A recent article included stories from women who are coming forward to accuse Eric Francis Coppolino, described as a “presence in the Hudson Valley’s media and arts scene for three decades,” of sexual opportunism and much more.
The allegations, some pornographic, such as sending pictures of himself masturbating to a woman in retaliation for her refusing to join him in a three-way, give the collective impression of a man with a psychological problem and a sad loveless sex life driven by misogyny.
He denies all allegations and claims that those people who object to his behavior are, he pontificates, saying “it’s always about the person they are projecting onto. That creep. That weirdo, stalker and manipulator; that infamous, condescending, womanizing pig. They are talking about themselves,” he said.
It turns out this is an apt description, in his own words, of the way he is described by dozens of local women who have had to deal with the ‘icky” factor for years in their dealings with him.
Sexual opportunism is using one’s power, expertise and influence to get a woman, under false pretenses, in a compromising situation, and then manipulating the circumstances into a sexual opportunity for one’s gratification.
The most painful recounting, which Francis denies, is what happened to an 18-year-old virgin who was a freshman at SUNY New Paltz in 1996. She met Francis at an on-campus event. It is noteworthy that he was the only non-student and older person who attended. Was he trolling for young women, maybe or maybe not? However, because of what transpired, it could seem so.
She was an environmental activist in high school and in a conversation with Francis at the SUNY event he invited her to learn more about environmental issues in a “one-on-one meeting.” The situation turned social when he “showed up in his car packed for a picnic and drove her up into the mountains.” They hiked deep into the woods where he abruptly turned the conversation from the environment to sex. She was afraid. It was getting dark and what if he left her in the woods when she rejected his advances? A sexual act occurred “that left her feeling awful, dirty, confused, manipulated and haunted.”
Sexual opportunism is nothing new. In 1970 I started a young woman’s consciousness-raising group here and was told this story: Her professor at SUNY was a Holocaust survivor. This was of particular interest to her because her grandmother was also a survivor. He invited her to his home for dinner, and in the course of the evening he showed her pictures of relatives who perished. He began to cry and asked her for a hug. When she complied, the hug quickly turned into an open-mouth sloppy kiss.
She “consented” although she was repulsed by the man, because rejecting him at that instant she perceived as cruel. That was a different time. We had a name for this, “Mercy Sex.”
For some men, the ultimate desperate goal is to get sex by any means necessary. Delusions of adequacy might render a man incapable of considering the woman might find him repulsive or maybe he couldn’t care at all about her experience as long as he gets the desired outcome.
Francis wrote and talked about the link between spirituality and sex. I’ve heard that one before, from guru types with questionable reputations. Maybe sex is spiritual to some men, but sex is sex, spirit is spirit and the two only intersect with the presence of love.
In one instance he told a women during a reading that her astrological chart revealed she needed to be more open sexually. I guess that was Francis’s idea of linking sex and spirit.
Last February, Francis wrote a lengthy article entitled “Take A Step Back” which mansplained (defined as a blend of the word “man” and “explained” that occurs when a man explaining something to a woman is condescending, overconfident and often inaccurate or oversimplified.)
In the second sentence of his article he states, “I don’t accept as valid (logical, cogent or fact) what I don’t understand.” Although he seems to be trying to understand Me Too, stating at the onset that until he gets it is not truth, it undermines the entire narrative that follows.
Some people have conjectured that he wrote the piece as a pre-emptive strike against the barrage of women with accusations of misconduct that he knew was coming tsunami-like right around the bend.
Some of his criticisms I agree with and have written about previously in this column. In his cherry-picked statements from women who find fault with the movement, he could have gotten some material from me. However, it’s a lot like a white person accused of toxic racism denouncing black people’s perspectives. It’s less valid when it comes from a man whose name is displayed on the wall of shame as a predatory person to watch out for.
He tries to make the argument that the sole purpose of the Me Too movement is to stop harassment in the workplace. Not true. “Workplace” is a murky term. It could even be argued that “woods” are the workplace for a male environmentalist.
After a few valid (that word again) compliments to the movement, he reminds us that white women elected the sexually abusive president. He makes that point twice.
In the section of his article entitled “Scandals Are Not About Healing,” he waxes spiritual “scandal is never life-affirming. Rather, its effect is to repress sexual and loving feelings, spreading into our intimate relationships, contaminating healthy erotic desire and sowing mistrust. This is no way to run a free society. In fact, scandals are a good way to destroy one.” That’s quite a statement. Outing abusers can destroy the entire society. Phew! Now he is embroiled in one of his own making.
When a man asks every step of the way, “Is this Ok?” as the movement suggests, this could, from a woman’s perspective, create loving feelings and erotic desire. To a man who might be told, “No” with the first move, this is not so appealing.
Francis states, “The purpose of #MeToo is supposedly ending sexism. Do we think we’re going to do that with more sexism?” He asks, “Many men and boys are routinely sexually abused.”
I do not know where he got the idea that the movement excludes men. It is difficult for anyone to tell their story of abuse.
It’s particularly difficult for men. That is changing. In this Sunday’s New York Times, it was reported that more than 100 former Ohio State University students have come forward with allegations that a team doctor and professor at the school committed some form of sexual misconduct with them. All accusers are men and boys.
Francis states, “After much reflection, my suspicion of any viewpoint that discounts or ignores the maltreatment of boys and men is that it’s silently based on the gender stereotype that they should ‘man up and take it.’
And I dread to think there is any motive of giving men and boys ‘a taste of their own medicine.’ ”
Oh my! What woman would have such a perverse attitude? The girl in the woods? Women believing a sexually abused boy should “man up and take it!” Does he not understand women raise sons?
He quotes liberally from comments sent to him by women to bolster his own point of view. Many of the comments, if not in the context of a suspected opportunist and labeled “creep” mansplaining, are valid and all fledging movements ushering in important social change need a period of self-reflection and correction.
It is a concern when there is no due process, when men are all painted with the same broad stroke regardless of the severity of the accusations. There is danger in women and girls taking the victim stance too far and losing a sense of their own power.
A woman he quotes regarding this asked the question, “Whatever happened to kicking him in his balls?” Wow! I wish that could be a solution to all this, myriads of damaged balls with no violent retaliation in the moment of scrotum carnage!
Accusations are not and should not be guilty verdicts. I hope that changes when it happens, which is not often, and over time, fairness and justice reign.
For many decades, maybe even millennia, when a woman accused a man of sexual abuse, she was not believed. Remember Anita Hill? Now the pendulum has swung. It is rare for any woman in her right mind to make-up a shameful story about her experience, knowing the history of not being trusted.
I do not know if I ever met Francis. He looks familiar and we move in the same circles. The accusations are awful, embarrassing and he has already paid a heavy price. He has some serious spiritual and private work to do, looking at his behavior many women deem twisted.
If I had a chance to give him any advise I would ask him to tell the truth and seek psychological help. There are dozens of allegations and many more still coming. The women are telling the truth. He is not the victim. He knows and if he doesn’t, that is a sign of an imbalanced thinking process regarding his behavior .
I have known hundreds of men who made terrible mistakes. All are redeemable, beginning with taking responsibility and admitting the truth. Change is possible through hard work, soul-searching and making restitution.
I hope Francis someday can know the redemptive grace of love, sex and spirit happening at once. I hope after this mess is over he finds that.