It's Time My Male Peers And I Hold Ourselves Accountable For Rape Culture
I was once sitting at lunch with several of my guy friends when a girl in our class walked by. When she was too far away to hear us, one of my friends asked if we thought she was hot. Another friend instantly replied, “She’s kind of ugly, but I’d still rape the sh*t out of her.”
Despite being disgusted by my friend’s comment, I ignored it and remained silent. Looking back, I now realize my passivity in the presence of his misogyny speaks volumes about how men are raised to perpetuate rape culture. Instead of speaking out, instead of condemning it, we shrug. We overlook it--which only perpetuates it.
Although our newly elected tyrannical leader and the potential damage he’ll wage in terms of foreign and economic affairs dominates the headlines, we can’t forget that sexual assault still remains one of the most destructive issues plaguing American culture. In fact, an American is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds. Although activists have started movements and created organizations to address and eradicate rape culture, it remains a dominant part of how men, just like my friends, interact with each other on a daily basis.
Men are undeniably the most common perpetrators of these heinous acts. In fact, 60 to 99 percent of rape and sexual assault is committed by men. But the problem is ultimately more complex than just identifying the most common perpetrators. I witness rape culture thrive all around me in my school, in my community, among my friends, and even in myself. Rape “jokes” and taking pictures under girls’ skirts are still prevalent in my school. I even catch myself unwittingly victim-blaming rape victims in my mind sometimes.
One of the biggest roots of this problem is toxic masculinity standards and gender roles. Men are raised to feel entitled to anything we want, particularly women and sex. In order to appear “strong,” we subscribe to the distorted notion that we’re entitled to women’s bodies. If we don’t take what we want when we want it, we’re labeled weak and unmasculine. And it's clear this attitude is still widely accepted: we just elected a man who has admitted to committing sexual assault to the highest office in the nation, after all.
But even so, men who contribute to the systemic issue of sexual assault cannot solely blame their actions on gender role expectations. Men must not only be held responsible when they choose to act in sickening, dehumanizing ways, but must also proactively work to prevent those actions from happening again. One of the most important things we can do to work towards prevention is to learn about consent. We also need to stop making rape jokes — they’re not funny at all and only reinforce our subconscious (or conscious) entitlement to women’s bodies — and need to actually call out men who make these comments. And even if it’s against “bro code,” we must intervene whenever we witness an act that seems like it could lead to or is rape or sexual assault.
We have to teach young boys empathy, not entitlement. We have to make a conscious effort to reverse the way we’ve been socialized and recognize once and for all that women’s bodies aren’t objects for us to use whenever we please. Men are a huge part of the problem, but we can also be the solution. It’s time to “man up” and hold ourselves accountable for, and actively prevent, rape culture.
More articles by Category: Feminism, Girls, Violence against women
More articles by Tag: Activism and advocacy, Title IX, Sexualized violence, High school, Male Allies, Rape