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A Poet Says He Was Dubiously Accused Of Sexual Abuse During The Height Of #MeToo. His Writing Is Helping Him Survive.

By  Ashe Schow

At the height of the #MeToo movement, any male with even the slightest profile in the media, publishing, or the arts seemed to get accused of abusing women.

The evidence against these men was almost always nonexistent outside of an accusation, which is why we were told we must “believe all women” and that not believing them meant one was supportive of sexual abuse. Accusations covered the gamut from rape and domestic violence to mere mean words.

One of the accused men was Joseph Massey, who has just written an article about his experience and his life after “cancellation” over at Quillette. Massey admits to being a terrible drunk in his 20s and 30s, but provides evidence that the accusations against him had more to do with jealousy than any actual sexual abuse.

Massey wrote that he had a two-and-a-half-year affair with fellow poet Kate Colby, who did not respond to a Daily Wire press inquiry. He wrote that in February 2017, he admitted to the affair to Colby’s husband — first anonymously and then using his own name. He said Colby was angry and the two yelled at each over the phone.

A few months later, Massey wrote, Colby reached out and said she wanted to clear the air. The two spoke and Massey said he apologized for the things he had said to her during their last conversation. He said they emailed that day and Colby acknowledged that the “whole 2.5 years was a s***** situation for you, and I was highly aware of that.”

About two weeks later, Massey learned that Wesleyan University Press had accepted his manuscript, “What Follows.” He shared the news with Colby, whom he said had been rejected by the same publisher twice before.

He said Colby responded by blocking him on social media. On July 6, 2017, Colby allegedly sent him a message that ended: “Then you decided to tell me that my personal dream press, over which I’ve worked so hard and suffered a lot of pain, is publishing your book.”

Colby then published her accusations against Massey on Facebook in January 2018. She also linked to a website called “The Poet Joseph Massey Is An Abuser.” An anonymous letter, sent to multiple publishers, accused him of “verbal and psychological abuse” and asked the publishers to “end relations with him and make a public statement about it, especially in light of cultural shifts around believing victims.”

The writer of the anonymous letter claimed that during a poetry reading, Massey was “extremely drunk” and kept telling her she “was hot,” even in front of her partner.

As Massey explained, he hasn’t given many poetry readings and the accusation didn’t include a time or date. “To the best of my knowledge, the encounter described in the anonymous letter didn’t happen,” he wrote.

Months later, in May 2018, Colby accused Massey of sexual abuse in an article written by a woman who has repeatedly tweeted hatred toward men. Several other women were found to make accusations against him as well. A woman in the article accused him of seeing other women during their long-distance relationship and of being jealous. Massey wrote that the claims of manipulative and controlling behavior directed toward him actually described Colby’s behavior. “She thought I was sleeping with all of my female friends, in particular the ones who are younger than she is,” Massey wrote. “There are thousands of messages of this variety in my Gmail archive.”

As expected, Wesleyan “indefinitely delayed” Massey’s manuscript. Barrelhouse magazine cut ties with him, as did four poets who had wanted him “to blurb their books.” The Kelly Writers House severed ties with him. Colby had tagged the director in her Facebook accusations.

Massey wrote that “pile-on allegations came thick and fast,” including accusations that he looked at a woman like she “was a meal” at a poetry reading, that he was “rude” to a woman “on Facebook six years ago,” and that he messaged a woman once “trying to talk about poetry.”

Among all the dubious accusations, the Academy of American Poets deleted his work from their website.

Meanwhile, Colby’s profile was raised. She became a regular guest on a podcast hosted by the director of the Kelly Writers House. She was also asked to speak for the group.

“She swept in to replace the ghost I’d become,” Massey wrote.

Massey was eventually hospitalized after attempting suicide in the wake of the accusations. Though he has been “cancelled,” as he put it, he still has his poetry. He even has a book coming out, “A New Silence,” which was written during his experience.

“I view it as evidence that my spirit was not extinguished. My life was not extinguished. The ‘cancellation’ only went so far. I lost opportunities; I lost several dozen friends. I still feel like a pariah. I live in poverty. But poetry remains. Poetry was, and is, my survival skill,” Massey wrote.

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  • MeToo
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  • Sexual Abuse

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