Men As Allies: What Men Can Do to End Relationship Abuse and Sexual Assault
Adapted from Jackson Katz’s “10 Things Men Can Do To Prevent Gender Violence” and the White Ribbon Campaign’s “What Every Man Can Do To Help End Men’s Violence Against Women.”
- Words are very powerful, especially when spoken by people with power over others. We live in a society in which words are often used to put women down, where calling a girl or woman a “bitch,” “freak,” “whore,” “baby” or “dog” is common. Such language sends a message that females are less than fully human. When we see women as inferior it becomes easier to treat them with less respect, disregard their rights, and ignore their well-being.
- Be aware of sexual stereotypes and how they influence attitudes and behaviors. Social roles and expectations may affect a man’s decisions about relationships. Men are taught that expressing feelings is not masculine. Examining your social role and learning ways to express feelings directly and non-violently can help to create deeper and more meaningful interpersonal relationships. You don’t have to prove yourself.
- Understand the arguments against pornography depicting adult women. Realize that the sex trade in this country is worth billions of dollars. Examine your thoughts about the existence of strip clubs, prostitution and related sex trade businesses. Question the purpose behind the proliferation of explicit and graphic sex sites on the Internet. Think about how eroticizing violent sex contributes to violence against women.
- Don’t fund sexism. Refuse to purchase any magazine, rent any video, subscribe to any Web site or buy any music that portrays girls or women in a sexually degrading or abusive manner. Protest sexism in the media.
- Rape won’t be taken seriously until everyone knows how common it is. In the U.S. alone, more than one million women and girls are raped each year (Rape in America, 1992).
- You may never see a man abusing his partner or witness a rape, but you will see and hear attitudes and behaviors that degrade women and promote rape and abuse. When your best friend tells a joke about abusing women in some way, say you don’t find it funny. When you read an article that blames an abusive relationship survivor for being abused or that blames a rape survivor for being raped, write a letter to the editor. When laws are proposed that limit women’s rights, let politicians know that you won’t support them. Do anything but remain silent.
- Don’t engage in any forms of sexual harassment, such as wolf-whistling, cat-calling, unwanted touching, outrageous or inappropriate behavior. Women are not public property, available for our intrusions. Neither are men.
- Develop the ability to recognize myths which support violence against women. When you see sex without consent on TV, in a film or read it in a book, remind yourself that such behavior is rape.
- If a brother, friend, classmate or teammate is abusing his female partner—or is disrespectful or abusive to girls and women in general— don’t look the other way. If you fell comfortable doing so, try to talk to him about it. Urge him to seek help by calling our ManKind hotline 415.457.6760. Or if you don’t know what to do, consult a friend, a parent, a professor or a counselor. DON’T REMAIN SILENT.
Talk with Women…
- About how violence against women and fear of violence against women affects their daily lives; about how they want to be supported if it has happened to them; about what they think men can do to prevent sexual violence. If you’re willing to listen, you can learn a lot from women about the impact of relationship abuse and how to stop it.
- Become an ally to the women in your life–do not participate in sexist behavior by objectifying or stereotyping women. Support the work of campus-based women’s centers. Attend “Take Back the Night” rallies and other public events. Raise money for community-based rape crisis centers and battered women’s shelters like C4DP. If you belong to a team or fraternity, or another student group, organize a fundraiser.
- Believe people when they tell you they’ve been raped or abused. Support what they say about it. Don’t ask about their behavior or what they were wearing, etc. Listen to them.
- Recognize that women neither ask for nor deserve to be raped or abused ever.
Talk with Men…
- About how it feels to be seen as a potential abuser; about whether they know someone who’s been abused; about whether they’ve witnessed domestic violence. Learn about how relationship abuse touches the lives of men and what we can do to stop it.
- Mentor and teach young boys about how to be men in ways that don’t involved degrading or abusing girls and women. Volunteer to work with gender violence prevention programs, including anti-sexist men’s programs. Lead by example.
- Approach gender violence as a MEN’s issue involving men of all ages and socioeconomic, racial and ethnic backgrounds. View men not only as perpetrators or possible offenders, but as empowered bystanders who can confront abusive peers.
Don’t Ever Have Sex With Someone Against Their Will!
- No matter what. Although statistics show most men never rape, the overwhelming majority of rapists are male. Make a promise to yourself to be a different kind of man–one who values equality and whose strength is not used for hurting.
- Take responsibility for your sexuality. Never assume that if you are being sexual with a person in one way, then you can automatically be sexual with them on another level. Kissing or stroking doesn’t mean that sexual intercourse is next.
- Be responsible with your penis. “Having an erection doesn’t mean you have to put it somewhere.”
- Take “no” for an answer. Heed the “no” equivalents (“stop,” “I don’t want to do that,” “I’m not ready,” “that isn’t what I want,” “I’m not sure” etc.) The assumption that women say “no” when they really mean “maybe” or “yes” is just that–an assumption. Don’t ignore a woman if she says “no” or seems reluctant or resistant in any way. If she really means yes, then she should have the space to say “yes.” The right to say “no” is linked with the right to say “yes.” And the right to say “no” is a constant, regardless of previous sexual relations. Silence doesn’t equal consent.
- Check out the sex you have with your girlfriend, wife, boyfriend, partner or in one-night stands. Make sure that the sex you have is always consensual. Never pressure a woman to have sex. Realize that your strength, seize, social role and age are all factors that can contribute to a woman’s feeling of powerlessness against your pressure for sex. Do not expect sex in return for buying her dinner of doing her a favor, do not blackmail her with ending the relationship.
- It’s never okay to use force or coercion. Don’t assume that just because a woman dresses or flirts in a manner you consider to be sexy means that she wants to have sex with you. A woman does not provoke rape, whether by her appearance or by agreeing to go to a man’s room or house. The person responsible for the rape is the person who uses force, pressure and does not obtain consent.