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What you leave out

I just wrote a piece yesterday about date rape. I debated whether or not to add a footnote saying something like "Yes, I KNOW not all date rape is a case of miscommunication and alcohol-fueled confusion. Some people are just rapists, full stop."

I ultimately chose to not do that. The piece includes passages about men intentionally getting women drunk to take advantage of them. The piece includes statements that clearly indicate doing so is rape.

No matter how carefully I say it, no piece of writing will ever be immune to bad people intentionally twisting my words so they can try to tell you "I am not really a rapist. I was just confused and didn't understand that her screaming NO 27 times and clawing at my eyes meant I was raping her. I just thought she liked rough sex!"

People who do bad things intentionally don't usually fess up the minute they are caught red-handed and go "You got me. I'm just a bad person and I just like hurting people and getting over and taking more than my fair share. Send me to jail."

No, such people have a tendency to bald-faced lie and try to talk you into believing whatever BS they can snow you with and will be happy to pounce on a piece and use it with malice aforethought to serve their nefarious ends.

That's not on me. That's on them and there is no means to prevent such people from intentionally trying to twist your words to serve their evil ends.

If you are unwilling to speak to certain subjects lest some monster intentionally twist your intent for their bad faith purposes, you will find yourself silenced.

Sexual subjects are inherently hard to write about well. You must be prepared for your words to be wildly misinterpreted by a LOT of people reading them if you choose to try to add some value in this world on such topics.

Some of those people will simply be ordinary people in pain reacting strongly to something that hit a nerve. Others will be people with uglier and more conscious motives for taking your words to mean something you did not intend.

Long experience suggests to me that it is possible to learn to say it better and stop giving people easy openings for taking your words weird places you never intended, but such experience has also taught me that giving in to the temptation to address your accusers before they can make their accusations is an insidious kind of derail that causes evil to win before good has had a chance to go to bat.

It's better to say the thing you wish to say, read through it and see if it actually says the thing. Then try to let it stand on its own, KNOWING some people will misinterpret it.

Think of it as being like a colorful vase in an empty room on a pedestal with a light shining on it. It's the ONLY thing in the room. You want all eyes on THIS thing and ONLY this thing.

You do not wish to mar it by adding a zillion signs saying "THIS is NOT x, y and z." Because then it's no longer the only thing in the room.

If you spend all your time saying "I am not talking about X." well, yes, NOW you are, in fact talking about X and it's possibly all you will ever talk about. Adding that sign means the colorful vase may get no attention at all because the sign will be what people focus on.

Talking about the thing you wish to say and resisting the temptation to tell people ahead of time "This is not X" is sometimes the hardest part of writing a piece. It's also something most other people won't see at all.

Good writing is as much about what you leave out as it is about what you put in. This is non-obvious to most people, often even to many writers.

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