When Men Miss the Mark

Trigger warnings for discussion of sexual assault, rape, and current events which, let’s be honest, are hellish.

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Last week the actually honorable Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testified before a committee, and the country, regarding the actions of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, who gets to be called honorable only due to his current state of employment. This public exchange has led to a national debate over rape, assault, belief, and consequences. It has carpeted news media, editorial sites, and personal social pages. And people keep talking about the lessons men are learning from this, or will learn, or can learn. That all utterly misses the point, which is that Kavanaugh is simply living by the lessons so many men have already learned. Not just men who have crossed lines and harassed or assaulted women, but men who think they are helping and contributing to discourse, who simply haven’t learned the right lessons

On Facebook I witnessed the following exchange:

A woman posted a sentiment that Kavanaugh had to be stopped, and that she believed Dr. Ford. A male friend commented that he hoped to god if he were ever accused of rape without evidence that she would take his side. He went on to complain about the lack of protection of constitutional rights and how people mindlessly consume and believe media, and how people are generally sheep, all of which muddied his original point. My friend responded with the fact that she was raped when she was a teenager, how there was no evidence, how it was difficult to tell her family, and how traumatizing it was. He responded that to assume all rape accusations are made in good faith would be to open a Pandora’s box, and why Ford’s particular case seemed questionable. He said that he had been drunk at a party and sexually assaulted by two women and his memory of the entire incident was clear in his mind, and how humiliating it was. But that the circumstances surrounding Dr. Ford’s testimony seemed suspect and political.

That right there revealed that he had a blind-spot so large that the only productive part he could play in this social discussion would be to listen to women.

His argument ostensibly is based on the idea that presuming all rape accusations to be truthful would come at the significant cost of believing all false accusations. This has a whole number of problems. Like how this position wouldn’t pass guilt without investigation, it would just take some of the social pressure and stigma off of the accuser.  Nor does it acknowledge that false accusations make up somewhere between 2% and 10% of accusations, and that the majority of those false accusations are made by people trying to “cover up other behavior such as adultery or skipping school“, or that unreported attacks far outnumber the amount of false accusations made.

And I’m sure be believes that his position is an evenhanded one, and that isn’t meant to pit men against women but rather frame it as attackers vs accusers. Except that’s all bullshit, and his position is sexist as hell. He says that Dr. Ford can’t be believed because there was no evidence, that he knows what he’s talking about because he went through a real assault, and that he has no evidence and never reported it but still presumed everyone on the comment thread would believe him.

Again: his opinion that Dr. Ford should not be believed held weight because he could relate to the situation. That stance is absolutely bonkers.

Everyone in the thread could have jumped on him, demanding evidence or questioning why, despite his embarrassment, he had not spoken up earlier and reported it. But that didn’t happen and he assumed this would be the case. Literally, in an argument he began about distrusting a woman who had just testified under oath regarding an incident from her past because she had not reported it (she had), he still presumed that everyone else he was talking at would still believe him regarding an incident from his past that he had not reported. It’s not a man/woman issue, rape and assault is a victim/perpetrator issue. But by ignoring the reality of the numbers in our society, this guy implicitly overlayed his male privilege on top of the issue, expecting more sympathy and belief than he was affording Dr. Ford.

People keep talking about the lessons that people can learn from this, but the lessons have all been learned. The Cut called the hearing a master class in white male entitlement, but that’s not quite right. It wasn’t a master class, it was a thesis defense. The guy in my friend’s comments? Well, his statements didn’t make a thesis defense so much as a high school topic sentence. Both this guy and Kavanaugh are entitled to have their voice heard, even though the situation they are jumping into is based on their current treatment of women as a less entitled, less deserving, and less important segment of the population. They are both entitled to being believed over women. In once case it’s to believe that the assault did not happen, and in the other it is to believe that it did. And this guy is supporting both sides because the thesis is PROTECT MEN.

That’s the lesson that everyone has already learned. Women have been taught the same thing. The lesson to take away from this isn’t about toxic masculinity and institutional complicity or support. It’s that everyone already knows this, and we (men) need to start rejecting this thesis and listening to the defense that women offer up in their testimonies. It’s time to shut this line of reasoning down and stop presuming men are more worthy of carefree childhoods, unencumbered lives, promising futures, and smooth career paths. It’s fucking time to show women that they’re valued unconditionally, and not only when they take up the spaces in society where men are comfortable letting them be.


National Sexual Assault Hotline

Call 1-800-656-4673
Available 24 hours everyday
Online Chat

Adam

About Adam

Adam is a Jewish American who's sick of the white Christian male being America's "default" setting. For money he works in a public library because free books and information access are wonderful things. For love he writes here for his pet project, The Chaotic Neutral, which is always looking for more writers. You can follow him on Instagram, Goodreads, and at his oft neglected Twitter where he will try to post more, and probably live-tweet the Eurovision Song Contest.

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