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Dear Gentlemen: My Final Thoughts On Rape Culture

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Gentlemen and ladies of the world, it’s time to be brutally honest about sexual assault and rape culture.

And when I write “gentlemen” (and for many women who are just as guilty), I mean all men, because many of you aren’t gentle in words or deeds even though you’re convinced you are.

Because our culture is obsessed with sex and sexualizing women from a young age and on throughout and until death—

Because our culture (and most cultures) is a “rape culture,” filled with discriminatory and unattainable standards of beauty, and constantly blaming women for unwanted sexual advances and rape—

Because we allow catcalling, physical and verbal abuse, and sexual assault against our women (and yes, men) from a pre-pubescent age to adulthood—

Because “cute,” “pretty,” “princess-like,” and “beautiful” are the go-to adjectives and states of assumed being for our girls, young women, and daughters who aren’t old enough to know what “sexualized” means, I have the following:

It needs to stop. Now.

rape

Women don’t and never deserve rape, unwarranted attention, sexual assault, catcalling, or any variety of these typical cultural standards that have been with us as humans since the very beginning.

Only consensual sex will do; only non-sexual compliments will suffice; only the most respectful comments for our daughters, sisters, and mothers will stand.

So I will offer the following advice in a series of he thought/he said in hopes that we can start fresh with the reader—from the mind of a man who reasons rape culture away, and from the justifications of cultures around the world (and most recently from media coverage of First World election-heavy-America).

Please apply all that apply: 

Women love the attention, so therefore it’s okay to catcall and aggressively compliment them on their appearance.

No, it’s not okay.

Not even if the lady says thank you?

No.

Not even if the lady wears skin-revealing clothing and is showing off her body? Don’t they want a compliment?

Not even then. Even if they like being told nice things, which everyone does. Everyone wants compliments in life, especially when they dress up. People do it every day.

Okay, I get “aggressively compliment” but what about just a nice statement about their legs, breasts, butt, face, or arms?

No, especially no. Just because you’re attracted to “beautiful things” doesn’t mean you get to comment on them, as much as you want to reach out and touch, kiss, hold, fondle, grope, or have sex with them. You have to fight this every day. Just because you want and think you are entitled to something—anything, and especially human beings—means nothing if it’s not reciprocal.

What if they deserve it?

This is part of the problem—you thinking that women “deserve” the compliment—and that they want more than a compliment to follow—that they are on display just for you. 

Of course they are on display! A compliment is just a compliment—nothing more.

From a young age, women are complimented as a way of putting them in their “place” as the beauty and sex-bearers of our culture. Most men and women do this all the time and don’t think twice about it—ever. Then the girls are pressured from that young age to be attractive and sexy no matter what. We do the same to boys with equally disturbing standards.

Look, women like compliments, and if they’re going to dress sexily, then I’m going to treat them like they want to be treated, even if that means shouting out a compliment from across the street—not that I do it, but I get it.

Even to 10 year-olds?

No, that’s too young, of course.

13 year-olds?

Come on with that.

15 year-olds? Most women have heard sexual compliments and been talked to this way—and worse—from younger than ten years old. 

Listen, you make all men sound like pervs and rapists. Men like looking at women, and women who dress a certain way (I hate to say it) deserve it—especially if they’re leading someone on. They’re showing off their bodies, so it’s their fault when men advance. We can’t help it!

And therein lies the problem. We can help it. We should help it. When men leer and stare, they’re not just being rude and pervy, but they’re conditioning one more woman to put up with it. There has to be a stop. 

I don’t have to listen to this. Women are just as sexual as men are, and none of us can help it. And every now and then, women really are “asking for it” even though you think they’re just dressing up for themselves or their girlfriends.

And therein lies the problem, again. The heart of the “compliment” and catcalling is often a means to sexual assessment, which leads to a justification on a spectrum of sexual assault.

Well look, men would love to be catcalled and sexually harassed.

And raped?

No, now you’re taking it too far.

Not when 90% of rape cases are women who were raped. And when women bear a lifetime of catcalling, compliment, and sexual assault, rape culture continues. It been said that 90% of rapes go unreported. We have a problem, and the problem starts here.

And no—men who realize that women bear the brunt of catcalling, sexual assault, groping, and rape worldwide and from a young age would want that for themselves.

And we shouldn’t want that for them either.

Every kid wants to be complimented.

Every kid wants to please adults.

Every person wants to dress how they feel they best look to the world—whether showing off certain body parts is alluring to someone else or not.

Every person should have a right to “feel sexy” or confident or proud about their body without harmful, traumatic, and unwanted solicitation from anyone else.

And they shouldn’t have to live in fear or sexual dismissal or appraisal at any age, no matter what. 

Every adult and near-adult person is a sexual creature who deserves consensual sex that is healthy for both parties.

Yes, men have evolved differently than women.

Yes, on the whole, men are “visually stimulated” more so than women.

Yes, men have a strong desire to own beauty and control the things they want and think they need—include any and all justifications of sexual action and assault.

But we have to do better—better for our culture, our women, our daughters, our boys, and ourselves.

No one deserves to be groped, molested, assaulted, or raped against their will—including men and boys—for any reason. 

Ever. 

Even if the woman or man wants sex and changes her or his mind. 

Even if the couple has a sexual history.

Even if things started out consensual and stopped midway through.

Even if our sex-obsessed culture seems to demand it.

Even if your family and friends demand or excuse it. 

Even if presidents, senators, congressmen, preachers, voters, and men and women with loud and powerful voices demand it.

Even now, since forever, and until the last children of the last generation are ushered into adulthood with a healthy sense of their bodies.

Even though it’s taken us this long to get to this place of understanding.

About The Author

Jeremy McKeen

Jeremy McKeen

Jeremy McKeen is an English teacher, writer, editor, and father of three living in Massachusetts. He has been featured on HuffPost, Yahoo! Parenting, Salon, The Gloucester Daily Times, The Boston Globe, Scary Mommy, YourTango, and The Good Men Project. His new book "You Don't Have To Worry So Much" is now available.
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