The Help Desk: A list of men to avoid

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,

Now that DFW has been called out in #MeToo by Mary Karr, and the Shitty Media Men list has been made public, I'm wondering if you could make like a Quantico professor and offer us a profile of the kind of asshole we should avoid?

Dizzy and disillusioned, Bellingham

Dear DD,

Wouldn't it be grand if life were that easy? I wish we could assemble one profile and be done with it. I also wish surreptitious gropers willingly wore mittens and would-be rapists wore chastity sandwich boards to curb their destructive, dehumanizing behavior. Sadly, shitty men evolve with each new generation and the only unifying factor seems to be that they view women at best as second-class citizens, or at worst as objects, and few shitty men are going to respond truthfully to the question "do you view women as second class citizens or objects?" when asked – not even Supreme Court justice nominees, and you'd think those sitting on the highest court in the land would place even more weight than the general public on the truth, wouldn't you?

That said, my great grandmother Goldie, who was named after a horse, had a few timeless guidelines for evaluating men to avoid. Over the years, I've added to her list:

  • Men who have a bad relationship with their mother or sisters.
  • Men who name their daughters after farm animals.
  • Men who themselves are named after guns.
  • Men who now think it's clever to over-utilize the phrase "me too" in conversation.
  • Or who opt to play devil's advocate in any discussion about sexual assault or abortion.
  • Or who are eager to point out that sexual assault accusations ruin men's lives.
  • Or argue that sexual assault accusations are a grand conspiracy to silence and subjugate men.
  • Men who wear flip-flops to work.

I hope that helps.