‘I’m not a rapist, but…’ and the Infantilisation of Men

It must be extremely unpleasant at times, being a male homo sapien who isn’t a complete moron. Even members of your own sex are amazed, sometimes furious, even violent towards you, because you have other interests besides sex, eating, violence and urinating. Women are used to being patronised by sexists, but spare a thought for the scores and scores of wonderful men who have to watch other, idiotic men constantly given a pass for their idiotic behaviour because ‘it’s just what men do’.

Take rape. You only have to look at the comments on an article like this one to see how many people’s first response to a serious conversation about rape is not to have a discussion about, say, whether anonymity should be given to the accused as well as the accuser until they are convicted, and whether police understand the complexities of different kinds of rapes, but rather, to shout about about what women should and shouldn’t wear, drink, do, or say, lest some poor little boy misinterpret it as a sexual invitation and be presumably powerless to stop himself (or communicate) any further from that point onwards.

It’s not just comments on the internet though. Seemingly decent people come out with some astounding irrational clangers about women and rape in every day conversation. For example:

“[In the context of a conversation about rape] But some women do actually go out dressed like they want sexual attention, then they complain about, like, builders shouting at them and stuff. Why don’t feminists say anything about those women?”

(I expect most feminists would say, newsflash: you can’t read someone’s mind and presume they want attention (harassment) just because of how they happen to be dressed, at the moment they happen to be in your vicinity. And if you really thought a woman was after your attention, you’d be grown-up enough to actually open up a conversation with her. You might think you’re fooling all your buddies by shouting across the street in the dark at a woman who would never look at you in a million years, as she scurries by looking over her shoulder, but I’m afraid I just see a little kid who’s scared of rejection.)

And, bizarrely: “Well, you say lesbians don’t like men staring at them. But what about those really femmed-up ones who just stand there openly kissing in public? They can’t seriously do that, then complain when a bunch of men think they’re doing it for attention!”

(This one just eludes me, to be honest. I mean, if she’s kissing someone else; someone who is a different gender to you, I don’t know how much more of a hint she can give you that she doesn’t want to have sex with you?)

But it’s worse than men being an irritation (or worse) when we’re on our way home after a night out. I’ve also heard guys saying:

“[I’m not a rapist but…] how are you supposed to tell if a woman changes her mind?”

“[I’m not a rapist but…] it’s really hard to tell if a woman is consenting or not. It’s not a clear cut issue, Louise.”

And, still more alarmingly, “No, it wasn’t rape! Oh my God! No, what happened, right: she consented at first, but she just didn’t like it! So he wasn’t raping her, that’s ridiculous – it’s just that he just didn’t stop!”

And – my personal favourite perhaps – “Well, I don’t know. Would you still call that rape? When he’s her boyfriend?”

Boys and girls: if you find it too hard to understand what consent looks like (and if it’s hard to tell, she’s probably not consenting), or more to the point, if you’re too immature or cowardly to actually, you know, communicate with the person you’re about to share sex with like a grown-up, then here’s my advice. Don’t have sex. Not just because you’ll clearly be terrible at it, but because you’re too immature to be ready for sex in the first place, and the experience would probably be wasted on you anyway.

But apparently this, I have been told (several times), is an unreasonable expectation to have of men. Really? Not the ones I know and love, it isn’t.

So correct me, gents, if I’m being too generous here, but I would imagine that these kind of comments are profoundly offensive to an awful lot of men?

In fact, if these men who thought the comments above were ‘just what men do’ talked about me the way they are talking about other men when they say that, I’d be downright furious. I am downright furious. Because all those decent, compassionate, feminist men that these sexist men are so threatened by are a million times better than them – and for anyone who’s based the entire foundation of their self-esteem on their ability to be violent and degrade women, that has to be quite disorienting. No wonder so many men feel so threatened by male feminists that they have to deny any actually exist!

It’s endemic of the way we have allowed our society to become that the nastiest and the most selfish get to dictate to everyone else what is and isn’t socially acceptable. But ‘just what men do?’ Do me a favour, love. If you haven’t personally evolved past rubbing your bits in the mud and urinating on your own feet yet, admit it. But don’t you dare pretend it’s ‘just because you’re a man.’ On the contrary: it’s just because you’re still a tiny little boy.

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