Trigger warning: sexual harassment / assault.
So, by now some of you may have read what has been happening with Bedside Press and it’s owner, Hope Nicholson.
Hope Nicholson has outed herself as the subject of an article by Tres Dean. He alleges that she sexually assaulted him at a comics event in Canada.
Earlier this year, I signed a contract to appear in an upcoming anthology from Bedside Press. The anthology will still happen, but my editor, the wonderful Sam Beiko, has cut ties with Bedside Press / Hope Nicholson and is actively searching for a new publisher.
I’ve talked about this with a few friends, but I wanted to make a more lengthy statement.
I became aware of the situation when Sam emailed me to tell me that we were dropping Bedside Press. Since then, Hope has shut down the publisher. I don’t want to reprint her words here, because I do not believe in giving space to a sexual assaulter.
What I will say is that, after reading her tweets, the press release from Bedside Press, and the article from ComicsBeat in which she gave a longer statement (this article has since been taken down), I saw many things that disgusted me. She affirms that Tres Dean’s article is accurate in it’s recounting of the events, but goes out of her way to say that what happened was not assault.
This sickened me, and it still does.
In December of 2017, I started working at Everyman Cinemas in York. I met a man there, in the same age-group as me, who also signed on as a team member. I’ll call him Tim here.
Tim is gay. I tried to talk to him a few times, but he seemed generally disinterested in me. I told him I am bisexual – something not immediately perceivable, I admit, but something I had begun learning about and started to accept around that time – and his tune changed. Suddenly, he was listening intently to everything that I was saying. We were at a work group meeting, and I enjoyed getting to know him a bit.
Things started to change very quickly. By the end of the day, a group of us co-workers were drinking together. Tim was sat next to me. He put his arm around me, and I was immediately uncomfortable. I didn’t like the presumption that he could touch me. He started saying things that sent warning bells off. He said that he had tried dating, but found that most men are arseholes. This struck me as very strange.
By the end of the evening, he had opened his Grindr, and without asking me for consent, started showing images of dick pics he had received. He asked me which ones I liked. I giggled nervously and moved the conversation forwards.
We didn’t work together again for another few weeks. In the meantime he started messaging me once every couple of days. Asking how I was doing, what I was up to. I was uncomfortable because I didn’t seek out this interaction, and I could feel the very thinly-veiled intent behind it. I responded once or twice, keeping things friendly and casual.
The next time we worked together, he stepped right close to me to chat, looking me very intensely in the eyes. He was way too close into my personal space; I felt violated and threatened.
I went to open a screening up of a film.
Tim was assigned to the bar.
He followed me anyway, wanting to “keep me company.” I felt nervous.
As we’re standing there, an ad comes on for a chocolate company, oozing with sexual imagery. I decide to head this off and make a casual comment –
“I don’t know if I want this intense of an experience when I’m eating chocolate, I just want to be chilling in my jammies.”
“No, you do want it.”
“You want it like my orgasm in your mouth.”
He then begins to make mock orgamsic sounds as he thrusts his hips forward in my direction, touching his face / mouth as he does it.
I immediately felt very threatened. I laughed it off, he left to go back to the bar, and I got on with my day.
I went home that evening and spoke to my flatmate about how weird this was and how uncomfortable it was making me. It was like he kept pushing the line of what was acceptable, and I felt nervous about speaking to him and asking him to stop treating me this way.
My flatmate asked me to consider how I would feel if this scenario was happening to a woman instead of to a man. What would I call it?
There’s only one thing: sexual harassment.
I realised that I, a man, was being sexually harassed.
I didn’t see that possibility before. I didn’t know how to feel. I felt nervous and uncomfortable, and more than anything, I felt dirty and unclean.
I decided to minimise my interactions with Tim from this point on. I didn’t want to cause any trouble; I had only just started working at this cinema, and wanted to leave it alone.
A week or two later we’re working a shift together again. It’s very busy. I avoid Tim all night. He comes up and speaks to me; I mention that I had a girlfriend. He looks disappointed and leaves. I hope that’s the end of it.
Then later in the evening I am bending over in front of a small fridge unpacking drinks into it. He’s suddenly behind me, and makes a lewd comment about my arse. I can’t remember exactly what it was, but it was something along the lines of what a shame he couldn’t etc.
I went and told the bosses. Tim was fired, and thankfully, I didn’t have to see him again.
I carried around guilt for a long time about this. I felt I had made a problem out of it; I felt like I had caused trouble. But looking back on it now, I also remember how scary it all was; how I was terrified that harassment might graduate to assault. I believed that was possible. I was so scared. I felt like a coward that I never told him to stop; that I didn’t give him the chance to adjust his behaviour accordingly. After all – surely he didn’t know he was making me uncomfortable?
But the thing is, he did. I didn’t respond positively to any of his advances. I was awkward and uncomfortable. He didn’t get the response he wanted, so he kept trying, and trying, and trying.
That is not how consent works. If the person you want to sleep with isn’t stripping themselves naked, rabid with anticipation, and 100% makes it clear that they want to have sex with you, then they are not consenting. Silence is not consent. Coercion is not consent. You cannot assume consent.
As the Me Too movement started happening, I was sad to see the extent to which harassment, assault, and rape was a reality. I remember how scared I was. I wasn’t even assaulted, and I was scared. It was good to see women coming forward, sharing their stories, and creating a space of support.
I was shocked when Terry Crews came forward about his assault. You seen how big Crews is? He’s huge. And I remember people saying, it’s not assault, Crews could defend himself.
I remember thinking the same thing about myself. I was bigger than Tim. I could defend myself, should I have needed to.
But that wasn’t reality. In reality, I was frozen with fear when he entered my personal space. In truth, I don’t know how I would have reacted. But I do know that when you’re frozen with fear, acting takes a recognition of what was happening. I don’t know if I would have been able to act, because that would mean that I would have to realise I was being assaulted. Recognising it would make it a reality.
Terry Crews taught me a lot about how men can be on the receiving end of “unwanted affection.” Reading Tres Dean’s account of his allegations against Hope Nicholson brought all of that back, and took me back to how scared I was.
Men can be harrassed. Men can be assaulted. Men can be raped.
Though, thankfully, my experience pales in comparison with the experiences of Crews and Dean, I felt obligated to add my voice, for what it’s worth.
Watching Hope Nicholson twist Dean’s narrative, her feeble attempts to gain sympathy and minimise the damage that she did, makes me feel fucking sick. She is disgusting. And the people who continue to support her, as I have seen in responses over tweets, are disgusting too.
If you support or coddle a friend who is a harasser, an assaulter, an abuser, a rapist, you are condoning their behaviour and perpetuating rape culture.
I am glad that Nicholson’s career is over. I am glad she is squirreling away into whatever hole awaits her. She should not be an active member of the industry.
What I am not glad about is the closure of Bedside Press. This attempt to gain sympathy (she’s not strong enough for the industry, as she puts it) has fucked over every past, present, and future artist signed to her. It would have been braver to step aside and hand the reins over, if that was possible.
As it is, Gothic Tales is in a status of limbo for the time being. We will find another publisher. But it remains a stressful time.
None of the artists signed to the book got any communication in way of an apology from Hope. That’s because she doesn’t realise what she has done. She feels like she is a victim of unnecessary outrage culture. She doesn’t care about the artists she has fucked over. If she did, she would have contacted us. But she remains in a self-absorbed well of pity and misery.
Hope says she is a different person now. I hope she is. I hope she continues to change. But as it stands I am so very happy that my first properly published comic will have nothing to do with her.
Please read Tres Dean’s account. He has very succinctly and brilliantly talked about his experience as a man. As I was reading it, I felt like at points I was reading my own story.
I side with Tres Dean. We all must do this.
Support victims of harassment, assault, and rape. Not the perpetrators.