Throughout these past few weeks of Weinstein and #metoo, I keep craving for men to participate more in the conversation. I know I am not alone in this. I think we all know that we cannot change rape culture with women solidarity alone. We need alliances with men. In order for the deeply engrained patriarchal messaging to change, it is crucial that men are willing to look at themselves, their own behavior, and ask themselves hard questions. I’ve had many private conversations with men that have started to contemplate their part in this zeitgeist, and wonder about their past in a new light.
It’s hard for me to say that men are born rapey. I know too many little boys for me to chalk rape culture up to testosterone. Last night I was with my friend and her small son, and he peed his pants. She asked if I could watch him while she ran to the car to get clean clothes, and there I was, staring at this 4-year old little boy with no pants. He was holding his shirt up with his one hand to avoid getting pee on it, and then holding his dick with the other. We looked at each other, and he tugged on his dick a bit while maintaining direct eye contact. I asked him what he was going to be for Halloween. He told me a ninja. I went into some stories of my past Halloweens to continue the conversation. I told him of trick-or-treating in the city, scarfing candy to the point of vomiting, and of course how my mom would eat my favorite chocolates while I was at school. When this kid’s mom came back with clean pants, he then relayed to her EVERYTHING I had told him. He recounted my stories in exact detail, sharing my joys and pains with his mom with the empathy of Mother Theresa. This little boy listened to me intently – despite his dick in his hand. THAT IS THE POTENTIAL OF MEN YOU GUYS!
Men are not born monsters. I mean fine, some are. Some people are born with the desire to eat other people. There are some fucked up brains out there, and it doesn’t matter who their parents are, or what school they went to – they are going to do absolutely insane shit like keep a freezer full of heads. Some atrocities can’t be explained through conditioning, society, or the patriarchy… but those cases are the extreme.
Since rape culture and sexual assault is SO PERVASIVE THAT EVERY SINGLE WOMAN I KNOW HAS EXPERIENCED IT MULTIPLE TIMES… there is something beyond brain chemistry fueling this. Too many men have been perpetrators. This is not purely a phenomenon of some bad eggs… but rather a ubiquitous energy that affects us all.
Culture at large, the patriarchy, and our rapey economic system entwined with the corporate and political agenda that backs it up are CRUCIAL ASPECTS OF RAPE CULTURE. (I wrote about this in detail last week). We live in a society propped up by a system of exploitation. The patriarchy of course oppresses women, but also men – even though few of them are the obvious beneficiaries of it. If you are not part of the 1% of men that the patriarchy is designed for, then you’re just as negatively impacted, but in a different way.
Men internalize the patriarchy different than women. They are brought down by feelings of insecurity and failure. For me as a woman to not succeed in the patriarchy, fine whatever, it’s not intended for me. I know that. If I were to succeed in life it would be despite the patriarchy, not because of it. But for men to not succeed, you’re an extra loser. The powerlessness I feel in being an economic failure is easily explained by a rampant sexist culture that has been at play for thousands of years. For men to feel powerless, when they are technically the ones with the power, it is a distinct feeling of weakness.
Many men act out this deep seeded insecurity and self-flagellation onto women. They take out their rage of feeling pathetic onto those they can easily exploit. They seek the power they lack by overpowering others. Yet even though I’m not going to feel bad for a raper, I would rather be raped then live with raping someone. I would rather be the victim of violence than the perpetrator. I can live with myself after being raped, sexually assaulted, and violated. I don’t have the guilt of doing that to someone else. These aren’t fun memories for anyone of course. They’re horrible and they eat away at you. But when I’m lying on my deathbed I’m not going to be filled with regret for being a horrible person. I don’t care who you are. But when you’ve denigrated and hurt others, you will have to face that when you’re dying. You can run from it your whole life, but you can’t run forever. It will catch up to you. I don’t know if you’ve ever been around a dying rapist, but I have – and let me tell you, there is a fear in their eyes I will never have.
The patriarchy is the guiding force at play, yet we women also prop it up. As painful as that is, and as much I can say that we are brainwashed so of course that happens – it’s still a fact we have to face. Its already circumcised women that circumcise girls – women that have personally gone through that pain and suffering then perpetuate it in the name of tradition. The women carry on the practice. It’s white women that voted Trump into office. (Sorry I just gagged). There are women that are part of the “Men’s Rights Movement.” Women are married to Donald Trump and Harvey Weinstein. Women may be programmed by the patriarchy yes – but not all of us are. Many of us are fighting.
Men too are encoded by the patriarchy, but some of them are trying to break free from the matrix as well. We need to come together, but in order for us to do that, we have to work with the men that are opening their eyes trying to change things.
As I woman I want men to be my ally. In order for men to understand their destructive behavior towards women they have to 1) look out how culture at large has shaped them, and 2) understand their own personal context.
Which leads me to a post I recently read on Facebook by Daniel Pinchbeck. In the post he attempts to understand himself, and why he acted in ways towards women that was sexually inappropriate. He didn’t break any laws, or act in a way that would get in him jail, but we all know there is a major gray area when it comes to sexually violating someone. Not everything you do that would abuse a woman is illegal.
Pinchbeck goes deep into his life experience, trying to understand the primal wounds of his childhood that were at play in his adult decisions. He talks about his relationship with his mother, some memories of his grandmother that involved forced enemas, and how he was in a full body cast from ages 10-11. His effort seemed to me to dig into the personal framework that shaped him. He talks of the impact of other men and how they treated women, as well as his experience of how fame gave him access to women he never had before. To me this was an attempt for a man to publically own up to his part of rape culture, apologize for it, and try to understand how he came to be part of it in the first place. The most important sentence he wrote was, “I want to clear this thoroughly and thoughtfully. I would like to ask any woman who has felt wronged by me to contact me directly or through an intermediary, if she would like. We can discuss in private or we can use mediators if that seems best. I appreciate those who have written to me already.”
That feels sincere to me. I read that as not as, “hey I fucked up, but I have mommy issues so it’s not my fault,” but rather, “I know this Facebook post is only the tip of the iceberg and I want the actual woman that have ever felt violated by me to know that I am fully wanting to work together, admit my faults, and at least plant the seeds for healing.” None of this is perfect, but there is no guidebook for how to deconstruct yourself. Pinchbeck’s effort is what I felt was the most important. This is not a man that is running from his past, but towards it.
To me, this is an example of what I want men to be doing. It’s not flawless. It’s messy. But yeah, so is all of life. If any of the men that sexually violated me reached out to say, “Hey, I know I really fucked up and I would love to talk about how to heal,” I would be ready to listen. Not for them, but for me. It’s better than dealing with it all alone, as these events I try not to think about too much because the memories make my body cringe.
I started looking through the comments of his post, and some people were supportive, and others were so shitty! Just tearing him down for saying anything. Page 6 even wrote an article saying that Pinchbeck was trying to blame women for his sexual misconduct. Page 6! The same mother fuckers that defended Weinstein for years is now calling out a dude trying to be part of the solution under the guise of feminism, or sticking up for women.
Feminism is about finding genuine equality between the genders. Part of that process is making space for men to look at their own home lives, how they were parented, how they were mothered, and question how it effected their sexuality. If I said publically that the way my parents treated me impacted my sexual identity, no one would question that. Isn’t feminism allowing men to do the same? Isn’t that equality? For Pinchbeck to wonder how his personal story impacted his actions I think is something we all have to do. We must understand our primal wounds as children in order to comprehend our adult selves.
As parents, we are going to make an impact on our kid’s sexuality. Of course we are. Parents influence every aspect of our children, and even though no one likes to think of their child as a sexual creature, they are. I didn’t see Pinchbeck as blaming his mom, or women, but asking questions around how he was raised. He was trying to understand his past and how internalized behaviors he didn’t understand when he was a kid.
People abuse PC-ness and become vicious when ripping other’s apart in the name of victimness. Yes it’s important that we have a culture shift that is more sensitive, but that does not give people a blank card to violently bash others in the name of justice. How is that progress?
If we attack men opening up about their regrets for not doing it EXACTLY right, how does that inspire other men to do the same? We need men to be doing more of this, not less!! If the response is to demonize them rather than asking questions to FURTHER the conversation, then we’re just making men more indignant. We need men to open up and be vulnerable, and if we shit on them when they’re trying, we’re only discouraging others.
We need a foundation to start from – a platform for healing to begin. That starts with men feeling that there is room for them to be vulnerable, and open up. Their first try may not be watertight, but it’s a start. From there we keep talking, keep unwinding, and keep unraveling the thread of the patriarchy that has tied us all up in a web of misery.