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Not Funny At All
February 25, 2010 11:28 AM   Subscribe

Why I'm Funny. By Joel Johnson. [Warning: About molestation.]
posted by BlackLeotardFront (92 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite

 
NSFW from the git-go.
posted by availablelight at 11:30 AM on February 25, 2010


Just read this, very moving, very fucked up. Good on him for writing it so plainly and so well.
posted by everichon at 11:31 AM on February 25, 2010


Just finished reading this after seeing the link on Waxy. Really gut-wrenching.
posted by jckll at 11:31 AM on February 25, 2010


Warning: About molestation.

Some people have the equivalent of PTSD when they read stuff like this. They deserve a warning before clicking on a mystery link that literally starts with as graphic a depiction as this.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:33 AM on February 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


Yeah, for real, a little warning here would be a good thing.
posted by Mister_A at 11:34 AM on February 25, 2010


Read it this morning. Joel has gone on to accomplish a lot of really good things (I liked Consumerist better under his leadership than I have since) despite such a harrowing childhood.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 11:41 AM on February 25, 2010


I added a warning. It's outside of the purview of what's usually considered NSFW but a mystery link to a child rape story is really outside the bounds of what's okay to link to without some sort of indicator [besides the title which is not actually visible on the front page]. Hope that's okay. I can delete it and you can post it again with your own language of what it's about tomorrow if you want to.
posted by jessamyn at 11:43 AM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


oh hai guys, 'empath' here.

the name has absolutely nothing to do with anything flaky like being an empath.

Actually, i get weird psychics and stuff trying to follow me on twitter all the time because of that name and i keep blocking them :(
posted by empath at 11:50 AM on February 25, 2010


you think you've moved beyond triggers - you think you can read just about any story - you think that 20 years on you're all better. i couldn't make it past the second paragraph, which is a shame - it seems like this is good and well written (from other accounts i've seen around the 'net) - but here i am, barely able to breathe, my brain locking up.
posted by nadawi at 11:51 AM on February 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


thank you for adding the warning, jessamyn. it would have certainly been nice to see it before i clicked. i'm glad that others coming upon this won't be surprised.
posted by nadawi at 11:52 AM on February 25, 2010


I'm sorry if it surprised anyone, I think it was part of Joel's intention to shock from the first and I thought I'd keep that intact. But you guys are almost certainly correct, a warning is warranted.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 11:58 AM on February 25, 2010


When I was in 11th grade, my creative writing class had an "open topic" assignment; we were allowed to write on any topic of our choosing. My teacher at the time was a woman who I generally admired, but whose relentlessly sunny disposition occasionally annoyed me, and I had long loathed the "Everything I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten" poster that she had hung on the wall. In a fit of teenage spite, I wrote my paper, "Everything I Really Need to Know I Learned While Being Molested in Kindergarten".

To this day, I regret not keeping a copy of the paper for myself. It was (and I may be romanticizing it's quality in light of the subsequent fallout) possibly the funniest thing I've ever written. The humor was dark, definitely, but I think that it was genuinely funny. While teenagers always think that they're possessed of some brilliant and original insight into the human condition, it did manage to present in a clear and entertaining way several thoughts on life that I hold to this very day. It covered some extremely unsettling subject matter, but I thought that it did so in a way that people might find it funny and possibly thought-provoking.

It was also 100% true autobiography, although I did not make that explicitly clear at the time.

My teacher hated it. Hated it, hated it, hated it. She called me in to talk about it after class, and made extremely clear that she would not tolerate my making light of such a serious topic. She felt that, had I ever experienced anything of that nature, or had it happened to anyone close to me, I would not and could not be so flip about the matter.

I left her classroom furious. I mean, I'd written the truth. What did she know about me? What did she know about how people manage trauma? How could she, living her bright and sunny life, have any possible idea what it was like to just fucking deal with what they were going through while trying to maintain a normal life? Righteous fury.

A couple of years ago, her husband murdered her and then turned the gun on himself. It wasn't until I heard about it that everything that she'd said came into perspective. She really didn't have any idea what was happening with me, and I really didn't have any idea what was happening with her. The person sitting next to you might be living in their own private Hell, and you'd be none the wiser.

There are a lot of us out here, all alone. For some of us, being funny helps.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 11:59 AM on February 25, 2010 [223 favorites]


I'm sorry if it surprised anyone, I think it was part of Joel's intention to shock from the first and I thought I'd keep that intact.BlackLeotardFront

I understand - you did what you did out of respect to the story. I can say that it is still shocking even with the warning, and will still affect anyone who reads it.
posted by krilli at 12:03 PM on February 25, 2010


Why is the image in the bg of someone sitting in a Pantone room?
posted by Liquidwolf at 12:07 PM on February 25, 2010


Was there one adult in that kid's life who did not let him down?

In time, her doctor discovered that my mother was literally allergic to Glen. Her body would begin to reject his cells as they twined into hers, and baby after baby died in her womb.

At last, a steady course of Heparin throughout the pregnancy allowed it to come fully to term and my brother—her “miracle baby”—was born.


Modern medicine, thank god.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 12:08 PM on February 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


This is powerful writing. Jesus H. Christ. Child abuse is a terrible thing.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:12 PM on February 25, 2010


Painful to read, and brings back the points that molesters are very nearly universal recidivists, and that there needs to be a zero tolerance policy for it.
posted by medea42 at 12:12 PM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


The person sitting next to you might be living in their own private Hell

I've found it useful to operate as though there is a solid chance of this being the case for any given person. Cf. this thread, and the myriad stories that spilled out of that.
posted by everichon at 12:15 PM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh my god, that was powerful.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:18 PM on February 25, 2010


I've been reading Lauren Berlant's Cruel Optimism which focuses a lot on how people sometimes learn to live in unlivable circumstances by clinging to the mere possibility of something less damaging—sometimes a survival technique, sometimes a way of acquiescing to a harmful status quo. A lot of it is kinda like reading this.
posted by LMGM at 12:20 PM on February 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


molesters are very nearly universal recidivists

What? I can't find any evidence for this. There is a DOJ study on this that doesn't come to anything like that conclusion. (note that half of the criminals in the study were child molesters).
posted by wildcrdj at 12:20 PM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


wildcrdj - your study just shows they learned how to not get caught again. when you look at the percentages of people who have been sexually abused, you either have to think that nearly half of men are abusers, or that most abusers have multiple victims.
posted by nadawi at 12:24 PM on February 25, 2010


Frightening, heart-wrenching stuff, especially now that I've got a child of my own to protect from the vile and perverse.

It takes a lot of bravery to write this sort of thing and make it available to the public -- God knows I'd never be able to take that kind of scrutiny on my own vulnerabilities.
posted by camcgee at 12:30 PM on February 25, 2010


re: recidivism
Having worked with a number of molesters, I can say that there is a continuum, of course, but i would say four out of five don't have either the inclination or resources to prevent themselves from at least being a danger to others.

Progress isn't impossible or even unlikely given a good living situation, therapy, and supervision, but how many molesters just out of prison have these things?
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 12:30 PM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Recidivism depends on a definition of molester that is by no means universal. When the category includes both Uncle Bob the neighborhood predator and the Bobby the eighteen-year-old kid with a fifteen-year-old girlfriend, you're going to have different data.
posted by Peach at 12:35 PM on February 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


This part blew my mind. He couldn't have thought up a weirder character trait for his stepfather if this was fiction.
Glen, he hesitantly revealed, was psychic. “Empath” was his term. (He was cribbing terminology from Star Trek: The Next Generation, one of our favorite shows.) His mother and one of his sisters shared this trait, he confided. It wasn’t simply reading thoughts. Instead he would be struck by “flashes,” impressions of emotion and occasionally facts, most commonly from those about whom he cared the most.

He took me aside one day and showed me a polished, trapezoidal stone. He placed the stone in a divot of skin between his eyes.

“There is a place on me for this stone, which means I have the gift,” he said. He demonstrated how the stone, unlike most rocks, could transmit the current from the frightening static electricity generator he would occasionally use in parlor science experiments.

“Perhaps there is a place on your body where it fits, too,” he said.

That was his game, always tempering the threat of his “abilities” with the lure that I, too, might just be special. A telepath—or, encouraging me to stare at dust motes falling through rays of sunlight in our living room, perhaps someone with telekinesis. I was a regular reader of The Uncanny X-Men and knew about these things, even if I wasn’t sure I believed in them.

The subtext was terrible: if I didn’t have the gift, I should never forget that no matter where I was, no matter what I was doing, Glen knew what I was thinking.

At twelve or so, just beginning to feel the pangs of pubescent lust, I spent most of my waking hours trying not only to avoid thinking of sex because of its sinful nature—we were going to a new church—but because I knew that every sexual thought that bubbled up from the depths went flying through the ether to Glen.

He wasn’t always correct. Glen tried desperately to convince me that he’d “read” sexual thoughts I’d had about my mother, which despite that I was a hillbilly with little compunction about incest, were not true. In retrospect, it’s clear he was simply anticipating the sort of generic sexual thoughts every pubescent boy feels. Yet my own guilty lust provoked him, he said. He knew touching me was wrong, he’d plead, but how could he resist me when my own thoughts called out to him?
posted by The Devil Tesla at 12:36 PM on February 25, 2010


If there's such a thing as being retroactively terrified (of something that could have happened to you in the past), I'm it after reading that. Introverted and isolated? Emotionally needy and vulnerable? Wanted to believe that I could be an X-Man? That was me at 12, right down the line. I was so lucky.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:38 PM on February 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


She felt that, had I ever experienced anything of that nature, or had it happened to anyone close to me, I would not and could not be so flip about the matter.

After the second tower fell, and most people had run away, there was a guy, business attire, standing ankle deep in the dust, walking a dust covered bicycle. He was laughing, out loud, kind of barking, "Ha ha ha."

In retrospect it seems inappropriate, probably even to him. At the time everything was equally inappropriate.
posted by StickyCarpet at 12:42 PM on February 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


Actually this is safe for work.

This should be passed around just like the latest shitty Tiger Woods joke.

Then watch all the similar stories come crawling out of the cubicles.

Good for him.
posted by pianomover at 12:47 PM on February 25, 2010 [9 favorites]


I forced myself to read it, and then I forced myself to not put my fist through my monitor.
posted by rtha at 12:49 PM on February 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


I hated Glen, or course, by I loathed Mary Beth by the end of that story, and it only reinforced my feelings about the organized church. Horrible.
posted by maxwelton at 12:53 PM on February 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


by -> but
posted by maxwelton at 12:53 PM on February 25, 2010


I think I need to close mye eyes and lie down for the next few hours. God that was brutal.
posted by The Whelk at 12:53 PM on February 25, 2010


My teacher hated it. Hated it, hated it, hated it. She called me in to talk about it after class, and made extremely clear that she would not tolerate my making light of such a serious topic. She felt that, had I ever experienced anything of that nature, or had it happened to anyone close to me, I would not and could not be so flip about the matter.

I know you know your teacher was wrong, but I want to say that I, too, know that your teacher was wrong. Being flip saves lives, sometimes. It's a survival mechanism. I know.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:59 PM on February 25, 2010 [8 favorites]


Introverted and isolated? Emotionally needy and vulnerable? Wanted to believe that I could be an X-Man? That was me at 12, right down the line. I was so lucky.

That's a lot of people at 12, when it's you at 30 is when it's a problem.
posted by doctor_negative at 1:01 PM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


My eyes! My brain! Ouch.
posted by punkfloyd at 1:14 PM on February 25, 2010


I read it last night. Haunting, scarifying, cathartic, and hugely brave. And by the end of it I felt more horror for Mary Beth than I did, in a way, for Glen.
posted by jokeefe at 1:23 PM on February 25, 2010


maxwelton: "I hated Glen, or course, by I loathed Mary Beth by the end of that story, and it only reinforced my feelings about the organized church. Horrible."

I actually felt more antipathy towards Mary Beth. Glen seems like he was all sorts of mentally ill (not just because of the abuse, but the "Empath" stuff, the weird claims and accusations, odd behaviour...) Mary Beth, on the other hand, seemed like she was fairly stable and sane, just with a totally fucked-up and evil set of priorities, founded on some sort of extreme egotism.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 1:24 PM on February 25, 2010


Jesus that was powerful.
posted by graventy at 1:39 PM on February 25, 2010


I am not so much surprised what people are capable of anymore, but I do find I can still be sickened by their rationalizations.

Also, I do think that watching cruelty and doing nothing because it runs counter to your interests may be the closest thing there is to true evil.
posted by Pragmatica at 1:43 PM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Glen seems like he was all sorts of mentally ill (not just because of the abuse, but the "Empath" stuff, the weird claims and accusations, odd behaviour...)

My money's on Glen having been abused in the same way. In fact, I'd bet lots of money.

That's one of the many horrifying aspects of sexual abuse: how do you treat a molester who's also a survivor, or a survivor who's also a molestor? Especially in the days of "The Courage to Heal" and John Bradshaw, it's not so uncommon to have people who make their own abuse history part of their public narrative, but are at the same time committing the same kinds of transgressions once they're in a position to turn the tables.
posted by availablelight at 1:44 PM on February 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


This is powerful writing. Both the actual story, and the way it is written.

I don't need to decide whether I hate Glen or Mary Beth more, they're both loathsome in their ways. But what the fuck is with that church?
posted by Nelson at 1:46 PM on February 25, 2010


I actually read this earlier in the morning. Melissa at Suburban Bliss retweeted Mathowie's tweet about it.

I know this FPP is about Joel's story, but I wanted to link this older post of Melissa's for anyone who hasn't seen it. I don't recall seeing it posted on Metafilter before. I hesitated at first, but it's so raw and well written. It is also about molestation, but is not graphic. In fact, it's remarkably written: she never uses the word molest or any similar descriptions.

This is a first draft.
posted by peep at 1:54 PM on February 25, 2010 [8 favorites]


Apparently there are about a million Joel Johnsons in the world. Can someone clarify which Joel Johnson this is (perhaps with a link) for those of us who are not going to read TFA no way no how?

Because he sounds like an interesting guy, and people seem to know who he is, but I am not going to read TFA no way no how.
posted by ErikaB at 1:57 PM on February 25, 2010


Mary Beth, on the other hand, seemed like she was fairly stable and sane, just with a totally fucked-up and evil set of priorities, founded on some sort of extreme egotism.

Really? She didn't seem like she was making rational decisions at all. A fairly classic case of codependence. The tipping point for me was her treatment of Joel as an adult - interpreting his rejection of Glen-as-a-father as a rejection of herself.
posted by muddgirl at 2:05 PM on February 25, 2010


Apparently there are about a million Joel Johnsons in the world. Can someone clarify which Joel Johnson this is (perhaps with a link) for those of us who are not going to read TFA no way no how?

He's a professional blogger who's worked for Boing Boing (launching their gadget blog and their Offworld gaming blog), various Gawker blogs, and Wired.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 2:10 PM on February 25, 2010


I read this last night while not being able to sleep, it was really tough to read. One thing that really hit me hard was that Joel had almost been forced to share this with the world because he felt he needed to protect his baby brother.
posted by Kattullus at 3:31 PM on February 25, 2010


Is anybody able to provide me with, or point me to, a different link to this piece? His personal site is blocked.
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:12 PM on February 25, 2010


Die, Glen. Die, Mary Beth. You creeps don't deserve the gift of life.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:12 PM on February 25, 2010


Tangentially related: Childhood stress can result in structural brain changes.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:24 PM on February 25, 2010


Damn, what a writer. Bless him.
posted by Kloryne at 5:09 PM on February 25, 2010


Having finally read this all, cried a bit, I don't know whether to send it to a friend who has suffered similar experiences.

I hope Glen goes to jail at some point. I hope Joel's words, so carefully sculpted from the overwhelming mass of his experiences, inform others, and help to prevent such a thing from ever having to be written again.

My fear of sharing this resemble his fears of not breaking up a family or group of people, of not causing trouble. Fears of bringing up ghouls that were thought to be dead. I hope I can find the courage to share this story with others and face those ghosts.
posted by localhuman at 6:24 PM on February 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Whoa, so it doesn't take long to find all his family members (including Glen) on Twitter, LinkedIn, et al.
posted by geoff. at 6:43 PM on February 25, 2010


Mary Beth, on the other hand, seemed like she was fairly stable and sane, just with a totally fucked-up and evil set of priorities, founded on some sort of extreme egotism.

To the first part (stable? sane?) -- what sort of person knows the worst kind of abuse is happening right under their nose and does nothing to stop it? Sanity is not involved in that reasoning at all. Agree on the second part (f*ed up priorities, egotism). The lady is culpable in what happened. I'm as sickened by her lack of action as I am to the mindfuck of the abuse on Glen's part. So gross, so sad. How anybody ever recovers from something like this is beyond my reckoning.
posted by contessa at 6:43 PM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


The person sitting next to you might be living in their own private Hell.


"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."
- Philo of Alexandria.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 7:43 PM on February 25, 2010 [13 favorites]


I'm thinking I should hunt down Glen's twitter address, and start posting links to JJ's story.

But then I think that 4chan is probably already on the warpath, and will drive that fucker to suicide. It's the very least he deserves.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:47 PM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Parasite Unseen, that is one of the most amazing comments I've ever read on the blue. I'm dumb′strick′en.
posted by nola at 7:57 PM on February 25, 2010


to pay his way through college at Southwest Baptist University, where he majored in psychology and religion.

Misread as Southwest Rapist University. Wondered how good those programs would be there.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:20 PM on February 25, 2010


That was depressing.
posted by cannboys at 10:21 PM on February 25, 2010


Wow. That was powerful, and it made me feel very lucky, and grateful.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:47 PM on February 25, 2010


Man, whenever I read this sort of thing, all I can do is think of how to stop myself from bursting into big, very unmanly tears upon seeing my parents next, for being loving and caring and not being fucking monsters.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 6:14 AM on February 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Whoa, so it doesn't take long to find all his family members (including Glen) on Twitter, LinkedIn, et al.

It'd take us even less time if you posted links! Any response to Joel's post?
posted by Nelson at 8:10 AM on February 26, 2010


It'd take us even less time if you posted links!

Nothing personal but please don't do that. If people want to track the guy down, or tell Nelson how to, please do. Add links to your profile if you want. If this guy's [Glen, not Joel] life goes as South as it may after all this comes to light, I'd prefer MeFi not look like some sort of hotbed of "fuck that guy" even though, yeah, fuck that guy.
posted by jessamyn at 8:24 AM on February 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


This is really well written. And I agree with others who say that the mother is just as much if not more of the monster here than Glen. How can you abdicate your responsibility to protect your child in such an egregious way? Yes, there are men like Glen in the world. That's why those who are our protectors must keep them away from us. It seems like Joel is just now coming to grips with the anger he feels toward his mother. There were many qualifiers at the beginning about how much he loved Mary Beth - by the end he had cut her out of his life and was hoping that all those hillbillies would just die already. That shit ruins people. Best of luck to Joel, as he seems like a really interesting guy who's accomplished a lot already.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 8:39 AM on February 26, 2010


OK, fair enough about not posting links to the family members. I confess I'm just indulging my worst voyeuristic instincts here anyway. I've got no interest in harassing the other people, just curiosity about what it means for Internet citizens to be in this situation. But there's way too much potential for badness here.
posted by Nelson at 9:01 AM on February 26, 2010


If this guy's [Glen, not Joel] life goes as South as it may after all this comes to light, I'd prefer MeFi not look like some sort of hotbed of "fuck that guy" even though, yeah, fuck that guy.

Right after I read the story, I thought to my self, wow there's a lot of identifying details, including Glen's current employer.

A day after reading this and I'm beginning to wonder if Joel really thought through this. Surely someone of his background (BoingBoing, Gawker, etc.) is aware of how easy it is to Google, even with some of the details obfuscated. With the knowledge that he has a younger step-brother currently living with his mom and step-father, and the fact that Glen was never charged with a crime, I really hope he hasn't created a shitstorm for himself.

I confess I'm just indulging my worst voyeuristic instincts here anyway.

I'm beginning to feel as if that is his intention as it was the first thing I did after the article. It is one thing to have the Internet dig to find out, it is another to present it to him on a platter.

It was a wonderful story and I hope he comes to peace with what happened to him, but I hope he makes sure he's not doing anything illegal here, for his own sake.
posted by geoff. at 9:09 AM on February 26, 2010


Glen Johnson has a flickr account in which he has posted many pictures of himself and his wife. Joel's sister Rachel has an active Twitter account and a flickr account. My guess is that Joel intends to destroy his family, as he alluded to at the end of his piece.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 9:14 AM on February 26, 2010


The person sitting next to you might be living in their own private Hell.

You think you know somebody
You think they know you
You think you know somebody
But man you never do

-- Todd Snider - You Think You Know Somebody (Impatient Philistines: the crux starts at 2:15)
posted by Tuesday After Lunch at 9:28 AM on February 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Growing up not in the SBC but a similar family-values-style congregation, I'm having a hard time calling Mary Beth a monster. Every social force in her life, save for Joel, is telling her that her that reconciliation with her spouse and the father of two of her children is the only path to salvation. Think of the controversy started by a pastor at Saddleback Church in California - it's an entirely common theology.

I'm not trying to argue that she shares responsibility in Joel's abuse, and I guess in one sense that makes her "a monster". But also, there is a really fuzzy line between accomplice and victim.
posted by muddgirl at 9:47 AM on February 26, 2010


If you're going to excuse her behavior on the grounds that it's acceptable behavior in her church culture, then you really can't blame anyone for doing anything, as inevitably there is a religious organization somewhere that condones it.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 9:59 AM on February 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


A day after reading this and I'm beginning to wonder if Joel really thought through this.

Knowing his background (as you mention) I think he has. I think he's decided that it's worth it, regardless of what consequences he (Joel) may suffer. Perhaps he can't literally save Nate, as in removing him from the home and raising him. My guess is the abuse is already happening. Joel is doing what he can.

For any sentence that starts, "Yeah, but instead of this, he could have [done X]" just think about JOEL'S experience. He had the courage to reveal his abuse, and look what good it did. I absolutely understand the feeling that he had to go with the nuclear option and that he just fucking did it.
posted by peep at 10:10 AM on February 26, 2010


I'm not excusing her behavior at all. I stated that explicitly.

I'm pointing out that she may be as victimized by Greg as Joel. We only know one part of the story, and to allude that she's "a monster" because she puts her relationship with Greg over her relationship with Joel ignores the entire social context of the world they are living in.

Maybe I just can't believe in monsters any more. Joel's story is so sad and yet so familiar to me that it would be comforting to believe that all these perpetrators and all these people who ignore the evidence in front of their face aren't part of the human race. The fact that sex abusers and abuse enablers share our same physiology and sociology is frightening, but undeniable.
posted by muddgirl at 10:12 AM on February 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's Glen, not Greg. And I refuse to believe that knowingly allowing a man to molest your son makes you a victim. Gotta draw a line somewhere, I guess. That's where mine lies.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 10:24 AM on February 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


So the only people who can be hurt are people who don't hurt anyone else? That's an awful narrow world view.
posted by muddgirl at 10:26 AM on February 26, 2010


So the only people who can be hurt are people who don't hurt anyone else?

Of course not.

But you're arguing that because she allowed a strange man, Glen, to molest her son, she is a victim. You use her religion justify her behavior.

She had a choice to stop it and she didn't.

I doubt I'm going to change your mind and you're sure as hell not going to change mine. Joel's mother failed him in the most fundamental way, and she did so over and over and over again.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 10:29 AM on February 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


She can be both a victim and responsible for not protecting her son.
posted by rtha at 11:57 AM on February 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


One of the two people I credit with saving my life when I was a teenager also molested two of my closest friends, for years. During the day, he was talking quietly and passionately to me about beauty and art; he encouraged me to write and to live and helped me avoid the suicide toward which I was careening. At night, he was raping my 8-year-old friend not twenty feet from my room in the house we were sharing. Somehow, I didn't know until well after the fact. The thought of it still makes me want to throw up.

I wish there were easy answers. I wish I could point at him and say, "here is a monster without redeeming quality." But I can't just do that, because without his intervention, I don't think I would be here now. He saved my life; he utterly destroyed other lives. I can't excuse his behavior; I can't excuse my ignorance. I want it to be simple. It's never simple.
posted by Errant at 12:48 PM on February 26, 2010 [6 favorites]


I'm pointing out that she may be as victimized by Greg as Joel.

Surely not "as." She was an adult. That gave her an agency and a moral responsibility that Joel did not have.

Life is complicated, but I sort of feel like "don't whore out your children to secure your own comfort" is one of those things that if you fail at it, I'm going to go ahead and refuse to sympathize with the myriad problems that led you there.
posted by palliser at 1:12 PM on February 26, 2010 [8 favorites]


But also, there is a really fuzzy line between accomplice and victim.

Glen and Mary Beth are not accomplice and victim. They are broken and broken.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:42 PM on February 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


By which I mean, a person who was not broken, would not have been attracted to Glen.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:44 PM on February 26, 2010


those who see abuse as black and white, easily castigating people into one camp (monster) or another (victim) are those who have never lived through it.
posted by nadawi at 3:45 PM on February 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


The fact that sex abusers and abuse enablers share our same physiology and sociology is frightening, but undeniable.

On the one hand I want to draw a stark line like (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates has, and say once you cross this you're fucked. On the other hand I understand how hard it can be to untangle this thing, for lack of a better word.
posted by nola at 4:01 PM on February 26, 2010


But I'd still wind up beating the shit out of Glen if it came down to it, simply because even though I sometimes find myself "thinking", most of the time I prefer to react like the animal I am.
posted by nola at 4:03 PM on February 26, 2010


(Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates: My guess is that Joel intends to destroy his family, as he alluded to at the end of his piece.

Not to quibble, but this is crucial: There's nothing left in this "family" to destroy but delusion.

Joel: "It’s the lie that I can destroy this family by simply talking about the truth, when this family was already destroyed. Despite the stately house, the gleaming Ford truck under the tall tree, the kids laughing in the yard, there is no home, only wreckage."
posted by FrauMaschine at 5:53 PM on February 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


those who see abuse as black and white, easily castigating people into one camp (monster) or another (victim) are those who have never lived through it.

I have, and I disagree.
posted by Coatlicue at 6:58 PM on February 26, 2010


FrauMaschine:

Yeah, you're absolutely correct. I regretted my phrasing as soon as I had posted. What Joel is saying is much more mature and profound than what I was giving him credit for - there is no way Joel can destroy his family because they have already done so themselves. Thanks for pointing out my error and reiterating his point.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 7:48 PM on February 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


As much as I understand the desire to form up a posse and do evil to evildoers, would that be satisfying? If Glen were dead at the hands of an angry mob, would that satisfy everyone?

Felony Child Molestation, which this certainly was if it is as described, has no statute of limitations in Missouri [pdf]. See other US states' statutes of limitation. It sounds like there's probably a paper trail -- police reports -- from the time that would back all this up.

The specific inclusion of details which has allowed people to track down the people in the story--wow. I'm troubled; I fear for the safety and mental health of all involved. I hope they all make it through intact.

Horrible through and through. I think the best outcome would be that this is a catalyst for Joel to get some peace and Glen to get some deserved punishment. Joel's Mom, Jesus she seems to be a sad creature. And his younger stepbrother. Man. This sucks.
posted by artlung at 8:37 PM on February 26, 2010


I fear for the safety and mental health of all involved. I hope they all make it through intact.

I literally could not possibly care less about Glen or Mary Beth. They forfeited everything when they gave in to their sociopathic abuse of their own children.

I hope that Joel's extreme measures help any of Glen's or Mary Beth's other victims come forth and seek justice. By putting it all out on the table like that, Joel is creating the best possible opportunity for everyone to step forward.

Shine a light on it.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:26 PM on February 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


A Q & A with Joel about this post.
posted by minervous at 6:25 AM on March 2, 2010 [5 favorites]


This news article reminded me of Joel and his half-brother today. I hope to... fuck, whoever I CAN hope to that something is being done for Nate.
posted by muddgirl at 3:14 PM on March 22, 2010


I believe that in most parts of Canada and the US, it's actually illegal for Joel to not report the suspected sexual abuse of a minor.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:23 PM on March 22, 2010


I think you're thinking of mandated reporting fff which is only legally binding for people in certain professions [though there's a citeless assertion that all citizens are mandated reporters, that has not been my understanding]. Certainly there's a moral imperative, but that's a bit different. It was a little odd seeing Joel walking around SXSW after reading this.
posted by jessamyn at 5:00 PM on March 22, 2010


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