I was disgusted but not shocked when a presidential candidate expressed the view that it’s okay to grope and force yourself on women. Frankly, it’s been a campaign filled with racism and misogyny already, so this is the latest nail in its coffin.
I also wasn’t shocked when people rushed to defend the comments,because there are always those who’re quick to throw principles under the bus as soon as they get a whiff of power.
But then writer Kelly Oxford put out a tweet asking women to share their first experience of sexual assault (first experience, mind you), and ended up getting millions of replies.
And then, in October 2017, in the light of the Harvey Weinstein revelations, the #metoo hashtag led to an outpouring of experiences of sexual assault from both women and men.
This exposes my naivete and ignorance. Because this isn’t about isolated incidents, this isn’t about horrible crimes that happen in the dark. This is a whole sexist culture that weaponised language, enables countless acts of abuse, and covers up rape and child abuse and domestic violence.
And no, of course this isn’t all men. But it is far, far too many men, and far, far too many other men have been using the Bible to excuse this rape culture, which is an act of blasphemy that rips Christ and Christlikeness from the centre of the faith and renders it a toxic environment for thousands of women and girls. Let’s not kid ourselves, there’s a reason that Twitter feed runs into the millions.
I don’t know how to change this. All I can do is stand up and say that this is wrong. It’s wrong to treat women as objects. It’s wrong to grope waiting staff. It’s wrong to sexualise 13 year olds. It’s wrong to force yourself on someone just because you’ve convinced yourself that every woman is gagging for it, just because you’ve convinced yourself that you’re the epitome of masculinity. It’s wrong that clothes are considered consent. It’s wrong that so many of the women on that Twitter thread never reported what happened to them because they knew they wouldn’t be believed or because the thought of the consequences was too much to bear.
This shouldn’t need saying like it’s something new and revelatory. This should be baked into our societies, our communities, our institutions; it should be but it isn’t, possibly because too many men aren’t raised like that, or because too many men don’t really want to give up what they see as the right to instant gratification. And so while I’ll walk across a dark car park without a care in the world, women will walk across that same car park constantly thinking of an escape plan.
All of this is wrong, and those of us who believe it need to keep saying so. And yes, the onus is on us men to change because this poisoned form of masculinity is our problem to sort out. And many women need to hear people say it’s wrong so that chains of guilt and shame can be broken; many men need to hear it until they damn well stop assaulting women.
And maybe if we start acting like all this is true, rape culture can start to die.