Op Ed: An Open Letter To All Men

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Op Ed: An Open Letter To All Men

WOLFRAM BURNER/FLICKR

WOLFRAM BURNER/FLICKR

WOLFRAM BURNER/FLICKR

WOLFRAM BURNER/FLICKR

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*Author’s note:  it took me many different renditions and revisions to find the proper words for what I wish to address here.  This letter is directly addressed to any and all men, inspired by the extremely negligent sentencing of Brock Turner.  This is both about him and about us.*

Dear My Fellow Men:

Here’s the thing, I’m not going to sit here and prattle on about how 1 in 5 women and 1 in 16 men will be raped or sexually assaulted while in college at some point; or about how 90% of those incidents will go unreported for reasons such as:

-Believing it was a personal matter

-Fear of reprisal

-Believing it was not important enough to report

-Not wanting to get the perpetrator in trouble or

-Believing the police would not or could not do anything to help

I’m not going to talk about those things, no.  Nor will I be talking about how 1 in 6 women and 1 in 71 men will face a sexual assault or rape at some point in their lives.  I will not be talking about how, according to a 2014 study, 1 in 3 (polled) college men admit that they would rape a person if they knew they could get away with it.  Or how a recent study published in May of this year (2016) revealed that 54% of male student athletes (and 37% of non-athlete males) have admitted to using coercion to attain sex, fitting the legal definition of rape (intercourse by use of force or threat of force against a victim’s wishes).  These things I will not be talking about.

I won’t be talking about the massive injustice done to Brock Turner’s victim or her family.  I won’t be talking about how she was pointedly and repeatedly questioned about her sexual history and personal life, as if those somehow qualify her (or any person) for being raped.  Or about how her future was absolutely diminished by the media, yet her rapist’s future was constantly commented on as important, a central theme to the trial.  I also won’t mention how Brock Allen Turner refused to admit remorse for raping his victim, but merely regret for the fact that he was drunk and caught in the act.

I won’t be talking about those things.  Not now.  What I will be talking about, though, will be about the attitudes we, as men, carry about rape.  

I will be talking about what messages cases like Brock Turner’s send to society, particularly men.  I will be talking about how long-held inherent sexism plays into our responses to cases like Brock Turner’s.  I will be talking about how a legal system constructed for and by white, affluent men (like Brock Turner) only benefits them at the expense of literally everyone else.  

I will be talking about how men individually are completely responsible for 100% of their actions 100% of the time; about how no matter how drunk they were, how flirty they may have acted, how they dressed, smelled, winked, walked, or talked, that it is never okay to make sexual advances towards anyone without enthusiastic, explicit, and ongoing consent.  

I will be talking about how our defense, or worse, indifference, towards the men in our communities who propagate these attitudes and behaviors is contributing more to the problem than we would care to admit.

But this letter is not attacking men; quite the contrary.  I am not angry with men, but frustrated.  Not just with men but with the system in which men are a part of that helps perpetrate the ideas and behaviors that contribute to rape.

Statements such as “boys will be boys” and “well she shouldn’t have been drinking/wearing that skirt/out that late/walking alone/etc.” are incredibly offensive and damaging.  As a man, why would we let ourselves be lumped into such a horrific stereotype?  “Boys will be boys” directly implies that we are not in control of our behaviors.  That we cannot help but rape, given the opportunity.  That we are incapable of ‘resisting the impulse.’  How is that not offensive, and why are men leaping to use this outdated idiom as a defense?  

Maybe we’re trying to deflect blame and say it’s not our faults we acted as we did; that we were goaded.  Maybe if she wasn’t so vulnerable drinking, or if she hadn’t worn so short of a skirt or revealing of a shirt, we could’ve resisted.  I call b.s.  It is our choice to take advantage of someone who couldn’t give explicit consent; it’s also our choice to not do so.

And why are we letting men who tell rape jokes or express obvious anti-women sentiments continue to do so with impunity?  Why are we rushing to defend them, at the expense of the other 49.6% of the world’s population?  And no, I’m not talking about men who say these jokes in stand-up situations, where it’s literally their job to make light of dark subjects.  I am speaking directly to and about the men in our local communities.  Peers, parents, colleagues, friends, brothers.

I’m talking to you, boys.  Do you hear me?

I sincerely doubt you would tolerate if your daughter/wife/mother/friend was a subject of some of the rape jokes.  That we would defend the person making them with “boys will be boys” or it’s “just a joke.”  Why, then, do we allow other women to be the subjects?  Those women are someone else’s daughter/wife/mother/friend.  We are responsible for our community and we shouldn’t allow these damaging attitudes to continue.  We cannot allow the passive attitudes that allow these damaging attitudes to continue.

Men are some of the first and loudest people to blame a rape victim for their own rape.  What about those dastardly women who constantly play the “rape card” just to get a man in trouble or to avoid some form of trouble for themselves?  

Sorry.  Nope.  Not an excuse.

Statistically, the prevalence of false rape reporting is between 2-10% of reported rapes, depending on the study and specific community looked at.  Compared to the 63% of all rapes going unreported, the 2-10% false reports is absolutely minuscule.  An overwhelming majority of women (and men) who report their rapes were actually raped.  It is a bit troubling that I have to explain this, but this “false reporting bias” men have towards rape is harmful; it contributes to the 63% of rapes going unreported.  We cannot allow this victim blaming mentality to continue spreading.

Am I asking men to police other men’s words and behaviors?  

No.  

What I am asking, or partially demanding, is that we no longer tolerate these dually-harmful excuses, that we call out the men who express anti-women sentiments.  

One of the awful things (among the plethora) about Brock Turner’s case is what it tells rape victims: that even if their perpetrator is found unanimously guilty for the crime of raping them, that the perpetrator’s gender, status, class, and race, if all matching just the right criteria, can actually manage to only serve a fraction of their sentencing, if they’re even sentenced at all. See: money. See: Bill Cosby.

But what about what it says to men?  That, should we be white and affluent, we can rape someone and only face minimal consequences.  That the system favors us, even when we’re the ones committing the crime.

The most awful thing about Brock Turner’s case is that it’s not rare (well, actually, as a whole it is rare, as, on average, out of 344 reported rapes, only 63 lead to arrests, and out of those, only 6 lead to incarceration, but that’s beside the point).  Brock Turner isn’t the only or the first person to walk early on rape charges; the problem is that he isn’t going to be the last, either.

Unfortunately, schools aren’t doing very much to help with our situation, either.  The fact that, according to the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Financial & Contracting Oversight 2014 report on sexual assault on college campuses, 30% of colleges and universities do not employ any form of sexual assault training to students or law enforcement officers.  On top of that, the same report suggests that, in the last 5 years, 40% of universities did not investigate a single sexual assault.  Why are such a large fraction of school’s behind in their efforts to tackle this obvious plague on their students?  When less than 5% of attempted or completed rapes against college women go reported, yet 9 out of 10 of them are perpetrated by someone the victim knew?

The low rates of prosecution for perpetrators of rape both within the justice and collegiate systems send men horrid messages, not dissimilar from the messages Brock Turner’s case sends us.  These messages are not acceptable any longer.

When we tell our daughters, our sisters, the women in our lives to not stay out too late, to not drink too much, or at all, to not wear the skirt, what we are really saying is to make sure he rapes someone else.

The problem lies with us, not the victims.  When a store, or even a person, is robbed, we blame the robber, not the victim.  We don’t ask what they did to bring the robbery upon themselves, and we certainly don’t blame them for their own robbery.  We don’t ask what the victim was wearing to provoke the robbing; we don’t ask if the robbery victim had a history of giving to charity thus sort of asking for the robbery.  Because it was the robber’s choice to rob.  If they had not made that choice, no one would have been robbed.  The very same logic applies to rape.  Nobody asks to be robbed; nobody ever asks to be raped.  The rapist is the one who decided to rape, it wasn’t the victim’s choice.  It’s never the victim’s choice.

When someone reports a rape, if it’s a woman, they are not only accused of lying or making it up, they are also accused of bringing it upon themselves.  If it’s a man, they’re flat-out denied or accused of being a homosexual, or for acting like a woman.  Because the worst thing you can be, besides a rape victim, is gay, or a woman, and our society perpetuates disgusting ideals like this.  And so do the men who live in our society.  They compound each other.

The key, it seems, to breaking down the myths and destructive attitudes towards rape, especially with men, is to start a healthy conversation.  And that’s what I want this letter to do.

The best way to affect change in the world is to be the very change you wish to see.  It starts individually; not just in your brothers.  This one is to you and me, for us.  For men.  We can do a whole lot better.

For women too; we see, we hear, we fight, we stand with you.

*Editor’s note:  all op ed pieces are strictly that: opinions.  They do not express or represent the views of Arapahoe Community College or the Arapahoe Pinnacle.  The ACC Pinnacle welcomes any and all submitted opinions.  For more information, click the About Us.*

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