Friday, May 30, 2014

How I Have Participated in Rape Culture

“My liberation as a man is tied to your liberation as a woman.” 
-Tony Porter

In light of Elliot Rodger's murderous rampage in California last week I feel it is incumbent upon men and women (but mostly men) to come out and admit honestly the ways in which they have participated in or perpetuated misogyny in our culture.  I'm not going to go into detail about how this rampage had much more to do with Rodger's misogyny than any sort of mental illness he may have had.  Melanie Mallon over at Skepchick has already done a wonderful job of that here.  Let's just take it as a given. Furthermore, even if this awful thing had not happened the misogyny in our culture still exists, and it hurts all of us.

So here I am trying to get a real dialogue started.  In order for the dialogue to be constructive and helpful we first need to be honest with ourselves, and about ourselves.  Here is a list of ways in which I have participated in and perpetuated rape culture.  Many of the things I list here from when I was a boy will be written off by many of you as "Boys will be boys."  I can already hear people saying in their head about the things I did in my teens and twenties "He was young, dumb, and full of cum."  The things I did are not excusable because of my gender and testosterone.  I am a human being with self control, not a wild animal.

- In middle school I would grab the chests of female classmates.

- Until my late twenties I would tell incredibly sexist and misogynistic jokes.

- I've referred to women as bitches, sluts, cunts, and whores.

- In my teens and early twenties I called other men pussies and fags when they didn't fit into the man box.

- I laughed when a male adult in my life told me about how he and a friend had once picked up a couple of women, drove them way out into the country for a picnic, and then left them there.

- When I told a close friend about my first date with my fiance the first thing he asked was "Did you fuck her?"  I never pointed out how that was none of his business, and how it had no bearing on how either of use should feel about her. 

- I've tried to pressure my fiance into having sex with me when she didn't want to.

- In high school I spent years pursuing a classmate that I felt I 'deserved.'  I wrote her letters, called her, and generally pestered her unceasingly.  I thought it was romantic and endearing.  It was harassment. 

- Throughout middle school and high school I held a double standard for my sister.  Anyone who showed interest in her was automatically my enemy and I had to make their lives hell.  It also made my sister's life hell.  At the same time she would regularly try to set me up with her friends.

- As a kid I would constantly scold my sister for playing with my toys because they were 'boy's toys.'

- In high school I laughed when a classmate told me a story about how he came in the face of his girlfriend when she went down on him despite her explicitly telling him not to do so beforehand.  Even though I knew that was wrong I never said anything to him.

- In my early twenties I invaded the personal space and touched the shoulders and lower back of a woman at a bar so much that she felt the need to have her friends form a safety circle around her.   I only found out about the safety circle later after we had already become friends.  She is an amazingly brave and forgiving person and I feel like I don't really deserve her friendship.

- In my mid twenties a woman at a party invited me into her bedroom to fool around.  I tried relentlessly to pressure her to go further than she wanted.  I saw her a year later and apologized.  She said it was no big deal.  It was.  She invited me into what should be the safest space in her life, and I took that safety away from her.

- When I came home from a year in Korea one of the first things a close friend asked me was "How many women did you fuck?"  Instead of telling him it was none of his fucking business I told him how many women I had slept with.  He chided me and questioned my sexuality because the number wasn't large enough for him.  I never told him how wrong it was for him to think that way.

- In high school I made fun of other males for being virgins (even while I was one), and made fun of females for loosing their virginity.

This list is not exhaustive, but it's illustrative.  Many men out there have likely done one, some, or all of these things. A few possibly have not, or are at least not aware that they have.  I don't think I am necessarily a bad person for having done these things, but they were bad things.  In fact I would say that a lot of people I know see me as a generally nice guy and would be shocked by some of these things.  If that's the case, think of all the men you know that are not 'nice guys.' Well, I've put it out there, now it's your turn.  Let's talk.

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