discussing rape culture with menfolk

The full title of this post is “Discussing rape culture with men who feel that they are oppressed by Feminism”. This came from a conversation with a couple of very male menfolk guys yesterday. This post is both notes for myself on the conversation, and an expansion of the ideas therein.

We started chatting about Satan. These dues are into Satan. [fyi, we already have a baseline understanding that Satanism isn’t now, and never was, a real thing… it’s just something that powerful Christian people made up in order to opress people who questioned their authority…]

So I said, “Right the goal is for whole-ness. The reason dichotomy is so fucked-up and broken is that it makes us think that we’re broken halves of some universal soul, and that we must heal that universal broken-ness by finding our lost half… and so we get fucked-up relationships of people who think they need the other person in order to be whole. “It also creates unhealthy gender dichotomy: Men have Male Energy and do Man Things, and Women have Female Energy and do Woman Things, and anyone crossing those boundaries is bein’ a fuckin’ weirdo. So the variants within that limited dichotomy get surpressed, get demonized, become perverted.”

“Satan is the embodiment of all of the ways in which Men can express what is generally called Female Energy… being cloaked in darkness, subtlety, pulling, passive, it also holds the perversions of the male expression of nurturance, compassion, and empathy. To worship the devil is to reclaim the wholeness of manhood. Conversely, the Wicked Witch is the embodiement of the way in which Women express what is called Male Energy… dynamic, action oriented, holding positions of power (think Melificent and the Evil Queen), calculating. She is also the perversion of this energy, as she is always depicted as a ruthless dictator, extremely vain, and generally rather shallow. And to worship the Wicked Witch is to reclaim the wholeness of womanhood.  This is how patriarchy oppresses men: by constantly, always, putting them in the position of the perpetrator, the violator, the villain. No one wants to talk about it because it requires us to own the darkness inside our own souls. But the perpetrators need healing just as much as the victims do. We don’t get to have a whole and healthy society/family/community without attending to both healings.”

So there we had a good baseline of agreement. The guys liked those analogies. They like being included in the universal need for healing and wholeness.  Meandering along in the conversation, we talked about relationship dynamics and personal relationship experiences. They talked about their own painful and traumatic experiences of feeling like they had made a lot of effort to be open and real and vulnerable with women they dated, and then got their hearts shredded and stomped when relationships went up in nuclear flames.

I talked about how, in my own search for wholeness, I want to think about marriage as a strategic alliance between two whole beings, for the purposes of greater awesomness. And I talked about how, from the perspective of seeking wholeness, I’m not looking for a partner to ‘fix me’ or ‘complete me’, I’m only looking for someone whose company I enjoy, who can help me learn about my own wholeness (and vice versa), and who wants to work on awesome projects. They like that too – especially the part of marriage, or dating being an alliance between equals. They also brought up their desire for workable male contraception, and what a universal good that would be.

We had SOOOOOOOO much to agree on!

And then we started talking about rape, and rape jokes… and it became more difficult. I talked about what I look for in men… primarily, above all other factors, I seek relationships where I feel safe. Simply that, I want to feel safe. I want to express my feelings, and be listened to, not scoffed at or ignored. I want to be able to tell the other person that they’ve said or done something that hurt me, and to be listened to. And I said that for me, one of the #1 things that makes me feel unsafe in any environment, is hearing Rape Jokes.

It was a moment of sharing emotional vulnerability, and I appreciate very much the way both guys stumbled over themselves, even as they repeated the same defensive arguments I hear from dudes constantly about Why It’s Okay For Me To Make Rape/Racist/Offensive jokes… Even though they were still repeating that same old broken programming, they were both also open to listening to what I had to say, they both obviously respected my experiene and my perspective, so we got to continue having the conversation (as opposed to other possible scenarios, wherin someone reacts out of raw hurt and anger, gets shouted down, ignored, derided, then feels shut down, UNSAFE, and/or gets angry and everyone tells everyone to go fuck themselves because clearly they need to do more healing work and this isn’t the environment to do that work in…).

They said, “But humor is sacred, and this is the way in which we keep people from taking themselves too seriously, everything should be available to be made fun of!” And they said, “But dudes get falsely accused of rape all the time, it happens SO MUCH!  We have to constantly live in fear of misunderstanding, of misinterpreting, or accidentally violating…”

So there are two very common arguements against [general feminist ideas] that I hear from men a lot.

  1. humor is sacred, i am the sacred clown, and I’m doing important work by making jokes like this. just because it makes you uncomfortable doesn’t mean it’s bad… I’m Socrates… I’m the gadfly…
  2. women make false accusations of rape all the time, and because of this, men end up being imprisoned in this horrible glass house where you can never touch anything without fear of being accused as a rapist. like walking on eggshells…

To begin deprogramming these ideas, I said “yes, but you know, people make rape jokes all the time and they assume that everyone knows it’s funny, but everyone knows that’s not actually ok… We all know, right…? But you know who doesn’t know? The rapists don’t know. The ones who actually go out and commit those acts don’t know… or they do know, but they can’t navigate the boundaries between things that are funny in theory, but not okay in reality… because we create reality through the stories we tell, and if we tell stories about rape, then that is what will be manifest in our communities.”

Guy added, “hmmm, or they do know that its wrong, and the very fact that we focus on it so much makes it the ‘forbidden fruit’…” Exactly.

In response to the false accusations of rape line… I whipped out my new-found factoid… “Men Are 32x More Likely to Be Killed By Lightning than Falsely Accused of Rape“. Their immediate response was “well yeah, that’s more than zero…” I didn’t have the actual statistics of this amazing, increadible article at hand, so I winged it (but really, go read the whole article. GO READ IT NOW.)

I said, “yes, but the order of magnitude of women who are living in fear, not being able to speak up and talk about their trauma, their reality of actually being raped, is simply staggering in comparison to the tiny amount of men who are falsly accused of rape. And yes, everyone needs healing, everyone, including the perpetrators, and especially those falsley accused, and our system is broken and fucked-up, but don’t blame that on rape victims.” This sunk in for the guys. They weren’t totally ready to make a 180 degree shift or anything, but I could see it sinking in. Hopefully it’ll sink in deeper and deeper… in the meantime, here are some more statistics about rape and “false rape accusations”, from that article:

The FBI’s last statement on “unfounded” rape accusations put them at 8 percent of all reports. And that’s being generous because those defined as “unfounded” are labeled so for a variety of reasons: if the victim didn’t fight back, if the attacker didn’t use a weapon, if the victim did not sustain injuries, or if the victim had a prior relationship with their attacker.

NONE of those should ever be used to dismiss rape; they are not indicative of consent, let alone enthusiastic consent.

So, that 8 percent is a generous figure to false rape propagandists.

…Here’s another way to look at it. The National Institute of Justice estimates that men have a 1 in 33 chance of being raped or sexually assaulted in their lifetime.

In other words, men are 27,500x more likely to be raped than falsely accused of rape.

Do you hear that, dudes? You are more like to be raped by another man, than to be falsely accused of rape. HOLY FUCING SHIT. DO YOU REALIZE THAT THIS MEANS YOU HAVE BEEN LIED TO BY PATRIARCHIAL PROPAGANDA? This is how patriarcy oppresses men. This is exactly the way in which patriarchy convinces men to act in ways that embody the steriotype of th evil perpetrator. This is how the psychology of male priviledge works… It is that voice in the back of your head that whispers… “that crazy fucking bitch… she’s just out to get me…” This is exactly what I mean when I say that men need healing just as much as women do.

And back to the question of jokes, and how we use jokes and humor as rhetorical tools… yes go ahead, embody the Sacred Fool… do that work, it is important work. And you know what? Feminism needs you. I need you. Because the most important work you could ever give the world is your own healing. Just know that your humor can be a tool to re-inforce the status quo… rape jokes almost always reinforce the same rape culture that constantly harms men by putting them in the position of the perpetrator. So ask yourself… is your humor perpetuating an evil system them harms you and the women you come in contact with…? Or is there a way you can use humor to validate women’s experience of oppression, and also to help you heal and be whole? Always, always, ask yourself, “who’s programming am I running?” Now how does a guy get to that place…? How does a cisgendered male person get to the place of solidarity with women, and any other oppressed group, the point at which he can make jokes about oppression that actually serve to liberate people and help them be safe? BY LISTENING. It’s the only way. Step one is to shutthefuckup and listen to the experiences of people who have lived that oppression.

But here’s the thing too… you know who’s starving… absolutely starving, to be listened to, to be understood, to have a sympathetic ear…? Menfolk. Because they have been trained that they are incapable of nurturing themselves. They have been trained that they need a woman as a trophy to validat their manhood. They have been trained that they are not whole, not capable of emotions, not worthy of tender sympathy… and we all play into that oppression when we vilanize White Men as the ultimate benefactor of Patriarchial oppression.

It’s complicated. There are layers. So everyone needs healing. Pretty much everyone is starved, desperately starved, to be listened to, to be understood, to have another human validate their experience of reality… EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US.

So we’re going to have to take turns. And possibly most important of all… on an individual level, it is not the responponsibility of the rape victim to heal the rapist. It is not the responsibility of the rapist to heal the rape victim. Healing is an inward, self-focused activity. No one can do other another person’s work for them. Forgiveness is the same as healing, and it begins with self first. All we can do is to help the people around us to feel safe enough to do their work. All we can do it listen to each and work really hard to sincerely understand the experiences of other people. I don’t think people apprecaite the immense power of simply listening and validating another person’s experiences.

And back to relationship dynamics… back to that assertion that men are being made to live in constant fear of accidentally violating someone… WELL GOOD. This is a healthy fear. This is exactly the sort of fear that every person should constantly worry about. Fear of accidentally violating another person’s autonomy. This is what consent is about. This is what enthusiastic consent is about. Don’t get sexy with someone unless you know, you feel, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you are both excited about being vulnerable to each other.

I look for people to have relationships with (relationships of all kinds, friends, family, and romance), who make me feel safe. People to have relationships with where I don’t have to worry about my boundaries, my autonomy, my needs and desires, being accidentally railroaded by the other person’s un-aknowledged, un-checked, oppressive programming. Not that I expect people I date to never ever make me feel bad, or to never make a mistake… I am responsible for my own feelings, and relationships (at least my relationships…) are messy, melodramatic, and intense. And I like it that way. But above all, I look for relationships with people who are consciously, intentionally, carefull about the programming they are running.

So dudes, that is my advice to you (in general…). You want to have better relationships? Learn about the art of making people around you feel safe. And not in a manipulative predatory way… LIVE WITH THE FEAR OF ACCIDENTALLY VIOLATING SOMEONE’S AUTONOMY. Live with it, get comfortable with that fear. Develop your communication skills so that when you have a relationship with a person you are attracted to, you can know …because you talked about it… where her boundaries are, what her desires are, what sort of trauma she might be carrying.

And seriously… you know what’s sexy? Like, OMG, SO SEXY…? Dudes who aren’t sexast. Dudes who don’t make rape jokes. No seriously, I’m not kidding. Give it a try… you might be surprised how much good sex happens when people feel safe to express themselves.

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2 thoughts on “discussing rape culture with menfolk

  1. hi pheonix i don’t think rape jokes can be put in one category. i think there are rape jokes that would be funny to perpetrators and those are not funny at all, are offensive to survivors. ie tosh’s rape “joke”. there are rape jokes that are funny to survivors and probably not as much to perpetrators ie jokes by louie ck, sarah silverman, & wanda sykes. these are jokes in which rape is not condoned and the act of rape itself is not funny and do not make a rape survivor uncomfortable. http://kateharding.info/2012/07/13/15-rape-jokes-that-work/

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