Not too long ago, the Steubenville, OH, rape case met the news feed and men everywhere were asked to teach other men not to rape. I, however, decided that it was an important time to remind women that not all men are predisposed rapists. My dad never had an explicit conversation with me about rape, he only talked to me about using good judgment. As I grew up, I learned the rules and the law but still it came down to where I stood morally. I still stand beside this statement, “I’m one of the men who doesn’t rape women.” I’ve always shied away from women who were intoxicated or under the influence when trying to have sex with them. I didn’t want it that way and there’s a large amount of men who feel the same way.
Growing up, we all are put in positions where we experience situations before lessons are taught. However, I was raised in a home where men didn’t think that just because you saw a short skirt you interpreted that as, “she wants it.” It just doesn’t mean that. If a woman is wearing a revealing outfit it means that is what she decided to wear that night. Nothing more.
It’s also important to point out that men very seldom will have a seat at the table to discuss these topics because it’s not something for men to debate with women. The conversations men have with each other behind closed doors are much more important.
Men talk a big game when around women but when they’re around each other they share their inner thoughts. I tell men all the time, “you don’t have to deal with women who don’t do what you want to do.” I also say you need to know that no woman consents to sex without saying, “yes.” I’m not going to act like there aren’t men who act like a woman who is flirting heavily with them at a party is consenting to that. That happens and I can admit it. But what I can say is that there are a large number of men who do their best to not only avoid situations like that but also share with others how to avoid those situations.
I tell my younger friends that they should shy away from sleeping with women who are intoxicated. They should always obtain explicit consent before crossing that line with women. It’s hard for some to understand but not most. It really boils down to having positive role models. If you see a man who is having luck in his sex life without having to resort to alcohol or drugs, then you’ll likely feel challenged to do the same.
Can men avoid these situations? Yes. Joseph definitely fled Potipher’s residence and that’s a powerful message to share. Sometimes you have to have the power within to say, “This is not how I want it, no matter how much I want it, not like this.” Do women sometimes manipulate men into situations that they may find themselves skating the line? Yes. But as men, if we claim to be in control of our actions we can’t let ourselves lose focus because we’ve had a few drinks or may be under the influence.
Is there a population of men who are failing to receive this message? Yes. I think that the media and society perpetuates a rape culture. At the same time, there’s not much we can do to stop this but continue to educate our friends, family, and younger generations. But I think it has to be acknowledged that men are doing this everyday and continue to be allies on the rape front, rather than foes.
We have to teach both sides about the pitfalls of sexual assault and rape. It’s not enough to just teach boys not to rape, it’s not enough to teach men either. We also have to teach important principles to women that are often left by the waste side.
It’s okay to report cases.
It’s okay to say no.
It’s okay to feel that something happened last night that you didn’t agree with.
It’s also important that when things happen that you bring them to the light because a predator belongs in jail and not on the streets. And men need to understand that it’s perfectly okay for women to do that on their own time.
That’s what I learned growing up. Again, I’m one of those guys who doesn’t take advantage of women who are intoxicated. I need the support that should be given to other men like myself. I need to be told at times that while I remain silent in those conversations, I have a voice. That encouragement will lead to other men learning to know the right way to act in those chanced circumstances. When we leave this as an “us” vs. “them” situation it becomes unhealthy and perpetuates this entire “rape culture” we live in. But we can overcome this obstacle if we decide to face these issues and not turn rape into a competition between genders. Then we’ll find ourselves in a world that we all love to live in and feel safe to live too.