Late last night on my personal Twitter I attempted to produce a thread about sexual assault. Because of the hour and my degree of consciousness, and due to my somewhat incompetent Twitter skills it all came out a bit of a jumbled mess. So, this morning after a full night’s sleep I thought I’d rewrite it here. It’s not the sort of thing I usually write about on this blog, but I thought this might be a better forum for my thoughts than social media. Here goes.
There has been a lot of news lately about celebrities and men in power committing sexual misconduct to varying degrees. It’s not new, but it’s a recent news phenomenon. The men in question have usually been committing these acts against women, but it is not a problem exclusive to heterosexual men, or even men, for that matter.
What I have to say is this: I have been working on college campuses since 2002. This means that for the bulk of my adult life I’ve been surrounded by beautiful, young, intelligent, and ambitious women. They have been my bosses, my colleagues, my classmates, and my employees. I have been surrounded by them as a single man, a man in a committed relationship, and a married man. I have known them in my twenties, my thirties, and very soon my forties. In all of this time in all of these conditions I have never once harassed, assaulted, or raped any of them.
I shouldn’t have to point this out. The fact that I can claim such innocence in the current scandal climate; that I can be surrounded by beautiful women and not molest them owes to the fact that it is not a biological imperative for men to prey upon others, sexually. There is no natural insistence that I must couple with any female I find desirable.
Women are not mine for the taking. My manhood is not measured in the number of women I’ve bedded by hook or by crook.
The men in these scandals fundamentally do not see women, or whomever their victims are, as beings equal to themselves. To some degree they look at their target and their brain reverts to “see-want-take.”
Sexual assault is a choice. It is a choice made by a culture that values sexual virility over human dignity. Call it sexism. Call it objectification. Call it toxic masculinity. It’s the same. Islam demands women dress modestly less as religious observance and more to not tempt the men to rape women. However, teaching men that women do not serve at the pleasure of men is not something that it has not thought to stress as a culture. In America, dress codes routinely impact the choices of women far more than men. “Appropriate attire” inevitably means women not dressing in ways that stimulate sexual desire in men.
It starts at home. Boys need to be taught to see women as equals, and just as important they need to see the men in their community doing so, too. When these stories come out, they need to be taught why it’s wrong as much as that it’s wrong. They need to be taught to be advocates for women when they see others mistreating them. Girls need to be taught how to identify and protect themselves from all forms of harassment and assault, true, but the change has to come from the men because the men are the primary perpetrators.
It is inexcusable that any woman of any age cannot be considered safe walking down a street, going to work, or attending school without fear of molestation. We need to do better, and it starts with the men.