Em-URGE-ing Voices

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Sexual Violence: Men Breaking the Silence

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April 17, 2014

Jackson Katz in his TED talk about violence against women explains that the problem of discussing sexual violence is that it’s often framed as a “women’s issue that some good men help out with.” Granted, everyone is probably a little hesitant to have a man talk about sexual violence fearing that men often derail the discussion to focus on themselves. Well, I think discussing men’s role in sexual violence is a crucial conversation that needs to be had.

More often than not, dominant groups with privilege fail to examine their power and privilege. Though a harsh reality, white adult males often have their voices heard over women talking about the same issue. Using their positions of power to create an open dialogue is important when men are the main perpetrators of sexual violence. Just like how white folks need to interrupt racism, straight cisgender folks interrupting homophobia and transphobia, we need men to break that silence about sexism and rape culture.

The perpetrators of our problems need to assist in becoming solutions as well. That’s a hard pill to swallow sometimes, but male culture is complicit in encouraging hyper-sexuality and gaining acceptance through the number of partners you’ve had. This is seen in sports culture, the school environment, and is a system ingrained in young boys from an early age. Young boys are taught to be stoic and never express their emotions. Transitioning into their teenage years, girls are slut shamed for being flirtatious, but guys are praised for it. The definition of manhood needs to be changed. We sometimes need our allies with more power in society to speak up on these issues. It’s not that the work is dependent on them, but it helps alleviate the problems and assists in the work. It’s not a battle of the sexes, it’s learning to stand with women.

For male victims of sexual violence, their perpetrators are also often men. Men and women can find common ground that they have been both victims of male violence. For queer men and trans* men, corrective rape is a reality. Being queer and male often gets muddled in our positions on sexual violence. Victims of sexual violence may not speak up because as men, we are supposed to be hyper-sexualized and enjoy it. We are told to be aggressive and extremely sexual, so we’re supposed to like our sexual experiences, regardless of consent.

It’s also important to discuss race when talking about sexual violence. Men of color can have different experiences with sexual assault based on whether they are seen as the victim or the perpetrator. We need to be able to unpack different intersections and address the men we’re really referring to in these discussions of sexual violence.

So guys, we need to step up and break the silence instead of consenting to rape jokes to redefine healthy masculinity. Men need to be integrated into the conversation, but shouldn’t derail it. Sexual violence is a societal problem that everyone needs to actively be involved in correcting. Calling sexual violence a women’s issue allows men to excuse themselves for the conversation and absolve themselves of their guilt and privilege. It’s not about just some good men helping out; it’s about men standing alongside women in fighting sexual violence.


This post is a part of a series in honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Read the rest here

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