Unlike Persephone and T, I never dated Brent. I wasn’t abused by him. I was part of a social environment that was shaped by Brent to keep a certain type of person close to him.
I was there. I didn’t see everything. I saw enough.
I met Brent in 2015. At the time he was dating T. Over a few months I became closer to him. He seemed interesting, he told stories of past “cool shit” he had done, and affected a sort of frustrated demiurge nature.
Over time, he started to talk about his depression. There was a pattern of him expressing radical reactions to perceived small issues; he would seriously suggest suicide or exile of form “I should cut off my thumbs and walk into the desert” as the only solution to a problem. These problems were normally social or centered on his own perception of worth. I would say that this didn’t seem sensible, that there were probably better ways forward, and this would turn into long discussions where I tried to find things to do that would make it better. I was over time trained into seeing a frame where Brent’s problems needed to be solved, and that to “solve” the problem meant finding a way forward that his system 1 accepted as real. The overton window was moved such that almost anything became acceptable.
Brent talks, sometimes quite publicly, about some of the constraints of his system 1. He wanted certainty, so merely making it more likely that people will help him in the future isn’t sufficient. He didn’t believe that social capital is real (or at least that it isn’t dominated by redpill-ish analysis of innate value), so trying to build up reserves today for the future isn’t sufficient. He stated certainty that people would leave and abandon him anyway, so there was no point in investing in them. He said that rapid escalation of the demands he put on others, that pushing their boundaries, was the only way for him to get anything before they left him. He saw people saying “no” to him as inherently and merely political; that if he let a boundary stand the boundaries would be drawn tighter over time; that trust between people wasn’t real in the same way that social capital wasn’t. He has explicit views about BDSM and consent, and applies them more broadly to inter-personal interactions and politics.
He demanded that “rational” reasons be found for individual people preferring to spend time with others over him, or else accept his frame of innate nature. He complained bitterly about people he liked dating others, that these people they dated were really no better than him but merely better at monkey politics. He talked at length about how, if only he had the resources he needed, he could do so much. He talked at length about how those resources had to be given, freely and unconditionally. He talked at length about how he felt compelled to test for conditions, to escalate hard, even though he knew that meant people would leave him and the hypothesis that not escalating would be better went untested.
At one point in late 2015, T ran away from Brent for two days. I heard from Brent earlier that he felt “emotionally manipulated” and that it was arbitrary; that she would try to make everyone hate him within two months.
I spent an hour chatting with him trying to solve the problems he had. He feared he would become depressed if the breakup was permanent. T spent the second day on the couch in my group house. She spent most of it talking
with me, not saying what had caused her to want to leave. She was visibly distraught and traumatised; she said she wanted to leave the community and never come back. I talked her down. To my shame I didn’t pry into what
the underlying issue had been. I assumed it was mere drama. I was /badly wrong/. She was taken back to Brent at the end of the day.
By the end of the year, I was spending several hours a week counselling him during the days, and probably once a week or so would sit and try to work this cluster of issues through till the early hours. I became used to working with him; to modelling his frame in my head so that I could try to help him out of this pit. And over time, the asks escalated. We didn’t talk in the abstract anymore, but concrete things:
“Why does Persephone to want to sleep <named other people> rather than me?”;
“How can you make T cooperate more with me?”;
“How can you ensure that I have confidence in money and housing?”
I was getting more integrated into a social group around Brent. We played games, we hung out. Brent proposed to build some sort of project-oriented structure. It seemed reasonable at the time. He had flashes of energy but limited follow through, and it seemed like having a group to carry the torch would help. So we started to orient more towards that as a group. Early, Brent explicitly emphasised the power of belief as a thing independent of epistemology. That it could be important to choose what to believe, or believe false things, if that worked better. I didn’t like that at all. It didn’t sit well, and I refused, vocally. For the next week, the conversations were direct:
“You need to trust me more”,
“You need to become, like, 20% less resistant to cults”,
“You need to just acknowledge me as the wizard and trust I know what I’m doing”
“Look, you need to stop emulating this and let me have root access to your brain”
I didn’t budge, but it became clear that a debt was being built up. The counselling became more pointed over this span. We’d be up till 3 or 4am, he would talk about how I was making it more difficult for him because I wouldn’t simply accept his authority and do what he required. And so I was responsible for the lack of compliance of the others.
“You understand that I am bleeding for the group, and that there are burdens of command. How are you going to arrange so that my needs are met?”
“Persephone respects you. She respects you more than me because you defy me. She regards me more highly when you attend to me. Take care to attend to me more when Persephone is around.”
“My ability to be the engine for this group depends on my confidence. I am confident when I know I have money, sexual access to youthful and attractive women, and true power in my demesne. What can you do?”
“I have a ritual I want to go through with Persephone; she’ll take <mushrooms IIRC, might have been LSD> for the first time, do aerial silks to calm herself, and then fully submit to me. I think she’ll do it if you are around. Come upstairs and sit with her.”
And the hell of it was I complied for a while. I did go up, and let Persephone go on a first time trip with Brent as a tripsitter and D/s on the cards. I was a fool. I tried to be a wand for him. I managed the environment for Brent, and used my skills to nudge and corral those around him into satisfying his values.
But my trust in him was reduced; it never seemed like his problems were being reduced, or that there was openness to trying other things. Eventually I learned a little of what was going on with T and Persephone, beyond the mask of mere BDSM. I stopped helping in mid-2016. He lost the privilege of having me shape a reality tunnel around his feelings rather than plainly stating what I knew to be true. And he raged. He told me to drive him out of the house if that was how he felt, he claimed to try to run away from the community, he all but asked me to kill him. It called upon the very first thing I’d learned from him; that you had to soothe and manage the extreme, and so adopt the frame where something had to be done. I didn’t, and I haven’t spoken with him since.
Brent tries to modify his social environment to make it easier for him to predate on people like Persephone and T. His gaslighting, and headfuckery short of abuse, is not limited to people he dates. At least some fraction of his friends are likely to have learned patterns of management and enabling.
Brent is not made safer merely by having other people around, unless you know that these people are independently minded from him. If you see people entering Brent’s orbit, even if they are unlikely to be romantic partners, show them this post.