A young man who raped a girl was sentenced to six months (released after three) by a judge who regarded his behavior as actions of a normal kid. No doubt you’ve seen the pictures and heard all the soundbites of the young man smirking that the charge of rape “was no big deal,” and of male adults saying things like he’s just a guy being young.
What troubles me far more than the young man’s action (and rape is a big deal to me), is the fact that NO ONE that I’ve heard about or seen reported is addressing the fact that our historically deeply rooted patriarchal culture not only encourages young men to be sexually aggressive, but NEEDS young men to follow their hormonal impulses and their physical drives because that is what keeps Patriarchy alive and well and literally ready to “do business” and ready for war. The position of women as subservient to men is fundamental to Patriarchy, and the rape of women has ALWAYS been (and continues to be) one of the patriarchal spoils of business and war.
Our national culture is so enmeshed in Patriarchy that no one even refers to football as “Military 101” (which is it) because our culture needs young men who love aggression.
As the song says “They have to be carefully taught.” Three year old boys are taught to kiss three year old girls (isn’t that swee–eet?); girls in middle school are taught that they are nothing if boys don’t seek them out. Do parents even THINK about teaching boys and girls to see each other as friends, as talented partners, as equals in all things? Billions (perhaps trillions) of dollars are spent on drumming up sex and war and violence as entertainment and men as aggressive warriors. Then we are told that this sexual aggression is “natural” to the male of our species. Bullshit. Yes, sex is natural, but my suggestion is that we hardly know what “natural sexuality” is about, because Patriarchy has been pushing its own agenda for many hundreds of years. There may be as many boys as girls who hate violence, who don’t want to be aggressively sexual, who’d rather be friends than have sex. But boys who show those inclinations are humiliated, harassed, called “girlie” until they give in. Boys have it only one way: they either “step up and act like a man” or they are humiliated.
You can’t be pumping up young men to see their penis as their “manhood,” their rite of entry into adulthood as “scoring” with virgins, and then expect them to spend their lives with compassionate, nurturing, respectful attitudes toward life and females.
You can’t have it both ways.
So, yes, this young man was wrong. But even his smirky attitude shows that he was thoroughly indoctrinated early in life about what it means to be a “guy.” Blame him? For listening to his instructors? How about addressing the source of his and our society’s skewed ideas of being male and female.
Let’s learn a lesson from black mothers and fathers who have to teach their children two lessons: 1) How to be a person within the home and community; and 2) How to be a survivor out in the world where people are likely to want to see you dead.
Mothers and fathers of girls need to allow their daughters to be free and relaxed within the safety of their home; but they have to learn that outside the home, girls are for “scoring,” for showing off their breasts, for “blow jobs” behind the office door. Once they step out into the social world, into the political world, into the business world, they have to be prepared that it is their bodies that will be looked at and judged, not their characters or talents or minds; they need to know about rules for boys, about business predators, about guys that see them as means to score points with their male friends, or as perks in a job. And I suggest that they daringly REFUSE to present their bodies as their primary asset.
You cannot put on individual young men all the blame or the responsibility for changing society. Until we change society’s rules of expectation and behavior, we will not have a society that values either young men or young women; we will have no idea what men and women truly want or what they are capable of accomplishing, either individually or together.
If we have any hope of turning this society around, parents will have to assume the job of teaching our sons that they are more than their penis; more than their sexuality. That girls were not put here to serve (or service) them.
Until we do that, we won’t have judges or fathers who believe boys have any responsibility except to prove their manhood with their penises. Until we challenge and change the “system,” we won’t have a level playing field, we won’t have a just system, for either girls or boys, women or men.