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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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Ally S
6 years ago

[CN: abuse, graphic violence, murder]

I guess that means when my father nearly forced me to call up my mother, my step-dad, my step-brother and my older siblings’ ex-partners and tell them that he’s coming to kill all of them with a stolen firearm and “blow their brains out”…he was the victim all along.

Makes me want to vomit just thinking about it. A resounding FUCK YOU to Elam and his supporters.

DeutschundMusik
DeutschundMusik
6 years ago

Terrific writing here.

Can’t say the same for Elam’s “fiction”. He’s a frustrated failed writer, like several other MRM leading lights. Add that to his misogyny, and you have A Voice for Men.

Marie
Marie
6 years ago

@Ally

::Offers hugs::

On the story:

I found the first part funny in the ‘bad writing’ kind of way (a tear tracked down his face?) but then it started justifying domestic abuse and got horrible 🙁 I guess we were warned at the beginning.

katz
6 years ago

Ally: WUT

hellkell
hellkell
6 years ago

I still find it super damn frightening that Elam was ever a counselor of any sort. There’s someone who probably did way harm than good.

cloudiah
6 years ago

Content note for violence:

I’m reading Kimmel’s Angry White Men, and he relates a story from when he was working with male batterers. A guy told a story about how he got mad at his wife for not having dinner ready, so he slammed her head into the wall. She then tried to knee him in the genitals, so he punched her and cut up her face. In telling the story, he focused on how she tried to knee him in the genitals, in a “Can you believe she would do that?” way. It was clear he saw himself as the victim in this scenario.

The difference between this male batterer and Paul Elam is that this guy had the self-awareness to subsequently realize that he was not actually the victim, but the victimizer.

Ally S
6 years ago

@katz

[CN: violence]

I know, right? I was visibly sweating and shaking in fear. The worst thing is that he told me that very calmly – as if he really meant what he said. He also threw his smartphone at the car dashboard while driving and completely destroyed the phone. (Even the keypad was bent and warped.)

Lea
Lea
6 years ago

As often as he lies, you’d think he’d be better at making things up.
It must really suck to be Elam. He’s not good at anything other than getting angry losers to send him money. I wonder if that’s why he’s so twisted and hateful?
The best I can say of him is that he’s an efficient converter of oxygen to carbon dioxide.

cassandrakitty
cassandrakitty
6 years ago

They really don’t have any idea of how their perspective looks to outsiders, do they? Even the most sexist men I know would side-eye that story.

Anarchonist
Anarchonist
6 years ago

What. The. Fuck.

I just… what? But he… that doesn’t make any… why would… how can… what is… the fuck… does not compute… shoop-di-doo-daa… beep beep beep error error error

Lea
Lea
6 years ago

Ally,
That’s horrible. I’m so glad you are away from him.

cloudiah
6 years ago

Ally, that is so so terrible. Hugs if they’re wanted.

Lea
Lea
6 years ago

++?????++ Out of Cheese Error. Redo From Start.

Ally S
6 years ago

Fortunately, that situation I was in cooled down quickly. As soon as my dad told me to stand outside the mosque* and make the calls, I called my siblings and my uncle and asked them for help. They actually consoled me before even talking to him. After they spoke with him over the phone, he calmed down and rescinded his threat. I’m glad I did what I did, but if I weren’t careful, he would have found out and possibly physically harm me for not obeying him (he was at his angriest ever).

And his reason for being this awful? He was upset about my siblings having their own lives and my mom not being married to him.

*Can you believe he was like this before going to a place of worship of all places?

Luzbelitx
6 years ago

I’m mostly amazed at how convinced Elam is than anyone would buy that bullshit.

Bostonian
Bostonian
6 years ago

AVFM, totes the reasonable site in the manosphere…

katz
6 years ago

The interesting part to me is the broken nose. It would have made his point better to make it a really minor act of violence to emphasize the unfairness (eg, “I slapped her and it didn’t even leave a mark”).* But Elam can’t resist fantasizing about injuring women, even when it undermines his overall point.

*Not that domestic violence is OK if it’s mild.

tealily
tealily
6 years ago

Interesting how they think a man’s jealousy is a reasonable feeling that justifies violence, but a woman who feels jealous is a “crazy bitch” or ” psycho”. So sick of their ridiculous and self-serving double standards.

LurkingFish
LurkingFish
6 years ago

On a slightly lighter note: Is it just me or do these MRA narratives seem to closely resemble cuckold porn? I feel like they’ve mistaken the farthest out, kinkiest femdom and cuckold erotica for the real world.

weirwoodtreehugger
6 years ago

I don’t even know what to say to this right now.

Assault is illegal no matter what the motive is. Sorry misters.

sparky
sparky
6 years ago

Wow. Paul Elam totally believes that it’s justifiable for a man to break a woman’s nose if she leaves him for another man.

Sad thing is, can’t really say I’m surprised.

zoon echon logon
zoon echon logon
6 years ago

This story is AVFM in a nutshell.
“Are you angry at women? Let us provide an outlandish and unlikely narrative to justify that rage. (Send money.)”

emma
emma
6 years ago

hellkell | May 19, 2014 at 2:38 pm
“I still find it super damn frightening that Elam was ever a counselor of any sort.”

Yes, absolutely. Sadly a testament to the sorry state of the mental health profession.

emma
emma
6 years ago

I’m so sorry, Ally.

“Can you believe he was like this before going to a place of worship of all places?”

Yes, I can. These days I almost expect as much.

chronic lurker
chronic lurker
6 years ago

“A tear tracked down his face”
There’s a trope for that: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/SingleTear
So either he needed his character to cry but needs him to do it in a “manly” way, or he’s been watching too many tv shows featuring actors who can’t cry without eyedrops.

Which is also amusing because I’ve seen that same line in some badly written novels and fanfiction. If I recall correctly, Ebony Dark’ness Dementia Raven Way cries similarly in My Immortal (which is basically the most infamous self-insert Bad fic in all of the Harry Potter fandom.)

Skagboy
Skagboy
6 years ago

ahahahaha!!! ”Fucking A, man”. This puts ”The Room” to shame as unintentionally hilarious story. I wish Paul Elam made a feature film.

emma
emma
6 years ago

The part about The Awesomest Husband Ever being surprised by divorce is also a classic MRA trope.

So much so that one GOP lawmaker recently wanted to address it via legal means:

“Utah state Rep. Jim Nielson (R) says that he is sponsoring a bill to force divorcing couples to take classes because he says that men are often “surprised” when women want to end the marriage. (…)

“The friends that I have that have gone through a divorce, most of the people that I know personally that have gone through that personally are men,” Nielson explained to host Matt Allen. “And my sense, at least from the men that I interact with, is that they’ve usually been surprised by the divorce request, by the filing.””

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/02/25/utah-lawmaker-targets-women-with-new-divorce-barriers-so-men-arent-surprised/

Marie
Marie
6 years ago

@emma

“Utah state Rep. Jim Nielson (R) says that he is sponsoring a bill to force divorcing couples to take classes because he says that men are often “surprised” when women want to end the marriage. (…)

So he’s trying to make divorcing harder/ take longer? gosh, he sounds like such a douche :/ I hope the bill doesn’t pass…

Anenome
Anenome
6 years ago

This is another bit of Elam’s creative writing. I’m surprised that this hasn’t been dissected before. Elam *knows* the fallout from sexual abuse but would still, in this scenario, vote that the abuser was found not guilty. And the trash on his blog would assume she was lying.

http://www.livinghealthy360.com/index.php/sexual-abuse-therapy-drug-abuse-61691/

emma
emma
6 years ago

Marie, yes, he wants his fellow fellas to be less surprised by the revelation that they utterly and miserably failed at the husband thing. An added bonus: punishing the uppity, frivolous women who want divorce for the fun of it (because we all know what fun divorce is; also, hypergamy!).

It seems that if Rep. Nielsen were genuinely interested in promoting healthy marriages, maybe he’d introduce a bill requiring classes for men (and couples) before and during marriage.

Kootiepatra
Kootiepatra
6 years ago

EVEN IF this story were the slightest bit believable–and EVEN IF the woman left out of pure caprice, and not because Howard was already a transparently terrifying person–then yup, he sure does deserve to get booked for assault.

He has every right to feel hurt, betrayed, and angry. He has every right to sue for whatever share of the business and family possessions are actually his. He has every right to seek guardianship and/or visiting rights to his kids.

He does not have the right to sock another human being in the face.

I am baffled by how MRAs can’t wrap their brains around this concept.

chronic lurker
chronic lurker
6 years ago

@emma

Wow, just read the link. Jim Nielson sounds full of it.
For example, “The friends that I have that have gone through a divorce, most of the people that I know personally that have gone through that personally are men.” Is he saying he has never known a woman who has gone through/been affected by divorce?

This line is pretty telling too. “That individual — often a woman — will be aware of alternatives, will be aware of the impact, will be aware of the consequences and know what the process will be to his or her family.” Like, Jim Nielson just assumes women don’t know what happens during a divorce and it’s something they do just on a whim. Never mind that a divorce is stressful and awful for everyone involved and that it is already a tough decision. Never mind that some marriages just don’t work out, and that some woman divorce to escape a bad or dangerous situation. Nope, according to Jim Nielson woman need to be “educated” about why divorce is bad. Blah.

Marie
Marie
6 years ago

@chronic lurker

wow. The more I hear about Jim Nielson the more I want to to lock him in a safe full of legos.

cassandrakitty
cassandrakitty
6 years ago

Given how few places gay marriage is legal in, if most of the people who you know who’ve experienced divorce are men then that just means that you don’t have any women friends. Which is unsurprising if you’re a hateful sexist asshole, but it is funny that the numerical problem doesn’t even seem to have occurred to him.

Lea
Lea
6 years ago

Nielson just hates it when women do things men don’t want them to do, like leave an unhappy marriage. Silly women, thinking you can make your own choices. Nielson, will teach you better in his “classes”.
*barf*

emma
emma
6 years ago

@chronic lurker

Right? But it is a classic.

Go to, for example, Huffington Post Divorce and Women sections, and you will see scores of The Awesomest Husbands Ever who were totally surprised by the divorce initiated by the nasty ex-wife doing it for fun and monies and the great sex from Bad Boys, which was to follow.

This narrative seems to be ingrained in the MRA psyche. No surprise, of course, given their low emotional intelligence and lack of even basic self-awareness. Divorce, like all unhappiness that befalls them in life, is always women’s fault.

katz
6 years ago

So…he doesn’t know any divorced women and has no idea about their thoughts, feelings, and motivations regarding divorce, but he knows that they need to take classes. Brilliant.

kirbywarp
kirbywarp
6 years ago

Wow. That story was a read and a half. Elam isn’t exactly a terrible writer, barring the super-melodramatic tone and repetition. But jeeze…

So Tom something-or-other is the stand-in for what Elam thinks people think abusers are like (lusting for power, unrepentent and cowardly), there’s a heavy-weight guy without a name (of course) who apparently stands in for the poor beta schlub and who is the only one that displays anger during the story, and then there’s Howard who is the manly man that speaks so powerfully an entire room of men hang on his every word from beginning to end.

Oh, and Tobi, a woman who is supposed to be leading the session and should be pretty trained in dealing with sob stories but is immediately cowed by Howard’s manly manliness to the point where she can only sit with clenched hands in demure silence. And oh, by the way, she has bad hair, bad makeup, and wrinkles. So… you know. Ugly. And the stand-in for the system. I’m surprised there wasn’t some detail that it was a female judge that was handling Howard’s case, then Elam could hammer in even more that he thought domestic abuse was a man-vs-woman thing.

Gah, so many little details that make this thing fascinating, let alone the iron-handed message Elam wants to beat you over the head with.

emma
emma
6 years ago

Well, katz, maybe if women took those classes, their husbands wouldn’t have to break their noses. Or kill them. By refusing to learn and comply, women just ask for it, don’t they.

Arete
Arete
6 years ago

If someone says there were completely and utterly stunned by their spouse initiating a divorce, I would fell bad for them, because that sucks, but I would also feel like I possibly have at least a small insight to why the spouse might have done that. Most people aren’t actually amazing actors who are hiding all of their true feelings from their partners for no reason. In fact, most people really, really want their partners to understand how they feel. So, yeah, maybe sometimes someone really does dump their spouse with no warning whatsoever, but in most cases, it is probably more likely that the dumpee just wasn’t actually all that engaged with the life of the dumper, or they probably would have had a hint. And then, these guys refuse to believe that women have lives or motivations or internal narratives like regular people, which tends to lend a little more weight to this particular hypothesis.

chronic lurker
chronic lurker
6 years ago

@Marie
@emma

Well this is the first time I’ve heard of him, so I suppose I should be giving him the benefit of doubt–to a certain extent. I watched the video, and it sounds a little less bad in context, but the problems remain.
Apparently the laws/courses were already in place, but he wants to make it mandatory to complete them and make people do so earlier. He wants people to know about alternatives or something, with is fine I guess, except that he just assumes that people–particularly women–don’t know what they’re doing and need to be ‘taught.’ Even without the sexism, it’s still gross in the “you don’t know what’s best for you, let me teach you” sort of way.

Listening to the actual quotes he sounds like he genuinely thinks he’s doing the “right thing” and has taken MRA talking points and tropes as fact.

marinerachel
marinerachel
6 years ago

Oh, come ON PAUL! GWW has already gone there! A couple times!

Lea
Lea
6 years ago

mariberachel,
Sure, but one cannot remind men that women have it coming to them too often. >.<

kittehserf
6 years ago

I’m guessing Elam thinks Adrian Bayley is a poor cruelly mistreated man. That’s the Adrian Bayley who did repeated terms for rape, and in the counselling sessions fantasised about raping and murdering a woman, then (thanks to the inadequacy of our law and justice system) went on to rape and murder Jill Meagher.

Ken L.
Ken L.
6 years ago

after the stomach turning “story” the kicker of this whole post is finding out Elam was a counselor . How many human beings were denied treatment or made worse by this scum?

Lea
Lea
6 years ago

Ken,
I shudder at the thought.

Slats Lifter
Slats Lifter
6 years ago

I wonder what Elam would write if the genders were reversed…an awesome, devoted traditional wife goes to her father’s funeral and returns home to find that her husband has moved in with her BFF and has sent the kids to his live with his mom. As the stunned wife leaves her former BFFs house, he tells her that he would kiss her goodbye but he doesn’t want her to taste another woman’s c*&$. She responds by kicking him in the balls…and the husband calls the cops and gets her arrested and she must attend counseling before she can get to see her kids again.

Of course, Elam would probably say that the sentence on the woman isn’t harsh enough, that she should probably go to prison for 10 years and the fact that she could even see her kids again is misandry. After all, she was a vicious b*#$%& who drove her husband away and deserved her suffering.

katz
6 years ago

There are a disturbing number of people in counseling who have no business giving anyone advice about anything. I’m looking at you, Dr. Laura.

Kim
Kim
6 years ago

Well, the bit about an abuser telling this story in a DV group is believable.

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