Why Should Men Care About Sexual Assault?
If the title and subtitle of this article didn’t make your blood boil, read them again.
Do you see any problems?
Men. We’re the subject. We get an adult label and an active choice. We can care or not. It’s our decision. It’s up to us. That’s the way it should be. Right?
Girls. You’re the sub-heading in an article about a topic that affects you the most. Let’s not bother with using “women” to put you on an equal footing. No, we’ll refer to you like children. We’ll refer to “getting raped” in the passive tense. It happens to you, somehow. Is there a rapist? Probably, but let’s not focus on him. This is your problem. And this only happens occasionally. Sometimes. Is it really worth the attention of us MEN? (“Men” is emphasized because we should be the highlight of this paragraph too.)
I apologize for the sarcasm, but it helps to make my point.
A lesson on Misogyny
This may seem like I’m going on a tangent from the subject of this piece, but it’s important.
Merriam-Webster gives the following definition:
Misogyny: Hatred of, aversion to, or prejudice against women.
If you spend much time around the sexual assault survivor community, this term is everywhere. Survivors throw it around a lot. They use it in many ways.
But I didn’t understand the word until fairly recently. Hatred? Aversion? Those are such negative terms, and they don’t seem to correspond with men’s typical feelings of attraction, desire, and other “positive” words.
Doesn’t assault happen because men don’t keep their desires in check?
Desire is not the issue
I’ve come to the understanding that misogyny is an imbalance. It’s a lack of respect and consideration and love. It’s a view of women as sex objects that strips them of their other qualities.
Misogyny = valuing women for their sex appeal and disregarding everything else
When men view women that way, we dehumanize them. We make them less. We take away their voice. We dismiss their ideas. We treat them poorly because we don’t see them as whole persons. We have a disregard for them that allows us to commit acts of violence against them without thinking we’re doing something wrong.
Men hate women by only loving one part of who they are.
That’s how I’ve made sense of the word, and that’s how I can evaluate my own attitudes. I don’t feel like I hate women or steer clear of them or hold prejudice against them, and I’m sure many men feel the same, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a thousand ways we still contribute to a culture that is unfair and damaging.
You want some examples?
The title of this piece could be written with good intentions, but it’s still hurtful. It minimizes women and their pain, and it does so in ways that may not seem overtly hostile. How many titles like that have we seen?
How many of us have given women cause to feel uncomfortable?
How often do we placate them with patronizing responses?
How frequently do we attribute their concerns to PMS?
We label women with negative stereotypes like emotional, b**chy, or weak, and we don’t even have to say anything for the damage to be done. Our thoughts influence our actions, or our lack of actions.
We treat women differently, and often not in good ways.
Let’s get back to the subject with a new title:
Women are Suffering in a Culture of Harassment and Sexual Assault.
Here’s why men need to care, change our behavior, and make fighting misogyny our top priority.
Is that better? I hope so. It’s not a question of men caring or not; it’s a statement that we NEED to. It’s not an occasional thing that happens to women; it’s the reality of their lives.
Why men need to care
Men can also be victims of harassment and sexual assault, and I don’t discount that in any way, but these are problems that affect women disproportionately.
According to RAINN’s statistics (rainn.org), 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime.
That is a LOT of women.
In the United States:
Less than 1% of the population are active-duty military personnel.
The poverty rate is about 11%
Black Americans make up 13.4% of the population.
We can visualize these groups. We can see them in our communities. Their numbers are easily counted. (I found them with a quick Google search.)
But each one of those groups represents a smaller population than the women in this country who have been raped. Survivors of sexual assault are a huge demographic.
Does that put this in perspective?
And that statistic of 1 out of 6 (17%) is only as accurate as the crimes that are reported. The real number is undoubtedly higher.
That’s rape. What about harassment?
This should be obvious if you don’t live under a rock, but I’ll provide a bit of data. As reported in this NPR article, a 2018 survey by the nonprofit, Stop Street Harassment, found that 81% of American women have experienced sexual harassment.
That is a LOT of women.
Do you see the trend? Sexual assault and harassment are pervasive in our society.
Yeah, but that leaves like 20% of women who aren’t affected. It’s not that big of a deal.
Okay, for you who are still not convinced, let’s go back to misogyny — the devaluing of women. If you don’t believe it exists, I’m not sure I can help you, and perhaps you’re part of the problem. But if you accept that misogyny is real, then take a look at this pie chart:
Even if a woman is never assaulted or raped, and even if she by some miracle never NOTICES any form of sexual harassment directed at her, she is still part of our culture.
Our culture hates her.
Whether it’s reflected in income inequality, a lack of opportunity, judgment of her appearance, a dismissively titled article, or one of a million other things, misogyny affects her entire life.
So why should men care about sexual assault?
That was my original question, and here’s my answer:
If men truly love women, we should care about EVERYTHING they experience.
We should care about the things that cause them pain.
We should care about the things that bring them joy.
We should care about their minds, bodies, and souls.
We should care about THEM.
Women are our partners in this journey of life. They are our equals, and we should treat them as such. Sexual assault is a deeply hurtful personal violation that no one should have to endure. It’s a CRIME perpetrated mostly by men against women, and it burdens those women with trauma and pain that may never fully heal.
And it affects not only them. The collateral damage extends to their partners and children and family and friends and everyone else they know.
Think about some of the negative stereotypes assigned to women. How many could be attributed to trauma from harassment and assault? Would men be so self-assured and confident as we like to think we are if we carried such terrible scars? Or would we be emotional, and angry, and wounded?
Men should care about this because in more ways than we can imagine, this culture of misogyny and harassment and sexual assault is hurting us too. It’s breaking our women, and that’s not good for anyone. It’s not good for society. It’s not good for us.
So we should care out of self-interest?
If that’s what it takes to make us care and change, then yes, but I would hope we’ll do it out of love.