#MeToo comes to town

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. 

Advertisement

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.’ 

Advertisement

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.

There are 9 comments

  1. Stop Hating and Start Healing

    Someone’s personal quagmire is not and should not be written about and published for everyone to read. When will this publication draw the line. It’s has written 3 articles over the last 3 weeks and it’s about someone’s dirty laundry. The Ulster Publishing has disgraced itself again by publishing something worthy of the tabloid National Enquirer. Stick to the news and quit your campaign of destroying someone’s livelihood and reputation. This isn’t helping anyone, in fact it’s dangerous and damaging to the publications you distribute and to your readers who cannot fathom why you would publish such nonsense as news when it’s all hearsay and negetive gossip. If women had a problem with Eric they should talk to him about it. Really simple isn’t it? You can do better or can you? #metoo just kicked itself in the PU$$y and so did this publication company.

    1. Lorna Tychostup

      This is an important issue in the community, not a “personal quagmire.” Lives have been damaged, stories have been collected in an attempt to stop future damage, this is a news item. Local reporting is essential to the common health of the community at large. It reflects the community back to itself and more importantly, alerts the community to every aspect of life, including and especially sexually predatorial behaviors. Susan’s piece gave essential explanations of many aspects of this much-needed-to-be-aired issue. It was a relief to read on many levels, chief among them, for the clarity she brought to the discussion. I say BRAVO to our local media for doing its job for bringing attention for this long-festering issue. It is no small thing when women feel they cannot frequent an eatery or walk down the street due to the repeated invasion of one person into their personal space. And that’s just ONE example brought to light by these articles.

      1. Christopher McGregor

        Come on, how about full disclosure, Lorna Tychostup! Did it ever occur to that you are the one with the unhealthy obsession that has been “long festering”? Isn’t it true that you were going to rent Eric a room in your house in 1992, and forbade kissing in the living room? Later, you were in a unique position to badmouth him anytime his name came up. Like in 1998, when you were doing a story on a local land dispute, and told the landowner that Eric was a bad person and not to work with him. You have admitted to trying to get Eric fired from Chronogram since 2003. Did you finally succeed this year? In 2008, when we met for the first time at the front of the Moonlight Cafe, you went into a half hour long tirade about Eric when I mentioned that he was my friend. You are the source of the whisper network. Today, you don’t even know the person you didn’t know 25 years ago. It is your behavior that is bad for the “common health of the community at large”
        You are intertwined with this story and should be ashamed of yourself for both your behavior over the years, including this year, as well as for trying to comment as if you were a casual observer.

  2. #MeToo

    This is women saying “no” to harassment. Plain and simple. It should not be so controversial.

    But, the pushback against women saying no to harassment and “making it a problem” does lend light on why it has taken us so long to say no. You can see the decades and more of the expectation to pretend it’s not a problem resisting. Many still want women to pretend it is not a problem.

    But we do not want to wait to be raped, assaulted, or face physical violence to be lent a voice to speak out.

    We want to start now, by saying no. No to harassment.

    There are no laws against harassment, only workplace protections. We need to change that and this is the start of that. There are consequences.

  3. Madeline Burbank

    Beautifully and thoughtfully written. That this piece needed writing–an explainer for why women don’t appreciate sexual harassment, coercion, and let’s be honest, general creepiness–makes me sad. How much power can this one person have over a community? Apparently a lot, and that’s also something that needs to be addressed. It’s clear this man has carefully honed his “authority” over time in what seems a calculated effort to control the narrative. What is he hiding? Perhaps just his moral shortcomings. I suspect it’s much more, but women have been too scared for too long. I hope this moment in time gives them the courage and freedom to come forward against this and other serial abusers.

  4. #toofragile

    Don’t believe everything you read. Lorna and a few of her close friends Are the “queenpins” behind this lame character assassination. No proof. No interview with EFC. Therefore it’s hearsay. This is women abusing thier powers at work as well. Jealous, envy and hate all mashed together. So many anonymous names to slander one person. All seem local and NONE were nationally recognized. This group of women has showed how evil they can be. No ones lives have been damaged besides EFC. If someone felt hurt they could have gone to Law enforcement and pressed charges. To date no one has. So stop making up “stories” and move on with your lives. Looks like you have a lot of work to do when it comes to healing. Your discrediting yourself and #metoo. And honestly if your hurt by getting hit on go seek counciling because your #toofragile to associate with humans from the opposite sex. Thanks for showing the community who you really are.

  5. Anne Pyburn Craig

    You know what’s tragic here? If Eric had just turned around and looked in the mirror, for real, when all this started and said, “Yanno, maybe I have been a bit supercilious and self involved in my dealings with my fellow humans around here. I’m sorry about that, and will continue to strive for self-examination and to improve myself.”

    Eric is a classic example of somebody with a deeply contrasty shadow. We all know these people: the ailing healers, the arrogant and mercurial peacemakers who are better with somebody else’s stuff than their own. I’m older than him and not his type nor he mine, and never felt so much as a lustful vibe from him.

    BUT. We have had some degree of professional/creative dealings, from poetry readings in the early 90s through covering the same story for different outlets (Smitty’s Ranch and the Pirates, yo)) to a brief time in 2012 when I wrote for him for Planet Waves. And he has, always and without exception, been an insanely arrogant annoyance one-on-one, whilst being a mensch for a wider audience.

    Much of his writing on astro-socio-sexual-political stuff is wonderful to read in many ways, He’s absolutely right that the whole big lie that our bodies, pleasure, etc., are evil is a huge part of what has the planet and the species so utterly f’d. The whole concept of original sin, of bodies as shameful, is deeply intertwined with every form of abuse. So I’ve always enjoyed that, and the political commentary.

    But working with the man…sheesh. In one of his many, many attempts to refine my sadly lacking reportorial style into something Planet Waves-worthy, he told me to think of Planet Waves news as “news for middle-aged women who know nothing about news.” I appreciate him giving me some work when it was desperately needed, but he was one of only two editors I have ever worked with where we just utterly failed to click and I couldn’t ever get it right. (The other being Lorna. Hi Lorna!) (Heh.)

    For whatever deeper reasons, Eric Francis Coppolino just does not seem to find other people entirely real. They are foils for his reflection and supporting characters. Orbiting objects, if you will. We used to call him Eric Cappucino at the poetry readings, where he would show up and read aloud his lengthy coverage of the dioxin dorms, which everybody agreed was important but nobody felt was entirely poetic. (People fussed about it a bit, but no one wanted to make him feel bad or seem Environmentally Unhip.)

    So yeah, EFC is abrasive and nasty in person and enlightening in writing, and the contrast was bound to catch up with him, and I would like to think that even now there is some hope that he can make a great leap and actually get it, that it’s just no way to be. Sexually or in any other area of life. And start some actual work on the problem. I’d read about that :).

    But he’s just kept doubling down instead, and that’s sad. Sincerely getting it and changing would lead to (I should hope) a warm embrace from all the enlightened people who have spoken up, and no, they are not envious and hate-filled, they are just right about this. And I would hope, should EFC ever turn it around, he’d be welcome at TMI.

    I’d fly to NY for that one.
    Hugs y’all.

    Annie

Comments are closed.