Link to “A Gentleman’s Guide to Rape Culture”
In his 5 June Huffington Post piece (which first appeared on Medium), Zaron Burnett nails rape culture – and every man’s ability to combat it – square on the head.
Burnett is honest and blunt without oversimplifying the complexity of sexual assault and the culture which too often accepts it as normal. He acknowledges that rape culture and sexual violence is not an issue of men vs. women; there are cases where women abuse or men are abused. He admits to having had “male-centric presumption[s]” and describes what he has done to combat the attitude that permeates rape culture – that is, women owe something to men. He gives examples of rape culture, anything from trivializing sexual assault to teaching women not to get raped, and then succinctly gives practical ways for men AND women to react to rape culture. Finally, he gives fellow males four ways to confront rape culture when they witness it in real life: “When something like #YesAllWomen occurs in our cultural conversation and women the world over are out there sharing their experiences, their trauma, their stories and their personal views, as men, we don’t need to enter that conversation. In that moment, all we need to do is listen, and reflect, and let their words change our perspective. Our job is to ask ourselves how we can do better.”
The following is an excerpt from Burnett’s piece (linked above):
If you are a man, you are part of rape culture…
A woman must consider where she is going, what time of day it is, what time she will arrive at her destination and what time she will leave her destination, what day of the week is it, if she will be left alone at any point … the considerations go on and on because they are far more numerous than you or I can imagine. Honestly, I can’t conceive of having to think that much about what I need to do to protect myself at any given moment in my life. I relish the freedom of getting up and going, day or night, rain or shine, Westside or downtown. As men we can enjoy this particular extreme luxury of movement and freedom of choice. In order to understand rape culture, remember this is a freedom that at least half the population doesn’t enjoy.
That’s why I go out of my way to use clear body language and act in a way that helps minimize a woman’s fear and any related feelings. I recommend you do the same. It’s seriously, like, the least any man can do in public to make women feel more comfortable in the world we share. Just be considerate of her and her space.
You may think it’s unfair that we have to counteract and adjust ourselves for the ill behavior of other men. You know what? You’re right. It is unfair. Is that the fault of women? Or is it the fault of the men who act abysmally and make the rest of us look bad? If issues of fairness bother you, get mad at the men who make you and your actions appear questionable.
Because when it comes to assessing a man, whatever one man is capable of, a woman must presume you are capable of. Unfortunately, that means all men must be judged by our worst example. If you think that sort of stereotyping is bullshit, how do you treat a snake you come across in the wild?
…You treat it like a snake, right? Well, that’s not stereotyping, that’s acknowledging an animal for what it’s capable of doing and the harm it can inflict. Simple rules of the jungle, man. Since you are a man, women must treat you as such.
The completely reasonable and understandable fear of men is your responsibility. You didn’t create it. But you also didn’t build the freeways either. Some of the things you inherit from society are cool and some of them are rape culture.
Since no woman can accurately judge you or your intentions on sight, you are assumed to be like all other men. 73% of the time a woman knows her rapist. Now, if she can’t trust and accurately assess the intentions of men she knows, how can you expect her to ever feel that she can accurately assess you, a complete stranger? Rape prevention is not just about women teaching women how not to get raped — it’s about men not committing rape.
Rape prevention is about the fact that a man must understand that saying “no” doesn’t mean “yes,” that when a woman is too drunk/drugged to respond that doesn’t mean “yes,” that being in a relationship doesn’t mean “yes.” Rather than focus on how women can avoid rape, or how rape culture makes an innocent man feel suspect, our focus should be: how do we, as men, stop rapes from occurring, and how do we dismantle the structures that dismiss it and change the attitudes that tolerate it?
Since you are a part of it, you ought to know what rape culture is.
Rape Culture 101
Entitlement and Gender Violence
#YesAllWomen: Stories from Abuse Survivors
Improving the Way We Respond to Sexual Assault
Everyday Rape Culture
Preparing Your Daughter (and Son) for Street Harassment
“When Did You First Have to Think About Rape?”
Ten Ways to Combat Rape Culture