It’s ridiculous. With all the magazines, movies and Internet sites dedicated to better sex, only a small group of the men on campus are dedicated to actively improving relationships between the genders. What do I mean by improving relationships, you ask? I’m talking about ending sexual assault, a horrific ordeal that annihilates the trust, connections and faith between the genders. I realize that most men don’t address the issue of sexual assault because it hits us in a very personal place; rape is an issue for which we are responsible. Allowing this silence to prevail only assists facts that perpetuate rape culture, and destroys the safety, trust and relationships in our community.
In high school, one of my best friends was passionate about ending sexual assault. Aside from constant verbalized disgust for rapists, his means of social reform always seemed to include kicking rapists in the groin. I, although agreeing that rape was a horrific evil, always shrugged off his “militant” plans. I never admitted it to him, but I didn’t take any action against sexual assault because I felt helpless. I mean, what could I do tangibly to stop rape? I treat girls with respect and am not one of the one in 10 men, nationwide, who rape. What else am I expected to do? Seek out every potential rapist and “disarm” him? Because of the impossibility to distinguish rapists from our family and friends, that task seemed particularly fruitless. In reflection, I can’t help but recall the words of Edward Burke, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” Nothing. Precisely my actions: absolutely nothing. And in doing nothing, I passively supported our sexist culture, which doesn’t openly endorse rape but permits men who rape to think what they are doing isn’t wrong. In doing nothing, I was letting the world know that the fact that one in four women, according to nationwide surveys, are sexually assaulted didn’t bother me enough to do anything. The consumer culture had won; sex was a commodity – bought, sold and stolen – and I remained silent. I had the privilege, as a male, to forget about it. It didn’t directly affect me. But, as it became abundantly clear to me later, it affects all of us, and being a “nice guy” and a non-rapist isn’t enough.
A few years later, after moving up to UCSB, I saw a sign for Men Against Rape. After attending meetings on Thursday nights in the Women’s Center, I realized that the actions to stop sexual assault were much simpler and more self-reflective than I previously thought. I understand now that our culture will change only when we as individuals make a commitment to amend our own actions. The following steps are an excellent start for this change.
First, be sure you have a sound understanding of sexual assault. 99 percent of all rapes on our campus are committed by someone the survivor knows. Most of these guys don’t think they are raping. Any sex without consent is rape. Silence doesn’t mean yes. If someone cannot consent because he or she is too intoxicated, frightened, threatened or otherwise inhibited, the answer is no. The fact that two people have had sex before or have started to engage in sexual activities does not mean anyone is obliged to continue.
Second, break the silence. Even if it means doing something as simple as not laughing at some knucklehead’s misogynistic or homophobic joke. Any step towards confronting the sexist subtleties engrained in our culture is a step towards ending the apathy towards rape in our culture.
Third, don’t ever blame the survivor of rape for the assault. No one ever can do anything to deserve such abuse and blame.
Fourth, make a commitment to end homophobia. The hyper-masculine image we try to replicate in ourselves, not only creates contempt for the Queer community but also reinforces a culture that allows rape to continue relatively unchallenged. When men have to prove manliness, it not only degrades women, but also leads guys to feel like they need sex for purposes beyond the simple interaction between two (or more) individuals. These guys need sex to brag to their buddies and flaunt their straight, macho sexuality. This distortion of sex into a commodity, paraded like a new car, destroys the experience, makes women into objects and is a major cause of rape.
If you have any questions, concerns or interest in regards to these issues, please join us for live music, speakers, games, spoken-word and a penis registry at the second annual Men Against Rape rally in Storke Plaza Friday, May 17, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Feel free to contact Men Against Rape at menagainstrape@hotmail com or 893-3778. Please support us by wearing your “It Affects Me” T-shirt, if you have one, this week.
Dustin Fujikawa is a member of Men Against Rape.