Wednesday, 4 June 2014

The tipping point

So, I've been wondering for the last few days why men don't get more angry about rape. I don't doubt that there are a sizeable number of men who despise rape, and loathe the idea of being so intimate with someone who doesn't want them with the same ardour.

But here's the thing, from an article in The Guardian: "[T]he former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, Mulayam Singh Yadav, said recently about jailed rapists: "Boys will be boys.""

Oh, really? Will they really? So you can say "Sorry, I've got no job and a limited education so I can do what I like to a woman whether she wants me to or not!"? Sure, there are many great benefits to education but don't tell me men with degrees never rape. Men with jobs never rape. Men with our Western ideas of a perfect life - house, car and shiny things - would never violently stick their penis in someone who was crying and fighting them off.

This isn't a female problem. It never was - women have always had the right to wear whatever they want, drink however much they want, flirt, ignore, shut down, or say no. We have always had that right. Always - no ifs, buts, maybes, or desperate justifications. The problem has always been men who don't respect that right.

I think women have done everything they can to insist on respect for our bodies, our physical autonomy, and our reproductive rights. Men have got to do something now. Men have got to stand up and say that being lumped in with the scumbags who rape, hit or sexually abuse women is not acceptable. Men need to be the ones who say they have to make a difference to women who fear male violence, not bring out the standard defence of "But I don't do that!" If a female friend told you that a burglar had broken into her house, or a drunk teenager stole her car, or some scumbag with no manners pushed her out of the queue in the supermarket, would you say "But I don't do that!"? So why do you do that when it comes to sexual assault and rape? Why do you do that when women find the strength to escape an abusive relationship? Why do you do that when two 15-year-old girls are brutally gang-raped and hung from a tree?

Your value as a man is not in the job you do, or the car you drive, or the house you have. I know society might have given you that impression, that all women are looking for is financial security and a nice car, but it's not true. Your value as a man is your innate respect for other human beings, and their rights to believe, do, say, think, or walk however they want. Your value is in how you educate yourselves and your sons and grandsons to not be a dick. Talk to them about sex, talk to them about why young women might fear them, talk to them about porn and the unrealistic expectations. Talk to them about half the human race and that they're not entitled to so much as a conversation, let alone anything else. Tell them yes means yes, not no means no. Passed out drunk is not yes. Tell them popular culture is not always right. It might be excruciating, but do your best. Always just do your best.

Women are hitting a wall now, and too many men are trying to shut us up by threatening us with rape or calling us ugly on social media, just so we'll stop talking; just so we'll stop pointing out how worthless and entitled some men are. And if you, as a man, are ashamed of that then good. Keep being ashamed. But use that shame constructively.

None of us are just body parts.

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