Men Can Stop Rape?
Several years ago, I ran across the following website: Men Can Stop Rape
Of course, I am all for violent, sexually motivated crime being stopped. Rape is a particularly horrendous crime as it not only damages a person (and yes, almost always a woman) physically, but also emotionally. Furthermore, there is a long history of rape victims being made to feel by society and even legal authorities as if they deserved it. As such, this movement seems like a good idea. Its heart is in the right place.
Here’s their mission statement:
Men Can Stop Rape mobilizes male youth to prevent men’s violence against women. We build young men’s capacity to challenge harmful aspects of traditional masculinity, to value alternative visions of male strength, and to embrace their vital role as allies with women and girls in fostering healthy relationships and gender equity.
And that’s where I run into a problem. How, exactly, are “male youth” to be mobilized. And what the heck does “alternative visions of male strength” mean?
According to the Men Can Stop Rape “Strength Campaign” page:
In contrast to traditional efforts that address men as “the problem,” Men Can Stop Rape’s pioneering Strength Campaign embraces men as vital allies with the will and character to make healthy choices and foster safe, equitable relationships.
While the approach may be non-traditional, everything on this site, from the very name to all the included literature, seems to indicate that men are not only “the problem” but the solution. Not only are men the rapists, they are the ones we need to empower to stop it. We must build partnerships with our female allies and teach young men in school not to perpetuate negative male stereotypes. Like, for example, the idea women are powerless?
Reading through the literature, much of which can be found in PDF format on the site, there are some good ideas. Knowing the legal definition of rape. Looking beyond that definition. Definitions of consent. These are good things, but they are all tinged with the language that, because man is doing the penetration, he must therefore always be the aggressor.
No one can doubt that forcing sex on someone is a crime. A horrible, horrible crime. However, when the definition of sexual harassment includes trying to talk someone into sex, I see a blurry line smeared into a wide swath of meaningless gray. Likewise, if I call a woman a “bitch” it’s harassment, not an indictment of her personality. How about when a woman calls a man a “dick?” Nope. Not mentioned. It’s all about men. Men stopping rape. Men being empowered to make the decision.
When it comes to men and alcohol, MCSR suggests a woman can be too drunk or too high to give consent. This is certainly true, there’s no disputing it. But what if two people are both drunk and high and both make a bad decision? There doesn’t seem to be an accounting for that. It’s up to the man entirely. But, remember, “men are not the problem.”
While I have no psychological studies to back up my assertion, I firmly believe one of the reasons men continue to act out sexually is that they are taught their sex drive is unhealthy and inherently dirty. There can be no doubt that men are more viscerally stimulated than women, in general. Almost all pornography is geared toward men. And, since the porn industry is a profit seeking venture, this can only be true because men are the purchasers of pornography.
However, the perpetuation of negative male stereotypes like “men think with their little heads, not with their big ones,” and “men are pigs” does nothing but encourage men to think of themselves as dirty animals who are inherently prone to sexual misbehavior and can’t control it. Similarly, the idea that men can stop rape perpetuates the idea that men are in control of all situations. In other words, it reinforces the dominant male stereotype this group claims to be working against.
And then there’s the Saga of Anti-Rape Man: an ongoing comic strip. Read the description
The Saga of Anti-Rape Man comic strip appeared on the Men Can Stop Rape website from 2002-2004. Anti-Rape Man has been called “The Reluctant Superhero.” What better way to describe Henry Niemeyer, a mild-mannered children’s book writer who, after stumbling into a clandestine feminist laboratory while searching for a restroom in a hospital, accidentally gains superpowers to prevent sexual violence.
Where does a man gain his power to stop sexual violence? From feminists! Natch.
Anti-Rape Man also needs to work on his homophobia. Why? Because he has an aversion to tights. That, in no way, stereotypes gay men as effeminate, disco dancing victims.
When I was a little kid, I “learned” it was a test to see if one was fit for service in the KGB to sit in a corner and not think of a blue hippopotamus. I never bothered to find out if this was true; it seems patently ridiculous to me. But I’ve always latched on to the idea as an abject lesson. The idea, of course, is that if you are told not to think about something, you think about it more, not less. If this is even remotely true, then teaching young men to not be sexually violent will accomplish what?
Why not concentrate on what men should be, rather than what men shouldn’t be? Why not start a movement called “Men Are Good People Who Love and Value Women?” Let’s inspire young men, not proscribe them.
What is the real goal here?
Our work is not just about real and perceived differences in gender, but it is also deeply connected to racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, religious intolerance, and other oppressions that make everyone vulnerable to victimization.
I have an idea. Why don’t we stop teaching people they are victims. Because you know what else stops violent crime? Fighting back. Self-esteem. Guns. Stronger sentencing for criminals. A society that attracts people to doing good, rather than teaching them to avoid bad. Why continue to appeal to men as the lowest common denominator? Yes. Men should be taught sexually motivated crime is unacceptable. The question isn’t what, it’s how. How do we best achieve that goal?
The fact is, most men don’t rape. And those same men drink alcohol, watch violent TV shows and listen to popular music, including Hip Hop, as misogynistic as it can be.
Let’s teach young women they are not subject to the whims of men with violent, criminal intent. Let’s teach them they have the power to control their sexual habits and behavior. And they have the power to defend themselves. Let’s teach them that, if they are assaulted, it is not their fault. And let’s teach them to shoot a violent sexual aggressor in the head, if at all possible.
The simple fact is: I don’t want to live in a society that defines itself by the bad things it avoids. I want to live in a society that defines itself by the good things it embraces. Let’s teach young men how to be valuable, integral, healthy members of society. Let’s teach them how to be strong fathers, husbands, brothers and boyfriends. Do postcards and PSAs indicating they are one small step away from being date rapists really accomplish that?
Rape is intolerable and must be stopped. So must the victim mentality. So let’s do that be aiming for the stars, rather than avoiding the pits of hell.