Thursday, May 11, 2006

Are Men Responsible for Ending Rape?

Professor Diana Blaine at USC has come under fire (by, can I just say, a seriously crazy-ass student blogger) for saying that USC men are responsible for stopping rape. Crazy-ass student blogger is haunting her blog, trying desperately to get some attention (which, I guess, I'm giving him here...oops.).

The ironic thing in this little scenario is that this notion of men's responsibility for ending rape is hardly original to Blaine. It's a fairly standard idea in anti-rape work - one I heard myself at our speak-out last month for sexual assault awareness. The organizer of the event spent a great deal of time pointing out how important men were in ending rape, how much responsibility they had, how many things they could do to help. My eye doctor - a man - was present and got up in front of the crowd to read a list of things men could do to end rape. Several other men of various ages were also in the crowd and took candles and marched with women around the campus, showing by their presence that they cared and that they wanted to be part of the solution.

Why are men responsible for stopping rape? Because men are able to do a few things that women can't do. First, rapists are men. Of course, most men are NOT rapists, but rapists are, 98% of the time, men. So men are responsible, first and foremost, for NOT RAPING WOMEN.

Second, men can exercise influence over other men in ways that women cannot. Think about the kinds of stories men share in locker rooms, for example (as attested to by my baseball and football player students, as well as by the sociological work on masculinity and sports). When other men object to language and behavior that demeans women or reduces women to sexual objects, it makes a difference. It lets others know that not everyone considers that behavior acceptable. And it also opens up a space for others to object to this behavior.

Third, men can look out for women. At a party, at a club, at a bar - when a man is trying to take advantage of a woman, to get her drunk, whatever - other men can watch out for her. They can report the guy to the bouncer. They can get her home safely.

So, are men responsible for ending rape? Yeah, I think so. And fortunately, a lot of men are working to do just that.

Why this notion is so distressing to the crazy-ass student is something I haven't quite figured out.

Perhaps he needs to take a Women's Studies class...if only to recognize that the ideas he's battling have their own intellectual history separate from Dr. Blaine.


Sally Pepper said...

Great post. I know you won't be offended when I say that what you've written here should be obvious to everyone already. It's one of those "DUH" things. I'm not sure why anyone would object to the idea that men should take responsibility for stopping rape. (Then again, I have never been sure why anyone voted for GW, either.)

Plain(s)feminist said...


But there one reason why men might be offended by this notion that I can think of. Being offended means that you get to spend all sorts of time and energy arguing that you aren't a "bad" guy and shouldn't be lumped into that category. It neatly excuses you from having to look too closely at your own actions and the actions of those around you. If you're busy defending yourself, you don't have to do the difficult job of confronting your friends about the way they treat women.

In writing this comment, I am thinking primarily about the people harassing Dr. Blaine.