The New York Times invited male readers to share their misdeeds and received more than 750 submissions, mostly anonymous, confessing to disturbing sexual misconduct.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on August 6, 2021. It has since been updated.
Trigger Warning: This story contains details of sexual assault that may be disturbing to readers.
The #MeToo movement brought the conversation of sexual assault and the voices of the survivors to the forefront. The founder of the movement, Tarana Burke, intended for it to be a way “to spread a message for survivors: You’re heard, you’re understood,” reported Vox. Some of the perpetrators of the violence were also held accountable to some extent. But the system and culture of harassment did not seem to change no matter how much women used their trauma to educate people in general and men in particular about consent and its importance. Either, men were aware of what they were doing and refused to listen or misogyny was so ingrained in them that they saw nothing wrong with what they were doing.
Well, this is something. My colleague @APQW asked our male readers: Have you ever treated a woman in a way you now regret? She was flooded with many hundreds of responses, some of them *very* disturbing. Here are eight respondents who agreed to be named. https://t.co/LgxT6SANvY— Lauren Kelley (@lauren_kelley) October 18, 2018
Following the sexual harassment accusations made by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford against Brett Kavanaugh, The New York Times invited male readers to share their stories from the past where they made young women uncomfortable or were complicit in it as their buddies partook in it. They received more than 750 submissions, mostly anonymous, of men confessing to heinous crimes including but not limited to gang rapes and other disturbing sexual misconduct. It was a first-person's account of what went on in the minds of men as they put women in unsafe and traumatizing situations.
Alicia P.Q. Wittmeyer of NYT who authored the piece, however, decided to include the account of only the men who agreed to be identified. Of all the confessions, only eight were recounted.
Patrick Herron confessed to the time he was 15 when he and his friends went on a drive with a girl whom they threatened to allow them to fondle her exposed breasts. After nearly five decades, he says he regrets his actions. "As a father of two millennial daughters and one millennial son, I would be horrified today if anything close to that ever occurred," he stated. "This is the first time I have ever spoken about it." Gene Biringer also confessed to taking advantage of the chaos of a friendly rumble and the darkness of the evening it happened to grope a girl he was attracted to and intimidated by. "For my own part, I knew that what I was doing was wrong, but I didn’t realize how wrong it was until I saw the young woman’s reaction, and I’ve regretted it ever since," he recalled.
Lee Montgomery told NYT about how he had coerced a shy quiet girl into a car with his friend and made a lot of uncomfortable sexually suggestive comments to her. He regretted it so much, he recalled, that he dropped out of high school. "I believe I have lived an exemplary life since that era, but during my teenage years, I did some nasty things," he stated. "My point is that I believe it is entirely possible for people to mature and be good citizens and to leave behind youthful bad behavior. But to do so requires admitting to wrongdoing. If I were to see her today, I would apologize sincerely with no excuses."
"My reaction reading is a physical one. I literally feel sick to my stomach... I was wondering if my sexual assault would be one of the ones recounted here," writes Ginni in a comment on "Eight Stories of Men's Regret."https://t.co/fRMRvAIfjz pic.twitter.com/ROc4eSG3tr— New York Times Opinion (@nytopinion) October 20, 2018
Arthur J. Slavin and Max Maples shared how they had coerced and emotionally manipulated their then-girlfriends to carry out sexual acts even though they knew it made them uncomfortable. Fanon Frazier confessed to having "frozen" as his pals ganged up on a girl who had a reputation for being "down for a good time." As did Tom Lynch, who tried to put his hand up a girl's skirt to "conquer" her. Lynch later came out as gay and thinks he sexually harassed a girl to prove something to himself.
Couldn't finish reading this. It brought up too many memories of being assaulted in ways big and small, physical and psychological, between high school and the end of my working life. I am female.— Marg Leaf (@marg_leaf) October 18, 2018
The piece includes a minuscule number of men who regret their actions in retrospect even though at the time of their assault they knew exactly what they were doing and how wrong it was. No matter how much they regret it in the present, they have left the women they assaulted with trauma that will last a lifetime. There are also men who regret nothing. It will take a lot more than educating men to get them to stop exercising their power and dominance over women.