A man’s guide to avoiding female psychos
Oct 12 2007
By Alison Jones
Roy Sheppard would like to make it quite clear that he does not hate women. He loves them. He liked dating them when he was single. He likes talking to them at dinner parties.
His divorce did nothing to put him off the fairer sex and he has a long-term partner.
So why is he co-authoring a book called That Bitch (Protect Yourself Against Women With Malicious Intent), a title guaranteed to get a knee-jerk, hackles-rising response in the most placid-natured members of the gender?
"It is a provocative title," he concedes. "We can’t use it in America. They can’t deal with the directness. It is going to be called Venus: The Dark Side. But the book is aimed at guys and as everybody says guys don’t do subtlety we thought we are not going to pussy foot around here.
"This is a terrible situation that a lot of guys get into and there is evidence that some commit suicide because of it, so choosing something warm and fuzzy wasn’t appropriate.
"And there probably aren’t many who haven’t muttered it under their breath at some point."
The book is a survival guide for men (and women) on how to protect themselves against a (Roy is at pains to stress) small group of vindictive, violent or self-serving women who use and abuse partners, colleagues and even children.
It was born out of a dinner party conversation about good topics for a book.
Roy – a former journalist turned presenter, author and conference host – started pondering over coffee one day how many male acquaintances, who he regarded as thoroughly decent types, seemed to be being mistreated by manipulative mates or taken to the cleaners in bitter divorces.
"I waded through loads of web sites, a lot I have to say run by people who clearly hated men, about abuse and I thought this isn’t the reality. Obviously men do abuse women but women abuse men as well and it is no less terrible when it happens to a man."
Finally he discovered evidence that supported his suspicions – a site called AMEN run by Mary T Cleary (his co-writer). Mary used to work in the A&E department of a Dublin hospital and who had been shocked by men who would come in with serious injuries that they would attribute to accidents.
"They’d say things like ‘I fell down the stairs’ or ‘I walked into a door’ but as Mary said to me, you don’t get a stab wound in the back from falling down stairs."
Suspecting there were many who were suffering in secret, 10 years ago she set up AMEN, a voluntary group that provides a confidential helpline and support service for battered men.
Roy and Mary include the startling statistic in their book that a survey conducted by the Marriage and Relationship Counselling Service in 2006 said mutual violence accounted for 33 per cent of domestic cases, male-perpetrated violence 26 per cent and female-perpetrated 41 per cent.
Roy believes while some of it may be the result of a natural volatile temperament, it could also be a continuation of the cycle of abuse they themselves had suffered as children.
"They had no ability to defend themselves and they learnt how to very effectively later in life, even in circumstances when they very genuinely don’t have a reason to. But they don’t realise that because they are constantly in a state of threat."
Even though the men being attacked might be physically stronger, they don’t usually fight back – either it has been drummed into their nature not to hit a woman or they fear their partner could then accuse them of abuse and they could up losing access rights to their children in a split. The book very clearly indicates that in law, when it comes to divorce "the cards are stacked against the husband".
Roy and Mary have drawn together a catalogue of case studies that a reader of an early manuscript said was "more chilling than a Stephen King novel".
One man described how he was stabbed in the back while putting the shopping away and was placed on life support.
Another said his hair has been ripped out in tufts and he wasn’t allowed to wash. An 84-year-old man revealed his wife of 75 had been beating him for 40 years and showed no signs of stopping.
Women resorting to violence is only one aspect of the That Bitch, Roy says he was also interested in uncovering the motivations and strategies employed by women who manipulated, bullied and schemed to get what they want at home or at work.
"This book is for anyone who met someone who really wishes they hadn’t. They wish they hadn’t slept with them, married them or had children with them.
"It is for people who just don’t know what to do, especially if they are a nice guy who will go out out their way to make their partner happy. The type of women we are talking about will target the soft touch. They see them as weak when in fact they are just being nice.
"One man I interviewed for this had been married for eight or nine years and his wife decided three or four years ago that their sex life is over. He has never strayed."
But why would anyone be willing to accept such treatment and abuse of power in what is, after all, supposed to be a partnership?
"These sort of guys, and I do know a lot of them, they are too accommodating. They think of it as being kind and generous but in a perverse way the woman sees it as being weak.
"They can make things so impossibly difficult the man is eventually pushed into leaving or having an affair, simply because he has a need for intimacy, like everyone else. Then she can turn round and say ‘I am a victim. Give me sympathy’ when in fact she has set this up deliberately."
Mary Cleary describes the book’s subjects as "domestic terrorists" preying on the "good".
The reason why women can manipulate men so easily is because, Roy says, they are simply more in tune with their emotions.
"Men experience the same degree of emotions but don’t tend to have the vocabulary to deal with it. A man doesn’t know, generally speaking, whether he is upset, frustrated or angry."
Nor is it a question of intelligence. Gold-diggers have been around ever since the first panhandlers tried to impress the nearest saloon girl with the size of their nuggets, yet even the most educated of men can remain oblivious to the fact they are being played – until it is too late.
Roy relates the sorry tale of a professor he met at another dinner party who confided in him about a disastrous relationship he had with a younger woman.
Beautiful, intelligent and charismatic she lived with him rent free, denied him sex while having affairs, pleaded poverty with $50,000 in her bank account, alienated his friends, stole things and gave him pirated Barry Manilow CDs in return for his carefully considered Christmas gifts. In her diary she revealed everything about their relationship was faked, including her orgasms. When they split she targeted another affluent older man.
"This guy was an eminent professor and he had been battling for eight years with why she had picked on him and I told him it was because he was a gentle man. As an academic he had been trying to work it out logically and he couldn’t."
The behaviour of these self-serving harpies he says is damaging to other women, even if they are not their intended targets.
He sites the case of the girl who claimed she had been attacked by a cab driver simply because she wanted to get out of paying the fare.
"When you make false allegations or cry wolf you create an environment when others are disbelieved a little bit more."
He also stresses that we shouldn’t mistake women in power for those that would abuse it. That assertiveness in the work place is not the same as aggression.
"Successful businesswomen are invariably well adjusted and they usually have a fundamentally different approach. The old style of ‘command and control’ is the way men used to function.
"Women are extremely collegial. They get consensus, engagement and trust. They are successful because they have genuine talent or expertise.
"I think women who are aggressive or bitchy haven’t got any other options. They may have intellect but they are misusing it."
Apart from offering guidance on how to avoid man traps, the book concludes with advice on how to move away and on from emotionally and physically damaging relationships. If nothing else Roy hopes it will draw some attention to the secret shame of battered and abused men.
"Women’s groups generally speaking have a huge amount of public money and rightly so. If a woman has been abused she needs protection. However, it is no less tragic when it is the man who is the victim – and the shelters for domestic violence exclude men.
"You can be more of a man for reporting abuse than not, otherwise the figures are skewed. But just because you can’t measure something accurately doesn’t mean it is not happening."
* That Bitch (Protect Yourself Against Women With Malicious Intent) costs £12.96 and is published by Centre. For more information look up www.ThatBitchBook.com