would have maybe been scared enough to never contact me again.It was my fault. It was my fault that, one day when walking down the street, he raised his hand high above my head, and brought it inches away from my face. I cowered; he laughed. “Why the fuck would you do that?” I asked. He smiled, always. “Because you were raising your voice on the street. Why do you have to be so loud?”I tell myself it wasn’t that big of a deal that he pulled me by my hair, by my pixie cut, and told me I was a little girl. Women suffer worse, people suffer worse. It’s my fault that I obsess about it.And when he choked me in a bush until I either passed out or blacked out from panic- well, I shouldn’t obsess about that either. I wasn’t killed. I wasn’t even that harmed- just a scraped up knee. I slept the night in a guest room in his house, and his flatmates told me they’d look after me and make sure he didn’t come home. He did, he yelled at me, and the next morning I fell asleep in his bed again while I heard him tell his flatmate, “I think I was just waiting for an excuse to break up with her for a long time.”I tell myself it’s my fault these things happened because I went back to him. I went back to him so many times; I went back to him every second. Not because I loved him, not because I wanted him, but because I didn’t know if I had the strength to exist without him. And so you tell me: the rape culture exists because I let it. Because my words are not enough. Because shame is not enough.I used the law. I tried to get him the mental help he needed. I still lost.My words to him made me lose.So what are my words now?

Thank you for your bravery in sharing this Paige. I’m disgusted that anyone could behave this way.

belishabeacons:

The rape culture continues because you let it

When I went to trial against my ex boyfriend, I lost on a technicality. Not because he didn’t admit to: being physically and psychologically abusive to me, harassing me, stalking me, or violating police orders not to talk to me. He did admit to those things- to the police- in his statement after he was arrested. 

No, the reason I lost was because, when I was forced to hand over all contact I’d had between us, I failed to share a conversation we had had on gchat with the police. One in which I explicitly stated that I felt he had sometimes coerced me into sex; he denied this repeatedly, stating we had an ‘insanely good’ sex life.

I didn’t hand this conversation over because I thought that the law wanted examples of his abuse, his harassment.  I was wrong.

The law wanted me to point out, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he had done wrong by me and I had never taken any agency to counter him.

And so I lost. I went home for Christmas and I tried not to think about it. I tried to stop labelling what happened to me, I tried to stop reading blogs that illuminated my struggle, I tried to put it behind me.

Every now and then, though, I’d come across something that reminded me. An ad for Mallorca- and I’m transported to a vacation we took together where he had sex with me without a condom (which I didn’t know about) and then ejaculated inside me without my consent. When I asked him why, he smiled- I was stuck on an island that did not offer the morning after pill over the counter, and he knew that. At the time, I knew that felt wrong. Now I know that was something called reproductive abuse.

But I move on, ignoring other memories that come to the surface. “Grey sex” only makes me think of this time, when I was 19 years old, and he cajoled me into making a sex video with him, even though I protested (although not strongly) against it. At one point, he switched me into a position that exposed my body more to the camera. “No,” I said softly. “Come on,” he said. “No,” I said more forcefully. “It’s my birthday video,” he muttered. I relented.

He would play that video sometimes when we had sex with the volume turned up high. I could just about hear myself saying “no, no, no.”

Rainy mornings with a drier chill remind me of a nebulous number of times, how many I can’t tell you because I don’t remember them, where we were lying in his bed. He poked at me, calling me fat- his favorite abuse was appearance-based- and asked me to have sex with him. No, I’d ask. No, I’d plead. More ‘you’re fat’ would come at me until I said yes. Then, on top of me:

"Why aren’t you enjoying this? God dammnit, why aren’t you enjoying this?"

All of these instances are examples of what the law would not hold up as rape. I sometimes even doubt myself labelling them as such; I feel guilty, lesser than someone who has been forcefully assaulted against their will. This isn’t rape. What happened to me wasn’t rape.

What happened to me wasn’t abuse, I say. In the middle of the night, I wake up and feel the overwhelming urge to email him, asking him for forgiveness for taking him to trial. It was my fault- if I had shared that gchat conversation, it would have never gone to trial, and he would just have been arrested, released, and he would have maybe been scared enough to never contact me again.

It was my fault. 

It was my fault that, one day when walking down the street, he raised his hand high above my head, and brought it inches away from my face. I cowered; he laughed. “Why the fuck would you do that?” I asked. He smiled, always. “Because you were raising your voice on the street. Why do you have to be so loud?”

I tell myself it wasn’t that big of a deal that he pulled me by my hair, by my pixie cut, and told me I was a little girl. Women suffer worse, people suffer worse. It’s my fault that I obsess about it.

And when he choked me in a bush until I either passed out or blacked out from panic- well, I shouldn’t obsess about that either. I wasn’t killed. I wasn’t even that harmed- just a scraped up knee. I slept the night in a guest room in his house, and his flatmates told me they’d look after me and make sure he didn’t come home. He did, he yelled at me, and the next morning I fell asleep in his bed again while I heard him tell his flatmate, “I think I was just waiting for an excuse to break up with her for a long time.”

I tell myself it’s my fault these things happened because I went back to him. I went back to him so many times; I went back to him every second. Not because I loved him, not because I wanted him, but because I didn’t know if I had the strength to exist without him. 

And so you tell me: the rape culture exists because I let it. Because my words are not enough. Because shame is not enough.

I used the law. I tried to get him the mental help he needed. I still lost.

My words to him made me lose.

So what are my words now?

Thank you for your bravery in sharing this Paige. I’m disgusted that anyone could behave this way.

 

4/17/14

sweetdreamsyouareverybeautiful:

tw: rape

Read More

More evidence of Stephen Tully Dierks’ repulsive behaviour.