Feminism | Posted by Alex Brown on 02/3/2017

It’s Time My Male Peers And I Hold Ourselves Accountable For Rape Culture

A photo of Man Up and Open Up — a great org working in this space

A photo of Man Up and Open Up — a great org working in this space

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, <a href=”https://www.rainn.org/statistics”>an American is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds</a>. 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, <a href=”https://wearawhitefeather.wordpress.com/survivors/rape-culture-statistics/”>60 to 99 percent of rape and sexual assault is committed by men</a>. 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.


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  • Sonja Larsen @ at 1:49 pm, February 7th, 2017

    Bravo. Keep bringing this issue into the light. Speaking out as a man is critical to help women and girls, but also male victims.

  • Addy Walker @ at 6:10 pm, February 9th, 2017

    Thank you for this honest, self-reflective piece. It’s always tough to speak up among peers, but by setting a more respectful tone, guys can positively influence attitudes towards women and against rape culture. And another way to think of it is not just as a ‘how should we treat women’ thing, but a ‘how should we treat other human beings’ thing. Because sadly men suffer rape and sexual assault too, so we want to create a culture that respects everyone.

  • Amanda @ at 7:28 am, February 13th, 2017

    This is not only very well written, but a breath of fresh air coming from a young man. As a teacher of PSHE (personal,social and health education) I would love to see young me like you go to secondary schools and run classes or seminars on this subject. Here, in the U.K., rape culture and passive acceptance is rife in schools. You are so right to challenge the language and joking that seems ‘funny’ at the time. We all know it is not funny at all. Please consider going into schools. Love and peace, Amanda. X

  • Rachael Hanakowski @ at 9:00 pm, March 24th, 2017

    Excellent article, Alex. Thank you for being a “HeforShe” as the saying from UN Women goes.

    It’s so important to recognize when our friends are being harmful and to help re-shape our culture into one of respect. Mad props.

    Please feel free to read my articles on the F Bomb & Though Catalog.

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