Growing up, a male, in Small Town, America I had many authority figures in my life. Fortunate was I to live a life with authority figures of parents, older siblings, extended family, teachers, priests, boy scout leaders, etc.
Of all those people, of all their teachings, of all their advice and guidance, not once did a man ever sit me down, look me in the eye and say, “Don’t you ever rape a woman”.
As an adult male, it fascinates me that we let such a short sentence with such an important message, go unspoken. In America alone, a sexual assault occurs every 107 seconds. In the amount of time it takes boil water for tea, microwave a bag of popcorn, or watch your favorite youtube video, a sexual assault occurs in America.
In Canada over 1 in 3 women has been sexually assaulted.
In Denmark only 1 in 5 reported rapes results in a conviction.
In Egypt 96% of women have suffered genital mutilation.
In Ethiopia 60% of women have been subjected to sexual violence.
In South Africa a woman is raped every 26 seconds.
In China marital rape is not criminalized.
In Pakistan over 1,000 women per year are victims of “honor killings” after being raped.
In the United States 17.7 million women have been raped.
The facts and figures go on and on. Country after country, it is beyond clear the size and scope of rape, rape culture, and a society’s underwhelming reaction to rape could be defined as a psychological pandemic.
There can be no finger pointing, “Well at least we’re not like them”, “They live so differently from us”, “It’s their cultural thing”, “It’s part of their religion”. This problem extends far beyond any one country, culture, or religion.
When I was taking courses on becoming a teacher in college, my favorite lesson came from a professor who’d been a grade school, middle school, and high school teacher, and was now a professor with a PhD in behavioral science and education. She would tell us, “There’s no point in bringing up an issue, complaint, or defect if that’s all you’re going to do. Anyone can point out what’s wrong. As a teacher, you must always provide a solution, or start the discussion towards a solution. One conversation is a spiral down, and the other reverses the course, tending back towards the positive”.
I pointed out the problem, I listed several statistics from various organizations which track these statistics and facts, now here’s my solution…
If you are a father, talk to your son about rape.
Explicitly tell your son to never rape a woman, or anyone, or anything else for that matter.
The idea sounds simple enough, right? Isn’t this obvious?
It is not.
I personally was never told not to rape anyone, of the hundreds of men I’ve asked from cities and states all over the United States, from close friends to random strangers in bars, not one man I ever met was told not to rape. Not before or after the age of 13.
If your son is old enough for the sex talk, he is old enough for the rape talk.
I once proposed the problem and solution to a girl I was on a date with (I know, weird topic matter, this is who I am though), and her reaction was one of defense, “But it just goes without saying”.
As if the subtext of her comment was, “We don’t need to do that, everyone just knows”.
Not only is this clearly not the case, but I was shocked at her immediate rejection of my idea as something not even worth trying.
Of course the psychology of such acts has many other developmental reasons such as environment, no solid base in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, a thirst to quench some mental or physical void of power or control…
My concern here though, is a very practical, simple solution, which anyone who reads this could enact, AND is a solution I have yet to see enacted.
Why not try something that has never been done? Especially something so very cost effective? The most it will cost any family is a half hour to an hour of time. There’s no tax increase, no purchase of equipment, no need to travel anywhere… just a simple conversation between father and son—heck, why not bring in the mother and other siblings? Why not have one big sit down and talk about the subject of rape together as a family? Why not exchange the discomfort of an uncommon conversation for lower sexual assault statistics?
For too long, women have been objectified by men. When I used the word objectify, I mean to say women are no longer considered human beings by the man objectifying them. Women are stripped of their thoughts, feelings, emotions, and basic human rights.
India’s Daughter is a documentary on Netflix about the 2012 gang rape, and ultimate death of young, medical student Jyoti Singh. When interviewing the men who gang raped Jyoti, (which after six men conducted the act, her intestines were pulled out through her vagina, and her entire body disposed of on the side of the road where she died in a hospital not too long after), the rapists and defense attorney’s involved often compared women (overall) to diamonds, gems… flowers, “A flower on the street will be trampled, but a flower in the temple will grow”.
The analogy here was not cute and of admiration. This reasoning implies a woman needs protection. A woman needs to be kept safe and sheltered. It implies a woman on the street by herself will get what’s coming to her for being out past a certain time, dressed a certain way, or accompanied by someone other than a male family member. But–if she were to stay home and remain indoors, she will not be raped, and in fact, this is how best for women to prevent rape (which is also not true as marital rape is also a large problem in impoverished India).
[If you have any doubt of the psychology of such men, please watch India’s Daughter]
This line of reasoning and line of thought is a psychopathy where one human being either cannot, or will not, recognize another human being as an autonomous individual.
This is an ideological problem.
This is a problem of ideas which reside in the minds of men.
This is a mental condition (which is also at the root of racism and xenophobia among others) which should be treated as a mental illness. If a human looks at a human and doesn’t see a human… that’s a psychological and mental illness.
This is a problem as old as written word, both literally and figuratively.
The oldest evidence I ever discovered of such reasoning was a huge blow to me mentally and faithfully. It came from the Catholic Bible my mother gave me.
Growing up I was told by my parents, my priest, and my children’s bible that the tenth commandment was “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house”, where the adults broadly explained to me, philosophically it meant, “Not to be jealous of other people’s things, be satisfied with what God gave you”.
Directly from my adult version though, “You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour”, Exodus 20:17.
This is not to besmirch a holy text or offend a religious group; it is simply a quote from the Bible. If one is to read any Bronze Age text involving traditions, culture, or law, one will be quick to find most societies, all over Earth at the time, viewed women as a kind of livestock, as objects, as possessions for the use of their owner. Women were (and in some places still are) bargaining chips under the contract of marriage to be exchanged for other goods and services such as livestock, land, or an upgrade in class status.
That is why in the Old Testament and New, in over 1,300 pages of God’s literature and law for well over one billion people of Earth, God himself does not outright tell his people “don’t rape”.
This is The Patriarchy at its zenith.
How do we begin the end of such an atrocious mind set? Of such an abominable and deplorable act? By talking about it with our children.
The conversation must start, and it must start early.