UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds
Courtesy of Pexels

Men, this common reaction to sexual assault actually makes things worse

By Michael Sholars


The #MeToo moment is a crime scene writ large, and as more suspects and survivors are added to the list, most men have been forced to reflect on their complicity in the matter. Make no mistake: We are all complicit. That is a truth so raw in its unflinching specificity that I’ve watched a sort of revisionist history take place, as men look backwards and try desperately to throw themselves on the right side of a monumental injustice.

It goes like this: A man, when prompted, will give his absolute support of #MeToo. He will use strong words to condemn the numerous evils of a Harvey Weinstein or a Larry Nassar. Those men will serve as his line in the sand; the absolute of what constitutes rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, sexual misconduct (listed in order of their perceived severity as reported in the media). Then, without fail, comes a moment where he feels the need to qualify that support.

Liam Neeson did it, warning against #MeToo becoming a “witch hunt.” Matt Damon called it a “culture of outrage,” and reminded us not to confuse “patting someone on the butt [with] rape or child molestation.” And, of course, Quentin Tarantino passionately argued that Roman Polanski couldn’t have raped the 13-year-old girl he was found guilty of raping because it wasn’t “violent” enough to be actual rape. (Tarantino has since issued an apology.)

So what drives these men, and so many of the rest of us, to become armchair attorneys as soon as we hear a woman talk about her experience with sexual assault or Aziz Ansari-esque “bad dates?” The answer is sad and simple: Fear. Fear and self-preservation. A lot of us are looking at ourselves, at our complicity, at our attitudes and mentalities throughout the years – and we don’t like what we see.

Even worse, a lot of men are examining their actions and hearing some chillingly familiar stories coming out of the #MeToo movement. They’re reading “Cat Person," they’re watching the discussion around what “bad sex” actually means and they’re hearing those events being defined as rape.
And that, at the very least, makes them perpetrators of sexual assault, putting them squarely in "the bad place. And we can’t have that, can we?

So instead, lines are redrawn and definitions are rewritten in ink. Rapists and assaulters are classified as "the guys who do things just a notch above what I've done." It becomes about avoiding the label, and never reflecting on their actions. Rather than confront and change the way they treat, view and respect women, they just make sure they’re never guilty of doing "the worst thing." Everything else is forgivable.

It’s a sad trick. More than that, it’s not even a new one. Watch people you know avoid being labelled as a racist while doing, saying and believing overtly racist things. Ask them if Black Lives Matter. Ask them if they think white privilege exists. (I’m Black; watching those conversations unfold is practically my pastime.)

Some people have called #MeToo a reckoning, and maybe it is. But there can be no true change until all men are willing and able to reckon with what they have done, what they have allowed and what they may do again. Until then, we are like children screaming “Not it!” as a game of tag starts, hoping to play without being caught. But we are still part of the game all the same.


Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!

Faith

The author is baptized at Central United in Calgary. (Photo courtesy of Al Coe)

Why I got baptized in a United Church at the age of 42

by Jacqueline Mercer-Livesey

"I told myself that I didn’t need to go to church to believe in God. I found peace and the Holy Spirit in the things that surrounded me. But still, there was a nagging sense of something missing."

Promotional Image

Observations

Editor/Publisher of The Observer, Jocelyn Bell.

Observations: The rewards of letting go

by Jocelyn Bell

Editor Jocelyn Bell reflects on the upcoming changes for The United Church of Canada, the magazine and in her own life.

Promotional Image

Video

ObserverDocs: Two nurses tackle Vancouver's opioid crisis

Richard Moore is a resident of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. In this poignant interview, he explains the important work of nurses Evanna Brennan and Susan Giles.

Promotional Image

Faith

July 2018

250 United Church leaders have a message for Doug Ford

by Emma Prestwich

They're urging the new Ontario premier to remember those in need as he carries out promised economic reform.

Culture

July 2018

Tracing Nelson Mandela’s path a century after his birth

by Tim Johnson

A travel writer visits some of the places that shaped the anti-apartheid icon’s life.

Interviews

July 2018

Jamil Jivani sheds light on why young men radicalize

by Suzanne Bowness

In his book 'Why Young Men,' Jamil Jivani talks about his own experience as a troubled youth.

Promotional Image