The Bear in the Room, Let’s Talk about Men in Horror

The Bear in the Room, Let’s Talk about Men in Horror by Dex Bryant

silence kills and no movie, studio, book, or genre is more important than the safety of the people in its community.

There’s this scene in many horror movies where the monster is creeping up on the girl. It might be a victim or a final girl. Either way, she’s scantily clad or nude and he’s looking at her, we are looking at her through the camera, through his eyes. It makes us feel wrong, complicit in the monster’s perverse need to watch before he strikes. It builds the tension and fear in the audience because we know it’s wrong. We know we shouldn’t be seeing them like this. It creates discomfort and unnerves us because of the immorality of it. Basic horror tactics based on basic human decency.

Unfortunately, basic human decency isn’t so basic for everyone.

This past month has been a rough one in the horror community. Just as we began to move forward warily from the situation with Hellbound Books and James H. Longmore’s transphobic, fatphobic, and pro-AI imagery, we find ourselves in another social media frenzy around men being assholes. Before I get into the situation with Otis Bateman and Stephen Cooper, I will say that sure, not all men in horror are abusive perverts. Sure, some women have shown their internalized misogyny lately defending the disgusting behavior of those that would just as readily harm them as anyone else. That said, no one can look at the statistics and say that the fact that 2 more men have shown their true colors as scum is surprising.

For those that don’t know what is going on

Horror authors Otis Bateman (real name Travis Davis) and Stephen Cooper were recently discovered to not only be collecting and non-consensually sharing nude photos of fans but were also making fun of a sexual assault victim. Screenshots of their conversations around image sharing and the victim were shared on social media May 28th and since then Bateman has shut down many if not all of his social accounts against the backlash.

In the days following, more and more women have spoken out about their behavior including how they didn’t start sharing images or building a flirtatious relationship with Bateman until he told them he was in the midst of a separation and divorce with his wife. At the time, he was still very much married and we are not aware of any intention to divorce though some women have shared they hope that changes soon, stating they feel sorry for his wife. Many have spoken up about the fact Bateman and Cooper have used AI images on their books, have made uncomfortable statements about extreme horror focused on sexual assault of women, and general bad vibes from the authors in the past.

Some might say this is a symptom of our genre.

I’m a Millennial so I was raised in the rhetoric of horror movies, explicit song lyrics, and shooting games turn kids into killers (like the Columbine school shooters). I’m pretty used to people assuming what goes in must come out – specifically when it comes to violence.

The thing is, if you go to other communities, you will see the same or very similar issues. Abusers, grifters, and more are just being particularly loud. Some say it’s due to people thinking the internet and keyboard are a shield to protect them from the blowback of their horrible behavior. Others think it’s the political climate and systems in place (specifically in American and UK) that tells these abusers (especially cis het white men) that their hate and vile actions are ok or, at least, not something that will be punished. Still others say it’s always been like this, it’s just that social media and instant access to news and information has made it louder and more noticeable.

I don’t claim to be a sociological expert.

I’m personally less interested in asking why and more interested in asking what are we going to do about this going forward?

Something I’m happy to see take place in the horror community, at least in the circles I run in, is so many accounts quick to call out the behavior of the aforementioned men (and others). I heard about Bateman, Cooper, and Longmore because of social media sharing the stories as well as posts of various authors, publishers, events, and more saying they would not work with them again. Seeing Ginger Nuts of Horror, Ghoulish Books, and authors like Gabino Iglesias and Vicente Francisco Garcia, and horror influencers like That Horror Bish (Kiera) not only making the horror community aware of the situation but also denouncing it was helpful.

As someone who has experienced harassment and sexual assault in the past, the thing that really beat me down afterwards were people not believing me. Seeing people I thought were friends continue to hang out and even praise the man who assaulted me was as much of an attack as experiencing the harassment again and again. It isolated me and made me feel like I was the one in the wrong. It took years for me to dig my way out of that hole and even longer to patch myself back together again. A zombie from the grave only with a lot more angst.

I say this not to draw pity but to say that seeing the community rally around victims and denounce the men who hurt them is exactly what we need.

Youtube creator, In Praise of Shadows, recently did a video called Bad Conservative Horror Movies (it’s no longer up but I hope that it returns because there were some very good points in it). Something they said in the video that had a lot of weight to it was that many people don’t want to call out horror creators because they are afraid that calling attention to abusers and bad guys in the community will make horror look bad.

It’s a manipulation tactic I’ve seen in the evangelical church.

You can’t talk about the minister abusing people because it will make the church look bad and lose the fight against the devil for the souls of non-believers. In this case, we don’t want to make horror look bad to mainstream media because they already look down on us! We don’t want to speak out about a bad horror movie because the studios might not make any more horror movies ever again!

Sounds ridiculous when you write it or say it out loud but this is what some people actually believe when telling those of us calling out abuse to shut up and quit being “keyboard warriors.”

What I have to say to them is that silence kills and no movie, studio, book, or genre is more important than the safety of the people in its community.

Some folks want to hide behind the statement “I just want to talk about horror media. I come here to get away from politics and drama.” Without getting into the fact that horror, like all art, is political in its nature. I only have one thing to say. We will stop talking about politics and so-called drama when it is safe for all horror fans to enjoy horror media.

When women, LGBTQ+, and POC fans of horror are safe to watch horror, read horror, attent horror events, and create horror themselves. That is when I will happily focus solely on the media itself. Until then, I’ll keep calling it out, writing about it, and posting it. I don’t ever want anyone else to feel like I did when I watched friends side with an abuser out of convenience or comfort or apathy. I only want to be a voyeur for monsters in movies, not in real life.

Dex Bryan

Men in Horror: Let's Talk about the Bear in the Room. by Dex Bryan

Dex Bryant [they/them] is an autistic, queer horror writer out of the dark hills of Appalachia. You can find more of their work including solo horror TTRPGs, reviews, and podcast on SmallTownCreepy.com

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  • Jim Mcleod

    Jim "The Don" Mcleod has been reading horror for over 35 years, and reviewing horror for over 16 years. When he is not spending his time promoting the horror genre, he is either annoying his family or mucking about with his two dogs Casper and Molly.

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2 comments

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Ursula K Raphael

I am glad Scares That Care took quick action regarding the October convention.

    comments user
    Jim Mcleod 42

    That is so good to hear, Scares that Cares are good people