A reader who says he was one of the young men Wes Goodman came on to sexually writes to talk about it. I publish this with his consent, and respecting his request for anonymity. I know his real name:
I was fully aware that Goodman was prone to certain fetishes, but not that he was a predator. However, I was very much not surprised to find out this past week that Goodman had sexually assaulted an 18-year-old, which has made me re-examine my own culpability in the scandal.
With those qualifications, I feel guilty; not so much because I said nothing but, rather, because while I always suspected what Goodman was, I knew him for more than half his career and did not ever fully confront him about his deviousness. While I cannot speak for anyone else, I don’t think I ever “put out” or implied that I had any sort of sexual feelings for him or any man. Reviewing our messages over the course of the years has revealed the common theme of our communications: i.e. the back-and-forth of his solicitations and my repartees that I was not gay. The attached message screenshot (which I would ask you not to publish) is representative of the ways that these message sessions usually went. [Note: The screenshot contains a crude sexual invitation from Goodman to the reader. — RD]
Retrospectively these past few days, I have been telling myself the reason I didn’t publish all of this was because I knew, but I did not know enough; I never considered Goodman important enough to out; and, unimportant as it might seem in retrospect, I honestly didn’t want him to be unhappy.
I started thinking of Goodman as a sexual predator around 2014, after I told him that I intended to be in Washington for a weekend to visit friends and he asked if I “wanted to chill naked”. I did not respond. This was, in as far as I remember, the first time that he explicitly solicited me. It was enough for me to avoid him on that trip (and, truth be told, I have not seen him in person since early 2011).
However, I am ashamed to say that that was not enough for me to break contact with him entirely. After he wrote that, it is hard for me to imagine why I did not. Afterward, though, I became far less patient with his shenanigans. In one of the last message streams that happened in 2016 (while I was deployed), I told him that he should stop because he was “a VIP now, not Anthony Weiner”. At this point in my career, it should be noted, there were not many favors Goodman could do me. Yes, I sometimes asked him for one, such as the time in 2016 when I asked if he knew any staffers of John McCain, since I was hoping to obtain a letter of recommendation for commission in the Naval Reserve. But our communique tended to be run-of-the-mill check-ins. I like to think that it was because he had accepted the fact that I had no attraction to him. The worse possibility is that he believed I would eventually come around.
Conversely, I hoped he would normalize, and I let myself believe it. For instance, I was relieved when he got married—a wedding which I was not invited to and I did not attend. In our exchanges, especially toward the end, I frequently pestered him about when he intended to have children. This was all wishful thinking; the hope that everything would be all right.
This explains, I think, why I didn’t tell anyone about Goodman specifically (though I did warn some young people with aspirations to go to Washington about a certain type of Washington Republican of which Goodman was an avatar.) However, I don’t think that it explains why I kept in contact with him. I would like to think it was because I live a nomadic lifestyle: Since leaving Washington just over six years ago, I have had eleven addresses in four cities and held seven distinct jobs. Such a lifestyle—with people constantly entering it and leaving it—can be palliated by keeping a consistent group of friends through social media and, if nothing else, when messaged, Goodman typically responded.
But I think this explanation lets me off the hook to easily. As much as I hate to admit it, I think keeping in contact with him might have been a form of reprisal; when I was a jobless twenty-three-year-old, I recall Goodman trying to manipulate me by asserting his dominance—he would constantly tout the length of his phallus as well as its virility. At the time, he didn’t proposition me in as far as I can remember and, naïve as I was at the time, I was willing to believe that he was not a sexual predator, just a sexual competitor. And I tried to compete with his bragging. Later, after I began to categorize him in the same vein as the other sexual predators I had met in Washington—yes, there are many Wes Goodmans in the Republican Party—I developed a slightly sadistic pleasure in denying any innuendo of what he desired. I started aggressively emphasizing my heterosexuality in our exchanges. By that point, I was more confident in my masculinity. I had left Washington, entered graduate school and enlisted as a military reservist; on the latter score, to my surprise as much as anyone else, I turned out to be quite good. This, more than anything, restored my confidence to take on the messiness of the world with wandering steps and slow without relying on perverse mentors like Wes Goodman.
I did have doubts about the course I chose. I only knew him as a deviant, not a predator. But I don’t think this necessarily lets me off the hook. I should have thought about how his work brought him into contact with dozens of male teenagers; I should have thought about how he had brothers in high school and those brothers may have had friends endangered by his presence. I used to tell myself that if I had evidence that Goodman had sexually assaulted anyone, I would out him immediately. Retrospectively, this was a cop out. When we lived nearly a thousand miles apart, how would I have known such information? I knew I couldn’t. That was why I applied this standard. And that is one of the two reasons why I have not chosen to de-friend Goodman from my Facebook page. I don’t deserve to walk away from this as though it never happened.
But what, I have been wondering, is to become of Wes after this scandal? I cannot say. The Catholic Church used to have institutions for such men; hermetic existence far in the wilderness where such men could escape their history. American evangelicalism has none of this. It has only the outer darkness. Ask Ted Haggard. But I hope that Wes is, like me, a sinner with a future. And this is the second reason that I have not de-friended him yet. Now is the time for him to heartily repent of his sins, believe in Jesus Christ and sincerely and honestly intend by the help of God and the Holy Spirit henceforth to amend his life. Often, the journey in sackcloth and ashes is a lonesome one and one fraught with depression. I have been there. But I hope that if Wes intends to make it, he realizes he doesn’t have to do so alone. I don’t intend to let him down—again.