It seems like more and more, the voices of women are crying out for a solution – what can be said about men and rape culture?
WARNING: Mature written content and trigger warning
You’ve probably seen recently the horrendous actions of the former Stanford swimmer Brock Turner. His recent actions and the incredibly lenient 6 month sentence given to him by a judge have been the subject of enormous public uproar. He has officially been banned for life by USA Swimming, and public outcry is demanding greater justice with both his actions, and also the ruling of the judge. I believe the only appropriate word you could call it is a “travesty”.
The case has been a catalyst for an increased public focus on rape, particularly on social media, and about the privilege that is perceived to exist. The focus in particular is on the role of men in developing, contributing, or ignoring a prevalent culture of rape which exists in society. When statistics show that 90% of adult rape victims are female, this focus is rightly justified. There are definitely cases where men are also the victims of sexual violence, but the large majority of the victims are female, and the large majority of perpetrators are male. I don’t think it can so quickly dismissed that this isn’t a massive problem needing addressing, and us addressing one part of the problem today doesn’t mean the other parts of the problem don’t matter.
Most of the voices I’ve heard on the subject so far have been female, and a lot of those tend to be pretty heavily handed in their opinions, perhaps justifiably so. I know even in my own personal circle, the outcry has been amazing, with women from all different backgrounds and viewpoints sounding off on the issue, all towards a similar end.
What does a male voice say on the subject? Well, here’s a man sounding off on the massive issue of men and rape culture.
Rape is never justified
I think the first thing to make very clear is that rape is never defended. There is an argument and a piece of advice that exists that if you don’t want to be raped, don’t dress like you do. This is particularly prevalent throughout the Middle East. The problem with this is, while there is some merit to modesty, no one is forcing you to force yourself on someone.
The best example I can think of is that I have a relatively expensive laptop that I use for work. If I leave it in my car, and it gets stolen, whose fault is it? If it’s locked in the boot with the deadlock, is it my fault? No, it’s the criminal’s fault. If I leave it out on the middle of the driver’s seat in plain sight… now whose fault is it?
It’s still the criminal’s fault. And while putting it in the boot may have slowed a criminal down, the act of breaking into my car is still a crime.
As a society in general, we don’t like acknowledging our actions are completely within our own control. “Oh, they made me sign the contract”. “I have to work 60 hours a week”. “I need to do this”. No one is holding a gun to your head and making you do those things. In a similar vein, what we do with the women in our world is completely within our control. “Oh she made me do it”. No sir, she did not. I’m actually a big fan of modesty, but even the most immodestly dressed woman on earth doesn’t ever justify forcing someone against their will.
You are accountable for your own actions. Always. In every situation.
Accepting a no
I think one of the most difficult thing that men face in life is their journey through rejection. Rejection is definitely a killer to the male soul. In Australia, men make up 80% of those who commit suicide. Another study I read recently showed that divorced or separated men are 39% more likely to take their life than married/single counterparts.
What I’m trying to get at here is that obviously we have bigger problems here, and that what it really highlights is that one of the bigger issues we have in our lives is our inability to deal with a “no”.
Even without the statistics, I’ve come across enough men in my life to know that all our worst behaviour usually follows someone’s rejection, whether in a big or a small thing. Unfortunately one of the options some men believe to be acceptable is to force themselves on to somebody, rather than try to negotiate the turmoil themselves. Does this justify the action of rape? Not by a long shot.
However, what it does show us is that as men, the better solution is we need to learn to negotiate situations of emotional pain with greater strength than we do by lashing out. Scripture features a disgusting rape case in which the perpetrator Amnon had constantly described his view of a particular woman in his life as a position of “love”. However, on her rebuttal, his “love” turns to anger and he forces himself on her. A disgusting but accurate picture of often how we as men react in moments or seasons of heartbreak.
It’s a sense of feeling powerless.
How do you deal with the emotional pain in your life, men? Do you deal with it? Or do you ignore it? Leave it unchecked? Use it as fuel for a string of stupid behaviour?
There’s no weakness in asking for help. In fact, I think the stronger man is the one who acknowledges his inner turmoil, and goes about finding out healthy outlets and support networks for his spirit. A man who is imbued with strength rather than with pain is one who is less likely to lash out from a place of self-focused, self-loathing emotion.
The same can be said for all of us – leaving heartache and rejection unresolved… it’s a bad decision waiting to happen.
Men and our sexual appetite
I wrote a while ago about the Sexual Elephant in the room, that is to say, the things which feed and drive our sexual appetite. Rather than being instruments of “discovering” our sexual identity, these become instead tools for shaping and directing it. There has been a disturbing increase in the category of “Sexual Violence” in all our visual media, and as we increasingly allow things like this in our life, we are fanning the flame of acceptability when it comes to sexuality – the rape culture that has been identified.
“Oh, but men are just that way”.
I think that’s an unacceptable, dismissive, and naive stance to have on male sexuality. “Oh, men are just always horny, so they’ll take what they want”. Wait a second – why are they so sexually charged? Do you know? As a man or a woman, are you aware of the source of where those desires are coming from?
I wrote about a similar problem a while ago in the guise of human trafficking. One of the largest contributors to the problem is the demand. It’s a similar case with rape. If there’s a demand within yourself for it, then you’re more likely to let yourself go there. Is it justified? Never. But we’re more likely to go there if we maintain a limited understanding of who we are and what drives us.
This is an appeal to the men to work out what it is that drives you. Why are you so overcome with desire that you feel the need to let it blindly “take control”? Every person is one decision away from stupid, and if we’ve set ourselves up with a culture that’s fueling our lusts, and we fail to recognize or discover our need for love, the one thing that men really want, we’re setting ourselves up to fail. We’re also setting ourselves up to think that what goes on in our society is normal, and we contribute to a machine that lets us tolerate such a travesty with such apathy.
Rape is ultimately a relationship problem. It is a completely unacceptable “solution” for a legitimate need for love and acceptance. It is the cry of a man who feels powerless and hasn’t learned to love himself. We were made for each other, and we have allowed perversion to creep in to the way we relate to each other, leaving devastating consequences.
Our relational health doesn’t just affect ourselves. Look after your heart with great priority and urgency.
Painting all men with the same brush
The final appeal I want to make is to my sisters and female friends out there. The other devastating side effect when it comes to men and rape culture is an inadvertent distrust and belittling of all men. Even well meaning, well voiced, well worded people can push down the men in their lives without even knowing it.
I’ve talked to enough men and women to know that this is the source of a lot of turmoil in a lot of relationships. I have female friends who feel a constant struggle in the way they relate to men – unable to even befriend or get close to men, to relate to their husbands, to look after their sons – because of what’s happened to them, a loved one, or our society. I have male friends who sit on the other side of the fence – the men who haven’t made the mistake, but have been faithful – but have the difficult challenge of negotiating closeness with someone who has felt the need to throw all the walls up.
I feel the same way when I see men paint all women with the same brush, or even “most women”. You know – “all women don’t know what they want”, “women are too emotional”, “all women just use and abuse the efforts of men” – all those big sweeping statements we make about an entire gender, which actually comes at the expense of our relationships with that gender.
It’s not healthy.
The healing process is never easy, but may we as men and women both, with God’s help, overcome the barriers of sexual violence, and put an end to the way we treat each other with such neglect.
You and I were made for love. We were made for healthy relationships. Anything we are doing in our lives to belittle, ignore, or leave in ruins that part of who we are will ultimately lead to devastation further down the road.
There are so many issues surrounding the issues of men and rape culture, and all the issues beyond. What are your thoughts on this massive issue?