Wes Fenza, The Polyamory Leadership Network, and Spinning Tables February 20, 2015Posted by shaunphilly in Polyamory.
Tags: abuse, Polyamory Leadership Network, sexual assault, Wes Fenza
There’s no good way to start a post like this. This is a difficult post to compose, and a terrifying one to publish. But I don’t feel as if I can leave this unsaid.
I feel as if I must say a few of things about Wes Fenza, because I think it’s worth saying in the interest of people within our community being able to make more informed decisions concerning an individual who seeks to have influence and respected status within our community.
Many people out there like Wes Fenza. Hell, I did at first as well. He’s smart, entertaining, and he throws a pretty good party. Then I lived with him and his family for 18 months or so, and eventually saw beneath the mask he wears for most people and saw him behave abusively to many people, myself included. Later, I found out that he was much more than a mere assclown, but we’ll get to that.
Recently, his family has been painting themselves publicly as the victims of a vendetta and smear campaign, the seeming intention of which is to ruin their reputation, by people formerly close to them.
And what form has this imagined vendetta taken?
Wes was, for a while, a member of the Polyamory Leadership Network (PLN). He isn’t a member any more.
Wes was removed from the PLN due to some people coming out from their various hiding places in order to tell their stories about how he had abused, sexually assaulted, and manipulated them. I don’t know very much about those stories, but what I do know is deeply upsetting to me and all too familiar. From what I know about the people who contacted the PLN, they were offended, hurt, and angry that a person who was so criminally insensitive to boundaries, consent, and the truth was allowed to be in a position of any respect or leadership within our community. If Wes Fenza is to be representative of our community, then we are failing as arbiters and examples of healthy and loving relationships.
Wes, as well as his family, seem to think this action was the result of an ongoing campaign by “delusional” people who have been trying to smear his reputation. Nobody has done more to damage the reputation of Wes than he has done through his own actions. Nobody had to make up any stories, all they need to do is talk about their experiences with him and his reputation takes the hit it deserves.
The fact that a growing list of people have started to speak about their experiences is a sign not of a conspiracy to ruin them, but of something much simpler; it’s an attempt to warn people of what he has done, how he responds to people he hurts, and how he tries to control narratives to protect his image.
What people are responsible, according to him? Well, he apparently thinks this is “team Shaun” in action. Let me make something absolutely clear; I had nothing to do with the process to remove him from the PLN. In fact, I did not know he was a member until I was informed that the process was already initiated to remove him. I did not initiate the complaints nor did I contribute when it was brought to my attention that it was going to happen. I knew about it because some of the people involved informed me, but I decided to keep my distance from the process.
Wes does not know who was responsible for him being removed from the PLN, but that does not stop him and his partners from casting blame and crying “abuse” towards the people he assumes it was. He may have some guesses as to who is responsible (I mean, all he has to do is remember who he abused, right?), but the fact is that this action was not a smear campaign by any “League of Evil Exes.” This was the result of a number of people, unknown to him, sharing their stories with the PLN, and the PLN taking appropriate action.
His pointing blame towards the people who have been abused by him, and calling them “evil,” is nothing more than an attempt to re-frame themselves as the victims; it’s a distraction. Calling the people who Wes has emotionally abused, sexually assaulted, and manipulated (among other infractions) “evil” is hugely inappropriate at very least.
People have come out, bravely, to share their stories and they are being treated as the aggressors. Let me emphasize this; people who have had the strength of character to stand up against a man who abused, manipulated, and sexually assaulted them are being mocked, dismissed, and attacked publicly for daring to tell their stories–and not only by him! For a person who talks a lot about consent, ethics, and abuse, I find that highly problematic, disturbing, and horrifying.
Speaking only for myself, I wish I could put this all behind me more easily, but a year of actual smear campaigns against me, PTSD caused by the abuse leveled against me, and running into other people with similar experiences has not allowed it to die away. Wes and his family claim to want to be able to move on and not be bothered by others’ “misery and delusional hatred” of them, but those who commit abuse while claiming to want to move on are tragically missing the point. When you hurt people, you don’t get to simply move on and put it behind you.
Wesley Fenza is not only manipulative and abusive, but when he is confronted with these facts he consistently turns the accusation around and paints himself as the victim. I’ve rarely heard him even directly address the accusations (in fact, when you directly accuse him of hurting you at that very moment, he has been known to ignore it and argue with you more), because he understands that a good offense is better than playing defense. Also, some of his friends and family have flatly denied that there is any reason to take the allegations seriously. The fact is, Wes is not universally abusive, so those who don’t receive it (at least, not often) get to be his choir.
speaking up [edited title]
[edited for clarity and out if respect for privacy]The people Wes has harmed [/edited] have been speaking up over the last year about his behavior, and will continue to do so until he actually takes some responsibility for his actions. Wes and his family can dismiss us, mock us, and ignore his deep flaws and crimes all they want, but we are not “planning attacks”. To the contrary, we are responding to the toxic, abusive, and unconscionable behavior shown by Wes. Whereas I (for I can only represent myself) have been forthcoming about my mistakes, Wes has never acknowledged his own without blaming someone else for them or simply denying it.
Wes has cultivated credibility both locally and nationally. He likes attention. That he speaks at conferences and goes about the poly world publicly decrying the behaviors he often practices in his private life is hugely problematic for the people he has hurt, those he seeks to control, and the polyamorous community as a whole. And, to our partial relief, some of that community is listening now.
There are too many stories, too many people, and to much harm done for those of us who Wes has hurt to remain quiet. Even if I were to stop writing about this, others have their own stories to share. RabbitDarling has shared part of hers here (and elsewhere), previously (and she has more, if she decides to share it). I have written some things too. I have heard the stories of others, and if they decide to share, they will.
We are not delusional and we are not wrong. And we are not afraid to speak about what we know.
No doubt that Wes and his family will respond to this, as is their wont. He will invariably try to re-focus the attention on what we have done to hurt his family, which has become their childish “nu uh” narrative. In anticipation, allow me to say one last set of things.
I have been talking with some close friends over the last few days about whether to post this or not. We all know the type of response he will make. We all know that writing such things will not convince them, or anyone they are close to, of anything. I write such a thing knowing what kind of response we have gotten thus far, and that writing this will not likely change Wes’ behavior or his family from crying “we’re being attacked.”
But here’s the thing. Every night this last week, I have not been able to sleep well. Why? Because stepping out of the shadows, being in the same social space as Wes, is terrifying to me. Writing this was terrifying to me. Publishing it is, I believe, necessary, but terrifying. I’m traumatized. Not pretend traumatized, but actually terrified of his lack of scruples or concern for any meaningful self-reflection.
So, why am I speaking? Am I crazy? Am I delusional? Am I maliciously trying to ruin his reputation so that I can “win” (that’s their goal; to “win”)? No. I have had moments when I thought I might be seeing this wrong, but the more I have talked with other people hurt by him, the more I see the pattern of how he inflicts fear, destruction of self-esteem, and unhealthy self-doubt in people. He actually rationalizes his emotionally abusive behavior, in some cases, by saying that he treats people who he trusts and respects that way (they should be so lucky!).
The process seems to be to treat some people who gets within his trust/respect sphere like an asshole, and anyone who does not object to being treated like shit? keep them. If you object, then he argues with you, berates you, and only occasionally is nice to keep you guessing. It’s a bombardment upon self-worth he launches until either you turn out to be able to take some selfish mistreatment (or are equally willing to give it to the same targets), you submissively relent, or you are deposed from the court of Lord Wesselton and labeled as “terrible,” not worth his time, or “abusive” for daring to tell people what he did.
And also to treat the people he knows he won’t get away with that bullshit decently. You know, mostly.
Wes creates, within the people he repeatedly hurts, the fear that has two edges. If you say anything, you know he will respond with his rhetoric and effectively market himself as the victim. If you say nothing, then he can continue to paint whatever narrative he likes, knowing that if you later speak up then he’ll be able to call you “dishonest” for not saying anything sooner, “delusional” because what you are saying does not match the narrative he subsequently manipulated people around him to believe, and “abusive” because playing the victim allows him to turn the tables on those he hurts. No need to actually deny anything, because everyone’s too busy wondering if it’s true that Wes has been judged unfairly.
Arguing with him, when he’s being abusive in the way that many people have seen, is pointless and only seeks to deepen the hurt he’s causing while allowing him to paint his own victimhood and distance himself from addressing how he’s hurting someone. It’s sort of brilliant, is a terrifying way. Power, control, and manipulation at its sociopathic best.
The more I have become convinced that my experiences, feelings, and thoughts about Wes are not only valid, but shared by many others, the more I’m certain that this needs to be said publicly. And yet, I write this knowing I’ll receive more abuse, whining, and counter-narrative from him.
Why would I put myself through this, unless I thought that it was necessary? What do I have to gain by this? There are plenty of people who have hurt me, who I don’t like, and who I would not speak reverently of in private. Why stick my neck out here? Why take this risk? Why expose myself to the inevitable and childish responses?
Simple: he’ll keep doing it.
[images removed. It was wrong for me to include screenshots of private posts not directly relevant to Wes’ behavior]
[RabbitDarling has posted more of her side of the abusive, exploitive, and narrative-controlling aspects of the Fenzorselli home. She talks about things that I could not, and I appreciate her willingness to step forward. She has my full support.]