It Should Make You Feel.

About a year ago I wrote a letter to the editor for my school newspaper about sexual assault, primarily on college campuses. This is what I wrote:

“One in five. Those are the odds of a young woman being sexually assaulted during her four years in college. Less than ten percent of these assaults are reported. Less than one percent of these reports lead to conviction. Yet we wonder why women don’t report their assault, reliving the experience painstakingly, only to not see justice.

There are no “partisan” sides on this matter; there is simply right and wrong. It is wrong to say that there is not a problem. What’s even more inexcusable is to blame the victim in ANY way for what has been done to them.

The way this problem is being attempted to be “solved,” is discouraging, at best. Telling women not to dress a certain way, or drink, or go out alone is not going to fix this issue. No, that’s not how this works.

What is going to solve this atrocity is getting men early on in life and never stopping their involvement. Educating men that: no means no. Educating men that inability to give consent is never consent. Educating men that clothing is not consent; alcohol is not consent; relationship status is not consent. Consent is a clear and conscious “Yes.” Educating men that without that consent; that uninfluenced, unforced, unimpaired “Yes”: proceeding is a crime.

It’s time to end blaming the victim. It’s time to end “boys will be boys.” It’s time to fight until that one in five becomes zero. And, men, Joe Biden is right: It’s On US.”

I would like to add to that, and also in some parts amend it.

My only real amendment is the language I use, though I was short on words. But I think it serves to be noted that by “men” I mean cis-men. Trans folks, queer folks, or anyone who otherwise identifies as something that is not “man” or “woman” is not included in that umbrella of “men.”

Second, I want to elaborate. I was working with a 250 word limit and even though I used all of them there are still many shortcomings of this piece.

It serves to be noted that men are more more likely to be assaulted than to assault someone. I do not want to discount male survivors in any way, their stories are real, they are equally traumatic, and matter just as much as those of women.

It also serves to be noted that non-binary identifying people and people of color are drastically more likely to be assaulted than others. This is something that is very, very seldom addressed quite in the way it should.

I also want to give my take on the role that toxic masculinity plays. Toxic masculinity is a very very dangerous thing that causes a lot of problems for many cisgender men, myself included. It tells us that we are supposed to be the ones in control, and that we should want to. It tells us that women are objects for our pleasure, not real people with real feelings and real wants. It tells us that sex is everything and that emotions are “unmanly.” Toxic masculinity is what makes me note when I do things that are “feminine,” and think that there is something wrong with that. Toxic masculinity is what makes me complicit in some cases, that I tried to hard to encourage women to do things they didn’t want to (and honestly, that I didn’t) just because that was what I was supposed to do to be a “man.”

But this, now, is about and for women. I want to talk directly to the men who don’t understand. Those who don’t care. Who can’t be bothered to get even a little fired up about it.

Sexual assault, harassment, both verbal and physical, and rape, are constants. Yeah, you may be tired of hearing about it. Try living with it everyday. Maybe you’ve even felt objectified at some point, but to be frank I never have in 19 years of being a male in America. But imagine not being able to walk down the street without being catcalled, groped, yelled at, or worse.

Imagine not being able to go on a run for fear of being attacked.

Imagine not being able to go to a party for fear of being drugged. Attacked. Assaulted. Raped. Killed.

Imagine having to worry about what you wear for fear that a man takes it as an invitation to assault you.

Imagine having to worry about what you say, for fear of leading on a man who doesn’t quite grasp the phrase “I’m not interested.”

Imagine having to stay in a group because being alone as a woman is a dangerous thing to be.

Imagine having to be careful around someone you may even be close with because he isn’t good with the word NO.

Imagine not being able to get a job because of the biological sex, or gender, you were born with.

Imagine having to not hang out with your friends anymore because they don’t grasp what impact that had on you.

Imagine hurting yourself because of the thought of what someone did to you.

Imagine buying plan B because you can’t remember if he even used a condom.

Imagine saying no and they don’t stop.

Imagine being coerced to do something you know you don’t want to do, out of fear of retribution if you don’t.

Imagine being someone you thought you trusted committing a heinous act.

Imagine being the most qualified candidate for president ever and losing to a known sexual predator, racist, faux billionaire TV-”star” because you’re a woman.

Then, for a minute. Imagine seeing him everyday.

Imagine fearing reporting the crime for fear of ostracism.

Imagine being asked what you were wearing.

Imagine being asked if you were drinking.

Imagine being asked what you said.

Imagine being told it was your fault.

Imagine him not getting charged.

Imagine blaming yourself, because you are just sure it must have been your fault.

Imagine the depression that comes with knowing, and living everyday with what happened.

Imagine teaching your kids that being a woman in America is an unsafe thing to be and that they need to dress appropriately and protect themselves because “boys will be boys.”

Imagine STILL, 2017, wondering how the hell we aren’t telling men to treat women as humans, valuable people, with real feelings, real hopes and dreams, and real talents, who deserve to be treated as such.

If you CAN imagine this because it happened to you, then I am sorry. It was not your fault. You deserved better. And it does not devalue you in any way. My hope for you is that you have the supportive community around you that you need and deserve.

But, if you cannot, then try harder. Try to imagine what it’s like. Try to imagine how it feels. This should make you angry.

You shouldn’t be angry because of your mom or sister or friend or wife or daughter. You should be angry because of human beings.

You should be angry out of simple decency.

You should want to make a change.

You should make a change.

You should educate other men.

You should intervene when you see something happening.

You should be there to listen.

You should lend your support.

You should step back when needed.

You should do what you can to silently help, even if it is something simple.

You should advocate for women, and be there for them when something does happen.

You should teach your sons and brothers and friends and fathers that women are equals and deserve your respect. Period.

And you should expect absolutely nothing in return, because you are simply doing what is right. Women don’t owe you anything for basic human decency. Women never owe you anything, but you owe them your respect and support.

This issue makes me mad. This makes my blood boil. This makes me feel the pain. This makes me cry. This makes me feel sick for victims. And it should affect you to. You shouldn’t shrug off stories that you hear of assault. You shouldn’t become numb to it. It should not become normalized to you. It should make you sad. It should make you angry. It should make you feel something for the victim.

As hard as I try, as long as I live, I will never be able to fully understand what it must be like to be a woman. But, I will never stop trying and I will always stay fired up.

Men, if it does not make you angry, if it does not make you sad — if it does not make you FEEL, then you are complicit.

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