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She deserved the ass-kicking of a lifetime: Paul Elam of A Voice for Men justifies violence against women in a disturbing short story

 

Men being oppressed by domestic violence treatment
Men being oppressed by domestic violence treatment

A Voice for Men founder Paul Elam is so full of it on virtually every subject he opines about – from domestic violence to women’s spending habits – that much of what he writes might be best classified as fiction. He would no doubt disagree, but then again he’s not big on self-awareness.

But in addition to writing much inadvertent or unadmitted fiction, Elam has also tried his hand at fiction of the more traditional sort. I ran across one of his short stories the other day, and I’d like to share it with you, because it is quite possibly the most revealing piece I’ve writing I’ve ever seen from him.

As fiction, it is, of course, terrible, written in a clunky, melodramatic style one can only describe, with a shudder, as highly Paul Elam-esque. Elam doesn’t exactly have the skills or the subtlety to create an even vaguely believable fictional world. The story is essentially a polemic in story form – an extended argument justifying domestic violence against women.

No, really.

The story is called “Anger Management,” and it ran in something called “The Oddville Press,” an online journal. A copy of the issue with Elam’s story in it is available through Google books.

As Elam explains in his intro, the story is based on the nearly twenty years he claims to have been a drug and alcohol counselor. He notes that domestic violence was a recurring issue with those he counseled, but then goes on to say that “sometimes the stories were not as predictable or stereotypical as what people hear about.”

The story he tells, which takes place in some sort of court-ordered Domestic Violence treatment group, purports to be one of these less-stereotypical tales.

In the story, a domestic abuser named Howard Franks reluctantly opens up to the group about the domestic violence incident that landed him in jail, and which is now forcing him to attend the group.

His is a story that could have been ripped from the headlines – of A Voice for Men.

For Howard, you see, had been living a blameless and seemingly perfect life until six weeks earlier. He was happily married, with two wonderful daughters, and a thriving business. Then his father died, and his wife convinced him it would be best for him to fly alone to Baltimore to attend the funeral.

And that’s when the misandry hit the fan. As Howard tells his rapt audience in the DV group,

flowers

Oh no she didn’t! Oh, yes she did.

Arriving home, he finds the house empty. His wife had taken his money, stashed the kids with her mother, and run off with his business partner, who also claimed their joint business as his own, because apparently if you run off with your business partner’s wife you’re just allowed to do that.

He heads to his business partner’s house, where, adding insult to injury, his wife comes to the door “wearing a silk robe I gave her last Christmas.”

All he can ask is why. And so she tells him what every woman who suddenly and unexpectedly decides to end a 16-year marriage tells her poor, innocent, soon-to-be ex-hubby: because he just wasn’t cutting it in the sack.

loser

Oh, but Howard’s sad tale of sexual humiliation isn’t done quite yet. And ex-wife isn’t done talking:

cock

Because that’s totally something a real woman would say to her husband of 16 years after having unexpectedly left him while he was attending his father’s funeral.

Elam has also answered a long-standing question of mine, which is: what is the proper verb to use when a tear [blanks] down your cheek? The proper verb is “to track.”

Well, naturally – naturally! – our hero Howard has to respond somehow to soon-to-be-ex-wife’s terrible insult. So, like a totally reasonable fellow,

nose

Ah, yes, Howard is just another sad statistic of domestic violence!

Because of course, in Elam’s story, Howard is the real victim here, so cruelly forced to go to jail for totally understandably breaking his wife’s nose. So cruelly forced to sit in a room with other dudes and talk about how he broke his wife’s nose, as if it were a bad thing.

The DV counselor, the aforementioned Ms. Pitts, asks him if his wife deserved a broken nose.

asskicking

Even the DV counselor is so humbled by the righteousness of Howard’s anger that she sits silently as he details the final indignity of his case: that he’s not allowed to see his daughters until his treatment is done – just because he broke his wife’s nose with his fist.

There’s nothing subtle about Elam’s story or its message. We are supposed to empathize entirely with Howard and his plight. We are expected to mutter “fucking A, right,” along with the anonymous man in his audience after Howard explains that his wife deserved more than a broken nose. We are supposed to look with disgust on the “white knight” who interrupts Howard’s narrative to point out that what he did was wrong.

This is, to put it bluntly, a story suggesting that in many cases violence against women is justified, and then some, by their bad behavior – and that the real victims are the men who are punished for their violence by spending a short time in jail, by having to go to DV treatment, and by prohibitions on contact with their children.

In Elam’s notorious post advocating “beat a violent bitch month,” his excuse for justifying violence against women was that the “violent bitches” he was talking about had started the violence – even though the extreme retribution he suggested was justifiable went far beyond simple self-defense.

In this story, though, there is no question of self-defense; he is suggesting that violence towards women is an appropriate form of retribution for women who “do men wrong” by leaving them for other men. It’s striking that the trigger for Howard’s violence is sexual jealousy and humiliation – specifically, the thought of his wife, even after she’s left him, fellating another man.

And yet Elam convinces himself – and tries to convince his readers – that Howard is the real victim here. I scarcely have to add that this is how actual abusers think. And that no one who thinks this way can conceivably be considered a “human rights” advocate of any kind.

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Fade
6 years ago

@chimisaur

you’re definitely not wrong.

this is just one example. i really haven’t done much research on medical misogyny*, so i don’t have too much stuff on hand to talk about it.

*that’s what i call it at least i think it might be a real term.

pecunium
6 years ago

I will point out that Neilson’s moving the timing/changing the nature of the course makes it easier for the person being divorced to stop it. Since the courses must be finished before the divorce can be finalised, all someone who wants to prevent it has to do is refuse to show up to the class.

Which means the person who wants/needs the divorce can’t get it without going to the effort to show the court the other party is failing to attend.

No way for that to go wrong/take forever/end up with a judge who thinks, “she ought to work things out”.

So, I think it’s even worse than it looks.

pecunium
6 years ago

Ken L. what I said was “@emma First retake you buds. figure out if he is mental disabled or in need of actual help. if not tell him, in anyway you like, not to do that again. then if the problem goes on spray.” now if you can’t tell the difference between what i actually said and what you think I said it your problem not mine.

Then I have a problem too. If the first thing you reach for as an explanation of his behaviour is, “mentally disabled”… that’s fucked up. It’s ableist. It presupposes the likely cause isn’t he’s an entitled douchenozzle, but he has a mental disability.

No. Just no.

And I’m with marie on clean slates. We all have to live with what we’ve done. Yeah, you are upset that she thinks badly of you. Tough. She’s upset by what you said. You are asking her to ignore that, and treat you as if you didn’t do it.

So you win, and she loses.

Again, no. Just no.

chimisaur
chimisaur
6 years ago

@Marie – nah, I prefer to be as open as I can about stuff, so it’s cool, although I have trouble expressing my experience from an internal perspective and more “how bad” by the consequences, so sorry if it’s not the response you need/expect.

CW – brief descriptions of abuse, mental illness, and an ableist term/thinking

Well, it got bad enough that I very uncharacteristically ended up in, and then stayed, in an extremely emotionally and by the end physically and sexually abusive relationship, which in the end had worsened my symptoms by itself (what with the gaslighting and stuff coming from said partner) that by the end I went from a very high-performing student to failing all of my classes and dropping out of school because I was afraid of disappointing him/leaving my room/ having a panic attack (they were about once, maybe twice, a day, with heart palpatations, shaking, crying and even fainting) and causing others unnecessary worry over my inability to deal/professors thinking I was a nutcase (sorry about the ableist language, my thinking was in NO way correct at the time). I stopped really sleeping because my brain wouldn’t let all that worry go and just kept repeating every little disappointment I was certain I was for my family/friends/stupidface ad infinitum. Luckily stupidface got hired by a lab working for CERN and went away to Geneva the last summer I was enrolled, and I got a bit better (although not enough to save my grades) and ventured outside long enough to have one of my (less frequent at that point, but still weekly at least) panic attacks in front of a friend who convinced me to go to a doctor with him. The “bad time” was the better part of a year, but I’ve been told by psyc-types that mine is an extreme case, so I think/hope most affected folk have better sense than me. Treatment is another long, boring story, (I share your mistrust of psychiatrists now, and have an unreasonable love of internal medicine specialists), but things are SO MUCH BETTER NOW (so, really, this is not a call for sympathy or worry at all, that was crap, of course, but years ago and over).

@Fade – “medical misogyny” I like your term – it seems to sum it up nicely, and thanks for the article! Good to know I’m perceiving correctly and not simply being paranoid 🙂

Marie
Marie
6 years ago

@chimisaur

The “bad time” was the better part of a year, but I’ve been told by psyc-types that mine is an extreme case, so I think/hope most affected folk have better sense than me.

I’d hope so too. ::offers hugs:: I’ve only fainted once, and I don’t know if it was panic-attack related.

(so, really, this is not a call for sympathy or worry at all, that was crap, of course, but years ago and over).

Don’t worry, it doesn’t read like a call for sympathy, just that you were sharing. Plus, I asked you about yours 🙂

pecunium
6 years ago

Not to excuse the doctors in the incident above, but kidney infections are notoriously hard/underdiagnosed. An ex gf of mine had her husband’s kindney infection go untreated for about eight months of “well….”. When all was said and done he had to get a transplants (thank goodness for the Evil Socialised Medicine of Canada”, or he’d probably be dead).

weirwoodtreehugger
6 years ago

I had a kidney infection as a toddler. Fortunately I don’t remember it. My fever went all the way up to 107 and I had to be put in an ice bath.

chimisaur
chimisaur
6 years ago

Thanks for the hugs and reassurance, Marie – like I said, I do prefer to be open about things because keeping secrets seems to breed feelings of shame about my own brain, which is not productive, but nonetheless talking about all that makes me feel like an attention hog sometimes, or at the very least a bit dramatic.

@pecunium – thank you for the information; it’s always good to know as much as possible about a situation before making dire conclusions, and I am willing to learn, although I still do think telling me my pain was entirely a psychosomatic cry for attention was probably a bit much.

Is there a protocol for praying to the Evil Socialized Medicine of Canada? I wish to convert/ give thanks for your friend’s good fortune.

pecunium
6 years ago

chimisaur: Telling you that it was nonsense is unacceptable. Sadly this is common to treating younger patients, and even moreso with younger women.

The first thing a nurse/doctor ought to do is treat the presentation presented as factual on its face; and rule things out. “Psychosomatic” ought to be the last diagnosis, not the first.

LBT
LBT
6 years ago

I dunno about panic attacks, but I know I’ve had “episodes” for as long as I can remember. When something bad happens, I would forge through it, and then have meltdowns the moment I was alone. I’d crawl into small spaces if I thought I wouldn’t be caught and just… curl in a ball and shake and cry until it passed. Often I’d feel like I’d done something terrible, though I didn’t know what it was or how to fix it, and that any second, something terrible was going to happen because of me.

I never bothered to really think about what they were. I just assumed it was because I was defective. Hubby hugs help me get through them quicker; these days, they usually only last a minute or two, tops, instead of before where they would last for hours.

chimisaur
chimisaur
6 years ago

@ LBT – *offers hugs* yeah, those suck; SOs are great though; when I still do very, very occasionally have an episode, panic attack or something more similar to yours, my mate is extremely helpful and I am super lucky to have him, and your boy sounds awesome too ^_^.

inestrey
inestrey
6 years ago

Sometimes I wonder if there’s any hope for humanity when people drift so far off. But then I remember the people I love and things brighten up again.

Otis Idli (@OtisIdli)
6 years ago

Whoa. Based on this article, I can only conclude this Elam guy is a psychopath. The scenario in his story is utterly implausible and there’s only one excuse that can ever be made for violence, which is self-defense against violence.

Ally S
6 years ago

@Otis

Trust me, plenty of psychopaths are nicer than Elam. Elam is most likely just an asshole because of his beliefs.

trackback

[…] Elam isn’t the only Men’s Rights Activist who seems to spend a lot of time imagining scenarios in which it would be ok for them to hit women. It’s a subject that comes up on the Men’s Rights subreddit all the time; the […]

sentimentalsurrealist
5 years ago

God I hate Paul Elam. Hate him. So much. And it’s so fitting with the dude’s utterly puerile mindset that the wife in the story object’s to the husband’s sexual performance, because then the husband gets to be even more of the blameless victim. Urgh.

Lorna
Lorna
5 years ago

Two other points I’d like to add to this article

1) What this story is also trying to say is that if a domestic abuser blames the victim then he must be telling the truth. Because it’s not like anyone would try to demonize their victim by lying about them to excuse their own actions is it?

2) What never seems to occur to Howard – or Paul Elam – is that after this man who we are supposed to believe is a devoted dad breaks his wives nose and if he had gone further and hurt her more, she then goes home to his beloved children and they are traumatized by seeing their mother injured. And knowing it was their dad that did it. And he would have had a much better chance of gaining access to his daughters if he hadn’t put his rage against his wife before their wellbeing.

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