Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Thoughts from a Cis Male on "Me Too"

The women's movement has shown they know how to use social media, and the latest indication of this is the "me too" reaction to the many sexual assaults of Harvey Weinstein.  The producer and mogul of Miramax Films has been called out for his multiple sexual assaults over decades.  More and more women declared that they were also victims of his attempted or successful assaults.  On social media, then, more women declared "me too", publicly acknowledging that they were victims of sexual assault.

It has been amazing to see.  Sure, I knew that the majority of women have been assaulted, but it is another thing to see my friends, women of all personalities and powers, announce that they have been attacked.

The cis male response has been less than stellar.  

I see some men standing up saying, "I'm guilty" for leering or participating in porn, which is kind of right, but I don't know if they got the point.  Other men are saying "me too", acknowledging that they have also been sexually assaulted, and this is good, but I would like to see a separate time focus on their abuses.  Other men are giving the equivalent of "you really wanted it," which I find disgusting and encouraging the evil we live in.

So here are some of my own thoughts, which I hope work toward building a better world for women.

 I need to recognize that we live in a rape culture and I participate in it.

It amazes me how many people perpetuate the myths of rape.  Assuming that someone is lying about sexual assault without evidence.  Claiming that a woman “deserved it”.  Thinking that the way a woman is dressed has anything to do with whether they deserve to be assaulted.

And I have participated in that rape culture.  I have paid for movies that perpetuate the myth that if a woman says “no” she doesn’t really mean it.  I have ignored men who openly and lightly objectify women.  I have, in the past, approved of churches who insisted that “forgiveness” means a wife must accept back a husband that abused her and that “submission” is a one way street.  I have ignored and supported the ocean of objectification and reductionism that women swim in.

As men, we need to realize what the problems really are.  First, it is the limiting of women to objects of our own enjoyment or pleasure.  Of course, when our only relation to a human being is as an entertainer, then we can judge their performance as to whether they have given us something.  But women in general are often treated as a male gaze display.  Thus do men catcall and tell women to “smile” or advise them to dress better or to wear makeup.  These are all indications of a context in which men see all women as on a stage for their own benefit, instead of equal human beings who are allowed to look as they wish, according to their own desires and goals.  When that

Second, men consider their sexual satisfaction as something they “deserve,” and to not obtain that satisfaction is to suffer something unacceptable.  Look guys, if you aren’t getting the sex you want, you have another option: jerk off.  It may not be the first option, but it is better than driving oneself crazy failing to obtain the specific kind of satisfaction you choose.  Women, whether individuals or in general, have no responsibility to make sure every man is satisfied.  When a man thinks that their sexual pleasure is more important than respecting another human being, their priorities are screwed up. 


In the past, a man’s sexual limits were limited by a concept of purity.  Then it was by a principle of faithfulness.  Then it was a matter of law to determine what a man could and could not do.  In our society, the key principle is consent.  We cannot assume that women are on board with our plans or desires for them, whether they are strangers or girlfriends or wives.  We have to ask and obtain agreement.  If we have no agreement, then there is no place for any kind of sexual activity, from a catcall to a slap on the ass to a kiss.   We need to train our boys to back off until agreement is reached and we need to train our girls that they don’t have to accept any kind of intimacy unless they agree (even if that’s a kiss from their rich aunt Zelda). Consent is a huge part of respect, something we all want and expect. 

A number of people (almost all cis males) claim that women are as aggressive sexually as men. That is certainly true, and it isn't good. But it means something different.
99% of all sexual assault happens by men. Women know this, even if men don't. Women protect themselves from the inevitable onslaught by some man, and they don't know which one. Most threats from men are small, the off-hand comment, the lingering leer. These mosquito bites mean nothing, unless you are in an area in which a quarter of those mosquitoes have malaria. Then you get scared, because one of those mosquitoes will really harm you.
This is the life that women have in a rape culture. Up to 25 percent of men have sexually assaulted someone. Less than one percent of women have. Frankly, women have something to be scared about. Men might get unwelcome sexual attention (I have), but we don't live in a context of sexual assault.
And sexual assault usually happens by friends or family, people women trust. This makes the whole situation more frightening. Because the ones who are closest to women are more likely to be the ones to harm them.
The issue is less a single event, but the constant fear that it could happen any moment, by a trusted person. Most cis men don't have to worry about that.
(BTW, 45 percent of all gay or bi men also experience sexual assault, 99 percent of which are also caused by men).

I just had a man post under the last section, "you are so brainwashed."  If he means that I have looked at the facts and listened to women to come to a reasonable assumption, and he calls that "brainwashing", then yes, yes I have.

But if he means that I have dismissed out of hand the assumptions that the world has stuffed down our throats about the sexual "needs" of men, the lesser status that women have been handed, the disrespect that women have suffered for millennia, and the excuses men have given in order to act immorally... well, I guess I have done that too.

No apologies.