The Help Desk: Rumors of bad men

Every Friday, Cienna Madrid offers solutions to life’s most vexing literary problems. Do you need a book recommendation to send your worst cousin on her birthday? Is it okay to read erotica on public transit? Cienna can help. Send your questions to

Dear Cienna,

Have you seen the Shitty Media Men list? It started as a spreadsheet of sexually abusive men in journalism and literature that was crowdsourced by women in the New York media scene, but in the last couple of months, it’s gradually been read by more and more people. It’s anonymous, and it’s not sourced, so there are no guarantees that any of the information is real.

A friend of mine is reading at an event, and one of the readers is (allegedly) a Shitty Media Man. I want to mention this to her, but the reading is also a big deal for her and I don’t want to unnecessarily ruin a moment of success in her career. I also don’t want her to be in a room alone with this guy. Should I let her know, or should I show up to the reading and guide her to safety without telling her, or should I do something else that I’m not smart enough to think of just yet?

Bella, Hillman City

Dear Bella,

Yes, I've seen the list and yes, you should tell your friend that her fellow reader is on it. Don't think of it as shitting on her big night – if she's a writer, she's there for the audience and the chance to share her work more than the other readers. Chances are she'll have a great night filled with small talk and book talk and some inevitable empty laughter but she should have the luxury of being prepared to respond to a man who asks her to test out dildos with him, or to be forcibly kissed, or even to see a penis she never asked to see.

So do your friend the courtesy of a warning her but don't belabor the point. Remind her that the court of public opinion is non-binding and she's free to draw her own conclusions. Then help her celebrate her big night by showing up and supporting her.