There is no war on men, but there is a war on patriarchy and our lives depend on us winning it.
[TW: mentions of groping, sexual harassment, sexual violence, rape and physical violence.]
I remember growing up scared of many things: dirt, falling and scraping my skin on gravel, spiders, losing my parents in the grocery store, and other things that many other children are afraid of too. I remember getting a bit older, the dirt stopped being frightening and I loved gardening with my mother, the scrapes from falling on the gravel healed, spiders became smaller to me, and I didn’t mind losing my parents in a store for a few moments. My fears evolved, I instead became afraid of the men who leered at me, I was afraid of the men who tried to follow me home, I was scared of the man who masturbated in front of me in a bus while other adults ignored him, I was afraid of the person who threatened to slice me open with his knife when I told him I wasn’t interested, I was afraid of the teacher who told me to bend over further to reach the window shutters which needed to be closed, I was scared of the men who mimicked cunnilingus at me from their cars as I waited for the bus to school. I was afraid of the boyfriend who raped me. I was afraid of the second person who raped me. I became afraid of boys and men because they gave me so many reasons to fear them.
School was a psychological torment, the grounds had always been imbued with the fears of physical abuse and non-consensual touching. The boys in our school spent hours devising plans in which they could take in glimpses between the gaps of the steps to see up our skirts. They placed bets on who could squeeze our breasts or snap our bra straps without getting caught. If boys weren’t slut shaming girls, they were co-signing it and making lists of who was “easiest” or rather who could be coerced into giving them blowjobs during ski trips. I was uncomfortable around groups of boys, I was uncomfortable around just one, and that fear was from a place of deep intuition. That fear was based on experience.
Everything that I learned about boys in school prepared me for the men that I know today. Of course, our fears have been met with resistance and even more violence, not just from men, but from the women who protect them, especially their mothers. Mothers have been asking themselves what they can do to protect their precious sons from ever being accused of rape instead of asking themselves what they can do to teach their sons to not rape. Mothers have been profiled by the New York Times in regards to the actions they took to defend their sons against rape accusations. White women have been Tweeting about how there is a “war on men” and that mothers should be strapping body cameras to their sons, mothers have been Tweeting #HimToo as a response to #MeToo without recognizing that their sons are more likely to be raped than ever be falsely accused of rape. It would serve the mothers of #HimToo better to know that according to data collected by RAINN, 5.4% of undergraduate male students will experience sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation.
The real problem is not false rape accusations, the real problem is this constant need to defend the atrocious crimes of men for the sake of protecting violent patriarchy. The real problem remains the high rates of sexual assault of college students. The real problem remains that families are raising boys into men who think that they are owed our bodies—who think that girls and women are warmth for them to steal, who only feel powerful when they are disempowering someone else. Families should be focusing on teaching their children about consent, what it looks like, what it sounds like and why it is important.
It’s really quite simple, if you don’t want your son to be accused of rape, it would serve you well to teach him to not rape. But of course, that would require the protectors of patriarchy to actually care about non-men and to delve into what rape culture looks like from our most tender ages and beyond. It would require them to understand that rape isn’t perpetuated by monsters, but by people who thrive off of bodies which resist them. It would require them to understand that we are socialized to view some bodies as less deserving of autonomy. It would require them to give a fuck about women and about themselves too. The mothers of patriarchy (there are many) have most likely encountered physical or sexual violence from the very people they continue to protect, but rather than doing the incredibly difficult work of unwrapping fresh and old wounds, it is easier to villainize the girls at school who are brave enough to come forward with their truth. It is easier to villainize Anita Hill, Christine Blasey Ford and the millions of girls and women—and men—who are rightfully frightened of coming forward because what meets them is just more violence.
Rather than twisting the intentions of #MeToo, it would be much more revolutionary to understand that there is a real #HimToo, but it is not about a war on boys and men, it is that we should collectively acknowledge and support boys and men who are sexually assaulted. It would be much more courageous to look the high rates of sexual violence suffered by children at school, at home and in our churches—1 in 53 boys under the age of 18 experience sexual abuse or assault at the hands of an adult, while girls between 16-19 are 4 times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault, according to RAINN.
We do a consistent and constant disservice to children and teens when we allow crimes to be perpetrated against all of us, when we ignore that rape and sexual violence are woven into the very fabrics of our societies. There is no war on men, but there is a war on patriarchy and our lives depend on us winning it.
This article is part of #DishonorRoll, a collaborative media project dedicated to covering responses to sexual assault on college and university campuses in partnership with The Media Consortium and Bitch Media.