Statement of Accountability for Harm Caused Within the SFF Writing Community (2013-2016)

April 26, 2023 at 9:11 am

(CW: discussion of emotional abuse)

In October 2016, I was accused on Twitter of emotional abuse, gaslighting, manipulation, objectification, and grooming of young female writers in the science fiction and fantasy writing community. I issued a short apology on Twitter and removed myself from that community to, as I put it, “self-reflect and become a better person.” I see now that apology then was insufficient, as it was made without a clear understanding of my actions and a framework for recognizing my own culpability.

It has taken me a long time to process my emotions and acquire tools and knowledge, but I believe I am better equipped now to take ownership of my actions and try to make up for the harm I’ve caused. To anyone I hurt in any way, I sincerely apologize and I am deeply sorry.

While I never intended to cause harm, through many conversations with therapists and friends who observed my behavior—and were careful not to provide any specific descriptions in order to protect people’s privacy—I’ve come to understand that I made many mistakes and should have been more mindful of my own power and privilege in my interactions. I was not aware, but that is not an excuse. I take full responsibility for my impact, and I hope that the people I have hurt can find some peace in this acknowledgment and the steps I’ve taken to keep from hurting others.

I am writing about my personal experience now because I feel that I must hold myself publicly accountable for my actions in order to continue growing. I hope my experience may resonate with other men who have thought or behaved similarly, and I encourage them to do this work proactively so they don’t continue hurting women inadvertently. I also hope that by being more open about my own experience, I can discuss these issues in public and foster productive conversations.

My words and actions had a profound negative impact. I made women feel diminished, causing some of them to stop writing. That’s a horrible loss I can never make up for, and I hope they have regained their voices since I stepped away. It was a year later that the many open and honest public conversations in the wake of the #MeToo movement helped me see how bad it really was out there for women. Hearing so many stories, I could see how some of my actions, such as paying special attention, giving nicknames, and doing favors, could be perceived as grooming behavior. Although I never intended to do anything malicious after establishing a friendly relationship, there was no way for women to know that. I should have been more aware, and created a safer space by acknowledging the various intersecting power dynamics in this professional setting and making my intentions clear.

With every new story of an abuser, I looked to see how much of myself rang true and understand how I had fallen into threatening patterns. I saw how joking about what I could do with my influence could have a darker meaning. I remembered putting my arm around women and not getting a no but also not getting a clear yes, so I left it. Had I not been made aware of the impact of my actions, I would not have gained this new perspective on them.

As I examined my own motives in promoting young female writers, I had to admit that I was not entirely selfless, and the self-interested portion of me was what had made so many women uncomfortable. Although I did make it a point to seek them out and support their work because it was the right thing to do, I also would have been happy if any sort of romance developed. So I did pay more attention to pretty young women at cons and workshops and even on Twitter, hoping to find a connection. Seeing so many writer couples in the SFF community, I thought I might be part of one myself. I didn’t push—I can recall asking out two women specifically and in both cases, my feelings were unrequited and I was happy to remain friends—but I did want it. I’m ashamed that I thought about women—particularly professional contacts—that way, primarily as romantic objects of pursuit. I realize now that throughout my life, I’d internalized the message that women existed largely to provide romantic companionship to men, and I have been working to consciously unlearn that.

For years, I lived steadfast in my belief that I was a Good Guy, and I interpreted comments from my female friends as reinforcing this idea that I was One of the Good Ones. If I was ever called out on language or behavior that was sexist, I rarely did any self-examination, as I could always find someone to reassure me that I was fine and the other person was just being sensitive. So I apologized and went on my merry way, using my belief in my own goodness as a shield against any criticism.

I continued engaging in hurtful behavior until I actually faced consequences that forced me to do the self-examination I should have done much earlier. Therapy finally helped me have those conversations with myself, and I realized that the core issue was that in all of these situations where I engaged in the behavior of an abuser, I thought of what I wanted and not what the women wanted, and I proceeded without asking because I didn’t want to hear a no. Because I knew that since I was a Good Guy, I would stop if I heard a no, I simply found a loophole. It placed the responsibility on women to stop me, rather than on me to ask for consent in the first place. This was a spectacular failure of empathy on my part, and since I consider myself a fairly empathetic person, it took some time to strip away my defensiveness and come to terms with what I had actually done.

I knew that I was capable of changing my behavior if someone told me that it was wrong and I appropriately reflected on the feedback and understood. I used to follow women I was interested in, not directly behind, but observing their location and trying to be in the same one in hopes that there might be an opportunity to strike up a conversation. The fact that I jokingly called it “passively stalking” indicates that I knew it was wrong but thought that I, being a Good Guy, couldn’t possibly be doing something wrong. Until one day I posted about it on a messageboard and people told me that it was wrong, and I understood why, and I stopped doing it.

I also used to deliberately take the empty seat next to women on BART to keep it from being taken by one of the Bad Guys I so often heard about, and I wasn’t going to be aggressive or creepy to them. Then someone pointed out that those women had no idea what threat level I might be, which made sense to me, so I stopped doing it.

Self-reflection can only take one so far, and I found many books, movies, TV shows, and essays that helped guide my thinking by showing me new perspectives and synthesizing information. I would definitely recommend these works to anyone who is working to become better and would be happy to discuss them afterward because they can leave you somewhat raw. The list below is hardly exhaustive, and I intend to continue consuming such media because the work is never over.


  • The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love by bell hooks: One of my therapists gave me this book to supplement the discussions we were having, and I loved it and would highly recommend it to all male-identifying folk. In reading her breakdowns of compassionate masculinity and patriarchal masculinity, I could see where my actions fell into the latter when I want to model the former.
  • Men’s Work: How to Stop the Violence That Tears Our Lives Apart by Paul Kivel: This book made me think about the different forms that violence can take—violence can be emotional, and that’s what I had unwittingly engaged in—and my relationships with other men. It made me hyperaware of my male privilege and the power dynamic I had with women. While I didn’t feel like I had power in those relationships, I realized now that I’ve always held a position of power simply by being male, and I should have been more aware of that position and the weight my words carried.
  • Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Pérez:  This eye-opening read really highlighted the fact that women spend so much energy trying to feel safe in a world designed for men, and it’s high time that we men spend energy trying not to make women feel unsafe.
  • So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo: Although this book addresses race, I found much of it applicable to any form of oppression, as it’s very good at explaining the perspective of the oppressed and how that life experience colors all their interactions. Much of what she says about white privilege can also apply to male privilege, for instance, and her words helped me adjust my own perspective in how I was viewing my actions and the outcome of this very statement. I had to come to terms with the fact that some of my relationships may be irrevocably damaged, and I had to accept that because the point was to work to dismantle systems of oppression and become a better person.


  • Promising Young Woman: This is a movie designed to make men feel uncomfortable, as we should be as we recognize our complicity in rape culture, whether it’s through our actions or our inactions. Society prioritizes the promising young men, and that won’t change if men simply allow things to continue as they are.


  • Unbelievable: While I knew intellectually that women are often disbelieved when they report sexual assault and the justice system rarely dispenses justice, this compelling miniseries made me feel it emotionally. I appreciated how it showed the different ways people react to trauma and to people who have been traumatized.
  • I May Destroy You: This fantastic miniseries explores issues of consent and transforms the complexity of rape culture into digestible narratives that may still be hard to swallow. I appreciated the level of nuance with which it treats victims and victimizers, acknowledging that we don’t have to be defined by our trauma or the trauma we’ve caused, and in showing the many ways you can violate someone’s consent and have your consent violated, it invites an uncomfortable and important conversation.


  • “How Can We Make Men Stop Touching Us,” by Jessica Valenti: Valenti nails what it took me a long time to truly accept: the fact that women did not directly tell me to stop touching them—or doing other things that made them uncomfortable—did not mean it was okay. It meant I didn’t care whether it was okay because I wanted to do it, and because I thought of myself as a Good Guy, I didn’t think it could be wrong.

It became clear to me that if I had recently hurt women who were brave enough to speak up, I must have also done inappropriate things in the past, even if no one told me about them. I reflected on how I had behaved with my female friends and identified incidents where I realized I had crossed the line. I reached out to friends with whom I remained in frequent contact as well as those with whom I was no longer close in order to apologize for my past actions and make amends. I received a range of reactions, and regardless of the results, I found value in acknowledging my actions to myself as well as to them.

In some cases, they were understanding and open to talking through what had happened. In those conversations, I learned how common it is for men to do the types of things I had done and why women may not speak up about it, even if it bothers them. Some of these women also shared with me further experiences that helped put my own actions into perspective, showing me how what I had been doing could give off red flags, causing them to feel unsafe despite my good or benign intentions.

In other cases, I received no response. I respect their lack of response and will not reach out again, but I will of course be glad to respond if they want to open a dialogue.

Writing and publishing this statement is only a part of the process. I deeply regret the hurt I caused, and I will continue to work to “self-reflect and become a better person” for the rest of my life. If anyone I have hurt wishes to talk to me, they can e-mail me at, and I will try to repair the damage I have done however I can.