In this past week’s reading entitled “Shifting the Paradigm: Primary Prevention of Sexual Violence,” the American College Health Association (ACHA) created a “toolkit” that spoke about ways to help prevent sexual violence from occurring. One particular section of the toolkit seemed of particular interest to me which dealt with “10 Ways Young Men Can Prevent Sexual Violence” . This section became a strong focus for me considering that I am a man; and I am one who has seen the effects of sexual violence, and the trauma it can inflict on someone.
Incidentally, the Atlanta Journal Constitution published an article on November 18, 2012, called “Sexual Assaults on College Campuses a Problem Nationwide.” The article was primarily in response to the Emory event “Take Back the Night.” In the article, Laura Diamond and Bo Emerson reported that there have been at least seven rapes this fall semester .
Looking back to the ACHA toolkit, the 10 things a man can do to help prevent such incidents were listed as the following:
- Define your own manhood.
- Take it over.
- Understand the ability to consent.
- Get a woman’s perspective.
- Ask guys.
- Be aware of pop culture’s messages.
- Choose words carefully.
- Speak out.
- Get involved.
- Show your strength. .
Initially looking at this, it seems to be a pretty comprehensive list, and one that I could agree with being potentially useful, but after a couple months of delving into observing sexuality more, there are a few points I would like to draw attention to, particularly, numbers 1 and 10 – define your own manhood and show your own strength.
As a heterosexual male that aligns my gender identity along the “norms” of society, there does not seem to be any difficulty for me relating to this, but like I said previously, this class has added a new perspective when observing these two. Now, I can understand that this toolkit is more than likely aiming to target heterosexual people. What if I were a biological male who wanted to help prevent rape but I identify more as a female though? This seems to be a bit more difficult to comprehend at that point. OK, so I am a third party providing what possibly could be considered an overly critical point, but nonetheless, point number 6 says I should be aware of pop culture messages. This may seem a bit extreme, but what if this toolkit went viral, and I were the later person that I described? There would certainly be an expectation set upon me as a guy to make sure I defined my manhood. Since this is a blog post and maybe there are some readers out there who do not know who I am, they would say who cares; it is not that big of a deal. But in reality there is a certain expectation of masculinity that goes along with someone of my stature, and I feel this would be particularly unfair to someone who may be more feminine than myself yet is built similarly to me. This of course directly ties into point number 10, showing your strength.
The toolkit says, “Don’t ever have sex with anyone against their will. Make a pledge to be a man whose strength is used for respect, not hurting.” Again, a well-written and intended statement, but in this case it is not what is said, it is what lies underneath the statement. In number 10, this is assuming some form of agency is to be taken by a person. I realize I am potentially speaking about a very extreme case that may only apply to a small amount of people, but it is those few people who are the ones that often go over looked. So again, here could potentially lay another issue for a guy whom is above average in size. This statement also indirectly implies that I would be using my strength at all. The way in which the toolkit is laid out, “a man whose strength is used for respect” would insinuate that my strength is used almost as some form of protector.
As I said before, I realize I am being a bit over critical here, but I have experienced certain challenges being associated with having to maintain a level of masculinity and expectations merely because of my size. Have I completely minded these challenges? No. I have grown to embrace some of them, but I understand this may not be the case for every person. Therefore, it could create issues for other young men as they grow, develop and search to find themselves. Overall, I believe the toolkit to be something that everyone should read, even if is not flawless of every politically correct issue. I have had close friends who have been raped and even girlfriends who have been raped in the past, and if I had read this prior to being exposed to these instances with them, I certainly would have felt more prepared on how to handle it. For those who only skimmed through ACHA reading, go back and read it again because these situations are always closer than you may think.