Elliot Rodger left little doubt about his motives, intentions, or the source of his problems when he went on his killing spree last year in Isla Vista, California. His 141-page manifesto was filled with hatred towards women and his violent misogyny ignited debates that brought the term “rape culture” back into mainstream conversations. Sadly, most men have no idea what rape culture means, including some who argued vehemently against its existence.
If you’re a man, the first thing you need to know is that rape culture exists. It’s as real as the way you suck in your stomach on the beach and how you pretend to have been a better high school athlete than you ever really were. You can deny its existence all you want – pretend it’s fanaticism or feminism or anything else you can label with an “ism” that lessens the blow, but rape culture is real.
And if you’re a man, it’s your fault.
That might hurt, but it’s undeniable and men have to face that fact.
Rape culture exists because men believe it does not exist. We hide behind phrases like “it’s not all men”or “I’m not that kind of guy”, and make excuses to minimize the things other men have done and soften the pain their actions create. We find explanations and reasons, and point to dozens of examples that show how we’re not all the same - anything to get us off the hook. But we can’t rationalize it away because facts don’t lie.
The hard truth is that men are the primary reason for the existence of rape culture.
If you ask, most men can’t define rape culture or put into words what it means in today’s world. It’s not a theory – something imagined by radical feminists or hysterical left-leaning writers on college campuses and in Brooklyn coffee houses. It’s not created by socio-economic conditions. Rape culture is about the way we collectively deal with situations where sexual assault and rape are tolerated, ignored, trivialized, normalized, or made into jokes. It’s not just our actions but our attitudes. Rape culture is about exposing women to unwanted sexual advances and a lack of accountability in the excuses we make when it happens. It means a rape victim is victimized all over again when she reports the crime. It’s about blaming victims for actions against them. Most importantly, it is a conscious decision by some men to commit an unwanted act against another person, and other men allowing it to happen.
It happens a lot. Every day.
Women get that and understand it.
Men still have a lot to learn and a long way to go.
Some guys think it’s unfair to categorize men into one homogenous group. That it’s unfair for the actions of a few to reflect poorly on this group. That it’s wrong that all men have to adjust their behavior, and they are right. It is unfair and wrong. But it’s also unfair that not enough men have been taught not to rape. That not enough men have learned that “no” means “no” – that grey areas don’t exist between “yes” and “no” when it comes to consensual sex or even unwanted attention. It’s unfair that women cannot go anywhere without looking over a shoulder, holding car keys like weapons, or considering every man she sees as a threat – considerations men rarely think about.
If you can’t understand how that works or what it means, think about it this way: there are 470 species of sharks but only 4 have ever been involved in a significant number of fatal, unprovoked attacks on humans. If you are swimming in the ocean and see a dorsal fin pop up between the waves, you don’t stop to calculate your chances – you turn into Michael Phelps and freestyle back to the beach.
It’s like that for women.
Every man is a threat. Even nice guys can turn out to be someone or something different, especially since over 70% of all women know their rapist. Like it or not, all men need to be judged by our worst examples.
That is how we have forced women to live.
Rape culture is about vulnerability and we need to fix it.
Bad men exist. Our role is to do something about that and change the way other men behave. We talk about rape prevention but instead of teaching women how not to be raped, we need to teach men not to rape. We need to act in ways that make all women feel comfortable and be considerate of the space we share. Men need to stop objectifying and degrading women, then blaming victims for things men have done as a result of that.
If you’re a man, you need to act as if every woman is your wife, mother, daughter, or friend and treat them accordingly. If you have daughters and sons – if you care about the women in your life – if you care at all about ending hatred, violence, and sexism against women, do something.
Stop making excuses and start making changes.
On a Friday night in Southern California a few months ago, Elliot Rodger unleashed his rage and millions of women again told stories of sexual violence, sexual harassment, and sexual fears. Painful, powerful, and brutally honest stories that have been told before.
This time, all men need to listen.