Monday, January 18, 2010


Just one of my favorite social-political action initiatives, Men Can Stop Rape.

I'm an urban girl, so when the word wheelbarrow pops up twice in a week, it has to be discussed.

I have fond memories of a sturdy wheelbarrow in my father's backyard, me tossing dandelions into it. He was the consummate suburban farmer in his day, my father, second only to his own, my grandfather. Huge zucchinis. Real sunflowers. The gene passed me by, however hard I tried to grow things, although I did manage to sprout a few avocado trees in college.

Still. You don't want me to water your plants while you're away.

But back to wheelbarrows. The other day they were filled with bodies in Haiti, today we fill them with women who have been raped. It's an obsession with me, right? The sexual assault thing is an obsession, gets me riled up, and the very idea of marital rape sends me into Let me at 'em mode. Militant, angry, feminist. Whatever you want to call the outrage that describes mine when I hear about rape.

Anyway, today I'm reading from a women's anthology, Transforming a Rape Culture (some of you wanted to know what I'm reading lately, this is excellent, but admittedly, Prep is on my list). This is the 2005 edition and it opens with a reprint, an essay by famed feminist Andrea Dworkin. She speaks to 500 male attendees at the regional conference of the National Organization for Changing Men, 1983, St. Paul, Minnesota.

How would you begin such an address? Five hundred men! Here's how Ms. Dworkin begins:
What I would like to do is scream; and in that scream I would have the screams of the raped, and the sobs of the battered; and even worse, in the center of that scream I would have the deafening sound of women’s silence, that silence into which we are born because we are women and in which most of us die.
Every 3 min, a woman is raped; every 18 seconds, a woman is beaten, she tells them.

Could this still be true, 27 years later?

What would you say if I said, Yes.

Actually I don't know. I was hoping one of you could tell me.

She beats on them, of course, the men who have come to learn to be better men. She tells them she doesn't care much for their guilt, for their sadness at the way things are, sorrow for seemingly unstoppable male aggression towards women. She cares not at all for their feelings or determination to change themselves as people, or partners, friends. She wants action, some kind of political action that will inspire a truce, a 24 hour truce. No rape, not anywhere in the world, for 24 hours. That kind of truce.

I'm quite sure we're still waiting for it.

Ms. Dworkin continues to say,
Do you remember pictures that you've seen of European cities during the plague, when there were wheelbarrows that would go along and people would just pick up corpses and throw them in? Well, that is what it is like knowing about rape. Piles and piles and piles of bodies that have whole lives and human names and human faces."
Most men received the address with love, she remarks. One threatened her physically, but her female body guard stopped him.

Anyway, it's time we promoted male responsibility here on the blog, and I'm embarrassed, really for taking so long. And it's time you knew that men, actually, do get involved. They do more than rape. Most probably don't rape, is the truth.

The National Organization for Changing Men has morphed into NOMAS, the National Organization for Men Against Sexism.

They're still standing. And then there's Men Can Stop Rape, a truly fabulous worthy cause. I have one of their posters up in my office, the one you see above.

Also check out Men Against Sexual Violence.

You would think, seriously, that rape is no longer a spectator sport, with all this attention. But wouldn't you know? It still is. Boys still think it's cool to brag about their conquests, and they grow up into men who do the same, and sometimes one or two of them will hold a woman down while five to ten more rape her. This still happens.

Why? Because if a guy is invited to rape a woman and he says no, he is obviously a wimp. Or maybe he's gay. That's the thinking. Men afraid of other men. Peggy Sanday learned this while studying fraternities. Read Fraternity Gang Rape for more, but frankly, everybody quotes her. We'll get to athletic teams another day.

And although men are now claiming responsibility for changing the definition of masculinity, are fathering more proactively and compassionately, and empathizing much, much, more than ever before. . .
the proportion of births to single mothers continues to grow. In 1990, it was 26.6 percent of all births. By 1998, it was 32.8 percent. Among African Americans it has gone from 66.7 percent to 69.1 percent.* More and more boys are growing up without fathers in the home, and often without any positive male role models in their lives.

and although studies show that while most single mothers succeed in raising decent sons, a disproportionate number of violent boys come from fatherless homes with no consistent ly present male figure they can identify with and model themselves on. Sociologists use the term hypermasculinity to describe the extreme concern of these boys with proving their masculinity.
That thanks to Myriam Miedzian, How Rape is Encouraged in American Boys and What We Can Do to Stop It.

What can be done about this ugly phenomena? Some men are learning how to father with empathy, to lose the dysfunctional macho, I AM MAN, but others don't see a father figure at all, indeed resent their mothers, come to hate women, even see them as the objects of their suffering, something to punish.

Ms. Miedzian suggests that the only thing that can be done is to make child-rearing a mandatory class that children must take at school. She visited such classes attended by inner city children and walked away amazed at the enthusiasm. She writes books, too. Boys Will Be Boys, for one.

And then we have to do something about the rapist role models on television, in the movies, the slasher films, the video games. Now there's a thought. We're desensitized. Our children don't see violence as abhorrent. It's natural.

Twenty-four hours. Just 24 and we'll all be free, according to the late Andrea Dworkin. It's going to take years.


P.S. Andrea Dworkin only lived to 58. She wrote 10 books on radical feminist theory. Her website is a must-see.

Quote from the home page:
"Every century, there are a handful of writers who help the human race to evolve. Andrea is one of them."
Gloria Steinham
P.S.S. You can always go to a carnival on sexual abuse, too.

*Statistical Abstract of the United States, 2000 (Washington, D.C. Census Bureau). Perhaps the 2010 census will show different stats.


TechnoBabe said...

Were the 500 men there voluntarily or court ordered? Her opener was great, and I so like it that her bodyguard was female. Breaking down the stereotypes. You give lots of good resources in this post for which I thank you. I have often thought that it needs to be mandatory for high school males to attend parenting classes and there also should be classes for junior high male and female on parenting, giving them a strong wake up call to the reality of having a child. You mention the rapist role models on TV and movies and video games (which I am appalled at) and there is also the horrible words in the rap music. Kids today are bombarded with sexual violence and disrespect to the max. On a personal note, it a great day for me that I am healthy enough now to join in a discussion of rape that in the past I would not have been able to do due to the unhealthy state of my being for so many years of abuse. I am a testimony of therapy working and I am no longer in therapy. Today I am happy and healthy.

Ivory said...

I read this and thot, "only 500?" Then I decided it had to start somewhere, why not with 500? When I look at it that way, 500 seems a large number. I am biased and I know it's because I've been so hurt by men.

But along those lines, I have just finished a book about my life as a child. Yesterday, I closed the lid on the last edit, I cannot look at it again, I just can't. The next step is publishers. The only reason for the book is hoping to get it out there about what happens to children when they are not guarded, valued, and given the chance to thrive. It has to start somewhere.

I'm glad you wrote about this, it makes me feel as if I'm not alone and I will check out all the links this afternoon after work!

Jack said...

I am very torn about this. I have four sisters, a daughter etc. It is easy to list that women are incredibly important to me and always have been.

I have stories, oh do I have stories.

But let me clarify what I mean by being torn about this. I am concerned about an approach in which men are beaten over the head with statistics and stories about how bad we are.

I don't believe in blaming the victim, I am not saying that either.

What I am concerned with is an approach that at times feels a bit like a blanket condemnation. Penis does not equal bad or evil.

I am concerned because I have 20 something female cousins who put themselves in bad situations.

Who think that it is funny to tease men, who tell stories about saying no when they really mean yes.

Because what I take from all of this is a recipe for continued problems. For a dialogue that doesn't really happen.

I am torn because I see a problem and I don't have answers.

Syd said...

I think that men emulate what they see at home. If women are treated with respect by a father, then it is likely that the son will also treat them with respect. I am horrified at the statistics. I don't have an answer except that rape is about anger, right? It isn't about sex but about power and bullying rage. And there seems to be a lot of that everywhere.

Anonymous said...

It never dawned on me until I read this that my former abuser was a father of two little girls, although he was estranged from both of them. I am ashamed to say that I never called the police on him, but proud to say that I got the last punch in before I left for good, it was the first and last time I ever fought back.

PS-I love that her body guard was a woman too! Salt in the wound!!!!

Ella said...

Let me know what day you pick for the 24hr/w/o rape stand-down, I am ready.

therapydoc said...

TECHNOBABE, No, the 500 men were men who want to teach other men that being male doesn’t have to mean you always have to dominate, possess, succeed. Glad for the happy-healthy thing. Much better, no?

IVORY, that’s amazing. A book!

JACK, the dialogue is more meaningful, this one, than the one we had about toilet seats. And yet, you can see by the number of comments (only 6) that nobody wants to touch this.

So let me clarify, because obviously my approach wasn’t terribly user-friendly, in fact recommended that readers check out a truly militant feminist’s website. With swear words on it, yet.

The point about screaming at men, to a feminist, is that they’re socialized into competition and pride and it gets them into trouble. And guys listen to guys, so if you get them into politicking, they're very effective.

The big beefs about guys are: a guy isn’t supposed to cry, a guy isn’t supposed to fail, and a guy is supposed to take charge in relationships. (All ridiculous, of course).

And so the more lucid writers on this topic are saying, Sure, a woman can trick a man, lead him to believe that No means Yes, then cry rape, and women need to be trained, too. But few women actually rape, so we focus on men.

Any woman who says No should be taken at face value. No. But to some men, the No will be a yes if they want it to be a yes and she has already put herself into an affirmative position, meaning has said yes to other sexual behavior. Oh, boy. I'm rambling.

I tell some guys, Get it in writing.

A man does need to ask permission, as does a woman, for sexual favors of any kind. That’s very much the spirit of the law.

SYD, 100%, most men emulate and learn from their fathers, their brothers, uncles, grandparents. But it is a myth that rape is an angry act. It can be an angry act, but it can be a stupid act, as well. A guy can think she wants it (I’ll do a post on rape myths) when she doesn’t, and rape her. And certainly athletes and movie stars, for example, might feel deserving because so many women/men literally throw themselves at them. A feeling of entitlement sort of creeps into the personality. If you're entitled, or special, then you might not listen to the No.

And of course you’re right, a bully will be a bully. We call them rapists in this context. They're the angry ones.

PATTY, it’s very hard to know what’s up when you’re in the middle of it.

ELLA, Okay. We’ll pick a date. But if I keep writing about stuff like this, no one’s going to be reading me. Crazy paradox of being true to one's self.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this. Such an important topic, this post. I really appreciate how you've cited Dworkin's work so positively, as she's often misquoted (my own work often focuses on feminist ethics so the misuse/misappropriation of "radical" feminists really bothers me).

This approach you advocate is certainly countered by those who believe feminism is doing boys and men a disservice (see Christina Hoff Sommers and Camille Paglia, for example). I think it's a tough fight. First, we have to explain the problem - make men (and women) accountable (globally and societally) for how men are often taught to objectify and/or hate women - then we need to create a solution. This solution needs to involve everyone. We all create this problem (I don't mean this in the sense of victim blaming or anything of that sort) and we all need to find constructive solutions.

Still, I see so many young women who question their self worth and aren't sure if what happened was "really rape". It's hard to convince. We don't have the right language for it as a society. We need better words. These young women who tell their story with such hesitation and self-blame need to feel empowered. If only we could easily come up with a way to promote that feeling.

Great post, thanks again.

therapydoc said...

When I talk about teaching little kids that a penis is a penis, not a pee pee, or whatever, it is the beginning. Although I really like the work pee pee and wouldn't take it from a 4 year old.

Just talking about it, explaining it, helping people understand what good sex, healthy sex is, this is a challenge. Thanks for the reference, btw!

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Mark said...

In many ways the rape statistics are amazing and hard to beleive yet in another way I understand the dynamics that create this situation. Couple the desensitization of violence that our media bestows upon us with the staggering number of young men without male role models and we should not be surprised by the outcome. Watch realty shows lie Jersey Shore and it is easy to understand where many young people are taking the cues from. So much of who we are as a culture is a mask, a false self. It is when we remove the mask that we find the authentic self, the self that is love and does not support violence in any form. Love is the answer, matters not what the question is.
Thank-you for creating additional awareness on this important subject.

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April_optimist said...

What a powerful and important post. Fundamentally, it comes down to respect. We don't try to hurt people we respect. We actually listen to what they are telling us. We don't try to humiliate or attack or manipulate them. What if schools taught respect--for ourselves and for each other?