Men have a responsibility to dismantle rape culture

woman with tape over her mouth, holding cup of tea

This article discusses sexual violence and may be triggering for some readers. The Kingston Sexual Assault Centre’s 24-hour crisis and support phone line can be reached at 613-544-6424 / 1-800-544-6424. The Centre’s online chat feature can be reached here.

Rape education is often geared toward, and provided by, women. Yet most rapists are men, so why aren’t we targeting them with rape prevention efforts?

For women, rape is a reality that one of every 17 Canadian women will experience in their lifetime. They advocate changing rape culture because they have to.

The legal system itself often fails survivors and is designed to protect rapists. As was seen with Brock Turner’s trial, where even the presence of proof wasn’t enough to put Turner behind bars for more than six months.

Turner’s trial was a chance to set an example for future rape trials. Instead, the judge’s lenient sentence—justified as not wanting to ruin Turner’s life—is an insult to survivors, invalidating their experiences and downplaying the severity of the crime.

The ruling sends the message that, even with irrefutable proof, survivors’ experiences don’t matter in a legal setting.

Most men have the luxury not to think about rape beyond the classroom setting, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t. As the dominant demographic of rapists, they have a responsibility to help end rape culture once and for all.

The average male might not have the power to change rape culture on a systemic or legal level, but he does have a voice. Speaking up about the injustices and prevalence of rape—not just when a high-profile rapist is on trial, but on the regular—is a small, but powerful, thing to do.

More education about consent, starting from a younger age, would also be impactful. Conversations about consent in schools are a fairly new practice that inaccurately suggest consent is dependent on a cut-and-dried, yes or no answer.

In reality, consent is more nuanced than that; for example, individuals can be coerced into saying yes to sex even when they don’t want it. Educators need to include these nuances to give an accurate portrayal of what consent is—and what it isn’t.

Rape prevention and education should also be geared toward men. While it’s important for women to have tools to recognize and report instances of rape, it’s primarily men who commit these acts. Conversations of consent need to be geared toward men as much as they are women—if not more so.

That said, educators can’t ignore the reality that men can be sexually assaulted too. Bringing attention to the stigmatization and lack of proper research for male survivors is equally vital.

Men have to stop shying away from conversations about rape and consent. Silence is unacceptable; if we want to put a halt to rape culture, men must be active participants in the conversation—in activism, the classroom, and social circles alike.

—Journal Editorial Board

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