After Elliot Rodger went on a killing spree in Isla Vista because he was angry women wouldn’t have sex with him, a group of men on Twitter were quick to explain to the world that “not all men are like that”. In response to #NotAllMen a flood of women began sharing their experiences of violence, misogyny and harassment under the hashtag #YesAllWomen. Men might not all be like that, but yes, all women experience the consequences of sexism. We live in a world where “I have a boyfriend” is the best way to get rid of men who bother you, where sex workers say “I have a pimp” to get rid of pushy clients, because some men have more respect for other men’s ‘property’ than they do for women’s agency. It’s true not all men are like that, but when we’re talking about violence against women maybe this is not the time to be so defensive. When we’re talking about a racist murderer it’s not the appropriate time to go “not all white people are like that!”. We know you’re not like that, but this isn’t about you. And honestly, derailing discussions about violence against women by constantly changing the subject back to the feelings of men, you’re part of the problem.
However, after the #YesAllWomen hype it seems it’s become taboo to talk about the fact that #NotAllMen are sexually violent. It’s wasn’t the time and place to talk about it then, but we do need to talk about it. Not all men are sexually violent, and we’re creating a huge problem by approaching all men as if they are.
“We shouldn’t teach women not to get raped, we should teach men not to rape” has gotten, in a strange sense, out of hand. Men are taught that their sexual desires are disrespectful, that any sexual initiative is inherently potentially violent. I know men whose mothers gave them a stern warning not to treat women as sexual objects, not to go straight for the boobs, be careful you don’t pressure her, so much that they’ve become afraid of being sexual with women. Men are
taught they are so dangerous, they should never be alone with a woman, they shouldn’t be left alone with kids. Men are told “boys will be boys” when other men do things they find morally objectionable, as if those evils are part of what it means to be a man. Men are mistrusted when they invite someone over for coffee, are mistrusted when traveling alone with a child, are perceived as violent when they even so much as look at a woman. Men are there when women are told not to leave them alone with their drinks, men are there when women are told not to be alone with a man, men are there when women are told it’s dangerous to be drunk in the presence of men. Men are bombarded with stories of how men victimise women, how men are predators, how men have oppressed women. The trafficking myth is based on the offensive perception that men are so vile there is actually a huge market for abused crying sex slaves in dark little prisons. After all this slander, we should have the respect to listen when men tell us “I’m not like that”.
Feminism is the radical notion that women are people, but perhaps we should give the radical notion that men are people a try.