Last night I heard yet another victim of sexual violence and exploitation say that she will make sure her future daughter knows that she can say no. To make sure her future daughter knows it is her body and she has rights.
I am tired of this response.
Yes, those are positive things to tell anyone.
But we [women] keep throwing our energy at educating ourselves, informing ourselves, and changing our own behavior, when NONE of that would be necessary if men didn’t sexually objectify women and act for their own amusement and pleasure. NONE of it would be necessary if men thought about women as whole people and the consequences of their actions on the lives of women.
I’m not talking about rape. Sometimes I wonder if men feel like they get a pass because they are not “those guys.” They are not raping. They are not doing things when a girl says no.
But they ARE doing a whole lot of other things that disregard, demean, and sexually objectify women.
Dr. Jessica Taylor has a perfect definition of what it means to sexually objectify a woman, “The valuing of a woman exclusively on the basis of her body and sexual parts, rather than her full identity.”
It comes out in so many ways. THIS is where men need education - in all of the insidious ways this comes out. Too many men are excusing their behavior.
A guy once told me that his friend showed his entire platoon a sex tape of his friend and ex having sex. She had cheated on him and he was angry (using former intimate images or video to shame someone is called revenge porn). I was horrified. I was also horrified that the man telling me wasn’t horrified. He replied, “It’s the military.”
As if that’s an excuse?!
I hear the excuse of “that’s just men” or “guys think with their dicks” and “they’re just boys” too many times.
When I was a high school teacher, I brought up frustration around some high school boys sharing intimate pictures of their girlfriends with others at the high school. Someone remarked, “That’s just what horny teen boys do.”
That remark condones the violation of the young woman’s privacy. It disregards the emotional livelihood and wellbeing of them. And it says we’re willing to accept it as normal.
I AM NOT.
It may be what is normal in our culture, but I AM NOT OK WITH IT.
If I sound angry, it’s because I am. Anger arises when something we value is in jeopardy. I value the emotional and physical safety of women. It is in jeopardy.
For example, when I try to discuss the amount of harmful porn depictions and the exploitation of young women in the porn industry, most men shirk it off. In their own private time, they pull up pornhub and don’t think any further of the people and harm involved in the industry. Their sexual gratisfaction takes priority.
Many men try to argue that there are women in the porn industry that love it. While this is true, men use this comment to derail the conversation by pointing at these women instead of examining themselves.
This is what happens OVER and OVER.
When it comes to the topic of sexual violence against women, we turn the conversation to women. That they love the attention. That they dress too sexy. That they need money. That they want to be empowered. That they need to learn how to voice consent better. That they… it goes on and on and on.
I am tired of those conversations.
When will men start having complex and multi-layered conversations of all the little behaviors, beliefs, and actions that they can stop doing to respect and honor women?
As a mental health therapist, I meet with women daily. I hear example after example after example daily. I hear it in my friends, too. I experience it in my own life.
All of the self-education and empowerment on how to be safe, clear in my boundaries, and much more do not stop the onslaught of inappropriate behavior by men.
It’s time for the conversation to focus on men and how THEY can change.
I get why it isn’t happening. There is no motivation for them. They are not the ones being harmed. They are the ones that reap the benefits and get to center themselves (similar to racism).
We need more men willing to dig deep and do the inner work. To lead the way and the conversation and what men can be doing to dismantle the horrific norms of male culture.
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