Monday, April 15, 2013

Sexual Assault Awareness Month: Men in the Movement--Part I

So April is sexual assault awareness month and I wanted to do a blog series about men in my life who are involved in the anti-rape movement. I've been very blessed to have a tremendous amount of support from guys who are deeply invested in seeing an end to sexual assault and who in their own ways are making strides in being involved in what has been traditionally considered a "women's movement". 

And I thought maybe you all might like to hear their honest POVs about how important it is for everyone to be in this movement. Therefore every day this week I will be doing a blog with a question that I've asked some of my guy friends and supporters. I would like to thank all of them in advance for not only their support of me, but their willingness to be honest and use their voices in this issue.

Today's question: Do you think men belong in the anti-sexual violence movement and why? Is there a part of this movement you don't feel men should be involved with?

A1: "Definitely. I think men belong as much as women, if not more. After all, the vast majority of sexual violence is committed by men, so who better to stop it but us? Beside, as is often pointed out in the movement, why is it always "how not to get raped," when it should be more about "don't rape"? I honestly believe cases like Steubenville would not have occurred if more responsible and good men were in the lives of boys who might not have otherwise committed such crimes. Clearly, there are some sick people out there who will attack others no matter what, but we need to focus on those individuals who manage to find ways to justify their abuses for whatever reason. She was drunk. She wanted it. She was passed out, but she was flirting beforehand. It takes role models who respect women to teach boys that it's not "no means no" that matters, but "anything less than yes means no".

A2: "I definitely believe that men have a place in the anti-sexual violence movement. In order to address sexual violence there needs to be a concerted effort on the part of men to have an open dialogue. So often society teaches women how to be good victims, “how not to be raped”, and generally puts the onus of assault prevention on the victim; a certain amount of this is good for women to be aware of their surroundings and make good choices but in general there needs to be a move towards teaching men not to rape. Until men are involved in a dialogue with other men/boys about ways to change the rape culture of blaming the victim there will always be a “half of the equation” (so to speak) that is not on-board with the anti-sexual violence movement."

A3: "I think men belong in the anti-sexual violence movement because overwhelmingly, men are more often than not the perpetrators. In fact, 98% of the time, whether the victim is male or female, (heterosexual) men are the perpetrators. So often sexual violence is tagged as a “women’s issue,” and that’s not fair – if statistically we are perpetrating the violence, we need to take responsibility for our gender’s actions! It’s not fair to place the onus on women to “not get raped” – that’s unfair, it implies that some nameless, faceless person is committing the violence. But it isn’t – it is men! Men who are often our peers, our friends, and our colleagues. For that reason, I think ending sexual assault is a men’s issue.

I think men’s role in the movement is as allies. A large part of this is recognizing your male privilege, and acknowledging that a lot of times your voice isn’t necessary or wanted. It’s not about taking up more space. Instead, use the space you do take up to make it safer for women, girls, and trans* people."

A4: "In my opinion men have a vital role to play as allies in this movement. As a guy there can be a temptation to just sit back and enjoy your privilege. While there are of course male victims of sexual assault the frequency and perhaps most importantly the culture around it is not comparable to that which affects female victims. Most guys learn how to behave from the action they see accepted by their peers. An older brother, uncle or father will very often be the one to shape a young boy’s perception of how you should talk about/talk to/ shout across the street at women. If the only role models they have are outwardly sexist or passively enabling sexism then there is little reason that this person will grow up be any different.

Also men are disproportionately in positions of influence so they have a responsibility to use their positions to enable change.

The main area I think men should not be involved in would perhaps be in counselling and in support groups around sexual violence. Also for the integrity of the movement the main decision makers should be women."

A5: "Men have a role to play in the anti-sexual violence movement for many reasons. Primarily to provide strong counter examples of a masculinity that does not exist through reducing women’s agency. The belief that one’s masculinity is defined through one’s ability to exert power is unfortunately broadly accepted explicitly or implicitly in our culture. I think by men being active in the movement we provide an opportunity to delineate an alternative set of metrics to define what it means to be a man. Metrics that include supporting those who need help, advocating for equality of the other (broadly defined) and standing up to violence."

A6: "I find it frustrating -- but not surprising -- when I see sexual violence framed as a women's issue.  Men are often the perpetrators, often the bystanders, and often the victims of sexual violence.  Throughout history and around the world today, governments and militia plan and implement the rape of women, men, and children in order to degrade and persecute whole communities and social groups.  In some parts of the world, police gangs systematically subject lesbians to so-called "corrective rape" and hunt down and sexually torture gay men and transgender people.  Just as we expect everyone, regardless of gender, to engage with the anti-genocide movement and to stand up against discrimination and inequality, we should expect all men to care deeply about and take action against all forms of sexual violence."


Matthew MacNish said...

I really love this, if I can quote:

"It’s not about taking up more space. Instead, use the space you do take up to make it safer for women, girls, and trans* people."

I think that's an excellent way to sum up how I feel about wanting to be a part of, wanting to be an ally, but not making it about me. As men, we often try to step in and fix things, but something things, especially a sexual assault that has already occurred, for example, can't just be fixed.

Anonymous said...

In agreement with the above, especially A3, the answer to whether men belong in the anti-sexual violence movement is well summed up here:

Stina said...

This is a great post. My hubby gets annoyed, too, with the issue of rape. That's why we donate to the local rate crisis center.

Guys need to take a more active role because it affects them, too. Guys have been sexual assaulted and raped. Their family can be directly impacted when a member is raped or sexually assaulted. Their girlfriend or wive might never be the same.

Guys are often the assailants, which means we need to do a better job teaching our boys the importance of respecting a girl's wish and paying attention to what's really going on. Is she drunk? If she is and you have sex with her, that is rape. A lot of guys just don't get this. Fathers and other male role models need to help educate boys so they don't make this mistake.