Originally printed in The Daily Targum, October 28, 1993
'Not all men rape; some of us just watch.'
I was pretty shocked when I saw this flyer, which was posted all around campus last week. 'I don't do that,' I thought. 'I don't rape, and I certainly wouldn't watch it. What's the point? This doesn't apply to me.' I disregarded the flyer as some piece of feminist propaganda, destined to fail, because anybody who does rape (or watch) isn't going to listen to some anonymous flyer pasted on a mailbox.
Then I realized that by dismissing the message, I was complicitly participating in the rapes of hundreds of women on our campus, and millions of women in our society in general.
By saying, 'I'm not like that,' I lost the point of the flyer. The flyer doesn't blame me for physically raping, or even watching. The flyer indicts me as a male who allows it to continue, while I sit on my butt and let it happen.
We all know it happens. I could list the women I know who have been raped by their dates, their friends, their boyfriends, or their boyfriends' friends, but space simply would not allow. Even worse, any one of you could write a similar list. So if we know there's a problem like this, why do we do nothing about it? How can we simply say 'But I don't do it,' and continue along our merry little ways while our brothers force themselves on our sisters?
This column is essentially written for two kind of males: the men who have already realized the problem and what needs to be done, and the boys who are responsible for perpetuating it. The 'boys' are not just rapists, but any male who allows it to happen without doing something about it. It is up to the men of the community, be it the Rutgers community or any other, to try to convince the boys of the community to cut the crap.
Julia Kristeva says that whenever polar opposites are constructed, society values one half of the polarization more than the other. Our society seems to value good over evil; light over dark; men over women. It has been said that as long as men have the power to rape, men have the power to stop rape. But if a man disassociates himself from the issue, he becomes part of the problem. By being 'neutral,' he is being complicit in a crime that violates the very essence of a person's individuality, of a person's self; the very essence of that person.
There have been a series of similar flyers, with sayings such as 'Don't make your mother have to tell her friends that you're a rapist.' Think about this: any woman you violate is somebody's daughter, and possibly (one day) somebody's mom. How would you feel if your mother was raped? Even worse (and much more probable), how would you feel if she was raped by someone you both knew?
The author of the flyers is saying something very important, something that can be introduced on a flyer, but needs a lot more attention. The author (who, incidentally, could be either male or female) is saying that the men of our society have to do something, lest we be responsible for allowing the atrocity to continue.
What can we men do? Well, first (and simplest and most important) of all, have some respect. Respect is much more complicated than 'no means no.' Respect is 'if she might not want it, don't do it.' Respect is not even touching or kissing her unless she says she wants you to. Respect is if she takes off all her clothes, and then takes off all your clothes, that might mean she wants to have sex. (If she really does 'want it,' she will tell you. Ask her.) Respect is not trying to 'hook up' with a woman if she has been drinking--if you know she wouldn't want to hook up with you when she is sober, then you shouldn't try it if she's drunk.
Second, if you're not directly part of the problem, try to be part of the solution. Volunteer for one of the various 'Get Home Safe' programs around campus, to help women walk from place to place at night without fear. Convince your preceptor to hold programs on how to prevent acquaintance rape, or hold them yourself. Do not allow other men to put women in 'unsafe' situations. Don't leave her alone with him unless she wants to be alone with him.
Upon reflection, these solutions may seem pretty paternalistic and condescending
to women, but let's face it: rape won't end because women take self-defense
classes (although I highly recommend them). Rape won't end because women
read pamphlets about 'How to Prevent Acquaintance Rape.' Rape will end
when the rapists stop raping. Rape will end when men stop tolerating boyish