Saturday, February 16, 2019

I Believe Mandy Morbid

I never thought he would turn out to be this awful.

It's always been pretty clear that Zak was an asshole, or at least willing to be the asshole in conflicts. My aversion to his aggressive and abrasive tone is probably the main thing that protected me from being pulled into his manipulations, because I am very much the sort of vulnerable person with marginalized identities that he worked to surround himself with.

Even so, there were times I spoke in his defense. There were times that I felt accusers were wildly misrepresenting events or conversations I had been party to, and I called that out. There were times that I felt accusers linked to supposed evidence that did not support their claims (or in at least one case actually demonstrated the opposite) and I called that out too. 

Zak articulated for me the idea that in an online community, without any actual authority structure (essentially an anarchist community), we must all be accountable to each other, as equals, for our actions. I believe this is a sensible principle, and I have no problem holding Zak to the same standard he tried to enforce on others.

Mandy, Jennifer, Hannah, and now Vivka. I am well aware of how hard it is for victims of abuse to come forward, and I am glad that they have been able to support each other in order to do that. Their stories are horrifying, and I believe them. I have enough familiarity with the experiences of abuse survivors to feel that these reports deserve to be taken seriously. 

But I am also familiar with DARVO, and I know that a bitter breakup can inspire unfounded accusations. I am inclined to default toward believing victims, but I think it's important to proceed with caution in these situations, and to hear out the accused abuser. 

Thankfully, Zak's official response relieved me of any doubts. I feel entirely satisfied that he has behaved abusively and deserves to be deplatformed and shunned by the community. 

His responses to Mandy and Jennifer's accusations seemed at least suspect. A lot of it could be categorized as "why would I do that," "how could you accuse me of that" "I did so much for you, I sacrificed so much for you" all of which are common tactics to deflect and manipulate rather than to directly deny the accusations. Having seen his argument tactics in the past, which tend to attack any weakness in a claim and state flat-out that an accusation is false or that a claimed action never happened, I find these responses suspicious as hell. 

However, it's his response to Hannah that I feel truly condemns him with his own words. Others have pointed it out elsewhere, but asking if someone likes a particular sexual act is not the same as asking for consent to perform that act right here, right now, without further discussion. He absolutely does not deny that he did what she said, and in fact helpfully elaborates on the details. 

Zak Smith confessed online to sexual assault. 

This is what happened. In his own post he states that he asked if she liked a particular sexual act, she said yes and smiled, and... his next sentence just says that if he'd known it was wrong he would have apologized. 

Porn star Zak Sabbath admitted that he doesn't understand consent. 

Note that he is not saying he didn't understand at the time and feels bad about it afterward. Read his words yourself. He is not horrified that his actions crossed a line without realizing it. He is shocked anyone would think his actions were somehow wrong. He's too skillful a writer to misrepresent his own actions and opinions unintentionally. 

That's more than enough. Any hesitation or doubt I might have felt about any of the rest of it was thoroughly cleared up. Granted, confessing to one crime does not automatically make him guilty of others, but the nature of his admission undermines any credibility he may have had. The nature of his transgression is all too recognizable, symptomatic of a pattern of behavior entirely consistent with abuse and manipulation. 

He was always an obvious asshole. If he weren't such an insightful writer and interesting creator, I think it would have been easy to agree long ago that our community was better off without him. But now that we can see just how awful he is capable of being, I believe there is nothing he can contribute that would be worth continuing to tolerate him.

Mandy, Jennifer, Hannah, and Vivka, I thank you for your courage, and for helping the rest of us to finally see him for what he is. I sincerely hope you are all healing and doing well. 

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