This brave post by Joel Darwin is a call to self-examination about the ways we have allowed ourselves, deliberately or otherwise, to be complicit to a system where women take the blame for the abuses they experience.
Thank you, Joel for this poignant piece.
I hesitate to write this but reading through the confessions of better, braver men than me, I feel I must get this off my chest.
I, like them, stand with the victims of sexual harassment and assault and long to fight against the gross abuse of power and privilege in any context, especially in this one.
I’ve been moved and heartbroken by the stories from brave women (and even a few men) who have contributed to #metoo over the past week.
I know I have not always felt strongly about this before and while I have never forced myself on someone else, nor physically or verbally abused women before, I have, in my youth, contributed through direct and indirect ways to rape culture by enabling perpetuators and helping to create an atmosphere that silences victims. Often with my own silence.
I am ashamed of this and – knowing what I do now – wish with every part of my being to apologize. I hope that I may help others understand their role in this as well and start fighting for a better world together.
There are, in my opinion, two essential reasons why most of us have a hard time wrapping our brains around rape culture and fighting openly against it:
1.) We’ve laughed at too many jokes, listened to too many stories, pressured others in too many situations before to be free of complicity and therefore keep quiet it or pass it on to others we feel are “innocent” enough to fight for it.
2.) We feel the term “rape culture” is worded in the extreme and therefore absolve ourselves or become defensive towards it because we’ve never committed the physical act of rape nor can we see ourselves ever doing so.
Both of these are wrong and damaging.
Point it at our social conditioning or our evolutionary instincts, we want to be a part of the unspoken social order that grants power to those on top and respects efforts of those on the bottom to exert power over others below. It’s a broken, tragic, and exhausting struggle that the majority of us feel the need to engage in to find identity growing up.
Little thought is given towards the pain of those beneath, since the focus is on leveraging bragging rights like bedpost notches and beatdowns (physical or verbal) into currency to purchase respect and position in this order.
If you’ve been quiet about rape culture, chances are you’ve benefited from this order before. I know because I have.
Although I’ve never outrightly harassed someone physically or verbally, I’ve abused my power before by intentionally putting women who I knew were interested in me in positions where I took more than what they maybe were willing to give to me physically.
Lines were drawn, which I respected, but I know I’ve made women feel uncomfortable before.
That merits me the guilt of committing harassment. It’s the quiet, domestic kind that doesn’t have the flash and bang of terms like “rape” or “assault” but damages nonetheless. After all, legally, harassment it is not limited to just the physical, but encompasses also emotional and psychological damage.
If you’re a guy who’s guilty of this as well, I urge you to seek out others and form groups together to help your friends and younger men figure out ways to go against what we’ve done.
Don’t keep quiet anymore about it. Speak up and speak out against it. Even if it means losing friends and loved ones. Even if it means losing your identity and position.