Most men can admit that women are underprivileged. However, change the direction of the conversation about men’s overpriviledged status and the monster comes out. Most men vilify rape. However, let their favorite sports star be accused of rape and see how fast the “gold-digger” and “set up” comments come. Recently an article seeded about whether a woman can withdraw consent after penetration had comments that excused men if they didn’t stop intercourse if the woman said no after it started. In prisons, I have come across some interesting personalities. This man burglarized an apartment he thought was vacant. However, someone was home. A female. He fought with her and eventually overcome her resistance. With her pinned on the floor, he proceeded to stick his finger in her vagina and anus. He did not know that she had heard him come in and called the police but when he heard the sirens quickly left. He was eventually captured and had spent 8 years in prison when I met him. Before he could sit down, he had a multitude of excuses and justifications about his crime. Then he was quick to point out, that the female he violated worked with his sister and she told his sister that she has forgiven him for his crime. I said, “What’s your point?”. In his mind, he is paying his debt to society and she has forgiven him so, in essence, its over. Here is our conversation
Me: “How do you spend a normal day?”
Him: “Working out. Reading. Watching TV”
M: “What do you watch”
H: “BET. Videos and stuff”
M: “Are women in these videos?”
H: “Do I look like a retard? Of course. I only watch it for the women in bikinis, dancing” (smiling proudly)
M: “Ok. What do you read?”
H: “Magazines. Maxim, FHM. Wait a minute. Im not like that anymore”
M: “Like what??” (Trying to look stunned)
H: “Look that happened a long time ago…Im still a man”
Shortly afterward. I had been on a couple of dates with a woman and there was no talk about commitment. However, I knew this is what she expected. During some passionate foreplay, she told me she didnt want to go any further. I begged, pleaded, and promised I wasn’t like the others. Eventually, we just went to sleep. The next day another woman showed me some attention at a night club. We go to my house and again I’m into some passionate foreplay when guess who shows up at my apartment. Yep. In a black trench coat, bra, and panties. She notices woman #2 and runs away crying. I give chase and an argument ensues. Then I give the classic line “I’m still a man”. Having heard this before, I knew what I had done. I had managed to join the swelling ranks of abusive men with relative ease. Until I committed an emotional violent act that it hit me how deeply I believed women to be inferior to men. I decided to find an antidote for Mr. Misogyny. I had to own up to my backward-ass gender politics.
Just imagine. You are walking down a street at 2am in the morning. You are wearing jewelry and have money in your pocket. You end up getting robbed. When you are questioned about it by others (i.e. police, friends, family) about the incident, you get questions like “what were you doing out at that time?”, “why were you wearing jewelry”, “you knew that area was high in crime”, and “it was your fault”. This is exactly what woman face in regards to reporting sexual assaults. Think about it. Sexual assaults is almost exclusively identified as the responsibility of women in our society. Essentially, if you can find a breech in her responsibility, you can find absolution.
My initial response was to use my experience and expertise to do what I thought was best for the cause. I held woman self defense workshops at college campuses and my work, volunteered at family crisis centers, and did some counseling at a rape hotline. However, it wasn’t until one night that the phone was silent and I wondered who was getting raped and didn’t call. Had Mr. Misogyny appeared overtly again? Were my acts condescending? I struggled with that for a long time. I came to the conclusion that I had a higher purpose. Why am I teaching women and girls how not to be raped and start teaching men and boys how not to rape. Spreading the antidote for Mr. Misogyny around. So here is my challenge gentlemen. Whether you agree or disagree, just try to read one of these books:
John Stuart Mill, The Subjection of Women .
W.E.B. Dubois, Traps: African-American Men on Gender and Sexuality. Susan Brownmiller, Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape Patricia Holland, Raising the Dead: Readings of Death and Subjectivity
Lastly, believe and support women. This may seem obvious, but it is extremely important and something that few men ever really practice. Any claim to support women’s rights and gender justice is empty and meaningless unless you support the real, breathing women in your life, day in and day out. Listen to women. Listen to them when they tell you what they want. Believe them when they tell you about their experiences. Believe them when they tell you that they have been abused. Support them when they fight against that abuse. Don’t forget to ask women what they think and what they want. Don’t ignore what they say. Don’t marginalize their experiences. Don’t abandon them when they have to fight against men. Sexual assault, rape, and domestic violence is rampant in our society. Don’t debate, deal with the reality.