Note: The only people responsible for sexual assaults are attackers. Their exertion of power over their victims is reprehensible, and we all need to stand up against all sexual abuses, of all kinds, against all people: female, male, cis, trans: every single point on the spectrum of human existence.
That said, I’ve not always been the most considerate human being: I’ve not always been the best person when it came to relationships. In fact, I have been a complete, utter shit to a (thankfully / risibly) small number of women over the years. And all in the pursuit of my own sexual gratification. I have done many and various stupid, petty and ridiculous things, which I find it impossible to justify.
It’s not like I’ve killed anyone, but since when has that been the benchmark of humanity? Nor have I raped, assaulted or intimidated. But I have lied; I have said whatever I felt needed to be said to get my end away; I have pretended to be something other than me. I look back on the crap I have said and done in the pursuit of sex and I wonder what possessed me to behave like that. If there were to be a silver lining to the black clouds of exposing a culture of assault it is men questioning our actions.
I have to assume that there has been some biological imperative in the distant past for young men to behave like this: some benefit to the human race. Otherwise such behaviour would not be so prevalent. Male aggression and capacious sexual appetites must have been beneficial to the human race at some point long ago: we needed to expand to continue. It kept the family fed; helped grow the population. I don’t see where assault and abuse fits in to that, but I don’t get a lot of things here.
Our prehistoric past bears no relation to the world we live in now. Now, human dominance of planet earth is manifest, yet we still appear hell bent on sticking to our cave-dwelling roots. Today, such behaviour does nothing to help humanity, and has resulted in what is demonstrably a rape culture.
I have heard people describe a culture where women and girls are second class citizens, subject to their male peers, as being right and being natural. I want to set these people on fire. Humanity does not progress by using one half of its population as a slave class, suitable only for domestic service and biological fecundity. Yet this blood-tinted view of the past continues to persist amongst some.
I am a grown-up. My interactions with people are based on respect, and a desire to get through my day as painlessly as possible. And that means not treating people like they are worth less than me. Treat people like scum, and you will become scum. Respect is both the letter and spirit of the law.
I have always taken the view that if I tried it on with any given woman, she would hit me. She would scream at me. She would gather a group of people around, so that they could collectively berate me for my pathetic behaviour, and have me shunned from civil society. That, I feel is the natural order.
It’s not the only thing which has kept me from groping random women over the years, but it is the scenario my mind plays out when I hear the ever-growing series of reports of sexual assault coming from Hollywood, Parliament and the like. How did these men get away with these behaviours? How did they strip their victims of any semblance of power? The answer is that: Power. I’ve clearly never experienced enough power to lead me to assume that it is utterly fair for me to force young women to watch me masturbate. Or to take a bath. Poor powerless me; I should work harder, I suppose.
And yes, we do now live in a different era – and that must have been a dizzying change for some. We now live in a world where there are more than two genders; where age, race, disability, gender and sexuality are free spheres; where the hegemony of straight white men is no longer assured. As a straight white man, I feel these changes are taking humanity in a very positive direction. My problem is with the way that my little group has used and abused its power over the centuries. It galls me.
The old adage: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”; fine words, albeit hollowed out by mistrust. The key part which is missed is that which follows: “Great men are almost always bad men,…” Great in this case refers to powerful, I suspect. The absolute power of birth right, of self-declared manifest destiny, of entitlement, of privilege, corrupted a whole stratum of society.
Anyone in the club can do anything they like to anyone outside of it. And only silence will prevail.
All white men have benefitted from this imbalance, one way or another. People do not look at me the way they look at people who are not me. Therefore, we must be part of the move to change. We need to put our hands up, admit that we have done wrong. We then need to put that to one side, and we need to help. We need to call out the aggressors. We need to stand with the victims.
But we also need support in this endeavour. Too often, a good fight has stalled because the pain of the past has been too hard to endure. We confess our sins, and we attempt to help, but we should not be derided or excluded. Some may feel it is not appropriate for us to be part of change. I do not agree. I feel that that change, the will to bring injustice to its knees, is growing stronger than the will to tar all men with the same brush of entitled behaviour. Together we really can change the world.
Example time: A recent Black Lives Matter action caused London City Airport to be shut down. All of the protestors were white. Deliberately. When black people are treated disproportionately harshly by police why put lives at risk? White people support the BLM cause. Given the disdain “great” men have shown for women over the years, why think they’d start listening now? If the only people they listen to are ones who look like them, it is time for people like me to start screaming in their faces.