A few months ago I ended a column with a single, simple tip for men on how to avoid rape: whatever a woman is drinking, doing, wearing, wherever she is, don’t rape her.
Well, sure, I guess that’s a pretty good start – but I suspect that some men think this is ALL they need to do to feel proud of themselves. That’s like expecting my local bank to give me a gold watch and a personal thank you note because I chose to not rob them at gunpoint.
The vast majority of men are not rapists, but unfortunately Charlize Theron was right in that controversial advert (that really shouldn’t have been controversial at all) when she said South African men “seem to think that rape isn’t their problem”.
You only need to glance that the statistics to see that not raping is not enough. Right now, the world could use all the anti-rape activists it can get – especially male ones. Too many of us sit back and do nothing, say nothing or, even worse, say something really stupid or offensive when the subject comes up, then expect fucking Noddy badge because they didn’t rape anyone that week.
So here’s a list especially for men on what to do to become an anti-rape activist without having to make a complete lifestyle change. It’s really easy, actually.
Don’t get defensive
For an extreme example, There’s a disturbing story on Women24 in which the writer describes her horrific sexual abuse as a young child. Here’s how one male reader chose to comment: “Pity there isn't a Men24.com, no... that would be biased. Rather lump ALL men as rapists and send them on a collective guilt trip.”
I know. Commenters, huh? What a bunch of dingbats. But this is an attitude that too many men share. As soon as the subject comes up, they get defensive and angry, and come up with responses like, “Men get raped too!”; “Not all men are rapists you know”; and of course “I’ve never raped anyone, so it’s got nothing to do with me”.
To quickly respond to those clichéd comments: 1) Yes, but almost entirely by other men; 2) Nobody said that, and anyone who does is an idiot; and 3) Of course it does. You live on Planet Earth, right?
Try to remember that not everyone’s traumatic story of sexual abuse is a direct frontal attack on your genitals. Most of us men already know this, but some of us really need to get over ourselves.
Teach your friends
Okay, maybe you’re not the dumb one. Maybe it’s a friend who only opens his mouth to swop feet. Well, great news: you can help. Don’t let your friends get away with slut shaming, making excuses for rapists or victim blaming, simply because they’re your friends. Call them out on it, and because they’re only embarrassing themselves, consider it an act of charity. Or, if you need a selfish reason, remember that people judge each other by the company they keep.
Shame the slut shamers/victim blamers
Slut shamers come from all backgrounds, genders and cultures, but they have one thing in common: they’re all poisonous, yellow-bellied toads who would make the world a better place by drinking bleach. Because they’re cowardly, thin-skinned oxygen thieves, they mostly take to the internet to vent their bile, so unfortunately,we can’t manage the situation with a well-deserved punch in the throat.
But we can gang up on them. Publicise their most obnoxious and misogynist statements, and invite your friends to respond. Reverse-shaming can be extremely effective.
You might not change the shamer’s mind, but it’s surprisingly easy to make them go away (and don’t tell anyone I said this, but it’s also kind of fun).
The three golden rules are: a) listen; b) empathise c) don’t be a horse’s ass. And that’s pretty much it. Victim blamers like to nitpick around the circumstances of the rape to find fault with the victim. Don’t even go there. Remind yourself that rape is not only reprehensible, but illegal. Wearing a tank top isn’t.
Now if you don’t agree with any of this, and think that some women are “asking for it”, or that men are being unfairly treated, you can still help. All you need to do is read up on the subject, and keep on reading until you realise that you’re wrong.
Because trust me, you are. All the clever people say so. Until then, please shut the fuck up. It’s the least you can do.
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