A relatively sober voice of reason


BuzzFeed says Paul Elam and AVFM are the more respectable wing of the MRA movement. That seems surprising. Neither is all that respectable.

A Voice for Men is often portrayed in the media as a relatively sober voice of reason in the abrasive world of men’s rights. “If Men’s Rights Activism has a Gloria Steinem, it is Paul Elam,” Emmett Rensin wrote this week for Vox. “The website is one of the oldest and, if there is such a thing, most respected hubs for MRA activity. Elam and his staff do, at the very least, engage in genuine advocacy on behalf of men.” Rensin didn’t cite any examples of said advocacy. This is not surprising, given that the site’s advocacy efforts are difficult to discern.

On the other hand it does make him a lot of money. That’s respectable in itself, right?

What is clear is that Elam has amassed tens of thousands of followers — and lined his pockets with their donations to the for-profit AVFM, which are estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. (When asked how this money is spent, Elam told BuzzFeed News that A Voice for Men’s finances were “none of your fucking business.”)

Hundreds of thousands for raging at women. Enterprising.

But here’s the scoop part: he ditched his own children and didn’t pay child support.

Now, exclusive interviews with Elam’s ex-wives and daughter and newly uncovered court records shed light on a man who, they told BuzzFeed News, has depended on and emotionally abused the women in his own life.

For example, although Elam compares the family court system’s treatment of fathers to Jim Crow, he abandoned his biological children not once but twice. Although Elam saysthat “fathers are forced to pay child support like it was mafia protection money,” he accused his first wife of lying about being raped so he could relinquish his parental rights and avoid paying child support.

His ex-wife and his daughter said he has only been able to make A Voice for Men his full-time job because of the women who have supported him throughout his life.

Well but so…so then they’re castrating him! Yeah that’s it! It’s still all their fault. Like his mother, who tried to interfere with his god-given right to squirt liquid shit. When he was only 13 years old, a tiny helpless innocent little baby,

his mother tried to force him to take his diarrhea medicine.

Elam’s brothers held him down on the kitchen floor while his mother screamed and hit him with a wooden spoon until a concerned neighbor knocked on the door. “I felt like I was engaged in the battle of my life,” Elam said. “I was a rebel from that moment on … I’m still that 13-year-old kid on the floor that won’t take the medicine.”

A hero! A hero of the liquid shit movement! A rebel with a cause: never let them take your diarrhea away from you. He’s still 13 and he still has the diarrhea.

Then follows the squalid story of his young adulthood, when he drank and did drugs and expected his wife to support him and do all the domestic work. What a catch, eh? What an impressive human being. Then to get out of paying child support he said his kids weren’t his.

Susan received full custody of both children after their divorce in February 1981. Elam was granted visitation rights every other Sunday afternoon, but only if he wasn’t “under the influence of alcohol or drugs or in the company of people under the influence of alcohol or drugs.” He was also ordered to pay child support every month as well as some previously owed child support and a variety of other debts and court fines. But he didn’t. So Susan took him to court again. Finally, he wrote a petition to the court explaining that he didn’t believe he should be held in contempt of court or pay attorneys’ fees because he didn’t think Bonnie was his.

“Susan has a history of promiscuity which never, to my knowledge now, ceased during the three years that we were married,” Elam wrote in the petition. He said he would take a paternity test, but that he felt he had “paid enough for the unfaithfulness” of his ex-wife.

What a mensch.

Now, Elam often writes about false rape allegations. “Should I be called to sit on a jury for a rape trial, I vow publicly to vote not guilty, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that the charges are true,” he once explained in a blog post, due to how often he believes women lie about being assaulted.

Yet this guy is considered the respectable part of the MRA movement. This guy.

In 2011, after feminist writer Jessica Valenti’s personal information was added to Register Her and Elam went after her on his radio show (“We’re gonna be all over her like Ron Jeremy on a drug-addled bimbo,” he said, calling her a “chickenshit” and “scared little girl”), Valenti was so inundated with threats that she contacted the FBI and, she said, left her house until things died down.

Projects like these are why Elam and his website have become known less for political or policy advocacy than for his abrasive approach to debate. In one post, Elam wrote that “all the PC demands to get huffy and point out how nothing justifies or excuses rape won’t change the fact that there are a lot of women who get pummeled and pumped because they are stupid (and often arrogant) enough to walk [through] life with the equivalent of a I’M A STUPID, CONNIVING BITCH – PLEASE RAPE ME neon sign glowing above their empty little narcissistic heads.”

I wouldn’t call that an “abrasive approach to debate.” I wouldn’t call it any kind of approach to debate.

“The claim that Elam and his friends are merely trying to have a conversation about the rights of men in modern society is bogus. What it’s really about is the defamation of women as a group; that’s called misogyny,” said Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has described AVFM as part of a network of “misogynists” and “women haters.”

On the one hand you have your Frederick Douglass, your Diane Nash, your John Lewis, your Eugene Debs, your Margaret Sanger, your Bella Abzug – and on the other hand you have Paul Elam.

Comments

  1. Brad says

    It makes me queasy to defend such a shitpile, but child abuse is child abuse. Are you really belittling this?

    Elam’s brothers held him down on the kitchen floor while his mother screamed and hit him with a wooden spoon until a concerned neighbor knocked on the door.

  2. says

    do we have confirmation re: his stories about his childhood?

    Yeah, if it didn’t go to court, then it probably didn’t happen. Guys be such liars!

  3. says

    Paul Elam is well known to engage in extreme hyperbole, to the point of outright lying. He’s advocated violence against women. He’s claimed to be the “victim” of his ex-wife when it’s clear that he was the abuser. It wouldn’t be out of character for someone like that to play the “real victim” gambit in other circumstances. You know, because it totally isn’t something abusers do, convince the police that they’re the “real victim” and she was “out of control” so he “had to” hit her, right?

    EVERY abusive man out there claims his victim(s) were in the wrong.

    Is it wrong to suspect that another known abuser (Elam) would do the same?

  4. Brad says

    I’m can’t tell what he gains by lying about his father. Nobody’s going to excuse his behaviour as an adult because of it, and he doesn’t even think he needs excusing.

    I also see a difference between claims about his parents/childhood and claims about his peers.

    If anything, it seems like he’s trying to claim his father was victim to his mother. Blaming her for whatever abuse instead of dad.

    You probably know more about him than I do, so I can’t say you’re wrong to doubt him, just that the claims seem very ordinary.
    Or see if his brothers* have blogs or twitter or whatever? Unless they’re as bad as him. That could be evidence for abuse, though I don’t know enough about developmental psychology to claim either way.

    *If they’re real**, and alive
    **joke

  5. Silentbob says

    @ 6 John Morales

    My mirth at your comment is exceeded only by my embarrassment at not having noticed that myself.
    :-)

  6. says

    Brad: No one here is belittling the abuse Elam got as a child (assuming he’s telling the truth, of course — which isn’t a really tenable thing to assume given his long track record), or how wrong it was. We’re belittling his adamant refusal to grow up and stop letting it poison is reasoning, or using it as an excuse for treating other people like shit.

    And besides, while force-feeding him medicine may have been excessive or uncalled-for, what else could his family have done, if they were faced with a boy who was shitting uncontrollably all over the place and flat-out refusing to do what was necessary to stop it? That sort of thing smells horrible, and it’s a serious health-hazard to be surrounded by it in the place where you live. I can certainly understand the frustration that led his mother — and his brothers — to resort to forcible intervention here. (Does Elam even mention his brothers’ POV in this incident? I should think a responsible adult would at least try to understand other people’s perspective when looking back on childhood incidents — plenty of victims of parental abuse do just that.)

  7. carbonfox says

    abrasive approach to debate

    women who get pummeled and pumped because they are stupid (and often arrogant) enough to walk [through] life with the equivalent of a I’M A STUPID, CONNIVING BITCH – PLEASE RAPE ME

    So this is what it takes for men to be tentatively called abrasive, huh?

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