Thursday, December 13, 2012

On being a dude...and what to do about rape

So a few things happened this week that are inspiring this post.

First, the ridiculousness of Alyssa Royse's Nice Guys Rape article. I will not be writing a full rebuttal of that noise because frankly, Jill over at FEMINISTE covered it really nicely. Read those articles when you have some time. Jill's is more important and she covers the highlights of Royse's.

Second, I got a terrifying phone call in the middle of the night. Not my story to tell and it's all okay, but it was scary. And after this phone call, I had a discussion with Julio and he said something that struck me so much: "You know, as a black man, there are situations that I don't want to get into. Situations that I avoid because it either isn't safe or it isn't worth the headache of dealing with. But I will never possibly know what it's like for a woman to navigate so much of her life with that fear. I can't imagine what it's like having to conduct your daily activities with the hairs on the back of your neck always standing up."

Third, I went to a mother-daughter potluck and we started talking about what it's like to be a girl and how we can help our own girls survive and be strong. And when one of them mentioned my book, I explained why I wanted to write in a boy POV and why I want boys to read it. How boys are so frequently vilified in rape books and I wanted to show the other side. And one of the moms asked me, "How old were you when you first experienced a sexual act that you didn't consent to?" and I answered, "Five or six." And the hardest part was that there probably wasn't a woman in that room that could answer, "Oh, I've never experienced that." Because in one way or another, almost every woman I know has experienced that. Which sucks.

And finally, I had this amazing meeting with these guys who are all really jazzed about doing something really important in changing the landscape of violence against women. And one of the guys there said, "You know, most guys really care about this issue, they just don't know what to do to help."

So now I'm going to give you some very tangible things to do (if you are a dude or a parent of a dude or just someone who cares and would like to do something).

  • I think you all have this one covered. Don't rape people. If someone consents when she is conscious and is later unconscious or only slightly conscious, don't have sex with her. We KNOW this. This is not a gray area. Sex with someone who isn't conscious is rape. 
But honestly, that's not where people are floundering and inadvertently perpetuating a rape culture. It is not enough NOT to rape.

You've seen this floating around the internet, yes?

It's pretty awesome. However, I don't think most dudes need to be told not to rape. I like giving dudes the benefit of the doubt on this one. Because most of them aren't rapists. So let's dig deeper.

This is what I would want for my boys and for the education of all boys (and girls too!):

  • Be responsible for your people. You are at a party and something looks dodgy. Bust up that situation. Do not think that the wasted girl is going to be fine because her wasted friend is with her. Take them home or find a way to get them to a safe place. This goes for anyone. This is the "it takes a village" mentality. Inactivity is what gets people hurt. Side with safety. Even if she says it's fine and she's fine. Watch your people and make sure they're safe. You may be the buzz kill, but you may also have prevented rape. Be the guy who is willing to be the buzz kill to keep people safe. If we have enough of those guys in the world, then chances are there will be a bunch of you at that party looking out for each other. (PLEASE NOTE: I'm not making any bold statements about the role of alcohol in rape or the like. This is an example)
  • Don't laugh at the rape joke. Don't laugh at the sexist joke. You don't have to be the "hey now, cut that shit out" guy (although I would adore you if you were), but you can be the guy who doesn't laugh. Your silence can be a powerful weapon. If enough people echo your silence, you'll see that the jokes stop. And frankly, this shouldn't be that hard because those jokes aren't that funny.
  • Make yourself a safe haven. Make yourself someone that your friends can talk to if they were raped. Be the dude who at least can say, "I'm sorry" and "I believe you" instead of "what were you doing out that late?" and "how come you went with that guy when I told you he was a d-bag?" These aren't helpful things to say. "I'm sorry" and "I believe you" are. They could change the landscape for a rape victim. If you've got nothing else, say those two things and then ask if they need help. RAINN: 1-800-656-HOPE will give you any further guidance you might need. You don't need to solve any problems or fix things. You need to listen and be supportive.
  • Educate yourself. Think before you speak. If you're about to call a tank top a "wifebeater", think about what that means and how that can normalize violence against women. Stop listening to Chris Brown music. I don't give a shit if his music sounds good. He's an asshole. Don't support assholes. There's other good music out there. There are video games that don't involve beating up prostitutes. Choose those. Yeah, I get that it's entertainment, but as long as we keep consuming it, general assholery will keep happening because it becomes ingrained. Sure, you could be a "responsible consumer" of assholery and not act on any of these things, but you have no way of saying that everyone is going to be a "responsible consumer". You can't live your life in a bubble, but you can choose things that don't perpetuate violence against women.

I wrote this for dudes because so many people have asked me what they can do as a dude or how they can teach their sons. This list is by no means exhaustive, but it's a start. And it's honestly not that hard. I promise. Your lifestyle will be changed for the good. And also, this is NOT a dude-exclusive list. It's for all of us. We can all work on this. And it's fairly easy to execute immediately in your little circle. You don't have to change the world, but if enough people just change their own spheres, BIG things are possible.


Jolene Perry said...

LOVE this. Of course.
I'm so glad you found a way to say ALL of this.
You are amazing.

Brinda said...

You gave me a wake-up call in this post. I may have listened to music, read a book, or bought a products who represents a mindset I don't support.

Thanks. Really.

A. J. Larrieu said...

As the mother of a (right now very tiny) dude, I really appreciate this post. I ask myself almost every day, "How can I raise my son to not just respect women, but to actively work to prevent disrespect & violence against women?" This is great, practical, heartfelt advice. Thank you.

Lydia Sharp said...

Thank you for expressing what some of us find so difficult to express.

Kate Avelynn said...

This is an incredibly important blog post. Especially this:

"Be the guy who is willing to be the buzz kill to keep people safe."

I'm extremely grateful for the guy who had the guts to remove me--a girl he hardly knew--from a bad situation my freshman year of college. If there had been more guys like him around that night, maybe my friend who wasn't as lucky could have been saved, too.

Thanks for this, C. I can't wait to give copies of FAULT LINE to every boy in my life.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this, Christa.

You know, I knew that your book had a male pov, and I never really thought about why, except to think it would make for a very compelling story. But the reasons you list here were like this huge lightbulb moment for me--if you can get boys to identify with the boy who cares and gets it, maybe it will be easier for them to be that guy in real life.

This is all so well said. As I would expect.

You are amazing.

Shanah said...

Thank you for the insight on this post. I tend to block "the issues" that I should be talking to my daughters about right now. I want my eldest daughter to read this and soon.
It's never too early to instill values and people are so inundated with the culture of assholery with TV, internet, media in general...when will media learn to love instead of be violent?

Shari Green said...

Excellent post. Thank you.

Kate Larkindale said...

Thanks for putting this into words. I just wish it didn't have to be... But I'll be making sure both my sons know all this when they get to the age where they may need to deal with this kind of thing.

Katy Upperman said...

I'll second most of my fellow commenters: This post is so incredibly important, and the fact that you were able to put it all so eloquently blows my mind. Well done, friend.

erica and christy said...

You know I have a million things to say about this. I'll narrow it down to one (okay, two - I REFUSE to buy my 11-year-old son a video game that requires the player to beat up prostitutes and kill police officers. this makes me a BAD MOM. I don't care.)

Also - Give or take a hundred, I've slept in the same bed as my husband 6,000 times. Sometimes I was sexy, sometimes I was drinking, sometimes I was sick, sometimes I was tired. . .you know where I'm going with this.


Unknown said...

Thank you for writing this! I wrote a similar article aimed at engaging men in pro-feminist anti-violence work. There is some overlap, so it might be helpful for people.

I'm not trying to derail or take over your thread! Thank you again for this post.

Sophia Chang said...

I can't even deal with the fact that Chris Brown is completely forgiven in the public's eye and that his music is still out there.

Jessica Love said...

EXCELLENT post, Christa.

Alexis Bass said...

Great, great post. Thank you for putting this into works. I, too, am baffled by the fact that Chris Brown still has a music career.

Unknown said...

I got this article because a buddy had the sense to send it to me. I'm not sure how, but it would be in everyone's best interest to get this message to as large an audience as possible. I know I will be forwarding it to my sons and friends. Thanks for sharing such important information.

Matthew MacNish said...

Oh god. I wear ribbed white tank tops, and I have totally referred to them as wifebeaters.

It's supposed to be tongue-in-cheek, since I've never hit a woman, and never would hit anyone, actually, but when you think about it, it's not funny.

I'm a little ashamed to admit it, but this is a good (albeit small) example of one of your excellent points.

Sometimes it's just a matter of being conscious and increasing our awareness. Realizing that certain terms like that can minimize legitimate suffering, and committing to not using them anymore, is a good step.

Anyway, as to the Nice Guys Rape Article ... wow. So glad Jill articulated so well what was wrong with that argument, because I'm too shocked to put it into words.

I mean, even if a woman wants to have sex with you, she wants to be awake for it. How could this guy not see that penetrating an unconscious person with any part of your body is always rape?

Matthew MacNish said...

Oh, and I completely agree about music. Don't support assholes.

I even wrote something about it for Jessica Bell last year: