As children, we were taught about not talking to strangers and inappropriate touching from adults; not about rape and sexual assault. Despite that, I can’t ever remember growing up in an environment that encouraged or condoned rape. Not once, not never, not even for a few moments do I remember being in an environment that fostered or was conducive to rape. I should add that I don’t subscribe to the thought that just because nobody encouraged or condoned rape, I was done a disservice because no one explicitly taught me, as a boy, about rape. In fact, rape isn’t something that most little boys and girls are aware of until they reach pre-pubescence. Heck, most young children don’t even know the differences between heterosexuality and homosexuality.
As it pertains to the subject, a few things stood out to me about my childhood all the way up to adulthood:
- I was always thrown off a little about girls who were called “freaks” in grade school. I thought something must be off with them. Either they were having issues outside of school or were a little slower than the rest of us and people took advantage of that.
- I played sports throughout high school. There was one story about a girl who performed oral sex on several players of the team in the locker room after practice. After I heard that story, I looked at that girl differently, but I (and many others) never respected those guys again.
- Guys who would talk about dating girls who were much younger than them, or guys who would have weird strategies for hooking up with girls were always called, “Chester-ass dudes.” Shout out to Dana Dane.
- My freshman year we used to throw parties in our dorm rooms. Nobody liked partying with people they didn’t know but after everyone got familiar we would lower or turn off the lights. One of the guys who was there locked the door – the music stopped, the lights came back on, and he got kicked out. What the hell was he thinking?
- I pledged, I became a “frat boy” and despite all the temptations that come along with a groupthink breeding ground, I never understood the type of guy who would run a train on a girl. I also had a strict policy about sleeping with women who were intoxicated — if she had a look like she wasn’t going to remember any of this tomorrow, I passed. And when we had punch, if I hadn’t been around it all night or knew that another one of my brothers was around it all night, we told people to stop drinking it and made a new batch.
I never went to a class to learn any of that. That’s how I was brought up, that’s the type of person that my parents raised, those were the type of people that I surrounded myself with. That’s how I rolled. That’s why I find the notion that, “we need to teach men not to rape”… offensive. It’s not because I feel that we need to focus on what women can do to prevent being raped. That’s not it at all. It’s because the concept was juxtaposed against “blaming women,” meaning that somehow it was the man’s fault. I was offended because I can’t understand why assigning blame is going to help us get anywhere.
Here is what’s also troubling about the notion that we need to teach young Black boys “not to rape”; you’re inserting in the mind of a young Black boy that he is a potential rapist. It’s been a long time since we’ve taught Black boys “not” to be drug dealers, murderers, thieves, etc. Let me speak for young Black boys, since I used to be one. We do not like the notion that we are predisposed to commit crimes. We don’t like it when society looks at us as potential criminals. We don’t like when you tell us to look to our right and look to our left because one of us will not be there when we graduate high school. We don’t like when you tell us that 1 out of every 3 of us will end up in jail. We’re not dumb, we know math, we know that you basically just said, the guy to my left will be dead, and the one to my right will be in jail. I can’t think of any other way to say this but, “That shit ain’t cool.”
And if that’s not what you meant, that’s how it feels.
We know the numbers; 1 in 4 Black women will be a victim of rape or attempted rape. However, that does not translate into 1 in every 4 Black men will rape or attempt to rape a woman. If someone has those statistics, please feel free to share them in the comments section. It’s not fair to single out Black boys, just like it wouldn’t be fair to count off Black girls by fours and tell them they’re probably going to be raped.
Yeah, you guessed it… generalizations generally suck.
Despite the ill effects sending that message would have on Black boys, let’s discuss how the verbiage, “we need to teach men not to rape” is offensive to people like myself and organizations like… Men Can Stop Rape. It’s offensive because the verbiage is condescending in nature. It speaks as though there is an unfulfilled gap – as if there is nothing like it in place. Why didn’t the message read, “We need more organizations that are teaching men not to rape” or “We need more organizations whose audience is not comprised of only women, but men too”? It’s the same exact message, but it lacks the condescending nature.
(I should mention that in the article I’m referencing here, there are mentions of male organizations that are working to change the audience from women to men. I should also mention that they only scored two sentences in the entire article.)
I hate when people complain about something and don’t propose a solution.
When I was in college, in addition to being in a fraternity which some believe breeds rapists, I also worked with the R.A.P.E. Center at my school. I really enjoyed my work there and I thought it was cool to bring light to something that gets swept under the rug at most colleges and universities across the country. I had an idea, a proposed solution, and I want to share that with you. It’s broken down into three areas:
- People who tell women to not get raped are idiots, mute their channel. There is no need for a conversation about “how not to get raped” but there is room for a conversation around safety awareness. Man or woman, be aware of your surroundings, if you’re out at night avoid traveling alone, be aware of where your local authorities are, and if a situation doesn’t feel right, never hesitate to let someone know. That’s not rape prevention, that’s awareness that both sexes need to know.
- “If you see something, say something.” As worried as I am about the mental capacity of someone who sexually assaults or rapes a person, I’m just as concerned about the mental capacity of someone who sees someone passed out or being sexually assaulted and does nothing to help. Who’s to say she didn’t just have a heart attack, a stroke, or any other injury that could cause one to fall unconscious?
- Face to face understanding that rape is not a conversation about a subject area, it’s a conversation about people. I was taught that guns were bad; they killed people or damaged lives forever. I thought I understood the lesson very well, but it wasn’t until the first time I shot a gun when I understood why guns were bad. You can’t hope to teach people to prevent gun violence by keeping the gun and the person separate – and I don’t think you can teach men about rape and keep the women separate. Women (or men) aren’t a subject area; they’re human beings like everyone else. We should create an environment that enables young men and women to see each other when they’re discussing this topic. It’s much more powerful to see the look on each other’s face when faced with these topics, rather than reading about it in a book or by an instructor. The best result is going to come from a collaborative learning environment that doesn’t allow people to reduce the severity of the actions into subject matter.
I’m sure the author means well, or has a reason for why she feels the way she does. I’m not going to say that I’m not still annoyed or frustrated about the conversation either. I just hope that when people read this and read that, they see that there is a need for middle ground. A conversation that doesn’t imply that men are inferior or “shifts” blame, as if there was a reason for assigning blame. At the focal point of that conversation we have to make sure it’s the victims we focus on and/or stopping rape perpetrators altogether. I’m hoping that we understand it’s not about who is right or wrong because when we find the answer, no one is going to ask us to show our work.