I wrote about Brock Turner and it went super viral, almost broke my website. As one might expect, I got a lot of comments, on the blog, on my Facebook page, via messages and emails. Quite a few private messages and emails were from men who wanted to tell me they agreed with what I’d written and were also horrified by Brock Turner’s actions and subsequent inadequate punishment. A couple of these guys were creepers, for sure, but most of them seemed genuinely supportive. They weren’t asking for any kind of dialogue; they just wanted to give me a virtual high five.

Cool, right?

But the thing is, these men messaged me privately to tell me this. They didn’t publish their words publicly on my blog or on a Facebook thread. I didn’t think much of it at first; It made logical sense to me that a man might feel more comfortable privately acknowledging his outrage over the Turner sentence than publicly acknowledging it.

It made perfect sense to me that a man wouldn’t want his friends and family to see how much empathy he had for Brock Turner’s victim or for survivors of assault in general.

This made PERFECT SENSE TO ME.

This is what people are talking about when they say the words “rape culture.” For those who deny its existence, the phrase “rape culture” is a kind of supernatural phenomenon; it’s like, sure, there are people who believe in it, but really, we all know it’s just a bunch of hooey. It’s not REALLY real.

But the fact that I could offhandedly accept the reasonableness of a dude only privately sharing his agreement that a guy who rams leaves up an unconscious woman’s vagina should serve more than three months in county lock-up…that’s rape culture, people.

Culture is an ingrained system of beliefs, a core understanding of HOW THINGS WORK. Culture is the manner in which we perceive and interpret our world based on what we feel we know. And what we feel we know…where does that come from? Well, it comes from everywhere and everything. Everything around us, everything we’ve ever been exposed to for our whole lives cumulatively impacts how we interpret our experiences.

It is so incredibly sad to me that our culture is such that a man would feel limited in his ability to express empathy and outrage for a woman who has endured what Brock Turner’s victim endured. It is equally sad how readily I accepted this. But that is rape culture, you guys. We’re not talking about fucking phantasms, here. This is REAL, and we’re all part of it. Even me. I can’t believe how effortlessly my mind went to “Oh, well that makes sense that he wouldn’t want to share that publicly.” I can’t stop kicking myself. It makes me sick.

Someone just shared a TED talk with me, given by Bobby Eckstein, a Sexual-Assault-Prevention Educator at the University of New Hampshire, about bystanders and the roll they play–or don’t play–when it comes to sexual violence against women. In his talk, Mr. Eckstein pointed out that the typical support system for female victims of sexual abuse is other females. That, for whatever reason, our culture generally* limits these conversations to women with other women. When a woman has been sexually assaulted, she does not typically confide in a man.

Regarding the women in their lives, Eckstein encouraged men to ask themselves:

Are you confident that they will turn to you?

Are you confident that they will see you as an ally? 

Watching Eckstein’s TED talk made a lightbulb go off for me; it made me think of these kind gentlemen who had messaged me privately. It made me wonder what inhibited them from speaking out on a forum where their friends and family might see.

I guess I’m not the first person to ever have this idea, and I know there will be a ton of resistance and doubt and Good luck trying to change things, but I think that if we can get out our torches and pitchforks to condemn a man for sexual assaulting another human being, then maybe we can also mobilize all the good men in our lives to be advocates for women everywhere, to help us shift and mold our culture into one in which a man is never, ever shy to express outrage over sexual assault.

Maybe we can drop the “rape” from “rape culture.”

Men:

Will you stand up for us? When your bros talk about how so-and-so is so easy when she’s wasted so definitely keep passing her more shots, will you point out how fucked up that is? When your friends call a girl a whore for sleeping around, will you ask them how many people they’ve slept with and then remind them that a woman’s private life is none of anybody’s damn business? When your friend leers at a woman walking down the street solo, will you slap him on the back of the head, all chummy-like, and tell him to quit being a fucking sleaze ball?

And, with regards to the women in your lives, will you speak up in their presence? Will you let them know that you understand the importance of consent, that you believe rape culture is real, that you acknowledge the existence of male privilege, that you will be there for them if someone ever hurts them? Will you let the women in your lives know that you stand for them and with them?

I recently read an article claiming that, when it comes to violence against women, we shouldn’t have to ask men to think “What if she was your sister, mom, daughter?” That we shouldn’t have to paint a visual for someone in order to elicit empathy from them. I disagree with this. How do we encourage empathy in our children? We say, “How would you feel if someone did that to you?” We personalize it.

With my son, when he was six, he hit his little sister and made her cry. I did not yell at him and tell him that hitting was against the rules. I took him by the shoulders and turned him so that he could look his sister right in the face. “Look at her,” I said. “Look at her tears. Look how you made her feel.” It was the most effective punishment I could have given him, because being forced to really see and experience the impact of his actions made it that much more personal and real. And we can do the same, I think, in our culture. In our rape culture.

Eckstein asked it in his TED talk, and I will ask it too: Men, think about the women in your lives–the women you love. Your mother, your sister, your daughter, your girlfriend, your wife, your friend. Picture each of these women you care for being leered at, picked at, swatted at, grabbed, assaulted, beat, raped, torn, bloodied. Destroyed. Go ahead, picture it. Graphically. Now consider that every woman you ever come across, though she may only be a stranger on the street, is someone else’s mother, sister, daughter, girlfriend, wife, friend.

Tell me you don’t want to be the guy who speaks up. The private acknowledgments of the problems within our culture are awesome, but it would be even better if you could be just a little bit louder. Or even…a lot louder.

It might seem like a drop in the bucket, but we need all the help we can get.

***

*”generally,” meaning, I know that men are also victims of rape and that sometimes women DO confide in men, but statistically, the situation is more likely to present itself as I’ve stated.

***

For more from Kristen Mae, follower her on Facebook. Also, her novel, Beyond the Break is now available for preorder.

 

12 Comments

  1. District Of Columbia State Senate: Helping parents address the subject of rape with their children
    by Make it safe for your child to talk to you about sexual molestation · 9 supporters
    PETITION UPDATE

    Please sign the petiton to congress that I have just created

    Make it safe for your child to talk to you about sexual molestation
    JUN 8, 2016 — .I know I have shared so much about the Stanford Rape. The why – I was sexually molested when I was 14 in an apartment building elevator. I felt that it was my fault so I didn’t tell anyone until I was 17 when I confided in my bestfriend in High School. I was too afraid to tell anyone prior to that, including my parents. I have always told my daughters,who are grown women now,to come to me immediately if anyone tries to hurt them.It is very important to have an open dialogue about this in the home so girls know they have a safe haven with their parents. I didn’t feel safe to confide in my parents so he got away and probably did the same type of molestation to many other girls. I am speaking out now so that victims know that it is NEVER the victims fault and she should not feel shame,blame or guilt to expose the truth It is very important for victims to speak out as this brave woman in the Standford Rape case spoke out with so much dignity and courage!!! Please sign the petiton to congress that I have just created https://www.change.org/p/district-of-columbia-state-senate-helping-parents-address-the-subject-of-rape-with-their-children/u/16863998

  2. Makes me sad to think men are somehow intimidated/afraid/unwilling to publicly acknowledge the fuckedupness of the Brock Turner situation, or the horrific reality of our current rape culture. While part of me is absolutely grateful they think these things, and share them with you privately, another part of me is second-guessing that they would be the ones to stand up for anyone in need, to be a voice where one is needed. Sigh.

    Also:

    PRE ORDER BABY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Interesting that you also bring up this point. I read another blog this morning that expressed similar thoughts, “Men, why aren’t you expressing public outrage”—But her blog post was written in more accusative tone toward men. See this page: https://knittingsoul.com/2016/06/07/we-know-you-want-to-protect-women-in-bathrooms-what-about-from-actual-rapists/

    You can see in the comments section that there are some men (or one man, submitting his comments under different aliases?) who are basically telling the author/other blog readers, “Don’t be mad at men. A lot of men are speaking out.”

    When I pointed out that the writer was just saying that it seems like more women are speaking out then men, he said this:

    “This writer is complaining when men step in to protect women and then complains when men don’t say enough. If you really want to be ‘equal’ start looking after your own. You don’t hear men crying about women not doing enough for us when we get abused. Remember it was two males that intervened this rape, where were her ‘female friends’? Home writing a blog on how worthless men are, I suppose.”

    I don’t engage directly with people who show such a disrespectful tone, but it did make me think more about why he chose these words. His words come from a position of power and privilege. It sounds a whole lot like a rich person telling a poor person, “Stand up for yourself! Go get a job and get off welfare!”

    It sounds like professors on campus throwing their hands up and saying, “Geez! Why don’t these international students just learn English already! Don’t they know they need to get better in English so they can write their essays?”

    But I don’t think that’s how the greatest social change is done. I don’t think social change happens by the privileged group telling the non-privileged group to “help themselves.” I think that great change happens when the privileged group realizes their privilege and fights on behalf of those without the power.

    And I think that’s what you’re saying, Kristen. That the greatest change in breaking rape culture if we can get advocates from the privileged group, i.e. men, in this case. Certainly, we all need to be involved, but men especially. It reminds me of a university (can’t remember which one) that is actually instituting an anti-rape campaign on their campus by targeting men in college athletics. Their rationale was that if they could get the men who are “setting the tone” for what’s acceptable to understand how to prevent rape, there would be huge effects across campus. And how did they do this? By opening discussions about men’s stereotypes and the hyper-masculinization of American culture. It gave men a space to learn about the unwritten rules and roles that society places on them–and how they can break out of those so that they can successfully manage their emotions.

  4. When I read your first article about this case I had no idea what it even was. After reading your article I’ve read everything I can get my hands on and signed two petitions to remove the judge. I’m making everyone in my life uncomfortable on purpose by openly speaking with them about the details of the case, the decisions that were made, what it means for us as a country, and how it impacts everyone….I appreciate you and everything you are doing.

  5. You are so spot on every time you post, Kristen Mae! You stated this so perfectly that I won’t write a redundant novel. I am both a rape/incest survivor and a mother of 2 teen boys. Not only have my boys been raised to respect others’ bodies (with a reasonable sharing of my trauma details), they express true anger when they hear stories like this one.

    I know in my heart that not only will my sons NEVER violate a woman in this way, they would call me for bail money if they ever got too close to someone who did. When their testosterone buddies quip about an “ugly” girl, I smile when my sons interrupt to correct: “…not attractive to you.” If a teen is yapping about an easy girl at school, I’ve heard, “Dude, you have no idea what she might have been through to seek attention that way.” I dare anyone to refer to a female as a “bitch” in my home. My sons would call you out & make sure you know how pathetic you sound.

    I’m not delusional. Of course they experience normal physical reactions to female anatomy, BUT their moral code towards protecting women runs deep…thanks to candid parenting from us. They’re both strikingly handsome young men & get plenty of attention. They’re also much more likely to befriend a young woman wanting sexualized attention than to serve as another regret in her life.

    I suppose I share this as a merely a supplemental reminder…striking our rape culture MUST begin with the parents at a very young! If you’re not addressing it, you’re perpetuating it because our children will get these messages from the world. Even if we can remove the worst scenarios like child sexual abuse from the equation, we still have the responsibility as parents to teach our boys & girls how to be GOOD men & women. That includes uncomfortable conversations & consistency. You don’t have to be an extremist to teach love, respect & gender equality.

    Side note: Hectic schedules, but reading Beyond the Break. You’re so very talented! Can’t wait for the official release on 6/23 & pages of positive feedback. You deserve it!

    • Bravo, Rachel!!! It is not easy to parent boys, and you’ve done an outstanding job. Obviously, “candid parenting” works 🙂 I only have one, raised as a single mom…but am also glad to say he has always been a gentleman and is a loving husband. It can be done!

      So sorry you were a victim, but glad you are a survivor, btw…. blessings to you.

    • Rachel, you expressed key points so well, this and what Kristen Mae has written can do a tremendous amount to change viewpoints and make a difference. As a mother of a young survivor, thank you for bringing into the world a different kind of man. Please post what you wrote here anywhere and everywhere you see this subject being discussed.

  6. District Of Columbia State Senate: Helping parents address the subject of rape with their children
    by Make it safe for your child to talk to you about sexual molestation · 10 supporters
    PETITION UPDATE

    Petitioning District Of Columbia State Senate Helping parents address the subject of rape with thei

    Make it safe for your child to talk to you about sexual molestation
    JUN 10, 2016 — Petitioning District Of Columbia State Senate
    Helping parents address the subject of rape with their children

    Make it safe for your child to talk to you about sexual molestation.
    I know I have shared so much about the Stanford Rape. The why – I was sexually molested when I was 14 in an apartment building elevator. I felt that it was my fault so I didn’t tell anyone until I was 17 when I confided in my bestfriend in High School. I was too afraid to tell anyone prior to that, including my parents. I have always told my daughters,who are grown women now,to come to me immediately if anyone tries to hurt them.It is very important to have an open dialogue about this in the home so girls know they have a safe haven with their parents. I didn’t feel safe to confide in my parents so he got away and probably did the same type of molestation to many other girls. I am speaking out now so that victims know that it is NEVER the victims fault and she should not feel shame,blame or guilt to expose the truth It is very important for victims to speak out as this brave woman in the Standford Rape case spoke out with so much dignity and courage!!! Jenni Paul
    https://www.change.org/p/district-of-columbia-state-senate-helping-parents-address-the-subject-of-rape-with-their-children

  7. Thanks for your “We With the Pitchforks” post. It gave voice to what so, so many of us are feeling. The anger, the outrage, the bitter frustration, the compulsion to stand up and say, ‘enough is by far enough – and we are done.’ I applaud you for calling out the truth. An issue whose time to arrive is LONG overdue.

    This story brought up my own college memories and one that struck me most powerfully – the memory of Matt. I won’t belabor the details here. I was a freshman, drinking at a fraternity party. When I smoked pot later that evening, I became entirely incapacitated. Matt was a senior, frat brother and devastatingly hot guy who offered to take me home.

    Fast forward to the shock ending – he did. He dragged my barely conscious self back to my room. And….. (wait for it……) he kept me safe. He allowed me to sit when everything was spinning out of control. He refused to abandon me and when he finally got me back, alone, in my room, he helped clean me up with washcloths, he helped me get out of clothes that I threw up on – and held a sheet up to keep me covered. He gave me water and 2 Advil. He stayed for a while, sitting in a chair to make sure I was safe and didn’t throw up in my sleep. And before he left in the wee hours, he wrote a note explaining what happened and taped it to my mirror in case I woke the next morning and didn’t remember what happened.

    And I deeply understood my great fortune. That story had many other likely endings of devastation. What’s tragic is that I and everyone else I know values what Matt did as heroism. But what is did – THAT is what we should be teaching our sons how to behave. THAT is the standard we should set. Take care of someone who is vulnerable, keep them safe. Don’t harm them, and don’t let harm come to them. That is what makes a man.

    Here’s how we’ve built rape culture and the devaluation of women in every way: Documentary: Miss Representation
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CgX7XkHV7x8

    And here’s how we train boys to become disconnected, apathetic monsters, like Mr. Swimming Sunshine ‘it’s not really rape if you can assign elsewhere and everyone thinks you’re valuable with a bright future’ convicted rapist, Brock Allen Turner:
    Documentary: The Mask You Live In
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ErOHoTHBf7Q&list=PLx267oTDTZG6XHvIN_qZj4n9zyv5IgwxB

    And we can’t just document how and why we’ve objectified and devalued women. And we can’t just grab our pitchforks and point our fury into the pariah we crucify for representing all the injustices that have gone on for so long, against so many, with so little done about it. (Though we all need this cathartic release of rage right now). But when we’re done ranting and raging, before we let this fade, we must charge forth with the alternative. Hate has never been conquered by counter-hate. We must create something new to embrace.

    First, we have to declare the truth. All of us. Publicly. When it happens to us. When it happens to others.
    Second, we need the consequence to be more devastating than the harm that was perpetrated. When the consequence is likely AND far exceeds what gratifies, incidence will plummet. But those are the major 2 things that are a complete joke right now. Any consequence is unlikely, nor is it impactful enough to deter.
    Lastly, we need to define and stand for who we are going to be from now on, as men and women. And who and what we will no longer tolerate. To replace rape culture with value culture and pledge a code of conduct that values and serves us all.

    Rock on sister.

  8. Kristen Mae, Thank you for following up with this next article. You hit the nail on the head again. A part of my comment on the first article applies so I will repost it here.

    “P.S. A commenter on Yahoo really nailed it. I’ll try to find his comment and repost it here. He’s an attorney who deals with molestation and rape cases. One point he made regarding a key underlying cause in the situation/culture is porn. He didn’t elaborate but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see how much porn revolves around giving boys and men the images and concept of violating women connected to their stimulation. Even the ones who would not go there in reality start justifying the “impulse” and defend this crap when it happens because they feel guilty due to their own sexual urges being tied in to this type of action.”

    What I wrote is no small part of what’s behind the “quiet and private” response of many men, or lack of any response, even when they themselves don’t condone the assault being done “for real”. This I know from personal experience in dealing with fathers aware of their own or others daughters having been molested, etc. So it’s worth commenting on as it presents a barrier to them talking about the subject or standing up for what’s right. They have grown up with their own sexual stimulation being tied to images of women being violated and the pretense that the women enjoy it. They feel guilty and embarrassed about these fantasies and feelings when the subject comes up and often back off from “pointing the finger” at someone who acted out on what they have come to believe is a “natural instinct”.

    We have a culture where rape and violence and degradation of someone has been promoted and put there visually as sexual stimulation for so long that it has become considered a “natural” or “primitive” urge.

    A culture where many still refer to this as being a “sexual act” in cases like what Brock Turner and the Vanderbilt gang rape perps did.

    It is a key question — Who thinks shoving debris or a bottle into someone’s vagina or anus is a sexual act and WHERE did they get that idea?

    Who thinks taking photos, and sharing the photos, of degradation of an unconscious person has to do with sex and WHERE did they get that idea?

    It is a PROGRAMMED idea and stimulus.
    Apologists for these violators often refer to their “primal urges” as being at fault and women should expect this and “steer clear”. Has anyone ever seen this type of behavior in the animal world? I think not.
    (OK, except for the roosters that were genetically modified by humans and ended up raping the hens.) It is NOT a NATURAL urge or instinct and that is one false excuse that needs to be eradicated!!

    Because of this, it seems the more effective way to get empathy and understanding is to give examples in terms they can truly relate to. Examples that put the shoe on their foot, in ways they would feel violated. Reposting my complete comment on your other article below. I hope it helps. And again, thank you 100x for being you and doing what you’re doing.

    Earlier Comment:
    To the men and women who 1) think this has anything at all to do with “sex” and/or 2)think this has anything to do with what someone was drinking or wearing and/or 3) deny there is a rape culture and/or 4) think this was something other than a violent assault …
    What would you say if Brock had done the exact same physical actions to her eyes or ears and it had ruined her vision or hearing for life?
    Who has ever told you this is what they enjoy as a sexual act, while passed out?
    Was taking a picture of her and sharing it with friends while unconscious also “consensual” or “promiscuous sex” … if it happened to you would it be?
    If the roles were reversed, and she was caught rubbing/inserting the same items into his testicles and penis, and inserting her fingers or other objects into his anus, doing the same kind of damage to him, then taking a picture of all this and sharing it with friends, would you make the same comments about him/her?
    AND last but NOT LEAST, if the girl were 5 years old, had never even tasted alcohol, was playing in her yard, and a teenage boy did something similar, what would you call that? (It’s not hypothetical so don’t even go there – I notice all these apologists manage to never respond when someone brings up other incidents that don’t involve drinking, etc.)
    P.S. A commenter on Yahoo really nailed it. I’ll try to find his comment and repost it here. He’s an attorney who deals with molestation and rape cases. One point he made regarding a key underlying cause in the situation/culture is porn. He didn’t elaborate but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see how much porn revolves around giving boys and men the images and concept of violating women conncected to their stimulation. Even the ones who would not go there in reality start justifiying the “impulse” and defend this crap when it happens because they feel guilty due to their own sexual urges being tied in to this type of action.

Write A Comment