Sunday, October 12, 2014

Dear Alex Day

I want you to know, first, that I believe you. I don't think you're intentionally trying to deceive or manipulate. I watched your video with good faith, and I hope you read this in good faith.

You said in your video that you can't find any "objective morality," and I have no desire to argue philosophy with you. However, if you do have any moral obligation in this situation, your moral obligation is to the people you hurt.

I think you agree with me there, because you sound like you regret that you caused other people pain. And I believe you when you say that you don't want to hurt anyone else. Specifically, you say that your goal is to never pressure someone into sex (or sexual things) again, and again, I believe you. But I think you still have a lot of things to learn if you want to achieve this goal.

For example, you said that you don't understand what you could have done to make girls feel pressured into sex with you. That is a Really Big Thing you need to learn, if you really want to make sure you never pressure someone into sex in the future - and a really basic thing.* If you can't recognize it, how will you make sure it never happens again?

If you want to learn how to avoid hurting people, the best way to do it is to listen to the women and girls who have been through it. Don't dismiss what your critics say as angry Tumblr rants or endless complaining. Those people are sharing something with you. You could learn a lot from listening to them.

You say you want to help the community move forward in a productive way, and I believe you. But, given that you are still learning how to avoid hurting people, you are not a person who should be guiding the community right now. I'm not saying you should shut up and go away; I'm saying that when you rebuild you should start at the bottom, not the top. Reconnecting to the community is more important than reclaiming a place at the center of that community.

You say that internet celebrity doesn't mean much to you. If that's the case, it shouldn't be hard to listen and learn, instead of trying to lead. If you're willing to center the experiences of people who've been pressured into sex, and decenter your own interests, it will go a long way towards rebuilding the community's trust in you.



*There are a lot of internet resources that can help you with building a personal system of strong affirmative consent. A relevant selection:

  • How to avoid making people feel uncomfortable / tell when you have made someone uncomfortable / stop making people feel uncomfortable - John Scalzi
  • How to build good habits around enthusiastic consent in all things - Cliff Pervocracy
  • How to talk about consent without sounding like a robot lawyer - Cliff Pervocracy
  • An example of how not to be (TW) - Captain Awkward
  • Another example of how not to be (TW) - Captain Awkward

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