However, I will tell our college men that it has always been our responsibility to protect the women in our lives, and that we have done a terrible job of this.
I am not trying to convert rapists into non-rapists here. That would be writing this article for approximately 5% of Baylor's men, which could never solve the problem given that these 5% wouldn't listen to the warning signs they've been given.
Instead, I'm writing this to the 95% - the bystanders, scoffers, finger-pointers, and the deliberately-ignorant, as well as the defenders and protectors of women.
Men, what you are about to read will not make you happy. It will challenge you to check the mindset that you might've thought was healthy, and push you towards something new.
However, compared to the trauma that we can prevent women from suffering, this is a very small price to pay. So let me make you uncomfortable, as I present...
The 4 Things Every Guy Should Remember About Sexual Assault
1. Consent For Sex Is Not What You Think
To be clear, the law states (in Texas) that if a girl is drunk, high, or otherwise incapacitated and agrees to have sex with anyone, this is not consent. In addition, if a girl simply does not resist the acts of a man but does not agree to have sex, this is still not consent even if she's sober.
I do not write this hoping that each of you will get your legal fact-check in before having sex - I personally believe that marriage is the best and only place for that, and you can ask me why if you feel like it.
Instead, I've written this so that men will finally begin to understand that "consent" has such high standards because of the intense pressure put upon women in acts of sexual aggression. If men can realize this, then they will finally start to see that...
2. Sexual Assault Is Not The Fault Of The Victim
I won't even go into how rape culture keeps women from reporting sexual assaults, seeking counseling, and supporting other women in their recovery. There's a great article by The Nation for that, and I already covered a bit of it in my letter to the women.
I have nothing more to say on this - it's really as simple as the fact that the aggressor is to blame for sexual assault, not the victim. Instead, I will move on to point out a big problem with how men address sexual assault, namely that...
3. Your Advice Only Makes The Problem Worse
Here's the problem with that, and the biggest conflict arising from rape culture:
When you give women rules for avoiding sexual assault, you are communicating that they are responsible for whatever may happen to them. And, whether you acknowledge it or not, this will cause you to begin associating victims of rape with women who didn't take the necessary steps of precaution, placing the blame on them.
I encourage you to re-read that paragraph - it's so backwards to think of our help as being paralyzing to women in traumatic situations, but the reality is that women are perfectly smart enough to know how to avoid compromising situations - they don't need an instruction book.
Instead, the greatest thing you can do is to provide support and encouragement through every phase of fighting against sexual assault, whether it's in preventing it or helping women recover from it. In other words, every man should learn that...
4. Your Greatest Weapon Is Respect
A remarkable shift in the relationship between men and women starts at the moment that a man chooses to, without any moral support from other men, respect women for who they are.
Imagine for a second what that would look like:
- Men would never feel entitled to any part of a woman
- They would shun, not praise, sexual competition amongst males that equates women to scorecards
- Men would actually listen to women's claims of rape and assault, instead of blaming it on their behavior
- Women would feel safe from criticism and judgment in reporting their incidents, greatly aiding the fight against rapists
As simple as it sounds, women just deserve to be respected and cared for as individuals. End of story.
In addition, I must include an extremely important caveat concerning the very-real situation of sexual assault towards men. Although the context of this article was to deal with the overwhelmingly more-likely female assault, the same principles outlined in this post apply to both women and men. In any context of non-consensual sex, harassment, abusive relationships, or manipulation, men should know that they are entitled to the exact same protection and rights as women - and should be supported every step along the way.
- Change the tone. When you are with other guys who choose to disrespect women, man up and tell them to stop. Again - the discomfort you feel is nothing compared to what women experience every time this happens to them.
- Offer your support. Talk to close friends and family who are girls and ask them how they would like you to respond to a situation that may arise. For example, offer to drive them home from any event in which they start to feel uncomfortable.
- Spread awareness. Men are always made uncomfortable by this subject, so they are quick to laugh it off and push it aside. Ignorance of this issue causes bystanders to neglect victims of sexual assault, so talking about it can help them prepare to act.
As I said before, I am writing to the 95% of our college men because I am confident that you are each capable of making an impact on rape culture as it stands today. Just remember the following things:
- Consent for sex means consent for sex
- Sexual assault is not the victim's fault
- Giving advice can make the problem worse
- Your greatest weapon is Respect
And you will begin a movement that will forever change the culture we live in.
Alright - now man up and get to it.
Men - I am on your side, always. If you have any questions or struggles that you would like to share with someone, you may always contact 512-705-7989 so we can talk. I might even throw a Whataburger run into the mix, so never hesitate to free yourself from this stress or anxiety.