Gwynn: Men need to confront sexual violence
- Mar. 13, 2013
- 104 Comments
We have a nasty habit of victim-blaming when it comes to sexual violence in our culture. When someone is raped, or sexually harassed, we tend to throw out questions like “well, what was she wearing?” “Was she drinking?” “Did she flirt with the dude all night?”
We tell women to protect themselves from violence, to not wear their hair in ponytails, to carry pepper spray or mace, to never walk alone at night. Even in the language we use, we order the attention on the victim: violence against women, battered women — there’s even an increasing trend in newsprint to call the victim in a case of rape, not the victim, but the accuser.
We question the victim’s motives, and seek to find a flaw within the victim instead of looking at the source of the problem in the first place. The perpetrator. The harasser. The rapist. The one who enacted the violence.
And, as the statistics tell us, these enactors of sexual violence against women are overwhelmingly men.
Now, please don’t think I’m proclaiming “All men are rapists!” That would assume that men have some biological predisposition to be unthinking, violent, aggressive creatures, which is obviously messed up. That’s kind of the point of my article today. Men are in no way inherently rape-machines, and this type of thinking, that rape and sexual violence is an unquestionable reality in our society that will never go away is an insult to men.
Men can totally not rape. Tons of men never rape. I know quite of few of them, and I can testify that it is completely possible for a bro to go through the entirety of his life without ever committing sexual violence against another person. But we do have to acknowledge that we live in a culture that encourages violence toward women, and that it is nurture, not nature, that makes a rapist. Which is why — bros, you got to call out your bros before they commit sexual violence against another person.
Personally, I think everybody needs to call out individuals who do or say sexist things (or racist things, or homophobic things, or transphobic things — really, all the ignorant things). But especially when it comes to sexual violence against women, the importance of men talking to other men about being a decent human being is super vital. Men possess privilege in comparison to women in our society, and men who have been raised in a culture that values men’s voices over women’s respond better to a bro saying “Dude, knock it off” than say, me, going “You’re behaving in a way that is contributing to rape culture and is highly problematic and misogynistic.”
This isn’t to say men’s voices actually have more value than women’s. But in order to stop the cycle of violence men enact toward women, you have to stop the problem at the source — i.e. instead of telling women not to get raped, tell men not to rape. And when bros communicate that message to their bros? It carries a certain weight.
So, to my bros who don’t like sexual violence (which I assume is the vast majority of you), here’s what you can do. When you’re partying during Spring Break on the beach, and your bro has his eyes on the woman who is on the verge of black-out drunk? Tell him if they’re unconscious, it’s not consent. When you go out to a bar, and your bro gets upset that the woman he grinded with all evening doesn’t want to go home with him? Tell him she doesn’t owe him anything just because you danced. When your bro calls women derogatory names? Tell him you don’t want to hear that, because you have a girlfriend/mother/sister/friend/like to treat woman like human beings.
Tell your bros to act like men. And that the only requirement to being a man is to be a person who treats other people like people worthy of dignity and value.